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


Written by: RaduP, musclassia, nikarg, Netzach, Starvynth
Published: 14.11.2021


Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - September 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:

September 2021
August 2021
July 2021

And now to the music...






The Dear Hunter - The Indigo Child
[Indie Rock | Progressive Rock]


Pretty much whenever I cover an indie/indie-adjacent record for this article, I find a way to mention The Dear Hunter, so it would be amiss of me to not cover them when they release something themselves. Now, those familiar with the band will know that their most notable work thus far is the series of albums telling a supposedly six-part saga about The Boy (or The Dear Hunter), which has been indefinitely stuck on Act V since 2016. Those continuing to wish for an Act VI will be disappointed that the band seem to instead be opting to begin a new saga, starting with The Indigo Child. At thirty minutes, this is a prologue or a teaser of what is to come; however, what we do have here indicates another change in musical direction for a band that has journeyed from post-hardcore through prog rock to indie.

In this case, the early synths and robotic vocals on the title track hark back to the electronics of the Indigo EP from The Color Spectrum. Outside of this, “The Indigo Child” has more in common musically with some of the later Act records than the project’s other more recent music, with some psych rock-based guitar work to be heard and Casey Crescenzo’s vocals delivering melodies that take some very familiar directions. I’ve had a mixed relationship with most of The Dear Hunter’s music since the sensational Act IV: Rebirth And Reprise, but I’ve really enjoyed the title track of The Indigo Child, and the reprise that follows it on the track list (featuring Tivoli as a guest vocalist) has simultaneously both a dreaminess and lingering heaviness to it that pleasantly surprised me. Unfortunately, the rest of the album turns out to be a soundtrack for an accompanying short film seemingly intended to introduce the concept of the upcoming saga; retro sci-fi synths are fine by me, and there’s some interesting development across the rest of the tracks, but The Indigo Child makes me far more eager for more material in line with the title track than more soundtrack work from The Dear Hunter.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - Illusory Walls
[Emo | Post-Hardcore]

musclassia's pick


There’s something about a name like The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die that makes you brace for the worst, particularly when you see it tagged as both indie and post-rock, and particularly with some of the song titles found on the record. Mercifully, Illusory Walls was a far more enjoyable experience than I feared; yes, there is an indie basis to the album, and yes there’s aspects of post-rock to be found here, but there’s also Midwest emo and post-hardcore in the mix, and when it comes together, you get something that finds a sweet spot in terms of heaviness, delicacy and atmosphere.

Now, all those different styles can be heard here, but not necessarily all at once. Earlier on in the album, you shift between indie/post-rock (“Afraid To Die”), heavier, mathier material (“Invading The World Of The Guilty As A Spirit Of Vengeance”, with some emphatic lead guitar and drum work), and emo (“Trouble”). The two songs that really stand out to me are “Died In The Prison Of The Holy Office”, which merges some nice post-rock tremolo and loud/soft shifts with post-hardcore/emo angst (plus some nice dramatic synths), and “Your Brain Is A Rubbermaid”, a heavy and serious track with quite an intense guitar tone. All this range is supported by the dual-vocal approach of David Bello and Katie Dvorak, as well as the instrumental versatility of the band. That ‘earlier on in the album’ covers 9 of the album’s 11 songs; however, the two tracks that follow “Trouble” run for half the album’s total length. The colossal runtimes of “Infinite Josh” and “Fewer Afraid” really allow the band to flex their muscles, with the first one building from a twee indie beginning to a big post-rock conclusion, while the latter spreads its wings to a few different places. They make for a staggering ending to an already impressive album, and one that I’m glad I put initial preconceptions aside to sink my teeth into.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Seims - Four
[Math Rock | Post-Rock]


Once purely a solo project for multi-instrumentalist Simeon Bartholomew, Seims has grown and expanded, bringing in Chris Allison on drums and a range of other guests to play strings and brass instruments. These various instruments add a dramatic dimension to the exciting mix of math rock and post-rock on Four; the string arrangements on “The Pursuit Of Intermediate Happiness” and “Showdown Without A Victim” hugely expand the sound of these songs, adding a cinematic grandeur to their emotional peaks.

Beneath these strings and layers of synths, Allison and Bartholomew deliver a varied and technically impressive blend of math-y post rock. The dynamic shifts on certain songs can be quite stark; “Shouting At A Brick Wall” is very quiet for the longest time, then a garage rock riff sends the song into a flurry of noise and energy. Perhaps the most notable tracks here are the synth-heavy and ominous “Stranded. Isolated.”, with Allison giving the kit a proper workout whilst building tension beneath the various synth layers, and “Elegance Over Confidence”, which features some thrilling violin arrangements that would lend the song perfectly to being the soundtrack of a climactic film scene.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





The Mask Of The Phantasm - New Axial Age
[Progressive Rock | Alternative Rock]

musclassia's pick


It feels like most progressive rock that I cover for this series is, to at least some degree, a retro-callback to the classic era of prog rock. Not so The Mask Of The Phantasm: this is prog in the 2020s, and doesn’t it sound wonderful. It’s prog rock thrown together with bits of post-hardcore, math rock and alt rock, all of which is packaged together into compact, inventive and exciting songs. New Axial Age is the debut from this Texan five-piece, of whom the most notable member is arguably Thomas Pridgen, familiar to many for his work with The Mars Volta on The Bedlam In Goliath and Octahedron (horns player Adrián Terrazas-González also featured on the former of these albums), and the drumwork is unsurprisingly outstanding on this record, with plenty of exciting fills and complex rhythms. However, the excellent guitar work of bandleader Omar Ghaznavi and moving vocals of Alexa Rae also deserve recognition.

Rae’s mixture of soul and force mixes nicely well with the subtly elaborate compositions on New Axial Age, imbuing even the more sedate verses (although Pridgen ensures that nothing ever feels too relaxed) with plenty of passion. The tracks that go closer to alt-rock (the slight post-punk vibes on “Exit Wounds”, the shoegaze hints in “Caught In A Trap”) and post-hardcore (“How To Make It Through Act III”) offer plenty to enjoy, but my favourite cuts here include those that feel slightly more distinctive, whether it’s the brooding “Escape From Wide Island” or subtle disco vibes on “Dreams Dying On A Dance Floor”, both of which feature some exhilarating guitar work from Ghaznavi. Based off of their first outing The Mask Of The Phantasm are hopefully going to be a significant player in modern progressive music.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Feeling Of Presence - Of Lost Illusion
[Progressive Rock | Post-Rock]


Feeling Of Presence is a new solo side-project of Frequency Drift keyboardist Andreas Hack, although he has recruited electroharpist Nerissa Schwarz and ex-drummer Wolfgang Ostermann from his main band to assist in this endeavour. I’m not familiar with Frequency Drift, but a quick glimpse of a couple of their songs suggests that this new project is less interested in peculiar progginess and more in melancholic atmosphere, as there’s no vocals and a clear post-rock presence to be found on Of Lost Illusion. Now, this places Feeling Of Presence in a far more congested musical scene, but Hack shows a knack for effectively writing stirring cinematic-style proggy post-rock on his first full-length.

The album is perhaps frontloaded with its more impactful tracks, with opener “A Weird Form Of Darkness” possessing a stirring sense of grandeur in its more epic moments, as well as showing the more soundtrack-oriented aspects of Hack’s writing. The e-harp is also an intriguing element that does help to distinguish Feeling Of Presence a bit from artists in a similar vein such as Nordic Giants, and Ostermann does a fine job of evaluating how best to implement percussion to match the tone and progression of each stretch of music. “Room Number 105” isn’t quite as majestic as the album’s opener, reminding me a bit more of some of Lethe’s output in its use of keyboards, but it has some nice climactic post-rock moments. Of Lost Illusion is a moving and dynamic record, even approaching metal intensity in rare moments, such as partway through the title track.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Ske - Insolubilia
[Progressive Rock]


Ske is the ‘solo’ project (quotation marks added by the musician) of Italian keyboardist Paolo Botta, who has been involved with various projects. The ‘solo’ is because there’s an extensive credits list of other musicians on Insolubilia’s Bandcamp page, with many members from Botta’s other projects Yugen and Not A Good Sign lending a hand, as well as a couple of members of Ciccada, whose Harvest I enjoyed earlier this year. This myriad of musicians comes together to bring Botta’s exuberant progressive rock vision to life, with opening song “Sudo” making it clear from the off that this will be an instrumental tour de force; between drumming reminiscent of some of Martin Axenrot’s work on modern Opeth albums, convoluted and technical guitar and keyboard arrangements, and regular stop-start shifts within the song, there’s a whole lot of music to get stuck into within the sub-4-minute runtime of “Sudo”.

Insolubilia is not a ‘quiet’ prog rock album; both the complexity and the instrumental energy are regularly pushed hard, primarily courtesy of Botta’s brash keyboard sounds. There’s times in “Insolubilia I” where the sci-fi-style synth feels overwhelming, which does make you appreciate the moments later on when it does opt for a milder acoustic approach. Still, while it’s a musicianship-minded record, it’s not just an exercise in technicality; there’s a fun atmosphere to Insolubilia, as well as sufficient diversity across the album. The mellow flutes and ethereal vocals that open “Insolubilia II” serve as a nice introduction and contrast to the elaborate rock that follows. The album could perhaps benefit at times from a more natural flow between sections, but the actual contents of each section are for the most part very pleasant.

Bandcamp

by musclassia





Yes - The Quest
[Progressive Rock]


At what point is a band no longer the same band? If it’s the point where the band no longer has any of the members it started with, then calling The Quest a Yes album might be a stretch, as it is the first record from the band not to feature any of the band’s original line-up, following the death of the iconic Chris Squire in 2015. However, the band does still feature the same guitarist as performed on the classic records Fragile and Close To The Edge (Steve Howe) and the same drummer as featured on Tales From Topographic Oceans (Alan White), so maybe the moniker of the prog legends is still earned. Certainly, the performances of both members, along with the rest of the band, have all the class that one would hope for in a prog rock album from Yes.

The Quest, the band’s first full-length album since 2014, opens strongly with “The Ice Bridge”, with some captivating guitar solos, keyboard work and vocal melodies (courtesy of Jon Davison) to ensure listeners are immediately paying attention. Although prog in every way, “The Ice Bridge” is quite single-minded in its driving rock approach; in contrast, “Dare To Know” has some of the folky weirdness one would expect from a classic prog rock band. After this point, there’s some moments of waffly proggy meandering, and “Future Memories” isn’t the most exciting ballad ever, but the performances remain impressive, and there are additional highlights to be heard in the form of the “Leave Well Alone” and “The Western Edge”. The record is rather peculiarly packaged as a double-disc record with only 13 minutes on the second disc; apparently the label InsideOut wanted Yes to make an album under 50 minutes, but then suggested throwing some additional tracks from the recording sessions onto a second disc.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





The Stranglers - Dark Matters
[Art Rock]


The Stranglers had been out of my radar for the last thirty or so years. Their previous album was released in 2012 but, for me as well as for the majority of music fans out there, the end took place somewhere back in 1990 after the release of 10 and the departure of Hugh Cornwell. Regardless of the age of those of you reading this, I cannot imagine any of you not knowing tracks like “No More Heroes”, “Peaches”, “Always The Sun”, “Midnight Summer Dream”, “96 Tears”, “Skin Deep”, and, of course, “Golden Brown”. The Stranglers always had a distinct sound courtesy of their keyboardist Dave Greenfield and the bass lines of JJ Burnel were another strong point of reference. While the latter is still among us, the former passed away last year, but he is participating in Dark Matters since the album was almost finished before his death.

Dark Matters is mostly a grave and serious affair. It feels and sounds like it was recorded by a band whose members are clearly not in their 20s. Burnel himself admitted that by saying: “We’re a bunch of old guys now and I wanted our music to reflect that”. Tracks like “The Lines” and “Down” are quite sombre and pensive, and the same goes for “And If You Should See Dave...”, written in memory of the late Dave Greenfield. “If Something’s Gonna Kill Me (It Might As Well Be Love)” is an instant hit, sounding like a lost Morrissey track. The Stranglers do embrace their punk rock / post-punk nature with “This Song”, which is actually a cover of The Disciples Of Spess’s “This Song Will Get Me Over You”, as well as tracks like “No Man’s Land”, “The Last Men On The Moon”, and the very enjoyable “White Stallion” which even features some operatic singing. Dark Matters finishes with the keyboards of Greenfield showing off in the final minutes of “Breathe”, until the only sound left is some kind of transmission signal that inevitably blinks out in the end. It is a fitting ending to a beautiful farewell album that is totally worth bearing The Stranglers’ name on the cover.

Apple Music | Spotify

by nikarg





Soars - Enfold
[Post-Rock]


Soars is likely a new name to you, but Kristian Karlsson may not be. Soars is a solo project from the Cult Of Luna keyboardist, who is also known for his involvement with pg.lost, so this album comes from a legacy of heavy post-rock/post-metal. Unsurprisingly, Enfold fits cosily into the post-rock genre as well. This debut record has lots of moody, heavy mid-tempo guitar work combined with plenty of synths and electronics, and that’s pretty much the record in a nutshell.

Post-rock is a genre that is pretty intensely saturated, mainly because it’s a style that is easy to make to a good standard, but because of how many bands are walking a very similar path, it’s a challenge to make something that truly stands out. Karlsson has made music that has stood out in both of his other major projects, and there’s times where Enfold threatens to reach similar heights as something like last year’s excellent pg.lost record, Oscillate, particularly when it first brings the noise at the beginning of “The Heist”, a brooding number right in the classic God Is An Astronaut mould. Other highlights of the record include the moving ambience later in “Fog”, the dreamy keyboard scales on “Haell” and the poised melancholia of closing track "Torn". It doesn't quite reach the upper echelons of post-rock, but it’s certainly one of the stronger instrumental post-rock efforts in 2021; concise and consistently evocative throughout, the man knows how to write quality post-rock.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Illuminati Hotties - Let Me Do One More
[Indie Rock | Indie Pop]


It's not that often that I really anticipate a band's second album, especially an indie rock band, and especially if it wasn't their debut album that made me anticipate it. But some things arranged themselves in a way to make that happen, and when I listened to Illuminati Hotties's FREE I.H mixtape, the project pretty much became one of the most promising ones in this field. The noisy irreverent punk vibes on that one set it apart from most indie rock. Sure, a lot of it is just how charismatic and fun to listen to Sarah Tudzin is, but if the mixtape was subtitled as "This Is Not the One You've Been Waiting For[i]", then it does make me wonder: what do they think I have been waiting for?

I noted in my review of the mixtape that I was hoping the lo-fi appeal would transcribe to the follow-up. And now we do have that follow-up, and this sounds a bit more like the debut, but miles above it in terms of how it still learned from the noisy experimentation from [i]FREE I.H
to make something more scattered in terms of mood and energy. It shifts from stuff that's more bedroom pop to pop punk to frantic art punk, all with some sort of bratty side. The scattered nature does interfere with the flow of the album, and it's still the first two tracks I feel most compelled to re-listen to, but as a whole, this might be the most full Illuminati Hotties album. Yes, you may do one more.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Parannoul / Asian Glow / Sonhos Tomam Conta - Downfall Of The Neon Youth
[Shoegaze | Emo]


Is this a collaboration or a split? Bandcamp and Spotify would leave you none the wiser, but Rate Your Music indicates that each of the three contributing musicians was separately responsible for certain tracks. In any case, Downfall Of The Neon Youth sees three up-and-coming shoegaze/emo musicians, all of whom have already put out releases in 2021, join forces to amplify those sad vibes.

First to appear is Asian Glow, whose rambunctious but slick and shimmering “Nails” features moments of post-hardcore energy but also some intriguing psychedelic soundscaping in its quieter moments. “Insomnia” sees Parannoul opting for an alternative spin on shoegaze that is for the most part more muted and melancholic, although some of the brighter electronics add a more exuberant lightness. In keeping with the approach on Hypnagogia, Sonhos Tomam Conta continues to flirt with blackgaze at times on their songs, bringing a slight harshness to moments that stands out against the otherwise subdued or elated tone of the rest of the split. These first impressions are mostly in keeping with the other songs that each member contributes, but with each person’s contributions mixed across the tracklist, you find yourself flowing between sad shoegaze, energetic post-hardcore-tinged excitement and black-tinged melancholy; thankfully the three approaches sit well next to each other, meaning that the end result feels varied but cohesive.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Vanishing Twin - Ookii Gekkou
[Neo-Psychedelia | Art Pop]


When I covered Vanishing Twin’s The Age Of Immunology back in 2019, I was impressed by the peculiar psychedelic pop sound of the record, with an adventurous to the musicianship that felt eclectic yet easily digestible. Ookii Gekkou follows much in the same vein; between the jazzy drumming that recurs during the record, the psychedelic instrumental experimentation and some of the weirder elements thrown in (such as the vocoder on “Light Vessel”), it’s certainly an album that feels unusual, but not in an obnoxious way.

Just as on the last album, the element that stands out most strongly to me in a positive way on Ookii Gekkou is Cathy Lucas; her voice has this ethereal, haunting quality to it that is an unexpected but excellent match for the surrounding bizarreness. On opener “Big Moonlight (Ookii Gekkou)”, there’s driving jazz drumming, various sound effects scattered in the soundscape, and above it all Lucas swims through the song, adding an otherworldly presence to this already peculiar composition. She similarly elevates the funky “Phase One Million” and mellow “Wider Than Itself”. Not everything quite clicks on Ookii Gekkou (“Zuum” is a bit too abstract-sounding at times), but for the most part it delivers a really intriguing spin on psychedelia.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Lil Ugly Mane - Volcanic Bird Enemy And The Voiced Concern
[Neo-Psychedelia]


Usually hip-hop artists trying out vastly different genres leads to results like MGK's pop punk or Snoop Dogg's reggae. But Lil Ugly Mane is just one of Travis Miller's projects, a man whose work in a bajillion of projects also includes harsh noise, post-punk, and even black metal (with one black metal release from this year), so his genre versatility isn't a surprise, as this isn't the first time he tackled this hypnagogic kind of neo-psychedelia. The only weird thing is that the "Lil Ugly Mane" alias has mostly been used for experimental hip-hop inspired by the Memphis scene, so seeing it used for Volcanic Bird Enemy And The Voiced Concern is a tad weird.

I mean, it's not like there is no hip-hop at all here, but it's so out of line with what usually was being released with this alias, so I don't know why Travis didn't just release this under any other alias, except unless he wanted this to receive the attention that only the "Lil Ugly Mane" alias could receive. The hour-long album is chockful of lo-fi aesthetic, dreamlike logic, weird genre fusions and a huge sample pool. Most of the tracks are between 2 and 4 minutes, so there's enough meat on each of them, but each of them still feel like distinct moments of a dream. It's all over the place, but that's partly also the appeal.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine - A Beginner's Mind
[Indie Folk]


Sufjan Stevens has been pretty busy since 2015's Carrie & Lowell dropped, an album that me among others considers his best. He participated in the soundtrack of Call Me By Your Name, released a bunch of collaborative albums like Planetarium, The Decalogue, and Aporia, a solo album, The Ascension, that I didn't care for that much, as well as a collection of ambient albums that made thematic sense for their detours. However, out of all of these, I'm pretty sure that A Beginner's Mind is the one that feels most like a proper follow-up to Carrie & Lowell. Not in themes, but in how much I enjoy Sufjan's music. And it seems that, to do that, he worked with another singer/songwriter from his label, Angelo De Augustine, a name I hadn't heard previously.

From what I heard of Angelo's music, it seems like music that has been inspired by Sufjan's older work, so the two of them working together makes perfect sense. It is especially on the vocal front where the two of them merge exceptionally well and complement their styles. The album is a somewhat cinematic one, partly because most of the songwriting has been done directly as a response to the two rewatching some films that had an impact on them and reinterpreting the resulting emotions, but also because the music itself puts a bit of effort into sounding slightly cinematic, without necessarily reaching highs too dramatic. But the hushed tones and bittersweet fragility expresses some emotions that merge narrative context with the intimate and personal.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Grouper - Shade
[Ambient Folk | Singer/Songwriter]


One of the best experiences about listening to this branch of singer/songwriter folk is the feeling of sheer intimacy. It's not often that you feel like a song is singing directly to you. The more subdued, fragile, and imperfect the sound of an album is, the more I get that feeling. It's something that happened with the newest Emma Ruth Rundle, but what Grouper's Liz Harris is best at is combining the intimacy of singer/songwriter music with an ambient and psychedelic touch, as if the intimacy itself is happening in a dream or an astral projection. And I still have fond memories of one of the first albums I reviewed for this series, the side-project Nivhek's After Its Own Death.

Shade is more of a guitar album than the usual ambient stuff from the project, but that doesn't subdue the ambient feel of the record as a whole, just shifts the melodic focus to some folkish guitar strumming. This does make for an interesting change of pace, even if it's not the first time that Grouper took this approach, it almost feels like odes to Elliot Smith and Sibylle Baier at times, but even scarcer and more ethereal. This is a pretty simple album, and a very raw one, at least in terms of how unfiltered the performance feels, which only adds to the feeling of intimacy I mentioned. Rarely is music as gentle and otherworldly as this, while being completely humane.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





:Of The Wand And The Moon: - Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath Of Sorrow
[Neofolk]


Me and neofolk go way back. There's a reason why the genre is one of the nonmetal genres that metalheads often appreciate, even if, on the surface, there isn't much in common between the two. Back when I wasn't as bothered by the often used imagery that is... umm... sketchy to say the least, I even reviewed three separate albums purely because the genre's royalty all happened to release songs that year. And they were all on MS. :Of The Wand And The Moon: is also neofolk royalty at this point, but Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath Of Sorrow is the project's first album in ten years.

There's a sense of doom that might be a remnant from Kim Larsen's days in doom giants Saturnus, but Your Love Can’t Hold This Wreath Of Sorrow clearly feels like a neofolk album that builds upon decades and decades of neofolk. You know, what more could you possibly want from a neofolk album in 2021? Deep weary vocals are a must, and Kim has always been the perfect fit. There's the bittersweet cinematic feeling of the instrumentals, and the extended orchestra behind makes the "cinematic" part especially potent. There's some post-industrial detours that keep the album feeling like it could crumble at any moment. Other than Kim's voice being pretty low in the mix, this is using the genre's strengths, and that's that.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Marissa Nadler - The Path Of The Clouds
[Dark Folk | Americana]

musclassia's pick


Marissa Nadler may be familiar to some in the metal community for her contribution to Xasthur’s Portal Of Sorrow or tours with Earth, but she has made her name channeling melancholia in a more muted setting. Nadler explores dark folk, Americana, dream pop and other styles, resulting in a languid, subdued sound that channels singer/songwriter vibes within a full-band setting. The sound is not far from the likes of Emma Ruth Rundle or Chelsea Wolfe, although Nadler’s career actually outdates either of these musicians. Still, the title track is built to appeal to fans of those artists, with Nadler’s hushed, airy vocals gliding over mellow acoustic guitar work and layered, minimalist rock musicianship.

There is a darkness to The Path Of The Clouds that should find it an audience in the users of this site; in terms of instrumental heaviness, the album is restricted to some droning distortion buried low in the mix, with the guitar work otherwise more based in acoustic folk and Americana, but the gloomy atmosphere adds poignancy to the folky tendencies of the record. There’s also other instruments to be heard here, including harp courtesy of Mary Lattimore (whose new album Collected Pieces: 2015-2020 became available to stream on the same day as The Path Of The Clouds) and keyboards (subtly poking through the mix on the dreamy “If I Could Breathe Underwater”), but ultimately the defining component of the record are Nadler’s wispy vocals, which carry plenty of pathos despite the lightness of her tone.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Lana Del Rey - Blue Banisters
[Singer/Songwriter]


Turns out this gal is quite popular around the world. No, I don’t listen to radio, I just like Tiamat’s cover of “Born To Die” a lot, but Blue Banisters doesn’t come off as anything you’d hear on radio anyway (at least not before midnight). The songs are all ballads, except for a trap beat remix of the main theme from “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly”. I’ll admit I was kind of snoozing off until then, and towards the end of the album I realise it’s not the end of the album at all, because this ain’t metal and there are 15 tracks on it. There are bunches of peculiar elements popping up in every other song though, just enough for my brain to go “yay, experimental!” and keep my attention until the next song loses it again and… “Black Bathing Suit” sounds like any other piano ballad, only with the drums strung through a glitched shredder, and that sounds pretty cool, right? “If You Lie Down With Me” sounds like any other piano ballad, only ended by a brass section sounding as if they’re taking cues from Pink Floyd’s cosily weird “Summer ‘68”, and “Wildflower Wildfire” has a memorable, pretty chorus beefed up by heavy trip-hop drums.

There is some other cool stuff too, but I’ll be damned if I can’t remember what it was now, since there are four more songs to go after the aforementioned eleventh one and the lyrics are all that’s keeping me from checking whether I put the album on repeat. The lyrics are great though, and Lana Del Rey’s delivery is offbeat enough to bring focus to the storytelling aspect, with edgy quotables such as “If I could be more like you, then I would; if I could, but I can’t, and I’m glad about that” and “Don’t try to find me through my dealer, he won’t pick up the phone” (man’s gotta have his working hours). I like the storytelling aspect, it’s obviously heartfelt (or very well-made up) and thoughtful, but were it sung in a foreign language, I might have mistaken most of these songs for encores. Decent stuff to fall asleep to, had it not been all partly wacky too, but I can’t figure out when I’m supposed to be listening to all this. I bet her millions of fans figured it out long ago, though.

Apple Music | Spotify

by Netzach





Tori AmosOcean To Ocean
[Pop Rock | Singer/Songwriter]


One can argue about why there are only a small number of female vocalists and songwriters who enjoy a passable reputation even in metal circles, but if there are female artists outside the world of heavy metal that every metalhead must know, then not only Beth Gibbons, Loreena McKennitt and Kate Bush should be at the top of that list, but definitely also Tori Amos. Not only because she has recorded 17 studio albums in her impressive career spanning nearly 40 years, but also because there have always been points of contact between Tori's soulful piano compositions and heavier sounds. As a kind of proof of this, one could mention her idiosyncratic cover versions of Slayer's "Raining Blood" or Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and such different bands as Redemption, Dark Suns, Höstblod, and Elvira Madigan, who have tried their hand at interpreting her works. But the connection becomes even clearer if you look way back into Tori's past, because she formed her first band Y Kant Tori Read together with none other than the later drummer of Guns N' Roses and The Cult, Mr. Matt Sorum.

On the surface, Ocean To Ocean is an album that takes Tori back to the time of her greatest commercial successes - the early '90s. Gone are the days of grand experimentation and songs that focus on her classical training as a concert pianist and unnecessarily complicated songwriting. It almost seems as if Tori traveled back to 1996 and took an alternative path before releasing Boys For Pele. A direct, not quite as intricate, more accessible path. Because Ocean To Ocean sounds livelier, fresher and more light-footed than one was used to from her last albums. But Tori wouldn't be Tori if her current work didn't allow a deep and intimate look into her personal struggles and abysses. "The album's about dealing with grief and loss" she expresses it herself, and with that she doesn't just mean the isolated work in the middle of the third lockdown of a pandemic, but the all overshadowing death of her mother in 2019. The fact that this could nevertheless become an album that also radiates a lot of positive energy and the feeling of a new beginning may be due to the family environment of the development process: husband Mark Hawley convinces with his best guitar work in many years, their daughter Natashya "Tash" Hawley enriches the first three album tracks with background vocals and beautiful harmonies and also the longtime companions on bass and drums - Jon Evans and Matt Chamberlain - are back to breathe a warm, comforting sound full of vibrant energy into Tori's engaging, moving, and highly emotional compositions.

Apple Music | Spotify

by Starvynth





Juçara Marçal - Delta Estácio Blues
[Experimental World Music]

RaduP's pick


I am pretty familiar with the concept of music scenes. We got Icelandic black metal, Floridan death metal, Finnish power metal, Seattle grunge, Bay area thrash, japanoise, and so on. But still, when I see an album tagged as "Vanguarda paulista" on RYM, I am a bit baffled. Supposedly a 70s/80s movement of avant-garde music from São Paulo, I'm pretty out of my element here. I have no real context here, not having heard much in the genre, nor anything else from Juçara Marçal. I am well aware that there's a rich history of experimental music, but so far a lot of my listening has been very euro/anglo-centric. Well, time to right some wrongs.

It's not my first time listening to Portuguese music, but listening to it in this avant-garde concept is bewildering. There's also songs in French, which is a language I'm pretty familiar with, and also songs in Yoruba, which is a language I'm wildly alien to. The singing itself isn't avant-garde, feeling pretty in line with the regional Brazilian music I had heard, except with a strong experimental electronic backdrop, whose soundscape touches some abrasive territories. There's some slight disconnect, but that uncanny mix only increases the synergy of the offbeat elements here. The production and performances are fantastic, so the result is something that I haven't heard before, and it gets me genuinely excited to explore more from an entire music world I've been ignorant of.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Sungazer - Perihelion
[Jazz Fusion | Electronica]


Jazz/electronic fusions seem to be increasingly ‘in’ at the moment; however, the forms in which these fusions can take certainly vary. Tauk’s Chaos Companion last month approached the idea from a prog rock perspective; Sungazer take a very different spin on it on Perihelion. Sungazer is a duo comprised of drummer Shawn Crowder and bassist Adam Neely (who is probably better known for his YouTube channel), although plenty of guests manage to work their way onto Perihelion as well. The first couple of songs see Sungazer mix jazz percussion with lounge music keyboards and hyperactive synths, with rather pleasing results. From there, it goes into unexpected directions.

After having enjoyed the opening duo of “Threshold” and “Macchina”, I was thrown by the heavy processed vocal refrain that kicks off “All These People”, a refrain that effectively made the song borderline unlistenable to me despite how interesting the music surrounding it is; however, this sample hints at the increasing prevalence of hyperpop in the music on Perihelion progresses. Sungazer are clearly experimental, and not all those experiments will appeal to everyone, as I found myself lost whenever the hyperpop moments came up; however, the retro 80s soundtrack vibes of “Lunar” were good fun, as are the funkiness and dubstep bass drops on “Thicc”. I would’ve much preferred this album if it was fully instrumental, as the vocals are comfortably the most divisive element on what is otherwise a quite enthralling display of percussion, bass and electronic work, but it’s still a very respectable record.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Nala Sinephro - Space 1.8
[Avant-Garde Jazz | Nu Jazz]

RaduP's pick


Generally seeing the term "avant-garde" used to describe an album, the usual expectation is that it would be a challenging listen. Angular, dissonant, uncanny, whatever. Space 1.8's innovativeness doesn't make it something that isn't also incredibly easy to listen to. A lot of the jazz here is pretty delicate, and often unhesitant to just groove in the sounds of jazz of the past, quite confident that there's enough that it does to compensate. And mind you, Space 1.8 is pretty much Promises' biggest competitor in the jazz field for this year, and its forward-thinking-ness should be understated from the mere fact that this is jazz released by Warp Records. And thus one can expect textures and deceivingly simple intricacies.

Synths in jazz are not that commonplace, but also not too out there, however very rarely do the two mix in a way to create something close to ambient jazz. The sounds on Space 1.8 are airy and hypnotic, with the improvisation that it does have never exploding into something as burning as free jazz often does, instead constantly inducing an air of psychedelia. It plays around subtly, and it never feels like something you haven't heard before until it does, but it eases you into it so perfectly. The ambient loops that are usually an IDM staple blend so tastefully with the spiritual jazz to create music that feels both precisely calculated and instinctual. There are some rough edges in the pacing, but the digital production quality and the immense creativity don't betray the fact that this is this composer's debut, so hopefully the only way to go is up.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





BADBADNOTGOOD - Talk Memory
[Jazz Fusion | Chamber Jazz]


BADBADNOTGOOD's strength has always been reinventing and recontextualizing. Originally being more hip-hop inspired and reinterpreting some hip-hop songs into jazz form. Hip-hop kept being an integral influence even as the band moved into original material, to the point where they released a collab album with Ghostface Killah, but their sound as a whole opened up to more soul and pop on the last record, 2016's IV. Throughout all of it, jazz fusion has been integral in stitching together those influences. Talk Memory feels like their jazz fusion takes a new form, one whose influences now go into spiritual jazz and chamber jazz.

The opening track especially feels like if Mogwai took on a Mahavishnu Orchestra song, and even if the rest of the album doesn't quite capture the same spark, a lot of it moves into elegant chamber bops. Part of the success of this shift in sound comes from the arrangements of guest contributor, Arthur Verocai, a Brazilian jazz musician who had his start in the 70s. He's not the only contributor, but he's the only one appearing on more than one track, on more than half the album actually. The playing here varies from pretty frantic (as is expected from fusion) to more soothing and atmospheric, and there's a good balance between the two.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Jake Bowen - The Daily Sun
[Ambient Electronica]


The Daily Sun is not the first time music from Jake Bowen has appeared on Metal Storm; Bowen is more likely familiar to users here as one of the guitarists in djent heavyweights Periphery. He’s not the first metal guitarist to release a solo electronic album; he’s not even the first one I’ve covered in one of these articles, with Joel Grind featuring this time 2 years ago. In contrast to Grind’s synthwave, The Daily Sun is more of an upbeat, quasi-ambient electronic record, following in the template of a producer like Tycho, and whilst Bowen is no Tycho, he’s got a knack for writing this style of music.

The opening title track gets the record off to a great start; the bouncy central motif is carried along by a fun, swinging beat as plenty of ambient glitching layers and elements fill out the mix. After that point, the album shifts in tone on almost a song-to-song basis; “Drifter” has a bright, summer club vibe with dainty keyboard and synth motifs, like a more sedate Avicii, whilst “Burnt Saguaro” uses slightly off-kilter vaporwave tones to build a strong sense of melancholia. There’s also a few guest appearances on the album, all of which are clustered together in the middle; Abbi Press and Elliot Coleman (Good Tiger, ex-TesseracT) provide vocals that elevate the subdued “Say Nothing” and wistful “I Am Error”, respectively, whilst DJ Matt Lange joins forces with Bowen to slip a bit of ambient techno into the record on “Mirage”. Overall, The Daily Sun is an accomplished effort that demonstrates that Bowen’s musical talents aren’t confined to metal.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Kirril - Kirril
[Dark Industrial | IDM]


The description on Kirril’s Bandcamp doesn’t leave much to the imagination: “Heavily inspired by a chaotic lifestyle involving squatting and illegal parties”. The musician’s self-titled record is music made using second-hand equipment, inspired by turbulent nightlife and rough living conditions. Unsurprisingly, the record offers a pretty bleak interpretation of rave music, with techno rhythms transformed into industrial menace further distorted with twisted noise. The tone is set early on, with intense, pounding beats forcing through a melange of dark ambience, and not much changes as the record progresses.

There aren’t song names on Kirril; each of the 11 tracks on the album are identified by only Roman numerals. This makes sense when listening to it; whilst there are shifts in intensity (“IV” is largely muted, whereas “III” is relatively pounding), the similarities between the tracks mean that they effectively blend together as part of a single complete whole whilst listening. Therefore, this is an album to be listened to in a complete sitting (not a huge challenge at 34 minutes), with the bleak techno/hip-hop-inspired beats driving you through the bleak, harsh soundscapes generated by the distorted noise and dark ambience. Kirril was heavily influenced by illegal raves; I’d be interested to experience a rave with something this insidious as its soundtrack.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Scarlxrd - DeadRising
[Trap]


Just as we sometimes review albums on the main page that aren’t strictly metal, we sometimes cover albums in this article that aren’t strictly non-metal; what a bunch of contrarians we can be. In this case, DeadRising is the latest album from the prolific Scarlxrd, who has built a reputation for mixing trap music with elements of heavy metal. That’s a combination that sounds quite similar to Backxwash, who I covered only a couple of months ago; in the case of Scarlxrd, there’s more of a metal presence, at least in the early songs on the record, with mean riffs on both guitars (albeit typically lingering in the background) and synths, but there’s also more of a metal attitude to the tone of the songs and the vocals, with Scarlxrd regularly opting for a half-rap/half-screamed vocal approach to match the menace of the underlying instrumentals.

Still, the album is first and foremost a trap album, so you’re going to need a taste for the churning bass tone and intimidating beats used throughout the album. However, whether it’s due to the combination with metal or just Scarlxrd’s musical ability, but whilst I’m generally not into trap, I had quite a lot of fun with DeadRising. Much like with Backxwash (or NGHTCRWLR from last year), the aggressive approach really brings the best out in trap for me; those jagged, processed bass tones add weight to the songs, and combined with the beats make for great headbanging material. Now, there’s 21 tracks on the record, and for me that’s perhaps a bit too much, but the album feels less like a compilation of lots of short tracks and more of a stream of consciousness, due to the way the tracks flow together and the similarity in approach across the album. If you like your hip-hop to be aggressive and venomous, and have enjoyed work from the aforementioned artists or the likes of Ghostemane or Death Grips, set aside some time to try out Scarlxrd.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





JPEGMAFIA - LP!
[Experimental Hip Hop | Hardcore Hip Hop]


JPEGMAFIA is a name that keeps popping up in experimental hip-hop circles, a part of hip-hop that seemed more populated by groups rather than individual artists. It's not like hip-hop ever was experimental in a single way, with its industrial glitchy abstract side being just one prominent avenue, a wave that 2016's Black Ben Carson and 2018's Veteran rode with a pretty unique touch. 2019's All My Heroes Are Cornballs felt a bit more accessible while still being a complete oddball experience. I was wondering why, at this point in his career, he'd come up with an album called "LP!", but it seemed like I missed two EP releases fittingly called "EP!" and "EP2!".

So the first thing about LP! is that there's two versions of the album, most likely due to sample clearances, a more patched version on streaming sites, and an "offline" version on Bandcamp, which seems to be the more authentic one, and also the one I recommend most. And the second thing about LP! is that it somehow continues with some of the R&B and cloud rap sounds from All My Heroes Are Cornballs and the two EPs, but re-contextualizing them in a more hardcore hip-hop framework that retriggers the unpredictability of the earlier albums. That said, it's only "hardcore" in some moments, being in abstract territories much more often, with the oddball beats and flow finding new ways to contrast.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





James Blake - Friends That Break Your Heart
[Alternative R&B]


I have multiple reasons to be interested in this release. The first reason is obviously: a new James Blake. But I have some personal ones too, especially tied to this series. The previous album, 2019's Assume Form is one of the albums from the very first edition of this feature. It is my second favorite from that edition, barely behind Sharron Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow, both being albums I came back to fairly often. It's not the first time I'd cover the same artist twice, but this is the first time where I felt like the series has went on long enough that it spans a complete album cycle. So hurray! What a better album to celebrate that to than a new James Blake.

I don't find Friends That Break Your Heart to be too big of a stylistic shift from Assume Form, mostly still staying around in ethereal alternative R&B that feels extremely lush and intimate. It still feels like the sound is very fragile and entrancing, and the features themselves do shift it more towards hip-hop or R&B, depending on the guest. What drastically changes is the emotional landscape of the record, with Assume Form being a very infatuated record that's full of life, whereas Friends That Break Your Heart deals more with heartbreak and alienation, which also explain why it's even more ballad-heavy than its predecessor. It's the lush electronica in the ballads combined with the lyricism of a Blake at his lowest that makes Friends That Break Your Heart a listen that's simultaneously comforting and depressing.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Magdalena Bay - Mercurial World
[Synthpop]

RaduP's pick


Magdalena Bay's Mercurial World is one of those cases of an album being recommended to me by a friend, but that I also found out exploding in some corners of the internet afterwards. Synthpop is something that I get increasingly tired of, but then something like Mercurial World comes along and brings all the genre's strengths and now I'm suddenly in love again. Oh well. The weird thing about Magdalena Bay is that the duo is also part of a prog rock band called Tabula Rasa, but that band already had a strong art pop element, so the jump to synthpop isn't such a drastic one. But it's still drastic enough to be its own project.

It was already the second listen that I already felt a very stark feeling of familiarity about each of the songs here, meaning that all it took was one listen for these songs to imbue themselves in me. Now I now that being an earworm doesn't necessarily make the music good, but the catchiness here is so fun. You can kinda tell that there's an art prog background to these two purely by how well they're able to craft songs and melodies and textures. Synthpop is the main center of attention, but it's synthpop with only very slight retro sensibilities, instead feeling like something that could only be released in the current sphere of electropop, one with a very specific alternative appeal.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP




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

Comments: 9   Visited by: 71 users
15.11.2021 - 07:28
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
From artwork perspective it's maybe best series of article, then Yes an Of wand and moon are best musically.
Cool Shepards on artwork. I wish they were white. Best dogs ever
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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16.11.2021 - 09:07
IronAngel

Vanishing Twin feels tailor-made for fans of Broadcast and Stereolab (i.e. me). My kids were playing astronauts while I was listening, and suddenly they started doing a weird low-gravity dance. "Wow, this is moon music!" Haven't listened enough to decide if it's a keeper or if it's mainly the style that appeals to me. Either way, it's a great addition to my mood-specific melancholia/psychedelia playlist.

I also really enjoyed Magdalena Bay (much better than the EP last year), Grouper (maybe her best since A I A) and Downfall of the Neon Youth. Many other familiar albums that I'm still waiting to listen to more, too.

I am less certain about Tori. It's not that her problem of late has been experimentation or too complicated songs, but a lack of good taste and fresh songs (with a few notable exceptions, like Oysters). The production still sounds iffy and AOR.

Didn't know about new TWIABPAIANLATD (!), Wand & Moon and James Blake, putting those on the list for sure. (Come to think of it, I may not have listened to James Blake since 2011 when he was all over the internet. I wasn't ready for him then, but I think I might appreciate it now.)
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16.11.2021 - 17:34
Deadsoulman

I have a feeling that that Juçara Marçal album is going to get some serious replay time. I don't know where you find that stuff, but this one's a gem.

I also enjoyed those Jake Bowen, James Blake and Vanishing Twin albums quite a bit.

The Stranglers, Magdalena Bay and Scarlxrd (similar to Backxwash? Count me in!) and a few others are on the list as well.
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20.11.2021 - 00:52
Rage71

You may have already covered him in the This isn't Metal category, but I can't seem to get to everything. Too much great music, too little time.
I've been liking Estas Tonne. I'm listening to this song right now and thought it was worth a share. https://open.spotify.com/track/1lJ8ypUPgpm2zqjuCEaU7L?si=9esatbhITEO8q6-r4xaJdg&utm_source=copy-link
Enjoy.
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20.11.2021 - 14:18
AndyMetalFreak
Mr Nice Guy
Some of these album covers are deeply disturbing.
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20.11.2021 - 16:36
Karlabos
Meat and Potatos
Written by AndyMetalFreak on 20.11.2021 at 14:18

Some of these album covers are deeply disturbing.

Yeah, I prefered the previous issue, where there was the Lorde cover
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Rose is red, violet is blue. Flag is win, Baba is you.
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20.11.2021 - 16:37
AndyMetalFreak
Mr Nice Guy
Written by Karlabos on 20.11.2021 at 16:36

Yeah, I prefered the previous issue, where there was the Lorde cover

That was a good one, one of my favourite covers
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20.11.2021 - 16:40
Karlabos
Meat and Potatos
Written by AndyMetalFreak on 20.11.2021 at 16:37

Written by Karlabos on 20.11.2021 at 16:36

Yeah, I prefered the previous issue, where there was the Lorde cover

That was a good one, one of my favourite covers

More like uncovers
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Rose is red, violet is blue. Flag is win, Baba is you.
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21.11.2021 - 00:06
Nejde
Green Devil
The Mask Of The Phantasm takes the cake this month. But then you can't really go wrong when you got a former drummer of The Mars Volta. The drumming in Exit Wounds is superb.
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"When you are dead, you do not know you are dead. It's only painful for others. The same applies when you are stupid." - Ricky Gervais
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