Here we are, at another milestone for Review Rundown. Volume 30 is packaged with a fresh spread of ten albums from ten bands dissected by five of our learned writers. Served up on our smorgasbord today are Hugh Marsh, Golden Daze, A Million Dead Birds Laughing, Diabolical, Andrew Wasylyk, Dream Theater, Dorre, Traveler, Mykele Deville,and Lau.
If you enjoyed this edition and the wide range of genres on offer, why not check out our previous editions? You can find the link here.
It would be easy to give Lau a quick listen and assume that they’re an accessible but very traditional Scottish folk act. But, with Midnight and Closedown, Lau forego any puritanical definitions of folk for an experimental yet pleasantly cohesive record.
Songs like “Toy Tigers” convey this ambitious balance artfully, opening with fiddle, fingerpicked guitar, and making for what would be a lovely and conventional track. However, a hyper-distorted synth bassline sits between accordions and classic harmonies for a combination that should not work, yet does.
It is primarily the inclusion of electronic elements into conventional Scottish folk that differentiates Lau from their contemporaries. However, to define Lau simply by that statement would fail to recognize the knack for catchy melodies, strong songwriting, and openness to possibility, that makes this combination work in the first place. If you’re looking for a gentle, warm record to usher in the warmth and growth of spring, let Midnight and Closedown accompany you.
Chicago-based rapper Mykele Deville has been releasing music since 2016, and Maintain is his most recent release. The seven tracks on Maintain cover a great deal of ground, from the hard-hitting, politically charged “Whisper” to the proud funk of “Free Soul” and the watery balladry of “Type Love” – and that’s only the first three songs. This diversity is appropriate, considering the number of producers associated with Maintain. Thankfully, Deville maintains effective flow over every beat available.
Deville has his own distinct, articulate delivery. However, with occasional double-tracked lines, watery guitars, and some jazzy beats, a Kendrick Lamar influence certainly feels present on Maintain, but not overbearing.
The seven tracks pass by quickly, with the diversity between songs Maintaining momentum. This pacing is further aided by generally short track lengths (between two and three minutes), with “Loosies” being the nearly six-minute exception. Spoken word sections fill the song’s length, adding additionally human elements to a generally polished record.
Maintain is an enjoyable hip-hop album filled with well-produced, versatile beats and intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics that convey the complex political and personal voice of an emerging rapper.
Calgary’s Traveler got some buzz from fellow Canadian metal fans over at Banger TV which exposed them to people like me that likely would have not caught on to them otherwise. I’m glad I did because their debut is the kind of traditional metal punch I needed.
The best of the album is certainly the first half. “Starbreaker” rams the gate with an ‘85 Thunderbird filled with furious riffs and soaring vocals fitting for a full-scale arena. There’s a lot of delightful writing in “Street Machine” which is catchy as all hell. No doubt this song would be setting the rock airwaves on fire in the 80s.
The second half of the album isn’t bad, but starts to show some of the wear of repetitiveness, though I like “Mindless Maze” for daring to show a little restraint in its intro before letting the metal fury fly. I can’t say Traveler are exactly innovative, nor do they try to be anything they aren’t. If you want heavy metal, you’re gonna get it, and nothing but.
It is indeed a weird time when the old school boomerangs around to present time and feels fresh again. Traveler may not reinvent the wheel or try anything particularly new, but they are exciting without a doubt. Heavy metal fans need to peep this.
Music has been used to tell stories for literal centuries, even instrumentally. It’s pretty easy for a skilled musician to elicit feelings, convey thoughts, and even basic plots with the sonics of their work. Taking this approach to sludge metal is what has me liking Dorre’s Fall River so much.
This album is so much more than its sound. On its face, yeah, it’s some really tight and groovy doom-sludge flavored metal. Easy sell for me. Then you look at the macabre cover art, you see the song titles, you hear the tones in the music… Fall River is a musical true crime story.
It mostly operates on a primal level, offering a glimpse into the mind of a killer. The heavy moments mimic intrusive and violent thoughts or actions, the bluesy breaks possibly show clarity in thought. Another interpretation could be the sparse calm moments on display here represent the sadistic high a killer gets from acting on their thoughts or the aftermath of satisfaction one would feel in that situation. “Extracted at the Moment of Death” stands out, offering the album’s only vocals, deftly performed by Laura Donnelly (King Witch). It’s a busy, melancholic track that brings many unsettling visions to mind.
Fall River is a great undertaking. With a harrowing and unclean sound, it’s clear they set out to do something very specific and I have to say they nailed it. If you’re looking for a little more contextual meat to your instrumental music, this is a wonderful place to travel if you have the heart.
Picture if you will, a drill sergeant stepping into Dream Theater’s practice studio. His castigation of my favourite band would sound thus:
What is your major malfunction!? You are at the top of your game technically, and way over the top in commercial popularity. You had three years to make an album, and you could have made any damn album you bloody well pleased, and instead, you made this!?
Petrucci, Rudess! Look at me! Now, look at James LaBrie. OK, you’re scaring him. Just look at me. Everybody thinks he can’t sing. Is it because he can’t? No! Is it because everybody else is an idiot? No! Wanna guess why? It’s because you keep writing melodies that are out of his vocal range! News flash, numbnuts: He’s 55 years old. Stop writing like he’s in his 20s.
I’m not finished with the two of you. Stop writing like this band is your own private circle jerk. You don’t have Portnoy to focus you anymore. Stop laughing! Without him you need either Myung or Mangini to tell you when you’re making us cringe. Failing that, hire a damn producer!
There there, guys, have some tissues. It’s not all bad. You have a couple of good songs here and your attempts at being heavy are kind of endearing at times. Distance Over Time is a bit easier to swallow than The Astonishing but it’s your weakest since Portnoy left.
Don’t do this again.
Scottish composer Andrew Mitchell publishes under the name Andrew Wasylyk for reasons known only to himself. That level of navel-gazing is part of what made The Paralian in the first place. An arts centre and historic house in Hospitalfield, Abroath, Scotland invited him to compose something for their newly-restored 19th century Erad Grecian harp. That residence stretched on for five months and he threw every other instrument he could think of into the mix, and The Paralian was the result.
We could say this was just as well. Minimalism does not suit modern classical composers all that well. Andrew Wasylyk’s preference for multi-layered works and his affinity for 70s movie soundtracks lend a lot of endearing charm to The Paralian. We get treated to an electric piano, a grand piano, lilting strings, vintage synthesizers, an oboe, a flugelhorn, a euphonium, suppressed vocals, and sometimes even that harp. “Flight of the Cormorant” has to be one of the most beautiful instrumental tunes of the year for fitting so many disparate elements together in a thoughtful way.
Whether or not Andrew Wasylyk captures the spirit of the place of his commission matters less than the final product in our hands now. Mitchell seemingly shrugged his shoulders, went his own way, and did us quite the service in doing so.
Do you like your death metal ever-so-slightly blackened with a grand, epic production? Well, Diabolical might just be the band for you. Their latest album, Eclipse, showcases a band that knows how to properly mix the melody, atmosphere, and crunch. They’re also pretty good at songwriting too. “Betrayal” isn’t something that I would classify as a ‘progressive’ death metal track, but the composition ebbs and flows, moving between the light and heavy parts with ease. With all of their songs, there is a flair for the dramatic. The opening track, “Diabolical”, which is self-aggrandizing in a fun way, is a bold opener with an epic production backing a chorus that will more than likely get stuck in your head.
Fans of Behemoth will likely enjoy this album, as a lot of the elements are put together in a similar way. The majority of the tracklist chugs along at a moderate pace, with only a few songs slowing things down. A few standouts are “The Fire Within” and “Failure” both of which lean into the more aggressive side of things. Eclipse is a big record that reaches that bites off more than many lesser bands could chew, but Diabolical have the chops to make it work.
With a name like this, it’s a little hard to imagine what the band will sound like. The band also goes to some effort to obscure who the band members actually are. Word on the street is that Dan Presland of Ne Obliviscaris is behind the kit, and a few members of Hadal Maw are among their ranks. So what does this supergroup-of-sorts have to offer? To The Ether is a dizzying, technical, grindy, and atmospheric album that impressed me on every listen. “Martyrdom in the Fourth Dimension” quite literally kicks things off with its dissonant riffing and shrieking vocals. When contrasted with the airy, lilting ”Dim” they hardly would seem to be from the same album. I appreciate diversity in a record.
‘Wyrmholes And The Endless” leans into some dramatic death grind and again this band pulls it off wonderfully. There are multiple approaches to the vocals throughout the album, all of which are showcased on this song. The angular riffing is tight, and the drumming is of course inconceivably good. I found this album to be a bit of a gem, so if you’re looking for an album that’s diverse, well-executed, and a load of fun, give this one a spin!
I received this album at the perfect time, as the sunshine took away the bite of the winter breeze, and that downtrodden February feeling dissipated. Golden Daze dropped their debut album Sympatico on February 15, and its an emotionally charged daydream worth your time. The indie duo’s sound is very mellow, and feels quite psychedelic in the way the music is arranged. The haziness of the vocals fit into this nicely, a blend before those old school psych bands, and what you might hear if Khruangbin did vocals.
Tracks roll nicely into one another, with each song contrasting nicely to the last. The songs feel fresh and original in a crowded genre, thanks to the way the duo construct each melody. Golden Daze will utilise one of the genres mentioned previously, before switching up completely, whilst still keeping the same vibe. They introduce pop elements with ease, especially in the second track “Amber”, a track I really recommend you bite into. The pair use a really psychy guitar riff exceptionally well in this track and make you thirst after its sound more.
I’m looking forward to the long summer days and soaking up this album in the sun. Songs like “Lynard Bassman” make you lust after a barbeque and a cold beer in the sun, whilst others evoke images of a late summer twilight. It might lack oompf for some of our readers, but it’s certainly one to try and digest this year, and I expect great things from Golden Daze, especially with this kind of dreamy music taking off.
Before you hit play on the video below, I think it is worth understanding that this offering is quite out there, and without an understanding of this project, you’ll probably be confused why this record is on a list alongside death metal and rap. Hugh Marsh‘s project is a unique piece of work, and whilst I’ve experienced similar projects, I’ve never understood the process behind making the experimental sounds these artists use. Marsh is known for his violin work, and has scored movies with composers like Hanz Zimmer. Violinvocations is him alone with effects pedals making songs in single takes.
Now the word ‘song’ might be taking things too far; this is very much an ambient album, so the tracks come and go like the wind. You’ll find a lot of emotions within the noise, sometimes calm tranquillity, others pure annoyance. You’ll see what I mean in track two, “Miku Murmuration”, a collection of sounds similar to GLaDOS from Portal, but just ten times more irritating. However, you have to tip your hat to Marsh, he manages to create noises which sound almost like speech, a performance worth admiring and trying to understand.
I much preferred the soft sounds of “Thirtysix Hundred Grandview”, a track which would be perfect in a film score of its own. It would work as a dark background to a conversation, as would the opener “I Laid Down In the Snow”. If you’re an explorer, definitely give this a try.