Reviews

REVIEW RUNDOWN: Volume 16

The world cup is over, Wimbledon has been smashed, and everyone has finally stopped talking about the royal wedding. With these milestones behind us, let’s get back to the most important thing in life: music. As usual, our writers have scoured the known universe to bring you some takeaway fast food style reviews that only require a snippet of time from your hectic lives. There are some real standouts this time around, including Secret Cutter, Tangled Thoughts Of LeavingVoid of SilenceEngulf and lots more.

This is a regular thing for us, so if you’ve missed the previous Review Rundowns, you can check them out here.

DAVID

Secret CutterQuantum Eraser

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be sonically curb stomped by a giant, then Secret Cutter is for you. The sludgy grind three-piece from Bethlehem, PA is anything but subtle with their new album Quantum Eraser.

Ever since Harm’s Way bulldozed their way through my head with Posthuman, I’ve been looking for the next fix. Secret Cutter delivers on nearly all fronts. It has the heft, speed, and attitude that an album of this caliber should have. It kicks you around with its rampant drum blasts and barely discernible guitar melodies. Vocals are a shrill bellow escaping from the tortured throat of hell. Songs like “4 1/2” and “Oblivion” tread over you with doomy riffs. “Mantis” embraces the sludgy side of their sound with some slower instrumentation that’s coated in menace. “Doormat” emulates the fire of extreme hardcore with its speedy compositions and relentlessness.

Where other extreme music albums have failed to grab a hold of me for long, Quantum Eraser kicked me down and placed its boot on my neck ensuring I’d remain a captive audience for some time. A must listen if heavy chaos is an aphrodisiac to you.

Score: 8.5/10

Apollo Brown & LocksmithNo Question

Michigan producer Apollo Brown and California emcee Locksmith unite on a project that spotlights each artist’s strengths. They complement each other well and turn out one of the more fulfilling hip-hop projects this year with No Question.

Locksmith is definitely a capable lyricist, able to handily spit on different topics with varied flow and cadence. Brown’s production spans the spectrum of emotion and always suits the song at hand. “Advice to My Younger Self” sees Locksmith penning words of wisdom to himself, musing on everything from love to religion. There’s a deft smoothness in his flow, aided by dreary jazz sampling. To me, it’s reminiscent of what Havoc finessed with Mobb Deep in the early 90s. “Between the Raindrops” is probably my favorite, telling a moving story of a kid finding solace from life’s troubles in music. The beat is appropriately weighty with snappy drums and delightful horn samples. The sunny, positive disposition of “Wake Up” wraps the album up quite nicely.

This is a wonderful collab that’s soulful, introspective, and earnest. No Question is a treat for the hip-hop connoisseur, especially those that appreciate grown-up rap with substance and style. Fans of Phonte and fellow Mello Music Group signees Oddisee and Quelle Chris will be right at home.

Score: 8/10

VIGZ

Fire Down BelowHymn Of The Cosmic Man

As much as I’ll admit to being a musical snob, appreciating originality above most other talents, there’s a time and a place for a band to just get on with the job and deliver some solid riffing. Fire Down Below are one of those bands.

After the doom-style instrumental intro, we’re blasted into space with “Ignition / Space Cruiser”, capturing an alt-metal vibe with the layered guitars and harmonized chorus. “The Cosmic Pilgrim” is a nine-minute epic that successfully combines these sounds, again including some squelchy riffage and thundering drums.

There is a fair mix of styles here. “Ascension” transports me back to 1970 with its mix of fuzz, phase and Eastern vibes. The real classic on the album is “Adrift In A Sea Of Stars”. This is an epic shuffle-rocker with a full-on Sabbath vibe, complete with a “Planet Caravan”-style percussion. This track shows what Fire Down Below can really do.

Although not the most original band out there, Fire Down Below has got a great feel and I had a good time. When you’re in the mood to nod your head to something solid, stick on Hymn Of The Cosmic Man and smash it!

Score 7/10

Void of SilenceThe Sky Over

Void of Silence are a perfect companion to the dark winter months. Their first album in eight years, The Sky Over is a fantastic mix of bell-tolling doom and Euro-themed melodies.

Starting slower than your granny trying to climb the stairs, we are treated to some awesome power chords and sinister atmospherics. The over-the-top voice of Luca Soi is a perfect foil for the music. He tells a theatrical story, very much like Spiritus Mortis. The myriad of vocal styles, from operatic sections to death growls, offers exciting variation over the whole album.

The main three tracks all consist of slow doom with fantastic key changes, the move from minor to the major reflecting the darkness and the light that his band have to offer. They are quite similar (all slow, all long), but each listen gives a new perspective on the layers and layers of overdubs. The addition of the Yamaha CS-80 on “Farthest Shores” (think Blade Runner, Vangelis) is a stroke of genius and sweeps in and out of the mix, creating a truly epic soundscape.

The interlude tracks such as “The Void Beyond”, “Abeona (Or Quietly Gone in a Hiatus)” and “Abeona (Or Surfaced as Resonant Thoughts)” actually enhance the whole album experience. They add a further sense of gravitas, making it a more complete package that you’ll want to listen to in full.

Given all the atmospherics, overdubs, vocal styles, harmonies and sound effects, this album feels purposely crafted, more than the sum of its parts and undoubtedly a labour of love for the band. Is there such a thing as ‘theatrical doom’? There is now.

Score 8/10

JAKE

Jealous of The BirdsThe Moths Of What I Want Will Eat Me In My Sleep

Irish songstress Naomi Hamilton is back with a collection of new songs of her folk-tinged indie rock. The Moths Of What I Want Will Eat Me In My Sleep is a five-song EP that is full of fantastic little moments and grounded lyricism that feels conversational yet still poetic.

“Plastic Skeletons” is the opener, and is a lo-fi melodic rock song where the bass makes a big impact and the tune plays with recurring motifs and repetitive movements. “Ms. Misanthrope” follows and feels like the early days of the indie folk revival.

The minimal instrumentation and modality make it familiar and allowed me to connect with it pretty easily. While being a pretty quick affair, the EP does a good job of being diverse, without breaking the cohesion or themes. Moths is overall a morose and introspective set of tunes, and yet the final song, “Russian Doll”, ends on a higher note at east sonically.

There’s plenty to like here, in fact, Jealous Of The Birds have crafted some of the smartest and catchiest songs that I have heard this year. If you’re looking for some new indie rock that has more depth than most, give this one a listen.

Score: 7.5/10

Engulf Gold And Rust

When it comes to death metal, I generally need something else added to the mix for me to be interested; bare bones death metal just doesn’t do much for me. I decided to review the new EP by New Jersey’s Engulf to see if these three songs could help to change my mind. Gold And Rust is a fairly concise effort, but the footprint that it leaves is by no means small.

“Maul” is up first, and the tech-leaning riffs and blast beats back a tale of rebirth for the sake of revenge. It’s nothing revolutionary in terms of themes, but everything is executed extremely well. I mean that sincerely, this is a talented band in every aspect. What’s more, this is a one-man act, with all vocals and instrumentation being attributed to Hal Microutsicos.

“Misshapen Abomination” leans slightly more into progressive territory but is actually a little shorter than the opener, and it’s another solid track that showcases tight composition skills. “Sovereign To The Seven Underworlds” closes things out with another set of massive riffs and punchy drumming.

This is a seriously impressive EP that shouldn’t be missed by fans of technical death metal or even classive death metal. There are plenty of handholds to latch onto, and I have a feeling that Engulf is going to only get bigger and bigger, so get in early so we can be snobby hipsters about liking them before anyone else.

Score: 8.5/10

TIM

Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving Tether

There is little I admire as much as innovation. Creativity is an attribute many people possess, but real innovation goes beyond a person, it expands beyond their personality. Real innovation forms the creator as much as the creator forms it, condensing into a singularity of singular thoughts that capture every aspect of the person’s essence, multiplying it. Such a work is Tether by Australian band Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving.

I first learned of this collective of talented individuals from their 2015 album Yield To Despair. What drew my attention initially was their tags: doom, prog, post-rock, jazz. How could I say no to such promising labels? Alas, the record itself was bigger than just the tags. So how does Tether hold up to that? It’s fantastic, as simple as that. The band understand their craft and meticulously arrange songs that breathe but are simultaneously denser than the rain forest.

Tracks like “Signal Erosion” play with post-hardcore, jazz, doom, and drone elements with layers upon layers of nuance and sound. The ‘breakdown’, if you could call it that, builds up so slowly you almost feel overrun when you realize its beauty. Droning, soaring guitar work thrashes around the soundscape like a gazier Sunn O))), while beautiful jazz melodies dance ever so lightly over the tumult underneath their feet. The bass audibly crawls out of the lower end of the mix to send its whale calls throughout the acoustic landscapes presented here. If you like experimental music and ambiance, buy this record.

Score: 9.5/10

TropicsNoctrunal Souls

What initially drew me to pick up Tropics was the tag psychedelic pop. And may I say, it hasn’t me disappointed one bit! Nocturnal Souls is a personal and authentic work, yet one everyone can identify with, one that is wild and untamed.

It’s the soundtrack to the animals whose grounds are the neon-tinged rainy streets of the metropoles, who seek protections in cafés or bars and traded claws and teeth for words just as sharp. Tracks like “Keep Me Turning Back” catch you with their shimmering guitars like the light of a deep sea fish, but what keeps you coming back is the black, dripping melancholia flowing out of the singer’s mouth. Whimsical melodies augment the vocals, giving it a bluesy, big city vibe.

Let’s move on to the psychedelic part. In the track I’ve mentioned, the instrumentals very slowly build on each other while new melodies get continually stacked underneath the main motif. Slight shifts, such as bending a note just out of tune to give a shifting feel is one of the simple yet effective methods with which Tropics can draw your attention. These slight nuances happen throughout the record and make discovering it so incredibly great.

Score: 9/10

JONCE

The View From HereNew Perspectives

Well, this is certainly a pleasant surprise: more new post-hardcore music that’s actually pretty good! Jersey newcomers The View From Here released their debut EP New Perspectives late last month. Twinkly guitar melodies, bouncy pop riffs, juvenile vocals – it’s all here. While there seems to be considerable influence from Dance Gavin Dance’s self-titled period, there’s a certain sunshine-y-ness to this record that’s more recognizable in TVFH’s contemporaries Macseal.

“Human Suit” starts New Perspectives off with some of that classic Newborn Sun-era riffage and provides one of the more rousing choruses and vocal performances on the EP. “Whatever Happened, Happened” is a really cute, almost pop punk tune that puts the listener in the middle of a suburban house party. But I suppose the youthful overtones are kind of a pitfall for the EP as well, as there are times such as the opening of “Chill” where I feel like I’m listening to a more math rock version of something on Disney Channel. While that may sound harsh, there are other times where it kinda works for them? It’s an aspect of New Perspectives that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with.

Over the past week, I’ve gone back and forth from ‘wow, I hate this‘ to ‘wow, this is catchy as hell‘. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that while there are nice moments on here, I think The View From Here has some room to grow before they reach their full potential.

Score: 6/10

Delusions of Grandeur Apotheosis

In other news of music genres that I had no hope for in 2018, let’s turn to something…djenty-er. Delusions of Grandeur have come through with a final EP before calling it quits. Despite being rooted in a sound that’s been done to death in recent years, Apotheosis is a solid project.

Let’s get this out of the way: there are definitely some lame moments on here, “Shapeshifter” being the most guilty offender. If someone had told me this was a scrapped Northlane demo from like 2010, I might have believed them. While it’s well-produced, there’s not much to be found here except for boring chuggy riffs and unconvincing vocal performances. There are similarly unassuming riffs on “Groovetrain”, but that fault is made up for with more non-linear songwriting and sharp lead guitar work.

On the bright side, there’s also the steady “Echo”, which sounds like The Safety Fire picked up seven-strings for a comeback album. And one of my favorite tracks on Apotheosis is actually “Look to the East”, the seven-minute closer. Yes, there are some more sleepy chugs here and there, but the overall song has a triumphant cohesiveness that serves as a sentimental closer to the band’s career.

The problem I’ve always had with Delusions of Grandeur is they’ve always seemed to take themselves just a bit too seriously. But judging by their final music video (and the comedic track “Five-0”), they’re throwin’ in the towel on Apotheosis with a vibe that’s a bit more fun.

Score: 7/10

Thanks for scrolling through! Come back in 14 days for another Review Rundown.

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