Reviews Coming Soon

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Album Review: Cloudkicker - Let Yourself Be Huge

is Ben Sharp from Columbus, Ohio. By day, he’s just an Average Joe with a normal haircut, an unobnoxious dress sense and a boring day job. By night he’s some kind of music superhero. He writes, records, mixes and masters everything himself, guitars and bass are recorded straight into a laptop and the drums get created using a one-sequencing program, and it’s all offered out for free. Nada. Zip. Zero. Any money he does receive is pumped straight back into making more albums – for instance, the physical products associated with Let Yourself Be Huge were entirely funded by his last release, Beacons. You’re unlikely to find him selling merch or touring any time soon – to him music is just “a thing I do for fun, that helps me unwind and gives me an output for creativity.”

This time around he’s managed two releases at once – this one and the 16-track Loop. Now, Let Yourself Be Huge may sound like something a man might say about his “down-belows”, but it’s more likely to be a metaphor for making sure we realise the potential within each of us. But is the music as inspirational as the album’s premise and the artist’s views? Well, it’s certainly nothing like the music that Sharp’s love of might suggest it to be. This is so quiet it’s almost not there; an ethereal, ghostly whisper of an album.

The tracks are simplistic instrumental pieces that are bold enough to reveal themselves early on. They tend to circulate through a system of rise and fall, usually swelling through the first chord and abating through the second. This engenders them with a sombre, downbeat quality and the soft starts offer the listener a helping hand into each track, goading them into riding along through the process of building layers. Immersive introspection is positively encouraged, yet discovering the right time and place to enjoy this kind of quiet maudlin is more difficult. Like a spoiled child, Let Yourself Be Huge demands your full attention.

“The Word Water”, “One, Many” and “This Isn’t” may be brief, austere, acoustic ditties, but they do show off ’s best side. Moody glimpses of emotions, they allow you to briefly dip your toe in before they teasingly close out. For full immersion you must turn to “It’s Inside Me And I’m Inside It” which, like ’s latest material, oozes into your mind, coiling around and around, piling more and more into the mix until you emerge purged and dizzied by the experience. Then there’s the electro kitsch of “Explore, Be Curious” and the stoner quirks within “You And Yours”. These offer up dark, plodding, rangy beasts, rich in dynamic fuzz, chime and bass and yet, they are ultimately exhausting five-minute yomps around increasingly obvious, repetitious structures.

“Welcome Back”, as the opener, bucks the ornately dour trend and produces a positive, wonderfully festive, ditty. With it’s warm tinkling acoustics and creaking backdrop, it’s the quintessential “coming home” song. Here is where I finally discover my ideal listening spot – at night, whilst waiting in a car for my driver to return. Alone in the darkness, recumbent, relaxed in my own solitude, the title-track, as the only track with vocal, really hits home. The track’s damaged quality gets me fondly reminiscing on 80s synthpop bands again and that yawning, hushed vocal (which nestles in neatly as an extra instrument) only heightens the kind of emotions that last came surging forth during playbacks of ’s Heavy Sky EP.

At 25 minutes, Let Yourself Be Huge is awfully curt for a full-length and has plotlines that, somewhat selfishly, refuse to reveal the “twist”, but considering the recurring themes and cyclical simplicity of it all, it’s perfectly adequate for an album that you can pick up at no charge. It doesn’t break any new ground in terms of content, is weaker than it is strong, and may quickly disappear from your playlists, but what it does offer is something intangibly vital – an engaging fragility that proves music really is food for the soul.

(You can read the review for Loop right here.)

Also online @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/cloudkicker-let-yourself-be-huge

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Album Review: Harpoon - Deception Amongst Birds

Chicago's Harpoon are restless devils. Consisting of band members from Lair Of The Minotaur (bassist D.J. Barraca), 7000 Dying Rats (vocalist Toney Vast-Binder) and Gun Kata (guitarist Dean Costello) this trio of grinders are on the move, heading into new realms that see them criss-crossing genres and patterns. Deception Amongst Birds is as dense as it is loose, aggressive as it is laconic. In short, with the help of Andy Nelson's (Weekend Nachos) tight production and Carl Saff's (Coliseum) corrupted mastering, they have produced a barnstorming headfuck of an album.

By switching up from speeding, barbed and gritty hardcore to sludge-packed doom in one swift jump, opener "To The Tall Tales" gives us a taste of what it must be like to suffer a heart attack. The defibrillator hit of "Prequel To A Lifetime Of Disappointment" brings us back from the dead, piling slabs of bass on top of piston-like drums. The thing that needles though is exactly this drum thunder. It overwhelms the music, swamping you rather than allowing you space to breathe. It's a kink that Harpoon find themselves falling back on when they see no other place to run to.

The band have clearly overdosed on feedback (the title-track is sick with it) and the tracks do tend to drag once they've flashed their feathers but there are moments when all is forgiven. The cleans of "Dreadnought" invigorate as do the grandiose cosmic touches that pop up here and there only to be beaten back down by the baying vocal of Tony Vast-Binder. The magnificent stoner plod of "Phlegm" thuds into you before pitching itself forward into the hallowed riff that clambers over the half-whispered Torche-esque "Troglodyte's Delight". Their hammering rock-a-thon "Shit Wizard" certainly shows off a willingness to switch things up, laying a foot on the neck of Whitesnare's punk n' roll licks by conjuring up some Every Time I Die-ish 'core.

Having been steeped in the chaos of Converge and laced with the malevolence of Nails, they have clearly had Kylesa's deep grooves carved into them, it's true that Harpoon certainly send plenty of spears flying and hit home with most. They may just be a small fish swimming in big waters, but they're making an awful mighty splash. Time to take notice.

Also online @ MTUK = http://www.metalteamuk.net/dec11reviews/cdreviews-harpoon.htm

Friday, December 9, 2011

Album Review: Descending - New Death Celebrity

Imagine a combination of ’s turbulent groove, ’s distinctive grinding action and ’ lust for both speed and melody – we could call them Deviralosis. That, my friend, would be my perfect metal band… the sound of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse riding out.

Now have a listen to some of the samples, just a mouse-click away, that accompany these words. The band that produced them are . They hail from Athens in Greece and, as a truly modern metal band would, they genre-hop with the best of them. One album in the bag and after “a long period of intensive work”, with producer extraordinaire Fredrik Nordstrom (, , ), they are now quite adept at fusing thrash, math and groove metal together to create the shape of a fist which they then use to batter you with. They also dabble in a spot of metalcore but more of that later. Their already impressive list of support slots (, , , , , etc.) proves just how hard their sound is to pin down.

From the get-go, the offbeat thudding of drummer Nick Vell’s feet serves to elevate the two-chord writhing action that lurks within “No Other Gods Before Me”. Throw in the swarming, layered death vocal of John Simvonis and his vocal compatriot, the bassist Noir, and you’ve got yourself a whole world of pain. Yet they can go heavier as “I Keep Returning” proves. It regurgitates an embittered, grimy veneer which empowers the choruses and brings an oppressive dark quality to the verses. Still heavier they go as this kind of damaging battery is scaled up tenfold in the mammoth crush that “The Energy” engages in. Reminiscent of at their most violent, it provides the perfect foil to the colossal -esque powerchug stomp that rips a path through “Shared Planet”.

With so much punishment being served, the band’s purposeful move towards replacing some of this giant groove with pumped vocal hooks, lingering riffs and ‘core breaks was always going to be the album’s downfall. Tracks like “Suicide Promise”, “Until I Generate” and “How Much This Life Weights?” although catchy in the chorus, feel loose, pudgy and overwrought as the music increasingly lurches towards a kind of vaguely generic-sounding metalcore. “The Ghost Of Nation Past” pops in a disembodied old recording, a bar of clean vocal and loads up with screeching beatdowns, possibly in an effort to liven up proceedings, but from here it’s just a sinking ship.

Clearly, what we have here is an album with a multiple personality disorder – a vision divided down the middle. When they get heavy, they are an unstoppable force, slowly increasing the pressure in furiously inventive ways. When they slack off and get cute, they fall back into that familiar mold which has shaped so many bands before them. ’s talent is undeniable, their promise is palpable; they just need to fully realise it. My new favourite band, Deviralosis, is but a stone’s throw away.

Also online (with samples) @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/descending-new-death-celebrity

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Album Review: Soma Dark - Begin

Show me an album cover of a shadowy figure creeping through a gloomy, misty wood and I'd bet my bottom dollar that a black metal band was responsible for it. Well, I'd end up with an empty wallet if you showed me Soma Dark's debut effort, Begin. With a raging groove, catchy riffs and sharp, unobstructed vocals, the Manchester quintet are about as likely to wear corpsepaint as they are to burn a church down. Nope, they are far too ensconced in their pastime of seeing which musical styles work best together.

There's clearly plenty of Machine Head worship lurking at the heart of their decision to start crossing those genre streams. It's there from the start with vocalist Michael Hardman invoking the spirit of Rob Flynn with soars and roars in equal measure, whilst throughout Arun Kamarth and Stuart Armriding trade Demmel chugs and shreds like they're going out of fashion. The rhythmic drive that drags you kicking and screaming into "Passengers Of Time" ends up with freewheeling arpeggio riffs crashing into crusty bass and skittish drums. There's plenty of 'Tallica influence in here too with a good dose of mainstream melodics to help you through tracks like "Lies Behind" and "A Tone Set For The Lace Skyline". There are also doomier qualities that skulk within the gritty seams of "Mauna Kea" and "2505" and, to top it all, "Faultline" and "Resolute", with its Cavalera-esque blurt, go all rapcore on us and the neat production instantly responds by disassembling itself in protest.

In the end, either unnecessarily complex structures or these insane vocal machinations only succeed in break up the flow of the heavier tracks and the slower numbers just don't venture into those misty woods far enough when trying to seek out a menacing solitude in which to bury their bodies. There's a doughy, repetitious quality to the poppier choruses and there are plenty of loose connections at vital times. There's still promise in the simpler movements of tracks like "Breathe", with its thick, boomy bass and gentle sweeping action, and the hard rocking sneer of "Forsaken And Falling" which both end up being a million times more tenacious as a result.

For a debut album, they've certainly bitten off a large chunk here and, at the moment, it's proving a bit of a tough chew. It shows they've got guts and ambition though which are definitely good qualities to have. Clearly avid metal fans with a good ear for melody and a craving for song variation, I really hope they can match their ambition with a tighter, more clearly defined vision next time around.

Also online@ MTUK = http://www.metalteamuk.net/oct11reviews/cdreviews-soma.htm