Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Digable Planets "Reachin' (A New Refutation Of Time And Space)" (1993)

Reading a top 90s Hip Hop songs list cropped up an unheard of group at number two. Its somewhat of an oddity to find groups from this era that escaped my radar, but lo and behold here was Digable Planets and the super slick track "Cool Like That" with its big groove baseline and the Jazz Hop vibes similar to "A Tribe Called Quest" and the Native Tongues. They are a trio of Rappers from Brooklyn who signed to Pendulum in 92 and this is their debut, which had the hit single from the list.
The record's a smooth, gentle breeze of laid back jazzy vibes blowing in the wind as the trio deliver soft, warm and welcoming raps of expanded consciousness and social political awareness. The trio all have such friendly and polite tones with chilled flows that make for the most inoffensive rapping I may of ever heard. Lyrically its a little inconsistent, in some moments they nail the vibe with memorable lines "We be to rap what keys be to locks", smart and intelligent lines but often it doesn't come of with the same finesse. With a lot of witty lines to burn through it does tire a little as the record draws on.

The beats have a spark of magic, the epitome of the classic 90s sound with a current of cool jazz struck a nerve. Undoubtedly some of my favorite beats Ive heard this year, especially "Jimmi Diggin' Cats" sampling of Kool And The Gang's "Summer Madness", a song that's in two other I love, Ice Cube's "You Know How We Do It" and DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince's "Summertime". There's many terrific uplifting samples and a great selection of beats that aren't to overbearing. Unfortunately I felt the final tracks on the record drifted in mood and didn't have the same spark. My overall impression is that of a flawed classic. There's so much good to praise, but its also inconsistent and patchy too.

Favorite Tracks: Pacifics, Where I'm From, Rebirth Of Slick, Jimmi Diggin' Cats
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 28 September 2015

Gnaw Their Tongues "Abyss Of Longing Throats" (2015)

Its been a while since Ive delved into the hell hole of depravity that is Gnaw Their Tongues, one man band of Dutch musician Mories. I discovered this project back in 2009 and it has remained as one the most haunting and bone chilling sounds Ive ever heard. Its a noisy, claustrophobic and harrowing musical experience with an unrelenting apatite for discomfort in the exploration of perverse corruption in humanities darkest corners. With a large, patchy discography littered with EPs and limited releases in between its hard to stomach it all, but of what filth I've wadded through there is plenty of quality compositions to be found in the full lengths, including this one, his eighth in nine years of the project.

In the earlier days Morries's music was a catastrophe of symphonies colliding in a haze drenched with thunderous crashing symbols and tormented screams. Over time inklings of structure and Black Metal crept into the fold and made "Abyss Of Longing Throats" a vastly more approachable listen than I previous remember. The constant ticking of buried drums and their alterations helped guide the listener through the shifts of tone and direction under the constant haze of evil and discernible noise. Erie distortions, muffled screams, bellowing baselines, distant bells and howling winds. There's an endless list of what might be happening in the frenzy of noise these songs concoct.

The opening track is by far the records best. A discordant fuzz of guitar sets an instantly unwelcoming tone as the screams of restless spirits drag us below into the sound track of hate, pummeling crashes and strikes of metal. The nefarious choir chants build a dreading atmosphere that continually shifts one to the next before reaching an interesting conclusion in the endgame of the track as buried horns cry out from an industrious soundscape of grueling mechanical construction. The guttural vocals and lighter atmosphere on the following track also made a mark but beyond that the record descends into an expected trail of endless noise that fails to spark a memory. I'll always be interested in this project, however I find it no longer has the capacity to be unexpected or as mesmerizing as when first discovering such godless music.

Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Dead Kennedys "Frankenchrist" (1985)

The Dead Kennedys are a legendary American Hardcore Punk group from California who developed a large underground following in the 80s. They had a short lived life-span, forming in 78 and disbanding a year after this record having become disillusioned with their own music scene that no longer represented what they stood for. They were involved in a few controversies but time has served them well, their music and legacy often held in high regard. I was introduced to them around eight years ago and I knew one day It with click with me, and that's what happened! Listening to Black Flags "Damaged" got me in the mood for more Hardcore Punk and I picked out this record having recently learned about the HR Giger artwork controversy that took the band to court following Frankenchrist's release. I can't believe its taken me so long, but now I adore this band.

This record really sucked me in, Its got a lot of energy and quickly I found myself running and working out to it, making the most of the exuberant, youthful energy the music and lyrics filled me with. It didn't take long understand their sound, there are some very distinctive accents that flavor the Hardcore Punk sound. Slower tempos and guitars leads with a western flick vibe make there mark on the songs flirting with tinges of Surf Rock and Psychedelia in between its aggressive and angry Punk core. The creativity flows freely through a track listing of distinct songs with variety in plentiful amounts. Its either riffs, vocal hooks, guitar leads or Biafras politically and socially charged lyrics, each track has a distinct quality and from start to end the group roll out brilliant ideas one after another, even extending to interesting song structures.

The records production does a lot for it. The guitar leads have a raw and hazy tone that comes to life in a recording that fills the space with a big hall feel, creating a ton of atmosphere. The drums and vocals feel more contained and muted in comparison, but its a rocking chemistry and the bass is gorgeous, deep and tonal, rattling and pounding away, often leading the march and throughout the album its very audible, its texture contributing a thick backbone under the spacious guitars. Even some Mexican horns crop up in "MTV Get Of the Air" record, alongside the western guitars they fit right in. The following track "At My Job" drops the guitars for a big synthetic saw wave lead emphasizing the horror show circus vibe of the track. Again, it fits right in.

Whatever the Dead Kennedys set out to do its done with style and substance and the record is littered with inventive approaches, especially front man Jello Biafra who's charged and thought provoking lyrics come wrapped in a variety of deliveries that range from driving sing along hooks to moody theatric play acting. Everything about this record was a delight and I still can't get enough of it.

Favorite Tracks: This Could Be Anywhere, Chicken Farm, MTV Get Off The Air, At My Job, Stars And Stripes Of Corruption
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 24 September 2015

OverClocked ReMix "Doom II Delta-Q-Delta" (2008)

 Here's a record I almost passed over but curiosity got the better of me. "OverClocked ReMix" is an online community of musicians who re-imagine the soundtracks of computer games in their own vision. Despite hearing nothing but praise it didn't appeal to me much, but how foolish could I of been? I picked out the Doom soundtracks since its my favorite game and just after a couple of listens I was sucked in! The vibe and atmosphere was very fitting of the game, and the instrumentals had a level of craft and care similar to the C&C soundtracks composed by Frank Klepacki.

As a community driven record there are many musicians at work here, sometimes collaborating but mostly working on their own, each with a level song to rework. Despite a range of aesthetics and approaches, the record has a strong flow as the themes and mood shift through track to track. Even going from chirpy electronic led tunes to pounding on metallic guitars the record flows well with one exception, "31 Seconds" sounds out of place, its indie guitars, bright pianos leads, light drum kit and voice samples had me thinking I was listening to "Public Service Broadcasting". I thought id messed up my records playlist!

The atmosphere is ripe and the songs stroll through with an ambient quality that has subtle leads, chords and arrangements working around one another a typically soundtrack fashion, letting your attention focus to whatever is at hand while these songs steadily build and grow with a few distinctive melodies and moments cropping up in between. The whole soundtrack is a mash up of styles that has many dynamic components working together. You can hear elements of Metal, Noise, DnB and Big Beat around the predominantly Electronic and Industrial tracks.

The chemistry between these styles is executed with a vision and on "Icon Of Sinewave" we hear samples of our hero and the demons that create a dark and gruesome scene of the game before crashing into the main theme which amplifies the grueling intensity before breaking to an uplifting fast tempo beat that reminded me of being "in the zone" playing Doom. The samples could of featured more but it may have been overkill to do so. This is a fantastic soundtrack that produced a couple of real gems I will be returning to fore times to come.

Favorite Tracks: Westside Archvile, Crushing Headache, Silent Healer, Icon Of Sinewave, Ablaze
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Die Krupps "V - Metal Machine Music" (2015)

Die Krupps are a German Industrial Metal group known to some for their tribute record of five Metallica songs released in 92, and to others for their unique blend of EBM and Industrial Metal. In the 80s the group was making Electronic music Ive never given much of a listen. In the 90s they started incorporating distortion guitars and changing the mood of their sound to form a new identity which can be heard on the record "I", of which this is the fifth chapter. Despite a large sixteen year gap in their discography following the groups split and reunion, this record very much retains the identity from 97s "Paradise Now" and made for a familiar listening experience.

Metal Machine Music is a meaty grinder of a record that pounds and churns through aggressive tracks brim with attitude and aggression. Fronted with sharp, potent distortion guitars and front man Engler's shouty German accent the record conjures up a vision of post apocalyptic industrial mayhem much like the Mad Max world, exemplified by the track "Woad Rage Warriror". Serving as the backbone, deep chunky synths pound out buzz-saws and sine wave leads in front of a rather lost and muzzled baseline. They do a lot for the record as the guitar often cut out and let the electronics take lead with a grit and attitude that unifies the sound and gives it much needed flexibility that keeps the songs interesting given their rigid aesthetic that doesn't change up much through the listen. Its a great sounding record with audible instruments however the drum get a little lost and buried at times, overpowered by the guitars and synths which are so hard hitting and rhythmic oriented its almost like they are all pounding out the rhythm together. Its not a complaint but something I think actually worked really well.

Lyrically the "eyes open" anger comes across with apocalyptic end game lyrics citing capitalism's flaws with anti corporate messages, propaganda and double think musings that suit the theme well but do little to raise an eyebrow, however the song "Fly Martyrs Fly" caught my attention with risky lyrics singing from the perspective of the pilot of 4U9525 that crashed into the french alps in march. The song includes samples from TV reports and what its point is exactly I'm not sure but it makes for a good song with a catchy hook. "V" is a solid record and it was nice to get a dose of the Die Krupps sound again.

Favorite Songs: Fly Martyrs Fly, Road Rage Warrior, Branded
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Gathering "Mandylion" (1995)

Casting my mind back across through all the years this record has been with me, time may have gotten the best of my memory. How I found this band is hazy but of the ten plus years Ive been listening to them this record has always been a real treasure. The Gathering are a Dutch band with a patchy history of style and direction that started with a Death / Doom Metal debut that would be short lived as the group progressed through different Metal sounds before switching to Progressive and Alternative Rock after this record. In their beginnings they had trouble securing the right front man before uniting with Anneke Van Giersbergen who's voice is a free spirit with a charming purity and spirited power.

Despite the line up changes and wandering direction, on their third record, Mandylion, The Gathering created a magical record complete in concept and bearing. Anneke is the star of the show, her voice glides freely over the music, dazzling and mesmerizing with every word she utters. She guides the emotional narrative of the songs through the lows and highs with an impeccable range that gets the feels running every time. So soft and pleasant yet powerful and moving, soaring at times. Even though shes the star, the instrumentals are on an elevated level too, captivating, inspired music which we have the pleasure of hearing them both firing on all cylinders with a unique vision and chemistry that creates a "place".

The instrumental compositions are deceptively simple, aiming for an easy to digest experience with an approach to riffing and symphonics that pieces together simple ideas, often repetitive in delivery but with quality in mind over fleshing the songs out with needless complexities. The gorgeous aesthetic of the mix and Anneke's voice chime together to create a spirited and organic sound with another world feel that strays far from its metallic roots. The guitars have a tight tonal distortion thats played for its texture as the riffs take a far from aggressive approach, focusing on simple drawn out chords and melodies. The dense symphonies intertwine and weave around one another, allowing the two to both guide the songs, either in turn or together and its a real treat when all three fire with Anneke's voice.

On the track "Mandylion" the electronic instruments strike up a rich atmosphere of tribalism cultures and natural spirit that evokes vivid images of a forgotten meaning of humanity and our ancestors. Its a powerful track, but this power is their throughout the record, working with the guitars and drums which sound big and commanding on this record, holding together the pacing like a sturdy strut. The snare has a sharp and dense tone that sounds great in the mix alongside some big and yet not overpowering symbols that crash away prominently. The bass guitar has a big and warm tone that gets plenty of exercise under the guitars, not always mirroring them and adding a rooted variety that doesn't have much impact, but sounds great when its noticed.

 Its a special record to me, one that gives me a ton of inspiration, especially Anneke's voice which always gives me goosebumps. Listening to it again reminds me of all the times I used to play my guitar along with it and the youtube videos of them playing live in the 90s with Anneke dancing on stage with a youthful innocent energy that would captivate the crowd. Its a real gem, a beautiful and unique blend of Symphonic Metal with a tinge of Gothic on the side that I've never heard anything quite alike. Can't praise this one enough, its as perfect as it gets.

Favorite Tracks: Strange Machines, Eleanor, Leaves, Mandylion
Rating: 10/10

Friday, 18 September 2015

Birocratic "Beets 3" (2015)

NYC based producer Biro is back again with the third installment of "Beets" and the longest yet, clocking in at thirty three minutes it delivered a better listening experience than the previous two which were a little to short for my taste. Beets 3 isn't quite the strive forward I was hoping for. The unique vocal cutting is less prominent however Biro shakes it up with new techniques and ideas too.

In general Biro lets the Jazz Hop vibe shine bright on this one, letting the jazzy pianos, classic strings and smooth samples take the lead. The tempo feels faster but the beats, sequenced or sampled, have a spice of energy to them that steers this one away from feeling like a Nujabes clone. Spliced vocals often feature buried between the layers adding to the composition which did have a feeling of depth to it the others didn't. I could play these beats over and over and pick up on little nuances each time.

Mid way into the record "Formula Fun" introduces a virtual instrument lead, a vibrant chirpy ghetto whistle like lead with a buzz-saw undertone that gives this one an urban edge. On the follow up "Favela Beat" Biro explores it further with a prominent lead that helps define a casual track into a memorable one. "Disembark" puts in an experimental lead sound, a mix between drills and bells that dispelled the chemistry with its harsh and abrupt aesthetic mixed to loud for effect.

The production was solid, however I noticed on this record more than before Biro was a little ruthless with the cuts which could be very rigid and choppy at times. Its the sort of thing you see and can't un-see. The way the samples and composition flowed wasn't the issue, its the rigid cuts that stuck out like a saw thumb on occasions. Other than that qualm this was a really enjoyable record.

Favorite Tracks: Hurry!, Garoto, Formula Fun, Jon Gordo
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Leviathan "A Silhouette In Splinters" (2005)

American one man band "Leviathan" is the project of Californian musician Jef Whitehead, often considered one of the finest "third wave" Black Metal musicians alongside Xasthur and Black Funeral. After the Norwegian scene's sound made its way across the Atlantic in the mid 90s the evolution was frighting. The Americans played down the satanic themes in favor of even darker spiritual ideas that coined the terms "Suicidal" and "Depressive" Black Metal. Although its heavily debated if there is a "third wave" there is an undeniable shift in sound and approach that separates this scene from the other. Having my curiosity sparked I went over my Leviathan collection and picked out this record which turned out to be a Black Ambient record, supposedly recorded in 2002 before the debut release of debut "The Tenth Sub Level Of Suicide".

Its dark, haunting and nervy backdrop music that starts of with fading guitar distortions that buzz and howl in and out of focus, creating a sinister setting that in its lack of intensity lures the listener in to a calm, serene mood as if staring into the abyss from safety. The guitars and distortion cautiously grow their anxieties as slow strum chords ring unsettling melodies. The danger grows nearer and ghostly rumbling vocals feature as the voice of undead spirits murmuring and groaning their pain through deep guttural talkings burred under lonely guitar leads. Into the later part of the forth track, the guitars start to fold into chilling rattle sounds that echo and brood in the deathly reverb before throwing us deep into the despairing black as the title track whips up a punishing desuetude of sound.

Howling winds morph and transform into eerie sounds of communication from beyond the grave. Alarm bells scream the oncoming dread before a calm leads us into ghostly whispers that swell in the ambiance of an atmosphere ever echoing a noise slowly collapsing in on itself. Its bone chilling audio horror painting vivid images of hell's hallways and demonic creatures of abomination. There's no climatic moment, we leave this place as if it was never there and the final track leads us home through a similar setting of mesmerizing distortions fading in and out of consciousness while acoustic guitars strum out eerie chords of warning.

"A Silhouette In Splinters" is a real audio trip for those minds that can envision the music. Its a vividly haunting and spellbound listen that can be both frighting and calming at times. Its construct and vision has both expression and design meeting on the plateau. For those interested in the technical details there are many spooky sounds that leave wonder pondering their creation, alongside some obvious guitar reverb tricks. Its a wondrous and unnerving experience that rewards the patient listener.

Favorite Track:A Silhouette In Splinters
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 14 September 2015

Big Tymers "I Got That Work" (2000)

Following up on B.G's "Chopper City In The Ghetto" this Cash Money release seemed like a great move forward. American rap duo "Mannie Fresh" and "Birdman" make up Big Tymers who featured on a few tracks from B.G's record. Mannie Fresh also handled production of both records however the style and theme of this record was understandably different. "I Got That Work" takes on a far more boisterous and bling bling vibe than I prefer. Much of the themes are of success and flaunting it as well as reminding you where they came from. After just a couple of listens my mind was made up on this record and not much has changed my mind since.

Mannie's production is working with a similar construct of sequencer compositions and midi controlled instruments that make for easy on the ear's Hip Hop that's effortlessly deciphered. There's plenty of guitars, horns and stab arrangements on top of the tight, rigid snappy drum kits, deep kicks and subdued funk base lines. It all adds up to a clean polished sound, but fairly mediocre experience with a lack of hooks or catchy moments. The album simply plays through beat after beat that you can't complain about, but does little to get stuck in the mind or drive home something unique. Mannie gets a touch creative with some snares shuffling through stereo or with varying volume levels and pitch shifts but it does so little for the tracks it features on.

Looking over the Cash Money discography and just how much Mannie produced at this time I did get a quantity over quality vibe and this one certainly backed up that impression. At seventy three minutes "I Got The Work" just pumps out mediocrity in droves that lost the excitement after the second play through. The same could be said of the raps which were uninteresting in general, again giving of a quantity over quality vibe with many of the crew dropping in average verses. Not a terrible record but it does little to bring me back.

Favorite Tracks: 10 Wayz, Rocky
Rating: 3/10

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Lycia "A Line That Connects" (2015)

After a ten year absence, American Darkwave band Lycia returned from the dark with their ninth full length "Quiet Moments" in 2013. At that time I didn't give it much attention and its occurred to me I've never gotten into any of there records beyond 96s "Cold" which is a favorite of mine. When I saw "A Line That Connects" pop up in my inbox I decided to make sure I give this one a proper listen. Under the impression that they had moved on from the lonely, frosty ethereal ooze of "Cold" I was pleasantly surprised to a familiar moody, dark somber tone in this record.

Its gloomy, dreary and bleak but comes through a soft, melodic embracing melancholy of airy synths gently rolling through the background mist while the percussion draws out a reluctant beat stretching the tempo to sleepy lows as singer Tara Vanflower chimes sorrowful cries behind Mike Vanportfleet's soft and whispery spoken words. Between it all glistening guitars ooze and flow, unifying the song with pale, somber melodies drenched in reveb heavy effects. Its cold, snowy and dark, but has its own flair compared to "Cold". This one isn't quite as frozen or bleak, there's a glimmer of hope shining through a sorrowful, mourning record of solitude.

Not all of the record follows this vibe, about halfway through "The Rain" kicks things into life with a punchy, rocking track with a faster tempo, pumping beat and catchy guitar riffs. Mike brings a lot of energy to his voice as he delivers foreboding lyrics through a forceful deep tone that sounds fantastic. Its a track reminiscent of 80s Goth Rock and with the following tracks the album keeps the tempo and shift of mood up for a short while before drifting back into bleak, sleepy numbers.

The production is a big step up from "Cold" but that's no surprise, nineteen years of progression gives the sounds a richer texture and depth but it doesn't stretch what the music can do. This record was an approachable dose of the Lycia sound, however it very much plays the same game and offers nothing new or unexpected. Great record but more of the same, of which I can't complain.

Favorite Songs: Silver Leaf, A Trade Out, The Rain, Hiraeth
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 10 September 2015

DJ Shadow "Endtroducing..." (1996)

DJ Shadow is an American producer from California who's debut "Endtroducing..." has landed on many "top lists" in Hip Hop music. Credited for establishing Instrumental Hip Hop its often held in high regard as an important and influential record. Having not given it much attention beyond one or two listens in the past I decided to give this one a go again and after much time spent enjoying it I have to say retrospect has me at a disadvantage.

Being familiar with many of the characteristics this record may of helped to shape and inspire, there are a few traits its posses that I might take for granted. The instrumental aspect was a first at the time and many of the techniques used in production are so commonplace now you have to put yourself in the mindset of 96. DJ Shadow as a lot of unorthodox sample material throughout the record, even including Metallica's "Orion" on "The Number Song" and scaling back from the accompaniment of an MC he pushes for daring and unique sounds leaning towards Jazz, Soul and Psychedelia.

The sampling, cuts and arrangements are captivating and progressing lucidly with a free flow as DJ Shadow lets the sampling art-form do so much more than the stagnant repetition were used to. With many layers of samples each song can journey through an idea while changing form and evolving thanks to the intricate detailing of sounds and shifting between different samples which fade in and out of the tracks effortlessly, creating organics through traditional rigid music.
A quote from the record itself, something along the lines of "The music's coming through me" summarizes the record in a nutshell. Whats so remarkable is how lucid and organic the chemistry in the sampling is. Hip Hop has often sliced great moments, or reinvented them with new words and a new groove, but here on this record the original songs are barely reconcilable as the choice arrangement and reconstruction takes new forms that don't resemble the origin.

Despite now "getting it" I feel that the records diversity in theme creates some less favored vibes and moments. In the jazzy chilled out, laid back Trip Hop moments there are timeless tunes. In other songs the mood shifts rigidly into less engaging songs that break up the flow. Its a loaded gun with plenty to offer, but some of that just wasn't quite on my wavelength. Its also interesting to read about how well this record was received in the UK considering this record breaks down Hip Hop in similar ways to Trip Hop which was flourishing at the time. Anyway, terrific record which I can really appreciate, I'm hoping the less favored moments will grow on me with time.

Favorite Tracks: Changeling, What Does Your Soul Look Like, Midnight In A Perfect World
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Iwrestledabearonce "Hail Mary" (2015)

I'll be blunt, I went to skim over this record with low expectations. I skipped straight to the middle of the first track and the hooks sunk in immediately. Astonished and blown away, I had to double take, Is this really Iwrestledabearonce? To be fair it was their sound, the maniacal over the top noise shredding was present but this was a focused assault vehicle of grooving brutality breaking the speed limit. Iwrestledabearonce came out of the naughties Deathcore scene as a directionless mismatch of genre mashing thrown together with a thick slice of cheese. They produced a fantastic hit with "Tastes like kevin bacon" but from the get go showed a lack of vision and came across as a group simply in the moment, mixing ideas and bipolar sounds together while not taking themselves or the music seriously.

Fast forward to 2015 and the band have been through some lineup changes across the last six records and most noticeably the replacement of their singer with another female vocalist who drops in the occasional strong clean vocals and sounded very familiar to her predecessor, although its been some time since I'd last listened to this band. Initially the aesthetic change didn't feel that drastic with this record but going back over their previous releases the change is massive and the most distinguished characteristic that survived is the frantic noise oriented guitar shredding, no doubt the result of the only surviving member lead guitarist Steven Bradly.

"Hail Mary" opens up with the fade in of chaotic noise shredding before throwing us in the deep end with tight, choppy rhythmic drum blasting and discordant riffs, steadily transitioning into a bouncy groove riff that sets the tone for a vigorous session of furious noise militia hurtling toward the listener with plenty of coordinated grooves and mosher riffs in the design. Its these break out moments that give the record continuity and refreshment that makes the textural onslaught manageable alongside these head banger moments. The consistency runs from start to end with every track delivering something unique and interesting in comparison to one another, its a fruitful offering of which listen after listen is yet to tire on me. 

Breaking down the groups sound it becomes apparent it revolves around the guitars almost exclusively, with drums providing an accompanying punishing strike and singer LaPlante's screams becoming an inoffensive layer of rhythmic noise through her discernible screams. On "Wade In The Water" some strong electronic noises surface through which makes one wonder how much of the crazy frenetic noises are made with the guitar. Either way the textures are delightful on the riff fest that plays up tireless bizarre guitar squeaks and squeals at lightning pace between modern metallic riffage ranging a broader spectrum of grooves and styles that come into play between the colorful chaos.

Initially I felt the clean vocals were a little unnecessary, but after countless plays they have crafted some of the records best moments with LaPlante's best coming from her strong harmonious leads. My excitement for this record still hasn't died down after many listens and I have very little to criticize. This was a refreshing metal record of the "Math Metal" variety that doesn't let up, however the production despite being a modern craft of audacity doesn't quite sparkle as much as some other records Ive heard this year. A big surprise and if they can improve on this record then the future is very bright for them. This has definitely left me in anticipation of the next release.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Ghost "Meliora" (2015)

Ghost have been one of the most impressive Metal bands I've heard in a long time and I'm not alone with this opinion. Critics and fans alike have been praising this band since there debut "Opus Eponymous" and the band has rapidly been growing their fan base and praise with striking stage theatrics and music to match. I discovered them not long before the release of their second "Infestissumam" and this new record "Meliora" has been my most anticipated record for some time.

Defining Ghost's sound with words may be relatively easy but you have to hear it for yourself to understand the level of execution these musicians are putting into their art. Side stepping from the atypical progression of Metal music Ghost pull influences from the earlier era's of Heavy Metal and satanic themes in music with a tasteful re-imagining of ideas portrayed by extreme bands of that era. There's hints of Doom Metal, Psychedelic and Hard Rock, even Progressive Rock at times and it all comes together with a focused vision of dark, satanic worship in the form of bright melodies and lush, inoffensive instrumentation. Further playing into the twisted vision the band remain anonymous as "Nameless Ghouls" and their singer "Papa Emeritus III" replacing the former with each record. The anonymity wasn't of much interest to me, however it is speculated that the Swedes are a "super-group" of sorts.

Meliora is a gorgeous sounding record that finds the group playing down some of the metallic, riff oriented elements of their sound in favor of melodies and instrumentation that will have you watering at the mouth. The production captures these instruments with color, clarity and a chemistry that lets the harmonies between instruments spread like butter. Behind the glorious aesthetics the familiar theme of satanic worship is dressed up and delivered through Papa Emeritus soft persuasive voice, often subtle and suggestive with his lyrics he delivers hooks and passionate sing along lyrics with an evil subversive undertone that gets stuck in the mind.

The instrumentation is the bands most diverse, ambitious and on point so far. Across the ten songs they hit a remarkable range of ideas, themes and variety that can be heard through a thicker range of sounds, from sparkling acoustic guitars to the luminous pianos, enchanted choral vocals and eerie organs, everything has its moment in the spotlight. The lead guitar rips dazzling solo's that let Progressive influences blaze the trail on "Mummy Dust" with an almost synthetic quality. The drumming marches along with the flow of the tracks and punches a lot of pedal kicks and cymbals together to mark the rhythmical hits in the notation. Even the bass guitar gets its moments to show off its snarling raw texture as it bounces and grooves with the lighter guitar distortions utilized.

The record flows from start to end without a dull moment, and although there may be some tracks a little more favorable, it will vary from person to person as every track has wonderful vision and execution. "He Is" was undoubtedly my favorite, an spirited worship song fitting for traditional christian song if it wasn't for the lyrics, on this track its Ghost at their absolute best and there's little this record could of done to be better, however I think we are still yet to see the best of this band who are quite simply killing it right now. Can't wait to see them live again, and already I'm excited for what the next record will bring, but far from done with this gem.

Favorite Track: He Is
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 4 September 2015

Adrian Von Ziegler "Vagabond" (2013)

Looking for the next record of Adrian Von Ziegler's to spin, I noticed "Vagabond" had a similar format to our recent enjoyment "Wanderer". Four tracks, each twenty minutes in length, this was another seasonally themed ambiance of indulgence mixing gentle scores with the winds, chirping of birds and even the waters washing up on the shoreline. Where "Wanderer" charmed with its balance of environmental ambiance and passing melodies, "Vagabond" find a much more direct approach with a stronger presences from the stringed instruments that give the record a symphonic vibe.

"Winter Breath" is the most striking song, a deep howling wind paints the night black, lead by echoing xylophones as the sounds of frozen caves and landscapes glisten in the spooky quiet beyond the twilight. It steadily builds into big theatrics with strings, choir aahs and dramatic leads that intensify gently before unraveling back into the snowy, dusk bound track led by the winds.

The other three tracks are not quite as impressive, however "Autumn Forest" has some big Celtic folk leads that feel as if they have been cherry picked from traditional folk songs. They come to dance in between quite moments which is what all the songs do here, drift between calm and climactic moments, intensifying in depth and volume. Its a great ambient record, but one that's more demanding of your attention than "Wanderer". Both make for great choices when in the particular mood.

Favorite Song: Winter Breath
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

B.G. "Chopper City In The Ghetto" (1999)

Being a longtime big fan of West and East coast Hip Hop I've recently taken an interest in the southern scene which flourished in the late 90s through record labels like No Limit Records and Cash Money. "Outkast", "Killer Mike" and "Master P" have been great discoveries but I've struggled to find much beyond them that's appealed to me and learning about Cash Money and their history I was brought to this record, Chopper City In The Ghetto. The album cover stood out to me as being one of the better, and most atypical of the trend of that time created by Pen & Pixel Graphics. Now looking horribly dated this first wave of photoshop overkill had a lot of gnarly over effected microsoft word fonts and stitched together images, however this one strikes a fair balance and holds up well, but lets talk about the music.

My first impression of this record has held up play after play, this is a solid collection of instrumentals with a distinct style that has B.G's softer rapping presence accompanying them. Initially I felt B.G was tame, inoffensive and calm but quickly I saw this in a good light. His raps are delivered steady, with a soft tone and controlled energy that comes across as borderline spoken. As the lines, verses and hooks become familiar the subtitles come across as his raps hold up time and time again. There's a lot of street talk, bling bling and boasting and it lacks a meaningful depth at times but that's far from what its about. It enjoyable, fun and easy on the mind. There's an absence of technicality and "wow" moments the occasional overuse of one worded rhymes and over simplistic lines e.g "I go for a walk past the chalk, give me the fork for the pork" but B.G can write a hook and deliver it and his style is enough to make this record work.

The chemistry between beats and rhymes is on point, however the instrumentals get the merit with focused and consistent production from Mannie Fresh who delivers 67 minutes of balanced numbers that bring a distinct mood reminiscent of an espionage, undercover spy vibe to many of the tracks, "Play'n It Raw" reminding me of Goldeneye from Nintendo 64. The compositions show their strength through instruments that sound both dated and fantastic, reminding one techniques and limitation not heard so much anymore. The drum machines are cut hard with rigid kicks and snappy snares that lack reverb or any volume variation yet sound terrific. The accompanying midi controlled instruments, bass, synth, ghetto whistles and plucked leads are on the minimalist side with simplistic, to the point melodies that balance varying degrees of complexity (within simplicity) across a spread of sounds that quietly add up to crafted tunes with depth and a fair use of rhythmic instrument hits (Bling bling) to tie the instruments to the core rhythm.

I'm still very much enjoying this record and will continue too, the features of Big Tymers, Turk and Juvenile is warming me up to more southern artists, especially Lil Wayne who I formerly had a negative opinion of thanks to buying into the "Hes not real Hip Hop" comment's on Youtube video, without checking him out for myself. He's fantastic on this record on features on my favorite song "Niggaz In Trouble" which has an interesting song structure that flips between a bi-polarizing southern hitter and a oldskool rhythmic groove. As the album stretches on I personal enjoy the final tracks more and this one also features the classic "Bling Bling" song. Great record, very happy I found it.

 Favorite Songs: Trigga Play, Play'n It Raw, With Tha B.G, Knock Out, Real Niggaz, Dog Ass, Cash Money Roll, Niggaz In Trouble, Hard Times, Uptown My Home
Rating: 8/10