Thursday, 24 September 2020

Heilung "Futha" (2019)


Futha is more of an experience than a collection of formulated songs. It is what Heilung specialize in, esoteric, bleak and bewildering music that pierces a nomadic spirit with an atmosphere of fright and wonder. Primitive instruments, ritualistic chants and a tribal spirit forge inducing passageways of entrancing rhythms between heathen cries calling to the gods. These Norwegian have taken deep inspiration from a mythic take on their pagan heritage. Reading up on the use of bones, ashes and even antiques from temples as instruments, the music is as vivid as their dedication to it.

The best of the record comes with both the effeminate and male voices chiming, singing in native tongue over driving looped percussion with airy synths steaming into dense smothering atmospheres. With long and lengthy songs totaling seventy two minutes the repetitive nature sets in as a temporal, spiritual mood seeking the roots of a humanity that once looked very different. Futha takes its time, build ups are sluggish, some interlude ambiences steady forward with no sparkle or polish. It fits in so well to the vision but it is not always as captivating the initial charm on first listen.

The nostalgic purity is alluring but that undercurrent of mother natures cold cruelty is always present. In the final stages the record bites its teeth in with a grimness as guttural vocals are drawn in word by word on Elivagar. Its like the beginning of a cursed ritual, ghostly voicing uttering out every breath with a textural viscosity that brews in intensity. It leads into the last two numbers like a portal to the past, one is at the center of a psychedelia induced blood ritual of entranced primitive sacrifice. Futha offers up a remarkable experience in fractions but isn't always captivating from start to end. It is certainly worth your time if cultural music of lost tribes is in anyway enticing to you.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 21 September 2020

House Of Pain "Fine Malt Lyrics" (1992)

 

Famed for the timeless Jump Around, a song now spun to death at public events and venues, Fine Malt Lyrics is the debut multi platinum album that houses the smash hit produced by DJ Muggs. This is not a record that gets talked about often and with good reason, its aged poorly. I have soft spot for this trio though, they have close ties to Cypress Hill and little DJ Leathal of Limp Bizkit, two of my youthful favorites.

House Of Pain have a distinct style, excelling in the two key components of Hip Hop music, beats and rhymes! Rapper and front man Everlast has the clear annunciation, groovy flow and punchy rhyme emphasis to give himself a unique charismatic voice on the mic, embellished by his Irish heritage that's woven deep into the tapestry of the band. He is aided greatly by the production and sampling, complimenting his stance.

With a depth of sources not usually akin to Hip Hop, the pairing of beats, samples and prominent baselines brings out this quirky and energetic vibe with a touch of funk and uplift. Its undoubtedly similar to Cypress Hill's stunning debut with DJ Muggs producing half the album however the Latin lingo and cultural inflections is swapped out with this Irish spin. There is also a hint of Bomb Squad influence here too.

Stacking up the best tracks in the opening run, its not long before Everlast is running on steam. With a focus on braggadocio revolving around his lyrical prominence and sexual appetite, the themes end up spin like a roundabout. Given his delivery is bold and simple, like many where at the time, it doesn't hold up over an hour of listening as the same punchlines get traded over and over with a different cut of words.

Despite this, its fun to jump in and enjoy a few tracks. They have always been the sort to have me queuing up a few additional favorites when a track pops up on shuffle. Giving the whole record a go today It made me realize how with the times they were. Hip Hop has evolved immensely since then and the formula of this era is shaky when the lyrical substance is lacking. This record sure has style but not depth.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Marilyn Manson "We Are Chaos" (2020)

 

With his career revived in its third stint, news of We Are Chaos brought quite the anticipation, despite Heaven Upside Down not having the same lasting power as The Pale Emperor. From the first spin till this latest, this new chapter has had quite the absorbing pull. Now starting to pick out my favorites, all ten of these tracks strive for a similar sing-along anthem spirit as Manson's lyrics hit a stride for his typically striking wording and keen thought provoking lyrics, twisted with a little deviance as his catchy chorus hooks dig like nails into skin, leaving a mark.

One to normally romp with metallic aggression and industrial noise, the bands thick and embellished sound gives way to the tenants of popular song writing. Where riffs and slabs of darkly sound once took the musical stance, keen writing directed by driving baselines, elevated with timely pianos and permeated with moody acoustic guitars. A stage is set for Manson to shine as a front man, his lyrics churning dark and difficult realities into sing along songs is remarkable as hes done it many times before. Without deep analysis, the general mood feels like an amalgamation of his newer personally oriented themes and lesser so, the social commentary.

Infinite Darkness and Perfume stick out as a moment more alike his traditional styling. They fit in well to punch a bit of stomping energy between the indulgence of lighter songs toying with the the now common wall of sound production style where the music is fluffed up layers of sound between its core instruments. Its a good thing, enriching these tunes. In the game of picking favorites, the songs that define themselves do so with flashes of great songwriting from decades gone by and quite the variety of genres and moods these musics have blessed us with. Its hard to pin down even per song but it feels like the band embraced a lot of inspiration.

For me, We Are Chaos now sits in this strange place where I can lavish praise upon it yet as the songs become better known I wonder if its got legs. Over the years many records muster up a big fuss in their freshness only to fade. Some songs here will undoubtedly stand the test of time. If all of them do we could be looking be at a record to fit in among his best. One thing that is for sure, a lot of these songs will fit sweetly into a set list whenever he is amble to resume touring, given the times and all.

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Macabre Omen "Anamneses" (2020)

Macabre Omen's mighty Greek mythology inspired take on Black Metal had carved a memorable niche. With word of a new record I snapped up the new release, embracing its epic fourteen minute opener, ready for a ravishing ride. Then hit by a big tonal shift in quality and style I realized something was up, as the next six songs went to a nostalgic realm. Doing my research, something I thought I would have done with Gods Of War, I've learned this band have been active since the post church burning years of 94 onward when the scene exploded with bands getting in on the act.

Anamneses is actually a compilation, one new mighty song accompanied by all their demo songs from 1995 to 2000, remastered. The quality is interesting, one can hear the scratchy, murky guitars were far from saving. Shrill howling screams still raw and blunt, the drums to a rickety racket of pummeling droning. The bass guitar somehow has a fair bit of color an pronunciation preserved. The synths sounding practically rebuilt from the ground up, possibly with renewed tones and aesthetics too.

I haven't listened to the tapes for comparison but one can hear all the hallmarks of these classic self produced demos distributed on cassette tapes. Its quite the fun experience as the musical compositions do stand apart from what was common at the time. Some anthemic ideas still heard in their music decades later are present but the overall tone is dark, gritty and damned ugly! Especially the first couple of demos. A harsh experience, not exactly entry material into the world of Black Metal.

These old songs offer quite the variety! Interesting arrangements of synths and acoustic guitar conjuring a keen and individual sense of atmosphere not heard so distinctly among others in the genre. More so in the later years, the band clearly progress over these demos. The new song too embellishes this flavor with its mythic sweeping acoustic guitars, smothered in roomy reverberations, championed by choral cries to lead into a lofty song of complexity, subtly integrating the acoustics over and over. Great listen but a novel one that is hard to parade as an album experience.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Xzibit "Full Circle" (2006)

 
It feels like its time to close the lid on this fun dive into the Xzibit's records. It seems notable that the West Coast rapper just doesn't have the production on his side. Similar to Weapons Of Mass Destruction, Full Circle feels defined by its unremarkable production. Mediocrity is tiring and X's rock steady flow and arsenal of rhymes doesn't carry the music far enough. Topically its not as sharp and socially oriented as before. The stance affirming braggadocio vibes don't really pop with these combinations of rhyme and beats. Flipping between quirky sampling and safe glossy beats the songs roll on in a drone without a hook or feature to carry it anywhere special at all.

Experimenting with a pitched down voice and slower flow X inhabits the mind of a corrupt cop to shift perspectives on Ram Part Division. Its a moment that stands out purely for being somewhat different in a sea of mediocrity. Although X dives into a few topics of importance through the runtime, they generally have little impact with both his word play and food for thought seeming dulled in the shadow of his former, sharper self. Struggling for words to further my thoughts, I'll end on the note that It feels so run of the mill, without thought direction or ambition to define what the record is as a whole. It has therefore become just a collection of not so interesting songs.

Rating: 3/10

Friday, 11 September 2020

Metallica "S&M2" (2020)

 
Twenty years on from their now iconic S&M performance with The San Fransisco, the two reunite for an experience both recreating the original and throwing in some new elements with underwhelming takes on Classical Music and of course an inclusion of new material from Hardwired and Death Magnetic. Although it is impossible not to enjoy a Metallica set list, this project feels inferior, cast to the shadows of its former glory with some flaws present throughout that just let you know the original was a magnitude better. Ironically it is this release the press seemed to have gotten onboard with, heaping on praise where the first one was often misunderstood.
 
As the band age so do their performances and all too often can you hear Lars struggling to keep pace, Kirk's solo's become a little scattered and sloppy and James too struggles with his voice infrequently. At the live show, its hardly an issue given the immersion and event but taken to wax, its all too noticeable. What is also very apparent is the often meager and timid nature of the symphony. Its either the mixing or composition but these numbers feel far more like a Metal songs with some added sparkle. I wasn't keeping tabs on if the symphonies were identical for songs that were featured again but overall it just felt quiet and less involved than before.

That being said one delight to behind where the new songs. They sounded fantastic! After a couple of years its proven they fit in alongside Metallica's many hits and the symphonic gloss worked ever so well, even if just a complimentary element. S&M2 is hardly a bad experience but it really doesn't offer anything more bar the newer songs. There was also an opertunity to take the two Classical songs and spice them up with some Metal but the one track they did this on was simply a disappointment. Its hardly surprising that retreading old footsteps hasn't yielded anything special here.
 
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Bathory "Twilight Of The Gods" (1991)

Twilight Of The Gods represents some truly new territory as a part of my nostalgic journey. Bar a couple songs, most of the record was fresh and thus had a challenge in the face of all the praise I heaped on Hammerheart. Its temperament is similar, more of this heathen viking Metal but with a duller edge. Its title track and Song Of Blood have a gloomy tone. They make up twenty one minutes of the record as the pair steady the ship for slower tempos. It shifts focus from guitar to its choral voices that conjure rural life of this inspired era of history. In a few rare moments of gusto, the guitars feel held back by the production which doesn't give them enough punch. Its very much an atmospheric affair and that gloomy feel does subside in parts but mostly these two have a burdensome vibe that drags on.

That temperament is felt throughout, however the middle tracks get to embellish their themes and stories with rocking riffs and choruses that bring some much needed excitement. The tone is dominating though, even Quorthon's excited explosions of lead guitar seem dulled. If its composition or production, I can't get away from this moody tinge, its almost indulging but mostly for me lurches in the shadows of the mythic, heritage charged music that came before it. This time around the vision of culture lost to time is distinct but lacking an enticing energy.

Blood And Iron gets a nod for its stunning glossy acoustic guitars that ring out metallic chords. Its a gorgeous compliment to the driving song beneath, breathing much needed colour into the icy, cold and stiff production that I'll say again feels a fraction away from being an endearing quality. The album ends on a high though, the Hammerheart song an anthemic out poor of triumphant singing that works in some of Gustav Holst's timeless music from The Planets. Its an epic conclusion to an otherwise disappointing record that is a little to self indulged in its droning tone and off-key singing, which again feels a fraction away from something great in its pursuit of authenticity. The bellowing call of the hard life of vikings resonates with that same hardship. A flawed record which has Its moments, I am doubtful it will grow on me.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Nas "King's Disease" (2020)

After a disappointing Kanye West collaboration, Nasir, it is great to hear the king of poetry on the mic get back on form with a fully self realized album. Kings Disease has its concept and theme running from front to back, tying the woes of fame and success back into his current adventures and frame of mind with thoughtful maturity. Its a collection of reflections and life lessons, Nas brings his wisdom and knowledge to us through his lyrical prowess, just as hes always done.

Hip Hop however is a game of two halves and initially a source of excitement, the instrumental aesthetic gleam of its opening track dulls swiftly. Heavily Kanye inspired, a voice oriented production of soulful sample stitched together in peaked, distortion embracing styling dominates the opening tone. Initially grabbing, it becomes somewhat of a drone when the colour fades. Being the statement affirming track, it ends up becoming a fumbling start to the record.

Past this moment its sharp percussive beats and blue pianos paint most these songs with a jazzy, soulful uplift reminiscent of the 70s with a shade of street smarts. Its rooted though, no nostalgia trip, firm urban vibes perfect to resonate with the songs various themes. Although they don't deliver diversity instrumentally, the consistency its helped along by the short nature of these songs. They house his verses with purpose, never stretching the material, keeping it all concise.

This is helped along by a fair number of features, including The Firm, bringing Dr. Dre out of the shadows for a brief but underwhelming appearance. AZ returns on the track too, great to hear his Mafioso style is still potent. Without diving into the topicality with any specificity, its mostly mature, level headed thought around the struggles of black life in America in this day and age. Not straying into any contentious or polarizing avenues, Nas paints a path forward, an air of uplift about where things could go. Its a natural current of positive he emanates, or possibly that I perceive.

Nas is still on point, his knack for swift poetic flows interwoven with street talk is firm and proud but without surprises or aces up the sleeve it leaves one wishing for a little more. Kings Disease ticks all the boxes but after a few spins sits a strange place where the excitement has dulled. Perhaps this is one to come back to after some absence has brewed and see how it sounds once again.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 7 September 2020

Metallica "S&M" (1999)

 
With S&M2 out and on my playlist, I wanted to relive again this remarkable collaboration between Metallica and the San Fransisco Orchestra. My impression of it today comes with more appreciation than ever. How has this record not become a yearly ritual. Between the Metallica binges, it would bring a whole new dimension to their arsenal of classic songs. More so, I think its the newly found adoration of what the band attempted with Load and Reload that lifts a fair portion of the record from depths I once skimmed over.

Symphonic Metal and the like may have been in relative infancy but to this late 90s period its no stranger. However the collaboration doesn't even resemble how strings and orchestra instruments had been paired with Metal music to date. The San Fransisco group orchestrate on their own terms, acting as another layer of musical identity with in songs already brimming with stature. The music is embellished, a real treat for those who appreciate a union of style often perceived of opposite despite many emotional similarities.

The album's opening is brilliant, Ecstasy Of Gold followed by the instrumental Call Of Ktulu gives ample time to take in the added dimension before ripping pace with Master Of Puppets, possibly the best way for James to bring his iconic voice in. From there the record ebbs and flows with refreshing changes of pace and also involvement from the orchestra, not every song and moment requires a layering of symphony and it too breathes with the set list. One thing to say, there is no fear in getting right in the weeds of some of the bands most iconic music.

There are many favorites each listener will find, among them a couple originals, Human and the adored No Leaf Clover, two fantastic songs, the last before St. Anger. No foreshadowing there. S&M is not without its flaws though. The seventeen minute passageway of Wherever I May Roam and Outlaw Torn drags its feet a little with the plodding repetitive baseline reminding me of a festival jam session giving the crowd ample time to take a trip to the bar and refuel on booze before the closing hits.

Being one to continuously move forward with music, a few nostalgic trips to old records have had me worried of magics left behind. I knew S&M stood in great stature among fans and myself, not so much critics at the time. Listening to it again, its almost as if I forgot about the endearing sparkle the whole experience has, especially the goosebumps educing enthusiasm from the crowd who James lets sing on the record with him. Must of been one heck of an unforgettable experience to have been there!

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Haken "Virus" (2020)

 
Some albums demand attention. Occasionally that attentive listening seems inexhaustible. The more I spin Virus, the further I feel from writing my commentary. It takes this moment, currently immersed in its brilliance to spew a barrage of thoughts. Haken have several albums under their belt and either through maturity or deliberation they seem to have cultivated a level of excellence here. It cuts all the fat to deliver a fifty minute experience simply brimming with octane Progressive Metal. Perhaps it is the freshness of it all but so far Virus stands out as their to date.

Prosthetic opens the album with a pitch perfect snare sound to immediately illuminate the fine production as guitars come crashing in among the choppy pedal driven beats. Some of its riffs have an uncanny familiarity with the popular variety of Metal akin to Slipknot in their current more melodic era. Its a constant roll of excellent arrangements pulling no cheap tricks. Invasion bridges the mood with a gloomy darker tone and slower pace, brooding in anticipation of the coming ten minute epic Carousel.

Its around this point the lyrics distinguish an idiosyncratic quality. Phrases and sayings known culturally seem to frequent the tapestry of sentences, leaping from the stance as they peak attention with their linking themes. The albums lyrics mostly deals with themes of abuse, suffering and mental distress, a powerful weight not exaggerated through its crunching metallic template. The guitars instead craft meaty measured grooves, forging a matured atmosphere to house the lyrical vision at hand.

Even as it periodically dives into the "breakdown" realm of riffing, the compositions feel purposeful as the music sways in and out of varying temperaments often glistened by Jennings's beautiful clean vocals that soar with harmony. Being typically progressive the music ventures in all directions in a never ending liveliness that is simply put, just continuously exciting. It's typically Haken but with a keener metallic edge mixed stunningly into their colorful music this time around.

Messiah Complex stands as a seventeen minute epic split into five parts. It continues the theme on but often feels a shade behind the opening songs. That shade however is nothing to dwell on. The whole record is simply remarkable but so dense with riffs and details to engulf. I leave it for now knowing I'll be able to return over and over, discovering new intricacies and details, that is the mark of a great record! Time will tell but for now its been one of those I couldn't put down and for good reason.

Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Alexander Brandon "Earthscape" (2010)

 
With a recent nostalgic dive into a game from my childhood, Tyrian 2000, I discovered composer the Alexander Brandon was behind the games wondrous and lively midi driven soundtrack. Stumbling onto his bandcamp, I was impressed by the moderate temperaments of music fusing bright virtual instruments with chunky 90s electronic percussion and shapely synthesizers. Its a typically hard to nail down sound, mild manured with a mature variety yet softly engrossing as it pulls inoffensive ideas together with a sensibility akin to video game soundtracks.

Earthscape chalks up a little variety along the way. His singing voice a sensitive one, utilised on two tracks with a worldly Art Pop track reminiscent of Peter Gabriel and on the albums closer he soars some keen words between synthesizer laden vocal effects that wobble with charm. Both endearing. Eagles March breaks for a marching band percussive segment with intriguing groove and patterns that fill the narrow reverb applied. Alba drops in a little metallic guitar distortion too, always welcome with me.

Between its surprises an array of welcome melodies play out across many instruments, occasionally steering into classic electronic tones that sparked similarities with the Tyrian soundtrack that brought me here! It was a nice experience to pick something up on a whim. Although I don't think there is anything deep or profound here, its a record with that typically soundtrack ability to give you the resonance for focus and musical enjoyment with little investment on your own behalf.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Backxwash "Stigmata" (2020)

Fantastic timing! Having just digested the dizzying and grim God Has Nothing To Do With This, this new Stigmata EP drops another three tracks in the same vein, along with an instrumental piece to see it out. Backxwash has been one of the more remarkable discoveries this year and more of her darkly Hip Hop sound is very welcome. With these three tracks on continual rotation the hook on Stigma and the various evil incarnations of sound lurking in these instrumentals have drilled in like ear worms. Most noticeable are the voices, each number bringing on guests to flesh out the tone alongside Backxwash's potent flows and shadowy production. It comes with a similar flow and consistency to the album, as to be expected I guess.

The title track grabs attention with a releaving tone as bright pianos bring a sense of uplift to rather dark and repressive slabs of guitar distortion weighing it down in tension. Its like a lone light escaping from the bleak abyss! The final instrumental too peaks my interest with samples from the classic Doom game distinguishing although its a rather uneventful stint in mild darkly noises. Reminded me of A Silhouette In Splinters by Leviathan. Great EP, just more from an exciting sound, possibly leftovers. Definitely an artist to keep a close eye on.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, 31 August 2020

City Morgue "Toxic Boogaloo" (2020)

 

The City Morgue duo are back with another barrage of obnoxious violent raps, spitting hate and threats in all directions. Following up on the first two style defining volumes, this twenty minute EP brings a firm, metallic tinted production to their typical arrangement of hook oriented outbursts of intense energy. Better enjoyed in brief stints, Toxic Boogaloo benefits from a swift lineup touting quality over quantity. As to be expected, vile raps, boastful aggression and abhorrent attitudes guide the lyrical assault on the listener as we are plunged into the fury of violent youthful rebellion.

Further developing their fusion of Trap Metal, the instrumentals toy with big dirty bass lines pushing deep into peak distortions. This noise foray paired with gritty FL Slayer distortion sounds pushes the chemistry further into dark urban avenues. Although a little groove a rhythm arrives through the guitars, its mainly an aesthetic compliment to tracks driven by pounding Trap percussion with darkly sounding samples and synths brooding moods. Its a clear step up from what they achieved beforehand.

Lyrically, its the same game again. For me that is mostly a novel gawking session at the level of ridiculousness on display. The two have an undeniable talent for style, delivery and catchy hooks but the slew of spiteful anger has little in the way of depth. Hurtworld '99 gets a shout for its running letters of hurt, which yield a personal angle with its timing of the world you. It feels like they reach in and grab way more from a single word with how its worked into the hook. Its a keen moment among a few others. If the duo keep moving in this direction it sounds like their is room for growth.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Bathory "Hammerheart" (1990)

Ones body will be scared by age but so shall the mind! It seems almost criminal that the brilliance of Hammerheart has faded in reputation. Diving back into the Bathory records of youthful years I had somehow lost memory of this masterpiece. Thinking I was on the cusp of unearthing a new glory to enjoy, every track rang echos of a decade past by. Songs unearthed with their etchings still eternal under the dust.

This was the moment Quorthon embraced his heritage and forged a new, remarkable path. Somehow, I remembered this record as a drop off point but in fact these are all spirited songs keenly remembered, including the mighty One Rode To Asa Bay, the only Bathory song to ever be made into a music video if I recall correctly.

Leaving the ferocity of Blood Death Fire behind, slower tempos, brooding atmospheres and heathen choirs accompany a tamer Quorthon who channels his energy into roaring battle cries and off key singing. He conjures the viking spirit with this hard pressed voice that should turn the nose up in theory, yet the genuine passion in his voice pushes the Nordic spirit of the music into a vision coming to life.

Its the final piece solidifying this inspired music of mythic heritage fit to conjure candle lit halls and mighty landscapes of rural natural beauty. Although now a common thing to experience in Viking Metal, this must of been something special at the time of its release. The album opens up with two lengthy epics, Valhalla crashing with lightning strikes into a mountainous passage of drawn out power chords and thunderous drum pounding that sounds practically lifted from Call Of The Cthulhu.

Its a recurring section that elevates the music but also feeds into claims of plagiarism against the band. Something I had yet to touch on but much of the early material is akin to Venom yet Quorthon often claims to have not been influenced by them. It is however a moment of power from the percussive battery and throughout the album tumbling strikes of tom drums help propel these epic and heathen calls to the gods.

Moving into Fire And Ice and Father To Son, sections of dense distortion guitar singularly erupt with a keen parallel to Groove Metal, a genre yet to unfold at this point in time. Its not often the riffs are thrusted forth to the light as they mostly meld with synths to conjure the distinct atmospheres. That measure of fretwork is often subtle but a keen feature throughout. The surprise is these eruptions of meaty groove.

This is a pivotal album for Bathory, being at the forefront of one movement and in one stride to the next, forging and mastering an entirely new sound for the Metal umbrella of sub-genres. Where his last two albums showed flashes of this genius and reveled in a little diversity, Hammerheart is a very unified sound from stand to end that is near impossible to deny as a classic. I am so glad to have found my way back to it!

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Ho99o9 "Blur" (2020)

 

  As one of the more exciting acts to follow, the regularity of new material is always welcome. Hot off the heals of Cyber Warfare, the duo offer up another keenly themed mini album to digest. Blur is intermittent with snippets and samples of what sounds like eighties and nineties media hysteria over the emergence of loud and aggressive music in the form of Hardcore and Heavy Metal. The fear and rhetoric feels relevant to their twisted hybrid of dark Hip Hop and Hardcore Punk, ironically the music these talking heads were commenting on is meager and tame in comparison.

These thirty four minutes split along ten tracks feel like a call back to Mutant Freakx and their earlier releases. The bulk of music focuses on slower tempos, twisted and sinister atmospheres built from unhinged beats. Vocally the raps and hooks revel in ambiguity and discernible performances, occasionally lashing out with mean tonged aggressive verse of the Trap Metal variety. Each track is like being dipped into a different dimension of eerie unease as its slowly burns away.

Drifting from that norm, Flesh And Blood has a burst of tempo and Punk energy for the albums shortest affair. With only three tracks led by distortion guitar, Dog Shit takes the cake for being a ferocious riot, unleashing ravenous energy through its dirty riffing. Its brief, housed by samples and the dingy atmosphere the album revels in. Hardcore makes a distinct break from all this with a style and format that ultimately seems like a piss take aimed at Tyler The Creator, ripping off the attributes of his fantastic music.

Compared to the last two stints, it hasn't pushed my buttons as Id like given I am more drawn to their metallic side. It has however been a enjoyable listen with a host of tracks to stuck into but my ultimate take away is the darkly atmospheres don't deliver quite the engagement after multiple spins, it becomes a slow burn as the mystique wares off having deciphered the somewhat cryptic musics facade.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Mushroomhead "A Wonderful Life" (2020)

 

  What words to muster for this record? Its been tough to find them. Almost twenty years on from XX there is little stylistic evolution beyond the general trends of modern Metal. Keeping their unique balance between distorted guitars and Classical toned keyboards the band offer up a heaving bulk of mediocrity at seventy minutes. If you cut the runtime by over half you might have something reasonable but its biggest downfall is how interspersed the projects better material is.

A Wonderful Life sounds like it has an arching theme with some recurring lyrics of pain and struggle, so neatly packaged it feels hard to relate with. Its inline with the tone of "light" European Metal, often female fronted, that puts emphasis on clean singing and routine reductions of intensity. A couple tracks stray right into this territory and others linger nearby sticking to their distinct style. There is nothing wrong with that sound but its a temperament that fails to stir emotional resonance with me.

A couple of songs in the mid section play up big theatrical themes with slow unravellings and a sense of grandiose story telling with the music. Its reasonable but far from being remarkable. Again the lyrical themes seem to play up suffering with a lack of resonance. It ties in to the opening barrage of intense operatic singing which rears its ugly head again towards the end and on the closing track. Again, nothing wrong with this but it feels so out of place, a rigid attempt to compliment the theme.

Overall its been a few sluggish spins with some moments of intrigue but mostly dull and drawn out songwriting dressed up by the bands aesthetic and intensity which is enjoyable. Its a competent production so listenable but hardly a memorable one.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 21 August 2020

Lord Lovidicus "Midsummer" (2020)

 

  Its felt like a lengthy, patient wait but alas! The time has come again for another installment in the Lord Lovidicus journey. Steering further from Dungeon Synth and deeper into the Fantasy realm, another evolution in tone is of no surprise. Its aquatic theme, or at least my interpretation of Midsummer, has been however! Actually, many parts of it are comparable to A Vespera Ad Lucem but between passageways of temperaments listeners will be more accustom to are flourishes and swells of expression akin to Debussy and the Romantic era, at least to my limited perceptions.

The record has jollity and beauty in abundance. Long gone is the lurking mystery of Dungeon Synth darkness. These songs use luscious instruments and cheerful melodies to steer the music through warm hearted adventures of carefree Fantasy. Flutes, piccolos, layers of synth and tambourine lead percussion build up inviting and immersive atmospheres. The compositional balance is wonderful, repeating sections and simple woven melodies seem interspersed with lead instruments dancing on inspiration at just the right intensity to serve both background and forefront listening.

To my ears, the album finds constraints where the music is held back by its production and format. Some of those aforementioned lead instruments rise up and act like the songs voice. Too often do they feel held back by the time locked and rigid nature of virtual instruments. A little looseness would free up the creativity. Also the indulgent reverbs get a little overpowering when too many instruments are active at the same time. Jeux D'eau is a keen example of both, a beautiful song of instruments dancing on a whim, following heart and soul with a dexterous composition fluttering with complexities that sound cramped by thees issues, despite being utterly wonderful.

In my mind there is no doubt this musicians journey is going in the right direction. This latest divergence of theme is refreshing and the underlying components of skill and inspiration are yielding the magic as ever but as pointed out extensively, this feels like a moment where the technology holds back the music. That however has not held back my immense enjoyment of these simply wonderful starlight atmospheres that conjure underwater aquatic adventures in my humble imagination. Brilliant!

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Fellsilent "Fell Silent" (2004)

 
  To round out the nostalgic dive into a legendary local scene band, I managed to scrape together two of the three songs that made up their first demo! I'd never heard this these songs before and initially they sounded stylistically different from the Djent beast they would become. The tone of Metal at play was surprisingly really fitting of the local scenes of the time, getting away from the shadow Nu Metal and reinventing the wheel with a strong Metalcore influence. I even have some CD-R demos that sound not far from whats at play here.

Yet to master the Djent tone, the group have a shorter measure of polyrhythms in the guitar riffing, playing out stomping grooves with tightly picked riffs often dizzying around single notes and bends. After an analytical listen one can see the path they took. At this stage their songs are strong, decent but yet to be exceptional. The Meshuggah influence not so obvious. They do however have the songwriting to lead their collection of choppy riffs to climaxes as both the songs led to a satisfying conclusion.

Singer Neema Askari has yet to knuckle down that bleak forceful tone in his screaming and so sounds rather amateurish in that typical feel of local bands. His cleans however are far more emotive and expose a chemistry that prevails to their later work. Both the songs I heard are fantastic and grow fondly with many repetitions. It may not have been obvious at the time the potential this group of young lads had but all the pieces are there in one form or another.

 Its really uncanny just how much it all reminds me the other bands in the scene of this era but perhaps not so given how in the early naughties we were still mostly geographically defined, even though the internet culture was starting to blossom. Such a treat to enjoy but more so for personal reasons. This demo is a fine starting point for the band and on a final note, very well produced for a scene demo! Its a great listen, wish I could just find that third track!

Rating: 4/10

Monday, 17 August 2020

Public Image Ltd "Metal Box" (1979)

 

 I've often seen this record cited as a classic, one to check out yet I found my entry to it slow but alas one day came Albatross on shuffle and it all clicked. After the flash in the pan revolution of Punk Rock and the Sex Pistols, front man John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten swiftly moved on from the values and ideas of Never Mind The Bollocks and formed Public Image Ltd. Metal box is their second album, one that garnished a lot of attention from music critics who's recommendations I've followed.

For me this record is an experimentation in form and function that seem obvious with retrospect but for 1979 could of been something special. Labeld as Post-Punk, there is plenty of this genre I've heard that nods in the direction of this repetitive, artsy anti-music. For just about every song the stage is set by Jah Wobble's driving, monochromatic basslines that endlessly plod away alongside steady drum patterns that resist flamboyancy or flair. The two build a backbone of powerful mood steering droning to foster the bands artistic experiments.

Each song plants some set of ideas into these mesmerizing repetitions. Discordant guitar noise and dissemination of norms feature between blunt force poetry put forth in unapologetic common tongue and alien deployments of abstract synth tones. For me, its a real case of hit and miss. These experiments throw a variety of performance and musical idea into the brewing pot. Not all of it sticks and all too often is it driven in going against the norm, a good thing for unearthing magic.

Careering is driven by its whirling synths, forging an atmosphere of electrical unease juxtaposed against the casual perusing of its rhythm section. Chant on the other hand goes militant with continual chanting, a dominant snare with broken guitar noise abuse led by Lydon's snarling remarks. Its a harsher approach doesn't pull me in. These are two polar ends too what a lot of these songs do, deploy a handful of "out there" ideas to the droning repetitive framework and see what happens.

Oddly the album closes with Radio 4. A bassline harmonizes with symphonic synths to the give way to them fully. Its a glorious and mysterious sound to see out the record on. Almost feels like a statement of sorts in comparison to the rest of the music. This album is totally worth a listen. It thinks about the norms of music and deconstructs them. I am just left wondering if it could grow on me more? After quite a few spins I've taken it in well, we will see what happens with time and encounters on shuffle!

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Bathory "Blood Fire Death" (1988)

 

 And now for the album where it all started for me... One of my first Black Metal records, Emperor's almighty and majestic In The Nightside Eclipse. It concluded with a bonus track, a cover of A Fine Day To Die, a mind blowing Bathory song, a true anthem of epic wonderment, embroiled in blood and darkness, thrust forth from a clash in the heavens above. Blood Fire Death is where it takes place, however not much of the record is inline with the soaring songwriting of its mesmerizing start. 

Opening with Odens Ride Over Nordland, the cries of majestic horses are lost to the echos of mist descend upon the listener. A spooky, chilling and mythic tone is set as the sound of creeping fog and archaic choirs forge a masterful soundscape of aftermath. Unlike previous attempts with ambience, Quorthorn envisions a stunning atmosphere to compliment the albums cover. Its as if souls are falling from the heavens above where the battle rages on beyond the mortal realm.

It gives way to the sombre acoustic intro, lined with whispering vocals and plucked strings echoing through the temple. The suspense for whats to come is palpable, an eruption of might and power. The power chords roar, the screams bellow and a sequence of unforgettable riffs lead us into battle. A couple splashes of blazing lead guitar fretwork set of sparks from the coming onslaught of guitar solos, Quorthorn seemingly mastering every aspect of his craft on this number. A break back to acoustic guitars and choral synths may lead you in the wrong direction as the musical beautifully groans its way right back into the heart of the fire with an unleashing of sonic guitar that shreds to the heavens and back with an astonishing sense of tune.

Its simply unforgettable. An eleven out of ten track that in my opinion elevates the spectacle of this album as the music pivots back into Under The Sign territory from The Golden Walls Of Heaven to Dies Irae. With excellent execution, stunning sprawls of shrill lead guitar noise and sharp potent riffing, Quorthorn nails down the fast paced, full pelt assault of ferocious proto Black Metal that Massacre achieved before it. Its clear his songwriting is in a stride as the songs provide memorable hooks and riffs alike as the listener is barraged with an unrelenting ferocity.

That pace is rested a fraction with the half paced stomp of All Those Who Died but it too has intensity in droves, another fantastic unleashing of evil aggression. Its this block of songs though that highlight a flaw in the record, Its production. The guitars are admittedly a little sloppy, its rugged punchy snare sounds like a drum machine for much of the record. All too often does the feeling in the musics writing outpace the quality as the songs here don't rely on low fidelity gimmicks to sell themselves.

It is only with the opening and closing title track that Quorthorn fully embraces a new spirit in his music, the history and heritage of his Swedish ancestry, Vikings! Where the last record started to experiment with this angle, this time the songs are fully realized and embellished in his roots. The beginning of Viking Metal to come! Despite the knowledge of whats to follow next, these songs really do define themselves with the simple use of male choral backings and ancient sounding synths. Of course the songwriting is key and less intense vocals contribute as well.

Its interesting going back over these old records of youth with an intention to understand them better. I'd still consider this his finest hour, however its become more obvious how fractured this and the last album are. Different music ideals emerge and experimentation is more obvious. The songwriting at this stage though is utterly remarkable. A definite peak although whats to come is an era I am less accustomed with. I find myself very excited to visit albums that once disappointed a naive younger me, for simply not being like the records that came before it!

 Rating: 10/10

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Between The Buried And Me "Colors" (2007)

 

 Where to begin with colors? What an incredible album. I was barely a fan when this record first dropped. I might have mistakenly known Between The Buried And Me as a generic Hardcore band crossing into the trending Deathcore scene. Then suddenly this masterpiece falls from the sky. Although the music may have solidified in my mind, time passes and It always feels great to return to this lengthy epic. Sixty five minutes of relentless musical fire split into eight from one massive sprawling song!

It was obvious upon release but even more so having chewed through Queen's discography all these years later that they, among many other Progressive Rock greats, etched an eclectic identity to this album. Although the bands metallic edge is rooted in Metalcore and Technical Death Metal, Color's musical world consistently blur boundaries and genre lines, with a particular fondness for the jollity, wondrous and playful spirit of pantomime and a theatrical bustle, best imbued by Queen.

In colorful juxtaposing bursts the musics bounces between its two worlds effortlessly. Tunneling barrages of technical riffage, frantic fretwork and sonic grooves switch into the smooth and illustrious. Graceful pianos, chirpy organs and harmonious singing shape up its eclectic sections which do get less of the airtime in the onslaught of brutality. The same can be said vocally, shaping up from forceful shouts of harshness to soaring sung melodies of grace. They tend to match the instrumental intensity.

On the fantastical journey, a lot of the music resides in the brutal camp of stomping technical showmanship but its best moments always come from the breaks, the blurring of lines and influxes of cultural sound, Backyard Bluegrass and French street music to point out a couple stand out moments. Although it is necessary to have this intensity to make way for the calm, it comes in droves and the records slowest parts are when the brutality gets drawn out, self involved and monotonous.

The composition also stacks a lot of the best material into the first few songs. A minor drawback on a record every fan of Extreme music should check out. It stands apart from other Progressive Metal records in its ability to so naturally flip the switch on intensity and provide some polar extremes even if not in proportion to one another. Giving it a few spins again tended to highlight flaws with a mind for examination and thought sharing, this blog, but it was also a pure delight to get deep into these songs again! A wonderful album to have in the collection.

Favorite Tracks: Informal Gluttony, Ants Of The Sky, Prequel To The Sequel

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Bathory "Under The Sign Of The Black Mark" (1987)

 Continuing another adventure into the music of my youth, Bathory's third effort was one less acquainted with. It had however solidified a memory as being remarkably decent for the time. Well this has been an absolute treat to get back into! Its been so long the experience was practically fresh to my ears! Coming of the back of the overly ambitious The Return..... It sounds like the moment where the stars align. The group shed their prototype skin and bathe in the blasphemy of self actualized Black Metal! Under The Sign Of The Black Mark is where everything they were trying to do works.

We will however start with the negatives. Not everything is exceptional, although the bulk is. The intro and outro tracks seem utterly pointless as their dusky ambience fails to ignite any atmosphere to lead in the satanic metallic onslaught. The final two proper tracks, 13 Candles and Of Doom, both feel a little lacking with the pile of brilliance before it. They do have there moments with musical shifts but the offerings feel like soft rehashes of the genius in the songs heard beforehand.

They stand in the shadow of brilliant songwriting, which is quite diverse and distinct. The record kicks off with Massacre, a thrashing juggernaut of vicious hate, lashing out from the mark as we are plunged into blast beats and vile screams. Its a straightforward but well executed idea. The following Woman Of Dark Desires is unsuspecting until it lunges into an unusually catchy chorus as Quorthorn cries out with throaty strained screams the name of Elizabeth Bathory. The inclusion of evil organs towards the end, foreshadows more brilliance yet to come our way.

Call From The Grave steadies the pace, a mid tempo track with soaring riff work, toying with some dissonance. The approach to this dark music is expanded as the haunting throaty screams roar with menace over the grave atmosphere conjured. Equilmanthorn hails back to the records opening, another plunge into ruthless pummeling that shifts to a half step riff, then slamming in with another catchy hook in the chorus as Quorthon cries out the title track over and over  in memorable fashion.

The song has an incredible guitar solo to see it end on a thrilling climax, which bring me to a point, the lead guitar work which seems to frequent every track is phenomenal. Either creating a Slayer alike barrage of noise or delivering a blaze of evil melodies, everything that was tried before feels mastered here. That includes the screams, the most aggressive and shrill to date yet the temperament and texture is just perfect for what these extremities can achieve in the context of Black Metal.

Enter The Eternal Fire is the last of these incredible songs but for entirely different reasons. An incorporation of atmospheric synth tones and epic mid-tempo setting foreshadows the heritage influenced Bathory sound to come. All in all the record is a stunning maturity in songwriting. The haphazard ideas and sloppy performances of its predecessor blown out of the water. The inclusion of synths lay down foundations for the popular Symphonic element to come in the 90s. I also adore the inclusion of the Funeral Macrbe melody on Call From The Grave. Possibly my favorite moment of many fantastic ones on this truly remarkable and pioneering album.

 Rating: 9/10

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Mrs. Piss "Self-Surgery" (2020)


Plunging into a world of maniacal self deprecation, Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie team up for a short collaborative effort. Its sleazy name, grotesque artwork and grim atmosphere make for a wild ride into the depraved. Fulled by Punk adrenaline and noisy instruments the duo put together a mix of Post-Punk, Black Metal and Post-Metal that steps into the bleak shadows but offers a rather grabbing energy in return as its darkly tone is driven by some unexpected great song writing.

Firstly, the combination of Chelsea's haunting voice, hazy like a ghost in the fog with vitriol screams and howls in the backdrop is memorizing in its best moments. The two get loose, toying with reverbs among the barrage of noise. It lets a whole range of approaches light these songs up and the ambiguity fuels the sometimes simplistic, repetitive lyrics, which do not feel as such. Its drives home the filthy themes at play that dip into the ugly and darker corners of the mind. 

Secondly, percussion is king, from the tame, sluggish and brooding sections, up to the fast, energetic, pulse racing patterns, they drive the music forward. Rather than pace keeping, the grooves feel essential, a central part of the composition. Aesthetically they are part of the ugly sprawl of sound, the cymbals heavily clashing in the mix but it plays into the projects charm with enough cushion in its key components to really drive home the deep pushing power they posses.

Behind it all rugged riff driven guitars and powerful pounding bass lines, the occasional synth, brew up the textural treats as they barrage, along with the percussion, walls of dizzying darkness. It puts the record in this unique position of occupying a dark realm without pulling up the usual tropes of blast beats and sinister melodies. Its the ripe chemistry forging an engulfing atmosphere that makes this project work. At just twenty minutes it goes by all to quick. I hope they do more together!

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 7 August 2020

Brelstaff "Brelstaff" (2020)

 

 Formerly know as Daryl Donald, this name change to Brelstaff signifies little in the way of musical progression. Its another collection of mini Jazz Hop instrumentals exploring the craft with a familiar Entroducing... akin charm. These short, mostly two minute tracks swiftly conjure an atmosphere and reside there for a brief stay, fleshed out with some variations. The selections of drum patterns and samples mix sweetly into easy indulgences. With enough ambiguity and noises between the obvious pairings, the tracks keep delivering a fresh depth on each listen. Together, the tracks are all laid back, summery and warm. The Jazz flavor keeps it musical and grounded, not running away with the uplift but holding back an air of spirituality. The mood is an introspective one, perfect for both background music and giving it your attention.

The short compositions do feel somewhat demo like. Fade ins and outs give ques to where ideas start and end. Stitched on mini beat creations and the like make it into the twenty minute run time but in all fairness there is no filler. No track out runs its purpose, once seeing through its variety it ends. A voice in the form of rhyme or reason, rapping or singing may serve it well as the voices calling John Coltrane's on the track of the same name seem to ramp up the mystique over a mysterious pondering bass line. Its a dusty track with a lot of charm. That note may just signify what's missing, the foundations are in place but as a collection of beats they feel in need of something to elevate it upwards to the next level.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Fellsilent "The Hidden Words" (2008)


With The Double A being my go too record for youthful nostalgia, memories of this, the bands debut album, are somewhat foggy. I seem to remember its release closely linked to their announced split but these events were over a year apart. Whatever I thought beforehand, returning to The Hidden Words as been another delight from a group I'm keenly fond of. Its amazing how much time has lapsed and love not lost!

The album essentially feels like an extension of the EP, four original tracks, four new and three "linking" interludes has the band simply expand on the persona established. One big change is the arrival of a second vocalist who slips in almost unnoticed. With a similar tone and candour to his partner Neema Askari, Joe Garrett feels neither essential or overlooked, his inclusion works without any bright sparks of ingenuity.

As with the EP, Fellsilent slap together an arsenal of pelting Djent riffs, loaded with groove and rhythm that plays between atmospheric and melodic trade offs. They move from pummelling metallic assaults to steadying backdrop shuffling fretwork as their dynamism flourishes in these mostly straight forward song structures. Often do they keenly lead to a belting breakdown to slam your head along with! The linking instrumentals also serve up riffing delights with infusions of acoustic string plucking.

Returning to this record gave me a greater appreciation for the balance of complexity when chopping up polymetered grooves into 4/4 patterns. So sweetly do they push both angles. The power and persuasion of rhythm is without any burden yet many riffs have puzzling arrangements. Like with Meshuggah I am sure the mystery would unravel a little learning to play their songs on guitar, something I hope to find time for!

Its such a shame this was the end of the road. The band certainly materialised a fine execution of sound and style but where to go from here? Who knows... In all likelihood it may have never surpassed this moment given how fantastic they where at this point, perhaps they exhausted all they had? I remember the statement at the time indicating that everyone involved felt like they had seen it through and wanted to move on. Some music elitists make comments like "they should of quit after XYZ". Maybe that's exactly what these guys did? Go out on top.


Rating: 9.5/10 

Monday, 3 August 2020

Joey Badass "The Light Pack" (2020)


Stagnation is the word that comes to mind enjoying this chilled jazzy trio of Hip Hop tracks flying the flag for the 90s sound. From B4.Da.$$ to All-American Bada$$, young Joey made quite the impression, solidifying him as one to keep an eye on. The Light Pack marks three short songs in three years, all of which could slip into his previous records. It was underwhelming on first impression, his opening verse affirming style and stature, taking shots at Mumble Rap and pronouncing his successes. It sounds tired to these ears, with his established flow unchanged.

The second track brings on Pusha T, who's style is still rather fresh and interesting to me, a reminder to check his work out further. Its a brief bit of spice over a moody, slightly gloomy beat. The final track Shine brings some uplift in tone but again I just don't find Joey's raps that exciting beyond their obvious competence. The concept of mind, body and soul this project is supposed to embody doesn't leap out at this listener. It's ultimately a small release that hasn't advanced any musical prospects for Joey and ended up feeling a little dull in the shadow of his albums.

Rating: 2/10

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Logic "No Pressure" (2020)


Announced as his retirement record, No Pressure doesn't feel like a send off but its title reflects the mood, a resignation to expectations. With such a prolific output, work ethic and passion for the craft I fully expect to hear more from Logic at some point in the future. For now however he is making an honourable move, devoting his time to fatherhood, putting his energy towards the raising of his newly born son.

It's a firm return to form, echoing the greatness of The True Incredible Story with many of its hallmarks. The digital effeminate voice returns telling intimate details about the projects creation and his influences in rhyme, rap and culture. The days of rapping over classic 90s beats are resurrected on GP4 with an interpolation of Outkast's Elevators. Its checks all the boxes, its spirit inline with what defines him best.

When it comes to rhymes Logic offers up a slice of time perspective as he so often does. With the relief of retirement and the pivoting to parenthood the depth and maturity is gripping. The songs roll one after another with no shortage of engaging topicality. Of course its all packaged within the sharp skill set he possess. I'd say on just one track he sets himself for "failure" as a run through the alphabet in rhymes starts strong but steadily looses its path in the self imposed lyrical challenge.

On the production side he lists his influences boldly. 90s vibes and a helping of Kanye inspired voicing makes for a colorful, soulful, grooving record of mostly uplifting beats and Jazz Hop vibes. A couple fun tracks like A2Z and Perfect shake things up to take the foot of the gas. On the way out things get more thematic, bringing in bright pianos, the sung raps and more of a pop appeal as the record build to a grand bow out.

Obediently yours pulls out one heck of a speech from Orson Welles's radio show archives. A very powerful message of privilege and debt to those without it. A great way to leave something striking in the mind as we potentially say goodbye to a true talent, using this moment to forward deep meaning. At seventy six minutes its a meaty record, full of substance that doesn't fire at the faster of paces. Its a strong body of work set to be steadily enjoyed and enjoyed this I have!

Favorite Tracks: GP4, Soul Food II, Perfect, Man I Is, DaBod, Obediently Yours
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Backxwash "God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It" (2020)


I have an absolute adoration for Hip Hop music, however diversity is something lacking in its first decades. The 90s, for example, many would consider the pinnacle of both artistic creativity and success. But in comparison to the world of Metal and its stylistic divergences, its obvious the genre is narrower and closely knit. When records like this come along its a firm sign of progression, barriers collapsing and diversity in this age of musical cross pollination Internet culture.

God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It is a short concise plunge into the uneasy. A cathartic release of repented energy. A self administered therapy with an undercurrent of religiosity feeding into its themes of sin, abuse and guilt. Kicking off a sample of Ozzy Osbourne crying for help with an air of despair to his voice, a tone is set for the slow drums to drill in the dark subjects this album will tackle. The transition into Black Sabbath's Self Titled track a nice touch to see it off.

The instrumentals set out a harrowing tone of internal struggles and paranoia. The sampling and beat arrangements are dark, gloomy and ghostly with enough groove in their to keep it from feeling burdensome on the listener. Reading over the lyrics, a lot of pain and personal anguish is exorcised across these tight and direct verses. With a motioned rhythm in flow and Canadian cadence flavoring annunciation, backxwash has a firm command over the narrative where the two elements come together.

The vocabulary and linking of rhymes is frequent and often entrancing. The hooks and between parts embellishes each tracks depth. As the album plays on, its somewhat ambiguous tie to religion grows, suggesting an arc as the finial songs shift in tone. Redemption lifts the mood but its wording shows a person doing right by them self in the face of intolerance. The final vocal sample from some form of spiritual speech indicates forgiveness for all those who do you wrong. A solid conclusion.

Everything about this record speaks to vision and execution. Every line and wording feeling relevant, a grouping of short tracks offering no fluff. Interlude tracks flesh out the musical theme and its dark atmosphere carries between each track wonderfully, letting the album play like one big track in the bigger track. Its not taken many listens to appreciate its greatness. I've got a feeling this one to frequent back to in the future of the never ending musical journey!

Favorite Tracks:
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Bathory "The Return......" (1985)


The Return...... Of Darkness And Evil, as its full title goes, is a fitting title for Bathory's sophomore record. I always remembered this as the "smelly" one. Listening to it again over fifteen years later a much more nuanced and interesting opinion is formed. Quorthorn makes a keen stride to embellish a more sinister tone, many abrasive ideas that would eventually become hallmarks in Black Metal. The strike of demonic gongs, deep command roars steeped in reverberations, shrill howls furthering ugly throaty textures and plenty of shadow echos to wrap them up in.

Despite issuing some key ideas for the scene to come, its all fractionally mismatched with the guitar tone that still has a warmer Heavy Metal charm about it, even with the low fidelity. These ideas that aim to dive deeper into the "evil" theme are currently pungent in inception. The whole thing is somewhat akin to early Graveland records. Its fair to say bar one or two songs the music is lacking a magnetism that came before it.

Perhaps in attempt to embrace the dark and foul, performances from the band become fair at best and seem intentionally sloppy in moments of lost synchronicity or attempted "edge". Tempos stutter, and drums loose there groove. It rarely aids the music or its intended theme, that needs to come from good songwriting and Quorthorn's riffs are baked stale for half of the record.

In the latter half of the album a darker guitar tone grinds power chords effectively and in two songs lays a much foundation for the evolution of the genre. Its guitar solos still seem lost in the Heavy Metal cliche tho, breaking the mood. These moments and the intro of dark scenic ambience give the record some needed merit because despite being early, raw and influential, its embryonic experimentation is ugly, not in the aesthetic and rewarding sense but that of a mostly haphazard record.

Favorite Tracks: The Rite Of Darkness, Reap Of Evil
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Steve Roach "Journeys To The Infinite" (2020)


Having spent a pretty penny on records this month, the availability of a free compilation was a welcome one. Once again the itch developed for some relaxing meditative music of which Steve Roach is both a master and pioneer. With this being a collection of eight tracks all from different projects, there was much to enjoy. All were new to me, with exception to one song rehashing a keen temporal melody off Structures From Silence. With such variety on display it is hard to comment on the particulars but I found myself in awe of the apparent ease and simplicity of his unfolding compositions, which are inherently deceptive as time silently ticks by.

The songs start in timid places. Simple arrangements of atmospheric synths or modulated synths, unimposing in stature, lure one into the fold. As the master does, the music grows patiently. Layers build and a thick atmosphere engulfs one with stealth. Later into these lengthy constructs one can be in awe of the density that amounts to such deep and spiritual insights. With eighty two minutes of finely crafted, temporal, meditative ambience peering into the mind, its easy to get lost in this record.

With such a plethora of music produced and continuing to create, it can be daunting to know where to go with his catalogue but it seems the musician has a constitute quality to his output. Maybe this compilation will serve as a jumping on point to another album as I find myself keenly curious by the soundscapes he forges. I particularly liked Skeleton Passage with its Tangerine Dream vibes and also the subtle world music ques akin to another classic Dreamtime Return on two of the songs. Fine music!

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Malcolm Home "Infinity" (2020)


Immediately warm and welcoming, the smooth, soft jazzy beats at play feel right at home, pardon the pun. Infinity is a debut album loaded with seventy five minutes of breezy Jazz Hop instrumentals. Its subdued Hip Hop element gives rise to a colourful melodic that feels so reflective of many electronic and ambient artists in recent memory. Its of the times, a chilled out, carefully crafted set of songs with melodies learning in the Synth Pop revival direction with a touch of Anime theme song spice dazzling in a couple of song which also tend to be the better ones.

Originality is term thrown around too easily and although I don't hear anything that feels like a stone overturned, the particular fusion of glossy sounds and involved layers of notation has it steering into a combination of recent styles and sounds that feels like a little bit of everything and none of it all at once. This seems to be true of its better moments where the chemistry is ripe but over its broader cut of songs the threads that pull yield different results as the magic stems from this middle ground.

The breezy effortless dreamy arrangements, soaked in reverbs and oozing with summery vibes, get a little tired in the less involved instrumentation. At times the looped nature of the music shows its flaws as songs revolve with little beyond the initial temperament set. Equal to it though are these fantastic flushes of growth as some songs seem to evolve with a lead instrument acting as a voice. Losing You has a dynamic electric guitar solo illuminate an already captivating song.

Infinity's best feels loaded in its front. Save Me brings in a voice for collaboration I cared little for, the vocal didn't gel. Past this point It sounds like the less fleshed out ideas reside in the albums final third which drifts on. This plays up some of the production tricks as they become more noticeable, like wonky keys that flavour a little obscurity throughout. A couple of slow, dreary, dramatic and slow Post-Rock style songs end up here too. A niche touch but a little of key with the overall vibe.

This is a dense record given its runtime, some simple songs are given fair leeway on the repetitions yet on other tracks you almost don't want them to end with the amount of variety being unleashed. It all suggests a need for curation and focus on being more than a collection of beats because in its stride, it really hits the mark! Despite its chilled out nature and easiness, it can get dull in the forefront but It also provides an atmosphere which may just be right for rest and relaxation!

Favorite Tracks: Mercy, Losing You, Drown In The Stars, Los Pantalones, Infinity
Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Bathory "Bathory" (1984)


I was listening to Scandinavian Metal Attack, a compilation of Heavy Metal released earlier the same year that the Swedish one man band Bathory featured on, when I realized its been well over a decade since Id last dived into these classic records that influenced the shape of Black Metal to come. Venom coined the name two years earlier but Quorthorn took the cheese out of the equation, sharpening the axe of evil with an aggression, keenly influenced by Motorhead. This self titled debut pushed the pummeling sound further whilst taking the occult seriously, laying foundations for a whole new musical scene to arise, inspired by the taboos of evil.

 With a brittle angular distortion guitar tone and shrieking howls, this dusky record and its simply awful audio fidelity presents an initial challenge. Much of the tone is pushed into the mid to high range with the low ranges being a muddy mess of bass resonance. All instruments have there sloppy moments with riffs falling off beat, drum strikes inconsistent and collisions of noise. Despite this the music overcomes the technical aspects, Quorthorn's throaty shouts and groans are sufficiently menacing for his evil themes of all things occult and taboo to have a sense of seriousness.

For a primitive and somewhat embryonic record the songs hold up well all these years later. The punkish riffing slogging power chords and melody interwoven picking rhythms stand on their own two feet. Without chasing the gimmicks of speed and extremity for extremities sake, Quorthorn uses his guitar to forge a genuine direction often illuminated by the shrill eruptions of lead guitar that dazzle the songs with speedy tapping arriving through a difficult to decipher whirl of low fidelity sound.

Its Intro and Outro songs make light use of thematic soundscapes to embellish the tone. I can't comment much on the origins of such integration in Metal but its almost no surprise to hear it here as many pioneering ideas have roots in Bathory. Another being the abrupt ending of tracks on two songs, something Darkthrone would get a lot of credit for later. Not all the songs are great, a couple drone with repetition but it has its moments. Many year from my last dive into this world, its clear the songwriting prevails and so its aesthetic elements fall into place given the uncomfortable topicality. The influence is obvious, the nostalgia magical but the best is yet to come!

Favorite Track: Raise The Dead
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Fellsilent "The Double A" (2006)


Forever immortalized in my memory, local Metal outfit Fellsilent represented an exciting time in the musical adventure, as me and my friends started visiting our local Metal bars and clubs. At our first outing these polyrhythmic Djent brutes stole my heart! It was at a time when Meshuggah where still yet to gain their status as extreme innovators and pioneers of a new sound. Finding a local act embracing this sound and executing it with utter class just felt like a match made in heaven. Never has a revisit to this glorious era ever failed me and my recent dive into Catch Thirtythree of the same time had me reveling in the demos and this four track EP again!

 The band have a instinct for big lurking riffs that slog out grooves with a mechanical coldness. Soft melodies seep in through gleaming acoustics, Post-Rock guitar ambience and subtle shifts in tone as a colorful notes align themselves alongside these beastly marches of stomping metallic bludgeoning. The balance in complexity is inviting, keeping polyrhythms locked in the 4/4 bar makes it easy to follow and all the more infectious! Every song has a keen cut of riffs to fit into typical song structures but always do they lead to some form of mammoth peak or breakdown in the final third.

All four songs are superb. Silence Is The Loudest Cry For Help a timeless lyrics that conveys an emotional current to its otherwise chromatic, relentless, battering aesthetic. The vocals add to this grey onslaught. Neema Askari has a distinctly flat and harsh approach, straining his chords with some personality. When they open into uplifting clean sections the relief is simply brilliant. Again its all put together with that final third of a song ascending to its peak and their is no exception.

This band is so ingrained into my being. They were like an illusive beast we never saw again for years as the shows just didn't seem to line up. I think we eventually got to see them again with Enter Shikari a couple more times before they split up in 2010. Its a shame but not all bands make it. Despite being utterly brilliant the stars didn't align and so its likely they will be buried by time and dust a little fast than most but if you love Djent, do yourself a favor and give this record a try! Its a gem!

Rating: 8/10