Sunday, 7 February 2016

Milk Teeth- Vile Child


Artist: Milk Teeth
Album: Vile Child
Record Label: Hopeless
Release Date: 29th January 2016

Tipped Gloucestershire quartet show how to do '90's revivalism correctly on debut album

There's a twisted surrealism to much of the '90s nostalgia that now exists in guitar music. Much maligned as the era of the boy band and Vanilla Ice- encrusted dark age of the music industry, the perennial disregard for many bands outside of the big-hitters seems to have been revised far too late, as if the music wasn't incendiary enough the first time around. Perhaps the scope is still largely confined to the blogosphere; don't expect to hear any covers of Fugazi in the UK chart any time soon, for example. The chief problem with this re-surfacing's association with the hype machine is that so many of the bands lack a sense of identity, something that made everyone from My Bloody Valentine to The God Machine quintessential. Gloucestershire four piece Milk Teeth are (in terms of the bands covered by the rock and metal press) one of the few groups that stand out as being vitally in tune with a refreshed sense of self. 

The release of their debut album Vile Child at the end of last month finds them in a peculiar position given the departure of guitarist Josh Bannister on January 5th, whose hoarse vocals are a crucial part of the band's character on both the more feral and mid-paced moments here. It's lead-singer Becky Blomfield's vocals which generally take centre stage here, and the presence (or lack thereof) from Josh never harms the record's charm at any turn. 

Not only is every aspect of the song-writing on Vile Child, both composition-ally and lyrically, attacked with energy and belief, but there's a sense of deeply integrated love for what's being created oozing throughout the record, which is enough to distinguish it from a  handful of contemporaries already. There's a chemistry and resonance that holds the music in the palm of its hand; an all-encompassing support system for a record which still has room to take on a life of its own. 

Opener 'Brickwork' bursts into action with The Colour and The Shape- esque exuberance. The following 'Driveway Birthday' marks itself as a candid slacker anthem for the modern age, Blomfield's lyrics drawing on depression and the imprisonment of dead-end UK towns. The beautiful, fuzz- drenched balladry of 'Swear Jar ( Again)' is equipped with a sense of coming-of-age romance and Blomfield intones "your dad soon to cotton on, we've been gone far too long". 

Both 'Moon Wanderer' and later on 'Leona' exemplify the band's impressive understanding of structure, progressive in scope and soaring within their 4-minute perimeters, the latter particularly showcasing the vocal understanding between Becky and Josh. 'Kabuki' marks itself as the album's most intimately personal moment, as Blomfield begs for "a chemical fixer, a brain elixer that kills off all self-hate". 

Though in some respects Vile Child marks the end of an era for Milk Teeth, it also suggests the dawning of a new one.  The record ends sounding no less fresh-faced and assured than it starts, which is perhaps the most promising demarcation of new ideas and chapters bubbling under the surface. Despite the fact that influences seem to be worn passionately on sleeves, there's almost nothing here that sounds borrowed or contrived. Milk Teeth aren't a '90's nostalgia band; they're a proper rock presence for 2016. 

8/10

Key Tracks: 'Brickwork', 'Swear Jar (Again)', 'Leona'
For Fans Of: Foo Fighters, Sonic Youth 




Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Black Queen- Fever Daydream


Artist: The Black Queen
Album: Fever Daydream
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: 29th January 2016

Dillinger Escape Plan front-man joins forces with electronic luminaries for an album of dark, stunning proportions 

The sense of community that exists between Metal fans and bands alike has always been perhaps the genre's most culturally favourable rationale, and in 2016 it's pleasing to detect that all-encompassing spirit crossing over into musical territory as well as in terms of people. The Dillinger Escape Plan's Greg Puciato is one man who has been a constant reminder of the joys of eclecticism via his day-job's artful approach to chaos. A bit like the untouchable Mike Patton he's earned the right to experiment in almost any way tangible, so the fact that his new project The Black Queen has far more in common with '80's synth-pop than anything rock-orientated doesn't ring many alarm bells, if any. The one way to prove that, of course, would be to a release a staggeringly solid beauty of a record, and Fever Daydream is, within its realm, near-perfect. 

Completed by sole Telefon Tel Aviv member Joshua Eustis and fellow musician Steven Alexander, the obvious reference points of influence are Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails, but the depth and swirling texture at every turn here suggests a far more open-minded pallet and vision. Reportedly worked on steadily over the past four years, whether it's dealing in always brilliantly judged spaciousness or industrial-tinged bangers it carries itself with a meticulous grace that forms a nuanced wholesomeness. 

Instrumental opener 'Now, When I'm This' sets the sub-zero, 3am in an abandoned warehouse vibe to be adhered to but also consistently uprooted. 'Ice To Never' balances its pounding, tribal sense of rhythm with gorgeous restraint in the synths, leaving Puciato's voice plenty of room to soar. 'The End Where We Start' is a fractured glimpse into an other-worldly lucid dream. Central point 'Maybe We Should/Non-Consent' sees some of Puciato's poetic and (whisper it) romantic lyricisms shoved warmly into the fore as the track becomes a slow-burning anthem around him, before it descends into two minutes of mechanic and eerie low-end rumble and synthetic clatter. 


Greg's voice becomes almost siren-like over the Boards of Canada-esque glitchy dystopia of 'Strange Quark', and is chopped and looped to become part of the music on 'Taman Shud', whose mid-section convulses in to an off-kilter pool of skittering electronics and fuzzy, organic bass rattles as Puciato croons of love cryptically ("I know that we're buried, innocent and true"). 

By the time magnificent 7-minute closer 'Apocalypse Morning' draws to a close it may take the listener a few moments of silence to feel the full impact of the hand they've just been dealt. Given the little fanfare that Fever Daydream was expressed by before arrival, expectations were probably rather scatter-brained and it's possible that nobody thought it would be as well-structured, focused and detailed as this. In fact, everything folds together to form an almost transcendental mirage; it's the kind of creativity that suits Greg & his band mates to a T. 

9/10

Key Tracks: 'Ice To Never', 'The End Where We Start', 'Maybe We Should/ Non-Consent', 'Apocalypse Morning'
For Fans Of: Depeche Mode, Junior Boys




Borknagar- Winter Thrice


Artist: Borknagar
Album: Winter Thrice
Record Label: Century Media
Release Date: 22nd January 2016

Norwegian progressive super-group stick to what they know best, with varying results

Though the tag 'Viking metal' runs the risk of chaining a band to a style synonymous with being un-cool, bands like luminary- studded Norwegians Borknagar and fellow countrymen Enslaved have unveiled its philosophical roots as far more widespread than tales of epic battles and mystical beasts. Just like much of their back catalogue, Winter Thrice is in awe of and supplemented by themes of origin and nature. At its most poignant it even delves into escapism that draws nearly unmissable parallels to reality. 

Grandiose and frost-bitten from the start, the refreshing sense of shamelessness that runs through Winter Thrice is set in stone. The myriad of melodies explored on 'Rhymes of the Mountain' are far more direct than the somewhat lazy sonic comparisons to Enslaved would  have listeners believe. The stark synths on 'Cold Runs the River' suit the song and album's aesthetic craftily, but best of all is the sprawling positivity of 'Panorama', complete with a scorching '70's corgi-esque keyboard lead and lyrical musings about evolution and civilisation. 

Unfortunately however, the almost complete lack of deviation from the album's blackened progressive blueprint becomes a rather cumbersome weight during it's second half. Only the sometimes lilting 'Noctilucent' provides a needed breather from the template, which causes the longer form tracks to fade from memory without much of a lasting impact. 

Borknagar understand what they can do most effectively and utilise it to occasionally beautiful moments here. Fans embroiled in the band's character will likely find little to complain about here. 

6/10

Key Tracks: 'Panorama', 'Rhymes of the Mountain', 'Noctilucent' 
For Fans Of: Opeth, Dimmu Borgir, Anathema 



Friday, 29 January 2016

Megadeth- Dystopia


Artist: Megadeth
Album: Dystopia
Record Label: Tradecraft/ Universal
Release Date: 22nd January 2016

Mustaine's re-shuffled cohorts' 15th LP is patchy but often-times exhilarating and well-crafted

A widely held (and rather correct) opinion among many corners of the metal community is that the genre needs (and has for a few years now) a solid boot up it's behind in terms of excitement and innovation; an At The Drive-In, or someone to capitalize on the momentum gained by Mastodon in recent years. While it has probably always been certain that said kick isn't going to come from Mustaine & co., with 2009's Endgame Megadeth delivered a firebrand opus to rival their glorious early '90s period. Given the disappointment of both Thirteen and the piss-weak Super Collider preceding it, perhaps aspects of the more gratuitous receptions of their 15th LP Dystopia have been down to the fact that it just isn't rubbish. That being said, this is most plausibly the band's strongest effort since Endgame

It opens with the bull-dozing 'The Threat Is Real', and right from the off Megadeth sound like a masterfully oiled and re-vitalised machine. In an interview with Metal Hammer's Dom Lawson, bassist Dave Ellefson spoke excitedly about the reported chemistry betwixt the band's re-shuffled line-up, saying of Kiko Loureiro and Chris Adler (also of Lamb Of God) that "they can play anything we put in front of them". The compositions certainly "click" better together than on its predecessors, and as its title alludes, despite being littered with Mustaine's dodgy politics it's an album of its time. 

The title-track is the most inspired track the band have written and performed for years, the track's tunefulness doing nothing to soften the glorious craft of sharp riffing and the second half's grooviness. Adler's drumming and Loureiro's blistering solos continue to fit the mould in to the rampage of 'Fatal Illusion'. 

From this point on however, Dystopia suffers from ego-mania syndrome. One can imagine the newer band members wanting to avoid putting up blockades around any slightly less fruitful ideas that the chief song-writer might have, even if the record almost always sounds collective in spirit. No matter how allegorical they are Mustaine's clumsy lyrics about how "forbidden fruit tastes sweeter" and horrible, the jarring fancifulness between the verse and the chorus betrays some cracks in the framework. Despite its potentially patronising core sentiment the neat song-writing on 'Post-American World' provides the album's most definably catchy moment. 

The six minute 'Poisonous Shadows' seems to be drawn from more personal and perhaps heart-broken experiences, and as such material has never been Mustaine's esoteric stomping ground the track comes off as cumbersome. 'Lying In State' brings nothing to the table in terms of some much-needed refreshment as its point of arrival, though 'The Emperor' manages to do so by emphasising the band's explosive melodic streak in rollicking form. 

It is not the case that to hope for another masterpiece from Megadeth is to set oneself up for disappointment. Dystopia is often exhilarating and well-crafted and is the most approachable the band have sounded possibly ever. It's another very good record that slots nicely in to their catalogue as worthwhile, which many people have been crying for since 2009. 


Thursday, 28 January 2016

Grieved- Grieved


Artist: Grieved
Album: Grieved
Record Label: Prosthetic 
Release Date: 22nd January 2016

Swedish quartet's second full-length is a familiar but bleakly electrifying one 

Swedish quartet Grieved are so steeped in both the lineage of their native country's music scene and a more universal grasp of Hardcore that if cut they would probably bleed down-tuned, disgustingly sludgy riffs and d-beats. Thick with nihilism and emotionally charged, their self-titled 2nd LP engages in a pleasing amount of depth and scope.  'Fogbound' and 'Drain' assert a vice grip-like aggression through their myriad of riffs and tempos, while the spaciousness on 'Losing Touch' recalls some of the atmospherics endorsed by Black Breath on 2012's Sentenced To Life. It's a sound and aesthetic that's been done to death, but even so the blood-pumping moments remain electrifying late in to the game (see penultimate track 'Asunder').

7/10

Key Tracks: 'Fogbound', 'Drain', 'Asunder'
For Fans Of: Brutality Will Prevail, Madball




Savages- Adore Life


Artist: Savages
Album: Adore Life
Record Label: Matador
Release Date: 22nd January 2016

London quartet approach sexuality and liberal politics in a more mature and structured way on album No. 2

When considering the foundations upon which the initial punk movement structured itself, in the UK at least, London-based quartet Savages seem to fit the bill resplendently. Overt and confident sexuality, a large appetite for musical confrontation via discordant spirit and noise and a seemingly anti-establishment energy were all bursting from the seams of the all-female group on both their debut album Silence Yourself and in their interviews. Whereas, say, The Sex Pistols creative impetus came from total disengagement, Savages' comes from the desire to create an expressionistic testament rather than a knee-jerk middle finger, and that certainly sits at the basis of Adore Life

Considerably more crafted and mature than its predecessor, Adore Life is more about informed criticism than spit-drenched, youthful abandon. Delving deeper into society's nihilistic perceptions of sexuality and love, it's a record that often tones down its *ahem* savagery in favour of more poignant deductions. Calling from both personal experience and four studious minds, this is not necessarily a bad thing. 

Front-woman Jehnny Beth sets the record's afront almost immediately; over Gemma Thompson's grinding guitars on 'The Answer' she coos "sleep with me, we'll still be friends" before goading "I saw the answer, will you go ask her?". Over the galloping goth-rock-indie-disco of 'Evil' she casts a searing eye at more conservative attitudes towards same-sex union, and on the wholesomely slinky, slow-burning waltz of 'Adore' (despite her regret-ridden offerings) she largely rejoices in all-encompassing, universal and human passions as she sings "I understand the urgency of life". 


'Slowing Down the World' sees her maintaining absolute control over her sexuality at both a fleshy and more considered level, almost mocking her unnamed lover as she asks "is it for you I beg? Is it for you I pray? Is it for you I lay down anywhere?". Her approach to the desperate need for love and everything in entails on closer 'Mechanics' is a staunch statement of liberal intent and defiance; "When I take a man... or a woman... they're both the same... they're both human". 

It might be quite deliberate, but the fact that only 'The Answer', 'Surrender' and 'T.I.W.Y.G' buzz with the cascading, blood-pumping rawness of Silence Yourself sticks out like an ever-so-slightly sore thumb sometimes. It might seem like a natural progression, but the instrumentation on 'Evil' comes across as unfortunately ordinary, and 'Sad Person' is rigidly sensible. 

With all of the more adult sense of maturity in tow, Adore Life is still packed with character, idiosyncrasy and righteousness. It doesn't spill over its self-imposed brim with snarling attitude, but it has a more cut-and-dried politics that still wears its going-against-the-grain ethos whole-heartedly on its sleeve. Savages still come across as immovably courageous in their self-conviction, and that should be the crux of their wide-spanning USP. 

7/10

Key Tracks: 'Adore', 'Slowing Down The World', 'T.I.W.Y.G.'
For Fans Of: Sleater-Kinney, Grave Pleasures 


Friday, 22 January 2016

Aborted- Termination Redux EP

Artist: Aborted
Album: Termination Redux EP
Record Label: Century Media
Release Date: 15th January 2016

Destructively searing and groovy business-as-usual from Belgian Grind veterans 

"Hell is nothing. Hell is only a word. Reality is much, much worse". So begins Termination Redux, the 5 track EP from Belgian grind/ death metal legends Aborted that precedes their new full-length later this year, and with this application of old school atmospherics the tone is set for the pillaging to come. Largely business as usual for the band, Termination Redux is at almost every turn fabulously groovy and skull-crushingly aggressive, as well as being performed with surgical precision. Besides the title track, best of all is the impossibly blood-pumping back-to-basics savagery of 'Bound In Acrimony', which sees them dig up and toy with grind's Hardcore roots. If this is anything to go by, it's going to be a big year for grindcore.  


7/10

Key Tracks: 'Termination Redux', 'Bound In Acrimony'
For Fans Of: Brutal Truth, Cattle Decapitation