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Album Reviews Coming Soon: Queen Elephantine - Kala, Karg - Weltenasche

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Album Review: MonstrO - MonstrO

Atlanta’s brings together a group with a bit of a potted history of previous bands. On the face of it you’ve got a pretty exciting line-up of straight-up, hard rockers with bassist Kyle Sanders (, , ), drummer Bevan Davies (, , ), guitarist Juan Montoya (, , ) and vocalist/guitarist Charlie Suarez (). Have a quick listen to what they’ve stirred up with this, their self-titled debut long-player, though and you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that there’s more to these boys than first meets the eye.

There’s a word for what have given us here. Lord Of The Rings’ Gollum would know the word. It’s a “tricksy” little album that promises one thing and ends up delivering so much more. Oh, how it twists and turns and dumbfounds us. Suarez, thankfully has a good explanation for its choppy nature. “I would like to inspire like the bands who changed my life and inspired me to play music when I was 12 years old. Each song stands on its own in regards to topic but the themes of the songs individually jump from one end of the spectrum to the other.” It’s a statement that only hints at the vast diversity of styles that lurk within. Never before have I heard a band go from sounding like one minute to echoing the next; from Jane’s Addiction to in one swift, seemingly effortless leap.

As bands like and have successfully done before them, feed off, and bring up to date, those clambering classic rock tones that their 60s/70s forbears seemed to chuck around at will – , , . You’ll hear echoes of the past in both the -esque “Concertina” and “Stallone” but through it all they retain this inimitable poppy quality to their music. There’s also flavours of (not surprising seeing as their vocalist William DuVall’s got involved on the production side of things as well as contributing to vocal back-up on “Concertina”), and coming across in either the vocal inflections or the probing string-work. They also have an ability to flick into a massive wall of driving thunder, as excellently demonstrated in both “Anchors Up!” and “Solar”, that current bands like , and are so brilliant at. This is exactly the point that you’d expect them to stop inventing and settle, but they have designs on championing many more passions of theirs. Thus, we get the downtuned drop into “Olympia” and “Helios” which sees them suddenly switch off the groove as they begin to delve into more ambient realms. Then, tracks like “Apollo” and “Elizabeth” generate yet another level of more proggy, doom-afflicted caves for you to invade, inhabit and make your own.

As Suarez suggests it truly does kick up these dusty echoes of bands we have loved through our youth. Perhaps it’s my age, but I found the stoned affectations and persuasive lyrics of songs like the bucking “Helios” and the light-headed psychedelics of “April” rapping gently on the windows of my soul. Each track grows on you with every listen, but you may have to adjust your perception of what this band actually is, track-by-track. It’s likely that you’ll be more quickly on board with either the speedier fast half of the album or the more exploratory second half as there is a marked division that they should probably concentrate on smoothing over for future releases. With regards to trying to put this album into a pigeon-hole, it’s certainly a “tricksy” prospect and one I don’t suggest you focus on. Instead, let the music flow over you and may just become something you eventually refer to, as Gollum would, as “my precious”.

Also online @ The NewReview (with samples) = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/monstro-monstro

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Album Review: Betraying The Martyrs - Breathe In Life

Melodeathcore. Is that even a genre? Well, it goes some way to describing what you can expect from the French sextet Betraying The Martyrs. It has to be said the prospect of this debut album has aroused a sizeable amount of interest with fans of modern metal slavering at the prospect of them building on the promise of their stunning EP 'The Hurt, The Divine, The Light'. Since then, though, a change of personnel with new vocalist Aaron Matts and guitarist Lucas D'angelo stepping in has led to a real colossus being born. This is music that will tear you apart with startlingly fresh-sounding bursts of power and then turn round and somehow soothe your frazzled senses by firing familiarity at you.

Their sound sticks a big dirty finger in the same holes that Winds Of Plague and Hope For The Dying, have been plugging of late; that whole sweeping symphonics meets hearty, visceral attack vibe. Being a Christian band, their music also comes with the inevitable well-meant messages which, depending on how observant you are, may either inspire or disaffect you. If it gives the band a passionate focus to really lay into their component parts, then you can always look to that as being the positive in such shenanigans. Passion in performance being, after all, the key to really making the biggest impact.

Their intro blusters in like the soundtrack to some blood-lusting, historical war movie. Symphonic strings, rippling piano arpeggios, fearsome chanting and drum-rolls all round. It stirs the blood and sets the scene for the onslaught of 'Martyrs' which blasts forth our first glimpse of Matts' gigantic death vocal, crammed with the most fulsome of lows. It grasps and shoves our heads into stirring ivory-key builds and emotion-soaked clean vocal which, upon first inspection, appears anything but out of place. There's an extra dimension which comes grunting spasmodically through in the technical guitar parts; parts that echo the djenty qualities of bands like Periphery and TesseracT. It's a repeating pattern that is only added to by the addictive hooks - the soulful choruses and flamboyant mini-beatdowns - in 'Man Made Disaster' and 'Because Of You'.

Now... have you ever wondered what atmospheric metal dubstep might sound like? Check out 'Liberate Me Ex Inferis'. It drags you in with a big industrial swirling, reminiscent of something Jean-Michel Jarre might produce, then rapidly transforms into a vast beast inhaling and exhaling through a gas mask. It's one scary-arsed sound but even this is out-mentalled by the crashing track that follows. 'Leave It All Behind' crushes and drives itself into steep climbs before stalling to loop and spin crazily out of control. It's a bone fide lunatic and it should come with an optional straitjacket.

Track after track the band dig at your senses, sinking their instruments of torture into flesh time and time again. Not taking the somewhat suspect wholly-clean soft rock number, 'Azalee', (yes, a soft rock number) into account, the band's only real weakness is at the points where the softer, heartfelt vocal parts step out from knitting together the dark and the light. These moments come when the music dips and they step forward. These are also the moments where their rise and fall begins to sound quite similar in construct from track-to-track. When they're in there with the bottom-end pit-worthy powerhousing (on tracks like 'Life Is Precious') there isn't a problem but, when they aren't (for instance, 'Leave It All Behind'), they sound repetitious and far less addictive than they should be. They become without doubt the focus (the parts that unite the crowd; the singalong; the fists-to-the-sky moments) so that's where the songwriting needs to step up another notch for future albums. Other than that, I'm just... well... speechless.

Also online @ MTUK = http://www.metalteamuk.net/aug11reviews/cdreviews-betraying.htm

Monday, August 15, 2011

Album Review: Aliases - Safer Than Reality

“Curiouser and curiouser” cried Alice. This quote from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland” popped into my head as I listened to ; a curious band with a curious debut album, well, mini-album. It’s eight tracks of genre-melding mayhem designed to scramble your brain and lay waste to your perceptions of what is possible. Flecked with hardcore tendencies and loaded with intense polyrhythmic, tech-heavy metal, it is divided into sections of throat-scouring screams and echoing harmonies. However, there are also breaks in the mayhem where they seem keen to prove they have a soft side. The whole mathematical mish-mash is definitely an acquired taste.

Hailing from Manchester in the UK, it’s ex- guitarist Graham “Pin” Pinney that has been attracting all the attention, but we also have two ex- members in here, in the form of drummer Darren Pugh and bassist Joe Heaton. Paris-based vocalist Jay Berast and guitarist Leah Woodward complete the line-up and, together, the band clearly has no intentions of hanging about. Formed only a year ago, they are already splurging their highly complex, genre-hopping sound onto “as many stages as possible”.

Turning to the vocals, we hear retched howls of pain vying for attention against reverb-heavy, mid-range melodies and harmonies. The howls are thin and one-dimensional, whilst the harmonies are much safer, more palatable and, consequently, far more likely to dig themselves into your conscious. Saying that, but for the addictive chorus from lead single “What’s Left For Us To Say?”, there is little to love. “Sirens” and “All That Glitters Is Not Gold” have their sweet-sounding moments but the remainder mainly just flexes punk kid muscle or suffers from an ill-conceived attempt to show emotion.

Pin and Woodward’s crawling fingers lay down a pretty solid wall of sound, similar to that used by or , which might explain why Berast struggles so much to break through. “The Reality Of Beliefs” is a fine example of the warm, walking progressions that begin to groove after several listens. Then, there are neat blocks of high-repeating notes in “We Never Should Have Met” that join up in diving formations to knit the spasming sound together; weirdly, they remind me of a speed-thirsty version of ’s “My Recovery Injection”.

may tick several of the boxes for a fresh-sounding modern metal band, but any initial impact they may have on us as potential fans will be quickly dampened by the realisation that this release has clearly been rushed. Consider that you get a couple of minute-long, pointlessly self-serving instrumentals in here, one on piano, one on guitar, and you might as well call this a 25-minute, six-track release. It’s no wonder some sections of the industry are pinning the little-loved “EP” term on this one. It’s a shame because if they’d spent another year turning this into a full album, this band, perhaps, could have made a lasting impression. Welcome to “ In Blunderland” where, despite what they may suggest, all that glitters, sadly, isn’t gold.

Also online @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/aliases-safer-than-reality

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Album Review: No Made Sense - New Season/New Blues

Once in a while a band comes along and lays one on your chin from completely out of nowhere. In shock, you check up on them and find a band devoid of egos, with no mission statement, with no burning desire for you to join their MySpace, their Twitter feed or “like our Facebook page, FFS!” These are the bands that you usually end up treasuring more than most because they care what their music sounds like far more than what they look like whilst they’re doing it, and care more about enjoying themselves than making money or influencing people. Hold onto these moments because these are also the bands that can just as quickly slip through your fingers. are one of these bands. Their, quite frankly, stunning debut, The Epillanic Choragi, a darkly conceptual work loaded with cryptic titles, was released on Basick without fanfare a couple of years back, around the same time as bands from the same small city of Reading, UK, were releasing big-hitting, attention-smothered albums on big, noisy labels (specifically, Conclusion Of An Age on Nuclear Blast and ’s Dawn Of Reprisal on Metal Blade).

Now are back with New Season/New Blues, an album of individual tracks and ideas and, consequently, an album of many colours and tastes. They’ve recorded it live and the production is certainly a lot rougher, with gritty, piercing vocals and clanging strings that clamber over each other. It has resulted in a less-polished but heartier end result that places them closer to what they could capably produce live. Joe Battimelli’s bass, in particular, doesn’t so much boom as pop and spit whilst Leo Dennett’s guitar takes its opportunity to crunchily explore layer upon layer of trembling riffs and calloused, knotty chord repetitions.

Tracks like “No Gain From Seeking” and “I’ve Not Been”, in particular, show a move towards the more flamboyant psych-inflected rock of bands like , and whilst “Lying On My Own” gives you a blast of that howling punkish fervour that were so famed for. It doesn’t mean the band haven’t lost their ability to dwell at the doomy post-metal altar of bands like and . Then, with songs like “Four” and “You Might As Well” they conjure up complex, soul-sucking vortices to prove they are still one of the few groups with the skill, patience and intelligence to fill the gaping hole that ripped when they called time on their career.

There are more sides to this band than a dodecahedron. “Half Of The Wall” offers slowly decaying white noise sands and distant futuristic sounds of computer banks streaming data until both eventually crack and allow the opening duo of power chord and fuzzed-up bass that form “Silence” to break through their weakened binary security. This is a track that follows a similar pattern, with the same impact, to ’ grooviest material (think “Station” multiplied by “Carpe”. Dennett fingers riffs, impelling them on, until they embed themselves into your synapses; until you find yourself helplessly spasming along to the music.

New Season/New Blues is the equivalent of slowly shovelling a pick n’ mix bag of candy in your mouth. Some flavors you’ll instantly adore, others you’ll discover are an acquired taste. One second your face will screw up as Dennett misanthropically softens his vocal to a half-spoken whispering (on “Down” and the opening of “You Might As Well”), the next, your cheeks will glow and a feeling of utter bliss will drop as the final riff of “No Gain From Seeking” boots up, and again when the band offer a trip back to the beauty of “Milachi’s Depths” (from their debut) for “Lying On My Own.” These are the moments in music that we live for and it’s what singles out as men of genius.

“Sleep” has the intensity of “Silence” but is a lot more open to frenzy. It is genuinely brilliant mayhem and it rocks my little world. The gradual increase in tempo until they are speeding towards a certain death seems somehow representative of their sudden and scarily well-concealed decision to go out with a bang. Yes, you heard right, the twist in the tail is that have casually released this gem of an album into the ether at the same time that they blogged this throwaway statement – “Also, you might not hear from us again for a while. Or maybe ever. So, thanks and stuff.” Dig a little deeper and it appears they all have different ideas on where they want to take their music, so you may be seeing their names attached to new projects very soon. Wherever, they choose to go, you can be sure good things will follow. might have remained resolutely underground but for those lucky few that know of their existence, if this really is the end, it’s been one hell of a thrilling ride.

The full album is now streaming and available for pay-what-you-want download here.

Also online @ The New Review = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/no-made-sense-new-season-new-blues

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Album Review: The Living Fields - Running Out Of Daylight

Chicago's The Living Fields spend their days dwelling on dark times for mankind. It's these injustices that inspire them to write lyrics and compose music on the subject of war, disease, self-doubt and self-destruction. What churns out of them is this eclectic doom that bridges gaps between symphonic, black, death and folk metal.

'Running Out Of Daylight' quickly-establishes itself as their own personal masterpiece. By refusing to apply limits to their music they have managed to compose the longest and shortest songs of their careers, featured strings for the first time and, by seeking out the best production package, have achieved an end result that is a rich, emotion-soaked tapestry of layers - something that they can rightly be proud of. The music carries themes, hooks and lines across from one track to the next; proof that it is a work that has been fully realised from beginning to end.

Tracks divide themselves into segments - each part collapsing into the next to bring us hope before crushing it. 'Perseverance', for instance, rides out on a series of upbeat battle metal strings and chugs, but it soon turns to drone back a clean lament. 'From Miseries To Bloodsoaked Fields' does away with such frivolity and simply plunders bleak chord structures to inject feelings of despair and hopelessness that the death-edged vocals only exacerbate. You'll hear the rolling snare of a lonely soldier sounding out across a misty battlefield, the cannon-fire and the damaged cries of those that have been injured. The futility of war is quite brilliantly portrayed.

'When The Walls Go Down' refuses to follow it's brethren past the nine-minute barrier and reduces itself to a beautifully succinct three minutes of crystalline, campfire folk that issues a line that hooks us in. It's reminiscent of the way that both Fleetwood Mac and Caravan pair-down their songs for maximum effect. 'Bitterness' begins in similar vein, dragging forth Floydian comparisons but flowers out into a driven rock beast with gothic and power overtones. Everywhere you look there is something fresh to listen to, but none quite hit the mark like 'Glacial Movements' - "The awesome power of erosion that forged the valley: deeper / it carved the mountain and laid the stones where they stand: eternal". Like a great, churning goliath its awesome might is exemplified by the nail-biting string builds which speak to the listener at both cinematic and geological levels.

It's true... some of the tracks are overly long but none even come close to the ridiculous seventeen-minute drag that forms the jammed-out title-track. Not everything hits the mark then, but you do have to consider that this isn't your average doom record. You'll rarely find so much light in such a dark place so it most certainly comes recommended, but do proceed with caution - it's inevitably going to divide aficionados of the genre.

Also online @ MTUK = http://www.metalteamuk.net/july11reviews/cdreviews-living.htm