It’s June already, summer (for some of us!) and time for some more bite-sized reviews from the It Djents crew. We’ve got some real diamonds in the rough this time around from bands like Spiral Skies, Self Hatred, Sudan Archives, Jamie Isaac, Jean-Michel Blais and more! The best thing is that you only have to read a few well-written and insightful* words from me, Tim, Dom, Andrew and Jake to get to the goods! Off we go!
Oh, this is a regular thing for us, so if you’ve missed the previous Review Rundowns, you can check them out here.
There is a point, usually around winter every year (yes, it is winter down here), where I love the comforting sounds of some fuzzy, psychedelic rock to keep me warm at night. With Blues for a Dying Planet, Spiral Skies are just the ticket.
Bursting from the castle gates with “Awakening”, we’re thrust right into some rocking grooves, akin to NWOBHM Maiden. In between up tempo numbers like “Dark Side Of The Cross” and “Left Is Right And Right Is Left”, all having great riffs and ripping solos, the rest of the album is nicely paced. “The Wizard’s Ball” and “Labyrinth Of The Mind” are layered with lush vocal harmonies and chorused guitars.
The awesome vocals of Frida remind me of Grace Slick, including the distinctive vibrato. It’s like listening to a heavy version of Jefferson Airplane. The simple, garage-like recording adds to the whole flavour and mystique, and sounds perfect.
Personally I’m loving the whole 70s rock resurgence from Europe with bands like Horisont, Spiritus Mortis and Inglorious. For me, Spiral Skies belong up there. They bring their own sound to this genre, and they deliver a great slice of classic, fuzzy, warm retro metal. Dust off your kaftan, sacrifice a goat and enjoy.
Black Sabbath have a lot to answer for, and one of those things is deep, fuzzy doom. The Birmingham pipefitters created a whole new genre of music without realising it. As a result, we’ve been treated to 40 years of great bands and along come Shine, putting their stamp on the genre with 100-ton lead boots.
Moon Wedding starts heavy with the opening instrumental “Goat Mountain”. The bass is so low it sounds like the strings are going to fall off. It feels good and the band know it as the album continues in this vein. Tracks like “Honey” and “Moon Wedding” bludgeon the listener with heavy-as-hell riffs, processed vocal and fuzz-tastic bass. “Riding on the Snake” finishes the 40-minute album off perfectly with Marcel Łękawa grooving on an up-tempo shuffle and dual lead solos giving it the retro-metal feel that we all know and love.
There’s something really satisfying in a slow, repeated heavy guitar-based grooves. Bands like this live or die on the quality of the riffs. You know that Shine got together in a basement, cracked open the beers and didn’t leave until they crafted a set of cool tracks. There’s nothing new on offer here, but what is there is done well.
Self-Hatred is a death doom outfit that sets out to create vicious yet melancholic and beautiful art. Their new album Hlubiny, is a gem in a year already crowded with post-metal and doom releases. The title track “Hlubiny” is a wonderful example for this. With a tone reminiscent of funeral doom and a strong leading piano, the band brings forth an intriguing composition. Instead of the piano being a background motive, it is woven into the composition of the track while the rest of the instrumentation carefully, yet confidently dances around it. The bass and rhythm guitar orient themselves on the bass keys while the chorus-laden lead guitar follows the notes in the treble section of the song. Through filling in rhythmic spaces, the drums make up the perfect enhancement to everything going on.
Talking of instrumentation, the chorus-laden lead guitar I’ve mentioned is heard throughout the album. Nasal-sounding and with bluesy undertones, it delivers a depressing yet hopeful feeling. You could almost see the guitar as a second voice to the guttural vocals that bring forth so much of the gritty feeling on this record, while the melodies of said guitar dance around them enchantingly.
The words atmospheric and theatrical are always sure to catch my attention. Everyone who has read my reviews in the past knows I have a soft spot for everything atmospheric, so naturally when I saw it on our list I picked it up.
But what about the theatrics? Well, let me put it this way: If I had to describe Ghostbound in one sentence it would be ‘Imagine the people in Ghostbound are planning a reenactment of Phantom of the Opera, but Fenriz of Darkthrone plays the guitar, because their guitarist broke his wrist’.
The operatic sounding vocals are a bliss for every fan of the band and the guitar walks a very thin line between 70s prog rock and 90s black metal, with only occasional hiccups with tremolo picked, full-fledged lo-fi solos. Interestingly the band managed to incorporate violin into their songs very effectively in a leading role more than once, a feat that seems quite difficult for rock and metal bands. The most interesting part might be how the instrumentation is very audible and flows extremely well, while not streamlining or restricting them to fit any expectation.
Are you ready for 15 minutes of pure, unmitigated nineties nostalgia? Good, so am I! Slowtrip’s latest EP, Blur, is just that: everything great about the alternative rock scene of that decade, rolled into a delightful four-song romp. The Californian four-piece, comprised of musicians from hardcore/metal groups such as Rotting Out, Bragging Rights, and The Greenery, mostly rely on old-school grunge and shoegaze to propel their music, which at times sounds like a sweeter, more restrained version of Nothing (that’s definitely meant as a compliment).
“Follow”, the EP’s first track, carries all of the band’s strengths in its DNA: crunchy mid-tempo grunge riffs, shoegaze effects, and a damn catchy alt-rock-infused chorus which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a college radio station 25 years ago. Hey, I wasn’t even born back then, and yet it’s an unmistakable throwback sound. The other songs then offer variations on the elements introduced in the opener. “2004” is inhabited by a bouncy rhythm, counterpointing its gloomy tones; “Makeshift Happiness” is an ode to being let down; and “Secondary” is the most obvious grunge homage of the bunch.
The short run time only works in favor of Slowtrip’s début EP. Blur is a brief first taste of what they can bring to the table, packed with bittersweet melodies and catchy vocal lines. It certainly doesn’t risk overstaying its welcome; I for one would’ve very much fancied a track or two more. For what it is, though, this release is pretty damn satisfying as is.
Stones Throw Records is one of the go-to labels for organic, handcrafted hip-hop and soul today; the affiliated musicians and producers have provided the imprint with great renommée and an enviable aesthetic over the years. Sudan Archives, a violinist/vocalist from Cincinnati, Ohio, is the latest addition to this illustrious circle. Her combination of folksy violin, world music elements, soul, and electronic beats, displayed wonderfully on her new EP Sink, is sure to raise some heads across the music fandom.
While title track and opener “Sink” is a strictly electronic number with glamorous vocals and a heavy beat, “Nont For Sale” is where this release starts to get really interesting, where you first have to acknowledge that this woman is a musical force to be reckoned with. Both plucked and bowed violin meets a warm double bass sound and a snappy rhythm, coagulating into an intriguing bedrock for Sudan Archives to plant her confident, stylish vocals upon.
Other highlights include the Caribbean-tinged “Pay Attention” with its exotic rhythms and lascivious vocal delivery, and the especially folk-inclined hip-hop/soul number “Beautiful Mistake”, although it can be argued that every single track could (or rather should) be considered a highlight.
Over the six tracks on Sink, Sudan Archives displays her unique take on beat-driven music in all its facets. From here on out, I think it will be very interesting to see and hear which directions she can take it in on future releases.
This would be the second full-length album by a classically-trained pianist from Quebec, Canada. Jean-Michel Blais’s debut, Il, received universal acclaim in 2016 and Dans ma main has already topped that album in the ‘making critics gush’ department. Far loftier authorities than us have used the word “masterpiece,” remarkable to have been used in reference to a work by someone under the age of 35. And why ought it not? Blais displays noticeable growth over his debut on this, not to mention an amazing level of maturity ‘in his hand’ (stop facepalming and read on).
Dans ma main combines ‘classical’ (really, romantic and impressionist) influences with modern minimalism. The addition of synthesizers might tempt some to lump Blais’s oeuvre in with the New Age crowd but the similarities to that are superficial. A lot of thought went into making something very simple come across in such a profound way. The mastery at hand here is not necessarily in the playing, but in the craftsmanship the realization of emotion as an expressive medium.
Jean-Michel Blais might not have made something for everyone, but Dan ma main offers a lot to those curious about where the ‘classical’ idiom stands in 2018.
The split 7-inch single was, and still is, a staple of the hardcore punk scene. This might seem like an odd venture for a doom metal band from Iowa City and a post-metal band from Chicago, but it only serves to show the roots these two genres have in hardcore.
Aseethe, the Iowa band already reviewed here in It Djents, spoke of their punkly origins in an upcoming interview. While Snow Burial, like many bands, seem to have taken on the post-metal label to imply a certain better-ness than metal, and that’s as hardcore as a bloody face after a bad night in the pit.
Aseethe break new ground with their contribution, an uncharacteristically short (5m10s) song called “Wrong.” They play fast in it, adding extra brutality to their doomy goodness. Snow Burial’s “Sever the Bloodline” entry complements it with melody, atmosphere, and dread.
This entry breaks one of the Review Rundown’s cardinal rules, that of only including material available at the time of writing. It is half true. This split tape (yes, an actual cassette) will see official, digital release on June 29, but physical copies are shipping now.
A delightful listen from two excellent bands!
Those of us that enjoy the more raucous and frantic side of music probably already know about Baptists, but if you’re unfamiliar, then let me catch you up. Hailing from Vancouver, Baptists are a modern hardcore band that have been creating stalwart and dependable extreme hardcore music for a few years. Beacon Of Faith continues their young legacy with 13 tracks of scathing, relentless, and high energy hardcore. Beginning with “Worse Than Hate” the biting messaging begins and never lets up. In keeping with the genre’s traits, the songs are succinct affairs, most lasting less than three minutes. But short doses are wise.
The outlier on the record, ”Eulogy Template” sticks around for six-and-a-half minutes and kind of breaks the mold. Most of the album expectedly takes an in-your-face approach, but this one has a nice simmer to it, building until the intense crescendo. As with bands that are consistent in their approach, Baptists can get a little repetitive on this record, but I personally didn’t find that a drawback. The intensity and no bullshit approach is what I like about hardcore and Beacon Of Faith carries the torch with gusto.
This has already been a stellar year for R&B, to my ear at least. With Tom Misch, Janelle Monae, and Leon Bridges releasing fantastic records in the last few months, the genre has me firmly in its grasp of late. Well, here comes another record to tighten the grip. Jamie Isaac has put together a diverse and seductive collection of songs on his latest outing, (4:30) Idler. Kicking things off with “Wings” the album leads in with a piano, punchy but complementary bass, and whispy vocals that are instantly catchy and comfortable. The title track is follows the same formula, but with some memorable twists in the melody and heartfelt lyrics.
There are plenty of great songs on this record, but the one that stand out the most for me is “Melt”. In fact this one is already on my favorite tracks of the year playlist. It’s light and airy like meringue, but is far more substantial. High falsetto paired with a dreamy atmosphere and impeccable percussion are what make this one such a hit. In the end this is another record to fan the flames of my love for the genre, and if you’re looking for some sultry jams to do the same for you, then go get this one.