Welcome to the second edition of Review Rundown! If you’ve ever been interested in our reviews but didn’t feel like reading (or in my case, writing) a full 800-word piece, here is the solution! Review Rundown is a bi-monthly piece where we offer bite-sized reviews on several new projects.
Be sure to click on the artists’ names for their social media pages and the album name for links to Spotify or Bandcamp.
Black Somnia is the second LP from experimental band Eye of Nix, consisting of six tracks of that imply a myriad of influences. The band’s sound has always been based around vocalist Joy Von Spain, and can lead the band into black metal, sludge, and even psychedelic territory. Opening with the song “Wound and Scar”, this group shows that they are adept at creating an interesting atmosphere that leans hard into chaos. Following that up is more down-tempo track, “Fear’s Ascent”, which pulls from the psychedelic influences such as Jefferson Airplane, but still manages to feel like a modern interpretation.
“Lull” gets downright doomy, and also the psych influences rear their head again. This combination makes the song really stand out on the record for me. There is some great melody work here, along with excellent vocals. As I said above, this band lives and dies on the vocals, as the almost operatic performances are a genuine differentiator for Eye of Nix. The production is solid throughout the album, and it’s paced very well to boot. If you are looking for an interesting hybrid of genres, look no further than Black Somnia.
Summarizing a nearly three-and-a-half hour ambient/noise record is a mammoth task, so here we go. The brainchild of Dominick Fernow, Prurient is a project focused on bringing a wide variety of influences to the noise music scene. Rainbow Mirror is a record that does just that. With fifteen tracks, many over fifteen minutes, each has their own unique tonal identity from the metallic opener, “Barefoot God”, to the white-noise fueled, “Walking On Dehydrated Coal.” Obviously, with an album of this magnitude, balance and focus are paramount if the artist expects the listener to endure and enjoy the entirety. Gladly Rainbow Mirror does a good job of keeping things relatively dynamic.
The theme of Rainbow Mirror seemed to be composed with an eye to the East, with many of the track titles referencing Asian culture (“Okinawan Burial Vaults”, “Blue Kimono Over Corpse” and the two-part song “Buddha Strangled In Vines”). Each of these brings with it instrumentation that further explores the themes set by the titles. To put it mildly, there is a lot to digest here. Its daunting length and often discordant nature are no doubt a turn-off to many. However, if you are interested in cozying up to some of the finest dark ambient compositions of 2017, it’s worth taking the journey.
If you’re looking some bright and sunny instrumental prog rock, you could do a whole lot worse than Sawce. Channeling CHON among others, their self-titled EP leaves the listener feeling calm. Think of it as an audio hammock in the shade of a warm day.
There’s some nice bass work here. Slow and steady grooves enchant on “Puggle” while they harmonize with other guitars and create a nice rhythm on “Moody”. Some burning fretwork accentuates “Scoops” with a recurring riff and solo. The song has a nice mathrock flare to it that’s easy on the ears and doesn’t detract from the gentle mood the rest of the EP has. “Years Ago 2.0” is a funny little treat. The intro samples a viral video of a guy trying (and failing) to freestyle rap on live public access television. The meat of the track, though, is a wonderful, reverb-heavy, synthy dreamscape reminiscent of Washed Out. Max Mobarry (Others by No One) lends his versatile voice to “Comfort”, a nice closer that melts any worries away.
At only 22 minutes, it’s over before you know it, but the comforting feeling stays long after. Aptly named, these dudes got the sauce. Wonderful effort!
I wasn’t familiar with Jakub Zytecki by the time I got a few listens into Ladder Head, his second EP in 2017. Then I realized that he’s the guitarist for Polish prog rockers DispersE and everything made more sense. I expected something familiar seeing as it’s primarily guitar-driven instrumental rock, but I was caught off-guard with an unconventional pop sensibility. This mostly works in its favor.
This is like coming to the end of summer and reflecting on the good times you had, but also regretting all the things that you didn’t get to do. That’s wildly specific, but listen to the airy wistfulness of “Lovetape” and tell me you don’t think of something similar. This seems to be the intent if Zytecki’s description for the EP is anything to go by. Nostalgia marks “Yesterdead”, a track with some great bass rhythms and vocalization in the background to flesh out the tone. “NightDiving” feels very personal lyrically and has wonderful guitar and vocal harmonies. There’s lots of atmosphere and mood to Ladder Head. It’s pretty, yes, but that only goes so far for me personally. If you’re looking for light, feel-good music, look no further.
Yikes…Christian pop music masquerading as melodic metalcore? I didn’t ask for this…
Alright, before I launch into an all-out tirade, I’ll admit that The Will To Rebuild does have its moments. Most of the dirty vocal performances on this album go over well enough, particularly on “Ascendent”. The clean singing on “Vivid” is decent, although the instrumentation sounds incredibly bland. And since I’ve brought it up, so much of this record is simply a series of uninspired chugs underneath painfully melodramatic singing that I thought had died out years ago. “September” stands as a prime example. Overproduced drums and backing tracks, unimaginative lyrics and guitar/drum playing, and absolutely hammy singing come together on this song in the most boring way I could have imagined.
I’m happy to say that I can’t recall most of this project after giving it several listens and compiling my thoughts on paper. The mere thought of these memories resurfacing would probably be too painful for me.
TL;DR: This album is too safe and has few redeeming qualities. Generic with a capital ”g”.
Goddammit, I hate it when this happens.
There’s so much to like about this album. The riffs on this thing are excellent and tight. The vocals (especially the two features) are absolutely on point. Even the bassist offers some excellent tapping leads on tracks such as “Shallow”. Listening to tracks like the Vildhjarta-inspired “Reincarnated Evil” showcase Adjentist’s songwriting prowess and attention to detail. And to top it all off, it’s literally got “djent” in the band name for Christ’s sake!
But something is missing. All of the ingredients are present, but it’s as if the dish wasn’t cooked quite right. For most people, I think replay value in a song comes when there is something in the music that is more than the sum of its parts. Sadly, I think this is where Disintegrate suffers. It’s not that the songs feel half-baked, and it’s not that the production is lacking. It’s that intangible, yet fundamental aspect of a song that makes me want to hear it again. For whatever reason, it’s just not here. Be sure to give this record a try anyway. I hope other people can find what I was looking for in this project.
Haunts– A Lack Of Empathy
One of the best ways I know how to get through a cold winter is to utilize that atmosphere to get the most out of darker and more melancholic music and movies. Those who do the same might want to check out the new EP from British post-rock group Haunts. A Lack of Empathy is only 3-tracks in its entirety, but lengthy track times make this a 30-minute offering that serves as a full listening experience.
The EP opens up with “Creep Pulse” and an electronic, semi trip-hop beat that sounds like the start of a Phantogram song, before giving way to a beautiful violin composition. The violins are the focal point of the music and are present throughout most of the EP. The drum and guitar sections always positively add to the current mood of a track, but it’s the violins that make this a very atmospheric and emotionally complex listen that sometimes plays like a score similar to the works of great television composers like Michael Giacchino and Bear McCreary (specifically in the closing track “Crux”). I can’t say this EP warrants a very high replay value, but it is nice background music for studying, reading, or a cold morning commute to work.
Metal communities around the world owe Canada a bit of gratitude for their high output of good tech death. VileDriver’s debut album is no exception. Primary is a dizzying onslaught of blisteringly fast time changing riffs that also lean heavily on deathcore and grindcore.
There are a huge variety of influences at play here. The strongest comes in the form of early Born of Osiris’ short
measured deathcore riffage,, even if at times it is delivered a bit too on the nose. Vocalist Dustin Patkai further adds this similarity in both his highs and lows. He also utilizes deeper guttural lows kin to Nile and throaty highs similar to Mitch Lucker. Continuing the influences, the dissonant and off-metered guitar sections that frequently find their way into the music (“Gnaw Your Tongue”) also add a bit of Dillinger Escape Plan flare. Thanks to the relentless brutality of the drumming and tempo (“Gates of Horn and Ivory”), fans of The Red Chord will feel right at home with Primary.
There is certainly no lacking in technical proficiency for this trio. However, Primary can be a bit too much at times. The structure of ‘as many riffs as we can fit’ can make it a hard album to settle into. But clocking in at 27 minutes, it’s over before you even realize what has happened to you. Fortunately, there is enough groove to leave some of these riffs stuck in my head for a while after listening.
I’m bound to draw critics for my thoughts on this album, but Seren’s Ashen was, for me an utter snooze. Masquerading at the front end as a relentless beast, the album soon began to ring hollow with my ears and more than often I found an excuse to stop listening to it.
Seren are a progressive death metal band who hails from Denver, Colorado and Ashen is their fourth release. After rolling through the album a number of times, it’s pretty clear why this the first time I’ve heard of them.
The vocals are the main detractor for me, and I think the vocalist would be better off with a deathcore band to call home. The instrumentation was cool in parts, but all in all, this was just a relentless tide that never really went anywhere. True followers of death metal would likely revel in this kind of stuff, but for me, it’s a no go.
Cultura Tres are a sludge metal band with a strong groove vibe to their sound. Imagine what Neurosis would sound like if they chilled out a bit and jammed out some fun, 60s-esque rhythms and psychedelia; you would get something like Cultura Tres. La Secta is the band’s fourth album (the band’s bio says they have been at it since 2008) so the maturity and compositional finesse shows here. Even still, one gets the impression these Venezuelans (transplanted to Luxembourg and The Netherlands) had a lot of fun making La Secta because that vibe oozes out of the speakers when this album plays. The basic Cultura Tres track uses the sludge modus operandi of repeating one riff in a seemingly endless way, evolving it somewhat, and allowing the rhythm section to explore and heighten the song’s intensity. Add in Alejandro Londono’s deliberate doom-laden droning vocals for maximum hypnotic effect. Cultura Tres have added a rare element of fun to sludge, without sacrificing the aura of mystery that makes the sub-genre so appealing
Be sure to come back next time for more Review Rundown!