Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Queen "Flash Gordon" (1980)


Its been a while since I covered the last Queen record, reality is Id only given this a handful of spins. Its been rather unappealing. Of the rare occasions I have indulged, I would find myself bored by its shifts and sudden turns if it were not for the mere spectacle of a band pinned into a creative corner. I don't know much of the backstory here, or how the music relates to the movie itself. I'd prefer to keep that a mystery as it plays like a band attempting to be drastically different but constants leave them unable to flesh out experimental ideas and directions.

The theme song for Flash is a classic, no doubt. Ive heard it many times but it makes a poor jump off point for the record as it never returns to that intensity and thematic richness until the very last songs. The biggest stirs of energy often spark from the themes erroneous rehashing back into future songs. Sporadic bursts of synthesizer zaps and symphonic upheavals reign out between lines of dialog that feel disconnected and bizarre in nature. Its hard to envision it being the direct soundtrack, more of a project trying to use the movie for an isolated soundtrack experience, either way its pretty disastrous.

So far I've been harsh and of the nice things I can say they are mostly little musical moments that occur on occasion yet do next to nothing in making the whole thing work. Brian May's metallic guitar stirs some rocking riotous energy on Football Fight, they command direction over the racing beat lined with gaudy synths. The audio samples in this case build up a tension but the song just dissipates without any conclusion and lapses back into a lull as seemingly unconnected spacey astral synths take over. It could of evolved into something but these songs lack progression.

The synths remind me of In The Space Capsule where the those nebulous synth tones provoke quite the mystique atmosphere. Once again though, its all to disconnected as the music meanders with sudden shfts. From here, many of its one to two minute compositions have interesting aesthetics and quirky sparks of chemistry but its all littered between sharp turns in tone and audio snippets that it becomes hard to follow along with. Battle Theme would be a great example of the band doing what they do best however the song is hampered by sticky laser zaps and ear grating synths that rub against the slick guitars.

It is perhaps possible to love this record for all its quirkiness, shifts in direction and musical experiments. For me I couldn't escape how its attempt to be some form of soundtrack was hindering the flow of ideas. Things were rarely fleshed out and when the music was calling out for some progressive story telling and journeying of the sounds, it felt forced and hurried along, as if sticking to a strict schedule. Poor record, It hasn't convinced me to see the movie although I am morbidly curious now as to how the two are related.

Favorite Tracks: Flash's Theme, Football Fight, The Hero
Rating: 3/10

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Front Line Assembly "Wake Up The Coma" (2019)


Having enjoyed the Canadian Electro-Industrial pioneer's recent Warmech soundtrack, I thought I'd tune in for a regular record. Right off the bat I have to say their is a lot of mediocrity at play, a passable record as background music but not mustering up much excitement in the forefront bar a few good compositions. Ive given it many listens over the months since its release but its failed to grab me, I can't be to critical though, its not terrible, just all too average to make itself known.

Far from the jolty, harsh and rigid machinations of their origins, FLA's slick production gives a modern aesthetic touch. Tight synth arrangements and punchy drum machines have a competent amount of variety and detail to bolster up the core components that build dystopian, mechanical atmospheres. Voices take on a mix of whispered cries soaked in echos and alien distortions, all playing into the altered human persona much of its charisma resides within. There are many breaks in flow, often using the textural tones of synths and clattering drum sounds to orchestrate physical, Industrial movements but its rarely exciting in anyway.

Most the songs tend to circle a theme. Progression don't amount to much and most of the tracks start where they end in terms of tone and setting. That's why I think its failed to get a grip on me. It does run into a few gaudy moments, the lyrical pondering of making love to an alien on Living A Lie is mostly an amusing line for a hook. Nick Holmes turns it around in the next track, lending his voice for a fantastic chorus on the title track. That's about all I have to say, its all a bit too routine, lacking spice.

Favorite Track: Wake Up The Coma
Rating: 4/10

Friday, 8 November 2019

Borknagar "True North" (2019)


Borknagar, I remember! The glum shed on a fog swept field, a typically unreadable and yellow band logo atop the image. Their first album came out right in the mid 90s boom of post-global exposure Black Metal. Knowing they had ICS Vortex in the lineup, once of Dimmu Borgir and Arcturus, I felt quite keen to find out what one of my favorite voices was up to. To little surprise, the band have matured a lot from what I remember of that atypical, dingy, carbon copy debut record, the sort that just fell off into the flood of new bands joining in on the act.

To my pleasure they now take on moody atmospheres of northern folk charm. With sprinklings, often climatic, of screams, blast beats and power chord shredding, the band evenly resonate a calmer side brewing luscious settings of serenity interwoven with metallic upheavals of momentum. Its a progressive fusion of styles, rather adjacent to In The Woods. Dark and earthly songs forged through thoughtful musical arrangements sap magic from its instruments with visions of natural beauty.

Vortex's singing is an absolute pleasure, still a master of the gleaming, manly "clean vocal", he glides over these scenic soundtracks effortlessly. Its organic music with soft synths and colorful lead guitars. The three tend to interchange on leading the music forth and its held together with superb drumming that's a little on the mechanical side with its industrious hammering of stiff drum rolls. Quite often does the rhythmic syncopation of Metal guitars drive the music too and with that True North offers up variety and balance between the extreme and melodic ends of this style. Inspiring!

Favorite Tracks: Up North, Voices
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

BABYMETAL "Metal Galaxy" (2019)


My anticipation for this record was soured somewhat by lead single Pa Pa Ya. Its a tad obnoxious and overt but that's one of this acts charms, to dial its elements up! I still think its the weaker track but it has grown on me. The rest of this new record was a total hit from the get go. Da Da Dance blasts the listening experience into the stratosphere with its electrifying guitar taping illuminating the jolting synths and cutesy "Babymetal" chant. What a tone setter for a fun record that does what these musicians do best, bringing ferocious modern Metal together with sugar coated Pop in quirky memorable fusions. This time around a hint of worldly sounds creep onto a couple of songs, expanding the bands horizons, delivering another fine chapter in the journey.

Something about the way this record rolls out, a couple of its themes too, give a sense of arcade and adventure. Its almost as if each song has a linage with a video game. Each one I could envision a music video related to the arcade, perhaps the "don't give up, game over or continue" lyrics sunk in a little to deep. Every track arrives with a different spice, only Kagerou sounds like a leftover cut from Metal Resistance. Shine also echos of The One but mostly its new and bold territory for the band while retaining their distinctive musical identity and high octane production.

Japaneses exclusive tracks BBAB and BXMXC are wonderfully obnoxious in polar opposite ways. The first has its glossy Pop Metal charm and the latter an exercise in sheer rhythmic grooving on overdrive! Shanti and Oh Majini stand out with exotic cultural sounds, the latter dipping toes into Pirate Metal with bagpipes and rugged sailor chanting. Their is a noticeable growing presence of the backing musicians joining in vocally. "Kitsune Of Metal God" gets an entire track of demonic chants through its descending, eerie and tribal atmosphere on In The Name Of.

Its jam packed with variety and amazing hooks to get stuck in your mind. More voices may enter the fold but again its Suzuka Nakamoto who's voice soaks in the limelight, elevating every moment she is present. I particularly loved the songs where she gets to sing in a poppier context. It feels like this record has pushed its boundaries as the heavy side feels equally embellished. Maybe the drumming didn't ramp up the intensity with blast beats and the like but the Djent guitar tones are masterfully dense an tonal, bordering on guttural for comparison. Perhaps the meatiest Ive heard yet!

Much like their other two records, gems and numbers that don't stick as much make the sum of its parts. This time around the variety carries it and plays solidly with an arsenal of new songs. It has been a pleasure to indulge with and a reminder of why this band are so exciting. Anything is possible in Metal and these directions and avenues are so much more interesting that other bands grinding out the same old recycled styles. Babymetal's freshness is a real strength! It's hard to say if they have reached a peak but each record gives my that feeling they could reach higher peaks!

Rating: 8/10
Favorite Tracks: Da Da Dance, Brand New Day, BBAB, Distortion, BXMXC,

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Puppy "III" (2019)


With the years best album so far under their belt, The Goat, this surprise EP was quite the treat to feast on, I didn't expect new music so soon! The three piece band Puppy are one of my modern favorites, their fusion of nostalgic 90s Alternative Rock & Metal riffs is just my cup of tea. Its the songwriting however, that sets them apart from waves of bands that come and go, casting that rosy tinted look back into the past. Puppy take in a rich history of music, brandishing it with their own defining stamp.

These nine tracks, a brief nineteen minutes, initially felt as demoed as its presentation would suggest. Its mixing, rough around the edges, with roomy drums and earnest singing gave a casual impression that would flavor my first few listens as a mediocre yet fun set of songs. The songwriting however championed once again as the ear worms grew, driving the hooks and melodies into the subconscious. Its riffs, arrangements and lyrics became forefront. It wasn't long before I was asking myself just how good this record is? Right now it fits perfectly into their catalog.

Without doubt there is a handful of songs here that given the treatment would fit snugly onto a proper album. They all however have a charm that feels exclusive to this rougher garage demo sound and I think the point is to inhabit this moment the band are living in. The raw vocal harmonies and chunky guitar riffs with gristly distortion tones create a youthful air vibe that resonates through the colorful guitar licks that occasional deploy a bit of rhythmic groove. Its everything I like about Puppy, just with a less polished edge which makes it fresh and interesting.

Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: Agatha, Serotonin, Charms