Sunday, 31 August 2014

Chelsea Wolfe "Pain Is Beauty" (2013)

This "review" is premature, i often like to reach a point with a record where i feel the music well and understand it. Right now I'm excited and drunk on the nectar of a new sound, a new niche has been carved in my mind. I don't yet fully understand it, but I'm entranced by its beauty and want to share it with the world.

The music of Chelsea Wolfe was recommend to me by a friend and all i know of her at this point is her music. She's got a stunning, ghostly voice with much passion and sadness that drifts like morning fog trough instrumentals so curiously poised between contrasting instrumentation that paints its own eerie and haunting place in time. This record has as a listening experience has been fruitful with 12 deep, rich and varied songs that are a pleasure for keen ears.

Juxtaposition is the theme that hits me hard on these tracks. There is a unique balance in the song writing, where the uplifting, more positive instruments can be offset by a contrasting sound or use of re-verb / low-fi recording techniques to create an eerie and unsettling undercurrent found throughout the songs in this album. Chelsea's ethereal voice soaks these tracks with emotional deeps that give me goosebumps every time. The instrumentals here are unlike anything I've heard before, and her voice trumps it all.

Favorite Tracks: We Hit A Wall, The Warden, Sick, Kings
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Panopticon "Roads To The North" (2014)

Black Metal has a strange characteristic, diversity. For a genre so dark, aggressive and rebellious, it is quite amazing how varied its sound is and how many other styles have been successfully fused with it. Maybe the musical boundaries it pushed were big ones. Either way it is often i am listening to a new Black Metal record and hearing something new and interesting. This record is a great example.

Panopticon brings some unique diversity to the "folk" element which is no stranger to Black Metal, however here the folk isn't viking or Norwegian as we have often heard it, Panopticon is from a mining town in Kentucky and brings the sounds and instruments of their culture into the extremes in perfect harmony. The opening of the 3 part epic "The Long Road" an instrumental folk piece, brings you into the heart of a mining town, only for the drums to tear into a blistering blast beat in part 2... and it works!

This record not only fuses the folk element into Panopticons sound but each of the songs bring riffing styles and techniques from all across the metal spectrum. The opening track brings riffage reminiscent of the Metalcore / Deathcore era from a few years back and there are moments of Melodic Death Metal throughout. This record displays fantastic musicianship and has me seeking out further material to enjoy. A recommendation to any Black Metal fan who likes the less traditional sounds it can bring.

Favorite Tracks: The Long Road, The Echoes Of A Disharmonic Evensong
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 25 August 2014

Aeons Confer "The Soul Of The Universe" (2003)

This may just be one of the best records you've never heard in the world of symphonic black metal. Aeons Confer are a German band who's brief activity in the early 2000's yielded 2 EPs, this one being the first. Clocking in at just 17 minutes across 6 tracks this record delivers 3 blistering, thrashy and aggressive tracks that execute a sublime balance between the progressive metal elements and the symphony that moves from the background to the forefront effortlessly. Along side these are 3 symphonic interludes that really thicken listening experience and enrich the astral theme this band deliver.

This EP is a tight execution of some very well written songs that have stuck with me as a favorite for over 10 years. When i discovered this record Aeons Confer were a localized band with a website i some how managed to stumble across. Since then they have been a lost gem, unable to obtain there second EP release in late 03 they have been a band i often check back in with and search the web in hop of finding there second release.

It seems very fitting that on this day that i write my thoughts on a record, that has given me 10 years of listening pleasure, that a search reveals they have got it back together and released a new album and the Mirror Heart EP on bandcamp. I am very much looking forward to hearing them both :-)

Favorite Songs: All
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Opeth "Pale Communion" (2014)

This review will be short and sweet. Over 20 years Opeth have delivered 10 fantastic albums, all staying true to there unique vibe that is immediately identifiable. This being there 11th album, is one i had strong hopes for, and they were certainly met.

This album is their second without the death metal element that once made them stand out from other bands and the reality is its not missed. Opeth know how to write music, whatever pallet it is with. Pale Communion sounds like a mix of Heritage and Wateshed, with a more matured sense of pace and progression. In a nutshell, its exactly what you'd expect as an Opeth fan.

Favorite Songs: Moon Above Sun Below, Goblin
Rating: 4/10

Friday, 22 August 2014

Erang "Another World Another Time" (2013)

If i remember correctly, I discovered the music of Erang through a PM on youtube. This was just when Erang released his first album and it is always nice to get a recommendation, but its something a bit more special when you can communicate with the artists directly, one of the many great things about this internet age. Since then i have closely followed and enjoyed everything hes released.

I picked this album to review because its my favorite, make sense right? Its also the most important Erang record from my perspective. On this record the musical themes and sounds of  the "Tome era", the ambient, eerie dungeon synth, evolve, flourish and become much more matured. This progression continues with the next two albums, but for me here is where it started.

Dungeon Synth is an unrealized genre, for its untimely history and nieche. I find it difficult to describe in words where this music goes, probably because it is "other worldly" and ancient. The appeal is in the mystery of what and where these forgotten places are, and Erang on this album and beyond really expands on where this genre can go.

Favorite Tracks: The Kingdom Of Erang, The Foresters Grandson, Forever Lost In An Endless Dream
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 21 August 2014

A.C. "Prophecy For Profit" (2011)

I was standing outside a venue with friends, waiting for Public Enemy when A.C. approached me and my friends asking if we wanted to buy his CD. I was pretty reluctant after having brought some awful records from MCs at gigs before, but he was persistent and sold us a CD for next to nothing. The next day i remembered about this, put the CD on and was genuinely blown away. 

The UK hip hop scene has a vastly different sound and approach to the states where hip hop originated, and its a sound i have never strongly gravitated to. With this record A.C. has taken the raw style of a British MCing and found a balance with Dead Man Walkings sample heavy 90s-esque beats. The result is genuinely impressive, a unique British hip hop sound not far from the golden era.

Between the sound there is plenty of substance, DMW delivers plenty of memorable beats to accompany A.C.s social-political commentary and memorable lines. This record is fantastic but as a whole there are a few week tracks, but the good ones shine like stars. Id also recommend checking out the video to "Sometimes I Wonder" its filmed on his camera phone, kind of impressive in its practicality.

Favorite Songs: Real Grafters, Sometimes I Wonder, Allow That, Music Ain't The Revolution
Rating 7/10

Monday, 18 August 2014

Monstercat "018 - Frontier" (2014)

I wouldn't say I'm a fan of dubstep. Theres much i like about it, for example the aesthetics of the grooving bass wobbles, squeaky clean production and in general the flexibility of electronic music. However most dubstep i have listened to as felt so stale and limited, i would call it "skrillex worship", mainly mimicking the techniques used in his records with not much artistic intention. This record is certainly not that, which was what i expected when it started of with a poppy tune with an uninspiring drop, however as the songs progress through compilation there is a nice variety of dub styles and some very enjoyable tracks with the occasional swing into the drum step genre. What was enjoyable for me was the variety and presence of true musicianship in a genre plagued with amateurs using VST presets. There are a couple of darker tracks with some distorted guitar too, something i always gravitate to. Overall this listen made me feel like I've been looking in the wrong places for electronic music.

Favorite Tracks: Moving On, Breakdown, Night After Night, Gunmetal Black
Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Gustav Holst "The Planets" (1916)

One of my favorite all time compositions. This is a masterpiece you may not have heard of, but would certainly know a fair few songs from as they are commonplace in many big movies. Often in cinema classical music is the guiding drive for emotional and climactic scenes which many viewers seem to under appreciate. If you like classical or not, we could probably all agree in this day and age its not popular... The point i am trying to make is that its unappreciated by an audience who may not realize how often they hear it (movies & television). I don't think there is a more approachable and likeable piece than "The Planets" if you are ever curious in listening to classical.

So onto the music itself, the concept of this music is no secret, as the title would tell you, here we find 7 compositions deeply inspired by mysteries of the planets beyond our own. What i love most is that the themes don't focus on mystery and wonder, but dive into themes of exploration, conquest, honor and pride. When i listen to Holst's sounds i feel like he has been to each of the planets, and through the music is able to tell us about each of them. I can close my eyes and see the planets up close and personal. Truly a work of art.

Fun fact: Pluto was discovered in 1930 but Holst had no intention of composing a new piece for it.

Favorite Tracks: Mars, Jupiter, Neptune
Rating: 9/10 

Skee-Lo "I Wish" (1995)

When i heard Skee-Lo's "I Wish" single on youtube i instantly liked the song, it was a simple straight forward radio friendly hip hop song with good production and decent rapping, i didn't seek out the album straight away as the vibe of the single gave me the impression that Skee-Lo was in a record deal to push a radio friendly record for sales. When i finally got around to getting the album and giving it a listen i was more than presently surprised, Skee-Lo is a talented rapper with a very warm and likeable flow. His lyrical content is decent but his honesty in tracks like "Never Crossed My Mind" & "Top Of The Stairs" is a really nice break from the more common image oriented "boasting" found in rap.

What makes this record a hit for me is the production. Behind Skee-Lo's likeable sound is some tight and approachable production from Walter Kahn who does every track on the album. The vibe overall is more 90s west coast, with ghetto whistles and sequenced beats, but there is a welcomed variety of hip hop sounds everywhere in this album, even an east coast track "Waiting For You" & a jazz-hop track "This Is How It Sounds". The sampling choices are great, i especially enjoyed hearing some Isley Brothers in the mix.

Skee-Lo & Walter together have made a really approachable and enjoyable record here with no filler. A recommend for any hip hop fan.

Favorite Tracks: Superman, Come Back To Me, Crenshaw
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Yagya "Sleepygirl" (2014)

Yagya is a producer from Iceland whos approach and execution of ambient electronic music is unlike anything else on offer out there. His style is as distinct as it is lush and dreamy, you could describe this as "ambient techno" with some influences of dub and ethereal sounds, but in between these familiarities is where something unique emerges.

Sleepygirl is exactly what i wanted from a Yagya record after being slightly disappointed with 2012's "The Inescapable Decay Of My Heart" which has actually grown on me a fair bit overtime. 12 tracks of sleepy, dreamy soundscapes guided by steady paced bass drums kicks that fuse with some minimalist leads that resist evolution and keep you locked in the space between the sounds. The inclusion of some vocals in places are well received as they fit into the ambiance much better than Yagya's previous effort. There are no negatives for me here other than a lack of a standout "moment" or favorite track, but then thats really not what this record is about.

A final note, i especially like the album cover on this record. To look at art is to be held in its moment, never moving or progressing and i feel that is a quality of Yagya's music that is reflected by this cover, which keeps me intrigued as to the meaning of the two triangle sections of cloud.

Favorite Song: None
Rating: 6/10

Dimmu Borgir "Spiritual Black Dimensions" (1999)

For my first post it would be only fitting to start with my favorite record, When i was a teen i was into the nu-metal and hip hop that MTV & VH1 were pushing at the time, but curiosity got hold of me when a friend in an online community pushed me in the direction of extreme metal, Dimmu Borgir, Meshuggah & Emperor for example were some of the bands i started taking an interest in. I was completely taken back by the extremity of force and aggression used in this music, it was unlike anything i was used to and it didn't take me long to become fascinated with it. This record was my 2nd or 3rd Borgir record i ordered from nuclear blast over the internet, and having only heard the opening track before i was quite shocked by the wall of sound that bombarded my ears at first listen, it took me a few more to adjust and behind that symphonic wall of sound was a musical masterpiece that, by my speculation, goes unnoticed even within the bands own fan base.

This album is 9 tracks of dark and blissful, majestic musical compositions that inspire awe and wonder every time i listen to it. The themes and sounds explored in this record are other worldly, and resonate a vibe of a place lost between life and death, it goes to a place no other record does. The music is directed by some powerful and deep lyrical content that really melds with the music. The overall sound of this album is crisp and warm with that "wall of sound" feel. The guitars are solid and packed with fantastic riffage, Astennu's lead guitar work on this record ads a haunting and chaotic flair, something i miss in later Dimmu records. To accompany all thats good I've said so far, the piano and synth work on this record is sublime and is the backbone of what makes this such a special listening experience, there are countless "moments" in this record of which Mustis's elegant key work is usually the highlight. The song structure across this album is mixed, and it feels like the band know exactly what there doing when they chose to progress or stick to simpler structures. Overall there is plenty on offer on all fronts here.

I doubt anyone reading this will enjoy this record as much as i have, but i assure you there is something very magical happening within those waves of sound bombarding your ears... let me leave you with a quote from my favorite song on this album, and of all time :-)

"Oh, dreadful angel of mine
Enrich me with the vastness of your being
Rigid father, teach me how to comprehend
I'll commit myself to understand
 For i am the accomplice"

Favorite Songs: All
Rating 10/10