Friday, 27 May 2011

Blindside - With Shivering Hearts We Wait

Blindside - With Shivering Hearts We Wait
Genre: Post-Hardcore/Emo
Rating: 7/10

Following a six year gap that looked like the end Blindside finally release their 6th LP With Shivering Hearts We Wait. Blindside first hit the international stage during the Nu Metal explosion of the late nineties and early noughties when lead singer Christian Lindskog collaborated with P.O.D on their biggest album Satelite. This gave the band the exposure they needed to break into the mainstream Nu Metal scene which saw them achieve some success in the states. Unfortunately by as early as 2003 the trend of Nu Metal had started a steep decline into redundancy with the new brand of Emo becomming the hip new scene. Whilst many of Blindsides peers had to adapt or die the band themselves didn't need to change much at all being that they never really fitted in directly with that particular fad. 2005 saw the release of Blindsides last album "The Great Depression" a wonderfully constructed mixed bag which saw the band experiment with a number of different styles from piano lead ballads to ferocious hardcore and screamo.

6 years on with very little in the way of news or releases (bar one download only EP in 2008) it looked as though we had seen the last of this swedish quartet. With Shivering Hearts We Wait crushes these fears and worries as the band triumphantly return to form. The album follows on in the spirit of "The Great Depression" by mixing a huge variety of different styles to varrying degrees of success. The bands trademark sound is a nice mix of grungey metal guitar work and Christian's soft melodic vocals that often turns into roaring fits of rage. This album also sees the band incorporate a precociously epic string section, keyboards, some indie inspired group vocals and woops and even some synthetic dance beats. All of which give the album enough suprises to keep the listener hooked start to finish. Highlights include the brilliantly epic opener "There Must Be Something In The Water" which ends in an apocalyptic string section that surpasses anything they have previously recorded and the interesting and catchy "Monster In The Radio" which mixes little samples of dance beats with some sleazy guitar work and a watertight chorus.  Other tracks like "Bring Out Your Dead" and "My Heart Escapes" see's the band stick to more familiar territory but this is not really a criticism as the bands 17 years practice makes them masters of their art. The only downside to this album is the length. After six years waiting 10 tracks doesn't feel like much. On top of this the experimental nature of the record does lead to some duff tracks like "Our Love Saves Us" which proves too poppy to flow with the rest of the album.

Overall this a good comeback from Blindside following a six year gap. Whilst it isn't their best work to date it does more than enough to prove the band have still got life in them yet. Hopefully they won't keep us waiting six years before the next record.

Download: "There Must Be Something In The Water" "Bring Out Your Dead"

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

End Of Level Boss - Eklectric

End Of Level Boss - Eklectric
Genre: Metal/Rock
Rating: 9/10

Following a 4 year silence End Of Level Boss return with their much anticipated 3rd LP Eklectric. The bands last album 2007's Inside The Difference Engine was met by favourable reviews by many in the music media however the band have still not progressed much in terms of fame or notoriety which is nothing short of a crying shame. Whilst many bands would change their formula in an attempt to break out into the public consciousness End Of Level Boss make no such compromise here on their 3rd LP.

The bands sound is often compared to Stoner Rock giants Kyuss which would be accurate if it not for End Of Level Boss's heavier and darker sound. The band specialise in creating huge behemoths of songs consisting of filthy primal riffs and slow sludgey rythm sections whilst utilising reverb to distort the punishing guitars. The vocals are where I believe the Kyuss comparison stems as Harry Armstrong's confident defiant roar sounds very much like an angry Garcia. The main development or shift in sound is the bands rythm section which has sped and tightened up leaping from slow visceral cymbals into full blown auditory assault on the senses. This gives songs a sense of energy and urgency that was lacking on previous outings. The key components remain largely unchanged the riffs are still colossal the songs still keep their angst ridden vitriol and the whole damn thing is a brilliant exercise in primitive rage. Highlights include the inspired opener "As The Earth Forgets Us" which starts with some horrendous feedback transitions into a distorted mellow section before finally tearing your head apart. Whilst "Mouth Of Hats" and "Thud" provide some straight to the point primordial carnage. On top of this the overall flow and consistency of material has improved, whilst previous efforts stretched out songs to lengths that tested any listeners patience Eklectric seems more focused and driven.

Overall Eklectric is End Of Level Boss's most accomplished album yet. Whilst their mix of doom and stoner metal may not be for the faint hearted this album see's a band at its peak of raw power and would fit comfortably in any Metal heads collection. Highly recommended.

Download: "As The Earth Forgets Us" "Blueshift"

Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts

Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts
Genre: Rock/Indie
Rating: 6.5/10

Sonic Youth have long been a band of choice of the current hipster movement. The bands love of obscure tuning and experimentation appeals to many as it all serves to prevent them becoming mainstream and if theres one thing a hipster loves it's a band that "nobody get's". The bands love of the experimental and noise rock however simply means that the odds of getting a solid album out of them as a whole are always at 50/50. This unfortunately is the same for the myriad of other projects the band works on including solo albums by front man Thurston Moore. Much of Thurston's individual works are noise rock recordings or jazz experiments in which he simply noodles around with various instruments without any clear direction. What we have here however is something entirely different.

If you had to compare Demolished Thoughts to anything else Thurston has produced chances are you would stack it up against 2008's Trees Outside The Academy. Trees Outside The Academy was a stripped back effort that saw Thurston hang up his electric guitar (for the most part at least) in place for an acoustic guitar and some orchestral backing with some "artistic" interludes padding out the release. Demolished Thoughts offers much the same formula but stripped back even further by removing the drums and all the "artistic" interludes for the most part leaving just the raw components. The lack of filler material alone is something rare on any sonic youth based release. The album itself is filled to the brim with sparse mellow compositions where Thurston's signature dreamy guitar sound unfurls gently as his soft hushed vocals are accentuated by subtle string movements. "Benediction" is a perfect example of this with a great melodic summery vibe that sets the tone of the whole record. One of the key strengths is this albums accessibility not only has the simplification of the compositions made for a more coherent and consistent sound but it has also stripped away all the un-necessary "arty" fluff that has plagued previous releases. This simplification does however come at a cost as many of the songs merge and bleed into one another but the standard is high enough that this is indeed forgiveable.

Overall this is one of the better offshoots of Sonic Youth. Filled with summery vibes and peaceful soundscapes it makes for a nice relaxing listen the only thing stopping it being brilliant is the lack of stand out tunes.

Download: "Benediction" "Orchard Street"

Twin Atlantic - Free

Twin Atlantic - Free
Genre: Alt. Rock/Indie
Rating: 4/10

Twin Atlantic are one of those bands you're going to love or hate. Their mix of Alt. Rock and anthemic Indie pop deffinately owes much to the likes of other Scottish bands like Biffy Clyro leaving many to dismiss them as nothing but a poor mans substitute. The main herdle for most alongside the bands slightly derivative sound is the vocals of lead singer Sam McTrusty which can prove too twee and high pitched for many. The band first burst onto the scene in 2007 and thanks to lady luck managed to land support slots with some huge bands like the smashing pumpkins that boosted their profile immensely. As the band went from strength to strength boosting both their local and international reputation they released 2009's mini album Vivarium to critical acclaim. The bands mini album was an 8 track cd filled to the brim with poppy hooks reverb drenched solo's and showcased the bands potential to provide inventive Alt. Rock with real depth and vision. Unfortunately this years debut full length does quite the opposite.

One of the main problems with this new album stems from the album's length. Whilst Vivarium was concise and to the point Free feels drawn out and samey. The band seem to have cut back on effects and adornments making each track blend into a mess of identi-kit rock by numbers. Without the extra dimensions and depth that the complex guitar work of their debut provided the vocals and lyrics of McTrusty are brought to the forefront and unfortunately they just don't stand up on their own. Another issue is that each song seems to attempt to over reach. The band seem to drive every song on the album to build to a huge euphoric chorus moment which is by no means a bad thing but they fall short as a result of employing this formula on every track cheapening the whole experience. The album is not completely devoid of worth however as the title track "Free" see's the band return to form with prowess and a beautiful melody.  "Crash Land" is also another highlight as it see's the band step away from the over the top cheeriness in favour for a stripped back acoustic guitar and introspective string section. Unfortunately 3 or 4 good tunes is not enough to justify buying the album.

Overall this album has very little to offer in comparison to the bands earlier release. Whilst a few gems are present they are too few and far between to make this album a solid release. My advice would be to try before you buy and just cherry pick the best bits.

Download: "Free" "Crash Land"

Young Legionnaire - Crisis Works

Crisis Works
Young Legionnaire - Crisis Works
Genre: Alt. Rock/Indie
Rating: 8/10

Young Legionnaire started to take form over 5 years ago when Bloc Party bassist Gordon Moakes collaborated with Yourcodenameis:milo on their mix tape style collaboration album "Print Is Dead". Yourcodenameis:milo unfortunately disbanded in 2007 and split of in several different directions with lead singer Paul Mullen joining The Automatic (another of the bands Yourcodenameis:Milo collaborated with). Following a break from touring with the Automatic and Bloc Party's hiatus of 2009 the band got back together to work on a debut single for Holy Roar records and then headed to the studio to work on their debut Crisis Works following several tour slots supporting Death From Above 1979 and Pulled Apart By Horses.

The band's sound is an intriguing mix of devastating bass and angular guitar work that sporadically shifts in and out of melodic reverb and pummeling riffs. Crisis Works also see's Paul Mullen make a welcome return as lead vocalist and guitarist which I'm sure many 'milo fans have been waiting for. Whilst the band create a brilliant range of sonic punishment they prove themselves to be more than just a one trick pony with softer tracks like "A Hole In The World" a brilliant mix of soft atmospherics that build intricately slowly building a sense of foreboding. Other highlights include the towering juggernaut "Twin Victory" that see's huge bass riffs smash against Mullen's sharp guitar work until it collapses into fits of screams and thunderous grooves. The album on the whole is pretty solid with very little in the way of filler and whilst in places the album is quite heavy the songs remain accessible. The first single "Numbers" for example is a brilliant little tune which sees a low down bass groove burst out of the background during the catchy chorus.

Overall this album is a sterling effort as a debut LP. The only issue that surrounds this release is the bands longevity. With two of the key components in other projects full time it is very unclear when or even if there will be a follow up. Until then I wait in baited breath.

Download: "Twin Victory" "A Hole In The World"

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

R.I.P Oceansize

It was announced in late February this year that prog rock giants Oceansize had parted ways. During the bands 12 years together the band released four albums each to critical acclaim as well as several celebrated E.P's. The band also cemented their reputation from the beginning as a force to be reckoned within a Live setting. Whilst the bands reasons for breaking up remain unclear what has been made clear is that all of those involved will carry on in new projects which is at least some comfort to fans like me.

In the bands twelve years they released many albums that have become very important to me personally. I always admired their ability to avoid compromising their sound or artistic vision in favour of profit and commercial gain.

Rest In Peace