Saturday, 21 October 2017

Kauan "Kaiho" (2017)

Their former release, Sorni Nai, was a riveting listen, an emotional journey of stunning peaks and swerving valleys born from a wealth of inspiration based around the mythic Dyatlov Pass incident. The record is a complete entity that blossoms into a cinematic soundscape, leaving a resounding impression on me that is still unwavering. The Russian five piece are back with their seventh and first self published record, "Kaiho" which has unfortunately disappointed to no fault of their own.

Listening back through their discography the band always had a unique, soft and sombre tone, slightly cultural but distinct and melodically persuasive. Over the years the Doom Metal tropes of snarly, guttural vocals and slow, sluggish distortion guitars, heard on Lumikuuro, gave way to the lighter, artistic, richer sounds of Post-Metal which heavily complimented their melodic side. Its wasn't uncommon for these tropes to subside entirely, in fact the majority of their music has mostly been made up of the "clean" passageways which this album naturally embraces with a move away from its Metal roots.

"Kaiho" is the heart of their melancholy put out to bear. Long drawn out movements of sorrowful strings and soft airy synths paint the glorious, yet gloomy atmosphere for vulnerable singing and delicate melodies to play out. Its pace is temperate, treading on ice as every song drops with the softness of snowfall in a setting of pure ease for the listener. Everything is calm, soothing and gloriously relaxing with plenty of room for introspection and reflection as this serene sombre takes hold.

For all its slow and delicate, beautiful composition, every song is meandering, wandering without direction. The lack of urgency or event steadily drains it dry as the album draws onward without a sense of meaning or story, little feels unfolding or even heading anywhere and so the subtlety and softness fades from focus and each song feels like a point without destination. Only "Kasvot" musters a sense of something grand ironically from shimmering Post-Metal guitars resonating with the airy synths. Its a rare moment for the record as most the guitars are slowly plucked acoustics, any distortion found is heavily buried under already gentle instrumentation. Aesthetics, mood and tone are spot on here but the lack of event or direction, change in pace or upturn in mood has this record seeping out of focus, leaving each song feeling like the last.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Erang "The First Age" (2017)

The vast and rapid output of Erang continues, a man with an unwavering inspiration for the vision of his kingdom brings us another installment, the forth this year? Seventeen in total? I'm loosing count but alas, The First Age may suggest a return to roots but his evolution as a composer sounds aroused and fertile on a handful of songs littered among a cast of temperate mood setters. Years of experience have blossomed into a craft for intertwining layers of simple melodies on reverberated instruments that hits home every time, commonplace yet spell bounding in the right mood. The First Age is memorable for its strongest tracks which jump of a track listing that doesn't stick to one direction.

A loose concept of returning is presented with the albums titles and knowledge of the various ages within the kingdom. Album opener "1986" has Erang narrating a diary entry under the downpour of soft rain as an industrious click clack bustles away on the typewriter. As his entry draws to an end a storm erupts, leading us on a retroactive journey, replaying clips and soundbites from past records as we swirl through a portal of sound, ending on the first Erang song "Another World, Another Time".  The concept of returning to the origin is explained but thrown off balance as a couple of tracks, notably the gloomy yet enchanting tones of "All Kings Must Die" & "Everything Is A Lie", deliver the ancient wonder of more traditional Dungeon Synth sounds, both their aesthetics and theme strike close to the classic Trolldom by Lord Lovidicus. Its found again later in the record but Erang's inclination to richer, luscious sounds has the vibes expanding into different crevasse.

"Birth Of A Shadow" hits a ghastly, dark note as graveyard bells ring out over a fog that creeps in as the night falls and we fall witness to harrowing screams and roars emerging from pain over the mischievous chanting of bells. Its cinematic, gripping, the music paints a scene to embellish in, one of his best. Followed by "La Nuit Noir" we change direction with another wave of inspiration as a stunning piano piece cries out its burden of mortal agony on crimson chords. Its lead hand far more developed than usual, given fluidity to break to conventional loops that dominate the music.

For me the record is marked by standout tracks, "Escape The Lonely Madman" another that needs mentioning for is slow and grueling of withering dread that collapses into ancient eastern cultural sounds that has one envisioning trade and travelers indulging under the desert stars, the shimmering of fires lighting their midnight engagements. The best of this record seems to be pulling from different sources and I'm not sure how I feel about that, the opening sets it up to be a nostalgic rewind which I didn't feel past a few tracks, on the other hand its an excellent set of songs where Erang continues his progression as an artist, yielding more fruits of the labor than ever. On a final note I just have to say the synth in "Unmasking" very similar to the Concrete Jungles game soundtrack, took me a while to make that connection, very similar synth instrument, had to boot up the game to confirm it.

Favorite Tracks: All Kings Must Die, Escape The Lonely Mountain, Birth Of A Shadow, La Nuit Noire, Unmasking The Dead Oracle.
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 16 October 2017

Marilyn Manson "Heaven Upside Down" (2017)

There's little bad to say about Marilyn Manson's tenth record. I could get critical and say it gets off to a moderate start but as the wheels get spinning, they don't slow down! Best known for his culture shock records Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals, Manson has seen a steady decline in recent years that got turned around with The Pale Emperor, a change of pace, an introspective artistic piece that turned his observational musing inwards. I was sorely disappointed at first, "Heaven Upside Down" was not continuing in that direction but with each passing listen it grew on me substantially. He may be approaching his 50s but the fire for his breed of intelligent rebellion still burns bright in this fellow.

The most obvious comparison for this change of pace is the Antichrist Superstar era. The vibes, instrumental aesthetics and attitude is similar in many spots with a helping dose of anger and aggression. His poetry is witty, sharp as a blade with cutting lines like the opening "fuck or fight" on "Jesus Crisis". I could make lists but this is Manson, his reputation needs no examples, hes on his best game here with cracking lyrics that turn in on themselves as the words unfold. His ability to write and deliver hooks elevates the instrumentals as you'd expect them to do but always catches you off guard.

Instrumentally things start off aggressive with crunching guitars leading the songs. Dirty, Industrial thumping riffs on steady repeat. "Tattooed In Reverse" experiments with gritty, buzzing baselines and sharp, often shrill oscillating synths for a rattle house of dystopian blues. "Saturnalia" Is the turning point, the music becomes expansive with echoes of The Pale Emperor distance the aggression for spaces to breath in as the moods start to flow. Its as the album winds down from its aggressive start that I find myself captivated, Manson's chemistry with his band mates seems to electrify as his performance resonates with lyrics carrying the burden of dramatic emotions.

This albums flow is a strength played to. It starts with a bang to lure you in and steadily evolves into a much deeper record. The density of the instrumentals, aided by rich electronics, plays to the versatility Industrial music can provide as the songs collectively share a space with quite a variety of textures and flavor to throw your way. It can shred distortion guitars and find its way to bustling acoustics too without loosing the heretic energy. Everything comes together on this record, the group are on fire and give us the all killer no filler treatment. I will leave this post with a favorite lyric I can't get out my head. "And I tried to look inside you, but ended up, looking through you, now you try to tell me, your not a ghost!".

Favorite Tracks: Say10, Saturnalia, Jesus Crisis, Heaven Upsidedown, Threats Of Romance
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 13 October 2017

Chelsea Wolfe "Hiss Spun" (2017)

American singer songwriter Chelsea Wolfe has had my ear for a while now. Her stunning Pain Is Beauty has been a standout record in recent memory but like all great artists, she continues moving forward and evolving with each record, which doesn't always yield success. Her feature on the title track of Russian Circle's Memorial seemed like a perfect match, something I craved to hear more of and her last release Abyss gave us that collaboration. Oddly it didn't resonate with me and this newest release, Hiss Spun, sounds exactly like what I hoped that pairing could accomplish. This time Chelsea features Troy Van Leeuwen from Queens of the Stone Age who composes monstrous Post-Metal guitars to bring weight and atmosphere to Chelsea's haunting presence.

With calms before storms we tepidly breathe, recover and anxiously await the lurking dread that's always present. One song after another has us in its grasp of haunting sorrow, and unsettling unease before unleashing the ugly, disturbed, mammoth walls of sound that drown us in its thick, dense and meaty persuasion of sludgy, wailing guitar noise. They bleed at the seems, burgeoning with gritty texture, turning eerie atmospheres to nightmares in there wake. With a swarming intensity the layers of sound flesh out dizzying moods as floods of Post-Metal guitars descend upon the listener in sudden, violent eruptions, sometimes with a little build up.

Chelsea's soft and pain felt voice finds its setting here with familiarly dark and harrowing instrumentals of baron percussion, eerie reverberated acustic instruments and piano chords of dread. Its set to new extremes with truly massive guitar distortions as most the songs find a pace to proceed to an unleashing of dense Post-Metal guitars stacked with sludging rumblings of guitar noise that occasionally have a semblance of groove but mostly thunder away a monotone driving of momentum.

 The chemistry is sublime, when it roars Chelsea's voice transforms from the weak, vulnerable, tortured soul to a fierce, empowered beacon of bitter strength. It comes in measures and always with an ear for aesthetics, her voice often discernible in a ghostly wash of reverberation. The compositions all feel linear, expanding and growing in one direction, taking us on a journey through her pain and inner darkness. A couple of tracks don't feel to dissimilar to previous work, her vocal style showing some boundaries in places as they echo old songs.

Hiss Spun is a maelstrom of noise, numbing you with its bludgeoning rumble of sludge guitars that decimate in the eye of its storm. The shadowy calms between hold us captive as the inescapable approaches. A fine record with vision, stunning execution and little to flaw, possibly her best to date? Id say it comes down to taste, I personally love the electronic variety on Pain Is Beauty but adore the overwhelming experience these forty eight minutes of smothering whisk you into.

Favorite Tracks: Spun, 16 Psyche, Vex, Offering, Static Hum
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Prophets Of Rage "Prophets Of Rage" (2017)

Rage Against The Machine are back! This time under the guise of Prophets Of Rage, with Zack De La Rocha sidelined and replaced by Hip Hop legends Chuck D and B Real. Ive been excited for this record ever since Download Festival where I saw them rock the stage playing plenty of Rage classics between a couple of original songs. Their debut EP "The Party's Over" released last year was not to much to rave about but enough to get the hype going and introduce to the new line up to Rage fans.

This record isn't here to throw creative surprises our way, the five are here to give us another dose of that fantastic politically charged sound Rage unleashed back in the nineties. Tom Morello's guitar work has been frozen on ice, unleashing riff after riff of those classic overdriven tones that rock hard grooves to move a crowd and plenty of his fantastic noise driven aesthetics, sounding like a scratching DJ on the decks during his solo's and fleshing out the tracks with flavorful flashy sounds.

The chemistry of the three is essential and they have no problems making it work. The bassist steps up with bright thumping grooves when Morello takes to noise, example "Fired The Shot", amazing duality at work. The loud, thudding drumming is there to turn up the intensity when the big riffs drop in and keeps things lively and moving inbetween. Chuck D is a commanding presence as the front man, his vocal style a perfect fit for the politically minded stance of the band. Alongside him B Real, as much as I love him and Cypress Hill, does sound a little off on a few tracks although he does provide a favorite moment as he lifts LL Cool J's classic flow for an anti-cop statement on "Take Me Higher". That song and "Legalize" do mark a weaker vibe on the record when toning down the traditional sound for something with a more laid back flavor, the instrumentals just don't quite excite the same way.

Its not a consistent record, you can enjoy it immensely from front to back but when it bangs its worthy of Rage's classics. "Hail To The Chief" and "Unfuck The World" simply set the bar to high for other songs on the record, the result is peaks and valleys. The political topics are as to be expected, plenty of food for thought to mull over but the real winner is in the fantastic hooks a couple of tracks drop in the choruses, packing the point into great lines to sing along to at the live shows. Classic Rage is present on this record in full force but only for a few songs.

Favorite Tracks: Unfuck The World, Living On The 110, Hail To The Cheif, Fired A Shot, Who Owns Who
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Enter Shikari "Take To The Skies" (2007)

Its unbelievable to think ten years have flown by but that's life. "Take To The Skies" is the unleashing of our local band Enter Shikari onto the world. Ive seen this band go from the school down the road to headlining festivals and this album is a personal one, loaded full of fond memories and strong emotions. It was a big event, we got to see some of their pivotal shows around that era including their Download performance of the same year in the big blue tent which was absolutely rammed and loaded with mosh pits.

It's no masterpiece but a personal triumph for fans of Enter Shikari, a band you can truly adore if they push your buttons. "Take To The Skies" had no surprises, the culmination of their best songs from years of utterly relentless touring are polished and fined tuned alongside three or so new tracks. Its all glossed up with album quality production and a reworking of the electronics to flesh out all their songs with which raving synth lines that bleed into the interludes lined between a handful of tracks.

In retrospect the lack of subtly on this record is a charm the band would grow with time to gleam upon. The raw fusion of Hardcore throw downs and rampant rave electronics is undeniable in the wake of their youthful energy and inspired charisma. Its never gotten old, the fantastic chemistry to create energetic, uplifting and fun music with a real backbone of feeling and lead them into explosions of aggression with grooving beat downs and guitar chugging breakouts that would always get a crowd moving. Seeing the path they have taken, it becomes apparent how simplistic some of the compositions are but Shikari pull it off with a stroke of inspiration that you cant criticize given its authenticity.

The albums flow is flawed, It gets of to a wild start with fan favorites and two new tracks then the interludes break up the flow and the second half unwinds at a different pace, leading to the fantastic "Adieu" with would showcase the genius to expect of this band leading forward. It ends with the explosive "Ok, Time For Plan B" after its infectious build up, a great choice to end on before the closing tracks echos of the albums opener. It gives the record somewhat of a compilation vibe given the attachment of knowing most the music before its release and I'm not sure if the interludes were an attempt to create a bigger picture with the record as a whole but I never felt it succeeded in doing that, if it was the intent.

 Its the music that's wonderful and the years gone by make me realize how foundational they were as songwriters then. Singer Rou's screams and shouts are so fitting of the scene at that time and stylistically raw. The synths are accents of the tone, not woven in but aligning with the music and in many cases leading it. The beat downs are again atypical of the scene yet executed with an edge of creativity and always in the direction of the music, never rumbling out of nowhere and always feeling like an essential part of the music. Its truly fascinating and speaks volumes to the music these guys would write with their currently best record "The Mindsweep".

I adore this record and trying to be objective I wouldn't consider it a classic but on a personal level the nostalgia, adventure and fun of the time are deeply connected to the music and Shikari will always hold a special place for all the amazing memories. I think even back then we knew this band would be special forever to come. I little gutted now I missed the anniversary show this year but I will see them soon and forever be revisiting this wonderful record. On a final note I think its fitting to point out this record was an independent release on their own record label and their DIY ethic speaks volumes to the passion they have that you can hear running through this album.

Rating: 10/10

Monday, 9 October 2017

Drudkh "Somewhere Sadness Wanders" (2017)

Many years back in my early days of Black Metal discovery I remember Drudkh as one of the first bands I heard branching out from the traditional aggression and satanic oriented sound. Perhaps with a strong influence from Burzum their journey into low fidelity textural guitar distortions brought about a sense of naturism, atmosphere and natural beauty. At the time it was a really odd experience but Id never stuck with the band despite holding them in high regard, they just slipped my mind at the time. All these years later I tune into there latest EP and I'm greeted with a reminder of how we learn music, the textures, melodies, structures and inspiration. This was once a challenging band for me, yet now its a welcoming pleasure. Drudkh are a Ukrainian band who formed in 2002 and have since released ten full lengths and this is the latest of six EPs.

Opening with "All Shades Of Silence" we are hurtled into an immediate wall of sound, thick and textural with shrill melodies bleeding from distortion wrapped in the thunder of blast beats and driven by a pounding baseline. In rather primitive yet effective song structuring this drone of darkness breaks to reveal the light with a shift to another short repeated section of dual guitar work, scaling tremolo picking and churning power chord ripping working off one another in tandem. These simple shifts lead the song into a stark and bleak minimalist composition on the keyboards, a cosmic glimpse as astral synths draw out their spacious tones over a buried, mysterious clicking. In its final phase the song finds its way back to a far more expansive Black Metal tone with Post-Metal guitar leads and an adventurous baseline rumbling up and down the fret board. Its a song that conjures an Ethereal setting, rich in atmosphere, with the harsh contrast of mother natures cruelty through ripping guitar distortions. The second song is more of the same, big blocks of arrangements on repeat, changing up every minute or so, shuffling back and forth and around the five minute mark jumping to an excellent climatic break with heathen chants over the shift in musical intensity.

The music is fantastic, fast, intense yet soothing, indulgent and wondrous in that typically Black Metal way. The guitar texture and riffs are much to my taste but the one thing I couldn't get out of my mind were the song structures. Each song seemed to play of the shifting of the short sections on repeat. Each had four to five each with some variations that made up over twenty minutes of music. Despite seeming simplistic, its extremely effective! Solid record, I have no excuse now to not give them more attention.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Mastodon "Cold Dark Place" (2017)

Hot of the back of the desert sun soaked "Emperor Of Sand", American Sludge Metal rockers Mastodon bring us four songs I hoped were b-sides from their album released earlier this year. I say that because It has grown on me greatly over the months, Mastodon have the experience and talent to write music with depth that lasts. The same could be said of these four songs however, as the title suggests, they have moved on from the warm summery sound into a "Cold Dark Place", with exception to "Toe To Toes", that song would fit snugly into Emperor Of Sand.

Climate, temperature and luminosity are highly suggestive ideas in music. The record certainly kicks off with a chilling tone, its quaint aesthetics let bustling acoustics resonate of a flute line as the song jumps straight into its moment with earthly singing, the two voices chiming with a catchy quirkiness given the sombreness setting. Its a spooky, ethereal place we drift through with an odd moment of Funk as a upbeat jive manages to penetrate this melancholic place as the song unleashes its guitar solos. The groove is rather reminiscent of CKY given the style of singing and flexing riff beneath.

"Blue Walsh" and "Cold Dark Place" are in the same realm of eerie, dark melancholy without any heavy or blunt metallic riffage. Everything is a tapestry of thoughtful riffs layers to resonate and on the first mentioned song, a rather soothing, relaxing atmosphere is conjured with strong plentiful reverberation on the vocals the drifts over the instrumentals like a graceful ghost lost in memory.

Unfortunately, this is Mastodon and so the spell of our three darker tracks are often interspersed with technically dazzling riffs that scale the fret board with pace but in doing so break the spell of this shadowy, chilling setting. The same could be said of the solos too, when the distortion picks up and the more human Rock elements come to the front, it pushes the sombre setting out of mind. I really have enjoyed this record but its kind of bitter sweet as they don't fully embrace the mysterious atmosphere they create on three of the four songs.

Favorite Tracks: North Side Star, Blue Walsh, Toe To Toes
Rating: 5/10

Friday, 6 October 2017

Septic Flesh "Codex Omega" (2017)

Greek veterans Septic Flesh have been at it since the early nineties and "Code Omega" is their tenth full length release and what a fine record it is! Being relatively unfamiliar with the band I don't know a lot about them bar an obscure EP I happen to really like. They play atmospheric and symphonic Death Metal with touches of other extreme sounds identifiable in the constructs of their sound. The symphonic elements of this record are exceptionally fleshed out, mind the pun. It borders on orchestral as the rich tapestry of music compliments the already high fidelity Metal production.

The band generally arrange the strings and symphonies around the rhythm of thunderous drums that pound tribal grooves in tandem with the monstrous thickness of the distortion guitars. When they are stripped back the orchestration arises to fill the gap and in turn dials it down when the guitars take lead. This rather mechanical sounding approach works ever so well as the melodies, grooves composed compliment each other well and work towards the same overall theme and sense of atmosphere, allowing them to be inherently different and playing to the strengths of whats needed in the progression of the songs.

The majority of these songs unfold like epic battles, the sirens of war call out alongside the crushing onslaught of chugging guitars and battering blast beats. Singer Antoniou roars his deep growling guttural words like a battle cry. Climatic break outs and shifts in direction create a true sense of direction as they spark the imagination to what events are unfolding in this cinematic experience. Its not all brutality and bludgeoning, bursts of light creep in as breaks to melodic lead sections are graced by the capable and authentic clean vocals of guitarist Vayenas.

There is little to falter, fantastic, sublime production brings crisp and bright instruments together in an extreme setting. My only complaint would be the occasional lack of charm, "Faceless Queen" chugs out a monotone syncopated groove with an incessant jolting of strings. It makes its point, creating a state of immanent fear and danger but does so with blunt force and a few other moments like this felt like the craft slipped for a moment. Otherwise its a sturdy collection of songs with the acoustic guitar lead "Trinity" closing the album on a throwback to the "Eldest Cosmonaut" EP I am fond of. This is probably because its the only other record of theirs I know!

Favorite Tracks: Martyr, Enemy Of Truth, The Gospels Of Fear, Trinity
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Public Service Broadcasting "Every Valley" (2017)

Its been a couple of years in the works but the London based trio Public Service Broadcasting are back with another unique work of interest revolved entirely around the decline of the coal mining industry of Southern Wales. The outfit bring together gleaming atmospheric Post-Rock and soft guitar grooves with subtle electronics for their own brand of calming music that straddles the lines between the forefront and background of your attention. Its a sweet spot to operate where their unique sampling of the archives of British Pathe archives creates an artistic, nostalgic and retrospective narrative for the music to revolve around. This topic couldn't of been more fitting for them.

Instrumentally the record may in some ways seem unremarkable. There is a lack of upfront immediacy or urgency in the compositions, with exception to the alarming, danger ridden "All Out" that plays like a climax of violence. Its mostly laid back, chilled out and generally a soothing experience for the listener as soft melodies and licks resonate of one another. Its in their choice of sampling and guest vocalists that the record comes to life. Under the spell of gentle, peaceful music the stage is set for deep thought as the vocal snippets of miners, union workers and community members tell the tales of their perceived wrong doing, sparking the mind into reflection. Although its focused around the mining strikes of the 80s and the industries demise in general, there is much to be taken away from the wisdom and truths that emerge, perhaps with some intentional parallels to our modern times.

A significant change in approach is the inclusion of guest singers who I suspect may have ties to the history of the coal miners, given native Welsh singing on one track. There traditional singing changes the format somewhat and the women's soft effeminate voices are far more suited for the environment and mood of the record than the males singers. Its a strange quirk but the two men just didn't seem in place with the music. The album itself starts strong with powerful themes and musical ideas however "All Out" is a turning point it never recovers from. After that fiery affair the record fizzles out as its unwinding of intensity looses its ability to captivate. The first half is fantastic however, the second seems to stretch what was initially a bright and welcoming chemistry.

Favorite Tracks: The Pit, Progress, All Out
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Satyricon "Deep Calleth Upon Deep" (2017)

Satyricon may not be the first band to come to mind when discussing Norwegian Black Metal but they have their place in its history. Around since the dawn of the 90s as a Death Metal outfit the group quickly switched to the new rebellious sound, releasing a couple of demo's before the scene blew up in the wake of scandalous church burning and murder. After a handful of records some consider classics, the duo Frost and Satyr strayed from the scenes roots leading into the millennium and developed their slower, discordant, somewhat atmospheric take on the music which has never received much critical acclaim but has grown them an niche audience.

Their last release, the self titled, was said to be a real stinker and so I gave it a pass, thus arriving at this new release with pretty low expectations. "Deep Calleth Upon Deep" is a murmuring stroll of a record that wanders through its various arrangements of ideas at a leisurely pace. With little urgency and barely any gusto the duo muster together riffs in a dull and dark setting. The tone is drab, linear and aesthetically rather flat despite a crisp distortion tone. The music is all guitar led and the only apparent chemistry is between the weaving riffs and Frost who throws down uninspired beats in varying degrees of intensity as Satyr wails thin and grisly half screams on queue with the songs tempo.

Monochromatic is the word that comes to mind, this record is narrow and lifeless. In an odd way there is a charm about its one dimensional vision. Something I think a different listener might find get a kick from but for me it was mostly dull bar an occasional moment to perk the ears. Everything here is driven by one guitar track, interlining sliding guitar leads and plucked notes between low end power chords. On occasional its technically impressive, almost always leaning into the unusual and unexpected spectrum of composition but lacking the inspiration to whisk these ideas into proper songs.

In a scattering of moments other sounds enter the music like half baked ideas. Satanic, worrisome operatic chants wobble in the distance with a guest vocal on the title track. The opening of "Dissonant" includes avant-garde trumpet playing buried under the guitars and wherever another dimension of sound opens up its always half committed, taking the wind out of its sails. Disappointing, this record could have been better as it does encroach on a unique flavor and moments of interest but with mainly weak and forgettable tracks it plays like a grey wash of blandness.

Favorite Tracks: Deep Calleth Upon Deep, Burial Rite
Rating: 3/10

Monday, 2 October 2017

Enter Shikari "The Spark" (2017)

I felt an immense disappointment after the first play through of "The Spark", for it was as if the spark itself had gone from Enter Shikari, a band who Ive followed from my local schools to headlining festivals over the past decade. On reflection "The Mindsweep" is an immense record from a band who can sweep you up with their passion and persona without having to write subjectively brilliant music. That record was the moment where their identity found a new level, a musical brilliance that could possibly see it as their magnum opus, it was also my favorite record of 2015.

With repeated listens I found my way into the record and have my finger on the pulse of my initial reaction. The bar had been raised, expectation were high but Shikari make an artistic shift in direction that rubbed me the wrong way. The links to Metal and Hardcore have been severed, distortion guitars, breakdowns and explosions of energy are no more and these were often my favorite moments in their songs. The rest of what we know remains intact but we also hear a fervent shift to a more vulnerable emotive form of Rock that reminds me distinctly of Radiohead. This is especially so on a handful of songs where Rou opens up his voice for an honest softness to resonate over light instrumentation.

You can hear this new direction best on "Airfield" which leads straight into the contrasting "Rabble Rouser", a song that depicts the old Shikari perfectly. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a song left over from their previous direction. Its an electronic party club track with some light, overdriven chopping guitar licks in the build to a where you'd expect to find an explosive break down of sorts. Instead the track never finds climax despite being a solid track. I can't help but feel there is a conscious decision at work to not go down that avenue, even if the direction can still be felt in the music they write.

Change is always welcome, can't expect an artist to spin the same tricks forever but with a step to the side we also take a step back. "The Spark" is a fine record with a plentiful offering of emotionally warm music. Shikari tone down the aggression and flesh out the themes and lyrics of their songs with rich, colorful instrumentation, interweaving many electronic tones with light guitars in an uplifting spirit. "Undercover Agents" may brush up along side the currently popular "woah-oah-oah" chants but where they get excessively catchy and accessible it still seems very authentic and genuine. Given the current state of affairs, Rou's lyrics tackle the events of recent years that have shook many people with poetic turns of phrase that make for captivating hooks and choruses.

As a collection of songs its a fine affair but the flow of the record is somewhat choppy as the tone, mood and intensity fluctuates between and within the tracks. It really does feel like a transitional record for the band however this doesn't hinders the brilliance of these musicians from charming us with another swell of great musical ideas again. It has a fantastic production, a lot more creativity in the percussive department and with less reliance on the guitars they can still muster the sing along spirit that will have you bopping along at the live show! I hope they will grow well into this turn of pace.

Favorite Songs: The Sights, Live Outside, Take My Country Back, The Revolt Of The Atoms
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Biohazard "State Of The World Address" (1994)

It must of been around ten years ago that I picked up a couple records from the legendary Biohazard of NYC. I didn't get that far into their music and given their city it should be no surprise to hear they pulled elements of Metal and Hardcore together with a wealthy influence of Hip Hop, something you'd guess I'm dead into. Their thuggish street attitude and hardcore raps lined the Crossover sound with what was to be commonly know as Rap Metal before Nu Metal had yet to happen. Watching Noisy's piece on Post-Malone a segment with the rapper miming the words to "Tales From The Hardstyle" had me gripped, after learning it was Biohazard I have been binging on this record!

This record has a ton of energy, hurtling towards you through the lively guitars ripping Hardcore and Metal grooves on bruising distortion tones. Lined with a crisp and cutting drum kit the stage is set for vocalists Seinfeld and Graziadei to raise the stakes with shouted lyrics and raps, often blurring the lines between the two. Their best flows often cruise over the grooviest sections of riffage in the songs and plenty of gang shouts help bolster the street mentality that can be heard throughout the record.

A couple of tracks really blaze the trail but despite the lively setting and arising attitude a lot of the songs falls back on mediocre riffs that get a little dull after many listens. A couple of odd ideas crop up in the track listing. "Failed Territory" sounds entirely from a different band, an enchanting Spanish guitar leads us into an dark, haunting orchestral interlude that would be more fitting on a Cradle Of Filth record with its dark and illustrious keys clattering echos of Chopin's Funeral Macrbe. The intro to "Love Denied" also stars with dramatic, melancholy keys that might think you were being led into a heartache ballad if it wasn't for a an obtuse guitar solo grounding the theme in its Metal setting.

Both those moments felt out of place but otherwise its a really fun record with a fair weight of heavy topics between empowering strength and mentality focused Hardcore messages. Its been a great re-introduction to them but reading up on the band their prior release "Urban Discipline" seems to be their crowning moment so that's what ill be checking out next!

Favorite Tracks: Down For Life, Tales From The Darkside, Five Blocks To The Subway, Lack There Of
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Wiley "Godfather" (2017)

 Grime continues to grow bigger and I'm short of excuses, its about time I dived into another artist besides Dizzee Rascal and what a place to start! Its veteran Grime MC Wiley's eleventh album since his debut back in 2004 and Godfather is clearly the product of a master at work. At thirty eight years old Wiley brings a heavyweight of experience and craft to his rhymes, elevating the style beyond the street swagger and dialectic eccentricity Grime MC's rely on to a place of true substance. There's barely a word wasted across fifty four minutes of filthy banging beats and beefed up energetic raps with plenty to say.

Wiley's voice dominates the record with the sharpest flow and wit but he also brings over a dozen friends to feature on the tracks creating a wealth of variety as they handle some of the hooks and choruses too. Everyone brings their best and the same can be said of the instrumental production, lively, loud obnoxious beats with groove and attitude command your attention. The album vibes on dark and grizzly atmospheres with violent, menacing beats echoing the sound of London's streets. Slick mafioso strings rub up against dirty buzzing baselines and gunshots litter the gaps between sturdy, crisp, hard hitting kits that lay down tight patterns to anchor the rhymes and instruments together on the same wavelength.

Its one banging track after the next, the foot is never let of the gas and Wiley's sharp, concise flows make it easy to follow his train of thought as he slides in plenty of technically gifted trickery, sliding in bursts of double tempo words. Between the boisterous status affirming stances loaded with smart word play a couple of remarkable messages emerge, the story of the come up plays on "Speakerbox" stating the struggle origin artists like Wiley went through to make Grime happen and set the stage for future generations who can now do this without help from record labels. "Laptop" tells a more personal story of the hard work and grind centered around the love of making music on his MacBook.

Godfather scratched itches that modern Hip Hop hasn't come close to in recent memory bar Kendrick Lamar. Although the album is strictly Grime, "U Were Always Great" has a fantastic instrumental reminiscent of Jazz Hop summer time chill outs. Its all positives although a fairly predictable streak of materialism runs through on tracks like "Name Brand" given the fashion culture around the scene. The track "Bang" plays with fire as guest MC Ghetts goes spitting with an overtly aggressive tone that avoids being to much to bare. The strong instrumental holds it together and I'm left walking away from this one itching for more. The question is what Grime record should I pickup next?

Rating: 8/10
Favorite Tracks: Bring Them All, Joe Bloggs, Bang, U Were Always Part 2,

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Contortionist "Clairvoyant" (2017)

Shaking all remnants of their "uber brootal", technical indulgences of past, the Indiana Metal outfit The Contortionist mark their first decade as a band with this new full length that feels like a sophomore release given the dramatic shift in sound that 2014s "Language" brought about. Three years later "Clairvoyant" follows up by shaking the echos of old with barely no screamed vocals and the toning down of distortions to let the musical compositions shine brightly as an aesthetic treat of delicious instruments forming in a union of sound, poised to illuminate expressions and dazzle with melodics.

Being so familiar with its successor, "Clairvoyant" was an instant success, picking up exactly where they left off, it has been an indulging fifty four minutes that continues to deliver even as I listen and write now. After ten or so spins I feel as if I'm just stirring the surface water, the depth of an ocean below unknown. Despite being familiar with the songs, they continue to ooze with aesthetic charm and swells of inspiration as the density of compositions relays the same ideas through all its dimensions of instruments that are gracefully in sync with one another on this rich journey.

The music has a fantastic sense of pace, its progression dynamic and fluent with the contractions its riffs and leads bring about as every twist and return comes with space to breath and reflect. The keyboards play a huge role on this record as the glue that holds the music together, interweaving themselves in the density that lurks behind the guitar led sections and as they break, the keys rise to the fold, moving the atmosphere along between the highs and lows the dense music explores and quite often coming to the forefront with typically Progressive Rock like leads.

Singer Lessard gives a very self indulgent performance, swooning in his own voice he reaches for the subtle, soft and harmonies qualities in his voice and gently pushes them out to the waters. A lyrical dimension is obviously prevalent as the power of some words resonates greatly over top of the instrumentals. Its icing on the cake of a wonderfully atmospheric and indulgent set of songs that take their time to fully experience the magic of their melody without packing it into conventional means. They rather to explore those moments in their illustrious production which is a marvel of sound, getting an utterly sweet and supple aesthetic in a dense environment of energetic instruments that gel together with power and thickness. Its a massive step forward for the group, shedding the now irrelevant screams and metallic guitar moments its predecessor had stitched in. These songs will be fantastic to catch live, which I hope to do so soon!

Rating: 9/10

Friday, 22 September 2017

Souls Of Mischief "93 Til Infinity" (1993)

Five or so years ago I would of adored an album like this. Its clearly got those classic 90s Hip Hop vibes, soulful and jazzy with funky fresh flows. Back then I just couldn't get enough of the scene, Ive listened to so much of it now I'm actually surprised this one managed to get past me. The Souls Of Mischief are four MC's from the West Coast who are part of the Hieroglyphics collective led by Del The Funky Homosapien, who unsurprisingly produces a couple of tracks and features a verse on another track. Despite being from the West Coast, Souls don't rock the G-Funk vibes, in fact their sound more so resembles the East Coast but their streak of uniqueness is both in the technical yet inspired raps and the instrumentals which combine elements of the smoother Jazz Hop with the hype and energy of Boom Bap.

93 Til Infinity is their debut and said to be the groups best, such a common occurrence in Hip Hop. With an abundance of youthful energy and desire to make themselves heard, Souls put together a rich journey of impressions told through the lens of their lively, rugged rhyme styles which stand apart from the crowd. With a majority of smooth sounds drawing samples from Jazz and Funk, the MCs bring contrasting flows that duck and weave with the lyrical dexterity for trading blows between intricate mid sentence rhyme play, flow chopping and train of thought consciousness raps. Its all impressive and at times the flows can get quite technical but one of the group, Opio, has a nasal tone and on a couple of songs the fidelity of the mics used gives it a thin and rasp sound, a slight gripe I have but the point should be the contrast. All four have tones and flows that stick out from the often smooth backing which is its charm, on occasions it can dip a touch to far.

There's no doubt you'll find plenty of favorite lines scattered across the fourteen tracks. At fifty five minutes it does draw on but the group have a lot more to say than the average record. Apart from one or two boisterous tracks and flows it seems as if there is always a point to be made, an observation to be told and it comes through plenty of tricksy flows to show off the groups creativity. The production is somewhat varied to my ears, there's quite a clutter of sampling at work and through the layers a strong vibe emerges however there are a handful of songs where the clutter is a bit much the song gets muddy and some of the samples rub up against each other. The drums however are always sturdy, providing a solid bombastic groove for the flows to align with.

I didn't get deep into this record but a few years back this would of been my addiction. The vibes are on point and the lyrics are continually charming with creativity and originality and I think you could really get into some of the more technical flows that demonstrate multi syllable rhyming ans all sorts of techniques to sink your teeth into as a listener. Its been a fun listening experience, I can totally dig why people say 93 Til Infinity is a classic!

Favorite Tracks: Live And Let Live, A Name I Call Myself, Anything Can Happen
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Milk Teeth "Be Nice" (2017)

Here on the music blog I have covered all the previous releases from this promising young band."Vile Child" and "Sad Sack" were both equally impressive records that captured the spirit of 90s Grunge yet spun it with their own taste and character that spared them from being seen as a nostalgia act. This limited four track release unfortunately looses the spark of uniqueness as their noisy and textually adventurous aspects of the guitar work are stripped back for a crisper, cleaner recording.

"Be Nice" still has the foundation for the energetic grungy attitude however the climatic moments here are not working. The big howling Post-Rock leads that usual swoon away in these songs can be heard shimmering into the fold but lack a striking melody or aesthetic magic to elevate the song like they have done so before. The ideas are certainly present but going back to old songs like "Burger Drop" or "Trampoline" the gulf of emotional impact is massive. So much magic emerges in those old tracks which are far more inventive than these four which seem to be hedged in by the cleanliness.

 Not to dwell on negatives, the drumming is fantastic here, a ton of energy sprawling out across the kit with fantastic fills, rolls and driving beats that really pulled along the riffs, which again felt a little sterile given the clean production. The lyrical themes are decent, musing on relationships and commitment with life on the road. Its really not a bad record at all but I expected so much more from this group and thus disappointment. I hope an album is on the way but if they are gunning for a cleaner sound with less of that big and noisy guitar work I'm probably not going to be keen.

Rating: 3/10

Monday, 18 September 2017

KMFDM "Hell Yeah" (2017)

I almost passed on this new release from the German Industrial legends "Kein Mehrheit Fur Die Mitleid" and having given "Hell Yeah" a few plays through that would of been wise. Why? Its exactly what I expected, 2014's "Our Time Will Come" was interesting given it had been a while since I last checked in them. Its clear KMFDM have got their sound down to a science, a formula they repeat every few years and so the music was predictable. This is their twentieth full length and its actually the second longest gap between records which is kinda remarkable considering they have been consistently at it for over thirty years since 1986.

And so we have another fifty minutes of fist pounding Industrial Rock loaded with harsh EBM beats and electro synths that don't offer a lot of depth in terms of replay value and subtly. Its all upfront, in your face with all of the instruments compressed, loud and very audible. The compositions interweave electronic melodies and samples backed by hard ripping distortion guitars and the incessant steady thudding of club kick beats. Its reasonable but no surprising or memorable moments arise from a sturdy set of instrumentals mostly arranged in verse chorus.

The most interesting aspect is the typically anarchistic social-politically minded lyrics which take current topics and stir them into statement ridden lyrics, making it very clear where on the left they stand. They do provide a few catchy hooks or lines with insight to ponder on, IE the "Fake News" bringing up an idea of "news addiction" which I found to be an insightful statement. The albums cover further enforces the current topical nature of the music but its not much to save this from being the same sound spun again. Not even the production seems to have progressed and so we have a predictable record. Although I like the bands style and sound, this record offered nothing new bar one or two intriguing lyrics.

Favorite Tracks: Freak Flag, Fake News
Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Nine Inch Nails "Add Violence" (2017)

Its been four years since the last full length NIN record and fans are still crying out for more! At the end of 2016 we got the short EP "Not The Actual Events" and seven months later another short experience comes our way with rumors of a third in the works to make up a trilogy. In my mind this record sets itself up for disappointment with a huge contrast between the remarkable opening track "Less Than" and its ambient, atmosphere driven tracks that follow. "Not Anymore" musters aggression again in a noisy whirl of gritty bassline distortion and ambiguous, eerie synths that culminate with an explosive emergence of industrious groove and textural ecstasy from its crying sirens. It though, doesn't par with the vibes of its opener.

Its to short of a record to bridge the gaps between the different avenues of Trent's genius. It kicks of with retro jiving synths pulsating over muddy dissonant bass noise, the words and rhymes sung with a 90s edge that kicks into a sublime chorus so fitting of that era. In a strange way Trent's "So what are you waiting for?" hook reminds me of Oasis, if anything its a sign of where the musics coming from. A simple power chord arrangement flying high in a dense wall of sound the breaks out from the verses. Its one of the best songs Ive heard from him but that's not saying much given my lack of time with the NIN discography.

The energy, intensity and momentum is switched off instantly as the next two songs roll into the quiet and calm of downtempo electronic ambience. "The Lovers" has a fantastic backbone beat and murmuring melody that plays like the beating of a heart or ticking by of time, ceasing a sense of passing time as Trent calls through the fog of a chilling and lonely soundscape. The following number is similar with Ethereal vibes creeping into its dense and rich layers of sound that subtly moan and groan with what sounds like an effeminate voice buried between layers of sleepy sounds.

The record drones out with an experiment in noise manipulation as the final loop of music at the four minute mark is repeated over and over for a further seven minutes with increasing distortion, eventually devolving into a tonal mess with no resemblance to where it started. It stretches the run time with little avail. Its been an interesting listen but the stellar songs really deserved a slot in a full length project, on this EP they might go by unnoticed by some fans.

Favorite Tracks: Less Than, This Isn't The Place
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Soley "We Sink" (2011)

Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Soley has created a rather beautiful piece of memorable melancholy with her debut "We Sink". The albums theme has been stirring deep in my mind these past few months, its cutesy childlike innocence takes a dreamy, wandering stroll towards harm as playful curiosity leads to a dark haunting with a handful of the albums songs. It alone is not the only charm, where danger is not near a stream of soothing delicate emotion ripples from her sweet and graceful voice, singing humble, personal tales over folksy acoustic guitars and warm, golden piano notes. With gentle instruments and guileless percussion, aesthetics take a powerful roll in setting the tone as natural ambiences, fidelity and microphone choices characterize the instruments meaning in the music.

"Bad Dream" is the albums first turn to shadows, the microphone and its use of reverberation gives the song an early recording nostalgia that heavily emphasis the aesthetic subtlety found steering key instruments in several songs throughout. "Kill That Clown" echos an innocence passing through black flames as a sublime solo piano orchestrates a dark, harrowing presence for Soley's voice to wander by, unaware of whats lurking in the shadows. Another dark track "About Your Funeral" has a fantastic example of the childish innocence infecting the rhythm with playful beat boxed rhythm. This can also be heard on the opener "I'll drown" with its percussion made of knocks and taps like the smashing of toys for instinctive, primal sounds.

These elements come together for entrancing songs that captivate attention with their emotional connections to wondrous and personal places that flirt with darkness in moments. The lyrics constantly teeter on pain and the contrast between its inviting nature and apparently darker meanings create an air of mystery that illuminates an ambiguity lurking in every moment of this record. Its without a weak point, every song goes somewhere and a couple really do strike a nerve in their element. This is a stunning debut that will only entice me for more now.

Favorite Tracks: I'll Drown, Blue Leaves, Kill That Clown, About Your Funeral, Theater Island
Rating: 8/10

Monday, 11 September 2017

Dagoba "Black Nova" (2017)

Celebrating twenty years of existance this French Metal band release their seventh full length after a couple of lineup changes leaving only two original band mates. I only know of the group thanks to their 2006 album "What Hell Is About" gaining some tracking within the burgeoning Deathcore scene, it wasn't one I were particularly keen on. Back then they were a hybrid of Groove and Industrial Metal with a sonic approach. A decade later you'd still describe it the same way, however the overall quality of writing and recording has improved substantially. Far better than what I remember of them.

Dagoba's music crawls forward with dark, mechanical atmospheres born of dense, syncopated grooves from thick distortion guitars and punchy drum tones that wage war with hard strikes and rapid blasts alternating with precision. Its a rather flat and monotone approach that rarely extends beyond low end grooves and the rhythmical muting of chords. They are brought to life by the synth and samples which inflict rapid Trance like leads, mechanical industrial noises to detail the spaces and drawn out atmospheric keys for a tonal richness.

Singer and founding member Shawter runs the show with grizzly shouts and burly short screams that are rather commonplace. He brings the band an edge with his clean vocals that have somewhat of a unique character or distinction, however they are only utilized on four tracks. "Inner Sun", the albums opener past the intro, makes fantastic use of this cleaner voice as they break through the noise of Trance synths busying up the metallic intensity. On "Lost Gravity" they stand more so on there own and the guitars cut in and out, its not as favorable.

The group don't pull a lot of wild cards on this record, its all pretty tame and sustainable for a handful of listens. A few good tracks show they are capable of more but ultimately it boils down to being a rather mediocre record built from decent aesthetics and a rock solid production. They do show signs of being able to writing gripping music but only when they break from the onslaught the of distortion guitars and drums battering away to focus on what little melody they offer. Ive enjoyed it a lot these two weeks but bar the one song its not particularly stuck with me.

Favorite Track: Inner Sun
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Crimson Glory "Transcendence" (1988)

I fancied getting a little "old skool" with my Metal music and browsing through some online top lists this 1988 "classic" caught my attention, primarily for being labeled Progressive Metal at i wasn't to familiar with the genres roots bar Dream Theater who would drop their first album a year later. Crimson Glory are a five piece outfit from Florida who are still active despite not releasing any new material in this millennium. Id personally describe them as a traditional Heavy Metal and Power Metal hybrid however the influences of Progressive Rock are unmistakable, there is a clear elevation in song structure with time signatures and intricacies to ponder on throughout. Poised at a time where Thrash and Death Metal were starting to drastically change the identity and sound of the genre, Crimson hold onto the traditions but expand them with musical dexterity.

Transcendence isn't an album Ive dove to deep into but its lyrics portray fantasy themes of mythical beasts, lands of eternal season and dramatized figures of monarchical rule. Singer "Midnight" flexes these lyrics between a traditional range and the ear piercing wails of high pitched power done as good as the greats like Rob Halford of Judas Priest and Kind Diamond. On "Red Sharks" however the tone shifts to paranoid themes of communist threats in the mist! Sticks out like a sore thumb against the rest but doesn't detract from the fun music.

My vocabulary for describing these traditional Heavy Metal style songs is limited but what I can point to is the craft in song writing that guides the prowl and patrol verses into journeys with fantastic breaks for illuminating guitar solos that crescendo outbursts of color as acoustic chords chime with bright lead guitars and the rock solid rhythm guitar. These are the moments that the transcendence occurs, separating them from the likes of Dio and others in that genre. In other moments the band make great use of synths that might sound a little cheesy given the tone and age but they are executed without gimmick at fit snugly into the songs where they crop up. The drums have a big stadium feel, fit for the stage with plenty of gated reverb on the toms, very 80s. The bass guitar is mixed well, you can hear it often mirroring the guitars with little deviations and inflections.

All the components here add up to a terrific record that given its decade is certainly a gem, just not one too my taste. This form of Metal doesn't resonate strongly with me and without an emotional attachment much of its sparkle becomes more appreciative than impacting. It in no way turned me off though, in fact I think with more repetition it could grow on me. For now I will shelve this one for a rainy day, I'm sure the absence will give these songs new meaning when they return.

Favorite Songs: Masque Of The Red Death, In Dark Places, Burning Bridges
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 4 September 2017

IGORRR "Savage Sinusoid" (2017)

Kicking off with a horrid and vile, throaty scream, Igorrr's manic shouts plunge us into a pummeling groove of crunchy extreme metal distortion riffage accommodated by a textural ravishing of glitched out breakbeat manipulations that grow in intensity and complexity. Its obnoxious, absurd and with the second song, a Baroque harpsichord melody sets the tone for the excepted collision of worlds as a manly sung operatic voice groans with passion, steadily twisting into deviated screams of horror. Its a firm opening for an album that delivers the best I could of hoped for.

Its been five years since "Hallelujah" and the wait seems worthwhile as all that felt hazardous, novelty and experimental has been banished from sight. Perhaps its my accustom to his style or a genuine maturity but this release plays like a full album, a solid listening experience that delivers plenty of satisfying songs lavished in all sorts of bizarre oddities. This time around they feel as if with purpose and direction, rather than a slew of experiments trying to out-weird one another. That was the problem with previous records but this ones had me in the grip of its jaws continually returning for more of its notably more metal oriented pandemonium.

As to be expected gnarly breaks and blasts form a tireless spine perpetually stretched, squeezed, twisted and turned patterns manipulated through pitch, pace and repetition. Its distortion is the ecstasy that fails to work alone. "Robert" for example a breakbeat solo of sorts that only finds its groove in its final moments as more sounds flesh out its feel after a stretch of dizzying manipulations. The best of the percussion comes from the dense tracks where extreme guitar tones grind away alongside equally abrasive synths and noisy buzz saws.

The Baroque, Renaissance counterpart, or whatever you wish to call it, has its heart in operatic vocals and soft, luscious compositions on classical instruments, sampled or original the voices always seem to find their way to darkness. The musics roll in the record is much of its own as Igorrr finds a far better cohesion between the contrasting styles, often transitioning between the two sounds rather that forcing them together. As a result the album flows from chaos to beauty with the occasional collisions arising in between that are far better than anything I remember previously. Aesthetically and idealistically not much has changed but it is the composition and song writing that triumph here for a concise record that fills its forty minutes to the brim with some of his best material to date!

Favorite Tracks: Viande, Probléme D'émotion, Spagetti Forever, Apopathodiaphulatophobia, Au Revoir
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 1 September 2017

FKA Twigs "M3LL155X" (2015)

Two years ago there was quite a buzz around this EP. I saw it mentioned and praised in various places and always meant to give it a spin but it got past my attention span at the time. Given a nudge from a reader I made sure to pick up a copy and give it a whirl. The stylized title of capital letters and numbers is simply "Mellissa", a name for Twigs's self descibed "female energy". Released of the back of her debut LP tour, its the third shorter release but my only point of reference at this point in time.

Melissa is undoubtedly pushing into Experimental and Avant-Garde territory as tropes of generalized Electronica and R&B find themselves deconstructed without a semblance of melody, riff or tune in the instrumentals. Convention is pushed aside in favor of soundscape and atmosphere, intricacies of twisting, glitched, manipulated percussive sounds intertwine to dissimulate groove as illusive rumbles and noises groan and drift in and out of focus. "In Time" makes an exception as a soft synth lead churns a simple two part melody through the opening phase of the song cautiously blossoming with expansive, alien metallic synths.

 These spacious, paranoid atmospheres create a unique contradiction to the flavorful soft, dynamic and powerful voice of Twigs who's seemingly a talented yet somewhat typical R&B singer. In this environment her voice flourishes as a the soul emergence of beauty. Set in a vulnerable, exposed position, the harmony, melodies and expression in her voice becomes the illuminating chemistry that contradicts its juxtaposition to the twisted, shadowy instrumentals rich in ambiguity and illusion. Its continually captivating but the sort of singing that might go unnoticed in the easy going, popular, formulaic construct usually associated with the R&B style. I really enjoyed one moment where the auto tune was turned on as she drops into a spoken, casual dialect "You've got a god damned nerve".

I'm glad I delayed writing this blog post. After ten or so listens I didn't dislike Mellissa but It wasn't doing much for me. Ive often said repetition is key and in the last few days the musical connection really opened up. All Ive described was always there, just in a less emotional context. As the familiarity settled in the chemistry started to blossom. I didn't care much for the lyrics on the record but as I heard her voice more as an instrument It really started to click. Now both her voice and the instrumentals are a real gem. I'm going to keep listening to this one, and pick up her debut LP too! This record is well worth your time if you like more noise and atmosphere driven songs.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 28 August 2017

Dizzee Rascal "Raskit" (2017)

It seems to be a common theme lately that I'm checking in with artists after some absence. Dizzee Rascal's an old favorite from the pool of UK rappers, arguably the biggest to emerge from the Grime scene which exploded well over a decade ago. Its still going strong as ever today but as Dizzee wrestles with in his lyrics, hes no longer the biggest or relevant voice in the scene he once was. Times have changed and after a dip in quality on "The Fifth", "Raskit" is the rascal standing his ground, returning to roots and affirming his relevance after drifting into the mainstream with catchy singles and a weak album. "Maths And English" was my last and I adore a couple of tracks on that release, like the banging "Pussyole", an aggressive, gritty mean diss-track rapped over the classic "It Takes Two" by Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock. That was ten years ago! Time flies.

"Raskit" Is a fun record with meat to get your teeth into on the more topical tracks. Dizzee affirms himself with technically impressive flows and a plentiful passion as he goes hard on the mic with a flurry of sharp, witty rhymes and bursts of tongue twisting delivery. Sturdy from start to end the rapping is flavorful, varied and impressive but lyrically its a little varied. With a fantastic track like "Bop N Keep It Dippin" we go from an infectious hook and deep reflective rhymes on the Grime come up into "She Knows What She Wants", a cheap flirtatious throwaway with irritating repetition and cheeky rhymes. Dizzee takes us on some impressive journeys through his thoughts but also falls back on some light minded cheap thrill tracks too which break up what I think was an important focus for this album, the reflection and introspection he has at this point in his career.

Behind him an arsenal of fantastic instrumentals whirl away with deep spacious, textural baselines, sharp, snappy drums and a rich synthetic aesthetic. The beats sway between Grime and Hip Hop, on a handful of tracks diving deep into classic G-Funk vibes with audacious base grooves and ghetto whistles. Its a riot, an continual stream of beats that dips into both ends of the spectrum with "Sick A Dis" getting its teeth into classic Gime vibes with dirty, disconnected synths illuminating over a lively snap and kick drum groove. Its a stellar setting with variety that's in a jumble across the fifty seven minutes. I personally feel this album has a touch to much fluff that needs trimming out because between a couple of passable numbers there's a goldmine of talent from an artist getting back on it and striking hard.

Favorite Tracks: Focus, Wot U Gonna Do, Bop And Keep It Dippin, Everything Must Go, Slow Your Roll, Man Of The Hour
Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Decapitated "Anticult" (2017)

Its been a decade since drummer Witold Kieltyka tragically died at the young age of 23. he formed the Polish band with his brother at only twelve years old! Witold was prodigy to say the least, hammering down fast and brutal drum patterns as a teen. Decapitated stood out as a young band with a promising future however in this day they sound like a shell of their former selves. With only founding member Vogg left on guitar's they have stripped back the brutality and transformed into a rather common sounding Melodic Death Metal outfit, at least rhythmically as there isn't to much of a focus on melody here. That's not to say the musics bad, just that what once set them apart from other bands is a distant memory on this record.

Anticult starts out as a warmer, inviting record with some gleaming guitar leads and progressive riff constructs arranged between the high octane Death guitar grinding. With Thrash overtones and shades of Groove the band put on a more palatable, appealing show in the beginning stages. As the record draws on deafening blast beats leaner riffage start to take hold and on a couple of tracks with the relentless double pedal rattle echos their old identity. It starts out warm and steadily leads us into dark territory as the mid section delivers a few moments of grinding brutality and aesthetic onslaught.

As the record draws on more melodies and mosh friendly riffs emerge, bringing about those festival music vibes, the sort of Metal fit for the open air. Its that kind of appeasing record, it may be full of blast beats and tonally dense instruments but its squeaky clean production eliminates the visceral aspect, making the slick snares and sharp, crisp guitar tones an aesthetic treat. Its all set to make a great record but not many of the songs stuck with me. An enjoyable listen but a lack of meat and spark in the song writing to really turn a technically decent record into anything of merit to my ears.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Drake "More Life" (2017)

Canadian rapper Drake is arguably one of the biggest names in the modern scene and given the old guards distaste for him I never actually listened to the guy until Youtube's autoplay feature spun a few tracks. I like his style, its easy and inviting, with him being from my generation you can hear strong influences from the likes of Kanye West and Eminem in his approach to the craft. This newest release was possibly an odd place to start, the better lyrical themes revolve around a man who's climbed to the top and is now mystified to the pressures and contradictions of those heights, as he says you get praise on the way up and when you reach the summit everyone takes aim.

After four albums "More Life" is classified as a playlist, it even says "A playlist by October Firm" which I find odd given the lack of flow the album has. There are three or so different themes and ideas colliding here on a lengthy release that amasses eighty one minutes without a sense of direction. Between a collection of more "traditional" tracks Drake dives into swooning soulful vibes on tracks like "Passionfruit" as some subtle auto tune singing plays sweetly into a summery, jazzy laid back instrumentals fit for relaxing in the sun. Breaking up the pace, the inclusion of English Grime rappers like Giggs and Skepta sets a contrasting tone for another theme that takes hold, the "badman" raps, acting mean and menacing on the beat, dropping laughable rhymes like "batman! dun-nu-nut neh-neh".

The album opens with Nai Palm of Kaiyote Hiatus singing, a sample lift from their latest record, slightly confusing as it doesn't provide much of a link for the banging "Free Smoke" to roll of from. After a dark badman track with Giggs the album rolls into a groove with a string of indulgent songs boasting some Jazz, Downtempo and Dance influences to blur the Hip Hop lines as Drake flexes with tuneful sung raps. As the flow is broken up we get a track from Travis Scott, who's Rodeo album has massively grown n me. In his typical style we get what feels like a leftover beat, an insentient flute melody loops all the way through as excessive reverbs and auto-tuned vocals drone on. A cringey "skirt skirt" slang cries out in such a cliche way for these sometimes tiresome trap songs. Its a low point in that album that track to track goes all over the place.

"Teenage Fever" was surprising track, moody, slow and introspective vibes are pulled together for a fantastic chorus lifting lyrics from the Jenifer Lopez song "If I Had Your Love". Its a diabolical Pop song from the naughties that I never thought I would enjoy, even in this abstract way. After this point the music slowly winds down with spacious tracks that don't stir much of a reaction. The best of the record comes when it detours from the traditional "Hip Hop" song conventions. Drake's lyrics are also engaging when hes not singing, the perspectives on the turn of success speak loud and his engaging style leads you on a clear path through his thoughts. Its been a reasonable introduction in which the talent is visible but the arrangement of this record and inability to focus in a direction often dispels the mood some tracks muster leaving the impression of an hastily assembled collection of songs.

Favorite Tracks: Free Smoke, Passionfruit, Get It Together, Madiba Riddim, Blem, Sacrifices, Teenage Fever
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Acacia Strain "Gravebloom" (2017)

Way back when in the days of the burgeoning Deathcore scene, Massachusetts outfit "The Acacia Strain" gained waves of popularity with their 2008 release "Continent". They were previously a rather uninteresting Metalcore outfit, their atypical sound slowly evolved into a Djenty Metalcore Deathcore hybrid. At that point longtime vocalist Vincent Bennet found his style, a blunt tonal scream on this record which has become a staple of their sound and now he is the only remaining original member in the band. I haven't heard from them in about seven years despite still actively releasing records and touring.

"Gravebloom" Is immediately identifiable as their sound however listening to the older records retrospectively you realize how far along the fidelity of record production has come in ten years. Their guitar tone is now the apex of what they have always strived for. Big and chunky, bouncy dense blocks of tonal distortion to groove and bludgeon with. It sounds gorgeous, very Djent with the flexibility for discordant palm mute chugging and chord plucking which you get a plentiful variety of across the eleven pummeling tracks that make up the forty eight minutes of churning brutality.

Not all of the run-time is dedicated to the metallic onslaught, the band have a keen ear for atmosphere with occasional foreboding, unsettling atmospheric breaks where more obvious melodies are plucked on the high notes over brutal syncopation that's slowed down to a menacing, avenging crawl. These breaks in pace keep the interest amounting on a crisp and lively sounding record. Vincent is as sharp as ever, his flat, blunt forceful shouts very audible and present and even some of his lyrics have stuck in my mind "Mentally slipping, physically drifting", an oddity given my difficulty with lyrics.

There is little to fault here, its a finely tuned record making the most of modern recording techniques. All the instruments cohesively come together, the drums especially punchy, bold and present with complimenting tones that fit snugly into the wall of sound. The album starts of strong with its faster, mosh friendly numbers and slowly evolves to its more atmospheric side, the last three tracks slowing down their pace significantly. There's no bones to pick here other than a lack of something special. Its a sold, decent record but there is nothing at work here to smash your expectations or suprise.

Rating: 6/10