Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Little Simz "Sometimes I Might Be Introvert" (2021)


I have been dying to hear this album ever since its second single Woman with Cleo Soul dropped. What a stunning track! Perfectly blurring the lines of R&B and Hip Hop, its a mover. Warm, bold and audacious, its lush instrumentation is led by a grooving baseline as Little Simz delivers a fine perspective on female empowerment to compliment. Much of this tracks charm is what the record as a whole is about. A brilliant production has its percussive beats and raps anchored in a classy setting that sways in and out of its own theatrical pantomime. Developing an overarching theme of perception, reflection and ambition grounded in reality, Simz navigates the present moment on a mission of affirmation and intent that is this record.

 With a blinding string of opening tracks, we go on an emotional journey. Riveting, bold and poetic, Simz walks us through so many personal struggles and perspectives on an effortless stride. Lyrically the flow and cadence is so smooth and concise, yet her words resonate so deeply. Reflecting on how she was stabbed and yet sees the perpetrator as a victim of the same circumstances she endured shows so much maturity. It blesses this record with much wisdom interwoven in her raps, as well as a lot of candid talks on family issues. Either reflecting on past woes, commentating on present problems or thinking positively ahead, almost every topic here is illuminated. Not only working through intimate and personal issues of abuse and struggle does she also dissect broader societal concepts and ills into the meaning of all shes going through. Its some of the finest lyricism I've heard in a while.

Where the foot comes off the gas is in the records runtime. At sixty five minutes the bulk of material fits closely to this dynamic union of theater and theme. As the record rolls on a few songs break up the mood, which can often be a good addition of variety. Speed does this well with its stiff baseline toying with simple groove and zany synth melodies. Simz switches up the flow and topicality with a fun boisterous stance. It works but in its reflection Rollin Stone arrives abruptly like a trend chaser. With a dark and gritty street vibe it contrasts the rest of the record. Half way through, Its beat switch and slyly sung lyrics feel so aimless and the track ends with a lone use of auto tune sounding like a half baked hook left way out of place.

Fortunately it pivots into Protect My Energy offering up some energetic 80s vibes with its snappy, hasty percussion and punchy melodies. Quite the song, seemingly out of step yet acts as a tribute to her introversion that pops up throughout the record as she comes to grip with it. Point And Kill and Fear No Man bring a little Caribbean flavor to the record but again, feels off point from the main theme and thus drags on despite being equally interesting tracks. Its the vibe shake up that looses its way on the path to the last three songs which wrap things up on a wonderful stride of introspection.

 Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is a stunning expression of an artists life. A slice in time that flirts with the genres classics as its own identity strides for greatness at every turn. Strangely, the criticism is a common one, bloat. With exception to one song, its mainly a case of solid, interesting songs detouring of the path walked by the greater contributes. To pull four of five tracks would have me completely hanging on her every word - I feel as if no respite from this stunning stride was needed.

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Yagya "Always Maybe Tomorrow" (2021)


With little in the way of a stylistic divergence to be found, Always Maybe Tomorrow is the sort of release I prefer from an artist who I enjoy, yet may not find something new as they remain in their lane. This is a straight forward four track EP of droning dreamy cuts with the typical Yagya sound. Its synths, percussive pallet and ambiguous noises seemingly recycled tones from past projects but in this brief format its a welcome place to revisit. So much so that I'd fail not to repeat myself in describing it.

Each song is a deployment of rich textural aesthetics. Its perpetual deep bass pounding a soothing rhythmic backbone for a one way drive through the varying temperaments of its various instruments. Dense with atmosphere and calming in nature its quite the meditative experience for focus with no human voices to provide any distraction from the entrancing experience of these dreamy drones.

Perhaps I could remark on Standing Still In A River for a more prominent synth melody that repeats on itself endlessly, upfront in the tracks limelight. Beyond that excursion I find myself with little to comment on. This is a very typical set of tracks from Yagya, great to enjoy but not to much in the way of breaking new ground, which I doubt was ever the intent.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 10 September 2021

Jinjer "Wallflowers" (2021)


Is the world of modern Metal is one in decline? A lack of freshness and new ideas has left the genre stuck with innovations now twenty years old. At a "mainstream" level, the prevailing trends seem to still be Meshuggah's Djent guitar tones and the repackaging of Hybrid Theory song writing. As a band with an "underground" buzz, Jinjer don't delve in either of these directions specifically, bar the modern guitar tone. Most of what I hear still feels like a reformation of ideas explored before in the world of Metal. I would label them "Post Metalcore", with the general framework feeling closely aligned. However these songs frequently morph into a Progressive beasts loaded with challenging entangled riff work hinged around some non 4/4 time signatures.

As a listener I feel somewhat torn, these songs feel chromatic, downtrodden and gloomy, bustled along by bursts of anger. Never do they seem particularly appealing to me, perhaps mirroring the Nu Metal perils of negativity without resolution. Yet upon spinning the record do I find myself frequently pulled into the mania as dizzying, brooding discordant guitar works bounce from wall to wall, playing of Tatiana Shmailyuk's gristly shouts and harmonious, yet grounded clean voicings. Its a mean affair, exploring the darker topics with little in the way of upbeat hooks or metallic gimmicks to give you a cheap reward or burst of adrenaline.

The broad topicality of Wallflowers catches my ear for the self portrait of trauma, abuse, a struggle with introversion in the face of social pressures and once again, the teachers! From their EP Micro, Teachers caught my attention with its plain and frank language for story telling. The recurring sentiment signals a deep grievance it would seem... and that words says a lot about this band. Grievance, these songs frequent a mood of dealing with grievances in the metallic context, using the aggressive instruments for struggle and pains rather than bombast and momentum. Of course they do load in the occasional "phat riff" or mosh moment, best heard at the end of of Vortex or a little Deathcore charm in the closing of Dead Hands Feel No Pain.

For me, this Ukrainian outfit remain to be a morbid curiosity. I'm never enamored or moved to goosebumps yet there is something undeniably "them" at play. The more I listen, the more I think its a focus on the uncomfortable and unease. Expressing pains and dark emotions, it culminates through Tatiana's words, her vocal style ferocious when roaring and oddly pristine yet lacking a typically effeminate charm in her clean voice. Wallflowers will have me tuning back in for the next one. If their evolution will lead to places I really vibe with remains to be seen.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Erang "Prisonnier Du Rêve" (2021)


Its album number nineteen for Erang! A release that arrives with a drastic stylistic shift, the first to truly shed the Dungeon Synth and Fantasy origins. Heading for a new adventure in the realms of electronic nostalgia, the pallet of instruments migrates to buzz saws, sine waves and all manor of oscillating synths to house a familiar sense of composition and melody. Initially starting out with a chirpy and upbeat vibes of childhood wonder, Machine Humanoïde reels the mood in towards familiar darkly Synthwave vibes of Anti Future and Songs Of Scars for just a few tracks. Its presentation and promotion, all conducted in native French, plays into the albums narration, a mischievous voice narrating the twists and turns that come about with each song. Of course as linguistic illiterate, this is just my interpretation.

With a more familiar middle, its start and end sections jostle melodies in such a predictable way that I almost want to abstain from opinion. The shift in pallet doesn't drift far enough for a surprise. Being this deep into the French musicians discography, there is little that of the chord progressions, arpeggios and general notation that feels fresh or unexpected. The production style also leaves little out of focus. With all its instruments and percussion crisp and clear, the textures of big bustling old-school synth waves overpower the focus and rather quickly does it overstay its welcome. Its a nostalgic affair for old school synth and early electronic music with spacey overtones. It doesn't always click when dealing with and aesthetic heard many times before.

That being said, Erang always has vision and intent. Emotion is ripe and present as one feels the realm they carve out for themselves. For me, C'était Demain and Demain Les Mondes ride the basics a little to hard on bare bones compositions where as L'avenir Et La Mer and Passage land the ending well scenic and soundscape alike compositions weaving between the melody led strides. Ultimately I've enjoyed Prisonnier Du Rêve for being what I like about this musician but the artistic stride for something new and different feels only knee deep this time around.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Deafheaven "Infinite Granite" (2021)


With a dramatic withdrawal of extremity, Deafheaven emerge from a cocoon reborn in a new form both drastically different and strangely similar. With one fell swoop the band land on a thing of beauty with Infinite Granite. The deeper instincts of their inspirations blossom as they distance themselves from the Black Metal, or Blackgaze they are associated with. Dialing in closer towards traditional Shoegaze, an invigorating, textured wall of sound ebbs and flows with intensity, swaying through calm breezes and emotive storms with an effortless grace that feels so right.

It is singer George Clarke who illuminates and makes sense of this shift in tone. Finding a new voice, he swoons with purity, navigating the shimmering ethereal nightly mood his band mates conjure. As an anchoring force, his gentle and sincere presence adds so much meaning and grace, especially when dreamily drifting with a softness through the instrumental turbulence, riding out the storms. The particular style is one I can't quite put my finger on. Its a little Morrisy perhaps but there is some 80s voices I'm sure he holds a candle to with this remarkable performance.

All the beauty converges with these remarkably busied and bustling instrumentals. The drums shuffle and rattle ceaselessly. The bass guitar works a dense underbelly for the shimmering guitars to sway back and forth between dark glossy acoustic chord plucking and rapturous build ups of swelling guitar distortion. It all ebbs and flows together as one cohesive force, the songs rolling of one and into another. Between it all subtle electronic keyboard tones weave in and out of focus and making itself known with the misty ambiguous instrumental piece Neptune Raining Diamonds.

The initial, noteable thing of remark is the departure from Black Metal, however these intensities with screaming and surges of instrumental force are found here and there as wretched crescendos push whats beautiful in this dark realm to its absolute limits. Although it feels more like traditional Shoegazing, the dense wall of sound and depth of texture is quite the meaty affair. It seems melodic and emotive yet its laid on heavy. Its seemingly a big change but more so a smart re-arrangement of select pieces on the chessboard, to break it down from a more technical perspective.

Infinite Granite will be one of my favorites this year and not a moment of it turns me off. Will its spark dull with time? I hope not, I adore this engrossing experience. It feels like one to be enjoyed as a whole, ending with the remarkable epic Mombasa! If anything written here sparked your interest, give it a listen! Surely it wont disappoint!

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 4 September 2021

C418 "Cookie Clicker" (2021)


A return to always be welcome with open arms is that of C418! Creator of wonders such as 148 and the timeless Minecraft soundtracks, excitement always blooms with news of fresh music. Three years on from Excursions, Daniel gives us a short twenty two minute release most alike that of his signature Minecraft sound. These new songs compliment that niche well, as I have learned, binging Cookie Clicker on repeat while residing within the blocky virtual realm. Its five songs connect like a single thread, carrying its main musical theme and melody from start to end.

It's a typically dreamy, whirling affair of progressive arpeggios bustling on with the ebb and flow of surging synths that rise and fall to briefly fly alongside it. Initially percussion is bare bones, building intensity and design with its steady pace as the music moves through several sudden shifts, eventually finding a burst of light for its crescendo. The mood is one of ethereal beauty, lost in a passing day dream.

With Grandmapocalypse that all changes as deep baselines and brooding waveform synths muster a little night life Synthwave flavor to lure us into a lean and dark corridor for the charming main melody to navigate. Danger lurks but one is always safe. Ascend then deforms much of the music into clusters of ambience and soundscape design, passing by before Click Forever brings back the arpeggio for one last swing.

The freshness of this music is exciting but ultimately it is one main musical theme fleshed out and thoroughly explored in its twenty minutes. On an album it could be but one single track. With more repetition I wouldn't be surprised if its magic dulled a little but thoughts aside its just nice to hear this musician again! His sound is still his own.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 3 September 2021

Kanye West "Donda" (2021)


Currently on a downswing of poorly received records, one of musics biggest names suffers the discomfort of bloat with a tenth record that could have been gold. Twenty seven new songs make for over one hundred minutes of music. Its a daunting bulk of tracks that's slow to get going and concludes with four alternate versions. Some of this may have been out of Kanye's hands, the release of the record a typical mess of delays that also make for a lot of free press. Its hard to know where the truth lies as he has stated since that the project wasn't released as he planned, creating yet another news cycle talking on the album again. I'm being somewhat cynical here.

To mirror its length, Donda feels like a whirl of converging stories taking place in the artists life. The passing of his mother and divorce with his wife being two recurring themes among many other stories, including his plea to grant clemency to Larry Hover. Its more of the endearing vulnerability first heard on Ye. His heart felt lyrics and words, where they occur, reflect internal and external realities and on occasional drifts between disillusion and heartbreak, given my perception of how the media interprets and presents his personal life. At his best Kanye is raw, expressive, impassioned and authentic but the lack of focus means its found mostly in the mid to latter half.

The opening string of eight tracks, from Donda Chant to Ok Ok, lack pace and urgency. Most these beats are subdued with sparse percussion hinged on a couple of lively bass stabs. Slow tempos and moody atmospheres in themselves make up a concept and style but the record will pivot. These songs also feel outweighed by guests who take up much of the airwaves. Jay-Z pops up on Jail to usher in an underwhelming echo of their Watch The Throne collaboration. Cushioned by extended instrumental sections and drawn out loops, its sluggish pace drags on.

Then with Junya things pivot. Its an ugly track, with Playboy Carti and Kanye making a variety of strange noises over the uncomfortable, gritty basslines. There is a friction with the church organ behind it, however that signifies the arrival of his Gospel influences from Jesus Is Born. Sampling Lauren Hill's classic Do Wop That Thing, suddenly the gears shift on Believe What I Say. From here Kanye sings on track after track, bringing in more harmonious and tender musical themes housed by his sparse yet timely percussive grooves and lifted by light choral alike synths. Kid Cudi fits in perfectly with a lovely presence on the drumless track Moon. Its a string of songs ending with Come To Life that I'd consider to be what Donda should of been.

This chunk of the music represent the best of Kanye, with the aforementioned vulnerabilities coming to light and him taking up more of the focus on a record that seems to have multiple collaborative hands on every track. Things hit a peak on Jesus Lord, a perfectly composed instrumental loop that pulls on the heart strings as Kanye bleeds his feelings for Donda. Its the albums gem, a wonderful moment preceded by songs that reside in its shadow with Come To Life concluding the theme with a beautiful piano performance to exit on. It feels like a final note but then No Child Left Behind brings another wave of closure with a heavenly arrangement of choral synths and organ tones to bow out again before the bloat returns with the additional part two collection of tracks, to which hearing The Lox again was a highlight.

Having now dissected my thoughts and feelings on this one, it feels like two projects mashed together. An evolved take on Jesus Is King in the middle, surrounded by another theme that brings out Kanye the rapper who frequently drop the rhymes that make me chuckle. Chanting "I know god breathed on this" a keen example of when his sharp remarks don't land, not quite as genius as he thinks he is. "I got this holy water that's my beverages", "They playing soccer in my backyard I think I see Messi", there are a few of these lines sprinkled in that feel unnatural and contrived. There are plenty of counters to these examples, moments where he gets the rhymes and hooks just right but I prefer him vulnerable, straight and not trying to be to clever with the rhymes. Ultimately, Donda is a bloated record, one I'll condense to my own selection of songs to enjoy from here on out.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

The Alan Parsons Project "Eve" (1979)

As the third of three Alan Parsons records labeled his best, I've had a familial experience again. Diving deep and finding the same fond web of timely influences, I still can't escape these songs! In the months between I Robot, Pyr△mid & Eve, I have been on a binge, one that can't end here. These numbers are the soundtrack of a childhood I never had, the missing sleeves of Progressive Rock vinyls I was raised on! Eve is no exception, Its feminine empowerment theme a strong and bold overtone that leads to timely singing with strength and gusto on one track, flipping to tender expressions on the next. Its broadness is a perfect compliment for the range of temperaments and meandering journey that Eve goes on. It may have even been an edgy, progressive statement for the times, however with age any sharpness has been dulled by current norms of western societies progressive direction.

Looking past the lyrical landscape to the instrumentals we have the usual suspects. 70s electronic tones weave through opening track Lucifer with exotic bells, haunting chorals and rigid percussive grooves, Its quite the mash up that works wonderfully. From the intro we pivot into the regular songs, kicking off with echos of Pink Floyd underpinned by a strong Funk influenced groove to cruise off. On I'd Rather Be A Man the mood turns dark with its rapturous nightly bass synth line pounding through the song. Then comes the big pivot as the vibes soften with tenderness and calm ushered in before the rest of the record becomes an amalgamation of all above!

Don't Hold Back has quite the charm as it hook sings, "Touch the sky with your minds eye, Don't be afraid to reach out!" lovely stuff. The guest singer reminds me of Dusty Springfield on this one. The following Secret Garden embellishes us with a glorious and fantastical composition, a signatures track style. Cinematic and symphonic, Alan lets the music lead itself without word and a web of charming sounds, something each record seems to have a song or two for. From here the record bows out on a sombre note as tempos slow and pianos usher in a final ballad to close on. Overall, its pretty fantastic, oddly feeling short yet being the lengthiest of the three! From here I will venture to the debut record.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 30 August 2021

KSI "All Over The Place" (2021)


Taking action on ambition and following his dreams, I've got nothing but respect for KSI choosing to step out of one lane and maneuver into another. Little of what I'd heard before lured me in but the Holiday song was the soundtrack to my own summer vacation and since then I've mulled over this one a fair few times, waiting for something to click. Sadly, I haven't escaped what's most obvious, Olajide is currently more budget than talent. Although he brings expression, thoughts and passion to the fold, he is constantly outpaced by production that is as its titled, all over the place!

The records sixteen songs fracture into a lot of interesting vibes. Strongly inspired by the British music scene, one can hear the classic stylings of the 90s electronic, 00s Garage and R&B with a sprinkling of Grime. The project is mostly packaged with modern aesthetics, taking a predictable yet occasional path into Trap beats wedged between mostly warm, uplifting instrumentals with some colorful Caribbean flavor too.

With KSI revealing how his features are paid for, it adds a sad note as his guests pretty much outshine him at every corner. I'd always figured features were a friendly affair, artists working with friends for the art but it seems in the Rap scene this can be purely business too... or somewhere in between as things are never black and white!

Holiday is still the albums best track. In fact its the one song where KSI shines, getting everything just right. For the most part he does sound like someone attempting to find their voice on the rest of the cuts. Ironically its the more candid and plainly spoken Sleeping With The Enemy that is most endearing. Although his flow is plain jane, the words really hit home, an authentic expression. My conclusion here? I'm really not sure, this record essentially sounds like what it is on paper, someone with a big budget giving a shot at the music game.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Turnstile "Glow On" (2021)


Released just six weeks back, the Turnstile Love Connection EP had me hyped for something special... but when your four best tracks are those already shipped, well it had me initially disappointed. Turnstile, the Hardcore outfit from Baltimore USA, were put on my radar with Space & Time. Their lean and timely infusion of musical sounds normally spun far beyond the Hardcore scene was both a breath of fresh air and a riveting injection of adrenaline to a sound dulled by a lack of progression with time. Working on the same formula as that record, Glow On cushions the musical creativity with subtle use of electronic percussive toms and claps and the irritating cowbell. In the more obvious avenues, dazzling pianos weave between the sharp guitars in moments of melody beyond the rhythmic two-step onslaught.

In its predictable Hardcore persuasion, the band pull the usual tricks with tight and lean power chord shredding, building up to the big groove riffs as the drums cut to the half time and the mosh moments land the songs trajectory. Between its slabs of foot stomping riffage, sprinkles of color and melody intersperse. It often takes the form of Surf Rock, with washy, hazy guitar tones giving off the easy breezy summer vibes. On occasion a heartfelt emotional angle is reached as sung voices get warm and candid, not your usual cut for this aggressive music but they do it so well. Songs like Underwater Boi, Alien Love Call & New Heart mostly cut out the Hardcore, better defining this particular flavor that emerges in fractions on the rest of the album.

A favorite moment for me is not one of brilliance but confusion with Wild Wrld and its uncanny rhythm guitar riff. The bars are distinctly different, sounding like a Metallica outtake from the years of creative struggle around Death Magnetic. Its a mild blemish for a record that spins its formula so well. As I touched on earlier, that initial disappointment wore off. This record is fiery and driven, a band in their moment. For me it looses its edge in the shadow of what came before it, the design a carbon copy yet the feeling is still riveting. After quite a few spins, the best songs still feel like those from the EP. I'm left wondering if I wasn't aware of it, how different would my words on this record would be? I still get crazy excited every time Holiday comes on! What a banging song.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Secret Stairways "Enchantment Of The Ring" (1997)


Following on from the now unearthed demo Drifting..., we have another eight track cassette. Released two years on, Enchantment Of The Ring does little in terms of evolution but gives us another insight into the imagination of this lone musician operating outside of any scene. Conjuring the music of moonlit slumbers and fantastical daydreams, Mathew Davis delivers a string of gentle journeys that peer into the crevasses of alternate realms. Led by mystery evoking tones, his keyboard arrangements tend to linger on steadily looped, calming melodies, slowly brooding into big symphonic swells of lush, cloud swept atmosphere.

Within this context notable tracks emerge, Amongst The Waterlillies fondly reminds me of Adrian Von Ziegler with the music being accompanied by the persistent sound of bird and cricket chirps in the background. Not as lush but an interesting idea to hear earlier on. Before it, Finvarra's Chessboard musters up a militant percussive drive led by bright pianos and gleaming strings. Its thematic resonance reminding me of Lord Lovidicus on the Daulu Bûrz-Ishi record.

With a begrudged, crawling bass and snare kick alternation, its opening track rips right into Ethereal and Doom Metal territory with gloomy funeral synths and a hazy distortion guitar weeping its sorrows in the backdrop. Its deeply captivating, with an engulfing sense of impending melancholy. Quite the different vibe from the rest of the songs but shows a remarkable talent perusing their inspiration in multiple directions.

Its final closing song, Onward, To Hy Breasail, peaks my interest as a link between the records opening and songs in the middle. Returning with livened percussion and another gloomy atmosphere, that fantasy magic spirit is woven into the mix as its lead melody glistens a little fairy dust over the despaired mood lingering below it. The bass synth wobbles on with a mesmerizing quality and the whole thing is captivating.

As a record, or demo, its blemishes are in its dilution. Its most fantastical musical moments sway from the path laid out and thus makes shadows for its main theme to reside in, however with these divergent being start end, it does feel like an adventure but its clear the whole thing didn't land consistently with the best musical ideas. Either way, its a wonderful demo to check out from a musician who would of struggled to find an audience for this at the time. RIP Mathew!

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Kataxu "Ancestral Mysteries" (2021)


For a long time Ive wanted to get around to writing on Hunger Of Elements by Kataxu, the one man band from Poland. That record is one of a rare few that walks gracefully in the shadow of Emperor's symphonic majesty, conjuring epics to hold a candle to classic In The Nightside Eclipse. So imagine my excitement and surprise, suddenly after sixteen years of silence, Kataxu returns! Structured with another six tracks, three lengthy metallic tracks either side of three astral symphonic interludes, it seemingly had all the markings of that album I've adored since my youth. Sadly, Ancestral Mysteries doesn't hold up to expectations. With that in mind, maybe I lost the ability to enjoy this for what it is? On closer inspection however, It does seem like the showering of magic its predecessor offered is nowhere to be heard.

With an unrelenting, galloping pace, a constant propelling force has us cruising through ferocious blast beats rattling of the gleam of synths penetrating the pummeling wall of sound. Its a formula I adore, caught somewhere between the cosmic extremes of Darkspace and luminous polish of Dimmu Borgir, the promise of adventure and epic all too good. With each listen, it felt as if the destination was never arrived at, or even conceived. These songs meander with its thick and dense guitars plucking darkly chords that fail to steer the ship with any rhythmic might or adrenaline. Ultimately, they just get washed up in the wall of sound without the power to punch.

With further spins I found myself increasingly dissatisfied with the vocals. High in the mix with strained throaty shouts, the texture wasn't inviting and a lot of the musics direction seemed inline with the monologues mutely roared over sparse instrument interludes. This gripe had me thinking about the production and aesthetics. Turning back to Hunger Of Elements, I can see where this went wrong.

That record has a looser production, almost sloppy and haphazard. What it does do however, is let the symphonic aspect leap out at the listener, Its contributions no longer evened out by equality. Not only this but the writing is so much more adventurous. Dark, nightly pianos rapture around the listener and sudden shifts for bright melodies to blossom give the music so much more excitement and adventure.

With those original songs in mind Ancestral Mysteries now sounds narrow and dull. The production softens its instruments into a cushioned wall of sound that sucks the vibrancy out of its guitars and keys. The ideas are there but in lacking a punch to bring the music through, its really hard to feel how it all adds up. Listening closely one can hear the arrangements and potential magic but even that effort doesn't make the music click. I'm left disappointed and undecided, did the writing not hit the mark here or was it the production?

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 20 August 2021

Body Count "Carnivore" (2020)


Somehow this one snuck under my radar in 2020. As an avid Body Count fan, I remember looking forward to its release after the charged, anthemic Bum-Rush single. So glad to have been reminded of its existence! Continuing on with a wonderful resurgence after drifting into obscurity, the group bring another tight, concise set of straight forward songs led by Ice-T's politically charged presence up front. One to follow their own rhythm and influences in the past, the opening title track showcases the band picking up on current trends with a barrage of dense, sludgy Djent riffs crushing in alongside a beastly howl that imminently grabs your attention.

Its not a recurring theme bar No Remorse. Variety, shifts in temperament and tempo have these eleven songs mixing much of the Body Count persona with fresh ideas and excellent collaborations. Another Level has Ice-T finding a keen singing voice for the hook, backed by the rough shouts of Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed. The legend Dave Lombardo pops up to drum on a track too and perhaps most unexpected, Amy Lee lends her voice in a wonderful chemistry with Ice, the two overlap so well.

That track, When I'm Gone, and a few others have very similar lyrical themes to those on Bloodlust. Sadly the recurrences tend to be reflections on societies problems still perpetuating. Reflecting on the loss of Nipsey Hussle is a saddening echo of losses expressed last album. It ties the records together as Ice keeps his anger laser focused on the problems of street life, American inequality and the persistence of racism.

Its a pretty typical affair but very well executed. Lots of heated modern metal with a street spin from Ice's wise words, often throttled with anger! With the excitement still fresh in the air, these songs sound like they may have more legs to last. The production is tight, the guitar solos lively as ever and its wrapped up with one hell of a bonus track! The classic 6 In The Mornin rerecorded with his band. Given how dated and sparse the original is thees days, its quite preferable in metallic form. A mean, solid record, if Body Count keep rolling these out, ill turn up to listen every time!

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Secret Stairways "Drifting..." (1995)


If you've followed this blog for Dungeon Synth and Fantasy music, then today you are in for a treat. The micro-genre's resurgence over the last decade seems to routinely unearth forgotten artists, demo tapes and prototypical material from time gone by. Secret Stairways, a name so fitting for this genre, is one mans symphonic vision. Sadly now diseased, Mathew Davis's work has been shared with the world again, finding a new audience over twenty five years since its creation.

Mathew certainly leans more in the Fantasy direction with a dreamy direction and melodic gleam. His keyboard work here is stunning yet amateurishly produced to suck the cheese out of Korg and Yamaha tones, embellishing them in soft reverbs to create a classy, magical yet fidelity lacking sound that is utterly charming. With no percussion or base in sight, the music is mostly a stream of string arrangements, yearning with beauty and natural wonder, fit for the scenic beauty of secluded forest covered mountains, blossoming with life fed from gushing rivers on a summers eve.

 Each song brings a different temperament with an icy chill breezing in on its closing track to see these scenic moments off into the night. Before it, Dream Of Lorien is a standout, deploying an illusive, mysterious melody on repeat. Shimmering instruments pass by in the dreamy haze of its backdrop. The atmosphere is wonderful, a brief peering into a wonderful imagination with a soft touch of darkness.

As a five track demo it leave one with an appetite for whats next and curiosity for what inspired these musicians at a time of great disconnect, in comparison to the Internet age. Although not strictly Dungeon Synth as it leans in a different direction, this piece of music predates even Depressive Silence. The roots of this music seem to deepen and enrich as time passes and more discoveries are made!

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Tetrarch "Unstable" (2021)

Is the Nu Metal revival on? There is certainly no shortage of acts doing something with the sound twenty years on from the genres hey day. As the music of my youth and formative years, records like this scratch the nostalgic itch along with a frilly rush of adrenaline. That being said, its not creativity or originality but the cliches and tropes being re-spun that's exciting. Tetrarch bring little beyond competency and execution. Practically everything on this sophomore record echos the big names in the genre.

Firstly singer Diamond Rowe has a remarkable closeness to the sadly diseased Chester Beninnington. His inflections, accent, temperament and cadence all hailing back to Hybrid Theory. It is a big component, fronting the songs with poppy hooks and catchy deliveries. Secondly, backing his vocals, the bulk of instrumentation here resembles Korn. However it is not their classic era but specifically The Serenity Of Suffering. The general beefiness of aggression is akin but the electronic creepy melodies that ring out in the backdrop of every song are uncannily alike.

Thirdly in brief stints, and notably on the opening track, the percussive element shifts gear with rhythmic riffs that sound practically lifted out of the Slipknot discography. Take A Look Inside's opening riffs also stink of Gojira. Pointing out the supposed "plagiarism" is too look past the competency though. This is a well written set of lean Pop Metal song structures with a seriously beefy and hard hitting exterior. Track after track pummels with pain and anger, occasionally frothing with rage. To its credit, some excellent electric lead solos get weaved in the mix. High octane, fast and vibrant they sound of the back of whats been done in this region over the last ten years.

 Lyrically blunt, its plain lyrics dive into the deep end of that self loathing, endlessly frustrated and emotionally tormented teenage angst. Everything is self indulged pain with a lack of resolution, words that would of consumed me in my youth but these days feel meaningless with a lack of resolution offered. Its quite remarkable to me just how naked and to the point it captures that approach from twenty years back. My quarrel with them is that besides offering respite and catharsis through connection, it can also be somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy to circle the problem.

If you love Nu Metal then this is a wonderful bit of fun. My enjoyment here is an extension of what I already adore considering there is little new on offer. It should be said, some of these un-original themes and lyrics are delivered with a wonderful shot of adrenaline, no thanks to Rowe's singing. It does however makes me wonder as to where this band could go from here? These songs are well written, it works as is. There is no hiding from the shadow they live in though. I have no idea where this revival is going but if it blows up, I could see Tetrarch riding the wave!

Rating: 6/10