Thursday, 30 October 2014

Marilyn Manson "Mechanical Animals" (1998)

Having highly enjoyed Manson's breakthrough album "Antichrist Superstar" I was initially skeptical about their other releases which fell far behind the commercial success of Antichrist. I was quickly reminded that sales are no indication of the content as this album quickly grabbed my attention and took me on a ride, before i knew it i was hooked. My preconceptions were shattered and what initially struck me about this album has become very clear after several spins.

On this record the band as a whole move in a much more focused and expressive direction with Manson stepping up his game vocally, his presence is stronger and lyrically his poetry hits home hard with some deep messages and ideas. A couple of moments stuck in my mind, on the track "Coma White" he expresses a sorrowful message about self destructive personalities through an unforgeable chorus "A pill to make you numb, a pill to make you dumb...." its a dark realization delivered in a sing along format that ends the album on a emotional deep. On the track "Mechanical Animals" Manson chimes in beautifully with the soaring guitar riff in a heart in mouth moment. Across these songs his artistic expression is deep and meaningful, delivered with more sensibility.

Instrumentally the band are right behind him, moving the direction away from the metallic Industrial sound, more towards an Alternative Metal / Rock sound with the Industrial element paining intricate sounds and details along side the core instruments. At times the songwriting is pure class, forging charactered songs that compliment Manson well. For example "The Dope Show" has a brooding base line that builds a shady atmosphere with some unusual synthetic sounds, painting a vivid picture in the listeners mind. Theres a lot to talk about as many of these songs have great creativity in the instrumentals. Production wise everything sounds fantastic, in general i was blown away by this album and looking forward to Holy Wood.

Favorite Songs: The Dope Show, Mechanical Animals, Disassociative, User Friendly, Coma White
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Jotun "Learning To Live" (2014)

As if coincidence had a meaning, on the day i decided to review one of my favorite albums "Jotun" the next day Crow dropped a new release! After 18 months of silence Jotun is back with "Learn To Live" which pickups up where "Night" left off. The forth record "Surreal" brought a change to Jotun's sound, retaining the detailed notation and melodic values of the project, and moving in a Trance like direction with sawtooth synth leads and heavily oscillation becoming the focus, which is common place in Trance, House etc... electronic music.

On "Learning To Live" we are bombarded by a loud and abrasive sound as massive walls of textural synthetic leads drip over each other and paint vivid and energetic songs that are driven by a powerful, crushing drum kick and snappy snare. As always lively and free flowing melodic leads build the character of these songs. One of the first details i noticed on this record was the change in the drum kit. Much louder and more involved, this new kit really compliments the Trance direction, building a much welcomed danceable intensity underneath the surface. At time they even become a highlight in these songs. Across the album there is much variety and some great repetitive leads in moments which are not too far from feeling like hooks.

The downside to this great record is the mixing, although the songs benefit from the loud and intense nature of the instruments, they are also drowning one another as they compete for volume, for example the end of "Futile" there is a moment where two leads cross over in what would be a climactic moment of the song, but one overpowers the other in a muddy wave of noise. Another chaotic moment occurs in "The Chase" where the bass kick picks up speed and sound erratic underneath a smothering lead. Despite the negatives, its listen-able record and the musical content is solid, the main highlight for me was hearing Crow find some more trance oriented riffs to fuse with his style as the direction he has taken is maturing. Looking forward to more!

Favorite Songs: Gazing At The Sky, Introspection, Futile
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Love Spirals Downwards "Flux" (1998)

Love Spirals Downwards are an America duo from California who produce Ethereal Dream Pop. On this their forth album the duo incorporated Drum N Bass into their sound. What may have seemed an unusual move turned out to be a fruitful endeavor, a work that could be respected and enjoyed by fans of both geners. After writing about LTJ Bukem's "Logical Progression Level 1" I was reminded of this unique record I found a few years back and decided to give it another spin.

What may seem like an experimental fusion of styles turns out to be a dynamic and effortless relationship. Down tempo break loops and bold sub base lines bring an energy to liven up dreamy, Ethereal sound scapes painted by sweeping, jittery synthesizers and reverb soak guitars that compliment and work with Perry's dreamy voice. Her sister even appears on the track "Psyche" which for me was a highlight vocally. Warm synthesizers drift gently through these energetic break loops as slowly strum chords echo out in reverb soaked glory. The track "Sunset Bell" features a great vocal hook with an inaudible snippet of a word being sampled and pitch shifted in a jittery nature, a memorable moment for me.

Neither of the two styles are compromised on this record which has a sizable amount of variety. Each track utilizes different break loops, with the classic Amen Loop finding room for an appearance on "By Your Side" which is a bit out of step with the bass line and pace of the song. Production wise, its warm and charactered. A great balance is achieved as the sound finds its place for both styles to do their thing. The break loops are crisp and bass lines very bold and audible, the Ethereal synths and guitar leads have great cohesion as the reverb soaked instruments melt together under the warm voice of Perry. It just crossed my mind that on first listen this never felt like two styles were being fused together and that itself is testament to this record and a great note to end on.

Favorite Songs: City Moon, Nova, Sunset Bell
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 27 October 2014

LTJ Bukem "Logical Progression Level 1" (1996)

The world of Drum N Bass is one I am not too familiar with, however I am always keen to listen and explore this genre which is an important part of England's musical Heritage. DnB emerged in the early 90s alongside Trip Hop, Jungle & Breakbeat music from the southern parts of the UK where the Rave scene had hit and Electronic music was flourishing. The principle of DnB is in the name, high tempo break beat loops and loud baselines at the forefront of the music, this leaves a lot of room for diversity in style and mood. Following a recommendation from a friend I picked up this lengthy double album which I revisited today.

 This record explores the moodier, ambient side of what is possible. High tempo break loops contrast dreamy, melodic instrumentals, creating a unique energy where the intensity of fast, pulsating loops is fused into loungey, gentle instrumentals that have an almost Jazz Hop feel to them in moments. This transference of energy and bipolar nature is charming and very characteristic of this record which i do believe LTJ Bukem acts as a DJ mixing together his own tracks with others. Even though there is an array of musicians involved the album flows seamlessly from start to end.

The production is class, crisp clean drum loops have room to breath on top of deep moving baselines that groove gently in their own world underneath this bipolar relation between samples and loops. The calming nature of these songs and the high intensity of the break beats give this record room to fit for many moods and overall it feels like a classic record, however my ears are not as experienced in this line of music. On a note, the song "Pharaoh" is "Rings Around Saturn" from Photeks "Form & Function" released 2 years later. Bit of a mystery to me, but DnB is a place where the album is not the primary release format. Great album, loved all 2 hours of it.

Favorite Tracks: Links, Bringing Me Down, Horizons, Pharaoh
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Saor "Aura" (2014)

Saor is a one-man-band project inspired by the landscapes and cultural heritage of the Scottish highlands. This record immediately revealed itself upon my first listen, the rich atmosphere sets an immersible tone for the Celtic folk influences to shine through. Its not to often an album can be instantly appealing, but its always a pleasant surprise. Since my first listen everything that became apparent about this sound has been true of the record and i have thoroughly enjoyed "Aura" the bands second full length. 

The five songs that make up "Aura" are lengthy, passionate epics that don't progress as much as they immerse in theme and inspiration, often keeping your attention locked in. There is variety in pace, instrumentation and composition that keeps a steady mood with great maturity. The reoccurring flute leads are delightful and the instrumental writing is detailed, lots of care has been put into the drums which were a highlight for me, they are never boring, always finding fills and cymbals to color the demanding blast beat nature of Black Metal songs. Alongside the usual arsenal are strings, flutes, bagpipes & violins bringing home the Celtic heart of these songs, there presence in these songs is a work of art and beauty.

The production feels flawless, the mix finds the balance for each instrument to shine without anything feeling overpowered. The strings are both subtle and powerful, chiming in just under the guitars they have a powerful effect on these songs and sit in a place where they can be in or out of focus depending on what your listening to. They help guide the emotional narrative of these songs, where the guitars and drums build the atmosphere alongside them. The unity of all the instruments on this record is stunning, guttural growls and screams add the human element and on "The Awakening" distant cultural chants climax the song in awe. Altogether we have a very complete and defined record that creates a beautiful listening experience every time.

Favorite Songs: Aura, Farewell
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 24 October 2014

Marilyn Manson "Antichrist Superstar" (1996)

In my youth Manson was a popular and controversial figure who's music I never really gave a go. I'm unsure as to why his genius never appealed to me then, but having recently watched some documentaries about his music I've learned hes a very intelligent and articulate person. Understanding a little more about the person behind the peculiar self imagery has really opened the door for me and i decided to start with the album that transformed him into a sensation. This being the bands second full length rocketed into the charts upon its release and has remained as their best selling album by far.

The album as a whole has is an artistic and creative expression packaged into a metalic, rockable sound layered with an Industrial aesthetic that give this one a unique and instantly identifiable sound. Manson's presences in these songs is poetic, through his somewhat unexceptional voice hes engages my attention with many thought provoking lines delivered with emotion and intent. Manson is almost self prophetic, with many lyrics retaining to being a controversial figure of hate that he became on the albums release. These lyrical statements often reflect whats wrong with societal values and they are delivered with a cunning artistic expression. One of the more comical lines has stuck in my mind "I wasn't born with enough middle fingers", we have all had days like that. Theres a lot to relate to on this record if you have an alternative perspective of humanity and society.

Manson's poetic presence maybe stealing the show but the instrumentals are worthy of merit too, across the record theres a lot of variety in instrumentation and flavor as the songs drift from rock head bangers to moody movers. The instrumentals keep a strong feeling together despite offering some decent variety with electronic leads shifting focus with the crunchy guitar tones. Theres lots of detailed sounds and noises adding depth to all these tracks and the rhythm section is refreshing, offering some more inventive and unexpected patterns utilizing a large pallet of sounds from an industrial themed drum machine. It all comes together so well, this album is devoid of filler with most the tracks bringing memorable beats, riffs, melodies and lyrics. I now see what the fuss is about and I'm excited to listen to more!

Favorite Songs: Torniquiet, Little Horn, Deformography, Angel With The Scabbed Wings, The Reflecting God
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Killing Joke "Extremities, Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions" (1990)

I have been enjoying my recent foray into Industrial music, and Killing Joke was a group not so appealing at first, but i am glad i stuck with it as this album has grown on me tremendously. Killing Joke are a Post-Punk group from Noting Hill who through the 80's released many albums that incorporated some Gothic and New Wave elements to their sound. Extremities is the groups ninth album and one i chose to listen to for the cited Industrial influences the band had brought to their sound. With little experience of there previous works i got to listen to this record from a neutral perspective.

Extremities is drenched in nostalgia through guitars that bring forth a big sound, distortion characterized by flanged overtones mold a big presence in these tracks. The riffs, either simple or complex are given a big boost by this sound which remains a strong point for this record from start to end. Killing Joke utilize a variety of riffs across this one, often lending to progression and atmosphere but at times breaking out some rock sensibility and memorable riffage that stands out from the hazy flanged noise the guitars ooze. There presence feels paramount but there is more on offer.

The drumming is solid, nothing that stands out but it doesn't do any harm, its always in tune with the music. The bass is solid, its presence is strong on most tracks but occasionally gets a little lost under the big guitars, on occasions bringing a lovely overdriven tone I wish would have featured more often. The vocals being very British were a little stark on first listen and felt slightly contrasting, however with familiarity comes acceptance. Alongside these elements there is definitely some electronic presences with the occasion tracks brining in some subtle scratching sounds at extra details if you listen carefully. And some synth leads are there t0o, mixed to bleed with the guitars. Overall a great listen. Lots of good songs but I especially liked the mix, it has a lot of character and lets the instruments work together to build some noisy atmospheres.

Favorite Tracks: Money Is Not Our God, The Beautiful Dead, Solitude, North Of The Border
Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Slipknot - ".5: The Gray Chapter" (2014)

Legendary 9-piece group Slipknot from Iowa broke into the mainstream in the early 00s in unorthodox fashion, wearing abominable masks and playing loud rampant, aggressive music they quickly built a large cult following of die hard fans as well as causing a lot of controversy, which of course only helped promote them. Over the years Slipknot have slowed down there creative output and gone through some understandable changes. They no longer write the wild anger-driven chaotic breed of metal from their first two major releases. They have retained their identity but the Slipknot sound has undergone much change.

On this album more so than ever Slipknot sound more like a typical metal outfit, there once unpredictable guitar style is almost non existent, with most of the riffs lacking that spontaneous emotion driven aggression they used to have. The drumming is vastly different from Joey Jordison's style and his absence was instantly noticeable, the drums felt predictable and not quite up to scratch with Joeys style. Despite this negativity, Slipknot do still hold their unique and indisputable sound and put together an enjoyable collection of songs. On "All Hope Is Good" Sid's input felt almost non existent and nice change on this record is his inclusion of scratching and unusual samples in many of the songs.

An issue for me listening to this record is the constant thoughts comparing it to their early works, but after a few listens through the songs started to show their charm. There's some great energy in these tracks, especially in those moments where the percussion pounds in primal repetition along with the money riffs. As for variety this album has plenty, the moods, tempos and themes explored have a balance as the songs bring some melodic overtones and atmosphere to the table, alongside the more aggressive moments. The production is pitch perfect, crystal clear and honestly a bore. Some bands benefit from muddier, lower fidelity, charactered recordings and Slipknot is one of them. They can't be frozen on ice, and there progression as a group is a positive one, but after everyone listen all i want to do is play Surfacing at full volume... you probably know what i mean.

Favorite Songs: The Devil In I, Skeptic, The Negative One
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Jotun "Jotun" (2012)

Having previously written about Crow's Lord Lovidicus album "Kyndill Og Steinn" it felt fitting to talk about another project of his, Jotun. I've had a unique experience of having another artists work attached my videos, "Sailing Clouds Of Night" being the intro to my Hermitcraft series it is a testament to Crow's musical genius when viewers cry out for the intro music when i have forgotten to include it. It has also been the soundtrack to many time lapses. Its fantastic music that fits well into the Minecraft universe, but it holds it own, this music is a pleasure to enjoy whatever the environment is.

From its inception Jotun has been complete package, a music concept that fully understands itself. It blurs the lines of definition, but a fair comparison would be to 8-bit FM synthesis from old consoles like the NES with chirpy synth sounds and a focus on the melodic content. With a modernized, crisp and tuneful sound set, Crow brings his musical ideas to life through a pallet of electronic oscillators, pianos and other simulated sounds layered together with substance to make lasting and meaningful songs. Through the nine tracks many musical ideas and themes are explored, on later albums Crow continues the exploration of themes, but from this first record the concept is perfect.

From start to end this record delivers fluent compositions with each song having several melodic leads that pull in and out of focus and on many songs layering on top of one another. This is one of Joton's biggest strengths, to build several memorable tunes and find the cohesion to bring them together in the same instance. The notation is varied and progressive and not shy of turning up the pace with some charging solo leads that grab your attention and leave you in we. Underneath the leads that steal the show there is a matured rhythmic presence with a lite pallet of drums adding a subtle element of groove to tracks. The bass and lower end synths are structured and hold the songs together well behind the leading presence in these songs. Everything this record offers is on point and fantastic. Theres not a dull moment, the only downside is maybe the album length, at just under 30 minutes it always leaves me wanting more, but that in itself maybe the charm.

Favorite Songs: A Quest, Sailing Clouds Of Night
Rating 8/10

Friday, 17 October 2014

Lord Lovidicus "Kyndill Og Steinn" (2013)

Lord Lovidicus is a project of Crow, one-man-band and multi instrumentalist, who i have had the pleasure of communicating with as I've followed him progressing as an artist. LL once represented the essence of Dungeon Synth, Crows vision beyond the genres restraints has allowed him to evolve the once low-fi, minimalist sound into a rich, textural construct with clean, approachable instruments, yet completely retaining the themes and style of Dungeon Synth. Across his discography you can follow the evolution, with never a  dull moment I have always been engrossed in LL, and this, his 12th release under the Lord Lovidicus moniker, i have chosen to write about as possibly the most accessible album for those of you reading.

The album opens with "The Madauding Passage" and quickly we are plunged into an ancient, feudal, sometimes mystic environment, with gradual pounding drums, crashing symbols and subtle buzz saw synth. As the lead introduces itself, its quickly overpowered by a roaring horn like sound thats again accompanied by more instrumentation. In this short moment the tone is set and we are immersed in a rich, expansive and layered sound. Across the course of the song the drums and crashing symbols pound as many instruments and sounds feature. This is a theme followed across the album and Crow utilizes an assortment of sounds that build the themes and topics as he explores the melodies of his inspiration.

One of Crows biggest strengths is his avoidance of hooks. There is rarely a moment that the instrumentation is simplified or given a "catchy" vibe. At all times the music is focused, the notation is rich and exploitative. This quality has a strange effect on me personally. I find myself unable to remember a lot of the melodies, however when listening they are thoroughly enjoyable, i have a similar experience with Classical, and it makes a lot of sense when you consider how layered these songs can be, and how they are great through the unison of the instruments, rather then a focus on just one. The only criticism I have is with the production, the instruments are loud and sometimes a bit shrill, they can often collide with one another and peak some frequencies. With this said i do wonder if this works in the records favor, it adds a touch of rough around the edges which sits well with the themes this album explores. As always a fine effort from Crow.

Favorite Songs: Crystalline Fountains Of Vitality, Ghost Wind Within The Mist
Rating 5/10

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Ministry "The Land Of Rape And Honey" (1988)

Ministry are a big and influential Industrial Metal group who formed originally as a New Wave duo in the mid 80s, but found themselves quickly gearing towards the EBM & Industrial sound. This could be their most important album as it introduced the metallic rhythm guitar to their sound, a move that has had a resounding effect in Industrial Metal. I've been exploring their music after purchasing there first 5 industrial albums in a cheap package that proved to be an absolute bargain! I chose to write about this album for its significance and my personal gravitation towards it.

"The Land Of Rape And Honey" is a noisy, grisly beast of a record, creating dark, cold, devastating industrial soundscapes that take many shapes and forms across the 10 tracks. Songs like "Stigmata" & "Deity" have great rock sensibility with big riffs, catchy hooks and iconic lyrics "My favorite weapon, is the look in your eyes". Others like "Destruction" & "Flashback" forge unforgiving, industrious sound scapes that build tension and dread. A couple of tracks focus more on the EBM aspect of their sound, for example the title track and "Abortive". The variety and ability for the band to shift between the different elements that build their sound gives this album depth and plenty of replay value.

For the dark and Industrual sound Ministry forge, they also have an unsettling, eerie sound about them too. The synthesizers sound disenchanted, gritty and erroneous in texture and form, along with some processed vocals on particular tracks Ministry create a unique eeriness that i could only refer to Japanese cyber-punk movie "Tetsuo" as a similar vibe. Along with these unusual sounds, the mechanical groove of the drum machine and pulsating base lines give the oddities much needed structure and form that makes the album approachable. The guitars appearance on this album, despite its importance, is not missed on the tracks its not featured on. The ones it does are certainly classic but its a testament to their song writing abilities that all the tracks on this album offer something, regardless of what kits, sounds and guitars are used. Thoroughly enjoyable album, must of been something real special in 88, still sounds fantastic today.

Favorite Songs: Golden Dawn, Destruction, The Land Of Rape And Honey, You Know What You Are, I Pefer
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Kendrick Lamar "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City" (2012)

Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar didn't have to do anything to put Compton on the map, but he has certainly got his name on the map, and having finally got around to giving him a listen, i understand what the fuss is all about. This is album is an instant classic, a strong and diverse record bringing the best of old and new to the table. We hear a lot of talk about the state of Hip Hop, but with records like this there's nothing to worry about, we are in good hands.

Lets start with the instrumentals, theres a diverse range of style and creativity across these 12 tracks, with moodier introspective tracks, obnoxious party bangers and Hip Hop anthems. I find myself engrossed from start to end with the shifts in mood coming effortlessly. Theres great detail in the beats which offer more than a grooving loop, often bringing in extra hits and percussion that help direct and flow these tracks along there course. The sampling is choice, theres depth in quantity with many tracks bringing subtle layers of sounds and sample that add to the main focus. In general, theres just a lot of craft and care put into these instrumentals that you can really enjoy deconstructing them with your ears. 

Lamar's flow is gripping and slick, he doesn't drop the most memorable of lines, but keeps you engaged with colorful story telling. His choruses stand out as a strength with a craft for striking a balance between substance and thrills. With a lot of guest vocalists across the songs the variety and diversity keeps things fresh and exciting which is a nice change in a formula that can sometimes suffer from a lack of such. Theres some great double tracked vocals in a few tracks too and Dre's appearance on "Compton" is sublime, the man still has it, bursting onto the track like he's kicking down the door of rap. Overall this album offers substance and quality in quantity, with a large collection of memorable songs this is a classic Hip Hop album.

Favorite Tracks: Backstreet Freestyle, Poetic Justice, Good Kid, Swimming Pools, Sing About Me, Compton
Rating: 8/10

Monday, 13 October 2014

Darkspace "III I" (2014)

Three piece group Darkspace from Switzerland have produced a sound so terrifyingly dark and claustrophobic they would be an earful for many a Black Metal fan. Having found them through 2008's "III" i have been fascinated by their conceptual sound and output. Each album is titled in roman numerals and each song is simply "Dark x.y" x being album, y being song number. This unusual and minimalist approach ties well to there cosmic vibe, giving the songs little identity to attach to the bleak soundscapes. I initially thought this was an EP, having 3 tracks, being "III I" instead of "IV", but these tracks are long and this is a full length. One i have certainly been enjoying.

Six years since the last release the band have been frozen on ice, there is not much change to their cold, void-like, nihilistic sound. The mix is relatively similar to "III" where Darkspace found the sound that worked best for their atmospheric music. Condensing all instruments into a dense wall of colorless sound, it can be a little hard to get your ears around at first, but there is a genius where as your ears adjust you are surrounded and immersed in a rich sound that sucks you in. For a 27 minute song, and two 18s, these songs hold up well in a challenge to keep the listener engaged. The progression is key as these songs drift through long passages that build and build as the themes and depths explored intensify. 

The bands approach to song writing understands and appreciates their own immersible qualities, with many riffs and lead sections being drawn out across many minutes, sucking the listener in. There's a great range of cosmic synths, electro melodies and mystic, awe-inspiring sounds that provide these songs with much depth. The heavy rhythm guitar that bursts through the track returns on this record, and the drumming is precise and mechanical as ever, always providing fast paced blasting that sits subtly in the background. Everything is good with this record, but I would of hoped for more evolution with their sound, however the "III" formula is impeccable and perhaps why this one was named "III I".

Favorite Song: 4.19
Rating 7/10

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Godflesh "A World Lit Only By Fire" (2014)

Godflesh are a two piece band from England who formed in 1988. Their first release "Streetcleaner" was a landmark in the emerging Industrial Metal scene. It brought the sound to its dark and heaviest peak with Broadrick's unique, unsettling guitar sound building atmospheres intensified by the gritty drum machine and crushing noise driven bass of Green. In later years they experimented with there sound bringing in an interesting Hip Hop aspect through the drum machine before disbanding in 2003. They have been cited as a huge influence on other Metal acts, often referred to as a "band's band". 13 years since their last album its was a surprise to hear the EP they dropped earlier this year, and not so much that it was followed up with this full length.

Initially i was excited, on this record Godflesh have reinvented their sound as well as maintaining what makes them stand out from other bands. Greens bass has the glorious clunky, crunching distortion were used to, its captured here well in a now modern era of recording. Broadrick's guitars are notoriously low and slightly Djenty, most definitely 7 or 8 string guitars at work here. The musical approach is more riff oriented, with Broadrick's discordant, eerie sounds not often the focus as much as the bouncy, thrashy riffs. His voice still has the power it once did and on the track "Towers Of Emptiness" there is an altered double track that has a real demonic sound to it.

The formula works, the sound is dark, hard hitting and vigorous, the riffage is tight and rhythmic, but across several listens i found myself a little tired and distant from the songs. Whats on offer is great, but there is not enough variety and progression to keep me engaged. You could argue this repetition was a key part of their sound in the past, but on this album it doesn't work for me. Its a great album, they certainly has a reason to get back together and make new material, but I can't find myself as immersed as with there previous works.

Favorite Songs: Shut Me Down, Life Giver Life Taker, Towers Of Emptiness
Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Aeons Confer "Symphonies Of Saturnus" (2013)

In the blink of an eye 10 years passed by wondering if we would ever hear from this band again. 2003's wondrous "Soul Of The Universe" left a lasting impression. With 17 minutes of bliss and 10 years of absence I was both excited and dreading listening to their first full length. Time changes bands, but a decade without a whisper made me wonder if we would have anything left of the original sound. I'm happy to say they still have it, the astral "vibe" is there, but their sound has evolved, they have not been frozen on ice.

The symphonic component of Aeons's sound is the most reminiscent, still providing its subtle influences, acting as the backbone that adds distinguishable character to the rest of the sound. Theres no piano interludes or many leading moments, but they are not absent here. The sound is more oriented around the guitars providing classic thrashy, aggressive riffs that, in unison with the rhythm section, thump and pound crushing groove after groove. The songs are well developed, pretty typical for this era of Metal, but the quality of musicianship and presence of astral symphonics does set them above the bar.

On the vocal front Aeons's is a very different band, with obvious line up changes their new vocalists fit the mold well. Providing many guttural and screaming ranges, theres a much needed variety on display which also comes with some delightful clean leads, comparable to ICS Vortex, that steal the show on "Probe", a song that sounds like it could of been on there 2003 release. Overall its a well written and produced album, but its biggest flaw is its length. Clocking in at nearly 80 minutes the duller moments become more noticeable as the listen draws on. Its great that Aeons are back! I hope to catch them on the road soon.

Favorite Songs: ESP, Probe, Renaissance, 
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 10 October 2014

Dødheimsgard "666 International" (1999)

Today I felt like talking about a record I've been revisiting recently. Must of been around 10 years ago I found this unique little album that fuses the styling of Black Metal with a noisy Industrial sound. The result is distant from its obvious influences and from start to end provides a dizzying, abrasive listen that visits many musical contexts, but also delivers some memorable tunes. The album opens with a bang, a descending, clean piano clashes with a blitz blast beat and brimming guitar distortion that pass into a weary, bleak landscape as Aldrahn introduces himself with clean, poetic vocals that build the mood. Quickly the direction changes as the vocals become demonic and guttural, the intensity builds from the guitars and drums, and the tone for this album is set.

From this point onwards Dodheimsgard, translated "Home Of Death", move through many artistic, avant-guard musical passages that are as enjoyable as they are intriguing and bizarre. There are dizzying, nauseous blast beats and rhythmic groves mixed with abstract sounds and instrumentation that even find room for screeching noise abuse at the end of "Final Conquest". Anything goes, it may seem, but despite how abstract the styles and influences explored in this album are, Dodheimsgard hold it together in memorable fashion. And of course this dizzying listen is parted by piano interludes that provide a needed contrast.

The production is not the cleanest, but its flaws are strengths in this noisy record filled with absurdities, there was little that could go wrong. With such a wide range of sounds, drum kits and even guitar distortions its impressive to think there are no moment in this record where anything feels underwhelming or overlooked. As a whole it feels thorough and ready to fit its purpose, which is musical exploration at its extremes.

Favorite Tracks: Shivra-Interface, Ion Storm, Final Conquest, Sonar Bliss
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Earth "Primitive And Deadly" (2014)

Earth are an American Drone Metal band from Washington that formed in 1989 and are considered pioneers in the field of Drone Metal. Over the years there style and sound has changed, evolving into a more melodic and Rock sound than their Drone roots, although still keeping the Sludge / Drone relevant in their sound. 2007s Hibernaculum caught my attention with its slow, sludging groves performed in melodical tones that created contrasting atmospheres of relaxation and intensity, since then i have been enjoying this bands output, and this album has certainly grasped my attention.

Primitive And Deadly sounds lush and vivid, capturing the textural depths of guitars that drone there beautiful distortion in graceful sludgery. The clean melodic leads share the space effortlessly as the two wrap and meld around one another. The drumming ever present, quietly retaining the pace of these slow burners with grace. On 3 this records 5 tracks, Earth introduce a vocal presence with exquisite execution, Lanegan & Qazi bring artistic, poetic performances to the fold, so tastefully done. There is a real connection between the instrumentals and the vocalists that add great depth to this record.

Through these slow burning numbers Earth build enigmatic & psychedelic soundscapes that have an almost rock-like feel to them. Maybe if sped up some of these riffs would sound a bit more so, but there sluggish dragging of these riffs create spacious atmospheres for these chords and distortions to ring out to great effect. Through these spaces the songs progress and build thoughtful and unresting moods that give this album and immersible quality. I'm ever so impressed with this record, I've been lavishing in these tunes. Earth have mastered their sound, and this record is a fantastic step forward for them.

Favorite Tracks: There Is A Serpent Coming, From The Zodiacal Light
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Deerhoof "Apple O'" (2003)

Deerhoof are a four piece band from California who have been utilizing a DIY ethic for 20 years, producing 13 albums and various EPs. I recently stumbled across this record which has proven to be a delightful one. My first impression had me thinking this would be a challenging listen, but i gravitated towards it quickly. It has since expanded my view of what constitutes music and musical aesthetics.

Apple O' is a quirky record that defies conventional musical norms with its sporadic and abrasive sound. From track to track there is an ever growing progression between noisy and melodic elements that exist in a explosive and unconventional environment. With odd time signatures and simplistic riffing Deerhoof harness the most simplistic of musical pleasures and package them into quirky songs that flow in there own direction, free of conventional song structure. When you deconstruction the songs in your mind its easy to see what makes these songs works, however there creation has a subtle touch of genius I couldn't see myself recreating.

The riffage on this album is varied, sometimes metalic, punkish or even stadium rock, but its always performed in a brash, clunky, out of tune act that give this record the quirky and sporadic vibe aforementioned. The drumming is fantastic, wild, free flowing and interesting throughout. It may be a little shadowed by the guitar, but its impressive and a highlight. Matsuzaki's vocals are playful and have a childish energy about them, often singing quietly alongside screeching guitars, she provides another quirk to this record with her wordless vocals adding extra dimensions to the intense guitars. Their sound and style on this record is in full effect, theres plenty of memorable moments and the album progresses into a more melodic state before blowing up near the end with the intense track "Adam + Eve Connection", which gradually builds and explodes with distortion. A great listening experience!

Favorite Tracks: Sealed With A Kiss, Flower, My Diamond Star Car, L'amour Stories, Panda Panda Panda
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 6 October 2014

Lycia "Cold" (1996)

Lycia are a Darkwave group from Arizona USA who formed in 88 and have released 13 albums since then. This is the one album I have treasured from there discography, at a glance it pulled me in, and after many listens I am still captivated by its bleak and, no surprise, cold sound. This record is dreary, spacious and artic in design, these may sound like negative observations to those who like there music upbeat and chirpy, but these are all positives, in "Cold", Lycia craft a chilling soundscape that explores the darker side of life and self.

Across nine tracks this slow and bleak record paces itself with a genius that keeps me gripped from start to end. Despite similarities from each song to another, they provide passive melodies, subtle sounds and shadowy riffs that stick in the mind. The chilling sound is shaped through guitars and keys soaked in a vast reverb that bleed into each other effortlessly. The drum kit follows the same aesthetic and its slow, decaying pace and lack of complexity fitting the mood entirely. There are both male and female vocals that provide an important human presence in the experience, they are gentle, distant and sorrowful in nature.

There are some beautiful and effortless progressions in the songs as they gradually build up to crashing bells, subtle eerie choirs and other sounds that really add purpose to these passive pieces. This is a soundtrack for the cold, obviously, but these songs really paint a picture in the mind of countrysides covered by snowy blankets that captivate and dazzle, yet are perilous to humans. The dark and bleak atmospheres this music produces is unique, yet familiar, I enjoy it every time I visit.

Favorite Tracks: Frozen, Bare, Colder, Snowdrop, Drifting
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Cannibal Corpse "A Skeletal Domain" (2014)

Cannibal Corpse are a band that need no introduction, having sold over half a million records world wide they are the best selling death metal band of all time. Over the years have developed a cult following that has allowed them to continue touring and writing music for 26 years. This wasn't an album i was especially looking forward too, the last two albums had been a bit lack luster and fell far behind 06s "Kill", however having a lot of respect for this band i had to give it go.

This record was pretty much what i anticipated, 12 tracks of tightly executed death metal in a typical Cannibal Corpse mentality. The recording is crisp, every instrument is clear and powerful in the mix, quite possibly there best sounding record so far. Fishers voice is as menacing as ever, and it all sounds great... but what is wrong?

As good as this album sounds the songs are almost cliché, which is what a lot of fans love. Cannibal Corpse are pounding out there dark and brutal style yet again, but for me its become stale, they are sitting in a comfort zone and repeating themselves. Sure there are some good moments and head banger riffs but its pretty forgettable being almost a repeat of there previous efforts. This band has undergone a lot of evolution over their career while managing to maintain there sound and identity, but in the last few years the expansion of there sound has been missing.

Rating: 2/10

Friday, 3 October 2014

If These Trees Could Talk "Red Forest" (2012)

If These Trees Could Talk are an instrumental five piece Post-metal band from Ohio, USA, who in 2012 released this, their second full length album. The five forge grandiose ethereal soundscapes with a dreamy and melodic sensibility that gives birth to a rich, indulging and relaxing listening experience across the nine tracks of this album.

With 3 guitars alongside the drums and bass Trees's sound is as expansive as it is immersible. It true Post-metal fashion they build rich and progressive atmospheres with the layered instrumentations of the 3 guitars giving them a lot of depth on the melodic front. The bass is somewhat quiet, usually plodding along behind the guitar leads, which do steal the show, however the bass's presence would be missed if non-existent. The drumming is terrific, being ever present in the songs and providing excellent structure, they never steal the show yet are a powerful part of the atmosphere.

From start to end there are plenty of varied moments, but Trees doesn't push the mold or try anything out of its comfort zone, which is quite fitting for their sound as it feels somewhat "complete" within itself. This is a very mature record with an immersible quality to offer. The aesthetic is warm, and slightly muddy. Theres no need for over the top squeaky clean production here, the instruments are given that room to bleed into each other slightly and it compliments the music well. Great record, hoping they will have another record out soon.

Favorite Tracks: The First Fire, When The Big Hand Buries The Twelve
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Rollins Band "The End Of Silence" (1992)

This is more than music, this is therapy for those who didn't know they needed it... Rollins Band is the group of Henry Rollins, former front man of legendary Hardcore group Black Flag, and this, their third album, was an unforeseen break through to the mainstream earning them rotation on MTV during the Alternative era. The End Of Silence is a powerful record, raw and provocative Blues wrapped in a powerful, Hardcore, Metalic aesthetic provides an invigorating, inspirational and emotional listen every single time. This is for lifting to your arms ache, running until your knees shake. This is about dealing with it all.

If you are familiar with Rollins, then it will be no surprise the subject matter of these songs are heavy, emotional, introspective experiences as Rollings puts himself under the microscope with brutal honesty. The pains of life and death are embraced wholly here as Rollins dives into his personal torments. His voice is phenomenal, lets make one thing clear, Rollins can barely sing a note, but his scream, his shout, his energy he forces out is monolithic. Here is a man bearing all, giving everything hes got. Both live and on this record, hearing Rollins preform is overwhelming, its as if there isn't a drop of energy left in his body to give. His scream on Just Like You, "My body is scared by age, now you get to taste my rage", Gives me goosebumps every time. Rollins is a blues singer, working out his issues through the music. His honesty has taught me that there is no shame in pain, and you must deal with it to grow.

The three that make up the instrumentals have a charismatic chemistry that provides the perfect soundtrack to Rollins's intense vocal presence on these tracks. Weiss's bass pounds and grooves in unison with the rhythm section, with a fuzzy, raw sound that can provide a memorable and impressive lead (What Do You Do). Cain's drumming is dynamic and versatile, bringing rocking grooves and maintaining intensity and rythmic groove during the slower bluesy parts. Haskett's guitar approach is an integral part of the bands sound, with his charismatic licks and leads, Haskett has forged a bluesy lead sound so unique and unmistakable. It edges between Blues, Hardcore Punk and Metal, but ultimately is its own sound and brings a real emotional connection with Rollins output. This album is 72 minutes of hard hitting, emotional, intense music that digs deep in the mind. "Life wont break your heart, It will crush it".

Favorite Tracks - Low Self Opinion, You Didn't Need, What Do You Do, Another Life, Just Like You.
Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Smashing Pumpkins "Gish" (1991)

The 90s is probably my favorite era of music. The Alternative movement, the birth of Nu Metal and the peak of Hip Hop are three I'm very fond of. Its never ceases to amaze me how much wonderful music was created in this decade, and my latest discovery is The Smashing Pumpkins. I thought for now it would be fitting to talk about there first album, which I first heard this album some time ago. It has taken me some time to appreciate their genius, but now I find myself addicted to a sizeable portion of there rich discography.

Like many of the greats, the Pumpkins have a genius to there sound that muddies the lines we draw to define how bands are supposed to sound. Theres elements of Rock, Alternative, Grunge and Metal that has an almost Gothic tinge to it. In this blurrinesses of influences Pumpkins create a unique identity. I personally feel like a big part of this comes from the downplaying of the guitars, D'arcy's bass is often pounding over the top of fuzzy guitar riffs that could easily be high energy Metal if played in a louder, crisper setting. Its this approach that give the guitars a more melodic vibe and subtle energy that gives them their edge.

The drumming is thoughtful, subtlety moving from fast upbeat tempos with explosive snare rolls to quiet atmospheric pace setting where the songs dictate. The guitars are charismatic and explore many melodic and energetic moments throughout the record. The bass is warm, bold and loud, which I really enjoyed as bass presence can often be overlooked. Billy's voice may not be to everyones liking, but it grows with time at proves to be an emotional outlet that is an important part of what makes it work. Pumpkins are the complete package who over time grew as musicians. This record proves they had it from day one, theres no filler here and plenty of memorable moments to enjoy.

Favorite Songs: I Am One, Rhinoceros, Bury Me, Crush, Snail, Tristessa
Rating: 8/10