Saturday, 4 July 2020

Xzibit "Weapons Of Mass Destruction" (2006)

As an applause from a crowd dissipates, eerie synths glow in the backdrop as former president Bush's voice gives a chilling speech of his nefarious plans and ill intent. It grabbed my attention by the neck, a fine piece of work stitching his many hours of recorded voice together. Listening casually, it almost sounds legit, on closer inspection the details can be examined with a keen ear. I'm not sure I've heard a manipulation that good before! It certainly set the stage for Xzibit to kick off the record with firm fiery raps and a big stage beat on the album's second track L.A.X.

Unfortunately its a swift downhill trend from here. The production team bring this over assertive musicality to the project. Tracks are scarred by sung hooks deploying overt melodies and the instrumentals follow. A dense use of music theory that lacks the ear for what works. Even Xzibit gets in on these gaudy hooks by singing, which doesn't work. Its mostly jovial, upbeat and cheery. The vibe doesn't mix and there is a lot of repetition for an approach that wants to load in melody and layers. Its a better setting for something with a little Jazz Fusion yet this musicality is packaged into stiff loops.

X actually drops a fair amount of decent lyrics. At times he is tight, on point with a lot to say. Cold World sticks to the albums theme with a Middle Eastern perspective that is hard hitting. When not at his best, the loud droning beats tend to take over attention. Without his usual entourage the shift in tone and style fails to yield much that is memorable and produces more of whats mostly on the irritating side. The project is obnoxious, aiming for a more musical, tuneful Hip Hop record that could grab the Pop audience in the record sales charts. Its execution however is deaf to what makes that work. Its sub-par and at an hour in length its over bloated and hard to get through.

Favorite Tracks: State Of The Union, LAX, Cold World
Rating: 3/10

Friday, 3 July 2020

Run The Jewels "RTJ4" (2020)

I've taken my time with this forth installment. Why? Run The Jewels records have a habit of aging well, something about EL-P's production takes a little time to become acquainted with. Its the unexpected nature of his production. Hinged on fairly unconventional sampling with a dystopian atmosphere, the charm and groove take a little while to unearth. After a ton of spins I find RTJ4 just keeps growing on me. For a duo that gets better on every album, this one could continue that trend... time will tell.

There is a heavily political theme at play, not something RTJ shy away from but with current events in the world, the album takes on the death of George Floyd and the BLM movement head on with some of its hardest hitting lyrics to date. "Look at all these slave masters posing on your dollars" a line from a hook that is embedded itself in the mind. It is mostly Killer Mike who unsurprisingly takes the lead with much of the political head way, driving home much food for thought while reflecting on his own position as a voice for change whilst weighing up his commitment to family life.

Its deep and dense, much like its beats which bring another arsenal of creative ideas to shape up a whole bunch of unique beats with a slightly disorienting flair. Layered and textural, EL-P crafts barrages of disarming sounds with studio manipulations to keep everything exciting and fresh. Its ironically the collaboration with the legendary DJ Shadow that yields a rare duller beat in the lineup, the hook too lacks oomph. Otherwise the music is all gold, with a string of better songs in its second half.

When Walking In The Snow kicks in, the album shifts into top gear, the lyrical intensity amps up. Mike gets a weight off his chest, speaking on the death of Floyd whispering "I can't breath" as the punch line in a powerful verse. It pivots into Ju$t further unearthing the historical tensions around slavery. Never Look Back gets a deep emotional reflection from the two and The Ground Below goes hard again on politic themes with one of the albums best beats. EL-P brings in a subtle yet concrete rock guitar riff to lay a foundation for a grooving bass kick clap groove to rock the boat.

Its a great and captivating stretch of songs. The album's end always felt disorienting to me. The music stops and some electronic synths lead in a narration referencing the first track Yankee And The Brave. The vibe feels just like a warmup yet its a brief one minute stint to see the record out. These are just some observations on a very enjoyable record that I'll continue to enjoy for years to come, just like the last! The duo's form is yet to waiver and their ability to be on the pulse of current topics only adds to the project. Can they keep it going? Id bet so!

Favorite Tracks: Goonies Vs Et, Walking In The Snow, Ju$t, Never Look Back, The Ground Below, A Few Words For The Firing Squad
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Behemoth "A Forest" (2020)

The ground shaking, triumphant beam of blasphemy that was Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel has had me with a keen eye on the Polish Blackened Death Metal legends since The Satanist's release back before I started this blog. Despite knowing they could be capable of more surprises, I picked up this EP with little in the way of expectations, a Cure cover and accompanying live version pained their music in a grim darkened tone that lacked much in the way of excitement, not to mention the guest vocals that are a little wretched, strained and stretched out of tune.

Shadows Ov Ea Cast Upon Golgoth plunges into a grim shadowy realm for a mid tempo track led by aggressive tom drum pummeling that tends to circle the waters in the way of progression a little guitar solo and thunderous ending do little to offer much in the way of gratification from this brief journey into its uneasy state of darkness.

Evoe on the other hands chops up some brighter tuneful, for extreme music, guitar riffs to oppose its dives into double pedal rattling groans of evil. At the mid point the song bursts open, a competent but hastily performed solo sort of achieving what the track before couldn't. I had a feeling It wasn't really worth forking over the dosh but I was curious and in all reality this is a really weak release from a band with a far higher bar of quality, even on an EP. Given these crazy times we are living through, maybe they were just looking to throw out something for the sake of sustenance.

Favorite Track: Evoe
Rating: 2/10

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Queen "Made In Heaven" (1995)

Another journey reaches the end of the road. Queen's fifteenth and final album, a somewhat "posthumous" release, arriving four years on from Freddie's passing. His voice features with normality, still powerful and beautiful, central to the theme, is clearly touched by his ill health. Most the music was recorded before his death and his band mates reworked parts of it after his passing to finish the recording. The result is possibly their blandest work to date, despite having a good spirit and message.

On first listen its gawky, tacky sense of uplift is rather dominating but with a few additional spins some of the Heavy Metal magic in the oppening takes hold. Brain May brings quite the bite in places with weighty hard riffs and bright, slick classic guitar leads in his defined style. Its layered with symphonic keys for a dense sound but as the midway point hits the attitude dissipates. The songs take on a softer tone with a lulling ballad energy focusing on Freddie's somewhat self cliched lyrics and persona.

Its the one record without a standout song, perhaps the title tack comes close with the best of Freddie here and some great cohesion as the song flows. Its counterpart however, Heaven For Everyone, follies as its well intended lyrics stack up the cheese with these ballad like "gentle epics". Its certainly not my cup of tea and ends up being the vibe most the music follows. It leaves me with mixed feelings.

Undeniably genius and brilliant in their element, Queen's eclecticism and eccentricity was practically miraculous in the best of their early output. Heading into the eighties that eclectic nature seemed to weigh them down as cohesion was waning and the song writing became more divided, rigid and lacking adventure. They developed a comfort in writing that lost its excitement and surprise. With Innuendo they mustered a little bit of that spark back but by Made In Heaven they lulled back into that comfort again. Its not a great record to end on but the journey has been immensely fun!

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Xzibit "Man VS Machine" (2002)

Following up on the mixed bag that was Restless, Xzibit brings a surprising amount of coherence to his forth album. Man VS Machine has a similar tone and entourage with Dr. Dre, Snoop and Eminem returning among others, as well as new collaborates DJ Premier and M.O.P. Kicking off with a typical self affirming braggadocio track, the substance then starts with Release Date, a tale of being released from jail and building a mentality for the transition. Its a moment where his rhymes grab your attention and handle a narrative. It happens rather frequently on the albums journey.

Man VS Machine is not without its tarnish, some features feel routine, a few stale overproduced beats and a couple of trashy raunchy songs in the mix but this streak of substance in X's rhymes stand out. He is still firmly rough and tough on the mic, his delivery hard and concise with a firm flow, typical X but between his hard hitting lines, socially conscious leaning verses pack some weight, food for thought in the mix. Its far from profound but as the tracks play these moments frequently pop up.

Heart Of Man remixes Toto's Africa, which might sound like a recipe for disaster and although X is a little harsh for the mood, it somehow serves as a highlight on the record, a rather uplifting track with a solid message of taking life seriously and putting in hard work to who you are and your ambitions. He reflects on his journey and how others and fallen behind, the way of expressing his work ethic is refreshing. It stands out against the overall tone, a lot of spiffing clean virtual instrument beats with enough variety and experimentation to provide something for everyone.

My Name is a fantastic tune, Eminem lends his voice and production for another track that could slip into his own discography. Nate Dogg's voice in the chorus hook really pulls together the vibe of the era. The inclusion of Eddie Griffin on a skit, akin to one on 2001, once again really expands this sounds universe. I was so fond of in my youth, much fun to discover more of it. Going into this I wasn't expecting much giving the historical response but their is plenty here to dig. With a little trim removing some of the fluff tracks it would be one solid record!

Favorite Tracks: Release Date, Symphony In X Major, Heart Of Man, My Name, Missin U
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 26 June 2020

Stevie Wonder "Innervisions" (1973)

A name known the world over in music, but one I had never come acquainted with until now. Stevie was a veteran at this point, a Jazz musician from an era where records where pumped out yearly. Innervisions, his sixteenth, is often frequented by critics as a landmark album, making top lists and the like. Its a highly enjoyable record, loaded with melody and thoughtful compositions. Brilliant songwriting has appealing pop sensibilities between a depth of expansive instrumentation. Initially I was drawn to a subtle streak of Progressive Rock, Visions almost acting as an echo of King Crimson. The overlapping influences of Soul, Funk, Jazz and Rock at play created a point of comparison with some Jazz Fusion records I have enjoyed.

Another thread of influence unraveled. Stevie's voice had a remarkable resemblance to Micheal Jackson, the high pitch woos and cries an obvious characteristic of influence on the king of pop, as well as some of his higher ranged singing carrying a similar persona. His presence is subtlety remarkable. Perhaps it is the competition from the artful instrumentation that competes for attention. Golden Lady a fantastic example of powerful singing that isn't over pronounced or dialed up beyond necessity. His music is warm, inviting and the songs often grow in stature as one is drawn in.

As familiarity settled the themes of social struggle and black life in American became all too apparent. Living For The City tells tales of hard life and daily struggles. The seven minute march opens up with a scenic passage, voice actors and city sounds depict an encounter with corrupt cops. It had me pondering. What was the origin of such an concept incorporated into music? I first heard it on Straight Outta Compton and its become a common feature in Hip Hop musics. Maybe it has its roots here?

Stevie has it all on this record. His instrumentation is a vibrant tapestry of instruments in tandem, reveling in melody, chord arrangements arrive with pleasing simplicity yet offer a wealth of creativity as the Funk energy personifies the synths and instruments with a bold liveliness. It has me appreciating it more with each listen but I may be far from done with Innervisions. Some songs towards the back end don't appeal quite as much when approaching the ballad spectrum but there is a wealth of great music here I can't deny and its been a fantastic introduction to the legendary musician.

Favorite Tracks: Living For The City, Golden Lady, Higher Ground
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Global Communication "76 14" (1994)

Plucking a recommended "ambient gem" from an old playlist, I found myself in a moment of awe as I thumbed over the release date. All the many similarities and artists I could reference flew out the window as this vastly predates the likes of Carbon Based Lifeforms. Now its praise seems all the more apparent given what little that is similar Ive heard before the year of 94. Global Communication are an English ambient duo who have built a timely, beautiful experience here, embarking on seventy six minutes and fourteen seconds of entrancing ambiguity and Downtempo meditations. Its songs are all equally named in length, a combination of two numbers to say little more of the music, other than how long each chapter will last.

This lack of additional substance lets the music take on its own form with no suggestion of what the artists intention might be. For me, an experience both cosmic and spiritual, meditative and temporal, even a little funky and jazzed out in its lively spaces. The music can be whatever you like! Its overall quality is a sonic experience, soft and suggestive with lapses into beat and groove as its lengthy building passages of suspense find release in steady percussive sways. They muster a warm gusto of pace an indulgence into deeply relaxed and chilled soundscapes.

 The record starts with its mighty astral synths playing folly to whats ahead. It opens a portal for a lengthy expedition guided by whirling synths and stitched to reality with its remarkable, tembre tick-tock of a clock, marking time passing by, It seems all to meaningful somehow. The songs then sway between experimental soundscapes and rhythmic rooted tracks that lay down easy tempos and build a world around it with various electronic synth sounds and murmurous bass lines.

 7 39 builds up an appetite with light Industrial vibes and a denser web of interchanging sounds. Its potent melodies overall vibe fondly remind me of Devin Townsend's Project EKO. Its a stark transition into 54, mysterious foreign voices exchange some shared language of communication as spacious beeps and whirls give of an astronomic vibe. It plays into the experience as the foundations of rhythm and melody seemed to be pulled back into ambiguity on a frequent basis.

As the closing tracks returns to the heavenly astral synths heard in the opening, they act like a wrapper for two particular strains of music held together in the middle. Ambiguous experiments in temporal texture and Downtempo chill out tracks converting the electronic music scene of the 90s into ambient form. All of it is fantastic and the way in which it flows just makes for an effortless listen. I can see why its held in such high regard. Hearing what it must of influenced beyond its release has certainly taken the edge off a little but it makes it no less fantastic.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 19 June 2020

Coprofago "Unorthodox Creative Criteria" (2005)

The crudely named Coprofago are a Chilean band likened to Meshuggah, once discovered at a time before the Djent scene had blossomed and an inch for the Swede's new sound was present. With roots in the Technical Death Metal scene, an influence of meaty seven string guitars hammering out blunt, looping polymetered riffs make themselves known from the kick off. With alien guitar leads akin to Fredrick Thordendal and harsh, bleak screams similar to Jens Kidman its easy to see the influence and how fans could be comparative between the two bands.

As the album plays, its other influences start to reveal themselves. The keyboards illuminate another angle, Jazz Fusion and Progressive Rock styling bring an exploratory nature to the music, it provides relief to the brutal onslaught of chugging mechanical riffs and broadens the scope of sound to quite the musical adventure. Tracks like Isolated Through Multiplicity go off on thees tangents of colorful expression, outbursts led by the synths as exchanges in musical electricity between guitar and keyboards play in contrast to the metallic edge and grinding drums.

The synth tones are somewhat cheap and cheesy when given focus to their aesthetic. Yet the performance and composition fits so snugly into whats unfolding that its barely noticeable. The whole thing is a classy affair from talented musicians rattling of their skills into Jazzy constructs of intensity and indulgence as the music often sways between an aggressive temperament and something far more exploratory and emotional, in a mysterious sense as they often pluck at more existential strings.

One could almost separate these two strands that tend to work in parallel rather than find common ground. The swing between is often blunt and swift yet with that it finds a charm perhaps learned through familiarity as this record is one I've frequented over the fifteen years since its release. Its always been a pleasure and listening to it again, breaking down the components I find myself really appreciating this niche era of influence when Meshuggah's legacy first started to spread.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Xzibit "Restless" (2000)

Xzibit's third record, Restless, unites the West Coast rapper with legendary producer Dr. Dre who brings his Aftermath entourage. Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Mel-Man & Nate Dogg all participate in the product. Their worlds collide, what seemed an inevitability giving the influential tone of 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz. This record was like unearthing a lost memory, the beats, hooks and features had the temperament of an era I knew fondly growing up with Em and Dre dominating MTV day in and out. His hit single X is the one song I remember from its airplay on the music channel.

After many spins, my take away is mostly disappointment. I'm sure I'd love it if I heard it at the time but the music mostly feels second hand to the style of production. The tone and temperament, flows and hooks echo of 2001 and his aforementioned guests dominate attention with their styles of the era. Don't Approach Me with Eminem is a fantastic track but as the two exchange verses and Em sings the chorus its practically a Marshall Mathers b-side as the songs weight is clearly on one of their shoulders.

 A couple tracks sour with weak hooks or trashy lyrics. Snoop on D.N.A is just ridiculous, made me reflect on how mean and vicious his attitude was at this point in his career. Its not all bad. X brings on other legends like Erick Sermon and KRS-One who put together two fantastic tracks, the loose yet sharp, goofy beat Alkaholik and Kenny Parker Show an old school banger bringing back the classic echos on rhymes.

What about X himself? I felt like he had less to say overall. The immediacy and thirst lacking a little which seems to be a common thread in Hip Hop once success is reached. His rhymes are solid and flow aggressive and rugged but a lot of the lyrical topics were mainly self affirming and defensive of his ability on the mic. Its the most common theme but unless bringing the sharpest arrangement of words its wont stick.

One track, Sorry I'm Away So Much, stands out as a thoughtful song about being a father from his the perspective of X's lifestyle but its a lone track of reflection among a lot of typical hard headed rhyming. Restless is a curious record, a project with a lot of hands on deck, bringing many sounds together that tend to cloud its focus where quality is sparsely found between mediocrity.

Favorite Tracks: Alkaholik, Kenny Parker Show, Double Time, Don't Approach Me, Rimz & Tirez, Get Your Walk On
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Trivium "What The Dead Men Say" (2020)

Having spent over a month with this record my dissatisfaction perhaps stems from a case of fulfilled curiosity with their previous effort, The Sin And The Sentence, being a proper introduction to the bands identity. What The Dead Men Say feels like a total rehash of the same summery anthemic festival Metal spun with the same craft, intensity and almost cheesy lyrics poised with a tone of might, honor and glory. Matt Heafy's wording and delivery bares it formula, making for a rather predictable string of songs that summit the same emotional struggles over and over again.

To give the record some merit, its a very credible romp of melodic tinged aggressive metal. Soaring its way through turmoil with streaks of grooving riffs neatly composed, the songs carry a constant sense of epic struggle and overcoming odds as the temperament tends to follow the lyrical narrative. The longer tracks carry some variety with breaks from the normative structures but despite regular creative shake ups the whole thing feels like an repeating echo of what just came before it.

It leaves me with not much to say. Its opening track IX creates quite the anticipation with its darkly acoustic but once the metallic guitar kick in with an appropriately crisp, octane production the music swiftly fits the cast its molded for with all the verses, choruses and hooks feeling so normative. Even if this Is all I focus on with my writing, its an enjoyable record, a fun ride of proud fist pumping Metal precisely in the anthemic style Trivium have mastered over the years.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Meshugah "I" (2004)

Part of the excitement leading to Catch Thirtythree was the build up in the Nuclear Blast magazine, the Swedish bands lable. Before its arrival the band would release another one song project, an EP with a lone twenty one minute song known as I. Rougher around the edges and with its drum machine identifications showing, I serves as the bridge between sounds. This was the Nothing and Chaosphere era of the band manifesting into a meaty riff fest of pummeling brutality with shades of the masterclass to come, however this was an exercise in sheer intensity.

Giving it a listen again for some time I find myself enamored by its coarse abrasion and flabbergasted as to how my memory of its genius faded. Perhaps that grinding intro of Bleed like guitar chugging meant I'd skip it over? How could I forget such magic? As the song grows it flexes some alien melodic guitar lines in the background, swelling groove and aggression in a hateful pot. Then comes the real axe grind, meaty poly chugs allure us into an absolute maelstrom of deafening blast beat madness... and then that solo! My word is it a blisteringly fast, finger bleeding assault on the strings baron of any melodic sense, it just starts, full on, then ends... I love it!

The song falls into a lull of discordant acoustics and then its returning riffs echo much of a Meshuggah in years to come with riffs conceptually liking to its predecessor. Pummeling its way on with simplistic grooves and far simpler slabs of head banging groove, a stretched elasticity starts to build suspension, unleashing more measures of hypnotic swaying. Those Catch Thirtythree shimmering tremolo guitars make an arrival in the background and I'm fondly loving the journey through this old treasure.

Listening again, one can really hear the transition play out as a progressive journey through the song. More elements of whats to come persuade the song as its birth through incessant brutality gives way to an arsenal of carefully crafted riffs that are just simply a delight to endure. Turning this song on to churn out some thoughts I am stunned again as to how much brilliance this band posses in their conceptual approach to ideas. These "one song" concepts steered the band from structural norms and in it the freedom to move births so many fantastical ideas. Its a real treat!

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 15 June 2020

Meshuggah "Catch Thirtythree" (2005)

Ah Meshuggah... one of a rare few bands that pull me in like a magnet. Its been around eighteen years since I discovered the Swedish magicians, pioneers of Djent and masters of primordial rhythmic elasticity. Too this day a track popping up on shuffle will have me relenting into a binge, after another one today I felt very inspired to talk of their best work. Its release was in the prime of my musical infatuation, festivals and gigs galore with friends, it felt monumental, a new form to worship.

As an album it succeeds in executing a vision as a whole. Conceptually its one unrelenting forty seven minute song with a few sections of respite. Even its clunky track splitting can't separate a prevalent wholeness as the lengthy In Death Is Death feels like it could equally be split into ten shorter tracks. Catch Thirtythree is a continually unraveling of the bands finest hypnotic riff work to date.

Leaving the constraints of structured song writing behind, the band find a slender liquidity that strikes at the core of their rhythmic magic. An unending unraveling of elastic groove, swaying with bounce, twisting with cryptic intervals, the dancing never ends it seems. A key feature is the inclusion of tremolo picking guitars creating this layer of modal ambience that holds the dizzying jolts of mechanical fret board dexterity to a grounded anchor. Its a missing link barely if at all utilized again since this one.

Mind's Mirror marks a memorable moment as Jens's monochromatic bleak howls get flipped sideways. His spoken words morphed through melodic waves over the top of sparse collapsing guitar noise creates a beautiful and totally unexpected moment to builds up suspense for an entourage of the bands bounciest riffs. The pair of Death songs delve deep into the arsenal of progressive riffs, toying with all sorts of ploymeter arrangement and counter intuitive notation. Its nothing but pure gold.

The record's production is stellar. Crisp, bright and beaming with tone its a sound ingrained in my mind for all the binges I've taken on it. Fifteen years later it still lights a fire in my mind, persuading me fully to its tribal polyrhythmic dance. With so many great moments its hard to pick any favorites. Perhaps that empithizes why the album experience prevails this time around. Its best enjoyed whole and if you make it to Sum, then unleashed are beautiful sways of melody to peak the bands primal brilliance.

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Old Corpse Road "On Ghastly Shores Lays The Wreckage Of Our Lore" (2020)

The allure of romanticized gothic tales and cryptic ethereal extremity was too much to resist. Always mystified by the early Cradle Of Filth sound, I wanted another slice of darkly dramatics from Old Corpse Road who live out that early 90s British Black and Gothic Extreme Metal sound so well. The group are at it again, birthing violent surges of esoteric wonder as barrages of dense sinister synths malign sombre guitar leads. The band craft a great sense of scale and weighty meaning as the music sails through its epic ocean bound tales with a yielding pace and stormy might. Wild shrieks and shrill howls often peak the plunges into the bleak as thunderous slabs of metallic force make a mark on the otherwise rather melodic expressions of these moody tales.

In comparison with what I remember of previous records, the band expand their sound into folksy territory with tones of pagan acoustics and choral signing. Where the album blooms it reminds me fondly of In The Woods, Macabre Omen and the almighty Emperor in one instant, to name a few. It shapes up the album well with more shades of Black Metal than I expected. It sways with a good sense of flow as its lengthy songs pass through plenty of phases, embellishing extremities and finding plenty of musical relief as openings of calm arrive, often eerie and unsettled in nature.

On Ghastly Shores Lays The Wreckage Of Our Lore has a quality I completely overlooked until the routine of writing promoted thoughts of production. This recording is sloppy in consistency, dense and harsh at times with a muddy sense of clarity. This actually plays right into its hands. In the age of octane clarity and precision performance it derives character from its looseness, capturing a sound more identifiable with the era of this styles inception. Its made me appreciate its rough edges so much more as it brings one closer to the tale they are telling. That and the delightful sixteen minute track have made this one a fantastic listen these last few weeks.

Favorite Tracks: Harbingers Of Death, The Ghosts Of The Ruinous Dunstanburgh Castle
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Frank Klepacki & The Tiberian Sons "Frank Klepacki & The Tiberian Sons" (2020)

Alongside the remastered music of Command & Conquer, soundtrack composer Frank Klepacki has teamed up with VGM tribute band The Tiberian Sons to deliver twenty two performances of his iconic music as a Metal band. Its undoubtedly a treat in this exciting and nostalgic time for the game and its fans. Haven listened to it back to back over the last few days, I find myself reaching a more "objective" take on the music, going beyond my adoration and feverish enjoyment hearing these favorite songs of mine through a new lens.

Most, if not all, of the original music is stripped out. The synths hold onto the original tones in many a place but much of the nuance and detail is lost to the band performance. With crisp, high fidelity modernized production, the music has a spacious vacuum where the crystal clear punch of each drum strike, plucked bass line and rattle of distortion guitar tend not to cross paths where some much needed "mud" would give it density. Its a case of being a little to clean for its own good.

I say all this with a grain of salt, its an enjoyable project but I can't help but hear all the missing elements where layers of synths colliding now feel sparse as minimal synth carry things forward with some compensating guitar riffs laid underneath. It all ebbs and flows, some songs carry this burden more than others and leave a listener desiring the richness of the originals. Prepare For Battle being a great example where the song goes through utterly bare sections of just bass and drums alone.

When the band deviate from the purity of original songs, it rarely gives more. The Primus inspired slap bass licks, guitar shredding solos and drum fill barrages to send off songs don't sound particularly fresh or exciting, just that typical theatrical Rock thing to do. On the flip side these distortion guitars shine bright. The crisp and bold tone resonates well and brings a lot to compliment the original compositions.

The non metallic cover of Dusk Hour is a reminder of just how many games Frank wrote great music for. Some tracks from Red Alert 2 make it in with a pair of medley songs adding elements from further along in the franchise I was unfamiliar with. Overall its a huge treat to enjoy but for the most part I'll be continuing with the remastered songs as only a handful of songs here elevate the original music.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 8 June 2020

Frank Klepacki "Command & Conquer Remastered Soundtrack" (2020)

The remastering of Westwood Studio's classic Command & Conquer games is such a great excuse to write about the fantastic soundtrack that accompanied it. Reflecting on the twenty five years since I played this MSDOS game as a kid shines a light how inadvertently it may have shaped my musical taste. The game's sole musician Frank Klepacki took the emerging Industrial Metal sound of the 90s and forged it into a beautifully atmospheric and mood altering layer of the experience that transcended the immersive world of role play strategy and control over militarized units. Some years after initially playing these games I yearned to hear the music again and tinkering with tools obtained from the internet I was able to to extract the audio from all the games and their expansion packs and burning them onto audio CDs. From then and till this day I routinely enjoy them, they are simply timeless!

This remastered collection reproduces everything with a far greater audio fidelity given there were media limitations in the 90s that led to compressed 22hrz audio. These remastered songs have more clarity and depth in sound, without much in the way of compromise. Textures and quieter instruments become more visible and perk the ears with more details to notice but nothing was ever holding these songs from getting their point across. Its a delight to have the songs updated for further listening pleasure but It also comes with extras, outtakes and few missing remixes from the Playstation's Red Alert Retaliation port which I never got my hands on... until now!

Frank's music is relatively diverse, although their are surges of distortion guitar driven tracks with rocking drum grooves, the songs between calve focused atmospheres fit for the high stakes of the game. Edge and suspense is often present, never wandering into darkness or paranoia. Its electronic instruments forge both the calmer songs and upheavals of energy with plenty of 90s electronica music influence on its percussion and a fair helping of that janky stitching of sounds ever present in 80s Industrial. With Red Alert the soundtrack definitely pivots more into the electronic realm with more aggressive synths leading the way in its punchier tracks however the Metal guitar makes its legendary mark with the anthemic Hell March. The marching of feet, the creeping baseline, exploding into a fiery storm of metallic guitar, wonderful!

I'll be giving this one a ten simply to signify how much this music as a whole means to me, that also includes Red Alert 2 and Tiberian Sun too! As for the remastering, I've listened with intent ears and It doesn't seem like anything much has been tinkered or altered for restoration. Some of the reverbs become very obvious with more cavernous depth but skipping back to the originals you can hear they were there all along! That early childhood "nostalgia" is strong, the bonds formed here have been endlessly fascinating to me and always manages to take me to a good place. I am forever thankful for Frank's wonderful music and its been such a delight to see the remaster project acknowledge the music too! Will hopefully find time to play the game a little too before long.

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Queen "Innuendo" (1991)

After a patchy decade pumping out mediocrity around one or two killer songs on each album, Queen enter the 90s with a strong shift in tone to solidify a return to form that was unfortunately their last with Freddie, who's health was declining during Innuendo's creation. The group effectively roll back the years, getting past the simplified approaches to songwriting and creating more inspired pursuits of Progressive Rock that manifest wonderfully on its opening track. They sound like Queen of the 70s.

 Although other songs don't follow this dynamic the album tone lacks any of the cheese or Synthpop influence they steadily picked up over the last decade. Its a return to roots that remains a step forward with the Hard Rock edge playing out in a fun new environment. Brian May's enigmatic lead guitar style sounds less like contrasting bursts of energy interrupting a songs flow. Queen get the mood right here, over and over, his solo's making for wonderful peaks in the flow of musical indulgence.

After a string of tracks, All God's People, These Are The Days Of Our Lives and most guilty, Delilah, hits a snag with that cheesy song writing rearing its ugly head as the tone shifts into a more formulaic cast. The Hitman pulls things back on track with a roaring anthem of Heavy Metal might as its attitude laden riffs throw up a head banger of a track! It's lyrics may be a little goofy but it makes up for it that riff! May also shreds a slick, lengthy lead guitar solo as the song takes a lengthy bow out.

The albums strength is its tone and atmosphere. It feels together as one project with the soft, airy synths composed with a familiarity from track to track. Its variety seems less obvious with this consistent sound, despite there being a handful of styles and creative expressions to go around the songs. Freddie gives a really fantastic performance. Even handicapped by a limit range, he puts all his feeling and passion into whats available. A redeeming record in the Queen arch, just one record left now.

Favorite Tracks: Innuendo, Don't Try So Hard, The Hitman
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 1 June 2020

Xzibit "40 Dayz & 40 Nightz" (1998)

Ive seen this sophomore record of the famed West Coast rapper Xzibit often hailed as his best work. My adventure into these eighteen tracks has been both fun and insightful. It would seem there is a significant tone heard in mood and production style that would be a precursor to Dr. Dre's masterful 2001 and Eminem's generation defining Marshall Mathers LP. Released a year earlier there is a undeniable stylistic similarity. 3 Card Moly would slip easily into 2001without the blink of an eye!

The only apparent link is Mel-Man who handles production on Los Angeles Times, a stand out track with a crunking groove and sparse bassline for X to bounce his rhymes off. Sir Jinz, Xzibit himself and a few others put together the rest of the songs. Given their worlds would collide over the next few years, I'd never thought it was mister X to the Z with the apparent weight of influence on that era that helped define my youth.

Onto the album itself, X is far more pronounced and assertive than his previous effort. His aggressive energy is channeled into his flow well, making for explosive strings of rhymes that click with the beat. Nobody Sounds Like Me's opening verse a great example of stars aligning. Bringing on a helping of guests keeps the records pace interesting but its not all gold. A disappointing feature from Method Man on Pussy Pop pulls together a disposable track with a flimsy hook from the Wu-Tang legend.

Xzibit can't help but let a little of his humorous nature through. Ironic rhymes, amusing interludes and bizarre tracks like Shroomz crop up for relief in places. He also has a very serious side too, not shy of addressing topics often challenged in conscious Hip Hop music. His story telling is elevated too, Inside Job is a brilliant word by word ride of a high stakes incident playing out through his swift rhyming. Vivid song!

One of my favorite track has to be Let It Rain, bringing together again his liquid crew for everyone to run through with a series of solid verses. Its got such a fun groove and vibe to it and summarizes my overall experience, its a really fun record that doesn't get too deep into any of the variety it offers. The main surprise was the similarity with musical landmarks yet too come. Xzibit is a talent but even on his "classic" work I don't feel like we see the best of him.

Favorite Tracks: 3 Card Molly, What U See Is What U Get, Nobody Sound Like Me, Focus, Los Angeles Times, Inside Job, Let It Rain
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Queen "The Miracle" (1989)

There is now just two more records to go and so our journey resumes with an obvious low point for these British legends! The Miracle see's out the decade with the gaudiest, over produced and sterile sound to date. The bands eclecticism manifests with a bold metallic edge fit for the cheesier strain of arena sized Heavy Metal.

Brian May's beaming guitar features heavily throughout yet somehow its bold synth tones and song writing of the fading 80s Synthpop scene dominates the vibe. His solo work is often quite the delight, dexterous shredding finds itself overlooked as its brief arrivals do little to combat the overall theme that leans heavily of borrow ideas.

A fair helping of these songs have elements clearly borrowed from the Synthpop and classic Heavy Metal scenes. The Invisible Man may have a killer baseline and drum groove but Freddie's singing imitates the Ghost busters theme song to little merit. I Want It All is the one iconic song however the title track misses its mark sorely.

 Despite this sounding resoundingly negative, the album has its listenable tracks and quite a few musical arrangements and ideas that certainly peaked my interest. Was It All Worth It has simply booming symphonic elements at play, a joy within a dull song. On all fronts their is at least something to be enjoyed yet I feel for Freddie. Its a weak contribution, little of his singing exploring the emotional ranges he is so capable of.

Some lyrics clearly deal with his health and diagnosis which were likely a contributing factor. Its a sad observation unfortunately however it all felt a bit routine and dialed in. The album was poorly received at the time and I think rightly so. It may be easy on the ears and simple to digest but there just isn't a lot to take away from this. Two left now!

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 22 May 2020

The Weeknd "After Hours" (2020)

When a name crops up frequently in mainstream culture its often a red flag for me, however a readers recommendation had me curious. Being introduced to the heavily 80s inspired Synthwave leaning tracks first, I picked up this new release a bit too hastily. As my first record with the Canadian artist, the popular appeal is obvious. Ice chilled vibes, smooth glossy production and silky singing makes for easy listening.

After Hours hinges heavily on 80s Synthpop and classic R&B, fusing them with modern production tones to create an almost spacey night life drive under neon lights. Beats are postulated with the pace, craft and groove of that era. Its liquid synths ooze dense atmospheres into life. Even the songwriting and melodies mirror its nostalgic inspiration with similar structures, tropes and arrangements. The track In Your Eye's exemplifies this with its classy and almost cheesy Saxaphone solos.

I can tolerate and enjoy these tracks immensely. Where the record losses me is its sways into laid back R&B. Abel deploys his voice with a high pitched softness that just rubs me wrong. Its all to vulnerable yet self assured for me to extract anything of value from the overtly care free lyricism. Its only about half the runtime that dives into this avenue of unwound indulgence but I struggle with it. Not my cup of tea i guess!

For the side I did enjoy, the lack of originality beyond a keen reassembling of ideas heard from decades gone by made the experience a little shallow. One can appreciate the gorgeous atmosphere and slick warmness of the music but its lacking in musical surprises given how closely it sticks to classic pop tropes. The production is a marvel and his voice a seductive one, in the right refrain of course. Its been an enjoyable bunch of spins but I personally don't buy into the hype on this record.

Favorite Tracks: Blinding Lights, In Your Eyes, Save Your Tears
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Little Simz "Drop 6" (2020)

Having adored Grey Area, it is simply criminal that I had yet to dive into the young British rappers catalog of records. Her output is loaded with mixtapes and these mini "drop" EPs. This new release is obviously the sixth and its a blast! Five swift tracks roll past with keen lyrics and a sharp chemistry emphasizing the warm tones of the Boom bap era, its cultural origins in black music, all infused with a modern twist.

Simz kicks it off with a fantastic statement of intent. Her prowess on the mic with tight rhymes and an inspired flow is mesmerizing. Hailing respect back to Lauren Hill, she affirms herself as an artist comparable to the best around. Its in these moments and the likes of Venom that she certainly does however the nature of the format suggests its not all gold as the short tracks breeze by without reaching this peak again.

You Should Call Mum addresses the current pandemic with a level headed, insightful mind and food for thought. Another smart run of rhymes however the brief durations and feeling of them passing by suggest to me the format almost limits the potential. I might be too used to a few more minutes of indulgence but its as if these songs are underdeveloped. Her talent is undoubted but this release feels more like a teaser... I might be dwelling on this too much as I've had a blast with the beats and rhymes!

 Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Xzibit "At The Speed Of Life" (1996)

Seemingly always in the mood for 90s Hip Hop, It occurred to me Xzibit would be a great artist to dive into. I've always been fond of the famed MTV Pimp My Ride rapper, his features with Dr. Dre and Eminem were fantastic back in the day. At The Speed Of Life is the West Coast artists debut and one I actually got into a decade or so ago when really binging into the scene. The single hit Paparazzi holds up well over time but its not much of a surprise that the rest of the record doesn't have the same stick.

Xzibit has a very firm grip on the mic. Aggressive, coherent and articulate, he stands boldly. His vocal tone has a little flavor similar to the looseness of East Coast rappers Redman and Eric Sermon but he stays firmly on track with his rhymes. A steady flow with plenty of sensible word play he almost lacks a spark or flair of sorts. In the wake of weaker lyrics he can be unremarkable but for the most part the story telling and train of through is powerful enough to affirm himself with some serious credibility.

All these years later his more personal oriented rhymes really stuck in the mind but where the record falls short is production. Often gloomy and urban toned beats, swaying between some more rugged bouncy tracks, are all a tough thin and stiff. Somewhere in its composition a little oomph is missing. The ideas are great, the atmospheres forged make much sense but it can't help but feel sparse. The into and interludes also bloat the records pace with a lack of purpose or conception.

This debut record is a good platform to get moving as an artist, he shows his promise, puts together plenty of solid story telling as his explains his life journey to this point. The features are a little varied, he lets a handful of compadres on the mic and they often make for duller moments in the albums flow. Hurricane G on the other hand brings a lot of excitable energy that compliments X well. Its enjoyable, a fun handful of listens can be had but lacks a spark to make it memorable.

Favorite Tracks: At The Speed Of Life, Paparazzi, Carry The Weight
Rating: 5/10

Monday, 18 May 2020

Austra "Hirudin" (2020)

After a steady decline from their debut Feel It Break, Austra return with their fourth effort, Hirdudin. Its a resurgence of inspiration spearheaded by heartbroken pains that ripple through the warm mix of soft pianos and electronic instruments tinged in melancholy. As they do, simple song structures and short looping melodies create a glossy and modern, yet 80s Synthpop inspired setting for Stelmanis to flex her remarkable voice, becoming the beacon that makes it all work. Its opening songs remark on this stasis of hurt, after going through a brutal parting. The juxtaposition with playful, uplifting melodies is entrancing as her words walk a dark path.

 Growing past its powerful opening, the album plays with some sparse instrumentals to emphasize the power of Katie's stunning vibrato, almost robotic and inhuman at times, mesmerizer! On the track Risk It she again surprises with chipmunk high pitched singing thats surprisingly catchy, fun and not annoying. The mid-tempo dance groove below livens up the mood and after a couple more songs Mountain Baby is another ear catcher with its stiff yet charming nursery piano melody leading the tone. Not doubt this inclination is played up by the choir of kids singing sweetly in the intro.

On the very first play few I knew the album had come to an end with the arrival of Messiah. It reminded me of The Beast, a very powerful closing song from their debut. The piano and Katie's singing build up this oozing suspense that gets suspended and dissipated as the chords hammer away as airy reverberations and subtle cosmic synths sweep it all up and away. A stunning finale to a reasonable record that's far from perfect but has plenty of emotional out-pour to be embraced.

Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: Anywayz, All I Wanted, How Did You Know, Mountain Baby, Messiah

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Oranssi Pazuzu "Mestarin Kynsi" (2020)

Returning from a cosmic darkness of maddening psychedelic infused in the Black Metal abyss, Finish outfit Oranssi Pazuzu serve up another engrossing slice of darkly paranoid wonder. Four years on from Värähtelijä, the group return with six lengthy tracks of mystic torture and devine black magics. Atmosphere is ripe, the music brimming with thick busying layers of sound decorated with whirls of cosmic ambience between its pounding baselines, thick distortion guitars and aggressive instruments.

Toying with the listener through repetition, tension and menace brood as simple arrangements loop with a hypnotic persuasion. Between the cracks an eeriness lurks, croaks and groans are heard deepening the bleak persuasion as the music lunges into upheavals of spite and hate with the most harrow and distressing of tones amending its peaks. It does find balance however with a glorious sense of galactic mystique emerging through stunning synths. It gives balance to a challenging listen.

Every track feels fleshed out with a concept. Some central idea hinges and holds together an intense journey through the mental madness this band explore. In its best moment, Kuulen Ääniä Maan Alta deploys an utterly snappy groove to underpin its spat with the heavens. It births a strange dance of demons you could almost move your feet too. Followed by Taivaan Portti, my least favorite, abrasion is dialed up on an incessant drone that stiffens all the weird yet wonderful progression behind it.

The rest of the record is remarkable, a progressive journey with many a bizarre and curious assemblies of sound that suck the nectar dry on this psychedelic horror they incur. Front man Ontto deserves a nod for the utterly foul vocal performance. Regurgitating guttural groans are wrenched from within, delivered with a spite and hate heard through the bleak textures tortured from his chords. Its a style Ive grown bored of but when done right, its a treat. Great record, they have a finger on the pulse.

Favorite Tracks: Ilmestys, Kuulen Ääniä maan alta
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Loathe "I Let It In And It Took Everything" (2020)

Its my first record with the Liverpool based five man outfit. Six years together, their sophomore album gave me an initial impression that hasn't shook after a plethora of listens. I Let It In And It Took Everything strikes me as the collision of three bold ideas converging with little cohesion on behalf of its heaviest aspect that cuts with a blunt soreness I'm yet to along with. Disjointed barrages of dirty guitar distortion, pounded in through bleak Hardcore grooves and Djent polyrhythms make a despairing gap open between the beauty on the opposing side. I'm sure its conceptual but not for one moment does it feel like a natural progression for me, the listener.

Its key counterpart is the sombre yet blissful, soaked in beautiful sadness uplift of melodic tinged Metal, deeply in the vein of Deftones and Fightstar. Its a gorgeous execution of moody Shoegazng guitar noise and soaring vocals that is a pleasure to indulge with. Its arrival often comes parallel to the third axis, serine and meditative temporal synths, brilliant tonal work on the keys that have an uncanny resemblance to the spiritual magic of Steve Roach. They often slide into play with ambient environment sampling, building a curious tension for the next thread to unravel.

The album plays with a jarring sense of pace, routinely lunging from a warm, flowing, wall of melodic noise into upheavals of dispersing rhythmic tension. Slabs of gritty guitar, Industrial noise and gristly shouts interrupt routinely. On occasion it does have merit, finding a groove or weight to deliver, its just rather inorganic. A track in the middle, New Faces In The Dark, is perhaps best suited to melding these opposing sounds, finding some elasticity between sides where its more often, simply abrupt.

My take away from the many spins Ive endured is a record that feels like two simultaneously hashed together. I enjoy both aspects however they don't meld well. The colossal abrasiveness of the metallic ambushes dispels the sombre magic of Chino inspired vocals over colorful Metal and in a way, vise versa. Perhaps it is my own expectations that get in the way but I just wish it would stay in one place when I'm listening. Despite being hung up on all this, its got cracking songs and plenty to return too but as an album experience its a mess!

Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: Theme, 451 Days, Scream, Is It Really You, Gored

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Grimes "Geidi Primes" (2010)

Time alone justifies these ten years of evolution leading to Miss Anthropocene. Its practically unrecognizable in this infantile form, even the gap between Geidi Primes and Halfaxa is remarkable with just nine months between them. A DIY enthusiast and bedroom producer arrives at a raw inception with some peculiar parallels with whats to come. As a first impression, I may not have perused this discovery further but luck luckily reputation and repetitious listens yields a strange charm emanating from this low fidelity affair of narrow dingy production and Etheral voices. Despite being a little stark in comparison to its follow up, I like Geidi Primes for its simplicity more so.

Every track deploys a thin, distant and monotone percussive beat on a short loop. It holds tempo, contributing to the aparent starkness of style. Other dingy, muddy instruments chime in with a lack of clarity. The lack of punch or reach for fidelity gives it all strange shyness. A fondness is birthed by Grimes's voice who starts of with basic echos on her voice, then progresses along with the record, layering up, becoming central to the music. Avi is a good track where she surpasses the production, her singing becomes a wash of dreamy, ghostly wonder over sheltered instrumentals.

A track like Gambang with its choked up acoustic guitar sample gives a sense of intention to the low fidelity aspect, yet on the other hand it seems almost amateurish, wandering in through lack of knowing any better. Its eleven tracks bumble through this strange dimension with their short repetitions droning into obscurity. Innocent, dreamy and flirting with a lonely darkness, strange just doesn't seem to justify the actualization. Is it accidental brilliance or focused vision? Either way I feel this record, despite seeming simple, has depth and with each session I enjoy it more so.

Favorite Tracks: Rosa, Avi, Venus In Fleurs
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Enter Shikari "Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible" (2020)

Reeling back upon The Spark's softening shift in tone, Enter Shikari return with a spicy self historical mix up. Nothing Is True has rolled up a little bit of everything tried so far in their five records leading to this sixth installment. The four lads have been together since their teenage years, forging a unique identity that can be felt through the chemistry. I have a deep affinity for their music. Ive seen them go from local pubs, clubs and schools to headlining festivals. Its been simply magical and I will always have a soft spot for them, making it hard to not enjoy anything they do!

The albums sentiment comments on our technology driven age haunted by science denial, trolls, bots, fake news and social media hysteria. Its a finger on a pulse that has been pounding for a while, the perspectives often shaped through a dystopian lens seem second fiddle to the groups excellent song writing. The power of hooks and catchy lyrics are better felt through the passion Rou delivers them with than there content. That may just depend on how deep you've dove into these topics beforehand.

Its fifteen songs are cracking, a constant roll out of fun, energy and passion with a retroactive array of aesthetics, keenly from the synths that pull from the best of electronic oriented sounds experimented in the past. Its a framework around songwriting that periodically dips into trendy Alternative Pop stylings. Despite all being good songs, Crossing The Rubicon, The Pressure's On & Satellites reek off imitation with a direction clearly emulating others, rather than perusing that Shikari purism.

The rest of the record has that uniqueness intact with a fair spread of experimentation that occasionally gets a little wild. Elegy For Extinction breaks things up with a moment of pure symphonic wonder as a dense orchestral composition builds a fiery intensity to propel the music into its most bipolar moment with rave synths and dirty pounding dance floor percussion firing off under modulated vocals. Its a wild treat that shows the band still have a knack to pull together all aspects of influences.

If their is anything left to be desired, perhaps the group didn't do anything unexpected. As fantastic as their endlessly youthful and exuberant style is, this unifying sound of all attempted before misses an opertunity to surprise which is something each record has had to it before, a new territory to uncover. Despite that, its familiarity plays like a group of old friends returning to give you new stories you'll cherish. Nothing Is True is loaded with songs to subtly slip alongside the best of their setlists.

Favorite Tracks: The Great Unknown, The Dreamers Hotel, Apocaholics, T.I.N.A, Elegy For Extinction
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Plini "Birds / Surfers" (2020)

Inspired by two accidental photographs of quite literally birds and surfers, forward thinking Australian multi instrumentalist Plini has delivered us with a pair interlude tracks. Both numbers clock in under two minutes but as the artists does with his main releases, Handmade Cities & Sunhead, so does this miniature record naturally possess quality over quantity. Its first half Birds toys with dense Post-Rock atmospheres with bright sombre melodies gleaming over soft synths and pattering percussive claps as a deep and gritty acoustic low string guitar plays with Djent ideals in a completely non-metallic way. Its a textural treat with an inviting tone to be enjoyed in its brief arrival.

Surfers has a similar temperament, its atmosphere bruised by a bold murmuring bassline that bleeds a contained deep fuzzy warmness. It leads to an ascension as pumping rave synths are mustered in the fog of its beautiful hazy atmosphere. They never take control but somehow propel the music on despite the polar relation it has to Plini's colorful acoustics. As it fizzles out and ends the record its obviously all to little but the nature of both songs departure has one wondering if these songs could of been more? They are sublime experiments that perhaps the artist couldn't quite figure out where to go with them.

Rating: 3/10

Monday, 4 May 2020

Sarah Longfield "Dusk" (2020)

With its moments of subtle disorientation and off kilt percussive transitioning, Dusk was initially hard to love at first. The pitched down, lightly synthesized vocal styling too played as a distraction from the beautifully calming fragrance of colors drifting by as electronic and guitar instruments dance in this blissful limbo. Its five songs make a brief experience but a cohesive one with vision and inspiration melding into warm, melty fifteen minutes of lightly ambiguous but loftily interwoven music.

Sarah uses her voice with refreshing creativity, it dawns on me now how reminiscent of Grimes this may be. Utilizing reverberations, delays and echos, she sounds caught between dimensions, the words often blurring out of focus as glitches and reverbs take over. Some airy background synths catch you off guard when realizing they her chords at work. The range of temperaments has her dancing from back to foreground at times, its a treat and suits the melding of instruments woven between.

The percussion has a crucial roll, its spacious and subdued presence of fast attack claps snaps and snares play loosely defined rhythms that explore the gaps. It takes moments to lapse and sway but comes back around to its subtle glitched persona, imploring soft grooves in the process. The guitar work and electronic melodies play off this foundation with a similar elasticity, often wading in with bursts of beautiful color and tapestries of jilted, intricate melodies, oozing organically with oddities rolled in.

It is so many things, and together it has a breezy uplift that feels oddly ambiguous but that is what is so wonderful about her music. Its brimming with experimentation and creativity, the production really shows whats possible when utilizing the tools available. The opening song Cycles has a gorgeous lead guitar solo, would of been nice to hear more of that shred! Dusk is wonderful, Its just a shame the record is so short and brief, I would like to visit this odd and curious place for much longer.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 2 May 2020

The Black Dahlia Murder "Verminous" (2020)

These darlings of Deathcore from back in the day have fallen far from my radar as I intentionally avoid the less appetizing bands within the plethora of Metal Ive listened to in decades past. The American outfit always had a stronger leaning towards traditional styles of extremity, however in current form it seems they have shed all Metalcore influence in favor of a classic reminiscent of old school and Melodic Death Metal. 

Verminous is a fair, thirty five minute ride, clocking ten tracks all around the three to four minute mark. Its fast, momentous and too the point. A clattering of technical and intense drumming gives it a gritty edge alongside the singers snarling howls and throaty gasps of aggressive shouting. The guitar and bass have a solid warmness, consistently throwing in melodic inflections and tunes from the flavorful lead guitar. They provide much of what is memorable as bursts of color give these songs identity.

It resonates well over a rhythm guitar which leaves much to be desired. Its arsenal of power chords and palm mute chugging fails to excite. Shifting into grinds and moments of intensity, its mostly the hammering of blast beats and double pedals that carry the music forward to the next melody. The records best songs come in its closing, drawing out some serious Carcass vibes in moments but with little original going on here it could remind you of plenty of bands from within the scene.

Favorite Tracks: The Wereworm's Feast, Dawn Of Rats
Rating: 5/10

Friday, 1 May 2020

Old Tower "The Last Eidolon" (2020)

The evolution of Old Tower has been a fascinating journey to follow. Always showing much promise the Dutch musician know as The Scepter has reached a peak. After the wondrous and deathly "dark alchemy" trilogy of mini records, the Last Eidolon arrives as a natural extension to those dark temporal and meditative sounds previously explored. Its three tracks, all lengthy epics feel like a mastery of structure, scale and aesthetic molded to command a chilling immersion within the listener.

The sense of scale and grandeur gets of to an almighty start. Lonely cries of a desolate synth call out across the vastness. Thunderous quakes and rumbles, gong strikes with an utterly devastating reverbs paint a impending sense of might and mystery. It steadily calms across the minutes to suddenly erupt with a deep pounding drum and ceremonial melody of ritualistic fever. Its swaying between these ideas in the closing stage will let the imagination run wild as this baron world finds density.

Reading the albums footnotes, one can see this vision of a world set ablaze by the corruption of mysterious magics and ancient rituals really come to life in the music. The minimalism in composure is oozing in this depth of tone and the mystique that comes with it is simply a dark delight. It revels and embellishes these lonely, ancient alluring synths and gothic choir voicing with a timeless quality as its long passages meander and break down the sense of forward momentum. It is a world unraveling.

Most of these record have been immersive in the moment but I have not frequented one like this. The experience is engulfing and I think the producer may of had a hand. I was surprised to read The Scepter had teamed up with talent Arthur Rizk, producer of Cavalera Conspiracy, Code Orange and Power Trip. To what extent he played a roll in bringing this incredibly deep and foreboding sound to the table, I don't know but this has been a giant leap forward for the Old Tower project and the best album to date.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 27 April 2020

IGORRR "Spirituality And Distortion" (2020)

Its been a wild discovery that has teetered on the border of novelty at times. The cluster bomb of cultural, historic and extreme genres colliding in the melting pot that is IGORRR has put French musician Gautier Serre on the ones to watch list. A few years back I caught a live show on the Savage Sinusoid tour and their expansion into a live band showed a promise I believe has carried over onto this newest record.

Beautifully crisp and blisteringly punchy, the percussion holds like a precision drill pounding away with menace as rapid bursts of drums hold everything locked in place with a dynamic magnetism. Inching further away from the break beats and sampling of past, the tone and compositions have a far stronger framework for all the wacky, Baroque and Black Metal inspired musical madness that takes places within these choppy, dizzying assaults of rhythmic battering. Its not a constant haze however, the temperaments change and flow with the music with great understanding.

As a whole Spirituality And Distortion tones down the manic in favor of good song writing. Many of the structures and paths it wanders feel meaningful and satisfying. The balance of polar extremes have cohesion. With more purpose in mind, they work together to flow with the drastic shifts, from calm and serine to slabs of meaty crushing guitar and brutal break beats. It all has direction forging far more gratifying music.

In brief moments where its extremes are not obvious, one might mistake this for a more conventional Metal band. Its a good thing, this eclectic identity has found balance that prevails with authority. The recurring voices of Laurent and Laure let the screams and cultural singing take on an identity where once random sampling showed its stitched nature. Now things are far more inspired. Corpsegrinder of Cannibal Corpse also lends his thunderous death growls on Parpaing for a pleasant tale of rot an ruin in the house of corpses. Its not a bad song but probably my least favorite as they try to hash together conventional Death Metal with this far more flavorful sound.

Favorite Tracks: Downgrade Desert, Very Noise, Hollow Tree, Lost In Introspection, Overweight Posey, Polyphonic Rust
Rating: 8/10