Saturday, 30 April 2016

Wu-Tang Clan "Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" (1993)

Wu-Tang's 36 Chambers is the type of classic that demands to be listened to every once in a while and now with this music blog I am obliged to share with you one of the finest Hip Hop records there is. For its artistic merit, gritty beats and lyrical creativity the Wu-Tang Clan from Staten Island New York changed the game with their iconic 93 debut. I found this record in my young teens thanks to my mother who brought me this obscure looking record with its masked members representing an unusual theme, oriental martial arts. I don't have much memory of my initial impressions however I never stopped listening to it and over time its strengths illuminated with timeless beats and free lyrics that offered a wealth of flair and variety. Its status in Hip Hop's legacy is indisputable and RZA's production style created a massive influence still felt today. It has also been praised for its lower fidelity and gritty production style which it is actually not the first to achieve. Black Moon's "Enta Da Stage" beat them too it by a few months and we will talk about that record tomorrow.

So who are the Wu-Tang Clan? They are a group of nine rappers with a set of unique styles who came from the under represented area of New York, Hip Hops home. Putting Staten Island on the map, the Wu-Tang burst out of nowhere with the single "Protect Your Neck" that went against the grain, featuring a verse from each rapper consecutively without a chorus and barely a break for respite. It was the perfect showcase of the group unique chemistry. RZA's mastermind beats utilizing soft piano samples between dingy string samples over foggy baselines while eight of the nine dropped classic verses with wildly fresh and innovative rap styles.

With the talents of Raekwon the chef, Ghostface Killer and Method Man the group had an array of distinct voices and styles that brought about the "free association" rap technique. In a non linear delivery many strings of rhymes can be heard in an associative manor, focusing on wordplay and creative rhyming to forge a scene or concept in contrast to walking the listener through a narrative. It can be heard sporadically though the record and would be further elaborated on by Raekwon who really masters the style in his solo records. Even in traditional verses the Wu-Tang rock it with an endless arsenal of classic lines that will have you memorizing it all, just take the opening track "Check it, my method on the microphones banging, Wu-Tang slang will leave your headpiece hanging"... and that's just the opening number with its four mighty verses. Classic stuff, the group have mesmerizing and in moments ludicrous flows, these verses are intoxicating and even littered with cryptic lyricism. "We usually take all niggaz garments"... W.U.T.A.N.G!

Another classic aspect of the record is the theme and sampling from 70s and 80s Chinese martial arts flicks which the group were obsessed with, their name taken from the "Shaolin and Wu-Tang" movie. There's tones of fantastic samples, from clashing blades in sword fights, the ughs and arghs of fist fights and plenty of Wu-Tang vs Shaolin narration that gives it a timeless charm, one Ive never heard anyone try to imitate, the Clan truly own it like no one else could. It plays so well into RZA's production style which extends beyond this record alone, helping his clan launch their solo careers producing many of their debuts if not all. RZA steered away from clean production and explored the charm of lower fidelity which can conjure a different range of moods and atmospheres. Deep muddy baselines, rugged drum beats and oriental instruments create an air of mystery around the rawkus rap energy. More conventionally the sampling of soft pianos and classic strings would become an inspiration for many future producers.

There's barely a flaw, literally nothing to nitpick on this record, the only thing I could ask for is more. Another aspect I adore is the drifting moods that occur as it plays through, from rough, rugged aggressiveness the album can get playful and grooving while finding a few sorrowful spots with "Can It Be All So Simple", "C.R.E.A.M." and "Tearz". Although drenched in its mythic martial arts it has a real grounded connection to the lives of the artists and servers as another fantastic story of rags to riches through their art. Wu-Tang could never top this, I think that much is inevitable from day one and this record will be celebrated for as long as Hip Hop lives on.

Favorite Songs: Bring Da Ruckus, Da Mystery Of Chessboxing, Wu-Tang Aint Nuthin Ta Fuck Wit, Protect Ya Neck
Rating: 10/10

Friday, 29 April 2016

Caliban "Gravity" (2016)

Once the heart and soul of Germany's Metalcore scene, veterans Caliban sound so distant from their roots which I am familiar with. Its no surprise that time has brought change but their is little of the once ferocious groove oriented Metalcore outfit I last listened to over ten years ago. Back then they stood out from the crowd with Andreas Dorner's distinct throaty screams and relentless apatite for heavy chugging guitar assaults. Now their heaviness reflects the modern aspects of Metal, heavy polished production and Djent friendly riffing that takes advantage of the mammoth tones that can be achieved. Caliban have also become a lot more melodic, something that started back in the early 00s when Denis Schmidt joined the band to add the clean vocal dimension.

Now their melodic and colorful afflictions would be reminiscent of BMTH's "That's The Spirit" with far more harmonious and pop sensibilities in their compositions best heard on "Broken". However this is in polarization with a hunger for aggression that arrives in slamming, simplistic, chugging, rhythmic grooves utilizing the lush production. Most of the songs go through the motions, some with more aggressive leanings and others throwing in the "whoa-oh-oh" group shouts as they steer towards the pop hooks. There is also a feature from Agnete Kjolsrud of Djerv who's unique voice is a welcome suprise. I last heard her on Dimmu Borgir's "Abrahadabra" where she was utilized in a similar way to her feature on this record.

There isn't a lot to criticize about this record, its very much a case of what your in the mood for and being Caliban's 10th record so there's no doubting their ability to write a decent record. However it doesn't surpass being solid. The heavy chug fest is entertaining enough but where it needs a more emotional side its poppy leanings don't charm or dazzle me. It leaves a bit of a shallow taste, decent entertainment but lacking a deeper connection. Good fun but not something I will return to often.

Favorite Songs: Mein Schwarzes Herz, Walk Alone, No Dream Without A Sacrifice
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Killing Joke "Outside The Gate" (1988)

Continuing our journey through the fifteen full length Killing Joke albums we arrive at their seventh and undoubtedly their worst received record by both critics and their fan base. The group made a stylistic shift towards the once trending Synthpop sound without any form of subtlety. Having wrapped my head around it I see the negativity as a reaction to what was probably perceived as trend hoping, however being from the distant and mysterious future there is little offense I can take as its no longer relevant. That doesn't let it off the hook though, their are some jarring, rigid and unfortunate moments where it doesn't work, equally some great moments too. The opening track "America" is a fantastic example of good pop song writing, with a hook and catchy chorus. Its cynical lyrics and unsettling, gleaming synths reinforcing underlining the dark, observational message.

The rhythmic identity and tonal guitars are all but absent on this record and its a key part of what defines them, or once did. Equally singer Jaz Coleman steps further outside his normality and flexes his vocals, showing his ability, range and the charm his softer side has, similar to on "Love Like Blood". It sound stunning on the second track when accompanied by lush chorus pedal guitar strumming and can sound equally fluky on "Stay One Jump Ahead" where they play out Synthpop cliches. The records problem is in the rigidity between their natural instincts and the Synthpop characteristics they emulate. There is a couple moments where its awful, mostly mediocre but between them they always drift towards the moody, brooding atmospheres which having a rich set of synths and decent production value sound glorious in their moments, however theirs only a few tracks that hit that mark.

For me that's the record in a nutshell. Its best moments come from the bands leanings to their unique sound and the worst from pop cliches and "moments" in songs you've heard other bands do. It does however not deserve the flack it received in my opinion, the chirpier synth added a welcome dimension when executed with inspiration and it yielded a couple of fantastic songs. Whats interesting is this shift came years after the scenes apparent decline. I'm doubtful the motivation was to scene hop, maybe just to explore an interest in a sound than played out alongside their best years.

Favorite Songs: America, My Love Of This Land, Unto The Ends Of The Earth
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Tombs "All Empires Fall" (2016)

New York based experimental Metal outfit Tombs are back in 2016 with a short twenty-three minute EP. Impressed by their last fall length I picked this one up and at first failed to recognize the band I had heard before. What was interesting about "Savage Gold" was a seemingly normal Metal approach yielding an uncanny nuance that defied understanding on inspection. It had its way of feeling different and after many listens to "All Empires Fall" I think we are hearing the subtleties being ripped apart in different directions. The opening track throws together an atypical Thrash Metal groove that I could swear I've heard many times before. Its then overlapped with a dark Post-Metal guitar lead, tremolo picking itself through an epic reverb. In then comes crashing into a spacious synth laden slow down, building up the anticipation of the first full track.

"Obsidian" is that song, and it dispels the atmosphere with its hard and gritty Black Metal grind, pummeling through shifting, alternating blasts and evil riffage. The vocals crash in with a harsh penetrating tone that feels shrill and piercing, as if peaking the volume. Its not particularly enjoyable but the ears adjust as the song draws on. In this song the band slice in thrashier grooving riffs that highlight the aforementioned directions, where subtlety once guided the chemistry there is now a noticeable shift, however its not a negative aspect of the song, more of an observation in change.

"Deciever" is considerably more along the lines of what I expected with Thrash grooves slowed down into a temperate environment, lighter growls and accenting lead guitars craft a big mood in a steady setting, gradually elevating with increasing lead guitar focus. "V" finds a balance between the two styles and progresses its way through a rather epic passage of riffs.

I didn't feel much cohesion on this record, the last two songs made more sense together than the others however my favorite track was the non Metal track "Last Days Of Sunlight" for its brooding atmosphere and sense of impending dread. A great listen with good songs but it didn't flow well or amount to something grander than the sum of its parts.

Favorite Songs: Last Days Of Sunlight, Deceiver
Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Emperor "As The Shadows Rise" (1994)

For the longest time Emperor have been one of my favorite bands and given my recent revisits to "In The Nightside Eclipse" and "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk", two sublime records, I thought it would be nice to go through their discography again and familiarize myself with some of the obscurer releases like this three track EP. I always thought this record was a bootleg released by "Nocturnal Art" half a year after their debut but recent investigation indicates the recordings are legitimate, from the same studio session in 1992 as their self titled EP released in 1993.

Before the band incorporated symphonic elements they were raw and primitive with power chord led progression and stark, monstrous echoing vocals. It lacked craft but made up for it with a fierce dark aggression that could warrant merit in extreme music given the time. This recording session captures the band in the midst of their transition between two styles. Only on "Lord Of The Storms" do the vocals go for "over the top" theatrics with beastly pitch dropped screams accompanying the normal scream high up in the mix, would of been much better if not mixed so loud, they do however sound menacing and demonic. The regular scream style shows the tone and texture that would be commonplace on their debut, however their is an element of the shrill scream that can be a little ear piercing in its execution.

Mostly on "The Ancient Queen" do we hear the synth lines tone back the rawness with the dingy, fuzzy distortion guitars softening into the wall of sound. The song develops a lot of atmosphere with guitar riffs that steer away from being purely chord driven and with a bright and gothic organ the song propels itself forward with steady blast beats. "Witches Sabbath" goes for a similar atmosphere but feels thin in places with single note guitar leads dropping dark and sparse melodies in without a rhythm guitar. It too makes some great breaks and shifts utilizing changes in synth tone, something we would see a lot of on "Nightside".

Its an interesting listen for a die hard fan, however its a leftover. The best tracks got onto the self titled EP but hearing Emperor in such a transitional state is a curiosity satisfied. It also made me appreciate just how much the production style of their debut did for the music. Many similar traits are present here musically however the subtleties of craft and presentation production can offer is priceless.

Favorite Song: The Ancient Queen
Rating: 4/10

Monday, 25 April 2016

Somnus "Somnus" (2016)

Crow, the one man band behind Lord Lovidicus and Jotun, comes at us in 2016 with a new project known as "Sommus". It arrives with an alluring album cover that wouldn't of hinted at an electronic project to me but with his darker leanings intact it very much suits and represents what is a chilled out, mix of electronica and ambience packaged with an ethereal glow about it. At 52 minutes the self titled record makes a warm and welcome stay setting a mood and tone without attempting any grand theatrics. There is little astonishing or remarkable taking place but rather a temperate, downtempo record that defines its uniqueness and easy atmosphere quickly, taking us on a ride through a selection of layered melodies and harmonious synthesizers.

Two big distinctions are made immediately. Firstly the lightly whirling synthesizers, hazy and soft like thick air accommodate the deeper regions of range, glowing like a warm fog of color sweeping into the song. With pitch shifts they utilize the notes transition as a composition element, sometimes to give the chord changes a flair and equally its used as the focal point of a melodies direction, more often than not in time with the musics flow and on rare occasions drawn out over a bar or two.

Secondly the fruity loops standard drum kit samples are so recognizable they may be a touch off putting at first, however using whatever is available Crow has engineered them to a point where it makes no difference. The beats are sturdy and carry the songs well with plenty of variety and breaks to keep it fresh. There is the occasional fast stuttering hi hat reminiscent of Trap and some great downtempo beats here and there but mostly its the foggy synths and leads that define this sound.

The records production is a little harsh at times with the more aggressive synths crowding out the other instruments on occasion. The hit hats and claps cut through however there is a charm to this that works with the sleepy synths which breath, expanding and contracting with the sub kicks and pitch shifts. Sommus is a solid debut however the nature of its ambience and introduction of a new flavor lets it get away with a few weaker tracks and thinner compositions. Its best moments are where the layers and melodies stack up and work together, in opposition of the minimal tracks that operate with less. In those better moments the project is more reminiscent of Jotun and could of possibly been released as the 8th record, however this sound is a big shift and deserves its own name.

Favorite Tracks: Halycon Dreams III, Moon Forest
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Eternal Lord "Demo" (2007)

This two track demo is the turning point for the Deathcore five-piece band, Eternal Lord, who released a stunning debut EP, both unique in character and crushingly heavy, its been a gem to me for years. I decided to follow up on the rest of their discography which consists of this demo and an album which was so disappointing on first listen I never gave it a chance. With Rickett out in favor of Edward Butcher on vocals the band make a big stylistic shift for the worse. Butcher's vocals aren't half bad or even the problem, the group seemed to have shifted away from their once distinct breed of Deathcore to a generic, unexciting and atypical sound for the scene which is simply tiring and dated.

This two track demo is studio quality however its a total chug fest of palm muted open string riffs and generic breakdowns which pass through one ear and out the other. There is practically nothing more for me to say, its not terrible, or unlistenable but if you were to write the key characteristics of Deathcore on paper you would get this demo. There is no charm, unique flavor or twist in sight, its bog standered and boring. Perhaps their is an echo of their style in the occasional metal core riff and drumming break but they are smothered by the generic flood of mediocrity.

Rating: 2/10

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Neptune Towers "Transmissions From Empire Algol" (1995)

The second of two ambient records by Norwegian Darkthrone musician Fenriz has little of the ambiguous charm "Caravans To Empire Algol" did. Its another oddity of transforming sounds with little direction or immersion to offer. In its merit there is an aquatic quality about the first songs choice of sounds, sometimes resembling whales, however it amounts to very little in the grand scheme of things. The first tract slogs its way through a collection of friendlier sounds with less drone and fuzz than its predecessor, a chilling organ pops up in the middle and other electronic leads take over following it. Although unnerving, mysterious and illusive in their own way they never get to add up to anything grander with what mood the instrument sets simply drifting out into next shift in the song, dispelling what little magic it conjoured.

The second track bares an uncanny resemblance to Kraftwerk and possibly "Endless Endless" with similar electronic tones and even the melodies sounding distinctly similar if not reminiscent of their approach to composition. It could also be a case of the equipment used having default sounds but I have uncovered no information on how it was composed. Again it drifts through a set of sounds however the aimlessly dispel the vibe when they transition with little correlation. The first record had more ambiguity and mystic going for itself with its dense drones and occasional whiff of a tune in the baseline. "Transmissions..." is more accessible but in that the lack of direction, purpose or composure is further exposed, resulting in a rather forgettable experience if not mildly enjoyable in the mood for ambience.

Rating: 2/10

Friday, 22 April 2016

Buckethead "Claymation Courtyard" (2014)

American guitarist Buckethead is both a legend for his phenomenal guitar playing and an obscurity in the world of music. Raised in a chicken coup, Brain Caroll AKA Buckethead has created an air of mystery around himself, always appearing masked with an upside down KFC bucket on his head labeled "Funeral". The mysterious demeanor is second to his ability and unique flair with an electronic guitar. Although metallic and distortion heavy his style is experimental and avant-garde. The last time I properly listened to a record of his was ten years ago, 2006's "Crime Slunk Scene" which was around the early days of his accelerated record releases. Buckethead has released over 250 albums in around 25 years. In the 00s he started pumping out three to four a year and in the 10s he is releasing extraordinary amounts with over 100 in 2015. As you might suspect these albums are more like jams that have been polished up but even so with Buckethead's extraordinary ability a jam is a gem.

Speaking of gems "Disintegration Mirrors" is this albums moment of genius. It was also how I found the record! Tweeted by John Romero, one of the creators of doom, I found myself gobsmacked at the wonderful guitar solo this track dived right into. Then ten minutes or so later I released I'm still captivated. The other songs on the record sound decent alongside it but don't have quite the same spark. If you are familiar with Bucketheads style this is a pretty standard amalgamation of warm, mid tempo distortion riffage and colorful effect heavy guitar leads in non linear arrangements. The drums are programmed by top end VSTs and possibly the bass guitar too. Its solid, workable, nothing to marvel and can get a little rigid if you focus too close on the drumming. I'm left entertained but at the rate he pumps these records out at I find myself far more curious about the creation process behind them.

Favorite Track: Disintegration Mirrors
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Deftones "Gore" (2016)

The Deftones are an American five piece band from Sacramento who have survived the test of time, once at the origin of the Nu Metal scene the band have steadily refined and evolved their sound over the years and have successfully built a large following of adoring fans, of which I am one. Whats special about them is that they have held onto what made them unique from the beginning, now spanning twenty one years and eight albums, not including a record shelved due to the tragic four year coma and death of bassist Chi Cheng. Deftones would primarily be described as an Alternative Metal band but their indulgent guitar distortions coupled with Chino Moreno's dreamy voice will have you hearing tinges of Post-Metal, Shoegazing and even Dream Pop in its colorful moments.

Their last record "Koi No Yokan" is my personal favorite and set high expectations for "Gore". My initial impression where that Deftones had reached out to a eerier, slightly psychedelic vibe however these ambiguities faded with familiarity. What the band have achieved is what they have always done, entrance us with the power of the low and heavy, rock us with the groove and smother it in tinges of hazy melodic color. This time Carpenter takes his experimentation into artful territories with riffs that push into all sorts of genre definitions. It comes together so effortlessly for the listener, at many moments dissecting the ensemble just furthers the appreciation for the bands vision.

 The records production is a marvel of its own, toying with heavy grooves, dense guitar tones, deep six string baselines and on the flip side Chino's soft voice, light reverb acoustics and tingly electronic keys it manages to find power and clarity without any modern over compression nonsense. For this the drums may find themselves a little buried but its all in the balance. There is a lot of varying guitar effects and Chino has a lot of production on his voice, from artful echoing to narrowing ranges around his screams the band utilize the power of a records production to further their vision.

With all the praise I have to give the band their was no breath taking moments for me, nothing that jumped out at me, initially I was hearing echos of old Deftones songs like "Minerva" and "Royal" however the eight string guitar is now just part of the bands arsenal. With each and every listen their was nothing I could complain about. For me "Gore" is a very solid and consistent record that doesn't need anything but itself to me indulge in. It plays through without a dull moment and is continually powerful without any theatrics or over emphasis. A closer listen to Chino's lyrics will reveal its a darker, sombre record but one not over bearing, its executed tastefully to suit any mood your in.

Favorite Songs: Acid Hologram, Doomed User, Gore, Rubicon
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Dusty Springfield "Dusty In Memphis" (1969)

Another from the upper rankings of NME's 500 greatest albums of all time list is "Dusty In Memphis" which has graced my ears practically everyday since I first gave it a spin. English singer Springfield has been labeled as Blue-Eyed Soul, a needlessly racial term in my opinion. From what I can gather her career never quite panned out the way one would hope, with critical and commercial success alluding her. However this gem has aged well and despite making little impact at the time has been regarded as her best work and one of the greatest records of all time. Twenty or so listens later I'm inclined to agree, this is a beautiful record, a real peach.

 There's an emanating warmth and love that comes from Dusty's vocie, soft and elegant she graces us with her kind soul, her words honest, vulnerable and a timeless tribute to the human experience. Even though she has a soft, breathy voice she can muster up so much strength and power when the dramatic moments come. Its spell bounding how lost you can be in her voice as she goes between the highs and lows, as if they are all one eternal movement. Her tone, range and delivery is just sublime.

The accompanying instrumentals play a pivotal role in making this record so remarkable. From what I've read Dusty was a perfectionist and drove her musicians mad trying to perfect every sound. The songs find her wave length and bring a temperate setting to life for her voice to shine, but it is the strings that illuminate. A couple of tracks feel a step behind where they are not utilized and when the strings shine they do so like a second voice, swooning with Dusty and complimenting her emotional narrative. There are many moments that steadily grow, then she and the strings light up and it hits like a heartbreak. The instrumentals are gorgeous, detailed with soft sounds that whisper and chime gently from quite corners. Paying attention one can hear a depth that adds up to a simple direction.

Like any good record there is variety in mood which includes fantastic Gospel group vocals on "Don't Forget About Me Now", an upbeat and empowering track and "Son Of A Preacher Man" the albums most recognizable song, which I have to mention was sampled by Cypress Hill on "Hits From The Bong". There's a lot of love and heartbreak in the theme of these songs and they no issues establishing themselves, feeling unique and individual alongside one another.

A beautiful, timeless voice, sublime instrumentation and my only complaint would be a lack of vision beyond the single format. Each of these tracks play with the three minute mark and many of them simply fade out. Its something I'm rarely keen on but in this instance it always left more yearning for more as the moments leading up to the climax are repeated leading to the fade out. Maybe that's its genius, each song leaves you watering at the mouth for that moment in the middle. At thirty four minutes its short and sweet, I'll often just listen to it twice in a row. So very humbled by this record, its truly a work of beauty and I adore it unlike any other record.

Favorite Tracks: I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore, Don't Forget About Me Now, In The Land Of Make Believe, No Easy Way Down, I Can't Make It Alone
Rating: 10/10

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Echo And The Bunnymen "Heaven Up Here" (1981)

Checking out records on NME's great 500 albums list "Heaven Up Here" caught my attention for its Post-Punk label, an era that's been capturing my attention recently. The group formed in Liverpool during the late 70s and have had a string of successful, well received records of which this is their sophomore, considered their best work by many. Not a band place to start and immediately Ian McCulloch's vocal style caught my attention, reminding me of The Smiths and The Doors, maybe a little Joy Division too.

He would serve as the focal point of the magic this record exudes. Delivered with a immediate power and swift force his voice graciously glides with the gulf of its vibrato opening up a vulnerable state. And boy does it gulf, the wobble is real and swollen with emotion. Its no opera or theater piece, Ian sings with a soothing tone but as the songs build there are moments where he lets it go and every heart felt note chokes me up, the oscillation in tandem with its meaning. A remarkable singing style nearing perfection, if such a thing exists.

Behind him carefully orchestrated atmospheres play off his direction, building and descending at his command using simple constructs of repetitive sections with plenty of variety and change to illuminate entire songs. The drums punch and crash their way through with a rigid sense of groove, sharp and fast in rhythm with plenty of roomy toms in the spacier moments. Alongside them the bass plays a welcome upfront roll, often taking the roll of "the riff" to lead the way forward with warm and structured lines that rock back and forth. The guitars shimmer and waver in the air with light chord strumming and wide reverbs to build a spacious atmospheres on top of the rhythmic core.

As a whole the eleven tracks add up to quite the experience, rich with ideas and never finding itself in a dull moment however the climatic nature of "A Promise" with its warm melodic tone and heart wrenching performance finds the rest of the songs chasing behind this mark. Its the sort of record that lets the time breeze by with its effortless ask of the listener. Ian's voice certainly steals the show but it may not be the same with a different set of instrumentals, the group have quite the chemistry and artistic unity with their music.

Favorite Tracks: With A Hip, A Promise, All I Want
Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Azriel "Split With Eternal Lord" (2006)

Having covered the Eternal Lord tracks in this split release, I thought it would be a good idea to check out the Azriel tracks too. What a treacherous idea that would turn out to be. Scottish five piece band "Azriel" play with fractured melodic leads and Deathcore breakdowns spliced into their formulaic Metalcore style. It comes with an overtone of Screamo given the vocal style and gang shouts. I remember not being keen on it ten years ago and now as more diverse listener I thought this might change but alas I had to endure this one a few more times.

Lets be fair, this isn't terrible but some distinct characteristics rub me the wrong way and being dead bored of Deathcore the insentient open chord, palm muted break downs were dull and tiring. Between them slow leads would add a tinge of color and some interesting riffs would crop up with decent chemistry between the chords and leads but these would be quickly dispelled by needless "heavy" moments in favor of song progression. The production however is pretty solid for a low key release.

Above it all the groups vocalist slays me. His delivery is throaty, thin and lacks any oomph or power. Its whiny and "cringey" for lack of a less judgemental word. If not irritated by his presence the group shouts just make matters worse, loose and without out force they seem in complete contrast to the lyrics. "Nothing can stop us now", "Its only a matter of time before your true form is revealed", "Go get your guns". A lot of the lyrics revolve around struggle and self power yet the unity with style is absent to my ears. Not my cup of tea.

Rating: 1/10

Saturday, 16 April 2016

BABYMETAL "Metal Resistance" (2016)

Right now Babymetal are enjoying a wave of hype as they tour America, gaining the attention of somewhat mainstream audiences. The trio of idol girls and their backing metallic band have been at it for six years now, when they were as young as just twelve years old. When their debut album dropped in 2014 I was initially dismissive of the group, seeing them as a product, a pop act. Leading up to this release the single "The One" captivated by attention with its exciting guitar leads and soaring spirit which felt like a continual climax of epic. Even its its calmer moments a gorgeous piano and gittery synth play off each other with charm. Like a slap in the face it made me realize that behind the idol recruitment was a genuine band with inspired musical ideas.

So "Metal Resistance" has been an exciting listen. A combination of heavily over produced modern Metal and warm heated J-Pop hooks made for what has been a refreshing and welcome twist on heavy music. Being an outsider to J-Pop I couldn't comment much on its influence to their sound but the Japanese voices of the trio and conventional sensibility in delivery works in equilibrium with an aggressive underflow of aggressive guitars drenched in trance like synthesizers. Like any fusion of this type you can expect the guitars to drop to power chords in vocal led moments and although they do this, the band keep up a furious intensity with brutal, relentless drumming. Musically speaking they go through the motions with Groove Metal riffs, guitar solos and electronic instruments including lurking synthesizers in most tracks and on "Awdama Fever", a song about bubblegum, a visceral, glitchy, breakcore rhythm section uses the classic amen loop sample which much energy.

The music is crammed into the sound waves and frequencies with a very modern, overproduced squeaky clean and alarmingly assaulting mix. The compression is real. The kicks and snares are very sharp and sudden yet quite masterfully mixed alongside the other instruments. The guitars are super loud and even the girl's vocals loose their softness with competing compression. Its a very frontal and loud sound however it works 100%. Nothing but credit to the production, it takes the sterile and clean to its limits and packs a lot of character into the sound, which is often what it removes in my experience with this production style. Even after back to back listens you think it might tire you ear drums, but no!

Their were two other things I particularly enjoyed. Su-metal's voice sounds fantastic in both Japanese and English but the pronunciation of English words and the foreign emphasis is charming. The guitar leads and solos in their melodic phases gave me fond memories of Nobuo Uematsu's approach. With all this praise I must say much of my excitement emanates from "The One" which I simply cannot get enough of. Its not all fantastic, a few songs are a little mediocre in comparison but all do there own thing and make for a bright, colorful and refreshing record.

Favorite Songs: Karate, Awdama Fever, Sis Anger, Tales Of The Destinies, The One
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 15 April 2016

Neptune Towers "Caravans To Empire Algol" (1994)

This record had the makings of something great, a mysterious album cover, the promise of dark and eerie ambient music. Side project of Norwegian Darkthone musician Fenriz, at the bands creative peak and released on Moonfog Productions. Unfortunately the music didn't quite live up to what one might expect but nothing appalling is in store, rather a mediocre ambience piece that does enough to define itself with a touch of memorable atmosphere that it can call its own.

An organic horn like noise confronts us as it morphs into a deep wall of fuzzy noise. Perilous to any tune or melody it shifts and transforms through bizarre and claustrophobic sounds packing sharp wave forms into a narrow range of frequency. Eventually a deep plodding melody creeps into the forefront to find itself quickly replaced by roaring noises and sweeping hisses. This continual metamorphosis resembles organs at one moment before our baseline returns to be replaced by a fluttery, swirling, heaving growth of sound around the twelve minute mark. At the sixteenth minute the rapid fluctuations make an uncanny zap lazer sound, dispelling the ambience with its lack of subtlety. The second track starts by falling to a black, unnerving atmosphere with low, creepy, rumbling distortions, soft and hidden in the tracks reverb. The rest mostly experiments with cascading sounds often feel as if they are descending, being sucked down into the darkness before ending with some rather paranoid sounds.

Its a strange and unusual experience, reminding me fondly of old black and white sci-fi horror movies with its stark and and adventurous use of primitive technology. I now find myself fascinated as to how this record was composed, in many moments the turning of knobs and dials can be felt but many of the tones and sounds created are quite mysterious and do not lend themselves to be understood. The process behind its creation could well be remarkable as its ambiguity serves to be its strength. Great listen but I didn't experience much that warranted my return after a few listens.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Eternal Lord "Split With Azriel" (2006)

Having written about Eternal Lord's self titled debut, I was reminded of their follow up split record with English Metalcore outfit "Azriel", released the same year. Foolishly I never gave it much of a listen at the time and for this blog we are going to focus on the two of four songs this band contributed to the record. Its a step up in production fidelity and a few things become apparent quickly. Vocalist Rickett sounds far deeper, lower, looser in delivery but with the same tonal distinctions. The group also incorporate symphonic sounds, piano and strings, into their second track, much in the vein of Symphonic Black Metal. Very reminiscent of what Abigail Williams would do in the years to come, however the metallic instruments remained rooted in their Metalcore origins.

"Destiny" is the first of two and wouldn't sound out of place on their debut. The productions fidelity removes the organic, sludgy feel they once had and showcases the technical prowess of the riffing. For this it shows its Metalcore side more and when the breakdown hits it sounds far more generic without the sludgy, looser production to give it charm. On the flip side the tighter sound gives the guitars more room to express themselves and the drums blitz away through a clicky ecstasy.

"The Harp And Hellfire" is the ambitious track. Its piano led symphonic intro and light use of strings work well with the momentous nature of the opening riffs. Surprisingly the sounds mix, however the dark symphony is at first paired with drawn out power chords and a tremolo riff accompanied by blast beats. Very akin to Black Metal but swiftly the song finds its break back to the Metalcore vein. Another reasonable breakdown is followed unexpectedly a guitar solo with light strings. The song then reaches a climax with a groove, repeating over and over, steadily fading out to let a matching symphony overtake and see off the record.

This transition is an interesting one as the band effortlessly incorporated a different sound without compromising their own. However on closer examination the shifts between styles are rigid and obvious, yet it feels completely organic in the moment. This may have been their calling but unfortunately this period was short lived with a big stylistic shift in their 2007 demo.

Favorite Song: The Harp And Hellfire
Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Emperor "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk" (1997)

Riding the trail of illuminated stardust we descend from the cosmos into the deep majestic, endless forests of eternal darkness and enchanted beasts on the journey of our mortal souls. If ever the wonders of imagination evoked by natural beauty at night had a home, it is this. An inspired and truly astonishing feet of work that took Emperor's sound established on "In The Nightside Eclipse" to new heights. Epic, if ever truer a definition, its compass and wonder is its nature, one can only marvel in the shadow of music that so elegantly takes the extremities to the cutting edge of vision and composition. Skirmishing drums, razor blade guitars, devilish screams and shadowy symphonies meet on the battlefield to capture us with their imposing presence as we fill mercy to their persuasion.

"Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk" is Emporer's second full length and a hard one to follow with considering the widespread acclaim of their debut. With their drummer jailed and a bassist short Ihsahn and Samoth rejoined to write what is undoubtedly a masterful record that plays like a symphony, full of movements, progressions and climaxes. Every moment inspired and visionary the instruments fire on all cylinders as two guitars, drums, bass, vocals and multiple key lines show there prowess and technicality. At almost every point playing a unique lead, melody, tune, whatever you want to call the notation its a complex and genius arrangement of harmonization, uniting the instruments with the sparks of a darkest magic. It breathes and burgeons with a ferocious energy, barely containing its magic. The wall of sound bursting at the seams, every measurable noise ready to burst with light.

The mysterious record cover says a lot for the music. An amalgamation of dark castle spires deep in the forest, Gustave Dore's "Paradise Lost" angels sounding their trumpets for battle and the majestic shades of green, natures color. The fantasy, wonder and depths of the imagination this image might conjure is purely an extension of the musics inclination to that realm of fantasy. One which most likely takes a certain type of person to connect with.

So the record starts with a calming and soothing piece, steadily growing in intensity, always with a dark, mysterious undercurrent. One by one instruments chime and Ihsahn lures us in with ghostly whispers. They grow into shouts and bring us to an empiric horn section as if the dawn of battle has begun and in a swift track switch we are plunged in to the whirlwind of chaos and rattling blast beats and the almighty guitar riffage hits us with this full intensity. From here the pandemonium unravels itself with a frenzy of blazing fast paced guitars and rich symphonic bliss as this track and many others worm there way through the dark and black while lavishing us in melodic wonder through it thick sound. Its swiftness is intoxicating, a momentous weight of motion is unleashed as soaring riffs revel in their moment. Almost every song has its calm in the storm, a break to let the guitars and listener breath while the keys can drop in to take charge of a moment, replacing the aggression with awe.

The albums production clearly plays an important role in why this record works. Stepping away from the low-fidelity principles of their debut, Emperor exploit clarity to execute a denser complexity. The synths no longer an atmospheric accompaniment but a full partner in the musics direction. Within the expanded dimension Emperor cram all their musical might and it is pummeled together with a monstrously noisy drum kit which I think conjures a low-fi charm. I once thought the drums were poorly mixed, the pedals slap at high speeds and the ride cymbal cuts through the instruments. Over time I released the frantic energy the drums exude gives many of the albums moments its intensity.

The eight tracks make their mark, all of them offering a unique, captivating experience that peers deeper into the wonder. For the average listener a whirl of noise, for the seasoned Metal fan the atmosphere is as vivid and indulgent as it gets. Every time I revisit this record I find my catharsis again. It is so powerful and riveting it gives me goosebumps and refuels my energy for extreme music. Emperor undoubtedly solidified there status as Black Metal's greatest with this one but I think it is truly underappreciated in comparison. This is probably my second favorite record to grace my ears so far.

Favorite Songs: Ensorcelled By Khaos, The Loss And Curse Of Reverence, The Acclamation Of Bonds, With Strength I Burn
Rating: 10/10

Monday, 11 April 2016

Cradle Of Filth "Hammer Of The Witches" (2015)

Its been hailed as the "return of cradle". A fan pleaser, well received by critics and the bands 11th full length in a string of records releasing every two years on average. For some, myself included, the band lost their way back at the turn of the millennium with 2000s "Midian" which made a significant shift in sound. I haven't kept up with the band over the last decade and so this slipped into my playlist with ease, for the most part it resembles the traditional Cradle style I'm very fond of. With another major lineup change Dani has found the chemistry to spark the glory days. Two new guitarists, a change on keyboards and female vocals, and only another two who were present no further than the last record "Midnight In The Labyrinth".

"Hammer Of The Witches" best tracks would sound right at home in a set-list alongside Cradle's hallmark songs. The rest fall a touch further from the tree. Although writing some fantastic songs, the vast majority of it comes from the same principles, techniques and songwriting that worked so well on "V Empire" & "Dusk... And Her Embrace". It lingers in a balance between inspiration and calculation where sometimes the melodies persuasion is engulfing and other times the reminiscent becomes a reminder of what song or riff its akin too. The lead guitarist brings unfamiliar electric guitar solos into the earlier parts of the record, lacking in cohesion they dictate shifts and climaxes in the song while simultaneously feeling out of place in Cradle's dark and gothic sound. For the most part they nail the style and vibe but on this instance gave it an unnecessary weak point. In front of the lush orchestrated Extreme Metal is Dani's voice who's age can be heard. Its far from a concern but the signs are there. The lower guttural ranges coming across slightly gruff and lose. His shrill high pitched scream still powerful but shy on its intensity. He holds it together for the whole record well with the usual styles and same timing on delivery. It makes me wonder how much longer he can keep at it.

Not much unexpected happens across the course of the record, a decent collection of songs to entertain, what is most surprising is how inspired a handful of them feel. With more consistency at that peak this could of been quite a special record, however it is not. Production wise its squeaky clean, well balanced with just enough noise in there to keep a vibrancy going. Guitars are very crisp and clear, allowing them to master a range of riff styles audibly. Strings and keyboards use lush high end tones that gracefully fit in and only the drums pedals sound a little clinical and sterile at high speeds. Its another brick in the wall for Cradle's catalog and I am left feeling they should of taken more time to pursue the magic they sparked on a couple of tracks.

Favorite Songs: Deflowering The Maidenhead Displeasuring The Goddess, Blackest Magick In Practice
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Dream Theater "The Astonishing" (2016)

"The Astonishing" might be a name to reflect the bands ambitions on this humongous record spanning over two hours in length. Its a theatrical piece, a Metal musical, an opera that will test the short attention spans of many listeners. Dream Theater are the kings of Progressive Metal, fusing Prog Rock with Metal at the end of the 80s they have released a string of well received records over the years, now spanning over 30 for the American band. "The Astonishing" is a bold and audacious endeavor, throwing all caution to the wind and defying convention by loading a truly lengthy record with a meticulous story line to inspire illustrious, expansive music. Unfortunately its issue is indeed the audience of whom many may struggle to endure a record so lengthy and too I fell to this struggle. Its hard to get through 130 minutes of music without interruption and so experiencing the full might of the groups intention is difficult, yet they cannot be criticized for aiming high and to do something truly different from expectation.

So this grandiose story is set in the future where humans no longer make music and machines make noise. There is a royal family who rule over the lands and in a far away town a peasant, or commoner, posses the gift to compose and play music. The family travel to see the man play and the Princess falls in love with him. From there its a blur of ups and downs, triumphs and betrayals where my ability to follow the lyrics like reading a book lets me down. You can feel it in the music though, the progression and mood lets you know where the setting however the last thirty minutes of the record seems to consist of song after song with climatic endings that feel like the curtain close... and then it goes into another track. It has its moments, the fight for a cause, talks of revolution and a savior who brings gifts however it is much easier to understand reading the online synopsis than through the music.

The record is far less metallic than you'd expect, there is far more acoustics and a greater involvement from the pianos which seem ever present winding around the guitars lead. The amount of electric guitars leads and ever progressing melodies is quite remarkable, the band flesh out every moment without repeating themselves and it comes in a healthy dose layered compositions only such experienced musicians can pull off. Aside from the rather broad theme a few twists and turns pop up in the form of cultural and genre styles. Imperial marching music, swing, big band and trumpets and horns explode into life in their moments and of course there are a fair few ballads as one might expect. In between the main run of music a few short industrial, electronic, noise oriented sounds play in what I believe represents the noise machines, the final "Power Down" makes this kinda obvious, its a nice accompaniment.

In conclusion such a large piece defies understanding as even somehow having listened to this five or more times it is still a bit vague and at the mercy of the musics flow. And that's not a bad thing, if in the mood for following along the bands musicianship holds up, however to connect on a deeper level that familiarity and understanding alludes me. Its a double edged sword to create such an ambitious feet of work, however that's only if the listeners expectation is your concern.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 8 April 2016

Eternal Lord "Eternal Lord" (2006)

I've been looking forward to the day Id talk about this short five track EP since I first started this blog! Eternal Lord are a short lived English Deathcore band who dropped this self titled in the prime of the scenes uprising. Its a real gem, one that never gets old for me and unfortunately rapid line up changes and shifts in sound meant they would never revisit the unusual breed of metal they conjured up in the twenty minutes the record lasts. The band would release a split record with Azirel in a similar vein but their first full length left much to be desired and so led to the band splitting in 2009.

The record opens up with "Upon Thy Icy Waves" and its Deathcore style isn't immediately apparent. Sludgy, slightly dissonant guitars chug and churn under a rattling drum kit and in the chords a strange tinge of harmony protrudes. As the song progresses through a drum solo into its first phase the snarling throaty screams drop in with a covering range of texture, raspy and loose. Under them the guitars hammer out atypical Metalcore riffs, melodies spliced between muted open strings, yet despite the similar technique a distinct and unique sound is very apparent. It progresses through the motions and ends with some bright a colorful leads to climax the song.

 At many intervals in these songs the band tread into the breakdown territory with sometimes bold and obvious approaches, letting the steady china cymbal bridge the space between the occasionally chugged guitars and the beastly vocal growls. In other moments the band have the sensibility to hold back the obvious nature of the breakdown and simply remove a few elements from the currently played guitar riff and amplify the groove on the drum kit. Its fantastic, giving constant refreshment of head banging energy to the flow of these songs which never let up on intensity.

In an untypical fashion for the genre, the band sounds somewhat mystic and a little drawn to some of the grander epic themes found in majestic Black Metal. Its a very indirect subtlety but the guitars have a darker charm to them and vocalist Rickett through his slack and gruff delivery enhances a nature vibe with animistic and beastly vocals that sound like a fantasy creature of the night. The song titles would also indicate these themes may have been an intention, rather than something I've found for myself, however some tremolo riffs wouldn't sound out of place on a Black Metal record.

 Aesthetically the production is a touch raw and blunt within reason. The drums batter and clatter away with a cutting intensity in the mix, the pedals have a rather clicking presence. The cymbals have a rather stark and crashing existence in the mix. Along with the loud and "in the front" mixing of the vocals the bass gets a little lost behind the guitars with their own serpentine texture, often enhanced by the syncopation with the pedals. All five tracks are distinct and firing on all cylinders with no weak spots, maybe room for preference or favoritism. Its been around ten years and it still sounds fantastic. A very overlooked record that I think particular types of Metalheads would get a real kick from. I'm kicking myself though as I never got to see them perform live.

Favorite Songs: Fields And Failure, Deeds To The Throne
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Cradle Of Filth "The Principal Of Evil Made Flesh" (1994)

Going back to their debut, Extreme Metal band Cradle Of Filth's distinct style arrives in an embryonic and unrefined form. I am guilty of never giving this one much time back in my youth when I was a big fan and going to it now their isn't a lot that's unfamiliar. Many of the songs have been re-recorded, re-written and adapted for use in future releases, always to sound superior. Something to keep in mind is this isn't the band's planned debut and whatever was on 93's Goetia this is a big shift in sound from the "Total Fucking Darkness" demo of the same year, where the group first distanced themselves from their Death Metal roots.

A lot of the musics spirit finds itself slightly buried in the poor production quality and although the ears adapt it doesn't have the same immersion a rich production would bring. The guitars, drums and bass are all in the typical cradle style but it is Dani and the keyboards that are noticeably a step behind. There are moments throughout where the power of the keys and there sounds lack the oomph and direction to be fully involved. Often sounding like an underwhelming accessory it is remarkable to hear how much the choice of instrument tone can impact its roll in the song. On this record though the keys are stiff and rigid, the quality is low and it shows. At regular intervals a short two minute keyboard instrumental pops up, throwing off the momentum and energy of the main songs and on one track a one second loop of flowing water plays under glistening, sparkly noises that get repetitive so quickly. It has charm but exposes the lack of budget a record of this ambition needs.

Secondly Dani hasn't quite found his voice, the surreal shrill scream makes its debut in a raw and powerful form but the regular guttural and throaty screams are a touch raspy, thin and tame in comparison. Its the problem with retrospect, you know whats to come and at the time this was probably a very exciting record to get your hands on, a new and wild sound emerging from the aftermath of Norwegian Black Metal and one of the first to embrace the possibilities of at least prototype Symphonies in Metal music.

The track "A Dream Of Wolves In The Snow" gives a sense of a rushed writing process, a short two minute piece with an epic intro that seems to quickly fizzle out on itself. It is without the epic riff that sparks the madness which it would become when re-written as "Queen Of Winter, Throned". Its a heavily flawed debut which still manages to showcase their creativity and vision. The production.. lackluster, wobbly with volume inconsistencies and an awful, sloppy sounding double pedal capture. Flawed, far from perfect it still made for a fun listen. Not one to start with if you are new to this band.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Hot Dad "Wrestle" (2016)

Comedy and music don't always mix for me but when it works it can be pretty spectacular, which is what this record is in terms of putting a smile on your face and having a good time. Hot Dad is a one man band from America who's music focuses around a quirky and crude sense of humor. What he does so well on this release is parody with sparkly, colorful harmonized music that's lighthearted, simple yet executed with a sense of excellence that lets the underlying joke prevail, as opposed the mocking a genre with poor instrumentals, something Ive heard done to often.

So these songs are about wrestlers but they could simply be parodies of entrance songs with each track singing praises to the wrestler in question. All the tracks are about 90 seconds or less which is fantastic, the joke doesn't get stale and we swiftly move from one to the next. Each of the tracks have a distinctly 80's pop vibe about them but in an odd way, one that lacks the sense of cheese that came from the era's excessive use of electronic instruments that didn't have quite the polish they needed. Thanks to much care in composition and quality these melodies and hooks feel rather charming and the cheese simply reinforces the jokes which get increasingly crude and explicit as the record draws on.

The record starts with its best and perhaps the joke tires as the record draws on but it genuinely feels like the first twelve or so are considerably better than the rest. Hot Dad's light, fresh and poppy voice are a constant source of joy, dropping in higher ranged notes with typically pop vocal hooks and catches that again go for quality to reinforce the joke. There's a fair few songs that feel very familiar, "The Rock" reminds me of Thin Lizzy. It could be that these songs are also covers however radio pop music has never my strong point. Its a terrific record that's worth a listen if you want a chuckle, after a fair few listens the joke still holds on but the weaker tracks show themselves.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 4 April 2016

School Of Seven Bells "SVIIB" (2016)

In the mood for something a little more upbeat and poppy I found my way to the "School of Seven Bells" fourth and final record. This NYC based Dream Pop trio consist of twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra who grace us with their voices as well as handling keyboards and guitars, alongside them multi instrumentalist Benjamin Curtis who sadly passed away in 2013. The record was mostly written in 2012 before Benjamin's death and revolves around how the group first met. To what extent it was "finished" with his involvement is unknown to me, however its irrelevant considering this the first of theirs I have listened to.

Opening up with a simple popping 4/4 beat and a breathy, wordless vocal hook the album quickly establishes its tone with bright and simplistic musical arrangements. In the chorus two vocal lines harmonize and swim around one another while the strings, blinking synthesizers, distant guitars and bold pumping bass melt into a dreamy wall of sound. Its borders the Ethereal but no distinct sombre or dark tones are to be found. "SVIIB" is upbeat yet sleepy, its bright energy slightly contained behind a slower, measured pace. Each song brings a different twist to a very settled sound, most of the creative variety focuses around vocal hooks and delivery between a rather stale verse chorus structure. The band conjure some great arrangements drifting towards ambience and ranging up to epic climatic poppy moments with layered synths and fuzzy, energetic guitars crashing into the fold, usually with a few shimmering melodic notes above the golden haze. 

Given the records setting and history the lyrical context probably plays an important role however, as I often am with words, they went in one ear and out the other. Their voices however are soft and easy on the ears, the entire sound of the record is lush, easily indulgent and full of dreamy reverbs finely mixed in a glossy sound. Where the record falters is at its core, the simplistic and poppy nature leaves much to be desired musically. Just after a couple of listens the songs feel a little worn as it doesn't take long to pick up the compositions which are generally short and played out through verse chorus structures. There's no progression in mood, structure or even melody, rarely even a repeated segment undergoing a key shift or additional instrumentation. However these are complaints of preference.

The album does wrap up with its better songs, "Confusion" breaking into a deep peaceful atmosphere, very reminiscent of the soothing ambience in Julee Cruise's "Floating Into The Night". Following is a rather atypical track, however its execution and charm a lot stronger than the rest of the record. The chorus has a memorable synth lead that soars and shimmers in the fading reverb. Great moment but unfortunately this record was a little sparse of substance which became apparent after just a handful of listens through.

Favorite Tracks: Confusion, This Is Our Time
Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Cradle Of Filth "V Empire" (1996)

"V Empire", or "Dark Faerytales In Phallustein" was once to me a somewhat mysterious release from the English Extreme Metal band. A record with two names, sometimes listed as an EP and released instead of a "lost" record. Luckily now the Internet is a wealth of knowledge and the story is clear. Before their debut, which I am actually not familiar with, they recorded a full length known as "Goetia" in 93. Unfortunately the record label couldn't pay the studio bills and the recordings were wiped. Hastily signing with Cacophonous Records the group got a bad deal which led them to quickly write and record "V Empire" before jumping ship to Music for Nations. Recorded in 95 and released earlier in the year to their magnum opus "Dusk... And Her Embrace", it has only six tracks, but with a couple of lengthy tracks makes for an album experience.

Despite its rushed production Vempire, as its often referred to, has some of the bands finest moments, the opening three tracks a staple mark of any live show. Its a rawer experience with a lack of polish that translates into a wild energy that becomes refined and focused on its follow up. Its very much in the same moment, however Dani's unique and shrill howls are at their peak with a blinding intensity and haunting magnitude. Alongside them his deep, bellowing gothic spoken words, drenched in reverb fuel the fantasy worlds these songs take us too. In some of his most intense moments he sounds like Varg Vikerness and his animistic barks of agony. The rawer attitude of this record gives the extreme angle of their sound more freedom and the result is a faster, aggressive beast. The melodies and riffs create a vivid atmosphere and make for their most memorable material, especially the ten minute epic "Queen Of Winter, Throned", full of dramatic intensity, mood shifts and lightning screams its topped off with an almost cheesy moment of vampiric masturbation leading into the songs climax and conclusion.

Having revisited this one Ive really got a fuller sense of where it lies in Cradle's history and subsequently has become a fascination and curiosity. What could this have been under different circumstances? It feels like Cradle rushed their most inspired moment. In the flurry of a dash to escape a contract they managed to find a brilliant balance in production of rawness and power that would never be the same again. If this was strengthened by a few more decent tracks it could of easily been their ten out of ten. Fantastic record!

Favorite Songs: Ebony Dressed For Sunset, The Forest Whispers My Name, Queen Of Winter, Throned
Rating: 9/10

Friday, 1 April 2016

The Future Sound Of London "Lifeforms" (1994)

Sent to me from a twitter follower I fired up this record on youtube and ever so swiftly did this one reveal its brilliance. As on the first listen and many follow ups I was captivated by such an organic and spiritual musical experience. "Lifeforms" is a gem, a strange oddity of experimentation that abstracts the norm and unites the beyond with the now as if on a psychedelic drug trip, reaching into the limits of the mind. Perhaps its not totally "out there", or anything to blow your mind but given the context of 1994 this record is well ahead of its time, mixing all sorts of sounds into a fluid unravel of imaginative beauty for your soul to explore.

This is one of those records to experience yourself. There are some steadier moments where chilled out, down tempo beats providing a familiar rhythmic setting to nod along to, however its charm lies in a continually evolving tapestry of unusual samples and wandering instruments that find a mesmerizing chemistry in unusual places. Even room for a lofty, dreamy sample of "Cannon In D Major" to drift into the subconscious. At 90 minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome, but continually finds new territory and sound to move through, it could of easily gone on for longer.

Almost every moment on this record is fantastic and there are two moments in particular I'm fond of. As one might guess there is black and harrowing track that delves into dark down tempo ambience with shadowy shimmering synths, cryptic distorted voices and rippling sirens in the distances. It evolves into a short lived steady beat that grooves with an evil menace. In contrast "Dead Skin Cells" brightens the mood with with unusual alien sounds juxtaposed against birds tweeting in the distance while a laid back beat drifts on by. Much of the record ebbs and flows at its own pace, through one oddity after another. A truly riveting experience, one I will continue to dive into as time goes by.

Favorite Songs: Dead Skin Cells, Domain, Spineless Jelly, Vertical Pig
Rating: 8/10