Thursday 11 April 2024

Spiritbox "The Fear Of Fear" (2023)


From the outset The Fear Of Fear expresses itself as a heavier incarnation, casting aside the delicate yet persuasive balance of intricate Etheral aesthetics that graced the moody lulls of its successor Eternal Blue. In what feels like two steps back, Spiritbox trade in their originality for trendy heavy tropes and poppy song structures that are all to familiar. When leaning into aggression and brutality, the sways of exuberant Djent abuse takes hold. Slams, breakdowns and stomps arrive throttled and ferocious but tend to swallow up the intricate details other instrumentation offers from the dense lurching shadows. When LaPlante gets to salivate on the throws of her melodic contributions, the tone shifts somewhat in the direction of Bring Me The Horizon's now mercilessly copied Pop Metal blueprint. A sore disappointment.

Despite many repetitious listens, this record couldn't grab me beyond the gravity of its darkest plunges into metallic weight. Sadly, that rhythmic assault has become an all to familiar formula forayed by many bands before them. The record is split about 50/50 between this beast and its lighter side tarnished by a heavier wall of sound tone. These stints of color didn't have the sparkle heard before either, its easy melodic lines and soft ascending singing seem to drift by on cruise control, competent yet oddly forgettable. Sadly, it seems the band lost that unique character they had last time out. At least they are not repeating themselves as artists and trying new things.

Rating: 4/10

Monday 8 April 2024

Horsebeach "Things To Keep Alive" (2024)


Befitting of its mellow breezy aesthetic, Things To Keep Alive navigates through soothing, strolling tempos keen on a dissecting introspection of ones present situation. Direct and unambiguous, Kennedy's lyrics warms the heart ache and pains to the positive powers of reflection. Its felt instrumentally first, a steady current sails buoyant, soaked in the glow of effortless sunny skies. The tang of surfing guitar licks over simple drum grooves croons in gentle optimism. Whimsical melodies and softly Ethereal reverberations anchoring a little melancholic sour with the sanguine sweet.

Occasional chirpy synths and stiff 808s add an enjoyable quirky disposition to the dominant temperament, which across these ten tracks treads familiar footings. A couple of songs toy with subtle build ups, calmed climaxes and fuzzy distortions but mostly its an easy breezy affair to mercifully manipulate your mood. Pure Shores stood out, immediately giving me a sense of nostalgia. Convinced it was a cover, I was reminded of the All Saints hit I heard plenty times over in my youth. I liked that one but seems dulled in comparison to the life Horsebeach breathed into it.

Rating: 6/10

Monday 1 April 2024

Spiritbox "Eternal Blue" (2021)

Somehow once deaf to their charm, I initially passed on Eternal Blue. Returning now a few years later, I've cracked what in retrospect seems so obvious. Music can be a mysterious beast at times but familiarity is often its remedy. Burning these songs into my consciousness, Singer Courtney LaPlante emerges the anchor. Her clean voice sails through turbulence, resolute and ascending. With a firm and graceful tone, she cuts through tensions with swooning melodies and hooks that shape up akin to Dream Pop. On the flip side, I found her throaty Hardcore leaning scream aesthetic less charming. Caught in the throws of timely aggression, its a fiery combo but whenever laid bare to its many calmer backdrops, the strained roar doesn't shape up to well.

Spiritbox's other strength is firmly rooted in aesthetic driven songwriting. Unlike other Metal bands, they are willing the dwell on calm Ethereal moods that flutter by on the wings of shimmering instrumentation, both electronic and acoustic intertwined. As a result, their aggressive Djent riffs play like a natural emergence from the climax of craftily brewed tensions. A reflexive jolt of force, less "riff" more feel. This approach lets the guitars drift in and out of focus, joining an ever morphing landscape of shadowy calms and gripping tensions that follow through on an emotive narrative.

I adore this atmospheric approach to Metal. Between the conventional surges of groove and aggression, Spiritbox shape up nightly mirages of warmth tinged in a dreamy ambiguity teetering on darkness. With a soothing voice, LePlante rescues its darkly direction, yet in another breath her pelted screams plunge us into that chaos. Exploring its ying-yang, both sides of the line are ventured, these songs brilliantly sway across. Picking a favorite among its twelve cuts is hard, a sturdy forty minutes that rarely falters. One of the best "new" Metal records I've heard for some time.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday 21 March 2024

Greyshadow Ruins "Mountain Realm" (2023)

Imbued by the powers of thematic suggestion, Mountain Realm's sleeve artwork and track titling aptly fits the dusky, seldom mood that awaits within. An array of Casio and Korg akin keyboard synths greets us, whispering cautious tales of what once lurked in this now abandoned place. Dressed in glum, dusty aesthetics, each of these brief stints ventures upon forgotten tales and mythic settings to fulfill its titles promise.

Greyshadow Ruins' takes an even handed approach, an acute balance of mystic synth tones, edging towards a minimalist design at times. I most adored this eerie, curious magical glistening sound that emerged from blurry shadows on tracks like Crystal Pool, Goblin Cave, Pyre & Mana Flask. Its other half, a more traditional castly vibe, conjures familiar nostalgia's with a smidge of Wizzards and Orcs battle fever.

Dungeon Synth has been thoroughly explored by this traveler, not much surprises me now. Competent executions of familiar inspirations like this are enjoyable but leaves me stumped when it comes to finding words. I end up repeating myself, as does a fair bit of this record in terms of retreading territory. There is potential here, yet currently it fits well within the confines of expectation from a genre I adore but lacks progression.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday 14 March 2024

Wargasm "Venom" (2023)


With refined stylistic focus, Wargasm return, honing in on their own antagonizing identity. With additional ferocity, the spirit of a Nu Metal revival is in the air. With Venom, a consistent streak of Gold Cobra era Wes Borland guitar riffs guides their Electro-Punk mania to gratifying bursts of aggression. The duo strip out the genres tired downtrodden spirit, infusing it with obnoxious club drums, dizzying studio manipulations and generalized chaos. Underpinned by an enthused energy fit for the stage, most these cuts play with visions of them tearing it up in front of a lively crowd.

Fred Durst shows up for a massive, bouncy collaboration, making influences clear and known. Its a fantastic endorsement. These big riff songs tend to be the standouts. A string of early tracks lacked these guitar elements and it didn't land the same. When the unhinged rage and jilted grooves collide, this pair are in their element. Later in the record the metallic side gets explored in varying intensities to great enjoyment. I've enjoyed Venom immensely but I'm keen to see them mature and take these ideas further.

Rating: 7/10

Monday 11 March 2024

Black Rob "Life Story" (2000)


Sad to say, but this debut has been a major disappointment. Bad Boy records seems to save its best for Puff 's records. I Love You Baby was a fantastic introduction, a tense, dramatic song, built up by mafioso string sections and Rob's gritty story telling. This song sharing also happened with Mase, here it features three years later!

Life Story has weak production. Sounding like left over cuts from prior records, similar Bad Boy tones emerge, subdued by there mediocrity. Soulful croons, trendy repetitive groove beats, mafioso theatrics and rubbing shoulders with R&B singers, it all feels a couple years behind the mark. With more care this might have gone somewhere.

Without lively backing from instrumentals, It becomes obvious Rob's aesthetic and temperament isn't all too exciting on its own. Gloomy moods are common and his story's often lean on the depressive side. Without that much needed musical relief from the brevity of expression, these songs frequently lull into a dull drone.

Thug Story is the one track of merit beside the aforementioned. Rapping over Slick Rick's classic Children's Story, the liveliness illuminates Rob and elevates his performance. His take on the original rhymes are decent, repurposing its tale for his own. These two tracks were all I found among this unfortunate misfire.
Rating: 3/10

Friday 8 March 2024

Applefish "Luminous" (2023)


This third of three leaves me with less to remark but Applefish has caught my attention and made it onto my coveted Temporal Focus playlist. Luminous is a lighter companion, less suggestive of its theme despite the track titling signaling intent. Lofty ruminations suspend animation and linger within a sparkling display of apt synths and familiar ambiguities. Each song is a flavor of calm, occasionally drifting into serenity.

 A couple of tracks offer some curiosity and mystique but nothing dramatic. The opening Star Trails is my favorite, taking the slow elongated swell of these synth arrangements and gracing them with a looping melody that drags the soundscape reluctantly over a powerful yet subtly delivered chord arrangement. This level of craft seemed lacking elsewhere but each song works with a different energy.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday 6 March 2024

Mnemic "Mnemesis" (2012)

Disbanded not long after, Mnemesis is the Danish outfits final chapter. Initially Bideau's expanded vocal range caught my attention, feeling like a departure from their distinct "Future Fusion Metal" sound. With familiarity the rough cleans, burly shouts and tuneful inflections nestled in, however an underlying shift remains. Subtly toned down aggression leaves space for melodic flavors to capture ones attention. These songs run into frequent stretches of dulled world building stints. Mediocre in intensity, they fail to arrive at gratifying destination. The result is a set of songs that amble through the motions, landing only a handful of memorable riffs or vocal hooks.

Illuminated by subtle eerie synths, the dystopian tone is withdrawn from its previous extremities, creating a luke-warm atmosphere, rarely broken out from. Its mood is a sluggish, sunless, shadowy trek, emotively depressive when aggressive guitars depart on melodic refrains. That's not to de-mark its merits, Mnemesis is a competent set of songs ruminating on burdensome emotions. A listen, of which I've had many, passes by entertaining yet uneventful. Its closer, Blue Desert In A Black Hole, gets a thumbs up for fantastic song writing that steadily brews its sense of finality to close upon.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Ministry "Hopiumforthemasses" (2024)


This sixteenth chapter, proclaimed as their second to last record, Al Jourgensen's Ministry strive onward with their current temperament. Similar in tone and aesthetic to AmeriKKant and Moral Hygiene, the band issue another set of disgruntled social political observations. With vocal snippets and dystopian instrumentals, the hot topics and events of the last few years in American life get a familiar treatment.

Thudding, punchy, repetitive drum beats guide groovy mid-tempo metallic riffs through the barrage of Al's shouted snarls and keen sampling. A subtle collusion of deranged synths and odd instrumentation line the core elements on occasion with a distinctive flavor. Mostly, it falls within expectations, Cult Of Suffering ventures boldly off the track with soulful singing and dreamy guitar chords over a warm crooning baseline.

Otherwise, its been business as usual, fun, predictable but lacking the bite of its predecessors. Aryan Embarrassment struck a nerve with an astute point aimed at paranoid antisemitism. As to be expected, not all messages resonated. Just Stop Oil's fun anthem couldn't stir much compassion for their ridiculous message. Hopiumforthemasses is fair but milder, ending with the tacked on Ricky's Hand. A stiff piece sounding like a re-recording of a lost composition from their Synthpop days.

Rating: 6/10

Monday 4 March 2024

Applefish "Astrosat" (2022)


Had I not discovered Pale Blue Dot first, I may have passed up this record. Release prior, Astrosat is milder affair, another set of Cosmic Ambience pieces that dwell on their initial offerings. Soothing, calm and tranquil in nature, its album art suggests a peaceful surrender to the stillness of orbiting a planet. Spacey synths, airy ambiguities and softly droning astral melodies, these arrangements revel in the present and persist with little in the way of dramatics. Snoozey by design, these peaceful ambiences seduce with slumber, a sense of ease and remaining present.

The closing Primordial Soup and Particles both liven up. Mechanical percussive whirls and expansive synth melodies, a hastening of pace that exits this serene setting on an obscure note. Only Into The Aether toyed with unease and tension. Its slight eeriness is a delight, as if on the cusp of curiosity that might suddenly sour. It was my favorite among these stellar temporal tunes. I'm glad I gave this one a go!

Rating: 5/10

Sunday 3 March 2024

Kyros "Mannequin" (2024)


Is this our first heavy hitter? An obvious contender for my album of the year, Kyros deliver on an enticing Esoterica teaser. All three tracks our found nestled snugly among this lively set of exuberant songs bursting with colorful energy. After a quaint, folksy introduction - reminiscent of classic Prog Rock acoustics, the album roars to life with Showtime. Steel drums rapid a melody suggestive of time passing by, in chimes a big aggrandizing tune fondly reminding me of Genesis in the late 80s and one by one the instruments pile in. Grooving baselines, bustling drums patterns and dazzling keyboard leads paint a theatrical thunder birthed in cheese decades ago.

Kyros however, embrace this bold, tenacious execution of punchy note-to-note refrains and execute them with stunning swagger. Each track brings flavor and distinction, their commonality an undying dexterity of craft that fleshes out many sections with animated instrumentation. That's not to suggest the record doesn't have its timely lulls and respites. The balance is wonderful, a fruitful execution of ideas.

Ghosts Of You has become my standout track. Again the 80s reign supreme with big grinning melodies. One could re-imagine this as an ear worming theme song from a daytime television show. Again, executed with class, the lyrical tone and cadence chimes with its punchy percussion reminiscent of Michael Jackson's Bad. Its a common theme for the record but this modern vibrancy invigorates these old themes.

Its final two songs take a subtle departure, focusing on big metallic stunts between more middle of the road arrangements. Although great entertainment, the increased aggressive might, reminds you of a coming end to the session. Not a blemish but observation as that 80s cheese I'm so fond of gets stripped back. This foursome are awsum and I'm not surprised they have pulled together such a strong cohesive album.

Rating: 9/10

Monday 26 February 2024

Applefish "Pale Blue Dot" (2023)

Another champion of Spotify's algorithm, Applefish's astronautical perspective immediately captivated my attention. One for my Temporal Focus playlist, these reflective droning ambiences contrast shimmering Ethereal tones with earthly sounds. From footsteps dragged across a beach, to trickling water or the chirping of birds, most these songs pair natural scenic impressions within suspended swells of lofty ambiguous synths that cast a memorizing calmness from even its tense outings.
The aura is impeccable, soft bass rumbles and airy voices drift through its drifting formless presence. Melody is absent, notes arise, groan and sink, yawning on temporal stretches. From dramatic to soothing, these captivating swells all conjure emotions fit for the overview effect its title suggests. Only its final track Return To The Tribute induces a cycling electronic melodic tune, which beaks the magical balance as it sees the record out. Pale Blue Dot has a powerful introspective spell to fall under.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday 22 February 2024

Darkspace "-II" (2024)


Surprise evaporates into disappointment. After a decade long hiatus, Darkspace mysteriously re-emerge from the void armed with negative two, a singular forty seven minute epic that adds little to their repitour. With a particular breed of cosmic Black Metal, this trio forge dense, unforgiving walls of bleak sound. A droning masquerade of astral oddities channeled through unsettling grimace. Condensed guitars thrum and whir in discontent, bleed with subtle stellar synths to brood an aesthetic mesmerizing an eerie embrace of the vast measureless void. From endless shadows, beastly groans and guttural howls malign themselves with steely tremolo plucked melodies, descending with a sinister stance. Powered on by shuddering, thudding sub kicks, the music groans, burdened by its union with the abandon of an infinite nothing.

The track is suited to ambient appreciations of its darkly flavor, maneuvering between mellowed lurches and impending brevity in bleak lengthy passages. The album feels like three distinct sections with intentional retreats from its darkest plunges. Despite this, the crawling pace didn't birth a sense of reaching anything climatic or conclusive. It simply arises, then sinks back into the black. Not to suggest the ride was sluggish, more of a suspended astonishment that never arrives. I recall being enthralled by their prior effort III I. After ten years hoping a return might one day occur, this record felt as if no time had passed at all, a very familiar sound reignited without a sniff of evolution.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Little Simz "Drop 7" (2024)


Simz' output is already steeped in creativity. This EP series serve as a niche place to drop any variety of flavor and this seventh installment arrives in shapely form. Working with producer Jakwob, the pair unleash a hypnotic current of cultural instrumentation, conjuring suggestions of Spanish, Mexican and Latino music with selective percussion sounds. Arrangements flow with sharp rhythm and lean bass thudding, fitting for club vibes. Atmospherically sparse, the music feels open and minimal yet the drums shuffle and snap on dense arrangement of complimenting chromatic textures. Its simply slick.

Fever reinforces this cultured embrace, rapping a verse in Portuguese. Mood Swings affirms the club beat as the songs motif drifts through an exploration of escaping into night life. Other lyrics also hint on a therapeutic angle, the music being a means to vent life's frustrations and difficulties, although I didn't dive to deep into them. Drop 7 represents a lean fifteen minutes, one of fruitful creativity that may be a stepping stone to a fresh chemistry. Sim'z masters this new dynamic tone just wonderfully.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday 8 February 2024

Mnemic "Sons Of The System" (2010)


Having established that Passenger carried on with Mnemic's glorious throws to youthful nostalgia, Sons Of The System swiftly verifies itself as a gradual departure. The pillars of Industrial tinged Djent chugs remain, yet become part of the scenery, a rhythmic current to transition into roars of sketchy heathen "clean" vocals. Singer Bideau sheds skin, establishing his own vocal style, often stretched over mid tempo breaks lined with softly dystopian ambiguous synths. The rhythmic chops divide the flow as aggressive riffs frequently exchange with these disenfranchised breaks.

This artistic direction subdues the bands original charm, scaling back complexity and trying to elevate its atmospheric angle. The result blemishes their uniqueness, giving Sons Of The System a generic leaning sound for the European Metal scene of the era. Despite this step back, they still reside with strong footing. The record has its helping of banging riffs, mostly obnoxious shuffles of low end fret work. Its moody vocal led counterparts aren't terrible either, just a tone I am accustom too.

The record lumps its hardest hitters at the front doors. As it progresses, the tempos steady, its aggression tempers and more atmospheric passages open up, reminiscent of Prog Metal in moments. Songs shuffle through the motions with little in the ways of peaks or valleys, just a consistent tone. The inclusion of bonus tracks that didn't make the cut was a nice addition, the grinding Claus Larsen remix a missed opportunity.

Rating: 6/10