Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Beyond Creation "Algorythm" (2018)

Although I was mostly unimpressed by their last effort Earthbound Evolution, the Canadian Technical Death Metal outfit always deserve a look in after their impressive arrival onto the scene with the viral Omnipresent single. Since its release Ive listened to Algorythm over and over, soaking the deep web of music and coming to the realization that its greatness lies where it deviates from the bands own normality. It has some unusual compositions buried between the walls of music both brutal in aesthetic and dexterity. By letting the Progressive side to their sound flourish, Beyond Creation have forged some fantastically engaging music at times.

One of the first and most obvious new avenues they engage with comes on the third track Surface's Echos. It opens with lavish, reverberated eight string acoustic tones akin to Animals As Leaders and Plini. The opening distortion riff even mimics the use of unusual fretting sound with rhythmic sequences. Its a small moment but its comes around again in the following track. There are other paths the music takes that feels inherently different and it usual comes about in climactic melodic as the unrelenting knitting of instruments finds its respite, unleashing smooth atmospheres and scenic moments that lead the music away from the pummeling grind.

Its a breath of fresh air released against a flow of dizzying musicianship that crams whirling drums, slippery high end baselines and dexterous guitar riffs into almost every moment it can. Its a dense wall of sound that can be picked apart thanks to the marvels of modern production and the band truly embrace the clarity given to them. Three interchanging guitars and the monstrous drumming of Boucher endows the songs with a depth you'll be picking apart for quite some time. Unfortunately on the vocal front this record is dull. Girard takes a singular dimensional approach, blasts of guttural belly aches sound at home when backed by blast beats but in the musics expansive moments the screams sound sour. Its a firm drawback.

They go all out with their compositions but for all the technical marvel of seasoned musicianship it is nothing without direction. Many of these songs are lengthy and with that time they tie the foray of loaded blast beat laden grinds into progressive epics, usually spurred on by the eruption of a scaling lead guitar, opening the song to its next elevation. Its where the record shines, and the more they embrace this over the tropes of the genre, the better the music is. Luckily the balance is pretty steady and so the whole thing plays with a frequent shifting in intensity where one can fist pump with the methodical brutality and still embrace its bigger sense of self.

Favorite Tracks: Ethereal Kingdom, Algorythm, In Adversity
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 29 October 2018

Monstrosity "The Passage Of Existence" (2018)

When I first started exploring Death Metal, the Florida based group Monstrosity were one of a slew of bands that never held my attention for too long. They joined the scene in 92, around the peak of that first wave of bands. Since then they have been sparingly releasing albums every three to four years however its been eleven since their last effort Spiritual Apocalypse. That absence has not hindered their competence as a band in putting together a new record yet for all its decency I couldn't find much to draw me in closer. It has all the crisp and audible delights of modern production but its styling and songwriting is a little lost by the ages. Not to knock it, but It doesn't feel as exciting in comparison to when you hear this approach in music for the first time.

The record is loaded with a constant roll of tight and gnarly riffs. The chemistry between the drummer and rhythm guitarist is fantastic, lots of choppy technicalities lining the assault with brutal flavorings of groove and thrash from the rhythm guitar, always with a rapid, dexterous beat to match. The lead guitar sounds slick and lean, the songs frequent climatic moments for them to rise above and duel in tandem, flexing all the old tricks and wild sounding techniques. That is unfortunately a point of concern. The vocals are a dull drone, the same guttural tone grunts and groans at the same consistency and intensity throughout. It rarely compliments the dynamics of the music itself, even when shifting gears with an elongated roar.

The sound is generally encroaching on the Technical and Brutal sub-genres but given how developed those sounds are nothing comes of with a surprise. The guitar solos are attention grabbing and elaborate but as iterated above, its all been heard before. If you want the 90s sound then here you have got it. As already said, this is a competent band however they are spinning something I am just not interested in. For all the merit I can give it with my observations, It did little to draw me in or get the blood flowing. I can't think of a single song or moment that peaked my interest. Its all just to safe and cliche of the style. Nothing awful or off key, just not for me.

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Old Tower "Drachenblut" (2018)

Short but sweet and very welcome, this three track release from Old Tower casts a familiar spell of meditative mysticism from dungeon ruins and forbidden lands. Its opening track is a spark of its own. Devoid of melody and even progression, this dreary drone of moody, spooky, esoteric sounds murmur repetitiously as the airy creaking of breath creates a state of suspension, as if one stumbled into the chambers of a hideous beast, safely locked in an eternal sleep. The soundscape oozes like an organic mess locked in the same loop, little creaks of volume shifts play out before it reaches a conclusion led by what sound like laser blasts. It forges a feeling of false reality that I adore. I very peculiar and unique song, one to experience.

The accompanying numbers are both two and a half minutes, not quite the epic format of ten or more minute tracks I had come to know. Storms Of The Dragon's Spells throws me back to the empirical vibes of Spectral Horizons. Deep bellowing, mystic and arcane choral synths builds a mighty atmosphere, the deep thundering of steeply reverberated but barely audible rumbling noises set the tone for the song to erupt in an evil triumph as gongs crash, thunders roar and a stoic melody reigns supreme.

Drachenblut adorns the spooky realm with eerie, unsettling organs and broken piano melodies that play like a percussive line. Once again a thick layer of foggy synths collide to make a rich and spell bounding atmosphere that's over a little to soon for my taste. Its first song is a gem of its own but the following two feel like sections out of the previous formula of lengthy songs that shift through several phases. I can't complain though, I am really enjoying this musician and reminded there is more in the back catalog.

Favorite Track: The Silence Beneath The Ancient Grounds
Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Author & Punisher "Beastland" (2018)

 Lured in by a Noisy documentary highlighting this musicians use of beefy mechanical instrument controllers, I was warmed up to Author & Punisher through the Pressure Mine release earlier in the year. The project had drifted from my mind and so Beastland hit me like a tone of bricks. These monstrous droning industrial soundscapes of power and might play like a mechanical monstrosity facing the scorn of its creator. The pain and suffering imbued in the thick haze of flickering distortion is monumental. Its stride through the fire is wielding and burdensome as these pounding base kicks and snares fair through a wall of industrial noise smothering them with a cold, unforgiving darkness that every track runs through a different crevasse of.

The record opens on a tamer... yes tamer note, Pharmacide. Its construct a rigid design of peaked, distorted, jolted synthesizers culminating in swirls of unrecognizable sound as a dystopia atmosphere is laid upon us. Some how things ramp up with Nihil Strength and Ode To Bedlam as roars of crushing screams and thudding baselines lead an assault upon the listener. Although it roots its stance firmly in an ugly, brutal setting, somehow buzzing synths howling in despair create a sense of epic and growth against an unforgiving soundscape that is trying to drag everything down with it. The aesthetic is gruesome, every Industrial characteristic exaggerated into constant collision, masterfully manipulated by underlying songwriting that's smothered by the dizzying onslaught of ripping instruments, tearing into each other, fighting for space.

I'm truly impressed at how much peaking, distortion and incomprehension can be turned into a musical treat. Its utilization in birthing atmosphere is remarkable, if not hellish, dark, miserable and full of sweaty suffering. The crashing and thudding of militant percussion is at constant odds with overtly thrusted synths. Everything is competing for that glimmer in the lime light. With that a minimalism reigns supreme through a web of dense aesthetic chaos, the underlying music itself given its rise when time. The production is a marvel of itself and its songs have their individual markings with an ear for balance as its darkest avenues yield to respites and creaks of dark melodies in the attune moments. A visionary record fondly reminiscent of Post Self. Somehow its darker, meaner and bolder than that plunge into depravity.

Favorite Tracks: Nihil Strength, Ode To Bedlam, Night Terror, Beastland
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 26 October 2018

Tim Shiel "Glowing Pains: Music From The Gardens Between" (2018)

I have fond memories of discovering Duet, back in the earliest of days spent writing these music blogs. Australian composer Tim Shiel's latest Glowing Pains, an indie game soundtrack, brings about a familiar realm of soothing ambience, ambiguous cloudy places that shape mood and induce relaxation with the powers of the subtle and inconsequential sound. Its forty one minutes play with an apprehension towards pace yet faintly drifting us through the passing seasons with its iterations.

This timeless place of simplicity lingers in limbo between childish innocence and frozen stillness as quirky murmuring instruments, long yawning airy synths and indifferent melodies bring about the distinct vision some artists reach. His hallmarks of winding backwards samples and the chirping of birds are infrequent as Tim homes in on the lungs of instruments as they breathe in and out of focus at a crawling pace.

A feeling of duality marks these songs as a stillness holds within it a pale life life. Time has slowed down as we gaze upon a moment in time immortalized by a lack of motion. Snow falls like it may never reach a surface, winds blow with no gust at all and the echos never bounce back. For whatever vision a song may conjure, it feels like an eternal moment of reflection. Never sad, upbeat, esoteric or even truly ambiguous, everything feels earnest and without exaggeration, letting an unenthusiastic beauty resonate.

Throughout the record a significant vocal inclusion makes itself known with a fair helping of featured vocalists who enter their soft and breathy human presences into otherwise devoid soundscapes. It works wonderfully until the last song where the two don't quite vibrate together. Through these drifting atmospheres the occasional bass guitar line strolls up and past the limelight, emerging like an occasional guest. It was a meager detail I enjoyed. Fine record.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

VNV Nation "Noire" (2018)

Admittedly I had fallen behind with VNV Nation. Of Faith Power And Glory is the last record of theirs I own, that was almost over ten years ago! It is long overdue and I return to a lengthy album, over seventy minutes of new material that does not fly far from the nest, or even leave it. Every song sounds sweetly akin to a style perfected many years ago. It is only the a lone piano piece, Chopin cover, Nocturne No. Seven, that has any distinct resemblance to any theme portrayed by the name Noire.

The other twelve tracks are a keen collection of aptly tuned, finely crafted intelligent pop songs, structured through inspiration and channeled with aesthetic synth tones that pay eternal homage to Kraftwerk through layered arrangements of oscillated notation. That connection only struct me now as Ive only known of the German outfits legacy for a few years now. The track Guiding is a percussion less interlude piece that may in one moment show shades of a dusky Noire but can't help reach an uplifting stride through its warm and empowering string section that casts its light upon the music like rays of beaming light breaking through overcast clouds.

Its the one thing I can't put my finger on. As in the name, victory not vengeance, VNV Nation are continually uplifting, resolute and principled. This is the expectant working out of thought and lifes emotions through intelligent lyricism and sharp, crisp music. With a contagious dance thud and dose of inspired pop melody they stand with composed, broad shoulders, singing with sincerity as the atmosphere rises around them. None if it seems to verge towards anything resembling 40s Noire

Like many of their previous records VNV tend to dip toes into the various degrees of their formulae. Impresed leans into their meaner, Industrial side with a focus on the pounding beat. Collide rises itself from a longing sadness. Lights Go Out drives home a hook for the club life and Only Satellites reaches its arms to the sky in a eutrophic wander. Its all shades of a design they know all to well, soft airy and choral synths building atmosphere around dance-able EBM beats executed again with a familiar fondness but also made greater by absence. It does feel like little has changed.

Favorite Tracks: Armour, God Of All, Lights Go Out, Only Satalites
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 22 October 2018

Behemoth "I Loved You At Your Darkest" (2018)

 Its been four years since The Satanist gate crashed the larger expanses of the Metal scene with a commercial breakthrough. My comments as to why are based only on meager looks into their back catalog of an additional ten records. A transition from their Norwegian inspired Black Metal roots to a Death Metal hybrid, bolstering tight playing and grinding of commonplace techniques gave way to a greater sense of theme and theater that resonated. I found myself lured into the grand and thematic approach to darkness heard on that record, as it would seem many did and so they have returned on this vein again. The Satanist made it into My Top Albums Of 2014 list, however no post exists as it was before I started this music blog.

The album opens with Solve, we hear an unhallowed choir of children sing their cries of committal against Christ as the guitars brood, fading them out of focus as a couple bursts of cushioned yet bruising blast beats errupt. It sets a tone for nefarious, illustrious atmospheres, wicked visions and the unruly conjuring of satanic spirits. The following music aims its sights to invoke a grueling darkness with its respite between the follies of pummeling drums, expansive guitar work and obedient screams of service to the dark lord. It is not without its helping of gravitating blast beats and grinding, evil guitars but most these songs make their mark with new and different approaches that look at the music beyond the scope of atypical Extreme Metal.

It is perhaps "unfortunate" for these veterans that when their music falls back on the genres hallmarks it finds strength and unsurprisingly a brilliance counterpart to their artistic intent, for the albums better songs, tracks like Sabbath Mater, find a magical balance where the majority of the music is rode forth by this expectancy and the flair of artistry erupts in its wake. A guitar solo leads us out of its expectant grind through an expansive flow of uplifting acoustic guitars before driving us into its hellish conclusion. Bursts of relentless blast beats exchange blows against the visionary roar of trumpets, strings and screams of torment that swell in the swaying back and forth.

A fair amount of the songs gravitate around its expansive, atmosphere driven approach to dark, satanic themes. Its can be hit or miss, although the record maintains its commitment to a hellish world of deviance with an intriguing arrangement of instruments that doesn't always strike gold. Simultaneously there are moments where they do. Maybe its a matter of taste but unlike The Satanist, some of these dark alluring visuals conjured through roars of devoted voices and the subtle inclination of stringed instruments don't reach the same heights. It does what's expected where its predictable and lingers adrift from greatness in its most ambitious narrative. Despite this nitpicking of response to their ungodly music, its a fully formed enjoyable record.

Favorite Tracks: God = Dog, Bartzabel, Angelvs XIII, Sabbath Mater, We Are The Next 1000 Years
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 19 October 2018

Dir En Grey "The Insulated World" (2018)

The bizarre, psychedelic album art is a fitting match for Japaneses titans Dir En Grey's latest project. The unconventional elements in their approach to Metal music is captured through the lens of my own interpretation. The human face represents the normality of this distortion soaked, aggressive music. Its soft neon, geometric cycloids insight the layer of exceptional and all unusual that mostly emanates through front man Kyo. In reality its probably related to lyrical themes beyond my western scope.

Kyo's vocal range is distinct with clean pipes and hurtling screams where both get stretched into avant-garde performances as he uses his voice as an inhuman instrument. This of course is helped greatly by the language barrier, leading much of his conventional singing to expose the emotional performance with the Japanese words inciting ambiguity and sounding mysterious. Time and time again he rises through the onslaught, like a dancing beacon, a torrent of urgent expression.

 Although the record opens with pounding drums, thudding guitar riffs and some bludgeoning death howls from Kyo, Its heavy aggressive start steadily gives way to an articulate musical world of artsy songwriting that frequently shifts the norms with expansive guitar playing. Firstly they stir a rattle with discord and spastic timing. Some of the most memorable moments coming from the cohesion of instruments as the mammoth bass guitar patrols the underbelly with its prowling presence.

The groups ability to pull together the unusual and make sense of it is striking. The result is music that feels continuously exciting. Progressing through the songs its better moments are found where the guitars give way. Their constant jolts of frenetic mania dilute into palatable atmospheres akin to Post-Punk and Post-Metal styling with a splash of color as the record grows and in these big climatic swells we find the best of the record. Overall its pretty fantastic yet all the unusual doesn't translate to memorable, its atmospheres are king.

Favorite Tracks: Devote My Life, Aka, Zetsuentai, Ranunculus
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 15 October 2018

Cypress Hill "III: Temples Of Boom" (1995)

It feels surreal to think that twenty three years have passed since Cypress Hill put together their third and iconic Temples Of Boom. With each record they continued to recreate themselves and this time the trio went down a dark avenue. The music videos went the same way too, resulting in MTV and radio refusing to play them. That didn't stop the record going gold and eventually platinum off their reputation alone. This was the first record I became obsessed with and if your familiar with my taste in music it should be no suprise as to why.

1995 marks a peak in the Mafioso Rap movement and despite the dark and violent, gang related themes, Cypress sidestep that particular narrative. It was when Hip Hop was transitioning away from bombastic sampling styles and production was growing towards sequenced beats and slick synthesized instrumentation. With retroactive ears Muggs's production gets a whole new level of appreciation. These beats hold up so well, Muggerud brings together the tightest kicks and snares samples, arranges them with a hard hitting, slick bombastic groove that resonates of dark vibes.

Track after track is hypnotically dark. Deep rumbling baselines glue the power and jive of the drums with their evil and menacing sampled counterparts. Muggs approach usually consists of ambiguous airy ambiences eerily lurking between the obvious instruments. With attentive ears much variety in that region, most notably cold icy pianos return frequently, playing upfront melodies but sometimes lingering in the distance. The mystic cultural vibe makes its mark here with the inclusion of the Indian sitar to bring about esoteric vibes between the beats. It builds up the unique feel of the record as well as the mythic terminology referencing the albums title and tracks like Stoned Raiders.

I will always put B Real in my top five, he is a phenomenal MC and criminally overlooked in the discussion of Hip Hops greatest. Every line on this record is fire, no filler. His nasal tone adds a sharp spice to his flow, giving his microphone persona a streak of attitude that requires no boasting. Its in the air tight delivery and variety of flows that keeps the goods rolling in from one song to the next. His ability to slip into half-sung hooks and killer refrains is timeless. His flows stealthily change pace and on tracks like Locotes they find a groove of their comparable to the beat itself. With Sen Dog chiming in and double tracking the best rhymes. His voice and lyrics hold up all these years later, still vicious and vigorous.

I'm not sure how many verses Sen gets on this record but as always his presences is illuminating, a great compliment to B Real. His roll as a backup man is never overplayed and easily underappreciated in the Cypress formula. No Rest For The Wicked has the group fire back at Ice Cube for stealing their hook and B Real is just an absolute monster with every line, from start to end. Its a savage diss track, almost on par with No Vaseline which he references with the line "No Vaseline, just a rope and a chair and gasoline". Brutal. Wu-Tang Clan's RZA and U-God turn up for some verses on one of the records dingy, dirtiest beats. A fitting match.

The record isn't all dark and shadowy, the lyrically ironic Boom Biddy Bye Bye lifts the mood with a memorizing piano melody looping over a warm, inviting baseline. The classic Illusions may sound a little nicer but its lonely atmosphere and paranoid lyrics quickly dispel the easy listening. A few beats do lean to a brighter degree but lets face it, its a darkened record. Strictly Hip Hop rests as a fairer beat setting a firm tone for the Hill to send out a clear message on the commercializing of the music. The lyrics read like biblical verses as B Real preaches some of the hardest truths on the business consuming the art form. Its my favorite song on the record and all these years later it truths hold up and Cypress Hill have proudly stuck by their integrity. A truly classic record, one of my first tens and perfection for my taste.

Favorite Tracks: Spark Another Owl, Throw Your Set In The Air, Stoned Raiders, Boom Biddy Bye Bye, No Rest For The Wicked, Killafornia, Locotes, Red Light Visions, Strictly Hip Hop, Everybody Must Get Stoned
Rating: 10/10

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Logic "Young Sinatra: Undeniable" (2012)

With only a few Logic mixtapes left on the list, my attention is drawn to how his recurring stories of personal struggles, proving his craft and defying the odds have extend all the way back through his records to this moment here, six years back. With an attentive ear one may also notice his voice is a little lighter and more youthful, something I was anticipating. Articulating his battles and ambitions Logic sounds as sharp and natural as everything Ive heard before. At some point I am expecting a dip but this is not It, intact for a fair portion of the record it has to be my favorite thanks to its avenues into classic 90s Hip Hop and the tight rhymes.

To my ears the record has four phases. Its opening tracks set the stage of his situation, his mission to prove himself, the actualization of its reality. The beats are tight, modern for the time, throwing in some piano samples fit for the classic era, illuminating with classic Nas lyrics for the hooks. In its second phase we get a string of Hip Hop's best. Biggie's Kick In The Door, Dr.Dre & Snoop Dogg with Deep Cover and A Tribe Called Quest's Electric Relaxation. Logic goes ham over these beats, toying with his technicality, flexing cunning rhymes, locking you in with his narrative. Its killer how he picks up untouchable instrumentals and puts a memorable mark on them.

Tic Tac Toe marks the third phase, its sudden beat switch to a sleek and swish club track sees a dip in quality as his subject matter becomes diluted and the lyrical successions are led more by his thoughts and the point hes trying to make. Its a long record at eighty four minutes and after a flurry of mood shifting tracks we land on Aye Girl, its summery popping synths and jaunting beat dazzles, prepping us for the forth phase as Logic once again picks up some classic instrumental to show his prowess on with the best of his rhymes.

Milkbone's classic Keep It Real, that plays like an AZ cut, Jay-Z's Bring It On from his slick Mafioso Rap debut Reasonable Doubt. Maybe its my love of these classic beats blinding me but it seems to bring the best out of Logic. The record has a couple more bright songs in it before ending on a really warm and endearing note as his fans call in, leaving voice mail messages over an emotional beat. Its a great way to tie up an important record for the young artist. He accomplishes a lot of within this record, only curation could of made the experience any better.

Favorite Tracks: Dead Presidents III, No Biggie, Disgusting, Relaxation, Aye Girl, Young Sinatra III, All Sinatra Everything
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 12 October 2018

Grouper "A I A: Alien Observer" (2011)

This record has safely made its way into my record collection thanks to its appraised placement in top Ambient record lists. Grouper is the name and behind it a lone musician, Liz Harris, who utilizes her delicate voice like an instrument. She adds an eerie sad loneliness with her solitary tone hazing the soundscape like a spirit drifting across the voids of space between stars. As the name suggests and possibly plants the seed, the atmosphere conjured feels distant, astral, unusual and alien. Yet its pleasant, spiritual and most importantly relaxing. This is a very warm and welcoming sound that flirts with ambiguity with innocence and safety in mind.

Unfortunately this music has not sucked me in all the way. Minimalism and ambience can often pay a price for its simplicity that leads to similarity. In the case of Alien Observer it doesn't feel all that unique. Liz has crafted a beautiful aesthetic of dreamy, weary instruments glazed in a mysterious low fidelity charm but the melodies that play through it are meandering and without intent even if childlike for the most part. Of course that can be a strength too in pursuing a vision but each track does little to stand apart as the experience seems to linger in the same spot.

All the songs feel the same. However Mary, On The Wall starts off with a music box melody. Its eerie background noise and slow pace creates a unique moment that vanishes as the notation concludes and rides us into the familiar wash of warm cloudy sounds. Liz's voice is magnificent, drifting through the cloudy ambience like a lost soul. Its endearing and in a couple of moments where she rises above the music with audible words it becomes illuminating but the instrumentals lack conclusion. Much of the record reminds me fondly of Julie Cruise. As a result the place we visit doesn't feel all to new and so it was an enjoyable record but didn't forge much to remember.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

40 Watt Sun "The Inside Room" (2011)

With exposure to just one song it only took a single listen to understand this project. Now that Ive gotten through the full record my initial reaction was practically complete. It happens every now and then, the music just makes sense of itself immediately. The five songs that are The Inside Room also stick rigidly to the formula heard at almost any moment of any given song. Its a one dimensional experience but that dimension is its own. 40 Watt Sun are an England based Doom Metal band born from two members of the disbanded Warning of the same genre. This record is their debut.

Slow and dark, brooding, corroding and groaning in pace, it has all the hallmarks of the genre but so often in music the aesthetics dialed to different degrees delineate its destination. Firstly the guitars gristle and wallow in a dirty, sludge of washing distortion guitar tone that plays drawn out power chords at a begrudging pace. The drummers symbols add to this haze as they constantly rattle and bleed into the noise, slicing in without a crash but echoing in the crevasse of the thick guitar tone. The bass provides a warm and steady footing to ground the experience with a deep softness.

Its not a particularly extreme sound. Despite being tonally gritty and sharp, its crawling pace makes an easy to follow setting as the music barely gets more ambitions than simple strings of steadily paced power chords. Where it all comes to life is with singer Patrick Walker who I will describe in the keenest of ways as being akin to Michael Stripe of REM. His voice has the same timber and holds a earnest vulnerability. His performance turns the darkness of Doom Metal into a personal, humanist struggle and strips it of all fantasy with his intimate, introspective and relational lyrics of hurt.

The music is simple, the whole record reveals itself swiftly with little in the way of surprises. It serves to put all the attention on the chemistry with their singer and has yet to wain in the several hours of enjoyment I have gotten from it. Id expect that to change at some point given the simplicity but I do wonder if that is its strength. It sets a tone and mood for the light to fall on Walker who puts on a captivating and emotional performance that makes the record glow. A worthy listen if you are curious.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

At The Gates "The Red In The Sky Is Ours" (1992)

My recent enjoyment of their latest effort, To Drink From The Night Itself, prompted me to finally get around to checking out a band held in high regards among the Metal elite. The Sweedish outfit have a near perfect score for this record over on the Encyclopedia Metallum. Its an ugly, gritty old school Death Metal record that does little conventional to charm and much experimentation to conjure a dark, broody wallowing atmosphere that would undoubtedly been more impressive in the context of 1992. Even if I Cast my mind back to the likes of Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Decide, Death, Hypocrisy and fellow Swedes Entombed, I couldn't specifically say why this record stands apart but I do have some hunches that become obvious on inspection.

Firstly the limited production ability of those times doesn't overwhelm us with thick, overtly loud and punishing guitar tones. Instead the instruments feel rather separated and sparse in comparison to what would of been common at the time. The result of which is music that's far less nauseating to follow and lets its melodic streak flourish in a limited sense of the word. It would be another two records before they would be associated with the emergence of Melodic Death Metal pioneered by Carcass. Here on The Red In The Sky Is Ours there is clearly an inclination to melody in its darker form over blunt force tonality and primitive rhythms.

After just a couple of listens it becomes very clear At The Gates are not trying to dazzle you with simple brutality, crushing grooves or bombastic syncopation. Many of the riffs feel non-circular and linear with some drawn out grinding leads and tremolo picking sequenced in shorter arrangements that cycle swiftly. The result is a spectacle of perceived oddity. With repetition it grows in vision yet the music always falls mercy to strange moments of unconventional riffs that stop the music in its tracks with drop outs between its notes. It is also characterized by the inclusion of folkish violins that both chime in and play linking interludes between songs. As stated before they don't immediately feel natural but end up making sense and leaving a memorable mark.

The unusual and strange runs deeper than its observations. The mood and tone of the record has vibrations unlike typical Death Metal. It leans towards atmosphere when its brooding tracks can culminate in layered guitar leads and violins that feel more visionary than primitive. But what is its vision? I am still unsure but I know it is dark and dimensional. In other times it drifts to the Avant-garde as its baselines plod to the forefront with a murmurous dance. The drumming arrangements seem to flop over from the battery of pounding atypical grooves into experimental sporadic shuffles of madness mostly helped on by a sloppy outdated recording aesthetic.

 Its clear the group attempted to write music that's complex, challenging and subverting norms within a subversive genre that has quickly established some boundaries. It has also produced results in doing so. A mysterious atmosphere brews through its endless string of experimental riffing that is continuously shifting, evolving, unwinding, providing delight and a unique mood to indulge with. Each listen uncovers another secret as one slowly dissects the arsenal of experiments crammed in behind the red haze of its ambiguous, red sky cover art.

Favorite Tracks: Within, Claws Of Laughter Dead, Night Comes Blood Black
Rating: 8/10

Monday, 8 October 2018

Autumn's Grey Solace "Eocene" (2018)

The consistency continues! Autumn's Grey Solace are one of my favorite groups from this "youtube era" of my musical addiction, maintaining a steady output of records through the years. After the disappointing Monajjfyllen I have been left thinking that the duo have essentially run out of ideas with little of their music feeling new or fresh. I also ponder if the powers of mood and timing play a roll in enjoying their unique Ethereal sound I adore so much. This new release Eocene embodies all that I feared in terms of originality yet it has been an absolute delight to indulge in.

Not a fraction of this record attempts anything unexpected. I know each of their other ten albums inside out and listen to this new shapter as if it were a greatest hits record. Singer Erin Welton once again blesses us with her lush and serine voice, indulging in lavish reverbs with the usual timings, demeanor and lack of lyrics. On most the songs she just cruises notes with her chords but on occasions her words are lost to a wall of reverb that quite often fills a small frequency range into a soft white noise keen ears will pick up on. Scott Ferrell again shimmers and glistens away on his effects soaked guitars. His production technique brings it altogether in an ooze of dreamy Ethereal sweetness, succulent in its helping of serine colorful melodies fit for the night.

For one reason or another the songs do indeed resonate with the best of what Ive heard them do before. Not every track tho, Untamed Flora for example sounds a little thin and short on composition. Its lack of depth lets its lead melodies stray into lulls. Most the songs transcend their parts and hit the emotions, which has been a problem for me when I understand the construct of their unchanging sound so well. Each song becomes a break down of previous drum patterns, vocal arrangements and exotic guitar sounds reassembled. This time it worked making for many indulgent listens.

Favorite Tracks: Gazing Across An Endless Sea, Echoland, Extinction
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Cypress Hill "Elephants On Acid" (2018)

I've been eagerly awaiting this record. The legendary Latin American Hip Hop group Cypress Hill have returned with their ninth album after an eight year absence. They were my first "favorite" group, as a young teen I became rather indulged and obsessed with their music. Binge listening and making copies of their records borrowed from the local library, I quickly came to know all their music very well and hold them in the highest regard. To this day I frequently return to their best records, Temples Of Boom being my favorite as the dark, spooky, mysterious Gangster Rap record with killer lyricism and timeless hooks. Going into this new record I had little in the way of expectations. It has been some time and anything can happen.

Elephants On Acid is a reasonable effort that does a fantastic job of establishing a distinct vibe and maintaining it. Cypress always had an exotic twist about them, using Latin lingo and inflections in the vocal department. At times their choice in sampling naturally leaned to Southern American and Eastern cultures, a niche characteristic. This record homes in on the latter with its sleepy esoteric atmospheres born of slower drum grooves, deep muddy baselines and the sprinkling of Eastern instruments to affirm an air of mysticism. In its second half the instrumentals start to brood in darker places. Locos, Insane OG, Warlord and Blood On My Hands Again unapologetically explore the creepier avenues of a dangerous vindictive world.

It is B Real who gives this record its merit. After eight years off the wax I had feared he may of aged but much like his live performances, he seems youthful and fully capable with a tight grip on the mic and his craft. Hes rocking the same nasal style, delivering lean raps with a weight of rhyme and wit that reminds me again how criminally over looked he is in the Hip Hop community. We may not hear his best here but he capably drops in plenty of steady flows, smart rhymes and one cracking line referencing Silence Of The Lambs. At his side Sen Dog seems unfortunately absent for many of the tracks, he is one to elevates the music with his unique chiming in. Even with a just small and simple roll he seems missed.

As discussed this record achieves a vision but unfortunately its a rather tame one even if distinct. The pacing is sluggish. Half baked instrumentals serve as brief interludes making up a quarter of the tracks. The main beats themselves are often indulged, brooding on atmosphere and the drum grooves rarely land with much intensity. Its obvious Cypress were going for this tone but the records best song, by no stretch of imagination, is Locos. The beat lands, its banging, the atmosphere serves it well and B Real is backed up by a mean sounding Sen Dog who throws in his aggressive call outs that land like threats. It the traditional formula and it works better.

It doesn't feel like there is much more to be said beyond going into specifics. Deep into the record hides Crazy, a song clearly trying to recapture the Insane In The Brain spark. To be fair its a fun track but once again the drum break just doesn't land with any intensity or groove. As much as Ive enjoyed these songs I really don't see myself coming back to the project to often. I commend Cypress for attempting to do something outside the scope of what you expect from a Hip Hop record. Its certainly nice to hear consistency and vision but if it doesn't bang its got to get something else right and I'm not sure what that's supposed to be on Elephants On Acid.

Favorite Track: Locos
Rating: 5/10

Friday, 5 October 2018

Revocation "The Outer Ones" (2018)

I have a strong connection to the Boston based Revocation. I caught their debut album Empire Of Obscene literately moments after it reached the blogspot scene. It was an instant connection and I regarded them as one of Metal's finest new acts, expecting them to rise to the top but it wasn't to be so. I still think they are criminally underrated but as the years stroll by and the excitement of "traditional" Metal wains I found myself becoming disinterested in them. This new chapter is a big step up from Great Is Our Sin, which in turn was a also a step up from the disappointing Deathless.

The group continue to firmly stick by their core identity of style and with that run the risk of repeating themselves. They call it diminishing returns, the first exposure always has the most impact but in the case of The Outer Ones they push the boundaries far, holding onto that distinguished character while creating a new and vividly animated universe of beastly Extreme Metal in the Revocation name. It holds up well to the ambitions conveyed by its spacial, maddening and slightly creepy album art.

The core tenants of brutality and Thrash hold true as forays into the antics of Technical Death and Progressive Metal bring about a detailed and dizzying web of indulgent music, punishing in tone but aesthetically gorgeous in delivery. Its production squeezes in the instruments with clarity and precision. As a result the bass guitar gets room to maneuver into focus with a luminous gritty texture in its select moments. David Davidson also stretches his voice down a peg with a significant amount of low, growling guttural vocals that land with a streak of menace, something he has clearly worked hard on. It gives the music many hair raising moments.

The music itself is a never ending sprawl of clever riff design and song structuring that creates a very specific atmosphere. I feel like a lot of the record gets caught up in the brutal aspect of their sound. Its the songs that offer the most respite from the slaughter that bring about the best moments, that and the guitar leads. These erupting solos evolve the songs, played with true intent and vision they time and time again mask the shifts of music and make the whole experience organic. That's frequently a tricky task for tricky music that is dexterous but often mechanical and without feeling.

This record has brought the utmost enjoyment, yet as I touched on, it is the subversion of the core tenants that bring about the magic. If Revocation where to explore directions that stray from the roots I am confident they would find gold. In a few brief instances I am reminded fondly of Opeth, a band that utilize clean vocals exceptionally well. At many times I felt the music was yearning for that but most likely that is my own taste exerting itself on a punishing and brutal record that for over half of its duration is dancing in the swamps of mean and ugly guitar playing brought to the mercy of groove and sensibilities. Its a cracking listen for any Extreme Metal fan.

Rating: 8/10
Favorite Tracks: Blood Atonement, Vanitas, Ex Nihilo, A Starless Darkness

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Brockhampton "Iridescence" (2018)

The Southern American, self proclaimed boy band is back! Brockhampton are riding the hype wave after a successful 2017, releasing their trilogy Saturation I, II & III within eight months, to much critical acclaim. I liked their music in patches but this new release Iridescence brings about much needed cohesion as the album experience takes a firmer grasp on its fusion of Pop and Hip Hop. Its typically eccentric and wild but between its quirky off beat attitude, pop melodies on pianos, more singing and catchier choruses anchor down an important sense of direction for the listener.

In some senses its style is all over the place. Obnoxious Hip Hop oriented lyrical themes slam up side against soothing melodies and wooing vocal lines that seem to sway back and forth from one another. That is the charm though and it plays out both thematically and aesthetically too. Crunking dirty beats with gritty samples quickly disintegrate as harmonious sing and chorals take charge, often with luscious strings and pianos behind them too. A few tracks straddle the middle ground like the second half of Weight and Tape as Jazz Hop vibes emerge with soft boom bap grooves.

One strength this record has that didn't feel quite so on previous albums is the amount of voices. With over ten members there is quite the range of tones to be found in the music. It plays to each of their strengths, as you might expect. Those who sing find their moment in the lush instrumentals, the energetic, obnoxious hyped up raping lines over the oddball, boisterous beats. Its the ground between that excels. When transitioning, a lot of creativity and cohesion in the directional shifts comes through from the human voice and the individual quirks they posses in bulk.

Not much of the lyrical content peaked my interest. Words sometimes do that with me, I think the instrumentals overpower my focus as their is quite the stretch of style and attitude at play here and its in a constant state of flux, routinely moving back and forth yet feeling natural and fluid. Its a very creative project that I have much appraisal for but on a personal level it doesn't connect as strongly as I know it will for others. I think this group have much potential and on Iridescence its certainly coming to life.

Favorite Tracks: Where The Cash At, Weight, Tape, J'ouvert, San Marcos
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Avenged Sevenfold "Black Reign" (2018)


Its that time of year, the shopping season is upon us, perhaps explaining why we see an increase in bands dropping EPs in the months leading up to Christmas. Avenged have scraped the barrel for a B-Side in the instrumental Jade Helm track. Its a strange track of build ups and grooves that have these awful pauses, lasting too long to keep time of the beat and anticipate its return. Maybe vocal rhythms would of tied this space over but without them the song sounds like a bunch of sub par riffs stitched together with shuffling, over involved drum patterns, things left out from other songs.

Before it three songs play that fans may be familiar with. Turns out Avenged have been collaborating with the Call Of Duty franchise for a few years and these songs are from the successive soundtracks of the Black Ops games. The first track Mad Hatter being the most recent stands out as a firm favorite. Its their only new material since the magnificent The Stage, can barely believe its been two years already! The singing style, composition and quality of riffs really reflects the maturity of that record and so we receive a well written track with a luminous mid-tempo break in the middle. It cruises from acoustic guitars into an epic guitar solo, shredding heights and erupting back into the song main riff, riding it like a wave.

I can't speak too highly of the other two tracks, they are from further back in time when Avenged where less appealing to me. A couple of moments appease but what I like of their sound is only present in fractions. If anything the one song is a good sign that they are keeping on track and capable of continuing to write on form. As for the record itself, its simply a stitching of extra songs to promote the new single.

Favorite Track: Mad Hatter
Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Dizzee Rascal "Don't Gas Me" (2018)

I really enjoyed Raskit released last year. It signaled a return to form from the UK veteran and this five track digital EP may even top it. Don't Gas Me gives off carefree vibes, artists having fun with the craft and enjoying the moment. If there was curation involved or not, these five songs are tight and precise, giving nothing but the goods. Firm instrumentals and keen rhymes let each tracks theme emerge with ease as Dizzee brings on some excellent features for the last three of five songs.

An almost cliche 90s Dance beat opens up the record with the title track. Its pumping energy, slapping claps give way to night time sirens and a dirty obnoxious synthetic base that grooves to its own accord. When Dizzee gets into his rhymes its all fun and games built on a firm flow, throwing in fun, silly rhymes about appletizer and getting his car clamped. Deeper into the track he reinforces the playful nature with goofy high pitched rhymes on the end of a string of words. Its greatly amusing while showing off his talent and ability to make great music.

Quality makes for a great follow up track as the instrumental pulls on summery 90s sounds and Dizzee gets more serious with introspective lyrics that drops into bursts of rapid rhymes. He sounds fantastic, on form. The features start with Skepta who I last heard on More Life. The two exchange verses but I think its the younger generation, P Money and especially C Cane who impress. Their youthful energy and opertunity to reach new ears plays up some fantastic flows and rhymes from the both of them.

The closing track swings things back to where it began with another 90s Dance beat and punchy synthetic base lines. Some subtle Dub vibes are brought to light as Afronaut Zu lights up the track with Reggae inflicted singing in the chorus. All in all its a fantastic but brief encounter that has a carefree Dizzee orchestrating some easily enjoyed tracks to keep fans happy until the next full length project. Wwith more songs attached this could of easily been that. These are no b-sides here.

Favorite Track: Spin Ya
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 1 October 2018

Logic "Young Sinatra: Welcome To Forever" (2013)

The Logic journey continues with this mixtape and I might just hold off from his recently YSIV until Ive made it back to the starting line, another four releases. The new record is actually continuing where this left of since Logic didn't touch the Young Sinatra name between this and that. The new record also has a track called Wu-Tang Forever with the entire Wu-Tang Clan... that is something I absolutely need to hear!

To jump straight to the point Welcome To Forever is fantastic but flawed collection of songs. This is a very "of the moment", raw, youthful and energetic record full of life. Its also rather bloated at seventy three minutes with tracks that frequently drift from the core tone, both lyrically and instrumentally. Its beats play from the 90s to the Kanye era and into the origins of auto tune and Trap style production that was coming into its own five years ago. Kicking of with snippets of KRS-One the album is loaded with bold sampling from the likes of Ice Cube, Drake, Pusha T, Kendrick Lamar, paying a firm tribute to the Hip Hop universe. Unsurprisingly Frank Sanatra turns up and so do Parliament of the samples I caught. He also uncannily mimics the Down To Erf rhyme, flow and cadence on his A Tribe Called Quest tribute, its got to be a reference!

Logic puts himself on the stage for judgement by rapping over the classic Ms Jackson beat by Outkast. Its a firm statement but becomes across with a keenness and passion for the craft, a young artists with it all to give. Its endearing and when his lyrics go into that "prove yourself" zone the music is illuminated. This record also includes many features and talks about his Rat-pack collective, a lot more than Ive heard before. His lyrics bring us into this moment where is hard work is paying off and its time to shine with his friends. I'm not sure who's who but Dizzy Wright lights up the incredible Young Jedi instrumental as the record strides into its strong final phase.

Many of the modern instrumentals are paired with the less engaging topics. It just so happens to be my favorite instrumentals that have Logic flexing his vocal prowess with impressive rhymes and flows. He paints the picture of this moment, walking us through his struggles, the deal with Def Jam and doing what he loves, working hard and putting out this mixtape with the debut album in the works too. In those tracks this is golden, its ties to Hip Hop through samples and references feel so genuine and passionate, unfortunate its patchy, caught in a haze of varied instrumentals. Trimmed down to its best there is a solid forty minute experience here.

Favorite Tracks: 925, The Come Up, Nasty, Young Jedi, Common Logic, Just A Man, Man Of The Year
Rating: 7/10