Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Childish Gambino "3.15.20"


Going for an ambiguous, minimal presentation of this latest collection of songs, the multi talented Danny Glover AKA Childish Gambino follows up Awaken, My Love with 3.15.10. Its title simply signifies its release date. The plain white album cover furthers the lack of definition, its songs labeled simply with numbers signifying their arrival time on the overall listen. Only two tracks receive a name, Algorythm and Time, the first signifying that Danny is in touch with the times and pondering the human changes of this technological, data driven world is currently finding its way through.

Continuing with his inspired revival of the 70s shades of R&B, Soul and Funk, this newest iteration looks for a little obnoxiousness in its compositions, a handful of opening tracks experimenting with bold, over pronounced instrumentation and sample manipulation that penetrate the musical forefront. Many of these songs leave little in subtlety, bringing bright viscous sounds forward with jolted percussive rhythms, sometimes hinging on a groove but often feeling a little of kilter and niche.

After a slow unrolling of lengthy tracks, 19.10 punches in with a snappy beat and retro synth baseline that feels a little too overstated and off key to croon. As its layers builds the chemistry feels crowded and its proceeding 32.22 perhaps highlights where the experimentation doesn't yield. Its desolate fusion of dirty base rumblings and auto tuned voices crescendo without charm as its purpose seems to converge on volume. Its a gaudy, novelty track thats quite frankly grinding as its discernible voicing relents.

A couple songs later and the closing phase of the record finds some cohesion, experimentation calms and the chemistry heard on his previous effect can be heard again. The singing especially hits a smooth note as Danny's voice is presented without these manipulations heard earlier. It saves the record somewhat but overall I get a sense that the avenues to be different in production and composition just don't come together. Parts of it are very forgettable but a few songs hold up well too.

Favorite Tracks: 42.26, 47.48
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Grimes "Miss Anthropocene" (2020)


With a substantial five year gap, Canadian singer & songwriter Grimes follows up her alarmingly bright and uplifting Art Angels with a project similar in tone yet gleamed by compositions that adventure deeper into darker imaginations. With many breaks for her defined artsy Pop pleasers, the gaps between delve into avant-garde themes with esoteric dexterity. They arrive with an enjoyable regularity. Last time around just a fraction of the music explored these stretches of creativity. With much of the songs residing comparatively in the sweet spot of appealing fuzzy feelings of goodness.

The slow and sleepy awakening of its opening track lingers in Ethereal shadows, setting a sombre tone for darkness to come. Darkseld slides into the dystopian as Grimes rapidly spurts her alien words over the droning thud of a descending and rigidly monotonous baseline. Its hypnotic, the chemistry is ripe. Violence lingers in an ambiguity between moods as its Downtempo drum groove marches the dreamy track onward. 4AM takes the biscuit as its unassuming intro of meandering high pitched singing paves a diversion for a party synth and Drumstep beat to propel the music to another planet. Brilliant! as is much of the layering vocals and reverb abuse to come.

The tracks around these significant moments don't come with as much flair and cavalier but have held up well over my many listens through this record. Its doesn't pack the same punch and might disappoint some but I thing the less obvious tracks have depth. Grime's lyrics and compositional experimenting stand strong and paint slow begrudging atmospheres with a lot of beauty emanating. The slower tempos tend not to grab attention in the same way, yet as an album of subtleties, its full of them. A really great record with plenty to come back too. Its got me looking forward to more!

Favorite Tracks: Darkseld, Violence, 4AM, My Name Is Dark
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Ocean Grove "Flip Phone Fantasy" (2020)


My attention has been captivated, the astonishment elevated as once again musics deeply fulfilling emotions strike hard! Unearthing this band around the release of this sophomore record has been a miraculous blessing. Along with the likes of recent discoveries, Puppy, Turnstile and Ho99o9, that exuberant youthful energy has been invigorated again but this time Ocean Grove completely blow the lid of my noggin. I have to control myself, the binging is excessive yet the music keeps delivering.

The Australian group left The Rhapsody Tapes with strong metallic roots. A glow of modern metal, the nostalgic bounce of Nu Metal and a Metalcore aggressiveness are left in the shadows as the band loosen up and evolve with a significant line up change. New vocalist Dale Tanner brings about a similar presence, elevating musical energy but his leanings into the style of classic Rap Metal and summery singing in the spirit Noel Gallagher gives them a diverse new approach to the nostalgia.

The track Sunny being a particular gem, summer of 96 vibes with Oasis on the airwaves and football glory on the mind... A peach of a song with a brilliant Nirvana alike guitar solo to bring about the goosebumps. A lineup change on guitars with Twiggy Hunter now on bass guitar has those bright gleaming distortion guitars really nailing their purpose as every intention feels fulfilled. The interlude tracks too feel a class above previous efforts, Baby Cobra's acoustic guitar and Dream Pop, Ethereal aesthetic being particularly charming and soothing in its dreamy nature.

The band have reinvented their imagination of 90s sounds, particularly Alternative Rock, Metal and Grunge getting a keen nod but once again, this is no nostalgia trip. Fusing modern wall of sound production and lively synths the group pull out a diverse set of songs exploring a range of vibes and temperaments with absolute clarity of vision. Every song on this record is self realized and wonderful. Its drawback may be a couple of less distinct tracks and passable rap verses which get by on spirit more so than the value of lyrics or delivery. Its a weak point that will be easily overlooked.

The best of the record comes through diversity. Experiments with Drum N Bass groves and dirty baseline noise on Guys From The Gord are fiery juxtaposed to its dreamy vocals. Shimmer goes for the uplifting, inspiring sailing into the sun, akin to the likes of Young Guns. Ask For The Anthem takes the biscuit with a fun jiving track full of Funk Metal groove you can't help but move too. Junkie$, the song that caught my ear and introduced me to the band is a true hail to Limp Bizkit with ridiculous raps and those phat and loose bouncy guitar grooves in the Wes Borland spirit.

It should be obvious I am enamored by this record. Rumblings of twenty to thirty year nostalgia cycle commonly observed in many artistic mediums have been brewing with the sounds of my youth and trend would indicate its simply getting better routinely. What will this band do next? Who will they inspire now? Its all to exciting for my musical mind to handle. Another amazing discovery along the journey!

Favorite Tracks: Superstar, Neo, Sunny, Thousand Golden People, Baby Cobra, Ask For The Anthem, Junkie$
Rating: 9/10

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Ocean Grove "The Rhapsody Tapes" (2017)


This five piece Australian Alternative Metal outfit known as Ocean Grove have been my absolute binge of late. I discovered them through the Punk Rock MBA's video essay on the revival of Nu Metal. A blessing but also a blur. Letting Youtube play endless songs and discovering them right as a new album drops has made the whole experience overwhelming, now having a plethora of songs I adore to engage with. Narrowing my focus a little, I've been getting my head around this one, their debut full length released seven years on from their inception as a Post-Hardcore band.

The Rhapsody Tapes is stunning, perhaps the reasons a little less obvious as to why in the shadow of whats to come. Youthful, spirited and brimming with emotive energy, somehow they avoid the follies of sounding like a nostalgia trip. The 90s sounds run strong with this band. Nirvana, Oasis and Nu Metal can be heard melding in the melting pot with a vibrancy of modern Metal and ideas brought about in the decades since. Originality isn't in question here, these short and punch Pop Metal songs are so vibrant and well written, they simply work, to be enjoyed without need for reflection.

Without a defined formula nailed down, the twelve songs play with a dynamic range of temperaments exploring groove, emotion and fun within the bright template of crisp distortion guitars resonating massive quantities of energy. A couple of interlude tracks play as expanded elements of style, odd ball collaborations that for the most part work. The occasional inclusion of synth or drum machine adds a little flair. The rest of the music however often has a distinction from the realms of Grunge, Metalcore, Djent, Nu Metal and so on. I could write a list of bands, its as if each song plays tribute to particular artist and genre, sometimes mixing, all of which I happen to be a fan of.

Their singer Luke Holmes may be just getting by on the occasional Rap Metal moments of the record but when letting loose he soars and croons with a stunning sensibility for elevating tone. The duo of Jimmy Hall and Mathew Henley on guitars write sensational vibrant, bouncy riffs brimming with energy. Everything they try is a treat and the chemistry between these three sails the record to a height where I simply can't put it down. Its everything I love, done again and with a renewed youth!

Favorite Tracks: Beers, The Wrong Way, These Boys Light Fires, When You're This High You Can Say What You Like, Stratosphere Love
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 20 March 2020

Lil Uzi Vert "Eternal Atake" (2020)


One to keep an eye on, mumble rapper Lil Uzi Vert has followed up his debut with a stylistic record of interest. Eternal Atake first caught my attention when brought into legal issues with the Heavens Gate cult the original artwork was stylized around. The new cover carries over a sense of something alien and different to throw into the Hip Hop scene but reality is, bar a handful of productions, this a pretty atypical Trap record. Its been fun, enjoyable but it doesn't feel like much here will last.

Uzi's style on the mic is a curious focal point. Deliveries and rhymes are almost tragic, seeming lazy, thoughtless and of the moment when agitated. He is however undeniably catchy and attention grabbing in a entertaining way. Its a strange tightrope he walks and I can't settle my mind, so ill default to the positive and say it works! POP is a great example where his spurious momentum of rhymes capture this driven energy that is lively and fresh yet the word of rhyme is simply one on loop in many occasion. Its got a cadence and charm yet is lyrically hollow and lacking.

This is the case for much of the record, slurred words and ridiculous rhymes come about often. Its ironic but the more focused on style over the substance Uzi is, the better his flow and energy feels, arising often in tandem with the abandoned of lyrics. When story and narrative can be comprehended its mostly a slew of braggadocios and lewd show boating. Nothing much of substance was extracted, Uzi mostly works as an expressive voice grooving and playing of the instrumentals.

Production is split into thirds, the opening of which is the most intriguing, dark and alien the samples experiment with tonality and unusual sounds that are a delight, especially when the groove clicks. The middle of the record gets fluffy and lighter with the pop appeal. Its final chapter steers closer to his previous sound and P2 rehashes his Tour Life hit. It ends on a re-imagination of a Backstreet Boys song, not particularly appealing. For me the first third of the record has merit and intrigue but it quickly fades into its own bloated runtime as the tone shifts to less curious sounds.

Favorite Tracks: Lo Mein, Silly Watch, POP, You Better Move
Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Tame Impala "The Slow Rush" (2020)


With a simmering anticipation brewing, The Slow Rush has been warmly welcomed with open arms, taking its place as a glorious successor to 2015's Currents. This lengthy five year break has filtered out any mediocrity and filtered too us a fine selection of music to revel in. Although it may lack in any clear progression or shift forward in style, these twelve tracks sound like the sweetest fruits plucked from the crop of this particular chapter in Tame Impala's style. It's more of the best.

Given all I wanted was more of the same, I have absolutely adored this record! Its gorgeous, organic, oozy fusion of Psychedelic Rock and Electronic music is a textural lavishing of sound. Its mood particularly sunny and uplifting this time out, a spirit positive and reflective on the river of time. Kevin Parker clearly spends a portion of the record musing over changes in his life, growing up, moving on, embracing it all with a kind warm soul as he matures as a person and musician.

The way the album opens up is grabbing and immediate. A warped vocal manipulation get twisted into a melody and spliced with rhythmic timing, entrancing as the beat steadily fades in. It sets the tone of whats to come. Kevin deploys his uniquely soft and easy voice to effect with an expressive energy that boils every time it realigns with the vocal manipulation. In between 90s Dance pianos jives, a reoccurring instrument and synth solos embrace us for whats to come on the adventure.

 Moving throw its various shades and temperaments, bright punchy instruments stomp out grooves and melodies with a fun sense of freedom cruising alongside Kevin's charming reflections. Tone, texture and taste feel so effortless and freeing. The organic, oozy feel his music has is embellished through these sweet and succulent instruments. While it often feel thick and engulfing, a closer inspection of the layers at work are not all to complex. Its the way they come together that is wonderful.

I've enjoyed The Slow Rush immensely and will continue too but just like Currents I feel there is certainly some slower and calmer songs that may dull a little with time and repetitious listens. That is one strength the upbeat and catchy songs have that doesn't quite translate to its less energized songs. Either way its a stunning record delivering more of this stunning fusion, fueled by real inspiration and expression that is endearing and lasting. This could just be one of the best I'll hear this year!

Favorite Tracks:One More Year, Tommorrow's Dust, Lost In Yesterday, It Might Be Time
Rating: 9/10

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Yagya "Old Dreams And Memories" (2020)


Given my utter disappointment with last years Stormur, I almost let this one pass me by but alas I had to find out if the Icelandic musician Yagya would kindle his particular breed of calming magic again. I'm please to report the answer is yes. It is a return to form but also no measure of anything unheard before. After much consumption, it essentially confines Old Dreams And Memories to the playlist along with his other works when seeking the relaxing mood of his soft and dreamy atmospheres.

Toying a little with tense strings on occasional tracks, the usual remedy of dub baselines resonating slow club grooves below cloudy synths gets a little flavor to define it. Many of the usual tones, synths and drum sounds in his pallet resurface alongside these Classical elements, bringing about a sorrowful and saddening tone to otherwise carefree and indulgent sound. Its rainy, glum, yet entrancing and beautiful as  sombre violins usher in a seriousness on its select tracks.

The voice of what I presume to be a Japanese woman crops up throughout the record. Her soft spoken word creates an intimate feeling of something serious. Given the nature of the music it has less of a manifestation into theme but adds a little mystery to the records vibe. All in all the new songs have provided the Yagya experience again but with nothing remarkable going on. As always this music is fresh on first listen but quickly its ambience and atmosphere confines it to the background.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 13 March 2020

Queen "A Kind Of Magic" (1986)


Kicking off with two utterly phenomenal tracks, Queen's twelfth outing proceeds to play like a series of bad choices where the groups eclecticism and willingness to follow the sounds of the time leads them astray. Its actually Freddie himself who gets the better of me, a rarity for his glorious voice. The played out slow ballad sound of One Year Of Love and the utterly cheesy Pain Is So Close To Pleasure have him steering his voice into a high pitch ranges that I just found discomforting. A couple of proceeding tracks play up an expectant Queen approach to songwriting before the album switches its last three songs into a soundtrack for the movie Highlander.

Gimme The Prize amps up the Arena Rock vibes with some Heavy Metal guitar leanings. Its big Industrial thumping drums bring things together. A little cliche but it has an attitude. Samples from the movie tend to break up the flow and cause fillers that sound trashy as evil laughs, explosions and sword slashing sounds do little for the music. Continuing on themes from the movie, Don't Loose Your Head has an typically 80s synth tone but the lyrics and sample inclusion makes it feel forced. With Princes Of The Universe they pull together many classic characteristics but to no avail.

Its opening two songs are all too well known due to use in pop culture, however giving them some up close attention I appreciated them a lot more. One Vision's use of synth and electronic manipulation in its opening sets the stage and gives a brilliant tone for Heavy Metal funk to jive in a futuristic feeling. The aesthetics are brilliantly constructed and the following Its A Kind Of Magic reinvents another Queen formula with those pumping baselines, rigid drums and atmospheric synths. This albums problem is that of many Queen records for some time now, the eclecticism that once made a brilliant album experience now seems rather tacky and without substance. They still make fantastic music but as the track record proves it comes in spurts that make for a good song or two each album. With some particular lows, its peaks can't save this from being their worst output to date.

Favorite Tracks: One Vision, Gimme The Prize
Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Clipping "CLPPNG" (2014)


Now here is a remarkable group that may draw unfair comparisons to Death Grips. Also an Experimental, Industrial Hip Hop trio the link might seem strong at first glance but the reality is Clipping are a rather different beast. Breaking the music down to its two core components, a chemistry exists unlike anything Ive heard before but I can't say it does it for me around the clock. I can however appreciate the artistry and skill on display. The music however, tends to shy from cheap tricks, groove and flash but keeps itself closely guarded by an unforgiving, cold presence.

The instrumentals are something to be adjusted too. Often minimalist and sparse, its atmospheres are birthed through textural snippets and samples that stray away from melody and rhythm. Cold mechanical sounds, sirens, noise and distortion loosely cling percussion that is barely present. Many of the songs reside in a dystopian, life drained state, barely growing or evolving from its initial inception while Daveed Diggs wilds off on the microphone. Get Up is literally two minutes of rapping to alarm clock before anything musically happens. Its conceptual, clever and jarring. I can't help but feel the goal is to paint an un-glorified picture of the subject matter.

Diggs is a phenomenal talent. Precisely enunciated, daringly swift and churning out the words at a dizzying pace his crisp and clear voicing is entrancing. With a lenience towards rhyming, his cadence cruises over multiple bars before looping back round to a rhyme of groove in the delivery of his words. Quite often he musters a dizzying momentum, blasting through very competently articulated story telling. Following his words can be intense to keep up and immerse in the vivid nature of his words. It borders with something akin to spoken word at times but the pacing and glue to the instrumental is firmly Rap, along with the themes of course.

Together they form a bold statement. This album plays through its themes of street and club life with an unforgiving coldness brought to life through its instrumentals. Its remarkable but the lack of relief and fun makes it quite a heavy and burdensome listen. Its more of a remarkable spectacle than something to throw on and jive too. Its only on Body & Blood that a semblance of bounce and groove is exploited. Its also one of the darkest atmospheres the album offers. I've found it hard to enjoy this on an emotional level but I can't flaw its artistry, very unique and focused, especially the story raps!

Favorite Tracks: Body & Blood, Story 2
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Ihsahn "Telemark" (2020)


Norwegian musician Ihsahn is the genius behind one of my all time favorite bands, Emperor. Ive been meaning to follow his solo work more closely and so I lapped up this new release, which turned out to be just three original songs alongside two covers. Not bad considering it was dirt cheap even for digital music standards! It clings closer to a traditional Black Metal atmosphere with thrusts of aggression, blasting drums and snarling screams to forge its darkly mood. Although a return to roots and departure from his more progressive approach, the music finds itself intermingled among subtle saxophones, trumpets and synths that give the Nordic flair a little textural flavor.

Its a chemistry not to remarkable but competent. The opening track brings forth marching chug riffs aligned with the strikes of horns elevating the tensions on a metallic crusade. Nord pivots to a slower pace. Shimmering hazy guitars birth a scenic vision of a cold Ethereal move nature elevated to a beautiful peak when its clean backing vocals bring in the soothing harmony. The title track hinges on a rather folk vibe. Its tricky, swiftly meandering melody has the groove and jive of something native and cultural. The tune drifts into a darkness that gets chopped and churned as the music searches for a crescendo it doesn't quite reach.

Its covers split the mood. Rock And Roll Is Dead jives out its funk with a Jazz band, the screams and distortion guitars playing second fiddle to the dominant instruments. Its almost gaudy but somehow seems to work. Wrathchild does something a little similar in moments, taking the classic Iron Maiden song and throwing in some saxophone led spice into the mix. Its good but its metallic aspect doesn't give much the original can't. Its been a fun listen, a well executed set of songs with an interesting inclusion of instruments not traditional to metal but not something to rave about.

Favorite Track: Nord
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Algiers "There Is No Year" (2020)


The southern American outfit Algiers have been on my radar since their remarkable The Underside Of Power. This retro intensive sound has the hauntings of Soul and Gospel playing out in a Post-Punk aesthetic that has been remarkable in the past. This third chapter is inherently bleak and downtrodden, a clear stylistic aim into an oppressive darkness. Its rather burdensome with little relief in its run time. Gloomy depressive atmospheres play out with a sense of unyielding dread looming.

In its intelligent self realization, this record fails to give a little leeway on groove and melody for any uplift or reprise in pursuit of its vision. Instead it plays like a grey rainy day without an end in sight. Its damp and miserable, the fog never clears and the injustice mounts. Its mechanical pattering percussion, atmospheric upheavals of guitar noise and the pained soulful singing of Franklin Fisher keep the harrowing mood sharply focused on its descent, the feeling they forge forever grieving.

The tracks roll out with various themes and temperaments. The degrees of desperation tweaked and any composition or aesthetic of interest feels chained too its sunken, defeated feeling. Its a beautiful vision into a shade of darkness but without that uplift my appreciation could only go so far. It took a while for me to make sense of my lack of enjoyment. A lot of the dark music I like channels these things with energy and a counteracting force but There Is No Year is too consistently bleak for me.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, 2 March 2020

Grimes "Art Angels" (2015)


Wildly individual yet accommodatingly familiar, Canadian singer and composer Grimes has blown me away with this critically acclaimed record I'm just catching up to. It was her appearance on the Mindscape podcast that prompted me to finally get around a name I've been hearing over and over this past decade. Definitively self-taught and devilishly expressive, her music in this instance is a free formed tapestry of creativity, musical ideas colliding yet landing with grace. Everything eccentric, experimental and fun works its way into the cracks of commonality. Given its her forth album, it might have been a journey to arrive at this exceptional moment. Something I'll learn soon.

Opening with a couple mysterious machinations of obscurities, best exemplified on the jaunting Scream, Art Angels drops into swooning currents of uplifting Dream Pop, rolling out cheerful, chirpy and artistic pop songs one after the other. With a unique flavor, she unexpectedly rolls out experimental and otherwise unusual constructs, often percussive, that gel effortlessly. Occasionally Ethereal, often grooving, the music's sea of influences swell in the later half with these Club music temperaments of Dance and Rave propelling this mesmerizing and indulgent atmosphere.

Grimes brings in her sometimes childish, playful and innocent voice that transforms to a mature and spirited swoon, ascending to a heavenly dimension as she soars with a freedom in the crescendos. Cruising through the clouds and leaving all earthly weight behind, she births many an entrancing passage when reaching to the peaks of her singing. Its in these climatic moments you'll forget everything. Its liberating.

My journey into the record was interesting in retrospect. What just seemed like good and cheery music in the beginning steadily indulged with familiarity and blossomed into a wonderful experience that I can't get enough of. I'm so impressed by the individuality of Grimes, in her compositions and singing she can be so welcoming and warm in tone it almost masks the beautiful and intricate world of her music that you end up trapped inside of. All to easy to hear it as generic but with a closer ear you'll get locked inside her imaginative realm, never wanting to leave.

Favorite Tracks: Scream, Flesh Without Blood, Artangels, World Princess Part II, Venus Fly, Buttefly
Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Opeth "In Cauda Venenum" (2019)


I've spent a healthy helping of time getting to know this record and the indulgence won't stop anytime soon. The gravitas of Opeth has not sucked me in quite like this in a long time! I wanted to get deep into this album and the time invested suggests this may just belong alongside the best of their works like Damnation and Deliverance. A bold statement but in this post Death Metal era for the band they seemed to of finally channeled the vigor and sheer power of brutality into swells of luscious Progressive Rock successfully. It swoons in its own glory, the style and voice of the band feeling rooted as their heaviness arrives in its powerful layers of instrumentation that may be a bit much to those unfamiliar with Metals bombast. This has both might and delicacy.

With surges of strings, synths, empowered basslines and the soaring of Akerfeldt's clean voice, the percussion batters out the groove and momentum once propelled by distortion guitars and guttural screams. Its a beautifully executed pivot where the swoon of songs yield over and over as the music gushes from its gentle acoustic build ups into these upheavals of beautiful emotional out pour that reign supreme. It carries what made this band wonderful forward while also opening up new avenues with strings and pianos playing an enthusiastic role. The song Lovelorn Crime is a keen example of King Crimson alike influences taking hold the soft expressive side emerges, shimmering in the truly delicate and sublime, a moving presence.

The songwriting is wonderful, the themes are explored in true progressive nature as the bleeding cries of Pink Floyd alike guitar solos climax the lengthy epics. With most the songs being six to seven minutes there is never a dull moment, things don't get drawn out and the melodies speak to the soul, lingering in the mind. Beyond the music, its aesthetics hold up well too. The strings are especially gorgeous and there mixing with the vocals are just awe inspiring. It feels like a lot of craft and care went into getting their chemistry right as one can revel in even the simplest of moments given the utter luxurious tone they muster together. On both fronts it excels, bridging the new and old alike, Opeth have finally landed their ambitions.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, 24 February 2020

Örnatorpet "The Heathen Kingdom" (2020)


In the mood for a moody Dungeon Synth adventure, I picked up this pairing of fifteen minute treks through gloomy forests and stoic castles of fantasy, music steeped in heuristic mystery. Its a departure from the icy, snow swept minimalist atmospheres of Hymner Från Snökulla. The Heaven Kingdom has a more traditional sound, drifting through its moulded layers of Casio or Korg keyboard instrumentation, shrouded in a mystery thanks to its nostalgic production utilizing low fidelity aesthetics.

The songs themselves aren't particularly remarkable. They find a few passages that sparkle as layers of synth, culminate, often arising with glistening bells delivering spell bounding melodies. Its a friendly affair that doesn't drift into the available darkness. The air of gloom and grief taints the second track, it grows to quite the scenic song, its rich airy strings holding a sense of grandeur that never settles on steady ground. It may have a hint of menace of foreboding presence but doesn't delve into that avenue.

So both these songs establish mood and tone well. The Dungeon Synth sound is one I know all to well by now. Its a fun listen but little felt remarkable in the sense of rising up, grabbing ones attention or finding a climatic moment. The shifts in instrument pallet were common and well executed, the variety on hand decent but beyond background music it didn't accomplish much which may be more of a testament to my familiarity with the sound, which this record doesn't inch away from with any creativity. Solid, but somewhat predictable, lengthy winding songs that end up meandering on a theme.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Bolt Thrower "...For Victory" (1994)


I didn't feel like getting deep into another Metal bands catalog. This may be the second and last Bolt Thrower record I write about here. To be frank, there is little of surprise here but its also everything I love, just some good old punishing brutality and mid tempo grooves to head bang too! I picked out ...For Victory as it felt like a sister album to Mercenary. The fidelity is a notch better overall, strange considering this was recorded four years earlier. Heading into the future of their discography, newer records sound a little sterile and thinned out. Looking back, earlier releases suffers the fate of many Extreme Metal records of the time, producers had yet to figure out how to make this music sound decent, something Carcass's Heartwork would change forever.

This album leaves me with just about all the same thoughts as last time. Its Death Metal with an edge for groove and mid-tempo sways of bounce that erupt from the punishing atmosphere. Its a constant barrage, a mighty onslaught of battering drums and dense distortion guitars that churn and grind away, leading onto these out bursts of guitar groove which peak the songs. Its temperament is mean and unending with the intensity barely slowing down, its ten tracks continuing on the same warpath from start to end. Karl Willets barks and houls as the guttural front man is again a take it or leave it situation for me. His presence just tends to drift into the mood of aggression portrayed. Overall its a cracking record if you want that mood. Bar one or two songs having a riff I'm particularly keen on, its a solid, well rounded album that just delivers.

Favorite Tracks: ...For Victory, Lest We Forget, Armageddon Bound
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Poppy "I Disagree" (2020)


The only time I'd heard of American singer Poppy beforehand was in the middle of some good old "he said, she said" internet drama. The story goes that her image is modeled around her producer and collaborator's previous artist, causing creative identity controversy. Ditching the former musical partner, she's brought a new team to this record, taking an experimental stride to brush with the twisted aesthetics of Extreme Metal in a whirlwind of styles stretching from buttery Pop and lush Electronic, to the boom and bounce of Nu Metal with a little Industrial grit. I was turned onto this new release by friends but Ive got to be critical, its all a bit too contrived for my taste.

I Disagree's strenuous diversity and flashy eclecticism feels like a shallow facade as just about every pallet presented keenly remind me of other artists, styles and aesthetics heard before. This lack of originality is thrust forth by the stitched nature of its musical progressions. Sudden shifts, jolts and turns in momentum feel hollow as the music pivots from dreamy singing and sunny synths to dirty Djent guitars and hammering drums with little meaning. It leaves the song writing in an awkward place where its intent feels at the mercy of a failed attempt to be audacious and daring.

It's not all bad however. The various musical pallets play well, textures and aesthetics sound gorgeous from start to end, there just isn't any cohesion. Poppy sounds at her soft and effeminate best in the dreamy pop sections as pivots to extremities often suck away the mood in favor of nonsensical aggression. The lyrics too are a bit all over the place. J-Pop influences play out with a quirky manor that falls flat on me. "Bite your own teeth" and other lines fail to offer substance. I think Anything Like Me talks to the drama addressed above and with that some meaning and depth is found but its lacking elsewhere, another dimension that falls short.

For the most part each listen flys by. Its entertaining but with little digging in deep or getting stuck in the mind. It does however end on a fantastic high note as Sick Of The Sun actually sticks to one idea for the whole track, playing out a strange summery vibe that's slightly esoteric and ethereal. It almost feels like a two part epic as an acoustic plucked guitar akin to Metallica's Call Of The Cthulhu or Ozzy's Killer Of Giants brings us into a second phase. This then finds the album's best metallic riffs as giant meaty notes parade with mountainous stature, leading into dazzling guitar solos. Its fantastic song writing on an album that's sorely missing it for all the tracks leading to this ending. A great bow out but also the only two songs to take away from it all.

Favorite Tracks: Sick Of The Sun, Don't Go Outside
Rating: 5/10

Friday, 14 February 2020

Napalm Death "Logic Ravaged By Brute Force" (2020)


My excitement brews as alas it would seem the British Grindcore legends Napalm Death are inching closer to a new full length after line up changes and delays in coordination. Its been five years since Apex Predator, a record that has remained a disappointment in my mind for being all to sterile and lacking some mania and chaos that often sparks the magic in their music. The good news is this two track teaser EP shows promise! Although it only has the one original song, a grim, visceral cover of White Kross by Sonic Youth. It is a fitting match to this new tone and musical balance the group have brought together for their newest installment of madness.

Logic Ravaged By Brute Force plays to the bands strengths and atmospheric ability. Dissonance and a bludgeoning wall of sound brings about a crushing sound that doesn't over state itself with crisp production or over pronounced instruments. The drums are dense, a thick tone thats punishing, striking without overpowering. Beside them guitars navigate through the weaving of plucked high strings and snaky low end riffage that is forever unsettled. Its vibe is restless, below the music is driven by its baselines, pounding things forward. Above it all Barney howls in unending fury!

The song doesn't reach a conclusion, it bubbles and boils but no outbreak or slamming riff arrives, instead it revels in the tension. The bands aversion to chaotic moments of outburst are one of my favorite distinctions however with this track it feels like the right call. The songs tension simmers away as its brought to the edge. Its only one track but my reaction is that Napalm Death have pivoted to an atmosphere driven approach of tension and unease. With this powerful studio production the aesthetic is firmly in place to produce a fine record with this teaser track mustering my apatite!

Rating: 3/10

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Old Tower "Seelenasche" (2020)


Alongside Drachenblut and Finsterströmung, the Dutch musician and Dungeon Synth master Old Tower completes the "dark alchemy" trilogy with this newest release. Once again its three songs of dark, spiritual, meditative music with an eerie and unsettled quality. My immediate enjoyment of Seelenasche had me pondering on my complaints around musicians or bands getting stuck on a sound, failing to progress. In this case the premise of a trilogy has firmly set expectation and they have been met. This was purposefully the musical experience I wanted, however it is the weaker of the three.

Seelenasche sounds rather reserved and less adventurous in comparison. The mystique and tension is loosened as its commonly reverberated instruments are paced at a slow tempo with soft, inviting melodies gracing the rather welcoming droning of base horns that make up the atmospheric backdrop. The Chasm Within plays out a more mysterious tone with its lead instrument sounding lost and lonely in the beginning as the song builds up its layers to then meander back into isolation. Its all fair however the sense of lurking evil or a coming event simply isn't in these tracks, they are far more pleasant, relaxed and inviting, which is fine of course.

As the final, title track, rolls around the tempo and spirit picks up, ushering in triumphant horns over a smiling base line. With a couple more layers its denser tone feels as if the sun has touched it. A sense of gleam and wonder arises, perhaps in the wake of light flooding the deep dungeons this music so often conjures. Maybe this warmer climate creates a nice conclusion for the trilogy, a final resting place. Either way I have enjoyed all thirds. I'm excited to see what Old Tower comes up with next!

Favorite Track: Seelenasche
Rating: 5/10

Monday, 10 February 2020

Bring Me The Horizon "Music To Listen To…" (2019)


Having announced a planned departure from the album format, the Sheffield outfit Bring Me The Horizon swiftly follow up on Amo within the same calendar year. It is their first EP, a format which they've announced will be the new norm and surprisingly its the groups lengthiest release to date clocking in at seventy five minutes. Its no serious affair, the eight tracks stack up the run time with two ten minute songs and another at twenty four mostly consisting of a glitched vocal snippet on loop with some accompanying rambling dialog. Its an experimental piece, unstructured output paired with a ridiculously long record title. Its song names too tend to steer to the obscure.

What's obvious on first listen is the lack of format, a lifting of restraints. Music To Listen To... plays more like a collection of jams and experiments from the studio, perhaps a window into the process before the real writing takes place. Mostly devoid of its metallic component, the groups influences from Electronic music and Ambient play out in experimental fashion, showcasing the more eclectic taste as musicians. A Devastating Liberation is simply the backing track to Why You Gotta Kick Me When I'm Down. How the two came together would be a fascinating learn. It holds up well as a dark, foreboding electronic, symphonic hybrid of monstrous magnitude.

The songs mainly showcase a variety of shades from the massive web of styles that is Electronic music. For the most part it plays well, in a laid back relaxed context. There is little in the way of direction that feels expressive or envisioned. It is mostly a mood, tone or temperament that is established and then droned out at length. Snippets, moments and textures shine like elements of the bands normal dense tone, however they are simply laid bare on their own. Its an interesting insight to the bands process and creativity but as a record it makes sense to not call this an album. I've mostly enjoyed each listen but with that lack of structure, much of the music just floats in the present, making little impact or birthing ear worms for the subconscious afterthought.

Favorite Track: A Devastating Liberation
Rating: 5/10

Friday, 7 February 2020

Fatboy Slim "You've Come A Long Way, Baby" (1998)


This record has been my recent obsession, revisiting one of the very first albums of my youth, a time when I started to develop an affinity for music. It was just before the massive singles Praise You and Right Here, Right Now were to take off. The latter is still a staple song at sports events over twenty years on. Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim broke ground with this, his sophomore record and thrust the emerging Big Beat sound onto the masses alongside acts like The Prodigy and Basement Jaxx. It's not just this record alone I've enjoyed, digging around on the genre has really scratched an itch for the break beat eccentric sound that was all to short lived.

The sound is lively, its energy grooving and this hour of music slams through stitching of samples that still feel massive all these years later. Pushing the limits, Norman's ear for beats flirts with the harsher, almost Industrial breaks. The percussion is very involved, textured and layered as the drums stack up. Its dense, heavy and a key component that plays the line well, never going to the extreme. Alongside this back bone, Norman lines the songs with obscure sampling, flourishes of electronic melody and best of all an abuse of vocal snippets on high repetition which he manipulates with a variety of effects. A subtle genre bending flows throughout as its source samples bring a range of vibes together under its power percussive persuasion.

Powering its way through its breaks, the album pivots at the end as the colorful, piano led and toned down Praise You transitions us into the final two songs. They are built up with fresh Tencho melodies on its own electronic synthesizers. The slamming beats and drum grooves still accompany but these two tracks stand out by composition as they don't pivot around a core sample, freeing the music up to more progressive structures that move through some dramatic phases and layering. Its organic, less constricted as the electronic instruments open up to more masterful manipulation.

This actually speaks to one of the records downsides, not a major issue but something that does tire after many listens. With a repetitive nature at its core, the draw backs of sampling and great chemistry can get stuck on how to add variety and progression to the music when trying to break out of the verse chorus mold. This manifests into speeding up, slowing down, a lot of tempo phasing and rapid sample repetition. Of course obnoxious snare drum riffling fires off too, that usually links back into the main beat with a little spice thrown on top. It is perhaps emerging production techniques of the time being over utilized and thus now sounding a little dated. The execution on Kalifornia however is stunning, both its build ups lead to booming amped up breaks.

All these years later its still fantastic but as an album It fails to feel like more than the sum of its parts. Its not to say there are any stinkers or songs holding it back but as an execution of the Big Beat concept, it feels very much like the best experiments have been plucked from the crop, lumped together and polished to shine. There is no doubt to the longevity of its singles however, still a common one to hear on radio and television as its woven itself into the cultural British fabric. Its a fun record that jumps all over the place with that powerful percussion holding it all together. Adoring this sound at the moment, I think I need to dive deeper into this yet another 90s sound.

Favorite Tracks: Right Here Right Now, The Rockafeller Skank, Build It Up Tear It Down, Kalifornia, Love Island, Acid 8000
Rating: 8/10

Monday, 3 February 2020

Fever Ray "Plunge Remix" (2019)


My disapproval and contempt for this record mainly stems from my own impulsive purchase of what often lands a loss in the hit or miss equation of the contentious remix album. On the whims of pure excitement, the promise of a new Fever Ray record had my handing over my cash without thought, not even a quick stream to see what this Remix of 2017's exceptional Plunge album would be like. As you might guess, I am not impressed. The bar is set low as these ninety six minutes seem to have little in the way of a quality threshold. A whole host of names, none of which I know, jump on board to tear apart the instrumentals, with Fever's voice held together to form mere semblances of the original material. She is the highlight, her singing holds up to some of the monstrosities on here. It feels like a dumping ground for half baked beats and b-sides that have been lumped together, making little of interest to find new avenues through old roads. Its a wasted opertunity.

For the majority of songs, melody or song structure seems to be of little importance. Much of these remixes play like experimental exercises in rhythmic noise, abstractions of Dance and Club music. Electronic percussion patters around aimlessly maligning the samples and vocals snippets of the source material with uninspiring results. The energy is dull and with its reasonable songs squished into the first few numbers, its a long and painful ride. I can empathize that this isn't my preferred style of music, these sub par tracks may offer some intrigue to fans but Id be hard pressed to believe anyone would enjoy such stinking lows as Rip Me's "rework" of Idk About You. Its stark baselines, minimal whirl Trance synths and desolate deployment of harsh kicks is an absolute calamity of anti ideals assaulting the listener.

There is unfortunately a couple of equally bad songs that test my tolerance. I hope this serves me as a remind that Remix albums can be foul. This might be one of the worst in recent memory, perhaps it could rival Meow The Jewels. The take away is that this is a novel record, maybe not even for the die hard fans. I'd like a refund but the music economy doesn't work that way. I'm joking... or am I?

Rating: 2/10

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Eminem "Music To Be Murdered By" (2020)


Arguably raps biggest name, Eminem, has dropped a surprise album on us to kick of the new decade! Inspired by the acclaimed horror movie maker Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 album of the same name, the shock of its release and blood soaked album cover set off a spark in my mind. I yearned for the Detroit talent to be freed of constraints and pursue an interesting concept and avenue for his rhymes. This led to a rather disappointing initial listen as Em dives straight into the fatigued back and forth with his haters on Unaccommodating, continuing to fight his insecurity of the criticism leveled his way again. Its become a tired theme souring his recent string of albums.

There is good news however. With each listen the album grows as the weak spots reveal themselves to be clustered either side a string of decent songs in the middle. The underlying themes emerge, Eminem venting his personal relationships, childhood struggles and tackling the current wave of tragic shooter events in his country. Its articulated with a finesses and attitude only he can do. His technical prowess and wordplay is a splattered mess of gaudy, goofy and genius. I find myself not sure if I should love or cringe at his puns, punch lines and words between the lines. Finding reasons to enjoy is always better than the baggage of critiquing a musical prodigy tho.

Unsurprisingly there is deep well of topicality in his lyrics to get into and its all put together with variety. His slow, steady, purposely directed words on Darkness tells a tale from the narrative of a shooter at a concert, a typically controversial Eminem track but the tone is right to get the message across to those who are open to hear it. Moments before this glum sorrowful song Em is going ham with his chops of lightning spat rhymes as he rivals his own Rap God with Godzilla, perhaps a through line in the name there. The vibes jump from fun to sad with a track switch and so does his flow, as much of the album will move from one idea to the next, Em deploys a healthy variety to engage but consistency is something to be desired.

The production initially shook me up, I didn't like a moment of it. Familiarity drew me in on the second spin, Its a constant curiosity of mine how that works. Now I'm loving it. The beats are sharp, snappy and crunky, the percussion pops and provides an aggressive framework of liveliness to compliment the energy of Eminem and his guests. They were for the most part in Em's shadow, a hard place to make an impression from. The likes of Skylar Grey could stand out when she lends her singing. Yah Yah is possibly best of the bunch, bringing on Royce Da 59, Black Thought and Q-Tip for an exceptional song throwing all the hails back to the golden era of Hip Hop.

As a whole it has its peaks but valleys too. Marsh is a self indulged spew of puns and plays on his name, not sure If I like it. Another Little Engine deploys a ridiculous chorus hook and its usually the hooks that are contentious. The sung choruses hailing back to some of his best music doesn't always land. Stepdad is a wound of a song, Em pouring is heart out but the sung chorus... again I just don't know quite how I feel about it. Overall I think Music To Be Murdered By has a lot of quality and Em gets on track with his topics for the most part. A little curation might of served it well but I think the real test is for how long will these songs stick and will I come back too it often? For now though I've enjoyed it plenty and think its a worthy release.

Favorite Tracks: Godzilla, Darkness, Yah Yah, Stepdad
Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Bolt Thrower "Mercenary" (1998)


I was vaguely aware of the now retired Bolt Thrower from Coventry England. Somehow I had it in mind that they were a Power Metal outfit? Well Bæst and their cover of No Guts, No Glory turned me onto this record and oh boy have I enjoyed it! Mercenary is a moderately simple yet very effective riff led expedition into a torrent of punishing mid tempo grooves. The band's sound borders Death, Thrash and Groove Metal, mostly the first. Its a melting pot of styles swaying between cruising low end melodies and surges of muscular guitar work with momentous persuasion.

The production is admittedly a hurdle to pass, requiring volume as its thick, dense guitars bleed into the consciousness. Its a tad muddy and monotone but serves its purpose as the groove and grind gets to resonate through this burly heaving sound. The drums plays a fantastic roll in illuminating the rhythm guitar, often hammering out steady grooves that pivot to alternates, making the same riff bounce with a renewed energy. Its not flashy and certainly doesn't overbear with blast beats and the like. They simply guide everything along its path with a powerful and effective chemistry.

Like an inconsequential layer of gruesome sound, Karl Willetts shouts his meaty groans and growls with a brutish demeanor. Its a rather atypical guttural performance that rarely breaks stride. It adds little to the music other than a reinforcement of variation over the looping riffs below him. I could take it or leave it. Given the discernible nature of the 90s Death Metal vocal style there was little of the war themed lyrics that came across with any solidity. Some of the easier understood hooks had rhyme and reason to them, especially on the aforementioned No Guts, No Glory.

The best aspect of Mercenary are the riffs, an arsenal of power chords, chugging grooves, low string grinding all spliced with darkly melodies to forge a riveting atmosphere. Its heavy on repetition with short bars being looped, the drums helping them along as the patterns often pivot to revitalize. The heavy is momentous and crushing, the melodies dark and foreboding and their pace moving together is perfect for that infectious head banging a metal head loves. Its the sort of Death Metal I enjoy most, not strictly but with a spice of other sounds. Great record, gotta check out more!

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Merauder "Master Killer" (1995)


I caught wind of this mid nineties crossover classic from a documentary about the music scene and bands of that era. The second track Life Is Pain perked my ears, catching my attention and upon buying the recorded I discovered a telling track, Downfall Of Christ. It was actually decades ago I first heard this song covered on a split album between Caliban and Heaven Shall Burn. It speaks volumes to how I initally perceived this record, another fractional style of the Thrash Metal and Hardcore union that would go on to shape the sound of Metalcore bands yet to come.

Master Killer is a steady moving, thirty five minutes of personal vented anger. Its wrapped up in a continuous wave of crushing grooves and thrashy guitar chugging that mixes sensibilities from both sides of the isle but more so the metallic. Rosado has a strained shout on him, the vocals groaned with a texture swaying towards the Death Metal spectrum but with enough gusto and frustration to ground his limited range of shouts in the Hardcore feel, which the occasional muted gang shouts reinforce. Its far from charming but his energy serves his purpose at the forefront.

The instrumentals are the selling point. Pummeling drums deploy intense patterns, utilizing double pedals and driving the music forward with intent. The guitar work lays down plenty of fast picking rhythms and punchy power chords but its the groove the two together bring out that really lights up the music. The majority of these components would easily separate into Thrash. Its solo's erupt and dazzle with electric energy too but with the right approach they have aligned to extrapolate this contagious sense of bounce and groove between the lines. Its quite contagious.

This is also a dated record, its percussion rattles loosely, guitars carry a meaty amount of low end noise and takes a moment for the ears to adjust. Its a great record to point at as a key link in the formation of Metalcore but no masterpiece. Although it has no stinkers you can't help but feels these songs could of reached a little further. Song structures are simple with not a lot of reshaping moments. The whole plays like an onslaught of riffs and grooves fit to simple structures. Its fun and energizing but rarely pushes beyond itself. Still a fantastic record, I've really enjoyed it!

Favorite Tracks: Life Is Pain, Downfall Of Christ, Take By Force
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 24 January 2020

Autumn's Grey Solace "Englelícra" (2019)

 

Somehow, someway, I missed this release last year by one of my favorite bands! I think I've struggled to enjoy their recent records as much due to a shift in direction and lack of evolution that's left one of the duo's most charming aspects, the singing of lyrics, in the dust. However going into this, their twelfth studio record, I was essentially prepared to embrace whatever it was. With that relinquish of expectation I found my self absorbed by the moody sombre beauty of their established sound once again.

With no surprises Scott Ferrell plucks out eight constructs of lavish instrumentation, all oozing in echos and reverberations. His shimmering guitars birth a luscious tropical darkness both beautiful and melancholy, a colorful sound that drifts into the pale. Driven along by soft but firm driving baselines and simple looping arrangements of cavernous drum patterns, the songs tend to exchange their complimenting sections back and forth before the run time concludes the song with no crescendo.

Singer Erin Welton lends her voice to the music more so as an instrument, singing just notes with a sweet and soft delicacy, coming in like a wind gusting through and fading back into the silence. Of course she is given a fair helping of reverb to achieve this ghostly yet beautiful tone. She tends to deploy melodies the likes of a synth would do, dropping on top of the instrumental with short notation loops to layer up the harmony. Their are occasions of experimentation and vocal dexterity but its mostly simple.

All the songs tend to echo the shades of previous songs as the formula has barely shifted and given the relatively simple song structures and lack of complexity the album really hinges on mood and atmosphere. To no surprise that is where they excel and so this record was warm and welcoming to dive into, getting exactly what you'd expect, an engrossing Ethereal feeling. I would still very much like to see them diversify and experiment but no complaints from me if this is all we get!

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 20 January 2020

Aurora "A Different Kind Of Human (Step 2)" (2019)


Now on my fourth Aurora record, either the familiarity is diminishing her charm or something is off. I think it may be the latter. Baring little overt relation to Step 1 other than aesthetics, this full length follow up to the EP just doesn't illuminate the stunning charm of her singing in the same way. Firstly the tone seems to of shifted. The River kicks the record off with bright, punchy, jovial synths that expand and contract, flowing with glossy melodies that shuffle along the strong Electropop vibe. Its a step away from the subtitles of the past and Aurora's voice just feels crowded in these moments.

The album grows with a range of song temperaments, some quieter than others and her voice is given plenty of focus to shine but it doesn't come together with the same magic. The instrumentals seem too energized, overplaying their role. Her range continually goes towards its strongest, lacking a vulnerability and sensitivity that previously blossomed into the moving moments. The cultural Nordic echos feel distant too and many of her vocal constructs we might refer to as the hook just don't land with the same engrossing nature. There is variety and creativity, just not at that level again.

It might seem like I am splitting hairs but its a knifes edge this style is balanced on. Going back to any of the past records I get all the feels but from this one? Not so much. Dwelling on the differences can easily overshadow what a great record this is though. Its delightfully easy on the ears and engrossing with its swells of colorful electronics and tribal percussion. Her voice is still a delight and the songs are warming to the soul but that soaring above and beyond isn't present, leading me to mostly focus on that as the record is clearly a step back. I am hoping she can steer things in a challenging direction moving forward as this one was a little to routine.

Favorite Track: Apple Tree
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Drown In Sulphur "Blackwind" (2019)


Its time to throw myself back to my youth and enjoy some Deathcore! Blastbeats, slams and ludicrous gutturals here we come! Browsing Youtube's endless music videos, the song Blackwind caught my attention, purely for being comically fun and brutal with its stomping onslaught of metallic noise and guitar abuse. The song however has legs and so do the other five tracks that accompany it on this new EP, the groups second. Having had a glimpse over their older releases, it seems the Italian band has stepped up their game after a three year silence from their last single.

Their production has scaled too, despite being unsigned the band have put together a competent sound that doesn't feel flimsy or tacky as some of these kinds of records can do. Instead its the perfect podium for Deathcore aesthetics with its crunchy stomping guitars, regularly delivering textural low notes for the breakdowns. The vocals are meaty, a constant barrage of flat throaty growls, shrill pig squeals and general ridiculousness that hovers above all else. It could be a turn off for most but fits in well given the context. The drums deliver battering barrages of groove, culminating nicely with the guitars that border Djent and yet still find a little flash of color in places.

The songwriting is where Drown In Sulphur may stand apart from others. Its no mastery or revelation but they bring more excitement and freshness with a slight deviance from the norms, never settling on the bog standard approach. It gives almost everything a fraction of spice that occasionally blossoms into a fiery whirl of energy as the constant rolling over of riffs finds a peak in the wandering arrangements. Its free structural form plays big into their hands as repetition could of grinded this record to a halt. Fortunately the balance is fair. After many listens I'm still getting a kick.

Blackwind's best parts tend to be the big concluding riffs towards the end of a track however on a number like Serpenthyne a little bit of Iwrestledabearonce alike mania on the fretwork goes down a treat and so does the reverberated acoustic interlude Sulphur. Essentially, where they deviate most from the basic formula of the genre they succeed and with such a variety driven approach their writing pays off! Nuclear Dawn however fumbles through monochromatic riffs and a mid-track drop of intensity as sections don't quite link. Although I am pretty much done with this type of music, its good to keep an eye out and maybe this band is one to follow in the near future!

Favorite Track: Blackwind
Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Sunday Service Choir "Jesus Is Born" (2019)


Released on Christmas day, news of this record was quite the surprise! Having enjoyed Kanye's Jesus Is King record and his collaboration with Sunday Service Choir, I was hoping to hear more of these voices and my prayers were answered! In the context of a dialed down Hip Hop record mixing in elements of Gospel they were exciting and enthralling in their peaks. As a solo project spanning a whopping eighty three minutes across nineteen tracks, it fails to spark the same invigoration.

One of Kanye's marks as a producer is his work with voices, voicing and tonal manipulation. Unfortunately that magic doesn't come to fruition within the confines of Gospel music. The voices stick to purity of the choir which are beautiful and a pleasure to enjoy in their own right but with little extra spice in the mix this quickly becomes monotonous in the reality of this not being quite my cup of tea. I love the soulful singing, uplifting energy and jollity of the affair but it does become tiresome.

As an agnostic the lyrics quickly become repetitive and disengaging. Words of praise and salvation are spun over again,shuffling the same ideas in different variations of words, which fail to appeal to someone not seeking a religious experience. With little to enjoy there, the opening songs are a struggle as subtle organs, pianos and claps give all the attention to the voices which hit their most strident, powerful and in peaks even harshest tones. The union of voices is a force pushed to some extremes even a bit much for this supposed metal head and lover of extreme music.

Once past that ambitious opening, the album drifts into an enjoyable mood as things pivot. The voices feel looser, drums and other instrumentation join in as the session starts to feel more like a jam. Hints of R&B, Soul, even Funk with a little touch of groove liven up the mood and keep the pacing interesting. It isn't however a saving grace for me, the record was fun to dive into into and as much as I appreciate the stunning singing it falls short of substance to engage me as a musical record. Perhaps to someone more versed and enthusiastic about this music it may of been something.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 9 January 2020

City Morgue "City Morgue Vol 2 As Good As Dead" (2019)


Following up on last years Hell Or Highwater, the young duo ZillaKami and Sosmula are at it again fronting another arsenal of overtly aggressive songs to grab your attention. Vaguely known Trap Metal, the duo represent a strain of modern Rap so harsh and aggressive it picks up the metallic nod. They actually deploy distortion guitars on a couple of tracks but the main ploy is dark and sinister sampling amplified by harsh, snappy drum grooves and over the top vocals. The pair spit their rhymes with ferocious energy, many words bordering a shout in its aggression. Unsurprisingly the lyrical content is mean and murderous but ultimately hollow.

Although the theming is of my flavor, the music lacks depth and songwriting is routine. Most the tracks aim to deploy throat grabbing lyrics for a harsh hook, often over played. The two exchange threatening verses that mostly revolve around excessive violence, gang life and boisterous show boating. It quickly turns dull as the continual aggression becomes monotone. I found my attention mostly picking up on what became annoying, like the "woah woah woah woah" hook on the track Woah. Its monotonous, repetitive and just doesn't add much to the song.

The instrumentals behind them are also a bit routine, only a few beats stand out in the slew of songs. Initially most are impressive as they reach to a particularly gritty nastiness however they are often very repetitive with the short loop filling up these mostly short songs. One notable thing that does occur is a handful of songs leaning into Emo Rap territory. Moody guitars drop in and the lyrics pivot to dreary self reflection and depressive outlooks. Very akin to Lil Peep but nowhere near his level of charm. Overall a disappointing follow up with not much to take away from.

Favorite Tracks: Draino, 16 Toes, Peeling Scabs
Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Aurora "Infections Of A Different Kind (Step 1)" (2018)


The two steps of Infections Of A Different Kind starts with this eight track EP, to be followed up by a full length album, the second part. Conceptually it feels like another collection of songs with perhaps a lusher production and temperament than its preceding All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend. Maybe the album will expand on these halves. On its own Step 1 is simply another gorgeous illumination of Aurora's dazzling voice. Its instrumental's feel a step more ambitious as subtlety is traded for bright and bold surges of complexity. Pianos, drums, layers of synth elevate from atmosphere brooding beginnings into ravishing swells of color and harmony. The tribal percussive undercurrent always drives the music forward and the whole thing plays like a temple of worship to her voice, soaring above all like a beam of light.

It starts with a bang, a couple of lively tracks driven punchy drumming, then through its trajectory grows increasingly soothing and calmer in nature. The songwriting is just wonderful, seemingly simple but beautifully arranged and quite often experimenting with Aurora's presence and form. For example, It Happened Quiet is a unique track in comparison as male voices are brought in for Gregorian alike chants. Most the other songs just find interesting ways to layer her voice, playing with reverbs and harmonization but through it all tugging at heart strings and creating ear worms with her infectious lyrical lines resonating from a gorgeous voicing. Its really moving in its best moments, loving everything about her music right now and eager for more!

Favorite Tracks: Forgotten Love, All Is Soft Inside, Churchyard
Rating: 8/10