Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Death In Vegas - Trans-Love Energies
Just under seven years on from the bands last official studio album 2004's Satan's Circus down tempo electronica rock outfit Death In Vegas return with Trans-Love Energies. The bands trademark sound mixes traditional rock elements with down tempo syths, samples and keyboards to make interesting compositions with an eerie yet euphoric vibe. Having collaborated with big names like Liam Gallagher and Iggy Pop the band achieved a lot of commercial exposure as well as critical acclaim during the late nineties/early noughties. All of this has lead to quite a buzz around Trans-Love Energies the bands fifth studio album.
Unfortunately after a long period of dormancy expectations will slowly become higher and Trans-Love Energies cannot compete with the hype that surrounds it. The album sees the band venture further into the territory of live instrumentation as organic drum beats replace drum machines and samples. Whilst this very tactic was what made so many of the bands previous releases stand out from the electronica and dance scene the music on offer here seems like less of an interesting hybrid of dance and rock and more like a tired old mongrel. The simplistic lo-fi rock elements seem to have been brought to the forefront of each track and without the weaving programmed melodies and techno loops the whole album feels lifeless and dull. The main issue seems to be distortion as every guitar or synth on the record relentlessly throbs in and out of hearing range making the lyrics and basic melody very difficult to pinpoint making the delicate hooks of previous albums seem like a distant memory. Much of the guitar work and other instrumentation seems to be focused on creating a similar euphoric shoegaze sound as one of the bands earlier singles "Girls" but unfortunately all it does is turn each track into an ambiguous blurry mess with no real emotion or subtle tone behind it. The only highlights of the whole thing is the slightly more dancey single "Your Loft My Acid" which still falls short of being a great addition to the bands previously impressive canon.Unfortunately highlights are far too few and far between for the record to be anything other than a disappointment.
Overall Trans-Love Energies is a somewhat shambolic return for Death In Vegas. If you're interested in the mix of down tempo dance and rock music I'd advise you steer clear of this album and either go investigate the bands earlier releases like Scorpio Rising or failing that give UNKLE a spin as they seem to have nailed the perfect formula. Hopefully Trans-Love will prove to be a minor setback in the bands illustrious career but only time will tell. Avoid this album.
Download: Don't Even Bother
Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Thrice - Major/Minor
Genre: Rock/Post Hardcore
Whilst many bands are slaves to fashion and trends some artists choose to stand defiant and carry on without a thought or care about how well their next album will be recieved. Thrice are one of these acts. Forming 1998 the band quickly sprung to success with their hardcore influenced take on heavy rock. The bands music back then was very guitar driven and made use of strange time signatures and over the years the band have simply been tweaking and perfecting this formula. Whilst most of the post hardcore outfits had gone to the wall by 2005 Thrice continued on in spite of trends shifting towards Emo. One of the most notable releases of their career was 2007/2008 four part set The Alchemy Index. The Alchemy Index saw the band tackle two elements at a time in a two volume set made up of four EPs an ambitious project to say the least which gave the band a very wide and open spectrum to experiment with. Having incorporated electronic beats, synths and programmed elements the band follow up 2009's album Beggars with Major/Minor.
Stylistically very little has changed since the bands last album whilst this may seem like a criticism Thrice are a band that are well atuned to their strengths and continue to perfect their formula over time so it isn't a snorefest as the album cover might suggest. The band maintain their shift away from the heavier elements from their early career as Dustin provides crystal clean yet emotive vocals throughout. Whilst many of the bands old fanbase continue to moan about the lack of heavy hardcore vocals and arrangements it would be easy to chalk this change up to the band maturing over time. The music on display is very pleasing with some beautiful melodies and moods evoked. Whilst Beggars saw the band strip down to fairly basic elements like acoustic guitars Major/Minor see's a return to the fleshed out and diverse Vheissu whilst maintaining both a sense of urgency in places and frailty in others. Particular highlights include the beautifully arranged "Words In The Water" a beautifully affecting song very reminiscent of the very digital sound of the bands Alchemy Index water EP. Other highlights include the fast paced "Blur" that see's the band take a step back to their heavy guitar led lineage without feeling like a recycled tune. Overall the whole album has a vast range of moods and material from full throttle rock to more serene ballads and is very enjoyable start to finish. Whilst the heavier elements will undoubtedly be missed the albums diversity and consistency probably make up for this making it a very strong effort leaving very little to complain about.
Overall Thrice have proved yet again that their "if it aint broke don't fix it" attitude is not a limiting factor. Whilst the record may not be as diverse as some of their more ambitious endeavors the overall finished product is rewarding and engaging. Recommended.
Download: "Yellow Belly" "Words In The Water"
Monday, 19 September 2011
Caretaker/Undersmile - Split EP
Almost a year has passed already since Caretaker last graced us with a physical release but this is hardly news when you consider the huge gap between their first full length album and their soon to be released second effort Providence. Caretaker are one of those bands that not many people know about and the few that have followed their underground career would still have trouble describing the bands sound. The bands initial recordings could have been thrown into the ever ambiguous Alt. Rock genre with the bands complex use of changing time signatures and large instrumental sections was tempered with fits of rage and gloomy moods. The bands releases to date all show so much variety you could be forgiven for thinking they were made by different bands more recently though the band seem to have done away with their grungey feedback clatterings for a more refined post metal sound. Not an obvious transition from the offset but the results are more than impressive. The band have turned their music into a huge sweeping powerhouse of twisted riffs and again sparse instrumental segments that segway the transitions from calm to full blown devastation. Opening track "Yeehah!" is a beautiful instrumental track that owes much to the formulas of post metal giants ISIS with its characteristic ambience building into a frenetic harsh comedown. They follow this with another brilliant slab of progressive metal heaven "The Inexorable March" which features Michael Woodman of the insanely proggy Thumpermonkey Lives! on vocal duties. Woodman's vocal range is pretty diverse and he suits the song well as it builds into a rather more aggressive finale that see's all of Caretaker spring into life as the tear the place to pieces.
The second half of this EP is provided by Undersmile a fledgling sludge band from Oxford. This is merely the second outing by the band but both here and on their debut EP they fail to disappoint. The bands sound is very typical sludge metal, long dirgey riffs and slow crashing cymbals rattle along at a snails pace whilst two part harmonies from the two female lead singers Taz and Hel is what really seperates this band from the burgeoning sludge scene. The bands vocal delivery contrasts beautifully against the harsh guitar tones to give both tracks they contribute to this EP a hypnotic effect. The band start as they mean to go on with their first epic "Big Wow" a track that breaks the ten minute mark and makes no apologies about it. Dark tones and moods are in abundance as the track oozes and pulses on whilst the whole experience is made all the more haunting by the dual vocals. This is followed by the album closer "Anchor" again drenched in slow crushing riffs and doom laden despair. The band mix things up somewhat allowing themselves to go full on heavy in parts replacing dual melodies with guttural roars in places but they manage to pull that off with little problem.
Overall this is an outstanding release that is interesting, intelligent and brilliantly produced. Whilst the bands styles aren't particularly similar they work well together and make the whole thing a great and engaging listen from start to finish. Whilst both Caretaker and Undersmile are still on the fringes of the unknown at the moment the potential shown by both bands here suggests that this may not be the case for long. This release works as a brilliant introduction not only to two little known bands but two different genres of metal for those who are tired of the more mainstream variants. Highly recommended.
Download: THE WHOLE DAMN THING!!!!
Friday, 16 September 2011
The Subways - Money And Celebrity
The Subways first sprang to the attention of the general public way back in 2005 with their moderately successful debut Young For Eternity. This year the band return with their follow up to 2008's stellar sophomore effort All Or Nothing with Money And Celebrity the bands first independent album funded through the revolutionary Pledge music platform which allows bands to fund albums and tours directly from their fans whilst also raising some money for charity. This innovative platform has been gaining some quite heavy publicity as of late as a number have bands have begun to endorse it as a new method of getting around record label funding.
The Subways, for the un-initiated, are an indie band from Hertfordshire and produce raucous garagey rock filled to the brim with poppy hooks and euphoric dual harmonies from front man Billy Lunn and bassist Charlotte Cooper. The band really pushed themselves with their sophomore album All Or Nothing displaying a great level of craftmanship and variety, from the poppy highs of Shake Shake to the beautifully sombre Strawberry Blonde and the outright shockingly aggressive Obsession, the band proved themselves to be a world apart from the one trick pony antics of bands like Artic Monkeys who were riding high on the charts at the time. So expectations were high for another slab of indie rock bliss when Money and Celebrity finally reached me and the Subways didn't disappoint. The album kicks off in trademark Subways style with the punchy "It's A Party" and starts as it means to go on providing pop infused rock that is accessible catchy and memorable. From start to finish the album is very consistent with each song easily being strong enough to make a decent attack on the singles chart. Highlights include "Celebrity" which is a sort of fast paced ballad about a girls cravings for fame with a huge catchy chorus making the song simultaneously uplifting and quite sad, a song that is no doubt a brilliant addition to the bands canon of work. Other highlights include the fearsome "Rumour" that see's the band throw themselves full tilt into the rock and roll spirit with astonishing skill and finesse, Lunn's howls towards the end are quite a treat. The main strengths aside from the bands general aptitude towards their individual roles comes from the backing vocals of Charlotte which turns a plain old chorus into a fiesty chant with real power. Another improvement comes from frontman Lunn's guitar work which seems to have developed further and even includes some solo's. The only slight disappointment is that "Money and Celebrity" lacks some of the range and versatility of the band's second LP but this is only a faint grumble.
Overall the Subways latest album is a brilliant all rounder and a great addition to an already impressive discography. Whilst the range isn't as diverse as the bands last album the bands boistrous charm and passion for what they do fills "Money and Celebrity" with genuine warmth. Highly recommended.
Download: "Rumour" "Celebrity"
Thursday, 15 September 2011
World Under Blood - Tactical
Anyone who is familiar with the history of CKY will probably be aware of frontman Deron Miller's love of metal in all it's forms. Before the official formation of CKY Miller was guitarist in quite a few different projects all the way back to his high school years. One of the most famous of these projects was Foreign Objects which saw Deron work for the first time with another CKY founding member Jess Margera. The band produced heavy melodic metal combining spacey themes and complex solo's and distortion with Deron's ferocious roar. The band achieved some minor local success and many of the songs and stylistic elements were mixed with the more pop rock sensibilities of another project to eventually create the CKY sound. After CKY's third album An Anwer Can Be Found the band fell on hard times and nearly self destructed with members becoming physically violent to one another. During the gap between the bands third and fourth album World Under Blood were formed. Their album that was delayed several times due to conflicting engagements was finally released this august after a four years wait and sees Deron Miller try his hand at melodic death metal.
The album's sound described on the front as melodic death metal sticks very much to type as far as genres are concerned. Death metal aspects like lightning fast shredding and pummelling furious drum sections are present on each and every track. Vocally Deron mixes styles sometimes using his hoarse aggressive growl and at other points he employs the sort of melodic singing you'd find on a CKY album. The guitars are a mix of high octane speedy riffs, swirling solo's and tremolo picking making for a fairly hectic and heavy record. The combination of all this leads to a much heavier sound that makes World Under Blood easily discernable from CKY. As far as the album's length goes whilst it only has 9 tracks (ten if you buy it on itunes) most of the tracks are over four minutes which is quite long for death metal tracks. As a whole the album works quite well the blend of melodic and death metal vocals make highlights like "A God Among The Waste" more accessible and interesting. Other highlights include the frantic "Dead But Still In Pain" which demonstrates powerhouse precision with its evil sounding blasting rhythm. The only major downfall is the unmistakeable feeling that something is missing, whilst the mix of the more radio friendly elements like Deron's vocals makes the music more interesting it also means that hardcore death metal fans will probably find the whole thing a bit tame. The other side of this is that the cluttered drums and relentless riffing may prove to caustic for CKY fans hoping for another Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild. Other than that the record does somewhat suffer from becoming a bit samey as from start to finish it's full throttle brutality without any real segways or quiet complexities to give it a more creative edge. These criticisms aside the technical virtuosity of the musicians involved and Deron's passion for the genre shines through making this an intriguing listen for those with a taste for the more extreme side of metal.
Overall this is a rather accomplished effort all round. Whilst some of the harsher sounds might alienate one part of the bands demographic the whole album works as a mildly successful testament to following creative impulses. Whilst the "Death Metal" on display here may seem tame to a seasoned veteran of the genre I can't help but think this would be an ample stepping stone for any metal head looking to dabble his toe into the pool of extreme metal. Whilst the album is unlikely to get the publicity it deserves it's deffinately worth tracking down if you can. Recommended.
Download: "God Among The Waste" "Dead But Still In Pain"
Friday, 2 September 2011
Mariachi El Bronx - Mariachi El Bronx II
Genre: Mariachi/World Music
When Los Angeles hardcore punk idols the Bronx announced the formation of their alter ego Mariachi El Bronx back in 2007 most people were confused. The Bronx have been consistently praised for their own brand of spikey intelligent punk with each of their three eponymous albums garnering critical claim across the board in the alternative music press. So what in god's name would inspire a move from punk rock to mexican folk music? Mariachi El Bronx II is the bands second LP under their Mariachi moniker and pretty much picks up where the bands first eponymous album left off. The whole album is lavishly orchestrated with the traditional instruments of the genre. Trumpets, violins and a huge range of different spanish guitars as well as accordians ensure that the record is not merely a novelty act for the Bronx but serious business.
The music on offer here is very similar to Mariachi El Bronx's debut and sticks to the strict rules of the mariachi style the only notable difference is the level to which they execute it. Whilst the debut was hindered with the occasional track sounding almost caricature like the band have avoided this elegantly with their new effort. Many of the themes from the first album repeat themselves with romance, crime and punishment and redemption being central to the records poignancy. Matt Caughtrain also proves as adept with singing soulfully and melodically as he is at his ferocious peaks on Bronx records. Highlights include the sombre "Fallen" that see's Matt work with a chorus and a rather bleaker and calmer backing and the beautifully orchestrated "Everything Dies" that sees harp and a vast range of spanish guitars that switch tempos into a flamenco-esque stomp. Other highlights include opener "48 Roses" with its ostentatious over the top violin sweeps. Whilst the record is very adept in quality and diverse in tone the only draw back is that it isn't as interesting as other types of music. The strict rules and classical nature of the music limits experimentation and variation which means if your not in the mood for it you will probably leave it gathering dust. Still that aside the dusty mexican sounds are perfect for a hot summers day and whilst Mariachi may not be everyones cup of tea the Bronx should be praised for not only their skill at performing such a contrasting genre so well but also their bravery for defying peoples expectations of them.
Overall Mariachi El Bronx II is a very accomplished album by a band who clearly have no limitations. Whilst the mexican vibe may be dismissed as a silly gimmick by many the bands skill in the field makes the album a very interesting and rewarding listen that surpasses its predecessor.
Download: "48 Roses" "Everything Dies"
Big Business - Quadruple Single
Big Business started out back in 2004 as a two piece band formed by drummer Coady Willis from the cult seattle punk band Murder City Devils and bassist and lead vocalist Jared Warren from the underground hardcore outfit Karp. Together the pair wasted no time in winning the hearts and minds of the metal community with their low end heavy assault on the senses seperating them from the mainstream metal scene of the mid noughties. The real exposure came after a few support slots with godfathers of sludge and alternative metal the Melvins who were so impressed they amalgamated the two bands together for their crowning achievement 2006's A Senile Animal, which to this day stands as one of the bands most reverred works. Following their second album Big Business took a brand new direction taking on guitarist Toshi Kasai and set about recording their third album Mind The Drift. Whilst previous outings for the band were relentlessly heavy with Jared's crushing bass and Coady's blisteringly fast drumming Mind The Drift was overall a much more sedate record which saw the band embrace progressive rock elements with distorted melodic guitar parts.
Flashfoward to present day and the boys are back with another new recruit, guitarist Scott Martin of 400 blows, turning themselves into a four piece. With Mind The Drift marking a departure from the bands usual fast paced frantic grooves some fans feared the worst when the announcement came about a new guitarist Quadruple waits no longer than ten seconds before obliterating the concerns that the band have started to go soft. Opener "Always Never Know When To Quit" is a chaotic exuberant reminder why Big Business stand out from the mainstream metal scene. The lightning speed of the drums are given extra depth by Jared's deep bass tone whilst his trademark echoey roar stretches over primal riffs and insane high pitched shredding from Toshi. Other highlights include the eerily serene Ice-cold War that sees the band explore their proggy side with Jareds pulsing bass contrasting against swirling guitar distortion whilst Coady's cymbal crashing provides the backbone and a driving rythm to the whole ensemble. Throughout each of the four tracks theres something unmistakeably unique whether it's Jareds fuzzy groove Coady's intricate pulverising drum work or Toshi and Scott's duelling guitars start to finish quadruple delivers. The only limiting factor to this release is the distribution chain. At the moment the Quadruple single is available solely on 12" vinyl (with an accompanying download code) however finding copies on this side of the pond for me proved exceptionally difficult. However if you can find a way to import it whilst ensuring you will get a download as well then it is well worth the effort of doing so.
Overall Quadruple single clearly demonstrates huge potential and proves Big Business still retain their crown as one of the most interesting Metal bands around. The only limiting factor aside from locating a copy is the fact that it doesn't last long enough, a grumble that will no doubt be satisfied upon the release of their next full length LP. Highly recommended for metal heads and rockers alike.
Download: "Ice-Cold War" "Always Never Know When To Quit"