Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Plini "Impulse Voices Remix" (2021)


Uncommon but more so unexpected, Australian musician Plini has collaborated with three producers to bring us an intriguing remix EP of crossovers with the Electronic music scene sound. Often a recipe for disaster, on this outing it seems the two styles pull in the same direction, with guitars and synths of the original music being lifted into the bass and percussive designs of Downtempo, chilled out, laid back Electronic music. I must remark, my memories of these Metal adjacent remixes are somewhat scared by the early naughties attempts of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park with full remix albums. Over the years many other collaborations have come by with varying success but are yet to make footing as a common feature.

In this scenario the vibes match and make for a fine indulgence with the breezy moods and easy nature of the intersection. These are easy, summery songs, hard not to like. Despite that, I find it difficult to give this project merit beyond chemistry as its energy rides almost exclusively of the melodies of Plini. Dayce brings a powerful thumping, steady Dance beat with 90s hi-hats and airy reverberations. The bold bass and rhythmic glitchy grooves add a contribution but not one of remark. The following tracks play it even safer, limited to drums as the main creative contribution. Production techniques with fade ins, outs and frequency cut fades make transitional designs sparkle but again, the musics charm is all with the original material. Ultimately, these songs end up feeling purposeless in the shadow their source and fail to bring anything beyond a shift in tone.

Rating: 3/10

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Hexenkraft "Deep Space Invocations: Volume II" (2021)

 

Being rather fond of this Doom adjacent darkly Synthwave ride into the depths of hell, I thought I'd give some time to this new two track EP, having now built up an itch for the ever delayed full length debut Permadeth set to arrive some time in the future. Unlike Volume I its cuts are half the length but twice as intense, taking a massive influence from the Doom Eternal soundtrack. Gone are the acoustic guitars, soft strings and general meandering to the unsettling quiet of space and nature. These songs ride percussive strikes and dense wave synths to the edge of oblivion as danger lurks nearby. Its breaks for respites always pull one back into the action like a force of gravity. Its synthetic edge bleeds the lines between tone and force as it ebbs and flows in rhythm and shimmers of melody as notation whirls in its dark frenzy. Its always intense, like a spree of action with moments to catch your breath, knowing you've got to do it all over again.

Its reminiscence of Doom Eternal is uncanny. Although devoid of big chunky Djent guitars, its follows many of the same tropes and tricks to create a hellish synth atmosphere for action and carnage in other worldly environments. Track two, Devastated, feels like a guilty partner for its blaring siren like buzz saw cutting in and out of focus like a heart attack. Going purely off of memory, this is either a lifted idea from the Doom soundtrack or a brilliantly crafted inspiration that would also fit sweetly into the games audio, which in turn complimented the gaming experience massively. These are two of Hexenkraft's best executed songs, yet closely ride the curtails of another beast. Most important though, they are fun, engrossing and immersive even if short lived in the eight minute runtime. Its craft is focused and doesn't need to go beyond its means, unlike its predecessor which felt as if it had room for something more.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Brockhampton "Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine" (2021)

 

Ive found this record difficult to put in words. A strong diversity of instrumental moods and heavy lyrical narratives that I struggled to connect with left me enjoying but not entirely resonating. Two years on from Ginger the group feel artistically evolved with maturity of word and a better execution of ideas. My lack of connection mostly stems from the endless stream of lyrics that Hip Hop offers, a form of personal exhaustion perhaps. Either way there is no doubt these songs hold up for there foundations. The group of producers who put hands on this one pulled together a colorful set of sounds to house within tight percussive grooves, a strong presence whenever put on spin.

The first five tracks feel like the strictly Hip Hop cuts. An emphasis on rhyme, reason and rugged beats brings Danny Brown onto the bass driven, wild Buzzcut. Its a massive salute that makes for a memorable number, followed by a strong appraisal for JPEGMafia and another collab with A$AP Ferg & Rocky. The attraction of big names says a lot for their ascendancy in the scene. Kicking of with deep bass kicks and some strong rap flows, Windows's inclusion of a poppy, over the top, auto-tune hook hints at where all this goes as the other aspect of this collective starts to emerge.

The rest of the record explores its Pop, R&B and Soul influences, often channeled into a modern context with high pitched and auto-tuned vocals weaving a lot of swooning singing into its songs while retaining darker themes in its lyrics. Its remarkably catching and In many a song, represents the groups unique sound at its best. When I Ball is a personal favorite for its old timely string section and warm, riveting baseline strutting beneath. The pivot to pitched up vocals so smooth. Its often been a point of contention but this time I think they pull these of the time trends so well.

It should be mentioned they swing back with a home run into the strictly Rap world with a ghetto whistle led banger Don't Shoot Up The Party. It comes with a strong message and bouncy energy that juxtaposes party vibes with a grim proposition. It held as a stiff moment in the albums flow as we move to a Gospell track before the vulnerable, emotion gushing The Light Pt. II that feels like a sweet send off as members of the group step to the mic to deliver some heart felt, emotional words.

A common experience of mine is holding off from writing as I don't feel I have a complete picture of the music. Sitting down to actually force out the words somehow brings it into perspective and with this analytical breakdown of what stood out to me, I feel as if I got closer to the record but again the short coming is always lyrics. These songs are loaded with substance that I could feel in passing but didn't stick around for long. Its a personal problem. The music of my youth as taken all of my lyrical capacity. I wish I could pick up and bond with it more these days, I feel like I am missing out on so much. Especially here on Roadrunner which is a fine record and a strong maturing of Brockhampton's sound.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Clipping "Visions Of Bodies Being Burned" (2020)

 

Its album number four by Clipping, an experimental Hip Hop trio doing remarkable things with their mashing up of Industrial and Noise with Horrorcore Rap and spoken rhymed monologues. So far I've developed a great appreciation for the artistry and craft but lacked an emotional connection. The same is true again with another fifty two minutes that seem to emphasize the same response from me. There is a difference this outing though, more of what I connect with. That's mostly a banging beat to elevate the obscurity of these minimalist noisescapes that house the rhymes.

Clipping's unsettling and grim take on urban life and crime has its apt tone again. Either expressed through rhyme or Industrial dissonance, Say The Name brings it to current events with a gripping power to address the death of George Floyd. The most notable track however is found in the lurching paranoia of Check The Lock. The John Carpenter-esque melodies and haunting bells are an illuminating compliment to the click, clack and rattling of sparse and distant industrious world building noises.

Alongside the lyrical talent of Daveed Diggs, who's sharp as a blade with his despairing narratives, a host of features fall short of adding something memorable to the mix. I was delighted to see the inclusion of Ho99o9 but even their shout raps felt at odds with the abrasive instrumental below the pair. Beyond these points of remark, much of what I've written about Clipping before remains true, its mostly a jarring experience of conflicting instrumentation that paints physical discomfort.

 Its best exemplified by slabs of white noise between tracks and the maddening Eaten Alive, its loose percussive performance seems perfectly dialed up to maximum confusion as its dislocated pace grows with the clattering of kitchen utensils. When Diggs drops out we are treated to a couple minutes of completely unhinged sound. Its a novelty, one this band are capable of channeling into convention with thumping base and a sensible kick snare groove but it too is sparing on this outing, with much of the record being chalked into that particular confrontational space again.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 9 May 2021

The Kovenant "In Times Before The Light" (2002)

 
Its interesting how a legal battle incurred not only a name change but also a shift in sound and identity for this Norwegian duo. Nexus Polaris would suggest this transformation was possible but it was Animatronic that solidified it, the first album released under The Kovenant name. A few years on from that record the pair decided to re-record their debut full length In Time Before The Light. Under their new moniker, the approach was to re-write the songs in their new Industrial infused aesthetic and the results are mixed.

Staying faithful to the original song structures, it is mainly the instrumentation that gets an update to match the fantastical dystopian sound. Without the measured pace of Industrial Metal guitars churning out choppy palm muted chords the original riffs rub up against its now lavish synth sounds. So to do the blast beats, when the atypical plunges into Black Metal darkness come, its a point the music is at its weakest.

Much of the original lone and linear synth lines feel stripped out, replaced with Industrial noises and re-worked textural tones for the new electronic enhanced aesthetic. Over top of them reigns a lavish dance of illustrious pianos, blazing through rapturous melodies, outpacing the music with its hasty notation. Along for the ride come the retro spooky and carnival keys too, they often sound a little suspect in presence.

 The better songs beforehand tend to hold up here but overall, its hard to enjoy this one being able to hear how these songs were converted. Sticking so rigidly to the original track design creates an odd contrast, where the musicality excels individually against outdated songs structures. In other words this wondrous sound the duo fell into moved with their songwriting too. Ultimately it leaves a stale taste but has me curious what I would think had I gotten to know these re-recordings first?

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 7 May 2021

Covenant "In Times Before The Light" (1997)

 

Following up on From The Storm Of Shadows, we arrive three years later with a debut record cast from the mold of an emerging Symphonic Black Metal scene. Unlike the stylistic evolution an of Enthrone Darkness Triumph, the duo stuck with a primordial Norwegian sound paired against its bold and cheesy Casio synth tones. Effective in execution but cornering the music to its niche, one which I happen to enjoy greatly.

Firstly, all three demo songs make it across to the album. The production is a clear step up too, everything audible but also a charming mess of gritty distant guitar tones and bold, punchy drums and keys entering a somewhat forced relation that carves its atmosphere with varying effect. Over it all shriek cries and howling raspy screams offer less immersion and more concept born of genre conventions.

Ultimately its aesthetic works and achieves an entertaining darkness fostered by antiquated medieval and fantasy themes articulated through its simple, often singular synth lines. A few tremolo guitar riffs perk the ears beyond the usual rigmarole of darkly power chord arrangements and plunges into blast beats that comes with the territory. Its with a varied outcome that the bands songwriting fumbles for a few tracks.

The stiff nature of its keys, punching through the mix with a lot of power, often accentuates a different character, one to become evolve greatly on the galactic leap forward that is Nexus Polaris. It gives many of the songs passageways that dispel magic purely on tone and nature of the melody. At the same time it also houses some fantastic chemistry, although a little limited give the lack of layering tones or melodies.

Monarch Of The Mighty Darkness a keen example, its opening doomly gloom a memorable one. Late in the song its medieval leaning arrangements forge an uneasy awkwardness alongside the shrill throaty howls of Nagash. The Dark Conquest has a similar problem, slow and menacing in its brooding opening yet meanders from the path has the keys differ with vibrant flute tones. All in all its a flawed record that has enough charm to carry it along. Will be fascinating to explore it again through the lens of its re-recording.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 6 May 2021

The Alan Parsons Project "I Robot" (1977)

 

British rock duo The Alan Parsons Project have admittedly been on my radar since before I started this music blog. Of the three records I own, any song cropping up on shuffle would grab my attention. How its taken me this long is criminal but for the past month or so Ive gotten deep into I Robot, their sophomore effort. Hailed as Progressive Rock, what is remarkable about the music is how much it reaches into the adjacent sounds of the 70s. With a luscious string section, these compositions often get a graceful lift into the cinematic realm. Its rumbustious baselines hit Funk and Disco grooves with class. The short experimental interlude Nucleus enters the Ambient Soundscape realms akin to Dreamtime Return released eleven years later.

What they touch, turns to gold, but not without echos of others who walked before them. The breezy lullaby of Day After Day reminiscent of Genesis in a vulnerable song and I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You is practically a Stevie Wonder track hands down. As said, its golden. The duo forge timely songs ripe with vivid instrumentation and holding song structures to make it work wonderfully. The variety is plentiful, dipping into emotional ballads, flushes of early Electronica synths, plenty of Progressive Rock cliches and the audacity to experiment boldly. The song Total Eclipse uses a choir of haunted soul voices to cascade with unease through nail biting tensions as it plunges into fiery depths.

Perhaps suggested by its variety, the structure is loose, moving through drastic shifts in tone that seem effortless with the aid of seamless transitions, pivoting the instruments between songs with organic handover passageways. It ends with Boules, a bonus track of sorts rocking a "phat" baseline with a tight reflexive drum loop and accompaniment of strange noise oddities. It always struck me as a Hip Hop beat in ways, further suggesting the duo had a finger on the pulse with the splash of current sounds the record embodies, although Hip Hop might be a bit of a stretch with the New York scene at its absolute infancy in this point in time.

One thing that stains the stunning music is its theme. I Robot attempts to engage with the concept of artificial intelligence from a heavily dated perspective. Compared to the current discussions around AI and its partial implementation through algorithms and machine learning, everything pertaining to the concept just seems out of step, however the vocal efforts of the band it comes through are wonderful. Barely a crease to be found beyond its timely blemish. Lastly, I'll end on a musing note. These two never found commercial success in their home town, shipping most their records in Germany, USA and Canada. Its something I find rather curious given how British acts tend to be well known here but the Alan Parsons Project has sadly faded from focus since their retirement over two decades ago.

Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Earth "Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version" (1993)

 

A recent revival of Hibernaculum and The Bees Made Honey had me curious about their pre-reformation works that had been heaped with praise. As a curious teenage enthusiast, this record had left me dumbfounded to what the fuss was about. Now, with open mind and ears I find myself with a similar sentiment, although context may play a roll given what this anomaly may have meant to listeners back in the nineties.

With three gargantuan songs totally seventy three minutes, Earth 2 strikes me as more of a singular experiment in tone than anything structured, planned or even designed. This is Drone Metal resembling very little of Metal and much of the drone one might associate with engine noises and electronic buzzing. The entire musical piece is a wash with the dense, drowning, fuzzy flood of guitar distortion cycled with amp feedback to muzzle anything that happens to wander across its bleak path.

Admittedly I can comment there is a strange charm and allure to the droning noise but is it a work of genius? I suspect not. As background or foreground music it is mostly grating and is best enjoyed when entirely distracted from its presence. Perhaps its just not my cup of tea. I understand the appeal but the particular aesthetic at play here is mostly a discomfort that feels pointless to endure its unsettling presence.

With Seven Angels, a lone guitar deploys burly riffs reminiscent of Black Sabbath on loop. Slowly chugging palm mutes and rising to chord slabs with slices of short melody, it stands aside for offering something to focus on yet feels unremarkable to me. The second track shifts aesthetics slightly, the guitar work goes in a moody direction but ultimately its emotions are smothered by the droning, dirty sludge.

 Its not until Like Gold And Faceted that we hear drums, slow, temporal and disappearing for tempo shattering duration's, they barely crash through the wall of brown sound. At the hour mark, a scream can be heard and before it, a little lead guitar but as mentioned, these events do little to conjure purpose or intent. I must say, it does sound like cryptic rumblings are woven beneath the drone at times where its consistency breaks and cracks of something else is heard, undecipherable.

The whole thing seems like an unplanned session hinged around the concept of smothering the listener in blistering feedback for an unreasonable amount of time. Its spontaneous blurts of additional sound seems disconnect and purposeless. If there is magic to be found here, it has certainly alluded me, although I suspect the aid of hallucinogenics might yield different results for those who use them.

Rating: 2/10

Monday, 3 May 2021

Brelstaff "In Human Terms" (2021)

 

Brelstaff, formerly known as Daryl Donald, throws a fresh "beat tape" our way. At twenty tracks, it runs deeper than usual with similar duration tracks ranging from one too three minutes. Anticipating demo quality, or unfinished ideas, I was pleasantly surprised to find an excellent array of beats loosely framed by the snippets of past time American gangsters talking while running their criminal errands. Its a niche charm for timely compositions that rides the dynamics of Jazz Hop and dreamy instruments sampled against the loose yet snappy boom bap nineties drum grooves.

Through its many temperaments, shades of experimentation lean mostly towards a Noir Jazz flavor with relaxed, indulgent tones that get a little summery here and somewhat darkly there. Often with a slight psychedelic, dream like tone, the music memorizes with its laid back approach rubbing of the punching groove of snare and base kick. Its all atypical yet has this character I can't quite put the finger on.

My thoughts are rather similar on each outing with this artist who has figured out there form. These beats need a voice to elevate them too the next level. A progressive or fluid motif is missing to have them work solely as instrumentals. Although very enjoyable they feel as if the right rapper could work wonders over them. Not Enough Crime, a favorite track of mine, the perfect framework for some verses and a hook to further the already animated instrumental. Overall, its a great little gem to enjoy.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Anna Von Hausswolff "Ceremony" (2013)

 

Stepping backwards in time, we arrive upon Swedish songwriter and Organist, Anna Von Hausswolff's sophomore record. As The Miraculous hinted, the engulfing esoteric gloom and might of her burdensome terror had yet to emerge. Ceremony feels rather undefined in its direction, closer to musical traditions stemming back to the 70s with songwriting, moods and templates that are yet to diverge from common and folksy sounds. Darkness is the flavor she brings but in this outing its just a shadow of the witchery yet to be discovered, more of a still and sombre grayness gently cast.

Interchanging her operatic voice with pipe organs and an array of string instruments, these calmed song temperaments gracefully cruise by. The second song Deathbed is the one track indicating her future direction. Its bludgeoning Doom Metal drone and grating guitar chords spell horror between her voice and colorful organs giving pause for light. The record then meanders into a string of bare and minimal musings, before traditional elements emerge towards the end, tethered to her subtle gloom.

I could get deeper into the particulars, her voice and instrumentation echoing strong feelings from many a musical style and artist heard before but that alone was the key take away. Rather than striding into new territory with something to shock and awe, at this stage Anna was still finding her feet, writing wonderful songs that have been enjoyable and even moving on its better tracks like Ocean. Ultimately though, its all a bit infantile in the shadow that her future self will cast.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Devin Townsend "Ghost" (2011)

Is it possible to completely forget a record? Of course, butt one you have great adoration for... Well that was me a while back as the lengthy, wandering Texada song comes on shuffle and an eerie feeling washes over. Prompted to give Ghost a proper spin again, it occurred to me its been a criminal amount of time since it last cross my mind. How many years had it been? I felt as if I was looking in a mirror and slowly recognizing my own reflection. The experience was a revelation of locked away memories, the key turn clicking as each track brings a flood of familiarity and feelings. This album was once my therapy, a force of calm to visit in times of need and yet somehow it had drifted away from me, despite all of its beauty and charm.

To me, Ghost feels like a further exploration of the magic Ki offered two years back. Stripping out the metallic grooves and sailing into the lofty indulgence of his deeply reverberated guitar tones, the inclusion of soft airy synths, dreamy electronic ambiences and the dynamic woodwinds of Kat Epple, illuminates a wholesome spirit most these songs embody. The opening is strong, Devin unloads his passionate pleas, gushing emotion forth in the wake of serine atmospheres and rapturous melodies plucked from his bright acoustic guitar. Its fine song writing, wandering in and out of soothing ambiences with himself and Katrina Natale swelling in the rises of voice and melody that form structures within the flowing river of sound.

The web of instrumentation is stunning, dense yet inviting, one can get lost of the layers of soft sound that breeze by. Dave Young's key work with the synths add an endless sparkle of cosmic curiosity with the psychedelic electronic tones he interweaves. The percussion from Mike St-Jean is timely and measured, complimenting the wondrous direction the music steers in. Retreating in its lulls and subtly rising in the surges of song writing, its a performance that understands exactly what the record needs, a textural performance of craft and softness.

Sadly, I feel as if the record falters in its length. At seventy minutes its initial pattern meandering between swooning atmospheres and bursts of life gets weight down at the mid point. Its with monsoon that the tone pivots to the exploratory. With a brief pull back to the spirited rise of traditional song on Texada, and again with a bit of a miss on Seams, the latter half falls victim to its calm as much of the genius in the first half leaves its lengthy final cuts with less to offer, hiding in the shadow of greatness.

Healing is the word I'm left with to describe this record mood. Its a therapeutic experience and a curious one to rediscover again. Its as if it never left but now with the tentative ears of an enthused listener, keen to analyze my own experience, I realize that genius is rare and can be exhausted. I have immense adoration for Devin and his unique sense of inspired identity that comes with his music but he is human after all. It feels like this record was left to fizzle out after hitting the mark aptly with its string of opening songs. Either way I am glad to of found this treasure again.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Emerald Web "Dragon Wings And Wizard Tales" (1979)

 

In recent years my Dungeon Synth curiosity has led me down interesting avenues. Fantasy music, Folksy Ambient works and the Psychedelic inspired early Electronic sound of the 70s. They all seem to have an intersection with this curious record that has outdated much of what Ive discovered, unraveling more of the unending map of musical influences. Id never heard of the Husband and Wife duo Emerald Web before, until hearing them appraised by Devin Townsend on a recent podcast. Described as New Age music, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The promise of flute led songs had old prejudices suspecting I wouldn't enjoy this but for many of my recent discoveries, the likes of a Jim Kirkwood, this dimension has been opened up for me to explore!

What I have discovered here shares much of the mystique for natural beauty and nature I have come to adore in music. It emanates from an inner warmth and inspiration, carried on a care free breeze one can relax deeply to as its Flute is played with a force of personality by Kat Epple, who lends her soft voice too. The woodwind instrument is graceful and timely, drifting in like a leaf caught in the breeze, she swirls and swings through lively iterations between swooning on the soft cloudy texture of its notes, gracefully cruising by with a captivating gleam that I just adore!

Dragon Wings And Wizard Tales moves through many compositions, focusing on melodies from gentle acoustic guitars to creating scenic visions with innovative synths and a little soundscape work between with the blowing of dusty winds. It meanders beautifully, straying subtly into moments of wondrous experimentation that feels ripe of the heels of Progressive Rock. One of its best songs, Chasing The Shadowbeast, a nine minute epic, captures much of what the record offers through its expansive tale that swells with energy and Post-Punk baselines in the end. It gets there through a warm and steady build up resonating on some strong King Crimson vibes.

Leading up to that climactic moment, each of its songs feel like little flowers of inspiration, blossoming in their exposure. Flight Of The Raven captures a little esoteric melody and animated electronics in its conclusion to give a sense of seismic event. Twilight gets scenic with the chirping of birds with its dusky, spooky synths whirling like winds. It all comes together on Firenight as the driving force of its Psychedelic electronic bass line carries the aforementioned ideas on a journey to a full formed entity. The darker side of there sound reminding me of Erang in moments.

Lifeforce Celebration is another standout track as its choppy percussion fading in and out of focus echos of ideas all to common now in music but here a true force of originality. Its so intriguing to put these ideas in the context of the year they were released. Best of all, the music is endearing and has been a constant delight. At only thirty six minutes, its been on repeat a lot these last few weeks!

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Burzum "Thulêan Mysteries" (2020)

 A year late to the party, this supposed final album from a musician of genius, wrapped in controversy, encompasses ninety minutes of estranged, spiritual and Nordic inspired ambient music. Labelled as a compilation, I initially passed it up. In fact its a compiled collection of original works from the six years since The Ways Of Yore. In the post-prison era of his career, Varg's ambient leaning creations had not sparkled with the magic of a Tomhet or Hliðskjálf. I wasn't expecting much but found myself pleasantly surprised to hear the peculiar sound that captivated much of my youth emerging again. Alongside a couple of reworked melodies from classic songs, much of this loosely arranged music dives into that special, lonely and timeless place.

With some solemnly spoken word and slightly sung sections, Varg brings a little Norse culture to a handful of songs that break up the flow with a tone rooted in heritage and mythology more so than the mystic. All his songs share the minimalist approach, a handful of simple melodies, steady in pace and calming in their presence. Repetitive and droning, many of these songs need little complexity to hold ones attention. Textural experiments with raveling distortions and whirling psychedelic synths droning on a handful of the longer tracks show he still has the knack for that deeply mysterious and nature inspired sound of a lonely darkness. Both chilling and soothing in its unforgiving starkness and archaic presence.

A Forgotten Realm stands out as a unifying track to bring all thees concepts together. Lumped in the midpoint its arrival is like all the others, without intention. The albums flow is unstructured yet enhanced through repetition as familiarity sets in. The lack of direction tends to aid the already lonesome and wandering mood these songs conjure. With many short one to two minute cuts in the first half there is an impression of ideas left unfinished. In the second stint where longer pieces reside, a notable shift to the denser tone fleshed with experimental reverbs and droning instruments takes place. In this stretch the music enters an entrancing meditative magic I simply adore.

I barely knew what to expect going into this record. His previous ambient works had been a disappointment. Given the nature of its release it strikes me as music inspired and composed without future thoughts to release it, despite that eventually happening. Given its lack of structure or focus the sound feels more lending to a mood than experience. It will be one to put on from time to time in search of that curiously esoteric yet relaxing sound linked to a Norse Mythology that only this guy can capture.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 23 April 2021

Pop Will Eat Itself "This Is The Day..." (1989)

 

This album may just go down as one of the most intriguing, genre crossover and retroactively curious records to discover at a time where the historical musical tapestry rarely surprises. This Is The Day... is a defining sophomore album by British act Pop Will Eat Itself, a band fueled by a passionate energy for music alternative to the mainstream. Despite being floored by its hallmarks, the now dated era sound of its fainter stints has me less indulged by its waves of nostalgia emanating from a moment in time prior to my favorite 90s sounds. Essentially, this would of been my world had I discovered it earlier in my youth. Hearing it now, its still a marvel to behold and enjoy.

Kicking off with PWEI Is A Four Letter Word, a defining influence is made known with its bold snippets of Chuck D & Flavor Flav of Public Enemy. The sampling culture of then still emerging Hip Hop sound runs rampant as defiant statements are drawn around the concept of "stealing" music in this sampling form. These guys stand on the cutting edge of the times, bringing Rap and Rock together with Heavy Metal and Punk Rock guitars among its weaving web of Electronic, Pop and even Disco in brief bursts. It has the spirit of Anthrax's inclusion on the crossover classic Bring The Noise. Its a wild punchy sound, bold and hard hitting as its elements stack together crudely through the riotous noise blaring from DJ Winston's eclectic sample choices.

Individually the songs tend to feel structured in a Pop format with chirpy hooks and a ton of cultural inclusion from its embracing sampling and referencing lyrics. The experience is like a youthful time machine, references to Terminator, Robo Cop and even Mc Donalds ground itself in the era. Notably, this is where its weak points gleam. Its silly refrain "Gimme Me Big Mack, Gimme Fries To Go" rapped alongside the classic Funky Town melody is both gaudy, geeky yet admittedly fun. Its grown on me, the awkward leaning arrangements do have musical charm at its inspirational core. My other "gripe" were the crass English accents, a little stiff and engineered when rapping but giving it some Merit, its the late eighties style, simple but effective.

Wrapped around its bold affront, the musicianship from Mole, Mansell, Crabb & March is remarkable, a keen negotiation fostering the spaces between its sampling indulgences with timely riffs, melodies and grooves to lay a firm foundation for the madness. Its an organic unraveling textile sound, morphing into songs as samples and programs drums invade the percussion, bass, guitars and beyond. The rhythm section was a personal pleasure, reflecting the tones of Alternative Metal, Industrial and Post-Punk to remind me fondly of the coming shift in sound the 90s would bring.

As said in the opening, its a marvel, full of mentions to perk your ears, Can U Dig It? is a lovable spew of references built around the classic line from The Warriors movie, sampled over and over. I set out to write a more critical review as its gaudy moments and rough edges had been a focus in casual listening, but as it happens on occasion, diving in deep and getting the thoughts out really made me appreciate this one more. Its quite iconic to me how it slips in between a lot of great music I adore with a "here first" affirmation. It will take time to digest deeply. One thing is sure, I am not done with it yet! Ill be spinning This Is The Day... for years to come, I can feel it in my bones!

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Covenant "From The Storm Of Shadows" (1994)

 

With SETI, Animatronic & Nexus Polaris behind us, we venture now into the less impressive origin of a remarkable band. In the past I barely bothered with demo tapes, my recent foray with My Angel gave me a nudge to give this one a try. I'm glad I did, although far from impressed with a now cliched sound I know inside out, it was a pleasure to digest these three darkly, menacing tracks of scene cast Black Metal.

 Sadly the symphonic element starts off mostly absent, possibly too enveloped by the smothering bass to stand apart with distinction. Its not until two thirds through the opening track that we hear some lone horns roaring in triumph from behind the grisly guitars. Its presence grows and by the third title track we get some medieval, partly jovial synth lines chiming in to the shadowy aggression with bold melody.

As far as the crass audio quality goes, this is a studio demo, harsh in the upper mid range but doing a great job of making its instruments heard. The key elements of the music get through, those brooding, mid tempo riffs with darkly accents, atypical of the times. It plunders away through blast beats and howling, unattractive scowls that rasp over top from Nagash who handles everything but the guitars here.

Its rather hard for these three songs to make much of a lasting impression given my already extensive exploration of Symphonic Black Metal. I'm fairly sure these songs would of carved some adoration if I'd turned to them in my youth. As it goes I skipped over them but its clear that Nagash of early Dimmu Borgir notoriety was a competent musician adding his own take on the emerging sound with vision and spirit!

Rating: 4/10

Friday, 16 April 2021

Bring Me The Horizon "This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For" (2004)

The rattling rustle of loose snare rolls, discordant guitars screeching, a brooding power chord rising and then an eruption of sloppy chugging riffs. It sends this classic record straight into uncomfortable territory as moments later the grip loosens with the hit-hat wafting over the silence between meaty slabs of chunky guitar funk. Enter the raspy scowl of Oli Sykes's divisive and ugly screams and you have the perfect recipe for music to split a crowd, in the context of both mosh pits and musical snobbery. Fortunately I landed on the side able to enjoy this controversial bands gritty sound.

It was at my first Download Festival in 06 that I mistook them for another act on the bill. I was blown away by the novelty of these black emo mop hair cut kids playing the "uber brootal" music. It was also my introduction to hardcore dancing where I quickly learned regular moshing would land you a punch to the face. From then I was hooked and till this day I never felt like anything else Bring Me The Horizon would do matched the unique charm this four track record caries. Its one of those bits of music you get right into every now and then and this latest binge leads me to write!

This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For is a youthful riot of angsty rebellion and aimless attitude fit to cut a divide in the Metal scene. Some parts Metalcore, seeking the brutality of Death Metal, this bedroom band puts together a riff montage exploring their own ideas of heavy, hooked on the ugly, odd and obnoxious that you just can't replicate. Its a mindset, a moment in time manifesting into a bizarre riff fest of awkward guitar noise and breakdowns that I simply adore for all its flaws.

Its grey, scrappy aesthetic and trying performance may be sloppy and loose but just hangs in enough to land its ideas and rhythms right on the nose. The grooves land between the barrages of angular guitar noise and Oli's snarling throaty screams sound almost painful at times. It ends up like a charm all too akin to Metal yet constructed from a different ideology. The songwriting however is keenly convenient in this aesthetic as its progressive rollout of guitar riffs, with little repetition, keeps an interesting flow of rough around the edges ideas, landing with enthralling energy.

The last of its four songs ends up on a melodic tangent that derails somewhat from the core concept but within its first three strikes the breakdowns and "brutality" is so much fun. Each song gets its big moment for the crowd to split and go ham. Each song also finds catchy ear-worms to drive home with big shouts around its big breaks. "Nail The Casket One More Time", "I Hate All My Friends", "If You Think You've Alive, Your Better Of Dead". I've never looked deep into these angsty lyrics, written by then teenagers. They do however get riled up with the music in there spite ridden delivery.

Edge Of Your Seat not a record Id be keen to recommend but discovering at such an interesting time, right at the birth of Deathcore's bloom, gave it a personal nostalgic magic I've never been able to shake. It was fun and outrageous then and sixteen years later still has a punch that rarely fails to rustle. Such a peculiar record. No other band I'm aware of, or even BMTH themselves on their debut album managed to capture the spirit to be heard hear. Its an oddity but I absolutely love it!

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

The Kovenant "Animatronic" (1999)

 

Embarking forth with a new name and shift in identity, Animatronic is their first album as The Kovenant. Nestled between last years Nexus Polaris and the later SETI, it represents the stylistic move towards Industrial Metal and electronica with a little of the former magic lingering. Reflecting on this with a more perceptive mind, it is a bigger change than I once remembered. The transition is held over well in vocal department where snarly shouts and brutish half screams anchor it to their former glory, along with Eileen Kupper's enigmatic operatic singing to usher in powerful melodies on their two best known songs. Mirror's Paradise and New World Order hit things off with an unforgettable union of catchy melodies, rocking riffs and stomping drums, all illuminated by Eileen and the strings that cruise between its Drum N Bass percussive cuts. Its a shake up of sounds, a melting pot of ideas channeled through clever song writing that appeals to popular fundamentals.

With such a strong opening, its a tough trail to follow but the remaining material explores different approaches to tone, pace and experimentation in well defined songs that form the unique feeling the opening two have. Mannequin dives into the downtrodden brooding the following record would dive into on a couple of songs too. Jihad brings an eastern melodic flavor to its crunching Industrial guitars. The Human Abstract ups the tempo with a fast paced thrashing romp lavished in glossy synths, akin to their prior effort with its more aggressive guitar tone and symphonic overdrive. All the songs have this over-represented keyboard presence that sways between club electronica and classic strings. It works wonders, beaming with prominence above the density of woven Industrial noises below it.

Home to two timeless classics, sadly Animatronic looses its footing in the closing as a couple tracks, missing the level of excellence excelled elsewhere. Prophecies Of Fire hails back to the carnival and jovial likeness of Nexus Polaris, almost like a left over reworked for this album. In The Name Of The Future recycles to many previous ideas and The Birth Of Tragedy seems an odd closing note for such a dramatic shift in tone as it explores a dark, paranoid, cyber aesthetic wonderfully. Most notable is the clunky cover of Babylon Zoo's Spaceman. Ironically It sounds like a flip of the original, where the mess between the catchy chorus was rather unappealing. In this instance The Kovenant do everything right except the hook which doesn't spark in the deep burly voice its delivered through. Animatronic is home to a potent, exceptional and inspired sound but as an album tends to decline steadily to a good from greatness. That said, you can't deny the brilliance of its opening two songs, forever personal favorites.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 12 April 2021

Arcturus "My Angel" (1991)

Finding myself on a Symphonic Black Metal binge of late, I turned my attention to Arcturus, an old favorite. Something then caught my eye, the release date! As far as the Norwegian scene is concerned, anything dated before late 1993 tends to carry a little mystique for the front runners who were involved before the explosion of popularity and exposure. This two song release is also considered to be the first inception of Symphonic Black Metal at a time where the 2nd wave sound was still forming its identity. I don't know how I never gave any attention before. Ive been aware of it since discovering this amazing band.

My Angel is one of those curious records that evokes thought over time and place, a band caught in a moment trying to find their footing with emerging musical ideas. It has soft remnants of Mortem, the Death Metal act these musicians were previously known as and with a strong shift away from that style the name change was certainly apt. The lasting aesthetic identities here are the iconic synth string tones, which feature heavily on their debut. That and a handful of compositions in Mortax give you an idea of where they will go. The drudging guttural grows and gloomy atmosphere will be left behind.

The record stands as a curious transition between music scenes and ideas. With the ideals of extremity and low fidelity yet to become hallmarks of the Black Metal genre, Arcturus pull on the slow pace of Doom Metal and simple power chord arrangements as their tools to sway towards evil and darkness. It takes on a haunting persona with the lead guitar on My Angel wailing like a lost spirit calling across fog swept moors.

The production is crass but capable. Sloppy and dissonant it carries a charm, one for the era you could consider a decent attempt at introducing these thick atmospheric key tones alongside the extremities producers where still figuring how to piece together. The second song, Morax, hit me as a three part song stitched together. While writing this blog I've learned they had a demo tape from the year before, further adding to the mystique. On that cassette Morax was split into three and alongside a synth intro, showed these guys had this sound together a little earlier than I initially thought! All in all a very enjoyable discovery for someone who thought I knew this all inside out!

Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Earth "The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull" (2008)

With the pandemic slowing the pace of new music by the artists I follow, I've noticed the freed time has had me picking out forgotten treasures. It is much fun to revisit old favorites and after blowing the dust of Hibernaculum we get to revive the one about the bees and the lion! I never got deep into this one upon release and the reason is swiftly apparent - Its all to similar. Earth's slow, drudging pace and methodical unraveling of suspended, elongated chords and melodies brews a warm atmosphere. Once familiar with the niche, it dissipates too a mood, one to be conjured but hardly encapsulated by.

With its axis a little more woven into the softly distorted guitars, texture and aesthetic ooze from the speakers as its melodies clime to unleash brooding chords that ring out in slow motion. In its simplicity, amalgamating layers of ambiguous hazy noise gush forth from its crashing power. Heard best in its opening songs, the charm wears off as future songs pivot more so to the piano as the lead instrument and in this relegates itself to a less imbued form.

Rise To Glory introduces a remarkably hazy guitar solo that ebbs and flows in its shoe-gazing presence, sluggish and reflexive, its grasp on tension and human expression is suddenly cut short as a sudden pivot ushers in the pianos phase. Hung From The Moon goes there again with the piano but its not quite the same. This additional layer, free from the grinding pace yet flowing with a complimenting looseness is wonderful, a stand out element that doesn't get much time to flourish. With this they had something but without, its all to similar and the record tends to drift to the background, where it sets a fine and soothing mood of calmness and ease. A good record but its clear now why it didn't stick with me back then.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 9 April 2021

Covenant "Nexus Polaris" (1998)

From The Kovenant to Covenant, as we roll the years back you undoubtedly noticed the change in name. This is down to a dispute with an equally named Swedish EDM artist who won the usage rights. Upon their next effort, that transition was made alongside a rebranding in image and presentation. Nexus Polaris, the groups sophomore effort, would then be re-released under the new and handy renaming. Interestingly their debut would receive an peculiar re-recording that attempts to shed the original music of its genre cast tone and rewrite much of the synths to try and capture the genius that first erupted here. Perhaps the magic was in that original record but this is the moment where a unique brilliance emerged from the cast mold of the then young Symphonic Black Metal sound.

As hinted at, the magic lies in a more elaborate sense of what the symphony could be, similar to Arcturus on paper, yet arriving with a different alien personality. The records eight tracks blaze with the roar and bite of ferocious Black Metal, mostly propelled by the rumbling barrage of Hellhammer's legendary percussive style. He debuts with the band here, unleashing his busying three arm style to propel the aggressive side with a dense layering of drum and cymbal strikes. Alongside him the vocals too deliver howling and wretched screams atypical of the genre but most notable is Lex Icon's withdrawing to a snarling throaty growling of his cosmic unworldly lyrics. This toned down temperament aids the balance of extremity and musicality the songs exude.

Snugly fit between the battering drums and gleaming synth work sit these subtle distortion guitars tinged by a Thrash Metal pacing. Arriving with melodic inflections and the occasional blistering guitar solo, they act a keen bridge between forces, the unifying element to give rise to the symphonic theme and anchor the aesthetic in aggression. Rarely are they the main focus but every riff chugs away choppy rhythms and grooves to see the theatrics on there way.

Front and center is the symphonic aspect. Where the genres artists once mirrored the general direction of their darkly music with gloomy and majestic Casio keyboard tones, Covenant strode to bring a cinematic experience. The awe and wonder can be felt in an instant, as The Sulphar Feast warms up with its shimmering acoustic guitars and it plunges into blast beats, Sarah Jezebel Deva, once of Cradle Of Filth, lends her wicked voice with an operatic presence that signifies much of the compositional genius to come. Rather than complimenting tonal aesthetics, the keys take charge as the lead direction of these thematic songs, often tinged with a carnival flavoring.

 Along the journey many keyboard instrument sounds feature, from the expectant choral synth tones to bright pianos and even an accordion on one song. It orchestrates wonderfully with an astral sense of wonder and touch of madness to tie it keenly to its extreme delivery. Its keen writing that packages big themes into simple repetitious melodies rolled off one another to keep that galactic sense of scale. Also featuring a few "electronic" tones in brief stints it does signify where the band may go but in this instant sits with me as a wondrous piece of music its hard to find fault with.

Its been such a long time this record has been with me, blowing the dust off again the magic hasn't weathered a fraction. Appreciating it once again I am particularly fond of Chariots Of Thunder, the first from the album I heard. The song has a leveling of elements as all its instruments feel integral to one another where the rest of the record dove heavily into its wonderfully bizarre and cosmic orchestration. Its a fair temperament to close on and always gives me an emotional stiring that the end of a powerful movie might do. I love it, a true classic!

Rating: 10/10

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Wardruna "Kvitravn" (2021)

 

These Norwegian musicians have been reviving their heritage for years now, utilizing historical instruments to ignite the flames of their viking ancestry. The last outing, Skald, was a performance piece of sorts, poetical recitals and minimalist accompaniment that failed to spark excitement with this listener. Kvitravn is a return to norms yielding a similar problem as its now established and familiar aesthetic passes without a gust of anything to break its gloomy droning march. Don't get me wrong, what these musicians achieve is beautiful and visionary but as there persona becomes expectant, groups like Heilung thrill with their claws lurching into the shadows and pulling out blinding horrors of ancient darkness.

Kvitravn plays with the same drudging pace. A weighty gloomy hangs overhead as the cold winds and constant rain batters its human inhabitants. Peering into a re-imagined past, Wardruna captures the spirit of burdensome life, one of hard work and death with a spiritual closeness to mother nature. Its songs tend to find different ways to this same macabre march of dragging heels and achy backs as its thick drone of flawed and aged instruments is led by the reluctant pattering percussion of bearskin drums, pulling the music along. Once established song meanders in its particular arrangement, circling the same rhythm and musical ideas over and over again.

 Its on inspection that its repetitious nature becomes obvious. Trying to gleam out moments or details that sparkle, perhaps only the haunting choral cries of Viseveiding stand out. Without such critical ears it is all to easy to fall into its spell, the dull drones of blunted instruments become the curtaining atmosphere to bring about a subdued meditative state. In its mild gloom many moments feel ephemeral as its range of cultural voices sing Nordic tales, hardships and occasionally dive into the hysteria of softly guttural chants. The human voice is the element that ties the music together but as already expressed it is the puritanical approach that gives it little leverage over their previous output. For now I will put this record down and whenever in need of that nostalgic viking majesty, I may resurrect it for the dusky tone it conjures.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Earth "Hibernaculum" (2007)

 

Here lies a blast from the past, one of my first steps into the worlds of Drone and Doom. Earth are known as pioneers in the field and Hibernaculum comes in the second leg of the duo's carrier after reformation a few years prior. To me this four track EP was a hypnotic exercise in simplicity and repetition that pushed its gradual shifts in tone and texture as the progressive archetype. Its entrancing mood was one I'd enjoy on many long walks home in the dark, I couldn't however convince my friends of its magic but with it passing my mind again recently, I have revived its wonder to my playlist to share with all of you through this music blog.

With the aged ears acquired since, I hear the likes of Noir Jazz as a distant cousin to this breezy, soft and natural record. Steeped in a neutral tone it feels rather adaptable to either the city night or natural beauty in the light of day. Its first three songs deliver gorgeous metallic acoustic guitar melodies. Drawn out at a snails pace its repetitious ideas are underpinned by chilling piano notes and the bellowing dense blanket of bass. Slow and methodical its incremental growth blossoms so slowly its like watching a face age day by day yet in the calming spell of its manor, an intensity manifests with its lurching distortion and subtle organs chiming in on the craft.

Its final song, clocking in at over sixteen minutes takes the temporal to its conclusion. The soft percussion performance of Adrienne Davies is drawn to a crawl as the textures of her cymbal strikes cry out in the void between lingering notes from a darkly guitar. A Plague Of Angels plunges into the chill of night where its counterparts exerted a sense of natural beauty, this one slides into the shadows, devoid of light yet still having this calming persuasion. Being able to hold the listener in its grasps, the gradual rise of blunt over-driven chords takes us into dramatic spaces as it grows bolder. It could be excellence in action, or possibly the countless hours of bonding that made it so vivid to me.

I've written on Earth's more recent Primitive And Deadly, back when I first started this blog. Its a different beast, more metallic and doomly with charming vocals and all. That was one of my personal favorites from 2014. This fun revival of an old gem has made me realize how little of their discography I have uncovered, perhaps one to dive into now! Hibernaculum is a fine record, solemnly neutral with a slight chill in its backbone, the temporal pace and sluggish unraveling is a power of its own! One to always return to from time to time.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 5 April 2021

Anna Von Hausswolff "The Miraculous" (2015)

 
Searching for gems to talk about on my youtube music channel, reciting my words on the spellbinding Dead Magic was a reminder to continue my exploration of Anna's music. I recall giving The Miraculous a passing listen but now with intent I hear the formation of what was to follow. Two of its longer cuts, the thematic Discovery and sludgy Come Wander With Me, delve into the darkness with sprawling esoteric journeys to be fully embellished on her next outing. Cutting between its lengthy passing, a variety of compositions has the record peering into lengthy crevasse of darkly ideas briefly explored in there powerful temperaments.

It makes for a wonderful experience that doesn't quite feel as a whole but in no way empty. Anna brings her torment and shadowy expression through illustrious instrumentation ever poised by subtly and texture, always brooding its tones and melodic inflections in steadily brewing atmospheres. She is often forthright and powerful with her singing, rising up to swell with the music where it is right but also sitting out the instrumental sections that deserve limelight too. In a couple cuts she lurches back to the shadows, compromised by the darkness of the albums most ambiguous musical passings. Her words always with a distress.

There is much to be adored here, however its final three songs highlight the lack of flow that is overcome by the engulfing nature of these dense songs. Evocation takes another plunge into the monstrous lunges of slow and sludgy Doom Metal bordering on temporal with its snailing pace. The following title track pivots to winding organ piece of dense and heavy airy textures, an experimentation in droning gloom that sticks out as the biggest difference. Anna's voice briefly arises in angelic form as if to pull the music into its apex yet it drifts back into its duller phase without climax.

It all ends with Stranger, a subtle sense of a wild west theme permeates its accent, illuminated by the spangled acoustic guitar chiming in at its peak. This pivoting is what stunts a greater sense of what the record is. Many wonderful concepts are realized while its songs switch from one to the next. I have very much enjoyed the experience but I feel as if there were three or four distinct sounds being jostled, making it feel like a collection of songs over an album. This sort of esoteric and ethereal music brings that preference for a unified vision out of me when listening. Still wonderful though.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

The Kovenant "SETI" (2003)

 
Well here is a fascinating band I have sat on for far too long. Becoming a recent obsession again, it is finally time to dive into a peculiar band with an abridging discography spanning their unique transition across the spectrum of Metal. They helped forge a significant portion in the musical landscape of my youth. I discovered them through the CKY movie soundtracks sometime before this albums release. As the forth of four, it is the duo of Lex Icon and Psy Coma's final offering, with the specter of the supposedly fully written, fifth, unreleased record Aria Galactica left in limbo to this day.

For me, this band have never set a foot wrong, with each of the albums living up to its own vision. SETI, however is a notably trendy record, aligning somewhat with the rapidly rising Rammstein sound. Its an Industrial Metal romp rocking strong symphonic and electronic instruments with a mild hangover from their Black Metal days. Its complexity is notably less lavish compared to what came before but in this simplicity a catchy stride is struck.
 
This brings me to my favorite aspect, each of the songs have character and theme that sets them apart from one another. Embroiled in the post Nu-Metal vibes of that era, the duo seem to have an ear for what makes the downtrodden anthems tick, repackaging them in their spacey, synth heavy take on this popular strand. SETI has a handful of songs I wouldn't blink twice if I heard blaring in the intermissions at Metal festivals and clubs. The reality is a sad one though, these legends are very much overlooked and forgotten having barely toured since this final records release.

The record ebbs and flows between slabs of stomping distortion guitar led groove and melodic counterparts of estranged cyberpunk synth, the songs often finding its climax when they fire on all cylinders. Equally from track to track it alternates with slower anthems. Star By Star, Stillborn Universe, The Perfect End open up with moody singalongs that have something wonderful emanating through the walls of sound. This is a dense record, a barrage of Industrial kit sounds give the meaty sound depth as peculiar key tones drive home its potent melodies. They often pull up a classic old school monster flick spooky synth sound that is just delight to indulge with.

In the madness of thick instrumentation the pair are quite adventurous with the vocals, the best comes when brooding melancholy lyrics from a burly voice. Between it all, a variety of intensities often harking back to harsh Black Metal screams gives the whole record bursts of raw aggression that is fantastic. Early on strong operatic female vocals are worked in like resonate symphonies drawing in more expectant vibes to deliver the massively cosmic and astral tone the music encompasses. Neon would be a keen example of diversity as drawing in Eastern sounds adds to the flavor, somehow making them beautifully alien in the process.

This record potentially has one flaw and that is length. Filling a CD up at a bold sixty seven minutes, many of these numbers crossing the 6 minute mark and seem lengthy with the repetition loaded in song structures. Yet it is not so, these songs are so infectious they hold you in. The weaker cuts do find themselves towards the end however they all give you something unique, speaking of which, it ends on a cover of The Memory Remains. Originally by Metallica, its a rocky cover, not quite finding the groove but when the sing along melody hits, the operatic vocal brings it in wonderfully. All things said, this record is etched into my soul somewhat. I've adored this band for so long and think its a massive shame they are not known of more. Diving back into these records and writing about it will be some good therapeutic fun however!

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Shade Empire "Zero Nexus" (2008)

 
Released five years before their almighty Arcane Omega, Zero Nexus is another fumbling block on a patchy path of production hell that seems to drop the ball for the same reasons once again. Putting forth its extreme elements in imbalance, it is the snarling snout of Harju that groans its guttural filth loudly with a textured harshness to drown out the quite and underwhelmed synths. The distortion guitars too have subtlety drained as the details of its fretwork get lost under the mechanical rattle of pounding drums.

Its musical ideas are lost in the muddy wash of sound that pivots on a lot of Industrial grooves. Interchanged rhythmic pummeling drives on harshly as the strike of snares and kick drums flood the music with aggression. Attentive ears can pick out the pianos, strings and electronic tones dispersed between, all blemished by a lack of power and presence. Even direct focus doesn't let the chemistry elevate but it does yield a certain curiosity about them. When the music parts from its charging instruments, often with a percussive break beat of sorts, even then does seem tamed.

Its worst element are the vocals which could really do with being toned down behind other sounds. The range of gutturals displayed tend to lack power and potency, instead hinging on a throaty roughness, especially dialing up the cringe on its halfway clean attempts. Its god awful and a constant distraction from interesting song structures and arrangements that take place in the ebb and flows. Of the handful of spins I've given this I just can't get past its awful production, so disappointing.

Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Drake "Scary Hours 2" (2021)

 

Its been a few years since God's Plan and Scorpion. This new release Scary Hours 2 is a three track EP, warming up some anticipation for the Canadian rapper's sixth full length, set to drop sometime this year. Firstly I'd like to note the covers aesthetic, a gloomy, mysterious shade of blue and the classic Old English font up top. Its a shade of Bathory meets Arkhtinn. My curiosity to the similarity comes unanswered but musically there is no relation to anything esoteric or extreme. Its very much business as usual. On that note there is no mention to the global pandemic, which is a choice for any artist however the glorification of wealth and lifestyle feels especially hollow in its indifference to the pains of our world right now.

What's Next kicks off the record with breezy raps, Drake's easy flow hits a healthy stride spitting on a keen groove, doubling up his rhymes alongside one word emphasis. It works well, the lyrics are structured with plenty of catchy repetition to get stuck in. The mood is energetic and uplifting without bombast, these instrumentals are all tight and snappy, minimal yet effective. It continues on Wants And Needs that steers to a spacey vibe with Lil Baby stepping in to deliver a firm set of rhymes with his wobbly voice. The two exchange narratives around romantic relations interwoven with boisterous behavior. Its got style and swagger, but substance? These songs tend to feel right in the moment but don't leave a lasting impression.

Lemon Pepper Freestyle is the weak link, a more spacious drum arrangement hinges of the soulful vocal sample that cycles on a dizzy looping. For this listener it becomes grinding and dull swiftly. Rick Ross brings an older generation style to the track, even referencing Makaveli and Death Row. Its in partial contrast to the beat and Drake too who probably gives the best verse on the record, an endless train of thoughts spelling out personal grievances and perspectives but ends up trailing off into showman raps and flaunts that occasionally loop back over the same bars. Its a nice flow, sharp, brief sentences with a pause before going in again. Overall though it doesn't yield a bigger sense of self. This EP feels like business as usual for the rapper with a formula that works well but for me isn't all the exciting.

Rating: 3/10

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Dysmorphik "Everything Else" (2005)

 

Everything Else is no official release but an amalgamation of experiments, unfinished works and remixes from my personal collection of MP3s, scraped from websites long gone. Dysmorphik has been a personal gem for many years. With my recent covering of ...And To The Republic and Tick, Screech And Halt, I also decided to upload all the music to Bandcamp for others to enjoy. I cannot express how much fun and strange emotional experiences this unique sound has brought me. This post serves as a reminder to check out the aforementioned albums, both in my words and on the Bandcamp page as you can now hear them and this assortment of additional songs.

Kicking off with Nubile, we get the formation of ideas which fail to spark into a bigger picture, it serves well as an intro track being a minute long. Fractures of melody give way to the thumping cascade of obnoxious drum kicks and weakened sirens. The later extended version gives insight to the layering of fuzzy static noise and expansion of the song into a Gabber nightmare of dirty bass pummeling and gritty stacks of mechanical interference. The noise aspect of this sound is expanded on Effects, likely a jam track of experimentation that gives insight into how much of this madness is derived from experimentation. Meat N Static bridges that motif, blossoming with structure and concept as an abrasiveness set of sounds are driven forth with bombastic intensity. The noisescape twists and shifts intermittently, finding sporadic bursts of striking groove between its uncomfortable respites.

The five minute song Penetrate Your Pain comes in two forms with the superior second iteration revealing the craft and care involved. With this electronic music being spat out by the computer, one can hear the identical notes, drum patterns and even spurious noises from the VSTs having their knobs and dials tweaked in pursuit of perfection. Its been a favorite of mine but always felt like a human voice was missing. The remixes have other musicians hands over Dysmorphik's music and consequently doesn't yield much of my interest. If your curious in anyway about this mad, dystopian, alien hybrid of Noise and Industrial then these extras are worth a bit of your time.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Autumn's Grey Solace "XIII" (2021)

 

Autumn's Grey Solace hold a dear place in my heart as my first and favorite introduction to a deeply Ethereal shade of Dream Pop music, a sound started and seasoned by the Cocteau Twins. The first half of this duos discography was a delight to unearth, their luscious dark incarnations of shadowy beauty still resonates fondly to this day. The second stint, starting with Monajjfyllen, began a circling of waters, the continuous re-arrangement of musical ideas established long beforehand and thus each record, despite being enjoyable, comes with a sense of disappointment as the pair stick very strictly to their template, lacking experimentation or direction.

XIII, in-coincidentally their thirteenth, continues this tradition. My keenest remarks emerge from an occasional arrangements of acoustic guitars that shimmer off the warm baselines punctuating beneath. In all fairness this is simply two songs that strike a particular nerve, otherwise the songs drone forth with a similar subdued melancholy, lost and lonely yet in reverence of beauty. Candledim perks the ears with a fuzzy lead guitar lending a few harmonizing notes for the closest thing to a guitar solo we will get. It gives the song a little extra charm the other numbers don't receive yet could do with.

Welton's dreamy voice is a treasure as always, drifting over the washy reverb soaked instrumentation of Ferrell. She brings a lyric oriented performance this outing, a shift from the pure voicing heard on much of their recent output. Sadly it does little to offer any freshness. With my lyrical track record that wouldn't mean much but all in all it is business as usual. I will continue to check this two out no matter what and every time I will wish for a change of pace but sadly this time It was not so!

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 19 March 2021

Jim Kirkwood "Middle-Earth" (1990)

 

The resurfacing formation of Dungeon Synth in the late naughties has been quite the spectacle to watch unfold. With its roots in obscurities linked to Black Metal and Avant-garde music from the nineties, this sound found its name and niche, flourishing with both creativity and a bustle of low effort clones. Doing research into the genre's origins, records like Depressive Silence, Medival Journeys and Midnight Fullmoon crossed my path, all providing fun and curious listening experiences but deeper than them all is Jim Kirkwood's mighty double LP spanning five lengthy musical adventures. Released at the turn of the decade, this sound is untainted by the unleashing of Scandinavian darkness yet to come. The common ancestry that shares a thread here is J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy world of Middle-Earth, a common influence in Black Metal and Dungeon Synth, of which this work is neither.

Kirkwood's music is typically described as fantasy music. Hinged on the electronic scene aesthetics of decades past by, the use of bold visual tones from Casio synths and Morg synthesizers has that timely gratification bestowed by the power of melody. With a little imagination, one can be led by the unsubtle arrangements on fruitful adventures. His style seems obvious at first, curious melodies dance in tandem, exchanging shifts in pace and tone to conjure the sense of spectacle as the scenes unfold. Cheesy might a cruel word to reach for but in his boldness Jim composes with cinematic scale to outpace any of the era sentiments that may arise.

Its mammoth two hours do not drag. The show sways from the beauty and glory of fantasy realms to the darker perils exemplified on Urak Hai, Tolkien's demonic warrior beasts. Between typical song structures he gets creative within aesthetic limitations, mimicking environmental sounds like winds, horses, birds and the thundering echos of deep drums. Percussion is used to steer in some momentum at times and in others acts as an abrasive tool to warn of danger. With that cinematic sense of vision and direction fueling it, these clashes with potential dated ideas retain their charm. Best of all an underpinning of swirling synth arrangements akin to Tangerine Dream constantly push the melodies into lengthy tangents with a psychedelic driving them along. This is a fitting idea that recently sparked my interest with Old Sorcery. So curious to find it at work here over twenty odd years earlier.

There is so much that could be said of the adventure unraveling over these two hours. I do think Jim takes liberty with scale and repetition at times but it mostly adds the the epic Middle-Earth scale it reaches for. Its been a wonderful listening experience with many uses of melody and aesthetic I'd hear resurface in Symphonic Black Metal and other electronic related genres in years to come. I also hear a soft link to Progressive Rock and Jazz Fusion over a few instances of keyboard playing, even a guitar lick dropping in on King Of The Golden Hall. The links go both ways! This one is really worth your time if you have anything invested in Fantasy, Tolkein or Dungeon Synth. This is undoubtedly a hidden gem with little information on it beyond the music, I would love to know more about its creation and inspiration, although the latter is obvious.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Vektor "Transmissions Of Chaos" (2021)

 

It's been some time since I last heard anything from American thrashers Vektor. Their previous effort Terminal Redux was quite the charmer given its dense and technical take on Thrash Metal, a great work of vision and execution. It was also the bands last, I was unaware they had disbanded and this two track warm up is a result of their recent reunion. Sadly though the two tracks didn't carry the sparkle I heard before.

Activate is a fast ripping thrasher of choppy techniques and dizzying melodic entanglement, charging head first into the wall! Its tone and jittery energy is unrelenting, not offering much in the way of a hook or catch. Its pause for an acoustic respite after blazing solos is an interesting moment but the track tends to contain itself as a short, simple drive of aggression, not looking to get expansive as they once did.

Dead By Dawn initially sounds like a cover with its clean vocals springing a different mood forth. Its a progressive path forward, opening up at the three minute mark into beefy lunges of melodic gleam and meaty distortion fretwork. Its sudden pivot to rapid power chord shredding dispels the excitement. It reuses the lunging moment to see the song out and ultimately ends up feeling a bit directionless.

For a band reuniting, this may just be an exercise in getting back into the process. These two numbers show both craft and execution, bringing back their very "plastic" and particular tone with a competent production but disappoint with a lack of dazzle or remark within the routine of galloping Thrash Metal running the routines of its techniques. The second track had the ambition with a bold move vocally but its conclusion was to fall back into the arms of comfort. Transmissions Of Chaos is worth a listen but hopefully they will bring bigger ideas to any full release in the future.

Rating: 2/10

Monday, 8 March 2021

Shade Empire "Intoxicate O.S" (2006)

 

One step forward and two back, Shade Empire's sophomore effort seemingly faces issues both musical and aesthetic. The strange synth loudness production of Sinthetic highlighted a hidden strength but on this effort it is overwhelmed by grating metallic aggression made harsh by its ear grating production. Its opening track Slitwrist Ecstasy sets off alarm bells as the howling rattle of a loose snare overpowers everything around it. Creeks of spectral keys struggle to glimmer between the rumbling rattle of percussion and the snaky guitar tone that sucks up all space beneath it. The balance is poor, the ears do adjust with familiarity and repetition but the albums biggest strength has been cast to the shadows, a reverse of what came before it. The synths are now all to quiet to have the impact they deserve.

With vocalist Harju wrenching out his meaty shouts and counterpart snarling whispers in the front line, the aggressive context dominates as the drums barrage track after track. Its an unsurprising affair of riff arrangements and drum patterns that pale on their lonesome. In some moments where the pace cools off, one can hear the web of synths woven in too forge a powerful sense of atmosphere and direction for the music. The issue is production, they are simply mixed in poorly and the thick slab of unappealing guitar distortion washes its power away. Its truly disappointing as one can hear the intention but is simply unable to indulge. The only occasions they come to the forefront are with the big cheesy synth tones... everything is out of balance.

Every spin has been an endurance test, how quickly will that unending snare drum take to ware my interest out? Well prior to the albums close Ravine, an entirely synth led composition, gets to shine in the wake of a slowed drum groove and lack of guitars in its opening. Even still its a gem in the rough, one can hear the dirty buzzing baseline in its opening, a reminder of how ugly this aesthetic is. Through that the piano melody and soft synths forge a nightly mystique to show that talent is present, if not held mercy to the bad sound design. Intoxicate is a very forgettable record, one I wont wish to return to, however if handled differently in the studio, my opinion and enjoyment could of been entirely different.

Favorite Track: Ravine

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Moonspell "Hermitage" (2021)

 

Imagine my excitement, the triumphant roar of Jumalten Aika still gnawing at the back of my mind, a new Moonsorrow record on the horizon, I was buzzing! I jumped at this album when my aggregator informed me of its release. A slight problem however, the service confused the two moons and so I have brought this twelfth release from Portuguese Moonspell. To rub salt in the wound, this same confusion actually transpired a couple years back. I really need to fix my subscription list...

Unlike 1755, Hermitage has been a fumble to engage with. Its bland foray of lightly tinged Doom and Gothic Metal tonality is often steered in a Progressive Rock direction, attempting to revive ideas of the greats and rarely amounting to much in the progress. Singer Ribeiro is often off-key, a constant thorn in the sides, hurtling his rough manly shouts, he rubs against the melodic cohesion off his band mates.

The instrumentals behind him are decent at times but the music tends to meander. Swells of metallic aggression that brood are often weak and loose on arrival, at least within this brittle production which fails in giving oomph and power to its instruments. Songs slowly ponder through many quiet and meager passageways. Its calming and composed but lacking much in the way of excitement. When those big guitars erupt, the momentum is often left hinging on an unappealing distortion aesthetic.

The occasional inclusion of classic psychedelic synth sounds spark some curiosity but tend to add their own appeal as opposed to gelling with the rest of the music. All in all its a hard record to compliment that offers no reason to come back. Besides my gripe with the vocals, nothing is particularly tragic or offensive, just unreasonably mediocre and drab. Anyway I have learned my lesson, removing this band from my list at once!

Rating: 4/10