Welcome back one and all for the bite-sized review segment we all know and love: Review Rundown! We’ve done this pretty often now, so I’m sure you know what to expect. David takes on the legendary Iron Reagan, I dive into the latest Twenty-One Pilots record, our new writer Spencer explores the atmospheric Hollow Oceans, Andrew continues his running deep dive into Canadian pianists with Alexandra Stréliski, and Jake wraps it up with some post-metal from Entropia.
We’ve got plenty of other volumes of Review Rundown that you can check out here.
Five songs, just under eight minutes. Must be hardcore. Dark Days Ahead, as appropriately named as possible (unless someone else has a project named ‘Shitstorm Planet’?), shows Iron Reagan aren’t getting soft on us, but it doesn’t promise much else in the process.
Really, it’s about as standard as it gets. It’s not bad, but doesn’t push the band’s sound forward or present any material that outshines their best. It’s also a lot punkier and more serious than much of their older stuff. “The Devastation”, the lone single, shows off this direction well. “Patronizer” is the longest track (the only to break two minutes), and deservingly so. It has the best guitar melody, gradually getting more heat under its feet as the drums kick up. The chorus comes in to punctuate everything before settling into a groove to repeat things. Other tracks aren’t particularly noteworthy, but not complete wastes either.
A passable, but lackluster EP. After their split with Gatecreeper, I was looking for them to hunker down and get an LP out in the next year or so and challenge their own material (Crossover Ministry was their peak; can they outdo themselves?). Dark days are indeed ahead; I just hope the crossover band doesn’t bring the quality of their own work down with them.
I hope you have a hunger for groove and a penchant for love because California’s hellogoodbye has that and more in spades with their latest effort, S’only Natural. On my fourth or fifth listen, I noticed that the twelve tracks on the album progress in a softer direction as they go on.
You start with a minute-long strings intro, but then shimmy headlong into a small handful of tracks of upbeat, bouncy pop rock with some fierce neo-disco vibes. This includes the title track which is filled with descending bass licks, sparkling clean guitar chords, and sensual vocals. Forrest Kline knows how to make a love song.
Throughout much of the middle and final half of the album, the songs get more tender. The elements mostly remain the same, but they’re softer. Vocals are more breathy and personal as if whispered into your ear, some acoustic guitar shows itself (“Mysterious You”, “Stare into the Black”), drums are brushed, etc. The structure kind of mimics a good date: start out lively with some drinks and dancing, and progress into more intimate settings like a nighttime walk or back to either party’s house.
It’s a very delicate album. It has a lot of heart and soul, an immense amount of groove and danceability, but most importantly, it’s just really well-executed. I’m very glad I said hello to S’only Natural, and I don’t think I’ll be saying goodbye any time soon.
I tend to be suspicious of these types of releases, and I was especially suspicious of this one. TTNG’s crisp, mathy melodies sound like they would transfer well to acoustic guitars because they already sound organic in their own right. So in order for me to get something out of this re-recording of their 2008 debut LP, the band would need to seriously re-contextualize the material.
Well, they certainly did that, to the point that Animals Acoustic often improves on the original 2008 LP. This is not a soulless cash grab; this album is a labor of love.
There are numerous examples of this, from the added mallet percussion on “Gibbon”, to the sonorous horns of tracks like “Elk” and “Panda”. Don’t get me started on the horns on this album; they’re like melted butter in my ears. The new strings play a part as well, especially on the plucky “Rabbit” and the droning closing track “Zebra”. Of course, the occasional piano, shaker, or random cymbal finds its way into the mix as little details that enhance the reimagining.
One of our editors described Animals Acoustic as ‘too beautiful for this ugly world’ and I agree with him. Do yourself a favor and listen.
I don’t want to tell people that they’re listening to or thinking about Trench in the wrong way. Rather, I think a lot of people need to shift their perspective a bit. This is not the same Twenty One Pilots that dropped that overplayed orgy of genres that was Blurryface.
That’s right, three years in the wake of that album, Trench is different. The loose narrative and vague aesthetic have been swapped out for a cohesive story. Here’s some advice for TØP fans and haters alike: don’t just listen to Trench — watch it like a musical.
Yes indeed, in the year 2018, TØP has written and released a legible concept album, and it sounds pretty good too! My favorite track, “Jumpsuit”, features some excellent gritty bass and drums, and even some screams towards the end. Tyler Joseph’s rapping has improved on tracks like “Levitate” as well.
And yes, it is still a bit of a genre orgy, but Trench is much more uniform than Blurryface by comparison. “Chlorine” is a catchy, subdued bit of drum-driven pop. It sounds like something that might play in a Forever 21, but it’s actually… good. And since its a Twenty One Pilots album, there’s a reggae-flavored tune in the form of “Cut My Lip”, which doesn’t come together as well as I might like.
Regardless, Trench is still a worthy listen. I dunno how they did it, but this pop sensation has managed to significantly redefine themselves on this album. Abandon your expectations. Give it a try.
The Burden of Being is a solemn album in every sense of the word. It is a dark, atmospheric record that manages to reach deep down into your soul and instill a feeling of sedation. Nearly every song is bleak and grim, with few moments of respite from the melancholic tone. The irony here is that the album is stunning. There is so much beauty in the notes, grace in the breathy vocals. The delicate sounds of the pianos and strings have so much more weight to them when they are the foreground of the song instead of the support. The tracks are wonderfully orchestrated, which is made more impressive by Hollow Oceans consisting only of singer-songwriter Patterson MacRae.
Songs such as “Fall Away” and “Lilies” are gorgeous, funereal compositions that compel sorrowful emotions from the listener. Other tracks such as “A Weeping Sun” and title track are gentle piano arrangements. While they are the shortest songs on the album, there is no lack of emotional power that they bring to the record as a whole. These songs help break the album up from the usually longer songs that surround them. The Burden of Being is not an album that should be passed over from the first listen; instead, it should be absorbed and respected for being such an honest and open piece of music.
Majj‘s Relapse is a complicated album for me. There are moments of noticeable creativity just as often as there are moments of dull, uninspired noise. Most of the album simply feels like there were so many ideas that it was decided to just throw them all into six songs and hope it sounded decent. This is not to completely snub the record. As mentioned before, there some moments of genuine ingenuity; however, it can be difficult to distinguish those instances between of all the excess around them.
“Munaf” is one of the more entertaining tracks on the album. There is, more or less, a consistency in not only tone, but theme throughout the song not found in many others on the album. Contrary though, in “Laments & Whispers”, the first two minutes of the song are decent enough. There is a repetitive, primitive intro. It is after the two-minute mark that there is a dramatic, unexpected change. The tone is no longer saturnine, being replaced with a driving beat and less somber chords. This continues for about another minute and a half or so before there is another tonal switch. Here, there is a much more enjoyable, upbeat melody that I really found exciting.
That excitement soon ended as I realized that the song was over. It was with this that I came to see much of what Relapse was: an indecisive jam session that is too chaotic for its own good. There is little cohesion in the songs, making it difficult to enjoy them. While a good foundation can be found here, much more work is needed to make their next album show any real growth in its sound and structure.
What we have here is an immaculate fusion of deathcore and sludgy doom metal. This duo (apparently brothers) from Apulia in Southern Italy self-identify as a ‘nihilistic and misanthropic doomcore’ band, and that label suits them just fine as well. If you had No Hope of hearing anything of the sort until the next Acacia Strain release, RØT’s album/EP (it can be either of the two at 27 minutes) will change things.
No Hope has about as much subtlety as a cinderblock being dropped on one’s crotch. I mean that in the sense of it being heavy, and feeling all the more so for its manner of delivery. The guitars have the perfect combination of punch and sludginess and rather than trying to conceal the programmed (or perhaps triggered) nature of the drums, RØT dial it up for an early Godflesh industrial effect. Just about the only thing RØT dialed back for this was the compression: No Hope has just enough dynamic range to make it stand out in this band’s chosen genre range, and enough compression to keep things firmly in our faces for its runtime.
Add in the de rigueur samples and keyboard parts, and we have a winning listen here. Sure, RØT will win no awards for originality or for raising the medium to a higher level; but for some cinderblock-on-crotch vomit-spew of pure hate, No Hope will satisfy those who seek it.
I seem to have a habit of accidentally picking albums by Montreal-based pianist-composers for the Review Rundown. Alexandra Stréliski had made a name for herself composing music for Quebec cinema (not to mention the very un-Quebec and very successful Dallas Buyer’s Club) and also has considerable critical success as an artist in her own right.
Inscape is about what anybody would expect for this modality in the classical idiom when the composer has a film scoring background. One will find no twelve-tone here, very little chromaticism, and tonal resolution abounds. If weirdness is what you seek, then look elsewhere than Inscape. Far be it appropriate to say Alexandra Stréliski’s music is conventional; if anything, it defies contemporary compositional norms by being not the kind of music that professors of advanced music history shove down students’ throats.
So instead Stréliski serves up some pleasant, listenable, relaxing mid-to-upper-mid-tempo piano music that is easy on the ears. Almost all of it is straight solo piano but we hear a little synth added to “Changing Winds.” Seekers of pleasantness for its own sake will find what they want on Inscape, while others might not find anything remarkable on it.
I like surprises. I also like post-metal, a lot. Combine those two, and you’ll get the latest from Entropia. This is a band that I must admit having no knowledge of before hearing this record, but once I started Vacuum, I have no idea how I’ve managed to miss them for so long. Vacuum is a dense post-metal record with some surprising elements such as electronic and industrial vibes, overlaid on some heavy atmosphere. This not only helps the band be somewhat unique, but also makes for a new kind of listen.
The first two tracks “Poison” and “Wisdom” are fifteen and ten minutes long respectively, and focus on repetition and atmosphere. When we get to track three, “Astral”, the record shifts into a bit more of a traditional post-meal sound at around five minutes. The shrieking, sludgy vocals add an extra layer of tension and is a genuine standout on the record, too. The title track stretches the song length back out to 13 minutes and it’s quite the romp through blast beats, crashing, pushing, and pulling that the genre is known for. It’s also executed at the highest level. Vacuum is a lengthy journey, but one worth taking.
One of the most seasoned and recognizable experimental rock bands in existence today, this is probably not your first encounter with the band. After releasing an EP earlier this year, we are treated to a full album of material that shows where the band is at this point in their career. untitled features 12 tracks and proves that mewithoutYou is still one of the best bands in this space. “Julia (or, ‘Holy To The Lord’ On The Bells Of Horses)” proves that the band hasn’t lost their penchant for great songwriting or great song titles. Among my favorite tracks on the record is “Winter Solstice”. While the alternate version from their earlier EP is nice, the album version has all kinds of post-punk energy that is endearing to me.
“New Wine, New Skins” is a reminder that mewithoutYou is still adept at writing ballad-esque songs that are still engaging, and is another highlight from the album. While this probably won’t be lauded as their greatest release, there are great moments to be heard within every song, and serves as a reminder that this band should be celebrated for their commitment to fearless experimentation.
And so concludes another edition of Review Rundown! Thanks for visiting once again; we’ll be back in two weeks!