New Album Season™ is dying down around here, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop showing off great music from the last few weeks! Welcome to Volume 24 of Review Rundown. I am not personally contributing to the reviews for this volume – I am simply a humble host showing off all my pals and their lovely writing. You’ll notice a slight change in that we only have four writers covering eight albums in total this time, but in lieu of that, the reviews are a little longer than usual. All the music covered here, you can check out in full yourself. Click those links at the beginning of each review to peep the artists and albums!
This is my first Sun Kil Moon record, and upon listening to it, it may be my last. Here’s why:
I’ve heard the name Mark Kozilek thrown around in musical circles for several years now, and I promised myself that I would check out his work at some point. I listened to This Is My Dinner and immediately realized that most of the people who recommended him to me were gross straight white dudes. Now I see why the moniker ‘worst person in indie music’ applies to the guy. When he’s not complaining about sound engineers, he’s bragging about hooking up with women and cuckolding their boyfriends. Yes. That happens on the title track of This Is My Dinner. He actually tries to justify that off-color hookup story by saying ‘When you’re in your twenties, in my opinion, nothing should be off limit’.
Musically, there are a lot of lounge-type sounds that I enjoy. I like the rippling arpeggios and gurgling (?) of “Linda Blair”, or the Manchester Orchestra-inspired guitar tones of “Rock’n’roll Singer”, for instance. But sadly, the music that sits ‘a few decibels above medium’ is nearly drowned out by Kozilek’s ego.
For me to enjoy a project like this, where the events and personality of one person are at the forefront of the music, the character must be somewhat likable or compelling. The character of This Is My Dinner, whoever that is, is neither of those things.
Even though Treasures and Trolls only has a few tracks on it, I’m glad Tera Melos didn’t sit out 2018 in silence. I really enjoyed Trash Generator, their most recent LP from 2017, and I even got to see them play live around this time late last year. So when I saw the art for this new EP, which is similar to that of Trash Generator, needless to say, I was excited.
The title track would fit snugly on Generator for sure. I love the off-kilter groove Tera Melos keeps on the track. They’re one of the tightest bands to play in odd time signatures and rhythms, making everything seem deceptively natural. Their sonic diversity is also apparent on this track, as they pack reverberating dreamscapes back to back with breakdowns that give Code Orange a run for their money.
“Lemon Grove” is a bit more playful by comparison. Featuring Rob Crow, this track gives me a slight psychedelic vibe, almost like something from The Claypool Lennon Delirium. I also love the weird vocal/guitar harmonies towards the end; it reminds me of something off of the first Foo Fighters album.
The final track, “Super Fxx”, is an alternate rendition of the final track of Trash Generator featuring lyrics. I like that the production and melody are a bit more reserved in comparison to the album version; it allows for the lyrics to fit better in the mix.
Treasure and Trolls is certainly a pleasant surprise. Don’t let it fly under your radar!
This is an instrumental, noisy mathcore treasure trove of riffs, change-ups, and surprises. Hemwick, a four-piece from Utah, show compositional and technical skills far beyond what one would expect of a band with only one other release (an EP called Yearn) in its repertoire.
Imagine if sleepmakeswaves and Car Bomb had a baby whom they forced to listen to the broad panoply of extreme music from the past few decades, then the kid ran off to wash down some angry pills with very strong coffee, and you would pretty much get Junkie by Hemwick. They put every conceivable kind of riff into this album’s five songs. Junkie is riff porn, pure and simple.
Descriptors notwithstanding, Hemwick’s main modus operandi on this release is to have what one might call a baseline riff which gets interrupted every few bars by something from out of left field. The baseline riff could be thrashy, hardcore, slow post-rock (!), or straight-up grindcore. The ‘interruptions’ could be noise, doom metal, or just about anything else. It takes a lot of self-control to listen to Hemwick while driving or working out at the gym. Rather than allowing a casual listener to settle into any kind of groove, Junkie is deliberately unsettling in the purest meaning of that word.
The two guitarists dominate Hemwick’s instrumental heroism on this one, but special kudos go to their drummer, whose uninhibited playing style sometimes gets lost in Junkie’s relatively low-fi production while suiting its mood perfectly.
Serocs leave no room for ambiguity here, at least as far as their genre is concerned. They play tech-death. The only bad thing that could be said about The Phobos/Deimos Suite is that the world will likely never get to witness them play onstage because Serocs is a supergroup whose lineup includes Phillippe Tougas of Montreal’s The Chthe’list, Kévin Paradis of Mithridatic (France), plus other musicians from both of those places, and also Mexico. The album’s recording credits list too many studios to count and Serocs points out that the riffs for The Phobos/Deimos Suite were written between 2008 and 2018. Perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky that this album even exists!
This album’s title references the personifications of fear (‘Phobos’) and terror (‘Deimos’) in Greek mythology, but Serocs specify a concept for the album that is a cross between The Divine Comedy and A Christmas Carol.
As for the music, Serocs made a solid piece of work here for people who like Cryptopsy, Gorguts, or Archspire. The Phobos/Deimos Suite is a full-speed-ahead feast of blast beats, dizzying leads, and articulate heavy riffs all dressed up with some delightfully filthy vocals by Laurent Bellemare. The songs are written sufficiently well to make them not get old after multiple listens.
So, even if you are tasteful enough to love the new Psycroptic album, you probably know there is no such thing as too much good tech-death. That should make Serocs worth adding to your collection.
I knew from the first ten seconds of this album that it would end up in my top ten jazz albums of this year. The London-based six-piece Maisha play a variant of spiritual jazz, influenced heavily by afrobeat, but holding its own against the modern jazz greats like Kamasi Washington, too. There Is A Place is a five track gem, in what has already been a fantastic year for jazz.
The opening track “Osiris” is a riveting experience, 11 minutes of flowing jazz that takes multiple forms and reminds me heavily of the psychedelia-laced Josef Leimberg album Astral Progression, thanks to the excellent percussion used. You’re swept along by a mind-bending tide of pumping afrobeat music, interlaced with scorching horn solos.
In complete contrast is the next track “Azure”, a docile tone that relies heavily on flutes. You’re instantly reminded of Semente by Snarky Puppy thanks to this, but this song is completely original in its own right. You imagine it being perfect whilst strolling down a dimly lit alleyway, soaking in the late city night, a far cry from the pumping beats in “Osiris”.
Each of the six-piece gets a part in the record thanks to the excellent mix, too. I implore you to hone in on the bass in “Kaa”, and many other songs, which can be difficult with so many layers of distraction to whisk your attention away. It’s a fantastic record, and should certainly be on your rotation list.
For the last eight years, I’ve been a huge fan of Trifonic’s work, and since Ninth Wave and the Emergence 10 Year Edition have been hankering for more music from the duo. Through their production company, Finishing Move Inc., the two have released Inharmony, a collection of experimental songs which explore intense climaxes and tension through electronic music.
Sounding very industrial, whilst also exhibiting the duo’s trademark glitch-work, this EP is gripping and exciting. I find myself yearning to play video games to it, whilst also terrified to play anything remotely scary. Opening track “Silhouette” is an intense song full of glitches and wouldn’t be out of place in games like Observer. “Dividing Line” builds into an intense Doom-like finale, the sound over-powering and intense.
The production of the EP is outstanding. Sitting in the middle of my surround sound system, I can feel the exceptional composition of the mix. Sounds move around you creating an unsettling atmosphere that grips the listener. The use of haunting vocals in “Retinal Burn” makes this an album I shan’t be listening to as I walk home in the dark winter months, but this song is certainly one of the best on the record thanks to the absorbing bass used.
This record certainly won’t be on your regular spins, but it is a brilliant record to explore, and experience, thanks to the amazing sound work on the album.
What a fantastic year for doom we have. In fact, it’s so fantastic, it’s very easy to miss some gems. One such record is Leonov‘s Wake. Fans of Messa will instantly recognize a similarity between the two bands. Both play a mix between soft post-rock and doom with jazzy undertones which dives into an ocean of emotions enveloped by reverb and echo.
On the first track, “I am Lion, I am Yours”, a fuzzy guitar sets the stage for a modern tale of gothic romance. The chiming organ in the background delivers much of the atmosphere, never being too pushy, yet always remaining present. Soft vocals gently lead the listener to a heavier part of the song in which a clean guitar shimmers over the fuzz like rays of light reflected by the ocean’s surface. Leonov is careful not to fall into blunt territory, and not letting the fuzz and drone overshadow the beauty of the reverb-heavy vocals and clean guitar parts.
Stylistically, the record builds the missing link between My Dying Bride and Emma Ruth Rundle, delivering stunning gothic doom performances with a folk twist. Seldomly does a record reach this amount of depth while maintaining a grounded, earthy sound that flows naturally.
There is fresh sounding rock, and then there is rock sounding fresher than a drop of morning dew wrapped in cellophane. Big Jesus is definitely the latter. Coming close to Astronoid‘s take on dream thrash, Big Jesus combines heavy guitars, dreamy vocals, echo-laden atmospheres, and psychedelic solos to craft a massive Deftones-meets-Slow Crush sound.
Their first track, “Nothing Like I Thought”, opens with lush, slightly modulated vocals, immediately followed by a high-gain guitar riff that could blow every thrash band out of the water. The steady backbeat of the drums feels like nostalgic goodness, making you bob your head while not sounding derivative. Through the fast instrumental, the vocals seem like they’re sung by an insomniac who hasn’t slept for three days.
Every song on this record bears the band’s signature riffs, making for more memorable guitar passages than the album should be able to fit. The band also doesn’t shy away from experimentation as the intro to “Never Gone” proves. Heavily modulated guitars sound like you put a vinyl in the oven for 30 minutes and tried to play afterwards. This is truly a staple of modern rock. Fantastic.