Sunday, 18 April 2021

Covenant "From The Storm Of Shadows" (1994)


With SETI, Animatronic & Nexus Polaris behind us, we venture now into the less impressive origin of a remarkable band. In the past I barely bothered with demo tapes, my recent foray with My Angel gave me a nudge to give this one a try. I'm glad I did, although far from impressed with a now cliched sound I know inside out, it was a pleasure to digest these three darkly, menacing tracks of scene cast Black Metal.

 Sadly the symphonic element starts off mostly absent, possibly too enveloped by the smothering bass to stand apart with distinction. Its not until two thirds through the opening track that we hear some lone horns roaring in triumph from behind the grisly guitars. Its presence grows and by the third title track we get some medieval, partly jovial synth lines chiming in to the shadowy aggression with bold melody.

As far as the crass audio quality goes, this is a studio demo, harsh in the upper mid range but doing a great job of making its instruments heard. The key elements of the music get through, those brooding, mid tempo riffs with darkly accents, atypical of the times. It plunders away through blast beats and howling, unattractive scowls that rasp over top from Nagash who handles everything but the guitars here.

Its rather hard for these three songs to make much of a lasting impression given my already extensive exploration of Symphonic Black Metal. I'm fairly sure these songs would of carved some adoration if I'd turned to them in my youth. As it goes I skipped over them but its clear that Nagash of early Dimmu Borgir notoriety was a competent musician adding his own take on the emerging sound with vision and spirit!

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 16 April 2021

Bring Me The Horizon "This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For" (2004)

The rattling rustle of loose snare rolls, discordant guitars screeching, a brooding power chord rising and then an eruption of sloppy chugging riffs. It sends this classic record straight into uncomfortable territory as moments later the grip loosens with the hit-hat wafting over the silence between meaty slabs of chunky guitar funk. Enter the raspy scowl of Oli Sykes's divisive and ugly screams and you have the perfect recipe for music to split a crowd, in the context of both mosh pits and musical snobbery. Fortunately I landed on the side able to enjoy this controversial bands gritty sound.

It was at my first Download Festival in 06 that I mistook them for another act on the bill. I was blown away by the novelty of these black emo mop hair cut kids playing the "uber brootal" music. It was also my introduction to hardcore dancing where I quickly learned regular moshing would land you a punch to the face. From then I was hooked and till this day I never felt like anything else Bring Me The Horizon would do matched the unique charm this four track record caries. Its one of those bits of music you get right into every now and then and this latest binge leads me to write!

This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For is a youthful riot of angsty rebellion and aimless attitude fit to cut a divide in the Metal scene. Some parts Metalcore, seeking the brutality of Death Metal, this bedroom band puts together a riff montage exploring their own ideas of heavy, hooked on the ugly, odd and obnoxious that you just can't replicate. Its a mindset, a moment in time manifesting into a bizarre riff fest of awkward guitar noise and breakdowns that I simply adore for all its flaws.

Its grey, scrappy aesthetic and trying performance may be sloppy and loose but just hangs in enough to land its ideas and rhythms right on the nose. The grooves land between the barrages of angular guitar noise and Oli's snarling throaty screams sound almost painful at times. It ends up like a charm all too akin to Metal yet constructed from a different ideology. The songwriting however is keenly convenient in this aesthetic as its progressive rollout of guitar riffs, with little repetition, keeps an interesting flow of rough around the edges ideas, landing with enthralling energy.

The last of its four songs ends up on a melodic tangent that derails somewhat from the core concept but within its first three strikes the breakdowns and "brutality" is so much fun. Each song gets its big moment for the crowd to split and go ham. Each song also finds catchy ear-worms to drive home with big shouts around its big breaks. "Nail The Casket One More Time", "I Hate All My Friends", "If You Think You've Alive, Your Better Of Dead". I've never looked deep into these angsty lyrics, written by then teenagers. They do however get riled up with the music in there spite ridden delivery.

Edge Of Your Seat not a record Id be keen to recommend but discovering at such an interesting time, right at the birth of Deathcore's bloom, gave it a personal nostalgic magic I've never been able to shake. It was fun and outrageous then and sixteen years later still has a punch that rarely fails to rustle. Such a peculiar record. No other band I'm aware of, or even BMTH themselves on their debut album managed to capture the spirit to be heard hear. Its an oddity but I absolutely love it!

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

The Kovenant "Animatronic" (1999)


Embarking forth with a new name and shift in identity, Animatronic is their first album as The Kovenant. Nestled between last years Nexus Polaris and the later SETI, it represents the stylistic move towards Industrial Metal and electronica with a little of the former magic lingering. Reflecting on this with a more perceptive mind, it is a bigger change than I once remembered. The transition is held over well in vocal department where snarly shouts and brutish half screams anchor it to their former glory, along with Eileen Kupper's enigmatic operatic singing to usher in powerful melodies on their two best known songs. Mirror's Paradise and New World Order hit things off with an unforgettable union of catchy melodies, rocking riffs and stomping drums, all illuminated by Eileen and the strings that cruise between its Drum N Bass percussive cuts. Its a shake up of sounds, a melting pot of ideas channeled through clever song writing that appeals to popular fundamentals.

With such a strong opening, its a tough trail to follow but the remaining material explores different approaches to tone, pace and experimentation in well defined songs that form the unique feeling the opening two have. Mannequin dives into the downtrodden brooding the following record would dive into on a couple of songs too. Jihad brings an eastern melodic flavor to its crunching Industrial guitars. The Human Abstract ups the tempo with a fast paced thrashing romp lavished in glossy synths, akin to their prior effort with its more aggressive guitar tone and symphonic overdrive. All the songs have this over-represented keyboard presence that sways between club electronica and classic strings. It works wonders, beaming with prominence above the density of woven Industrial noises below it.

Home to two timeless classics, sadly Animatronic looses its footing in the closing as a couple tracks, missing the level of excellence excelled elsewhere. Prophecies Of Fire hails back to the carnival and jovial likeness of Nexus Polaris, almost like a left over reworked for this album. In The Name Of The Future recycles to many previous ideas and The Birth Of Tragedy seems an odd closing note for such a dramatic shift in tone as it explores a dark, paranoid, cyber aesthetic wonderfully. Most notable is the clunky cover of Babylon Zoo's Spaceman. Ironically It sounds like a flip of the original, where the mess between the catchy chorus was rather unappealing. In this instance The Kovenant do everything right except the hook which doesn't spark in the deep burly voice its delivered through. Animatronic is home to a potent, exceptional and inspired sound but as an album tends to decline steadily to a good from greatness. That said, you can't deny the brilliance of its opening two songs, forever personal favorites.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 12 April 2021

Arcturus "My Angel" (1991)

Finding myself on a Symphonic Black Metal binge of late, I turned my attention to Arcturus, an old favorite. Something then caught my eye, the release date! As far as the Norwegian scene is concerned, anything dated before late 1993 tends to carry a little mystique for the front runners who were involved before the explosion of popularity and exposure. This two song release is also considered to be the first inception of Symphonic Black Metal at a time where the 2nd wave sound was still forming its identity. I don't know how I never gave any attention before. Ive been aware of it since discovering this amazing band.

My Angel is one of those curious records that evokes thought over time and place, a band caught in a moment trying to find their footing with emerging musical ideas. It has soft remnants of Mortem, the Death Metal act these musicians were previously known as and with a strong shift away from that style the name change was certainly apt. The lasting aesthetic identities here are the iconic synth string tones, which feature heavily on their debut. That and a handful of compositions in Mortax give you an idea of where they will go. The drudging guttural grows and gloomy atmosphere will be left behind.

The record stands as a curious transition between music scenes and ideas. With the ideals of extremity and low fidelity yet to become hallmarks of the Black Metal genre, Arcturus pull on the slow pace of Doom Metal and simple power chord arrangements as their tools to sway towards evil and darkness. It takes on a haunting persona with the lead guitar on My Angel wailing like a lost spirit calling across fog swept moors.

The production is crass but capable. Sloppy and dissonant it carries a charm, one for the era you could consider a decent attempt at introducing these thick atmospheric key tones alongside the extremities producers where still figuring how to piece together. The second song, Morax, hit me as a three part song stitched together. While writing this blog I've learned they had a demo tape from the year before, further adding to the mystique. On that cassette Morax was split into three and alongside a synth intro, showed these guys had this sound together a little earlier than I initially thought! All in all a very enjoyable discovery for someone who thought I knew this all inside out!

Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Earth "The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull" (2008)

With the pandemic slowing the pace of new music by the artists I follow, I've noticed the freed time has had me picking out forgotten treasures. It is much fun to revisit old favorites and after blowing the dust of Hibernaculum we get to revive the one about the bees and the lion! I never got deep into this one upon release and the reason is swiftly apparent - Its all to similar. Earth's slow, drudging pace and methodical unraveling of suspended, elongated chords and melodies brews a warm atmosphere. Once familiar with the niche, it dissipates too a mood, one to be conjured but hardly encapsulated by.

With its axis a little more woven into the softly distorted guitars, texture and aesthetic ooze from the speakers as its melodies clime to unleash brooding chords that ring out in slow motion. In its simplicity, amalgamating layers of ambiguous hazy noise gush forth from its crashing power. Heard best in its opening songs, the charm wears off as future songs pivot more so to the piano as the lead instrument and in this relegates itself to a less imbued form.

Rise To Glory introduces a remarkably hazy guitar solo that ebbs and flows in its shoe-gazing presence, sluggish and reflexive, its grasp on tension and human expression is suddenly cut short as a sudden pivot ushers in the pianos phase. Hung From The Moon goes there again with the piano but its not quite the same. This additional layer, free from the grinding pace yet flowing with a complimenting looseness is wonderful, a stand out element that doesn't get much time to flourish. With this they had something but without, its all to similar and the record tends to drift to the background, where it sets a fine and soothing mood of calmness and ease. A good record but its clear now why it didn't stick with me back then.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 9 April 2021

Covenant "Nexus Polaris" (1998)

From The Kovenant to Covenant, as we roll the years back you undoubtedly noticed the change in name. This is down to a dispute with an equally named Swedish EDM artist who won the usage rights. Upon their next effort, that transition was made alongside a rebranding in image and presentation. Nexus Polaris, the groups sophomore effort, would then be re-released under the new and handy renaming. Interestingly their debut would receive an peculiar re-recording that attempts to shed the original music of its genre cast tone and rewrite much of the synths to try and capture the genius that first erupted here. Perhaps the magic was in that original record but this is the moment where a unique brilliance emerged from the cast mold of the then young Symphonic Black Metal sound.

As hinted at, the magic lies in a more elaborate sense of what the symphony could be, similar to Arcturus on paper, yet arriving with a different alien personality. The records eight tracks blaze with the roar and bite of ferocious Black Metal, mostly propelled by the rumbling barrage of Hellhammer's legendary percussive style. He debuts with the band here, unleashing his busying three arm style to propel the aggressive side with a dense layering of drum and cymbal strikes. Alongside him the vocals too deliver howling and wretched screams atypical of the genre but most notable is Lex Icon's withdrawing to a snarling throaty growling of his cosmic unworldly lyrics. This toned down temperament aids the balance of extremity and musicality the songs exude.

Snugly fit between the battering drums and gleaming synth work sit these subtle distortion guitars tinged by a Thrash Metal pacing. Arriving with melodic inflections and the occasional blistering guitar solo, they act a keen bridge between forces, the unifying element to give rise to the symphonic theme and anchor the aesthetic in aggression. Rarely are they the main focus but every riff chugs away choppy rhythms and grooves to see the theatrics on there way.

Front and center is the symphonic aspect. Where the genres artists once mirrored the general direction of their darkly music with gloomy and majestic Casio keyboard tones, Covenant strode to bring a cinematic experience. The awe and wonder can be felt in an instant, as The Sulphar Feast warms up with its shimmering acoustic guitars and it plunges into blast beats, Sarah Jezebel Deva, once of Cradle Of Filth, lends her wicked voice with an operatic presence that signifies much of the compositional genius to come. Rather than complimenting tonal aesthetics, the keys take charge as the lead direction of these thematic songs, often tinged with a carnival flavoring.

 Along the journey many keyboard instrument sounds feature, from the expectant choral synth tones to bright pianos and even an accordion on one song. It orchestrates wonderfully with an astral sense of wonder and touch of madness to tie it keenly to its extreme delivery. Its keen writing that packages big themes into simple repetitious melodies rolled off one another to keep that galactic sense of scale. Also featuring a few "electronic" tones in brief stints it does signify where the band may go but in this instant sits with me as a wondrous piece of music its hard to find fault with.

Its been such a long time this record has been with me, blowing the dust off again the magic hasn't weathered a fraction. Appreciating it once again I am particularly fond of Chariots Of Thunder, the first from the album I heard. The song has a leveling of elements as all its instruments feel integral to one another where the rest of the record dove heavily into its wonderfully bizarre and cosmic orchestration. Its a fair temperament to close on and always gives me an emotional stiring that the end of a powerful movie might do. I love it, a true classic!

Rating: 10/10

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Wardruna "Kvitravn" (2021)


These Norwegian musicians have been reviving their heritage for years now, utilizing historical instruments to ignite the flames of their viking ancestry. The last outing, Skald, was a performance piece of sorts, poetical recitals and minimalist accompaniment that failed to spark excitement with this listener. Kvitravn is a return to norms yielding a similar problem as its now established and familiar aesthetic passes without a gust of anything to break its gloomy droning march. Don't get me wrong, what these musicians achieve is beautiful and visionary but as there persona becomes expectant, groups like Heilung thrill with their claws lurching into the shadows and pulling out blinding horrors of ancient darkness.

Kvitravn plays with the same drudging pace. A weighty gloomy hangs overhead as the cold winds and constant rain batters its human inhabitants. Peering into a re-imagined past, Wardruna captures the spirit of burdensome life, one of hard work and death with a spiritual closeness to mother nature. Its songs tend to find different ways to this same macabre march of dragging heels and achy backs as its thick drone of flawed and aged instruments is led by the reluctant pattering percussion of bearskin drums, pulling the music along. Once established song meanders in its particular arrangement, circling the same rhythm and musical ideas over and over again.

 Its on inspection that its repetitious nature becomes obvious. Trying to gleam out moments or details that sparkle, perhaps only the haunting choral cries of Viseveiding stand out. Without such critical ears it is all to easy to fall into its spell, the dull drones of blunted instruments become the curtaining atmosphere to bring about a subdued meditative state. In its mild gloom many moments feel ephemeral as its range of cultural voices sing Nordic tales, hardships and occasionally dive into the hysteria of softly guttural chants. The human voice is the element that ties the music together but as already expressed it is the puritanical approach that gives it little leverage over their previous output. For now I will put this record down and whenever in need of that nostalgic viking majesty, I may resurrect it for the dusky tone it conjures.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Earth "Hibernaculum" (2007)


Here lies a blast from the past, one of my first steps into the worlds of Drone and Doom. Earth are known as pioneers in the field and Hibernaculum comes in the second leg of the duo's carrier after reformation a few years prior. To me this four track EP was a hypnotic exercise in simplicity and repetition that pushed its gradual shifts in tone and texture as the progressive archetype. Its entrancing mood was one I'd enjoy on many long walks home in the dark, I couldn't however convince my friends of its magic but with it passing my mind again recently, I have revived its wonder to my playlist to share with all of you through this music blog.

With the aged ears acquired since, I hear the likes of Noir Jazz as a distant cousin to this breezy, soft and natural record. Steeped in a neutral tone it feels rather adaptable to either the city night or natural beauty in the light of day. Its first three songs deliver gorgeous metallic acoustic guitar melodies. Drawn out at a snails pace its repetitious ideas are underpinned by chilling piano notes and the bellowing dense blanket of bass. Slow and methodical its incremental growth blossoms so slowly its like watching a face age day by day yet in the calming spell of its manor, an intensity manifests with its lurching distortion and subtle organs chiming in on the craft.

Its final song, clocking in at over sixteen minutes takes the temporal to its conclusion. The soft percussion performance of Adrienne Davies is drawn to a crawl as the textures of her cymbal strikes cry out in the void between lingering notes from a darkly guitar. A Plague Of Angels plunges into the chill of night where its counterparts exerted a sense of natural beauty, this one slides into the shadows, devoid of light yet still having this calming persuasion. Being able to hold the listener in its grasps, the gradual rise of blunt over-driven chords takes us into dramatic spaces as it grows bolder. It could be excellence in action, or possibly the countless hours of bonding that made it so vivid to me.

I've written on Earth's more recent Primitive And Deadly, back when I first started this blog. Its a different beast, more metallic and doomly with charming vocals and all. That was one of my personal favorites from 2014. This fun revival of an old gem has made me realize how little of their discography I have uncovered, perhaps one to dive into now! Hibernaculum is a fine record, solemnly neutral with a slight chill in its backbone, the temporal pace and sluggish unraveling is a power of its own! One to always return to from time to time.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 5 April 2021

Anna Von Hausswolff "The Miraculous" (2015)

Searching for gems to talk about on my youtube music channel, reciting my words on the spellbinding Dead Magic was a reminder to continue my exploration of Anna's music. I recall giving The Miraculous a passing listen but now with intent I hear the formation of what was to follow. Two of its longer cuts, the thematic Discovery and sludgy Come Wander With Me, delve into the darkness with sprawling esoteric journeys to be fully embellished on her next outing. Cutting between its lengthy passing, a variety of compositions has the record peering into lengthy crevasse of darkly ideas briefly explored in there powerful temperaments.

It makes for a wonderful experience that doesn't quite feel as a whole but in no way empty. Anna brings her torment and shadowy expression through illustrious instrumentation ever poised by subtly and texture, always brooding its tones and melodic inflections in steadily brewing atmospheres. She is often forthright and powerful with her singing, rising up to swell with the music where it is right but also sitting out the instrumental sections that deserve limelight too. In a couple cuts she lurches back to the shadows, compromised by the darkness of the albums most ambiguous musical passings. Her words always with a distress.

There is much to be adored here, however its final three songs highlight the lack of flow that is overcome by the engulfing nature of these dense songs. Evocation takes another plunge into the monstrous lunges of slow and sludgy Doom Metal bordering on temporal with its snailing pace. The following title track pivots to winding organ piece of dense and heavy airy textures, an experimentation in droning gloom that sticks out as the biggest difference. Anna's voice briefly arises in angelic form as if to pull the music into its apex yet it drifts back into its duller phase without climax.

It all ends with Stranger, a subtle sense of a wild west theme permeates its accent, illuminated by the spangled acoustic guitar chiming in at its peak. This pivoting is what stunts a greater sense of what the record is. Many wonderful concepts are realized while its songs switch from one to the next. I have very much enjoyed the experience but I feel as if there were three or four distinct sounds being jostled, making it feel like a collection of songs over an album. This sort of esoteric and ethereal music brings that preference for a unified vision out of me when listening. Still wonderful though.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

The Kovenant "SETI" (2003)

Well here is a fascinating band I have sat on for far too long. Becoming a recent obsession again, it is finally time to dive into a peculiar band with an abridging discography spanning their unique transition across the spectrum of Metal. They helped forge a significant portion in the musical landscape of my youth. I discovered them through the CKY movie soundtracks sometime before this albums release. As the forth of four, it is the duo of Lex Icon and Psy Coma's final offering, with the specter of the supposedly fully written, fifth, unreleased record Aria Galactica left in limbo to this day.

For me, this band have never set a foot wrong, with each of the albums living up to its own vision. SETI, however is a notably trendy record, aligning somewhat with the rapidly rising Rammstein sound. Its an Industrial Metal romp rocking strong symphonic and electronic instruments with a mild hangover from their Black Metal days. Its complexity is notably less lavish compared to what came before but in this simplicity a catchy stride is struck.
This brings me to my favorite aspect, each of the songs have character and theme that sets them apart from one another. Embroiled in the post Nu-Metal vibes of that era, the duo seem to have an ear for what makes the downtrodden anthems tick, repackaging them in their spacey, synth heavy take on this popular strand. SETI has a handful of songs I wouldn't blink twice if I heard blaring in the intermissions at Metal festivals and clubs. The reality is a sad one though, these legends are very much overlooked and forgotten having barely toured since this final records release.

The record ebbs and flows between slabs of stomping distortion guitar led groove and melodic counterparts of estranged cyberpunk synth, the songs often finding its climax when they fire on all cylinders. Equally from track to track it alternates with slower anthems. Star By Star, Stillborn Universe, The Perfect End open up with moody singalongs that have something wonderful emanating through the walls of sound. This is a dense record, a barrage of Industrial kit sounds give the meaty sound depth as peculiar key tones drive home its potent melodies. They often pull up a classic old school monster flick spooky synth sound that is just delight to indulge with.

In the madness of thick instrumentation the pair are quite adventurous with the vocals, the best comes when brooding melancholy lyrics from a burly voice. Between it all, a variety of intensities often harking back to harsh Black Metal screams gives the whole record bursts of raw aggression that is fantastic. Early on strong operatic female vocals are worked in like resonate symphonies drawing in more expectant vibes to deliver the massively cosmic and astral tone the music encompasses. Neon would be a keen example of diversity as drawing in Eastern sounds adds to the flavor, somehow making them beautifully alien in the process.

This record potentially has one flaw and that is length. Filling a CD up at a bold sixty seven minutes, many of these numbers crossing the 6 minute mark and seem lengthy with the repetition loaded in song structures. Yet it is not so, these songs are so infectious they hold you in. The weaker cuts do find themselves towards the end however they all give you something unique, speaking of which, it ends on a cover of The Memory Remains. Originally by Metallica, its a rocky cover, not quite finding the groove but when the sing along melody hits, the operatic vocal brings it in wonderfully. All things said, this record is etched into my soul somewhat. I've adored this band for so long and think its a massive shame they are not known of more. Diving back into these records and writing about it will be some good therapeutic fun however!

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Shade Empire "Zero Nexus" (2008)

Released five years before their almighty Arcane Omega, Zero Nexus is another fumbling block on a patchy path of production hell that seems to drop the ball for the same reasons once again. Putting forth its extreme elements in imbalance, it is the snarling snout of Harju that groans its guttural filth loudly with a textured harshness to drown out the quite and underwhelmed synths. The distortion guitars too have subtlety drained as the details of its fretwork get lost under the mechanical rattle of pounding drums.

Its musical ideas are lost in the muddy wash of sound that pivots on a lot of Industrial grooves. Interchanged rhythmic pummeling drives on harshly as the strike of snares and kick drums flood the music with aggression. Attentive ears can pick out the pianos, strings and electronic tones dispersed between, all blemished by a lack of power and presence. Even direct focus doesn't let the chemistry elevate but it does yield a certain curiosity about them. When the music parts from its charging instruments, often with a percussive break beat of sorts, even then does seem tamed.

Its worst element are the vocals which could really do with being toned down behind other sounds. The range of gutturals displayed tend to lack power and potency, instead hinging on a throaty roughness, especially dialing up the cringe on its halfway clean attempts. Its god awful and a constant distraction from interesting song structures and arrangements that take place in the ebb and flows. Of the handful of spins I've given this I just can't get past its awful production, so disappointing.

Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Drake "Scary Hours 2" (2021)


Its been a few years since God's Plan and Scorpion. This new release Scary Hours 2 is a three track EP, warming up some anticipation for the Canadian rapper's sixth full length, set to drop sometime this year. Firstly I'd like to note the covers aesthetic, a gloomy, mysterious shade of blue and the classic Old English font up top. Its a shade of Bathory meets Arkhtinn. My curiosity to the similarity comes unanswered but musically there is no relation to anything esoteric or extreme. Its very much business as usual. On that note there is no mention to the global pandemic, which is a choice for any artist however the glorification of wealth and lifestyle feels especially hollow in its indifference to the pains of our world right now.

What's Next kicks off the record with breezy raps, Drake's easy flow hits a healthy stride spitting on a keen groove, doubling up his rhymes alongside one word emphasis. It works well, the lyrics are structured with plenty of catchy repetition to get stuck in. The mood is energetic and uplifting without bombast, these instrumentals are all tight and snappy, minimal yet effective. It continues on Wants And Needs that steers to a spacey vibe with Lil Baby stepping in to deliver a firm set of rhymes with his wobbly voice. The two exchange narratives around romantic relations interwoven with boisterous behavior. Its got style and swagger, but substance? These songs tend to feel right in the moment but don't leave a lasting impression.

Lemon Pepper Freestyle is the weak link, a more spacious drum arrangement hinges of the soulful vocal sample that cycles on a dizzy looping. For this listener it becomes grinding and dull swiftly. Rick Ross brings an older generation style to the track, even referencing Makaveli and Death Row. Its in partial contrast to the beat and Drake too who probably gives the best verse on the record, an endless train of thoughts spelling out personal grievances and perspectives but ends up trailing off into showman raps and flaunts that occasionally loop back over the same bars. Its a nice flow, sharp, brief sentences with a pause before going in again. Overall though it doesn't yield a bigger sense of self. This EP feels like business as usual for the rapper with a formula that works well but for me isn't all the exciting.

Rating: 3/10

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Dysmorphik "Everything Else" (2005)


Everything Else is no official release but an amalgamation of experiments, unfinished works and remixes from my personal collection of MP3s, scraped from websites long gone. Dysmorphik has been a personal gem for many years. With my recent covering of ...And To The Republic and Tick, Screech And Halt, I also decided to upload all the music to Bandcamp for others to enjoy. I cannot express how much fun and strange emotional experiences this unique sound has brought me. This post serves as a reminder to check out the aforementioned albums, both in my words and on the Bandcamp page as you can now hear them and this assortment of additional songs.

Kicking off with Nubile, we get the formation of ideas which fail to spark into a bigger picture, it serves well as an intro track being a minute long. Fractures of melody give way to the thumping cascade of obnoxious drum kicks and weakened sirens. The later extended version gives insight to the layering of fuzzy static noise and expansion of the song into a Gabber nightmare of dirty bass pummeling and gritty stacks of mechanical interference. The noise aspect of this sound is expanded on Effects, likely a jam track of experimentation that gives insight into how much of this madness is derived from experimentation. Meat N Static bridges that motif, blossoming with structure and concept as an abrasiveness set of sounds are driven forth with bombastic intensity. The noisescape twists and shifts intermittently, finding sporadic bursts of striking groove between its uncomfortable respites.

The five minute song Penetrate Your Pain comes in two forms with the superior second iteration revealing the craft and care involved. With this electronic music being spat out by the computer, one can hear the identical notes, drum patterns and even spurious noises from the VSTs having their knobs and dials tweaked in pursuit of perfection. Its been a favorite of mine but always felt like a human voice was missing. The remixes have other musicians hands over Dysmorphik's music and consequently doesn't yield much of my interest. If your curious in anyway about this mad, dystopian, alien hybrid of Noise and Industrial then these extras are worth a bit of your time.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Autumn's Grey Solace "XIII" (2021)


Autumn's Grey Solace hold a dear place in my heart as my first and favorite introduction to a deeply Ethereal shade of Dream Pop music, a sound started and seasoned by the Cocteau Twins. The first half of this duos discography was a delight to unearth, their luscious dark incarnations of shadowy beauty still resonates fondly to this day. The second stint, starting with Monajjfyllen, began a circling of waters, the continuous re-arrangement of musical ideas established long beforehand and thus each record, despite being enjoyable, comes with a sense of disappointment as the pair stick very strictly to their template, lacking experimentation or direction.

XIII, in-coincidentally their thirteenth, continues this tradition. My keenest remarks emerge from an occasional arrangements of acoustic guitars that shimmer off the warm baselines punctuating beneath. In all fairness this is simply two songs that strike a particular nerve, otherwise the songs drone forth with a similar subdued melancholy, lost and lonely yet in reverence of beauty. Candledim perks the ears with a fuzzy lead guitar lending a few harmonizing notes for the closest thing to a guitar solo we will get. It gives the song a little extra charm the other numbers don't receive yet could do with.

Welton's dreamy voice is a treasure as always, drifting over the washy reverb soaked instrumentation of Ferrell. She brings a lyric oriented performance this outing, a shift from the pure voicing heard on much of their recent output. Sadly it does little to offer any freshness. With my lyrical track record that wouldn't mean much but all in all it is business as usual. I will continue to check this two out no matter what and every time I will wish for a change of pace but sadly this time It was not so!

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 19 March 2021

Jim Kirkwood "Middle-Earth" (1990)


The resurfacing formation of Dungeon Synth in the late naughties has been quite the spectacle to watch unfold. With its roots in obscurities linked to Black Metal and Avant-garde music from the nineties, this sound found its name and niche, flourishing with both creativity and a bustle of low effort clones. Doing research into the genre's origins, records like Depressive Silence, Medival Journeys and Midnight Fullmoon crossed my path, all providing fun and curious listening experiences but deeper than them all is Jim Kirkwood's mighty double LP spanning five lengthy musical adventures. Released at the turn of the decade, this sound is untainted by the unleashing of Scandinavian darkness yet to come. The common ancestry that shares a thread here is J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy world of Middle-Earth, a common influence in Black Metal and Dungeon Synth, of which this work is neither.

Kirkwood's music is typically described as fantasy music. Hinged on the electronic scene aesthetics of decades past by, the use of bold visual tones from Casio synths and Morg synthesizers has that timely gratification bestowed by the power of melody. With a little imagination, one can be led by the unsubtle arrangements on fruitful adventures. His style seems obvious at first, curious melodies dance in tandem, exchanging shifts in pace and tone to conjure the sense of spectacle as the scenes unfold. Cheesy might a cruel word to reach for but in his boldness Jim composes with cinematic scale to outpace any of the era sentiments that may arise.

Its mammoth two hours do not drag. The show sways from the beauty and glory of fantasy realms to the darker perils exemplified on Urak Hai, Tolkien's demonic warrior beasts. Between typical song structures he gets creative within aesthetic limitations, mimicking environmental sounds like winds, horses, birds and the thundering echos of deep drums. Percussion is used to steer in some momentum at times and in others acts as an abrasive tool to warn of danger. With that cinematic sense of vision and direction fueling it, these clashes with potential dated ideas retain their charm. Best of all an underpinning of swirling synth arrangements akin to Tangerine Dream constantly push the melodies into lengthy tangents with a psychedelic driving them along. This is a fitting idea that recently sparked my interest with Old Sorcery. So curious to find it at work here over twenty odd years earlier.

There is so much that could be said of the adventure unraveling over these two hours. I do think Jim takes liberty with scale and repetition at times but it mostly adds the the epic Middle-Earth scale it reaches for. Its been a wonderful listening experience with many uses of melody and aesthetic I'd hear resurface in Symphonic Black Metal and other electronic related genres in years to come. I also hear a soft link to Progressive Rock and Jazz Fusion over a few instances of keyboard playing, even a guitar lick dropping in on King Of The Golden Hall. The links go both ways! This one is really worth your time if you have anything invested in Fantasy, Tolkein or Dungeon Synth. This is undoubtedly a hidden gem with little information on it beyond the music, I would love to know more about its creation and inspiration, although the latter is obvious.

Rating: 8/10