Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Code Orange "I Am King" (2014)


Code Orange's latest release Forever was certainly an intriguing listen when we look past the apparent upfront brutality. Released three years earlier, I Am King is the groups second release and one I am far more fond of, where Forever has a manipulating hand of mischievous intent that seems to intentionally derange the music, this release is much more conventional however they strike a balance where the unorthodox and heretic meddles within the walls of expectation.

Kicking off with a booming, harrowing synth, chopping in and out of focus the band fire up moments later with a manic wall of sound before dropping into a fiery guitar thrashing. It breaks to noisy dissonant chords, dense in atmosphere then jumps forward into a bouncy Nu Metal like riff. Then with a switch into a circle pit paced hardcore stomp, back to the wall of sound and then slamming into a beat down it sets us on a ride. You get the picture, its all over the place, back and forth, setting the tone for whats to come, a restless erratic energy that will switch and shuffle on you seamlessly, despite the difference, without a moment for you to rest.

All though this churning is true in parts, after the first track things seem to fall into place, each song focusing on its flavor of chaos that emerged in the opening calamity of styles. "Dream In Inertia" offers a different spice, its a slow dreary track of gloomy echoing acoustics and hammered out power chords slugging at a slower pace, the band come back to this on "Starve" and the two break the flow. It holds up well between a constant pummeling of ripe, enthusiastic fist thrashing heaviness of hard, angry music that's got the boldness to strike for atmosphere and use slow bludgeoning riffage as its weapon of distraction.

This would of been a much better introduction to the band. For thirty two minutes they have you at their mercy, within familiar conventions. The sprawl of aggression is menacing and it kicks hard and doesn't let up to its last breath which suits a short listen well. The albums production is rock solid and captures a lot of texture and tone in the guitars which is important in its dissonant and noisy sections. A much better record than its successor however that wild experimentation may have something yet to give. A mix between these to stages would be ideal.

Favorite Tracks: Slowburn, Alone In A Room
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Erang "Songs Of Scars" (2017)


The unwavering inspiration and output from our beloved French musician Erang strides onwards! After King Of Nothing reunited us with the land of five seasons, Songs Of Scars returns to the mysterious Sci-Fi dystopian realm of Anti-Future. Its presentation, a striking front, sets the tone. The eerie gaunt corpse painted skull featured in much of Erang's artwork stares us face on. The bold red font illicits the danger that lurks, the subtitles set the stage for a soundtrack of freight.

Where Anti-Future stepped into new territory, Songs Of Scars owns it. These deliberate compositions set the perfect tone for your John Carpenter 80s flick. The breeze of suspense, a soft paranoia, the looming of evil and smog of future tech all from the comfort of your sofa. Its a true soundtrack, one that needs no cinema in front of it convey the atmosphere it will soak you in. Each song a master stroke of tone to illuminate the never ending nightfall in which our adventures will play out.

Aesthetics is king and with a touch of minimalism and measure of balance our synthetic instruments, buzz saws, sine waves, bells and strings, swoon in their glossy packaging. With just a few key sounds resonating on one another, the bold, rich textures and gorgeous reverberations dazzle and delight as the songs play simplistic and singular melodies. Chiming notes cast the spell as they play off one another. From gleaming bells of fortune to deep swirling, sweeping synths of despair every song finds its own degree of the chemistry so swiftly established as the record begins to spin, bar the first track.

Despite sections of repetition on reasonable lengths of song, the craft carries the music forward, along with the slow, steady, often bare yet effective snare kick drive. Instead of opting in to key shifts or tempo changes Erang find the opportune moments deliver magic in the form musical unwinding of sensual events with swirly synths dancing without a melody to conjure a vision. This never feels overplayed, in fact the balance across the record feels stunning as these imaginative atmospheres conspicuously lure us through there transitions. From front to back It feels like every opportune moment has been realized yet fed to the listener unknowingly.

Where Anti-Future left me with a lack of event, or teetering for something more, Songs Of Scars fully satisfies. The subtle unfolding of songs in their minimalist exterior fleshes out a journey the atmosphere inspires. There are some favorites that come to mind, on occasions where the drums muster up more energy and the instruments find a colorful melody the tone borders on a form of dark Synthpop. "Street Klowns" takes the cake for its mischievous, quirky sounds, grooving, playful and fitting the mold! It makes a break to the traditional Erang Dungeon Synth sound, linking the ages together. "Metal Magic Madness" also opens this rift between worlds again.

With all this magic at work, I strangely enough find the opening and closing tracks, "1984" and "2084" to be rather underwhelming in comparison to everything else. The intro a bit to energetic and overly synthetic, it doesn't quite address whats to come, equally the outro doesn't unwind as much as I think its sweeping synths intend to. At fifty one minutes the record certainly entertains for its duration and may just be Erang's finest release yet and definitely the best of "The Last Age" records.

Favorite Tracks: Sequenced Suicide, Street Klowns, Home Schooling, Ruins Of The Lost Underground Kingdom
Rating: 9/10

Monday, 26 June 2017

Delerium "Semantic Spaces" (1994)


Id not heard of Delerium before receiving this recommendation, however I had heard the Tiesto remix of their famous "Silence" Trance song. I'm also familiar with Front Line Assembly a Canadian Industrial group who flirted with Metal on their most commercially successful venture "Millennium" released the same year. Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber of the band formed this side project in 1987, a year after FLA, and released a prolific seven full lengths before this release, which is one of three in the year of ninety four. Its a lengthy record of steady moving electronic pieces tinging on ambience and encompassing a eastern, worldly cultural influences, very much reflective of the times.

With an arsenal of synthetic instruments the two line the back bone of these songs with layers of smooth flowing electronics, light and short wanderings of shimmering melodies, a few select sections of composition interwoven to form a dense music current that runs the course of these lengthy tracks. They are steady, smooth, calming and conjure a mellow atmosphere that's slightly juxtaposed to the actual level of instrumental activity. Looping percussive samples and bold, plump baselines hold the repetitions firmly in place, gluing the instruments together as they set the stage.

The magic happens in the forefront, this thick spine of instrumentation goes through the motions, expanding, contracting, coming and going with the flow of the music. Its the airy synths, feminine vocals, soft pianos and lead synths that inspire direction and determine the path the songs take. Some distinct cultural sounds come to this stage, eastern flutes and Gregorian chants sung by monks and choirs give the record an ethnic root that contrasts its electronic and modern persona.

With a firmly nineties electronic sound one can hear all sorts of influences from Trip Hop, to Dub, Trance, Downtempo, House and all between. Its a melting pot of that eras sound and it comes together seamlessly. There's little to criticize, the music is inspired and creates quite the setting for thought and indulgence however its not particularly thrilling. The smooth and easy flow often stagnates in places as the songs strength beyond the seven minute mark with not much more than a repeat of a previous segment. I may return to this one again, It feels like the sort of record you could grow to adore if it were in the background of some game, slowly drilling itself deep into your mind.

Favorite Track: Metaphor
Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Milk Teeth "Smiling Politely" (2013)


There's not much I could say Milk Teeth's debut EP that I haven't said about their sound already. I wanted to get through all the bands releases and was surprised to hear them establish themselves so clearly two years before Sad Sack. Perhaps I was expecting something a little more primitive, rawer, a prototype of sorts that you can often encounter on a bands first record. The flimsy album cover may of given me that impression, a 60's psychedelia inspired font for the logo and Poochie the dog with his surfboard, the third character from Itchy & Scratchy that Homer Simpson voiced. Its bland pink and white minimalism not much of an appetizer for the music inside.

These songs are as alike as whats to come, Grungy 90s tunes with a hint of Punk Rock and a mild measure of nostalgia. They would slip right in, so much so the song "Swear Jar" explains the "(Again)" appendix on Vile Child, where it was re-recorded. All that can be said is the production, aesthetics, have a little less polish, some roughness around the edges mostly heard in the guitar distortions. Every other aspect falls into place, enthusiastic drumming, passionate shouts and singing, quite interesting to hear the guitar chemistry so potent from the get go. Lots of grooving, moving guitars interlaced with moody effect soaked leads that have a real emotional weight to them. Solid debut, shame about the awful cover.

Rating: 5/10
Favorite Tracks: Wizzard Battle, Grease

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Snoop Dogg "Neva Left" (2017)


Given the mild mediocrity of last years Coolaid and the landmark Doggystyle decades behind him, I had little reason to tune in this time around, however the albums cover intrigued me, a young "Snoop Eastwood" as he might say. The picture was taken in 1992 and the album name Neva Left hinted of something nostalgic at work. Opening with his mission statement, Snoop drops a slick a smooth flow affirming his originality and gangster authenticity over Wu-Tang Clan's classic C.R.E.A.M. Initially I wasn't so sure about the the pairing but like much of the album it grew on me with each spin.

The record has a tight collection of bold beats, mostly with a big and raunchy G-Funk sounds with big punchy synthetic baselines. The songs are lined with tips of the hat to the oldskool, samples like A Tribe Called Quest's "Back in the day" and the occasional use of retro 80s drum machines paint the theme. "Go On" brings the sunny vibes with a classic summer party tune to mellow out to, his guest October London illuminates the song with a swooning chorus that's just infectious. Its not all retrospective though, the records production, handled by many, brings the best of old and new together.

Neva Left is a fantastic statement by Snoop who lays down some of his best rhymes in years, reminding us of his style, persona, attitude and even dedicates a song to his American football league named after himself. It leaves its mark but the record suffers from the same variety that's its strength when songs like "Trash Bags" and "Toss It" cutting in with obnoxious lyrics and trendy beats, the mood suffers. In a stronger light, "I'm Still Here" conjures Snoop Lion and his Reggae love but it sticks out like a sore thumb. Consistency in direction would of served the experience very well.

There are many impressive tracks though, B-Real, Redman and Method Man unite as the four horsemen of weed on the stoner track "Mount Kushmore". KRS-One turns up on "Let Us Begin" with some tight rhymes and brap sounds to blast your ear drums. Snoop brings a lot of guests on, all do there part but the records peak is with "Vapors", a reconstruction of the classic Biz Markie song, the beat is sharp, dense and layered and Snoop's slick flow is perfect for the classic. Its a pleasantly surprising show from the west coast legend who on a handful of songs does his best in decades.

Favorite Tracks: Neva Left, Go On, 420, Lavander, Mount Kushmore, Vapors, Love Around The World
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Underachievers "Renaissance" (2017)


One of my favorite modern Hip Hop acts is the dynamic duo of AK and Issa Gold, the Brooklyn based act known as The Underachievers. I was drawn to them on their debut LP, Cellar Door, a spaced out collection of Trap influenced beats where the two exchanged fast spitting rhymes. Their followup Evermore was a tale of two halves that produced a handful of riveting, inspiring lyrics in the opening tracks. To my ears the pair have evolved in reverse lineage to current trends, their lyricism growing more depth in expression and the beats frequenting nineties vibes.

Renaissance continues on that path with a smokey, concurrent theme bordering on Jazz Hop as Soul and Jazz samples soaked in measures of reverb set a mellow, hazy, indulgent atmosphere for the beats to ride. The use of modern production styles holds an obvious mold between old and new, mostly a strength for the instrumentals. Every few tracks a darker, leaner numbers switches up the mood, the soulful sampling is dropped in favor of slicker synthesized instrumentals and the twos rhymes often shifting gears for gangster rap alike rhymes. It starts with "Crescendo" which has a line that made me chuckle, "I'm addicted to the green, yea that's a strictly veggie diet!".

This breaking of the flow doesn't indicate much overbearing meaning. The album opens with a quote, a powerful one from MLK about leadership and enslavement, the following tracks provide food for thought on the socially conscious, introspective narrative. The theme quickly dissipates as the tone and lyrical directions shift. The albums production is quite shaky and inconsistent too, varying volumes and mastering extends beyond beats to the volume of the duo's voices too. "Kiss The Sky" is massively compressed in comparison to what comes before it, their voices jump out over the speakers.

There's a lack of direction, or concept to tie things together here but the good moments do manage to jump out. The opening few songs are the track lists best but as the record draws on a few other moments stand out. "Gottham Nights" has a stand out moody pitch shift on the atmospheric sample. "Different Worlds" ties the Jazz Hop to the darker vibes and has beautifully gloomy sung vocal sample reminiscent of Chelsea Wolfe. Following it "Break The System" pairs a bombastic snare kick groove with a trippy spaced out synth sample drenched in echo effects.

The pair seem without guidance here. Good beats and rhymes prop the record up but as an overall experience its a mixed bag of tricks that loosely fit together. The opening theme fades swiftly and I also noticed they grouped the three stoner songs together in the midsection but they only server each other. Its not a disappointing record, there is plenty to enjoy but the bar has been set high and we know they are capable of putting something a lot better together than this.

Favorite Tracks: Eyes Wide Open, Crescendo, Different Worlds, Break The System
Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Code Orange "Forever" (2017)


Previously know as "Code Orange Kids", this brutal Pittsburgh five piece outfit throw down with bloody fists. "Forever" is the groups third and my first. On my radar for a while I only got around to them just before Download Festival when I realized I would get the opportunity to see them. Ive since binged on the brutality and grown to adore this gritty, blunt, meat grinding band who blew me away with their gnarly, intense live performance. This record is a contender for the years heaviest.

With the first few listens my point of reference was strangely enough Deathcore. The reality is its far from, the consistent bludgeoning, chugging and breakdowns mirror that of the aforementioned. The difference its the trope, where techniques and sections once became calculated, predictable and formulaic as hoards of bands rode the wave, the band turn ideas on there side and reinvent the punishment due. Beatdowns are etched in unconventional time patterns, the entry and exit points dislocated. The commonality seems at the constant mercy of the cryptic overbearing hand that twists, slices and distorts the music to its whim. You can expect the building momentum to steer along a new path, the chug to churn a few extra bars or the music to seemingly drop out mid riff to an industrious synth. Amidst the convention this force often hides in the lurking dissonance of eerie guitar distortions or in the refuge of gritty, dense, biting synths that push their way to the forefront.

The band present two sides on this record. Cruel, violent, savagery in their metallic head thrashing numbers and with "Bleeding In The Blur" and "Ugly", refrained tunes one can sing along to. The intensity remains but the punch line comes from tuneful, if not still fiery, guitar riffs that have a more emotional, personal context, tinged with a whiff of Grunge. "The Mud" would serve as a midway point where this other style seems at the mercy of the tempered hand that cuts out the singing mid tempo, plunging it underwater to drown in the unsettling synth phase that replaces if, before splicing into a seemingly more conventional chug, discord, chug, discord riff that's been tortured to deface its usual structure.

The albums aesthetics are another knife edge of brutality. Tonal, thick, dense and cutting guitars bring a metallic texture to Hardcore performing. The drums fire away with a powerful, thudding kick drum and punching snare to cut through to the front. The cymbals are a little downplayed and under them rumbles the enormous bass guitar with a dense gritty, noisy texture that can get behind the rhythm guitar or step up to the front with a menacing prowl. Vocal duties are shared three of the five and the variety adds to the chaos. Reba Meyers voice however has an emotional energy which really elevates, could of done with more of her however it suits the other direction the band can steer in, leaving one wondering how good an album strictly in that stance could be.

"Forever" is a wild and powerful ride at a fast twenty eight minutes, leaving no room for filler or distraction and right to the point record. The mysterious nature of abrupt interruptions and their disjointed relations make me wonder if something more archetypal is at work. In my current state of awe towards such a devastatingly aggressive record Its hard to see its flaws. My main thought is simply how will this hold up over time? I suspect the shock and awe could dull a little over time but right now its unexpectedness is winning me over when i have the appetite for audio punishment.

 Favorite Tracks: Real, Bleeding The Blur, The New Reality, Ugly, No One Is Untouchable
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 16 June 2017

Oranssi Pazuzu "Muukalainen Puhuu" (2009)


Finnish band Oranssi Pazuzu have been one of the most impressive in recent memory. Their blend of psychedelia and Post-Black Metal has been a breath of fresh air and with this recently released to bandcamp I was under the impression this was their new album but alas, upon setting out to write this blog I find out its actually their debut which has got to be a sign of strength given that this In no way felt primitive, conceptual or like a band taking their first steps with their sound. "Muukalainen Puhuu" is a fully formed beast of darkness, poised to drag you into the abyss with its eerie, haunting atmosphere fit for the unending shadows lurking deep in the cosmos.

In its metallic element its distortion guitars glide forward with nefarious tremolo picked riffs, shaping up to pack a punch with lively aggressive rhythmic assaults which absorb themselves into the ongoing eeriness, never a frontal force but another elements in the melting pot. Bold pacing baselines shape the tempo as the drums theatrically rattle and cue the shifts in intensity with their loud, peaking cymbals that make quite the thunder. Between it all, lurking mysteriously, organs provide the texture to unsettle and the accommodating synths, distant and inhuman, accenting the darkness like voices of ghosts they whisper their cruelty while in the musics trance. The presence of twisted howling screams and groaning guttural taunts drag the human element in.

The album plays well, shifting intensities, shimmering acoustics lead the mellower moments with a prominent roll in the psychedelic tone. There is a good variety that holds the same distant, spooky and lonely vision of the cosmos. Perhaps intentionally the song "Dub Kuolleen Porton Muistolle" has a Dub baseline prowling throw the song from start to end, one of the albums best with its rich yet strangely relaxing atmosphere. The drumming is a little rough around the edges, perhaps to effect but the cymbals can bring a lot of clatter to the balance, not always to my taste. Its a stunning debut, one that could of passed as their next record, in finding that out though Ive learned they have released another four track EP this year I cant wait to get my hands on.

Favorite Tracks: Dub Kuolleen Porton Muistolle, Kerettilainen Vuohi
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Timothy Steven Clarke "Starsiege OST" (1999)


In a similar vein to Frank Klepacki's Command & Conquer soundtracks, Starsige is another video game soundtrack of weird and wonderful Industrial music colliding with Techno, Breakbeat, Cyber Punk, Metal and all with shades of Ambience steering the musical intensity. This is the sort of music you could grow to love after hearing it over and over in the background of your favorite childhood games. The difference is I never played Starsiege, It was recommended to me based on my adoration of the C&C soundtracks. I'd always yearned to hear more music in the Industrial Metal styling of Frank Klepacki and this is the closest Ive come yet. Unlike the back road to bands like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, here is a record that comes after the likes of Tiberian Dawn & Red Alert that pulls influences from Frank's particular flair and contribution to the genre.

All I know of Timothy is his work on this soundtrack and its squeal. His distinction is in the detailed layering of sounds that stack up in these compositions, throwing all sorts of guitars, synthesizers, drum sequences and samples into overwhelming blocks of deep, textural sound that charge at you with big theatrical directions. That's just some of the tracks though, others dispel the lively energy, creeping into mysterious territory with eerie, unearthly synths brooding dense atmospheres over janky disjointed beats. Thick and blunt with its delivery, many of the synths and oddities are paraded upfront with no measure for subtlety. The resulting songs can often be very alike to some of Frank's own but Timothy gets the chemistry right, emulating a rather wild and fringe sound that will turn off many. The vocal presence, where it turns up, is surprisingly dark, offering alien warped voices and distorted shouts in the vein of Aggro-Tech.

The soundtrack is split onto two discs, the first is rather disapointing, with just six tracks it feels like the projects b-sides, with exception to "SS2" and its thudding, pounding break of the Amen Loop, bordering on Hardstyle. The album gets going on the second disc with the anthemic, blood pumping "You Got". From there on the pace and variety is just fine, constantly mixing up the approach, fluctuating the intensity and maintaining the same mysterious, alien, cybernetic atmosphere. Its a journey, a trip and has totally scratched the itch, one to go on the playlist with some of my other favorite video game soundtracks. Great discovery!

Favorite Tracks: You Got, Newtech, SS4, Purge, Watching, SS1,
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

DMX "The Great Depression" (2001)


The Great Depression is DMX's fourth full length and the one I was most looking forward too. Why? A touch of nostalgia, I remember seeing it in the local record store all those years ago, the cover stuck in my mind. Unfortunately Its been a tad disappointing. X has an exuberant energy as he spits, a rock steady flow but the lyrics have been steadily on the decline and their is no signs of change here. An over reliance on cursing and vulgarity had my interest slipping. The occasional track like "Shorty Was Da Bomb" starts to border distasteful, flaunting takes stage over topics that require a serious measure of empathy and understanding, yet X plays up his self centered life style. This becomes increasingly frustrating on his glorified conversations with God, which seems to be an enabling mechanism to justify his actions. Of course some lyrics are fictitious but X has a reputation and jail time to prove it cant all be for show.

The albums production is handled by a few names, mostly sticking to Swizz Beatz's blueprint sound. He throws together a few songs too however they are the weaker in the track listing. Dame Grease produces the albums best songs "We Right Here" and "Who We Be", the second of which X raps over with two word lines, "The [insert rhyme here]", reminiscent of Juvenile's "Ha". "Bloodline Anthem" is a breath of fresh air, a track played by a live band, possibly. It has a tanned distortion guitar ripping a steady power chord drive as a synth hook plays a catchy melody over the top between Dia singing the chorus. "Damien III" marks the return of the evil voice in X's mind, revealed to be the devil himself this time, the dynamic is still strong and dark. Its followed by "When I'm Nothing", a summer breeze, sun soaked feel good track that sounds so out of place in this record, X is to thuggish for the vibes. Personally I adore the beat, reminds me of "Mo Money Mo Problems" by Notorious B.I.G, the difference is he made his style suit the Disco influenced number.

After a reasonable start the record fizzles out with a weaker selection of beats. X's lyricism doesn't do a lot for me on this record. The same themes are turned over again and it feels like he is stagnating at this point. He doesn't quite have the same wild card feeling with the spontaneous barking growling and these things just added up. The beats held this one over but I'm not hopeful anything better is going to come of the rapper who clearly has an incredible flow but the content is really lacking.

Favorite Tracks: Who We Be, Bloodline Anthem, When I'm Nothing
Rating: 4/10