Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Emperor "IX Equilibrium" (1999)

Third times a charm or so they say but for Emperor the bar had been set unseasonably high by their iconic debut "Into The Nightside Eclipse" and 97s "Anthems..." which transformed the bands sound with remarkable vigor. "IX Equilibrium" stands in the shadow of its former with little evolution and a tamer set of songs in the second half that don't amount to the same level of musical astonishment. Its a step up in production, tighter, crisper but still a menacing wall of sound that pummels away with moments of equal intensity and lightning blast beat tempos faster than ever. The album crashes open with the thunderous and mighty "Curse You All Men", ripe with melodies of empiric glory entangled in agile, enduring guitar shredding while Nordic group shouts call in the distance and the horns of warfare are sounded.

With "Decrystallizing Reason" the symphonies of war and wonder gleam brightly before the song erupts into mayhem with cascading blast beats somehow finding room to intensify the already blistering wall of sound. The song moves through its motions and the returning war horns signify a climax I feel the song was searching for but didn't quite find. "An Elegy Of Icaros" follows, a song which may be one of their finest. I developed a great appreciation for this song learning to play it on guitar and reading all the instruments. Its a fine example of Ihsahn's intricate musicianship, with every instrument playing a different line of notation to form a woven piece of music that shifts through original and interesting riffs to culminate in a beautiful song laden with splices of melody and aggression, climaxing in a splash of color and wonder in the songs break out moment. With a lack of relenting blast beats and calmer tempo I wonder if this is the direction this album should of looked for as it offers far more in the reflection of "Anthems..."

"The Source Of Icon E" returns us to dizzying drums and spiraling aggression that stands apart with a flair of startling high pitched vocals similar to King Diamond. I believe that perhaps the bands cover of "Gypsy" by Merciful Fate comes from the same studio session given this vocal performance appearing on both. The bands other cover of Bathory's "A Fine Day To Die" also has echos on "Warriors Of Modern Death" with its guitar solo being identical in tone and notably similar in composition and delivery. All had been fairly strong to this point but with "Sworn" and the following tracks the record seems to shift gears and the musical complexity is traded in for simpler power chord shedding controlling the progression of these songs. 

"IX" comes close in moments and falls far in others. Some of its arrangements and intricate compositions don't quite hit on the same emotional level. Sometimes its progressions feel more transitional than natural and overall its shortcomings lie in repeating itself. Where it retreads the waters it isn't as remarkable however it is still a dose of extreme music from one of the genres finest bands. It makes for a cracking listen and is a great record in the shadow of greater ones.

Favorite Tracks: Curse You All Men, An Elegy Of Icaros
Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Amon Amarth "Jomsviking" (2016)

Given the ever growing hype around Amon Amarth and there continual rise in the Metal scene I decided to pick this one up. Its the Swedish groups 10th full length in over twenty years as a group. With themes of Norse mythology and viking warfare they have been hailed by some as thee Viking Metal band. Amon have unfortunately never done much to captivate my attention as other bands in the genre had. I can hear whats distinct and unique about this band but it doesn't get me fired up or create an atmosphere I can absorb.

After many listens the same flat, mediocrity of neutrality emerges. I find myself feeling rather indifferent to its presence. "Jomsviking" is aesthetically soft and sterile with crisp guitar distortions, dense baselines and punchy, balanced drums forming a warm and approachable mix of crunchy toned down Melodic Death Metal. Hegg's vocals are the heaviest aspect of their sound, he growls and bellows meaty screams with a vibrant texture that doesn't get overbearing, probably an easier tone for a newcomer to digest.

This album progress through the motions with simple song structures and prominent guitar riffs that outline the songs directions and build the Norse themes. As much as I can hear "it", their is no stir of emotion within me in response to their riffing style. The guitar leads drop into particular tracks with bright colorful tones and melodies sometimes reminiscent of Iron Maiden. Together they steer the ship with a sense of destination in sight. The themes however are particularly uninteresting to me with a lack of poetry or sense of scale delivered in the lyrics. They often culminate with a simple use of words and basic rhyming pattern that has the words steered by matching rhymes in favor of visionary word play.

Its all a matter of preference and as much as Id like to get into this record It just doesn't stir me. Looking forward to seeing them at download though, seeing a band live can help it "click" which is yet to happen for me. Ill stay neutral on this one, there is a couple of tracks with a bit of spark but equally some that bore me too. One thing I can say is nothing here felt out of place or obscene, its a well rounded record.

Favorite Track: Wanderer, Raise Your Horns
Rating: 5/10

Friday, 27 May 2016

Tame Impala "Currents" (2015)

Hailing from the other side of the globe, Tame Impala is the musical output of Australian musician Kevin Parker who writes, composes and records all the bands music before taking a crew of musicians to hit the road on tour with him. In the eighth year since its inception Kevin released the third full length which caught my attention some time ago with its intriguing record cover and critical acclaim to peak my interest. It took a few listens to click but has since become my addiction, full of good vibes, luminous music and easy going, laid back atmospheres of psychedelic wonder.

I'm rather inexperienced with Psychedelic Rock and Tame Impala to my ears dwarfs anything Ive heard before it in comparison, as if the genres climax in the 60s and 70s was just a precursor, a prototype for the magic within this record. It oozes, ebbs and flows within an organic tapestry of sounds from electronic and natural instruments formed in a modern production that makes fantastic use chorus pedals, phasers and pitch shifts in its psychedelic moments. The opening track "Let It Happen" drops in a couple of beat skips before breaking into a stunning moment where the beat loops like a CD skip repeating over and over before thematic synths roll in and take over the direction in a moment that felt fresh and unexpected. Its this use of electronics that makes the music glimmer like the summer sun, dense synthesizers weave in and out between the guitars and a solid drum machine with dance kicks, claps and snares hold a solid back bone that in the occasional moment resemble a dance floor beat. 

The music stays true to a warm, heart felt inspiration of summer sun, fresh air and care free good times that radiates when Parker puts his voice into the frame. He has a stunning high pitched and soft tone that breezes through the reverbs he layers his voice with. Its reminiscent of MJ and with his ability to write a solid hook makes for some truly mesmerizing moments where the songs are sparkling like a dream. Together they sound so lush and intricate with layers of sound often trumped by a bright and simple melody to keep it easy going, yet one can peers deeper into the layers of sounds that form into something so effortless to enjoy.

In between the main tracks some trippy interludes crop up and with "The Less I Know The Better" Kevin rocks an olskool Rock / Funk groove on the guitar. Sometimes the drums have a little Hip Hop groove and even a Trap hi hat crops up. This albums flexible and although it doesn't steer far from its core so many things pop up through the record that make it so interesting when examining closer. Its a record for the warm climate, summer music, for good times and with the magic Kevin delivers good times will be made. Its such an impressive record, especially considering he did everything here himself. Writing, recording and production. Hats off!

Favorite Songs: Let It Happen, The Less I Know The Better, Cause I'm A Man, Reality In Motion
Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Messenger "Threnodies" (2016)

Back in 2014 I found myself sitting in a the pews of a quaint chapel in London, humbled by this band who were opening for Devin Townsend performing his "Casualties Of Cool" record. After the show I picked up the bands debut "Illusory Blues" which won me over swiftly, perhaps being the most impressive Progressive Rock record Ive heard in recent memory and with time that impression only strengthened. Messenger have echos of the greats while standing on their own two feet and subsequently had me hyped for this release which promised more of the same, another seven tracks spanning 46 minutes it continues where its predecessor left off.

Opening with "Calyx" the group set the precedent for a collection of songs that seem so uninhibited by structure and form with music that unfold at its own leisure, moving through the motions with no urgency, creating an indulgence that starts with a calm and tranquil motif that's got a surge of unrest beneath it. With a calm before the storm a lone electronic lead brings us into a shift in momentum that leads to a grand climatic guitar riff that's got glory in its soul. The following "Oracles Of War" thickens the atmosphere with a galloping intensity and the guitars and drums thunder forward with classic prog organs laying the density. The momentum slowly unwinds into a lush calm of serene acoustics soaking in a soft ambience and light pianos accenting the soft, dreamy vocals of singer Lowe who shines bright in every moment of this record and takes it to some sublime peaks with his grounded harmony. For all of its lush tranquility, every moment flirts with a darkness that's forever fleeting, never surfacing and in its immediacy can sound rather sorrowful and sombre. As the songs flow and progress the whole affair becomes rather entrancing in an effortless manor that makes enjoying a breeze but analyzing becomes allusive as no part of its charm lies on one riff, melody or hook but the overall journey these songs draw you into. This is best heard in its strongest melodies which can often drop in from the quieter region of the sound, rather than being immediate and upfront.

"Threnodies" is another self realized and inspired creation that is perhaps a little bolder and more adventurous than its former. Again its persuasive with its atmosphere and draws you in closer when your not looking, which is part of what makes writing about it so hard. Putting music into words is a challenge but you can never do that music justice, and in times like this you feel as if you cant ever come close. The production is sublime, the instruments are rocking and vivid. Lowe's vocals are enticing, reminding me slightly at times of Thom Yorke, and the drums where particularly more expansive this time around. I adore this record, cannot wait to catch them again on the road and I'm sure this one will not tire like that last has yet too.

Favorite Track: Calyx, Balearic Blue, Pareidolia, Crown Of Ashes
Rating: 8/10

Monday, 23 May 2016

Kvelertak "Nattesferd" (2016)

Prior to this record I had never heard of this Norwegian six piece band Kvelertak. It would seem that they have had a significant success selling records in their homeland and have been praised by critics for a unique blend of Rock n Roll and Black Metal. On "Nattesferd", the groups third, much of the black sounds like a hangover heard in singer Hejlvik's rough, tonal screams and guitar distortions that are a touch more visceral and thick than whats warranted for the Rock N Roll core of their sound. They are not the first too fuse the two sounds together but maybe the first where the artistic intention comes from a much brighter and expressive place than the scornful fire and hate filled noise of Black Metal.

The sounds of a generation gone by echo through this record 70s Rock and Hard Rock leanings reminiscent of Thin Lizzy, see "1985", and other acts of that era make up a large portion of the sounds between the occasional blast beat and shredded guitar riff. Its fluid, organic, full of twists and turns led by solid guitar riffs often accompanied by bright acoustics that accent the rhythm guitars direction. These songs have a fantastic sense of direction and expansion as they evolve through many riffs and progressions that become pretty captivating when in the mood to enjoy whats on show.

With this they certainly carve a unique identity for themselves on a gorgeous sounding production that breaths a ton of life into the guitar tones and strikes a sweet balance with the drums. Everything sounds peachy except for two things which I always found dispelling. I'm not a fan of the vocals, they feel out of place, a little raw and flat and for the most part become tiresome when in the music. As well as that some of the guitar tones get a little weighty and aggressive which feels unnecessary. With that said there are plenty of blacker moments in this record that flow very well between its counterpart. There is artistic creative and vision in abundance but the way it comes together just isn't quite for my taste all of the time. Despite my annoyances I still think its a fantastic record.
Favorite Tracks: Nattesferd, Heksabrann
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Candlemass "Nightfall" (1987)

Portuguese band Desire recently sparked my interest in Doom Metal and with a little digging around and research it didn't take long to find myself in Sweden again, home to some of Metals finest bands, Bathory, Diabolical Masquerade, Entombed, Meshuggah, Opeth and Soilwork to name a few. Impressed with rave reviews throughout this bands discography I thought Id start with their highest ranked and critically acclaimed sophomore record from 87, the same decade where the term "Doom Metal" really started to take hold as a musical genre beyond its prototype days in the 70s. Quickly did I hear the echos of "Black Sabbath" who defined some key characteristics of the genre, like the slow tempo, bluesy guitars and use of the tritone.

"Nightfall" made a swift and monumental impression, after a haunting intro of ghoulish choirs Candlemass drop the guitars in with crisp, bold, solid distortions that glaze with a touch of venom in their harmonic aesthetics. Riffing with singular linear notes they fall between the groove and melody, crunching rhythms and straying into the higher regions to expand the burdening atmosphere. Without any dizzying distortions Candlemass bring a weight of doom and heavy in a storm of atmosphere that feels almost biblical in its damnation. The gloom of funeral, the shadow of death and the shame of sin swirl within these songs, however from a safe distance we are the observer. In its harmonic tone its distanced from the emotional burden and becomes quite the bewitching and devilish rock out as these slow crawling riffs tangle into memorable melodies.

The bass and guitars have a concrete harmonization for the riffs and the drums slowly shuffle around them, groaning out slow grooves that occasionally pick up tempo in short bursts. Over it all singer Messiah Marcolin makes an unforgettable impact with his voice, powerful, bold and commanding he steers the ship with a thunderous voice and stunning pitch control. Hitting bellowing lows and soaring highs he creates the air of epic with a sublime vibrato and operatic performances that flow with the rhythms steady movement. It all takes place in a stunning production for an 80s Metal record, big, spacious for the guitars to fill they rock sweetly in a rich atmosphere fit for the glorification of the macabre. It has been a pleasure to enjoy such a well realized record.

Favorite Song: Samarithan, Black Candles
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Carbon Based Lifeforms "Twentythree" (2011)

It would appear I've found my niche with this Swedish duo's ambient project CBL who's previous record "Interloper" is a completely different style and form of soundscape music. Despite such a difference they tap into my preferred sound waves and with "Twentythree" we are submerged into soft ambiguous drones of non specific and continual sound that organically repeats over like a flowing stream of water as opposed to some mechanical operation. These drones are light and cloudy, foggy and mysterious, dense and transparent all in the same instance.

The record flows as a single track and the nuances of each drone may pass you by as this record drifts into the subconscious, creating a mood and environment without form or awareness. It has its darker drones, spacey, aquatic and all of them come with some form of buried and smothered sampling. Maybe its voices, bells, a water stream, an effeminate voice singing, birds chirping of even a dog barking if not an electronic lead playing a melody can sometimes be heard lost in the depths. Deep in the soundscape many sounds converge in the density which doesn't come over like a wall of sound but more like a rabbit hole that gets deeper the more you peer in and give it your attention.

Even though these dreamy ambiance pieces are vivid, rich and poised in the easy listening spectrum they do succumb to the perceived limits of such music where your foreground attention can be lulled. These are songs for the subconscious, the backdrop and serve a purpose as powerful and meditative music to condition the mind for focus on a task at hand. This is the sort of record to drop on when your attention is required elsewhere, the result, a wash of calm and tranquility. If your already in that mood it can serve as a door for your limitless imagination.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 16 May 2016

Hacktivist "Outside The Box" (2016)

The letter H has been carved in the corner of my mind according to the narrated mission statement on the opening track of this groups debut full length. Hacktivist are an English experimental group fusing together the bipolar styles of Djent and Grime with a flavor more accessible to fans of Metal than London's form of urban Hip Hop. I remember when the group formed three years ago, there was a wave of hype and despite quite a wait for this record the band have delivered on there promise. The name "Hacktivist" is a relevant and recognized term in this internet era society, a fusion of hacking and activism to represent independent online activism. With this the band take on a revolutionary persona of social and systematic consciousness to spread a message of anti capitalist, anti commercial action and awareness but as A.C. once said, "Music ain't the revolution, its only the soundtrack".

Starting off with "Our Time" Hacktivist set a strong tone for the record which never falters from its path of conscientious lyrics and stating their presence in the music scene. Rappers Hurley and Marvin come loaded with fast and sturdy flows, hitting their lines and rhymes over the top of crunchy, rhythmic Djent riffs. Its effortless on the listeners end, their tones and delivery works well with chunky grooves rattling away and waves of colorful shimmering guitars in between their raps. Marvin crosses from rap into shouted screams and guitarist Beazley drops in the harmonious clean vocals to offer three vocal dimensions that keep things fresh and varied across the forty minutes. On occasions the clean style sounds familiar to Enter Shikari, however these lads are from Hertfordshire too and the one song that sticks out actually features Rou Reynolds himself, which explains a lot.

With the versatility to sway from slamming Djent riffs into reverb heavy acoustics the instrumentals keep a lightness about them with subtle Post-Metal leads creeping into the background creating a spacious atmosphere for everything to fit together within. As with the vocals this dynamic expansion flows through the record to give each track its purpose and identity. There are moments where the raps are not present and other where the instrumentals take on a subdued approach to let the Grime raps shine. They are blunt and bold, no creative wordplay but more so straightforward expression and to the point message making that asks little of the listener. My only qualm may be with Hurley's breath control, leaving huge inhaling gulps in between each line, at the same time it adds an authenticity in favor of its removal through studio edits.

Outside the box is a solid debut, no weak moments or lulls, forty minutes of music that's not demanding. Fantastic production value with a great cohesion between the vocal and instrumental elements that could easily find themselves on different wavelengths but Hacktivist get all aspects right and are set to have a promising future if they develop as musicians. Entertaining record!

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 14 May 2016

BABYMETAL "Babymetal" (2014)

Back in 2014 Babymetal's debut didn't make much of an impression on me due to its apparent and unapologetic gimmick, however "Metal Resistance" won me over! Gimmicks aside its the music that counts and Babymetal's fusion of Metal and J-Pop, fronted by a trio of girls, is fresh and exciting. I'm glad I didn't listen to this one until now as I'm sure my perceived flaws with this project would of become an inflated critique in the face of fun music that shouldn't be taken to seriously. Unlike their sophomore record Babymetal is far more varied, experimental and a little garish with its electronic aspects. Starting with production it is once again a compression fest of forceful, volume oriented modern aesthetics which on occasions can be daunting in its intensity, the kick is especially crisp, clicky and heavy in the mix. Much the same can be said of all instruments in the mix and in moment's it gets a little crowded yet remains clear. Some of the trance synths used in tracks can also be overwhelming. My experience is that this once surprisingly doesn't suit high volumes.

Aesthetics aside we have a collection of wildly energetic and varied tracks that continually mix and mash styles with a ruthless "anything goes" attitude. Between the records more typical metal tracks all sorts of musical sounds and genres can be heard. Mostly its entertaining, fun and vibrant but its rigid and choppy composition between styles leaves food for thought on what is reminiscent of IGORRR's "internet age" of music where any styles and genres can be mashed up given the widespread availability of online music and information at the touch of your fingers. For me it was the main talking point of this record.

It starts with "Inie!" introducing glitzy fast paced trance synths culminating in dance tunes with pumping bass kicks and coin arcade sounds. It switches up into some form of Rap with what I can only describe as a cheesy "bling bling" Hip Hop beat. Of course it then drops into howling death with demonic screams and evil, shrill guitars. "Doki Doki" picks it back up by mashing slamming Nu Metal grooves with chirpy upbeat sunshine pop and glittery synths. "Onedari Daisakusen" sounds to me like it could of come out of the Limp Bizkit catalog, minus the quirks of Babymetal's aesthetics, this has all the makings of Freds little catchy raps and Wes Borlands dynamic grooves complete with build to a breakdown moment where things get heavy. No to mention it also includes a sample of Fred from "My Generation"... now that I think about it, its got a nearly identical build up to the sample. "Song 4" brings some laid back, beachy Reggae dub sounds and "Uki Uki" goes full Skrillex with base wobbles and a noise eccentric breakdown. I'm not criticizing any of it, I enjoy it greatly but its interchanging rigidity and entertainment value leaves little in the way of emotionally charged or moving music. This record does however have much more versatility and I'm hoping in the future they can utilize that with a little more inspiration and emotion.

Favorite Track: Babymetal Death, Gimme Chocolate!!
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Inlayer "Sequence" (2015)

Its exciting to hear when Metal reaches new parts of the world and Inlayer are the first band from South Korea Ive heard off. Whats even more exciting is the music, their single "MINDJACK" for a presumed forthcoming album blew me away, possibly one of the best songs I'll hear all year along with Babymetal's "The One". Sequence is a four track EP and the only other music I could find by the Korean band. Released last year it is a step down in production value from the new single which appears to be on a major K-Pop label.

The four piece perform as an instrumental force, playing technical, fast tempo Djent grooves and polyrhythmic signatures with a side lavishing of illustrious reverb laden acoustics, much to the trend of the international scene. Inlayer don't have a lot to distinguish themselves with and can often sound like Animals As Leaders and other Prog Metal bands, however what they do have is quality and a singular trick that seems to find itself in the songs best moments. The hammer on! At many points a hammered on lead will rattle away glorious waves of sweeping colors through fast electric melodies over the rhythmic Djent grooves. Not the most original technique but there is something captivating when they do it.

The first three tracks jam out a fest of color and groove while the final track gets a little experimental with some Post-Metal sounds and steady guitar solos to lead the EP into its climactic groove. It all sounds exciting and energetic but some of this is lost the rawer mix. Where the drums would clearly aid from fidelity it falls a little flat in the recording. All the kicks, snare and cymbals sound flat and as if in a different dimension to the rest of the instruments. Its a shame as the drums themselves are energizing and full of life however this flat recording tone sucks some of that away. Very solid debut but "MINDJACK" has set the bar high for their next release which I am eagerly awaiting.

Favorite Track: Unfine
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Desire "Infinity... A Timeless Journey Through An Emotional Dream" (1996)

Chasing down one of many rabbit holes the world wide web offers I somehow found my way to this obscure, niche and unheard of Portuguese band. Sucked in by the vivid and lonesome crimson red cover I heard a sound that reminded me fondly of two records close to my heart that I am yet to talk about on the blog. Doom Metal is probably my most neglected sub genre of Metal considering I adore Black Sabbath and have never heard anything to turn me of the style. This record, Desire's debut, really highlighted the qualities in these other records of which Id never linked to Doom before. If your familiar with the genre you wont be surprised to hear that "Infinity..." is a sorrowful record of mourning, heartache and sadness that flirts with the endless depths of the infinite. That may sound rather unpleasant but its a spiritual, emotional look into the hurt and longing one can feel.

The records moves with a brooding, gargantuan weight that slows many riffs, leads and melodies to a crawl, including the bellowing low growls of vocalist "Tear" who has an astonishingly textured growl that he can draw out with a touch of class. It gravitates deeply to a heavy and menacing side which isn't reflected in the instrumentals that have an almost eerie, nearly gothic vibe with thin synthetic strings peaking from between the bleeding power chords and crashing drums which thunder between spaciously timed tempo keeping hi hats. With drawn out movements and longing melodies the gloom and despair washes over for moments of subtle uplifts where the songs can break for a chunkier groove or colorful synths. Accompanying the main growl, shriller howls and growl come soaked in reverb and on occasions mysterious female vocals drop in the back ground feeling illusive and mournful, despite being rather sublime and tender.

Given the long nature of the albums core songs, up to sixteen minutes, Desire do wonders keeping the mood and atmosphere relevant and moving forward in a slow and reluctant setting that will draw out sections for many minutes. They do however grow and evolve even if at a snails pace and what it greatly benefits from is how suited slow and gradual is for such weighty themes of human sorrow. In the records short tracks we have acoustic, symphonic interludes that feel of the same realm but come across with a scenic, fantasy drive, less human and emotional. "Forever Dreaming" the albums last Metal song is one to remember with a deep nostalgic vibes seeping through the synths and soft effeminate vocals. We grace into another slow crushing movement that's climaxed by an unpolished flute lead that gives a deep sense of mystery and conclusion at the same time. The way these instruments are presented just open dimensions in the mind and as the song draws to a close we are again treated by spell bounding keys that dance lightly.

There was a singular moment which always makes me chuckle where a whispering voice proclaims "Dance with me... infinity". I can never take it seriously, something about the Portuguese accent and whispered delivery tickles me. Other than that I feel this album would of been perfect for me ten years ago, however even as I write and understand this record it still has me at its mercy with its sorrowful mystic and nostalgic atmosphere. The records production is a touch raw and rough in places but in its lower value it finds a sweet charm to let the magic work its ways.

Favorite Tracks: (Leaving) This Land Of The Eternal Desires, Forever Dreaming... (Shadow Dance)
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Death Grips "Bottomless Pit" (2016)

Experimental trio Death Grips from Sacramento California will always be on my radar given their mind blowing album "The Money Store" from 2012, although their recent records haven't been nearly as exciting. "Bottomless Pit" is their third release in a "disbanded" state with the band continuing to tour and make music despite announcing they had split in mid 2014. Its all part of their rebellious attitude and mysterious image, something which didn't cross over into the music this time. Even if it wasn't to my liking the band kept moving forward and taking their ideas to new reaches however this release is a pleasant and welcome return to the "No Love Deep Web" era, best heard through MC Rides delivery style and many, many electronic instruments, sounds, tones and noises straight from their 2012 releases.

The record opens up with a frenetic, abrasive track making use of swiftly looped distortion guitars and blasting drum kits rolling out rapidly with typically unusual hooks. It sets the tone for a new chapter of the bands sound, equipped with violent guitars and unfaltering tempo but by the second track the band swing into their old ways and the characteristics of their 2012 sound become very apparent both in tone and composition. From this point out any of the songs could easily be slipped into the previous records, its that remarkably similar and what fans of that era, like myself, have been dying for.

This is no complaint, just the biggest talking point of the record for me. Diving into the tracks we find refinement in the rhythmic aspects with a much tighter sense of groove being prevalent. The bands aesthetic assault of noisy, gritty synths and pressing production hit a little sharper and harder, the timing between nonsensical synth timing and drum patterns feel warped and elasticated to perfection with an almost polyrhythmic groove emerging on the relevant tracks. With tight shuffling hi hats and solid kick snare grooves the group feel far more structured with many grooves and audio assaults falling into that nod along territory fit for head banging. Its got more sensibility about its madness and perhaps that holds it back from anything unexpected or truly remarkable taking place.

The albums flows fantastically and ends with the self titled track which like the opening number shows signs of making new territory with big, dense, fuzzing guitar distortions bleeding into the surrounding instruments. Being so familiar with the band now its easy to forget how paranoid, dark and dystopian the group can sound, MC Ride reinforcing this with another round of twisted lyrics and hooks like "Ill Fuck You In Half" and "Eh" a song dedicated to apathy and disengagement. A few words jump of the page but nothing like "The Money Store", however that record has the edge of being first and completely unexpected to my ears.

It is a relatively "safe" record for such an experimental group and although I wasn't fully into their post 2012 directions I think its important for the group to not loose sight of that unpredictability as that's where their genius came from and to be fair there isn't a lot of it here, just retreading the waters and doing it exceptionally well with a tight and full on production value. Very enjoyable for an old fan but as it ages I believe not all the tracks will hold up the same way, however the others I just can't get enough of right now.

Favorite Tracks: Warping, Houdini, Bp Poison, Bottomless Pit
Rating: 8/10

Monday, 9 May 2016

A$AP Ferg "Always Strive And Prosper" (2016)

NYC based rapper Ferg of the A$AP Mob opens up with a record that gives us a glimpse into the life of the man behind the music. His debut "Trap Lord" was a marvel of trendy beats and trap influenced production that has grown on me with time but lacked any lyrical substance to chew on. Three years later Ferg puts story and emotion to the mic with a collection of beats that don't feel rigid and type cast as the previous record. Its loaded with trendy bangers stepping up the game and between them an unusual sense of variety that lets 90s Dancehall, jazzy beats and Pop numbers into the flow.

The record starts strong with Skrillex producing a hard hitting banger, "Hungry Ham", full of tension building for the beat drop, sure to get stuck in your head. It paints a picture of a tough neighborhood and crazy characters, including Ferg's uncle a violent man who fights for money. A feature from Schoolboy Q has these heart felt stories crossing over into the banger territory, which gives it much more substance. A few solid tracks in the vibe turns back to the roots with the A$AP Mob flaunting their braggadocios raps loaded with nonsense, it continues through a few more menacing beats and switches up the mood bluntly with "Beautiful People", sampling something very reminiscent of the string sections in Marvin Gaye's "Whats Going On". "Let You Go" flows with the positive vibes on an introspective number that has Ferg reasoning his promiscuous behavior, playing the sympathy card, his narrative seems rather self indulged and unapologetic, a sterling beat but I'm not quite sold on Ferg's musings. After a strong set of beats "I Love You" throws the pop single into the mix just to throw you off the scent.

I'm left feeling "Always Strive And Prosper" is halfway there, a record between two ideas that pushes and pulls in different directions. The production is clearly varied but also solid, each track feels fully realized, developed and its the lyrical content lets the album down where it drifts from the open, introspective, story led narrative Ferg sets us up for in the beginning. Individually each song is pretty rad but flowing from one to the other a lot of problems arise in its vision but that's just about how i want to hear this record.

Favorite Tracks: Hungry Ham, Pyscho, Let It Bang, Beautiful People, Let You Go
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Carbon Based Lifeforms "Interloper" (2010)

Carbon Based Lifeforms, or CBL, are a Swedish ambient music duo from Gothenburg who I was entirely unaware of until a recent recommendation. Sometimes ambient music can be a term for musical approach, performance or philosophy more so than a style or genre. CBL could be different based on your interpretation but what I heard was the cosmic jam of space ambience, the sounds of stars and constellations. This particular waveform of ambience was right on my level and with just one listen I was swept up above the hemisphere, understanding the purpose of this record and the journey it would take me on.

Reminiscent of Tangerine Dream's swirling, unraveling synthesizer drones, CBL takes on an organic form of electronic evolution where the most passive of short melodies can be gloriously engrossing in the subconscious as contracting passageways steadily shrink and expand in turn with easy paced, down tempo beats. Layers of soft electronic sounds decorate the soothing atmospheres with an ever changing design of minimal details to drench the tracks in an authentic depth that can almost go unnoticed. These 6-8 minute compositions are crafted with a care to let the power of an idea sink in deep with just one melody leading the way. There is no climax, or glory but an ever changing state around a single melody that holds together an emotion, idea or whatever it is you find in the music.

For me the visions these soundscape conjured were of futuristic flashing lights swirling in the cosmic abyss, the comforts of a science fiction fantasy realm where technology meets the limits of existence and you are the observer. Fantastic music for driving at night, seeing the stars in the sky and the passing lights of cars, cities and road lights. Its calming, soothing and chilled out and its great to hear it in such a package that lets the seventy one minutes breeze by without a thought. Its my go to ambient record right now.

Favorite Songs: Central Plain, Supersede, Euphoric
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 6 May 2016

Intronaut "The Direction Of Last Things" (2015)

Recommended by a friend, Intronaut's fifth record and my introduction to the band has been on my mind and infecting my ears for some time now. This four piece band from Los Angeles have been at it for over a decade now and have somehow alluded me in the Progressive Metal scene. "The Direction Of Last Things" is my cup of tea, a deep and dense album that's got a lot to offer however in my many, many dives into this record I have found it difficult to dissect and fathom its inner workings. Instead I find myself drifting between the conscious and subconscious, held in a continual state of suspense, at the mercy of its direction. With every listen I feel as if i know this moment but not where it lies within the record itself, as if my own familiarity is being shrouded by the fog of its genius.

It hits on two levels. In its immediacy a wave of creative metallic riffing grabs your attention with tinges of Djent and Groove Metal reassembled into tight polyrhythmic prog riffs, even echos of sludge in one discordant groove. On its other level a persuasive wave of organic melodies lull the listener it a state of calm as jazzy instrumentals wash over in a breeze of atmospheric relaxation. Under them a big, warm, gorgous bass guitar often struts its way around the fret board, you can feel its vibrations with every note through its density. With it light acoustics hum through reverbs with very light synth lines creating sunny atmospheres drenched in a Post-Metal vibe when making use of light distortions. Every atmospheric break has its nuances and details but for the post part they lean to the Post-Metal etching making use of distant tremolos and the crowding of colorful reverb sounds.

Although hailed as a Progressive Metal record, these songs blur lines and boundaries with organic compositions that flow and swirl in the direction of inspiration. The song structures feel inconsequential as every moment seems to be within itself, never waiting or building to another one. It sets itself free of conformity and traditional structure, not something unusual in this era of music but rarely executed in a way that feels as genuine and organic as this. Its a very strong record with little to fault and one that I feel will grown on me with every passing listen.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Emperor "Emperor" (1993)

Its been a long time since I listened to Emperor's fantastic four track debut EP with its iconic record art, once again using Gustave Dore's dark and unholy engravings from the 19th century. These songs are taken from the same studio sessions as "As The Shadows Rise" and somehow feels vastly different. This is probably due to the familiarity of two songs from "In The Nightside Eclipse" and the subduing of the bands more abrasive and demonic vocal style. It is in fact very similar in an analytical sense. The guitars have the same distinct thin and fuzzy distortion, however in its vibe and atmosphere it offers more immersion thanks to the song writing.

The records only weak point might be "Wrath Of The Tyrant" which conjures a minimal atmosphere from the distant underlying synth and occasional wolf howl. Its a touch thin and light on notation with just a couple of bare riffs holding it together. Feels as if there is a missing place for a lead guitar or complimenting section to occupy and between the songs main two phases there is little chemistry or relation. On the other hand "Night Of The Graveless Souls" serves as a exciting fast paced classic which the band would play live at shows through the years. Blitzing blast beats and moshable guitar riffs collide with a catchy melody on the synths that stab there way around the songs key Thrash Metal riff as the song chops and changes hastily through its compositions.

With the other two songs from their debut full length we get a taste of synths still taking hold in the bands chemistry and sound, although practically identical the tone and mixing of the synths strips back the atmosphere to a raw and striking pose that again illuminates the immersive aesthetic of their debut. Very fun and enjoyable EP. Its a shame they didn't record a few more songs in this session!

Favorite Song: Night Of The Graveless Souls
Rating: 5/10

Monday, 2 May 2016

Black Moon "Enta Da Stage" (1993)

Brooklyn based Hip Hop trio Black Moon may of beat Wu-Tang's "36 Chambers" claim to the first low-fi, gritty Hip Hop record even if only by a couple of months. Of course there are always precursors to such ideas emerging and Wu-Tang's demo tape date back to 91 but on occasions where their classic debut is discussed this record may get a mention, which is how I found my way to it. Unfortunately its not aged well, it didn't sell at the time and the groups trajectory declined with exception to 99s "War Zone" having some moderate success. Although the groups debut "Enta Da Stage" may not be well remembered it is definitely a must listen for any fan of east coast 90s Hip Hop.

Although a trio it is mainly rapper Buckshot Shorty who dominates the audio waves with a predominantly braggadocio rhyme style and easy to follow flow. There's plenty of gun play and street talk with little socially conscious substance but Buckshot is the sort of rapper who draws you in with his flow and entertains with violence, slang and lifestyle provado world play. Behind him an array of grimy beats with hard grooving drum loops, deep sub baselines and string arrangements coming together to conjure an urban atmosphere of danger. At times they have a slightly Jazz vibe with horn and flute samples but never for a relaxing or soothing moment, the record is always on edge, no thanks to Buckshot's aggressive delivery.

There's not a bad beat on the record but its not without its flaws. There was a time I couldn't put down this album, however over time the lack of insightful lyrical substance and rigid nature of the loops made it tire somewhat. Although the beats are tight there is little variation through the course of a song, with a couple of samples dropping in or out the songs they mostly remain the same for the duration of, which gets tiring after many listens.

This isn't true of every song though, a couple numbers are just timeless and credit to the sample selections, the chemistry is on point, its the composition and variation that lets it down. The mixing style is fantastic too, much of the gritty urban atmospheres comes from the narrow ranges the samples are squeezes into, filling much of the low and mid section. There is also some fantastic hooks from the group who throw together catchy group shouts in the choruses. "Enta Da Stage" has its place in history however for me It falls a little short in places of preference but not to focus on the negatives its a fantastic record well and truly worth your time.

Favorite Songs: Who Got Da Props, Buck Em Down, Make Munne
Rating: 8/10