Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Amalthea – In the Woods album review

Amalthea first came into being in 2004, although the members had been playing together in a variety of groups prior to this in and around Sweden. The vocalist and guitarist Per Skytt, bassist Jeremias Valsten and drummer Erik Skytt played together in a post-hardcore band, which employed vocalist and guitarist Simon Mellergardh in 2003. In 2005 the band released their first 7″ as a new four-piece group which was heavily influenced by 90s “screamo” and post-rock. Move on six years and in 2011 “The World Ends With You” EP was released, leaning even more towards post-rock and replacing the screamo with a heftier doom/post-metal sound. And so, in 2014, the band release their second full length entitled “In the Woods”.

Scandinavian culture is very much in fashion at the moment, what with the success in the UK of television dramas such as “The Bridge”. The music on “In the Woods” perfectly mirrors the aesthetic that many people bring to mind when they consider that particular part of the world. The atmosphere is spacious whilst maintaining an undeniable barrenness. The opening nine-minute ‘Rain’ could almost be the theme music to a melancholic crime drama series in itself. The mood is thoughtful and considered and at times teeters on the edge of developing into an upsurge of sound, but teases the listener.
‘The Fall’ continues very much in a similar vein, with subtly placed chord progressions that weave a foundation on which some heavier vocal and instrumentation can take off from. Again, however, the atmosphere is ponderous and at times almost lachrymal. ‘Harm’ and ‘Field’ succeed in elevating the mood somewhat as they allow themselves to go over the edge into some frenetic cacophony of sound that seems almost cathartic in essence, whilst ‘Vapour’ pushes the momentum even further and shows an altogether more muscular sound.
A dark fragility informs the sound on ‘Rust’ which meanders delicately through those mournful Scandinavian landscapes. All these elements seem to coalesce on the closing track ‘End’, which twists and turns between sadness and optimism on a background of carefully calculated and scholarly chord progressions...

Friday, 7 February 2014

Dementio13/Various – “VTOL” album review

Dementio13 (Paul Foster) has now built up a reputation for releasing some truly innovative album projects that encompass the qualities of Krautrock, ambient electronica and pop culture, and pieces them together to create some unnervingly sophisticated music. “VTOL” on first hearing is, thankfully, no exception. This time, however, a number of collaborators have been drafted in to provide further assets to the release. “Creased” which opens the album, and “A Shallow Grave”, are slightly reminiscent of chip tune, or 8-bit music, and harks back to a day when computer games generated music was far simpler and less refined. The chip tune feel carries on into “Finish Line” which is the first of three collaborations with Juanita Alvarez as Nita Disaster. Cold, unadulterated lines of dialogue combine to build up a futuristic urban landscape, whilst the instrumentation augments the abrasive atmosphere. “Pollution”, also featuring Nita Disaster, creates a similar sense of anxiety but somehow manages to cloak it in approachable swathes of electronic beats, whilst “These Days” has a futuristic jazz undercurrent which matures into music more delicate and affable.
 Douglas Deep (Steve Kelly) lends “Stelian” a no less desolate edge whilst incorporating frantic chip tune beats and demented vocal samples to create an uneasy amalgamation of sounds. “Genes” featuring James Reichelt as Alone and Dementio13 has a twisted “Aphex Twin” feel to it which gradually builds up the momentum and lavishness over its’ six minutes into something quite majestic. The album is not without its tongue in its own cheek in places however as can be seen on “Alcohol”, a collaboration with Snippet (Johnno Casson), and which features delightfully memorable electronic lines surrounding morsels of booze related lyrics and vocal samples. Pixieguts (Marie Craven) collaborates on “Rodeo Days” which progressively builds in intensity through skittish electronica and intimate vocal narrative. Here we have that sense of anxiety and melancholy that is becoming a feature throughout “VTOL”, and which gives is an almost ultramodern fascination. This futuristic ambience is further evidenced in “Self Doubting Thomas” featuring Ian Thistlethwaite. Deadpan vocals over anxious beats create a tension which looks to the future in a way that is common in the twenty first century, not as a utopia and something to be proud of, but as a dystopia and something to be distrustful of.
“Theme Four” seems perfectly placed near the end of the album as the subtle, elusive ukelele bass, fretless bass and guitar lines of Alun Vaughan weave through hopeful beats and lead carefully into the ominous but oddly optimistic “Bondage Bus”. It is a dramatic ending to an album that is peppered with a disparate number of collaborations, which, through thoughtful production and track listing, form a high-tech narrative, which can almost, to these ears, be thought of as urban film music for the twenty second century. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Hazzard’s Cure – The Ugly album review

“Dirty metal from the streets of San Francisco” is the approach Hazzard’s Curetakes, according to their Facebook page, and this three-track EP release would certainly support that claim. This is the second release from the band, whose first album release was described in some circles as, “epic blackened stoner thrash”.

The gentle, meandering opening to “Terminal Frost” very quickly develops into a maelstrom of cyclone percussion, demented guitar chords and belligerent vocal. The production is deliciously raw and organic which gives the music the ideal platform. “The Ugly” sets off on a thunderous journey from the outset, with that, by now familiar, relentless drumming and bass onslaught. Within a few minutes however, a corner is turned into what could loosely be described as more melodic and considered territory. The pace has slowed, and the guitar solos have become discernibly more melodious. Not long, however before the mood becomes more onerous. The final track, on this all too short EP, “The Amorphous Body”, appears to incorporate all the previous elements into a glorious seven minutes of heroic sounding chord progressions, boisterous drums and merciless vocal.

The short EP format here may not be the most ideal to evaluate the music of Hazzard’s Cure as there is the feeling that this music needs space and time to develop and mature. That said, the three tracks available would be of interest to devotees of a wide range of musical genres incorporating as it does Black Metal, Sludge, Stoner, Doom, “Progressive Metal” and, to some extent, Post Rock. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

Hemelbestormer Vs. Vanessa Van Basten – Split EP

This release comes about as part of the ConSouling Sounds collaboration EP series, and is made up of six tracks that feature a combination of contributions from Italian post-rock, sludge instrumental band Vanessa Van Basten and Dutch sludge, black metal and hardcore Hemelbestormer (which literally translates as “stormer of heaven” and is used to indicate one who has revolutionary views).
The EP opens with Hemelbestormers’ ‘Alpha’ a ponderous and capacious nine minutes of majestic guitar riffing and subtle atmospherics that have an almost glacial feel in their development. The production is gloomy and viscous which captures perfectly the overall mood. ‘Portal I’ and ‘Portal II’ are a partnership between the two bands and open with sheets of practically white noise eddying around and through the mix. As the noise recedes a mellower, more melodious guitar takes over, punctuating the ethereal sound with fragile lines. ‘Portal II’ continues the theme, but is altogether more accessible and tender, evoking imagery of new, distant realms.

Vanessa Van Basten‘s two contributions are less spacious and overall tighter in production. ‘Odyssey Song’ and ‘Hidden Under Terms Like’ are no less substantial than Hemelbestormer but appear more melodic. Obviously the lyrics on these pieces help to lift the temperament, and are delivered in a variety of styles that veer from spoken word, to venomous screams. Changes in tempo and pace lend these tracks an unsettling quality, which adds to their overall charm. The final track, ‘Omega’ returns toHemelbestormer and continues with the theme introduced on ‘Alpha’ of guitar riffs like dinosaurs roaming the landscape devastating everything in their path. The intensity is taken up a level but the momentum is never lost....