It is that time again where we wheel out Review Rundown and offer our readers the chance to rapidly scope out ten albums released in the past month that might have been missed. Joining me this time around are our esteemed writers Andrew, David, Vigz, and Jonce, who have had a chance to dive into a whole scope of bands and genres for you. On offer this week is a slew of progressive & post-metal, future bass, stoner rock and ambient drum & bass from the following bands: iamnotaperson, Chrome Sparks, Christoph De Babalon, Juniper Grave, Rogue Parade, Peste, Astrophobos, Hoguera, Jinger, and Barshasketh.
When you’re finished with this daring line-up, blast on over to the Review Rundown archive by clicking this link. We hope you enjoy the selection, and for an easy listen, check out the first Review Rundown Spotify playlist in the player below.
I have to preface this a bit in saying that stuff this brutal is usually not my style. The sheer intensity that iamnotaperson. brings on this album reminds me of such monsters as Frontierer or Nails. But the band incorporates much more brevity and diversity in their music than their contemporaries. mourningsickness packs a lot of unexpected sounds into 44 minutes of math metal, including vocal snippets from movies and even operatic singing in tracks like “After You Left, Everything Died”.
“Remember Me Differently” is an example of iamnotaperson.’s unique style of vocal layering. At any given point on mourningsickness, there could be two or three vocal lines of various pitches clawing at your ears. This is combined with a guitar tone that’s just as sludgy as it is punchy. The wailing voice modulations that occur on tracks like “The Things That Are Hidden” sound absolutely warped.
I get that a lot of people will be turned off by the abrasiveness of mourningsickness combined with its length. But there are still cool bits to be found amongst a slew of 20 chaotic tracks. Sometimes, we all find ourselves in the mood to listen to edgy bullshit, and in the case of iamnotaperson., they put in the effort to make their edgy bullshit layered and unique.
Again, this EP is in a style of music I’m really not familiar with. I guess some folks would call it future bass? Whatever it is, I love what Chrome Sparks is doing here.
Be On Fire starts with the nice intro “In2 Your Love”. The chopped vocal sample fits snugly into the lush, spiraling melodies. Its colorful vibe sets the tone for the rest of the EP. The title track is a short bouncy track a la Flying Lotus, featuring some nice jazzy keys. There’s a subtle beach vibe to the song; I can imagine myself jamming to “Be On Fire” poolside with a cold drink in my hand.
“Ultraviolet Rainbow” is an expressive, washier cut with busy drums. I like Chrome Sparks’ use of chord changes on this track. Combined with silky Moog melodies, the chord structure gives the song an expansive sense of direction. But the closing track “I Could Be The Voice Inside Your Head” might be my favorite on Be On Fire. I don’t want to spoil this one for you, suffice to say that the 22, A Million-type vocal harmonies are to die for.
Clocking in at about fifteen minutes, Be On Fire makes for a sweet escape from the humdrum of the everyday. Let it carry you away!
Juniper Grave are listenably retro. The soaked reverb, fuzzy guitars, and garage-y recording, are all familiar (and fashionable) and the music mostly lives up to it.
Combining Sabbath-like riffing, the retro-vocal vibes of early Jefferson Airplane, and Hammond organ, Juniper Grave shine with something a little different; the smooth, low vocal of Jenni. She has a deeper voice, as opposed to the high-pitched histrionics that is usually associated with hard rock. This gives a different vibe to the band; much more laid back and psychedelic.
The album is a mix of retro commercial rockers (“The Forest”, “A Trick Of The Light”) and more interesting epics (“Lunar Calling”, “Dance Of The Daemon Queen”). “Daughter Of The Waves” is probably the highlight here. An epic rocker that reminds me of early Heart. It might only be four minutes long, but it has that epic feel that is usually associated with something a lot longer.
Not every track is an instant classic, and the keys lack punch (I’m assuming soft synths here), but that’s okay as the gems shine bright enough. This warrants any fan of proto-metal to check Of Hellions and Harridans out. Add the standout tracks to your playlist and enjoy!
This is an album that starts off in the overused ‘new’ jazz idiom of lo-fi drums, emulating a drum machine, but don’t let that put you off. As soon as Stomping Off From Greenwood gets cooking, we get an exciting ride of suburb playing and improvisation.
Generally speaking, Rogue Parade sway between the melodic and accessible, to the experimental and the free. On the melodic side, gems come thick and fast. “The Contender” is a great asymmetric romp that bubbles along nicely. “Let Him Live” heads down the modern polyrhythmic/minimalist route, but with added melody. “Black Woods” features the acoustic bass up front and centre which is a nice break from the mania.
When it comes to the experimental side, the lineup, that includes dual electric guitars, really comes into its own. The extended palette of the guitars’ effects on “The Fourth Reverie” in particular keeps things interesting. Matt Gold and Dave Miller complement, rather than compete, with each other.
Stomping Off From Greenwood forms something that is super accessible while having the depth of improvisatory knowledge that I expect from world-class musicians. To put it simply, if you’re into Nik Bärtsch or Michael Brecker, you’ll dig this.
How to make a completely underwhelming musical statement on your debut release (Italian crusty grindcore edition) in two steps:
First, release a debut EP so short that it’d probably fit on a 7-inch back in the day. Peste’s self-tited EP has nine minutes of music on it, jam-packed into five songs. I know we’re not supposed to expect a band who plays in this genre to be like Abraham, but it takes a lot of confidence in one’s sense of style and in one’s writing to make an impression with so little music.
This brings the second step into focus. That would be to make the music as unimpressive as possible. Aside from some screeching feedback filling the role that breakdowns or guitar solos fill in other genres, Peste offers nothing to make the band stand out from the crowd. Their name means ‘plague’ in several languages and as one might predict, more than one band already uses this name. Peste is the name of a release by the least interesting Peste. The production is pretty clear, but other than that, there is not much to hear on Peste. I spent more time writing this paragraph than I spent listening to all the music on this release. All of this raises the question as to why they bothered.
Peste put in some kind of effort here. There must be some talent bubbling under all this, but the execution resulted in poor work.
A certain demographic gives female-fronted metal bands criticism for its own sake. They call them out for things they wouldn’t mention about an all-male band. Jinjer has got a lot of press lately, some critical acclaim, and a fair amount of snark from the peanut gallery.
Another demographic seems completely uncritical of female-fronted metal bands as long as they conform to a certain formula of having a ‘symphonic’ sound and an ‘operatic’ singer of decidedly conventional beauty (bonus points if she’s Dutch). This crowd is more polite. They do not criticize Jinjer mostly because they rarely mention them at all.
If only people would shut up and pay attention to the music.
Jinjer is basically a groove metal band with some added nu-metal and proggy elements. Pantera, Voivod, and Slipknot inform their sound. Tatiana Shmailyuk’s voice is closer to a contralto than the soprano range comfortable with the crowd mentioned above. She adds powerful growls and (admittedly, bad) rapping to her vocal repertoire.
Jinjer is pretty solid instrumentally. Roman Ibramkhalilov has a broad range of riffing styles, covering a broad gamut of the guitarist’s chording and arpeggiating palette. The rhythm section is just as impressive. Eugene Abdiukhanov plays proper bass lines (i.e. different from the guitar) and Vladislav Ulasevich shows sound artistic judgment when choosing what, and how, to play in each track on Micro.
There’s a lot to be heard on Micro, yet as an EP, it at the same time seems to have not enough on it. It still comes recommended as an introduction to a band that many people likely judged before hearing.
Black metaaaal. I don’t think there’s another genre more polarizing in heavy music than it. There are lots of good artists pushing the genre into new heights (and depths), and those holding the fort of the old guard intact. Barshasketh are notably in the former category, but their fury is well-informed by the fervor of the latter. The best of both worlds, if you will. With their self-titled fourth album, they look to dominate 2019 early on by shrouding it in atmosphere, killer riffs, and speed.
The UK quartet shows a more dynamic side to black metal by keeping songs multilayered and stocked with percussion-led grooves making songs stick with you like a plague. Double-bass drum kicks start and stop in “Vacillation” so as to give it a varied pace. The whole album plays with speed, which is great because more often than not, the tedium of nonstop high speed can grate on nerves.
My favorites have to be the two suites on here, “Consciousness” and “Ruin”, made up of two songs each. Both have wildly explosive first tracks, but differ in their second halves. “Consciousness II” is an eerie, brooding nightmarescape of maddening arpeggios and atmosphere that drops into a melodic firebrand of a midsection. “Ruin II”, on the other hand, plods along like a slow death march into an all-consuming black maw of chaos.
There’s not much to complain about here; just rock-solid, melodic, dark metal for your digestion. A wonderfully blackened start to 2019.
Shoutout to BangerTV, who gave Astrophobos a shoutout and, in turn, made me check them out. This Swedish trio takes a more time-worn approach to black metal, but executes it well enough to be palatable for modern genre fans. That is to say, the production is quite tolerable.
I kept thinking of Venom while listening to this, which is weird as they don’t sound much alike. Really, it’s an aesthetic stuck in my mind as Astrophobos’ music calls back to black metal’s torrid past: punk-informed drums; tremolo-picked guitars; croaked lyrics barking of agony and the end of humankind; and musings on a fiery reckoning exacted across mortal planes by means of the supernatural and warfare alike.
It’s quite appropriate that the album’s title is Malice of Antiquity as it captures just that: the malice and hostility of a time long gone, both in terms of black metal’s sonic history and the music’s thematic content. “Begotten in Black” has a likable ripping intro that leads into a thrashy rhythm over which the vocals rasp and guitars tear through the mix. The album rarely relents, but takes some time to relish in simple beauty like the acoustic intros to “The Summoning Call” and “Imperator Noctis”.
For as stereotypical as they can be, Astrophobos perform the repetitive, menacing marches of black metal well. To some, this sound ain’t broke and therefore doesn’t need fixing, and that’s something to admire even if it’s not my favorite thing. A solid modernization of an older sound.
Drum & bass is a genre I’ve only dabbled in lightly, so the intriguing take on the sounds by Christoph De Babalon truly fascinated me. Combining hardcore DnB with dark ambience, you’re left with an intensely contrasting sound that is exciting, yet oozes tranquility.
The EP is four tracks long, making up just over 20 minutes. Opening track “Harakiri” introduces you to Hectic Shakes, with the aforementioned dark ambience taking hold from the off. Listening back to Babalon’s first full-length album If You’re Into It I’m Out Of It, he’s developed the sound design of the ambience more. In Hectic Shakes, it feels like it eats up more of the atmosphere in the room, creating a haunting feeling.
The drum and bass kicks in later, a quantum leap of sound compared to the tranquility before. Fans of breakcore will enjoy this, and I think the contrast works wonders. The bass is rich and very dark; it really pushed my subwoofer to the max, oozing out thick beats to play against the spasmodic drums.
“Shakes and Shivers” is my next favourite, this one taking a glitchier avenue. The overlying synths are again haunting in the same way as “Harakiri”, but the beat below bounces around, with thick bass rolling in every now and then. It’s all really minimal and works beautifully to get the listener moving. The final track “Raw Mind” is a really dystopian song, something you’d expect in a Blade Runner nightclub. Jump on this exciting record.
Who misses Intronaut? I do, and I’ve loved finding bands like Radiant Knife who encapsulate and build on their sound. Hoguera does just that, their self-titled album full of rich, headbanging progressive metal. With dashes of Tool to be found, too, the album is full of great flavours. The band are from Argentina and seem to have really hit the ground running as according to their Facebook, they formed only last year!
Opening track “Oculto” begins with rip-roaring guitars and the powerful, hoarse voice of the lead singer. Deep, weighty drums back up the guitars, which at times get really stoned. Later in the album, you can find the brilliant “Sismo Parts 1 & 2”, where the band showcase their amazing talent for building rich progressive soundscapes, using delayed guitars to send your eardrums to outer space.
My favourite track is “Plegaria”, which follows “Sismo”. This track grooves! With complex structures scattered throughout, all tied together with a ferocious and never-ending drum beat, the song is an absolute powerhouse. The bass is outstanding in this track too, introducing a thundering twang to the mix. The Spanish lyrics work perfectly in the song, and again, the gruff, metal vocals of the lead singer work perfectly. I’d love to hear some sections with more gang vocals in future, however.
Be sure to play this record if you like any of the bands mentioned above, it’s an underground gem!