Saturday, 30 November 2019

Logic "Young Broke Infamous" (2010)

My mind has been blown... It's actually been over a year since our last Logic album here on the blog. How time flies. Having felt the itch for more Logic and to get back on track with the journey through his discography, we arrive at what I thought was his first mixtape, however the lyrical content and affirmations held within make it clear this is not his introduction to the world. With a little research I've found that took place under the name Psychological, a name you hear on the opening track.

With so many hours of his sound digested already its rather difficult to distinguish what makes these records stand apart from one another. The reality is they don't, it's become a blur. These early mixtapes recycle his common lyrical, emotional themes and instrumental approaches, especially with the straight rapping over classic beats, something he pulls off with an endearing flavor. Lord Finesse's Hip To The Game, Outkast's ATLiens and even Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. Like before, these tend to be my favorite tracks but he saves his best rhymes for them I sware.

Logic's production does however throw together a reasonable ensemble of beats. They incorporate some electronic synth tones of the times and also throw back to the 90s with unoriginal beats. They are mostly tone setters, little leaps off the page other than his words. At 20 his vocal talent is still undeniable but his output a little unfiltered, lacking curation. Some immature and obvious rhymes crop up on occasion but its mostly in a good vein. My problem is simply over saturation of his sound. I'm sure had I gone through these records in the other direction the progression to his current greatness would be more obvious. His album are miles ahead from here.

Rating: 5/10
Favorite Tracks: Nothing But A Hero, Young Sinatra, Backpack, Wordplay, Back And Forth

Monday, 25 November 2019

Fairyland "Score To A New Beginning" (2009)

Concluding our journey through the French Power Metal band's original trilogy of records, this final chapter remedies the vocal horrors of The Fall Of An Empire with a new approach to personal. Guest vocalists arrive in droves to color the music in a tapestry of voices. Theatric, occasionally operatic and frequently choral, male and effeminate singing lavishes this record with neither Elise Martin from Of Wars In Osyhria or Maxime Leclercq returning. The result is a pleasant one, an enjoyable variety of approaches typical to the genre, theatrical and empirical within its fantasy story telling setting which plays out in tales of war, exploration and adventure.

All Ive said before applies again, this record straddles the line between its previous two approaches yet didn't spark quite the magic I first heard on their debut. Gleaming triumphant music glistens again with uplifts and swells of glory and might as the music constantly ascends in a pursuit of epic it lands fairly well. Its a bit slow to get going but around A Soldier's Letter and Godsent it finds a stride. Its lavish and its symphonic component is usually the main propellant of its momentum through the record.

All the elements are there. The recording is gorgeous and instruments beaming with energy and color. Haven given it many spins I am not sure why it didn't stick. Perhaps the impact of a new sound has worn off, or maybe the songwriting wasn't quite there, despite seemingly like brilliant executions of fantasy driven Symphonic Power Metal with progressive structures. Score To A New Beginning ends up being one of those albums I can't criticize but just didn't quite click with as a whole experience, there are undoubtedly favorites in the track listing though.

Rating: 6/10
Favorite Tracks: Assult On The Shores, A Soldier's Letter, Godsent

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Queen "Hot Space" (1982)

Quirky, camp and kooky, Hot Space flips the deck as legends Queen make a hard pivot away from their roots in Rock, embracing Pop, Funk, Disco and Electronic music with a stern boldness. The Andy Warhol aesthetic is a perfect fit and I can't help but feel this wouldn't of been well received at the time. Retrospectively I wonder what sort of influence it had on acts at the time. Michael Jackson often sighted Queen and Freddy as a big influence are on this record we hear Queen approach the crisp, sharp instruments at hand similar to how MJ would on records like Bad and Dangerous.

All the instruments, drum included, are snappy and swift. Its all about bold punchy tones, rigid mechanical timings and simple arrangements drawing on the stark aesthetic style. One can hear all elements clear and divisible, the music is boiled down to a simple form. Brian May's guitar licks then haphazardly cringe and collide with these clean and slick sounds, often crashing in, amidst an attempt to elevate the moment. Mercury tends to suffer the stylistic approach as his muted singing repeats dull phrases the themes hinge on however his high pitch singing on the caribbean laid back track Cool Cat is simply sublime. The track before it isn't half bad too, Las Palabras De Amor, however it feels like a rehashing of Teo Torriatte. Maybe its just the foreign language selling that angle.

The track Back Chat reminds me heavily of a Daft Punk song. Just had to say that. As the record draws on the group find their natural ecclesiastic breaking free as their diverse set of styles come back around, fusing with the new approach and offering up their typical set of alternatives. It leaves the album meandering its way towards the Under Pressure hit with David Bowie, a timeless collaboration. Its a diamond in the rough. Hot Space is terrible because its just not good enough. Queen overreach and produce something that doesn't sit right with them. It would be a tolerable album if they stuck to the plan but its when their prior sound leaks in that the music suffers.

Favorite Tracks: Cool Cat, Under Pressure
Rating: 3/10

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Kanye West "Jesus Is King" (2019)

Always one to have a spectacle made of his life, Kanye has transcended from the madness of his own statements and pressures of the media questioning his mental health to this point in time. Reverence of God, solace in Christianity, he has indoctrinated himself for a salvation that's manifested into his music. This transition, theme and worship splits the record in two. The lyrical and conceptual side is an incoherent reactionary ramble, seemingly an emotional response to the mounting pressures of the bright limelight aimed on him at all times. Many of the themes and words seem lacking in depth and the bluntness of him appraising God for the reasoning behind his extraordinarily expensive merchandise has him scraping the barrel of substance, even is his cadence and singing is warming, digging into his words often has little to offer beyond atypical themes and words of worship, however the influence of church music to his instrumentals is strongly enjoyable.

On the other hand of production, we have Kanye creating amazing songs again. They come together like fractured pieces, a collage of musical ideas that resonate remarkably on the individual level. As an album in tends to jump all over the place but loaded with what he does best, I can't complain. Kanye has always had a knack for vocalization in the harmony of his music. Now with elements of Gospel and Psychedelic production armed, he produces swells of swooning voices. Manipulation and synthetic tonal instruments runs us through a gauntlet of indulgent music of praise with a Hip Hop flavor. That in itself often drops out as sparse use of beats becomes noticeable in the last few songs of the record. The vocals alone carry the music from start to end. Hands On in particular has a backbone of trippy vocal inflections.

At twenty seven minutes in continues the trend of short and sweet. This time its fractured nature, the issues and delays leading up to its release, gives the impression of an unfinished project. Even in this form his genius shines through these gorgeous organic compositions of inspired singing. Kanye to getting in on the act, letting his voice break on God Is was an endearing touch but again the hallow feeling of his fleeting to religion for consolation leaves the power of his performance purely in his own court. Its not something I can relate too yet the musical experience is wonderful. A very polarizing album, I'm glad I gave it plenty of time because it tends to give more the deeper you get into it. After many spins I still want more!

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Queen "Flash Gordon" (1980)

Its been a while since I covered the last Queen record, reality is Id only given this a handful of spins. Its been rather unappealing. Of the rare occasions I have indulged, I would find myself bored by its shifts and sudden turns if it were not for the mere spectacle of a band pinned into a creative corner. I don't know much of the backstory here, or how the music relates to the movie itself. I'd prefer to keep that a mystery as it plays like a band attempting to be drastically different but constants leave them unable to flesh out experimental ideas and directions.

The theme song for Flash is a classic, no doubt. Ive heard it many times but it makes a poor jump off point for the record as it never returns to that intensity and thematic richness until the very last songs. The biggest stirs of energy often spark from the themes erroneous rehashing back into future songs. Sporadic bursts of synthesizer zaps and symphonic upheavals reign out between lines of dialog that feel disconnected and bizarre in nature. Its hard to envision it being the direct soundtrack, more of a project trying to use the movie for an isolated soundtrack experience, either way its pretty disastrous.

So far I've been harsh and of the nice things I can say they are mostly little musical moments that occur on occasion yet do next to nothing in making the whole thing work. Brian May's metallic guitar stirs some rocking riotous energy on Football Fight, they command direction over the racing beat lined with gaudy synths. The audio samples in this case build up a tension but the song just dissipates without any conclusion and lapses back into a lull as seemingly unconnected spacey astral synths take over. It could of evolved into something but these songs lack progression.

The synths remind me of In The Space Capsule where the those nebulous synth tones provoke quite the mystique atmosphere. Once again though, its all to disconnected as the music meanders with sudden shfts. From here, many of its one to two minute compositions have interesting aesthetics and quirky sparks of chemistry but its all littered between sharp turns in tone and audio snippets that it becomes hard to follow along with. Battle Theme would be a great example of the band doing what they do best however the song is hampered by sticky laser zaps and ear grating synths that rub against the slick guitars.

It is perhaps possible to love this record for all its quirkiness, shifts in direction and musical experiments. For me I couldn't escape how its attempt to be some form of soundtrack was hindering the flow of ideas. Things were rarely fleshed out and when the music was calling out for some progressive story telling and journeying of the sounds, it felt forced and hurried along, as if sticking to a strict schedule. Poor record, It hasn't convinced me to see the movie although I am morbidly curious now as to how the two are related.

Favorite Tracks: Flash's Theme, Football Fight, The Hero
Rating: 3/10

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Front Line Assembly "Wake Up The Coma" (2019)

Having enjoyed the Canadian Electro-Industrial pioneer's recent Warmech soundtrack, I thought I'd tune in for a regular record. Right off the bat I have to say their is a lot of mediocrity at play, a passable record as background music but not mustering up much excitement in the forefront bar a few good compositions. Ive given it many listens over the months since its release but its failed to grab me, I can't be to critical though, its not terrible, just all too average to make itself known.

Far from the jolty, harsh and rigid machinations of their origins, FLA's slick production gives a modern aesthetic touch. Tight synth arrangements and punchy drum machines have a competent amount of variety and detail to bolster up the core components that build dystopian, mechanical atmospheres. Voices take on a mix of whispered cries soaked in echos and alien distortions, all playing into the altered human persona much of its charisma resides within. There are many breaks in flow, often using the textural tones of synths and clattering drum sounds to orchestrate physical, Industrial movements but its rarely exciting in anyway.

Most the songs tend to circle a theme. Progression don't amount to much and most of the tracks start where they end in terms of tone and setting. That's why I think its failed to get a grip on me. It does run into a few gaudy moments, the lyrical pondering of making love to an alien on Living A Lie is mostly an amusing line for a hook. Nick Holmes turns it around in the next track, lending his voice for a fantastic chorus on the title track. That's about all I have to say, its all a bit too routine, lacking spice.

Favorite Track: Wake Up The Coma
Rating: 4/10

Friday, 8 November 2019

Borknagar "True North" (2019)

Borknagar, I remember! The glum shed on a fog swept field, a typically unreadable and yellow band logo atop the image. Their first album came out right in the mid 90s boom of post-global exposure Black Metal. Knowing they had ICS Vortex in the lineup, once of Dimmu Borgir and Arcturus, I felt quite keen to find out what one of my favorite voices was up to. To little surprise, the band have matured a lot from what I remember of that atypical, dingy, carbon copy debut record, the sort that just fell off into the flood of new bands joining in on the act.

To my pleasure they now take on moody atmospheres of northern folk charm. With sprinklings, often climatic, of screams, blast beats and power chord shredding, the band evenly resonate a calmer side brewing luscious settings of serenity interwoven with metallic upheavals of momentum. Its a progressive fusion of styles, rather adjacent to In The Woods. Dark and earthly songs forged through thoughtful musical arrangements sap magic from its instruments with visions of natural beauty.

Vortex's singing is an absolute pleasure, still a master of the gleaming, manly "clean vocal", he glides over these scenic soundtracks effortlessly. Its organic music with soft synths and colorful lead guitars. The three tend to interchange on leading the music forth and its held together with superb drumming that's a little on the mechanical side with its industrious hammering of stiff drum rolls. Quite often does the rhythmic syncopation of Metal guitars drive the music too and with that True North offers up variety and balance between the extreme and melodic ends of this style. Inspiring!

Favorite Tracks: Up North, Voices
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

BABYMETAL "Metal Galaxy" (2019)

My anticipation for this record was soured somewhat by lead single Pa Pa Ya. Its a tad obnoxious and overt but that's one of this acts charms, to dial its elements up! I still think its the weaker track but it has grown on me. The rest of this new record was a total hit from the get go. Da Da Dance blasts the listening experience into the stratosphere with its electrifying guitar taping illuminating the jolting synths and cutesy "Babymetal" chant. What a tone setter for a fun record that does what these musicians do best, bringing ferocious modern Metal together with sugar coated Pop in quirky memorable fusions. This time around a hint of worldly sounds creep onto a couple of songs, expanding the bands horizons, delivering another fine chapter in the journey.

Something about the way this record rolls out, a couple of its themes too, give a sense of arcade and adventure. Its almost as if each song has a linage with a video game. Each one I could envision a music video related to the arcade, perhaps the "don't give up, game over or continue" lyrics sunk in a little to deep. Every track arrives with a different spice, only Kagerou sounds like a leftover cut from Metal Resistance. Shine also echos of The One but mostly its new and bold territory for the band while retaining their distinctive musical identity and high octane production.

Japaneses exclusive tracks BBAB and BXMXC are wonderfully obnoxious in polar opposite ways. The first has its glossy Pop Metal charm and the latter an exercise in sheer rhythmic grooving on overdrive! Shanti and Oh Majini stand out with exotic cultural sounds, the latter dipping toes into Pirate Metal with bagpipes and rugged sailor chanting. Their is a noticeable growing presence of the backing musicians joining in vocally. "Kitsune Of Metal God" gets an entire track of demonic chants through its descending, eerie and tribal atmosphere on In The Name Of.

Its jam packed with variety and amazing hooks to get stuck in your mind. More voices may enter the fold but again its Suzuka Nakamoto who's voice soaks in the limelight, elevating every moment she is present. I particularly loved the songs where she gets to sing in a poppier context. It feels like this record has pushed its boundaries as the heavy side feels equally embellished. Maybe the drumming didn't ramp up the intensity with blast beats and the like but the Djent guitar tones are masterfully dense an tonal, bordering on guttural for comparison. Perhaps the meatiest Ive heard yet!

Much like their other two records, gems and numbers that don't stick as much make the sum of its parts. This time around the variety carries it and plays solidly with an arsenal of new songs. It has been a pleasure to indulge with and a reminder of why this band are so exciting. Anything is possible in Metal and these directions and avenues are so much more interesting that other bands grinding out the same old recycled styles. Babymetal's freshness is a real strength! It's hard to say if they have reached a peak but each record gives my that feeling they could reach higher peaks!

Rating: 8/10
Favorite Tracks: Da Da Dance, Brand New Day, BBAB, Distortion, BXMXC,

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Puppy "III" (2019)

With the years best album so far under their belt, The Goat, this surprise EP was quite the treat to feast on, I didn't expect new music so soon! The three piece band Puppy are one of my modern favorites, their fusion of nostalgic 90s Alternative Rock & Metal riffs is just my cup of tea. Its the songwriting however, that sets them apart from waves of bands that come and go, casting that rosy tinted look back into the past. Puppy take in a rich history of music, brandishing it with their own defining stamp.

These nine tracks, a brief nineteen minutes, initially felt as demoed as its presentation would suggest. Its mixing, rough around the edges, with roomy drums and earnest singing gave a casual impression that would flavor my first few listens as a mediocre yet fun set of songs. The songwriting however championed once again as the ear worms grew, driving the hooks and melodies into the subconscious. Its riffs, arrangements and lyrics became forefront. It wasn't long before I was asking myself just how good this record is? Right now it fits perfectly into their catalog.

Without doubt there is a handful of songs here that given the treatment would fit snugly onto a proper album. They all however have a charm that feels exclusive to this rougher garage demo sound and I think the point is to inhabit this moment the band are living in. The raw vocal harmonies and chunky guitar riffs with gristly distortion tones create a youthful air vibe that resonates through the colorful guitar licks that occasional deploy a bit of rhythmic groove. Its everything I like about Puppy, just with a less polished edge which makes it fresh and interesting.

Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: Agatha, Serotonin, Charms