Thursday, 24 September 2020

Heilung "Futha" (2019)


Futha is more of an experience than a collection of formulated songs. It is what Heilung specialize in, esoteric, bleak and bewildering music that pierces a nomadic spirit with an atmosphere of fright and wonder. Primitive instruments, ritualistic chants and a tribal spirit forge inducing passageways of entrancing rhythms between heathen cries calling to the gods. These Norwegian have taken deep inspiration from a mythic take on their pagan heritage. Reading up on the use of bones, ashes and even antiques from temples as instruments, the music is as vivid as their dedication to it.

The best of the record comes with both the effeminate and male voices chiming, singing in native tongue over driving looped percussion with airy synths steaming into dense smothering atmospheres. With long and lengthy songs totaling seventy two minutes the repetitive nature sets in as a temporal, spiritual mood seeking the roots of a humanity that once looked very different. Futha takes its time, build ups are sluggish, some interlude ambiences steady forward with no sparkle or polish. It fits in so well to the vision but it is not always as captivating the initial charm on first listen.

The nostalgic purity is alluring but that undercurrent of mother natures cold cruelty is always present. In the final stages the record bites its teeth in with a grimness as guttural vocals are drawn in word by word on Elivagar. Its like the beginning of a cursed ritual, ghostly voicing uttering out every breath with a textural viscosity that brews in intensity. It leads into the last two numbers like a portal to the past, one is at the center of a psychedelia induced blood ritual of entranced primitive sacrifice. Futha offers up a remarkable experience in fractions but isn't always captivating from start to end. It is certainly worth your time if cultural music of lost tribes is in anyway enticing to you.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 21 September 2020

House Of Pain "Fine Malt Lyrics" (1992)

 

Famed for the timeless Jump Around, a song now spun to death at public events and venues, Fine Malt Lyrics is the debut multi platinum album that houses the smash hit produced by DJ Muggs. This is not a record that gets talked about often and with good reason, its aged poorly. I have soft spot for this trio though, they have close ties to Cypress Hill and little DJ Leathal of Limp Bizkit, two of my youthful favorites.

House Of Pain have a distinct style, excelling in the two key components of Hip Hop music, beats and rhymes! Rapper and front man Everlast has the clear annunciation, groovy flow and punchy rhyme emphasis to give himself a unique charismatic voice on the mic, embellished by his Irish heritage that's woven deep into the tapestry of the band. He is aided greatly by the production and sampling, complimenting his stance.

With a depth of sources not usually akin to Hip Hop, the pairing of beats, samples and prominent baselines brings out this quirky and energetic vibe with a touch of funk and uplift. Its undoubtedly similar to Cypress Hill's stunning debut with DJ Muggs producing half the album however the Latin lingo and cultural inflections is swapped out with this Irish spin. There is also a hint of Bomb Squad influence here too.

Stacking up the best tracks in the opening run, its not long before Everlast is running on steam. With a focus on braggadocio revolving around his lyrical prominence and sexual appetite, the themes end up spin like a roundabout. Given his delivery is bold and simple, like many where at the time, it doesn't hold up over an hour of listening as the same punchlines get traded over and over with a different cut of words.

Despite this, its fun to jump in and enjoy a few tracks. They have always been the sort to have me queuing up a few additional favorites when a track pops up on shuffle. Giving the whole record a go today It made me realize how with the times they were. Hip Hop has evolved immensely since then and the formula of this era is shaky when the lyrical substance is lacking. This record sure has style but not depth.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Marilyn Manson "We Are Chaos" (2020)

 

With his career revived in its third stint, news of We Are Chaos brought quite the anticipation, despite Heaven Upside Down not having the same lasting power as The Pale Emperor. From the first spin till this latest, this new chapter has had quite the absorbing pull. Now starting to pick out my favorites, all ten of these tracks strive for a similar sing-along anthem spirit as Manson's lyrics hit a stride for his typically striking wording and keen thought provoking lyrics, twisted with a little deviance as his catchy chorus hooks dig like nails into skin, leaving a mark.

One to normally romp with metallic aggression and industrial noise, the bands thick and embellished sound gives way to the tenants of popular song writing. Where riffs and slabs of darkly sound once took the musical stance, keen writing directed by driving baselines, elevated with timely pianos and permeated with moody acoustic guitars. A stage is set for Manson to shine as a front man, his lyrics churning dark and difficult realities into sing along songs is remarkable as hes done it many times before. Without deep analysis, the general mood feels like an amalgamation of his newer personally oriented themes and lesser so, the social commentary.

Infinite Darkness and Perfume stick out as a moment more alike his traditional styling. They fit in well to punch a bit of stomping energy between the indulgence of lighter songs toying with the the now common wall of sound production style where the music is fluffed up layers of sound between its core instruments. Its a good thing, enriching these tunes. In the game of picking favorites, the songs that define themselves do so with flashes of great songwriting from decades gone by and quite the variety of genres and moods these musics have blessed us with. Its hard to pin down even per song but it feels like the band embraced a lot of inspiration.

For me, We Are Chaos now sits in this strange place where I can lavish praise upon it yet as the songs become better known I wonder if its got legs. Over the years many records muster up a big fuss in their freshness only to fade. Some songs here will undoubtedly stand the test of time. If all of them do we could be looking be at a record to fit in among his best. One thing that is for sure, a lot of these songs will fit sweetly into a set list whenever he is amble to resume touring, given the times and all.

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Macabre Omen "Anamneses" (2020)

Macabre Omen's mighty Greek mythology inspired take on Black Metal had carved a memorable niche. With word of a new record I snapped up the new release, embracing its epic fourteen minute opener, ready for a ravishing ride. Then hit by a big tonal shift in quality and style I realized something was up, as the next six songs went to a nostalgic realm. Doing my research, something I thought I would have done with Gods Of War, I've learned this band have been active since the post church burning years of 94 onward when the scene exploded with bands getting in on the act.

Anamneses is actually a compilation, one new mighty song accompanied by all their demo songs from 1995 to 2000, remastered. The quality is interesting, one can hear the scratchy, murky guitars were far from saving. Shrill howling screams still raw and blunt, the drums to a rickety racket of pummeling droning. The bass guitar somehow has a fair bit of color an pronunciation preserved. The synths sounding practically rebuilt from the ground up, possibly with renewed tones and aesthetics too.

I haven't listened to the tapes for comparison but one can hear all the hallmarks of these classic self produced demos distributed on cassette tapes. Its quite the fun experience as the musical compositions do stand apart from what was common at the time. Some anthemic ideas still heard in their music decades later are present but the overall tone is dark, gritty and damned ugly! Especially the first couple of demos. A harsh experience, not exactly entry material into the world of Black Metal.

These old songs offer quite the variety! Interesting arrangements of synths and acoustic guitar conjuring a keen and individual sense of atmosphere not heard so distinctly among others in the genre. More so in the later years, the band clearly progress over these demos. The new song too embellishes this flavor with its mythic sweeping acoustic guitars, smothered in roomy reverberations, championed by choral cries to lead into a lofty song of complexity, subtly integrating the acoustics over and over. Great listen but a novel one that is hard to parade as an album experience.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Xzibit "Full Circle" (2006)

 
It feels like its time to close the lid on this fun dive into the Xzibit's records. It seems notable that the West Coast rapper just doesn't have the production on his side. Similar to Weapons Of Mass Destruction, Full Circle feels defined by its unremarkable production. Mediocrity is tiring and X's rock steady flow and arsenal of rhymes doesn't carry the music far enough. Topically its not as sharp and socially oriented as before. The stance affirming braggadocio vibes don't really pop with these combinations of rhyme and beats. Flipping between quirky sampling and safe glossy beats the songs roll on in a drone without a hook or feature to carry it anywhere special at all.

Experimenting with a pitched down voice and slower flow X inhabits the mind of a corrupt cop to shift perspectives on Ram Part Division. Its a moment that stands out purely for being somewhat different in a sea of mediocrity. Although X dives into a few topics of importance through the runtime, they generally have little impact with both his word play and food for thought seeming dulled in the shadow of his former, sharper self. Struggling for words to further my thoughts, I'll end on the note that It feels so run of the mill, without thought direction or ambition to define what the record is as a whole. It has therefore become just a collection of not so interesting songs.

Rating: 3/10

Friday, 11 September 2020

Metallica "S&M2" (2020)

 
Twenty years on from their now iconic S&M performance with The San Fransisco, the two reunite for an experience both recreating the original and throwing in some new elements with underwhelming takes on Classical Music and of course an inclusion of new material from Hardwired and Death Magnetic. Although it is impossible not to enjoy a Metallica set list, this project feels inferior, cast to the shadows of its former glory with some flaws present throughout that just let you know the original was a magnitude better. Ironically it is this release the press seemed to have gotten onboard with, heaping on praise where the first one was often misunderstood.
 
As the band age so do their performances and all too often can you hear Lars struggling to keep pace, Kirk's solo's become a little scattered and sloppy and James too struggles with his voice infrequently. At the live show, its hardly an issue given the immersion and event but taken to wax, its all too noticeable. What is also very apparent is the often meager and timid nature of the symphony. Its either the mixing or composition but these numbers feel far more like a Metal songs with some added sparkle. I wasn't keeping tabs on if the symphonies were identical for songs that were featured again but overall it just felt quiet and less involved than before.

That being said one delight to behind where the new songs. They sounded fantastic! After a couple of years its proven they fit in alongside Metallica's many hits and the symphonic gloss worked ever so well, even if just a complimentary element. S&M2 is hardly a bad experience but it really doesn't offer anything more bar the newer songs. There was also an opertunity to take the two Classical songs and spice them up with some Metal but the one track they did this on was simply a disappointment. Its hardly surprising that retreading old footsteps hasn't yielded anything special here.
 
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Bathory "Twilight Of The Gods" (1991)

Twilight Of The Gods represents some truly new territory as a part of my nostalgic journey. Bar a couple songs, most of the record was fresh and thus had a challenge in the face of all the praise I heaped on Hammerheart. Its temperament is similar, more of this heathen viking Metal but with a duller edge. Its title track and Song Of Blood have a gloomy tone. They make up twenty one minutes of the record as the pair steady the ship for slower tempos. It shifts focus from guitar to its choral voices that conjure rural life of this inspired era of history. In a few rare moments of gusto, the guitars feel held back by the production which doesn't give them enough punch. Its very much an atmospheric affair and that gloomy feel does subside in parts but mostly these two have a burdensome vibe that drags on.

That temperament is felt throughout, however the middle tracks get to embellish their themes and stories with rocking riffs and choruses that bring some much needed excitement. The tone is dominating though, even Quorthon's excited explosions of lead guitar seem dulled. If its composition or production, I can't get away from this moody tinge, its almost indulging but mostly for me lurches in the shadows of the mythic, heritage charged music that came before it. This time around the vision of culture lost to time is distinct but lacking an enticing energy.

Blood And Iron gets a nod for its stunning glossy acoustic guitars that ring out metallic chords. Its a gorgeous compliment to the driving song beneath, breathing much needed colour into the icy, cold and stiff production that I'll say again feels a fraction away from being an endearing quality. The album ends on a high though, the Hammerheart song an anthemic out poor of triumphant singing that works in some of Gustav Holst's timeless music from The Planets. Its an epic conclusion to an otherwise disappointing record that is a little to self indulged in its droning tone and off-key singing, which again feels a fraction away from something great in its pursuit of authenticity. The bellowing call of the hard life of vikings resonates with that same hardship. A flawed record which has Its moments, I am doubtful it will grow on me.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Nas "King's Disease" (2020)

After a disappointing Kanye West collaboration, Nasir, it is great to hear the king of poetry on the mic get back on form with a fully self realized album. Kings Disease has its concept and theme running from front to back, tying the woes of fame and success back into his current adventures and frame of mind with thoughtful maturity. Its a collection of reflections and life lessons, Nas brings his wisdom and knowledge to us through his lyrical prowess, just as hes always done.

Hip Hop however is a game of two halves and initially a source of excitement, the instrumental aesthetic gleam of its opening track dulls swiftly. Heavily Kanye inspired, a voice oriented production of soulful sample stitched together in peaked, distortion embracing styling dominates the opening tone. Initially grabbing, it becomes somewhat of a drone when the colour fades. Being the statement affirming track, it ends up becoming a fumbling start to the record.

Past this moment its sharp percussive beats and blue pianos paint most these songs with a jazzy, soulful uplift reminiscent of the 70s with a shade of street smarts. Its rooted though, no nostalgia trip, firm urban vibes perfect to resonate with the songs various themes. Although they don't deliver diversity instrumentally, the consistency its helped along by the short nature of these songs. They house his verses with purpose, never stretching the material, keeping it all concise.

This is helped along by a fair number of features, including The Firm, bringing Dr. Dre out of the shadows for a brief but underwhelming appearance. AZ returns on the track too, great to hear his Mafioso style is still potent. Without diving into the topicality with any specificity, its mostly mature, level headed thought around the struggles of black life in America in this day and age. Not straying into any contentious or polarizing avenues, Nas paints a path forward, an air of uplift about where things could go. Its a natural current of positive he emanates, or possibly that I perceive.

Nas is still on point, his knack for swift poetic flows interwoven with street talk is firm and proud but without surprises or aces up the sleeve it leaves one wishing for a little more. Kings Disease ticks all the boxes but after a few spins sits a strange place where the excitement has dulled. Perhaps this is one to come back to after some absence has brewed and see how it sounds once again.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 7 September 2020

Metallica "S&M" (1999)

 
With S&M2 out and on my playlist, I wanted to relive again this remarkable collaboration between Metallica and the San Fransisco Orchestra. My impression of it today comes with more appreciation than ever. How has this record not become a yearly ritual. Between the Metallica binges, it would bring a whole new dimension to their arsenal of classic songs. More so, I think its the newly found adoration of what the band attempted with Load and Reload that lifts a fair portion of the record from depths I once skimmed over.

Symphonic Metal and the like may have been in relative infancy but to this late 90s period its no stranger. However the collaboration doesn't even resemble how strings and orchestra instruments had been paired with Metal music to date. The San Fransisco group orchestrate on their own terms, acting as another layer of musical identity with in songs already brimming with stature. The music is embellished, a real treat for those who appreciate a union of style often perceived of opposite despite many emotional similarities.

The album's opening is brilliant, Ecstasy Of Gold followed by the instrumental Call Of Ktulu gives ample time to take in the added dimension before ripping pace with Master Of Puppets, possibly the best way for James to bring his iconic voice in. From there the record ebbs and flows with refreshing changes of pace and also involvement from the orchestra, not every song and moment requires a layering of symphony and it too breathes with the set list. One thing to say, there is no fear in getting right in the weeds of some of the bands most iconic music.

There are many favorites each listener will find, among them a couple originals, Human and the adored No Leaf Clover, two fantastic songs, the last before St. Anger. No foreshadowing there. S&M is not without its flaws though. The seventeen minute passageway of Wherever I May Roam and Outlaw Torn drags its feet a little with the plodding repetitive baseline reminding me of a festival jam session giving the crowd ample time to take a trip to the bar and refuel on booze before the closing hits.

Being one to continuously move forward with music, a few nostalgic trips to old records have had me worried of magics left behind. I knew S&M stood in great stature among fans and myself, not so much critics at the time. Listening to it again, its almost as if I forgot about the endearing sparkle the whole experience has, especially the goosebumps educing enthusiasm from the crowd who James lets sing on the record with him. Must of been one heck of an unforgettable experience to have been there!

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Haken "Virus" (2020)

 
Some albums demand attention. Occasionally that attentive listening seems inexhaustible. The more I spin Virus, the further I feel from writing my commentary. It takes this moment, currently immersed in its brilliance to spew a barrage of thoughts. Haken have several albums under their belt and either through maturity or deliberation they seem to have cultivated a level of excellence here. It cuts all the fat to deliver a fifty minute experience simply brimming with octane Progressive Metal. Perhaps it is the freshness of it all but so far Virus stands out as their to date.

Prosthetic opens the album with a pitch perfect snare sound to immediately illuminate the fine production as guitars come crashing in among the choppy pedal driven beats. Some of its riffs have an uncanny familiarity with the popular variety of Metal akin to Slipknot in their current more melodic era. Its a constant roll of excellent arrangements pulling no cheap tricks. Invasion bridges the mood with a gloomy darker tone and slower pace, brooding in anticipation of the coming ten minute epic Carousel.

Its around this point the lyrics distinguish an idiosyncratic quality. Phrases and sayings known culturally seem to frequent the tapestry of sentences, leaping from the stance as they peak attention with their linking themes. The albums lyrics mostly deals with themes of abuse, suffering and mental distress, a powerful weight not exaggerated through its crunching metallic template. The guitars instead craft meaty measured grooves, forging a matured atmosphere to house the lyrical vision at hand.

Even as it periodically dives into the "breakdown" realm of riffing, the compositions feel purposeful as the music sways in and out of varying temperaments often glistened by Jennings's beautiful clean vocals that soar with harmony. Being typically progressive the music ventures in all directions in a never ending liveliness that is simply put, just continuously exciting. It's typically Haken but with a keener metallic edge mixed stunningly into their colorful music this time around.

Messiah Complex stands as a seventeen minute epic split into five parts. It continues the theme on but often feels a shade behind the opening songs. That shade however is nothing to dwell on. The whole record is simply remarkable but so dense with riffs and details to engulf. I leave it for now knowing I'll be able to return over and over, discovering new intricacies and details, that is the mark of a great record! Time will tell but for now its been one of those I couldn't put down and for good reason.

Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Alexander Brandon "Earthscape" (2010)

 
With a recent nostalgic dive into a game from my childhood, Tyrian 2000, I discovered composer the Alexander Brandon was behind the games wondrous and lively midi driven soundtrack. Stumbling onto his bandcamp, I was impressed by the moderate temperaments of music fusing bright virtual instruments with chunky 90s electronic percussion and shapely synthesizers. Its a typically hard to nail down sound, mild manured with a mature variety yet softly engrossing as it pulls inoffensive ideas together with a sensibility akin to video game soundtracks.

Earthscape chalks up a little variety along the way. His singing voice a sensitive one, utilised on two tracks with a worldly Art Pop track reminiscent of Peter Gabriel and on the albums closer he soars some keen words between synthesizer laden vocal effects that wobble with charm. Both endearing. Eagles March breaks for a marching band percussive segment with intriguing groove and patterns that fill the narrow reverb applied. Alba drops in a little metallic guitar distortion too, always welcome with me.

Between its surprises an array of welcome melodies play out across many instruments, occasionally steering into classic electronic tones that sparked similarities with the Tyrian soundtrack that brought me here! It was a nice experience to pick something up on a whim. Although I don't think there is anything deep or profound here, its a record with that typically soundtrack ability to give you the resonance for focus and musical enjoyment with little investment on your own behalf.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Backxwash "Stigmata" (2020)

Fantastic timing! Having just digested the dizzying and grim God Has Nothing To Do With This, this new Stigmata EP drops another three tracks in the same vein, along with an instrumental piece to see it out. Backxwash has been one of the more remarkable discoveries this year and more of her darkly Hip Hop sound is very welcome. With these three tracks on continual rotation the hook on Stigma and the various evil incarnations of sound lurking in these instrumentals have drilled in like ear worms. Most noticeable are the voices, each number bringing on guests to flesh out the tone alongside Backxwash's potent flows and shadowy production. It comes with a similar flow and consistency to the album, as to be expected I guess.

The title track grabs attention with a releaving tone as bright pianos bring a sense of uplift to rather dark and repressive slabs of guitar distortion weighing it down in tension. Its like a lone light escaping from the bleak abyss! The final instrumental too peaks my interest with samples from the classic Doom game distinguishing although its a rather uneventful stint in mild darkly noises. Reminded me of A Silhouette In Splinters by Leviathan. Great EP, just more from an exciting sound, possibly leftovers. Definitely an artist to keep a close eye on.

Rating: 5/10