Monday, 25 May 2015

Metz- II


Artist: Metz
Album: II
Record Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: 3rd May 2015

Toronto noise-rock trio run the mill with both exhilarating volume and slightly old, one-dimensional resources

Though Canadian trio Metz attack noise-rock with impressive vigour and volume, there's no denying that the formula on 'II' is a well-worn one. Highlights include the opener 'Acetate', a robust, wailing joint completed by nails-on-the-blackboard chilly lyrics like "She's barely breathing/ I'm wading through puddles on the floor". The ravenous punk spirit of 'Nervous System' is exhilarating too, but despite the electricity there's nothing particularly fresh here. 


5/10

Key Tracks: 'Acetate', 'Nervous System'
For Fans of: Women, Royal Blood



Raekwon- F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art)


Artist: Raekwon
Album: F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art)
Record Label: ICEH20
Release Date: 26th April 2015

The latest solo full-length from one of Wu-Tang's finest only serves to show how far removed from the legendary crew's dynamic he has become

In a way, the difference in career dynamic and perspective that legendary Wu-Tang member Raekwon is experiencing now compared to when '36 Chambers' was released can be summarised by his recent and on-going feud with fellow Wu-Tang icon RZA. Raekwon called out the group's de facto decision maker and production mastermind about the "mediocre shit" he was supposedly producing for Wu-Tang's last effort (2014's 'A Better Tomorrow') and subsequently went "on strike" from the group, saying he was "unwilling" to appear on the album. 

Supposedly then, 'Fly International Luxurious Art' is where Raekwon wants and thinks he needs to be, both aesthetically and in terms of career tangent. An album that ultimately concerns itself with success and commercial gain, whilst there's no doubting Raekwon's talent, 'F.I.L.A.' mostly shines a negative light on just how far removed Raekwon has become from the original Wu-Tang sphere. 

To say the album is all-out bad would be a disservice; Raekwon's flow has suffered little, and there are a handful of tracks here, both braggadocious and in the old-school Wu-Tang spirit, that work. 'Live To Die' is a violence stricken tale about bringing down corrupt and "fake" gangstas that sees Rae at his most righteous (sample lyric: "What dinosaur game you playing? You playing death"). '4 in the Morning' is a crisp but dark effort to return to the mafioso-flavoured feel of his classic 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx', and again sees him come through with creative and vitriol fueled bars, fellow Wu-Tang cohort Ghostface Killah sounding more energised than he often did on his project with BadBadNotGood earlier this year. 

Despite potentially being one of the more irksome songs on the record, 'I Got Money' is a sweet slice of retro, slightly stripped back funk-rap which features an ace gambit from A$AP Rocky, and 'Worst Enemy', even with its lazy hook from Liz Rodriguez is a surprisingly layered account of a past life of violence and a desperate want to escape it, which perhaps explains his vindication via his current riches. 


However, when there are pitfalls on 'F.I.L.A.' they unfortunately pull very few punches. Raekwon's delivery is almost always slick, but lyrically he often fails to offer anything particularly creative or ear-catching. A lot of the features don't bring much respite either. For example, on 'Soundbwoy Kill It' both Melanie Fiona and Assassin fall short of bringing anything that really fits. There's a typically dull and jarring Rick Ross verse on 'Revory (Wraith)' and no matter how hard they try, neither Ghostface or Raekwon deliver any bars that can save it. 

The elegant but crunchy glitzy boom-bap of 'Wall To Wall' is weakened by a poor French Montana feature. Estelle brings a surprisingly obnoxious hook to 'All About You', which production wise is a half-decent synth-funk pop-rap tune straight from the Drake cannon. Most offensive of all though is "Fila World". Not only is the production unbearably bad, but 2 Chainz' "I'm rubbish but I'm not taking myself seriously so it's fine" shtick is running so thin that it's not even laughable. 


There's no real telling what a Raekwon contribution to a Wu-Tang album would be at this point. It's probable that its subject matter wouldn't be as saccharine as this, but as a stand-alone project 'F.I.L.A.' should be judged on its own merits. As gifted and able as Raekwon can be, if it looks like there's no respite to his "strike" then one can only hope his writing becomes as powerful and poetic as it once was. 

4/10

Key Tracks: 'Live To Die', 'I Got Money (ft. A$AP Rocky)' 
For fans of: Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z



Sunday, 24 May 2015

New Song: Thuum- Worthless


Bournemouth sludge metal quartet Thuum have been stalwarts of the local South Coast Metal scene and live circuit since they first started playing last year, and last week they released their first completed, recorded song, entitled 'Worthless'. Crisply produced and crashing in at just over 7-minutes long, the track bulldozes through with a crushing High On Fire-esque swagger. The vocals, provided by bassist and front man Wilson, sound like a demonic call to arms projected from the belly of an enraged grizzly bear sizing up its nearest rival. It flits between stompingly slow, sludge-thickened grooves and short bursts of thrash-inspired speed, before an eerie, shimmering stand-alone riff leads into another groove fest around the halfway mark, recalling 'Leviathan'- era Mastodon. 

The track is available to stream/download for free from the band's Bandcamp page, which is linked below. As it stands there are rumours of a forthcoming Thuum EP, but in the meantime, be sure to get to one of their frequent shows around the UK in the coming months. 

Thuum- 'Worthless'/ Bandcamp
http://thuum.bandcamp.com/track/worthless



Sufjan Stevens- Carrie & Lowell


Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Album: Carrie & Lowell
Record Label: Asthmatic Kitty
Release Date: 30th March 2015

Singer-Songwriter hero Sufjan Stevens' first album in five years is a devastatingly moving and beautiful paean to his now deceased mother 

Despite emerging from the same era and adhering to the same aesthetic as Elliott Smith and Conor Oberst, Detroit singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens has never quite been awarded the same kind of coverage as his two aforementioned peers. His cult-adoration has largely been confined to the indie community, and despite his proficiency as a songwriter it seems that Stevens is more than happy for this to continue to be the case. It's that kind of lo-fi expectancy that fuels his 7th studio full-length (and first in five years) 'Carrie & Lowell', which ultimately has no ambition to be anything other than it is; a way for Stevens to express the desperately sad circumstances and feelings tied to his mother's death. 

Lead-off single 'No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross' was a grief-stricken hint at what to expect; it married Stevens' penchant for imagery and folklore-strewn poetry with bleakness, as Stevens admits to "chasing the dragon too far" as a form of escapism. 'Should Have Known Better' masks itself as one of the album's more upbeat moments melodically amidst recounts of childhood memories and depression. 

'Death With Dignity' is heart-wrenchingly direct as it finds him longing to be with his mother but "every road leads to an end". 'Fourth of July' has an almost apocalyptic, Cormac McCarthy-inspired haze to its lingering electronics and the repeated assertion that "we're all gonna die" which closes the track. Most affecting of all is 'John My Beloved', a creative and beautiful story about devastating loneliness told through adherences to classic mythology; "Go follow your gem, your white-feathered friend, Icarus point to the sun". 



The two minutes of synth atmosphere that round off closer 'Blue Bucket of Gold' offer a slight sigh of relief, and perhaps a signifier that emotionally Stevens has expressed what he needed to. There is hardly any light at the core of 'Carrie & Lowell', but it rarely ceases to be a beautifully touching account of both personal and universal grief. 

8/10

Key Tracks: 'John My Beloved', 'Death With Dignity', 'Should Have Known Better' 
For Fans of: Elliott Smith, Perfume Genius

Botanist- EP2: Hammer Of Botany


Artist: Botanist
Album: EP2: Hammer of Botany
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: 8th April 2015

Futuristic one-man BM project continues his environment-themed, glacial vision on wholesome new EP

Following the natural formula of a Hammer Dulcimer and drum kit over any traditionalist fodder such as a guitar, over the past decade mysterious one-man eco-warrior project Botanist has stood up as a musician truly putting the artistry into modern black metal. His new 5-track release 'EP2: Hammer of Botany' is as good a place to start as any. It runs through his trademark glacial soundscapes and thunderous 10-armed drumming vigorously, and the feral, dark epic of 'Flame of the Forest' is balanced out by the mid-paced pretty-ness and angelic backing vocals of 'Stachys Olympica', showcasing the width of his vision. 



7/10

Key Tracks: 'Flame of the Forest', 'Stachys Olympica' 
For Fans of: Liturgy, Altar of Plagues 

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Godspeed You! Black Emperor- Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress

Artist: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Album: Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress
Record Label: Constellation
Release Date: 30th march 2015

Despite some of the epic soundscapes and walls of noise we're used to, it sort of feels like the sky is the limit on the Canadian veterans' 5th album

There are few bands who have garnered a die-hard cult reverence quite as extensive as Canadian instrumental rock veterans Godspeed You! Black Emperor. As a sort of long-lost brother figure to Scotland's Mogwai on the other side of the pond, since the late '90s they've been responsible for some of the most inadvertently crucial records to emerge from the alternative scene. Just like Mogwai, they've always been bigger than the "post-rock" tag lumped lazily upon them, and the feverish devotion of their most loyal fans makes every release feel like an event. 

'Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress' is their 5th full-length and at 40 minutes long feels relatively short. As such, there's an inescapable feeling of containment to this record that fans of the band won't be used to. Opener 'Peasantry, or 'Light! Inside of Light!'' begins like the soundtrack to a conquering Roman army re-entering the city after years away at war, but in its final 4 moments it seems considered almost to a lacklustre fault. The stinking bass distortion and epic piles of guitar and violin layering on 14 minute closer 'Piss Crowns Are Trebled' are vast, and the groove they hit at the 7 minute mark swirls into a rather triumphant gambit, but the whole oeuvre feels disappointingly unadventurous.  

It's the less conventionally constructed tracks that prove the most rewarding here. The nail-bitingly bleak 10 minute dirge of 'Lambs' Breath' recalls the band's iconic song 'Dead Flag Blues', and it leads into the equally as squallish but more illustrious 'Asunder, Sweet', which becomes more melodically intense and beautiful before ending on a thick wall of thunderous feedback. 


The frustrating thing about 'Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress' is that essentially it's just Godspeed doing what they do best, but this time around when they're really trying to fly they sound slightly caged. Fans of the band will find much to enjoy here, it's just not the most appropriate place to start. 

6/10

Key Tracks: 'Lambs' Breath', 'Sweet, Asunder'
For Fans of: Mogwai, Swans, Fuck Buttons

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Lightning Bolt- Fantasy Empire


Artist: Lightning Bolt
Album: Fantasy Empire
Record Label: Thrill Jockey
Release Date: 24th March 2015

Innovative Rhode Island noise duo start to sound like they're slightly running out of ideas on album number seven

Almost straight from the word go on 'Fantasy Empire', the 7th studio full-length by Rhode Island noise-rock duo Lightning Bolt, it's business as usual. Opener 'The Metal East' features tight but frantic instrumentation and screaming feedback terrorism. However, like many of the other tracks here, it falls short of having any particularly exciting character that one probably hasn't heard from the band before. 

The moments that exude character are electrifying. 'Over The River and Through the Woods' is six-and-a-half minutes of disgustingly sludgy yet eventually melodic riffing and impossibly primal but rhythmic drumming. Drummer Brian Chippendale's vocals reach a sense of Michael Gira-esque mania on 'King of My World'. But the slightly hypnotic groove of 'Horsepower' doesn't offer a great deal to sink your teeth into, and the riff on 'Runaway Train' is frustratingly predictable. Even though the playing on 11-minute closer 'Snow White (& The 7 Dwarves Fans)' is intense, the duo don't really bring anything new (in the Lightning Bolt sense of the word) to the table. The moments of character are ecstatic, but ultimately much of 'Fantasy Empire' fails to be moving. 


5/10

Key Tracks: 'Over the River and Through the Woods'
For Fans Of: Hella, Battles