Sunday, 30 September 2018

First Aid Kit "Tender Offerings" (2018)

This four track EP has me thinking I must of missed something from Ruins released earlier this year. Perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind? Stay Gold is such a beautiful record, one of my all time greats, maybe it set my sights to high for the follow up. Before writing this blog I was convinced Id learn at least one of these four songs are covers because they are so striking and have a classic vibe about them. Turns out they are all B-Sides from the aforementioned Ruins and bar one or two tracks from that record Id say these songs a better than most of what I remember of it.

Firstly, I've Wanted You takes a minimal approach with its soft acoustic patterns and a nearly non existent baseline. It pulls all focus to the beautiful serine singing that I believe is Klara of the Soderberg sisters. Her chorus lyrics are sung with such striking emotion and sincerity of word that I was convinced it was a cover. The yawning distant organ and gentle piano keys chime in to keep the spell rolling as the duo start to harmonize and elevate and conclude what is a bare, naked and exposed song, its direction plays so true to the words of the song and its raw emotion.

 The title track works a denser instrumental build up. Its stronger organ presence leads to country tang guitar licks that play up its rooted vibes. Ugly has a similar performance to I've Wanted You, however the instruments gradually grow and its soft guitars and buried organ give into colorful eruptions of almost psychedelic stretches as its guitars give into that fray and spacial synths sparkle like stars in a clustered climax. Its quite the natural yet experimental edge to a song I did not expect but thoroughly enjoyed. More of this could lead somewhere interesting.

All That We Get may fall victim to being the least interesting, its a nice song, calm, soothing and soulful with a charming message of warmth and introspection yet it lacks a defining moment and the vocals don't reach previous plateaus. These are four very welcome songs. I especially liked the slight, almost missable use of electronics and the opening song is an instant classic. I will continue to follow this wonderful act.

Favorite Tracks: I've Wanted You, Ugly
Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Front Line Assembly "Warmech" (2018)

Fun fact, on my way to a Plini gig I arrived at the wrong venue. These Canadian Industrial veterans were playing there, I wouldn't of minded watching them too. Its been many years since I last checked in with FLA. I remember them as having the classic synthetic, Electronic, Gothic leaning Industrial sound which I grew to love through the likes of Frank Klepacki. In the 90s they flirted with Industrial Metal after Ministry laid the path, just before its commercial peak with Antichrist Superstar in 96.

Being out of the loop, I was unaware that Warmech was the soundtrack to an RTS game called AirMech Wastelands on Steam. That might explain why this record wasn't what I expected. The Industrial sounds I anticipated linger beyond a solid core of modern Electronic and EDM styles that aim to build atmospheres with music that's not in your face yet rich with synthetic instruments coercing an environmental approach that draws in the meditative vibe VGM requires to let the player drift in and out of focus from the soundtrack. At seventy three minutes its a long listening stretch clearly, better suited to its intended purpose of semi-distracted gaming sessions.

Considering these are old, experienced minds at work I did not expect to hear the sub wobbles and drops of Dubstep working angles on the music. Their seasoned selves showed as the drops refrain from being overly bombastic and obnoxious, resulting in a crafty execution of trendy techniques. With hard thudding kick and snare grooves the songs often cruise into EDM territory with some faster percussive loops leaning towards Drumstep. Like with Metal, Electronic music can so easily blur many lines and show influences. Whatever may be on display its composition holds onto that craft for detailed arrangements of instruments and industrial sounds that give the atmosphere conjured a depth of field. Better yet this detail extends into the musics progression as the songs make shifts and breaks with animated sequences of sound that often play like machines firing up their gears and getting into transitional motion.

Across its seventy plus minutes a healthy amount of variety unfolds however it does suffer a little when exclusively in focus, slow tempos and drawn out melodies show a desire to not be intrusive. The best way to enjoy these songs is when focused on a task, then it becomes meditative and helps one focus while creating vivid soundscapes. As a result of that tone its most ambitious melodies and epic synth chords get pushed back in the musics attention as that and a lack of vocals never try to steal the show from the game it was made for. If not for the soundtrack some adjustments and vocals could of made this a great traditional record too.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 28 September 2018

Machine Gun Kelly "Binge" (2018)

Its been a while since we've had some entertaining Rap beef. I don't take it all that seriously but if it leads to good songs and gets people listening then its usually good for those involved. In the case of MGK Eminem has handed him a golden opertunity on Kamikaze where he took shots at a lot of rappers, especially the new generation. Being the first to respond, Rap Devil gave Midwest rapper Kelly over 100 million views and a lot of exposure, an opertunity to find new fans which has surely been squandered on this flimsy, hastily assembled extended play. Its trashy. Its a stinker.

The bulk of these beats are mediocre at best. Lacking their own style they come off as Trap mimics, deploying all the tropes of shuffling hi hats and sub base kicks in a variety of arrangements that lack intention beyond doing whats currently in. Its chasing the Mumble Rap sound and Kelly's voice just isn't suited to it. Unfortunately the couple of instrumentals that do have some traction and excitement in them seem to be stacked up against the worst of MGK's troubling lyrics.

And that's the hardest thing to endure on these songs. Kelly is all attitude and no substance. Its braggadocios, angry and aimless. He boasts and raves about his careless attitude and drug abuse without a measure of meaning to be extracted. The hooks are weak, the rhymes subpar and occasionally a few unintentionally hilarious lines slip in past the "quality" filter. I wonder if anyone advised him not to release these songs. There is also an awful feature on Signs, an auto-tune abusing vocal hook that sounds so lifted and uninspired, a total rip.

Rap Devil is the only song worth your time. Upon release it was obvious Eminem was a sitting duck for a diss. So much of the subject matter was born from Em's jaded, angry attitude but it brought the best out of Kelly, forced him to focus on a subject and find strings of coherent rhymes on the same track. There is none of that focus and craft to be found here, the songs barely make three minutes and the two that do, bar Rap Devil, have extra beats stitched on the end of them. Not sure what Kelly was thinking here, cash grab? Maybe he wasn't thinking at all.

Favorite Track: Rap Devil
Rating: 2/10

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Jinjer "Cloud Factory" (2018)

You know how it goes, once something new roots itself in the mind you often start to see it everywhere, as if it were somehow invisible beforehand. Since Ive heard of this four piece act from Ukrane Ive spotted quite a few of their shirts worn at gigs. Their views on Youtube would also suggest they are gaining rapid popularity in the Metal community. Naturally I wanted to check them out and see what the fuss was about.

Fronted by singer Tatiana Shmailyuk, a duality is forthright as she swings from strong, powerful effeminate singing to brutal, blunt screaming. She mixes in some native Ukrainian tongue too. Behind her the band put together some very likable songs for Metal fans to gravitate towards. Strong grooving guitars play a range of classic guitar techniques from over the years that hail back to Death and Thrash at times. Its mostly situated around Groove and Metalcore while showing some flashes of Djent and Nu Metal. Its neatly structured into a healthy riff fest of revolving grooves and energetic low end shredding that packs each of its songs with a fair helping of head nodding.

Their music is well executed, its mostly rather accommodating Metal thats loaded with familiar riffs. They do little to define themselves and stand out in my mind however every other song or so seems to find a moment to leap away from the page and throw in a crushing riff, brutal scream, or in the case of Who Is Gonna Be The One, both in a memorable breakdown. I might sound somewhat harsh but this record makes me feel a bit like a "Metal Veteran". There isn't a single riff here that's unexpected or unusual. All the techniques, styles, sounds and grooves Ive heard many a time before.

They pull from Metals best and rework ideas in to their own vision, even throwing in short sections of acoustics and brief non-Metal sounds. In the case of Jinjer they straddle that region well above mediocrity but below greatness. If you're new to Metal they will probably sound rather varied, exciting and invigorating. There is a great range of influence on their sound at work but Ive heard it all before. They are clearly talent musicians though and a band worth keeping an eye on.

Favorite Tracks: A Plus Or A Minus, Who Is Gonna Be The One, Желаю Значит Получу
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Bullet For My Valentine "Gravity" (2018)

They were once a young and promising act but these days Bullet For My Valentine are drifting towards obscurity. They have never interested me that much, last time I checked them out was a decade ago with Scream Aim Fire which I remember being at least half decent. These days I am far more open to Pop Metal and these lush, clean sounds. Gravity is on one hand is an easily enjoyable record, bright, pristine aesthetics, easily digestible with warm, harmonious singing and a sprinkle of bombastic riffs between its fluffy lighter appeal.

On the other hand its lyrically atrocious, full of angsty lyrics trying to tie heightened emotional words of pain and struggle to rather hollow and shallow themes of social relationships expressed through plain and simple language. It conveys little complexity or depth and reminds me of the lyrics my teenage self would of latched onto. Packaged into simple song structures it feels all to formulaic. After a play through it dawned on me that the whole project is very much treading in the shadows of Thats The Spirit, a record that reinvigorated much of the Hybrid Theory formula, in a really positive way. Bullet deploy all the tropes Bring Me The Horizon's recent sound. The song Under Again sounds like a pure unflattering imitation.

The synth tones, gang shouts have little original going for them and once it had crossed my mind I couldn't get away from how much the vocals emulate Chester Bennington. The delivery, the notes, the inflections, Ive heard it all before.  This record sounds like its doing very little to stand on its own. Trend following and niceness daunt its ability to create any original moments. In all fairness is pretty easily enjoyed if you tune out the lyrics. Its well produced and well written Pop music but its facade is thin and a lack of authenticity will have you scrutinizing on closer inspection.

Rating: 3/10

Monday, 24 September 2018

Irreversible Mechanism "Immersion" (2018)

Over two years ago the Belarus duo Irreversible Mechanism's debut made quite the footing in the musical landscape of my mind. Their take on Symphonic Extreme Metal had many of the hallmarks similar to bands I adore, I could hear echos of Dimmu Borgir, Old Man's Child, Aeons Confer and Abigail Williams. It became a record of frequent returns and so my excitement has brewed in anticipation of this sophomore album. Although it sticks to similar classifications, Immersion is an evolution of the beast and I'm not entirely sure where I stand with it. One thing is for certain my captivation has been held over the weeks as I have strayed of from writing about it, soaking in the experience as many times as I could before now.

 This new record expands its pallet with the introduction of luscious, gleaming acoustic guitars reminiscent of Gru. They work in parallel with deep, soft, airy synths boasting an immersive spacial tone. It plays between the dynamic bursts of explosive drumming and distortion guitar onslaught that drifts keenly into angular and blunt force playing akin to Technical Death Metal. The blazing dives into pummeling intricate blast beats and maddening atonal fret scaling licks push at its harshest but also in a constant sway with the synths and ethereal guitar sounds that vastly expand the pallet with plucked chords and softer distortions to thicken the atmospheres cast.

Where they once had echos of other bands, Irreversible Mechanism have very much channeled the aspects of their sound to new places. The once typical sweep picking licks that flooded the music with melodic flushes has been channeled into a web of meaningful guitar leads and solos that organically flex with the swaying of the music, erupting to life in with the dynamic shifts in tone. Their talents as musicians has found a vision and its executed wonderfully in a set of nine songs that frequently shift, sway and unravel with its smothering of intricacies and complex song structures leading into new and marvelous frontiers that feel boundless in this form.

Its a complete package, the music is thrilling with its extremities and its aesthetics are gorgeous. These modern production techniques sound is if there is nowhere left to go. Packed into this production we hear every kick, snare, symbol and instrument with clarity as they all frequently pile into the fold with a frantic unleashing of extreme composition. The drums pack a hefty punch, slick tones on all its components let every note cut through with strength that compromises nothing. All the way down to the bass guitar, which gets its moments to rumble its texture, every sound illuminated.

And so the album cruises on by with its unending sways, exploring different degrees of parrying assault and indulgence with its two identities. Beyond has both my favorite moments and least too, its swings of gleam the most appeasing and its dive into Technical Death Metal the most grinding. Tracks like Absolution is a, mind the pun, absolute peach when the back and forth is frequent and lined with glorious, emotive guitar leads. Infact eight ninths of its whole fit that frame, constantly finds these energetic thrusts to soaring peaks of intensity and blissful color on practically every song while each one feels so unique.

Taking all this wonderful music in I do feel an ambiguity of vision. It reminds me of my experiences with Doom and Post-Metal. I can feel the electricity but it doesn't allays light the bulb. With every song here I feel the current but where is it we are? I'm not quite sure, I mostly see neon colors illuminating solar systems and bizarre, exotic alien planets with intense visuals but perhaps that was put in my mind but the fantastic album cover. Either way this will be one of the years best and one I will continue to enjoy for many years to come! Bravo Irreversible Mechanism, you have raised the bar for all within your field, this is a true accomplishment.

Favorite Tracks: Abolution, Footprints In The Sand, Limbo
Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Toska "Ode To The Author" (2016)

I caught the UK based trio Toska live recently at a Plini show promoting their magnificent Sunhead album. It was an engrossing performance, there was an electricity present but I'm not so sure it translates that well to the studio. The roar of mammoth, grooving guitars hooked in the room with there vibrations, unable to escape its grasp. Ode To The Author features a couple of tracks I recognized from the show. Its an entirely guitar led meld of Post Metal soundscaping and Progressive Metal tangents, making for some distinguished moments as the range of riffing leads us into unique places.

Without a vocal presence the guitars really do make up a forward momentum as the bass does little to expand upon its tone or experience. The drums chime in with appropriate grooves and energy to create some dynamism. Even in its moments of intense inflections and intricacies it still seems to play second fiddle to the mammoth presence of Rabea Massaad who dominates the spectrum, making his lone guitar sound like an ensemble.

It has its appropriate moments of calm and acoustics, lush notes plucked with harmony but the main avenue is groove and power beyond the structured formula. Massive shapely, lunging riffs gather momentum in the expansion of tension through minor progressions. It makes for colossal moments born of a careful craft, slowly growing songs that always seem to steadily lure us into a trap of mountainous riffs, cascading with a great weight.

Its all brilliantly executed, its steady build ups and sudden shifts feel organic and natural. It flows like a river and builds an engrossing atmosphere that quickly lures one in with vision as we explore the array of riffs, of which its groove elements even steer close to Nu Metal briefly and more obviously Djent with the occasional polyrhythmic and elasticated riffage. I'm very impressed, with a new album out November I will certainly be getting myself a copy.

Favorite Tracks: Chasm, Illumo
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 21 September 2018

Danny Brown "Twitch" (2018)

The origin story of this bootleg mixtape is rather interesting! Turns out the Detroit rapper has taken up gameplay streaming on the popular! That's where the name of the record comes from because Danny decided to stream nine songs he has been working on during a recent livestream. These nine songs could be for a new record, perhaps unfinished. There may be more information out there but all I can do is speculate, however all is looking good from here.

Although there is room for variety these songs mostly carry a hard, urban, gritty vibe. Reinforced by a low-fidelity feel they take on a rugged street persona. That however may have more to do with the streaming quality than the recordings themselves. Loose percussive loops and sparse sequences collide with a keen ear for sampling that builds atmospheres through the aesthetics of its sources. The melodies frequently feel second fiddle to the tone conjured and so these beats become rather indulgent.

The lyrical presence has quite the boisterous, aggressive stance. Danny's navel voice and flow raises the energy but around him an arsenal of features from rappers work dark and mean angles. On Cut It Up one of his friends puts in a crazy maniacal stuttering flow to much effect. The opening Funeral Lines features has some similar enunciation with the cries of "brusa brusa brusa". Among his comrades Danny stands out the best of lines and rhymes however they all put in a shift with an abundance of style and little to fault.

For nine "leaked" songs it holds up really well as a short record, clocking in just under thirty minutes. Its gritty, gloomy and maniacal in bursts of harsh attacking rhymes. Danny and his friends go crazy on the mic, the beats step into some dark territory, the closing track especially so as a dirty grisly baseline buzzes while errie haunting vocals call like a distant ghost. There's a lot to get excited about, the production is distinct and the lyrics ripe.

Favorite Tracks: Space Trip, 8 Ball Flow
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Apex Twin "Collapse" (2018)

I'm not here to comment on the history or legacy of English musician James D Richard aka Apex Twin. There is one, however his music has always been just out of my reach. Ive never been sucked in but throughout my time I have heard nothing but praise for him. Catching wind of this new release I fancied a try given its an EP. This trend of thirty minute records is quite appeasing to me. Its the sweet duration where music never seems to outstay its welcome. That is true in the case of this album, each listen feels like another leaf upturned with much to discover in this meld of relaxing, pleasant ambient countered by dizzying jumbles of electronic percussion.

Its not all magic though. Much of these six tracks felt like an effort, enduring the drum sequencing in hopes of finding its charm. James assaults the rhythm with fast choppy waves of sampled sounds that stack, collide and trip over one another as they fall neatly into position. Its crisp and clear, clean and punchy yet the off-kilter timing and swift, rapid rolls leave me a little disoriented as flurries of glitched out sounds constantly bombard the listener. Feeling the groove and rhythm is difficult. There are glimpses of aesthetic delight and occasional strides of movement but a lot of it just isn't on a wavelength I'm able to connect with.

Behind it an arsenal of strange and wonderful inhuman sounds forges calm and yet unusual atmospheres fit for indulgence but constantly hurried along by the abrasive presence of tireless sampled percussion. The Occasional emergence of childish melodies ground the emotions from the continual roll synthetic and odd sounds. In other moments thees same oddities form cohesion to resemble something more traditional but at all times the music resists being anything but.

Tracks MT1 and Abundance gives the musical side far more credence to form a memory of the music as much of the drum sequencing feels like a continuous attempt to dismantle itself and all sound encompassing but on these tracks they give a little more room to breathe. Ultimately its a strange experience with two elements mostly opposed to one another in my mind. It does find bursts of charm and passing intrigue. My curiosity will have me continuing to expose myself to Collapse in the hopes that something unheard may click for me in the future.

Favorite Tracks: MT1 T29R2, Abundance10edit
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Between The Buried And Me "Automata II" (2018)

Automata II is the second installment of the Automata double mini-album format the band have split their music into this year. This second half clearly strides into consistency with a stronger sense of theme that their progressive nature can usually make a meal of given the array of influences these musicians share. Across its four tracks the theatrics of showmanship play out in moments of carnival festivity as horns and trumpets emphasis jovial moods emanating between the cracks of rattling drums kits and metallic groove shredding guitars. The chemistry is tuned to its apex on Voice Of Trespass as striking memories of Diabolical Swing Orchestra are conjured.

On the other three songs this particular vibe is less prominent as the slew of intensity shifts, direction changes interchanging of instruments leads it along many paths. Its thirteen minute opener The Proverbial Blow takes the cake as both records best song. Its opening riffs evolve with intricacies in replay as subtle organs and synths wade in on the melodies. Its energetic thrust eliminates the building hype as calm wades in on the storm, holding us in suspense. Singer Rogers brings a vocal performance to elevate the fine direction the song takes, the steadily rising intensity finds its moment for shouts and screams or tight distortion guitar grooves.

A distance lead guitar wails across a suspended atmosphere as the music builds its tension to release. Its fine musicianship but only on this track does it really resonate. The other songs tend to fall into the mishaps of Prog music that doesn't quite engage this listener with the direction itself. As shifts permeate and new instances arise the juggling of serine melodic harmonies and dirty aggressive hammering play somewhat jagged. That's more of a comment on the first Automata though, this is clearly the better release, the best of both could of made a swell record but instead we have two reasonable releases that are sure to keep fans happy.

Favorite Track: The Proverbial Bellow
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 17 September 2018

C418 "Excursions" (2018)

German composer Daniel Rosenfeld aka C418 has birthed iconic music and sounds stained into the minds of millions of Minecraft fans worldwide. His unique sound and approach seems an uncanny match for the games engrossing atmosphere, almost to good to be true. Over the years he has released the games soundtracks alongside his own records that mainly dive into the House and Downtempo orientations of Ambient Electronic music, while showing that his flair extends into all degrees of composition hes attempted. With each passing record the wonders are revisited with a degree of expectancy and predictability but always within the allure that his style conjures, resonating and radiating its hypnotic, colorful warmth.

Its not been since my first exposure to his sound that the soothing radiation of warm indulging sounds has been so strong. Even within the realms of familiarity and anticipation, his capability finds an exuberant stride. One hundred minutes of beautifully ambiguous moods and engrossing atmospheres that win me over with a luminosity and vibrancy to these sounds we know all to well. The textures of synth, tones of melody, buzzing baselines, composition traits, the shrink and expansion is all akin to what we love about this artist and its executed wonderfully. One new experiment emerges, the sounds of birds chirping in Cold Summer gives it a wonderfully exotic and mysterious vibe if only for a song or two.

Its hard to dive into details when everything feels so snug and sweet. This is the C418 we know, the songs don't take long to feel like you have known them forever and yet the magic flows forth through a range of songs so typical of him. We have light ambiences led by pianos, quirky ambiguous melodies and banging percussive lines that seem to creep in like the morning sun through blinds. The transitions are sublime, one instance there is barely a beat and moments later the synths have arose, the snap and clap of snare and kick is in full swing. Excursions has flow, zen and sustains its spell for a remarkable length, suspending us in its dimension. Possibly his best.

Favorite Tracks: Cold Summer, Benton, Thunderbird, The President Is Dead
Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Greta Van Fleet "From The Fires" (2017)

Following up on Black Smoke Rising we have an unusual release from the greatly hyped Greta Van Fleet. Its marketed as a double EP, eight songs that could of been an album however four of the songs are from the aforementioned release. So its like another four songs released alongside the last. Because of that Ive just focused on the new independent tracks, of which two are covers. That was unknown to me before writing this up, perhaps it serves as a testament as to how well they embody the era that inspires them since I was none the wiser, these songs fit sweetly into the run time.

These songs took a little longer to get into and I believe that's because these are the less dynamic cuts. They don't aim to dazzle up front with hard hitting licks but sneak up on you as their atmospheres build in intensity. Both the originals here culminate in guitar solos after the songs tempo feels hastened in the rising tide of instruments steadily raising the energy. The cover songs also ask something more from front man Josh Kiszka who certainly rises to the occasion without a sweat.

Admittedly I felt these song illuminated their potential to reach more crevasses of this era but in reality its a patchy release to comment on with just two originals. With an album arriving in just a month we will find out what this band is made for. Until then I will continue to enjoy these EPs very much so. Its been a while since Ive been so excited for a band outside my musical comfort zone and this is it!

Favorite Track: Edge Of Darkness
Rating: 5/10

Friday, 14 September 2018

Algiers "Algiers" (2015)

Algiers self titled debut record is a similar beast of burden to its surpassing successor The Underside Of Power. Release two years prior, this record plays with the rawer edge and grit you might expect closer to a formation. Its influences, attributes and roots stand more so exposed and open as the union of sounds frequents dark corridors of shadowy, dread soaked atmospheres. Its bleak resentment drags us down to hell as moments of relief and uplift are far and few between here.

The rattle and snap of Blood's percussion echos the chain gang clank its vocals personify. Subtle gospel, soulful choirs hang heads in the shame of abuse and suffering. Its a song that captures the downtrodden mood and tone of the record. Overpowering, dense guitars wail in a wall of sharp distortion and feedback, playing into the conjuring of a hellish, fearful atmosphere. Singer Fisher cries 400 years a slave, 400 years of torture, driving in the nails that seethe.

The track highlights the records darker tone. It and many of the songs lyrics leap from the page, others addressing police brutality and many horrors linked to the era of slavery it draws its inspiration from. Its electronics are also chained to this path, chirpy, punchy sounds of sequenced snappy beats and stabs reminiscent of 80s Hip Hop find themselves sucked into this abandon. Almost all the sounds from this eclectic tapestry of influences find themselves sinking into terror.

Its a brood, punishing listen fit for overcast skies and the cold of rainy days. At its inception Algiers dive deep into the disgust and dismay of slavery, from a very personal and unforgiving angle that Fisher time and time again ties together with his words. I'm not sure how hearing the records in this record effected my enjoyment but the darker direction and rawer tone smothered some of the magic I expected to hear like on its predecessor. Very impressive record but something restrains my enjoyment.

Favorite Tracks: Blood, Iron. Unity. Pretext.
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Greta Van Fleet "Black Smoke Rising" (2017)

Do Greta Van Fleet live up to the hype? Does it even matter? Music should be about what you get out of it! If you can connect with the artists vision there is often something wonderful to be enjoyed. That is certainly the case for me and I even got to see them live earlier in the year at Download Festival. I really wish I had got to spin these songs sooner as I would of really dug that show. Familiarity and repetition are important for getting to know music but the reality is I was already singing along by the third listen. The four songs that make up this record are fantastic.

Hailing from Michigan USA, Greta have fallen under the spotlight for their enigmatic revival of 60s Rock, frequently being compared to the likes of Led Zeppelin. It is singer Josh Kiszka, one of the three brothers, who's electric singing makes them stand out. His howling voice hails back to that era vividly and compared to anything popular, or within my scope that's happening right now, he stands alone. It is a little unfair to focus on him alone though, the rest of the group embodies this era too.

Across these four songs you may be thinking this is a nostalgia trip but whats really making this music tick is the songwriting. The hooks are driving and powerful, the keys and organs gleam with that spark Lynyrd Skynyrd had. The music develops its themes and channels them into fantastic eruptions of energy when Josh kicks his voice into fifth gear and the guitars rise up with the hard grooving licks. Between its brilliant choruses the verses set the tone for whats to come, keeping you anticipating the shifts and waves of mood and charged emotion that come with it.

Another thought crosses my mind. This is not a style and era of music I'm that well versed in and so they could be plugging a void. The production is modern, bright and crisp, so much so to make the music far more inviting compared to the soft and muted recordings of times gone by. As I said up above, music is what you can get out of it. If you've exhausted everything from a style you like then its hard to get excited about new music in the same vein. I can see why fans of Classic Rock are skeptical but there is a huge opertunity here for a new generation to discover some truly fantastic music.

Favorite Tracks: Safari Song, Flower Power, Black Smoke Rising
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Parliament "Medicaid Fraud Dogg" (2018)

My interest in Parliament and Funk music is superseded by its influence on the Hip Hop music of the 90s. In this case of George Clinton and his P-Funk musician collective, its the re-imagining of his songs from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube that are among some of my all time favorite Rap tunes. Their last record was thirty eight years ago, so it was quite a surprise to hear of a new album in the works, I thought they were done and dusted, the last Parliament tour was in the 80s bar occasional one offs as the Parliment-Funkadelic collective. So after a long hiatus Clinton returns with his son Tracey Lewis to go another lengthy round.

Medicaid Fraud Dogg plays very much like an open, grooving jam, a free for all. It explores avenues with varying degrees of styles, aesthetics and instruments that mostly stick to a Funk template but often slip into rather mellow and jazzy lulls of relaxed expectations. Clocking in over a sizeable one hundred minutes it clearly sets no bars for curation and may test some listeners patience. It drifts from track to track with no obvious theme or direction bar the references to medication culture. Many of the songs have a leisurely temperament about them and a few tracks take a drastic shift as one young rapper gets the limelight to showcase their modern rap style with a tightly produced modern, Trap influenced Hip Hop beat. The track Mama Told Me aims to meld the two sounds together in a rather tragic mess.

It doesn't suit how I enjoy records, yet there is some good music is to be found. Its glossy sound revises lots of classic Funk sounds and ideas. With an arsenal of trumpets, the bass guitar, saxophone, piano and other instruments, Clinton's musicians meld the punchy synthetic sounds with little in the way of new tricks or surprises but certainly with a big dose of style and fun. The production however is insufferable in its inconsistency. The difference in volume between tracks and instruments can be misleading. The loud voice over the quiet music of Kool Aid sounds like an interlude compared to the loud and prominent Dada that follows.

The album hits a few good notes with its "social media ain't shit" hook on the Antisocial Media track. Its a reminder of how little this record lands its hooks. Not even its jiving I'm Gonna Make You Sick Of Me song with its big raunchy baselines and funky synths, fit for a west-coast remaster, can deliver something memorable on the lyrical front. The album rolls out on a lull and given my lack of affinity with Funk music the length may just wear me down. There wasn't a lot to take away on this one.

Favorite Tracks: Backwoods, I'm Gonna Make You Sick Of Me, Antisocial Media
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Immortal "Northern Chaos Gods" (2018)

The return of iconic Norwegian Black Metal outfit Immortal is now upon us. They truly are the gods of northern chaos and this mighty ninth chapter in their story has been a shock on two levels. Firstly the surprise of its release, living up to the name, sound and reputation of the band. Secondly the fact that it exists. Last I heard of Immortal Abbath had left them over legal issues and produced a solo record totally akin to the Immortal vision. It seems that Demonaz has stepped up to fill his boots. Once the guitarist he was forced to take a back seat roll as lyricist after the punishing speed of their music took a toll on his tendons. He is now back on the guitar and in control of the rights to the bands name, this is his testament to their sound.

Demonaz has no issue replacing the legendary Abbath and that's no dismissive statement. He has big boots to fill and somehow the music retains the same breed of beastly cold, icy onslaughts of shapely guitars and demonic snarling in the form of shrill screams and throaty roars. The themes of Ravendark and Blashyrkh return again and the song constructs and progressions feel perfect. Where Mountains Rise deploys its acoustic, reverb soaked guitars, the same tone is achieved as they have done before. Everything is just as you would expect, right when you might anticipate it to be somewhat different given the personal change.

With modern production and a nine year gap between records the groups aesthetic is the best its ever been. The harsh, dense, ravishingly cold and cruel guitar tone puts forth a biting meaty fuzz of blitzing power chords and savage tremolo picking. It plays in parallel with longtime drummer Horgh dizzying assaults on his kit as blast beats and crushing grooves reinforce the dynamic onslaught. Through it all the demonic cries seek us out through the icy cold blizzards and their breed of Extreme Metal is a alive as its ever been, this record does all that Immortal is known for.

With so little done wrong, one can only imagine what some experimentation might have done to their sound. All the riffs and drum patterns fit snugly into what the band have previously established and so its ultimately the execution that is impressive. The chops and churns of pace, styles of riffing and momentum shifts all have echos of past records. If your a fan who wants more of the same, this new chapter gives you exactly what you want. If you were hoping for an new avenue for the band to walk down, this is still a pretty sublime record and I can't recommend it enough to fans of Black Metal. What a treat its been!

Favorite Tracks: Northern Chaos Gods, Called To Ice, Mighty Raven Dark
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Lion's Daughter "Future Cult" (2018)

With every listen Future Cult has crept deeper into the conscious, its harsh iterations of Extreme Metal and obvious synthetic experiments have yielded charm in their familiarity. What was initially a wretched experiment of clashing styles found its territory as the repetitions revealed the chemistry that's not so always apparent. The Missouri based Black Metal outfit jump the bandwagon and fuse elements of Synthwave and this surge of interest in Carpenter horror soundtrack aesthetics.

The band have a harsh aesthetic, readily reliant on the pummel of blast beats and angular discordant guitars, commanded by the flat and narrows shouts of singer Giordano. The best bits emerge from the moments between when intensities wavier and so its harshness serves as that root into extremity it frequently turns too as the music drops in and out of its anger. In these fluctuations the trio prime the atmosphere for the music to break to its more meaningful and progressive passageways which give most the songs here conclusive moments of dark illumination.

The retro synths would fit sweetly into a 80s horror soundtrack but not so much in the case of this mid paced metallic pounding. Instead of sacrificing their harsh and assaulting aesthetic and jagged music to fit the synths in, the three let them rub upside. The clash is obvious yet the charm is in progression, how the music finds its way to more cohesion, the brutality sways into chemistry and that is their sweet spot.

The introduction to The Gown highlights this chemistry as the dialed down guitar tones work with the synths through an initially percussion less instrumental in perfect tandem. The texture and atmosphere oozes over the warm, burly baseline. As the record stretches on a couple of tracks cop out of the experiment with the synths being pushed deep to layers of grit and fuzz heard in the creeks between thick distortion chords. The do however remain as solid songs in the run time.

There is definitely something to be done with these two styles. The Lion's Daughter have dipped their toes in and proved the waters warm. However my take away from this record is their musicianship, more so than the aesthetics that often feel rigid and raw. The synths could easily be swapped out for guitars and retain the same atmosphere as I felt their dark avenue is what shinned more so that the Carpenter accent. I hope they continue on this path and push the fusion further.

Favorite Tracks: Future Cult, Call The Midnight Animal, Die Into Us, The Gown, Grease Infant, Galaxy Ripper
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 7 September 2018

Logic "Under Pressure" (2014)

Released on the one and only Def Jam records, Maryland rapper Logic invests half a million into his breakout debut album. How do we know that? Under Pressure is a characteristically blunt, youthful set of songs with rather direct commentary from the "onboard assistant" and Logic himself who takes a raw and straight forward approach to his rhymes and story telling. At the end of the tracks the fourth wall is broken as the feminine electronic voice runs through facts and tidbits related to the albums creation, giving us an insight to the scenes and inspirations behind the music as Logic binges on Outkast, A Tribe Called Quest and Tarantino movies during its recording.

The instrumental side of the music takes on a rather traditional approach hailing back to the 90s with modern sounds far and few between. Soulful, jazzy sampling lays down warm, temperate moods and good, grounded vibes that tight, rugged beats back up with solid sequencing. These sounds and Logic's flow occasionally drifts into territory that fondly reminds me of To Pimp A Butterfly. Its got an organic quality hailing back to the pre-digital age of musicianship and that chemistry infrequently finds these illuminating grooves where it all clicks instrumentally speaking.

Its obvious that logic aims high and with his lyrics, painting a vivid introduction to himself and the city he came from. Its typically in the moment and he has no problem getting the stress and worries off his mind through the pressures of making it in the rap game. He mostly takes on a more palatable, generic flow letting the words come across with ease and oddly in moments of technical proficiency, pushing his swift snappy flows he lacks the same lyrical cohesion. It a raw, direction experience, tackling the topics head on with plainer language delivered through enjoyable lyrics.

For me the record plays without any stand-out moments. Or any duds considering the flip side. Its all feasible and achieved to a solid standard. It paints a picture without re framing anything, its sixty seven minutes can drag its feet with only a couple of features at the end to shake things up, Childish Gambino droping in, his voice a good match to bounce of Logic. Under Pressure is a fine effort, it lands where it aims and perhaps lacks a drive to go further as the chemistry here feels ripe for something special which doesn't manifest, however its a good listen.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Teyana Taylor "K.T.S.E" (2018)

This year we've been spoiled, Kanye has brought us five hyper curated projects. The introspective and of the moment Ye, a brilliant psychedelic collaboration with Kid Cudi on Kids See Ghosts, an introduction to the highly articulate Pusha T and at bottom of the pile a disappointing production with Hip Hop legend Nas, the pairs styles just struggled to meet. The last of the five is again a highly curated seven track twenty two minute record, correction, eight tracks, an exception to the Wyoming sessions. Its actress and model Teyana Taylor second release and that's about all I know of her!

K.T.S.E is a record of two half, two tones that have moments of overlap. Its better half comprises of soft, smooth and luscious R&B licks lined with subtle, inspired hip hop beats and percussive grooves. Kanye lines up beautiful, soulful samples to let Teyana's singing swoon and sway with the warm and soulful, emotional music. Its use of instrumentation instead of synthetics adds a matured warmth and class that reminds me fondly of Black Messiah. When in these songs the record is classy, full of good moods and uplifting aura. Teyana sounds like she seeking the heights of the classics as her vocals soft inflections stir up a delicious, appetizing smoothness.

We are blessed with four or so songs that firmly move within that blueprint however hyper sexual themes of 3Way and WTP indifferently highlight and align with shifts in her singing and Kanye's production. Teyana also shifts gears with her voice, pushing the power of her voice towards the sterile and over inflected modern style Id associate with Beyonce, out of ignorance of course as R&B isn't music I delve into that often. It doesn't charm like her softer side and with indifferent lyrics and topics It can become quite the bore when before shes inches away from greatness.

 The production of WTP stands in contrast to all that came before it, an obnoxious, retro Dance tune with god awful 80s stabs and strikes repeated to insanity, a real turn off. It also plays up to some really odd laser zap sounds heard on Issues. Its such a bizarre sound given the instrumentals tone but somehow works as an interesting and unusual oddity. This is mostly a brilliant record mixed with some obnoxious production and unfavorable singing that strongly turns me off from what I was enjoying moments ago. I'm a bit fussy but every listen has been peaks, mostly peaks and valleys.

Favorite Tracks: No Manners, Gonna Love Me, Issues / Hold On
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Dance With The Dead "Loved To Death" (2018)

Right as I feel like I'm clued up on their sound and back catalog, Californian duo Dance With The Dead drop a brand spanking new record which I wasn't particularly in the mood for. At this point their sound is played out on a personal level. The 80s John Carpenter soundtrack nostalgia ride has been explored and so this new collection of tracks does little unexpected or even exciting at this point. The aesthetics sound unchanged if only refined and polished a fraction. Loved To Death doesn't deploy any distinct theme or spin a twist, its another ten straight tracks of dark, dense and melody rich Synthwave playing to its niche.

On occasions the music musters intrigue with some under utilized avenues, Red Moon introduces metallic rhythm guitar to the forefront for brief instances. War deploys some gargling synths that fluctuate like a Dubstep drop. Similar deep textural synths rumble on different wavelengths in bursts but beyond these brief glimpses of places for the sound to expand the music mostly sticks to its guns with the same digestible arrangements of pumping horror soundtrack boldness and neon lit nightlife adventure melodies.

When the music shows signs of something new its always limited to aesthetic and so the record drifts on by at the same pace. Its predictable, yet wonderfully executed. Hard to critique but all to palatable. I did enjoy the occasional cheesy 80s Hair Metal solo, it has a fitting place here but unfortunately none of the tracks stepped beyond what I expected of the band and so it just sounded routine and repetitive. Good music but desperately in need of a new direction.

Rating: 4/10

Monday, 3 September 2018

Alice In Chains "Rainier Fog" (2018)

There is so much that could be said of Alice In Chains and their history. To boil it down to some specifics, they are a a legendary band from the Grunge era with a metallic tint in guitar tone who lost the iconic voice of singer Layne Staley to extreme drug abuse. Reforming a few years after his death they somehow found a vocal harmonization with new singer William DuVall that resonated on the same frequency as Layne. It allowed them to continue along the same spiritual path laid out on prior records and after five years their return with their third album of this second stint for the band.

I have a strong fondness for their last two records, the five year wait has been worthwhile but Rainier Fog pulls no new tricks. It may explore some heavier guitar tones and grooves but very much plays like a band who are comfortable with their identity. They have taken the time to reach in deep and curate the very best of their inspirations and form a fine craft of songs that hold your attention and move your emotions for the steady fifty three minutes the ten tracks make up together. If it does offer any new spice, slower tempos hint at some Doom Metal influences but its a side of them that just seems more prominent for this project.

Its pace is sturdy, slow and soothing yet momentous and empowering. The atmosphere they conjure together is sun soaked with a streak of introspection bordering on melancholy. With a gorgeous production aesthetic Jerry and William weave their vocals around one another to constantly illuminate the music in electric tandem. The guitars relish this opertunity to flex in the directions Alice In Chains are known for, finding some laden, steady grooves and stretching to the slow and sombre acoustic epics with all manor of lead guitar breaks stitching in the details. Its a lively, animated record in the energetic moments they often leads too. When in a more subtle position it still retains these big and strong atmospheres that engulf the listener.

With each listen one comes to know the songs better and as each rotation revolves the character and identity of these songs really lights up, especially the second half of the record. This is the kind of curation that can make a known sound exciting however that may be this records only flaw. Its a fantastic set of songs but has no surprises or unexpected directions. The music in no way cries out for it however it makes me wonder if the band can keep making this well established sound work? They certainly have done this time around but you will know what your in for.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Eminem "Kamikaze" (2018)

Kamikaze may just be the most fitting, self descriptive name for this surprise album. Dropped out of the blue a couple days back by the one and only legendary Eminem, it responds to the general disappointment and fallout of last years Revival. The shock and surprise of this mean, gritty record taking verbal aim at anyone nearby has Em painted like a wounded animal, lashing out as his frustrations with the changing landscape of Hip Hop pin him in the corner. His state of mind manifests before us into a Rap fest of disses and vocal prowess. He's like the deranged tyrant on the throne, no one can deny or challenge his position at the top, yet his verbal trajectory of insults is unlikely to harbor any new fans of friends.

Once again Eminem is stuck in his reactionary mindset. It was once the cutting edge back when he was public enemy one on the Marshall Mathers LP. His position has changed, reputation established and undeniable yet here he is lashing out at Mumble Rappers and artists with different styles. It paints a sour image of an aging artist, out of touch yet one can not deny how wonderful his flows and creative is. The record has its moments of pure brilliance, Em even takes on his despised triplet and choppy flows to flip them over, load them with lyrical substance and spit them back in the face of those he goes after. He does however drown in a plethora of tasteless slurs and swears that weigh down the genius behind the rhyme.

Breaking down the lyrics, which run deep, we find regards to Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, Logic, J Cole, Joyner Lucas, who is featured on the track Lucky You. On the other end of the stick Em goes hard at so many rappers its hard to keep up. Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Pump, Lil Xan, Lil Yatchy, Earl Sweatshirt all get caught in the crossfire. He also takes aim at Tyler The Creator using the word faggot. Given these times and context it really does him no favors and comes off as poor taste. That was disappointing, yet "Not Alive" had me in hysterics as Eminem and Royce Da 5'9" mock the Migos Bad & Boujee flow, its hilarious but simply redundant. Drake also gets accused of relying on ghost writers and Em goes rather pointless into number comparisons, which he also extended to music critics making views off Revival.

Its really just petty, yet delivered through the lens of supreme talent. Behind the lyrics there is another layer of madness as some beats resemble the modern trends Em criticizes himself, however it may all just be playing into the mockery. One notable thing stand against this, Em constantly uses the Drake "Yuh" prompt before rhyming... Its so distinctly alike it just seems strange. Tracks like Nice Guy & the second half of Normal resurrect some classic Eminem vibes. Lucky You is dominated by its features and modern aesthetic, it barely sounds like his own track. To say the least the record tends to go all over the place as his sounds play around with new ideas too.

Beyond the attention grabbing tracks his lyrical content hits and misses with a variety of topics. Hearing him address the D12 situation and run through his thoughts was well executed yet not every song hits that grade. The content fluctuates as does Ems flows, dropping some excellent rhymes and patterns alongside some belly aching cringy lyrics and plain schemes. At other times it loads in so much its difficult to unpack. If one thing is consistent, its a lack of hooks, the best he musters is the Migos own Not Alike flow and groove, ironic of course. Em also lashes out at the new generation not respecting the old guard, his actions will do little to change this.

Ultimately, this record is as described, a kamikaze. Its hard to see Eminem reclaiming his place at the top again, even when working with Dr.Dre. Given his attitude to the state of Hip Hop he comes off like a sinking battleship landing missile strikes as it goes down. Its the best we have heard of him in years from a technical perspective yet when not striking out a fair bit of the topics arn't engaging and with a refusal to change with the times little excitement is stirred unless hes angry and viscous. I can't see him coming back from this unless he finds a new source of inspiration... Also I can't leave this blog without mentioning the Beastie Boys and License To Ill, there it is!

Favorite Tracks: The Ringer, Normal, Not Alike
Rating: 6/10