Monday, 27 February 2017

Hellmouth "Oblivion" (2017)

With fire and flames "Oblivion" burns through its sixteen tracks in a frenzy of anger, rage and fury. Clocking in at thirty three minutes its a relentless pummeling that only lets up in moments of atmospheric Post-Metal guitar noise that is a welcome twist to a primarily Crossover sound. Being the Detroit bands first record in over seven years, it doesn't sound like a big stylistic leap is at work but between sticking to their full throttle, high octane guns. Their sound inches into new territory in several moments littered through the track listing. With slower Post-Metal moments and tinges of Black Metal, Post-Punk and Groove Metal licks there are brief instances of creativity and imagination that trumps the unfiltered violence of their rage educed thrashing.

Motivated by humane, religious and political corruption themes the album plays like a constant thunder of urgent alarm. Its production is intense, monstrous guitar tones clamor into the forefront, accompanied by the powerful, brutal drum kit that thunders away as lots of noisy dissonance melds into the unleashed musical force. Singer Jay Navarro leads the charge with an alarming scream that although may not be the most welcoming of textures has a ton of passion and anger coming through furious shouts.

In the bands core identity lies a rather predictable approach to Crossover brutality. In some moments it hits hard but in others it feels as if the uncontrollable aesthetic tone just isn't quite as exciting as the energy it puts forth. Its in the slower moments where atmosphere and craft emerge from the routine trashing that more excitable music is found. Unfortunately the elasticity between the two didn't spark anything special and it played out like a routine stretch of brutality with bits of life briefly sprinkled in. Hellmouth have a great aesthetic but for me its most pleasing within the creative and atmospheric moments rather than the constant barrage of hate the band aim to assault you with.

Favorite Tracks: Welcome To The Undertow, Blood Free, Dementia From The Void, Coliseum Oblivio, Pathetic Bullshit
Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Austra "Feel It Break" (2011)

The ambiguous, symbolic, dark symetrical album cover may conjure impressions of an artsy Black Metal project but alas, no stretch of extremity is to be found here other than its sheer wonder. Austra are a Canadian Electronic Art Pop trio illuminated by the dazzling vocals of Katie Stelmanis who's voice resonates on a deeply emotional level. Her singing is strong in presence, consistent in tone and dazzles with a stunning vibrato, executed with mesmerizing precision in speed and evolution as it expands its ferocity with mechanical precision. She steals the show but the instrumentals are of merit too.

Forming the rhythm section, programmed drums take on a measured position between more organic samples and sturdy dance kits. The base kicks thud and the hi hats are a little less intrusive, setting the tone for atmospheric Synthpop with a sturdy backbone. Around it layers of moog synths and baselines come in and out of focus with temperament for the power of each melody, not trying to constantly output sound and allowing the songs the expand and contract, which they do, however it is always Stelmanis's voice that takes the limelight as the various melodies play of her lead.

With a deliberate and balanced sound it remains rather consistent in tone and structure, nothing too adventurous emerges from the formula and the songs go through the motions in typical formats with a great selection of drum kits and playful melodies to compliment. Short sweet and repetitive, the tracks consist of melodies in tuneful arrangements that make for easy digestion. Its poppy but artistic and its mood despite a bright exterior feels as if something more sinister may be over the horizon.

For me the album grows stronger as it progresses, the song "Loose It" has a very pop friendly vocal hook and sweet charm about it but as progression takes place the flow seems to loosen up a little. More indifference is to be found in aesthetics and melody as the music starts to resonate emotionally. There are moments where her voice is "enhanced" for lack of better word when reverbs give it a different edge and she delivers some breath taking singing on "The Choke" and more so on "The Beast" which sees the album out on a chilling high with goosebumps and all as she hits the most powerful notes of the record over a troublesome piano.

A great debut record that really highlights the beauty of Stelmanis's voice and its fair to say this will be one of my go to records for a long time. I have to thank my friend Lord Lovidicus for introducing it to me. I should also mention that Fever Ray came to mind in my first few listens. Although distinctly different in style and tone I can't help but think the band would be fans of her work. Loving this one, looking forward to picking up their second release and anticipating a third for 2017!

Favorite Tracks: Beat And The Pulse, Spellwork, The Choke, The Noise, The Beast
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 24 February 2017

Iron Reagan "Crossover Ministry" (2017)

Given this bands line up, consisting of members from Municipal Waste, Cannibas Corpse and Darkest Hour, you may consider them a super group of sorts. They are very much in the spirit of Singer Foresta's main band Municipal Waste, Crossover, that moment in the 80s where Thrash Metal and Hardcore music crossed paths. Iron Reagan is all about the fun and attitude of the music, with the occasional political statement sprinkled in it is mostly a balls to the wall thrasher of a record that goes full pelt for the hell of it, barely letting up for a breather.

Its leaning is far more to the Hardcore but the occasional bursts of fast guitar thrashing and electric guitar solos keep it all hanging in the balance. With that comes a consistency as the eighteen short songs stick to a fairly routine formula instrumentally. The albums tone is frenetic, sonic and sounds is if its ready to burst at the seems in any moment. A gorgeous, punchy snare drum compliments the distortion guitars that has a reminiscent Slayer tone to it with the more Metal riffs. Underneath it the thuds of pedal kicks and rumbling baselines add to the imminent and maddening vibrations.

With a consistency in approach one song generally bleeds into the next and the affair becomes a little monotone but in a few moments it elevates itself with theme and a sense of humor. "Fuck The Neighbors" poking fun at party hard attitudes with an anthem to blare at rude neighbors who complain about loud music at five in the morning! Total jokes... that and a few other songs liven up what is a little stale album given a large selection of similar sounding riffs. The records tone, energy and attitude makes for a fun experience although it was dampened a little for me by Foresta's thin screams which just aren't to my taste the gang shouts however are fantastic and make many a good hook through the run time.

Favorite Tracks: Dead With My Friends, Fuck The Neighbors, Bleed The Fifth, Dogsnotgods
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Neil Cicierega "Mouth Moods" (2017)

To describe "Mouth Moods" as a comedy record would be a fatal mistake. Although it provides plenty of laughs and giggles, it is a far more impressive artistic mashup experiment than it is purely for laughs. Artist Neil Cicierega is a creative individual and as a musician has struck gold with his collection of "Mouth" record, this being the third and best yet! If your from the 90s, 00s generation then this will be a trip down memory lane as many popular songs of the era find themselves stitched together with a touch of genius, inducing one into a state of confusion, "how is this even possible".

"ACVC" has to be the records finest moment on the confusion front, AC DC's "Back In Black" mixed with Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles". Sounds like a recipe for disaster but somehow its fantastic despite the contrast of Johnson's raspy, scratchy snarls and the lush piano led instrumentation behind it. There is a selection of crossovers involving two contrasting songs that have somehow been fit together. If I'm not careful Id simply end up writing a list with all the popular music included in the record. Not everything is a straightforward mash up. Neil finds themes in the music to include other coherent samples from TV commercials, shows and pop culture in its audio form. If not Tony tiger shouting "There great!" alongside the classic "Eye Of The Tiger" vocal, Neil also lets these non musical samples set the tone, either an advert for CD-ROM's or a Blockbuster Video commercial can lead the song to its point. There is also two fantastic vocal snippet songs with a large string of vocal hooks stitched together in maddening style!

There aren't weak points to be talked about, everything works, some with a little more charm than other but every experiment is rewarding, even odd moments where Chester's vocal from "In The End" is alarmingly transformed and distorted it somehow sounds fantastic. For an audiophile like myself its a very engaging listen. Between the light bulbs popping off at all the nostalgic samples I recognize, I find myself mystified as to how he has found so many instrumentals, acapellas and carefully extracted samples. I'm assuming its likely he doesn't have access to the masters of so many pop songs and I'm left with a curiosity to the production techniques deployed. Its a fantastic sounding record despite some obvious problems you'd expect to encounter however Neil has remixed everything to a fine art. Bravo, a brilliant musical experience, especially for my generation.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Oathbreaker "Rheia" (2016)

Quite the fuss has been brewing around this record, receiving much acclaim and selling out consecutive live shows, Oathbreaker have broken ground with "Rheia", the Belgian bands third studio full length to date. Initially I didn't hear what the fuss was about but it was singer Caro Tanghe and her absorbing, personal performance that sucked me into the record and it is she who is very much so the conductor in this orchestra of distressing darkness that mingles between a burgeoning heavy frenzy of metallic guitars and the flickering of light that emanates in the moments of macabre calmness that is forever swaying back and forth.

 Instrumentally its a common Post-Metal affair, tinged with a human blackness and swooning between its more acoustic eccentric tones and moments of dizzying aggression where blast beats pummel loosely. A constant feeling of momentum and scale is perpetuated, climaxed in the heavier outbreaks and given depth and atmosphere where it all slows down. A few moments of conventional riffing intersect what is mostly a tremolo of shimmering chord progressions steadily expanding through relatively lengthy songs, mostly around seven or more minutes.

It is with Tanghe that this record comes together, her performance gives a very emotional, human context that delves into the depths of loneliness and depression. It is not just through the words of her twisted, manic screams that this comes across, but in the performance that sways as she erupts from her vulnerability into a wretched beast of spite. The back and forth is obvious, sometimes sudden but always with anticipation and build up that has genuine brilliance despite seeming a little simplistic on paper.

Without her performance I think many aspects of these songs would fail to create quite the emotional response, however the instrumentals are pretty fantastic in there own right. It is Tanghe who elevates and illuminates the record to the next step. Her screams twisted and haunting, her clean vocals sensitive, shy and defenseless. The moments in which the two cross over are magic, quite theatrical yet grounded in a gritty honesty, it alone makes the record for me.

Favorite Tracks: Being Able To Feel Nothing, Needles In Your Skin, Immortals, Begeerte
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Old Corpse Road "Of Campfires And Evening Mists" (2016)

If ever Ive heard a band that captures the spirit of early Cradle Of Filth it is Old Corpse Road, who I discovered during Bloodstock festival back in 2014. Hailing from northern England, they invigorate that early extreme gothic sound once erroneously coined "British Black Metal" when Cradle were still wearing corpse paint and drawing links with the Norwegian scene. It is a rather formulaic similarity where shrill, piercing screams accompany guttural growls and burly spoken word over the extreme metallic music, aggressive, visual and drenched in symphonic keyboards. As the title suggests its a romanticized vision of British folklore and natural beauty expressed through the the typical tropes of such a sound, however the band execute it all with a touch of class a richer approach to the less Metal oriented moments.

With four ten minute plus epics the eight track record is quite a meal, clocking in at sixty four minutes it rarely lets up with a dull moment to pass. The songs are equally expansive and across the record a lot of variety is to be found, sometimes the guitars lead with groove and aggression, in other moments they let up for the synths to build atmosphere and furthermore drop out entirely for many symphonic or acoustic passageways enriching the musics scope. With all of the members pitching in on the vocal front a barrage of styles become possible as the ever progressing instrumentals are narrated by many voices. For all the variety on hand, these songs have structure and direction, they cohesively unfold, often from driving guitar riffs and gnarly blast beats into expansive atmospheres and soaring moments that certainly deliver.

All of the songs are dense and well fleshed out with a lot going on at once for your ears to pick through. The production is reasonable, the instruments have nice tones, the synths are stark and loud and at time it feels a little muddy with so much going on but it holds together well for the music to shine and shine it does. Each song has its own merit and one of my favorite aspects are the folklore and mythological themes that resonate superbly alongside the gothic vibes. Solid record that I can't falter, excellent for the right, specific mood, best enjoyed in the winds of cold English nights.

Favorite Track: Herne Of Windsor Forest
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Navie D "Hyper Light In The Key Of D" (2016)

Often eliminating the percussion section and stripping back the layers of composition, Canadian producer Navie D chooses a striking change of pace for his full length debut. The ambiguous, alien sentiment of his striking synth driven style finds itself stricken from the mold of Hip Hop beats into an ambient, atmospheric piece resonating in mood and tone. In this change of pace a lot more convention is found in the often small set of instruments that grace us with intuitive minimalism.

 With a low density of sound, singular noises glance past one another over the rumble of distant buzz saws, fostering an atmosphere spacious, distant and ambiguous by design. With token instruments and a keen ear for volume, reverb and all things to further the desolation, a rather stark and lifeless feeling emerges from the small set of synths that hold these songs together. With no crescendos, progressive builds or moments of climax we very much step into the abyss for a brief glimpse at the beyond as lingering glimmers of melody forge the moment with a handful of notes.

In a fair few moments the album musters up a whirl of rhythmic energy where a buzzing rattle inspires the mechanical, percussive march of electronic dissonance on "The Hanged Man". A subdued pace has the striking of anvils and clanking of ratchets keep tempo with an industrial menace on "The Emperor". Half of the tracks here find mechanical tempos, devoid of groove and intent on atmosphere. They bounce back and forth between the minimal tracks which bare little resemblance to melody and tune.

It ends up being a somewhat impressive record that could pass you by if you fail to give it your attention. Already flirting with the void its alien synths, unsettling noises and eerie vibe may become background noise if your focus is consumed. Its lack of event or immediacy may leave you with little impact or memorability but in a way it feels as if the place we visit is intended to be forgotten. A change of pace that isn't fresh or original but well executed. My favorite moment is the end, "Credits" which for a brief moment leaves us with a whiff of melody and fading sentiment.

Favorite Tracks: Home, The Hierophant, Credits

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Echo And The Bunnymen "Ocean Rain" (1984)

The stirs of emotion flatten as an orchestral expansion does little to spice up what feels like a blander collection of songs in comparison the lively dazzle of "Heaven Up Here" and the crowded sensations of "Porcupine". Their next release "Ocean Rain", is English Post-Punk band Echo And The Bunnymen's fourth album recorded in Paris with the inclusion of an orchestra who are sometimes pushed out of the limelight, under utilized and when brought to the forefront sound like a commodity of the moment, with exception to the opening two tracks that make sombre use of the string sections.

Ive read its their best, so I found myself hyped and excited but now rather underwhelmed and disappointed with a record that does not seem to click for me. The energy of the guitars rattle disappears into the backdrop as the various elements in the composition seem to merge in the records foggy production. With focus and attention one can pick apart the instruments and hear a variety of fruitful melodies emerging from the orchestra. Without such dedication it becomes an unspectacular blur that drifts through the motions and finds many of the songs succumbing to the sound of themselves.

A lack of distinction holds some of these songs back but between its better moments a fair few choruses and ideas lack the fire they had in their music before. "Thorn Of Crowns" descends into an unfiltered stitching of ideas as singer McCulloch stutters and groans his way around a disenchanting guitar tone. This moment and a couple of others soured a record that just didn't seem to find consistency. The inclusion of an orchestra seemed to work fantastically in some moments, lining the tracks with complimenting melodies. In others like "The Yo Yo Man" the guitars and bass drop out for the strings to take over but they punch in with a striking difference of tone. Too often the instruments get muddied the range of sound, a bland and uncharacteristic production lets this record down where it already comes across like a hit and miss of ideas where songs failed to make a lasting impression.

Favorite Tracks: Crystal Days, The Killing Moon
Rating: 5/10

Monday, 6 February 2017

Danny Brown "Atrocity Exhibition" (2016)

With an experimental, psychedelic approach to instrumentals, a subtle subduing of the drums immediacy, the tone is set for a more artistic endeavor which is frequently peaked by the borderline eccentric performance of Detroit rapper Danny Brown. With a smart head for the old ways of lyrical creativity and imaginative word play his pitched, nasal delivery creates quite the excitement and uniqueness maybe only comparable to B-Real of Cypress Hill who features on the slow track "Get Hi". "Atrocity Exhibition" is Danny's fourth full length, mustering a fair amount of acclaim for his courage to step into strange and adventurous territory. Unfamiliar with his back catalog, this certainly sounds like a breath of fresh air to my ears. The rules are spun on the side as beats and rhymes unite though a different filter of perspective.

After many concurrent listens Ive grown very fond of these instrumentals, they craft there vibe and atmosphere through assembled oddities that find cohesion in moments of overlapping as wild, eerie, eccentric, dark and rampant samples rub up against one another, often appreciating the friction that emerges from the chaos many colliding sounds bring. Percussion and rhythm avoids the tropes of trendy programming or bombastic loops, instead each track samples, or programs, a different flavor that appreciates the craft of the song. The pace keeping often feels minimal and sparse as many subtler sounds litter the backdrop with percussive oddities. In the moments where the drums do come forth and elevate the track they are not what you'd expect from a traditional perspective and that uniqueness goes the distance.

Chemistry is key, impressive as the instrumentals are, Danny is a mark ahead as his intelligent raps seemingly burst from his lungs in the midst of his contagious flow, its as if every word counts. The emotion is anxious, immediate and paranoid, he walks us through his thoughts and life experience with a wildcard persona. Nothing feels for granted as he works what we might called "hooks" into the middle of his lines with all sorts of variety in the flow and dexterous word play that has you hanging on each word. Its an engrossing style with little to criticize, initially he seemed a little raw but as my ears adjusted and I became accustom to his tone more and more of the magic was revealed.

Danny's got rhymes by the boat load but a few tickled me plenty. On the uncompromising oddball track "Lost", Danny proclaims "I'm like Kubrick with two bricks", to latter follow it with "I'm like Speilberg with ill words", loving the imagination here. He also drops mid verse into raps and lines from Slick Rick and Outkast, the second feeling especially relevant in today's world. I felt like there was more to it, but couldn't put my finger on the meaning of their inclusion to his own raps.

"Atrocity Exhibition" is a fantastic and ambitious record that really makes its mark and carves a niche for Danny to rule. Its not without its flaws though, as each track aims to experiment and be unique, a few fall behind in comparison to its better moments. At forty six minutes its track listing feels a touch stretched with a couple of weak tracks in the start and end but it doesn't ruin the experience, just a matter of preference with a few songs. Otherwise its been one of the most impressive and fresh record Ive heard in some time and I can't help but feel it will continue to offer more as time goes by.

Favorite Songs: Tell Me What I Don't Know, Really Doe, Lost, Ain't It Funny, Golddust, White Lines, From The Ground, Hell For It
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 3 February 2017

Haunted Shores "Viscera" (2015)

Starting out with an atypical MMORPG soundtrack style introduction, a misleading cue is set for the coming onslaught of harsh, tonal metallic abuse in thunderous Djent style. Haunted Shores is "side project" of producer, multi-instrumentalist Misha Mansoor AKA "Bulb" of Periphery. I first found the band through their sublime, unforgettable Djent-ification of RPG game Final Fantasy VII's "Prelude Bombfare" soundtrack. Now having caught wind of this debut mini-record I quickly flocked to get my hands, or ears, on it. "Viscera" is a short and sweet journey through overly produced, aesthetically forceful and technically electric music.

Between its crushing Djent grooves and slamming drums a story, setting and mood is told through expressive, colorful guitar solos and dynamic leads which interchange the heavy movements with its visual narrative. Much imagination seeps through these breaks that weave moments alongside a sonic assault where the guitars amp up or the drums roll heavy on the pedals and sometimes both together. The result is a progressive journey that embraces is two sides, leading us on a fruitful adventure.

The production is an interesting point to contest, an initial adaptation is required to embrace an over loud aesthetic where the guitars feel crowded alongside a hammering snare and base tone that feels like it bursts to its peaks with every given strike of a drum, quite possibly the sign of a drum machine. As one settles with the tone it certainly has a charm, as the music engulfs with instrumental intensity. This style sounds especially nice in the acoustic led moments where a lot of the hidden synth layers emerge from being buried by the smothering guitars.

The mid tracks create a real sense of cohesion, however the aforementioned intro track and the following two minute heavy fest "The Spire" steers from the path. It ends with another frontal riff assault "Blast Inc." featuring a stunning solo from Norwegian Saxophonist Jorgen Munkeby who leads the way into some of the records crunchiest riffs with his subtle cues in the background. A bonus track with Devin Townsend concludes, Devin laying vocals down for the third song "Norway Jose". Its a perfect union for an instrumental album that sounded as if it could do without, no surprise a talent such as Devin could elevate it further.

Favorite Tracks: Harrison Fjord, Vectors
Rating: 6/10