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REVIEW RUNDOWN: Volume 9

Welcome back, humans of planet earth, to episode nine of the bi-weekly Review Rundown. Previous attendees of this depraved feature will know that in each episode, a random assortment of our talented writers give themselves but a few days to listen to and gauge an album for your benefit, giving a short review of why exactly it is or isn’t worth your oxygen. This week we have our writers Dom, Vigz, Sam, Jake and Andy reviewing a right mix for you. We have experimental jazz, dream pop, shoegaze, more jazz, and, of course, the djent that keeps you coming back to us week after week.

Leave us some comments underneath the post, and please throw us bands to review that we might’ve missed!

VIGZ

Phi – “Cycles

I always judge an album by its cover. Always. As a fan of cover art, I like to think that it should evoke a sense of the music contained within. Like reading tea leaves. With Cycles, I get a sense of the following: ‘dark’, ‘technical’ and ‘modern’. A track list also gives a lot away; titles like ‘Dystopia’ and ‘Blackened Rivers’ echo those themes, and you know what? Phi’s music reflects these feelings throughout, creating a very dark but satisfying experience.

Standout tracks like “Children of the Rain” and “In the Name of Freedom” mix Porcupine Tree-style synths and tight riffing with the feeling of hopelessness. They thankfully keep a little glimmer of hope here and there with some sing-along choruses. The epic “Dystopia” successfully reflects a world of ‘stone cities and ghost towns’, but also tries to claw its way out of the pit of despair, only to be dragged back by the brute force of the riff-o-rama monster.

This is a band that is successfully combining djent-y riffs, modern synths, proggy exploration, and singable choruses in effective and punchy ways. The vocal duties of Markus Bratusa are powerful and the overall production kicks. A solid slice of modern djent-y metal that deserves to be heard.

Score: 7.5/10

Axios – “Erased

For me, great bands center themselves around a vocalist. This is the person that gives you an immediate connection to the music. Erased starts amazingly well, with heavy guitars and punchy drums. There’s even some heavy Jon Lord organ giving it some beans as ”Pyramid” evokes the desert of Egypt with its Eastern-tinged scales. However, as soon as the vocals entered, I was let down. I’m not sure whether it is the performance, the recording, or both, but it just doesn’t seem to gel with the music. Jake Mikolas leans towards the indie/shoegaze sound, so if you like that style, you might love this. A young voice trying to give it some aggression falls flat in places, for me at least.

It’s a shame, since the band show off some amazing arrangements and ideas. “Truth in the Lie” has some great moments, akin to something by Steven Wilson, and “Don’t Pull Me Down” has a nice hook and covers a lot of ground in just six minutes, even if it is a little obvious.

Axios are a young band on a mission with a lot of talent and passion. Keep an eye on them in the future as, with more experience, I imagine they will achieve some great things! Also, did I mention the bass? Probably not, but it is ace; fruity and twangy all the way baby!

Score: 6/10

Dom

Mark Pritchard – “The Four Worlds

Initially, I had to think of Jon Hassell’s record Fourth World upon reading this album’s title. Instead of Hassell’s signature take on world music-infused ambient jazz, however, Mark Pritchard offers up an eclectic take on cinematic ambient electronica, drawing inspiration from different sonic aesthetics and textures while staying firmly rooted in that style. The Four Worlds, unsurprisingly, given its tone and development, also acts as the soundtrack to a film/virtual reality instalment Pritchard created together with Jonathan Zawada.

From the eleven-minute opener, the hypnotically rhythmic “Glasspops”, to the ominous final title track, The Four Worlds is sprawled out across the auditory tapestry at a very deliberate pace by Pritchard. Outside of the interesting artistic choices he made (like prominently integrating an organ into some of the tracks), though, there’s nary a real element of surprise to the 33 minutes of the album; this is especially true concerning tempo and song structure. While that fact adds to the atmosphere and cohesion of the album, it did take away from my overall enjoyment of it.

Score: 7.5/10

Say Sue Me – “Where We Were Together

Hold on, let me apply some sun lotion first. You might think I’m joking here, but Where We Were Together gave me a sunburn just by listening to its eleven bright and sunny tracks. Seriously, this record is brimming over with summery vibes! Say Sue Me are a South Korean indie rock/surf/dream pop four-piece, and this is their second full-length release.

Unlike many of the indie/surf rock bands that surfaced over the past decade or so, Say Sue Me actually use the twangy, country music-inspired guitar work to its full effect. Instead of relying on it as a gimmick, they full integrate it into their sound, which is otherwise marked by relaxed vocals, twinkly indie rock guitars, warm, dozy bass lines, and rudimental drumming. You can hear those elements at play throughout the whole of Where We Were Together’s 45-minute runtime, but nowhere are they as condensed and stringent as in the song “Ours”. It features a very country-esque rhythm paired with dream pop soundscapes. The simplistic but beautiful melodicism it radiates is symptomatic of this record. Another top pick would be the short but oh so catchy “I Just Wanna Dance”.

Say Sue Me as a band are bubbling over with charming playfulness and cheerful musicality. If Where We Were Together doesn’t make you long for warm days and cold drinks, you should definitely go see a doctor about it.

Score: 9/10

Jake

Prune Deer Chemistry

When it comes to infectious joy and mesmerizing melodies, it’s difficult to name a style which does this better than math rock. Prune Deer’s Chemistry is a glowing representation of those attributes. With a total of seven tracks that are primarily instrumental, we’re taken on a relaxing but enticing ride. From the bouncing opener, “CH3CHO” to the sedate “Dry Mass”, Prune Deer have written some genuinely dynamic pieces. One thing I’ll say up front is that I’m in general not a fan of the production of the record. The cymbals are a little too far up front at times, and the vocal mixing isn’t perfect either. While these are legitimate complaints, they hardly detract from the talent displayed here.

Where Chemistry shines is the final track, “Ergot”. It’s a seven-minute piece that comes in softly with ambient nature sounds, flute, and acoustic guitar. This sets a tranquil stage that feels more like the soundtrack to a fairytale than a rock record. Rollicking riffs come in along with drums and some distorted spoken word segments that make for a transcendent experience. If you’re a fan of heartfelt math rock that may have a few flaws in the production, check this one out!

Score: 8/10

Elifantree Anemone

When it comes to quirky stuff that makes its way into my ears, few things have stood out this year as much as Anemone by Finland’s Elifantree. With elements of progressive rock, jazz, r’n’b, and blues, there is a lot going on within each composition. Once the title track opener begins, the stylistic confidence just oozes out of every note. Singer Anni Elif Egecioglu has a rich and earnest timbre that evokes true emotion with lots of jazz sensibilities that make each vocal performance a real joy to hear. The instrumentation includes synths, sax, guitar and drums, all evenly spread out over what seems like miles of space.

“I Love You” is a standout on the record for me. There are sweet and gentle moments that let the vocals take center stage, followed up by a few timing changes that let the song progress in interesting ways. “Coral Disco” also wows in similar ways, but with more of a dance beat, piano, and strings coming in to push it to new heights. This is a very warm record. Having it be thus with the amount of experimentation taking place on each song is an incredible feat.

Score: 9/10

Sam

Christina VantzouNo. 4

Here at It Djents, with our minds being so saturated with heavy music, we often expect artists to flood our senses in order to make their mark and leave a lasting impression. Belgian composer Christina Vantzou is one of a unique collection of artists who serve to defy this principle. Through her aptly named fourth effort, No. 4, Christina employs a series of samples and orchestral influences in order to fashion a myriad of ultra-ambient, serene soundscapes that portray as nothing short of breathtaking.

Listening to this record feels like being in a dream; its slow, tranquil, avant-garde atmosphere feels almost other-worldly, making for an utterly compelling listen. Whilst the compositions are consummately broad and detailed, it still certainly doesn’t come across as overwhelming or grandiose in any way. The tempo and key changes are incredibly slight and subtle, and this allows the songs to meander from point to point without disconcerting the listener in any way.

Mesmerising as it may be, the one downside of this piece is the fact that it may be more suited for a film score or something of the like. However, that is arguably a back-handed compliment. In a nutshell, this is an intricate, incisive effort from an incredibly talented musician, and what’s more is that it represents a level of composition that is scarcely seen from modern musicians.

Score: 9/10

Deer Park Ranger – Bottom Of The Ocean

Sometimes it simply takes a quality release for a virtually unknown act to become a worthy participant in the scene. Despite still being yet to gather two hundred Facebook follows, Californian post-rock solo project Deer Park Ranger may just fall neatly into that bracket. Through his debut full-length attempt Bottom Of The Ocean, multi-instrumentalist Trevor Humphrey has succeeded in mustering a thoroughly convincing brand of post-rock, laden with charming melody, haunting atmosphere, and an easy-going, accessible vibe.

Whilst post-rock can often harbour a bleak, melancholic undertone, this record seems to take a marked step back from that, with what continually portrays as a bright, jovial atmosphere. A flurry of math-rock infused, major key-based leads are predominantly responsible for this effect, with the addition of synths and an array of sampling to fill in the gaps.

In a nutshell, this release marks its greatest achievement by manufacturing a series of tangible soundscapes whilst simultaneously maintaining a notably marketable vibe and structure. Theoretically, this will appease the senses of both prog fanatics and casual listeners, and that is undoubtedly a noteworthy feat.   

Score: 8/10

ANDREW

Lindhun – “Disclosure

This delightful morsel of modern metallicism made my week. I could say they sound bouncy, groovy, and punchy as hell, or I could just say they sound like another band from France called Gojira. Actually, that would not be completely fair, but shared geography and grooves between Lindhun and Bayonne’s finest make comparisons inevitable. This does not count against them.

The music on Disclosure is excellent, and so is the production. It’s hard to believe they only have 348 ‘likes’ on Facebook at the time of writing this, but with tunes like these, that should change in due course.

Lindhun have everything going for them: sick grooves, big chords, chunky riffs, pick slides (again, Gojira), epic choruses; les neuf yards entiers. Their only flaws lie in sounding too slick, too clean, too produced, too typical of ‘modern metal’. But as always in such situations, good writing and great execution cast aside concerns about originality. Disclosure is a fine album for anyone who has not forgotten the simple pleasure of a solid thrashing.

Score: 8/10

Borgne

Black metal, skillfully executed, can be a beautiful thing. This album is infinite proof. is the latest album in the history of a band that has been at it since 1998.

Borgne have crafted a work of atmosphere, melody, and boundless dark aggression. They balanced the kvlt staples of tremolo picking, distant screams, and sustained choo-choo-train blast beats with some gorgeous, thoughtful melodies that never seem out of place or even gratuitous. Absolutely nothing sounds cheesy about this album.

That is not to say that this is a pure black metal album. Borgne added in some elements of industrial music and pure noise on ∞. These moments show the enduring (and endearing) quality of black metal and how it cannot automatically be written off as a retro gimmick from decades past. Even still, will satisfy black metal purists and Borgne’s cadre of fans. This might be the album that Blut Aus Nord fans would have liked that band to have made last year.

Score: 7.5/10

Thanks for scrolling through! Tune back in in fourteen days for another Review Rundown!

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