Friday, 30 November 2018

Tyler The Creator "Music Inspired By Illumination & Dr. Seuss' The Grinch" (2018)

Lets cut to the chase, this musical project is fantastic! Coming off the back of last years critically acclaimed Scum Fuck Flower Boy, a similar instrumental pallet is put to use on this Christmas EP that lasts only ten minutes. Every second however is lean and slender, a genuine Xmas record that balances the festive theme with its classy persona wonderfully. Quite often it is just the suggestion alone that makes you notice the season. It seems Tyler was genuinely inspired to make music for the new Grinch movie, of which two additional songs appear on its soundtrack.

With bright shiny synthesizers, punchy warm baselines and stuttering goofy Hip Hop percussion, Tyler composes cheerful music without forcing the mood or overtly wording a holiday theme. Instead he lets his guest vocalists Ryan Beatty and Santigold set the tone with endearing Pop & R&B vibes before dropping in with gentle wholesome raps about returning home to a loved one and pouring hot chocolate with cinnamon on top. Santigold lays down the hooks and Ryan soars with ascending notes reminiscent of Micheal Jackson when hes adding in a backdrop layer of vocals.

The tone is sublime and on closer inspection festive pianos, wintry bells and cascading strings deploy some more expectant holiday melodies but all tuned in with one another. There is a smooth, joyous cohesion, the chemistry and quality of the compositions outpaces any of the drag that comes from seasonal cheers and lets this project occupy a classy, soothing spaces that's indulgent, relaxing and really wholesome. I'm truly impressed, would love for more. Ten minutes is not enough!

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Old Tower "The Book Of Ages" (2015)

 Now we arrive at the roots, a debut release for Dutch wizard Old Tower. Fourteen minutes of creaky, fumbling Dungeon Synth. Amateur and hazardous in nature, its futile attempts to conjure atmosphere and mystique fall flat on the back of inexperience and lack of vision. Its a typical entry level record similar to many who have stepped into the genre with the likes of Mortiis and Burzum on the mind. With spurious shifts between often singular, low fidelity synth tones the music drifts from one to the next with little beyond its imitations to grasp at. Its cuts to deep foreboding voices, far to ambiguous for comprehension signal a narrative that alludes me.

It does in one or two moments match a key tone to its spooky aesthetic for moments of intrigue. Its attempt to cast a soundscape of medieval battle with the sounds of burning fires and swords clashing reminded me of my own folly into similar ideas with the end of Eternal Myst from my Forgotten Conquest album. It puts to mind my own personal experience adventuring into Dungeon Synth and how my own passion may not be conveyed in amateurish enthusiasm. As harsh as Ive been there is no doubt passion was put into this project and its second half does shape up better but overall its forgettable and I'm glad I didn't start here as great things were to come.

Rating: 2/10

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Strapping Young Lad "No Sleep Till Bedtime" (1998)

I thought I might pass this record by as I often do with live albums but seeing the the additional two tracks left over from Heavy As A Really Thing, I figured why not? Pretty swiftly was I reminded of how brilliant live recordings can be. It kicks off on a sweet note as Devin sings us into the madness with a choral arrangement to lead into the opening two from City. Its as vibrant and vivid as the studio records. The guitars, drums, bass and vocals have an exuberant energy, making a ferocious racket! Their performance is swell and behind them a dense layer of synths and industrial aesthetics seem firmly intact, probably the same tracks lifted from the studio. Its hard to imagine that level of nuance and required cohesion working in the live setting.

Our god Devin Townsend's singing is phenomenal. Now a lone voice without production magic at his aid, his fierce screams, leaping roars, soaring cries and immaculate clean singing feels both immediate and necessary as the performance drags you into the heart of the emotional experience he draws from. As the show progresses Devin never tires and between songs when talking to the crowd his comedic nature and ridicule of the spectacle shows fondly with humorous lines and jokes for the crowd. Its most so on Far Beyond Metal, a track from The New Black I forgot used to be a live only track. It is the least Lad sounding of all but clearly more suited for them than his solo material and a vessel for his cheese.

After a riveting seven songs it ends with that song as the tape runs out. A fade out without talk of goodbyes and audience cheers is a bummer but it would been more of a shame to of ruled out the release of this excellent live set. To fill the void Japan and Centipede revere their heads as songs clearly a peg lower on the frenetic, chaotic scale that Dev rammed to the max with the first SYL record. Both are sprawling atmospheric types that subvert their bombastic riffs and sustain a sense of heightened atmosphere. Centipede is the chunkier of the two with a bigger guitar presence and moments of elevated intensity but they both suffer from poor quality as static and peak clipping plagues the crowded moments. Its not too much of a bother, so overall its a really great listen for any SYL fan! Shame the live show was cut short.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Vince Staples "FM!" (2018)

Ive been keenly awaiting the next Vince Staples project. As a rapper he is a fair talent but on the instrumental front he is rocking a fresh sound that draws in some strong House and Dance music influences to Hip Hop. This newest record FM! has some interludes and snippets of a radio show that gloss a theme on top of stellar songs. At a mere twenty two minutes most the tracks are short and given the repetitive nature of lopped instrumentals this swift record whizzes by. It always ends too soon, leaving you wanting another immediate spin as its infectious beats linger in the mind.

At the surface, the beats took most my attention. Vince puts engaging hooks over the top and his rhymes are tight, often delivered with a slightly slurred swagger. It gives his flows a liquidity as his sentences ooze and the words sway to form an shapely cadence. His inflections are slightly nasal and the nature of his flow lets his lyrics gel with these keen beats. When he exaggerates the words they often morph into memorable hooks. Relay's "scanner and hammer" as "skinner and himmer" just works despite being skewed. Its all chemistry but digging deeper into his words theirs a lot of vivid lyricism skimmed down to a point. At times it can be a dark ride along.

These instrumentals by Kenny Beats pop! Tight snaps, claps and snares bounce and groove off sub bass kicks doubling as low end melodies, shifting through multiple pitches. Between them textured hi hats rattle in fast shuffles, spaced generously on stereo. The space often occupied by samples are a treat of quirky, synthetic spaced out melodies, often minimal, taking advantage of minimalism and the textures available. Its got the grit of the streets, yet can drift to the estranged and exotic. Of course these moods find their way to banging hooks too as Vince cries out to each of the sides "who bout that life" as the calls drift to death and darkness swiftly.

I adore this project. Its all about quality over quantity however its glossed over radio theme feels a distance to the meat of Vince's lyrics. Its interlude tracks are inconsequential and mediocre at best. They fluff up an extra couple of minutes and the Earl Sweatshirt hype track is an underwhelming twenty seconds. With Kanye, Pusha T and quite a few other artists releasing short projects this year it seems like a positive trend. I'm really glad Vince took this approach and the final track is a peach with Kehlani Parrish bringing powerful effeminate singing to the fold. Great record!

Favorite Tracks: Relay, Run The Bands, No Bleedin, Tweakin
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Turnstile "Pressure To Succeed" (2011)

My praise and adoration for this band is growing fast. Listening backwards from the heights of Space & Time I expected a decline but the reality is their evolution as a somewhat eclectic band started in a strong place. Without their expanded pallet of styles we land on the origin point of pure energetic Hardcore aggression fondly reminiscent of Biohazard and Dog Eat Dog. This is their debut release, a short EP of six songs spanning fifteen minutes. Its all killer no filler, the formula is straight forward and to the point. Stomping rhythm guitars patrol, slamming drums reinforce the dynamic shifts between fast and mid tempos to give the beat downs a grooving edge. Brendan Yates stands out front with higher pitched yells and shouts to rile up the adrenaline as his words often queue in the shifts from one temperament to the next.

With very little beyond the scope of expectation it boils down to the quality of guitar riffs that lead the way and boy do they have the eminence to thrown down hard. The whole music can't be about punch line riffs and break downs. Their verse and build up riffs, all the bits in between, keeping the energy flowing with a disposition for excellence. Sometimes it seeps out with some prominent baselines and discordant guitar sections too. Best of all two songs embolden the tone with a very particular flavor of guitar lead I can't quite pin down, it reminds me fondly of Swedish Metal and stands out over the rest of the music, adding a new moody dimension of expression. That and the utterly riveting slam sections for the dance floor are buzzing on this record. Pressure To Succeed makes a feast out of its short duration. Great debut!

Favorite Track: New Rules, Pressure To Succeed
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Fief "IV" (2018)

A joyous smile swept across my face upon receiving news of this forth chapter by Medieval Fantasy musician Fief. Despite being a predictable set of instrumental songs, the knowledge of new music to command the imagination and transform ones surroundings was precisely what I was in the mood for. Seven songs, twenty eight minutes and illustrious harp-like instruments dancing in display, this newest installment leaves me with little to say I haven't already.

Once again we have uplifting melodies played on a variety of gleaming string instruments. Several layers of these form acute and splendid music that frolics through an innocence lost to time. Always keen of spirit and festive, Fief brings about visions of enchanted gardens, natural beauty and adventure without consequence. The wholesome melodies conjure our romanticism towards the best of kingdoms and landscapes lost to the perils of time.

Clearly composed with VSTs and a dose of soft reverbs, the crisp production lets the color of the instruments fill the spaces. A simple and pleasing construct for melodies one could imagine being played for kings and queens of forgotten monarchs. It is as keenly focused on one vision as its predecessors. No surprises. However the closing tracks guitars, playing in tandem, sparks a strong emotional reaction, perhaps it is a tad more exceptional than the rest.

Favorite Track: The Waiting Hearth
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 23 November 2018

Old Tower "Keepers Of The Ancient Flame" (2015)

Mistakenly I thought this was Old Tower's first release that I had selected to enjoy next. I learn now this is actually the second. It has the expectant inklings of an early form, music yet to mature to its distinction and baring the more common tropes of the genre. As one eighteen minute track uniting five individual songs it has some charm however its production is yet to allure to those deep and foggy reverberations that bring about meditative states. Its final song does make use of the organ we often hear this paired with but at this stage the music usually focuses around a single, isolated instrument, forming dull and lonesome atmospheres of degradation and decay.

In its opening tracks a forlorn world is envisioned. Sounds of ambiguous destitute create eerie rumblings as winds of secluded whispering voices dance around a solitary instrument. The atmosphere is decrepit and ruined, only echos remain of the horrors once held. The arrival of bright synths turn the tone away from ambiguity only to be interrupted by the growing presence of bothersome rumblings and a crashing strike of lightning unleashes a spooky horn like voice, murmuring, communicating from the depths under the soft pattering of rain. 

From that point we don't return, the punchy, colorful synths glisten us through a simplistic fantasy realm of gleaming horns echoing softly into themselves. Its cloudy and scenic but quite the departure from the gloom and mystique before it. After that the organ signs the record off on a lull after some owl hoots and creepy sound design but its doesn't flow. For a listener a handful of different ideas are put together with not much cohesion however they are all of similar realms which the song names hint at. Its a fair record and I did enjoy my listening.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Sleepy Sun "Fever" (2010)

Californian Rock band Sleepy Sun's sophomore record is a musical experience I hold in high regards. Its peaks echo shivers of the greats, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and King Crimson vibes produce goosebumps however this is no nostalgia act. Fusing elements of Rock music's broader spectrum, Stoner and Psychedelic Rock vibes dominate the focus with touches of Progressive and Post-Rock coloring an ever organic unraveling of vision through inspiration. Composed of nine tracks its one of those records that commands to be lived in full. Traversing its peaks and valleys, electrified eruptions of ecstatic guitar leads engulf acute atmospheres that then descend and dissipate into sombre strolls of folksy acoustic yearnings and surfing psychedelic ambience. Suspense yearns in the shadows it casts.

 Opening with sun soaked melodies to relax the soul, rousing flares of fiery guitar noise break up the harmonica jams and earnest singing, to lead us into tribal jungle jams and choral chants. Its a naturalistic flow that Rigamarro holds over with a soft and dusky bongo led acoustic piece for the eruptions to begin again on Wild Machines. Led on by whistling tunes, unleashed swells of overdrive tonal guitars sludge out a short lived groove that eventually blossoms into a unrestrained force of inspiration as it scales up to a climax. The dynamic is riveting and Ooh Boy and Acid Love tie us down through a shift in tone as we absorb in the anticipation.

With Desert God the record tugs on the heart strings, its careful build through distant rumblings under its timeless melody at front and center let vocalist Rachel Fannan allures us with a soft, serine singing that will soon soar into a roaring of soulful voicing to rumble your belly. Its wholly captivating but far from over. With a flickering percussive rhythm of stick slapping and exotic psychedelic chord reverberations, Open Eyes sways between its entrancing grooves and falling to the soft and comforting breaks, teasing what to come. Eventually it swells up into a dramatic rise, taking both components, elevating and uniting them towards an epic hieght.

Freedom Line brings about some attitude, a sassy baseline purrs with its punchy, binary presence. The withdrawal of guitars gives drummer Brian Tice focus to vibrate a rigid groove that builds its complexity in fractions. We then come to the monumental Sandstorm Woman, a ten minute saga to see the record out with an indulgent high as we descend deep into kaleidoscopic psychedelia. Its colorful construct feels full circle as the return of the harmonica sounds. Its mid tempo pace is challenged by a roaring guitar lead that wails itself into existence. As quick as it came it disappears back into the wash of luminous radiance that is a band in unison.

The song goes on to scale further heights, a remarkable flow of inspired brilliance. This album is gorgeous, its aesthetic has texture, tone and flavor. It captures the spirit of old recordings and feels electric, as if the band were in the room with you. The drum kit sounds especially lived in, the use of effects and reverberations allows the record to ebb and surge. Their performance has a self aware, electric dynamism that the musicians seem to relish within. I can't think of anything bad to say about it other than some tracks are more preferable to others but everything fires on all cylinders and there is much packed in these forty two minuets that you won't be able to forget.

Favorite Tracks: Marina, Desert God, Open Eyes, Sandstorm Woman
Rating: 9.5/10

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

At The Gates "Terminal Spirit Disease" (1994)

This is the record I have been expecting to hear. Swedish band At The Gates, labeled as Melodic Death Metal, had yet to reach the iconic sound pioneered by Carcass with their Heartwork album of the previous year. Taking a bold step towards a slicker, cleaner sound the band also shape up their compositions into simpler forms. While they do retain some dissonance and unusual approaches to riffing, the music comes together through simple song structures and a focus on the melodies rising from the aggressive construct of battering drums, darkly distortion guitars and fierce screams.

The move forward is fantastic, however to call this an album is a bit of a stretch. Packaged along side three additional live songs, we only have six Metal songs and one fantastic acoustic guitar interlude with And The World Returned. Its the only track to include signature stringed instruments and the seven songs only make up twenty two minutes, however short and sweet is preferable when the bar is set this high.

The record is especially enjoyable from a retroactive perspective. All the tropes and expectant riffing styles of Melodic Death hit from different angles with a unique tone. The band are still transitioning and with that comes the tremolo shredding strings across two guitars exchanging dissonance and harmony in a bright setting. The typical tune chugging, string jumping riffs get interchanged in between and with colorful, energetic drumming all the components gel as abridged sections form with variety.

All components gel sweetly and the guitar leads occasionally burst into life with memorable solos. Its all really good stuff. Perhaps only singer Lindberg is fractionally tiring with his beastly howls and throaty cries becoming drab as they rarely change. I tend to zone him out when listening, its the music below his roars that is great and even riveting on its best songs with riffs the leap out. I can understand on lot more about their place in Scandinavian Metal's history from this record and am very much excited for Slaughter Of The Soul, their last record before splitting up.

Favorite Tracks: Terminal Spirit Disease, Forever Blind, The Fevered Circle
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Dead Can Dance "Dionysus" (2018)

Blessed we are to have another Dead Can Dance project on our hands. After a six year absence the duo return with a mid length, sweet and exotic piece of music. Its around seven songs split into two sixteen and nineteen minute tracks. Through the journey of this blog I have been digging into their catalog and unearthing several gems, Aion being the first. They compose and perform meditative, spiritual music inspired by historical, cultural and worldly sounds. Time has not been a hindrance, this release is fondly inspired and fit to sit among the best of their wonderful discography.

The first act is luscious, exotic and wild. A modern production doesn't particularly give the duo anything they couldn't achieve already but its crisp and silky aesthetic has the percussion popping. Earthly choral singing over viola strings sounds dazzling too. It has a warm climate feel that plays out with powerful melodies conjuring deep earthly moods, reinforced by vocal cries of emotion from under the building layers of exotic instrumentation. Its a very primitive and rooted experience, a scenic interlude of rain, howling and chirping of wildlife grounds the link between these songs as its final piece goes into a primitive trance. One can envision star splattered night skies, camp fires, ritualistic dancing and singing around the glowing flickers of flames.

The second act feels colder and humanistic, the pace and tone turn to a nightly setting and Perry brings mysterious language to his singing. Brooding cultural voices and dazzling melodies stir up a climatic build up on the following song. Its another engrossing atmosphere and then The Forest really throws things back in time with a warm, upfront and gently bouncing baseline giving the track a Post-Punk feel, going back to their roots as a band. The singing is gorgeous, enriched by worldly travel. Its the albums peak as the following song slowly winds things down quietly as the record drifts back into the shadows from which it came. Its a brilliant record that does the best of what these two are known for with exquisite execution. The inspiration is ripe and with that a wonderful thirty plus minutes of riveting music has been birthed.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Old Tower "Ruination" (2017)

In the age of ever changing release formats we have Ruination, The New Darn Cometh, simply a lone nine minute track of meditative Dungeon Synth, the defining style of Dutch musician Old Tower. Its another gloomy and atmospheric piece of brooding, darkly synth that could be placed right alongside The Rise Of The Scepter, released earlier that year. Its pallet and range of events are limited in scope but its sense power to conjure rural visions of dark, foreboding medieval times are on form.

Horns and trumpets of isolated glory sound of the song as a familiar vale of deep foggy synths mystifies its leading melodies, one can see a stoic castle being consumed by heavenly clouds sweeping in over cold and unforgiving moors of a harder time for man. Its crawling pace steadily brews its way towards a break of soft choral choirs that allure in gong strikes and a sense of epic that drifts gently out of focus without a peak. At its end a murmurous melody of lonely mischief winds out the last minutes of the song on a whimper. As a reasonable song packaged within a short project, the music yearns to be part of something bigger but is lonesome. Old Tower has a spell bounding and wondrous sound that I wish to indulge in for far longer.

Rating: 2/10

Friday, 16 November 2018

The Underachievers "After The Rain" (2018)

I was dead excited to see this in my inbox. Rap duo AK & Issa Gold are two bright sparks among a young generation of rappers. Their dark and esoteric Cellar Door - Terminus Ut Exordium was a distinct introduction to the duo however opening half of Evermore - The Art Of Duality has become a favorite a frequent back to. Its lyrics of overcoming struggle and rising up hit me hard. We get a little of that youthful wisdom on the opening Downpoor as the pair exchange themes of changing the world with positive metal attitudes in the face of a materialistic world that can consume a person.

After The Rain has been an enjoyable, reasonable listen where the instrumentals define most talking points. Lyrics circle the waters, recycling familiar topics with a lack of hard hitting lines as the vocals are mostly linear expressions with less wordplay than I would of liked. The production sounds expensive, a step up that might be sideways. It elevates their sound to a crisp, glossy tone that's a tad over polished, squeaky clean samples and drums come close to peaking in a vivid construct.

Its all mostly warm, bright and sunny sounds. A lot of colorful, jazzy and soulful instrumentation with a crisp punchy audacity. A plethora of guest singers gives many songs agreeable choruses with powerful, harmonious singing that steers in a pop appeal direction. Nightmares & Dreams, plus a couple others too, push it a little to far with the broad allure. When either of the two are not on the mic, it can be an unrecognizable sound with guests flexing their prowess with some beautiful singing.

Its a hard record to be dismissive of, The Underachievers pack a lot of powerful, potent empowering lyrics in the run time for a warm, uplifting listen. The instrumentals aim high, a very crisp production with some fantastic Jazz Hop beats. All the pieces are in place but something in the chemistry is just missing something. Perhaps it lacks some urgency or struggle about it. Everything is just to neat and nice, so its hard for any truly memorable songs to emerge. It lives in the shadow of their former works.

Favorite Tracks: Downpour, Let It Rain
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Strapping Young Lad "City" (1997)

With their first step a machination of musical extremity was haphazardly birthed and with the next it was mastered. Strapping Young Lad's and Devin's debut album Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing was an embryonic folly, glowing in the light of retrospection and with this next stride Devin Townsend recruits old time band mates Jed Simon and Byron Stroud alongside Metal veteran, beastly drummer and essential component of the SYL chaos, Gene Hoglan. Their first effort as a cohesive unit was defined as "the heaviest record of all time". Despite many bands attempts to further extremify Metal aesthetics, none have brought with it the pure ecstasy of a truly emphatic emotional experience. In my opinion, the heaviest album claim still holds up to this day.

Opening with Velvet Kevorkian and All Hail The New Flesh, City quickly establishes its grandiose sense of self exaggeration and drastic emotional need. With the wobbling of dense electronic noises between Dev screams of intent, the thick wall of sound aesthetic makes itself known before the song kicks in with an absolutely punishing flurry of sound that Dev emerges from with a triumphant roar. Gleams of colorful light burst and tidal grooves erupt from guitars, crushing riffs through punishing distortions. The song elevates these aspects with Devin soaring his stunning voice high above as the music peaks into the heavens before collapsing from above into more over the top sonic guitar grooves. Its all stunning but the pure emotion in the voice of our Canadian genius is something never to be forgotten.

"Well gentlemen, a great amount of money has been invested into this project and we can't allow it fail". We have heard soaring melodic beauty dancing through duality with the primitive powers of groove and with Oh My Fucking God we descend into the madness of the latter. Dev takes all the extreme ideas of Death, Thrash Metal and Grindcore and throws them in the trash can, unleashing his trump card. Led by spurts of maniacal, schizophrenic screaming over hyperactive fretwork we are swiftly led to the mid track mania of over bloated industrial noise dispensing itself into every crevasse of space as all the instruments ramp up into a tornado of utter madness. Through the insanity Dev's nutty, deranged "la la lala" singing just peaks the madness with a cherry on top of this frothing cake of non-directional fury.

The madness isn't over yet! Detox returns to the opening formula of vocally led melodic soaring as Dev cries for his wishes of sleep. Bouncing back and forth with jugular grooves the song hides a trick up its sleeve as when you think it can't get any better he unleashes a rip roaring, pop sensible power chord riff that peaks another sense of emotional purity emanating through the vocal chords. Its a gracious moment. Home Nucleonics sounds like a race of a cliff. More berserk guitar riffs rival up against the unrelenting feet of the beast Hoglan. The song fires through its arsenal of neck snapping riffs like a drill, whilst smothered itself willingly in industrial dissonance.

With its finest of extremities unleashed, the rest of the runtime gets to mature in various directions. AAA dials back the over the top nature, teasing it with its build up of suspense, letting the band show the building blocks of their sound. Great riffs, stunning screams, still with a dense web of electronic noise and powerful drumming, it draws that line it the sand to prove both the music and aesthetic at play is brilliance. Underneath The Waves has a more traditional metallic tone at first but Dev once again fires up the sparks with his neurotic, demented singing that swiftly ramps up the musical energy to the SYL elevation. The synths get more involved in the wall of sound here, a fitting tone to passionate screams from a tiring soul.

Room 429 is the track to make a separation from all heard before. A theatrical approach is taken by the group to create a circus of distant dread that lets some less exhausting ideas flourish. It does sound like the perfect stage for Dev to unleash his humor but fortunately he steers from any cheese. City closes with Spirituality, a slow morphing of atmosphere that sounds like a Post-Metal approach to the wielding density of this Industrial soundscape. Slow chugging stomps of guitars march through apocalyptic soundscapes of warfare as electronic synths let off like missile strikes. A couple of minutes in the song attempts to turn pace with vocals and sludgy grooves. It slowly builds, unable to unleash as the steady march confines it to being a sign off song. Its a really fantastic note to end a remarkable record on.

My passion and enthusiasm for this record is obvious. I only hope a reader could find this connection too. Of the best of the best, City has held up over the years as an unending source of adrenaline release and deep emotional resonance. Its such a dense sounding record that its masterful manipulation of sound waves has me forever engaged with that textural space between all the obvious. There is so much going on it can sound fresh with every listen. Devin Townsend is an utter genius and even under the guise of over the top Metal extremity can he make it truly meaningful. All that's left to be said is Strapping Young Lad rocks my hairy anus!

Rating: 10/10

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Logic "Young Sinatra" (2011)

I'm glad Ive worked through Logic's discography in reverse. This third mix tape, Young Sinatra, would have had a hard time luring me in without knowing whats to come. This is that point where a notable dip in quality occurs, or better stated, an artist in their infancy yet to fully blossom. Its a bloated seventy two minutes where Logic's reoccurring themes seem to regurgitate themselves several times within this one project itself. Ive heard so much of the Maryland rappers self assertion and tireless ambition that its getting a little tiring at this point, mind the pun.

Its an enjoyable project but the production is on the mediocre side. The beats tend to set an easy going tone within simple constructs of repetitive drum loops and warm sampling leaning to summery, jazzy vibes most the time. There is an undeniable 90s influence firmly in its stride and Logic too shows his influences lyrically. A lot of his future rhymes dazzle and impress on their own but unfortunately the best words heard on this project are mostly straight rewording of Nas and other classic lines of that era. To young fans they must sound killer but to an old Hip Hop head they don't get past. It leaves much of his lyricism firmly capable of getting a point across but the word play and attempts to be clever are often hit or miss.

Young Sinatra has a handful of tracks like "Are You Ready" that give of strong pop appeal vibes with overtly simplistic hooks and repetitive beats. There is also a sample picked up by Kendrick Lamar on Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe that can be heard on Addiction. Like the Young Sinatra: Undeniable mix tape, he has cuts rapping over classic East Coast beats from Craig Mack to Jay-Z and Nas to Mobb Deep. This time around he doesn't gives very little to the originals. As stated at the beginning this is an obvious drop in quality which of course is actually a step up on the next project. I enjoyed it when in the mood but this project doesn't leave much to be taken away.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Strapping Young Lad "Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing" (1995)

At the time it was musical genius Devin Townsend first solo release under the Strapping Young Lad moniker that would go on to become a fully functioning band by their sophomore album City. I'm astonished as to how far Strapping Young Lad has slipped from my mind, its been over a decade ago since I last binged on them. Its understandable how this embryonic sounding debut has drifted the furthest but Ive had a fantastic time rediscovering these oldies and the calamity of good and bad it is.

Reading into its backstory as the first Dev album, I discovered that it was born out of frustration with working for the likes of other musicians, Steve Vai and The Wildhearts. Devin wanted to write his own music and only Century Media would offer him a five album deal on the condition of making extreme music. The result is this mesmerizing, botched brew of angular ideas that would fail to capture anyone's attention, barely selling any units before future releases would bring retroactive attention to it.

Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing has all the hallmarks of an SYL record. An over the top wall of sound aesthetic. Stomping, slamming, brutal chugging guitars. Fierce and frantic screams, coupled manic roars and the occasional soaring of Devs clean range. Frequently synths wail in to further the thickness. Its a fusion of Death, Thrash and Industrial that has got all the right ingredients but its preparation and cooking is a botched brew. Its hard to praise at its surface but given a few spins there is plenty that's enjoyable and many familiar riffs, lyrics and moments reworked for later songs.

The production is sloppy and chaotic at best, the wall of sound comes together not through craft or design. Its slapped together with deliberate volume wars that more often that not find some haphazard cohesion. Distortion guitars often falter into choppy thuds of sound that loose sense of notation and become like a percussive instrument. Its mostly the ideas that lay themselves bare. When the guitars, drums or screams are being extremified its all to obvious. A majority of these moments tend to not lead anywhere but further into a sprawl of chaotic ideas. It even extending to a cheesy 80s synth beat on Cod Metal King but most his ideas will be heard with far greater execution on following projects.

These criticisms were more apparent at first glance but if you try to love something you often find reasons. Given how much I adore Devin's music it was all to easy to hear the links with whats to come. For a first timer tuning in it will be a much harder task. I'm a sucker for these songs, there is objective criticism all over yet through it I always hear something worthy of charm. Perhaps Drizzlehell is an exception. I really don't get along with that one. Otherwise its all fun, it has a mood, persona and strange vibrations that occasionally descend one into maniacal listening.

Favorite Tracks: SYL, In The Rainy Season, Happy Camper, Critic, Filler
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 11 November 2018

At The Gates "With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness" (1993)

Stripping back on some of its Avant-Guarde songwriting and non-metal instrumentation, bar sparing acoustic guitars, Swedish outfit At The Gates return with a sophomore album just doesn't spark any magic within me. Its dated, dull and dingy aesthetic dominates the mid ranges leaving a narrow feeling in the ears. Its a firm step backwards compared to The Red In The Sky Is Ours. The approach to riffing clearly has a keen experimentation in mind but not as fortuitous as before. Dissonant and moody tunes, plaid mostly through tremolo picking shapes up a resemblance of melody within its gloomy and pale tone. Sudden riff changes and energy shifts gifts the music when the chemistry works but dispels charm when the shifts make little sense, which is more often the case. Its such a consistent approach that the result is constantly hitting and miss. The good bits get buried fast.

I really gave this one a good go. Theie previous album revealed itself after some time listening but I believe the poor production value is a true hindrance in this case. I used words like gloomy and dingy in an unflattering sense. Often low fidelity aesthetic sparks imagination and vision when done right. In the case of this record it holds back the music with an uninspired tonality. Sunken within are a couple of good grooving riffs and gothic atmospheres but these are also in competition with the harsh and unfavorable howls that salt the wound of this ugly sounding record. I'm being harsh because this could of been much more. Its not awful, I can sit through and enjoy it on a mediocre level but ultimately is a disappointment worsened by its dreary production.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 9 November 2018

Turnstile "Nonstop Feeling" (2015)

One of the years wilder records has been Turnstile's cracking Space & Time. As the months rolled by its weight has grown, the blossoming familiarity of these infectious songs has had me on the binge many times. Its will probably make my favorite albums of the year list and so Ive been prompted to go back and give their older records a try. Upon first checking out the Maryland based Hardcore act, I found these older songs to be a little stale but understanding their intent and musicality better now this previous record sounds like a whole new beast! One i was totally wrong about.

Their vein of Hardcore is so clearly rooted in the guitar groove and Crossover camp, baring some momentary resemblance to the likes of Biohazzard. They have two things that make them stand apart and have gone on to master with Space & Time, curation and eclecticism. Firstly the band have a lot of riffs in the arsenal that they churn through. Its exciting and energetic but with short songs and linear structures they burn through a lot of fantastic composition swiftly, leaving your appetite ripe for another spin. There is something to be said about hearing the same riff over and over in the context of listening to a record three times, or the verse chorus structure.

On the second note, the band shake up their sound with passageways that deviate from distortion guitar led riffage. Sometimes colorful inflections diversify the tone and with a couple of songs they drop the core identity entirely. Its always an organic transition that seems shaped up to dull the monotony that half an hour of straight Hardcore can bring. Bleach Temple's effect soaked guitar leads are uncannily akin to a Killing Joke record and it perfectly fuses a chugging guitar beat down and gang shouts. With clean melodic singing Blue By You transforms into a Pop Punk song, the decent sort of course. The influences they show off manifest wonderfully.

Another thing that has struck me about this band is the lyrical maturity. Ive heard some lines that resonate with me greatly. The angered approach to real emotion reminds me fondly of the Rollins Band and some true wisdom shapes up in the words "There is no such thing as truth. We all have a filter. Got to let it through". This record sounded deceptively straightforward at first. Turnstile continue to impress me, I hope more of their back catalog reaches this level of flavorful  artistic output.

Favorite Tracks: Gravity, Can't Deny It, Bleach Temple, Addicited
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Strapping Young Lad "Alien" (2005)

Brainchild of musical genius Devin Townsend and emotional vent for his negativity and aggression, SYL stands alone as a vessel of extremity that other bands simply can't come close to. He is known as Hevy Devy with good reason, this is his domain where heavy goes above and beyond the sonic expectations of the time. His groundbreaking record City still holds up today and deserves its merit as one of the heaviest records of all time. Pioneering a modernized wall of sound production for Metal music, Devin has not just peaked the aesthetic approach but his unique personality and niche for composition emanates through the music. It puts him into that unchallenged place in the hearts of listeners. Alien is the only other SYL record to give City a run for its money and births one of Metal's best ever songs with a truly epic fusion of sing along hooks and monstrous grooves on Love.

Alien is a sonic experience, a whirlwind of fire and fury channeled through rhythmic grooves, exaggerated in the calamity of instruments howling together. If Dev has a partner in crime its Gene Hoglan. His distinctly jolting playing from behind the drum kit reinforces every strike and rhythm with endless flashes of dexterous rolls, hammering out maddening intricate patterns from atypical beats. He is a perfect complement to Devin's wall of sound approach, as its dirty crunching distortion guitars slam up against pounding baselines and a haze of industrial electronic sounds buried in the loudness. Its all propelled onward by slick pedals thumping in more electricity to the overflowing mess. I'm in awe of Hoglans machine like drumming.

The songwriting is prodigal. There is tandem between aesthetic and music, both extreme in nature, which can easily leave a record lopsided but the frustration and passion in Dev's immediate roars and blunt language, cries of "I hate myself" and the shrieking "fuck you" of Shitstorm mirrors all the emotional immediacy. Right as his scream burns every ounce of feeling, a sonic flood of high pitched synths fill the space as its the textural experience ascends. The path these songs take are sublime, fast turns through soaring heights into dizzying plummets cohesively following a narrative while bringing about an arsenal of unique riffs. When its applied in a more palatable sense with a formulaic song structure and a catchy hook you get the brilliance of Love.

With clattering drums,a scattering of subtle industrial noises and cutting synths the guitar plays a very centralized roll as the instrument pulling it all together. At times thick distortions play power chord arrangements but most impressively is the ramping up of production to extrapolate dense, gurgling chugs from palm muted picked grooves. In time with the guitars direction it can take on Djent like tones as Dev throws in obnoxious riffs that relish in the simplistic pleasures of absurd, over emphasized bends and open string chugs. Its a true head banging delight as its stamina charges through fields of unrelenting madness over and over again.

Alien kicks of with a racket. Front loading its most absurd, attention grabbing songs to then lead us though a more melodic pass for lack of a better word with Love and Shine. We Ride goes all out crazy with a battering of hard grinding riffs to unleash an unusual solo, clearly taking a different approach to the lead guitar that grows into the song. Then Possessions hits another climax with Devin deploying stunning infectious sections and continually upping the anti on them. In those two songs I feel like we hear more of the Dev you might expect on a solo project, except the music is extremified. Two Weeks give us a breather with a gorgeous, exotic and peaceful instrumental, it breaks the flow and the last two songs step in directions that don't quite come full circle.

With every listen I feel like its the type of record that needs to go out with a bang. There is no denying how utterly fantastic this record is and I am humbled to spoiled by rediscovering it. SYL will always be a favorite but with such a sea of music to drown in its amazing how much time can pass distant from music that's truly riveting. Strapping Young Lad where a huge deal growing up and I feel it is only right to do the rounds on their back catalog and cover a couple of records I never quite got to grips with. Looking forward to it. Can never get enough of the genius Devin Townsend!

Favorite Tracks: Skeksis, Shitstorm, Love, Shine, Possessions, Two Weaks
Rating: 9.5/10

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Soulfly "Ritual" (2018)

The years roll on by and Metal legend Max Cavalera, approaching fifty years of age, continues onward, devoted as ever to his distinct sound. This time the Soulfly project gets project some love, working with his son Zyon who delivers a battering from behind the drum kit. Much like Cavalera Conspiracy's Pyschosis, Ritual picks up some shared ideas in advancing the aesthetics of a style aging through this era of crisp production. It all sounds good but as the eleventh record of a relatively stagnant Groove Metal fusion, this latest Soulfly record has little in the way of surprise.

Born of the Nu Metal boom, Max's departure from Sepultura had him home in on the Groove Metal charm they helped pioneer with Chaos AD and Roots, while embracing Metal's latest trend of the time. As it died out the Soulfly project found its way through embracing elements of Thrash and Death Metal that solidified a distinct, settled indentity a decade ago. Any record since has felt without progression beyond that comfort zone but there is no denying Soulfly is fun and worthy of a good listen. Ritual however front loads the record with its best song, dropping its most infectious, groovy slamming riffs to bop to right at its opening. The rest of the music lives in the shadow of a cracking song worthy of the classics Max has composed over the years.

Everything else of the record is business as usual with a couple of stand out moments. Typical song structures and arrangements of bouncy, energetic, aggressive riffs go through the motions. Tracks like Under Rapture muster some excitement as the song erupts into fast thrashing guitars, engulfing vocals roar gritty, monstrous cries over a guitar shift, getting sinister with evil tremolo shredding. Feedback goes a different direction with obvious Motorhead vibes but its mostly the Pychosis blunt force approach to aesthetics in "over the top" moments that catch the ear here. Unfortunately its all a little to predictable to become more than the sum of its parts.

Rating: 5/10
Favorite Tracks: Ritual, Under Rapture, Demonized, Soulfly XI

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Iron Reagan "Dark Days Ahead" (2018)

If your looking for a fast and furious eight minutes of fist pumping mania, then Crossover Thrash outfit Iron Reagan have got your covered. Well beyond the heyday of Hardcore and Thrash Metal music meeting in the mid eighties, the five piece thrashers from Richmond Virginia revisit the sound with a modernized aesthetic, unrelenting intensity and bloodthirsty attitude. This is the best of them Ive heard so far and its a little jarring to think such high quality tracks wouldn't make the album cut.

From Authority to Watch You Die, the band lay down a furious pace spurred on by a thunderous snare that ricochets off lively, razor sharp distortion guitars, thrashing power chords back and forth, dizzying around the fret board. With songs lasting between one to two minutes they blitz through the riffage without circling back to the verse chorus formula. It propels the music forward, which is already running itself in a race of the cliff. Gang shouts and throaty yells of frustration and anger just further this rebellion of youthful energy and anger.

In the short space it occupies, the music finds degrees of techniques that span both edges of the Crossover sound. My favorite song, Patronizer, brings out some classic Slayer riffing style that leads into a wonderful explosion of ferocity as the gang shout cries out "pat-ro-niz-er". The following track also utilizes some of the Thrash Metal veterans sounds, its suits this band so well. Its five songs all offer something great and ultimately its too short for its own good! Can't wait for the next album.

Favorite Tracks: Patronizer, The Devistation
Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Lycia "In Flickers" (2018)

I'll always be interested in some Ethereal Darkwave from Lycia. If its their classic Cold or the more recent A Line That Connects, it conjures a meditative mood Ive truly grown to love. They were one of a handful of bands to drew me to this cold, soothing and introspective sound that tinges on psychedelia. In Flickers has the experience I expected, forty three minutes of bleak, gloomy and forever drifting music. Its gentle and sombre in its pacing, soothing and indulgent with its reverb soaked instruments. We float precariously in a stasis of limbo, with purgatory just beyond our vision. Its a beautiful place that does not need anything happy or upbeat to be so.

For a moment the record surprised me as its second song, A Failure, includes the use of bold buzz saw synths and a punchier precussive beat that gives it a little feet moving dance and gusto. This shaped up my expectation to potentially hear an unleashing of a potent twist on the bands well defined sound. Unfortunately it wasn't so. Another one, Mist, returns to the idea for its almost five minute duration but two out of ten tracks leaves a musical idea that clearly works thoroughly unexplored. The chemistry only seems to give another dimension without taking anything away.

Through its shades of intensity and reworkings of the slow, dreary gothic soundscapes each song possesses, Rewrite stands out for its embracing of of a thick, distant and haunting sound at the heart of the song. Possibly a distortion guitar, the sound is lavished in effect pedals and comes through dense wall of ambiguous shadows. Its climatic melody soars with an unsettling darkness. Its forever marching baseline drives the song stride forward through this darkness in epic wonder.

In Flickers has all the hallmarks, slow and soft drums patter at humble pacing. Reverberated synths build snowy, chilling atmospheres and the singing of duo Mike and Tara bring arcane chorals and deeply spoken words to the fold within the composition style. Its very enjoyable and suited to its particular mood, with only a few sparks that transcend expectation Id say its a fair record, one for fans of the sound and a great introduction for those curios in Darkwave and Ethereal music.

Favorite Tracks: A Failure, Mist, 34 Palms, Rewrite, Autumn Into Winter
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 2 November 2018

Greta Van Fleet "Anthem Of The Peaceful Army" (2018)

The lime light is upon these young Classic Rock enthusiasts Greta Van Fleet. The time has come, this is their moment. I was enthralled by Black Smoke Rising and lukewarm on From The Fires but very much excited for this, their highly anticipated debut. With the first couple of listens I couldn't get along with much of it but with persistence I pushed through and found that the record is plagued by misfires that seem to dispel the magic its decent tracks conjure. Its lacking on those too. Anthem Of The Peaceful Army has few heights, some stinking lows and too much mediocrity.

Starting with the good we have the riled up energy of this era niche sound coming out through riffs of attitude and gusto, funky powerful drumming and the wild, soaring voice of Joshua Kiszka but only in a handful of moments. Unsurprisingly it pulls together well on lead single When The Curtains Fall. A song on par with the first EP.

The mediocrity seems to lie in the bands relying on tropes of that era gone by. The energy isn't always within their songwriting but more so the ideas of that time. Its as if the riffs, vocals and general approach to the music falls back on its nostalgic aesthetics, with more care given to capturing those older tones in a modern setting than getting the compositions and emotional direction right.

Then comes the ugly. I would mostly be critical of singer Joshua who, despite a fantastic voice, seems to miss the tone with his lyrics and performance style at times. The end of the record is tedious and his song Anthem seems to be a "come together" song, highlighting current political polarization and offering up a vacuous sentiment in return. Its lack of meaningful substance makes for unendurable listening.

I dislike being critical. It takes a lot of talent and effort to put together a record and as a listener I want nothing more than to enjoy the music but this misses the mark on so many levels. The inconsistency is strange and bar a few good songs this could of been a real stinker from a band who showed so much promise in reviving an old sound. Instead of moving that sound forward they seem to have circled the waters with little idea of where to go next. Very disappointing.

Favorite Tracks: When The Curtains Fall, Watching Over, Mountain Of The Sun
Rating: 5/10