Friday, May 25, 2018

Chvrches : "Love Is Dead"

So this band was my methadone to ween me off a violent addiction to Taylor Swift's "1989" album. For the most part it worked only to get me hooked on their sugary electro pop. Things are only getting worse in the best possible way from there. Lauren Mayberry has lost the goth trappings of her look, and this album might not be the same shade of gray we have heard from them previous. The chorus to "Get Our" busts out and grabs your ear. The synths have a shinier sheen of plastic to them. The vocals are well layered and produced. Less dripping with effects than Taylor Swift's last album. As far as her melodies go the verses are not as strong as the choruses , but this is only two songs in. There is more disco to "Deliverance" which might be a song that just needs to grow on me. "My Enemy" finds her trading off vocals with Martin who's vocal have gotten better with each album.

"Forever" is a better example of what they do best. Mayberry's vocals fall right where they need to. "Never Say Die" follows a somewhat similar path. Lyrically it's a little more interesting. "Miracle" fills the spot they need on the map for modern pop radio. It's well crafted and stays true to what they do without coming across like a sell out. It has more balls than most of the pop these days and doesn't skimp on the sugar. "Graves' kinds strikes me a more middle of the road tune that falls into what is expected. I prefer the moodier verses to "Heaven / Hell" . The bass line thumps , but there is room for contemplation. I'm not sure about Martin's vocals on " God's Plan". It seems like some diety should have planned better for the melodies. Musically it improves as it progresses the vocals just make it uncertain.

There is more of an 80s feel to the more kraut rock synths on "Really Gone" though the meat of the song feels rather timid. "Wonderland" closes the album with a more minimal beat. The chorus is bigger in an almost more formulaic manner. I round this one up as I suspect it has to grow on me so going to give it a 9 for now, which puts this a notch under their other albums.

Graveyard : "Peace"

My first thought when cranking the new album from this Swedish band is I don't remember the vocals being this AC/DC in the past.It's their 5th album so they have a go idea of who they are and what they want to do. The more chilled out stoned vocals are still around. They just come from the corners of the first song to accent things. "Cold Love" is a more deliberate blues soaked number that reminds me more of a less jammy version of Govt Mule. The breezy ballad "See the Day" strikes me as more of an interlude than a full on song. There is more of a harder edge to the smooth 70s rock of  "Please Don't " that finds them taking the mood of the album down a dirty road blending Thin Lizzy with Corrosion of Conformity. They stay on this for several songs. Some of the over driven guitar solos have a warm retro tube feel to them and the grooves seem genuine, but begin to run together. The jammed bridge on "Walk On" works well and would transition to the stage effectively though the dynamics begin to grow a little flat.

"Del Manic" is like if Queens of the Stoneage decided to cover the Doors during one of the session with Mark Lanegan singing for them. Then there is Jimi Hendrix vibe mixing with Cream on " Bird of Paradise". This is not even hard rock, but it captures the feel of the time period they have been paying tribute to and do it in a manner that proves they mean what they are playing. This conviction in their belief of their sound is hard to argue against. They close the album with more retro blues boogie. These guys do a damn good job capturing the spirit they are after , even if this is far from the most original thing we have heard.

I am split on this, but I feel the score I have to give it is more of a reflection as to what I need in my life. I have already heard much of what goes down here. So for that reason I will give this album a 7.5. It's very well done and they succeeded in what they set out to do. I just don't need what they set out to do as I have already been here and done that. Perhaps you are 16 years old and have not then you might finds this more impressive than I do.

Zeal & Ardor : "Stranger Fruit"

This project's last album was met with a great deal of hype ridden fanfare. It was good , but did not blow me away like it did other members of the press.  The concept of this project is Manuel pondering what satanic gospel might sound like. Much like the previous album I find myself asking what is so different from what Algiers has already done? Manuel's more sung vocals have improved. There is also a thicker atmosphere at the edges of the album. When things get more intense on "Servants" its feels more like industrial than metal. There is a more black metal feel to "Don't You Dare". The black metal elements are juggled with the negro spiritual theme of the album which adheres to this projects mission statement. Then things stay more aggressive going into "Fire of Motion". While it's not black metal, it is a fun driven thrashing that might have more in common with Slipknot.

We are skipping over the atmospheric interludes like "the Hermit" and just focused on the actual songs. A palm muted guitar continues bringing an almost nu-metal groove to "Row Row". Perhaps blackened gospel nu-metal might be the sub-genre to rise up around their sound. As with this song and the one before it the nu metal elements tip the scales heavier than the black metal ones. By the time I get to "Ship On Fire" the novelty is beginning to wear off, though the songs on the front ned are certainly stronger than the previous album. The more rock elements of "Waste"that run under the attempts at black metal are more interesting. The black metal sections seem like they are being forced and don't always flow naturally.

"You Ain't Coming Back" could almost be Cold War Kids if you were doing a blind listen. This more rock n roll side seems more natural. When framed against their so called black metal moments, it makes me doubt if that darkness is in him to expel.   If you ever wondered what Sevendust would sound like if they gave black metal at stab the song "We Can't Be Found" answers that. The choked vocals don't convey anything I believe. The title track finds vocals falling over a more minimal and atmospheric back drop with a little bit of an industrial pound. The more melodic vocal melody reminds me of Satchel from the 90s. "Built on Ashes" in it's less soulful moments doesn't strike me as anything heavier than the last Deftones album. I'll give this album an 8.5. It's a great improvement over "the Devil is Fine" which I gave a 7. It's not as amazing as what other journalists are going to try to tell, but it's a more refined and better produced effort that lives up to the glimpses of potential shown on the previous album. Blackened Nu Metal is now a thing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Khemmis : "Desolation"

This guys take another step away from the Pallbearer style of doom that originally marked their first album. The first thing I notice that is different with this album is the vocals are lower and sung with a little more power. He can still get up there, up it's done more sparingly. The riffs are back to being more Pallbearer as they have an angular quality that is like puzzle pieces finding their place in one another. This song also gets heavier than certainly the previous album. The guitar heroics are in place, though coming from a more metallic place. Harsh vocals come in at the end of the first song. They are off to a more classic metal gallop on the second song with guitar harmonies following behind. It's more power metal like but it works. "Flesh to Nothing" is even more power-metal however this time it doesn't strike me as being heavier and three songs in it's evident this album is not going to be doom.

They get back to a chug with more weight on "the Seer". This riff has more sinew to it's groove. The vocals continue to soar here. It reminds me a little more of Solitude Aeturnus. The harsh fight for dominance on "Maw of  Time". The song is other wise still on the power metal, but with a darker kick. "From Ruin" is moodier and more melodic which is a needed shift in dynamics. It turns back around into the more traditional brand of metal they have already been forging with some authority for the bulk of the album. The guitar solos are pretty much what is to be expected for this kind of metal and some of the punches to this song are more Iron Maiden than what I remember being these guys stock and trade. So they have grown away from doom for sure, though their sound still bears some shades of it.

I'll round this one down to an 8.5. It is heavier . It does move them further from influences they have worn on their sleeves in the past, but the songs don't grab me as much as they used to. While the previous album did find them moving into this more power metal place, their feet are planted much more firmly on it for better or for worse depending on where you sit with power metal. Not to say this is as entrenched in that as say Hammerfall, I would prefer these guys to be more doom, but a band is going to grow in which ever direction they are going to grow in . The album is getting  this score from me at present as I don't foresee myself getting as much mileage out of it as I did the previous albums.  20 Buck Spin releases this album in America June 22nd and the rest of the world will get it from Nuclear Blast.

Fotocrime : "Principle of Pain"

 The first thing I notice by the debut full length is that production wise it sits on the slicker side of the 80's than the Bat Cave, so think more Billy Idol than Christian Death. There is more of a new wave feeling to the more Depeche Mode like groove of " Love In a Dark Time". There are also hints of New Model Army in the vocals, though this reminds me more of the dark wave / future pop project Covenant when they take on a little less organic feel on the song "Don't Pity the Young" that follows. Thanks to the more plaintive vocal they stay in that place New Model Army was in when they first crossed over into the dark side on " the Rose and the Thorn", with more of the typical post-punk tension running with the guitar melody. They are doing a good job of replicating the sound they are going for. If you told me this album came out in 1985, I might be inclined to believe you if I didn't know who these are.

If you ever wondered what a more new wave version of Nick Cave might sound like that question is answered on "Autonoir". Here mood and groove are perfectly married and this becomes what I want them to give me more of . Just because this is what I want doesn't mean it's always going to be easy for them to hit that same spot. They give a shot on the song directly after this time including female vocals and it leans more in a dark wave direction that is not as convincing. There is a more rock slant put to the post-punk tension of " Enduring Chill". This goes back to the more New Model Army direction. The bass that drives "Infinite Hunger For Love" gives me an "Ah Ha Moment" where I realized the difference between what is different when a post-punk band does this and when a goth or death rock band does this and the answer is goth or death rock bands do it with more slink that makes it in turn darker. This song is good, but like many of these songs it could stand to be a shade darker.

There is more of a rock feel to "Confusing World". To their credit the bass has a more aggressive stomp to it that works well. The end the album with a more subdued tone on "the Soft Skin" . Overall this album has some strong moments, but is rather middle of the road when it comes to how deeply it delves into the darkness. I'll round it down to an 8.5 for that reason, but it is still an engaging listen and most people are a little more willing to compromise on the darkness than I am so those can round it up a little.

Monday, May 14, 2018

GosT : "Possessor"

For some reason I have been on a more electronic kick. This came about due to a Blood Music Records kick I was also on. The retro synth trend that makes everything sound like it could be on the soundtrack to "Stranger Things" is pretty widespread as we even heard it seeping into the new Ihsahn album. This is this projects obvious stock and trade.  Here is an electronic album that is as dark as industrial and as heavy as industrial, but has more of a retro synth wave sound battling inside of them like angels and demons. "Prowler" has enough groove to support itself as an instrumental and the samples certainly help give the song a voice. He smoky vocals of "Sigil" work , but make the song a little more melodramatic and gothy in a 90s darkwave way.

There is a heavier blast on "Beliar" then it takes an angular glitch turn like something Igorr might do doom paced legion screamed vocals and odd retro synth melody. the pace picks up  for Shilohs Lament Malum has somewhat goth tinged vocals , some of the synth melodies are too happy . The album's theme is translated by the samples which are all exorcism. The lyrics to "Malum" don't really convey the same thing and appear to be about wasting time on someone.

"Commandment" gets more aggressive , but the synths keep it from being industrial along with the fact the programmed drums don't have as much of a kick to them. The over driven vocals would not be out pf place on an industrial album. It is at time like electro grind core in some of the explosive outbursts in-between church bells ringing and Art Bell samples. I'll round this down to an 8. Some of this gets redundant and then the vocals sometimes remind me too  much of cheesy darkwave rather than cool dark wave because of the melodramatic breathiness of the vocals.  Despite this the album is certainly worth a listen even though I am not going to gild the coffin for you . The other word of warning would be it's not as Satanic as some might lead you to believe, once again I review black metal half the time so the bar is high for the level of goat kissing and Christ fucking we want around here.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Horror Vacui : " New Wave of Fear"

This was released April 15 with little buzz. I guess the death rock revival is not getting much hipster press these days and going back underground where it belongs. Fine with me as the music is better for it if judging by the opening track of this band from Italy's new album. The guitar tone lightens into a shade of gray on the title track. The vocals are really showing the most improvement moving down into almost a Sister's of Mercy like croon. The guitar mix is a little murky like the effects could stand to be slightly compressed. "Forward" finds the guitar riffs beginning to get a little uniform, thankfully they switch it up when the vocals come in . "We Are The Ones" finds the guitar tone continuing to makes things bleed together. I think they needed to spend a little more time with giving things space in the mix when it comes to post- production. Things are beginning to get a little monochrome in their dynamic flatness.

There is a little bit of a darker groove to "On the Other Side". Tempo wise it pretty much falls in line with the rest of the album up to this point. :Behind" gets a little more aggressive , but aside from that doesn't really stand out from the other song and races long the same panic pace of the others. Its the increased growled grit of the vocals that makes this stand out more than the guitar. The bass coming up in the mix helps "Don't Dance With Me". If these songs gave themselves more room to expand and contract the melodic touches that are buried under the wall of redundant guitar might work better. The vocals remind me a little more of Iggy Pop on this song.

The effects on the vocals at the beginning of "Upside Down" work really well and display what this album could have been if more attention to detail had been given in the production end. They do have more atmosphere on this song, though drone a little more. I'll round this down to an 8, because it's a mixed bag. I think the songs work more often than not, but the sound is not really dialed in and it could use more clarity in the mix . Live I can see how if this is as good as it gets mix wise then it would be a loud punk blur.