Sunday, 21 February 2021

Shade Empire "Sinthetic" (2004)

 

Having recently recorded my blog post on Arcane Omega for my music channel, I was prompted to explore the Finnish bands back catalog and thus landed here at their debut. Initially I writ it off as being a run of the mill record, however with each spin the melodies and symphonic themes rooted themselves, revealing a slice of fantastic songwriting here at the origin of their adventures. Sinthetic is not without flaws but certainly a stronger set of songs that you would initially suspect in their infancy.

As a Symphonic Extreme Metal album, its texture, tone and temperament exudes much of what Dimmu Borgir unleashed with Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia a couple years beforehand. What Shade Empire bring to the table is an Electronic element tangled between its harsh metallic drive and swoons of symphonic might. The best of the record comes from the gleams of melody its orchestral tones usher in over the industrious workings of synth LFO's bustling away around its metallic template. Its design very much of the electronic scene, working its way in with an Industrial vibe.

Its quite the stark construct, the guitars feel distance with a narrow scratchy, plastic tone. The rapid drums rattle their way around with a lot of intensity. The bass guitar and low end is thinned out, the electronic osculations fire off with distance too. Harju's harsh, flat screams are too without depth, adding to this brittle production style. Its the symphonic keys, choral vocals and pianos that swarm the music with a warmness. Dense in tone and presence, they dominate the music on arrival.

These elements essentially carry the record which unfortunately pivots quite often to the drive of Metal techniques and arrangements that tend to have little dazzle. Its at its best when the keys take over, delivering theme, melody and might that swoons and takes off like a rocket. Its a mix of contrasts that works when smothered with synth and in doing so gives it an edge over what you might expect from this musical niche.

That echo's my opening statement, initially I thought it to be a typical record but in hearing the persuasion of Savolainen's arrangements blossom, it reveals a fractional magic. The reality is whenever the music hinges on its metallic footing its a rather dull affair. Its eight songs have their moments and when they do, its always the swirls of electronic synthesizer or orchestral gleam that births its magic. A peculiar record, one that indicates their symphonic genius was there from day one.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Cocteau Twins "Love's Easy Tears" (1986)

 

And so the Cocteau Twins musical journey continues on with what will be the last of these brief EPs, for a few years at least. Its been a consistent drip feed of mediocrity with the occasional spark of magic and Love's Easy Tears is no exception. Hot off the back of an experimental Victorialand, the band slip back into a groove as a trio again. The ever present drum machine and a persistently muddy bass presences rears the band into a familiar space. The title track and Sigh's Smell Of Farewell hit the similar trend of lacking chemistry between Fraiser and Guthrie, however it should be said the rhythm section brings little beyond bare bones to bolster their performances.

Those Eyes, That Mouth perks the ears with the two finding an esoteric spark to lure us into a mysterious Ethereal tension that never finds a release its yearning for but ventures through its darkly atmosphere finding a rising tide as intensities swell into the closing phase. Orange Appled sounds remarkably different from the other three. Fraiser's singing is in a deeper range and her wordings more pronounced and upfront yet still ambiguous. Its hooky bell melody come on strong but the tune doesn't quite land for my ears. All in all its another collection of B-Sides, fun to dive into but pales in comparison to their album material.

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Bolt Thrower "The IVth Crusade" (1992)

I may have said I was done with this journey for now but one curious listen alone had me thinking this was hands down the best Bolt Thrower had to offer. If War Master, their previous effort, was a pivotal moment of evolution for the bands sound, then this is the mastery of that transformation. Dispensing off with the Grindcore hangovers of frantic guitar noise and plunges into manic blast beats, the band shed the scars of their youthful music and lean full tilt into their championed formula of dense low end grooves that croon against frequent rises of catchy leads. Pairing power and might with satisfying swigs of mean melody, the endless sways are endlessly enjoyable.
 
Despite being fully accustomed to this mid-tempo Death-Doom temperament, these songs seemed to hit the hardest of all and with a little more pace than usual. With a crushing resilience, the production brings about a dense, feisty tone that carries the relentless percussive pummeling so well. Track after track hammers away with intense, pounding drums rattling off a heavy framework for the thick, meaty distortion guitars to grind out an arsenal of riffs that carry well. These songs are simpler, to the point and with a refined execution the head banging is ceaseless!

Many of the common tricks are turned here, the timely breaking of intense drum patterns to half times on the ride or hi-hat symbol are in frequent circulation. The guitars offer up balance with the constant swaying on the ranges of the fretboard. Above it all Willets gives another mighty performance with his steady barking of guttural growls as mean and gritty as ever. Despite being a familiar experience, the excitement sustains as the sharpest ideas are delivered stunningly. Within the Death Metal context, the angle of war and the suffering it causes delivers a tempered beast of crushing might and majesty that's somehow unlike anything adjacent to them.

Embers stands out for sharing the same recurring riff as Powder Burns and Cenotaph but taking the biscuit is closer track Through The Ages where the band offered up a little novelty to their sound. Light choral synths back one of their broodiest riffs in the closing phase after a spoken word narrative listing of a long history of wars throughout human history. It ties itself to the thematic concept of the record seen in title, album art and lyrics. Just by stepping aside with an alternate idea they create a truly memorable song as the dates listed reinforce the magnitude of human created suffering by war, only then to be shadowed by this swell of musical might. Its powerful.

 At some point I will probably get around to the missing Bolt Thrower records I am yet to unearth. My entire time with the music I was trying to figure out where they fit into Death Metal's legacy. Thinking of other pivotal records in 92 like Clandestine and, Tomb Of The Mutilated this was certainly not at the forefront of the musics evolution but right at its peak they came through with a matured sound that didn't hinge on gimmicks as subsequently can be appreciated well through a historical lens. If I've not made it clear, this is thee Bolt Thrower album to check out! A brilliant moment in time.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Cocteau Twins "Victorialand" (1986)

 Having recently split a subpar album into two EPs in the previous year, the Cocteau Twins return with a full release that on paper you'd suspect would be more likely to suffer that fate. With bassist Raymonde tied up with other commitments, Victorialand strips out percussion and bass in a bold, experimental move that actually turns up gold. Initially it stands apart for lacking what is seemingly a core part of the groups music and ironically the focus on guitar and vocal alone forge a beautiful chemistry between the two, something their recent string of EPs seemed to lack all too often.

Guthrie refines a sound heard before, often intermittent between his echo delay experimentation with ambiguous guitar texture. With a touch of roomy reverberation his focus lands on lush, bold acoustic guitar chords and plucked strings. Dreamy, bright and glossy they flow lavish and oozy as the melodies vibrate and resonate in soft feedback loops. Although a little hazy and foggy they dance in the Ethereal wash, swaying with a timeless dreaminess the band yield, somehow unlike anything before.

Fraser finds a stride heard many times before with the best of her spirited singing. She leans in on the unusual pronouncing and annunciations that put emphasis and feeling in the unconventional spots. She meanders around the guitars like a wandering spirit, rising and falling, exploring her range and depth of expression. Her pace is drawn out, lingering on scenic notes, voicing with a ghostly intent. The use of pre-echo and other manipulations artfully expand the avenue this duo carved for themselves.

Chemistry is often king and here it reigns supreme as the focus on two instruments have them finding the sublime connections on its best tracks. All sorts of fantastical places of adventure and intrigue are conjured in the imagination when they find a stride. A Saxaphone and Tabla can be heard chiming in on occasion and one or two song use a tiny sway of percussion and sometimes bass. Its so subtle it seems almost necessary yet irrelevant in the shadow of absence the majority of the music carries.

A bonus track, remixed by Massive Attack, serves to show how well the music can stand on its own while being completely open to percussion and bass. Final song, The Thinner The Air, is a tense, winding closer that dissipates at the albums end. The accompaniment of Trip Hop thuds, cracks and piano chords add in a foundation entirely optional. It highlights how much magic is birthed in this chemistry and how the common and expected are sometimes unnecessary to what makes the music tick. Victorialand has its moments and some songs may not click so sweetly but it is a change in pace worthy of attention!
 
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Bolt Thrower "War Master" (1991)


This is it! The pivot I was listening out for, a moment of change but one that surprisingly comes as a full on swing. With a touch of Doom Metal restraint, the band find the steady footing for their brutality to march hard at mid tempo, with powerful grooves thrusting its momentum forth with the energy I enjoy. Bolt Thrower still strike me as a band in identity crisis. Yet to land on the appropriate theme of war, their Warhammer inspired image and tacky name seemed at odds with the early Death Metal sound. These are all details that don't really matter if the music is good.

In War Master lies a big step forward in fidelity and song writing. The rhythm guitar finally finds its tempered aggression that defines later records. This aforementioned pivot is massive but not without the blemishes of their previous efforts. It actually adds a little flair as wild plunges into loose blast beats and the hangover of Grindcore guitar noise give it brief tangents to break the tone. Otherwise all the pieces are in place. Big and powerful power chord arrangements routinely switch into tremolo picking as lively drum patterns pick up pace, delivering that heavy sway of grooving aggression.

Best of all, Karl Willets's voice opens way up. This could have been aided by the decent fidelity of this record. His breathy, throaty guttural growls are very audible for this seasoned listener. I found myself catching many of his doom and gloom lyrics, expressing disgust and commanding punishment and persecution for the human race. Its all light heart stuff! He rides the music like that extra layer of noise but the amount of texture and grit is endearing. Its not often a vocal performance catches my ear.

All being said, my excitement is steered heavily by finding this "linking" moment where the band stumbled into their own brilliance. That being said, it sounds like a total switch up to my ears with only the occasional blast beats and eruptions of lead guitar noise having much of a link to what they did on Realm Of Chaos. I'd be curious to learn what the band themselves thought of this evolution. With only two other records to digest, I think I'll put this one on ice again for now.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Cocteau Twins "Echoes In A Shallow Bay" (1985)

 
Echoes In A Shallow Bay is the second half of what could of been a fourth album for the Scottish trio. Tiny Dynamite has the favorable pick of songs, with three of these four tracks offering subdued darkly obscurities that indulge but don't shine. Its a familiar take on their Ethereal sound with the opening Great Spangled Fritillary lingering on dense, elongated guitar noise that shivers through the cold, spacious setting, a tone somewhat adjacent to much of whats heard on Lycia's classic Cold.

The following Melonella and Pale Clouded White usher in stiff chord cycling pianos that get enveloped when swells of guitar noise arise. The moods are gloomy, of dusk and come with a little magic in its build ups. Again, Fraiser just doesn't find the charm, she is subdued but in this reserved performance she gels with the nightly atmosphere.

Eggs And Their Shells has a subtle pivot, a warm uplift arises from its simple melody and the angular insertions that compliment it. Fraiser takes her voice to a delicate, airy height, a carefree delight. Its a slightly disjointed song but its differences create the best out of the subdued sound and that seems to be the key word on this record. If looking for something Ethereal with less immediacy, then this is it.

Rating: 4/10

Monday, 1 February 2021

Bolt Thrower "Realm Of Chaos" (1989)

Sometimes, it can be quite difficult to write about records your simply not sold on. Here my curiosity lies in the bands evolution to the tempered beast of burly grooves and steady brutality they will become on Mercenary. Realm Of Chaos is a distinct move forward from In Battle There Is Now Law, shedding some Grindcore elements and developing a leaner Death Metal sound, for the time. It still shares some tropes, like the collapsing into blast beats and discernible guitar noise. Though for the most part the blasts come structured with percussive drives rattling away, adding tempo to the otherwise mid tempo guitar work.
 
Beneath it the rhythm guitars charge, shredding power chords, playing up "evil" melodies of the era and on occasion erupting with the wild, chaotic lead guitar licks that come across with an aided clarity. To me though, its mostly stale and dull. The fidelity is drab, the distortion tone wades in a muddy fuzz. Only the vocals get a clear line of focus above the instrumentation. As it works its way through the arsenal on riffs little excites. These techniques and ideas live the shadows of the genres development. A few riffs hold some merit and in brief fractions of slow, drawn out power chords you may hear a little of whats to come. At this point though, they are yet to find themselves, just another name in the scene. 

Favorite Track : Lost Souls Domain
Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Cocteau Twins "Tiny Dynamine" (1985)

 
This four track record, named Tiny Dynamine, is the first of a double EP release by the Cocteau Twins. Essentially, it could of been the groups forth album but due to internal dissatisfaction, it was cut in half and released quietly through the shorter format. A reoccurring theme in these songs that failed to make the cut, is Fraiser, who often fails to find the magic that makes it to the likes of Treasure or Sunburst And Snowblind. This time however there are sparks and notably no failed endeavors.

What stands apart is Guthrie's compositions. The luscious and lavish reveb soaked acoustics are elevated in fidelity and tone, starting to unpick the lock on this magic. Instrumental piece Ribbed And Veined goes to a whole new realm as its chemistry with the soft and airy synths pinned beneath slip into a nightly indulgence. In this moment I can barely tell both the aesthetic and melody apart from Autumn's Grey Solace. Perhaps it is this era that is their biggest inspiration.

It and the opening song are worthy of much attention. The remaining two are foggy tracks, where the punching power of crisp instruments is muted in their unresolved focus. On both it seems as if clarity never lands on any set instrument or voice. The result is moody atmospheres that pass by without a hook or lure to bring one into the music and set it alight. With another four songs to get too, it does already seem pretty clear why this double release decision was made.

Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Soley "Ask The Deep" (2015)

 
Prompted by the stunning Endless Summer, I wanted enjoy more of Icelandic singer songwriter Soley's music. Ive found myself on familiar ground, as the twisted darkly album art would suggest, this is the creepier side of her sound I remember from We Sink. It has a hint of the direction to come with Dreamers in its closing phase but mostly resides in the ambiguous shadows of eeriness. Always without danger or threat these songs revel in a childish wonder surrounded by a darkness that never gets close. Its clearly a bridge between the two aforementioned records.

Ask The Deep strolls through its lukewarm apatite, songs croon by as warm pianos cushion the waves for her soft voice to gently act as the sails pulling it along. Each track steadily builds with a wonderful but not overwhelming variety of instruments brooding towards swells of sound often risen by luscious airy synths. Its percussive drive is refreshing, grooves snap, shuffle and patter with the less conventional drum tones the snare and kick would normally occupy. The mood break to a grave tone with the subdued One Eyed Lady and Ohljoo, I Will Never brings in a funeral gloom later on. Its contrasted but provides variety that shifts deeper into any unease.
 
Follow Me Down has this Dungeon Synth arrangement on loop, buried bellow other instruments. I could swear its from Trolldom. Probably just a very similar melodic composition. All in all its a lovely record. Mysterious and slightly esoteric, my focus is always pulled away from the brightness that emanates from Soley's voice over the warm pianos. Its not actually that dark of a record but isn't quite as remarkable as what she will go on to create and the brighter songs are all my favorites.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Cocteau Twins "Aikea-Guinea" (1985)

 
 
Its another EP from the Cocteau Twins but this time the four songs are of notable intrigue! Perhaps it is the title track and lead single that is the least impressive! Its temperament is rather adjacent to Treasure, with brightly polished bass lines plucking at a steady pace and a drum machine dressed up to be more convincing, the swells of emotional sound from Guthrie's noisy guitar and airy synths are peaked by the melodies of sparkling bells yet it is Frasier who doesn't find the charm. Her vocals toy with the wordless dynamic, drifting up to circle the high ranges but miss the mark.

With a similar temperament on the following Kookaburra, it is Guthrie's shrill guitar grinding, dissipating into atmospheric swoons over the warm piano chords and keen bass lines that sell the magic. Quisquose pivots to a strong piano led march, brought to life by luscious acoustic guitars painting a darkly mood. Its the instrumentation that shapes up to be the endearing quality of these songs, the compositions generally repetitive and shifting between complimenting arrangements back and forth.

It seems to be a reoccurring theme that Fraiser's normally enthralling performances just don't land on these EPs. The final and bwat song is the short Rocco, an instrumental it would be hard to picture a voice in. The textural mystery of Guthrie's guitar noises get pinned by these bold, upfront base notes marching hard. The interchange between the two provides tension and then relief for the magic. The song doesn't progress anywhere much from its main idea but the chemistry is its charm. This is definitely a better set of b-sides. As always they lack that finishing touch.

Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 23 January 2021

The Crystal Method "Tweekend" (2001)

Four years on from their debut record Vegas, The Crystal Method return during the decline of Big Beat's popularity with a sound somewhat on a similar trajectory to that of Fatboy Slim. Tweekend strides towards the Electronic music scenes of the time with an emphasis on virtual instruments and rock grooves above the bombast of big drum samples, which still have an edge. With plenty of lengthy cuts over six minutes and nothing to ambitious in the way of progressive songwriting, the record serves as a decent mood setter, lively and energetic but not demanding too much of the listener.

Each track tends to have a through line, a backbone that is always present as the arrangements shuffle around the complimenting sounds. There is a lot of them too, these songs are dense and layered with electronic instruments, percussive sounds and synths woven around the beat. The attention to detail holds up. These highly repetitive songs get fleshed out as its drum loops drone on with many instruments and samples taking focus as the lead, jumping back and forth from the limelight. 

Its best songs come with crunchy rock guitar hooks worked in, dropping steady grooves to drive the music onwards. It can often be a noisy affair with its calmer synth sounds being bombarded by all sorts of noises, most common of which seems to be the "off the era" DJ scratches. They kick off vocal samples and slip in lively vinyl sounds similar to that of Limp Bizkit, who would of been on top of the world around this time of this record. Its an element I enjoyed a lot, this album has so much going for it that fits snugly into this era, even though I didn't enjoy at that time.

All in all its no work of art but a competent execution of ideas reflecting the changing times in Electronic music. With lots of spins it has dulled. I fun one to check out but only a couple of numbers demand a return on occasion. I was going to call it quits here but reading up on their next effort, Legion Of Boom, I may have to check it out for the inclusion of Wes Borland and his guitar playing on three or so songs!

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 22 January 2021

Cocteau Twins "Treasure" (1984)

When embarking on this newest musical journey with the Cocteau Twins, it is this record I was itching to write about. Discovering them back in 2011, Treasure was the album to lure me in and I have adored it too this day. Admittedly it doesn't get much rotation anymore but spinning it up again has been a pleasure and with critical ears I love how the stiff fidelity of its drum machine and awkward production were details I never heard before. These songs are so gorgeous and engulfing, that the magic simply glosses over its flaws. As I've commented before though, its aesthetic ruggedness very much works to enrich the slightly esoteric and ethereal vibes.

Stepping away from their Post-Punk roots and into Dream Pop territory, Guthrie's layered guitar experimentation finds refined glory in pivoting to acoustic guitars. Golden plucked strings lavished in reverbs often feature alongside other sparkling instruments that put emphasis on dreamy tones and a warm melodic rises. There are occasional uses of guitar distortion and its tone can sway into the shadows with these ten songs forging a wonderful variety for peering into peculiar places. Its obvious though, much of its instrumental magic is birthed from the expansion of instruments, used subtly in the swells of ethereal sound that gush forth. They play out the colored tuneful melodies the likes of Garlands before it once lacked.

Its all held in place by this clanky drum machine. Rigid and stiff in timing and tone, its repetitive strikes are often soaked in reverb, rattling off with forced punchy grooves that penetrate with a contrasted composure to everything else around it. Somehow, mysteriously, it just works so well. Fraiser's voice is another vector in the chemistry. These three components feel so distant from one another at times, yet together its a wondrous mix. I must say though, it comes in temperaments. The album jumps all over the place from track to track. Persephone may be the biggest example of what I've just described and yet with the following song Pandora it flips to its most cohesive and in tune composition. Notably, two of my favorite tracks as well.

Best of all, Fraiser comes completely into her own on this one. I was always under the impression her performance was entirely wordless and I loved putting my own words into her cryptic singing. Reading online lyric sheets does have me wondering. If they are true then its stunning how she pronounces words with such a mystic overcast. If not, its still just as magic but I prefer the later. The inflections and places she carries her voice too with vibratos and what not is endlessly joyous. Sailing high to low and dancing on her way. Every word, or lack of, just oozes with an endearing quality which never fails to cast a spell. Its some of the best vocal delivery you'll ever hear.

 Treasure is a milestone record for the group, an ascension to the spectacular. Its artistic, expressive, magical and stunningly mysterious. Knowing these songs so well, Guthrie's swell of ambiguous sound still spark the imagination. Fraisers veiled voicings always an indulgence. Its only shortcomings are in execution. Some amateurish swells of bass noise occasionally gather in the mix and some of its songs tend to end without direction. Sudden wind downs and lack of conclusion do hinder the odd song but otherwise its a classic, one anyone curious should give a go.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Dysmorphik "...And To The Republic" (2004)

 

 Following up on yesterdays post about Tick, Burn, Screech & Halt we have the second installment by this wonderfully peculiar musician of personal interest to me. Released five years later, ...And To The Republic is a force of musical maturity. The bizarre machination of Industrial noise harps on with refined execution. Along with a developed approach to songwriting and structure, these inspirations have evolved with passion, vision and agility. Its often through the lens of Dance and Electronic Body Music, along with a better mastery of composition and sound design.

Where his previous songs where disjointed, awkward and unusual, Dysmorphik channels the wall of noises with a newly found cohesion that is dense and engulfing. Between slabs of synth and protruding electronic melodies, distortions, zaps, whirls, fuzzes and clicks rattle around in a persuasive madness. Everything hits harder. The percussion slams with drive and groove, hitting these dance floor strides of pace fit for a Cyber Goth club. The key melodies, emerging from alien saw waves and trance-like synths, are catchy and grooving. Even the vocals have "leved up". Still leaning on the whispering edge of softly aggression, a use of subtle distortion and plugin effects deliver a far better front, now powerful and melded to the mix like another instrument.

The sound design is fantastic! Giving the density your attention, its details offer up so much more to these massive songs. Its less obvious as to what is going on, as if hours of experimental sound manipulation has its its best recorded moments plucked out and injected into the music like a Bomb Squad production. This lends the song structures to more break away moments, much like the sudden shift of break-beats, the music derails on brief tangents of magical noise madness, often driven by slamming percussion that thuds and crunches hard. Its a dystopian pleasure!

It would be so hard to pluck a favorite from all these numbers but Idle Dereliction has this wonderful progression as a song. Starting off with a dense pummeling of Industrial groove from its drum patterns, the flexing baseline hooks one in as the tapestry of noises grows. Hard hitting synths force the issue and before long the dense arrangements shift towards an emotional axis. It wrestles back and forth with these fantastically performed lyrics pushing of from the "make love like suicide" line. The wall of sound is utterly engrossing, beautifully alien and its steady deconstruction reveals this underpinning of choral voices... its so dark and wonderful.

There are more songs in the arsenal beyond this release. A couple of experiments in pure Noise and Gabber style electronic music seemed like a fascinating evolution, a sort of boiled down experiment, the tapestry of gritty noise without the songs worked around them. Whatever the reason this musician had to end it all here around in the mid naughties is a mystery. It sounded like they were on the cusp of another evolution yet what they have left behind has memorized me to this day. Dysmorphik holds a special place in my heart. It is not with every song they strike gold but when it works its unlike anything else out there. Truly a forgotten treasure.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 18 January 2021

Dysmorphik "Tick, Burn, Screech & Halt" (1999)

 

To write of Dysmorphik is to tease a treasure lost to the Internet's youth, years before the current perceived permanence of data. I discovered this Industrial musician through online communes, an early form of social media where artists where talking direct and giving their music away for free through MP3 sharing websites long dead. I had a collection of about twenty tracks obtained in my youth and a few years back managed to contact the man himself. He graciously sent me the missing songs from the only two albums before vanishing into a puff of smoke, with all traces of his peculiar art disappearing online, possibly forever! Many of these songs have been burned into my mind, occupying a strange space no other artist can get close to. Its survived the years, stitched to my painful youth and growth out from that darkness.

Tick, Burn, Screech & Halt is an amateurish debut, a wonderful cascade of obtuse noises, smashed and molded into an broken heap of sound. In that wreckage, something spectacular lurks. Its dystopian, alien and difficult. As far as Industrial music goes, this has many of the common hallmarks, yet the end result feels oddly different. A downtrodden voice broods between the cracks of melodies, rhythms and slabs of sound crammed together with force. These songs are an ugly mess birthed from beautiful intentions of expression. In that is a magic not often heard.

Most these tracks consist of several layers. Rattling, gritty and stiff percussive grooves get wedged between slabs of Industrial noise distortion. Airy synths lurk in the distance, softly groaning with unease, shaping a mood. Around them a calamity of stabbing synths, wobbling basslines, strikes and crashes prod and poke into the mix with a mechanical madness. The voicing that get sliced in are often of that whispering, shadowy variety. When reaching to hold a note its charm is solely in the attempt.

So much of this music feels machine like, disjointed, disconnected and strange but through the awkward cohesion certain instruments emanate the intention. Through its friction and unease the music pours out a vision that takes some time to hear. When I was young I lapped up having something odd and interesting to listen to for free. Then missing songs decades later, it took far longer to fall for them. With time they shape up into odd hashes of vision and aesthetic that dominates its own peculiar space.
 
Sometimes it is obvious which instruments are pushing the narrative but in its better songs your never quite sure. Giving ones attention to the barrage of noises, brimming with subtle zaps and whirls in its arsenal of synths, you can get lost in the detail. The colliding sounds and friction rub all over each other and yet through that spurious mess something enigmatic, dark and curious washes over with a spell. Much of this praise, however, should be reserved for the following release. That is where things get exceptional. At this stage the amateurish execution shows its nature and influences, reaching back to Synth-Pop in certain moments too. It is still a wonderful mess, unlike anything else Ive heard since.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Cocteau Twins "The Spangle Maker" (1984)

Knowing whats to follow, The Spangle Maker is a stopgap EP seemingly distant from its surroundings. Its title track is the most subdued song the group have written to date. Its a slow burn crawling to a quiet roar with a swell of layered sound in its closing cycle. With new bassist Simon Raymonde joining, perhaps this was an exercise in integration, becoming accustom with one another in writing and the studio.
 
Either way, its a familiar tale of music that misses the spark. Peraly-Dewdrops' Drops and more so Pepper-Tree have the hallmarks of the groups blossoming sound heading in the direction of Treasure. Somehow, Fraser's timeless singing and the Ethereal persuasion of Guthrie's effect soaked guitar magic just don't click.
 
Pepper-Tree does delivery a gorgeous shadowy acoustic guitar timbre, resonating off its chilling pianos with an eerie ambience. Somewhat of a cornerstone for Autumns Grey Solace's sound. It's also rather noticeable that the bass guitar steps away from that defining upfront presence of Post-Punk music, taking a more subdued roll with a softer aesthetic. All in all its another unremarkable but slightly intriguing EP of which they have a fair few main between releases.

Rating: 3/10

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Sithu Aye "Senpai III" (2021)

 

 I've been awaiting this next installment for some time now... Its actually been over three years since the last Sithu Aye release! Time has absolutely flown by. Senpai III is the anime themed musical take on Progressive Metal that is now here in a longer album format. The project started out innocently as a curious experiment, mixing in the melodic styling and instruments from Japanese cartoon theme music in a jovial stride. With parts I & II the small number of tracks really wet the appetite for more and alas it comes with fifty two minutes of fresh new music across ten tracks.

Bright, warm and uplifting a constant flow of dexterous melody unfolds on an ever pacy stride, marching through its bold and colorful sound. Its metallic elements brings forth power and strength, a little groove and bounce to bolster the intensity but never to turn to anything dark. Its a cheery record of smiles and good vibes, all with an authentic emotional current. With a lack of human voice to center on the lead guitars often steps up with frequent unleashes of dazzling fretboard work, swooning with speed and technique when blazing into a solo. If not, its often a more subdued line of melody that gives the music that needed focal point. This record is all about melody though, its a unending unraveling of them which can get a little tiresome.

To pivot to criticism, I think the novelty of this idea is best served in smaller dosses for this listener. Although there is genuine mood and expression here, the style of theme music demands a lot of energy and instrumental activity. The pace is swift and a lot of notation gushes forth through a rather narrow range of ideas. Mari's New Day is one song that stands out for managing to calm the tone down and provide a little contrast but the rest of the songs are continually swept up into this whirl of dance-able energy that has most its big melodies feeling very similar to one another.

The project doesn't feel like it has many directions to go in. EDM elements drop in on a couple of tracks, dialed up a notch with intense kick drums and some lively synths but they tend to compliment the dominant narrative more so than bring something new to the mix. I really do adore this sound and have enjoyed my time with the record but it has struggled to establish more than a mood. With the narrow range these songs operate within and similarity to what came before, nothing stands out. If there is to be a forth installment I would love to hear a human voice in the mix. That would be most welcome alongside some experimentation to see where this framework can be taken. If you've not heard this project before and enjoy Anime theme music you are most likely going to lap this one up!

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Cocteau Twins "Sunburst And Snowblind" (1983)

 
Journeying on with our deep dive on the Cocteau Twins, we have another EP featuring Sugar Hiccup and three songs left over from the Head Over Heals album. I'm getting the impression we may not find hidden gems in this avenue. These smaller release are a deeper insight to the band but more so a reminder that not everything is gold. Each of the three additional songs lack the killer spark to make them work. Possibly unfinished, they show their difficulty as the ideas present in the guitar work doesn't seem to gel with Fraser and that chemistry is absolutely vital.

From The Flagstones has all the markings of their sound, the washy guitars come across and its soft airy synths lack the gusto to elevate. Fraser comes in with power and persuasion but it misses the mark. Hitherto is the better of the three, its slow, dark and mysterious atmosphere more engrossing but on this track its Fraser who's voice doesn't quite catch the wind. Because Of Whirl-Jack brings upbeat pianos with a jovial energy and its pivot to focus on plucked acoustic strings works but the song feels like it never finds a crowning moment, perpetually swaying between verse and chorus.

One thing I can say is its fun to hear these songs and a reminder of the hard work and time it takes to craft great music. These songs are in no way bad but they highlight how bands will write songs that often don't make the light of day. Its nice to see that this music and that on the other EPs were shared, although contractual obligations may have had something to do with that given the groups outspoken dismissal of Lullabies. Anyway, whats next? You guessed it! Another EP.

Rating: 3/10

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Bolt Thrower "In Battle There Is No Law" (1988)

I was looking for some contrast in Bolt Thrower's sound and I've certainly found here on In Battle There Is No Law. It is the groups debut record, a primitive affair of early Death Metal muscle and Grindcore grit. Yet to find its coming Military theming, it does have the rare moment of tempered groove resembling the likes of Mercenary and beyond. This is no half step away though, they are an entirely different band at this point. Given the name, I expected to find Power Metal at their roots but alas we have something more akin to Napalm Death at that era in time.

Its a muddy, messy assault of extremity borrowing ideas from Thrash in lead guitar solos and Punk in the rhythm section but mostly its steeped in an the early Death Metal sound. The production is dire as many records of this age were. Record producers had yet to figure out how to handle those riotous blast beats and so the drumming blurs technical fretboard thrashings into a discernible mess. The spirit gets through tho, the music often rigidly shifting in tone between its melodies, guitar thrashings and "plunges" of Grindcore battering that feels like the least exciting aspect as its pivots lack a sense of progression. The songwriting just feels without direction, sections stitched together and barked over by the monstrous growl of Karl Willets.

Its a typically hard to enjoy album for me, Its dated ideas bloom in the ugly, drab aesthetic and the whole thing lacks a charm or spirit you might occasionally find here. Even in company of other extreme records from this era its ideas just sound stale. To give them some credit they did record with John Peel beforehand, often a sign of greatness but on this one I don't hear the appeal and the evolution to come isn't obvious either. If I had started with this record, the journey would of ended here too.
 
Rating: 4/10

Monday, 11 January 2021

Cocteau Twins "Head Over Heels" (1983)

 
 With the departure of bassist Will Heggie, the now duo find their calling on Head Over Heels, their sophomore effort where the starts align and the magic blossoms. Its opening track When Mama Was Moth is unassuming, a slow dreary build up, nudged along by the booming echo of a drum strike as weary guitars drone under the sparkling astral melody that inspires intrigue. It takes all but twenty seconds on the following Five Ten Fiftyfold for the Ethereal beauty to emerge. Fraser plunges her voice into a spirited swoon, riding the curtails of lavish reverberation. The distant noir saxophone a perfect compliment in this gorgeous moment.

The mood is brighter, an uplift and warmth courses through these songs, arrangement shifts, guitar chords and moving the key upwards steer these esoteric and ethereal sounds to the light. The dreary, gothic darkness is still present in the abstract layers of dense guitar noise. The bass guitar shimmers underneath with a brightly punctuated chorus effect. The drum machine paces with pounds minimal groove, plunged in extravagant echos that add greatly to the muddy atmosphere.

Fraser finds herself with a greater presence in the mix. The timing often brings her in at moments of power to usher in these warm shifts of tone. Although yet to go fully wordless, her singing emphasizes feeling and emotion with many unconventional annunciations of words. The lyric sheet brings clarity but the mystery of how her voice says something different is so alluring. Words take on new meaning, all said as if looking for another, swinging from her swoon they hypnotize.

Its right inline with Guthrie's evolution. His ambiguous guitar noise clambers into new territory where craft and measure balance more obvious chords, arpeggios and string sections with the denser fog of ambiguity. It poises the music in the precarious place where convention and mystery dance in the moonlight. Its overall tone is dark, esoteric and spooky yet consistently blushes with a dazzling beauty.

Although I thought I had not ventured to this record before, a couple of tracks startled me as to how I knew them so well, yet the rest was a complete mystery! My guess Is the random videos from Youtube autoplay when I first discovered the Cocteau Twins, many years ago. Amazing how well the particulars of these songs have stuck. The love I had for this band starts here. Its a technically flawed flourish of creativity and inspiration. Big gatherings of echo crowd some moments and it has tarnishes all over. I'm loving this in a way where I know it will just keep giving and I think these amateurish growing pains are an amazing part of the experience.

 Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Papa Roach "Lovehatetragedy" (2002)

 
My recent dive into the past with Infest had me thinking on their followup record Lovehatetragedy, a very Emo oriented title perhaps signifying a coming departure from Nu Metal that would follow this record. It occurred to me that upon release I devoured this album but had left it in the dust, never listening to it again once that period in life had passed. So today I thought I'd give it another spin, see what I remember, possibly enjoy and how its aged over the last two decades.

Kicking off with M-80, high adrenaline guitars rip through some exciting riffs, the theme of musical love amps up the energy, setting quite the upbeat tone for this record. Sadly it is short lived, Life Is A Bullet spins next and it starts flooding back. Lovehatetragedy is a slug of self indulged misery. Song after song has Shaddix spewing his particular craft of self defeating sorrow that glorifies all suffering in a moment without resolve. To find him some merit, its catchy writing, his choruses have a knack to them, cheesy ear worms I'm glad I had once forgotten. This is painful.

The band behind him bring back a very similar aesthetic. The approach to songwriting is as before, the rhythm guitars tend to pivot away from syncopation and metallic groove, with more hazy, melodic tinged chord arrangements creeping in. It plays into their emotional angle, which has become simply unbearable for me to endure. Its more cast iron Nu Metal with an emphasis on the lonely, moody wallowing tone that often accompanies the worst of the genres tropes.

 The record starts reasonably well, a few pre-Infest songs re-recorded bolster its aggression but as it drones on the songs get drearier in tone or quite possibly my tolerance is being challenged, ending with a string of awful tracks. Its been amusing to hear how many lyrics and choruses come back to mind from memory, pretty much all of it. The depressing nature is just to much to bare. I found myself skipping a few tracks halfway, wishing the torture to end! I am a big believer in finding reasons to love music but record is too wrapped up in awful memories and its clear that Shaddix's words don't offer much in the way of help to someone in this dark space.

Rating: 2/10

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Bolt Thrower "Those Once Loyal" (2005)

 

Last years musical discoveries list included that of English outfit Bolt Thrower, a band held in high regard among the Metal community. It was perhaps the lack of distinction between the two records I checked out that dissuaded me from perusing more. From first listen to present, Those Once Loyal makes itself known with the same imposing stature of strong armed Death Metal leaning on groove and mid-tempo thrashings more so than aesthetic extremity. Its a brutal, tough affair that comes through with plenty of hard melody between its axe grinding. Pretty much everything heard before.

This is no criticism, as their eighth and final album the group have mastered their own sound, delivering with nine tightly performed power rides of channeled aggression and chunky, crunchy grooves. Having now understood their formula it was immediately digestible as their rhythm guitar riffs lead with competence. The fall of hammering drums and the flat guttural shouts of Karl Willets slip neatly into place around them. Each track comes with a similar pacing, rotating riffs in straight forward song structures that hold together a fun and punishing intensity that rolls on wards.

Bar a couple keen melodies and particular riffs, its forty minutes barely detour from the format, leaving little in the way of surprise or difference from my memory of the other records. Its fun, enjoyable, perfect for its own appetite but not a head turner. What they do is excellent but doesn't quite stir my highest regards and therefor after a couple of spins feels a little redundant in the ways of finding something new. I think I will check out their debut next in the hopes of hearing some progression in Bolt Throwers historical sound. Great record but very much more of the same.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 8 January 2021

Cocteau Twins "Peppermint Pig" (1983)

 

Before the Cocteau Twins sophomore record, arrives another, ultimately disappointing, three track EP. Released in April of 1983, it captures a moment of creative poverty where the music fails to venture upon anything of remark. Reading up on its creation, the group were forced to work with an outside producer while also feeling that their creative efforts were not up to scratch. It shows just about everywhere. The record has a drab, dry tone where its instruments feel lone and separate. The baselines rumble in repetition with a tone that feels distant from the hazy guitars. They reside in a narrow, chromatic space, dull and meandering. The hypnotic wash of pedal effects and reverb offer up little depth or texture unlike before.

Its fractions from being right but these small differences in feeling turn the songs into dull drones. The title track has some merit as layers of creepy synths and loose, shaky pianos add some much needed depth. The drum machine too is lacking in arrangement variety. The tone is dull and grinding, lacking natural echo and creativity that got it by on Garlands. In front of it all Fraser sings with a routine, that distance between instruments amplify a sore tiredness in her performance. As the band have described it themselves, its not a good record but it should be said the title track holds up okay. Its Laugh Lines and Hazel that offer little musically, further exposed by this drab production style. Disappointing but not a representation of whats to come.

Rating: 2/10

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Killing Joke "Killing Joke" (2003)

 
One of our first musical journeys of old is that of Killing Joke, which remains unfinished having gotten a little tiring wading through their lengthy and varied discography. The group split after Democracy and then seven years later reunited for this second self titled record which resembles some of the excellence displayed on the most recent Pylon. I was aware of its legend, having brought Dave Grohl of Nirvana onboard to play drums. The two bands historically had a record label dispute over the resemblance of Come As You Are to Eighties. If I remember the story, that have Dave actually discovered Killing Joke, becoming a big fan and offering his services here.

This second self titled offering is a concise construct of crunching distortion guitars and battering drums led by front man Jaz Coleman's commanding presences. He shapes the musics angular, aggressive tone to fit his dystopian mold of political corruption and corporate influence leading us down a path of total control. Practically every song reaches into this topicality, criticizing institutional powers and delving into paranoid, conspiratorial takes on world events. A lot of it is agreeable and some steps a little beyond my own personal acceptance but as an artistic expression the instrumentals illuminate his stance.  Much of it has aged well but a few over reaching tracks like Implant inferring control through DNA and micro chip insertion sound outlandish. Then again we all walk around with personal portable tracking devices in our pockets and most people whimsically send of blood samples to data broker firms in the guise of learning about heritage as well as health.

This theme is one I engage with, it gets me thinking where lyrics are not usually not a key focal point for me, It was nice to have that dimension bring challenge. The instrumentals behind them vary song to song but are for the most part excellent. Blood On Your Hands out stands out as an exemplary song. Brooding Industrial drives of hypnotic force erupts into cyclical intensity as high lead guitar noise wails over looping bass lines. Its the typical affair, big slabs of crunchy sound droning in repetition with verse chorus shifts between riffs. Lots of meaty palm mute chugging rhythms counterpart to expansive guitar constructs that pivot from the mechanical drive into atmospheric plunges. Its pretty much the best of what this band have done over the years rolled up into a new package. Not entirely persuasive if not in the right mood but certainly an impressive comeback record!

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Cocteau Twins "Lullabies" (1982)


This wasn't part of the original plan but with a bunch of EP releases between albums I though we might as well do the deep dive! I am curious enough, so checking out these three leftover songs from the Garlands session was a bit of fun! Lullabies was released just a month after their debut and its three songs represent different approaches that clearly would not of fit the mold. Its production is also a little beefed up with stronger bass lines, balanced out percussion and a louder Fraiser at the front.
 
 Feathers-Oar-Blades is her moment to open up her voice, become more involved in the music, paint it with her singing. Its a brighter track that relives itself of the dreary grey much of Garlands resided within. Not particularly memorable but the following Alas Dies Laughing take the opposite direction, almost to dark for the full length. Its actually reminiscent of Gothic outfit Christian Death and their gloomy, creepy guitar leads. The bands guitarist Guthrie emulates this tone well, layering and overlapping his eerie melodies and guitar noises with subtle reverberations.

Lastly there is It's All But An Ark Lark. A lengthy eight minute crawl propped up by the perpetual pounding of its warm tom drums and higher pitched bass kicks. Its a slightly hypnotic, atmospheric affair with Fraiser's overlapping singing sounding a little contrasted to the warm bass line and general tone. Its all interesting but obviously these songs didn't quite fit the bill and as an EP simply offer some insight to where the band were at. What was most interesting where how a connection to Gothic influences is made obvious. Of course that music scene was born of Punk and Post-Punk too.

Rating: 3/10

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Papa Roach "Infest" (2000)

 
In my youth, somewhere between Metallica and then Dimmu Borgir being both favorite band and attachment to my youthful identity, Papa Roach took the spotlight for a while as the classic Last Resort took the airwaves over like a virus. It was on MTV that I first heard the song. My sister insisted I should come to the living and check out Last Resort which would end up being played every hour it would seem. I was immediately hooked, heading to the record store I got my hands on a limited edition metallic case of the record! Infest then became a total and utter binge record.

Every moment and lyric of this record is engraved in my mind but it hasn't aged well. Infest is probably the embodiment of a relatively average band hitting the nerve of a trend. This is quite possibly the most cast molded, atypical Nu Metal record I can think of. Capturing the angsty tone of the times and with a few well written songs, this album simply reeks of Nu Metal, both the best and worse aspects of it. Being from a particularly difficult and depressing point in my life, it has that mental attachment to baggage I'm done with. Whats left is the same tone, mood and emotion in the music itself. Quite possibly a clear reason I bonded with it so much at the time.

Stumbling onto Vice's documentary about the hit song, it had me thinking back over this record and so I wanted to get these words of my chest. The album itself is well formed, fantastic production has the guitars popping with a dense, warm distortion that is very accessible. Drums and bass mix in well around them as a focal point for melody and rhythm. Bass lines often offer up good iterations and soft harmonization. Guitars have great dynamics with overlapping slabs of syncopated Drop D power chords and lead melodies. Its straightforward songwriting but again well formed.

Where the criticism lands is in front man Jacoby Shaddix camp. His singing and screams are pretty darn fantastic in the right stride, the Rap Metal incursions however are definitely dated and lacking lasting power. Its the depressive, angsty lyrics, a moaning of teenage growing pains that inject a dark and self defeating message into the record. Every song is downtrodden and burdensome, no light or relief comes along. This is the art of wallowing in self pity. Hard to tolerate from a matured frame of mind and personally dark for how reflective and identifiable they were at the time.

That tone is what takes the record down a couple pegs for me. Sounding like a broken record, it again comes with dated, of the era moments, particularly in the Rap Metal camp Nu Metal was adjacent to. Shaddix's raps are competent, kinda of fun but lyrically unimpressive. Listening again, weak moments in the music arrive mostly from the lyric sheet and also with these raps. Injections of turntable scratches and a couple moments where they emulate the trend in someone else's name do sour in reflection. The breakdown rap section on Revenge is a complete ripoff of Korn's lead guitar style. Somehow I never spotted it at the time.

Putting the best in the front, tracks two to six represent the best of the band, Between Angles And Insects being one fantastic song that holds up. After that the weaker tracks experiment a little, offering similar concepts not so well executed. The nine minute self loathing indulgence of Throw Away stands out for its pivot into a Reggae tinged slowdown with a line that embodies everything about the records tone. "We are the future, the twenty first century, dyslexic, glue sniffing cyber sluts, with homicidal minds and handguns". Oh how do I wish I'd found Rollins Band instead of this indulgence in self defeat. Its a bittersweet record for me, the instrumentals are wonderful, bounce, soft grooves, aggression and melody meld well, yet its angsty lyrical premise is so tired on me. This might be the last time I ever listen to it in full again.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 4 January 2021

Clipping "There Existed An Addiction To Blood" (2019)

 
I'm struggling, yet to form a strong bond but on this outing I very much hear a conceptual angle playing out in the form of deconstruction. The picking apart of ideas, tropes and normalites become apparent on a handful of tracks that make up this seventy minute meaty slug of cold artistry. Experimental Hip Hop trio Clipping have been on my radar for a while but I've found myself unable to connect with the critical praise Ive seen heaped upon them. I have however enjoyed the challenge and appreciate the immense talent of rapper Daveed Diggs and their Avant-Garde production style, which raised eyebrows on their debut album CLPPNG, featuring a rigid yet rapid rap riffling off over the grating sound of an alarm clock.

There Existed An Addiction To Blood is the groups third, including a bunch of features which mostly emphasize what seems most obvious to me. The challenging nature of hearing highly involved lyrics over ambience and noise makes much of Diggs raps a harrowing and dark narrative to follow but his guests seem to line up with a strong through line. Rattling off typical Gangster Rap and club hooks over menacing abrasive noise and unnerving screams, Diggs flips the perceived glorification on its head. Many themes common to the gang and club music get deconstructed as both verses and juxtaposed hooks get sung in contrast to the norm. This is where the instrumentals shine, the comfort and tunefulness is voided and replaced by uncomfortable, grating hashes of Industrial and Noise. Its tone molding that paints a picture of the uncomfortable reality behind the topics and narratives shared.

This artistic stride only occurs in fractures for me, between it detours of interlude ambience and crushing noise distortion simply drone on. There is also a fair bit of convention where kick and snare snap into place to form more digestible songs, ironically in this convention they tend to loose a spark. It tends to take place when a guest steps on the beat to give the record some relief between the challenging darkness. Ultimately, the moments of genius play out not quite to my taste and I again appreciate what Clipping do but find myself struggling to create a clear picture of the record with all the chaos going on. No doubt though I will continue to follow this act and see where they go with their unique and crafty music.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Cocteau Twins "Garlands" (1982)

 
New year, new journey. To kick of 2021 I have picked out the Cocteau Twins, a band who's legacy on Ethereal music is well known to me, they are a huge influence on one of my favorite groups Autumns Grey Solace. I'm dead keen on two of the Scottish Trio's albums but Ive never dived much deeper and that's what we will now undertake.

Starting with their dreary, cold and haunting debut Garlands, released late in 1982 on 4AD Records, they ride a wave of Post-Punk bands exploring new territory and at this stage show glimmers of whats to come. Its of the era, bold upfront baselines permeate the music with solid drives of rhythm and marching tune as wails of effect soaked guitar noise create this eerie ambience of atmosphere, pale and bleak yet densely textured from its narrow confines within the mix. Screeching chords and disjointed melodies play with a grainy quality. The fretwork loops back on itself, panning in stereo, circulating ideas without progression. The music plods on in a consistently depressing manor, monochromatic like the unending grey skies of rainfall.

It was not as I expected, I actually found its temperament most comparable to Lycia's classic Cold. It too being a shivering and dark sombre affair of nightly ambiguity and unease. Yet of course the attraction to all this is the smothering mood of dreary music that can conjure the imagination of darker meditative places. Garlands never relentless from that dreary yet oddly relaxing tone. Its best releases from the tension come with the occasional baseline or lead guitar that wanders off to a warmer state of being but only ever for a brief moment before being pulled back to the norm.

The counterbalance is singer Elizabeth Fraser. Soon to evolve into the acts crowning jewel, at this point she is still finding her voice with a somewhat timid performance that is equal too the murky tone. Soft and shy in stature and performance, she is often matched by the instrumental power but her grace is felt often with beautifully sung words and reoccurring vibrato inflection at the end of her sentences. It may be mostly in the mix as her voice does tend to bleed into the guitars with the baselines still prowling proud, unhindered as they march forever forward with a firm stride.

This is a fascinating record, for its songs tend to feel like singular ideas whirling in repetition. It is dazzling in a curious ability to lure one into its stormy arms. Despite being buddy and murky its production aids the concept well with the drum machines competently keeping pace as its reverberated snare strikes frequently with a cutting harshness occasionally thrown to pitch shifting echos. The only drawback is Fraser's vocals, they sound underutilized an quiet, knowing she will hit spectacular heights with records to come. A truly dark and spooky starting point for a band that will bring much glamour and beauty to this spellbound flavor of darkness.

Favorite Track: Garlands
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Blood Incantation "Hidden History Of The Human Race" (2019)

 
Catching wind of high praise thrown its way, Hidden History Of The Human Race is a well articulated Death Metal record for fans new and old, a bridge between styles within a sub-genre normally tired to the bone after thirty years of evolution that has stagnated in recent memory. Denver based Blood Incantation hit a fantastical stride on this sophomore album, boasting four dynamic, progressive songs, one of which is a lengthy eighteen minute epic that in all reality feels like two songs bolted together through effect soaked acoustic interludes that play up its alien, cosmic theming, both present in the music, song names and on the otherworldly album artwork.

Its Opens up with an aggressive plunge of snarling fretwork deploying pinch squeals, a battering of blast beats and the oldskool roar of Paul Riedl. The groove and bombast lasts but a minute before the atmospheric dimension opens up. Howling guitar leads, frantic drumming and alien melodies drill in its angle before chopping through a riff fest interspersed fiery bursts of guitar lead and crushing growls that permeate the music through its dense reverberations. At times it borders Doom Metal with slow, drawn out groans that brood with intensity in a menacing manor.

This shade of brutality has it all, flickers of Nile, Morbid Angel and Thrash infused era Death show their influences on the guitar work. Whats best is how these songs open up into atmospheric lunges of crawling pace, the percussion breaks down and livens up again in bursts of energy. The albums third song explores these dynamics further with a guitar tone led song, playing into Post-Metal territory as its acoustic guitars get awash in a haze of textural distortion. We even get treated to a flickering of psychedelic old school synths emerging from a foggy synth interlude on the eighteen minute juggernaut. A brief moment but one that signifies all elements have purpose.

The spur of excitement this band conjure is not a short one, every listen has been lively and fruitful. These songs hold up as its alien, cosmic inspired atmosphere holds a lasting curiosity, conjuring mysterious imaginations of what could be out there. It has been a common theme in recent years for bands to play the nostalgia card, yet pulling off truly inspired music. This is another one to add to the pile, Blood Incantation clearly derive ideas, tones and techniques from the greats that walked before them but in this instance they have pulled it altogether with a touch of class felt best in its frequent lunges into shivering atmospheres of alien unease. With great vision and a wonderful execution, the album is one for any fan of the brutal genre.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 1 January 2021

Soley "Endless Summer" (2017)

 

Endless Summer somehow doesn't seem a fitting title, perhaps the musics charm simply engulfs the current environment. With cold, pristine, shimmering pianos, a spell of calming serenity is ushered in. All too perfect for this winter and Christmas season. Its been my recent walking music of late, making it hard to not associate it with the cold weather and anticipation of spending time with family. Most the songs blossom with strings, percussion and deeper piano notes bubbling up in the later parts of these songs. It light a warmth under its brittle high keys where the tracks start from. In these denser moments one can feel the smile of the sun, a carefree spirit of summer. For me though, its been cast as a snowy record fit for early sunsets and chilly breezes.

Icelandic musician and charming singer Soley has somehow escaped my grasp. Stunned by her debut We Sink, I've managed to folly the simple task of following her output over the years. That will have to be corrected. I remember her music having a twisted shadowy edge in moments, its not present on this outing. She forges a genuine warmth, the chemistry between these graceful serine pianos and her soft, vulnerable voice is endlessly uplifting from a place just shy of melancholy and sadness. It is most often felt in the elegant piano performances, which tend to start a song drifting, bare and lonely. Soley rescues them with human expression as her voice and accompanying instruments lift them to a safe, warm and carefree place.

The playing is wonderfully dynamic. Chords and melodies weave with quite and loud dynamics, inviting measures of reverberation and a timely sense for where the music will suddenly grow with an ushering in of synths or percussion. Not hinging on any given pace or structure, the pianos lead, playing of itself, music that blossoms of its own accord. Although there may be patterns and structures, rarely does it feel obvious or like repetition is running its rotations. All of its eight songs tend to sweep you up into its own moment and hold you there. A truly captivating listen, always as a whole.

If I turn my mind to criticism, I can only turn it to myself. Her wondrous voice holds a curious space, feeling adjacent to both happiness and sorrow, childlike innocence and reflective maturity. I should of perhaps taken time to read the lyrics as her singing is not of the discernible sorts I am usually exposed too. Somehow I always listen to the emotion of a voice, not the actual words. Here there is emotions in droves. Having been spellbound for a while now, binging this record on every walk, I am now left with that familiar sentiment of wondering how this will hold up in time to come. I'm pretty certain this ones a keeper. Great record, will have to dig up another one!

Rating: 9/10