31 May 2017

Linkin Park - One More Light

It almost sounds like a challenge......  Way to shit on your own fan base like a child with a full nappy.  Here is a quote from an article in the NME where Chester Bennington sort of loses his mind when people accuse Linkin Park of changing their style for monetary reasons (article linked here).

"But if you’re gonna be the person who says like ‘they made a marketing decision to make this kind of record to make money’ you can fucking meet me outside and I will punch you in your fucking mouth because that is the wrong fucking answer."

He then goes on about how they changed their style when releasing 'Minutes to Midnight' and they were very conscious that they would lose fans due to the change in style, saying that that was done as artistic decision, as if they had suddenly wanted to leave the failing nu-metal genre behind.  Well, call me Mr Suspicious, but when an artist threatens to hit people for pointing out something and justifiy their changing styles with such passion and hatred, it usually means that someone has touched a nerve and that the denied rumours are in fact the truth.  But if we are also honest, Linkin Park gave up being a rock band a long, long, long time ago and they are probably just admitting it to themselves for the first time. 

Now, usually I leave this sort of thing till the end of a review, but this is too big to do that.  So, here is my message to the band -  if this is an honest decision that ALL of you have come to natural, that this is what you want to do going forward than that is perfectly fine and you have every right to do this.  In fact, more power to you if that is correct, I would defend your decision to make your music as you see fit.  However, speaking as someone who has listened to your albums in the past, your track record does not seem to lend itself to that way of think.  In the past, you have appeared to bend towards the next trend with alarming ease, whenever it was needed if we are honest.  But, if you are doing this for the money as well, then be honest and run with it.  It will make you seem like douche bags, but at least you would be being truthful.  Also, if you are totally abandoning your "roots" and going in this total pop direction, then you will have to stop playing rock show, just play pop festivals and re-work your earlier songs into new version.  You cannot have it both ways and by telling people how to react and then use threatening language, by doing that you are going to make people think that the points about the money and fame are right. 

To be fair, Linkin Park have come out and calmed down a bit (another article from NME here) after being told to chill from Corey Taylor from Slipknot/Stone Sour, it is good to see that they can admit their mistakes.  But that is not what I am here for, I am here to find out what what 'One More Light' is all about, to find out how an all-out pop album from Linkin Park sounds.  Now, when I heard the first single from this album 'Heavy', I was not too impressed.  But maybe it will work in the context of the album, sometimes songs flourish when they are heard within the right environment.   In the interests of full disclosure, I have not listened to a full album by Linkin Park since their 2012 album 'Living Things' as I was not impressed by it, to be honest I had not been impressed with much of their stuff for a while now.  The only album I held in high regard was 'Meteora', which is an average rock/pop record.  But once those articles went out, I have received a few requests asking me for my thought and I should give it a chance and all that jazz.   I really did think I would just step to one side and avoid their work, live and let live as they say and then life would move on.  But as I said at the beginning of this review, it almost sound like a challenge.  Deep breath, here I go....

01 - No One Can Save Me

A song about depression and not being to escape one's self-destruction, there is an offer of forgiveness and it has all come a little too late.  This is a standard pop song that has been created before by other artists, it is one I can see going down well with a J-Pop crowd.  If you are looking for anything of the old band, you will want to look away.  Now, is it any good?  It is average at best, I have heard better examples of this style of music and it is soon forgotten once finished.

02 - Good Goodbye

Featuring Pusha T & Stormzy, 'Good Goodbye' feels like they are aiming to emulate 'We Made It' when they assisted Busta Rhymes in 2008, with a slick production job, heavy bass, loud drums and harsh electronics to give this a big, harsher image.  They aim high, but they miss once again.  There is nothing else to discuss here, it is just a poor number.

03 - Talking to Myself

The J-Pop/Rock hybrid is in full flow on 'Talking to Myself' and it feels dated from the beginning, as if the passion that might have been gain in creating this song has been replaced with a hollow husk.  If you like  passionless piece of sterile pop music, this might be the song for you.  I want to find something nice to say here, but the song is just so beige. Pop music should not sound like this and it feels as if they are trying to mix their old style and their new styles without actually integrating them together.  Another poor number......

04 - Battle Symphony

When you are aiming for the stars, it would be prudent to make sure that you have the tools to finish the job.  Once again, Linkin Park have failed to do this.  This song pleading for more time,  for help in face their demons and it is sadly lacking in the music department.  It is another song that feels empty and devoid of pleasure and it is not because of the lyrics, it is the performance.  It is painful to hear a band falling this far and any pop song which is instantly forgettable is a poor pop song.

05 - Invisible

This one works, this one actually works and I think I can tell you why - Mike Shinoda is on vocals!  He gives this song a warmth that was missing, mainly this could be due to the fact it is wrote about his children and how he wants to still be able to help them, even when they are entering their teenage years.  And there you have it, there is love and passion in the song, as it is a personal song and it works so well. So whilst it is by no means my favourite song of the year, it is a hell of an improvement on the last four songs.  Sorry Chester, Mike has this one.

06 - Heavy

The first song that was released from the album and caused that wave of negative feedback, featuring Kiiara on vocals with Chester Bennington returning to vocals.  In the context of this album, it does make sense and I can see what they were aiming for.  But it is still feels like a chore to listen to it, pop music should not be painful to listen to as it should have some sort of uplifting feature (even when it is sad).  It is now, as it will always be - shite.

07 - Sorry for Now

Once more, we are back with Mike Shinoda on vocals and it seems as if it is another apology to his family, the story of the song is about being away and wishing that things could be different.  It almost works, but the music clashes with all the stability of some toys being thrown down the stairs, it seems as if they have added random things to make it hip and it fails in dull fashion.  The rap in the middle of this song also does not help either and it is forgotten within seconds of finishing, are you sensing a pattern here?

08 - Halfway Right

Another song that sounds like a public therapy session, things are dark and it is impossible for this person to move on.  Musically it is aiming for a dark, synth pop feeling, but it feels like it is poorly finished.  There is a point in this song where the band talk about screaming, it is a feeling that I am familiar with when listening to this record.  I just want them to show some passion, something that is akin to a human emotion that is not self pity and this is something that is still missing from the best percentage of this album.

09 - One More Light

The penultimate song of this album, this is an emotive song that aims for the lighter/cell phone moment at a concert with this slow and painful song.  It is about how it can be so easy to forget how painful it is when people pass on and there is always someone who cares.  This is the best performance from Chester Bennington on the album, he sounds connected to the sound, the gentle production works well with the song and achieves it goals.  So, two songs out of nine tunes actually sound decent.

10 - Sharp Edges

Sadly, the ratios of decent songs on this album remains at two.  Country J-Pop with a poor version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers at their most vulnerable, but without any of features that make it worth listening to.  Sadly, it is sort of fitting that the album ends this way, but for all the wrong reasons.

Well, that was painfully poor and make no mistakes about it, it is as passionless and empty as the promises of a caring conservative with all the charm of a documentary on how cheese that has been narrated in Latin.  It is what I feared it would be, there is no soul to this pop album and also it makes the work of Coldplay and Ed Sheeran sound alternative and off the beaten path.  This is a cold album, devoid of humanity and entranced with its own reflection, there is no love on this album and you can tell that in the performance, no matter what they are saying, that some of the people in that band are not happy.  There is also something essential missing from the production as well and I know what it is, they are missing an outside ear as this was self-produced, this was also the case on their last record.  This is sometimes the wrong path for a band, as there is no-one there to help them out and act as a cool and collective outside head when they need someone to help them reach their own goals.  I want to say it has positives, I truly do as I want to be fair.  But this is a pop album devoid of fun, passion and catchy tunes, so I can see little on here that is worth defending and I take no pleasure in adding one of the tags to the labels for this review.  I wish them well on their journey if this is where they want to go, but I will once again step away once more. Basically, it is awful - my mouth is ready for punching upon appointment......

1 out of ten - You really are touching the bottom of the barrel

Top track - Invisible

You can purchase One More Light on Amazon here.

You can visit the Linkin Park website here.

You can follow the activities of Linkin Park on Facebook here. 

You can stream One More Light on Spotify here.

You can stream One More Light on Deezer here.

You can stream One More Light on Tidal here.

29 May 2017

Guy Wampa & Justin Percival - Ammut

Guy Wampa and Justin Percival are not names I have come across before, or at least not knowingly. Both have previously appeared on Ninja Tunes, both have prolific work with a long list of artists that they have performed with over the years and are based on WW Records (a label founded by Guy Wampa with Jo Wills).  The press release of this album goes on about a mixing of styles, genres and future songs.  The cover is an image cut into sand and it is picture representation of some ancient beast, something that would scare people.  Not sure if that is what they were aiming for, but that is the message I get for it.  Now, I am not going to lie and say this is an album I have been hungry for, to be honest until the PR company got in touch I was no the wiser about it and by default, them as well.  But I am curious to hear the sound on this album described on this album, the idea of breakbeats, grunge, new soul, industrial and other genres mentioned on that press release has intrigued me to give this album a listen. 

01 – Remove the Mask

The noise that Guy Wampa & Justin Percival create on this opening track is incredibly interesting.  Part Massive Attack, Part The Bug, Part smooth jazz vocals, part atmospheric electronica.  It all merges together with a song that chronicles the fall of a friendship due to dishonest intentions of one part.  It has breakbeats, it has noise, it has an intense feeling that is mixed with sorrow, it is a loud opening, one that also has some subtle hooks for people to enjoy as well.

02 – Divided Conquered Insane

The second song on this album, ‘Divided Conquered Insane’ takes you further down the rabbit hole.  It is a minimalist crazy piece of music that is pitted with drum rolls, striking riffs during the chorus and some fantastic vocals.  Standing still is not an option for this song, it will keep changing and it never rests on one idea for long.  It is a strong number, one that takes a few spins to reveal what it is about and then it will show you some more.  Slowly but surely, you are entrapped by this piece and it opens with the grace of a flower facing the sun – a beautiful, insane piece of music.

03 – Remember These Words

With a menacing attitude, ‘Remember These Words’ has a thicker texture than ‘Remove the Mask’ and ‘Divided Conquered Insane’.  It is a heavy piece of music, one that will hit you in the chest when played at the right volume and with a bass line that rumbles with deep, dark precision that is truly satisfying.  The only issue, there is a synth riff that keeps appearing, it sounds like a fairy is spinning around with bells and it feels out of place.  Apart from that, this is a really good song – shame about the synth fairy noise.

04 – Reflex

I love it when you can get lost in music, when reality can be stripped away and you can be so absorbed by a song that everything else is secondary.  ‘Reflex’ is one of those moments, with its dark synths, heavy bass and sparse drums that are on employed when it will deliver a sonic punch that drives this song to new heights.  Everything falls into place on this song, it is a great number.

05 – Gravity

Featuring Mattic, ‘Gravity’ is another biting track which has a brilliant set of break beats, harsh guitars, massive drums and that all important bass that all comes together with those haunting vocals that mesh together to unleash a dark and brooding song.  It has some haunting vocals, they sound like they are coming from the heart and they speak of a connection, something that cannot be broken.  It is a gigantic track, one that dominates the entire album, for my money it is the best song on this record.

06 – It’s Alright

Stripping back even further for the next track, ‘It’s Alright’ is a dark beast with subtle hooks to seduce the casual listener and a large bass to entwine all to its will.  I like the sound they have created here, it is a beautiful, harsh environment that could be described as cold, but I find to be inviting and enticing.

07 – For the Talkers

Stripping the sound further back, as Wampa and Percival create another dark drop of electronica to torture the soul and to take you to dark and desolate place.  This is a similar track to ‘It’s Alright’, with a bleak soundscape that causes the hairs on your neck to stand on end.  It is a place that these guys thrive and they are creating some fantastic tracks, this track is another fine example of that sound and it is glorious.

08 – Build a Fortress

‘Build a Fortress’ is an interest piece of art, one that gives more with each subsequent listen as it takes there sound further down a dark road of their own creation.  It is another harsh piece that works in all situations for me, but it is one that works best when played loud so the bass can move through you.  I love the sound that these guys create on this song, it is another song that could have easily been the best of the album – it is a great piece of sound.

09 – I’m Just Lost

The penultimate song on this album at one point strips everything down to just the bass and some simple percussion – this is probably the best representation of this record for me.  ‘I’m Just Lost’ is a hypnotising song that adds further glory to this album, one which is again so close to being the song of the album.  They have created a song that can be added played in a chillout room, a main floor filler and every point in between – it is such a good number for two professionals who know exactly what they are doing, what a song.

10 – It’s Alright (Bonus Mix)

Ending the album is a remix of ‘It’s Alright’ which breaks it down to beats and percussion, changing the original and creating a version that will be used on extreme sports videos.  It is a good mix, but not as good as the original.

‘Ammut’ is not an easy album to listen to.  To be honest, it is not for people who will be wanting something in a 4/4 standard time to relax to, it is a designed for a niche audience who want break beats, dark noises and subtle vocals and that is fine.  Sometimes music is not meant for the masses, as the general public has a habit of blind consummation and they do not always understand/appreciate the art that is presented before them.  This album is not a disposable piece that will gather dust on shelves, it has so much more going on beneath those breaks and bass that it ascends beyond your average electronica album.  It has depths and passion whilst also being so minimal, it has sonic sounds and keeps everything tight, it breaks in places whilst it also manages to sound as solid as a rock – basically it is a fantastic piece of art (it is art at work here) and one that keeps delivering in strange and wonderful ways.  The only thing I can think of that would raise this album more would be giving the sounds a bit more time, all but one of them are below four minutes and they could have easily been given more room.  But this is just looking for issues on a fine album, one that gives so much on each listen.  If you like your electronica heavy and minimal, check this out!

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart

Top track – Gravity

You can visit the WW Records website here, where you can purchase Ammut as well.

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