Views by The Lamplighters
A crackin’ offering of punk from The Lamplighters. The title track. “Views” straight away screams out “hoy listen to me you won’t be disappointed”. With its instantly catchy guitar riffs, anthem-esque drums and the throaty punk vocals, I am putting on my tartans lacing up my bother boots and getting ready to stomp. “Here and There” and “Basement” are two fantastic tracks that improve on the first track due to the raw power they generate. Sounding like old punk favourites that I love and still play. “Basement” especially sounds very much like a Ramones track, with lots of energy and instantly catchy verse and chorus. “Burden” and “Fairytale” don’t disappoint either and keep this little power house strumming along nicely, with slight sound of Rancid in places but with a mature(older) vocal. “Out of Control” and “Wish” sounded a little too similar in tune for two tracks so close together on the album. Both ok but there’s a little danger of repetition creeping in. it’s following a style and doing it well, but other punk bands pushed boundaries and experimented with other styles of music such as Ian Dury, PIL and The Stranglers.
We are then given an offering of “I Don’t Like You” with its furious drum beats and killer guitar. A totally refreshing and well positioned track that brings the album back on track. “All we need” is an attempt to drop in a punky love song with its ‘You make me happy and complete’ chorus. A nice song that increases in pace and is ok but it lost my interest quickly. “Getting High” with its kicking guitar riffs at the beginning sounded more sex pistol and really lifted the bar, a bloody bostin song with its backing harmonies and shouting vocals. I was feeling disappointed when “Swallow” went back to the same type of style as some of the earlier tracks, but “Hold Me” again brought a little something slightly different to the table. I loved the guitar in this track it sounded so different to other tracks and kind of put the album back into the limelight and opened the curtains to prevent it fading into darkness. All in all, an ok album from the German Punk Rockers. Even though I did have some favourites and thought the band played bloody well together, it lacked a little something to make me score higher.
Forja by Tornant de la Batalla
Loved this album/ EP! It had atmosphere right from the word go. Very medieval in sound, some of the vocals are slightly comical in places but somehow they went well with the music. It had a certain raw manic feel . The subtle flute and bagpipes in “El Foc” were really appreciated by myself being a big fan of Corvus Corax and the chanting style vocals really went well with the instruments played on the tracks. The clanking of suits of armour marching into battle on “Anant a la Batalla” was a superb touch. “Vibria” reminded me a lot of a foreign Alestorm with its pirate sounding pipes and the shouting vocals. “Rancunia” finished off a nice collection of songs with a clearer style vocal that made a nice change from the earlier tracks.
Voices from the Ocean by Norhod
Polished and downright bloody fantastic. The first thing I appreciated was the perfect balance of growling (Giacomo Casa) and smooth Female vocals. It’s not at all overpowering, just downright fricking Awesome! The album starts with the 39 sec “Storm “that leads us beautifully into the first full track “Endless Ocean”. With epic symphonic and beautiful female vocals from Clara Ceccarelli who reminded me of Leaves Eyes. We are then treated to the utterly superb “The Abyss of Knowledge”, with haunting keyboards (Michele Tolomei) and cannon shot sounding drum beats it reminded me of a pirate movie soundtrack. For “July Rain”, Giacomo Casa changes the growl for a clearer vocal style and slows down the tempo for this truly gorgeous track. “Bleeding Path” sounds more heavy and dangerous with a brilliantly catchy sea shanty type chorus leading into the bewitching female vocals and the perfectly pitched growls and thundering drums. “Son of the Moon – A Moon Tale part VI” is yet another beautiful and haunting slow track with sumptuous operatic vocals accompanied again by the growling, but it’s not just growls for the sake of growls, it’s an intricate layer of the songs.
I really do love this band; they are a new favourite. “Farthest Dream” starts off with a classical sounding piano accompanied by thrashing guitars from Andrea Stefani and Giacomo Vannucci. They lead us into a choir section that’s just perfect. It is so brilliantly put together. The guitar solos are also out in force on the track and boy does Francesco Aytano know how to play the drums. Finally, and sadly “Last Chant” waves break and water drips take us through this enchanting final song that reminded me of a wind up jewellery box, slowly winding down until the background waves gently fade and the journey is unfortunately over. “Voices from the Ocean” is forty minutes of music that made me drift off into another place. An utterly magical experience.
Prime Meridian by Prime Meridian
Some interesting stuff from Prime Meridian. The first track “Wrapped in Plastic” sets the tone for the following 18-20 mins. With some pretty heavy guitar and some brutal vocals that reminded me of Vulture Axe or Cancer Bats in places. “Underbite” starts off slower and more gentle before breaking into the louder more aggressive growl this is broken up by some dreamy sequences with a clearer vocal style. “Tar Kiss” and “Turpentine” kind of drifted perfectly into each other with some manic loops and grooves being thrown at us amongst duelling screams and growls. “Mahogany” is a personal favourite with its maniacal chuckling sounds at the start that lead into some very trippy sequences. Closely followed by “Indian”, it’s echoes and chord battering mayhem and demonic vocal sounds.
Most of the time it’s actually difficult to differentiate between tracks as one blends perfectly into the next without any gap in play. “Furnace” had the echoes of a factory with siren sounds and robotic type screeches and Industrial sounding effects. “Mother fox” is downright angry sounding. It’s a wall of aggression and testosterone. “Haunt” with its more gentle chords and vocals finishes of a cracking album/EP. Prime Meridian label themselves as djent metal, which uses plenty of distorted guitar effects and technical sound effects throughout the tracks. I admit it’s not an area of metal that I’m familiar with, but if Prime Meridian are an example I think its gained another fan. The music is about distortion and frequency and getting a certain sound from the guitars or, to use technical jargon – a distinctive high-gain, distorted palm-muted, low pitch guitar sound according to Wikipedia.
The Devil and the Universe by Benedicere
Right from the opening track “Acension”, as the church bells ring and the dramatic drums begin, I knew this was yet another fantastic album to review. The track builds up with chimes and chants and just oozes mysticism and would actually be a pretty good track for meditations. “Dei Genetrix” is another song that is full of ambient atmosphere with its Benedictine type chants, washing waves of sound and ghostly female vocals whispering throughout the track. “Immaculata” lifts the tempo with a faster paced synth beat and the odd spoken quotes referring to the immaculate conception. The track has the monk like chants which reminds us of the albums religious/occult undertones. “Hail Mary” is a shorter track off the album with a female chorus and narrated quotes referring to the virgin Mary. “Ora pro Nobis Deum” sounds like early 90s goth at the very beginning and builds up amongst chanting crowd to the spoken vocals towards the end.. “Elousa” I found very intense at the beginning with its siren like female chanting. This led us into one of my favourite tracks – “Matter Dolarosa” which reminds me of walking down a tunnel through underground crypts. With its dripping sounds, rippling water effects, odd chimes, echoing vocal effects and odd drum beats sounding imminent danger as we explore a devilish subterranean world.
”Nikopoia”, with its percussion type sounds, chiming synth sounds and more up tempo beat feels less dark and more like we are starting out on a long sprint in baking desert towards a final destination. It’ has an occult ambience and effect-filled offering that’s superb for visualisation while listening. “Road to Damascus” gives us more religious reference and we get more film like narrative and dark synth. it’s very powerful in its occult influence and content. The album then treats us to a bonus track entitled “Into the centre of the Earth” This had repeating drum and percussion that whisked us along with shamanic like chants. It builds up like a funnel of whispering souls pulling us deeper into our subconscious, until we are released from our imaginative journey with the sounds of horns and final taps of the drums as it gently fades. It’s difficult to categorize Benedicere album. it’s like a piece of art for the ears and it can stir up its own visuals and imagery for the individual listening, I personally found it very interesting and enjoyed the journey it took me on. Its maybe not for everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.
Reting 4.5 / 5
All above reviews by Steve Cash
Solace in Sonder by Geniverse.
Geniverse bring us their EP ‘Solace in Sonder’ which swings smoothly from melodic and tranquil to thunderous crashes and brutal roars and does a damn good job of sometimes mixing the two together as well. Opening track Scarlet exemplifies this particularly well, almost turning into some kind of ‘death trance’ style at one point. Second track Azul begins to show off yet more of the guitarists’ abilities, though by this point the band’s approach to filling the sound does begin to wear thin. It may be a personal thing but I believe occasionally the band could have benefited from a ‘less is more’ approach and not tried to cram quite so many tricks, both playing and production wise, into a single EP. With that said, I do have to give credit that the whole record feels very fulfilled and properly fleshed out. It’s also not as though the band have failed to give each song time to breathe with track lengths ranging from around six to seven and a half minutes. There may only be four songs but there’s plenty of bang for your buck.
The third track does begin to show some more interesting rhythmic arrangements and is perhaps the catchiest of the four. Moving from mood to mood with far more gusto and emphasis than the previous two songs, setting the listener up well for the final track. This last track, Jade, is a bit of an odd one. Made up of so many parts, though they do flow seamlessly, it almost seems as though this could be more than one song. At the very least an intro track and an epic, sweeping song to finish the record on. If anything though I respect Geniverse rather more for presenting the whole track as a cohesive vision rather than something to be digested in chunks. On the whole, a band with a cool sound and uncompromising presentation. Perhaps there is some refinement to be done yet and I’d be all the more excited to hear a more matured release from the band, but still a cracking start.
Colour of Noise by Colour of Noise
Colour of Noise bring us this self-titled album. Filled with old school bluesy rock guitar licks and drawling vocals. Beautifully written and played, there isn’t much bad to say about this groove laden release. Perhaps the only real detractor here is the fact that everything done here was already done some fifty years ago. But that also seems to be what gives the band their appeal. A new sound it most certainly is not, but then and I would argue it is hardly an update to an old style. It is a belting and faithful representation of what bands such and Free and Led Zep were all about. Key point being you can actually go and see Colour of Noise on tour now. If you’re into your old school rock and you’re sad that most of the old practitioners are dead, these guys are definitely worth checking out. Otherwise just check them out anyway if you’re into sweet tunes.
The Haruspex by Gomorrah
A dark and aggressive mix of everything that is unrelentingly heavy. Elements of black metal, technical metal, death metal, industrial and even a dollop of groove…and much more I’m probably not thinking of. The results are profound, the album comes across unapologetically sinister, oozing various shades of evil at every turn. Perhaps mentioning the diverse styles I’m picking up from the album is a mistake actually…generally speaking the songs come across far more viscerally than a technical showcase. The skill, knowledge and care in the song writing is all there but done so masterfully that nothing feels forced or like anything other than guttural roar. For fans of the heavy stuff.
Dualitas by Bolu2 Death
Metalcore still isn’t going away guys. It is getting increasingly interesting though. A fact that Bolu2 Death (what a name right?) exemplify particularly well. Mixing in moments of experimentation and elements of other musical styles along with some well-chosen electronic samples. For some reason the phrase ‘Korn of the Metalcore world’ drifted into my head and kind of stuck there. Perhaps some of the chops and breakdowns are still a little predictable and even stereotypical, but they’re still masterfully executed and it doesn’t stop them from ‘feeling right’. Some really interesting stuff and without doubt an absolutely joyous listen from start to finish. Also, bonus points for being fantastic head-banging material.
The Prowess of Dormition by Frozen Ocean
This one-man project brings us four tracks of sprawling, almost hypnotic atmospheric black metal. Drenched in beautifully dark melodies, powerfully aggressive tones and constructed as though each track is an epic journey through consciousness. This is an impressive feat in creativity indeed. Especially given that the credit is due to a single multi-instrumentalist. Though each track is given its due time to breathe, tell its story and switch between various different emotions, none of them ever seem to become boring or excessively repetitive. Perhaps this is a particularly niche style but there’s no denying the quality of the output.
Dead By Dawn by Henrietta
Don’t let the effeminate name deceive you, Henrietta bring a distinctly Slayer-esque vibe musically and bloody horror themed lyrics. The production is reasonable, certainly for a first outing and the song writing, while hardly ground-breaking, is satisfyingly well considered and heavy throughout. Lying happily on the heavier, more aggressive side of old school metal bands, Henrietta have nothing to be ashamed of here with Dead By Dawn representing both an assertion of a distinctive identity and a highly competent first step towards something potentially great. Worth checking out if you’re a fan of young bands and look out for the second album regardless.
All above reviews by Eric Valentine
Bloody Invasion by Bloody Invasion
Hailing from Neuruppin in North East Germany, Bloody Invasion are a death metal band that claim to be ‘’head spinning and beer inviting’’, while also moving like a ‘damned barrel’ across the land. Bold claims to be sure, but does the music back it up?
The offering on hand is a 5-track demo/EP recorded sometime in 2014. Opening with pseudo-atmospheric thunder rolls and raven calls, ‘Matter of Time’ kicks in with muddy guitars and double-bass drums a la Kataklysm (which is not an unfair comparison). The song is packed with catchy riffs and slips into a slow almost groove in the chorus. Following track, ‘Hangman’ opens with some softly played acoustics before launching into a riffsome barrage. The remaining three tracks follow more or less the same formula; solid competent riffs, slower moving ‘groove’ like choruses interspersed with blastbeat breakdowns. While not reinventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination, Bloody Invasion have managed to serve up a well-produced (for a demo/debut EP) slab of old school grove laden death metal. With enough of a nod to the old school of Teutonic death metal to satisfy the old schoolers and enough groove to invite further interest, Bloody Invasion have the potential to be an interesting prospect.
I Am Alpha by Kombur
Sadly, Avignon-nased deathcore peddlers Kombur are no longer with us, having split in June of 2015, and their album ‘I Am Alpha’ serves as both their debut and epitaph. Kombur deal with deathcore; heavy, chuggy, breakdown filled with screamed vocals punctuated with cleans during the occasional chorus (see: When Comes The Sun). Kombur suffer from a problem that afflicts so many bands in such an oversaturated genre: they are good at what they do, very good in some places, but there just isn’t that special ‘it’ factor that could help them stand out from the deathcore pack. There are bands out there that do this… just… better. Which is not to slight the 11 songs on offer here. Far from it. Tracks such as The Fallen (dedicated to late manager Kenji Farel and the victims of 2015’s Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris) seethes with emotion and vitriol in equal measure, ‘I’ll Never Fall’ breaks up the breakdown monotony with some interesting guitar leads and along with ‘When Comes The Sun’ showcase the bands more melodic side. It’s always sad to see young bands call time but ‘I Am Alpha’ will stand as a fitting epitaph.
Feral (EP) by Like Animals
Feral is the fifth EP from Ontario based ‘’math’’ metal mayhem-causers Like Animals. Like fellow Ontarians (is that even the right word?) Protest The Hero, Like Animals specialize in out-there jazz influenced time signatures and widdly madness. The band say that this EP is the band at their best. Having not heard their previous output I can’t comment on that, but after a listen of the EP it is clearly a band that’s tight and enjoying what they do. With more melody than I’m used to with math metal (which is not a bad thing, by any stretch) and a fairly heavy jazz influence, ‘Feral’ makes for an interesting listen. Nuanced, melodic, moody and exciting all at once, this is a band that knows their craft. Lead off ‘’single’’ ‘Caterwaul’ showcases exactly what the band is about: bizarre time signatures, emotive vocals and tight drum/bass interplay. This leads into a slowed down, almost haunting bridge before fading and launching into the, frankly, highly entertaining and rocking ‘Jungle Book of Love’. For the uninitiated (like myself), Feral is an excellent opener to the world of math metal and I daresay that even to the math metal fans, this EP, this band, have a lot to offer.
You Want More by MadHouse
Female-fronted Italians MadHouse specialize in hard rock. Their debut EP ‘You Want More’ (co-produced with Lacuna Coil producer Marco Barusso) Verges more on the pop side of the hard rock spectrum. The band are hard to compare to others, with the exception of vocal stylings almost reminiscent of PJ Harvey/Joan Jett. Strangely for a pop-orientated rock band, two songs clock in around the seven minute mark, which is quite a departure from the tried and tested formula of three minute radio wonders. Luckily, the band manage to pull off these songs without them overstaying their welcome. Title track You Want More is such a track but exhibits enough melodic and pop sensibility for it to be catchy and memorable despite its length.
The Age of Discord by Bahntier
Italian noisemongers Bahntier have been plying their trade for some time now since their inception in 1999. The trade in question is industrial/EBM a la Skinny Puppy and Eisenfunk. Opener AMNM does what you would expect from such a band, bouncy dark and sure to get cybergoths flailing around in their thousands. Never Forget drops the tempo and the mood to a snarling snotty crawl and title track Age of Discord takes the slow burn and builds back to a steady even industrial stomp. I Don’t Know showcases a jaggier more discordant side of the band (appropriately, given the name of the album), with rapidly changing tempos and time signatures. Sound of the Bells feels like it’s building towards a frantic Pendulum-esque breakdown but stutters out before it hits any sort of grand finale and I think that sums up the album as a whole: it feels like it’s building to some more but never seems to quite reach it. The speed and aggression Bahntier hint at are just out of reach.
Mona by Crux of Aux
Try as I might, I have not been able to dig up much information on hardcore noisemakers Crux of Aux. I know they come from Ontario, Canada. I know that the band is formed of members from Shallow North Dakota, Cursed and Sailboats Are White (sludge/hardcore bands one and all). I know that they are heavy. And raw. They’re probably the best two words to describe debut album Mona; from the get go the album is just raw; pummelling drums, caustic guitars and screamed fuzzy vocals that leave little to no room for melody. Not that melody is what Crux of Aux are after. Every so often, like during Lithomancy, the tempo is dropped to a bowel-quivering swampy stomp. The most varied track on the album, Tears from Mona, encompasses everything that has preceded it; breakneck tempos, throat ripping vocals and the slow sludge breakdowns before the album trails off with a long 30 second scream.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with this album, but there’s nothing particularly stand out about it either. The band have delivered a good slab of concrete noise; if you’re a fan of this sort of thing there’s plenty to enjoy, if you’re not a fan there isn’t much here that’s going to change your mind.
Storyteller by On The Open Road
On The Open Road are a UK based pop-punk band, not that you would think that. Upon initial listen you would be forgiven that OTOR hail from the US of A like most bands of their genre. Storyteller falls somewhere between an EP and an album, clocking in with 8 tracks of upbeat bouncy goodness. When I refer to them as pop-punk I want you to throw all thought of Greenday and Blink 182 out of your head. OTOR belong firmly to the newer movement and while I dislike making such direct comparisons, OTOR have more in common with the likes of Four Year Strong and A Day To Remember than your Sum41s, though those influences are clearly apparent. The production values on Storyteller are top notch, not a single note or drum hit is lost in the mix, which is a blessing given the somewhat frantic nature of songs like Rainy Days and No Rush. The breakdowns one expects with such music are there but thankfully not overused. The band show impressive songwriting chops considering that this is only their second EP and if this collection of songs is anything to go by, then OTOR should have a decent career ahead of them.
Mama’s Gonna Knock You Out by The Dollyrots
After listening to this EP, you could never mistake Los Angeles duo The Dollyrots as a band from anywhere else. They peddle in LA sleazy glam based rock and have been since their inception some 15 years ago. Now six albums deep into their career The Dollyrots have honed what they do to hairspray covered and makeup covered perfection. The EP, while only three tracks long, is short, sharp and sweet a definitely a good introduction to the band should you not have heard of them before (like myself). Dropping just before a live CD/DVD recorded on a lengthy 2015 tour with Bowling For Soup the sleaze-stop of Save Me and Sweaty Hug My Love in particular showcase a band doing what they do best.
All above reviews by Mike Tasak