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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Album Review: The Omega Experiment – The Omega Experiment

Recently, a small progressive rock grenade went off on bandcamp. It happened when The Omega Experiment digitally self-released their debut album and, as word spread, Listenable Records’ interest was piqued and a deal was inked. A few months down the line and this Michigan trio are ready for lift-off with this re-released physical copy – it’s about time we gave you the lowdown on it then.

Now, what makes this one stand out about above most is the album’s general tone. It’s an upbeat pastiche of jagged strings and euphoric synths and comes with energy in abundance. At times, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed by it as unconfined joy washes over you in layers. The whole vehicle stands on the strength of its lush, interwoven vocals and recorded spoken interviews – the latter technique reminds me of those ambiguous ripped radio edits that pop up on groovy lounge albums performed by the likes of Lemon Jelly and Bombay Monkey.

Kicking us off, “Gift” hits like a twenty-foot breaker; wide as an aircraft carrier, deep as the ocean itself. The enormity of it is staggering as it echoes through euphoric builds and poppy hooks. It’s instantly reminiscent of the vast soundscapes created by musical genii like Devin Townsend and Jim Matheos (this eloquently echoes his O.S.I. project for many different reasons). Dan Wieten’s multi-tracked, subtly whining vocals search out catchy, flamboyant flourishes and harmonic peaks to really drive home each set of lyrics (all of which are kept deliberately vague to allow you to apply your own assumptions). Through the hearty emotion and crushing drums of tracks like “Stimulus” and “Bliss” they begin to bed down to a place where they echo the rich, complex structures of certain so-called ambidjent bands such as Tesseract, Vildhjarta and Chimp Spanner.

And yet, it’s only in the angrier clutches of “Furor” and “Karma”, at moments when the thudding guitar dissonance steps up to lay it on thick and heavy and the vocal becomes a disembodied roar, that they begin to really display their full potential with some mind-mangling complexity of structure and mean tech skills to boot. Hell, they’re dipping their toes in Between The Buried And Me and The Contortionist territory here. It’s the instrumentals too that offer up a chance to impress but they don’t lay themselves as bare here as expected (we have to wait until the subtle pop spin and gentle psych of “Terminus” for that to occur), but it is here that they are found a little wanting. The jokingly-titled “Tranquility”, with its infuriatingly-repetitive one-liner and cacophonous climax is a weak spot, and “Bliss” which throws two different spoken-word scripts at you, one in one ear and one in the other, turns your brain to blancmange.

It’s not just a clown of an album; it’s the complete circus. There are all sorts of high-wire antics as guitars are juggled and pounding cannons sound off to the tune of the ringmaster. There are even comedic skits where the candied synth tries, unsuccessfully, to steal the spotlight. Then, as the show draws to a close, the thumping dance euphoria of “Paramount” raises the roof and drops like the final piece in the jigsaw. Yes, you can be certain you’ve got your money’s worth with this one.

Album teaser @ their Bandcamp = http://theomegaexperiment.bandcamp.com/track/album-teaser

Review also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/01/the-omega-experiment-st-listenable-records/

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Album Review: Funeral For A Friend - Conduit

The Welsh band have never been ones to rest on their laurels. Generally accepted as a hard-hitting rock group, they have explored a penchant for the alternative and the emotional, to one that conjures easily-accessible, enigmatic, heart-bursting anthems. Now with ’s old drummer, Pat Lundy, on board, they appear ready to travel the Conduit to locate their inner punk.

Without doubt, it’s an album that still features, to some degree, the band’s driven melody, gorgeously rich harmonies and addictive choruses but there is a definite shift of focus towards metal and hardcore. Vocalist Matthew Davies recently neatly summarised the change with the words “it’s a post-hardcore record that is not afraid to drop into some hardcore for good measure.”

Former band member Matthew “Snowskull” Evans has painted a startling cover for Conduit that is oddly reminiscent, like some of those old albums or Trey Moseley’s artwork for ’s One Wing. Rest assured though, FFAF’s songwriting hasn’t gone anything like as deep into the chaos as those particular bands regularly do. Despite Davies’ assertions, these additions to the music do feel somewhat forced at times – initially, you may wince at the irksome slips from boisterous verse into slick chorus (lead single “Best Friends and Hospital Beds” and “Travelled” are in a league of their own), but ignoring this, it’s still a clear statement of intent and one that does need multiple plays before sound judgement can be passed.

They certainly don’t go off half-cocked at this crossover monster – even their usually high-end production has trimmed a little off the sides to make way for the added gristle. It’s a full-bore attempt to interweave both their rough and smooth edges and when they manage to segue the two styles effectively the songs can invigorate you. Some go in harder (bruisers like the title-track, “Death Comes To Us All” and “High Castles”), but there’s still plenty of rousing sing-a-long choruses to grab onto. They come thick and fast with “Spine”, “Best Friends…” and “Nails” all liberally doused in colourful, soaring harmonies. What the contrast has highlighted is the minor limitations of Davies’ vocal. There’s no denying his passion, but every now and then, when he peaks and reaches up to hawk out another yelp of anger, his pitch and tone become painfully strained – as an example, the line “How many friends can I lose before it all makes sense” catches him out every single time.

Thankfully, the complex, technical guitar melodics do help to bolster this weakness in his delivery. They form the kind of backdrops that Sylosis would be proud of. One particularly memorable example lies in the jarringly-angular closing segment of “Nails”. The gentle build, tight-as-fuck chorus and crushing ‘core elements are all implemented magnificently. It’s these multiple hues that stick it on a pedestal.

As you journey through, there emerges a noticeable overall lack of track variation but it’s hard to deny the momentum that FFAF build throughout. You do have to wait for “Elements” to provide the deviation the album craves. It really would be the perfect closing track; not overstaying its welcome and melodically-enduring with a gently warbling fade-out. Well, it would be, except that the -lite metalcore tactics of “High Castles” take the honour – “Our words are weapons, they are our shield, our words are weapons, fist by fucking fist” – with over-eager call-and response chicanery.

Having screamed back from the edge of the creative abyss with 2011′s cracking Welcome Home Armageddon, to head back to their EP days and begin re-establishing their love of punk and hardcore makes Conduit a risky album for FFAF to write at this moment in time. Even more so, when you consider just how much metalcore influence there is on this and how much that particular genre has taken a battering over recent years. Thankfully, none of that matters much. There is just enough true grit and spirit powering this offering to really warrant that risk. Conduit is a whole different beast but, most importantly, it’s an album that’s honest and committed and deserving of your attention.

Also online @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/funeral-for-a-friend-conduit

Monday, January 21, 2013

Album Review: Psychopunch - Smakk Valley

Psychopunch’s Smakk Valley may sound venemous and slightly seedy, but it’s actually all rolling punk with pop sensibilities. A set of driven tracks, coated in colour and bolstered with a strong sense of fun. An amalgamation of Green Day, The Wildhearts, The Ramones and Bowling For Soup, it comes as no surprise to me that these Swedish stalwarts have remained below my radar despite the nine other albums they’ve churned out between 1999 and 2010. Sounding a little old hat now, much of what they do sticks firmly to the power-pop basics of get in fast, raise the roof, and get out.

With 14 tracks of fast rhythms, verse-chorus-verse structure, predictably simple lyrics and straight-up 4/4 beats, what you see is what you get. Vocally, frontman / guitarist JM certainly gets plenty of backing, both in the polished production and from his band-mates who lather on a swathe of “oohs” and “aahs”. This has always been the kind of music best heard live, so it feels slightly unfair judging them from the depths of my cold, mid-Winter abode. I’ll try and be gentle.

They all kick off the show by getting fast and wild for “Back Of My Car”. It’s a track that toys with going full-Nirvana on us with a sequence of “Territorial Pissings”-chords for the verse, only to then cut the charade and shift into full Bowling For Soup mode. There’s a slide down into half-reggae for “So Jaded” that will make you smile, but from here they slip straight into auto-pilot with a sequence of songs that battle each other for worst lyrics and most obvious structure. The medium-pacer “Last Night” wins the former category with the line “Last night it really wasn’t me / I had too much to drink / Baby, can’t you see / It was the Hennessy” and “Sitting By The Railroad” wins the latter with its ghastly backing vocals and dire four-chord rotation.

Their creative peak hits somewhere in the middle. JM’s thick, throaty growl cuts up superbly for the heads-down rocker “Dead By Dawn” giving it a dangerous, Ramones-esque edge. All worn leather and cigarettes, howling guitars and pounding skins, this one breathes life back into the whole shebang. “Smack Valley Train” gets its New York Dolls-snarl on in the verses before flicking up into a bold major chord for another over-eager, slickly fluorescent chorus. The bridge interestingly gets a dose of Maiden-esque guitar licks to add to the pile whilst “Emilie” ducks back into brainless hammering and off we go again for another round of pogoing. Closer “You’re Totally Mistaken” ups the ante again and stands out as a bit of a moody crusher, soaking itself in feedback, with deep pinged bass and a ripped, singalong chorus – Psychopunch are a band that definitely benefits from throwing in minor chords. Each time they up their dark quotient, they add guile and emotion to what, effectively, is an album that runs straight and true.

Now, this constructive criticism is all well and good at the end of the day but what has impressed me most about the band is their philosophy. It dominates everything here and this is the reason you need to take notice of because there are so many fakers out there. JM sums it up with the words: “We don’t think our attitude has changed over the years in terms of wanting to be a great live band that makes people happy and gives them a chance to forget about their problems.” How can you criticise a band with that outlook on making music? It’s like happy-slapping a puppy.

End of the day, Smakk Valley isn’t an album without fault but that doesn’t mean it’s not a riot – it could be gold dust for fans of any of the aforementioned bands. Perhaps it wasn’t my cup of Joe this week, but the next time I feel like letting loose and partying hearty, I’ll be checking my local listings for a band called Psychopunch because I know I’ll have a good time at their show.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/01/psychopunch-smakk-valley-spv-steamhammer/

Thursday, January 17, 2013

News: Hell Comes Home 7" Series

Never has anything needed your attention as much as this stunning series of 7" splits. If you can't find a band to cherish on this little lot, you need your head examining.

Here's the lowdown...


Hell Comes Home's split series simply titled "Volume 1", is now complete and available for purchase as a limited edition box-set. This collection of new and unreleased music, includes 12 splits 7" released in 2012 individually or as part of a subscription club.
Each 7" has been beautifully illustrated by Kuba Sokolski (www.kubasokolski.com).


VOLUME 1 includes:
HCH-001 - Kowloon Walled City (US) / Thou (US) split 7"
HCH-002 - Suma (SE) / Ultraphallus (BE) split 7"
HCH-003 - Dephosphorus (GR) / Great Falls (US) split 7"
HCH-004 - Akaname (AU) / Lesbian's Fungal Abyss (US) split 7"
HCH-005 - Pyramido (SE) / Union Of Sleep (DE) split 7"
HCH-006 - Burning Love (CA) / Fight Amp (US) split 7"
HCH-007 - Coffinworm (US) / Fistula (US) split 7"
HCH-008 - The Swan King (US) / Tellusian (SE) split 7"
HCH-009 - Dukatalon (ISR) / Rites (IRL) split 7"
HCH-010 - Black Sun (UK) / Throat (FI) split 7"
HCH-011 - Dopefight (UK) / The Fucking Wrath (US) split 7"
HCH-012 - Dead Elephant (IT) / Rabbits (US) split 7"


Website: http://www.hellcomeshome.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Hell.Comes.Home.Records
Twitter: http://twitter.com/hellcomesnow
Bandcamp: http://hellcomeshome.bandcamp.com
Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/hellcomeshome

Friday, January 11, 2013

Album Review: Hatebreed – The Divinity Of Purpose

Once upon a time, whilst walking through a park, a good friend of mine was hassled by a drunk youth for money. Now, usually my mate would run a mile but, at the time, he happened to be listening to Hatebreed on his non-specific portable media player, so instead he proceeded to wind the volume up and dish out a beating that he never thought was in him. He’s sworn himself off the band now and has since become a pacifist. Okay, the last bit of that shaggy dog story was made up (he’s still a total nutjob who loves Hatebreed more than he loves himself – and that’s saying something), but it is a true, if slightly skewed, tale that highlights just how affecting heavy music can be.

Perfectly monikered, the volatile tunage that Hatebreed write, has been specifically designed to breed hate. Unsurprisingly, The Divinity Of Purpose is no different to the rest of their back catalogue, featuring lyrical content that shows these kings of bulging angst remain 100% dedicated to grabbing hold of you by the balls, tearing open your eyes to the grim reality of life today, and strengthening your resolve to it. Think of it as a two-part process. Firstly, they help you realise your weaknesses through association and, secondly, they supply the lyrical tools to empower you by suggesting you use, usually violent, counter-measures to correct your problems. Listening to Hatebreed is like having “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as your counsellor.

As time has passed and their discography has grown, these continual mind grenades should have got a lot older, a lot quicker, but the monster hooks they write and the methods they employ to suck you in, are just so goddamn addictive. From jinking breakdowns and barbaric, pounding rhythms to the vocal fury of call-and-response and the constant, monotonous barracking all suck you into screaming your lungs out, fist-throwing and pitting like you’ve never pitted before.

Take opener “Put It To The Torch” with its thrash-and-core, vein-bulging angst. It’s a simple, 2-minute assertion of dominance designed to incite total mayhem. The track rips straight through to the even harder smackdown of “Honor Never Dies” with hardly a pause for breath. The emotional forethought of how these songs would sound live is palpable. Take the chorus repetition of the purposeful title-track. There’s even a spoken-to-screamed building crescendo wedged in there. The fury of the pit that will explode on the smack of that snare as it all kicks off again is palpable. “Before The Fight Ends You” could have been written with my mate specifically in mind. It’s all remarkably straightforward and to the point with a chorus of “End the fight / Before the fight ends you!”, but that’s Hatebreed all over. And that’s The Divinity Of Purpose all over.

Unlike their last self-titled effort, there is no drop in pace, no “Every Lasting Scar” downtime. Without doubt, the album does what it says on the tin. It’s a savage, single-minded entity. The Renaissance-stylized artwork alone (created by painter Eliran Kantor) tells you just how serious they are about this merciless mission they are on. This is their religion and that’s the main reason why this comes recommended as one of their finer assaults. Having said that, the album’s main strength is also its biggest weakness. The sheer brute force of it is overwhelmingly predictable; one that lacks any level of sophistication or experimentation. Yes, perhaps with this album marking out Hatebreed’s 19th year, they should have offered something fresh, but to go against the grain now, not fully committed, and get it wrong might just ruin their iconic status – then who would my friend turn to when life deals him yet another shitty hand?

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/01/hatebreed-the-divinity-of-purpose-nuclear-blast/

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Album Review: Clamfight – I Versus The Glacier

You might think would be named by a collection of mollusk-loving foodies, but I fear their name comes from something far more seedy. The revelation that “the name was conceived whilst watching an influential movie” isn’t a complete surprise then, nor the tit-bit about them not wanting to “get into which movie or what scene”. I bet they don’t, dirty boys.

These East Coast crushers display all the hallmarks of both ’s shouty, sludgy, all-encompassing thrum and ’ punk quirks and strong urge to break into galloping rhythms. It’s a hefty combination and one that deserves the good head-jerking that you will inevitably grant it. As is the case with both the aforementioned bands, Andy Martin’s wild vocals often gets a good smothering and as a consequence the lyrical content is often tough to pick out – I believe “I vs. The Glacier” has a peek-a-boo line that sounds like “Winners for years” or it could be “Witness four ears”. Your guess is as good as mine. It does however feature an enigmatic, visceral lead and a spot of downtime that wobbles and howls as it plays its psychedelic mind games.

“The Eagle” is pure riff; crushing, vitriolic and Neanderthal. It is the beast that will carve a mile-wide rut across your mind, whilst “Sandriders” thunders along at a fair lick, the vocals snapping at your heels, the drums’ reverberating thunder, the whole vehicle careering from side to side before slipping back into a swagger. “River Of Ice”, on the other hand, steadily chimes along a single chord, pulses like a heartbeat and features some neat, warbling cosmic touches. Every element, including that nagging underscore, all scream out . These tracks are all hefty statements of intent; slaps of the glove across the cheeks of their peers.

Other highlights come in the form of the rock-a-saurus mosh of “I vs. The Glacier” and the much angrier blast of “Shadow Line”. This latter monster displays ’s tendency to stray mid-song – part-groove, part-braying, roaring insanity – it’s also the sound of ’s Lemmy being trampled underfoot. There’s the odd weak spot, glaringly the odd instrumental “Tower Of The Elephant II” (named “The Green Gods Of Yag” on this promo) which adds very little to the pile, but you couldn’t really accuse them of using it to pad out the album because of the variety of attack on offer.

Also, I haven’t seen an album with such an intriguing tracklist as this in a long time. Seriously, run your eyes down that list. Even before you’ve heard it you just know “Age Of Reptiles” is going to sound swampy, stompy and like its full of teeth (it does) and “Stealing The Ghost Horse” will undoubtedly get its blackened doom on (it does, in a -y sort of way). All the song titles get the mind racing, conjuring enough images to demand further investigation. If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to eventually get hold of a lyric sheet. All that remains to be said is… you’d better have your flamethrowers at the ready, folks. This is one mean opponent. I Versus The Glacier – Round One. Ding ding!

Also online @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/clamfight-i-versus-the-glacier