Monday, 28 February 2022

Dimmu Borgir "Godless Savage Garden" (1998)

In the imaginative realms of "what could of been", Godless Savage Garden always haunts me with its utterly majestic, fantastical offerings. One can only dream of what a full length may have sounded like. Wedged between Enthrone Darkness Triumphant and Spiritual Black Dimensions, the two original songs of this mini-album are remarkable. Both in tone and composure, its slower pacing, drenched in esoteric symphony, the dynamic and spiritually memorizing guitar solos of Astennu. It all marks a band advancing boldly into new territory. Although recorded in the ETD sessions, to my ear they lean towards my all time favorite record, SBD.

Chaos Without Prophecy is an utter delight, its slow beefy power chords and altering drum intensities let the synths set a darkly atmosphere. Shagrath storms in with phenomenal screams on the back of bouncy guitar riffs, resonating with a glorious bell chime. In its lengthy seven minute duration, the back end of the track embarks into a slow brooding drudgery of mysterious intent. Its haunting, creepy and rife with witchery. Moonchild Domain has a comparatively upbeat tone, more of a colorful voyage through dark arts and cryptic magics as the ride is punctuated by glorious pianos and bursts of lead guitar. The drums its housed in batter hard at times with big pedal grooves and lots of complimenting intensities. This all leads to a gratifying guitar solo, blazed by Astennu and his ponderous nightly character.

The other tracks consist of two fine re-recordings from For All Tid. They do an inspired repurposing of the bands once glum and odd atmosphere to this mighty powerhouse sound of rocking Metal and satanic darkness. A cover of Metal Heart by Accept plays a fantastic tribute to their influences. Although the song is not their own, parts of it feel very fitting for Dimmu. Beyond lies live recordings. Not in the greatest fidelity, they are a fun insight to the live experience but sadly feel like filler. Perhaps plundered around obligations to release a record.

As described, Godless Savage Garden brings two of Dimmu's finest songs at the crossroads between records. The particular spirit they share is defined enough to create a glimpse of something special that could of taken place. Maybe in another universe. Who knows. Anyways, I think that about raps up my tangent back into the origins of the band for now. Someday I will get around to the other three or so records I'm yet to cover on this blog. I look forward to it!

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Animals As Leaders "Gordian Naught" (2022)


Now approaching six years since The Madness Of Many, this technical trio led by the trailblazing Tosin Abasi and his phenomenal guitar skills, have another album set for release next month. I'm unaware as to if these tracks will grace the record but I must comment that a preference is to be found in this trio of songs in a shorter context. Without a vocalist, looping structures and repetitions often feel drawn out despite the magnetism the band have. At eleven minutes, Gordian Naught is a bite sized delight of the latest cuts from the Animals As Leaders camp.

Sadly, despite much enjoyment, the needle has not moved far in terms of style. The group are still exploring the veracity of timely executions dissecting chugging rhythm and dense aesthetic. Often abstract guitar and bass noises become a facade for extreme polyrhythms and dissonant grooves. The percussion is a particular persistence of ambidexterity. A technical feet of ability, weaving in detailed beats flush with delicate intricacies around the battering picking sequences.

Its best moments are at the intersection with convention. Luminous colors arise from its electronic synths or melodic lead guitars, breaking up the impressive but monotonous drives of its intricate rhythms. These moments are gorgeous, open and expansive. Pivoting from the dark and mechanical into streams of uplift and light. Its jazzy, emotional and soothing yet doesn't come along often enough.

Title track Gordian Naught is the chugging powerhouse concluding with a mighty discordant breakdown. The Problem Of Other minds opens up the colors with synths and leads. Monomyth then elaborates further, its curious background bells giving its grooves feeling. As it drives harder into the mechanical feet, its pivot out feels more gratifying. In that moment it is the most satisfying, better of these new songs.

Rating: 3/10

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Stormtroopers Of Death "Speak English Or Die" (1985)


This classic record has been on my radar for years. Having finally plunged in and gotten to know its flavor of chaos, the year of release endows a context of immense appreciation. Before Slayer unleashed the unbridled fury of Reign In Blood, here stands one of the first Crossover Thrash projects encroaching on that timeless intensity. Stormtroopers Of Death is somewhat of a "supergroup" uniting musician from either side. With an intentionally unsavory and controversial, politically incorrect theme, they converge at a furious intersection of Thrash Metal and Hardcore Punk. The result is a wild, uncompromising assault on extreme music of the time. Perhaps Metallica's Kill Em All was the cutting edge before this? Although it may seem tame today, I find myself stilled stunned this was released in 1985!

Boasting big gritty distortion guitars, the fast and choppy slaps of power chord shuffling gets amplified by a fantastic percussive performance. Charlie Benante is a powerhouse of Hardcore groove and Grindcore blasts as his drumming often derails from mosh stomps into loose thumping rattles of chaos. Its an old-school flavor of blast beats so uncommon now yet it sounds utterly fantastic when unleashed. Its the duality with Scott Ian of Anthrax who, for a Thrash guitarist, gets the Hardcore energy just right. The constant shuffling between moshing grooves and unrestrained extremity is fun and fast. The songs blitz through an arsenal of riffs and ideas that simply excels.

The majority of songs clock in around two minutes. A helping of very short stunts chime in too. The six second Anti Procrastination Song a particularly fun one, an idea preceding Napalm Death's Guinness world record holding "You Suffer". All ideas are explored swiftly, rarely lingered on for more than a grasp of whats going on. They tend to roll into one big wash of frenetic aggression as its pummeling charges roll out the punches over and over again across its twenty one tracks. It does end on a bit of a whimper, limping out on a string of jokey seconds long songs that don't land well.

Often abbreviated to S.O.D, I realized the song Pussywhipped was mistaken for System Of A Down back in the file sharing days of Napster, a common issue with the service. It brought quite the smile to hear an oldie from my school days. I always thought it was an early band demo or something along those lines. Its also one of the albums best songs with razor fast riffs switching into big bouncing grooves as the drums batter down hard with snare rolls. I'm left with no illusions about how significant this record is in the landscape of extreme music. I reckon it will only ever grow on me with time. If id discovered this in my youth, I'd probably be worshiping it till this day!

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 25 February 2022

Dimmu Borgir "Devil's Path" (1996)


If you are unaware of this little gem, then oh boy are you in for a treat. Recorded and released between Stormblast and Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, it serves as an insight into the radical transition Dimmu Borgir undertook in that period. Its opener Master Of Disharmony made it onto EDT and the title track would be later re-recorded in their modernized aesthetic. Also included are two versions of Nocturnal Fear, a Celtic Frost cover that sends a nod to one of their key influences. The songs pivot a minute in from a pacey evil assault to a stomping heavy metal groove feels akin to the new style of songwriting Dimmu showcased with this release of this four track EP.

Before the metallic song kicks in, Master Of Disharmony opens up with a short and entrancing, ritualistic instrumental. Foreshadowing conspiracy and collusion with the devil, its opening line, now using English lyrics, commands "sons of Satan, gather for attack!". Tjodalv's competency as a drummer is drastically improved as his rattling blast beats unleash a new darkness for the band. The synth tones bring a sinister edge and the fast guitar blister in grimace under that loose snare rattle. Shagrath too seems far more intentional, embodying the persona of this soul shrouded in darkness, seeking possession. Understand the words goes lengths to embellishing the theme.

In this new direction Dimmu counterbalance their satanic persona with bursts of big Heavy Metal groove, theme enriching malevolent synths and flushes of melody through guitar leads and lively, animated solos. Devil's Path also works within this new song writing style but whats special here is the albums production. Rough and raw around the edges, its lower fidelity aesthetic doesn't exactly hold the music back but showcases the transition out of one era and into another. Its ninety percent musical and makes me dream of hearing ETD in this style. This is nothing like the Stormblast MMV re-recording as their musical maturity had truly turned a leaf. Ultimately you'd have to conclude the modernization of their aesthetic was a genius call, however you know the songs would hold up well in a different context thanks to Devil's Path.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Dimmu Borgir "For All Tid" (1995)

Released ten months on from Inn I Evighetens Morke, my Norwegian darlings Dimmu Borgir debut with a peculiar mix of ideas on their full length album. tIn my youth For All Tid charmed me with all its dingy oddities. Many years later, that magic is still present but more so does the amateurish performances and dire production fidelity. It once seemed less like an intentional mystique but now, more like a band with growing pains who managed to land a record deal as Symphonic Black Metal emerges alongside the explosion of attention the scene received over its controversies of the time.

That's not to dismiss the music, Its littered with symphonic magic between some glaring flaws. In my youth I never dissected its offering, just enjoying the odd glum atmosphere and flushes of esoteric melody loosely held together with spurts of aggression. Now I hear a more mixed bag of ideas. Less of a cohesive vision as Dimmu would execute masterfully with every following album from Stormblast and on.

Perhaps it is the opening Det Nye Riket that emphasizes some disparity. Its Korg keyboard driven intro akin to the now established Dungeon Synth. Mostly comprising of power chord and tremelo riffing with varying degrees of symphonic involvement, a couple songs stand apart for feeling off pace with the more common mood. Over Bleknede Blaaner Til Dommedag deploys awful clean vocals. Out of tune, stretched and folkish, me and my friends would always chuckle whenever it burst out. A minute or so later Silenoz howls a ghastly scream out of nowhere. Its loud presence in the mix makes it all seem so haphazard. Even at its worst the songs still have charm.

The two minute Stein is an oddity of snarling darkness countermanded by a fantasy flute melody. Its a glaring reminder that much of the extremity of the band seems more quirky than dark and evil. The following and exceptional Glittertind instrumental, housed by another garish scream erupting loudly out of nowhere, is an upbeat thrust of melody. Its warm mood and fond guitar melodies so opposing to the blast beats that drive it along. Again the band have such a peculiar vision of darkness. Perhaps all that has developed over the years in extreme music since has softened its edges.

The final four songs are class. Homing in on a gloomy chills and a rain drenched atmosphere, the composure of power chord riffs, acoustic strummed chords and eerie synths meet on the back of great songwriting as its structures feel directional and gratifying. I can't help but feel some Doom Metal vibes along the way, perhaps its synth tones reminiscent of The Gathering's classic Always...

This revisiting was heard through its original recording. In my youth I had the Nuclear Blast remaster, a service performed just two years later. Oh boy does that make a huge difference! Everything has more punch and grit, the volume disparities less prominent the harsh vocals have their energy inline with the renewed intensity of the guitars. Had I not thought to listen to the very original No Colors release, these thoughts may have been very different. These songs are invigorated by its remastering and it really serves as the better way to experience the songs. Low fidelity doesn't always work in your favor! For anyone else curious, listening to both is an adventure but I'll leave my heavily bias praise based on the legs the remaster gives it to go. Without it, I'd of knocked this "rating" down a peg or two.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Dimmu Borgir "Inn I Evighetens Morke" (1994)


I couldn't count the years since I've gone back to the roots of my eternally adored Dimmu Borgir. Before they became a powerhouse of modern Metal drenched in devilish symphony, the Norwegians had a murky start. You could never have predicted their trajectory from this humble origin but their sophomore effort Stormblast would shine bright before the modernization of Enthrone Darkness Triumphant occurred. Inn I Evighetens Morke is a short, three track EP that kicked things off. I can't do much to defend it other than express my deep attachment to its gloomy nature, which sparked my curious adolescent mind as I discovered the world of Black Metal.

The first song is the unique experience. For a band joining a scene of new found extremities, its opening number broods on a slow tempo. A morbid piano sequence kicks things off. Distortion guitars become a distant haze under the the warm bleeding baseline. Esoteric synths arises, glum acoustic chords cry as they are plucked. The song swiftly lulls into a depressive tone of death and suffering. All achieved without blast beats, screams and other tropes, its an interesting conjuring that rides a little charm of the amateurish production as the instruments muddy together.

Its second half ups the metallic intensity. Shagrath's barely competent drumming barrages one with plenty of tom rolls in shuffling beats. Any attempt at a blast beat get drowned out as the production fails but also masks the shoddy performance. Silenoz howls harsh, higher pitched screams upfront while churning through lively power chord riffs. The eerie synths struggle to punctuate and the whole song lacks the majesty to leave anything remarkable in mind other than its mystic, quirky nature.

The final Raabjorn Speiler Draugheimens Skodde shows class, a curious arrangement of synths and power chords with direction and structure that bring it to a "break down" conclusion. Shagraths drumming is miles better, a tighter performance with more interesting grooves. Again without blast beats the band linger in the Black Metal realm through its symphonic spin off and the harshness of Silenoz's vocals. Otherwise it comes offs as dark and dingy oddity. Of course this song stood the test of time, being re-recorded a couple of times for future records. It is blemished in this incarnation which was a very amateurish start but a fun one for a die hard fan.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Andromida "Voyager" (2018)

By name and title alone one can figure out theme and inspiration, its album cover a further confirmation of cosmic awe and wonder. Hitting play for its fifty minute voyage, one is lured in through a subtle layer of atmospheric synths as glossy pianos and a punchy drum machine ramp up the energy for rhythmic djent guitars to slam in with slabs of momentum. Swiftly do the hall marks of a one man, Progressive Metal project emerge. The lack of any vocal presence, the perfectly sequenced drum patterns and excessively proficient guitar skills. Initially a little shy out the gate, New Worlds fully immerses us in its guitar acrobatics and metallic aggression. Swirls of rapid fret-board tapping and polyrhythmic low note chugs kick into full gear.

Not a record to maintain intensity consistently, the songs navigate an arsenal of rhythmic assault riffs diving into the deep end of djent's obnoxious nature. It does so through many lulls and shifts that pivot from drives of ambitious Metal chops to the soft glowing ambience of its backdrop. Often compromised of serine strings, subtle synths, glitchy electronic noises and an ever present luscious piano melody, it straddles the two opposites with a middle ground led by big guitar chord strumming that unites its elements. It can fluctuate in a moments notices, jumping from the calm persuasive into flurries of powerful guitar led activity with all in between.

Its the lack of a vocal presence making this unironically feel a little less human, more observational, which its fitting to its space theme. The cosmos is a place that often seems still and majestic, yet its reality is a violet concoction of elemental forces. Initially this disparity in consistency felt empty, yet grew to be the records charm as the guitar became its voice and the shifts in density more welcoming with each listen. The whole experience now play like a soundtrack, I can focus on some other task as the magic churns away mighty conjuring in the background with its swells.

Andromida's brilliance is earned through repetition as its cold mechanical inclination, led by the drum machine, steadily gives way to craftily forged songs that hold one in its vision. I'm reminded of the genius Gru, with his timely djent riffs and swirls of luminous melody derived from tapping sequences. Its approach to atmosphere through the current trend of electronic stylings similar to that of Shade Empire. Although similarities with both, the constant twinkle of piano notes and airy symphonic backdrop gives it a real character of its own fir for the universe.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 21 February 2022

Korn "Requiem" (2022)


Approaching thirty years since their formation, the Bakersfield band and Nu Metal pioneers Korn are far beyond the heyday of chart topping platinum records and MTV domination. Navigating a patchy period without guitarist Head, the recent resurgence of form, peaking with The Serenity Of Suffering, has been fun but ultimately struggles to have the impact of their early albums. With The Nothing I wasn't initially excited but then pleasantly surprised. It seems the same thing has happened again as Korn navigate a more toned down, slightly atmospheric take on their iconic sound. This time its without bassist Fieldy who has taken a creative hiatus from the group.

His lack of participation is noteable, that distinct low rumble and rattle of his string slapping technique, usually a hallmark, is missing. Its oddly fitting to where the music leans into mood, tone and aesthetic less on the bombastic side, which his crunchy baselines always helped reinforce. On Requim, Korn seem to of nostalgically reached into the past and plucked the subtler tones and accents of their style. Its reinvigorating them with songs that sway through through swells of distorted guitar melodies and dense resonance as the overall mood and texture becomes its persuasion.

Sure, each song has its meaty riffs and simple, syncopated Nu Metal riffs but they are rarely pushed to the forefront and often flexed back and forth with bustles of overdrive playing out further up the fret board. Ray Luzier suits this style so well as the kick snare grooves take less focus and he contributes to the tone with lots of cymbal grooves and timely drum fills. The theme of subtlety continues on with frontman Jonathan Davis ,who so atypically himself. Somehow he finds a performative presence that gels with his band mates as well as they ever have before.

Lyrically, it hinges on the expected themes of mental health, self loathing and metaphorical demons hes reiterates again with plain language. His vocabulary seems softly expanding this outing but its mostly what you'd expect. Its the performance that grabs me, he straddles a sweet melodic spot in his range and gives a lot of his sung chorus a humming melody to it. His screams and shouts don't dazzle quite the same and hearing some classic scatting again is a crowd pleaser for sure but nothing new.

I step away from Requiem now, after many spins, with a sense that this one will never be dull to pick up and enjoy again. At a shorter thirty two minutes its curation and focus serves it well. I wonder where it would stand if my apatite for Korn were as it was in my youth, if it may rank among the best. With the band still churning a new record out every couple of years, its hard for that impact to be properly felt. With time I'll see how this one feels again at some point in the future.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Zeal And Ardor "Zeal And Ardor" (2022)


If Metal has stagnated in recent years, then Zeal & Ardor would be at the forefront of bands exploring new avenues for the genre. This self titled sophomore effort rides the wave of their profound chemistry, an unlikely marriage of anti-christian Black Metal theatrics and the historical struggles of an African American experience housed within its dark relationship with slavery. Clearly mastering both the inspirations and aesthetics Manuel Gagneux has carved for his band, this latest forty four minute effort feels strongly leveraged on a new idea. Frequenting the record are sharp, hard hitting, precise breakdown riffs that levy its personality with thrusts of mean anger as angular guitars jolt fast and choppy riffs, executed with a cold mechanical precision.

The gamble pays off wonderfully as a rather atypical metallic approach exchanges with bluesy Blackgaze and folksy Gospel music with a grim grounding. Its brutal rhythmic force and precision timings play up the fun of obnoxious Metal yet never truly escape the weighty emotions of the burdensome soulful experiences that precede them. If anything they seem to give them a sense of conclusion as a lot of slower paced and gloomy atmospheres are given a fist of fury to punch the listener with.

Its what initially grabbed my attention and with subsequent listens the music between began to open up. A lot of similar ideas and compositions are heard again as on Stranger Fruit and Devil Is Fine. Usually the most interesting chemistries emerge when the light straddles the heavy and the two exchange. Early on in the record I also felt as if I were hearing far more electronic vst experiments. Springy unsettled sounds chiming in on breakdowns and big riffs. Götterdämmerung strikes me as the albums best track, a brilliant exchange of devilish melody, chuggy guitars and chain gang blues. This self titled record is a fine execution of their now established sound but its left me with one of those "time will tell" feelings as to the impression it may leave.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 19 February 2022

Judas Priest "Ram It Down" (1988)

To compliment yesterdays The Ultimate Sin, a dive into classic Heavy Metal, I thought I'd pick out another personal favorite. Again it comes with a streak of irony. After receiving backlash from fans with the experimental Turbo, Judas Priest decided to give them exactly what they wanted, a run of the mill metallic showdown. Ram It Down is a bastion of fist pumping, head banging Metal anthems navigating a lack of depth as its peaks and valleys do come with some contrast when the album wains in its mid section. When throttling forth with vitality and enthusiasm, it rocks with an infectious spirit. When tempos slow and atmosphere leads, the grooves get somewhat stiff.

Ram It Down's aesthetic rides its rigid and hard hitting backbone as the group chose to deploy an aged drum machine to handle percussion on this outing. The drum sequencing has both charm and limitations as a lot of arrangements are limited to big bass snare groves, which pound away wonderfully. The finesse of drum fills and more intense beats are drastically limited and it shows as any organic dexterity is a rarity. Massive tom drums chime in with large feedback reverbs, a big feature of the 80s sound. I am quite keen on how its utilized, it suits Priest well!

Around the drums hinge bright and brimming overdrive guitars. Loud bold and ambitious, the duo bring a lot of audible clarity to the tight rhythmic chops of classic palm mute chugging and power chord shredding. Behind them the bass guitar pounds away with strength, pulsing hard with power and punch in the rhythm section. Upfront, Rob Halford is a gem as always, gleaming with his ear piercing falsetto, having his finger on the pulse for turning these fine instrumentals into arena Metal anthems.

The music roars out the gate with a string of its best songs. The themes and concepts simply a self realization of their rock star personas as a band. I'm A Rocker and Heavy Metal hit hard on anthemic, sing along feelings fit to steal a live show. Come And Get It speeds on in a similar tone with a cheeky, raunchy spirit metaphorically adjacent to the music. In its best moment the music rips hard. The cover of Johnny B Goode another goosebumps track to flip a Rock n Roll classic into a Heavy Metal riot.

In my mind this could of been a finest hour among others for Priest but sadly the album stalls going into Blood Red Skies and never quite recovers. That's not to say its a bad song but the pivot to focus on atmosphere driven by its repetitive drums and subtle bass synths doesn't match the faster paced material. Monsters Of Rock best showcases this as the group try to flip the anthemic narrative into a lunging beast of slow moving weight. Its a half to Ram It Down's concept that doesn't quite land but for what they get right I simply adore this record. It gets the adrenaline going fast!

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 18 February 2022

Ozzy Osbourne "The Ultimate Sin" (1986)


When it comes to legends of Heavy Metal, can there be anyone more legendary than Ozzy? I'm more familiar with his days in Black Sabbath, having never gone to deep into his solo career. Ironically the one album that did it for me is his least favorite, The Ultimate Sin. Upon release it became a commercial peak for the singer, charting well in the states where he flourished as a lone name. Siting reasons of artistic repetition and staleness, again ironically may also signal the very thing I adore about it most.

 To my mind, the album captures the essence of big theatrical arena filling Heavy Metal the 80s. The big hair, garish outfits stage antics and oldschool lighting rigs fill my imagination. Perhaps I've watched too many classic Ozzy concerts on youtube for my own good. I adore how the record hinges on Osbournes distinct voice, he gives the music a sincere emotional edge over its hard hitting, guitar rocking riot of big power chord riffs and lighting guitar solos, all so nostalgically typical of the times.

Jack E Lee is a phenomenal talent, a prolific guitarist, not just technically with his flashy showmanship and dazzling fretwork but with song structures that respond to Ozzy's direction. Swiftly does the music transition out of head banging mode into emotional surges, with key shifts and deliciously plucked acoustic guitars chords. Its fits so snugly together, a band in unison. Soussan and Castillo are equally competent in the rhythm section, providing a powerful footing for Ozzy and Lee to shine.

This "autopilot" Ozzy describes is probably why track after track is so well written. Rather than look for a new artistic direction they churn out the hits as they know how to make them and boy do they make them well. A few songs get a little cheesy with cliched rock and roll lyrics but a lot of the themes are far more moving and meaningful, including the anti-war song Killer Of Giants, one of my favorites on the record. Its lush opening guitars are simply wonderful. Dark, sleek, steely and covered in reverb.

When it comes to critique, the nostalgic lens tends to distort my perception as I adore the dated production and tropes of the 80s Heavy Metal. That's why I tune in, when wanting to capture the spirit and feeling of that era. This one has it in droves! Writing now reminds me of my Dio exploration. I really have no excuse not to throw a few Ozzy albums into rotation like I never did in the past. I just stuck with this one!

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Olivia Rodrigo "Sour" (2021)


Being of a different generation, I only became aware of Olivia Rodrigo when the storm of ignorance descended upon Sour and its similarities to music of decades past. Is she reinventing the Punk Pop wheel? Or pinching from Paramore on Good 4 U? Crashing the record open with Brutal and its nod to Elvis Costello, I can see why the accusations flew her way. A lot of people don't understand that everything is a remix, we stand on the shoulders of giants and there is little true "originality" to be found. We're products of our surrounding environments, influence flows through one to the next. All music has its place in the tree of evolving lineage, branches spread, flowers blossom and bloom, looking all so similar yet with their own quirks.

I'm happy the has controversy lured me in. Olivia has a powerful, independent voice, a swaying mix of committal and vulnerability, with a loose grip in timely moments. This generation is growing up on auto-tuned vocals and its physically effecting how young people now sing. I'm more partial to the old ways and no vocal coach but her pitch and temperament seems to straddle the two. Strong notes cruise into crashes of softness and expression so wrapped up in the emotions her words paint bright.

Lyrically, a passing glance could simply dismiss these topics of high school love, heartbreaks and teenage toils as typical and naive yet despite the surface, something about how she picks apart her feelings seems so raw and direct. Its clear shes been through an awful break up, laying out both the bad and ugly alongside her righteous reactions, circling back to different aspects of the experience on multiple tracks. Her words weave brief insights in their bluntness, creating a remarkable impression what could seem like an atypical song. Of course her singing spearheads it all with these surges of vulnerability as she opens up an extraordinary range and delivery.

The introspection seems almost unintentional, as if she stumbles onto the pulse without reflective intent. Later in the record, Jealousy Jealousy highlights the thought and craft in her lyrics, narrating the difficult navigations of a generation growing up with social media exacerbating the thief of joy, comparison. The lightly shouted conclusion has a fantastic flow to it, kicking up a breezy gusto and riding it out. Creativity flows effortlessly it seems and her singing style is front and center of it all.

Her partnership with Dan Nigro, writing and production, seems like a perfect fit. Song structures are apt with piano chord melodies a frequent source of warmth. Much of the music comes with a lofty ambience, a sense of scale as songs drift dreamily with swells of lush and gentle sound amounting. All the instruments are orchestrated to grow and croon softly with power and persuasion. Giving it a keen ear one can hear layers of quiet instruments at work, led by minimalist percussion that's timely with a pallet beyond the basics. Its a fine footing for inspirations that much of the record holds in these loose, fluid and shapeless moments, only be suddenly snapped into place by an occasional upbeat Pop song like the successful hit Good 4 U.

I struggle to find the right words, the resonance between voice and instrumental is just fascinating yet so simple. Sour has a wonderful and curious chemistry, an individual set in the center who's got a seemingly typical, yet deeply rousing self expression to offer. Its much gentler than its big tracks suggest and the personal story embedded is moving. Its a shame people get all riled up by similarities. There is much to miss out on here! One I spotted myself was 1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back. It has a vibe keenly reminding me of Regina Spektor! Anyway, Sour is a fantastic album, can't wait to see where she goes from here!

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Napalm Death "Resentment is Always Seismic" (2022)

As the uncompromising titans of extreme music, now spanning five decades of music, news of a Napalm Death will always have me excitable. One can rely on them for quality, their fervor and tenacity an enduring quality continuing to yield fantastic releases to this day. Somewhat alike Apex Predator, I came off this thirty minute EP a fraction lukewarm. If its a maelstrom of ferocious aggression or uneasy atmospheres of burden and disgust, Napalm deliver swiftly. Navigating around a couple of cover tracks the following songs don't quite deliver the edge of its opening numbers.

Kicking off with Narcissus we steadily drift, steamrolling without breaks, a runaway train accelerating steadily and perpetuating the madness of its dizzying speeds. Riotous power chord riff machinations and pummeling blast beats flex of the groovy interchanges, culminating in a stomping conclusion. The pace evaporates immediately as Resentment Always Simmers takes a brooding stroll into the darkness with its stripped down percussion and tremolo guitar lick churning away at the dissatisfaction.

The following original songs lurk in the shadows of the ideas explored here. The choppy assault of Harris's frenetic power chord splaying, Barney's "osculating larynx" and the powerhouse rhythm section never quite scale these peaks again. People Pie is an interesting cover, mostly its lyrical proposition of animals eating humans provides food for thought in a disturbing atmosphere led by massive rumbling basslines of might and gristly texture. Don't Need It stands out for its blitz Thrash Metal guitar chops, wild unruly Slayer akin guitar solo and screechy vocals.

The closing title track too, a Burial Dirge of haunting vocals, unwelcome synths and heavy gloom makes its mark too. The key take away for me was how the covers stood out as the other songs circled similar ideas to that of the opening. With a lot of albums circling the thirty minute mark these days I can see why this is actually labeled an EP, perhaps in the bands mind not reaching the threshold of quality reserved for full lengths. Either way, its always fantastic to tune in with Napalm and hear what they are up to! Resentment is Always Seismic offers up interesting ideas worth your attention.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Chaosbay "Asylum" (2020)


One of this years most exciting releases, Boxes, was my introduction to the German Progressive Metal outfit. Starting at a peak of evolution and working your way back can often taint the musical discovery. With Asylum, all I could initially hear was the distance from their now Periphery inspired, high octane foray of cutting edge melodic Metal. With a less punchy production, a lack of angular grooves and feisty aggression, I overlooked the emotional outpouring this record is. Sure, it has moments of might with chops of metallic onslaught and shouty screams but where Asylum shines is in scenic melody where the music transforms from powerful riff lead barrages to heart felt singing and moving lead guitar licks, which it has in a plentiful supply!

The heavy djent riffs, Metalcore breakdowns and jolting polyrhythmic grooves quickly subsided from focus as the lyrics started to raise up its streams of warmth and color. Passionate words of social-political consciousness took sway with stems of plain spoken ideals and morals expressed bluntly from a compassionate space. With each passing listen my attention shifted from the arsenal of competent bouncy riffs to the Pop Metal singing and acoustic led passageways that carve a path through the carnage. It all brings me back around to the albums cover. A calm of lush seas, present among the chaos of a fiery storm. The name too feels like a commentary on the feeling of being institutionalized by their perceived state of current society.

As a whole the dynamism isn't quite there. The frequent sways plunging into punchy metallic aggressiveness a little to typical for the times but in the melodic component it finds plenty of catchy endearing tunes, often amped up by timely guitar solos and warm singing. All in all its a really interesting record, one I feel like if I were forced to listen on a regular basis I'd probably end up loving as my enjoyment has only grown from the initial luke-warm reaction. Chaosbay clearly have something to offer the current trend in Metal and it seems as if they are on the cusp of a fantastic next step. There next full length effort will be one to keep an eye out for!

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 14 February 2022

Pop Will Eat Itself "Dos Dedos Mis Amigos" (1994)

This has been a wonderful "of the era" journey, now arriving at its final destination. Although it makes sense, I didn't expect them to land on an Industrial Rock tangent. Reshaping the 90s genre blending style, Pop Will Eat Itself build their eclectic on the backbone of rumbling baselines, cold distortion guitars and a mechanical percussive might. With a colorful infusion of electronic tones it otherwise sticks close to an Industrial blueprint. All except Familus Horribilus, a soap box statement shouted through megaphone raps with the Beastie Boys scent. They take aim at the royal family with political commentaries on the families affairs of the time, naming names and airing grievances at heritage and tax burdens. The instrumental is a fun surge of jive and warmth among a cold, metallic tinged record of subtle rhythmic forces.

Across its eleven tracks the music comes in various shades of intensity and experimentation with some detour into more sample oriented percussive tracks with break loops and the like. Everything's Cool has an obvious riff inspiration from Ministry's classic Thieves. Most remarkable is the opening Ich Bin Ein Auslander. Predating Rammstein by a year, its deployment of the German language and a stomping Kashmir alike riff seems like some bizarre foreshadowing of the Neue Deutsche Härte sound. Surely its just an odd coincidence right?

Either way Dos Dedos Mis Amigos is a decent record if your into the Industrial Rock sound. Nothing exception though, a couple of better songs with a few mediocre cuts too. Its undoubtedly the most consistent in tone, funneled through a production that struggles in patches with its layering of sounds. Which is notably less dense this time around, relying more on the drive of its mechanical rhythms and sharp distortion guitars. I'm aware the band reunited for another record but I'll put a pin in that for now.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Arsis "A Diamond For Disease" (2005)


Here we have a phenomenal three track record, a thirteen minute title track epic accompanied by two other shorter and decent songs. I'm also shocked to learn this EP followed their debut release the year prior. Rather impressive for a band in there infancy, this song is a marvel that holds up well a decade and a half later. Notably the production also stands strong, it bold snappy aesthetic holding together a cacophony of dexterous drumming, littered with technical fills, choppy pedal rhythms and blast beats. Alongside, the guitars have brimming tones of dense aggression constantly in tandem with roaring lead guitars injecting their slew of blazing rapturous melodies.

Taking a page out of the Carcass playbook, Arsis bring forth a ferocious yet classic Melodic Death Metal sound, infused with a Technical edge led by the snarling serpent screams of James Malone who does not shy away from the inspirations of Jeff Walker. The song writing and execution is pure class, overshadowing any murmurs of imitation as Arsis step into the genre boldly with an arsenal of ideas and refreshing passion.

A Diamond For Disease is a wild ride of high octane action! Its title track assaulting on many fronts as it navigates several passages of busy instrumentation creating moments of uplift and madness as its endless fire of lead guitar licks bounces from bright melody to dizzying swirls of diminished notation. Behind it chug away fast paced stomps of grooves and complimenting power chords. The breakout of luminous classic Heavy Metal riffs reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne's The Ultimate Sin era, a keen moment I adored. Its a moment of refreshment between some seriously layered chops of brutality. It can be a task to keep up with how much is going on instrumentally.

This is of course a good thing. The musicianship is marvelous both for technicality and inspiration. The following song lets up on the density, going for more groove and melody at an easier pace to follow. The third follows on getting a little harder on the drums. Both are decent tracks but that thirteen minute epic is one to remember!

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 12 February 2022

Lords Of Acid "Lust" (1991)


Deep into an obscure spotify playlist, I Sit On Acid immediately caught my attention with its sexually provocative intro leading into a obnoxious romp of darkly astral synths and hypnotic driving rhythms. I'd read up on the Belgium group Lords Of Acid many moons ago. Back then, they never sparked my interest but with my current pursuit of new sounds, this aggressive Electro-Industrial adjacent take on House and Dance known as New Beat has been a fascinating experience, if not a crass one.

The crude sexual themes and controversy it probably stirred at the time are little more than a smirking gloss on the music to give it another feisty edge. The instrumentals already do the heavy lifting here. What I've discovered is powerful and dense. Hard hitting saw waves and buzzing synths sound far more intense and aggressive than anything I've heard for this era before. Bold obnoxious keys are crammed in layers, squeezed between the relentless punching percussion with its classic Dance hi-hats. This is classic club and rave music for drugs and much more no doubt.

These harsh aesthetics make for a mini cacophony of attitude with decadent melodies and mean bass lines being rotated into focus. Nestled in are samples and fantastic yet cliche early 90s singing from Jade 4U. If you've spent any time with this era you'll hear too many tones and samples to count. There is obviously some keyboards, sample packs and software of the time that were heavily used and done to great effect!

 At sixty minutes it can test ones own tolerance, the jagged nature of the music feels incessant if not your primary cup of tea. I'm mostly blown away by how dark and dirty this music is for the year of its release. Its another missing piece in the musical puzzle. Of the praises I preach, I mostly talk to a handful of songs like I Sit On Acid that nail the vibes. Other songs struggle to land on such enthralling soundscapes, the track Hey Ho! being an oddity as it fails to incorporate Disney's seven dwarfs thematically. Overall Lust has got mediocrity with a few sparkly gems poking out between.

As for its crude nature it mostly feels harmless and fun, tongue in cheek for fun yet the self evident theme on closing track "I Must Increase My Bust" is contentious when it comes to self image and the damaging effects of comparison with others. Apart from that one blemish, this record has been a grooving blast! Such a niche discovery.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 11 February 2022

Dark Sky "Othona" (2017)


My resistance to the algorithm was foolish! Once again I've been served up a fantastic electronic artist delving into the Ambient, Ethereal, Downtempo vibes that I just adore! Othona is a soothing record of deceptive simplicity and meditation, a series of soft synth resonances exploring unraveling energies. Gently gathering its gusto, these surges of groove and melody flourish out of the soothing states, morphing into animated flashes of color, sometimes in passive friction with its slight dissonance.

These tones and aesthetics achieved through configuration of saw waves and synth osculations, seem to always carry a slight unease. Its as if something is always marginally out of tune yet also fostered by the other instruments, at a distance. The vision and inspiration at play is clear and thus births a sweet magic from this careful curation of the subtle dissonance. Its brilliantly handled, steered to a warm place.

Othona's array of buzzing synths aren't the soul focus! Across this record, the pace holding percussion often morphs into classic House and Dance beats with deep pumping bass and tight shuffling grooves. Its always a gentle process, as much of the music incrementally grows through the motions, so do the percussive lines. It allows these songs to be in a consistent state of evolution, moving us from calming serine meditative soundscapes into easy crooning Downtempo drives of flow.

I'm impressed at how this record comes together. Song after song holds my attention with a soothing nature. I could drawn attention to some similarities in style with other artists but I really think Dark Sky holds their own for the most part. Just one song, Angels, could hold a candle to Brian Eno's legendary An Ending (Ascent), as quite the comparable vibes emanate. This one is worth checking out if you're even mildly curious from my words. The mood it educes is worth it alone. Great Stuff!

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Pop Will Eat Itself "The Looks Or The Lifestyle" (1993)


I think I've developed a mildly amusing "love hate relationship" with Pop Will Eat Itself! I'm undoubtedly leaning on the love side however their "of the era" occasionally sours. It often depends on the mood. This Is The Day struck the perfect stride of nostalgia, a wild crossover that nailed early Hip Hop and the shape of Metal at the time. Since then, they have not stuck in one place stylistically. Its been hit and miss, The Looks Or The Lifestyle seems like a response to the emergence of Grunge as an update in band chemistry has prominent distortion guitars on almost every track of the album.

Continuing on with the 90s Dance and Electronic scene sounds, the group find a more consistent fusion with grungy guitars, lively percussive breaks and an injection of electronic instruments reflecting the era. Its bold and unabashedly 90s, often a little cringe in its early shout raps, the British accents sung strong. The record rolls out with a strong string of tracks, pumping drums charge forth, a wall of samples and synths thrive between dynamic guitars and powerful baselines. It leads into their most popular charting song, known as Get The Girl! Kill The Baddies!

Performed by stabbing melodic drum synths hits, its main melody is a turn off in an otherwise decent track. I think its theme that births it success, essentially riffing on tropes from the perspectives of a movie character. The album starts to diversify after. Guitar tones get shaken up. The sampling and synths reach into new territory, arriving at Urban Futuristic. Its a hard hitting mash up of early Drum n Bass, Thrash Metal and bizarre cheesy synth tones. What it lacks for in classic it makes up for in ambition!

Its this string of gutsy tracks, fun experimentation and bold crossovers that get the thumbs up from me. After them, the final four cuts stagnate in quality, drifting into the tired and dated. It feels intentional that the best material is front loaded. Left a little soured, they exaggerate the cheese its great songwriting diverted early on. With just one record left before their split in 1996, it will be a sound place to conclude the journey having been fed to full on this reflective nostalgia exploration.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Aurora "The Gods We Can Touch" (2022)


For the last two and a half weeks I've been rather engrossed In Aurora's latest offering. Its a warm invitation into a keen world of bright enduring melodies and fantastical sincere singing. Forged with a little folkish charm, it remains grounded and authentic. Once again Aksnes's voice carries a tune so powerfully, illuminating the already glowing notation of her well crafted backing instrumentals. Much of the music rests on a subtler moody sombre side, with these periodic bold strides into Electropop territory, stirring an excitement she remedies with words sung sublimely.

Picking apart the particulars of ones voice is a service words can't quite achieve but she has swiftly become one of my all time favorites. On this outing the performance expands with lyrical themes becoming more personal and intimate than I recall before. A handful of songs feel rather direct and vulnerable, an insight to personal struggles. Its endearing, bringing more humanity and passion to the music, less lofty in concept and theme. Not a sole focus, it arrives in balance with ideas more common for her.

The album has a great sense of flow, many moments of Ethereal calm seem to intersperse the jovial strides, as perky melodies played on pianos, strings and all between ride the surges of energy that arise. The compositions are expertly crafted with percussion guiding the songs through organic calms to then give its main moments more punch. Production is wonderful too, everything feels snugly fit in with reverberations perfectly measured to give the music depth and resonance.

 At fifteen minutes, things do fizzle out. A handful of the last few songs feel underwhelming in comparison. Its final song, A Little Place Called The Moon, has an experimental temperament. Aurora makes it work but the end result seems so different from anything before it. Its a hazy passage that seems the record off on a ghostly note. The Gods We Can Touch isn't perfect but I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and its packed with some new favorites to return to on occasion!

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Kero Kero Bonito "Intro Bonito" (2013)

Dazzled by the dense musical exuberance of Civilization II, I now venture back to Kero's origins. This debut mixtape, Kero Bonito, was quite the surprise! A warm, happy and pleasant record finding its inspirations in the mundane and putting a quirky spin on its simple themes. This take shapes on two fronts. Singer Sarah Perry, often interchanging Japanese and English, sings slightly spoken accounts of many passages of daily life, distilling simple thoughts and concepts into plain language. Its charming, carrying no burdens or hardship, an innocent, carefree and fun little journey.

Instrumentally this spirit is captivated wonderfully by its embrace of often bold and cheesy synths from decades past. Drums punch and kick away in lean environments with a handful of chirpy synths chiming in, often punctuated by timely pauses for brief silences. Sprinkled with cultural and stock samples between its shuffling grooves, the themes draw from a variety of nostalgia and foreign places. Housed in great compositions, its brash boldness is truly endearing. Even the use of old 8-bit cat and dog synthesized effects bashed obnoxiously come across as good spirited fun.
Its an oddball record, a mad house of silliness landing on a genuine warmth. Not purely quirky though, flushes of creativity and dexterous keyboard playing inject bursts of magic on occasion. Its also quite colorful, bright and uplifting, a record to steer your mind firmly away from anything troubling. My favorite track has to be Babies Are So Strange. Everything about this song is silly yet in a great spirit, landing with a slight sense of tongue in cheek deepness on the "Child producing machine, that's what nature has designed me to be" line. This record has been a breath of fresh air, so fun and easy going!

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 7 February 2022

Koreless "Agor" (2021)


Now at the mercy of Spotify's algorithms, I find myself immersed in the unknown, the platform feeding me new names one after another from its playlist system. I have to be picky with where to go. On occasion, one artist will captivate my intrigue more so than the others. Because of the songs Black Rainbow and White Picket Fence, I had to go deeper into this curious musician who's take on electronic music was off the beat and track from what I am used to. Glitched out and mysterious, its popular songs morph closer to normal conventions. Getting deeper into Agor reveals a few typical fundamentals have been torn up and thrown out.

These buzzy saw wave symphonies simmer and fizzle in both texture and tone. Metamorphic and fluid, its oscillations sway and groove in ever changing directions. Somewhere in the mix, something holds center, either the variety of plucked instruments or bursts of rhythm and tempo that come and go. Even then, notes curiously slide up and down in pitch. Percussion is illusive, often forming out of burgeoning instrumentation, feeling occasionally poly-rhythmic as its shuffling glitches and choped up vocal samples make for mirages and illusions.

The result is unique, an identity unlike much I've heard before it. Yesterdays Oneohtrix Point Never has a similar experimental quality but Koreless homes in on something particular, with varying success to my taste. Again it is convention that aids aesthetic into form as many of these songs go on ciphered tangents. Melody rubs shoulders with frequency and sequence. Rhythm seems to had no steady footing and the Nordic singing sampled is rearranged in the most curious manor. The take away is similar, another curious experiment in sound design with a few moments of convention one can fall into, otherwise attention is jilted by all the quirks of its inspiration.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 6 February 2022

Oneohtrix Point Never "Magic Oneohtrix Point Never" (2020)


Having played a hand in the production of Dawn FM, this curious hexagonal album cover lured me in for a listen. The one collaboration with The Weeknd himself serves as a bridge between the Synthwave stylings of that project and the artsy avant-guard electronic experimentation that adorns this record. Labelled as "Plunderphonics", the history of that musical term would suggest much of the strange distortions heard through the album are possibly sampled from well known songs. More likely it is in reference to the well known voices that frequently crop up in these esoteric sampling manipulations. It seems likely its many radio voices sampled mostly on the cross talk tracks may have been lent to Dawn FM's own thematic interludes.

Magic Oneohtrix Point Never is mostly a curious exercise in the depths of production techniques and studio manipulation. With heavy utility of effect plugins, the dynamics of sound are explored to illicit many emotional ambiguities. Like a quilt blowing in the whim of winds, its soundscapes morph and mold through the invisible hand of its all-seeing producer, an organic unraveling bleeding through many dimensions of waveform. Such is the nature of experimental design, that its meandering directions can drift on without direction, as it does in the second half of this record.

The first is where one can find some structured percussion and recurring melodies to fit into a more traditional mold. It gives the experimental and unusual synth sounds a context and format that is much more digestible and entertaining. Its aesthetics are given meaning through decent song writing. Its only a handful of songs though. Without that, every curious noise, esoteric texture and unidentifiable instrument ends up being a passing interest that after a handful of spins becomes dull. I can see how this record has been praised for the many remarkable sounds conjured but mostly lacking a form, it doesn't amount to much when aimlessly morphing through is bizarre soundscapes. A great listen but remains in the experimental lane that doesn't quite connect without normal conventions.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 5 February 2022

Dagoba "What Hell Is About" (2006)

After writing about this French Metal outfits latest release On The Run, I realized I had already checked in with them a few years back on Black Nova. I'd forgotten much of that record and this one too, until a couple of spins had the nostalgia jogged with memories rushing back in! This was one me and my friends enjoyed on rotation during the heyday of the Deathcore scene, which they were not part of. With ICS Vortex lending his voice on a song, I suspect the discovery was related to Dimmu Borgir.

The bands aesthetic is a sonic assault of elasticated exaggerated grooves, playing out on seven string guitars. With a rhythmic battering from the pedal clicking drums and the aggressive roaring shouts of Shawter, the band have an intense sound constantly erupting head banging riffs. The ace up the sleeve has to be the synths that frequently shift in and out of focus, often layering in simple chords or single notes to beef up the musics atmosphere with an astral coldness. The precise mechanical slugging of brutal rhythms in between help play up an Industrial Metal component too. This chemistry is ripe for the elusive Future Fusion Metal genre label that never stuck around.

These songs are well written, balancing out the aggression with an uplift and respite as melody and "cleaner" singing work there way into some tracks. It gives the record pacing as it can't rely solely on chugging stomps of low end guitar djenting and pinch harmonics for its forty four minutes duration. The production is very much of the time, clicky drums and dense guitar tones making progress in sounding clearer but still a ways to go compared to where we are now. Give it some volume and it will sound great. Revisiting What Hell Is About has been a blast! It is always nice to unearth forgotten records and get a dose of nostalgia in the process.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 4 February 2022

Chaosbay "Boxes" (2022)


Taking a page from the Periphery book, this German Progressive Metal outfit have forged a fine fusion of sweet Pop sensibilities and chunky Djent guitars. It oozes at the seams with color as its fine aesthetic powers through a range of pummeling guitar grooves through to gorgeous washes of bright melody. The two ebb and flow breezily, elasticated between extremes that offer no contrast. The mid track Lonely People champions this sublime chemistry. Its a four minute attention grabber swaying in with their heaviest sledge hammer of a riff, cruising onto the catchiest of choruses with the "I am afraid, What have I done? I've got this feeling the machines have won" line.

Singer Jan Listing has a wonderful voice. Delivering meaty screams and ascending with a sharp clean voice that soars, he moves with the musics gravity. His presence often bridges the melody, fostering a link from the menacing brutality of Djent slabs that pluck in and out of focus to form mammoth grooves. Between it all the music is embellished by both technical prowess and inspiration as guitar solos and other creative compositions give the five songs a constant stream of excitement.

The albums production is clear and pristine, It feels dense as the two guitars play compliment to one another. The one focusing on power chords and low end guitar notes, the other adding the melody with glossy acoustic guitars and gleaming melodies. Its quite amazing how massive this four piece sound together. Drummer Patrick Bernath also puts out a wonderful show of dexterity and creativity. A continuous source of exuberance for these five tracks. I'm frankly blown away, this has been a fine introduction to a band touching on a decade together. More listening is required after this fine initiation.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 3 February 2022

FKA Twigs "Caprisongs" (2022)


I'm unsure of where to start, my thoughts on Caprisongs are mostly negative. Coming of the back of the remarkable Magdalene, these seventeen songs feel like a departure from concept, a pivot to the casual that get by with its most memorable contributions coming from other artists. I always want to hear artists try new things, not living in the shadow of what they have mastered but that is never a guarantee of success.

Of course, all of this is highly subjective. My impression of Caprisongs is a socially oriented album, a collection of personal moments. The records pacing is sprinkled with interludes, snippets of conversations with friends and no sense of urgency as many of the numbers take meandering avenues with sparse percussion to move it along with ease. The instrumentals are breezy unions of dreamy synths and snappy, creative drum grooves. Occasionally a little disjointed and experimental they mostly steer towards the safer, trendy modern sounds that are easy to get along with.

In the past I remember much of Twiggs's singing going to traverse interesting places, both individually and with the utility of studio manipulation. On this record however, much of that is void. Her tone and temperament is still charming. The high pitched singing is gorgeous but mostly its tame in comparison. Tame is a word I'd associate with many of this tracks. There isn't a lot of momentum or structure that doesn't dissipate the energy as its often dreamy nature has the music dropping out of moods its barely begun on. Perhaps my expectation are blinding whats on offer.

Either way, I've given it a fair try, after plenty of spins It just doesn't leave an impression. The two moments I most enjoyed most was the collaboration with The Weeknd. The two bounce of eachother well and the song has direction with its kick snare groove guiding us through. The other interesting moment was a recycling of classic 90s lyrics by Olive, "you're not alone, I'll wait till the end of time" on Darjeeling. That sent me down a Ministry Of Sound rabbit hole of memories, which was fun!

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Batushka "Carju Niebiesnyj" (2021)


Operating under the drama of band name disputes, here we have Krysiuk's Batushka marching on with a string of three EPs that passed me by. Perhaps I am only following Krzysztof's Batushka? The whole thing is a confusing mess of foreign names often interchanged with unique language letters. Either way this arm of the sound Litourgiya reckoned upon us feels stylistically cornered as this iteration of the band hash out a similar resolution across six songs. Sticking to their guns, the main focus is steeped in overtones to tie in a darkness counter to eastern orthodoxy of centuries gone by.

After many spins, that's left Carju Niebiesnyj feeling like a duller incarnation, throwing the same punches over again. Its one merit is in production, a sense of expanded budget falls upon its crisper tone where instruments and voices come across clearer. Even with that, some charm may be lost as low fidelity often stirs magic in the Black Metal aesthetic. Talking on the music itself, only Pismo V stood aside as an interlude focusing on a duet of male and effeminate voices, singing with deep reverbs to evoke a sense of biblical burdens bestowed upon church goers of a time and place now lost.

Otherwise its screams, bleeding guitars and batterings of blast-beats tread a familiar line. Its competent but expectant, leaving one with little more to remark on than the particulates of their unique take established six years ago. Its enjoyable, especially in the embellished moments where choir voices and eastern overtones take rise, most keenly on its closer. In the plunges of darkness speared on by aggression and fury, not so much. Ultimately, its been another case of Metal music played safe and steady where as I am seeking something different and new.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Rich Brian "Brightside" (2022)


Dropping a surprise EP out of the blue, the Indonesian rapper Rich Brian returns with four concise and impressive tracks, with no mention of a fourth coming album. Still a youthful figure at 22 years, maturity is starting to show in his lyrics but more obvious is his flow. Tightening up the bars, increases the pace of his cadence, Brian commands these cuts on his own with one feature, Warren Hue, on Getcho Mans. Its a banging off kilt number led by a dirty baseline and oriental overtone. To me, Brian shows his inspirations a little candidly with his second verse. The delivery style gives me some serious Lil Uzi Vert vibes, particularly from the opening stretch of Eternal Atake.

With that one distinction, the rest of the music stands on its own. The opening New Tooth, a fantastic union of beat production and lyrical direction. Brian moves from fiery Braggadocio raps into a more reflective stance over the two beat switches. It takes the music to an emotive conclusion with its introspective pianos. Lagoon and Sunny split that direction apart further, the first a gritty brooding number muddying in darker spaces. The latter bolsters uplifting moods with motivational words. Brightside is promising set of songs for an artist who sounds like they are in a great creative space.

Rating: 4/10