Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Dizzee Rascal "E3 AF" (2020)

 

Finding myself mildly entertained, a flick back to Raskit and Don't Gas Me confirms a dip In my personal investment. Coming of the back of strong releases, the Rascal returns with this brief thirty three minute stint that lacks a commanding grip on the listener. Flipping back and forth between dirty Grime bangers and warm friendly tracks with brighter vibes, it feels all to routine. Last outing, sixteen tracks indicated an artist in a fruitful moment, yielding invested emotional lyrics and challenging himself, pushing his craft to the edge. It had me excited for this next one.

With E3 the edge is gone, his hooks lack a spark, relying on the puns and loose rhyme links to punch a theme into the songs. Although there is topicality and Dizzee has plenty to say, his verses often fall off into the routine of braggadocio and stance affirming that doesn't seem routed in anything deeper. Moments of technicality and swift delivery are impressive but its been heard before. He has his moments but with the mediocre production of atypical beats the record feels dull and run of the mill.

With guests on all but two tracks, Dizzee gets out shined on occasion. Although not to my liking, the hyper masculine, violent raps of his friends have so much energy and immediacy they become the most memorable parts of the record, possibly for being new and fresh voices to digest. Ocean Wisdom catches the ear with his hasty wordings. The vulgar, over the top back and forth on the mic is a blast. A highlight among a record that failed to grab me despite plenty of spins.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Pallbearer "Forgotten Days" (2020)

 

Doom Metal is not my forte however this young and highly praised band caught my attention with their Progressive approach to one of Metal's older incarnations. They've struck me as a band that take time to love and Heartless grows on me still with each occasional return. Forgotten Days, the groups forth outing, may just suffice a similar fate. After many listens I find myself stunted by its opening stylistic halves, in awe of one, dulled by the other. Fortunately the album quickly moves beyond this fumble.

The opening title track illuminates their chemistry with its dull contrast. It kicks off, churning out burly descendings of southern swampy groove from its hazy distortion guitars. Its a sound all to akin to New Orleans based Down, a similarity heard on occasion. For this song the band focus on raw groove within a monochromatic tone. Sludgy low end riffing takes a slow, measured approach, building momentum among steady chugs and palm mutes. It of fair craft but a damp and stale, colorless delivery.

Its refrain brings relief as illuminating chorus soaked guitars light up the scene with color and emotion, singer Brett Campbell opens up his tone after sounding very much like Ozzy Osbourne beforehand. Fortunately, Forgotten Days doesn't return to this rhythm oriented stint. Of course the music is laden with interesting grooves that sway within the changing temperaments. Its main focus is the swelling saturation of melodies and harmony that emerges from this inherently gloomy aesthetic.

Where it could be all to easy to feel burdensome and sluggish, the band bring a weighty emotion that toys with beauty and struggle as a strangely uplifting melancholy permeates these scenic songs that journey through stunning musical ideas, each track building to its own crescendo of sorts. The inclusion of a zapping synthesizer on Stasis, droning in to add texture to the punch is timely. Short bursts of it appear on other songs too but its not an indulged idea on this record.

Silver Wings losses a little steam at the mid point with its gloomier setting but otherwise Forgotten Days is a fine record delivering thoughtful music that only dulls in the greyer shades of its aesthetic design. The inflections of color through melody and plucked chords are enchanting, Campbell often acts as the voice to unite it all together under is soaring, yet grounded presences. He has an endearing rawness that's quite capable of delivering delightful harmony with his fellow band mates. Having already plucked a few favorites, more may yield with time and familiarity. I am not completely swooned but I feel its always possible with this band.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Amynedd "16-Bit Adventure" (2020)


 One to be wooed by the sway of nostalgia, Birmingham based Amynedd's sole release had pull for an era I didn't personally experience. Familiar with the Sega Mega Drive aesthetic, its lovingly crafted array of saws, sines and triangle wave synths fit the bill fronted by its contrasting album cover. Half retro game, half scenic view not entirely fitting of VGM. The musical lure were the compositions. Its limited array of tones are somewhat tiring but in paying tribute to an era gone by, some creative liberties in its glossy production, embellished percussion and soft reverbs hold it over.

Unless indoctrinated by hours of adventure, glued to the TV set as a child, a lot of this console gaming era's music can be gaudy and harsh in my experience, especially on the original hardware. 16-Bit Adventure initially avoids that folly with its firm bass pummeling opening track and subsequent mellow melodies conjuring spirit through an adjacent formula, free to greater expression on the following numbers. Its mood is scenic, intriguing and emotional yet as the record grows it seems to hail back to Synth-Pop inspired punchiness on tracks like Tractor Zone, Boulder Zone.

Popping drum beats, snappy percussive sounds and rigid executions lack subtlety, variance and measure as its instruments work on full velocity, forcing its way through the notation. Between them, Merrily Boats and Lilac Orchard swoon with mystic melodies of carefree warmth and adventure. Its this tugging back and forth the spell is often broken. When working with warm synths applied with timely decays, the music transcends as its layers of melody and rhythm pry into fuzzing warm spaces.

Between these more interesting numbers lay the songs akin to the Sonic soundtrack. They in their own right are fun compositions with great chemistry between the various layers of sound chiming together in good spirit but that shift in energy is jarring to the overall atmosphere. It leaves me with the feeling of finding enjoyment in a niche that's not mine, pretty self explanatory given my opening remarks. This is an era I missed out on but if you did enjoy it, you'd certainly get along with this. If not, you'll probably hear the inkling of something more meaningful and inspiring than just carefree fun. Its weaved its way into the more loving compositions, of which I enjoyed most.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Erang "Imagination Never Fails" (2020)

 

Last year was the first since Erang's inception that passed without new material released. The French Dungeon Synth musician now brings us the eighteenth installment in this lengthy saga. The brief absence is perhaps explained in its eclectic opening songs and lack of manifestation to new territory. Unlike the direct pivot to another aesthetic like Songs Of Scars and Anti Future, Imagination Never Fails toys with new ideas before providing a variety of flavors from this mature, distinct sound.

With sampled narration, or presumably voice actors, its opening title track, A New Age Is Rising, Far Away and New World Slave adorn the music with promise of something carefree from the lands beyond limitations. Digitized voices reminiscent of Daft Punk and retro synthesizers whirling in astral majesty rub up against the atmosphere led by ethereal voicings. Crashing onto triumphant horns and percussive drives of ancient war, fleshed out with shouts and battle cries, Its as if anything is possible in this peculiar union of inspirations. It is unexpected but attention grabbing and fun.

 Then with Long Ago In The Hidden Kingdom we shift to the Erang of old, mystic and meager instruments play curious yet lonely melodies of eerie nostalgia and beauty with that particular craft. Its lovingly composed and as the songs roll on some excursions into percussion akin to "world music" as it might be called, help shape up its narrative, building up momentum and dropping out aptly, giving rhythm and movement to the fantasy worlds these tunes do conjure.

These songs are certainly nothing to gloss over, Shipbuilding Memory has a powerful uplifting sense of melancholy to it, reminiscent of Ascent by Brian Eno. The issue is simply familiarity, after seventeen records these additional numbers simply slip into the vastness of all that share their distinction. For a new listener however, these may be fresh and exciting sounds within the world of Fantasy and Dungeon Synth music.

I Would of liked to hear more of that opening intrigue. The narration gave a sense of direction and adventure, only recurring briefly on one other song if I recall correctly. The whaling overdriven guitar resetting the momentum on the opening track before returning with an arpeggio was a delight but a lone moment. Those initial retro synths helped shape a new path too but alas it was not walked upon for this listener. Listening to Erang is always a pleasure and always will be. I am just hoping in the future they can find new avenues to explore as that's where the excitement is! As it where in the opening four songs.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Old Tower "Plague Harvest" (2020)

With a history of patchy release in Old Tower's beginning, a stride of good form developed into a unique craft of darkness, culminating with The Last Eidolon. It is a stellar record, the apex of the Dutch musicians scenic Dungeon Synth spell. News of fresh music excited but ultimately disappoints as its lengthy, fourteen minutes halves dabble in the black ambience that usually builds to bigger and grander things. Plague Harvest however, meanders in the moments before, its shadowy reverberated sounds of eerie mystique and foreboding despair barely enriched by the creaks and cracks of movement in the tunnels of darkness ahead. Being a creature of atmosphere, the music drags its way into denser constructs, with only a flicker of melody and brief sense of event as lightning strikes under the downpour of glum rain and howling winds.

These details of particularity return in the second stint as distant clanks echo against the crackle of a dying fire. Its light stays as light, airy synths of temporal presences sway in against the gloomy weathers, overtaking it to eventually hear the trickle of a river and sounds of life in the distance. Eventually the flickering returns and darkness prevails on a rather uneventful affair. Writing these thoughts out makes it all seem more obvious that this is an exercise in a different approach to story telling. Against the backdrop of what came before it, Plague Harvest often feels like the calm before the storm this artist had forged before. On their own, it does feel underwhelming but its temperament is its own. Expectations may of caused disappointment but I don't think so this time around.

Rating: 3/10

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Fragment "Unknown" (2002)

 

In the frenzy of a musical high, scouring my archives for a sample I needed, I stumbled upon a lone MP3 obtained probably over a decade ago, the song Negative Patterns. Standing as a ten minute epic of early Djent tone insanity, I scrambled to find the full record online. Turns out this band once opened for Meshuggah and this, their only record, was produced by none other than Fredrik Thordendal, who lends his distinct lead style for a solo on that same track. In that moment It felt like I had stumbled onto a gem but having had time to sit with it the take away isn't so good.

My excitement was mainly triggered by the Chaosphere / Nothing era tone. There may be a plethora of imitation and influenced bands around today but in 2002, not so much! It's also Meshuggah's later guitar work that became their legacy so finding a project in this vein is less common. In terms of originality, Fragment offers little new to the formula. Their singer emulates the flat monotone shouts of Jens and the guitar is a slug fest of all the same low end chugging arrangements. Anything higher up the fret board comes with the expectant "alien" melodic feel. Even the drums deploy the same tricks, switching from open hi-hat to splash cymbal to give a riff renewed groove.

With three mediocre interludes of reflective, astral ambience the four songs of erratic Extreme Metal barrage with little relation to its synth counterparts. They toil endlessly in a low end choppy slog of oddly timed grooves looping up under a 4/4 percussive pattern. Its remarkable how little creativity is brewed here. This monotone pummeling literally spans the runtime with differentiating one or two note grooves over and over again, endlessly. Discordant lead guitar refrains give the relentlessness relief but never lead to anything other than another churning of complex picking rhythms.

In all my supposed criticism, one can enjoy this record if your into this style, which I am. It has it's moments, occasions where some pivot into a new riff has renewed aggression and sway. What is disappointing is lack of originality. The group are somehow unable to put forth any new idea's Meshuggah had not already. Because of all this, my initial excitement faded quickly. Unknown is essentially a one trick pony and that trick isn't theirs. Competent production by Mr Thordendal, invigorates the musics aggression and tone, salvaging the best of what would of otherwise suffered. Worth a listen if you want more of the Chaosphere era sound!

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 13 November 2020

Bring Me The Horizon "Post Human: Survival Horror" (2020)


 Last outing with Bring Me The Horizon we got to experience the first of their now preferred EP format for releasing music. Supposedly being done with albums, Music To Listen To... suggested an experimental, carefree direction for the group. At thirty two minutes, Survival Horror feels like an album but it is just the first of four releases under the Post Human banner. Formats and definitions aside, this is undoubtedly a great listening experience that explains itself regardless of how its packaged up and sold. There is also the price, can't complain about saving a few quid to pick it up!

With these nine tracks, BMTH step back to the cutting edge. Their fusion of Electronic, Metal and Pop thrives within the throttling production that gives all instruments a punchy clarity whilst retaining the wall of sound energy. Most these songs land between Amo and That's The Spirit, poppy hooks and structures with splashes of electronica just about everywhere. It Kicks off with a notable dip into exhilaration as the blast beats and lively guitar work show strong Extreme Metal influences.

A fascinating collaboration with Babymetal stands out, Kingslayer, a song that could of easily fit on the Japanese groups record as it utilizes their song style and aesthetic quirks. The rest of the record mostly toys with different temperaments of Pop Metal, the loud quiet dynamic and many creative ways of delivering catchy ear worms. Its still fondly reminiscent of the Hybrid Theory formula, the song Teardrop practically a tribute to that record with a its parallel guitar tone and ideal song structure.

The band constantly sway between tuneful swoons and doses of heavy, often punctuated with dense synthesizers droning in syncopation with the guitars. The percussion too has an entanglement with drum machines and samples that give the songs a textural weight to bolster the music with aesthetic intrigue. Its made revisiting these songs fun as the depth has one picking apart the layers that make it up.

On the lyrical front its opening songs seems poised to reflect on the internal stresses and turmoil the current pandemic is putting many people through right now. Its a middle of the road, unpolitical take that wrangles out frustrations caused by the situation. It could just be coincidence from a band that frequently deal with the negative spectrum of emotions through their words. Its all a little to uncanny though.

Survival Horror is a sharp record, concise, creative and at the edge of cunning, the group have managed again to evolve their sound in exciting directions. With a handful of guests to bring on extra voices and no shortage of ideas it ends out being a fruitful affair with something for everyone. Its been stated that each of the four parts will have their own identity. I'd love more in this vein but the idea of pushing something different with each release has me excited for their future! This band have long defied the odds against their origin and watching them continue on is simply fantastic.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Old Sorcery "The Path Lies Hidden" (2018)

 

Another journey has begun, Realms Of Magickal Sorrow lured me in and now I've become obsessed with Old Sorcery! This fantastical fusion of Dungeon Synth and enigmatic oldskool Electronica is a fascinating one. Fortunately, there is more to be unearthed! Between albums are two twenty minute, one song gems. The Path Lies Hidden is the first and firmly straddles the line between halves, for almost its entirety.

Kicking off win the bass region with buzz saws and sine wave synths, the music resonates and rumbles as a rhythmic melody forges a path through the foggy ambience, a low distant humming. As it repeats over and over a variety of instruments play along, awaiting there turn like destinations on a cosmic journey. Crystallized synths and sparkling sounds dazzle in little eruptions of magic along the path.

As the pallet grows the music sways between its halves with cosmic synths dancing and playful Fantasy melodies chiming in. It even deploys those classic "strikes" of synthetic sound among echoing percussive hits like the pioneers did. Its a mesmerizing ride that comes to transition in the mid point, an unnerving darkness sets in as the repetitive melody is textured to a sound design less astral and cosmic.

In its final phase, the playful Fantasy melody returns to stay as we arrive upon our destination. Its a peaceful, charming place with a cold, lonely touch to it. Like a serine garden that's frozen over, Its beautiful but chilling and empty. The Path Lies Hidden is a powerful song with an indulgent persuasion that has made every spin a pleasure. It is currently my favorite song from this most interesting of artists in the genre.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 9 November 2020

Carcass "Despicable" (2020)

I was eagerly awaiting a new Carcass album. It has been seven years of silence since the reunion record Surgical Steel. Disappointment struck upon learning this release is simply a four track tie over to the full length pushed back by the ongoing pandemic situation. Despicable's four songs apparently "didn't make the cut". Considering these are pretty darn enjoyable numbers, I'm now even more excited for Torn Arteries, now delayed and set to drop sometime next year.

Returning again with their defined textural flavor of Melodic Death Metal, seasoned musicians Jeff Walker and Bill Steer craft warm, inviting strands of extreme music. Residing mostly within the mid-tempo, even temperaments of aggression and melody play out mostly from an approachable middle ground. The drums rock steady grooves with fractional forays into challenging blast beats and dexterous sequences. Distortion guitars churn out sturdy power chord arrangements with exciting iterations on the fretboard, mostly manifesting into dazzling sparks of color as the lead and rhythm guitars work in tandem. Its only notably "extreme" in brief moments.

Its the raspy, whispering shouts and screams permeating all of the music that anchors the edge down. With a snaky serpentine flavor, they slither over these songs with severity. Not to get too hung up on the Extreme Metal angle but if you strip out the vocals, this record is basically an accessible set of adrenaline charged songs with gorgeous melodic entanglements and great song writing. Everything comes together wonderfully, even with a catchy hook or two. On Slaughtered In Soho, the slaughtered lyric is cried out, wrapped in a brief reverberation after the lovely unraveling melodic refrain from the lead guitar. Its leads are continuously sublime.

Everything about this record feels measured and in balance. Some of the more creative, tempo breaking riffs come with a keen sense of quality over going "full throttle". The breakdown riff on Manchester Morgue makes great use of deadening the power chords on path to the next. Small details and moments like this are illuminated when a guitar solo wails over top. Its great writing, over exploiting techniques. Despicable has a fine production, crisp, bright instruments get to dance in the forum of aggression underpinning the overall mood. My only annoyance is the use of cowbell. It forays into the music on occasion but something about that instrument never feels right to me.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Bathory "Destroyer Of Worlds" (2001)

With a notable five year break between records, Bathory returns to the new millenium with Quorthon as the sole performer of all instruments. It had always been his band, his music but from here on out he is without company. Destroyer Of Worlds is a record that stagnates on former glories and failures too. Attempting to unite the Viking Metal and Thrash Metal sounds of the 90s, it ends up being a mash up with one or two songs making the crossover and the rest standing in stark contrast to one another.

It is the Thrash sound that makes up the bulk of this lengthy sixty five minute slog. Lake Of Fire opens things up with memorable anthemic glory. Reverb soaked drums, heathen choral chants and Quorthon's authentic yet tarnished singing. Ode and the closing Day Of Wrath sustains the atmospheric Viking sound. The albums title track handles the crossover well, a chugging guitar and bass rumble offering up a dirty driving march for its gloomy tone. Pestilence offers up chunky groove riffs that only pivot to the Viking identity with punched in choral chants and acoustic guitar overlays.

The rest resides strictly in the Thrash realm. In doing so, the production value takes a hit. The insistence on a stark temperament rattles the composure with many of the songs feeling like a big step back to Requiem and Octagon territory. Semi social-political themes and anti-war topics manifest into hollow lyrics again, offering little to ponder over. Most of the riffs and compositions reek of creatively challenged mediocrity, nothing in the way of a memorable impression is achieved at all.

Jumping between a couple of tracks, one can hear what seems like multiple sessions brought together, with different aesthetics at play. Overall it feels like a hashed up attempt to unite two different sets of songs, maybe leftovers from the years gone by. One thing that is for certain, Quorthon knows how to do the Viking Metal sound he pioneered best. Its pretty fantastic and up to scratch in two or three of the songs here, the rest simply drags the record down.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Clipping "Splendor & Misery" (2016)

 
Last outing, their debut CLPNG, I found myself at odds with the swift articulation of Daveed Diggs and his Avant-Guard instrumental backing. Rapping to the sound of an alarm clock is certainly different but for all their merits and experiments, not a lot of the music clicked emotionally, despite the impressive lyricism. On the groups second, Splendor & Misery, the inventive approach to sound design seems aptly steered towards atmosphere and electronic industrial details that reinforce the emergent theme set down from the very opening.

Fuzzes, drones, deep rumbling bases and ambiguous swells of sound among the buzzing of electricity gives one the sense of interstellar travel marked by the mention of a ship in the opening verse, which hurls words rapidly from the perspective of a mothership observing a cargo ship. Its puzzling and thought provoking but following this narrative feels like a tangle of observation and emotion that becomes a blur in trying to understand the meaning of this tale from spaces cold abyss. Its like a puzzle, one I couldn't quite get my head around.

From its cold mechanical bleeps and bloops churning over like an 80s computer, radio static injects and transitions to bluesy music, a choral of burdensome vocals etched with a great pain sing their sorrows. Although these occurrences are brief, they add a further complexity to this mysterious story. Rapping over the sounds of old printer technology, True Believer brings about tension with convention, driving a regular percussive groove and uniting these contrasts for a brief moment. More convention arises again on Air em Out, a party track vibe resonates from Daveed's flow with minimal instrumental reinforcement.

Whats remarkable on this outing is how well the lack of convention works. A relatable anchor is unnecessary as the theme comes together cohesively. The opening raps are entrancing, a rapid mechanical monotone expression. As the album progresses I seem to loose sense of the narrative but there is no lack of appreciation for all remarkable that follows. Much like on their debut I find myself in great appreciation of the art but not finding a strong emotional bond with it. I will continue with this trio though, their music is deeply intriguing and this spacey outing is a big step up!

Rating: 6/10