Monday, 13 June 2016

Dark Funeral- Where Shadows Forever Reign

Image Credit: Metal Chris Flickr 


Artist: Dark Funeral
Album: Where Shadows Forever Reign
Record Label: Century Media 
Release Date: June 3rd 2016

In an age where Black Metal seems to have become increasingly about evolution and less about a grass-roots belief system or sonic aesthetic, one might very well hand someone unfamiliar with the genre a copy of the new Dark Funeral album, Where Shadows Forever Reign (their first in seven years), as an archetype of conventional BM in the modern age. It’s crisp, clean production exudes modernity, and while this is not always a negative in the BM prospectus these days, the album is not as sumptuously bleak as its predecessor, 2009’s Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus. 

The best moments here are those which come racing out of the starting blocks with macabre presence. The band’s reliance on ‘LaVeyan’ Satanism is still the crux of their dynamic, and married with the cascading, evil melody in ‘Beast Above Man’ and the bone-clenching fury of ‘As One We Shall Conquer’ it’s apocalyptic nihilism sounds as refreshed as you like. But the likes of the title track and ‘Temple of Ahriman’ are devoid of the aforementioned character for the most part, and despite the spiritual bent to the lyrics on the balladry of ‘As I Ascend’ it lacks any real atmospheric peak.

While it suffers from its conservatism, the fact that Dark Funeral continue galloping along with darkness as their ultimate companion is to be appraised. If any listener is of the persuasion that blast beats and maudlin fun are still the four pillars of any great Black Metal record, then Where Shadows Forever Reign is likely to appease them wholesale. 

6/10
Key Tracks: 'As One We Shall Conquer', 'Beast Above Man'
For Fans Of: Marduk, Watain


Sunday, 12 June 2016

NEW SOUNDS: Cavaliers- Gannet




Winchester Indie Rockers Cavaliers have just this evening unveiled a new song entitled 'Gannet', which you can stream via the band's Soundcloud here.

Taking the tricksy math-rock indebted meandering of early Foals and applying some London-in-the-halcyon-mid-'80s atmosphere with layers of reverb, the song seems to be hazarding at the grandiose embellishment of Suede or The Stone Roses. Lyrically the song takes on a more mournful tone, exemplifying the somewhat desperate and introspective observations of someone in the throes of heartbreak. The tight musicianship and glossy sheen mean that the tracks gallops along with a forthright pace, and memorable flavour.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Allfather- Bless The Earth With Fire


Artist: Allfather
Album: Bless The Earth With Fire
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: 29th April 2016

Metal will never die thanks to bands like Rochester quintet Allfather. Although massive grooves, crushing riffs and lyrics concerning the apocalypse and ugly demises are rather conservative staples of the genre’s sound, when they’re offered as viciously and as well-crafted as they are on their second EP Bless The Earth With Fire it’s not THAT easy to argue against.


Prospering under crisp production and tight musicianship, the 5 songs here follow fairly conventional structures, but are delivered with a sludgy swagger that EyeHateGod would be proud of. ‘The Bloody Noose’ evolves from a nihilistic, swamp-smothered crawl into a rollicking orange Goblin-esque riff-a-thon, while ‘Mouth of The Beast’ brings a brutally fist-pumping Hardcore inflection to bear before venturing into bluesy, slightly cosmic and off-kilter territory. The expansive 11-minute ‘Death, And Hell Followed With Him’ is a testament to the band’s skill at harnessing both atmosphere and a multitude of riffs into a wholesome epic.

There’s nothing particularly new bought to the table here, but there’s enough promise here to somewhat prove that the power riffs and darkness shouldn’t be underestimated when in decent hands. 

7/10

Key Tracks: 'Mouth Of The Beast', 'Death, and Hell Followed With Him', 'Raskolnikov'
For Fans Of: Crowbar, Orange Goblin 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Discharge- End Of Days


Artist: Discharge
Album: End Of Days
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 28th April 2016

Sometimes it’s important to re-acquaint oneself with the quintessential elements of a musical genre that made you fall in love with it in the first place. It’s been eight years since renowned Hardcore veterans Discharge last released a full-length LP, and although expectations were reservedly high, it’s likely nobody anticipated a release quite as pulverising as End of Days.


In the hands of most bands, 15 tracks with pretty much nothing in the way of variation would be a slog not worth the time, but in true Discharge fashion End Of Days is exhilarating from start to finish. Devoid of both pretension and anything besides the band’s deep-seated expertise, it’s full to the brim with all the vicious anti-establishment vigour, demands for social justice and stories of brutal warfare that you’d expect. Opener ‘New World Order’ has a scintillating thrash-affiliation while lead-off single ‘The Broken Law’ is one of the more outwardly melodic ragers on offer. Take into account the nihilistic electricity of the likes of ‘Hatebomb’ and ‘Looking at Pictures of Genocide’, as well as the skater-prone ‘It Can’t Happen Here’ and this has pretty much all the makings of not just an essential Discharge record, but an essential reversion to what Hardcore is all about. 

8/10

Key Tracks: 'The Broken Law', 'Hatebomb', 'Looking At Pictures Of Genocide'
For Fans Of: Sick Of It All, Black Flag

Modern Baseball- Holy Ghost

Image Credit: Melanie Levi Flickr


Artist: Modern Baseball
Album: Holy Ghost
Record Label: Big Scary Monsters
Release Date: 12th May 2016

Emotion is an ambiguous and sometimes disingenuous word. Without wanting to prescribe to an over-analytical, hyperbole-ridden mindset that descends from post-modernism, it’s a word that is often contorted to fit a purview, or enhanced given a particular circumstance. It is, however, quite often easy to tell when emotion is genuine, and on their 3rd full-length Holy Ghost Philadelphia quartet Modern Baseball have certainly tugged on their own heart-strings.

An album which revels in guilt, morbidity and eventually hope, Holy Ghost is a tale of two halves. The first was penned by guitarist Jake Ewald, and the second by fellow guitarist and vocalist Brendan Lukens. Throughout these songs the lyrics run the ringer through themes of giving up, loss and distance, tensions between the band members (sometimes exacted in a fiery manner, as on ‘Note To Self’), depression and both the strains and promise of being a band on the rise.

Musically it would be easy for one to sit here and trace Modern Baseball’s lineage back. Certainly this is an album in awe to early ‘90s emo and alt-rock heritage, but its sense of melody and fire-in-the-gut pace carries it through with a grace that means it doesn’t remind necessarily remind one of how great Rites Of Spring were. It’s always nice when a band take a formula and manage not to re-arrange it but to produce songs and melodies that hit home in terms of their memorability and impact, and for the most part Holy Ghost achieves that in abundance.

It’s the aforementioned lyrical matter that sits at the heart of the record though, meaning that even though investment in a certain amount of emotional tangibility might be required on behalf of the listener, if it strikes one as resonant then it can be completely consuming. “All I found were empty cans and cigarette butts lying in dirty parking lots in Ottawa”, intones Lukens on ‘Note To Self’, before asserting that “pretending we feel safe right now gets harder every day”. The more blood-quickening ‘Mass’ is more direct in its approach to feelings of loneliness and distance from loved ones, and Ewald’s poetic tendencies are at their most forthright on the gorgeous ‘Everyday’; “You need to hide, it’s in your framework, look me in the eyes and tell me I don’t know how shame works”.

‘Breathing In Stereo’ in the record’s latter half is a near-perfect, short, sharp encapsulation of all the disconnection, desperation & hope felt in the given circumstances- “Why does it take 2000 miles for me to say I love you?” delivers Lukens with a rawness in his voice. The progression and recovery becomes most fervent on the final tracks, the excellent ‘What if’ ending in a righteously bouncy discussion of the future, and closer ‘Just Another Face’ will likely be empowering to anyone affected by mental health issues in any way.

It’s a testament to just how intrinsic a narrative Holy Ghost is for the band that it ends on a high note. The documentary they released to accompany the record, Tripping In The Dark, shows the full extent to how heartfelt the band’s journey has been, and the time and detail invested in the story telling on the 11 tracks here is the sort that can only be informed by actual experiences. As is so often the case with decent revivalist records in recent years, naysayers will likely chuck the “overly emotional” tag at this and leave it. Fine; this is a record which succeeds on the basis of its personal delivery and feeling, and for those who can tap into that it’s a total reward. 

8/10

Key Tracks: 'Everyday', 'Breathing In Stereo', 'Just Another Face'
For Fans Of: Basement, The Wonder Years


Perc & Truss- Leather & Lace


Artist: Perc & Truss
Album: Leather & Lace
Record Label: Perc Trax
Release Date: 19th May 2016

Outside of the music itself, Dance music’s community spirit has always been its most fore-frontal winning ingredient. The shared essence of warm, welcoming spirit and collective inclusion that exists at the majority of raves and in the best examples of Resident Advisor’s podcast series has, for the most part, been universal in its attitudes. Fractures do, of course, exist on the periphery; Bloc founder George Hull’s much maligned comments back in March signified some of the more conservative viewpoints not washed out by the sea change. True enough, some would argue that student nights full of curly haired, MDMA guzzling rugby lads may have watered down the rave scene’s initial anti-establishment oeuvre.


However, as times change, so too do the rules of engagement, and in an age where dance music’s cultural acceptance breeds both love from a new generation and disdain from an old guard of whom many may have been simply riding a wave, there’s room for fun and abandon on both sides of the net. The marriage of both aesthetics, however, does rather take the consideration of two dab-hands, and certainly Perc & Truss are those.

There isn’t really a question of chemistry when it comes to Leather & Lace, the pair’s first collaborative project since 2014’s Two Hundred EP, because not only have they proven it’s existence before, but so intrinsic are their shared values and vision in their respective material that one can expect both linear structuring and a melting pot of ideas. Though experimentation is slightly discarded here for the biggest-room techno we’re yet to hear from the duo, almost every aspect is judged and measured to have the right amount of impact and depth. These are hard-nosed bangers for sure, but they don’t shy away from artistry either.

The opening title track is seemingly overwrought but it raises a defiant gesture towards faction development, occupying dark basements and sun-kissed trips at Dekmental simultaneously. The aforementioned restraint is used masterfully here, its trance-flavoured synths pulled back just enough to favour atmosphere over obnoxious volume.

‘Subox’ brings a slightly more feverish sweatbox mentality to bear; it’s still propelled by an enormous kick, it’s predecessor’s euphoria  replaced by intoxicating acid skronks, all entwined and acting as the dormant Mount Etna primed to explode before the entire basis is laid to waste by the thunderous discordance. ‘Badman’ is most abstract of all but maintains a direct sense of heaviness, full to the brim with filthy low-end dissonance and a trippy vocal intonation. The track deals the sledge-hammer climax one feels the whole EP has been foreshadowing, consummated by quickening tension and ear-shattering scree.

Crossover appeal is often a tenuous thing, and one should not expect to hear any of Leather & Lace being broadcast on daytime Radio 1. In and of itself that’s a testament to its ability to capture both 4/4 immediacy and the atmospherics that it’s often necessary to mine deeper to find. The three tracks here are as abrasive, nasty and heavy-set as they are fist-pumping. It seems neither dance culture nor dance music can always adhere to that chemistry, so when it does it should always be treated with reverence. 

8/10

Key Tracks: 'Leather & Lace', 'Badman'
For Fans Of: Blawan, Surgeon 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Elzhi- Lead Poison

Image credit: The Come Up Show Flickr


Artist: Elzhi
Album: Lead Poison
Record Label: GLOW365/ Kickstarter
Release Date: 25th March 2016

In the last 18 months or so the notion of a band asking fans for money via Kickstarter campaigns has become more addressable. There is certainly a debate to be had; some may feel slightly disheartened that a band may ask for funds beyond those received via album sales and the live circuit. There's the tangible rebuttal that artists going to these lengths is a testament to how surviving in the music industry these, especially for the less corporate minded, is a battle largely fought weakened and down on one knee. 

Detroit rapper Elzhi is certainly a troop in the elite corps of the latter crowd. It's been five years since the former Slum Village member released his last full-length, Elmatic, and three years since he launched his Kickstarter campaign to fuel a new record. Personal turmoil and a stint in community service for selling weed certainly seem like viable setbacks, but perhaps some people's reservations about crowd-funded projects is actually getting a return on their investment. With Lead Poison, both fans who donated and hip-hop in general certainly get that. 

Upon the release of Elmatic, Elzhi's flow and ability to ride a beat became some of the most revered assets in underground hip-hop. His (by that point) lauded ability as a wordsmith was sealed in the consciousness of a wider scale audience too. Fans expecting a similar sonic scale may have to double-take Lead Poison on first listen; save for the classically soulful 'Friendzone' there are no "bangers" as such here. Everything is stripped back and reserved in order to give prominence to El's frankly magical lyrical talent. Instead of an inconsolable rift appearing between music and wordplay though, the more blissed-out and background fug-ish beats, which are at times totally beautiful and reflective, compliment the MC's zealous, heartfelt and fiercely intelligent poetic understanding. The fact that it requires patience and attention is a testament to its inclusion of an ingredient which all the best hip-hop records have; craft. 

It won't come as a surprise to any Elzhi fan that soul, honesty and a witty sense of personal trouble has been poured into Lead Poison. The soundbites of pen scratching paper are a clear reference to the toils of writing an (hopefully) entirely worthwhile project. Songs like 'February' and 'Hello!!!!' deal in a modest, often morose, metaphor-laced story-telling, while 'Alienated' documents a relatable and contemporary feeling of inward and societal disillusionment. 'The Healing Process''s drumless, ghostly bleepery walks a fine line between warm and suffocating, and 'Misright' is probably the finest example of Elzhi's meticulous understanding of rhythm, rhyme and emotion. 

Dated slice of vampire-based literature 'She Sucks' aside, it's necessary to pay acute attention to almost every moment on Lead Poison, and Elzhi certainly never makes it difficult for you to do so. Captivating, smart and yet down-to-Earth story telling set to a well-judged and carefully produced sonic backdrop, Lead Poison is an album that spans pretty much the whole scope of underground hip-hop. Not flawless, but pretty much always mesmerising. 

8/10

Key Tracks: 'Hello!!!!', 'February', 'Misright'
For Fans Of: Black Milk, Ka