30 June 2016

Entombed A.D - Dead Dawn

Well, this could escalate VERY quickly...basically, it's not Entombed (as in the excellent Swedish Death Metal band who aside from combining Thrash, Death and Punk to their music, also added Hard Rock to create the quite frankly fucking stupid name of DEATH 'N' ROLL but it's stuck now, so just go with it...) but rather Entombed A.D - an offshoot, for want of a better way of putting it. According to an interview on a website called Blabbermouth.net, there was some issues between then-Entombed vocalist L.G Petrov and guitarist Alex Hellid  which resulted in L.G quitting the band (and taking the drummer, bassist and other guitarist with him) and forming a new project. The band was named Entombed A.D in order to avoid any legal confrontations. Kind of similar to what's happening with Venom and Venom INC where you have two different line-ups for what is essentially the same band. Things get a bit confusing as the Entombed wiki page reckons they're still going but Entombed A.D page reckons Entombed have split up. Either way, I hope things work out for all parties so we can have some great music all round. "Dead Dawn" is the second Entombed A.D album, released this year. Early indications are that...not much has really changed. The band are still peddling their brand of DEATH 'N' ROLL which sounds very much like the old band, even down to the 'buzzsaw guitars' production, which was usually a result of recording in Sunlight Studios who are based in Stockholm, Sweden.

My first Entombed album was 1997's 'To Ride, Shoot Straight And Speak The Truth'. It was purchased after hearing a track known as 'Lights Out' on a free CD from a magazine called Metal Hammer. It was a decent track, and a decent album. Soon, I was a convert and I think the crowning achievement was getting the DJ of a rock club I used to frequent to play 'Stranger Aeons' one time we were there! Still, that was a long time ago so we're gonna get right back to the present with this new album. Here goes...

1) Midas In Reverse - A song about the England Football Team at the minute? I doubt it but I felt the need to get the dig into those underachieving fucks due to their shitty performance at Euro 2016. Unlike the England Football Team, it starts off brilliantly and with full intent. Guitars going 1000 miles an hour whilst the drums get some solid beats down. It sounds like it has more to do with crust punk than Death Metal, but this is essentially elements from both genres in their purest form. It's great, gets to the point and leaves it's mark. Unlike a cross from Raheem Sterling.

2) Dead Dawn - Galloping, headbanging thing! Coming in just as strong as the first track, this should get things going in a live setting. Brought back memories of 'Sinners Bleed' from the 'Clandestine' album. Even down to the slow, crawling sections that are in this song. Again, another excellent piece of tunage for this album.

3) Down To Mars To Ride has one of those doomy acoustic intros which gives way to thunderous powerchords and...we're off! A mid-paced, solid thumping motherfucking supreme slice of metal that sounds like Motorhead during their more 'metal' moments. This could be a full-on drinking and partying anthem, which is what metal should be about. Yeah, the political stuff has a place too, but for now, pass me the ale and stand well back...

4) As The World Fell - Slowing the pace down just a bit, this song has a sinister lurch to it. Well, it cannot all be about 1000 miles an hour speed blasts. It would be nice if it were but then things run the risk of getting boring.

5) Total Death - Hell YEEEEEAAAAHHHHHH, the fast is back! Striding the Death Metal and crust punk universes like an angry Swedish colossus that - for once - isn't called Zlatan Ibrahimovic, this lets rip with unbridled fury! Again, some excellent stuff.

6) The Winner Has Lost - Another galloping opener, this maintains the brutality that has been out in force on this album. Windmill headbanging would be an appropriate thing to do during this song. This is some quality stuff. Not gonna be to everyone's taste, of course. I'd say that we're at a point in the album to say that anyone expecting something left-field and avant-garde is more than likely not going to enjoy this album. This is straight-forward meat-and-potatoes Metal.

7) Silent Assassin - Ha, this track is anything but silent! It's another blast of the crust punk Death Metal that has been ruling this album with an iron fist! Cracking solo towards the end as well as a down-shift in pace before resuming a fast one.

8) Hubris Fall - Slows down to an almost doom-like crawl. Tries to get some atmosphere going with some creepy vocals but this one doesn't land as well as the others.

9) Black Survival - Teasing us with a slow intro, it sharp punches us then goes running into the distance! The crust punk influences are strong on this one. At least we've kept the rock 'n' roll influence small on this one.

10) Not What It Seems - You got that right. One gets the impression this is going to be a long acoustic intro before it cuts into heavy electrics again. This track is a curious one. Seems to have a slow, lurching pace about it without being too doomy. It's not too bad, although we've had better. Mind, this isn't the worst track on here. In fact, there are no crap songs on here, which is good. Obviously.

Like a good meal,  I found this album incredibly satisfying. It pretty much fulfiled all expactations and there were no surprises, if we're honest. By looking at the artwork, you can pretty much tell what you're going to get. Fans of Entombed should love it as it's got all the familiar traits of said band, so it's great to hear those once again. Newcomers might like it too - as mentioned, we're not going to get anything vaguely original here, but it is hat it is which is a prime slice of metal. Check out - or BLEED LIKE SINNERS BLEED!!!

8/10 - Oh now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart.

Chris J.

Top Track: Dead Dawn.

This album is available on iTunes.


26 June 2016

Tegan & Sara - Love You to Death

Tegan & Sara are identical twin sisters from Calgary, Alberta, Canada who have been releasing music since 1985; they are prominent figures in the LGBT community, political activists for cancer research, LGBT issues as well as musical education.  They are a name I have heard in passing, but not an act I have heard until a few weeks ago when the show which follows mine on NE1FM in the North East of England played one of their songs.  It was a moment where my interest was snared due to the vocals, they spoke to me in a way that early 80 synth acts have done in the past - passion & electronica mixed into a little pop gem.  So I resolved to review this album and as I need a little break from the intense acts I have been listening, I thought I would take on something which on the surface looks easy, but some of the darkest moments I have heard in music have come in the form of a light pop song - will this album be full of such hidden gems?

Starting off the album is "That Girl", a song about the moment you realise that you have changed for the worse and left a relationship that is not working out with the person you loved slowly realising that you are not a lover, but the enemy within.  The dynamic between the quite verses/loud chorus is used to emphasise the shock and realisation of the truth, the bridge a breakdown when a cry for help & return to a former self is echoed.  It is a good song, a few explosive moments and the vocals of Tegan & Sara work very well; but it is not the track I would have opened the album with, I would have done that with the second song "Faint of Heart".  A song about the struggles of a relationship when people are trying to say that a couple who are getting together and there are outside forces who are adding their own thoughts and feelings to the agenda - saying that the relationship is doomed and other negative messages.  It is a song, a plea that things will get heart and that it is tough; but together it will be worth it in the end.  Musically, it is very similar to "That Girl" with the quite verses & loud chorus; but it has that hook that is really infectious and it is a song that is currently heavy repeat in my house.  "Boyfriend" was the first song off the album to be released as a single and it is about a situation when a lady has a boy and a girl on the go at the same time, but the girl is wanting to become exclusive.  Being in a relationship when someone is not willing to commit and has others who would be vying for the lover status is not an easy place to be when you are clearly more committed to the situation, so this song is about that stage when one person is calling for the decision.  It is in a similar style to "That Girl" and "Faint of Heart", it reminds me a little of "Shut Up + Dance" from Walk the Moon and it will be one that works incredibly well in a nightclub, it is another good number which is synth heavy and to the point. 

"Dying to Know" is about reconnecting with an ex and all the strange questions that come with that situation - did you think about me, was it worth it, are you happy, I wish we never met - the sort of stuff that most people will have been through and will recognise that emotional baggage that can envelope your life when this happens and stuff is still really fresh.  The electronica on this song is a little heavier, but not by that much to distinguish itself from the first songs of the album.  Not in a bad way as each song is a little pop gem, but all together it is starting to blur into one song apart from the lyrics.  "Stop Desire" is a song about hooking up with someone and not about the emotional baggage of a relationship, with a small dose of upbeat music added to the standard formula that has been the bulk of this album.  It was the third song that was released to promote the album and it received a lot of praise when it was first played on the Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show (according to some internet stuff I read, never been a Zane Lowe fan TBH).  Musically, it reminds me of the Speedway cover of Christina Aguilera's "Genie in A Bottle", but without the guitars being used in the song.  Lyrically it is good to hear the subject being changed to something else, not everything in love is painful and it is good it gives the song an edge over some of the other numbers.  "White Knuckle" is about the early stages of Tegan & Sara forming a band and the fights that came with it, not all sisterly relationship are smooth sailing all of the time.  I actually like this song a lot, even though at times I find myself getting a little lost with the music in places on this album.  It does distinguish itself with a darker undercurrent to the music, the lyrical context has an intensity which comes from a family fight and not a lover fight which is easy to pick up on.  A clever pop song, with some really dark line to the music and some cathartic release. 

"100x" starts with a slow piano song, detailing a break up from the side of the person who wants the breakup to happen.  It stands out on this album, musically and lyrically.  It is a sombre number which does not need the up-tempo pop that has been the major component of this album.  There is regret in the way the breakup happened here, but the overall feeling I get from this song is relief and that it was needed for both of the people in the relationship to move on and change; it is a strange spot of calm in this album, but really it is a song where everything has changed forever.  "BWU" is a song about not needing marriage to validate a relationship, that the love is there and there is no need to have a wedding day.  Some people just are not into the idea of getting married, for some people it is enough just to be with the person they love.  This song is a perfect representation of that, with a declaration of love that does not need a white dress, rings and a first dance as each dance will be with love.  It is a medium paced pop number, reverting back to type a little bit musically with a strong message in the lyrics.  The penultimate song of the album is called "U-Turn" which was released alongside "Boyfriend" as the first taste of the album, which is a song about someone who has been told to either buck up their ideas or move on as they are not going to be catered for.  It is a shock to the system song, one where someone has realised that they are about to lose their most important thing in the world due to their abrupt nature.  I like this song a lot, it makes me smile due to the upbeat tempo of the music, the willingness for change at the heart of the song and the overall positivity of the song.  Sure, it is a little bit part of the course on the album but it is still a strong number.  Ending the album is "Hang On to The Night" which slowly the mood down with a song about not letting go, the night is usually when emotions are at their darkest and there is hope with the dawn.  It is an emotive place to end the album, dealing with the dark moments of the soul and that there is support out there in different forms.  Musically it is not winning it for me, the synths do not gel as well as they do on other songs, but the message is such a positive one that it is a song that is hard to ignore.

Ok, I will get the negatives out of the way first - musically there is not too much dynamics to the songs here, making a lot of these number merge into one so it loses a few marks for that.  The production by Greg Kurstin reminds me a lot of his other work, making it a little bit too similar to his work with Lily Allen, Sia, Adele, Years & Years as well as others.  It is a clean production, but it is one that has been the flavour of the charts for the last few years and it is starting to need a fresh dynamic.  However, the good points of the album outweigh these factors - Tegan & Sara have beautiful voices and the lyrics are beautiful little gems of hope, despair and love all mixed into one and never sound generic.  I can see why they have been gaining such a good reputation, the length of the songs never outstays their welcome, in fact this album is over in just over thirty minutes which is about right for a pop record.  It might not be one I would revisit too often or be as dark as other pop records I have owned, but there are more than enough moments on here to warrant further investigation of their previous albums and sometimes you need something to give contrast to the mostly metal musical world I seem to live in.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out.

Top track - U-Turn

You can purchase Love You to Death on Amazon here

You can visit the Tegan & Sara website here

You can follow the activities of Tegan & Sara on Facebook here

You can stream Love You to Death on Deezer here

You can stream Love You to Death on Spotify here

You can stream Love You to Death on Tidal here

19 June 2016

dälek - Asphalt for Eden

Dälek are a band that my friends have been raving about for years, but one that I have been trying to fit into my playlist for an awfully long time without much success.  Formed in the mid-1990's in New Jersey, over the course of thirteen years they built up a reputation of being outside the normal boundaries of hip-hop, making dark and dangerous experimental hip-hop that had a harsher groove than your Jay-Z's of the world.  Making waves wherever they went, they were at one point signed to Ipecac Records (which is probably why my friends were raving about them), but in the end of 2010 to 2011 the band went into hiatus with members being spread out around the world and pursuing individual goals.  But in 2015, there were rumbling that Dälek were once again about to come out of the dark and attack the world.  Now, as I said I have not really heard too much of their music before; but with a new album out now, it seems like it was meant to be.  Time to find out what all the fuss is about....

Starting off the album is "Shattered" and from the beginning we are introduced to a harsh and confrontational environment, a determined anthem for going through barriers and my deity, does this song deliver the goods.  It is one of those moments where the introduction takes my breath away, it is one of the strongest openings to an album I have ever heard and in one song the hype from all my friends, magazines, fanzines and websites has been justified.  It crosses genres and mixes them in a hardball, bass dropping, noise groove that will convert people to their music style in a heartbeat.  "Guaranteed Struggle" is the first song to have been released from this album, with a strange and trippy video that confuses the senses in places.  But the music is not confusing, a song about trying to stay humble whilst knowing how good you are with all the points in between, there are some political messages in there as well and it all comes together in a great follow up to "Shattered".  It is a strong number, with some harsh beats, big drops and the rhymes are just so good on this song.  It is a brilliant hip song, very dark and noisy without giving anything up to anyone and taking no prisoners.  "Masked Laughter (Nothing's Left)" slows down the music slightly, but it does not slow down the intensity by one iota.  The music sounds like a mixture of harsh electronica, blaring horns, droning synths and loose drum machine beats; it is a song that I have been lost in each time that I listen to it, with a sample about revolution and how it changes humanity.  It is a strong number, each to any song on the album and it is all about the need for change and that something will have to give at one point in the world to make up for all the shit and repression that has been going on.  It is a powerful song, you cannot deny the anger behind it and one day it might just explode. 

"Critical" is adds the larger than life sound back to the mix, but the anger is still on the surface and mixing in with the noise.  It is all harsh sounds, dark synths once more and some of the heaviest rapping I have heard in an awfully long time. It reminds me of the second half of 'Angels & Devils' when everything just went to hell in a burning hand basket, it is just as aggressive as that and if you have read that previous review, you will know how much I loved that album.  This song is a towering number, full of big drops, huge samples and one of the best songs of 2016 - fact.  "6dB" starts with a guitar riff looping around, which is totally out of time with the beat when it eventually comes in to play which causes an uneasy feeling that takes a while to shift.  I love that sort of piece in a song, it is not meant for comfort, it is meant to cause you mind to know something is not right and that is trying to play catch up.  All the while, the band are creating a moment of instrumental wonderment that at the right time is just hits all the right spots.  The penultimate song of the album is called "Control" is all about being controlled by outside influences and once again it is not taking any prisoners, telling it how it is and not sugar coating it at all.  The sample at the beginning of the song is fantastic, it is all about how the world is given an illusion of freedom; something that you cannot say sounds familiar in Western society.  It is an intriguing and powerful song, one that gives so much more with each subsequent spin.  Ending the album is "It Just Is" which slows the mood down once again, but once again it does not slow down the intensity of the album.  It continues the overall themes of the album, freedom is an illusion, we are all stuck in this without hope unless there is total change and it is how it is.  It is a dark moment to end the album on, but it is also one that makes so much sense to me - the world is all about how we view it and this song sums up the themes of 'Asphalt for Eden' perfectly, which is that we are all fucked.

I love this album, it is at its heart an album that is crying for change, showing us how fucked we all truly are and that we need to break the mould.  They have taken just seven songs to change me into a believer of their sound and I am wanting to heard more of their sounds as soon as possible.   Musically, they are as important as The Bug & Death Grips in terms of noise and as important in terms of protest as D'Angelo & The Vanguard.  They bring something totally unique to the table and it is such a brilliant release; I am trying to find an issue with the release and apart from wanting more (which is just selfish), I cannot think of one.  It is a brilliant album, one of the contenders for (at least on my personal list) the album of the year in 2016.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost

Top track - Critical

You can purchase Asphalt for Eden on Amazon here

The deadverse recordings website acts as the official website for Dälek

You can visit the Profound Lore website here, where you can also purchase Asphalt for Eden 

You can follow the activities of Dälek on Facebook here

You can stream Asphalt for Eden on Deezer here

You can stream Asphalt for Eden on Spotify here

You can stream Asphalt for Eden on Tidal here

Yotsuya Kaidan - Tired of Tomorrow's You EP

Yotsuya Kaidan are a band from Odessa, Ukraine who deal in Screamo (harsh hardcore with slight doom overtones).  They have been going since at least 2014 and this is their debut release, which was forwarded to me by Upwind Produzioni as this release will be receiving a vinyl release (along with another release that I will be reviewing shortly).  I cannot find out much about this band if I am honest after a search on the net, mainly at they have took their name from the most famous Japanese ghost revenge story; but I fancy reviewing something which is short and sharp as I have a few monsters to get through soon enough.

The opening song is called "High School Fights for The Ziggurat Falls" which is all about fighting and bully at a school.  Musically is has a droning quality to the guitar, which is mixed in with some fantastic swirling pit sections, pounding bass and massive drums.  It is a chaotic and cathartic number which gives the listener a sense of release and some massive hooks to become lost in for the brief few moments that it is in the world.  Mixing Black Sabbath, Blacklisters and Dillinger Escape Plan, "Feels Like Lucio Fontana's Canvas" is one of those numbers which hits you in the way the Italian based fellow screamo act Pastel hit me last year.  It is a song that represents the loss of youth, the realisation that the world is essentially fucked and that one thing is between you and the void.  It is harsh, unforgiving and off the wall, definitely one that will either make you excited or will not fit in with your musical philosophy.  The second half of this EP is started with the penultimate track "Tasmanian Tigers" which is a sub-two-minute explosion of noise much like the rest of this EP, but it is such a kick to the side of the head that it is possibly the most memorable of the four songs.  It is a sonic punch to the soul that leaves a lasting impression and leaves you wanting more for this song, it is a song comparing their current situation to the of the Tasmanian tiger and it has a powerful message; it mixes politics and metaphors well and the swirling mosh pit is starting in my head and has not stopped since I first heard it.  Ending the EP is "Stormo & Goliad" which could be the name of two characters from the cartoon series Adventure Time, it could have other meanings which are hidden to me.  What it does have is the aggressive and prolonged attacking energy that has been the calling card of this release, no prisoners are taken as the curtain does not just fall, but it is torn down upon this record and the audience is left gasping for breath.

This is a strong release, it is without compromise, remorse or even a breath for a break and it is over in under ten minutes.  The intensity of the music is something that reminds me of when I first heard Napalm Death and it was like an explosion went off in my mind; now I am not saying these guys are akin to Napalm Death, musically there are quite different.  But they share that shock and awe factor that makes this sort of music so interesting to me.  Definitely one of the act I would like to follow in the future.

4 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track - Tasmanian Tigers

You can follow the activities of Yotsuya Kaidan on Facebook here

You can purchase Tired of Tomorrow's You EP on the Yotsuya Kaidan's Bandcamp here

There is also a page on VK for Yotsuya Kaidan here

At the time of press, Tired of Tomorrow's You EP is not available on streaming sites

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