Friday, 7 August 2020

Brelstaff "Brelstaff" (2020)


Formerly know as Daryl Donald, this name change to Brelstaff signifies little in the way of musical progression. Its another collection of mini Jazz Hop instrumentals exploring the craft with a familiar Entroducing... akin charm. These short, mostly two minute tracks swiftly conjure an atmosphere and reside there for a brief stay, fleshed out with some variations. The selections of drum patterns and samples mix sweetly into easy indulgences. With enough ambiguity and noises between the obvious pairings, the tracks keep delivering a fresh depth on each listen. Together, the tracks are all laid back, summery and warm. The Jazz flavor keeps it musical and grounded, not running away with the uplift but holding back an air of spirituality. The mood is an introspective one, perfect for both background music and giving it your attention.

The short compositions do feel somewhat demo like. Fade ins and outs give ques to where ideas start and end. Stitched on mini beat creations and the like make it into the twenty minute run time but in all fairness there is no filler. No track out runs its purpose, once seeing through its variety it ends. A voice in the form of rhyme or reason, rapping or singing may serve it well as the voices calling John Coltrane's on the track of the same name seem to ramp up the mystique over a mysterious pondering bass line. Its a dusty track with a lot of charm. That note may just signify what's missing, the foundations are in place but as a collection of beats they feel in need of something to elevate it upwards to the next level.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Fellsilent "The Hidden Words" (2008)

With The Double A being my go too record for youthful nostalgia, memories of this, the bands debut album, are somewhat foggy. I seem to remember its release closely linked to their announced split but these events were over a year apart. Whatever I thought beforehand, returning to The Hidden Words as been another delight from a group I'm keenly fond of. Its amazing how much time has lapsed and love not lost!

The album essentially feels like an extension of the EP, four original tracks, four new and three "linking" interludes has the band simply expand on the persona established. One big change is the arrival of a second vocalist who slips in almost unnoticed. With a similar tone and candour to his partner Neema Askari, Joe Garrett feels neither essential or overlooked, his inclusion works without any bright sparks of ingenuity.

As with the EP, Fellsilent slap together an arsenal of pelting Djent riffs, loaded with groove and rhythm that plays between atmospheric and melodic trade offs. They move from pummelling metallic assaults to steadying backdrop shuffling fretwork as their dynamism flourishes in these mostly straight forward song structures. Often do they keenly lead to a belting breakdown to slam your head along with! The linking instrumentals also serve up riffing delights with infusions of acoustic string plucking.

Returning to this record gave me a greater appreciation for the balance of complexity when chopping up polymetered grooves into 4/4 patterns. So sweetly do they push both angles. The power and persuasion of rhythm is without any burden yet many riffs have puzzling arrangements. Like with Meshuggah I am sure the mystery would unravel a little learning to play their songs on guitar, something I hope to find time for!

Its such a shame this was the end of the road. The band certainly materialised a fine execution of sound and style but where to go from here? Who knows... In all likelihood it may have never surpassed this moment given how fantastic they where at this point, perhaps they exhausted all they had? I remember the statement at the time indicating that everyone involved felt like they had seen it through and wanted to move on. Some music elitists make comments like "they should of quit after XYZ". Maybe that's exactly what these guys did? Go out on top.

Rating: 9.5/10 

Monday, 3 August 2020

Joey Badass "The Light Pack" (2020)

Stagnation is the word that comes to mind enjoying this chilled jazzy trio of Hip Hop tracks flying the flag for the 90s sound. From B4.Da.$$ to All-American Bada$$, young Joey made quite the impression, solidifying him as one to keep an eye on. The Light Pack marks three short songs in three years, all of which could slip into his previous records. It was underwhelming on first impression, his opening verse affirming style and stature, taking shots at Mumble Rap and pronouncing his successes. It sounds tired to these ears, with his established flow unchanged.

The second track brings on Pusha T, who's style is still rather fresh and interesting to me, a reminder to check his work out further. Its a brief bit of spice over a moody, slightly gloomy beat. The final track Shine brings some uplift in tone but again I just don't find Joey's raps that exciting beyond their obvious competence. The concept of mind, body and soul this project is supposed to embody doesn't leap out at this listener. It's ultimately a small release that hasn't advanced any musical prospects for Joey and ended up feeling a little dull in the shadow of his albums.

Rating: 2/10

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Logic "No Pressure" (2020)

Announced as his retirement record, No Pressure doesn't feel like a send off but its title reflects the mood, a resignation to expectations. With such a prolific output, work ethic and passion for the craft I fully expect to hear more from Logic at some point in the future. For now however he is making an honourable move, devoting his time to fatherhood, putting his energy towards the raising of his newly born son.

It's a firm return to form, echoing the greatness of The True Incredible Story with many of its hallmarks. The digital effeminate voice returns telling intimate details about the projects creation and his influences in rhyme, rap and culture. The days of rapping over classic 90s beats are resurrected on GP4 with an interpolation of Outkast's Elevators. Its checks all the boxes, its spirit inline with what defines him best.

When it comes to rhymes Logic offers up a slice of time perspective as he so often does. With the relief of retirement and the pivoting to parenthood the depth and maturity is gripping. The songs roll one after another with no shortage of engaging topicality. Of course its all packaged within the sharp skill set he possess. I'd say on just one track he sets himself for "failure" as a run through the alphabet in rhymes starts strong but steadily looses its path in the self imposed lyrical challenge.

On the production side he lists his influences boldly. 90s vibes and a helping of Kanye inspired voicing makes for a colorful, soulful, grooving record of mostly uplifting beats and Jazz Hop vibes. A couple fun tracks like A2Z and Perfect shake things up to take the foot of the gas. On the way out things get more thematic, bringing in bright pianos, the sung raps and more of a pop appeal as the record build to a grand bow out.

Obediently yours pulls out one heck of a speech from Orson Welles's radio show archives. A very powerful message of privilege and debt to those without it. A great way to leave something striking in the mind as we potentially say goodbye to a true talent, using this moment to forward deep meaning. At seventy six minutes its a meaty record, full of substance that doesn't fire at the faster of paces. Its a strong body of work set to be steadily enjoyed and enjoyed this I have!

Favorite Tracks: GP4, Soul Food II, Perfect, Man I Is, DaBod, Obediently Yours
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Backxwash "God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It" (2020)

I have an absolute adoration for Hip Hop music, however diversity is something lacking in its first decades. The 90s, for example, many would consider the pinnacle of both artistic creativity and success. But in comparison to the world of Metal and its stylistic divergences, its obvious the genre is narrower and closely knit. When records like this come along its a firm sign of progression, barriers collapsing and diversity in this age of musical cross pollination Internet culture.

God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It is a short concise plunge into the uneasy. A cathartic release of repented energy. A self administered therapy with an undercurrent of religiosity feeding into its themes of sin, abuse and guilt. Kicking off a sample of Ozzy Osbourne crying for help with an air of despair to his voice, a tone is set for the slow drums to drill in the dark subjects this album will tackle. The transition into Black Sabbath's Self Titled track a nice touch to see it off.

The instrumentals set out a harrowing tone of internal struggles and paranoia. The sampling and beat arrangements are dark, gloomy and ghostly with enough groove in their to keep it from feeling burdensome on the listener. Reading over the lyrics, a lot of pain and personal anguish is exorcised across these tight and direct verses. With a motioned rhythm in flow and Canadian cadence flavoring annunciation, backxwash has a firm command over the narrative where the two elements come together.

The vocabulary and linking of rhymes is frequent and often entrancing. The hooks and between parts embellishes each tracks depth. As the album plays on, its somewhat ambiguous tie to religion grows, suggesting an arc as the finial songs shift in tone. Redemption lifts the mood but its wording shows a person doing right by them self in the face of intolerance. The final vocal sample from some form of spiritual speech indicates forgiveness for all those who do you wrong. A solid conclusion.

Everything about this record speaks to vision and execution. Every line and wording feeling relevant, a grouping of short tracks offering no fluff. Interlude tracks flesh out the musical theme and its dark atmosphere carries between each track wonderfully, letting the album play like one big track in the bigger track. Its not taken many listens to appreciate its greatness. I've got a feeling this one to frequent back to in the future of the never ending musical journey!

Favorite Tracks:
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Bathory "The Return......" (1985)

The Return...... Of Darkness And Evil, as its full title goes, is a fitting title for Bathory's sophomore record. I always remembered this as the "smelly" one. Listening to it again over fifteen years later a much more nuanced and interesting opinion is formed. Quorthorn makes a keen stride to embellish a more sinister tone, many abrasive ideas that would eventually become hallmarks in Black Metal. The strike of demonic gongs, deep command roars steeped in reverberations, shrill howls furthering ugly throaty textures and plenty of shadow echos to wrap them up in.

Despite issuing some key ideas for the scene to come, its all fractionally mismatched with the guitar tone that still has a warmer Heavy Metal charm about it, even with the low fidelity. These ideas that aim to dive deeper into the "evil" theme are currently pungent in inception. The whole thing is somewhat akin to early Graveland records. Its fair to say bar one or two songs the music is lacking a magnetism that came before it.

Perhaps in attempt to embrace the dark and foul, performances from the band become fair at best and seem intentionally sloppy in moments of lost synchronicity or attempted "edge". Tempos stutter, and drums loose there groove. It rarely aids the music or its intended theme, that needs to come from good songwriting and Quorthorn's riffs are baked stale for half of the record.

In the latter half of the album a darker guitar tone grinds power chords effectively and in two songs lays a much foundation for the evolution of the genre. Its guitar solos still seem lost in the Heavy Metal cliche tho, breaking the mood. These moments and the intro of dark scenic ambience give the record some needed merit because despite being early, raw and influential, its embryonic experimentation is ugly, not in the aesthetic and rewarding sense but that of a mostly haphazard record.

Favorite Tracks: The Rite Of Darkness, Reap Of Evil
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Steve Roach "Journeys To The Infinite" (2020)

Having spent a pretty penny on records this month, the availability of a free compilation was a welcome one. Once again the itch developed for some relaxing meditative music of which Steve Roach is both a master and pioneer. With this being a collection of eight tracks all from different projects, there was much to enjoy. All were new to me, with exception to one song rehashing a keen temporal melody off Structures From Silence. With such variety on display it is hard to comment on the particulars but I found myself in awe of the apparent ease and simplicity of his unfolding compositions, which are inherently deceptive as time silently ticks by.

The songs start in timid places. Simple arrangements of atmospheric synths or modulated synths, unimposing in stature, lure one into the fold. As the master does, the music grows patiently. Layers build and a thick atmosphere engulfs one with stealth. Later into these lengthy constructs one can be in awe of the density that amounts to such deep and spiritual insights. With eighty two minutes of finely crafted, temporal, meditative ambience peering into the mind, its easy to get lost in this record.

With such a plethora of music produced and continuing to create, it can be daunting to know where to go with his catalogue but it seems the musician has a constitute quality to his output. Maybe this compilation will serve as a jumping on point to another album as I find myself keenly curious by the soundscapes he forges. I particularly liked Skeleton Passage with its Tangerine Dream vibes and also the subtle world music ques akin to another classic Dreamtime Return on two of the songs. Fine music!

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Malcolm Home "Infinity" (2020)

Immediately warm and welcoming, the smooth, soft jazzy beats at play feel right at home, pardon the pun. Infinity is a debut album loaded with seventy five minutes of breezy Jazz Hop instrumentals. Its subdued Hip Hop element gives rise to a colourful melodic that feels so reflective of many electronic and ambient artists in recent memory. Its of the times, a chilled out, carefully crafted set of songs with melodies learning in the Synth Pop revival direction with a touch of Anime theme song spice dazzling in a couple of song which also tend to be the better ones.

Originality is term thrown around too easily and although I don't hear anything that feels like a stone overturned, the particular fusion of glossy sounds and involved layers of notation has it steering into a combination of recent styles and sounds that feels like a little bit of everything and none of it all at once. This seems to be true of its better moments where the chemistry is ripe but over its broader cut of songs the threads that pull yield different results as the magic stems from this middle ground.

The breezy effortless dreamy arrangements, soaked in reverbs and oozing with summery vibes, get a little tired in the less involved instrumentation. At times the looped nature of the music shows its flaws as songs revolve with little beyond the initial temperament set. Equal to it though are these fantastic flushes of growth as some songs seem to evolve with a lead instrument acting as a voice. Losing You has a dynamic electric guitar solo illuminate an already captivating song.

Infinity's best feels loaded in its front. Save Me brings in a voice for collaboration I cared little for, the vocal didn't gel. Past this point It sounds like the less fleshed out ideas reside in the albums final third which drifts on. This plays up some of the production tricks as they become more noticeable, like wonky keys that flavour a little obscurity throughout. A couple of slow, dreary, dramatic and slow Post-Rock style songs end up here too. A niche touch but a little of key with the overall vibe.

This is a dense record given its runtime, some simple songs are given fair leeway on the repetitions yet on other tracks you almost don't want them to end with the amount of variety being unleashed. It all suggests a need for curation and focus on being more than a collection of beats because in its stride, it really hits the mark! Despite its chilled out nature and easiness, it can get dull in the forefront but It also provides an atmosphere which may just be right for rest and relaxation!

Favorite Tracks: Mercy, Losing You, Drown In The Stars, Los Pantalones, Infinity
Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Bathory "Bathory" (1984)

I was listening to Scandinavian Metal Attack, a compilation of Heavy Metal released earlier the same year that the Swedish one man band Bathory featured on, when I realized its been well over a decade since Id last dived into these classic records that influenced the shape of Black Metal to come. Venom coined the name two years earlier but Quorthorn took the cheese out of the equation, sharpening the axe of evil with an aggression, keenly influenced by Motorhead. This self titled debut pushed the pummeling sound further whilst taking the occult seriously, laying foundations for a whole new musical scene to arise, inspired by the taboos of evil.

 With a brittle angular distortion guitar tone and shrieking howls, this dusky record and its simply awful audio fidelity presents an initial challenge. Much of the tone is pushed into the mid to high range with the low ranges being a muddy mess of bass resonance. All instruments have there sloppy moments with riffs falling off beat, drum strikes inconsistent and collisions of noise. Despite this the music overcomes the technical aspects, Quorthorn's throaty shouts and groans are sufficiently menacing for his evil themes of all things occult and taboo to have a sense of seriousness.

For a primitive and somewhat embryonic record the songs hold up well all these years later. The punkish riffing slogging power chords and melody interwoven picking rhythms stand on their own two feet. Without chasing the gimmicks of speed and extremity for extremities sake, Quorthorn uses his guitar to forge a genuine direction often illuminated by the shrill eruptions of lead guitar that dazzle the songs with speedy tapping arriving through a difficult to decipher whirl of low fidelity sound.

Its Intro and Outro songs make light use of thematic soundscapes to embellish the tone. I can't comment much on the origins of such integration in Metal but its almost no surprise to hear it here as many pioneering ideas have roots in Bathory. Another being the abrupt ending of tracks on two songs, something Darkthrone would get a lot of credit for later. Not all the songs are great, a couple drone with repetition but it has its moments. Many year from my last dive into this world, its clear the songwriting prevails and so its aesthetic elements fall into place given the uncomfortable topicality. The influence is obvious, the nostalgia magical but the best is yet to come!

Favorite Track: Raise The Dead
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Fellsilent "The Double A" (2006)

Forever immortalized in my memory, local Metal outfit Fellsilent represented an exciting time in the musical adventure, as me and my friends started visiting our local Metal bars and clubs. At our first outing these polyrhythmic Djent brutes stole my heart! It was at a time when Meshuggah where still yet to gain their status as extreme innovators and pioneers of a new sound. Finding a local act embracing this sound and executing it with utter class just felt like a match made in heaven. Never has a revisit to this glorious era ever failed me and my recent dive into Catch Thirtythree of the same time had me reveling in the demos and this four track EP again!

 The band have a instinct for big lurking riffs that slog out grooves with a mechanical coldness. Soft melodies seep in through gleaming acoustics, Post-Rock guitar ambience and subtle shifts in tone as a colorful notes align themselves alongside these beastly marches of stomping metallic bludgeoning. The balance in complexity is inviting, keeping polyrhythms locked in the 4/4 bar makes it easy to follow and all the more infectious! Every song has a keen cut of riffs to fit into typical song structures but always do they lead to some form of mammoth peak or breakdown in the final third.

All four songs are superb. Silence Is The Loudest Cry For Help a timeless lyrics that conveys an emotional current to its otherwise chromatic, relentless, battering aesthetic. The vocals add to this grey onslaught. Neema Askari has a distinctly flat and harsh approach, straining his chords with some personality. When they open into uplifting clean sections the relief is simply brilliant. Again its all put together with that final third of a song ascending to its peak and their is no exception.

This band is so ingrained into my being. They were like an illusive beast we never saw again for years as the shows just didn't seem to line up. I think we eventually got to see them again with Enter Shikari a couple more times before they split up in 2010. Its a shame but not all bands make it. Despite being utterly brilliant the stars didn't align and so its likely they will be buried by time and dust a little fast than most but if you love Djent, do yourself a favor and give this record a try! Its a gem!

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Spread "The Whole Nine Yards" (1999)

Around fifteen years ago my music archive hard drive suddenly stopped working. This was absolutely devastating for this young audiophile. It subsequently brought about the practice of frequently backing up all my data, in multiple places. I was able to recover a fair amount from the drive but sectors of it were damaged. Fortunately I could also print the entire directory list to file and at least have a record of what I'd lost... The internet has changed greatly since then. Its much easier to find niche content now. Browsing over that directory list I thought I'd have a little search and what would you know the album has been available on YouTube for two years!

The power of want and nostalgia had mystified The Whole Nine Yards as a "lost gem" in my mind. Hearing it again... how little of that is true! With so much time passed its just the one track, Sacrifice, that I can actually remember in its entire sequence. How I ever found this band in the first place is a mystery now. It is however a fun revisit to the glum moody spirits of Nu Metal, this record perfectly embodying the downtrodden, broken and frustrated tone many bands shared at the time.

As a self produced record, they clearly checked all the boxes for being picked up by a label looking to cash in on the fad. Its obvious weak point though are the vocals. The production at time deploys some reverbs to help mask the weakness but its mostly the clean takes are off key and strained, you can hear what they were aiming but it falls short. The screams and shouts can be a little tiresome too with a lack of interest in the textures they arrive with. They do all the cliche approaches with a couple of Corey Taylor shout raps thrown in the mix too.

When it comes to originality there is little. Deploying all the tropes, one can hear plenty of Korn, Coal Chamber, Godsmack and Slipknot with the echos of the Alternative Metal scene present. Mixing throttling bursts of distorted aggression, quirky guitar melodies and open wound vocal performances, little touches of DJ interludes like Limp Bizkit akin Hip Hop beats just give it everything heard elsewhere before. I probably sound harsh in my tone, despite how its aged poorly with a tired look back at the scene, The Whole Nine Yards is a pretty competent and impressive attempt to fit in with the times, forging some decent songs of that vein. If your in the mood for something depressingly indulged and aggressive then this EP has it.

Favorite Track: Sacrifice
Rating: 3/10

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Wiley "The Godfather 3" (2020)

Reigning in on the success of his Godfather record, UK Grime legend Wiley brings us the third chapter after a relatively disappointing second outing. Initially this third installment felt like a bloated beast, with over twenty tracks and at least as many features. Getting through many spins, two sides emerged, seemingly interlocked in one big project. As expected his prowess as a veteran is focused topic, further explored with more coherent raps on his status as an untouchable in the scene. Light Work stands out as an endearing track on his future. Laying out his plans to pave a path for his son to follow in his footsteps feels like a passing of the mic moment.

Between its topical songs a barrage of guest artists bring a helping variety of wild and overtly enthusiastic temperaments to the mic, often with the braggadocio street sharpness. Its a platform for him to give attention to other Grime artists who flair up with jagged flows and violent rhyme styles, vying for attention with typically biting, obnoxious bars. Its drenched in slang, deep accent emphasizing and catchy inflections. The track Starring is a keen example, bringing equally an obnoxious beat with its jabbing synths and gunshot lined drum loop alongside the features.

On the topic of instrumentals, the production is fine, Wiley has another arsenal of producers to load the album with variety in its typically crisp style with sharp and keen arrangements pulling a range of vibes, mostly leaning to the darker tone of the streets. Eskimo Dance stands out, on of many typically short three minute tracks but it burns through five or six, gritty beats rammed together. It's an attention grabber with absurd flows from another handful of guests, all jumping in with a sequence of short bars.

Its tracks like that and the aforementioned Light Work that make it a little disorienting in the long run as it swings back and forth between this showcase and Wiley's focused thought conveying verses with a few dips into the easier R&B territory. It certainly feels like two ideas have been mashed together but ultimately keeps things spicy and fresh with plenty of favorites to pick from the bunch. Ive read this was his last album, however Wiley has already put out another record since this, I may just give it a spin!

Favorite Tracks: Come Home, Eskimo Dance, Bars, Family, Bruce Wayne, Starring, Light Work
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 13 July 2020

Mushroomhead "XX" (2001)

With a new album released, I though I'd hear the group out and see where they are at these days. I've always been fond of Mushroomhead but mainly for this record alone. XX is their major label debut but also a collection of remastered songs from their first three independently released albums. As another masked Metal band emerging in the Nu Metal era, they are often unfairly cited as a Slipknot clone or rip off, despite being musically different and predating them on both record and in dress.

Often lumped into Metals most contentious category, Mushroomhead are actually more unique than credited for. Industrial, Alternative and Groove strains of Metal influence their dystopian sound with strong syncopation elements being the closest resemblance to Nu Metal, yet they carry none of the tropes. Best of all their keyboards deploy classic tones, bright beaming pianos and symphonic strings are a prominent and contrasting feature, often joining in the syncopation. More often than not they are the touche delivering the memorable and quirky melodies that set these songs aside.

A lot of Mushroomhead's music is not immediately gratifying, they have the mosh friendly stomping tracks with big grooves but often their songs are about atmosphere and tension. Steadily unfolding moods are birthed from chugging guitars of industrial weight and intention, while drawn out guitar chords and subtle synths set a slow and moody tone for the two singers to exchange on the stage. Not always looking for a crescendo or conclusion these numbers make for a great slow burn experience.

When they do ramp up the intensity in a metallic direction, the dystopian mix of clean synths and dirty, gritty aggression is a persuading one. These tend to be the more memorable songs for obvious reasons. XX is a record I've enjoyed for decades and Is worth a listen for its unique chemistry alone. This band where never able to capture my interest with anything else they did but I've got their newest record to give a try but almost twenty years on I'm not sure much of this era will remain.

Favorite Tracks: Before I Die, Solitaire Unraveling, Xeroxed, The Wrist, The New Cult King, Born Of Desire, 43, Bwomp 2
Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Esoterica "In Dreams" (2020)

Surprises come in many forms. Out of the ether emerged a name I had forgotten for many a year. Back at my first few Download Festivals I caught this band twice. Between bands I knew, I'd make sure to see check out ones I didn't. Having a strong spot on the bill of a smaller stage, yet little in the way of a crowd, they struck me as a band with a label backing them. I enjoyed their music, the antics with bringing a trained crow on stage memorable and their cover of Delerium's Silence and absolute gem! So twelve years later I've been swept of my feet by this stunning record!

Somehwat uncanny, the album's best song is another cover. Snug sweetly in the middle, True Faith originally by New Order, has a potent synth melody and sing along chorus that fits the bands aesthetic so well. The song is fundamentally different but this song writing brings so much to their thick, moody sound. Its hard to pin down, a form of artsy Alternative Rock and Progressive Metal with a dreamy Ethereal quality. The mixing embellishes this chemistry with a luscious texture, atmospheric and emotionally indulgent with melodic piano tones pinned under its dreary guitar leads.

Its a great aesthetic compliment to the singer, who performs with power and fragility in the balance as he wrestles his way through with an open vulnerability. Now with Tool in my arsenal of recognition, I hear a distinct Maynard influence in his voice as the intensity of his singing takes on similar journeys, especially on the song Letting Go. The brooding and building inline with the instruments takes us on quite the journey through the musical expression. The cohesion is impressive an often the best aspect of the songs as no instrument tries to overpower or out perform another.

With a track like Gone, Esoterica present an ear for groove and an apatite for energy that runs counter to the general tone of the record. These are mostly mid tempo songs with dreary bleak atmospheres, sombre yet gleaming with a hidden beauty in its subtle harmonies. Surges of melodic uplift in the songs peaks remind me of the parting of dull rains on a cold day, to then feel the warmth of sun and see the colors of a rainbow. They are beautifully heavy emotions finding resolve as the winds turn.

Initially I was blown away, then I was enamored. As each spin goes around a few cracks show themselves. You're Not Alone is a little to simplified with a lack of direction. Gone's punchy pop arrival doesn't stand as well with the Progressive music and I Won't Give Up On You feels a shade behind the magic that makes the rest of the songs simply cracking. I already know this is another one for years to go by and enjoy over and over. I am so very impressed by this band after so much silence!

Favorite Tracks: Breaking The Unknown, In Dreams, True Faith, Humanity, Letting Go, Hunted, The Still
Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Lamb Of God "Lamb Of God" (2020)

Many years on from the heyday of Ashes Of The Wake, I picked up this self titled record from the legendary American Metal band on an assumption of something special given the title. Their fusion of Groove, Thrash and Metalcore has been a continual source of energy over the years, the tight choppy sound of precision assault sets them aside in the crowd. Unfortunately I've drifted from them as newer recorded just didn't keep me interested. Its their tenth, or eighth depending on how you count them, and to my ears they sound like a band that's exhausted their greatness.

Lamb Of God's tone and temperament is routine, their new drummer makes a competent replacement but perhaps lacks a little bite I remember the percussion having in the past. Trading off a run of riffs and grooves, the album goes through its motions with a particular "festival metal" vibe where once they had a unhinged apatite for aggression, now seeming tame and more about a general atmosphere. Its very enjoyable at its surface, tightly performed Metal banger with typical intervals of break out riffs, either a break down or a blood pumping tempo increase diving into a thrash.

As it grows in age, a lot of their characteristics fade into the mid tempo passes as foot is let of the gas. Randy Blythe's tend to penetrate at their worst with typically apathetic and disenfranchised lyrics. "The American scream" and "segregate the living dead" two that stick out like sore thumbs. It has all the components of something I would of once loved. Is it an aging band or a listener who doesn't get the same kicks anymore? Reality is little of the music here surprised me after decades of consuming Metal.

 Later into its runtime Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed lends vocals for a number, as does Chuck Billy on another who's iconic voice transforms the song and gives it a keen Testament vibe. They really show their Thrash Metal flair on this track with the drummers hammering out those classic Slayer like chops. Its a decent track buried among the rubble of routine Metal that is struggling to find new ideas. If this were you're first time with the band you'll probably have an absolute blast. It seems to be a common problem for me, old bands doing the same tricks and my appetite is full.

Favorite Track: Routes
Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Xzibit "Weapons Of Mass Destruction" (2006)

As an applause from a crowd dissipates, eerie synths glow in the backdrop as former president Bush's voice gives a chilling speech of his nefarious plans and ill intent. It grabbed my attention by the neck, a fine piece of work stitching his many hours of recorded voice together. Listening casually, it almost sounds legit, on closer inspection the details can be examined with a keen ear. I'm not sure I've heard a manipulation that good before! It certainly set the stage for Xzibit to kick off the record with firm fiery raps and a big stage beat on the album's second track L.A.X.

Unfortunately its a swift downhill trend from here. The production team bring this over assertive musicality to the project. Tracks are scarred by sung hooks deploying overt melodies and the instrumentals follow. A dense use of music theory that lacks the ear for what works. Even Xzibit gets in on these gaudy hooks by singing, which doesn't work. Its mostly jovial, upbeat and cheery. The vibe doesn't mix and there is a lot of repetition for an approach that wants to load in melody and layers. Its a better setting for something with a little Jazz Fusion yet this musicality is packaged into stiff loops.

X actually drops a fair amount of decent lyrics. At times he is tight, on point with a lot to say. Cold World sticks to the albums theme with a Middle Eastern perspective that is hard hitting. When not at his best, the loud droning beats tend to take over attention. Without his usual entourage the shift in tone and style fails to yield much that is memorable and produces more of whats mostly on the irritating side. The project is obnoxious, aiming for a more musical, tuneful Hip Hop record that could grab the Pop audience in the record sales charts. Its execution however is deaf to what makes that work. Its sub-par and at an hour in length its over bloated and hard to get through.

Favorite Tracks: State Of The Union, LAX, Cold World
Rating: 3/10

Friday, 3 July 2020

Run The Jewels "RTJ4" (2020)

I've taken my time with this forth installment. Why? Run The Jewels records have a habit of aging well, something about EL-P's production takes a little time to become acquainted with. Its the unexpected nature of his production. Hinged on fairly unconventional sampling with a dystopian atmosphere, the charm and groove take a little while to unearth. After a ton of spins I find RTJ4 just keeps growing on me. For a duo that gets better on every album, this one could continue that trend... time will tell.

There is a heavily political theme at play, not something RTJ shy away from but with current events in the world, the album takes on the death of George Floyd and the BLM movement head on with some of its hardest hitting lyrics to date. "Look at all these slave masters posing on your dollars" a line from a hook that is embedded itself in the mind. It is mostly Killer Mike who unsurprisingly takes the lead with much of the political head way, driving home much food for thought while reflecting on his own position as a voice for change whilst weighing up his commitment to family life.

Its deep and dense, much like its beats which bring another arsenal of creative ideas to shape up a whole bunch of unique beats with a slightly disorienting flair. Layered and textural, EL-P crafts barrages of disarming sounds with studio manipulations to keep everything exciting and fresh. Its ironically the collaboration with the legendary DJ Shadow that yields a rare duller beat in the lineup, the hook too lacks oomph. Otherwise the music is all gold, with a string of better songs in its second half.

When Walking In The Snow kicks in, the album shifts into top gear, the lyrical intensity amps up. Mike gets a weight off his chest, speaking on the death of Floyd whispering "I can't breath" as the punch line in a powerful verse. It pivots into Ju$t further unearthing the historical tensions around slavery. Never Look Back gets a deep emotional reflection from the two and The Ground Below goes hard again on politic themes with one of the albums best beats. EL-P brings in a subtle yet concrete rock guitar riff to lay a foundation for a grooving bass kick clap groove to rock the boat.

Its a great and captivating stretch of songs. The album's end always felt disorienting to me. The music stops and some electronic synths lead in a narration referencing the first track Yankee And The Brave. The vibe feels just like a warmup yet its a brief one minute stint to see the record out. These are just some observations on a very enjoyable record that I'll continue to enjoy for years to come, just like the last! The duo's form is yet to waiver and their ability to be on the pulse of current topics only adds to the project. Can they keep it going? Id bet so!

Favorite Tracks: Goonies Vs Et, Walking In The Snow, Ju$t, Never Look Back, The Ground Below, A Few Words For The Firing Squad
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Behemoth "A Forest" (2020)

The ground shaking, triumphant beam of blasphemy that was Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel has had me with a keen eye on the Polish Blackened Death Metal legends since The Satanist's release back before I started this blog. Despite knowing they could be capable of more surprises, I picked up this EP with little in the way of expectations, a Cure cover and accompanying live version pained their music in a grim darkened tone that lacked much in the way of excitement, not to mention the guest vocals that are a little wretched, strained and stretched out of tune.

Shadows Ov Ea Cast Upon Golgoth plunges into a grim shadowy realm for a mid tempo track led by aggressive tom drum pummeling that tends to circle the waters in the way of progression a little guitar solo and thunderous ending do little to offer much in the way of gratification from this brief journey into its uneasy state of darkness.

Evoe on the other hands chops up some brighter tuneful, for extreme music, guitar riffs to oppose its dives into double pedal rattling groans of evil. At the mid point the song bursts open, a competent but hastily performed solo sort of achieving what the track before couldn't. I had a feeling It wasn't really worth forking over the dosh but I was curious and in all reality this is a really weak release from a band with a far higher bar of quality, even on an EP. Given these crazy times we are living through, maybe they were just looking to throw out something for the sake of sustenance.

Favorite Track: Evoe
Rating: 2/10

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Queen "Made In Heaven" (1995)

Another journey reaches the end of the road. Queen's fifteenth and final album, a somewhat "posthumous" release, arriving four years on from Freddie's passing. His voice features with normality, still powerful and beautiful, central to the theme, is clearly touched by his ill health. Most the music was recorded before his death and his band mates reworked parts of it after his passing to finish the recording. The result is possibly their blandest work to date, despite having a good spirit and message.

On first listen its gawky, tacky sense of uplift is rather dominating but with a few additional spins some of the Heavy Metal magic in the oppening takes hold. Brain May brings quite the bite in places with weighty hard riffs and bright, slick classic guitar leads in his defined style. Its layered with symphonic keys for a dense sound but as the midway point hits the attitude dissipates. The songs take on a softer tone with a lulling ballad energy focusing on Freddie's somewhat self cliched lyrics and persona.

Its the one record without a standout song, perhaps the title tack comes close with the best of Freddie here and some great cohesion as the song flows. Its counterpart however, Heaven For Everyone, follies as its well intended lyrics stack up the cheese with these ballad like "gentle epics". Its certainly not my cup of tea and ends up being the vibe most the music follows. It leaves me with mixed feelings.

Undeniably genius and brilliant in their element, Queen's eclecticism and eccentricity was practically miraculous in the best of their early output. Heading into the eighties that eclectic nature seemed to weigh them down as cohesion was waning and the song writing became more divided, rigid and lacking adventure. They developed a comfort in writing that lost its excitement and surprise. With Innuendo they mustered a little bit of that spark back but by Made In Heaven they lulled back into that comfort again. Its not a great record to end on but the journey has been immensely fun!

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Xzibit "Man VS Machine" (2002)

Following up on the mixed bag that was Restless, Xzibit brings a surprising amount of coherence to his forth album. Man VS Machine has a similar tone and entourage with Dr. Dre, Snoop and Eminem returning among others, as well as new collaborates DJ Premier and M.O.P. Kicking off with a typical self affirming braggadocio track, the substance then starts with Release Date, a tale of being released from jail and building a mentality for the transition. Its a moment where his rhymes grab your attention and handle a narrative. It happens rather frequently on the albums journey.

Man VS Machine is not without its tarnish, some features feel routine, a few stale overproduced beats and a couple of trashy raunchy songs in the mix but this streak of substance in X's rhymes stand out. He is still firmly rough and tough on the mic, his delivery hard and concise with a firm flow, typical X but between his hard hitting lines, socially conscious leaning verses pack some weight, food for thought in the mix. Its far from profound but as the tracks play these moments frequently pop up.

Heart Of Man remixes Toto's Africa, which might sound like a recipe for disaster and although X is a little harsh for the mood, it somehow serves as a highlight on the record, a rather uplifting track with a solid message of taking life seriously and putting in hard work to who you are and your ambitions. He reflects on his journey and how others and fallen behind, the way of expressing his work ethic is refreshing. It stands out against the overall tone, a lot of spiffing clean virtual instrument beats with enough variety and experimentation to provide something for everyone.

My Name is a fantastic tune, Eminem lends his voice and production for another track that could slip into his own discography. Nate Dogg's voice in the chorus hook really pulls together the vibe of the era. The inclusion of Eddie Griffin on a skit, akin to one on 2001, once again really expands this sounds universe. I was so fond of in my youth, much fun to discover more of it. Going into this I wasn't expecting much giving the historical response but their is plenty here to dig. With a little trim removing some of the fluff tracks it would be one solid record!

Favorite Tracks: Release Date, Symphony In X Major, Heart Of Man, My Name, Missin U
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 26 June 2020

Stevie Wonder "Innervisions" (1973)

A name known the world over in music, but one I had never come acquainted with until now. Stevie was a veteran at this point, a Jazz musician from an era where records where pumped out yearly. Innervisions, his sixteenth, is often frequented by critics as a landmark album, making top lists and the like. Its a highly enjoyable record, loaded with melody and thoughtful compositions. Brilliant songwriting has appealing pop sensibilities between a depth of expansive instrumentation. Initially I was drawn to a subtle streak of Progressive Rock, Visions almost acting as an echo of King Crimson. The overlapping influences of Soul, Funk, Jazz and Rock at play created a point of comparison with some Jazz Fusion records I have enjoyed.

Another thread of influence unraveled. Stevie's voice had a remarkable resemblance to Micheal Jackson, the high pitch woos and cries an obvious characteristic of influence on the king of pop, as well as some of his higher ranged singing carrying a similar persona. His presence is subtlety remarkable. Perhaps it is the competition from the artful instrumentation that competes for attention. Golden Lady a fantastic example of powerful singing that isn't over pronounced or dialed up beyond necessity. His music is warm, inviting and the songs often grow in stature as one is drawn in.

As familiarity settled the themes of social struggle and black life in American became all too apparent. Living For The City tells tales of hard life and daily struggles. The seven minute march opens up with a scenic passage, voice actors and city sounds depict an encounter with corrupt cops. It had me pondering. What was the origin of such an concept incorporated into music? I first heard it on Straight Outta Compton and its become a common feature in Hip Hop musics. Maybe it has its roots here?

Stevie has it all on this record. His instrumentation is a vibrant tapestry of instruments in tandem, reveling in melody, chord arrangements arrive with pleasing simplicity yet offer a wealth of creativity as the Funk energy personifies the synths and instruments with a bold liveliness. It has me appreciating it more with each listen but I may be far from done with Innervisions. Some songs towards the back end don't appeal quite as much when approaching the ballad spectrum but there is a wealth of great music here I can't deny and its been a fantastic introduction to the legendary musician.

Favorite Tracks: Living For The City, Golden Lady, Higher Ground
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Global Communication "76 14" (1994)

Plucking a recommended "ambient gem" from an old playlist, I found myself in a moment of awe as I thumbed over the release date. All the many similarities and artists I could reference flew out the window as this vastly predates the likes of Carbon Based Lifeforms. Now its praise seems all the more apparent given what little that is similar Ive heard before the year of 94. Global Communication are an English ambient duo who have built a timely, beautiful experience here, embarking on seventy six minutes and fourteen seconds of entrancing ambiguity and Downtempo meditations. Its songs are all equally named in length, a combination of two numbers to say little more of the music, other than how long each chapter will last.

This lack of additional substance lets the music take on its own form with no suggestion of what the artists intention might be. For me, an experience both cosmic and spiritual, meditative and temporal, even a little funky and jazzed out in its lively spaces. The music can be whatever you like! Its overall quality is a sonic experience, soft and suggestive with lapses into beat and groove as its lengthy building passages of suspense find release in steady percussive sways. They muster a warm gusto of pace an indulgence into deeply relaxed and chilled soundscapes.

 The record starts with its mighty astral synths playing folly to whats ahead. It opens a portal for a lengthy expedition guided by whirling synths and stitched to reality with its remarkable, tembre tick-tock of a clock, marking time passing by, It seems all to meaningful somehow. The songs then sway between experimental soundscapes and rhythmic rooted tracks that lay down easy tempos and build a world around it with various electronic synth sounds and murmurous bass lines.

 7 39 builds up an appetite with light Industrial vibes and a denser web of interchanging sounds. Its potent melodies overall vibe fondly remind me of Devin Townsend's Project EKO. Its a stark transition into 54, mysterious foreign voices exchange some shared language of communication as spacious beeps and whirls give of an astronomic vibe. It plays into the experience as the foundations of rhythm and melody seemed to be pulled back into ambiguity on a frequent basis.

As the closing tracks returns to the heavenly astral synths heard in the opening, they act like a wrapper for two particular strains of music held together in the middle. Ambiguous experiments in temporal texture and Downtempo chill out tracks converting the electronic music scene of the 90s into ambient form. All of it is fantastic and the way in which it flows just makes for an effortless listen. I can see why its held in such high regard. Hearing what it must of influenced beyond its release has certainly taken the edge off a little but it makes it no less fantastic.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 19 June 2020

Coprofago "Unorthodox Creative Criteria" (2005)

The crudely named Coprofago are a Chilean band likened to Meshuggah, once discovered at a time before the Djent scene had blossomed and an inch for the Swede's new sound was present. With roots in the Technical Death Metal scene, an influence of meaty seven string guitars hammering out blunt, looping polymetered riffs make themselves known from the kick off. With alien guitar leads akin to Fredrick Thordendal and harsh, bleak screams similar to Jens Kidman its easy to see the influence and how fans could be comparative between the two bands.

As the album plays, its other influences start to reveal themselves. The keyboards illuminate another angle, Jazz Fusion and Progressive Rock styling bring an exploratory nature to the music, it provides relief to the brutal onslaught of chugging mechanical riffs and broadens the scope of sound to quite the musical adventure. Tracks like Isolated Through Multiplicity go off on thees tangents of colorful expression, outbursts led by the synths as exchanges in musical electricity between guitar and keyboards play in contrast to the metallic edge and grinding drums.

The synth tones are somewhat cheap and cheesy when given focus to their aesthetic. Yet the performance and composition fits so snugly into whats unfolding that its barely noticeable. The whole thing is a classy affair from talented musicians rattling of their skills into Jazzy constructs of intensity and indulgence as the music often sways between an aggressive temperament and something far more exploratory and emotional, in a mysterious sense as they often pluck at more existential strings.

One could almost separate these two strands that tend to work in parallel rather than find common ground. The swing between is often blunt and swift yet with that it finds a charm perhaps learned through familiarity as this record is one I've frequented over the fifteen years since its release. Its always been a pleasure and listening to it again, breaking down the components I find myself really appreciating this niche era of influence when Meshuggah's legacy first started to spread.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Xzibit "Restless" (2000)

Xzibit's third record, Restless, unites the West Coast rapper with legendary producer Dr. Dre who brings his Aftermath entourage. Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Mel-Man & Nate Dogg all participate in the product. Their worlds collide, what seemed an inevitability giving the influential tone of 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz. This record was like unearthing a lost memory, the beats, hooks and features had the temperament of an era I knew fondly growing up with Em and Dre dominating MTV day in and out. His hit single X is the one song I remember from its airplay on the music channel.

After many spins, my take away is mostly disappointment. I'm sure I'd love it if I heard it at the time but the music mostly feels second hand to the style of production. The tone and temperament, flows and hooks echo of 2001 and his aforementioned guests dominate attention with their styles of the era. Don't Approach Me with Eminem is a fantastic track but as the two exchange verses and Em sings the chorus its practically a Marshall Mathers b-side as the songs weight is clearly on one of their shoulders.

 A couple tracks sour with weak hooks or trashy lyrics. Snoop on D.N.A is just ridiculous, made me reflect on how mean and vicious his attitude was at this point in his career. Its not all bad. X brings on other legends like Erick Sermon and KRS-One who put together two fantastic tracks, the loose yet sharp, goofy beat Alkaholik and Kenny Parker Show an old school banger bringing back the classic echos on rhymes.

What about X himself? I felt like he had less to say overall. The immediacy and thirst lacking a little which seems to be a common thread in Hip Hop once success is reached. His rhymes are solid and flow aggressive and rugged but a lot of the lyrical topics were mainly self affirming and defensive of his ability on the mic. Its the most common theme but unless bringing the sharpest arrangement of words its wont stick.

One track, Sorry I'm Away So Much, stands out as a thoughtful song about being a father from his the perspective of X's lifestyle but its a lone track of reflection among a lot of typical hard headed rhyming. Restless is a curious record, a project with a lot of hands on deck, bringing many sounds together that tend to cloud its focus where quality is sparsely found between mediocrity.

Favorite Tracks: Alkaholik, Kenny Parker Show, Double Time, Don't Approach Me, Rimz & Tirez, Get Your Walk On
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Trivium "What The Dead Men Say" (2020)

Having spent over a month with this record my dissatisfaction perhaps stems from a case of fulfilled curiosity with their previous effort, The Sin And The Sentence, being a proper introduction to the bands identity. What The Dead Men Say feels like a total rehash of the same summery anthemic festival Metal spun with the same craft, intensity and almost cheesy lyrics poised with a tone of might, honor and glory. Matt Heafy's wording and delivery bares it formula, making for a rather predictable string of songs that summit the same emotional struggles over and over again.

To give the record some merit, its a very credible romp of melodic tinged aggressive metal. Soaring its way through turmoil with streaks of grooving riffs neatly composed, the songs carry a constant sense of epic struggle and overcoming odds as the temperament tends to follow the lyrical narrative. The longer tracks carry some variety with breaks from the normative structures but despite regular creative shake ups the whole thing feels like an repeating echo of what just came before it.

It leaves me with not much to say. Its opening track IX creates quite the anticipation with its darkly acoustic but once the metallic guitar kick in with an appropriately crisp, octane production the music swiftly fits the cast its molded for with all the verses, choruses and hooks feeling so normative. Even if this Is all I focus on with my writing, its an enjoyable record, a fun ride of proud fist pumping Metal precisely in the anthemic style Trivium have mastered over the years.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Meshugah "I" (2004)

Part of the excitement leading to Catch Thirtythree was the build up in the Nuclear Blast magazine, the Swedish bands lable. Before its arrival the band would release another one song project, an EP with a lone twenty one minute song known as I. Rougher around the edges and with its drum machine identifications showing, I serves as the bridge between sounds. This was the Nothing and Chaosphere era of the band manifesting into a meaty riff fest of pummeling brutality with shades of the masterclass to come, however this was an exercise in sheer intensity.

Giving it a listen again for some time I find myself enamored by its coarse abrasion and flabbergasted as to how my memory of its genius faded. Perhaps that grinding intro of Bleed like guitar chugging meant I'd skip it over? How could I forget such magic? As the song grows it flexes some alien melodic guitar lines in the background, swelling groove and aggression in a hateful pot. Then comes the real axe grind, meaty poly chugs allure us into an absolute maelstrom of deafening blast beat madness... and then that solo! My word is it a blisteringly fast, finger bleeding assault on the strings baron of any melodic sense, it just starts, full on, then ends... I love it!

The song falls into a lull of discordant acoustics and then its returning riffs echo much of a Meshuggah in years to come with riffs conceptually liking to its predecessor. Pummeling its way on with simplistic grooves and far simpler slabs of head banging groove, a stretched elasticity starts to build suspension, unleashing more measures of hypnotic swaying. Those Catch Thirtythree shimmering tremolo guitars make an arrival in the background and I'm fondly loving the journey through this old treasure.

Listening again, one can really hear the transition play out as a progressive journey through the song. More elements of whats to come persuade the song as its birth through incessant brutality gives way to an arsenal of carefully crafted riffs that are just simply a delight to endure. Turning this song on to churn out some thoughts I am stunned again as to how much brilliance this band posses in their conceptual approach to ideas. These "one song" concepts steered the band from structural norms and in it the freedom to move births so many fantastical ideas. Its a real treat!

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 15 June 2020

Meshuggah "Catch Thirtythree" (2005)

Ah Meshuggah... one of a rare few bands that pull me in like a magnet. Its been around eighteen years since I discovered the Swedish magicians, pioneers of Djent and masters of primordial rhythmic elasticity. Too this day a track popping up on shuffle will have me relenting into a binge, after another one today I felt very inspired to talk of their best work. Its release was in the prime of my musical infatuation, festivals and gigs galore with friends, it felt monumental, a new form to worship.

As an album it succeeds in executing a vision as a whole. Conceptually its one unrelenting forty seven minute song with a few sections of respite. Even its clunky track splitting can't separate a prevalent wholeness as the lengthy In Death Is Death feels like it could equally be split into ten shorter tracks. Catch Thirtythree is a continually unraveling of the bands finest hypnotic riff work to date.

Leaving the constraints of structured song writing behind, the band find a slender liquidity that strikes at the core of their rhythmic magic. An unending unraveling of elastic groove, swaying with bounce, twisting with cryptic intervals, the dancing never ends it seems. A key feature is the inclusion of tremolo picking guitars creating this layer of modal ambience that holds the dizzying jolts of mechanical fret board dexterity to a grounded anchor. Its a missing link barely if at all utilized again since this one.

Mind's Mirror marks a memorable moment as Jens's monochromatic bleak howls get flipped sideways. His spoken words morphed through melodic waves over the top of sparse collapsing guitar noise creates a beautiful and totally unexpected moment to builds up suspense for an entourage of the bands bounciest riffs. The pair of Death songs delve deep into the arsenal of progressive riffs, toying with all sorts of ploymeter arrangement and counter intuitive notation. Its nothing but pure gold.

The record's production is stellar. Crisp, bright and beaming with tone its a sound ingrained in my mind for all the binges I've taken on it. Fifteen years later it still lights a fire in my mind, persuading me fully to its tribal polyrhythmic dance. With so many great moments its hard to pick any favorites. Perhaps that empithizes why the album experience prevails this time around. Its best enjoyed whole and if you make it to Sum, then unleashed are beautiful sways of melody to peak the bands primal brilliance.

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Old Corpse Road "On Ghastly Shores Lays The Wreckage Of Our Lore" (2020)

The allure of romanticized gothic tales and cryptic ethereal extremity was too much to resist. Always mystified by the early Cradle Of Filth sound, I wanted another slice of darkly dramatics from Old Corpse Road who live out that early 90s British Black and Gothic Extreme Metal sound so well. The group are at it again, birthing violent surges of esoteric wonder as barrages of dense sinister synths malign sombre guitar leads. The band craft a great sense of scale and weighty meaning as the music sails through its epic ocean bound tales with a yielding pace and stormy might. Wild shrieks and shrill howls often peak the plunges into the bleak as thunderous slabs of metallic force make a mark on the otherwise rather melodic expressions of these moody tales.

In comparison with what I remember of previous records, the band expand their sound into folksy territory with tones of pagan acoustics and choral signing. Where the album blooms it reminds me fondly of In The Woods, Macabre Omen and the almighty Emperor in one instant, to name a few. It shapes up the album well with more shades of Black Metal than I expected. It sways with a good sense of flow as its lengthy songs pass through plenty of phases, embellishing extremities and finding plenty of musical relief as openings of calm arrive, often eerie and unsettled in nature.

On Ghastly Shores Lays The Wreckage Of Our Lore has a quality I completely overlooked until the routine of writing promoted thoughts of production. This recording is sloppy in consistency, dense and harsh at times with a muddy sense of clarity. This actually plays right into its hands. In the age of octane clarity and precision performance it derives character from its looseness, capturing a sound more identifiable with the era of this styles inception. Its made me appreciate its rough edges so much more as it brings one closer to the tale they are telling. That and the delightful sixteen minute track have made this one a fantastic listen these last few weeks.

Favorite Tracks: Harbingers Of Death, The Ghosts Of The Ruinous Dunstanburgh Castle
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Frank Klepacki & The Tiberian Sons "Frank Klepacki & The Tiberian Sons" (2020)

Alongside the remastered music of Command & Conquer, soundtrack composer Frank Klepacki has teamed up with VGM tribute band The Tiberian Sons to deliver twenty two performances of his iconic music as a Metal band. Its undoubtedly a treat in this exciting and nostalgic time for the game and its fans. Haven listened to it back to back over the last few days, I find myself reaching a more "objective" take on the music, going beyond my adoration and feverish enjoyment hearing these favorite songs of mine through a new lens.

Most, if not all, of the original music is stripped out. The synths hold onto the original tones in many a place but much of the nuance and detail is lost to the band performance. With crisp, high fidelity modernized production, the music has a spacious vacuum where the crystal clear punch of each drum strike, plucked bass line and rattle of distortion guitar tend not to cross paths where some much needed "mud" would give it density. Its a case of being a little to clean for its own good.

I say all this with a grain of salt, its an enjoyable project but I can't help but hear all the missing elements where layers of synths colliding now feel sparse as minimal synth carry things forward with some compensating guitar riffs laid underneath. It all ebbs and flows, some songs carry this burden more than others and leave a listener desiring the richness of the originals. Prepare For Battle being a great example where the song goes through utterly bare sections of just bass and drums alone.

When the band deviate from the purity of original songs, it rarely gives more. The Primus inspired slap bass licks, guitar shredding solos and drum fill barrages to send off songs don't sound particularly fresh or exciting, just that typical theatrical Rock thing to do. On the flip side these distortion guitars shine bright. The crisp and bold tone resonates well and brings a lot to compliment the original compositions.

The non metallic cover of Dusk Hour is a reminder of just how many games Frank wrote great music for. Some tracks from Red Alert 2 make it in with a pair of medley songs adding elements from further along in the franchise I was unfamiliar with. Overall its a huge treat to enjoy but for the most part I'll be continuing with the remastered songs as only a handful of songs here elevate the original music.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 8 June 2020

Frank Klepacki "Command & Conquer Remastered Soundtrack" (2020)

The remastering of Westwood Studio's classic Command & Conquer games is such a great excuse to write about the fantastic soundtrack that accompanied it. Reflecting on the twenty five years since I played this MSDOS game as a kid shines a light how inadvertently it may have shaped my musical taste. The game's sole musician Frank Klepacki took the emerging Industrial Metal sound of the 90s and forged it into a beautifully atmospheric and mood altering layer of the experience that transcended the immersive world of role play strategy and control over militarized units. Some years after initially playing these games I yearned to hear the music again and tinkering with tools obtained from the internet I was able to to extract the audio from all the games and their expansion packs and burning them onto audio CDs. From then and till this day I routinely enjoy them, they are simply timeless!

This remastered collection reproduces everything with a far greater audio fidelity given there were media limitations in the 90s that led to compressed 22hrz audio. These remastered songs have more clarity and depth in sound, without much in the way of compromise. Textures and quieter instruments become more visible and perk the ears with more details to notice but nothing was ever holding these songs from getting their point across. Its a delight to have the songs updated for further listening pleasure but It also comes with extras, outtakes and few missing remixes from the Playstation's Red Alert Retaliation port which I never got my hands on... until now!

Frank's music is relatively diverse, although their are surges of distortion guitar driven tracks with rocking drum grooves, the songs between calve focused atmospheres fit for the high stakes of the game. Edge and suspense is often present, never wandering into darkness or paranoia. Its electronic instruments forge both the calmer songs and upheavals of energy with plenty of 90s electronica music influence on its percussion and a fair helping of that janky stitching of sounds ever present in 80s Industrial. With Red Alert the soundtrack definitely pivots more into the electronic realm with more aggressive synths leading the way in its punchier tracks however the Metal guitar makes its legendary mark with the anthemic Hell March. The marching of feet, the creeping baseline, exploding into a fiery storm of metallic guitar, wonderful!

I'll be giving this one a ten simply to signify how much this music as a whole means to me, that also includes Red Alert 2 and Tiberian Sun too! As for the remastering, I've listened with intent ears and It doesn't seem like anything much has been tinkered or altered for restoration. Some of the reverbs become very obvious with more cavernous depth but skipping back to the originals you can hear they were there all along! That early childhood "nostalgia" is strong, the bonds formed here have been endlessly fascinating to me and always manages to take me to a good place. I am forever thankful for Frank's wonderful music and its been such a delight to see the remaster project acknowledge the music too! Will hopefully find time to play the game a little too before long.

Rating: 10/10