Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Julie Cruise "Floating Into The Night" (1989)

A dear friend turned me on to this record, it felt immediately indulgent, familiar like a recollection of memories not my own. I'd never heard of Julee Cruise before, the American singer was hailed with fair regard at the time as being an influential voice, however time has left her attached to this record through the track "Falling", the theme song from "Twin Peaks". It was her first release of four, interestingly each of them released in separate decades, her career now spanning over 25 years.

"Floating Into The Night" is a distinct record of indulgent serene melancholy. Moving at the calmest of paces we drift, comatose and detached, through gentle ethereal lullabies, hypnotized by comforting balances of emotion that sooth and flirt with an eerie undertone, almost haunting in moments, but forever feeling safe. Its a unique sound achieved through the subtle droning and repetition of light, tender instruments and glistening strum guitar chords, brooding together in an atmosphere fit for solitude and introspection. Julee's voice guides a soft and sombre path through the carefully poised ambiance that often unites both a sense of gloom, and bliss in the same space. A unique chemistry.

Perfect for the right mood but hindered by its own genius, the record as a whole is so dreamy and soft its flaws stick out like a sore thumb. Track after track of ethereal ooze leaves the underwhelming tracks spinning in the mark of their predecessors. A few bold moves to break up the spell feel rigid, "I Remember" breaks the rhythm and hits us with darker instrumentation in an obviously nightmarish moment that maybe lacks some subtleties. A saxophone breaks the tone of one of the tracks best songs and "Into The Night" includes a sudden orchestral hit that feels completely unnecessary yet it does direct a sense of reality into the track.

Julee's voice is so subtle, soft and caressing yet powerful and alluring. Her voice further exemplifies the chemistry of the instruments, adding another strange and wonderful balance of eerie and familiarity into the sleepy atmospheres these songs create. Its a remarkable record, but far from perfect. In a moment its indulgent, as a whole it stretches itself with a couple of underwhelming tracks, but either way a very niche record I'm happy to of discovered.

Favorite Tracks: Falling, Rockin' Back Inside My Heart, Into The Night, I Float Alone, The Nightingale
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 29 June 2015

Izioq "Retro Life" (2015)

Emerging from the from the year 1982 this mysterious musician "Izioq", a name that looks confusing to pronounce, brings us a dose of nostalgic bliss with a retroactive worship of childhood memories inspired by the technical limitations of early computer game consoles. The cover alone gives you a strong sense of what to expect, and behind the hood we find a dazzling production that brings the best out of the buzz-saws, sine waves and digital synths of times gone by. It is not an unfamiliar concept, but on this project the focus is on the charm of the era.

On "Retro Life" the listener can take a step back in time as these songs allure like lullabies swooning you into a simpler, innocent existence, one very familiar for 90s kids with each of the track titles referencing the culture of that time. The titles are direct and so is this music which doesn't over extend itself, yet finds a balance to develop short layered compositions with jubilant, delightful melodies that transcend the simplicity they are reflecting. The compositions are adept with the techniques used in 90s VGM and even finds moments to integrate the ambient and "power up" effects into them. These songs are deep, heart felt and meaningful, all of which is apparent on the glimmering surface of every song which has a story to tell.

The compositions have a grace thats amplified by the gorgeous production, so carefully respecting the original sounds and delivering them in layers with soft reverbs that like them ooze and meld together for a rich and polished tone that can do no wrong. The chemistry is sublime and powerful, allowing the expression to shine through. For all I love and respect about this record it does not suck me in as much as id like. These sounds and the nostalgia it worships are not one I share, but I hear it clearly, on a personal level its a charming listen, but objectively id say a very special one.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Metallica "Ride The Lightning" (1984)

Sooner or later I knew this time would come, a day to write about "Ride The Lightning", Metallica's second record, and one that changed my life forever. It feels almost blasphemous to write about a record my words could never do justice for but in a moment of inspiration it feels like now is a better time than never. As a young teen searching for something different to MTV's narrative I found a show listing great records on VH1. Two caught my attention, N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton" and this one. "Fade To Black" swept over my hears as the dark acoustic, sombre guitars evolved into a racket of furious energy controlled by Hetfield's masterful rhythm guitar and youthful, slightly out of depth voice, the track evolving into a flood of serene, pensive color as each note of Hammet's enigmatic solos fall like drops of rain. I was blown away, and couldn't put this record down. I used to play it back to back with AC DC's "Back In Black", it was always my favorite of the two, and the excitement it gave me then I still feel today fifteen years later. It posses an interesting question about the bonds you make with the music your first exposed too, but that could not dismiss the stunningly imaginative and down to earth record this is.

Now legends, then a band with a fair amount of attention releasing their sophomore album, RTL came at a time when Speed Metal was seen as a passing fad and the glory days of Heavy Metal were over, but alas this record would set them on a path to bring Thrash Metal to huge audiences but for Metallica this is an ever so important part of their evolution, shedding the Speed Metal scenes aesthetic, attitude and traits of "Kill Em All" and taking their speed and technique to a dynamic, structured dark sound met with deep and meaningful lyricism that gave their Metal music a very grounded, relevant and emotional basis to relate to, as opposed to the heavily thematic and fantasy driven styles of past. This was the first album where Hammet was involved in the songwriting, his distinct leads giving their sound a whole new dimension as well as Hetfield defining his direction as a rhythm guitarist, stepping away from the Mustaine's style so dominant on the predecessor.

Where RTL gets faster, it also broods and molds as riffs find a relation to the bigger picture. Fast and thrashy tremolo picking finds its place with slower chord driven moments to create songs with a lot of direction and meaning. As the dark, fast pounding numbers thrash onwards they create a menacing soundtrack for Hetfields apprehensions with judicial systems, suicide and biblical slaughter. His voice forceful and vibrant, yet pushing himself in ways that leave a slightly sheepish undertone in the moments that stretch his ability, its a charming performance, haunting on "Fade To Black" and one that shows he can fill big shoes.

The record doesn't loose its focus for a moment before ending with the lengthy instrumental progressive climactic "The Call Of The Ktulu" showcasing the records aesthetic through cold, punishing guitars, Hammet's lightning leads and Burton's monstrous distortion bass rocking under riffs that lead to a mighty finale fit with lightning strikes and a riff that will always leave you yearning for more. As much could be said for every track on this record which makes its mark with such unique, undefinable qualities in the songwriting and structure that have helped the band build an audience of fans who simply can't stop screaming "Die!" to "Creeping Death", a song played at practically every concert.

Although RTL feels like the perfect record, there is one qualm I always have, Ulrich, certainly not a prolific drummer, his sloppy bass pedals and sometimes struggling performances have a certain charm to them, yet there is rarely a moment where his drumming stands aloud and grabs your attention. He is far from inadequate, and compliments Hetfield well, but often leaves me wondering if someone else could of done it better. Its not a criticism, just a curiosity, and with that said I do enjoy his choices, especially the bass and cymbal thump to the punch moments of the guitar. It will forever be a record I love, and one with a true air of magic and experience that can't be expressed with words. Its cathartic for me, an album that opened me to a new world of music, one that I couldn't do without. Metallica have been massively influential on fans and musicians around the globe, and for me "Ride The Lightning" is where their genius shines its brightest.

Rating: 10/10

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Lord Lovidicus "Book Of Lore Volume I" (2015)

A new Lord Lovidicus record is always an excitement, but with most of the post-2012 releases I find myself at a loss to assess what it is this album does for me. Following the current path of progression "Book Of Lore Volume I" expands with more lush folklore inspired tales and melodies that reside in the imagination for a nostalgia that blurs the lines of history and mythology, creating cultural music of vivid immersion. The book of lore is no exception but it no longer has the surprise or wonder the project once had. These qualities were what drew me to LL in its Dungeon Synth days, and now the magic is a familiarity.

The record side steps from 2014s "Wandervogel Des Waldes", dropping some of the eerie, dungeon-esq qualities for a purer, clearer arrangements that captures the brighter sides of these fantasy worlds visited through the music. The percussive elements adapt culturally with a spirited tambourine guiding Bongo-esq hand drums and atmospheric gong hits which provide a strong back bone for carefully crafted strings and leads amassing to clear, direct and vivid soundscapes that stroll through their own moments in time. "Mines Of Nargothrond" came as a pleasant surprise, a re-imagining "Mines Of Moria" in this new pallet, but it lacked the charm of the original.

The album wanders through track after track of bright vibrance that feels animated and colorful, yet the familiarity separates it from the impact it once had. There are many moments for charming leads to take hold and indulge the listener but for me its a drop in an ocean of music I feel well versed in. Its hard for me to like the same thing over and over, I like music to be adventurous and challenging and this is anything but. I still enjoy this record, it does no harm, but its become all to familiar to make any lasting mark on me.

 Favorite Track: Telperion And Laurelin
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Limp Bizkit "Gold Cobra" (2011)

Lets rewind a few years back to "Gold Cobra", the return of band everyone loves to hate, Limp Bizkit. Ten years ago they dominated the airwaves at the turn of the millennium before enduring a patchy period of lineup changes and flopped records. Their reunion with original lineup and announcement of a new record came as a shock at the time. I enjoyed this record back then but never gave it too much time. Catching Bizkit live many times since their reunion has been a true treat for the inner-child in me that loved them in my youth and recently I found myself with a hankering to listen to this one as its hooks and catchy edge swirled around in my mind these few years later.

Having reabsorbed this record I find myself with a greater appreciation for it, but I have the same qualms as back in 2011. Lets start with the positives, on "Gold Cobra" Bizkit recapture the essence of their attitude and style thats been absence since "Chocolate Starfish", but this is no nostalgic recreation, its a forward thinking record that finds the five band mates progressing as the group they once were. John Otto is keen on his kit bringing that loud slamming rock energy with a strong Hip Hop groove. At times he's a little quite but theres plenty of moments where he comes to the fore front with a massive beat. Rivers is steady and subtle as ever, rocking powerful lines under the guitars, giving much backbone for Borland's charismatic guitar style which doesn't have quite the explosive edge it once did, but he finds plenty of ways to excite with an arsenal of strange guitar noises and new rhythmic approaches.

DJ Lethal is relatively absence on this record, making his appearances in between tracks with the occasional drum sample jamming with Borland's alien leads but not bringing a lot of impact to the rest of the music with the occasional scratching and samples ringing in the background, not the same charm it once had. Fred Durst is the biggest point of contention on this record. His voice and energy is right on the mark, but the lyrical content is certainly an oddity of its own. The flow and hooks have it, but the lyrics are as tame as ever. Fred was never hailed for his lyricism, and as an adult his profanity driven attitude and basic vocabulary doesn't have the charm on me it did in my youth, at the same time there's hooks that get stuck right inside your head despite a lack of depth or connection, most the time its in one ear and out the other.

The record as a whole feels like what you world expect from and old Bizkit, theres that variety including mellower tracks reminiscent of "My Way" and "Re-Arranged", as well as some heavier aggressive numbers. "Gold Cobra" gives a fan everything they want, but its biggest flaw lies with Fred who's lyrics feel stale in a vibrant racket of energy. Great and unexpected come back record. Now I'm looking forward too "Stampede Of The Disco Elephants".

Favorite Tracks: Bring It Back, Gold Cobra, Get A Life, Walking Away, Why Try, Killer In You
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 22 June 2015

Craig Mack "Project.. Funk Da World" (1994)

Having recently discovered Notorious BIG's "Life After Death" I decided to do a little research into Big Boy Records where I found Craig Mack and his 94 release "Project.. Funk Da World". It was the New Jersey based rapper's debut and Bad Boy's second release one week after Biggie's "Ready To Die". The cover and name drew me in, it had that early 90s look and feel but as they say, never judge a book by its cover. My first listen through had me pretty settled on my opinion of this record and nothing has changed since.

Project funk the world is all style, no substance. It opens with a mediocre grimy low-fi beat reminiscent of Jeru The Damaja's "Come Clean". Craig comes in with a subdued, yet boisterous energy and gruff, slurred accentuated delivery and a tone reminiscent of Redman, the vibe is set and I was hyped for what felt like the beginning of something great, but quickly the rain put out my fire and enthusiasm for this record crumbled as the tracks droned on through a stale and dull chemistry which doesn't hold up against the better records of the era.

Firstly Craig's raps don't evolve beyond a funky fresh flavor filled braggadocio of 90s lingo and buzz words that cycle over and over, reminding us hes got the style and all other MC's don't. To be fair there's a bunch of great lines in this record, but they are far and few between. Craig drop's these lines in the midst of sluggish verses that roll through the same boasting topics over and over again. His chopped up flow and accentuated delivery build some excitement, quickly dampened by lyrics which lack substance. There's about one sniff of an interesting topic somewhere in the track listing but its too little to save the record from the bluster. 

Second, the beats, to be fair the production isn't half bad but lacks the polish and spark to stand merit on their own, and with Craig not bringing much to the table these samples and loops feel pretty stale as they cycle under an underwhelming performance. Overall its very much half and half, but with a lack of lyrical substance from Craig it becomes a disappointing and forgettable record I have little to say about.

Rating: 3/10

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Fractal "Luminate" (2013)

Consisting of just three tracks, this short EP from Baltimore based DJ "Fractal" serves as chilled yet energetic amalgamation of styles that pulls from House, Drum & Bass, Dubstep and Ethereal through a dreamy ambient overtone. The tracks "Breath" and "Same Side" have a fluid, dynamic flow, sharing a comparable pallet of airy vocal leads, bright Ethereal synths and a warm robust bass that glues the Dub like snare and kick into the fold. The two share similar leads and melodies, but "Breath" steals the show with its progression and climax to an almighty moment that conveys a stunning, beautiful lead vocal that conjoins with a surreal wave of oozing Ethereal synth and pounding energy from the bass and drums that leaves one feeling unsure if they want to dance or lay down.

The records production has its instruments tightly packed together and competing for volume in a compression heavy mix that is becoming rather commonplace in post-Dubstep electronic music. Its well executed on this record and has the kicks and leads punching through the dreamy wall of synth effectively. The first track "Luminate" is a great example, a song littered with samples, noises and glittery leads that continually pound through the bass lines backing. Its a tight composition of numbers that ends before it gets going and the disappointment, as often with EPs, is the length, a lack of substance, however that can't fault the songs here which are charactered and immersible.

Favorite Track: Breath
Rating: 3/10

Friday, 19 June 2015

Grover Washington Jr "Feels So Good" (1975)

American saxophonist Grover Washington Jr was born and raised in New York City. From a young age he was taught the sax and for his musical output in the 70s is considered a pioneer in the world of Smooth Jazz. Like Return To Forever's "Romantic Warrior", this is another record from the "Jazz Classics" that quickly defined itself as a calmer, smoother, soulful record that cruises through relaxed, chilled out numbers and grooves that bring a spicy of funk to an obvious Smooth Jazz vibe led by Grover's steady leads on the sax. This record and "Mister Magic" released the same year remain as his commercial peaks on the American billboard charts.

Smooth around the edges, this record actually contains a fair amount of funk and energy between the calmer, atypical styles of Smooth Jazz. The opener, "The Sea Lion" has a powerful narration from the string section which fades in from black to brew the bolder moments, seemingly jumping it at will to emphasize the point. Never as ever present, it drifts to the background for the rest of the record which jives and jams its way through colorful themes of class and style from a now retro past. "Moonstreams" is an exception as the records sleepy number that slowly drifts down the river as a gentle lead guitar plucks a mellow, tender soul.

The last three tracks delve deeper into the Funk and Smooth chemistry as tight chunky baselines strut under soulful saxophone leads that feel their way through the jam. The drums are there throughout, accommodating the flow but feel damp and contained in a mix that gives the aesthetic a lot of clarity for the other instruments. Its a record thats engaging, but far from memorable. It suits a mood but fails to leave a melody or moment in my mind. 

Favorite Tracks: Knucklehead, Hydra
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Download Festival 2015 Top 10 Performances

I've been going to donington for nearly a decade now, and although I've missed a couple on recent years I absolutely adore this festival which proves time and time again to be an amazing and truly inspiring event. With the venues history and size its like mecca for metal heads and fans of heavy, alternative music. In recent years the direction has broadened to incorporate more rock and alternative than in previous years and the result is a diverse line up rammed with so many bands you'll never be short of something to watch!

(10) Corrosion Of Conformity
My first time seeing this band and they had one of the best sounds, everything was crisp, guitar tones where niche and the performance tight. Especially enjoyed bassist Mike Dean's groove and energy while playing.

(9) Madball
Having recently enjoyed their debut "Set It Off" I had no reason not to check them out, and they rocked a great set for a smaller crowd who were really into it. Especially liked frontman Freddy Cricien's attitude on stage.

(8) Lamb Of God
Tight, solid performance with decent sound from a band that delivered the aggression and Metal I was in the mood for. Good set, included some new songs which sounded decent.

(7) Slipknot
Disappointed the weather held me back from going down the front where the action is. Even though my hunger for this band is still strong I found myself enjoying it from a distance despite being cold and wet. They still put on a great show.

(6) Dolomite Minor
Visiting the forth stage in between bands is a must! I've discovered many gems doing this and Dolomite is one of them! This duo rocked some serious oldskool Rock / Metal grooves on Sabbath like tones, playing them over and over to great effect.

(5)  Evil Scarecrow
Was blown away by how fun this band were at Bloodstock. There was big anticipation in a rammed tent for these guys who's reputation is growing. The show and music was spot on and very entertaining. It felt like they were ready for a bigger crowd, maybe second stage next year.

(4) Suicidal Tendencies
Absolute legends, I hastily made my way from Shikari to find myself in a wild and energetic crowd that were living up every song in the tent, crowd surfing, moshing and general chaos ensued seeing out the festival in unforgettable style.

(3) Marilyn Manson
At 46 it was obvious that his performance wouldn't be quite the spectacle it once was but given my recent found love for his music this would only be fantastic. His persona was a little strange, he seemed fascinated with Ice-T who was watching but it just added to the mystique and turned out to be one hell of a show.

 (2) Body Count
Never thought id see this band. Seeing them on the bill was like a wet dream and I made sure I was there at the killing floor to watch an absolute legend perform with a band I've been listening to since I found Gangster Rap and Metal. The set was explosive, the band came out looking mean and ready for war. They rocked a hard set of classics, Ice-T hardly looked his age and gave a lot of energy, their bassist shocked me as he bare handed ripped the strings of his bass during their exit from the stage. Amazing.

(1) Enter Shikari
I wasn't anticipating much more than an enjoyable show. Got a spot right behind the barrier center stage and found myself getting totally into their performance. A few songs in I made my way to the pit and moshed the night away to a fantastic set that had me in high spirits. The mud, the weather wouldn't stop us! It was all about the music and reminded me that this is what download festival is all about, and why I will keep going.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Notorious B.I.G "Life After Death" (1997)

I can't recall how or why, but from an early age it got stuck in my mind that Biggie was a rapper I didn't like. About nine years ago a colleague turned me onto "Ready To Die" and I wouldn't denied that I really enjoyed it, despite still being a little skeptical of the New York rapper. Over time my preconceptions subsided and I grew a lot of respect for one of Hip Hops finest rappers. "Life After Death" is the first posthumous from Biggie who's fatality came two weeks before this record release. Upon recently discovering this I had to give it a listen, I had been under the impression all these years that this one was like "Born Again", a collection of outtakes thrown together without his input, but the album was completed before his death. Its almost eerie to see the cover now, the hearse, the title predicting his mortality and behind it all an absolute gem I've missed out on all these years.

Life After Death quickly makes its mark, your eight tracks deep and realizing every track is a classic. The bold formidable attitude of Biggie's raps gravitates with sleek, crisp gangster beats creating fleshed out immersible themes that dive into Mafioso Rap thanks to excellent production from Puff and a wide array of collaborators who brew a consistent, flowing record thats flexes between mob threats, to Biggie rapping over oldskool classics (Schooly D) and jumping into disco party numbers and back again with a natural flow within the diversity. Theres 110 minutes of fine Hip Hop full of beefs, drama and digs, classic verses and anthemic beats that take a leading step into the money and success bling era of Hip Hop. 

Across the record Biggie brings in a fantastic selection of features that bring their own style to his, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony bring their tuneful gangster melodics to "Notorious Thugs", Jay-Z with his champaign sipping "I Love the Dough" produced by Easy Mo Be sounding like a "Reasonable Doubt" outtake. R Kelly crafts a seductive, alpha male, 90s RnB track "Fuck You Tonight" that works despite being the most polarizing track on the record. The Lox join Biggie on "Last Day" for an East Coast gangster track reminiscent of Mobb Deep. It was a refreshing approach to collaborations and really stood out as a strength for this record, keeping the flow varied and oozing with variety as Biggie lends the spotlight to his guests to make some classic collaborations.

The production on this record is the finest Ive heard in a while, you can hear its relavence to bringing the bling era to the mainstream with sleek stylish sampling and drum programming taking a step away from the rawer, bombastic early 90s sound. Its forward thinking in the record their are some dazzling moments. "I Got A Story To Tell" rattles a sleek groove between snare claps over a guitar sample for the entire song, and its repetition is perfect for Biggie to flow a fantastic story over. "Last Day" features a slick emphasis as a rolling bass drum kick grooves under the tracks best lines. Easy Mo Bee also grabbed my attention with some fantastically crafted numbers, including "I'm Going Back To Cali" which plays of the aesthetics of  Dr.Dre's "California Love", including the memorable vocoder effects.

Biggie's raps speak for them-selfs, smooth flow, engaging and his flustered tone is easy on the ears, but trying to analyze a little deeper has always been a little difficult, hes got a charm thats hard to put your finger on, but this record has me believing its the lyrical creativity, obviously, but how its delivered through flows where Biggie drops rhymes to his own grooves thats not strictly in line with the beat. The splitting of words to match his groove is also a finesse touch, and I love his singing voice on "Playa Hater", a crude cover of "The Delfonics". Its unapologetic, humorous and enjoyable. Life After Death is a classic I can't help but love, and will be one I turn to often. My only qualms with this record is Puff throwing himself into the background of a lot of tracks, laughing and being unnecessary, its an annoyance. The second disc also has a couple of track not quite at the level of the first, but they are still great songs. Terrific record, very glad i found my way to it.

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Metallica "St. Anger" (2003)

Having caught up with my musings on the records Ive digested recently I thought it would be fun to pick out this confusing record from my youth, listen to it once more and give my thoughts on what is generally considered a catastrophe from the worlds biggest Metal band, Metallica, a band that needs no introduction. Having grown up on the first four albums this was to be my generations Metallica record and the excitement was immense, six years since "Reload", the return of Bob Rock, a few years after the Napster controversy and at the end of the Nu Metal mainstream success this would be the groups last release in the MTV / RIAA controlled industry era which really went all out to give this record hype. On its release it was highly praised, reviews were great and airplay was high, me and my friends loved this record. I can't remember in what time frame it happened, but it seemed like everyone sobered up quickly, re reviews rolled in and the hysteria died down fast and the album received a lot of flak, especially online in a different era of internet communication. Its legacy is that of a flop, a joke, a record hated by fans and songs no longer played live.

Its been over a decade since I gave St. Anger a proper listen and in that time I've grown as a listener, expanded my horizons and have gained a lot of patience for finding the magic in the music so it wasn't much of a surprise to find this record rather enjoyable. What I was surprised by was my memory of the lyrics, not being one for lyrics I could recall a fair amount of Hetfield's words from over a decade ago. The same goes for the rest of the music which I quickly noticed how much of this comes from Hetfield alone, with no solos from Kirk and backing bass from Bob Ross, we are left with the duo that have been together from day one. Lars's drumming is relatively adequate, slightly sloppy, but has that charm to compliment the rhythm guitar well. Of course the "St. Clanger" snare is an earache, not the worst of choices to leave the snare wire loose, but why all the time? Theres moments where the clang brings a lot of energy, but its difficult to stomach it so consistently.

Its quite difficult to think "this is Metallica" with St. Anger. Its hard to separate the monumentally brilliant music they wrote in the 80s from this grizzly, noise aggressor, but if you listen without bias this record has some strong points going for it. The guitars are massive, taking obvious influences from Nu Metal, Hetfield finds a noisy, tonal assault that works well with simplistic grooves accentuated to great effect. Its a little hit and miss in places, much like his vocal input which has some brilliance at times on tracks like "Frantic", "My lifestyle, determines my deathstyle", which quickly sour with the "Fran-Tick-Tick-Tock". The same goes for "Shoot me again, I ain't dead yet" before incessantly shouting "Shoot me again" over and over.

Essentially, its a mixed bag of results. The production has a rough, slightly messy feel to it, but I can't help but feel thats an important part of the concept, if you consider the stripped back approach with simple song structures and lack of solos, "St. Anger" comes across like a band writing songs for the first time and is very much removed from anything the band did together before it. The snare sound is a big snag, especially on  "Dirty Window" which takes the clang to unbearable levels. The album also rocks out a few clean guitar moments in between the riff onslaught which has some serious substance in places. For me this record is all about Hetfield who put a new approach and craft into his guitar that hit the mark with tonal timing oriented grooves for the most part. I'm still undecided on if this was a enjoyable nostalgia trip or a genuine experience of the music, but one things for sure, if you separate the band from the music its not a record you'd get upset about. I remember a quote from the band saying they wanted to become a part of the Metal landscape, rather than its peak. No record will ever change there place at the throne of Metal music.

Favorite Tracks: Frantic, Invisible Kid, Shoot Me Again, Purify, All Within My Hands
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 7 June 2015

IGORRR "Moisissure" (2008)

Continuing my backwards exploration of French multi-instrumentalist Igorrr's discography we come across the second full length, "Moisissure". This record was ultimately what I was expecting to find at some point, a reverse engineering of the unique chemistry that mezmorized on "Nostril" and "Hallelujah". Here the contrast is still rigid, and the experiment obvious, but their is clearly potential and of course we know it was fulfilled.

Thinking in reverse progression makes my opinion somewhat bias knowing the direction Igorrr would move in and its been hard to get away from pointing out where this record falls short of its predecessors. To merit its good points, it has atmosphere, a calmer vibe and great sample selection that allows one to indulge in the Baroque and Renaissance eccentric moments without being overheated by the hammering electronic glitching and break beats. And thats where the fun ends.

The moments where the frenetic glitch blasting and audio oddities come up against the sampling is where the rigidity of the experiment shows itself, the glitching often dispelling the atmosphere rather than creating it. The beats previously had the listener at their mercy, but on Moisissure they tend to rattle alongside without manipulating much of the songs flow. Its easy now to see where Igorrr was going, but at this point its yet to work and "Brutal Swing" would be the best example of this experimentation falling flat as ludicrous blasting goes up against chirpy pianos and swing vocals with no excitement born from their union. Worth the listen, but not something ill be returning too.

Favorite Songs: Putrefiunt, Huile Molle
Rating: 4/10

Friday, 5 June 2015

Animals As Leaders "The Joy Of Motion" (2014)

Animals As Leaders are an American trio of musicians founded by brainchild of the bands aural identity, Toni Abasi. His mastery of the 8 string guitar gave himself and his band a spotlight of attention around the release of their self titled debut back in 2010. Toni's guitar style was memorizing, fast, intricate and thrilling. Not only technically gorgeous he forged a new sound and approach to the 8 string, combining the familiar low end polyrhythmic djents with bright, clean acoustic shredding that blazed sweeping melodics alongside glitchy electronics. It was a sound that influenced the likes of "Sithu Aye" and others in the present Progressive Metal scene.

The Joy Of Motion felt like an instant familiarity, tight bass and drum grooves guided enigmatic colorful leads through a sea of songs that sailed at explored many themes. After a few listens the class of this record started to shine. On the surface the bands sound has barely progressed, but in the subtleties their craft has taken on a maturity that delivered many of their best grooves to date. The polyrhythms come at an ease and technicality that made them much easier on ones sense of rhythm and groove, while still retaining some level of complexity but friendlier overall. Within these grooves a lot of the metal tones had been transitioned to a battered, beating of the guitars for much more tonal and textured noises to chime with the beat, as opposed to chords and leads the band continually made low clunky noises and harmonics. In terms of the melodic side there was a touch of Latin guitar in the acoustics alongside the guitar solos making this record very colorful and bright, as one would expect.

The records production was exactly what they have needed. Compared to the previous two records you can hear a wealth of depth and clarity in all the instruments and their presence together. It gave the record a stage for the charm of this groups sound to shine, and it did so. All the songs were bright, warm and indulging and together it made for another strong record that felt very safe within the means of what this band are capable of. For everything I enjoyed it came as no surprise, I find myself more interested in what their next progression could be, however there is nothing here to be disappointed about.

Favorite Tracks: Another Year, The Future That Awaited Me, Para Mexer, The Woven Web
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Sigh "Graveward" (2015)

Japaneses Black Metalers "Sigh" have been around since the scenes earliest of days. Back in 1990 the group released a couple of demos of grim, rough and primitive Black / Thrash Metal on the other side of the globe, even before the scenes flourishing in Norway. It wasn't until 95's "Infidel Art" that the group started to break away from the traditional sound and show sparks of their own flair. The group would further explore avant-guard sounds and ideas that lead them to their 2001 magnum opus "Imaginary Sonicscape". Since then the bands experimentation and shifting of theme and direction has been hit and miss, mainly the later and Gravewards announcement was unexpected, but didn't rouse much excitement.

Its undoubtedly one of Sigh's best sounding records from a technical perspective, having suffered with patchy, inconsistent production in the past, Graveward has a solid mix that energizes the array of non traditional elements that became the most exciting moments alongside the gruff, grizzly guitars and harsh, raspy screams that didn't offer many new ideas, but provided an adequate footing for the albums more extravagant ideas. Alongside the metalic elements, orchestral horns, trumpets, organs, synths and strings blaze in and out of focus, jumping in at any moment to take over the direction of the guitars, and often the moments they become the main focus are the best in the song. These elements themselves have captured a nostalgic, ancient feel too, taking on a historic feel, that once again the orchestral elements home in on, in contrast the Black Metal undertone.

The song "Molesters Of My Soul" is the records most experimental, avant-guard track and for its richer depth of ideas, ranging from Metal solos, to glitched out electronics and all sorts of symphony in between, its a great example of whats not working on this record. All the grander moments are spliced between mediocre metal and harsh screams that cut the atmosphere like a knife. Usually this chemistry is the groups success and the lack of songs stuck in my mind was a clear indication that the songwriting was off the mark on this one.

Favorite Songs: Graveward, The Tombfiller, The Trail By The Dead,
Rating: 5/10

Monday, 1 June 2015

Herbie Hancock "Thrust" (1974)

Herbie Hancock is an American Jazz pianist from Chicago who has played alongside such legends as Miles Davis and Donald Byrd. His career of solo records started in the sixties with "Takin Off" at the age of twenty-one. He has since release over 50 albums across five decades. Along the way hes received critical acclaim for a handful of records. "Thrust" is not one of them, but simply the record that pulled me in and got me listening.

The opening track, "Palm Grease" is a laid back jam fest of perpetual funk bass grooves and spacey, outlandish jives that dance and play around the unfolding groove that moves its way through ten minutes of free flowing improvisational unraveling after a cow bell drum break in the beginning and mid section that I have heard sampled on a fair few older Hip Hop tracks. This opener shows a lot of funk flair, but the next three tracks elevate to a higher dimension as the funk grooves hammering on the bass play second string to the keys that take the helm with layered compositions of airy, organs like keys and layered synths as the drums get heavy on the ride symbol and flow into the Jazz improvisational style. "Butterfly" gets soulful with a strong, moving tenor sax lead from Bennie Maupin that graciously sees us in and out of a calmer number that amplified with Herbie's mid song leads climaxing with oozing synths.

Its an exciting listen for the newer elements I'm being exposed to, but it does often drift into the background a little as some of Herbie's leads worm around themselves without conclusion. Bennie's feature was the most congruent moment on the record, and despite the excitement of being new to the Funk-esq Jazz feel, I felt a lack of focus or direction left some gorgeous sounds, aesthetics and musical ideas drift into unconscious territory. Very enjoyable listening experience that will have me seeking out more Jazz-Funk.

Favorite Tracks: Actual Proof, Butterfly
Rating: 7/10