Welcome one and all to the sixth edition of our bi-weekly feature Review Rundown which gives you 10 hot-takes on the latest, greatest (or not?) records to pass in and out of our collective ears. Step right up, enjoy the tunes, and be sure to check out our previous volumes. In this edition, we have everything from hardcore to jazz fusion, indie to post-metal, so dive right in and let us know what you think about the records!
You can’t spell Suffrage without ‘rage’, and there’s plenty of it to go around with Fucked and Bound’s high octane, furious, hardcore debut. The Seattle quartet, two of which (singer Lisa Mungo and guitarist Brian McClelland) are from He Whose Ox is Gored, absolutely kill.
Songs like “A Wild Thing” and “Dead Bop” slap you in the mouth from the moment they start. Punked-out drums and flailing guitars screech and speed their way through minute-long tracks like a careening truck filled with weapons grade nihilism. “Zero Fucks” blasts out a catchy hook, asking a million-dollar question: ‘What is the cost of good living when you’re fucked?’ “#GTFO” is a firebrand, vocally scathing douchebag bar patrons. It’s the inner monologue of a fed-up bartender who’s about to snap like Michael Douglas in Falling Down. The only slow moments to speak of are an ambient interlude “Locked” and album closer “Abuse of Registry”, which is the longest and most fleshed out track with thick, sludgy leanings.
Suffrage is a molotov cocktail through the windshield of your car. It’s the hands around your throat, the voice yelling in your face. Visceral and cathartic, this is bound to be a hardcore highlight of 2018.
TOTEP may mark an unexpected heel turn moment for cute British indie pop group Kero Kero Bonito. All previous efforts have been slightly left-of-center pop, saccharine enough to earn its name (‘bonito’ in Spanish means ‘beautiful’). Highly catchy and sample heavy, the two-producer-one-singer combo seemed keen to stay in their lane, but their new EP shows great growth and something dark lurking underneath.
Having seen a full playthrough of viral computer game sensation Doki Doki Literature Club recently, TOTEP comes at the perfect time. The four-song EP disarms you by sticking to the script that the band has established up until now. “The One True Path” has relaxing, wavy synth (not synthwavy though) production for Sarah’s sugary voice to lay on. Overall, it’s more rock oriented than before, which is a positive change. This is maximized on the lyrically meta single “Only Acting”, or “You Know How It Is”, which depends almost entirely on full band instrumentation.
I don’t want to give much more away. Much like DDLC, TOTEP is best experienced going in fresh without much prior knowledge, suffice it to say that the shallow and reactionary Death Grips comparisons by fans aren’t completely unfounded. Kero Kero Bonito genuinely surprised me with this and showed they have a lot more to offer. Absolutely phenomenal.
Weird instrumental avant-garde post-rock stuff from California, Q’uq’umatz make music that is as easy to listen to as their name would be to pronounce. Kukulkan is their sixth release. Its four songs take up 58 minutes, and lots of brain power to analyze effectively.
Q’uq’umatz take a vaguely post-rock sound and jazz, then dress it up with on-a-dime changes in tone, timbre, tempo, and technique. Kukulkan can best be described as a work in mathy post-classic alternative rock. What little that has been written about this band online included some positive comments by none other than Toby Driver (Kayo Dot, Maudlin of the Well, et al) himself. That alone should tell readers who like this sort of thing all they need to know.
With no social media presence to speak of, Q’uq’umatz epitomize the hipster musical ethos. Nobody can know about this band without seeking them out directly. Perhaps the members of this mysterious band wanted it this way, but it is still a shame. Kukulkan is a many splendored gem of bizarritude, sufficiently complex and varied to warrant repeat listens for those who appreciate anything out of the ordinary.
This would be the same Peter Wolff who fronted the German blackened extreme metal band Downfall of Gaia until 2016. Repeat is not, repeat, not a metal album! Herr Wolff evidently is a bit of a multi-instrumentalist with a taste for film soundtracks and new age music.
Repeat has some moments that would not have sounded out of place in the soundtrack for a Blade Runner-esque movie. The song entitled “Growing” has a main theme that recalls “Mind Heist” by Zack Hemsey (aka. ‘the Inception ‘BWAAAAH!! … BWAAAAH!!!’ theme’). Other moments sound straight out of Sounds From the Ashes by Controlled Bleeding. That is, overly synthetic and processed, and perhaps trying a bit too hard to be evocative.
But what works on Repeat works. Peter Wolff sticks to a basic structure with a piano playing the main motif while synths dress things up for the sake of mood and conceptual evolution. This album has enough in it to make one wonder what Peter Wolff has up his sleeve for future releases, but maybe not enough to warrant Repeat listenings.
Acedia – Focus
In a scene that is oversaturated with bedroom producer acts, it is always a nice to come across those that stand out. In this case, Chile’s Acedia has entered the picture with a very nice math rock debut on Focus.
Each track on the album presents the same formula of genre-defining time changes and warm, clean guitar tones. The sunshine-y comparisons to CHON are immediately evident, but Santiago Navarro’s tap-heavy style of guitar brings forth stronger similarities to Flannel Math Animal. Backed by the mellow drumming, the various guitar parts would sound great alone but are layered in ways that achieve a very spacey and psychedelic sound. This is definitely a great listen through headphones.
Focus is like a lazy river. The steady time shifts and bubbly guitar work keep the album moving forward with purpose, at times building into somewhat busy and turbulent climaxes; yet, the atmosphere presented throughout the album induces a sense of care-free relaxation. Focus is a perfect name for this debut. It is just as easy to do nothing more than sit and listen to the album as it is to enjoy in the background while you focus on other things.
Tech death outfit Alterbeast released their highly praised debut album Immortal in 2014, and fans have been waiting four years to get their hands on a new record. That day has come and I can’t imagine that any of them will be disappointed in this sophomore release.
The guitars keep the wicked leads and death chugs coming while the vocals are belted both high and low with rarely matched ferocity. Driving all of this along is drummer Alex Bent (Trivium,) who plays with enough force to power a small city. Alterbeast deliver a nice blend of death metal both old and new on Feast, often paying homage to bands like The Black Dahlia Murder (“Welcome to Your Doom”) and Cannibal Corpse (“Apex Night Eclipse”). Hell, they even included a cover of Dissection’s “Where Dead Angels Lie”, so there’s no doubt they know their roots. This, plus the inclusion of techier element to their sound, makes them fit nicely somewhere in between Wretched and The Red Chord.
I urge all metal fans not to pass on this album. Each song makes its own statement and keeps you actively engaged from start to finish. There is no sophomore slump here. Feast is a beast!
Entering the UK’s music scene is The Death Particle, a classical leaning ensemble of artists who also introduce jazz and fusion into their music. The tracks are delightfully composed, more a soundtrack than an intense listening session, but really great to enjoy whilst doing some work or activities.
Piano is a key focus for the band, along with the soft winding strings, which feel very British in many a way, almost as if you could use songs from Atoms & Bones for the soundtrack to a Shane Meadows film. Some are quite sobering, others enlightening. Vocals provided by Uno Lady were intense but also comforting, and her voice fits in nicely with the final track of the album, a cover of the song “Widower” by The Dillinger Escape Plan. It’s a smooth piece and complements the original well.
Sometimes the songs go off the deep end a little, so don’t expect an easy listening experience, but certainly check this out.
After getting really hyped about The Ocean’s return, I decided I needed some heavy post-metal. Norway’s Subnoir delivered. A Long Way From Home is deep, layered and wonderfully heavy. With a sound that smothers the listener, they’ve created a beast which sounds like one of my favourites from last year, Opium Eater, mixed with Russian Circles and other assorted sludgy bands.
The album is intense throughout, even when the distortion fades and a more post-rock sound takes over the band. It’s a perfect album for the bleak winter weather, but it’s not anywhere near as depressing as some bands from Scandinavia are. I really enjoyed the full opener to the album, “The Last Duchess”, through to the amazing climax of“Dissipation”, a titan of a track which towers at almost 14 minutes.
These guys are very new to the scene, so be sure to check out what is a magnificent debut and one for fans of post-metal, doom, sludge and post-rock.
Knights of Ganymede – Knights of Ganymede
We all know that certain sounds come and go in any given musical scene. One that’s a little unexpected is the surge of skramz lately. This self-titled debut from the very obscure (as in they have no Facebook page) hardcore/emo band Knights of Ganymede is quick, loud, and lo-fi in all the right ways. “From The Saucer To the High Road” is a punk anthem where unruly vocals are accompanied by frantic and fuzzy guitars. With most songs barely exceeding the 2 minute mark, things move fast here. The tempos are rarely varied which is to be expected, but a little more differentiation could be useful.
“Valefor” is just a measly fifty four seconds, but it’s a memorable track due to the more mid-tempo pace, mournful harmonies, and the cleaner sounding guitars. It also plays as a perfect lead-in for the slightly mathy “Rooftops of Eos”, which ranges from soulful to frantic in its minute and a half run time. Wrapping up the record is “Cost of GF” which shows more melodic tendencies than some previous songs. Mixing tempos and some nice riffs close this thing out. Knights of Ganymede is a nice debut that shines the light on what’s great about emo. I’d like a little more substance here, but it’s nonetheless enjoyable.
Asheville, NC natives Ghostdog recently dropped A Circle Of Stones and boy is it nice. Combining indie, math, and emo sounds, they’ve put together a set of songs that is sometimes soothing, and at others frantically emotional. Leading off is “Party On, Emma’s Grove”, which I think may be a reference to a road near their hometown. Opening with a lilting math riff, it remains mostly an instrumental track. “Abusing Time And How To Handle It” is not only a great song title, but is also rife with hooks and great lyrics.
There are a few small weaknesses on A Circle Of Stones: at times the math riffs aren’t quite perfectly executed, and the song “I Don’t Wanna Go” doesn’t quite fit as well as the rest in the track list, in my humble opinion. While those points are certainly subjective, I do think they don’t shine quite as well as almost everything else on this album. The final song, “Puzzle Pieces”, really leans into the emo territory, and even has a few western notes in there that round out the sound quite well. This is a really promising EP from a band that really knows what they want to accomplish. Give it a listen!
Thanks a lot for reading! Be sure to join us next time for more Review Rundown!