Friday, 27 February 2015

Outkast "ATLiens" (1996)

Following up on 94's "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik", Outkast's second album is a relatively big side step from the cultured southern character established on their debut. The album cover stands out as a Hip Hop record for its cartoon inspired graphic and primative 3D fonts. The logo and price an added oddity that as a whole is reminiscent of old Playstation games, at least for me. The cover hints at a strong sense of theme that is present throughout in the production and lyrical content. Reflecting on their commercial success and maturity as people, Andre and Big Boi focus on introspective and social topics in that lyrics that address family responsibility, urban life and a sprinkling of extraterrestrial activity that often feels like a metaphor for social alienation, the name being a combination of Atlanta, where the duo are from, and Aliens.

The theme established is played out well on this record which comes with a thick consistency from track to track. The production opts in for tight, crisp kits and constructed loops that provide a strong backbone for the raps without being bombastic or hyped, they subtly impress with quality and no cheap thrills. Working with the drums a cautious, paranoid bass line creeps around these tracks in the deep low end, playing out paced out grooves that break often to utilize its own absence. The two have a minimalist chemistry the sampling amplifies through quiet samples of various instruments and sounds that leave a big air in the mix for the duo to fill with their raps. Most tracks are devoid of hooks and melodic leads, the samples paint the atmosphere cautiously with alien, out of space sounds and noises to complete the sense of theme so strong.

Big Boi and Andre both shine on this record with continually engaging lyricism taking us through their introspections and thoughts that come with a handful of memorable lines and thought provoking lines, especially with their attitude towards women that displays a lot of change and maturity. With the musings on fame the two show a level headed character not phased by the ego or illusion success can bring. Their engaging intellect is a strength from a record that has no cheap thrills, needless violence or boasting. Solid lyrical content that feels like a breath of fresh air for this listener, despite it being almost 20 years old.

Overall I felt this was a solid, absorbing record, but maybe not one to pick up too often. The calmer vibe and subtler approach is a two edged sword that doesn't fit every mood, but in the right one this stands tall. It wasn't till I started to write that the era crept into my thoughts, this was 96 and a solid execution of new production ideas that were emerging at the time. This was also the beginning of the bling bling era and the record is rather bi-polarizing of that direction. In retrospect this album's importance and significance could be something I overlooked when gathering my thoughts, but for now I will look forward to obtaining their third "Aquemini".

Favorite Songs: Two Dope Boyz, Atliens, Wheelz Of Steel, Elevators, Mainstream, 13Th Floor
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Smashing Pumpkins "Machina - The Machines Of God" (2000)

Its been some time since I last listened to the Pumpkins, we last left off with "Adore", an album that marked a shift within the band that set them on a different path musically. Suffering the departure of drummer Chamberlin and brain of the band Corgan going through a deep depression, the shift is considered the end of their "classic" era and has since left fans divided on the bands musical output after this point. I found Adore difficult to fully appreciate, but it wasn't till after a wrote my blog and put it down that the melodies and echoes started to play in my mind, and picking it back up I really grew to love and appreciate what it was about. Having not been especially swooned by this record I'm wondering if it will follow suit with Adore, a record that absence grows fonder.

Machina sees the return of drummer Chamberlin and departure of bassist Darcy, but not a change that makes a drastic impact on the record, even with their drummer reunited the drumming has the stiff looped feel of Adore. On first listen their is a lot that feels like a progression from it, theres a thick ethereal ooze of airy noise between instruments, many acoustic moments alongside the return of distorted guitars that are fitting of Corgan's style that blurs the lines of Rock and Metal. It is a sound certainly identifiable as Pumpkins, but only lives up to their reputation in the strong moments of this record, of which their are many, but as the record draws on there are some less attentive tracks, namely "The Imploding Void" and "Glass And The Ghost Children", fifteen minutes that fall flat. Machina was originally proposed as a double album, and after being rejected by the record label the second half was released online for free the same year. One of the first records distributed online free of charge.

The strengths of Machina come from Corgan alone, his voice cruises over lush ethereal tonal guitars ringing out in a haze of distortion and melodic acoustics. Either jamming out a riff or parading a thoughtful lead, his voice coursing over the airy soaked layered sound is comforting and warm from track to track. The other instruments don't quite speak in this volume, the bass muddles on with a basic groove behind each riff and the drums are not as adventurous as they have once been, but its looped feel and contained approach may server as a better backbone for what is an indulgent and intoxicating sound on its best songs. On its quieter tracks Corgans ideas feel solid but just fall short in execution as the mediocre suffers the flow set by some of Pumpkin's best songs with "Stand Inside Your Love" and "The Sacred And Profane". Time will let me know more about this record, I certainly found some gems here, but as a whole it didn't quite smooth out.

Favorite Tracks: The Everlasting Gaze, Stand Inside Your Love, The Sacred And Profane, This Time, Wound
Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Haken "Visions" (2011)

Following up on my enjoyment of English Progressive Metal band Haken's debut "Aquarius" I had to check out there second release "Visions". Continuing from where the first album left off, Haken bring us another installment of there grand progressive form that sees no major shift in style or sound. "Aquarius" told us a fantasy tale revolving around a mermaid, and "Visions" comes fit with an equality solid, but vastly different, theme as a boy sees visions of his own death in his dreams, the lyrics tell a story of his life spent avoiding the knowledge of his impeding death. Its an interesting step from humorous fantasy to fearful introspection, but on the surface of the music its barely noticeable, the music operates on the same theatric level as before, giving us another epic serving of their unique flavor of Progressive Metal.

The record opens with an instrumental number that sets a tone and lays down some of the main themes heard in this album. Followed by "Nocturnal Conspiracy", the albums first lengthy epic, we are gently brought into the story with Ross Jennings soft and tonal voice narrating and hitting sublime notes as the song gradually intensifies. It builds to a moment where everything parts and a gorgeous piano lead gracefully enters over ringing guitar distortion and subtle strings and horns. Its a distinctive moment, one that revisited a couple of times. The following instrumentation really dives into quickening melodic leads exploring scales in a style reminiscent of Nobuo Uematsu's approach to progressive leads, it was a vibe I felt over and over in the better moments of this record, although a strength of this record was its consistency, continually impressive and well put together there wasn't a single dull moment. Progressive music of this nature is forever winding through passages and moments that its almost impossible to summarize, for all this album goes through it ends on a powerful high as the album's theme falls into place with the title track "Visions" a twenty two minute epic that ties everything together.

It should come as no surprise the record sounds great. Moving forward from "Aquarius" the fidelity has only improved. The kits got a lovely punchy bass kick, big spacious tom drums and a rounded snare that add up to create a kit for purpose, capable of theatrics and Metal rhythms. The strings and symphonic elements are exquisite, sounding almost real at times. Theres a great continuity, as the electronics and strings always participate and linger in the background when not in the forefront. It all ads up to a lush and capable sound thats fully utilized by grandiose musicianship. Visions is a strong record, self realized and stimulating, it conjures up a grand show of sound.

Favorite Tracks: Nocturnal Conspiracy, Portals
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 23 February 2015

Bauhaus "In The Flat Field" (1980)

With a recent exploration into the origins of Gothic Rock, Bauhaus's "In The Flat Field" was one I picked up alongside Christian Death's "Only Theater Of Pain" & The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry". It's a Post-Punk record thats been hailed by musicians as a hugely influential one, making them a "bands band" in some regards. The Post-Punk era is a fascinating one, a time of great potential and innovation. Here we can clearly here the origins of new ideas blooming a sound of gloom and darkness arriving with a distinctive clarity of vision. The expression and musical theatrics feel void of experimentation despite that era indicating you could of labeled it "experimental" at the time. This was the groups debut record and they released another three before disbanding in 1983, leaving a short lived legacy behind them.

The record starts with its most bi-polarizing track, "Dark Entries", which starts the record of with a declining single strum note riff that rings out some chords and shifts octaves in between blazing out the dark riff over and over. Theatrical, moody vocal musing don't detract from rocking feel this track delivers, but its far from what the rest of the record offers. As "Double Dare" starts we get a different feel from the same pallet as a submarine ping introduces distorted, fuzzing guitars into a dark, hopeless atmosphere. The guitars play between crumbling drum rolls that rattle in the absence of the distortion. This goes back and forth as Daniel Ash's vocal theatrics embellish like a performer at a play, exaggerating every word. Quickly a dark and paranoid atmosphere is established and explored as the song descends into itself, heightening with Ash's tempering line "I Dare You", performing the "I" over and over. It paints a powerful image of him parading around a set as he performs.

From that point on the album plays out an hour of theatrics, bold, dramatic, audacious and artistic manipulations of sound explore the doom and gloom through screeching guitars, muzzled electronics and big, tom rattling drums. The bass diversifies itself continually with all sorts of fx pedal manipulation. It sounds terrific for an old record, the space and atmosphere is captured finely without a dated feeling. The group utilized what was available and captured there expression timelessly. I have a lot of admiration for this record, but its not one that gets me especially excited. Perhaps they captured the gloom all to well, as these songs plunge into despair they do so artistically, not manipulating it for bombastic effect, but for the art itself. Every moment is intense and gratifying, but tends to stretch on as only a couple of songs change up the pace. Terrific record, was well and truly worth my time.

Favorite Songs: Double Dare, In The Flat Field, Dive, Stigmata Matyr
Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Bill Evans "The Bill Evans Album" (1971)

For as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated by Jazz music, not for just its soul, but its fade into the shadows over time. Jazz evolved and developed over several decades at a time where information and ideas moved slower. Over this time many styles, ideas and "sub genres" formed before its eruption in popularity in the 50s. This era gave birth to a lot of classic records which have since been forgotten by current generations following its rapid decline through the 70s and 80s. The emergence of Rock music and TV changed society in a big way, so much so that you can barely feel its legacy in modern music. With this disconnect it can be hard to find the right records for you, considering the substantial back catalog of Jazz thats available it is a sea of forgotten wonder to wade through, and its always a pleasure to find something to digest. "The Bill Evans Album" was certainly something I can dig my teeth into, having never heard of this musician before I had no idea what to expect, but alas here was a record I could dive into.

I find it especially difficult to differentiate the deeper artistic expressions in this music, for it is wildly different from modern music. Jazz is classy, bright and sophisticated. That may sound cliche, but its true. This music doesn't revolve around melodic hooks, repetition, beats or sing along lyrics. Its an entirely different construct of sound thats artistically inclined towards free flowing expression and atmosphere. Despite my love of this music, its one I struggle to articulate. Jazz is mysterious and felt beyond words, its as if a higher sense of self is reached through sound that strives for so much more than what we are. What I'm trying to say is despite my enjoyment of this record it doesn't leave me with much to say.

"The Bill Evans Album" is another liquid record that gracefully jams through lush fields of indulging Jazz as Rhodes keys, bright pianos and a walking bass groove vibe back and forth from one another as the kit guides them with gentle timbering ride cymbals, gracious snare fills and sensitive tom rolls. The pianos dances fluently with intricate melodics that glide through scales with a effortless free flowing spirit, signs of a great pianist at work. The bass is often a quite mode of groove, hammering away behind the Rhodes and piano, it occasionally steps into the limelight as all instruments do at one point or another. Its a warm record to feel good with a touch of introspection, more so that acceptance. With no hooks or obvious "moments" to point at, its a fluctuation of feels that wash over at their own desire, occasionally the Rhodes and piano chemistry peaks as captivating melodics overlap in brief instances. Another record in my collection, but nothing on par with the classics.

Favorite Tracks: Funkallero, Re Person I Knew
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 20 February 2015

Berlin "Pleasure Victim" (1982)

Searching for something a little out of my comfort zone I stumbled across "Berlin", an 80s Synthpop group who despite their name are from America, not Germany. Checking out this band in brief was a bit of a trip, a throwback to a scene barely recognizable in modern culture, but only in terms of looks and fashion. Synthpop left a resounding influence in pop and electronic music that can still be felt today, and despite a limited knowledge of the genre, this sounded like a prime example of the sound in its retroactive peak. This was when pop music exploded with rich keyboard synthesizer leads and catchy melodies, an emergence that leads us back to Krafwerk. "Pleasure Victim" went platinum in the states, it took ten years to do so, but now its success seems like something washed away in a ever evolving musical landscape.

Opening with a rigid and plastic electro bass lead, it doesn't take long for the retro sound to kick in as a hyped, glistening synth lead bursts into the fold with an almost cliche melodic lead. Rich synth strings fill the space behind as laser zaps and explosion sounds play away in the background alongside a condensed drum kit that sounds narrow and contained, but of course fitting of this style. Terri Nunn's vocals were initially a turn off, theres a raw authenticity to her voice that felt slightly contrasting to the music, there is a distance created between her traditional singing style and the glistening synths, which as time went on I found to be one of the more enjoyable chemistries on the record. Occasional guitar leads and overdriven chords bring some rock to what is fairly unadventurous record which exemplifies the Synthpop sound.

The record is short and sweet, across the 29 minutes 7 numbers play out with catchy infectious melodies that border cheesy, depending on your taste. The song "Sex (I'm A...)" grows into a cringe fest as moans and groans infest the track as it progresses. Its a thick slice of cheese between two enjoyable sides of a sandwich, which was easy to digest. After repeated listens I felt there was a lack of depth, light and cheerful on the surface the songs were simple pleasures of glittery sound of hooky melodies, but only a couple of songs had the character to stick in the mind. A worthwhile listen, but nothing especially great unless your really keen on Synthpop.

Favorite Songs: The Metro, World Of Smiles
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Enter Shikari "The Mindsweep" (2015)

For me, Enter Shikari are no normal band. They were once thee band in our local scene, playing at our schools, pubs and clubs we saw this band grow from the back garden to headlining festivals. Back when they were the unsigned hype in the UK we all knew where this band were going, they had heart and charisma, a sound they could call their own and a determination to live out their dream. I have an immense amount of respect for these four friends who started the band while still in school back in 2003. Through relentless touring and commitment to their music they have built a large audience across the world from the ground up with a DIY ethic, creating their own record label to release their music on and touring constantly, playing many clubs and venues across the land. Eight years on from the release of their debut major release Shikari have matured as musicians and this, their fourth, is their most structured and diverse record to date.

The record start of with a familiar feel as Rou gives another rousing speech regarding the state capitalist society and the problems we face with the need for social awareness, the music steadily builds intensity before breaking out into rocking riffs emphasized by sporadic synths and climatic melodic vocal leads. A warm opener for a record that got a lot to offer, Shikari's diverse sound is know for pulling many elements together, Alternative, Rock, Post-Hardcore fused with Techno, Trance, Drum N Bass and even tinges of Dubstep. The group are not afraid utilizing electronic club sounds alongside their traditional instruments. More so than ever we hear a dynamic fusion where the glistening synths and noisy glitch sounds compliment the core of the songs, giving them a rich musical dimension that never falls short to deliver delight. Whether rocking a guitar heavy breakdown, a moving rock ballad or slamming drumstep break, they find cohesion between the diversity of styles and write effortless music which further incorporates raps alongside the scream and clean vocals, even a Symphonic element is present with some soft strings dropping into particular tracks.

The albums production is classy, with so many instruments at working its great to hear them meld effortlessly, aided greatly by the production from Dan Weller of Sikth. Beyond the flush sound, the music itself is positive, upbeat and full of good vibes as the album courses through tracks that focus of the best of their diversities. Each track feels characteristically different from its predecessor and all of them are pack with musical moments you look forward too, whether a melody, riff or hook every song is filled with something to enjoy and despite being such a varied record is flows effortlessly. Its the first time I had listened to them and not yearned for something like the old classics "Sorry Your Not A Winner" etc. Shikari have matured, but here it really came together, firring on all cylinders. There was only one downside to this record, the lyrical content. Not much resonated with me, or even grabbed my attention, but that is no fair critic as words and lyrics often go right through me. Its been great to see the band progress, but here I hear their flame grow strong, a terrific record that sets them on a path for great things.

Favorite Songs: Anesthetist, The Last Garrison, Myopia, The Bank Of England, There's A Price On Your Head
Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A$AP Ferg "Trap Lord" (2013)

"Trap Lord" is the debut album of New York rapper / producer A$AP Ferg, a member of the A$AP Mob, a Hip Hop collective consisting of 14 members who have been active since 2007,  finding success in recent years. I found my way to this record looking for "Trap" music, a term used in Southern Hip Hop in the early 90s that has seen a wave of revival and innovation in recent years in both Hip Hop and Dance music. "Trap Lord" was a record of two halves, one great, the other awful, so we will start with the good. 

There is a stylistic formula at work on this record that doesn't take long to break down. Ferg's production follows some core principles that doesn't stray to far track to track. The kits are tight, sharp and cut finely. Crisp claps and snares groove with sudden kicks that leave a big space that even the sterile hi-hats don't touch, they rattle and stutter at varying tempos creating dynamic grooves that even the occasional reverb soaked snare doesn't touch. It leaves much room for the instruments to fill and the compositional arrangements have their own style not afraid to bring in minimalism with frequent kick and snare dropping. Filling the space the kit leaves are minimal leads from a variety of electronic sounds that rarely move beyond one or two layers. The melodies are simple, consisting of a few notes that repeat over and over. Its easy to strip down, but built up these songs build a contrasting air of swagger and paranoia that paint an image criminal wealth and looking over your shoulder. Further stylizing the sound, the vocals come with distant echo affirmation shouts and aren't afraid of using pitch shifts and effects in places.

Ferg's rapping is both rigid and laid back, his flow is often tight and repetitive, choosing words to fit a tight rhythm that loops over, occasionally Ferg suddenly shifts gears to double the tempo of his lyrics. Spitting stiff his tone and delivery is contrasting, sounding casual, often slurring or drawing out words, mispronouncing to fit a rhyme he creates a lot of substance and style. But thats where the good ends for me, the lyrical content of this record his ruthlessly misogynistic and graphic. Between boisterous sexism and degrading imaginary their is little substance that grabs me. Not a line sticks in the mind, even if the flows are enjoyable what their rapping about is hardly. On "402" and "Dump Dump" Ferg hits a low as he shows his self centered moral-less attitude, glorifying his promiscuous behavior and rubbing salt in the wound, depicting his victim crying on the record. I enjoyed the instrumentals, but the lyrical content leaves nothing to return to once the beats dry out.

Favorite Songs: Let It Go, Shabba, Lord, Hood Pope, Fergivicous, Cocaine Castles
Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Madball "Set It Off" (1994)

Madball are a Hardcore group from New York who formed in the late 80s and released this, their first album, in 1994, a post prime era for the Hardcore Punk / Crossover Thrash sound they deliver so boldly on this record. It exemplifies the energetic, attitude driven approach laid down by Hardcore bands in the 80s and delivers them in an easy to digest package that makes for a reasonable debut record.

In twenty six minutes Madball shred through 14 tracks of fist pumping, adrenaline soaked aggression. Focused tight palm mute crunching and power chord slamming, the guitars guide these songs to their grooves fit for mosh dancing. A ruthless atmosphere is built as the kit punches tight bouncy rhythms between the crisp snare and thudding base kick, the guitars delivering riff after riff of Hardcore fueled aggression. To no surprise the themes put across through Cricen's gruff shouts are of mental attitude. Pride, honor and respect, telling stories of personal betrayal, justice and the strength to deal with the hardships people put each other through.

The album starts of with a bang as their best songs slam down the thrashy aggressive dance friendly riffs to get you pumped and fired up with an attitude, dropping the tightest grooves and catchy shouts the record has to offer, as it stretches on the intensity loosens and songs get shorted, never quite reaching the energy and momentum the record starts with. Its a decent record, but only in its best moments.

Favorite Songs: Set It Off, Lockdown, New York City, Down By Law
Rating: 5/10

Monday, 16 February 2015

Tombs "Savage Gold" (2014)

Tombs are an American four piece band from Brooklyn, New York. "Savage Gold" is their fourth full length release, and beyond that there is little I can say about this group. I had not heard of them before noticing this album cover, which caught my attention and so I picked up a copy. Hailed as an "experimental metal" group I was slightly bemused as to what exactly was experimental, this was one of the most straightforward and gratifying Metal records I've heard in recent memory, yet it has to be said for everything that feels "normal" about their approach to writing music, the end result certainly has a unique flavor to it that I struggle to pinpoint its origin.

From the moment this album kicks off, it offers up a familiar formula of sound most common with early Black Metal. Crisp mechanical drumming hammers out blast beats and shuffling fills in between commonplace Metal rhythms as dense tonal guitars tremolo pick slow, snaky scale progressions. Mike Hill's gruff, narrow shouts snarl and scream with the blackened music. Melodic inflections character these songs in the moments the lead guitar breaks into a cleaner sound, but for the most part they follow a typically singular, simplistic approach, climbing up and down scales with an evil, haunting vibe, utilizing tremolo picking, power chords and the occasional dischord. The group don't stray far from this sound, the tracks like "Deathtripper" and "Severed Lives" bring the pace down, and atmosphere up as Hill draws out whispering screams over menacing guitar leads.

The album has a patient flow to it, despite its blasting drums the pace is steady and many riffs and moments are drawn out, not in a hurry to leave the place they create. Its an unusual listen. To break it down there is nothing unique or special, yet as its own art it offers something subtly distinct, despite its familiarities. Its the kind of record that doesn't blow you away with any moments, but creeps up on you as it slowly wraps its tentacles around you, sucking you in. Equally so I didn't find these songs to stick in my mind, yet they are a pleasure to listen to. I think these are all signs of great musicianship that is focused on the consistency and subtleties, more so than an upfront, in your face attitude. And on a final note, the kit sounds gorgeous, the snare has texture, the kicks rattle deep and the toms are given treatment too, one of the best sounding kits I've heard in a while.

Favorite Songs: Seance, Deathtripper, Edge Of Darkness, Severed Lives
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Russian Circles "Memorial" (2013)

Russian Circles are an American three piece instrumental Post-Metal band from Chicago who formed over ten years ago in 2004. This is their fifth full length release and my first exposure to this band who are receiving much critical acclaim at this moment in time. "Memorial" has been a curious listen for me, a slow burner of which my appreciation for has steadily grown with each passing listen. Its one that calmly drifts into the background, yet with more familiarity becomes increasingly captivating and indulgent. Its a bi-polarizing record that can be gentle and soothing in its calmer, melodic moments and morose in its dark and heavy passages that are orchestrated through dense atmospheres of metallic shoe-gazing.

With no room for cheap tricks, hooks or verse chorus structures, Russian Circles create a constant evolution of sound where each moment feel as relevant as the next. Each song expands and contracts, grows and flourishes in climactic glory before fizzling out in a wash of atmosphere that leads into the next moment. The guitars sound enormous as they wrap there selfs in layers of thick sound, achieved by reverb and echoing effects that amplify and build up the grand moods. The drumming is a commanding and driving force that guides these songs too their destination with thoughtful rhythms and crashing symbols that create a thick layer of noise above the thoughtfully composed base snare grooves that subtly magnitude the music without crashing into the spotlight.

Across the eight songs the group offer a diversity of unraveling ideas that in a fair few darker moments utilize some common Metal riffing styles in the most uncharacteristic of ways. It ends with an extension of the opening track, featuring Chelsea Wolfe's vocals that tease a glorious compliment between the two musical forces. At no point in this record is their a moment where the instrumental arrangement is questioned, but her voice brings them to another level. Its an interesting way to end the record which has proved to be an artistic endeavor of rich atmospheres and dense sounds. Although not every track hits the same level of indulgence, its a record that continues to grow on me with every listen.

Favorite Songs: Deficit, 1777, Lebaron, Memorial
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Pearl Jam "Ten" (1991)

Peral Jam are an American Rock / Grunge band who rose to fame in the early 90s with the explosive popularity of Grunge. Coming straight out of Seattle, the scenes origin, the group would release their first and best selling album "Ten" in 1991. The record was not an instant success but continued to steadily sell and picked up steam the following year. It has since gone 13 times platinum in the US alone and has helped cement their place in Rock history. Despite being a seminal act of one my favorite eras of music, I had hardly ever heard the group before, so I picked up this album with very little idea what to expect.

My first impression was good, but quickly I found myself asking "Is this grunge?". Softer guitar tones, less aggression and gliding, passionate vocal leads painted a Alternative/Classic Rock feel to a record that swiftly captivated me with composed rocking grooves, subtle melodics and Eddie Vedder's mighty, captivating presence as the front man who pours an immense amount of heart into his free flowing afflictions and anthem like singing. Before I barely knew a song I found myself singing along to his wild descending ascending vocal hooks on "Alive". Singing and lyrics are often like another instrument to me, and although they sit in the forefront of much music, its not often I find myself engrossed in what their doing. I've been scratching my head trying to remember when a singer last captivated me like this, but Vedder's passioned singing is memorizing and by grabbing my attention so vividly he lets the quality of the music behind him speak volumes in a subtle magnitude, before breaking out explosively in the moments of his absence.

The chemistry between the instruments is dynamic and powerful. The group achieve a big rocking sound with no need for heavy overdrive or cheap tricks. On the track "Why Go" the guitars slam in over a glistening bass line with a mammoth, melodic groove. There is a big space in the sound, the drums rattle away orchestrating the rhythm and although feeling distant from one another they fill this space rocking out Classic Rock riffs with a jamming feel. On particular tracks the group bust out into guitar solos that have a magnetic energy to them as they wildly shred leads reminiscent of Skynnard and Hendrix over a steady bass. The more I talk about it the less I see the Grunge. This group just rock hard in a classic style, but bring a newer sounding tone and drive, complimented by Vedder's theatric perfomances.

The group also calm the mood with some dreary melodics and quieter, progressive numbers that build up big atmospheres. All of this is amplified by the subject matter of the lyrics which are surprising candid and bold. Tackling topics of suicide, depression, abortion and mental illness this album strolls through dark territory while maintaining an upbeat mood. The track "Jeremy" really pulls at the heart strings as Vedder sings tribute to a young boy who took his life in front of his classmates, a mental state reached from the abuse suffered at home and from his peers. Its a climactic moment in an album full of terrific songs, the sort that closer examination just yields more admiration of the instrumentation that can sometimes feel I little hidden behind Vedder enigmatic performances. A stunning debut record.

Favorite Songs: Even Flow, Why Go, Jeremy, Release
Rating: 9/10

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Emperor "In The Nightside Eclipse" (1994)

As a young teen I found myself drawn like a magnet to the Norwegian Black Metal scene of the early 90s. Not long after finding my way to Metallica and Metal music I was scouring the Internet with a thirst for more. I'm not exactly sure where it started, but quickly I was ordering obscure import records from Norway, utilizing the Internet at a time when online shopping was in its infancy. Having heard very little of this music I was sucked in by the mystic, pagan artwork and before long I was picking up records from bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum etc.. At first I barely knew what to think of this dark and overwhelming music. It was loud, a noisy claustrophobic dive into a dark and mysterious world. Somehow I knew it was the music for me, and as time went by I got deeper and deeper into this dark and wondrous music. Emperor's "In The Nightside Eclipse" was one that at the time that "broke the ice" and was the first record I really understood. Almost 15 years later I still can't get enough of this masterpiece. Last year had the privilege of seeing it played live in its entirety, something Ill never let go.

Nightside was released when the scene was in its infancy, more specifically right at the beginning of controversy and intense media scrutiny surrounding the scene as a result of the church burnings, murder and satanic rituals that had become linked to the music scene at the time. Black Metal's original concept revolved around "anti-music", the idea to intentionally make inaudible, low fidelity, harsh music that was everso rebellious in nature. Taking on a stark image through corpse paint and satanic symbols, the scene quickly attracted extremism that would result in the aforementioned controversies. Nightside is where things changed. Emperor took the aesthetics and dark sound of Black Metal, and used it to write deep and intelligent music while fusing a symphonic element into their sound, a move that at the time would of seemed "experimental" but would inspire a generation of bands to come.

A whirling storm of evil and descending eerie synths march to a thunderous noise as the record plunges us "Into The Infinity Of Thoughts", a title fit to set the tone of the vivid ride through your imagination this album will set you on. Blitzing blast beats and hazy, tin guitars tremolo pick a furious melody. Ishan's snarly, raspy screams crash into the fold with the symphonic keys, revealing their glory immediately. The vocal like choir synth expands the record into a new dimension, brining an enormity and epic feel that quickly and almost subtly shifts into one of many beautiful moments on this record. The key shifts up and the dark sound reveals hidden beauty, descending strings amplify the underlying majesty of the music and we get our first taste of what makes this experience a transcending one. Diving further into the track, it breaks from the relentless onslaught and between thunder strikes and cavernous winds the choirs calm like the quiet before the storm and then plunge us into symphonic, melodic bliss with a stunning imagery of limitless magic.

The rest of this album marches forward triumphantly through seven more tracks that further explore the principle and theme so well expressed on the opening track. Without repeating themselves, Emperor dive into the majestic eternal world and steer us through the mysterious ancient. The vivid imagery is painted through timeless riffs and choirs that make every song a sheer joy to indulge in. As the album draws close to its end the infamous "I Am The Black Wizards" plays out some of the most memorable riffs, leading the song into an epic climax as endless synths ooze their glorious absorbing sound over the bass and guitars. The song then plays into what could almost be described as a "breakdown" riff before ringing out a timeless melodic lead as the song sorrowfully concludes with Scandinavian clean vocals and snarling screams.

From a technical standpoint, this record sounds claustrophobic and messy, but more so than ever does it play into the charm of the record. The extremity of the musical delivery, the noisy shell it resides in further amplifies the distance from reality this record exists in. The dense guitar chords and thin tremolo leads are bombarded by nauseous drumming, the synths bleed their way through the wall of sound and this is where the magic happens. The keys come from a far and are absorbed into the fold, leaving a tonal wonder instead of clarity that compliments the mystic themes perfectly. Plenty of technical errors and noises can be heard, but they don't detract anything from this record as the tonal sound the mixing style achieves just amplifies the immersion and wonder. Its a strange thing to describe, as it captures the magic through what could be perceived as inferior, but thats the way it works. "In The Nightside Eclipse" is one of my all time favorite records, one that has never failed to excite and invigorate me. A timeless record I can listen to endlessly.

Rating: 10/10

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Napalm Death "Words From The Exit Wound" (1998)

Here we are again with another Napalm Death record to consume and digest. Having recently covered their newest release "Apex Predator - Easy Meat" I continued, based on a recommendation from a friend, with another record from their 90s era of experimentation with incorporating elements of Groove Metal and Hardcore into their sound. Just two years after "Diatribes" I was expecting a dose of groovin grinds, slamming blast beats and head banging hooks, which the opening track "The Infiltrator" delivered like a hit to a fiend. Excited for the rest of the record, I found the mood and pace to shift direction, and within a few tracks and this album had a harder substance to divulge and after several listens I've grown fond of this record, which although feeling similar to Diatribes, its quite a different beast.

By the third track "Next Of Kin To Chaos" the tempo is calming and a slow grinding tremolo picked riff guides the song too discordant notation and progressive leads that focus on developing a mood and builds up an intense atmosphere thats not orchestrated by dizzying blast beats, or pummeling aggression. From this point forward Naplam feel co-ordinated and expressive through guitar riffs that contain tempered grooves and chugs, instead of blunt force brutality. Theres a subtle Hardcore vibe at work in the guitar rhythms that resonate tightly with themselves as the drums keep pace. This feels especially emphasized on "Devouring Depraved" as the orcherstrating drums build up suspense by crashing down on the toms with tribal instinct, for a subtle, powerful and chugging riff to slam in with the songs climax.

As the record plays out the group play through a variety of ideas that let the guitar speak for itself, aswell as bring in some "clean-ish" vocals in places. "Incendiary Incoming" is a track worthy of mention that sees Napalm step to a southern vibe with slick pinch harmonics and a bendy, shuffling groove rhythm guitar reminiscent of Dimebag. The tighter guitar and composed attitude of this record makes for one that offers more than "all out heavy". The mood and vibe of each track becomes bigger than its peak or "break out" moment, and an array of interesting compositions emerge in the quieter moments, many with a subtle Hardcore tinge to them. A strong album that does not show its colours without several listens through.

Favorite Tracks: The Infiltrator, Next Of Kin To Chaos, Cleanse Impure, Devouring Depraved, Incendiary Incoming, Thrown Down A Rope
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 9 February 2015

Slayer "God Hates Us All" (2001)

The beast that is Slayer has been blowing us away since the 80s with their devilish aggression and pummeling brutality, an undeniable force of sound that has shaped the generations of metal to come. Slayer are gods, their legacy is pioneering and there character, the soul of their music is pure enthralling chaos. Songs like "Angel Of Death" and "South Of Heaven" never fail to get the goosebumps and adrenaline flowing. They are anthems of darkness, the celebration of the evil in ourselves. Slayer paint the ugly truth in our reflection for all to see and question. To listen to Slayer is to clench your jaw and fists, bang your head until your neck hurts as the music bleeds out all your hate and aggression. In the 80s the group released a string of iconic records that stood aside from anything else at the time, and even now no one has been able to step up their sound. "God Hates Us All" was the Slayer record of my generation and one that received a mixed reception. The record got a lot of hate for incorporating ideas from the Nu Metal scene and stirred huge controversy when it was released on September 11th 2001, 10 year after the controversy with "Seasons In Abyss" being filmed in Egypt before the Gulf War.

 "God Hates Us All" is a record that deserves more credit than it gets, after the general disappointment of "Diabolus in Musica" Slayer come back with a record so violent, angry and spiteful its a dose of everything a fan could want. Departing from there traditional songwriting style Slayer reinvent them-selfs with a deafening guitar tone that bludgeons and pummels the listener with tight grooving palm mutes, slamming dropped guitar riffs and throttling thrashing riffs entwined with those haunting melodies and demonic, chaotic solos the band definitively call their own. Somehow holding the relentless pace together is Paul Bostaph's sticks and kicks crashing through the fold with booming bass kicks, a sharp, clinical snare and thunderous tom rolls. Araya's vocals are as on point as ever, possibly the greatest Metal vocalist ever, his forceful shouts are decipherable in a rage of anger and hate. They capture all the scream has to offer, but somehow he finds a stunning balance to get the words across to those less a custom with shouts and screams.

The title alone sets a vivid tone for this record. If you were to take the old testament God literally, it would be a fitting statement. Slayer see religion as a problem, and make God their enemy in a record that asks many questions of hypocritical practices in society carried out by church and government. It address those who are alienated by biblical beliefs and mocks religion and money for its apparent incompetence to solve the worlds problems. At times its clever, but mostly its not here to change your opinion, this is release of frustration and hatred best displayed on "Exile", a song that rips through curses and intense violent imagery aimed at anyone in Araya's way. His audible delivery makes for an engaging listen that will have you screaming along in anger.

Slayer do a lot right on this record. Musically they nail the influences from the trending Nu Metal scene, the guitar tone is massive, the bombastic chord riffs are executed to perfection, and at no point do they compromise their identifiable sound. From start to end "God Hates Us All" rips through track after track of aggressive hate fueled fire that burns bright. My only quarrel with this record is a lack of stand out melodic leads and unique riffs, almost everything here is working around chord driven ideas and thats fine, but Slayers best moments come from the songs that extend their theme through unforgeable leads and crazy unpredictable riffs, ie "Raining Blood". As the record draws on its hard to remember which moments stood out the most, the constant whirlwind aggression pummels on without break for a anthemic lead or riff it so dearly needed. Bloodline comes close with its breakout sing along chorus, but it doesn't come close to the classics.

Favorite Songs: Disciple, New Faith, Cast Down, Exile, Bloodline, Deviance, Here Comes The Pain, 
Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Kraftwerk "Computer World" (1981)

My fascination with Kraftwerk was reignited after catching a BBC documentary about the group. It covered the bands history and impact on electronic and pop music in extensive detail. Of course I had to seek out a new record to listen to after enjoying "The Man-Machine" and "Trans-Europe Express". "Computer World" or "Computerwelt" as its German recording is called, is the groups eighth album, one that could be considered their last as the pioneers of electronic music given the lukewarm reception of future releases.

The title of the album alone captures the essence of theme and concept this album puts across so boldly, in a typically quirky and eccentric Kraftwerk manor. With the songs "Computer Love" and "Home Computer" predicting a future where computers become an integrated part of our lives, both personal and societal. Kraftwerk, in retrospect, saw a coming change in society and packaged it into an artistic observation and expression. Through their minimalist lyrics, they express a world of connectivity to digital media that leaves us isolated from one another. Its poetic, and true, depending on your interpretation or perspective. The quirky, digital electro sound and theme may not reflect the feel of a future now present, but how their vision sounds "retro" is charming and full of a timeless character.

The aesthetic itself is much softer and rounded than previous records, the buzz saws and sine wave synthesizers are significantly easier on the ears from where technology has improved. The warmer, richer instruments fill more space and disguise the minimalism at work with their lush and gentle tones that play out glorious melodies, one of which from "Computer Love" is their most wondrous, a timeless melody so graceful and innocent, you'll simply never forget it. A chromatically soft pallet doesn't hold the group back from finding a darker tone. "Home Computer" splices in with a dizzying melody picturesque of the deep sea and "Numbers" creates a lifeless computed atmosphere with its vocoded words and shuffling percussion as the computerized vocals count up and down. Its a fantastically progressive and forward thinking album that sees the group execute a visionary theme while further expanding the possibilities for electronic music.

Favorite Songs: Pocket Calculator, Computer World 2, Computer Love
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 7 February 2015

M.O.P "Warriorz" (2000)

Browsing through my archive, looking for something to work out to, I stumbled across this record which I had not listened to in years. M.O.P. are a Hip Hop duo consisting of Billy Danze (left) and Lil Fame (right) from Brownsville New York. In 2000 the group peaked commercially with this, their fourth record, Warriorz. Hit songs "Cold As Ice" & "Anti-Up" saw unexpected mainstream success at a time when Eminem & Dr.Dre's popularity was undoubtedly influencing mainstream's exposure to Hip Hop music, and opening the doors for other artists. Although its not a classic, this record was a favorite in my youth at a time when I was discovering the worlds of Hip Hop and Heavy Metal. "Anti-Up" was especially successful, so much so it charted in the UK outside the usual alternative charts which it topped. Ill never forget hearing two old radio presenters on BBC radio one loving the track and getting into it, rapping along with the song live on the air.

The duo have a dynamic relationship, complimenting one another at every turn. M.O.P. deliver a lot of energy through their raps and fiery vocal delivery. In their stronger, energetic moments the two back up each others rhymes and chime in to echo one another in an interlinking manor. Its not uncommon to hear rappers support other rhymes, but the two do it in a hyped and intense character that is their own. Both Danze and Fame have big, loud delivery and slightly gruff tones to their voices, their frenetic, shouty flows are attention grabbing and make for a fiery delivery of their lyrics. The content is surprisingly tame in retrospect. Lyrically they write solid raps, but the violence isn't quite what I remember, lots of stories of street life and coming up from it, but next to no misogynistic lyrics which has become so commonly associated with Rap music. On the track "Face Off" Danze delivers the a verse that stuck in my mind all these years, a track of two distinct half's that goes from struggle to swagger, "I'm a mess with stress, though I present it with finesse, sometimes I feel as if my heart is coming out my chest". A dramatic expression which Fame's verse in the second half goes in another direction. Across the record the two deliver many gripping stories and thoughts to dive into.

The beats that back the duos energetic presences are solid, audacious, polished works finely constructed with drum machines, electronic instruments and unimposing sampling that reflects the 90s-00s era. With production from DJ Premier its not surprising the quality is high. The beats have that composure and air about them, similar to Dr.Dre's "2001", that give lots of room for the drums to deliver tightly composed kick and snare grooves, accompanied by clear, melodic keys and instruments that drive home catchy melodies and kicks. The albums first half is strong, tight beats, a range of themes and a tribute to the oldskool, but the second half does tire a little as the album spans seventy minutes. Despite a range of creative beats the formula stretches on to a couple of good tracks near the end. Terrific record from my youth that still sounds great in its best moments.

Favorite Tracks: Everyday, Ante Up, Face Off, Warriorz, Old Timerz, On The Front Line, Cold As Ice, Operation Lockdown, Foundation.
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 6 February 2015

Fen "Carrion Skies" (2014)

Fen are back! With another record, for which as long as they exist, I will be interested in hearing. As I touched on in my blog of their previous album "Dustwalker", Fen are a group from England who's sound captivated me on their first album, but have since failed to spark a magic I believe they have within them. I walked away from Dustwalker with mixed feelings, their gorgeous sound of dark melodics, naturist beauty glazed in ethereal shoegazing is the perfect setting for wondrous, captivating music, but never a melody sticks in my mind or does their music leave me with something eternally lasting. Its always a rich, absorbing listen, but is momentary within the music. It's selfish, but I want something more from this band.

Every listen of "Carrion Skies" was a positive one, relaxing and naturist, it was exactly what I expected from them, but as I've already touched on, it feels like it could be something more. The band cruise through progressive epics that mostly last ten or more minutes, winding their way from riff to riff, through passages of melodics and inspiring ethereal indulgence, that often accelerates into traveling energy of blast beats, tremolo picking and rough, beastly screams, utilizing many traditional Black Metal and Post-Rock approaches in their own way. Its not until the track "Sentinels" that my ears perk up to a hazy melodic riff coarsing under dreamy vocals crying out "The sky is a sphere". Its a moment that stuck with me, but a lone one through sixty minutes of music id say is "doing everything right", but somehow doesn't.

There are many varying degrees of enjoyment with music, and to be analytical about it prompts many questions about the listener, the music, and what it all means. With an intrinsic imagination for music I can hear beyond the aesthetics, I hear the notes, the rhythms, in any form, but the artists expression is always the mystery to divulge. With Fen I feel their genius is one I hear, but perhaps I don't quite connect with it. Always enjoyable to listen to, but always leaves me feeling like something is missing. Whatever it is, I am clueless.

Favorite Song: Sentinels
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Master P "Ghetto D" (1997)

Taking another dive into the Southern Hip Hop scene I picked up "Ghetto D" based on a recommendation from a friend. Hailed as a classic, it's Master P's sixth album, a rapper who's name I've heard often and is cited as the most successful from the South, maybe more so for his entrepreneurial business endeavors than his rapping. This is P's second best selling recording released on his own record label "No Limit Records" that stars a whole array of guest rappers who span all but one track on this lengthy record. 

My initial impressions were not so pleasing, the opening track's crack production tutorial set the tone for an unapologetic attitude that initially was hard get into. The souths boisterous, aggressive delivery style took some getting used to. Shouty, jittery delivers from some of the albums guests served as a style over substance that grew on me greatly. The use of subtle echos and reverbs add a lot to raps, especially when the focus is flow and texture, more so than the lyrical content. Through it all Master P is solid as an anchor, his low-toned, deep voice and competent flow delivers consistently, engaging us in socially conscious and drug-related topics with no shortage of boasting provado. His style is his own, but there are some big 2Pac influences at work on this record, ranging from the beats to rapping which includes quite a few reiterated lines and statements for Pac's songs, the track "Tryin 2 Do Something", a rework of "Bury Me A G", or the original "For the Love of You" by The Isley Brothers, depending how you look at it. And of course I have to mention the UGH. P's loud, forceful ugh shout which caught my attention with a touch of amusement, a primal expression that was so simple and catchy that by the end of the record had me saying UGH too. 

The beat production of this record is solid, timeless. The style is focused on drum machines and electronic instruments that create a crisp, solid and punchy sound from all instruments that play our some grooving arrangements. Theres room for the occasional sample, but in general its a progressive step away from the sample oriented sound of the early 90s. Warm simulated baselines, colorful keys and electronic leads decorate these tracks with energy. The hi-hats also caught my attention, with a recent introduction to Trap and its fast rhythmic notation I heard an early incarnation of appreciation for the hi-hats that had them inflecting rhythms instead of keeping count. The variety and quality in this record is substantial, the 19 tracks range all sorts of classic Hip Hop themes and vibes and through the 80 minutes it never tires. Although I prefer shorter records, this one just didn't let the foot of the gas, there was only one or two "stand out" tracks, but none that felt unworthy of my attention. Great record, I feel this one will help me step into the Southern scene as I seek out some more artists to listen to.

Favorite Tracks: Ghetto D, We Riders, Plan B, Weed & Money, Captin Kirk, Stop Hatin, Make Em Say UGH, Going Through Some Thangs, Come And Get Some
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Knife "Deep Cuts" (2003)

Having adored Fever Ray's only release "Fever Ray", I sought out more music from Andersson who is one half of Swedish duo "The Knife" who sound a different breed to Fever Rays inducing Art-Pop experience. Deep Cuts initially came of as a quirky, retro electro record that wouldn't be to my liking. But first impressions are simply that, impressions, and deciding to pursue this record was the right choice. Upon several listens this album really started to click and my initial dislike of the bold buzz-saw synthesizer and dense buzzing bass subsided as the chemistry between theme and execution started to make sense, and the songs started to reveal there charm. Its since become a favorite of mine in recent weeks, serving as an upbeat, warm and fun record that breaks up the moreso morose music I usually find myself drawn too.

My context of this album in relation to the electronic scene is basically non-existent. I was a little surprised getting ready to write this blog that the album came out in 2003. I'm not sure how but I had it stuck in my mind this was a recent release, but considering its over 10 years old, it seems relevant to point out this record sounds fantastic and I can picture the music itself being of influence to others at this time, however this is speculation and beyond my comprehension. So onto the album, its an energetic listening experience, one which does not repeat itself, and with a measured pallet of sounds explores an array of moods and ideas which range from obnoxious pumping dance, to gentle, ambient strollers. Each track presents and sticks to an idea within its shorter duration, 3-4 minutes, each song delivering catchy leads and hooks its fails to slow down as the album continually moves from strength to strength.

The chirpy, buzzing synthesizers carve the character of this record, but behind their bold intrusive sound lies great composition, creating poppy, layered, simplistic melodies that shift and swap between one another, allowing the focus to shift effortlessly between instruments. The drum pallet its typically dance with the rolling bass kicks, snaps and claps, and also a pleasant of occasional inclusion of tropical steel drums. In front of it all Andersson's off kilt and eccentric vocal performances act like the fusion point between the instrumentation and their ideas. Her leads shift with the songs, delivering the higher rangers with the dance songs and, low artsy readings with the slower tempo tracks, and the unusual use of electronic voice morphing on tracks like "The Cop" is another nice touch in a collection of expressive and artsy performances. The record's production is solid, not a bad word to say about it. Great record.

Favorite Tracks: Girls Night Out, Pass This On, The Cop, You Take My Breath Away, You Make Me Like Charity
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 2 February 2015

Killing Joke "What's THIS for...!" (1981)

Killing Joke are an English Post-Punk band who on this record, as the genre term suggests, are writing music and developing their sound in the Post-Punk era. Looking back on it through records like this and many others in the early 80s, it was an interesting time where the DIY punk approach had opened the doors for aspiring musicians to find audiences on a smaller scale outside the mainstream, the result is a foray artsy punk records, laying down ideas that would develop into Alternative, Industrial and Gothic Rock in the coming years. After enjoying there 1990 release "Extremities, Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions" I decided to head back to their second album purely for its title track "The Fall Of Because", which by no coincidence is the original name of Industrial Metal legends Godflesh.

Listening with the intent of hearing what inspired Godlfesh to create such a monolithic sound, I could instantly hear what it was this album offered. Through a Punk aesthetic Killing Joke take an entirely different approach to songwriting, turning most the norms on its side and rebelling against most the ideals laid down by the Punk movement. The band create big drawing atmospheres by slowing down the tempo, pounding tribal, repetitive percussion that most notably makes almost no use of symbols, and a very quiet hi-hat. The bass chugs and thuds under the discordant guitars that riff out an unconventional style, making great use of noisy chords and striping out any melodic leads or hooks. It drones and hums through repetitious riffs that contribute to an almighty sound thats desolate and baron, yet full of energy and culture, Coleman's roomy shouts further capturing this unity of separation.

The album is varied within its concept, alongside some moodier tracks the group deliver some classic tunes, "Tension" & "Follow The Leaders", with a fantastic sense of rhythm you can clap and move along to, the second of which uses some subtle synthesizer elements, including a high pitch string and shaky tonal noises that subtly add a lot to the song. A few other track utilize some electronic sounds that really do give this album an extra dimension. I wonder if it was noticed much at the time considering the emergence of electronic instruments as a result of Kraftwerk's experimentation. The album sounds great, its got character and holds up well today. Terrific album, one which I think will grow on me with time.

Favorite Songs: Tension, Butcher, Follow The Leaders, Madness
Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Napalm Death "Apex Predator - Easy Meat" (2015)

The new year gets rolling with another release from a favorite band of mine, the legendary Napalm Death who's legacy and importance in extreme music is undeniable. With a career spanning over 30 years the group are still capable of outputting relevant and impacting extreme music. This, their sixteenth album, is the latest in a string of quality and consistent albums that have established a definitive sound since their groovier experimentation in the 90s. Having digested a lot of this band in recent months I was excited to hear about the release of this album which establishes its theme and inspiration through the album title and cover alone.

It was no surprise to hear the group stick to their guns, theres barely a shift in tone or style from the last few albums and serves as another dose of what most fans are after. The album opens up with a diversely different song to start the record off, vocalist Barney bellows a slow, deep series of lines that drive in the theme this album wants to make very clear. Some tribal, borderline industrial drums chime in as Barney delivers some snarly leads for noisy discordant guitars to rise up alongside the angering percussion. As the song intensifies and ends we are throw right into the pit, fast swirling riffage, blast beats and angry brutal screams unite to burst out into a bombastic groovy riff. Its the formula that works, carnal aggression and energetic brutality leading into a tangent of grooves or "breakout" moments that this album didn't quite have in the quantity of previous records. As a whole the record seemed to focus on the overall intensity of the songs which were relentless and grinding as ever. It saw the groove element pushed to the side in favor of those blasting circle pit riffs that they delivered in quantity.

The aesthetic of this album is chugging and dense, a lot of the mix happens through the midrange giving the kick plenty of room to breathe alongside the bass as the guitars and vocals cram up alongside each other, the design is executed exceptionally well and gives the guitars an aggressive edge in its higher ranges. Its a terrific sound matched by some great brutal music. With a large discography of records and songs Napalm have to compete with them-selfs in some respects, and Apex Predator holds up well in their catalog, which despite its quality wasn't quite what I was hoping for. Having enjoyed a lot of Napalms groovier records my apatite wasn't quite met and my personal enjoyment of this one doesn't really reflect a great record which has a lot to offer anyone in the mood from some intense, pummeling grind.

Favorite Songs: Apex Predator - Easy Meat, Smash A Single Digit, Hierarchies, Adversarial - Copulating Snakes
Rating: 5/10