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Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - June 2021


Written by: RaduP, musclassia, Abattoir, Netzach, nikarg, ScreamingSteelUS
Published: 12.07.2021


Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - June 2021
Metal Storm's outlet for nonmetal album reviews



The place where we'll talk about music without growls or blast beats
unless they still have those but still aren't metal


We here at Metal Storm pride ourselves on our thousands of metal reviews and interviews and article; metal is our collective soul and passion, which is why we bother with this junk. That being said, we'd be lying if we stuck to our trve-kvlt guns and claimed that metal is the only thing we ever listen to. Whether we want to admit it or not, we do check out some other stuff from time to time; some of us are more poptimistic than others, but there's a whole world out there aside from Satan-worshiping black metal and dragon-slaying power metal. We do already feature some nonmetal artists on our website and have a few reviews to back them up, but we prefer to limit that aspect of the site to those artists who have been a strong influence on the metal scene or who are in some way connected to it. This article series is the place for those artists who don't matter to metal in the slightest but still warrant some conversation - after all, good music, is good music, and we all know metal isn't the only thing on this planet for any of us.

Down below, you might find some obscure Bandcamp bedroom projects or some Billboard-topping superstar; as long as it ain't metal and the album itself isn't a best-of compilation, it fits. Obviously, we're certain that not everything will be for everybody (you guys can be viciously territorial even when metal is the only thing on the menu, and we're all supposed to like the same things), but we do hope you find at least one thing that you can enjoy, instead of just pointing and screaming in horror "Not metal!" as if that would be an insult.

Here are our previous features:

May 2021
April 2021
March 2021

And now to the music...






King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Butterfly 3000
[Neo-Psychedelia]


Butterfly 3000 is album number 18 from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard; not bad considering album number 1 isn't yet a decade old. King Gizzard are notorious for both the prolific nature and stylistic range of their releases, having covered most of the psychedelic spectrum and even ventured into metal with 2019's thrashy Infest The Rat's Nest. Butterfly 3000 sees the band return to Metal Storm in a strictly non-metal capacity, instead featuring an upbeat and poppish brand of psychedelia. From the bouncy synth motif that kicks it off to the cheery vocals, "Yours" is a very vibrant and cheery opener, and a pretty great one too; I've had quite a lot of fun listening to this song in particular.

The bouncy synth motif mentioned in the last paragraph is an indicator of the big role synths and MIDI play on Butterfly 3000; recorded during the pandemic, the album prioritizes synth loops over guitar work, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Plus, there's still acoustic guitars in there to add to certain sections. The synth-heavy approach actually works nicely with the record's more uplifting, whimsical writing approach, playing into the psychedelic indie vibe King Gizzard were aiming for this time around. Whilst most of the record is very easy-going, there is space for weirdness; "Blue Morpho" discards the straightforward pleasantness of "Dreams" for a more twisted, off-kilter approach. Different in a different way is the funky "Catching Smoke", a track that is admittedly a bit too disjointed for my liking. Butterfly 3000 is the sound of an eclectic band trying to be a bit more concise and simplistic, and the outcome is great fun, managing to be very catchy whilst still possessing that specific peculiar nature that's made the group such a sensation.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Delving - Hirschbrunnen
[Progressive Rock | Krautrock]

musclassia's pick


Although I had issues with the vocals on the album, Elder's Omens ultimately turned out to be my favourite new release of 2020 (excluding the sneaky re-release of Psychonaut's 2018 debut). Nick DiSalvo demonstrated himself, alongside the other members of Elder, to be highly talented at crafting entrancing, moving psychedelic jams, and he demonstrates this further on the debut album from his new solo project Delving (which features fellow Elder guitarist Mike Risberg as a guest on several tracks). The project is described by DiSalvo as a result of additional time during the pandemic to delve (my word choice here, but this is what I assume is the reason for the project's name) into songs and song ideas he wrote over the past few years without being able to bring them to fruition. I was curious when I first heard the record announced to see if it would signal a significant musical departure for DiSalvo once independent of his bandmates, but ultimately, a lot of this album could easily be part of an Elder record, not just on sound, but based on its excellent quality too.

Hirschbrunnen, like The Gold & Silver Sessions from 2019, is purely instrumental, which removes one of the elements I found weakest on Omens. Instead, the instruments are given full responsibility for shaping these songs, and they do not disappoint. "Delving" is a real early highlight, carrying a very similar feel to "In Procession" from Omens through its main riff. It makes for excellent chill listening, with beautiful guitar and keyboard melodies delivering a true sense of serenity. I'd perhaps say "Delving" is the best song here, but the hypnotic synths on "The Reflecting Pool", gentle meandering of the title track and huge closer "Vast" ensure that Hirschbrunnen has no dips in quality. Lush, spellbinding psychedelic jamming at its finest, if you enjoyed Omens like I did, you're going to love Hirschbrunnen.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Oslo Tapes - ØR
[Krautrock]


With a band name like Oslo Tapes and an album title that allegedly means 'dizzy' or 'confusing' in Norwegian (although most online translation services seem to disagree, instead proposing 'ear' or 'giddy' as more accurate translations), you might be fittingly confused to learn that Oslo Tapes are in fact Italian; it appears that the name was inspired by very positive visit to the Norwegian capital for band founder Marco Campitelli around a decade ago. Leaving peculiarities surrounding the name to the side for now, ØR is the project's third full-length record, and serves as a fitting introduction for newcomers to the band's proggy, psychedelic krautrock sound.

The brash yet twisted keyboards on opener "Space Is The Place" are simultaneously captivating and disorienting, and whilst "Zenith" is less overbearing, the subtle layering and whispered vocals beneath the driving drums lend a similarly unnerving feel to this song. ØR is an album that embraces weirdness, whether it's the "Low Rider"-style percussion partway through the insidious, repetitive "Bodø Dakar" or the bizarre, brash synth sounds on "Norwegian Dream". The album as a whole, whilst never pushing the volume, produces a slightly suffocating vibe amidst the eclectic, energetic jazzy drumming that permeates throughout, the dissonant layering of tracks and the hushed, insidious vocal style. It's an album that leaves you slightly bemused once it's over, but nonetheless intrigued and eager to revisit.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Heavy Feather - Mountain Of Sugar
[Blues Rock | Psychedelic Rock]


A quick time travel back to the 70's can be a very exciting sonic exploration and experience. The Swedish quartet Heavy Feather is offering one in a very pleasant, non-complicated manner with their new record, Mountain Of Sugar. I was initially hooked up by this band when listening to their 2019 debut Débris & Rubble earlier this year, consequently making myself to be alert for this follow-up (which portrays an upgrade in many ways).

The evident retro vibes are brought on the surface with the combination of dominant blues rock and psychedelic influence. Relatively short energetic songs are pointing out a crucial input, provided by a very skillful guitarist, who brings on the table an ever-changing patterns in the rhythm of riffs and pumping up the challenging solos over the place. I don't want to neglect the contribution of the bass lines and drumming beats/parts, as it do sound a bit more simplified and more supportive in this case. A very strong element, if not the strongest, that puts you in the place of that 70's vibes, are the infallible all-around vocals by Lisa Lystam. Placed in between these vivacious tunes are a couple of ballad-structured pieces that concurrently unveil the wide-range quality of the singer's soulful yet powerful and sometimes howling voices. Even the whistling finds its place occasionally, plus her usage of harmonica. Yeah, a lot is going on here with the Mountain Of Sugar. You'll need an insulin shot after this one.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by Abattoir





Teke Teke - Shirushi
[Psychedelic Rock | Surf Rock]


A 7-piece psychedelic rock band featuring a shinobue, taishōgoto and trombone amongst plenty of other instruments, you would hope that Teke Teke would be a bit out of the ordinary, and so they prove to be on their debut record, Shirushi. A Canada-based project, a lot of the album's sound is inspired by 'eleki' music from Japan, where several of the band's members are descended from. Combining psychedelic, garage and surf rock (for the latter, listen no further than "Yoru Ni") with traditional Japanese instruments and a love for Japanese guitarist Takeshi Terauchi (also known as Terry), Teke Teke, Shirushi is an eclectic record, but not a chaotic one.

After the wave of energy that is the opening couple of tracks, Teke Teke slow things down for "Dobugawa", a subdued, sultry piece that feels halfway between a jazz lounge and a Tarantino soundtrack; it's a stark contrast to the brash "Barbara", a cacophony of garage rock, flamboyant flute and an exuberant performance from frontwoman Maya Kuroki. Kuroki sings only in Japanese, but her vocals are often sufficiently buried in the mix to make it difficult to tell. She's barely audible on "Kizashi", an explorative piece in which many of the various instruments employed by Teke Teke are provided the opportunity to make their mark. Still, when she is given a more central role, such as during the middle of "Kaminari", she has the presence to sustain the song even when every other instrument steps away from the table. I can't say that I love Shirushi, but it's a fairly unique and imaginative album, and the band members balance their various instruments and personalities well.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Sweet Trip - A Tiny House, In Secret Speeches, Polar Equals
[Dream Pop | Indietronica]


Sweet Trip is one of the most unique shoegaze bands out there, which might be a weird statement to make since I didn't even add "shoegaze" in the genre tags, but you can read "dream pop" as "shoegaze" most of the time anyway. Since the late 90s, the band has created a unique blend of electronic music and shoegaze, which has gone in dream pop, indietronica, IDM, ambient techno, glitch pop directions over the course of their career, as concise as it was. And I say concise because after the group's landmark 2003 release, Velocity : Design : Comfort, and the 2009 follow-up, You Will Never Know Why, there is a huge gap up until this album, so more than a decade in which the only output was a compilation of outtakes. Needless to say, A Tiny House, In Secret Speeches, Polar Equals was highly anticipated.

And I think a result of how anticipated and how long the release gap was, is that the band tried to make up for it by cramming the runtime with as much as they could. I mean, 70 minutes isn't that much, and it's not like some of their previous albums weren't bloated too, but over the course of the record it really feels like it could have benefited from some cutting. There is no material here that is really too underwhelming, but it gets a bit ineffective in larger doses. The first half of the record remains as the strongest one, and it shows that the band still has such a knack for ethereal vibes, noisy and glitchy detours, and lushly layered electronics. At its best it's surreal, and at it's worst it's just... there. But maybe that's also a result of how lowkey and mellow their music is, so even with all its creativity and detours, it never tries to compete for your attention.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Wolf Alice - Blue Weekend
[Alternative Rock | Dream Pop]


Blue Weekend is a good album that I really should like. Hell, I can say that about Wolf Alice as a whole. Based on their name I expected them to be more in the singer/songwriter or indie pop direction, and while there is some of that indeed, I was surprised by the dream pop and noisy alt rock tones that seemed to be even more prevalent in their music. Mostly on their previous records. My skim of them left me with a pretty good impression, but revisiting a couple of their videos left me with a pretty inoffensive taste. And listening to Blue Weekend that still pretty much feels like the main aftertaste. But then again Wolf Alice is far from the only band to make me feel this way, and at least there's a lot worthwhile in here and in their previous albums that I can see eventually clicking with me.

Most of what Blue Weekend does should be right up my alley. Perfectly trimmed runtime. Indie alt rock that clearly owes a lot to the 90s rather than a bunch of 00s indie. A healthy dose of noise and reverb here. But Blue Weekend is even more grandiose in presentation, especially in terms of its expansive strings usage and lush bombastic production. The album takes a lot of left turns in ideas and borrowed influences, so listening to the album never really felt boring, even if some of those left turns were a bit questionable. But that aftertaste lingered. An uncanny feeling that there isn't really much to click with. I'll be the last person to complain that a band with influences like theirs' is getting recognition, but Blue Weekend still doesn't leave me any closer to fully enjoying their music, even if it still keeps me curious to see if maybe they will do something in the future that will.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Rise Against - Nowhere Generation
[Punk Rock]


Album number nine from Rise Against holds absolutely no surprises to anyone familiar with the band's output since Appeal To Reason: you're going to get a quickfire burst of simple, melodic, passionately sung punk songs with vague allusions to progressive topics. That opening might sound quite dismissive, but I actually am (or at least used to be) something of a Rise Against fan. As much as the formula didn't push any boundaries, the likes of The Sufferer & The Witness, Appeal To Reason and Endgame were filled with fun, exciting and memorable tracks that have fuelled more than their fair share of workouts over the years. However, Endgame initiated a sequence of albums with increasingly diminishing returns; when the songs stop being memorable, all that's left is a stale formula. Can Nowhere Generation overcome this issue?

To be honest, not really. If you liked The Black Market and Wolves, I reckon you'll equally enjoy Nowhere Generation, but as someone who listens to that records and just wonders why I'm not spinning The Sufferer & The Witness again, there's just not enough in the way of songs that really connect, with song after song flying by in a blitz of fast drums, four-chord choruses and forgettable choruses, despite Tim McIlrath's naturally stirring singing voice. The last couple of albums each managed to bring one great track (the title track from Wolves ranks amongst the band's best for me), and Nowhere Generation isn't devoid of memorable moments. For me, the song that gets closest to capturing the feelings I get from Rise Against at their best is "Talking To Ourselves"; between the double-rush of the pre-chorus and chorus and the satisfying bridge, it delivers Appeal To Reason-level hooks amidst a sea of songs that would be left on the cutting room floor if recorded during the creation of that album. With the expected acoustic detour that is "Forfeit", Nowhere Generation is everything one would expect from a Rise Against album in 2021, for better or for worse (but more the latter).

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia




Danny Elfman - Big Mess
[Industrial Rock | Symphonic Rock]


In case it's not obvious from the cover art, the Big Mess referred to in the title is more of an internal one. Isolation and all that jazz has turned sane people insane, insane artists more insane, and hungry listeners quite overstuffed. Albums must have gotten generally longer recently. Danny Elfman is, however, versatile enough to have a good shot at making 70 minutes entertaining, and mostly succeeds.

Opener "Sorry" sees Danny Elfman shout out misanthropic lyrics over pounding industrial beats, noisy synths, and distorted choral arrangements bridge the song into a fast-paced, suicidally danceable jam. "Dance With The Lemurs" is a suggestion my profile picture can get behind, and caught my attention with its competent 80's era King Crimson beats and basslines.

Of course, this is the guy who composed all those Tim Burton scores, so there increasingly are touches of his trademark dark circus symphonics popping up as the album goes on, and cuts such as "Love In The Time Of Covid" make the latter half end up a carnivalesque, upbeat (but still heavy enough to pass for non-non-metal and deserve an invisible profile here, I'd say) contrast to the oppressive industry churn of the first half, but hardly overblown, and intense drumwork such as on "Kick Me" is surprisingly reminiscent of a certain Norwegian masterpiece called Blackjazz. Big Mess is bloated and all over the place, but I'll be cherry-picking roughly half of it for future listening. Not bad, just too much.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by Netzach





Gary Numan - Intruder
[Darkwave | Industrial]

musclassia's pick


With a discography that spans over 40 years, Gary Numan has nothing left to prove, but Intruder demonstrates he certainly has the appetite to keep making artistic statements. I'll confess right off the bat that my knowledge of Numan extends little further than his classic hits like "Cars", so I wasn't quite sure what to expect from him in 2021, but I certainly wasn't disappointed to here something that sounds as much like Dead Can Dance (or at least the Dead Can Dance I know) as "The Gift", with its Oriental strings hooks working nicely in tandem with Numan's vocals and the muted electronic backdrop of the track. "The Gift" follows another excellent song after "Betrayed" gets the record off to a flying start, Numan's sultry singing paired with a nicely atmospheric track.

Intruder is an environmentalist concept album, with the title referring to humanity from Earth's perspective; this concept comes through quite clearly in song titles such as "Betrayed", "I Am Screaming" and "Is This World Not Enough". Behind the concept, Numan exhibits an effortless awareness of how to write effective darkwave-based music acquired from across an extensive career, whether it's the frenetic industrial/dubstep combination on "The Chosen", the indus-pop of the title track, or the eerie piano ballad-cum-Depeche Mode-esque "A Black Sun". Intruder is an album that sounds like it came from a musician that made their name in the 80s, but it also feels modern at the same time, at a time when so many musicians are jumping headfirst into 80s nostalgia.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Garbage - No Gods No Masters
[Alternative Rock | Industrial Rock]


Garbage is one of these bands that had their big break during the mid- to late '90s right when the grunge delirium was losing steam before it perished for good. They have had the same line-up all these years, featuring the very gifted Scottish singer and musician, Shirley Manson, and the producer of many records that are today considered iconic (Nevermind, Siamese Dream, Experimental Jet Set, Trash And No Star) in the alternative rock music industry, Butch Vig. I remember playing their two first albums to death and used to have an enormous crush on Shirley but hadn't listened to anything by the band since 2001's Beautiful Garbage.

The first thing noticeable about No Gods No Masters is that it is deeply political and 'woke'. From its title and artwork to its lyrics, the album deals with inequality, capitalism, climate change, gender and racial discrimination, as well as some personal demons. Musically, I was happy to hear that the band is still maintaining their industrial pop / post-grunge / alternative rock sound that I remember them by, and they manage to still give this sound a relatively fresh feel. Post-punk, darkwave, and trip hop also appear here and the album goes by fairly quickly due to its versatile character. If you get the deluxe version, you will find some rare Garbage material, including cover versions of "Starman" and "Because The Night". The band has collaborated with Chilean artist Javi MiAmor for the videos ("The Men Who Rule The World", "Wolves", "The Creeps") and aesthetics of the new album, and the result is very... artsy. Having not heard a single thing by Garbage in almost 20 years, I have to say that No Gods No Masters was a pleasant surprise.

Apple Music | Spotify

by nikarg






IOSONOUNCANE - IRA
[Neo-Psychedelia | Post-Industrial]

RaduP's pick


Well, not only did I not get to listen to IOSONOUNCANE two other albums, but I've also only gotten to give this thing one entire listen before writing this, so excuse me if I lack some context and depth. Part of that is that I crammed all my writing too close to the deadline (sorry), but also because IRA is a massive two-hour long beast that feels massive not only in its runtime, but also in its scope, presentation and ambition. It's one of those rare cases where it kinda justifies its runtime through it's sheer variety and ambition. There is a lot that the album's sounds have in common, but there's always a sense that you don't know for sure what it going to come next, and that it's mood will stay in darker territories, but within those darker territories you'd get more soulful or colder or anxious moods. It's surreal, but it never feels out of grasp or out of touch with its humanity.

For the most part this is an electronic album, where the electronica is mostly pretty progressive, while also having a keen sense of ambient within it. The ambient does go from space ambient to dark ambient to ritual ambient, but the focus is always on maintaining that surreal sense of post-industrial dread. The electronics build upon some rock instrumentation, mostly of the neo-psychedelic and post-rock variety, complete with some Italian vocals that almost borders on neofolk balladry at times. There's a shitload that goes in the soundscape, with a pretty big cast of musicians backing, but it is the production and the mixing that offers IRA a big advantage in how claustrophobic and hypnotic it sounds like. From the mellotron sounds to the repetitive drumming, everything works in tandem to create a unique and borderline terrifying listen. I mean, just look at that cover art. You just know that this is music to make you uneasy.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Dean Blunt - Black Metal 2
[Art Pop | Minimal Wave]


I don't think I should have to tell you that this is not a black metal record. Even though putting a genre tag on this is quite the task, none of the genres involved come close to black metal. With that out of the way, I still don't really get Dean Blunt. This is an artist that has been doing weird pop for more than a decade, including work under the hip-hop pseudonym Babyface and in the Hype Williams group. And when I say "weird pop", I mean that there is a strong uncanny otherworldly sense to it all. There's a deadpan delivery over cold and mysterious instrumentation, and none of it really sounds very humane. This album is sort of a sequel of Dean Blunt's previous album, 2014's Black Metal, which this one traces both its title and its sound concept from.

The biggest difference is that Black Metal 2 is barely over 20 minutes in length, and most songs feel like rough ideas rather than fully completed songs. So in turn, there is a very incomplete feeling to this, also in regards to how abruptly the narratives in each song end. But for as long as it is there, Black Metal two is clearly a forward-thinking work whose uniqueness cannot be understated. It's just that, since I last encountered Blunt's music and couldn't get into it at all, a lot of time has passed and I listened to a lot more experimental music, so I hoped that I would have a better mindset to appreciate it. But I'm still only halfway. I can appreciate the uniqueness and the beauty of the instrumentation, but there is something in Blunt's deadpan delivery that just keeps it a hundred miles away.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Spellling - The Turning Wheel
[Art Pop | Baroque Pop]

RaduP's pick


A YouTube comment mentions: "She sings in cursive, italics, bold, and comic sans at the same time." You know, I too, like Kate Bush, so obviously I am going to jump on the bandwagon when something comes even close.

And no, it's not because some other reviewer gave it a rare 10/10, nor due to the irony of misspelling the word "spelling". It is because it is so rare to come across music, let alone art pop, that is both incredibly ambitious and also lives up to that ambition. I mentioned Kate Bush as a reference, but even stuff like Stevie Wonder or Björk or Joanna Newsom or Love in that very expressive and artful, and in this case almost theatrical, could be good reference points for how magical The Turning Wheel sounds. And Chrystia Cabral goes from the more minimal synthy sound of the previous two albums to something expanded by a cast of over 30 musicians into something so much larger than life.

That's the ambitious part. The album is divided in two sides, the "above" one, which is a lot more upbeat and theatrical, whereas the "below" one is more gothic and synth-heavy. All of it divided by the centerpiece that is the 7-minutes long "Boys At School", arguably one of the best songs of the year. I find each of the sides appealing, even if I have a slight preference for the latter, however the album's creativity in songwriting is only rivalled by how well produced it is, and these two in tandem create a lush soundscape where every sound feels justified and effective. And with such a mystical vibe, it's no wonder that The Turning Wheel is just so mesmerizing.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





City Of The Lost - Wasteland Guide
[Post-Rock]


"The mystery is that there is no mystery" - so claim City Of The Lost on the Bandcamp page for their latest release, Wasteland Guide. And they're correct: there is no real mystery here for the most part, at least sonically. This is an instrumental post-rock album, one that flirts with metallic intensity in moments, but is mostly grounded in lighter territory. The mystery with albums such as these is always how you go about making instrumental post-rock that's noteworthy amidst so many other instrumental post-rock albums out there. With Wasteland Guide, City Of The Lost mostly go for the 'let's just make it really good' approach, but there are a few curiosities to be found along the way.

"Across The Plain Before Daylight" is a very conventional opener: lengthy, with ambient soundscapes, delicate guitar and tremolos, and gradual progression to a more voluminous ending. "Rescue" is very much in the same vein; less protracted but similarly conventional is the more up-tempo and math-y "Leave Me Here, You Must Save The Magic Crystal", overlaid with bright synths. In terms of pushing towards a more metal sound, there's quite a lot of heft to "Event Horizon", whilst the muscular riffing on "Latent Threat" goes in even more of an alt-metal direction. There's generally a progginess to the writing on some of the shorter tracks later on that's not a million miles away from stuff you might hear on a lighter djent record, minus the actual djent tones. As far as surprises go, the saxophone cameos on "Event Horizon" offer a different dimension, whilst the funkiness of closing track "Lizard Session" adds an interesting flavour. The main strength of the record, however, is that City Of The Lost just write pleasant and moving proggy post-rock tracks, with the varied drumwork of Evgeniy Voit particularly elevating Wasteland Guide over many of the group's peers.


Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Sylvan - One To Zero
[Progressive Rock]


With over 20 years of experience making neo-prog rock, Germans Sylvan have had plenty of time to hone their craft, and by album number 10, One To Zero, new listeners such as myself are introduced to a band clearly with a strong grasp on what music they want to be making. An AI-themed concept album, One To Zero opens with "Bit By Bit", which deftly meshes together the concept-driven breaks and moody sections with the core neo-prog elements, including elaborate keyboard melodies, slick percussion and meaty, angular riffs. It's not a song that's going to leave you with your jaw resting on the floor, but it's a confident start to assure prog-loving newcomers that there's plenty more solid neo-prog coming right up, and that ends up being the case.

After the classic neo-prog hard rock approach on the opening song, there's an immediate shift on the softer "Encoded At Heart", where piano sets the tone and frontman Marco Glühmann is afforded the opportunity to show off his impressive vocal ability, with his smooth mid-ranged voice giving momentum to the slowly evolving track. The album leans more towards the softer end of the neo-prog spectrum; Sylvan throw out some heavy riffs every now and then to inject a bit of energy, but there's more time dedicated to soft, synth-heavy tracks such as "On My Odyssey", which is also one of several songs to feature strings, strings that are well incorporated into the album. In fact, the harder rock on "Bit By Bit" almost feels misleading as listeners traverse piano, strings, acoustic guitars and electronic beats ("Go Viral"), but that song brings a bit of volume after its unusual beginning. The strongest song here is perhaps the closer, with "Not A Goodbye" offering some stirring vocals and solos during its 10 minutes of runtime. This isn't the most revelatory modern prog rock record I've encountered in the couple of years I've written for these articles, but it's enjoyable easy listening with solid vocals and a good amount of heart.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Frost* - Day And Age
[Progressive Rock]


Frost* seem to have had a somewhat tumultuous start as a band, managing to go on hiatus twice within their first 5 years since forming. However, the project has found some stability since re-reforming in 2011. That stability may have been threatened by drummer Craig Blundell departing in 2019, but instead of finding a permanent replacement, the group have carried on as a trio and recruited 3 (!) guest drummers to fill in on Day And Age. They've recruited some very able replacements, as the percussion on this album is very good, helping bring life to these stadium rock-influenced neo-prog tracks. The title track does a great job of balancing progressive writing with a dad rock radio-friendly chorus and immediacy in its hooks.

Interestingly for a prog album, there is nothing really here in the way of solos; as a newcomer to the band, I've only since discovered when reading online that this is new for the band, and was in fact a challenge set by the band for themselves. Instead, the extended instrumental sections such as on the 12-minute opening title track rely on captivating progressive writing, which Frost* demonstrate an adeptness for. It's not that there's no technicality on Day And Age; frontman/keyboardist Jem Godfrey and guitarist John Mitchell manage to impress on subtly complex songs such as "Terrestrial" and "The Boy Who Stood Still". Still, this is an album where progressiveness is a means to an end, an end of elaborate but still reliably catchy music, and the upbeat compositions found on Day And Age straddle that divide very competently. The album perhaps peaks at the beginning with the title track, but there's good tunes to be found throughout Day And Age.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





E-an-na - Fascinathanatango
[Tango Nuevo | Folk | Jazz]


The cover of this EP may depict a burning church, but E-an-na insist that Fascinathanatango has nothing to do with black metal - and they're quite right. It has almost nought to do with metal at all, in fact. For this Romanian ensemble, the next step after releasing a multifaceted and overtly contemporary-sounding folk metal debut album was to take a sinister cartwheel into another realm entirely: tango. It's possible, even probable, that ballroom blasters like Diablo Swing Orchestra and Unexpect have already conquered tango, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a better-defined example of tango fusion in the metal sphere than Fascinathanatango, even if it isn't actually that much of a metal record itself; although metal elements do sneak through there and there, sudden bursts of volume and electricity that erupt with a surprisingly mathy stagger, they certainly aren't a defining aspect of the EP.

In fact, it's kind of difficult to discern what is the defining aspect of the EP; even with a theme spelled out for us, the textures and tempos are so eclectic, a pastiche of manic jazz, mystical folk, frantic music hall curiosities, and avant-garde soundscapes, that you'd probably have a difficult time dancing to it. Fascinathanatango is 47 minutes long, which is a bloody lifetime of an EP, and there are variations upon variations crammed into these 12 tracks, which starts to sound more and more like a Mike Patton project as it goes on thanks to its austere, ambitious, and utterly crazed personality. Swanky brass, ghostly flutes, creaky accordions, swaying strings, stilted piano, groovy bass, and other instruments constantly crash into each other and come out the other side somehow in a perfectly disjointed harmony, each seemingly unplanned meeting of complex rhythms and time signatures yielding a new and absorbing sound. The deranged piano on "Microtango" is redolent of X Japan's Art Of Life as it fights back against the strings and accordion for dominance of the song's runaway rhythms; "Nimic", a rare vocal track, grows from a kabuki-style performance into a horrifying madness; the ten-minute "Necrotango" builds a strange and creeping ambiance right in the midst of all this activity. There are all kinds of unorthodox sounds ranging from the ultra rustic to the ultramodern, with something stylishly bizarre waiting behind every turn. It's probably haunted, too.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by SSUS





Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee
[Indie Pop | Chamber Pop]

RaduP's pick


I listen to my fair share of indie stuff. And judging by the cover art, since this was my first Japanese Breakfast album, I expected a pretty mellow and melancholic indie record. I got that partly, but I also didn't expect it to be this jolly and playful. And also to do this much on the instrumental front. Going through her back catalog, there was a bit more of a slacker rock / shoegaze influence that is downturned here to be replaced by quite a wide array of synthy melodies. From synthpop to dream pop to chamber pop.

There's obviously a lot of weight to the sharp lyricism, but I found that Japanese Breakfast's voice was even more evocative on its own compared to a lot of other singer/songwriters, and the sweet vocals worked perfectly in tandem with the lush instrumentation. Though synths have a pretty large presence here, strings are utilized about as much to create that chamber feel. The lyrics themselves aren't always as sweet as the album sounds (see "In Hell"), but the vibe of the album is still so sweet and, at its most negative, just melancholic, that I can expect this to remain comfort music for me for a long time.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Lucy Dacus - Home Video
[Singer/Songwriter | Indie Pop]


Lucy Dacus was the last of the three Boygenius girls to release an album afterwards. Phoebe Bridger's Punished was basically the biggest singer/songwriter album of that year. Julien Baker's Little Oblivions was a pretty cute record that didn't really play to its strengths. And now Lucy Dacus comes late to the party to kind of land between the two. It's not going to be a grandiose crossover success, but it knows its strengths and it plays to them pretty well. Oh, and there's a Slayer reference in there somewhere, which is obviously the most important quality of this album.

So, like with most singer/songwriter albums, the biggest emphasis is placed on the lyricism, which is also Lucy's biggest strength. Here she portrays each song as a sort of short-movie, at least that's the impression I get from it, given how it's sprinkled with characters and dialogue within scenes that I can only assume have been pretty formative in Dacus' youth, with the Christian upbringing and all. The fantastic lyricism makes up from the slightly monotone feel of the vocals, but there is still enough variety in the vocal approach and the melodies too, with some songs being more on the stripped-back side, with others having a bit more of a punchy indie instrumentation. I can't say I've given this enough listens, but it feels like at least one of the songs here will enter my regular listening.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Portico Quartet - Terrain
[Nu Jazz | Ambient]


Portico Quartet's Memory Streams has been one of my most enjoyable jazz discoveries through this series; the Brits' soothing, slightly melancholic approach and enjoyable use of the hang worked really nicely on that album. Terrain is a bit of a musical departure in comparison; a 40-minute three-part suite inspired by American minimalism and ambient music, this is quite a protracted record. However, the hang makes its presence felt very early on, oscillating around your speakers from the first seconds of opener "Terrain: I". This presence is felt for quite a while; the hang continues to loop around as the song gradually develops, the percussion slowly building and the background ambience taking shape before other instruments, such as the saxophone, enter the fray.

It's a combination I've not especially heard before, placing jazz within an ambient/post-rock framework, but it works nicely. The track ebbs and flows, different features moving in and out of the picture as the drums maintain forward momentum with hectic cymbal work. "Terrain: II", much shorter than the opening movement, is a bit less spacious, instead seeing percussion, piano and saxophone more actively interact with one another. "Terrain: III" sees the greatest percussive range, from restrained beats, to little tom fills, to full-on workout. This movement also features plenty of whimsical high-pitched chimes, adding a dreaminess to the album's sound. The whole album is fairly relaxed in terms of framework, with a looseness to each instrument's contribution; however, it all works out nicely, showing that jazz can work nicely as a building block of an ambient-oriented record.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Ghost Lode - Terrestrial Bodies
[Ambient | Drone]


"A meditation on how our physiology encounters an increasingly hostile environment."

This is how Terrestrial Bodies is prefaced, along with a quote from Psalms 103 about the temporary lifespan of man. Ghost Lode is the ambient side-project of Rosetta's Matt Weed. Anyone familiar with the band knows that there is a huge ambient side to the usual post-metal of the band, from purely ambient releases, to their first album's second disc being ambient, it's just ingrained. I'm not sure if Matt is the only member in Rosetta that handles the ambient side, and I assume not, but it's clear from Ghost Lode's music that he is quintessential.

Though a lot of usual ambient tropes are at play here, from the field recordings to the washing synths, I find that Terrestrial Bodies is pretty guitar-driven at times, especially in the first track, and even in points where the guitar is absent, there is either a piano or something else going on. And you can tell from the runtime itself, with not even 30 minutes of material in a genre that usually invites colossal runtimes, that there is a higher sense of immediacy to this record. Which makes sense, considering the highly immediate subject matter. "A life without despair is a life without hope."

Bandcamp

by RaduP





Skee Mask - Pool
[Breakbeat | IDM]


I am using the "breakbeat" and "IDM" tags for Pool, but that might not be doing it that much justice. Skee Mask is still a relatively young artist, with this one being just the third full length under his name (though there are quite a few EPs, and a bunch of others under the SCNTST alias). During the course of his career, he played around with ambient techno and breakbeat mostly, and both of those are big parts of Pool as well, but this time around the IDM has gotten a really big bite of the sound palette. However using just those two tags undermines both how diverse and ambiental the record is.

There are ambiental sides to a lot of electronic genres, from techno, dub, drum & bass, and each of them is represented in some way on Pool. This is a pretty massive record at over 100 minutes of runtime. Though there is worthwhile material in that large runtime, there is a bit of inconsistency, a bit in terms of quality, but mostly in terms of how each song just seems to mostly be doing its own thing. This makes Pool diverse, and there aren't really any transitions I'd find jarring, but the feeling persists. But as far as the sounds covered go, they do make Pool a big mysterious bag of repetitive noises that border on both ambiance and immediacy.

Bandcamp

by RaduP




Neupink - Seaweed Jesus
[Digital Hardcore | Electro-Industrial]


Aaargh, my brains! Aaargh, my ears! Okay, I'll elaborate...

Seaweed Jesus sounds like a brain on drugs. A brain on a week-long spree of an awful lot of each of a great variety of drugs, none of them having been around for long enough to be criminalised yet. Kind of cured my hangover, though, while giving me a new one. Their Bandcamp profile lists "colorfuck" and "frogs" among the tags, and judging from the psychotic ear-rape on display here, I'll stay clear of any dark alleys containing frogs doing whatever, thank you. I'll just eavesdrop from under a street light.

The music is a total blast, as should be evident from the former paragraph. Seaweed Jesus is a clamorous cavalcade of tinnitus-inducing hardcore techno that in its few and far between more or less saner moments comes off as Angerfist... on drugs (naturally). Grounded in oversaturated gabber-style trademark kicks and driven by what often amounts to sheer, screeching noise that likely has cut off a few kHz of my upper hearing spectrum by now, the wild chaos pretty quickly started screaming "prog" to me, pretty melodies were sifted through the violence, and my brains and ears contentedly started screaming "aaargh" in unison. The short "Necrokalashnikov Eyes" sounds exactly like the title implies, and the 10-minute closer "Blissfrog Heart Locket" throws in symphonics, Locrian-style shrieks, and acoustic guitars to corrupt a Manchester prog rock concert into a Rotterdam rave gone horribly wrong in just the right way.

A fitting soundtrack to buying cocaine, noticing something looks off with it, and then coming back for more. I used to listen to hardcore, then I took a frog to the knee. I think I'll start again.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by Netzach





Doja Cat - Planet Her
[Pop Rap | Contemporary R&B]


My life got endlessly better once I accepted that most pop music is about sex, with some space for drugs and money. And that's alright. I like all those three things (well maybe the drugs the least). Doja Cat is probably the artist in this feature I expect to make the least impact among our readers despite being the most accessible, at least in the mainstream. And that's also alright. There isn't much in terms of depth to be found here. This is mostly music about sex, and if that's not appealing, well what can you do about it? I couldn't have imagined liking something like this half a decade ago. I warmed up to pop music in moderation, but this R&B / pop rap sound is one of the sounds that I warmed up to the latest. Back when I first found out about Doja Cat, it was mostly through gifs from her "Mooo!" video. Next thing I know I listen to "Say So" and "Streets" on the regular. Maybe I appreciate her sung vocals more than her rapped ones, but... have you seen the metal version?

Planet Her is far from being an album you listen on the regular. It's thankfully not as loaded as I've seen some stream-hungry bloated projects I've seen in the hip-hop/pop/R&B sphere, with only 44 minutes of runtime, and barely under an hour in the deluxe version. But what I mean is that there are songs here I expect to listen to regularly from now on "Kiss Me More", "You Right", "Woman", and so on, while promptly forgetting the rest of the album. None of it is bad, I mean, bad by pop standards, but it feels like there are still moments that don't really work as well as they should. But, even for music perfectly tailored for catchiness, I was surprised that even on my second listen I could already follow along and feel familiarity with each song. I can name metal albums I listened to more than five times and I still have no idea what they sound like. Is it too much to ask to find a middle ground?

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Tyler, the Creator - Call Me If You Get Lost
[West Coast Hip Hop]


I used to not like rap music back when I was a teenager. Whatever stereotype you could add to the "rap sceptic", I was probably a bit of that. That did dwindle more or less and I eased up on it, but one of the watershed moments of it was stumbling upon the "Yonkers" video on YouTube. At that point Tyler already had a bunch of albums under his belt, but my listening mostly focused on Bastard and Goblin, like the edgy teenager that I was. When Flower Boy and Igor dropped, I was already a different person, both in my hip-hop tastes, and in how music appealed to me, but I was also no longer in the mindspace where I was that eager to be impressed by music. I could clearly tell that both of those were mature, layered, and overall much better albums. Call Me If You Get Lost is a bit of a middle ground.

It's been more than 10 years since the start of the Odd Future days, and Tyler is already in his 30s. It's no wonder that his material has been evolving. But Call Me If You Get Lost is the first time were it feels like this is the same person that also did Bastards and Goblin. I mean, the older version, one that has grappled with their demons more effectively and has matured a lot. But the throwback is more obvious than in anything I've heard from him since. Though there are a lot of soulful and overall varied moments that clearly still ride the Igor wave, there's a lot of older style bangers, a lot of it helped by the hyping provided by DJ Drama, as well as guest spots from Lil Wayne, Pharell, Ty Dolla Sign and even co-Odd Future-member Domo Genesis to really hammer the throwback. Complete with a Baudelaire concept, a lush but grimy production, lyricism that slightly borders on Tyler at his most braggadocios, Call Me If You Get Lost feels like the type of album to remind you that your teenage days are far behind, but maybe you can relieve some of it.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Backxwash - I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses
[Hip-Hop | Horrorcore]

musclassia's pick


Hip-hop for the most part isn't a genre I have much interest in; therefore, when I do stumble across something within the genre that I really jive with, it's arguably more exciting than discoveries in most other genres. Backxwash's album from last year, God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It, caught me hook, line and sinker; the Black Sabbath sample that opened the album and the very aggressive, noisy brand of hip-hop that was subsequently unleashed probably played a large role in that, as both that and this album are similar to the likes of Death Grips and Ho99o9 in taking rap music in a very dark, abrasive direction that seems primed to appeal to fans of metal and similarly heavy music. Just over a year later, I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses is scratching the exact same itch as its predecessor.

The songs here have the same industrial, noisy production as those on the last album, and this production produces a dark, menacing atmosphere above which Backxwash and her various guests can let loose. Most of these vocal contributions are of a rapping variety, whether it's Backxwash's powerful, in-your-face rant-style verses or Censored Dialogue's slicker parts on "Terror Packets"; however, Ada Rook (ex-Black Dresses) takes the album even closer to what metal audiences may be accustomed to on the title track with some bilious screams. The album as a whole is pretty great; it's filled with hypeworthy beats, intimidating backdrops and emphatic flows from Backxwash. However, in terms of favourite tracks, I would pick the aforementioned title track, the eerie "Songs Of Sinners" (elevated by Sad13's subtle guest singing), and the forceful closer "Burn To Ashes".

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia




And that was it. You've made it through still alive. Congrats. See ya next month. Here's a Spotify playlist we compiled out of stuff featured here:







Comments page 2 / 2

Comments: 35   Visited by: 116 users
21.07.2021 - 13:31
corrupt
With a lowercase c
Written by Karlabos on 19.07.2021 at 17:48
Nooo! The curse of spotify has reached MS

What's the problem in your view? That it's Spotify and not another service or that we compile playlists to go along with recommendation articles like these?
We've seen it as a feature that people can use if they want but we're certainly not going to stamp every article with a playlist from now on. Unfortunately there's not a lot besides big paid platforms that we can use, but if you have other ideas, we're certainly open to input
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21.07.2021 - 16:06
Karlabos
Meat and Potatos
Written by corrupt on 21.07.2021 at 13:31

Written by Karlabos on 19.07.2021 at 17:48
Nooo! The curse of spotify has reached MS

What's the problem in your view? That it's Spotify and not another service or that we compile playlists to go along with recommendation articles like these?
We've seen it as a feature that people can use if they want but we're certainly not going to stamp every article with a playlist from now on. Unfortunately there's not a lot besides big paid platforms that we can use, but if you have other ideas, we're certainly open to input

Nah, just a tongue in cheek comment.
I don't really like spotify. It's a very bad platform for someone who doesn't have a paid account.
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Rose is red, violet is blue. Flag is win, Baba is you.
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21.07.2021 - 16:26
corrupt
With a lowercase c
Written by Karlabos on 21.07.2021 at 16:06
Nah, just a tongue in cheek comment.
I don't really like spotify. It's a very bad platform for someone who doesn't have a paid account.

I agree. It's also less than ideal for musicians. So is any other major streaming platform. We figured we'd use Spotify as they have the largest market share, so we'll likely reach most of our user base. But we will continue to use Bandcamp wherever possible to support bands more directly. For now we'll experiment with curated playlists for certain articles and see how well they are received.
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21.07.2021 - 17:01
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Yeah, right now there are no plans to use these for anything other than this article series.

I have a premium account and I still hold a lot of ill about Spotify, both as an app and as a revenue source for musicians. I just can't really think of a better alternative.
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Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?


2021 goodies
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24.07.2021 - 00:56
Netzach
Planewalker
Written by RaduP on 21.07.2021 at 17:01

Yeah, right now there are no plans to use these for anything other than this article series.

I have a premium account and I still hold a lot of ill about Spotify, both as an app and as a revenue source for musicians. I just can't really think of a better alternative.

Straight from the clipboard: YouTube Music > Spotify
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