Sunday, 31 July 2016

Plini "Sweet Nothings" (2013)

Arriving at the second of three we find "Sweet Nothings" a four track, seventeen minute release that would be my favorite, however the choice is made difficult by "The End Of Everything" and its fan favorite, the eight minute epic "Paper Moon". "Sweet Nothing" feels like the bands most fluid flowing and settled sounding release. Each track has a flavor, a stylistic focus. The second track "Tarred & Feathered" introduces a Latin, Spanish guitar, played fast with metal techniques similar to Animals As Leaders and there "The Joy Of Motion" release. "Away" does a similar "metal on acoustic" with fast melodic picking rhythms and hammer ons. There's a fantastic break down riff in it that replaces the atypical metallic crushing guitars with heavy bass groove and accented melodics through low acoustic notes. Its only the last track that plugs in the distortion tone for some chord driven Metal.

 The opening tracks indulges us with subtle serine strings queuing the acoustics that pluck chords note by note in short repetitions and with a swift shift the tone changes and tranquil pianos take over, between them brief solos tease whats coming as the atmosphere of a warm moonlit night sets in. At the end we are treated to a guest guitar solo from Gru who produced one of my favorite Progressive Metal records "Cosmogenesis". Its nice to know he is still playing, would love to hear a new record from the talented guitarist.

Plini's sound is versatile but always lush, feeling dense with a wash of color and charm that can go in many directions. Its in the subtlety and ambience that the magic is brewed, the stirring of moods for his dynamic and inspired guitar shredding to take the stage. Although it takes much of the focus its the underlying strings, pianos and other instruments that set the perfect tone. The drumming also sounded a lot more settled and alive in this recording, again using a drum machine they rarely sounded like one, if at all. I will continue enjoying these records, perhaps listening to them back to back as an album, awaiting his first full length which I am very excited for now!

Favorite Track: Opening
Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Yagya "Rigning" (2009)

When I started this music blog back in 2014, Yagya's "Sleepygirl" had recently been released just after a big phase I went through with this record. It solidified itself as a "go to" record for a particular mood, the need for calmness or distance, something similar to meditation. Yagya is an Icelandic electronic composer who dabbles in the ambience with this project which has taken several different approaches to Dub Techno, also known as Ambient Dub, and this is the best of them. It really captivated me with its simplicity and ease on the listener, however with that comes a depth of sound and richness that lets every listen feel like you will hear something new. Inspired by rain, every song is accompanied by the sound of raindrops and sometimes traffic or urban noises. It fits so perfectly.

The record plays like one giant song with ten different movements, however these movements do little to move apart from one another, no change of pace or dramatic progressions they all explore the different shades of an idea. Each song has a backbone of deep murmuring base like a heart beat, with a quiet snare, kick and hi-hats nestled in to create the rhythm which always remains consistent in pace with no fills, rolls or breaks. Around them light airy synths faintly set a calmness as deeper, brooding synths sweep in and out of focus with reverbs engineered for what I can only describe as the sounds of clouds drifting through the sky. Other soft leads will pop in to the songs with a slight sense of melody that seems inconsequential, simply existing in union without the need for attention.

Everything is calm, serene and the tone so beautiful it compliments its inspiration, the rain, which pours down in every song. Downtempo beats quietly shuffle along with plodding baselines and around it an enormous sense of atmosphere enriched by the layers of synths that feel endless yet come together so gently. There are all sorts of little details worked into these soundscapes, brief melodies, an inkling of vocals and sometimes the sounds of people in the distance, just buried under the deep sound. Its an impressive record for its inspiration, construct and execution and one you can go to time and time again. The only flaw I could give it is my attention span, at one hour it stretches, however its mood is rather intoxicating. In the beginning tracks I am completely sucked in and with a lack of progression or change from song to song that charm isn't as strong by the middle tracks. All ten songs are very similar but its a complete treat for those who get a kick from this engrossing form of ambience.

Favorite Track: Rigning Þrjú
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 29 July 2016

Majeure "Union Of Worlds" (2015)

Another discovery from within the Pittsburgh electronic scene, we have "Majeure", the pseudonym of composer A.E. Paterra who cites Vangelis, Steve Reich and Philip Glass as inspirations. Unfamiliar to me they will be the subjects of my research as once again Ive found another interesting record that dives into a side of electronics I'm very fond of, the Ambient, Minimalist and Sci-Fi oriented soundscapes that could set the tone for a movie, video game or your imagination. "Union Of Worlds" is a record of variety that holds the tone, mood and atmosphere intact as each of its six songs take a different approach with intensity, pallet and tempo.

The record doesn't play through in two halves, but of the six songs you could easily split them. Three tracks have percussive tracks with synthesizer hits, the other three are slow, minimalist ambient soundscapes. The albums opener "Overmind" goes gently through the motions with sweeping synthesizers coming in from the sides and its main melody drones indifferent to its surroundings throughout the track, similar to the style of Tangerine Dream. "Appalachian Winter Blues" is my favorite track by far, the strings sound gorgeous here, eerie, deep, mysterious and foreboding their slow progression creates a sense of danger and wonder that is to be remembered. Its linear and singular, on instrument that has maybe three or four separate instruments coming together to create a density to the sound. A fluttering noise accompanies it, like flocks of birds in the distance.

Of the percussive tracks "Physis" stands out for two reasons, firstly its lead instruments, a buzz saw wave, creates a sense of two tone melody through volume shifts as it continually attacks. Giving it a sense of pace and urgency the synth drums rapidly fire away without a groove. This is a machine like continual pounding that pitch and volume shifts for a sense of variation or change in its continual motion. "Posthuman" implores a slight sense of groove with more open space between each strike but again finds a machine like vibe that doesn't feel Industrial but simply inhuman with a strange Sci-Fi vibe. Its what I adored about this record, how well it tapped into a particular niche. I also loved how momentary these songs were, with very little overall progression, no direction shifts and just continual droning they brought out the essence of their vision effortlessly for me, the listener.

Favorite Tracks: Appalachian Winter Blues, Physis
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Prodigy "The Night Is My Friend" (2015)

Last year British legends of Essex "The Prodigy" returned from the darkness for another record, something they do every six years or so since their most successful "Land Of The Fat" back in the 90s where they were much more active. I caught the promoting tour which was one heck of an atmosphere to take in, one big party with a crazy light show and Maxim Reality exploring the venue, singing while walking through the crowd. Hungry for a little more I picked up the counterpart EP that finishes the other half of the lyric from title track "The Day Is My Enemy".

It should be known EPs and singles can often be tidbit extras, scraps and left overs brought together to fit the norm. Unfortunately "The Night Is My Friend" falls right into that territory. The opening "Get Your Fight On" is a re-equalized track that wouldn't even get audiophiles excited. A shortened three minute edit of "Rhythm Bomb" is thrown in possibly for radio play. There is only one new song "AWOL" which is pretty banging, another big break-beat with a lot of texture, distortions and typical Prodigy noises. Its plays itself down and builds up that typical dance suspense with an increasing snare leading in the drop which is the hook heard at the opening. Its a short but sweet song.

Lastly there are two remixes, "Rebel Radio" gets chopped up, re arranged with a clanging, loud snare harping on through the track reminiscent of "St. Anger". Not appealing and Caspa's remix of "The Day Is My Enemy" isn't as bad but his shuffling Trap hi-hats and Dubstep wobbles don't really fit the sample material, Its mediocre at its best. With just one new song its quite the disappointment, not a release worthy of attachment to the main album in my opinion.

Favorite Track: AWOL (Strike One)
Rating: 2/10

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Clockwork Indigo "Clockwork Indigo" (2014)

Clockwork Indigo, a play on Stanly Krubrick's classic movie, is the name of a collaborative effort between Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers, also of Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. This is the super group's only release, a short five track EP which to me sounds like an Underachievers release considering I am unfamiliar with the Flatbush Zombies. The project was created when the two groups decided to tour together. Rather than just tour they decided to take it to the studio and create this record to help promote the tour and vice versa.

So being unfamiliar with the Zombies it feels like a completely organic and natural exercise as their raps and contributions fit right along AK and Issa. With equally aggressive and boisterous raps it fits the tone, however with mostly violent, braggadocios and party raps, the occasional sprinkling of insightful or social conscious lyrics do little to stop my attention from shifting to the instrumentals. The opening "Butterfly Effect" graces seven minutes as each rapper gets passed the mic over a memorable beat with unnerving string samples looped over a rough, boom bap beat where you can hear the vinyl needle static in the capture, playing it over and over ads a little dirt to the beat. After the verses the song winds down with some speach samples before transitioning into warm and bright piano chords with a melody whistled, then played on the piano, then sung before snipping short segments of the samples again.

Its nice to hear an instrumental expand itself beyond the basic loop but the opener is the only one to do so, the other four just play out to the raps and so the best part of these songs are the hooks. "Ain't this what you want?" with its flamboyant delivery will stick in the mind. "Benefit Concert" has dampened group shouts calling out "Mosh. Mosh, Mosh. Mosh" in the chorus. Great hooks but not much lyrical substance beyond a few catchy lines. As a record it doesn't feel too indifferent from what id expect of The Underachievers. It doesn't wow but it ain't bad either.

Favorite Tracks: Butterfly Effect, Benefit Concert
Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Meshuggah "obZen" (2008)

Pioneers of Djent, the Swedish Extreme Metal act Meshuggah found their crowning moment with 2005's "Catch 33" and bar the "Nothing Remake" their follow up "obZen" may have just reached technical ecstasy on the abrasive front. It and "Catch 33" are the bands best critically received records and in 2008 the band were at a peak of popularity and exposure that was just perfect for this, their sixth full length. At the time I wasn't terribly keen on it, It felt like they were retreading the Nothing / Chaosphere era after a big progressive shift. And that may just be true, in a way its a step back in time but executing old ideas to new extremes with a clinically brutal production aesthetic and crafting even more elasticated, neck snapping grooves out of odd time signatures and extreme musicianship.

The texture, tone and timing of these instruments is paramount to its brilliance. Here we will hear the precise firing of instruments through polyrhythms lapped against the 4/4 at fast and brittle speeds. This includes the mind numbing pedal performance by drummer Tomas Haake who plays a unfeasible fast poly groove on "Bleed". The guitar tone is typical devoid of color but brimming with metallic intensity as its texture squeezes into every crevice of audio space. The clarity is stunning and with the drums neatly fitted in around them Jens monotone screams glide over the top of a menacing and punishing sound to assault the listener with the bands unrivaled grooving nature.

Its rhythmic nature feels primal and infectious as one is compelled to bang along in a confused state induced by polymetered bliss as elasticated momentum propels back and forth in unequal measures. What "obZen" has that makes it so much more enjoyable as a record is variety. Each song seems to distinctly offer up a different flavour of chaos. "Combustion" opens the record with an acoustic riff to quickly transition us into inferno as fifty seconds later the snare is crashing down over a thunderous groove. "Electric Red" slows the temp down forging a dark atmosphere with drawn out discords. "Bleed" is the album's show off track, dragging us through riff after riff of mind melting precision of guitar picking and drum pedals. "Lethargica" is the mammoth track with lengthy bar spanning grooves leading to an almighty, unforgettable "heavier than hell" riff in the middle that will tears your ears off.

Past this point each track again offers up a different flavor, the band experiment with speed, tempo and chords. "Pravus" rattles away on the snare with unforgiving guitar riffs that push the abrasion to extremes before transiting to some swift technical grooves. Its unrelenting and that is the charm, "obZen" never lets up, the band execute their most sticking ideas at full tilt. Truly brilliant moment for the band, however I don't think it tops their more experimental and progressive "Catch 33".

Favorite Tracks: Combustion, Bleed, Lethargica, Dancers To A Discordant System
Rating: 9/10

Monday, 25 July 2016

Plini "Other Things" (2013)

Before the release of his debut full length I thought id head back and listen to the other two mini-records of the Australian one man band Plini. "Other Things" was the first of three and its first two songs bares little if any resemblance at all to the Metal label attached to this band. This the essences of cool, mellow and excitable Jazz Rock, adventurous instrumentation that has roomy pianos, jiving base and luscious guitar leads taking turns to step up and indulge us at their fancy.

With the records longest track "Selenium Forest" we are introduced to the metallic element and in its opening moments a gorgeous guitar solo plays to the previous mood before a distortion guitar creeps its way in and the mood and tone change greatly. Playing power chords and tremolo picking its quite different from the Djent sound you might associate them with. In this temperate and heavy moment it breaks down for fraction where the lead guitar can let the light in a little with more lush melodies.

The song progresses by looping back through this motion and steadily evolving the instrumentation around it with even steel drums. It sticks to this loop feeling in search of something, which never comes and although it may be a fan favorite, for me it pales in comparison to "Other Things", a lush track of classy melodic pleasures. The records production is fair, the drums noticeably programed when giving it your ear however comes of fairly organic with snare fills and shuffles playing like a breeze. Good listen, I find it interesting how this artists is associated with the Djent Progressive Metal scene, it leans even further into the Jazz and Jazz Fusion influences than Metal.

Favorite Track: Other Things
Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Contact "First Contact" (2014)

Two years before "Zero Moment" the Pittsburgh based duo release this, their debut record, a shorter listen at twenty seven minutes between the four tracks its made of. Much like its successor a clean and animated assembly of synthesizer instruments play Progressive Rock with a VGM characteristic about it. Like in the first record the opening self titled track jumps right into the prog style with a bold, warm and thick synth lead that guides the song with an active melody. After this one the prog takes a back seat to a much calmer and ambient tone as the jovial leads give way to looping background melodies and accompanying strings. On "Terminal Point" a light Rock guitar fuzz's in with a fading overdrive in the opening moments and returns later to play a subdued solo with synths dancing between its breaks. It finds a terrific climax in the end as the guitar and drums continue to grow in volume.

"Distant Voices" slows the tempo down and lightens the percussion as we gently drift through a void of minimalism, with a quiet melody looping in the distance and various instruments taking the lead in a very subdued manor. Its executed brilliantly, creating a warm and friendly atmosphere that feels a little mysterious given the brooding baseline which pops in spaciously with its melody. Some light vocals creep in too, used to sound like another atmospheric synth.

"Icefall" builds up slow, starting with atmosphere its set the tone for another ambient track of subtly and slow progression. At the midway point it picks up pace with fast bustling synths and opens up into an epic setting that feels like reaching a destination. Each song is interesting in its own way and the band seem to sway between its Progressive Synth sound and what I could most accurately describe as VGM music with a hint of ambience. Both aspects are brilliant, even though they are executed well together I get a sense that something greater could come of their music. Either way its an enjoyable half hour of time spent.

Favorite Track: First Contact
Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Oscillotron "Eclipse" (2012)

This record, Oscillotron's debut, is much like its successor, a synthesizer journey through the stars led by astral keys and stark minimalism, letting the waveform textures do the talking. Many of its songs mimic the same experience and feeling of observation, one has a sense of distance from events yet understands its magnitude as the record strolls through the cosmos. Overall its a little unpolished in comparison, fruity loop drum kits stick out to those who know them on "Oracle". The various synths achieve similar vibes but without as strong a chemistry to be truly engrossing like "Cataclysm" is.

These tones and key choices are a little louder, chirpier and focus less on subtlety and more so on the power of the alien melodies. There are moments where this clicks and the atmosphere is creaked further open. Mostly though the synths hammer away through spacey scales with a retro vibe similar to the early days of electronic music where it was more novelty. Its what makes the record different and that works well with a soft percussion track like at the later stage of "Assembly".

Another big similarity is the track "Terror", a slow and brooding song that builds up a menacing atmosphere of... you guessed it, terror! It progresses in a similar way to "Mutation" but doesn't find the same climax, it tends to fizzle out after a flat snare drum comes in. The watery sounds in the intro of "Eclipse" give a sense of confinement, as if in an underground cavern filled with water. The eerie background synth builds a sense of tension and the upfront buzz saws play out like a mischievous monster. Glitchy computer noises arise too and it gives off a confined vibe which was a nice shift from the otherwise distant nature. Its both a similar and different record but musically its aiming in the same direction but not pulling it off with the finesse its successor does.

Favorite Track: Eclipse
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 22 July 2016

Ill Bill "Septagram" (2016)

It's been a while since I heard the name but I'm glad I decided to pick up Ill Bill's forth and latest record. Brother of famed New York rapper Necro, Ill Bill has been on my radar for some time, 2008's "Hour Of Reprisal" was the last time I tuned in. "Septagram" is essentially what id expected but far easier to digest and to the point. At twenty seven minutes its a comfortable record of short songs that don't out stay their welcome, dropping a better selection of rhymes over samples and drum loop beats that don't have a lot of variation beside a generalized theme drawn together with audio snippets from some obscure horror movie featuring some form of evil villan.

Much like his brother Necro, Ill Bill's style revolves heavily around horror, violence, torture and gore. These guys are tapped into the same sort of subject matter you might hear in Extreme Metal music and that may be because these guys are also metalheads too, many of the lyrics drop references to Metal bands and musicians. With subjects along the lines of serial killers, Satan, murder and evil for fun its an entertaining listen if that's your thing. I like it but there isn't a lot of depth here. There's plenty of skin crawling lyricism and brutal lines with vivid descriptions but they rarely add up to much. "The Cycle" touches on a social conscious observation but the song is mostly led by Ill Bill's guests William Cooper & Trife Diesel. The beat behind this track is skeletal, not a lot of polish on the beat and to transition to its string section samples the audio cuts of completely. Not a complaint but an observation, for some reason it works pretty well. Ill Bill's energy and flow is lively and forceful as expected but a lot of the work falls on his guests who make up a large portion of the airtime. His guest Slane on the final track sounds and spits like a mid naughties Eminem, the similarity is uncanny.

None of tracks here particularly stick out, it generally flows with the same intensity and each beat brings a different flavor in a played out style that sounds like it could of been produced ten years ago. You'll have a better time with it if you like their Horror Rap niche but breaking it down its a pretty tame release from a rapper who's capable of much better.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Revocation "Empire Of The Obscene" (2008)

With the band releasing their sixth full length in just a few days I thought it would be fitting to revisit the album where it all started, their debut. At the time I thought it was a godsend, a breath of new life that Metal music needed but around the time of their forth record my love for them started to fade. Its peculiar to loose interest but I reflect its when my interest in other forms for music really started to expand. Revocation are a balls to the wall Metal outfit with a modern style that unites the flame of old school Thrash Metal energy with a modern aesthetic and expanded song writing approach. I will always remember fondly discovering this record through music sharing blogspots on the day of its release. The cover screamed epic and what was inside was just what a fanatic metalhead like myself wanted at the time. All these years later its still fun but I am not expecting to be thrilled by their next record "Great Is Our Sin".

The album opens with a blast of energy, a vile angry scream roars out and the drums and guitar kick into a mean riff setting the tone for wild thrashing brutality. The second scream starts as a bree and transforms into a regular one before the song settles into itself at a fast pace. At the time it was to be expected, on reflection the hangover of bree's and squee's from the trending Deathcore scene sound stale and uninteresting. Its the records only downside, everything else still sounds as wild, energetic and fun as it did back then. The production should be merited for its clarity of all three instruments, the base has texture and is audible as a separate entity operating in the grooving realm below the guitars which as a lone force sounds mammoth in the rhythm riffs and with the backing of the bass still sound full on when playing out solos or leading the riffs into melodic phases. The drums sound crisp with a tight snappy snare and punchy kicks. There's lots of light hi hat cymbals rattling away, maybe only the crash and chine cymbals sound a little over loud at times.

Although a three-piece at the time, the band is essentially the brain child of guitarist David Davidson. As a classically trained musician his knowledge and ability to express shines through these songs which take a path from riff to riff and go through fantastic phases of tight, technical riffage with plenty of room for melodic leads and guitar solos to develop a grander scale. They feel without restraint and David fleshes his riffs and songs out with plenty of variation and progression that feels at times unnoticeable in there authenticity. Another aspect of this record I adore are the guitar solos. Almost every track has one and they are fantastic, a real throw back to the days where every song would feature a wild guitar solo. Whats best is that they are always relevant to the song, rather than being stitched in over a repeating riff, they often help the song get from a to b and more often than not in memorable style. These licks burst to life and erupt from the already energetic music. A personal favorite is "Exhumed Identity" where after a couple of illuminating solos have played out and the song is returning to its main theme, the instruments drop, a cry of "Guitar!" calls out and everything bust back into another wild solo to end the song with a classic attitude!

Reinforcing David's blinding guitar riffs the drums make a memorable show with a tight and precise performance. They are distinctly different in the way their groove and rhythm exudes from the fast shuffles and rapid pedal blasting that alternate restlessly through the songs. Lots of lighter cymbals are rustled with intricate patterns. Mini blast beats flick off and on like a light switch to create an overarching sense of groove. They are much like what you'd expect on a Technical Death Metal record and bring about a refreshing energy to the mostly Thrash sound at play. The chemistry of the three is crucial and for a debut this is a fantastic record to crash into the scene with, unfortunately for Revocation the critical response has been far ahead of their slowly growing fan base. I would of said it back then, I wouldn't of been surprised if this band would be grabbing main stage slots at festivals in 2016. Listening to it again Ive released in their development over the years this sound is now behind them and perhaps I never drifted away from it but from their newer material. Solid album without a moment of filler. Still exciting across the fifty five minutes all these years later.

Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Erang "Our Dreams Are Made Of Dragons" (2016)

With little surprise a second Erang album hits us this year from the one man band who has pumped out twelve records in just four years. This installment in the ongoing journey revisits the origins, the "Tome" era where Erang's sound was distinctly more primitive, spooky and eerie. Over time his compositions have become more layered and visual, the vibe shifted into fantasy but still holding onto the Dungeon Synth ideals. With this new record Erang revisits the "Tome" era with a wealth of knowledge and inspiration from his musical journey to enrich an old sound which has been shadowed by such records as "We Are The Past".

From the first, through all the many listens Ive given this record the magic flows effortlessly through minimal compositions that inspire engrossing atmospheres. Dreams and dragons certainly come to mind as each of the songs spellbind us with eerie, mystical nostalgic wonder. You can travel deep into your imagination with these melodies which feel both human and of another world. Each melody and song offers its own tale but looking over the track listing these names further illuminate the experience with their suggestions for what might be taking place.

Like the older "Tome" records, a lot of these songs focus on two or three instruments dancing around one another with a lack of percussion. There's a select and complimentary pallet of instruments at work, all armed with subtle reverbs and are fine tuned to occupy the same spaces gracefully. No instruments clash or feel out of place, they compliment one another and more often than not a quiet underlying synth lays down soft notes, almost unnoticeable but deepening the atmosphere.

"The Saddest Witch" Is a brilliant, simple song that showcases these qualities. A gentle, foggy bell like lead creates the air of mystery and wonder before a counteracting saw synth comes in with a mischievous, curious melody that dances around the other. With a clash of cymbals the song elevates, the melodies switch instruments and a soft guitar takes place of the saw wave synth. Below them deep synths arise feeling buried in the reverb that washes away from the other instruments and cymbal clashes. "Children Of The Frozen Forest" is another song with a remarkable atmosphere through simplicity. In its opening stages a women's voice can be heard faint and distorted through the cold enchanted atmosphere. It starts to shift with eerie synths talking like voices and the sounds of winds bustling up slowly in the distance.

Much of the record follows simple principles, one or two melodies, shifts in tone and direction that never become extravagant. Its modest, direct and within that design and construct emerges inspired melodies, tunes and music that fires up the imagination. With such a large discography it can be tricky to picture where it rests in the frame. Revisiting some of the "Tome" records I hear the same spirit but with the instrument choices, use of reverb, composition and of course the music itself having matured vastly. "Our Dreams Are Made Of Dragons" is a quiet record, one that will creep up and charm you with its own realm of fantasy and imagination.

Favorite Tracks: The Saddest Witch, The Old Knight's Farewell, The Twins Troubadours Of Tadyar, Children Of The Frozen Forest
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Plini "The End Of Everything" (2015)

My introduction to Australian Guitarist Plini was via Sithu Aye who featured Plini on the "Invent The Universe" record. The pair have also released a four track split record, which I have yet to listen to. Although a one man band, Plini is a touring act too and so far has released a string of singles and three short EPs of which "The End Of Everything" is the latest. The band are currently touring as well as recording their full length debut, which after enjoying this I am looking forward too.

Much like Sithu, Plini is part of this post-Djent Progressive Metal scene and of a much more melodic persuasion and Jazz orientation. Every rush of energy and djenty grooves give way to lush soundscapes of instrumental subtleties, gracious lead guitars and dreamy synths. It can heat up somewhat with double pedal drums, chunky, metallic riffs but even in its heavier moments the sense of brightness and color that courses through never fades. The result is a very organic record that will shift gears without notice, one moment illuminated by the fire and the next acoustic guitars are playing lullabies over soft synths accompanied by lively Jazz percussion that dances around the kit softly. As an instrumental band Plini's dynamic guitar leads are the voice, forever an alluring force of adventure. No moment here drifts from the path and as a three track its only flaw is its length, clocking in at seventeen minutes it leaves much to be desired! I can't help but feel their debut could be something special.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, 18 July 2016

Contact "Zero Moment" (2016)

Part of a string of albums Ive discovered recently, the duo "Contact" are part of the electronic music scene in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and on first listen you may not even be thinking "electronic music". Contact's sound and style is deeply rooted in Progressive Rock, specifically the likes of Sky and ELP. These bands made heavy use of organs and synths at the time and now in 2016 that's been revisited with modern electronic sounds while stripping back the Rock element. Essentially its progressive synth, the same sort of melodies and spirit but with the guitars as an occasional low hum in the mix which in this day and age brings a refreshing clarity to the styles of old.

After many listens I feel almost the same as my initial impression. This is so in tune with the prog sound that nothing was surprising, challenging or out of the ordinary. It felt more so like deja vu, as if you could hear the next note of every lead before it arrived. With pulsating buzz saws and soft marching baselines the atmosphere is set with steady rocking drum beats to let a lead or two dance in the spotlight, creating the theme and direction for the track. At times its almost cheesy, sounding like the theme song to an 80s cop drama but always too classy, its just a familiarity. Most of the songs build up slowly, generally introducing the instruments and letting the mood simmer before it finds its way to the main melody.

The opening two tracks are the best and as both reach their climax in the closing stages. I always felt as if the stage had been set for an epic to unravel but in a few bars the instruments drop out. I'm Probably to used to epic ten minutes plus songs. The rest of the song don't quite get back on the same level, exploring darker moods or more ambient tones, a couple of tracks feeling like they brush shoulders with VGM soundtracks. Its a great sounding record, an old musical style polished and revamped with modern instruments. I have to say thought the promise of the opening two tracks leaves the rest of the album feeling slightly disappointing in its shadow. It stirs up the atmosphere and emotion then drifts into a calmer setting. Either way its a very enjoyable instrumental record.

 Favorite Tracks: Zero Moment, Grand Detector, Sensorium
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Oscillotron "Cataclysm" (2016)

Here's a tip on how to find music you like, stalk people! No, joking aside the way I discovered this record was by reading a review of another record I recently enjoyed. I thought "this person knows what they are talking about" and decided to look at other albums they had talked about. Despite being vastly different I found a string of records from the Pittsburgh electronic scene and this peach from Stockholm Sweden that demanded my attention. David Johansson is the one man band Oscilotron, an electronic artist, who composed and recorded these spectacular 40 minutes in its entirity.

Much like its bleak, pale and near greyscale album cover, the music conveys a timeless sense of scale and atmosphere through somewhat colorless electronic instruments. With dense waveform synths and textural sounds they harmonize without melody, illuminating with a cold, lifeless and spacious vibe capturing the essence of the void. Its not all about the empty vastness, moments of this record perk up into life with adventurous, quirky melodies yearning a sense of exploration, journey and destination. In the track listening between each eventful musical moment there are slower, drawn out atmospheric pieces painting vivid soundscapes of the nebula. Its closing track is rather chilling, a brooding atmosphere of tension and unnerve that winds down with a sense of dimming light, creeping out while staring fate in the eyes.

It neither starts or ends in a "happy place" and for the most part doesn't convey much direct emotion. Listening to this record one will feel like an observer, watching over travelers who eventually meet there doom. Being disconnected from them directly we are treated to a dense and scenic atmosphere that will let your imagination run wild. For the most part a selection of luscious synths drone out their textures with subtle shifts and minimal melodies. These eventually lead to grander moments where the baselines pick up a rhythm, the drums cautiously take command and the synths will evolve into sturdy melodies along with the inclusion of a few other instruments, sometimes pianos, organs or event what sounds like an overdrive guitar in one song.

"Cataclysm" is an impressive record. So precise and focused it is an expression executed with vision. Every inch of sound feels perfected aesthetically and in terms of musical satisfaction it brilliantly drifts in and out of its ambience to strike with engrossing moments of magic. Exceptional record, one I feel will be with me for years to come!

Favorite Songs: Twlight, Mutation
Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Death Grips "The Money Store" (2012)

Whatever curiosity lead you to this post I'd highly recommend opening a can of worms and giving this record a listen if your open minded with music. I became aware of Death Grips back in 2013 and despite initially not understanding the record I couldn't give it up thanks to the enthusiasm of music critic Anthony Fantano and this video which really helped me understand what the record is about. That video will say so much more about it than I ever could and so I thought id take personal reflection on what this record has done for me musically. Honestly music has never felt quite the same since, this one effected me so much Ive felt my horizons expand and my love of music grow ever since it cracked open for me. That didn't happen for at least ten listens or so, I would take a long walk every day dedicating my focus to it and slowly but surely it started to creak open and reveal its magic. I still find the experience strange as I'm accustom to abrasive, noisy music, perhaps not in the more electronically oriented style though.

In a nutshell Death Grips comes of as erratic, noisy, ugly and dissonant. Off kilt sampling and grizzly waveform rumbling baselines collide between solid percussive grooves with a lot of glitchy sounds splicing into the rhythm. Over the top of it MC Ride shout raps with a ferocity and unchained energy that makes up a huge part of the trios character. MC Ride may be one of the most exciting rappers of this generation, not for slick rhyming patterns or clever word play but for taking a different approach and pushing the boundaries of what is defined as raping. At many times he will sound more Punk than Rap has he shouts his way through songs. Lyrically its similar to Wu-Tang Clan's "free association" rhyme style where sentences don't often form a coherent line of thought but create an atmosphere or scene through its words, "Concussion blinding, not my fault, ankles tied to cinder blocks" for example. His delivery further expresses this artsy approach with free flowing spits that have a knack for a catchy hook yet break freely away from the beat or restriction of the beats tempo.

This knack for a hook is one of the remarkable things about the record, when peeling back the layers of its sound and slowly making sense of it all it becomes apparent that the songs are basically poppy, bouncy and catchy in nature. Loaded with lyrical hooks the accompanying instrumentals are strangely satisfying in their noisiness. The percussion is tight and banging, the core of the beat rocking but always feeling slightly obscured by experimental sampling and dense percussive noises that crop up in certain songs. Its melodic or tuneful value is twisted and distorted in this mess but they still carry the weight a good melody can.

From one song to the next it never lets up and each song here feels like an island, there is no formula or consistency to what can happen, each track is truly unique. "The Fever" and "I've Seen Footage" are the albums party tracks, toning down some of the eccentricities and giving the overall groove and hook more love. "Punk Weight" and "The Cage" get wild with noisy samples and electronic instruments going to extremes, unafraid of peaking the bass to extremes. Its remarkable, all thirteen tracks offer so much wild and eccentric delight to delve into, you could talk about them all endlessly as each track is loaded with oddities that culminate into wild, unchained, banging music. Death Grips are the most exciting band of the millennium and couldn't recommend this album more. Modern classic.

Rating: 10/10

Friday, 15 July 2016

Head Of David "Seed State" (1991)

Some bands, some records get buried by time and English Industrial Metal outfit "Head Of David" are one of those bands who have drifted into obscurity. In this Internet age its just about possible to find copies of their records and small discussions about the group. They often cite their relation to other important Industrial Metal groups, like Justin Broadrick of Godflesh who also played in Napalm Death (early) and Techno Animal. He was in the band before leaving in 89 to be replaced by a drum machine. Fear Factory's cover of their cult classic "Dog Day Sunrise" is about the most exposure the band ever received and it may just be their influence and contribution to the sound of that era has been vastly overlooked. Either way "Seed State" is the bands farewell record and not what the band have been praised for. Its an Industrial Rock record with Metal aesthetics that wasn't particularly well received at the time and has vastly been forgotten about, its videos on youtube only scraping a few hundred views per song.

So why this record? Its a personal favorite of mine for a handful of songs that catch a vibe I really dig. I picked it out last week after years since I last enjoyed it and felt like talking about it. The record is musically mediocre and its production is sloppy, muddy and unpolished. It only favors the lead guitar, my favorite aspect of the record. Through this muddy wash of Industrial noise the leads sing out with a gorgeous tone and reverb that lays some deeply nostalgic and epic 90s feels over a chunky, mechanical rhythm section. These leads are often short riffs played over and over, quite often with stereo shifting effects. Slightly noisy and often shifting into chords they burst out of the music with a freedom and wild energy that's reflecting the mood of the times.

The lead single "How Primitive Are You" is a fantastic is example of all that's wrong and right with this record. In one moment its a mechanical droning of thin guitars and grooving base guitar and drum rhythms and the next it bursts into life with the chorus lead guitar illuminating the songs atmosphere with two dense notes held for a moment before looping into a swift melody. It feels aimless and without progression, just simply existing in the moment and I adore that. Singer Burroughs's lyrics are simplistic, poppy and without depth, they come of like an attempt of something "catchy" for the charts in the case of this song. Asking over and over how primitive we are before stating we should go primitive. It comes of as trying to be clever without any real depth to the idea. This kind of cliched chart music lyrical style is prominent but it has its moments where it works, "Vulture Culture" for example is a catchy rhyme that in itself could say a lot to the listener.

The songs mostly compromise of short sequences played over as the verses between choruses, standard stuff but its constant repetition and lack of variety creates is the heart of the Industrial sound that pounds away and gives more life to the "breaks" which may simply come in the form of an extra vocal line or sound effect in a particular moment. Its balanced minimalism, its effect is reliant on the chemistry between drums and base guitar which sound very much like the works of Frank Klepacki on the Command & Conquer soundtrack from 1995. Big, bold baselines strutting short grooves between the rigid, pumping automatized drum machines. Its a niche of taste but I thoroughly love the moments of this record where it hits the mark, shame its not consistent throughout, some tracks are quite the lull.

Favorite Tracks: How Primitive Are You, Human Feel, Vulture Culture, Zen Walker
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Unlocking The Truth "Chaos" (2016)

"Chaos" is the much anticipated debut record of teenage band Unlocking The Truth from Brooklyn, New York. As three black males from the home of Hip Hop it is quite out of the ordinary they have found Metal but that's hardly whats remarkable about the trio. Established in 2007 the band weren't even teenagers when they got started out. Youtube is littered with videos of these three as kids playing on the streets of the famous time square in downtown New York. At a very young age front man Malcolm Brickhouse developed an admirable attitude for life, citing a strong work ethic and desire for following his dreams of making a success of his band. Considering the band have toured with Metallic at least one of those dreams has been fulfilled. For a debut record its a solid introduction to the band. In its best moments they show sparks of being a rather special act, however a fair few tracks drift into obscurity with underwhelming riffs fixed into standard song structures. The point though should be that their is much to get excited about, they show a ton of potential.

Pinpointing their specific sound and style isn't exactly easy but they do have a broad appeal about them. Its Metal that's not about extremities or some over encompassing theme or aesthetic. In Malcolm's guitar style can be heard hints of Slipknot, Metallica and Disturbed and in terms of style, Nu, Alternative, Groove, Heavy Metal and quite often Metalcore. Its a blender that gives the album quite a diverse set of riffs however the simplistic song structures tone down the differences on display. His singing style is also a strength for the band, laying down clean vocals with a force and grit to them that work great for the metallic tone. In moments he moves to screams but nothing menacing, on one or two tracks dropping in a slight growl. Lyrically the album is loaded with light digestible language, some of which is somewhat angsty and there are plenty of great chorus hooks that will get you singing along.

For a trio they sound full of power and strength on the record, the production gives the baselines a real thudding clunk and dense tone, the guitars fill out the space above with a welcoming, satisfying distortion tone that's got energy, spirit and aggression without over doing it. The drums sound fantastic, very roomy and authentic sounding symbols. The snare is sharp and the pedals sound fab, very deep and audible, the cutoff is fast but you can hear every kick so clear. Great mix for a reasonable record which does have a weak stretch between "A Tide" and "Numbing". These songs weren't quite to my taste however they did have some strong riffs. I think this debut really highlights their potential to do great and we certainly get a taste of what they are about.

Favorite Song: Monster, Made Of Stone, Ravens, Escape, Take Control
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Dimmu Borgir "Stormblåst MMV" (2005)

Nineteen years after the original record, Dimmu Borgir stepped into the studio to re-record the memorable "Stormblåst", stating it had always been their intention to produce the album with a similar, modernized aesthetic to "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant". The original is its own gem within the bands discography from the low fidelity era where their symphonic side really came to fruition. I remember not being optimistic at the time this was announced and upon its release Ive never cared for it much. Its enjoyable at least, I know these songs inside out but practically everything about the production value dispels the magic I remember so fondly.

Gone is the opening melody composed on strings and pianos, straight into the majestic cosmos we are hurtled and after the opening riff the shift to epic choral choir synths is rather persuasive but probably the records best moment as the following riff feels hollow with the synths dropping out and this is where its problems are first heard. Shagrath's scream despite being meatier and strong doesn't have the same charm. Much the same could be said of all his growling, guttural vocals. They have more oomph but that doesn't magnify anything about the Norwegian words being sung. The clean Norse chants however sound solid in comparison.

The production here is simply to much for the music, its charm was in its strangely soft and thin production which had a lot of magic extruding from instruments that sounded individually narrow and weak. On MMV the opposite is so, the drums are loud, powerful and the base pedals rattle away constantly under many riffs where they never reached such speeds previously. Theres more blast beats, the tom rolls and fills are much more dense and they become quite an intense part of the music. Between them and the loud polished synths the guitars get buried and smothered. The base guitar rumbles low and gone are its higher notes which stepped into the fore front. With all these changes much of the chemistry is dismantled by lacking subtleties, the synths implore rich dense tones in the mix, so loud they take a large focus of attention where once they complimented the other instruments.

The simplistic nature of the music is stretched by this high octane mix. There is so much oomph and energy in the instruments sound that any changes in tone, the coming and going of synth keys, sounds out of balance and disproportionate. This is literally what it is, music written for a vastly different aesthetic. The drumming is especially disappointing, Hellhammer is a legend and I mean no disrespect but his style is to fast and ferocious for this record. Everything is done with double pedals and feels twice as fast, its simply nauseating.

The origin of original track "Sorgens Kammer" means it was dropped for a newly written track "Dell II". This is possibly why the introduction melody for the record was dropped too. With that new track Shagrath and Silenoz also re-recorded a left over "Aumaktslave" which has one riff sounding nothing like what they were writing in that era. Maybe they filled in the gaps on an old demo. These two tracks are the only reason to listen to this record, everything else is vastly inferior to the original.

Favorite Tracks: Sorgens Kammer - Dell II, Aumaktslave
Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Dimmu Borgir "Stormblåst" (1996)

In 1997 Dimmu Borgir released "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" a defining record for the band, evolving their identity with a rich wall of sound production and writing music to captivate the more rhythm eccentric styles of metal, producing mosh friendly aggressive riffs and manic break down moments. Its symphonic component was to be praised too, with gorgeous synths deepening the wild and dark atmosphere the band created a vastly more appealing sound, only true in spirit and theme to Black Metal but ditching the low fidelity and anti-music aspects. Before it came this gem of a record which I adore, more so for the years of my youth I listened to it religiously than its actual merit. Twenty or so years later the band would go on to re-recorded it with a similar aesthetic to EDT. Musically though it is very different regardless of what aesthetic its wrapped in.

The original Stormblast shows the band maturing quickly from their flawed but spirited "For All Tid" debut. The songs are rather similar in stature, simplistic power chord progressions from the guitars, tuneful synths with atmospheric tones backing them and narrow rattling drums pattering without a lot of force or intensity. Previously their drummer, Shagrath steps up as the front man playing guitars and performing the vocals with a textural approach, stretching the gutturals and snarling at the listener from a safe distance. They don't have an oomph or immediacy about them, but simply growl and groan with throaty textures over the rest of the music in a why I quite like but could easily see how it would turn others off. Some of the vocals are clean, deep and bellowing with a medieval heathen tone and in Norwegian, something I always adored, it ads mystery and an ancient feel to the record which is mostly more uplifting then it is dark. Most of the songs find a way to shift gears between darker and lighter passageways, often controlled by the synths tone and guitar riffs direction.

The songs themselves are relatively simple affairs with multiple riffs, verses and choruses. As no spectacular fete of song structure they tend to drone at the same intensity for the most part. Each song has its moment of creativity "Antikrist" for example messing around vocal distortions and reverbs in its opening momentum shift. The symphonies mostly exist in the backdrop, adding a soft layer of atmosphere and in a few bright and uplifting occasions pianos come to the fore front and treat us with gracious melodies dancing over steady guitar riffs. For example, the title track "Stormblåst" climaxes at the end, its best riff rocking out over and over with a gorgeous piano flowing a soothing melody over the top of it. The album is opened with a string and key section, an enchanting melody playing over soft, sorrowful strings. "Sorgens Kammer" is the only solo track for keyboardist Stian Aarstad, its a memorable one that it was unfortunately discovered through the internet had been lifted from a computer game without the rest of the bands knowledge. It still fits perfectly into the record.

Picking this record out after a fair few years since my last listen it occurs to me that the production is rather narrow and thin. Each instrument alone is rather underwhelming, the bass guitar isn't very deep, the guitars fuzzy distortion is thin and tan, the drums lack punch, the pedals loose and overall it feels rather narrow. Its amazing how it comes together, the synths fill in a lot of lost space and in its individual inadequacies it finds a charming, spell bounding chemistry as a whole. Its a soft record, despite being Black Metal everything except the vocals don't feel particularly harsh of abrasive and something worthy of note are the base guitar riffs that on every other song or so find a moment to step up with a complimenting melody and given their lack of depth sound pleasant playing higher notes.

 Its a record of atmosphere and indulgence crafted through simplicity, the result an ancient realm of nostalgic wonder helped on by the Norwegian lyrics, something the band would ditch on their next record. This record represents a large portion of my youth and my love for it is bias but trying to take a more objective view whats fascinating to me now is how primitive this record is, you could argue the production is poor and the music not as wild or unchained but through all that the charm is undeniable for me. "Stormblast" is a one off, not a genre defining record or even worthy of mention when discussing Black Metal's history but a brief moment in Dimmu's history that does wonders for me personally.

Favorite Tracks: Broderskapets Ring, Sorgens Kammer, Stormblåst, Antikrist, Vinder Fra En Ensom Grav
Rating: 10/10

Monday, 11 July 2016

Emperor "Prometheus - The Discipline Of Fire And Demise" (2001)

I was never too keen on Emperor's fourth and final full length album "Prometheus" but now that Ive given it a proper listen in recent weeks I have certainty grown an appreciation and fondness for it. Its not quite the calamity I remembered it as, in fact its a rock solid album but one where we hear the character of the band stretched further from its initial identity. Its not to surprising that the group split after its release, the bar had been set so high in the past they could easily go through the motions releasing albums, never reaching that same caliber again. "IX Equilibrium" held onto that original direction but maybe at a cost with the second half lacking. This album however makes to attempt to keep that original spirit intact.

"Prometheus" scales back on the immersive qualities associated with the band and transforms into a frontal beast of forward aggression and direct guitar work which makes for a thick and versatile rhythm section. The drums no longer aesthetic as a wall of cascading noise and more so the structured backbone for the guitar work to mingle its way between. Gone is the power chord shredding and simple progressions that defined their first record, the dexterous intertwined guitar work on "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk" is at full tilt here with practically every riff revolving around carefully worked overlapping guitars playing of one another. In the low end a lot of chug heavy and grooving picking rhythms define the albums crunchier side. Counter to that most riffs dance their way around the fret board with fast, noted leads and a lot of pinch harmonics, usually left to ring out over the next lick as the twin guitars work off one another in a back and forth manor. its chaotic, fast and wild but in a structured and expressive manor.

Around this aggressive whirl wind of lively guitars, varying degrees of symphonic synths jump in and out of the composition. They sound high fidelity, emulating real instruments rather genuinely. Like with the guitars they become an upfront part of the music, involved in and adding splashes of color and melody between the ever active guitars. Ihsahn's screams are decent, not much to marvel but have a decent tone to them, his clean vocals are particularly illuminating to the songs they grace, occasionally elevating to the King Diamond style seen on the last record.

It all adds up to a solid, memorable record with no particular stand out moments but a consistent adventure through the twists and turns in its fifty one minutes. The last track "Thorns On My Grave" is a step down production wise with awfully over compressed instruments playing at full intensity and continually peaking them mic. Clearly some sort of unnecessary demo track with an unlistenable quality blasting the music beneath into oblivion. A solid farewell from the band.

Favorite Songs: Depraved, Empty
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Cradle Of Filth "Dusk... And Her Embrace - The Original Sin" (2016)

What a surprise it was to see this release in my inbox. The original sin? When I saw the name I wondered, remix? remaster? This is actually a remastered release of the recordings made when the band where on the Cacophonous Records label. To my knowledge they recorded the album "Goetia" which had its master tapes erased due to the record label going bankrupt. It turns out they also recorded "Dusk... And Her Embrace" with the same band lineup as "The Principal Of Evil Made Flesh" and subsequently released "V Empire" instead to get out of that record contract. So now over twenty years later we get to hear what the bands magnum opus would of sounded like in 1995, unfortunately though this is remastered. It would of been far more interesting to hear it in its original state.

Musically almost everything is the same, the track listing includes "Nocturnal Supremacy", an alternative symphonic intro track, a few songs shuffled in the play order and "The Graveyard By Moonlight" is entirely different. A couple of song names are slightly different too and for the most part its the same beast, a lot rawer, rough around the edges but its biggest difference is in the synths, their tone and presence clearly indicate a different keyboard was used and for the most part they achieve the same atmosphere, however the tones are far less appealing and a little plastic and cheap in the mix. The overall chemistry in terms of production is nowhere near the 96 versions consistency in tone. That record gets all the subtleties right, where as here some instruments stick out like sore thumbs against others and in occasional moments the record fills a little thinned out when the keys are on their lonesome. On the flip side it has louder drums and a rocking bass guitar upfront in the mix, something the 96 release didn't have.

Lyrically and musically too there are quite a few moments to pick out that are slightly different, either with words, delivery or riffs. All of these seem better of changed however the bias of knowing its counterpart inside out highlights the subjective nature of music, these are still the same songs. Dani's vocals are between the two record as heard previously, still developing the trademark shrill scream and his growls still meatier and blunt. There are some additional guitar solo's that crop up too, sounding thrown in as an after thought, both musically and in terms of production, they feel stitched on to the songs and the ones that were dropped were rightly so, in this state they were quite lackluster. There's also a couple of "cringy" wolves howling samples thrown in too which were better left out.

Musing over all the differences it should also be said that sometimes the guitars sounded identical to the original and a lot of the gothic vocals, female and guest also didn't feel different in the slightest. Overall I think the fate which at the time may have felt cruel for the band, led them in the right direction. "The Original Sin" shows the bands best sound emerging from its embryonic state. It had found its inspiration in a gothic theme but had yet polished out the sound with the keyboards and in retrospect gained a lot from this polished and refined sound the band eventually came out with.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Seeds Of Iblis "The Black Quran" (2013)

Seeds Of Iblis are an anti-Islam Black Metal group from Iran which I discovered when my curiosity had me digging around looking for Metal in unexpected parts of the globe. It shocked me at first but makes a lot of sense given some thought. In Europe and other regions dominated by Christianity we have rebellion in the form of Black Metal which is strongly rooted in anti-Christian values, so in a country where Metal alone wouldn't be seen as orthodox we have anti-Muslim's using the music as a weapon against the faith it thinks hypocritically of. Because of the bands location they are shrouded in mystery, supposedly consisting of two men and two women their identities are concealed for obvious reasons. It is also speculated they have ties to the French embassy who would intervene and protect them if ever their identities were compromised. What is more remarkable about this record is its existence more so than the music itself.

Background aside the music is what I was initially looking for and in "The Black Quran" we have a hellish Luciferian atmosphere of malicious, scornful abrasive aggression. Ferocious blast beats continually batter into waves of pummeling attack, clattering like machine gun fire. The use of drum machines gives them a rigidity and unapologetic ruthlessness. The guitars tone is gristle and thin adding a unsettling tone between the drums and evil ooh synths that continually descend through minor key arrangements. Vocally the assault is on two fronts. The Arabic Female vocals tie in the regional and religious background of the music, singing native chants in the moments where the black drops its intensity. When at full swing the Male vocals scream and howl in a menacing tone that drifts into the space of its heavy reverb. Its like the voice of a tormented demon reaching out from the darkness.

The band certainly achieved a notably dark aesthetic, it is undoubtedly the vocal aspects that give this record its merit and charm but for a single twenty minute song its structure unwinds rather quickly past the half way point. The first half is a continual battering of blast beats, howls and descending synths with Arabic chants in between. In the second half there's many atmospheric interludes and the return of the songs main riff in a reconstructed manor crop up but it starts to feel short of ideas and any direction for conclusion. It fizzles somewhat with the sound of burning fires which bring in an eerie and haunting piano that sees the final moments of the song out with a gloomy burial.

A very intriguing record with a fascinating background it unfortunately doesn't live up to the same heights musically but its aesthetic is so menacing and pungent it kept me interested in its lengthy span for a singular song. Its lack of climax through conclusion was disappointing but what it offers outweighs that let down. I should also mention this group is part of an "Anti-Islamic Legion", meaning there are more bands in this region actively rebelling against their imposed religion.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 8 July 2016

David Bowie "ChangesOneBowie" (1976)

On my musical journey Bowie had always been a destination Id planned on visiting but given his recent and unfortunate demise it prompted to pick up some of his records, something about the cover and name of this one made me feel like this is where I wanted to start. The months rolled by and with every passing listen familiarity crept in but no true understanding of his acclaimed genius became apparent. Its not often I listen to Glam and Folk Rock, it made me release the nuances of music your accustom to makes it much easier to digest and understand. In recent weeks though many of these songs have really got into my head and I find myself singing along, which is a great sign. One thing that became swiftly apparent was a lack of concept, direction or theme, the inclusion of a live performance a little odd but the records flow stylistically shifts from an arty tone to Glam Rock with slight Country tinges on some songs. It hit me like a slap in the face when I looked it up online, its a greatest hits or compilation released in the midst of his acclaimed peak, the seventies.

So now I'm familiar with this selection of his songs but I more often prefer the album experience to understand the music and I don't have to many musings on this record either. With it not being what I'm used to its hard to find the words to express. One song that really stuck a chord with me was "Changes" with its lyric "Time may change me but I can't change time"... Deep and profound it gave me much to ponder over but then I thought "Ive heard this before!" and it hit me. Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit lifts the line on a track adding a "So fuck it" to the end of Bowie's introspective statement. My teenage self never found any meaning in Fred's butchering of the sentiment, or maybe I was to young to understand it.

To comment on a few other tracks, "Space Oddity" has quite the emotional progression as fictional astronaut "Major Tom" makes his way to the moon, slow, brooding and fragile strings build a subtle tension that blossoms into a moment of wonder with a shift of pace and inclusion of a flute lead, Bowie singing about sitting in a tin can. The guitar then brings a momentary groove to the track before enigmatic strings snap us back to the setting. Its scenic and quite the narrative song with a lot of charm. "Suffragette City" packs a punch with overdriven guitar riffs making quite the racket and jiving piano chords being played with force. Its fast, upbeat and climaxed by a tonal guitar solo in the middle of the track. I really enjoyed this and will continue to listen to more of Bowie's record. Next time it wont be a compilation.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Abbath "Abbath" (2016)

If the grim corpse paint looks familiar that's because it is thee Abbath Doom Occulta of Immortal who's classic sophomore record "Pure Holocaust" I wrote about two days ago. That being said he is no longer part of the band, their split sounds like a messy affair with the musicians unable to agree on who should advance with the name. Abbath earlier announced that Immortal disbanded but later his former band mates Demonaz and Horgh stated this wasn't true. So now on his own this self titled debut could easily be considered an Immortal record given its style, written by the man at the heart of the bands sound. With Immortal also announcing a new record there are hints that some of the material on this record may of been intended for the bands 9th album.

In true Immortal fashion this record rumbles away with a consistent pace and tone. A fierce tone at that and its overall pace isn't as blinding but has its moments of accelerated intensity. The drums batter away with an almost Industrial quality to them. The hi hats muddy and buried, the symbols in general require a little focus to pick out behind loud and clicking, hollow base pedals that roll like a machine. The snare thuds with a thick and punchy tone while the tom drums make a thunderous presence with their heavy tone. It plays out cold and calculated with timed flurries of expression as rapid fills and drums rolls jump into the spaces between the battering beats.

The guitar work starts of imploring more groove eccentric riffs as discordant palm mutes chug away in the opening track. The arrangements that follow are often shorter, simple chord arrangements that fit one bar and interchange frequently with variations and a sense of progression than can easily return to previous riffs. Its chemistry with the drumming is brilliant, the cold and machine like percussion paired with short riffs create a sense of repetition and momentum that the song structures counteract. Each song locks you into its moment without feeling any sense of anticipation, but just a steady unraveling of its musical trajectory.

Abbath's vocals are rather commonplace for his style, a lack of reverb left them feeling a touch thin. They came across accommodating as opposed to having a commanding presence in the music. Not bad but not spectacular. The record plays out with a linear mood and a rigidity as it sticks to its guns. All of this adds up to consistency and although there is the use of war horns in one song and light synths in the back drop of another the record rests in a steady posture, cold, grim, full of might and ready for war.

Favorite Tracks: To War, Fenrir Hunts, Eternal
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

YG "Still Brazy" (2016)

Two years back Compton rapper YG dropped his debut "My Krazy Life" which stirred up rave reviews, solid sales and featured a lot of big names including Kendrick Lamar. That's as much as I know about YG, I have the record but never got around to listening to it and I probably would of passed on this one if it wasn't for the promise of G-Funk era beats, something Ive never heard enough of. Unfortunately these beats were the only side of this record I genuinely enjoyed, as It can often be with Rap the braggadocios, violent, misogynistic lyrics don't carry as much weight when its not to your taste.

YG's flow, tone, delivery, all decent and steady but the lack of substance and meaning in his words was disturbing, most of what made an impact did so for the wrong reasons but looking at the positives he does have the knack for a good hook and catchy lines however replacing your c's with b's only goes so far before feeling like a gimmick. There's a lot of features too, big names like Lil Wayne and Drake, none of the guests made much of an impression either but I''m stuck in the 90s still. Its the track "She Wish She Was" that really gripes me on this record. Such a sexist and hypocritical statement holding double standards for men and women, slating a women's behavior for things they would celebrate in other songs, calling her a bitch for being a groupie while flaunting sleeping around in other tracks... Its a ludicrous song, not a topic I haven't heard before but not with such a lack of moral consideration.

It made a mess of a slamming beat and "Still Breezy" is loaded with them. As I mentioned this album revives the G-Funk sound in style, keeping it fresh and relevant, allowing modern Trap beats to swim in out between the tracks, giving it a great flow converging two styles together. The Funk baselines pop in with texture and density, accompanied with piano chords and swirly ghetto synths at times feels right out of Doggy Style. In fact there's quite a few tracks that are very reminiscent of Dr.Dre, especially his use of minor key chords.

Beyond these thoughts I didn't get to deep into this record. Its got a great instrumental vibe but the lyrics mostly drifted in one ear and out the other. I can't end it without mentioning the track "FDT", fuck Donald Trump. The sentiment of the track is musing, its not often gangster rappers get political but in its simplicity there's an sentimental message of unity between gangs either side of the border. Not what you might expect to hear.

Favorite Tracks: Twist My Fingaz, Gimme Got Shot, FDT
Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Immortal "Pure Holocaust" (1993)

In the infamous Norwegian Black Metal scene Immortal were there from the beginning with a demo tape dating back to 91 and this release, their iconic, identity defining second record, coming a year before the global media exposure that came in light of the church burnings and murder controversy.  Not to be taken seriously, Immortal's image plays tongue in cheek to the seriousness of corpse paint and satanism within the scene. Although themes of demons emerge, Immortal's lyrics and atmosphere revolves around scenic fantasy and nature, the extremes of cold winter weather and war. Its a classic but flawed gem that gets merit for its blinding speed and grinding intensity. Its execution of atmosphere and vision is sublime however the record is rather one dimensional, sticking to a singular principle through the course of the record, however that purity to an idea is in itself rather charming.

 Starting with "Unsilent Storms In The North Abyss", a cracking song name, it takes all but eight seconds for the records lunging speed to pulverize as a blitzkrieg snare pummels down with a frighting blast beat. Its stride doesn't let up as the base pedals roll in with an endless momentum. The drumming is unsettled and astonishingly fast, more so for the time but the drums make up a large portion of the bands sound not just for its speed and intensity but its tone and texture too. The pedals are dense, the snare sharp and loose, the cymbals a indiscernible clatter. It all bleeds into a colorless haze of menacing force and power that is a constant persuasion alongside the other instruments.

Alongside the thunderous sound of the drums a thick drone of noisy, sharp distortion guitars paint the icy cold landscapes with their muddy presence. Unsurprisingly they match the whirlwind speed of the drumming with incredibly dexterous tremolo chord shredding that has power chords strumming at a ridiculous pace while they progress and transition through the motions. There's barely a lick of melody, occasional resemblances of a lead above the rhythm guitar and a short solo on "Frozen By Icewinds" that ads a momentary extra dimension to the sound, something that could of featured more. With its blinding speed, narrow, claustrophobic tone and messy, dissonant record the guitars are another cold layer of sound giving birth to a frosty and scenic imagination in their partial ambiguity.

Vocalist Abbath is very much the star of the show, songwriting, playing the drums and bass guitar too. The base mainly adds a warm undercurrent to the otherwise bleak tone, occasionally breaking to add a subtle melody. His vocal style is fantastic, despite being a little stark and laughable his gargling demonic calls play with the higher ranges and have a light growl about them. The delivery is key, always of its own accord and with some light reverb it jumps out from within the frosty cold wall of noise. Its best and most powerful moments come with volume raises and increased reverb for dramatic effect.

I could sing its praises all day and its short comings aren't complaints so much as observations where things may not quite play in their favor. Its a very linear listen, never steering far from the path, no break out moments or change of pace its a continual hammering down of pure darkness. Maybe with exception to "As Eternity Opens" inclusion of what sound like noise choir synths towards the end. The production style is charismaticly raw and unpolished, to the point of leaving in odd snare strikes and symbol clashes that peak the microphone. The band also implore the Darkthrone principle of sudden endings as the ringing distortions are interrupted by silence. These are things I'm not sure I like or not, but one thing is for sure this record is timeless and I adore it.

Favorite Tracks: Unsilent Storms In The North Abyss, The Sun No Longer Rises, Eternal Years On The Path To The Cemetary Gates
Rating: 9/10