Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Underachievers "Evermore - The Art Of Duality" (2015)

Young Hip Hop duo "The Underachievers" from Brooklyn, New York are back with a follow up to last years debut "Cellar Door"! A dark and mysterious record with modern instrumentals, speedy raps and lyrical substance, somewhat of a rarity in this era of Hip Hop. The two showed a lot of artistic intelligence and there potential has been truly realized on "Evermore" where the two step up there game with bigger raps, tighter themes and another set of quality instrumentals. The record is split into two half's as the cover would suggest, the light and dark side, both fleshed out in concept and sound.

The two rally back and forth with engaging heart felt raps, telling there life stories and introspective thoughts with a touch of class in lyrical delivery that never takes the foot of the gas. Spitting fast coherent rhymes through their distinctive flows, I find myself reminded of the greats like Nas and Rakim who could engage from start to end as these two do for the most part of this record. Delivering positive messages of expanded consciousness and awareness the two struck a nerve with me and reflected a lot of my attitude towards the importance perspective and our roles in a collective experience with deep and meaningful ideas and lifestyle suggestions. The rhymes are on point as are the beats, the bright side complimenting their narratives with alien, exotic instrumentals full of spacey synths and harmonious oddities with a positive soul. There's a nice spread of variance, "The Dualist" getting generously jazzy and the record fails to repeat itself keeping each instrumental unique.

"Reincarnation" marks the dark side of the record with a deliberately evil and menacing trap instrumental. The two shift gears bringing the battle raps and boisterous rhyme spitting to prove there worth. The ghostly "ah ha" echoing confirmations return and a lot of the focus shifts away from the conscious raps and catchy hooks drop in as a focal point around the mean, showoff rap style. The instrumentals follow a similar spacey vibe but flow in a mysterious direction with trap beats pounding out fast fluttery hi hats and aggressive snare kick grooves.

The first half definitely takes the biscuit with much deep wisdom to be found in the lyrics and the instrumentals shine brighter than their counterparts, that's no pun. These were some of the best Hip Hop tracks I had heard this year. The second half is a mark behind but still fantastic and engaging. The duo really came through on this one, proving their potential and elevating themselves as artists with a focused and meaningful effort that turned into a memorable record I've been unable to put down.

Favorite Song: Star Signs
Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Meshuggah "Nothing Remake" (2006)

Back in 2006 this release seemed like a bizarre choice for the pioneering Swedish metalers "Meshuggah". Coming of the back of there finest record to date, "Catch 33", the band took to the studio to re-record their 2002 effort "Nothing" which was at that time my least favorite record of theirs. As you can imagine I had little reason to listen to this one, but shuffling through some of their songs it made sense to pick them from the remake, since it sounds somewhat better technically. In doing so I found my way back to this record and realized how much the re-recording elevates the concept of the record with a reinvigorated aesthetic and slight adjustment of play styles and tempos.

In 2002 "Nothing" was a record that further pushed the extremities "Chaosphere" created with the harsh tonal construct and Djent guitars tones. In developing this sound Meshuggah flirted dangerously with the void and the lifeless element of their sound, to the point where some songs easily drifted into the snooze as barbaric rhythms hammered away without an inch of melody. This was a guitar tone assault of amplified intensities as elastic grooves bounced with the noisy poly rhythmic drum machine, vocalist Yens's monotone screams adding another layer of force. The records short coming where in its hazardous production of competing volumes, a rigid drum sound with repetitive symbol sounds and a lack of sound in the low-mid.

The re-recording irons out all the flaws of the original with a vastly better produced drum sound that feels more cohesive with the guitars with are a massive element of this records sound design. They sound gorgeous! Deep, dense and thick guitar distortion fills up much the audio space and further enforces the elastic nature of the grooves with the elasticity reigning through the clarity of distortion captured. With such a finely tuned sound these songs are given a better chance to reveal what they are about, a slight tempo change on "Nebulous" and the brilliant guitar tone fuel the elastic energy grooving through the eccentric guitar riffs.

But "Nothing Remake" is still the same record, a self realized experiment in groove and timings that hacks into the primal heart of rhythm and extrapolates an array of unique and special ideas unheard anywhere else before at the time. Although a touch more tolerable it still suffers the same void and sterile incarnation that makes its experience drab and to lifeless at times. You have to be in the right mood, because it wont deliver that mood to you. Its got banging grooves throughout and tons of incredible moments, but as a record there's a lot of monotone and bleak to wade through between the inspiring moments. It has some of their best and worst output all rolled into one relentless onslaught, and on a final note id like to mention "Straws Pulled At Random" is a stunning song that starts out in violent frenzy of blunt force elastic aggression, steadily evolving into a moment of beauty as minimal melodic inflections breath color into a song of black and white.

Favorite Songs: Rational Gaze, Straws Pulled At Random, Nebulous
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 26 October 2015

Killing Joke "Pylon" (2015)

Thirty five years since their debut, "Killing Joke" are still at it. Their first two records a real pleasure to uncover and hear an early influence on Industrial Metal such as "Ministry" and "Godflesh". Unable to get into their third record "Revelations" I left this band alone and nearly passed this record by when I saw it in my feed. I wasn't expecting anything much but was quite surprised to find their identity intact, mostly thanks to Jaz Coleman's distinctive voice. An apparent shift in aesthetic and execution gives a refreshing overhaul to the vibe and themes that stay very much intact from their roots.

"Pylon" is a warning machine on cruise control, each song swiftly flying through the wasteland of a post apocalyptic world, with social commentaries and observations on the state of our modern society, its direction and corruptions. Its a message of doom and gloom broadcasted from the loudspeakers of a steadily paced set of songs that cruise onward and drone with big, fuzzy chord driven distortion guitars and one dimensional synths that play subtle roles in amplifying the atmosphere. Coleman's anthemic cries of disillusion and unrest tie the music to the lyrical themes with alterations in delivery to match the musical shifts that are present in every song.

Its a simple approach to songwriting coupled with a great aesthetic. The guitars are warm and dense, the drums have a fantastic, punchy, loud yet soft tone. The bass guitar thick, powerful, pounding away under the hazy wall of sound guitars and Coleman's voice is colorful, smooth and darkly. Select keys and electronics play a potent role in adding that extra layer to amplify moments of the songs. The overall mood and tone is definitely on the gloomy side yet when tackled head on by the music feels empowering and uplifting, all without exerting any forceful aggression. An easy flowing listen with a big mood and messages to deliver. Solid record.

Favorite Songs: New Cold War, War On Freedom, Into The Unknown
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Bring Me The Horizon "That's The Spirit" (2015)

So here we have the fifth and latest full length from English band "Bring Me The Horizon" hailing from Sheffield. The five piece Rock / Metal outfit have been together for over ten years now with a couple of line up changes on the second guitar, the four friends have stuck together from their formation when they were still in school. The band are now completely unrecognizable from their Deathcore roots. Since there inception they have managed to keep themselves in the lime light while shifting their sound from Deathcore, to edgy Metalcore, to some form of Eletronic-core, and now Pop Rock. The transition has been a big one, yet somehow through the shifts in sound they've kept an old audience happy while attracting more and more fans.

This latest sound is a shinny, bright and over polished, squeaky clean affair, fusing dense tonal guitars with gleaming electronics in a wall of sensual oozy delight. Compressed drums kick, punch and pound through the rich and airy sounds of layered synths racing with the guitar leads that range from Nu Metal to Alternate Rock and arrive with a Post-Metal sense of space. Vocalist Oli Sykes is impressive, showing a range of melody in well delivered cleans alongside his screams which were once quite gnarly and rough in the Deathcore days. The aesthetic is quite the achievement, and the music behind it is a mixed bag of fruits. There's a strong slice of cheap pop that coarses through this record in the form of hooks, lyrics and leads and the balance is a matter of taste and tolerance.

The record starts of strong with a bouncy grooving throw back to Nu Metal riffs that take charge on tracks like "Happy", its lyrics a sarcastic pun towards pop music which in the later stages becomes the focus. On "True Friends" the lyrics start with the teenage angst "twists" and cringing play on words "True friends stab you in the front". A lot of the lyrics on this record felt a little lack luster and hollow, not a lot of food for thought, but simple sentiments wrapped up in catchy word play. Its a double edged sword that works when the music does. "Follow you" delivering a delightful vocal hook that the lyrics do justice, but at other times it didn't quite come off as well.

"That's The Spirit" is a record that's challenged me. On first listen I could barely stand it, but a lot of the "pop" elements and catchy hook writing does deserve a lot of merit because its fantastically composed for a gorgeous aesthetic. Not a lot of whats on offer feels special or original and the second half drags a fair bit for me as the guitars get lighter and lighter with a bigger focus on the softer side of their sound. It leaves me with mixed feelings but there's songs here to be enjoyed and where they have progressed they've certainly lost what made them unique but the direction there heading in is a positive and potentially exciting one.

Favorite Songs: Happy Song, Throne, Follow You
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions "Bavarian Fruit Bread" (2001)

Following up on Mazzy Starr's "Among My Swan" and subsequent hiatus, this Hope Sandoval record is mistakable for her main band. With the help of "The Warm Intentions", Hope continues on a similar path with a collection of dreamy and mysterious folk numbers that induce a laid back trance as Hope's seductive voice soothes the soul with her soft and dreamy singing voice. Whats different between the two projects is subtle, the trademark bells and harmonicas feature as if the same, but the hazy distortion tones and darker leaning of the sound are gone.

"Bavarian Fruit Bread" is a lighter incarnation that has the same breezy, dreamy nature. It gives a lot more light to Hope's voice in a complimenting manor. The instrumentals can be a touch sparse at times with the drum kit being a rare feature in many of these songs and its very much a case of hit and miss. When in full swing like "On The Low" everything is just right, mellow and rural, charming and delicate. Indulging, at other times the lone guitar and Hope get's a little to baron to spark the magic, but its also a case of mood. Sometimes I could drift right in, but not often.

Its a terrific sounding record with sparkling acoustic guitars and dreamy echos. There is a couple of more striking songs than on the previous record but its coupled with plenty of tiresome songs that get a little lost with the wind. Hope's voice is beautiful throughout but it doesn't come together as a full length, great in the perfect mood but often a bit of a drab. As much as I wanted to like this album its flaws were all to apparent.

Favorite Songs: Suzane, On The Low
Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" (1966)

Listed on Rolling Stone's "500 greatest albums of all time" at number 2 I felt compelled to check out this Beach Boys record. I mean, who doesn't like the beach boys? Fun loving Surf Rock with those timeless vocal harmonies. Well "Pet Sounds" shows of very different side of this band, or more so Brian Wilson who composed and produced the entire record, so much so you could call it a solo record if it wasn't for his band-mates laying down the backing vocals. Being the first Beach Boys record Ive given a proper listen I found most of what I knew about them to be missing. The catchy hooks, surf themes and chart topping, single oriented songs where no where to be found. The only familiarity were their voices which were always the main attraction.

Pet sounds is a strange kinda of melancholy. Through it all a bright, warm soul that's got heart beats away, uplifting and littered with colorful instruments it has a deep sorrow that's felt through Brian's lyrics of heartbreak and loneliness. Its insular and sweet hearted, the sadness seeps through a swell of beauty in the world of music he isolates himself in. A musically somber moment arrives on "Don't Talk" as an outreach of support and comfort in Brian's lyrics reveal such deep sorrow in the music has gesture has exposed. The experience as a whole creates such a unique image of a man torn between pain and beauty, and pouring it all into the music.

The music itself is a dense and intricate pallet as a whole host of instruments and sounds embark on a journey to play out memorable, moving melodies that come in layers, overlapping and intertwining to make up the themes. Subtle instruments and quiet calming sounds fill in all the gaps, even in the slower moments theirs a continual tapestry of fine noises to notice. In the percussive department claps, tambourines, and coconut hoofs expand the drum kit as well as bicycle bells and horns cropping up in places, its quite a delight to hear such care put into it all. With flutes, organs, strings, guitars, pianos and a seemingly endless list of instruments, they all join into delightfully simple, easy to follow and cohesive songs.

Quite often the classic vocal harmonization's drift from the main focus of these songs, grand and captivating in their moments, Brain's voice and his music holds it own alone and some of the vocal lines feel like another instrument, its actually really soothing how they fit in with the instruments and become apart of the song in that way. Much could be said for the lyrics and themes but they are relatively direct and the sorrowful moments come across with sometimes blunt "This is the worst trip Ive ever been on" and sometime poetic words. Ive grown so very fond of this record and quite simply can't put it down. One day this will be a favorite of mine, I look forward to all the times I can enjoy it again.

Favorite Songs: You Still Believe In Me, Don't Talk, Pet Sounds, Caroline No
Rating: 9/10

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Run The Jewels "Meow The Jewels" (2015)

 Following up on two claimed and well received records in concurrent years, Hip Hop Duo "Run The Jewels" return in 2015 with a crowdfunded remix record themed around cats... and meow sounds. I was hoping for a record to hold me over until RTJ3 arrives in 2016 but have found myself sorely disappointed with a record that's novelty didn't phase me for even a moment. This will be the first time I write my thoughts after just one listen, but I quite honestly don't want to waste my time with this record again. To be fair its not awful, there's just nothing here that tickles my fancy.

The albums overall aesthetic is bizarre, spacey, zany and damn right quirky. Meow sounds litter all the songs as expected, but accompanying them is an array of weird bass noises and other sounds which attempt to emulate instrument sounds through manipulated cat samples. The problem is these heavily stretched and pitch shifted sounds don't amount to anything exciting or even that musical. They suck the life out of Killer Mike and EL-P's raps which is quite the achievement considering the level of lyrical quality on the originals these remixes butcher. Across the entire record not a single moment or beat stood out and I can appreciate the novelty but without anything of interest for me here this one will be shelved to gather dust.

Rating: 1/10

Friday, 16 October 2015

Jay-Z "The Blueprint" (2001)

American rapper Jay-Z needs no introduction, a household name around the world he dominated Hip Hop in the naughties as an artist and a business man who's built a substantial amount of wealth. A true rags to riches story of a young man who went from drug dealer to international rap star. I've never found myself drawn to his music, however I adore the Mafioso Rap debut "Reasonable Doubt" he dropped in 96. Watching the movie "Dope" the lead character referred to this record as the end and "exclamation point" of the 90s era I love so much. Of course I promptly picked this one up and found a couple of familiar songs, "Izzo" I remembered from MTV in my youth and "Renegades", a menacing and dark duet with Eminem who drops a classic verse from the prime of his defining style.

So "The Blueprint" is hailed as a classic, and picking up a record like this its hard to avoid the acclaim and ratings the record received. It certainly set the bar high, but didn't get my blood pumping around the clock. That being said its a mighty fine record illuminated by production from Just Blaze and Kanye West who both make their breakthroughs with a fine set of instrumentals that was the highlight for me. It steps away from the radio rap of "Volume 3" and brings a soulful vibe to snappy beats with a variety of kits and themes to keep the track running fresh. The track "Girls, Girls, Girls" is a blinding moment on the record, Just Blaze sampling Tom Brock to perfection, a true example of what the art of sampling is about. Legends Q-Tip and Biz Markie dropping in with the hook borrowed from the oldskool Crash Crew while Jay-Z talks about his promiscuous lifestyle.

The record opens up with Jay-Z making his return statement before dropping into a diss track aimed at Nas and Mobb Deep, I know Nas's response "Ether" and "Takeover" pales in comparison but to give Jay-Z credit the raps are tight and creative but again the magic comes from the beat with its rumpus baseline and baron atmosphere characterized by samples between the kick snare and bass groove. Jay-Z's raps are alright, hes straightforward, easy to follow and light on the ears, but quite honestly he rarely does much to grab my attention. Sometimes a rapper just can't do it for you and its hard to put my finger on why. He did drop a couple of great lines though "I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell, I am a hustler baby, I sell water to a well" is one that's stuck in my mind as well as his tragic mathematics on the diss track, somehow calculating four records in ten years is a two in ten average.

The only other times Jay was grabbing my attention was dropping references or recycling classic rap lines. The best rap came from Eminem on renegade, also with a fantastic hook chorus. I walk away from this record dazzled by the production, desiring more from the lyrical substance and understanding its reputation. Surprised I didn't find this one sooner but there is an ocean of music out there and the size of a name is rarely a hook to pull me in.

Favorite Tracks: Girls Girls Girls, U Don't Know, Holla' Hovita, Heart Of The City, Renegades
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Erang "Tome X" (2015)

That time has come again when out of nowhere the day is illuminated by the arrival of a new record from French musician Erang, the one man band and composer of nostalgic, atmospheric Dungeon Synth, the microcosm genre that has flourished in recent years. Following the progression of this project has been enjoyable but with the last few records Erang has really come into his own, mastering his vision and elevating his compositions to the next level. "Tomb X" is the 10th full length and forth with the mysterious Tomb name. At first glance I thought this might be a trip back to the roots and on some levels it is, however much of what has developed on recent records is to be found here again.

Its no surprise to find a wondrous collection of melodies that spark the imagination, visions of rich fantasy realms lost in nostalgia come to mind with every passing song. Each song has its own moment, memory, story to tell and establishes its presence quickly for short and indulging tunes which rarely break the themes they define themselves with through a diverse set of lush and charismatic instruments mixed with grace and care. There is a constant duality of string and lead that has one or two melodies dancing over deep, atmospheric choirs and strings that fill up much of the void the simplistic nature of these songs could so easily leave unfilled.

This is possibly the best sounding Erang record to date, however with nine full lengths to compete with many of the songs do wash up into a haze of similarity. The atmospheric nature of this record is fantastic for setting a mood and indulging oneself, but flicking through the tracks reminded me there aren't to many sparks that jump out in the track listing, though there is a strong group of adventurous songs in the mid section. Another great chapter in the tale of Erang, as always I'm left with an appetite for more.

Favorite Tracks: The Crocodile Fairies Of The Mayoo Wood, Lord Phantom, Ghouls Grotto, The Infinite Steppes Of Kolm
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 12 October 2015

King Crimson "In The Court Of The Crimson King" (1969)

I was pleasantly surprised by how swiftly I found my way into this record. Hailed as a classic of an era gone by I was a little hesitant this might be out of my reach. Ive always had a soft spot for Progressive Rock and this record is often considered the birth of the genre, turning away from the Blues roots in Rock and inspiring Classical influences into the scope of their songwriting. What I found though was a luscious warm record that felt like the precursor to much of the lullaby like themes found in early Genesis records. King Crimson are the credited creates of Prog Rock and have been going at it for 45 years with plenty of lineup changes a many intervals of hiatuses.

"In the Court..." is their debut release, a varied record with a lot to offer. "21st Century Schizoid Man" the slightly mad, energetic free jazz swings coupled with a traditional Metal attitude that starts the record of with a bang of announcing trumpets and a wild improvisational mid section of madness. "I Talk To The Wind" takes a u-turn in tone and pace, setting us on a soothing lullaby of innocent, gentle melodies climaxed by a gorgeous flute solo at the end. "Epitaph" brings a somber tone in as we sail to an epic swan song that's illuminated by a dreamy string section and dramatic, haunted synths. 

"Moonchild" mostly consists of a lengthy ambient jam of quiet mustering on the drum kit and sporadic improves on the lightly played guitars and keys. The jam doesn't lead anywhere much and conjurers up images of the band roasted on drugs, lying around tapping on their instruments. The record ends with the title track which is a rather similar sounding song to "Epitah" and delivors some lush vocals harmonies over the ever enigmatic synth and string section.

The records over 45 years old and sounds fantastic today. The drums have a narrow dimension, but the other instruments sound big, bright and free. I especially liked the keys string sound which had a slightly harsh tone yet came across so smoothly with a lot of energy, it reminded me of Genesis's "Watcher Of The Skies". Another band this reminded me off was Messenger, their album "Illusory Blues" one of my favorite from 2014. Definitely heard a lot of the influence that inspired that sound here. Solid record, can hear why its held in such high regard.

Favorite Songs: I Talk To The Wind, Epitaph
Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Farmer Boys "Countrified" (1996)

Farmer Boys are a German Metal band from Stuttgart who are still technically together despite years of silence and no studio record since their forth in 2004. With little chart success or renounced acclaim it was quite fortunate to stumble across this small band that play a breed of Metal perfectly suited to my taste. Had I found this in my youth I'm sure I would of lapped it up. I can hear that energy, but these days it doesn't have quite the same effect one me. There's also an interesting "Depeche Mode" cover in there, with Anneke of "The Gathering". Which is how I found my way to this group.

Their sound was immediately identifiable. Big crunchy distortion guitars, angrily shouted vocals and subtle symphonic elements to break up the metal assault. Initially I heard tinges of Industrial with a "Die Krupps" feel to their style, especially in the dense, chunky guitar tone. That might be a regional thing but as I got to know these songs all the influences became apparent. Forces of Groove, Thrash and Nu Metal converge through the riffage with a Doom and Gothic tinge amplified through the acoustic moments and subtle strings that sit quietly under the guitars while choir aah's covertly grow and creep into the songs.

The album drives through a straight forward arrangement of songs that work through the motions, playing out aggressive riffs, broken up by mood shifts led by Matthias Sayer's gloomy, sorrowful clean vocals. As the album gets deeper some very obvious sounds surface with "Pantera" blunt force style riffs and grooves emulating "Machine Heads" classic pinch harmonic groove. For 96 its a great sounding record and the group sound relatively original in the Doom Metal moments of their songs but they do sound a little drawn between styles. Either way they define themselves and despite a very decipherable style, the album flows effortlessly and the songs are really enjoyable. As I said in the beginning, ten years ago me would of lapped this up.

 Favorite Songs: Farm Sweet Farm, When A Chicken Cries For Love, In A Distance To God, Call Me A Hog, Countrified
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 8 October 2015

E. Jacobs "E Q U I N O X" (2015)

The equinox is the debut instrumental Hip Hop EP or "Beat tape" of Colorado based producer "E. Jacobs". Having followed Jacobs and his regular instrumentals on youtube for over a year I've been looking forward to a record release for sometime. The record doesn't break ground or steer much from Jacobs traditional style, but does hold together a chilled introspective vibe that flows through each of the tracks.

As always the same two thoughts come to mind. On one hand Jacobs has a flair for composition, finding unique samples to mix with well crafted beats that catch the 90s feel yet with modern trap influences as intricate high hat patterns shuffle back and forth on most of these songs. On the other hand the production is amateur and lacks balance. Often the different samples overpower each other sometimes bury the drums as they compete for volume. On occasions its worked to effect, on this short EP its often disrupting the clarity of what are essentially laid back, calmer beats.

When it comes to the instrumental aspect these beats are very much constructed for verses with repetitive loops that don't offer much variety. The better beats carry themselves with an indulgence but others tire a little from the repetition and could do with some flair to spice them up. The beats on show here may not be Jacobs best work, but how they flow together and set a tone certainly elevates this short 20 minute record.

Rating: 4/10
Favorite Songs: Vernal, Atlantis

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Travis Scott "Rodeo" (2015)

"Rodeo" is the debut full length of young Hip Hop producer Travis Scott who's named I'd not heard of before but has some hype around him being signed to Kanye's Good Music label. I decided to give this one a whirl after hearing good things and found a bi-polarizing record that gave me a lot to think about. "Rodeo" brings both the best and the worst of "Hip Hop"s almost unrecognizable current trap influenced direction, and pushes them into new territory id not heard before.

The record starts up with cold urban, spacious beats and an ethereal edge through excessive reverbs and echoing vocals. It takes a fair few songs to get to a decent rap as the balance plunges overboard in favor of style and texture. Boisterous showboating lyrics with one word rhymes bang out over and over with a lack of emotional context or any point other than enforcing attitude, wealth and excessive lifestyles. Its all about the delivery and production that treats the vocals like instruments, auto-tuning on overdrive and turning the "raps" into textural lavishes that tie tightly with the instruments and make use of many reverbs, pitch shifts and stylish distortions.

As the album develops it really comes into its own at the mid point with tracks like "Night Call", its big atmospheric nightclub sound dripping in deep base and ethereal chords buried under layers of synth, kits and echos. Its a prime example of whats great on this record, the production has an ambition and idea that's realized and reached in these dreamy "lose yourself" tracks. Despite feeling spacious and open, most the songs have many intricate noises detailing the backdrop and adding up to a bigger picture. The percussion takes a laid back roll often dropping out of focus and minimizing its roll in maintaining the pace, yet even in minimal moments its the backbone.

On one side of "Rodeo" we have unique, ethereal beats and the other a complete absence of lyrical substance. In between the two an overdose of auto-tune that tests my tolerance every time. I have to give credit through, auto-tune is not to my taste but its execution is creative and interesting at all times. This album could of been so much more to me with some rhymes and messages but instead the lyrical context and showboating tires and bores me.

Favorite Tracks: Wasted, Pray 4 Love, Night Call, Antidote, Flying High
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Slayer "Repentless" (2015)

As Henry Rollins once so elegantly put it, Slayer are like a band frozen in ice, every few years they are taken from hibernation to write a record and they sound as angry and ferocious as in their youth. That is very much true of Repentless, the first slayer record I've given a proper listen since 2001's "God Hates Us All".  Its their first without legendary guitarist Jeff Hannerman who contracted a flesh eating disease which seriously affected his health before passing from liver failure two years ago.

Of what little I heard from "Christ Illusion" and "World Painted Blood" I was only expecting disappointment from a band well beyond there peak. But Repentless is an accessible and anger fueled record with the speed and aggression of past heard through a weighted production that makes light of tightly rounded, dense distortion tones and a hammering drum kit that pounds away endlessly. Its heavy, hard hitting yet a very warm and open sound that's about as audible as Slayer can get.

Unfortunately the songwriting isn't on the same level and the record opens up with some promising songs that get the blood pumping with those classic circle pit riffs, pummeling snare beats and erratic guitar solos, but after a few tracks the album drifts into a lull of slower power chord led songs that wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the lack of progression or direction these songs showed. Just some temperate riffage and angry vocals. The songs had a distinct lack of spark to fuel the energy and define the songs. A break out moment or interlude moment, like "Angel Of Death", could of added so much to these tracks but instead they settle for linear songwriting.

On the vocal front Tom is his usual self with the typical Slayer approach and for the most part its great. At times it gets a little starch and off key from the music and the lyrical content is blunt and unapologetic with the usual range of murderous, satanic, misanthropic themes coming across very direct and without poetry or much to dilute the point. Relentless has there best sound ever, but the songwriting is far behind, with a touch more inspiration and creativity this record could of been something great.

Favorite Tracks: Repentless, Vices, Cast The First Stone, You Against You
Rating: 5/10

Friday, 2 October 2015

August Burns Red "Found In Far Away Places" (2015)

 August Burns Red are an American Metalcore five-piece band from Pennsylvania USA who have gained considerable momentum and praise in recent years among the various Metal scenes. The band formed out of high school in 2003 and have been consistently releasing records and developing their sound since 2006 of which this is their sixth full length release. I'll admit from the get go that I've not been in the mood for Metalcore but I couldn't deny the level of quality this record produced.

Working with the finest production the band has received yet we have an inspired and crafted record where the two guitarists make a mark with an endless flow of tight, chompy groove riffs and energetic rhythms interchanging with dynamic leads that guide the songs. There's many techniques, approaches and ideas at work in the rhythm guitar and they meld effortlessly with the leads that constantly light the path with a fluid energy and enigmatic tone that doesn't falter, continually progressing the music from one step to the next.

Breaking up the heavy and sometimes relentless aggression comes in some acoustic, folk moments that have a tinge of Kentucky about them, reminding me of Panopticon's "Roads To The North". At times the music subtly transitions into these calmer moments with gentle guitar leads and jiving base. In others can be rigid and hard cut but always sounding fantastic, adding an effortless dimension that's quite bipolar compared to the anger fueled chugging moments, yet we can be led so easily between the two. In those generic breakdown moments the band do a fantastic job defining there own style with tight choppy grooves that don't stray to far from the winning formula.

The guitar work stole the show, and beside them big bold baselines and brutally precise drums hammered away reinforcing the tightly woven aggression they led. I couldn't say too much for the vocals, I didn't find the tone and delivery anything special, but there was no harm done it was just a adequate performance that didn't have a spark. At the same time the Metalcore vocal style has never been a favorite of mine. Its a brilliant record from a band maturing well in their peak.

Rating: 6/10