Reviews Coming Soon

Album Reviews Coming Soon: Nadja - The Stone Is Not Hit By Sun, Nor Carved With A Knife

Monday, October 24, 2016

Album Teaser: Allegaeon - Proponent For Sentience

Every now and then a new album pops up that deserves your undivided attention. Today, I'll give you a single teaser from it to whet your appetite - the excellent "All Hail Science".

Enjoy, friends.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Album Review: pg.lost – Versus

Having previously written music with effect-saturated vocals, the Swedish quartet have gone for instrumental, more synth-driven pieces this time around, apparently due to Kristian Karlsson’s (bass, vocals) recent heavy touring schedule playing keys with Cult of Luna. Guitarist Gustav Almberg has commented that “I guess this has helped us to take the band into a bit of a new direction sound wise“.

Richly-layered, warm and emotive the album opens on the thumpingly heavy “Ikaros”. The synth fizzes, the drums pulse and the guitar fires off arpeggios to keep the whole piece drifting along. There’s short snatches of something akin to 80s computer games lurking in there too all leading to the maniacally crazed sandstorm finish.

Moving through the driving thrust and distorted bass of “Off The Beaten Path” we alight at the oblique Giorgio Moroder-esque synthetic wash, poppish dynamics and cinematic trickery of “Monolith”. Here, the music begins to stab and test the listener to create a force that unites the pacier groove of the kind displayed by Station-era Russian Circles with the dark tones and blackened crush of the sorely-missed ISIS.

It does become apparent as you dig deeper that the subtlety of this particular instrumental album often means the music slips into classic rhythmic shapes (four-four beats, elongated stretches without rise, fall or melody, etc.). In these moments, you’d usually find lyrics or instrumental solos. Here, pg.lost have resiliently left their music undeveloped and, yes, uncluttered as it is, each piece is given room to breathe. It’s certainly a matter of taste whether you buy into that styling though. I have to confess I crave a more developed, instantaneous instrumental sound but that’s just me.

Stretching 7 songs over a 53-minute runtime, the band certainly rely on the listener taking time out to appreciate the music. Those with short attention spans need not apply. It’s just too easy to freewheel past the gentler or more simplistic tracks like the title-track or “Deserter”.

Happily they do like a good rumble to finish up so you’ll probably be shaken awake for the stark, bristling ambience of “A Final Vision”. It’s a joy that is every bit the equal of the wonderful, naturalistic flow that If These Trees Could Talk seem to generate so effortlessly.

At the end of the day, despite its impressive dynamic range and lush sonics, it doesn’t really add a great deal of new ideas to this rapidly-expanding genre. Despite that, it’s still a thoroughly solid addition from a record label that is getting a habit for polishing rough diamonds.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =

Split-EP Review: Ef / Tiny Fingers – Vāyu

This split-EP is a collaboration between a ten-year old act from Gothenburg and a leading force in the Israeli music scene.

With a decade of live performances under their belt, the DIY post-rockers Ef have played with a vast range of bands and have built up a reputation for appeasing fans of both sweet sounds and heavy crush. Here, they set about drawing inspiration from the natural world to piece together a heart-warming wash of colour.

“Hiraeth” stretches into view with its exposed soft underbelly instantaneously exposed. It’s a gently tentative, rich piece of ambient music with building drums and an orchestral flood of violins. It’s only at its climax that the claws come out as the band show they are unafraid of tackling distortion and discordance. “Sju” works the emotions a little harder by managing to fuse melancholy and warming afterglow. Within a heartbeat rhythm, yawning violins and a sparkling synth wash, they filter the echoing sound of chirruping nature. Each delicate note is placed carefully and used sparingly, with the focus on space and echo, to create a series of continuous, supple fluctuations.

The remarkably odd “11ShotsAndSuddenDeath” moves keenly from piano-led meander into what feels like a reprise of “Sju”. It honestly feels like we’ve been dumped midway through a song into a chorus. “And down we fall” is a catchy hook but after the millionth time it does get repetitive. The song feels incomplete despite the fact that it has two natural conclusions within it. Beyond even that we find it then dragging on unnecessarily to 8:11. It’s the unconvincing song that won’t die.

Next on the bill we get instrumental psych-rockers Tiny Fingers. With their diverse sound, these dudes have been asked to perform with such diverse acts as The Mars Volta, Damian Marley and the Dub Trio. When you hear their music, it’s not difficult to see the connections.

“Dust” offers up a broken backbeat with samples, coloured with a rich cosmic vibe and a smattering of electronic effects courtesy of the fantastically-named keyboard player, Nimrod Bar. Wild, overdriven guitar a la Monster Magnet completes the set as suddenly we find ourselves in a whole other universe to the one we began in. After pitching up such a curveball, “Sanhedrin” simply hits it out of the park. A super-smooth jazzy set-up with brushed drums drives a sampled wash burning with portent. Like waves crashing back and forth on the beach it shimmers on and on, morphing to oblivion and I love it.

One presumes it’s the pair’s vintage sound that convinced them to combine EP’s but one suspects it’s more the case of a label alpha dragging along a rough diamond. It seems a pretty safe bet that most will come away having discovered something they dig, but also plenty of filler that they wish they hadn’t uncovered.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =

Monday, September 26, 2016

Album Review: Tardive Dyskinesia - Harmonic Confusion

Chances are that despite their 10-year existence and their recent UK Tech-Fest performance, you may still not have heard of this lot. Judging by the amount of sparks that are flying off the Greek metallers’ latest full-length and their peers’ early reaction to them it’s a situation that will soon be remedied. Textures’ Jochem Jacobs is already a fan which is no surprise when you consider the parallels that can be drawn with his chosen music scene and even his own band.

You see, Tardive Dyskinesia have an unfettered view of metal, so even if you’re not a specific fan of the progressive or technical stuff, you’re bound to suddenly find yourself nodding along due to the band drawing from such a wide range of sources. Motorhead, Gojira, Maiden, Meshuggah, Devin, Dragonforce – they’ve got all angles covered.

The first four tracks might just turn your brain to mush with its multi-part constructions but the deeper you dig, the simpler and less invasive the songwriting gets. “Insertion” introduces their passion for fast skidding chords. It’s a technique that pops up at regular intervals and by “Fire Red Glass Heart” one that has developed into spasmodic, polyrhythmic djent. It all soon releases into harmonised vocals then spinning off into techy runs and stoner roars before dropping into a slow-build of riff-picking. Smacks of Gojira and Textures are its bedrock but it’s the explosive lyric “You can run but you cannot hide” that provides the ultimate smack to the chops. “The Electric Sun” mashes Baroness’ sharp tones into Purified In Blood’s visceral delivery before dissolving into a Skyharbor-esque progressive wash.

Those hunting for a real crusher should skip straight to the Meshuggah-worship of “Self Destructive Haze”. It’s the aural equivalent of dropping a stink-bomb on a packed escalator. Even here amidst the bag of nails gargling and battering chugs they find a moment to breakout into a passage of uplifting chimes with accompanying vocoder. Listen very closely and you’ll pick out the true stars – the insane drum patterns and interlocking slap bass notation. As the album hits its middle, the band start opening out the structures; reducing the speed of their attack. Soon we’re wading into moments such as the arm-waving chorus of a “Thread Of Life” (inspired by Way Of All Flesh-era Gojira or I’ll eat my hat), the instrumental middle-switch and “Everlong”-aping rawk (yep, Foo Fighters) of “Concentric Waves”, the string-taps, arpeggios and jazz sax of “Savior Complex”, and post-rock noodling (a la Heights) of “Chronicity”.

 The final shaking of Tardive’s creative box of tricks is saved until right near the end – “Echoes 213”. Its a track that ripples with expansive guitar soloing, progressive arpeggios, fluid rhythms and cosmic touches which provide the gentile comedown into dead air. It would be remiss of me to not also mention that, whilst listening, I was reminded of the kind of Deconstruction-level Devin Townsend production. That is about as fine a compliment that I can give.

So, are we excited? I am! Personally, the listening experience was a lot like the band had thrown down my vinyl collection and then reconstructed it from the shards. Yet, I’d be happy to point out that Harmonic Confusion is full of originality too. Sure there’s a wealth of inspiration here but it ain’t imitation. Tardive manage to reinvent their source material and keep each part flowing in the same direction to the same destination point. If this doesn’t get them noticed by the big players, then… well, I’ll eat my other hat.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =

Friday, August 26, 2016

Album Review: Devin Townsend Project - Transcendence

Canadian musician/producer Devin Townsend is an enigma. His career and discography is mind-boggling both in the quality and variety of material within, but also the sheer volume. To date, he has released something approximating 25 studio albums (9 as a solo artist and 16 in collaboration with others), and that is before we begin to scratch the surface of his early musical career. If you're not a metalhead though, the chances are you won't even have heard of him. By Jove, are you missing out.

Take this latest effort as an example. Shorn, literally (see right), of his extreme metallic leanings, we find him back teaming up with his self-titled 'Project' to continue his exploration of the arena-filling euphoric rock that so endeared 2014's Sky Blue release to his fanbase. Essentially, what we have here is part-symphonic rock, part-pagan folk with short stabs at both dream pop and power metal. Digging in, we find another chapter has been added to "The Devin Townsend Book Of More Is More". Now that hasn't always been the case, but this is new Devin here; clean, sober and loving life. In fact, he's really opened up to the point where he's now collaborating with his band. It's a process that he has described as "more streamlined, more efficient and more fulfilling". Essentially that means he churns out a load of rough material, brings it to rehearsal and the band help him smooth it all out.

Anneke Van Giersbergen is back adding her infectious, joyous vocal to the mix. Here though, surprisingly, she is used more sparingly, adding harmonies to lift the vocal blend rather than performing a reprise of the starring role she took on the band's last release. So less is more? Huh? Certainly, those thrilling bursts from her that bubble up through the mix, pop like little, effervescent fireworks. Less may actually be more effective! It's almost hard to imagine a Dev album without her now. Wouldn't it be like drinking flat Coke? That gospel choir fill is also back making things "epic" and here he uses them to flood the senses - just don't try counting the layers.

There's strong hints from his back catalogue, from Sky Blue, Epicloud and also Infinity. In fact, originally featuring on that 1999 Infinity album, the opener is a remaster of the song "Truth". That, coupled with an inspired remix of Ween's "Transdermal Celebration" bookend the album. The former re-introduces Dev's calling card; his ultra-high production values and those big, expansive layers. The latter is catchy as hell and is certainly worth inclusion if just for the lush line "Laid on the lawn, he's already home when the morning rain hits his face". Despite it's spaced-out crystal backline, it does feel disconnected from the rest of the album and should be viewed as a bit of a bonus track. Certainly, that 5-minute cosmic, multi-part extended wash smacks of showing off.

In fact it's a slight over-simplification, but you could almost divide this album down the middle. The best tracks do all seem to come straight off the bat. "Stormbending" features Dev at his most heartfelt, belting out his lyrics like his chest is bursting with pride; determined to expand our minds and souls with lines like "Time is a human construct / A new world below the waves". The warbling guitar solo looms large here; a mere hint of its increased use later on. It is back firing behind the strutting pomp of the chugging strings that drive "Failure". The volume of it certainly adds a burst of grunt to Dev's wandering vocal. You do get the sense that he's more interested in building the sonic crush this time round than throwing out unique vocal tricks. It is driving us assuredly down a fantasy/power metal road.

Then, like two magnificent sunbursts we get "Secret Sciences" and "Higher". The catchy riff and superb build of the former invigorates, opening with the intriguing line "Yesterday I woke afraid / unable to discern if the fears were even tangible" before revealing the concept with "Let it go anyway / Let it be a part of yesterday". Essentially the man is preaching that we must love our selves and our kind and to do that we have to be the bigger man in any problem situation; to change our own perception. It's a theme that spreads itself from this core track, threading its way throughout the album. Behind it all, we are wonderfully re-introduced to Anneke  and a sublime walking bass guitar riff. That explosion into the chorus is a joy and when the vocal drifts back in the mix there is a creeping top line lead to pick out the hooks.

On to that other doozy, "Higher". From gentle beginnings - an opening hush that echoes elements from 2011's Ghost and even Foo Fighters' own experiment with the soft on 2005's In Your Honor - we hit the exclamation to go "Higher! Higher! Higher!". Rest assured, by the time it hits the track's apex, we're experiencing a mid-section hitting manic technical jazz guitar, complete with brash sweeps, roars and down-tuned chug-obsessed guitar. It all bristles with the same glorious madness that his 2011 Deconstruction album was built upon. Here though, the band always keep the song's heart close by returning to the light at regular intervals. Those final orchestral movements offer Dev the chance to bring the choir to the fore and they lead us back to the track's climax. Is this not the very definition of "epic metal"?

There are a few weaknesses to consider and those do come in the promised latter half of the album. "Stars" certainly provides the same sort of initial comedown as it's neighbour. Deliberate, but here it is less ambitious. The chord structures begin to feel a little anachronistic; the slumbering vocal hush yearns to be adored. But still that walking middle-eight in repose is a killer cut-away. These little moments of genius make such simple songs essential. The main vocal certainly knows when to take a backseat in the mix to the glorious warmth of the choir. What doesn't run so smoothly is the continuous full-bore hit that the title-track attempts straight after. The baritones in the choir set the mood and then Anneke takes over and the oppressive flood of the thing begins to melt away. But does it go anywhere, does it say anything or is it mere filler? It seems you can be crushed by heavily-layered mood music. Who knew?

One final thorn is left but all I'll say is have a listen to the song "Have I Told You Lately?" by Van Morrison, Rod Stewart or any other artist, before listening to "From My Heart" and try not to marry the two. It's impossible, right? Even a heart-warming message like that isn't worth an eight-minute run time though.

So yes, it's a cracking release from DTP but it's not without fault. You certainly get your money's worth though and only a fool would hesitate before recommending it. With an insanely-successful career like that behind him, you can be sure that an on-point Devin Townsend is a goddamn genius. Out-of-synch, he's merely essential listening.

Also online @ The Line Of Best Fit