Monday, 29 July 2019

Bæst "Danse Macabre" (2018)

What does one do when your favorite Swedish Death Metal "super group" loses their way? You pray for this record! Its been seven years since Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth left Bloodbath and they haven't sounded the same. Not only did they loose the visceral edge of his gutteral demonic roar, the band pivoted stylistically with Grand Morbid Funeral. That's where Bæst come in! This Danish band have flown under the radar, not gaining much reputation yet dropping in with an absolutly infatuated debut album that simply picks up from where The Fathomless Mastery left off.

Singer Simon Olsen has an uncanny resembles to the dense and deep, throaty roars of Anderfeldt, one of the best voice in this territory. That textural shout was an instant draw, giving me goosebumps. The rest of the music follows suit. Ripping guitar tones, the varying temperaments of ferocious Death Metal. Aesthetically and musically these compositions really do mirror Bloodbath in the best of ways. You could label them a rip off but their music is so good it just doesn't matter. The key distinction is melody, a couple of the songs have a colorful lead they return to, bringing a little tune alongside the onslaught but its mostly that sound defined by another band, a pleasure for a fan.

The album is a tight Thirty Four minute affair deploying an assault of punishing music that only has respite with a couple of classical guitar interludes. They are vanilla but have a mysterious tone, perhaps lacking in layering or depth, they could of birthed a little more atmosphere. As just a lone instrument it fails to dazzle. The musics composition is fairly narrow, utilizing typical arrangements of blast beats, aggressive drum grooves and menacing guitar riffs that tend to sound best at their most brutal, with the added enjoyment of demented guitar solos and lead melodies waging in on occasion. Its a lot of fun and has really scratched an itch. Will be interesting to see where they go from here. A sophomore record looms later in the year!

Favorite Tracks: Crosswhore, Hecatomb, Ego To Absolvo
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Queen "News Of The World" (1977)

It may be home to two of Queen's defining Arena Rock anthems known the world over but News Of The World is a haphazard record of eclectic directions lacking any cohesion. On their own these songs ain't so bad but they tend to fumble over one another. After opening anthems We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, the rest of the run time seems stitched on with nothing resembling the amped up, cheer along style of these two numbers. Named after Sheer Heart Attack, track three blares into Punk influenced guitar tones thrashing at a monotone Industrial pacing. It deploys some rather bizarre feedback noise towards the end and the whole production sounds rather uninspired. Not a bad song but its coloring is drab. The record as a whole feels a step backwards.

From here the energy dissipates as ballads lull the flow and switch gears. Fight From The Inside makes it mark with Roger Taylor putting his stamp on the vocals. In general the tracks keep shifting in tone and the mediocrity of these songs has the bands diversity feel at odds with itself. It hits a low with Who Needs You. Exotic Spanish guitar makes for a sunny sandy song that lays its intentions bare. Its wildly out of place and lacks any subtly as even the percussion shakes it up with Maracas. You'd expect it to become something more that a simple mirroring of worldly musics.

Without fluidity and subtlety these lesser inspired songs just drift all over the place. They may be well written songs but the strands of these musicians influences tend to imitate rather than birth something new. Even the more typically Queen and theatrical songs lack the spark heard before. Freddie's voice may be a charm throughout but with Brian May being quiet on his guitar its lacking. I suspect with two smash songs under their belt the label may of pressured the group into releasing what feels like a set of B-Sides to bolster a record to sell alongside these cultural anthems.

Favorite Tracks: We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Batushka "Hospodi" (2019)

Yesterday I covered Panihida by a different artist, the founder, under the same Batushka moniker. The situation is somewhat rotten and this record, backed by Metal Blade records, will probably end up with the legal rights to the name however its very obvious these musicians can't quite do it the same way. With a bigger production budget a cushy aesthetic makes for a clearer separation of the elements. Rather than the extreme clattering barrage of its counterpart the instuments stand tall with clarity, making it easier to hear where this album steers from its originators vision.

The first few songs hold over a tone steeped in dark religion. Ritual bells plays between songs that brood the Orthodoxy atmosphere with the choral clean vocals lingering a fraction behind Drabikowski's original. The guitars have a space to breathe and boldly they occupy as a focal point above soft symphonics. By the third track a diversion unfolds, big chunky riffs unleash mosh grooves akin to Khold, a fusion of grim distortion and bombastic riffs in tune with Nu Metal and Groove Metal. Its the albums most stark brake in stride as other directions feel much closer to the darkened core. Its always the guitars that step outside expectations and expand the horizon. It would be a niche touch for the band to progress if under different circumstances.

With its cleaner production and expansive set of songs Hospodi offers a derivative experience, drifting from the Eastern Orthodoxy template that made this band so unique. It holds on to Clergy chants but it feels like dressing around a set of songs that have an anchor in a similar strain of darkness. Its more exciting given the diversity but you can hear the different minds behind it. Yesterday I wrote that Panihida was the better but only as a Batushka record. This one is has more dynamism and swells of intensity. Both are worth your time and different is my conclusion I guess!

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Batushka "Panihida" (2019)

This post will be the first of two covering a pair albums born from an odd and unfavorable situation. The mysterious Batushka, a Polish Black Metal band inspired by Eastern Orthodoxy, is now split in a strange legal situation where the original artist has be shunned and seemingly screwed over legally as his hired band mates leveraged ownership of the band itself. Panihida is the record released by original artist Krzysztof Drabikowski, its a notch lower on production value as he does not have the resources a record label like Metal Blade does. They have also been dead silent on the situation, no response to Drabikowski's claims have been made.

I will kick it off by saying the tone and temperament of this follow up record holds true to Litourgiya. It lacks the impact the Gregorian clean vocals initially wooed fans with but that is to be expected. This time around another listed set of eight tracks go through the typical motions of extreme music, blasting drums rattle the cage and meaty rhythm guitars chime in duality with shrill tremolo picking that scales tarnished melodies. Soft choral synths and theologian singing softly line the crevasses but the best moments always seem born of their uprising to the forefront.

There isn't much in the barraging of evil metallic onslaught that feels special. Its well performed but tends to go through the motions sustaining the evil orthodoxy atmosphere. All the best moments are birthed through breaks from intensity. On occasion softy guitar leads bring melodic uplift but they are scarce. In the right mood it can be very enjoyable but it lacks that ability to suck you in regardless. The impact of the first record had that but this follow up is simply more of the same. I will write on the other record tomorrow and say now this is the better of the two but not by much.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Queen "Queen II" (1974)

The iconic cover art of the British Rock legendss second full length is an infamous one but that is mostly thanks to its revival within the Bohemian Rhapsody music video. This record may have otherwise fallen peril to the sands of time if Queen had ended the road here. That is just speculation of course, its a reasonable collection of songs that seem to relish in experimentation and the freedoms of Progressive song writing but little of it goes above and beyond. For me the genius of their sound is closer to an embryonic form, the tones Progressive Rock and a strong shimmer of Glam Rock overwhelm and restrain the diversity that would unfold in albums to come. I could be alone in this though as it seems critics adore this record. Is that retroactive or of the time? Either way I think hearing whats to come has dulled the spark in this second chapter as the styles of Rock and Metal of the era dominate the overall tone at play.

Queen II has a very strong vocal element with many layers of over dubbing creating a sense of grandiose and theater which would be done tastefully later on. In this instance its use is a little excessive and interjects the music like a synth instrument. There are times when it works and others not so much but it is certainly a showcase for Freddie's voice who gets to deploy a fair range of styles in the second half of the album. The whole thing however plays like an aimless journey, each song meanders through its motions with hardly any stand out moments. Its got a consistent tone that pivots with sudden music shifts and Roger Taylor puts his stamp in the middle of the record with The Loser In The End deploying his unique sound.

The records production is a little murky. Mustering roars of Heavy Metal energy from Brian May's guitar often end up in a clatter of collisions compromising clarity. They are often some of the best moments but with a lot going on musically it escapes the recording fidelity. Its clear Queen where being ambitious however many of the compositions and musical stunts pulled off may have been fresh and exciting at the time, it now sounds a little less grounded by the impressive song writing they would develop. Queen were young and youthful and its no surprise they would go on to do great things but at this point they are short. Its a strong, solid record but one that feels like its fallen to time, living in the shadow of sounds outgrown.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Mare Cognitum "Luminiferous Aether" (2016)

Living in the shadows of its predecessor Phobos Monolith, this fourth chapter from the American band fails to make a particular distinction of itself. Heliacal Rising sets the album off with haunting Ethereal tones of sullen dreary sombreness. A Post-Rock approach creates a scenic direction soon lost to the counteracting intensity. Only the lurching howls of agonizing screams that dissipate into the distance tie it to the Black Metal direction it soon embarks on. With a slow build up it lunges in with increasing degrees of distortion guitar resonance. By the second song we land on a hybrid of extreme musical intensity and crafty guitar work focused on forging esoteric atmospheres through non linear music that never quite engages me fully.

Its a rattle of pummeling drums bearing down on the listener as howling guitar leads foray into abstract melodies that lack the cosmic vibes of the previous record. The screams tend to land as intersecting slabs of noise, screeching out into the distance as heavy but short reverberations have them sink away. On paper this could all work but none of its emerging melodies quite strike a chord despite having clear lineage. Things do pick up heading into the end of the record, a darker atmosphere and agitated, aggressive riffs forge power over the brighter counterpart. These songs hold themselves together well with busying drumming and more interesting chord progressions.

Albums like this often pivot on mood and perhaps I have indulged too much in this form of Extreme Metal lately as its just not having an impact. It sounds technically wonderful and the production serves its intention well but through all the darkly music little of it has been as stimulating as Id expect. Much of the key musical progression emerges from design with the same blueprint and thus gets a little tiresome without any break out moments. Not one I'll probably come back to but it was an entertaining listen to say the least.

Favorite Track: Occultated Temporal Dimensions
Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Tycho "Weather" (2019)

Laid back tempos, hypnotically chilled atmospheres and exotic summer melodies. All the hallmarks of American musician Scott Hansen's distinct sound remain intact on this newest project. It is however a clearly watered down version of his immersive sound that broke out with Drive. Softer synthetic tones and less of those dreamy waves of hypnotic sound, it marks a departure perhaps. In comparison the percussion is subdued and many of the gorgeous sounding instruments play on the leaner side, letting timely reverberations carry the atmosphere over building songs with dense melodic design. Its all sweet and luscious but the swells of thickening sound and driving tunes that once made this a very special project seem to be absent.

A lighter temperament of whats been done before is no bother but for me the record slips away with the inclusion of Saint Sinner. I don't like to dwell on negatives but I find her voice all to plain and vanilla for a record in need of an energetic swell. With a flat, soft and airy singing style she doesn't convey much emotive expression. A few inflections and whispering words break up a rather monotone approach. She fits in around the instrumentals but I feel nothing other than mediocrity from their chemistry.

In the shadow of former work the magic this new chapter just feels tamed with a lack of new ideas. The best tracks are undoubtedly those without Saint and with more room for expression some of his classic alluring melodic style illuminates but its often brief. This is a well produced record tho, with indulgent tones and aesthetics it could chill out anyone in the right mind, however the vocal aspect doesn't work out well. They span five of these eight tracks and clocking in under thirty minutes its really lacking any spark. As an introduction to Tycho's sound it would probably fare well but as a fan this direction just feels toned down, offering nothing new.

Favorite Tracks: Easy, Into The Woods
Rating: 3/10

Monday, 15 July 2019

Billie Eilish "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" (2019)

Here's a fact that makes me feel drowsy, Billie was born after 9/11... Let that sink in, what a reminder of how time gets past you... Her name has circulated past me plenty of times and after hearing she broke records for youngest performing artist at various festivals I had to check this one out. When We Fall Asleep is her debut album and the Teenager's hype presents itself swiftly but lasts after many spins. With a charmingly soft and subdued voice, this fusion of Pop and Electronic music stands apart with an Avant-garde edge in vocal experimentation that toys with distortion and more.

The norms are present, typically sensible and poppy melodies linger throughout. Warm and easy pianos drop in chords to chime with airy synth tones in easily digestible arrangements. Softly strummed guitars and easy percussion make for light listening too, its all good stuff. Each song has its temperament and the charm emerges mostly from these snappy crunchy beats, that bite into stereo spectrum, crisp and brittle. With sharp attacks and swift decays they carry quite the subtle persuasion, infusing a keener edge that sticks into her mostly approachable music.

Across the songs her voice shows quite the dynamism, often breaking from the breathy and softly sung words that malign most the instrumentals. Heavenly choral harmonization and quirky pitch shifting, many of the songs have a twist that ends up being a focal point of delight. Playing with echos, reverbs, stuttering delays and distortion its clear that a lot of experimentation takes place in her process. Whats wonderful is how it lands on the target. Never does a vocal quirk feel forced, its all very inspirational and fluid, emotional and riveting in authenticity.

Her songs seem to be able to take these abstractions and flesh them out into living entities that feel and express. This even extends the spectacle of including samples from the Micheal Scarn episode of TV show The Office. On one hand it seems unrelated to the lyrics but somehow fits in. There isn't a moment of this record I don't love. Its well fleshed out with exciting musical experimentation that flourishes, swaying between emotive surges and bursts of percussive force. On a couple of tracks her vocal style almost borders ASMR, a slight irritation but a possible influence on a young artist who undoubtedly knows of the phenomena. This has been a fantastic record and I can't wait to hear what she will do next!

Favorite Tracks: You Should See Me In A Crowd, When The Partys Over, I Love You, Goodbye
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 12 July 2019

3TEETH "Metawar" (2019)

Hot damn do I love Industrial Metal and what a big meaty slab of electrocuted industrious filth this record is! Metawar is the Californian bands third full length and its undoubtedly my cup of tea but I can't praise it for originality. A fine tuned titanium studio production and good songwriting holds it up well against the obvious influences worn proudly here. From Nine Inch Nails, to Marilyn Manson, Ministry to Fear Factory and all in between, everything at play here feels but a fraction away from vibrations and moods conjured many a time before them, however it does have its own stamp.

The one place they excel is with the thrilling eight string guitar sound. Its dense, tight and lavished in a bludgeoning tone that inches towards sounding like moving parts of an industrial piston powered machine of death! They ring out with big chunks of booming momentous noise, taking influence from the likes of Nu and Groove Metal in its rhythmic sense of bounce. Its a delight mixing in alongside the harsh and jarring synths blare out anti-melodies. They feed into the unsatisfied, angry and dystopian feeling of rebellion these songs cry like anthems. The battering drums and deep baselines ram themselves into the condensed wall of noise being propelled your way, its a cohesive force of destruction that batters with its industrial metallic might.

Singer Alexis Mincolla has a firm and defining presence in the limelight. Roaring with fiery, strained screams between twisted, tormented spoken words of infliction he sounds apologetically like Manson. If they shared a third factor its the ability to put a sung hook down in a nature that grabs your attention but living in the shadow of such an artist he only occasionally escapes that mold of seeming like his influence. Its so well executed that its no drawback. If your looking for originality it may only be in one department but when it comes to the music this will easily win over Industrial fans.

At forty six minutes it does run through a fair few mediocre songs. The energy and temperament shifts through aggressive, atmospheric and alien vibes to keep it flowing however after a handful of listens you'll suss out your favorites. Its best comes on a handful of tracks and despite sounding utterly sharp and pounding the songs don't quite reach for the stars. There is much too love here, much promise for this band and if they continue improving I could see this sound being pushed further.

Favorite Tracks: Affluenze, American Landfill, President X, Pumped Up Kicks
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The Comet Is Coming "Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery" (2019)

 In this age of bizarre and unusual musical machinations aided through digital connectivity, this London based trio, The Comet Is Coming, have an eclectic but related assembling of influences. It does however sound as if this could of taken place in the 90s. Jazz Fusion, Progressive Rock, Psychedelia and Electronic music collide with a hint of metallic rhythm styling to the likes of Groove Metal underpinning the approaches to groove and melody. With a drummer, saxophone and keyboard players these three make a rich tapestries of oozing sound, weaving layers of soaring sound between the thudding backbone of rhythm that propels these songs along.

Its typically progressive, winding passages of vividly colorful instrumental tapestry evolves beneath the ever adventuring and freely expressive Sax that jams and howls in the wind. It does however find its way around to stomping drives of primitive minimalism as a couple of notes will rhythmically bounce similar to a Machine Head riff. In these moments one could perhaps hear it as a guitar riff but its execution with the electronic synths hails to EDM and Dance music. Its magnetic and also infects the Sax which occasionally breaks from its advantageous swells of dexterous freting into simplistic dances between a handful of notes.

The three have a sparkling chemistry however its drummer Max Hallett who puts the cherry on top. Oozing, luscious spacey synths aside, the constantly animated and lively percussion seems to anchor everything together. its almost like a third instrument when the beat drops out and an array of symbols shimmer like stars. The range and timbre is enjoyable too, at first its mainly a more Rock oriented kit but as the album develops more worldly drum tones become involved. The only vocal element comes from Kate Tempest who lends her voice and poetry with an impactful appearance that suits the instrumental sound well.

The albums structure and duration feels very tasteful. At forty five minutes it manages to feel lengthy and epic without being a slug. Only one song gets deep into length at eight minutes, most are four five and hold attention from start to end. With slick transitions each song ends up feeling like one part of the bigger picture making for an engrossing listening experience! There isn't a dull moment here however a couple of tribal bass thumping grooves certainly get my attention the most. Cracking record I think will stay with me for years to come!

Favorite Tracks: Because The End Is Really The Beginning, Blood Of The Past
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Slowthai "Nothing Great About Britain" (2019)

This debut album by up and coming Grime rapper Slowthai sets a candid tone from the offset with its "Nothing Great About Britain" title. Its a striking statement reflecting the albums mood and grim outlook on the failed estates of England's working class. With a sharp talent for the mic, a unique vocal inflections on pronunciation and a fine set of instrumentals this makes for a riotous listen. Despite the lingering gritty gloom of his pessimistic perspective, the tales and story's of urban life trapped on this island are captivating and elevated by the energy he packs. Sturdy rhyme skills, boisterous presence and ripe youthful vitality, Slowthai can be playful and cheeky at times with no shortage of attitude but beneath it all lies thoughtful expressions that offers a lot to think on for the challenges of the youth in this country today.

Socially and politically aware, Tyron tackles the hardest of topics including mental health, poverty and drug abuse with a raw and unapologetic attitude to make light of itself in the haze of his exuberant liveliness. Hailing from Northampton he embraces his identity and heritage without pride but an authenticity that is a firm fit for the Grime sound. Going through all the temperaments he can take this sound to measured places. Doorman has a fantastic Punk energy to match his accent drenched singing, it flows between typically styled Grime beats, influenced by the likes of early Dizzee Rascal. In other tracks like Gorgous, Crack and Toaster, he slips into more soulful and reflective flow, showing a sensitive, appreciative side to himself too. The last three songs dive deeper into the dark and the album packs an absolute banger with Inglorious, featuring Skepta who delivers a veterans rap. Its a wild song, a big booming baseline with heavy lyrics cruising over the crusing beat.

Eleven tracks at thirty two minutes, the young artist makes an autobiographical arrival with a curated experience seeking quality over content. Luring you in with lively instrumentals you'll stay for the authenticity. Slowthai is a big persona, animating himself vividly with clever lyricism and the occasional implementation of his unique high pitched vocal slur. At times his words do fall to folly, taking aims at the royals with little said on why for example. He is at his best when giving personal tales and thoughts of which there are plenty. If he grows as an artist he could go on to do great things. This debut is not without its flaws but it shows his spark effortlessly.

Favorite Tracks: Doorman, Inglorious, Northampton's Child
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Schoolboy Q "CrasH Talk" (2019)

Schoolboy Q is back with his fifth full length record, another cut of rugged street flavored rhymes and slick urban instrumentals. At forty minutes it represents his leanest project to date, which I can't label as quality over quantity. Many of these songs fail to show themselves without dedicated listening. Nothing to be found like a Hover Street, the sort of song that grabs you by the neck and commands your attention. This records best song by a good stretch is Chopstix, coming from the mind of Travis Scott. His synthetic production style and chorus hook nails a intoxicating vibe that would fit sweetly into one of his own projects.

Q comes to the mic as a mean front man, bringing a range of vocal styles to his new project. Often he sounds slightly agitated with a confident demeanor. Keenly pronounced, he affirms himself with steady flows and lyrics that most wavier above mediocrity. With little making a mark the record hits some stiff jarring creative choices. The dreary interlude track Drunk hits a wall with Q rapping with the signature Drake "Ahye" crutch, its one of many aproaches and he changes up his style so often its hard to know who's who. The track Floating has one of the weakest spoken word slurred flows going, I think from 21 Savage. Floating takes an award for the weakest hook, "I got that water, Yea, I got that water". Its dull and a one to endure.

The instrumentals are hit and miss, a good mix of modern kits and sampling oriented vibes. Luckily it sounds like the best hooks land on the strongest instrumentals, yielding a handful of songs to go back on between many unfavorable ones. Handled mostly by three or so producers they conjure up a variety that doesn't have any particular flow across the forty minutes. The experience tends to drag despite short songs, most of which don't pass three minutes. This was all to run of the mill, no focus or arching theme, Q's words don't leave the page to often and its not to the last song that we get a wiff of his flair. Its not awful but Ive found myself expecting so much more from this talented artist.

Favorite Tracks: Chopstix, Lies, 5200, Die Wit Em, Attention
Rating: 4/10

Monday, 1 July 2019

Kate Tempest "The Book Of Traps And Lessons" (2019)

I was dead excited for this release, Everybody Down and Let Them Eat Chaos made quite the impact. Kate's heavy and burdensome poetry paired with impoverished Hip Hop instrumentals made quite a unique potion of the classic formula. This time around there is a clear shift in tone, the limelight lands firmly on Kate as the pace and foundation of drum beats are far between one another. The subtlety of dark ambience pianos, strings and atmospheric keys softly shade the space around her words.

It plays like a poetry piece mustering winds of momentum as the instruments occasionally pick up the musky tone and carry it along. Kate is otherwise quite the smothering ache of your attention. The bleak and quiet despair of mundane existence grasps her words as details of failed relationships, social pressure and societal observations manifest into spiraling thought worms. Occasional flickers of wisdom, conclusion or relief linger but the majority of this record is quite a weight on the listener.

The tenderness and vulnerability captured in her voice seals the authenticity of this expression. Wordplay, narrative and innuendo interweave as trains of consciousness collide with thawed out thoughts, articulated to an exhibit. Its undoubtedly deep and comes in waves of topics, feeling like a linear narrative that seems to fly all over the place. There is much to chew through here however its not quite for me.

The problem I have with this record is how doom and gloom the tone is. Both introspection and outwards reflection finds no light between the clouds. It becomes a downtrodden journey sucking away mood when the already quite instrumentals strip to a silence. Kate's words are inescapable in these moments and her words ring the alarms a degree to paranoid for my taste. These big topics tackled are done so with a bias for the depressing and despite a beauty in her language its path is one that brings you with it. The uplift and conclusion it ends with too feels in too much contrast to all that came before. Its an unsatisfying and forceful look into the shadows.

Favorite Track: Firesmoke
Rating: 5/10