Wednesday, 30 June 2021

The Alan Parsons Project "Pyr△mid" (1978)

Following a thematic and dated take on artificial intelligence with I Robot, The Alan Parsons Project return with this concept record based on the pyramids of Giza. Its title may lack subtlety but the lyrics seem mostly disconnected now learning of its conception. It could be some ignorance on my behalf but this record feels more like a continuation of what came before it, Progressive Rock with a charming reach into the adjacent sounds and styles of the time. It too seamlessly weaves between sweet moods and measured temperaments as it sways from a sporadic rump of British patriotic royal trumpets to a heart broken ballad in the flow of just a couple songs.

Classy and keen they triumph a lot of percussive groove and simple melodic pleasures as songs jive with an energetic drive rhythmically. The bass is often driving and it comes to a heard on In The Lap Of The Gods as mighty voices chime in over its dramatic climax, excited by a exuberant string section. I love how the punchy Rock grooves, jiving Funk and R&B influences rub shoulders with these swells of symphonic excellence. Its not until Hyper-Gamma-Spaces that some of the Tangerine Dream inspired sounds of 70s synthesizers return on a whirling psychedelic tangent.

Overall the album feels somewhat brief in its nine tracks with each song tending to stick to its one dimension. Its ending is another stunning track, dazzling with cinematic might in its opening and tailing off into a teary song of regret and loneliness. Its a true ending of a tale, just one I'm not sure where it started. Pyr△mid flows wonderfully but lyrically I didn't feel the connection. As much as I enjoy this project, my retroactive ears pick up on a lot of adjacent style when its comes to originality. Can't Take It With You is the biggest culprit, its wonderful guitar solo sadly to obvious in its imitation of Pink Floyd. Other than that blush, its quite a wonderful album to partake in.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Fear Factory "Aggression Continuum" (2021)


Having been on somewhat of a Fear Factory binge recently, It would of been nice to have first written about some of their classic albums as the Los Angeles band have stuck rigidly to their formula over the years. So unsurprisingly, this new collection of ten songs offers little more than a rehashing of ideas that were once a breath of fresh air. That being said, Aggression Continuum is hard not to enjoy. Fear Factory tighten up the mechanical pummeling machinery with crisp and clicky drums, tightly chugged low end grooves and punchy synths to amp up a spacey component to their sound.

With an anger fueled theme of anti establishment dystopia, the tracks move through predictable motions. Swaying from the tight, cold mechanical channeled aggression of their syncopated rhythmic assault, to the warm uplifts led by Burton Bell's enigmatic clean vocals. They swoop in with a swooning power that pulls the metallic beast towards the heavens above. Between them, there is always room for a Groove or Thrash riff to bust out and please the crowd with the mosh riff but on this album those break out moments didn't carry the impact like they've had in the past.

A couple good songs in the opening get things off to a good start but as the music stretches on the song structures dissipates into mediocrity as to much hinges on the singular ideas. Its symphonic component could of been an interesting avenue to be explored as its underwhelming yet gleaming strings offer a little more humanity that the Industrial leaning synth tones one might expect. This "cleaner" tone sounds nice but the chemistry rarely feels more than the sum of its parts.

With Fear Factory being a band of intentness pummeling of tightly syncopated grooves, much of the record becomes a drone as track after track does little to splay aesthetics or formula. Its more interesting riffs and moments gets spaced out to far between this monotony and thus with each listen the excitement wore of quickly. Ive been trying to make an effort to avoid predictable records like this. Given its been six years I was really hoping the absence would yield something special on return.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 25 June 2021

DMX "Exodus" (2021)

As a controversial artist who pushed record breaking numbers in my youth, it was only a few years back that I properly gave DMX's first few records a full spin. It was enjoyable and introduced me to a bunch of classic tracks. Ultimately tho it left me with mixed feelings between his wild barking raw talent and the heavily contradicted lyrical content. Exodos is the first posthumous record since his passing in April of this year and as I understand it was a work in progress, planning a return after nine years without a release. To the extent his passing changed this quality of this release may remain unknown but It does feel somewhat rushed.

 Exodus suffers the recurring fate of 90s instrumentals trying to chase trends while remaining anchored to the bombast of eras classic percussive style. As a result these beats mostly feel contrived and stiff, trying to overlap modern aesthetics with old grooves and falling flat in the process. Paired with this, DMX sounds aged, his wild barks, growls and aggressive presence lacking a bite it once had. His lyrics feel lacking in growth or maturity, recycling his topics without renewed perspective. When he does rhyme in that direction, it is often awkward and uncomfortable, like his raps to his son. The meaning and intent is there but wordings are so un-poetic and plain, essentially the same turn offs from twenty three years ago.

On the flip side, does he get into a memorable flow or drop a catchy hook? This was one of DMX's big strengths and its completely lacking. The record is heavily bolstered with features that shift its identity all over the place. Snoop turns up, along with The LOX, Jay-Z and Nas, who unsurprisingly drops the albums best verses. Bringing on Alicia Keys, Bono and Usher for sung sections also feels out of turn with how things were once done. They seem like posthumous decisions by producers. The record ends with the tradition of prayers in direct contradiction with his lifestyle and choices. A tired theme to wrap up a weak record of mostly mediocrity.

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Foreign Objects "The Undiscovered Numbers & Colors" (1995)


Excited to dive into an extra helping of recently revived magics enjoyed years back, this five track EP was sadly not at the level of the lively Universal Culture Shock released nine years later. In that time between the duo had formed and toured with CKY, undoubtedly becoming better musicians in the process. Whats remarkable is how keen the music by these two young high school teenagers actually is.

The Undiscovered Numbers & Colors is again a Progressive Death Metal project, inspired by the evolving scene of the decade and smothered with melody. They have forged quite the upbeat, vibrant sound, jostling with technical feats and discordant creativity, the music flows through a web of intricacies weighted by the rough throaty shouts of Deron Miller and Jess Margera's dexterous percussive might.

The core of the music resides in the guitars and drums. Its fun, lively, chained by aggression and lifted by its color. Along for the ride an ambiguous synth section aligns the music with a thin string backing, odd noises and the occasional drones of noise that sounds like audio feedback. Strangely I like its presence in this form, slightly alien and unsightly. Delve opens up another strand with a gorgeous keyboard intro on a bright luscious piano. Its darkly majesty quite the shift in tone but its enjoyable.

Ultimately I'm left with a familiar feeling that comes from exploring old records I missed out on at the time. It will be cliche but I would of bonded with this one much more in my youth. As I final remark I'd say for a supposed demo the production quality is impressive. The instruments are punchy, vibrant and distinct, something other extreme bands where just figuring out around this era in time. Impressive.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Carpe Tenebrum "Majestic Nothingness" (1997)


Following up on Mirrored Hate Painting I decided to checkout Astennu's debut under the same moniker. On Majestic Nothingness he is the lone musician handling all aspects of the music. Sadly the magic of his enigmatic lead guitar voice that lured me to this project is yet to blossom. It can be briefly heard in an infantile stage but what the record offers in tone is rather different given the lack of influence that his future band mates Dimmu Borgir would endow him with.

As a Symphonic Black Metal project from the other side of the globe, Carpe Tenebrum is a very competent record for the times. It sets out to achieve its vision of a darkly realm through song writing and the atypical shifts in momentum that draw charm from the emergence of complimenting synths. The aesthetic is a little dim and stiff with dainty distortion guitars and its reasonably disguised drum machine that pounds out blast beats without too much mechanical intrusion.

 The most detracting element is Astennu's vocals. His scowling shouts and groans are laid bare leaving him thin, naked and without oomph or power. Essentially its an underwhelming presence, brittle and raspy. His texture doesn't packing enough punch for power or darkness. When stepping into the "clean" territory of burly singing its a little off note to be charming but nothing truly terrible. With more bass and some reverb this could of easily been a few shades better.

When its on, one adjusts to its aesthetics, capable yet lacking in vibrancy. The album goes through the motions, with all the tropes, shifts in pace, alternations of blast beats and half placings that I love. Its a typical record of the genre but doesn't leave an impression with any of its moments sticking. I don't think the record ever plays itself up with much bombast as the framework is generic and the guitars all to muzzled to dazzle. If I had found this in my youth however... I could of possible devoured it alive! Its just like that, I have heard everything on offer here before already.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Lycia "Casa Luna" (2021)


In my initial exploration of Darkwave and Etheral music I discovered Cold, a striking record luring me into a world of music I now adore. Thirty three years strong as a band, there recent outings A Line That Connects and In Flickers had been fun listens with a couple of memorable songs but this new EP has a powerful breath of fresh air. Some how, these tracks leap out at me, with each one presenting some sort of angle, perhaps adjacent to an influence or idea. It makes sense that they come in this packaging with such variety and a stiff sense of flow. It feels experimental but the more I listened, the more I loved how it moves, held together by aesthetic and voice as its bold pallet of moods tilt from one direction to the next.

On The Messanine, Salt & Blood are these slow and dreary journeys through haunted dreams, beautiful yet wrapped in a sorrow. It fondly reminded me of Autumns Grey Solace but even more so the opening A Quiet Way To Go. Tara Vanflower's wordless voicings sound so much like Erin, with the bleak guitars behind her luring in that familiar Ethereal feeling. Its Mike Vanportfleet who ushers in the pivot as he softly whispers the songs name and it blossoms with color and resonance. The guitar chord that turns the corner is luscious and stellar. Its acoustic tone is sublime. The tracks structure alternates back and forth a couple of times and that is all it needs.

Do You Bleed is one meaty grinder of a track, its percussion hammers out strikess of distortion in its industrious menace as rumblings of dirty bass pound away below. Its ugly guitars birth a wicked sense of atmosphere and Vanflower watches over it all with a touch of venom in her voice as she commands suffering. Reminded me of Punisher & Author's take on Industrial. Where this one reached low the following Except glides on a high with a graceful atmosphere and warm strings a poppy melody propelled by its mechanical drum machine. Its opening synth jive strongly reminded me of something but as the song grows that tends to fade. I think its initial influence would be something to the likes of Gary Numan or the Tubeway Army.

Lastly Galatea is quite the upbeat, pop track with a more modern feel too. It weaves its chirpy melody into the Ethereal unraveling of its airy synths and Vanportfleet's gothic and pained voice as he sings soft words into the reverb with a ghostly incarnation. I'm not sure if these songs were particularly special or if this just scratched an itch but I found myself captivated by the albums better numbers. These songs just felt so vivid and full of identity. A great little record!

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 18 June 2021

Wampyric Solitude "Darkness, Beloved And Eternal" (2020)


This shall be my last Wampyric Solitude record for now. Wedged between Carpathian Melancholy and Spectral Kingdom Of Nocturnal Sorcery, this one seems to be apart from a perceived downwards slump from its lonely yet enchanting origins. Working with shorter compositions again, its escapades resemble that of its inception, brief and strange encounters with a darkness of solitude, lacking any antagonism or fear of another entity. Its opening track deploys gorgeous stoic strings, yearning across the horizon. Scenic in scope and brooding with loneliness, its presence is rather grabbing. This might be the most Vampiric discovery so far.

The following track drifts back with the same strings into the background. Dense drums strike softly in reverberation giving a sense of sequestering. They rise in volume towards the end but ultimately this song feels like an intentional shadow of what came before. Any trajectory this might of entailed feels entirely swept away as the plucked strings of an over-driven guitar ushers in. Its cold and desolate melody repeats over and over, then reinforced by lively drumming and an eventual climax with psychedelic synths. Fantastic, but feels at odds with whats around it.

The next two tracks lean back into the soft rumblings of esoteric conjuring and perpetual solitude. Now bringing in the quiet percussive grooves again, the Noir Jazz vibes take hold and bestow an indulging mood for drizzle and sunless skies. Its use of dreary guitars and warm lumbering bass lines on the last song highlights some fantastic creativity. Its a mix of ideas achieving the same ends but the transition feels somewhat odd. The inclusion of two bonus instrumentals from the previous records was nice too. Those harsh and bleak howls seemed intrusive but hearing the songs without made it seem as if they belonged there all along.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Wampyric Solitude "Spectral Kingdom Of Nocturnal Sorcery" (2021)


It did not take but a couple of spins to get to know this ones design. Where Lost Age Of Darkness offered an intriguing shade of despairing mystique and Carpathian Melancholy elongated it to lengthy passages, Spectral Kingdom of Nocturnal Sorcery hinges on a minimalist design that doesn't evoke the same magic. Its baron buzz-saw synths are all too bold, upfront and dull. At first glance, perhaps it offers a passing, ancient dazzle but housed by its slow droning percussive loop of hi-hat and deep bellowing tom drum with the occasional gong strike... the whole project is to repetitious and obvious in construct to indulge with as it slugs through slow, drawn out notations that can't rely on the texture for its atmosphere or identity.

After its six minutes of cold ambiguous engine noise that album shifts to its four lengthy cuts that all hinge around a single synth tone. They circle around the same idea, methodically slow, minimal progression in notation and providing some variation on the theme with additional instruments but the magic is just missing entirely. With so little of the pallet being changed track to track, you can practically suss the record out through the first song along. Essentially it feels like a simple execution of a concept with very little to flesh it out. The slow pacing and bold synth tones don't conjure much for me at all, even as background music it grates away in a static state.

Rating: 3/10

Monday, 14 June 2021

Wampyric Solitude "Carpathian Melancholy" (2020)


Intrigued by the despairing loneliness found among the deeper carvings on Lost Ages of Darkness, I set my sights on finding another record. Operating under a variety of other monikers, this anonymous musician's other incarnations where all to brash and obvious for my taste. The hazardous machinations of militant percussion and Dungeon Synth failing to evoke the magic its intentions clearly strode for under an awkward and bumbling aesthetic. So I returned to the aptly named Wampyric Solitude to find a different approach to a familiar feeling with a melancholic title all to fitting.

Pivoting from the contained variety of shorter tracks, Carpathian Melancholy lurches into the lengthy as its five tracks, averaging ten minutes each, births its inspiration through long, yearning passageways of brooding unease and distant tension. Minimal in nature, its groaning synths steadily build atmospheres that are ripe in the background, meditative as they sink into the subconscious of a distracted mind. Its opening number, The Night And The Sorrow, can't help but carry a subtle uplift in cloudy gloom that fondly reminds me Brian Eno's An Ending (Ascent). Its starlit astral synth tone, cutting through the reclusive lingering doom.

Each track pivots and this This Sanguine Affliction steers us to the smoky Noir Jazz vibes again as its haunting hi hat plucks at ones sanity with its grounded tempo. The song musters a rise in its conclusion as the eeriness gathers gusto but mostly it is a slow, drawn out affair of mood setting. The title track is the one song to offset this template of slow, methodical brooding. Its sorrowful opening strings suddenly pivot past the mid point, erupting with a startling piano, passive drum beat and grave vocals. They wretch in pain, smothered in a predictable reverb, howling despairing lyrics. Eventually some hazy distortion guitar is ushered in. Its tone intriguing but the song is locked into its depressive state, paralyzed in repetition.

I don't feel too strongly about it. Maybe it comes shy of something grander but overall this stretching out of duration made the music serve mood and atmosphere more so than its own spectacle. The softness and subtlety I once praised feels lost in its lengthy nature but still this record has offered another flavor of background music, for focus on other tasks, that I may return to on occasion if inclined.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Wampyric Solitude "Lost Ages Of Darkness" (2020)


As the third of three attempts, this may be the best of "Vampire Synth" so far. In title alone it defines itself. Solitude... not a word that often comes to mind with music, even though it can be so inherent in the quieter arts of Ambient and Meditative music. As is the activity of listening, if not at a party or concert of course. The Curse Act I sounding so reclusive and illusory with devilish piano notes conjuring a cinematic presence of murder or death, now confined to the loneliness of lifelessness. At times this record strays from the mystique of its esoteric minimalism straight into the arms of a despairing solitude. As for its Vampiric half, I definitely get chills that suite a serious entertainment of the nostalgic, blood drinking folk lore myths.

The castle of its cover alone seems perfect. A decrepit Transylvanian castle in ruins... the grainy black and gray image casting the gloomy mood. Being so akin to the Black Metal scene its no surprise to hear snarling groans of grave sadness cry out across a lonely void on its closing track which musters a the most of its instruments as the gentle percussive beat and its rainy synths conjure a feeling quite similar to Noir Jazz. The rest of the record, however, makes its way to this darkly conclusion through the bleak, pale and terribly lonely minimalism its housed in.

The Lost Ages of Darkness aesthetics are so soft and subtle that even in its culminations of brooding synths, the quiet sounds feel as desolate in tandem as in there lonesome, which many singular melodies explore. With The Curse Act II the music pivots to a new kind of terror. Two minutes of dense reverberated bass kicks leads us too spacey, zany synths that wobble with an almost extra terrestrial threat. Is so carefully crafted as to not over emphasize its unnaturalness. Waltz steers us to the Jazz Noir again and the title track experiments with foggy ambiguities before The Last Wampyr charms with a little childlike melody... with a chilling undertone of course.

This record has revealed itself to be deceptively simple, chilling to inhabit and leaves me with a curiosity has to how long its spell will hang over me. So often can Dungeon Synth hinge on its tropes but this record feels deeper than any of that, yet its bare starkness say perhaps not? I think it takes real talent to make music like this strike a deeper nerve and so with this artist I shall persevere through a few more albums. It will be interesting to hear what lies ahead!

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 11 June 2021

Howling Giant "Alteration" (2021)

This four track EP has been somewhat of an obsession lately. Alteration is a sprawling instrumental epic of guitar led melodic grooviness! Its twenty minute duration graces us on a journey of progressive creativity, warm and welcoming as its mammoth guitar sound explores the rumbling depths of Sludge, Stoner and Groove Metal. Passing by psychedelic realms with a touch of Post-Rock scale, its elastication propels us from the crawls of swaying low end power up to the heavens of expansive lead guitar that swells with spacey melodies and colorful gleams of light.

Its twenty minutes breezes by with each of the songs working a deceptive linear direction as its recurring sections get re-imagined on revisiting. Its quite the feast as deep meaty bass lines, subtle chiming synths and dexterous drumming work around the guitars focal energy, livening up the stage and fleshing out this organic musical force. Its solo illuminate like a voice as its notations gush forth with a cadence reminiscent of lyrics being sung. Its not always in this vein but with surges it feels so.

Enemy Of My Anemone, to me, sounds like the telling track. Its opening lead riff and clever weaving of tune and rhythm feel strongly influenced by CKY... possibly? I am speculating and this is why I wrote about Foreign Objects two days back, spinning this one kept me thinking of Miler & Ginsburg's guitar styling. A Howling Giant is no imitation though, their identity feels rather distinct with its organic, warm and sun soaked temperament. Its a very welcoming style of Metal.

One odd criticism I've taken away is the lack of vocals. Often I am fine with instrumental music but something about these arrangements felt as if there was room for another, human, voice to chime in on the gorgeous weaving of colorful melody and swaying groove these numbers sail through. Other than that its a fine little record that sounds wonderful! Especially that deep bass rumble that comes to life when the rhythm riffs transcend up the fret board into lead licks. Its aesthetic is just right.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 10 June 2021

An Old Sad Ghost "Coffin (A Letter For Carmilla)" (2018)

After the disappointing Wampyr we move onto the second of three picks from a list of so called "Vampire Synth". I'm please to say An Old Sad Ghost offers much more in its darkly theme and churchy mood but still falls short of the Nosferatu chills I was hoping for. Its a brief nineteen minutes, split into seven roman numeric chapters. They are all choral organ pieces conjuring a slight macabre Gothic charm. It mostly gives a sense of per-enlightenment times, its big foggy organs filling the firelight halls of some weathered cathedral.

Its small selection of organ and airy synth tones are most likely virtual instruments. Its programming shows itself as the "paying" comes with a consistent attack and sustain that offers little in the way of expression through nuance and subtlety. Given some of its arrangements generate simple rhythms with its harsh deadening of repetitive notes, it can be a distraction that an analog performance would of elevated. Its mixing is also a little crass with the instruments routinely rubbing into one another with the mechanical resilience its virtualized reality amplifies.

Flaws aside, Coffin evokes a warm and glowing sense of being sheltered from the grave and despaired. Its aesthetic gloomy, menacing and foreboding yet the majority of melodies performed feel confident, sheltered and warm. Often with this type of music I comment on the "distance from danger" yet here it feels as if all danger is removed entirely from this rather glum and grim temperament. Occasionally its notations peer into something more sinister but its only ever brief.

There is no doubt the music has some bold ideas, resonating with the imagination for ancient realms and cultural mystique. This polishes its apparent flaws. As a lone piece with no vocals, bass or percussion its strengths seem held back. With more love and care these compositions could be truly captivating. Currently they are not, for reasons aforementioned. This record will most likely drift from consciousness however It will hold its spell whenever I return to it. My final thought is the key question, does it inspire the "Vampire Synth" genre name? I think not, but given whats out there, this feels more Vampiric than other Dungeon Synth records that come to mind.

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Foreign Objects "Universal Culture Shock" (2004)


A current record on rotation has been giving me some serious CKY vibes. More so two thirds of the line-up, Jess Margera and Deron Miller, on this adjacent project Foreign Objects! Its a gem of a record, taking that unique and dynamic sound of Camp Kill Yourself into a Extreme Metal direction with guttural vocals and an aptitude towards the more progressive and technical aspects of instrumentation. Don't be fooled, for all its flash the foundations are built with fantastic song writing and a flair for melody that has its crunchiest of riffs flowing with colors. Its parallel to a handful of metallic genres yet stands triumphantly apart with its warm embrace.

Foreign Objects was actually formed before CKY and with the viral success of the VHS videos and Jackass, it seems the pair decided to revive their ambitions with this sophomore album after Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild. That sound is apparent throughout but more so in its earlier songs. As the album progresses, more Death Metal influences to the likes of Cynic and Atheist end up showing themselves a touch nakedly with sections that lean on some of the tropes like dis-harmonized melodies and meatier guitar riffs. Its all fantastic but the album does start like a rocket.

 The self titled track and Genesis 12A leap from the speakers, the music more colorful, interwoven and going on a fantastic journey of colorful aggression melding its tuneful nature between groove and gusto with Jess wilding out on his drums with an animated performance set to strike all cymbals and toms frequently between the foundations of his patterns. Its wonderfully engaging and Deron's harsh throaty growl shouts have charm but less in the aesthetic and more so the timing and delivery. He sounds impassioned and it makes the songs come to life with his better lines.

I could heap on the praise but not everything is perfect. The albums production is a touch harsh and lacking budget but the music attitude fortunately punches right through its rough edges. As mentioned the album tends to drift to its less creative songs, passing an amazing Disengage The Simulator cover on the way out which fizzles out with the toned down Victory Over Neptune transitioning into a sombre acoustic but underwhelming ending. Then lastly there is Big Boy, its tone and temperament doesn't really fit the bill or carry the same energy as anything before.

At its peak, this albums songs are of a dazzling craft but its a flawed treasure for sure with the front loading. Looking up some details on its release Ive learned it was packaged with a five track demo from 1995. That is making its way to playlist immediately! I'm glad I got around to writing about this one, for any CKY fans reading, you need to hear this! Especially if your fond of more abrasive music.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Wampyr "Wampyr" (2017)


This will be the first of three records I will cover on the topic my newest unearthing, Vampire Synth! Whats that? Apparently a subset of the micro-genre Dungeon Synth. Can you imagine my reaction upon stumbling onto a massive list of this so called "vampyric" music. Excitement alright, Ive often yearned for artists to look for new avenues in this easily accessible genre flooded with amateurish attempts like my own Forgotten Conquest. So far we are not off to a good start with this brief EP of three originals and a cover by James McKeown, the man behind the Wampyr moniker.

These lonely, sombre songs lean heavily on their Casio synth keys and low fidelity aesthetics, sounding fumbled and off the mark. Meandering and directionless whatever solemn piano, gaudy choir synth or cheesy tone takes focus the music can't escape its design. The brash and awkward percussive strikes on the opening track seem like a failed rouse to arouse mystique. As it passes the yearning atmospheric synths that arise usher in a new phase seemingly unconnected. With barely more than two instruments chiming in at any one time, its possible minimalist ideas fall flat in forging anything meaningful out of the subdued setting it occupies.

I'm being harsh here, individually some moments do conjure that ancient dungeon feeling but its all to brief and interspersed by the swiftly transitioning music. It doesn't create a sense of theme bigger than any one moment that's passing by. To pile on the critique a little more, where is the vampirism? I picked these records at random, unsure of what to expect, hoping for a new nostalgia, gothic and cruel, drenched in blood, exciting the imagination for mythic legends of Counts and Countesses, dwelling in darkness and conspiring nefarious plans for their victims. This had none of that and thus my disappointment. Even removing my colored expectations I hear little distinction.

Rating: 2/10

Monday, 7 June 2021

Greta Van Fleet "The Battle At Garden’s Gate" (2021)

The young Zeppelin starlets return with a sophomore effort I initially found underwhelming. Was this a repeat of the fumbled Anthem Of The Peaceful Army debut? Trying to find my way into the music I decided to put it on shuffle with along with the dynamite EPs Black Smoke Rising & From The Fires. They showed so much promise at that early stage of their career. Switching back and forth with this new set of twelve songs, it starts to make much more sense. Those original songs were wild, full of youthful energy and big riffs. Now, the group seem to look beyond the obvious.

The Battle At Garden’s Gate seems like an attempt to mature beyond the flash and dazzle. Thus it can seem somewhat dull at times. Greta Van Fleet's Problem is still the footsteps of acts gone before that they tread. Much of the music lacks originality, creating an undercurrent of uncertainty. Ive tried to let go of that tho. What I've found are the subtler crafts, cohesive song writing to focus on theme and topicality with out being steered to strongly by guitar and stage antics. Its best songs creep up on you, brooding, steadily building but not always seeking a "big moment" to conclude.

Though with a handful of songs that climax does arrive through ambitious guitar solos. Aiming for that classic timeless lead magic but awkwardly residing in the confines of ideas that were once the cutting edge. They do find their space to soar tho. To let go of the more critical ear, it can really feel quite special. The variety of cuts keeps the record flowing, moving between different intensities and focuses, everyone gets a moment to make a song memorable, mostly the Kiszka brothers with singer Joshua having a field day on some of these songs, going above and beyond to flex his mighty voice. Its an absolute pleasure on a song like Stardust Chords.

The record sounds fantastic, very lived in and warm, so much so I've barely considered the fidelity until now. Drummer Daniel Wagner carries the songs competently with groove for the backbone and occasionally flairs up with unleashed freedom as he goes ham on his kit. Its wonderful, like a progressive drum solo as he goes the rounds on the drums. Would certainly like to hear a little more from him.

I'm lukewarm on this record but mostly for the lack of originality but letting go of critique I've had nothing short of a blast with The Battle At Garden’s Gate. Now the initial shock of a band so stunningly reviving an old sound has worn off, its up to them to write memorable songs and I think they've genuinely done that here with a handful of them. As whole, its a case of time will tell but I can't complain as so far Its been great fun.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Chevelle "Niratias" (2021)

I'm glad I'd taken the time to discover Tool before encountering a record like this. Chevelle have won me over with their thoughtfully tempered and artistically angered take on Rock and Alternative Metal. It was on the second listen that the resemblance to Tool suddenly clicked and its been unshakable since then. Singer Pete Loeffler emulates Maynard at every turn, both in style, pitch and delivery. I feel that I can only refer to his obvious influence as the distinction. His multi-instrumentalist brother Sam does much of the same with the song writing, arrangements and riff ideas with an occasional big riff more akin to perhaps Nu Metal in delivery. Even deviations from the norm on instrumental interludes with ghostly pianos have an echo of similarity. Either I'm right on the nose with this or infantile to the web of influence Tool have undoubtedly cast on bands like Chevelle.

Similarities aside, this album has been a blast. Niratias runs an expressive line of crafted writing, steering clear of leaning to hard on tropes and arrives at its conclusions with the grace of lavish instrumentation that gets everything involved in intervals with space for individuals to shine in the gaps between. So often do the guitars drop back for the bass guitar to rumble. Lead guitars get to sweetly slide into focus with elongated stretches of atmospheric melody and around it all the drums weave together a narrative. Its theme is supposedly rooted in the talks of the times when it comes to a commercial era of space flight and the now popular philosophical discussion of simulation theory. Its most potent lyrics to me tho, where the impassioned cries towards misinformation and science skepticism which too have risen to prominence during the pandemic.

At a meaty fifty minutes, Niratias offers up some fantastic vibes, balancing aggression and artistry with something I can only describe as the "festival feel". Many of these songs feel set for the summer stage to be shared with thousands of fans, delivering those big riffs and crunches after grueling through the gradual build ups and hold over sections that keeps the music in lane. In the past I think its the sort of music I'd gloss over but I am happy to say that ignorance is gone! For all the familiarity this has been an exciting listening experience that feels best as a whole, having found it hard to pick favorites from the track listing. Peach however... is a peach of a song! Oh too easy but yes this one has an exception bite to it as so quietly builds to its blunt force guitar throwing down thumping slabs of low end noise. Pete absolutely makes this song pop with his fiery singing, crying out woes of foreboding limb removal!

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 4 June 2021

Public Enemy "What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down" (2020)


Maybe I should of passed on this one... but I couldn't help myself right? The legendary Public Enemy collaborating with Ice-T, Cypress Hill, Run-DMC, The Beastie Boys, Nas and George Clinton? Well it is to good to be true, as one might suspect there heyday is long behind them! What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down is loosely themed to the pandemic and global issues, asking questions of the audience and our reliance on modern infrastructure but It does little to elevate the music. Where this record falters isn't so much its topicality but the execution of outdated musical ideas.

 These instrumentals, handled by C-Doc not DJ Lord, fire up the old formula but lack the sharpness or urgency. Sadly it comes off as exactly what it is, a bunch of older guys who haven't update their ideas, spinning the same tricks with less excitement than ever. Many of the beats house a mediocrity of samples that layer up noisily without the bite and grit of classic Public Enemy attitude. To give it some credit, there is a lot of creativity shaping up the songs to be varied and fleshed out with shake ups between the main loops. This goes out the window on a handful of tracks as out of tune Rock guitars, both rhythm and lead, frequent the record with this tone deaf presence of half baked 80s aethetics rattling off under the raps and drums. Its not flattering.

Chuck D and most his guest are as sharp as ever, his voice sounding aged but the energy is there. Sadly he falls into the trappings of artists from his era, getting hung up on the past with many passing remarks and even a whole song rattling of a list of Hip Hop traditions lost to time. There is little wrong with this expression but it adds to the lack of fresh ideas on offer. Its merits are ironically the resurrection of old songs with varying success. Fight The Power Remix 2020 has some bite as Nas steps on the mic with rhymes sharp as ever. Its home to some of the records best verses but also the worst as YG's flow just doesn't match the energy here. All in all its a tolerable listen but mostly disappointing for failing precisely where you'd guess they might.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Arcturus "Constellation" (1993)

Writing has been a lot of fun recently but more so has the listening! Discovering the foggy gloom and doom of My Angel and reliving the unique astral wonders of Aspera Hiems Symfonia again, my recent dive into Symphonic Black Metal has potentially led me onto an Arcturus journey but alas we will stop here for now.

Writing on the bands aforementioned debut, I remarked how dingy and overly symphonic this short four track EP was. It certainly is riddled with fidelity issues, inaudible bass and overpowering keys. My curiosity couldn't help itself tho. Giving this one some time and with swiftly adjusted ears I am astonished again by a band who seem to always lavish astonishment upon me. These songs are essentially identical. Where its keys once had a creaky yet powerful subtly, they are now front and center with dank and humid tones that relish in their own oddities. On some level it plays down the extremity of Black Metal, amplifying the symphonic magic at the heart of Arcturus, illuminating the majesty of their night sky inspired theatrics.

And check the date! The music is a mighty force of cosmic wonder, wedging itself in a scene yet to explode or even blossom. How delightfully strange these defined ideas are. Cosmic, majestic, curiously carnival and a little jovial. Its beautiful eccentricity emanating from keyboardist Sverd's fingers. I knew this element was the spark but it seems all to powerful and obvious here, the compositions are so inspired, creative and otherworldly with its astral icy gleam illuminating the darkly music. Each of these numbers are mighty journeys, adventures of the night full of twists and turns.

The intolerance of my youth had me gloss over and dismiss these lower fidelity releases... such a shame... but now I see an opportunity, to re-visit these demo tapes and early releases of my most favored bands that I once ignored. I hope to unearth more gems like this one.

Rating: 8/10