Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Old Tower "Stellary Wisdom" (2018)

Stellary Wisdom is another two track release from the Dutch Dungeon Synth composer Old Tower. Both of the songs that make up this release clock in at fifteen minutes, both traversing their individual phases with fade outs and blunt transitions yet this time they blur the lines as the mood is held firmly together in its couple of angular shifts. This release is distinctly different from the low-fi and dingy realm of Spectral Horizons. It deploys the same grandiose strikes of gongs and has a similar compositional attributes yet Its clearer production and aesthetics lets the wave forms of synthetic instruments strike their own mystery and intrigue with soft reverbs and sweeping transformations of oscillation in lengthy notes.

Its minimalism is far more obvious as much of the record is propped up on one or two synths. It always seems to have the right texture to evoke a much deeper atmosphere than one might presume. The first track closes its quarter hour duration with an oddly airy, knife like synth cutting through the silence with its bleak and metallic tone that whirls like a mechanized wind, yet created by no one. The value of craft is not to be understated as the aesthetics play a huge role.

A shift in tone is felt as the following title track opens with softer wave forms and light chorals. It finds its way to a lengthy passage of minimalism where once again just two instruments resonate of one another with a spiritual meditative state that embraces its bleak loneliness. One can envision themselves as a sole conscious entity, roaming the endless beauty of mother nature in the peril of this unending burden.

This is quite possibly my favorite Old Tower release, its spell seems to be far more encompassing and with every spin I find a meditative state in the wake of its softly droning synths and slow atmospheric brooding. It comes close to tapping into some of the minimalist magic I first heard by Burzum with his tracks Tomhet and Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Saule Der Singularitat. Its a particular spell I rarely hear musicians come close to. They may have the charm of bonds formed with firsts and youthful freshness but I do hear creaks of that charm in the lengthy passageways of minimal construct on this record. That is a positive thing to say the least.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Plini "Sunhead" (2018)

After the exuberant Handmade Cities released two years back, one of my favorite albums that year, Plini has captured my interest as one to watch, an astonishingly talented guitarist with a defined sound capable of mustering lasting wonder and inspiration in the wake of a constant melodic onslaught. Sunhead is the newest release, a four track mini album curating the best of his output in a short but sweet experience that lightly expands the aesthetic pallet with a couple of exotic instruments and obvious moments of inspired Jazz.

The xylophone, saxophone and expanded synths tones arrive on the back of a Jazz Fusion kick that makes itself known in the opening phase of Klind, the free form tangents of Flaneur and lead solos on title track Sunhead. They provide a welcome expansion but certainly not a necessary flavor to Plini's sound which shows no signs of exhaustion in its current form. The Jazz melds seamlessly into the flow of dazzling music that is ever evolving in its Progressive form.

The four tracks make a dense web of music, easy to enjoy on the surface and deep in its construct. Llayers of instruments weave gorgeous details both textural and tuneful into the ever unfolding songs that Plini sings over with the accent of his endless lead guitar playing. Despite it being defined and distinguished, there seems to be no lack of places to explore on the fret board. With him and the other instruments constantly unleashing such dexterity and joy not a second passes without awe.

The production is gorgeous, a warm, authentic and timeless tone graces the crisp, clear, modernized recording with character and meaning. The percussion is especially enjoyable on this project, Chris Allison manages to find a stunning flow of groove and fluidity in his decoration of the beat with exotic fills that run through almost every moment, loading the record with another layer of musicality to dive into.

In the records most ambitious moments two things emerge, the mastery of the Djent groove which moves seamlessly into the natural crescendos and peaks as a part of a bigger picture, rather than some forceful event of singular momentum. Its other big moments are in the gleaming melodies which rise into lead melodies and hit big notes with a touch of 80s cheese, something I can't quite put my finger on but is certainly their with fondness. Its a truly exceptional twenty minutes of excellence.

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, 23 August 2018

At The Gates "To Drink From The Night Itself" (2018)

It doesn't feel right to start here. I have barely given the Swedish group a listen in the past, Ive heard the praise, recognize their album covers and am very much aware of their legacy within the broader Metal community. After a string of well regarded albums in the early nineties At The Gates split in 97 for over a decade long, returning with the original lineup many years later in this era of sustainability for bands given the increased wealth in music and large amount of festivals to support and give exposure to bands, especially old bands die-hards want to see again.

To Drink From The Night Itself is the bands second album after their reunion and the first proper listen Ive given then. Unfortunately it falls into the "generic" Melodic Death Metal camp but of the vein I can very much enjoy. That is only because I know this sound all to well, they may have once been at the forefront of this style but their is little fresh or new on this record, it is however very well written and strongly executed, making for a healthy dose of a sound and style I really enjoy.

The band put together songs without flash or flair, their consistent pounding pace and temperate approach to guitar riffing lets the mood and tone of the tracks eminate from steady and composed melodies hidden in the exterior of harsh distortion guitars. When they do break in tone an introduce acoustics its rather underwhelming in the wake of their steady Metal machine that drives ever forward at this consistent speed that feels simultaneously sluggish and hastened as the drums never swing into break downs or blast beats.

The production aids the music well, the instruments feel rounded and cushioned to share a space without piercing through one another and this is again reflected in temperate music that lets its self speak without aesthetic tricks. Vocalist Lindberg's dry screams play up the atmosphere of this drone as his flat and drawn screams brood in the dreary aggression that is only and rarely split by the timely introduction of simple and gleaming guitar solos, bursting to life but fitting sweetly into the direction.

It may be in the title but this is truly a recollection of the night time, the steadily aggressive and evolving guitars unleash darkly moods and tones that the music frequently unravels as its guitars wind and weave their way forward with melodic inflections between the grinding of subtle grooves and darkly tunefulness. Its a solid listen from front to back, a bold and consistent approach that has the record swiftly establish its realm and hold you there for the forty five minutes. Great record, I may have to go back and get through their classics now.

Favorite Tracks: Daggers Of Black Haze, In Nameless Sleep, The Colours Of The Beast
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Madball "For The Cause" (2018)

Kicking off with distortion guitar feedback fading in, the pounding drums ramp up the energy as the sticks make their way around the kit, striking the rising toms, signaling whats about to land. New York Hardcore legends Madball jump straight into the action with all the hallmarks, gang shouts, thrashing riffs and slamming grooves fit to get the crowds moving, spinning in circles, hardcore dancing and jumping of the stage. One can hear it all but that's because we have heard it all before. For The Cause is the bands ninth full length in their now thirty year career.

This blog will be short and sweet, their isn't too much to talk about from my perspective because the record does so little wrong yet so little new. The band pull together with a tight set of songs that deploy all the same riffs, techniques and cliches a Hardcore fan could want. Its got energy, attitude and aggression the likes of which we have heard time and time again. The lyrics circle the same topics of pride, strength and integrity spun through different analogies and formed into hooks. Not even the presence of Ice-T makes much an impact in this straight forward record.

Once Id got my Hardcore kick from the record its repeated spins left little impact on me, a lack of experimentation or aiming beyond the scope leaves these songs feeling weak beyond the ability to hit that certain vibe, which it does well. The records biggest strength is production, everything is crisp, cutting, sharp and lean, with the right Hardcore flavor. The drums are especially snappy with a gorgeous clapping snare that hits hard without piercing through. Unfortunately my enjoyment of For The Cause was limited by the records own limitation within a sound the stick very strictly too.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, 20 August 2018

Old Tower "Spectral Horizons" (2016)

I'm growing rather fond of Old Tower's stellar approach to Dungeon Synth. The Dutch musician has a knack for composing in this mysterious, illusive realm. It calls from just beyond the horizon, always distant, out of reach, a seemingly calm and uneventful place yet its full of intrigue. The music lingers in its moment, you focus your gaze upon a frozen statue, its pose different with each lapse of attention. Subtlety is the power it yields. With its soft synth and dreary drones Spectral Horizons conjurers a gloomy, majestic atmosphere of time, place, culture and nature that is most likely a personal one for the listener, depending on where your imagination wanders too.

Its soft, elongated melodies and gleams of event in the form gong crashes and buried, pounding tribal drums calling from the deep create quite the sense of epic within this aesthetically meek setting. Its instruments play to their quiet selves, no conflicts arise as they do not compete for attention. Its a cushioned production where the sounds meld sweetly, allowing its most eventful passageways to pass a distracted listener yet suck in the attentive captivated by its shy spell. It has some awkward moments of wind whirling and rain transitioning the music but between them long stretches of yearning, ancient synths and archaic choral chants suck one in.

Like The Rise Of The Scepter, Spectral Horizons is split into two halves around twenty minutes in total and its songs have distinct shifts, clear breaks in its tone and instrumentation that could of been broken into smaller sections however it is not labeled in two parts. The nature of the music commands it to be enjoyed as a whole. With a shorter run time one feels the benefit of curation as these compositions hold well for their duration. They may not call for the most lavish of praises but within their own realm Old Tower is produces some unique magic with this project.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Danzig "6:66 Satans Child" (1999)

Arriving at the sixth chapter in the Danzig series we have a refinement of sound, vastly improving upon the disappointment of Blackacidevil which tried and failed at its own unique take on the Industrial Metal sound of that era. Satans Child follows suit in the same genre but takes no risks with erratic experimentation and nauseating drum sampling. Instead the band forge a leaner sound with a rounded, brighter production. They give its guitars a weighty metal punch that unfortunately doesn't manifest the same magic from Danzig, II, III or IV, however we do hear strong echos of that time on songs like Into The Mouth Of Abandonment but the record is a mixed bag.

The biggest sell of this record is front man Glenn Danzig himself who returns firmly to his bluesy style, rising to the center of attention, the double tracking of his vocals has some real oomph that's a nice touch and his emotional burdens find their theater again. With a firm sound and the return of the singer it is the obvious influences that initially took my attention away. In the wake of the Nu Metal scene one may initially hear the syncopated stop start grooves that play thick distortion guitars against their absence and focus on the altered approach to groove however its not really not in that vein. They do sound strikingly akin to other bands on some songs though, the Unspeakable main riff sounds lifted from a classic Helmet record and Apokalips sounds uncannily alike to Swans. For the most part they sound like Danzig experimenting with the Industrial Metal style other bands had mastered at this point.

Once over these humps I could hear somewhat of a slow start to this record, its first tracks roll out and the tone is cramp, the guitar work stiff but as it grows the slow crushing guitars of Doom Metal start to revere its demonic head. Further down the road the welcome sound of pinch harmonics starts to bounce of the guitar riffs in true Danzig style. Cult Without A Name is the first instance but its not until Cold Eternal and the last five songs that the record really blossoms, the closer being a real gem. Its a strange journey that ends well, the music is enjoyable but the infection is only to be found in a handful of songs at the end. I think the band find themselves again here but have a hard time getting the best from Glenn and themselves when they are stepping away from the fundamentals of their roots and sound together. A fair record.

Favorite Tracks: Into The Mouth Of Abandonment, Apokalips, Thirteen
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 17 August 2018

Deafheaven "Ordinary Corrupt Human Love" (2018)

California Black Metal outfit Deafheaven, often a target of controversy among purists, return with their fourth full length record and with it they take a step further away from their roots. On my third listen I found a strong distaste for the musics construct as the album revealed itself. It was rather odd to suddenly dislike what had initially been enjoyed but now that Ive grown to really get where this record is coming from, it all makes perfect sense.

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is barely a Black Metal record in any musical sense and yet it clings to the raspy screams and shrill aesthetics of the sound with clutching hands. It holds back the music, the notation, mood and melody, the emotions they invoke simply don't stem from darkness. One can hear flavors of Ethereal, Dream Pop, even Grunge and some strong Pink Floyd influences in their "blackgaze" which is essentially disconnecting from the darker aspects.

The opening You Without End ushers in a stunning piano sequence and spoken word phase to evoke a peaceful, serine setting. In rumbles shrill screams distortion guitar leads, forcing their way into the music and unsettling the spell. To use a word like contrast or juxtapose would be complimentary, these are in a state of conflict, opposing moods that wont meet. The transitions, the sways between ends are without an organic flow that was once the magic itself.

In all fairness the record has some moments where they gel but its a case of brief encounters. The bulk of the music composed has obvious draws from a range of non Metal influences. Canary Yellow is a song that has to constantly battle this opposition out as gleams of light and uplift are inflected through the barrage of drumming, distortion guitars and howling screams that dispel the songs actual charm. It becomes a constant ache in the side as the serene and Ethereal guitar work is burred by this constant reach for extremity that's unwarranted.

Near and Night People, the shortest songs, get to flourish in the lack of this burden. Chelsea Wolfe features to transform the music with her presence on the latter. Her voice so distinct she always makes a song sound like her own. There is a lot of fantastic music on this record, I just struggle to enjoy it as the shrill Black Metal inflections constantly disrupt the mood of the music. It feels unnecessary at this point, a hangover, perhaps part of their sound that needs evolution rather than holding on to.

Favorite Tracks: Near, Night People, Worthless Animal
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Job For A Cowboy "Doom" (2005)

As the years pass by my memories of the Deathcore scene's days grow fonder. My recent addiction to Job For A Cowboy's classic Entombment Of A Machine has reminded me of just how much fun we had when the scene blew up. We got to watch all the new bands fly in from the states and it was wondeful. Although my introduction to the music was through Bring Me The Horizon (IIRC), this EP from the American group was where it all started, spawning many imitation bands in the wake of its unusual popularity and new style. Make no mistake, Entombment is an ugly song! Harsh and abrasive, its shrill pig squeals would challenge fans of guttural vocals yet somehow this Extreme Metal song spread like wildfire through the Myspace music scene, it would give them the exposure to land their debut album Genesis in a billboard chart two years later.

Its probably been a decade since I last listened to Doom in its twenty seven minute entirety. I believe the copy I own now has an extra track I had not heard before, which was a pleasant surprise as I remember all the other tracks like a day had not passed. The bonus song Entities leans more so in the direction of a fundamental Death Metal song towards its end, sharper blast beats, tighter riffing, a flashy guitar solo and only one pig squeal? Its a subtle indication of their next direction as a band, to rid themselves of the Hardcore influence and go strictly Death Metal on their full length debut album.

 The other five songs, minus the cinematic intro, are a riot of violence, a vile thrashing of dense guitars as snarling screams and guttural roars are all channeled into abstracted moments of groove that underpin the musics harsh, unforgiving aesthetic. The songs often drifts through brief passageways of ugly, bitter chaotic sounds in the wake of pinch harmonics and loose, rattling blast beats. These moments are swiftly transformed as the record's tracks all revolve around a philosophy of continual evolution. The ugliest moments are quickly transformed and transcended as gear shifts chop up the pace and allow slamming grooves to erupt, as the classic Entombment does so well.

The vocals are a big point of contention that could easily turn a listener off, the pig squeals are blunt and piercing. They jump into the music with little more than rhythmic sequencing as "bree bree" and "squee squee" clearly offers no lyrical content. I personally find it hilarious, between the swings of gritty shredding and slamming grooves the eruption of unwieldy squeals is an amusing testament to the nature of the music itself, a joke. That's not an insult but a means to say the music is clearly aware of its own deliberate abrasion and boisterous persona.

Everything must be taken with a pinch of salt, the ugly, challenging aesthetic is manipulated to extract the groove and excitement in music from the most devious of places. That is what is genius about extreme music and here Job For A Cowboy brandish a new fusion of ideas that would go on to spawn a whole new wave of Extreme Metal that would upset the old guard and stir controversy within the community that at the end of the day is a waste to even care about. Enjoy music if you can but don't spend your energy on hating it. Doom is fun, a really exhilarating listen full of obnoxious extremity.

Favorite Track: Entombment Of A Machine
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Mistigo Varggoth Darkestra "Midnight Fullmoon" (1997)

Continuing our journey through the nostalgic realms of Dungeon Synth, I cast my mind far back as memories reach commands. Into my mind popped this strange cassette I obtained well over a decade ago. My memory of how and why I got Midnight Fullmoon are vague but I remember finding the band name somewhat hilarious. The music itself didn't captivate me since I only listened to it once, at the time I had no knowledge of DS or if that term had been coined yet. It was just a strange and peculiar piece of music from the early days of a now evolved and blossomed sound.

Its opening track wains in a balance between harsh, cheesed synths and whirling, spell bounding wave forms in the background. They relish the low fidelity setting and start to conjure the dark and indulging atmospheres one might expect. The following track nails this, a primitive composition pined by a beating heart as the sound of rain drops lowers the tone and thunder strike reinforce a lonely, gloomy setting steeped and an eerie, mystic vibe driven by its subtle synth lines. Track three is one I remember, or more so its familiarity to a well known melody which I couldn't pin down. The music is fine but the aesthetics are just to bold and punchy, it stands in contrast to what came before it.

At this point a direction, arching theme or sense of place fails to define itself. A swampy song is clustered with a selection of sounds including trumpets that seem to pull it in multiple directions, only to be followed by a dizzying six minute experiment with techno synths and buried electronica drums. It too suffers from an arsenal of contrasting sounds that fail to gel. A brief uplift from the short The Last Rays Of A Dying Sun is a brief glimmer as the following track plays around with bells and reoccurring theme of unsuited instruments chiming in with one another in an unmusical fashion of gap filling.

Its easy to point out flaws and focus on negatives. If I were to rid myself of the focus a charm does emerge, one of mysticism and distant voices of despairing figures. Its dark allure has a safe distance and a couple of passages ways do strike something of memorability, especially that ever present heartbeat. Another consideration is how primitive this was. I have no idea as to how these ideas spread beyond tape trading and its relation to the Black Metal scene. Although records like Depressive Silence had far more to offer at its time, this could be seen as a jewel if isolated in its inception. There are interesting and intentfull ideas at play here, they are just far behind the then curb.

Favorite Tracks: Raining Darkness Of The Forestland Midnight, The Last Rays Of A Dying Sun
Rating: 4/10

Monday, 13 August 2018

Travis Scott "Astroworld" (2018)

Anticipation for this record has been a thorn in the side, a constant ache commanding me to routinely check for its arrival with no release date mentioned. Its a frequent trend these days to drop albums with only a short notice. Although my reviews of Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight and Rodeo were not especially favorable I could hear something unique in Travis. Its truly manifested as the power of shuffle and time away from his music had those songs giving back more with each listen. After plenty of binging Id even consider Rodeo a modern Hip Hop classic. As my love for his sound grew, so has my apatite for more, hence the growing anticipation.

Astroworld had been grossly hyped. Given my knowledge of Six Flags Astroworld thanks to a Defunctland documentary, my curiosity was peaked as to what the closed theme parks roll in its topicality was this time around. Given my often disconnect from the lyrical aspects of music I certainly didn't pick up on any particular theme beyond a few references and so Astroworld has landed soft, nothing feels particularly distinct or intentional and so the promise of an obscure topic for a Hip Hop record is lost on me.

Reflecting back as to how the other records took months and even years to grow on me I figured its best not to rush into making up my mind on Astroworld. Although it hasn't charmed me I can analytically hear some stylistic progressions, expansive instrumentation and compositional ideas blossoming into indulging atmospheres, however the over saturated "skrt skrt"s and "its lit" cries coming from the background with excessive reverbs hold the music to its previous step, overshadowing what makes this record unique, retrospectively speaking.

The sleek dark atmospheres and romping grooves of tracks like Sicko Mode and Carousel are to be expected but get the album rolling in a different gear to the rest of its run time. The synthesizers and aesthetic of the music drifts into a peculiar place more psychedelic, dreamy and laid back than the urban darkness heard in his previous efforts. At times it can feel uplifting, the track Skeletons embodies this however its brief moment of what seems like a stream of conscious rap seems to loose its own train of thought as Travis morphs into a derogatory pair of rhymes spit very much in the style of Kanye West, a voice, tone and style you can hear in his flows often across the project.

My take away from Atroworld at this point is a lack of stylistic focus. Much of his production style traits stay intact and flirts with more excess as he layers some lyrics with gated reverbs and the like. The album steers its sampling and instrumentation beyond the percussion with R&B accents, some eclectic instruments like the harmonica and organ, it fails to nail a vibe that sucks you in. As stated above I am willing to let this one sink in and hope it reveals more meaning and indulgence with some absence and revival.

Favorite Tracks: Sicko Mode, Stop Trying To Be God, No Bystanders, Butterfly Effect,
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Logic "The Incredible True Story" (2015)

To put it simply, this record is wonderful. Undoubtedly the best of Logic Ive heard as we travel backwards in time, going through his yearly releases one by one. Its his second full length, a sigh of relief after the disappointing, braggadocio riddled Bobby Tarantino. Held together with a meaty size of skits and sketches in the opening phase, this far from perfect project reeks of fun, inspiration and an artist living in the moment. The uplifting, jazzy, summery beats will elevate your mood between the amusing audio scenes depicting the journey of a spaceship crew in a dystopian future making their way to a questionable place know as "paradise". It takes up a fair portion of the run time but keeps your apatite fresh for when Logic comes back to the mic with a plethora of rhymes delivered on top of his game.

Logic's firm grasp on the art of rap hails back as far as the roots, specifically heard in tributes to Nas's classic Illmatic flows as well as his own. The crisp delivery and smooth articulation has the strengths and hallmarks of raps greatest traits while standing to one side with his scintillating stretches of swift flows and embrace of modern trends. The timely use of sung raps and a soft dash of auto tune in spots breaks up the monotony that a full length of straight rap can encounter. His appeal must surely be broad as this record offers something up for fans of all eras. The same can be said of collaberator 6ix and his beats, a mix of lean drum loops and aptly programmed kits also span varying styles but mainly focus on the modern aesthetic as tight grooves with snappy hi hats match up with subtler, tone setting samples to build a meditative atmosphere for Logic to get in the zone with.

 Speaking to the strength of this record, I was really surprised when I realized the albums run time creeps just over an hour. It rolls by like a fine breeze keeping you cool until you notice times up. The lyrics are engaging, the moods engrossing. There is plenty to pick apart and the best of it comes in those classic Logic flows where it feels like each word is one ahead of the next as you mentally catch up with the wit in the rhyme. It ebbs and flows as he changes up the pacing with the sung hooks and the instrumentals are right in step. I can't fault the record, it doesn't define itself as groundbreaking or earth quaking, Its a solid musical experience, so enjoyable, so fun and a pleasure to let spin when you have the time.

Favorite Tracks: Fade Away, Like Woah, Young Jesus, Paradise, The Incredible True Story
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Drake "Scorpion" (2018)

Canadian rapper Drake hardly needs an introduction as one of popular musics biggest names right now. Successive number one debuts continue as this newest double album smashes record and peaks charts as well as causing a little controversy with the record being shoved down the throats of spotify users. At ninety minutes, split into two halves, it is his lengthiest project to date with no obvious justification for its long run time, some suspect its to take advantage of listening habits and streaming service algorithms. Either way his music is enjoyed by many and in my opinion the easy listening nature of his style doesn't always equate to greatness and I struggle to see whats the appeal of such a record. Their is clearly some great music to be found here, If shaved down to thirty minutes we might have something special, as a handful of tracks do manage to rise above a wash of relative mediocrity.

As the album gets going one can follow Drake's current situation, self reflecting, confronting his status and ego, talking of beef, drama and assumed "hits" placed on him. He dives into more meaningful thoughts as he reflects on how his fame hurts relationships and complicates life. Its enjoyable but after a few songs the topical steam runs out or at least my enthusiasm for it does. His style and flow is so plain and simple its obviously the appeal, easy to digest and follow but his tone is a little to flat for my liking, not of lot emotion put into the voice itself. Their also isn't a lot of wisdom or food for thought beyond the self interest in his words. The other half to his sound is the auto tune singing, which seems to be split, the first half focuses mostly on raps and the second lulls the percussion and focuses on singing.

The instrumentals at work mostly have a sterile approach of punchy fast attack and sharp decay kits distanced from the accompanying samples that stir the tone and atmosphere, often with minimalism. They often go by with little distinction but on occasions strike a nerve. Don't Matter To Me has a soothing atmosphere and then drops in a previously unused recording of Micheal Jackson from the vaults. It sounds utterly superb and is one of a few gems in the rough. God's Plan is a great song that's been a hit and the newest In My Feelings single is another good song that suffers from some utterly obnoxious aggressive shouting and ridiculous rhythmic syncopation of vocal samples and bass kicks. It really turns a nice track on its side.

The last record I checked out, More Life, offered so much more in comparison. The instrumentation had variety and experimentation. Scorpion just doesn't have much charisma or flare to it. Its just a wash of loosely forged atmospheres that lack depth or dexterity. Its easily listened to but mostly goes in one ear and out the other. There are a couple of interesting songs that hold up but they are far and few between. Without any over arching concept or theme it just sound like an over bloated collection of songs aimed at creating a run time. This is evident more so in the second half where more dreamy R&B style tracks come into the fold with no real relation to what ran before it. For this listener Scorpion drags its feet to the finish line, which hardly feels like an accomplishment.

Favorite Tracks: God's Plan, Sandra's Rose, That's How You Feel, In My Feelings, Don't Matter To Me
Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Algiers "The Underside Of Power" (2017)

I first heard of this record in relation to Zeal And Ardor, referencing the singing which harbors bold accents of chain gang vocals and origin blues vocals. That lured me close and Ive since been sucked into this fantastically dark and rooted musical experience. Hailing from the southern city of Atlanta, Algiers are primarily a Post-Punk band fronted by singer Franklin Fisher, who's voice is a constant pleasure, strong and powerful he acts like the guiding light that unifies the mood and meaning of the instrumentals and gospel singers parading behind him. This is their sophomore album released last year to much critical acclaim and I have to share in their praise of these forty four minute of engrossing musical art.

Firmly at the core of the sound is a Post-Punk vibe emboldened by the dense, punchy baselines that patrol the musics underbelly, making itself known, laying a foundation for the atmospheres forged above. Its tight with the percussion, a refreshingly modern aesthetic that's executed without flash and flare. The tricky shuffles of fast high hats and grooving sub kicks of Trap music is to be heard but the approach is a million miles away from formulaic Hip Hop beats. With a wealth of kit samples, programmed sequences avoid repetition and meld seemingly like a drummer following the musics intensity and complimenting it as such. At times its organic and can appropriately take on a more mechanical Industrial form when its called for in darker times.

Out front, loading the music with texture, dynamism and charisma is an arsenal of instruments. Guitars, pianos, keyboards playing a myriad of synth tones, the saxophone, stringed instruments and even a glockenspiel makes an appearance as the four multi-instrumentalists utilize their talents in the dense web of sound they create together. It can be a lot to unpackage and after many, many plays through the soundscapes still feel like a maze of detail to stair into. Under its emergent melodies play drones, distortions and memorizing rattles of reverberated sounds that somehow don't descend into chaos and broaden the scope of sound.

The record flows with a sense of progression, in its opening phases Fisher commands the music with his empowered, deep, emotive voice, flexing his words with expressive affections that resonate with Blues and Soul vibes. The music is inherently dark in a personal manor, burden and destitute surround his voice, the source of strength and uplift that lurks beyond the pale. There is an almost biblical quality to the epic that is his presence and on the title track we have a moment of gleam and uplift, overcoming the horror as choral gospel chants illuminate his performance rising up above all else. As the record progresses the instrumentals seemingly grow and overtake his importance as the drums get more mechanical and two tracks nearing end have him in absence.

The Underside Of Power is a riveting experience devoid of a weak spot. Its engrossing chemistry of powerful song writing and an energetic textural experience lasts its run time without a hitch. Everything feels meaningful and full of purpose. Without a gimmick or flash in the pan this really feel like an album to stand the test of time. Its place in the musical landscape is unique, its not pushing boundaries in any direction but showing where overlaps are to made, a combination of influences and sounds that becomes more than all its apparent parts. Truly wonderful.

Favorite Tracks: The Underside Of Power, Death March, Hymn For An Average Man
Rating: 9/10

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Czarface & MF Doom "Czarface Meets Metal Face" (2018)

Hip Hop trio Czarface consists of underground Boston duo 7LES and the legendary Inspectah Deck of the Wu-Tang Clan. I had not heard of the project before but a collaboration with the esteemed MF Doom put it on many radars, myself included. The album takes on a wonderful persona from the get go and sticks with from start to end. Its loaded with sharp, keen and witty lyricism, especially from Inspectah and Doom, creating a sweet vibe that holds. Themes of super heroes and villains, a fantasy world akin to comic culture plays out through beats, rhymes and alter egos as the fantastic narrating voice of Czarface guides us through the tracks with playful interludes and conversing. The tone of the voice is sublime, its gravely, animated and enthusiastic, the words of an evil mastermind leap of the comic book pages, you know who is talking.

The records instrumentals are a careful craft of tight drum loops and cherry picked samples arranged to liven the atmosphere with its texture and unobtrusive melodies. Its got depth that lasts with each listen and given its range of variations and attention to detail one can find a lot to enjoy in the production alone, especially the tracks with multiple phases and animated sound effects that illuminate rhymes and interludes.

Above the noise the three rappers take on loose directions loaded with clever rhyme schemes and a plethora of cultural and musical references weaved into their flows, as well as other rappers classic lines too. There is probably a lot I'm missing to given my lack of knowledge on comic characters but the free association style naturally draws attention to the wit revolved around a point of reference and sounds a lot more generalized as consequence to my ignorance. The beats however vividly conjure the fantasy vibes of villains and super heroes battling it out in a world of good and evil.

The record doesn't hit any peaks, nor does it dip into valleys. It rolls around at a keen and steady pace with every song hitting a firm grade of quality, delivering the goods from start to end. If I could fault anything it may be the consistency itself. On the lyrical front the record rarely lets up from the similar style of rhyming all three share and so the references and puns just keep coming and loose spark based on the listeners appetite. The instrumentals however are continually exciting as they create striking atmospheres again and again, I think its actually the stronger half of the formula against two of Hip Hops best MCs. Strong album, really enjoyable.

Favorite Tracks: Meddle With Metal, Bomb Thrown, Nautical Depth
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Dance With The Dead "The Shape" (2016)

After the disappointment of Send The Signal we jump forward to The Shape, the California duo's most recent album, which restores much of the dark and playful, EDM pounding, nostalgic Retro Wave to its prime. This record doesn't appear to revive the guitar leads and 80s Metal accents, instead it finds its form in a leaning towards the fun and comical horror of zombie movies and the like. Its key melodies play like a howl in the wind with a touch of the spooky and creepy, however the audience is kept safe from harm behind the glossy aesthetic of gleaming electronic instruments and the continuous thud of Dance beats.

Its a very likable record, it rests itself firmly within the night club as its relentless snare and kick drive keeps the pulsating energy flowing while its lead instruments explore the themes over top of chugging Industrial guitars that lay behind the dazzling synths to add some texture and force to the sound. Its a squeaky clean sound, polished almost to a fault as a lack of natural feel leaves the music lingering in a sterile environment where its monotonous pounding sometimes loses charm.

The mid song Adrift does an important job toning down the energy and giving the record some room to breathe as its punchy, fast attacking synths rarely break formation. Its organized, mechanical and industrious, all the parts of the machine fire on demand and leave the music without many organic or fluid moments but obviously that's not what its aiming for. Its a finely tuned engine blazing down the night highway, illuminated by neon lights reflecting from the towers of a never ending city. 

As the album draws on it drifts further from the undercurrent of spooky, horror related melodies that gave it some spice in the get go. It starts to feel rather generic and bland however its arrangement of sharp and keen synths keep a high energy engaging. The last two song bring back some guitar fever and Quietly Into The Night hits a high note as soft piano opens up a slow, open, atmospheric song that's engulfed by an epic display of lead guitar shredding. Its far from where the record but a great note to fade out on. Although the records theme doesn't last the stretch its got plenty of good to go around.

Favorite Tracks: Eyes Of Madness, Her Ghost, Adrift, Quietly Into The Night
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Myrkur "Myrkur" (2014)

Lastly for now we arrive at the roots of Amalie Bruun's musical endeavor, the debut, self titled EP which is surprisingly better than the full length M. It suffers the same entanglement of heavenly folkish sounds and beastly Black Metal but here the guitar work stands up a little stronger as the sways between dark and light are equally better despite a lack of flow. Unlike its predecessor which showed stark influences from the formation years of the genre, Myrkur's guitar aesthetics and riffs resemble a style far more akin to a band like Drudkh with harsh and thick tones that have a odd alluring indulgence.

As a purely Folk song, Frosne Vind shines like a beacon among the fog of dissonant aggression. Serine acoustic guitars washed in roomy reverberation paint an air of culture and meaning that her distant voice illuminates with a touch of divinity as the choral chant layers her voice blissfully. Its cut short as we are lunged into the hellfire of blast beasts and tremolo picking that highlights the records lack of cohesive direction or union between these two sounds she would go on to achieve with Mareridt. Her singing may be stunning but it is often cut short by these transitions.

When both Folk and Metal elements reside within singular songs the same rigidity occurs, Latvian Fegurð even has an odd bass heavy "gulp" noise as its beautiful, soft intro is cast to shadows in a sudden shift to snarling shredding. This records merit is in the interest both elements spark up as the aggressive side finds its moments of intrigue with atmospheric riffing. The problem, as to follow, is their contrast which is yet to find a middle ground beyond Amalie singing in her calming clean voice over shrill guitars on a couple of occasions. A reasonable start but as we know it will take another effort before they find what really works.

Favorite Tracks: Frosne Vind, Må Du Brænde I Helvede
Rating: 6/10