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REVIEW RUNDOWN: Volume 15

Hey, it’s the 15th volume of Review Rundown! You’re probably used to seeing this feature on Fridays, but we’ve moved to Tuesdays for the time being. Nothing else has changed though; we’re still committed to bringing you ten music reviews from everywhere on the spectrum. As always, this music is all available for you to check out yourself. Be sure to tell us what you think if you’ve listened to these artists as well!

TIM

Wizard Wizard

Wizard? Wizard!….

It seems Wizard is one of those bands who make it especially hard for people to search for them via any search engines, which is a real shame because no one should miss out on the opportunity to listen to this band. Now that name might make you think of some stoner rock or metal band but in actuality, Wizard is an experimental math rock band that doesn’t shy away from using glitch and electronic influences to get their massive compositions into your ear.

Songs like “Tarzan” feature an almost psychedelic mix of quirky licks and hard rock-esque vocals, but the band is in a perpetual flow of creativity. This same song goes into synthesizer glissandos around the halfway point, with a phaser bassline and almost synthwave-like accents. From there on, we follow the band into an almost power metal style solo section, only for the song to suddenly leave us in silence for five more seconds. The only thing I can say after listening to this entire album is ‘What! Is! That!?!?’ and, ‘I want more please’.

Wizard has something I am missing in a lot of acts that claim to be experimental or progressive and that is the truly progressive nature of their music. I could pull up three songs from this and you may have a hard time saying that it’s the same band, yet all songs are bound by this will to see what sonic waves can do. A truly stunning experiment.

Score: 8.5/10

Isla CraigThe Becoming

I’m going to say it straight away; this is my favorite pop record of the year. The songwriting is incredible; it feels very authentic and the foundation always feels raw, emotional and simplistic. On The Becoming, you won’t get flashy pop beats, 808 kicks or heavily modulated vocals. What you will get though is an experience; an experience looking into your own self and through the eyes of another person.

Isla Craig is fantastic in building emotionally claustrophobic soundscapes through raunchy sax or guitar leads, minimalist drums and sweet harmonized vocals. It forces you to get emotional and think. Another remarkable thing about this record are the beats. While I said everything is simplistic, this doesn’t mean you can’t be smart about your resources. Songs like “There Is A Hole” have very effective syncopated shuffle beats that shift like a clock in the background. “Love Song”, on the other hand, seemingly couldn’t care less and lets the kick roam freely and explore the space between the notes.

This is the epitome of the saying ‘it’s greater than the sum of its parts’, because in every note lays thought, passion, expectation and intellect. A perfect pop record.

Score: 10/10

ANDREW

MireShed

The temptation in writing this review would be to make a joke about how well-suited this Denver band would be for fans of Gojira who think they are ‘Gone-Jira’, because the similarities are all but uncanny. Mire has the constant forward-moving tension, the droning clean vocal parts (though Benton McKibben is better at it than Joe Duplantier), and even the pick-scratches. Yes, Mire has the grooves, and not a few moments that bring Lamb of God to mind, but that might be because the Virginian and French bands guzzled a bit from Meshuggah’s Destroy Erase Improve.

So yes, Shed is derivative, but so are lots of things these days. And when Mire slam it out with so much conviction and with such amazing writing and musicianship, who the hell cares? Shed is a pleasant gem of an album by a band who we hope will come into their own in future releases. Its only real flaw being a paltry 33-minute runtime, but again, when the material is this good, that hardly matters much.

Score: 7.5/10

High TensionPurge

If this is what hardcore sounds like in 2018, then sign me up, because I am officially hardcore now. This Australian band plays the kind of ‘core that’s metallic and sludgy enough to have a power and substance that most hardcore bands can never attain. But it lacks clichés and wangsty pseudo-soul-searching, which means calling it ‘metalcore’ would be an insult. High Tension instead straddle a fine line between the two genres and made a tense, energetic, and exciting third album.

Purge has songs for every mood, but tension and dread predominate. High Tension wisely chose to make some of the more subdued tracks (“Surrender” comes to mind) quieter in the mix, rather than brickwalling it to force it down our throats. The temptation to do so can be great when a singer throws down with the clean vocals, but this band resisted it. One can appreciate the attention to dynamics and pacing, two concepts lost on most post-1987 hardcore bands.

If Purge is worthy of any major criticisms, it would be in the rhythmic department. The drumming on Purge is too generically hardcore, with the plain and simple 4/4 being overused like deathcore bands overuse chugging. Thankfully, High Tension’s other musicians keep things from getting boring. Purge gets better with every listen, and it’s worth a first spin by hardcore and metalcore enthusiasts at the very least.

Score: 8/10

 

JONCE

MaethWhaling Village

Even though they may be breaking up soon, it’s not too late to check out the final project from Maeth. This outfit from the Minneapolis area describes themselves as ‘a heavy crunch n cream, post-rocks, skygaze, jazz fission band’, which I think is a fitting description after listening to Whaling Village.

This project has a lot going for it. As one may guess from the band’s self-description, their main strength is their diversity. The band uses a very Elder-esque flow of buildup, release, and cooldown on Whaling Village, but the production still has that low-budget quality of that cool local math-rock band that every guitarist in town wants to be a part of. In addition to the rumbly bass, wailing guitars, and shuffling drums that one may find on any ‘skygaze’ record, a bright flute cuts through the mix, supplying some of the melody for the latter half of “Everything Is an Orchid,”. Even the vocal passages, which are few and far between, are similarly utilized more as a texture than a lyrical focal point. There’s also a bit of Gojira worship like in the beginning of “ˈsɪksˈtiːn Əʊ​-​naɪn,” (sixteen o’nine?), which makes sense considering the whale theme of the album.

It sucks to think that this will probably be the last the world will ever hear of Maeth, but this final project feels like a worthy send off for an inventive group such as this.

Score: 7.5/10

Crimson Bridges Slow Minds

More of this instrumental djenty-progcore? *Sigh*, as if the world needed more of the stuff. Alright, I’ll give it a go.

My major criticism with this record is the songwriting. At times, it feels as if the majority of Slow Minds was written with vocal passages in mind, and those pieces of the song are still missing, particularly on “The Gap” and “Connect”. The other notable flaw is the album’s tendency to wear its influences on its sleeve. I can’t count the number of times I think to myself, ‘Yeah, that sounds like something Misha Mansoor would have done as a teenager’. So while the first half of the record sounds like a watered-down The Contortionist impression, the back half is a dead ringer for Periphery.

But fortunately, Crimson Bridges manages to tighten up a bit on the back end of the album. Ironically, the seven-minute “Something Better” is where his songwriting matures considerably. The hollowness left by a lack of vocal melody is mostly gone, and I can jam out to the djenty goodness.

While most of the performances are passionate enough, I fear that simply adding vocals won’t be enough to make this album shine. Without more invigorating song ideas, Slow Minds can only get so far.

Score: 5.5/10

 

JAKE

Shylmagoghnar Transience

If there is a genre that has been getting over-crowded in the last few years it would probably be atmospheric black metal. It seems that Bandcamp and YouTube are filled with dozens and dozens of bands that create this style of metal. As can be the case with plenty of styles, bands can get lost in the mix, especially when the sounds are a bit similar. Don’t let Shylmagoghnar slip by though. Transience is their latest release and is one of the better atmospheric black metal records of the year. The melodies are memorable, energetic, and thoughtful. The gaze, symphonic, and atmospheric elements are balanced incredibly well and it creates a genuinely pleasurable listening experience.

The lengthy instrumental track “The Dawn Of Motion” makes a huge impression, following the twelve-minute title track which opens the record. The vocals are compelling and sit well in the mix, and overall the production is dirty enough to feel raw and not too polished as to feel disingenuous. Epics such as “No Child Of Man Could Follow” prove that this is a band rife with talent and their material shouldn’t be missed. I’ve been enjoying their debut Emergence for four years now, and am glad to have more tunes from this excellent band.

Score: 8/10

Self Defense Family Have You Considered Punk Music

This is a band that has a lot going for it, besides just a fantastic name. Self Defense Family is post-punk act who are releasing their sixth LP with Have You Considered Punk Music. This is a prolific outfit that also has a bit of a revolving lineup, but have maintained quite the standard of quality over the course of their career. If you’ve never listened to SDF, imagine a sound that is The Talking Heads meets Nick Cave. This record evolves their sound in little ways and continues their legacy of substantive music.

Opening with “The Supremacy Of Pure Artistic Feeling”, the song establishes the somewhat morose tone of the album. The vocals are low-key and feel exasperated from the start. The somber and bleak atmosphere continues with “Nobody Who Matters Cares.” The feelings that this album produce are palpable and squarely downtrodden. While some may shrug at the deeply ‘hipster’ attitude and sound of this band, their prowess can’t be understated. While Have You Tried Punk Music won’t get your fist pumping, it will get your head to spin and that’s a worthwhile accomplishment.

Score: 8/10

 

DAVID

HothAstral Necromancy

Hoth started as a somewhat endearing black metal project about Star Wars, hence their name. As of late, they are still black metal, but have abandoned the Star Wars concept in favor of composing albums based around… black metal stuff. Overwhelming winters, the concept of darkness, ‘exploration of cosmic mysteries and black magic’ all permeate through Astral Necromancy and it makes for a vigorous offering from the Seattle duo that grew on me over time.

This is a grinding hellmarch of an album. Melodic and pummeling, the guitars and drums rarely relent, as is customary of black metal. Vocals are regularly a high-pitched rasp, with some deviations into blackened bellows and harmonic gang vocals (the chorus on “Journey into the Eternal Winter” is magnificent).

“The Void Between the Stars” has a nice mid-song interlude that’s good solace amidst the screaming stars. I’m reminded of slower moments on Vektor records. Influences from everywhere across the heavy music spectrum can be heard. It’s also a heap cleaner and crisper in the production and mixing departments than Hoth’s last couple efforts.

Perhaps ironically, this album is more full of life than it might let on to with just a couple listens. Luckily for Hoth, the necromancy worked. Check this out!

Score: 7.5/10

DAGS!Flaws & Gestures

Self-proclaimed Italian ‘melodic riffs sweethearts’ DAGS! are back with a new album, Flaws & Gestures. Imbuing their math rock with a post-rock/indie/emo flair, we get a solid stepping stone through an already impressive summer season.

With sentence-length song titles (you’ll have to forgive me for truncating them), DAGS! find a sweet spot in simply being human. Their percussion is more organic and playful than average. Vocals are heartfelt with a slight whiny tinge which matches the stream-of-consciousness lyrical musings on life’s intricacies and oddities. In these regards, “The Introduction of New Working Practices…” is a prime example and a fitting thesis statement for the band.

“I Must Have Missed the Moment…” shows the band in a slow groove that’s hard not to vibe with. In fact, much of this album feels very similarly focused and controlled. This is commendable and surely a selling point for DAGS!, but I personally like my math music to have a wild side. Because of that, this album didn’t grip me as much as I would have liked.

Listening to Flaws & Gestures feels like a warm summer evening, or the fleeting love of youth. Much like my youth, I don’t particularly feel the need to return to this album much, but it was a fun ride while it lasted.

Score: 6.5/10

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