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Over the years this has grown into my own personal project, reviewing the artists that I discover and interest me. If you wish to see more of my work, particularly my more metal-orientated material, you can find me as a regular contributor for the online magazine
Axis of Metal.
Posted by T. Bawden Sunday, 31 May 2009 0 comments

An Introduction to Jazz:

Seeing as I’m coming from a metal background, exploring the genre to see what I can dig up it has taken me longer to find artists and review them (hence the shorter special). They are also written from my perspective as a metal fan, and due to my limited experience, decided to grade them on a bell curve.

Panzerballett – Starke Stucke (Jazz/Metal)
Tony William’s Lifetime – Turn it Over (Jazz Fusion)
Billy Cobham – Spectrum (Jazz Fusion)
Herbie Hancock – Headhunter (Experimental Jazz/Funk Fusion)
The Buddy Rich Band – Big Swing Face (Big Band Swing Jazz)
Level 42 – Level 42 (Jazz/Funk)

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Panzerballett – Starke Stucke – 5/5

Where better start a foray into the world of jazz than with a band that perhaps can be best described as the result of a group of jazz musicians playing metal. Neither feeling entirely fitting in either genre, they split this album into roughly two parts, half filled with covers (and I use the term loosely) of classic rock/metal songs by the likes of Sabbath, AC/DC, Deep Purple and the Scorpions, as well as providing their own compositions. This group of Germans have succeeded in producing something truly unique, clearly taking inspiration from both genres and delivering an excellent listen for fans of both.

Every musician has his place, a two pronged attack evenly distributed between the saxophone and guitars. Despite this, in true jazz style, no instrument feels redundant. The drums constantly present a variety of styles, from the more aggressive tones working with the occasional guttural vocals, to the softer passages where he blends perfectly in the background. Working with the often phenomenal bass work, he is capable of performing as an equal to the lead guitar, in order to supply the core rhythm of the track (e.g. Dreamology). Never made to simply follow another instrument, he helps creates a multi-layered harmony that survives repeated listens.

Despite this, more often than not the saxophone or guitars often take the lead, alternating between each other, and contributing to the rhythm when not the focus, both succeed in lending a unique touch to the proceedings. The saxophone is capable of serenading you in a slow and emotional journey (e.g. Winds of Change) or creating a chaos in an instant (e.g. Birdland), and whilst the guitars provide a similar effect, they achieve this through different means. By being relatively clean and using volume and speed they provide everything from doom-like tones, upbeat and sprucy riffs and aggressive attacks. Varying frequently enough to lend a unique characteristic to each track, they will keep you on your toes between each rapid transition.

With plenty of variation between each track, even if there beneath the layers may have been a classic rock track, rarely does it simply feel like a cover. It has become a completely different entity by the time this artist has finished with it, and the results are phenomenal. More than doing justice to the original, their ability to create around another piece is only beaten by their own compositional skills. Feeling fluid as it seamlessly morphs into the next passage, this is as free-form as the greatest of prog rock album, and more than deserving of your time.

Highlights: “Smoke on the Water,” “Friede, Freude, Fußball,” “Dreamology.”

Tony William’s Lifetime – Turn it Over – 4/5

Miles Davis is often a commonly cited name whenever Jazz Fusion occurs, a talented trumpet player (albeit his style was one I couldn’t get into, thus his absence from the special), he was also incredibly good at discovering talent. As well as discovering Herbie Hancock, he also introduced guitar legend John McLaughlin to notable drummer Tony Williams. Prior to forming ‘Mahavishnu Orchestra,’ this duo recruited Larry Young on the organs, and then for this – their second album – also bassist Jack Bruce. A certifiable super-group of jazz-fusion musicians, welcome to a virtuoso lover’s paradise.

Whilst the bass spends most of its time sitting in the back, it at times helps to keep a steady rhythm throughout the track, which whilst seeming rather insignificant in itself becomes rather important at times when all other members are going off on a tangent at the same time. The drumming is insatiable, not the quickest of the pack he instead compensates by a terrific variety, creating some of the most unusual chaotic passages and tempo shifts I can name, excelling above all else in his use of volume. Capable of gently caressing the drums through the slower emotional passages, then wailing on them with a chaotic fury in an instant.

McLaughlin too proves himself many a time, occasionally working with a sprucey rock tone in the back, when brought forward he often performs with a nice and noisy distorted tone, he wails on that guitar throughout many of the tracks, working with the organ as often as not. And it is the organ that makes this sound unusual, distinct from a keyboard it has a ‘warbly’ effect, never used for a gothic tone, he creates a slight disturbed at times, muddy and blurred tone to the proceedings, and with a strong presence is likely to be the make or break for whether you will enjoy this album. Performed well, it must be said he can at times get overzealous with his love for the instrument, and can become a little tiring.

Despite this, the album certainly showcases the two leading ‘Mahavishnu Orchestra’ founders at their finest, delivering a solid helping of fusion madness, with guest vocalists (both male and female) adding some variation to the proceedings, this would make an excellent album for an introduction to the genre.

Highlights: To Whom it May Concern-Them, Right On, Vuelto Abajo

Billy Cobham – Spectrum – 4/5

Welcome to another verifiable masterclass in jazz fusion, delivered by the drummer Billy Cobham who often feels rather understated in this entourage of delight. With a hefty focus on three areas; the guitars (Tommy Bolin), the keyboards (Jan Hammer) and Cobham himself on the drums, it results in a creative – if relatively short – and light feeling album. With plenty of smooth rock-infused grooves littered throughout its duration, it results in a solid listen.

At times feeling almost like a sort of jazz ambient, it’s a psychedelic mood to have playing in the background (e.g. Stratus), despite the number of musicians who worked in the background on this album (particularly the bass, delivering a simplistic but consistent base rhythm) there is never felt a sense of fighting for control, a battle to be heard. Everything is done in such a way so as to blend together in an effortless calm - not to say it doesn’t have a kick, but that it feels rather controlled. As expected the drums perform well, if not perhaps to the standard of some of the other drummers in the genre, relying too heavily on speed and with not enough variation at times, but the fact he composed all the music present here demands him more credit than that.

The guitars and keyboards play off of each other well, Bolin in particularly excelling, delivering a knockout performance wherever allowed, managing to twist and turn in a twang-filled, acid-trip-inducing ecstasy which the rest of the album has difficulty living up to. The keyboards are often played in one of two manners, as a backing atmosphere for other instruments, or as a ‘keytar,’ taking a more prominent lead, often interchanged with the guitars or other backing instruments. The final spotlight position is taken in the title track by the sax (Joe Farrell), which with a slightly chaotic edge steps up to the task of matching the guitars, and only just falls short.

This has been noted as one of the earliest and most influential jazz fusion albums to have been written, and it’s not difficult to see why. Each instrument taking its turn to prove they can add rock to the jazz repertoire and come up with something worthy of bearing their genre’s name, this special couldn’t be considered an introduction to the genre without it being present.

Highlights: Quadrant 4, Aurian Matador, Stratus

Herbie Hancock – Headhunter – 4.5/5

Where most of the jazz artists can be easily placed, this album highlights a number of different styles, as though he couldn’t decide which he liked best. Including the funky opener ‘chameleon,’ the ‘kitchen sink’ sounding ‘Watermelon Man,’ the chaotic keyboards in ‘Sly,’ and ending with a smooth and calm ‘Vein Melter.’ Whilst the sheer number of styles is impressive – each with ample creativity squeezed into a little over 40 minutes – one can’t perhaps feel inclined to prefer one over the other. Nonetheless, this serves as a testament to just how much this genre has to offer.

The first release of Hancock’s new band, “The Headhunters,” it features Hancock on the keyboards, a bassist, drummer, a saxophone/flutist and a percussionist. Curiously though, this album marks a departure from the normal tradition of a guitarist, but with the combination of exceptional bass work, and the sheer variety of instrumentation this fact becomes unnoticeable. Most prominent on the opening track, the bassist nonetheless is capable of providing a deep funky groove, or sustaining a bass rhythm when needed. The flutes and saxophones often find themselves working off of the keyboards in a creative manner, occasionally being perhaps a little too far back, resulting in a more ambient and atmospheric tone, failing to draw focus. In fact, most of the instruments feel laid back (with the exception of in ‘sly,’ with a far more chaotic tone), with the various percussion instruments adding a new variation on the old sound.

And now I apologise, for I fail to see how I can convey everything present here without a track-by-track analysis. The opener sees a deep funk groove and an apt name, each instrument playing a base rhythm, allowing a particular element its time to shine. This allows for a constant variation in style, whilst never losing its original shape. Following this is the famous ‘Watermelon Man,’ (a funkier remake of the ’62 original), with bizarre instrumentation from bongo’s to beer bottles, unique in that each element is completely dynamic, intersecting and weaving, playing individual pieces throughout. Its only here that the quality takes a small dive, with a rather chaotic ‘Sly,’ with crazy keyboards, sudden loud interruptions and psychopathic sax playing, its just as well the album closes on a rather more calming track.

The intention of this album was for Herbie Hancock to depart from his ‘spacier’ previous albums, and return to earthier, deeper, funkier roots. This may be a relatively short album, but accomplish this he has. With more creativity oozing out of each track than would normally be found in an album, this has to be a highlight for the jazz fusion genre.

Highlights: Chameleon, Watermelon Man

The Buddy Rich Band – Big Swing Face – 4.5/5

So naturally this special wouldn’t be complete without something by the man responsible be for getting me interested in Jazz in the first place, a drummer of the highest calibre, this showcases the talent of a ‘big band’ style of jazz that he formed. Performed live, this band, consisting of drummers, double bass, trumpets, saxophones and more, impressively succeeds in being wonderfully worked to provide a rich sound, such that even the drums themselves don’t take a overtly large role, this is an album that will be sure to captivate you with its swinging melodies .

Much like a classical orchestra, whilst some element takes the front seat in providing the main melody, the use of numbers to effectively vary volume as well as pitch, where it differs is more than simply the tone, for each individual element is worked in such a way that it can be heard playing off of one another in a seamless manner. And behind all this is the backing layer, consisting of any number of combinations of instruments, all capable of providing a small bit of flare to the end result, not in the least of these is Buddy Rich himself. A joy to behold alone, with plenty of fills between sections, often creatively improvised he once again secures his title as one of the greatest drummers, capable of providing something interesting without ‘hogging’ the focus.

Not to mention the leads frequently taken by the saxophone and trumpet (and occasionally the drums) akin to the solo’s from the great power metal bands, they succeed in adding a rhythm and atmosphere simultaneously without effort. The tracks tend to be relatively short, using a base rhythm which is then played off from, alternating leads before returning. By keeping the tracks short, they succeed in keeping a constant variation in style and pace, even allowing for a ‘duet’ of sorts, where he calls his (then) 12 year old daughter, Cathy Rich, to come and sing on “The Beat Goes On,” the only track to feature vocals, lending something of a personal touch to an already impressive album.

Take a swinging atmosphere, as thick as the great classical composers, sprinkle rhythms so catchy they would make pop artists envious, and supply more technical proficiency than all but the greatest metal bands, and you result in something akin to this; simply phenomenal.

Highlights: Monitor Theme, Beat Goes On, Lament for Lester, Apples

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant – Gear Blues

Posted by T. Bawden Saturday, 30 May 2009 0 comments

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant – Gear Blues – 4/5

Rarely will a band make such a large impression on me so rapidly, and with a name that sounds as though each member randomly chose a word to use, it comes as no surprise that this band doesn’t have English as their first language. Yes, you’ve already guessed it, hailing from Japan, their poor English simply serves as a source of amusement, with track titles such as ‘Satanic Boom Boom Head,’ and ‘Free Devil Jam,’ this is a punk rock album with all the attitude of the Ramones and the creativity of the classic rock bands that disappeared with the start of the 70’s.

This album attempts many things, and pulls most of them off with ease. With a thick rasp, the vocals energetically layer a passionate range of aggression, with the catchy rhythm provided certainly not to be understated, but coming second to the actual energy used. In true garage rock style, it feels gritty and dirty, to be played in a leaky basement at full volume until the neighbours complain (and then a bit longer). The bass is heard, but spends most of its time working on the foundations, and letting the rest of the band proceed, making a noticeable – almost jazzy – groove from time to time (e.g. Hotel Bronco), he contributes more than most bass players in such a position.

The drums too succeed in contributing, with a good variation, not only between tracks, but also within them he can be clearly heard smashing the cymbals and providing plenty of fills to break up any monotony that may arise. But all of this comes in second fiddle to the impeccable guitar work; this is where my hat comes off, for he straddles a fine line, with a thick, deep and noisy distortion he lends his own brand of rhythm, with a plentiful repertoire of solo’s, never sounding too muddy or unclear, he sets the pace for the track to be played. Whether that requires the riffs to be slow and sludge-filled, simplistically punk or all out fury, he nails it every time, and never fails to provide a toe-tapping riff that’s sure to stick in your head.

In fact, the only real problem is that of longevity. Particularly towards the end of the album, it begins to feel as though their bag of tricks is running thin, and some tracks feel like filler. This however is offset by the sheer fact that every member clearly knows their instrument, and none are made to feel redundant. Even if you only listen to the first half, you shall be delivered a punk intensity that hasn’t been seen for years. Japan may be a little behind on the times, but all that means is they haven’t forgotten how things used to be done.

Highlights: Smokin’ Billy, Satanic Boom Boom Head, Free Devil Jam, Boiled Oil

Posted by T. Bawden 0 comments

Band : Psychopathology Orchestra
Album : Valses de l'orchestre psychiatrique de Dijon
Rating : 3/5
Link :

So I typed "Orchestra" on MA the other day, few names came up, I checked this band as I thought it was an interesting name. The band was labeled Experimental/Progressive Death Metal, well, I dont know about the progressive part it sound more like industrial actually, but this is surely experimental. With the fusing of techno with death metal, this sounds much bizarre on first listen, frankly even on other listens. I honestly got mixed feelings about this album upon different listens. I felt the experimental part was forced in and didnt blend well with the music like The Project Hate MCMXCIX for instance, as a result, the experimentation was on the account of the music itself, it could have been done in a much better approach. However I assure this point of view may vary according to the listener as with experimental albums, it's hard to find the majority agreeing on how to view them.

The instruments are..wierd, horns are widely used, the keyboards are used in a rather funny ( ?) way. And as mentioned the music is influenced by techno music which becomes clear in some tracks. The drumming stands out the most in this album, with some use of blast beats, top notch drumming basically, that actually brings to mind OSDM drumming such as Morbid Angel, Sentenced and others. The solos also arent bad, they're fast, sound classical at times but fun and resembles a feeling of insanity throughout the whole album as you sense it's a mad man's music.The bass is clearly audible in some cases and thick sounding. The vocals - In the few songs they're used in ,as it's actually more of an instrumental album - range from BM screeching to low pitched grunts used in DM, nothing special though.

The production is nothing special, it's not too clean or too raw, lies in between actually.

This isnt bad really but it's rather strange, fans of experimental music should try this out, it's a hit or miss though.

Highlights : 667' Symphony.

Album: The Chemistry Of Common Life
Artist: Fucked Up
Released: 2008
Rating: 3/5

Punk band Fucked Up want to let you know that they're unconventional. On past releases this has meant 18-minute songs, or drum solos, or string sections. On the much buzzerd about "The Chemistry Of Common Life", they decided to do so by mixing melodic hardcore and shoegaze, with so-so results. Picture Husker Du and My Bloody Valentine collaborating.

Guitars are layered on thick and noisily, similar to a basic melodic hardcore, but with much cleaner production. The bass follows the guitars and the drums play basic time and fills. However, in their attempt to be unconventional, Fucked Up have decided to take a page from MBV's book and play one to two notes for four and a half to five minutes. While this may work in a shoegaze song, it becomes tiring and annoying very fast during hardcore songs. They also add things like piccolo and strings in case you weren't clear onthe fact that they're different.

Still, despite the annoyance of a lot of it and the hollowness of the production, "The Chemistry..." does have it's moments. Lead singer Pink Eyes has a Cookie Monster growl which actually goes well with some of the songs (although when they add clean vox right after it comes dangerously close to sounding like commercial screamo on "Twice Born") and some of the shorter songs are actually good melodic hardcore. The stronger songs on the album show that when FU don't get too caught up in their ambition, they can actually make some decent tunes.

A so-so album of melodic hardcore that tries too hard to be different.

Highlights: "Magic Word", "No Epiphany", "Black Albino Bones"

Spoon - Girls Can Tell

Posted by T. Bawden 0 comments

Album: Girls Can Tell
Artist: Spoon
Released: 2001
Rating: 5/5

"Girls Can Tell" is the third album by the eclectic indie rockers Spoon. After debuting with the pretty mediocre "Telefono", Spoon were signed to a major record label (Elektra), where they released the great "A Series Of Sneaks". When "A Series..." failed to live up to Elektra's sales goals, Spoon were unceremoniously dropped. Rather than giving up, though, Spoon recorded "Girls Can Tell", most of the time without any label backing them, finally getting it released on Merge in 2001. And it's a good thing they didn't give up, because "Girls Can Tell" is amazing.

Spoon make use of a variety of styles throughout "Girls Can Tell". Album opener "Everything Hits At Once" is an exercise in late night mood, making use of a single note piano part, a mellotron symphony, small flourishes of guitar and xylophone. "Lines In The Suit" uses a Spanish guitar line and vocal harmonies. Meanwhile, "The Fitted Shirt" is a mock epic featuring stop-start guitar and mandolin. Elsewhere, "Take A Walk" is a perfect piece of bouncy power-pop, "1020 AM" pulls off 60's psychedelia, "Take The Fifth" is infectious soul featuring tambourines, handclaps, and piano, and "Chicago At Night" conjures up a dark, film-noir mood.

The three man band of Britt Daniel (guitar, vocals), Jim Eno (drums, production), and Joshua Zarbo (bass), along with Mike McCarthy (production) and some occasional help, are an incredibly tight unit throughout "Girls Can Tell". Eno's drumming may not be all that complicated, but it definitely keeps everyone completely in time. Zarbo has a strong bass sound throughout, and displays an influence of 60's R&B and soul music on his playing, keeping it a little looser on some of the songs that require it. Daniel usually keeps his guitar pretty restrained throughout the album, only letting get out in front on the bouncy lead in "Take A Walk" and the folky psychedelia of "1020 AM". Various instruments like piano and mellotron pop up throughout the album to help add additional texture to the songs.

Really, if the 5/5 rating didn't already make it clear, this album is great, and you need it, so get it now.

Highlights: "Lines In The Suit", "Take A Walk", "Chicago At Night"

Band : Lost Horizon
Album : A Flame to the Ground Beneath
Link :
Rating : 4/5

Lost Horizon play a very tricky sub genre of power metal as you really can't pin it down to USPM or ESPM , this is basically guitar driven yet you cant surely state it's USPM and it's really not that much of keyboard driven either in order to state it's ESPM. When lost Horizon are mentioned , instant comparison with Stratovarius comes to mind, probably due to the similarities in the majestic powerful vocals used by either Daniel Heiman or Timo Kotipelto .

This also lacks the agressiveness of USPM , but it's harmonic, melodic and epic. The riffs during the whole album are power metal standard with the exception they're played with heart and emotion with some great solos that are melodic and most of all not wankery. The drummer also doesnt resort to the double-bass pedals during the whole album as a lot of power metal bands tend to do instead, he's highly technical and shows good deal of talent, with a proper dose of double bass pedals as mentioned. The bass, is well , hidden in the background of the tracks as it's rarely audible in power metal.

Now comes the vocals, without doubt they're the highlight of the album as Daniel Heiman delivers one of the most powerful vocal performances in power metal, the man can hit high notes in an astonishing ease with a great range, basically, he sings his heart out.

This album doesnt get a full mark as simply besides the vocals, it doesnt differ much from great power metal albums, also there are two filler tracks ranging at two minutes, yea i dont like those.

This is a good power metal listen in short.

Highlights : Highlander ( The One ) , it's the best track of the album.

Aikawa Nanase – R.U.O.K? [EP]

Posted by T. Bawden Thursday, 28 May 2009 0 comments

Aikawa Nanase – R.U.O.K? [EP] – 3.5/5

And people thought I was kidding when I hinted this was getting reviewed. Initially discovered through unconventional means, being linked to her ‘Foxtrot’ album instead of the Genesis album by the same name, I discovered a piece of somewhat catchy J-pop, if perhaps nothing special. However, a brief bit of research yielded some interesting information regarding this mini-album and her current choice of backing musicians. Featuring Friedman (Megadeth) and Pata (X-Japan) on guitars, and Japanese Prog Rock Drummer Shinya Yamada (Luna Sea), needless to say my interest had peaked.

Now, you should not be under pretence that this is anything but a pop-rock album. The vocals are almost entirely sung in Japanese, with only the odd english phrase emerging at times (not that I believe the inability to understand what’s being said is of vital importance in this case), and is very much pop orientated. Cleanly sung with plenty of catchy tunes, soaring to high’s and lows she competently fills this album with a variety of ways to make you bounce in your seat, but this alone would not be enough for me to warrant a review for them.

Whilst at times feeling remarkably like a ‘Japanified’ US pop/rock band, your Sum 41 or Blink 182, or any other random word with a number at the end, what sets this apart is those little fills; the superb opening crunchy tone from Pata, the short guitar solo’s from Friedman, or the drum rolls featured throughout this 25-minute EP. Whilst clearly not the focus – this is STILL a solo effort at heart – it lends a continual variety to the songs, a competency from those backing her that works wonders in keeping the music catchy without sounding overtly cheesy or poorly thought out.

This album won’t be winning any awards soon, it’s far from a defining work but I never expected it to be. I was expecting something a little cheesy, with a cutesy Japanese vocalist and backing that doesn’t make me cringe, and on this front its surpassed expectations. Competently performed pop-rock; who’d have thought I’d ever be able to say that with a straight face?

Oh. And one last word: Rawr.

Highlights: Foolish 555, Rock Stars Ready, Snowfall

Album: Punctuated Equilibrium
Artist: S
cott “Wino” Weinrich
Released: 2008
Rating: 4.5/5

Wino is a Doom staple. The man has been in almost every important Doom band since ’86. I have always felt that he was the underground’s equivalent to Ozzy. Loved and revered by many and respected by all who have a love for Doom. This release is something a little different for him, a solo record. One that has been, according to Wino, in the making since the late seventies. Now finally released for the world to hear.

This album will surprise no one. This is pure doom at it’s finest made by one of it’s many disciples and elder statesmen. Whether it’s pure rockers like the title track or low and slow with Eyes of Flesh, there is quality all around. For an album that has such a long history it doesn’t feel like it. These ten tracks feel fresh and new, while still retaining their retro influences. The subject manner on this album runs the gamut. Song’s topics range from the felling he gets while touring the country (Smili’n Road) to his political leanings (God’s, Fraud, Neo-Cons, and Demagogues). His stamp is all over this record.

Musically this is a showcase for some great musicians. Wino again with his amazing riffs played on his black Gibson, his preferred weapon of choice. The sound it produces is heavy and thick. His riffs stick in your head as though they were made of peanut butter. But his supporting cast are no slouches either. The bass duties are handled by the late Jon Blank (Unorthodox(US), Wretched) and drums held down by Jean Paul Gaster (Clutch). Both more than hold their own with this legend and are given much credit by Wino for arrangements and ideas. Blank’s bass playing really stands out. His bass sounds are clean and the tones are subterranean. Gaster drumming is what holds it all together. While the others are riffing and improvising his solid beats keep the songs grounded. His drumming is not flashy or jazzy but deliberate and hard. Focusing more on the kick drum and assorted toms than the cymbals. While they may have only been playing together for a short time, you never get that feeling when you listen. They sound as if they have been playing together for years. So instead of feeling like hired musicians they function as a band should function, as one cohesive unit.

As a fan of Doom and all it encompasses, when I hear the name Wino my ears perk up. Knowing that what I am about to hear, based on his impeccable reputation, will be something epic. Let’s face it with bands such as Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, and The Hidden Hand; he has a lot to live up to. Thankfully for this fan of all things Doom I was not let down, and neither will you if you are a fan of doom or new to the scene. If you are new to Doom this may be just the album to make you a fan for life. For those unfamiliar with Wino let this album serve as your introduction.

Highlights: Wild Blue Yonder, The Woman in the Orange Pants, Secret Realm Devotion
R.I.P. Jon Blank

Band : Estatic Fear
Album : Sombre Dance
Rating : 5/5
Link :

This is a symphonic doom metal band hailing from Austria . However, this is highly influenced by classical music , not neo-classical as in Malmsteen or something , but classical as in Mozart or Bach, with the use of instruments such as lute, cellos, pianos and violins. Wait I know what you're thinking, this is just one of those bands who decided to start using classical instruments similar to what many bands are trying to do these days in a trendy way, specialy folk metal bands, and yet very few manage to succeed in, this band is one of these few.

Back to the instruments used, the mix of classical instruments with guitars creates a complex yet simple song structure . The guitars are used emotionaly and to serve the purpose of creating a misty romantic atmosphere, not with the purpose of having a fast solo or anything like that. The drums are sort of downtuned as they really neednt be loud in a slow atmospheric doom album, yet they have some remarkable appearances, bass also isnt thick and it's lack of presence as a key instrument is hidden by the amazing piano and in some cases guitar leads.

You'd expect the use of female vocals with some harsh ones, but this isnt your average beauty and the beast sort of vocals, the female vocalists has an angelic voice with a much soothing touch to it, as for the harsh vocals, they're executed with passion ranging from high pitched growls, to a less pitched grunts all done in a slow doomy way.

The production is perfect, all the instruments are clearly audible and manages to create a soothing atmosphere that would easily paint a beautiful image in one's head. Also, the outro of a song is the intro of the next one, which helps in the flow of this album in a calm manner. The lyrics are only described as beautiful , for instance "You spoke to me with loathed glow And thus have though not kept thy vow For when thy shadow sprang on me I closed my eyes in ecstasy " with some German words used.

If you like doom, get this, If you like classical music, get this, If you like decent music whatever it's genre is, get this.

Insomnium - Above The Weeping World

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 27 May 2009 3 comments

Band : Insomnium
Album : Above The Weeping World
Link :
Rating : 4/5

Whenever people seem to come across the term Melodic Death Metal, Most instantly think Gothenburg watered down Death Metal , This band hails from Finland which has it's good share of watered down melodic death metal to be honest, but has it's good deal of talented authentic melodic death bands, Insomnium fall under the second category taking an emotional approach to the MDM genre, yes you've read right, emotional, without sounding like you average Inflames/ Dark Tranquillity clones.

The highly melodic guitar tone is what distinguishes this album amongst it's peers, with an emotional edge to it creating a dark atmosphere , this is truely a guitar driven album with catchy riffs and yet memorable. Also some acoustics are used in a rather rare method , the song doesnt slow down in order for them to be used such as Opeth's acoustic interludes for example, but theyre thrown in unexpected passages of the song and yet manage perfectly to deliver the required effect . There isnt much of a guitar solo because the guitars are used as a background for the vocals, doesnt undergo their great tone though, you'd probably notice I've spoken alot of the guitars because as I've said, this is pretty much guitar driven.

As for the vocals , they're nothing special , except for having a slight emotional edge to them during the growls which were perfectly blended with the guitars. The drumms are perfectly executed as the drummer changes pace quickly helping in the change of pace of the song doing some great fills, also double bass pedals were used in notable passages. The bass is nothing speciale but is very audible during the whole album.

If you think all MDM is watered down and Gothenburg crap, I highly recommend you check this out.

Highlights : In The Groves Of Death, Change Of Heart.

EDIT: Mark changed at request of the original reviewer - Tom. B

Kalisia – Cybion

Posted by T. Bawden Tuesday, 26 May 2009 0 comments

Kalisia – Cybion – 4.5/5

So it dawns on me that this album, released earlier this year, has yet to be reviewed, and so I take it upon myself to correct this oversight, and perform this monolithic task, for this is no ordinary album. Intended to be listened to in one sitting, over 70 minutes of progressive masterwork telling an in depth story, it should instead perhaps best be considered a sci-fi novel, complete with script and an in depth backing score that delves deep into melodic death metal, with jazz interludes and solo’s, electro passages, all the time retaining a sound of epic proportions. Featuring guests such as Tom Macleon (To-Mera/guitars), Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon/Vocals) and Paul Masvidal (Cynic, ex-Death/guitars), it assists in providing a unique rollercoaster ride of an album.

As is critical in a piece such as this, the lyrics (found here) and vocals are critical to the end result, the use of vocals does little to make the task of comprehending the rapidly unravelling story any simpler. Despite the number of guest musicians, the majority of vocals are performed by the mastermind behind the operation, using an array of electronic effects, clean as well as deeper guttural and higher pitched growls, in an attempt to distinguish between roles, it is nonetheless only partially effective, for identifying the actual words spoken becomes almost impossible. This is made even truer by the inclusion of an alien tongue, ‘Kel,’ which was specifically created as a fully fledged language using a number of dead and still existing languages. It is thus best advised perhaps to have the lyrics open and to be reading along as the album unfolds.

But even if you fail to find the time to fully comprehend the story, the music itself holds up remarkably well on its own. Fluidly it transforms from one section to the next, making using use of drums to keep the tempo of the music, creatively creating the appropriate sense of tension or calm as the story dictates. Making effective – if perhaps at times too prominent – use of keyboards for atmosphere, ‘setting the backdrop’ if you will, creating a audible array of epic tones, starry spectrums and down to earth desperate dark tones, holding up high the impeccable guitar work. Dynamically displaying upbeat jazz riffs, and making use of incredible technical displays that would feel out of place only without understanding the chaotic context they find themselves in.

This album has seen an unprecedented level of detail go into its creation, a verifiable musical equivalent to “Lord of the Rings,” and the results are a joy to behold. Requiring much attention to appreciate its detailed intricacies, it allows you to read along, letting the music create images in your mind to fill in the blanks whilst the music itself supplies an atmosphere to become lost within. It may have taken as long as 14 years to create, but the results speak for themselves.

Bonus: The Synopsis
If you wish to discover this in your own, then do not read onwards.

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Steve Von Till - A Grave is a Grim Horse

Posted by T. Bawden Monday, 25 May 2009 0 comments

Album: A Grave is a Grim Horse
Artist: Steve Von Till
Released: 2008
Rating: 4/5

When it comes to solo albums my feeling has always been this. If you feel you must venture off to do your own thing it had better have nothing alike with your original band, otherwise what is the point. Thankfully this is not one of those solo albums. Instead it an excellent Folk/Country album. When I think of Neurosis virtuosity is not what comes to mind. The words that come to my mind are feeling and mood. Steve Von Till latest has that in spades.

This is an album that is made up of seven original songs and four covers. Yet he is able to make them all his own. It’s an album that is heavily influenced by artist such as Johnny Cash, and Nick Drake (who’s song he covers). This is sparse instrumentation with clear vocals. He does what any good singer/songwriter does on an album. He makes you feel as though he is singing just for you. While many of the songs may be personal, such as Valley of the Moon that is inspired by Jack London and dedicated to his wife, they still feel universal in meaning. None more so than the song, The Acre. Now I must admit lyrics are not important to me. Most of what people say in song is their idea of poetry. But the lyrics for The Acre, more importantly the chorus, are just that. “You must work with the acre you are given, and read the signs of your day”. For me truer words have never been spoken. Simple yet affective.

The four covers on this album work well on the record. Artists such as Nick Drake, Mickey Newberry, Townes Van Zandt, and Lyle Lovett are all given the Von Till touch. What he does with these covers is excellent. He does the thing I love. He makes you want to hear the originals. Not because his are so bad, but because you want to see how well he did them. The only real problem I have with this album is its length. Eleven songs 48 minutes. Not bad on paper, but because of the pacing of these songs and the melancholy way they are preformed, the album tends to drag towards the end. Thankfully in this day of I pods and shuffles you are able to listen to the album any way you like and can listen to some of the song at the end first.

All in all this is an album that really appeals to me. Had there been less covers my score may have been higher. But I can’t give full credit to the person who didn’t write it. As a major fan of Johnny Cash this style of country/folk is defiantly in my wheelhouse. Till’s voice is so big in the mix he makes you feel his word and understand their meaning. Not only for him. But perhaps even for yourself.

Edge Of Sanity - Crimson

Posted by T. Bawden 0 comments

Album : Crimson
Band : Edge Of Sanity
Rating : 5/5
Link :

I thought I review this album as i've been listening to it almost non during stop the past few days. Edge Of Sanity is a one man project by Swedish genius Dan Swano, Who isnt familiar with him ? the man's been in a lot of Swedish DM bands doing vocals with some, guitar or drums with others, and even producing Opeth's best work Morningrise.

This album consists of only one track lengthing at 40 minutes long, now I dont hide the fact that I love lengthy songs which often fall under the progressive category, so when I saw this, I thought instantly, how can a Death Metal song be 40 minute long without being boring or repetitive ? The fact is during this whole Unorthodox song it manages to keep your attention up until the very last second.

The guitar leads is the first thing to catch your attention in this album as practicaly you can find hundred of different great riffs, with some bluesy acoustic sections much similar to Opeth's and some extreme use of distorted power chords. The vocals are Dan Swano's best, mostly high pitched growls which were perfectly executed, helped by Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth doing the clean melancholic vocals on the mid-paced parts with that soothing atmosphere he manages to create. The drums and the bass can be what some dislike about the song, not because they're bad or anything, but because they dont have a dominant effect over the song, they just seem to be there to keep the flow of the song. The production by far is one of the most notable features of this album, it's perfectly clean and fluid in a way that makes the whole song simply flows in an epic atmosphere of impending doom which brings me to the lyrical concept, this is a concept album which deals with what the future ahead will bring , telling a story of a king in the future who cant breed, up until hope comes from the sky.

This is by far one of the best death metal album composed as it shows great musicianship and highly complex song structure.

Highlights : It's a one track album, go figure.

Album: The Light
Band: Spock's Beard
Released: 1995
Rating: 4.5/5

In the mid-'90s, prog-rock was down in the doldrums - its cooler, hipper younger brother prog-metal had taken the spotlight, and while bands like Queensryche, Dream Theater, and Fates Warning were certainly carrying the progressive torch to new generations, none of them were very "rock" at all. In 1995, a young band with the quirky name of Spock's Beard exploded onto the scene and sent major rifts in the prog community. Their debut, while only having four songs, was a powerful, bold statement from a band who would go on to shape the landscape of progressive rock for the years to come.

The greatest feature about this album is the musicians' ability to blend sounds and styles with one another to form a coherent whole. Yes, occasionally certain instruments take the spotlight but for the most part this is the work of an indomitable, unified force. The guitars have a rough, raunchy, hyper-saturated tone not heard since Hendrix, the bass gives a funk-inspired pulse throughout, the drums exhibit a sense of style and musicality somewhere in between Phil Collins and Nick Mason, and the keys permeate the recording with all manner of styles - from greatly exaggerated symphonic bombast to ambient pianos and floating organs. Vocally, the record is nothing truly great, but Neal Morse's voice exudes youth, passion, and soul that's often lacking from prog bands.

At first glance, the music sounds like an early-Genesis clone, but the Beard firmly established a unique sound with this album. It combined the symphonic grandeur of Genesis and molded it with heavy blues-rock and even elements of noise-rock, giving the album a contrast between very calm and pastoral, and very "nasty" and rough. The songs are long - very long, but their composition and scope justify the length. From even the first song, "The Light", it is evident that the band are very competent songwriters and arrangers - using repeated themes in a whole slew of interpretations so that each time the melody reoccurs, it sounds different. Tinges of funk, gospel, Latin, psychedelia, even the occasional metal riff all rear their heads across the musical landscape as well, and the songs are constructed to showcase these moments throughout, but the main thing about the album is its soul. It's fun to sing along to, and fun to listen to. Just listening to some of the parts on the album gives you the impression that a lot of fun was had writing and recording the album. Even in the darker, serious moments really feel like a group of four young guys having fun playing music.

The first three tracks "The Light", "Go The Way You Go" and "The Water" are all among the strongest in the band's catalog, while closer "On The Edge", the only one underneath the 12-minute mark, is comparatively weaker. However, each of the four tracks have very high points and the occasional spot where the music drags, but it's a well-rounded effort, proving that even 16, 12, and 23-minute epics could be well written. The production is another weak aspect of this album, although the slightly distorted quality gives the impression that the album is on vinyl, and sometimes helps to further accentuate the atmosphere.

The music and lyrics on The Light range from angry and rebellious ("You gave me this home, and then you left me alone, so fuck you!"), introspective ("What makes a dream so very different from any other dream?"), and even whimsical and into the absurd ("I am Señor Valasco, I drink my milk with Tabasco" and "I am the catfish man, I can't hear you!") and a myriad of other styles in between. As an album that will take you on an intriguing, varied journey that would still allow you to have fun and sing along to the very strong melodies, this album can't be beat. An excellent debut.

Highlights: The Light, Go The Way You Go, The Water

Rajna – Yahili

Posted by T. Bawden Sunday, 24 May 2009 0 comments

Rajna – Yahili – 4/5

An album that I’ve been putting off for too long, this is an ambient album that took some tracking down to obtain, and now that I finally have it doesn’t disappoint. Playing that perhaps too rare oriental influenced folk style, they portray a subtle and dark atmosphere that will entrance you for its entire length.

The instrumentation is relatively minimalist, and this works to their advantage. It succeeds in sounding rich without there being any specific focal points; after all, the point of ambient music is to provide an atmosphere and tone, rather than a catchy tune. The distinctly eastern sounding guitars providing a ‘twang’ on most tracks that despite this, are performed in such a way as to provide a soundscape like little else, perhaps the main contributor to the ‘oriental’ feel. Whilst a number of other oriental sounding elements are utilised, such as a steady tribal drum, none of them make as common appearance, though are utilised just as effectively.

The vocals come in two forms, both without lyrics for the most part, the voice being used in a purely instrumental manner. With the less commonly utilised deep and masculine ‘tibetan chant’ lending an almost bass guitar effect to the proceedings, and the most dominant aspect to their sound, the wailing female vocals. With a breathiness she is capable of sounding distant, fading in and out as the track demands it , whilst still capable of cutting through the instrumentation behind her.

Throughout all of this, a distinctly dark tone emerges. Not in the same manner as any raw aggressive black metal, or even a more ‘evil’ gothic tone, but through a third, unique way. Far more subtle, a lighter and more solemn, perhaps even ‘doom-esque’ at times (e.g. Ham Shallam), it creates a sense of disparity, disquiet and dread that would be hard to recreate. Unfortunately, this album presents one large drawback from being rated higher; I found it nearly impossible to distinguish between many of the tracks. Whilst perhaps less important for an ambient album, is still nonetheless an issue. Despite this, those who were fans of Karl Sanders work, or are simply interested in ambient music could do a lot worse.

Highlights: Shalai, Shandailo, Gansha Gaurab, Ham Shallam

Album: Monoliths & Dimensions
Artist: Sunn O)))
Released: 2009
Rating: 5/5

The album is not "SUNN O))) with strings" or "metal meets orchestra" material. The band took an approach concentrating on more of allusion toward the timbre of feedback and the instruments involved, so the piece is really illusory, beautiful and not entirely linear, stating that the end product is "the most musical piece we’ve done, and also the heaviest, powerful and most abstract set of chords we’ve laid to tape".

This was the press release put out before the album release. So many bands in the past have released such statement to reassure their fans that all is well and they have not gone off the deep end. But inevitably most fail and everything they said was not to be comes to pass. From time to time though some come through with the promises they make. Well add Sunn O))) to that list. “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated!” These were the last words spoken on stage by Johnny Rotten at the Sex Pistols last show in 78. This is how I felt when I saw only four tracks, but then I listened.

While Sunn O))) says this album is not entirely linear, they are correct. But there is a central theme running through this album, and the theme is layers. On the opening track, Aghartha, aside from the talents of O’Malley and Anderson, they employ many instruments to add to the Drone. Instruments such as, a double bass, violin, piano, English horn, clarinet, French horn, viola, and a conch shell. But this is merely the beginning for what is in store elsewhere. Big Church opens with a female vocal choir adding an almost ethereal quality. As if sing some siren song leading you into darkness only to be interrupted by the howls of Attila Csihar and realizing it’s too late. This sequence is repeated on this track over and over to great affect. Hunting&Gathering (Cydonia) is the track that would fit on any of the Sunn O))) records but feels most at home on this one. Attila starting in his native tongue then goes into English. Perhaps speaking of the poetic name of the Greek island or the regions of Mars. The last rack is aptly titled Alice. It starts innocent enough only to have the droning guitars collide with a brass section. The song does something rare for Sunn O))), it instills a sense of peace. I assume the tile comes from the feeling one gets when hearing this song. It gives you the feeling that you have gone down the rabbit hole of darkness only to come out to the light on the other side.

Too many bands try to cram 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag and failed. Sunn O))) has tried this and has achieved success. Not because they added so much, but that they knew when and where to add it. The added talents of so many, such as Oren Ambarchi, Dylan Carlson, Steve Moore, Joe Preston, and Rex Ritter, might spell disaster for a lesser band. But this band is SUNN O))).

Album: Veckatimest
Artist: Grizzly Bear
Released: 2009
Rating: 4.5/5

First off, I have no idea what the title means. But anyway, I didn't get the hype surrounding Grizzly Bear's past two albums, Horn of Plenty and Yellow House. They were pleasant enough psych-folk records but they were kinda boring and dragged on too long. However, with Veckatimest, Edward Droste and co. finally seem to have made an album deserving of the praise heaped upon this group (well, group for Yellow House and Veckatimest, on Horn of Plenty it was just Droste).

Veckatimest is an album where textures and atmospheres are as important as the songs themselves. The album's production is given a wide-open, cavernous feel where the music can resonate and echo. There's lots of space in between all of the instruments to keep everything nice and clear, and the silence in between the notes is as important as the notes themselves. Making the music feel epic is just as important as playing it to Grizzly Bear.

Grizzly Bear also put a lot of care and attention to detail into the music itself. The music is still vaguely psychedelic folk-rock, but this time around they've decided to trim all the excess fat that plagued Yellow House. The songs are shorter and more focused this time around. Vocal harmonies are put to good use throughout, rising and falling throughout the songs. Most of the songs use mainly acoustic guitars, although an occasional electric is used and occasional fuzz is added to the bass. Other instruments like piano and strings pop up throughout to complement the songs.

The most impressive thing about the music is the restraint with which all the instruments are used. Songs like "Two Weeks" and "While You Wait For The Others" may feature everything (multiple vocal harmonies, pianos, string sections, etc.), but they still manage to utilize silence as much as they do everything else. Subtle techniques like the utilization of contrast help add to the recording's power.

This one's definitely worth picking up.

Highlights: "Two Weeks", "All We Ask", "While You Wait For The Others"

Album: The Taste of Chaos Ensemble Performs Mastodons Leviathan
Artist: The Taste of Chaos Ensemble
Released: 2006
Rating: 3.5/5

At first glance on might say, “Oh it’s Apocalyptica do Mastodon.” Well not quite. While they are limited in their approach with only four cellos the Ensemble come with much more. Comprising of 4 violins’, 1 Viola, 1 Cello, and 1 Contrabass (which apparently has nothing to do with one of the greatest Nintendo games of all time). But their mission is the same, orchestral versions of Mastodon songs. Now I must admit, I am sucker for these kinds of albums. When seeing on Blabbermouth this was coming out I rushed to my local record store (you remember those don’t you kids) and asked Tom to order it for me immediately.

Now I have two rules when it comes to cover versions. One, you should stay true to the original. No reason to fuck up a classic. Two, if you must do your interpretation then you had better bring it. Luckily The Ensemble does the first and not the latter. All in all they accomplish their mission. As soon as many of the songs begin you have no problem identifying them. With some, unfortunately, they fall short. When listening to Iron Tusk, one of the strongest tracks on Leviathan, I was not sure it was the song. After a bit though it does become clear. Where they really shine it is when Mastodon gets quiet. Tracks like Hearts Alive, and Joseph Merrick really come to benefit from the orchestral touch. They wash away the sludge that Mastodon bathe in and show the beauty that lies beneath. What The Ensemble lack in power they make up for with depth.

Now if you are not a fan of Mastodon this will for sure be a pass. But for those who are fans this is a good complimentary piece to Leviathan and your Mastodon collection. Upon repeated listen you may hear thing un heard in the original and quickly try to find it. While this may only appeal to niche group of people who must own all and everything associated with their favorite band this may be just what you’re looking for.

Highlights: Blood and Thunder, Hearts Alive, Joseph Merrick

On a side note. It should be said that while Vitamin Records would like you to believe that this record is a result or them being big Mastodon fans, but this would be false. This album is nothing more than capitalizing on a popular album and band. One look at their web site and the pamphlet inside the CD proves this. Along with Mastodon they also do versions of U2, Linkin Park, Disturbed, Weezer, and Madonna to name a few. But as long as there are people like me they will be in business.

Jeffrey Lewis - 12 Crass Songs

Posted by T. Bawden Saturday, 23 May 2009 0 comments

Album: 12 Crass Songs
Artist: Jeffrey Lewis
Released: 2007
Rating: 4/5

Exactly what the title says it is. Cartoonist/anti-folk artist Jeffrey Lewis covering twelve songs by the famous anarcho-punk collective Crass. Crass agreed to the project, apparently respecting Lewis' intent and just wanting to get their message out more. For those of you unfamiliar with Crass, they were a group of anarchists who put out music during the first wave of punk as a way of getting out their message to the public, probably best known for this song. Jeffrey Lewis is a cartoonist who also makes anti-folk records (more popular examples of anti-folk would be Will Oldham/Bonnie "Prince" Billie/Palace or early Smog). And the album is actually good.

Lyrics were always the most important part of Crass's music, but on the original recordings, they were impossible to understand, which meant you either had to look them up or get a lyric sheet. Lewis gives the songs quiet rearrangements based mostly around his acoustic guitar (only "Big A, Little A" has electric guitar) and his somewhat nasally, half-spoken vocals. This allows the lyrics to come to the forefront and really make their point, which was always really the purpose of Crass's music anyway. Drums, piano, and strings are occasionally provided, but they mostly stay in the background and just accent Lewis' guitar and vocals. Helen Schreiner also provides backing vocals on some songs.

Lewis' choice of songs and arrangements throughout are good. Songs like "Securicor", "Do They Owe Us A Living?", and "Banned From The Roxy" get quick, punky playthroughs with shouted backing vocals that highlight their anthemic qualities. "The Gasman Cometh" and "Punk Is Dead" get fittingly downbeat interpretations. And Lewis even takes on Crass's experimental side, trying out "Walls (Fun In The Oven)" pretty succesfully and letting news and radio samples and a droning organ run through "Demoncrats".

A possibly bad idea on paper that turned out good in execution.

Highlights: "Systematic Death", "Do They Owe Us A Living?", "Punk Is Dead"

Kraken Duumvirate – From the Dying Soil to the Eternal Sea [EP] - 4/5

Atmosphere is the name of the game for the Finnish band Kraken Duumvirate. While this is technically Black metal, it is far closer to funeral doom then anything kvlt or gr1m that comes to mind. Their logo, name, and album title give the entire set a distinct sea theme, which fits well with the band’s experimental nature. It’s fitting that the title suggests breaking away from the ‘dying soil’ of the cold wintry plains of the past BM greats and intends to go forth into something new and ‘eternal’. Dream big boys, you’ll have a lot of work to do to keep up with that kind of mentality.

As mentioned, this band is all about slow and atmosphere, which is, if nothing else, a refreshing change of pace. The drumming is restrained, setting a somber pace for the repetitive pickings of the guitar that no more for atmosphere then they do for the song. Vocals are distant, echoes, scenery instead of a clear focus. The songs are long and don’ do much in there progression other then continue to paint a picture that was completed minutes ago. I suppose to really get this, you have to put yourself in the mindset of the story, of a submarine going down, the desperation of a crew, a brutal ending by the hands of some aquatic monster.

If you’re looking for blackened ambiance and a cool story, this is for you. Just don’t go into it expecting normal black metal. I find this to be an excellent EP, but I fear for what the band might do with a full-length. I like some cool music to fall asleep to as much as the next guy, but I don’t feel this has the type of variety that could carry a band through a full hour. Then again, there is that weird drone trend….

Eyedea and Abilities – E&A - 3/5

You know, for an album I owe so much too, and for an album I consider to be done by two of the most talented and gifted artists in the hip-hop genre, I think this should be rated higher. I mean, Eyedea has got to be one of the most technical rappers out there, and with a mind as quick as his tongue. Known battle champion, known to be able to free-style lyrics as quickly as he can speak them in most any situation, and his first album showed that he could be more then fast, he could be deep. Then there is Abilities, who contributes both an extreme proficiency for scratch and an excellent taste for beats. Yet, instead of amazing, this comes off as meh. The closest comparison I feel comfortable making is that of shred and its shallow composition.

Actually, this works rather well as comparison. Think of your favored plank-spanker, and then translate that virtuoso into rap form. That’s E&A for you in a nutshell. In addition, just like the former genre, though technically skilled beyond belief, he’s effectively handicapped by a shallow repertoire of song ideas. All he talks about on this record is how good he is, the typical Rhymesayers emoti-songs, and other tired, over-used metaphors that are common through the genre. What’s really disappointing is the brief instances where he goes all out, rapping at an inhuman pace, and then simply stopping. These two moments in the album are highlights of skill, and the record feels like it needs more of these moments to make up for the lack of lyrical depth. While Abilities has gotten his sound straight from First Born, Eyedea seems to have lost his lyrical mojo.

The beats tend to have keys and lots of scratching, which provide a different feel from most hip-hop. The rhythms presented are strange yet funky and enjoyable, though they do not mesh very well with Eyedea’s style. I can’t think of what exactly they need to do differently, but these two guys, while great friends, just don’t work together up to their ‘abilities’. It’s still enjoyable, there is just too much wasted potential happening here.
That being said, the technical skills present do push this otherwise average album up a notch. Favorite tracks include Now and One-Twenty, for their speed sections, Act Right and Kept, for their humor, and E&A Day, simply because it sums up their attitude in a song that’s good.

Denial of God – The Horrors of Satan

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 20 May 2009 0 comments

Denial of God – The Horrors of Satan - 3/5

At first, I liked a couple minutes of this album. Now this sets the stage for a really long and pointless intro of just what exactly I’m saying, so bear with me. Normally I have three ways to view a band’s material; I love it, I hate it, I don’t care. A surprising amount fits into the ‘don’t care’ area with some in the hate, and few in the love category. This poses a conundrum with Denial of God. DoG is a solid band, with some decent ideas on how to play BM. These ideas are usually preceded by about a full and complete intro track, and about four minutes of song building to the decent ideas. Normally, this would mean I either hated or didn’t care for this, but when Denial hits their stride, I absolutely love them.

Anyways, the music played is BM, and with nothing short of a sparkling production. The guitar has a nice range from tremolo to riffs that sit between heavy and thrashy. Drumming is normally at a very quick pace, normally when the guitars are in tremolo mode, but when the guitars slow into riffs, and these are beautiful riffs, the drums settle into a normal rock beat the just sounds great. The vocals range from whispers, to raspy growls, to that deep rumbling style of vokills that sounds like some morbid deity is attempting to converse with your sorry ass. This is what it sounds like when Denial plays an actual song, but there is a significant amount of time spent on intro tracks, which include symphonic sounding synth-keyboard track to open the album, to a number of acoustic guitar and whispers tracks, to choral vocalization and a lone keening guitar.

Which leads me to my main beef with the band; his is just ridiculously cliché. Denial of God? The Horrors of Satan? I can forget about your stupid name and album title, but when you have tracks filled with whispers that set the stage for something amazing, please write something that’s not stupid, or at least go the extra mile with the stupidity. ‘Ohh, look a werewolf track, scary’, no and for fucks sake, if you feel the need to talk about fucking lycans, do it in a shriek where I only have to catch every other word of your drivel.

The album really seems to improve as it goes on. Seriously, I had my doubts through the first half, being there was some I liked, simply buried beneath intros and waiting. That being said, I like the last two minutes of The Curse of the Witch and The Book of Oiufael. The Iron Gibbet is where the album starts solidifying, a nice long atmospheric track, with more of a death/doom vibe then Black metal. A Night in Transylvania, while still lyrical insipid, is one of the better tracks, considering how easily it could have been another Cycle of the Wolf. The Horrors of Satan is great, a worthy title-track, combining the death/doom elements from The Iron Gibbet and some pretty good black metal.

Check it out if you’ve got the time for some long-ass tracks and like you BM squeaky clean.

Waltari and Avanti! – Yeah! Yeah! Die! Die! Death Metal Symphony in Deep C – 4/5

Performed live in Helsinki (Finland), this collaboration between the Progressive metal band Waltari and the Avanti! Classical Symphony Orchestra is not your standard affair. Whilst many artists in the past have used orchestral backing, few have combined them in such a way as to make the orchestra seem so integral to the piece. However, despite the name, I would hesitate to call it any form of Death Metal, though it certainly has a metal tone to the proceedings, and not some simple power metal tone either. They have pushed the extreme end of the genre onto the orchestra, complete with growls and blast beats, soprano and carefully composed orchestral tracks that revives the spirit of the likes of Wagner, and resulted in a spectacular combination of old and new.

If you’ll forgive the comparison, the two specific styles of music performed here feel as though a ‘perfect blend’ is nearly impossible to truly achieve, and what has resulted is – if you’ll forgive the analogy – an ‘oil and water’ blend of the two styles. Both sides feeling distinct and somewhat separated, despite both being present, and as much as you mix things up, this ‘perfect blend’ cannot be achieved. Instead, what results are frequent rapid changes in styles and aggression, an instantaneous transition from death metal fury to the classical backing, and then onwards to more progressive avenues. Yet despite this hindrance, its unique nature more than compensates for any shortcomings in this regard.

I could do a Mr. Chan length review (read: longer than 1500 words) quite happily describing all the different instruments here, the flute solo’s, the chaotic violins in “The Struggle…,” the completely orchestral introduction, or the use of soprano complementing the whole host of different vocals presented here, but I will refrain. Whilst the orchestra performed magnificently, the band, particularly with use of bass, at times felt monotonous, and simply being aggressive for the contrast and contributing little. Furthermore, the experimentation already shown was sufficient to sustain a far longer release, and despite this, inexplicably they begin to use an electro beat towards the end, with what I can only really describe as semi-rapped vocals, and whilst the rapped vocals were worked in to not feel over-done, I cannot fathom why the dance beat was required.

With so many different elements, you can’t help but feel much of it seems rather redundant and contributing little to the end result. Despite this, given the sheer quantity of elements and how they were worked, it at no point feels stagnant. A piece intended to be listened to in its entirety, its main drawback is perhaps the requirement that you not only be a fan of prog metal, but also of classical music. If you satisfy both these conditions, then this is one release sure to have you on the edge of your seat.

Highlights: A Sign, Completely Alone, The Top

Wavves - Wavvves

Posted by T. Bawden 0 comments

Album: Wavvves
Artist: Wavves
Released: 2009
Rating: 3.5/5

There's two v's in the band name, three v's in the album name, and one guy in the band. Wavves (pronounced Waves) is made up of Nathan Williams, who made the entire album by playing all the instruments himself and overdubbing everything on Garageband. It's a collection of sunny surf-punk tunes about boredom, alienation, drugs, goths, and hopelessness, intentionally recorded with lots of tape-hiss, static and background noises to conceal the songs themselves.

Williams isn't the greatest guitarist, sticking mostly to playing simple three chord tunes. He does have a good ear for melody, though, which helps a lot. As a drummer, he also plays incredibly simple rhythms and is occasionally out of time with himself, but it tends to add to the punky enthusiasm of the songs. His bassplaying (when it's present and audible) just follows the guitar. His vocals feature lots of harmonies and backing vocals (he uses a lot of vocal overdubs) to get a sort of Beach Boys, summery feeling. A primitive synthesizer also pops up on one or two songs but isn't really of major importance.

The real make or break point of Wavvves for many people is going to be the production. Rather than just let the simple pop songs be, Williams has chosen to cover them all with noise and intentionally lo-fidelity recording. The guitars are massively fuzzy and distorted, the drums sound like a cardboard box, and Williams' vocals are barely understandable and often distorted. There's a constant layer of static and noise throughout the album. You'll either love or hate this production choice.

A pop album for noise fans.

Album: Make It Pop!
Artist: Giddy Motors
Released: 2002
Rating: 4/5

Things this album is reminiscent of:
A crank-addled mugger with a tire iron
Driving into a brick wall going 90 while listening to Miles Davis records
An epileptic fit peppered with sudden especially violent outbursts
Early Minutemen albums if they were produced by Steve Albini and featured David Yow on vocals

Hopefully that gives you some idea of what you're in for. Giddy Motors, made up of Gaverick de Vis (guitar/vocals), Manu Ros (drums), and Gordon Ashdown (bass) are out to destroy, and Steve Albini (doing his usual production wizardry) is here to help. They play noisy, nasty, jazzy, bluesy, post-punk. I would call it punk, but post-punk seems more fitting because much like early post-punk like The Pop Group and GoF, they seem to have destroyed everything but punk's foundation and built from the ground up.

The music is assaultive and twisted, constantly exploding and bursting. Albini helps Vis achieve a metallic (the kind things are built with, not the music), scraping guitar tone, which he lets fly all over the tracks. In tracks like the opener "Magmaniac", he twitches and bounces all over the track, going for as scrapy and sound as possible. Meanwhile, on a track like "Dog Hands", he digs in and lets loose some real sludgy riffs. It's a nice contrast that continues throughout the record. Gordon Ashdown is a funky, wild bass player, filling in any spaces left open by Vis' guitar. Albini gives him a nice full sound that makes sure he's audible throughout. Most important, though, is Manu Ros. Ros' drumming is the one thing that anchors the band throughout. As Vis' and Ashdown go into complete chaos over the top, Ros keeps the band steady and keeps them from just falling apart completely. His skilled, jazzy percussion is definitely what holds them together. Vis' vocals are also wild and unrestrained, going from whispers to screams, crooning to speaking, dying noises to weird falsettos. They fit the music in their own way.

On an album filled with bursts of noise and violence, it's the moment's of quiet that are the most shocking. Sure, most of the album may knock your head in with brute force, but nothing will surprise you quite like "Venus Medalist". An instrumental with nothing but strings and relaxed guitar and bass for nearly five minutes, it pops in near the end of the album and at first makes you think it may be a different record. But nope, it's just five minutes of relaxing strings.

Worth a dl if you want to hear something different.

Highlights: "Hit Cap", "Dog Hands", Whirled By Curses"

Girl Talk – Feed the Animals - 3.5
Part One:
Part Two:

14 Songs.

54 Minutes.

322 Samples. Yeah, I had you going with the Time Does Not Heal homage there, didn’t I? Anyways, what I’ve presented goes under many labels, none of which I feel comfortable using alone to describe this. This has been called glitch, mash-up, ‘post-modern mosaic of found art’, and other things, like masterpiece and the greatest dance album ever. Some of these I agree with, some, I don’t, but what Girl Talk is, is Gregg Gillis; what Gregg Gillis is, is a fan of pop music, including both classic rap, bubblegum, hair metal, radio rock and hip-pop. This made Feed the Animals a collection of songs (really one long song with convenient dividers, but more on that later) made from short samples of other songs, tied together by creative splicing.

Despite the overt pop influence on this album, hip-hop plays a far more dominant role, which means if you’re not a fan of the rhymes, you probably won’t be able to stick through this. If you do however, pay attention not to the overt blanket of attention grabbing snippets, but rather the subtle rhythm section that constantly flows, molds and holds the songs together underneath the catchy choruses of yester-year. Between finding different songs that will work together and holding all the songs together into one album, you’ve got to respect that as some kind of talent. The thought of making an entire album using 30 seconds of songs layered atop one another is frankly mind-blowing, yet Gregg pulls this off. Better then pulling it off, the album IS one long dance track, flowing seamlessly. This album is flow incarnate.

This is where the problem is; if you don’t like a particular sample, it’s gone like that. Unfortunately the same goes for samples you do like, leaving you feeling like more could have been done with some dedication. This album is great for a party or a car trip because of the variety, and the happy vibes, but it lacks originality. This could be the first time an album was made like this, and it would still feel like it’s been done before. It’s witty, layering happy poppy lyrics over angry riffs, and displays some emotional ideal of back-dropping sad songs under lyrics that have never before gotten that kind of attention. Its fun, it’s good, but it’s not great, because it’s pop. Great pop, artful pop, better pop made dregs of pop, but it lacks a unified concept to solidify the release. This makes it next to impossible to sit through a whole listening.

Recommended if you want something fun, and have no problem with blending a bunch of stuff together.


Blog Archive


Guide to the Ratings
0/5 - This caused me physical pain
1/5 - This is really bloody awful
2/5 - This was below average
3/5 - This was above average
4/5 - This was pretty darn good.
5/5 - I cannot fault this epitome of perfection.

I cant guarantee all reviewers adhere to these guidelines, but work as a general guide.

Author's credit is given on all posts.