Monday, 30 September 2019

Korn "The Nothing" (2019)

Its going to be a common theme that I mention how time is flying by. Already three years ago now, the Nu Metal pioneers Korn released a positive "come back" record, The Serenity Of Suffering. Although the soaring heights of the late 90s and their MTV dominance are long gone, it was quite the surprise to hear a band that had struggled over the years to regain the spark of their youth and even more so in this new chapter The Nothing. Where the last album delivered powerful riffs and good song writing again, Jonathan Davis seems to have excelled past his band mates with another riveting "tortured soul" performance. At this stage in his life the recurring angsty themes and narrow use of language that again has the word "why" posed all too often seem more genuine than routine. With his band mates on fire they unite again and again with really good hooks for their "Pop Metal" format that drives songs frequently from chunks of groove and quirky melodies into swells of thick, smothering emotion.

The record grew on me slowly. It was familiarity with the actual details of the songs that blossomed the giving magic of music. With a style and identity so ingrained it can be a little to easy to gloss over. Fortunately around the fifth or sixth listen the charm started to sparkle. Korn have a fantastic dynamic of crunching riffs and odd emotive melodies that lean into the moody and brooding. With their front man JD on form, the narrative is illuminated. I would never question his authenticity but with the recent passing of his wife one can see how his eternal battle with inner agony has laid down fresh wounds that brings out the best of his unique talent. Its a sad reality but pain has always been what invigorated his iconic voice.

 The record does get stretched through a few routine songs in the midsection, however the tracks either side always offer up a spice to define it among the general theme, something they haven't achieved since Untouchables. Ray Luzier fits like a glove on this record, his drumming proficiency finds a sweet spot to give percussive detail to the momentum, driving groove with an animated structure. The Monkey and Head dynamic isn't as striking, more like a fine wine, the subtleties tend stick around longer. There are plenty of thumping riffs but the classic style heard on You'll Never Find Me really sounds like stiff a reworking of Ass Itch. The creepy melody aspect tends to linger in the background and through the synths which get a moment on Can You Hear Me for the band to move their atmospheric side into new territory.

Opening with bagpipes and JD's agonizing cries and screams the record sets the tone for whats to come but it wraps up with one of the saddest songs, Surrender To Failure. It ends with a chilling vulnerability in his voice as he confesses his failure with fragility. Its everything Korn has ever been about and although gravely fueled by tragedy it has birthed a band able to re-arrange themselves with fabric of their greatness and a bold statement moving into a new chapter. This won't make waves and revive a former glory but anyone who's ever been a fan will adore this record giving it a chance.

Favorite Tracks: The End Begins, The Darkness Is Revealing, Idiosyncrasy, Gravity Of Discomfort, Surrender To Failure
Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Bæst "Venenum" (2019)

Not long on from discovering this gem of a band, the Danish Death Metal outfit Bæst return, monstrous as ever! Continuing with the brutal Mikael Akerfeldt era Bloodbath sound, they have assembled a collection of lean and powerful, fist clenching tracks to crush and menace listeners with its evil guitar riffs and gut wrenching demonic screams. Broken up only by an equally mediocre Spanish guitar interlude, like before, the record marches through its punishing line up of songs that hold together a brutal atmosphere. Either thumping steady tempos or thrashing hardened sprints, its deployment of intensities always result in gripping gruesome ride through the carnage.

With Nihil the lead guitar emulates Egyptian vibes similar to that of Death Metal legends Nile. Its a true moment of distinction, its winding, unraveling guitar lead is tantalizing and the brooding atmosphere birthed is something to remember. As Above So Below achieves something similar with less of a cultured direction. Again its lead guitar slowly unwinds in a gratifying manor as the song takes its time moving into a crunching dash of grinding aggression. Ending on a Bolt Thrower cover was a nice touch. I don't know the original but the flavoring of this bands aesthetic seems to work wonders. This feels like a steady improvement upon their debut but I think it would serve them well to land on something to stylistically separate them from Bloodbath.

Favorite Tracks: Nihil, Heresy, As Above So Below, Sodomize, No Guys No Glory
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Ho99o9 "Cyber Warfare" (2019)

Less than a year on from one of last years favorites Cyber Cop, the vicious Punk Rock fusing and Hip Hop grooving duo Ho99o9 return with another vivid, conceptual EP that experiments with eerie cyber space hacker aesthetic. Opening up with Master Of Pain, gothic organs conjure an unsettling hallowed horror soundtrack atmosphere for slow tempo percussion to brood and then pivot into a riotous romp of synthetic guitar riffs fit for the pit. The back and forth is fantastic but this new gothic element sets a desire for more that is left alone on this one song. With Plexiglass a smothering, repetitive, obnoxious baseline fills the void akin to something you might hear on a TV commercial. A ridiculous mania of hurling frantic screams quickly stops this in its tracks as it turns up the intensity alongside scratchy discernible noise. At this point it may be hard to stomach for many a music listener.

Shadowrun slams into the Punk energy with fast and energetic guitar riffs, burred screams and pummeling drums. Its ecstatic and highly intriguing as the distortion and production techniques mask much of the instruments in layers of unusual aesthetic. From their the good songwriting emerges as the song leads into a fantastic closing groove played twice over. The end of the song introduces a layer of technological theming as a pitch dropped voice talks of internet connections. There is a few other bits like this but they fail to be interesting in my opinion. The next few tracks brings out the mean and gritty raps, delving into gloomy, dangerous street vibes akin to similar songs heard on their Horrors Of 1999 sophomore EP.

F.O.G. wraps up the record with some serious metallic stomping and tight drum patterns not far from something heard on a Extreme Metal record with its tight double pedal working. The song gets progressively heavier and distorted synths lead up to a ridiculous climax that maybe falls a little short of its intention. Overall this record is another fantastic chapter in what I hope will produce more of this paranoid cyber theming. Its not reached quite the peaks of Cyber Cop but it has produced some remarkable songs once again. This band are very much in a stride and I find myself dead excited for whatever it is they will do next.

Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: Master Of Pain, Plexiglass, Shadowrun

Monday, 16 September 2019

Post Malone "Hollywood's Bleeding" (2019)

His previous efforts Stoney and Beerbongs & Bentleys showcased the young artists unique voice and songwriting ability but the best came in fractions. This time around Post and his crew have elevated their game. After a handful of thoroughly enjoyable listens I initially turned to the credits, expectant of new names in production and song writing. There is a couple, however its the same core of people turning up the quality in all the places that fell short the last time around. It's a noticeable ten or so minutes shorter and perhaps that played a part in its fluidity but the reality is the instrumentation here is of a higher fidelity and its got a warm fussy atmosphere to it.

As the songs stroll from one to the next there is often something bright and punchy at work. Either the bold basslines, snappy percussion or glossy guitars illuminate alongside Post's voice. This can be heard best on the Pop leaning songs because of course he has an eclectic taste which has subtle flourishes as the music sways across the spectrum. When delving into the Hip Hop avenue Post brings a plethora of guests to spice up the vocal variety as lyrically he is pegged into to his usual themes. Between that and Pop it is mostly the classic singer songwriter vibes and acoustic guitars that dazzle however he shows his roots in Rock on a fantastic collaboration.

Teaming up with Travis Scott, the voice of Ozzy Osbourne engrosses one again on Take What You Want. The Trap Pop song brings his iconic voice to a new generation and ends with a stunning crescendo reviving those classic Randy Rhodes leads. Possibly the best moment on the record however Post really comes to life with his infectious hooks and singing. We saw it in glimpses the last two records but here it feels like every other song has him deploying some sort of ear worm to get you singing along. These songs dig in the way good Pop songs do.

Where the album falls short though is again with Malone himself. The lyrics are much to be desired, especially when he works in his rap mode. They are mostly the over inflated feelings of relationship problems articulated through loose profanities, often circling the emotion with little reflection or introspection to make the words interesting. Its knee deep and thus tends to drift out of focus and that is where the glossy production and good instrumentation picks up the slack. This is a huge step forward for the young artists and Its been a blast seeing him get here. Hollywood's Bleeding will most likely pick up some awards this year!

Favorite Tracks: Enemies, Circles, Take What You Want, Staring At The Sun,
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 13 September 2019

Brockhampton "Ginger" (2019)

Hip Hop collective and self proclaimed boy band Brockhampton of Texas are unsurprisingly back at it again, given their prolific output so far. This fifth album in the span of just over two years has probably been the most endearing and unique to my tastes. The bombast, flair and rugged attitudes get toned down on a couple of tracks. In its place emotional narratives play out over instrumentals that draw upon classic sounds of eras gone by, classic R&B and cultural acoustic guitars that make for striking moods. Of course, when the drums are dialed up, quirky synth and sampling pitch in its not as obvious. A track like Dearly Departed is the pinnacle of these ear catching current. Its plays like a slowed down Delfonics classic, its strings haunting the lyrical out poor. The closing song, another stunning expression rapped decisively.

Reflecting on Iridescence, the group do tend to sway in between these ends. From the dark and raunchy Vivid to a swooning sing along San macros, Brockhampton operate on levels. Immediate to enjoy and tantalizing to dissect their music is refining to a continual giving of change, compared to the Saturation series. Creative percussion, an ear for unique sampling pallets and developing rap styles had me locked in. On the latter part, these emotional narratives and introspective lyrics give so much meaning to the music where once boisterous and wild rapping tended to fall a bit hollow, now the songs come to life. A feature from Slowthai was a pleasant surprise and overall the group have really locked me in this time around. I hope they continue to evolve as greatness surely awaits if they do so, another great set of numbers.

Favorite Tracks: No Halo, Boy Bye, Heaven Belongs To You, Dearly Departed, Big Boy, Victor Roberts
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 9 September 2019

Queen "The Game" (1980)

Arriving at the midway point of Queen's discography, the group step into the new decade with a cohesive shift in tone that reflects the passing times. Although still experimenting vocally and with special effects, the Progressive band we once knew is in embers as the Arena Rock tone strips these songs back to simple structures, tightly packed riffs and grooves of which a little Funk and Disco creeps into the rhythm section on Dragon Attack and Another One Bites The Dust. Its still a typically diverse record as Ive come to expect. Although the distortion guitars are absent on many a song, they have classic Queen rumbustious eruptions of oozing lead guitar on the tracks with lean Rock guitars tho. Crazy Little Thing Called Love switches up the tone for a warm and charming Rockabily number, still sounds fantastic all these years later.

A stinker turns up in Don't Try Suicide. Its a flaky tune attempting to address a serious topic with an utterly shallow and thoughtless tone. It sounds like a song coerced by some government prevention organization, with rules and regulation on what can be said. I'm sure there intentions were good but its an awful track. The album closes with a beautiful song, Save Me, that is one of their best Ive never heard before this voyage. Freddie's singing is sublime, the harmonies are gorgeous and typically enigmatic guitar leads from Brian May make it an overlooked Queen gem for my ears. All in all The Game is the latest offering of a band experimenting with many sounds, for some reason it all fits together better than previous attempts. And whats up with the album cover? Seems like not a lot of effort was put into its presentation.

Favorite Tracks: Play The Game, Another One Bites The Dust, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Save Me
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Tool "Fear Inoculum" (2019)

For many fans its been a feverish wait. Thirteen years since 10,000 Days the Alternative and Progressive Metal juggernauts return with a might eighty eight minutes of music. For me its been a matter of months, having only dived into their records this year. It was a slow process to come around to their genius but a sublime performance at Download Festival won me over. Being new to Tool, Fear Inoculum is just another chapter to my ears, only the crisp audio clarity explains a thirteen year gap. Its most technically impressive fetes feel like a band continuing to inch forward but large sections of the music stagnate on the workings of Ænima and more so Lateralus.

Its ten tracks can be split into two halves. Firstly five interludes of musical quirkiness, noise and ambience experimentation that drifts in and out of focus with little to note of. Chocolate Chip Trip does however muster much excitement from Danny Carey who plays an animated drum solo over the looping synths playing tonal melodies in an odd time signature. It could of been an indulgent guitar riff, however performed through the cold mechanical synth tone it is a stiff and disenchanting tune that would drive one slightly mad if it were not for the impressive, dexterous percussive display.

The other half consists of lengthy tracks ranging from ten to sixteen minutes. Two of these, Descending and Culling Voices excessively elongate a minimalist approach that has the scenic, sprawling journey of a Tool song stretched to its upper limits. Descending does have some beautiful guitar work in its mid section, a dazzling synthetic conclusion but takes a lengthy meandering walk to get to its powerful moments. Much of these two songs feel dragged out and thus any suspension and build up gets fizzled out, Culling never really getting of the ground at all.

The title track and Pneuma are fantastic, sprawling songs mastering the suspension and tension that it so delicately holds close to frailty. The records best and longest song, 7empest, reeks of Undertow in all the best of ways. Its psychedelic bells prime the atmosphere for a resurgence of crunching Alternative energy and anger to lead the music into lengthy guitar lead tangents of textural solo playing and technical riffing that eventually births the equivalent of a break down. Its utterly riveting and indulgent, the sort of music you want to let wash over you. Over thinking it may break the spell.

For the most part, Tool are sticking to what they know and crafting lengthy epics in the way only they do. In moments of reinvention they engulf the listener but its a game of hit and miss, when the songs work they are some of their best music to fate. When missing the mark the lengthy nature comes back to haunt as some sections drag into a frivolous lull. It is however aesthetically gorgeous, right on the mark. The bass guitar is stunning throughout and the textural chemistry between it and the guitars is a treat of its own, enhanced by a stellar production. Danny Carey gets a little quiet in places but when animated he fuels the music with another dimension of intrigue. Having warmed up to Keenan I'd say I considerably enjoyed his presences and loved his ability to charm in at the musics peaks.

Its such a curious album given the thirteen year absence. It plays little bearing to me though, having relatively fresh ears to the band, a little bias from decades of adoration many fans have this feels like a very flawed movement forward, certainly developing the Tool sound and forging new gems but also with a lot of unnecessary baggage. One thing I can be certain of is that this band have solidified much audio time from me in the future. I hope this is not the last work they create together. They still have more to offer.

Favorite Track: 7empest
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 2 September 2019

Fairyland "Of Wars in Osyhria" (2003)

This short lived band from France only released a trio albums, this being the first. Of Wars in Osyhria has been an absolute pleasure that has got me questioning my stance on Power Metal. First Sabaton blew me away and now this! Two totally different beasts but now I am seeing the lines that get blurred between the Symphonic Extreme Metal I love, for example Dimmu Borgir, and where Power Metal shares some similarities in embracing keys and strings. In particular, a relatively unknown outfit called Stormlord had a stunning fusion of Black Metal and this style of fantasy led symphony on their At The Gates Of Utopia record! The Metal was far more dominate and overpowering of its fantasy string section but the tone is very similar!
That initial comparison gave me an anchored entry into this record and swiftly did I grow to appreciate the absence of shouts and screams! Fairyland have given the spotlight to the layers of glorious synths ushering in hugely magical and imaginative soundscapes. Its actually the drum kit that brings in an extreme angle, driving the music along with thunderous intention, battering with an intensity to raise the stakes as the guitars tend to chug and churn underneath the rich symphony. Electrified lead licks and solos do occasionally blaze into the light but the keys are king here. Acording to the wiki only one keyboardist is employed at a time, I wonder how they pull of such a lavish sound live, its clearly layered and dense.

These songs dazzle there way through epic themes of might and magic, heroism in battle, good versus evil, all in a glorious stride that could encompass a typical Fantasy genre tone. Particularly Warcraft in places, echoing Glenn Stafford's genius soundtracks. Its wonderfully written, the songs continuously swoon in and out of oozing arrangements of gleaming melodies that give me goosebumps again and again. The balance is stunning, songs are structured with recurring sections that punch with weight after the dancing through progressive tangents tirelessly. Its sixty five minutes don't let up for a moment, a ceaseless magic that gushes forth right to the very end, the last few notes being admittedly underwhelming to bow out on.
Ive actually binged this record hard and its still working for me. I feel like Ive found another diamond that will be with more for the rest of time. The only weak spot Ive encountered is the vocals, Elisa Martin's operatic voice is a sturdy fit, powerful, strong and theatrical, only her accent puts a noticeable hindrance on the pronunciation of certain words. Its a minor qualm. Alongside her, the occasional chiming powerful male voices unite and plenty of choral voices enrich this avenue too. Its a thick and dense onslaught of instruments, crescendo by the lavish dance of stunning symphonies. Truly a marvelous record, can't wait for the next one!

Rating: 9/10