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Reviews Coming Soon: Landskap - I, Pet Slimmers Of The Year - Fragments Of Uniforms

Monday, April 14, 2014

Album Review: Drawers – Drawers

Toulouse’s Drawers started life as a half-hearted side project but that all changed quickly when they started making a real, valid impact. The possibilities that lay in fully realising their latent potential was very rapidly grabbed with all ten of their mitts.

As a result, they have promised to play anywhere, anytime and this self-titled sophomore comes hot on the heels of 2012′s suffocating, explosive debut. All Is One was an album that Ave Noctum described as “smothering” “grumbling” and even “spasming”, so their subtle shift into performing distortion-bothering groove metal is slightly surprising. Don’t fret though, they’re still flinging sludge at each other but now they’re hitting their listeners with it. You could say they are less scattergun by design.

By recording live the band have retained a rough quality to their sound that sets them apart from over-tweaked groove bands like say Devildriver or Chimaira. With the distortion wound up on the guitars to CRUSH setting, any melody does tend to get trampled down a bit but listen carefully and you will catch snatches of it. The vocal also has to go big to rise above the rumble but Niko Bastide’s gravel-gargling throat is well up to the task, fending off the gruff, sludge-packing strings as he goes. The end result of all this bickering really doesn’t leave much room for maneuvre so the songwriting has to be tight.

Strong hits of High On Fire-esque apoplectic stoner burst through early on with tracks like “Once And For All” and the monotonous “It’s All About Love” powering through the simplistic riff construction as the band attempt to break eardrums. There’s little slacking off, but the threads and shreds of early-era Baroness begin to sneak through as progression is made. The swaggering “Bleak” and “Take Stock” are fine examples of this, even if you’ll still find yourself craving another emotion besides anger.

The following “Shadow Dancers” sees the band opening out even further and allowing the listener to sink deeper into the groove as a little more light is let in. It’s a trick that they picked up from their debut and, in both cases, I’ve wanted to flip the tracklisting on its head or scream at them to stick with this pattern for longer – curse the songwriter(s) who stopped scribbling after half an hour. No matter. By “Words” they’ve absolutely nailed the balance and the deep throbbing attack and intense focus is menacing, yet beguiling, and utterly headbang-worthy.

Greater attack does mean far less exploration or diversity and that is a shame. However, on the plus side, their straight-up homage to NOLA-dwelling stoner has all but gone so this definitely feels more like a Drawers album than their debut ever did. It’s short and sweet (too short), but they certainly sound like they’re having fun even though they clearly mean business. To this end, I think we can ignore those gurning faces on the cover and revel in the knowledge that these Frenchmen are now headed in the right direction.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =

Monday, April 7, 2014

Album Review: Jackson Firebird – Cock Rockin’

Crude, lewd Australian dudes Jackson Firebird are a duo utterly embedded in the world of sex, whiskey and rock n’ roll. Following the past rules that seem to come with the sleaze rock territory, guitarist Brendan Harvey and drummer Dale Hudak naturally claim they were “spoon-fed from a young age on rock n’ roll”. It follows that careful selection of their band name, album art / title abounds to make sure they tick the remainder of the boxes. Their moniker obviously makes reference to the guitar of the same name but, off the top of my head, it also references past blues and rock n’ roll heroes like Jim Jackson, Jackson Browne, The Firebirds and, of course, Lynyrd Skynyrd (who wrote the all-time classic “Freebird”). As for the coy, nude lady and their constant lyrical references to their collective meat and two veg, well that’s Jackson Firebird in a nutshell.

They prefer to refer to their music as “cock rock” and early listens prove that term appears to be a mish-mash of good ol’ boy rock n’ roll and frazzled blues. They flesh that all out with a good dose of Southern twang, a little noisome rap and add plenty of modern twists and turns too. Time and again they are found making room for elements of Foxy Shazam’s playful abandon and, when the duo pare down their sound into a simple two-step beat with lolloping strings, they manage to gift their music a minimalist quality that marks them out as simple wandering troubadors practicing their art. When this no-frills style is taken to the extreme, songs like “Can Roll” will have you checking round walls and expecting to see the pair busking on a street corner for beers.

Look beyond the trio of swaggering, sex-obsessed, rock n’ fuck ‘n roll openers and you’ll stumble into “Quan Dang”. It’s a game-changer of a track featuring the Johnny Dynell signature “Jam Hot” rap (“tank fly boss walk jam nitty gritty”, etc.) and plays like an amalgamation of Rage Against The Machine, The Beastie Boys and Limp Bizkit. This unique brand of cookie-cutter rock n’ roll riffery that occasionally lurches out into semi-break experimental sections really help the band stand out as one-offs, yet it’s not until they repeat the trick with the killer “Sweet Eloise” that they really make it stick. One listen to its climactic half-spat rap featuring the brutal line “This is my shit, my house, my car / It makes me even wonder how we made it this far” and you’ll be sold.

Ultimately, this duo were always going to live or die on the strength of their songwriting and their vocalist. They may not always excel at the former talent due to plenty of uninspired fillers like the repetitious “Little Missy” or the sluggish “Red Light” but, happily, Brendan Harvey has one sweet-assed voice. He proves it’s gloriously adaptable and is certainly helped out with all the added flavour of some nifty production techniques. So, if you’re a headband wearer, a spontaneous air guitarist or a Jack n’ Coke guzzler, come get a slice of Jackson Firebird’s wickedly grizzled, yet undeniably eclectic rock music.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Album Review: Inventions – Inventions

Sleep’s Jerusalem, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene and, to a lesser extent, Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side Of The Moon and Ozric Tentacles’ Jurassic Shift. These are all albums whose tracks remain emotionally welded together, no matter how many attempts are made to pull them asunder. Those who harbour a strong passion for long-players of this ilk will glory in the birth of Inventions whose debut demands instantaneous full exposure.

Having previously stuck rigidly to their own bodies of work, there was always the fear that neither Explosions In The Sky‘s Mark T. Smith or Matthew Cooper, the sole member of Eluvium, sending audio tapes across the heart of the U.S., would bring a cohesive series of fresh sounds to the table and, to some extent, their music does touch base with their past bands. However, there can be no doubt that as a united force they have also revelled in the freedom this new project has granted them. Consequently, they have created an instrumental album of the most beautiful, minimalist, ambient rock music that resonates at a completely different frequency from all that has gone before.

Yawning into life, the aptly-titled “Echo Tropism” tugs gently at your sleeve; its soft flow pulling you into a sculptured world where joyous emotion soaks into the flora and resounds along currents that circulate around your still form. Drifting through the tracks, breathy vocalisations begin to create harmonics that rise through the richly-layered subsonics. The spartan, often crunching, percussive elements keep the whole locked into a central spine so that as the synthetic patterns stretch, in the main, they remain integrated and vital to the whole.

Softly throbbing industrial machinations thread their way through tracks like “Entity” and “Psychic Automation”, the former pitching a subversively robotic burble into a series of pressure-releasing industrial pistons that curse as they snort and hiss their disapproval. The one track that wincingly tries to break rank is the coiled snake and bustling city soundscape of “Sun Locations / Sun Coda” which, curiously, assimilates elements of trance music. Happily, the ambient post-rock of “Peacable Child” reasserts the flow by slotting a pitter-patter arpeggio beneath a warping synth to create rotational drag. The remarkable effect is not unlike rhythmically cupping and uncupping your ears. For an extra-sensory experience try closing your eyes - I was alarmed to discover a tank of slowly pulsing, bioluminescent jellyfish staring back at me.

Constantly shifting, there is an astonishing organic flow to the album and to force unwieldy terms like electronica or shoegaze upon this collection would seem crass. It does touch base with the genres at several points during its life-cycle, yet the focus remains rooted to the emotional impact it has. Flooded with the same warm tones that emerged from ISIS / Deftones collaborative project Palms’ debut and imbued with similar instrumental pressure points to those of The Ocean’s Pelagial and Uneven Structure’s Februus, this pulsating album positively glows. Make time for this single-sitting long-player and you will be rewarded.

Also online @ The Line Of Best Fit =

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Album Review: MIRE - Inward/Outward

Sticky, sodden, stinking and sinking — Mire is not the most pleasant or imaginative of words to use to name your band and yet where once there was none, now we have two fighting to disentangle themselves; waving to grab our attention. Although their two worlds may not be a million miles apart, Mire (or MIRE if you’re that way inclined) and their debut album Inward/Outward are most definitely not to be confused with the UK’s aspirational post-metallists The Mire or their co-incidentally timed release Glass Cathedrals: see Jimmy Rowe’s review. Rather, this version hail from Montreal in Canada and play feisty, hook-laden rock with expansive passages of progressive experimentation.

Two years in the making, this mouth-watering beast is just the kind of tempting morsel that is far too easily discarded. It’s a worthy long-player that rewards those who persist in the same way that the offerings of their forbears Tool, Nine Inch Nails and Deftones, those that they are so quick to name-check, did. Essentially, Mire imbue their work with an organic, rhythmical flow with room made for builds, spaces and crunches of varying length. On an emotional level, the album, rather appropriately, heads inward to the point of axis, ‘Limitless’, before heading back outwards. It is all, at once, both portentous attack and release music and expansive, progressive fare.

Kicking off strongly, ‘Complex’ strikes with biting rock in the style of Incubus, and to a lesser extent Audioslave, to quickly establish an early momentum yet, even this early, Mire aren’t afraid to vary the pace and utilize ethnic instrumentation to stir up the formula a little. Going one better ‘Tyrannicide’ is chock-full of hooks, striding out with skidding guitar and scene-setting keys which reach out to tug down the most infectious of choruses. J. P. Lachapelle’s vocal is powerful enough to grab your attention, his strong, melodious affectations aping those employed by Kevin Moore (Chroma Key, Fates Warning), Maynard James Keenan (Tool) and even those of Jethro Tull‘s Ian Anderson, but it’s Stephane Boileau’s dominating tribal drumming that holds it.

The central core of the album provides the majority of the ambient noodling and sprawling melodies. The two-part ‘Limitless’ stands apart gripping the listener with plucked verses, suitably soft boy-girl harmonics that echo O.S.I. in their occasional brushstrokes of electronica. Oddly, the central track, ‘Beast And The Machine’, tries all manner of styles but never fails to ignite fully. Any lack of impact is balanced by the enormous hitting power of ‘Catalan Atlas’, in which we are asked to “crack the code of God:, and the mind-blowing ‘Open Circle’. The latter increases the pace, throws in plenty of rhythmic punch and comes loaded with sweet, soaring pop-rock as it juggles gut-rumbling bass and fizzing riffs.

There are moments of instrumental goodness that retain that sense of space that the album allows for. ‘Mantra Cymatic’ is a throwaway gimmick, much unlike ‘Convolution’ where you are thrillingly encased inside the amniotic sac of some vast machine where ear-to-ear drift takes you warping through a series of clanking anomalies. Later, these effects splinter and take on a visceral, infinitely more industrial edge for the very Tool-esque cosmic rush of ‘Upheaval’.

Lyrically and thematically, it’s a hugely memorable album. Toying with the concepts of (at a guess) self-aware machines, ultimate power and humanity, there are powerful lines that emerge to grip us. From the instant “Why don’t you leave me alone / I don’t wanna have to go” via the desperate “This addiction is a crime / Just kill to keep alive” and out to the sensitive “Crafted hatred, stripping naked / Fuck with my heart, crushing my head”.

Despite Inward/Outward being an impressive opening salvo, there is still very much the sense that Mire are still feeling their way around their sound; sticking to the paths well-trodden. Progressive rock, of course, is a genre that will allow them time and room to experiment because they do need to find a new path of their own to journey down. The grittier, more emotive tracks here suggest they are more than capable of locating that.

Also online @ Heavy Blog Is Heavy =

Album Review: Need – Orvam: A Song For Home

This third full-length album, following “The Wisdom Machine” and “Siamese God”, from the Greek quintet Need displays a complex grasp of 70s and contemporary prog metal. It comes spring-loaded with flighty melodic threads à la Dream Theater and Fates Warning. It consistently punches above its weight throwing in big hefty clumps of Nevermore-esque power rock and is never afraid to mine a rich seam of Tool-ian avant-garde quirks.

Opener “Lifeknot” emerges like some crazed dance robot before settling down into a steady switch-back between the half-time hush of the bitter verse and the lurching, rhythmic chorus. As you’d imagine with an album subtitle like “a song for home”, inevitably there is a sonic essence of the band’s homeland running throughout the music. That ethnic feel and tone comes through in spades on the 10-minute “Entheogen”, where we get a repeated and monotone mantra to chant back, middle-eastern guitar scales and instrumentation and a sashaying female top-end vocal piece.

Here, the multitude of layers from the foreground power of Jon V.’s emotive vocal, the interweaving shredded guitar work and the diverse soundscaped background are craftily-balanced, meaning these intial tracks are never overly-busy but varied enough to allow for a different focus on each listen.

The initial sections of “Symmetrape” threaten to break out into Rush or Journey at any point but Need quickly dispel any sense of a reclining into established AOR territory by throwing in a mind-blowing blast of stomp-heavy death-doom. It’s the most curious of tracks but rams home the point and beautifully focusses the mind on the screwy construction. The album soon establishes that theme and before-long the cutaways into lounge music, space-rock or funk piano begin to make a little more sense. Need seem able to integrate these niche segues with such ease, rarely lingering on them too long before returning to the spine of the track.

Critically, the album craves a key riff or vocal lick to really make Orvam stand out. “Construct” tries hardest of all by adding bite but neither that supreme wandering synth or repeated chorus line of “Time’s ticking away…” could be said to give this the necessary kick into the listener’s sub-conscious. Sadly, this almighty hour-long album also comes with an in-built tipping point. It appears when they break off for the off-putting, one-listen-only 3:26 spoken recording of existentialist psychobabble that constitutes “Hotel Oniro”.

That one piece alone will not make or break the album for you but the 18-minute title-track rock opera that follows may. Replete with vast orchestral flourishes and echoing the epic delivery of Turisas, it plods along at a doomy pace breathing heavy with a yawning vocal. It bristles, it slumps, it cracks us emotionally, it does the lot. Broken down into bite-size chunks, it would have been far more palatable and some sections will definitely strike a chord more than others.

Opening like a posessed demon and ending like the broken character art that adorns it, this monster of an album will grab you with its imaginative use of instrumentation and engaging stylistic skullduggery but, above all, its sheer honesty and range of emotional interplay. Think not of it as an album; think of it as a story, as a journey, as a song for home.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =