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Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - May 2022


Written by: RaduP, musclassia, X-Ray Rod, nikarg, Starvynth
Published: 12.06.2022


Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - May 2022
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:

April 2022
March 2022
February 2022

And now to the music...






Gospel - The Loser
[Post-Hardcore | Progressive Rock]


RaduP's pick


Listening to the opening track, one might be persuaded that this Gospel album is genuinely a gospel record, otherwise those vocals wouldn't be that enthusiastic, and those organs not that triumphant. Sure, it's a punk version of it, but the sound slowly reveals itself as the mix of post-hardcore and prog rock that it is. Gospel were once one of the leading screamo bands back in the mid 2000s, with their debut album, 2005's The Moon Is A Dead World being one of the most creative and well-received post-hardcore albums, both of its time and of all time, but the band has split up shortly afterwards, had on and off reunions, so it's only natural that there would be some skepticism regarding a reunion record coming nearly twenty years later.

Well, The Loser's recipe for success and accounting for that nearly twenty years gap is to diminish the screamo element in Gospel's sound in favor of the prog rock one. The vocals are still clearly rooted in the hardcore field, but they're more shouts rather than the shredding screamo shrieks, while the keys and organs get even more of a presence in the sound. The intricate and energetic instrumentals find math rock as a common ground between post-hardcore and prog rock, making The Loser stand as 40 minutes of incredibly engaging hardcore music that toys with unpredictable structures and bursts of energy. I'm seriously amazed as to how great a reunion album can sound, especially after such a long gap, and especially in this genre.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Vagrants - Be Consumed
[Post-Hardcore]


I’ve seen multiple news stories about Vagrants refer to the band as a progressive post-hardcore band, and sometimes I wonder whether we’re too lenient with our application of the term ‘progressive’ in a musical context. The group’s debut record, Be Consumed, is jam-packed with 3-minute cuts built firmly around the traditional verse/chorus song format, so I struggle to see where exactly prog enters the picture. Still, music doesn’t need to be complex to be enjoyable, and while Be Consumed will be decidedly unappealing to those with an aversion for melodic hard/metalcore, it’s got enough hooks to win over its target audience.

As mentioned before, these songs are pretty much to the point, and they are rooted in an accessible, clean-sounding, emotionally charged strain of post-hardcore that teeters on the edge of metalcore at times, as well as alt-rock and post-rock fringes. The latter can be heard with the tremolos woven into the early cut “Day By Day”, adding texture to a track already pushed to breaking point emotionally by Jose DelRio’s all-out vocals. There’s some fluctuation into the heaviness of tracks; single “Skin And Bone” keeps things pretty light (apart from a slightly more intense breakdown), while “Failure” is one example of Vagrants crossing over into metalcore territory, showing similarities to bands such as Polaris. Be Consumed is nothing new, but it does the job in terms of delivering big-sounding workout-fuel anthems.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Scalping - Void
[Industrial Rock | Electronic]


“As a live band, your entire output is dependent on your equipment, but guitar music is historically always so far behind electronic music, and how that technology and the language around it can change the music itself... The ideas that people try to push with guitar band technology are naturally limited. We’re taking elements of guitar culture, like distortion and smearing, and inserting them into the technology and language of electronic music. We’d seen bands try to do this before, but it always felt too ‘arty’, happy, or unstructured...” Big words from James Rushworth, bassist of Bristol’s Scalping, who bring their vision of combining guitar and electronic music to life with their debut album Void. The extent to which guitars are limited compared to electronic production can be debated, as can the alleged lack of musicians that have previously combined guitar distortion with electronic music, but it still remains an intriguing premise, particularly if delivered in a manner as novel as Void is proposed to entail.

The first question is what form of electronic music is being brought to the table, and it does vary across the album; there’s techno (“Cloak & Dagger”, “Over The Walls”), noise (“Blood Club”), and a range of sounds in between that feature industrial elements, and at times moments that almost sound like synthwave to me (“Flashforward”). Add on top of that a couple of dark industrial hip-hop tracks (“Tether” and “Remain In Stasis”, featuring guest rappers DÆMON and Grove, respectively), and there’s a few different styles to take in on Void. As to how extensively and effectively guitars are added to the equation, there’s not too much to talk about; there’s some muted distorted chugs in “Caller Unknown” and “Over The Walls”, as well as some churning towards the end of “Remain In Stasis” as the tension builds, but they don’t have an obvious presence on most of the tracks, and very much linger towards the background when they are noticeable. Ultimately, I’m not sure Scalping are necessarily innovating an instrumental fusion here, but it’s a pretty solid dark electronic record nonetheless.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Otoboke Beaver - スーパーチャンポン (Super Champon)
[Hardcore Punk | Garage Rock]


Fast Japanese girl punk bands are your thing? You're in absolute luck! Otoboke Beaver have been around for a bit over a decade, and they've been making music sporadically since. Their full length debut from a couple of years ago, 2019's いてこまヒッツ (Itekoma Hits), amazing as it was, still had a bit of a compilation feeling, as some of its material had been collected from previous releases, in effect making Super Champon as the true original-material-only debut of Otoboke Beaver.

And it's not unusual in hardcore punk fashion to have your songs be short and fast, perhaps even comically so, but only two songs on this album are over two minutes long, and only by a couple of seconds, with quite a few of them less than 30 seconds. The album is pretty lean as a result, barely over 20 minutes in runtime, and it wastes no time in exploding with energy, and though I've covered Asian girl hardcore punk before, Otoboke Beaver make full use of group vocals and a mix of playfulness and dissonant noise rock chaos.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





High Pulp - Pursuit Of Ends
[Jazz Fusion]


‘Jazz fusion’ is such a nebulous term that I never know what to expect when I encounter an album carrying the label. In this case, I saw Pursuit Of Ends described as a jazz album drawing on influences from bebop, punk rock, shoegaze, hip-hop and electronica, which simultaneously made things clearer and even more confusing: how exactly were punk rock and shoegaze going to work their way into a jazz album? Having heard Pursuit Of Ends, I’m not sure they do; I can hear modern flairs in the jazz on this album, but nothing quite as anarchic or ambient as those stated influences would imply.

High Pulp run the spectrum from mellow to frenetic on opener “Ceremony”, with chill vibes and ambient electronics at one end of a scale that ultimately spans to frantic saxophone solos. There is some exuberant soloing on this album, but also smooth instrumentation outside of it, whether in the form of the energetic “All Roads Lead To Los Angeles” or the bluesy “Chemical X”. There is some oddball experimentation on Pursuit Of Ends, such as when the ambient “Window To A Shimmering World” descends into uncomfortable dissonance, but it’s a pretty approachable album, and one that balances virtuosity with accessibility and good vibes.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Soft Ffog - Soft Ffog
[Progressive Rock | Jazz Fusion]


musclassia's pick


I will open this write-up with a confession: I’ve never played Street Fighter. Therefore, I don’t know whether the games had soundtracks containing jazz or progressive rock that might explain why all the tracks on the self-titled debut from Soft Ffog are named after Street Fighter characters. Certainly, there isn’t a lyrical connection between the album and the games, as the tracks on Soft Ffog are instrumental-only. Whatever the story behind the names is (and I imagine it likely boils down to ‘I like the games and I didn’t know what to name the songs as there are no lyrics’), the compositions bearing these names represent the first studio output of a project that was initially conceived as a one-off commissioned performance at Kongsberg Jazzfestival in 2016. In the intervening years, the quartet of musicians in Soft Ffog, all seemingly veterans of the Norwegian jazz scene, have come together infrequently for live performances, and eventually decided to take the experience from these performances in the studio, recording four tracks composed by guitarist and bandleader Tom Hasslan.

Now, the band was commissioned for a jazz festival and is comprised of jazz musicians, but more than jazz, Soft Ffog is a progressive rock album. Yes, it’s one that features plenty of jazzy elements, with complex, exuberant musicianship, tour de force drumming and improvisational compositions, but these are all elements associated with progressive rock, due to the genre’s roots in jazz. There’s clear influence of bands such as King Crimson in these four compositions, with a brashness to a lot of the guitar and keyboard solos, particularly in evidence on a track such as “Dhalsim”. However, there is also space to take pause and contemplate; “Ken” does ultimately let loose, but a surprisingly large amount of its runtime involves the keyboards taking stage for simple melodies and soothing layering. The technical skills of these musicians are indisputable, and they’ve put together an album that shows that off, but which also has plenty of additional character, turning it into a very satisfying debut outing by the group.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Toro Y Moi - Mahal
[Psychedelic Soul | Neo-Psychedelia]


Toro Y Moi was one of the artists I covered in the very first edition of this feature, so I've been looking forward to seeing how he'd follow up Outer Peace. If there's one thing I noticed about Toro Y Moi is that no record of his sounds too much like another, so Mahal is also following in that route by taking Toro's sound in an even more psychedelic direction than before. Not like there haven't been hints of psychedelia before, but this is the most "band" album that the project ever had, while also quite the most retro.

Though a lot of the neo-psychedelia hints at the 90s, the psychedelic soul hints at the 70s, creating a very fun and sun drenched mix of retro sounds that mix into something that could only be created in the internet age. Funky bass grooves permeate the record and they're definitely my favorite aspect of it, but all of it builds into a very warm and mellow soundscape that feels like a band that didn't get out of bed just yet because it's too hot outside. Definitely the kind of album you listen with as many buttons on your shirt untied as possible, lemonade in hand.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Yīn Yīn - The Age Of Aquarius
[Psychedelic Funk | Disco]


musclassia's pick


Yīn Yīn are based in Maastricht in the Netherlands, and as fun-loving ‘nightlife people’, they consider themselves outliers in their old and staid home city. Coming together through DIY parties, the members of Yīn Yīn looked to make music of their own, and with The Age Of Aquarius, they incorporate the likes of funk and disco into a psychedelic package inspired by South East Asian music, with the result living up to their intention to create an ‘appeal to dance’.

Short and sweet, Yīn Yīn’s second album is primed from the office to get listeners moving; “Chong Wang” has a funky groove and dancefloor rhythm, one that is accentuated by psychedelic electronics, as well as East Asian melodies and instrumentation. The end result is poised to appeal to fans of both disco and of electronic styles such as psybient. “Shēnzhou V.” lingers in a similar place, with plenty of funk guitar and dreamy psychedelia working nicely in tandem. Those Asian musical influences come through most obviously on “Faiyadansu”, and vocal samples of a Thai lady aim to further transport listeners. Yīn Yīn have a lot of belief in their music, as exemplified by them applauding themselves at the end of “Declined By Universe”, but that confidence is justified, as The Age Of Aquarius is a breath of fresh air.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Melody's Echo Chamber - Emotional Eternal
[Neo-Psychedelia]


Melody's Echo Chamber is the solo project of French singer/songwriter Melody Prochet, who has been making psychedelic pop music under the name for quite some time. And even though her debut, 2012's self-titled album, is already ten years old, Emotional Eternal is only her third album. It is that 2012 self-titled album that really became a staple of this neo-psychedelic sound, as Melody found a way to create a sprawling and cosmic sound that sounded romantic and lush all the while, and with the production from Tame Impala's Kevin Parker it definitely sounded the part.

Each subsequent (meaning the next two) album got a bit more down to earth, making Emotional Eternal the most earthy of the bunch, and while it is still as psychedelic, dreamlike, and romantic as can be, the cosmic feeling has dissipated into something more approachable and relatable. The blend of English and French lyrics further amplifies the romantic overtones of the record, and with a lot of the instrumentation having pretty creative percussion, lush production, oriental influences, it's all a great way to spend your time, as long as you make sure not to drink too much wine in the meantime.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Florence + The Machine - Dance Fever
[Pop Rock | Art Pop]


Florence + The Machine is adored in the place where I come from. Three years ago, her show at Odeon of Herodes Atticus was sold out in less than an hour, resulting to a second show, which was also sold out (of course). I guess it is Florence Welch’s dramatic, theatrical, and mystagogic lyrics, music, and performances that resonate with the Greeks. Dance Fever is the fifth studio album by the English indie rock / folk / art pop band, and it is more upbeat than 2018’s High As Hope but that doesn’t mean that it’s a “party album”. It is an album that features the known influences of Nick Cave, Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, and Iggy Pop, with some of COVID-19's isolation thrown in.

Written and recorded during the pandemic, Dance Fever contains some of Welch’s most personal and poignant lyrics, making the album feel even more cathartic. Its title and concept originated in Welch's fascination with choreomania (=dance mania), the medieval European phenomenon that involved groups of people dancing erratically, to the point that they reached exhaustion, injury, or death. Indeed, songs like “King”, “Free”, and “My Love” have this element of rhythm that you are compelled to dance to until exhaustion. But there are also songs like “Cassandra”, “Daffodil”, and “Morning Elvis” where Florence’s voice exudes this pain and agony that just tears your heart up. Dance Fever is a well-balanced album, which is at the same time black and colourful, and is the call of a mesmerizing voice to dance away the misery and the negativity of this world.

Apple Music | Spotify

by nikarg





Everything Everything - Raw Data Feel
[Alternative Dance | Indietronica]


The last time I talked about Everything Everything, I was getting more and more disenchanted with their material past the excellent 2015's Get To Heaven particularly because of how they seemed to still sound too close to their obvious influences in Radiohead and Muse while their songwriting skills seemed to be getting a bit blander. Raw Data Feel seems like it was written with some of that criticism in mind, because it at least tries to shift the sounds in new directions, that still sound a bit similar to their influences, but feel more conceptual and ambitious.

For one, the soundscapes on this record are the most electronic and danceable that Everything Everything have ever been. A lot of it reminds me of the indietronica sounds that permeated the mid 2000s combined with some new wave, and maybe the music isn't as experimental as the cover art might imply it to be, and some of the sound combinations along with singer Jonathan Higgs' wailing vocals might feel a bit obnoxious. Conceptually, it might not be that difficult to figure out what the album is about, going as far as to have some of its lyrics be AI generated. Some of it is uneven, but what it definitely is not is bland, so Everything Everything is definitely on a course correction and they pretty much nailed it.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Arcade Fire - We
[Art Rock]


I saw Arcade Fire at a festival I went to once, and I had a free ticket. I did manage to convince a friend to come with me, but I had a hard time convincing them because they saw Arcade Fire and music like it as "phone commercial music". The show didn't necessarily convince them, even though it was enjoyable, but it did make me realize how much of this sound has became "commercial music", in that it's literally used to sell products. Not by its own making, but because so many commercials have used it for its groovy energy, it has became retroactively attached to the entire sound. Arcade Fire have been really great at the sound, even though their past two albums have been received progressively worse, even though I enjoyed the synthier sounds.

However I'm not really sure if We is something I'd call "phone commercial music" anymore. And I wish I said that as a compliment, but a lot of it is really not energetic or groovy enough to even work in a commercial. Maybe that's a bit rough, but I can't connect with a lot of the album's slow building dramatism. What has worked for them to create a sense of grandiosity now feels quite harder to sit through, while also feeling surprisingly uneventful. I'd like to think that the elements for a great Arcade Fire are still there somewhere, but they've just been placed in an awkward place, and yet with this being the band's last album with multi-instrumentalist Will Butler, I have even bigger doubts.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





The Smile - A Light For Attracting Attention
[Art Rock]


Considering that there has been some speculation about whether or not A Moon Shaped Pool is Radiohead's last record or not, the hype surrounding anything Radiohead related is a bit amplified. I thoroughly enjoyed Thom Yorke's stuff since, as well as a bunch of Johnny Greenwood's work in soundtracking films. And even though I'm not ranking them purely by how Radiohead-ish each of them is, none of them come nearly as close as this new group they're pioneering in The Smile, which finds the two of them joined by drummer Tom Skinner of Melt Yourself Down and Sons Of Kemet fame.

So I guess it is no surprise that a lot of the songs here could easily pass for Radiohead song, even without taking Yorke's instantly recognizable croons into account. The sounds move through all kinds of art rock nuances, sounding similar to a lot of Radiohead's 2000s material, while also including some post-punk and math rock and chamber pop touches that do feel like they're taking the sound forward. There are plenty of moments that really nail an emotional impact in the soundscape and the vocal performance, and one of the record's biggest surprises for me was how great Yorke's vocals still sound after all these years. This is definitely the kind of record I need more listens to properly digest, and maybe further listens will make it easier for me to see this as The Smile rather than Radiohead.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Belle And Sebastian - A Bit Of Previous
[Indie Pop]


Belle And Sebastian had an amazing run of some of the best indie pop out there in their first decade, with everything from 1996's Tigermilk to 2006's The Life Pursuit being incredibly well received. Now that it's been more than 15 years since The Life Pursuit and Belle And Sebastian have only released four albums in the meantime (one of them a soundtrack) while retaining mostly the same lineup, you'd reckon their material now would not necessarily be up to par with their heyday, but would at least be pretty good.

And A Bit Of Previous is not bad, but it's definitely not that exciting of an album. Still, the worst criticisms that I could raise of it are that it's bland and a bit tonedeaf at its worst, so no part of the album is really hard to digest in any way, and the album still packs some highlights in terms of its soundscapes and melodies. I'm glad that A Bit Of Previous exists and Belle And Sebastian are still making music, but it still mostly makes me feel like giving If You're Feeling Sinister another listen instead.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Let's Eat Grandma - Two Ribbons
[Synthpop]


Named after the famous example of why commas are necessary to convey meaning, Let's Eat Grandma are an English electropop / synthpop duo comprised of multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton. And though a lot of synthpop tends to try and be as bombastic 80s sounding as possible, there's something in the synthpop of Let's Eat Grandma that is joyous and pensive in a more contemporary sense, something that feels at the intersection between indie pop and radio pop without necessarily being too much of either.

Two Ribbons is short and sweet, slightly under 40 minutes in terms of runtime, and its conciseness is felt in the songs too, with only two of the songs going over five minutes in length. And the sound is a bit more stripped-back this time around, even with some of openers being as joyous as you'd want electro-pop to be. The stripped-back nature betrays how much emotions lie in the back of the album, from deaths in the members' circles to usual pandemic depressions, and few albums give grief as much color as Two Ribbons.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Sharon Van Etten - We've Been Going About This All Wrong
[Indie Rock | Singer/Songwriter]


Not really the only artist in this edition that I have already covered in the very first edition of this feature, but Sharon Van Etten is definitely one that I have revisited the most since. However I would be lying if I didn't say that the album I covered in that edition, Remind Me Tomorrow, wasn't the one with the songs I returned to most often. So obviously anything since would have to live up to it, and the non-album singles that Sharon has released since, a cover of Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale" and a collaboration with Angel Olsen (and now that both of them have released their new records with no sing of a full collab, I can put my hopes to rest), have kept me invested for this new one.

There is something that keeps me from fully connecting with We've Been Going About This All Wrong. There are tracks here that I like, but nothing that really comes to being as close of a showstopper as my favorites from Remind Me Tomorrow, and maybe that's bound to change as it grows on me. The production on this one is a bit thicker, and with the heartland rock tinges that Sharon's music usually had, this feels a bit more indie rock-ish this time around, and I find myself appreciating the intent rather than enjoying the result most of the time. Still, I do feel like this is a direction worth pursuing, and Sharon's vocals and lyricism still offer most of the album's highlights.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Ethel Cain - Preacher's Daughter
[Dream Pop | Slowcore]


RaduP's pick


Hayden Anhedönia, better known by her stage name Ethel Cain, is a singer/songwriter that has been putting out a bunch of EPs and singles in the past couple of years, and Preacher's Daughter is the first of these to be a full-length, but I wouldn't have been able to clearly tell that this is a debut judging by how mature the songwriting is. Not to mention that the album is really long, at a pretty colossal 75 minutes, and since the album takes a lot from slowcore, you can expect that to pass pretty slowly. But thankfully, none of it feels artificially elongated or too meandering.

If it wasn't obvious by now, this is a concept album, partially autobiographical, in which Hayden created an "Ethel Cain" character to mirror her Southern Baptism upbringing and, as she puts it, "she is the mirrored version of my life if I chose not to get better". And there's a lot of story and a lot of feelings in this massive albums, but sound-wise this takes from the slowcore of Low, the dream pop of Mazzy Star, the vocals also seeming pretty fit for an early 2000s pop ballad, plenty of Americana and heartland rock, to create a blend of sounds that is both gorgeous and emotionally impactful. A lot of my enjoyment of it came from how the vocals would indicate more of an Americana / pop leaning while the instrumentals could have an almost post-rock-ish sense of build-up and release, and all of it working towards the album's immersive and emotional impact.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Sonhos Tomam Conta - Maladaptive Daydreaming
[Shoegaze | Emo]


My prejudice speaking here: I never thought Portuguese could sound so melancholic. I guess all my previous encounters with the language have been related to Samba or to other types of music that are much more cheerful. But Brazil is just like any other place. Sorrow is just around the corner of any happy memory. And now I'm feeling nostalgic and swimming in a gloomy sea of purple liquid. Memories, and dreams in particular, seem to be the major ingredients behind the project Sonhos Tomam Conta (“Dreams taking over” in Portuguese). The artwork alone was enough for me to want to dive in head first. I’m a massive Serial Experiments Lain fan. The themes of social isolation, what’s real and what’s not both online and in real life, how we connect with other people, etc. It’s all here and all too real.

Sonhos Tomam Conta sits in that spot where it’s not metal enough to be featured in our database but not mentioning the metal and other extreme elements would be omitting information. There is a strong influence of blackgaze, post-metal and post-hardcore running through the album. This was even more notorious in some of the project's earlier works which were harsher, noisier and with vicious shrieks every now and then. There is a shadow of extremity in tracks like “Light Outs”which actually have some piercing shrieks on it. But now that other sounds from shoegaze, emo and electronica are taking over, Maladaptive Daydreaming ends up being a more well-rounded product and with a clearer identity. The album deals a lot with the duality of sounds. This is highly ethereal music but it’s drowned in a lot of noise partly due to the DIY production but that is exactly what gives the album such a defined identity. It’s delicate but visceral. Maladaptive Daydreaming is a very busy record with plenty of distorted riffs, beats and synths. Distorted everything, really. There are many catchy passages that verge on the danceable. Not unlike some moments on Nothing’s latest record, The Great Dismal. The androgynous vocals, which remind me at times of Cigarettes After Sex, are an excellent choice for this record as they add an otherwordly touch to the music. There are so many layers and such a thick atmosphere packed in this one hour long album that at first it feels overwhelming. But there is a charm to it. It’s as if Lua Viana just wants you to experience and feel all of it just as much as she does. The passion behind this project is so palpable. Perfect music for laying down, stare at the ceiling and just float away while daydreaming.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by X-Ray Rod





Grafix - Half Life
[Drum & Bass]


On Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music, there is a whole category in the drum & bass section called ‘pendulum’; as far as I can see, this is the only category in the whole map that is just the name of a band that performs that style, which I guess is an indication of either how distinctive or how influential Pendulum have been in their own niche within drum & bass. That the Australians had inspired imitators was immediately clear to me when I clicked on an embed for Half Life, the debut full-length album of British drum & bass producer Grafix, and heard beats, electronics and song structures instantly recognizable as reminiscent of Pendulum’s works.

Still, I like Pendulum, particularly Immersion, and have had minimal interaction with the drum & bass scene outside of Pendulum, so the likes of “Feel Alive” and “Skyline” give me a warm nostalgia that hasn’t been wiped out by overexposure to similar producers. What does help a song like “Feel Alive” to make a positive impression are the warm and evocative vocals and vocal melodies of guest singer Lauren L’aimant, who also contributes positively to the otherwise less compelling “Watch The Sky”. The main issue I have with Half Life is that it features a whopping 14 tracks, and by no means are they all bangers; the more brash sounds of the title track are quite fun, but the glitchiness and weird thinness of the even less smooth “Blast Out” does not click with me. Additionally, there’s sequences of tracks that rather blend together, and others that simply make no impact. Still, a selection of the strongest songs on Half Life would make a rather enjoyable EP’s worth of content.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Dälek - Precipice
[Experimental Hip Hop | Hardcore Hip Hop]


Dälek was one of the very first hip-hop projects I really got into and set an example of what I looked for in the genre. Thought-provoking lyrics that mixed elements of social commentary, existentialism, religion, history and mythology. Dälek’s poetry was properly combined with harsh industrial, drone/noise and abrasive beats. When you listen to such aggressive works like From Filthy Tongue Of Gods And Griots or Absence, you won’t find it at all surprising that Dälek released the dark, moody yet still vicious Asphalt For Eden through Profound Lore records. Or that Dälek were the first hip-hop act to appear at the metal/underground music festival Roadburn in 2017. That live performance fully cemented my love for this project.

I felt like something was off with Precipice almost right away. The album starts with “Lest With Forget”. A 5 minute intro of low, foreboding drone / dark ambient that feels celestial yet still somber which does reflect well against the beautiful artwork. Sadly, I feel the intro overstays its welcome and doesn’t add much to introduce you to the first proper track, “Boycott”. This is the type of dark and punchy Dälek I’ve come to know and love with harsh beats, distorted bass, constant loop of drones and noise. But the more you dive into the album the more you notice these sections that are as uneventful as the intro and incapable of driving the lyricism of MC Dälek anywhere. The lack of variation in the instrumentals is honestly baffling to me when thinking of how great the project has been in that department. I’m all for slow burners and the idea of a slow, dark, more ambient-based Dälek is intriguing to me but the execution shows flaws in songwriting and lacks so much bite. The album works in small doses though. The beginning and the end of the album are pretty good but the middle section is all too meandering that even the fantastic lyricism takes a detour. “The Harbingers” is almost cheesy and surprisingly unoriginal while “Devotion” is so uneventful that it’s hard to focus, which is the same problem you find on “A Heretic’s Inheritance”. This track has a cameo by Tool’s Adam Jones plodding along with a monotone riff but you wouldn’t know any of that if I didn’t tell you. That’s how unremarkable it is.

I don’t know what happened in the past 5 years since the previous album, Endangered Philosophies (great album, by the way). Perhaps the pandemic and the isolation made Dälek soft and unprepared for the new decade? I know it sounds like I'm blasting this album too hard but it's because I really love this project. If some sections were shorter and if more dynamics were used, this would have been a fine record (or a great EP!). There are great cuts here and there but Precipice lacks focus and bite. The heavy use of slow and monotonous ambient drones did not work in their favor. It resulted in an album that is difficult to get into and it doesn’t represent the quality Dälek is otherwise known for.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by X-Ray Rod





Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
[Conscious Hip Hop | West Coast Hip Hop]


RaduP's pick


Haha, no pressure, just one of the most anticipated records of the decade. What could I possibly write about Kendrick Lamar's new album that hasn't been said already by every other mainstream music publication and online music critic? It's not like people who are interested in this album haven't already heard it, and people who aren't won't be persuaded by anything I say. But to try and balance things out, I sat with this album for a bit, made sure not to read any reviews so I wouldn't feel compelled to just go with the narrative, even if that means I'd miss some things that I'm not used on picking up.

I was looking forward to Kendrick's new album after such a long time (relatively) has elapsed his 2017's Damn. Not only was I a bit let down by that album after the paradigm shift that was 2015's To Pimp A Butterfly, but so much has happened since and Kendrick continued to remain elusive. He did pop up again suddenly in 2021 as a guest on his cousin Baby Keem's "Family Ties" explaining "I been duckin' the pandemic, social gimmicks / I been duckin' the overnight activists, yeah / I'm not a trending topic". And judging by the "I've been goin' through somethin' / One-thousand eight-hundred and fifty-five days" line from the opener counting the exact number of days since Damn, it's pretty clear that the May 13th release date was selected very early in advance. Whether there's more to it than it being Friday the 13th and some possible religious meaning, that's quite likely.

The most important thing that I picked up on first listen was that there were no bangers the way you'd get "King Kunta" or "Humble" from previous records, all of this being replaced by a more introspective and personal record. It's not like Kendrick hasn't been introspective and personal before, but a lot of Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers feels more like a therapy session than a music album. There's plenty of mainstream appeal moments, from R&B/Soul features, bouncy production, slight trap influence, but all of it is toned town and serves more to drive the album's narrative across. The production is superb all the way across, from Pharrell's bouncy beat on "Mr. Morale" having such a dark synthy vibe, the trap on "Silent Hill", and a lot of them going in abstract territories, with the culmination of this being in the tense and drumless "Worldwide Steppers".

The therapeutic nature of the record is further amplified by samples of self-help author Eckhart Tolle and Kendrick's longtime partner Whitney Alford, with plenty of interludes tackling the "going to therapy" narrative, including lines claiming breakthrough in some sessions. How much of this is Kendrick being completely himself and how much of it is him in character is up for debate, but there's plenty of moments of processing generational trauma and coping through infidelity and luxuries, an entire song that is built like an argument between two partners ("We Cry Together"), a guest spot from Sampha about having to deal with emotions in a toxic way akin to taking a shot without any "chaser" in "Father Time", a song about coming to terms with homophobia and transphobia ("Auntie Diaries").

I know this is longer than most of the writeups I usually do for this feature, and I can't even really say I like this more than some of the other albums I covered. As thematically resonant as it is, and as great as the production is, it's still pretty inconsistent across it's double album size. Overall I still prefer good kid, m.A.A.d city and To Pimp A Butterfly, but this seems like a grower.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Kalandra - Kingdom Two Crowns: Norse Lands Soundtrack (Extended)
[Nordic Folk | Video Game Soundtrack]


I have a confession to make: I regularly fall asleep listening to this album, dozing off after just a few minutes, and it took me many, many attempts to finally listen to it in its entirety in one session. However, that doesn't mean that this soundtrack is boring or uneventful, because I can fall asleep in the most impossible places when I have found my inner peace and when I feel comfortable and secure. And that's exactly what my favorite folk band Kalandra provides.

We already featured the Norwegian quartet in November 2020 as part of this series of articles, and the energetic folk rock on their debut album The Line had deeply impressed me then and taken me by storm. To stay with the forces of nature, Kingdom Two Crowns: Norse Lands Soundtrack is anything but a raging storm, rather it feels like a suddenly rising wall of fog that envelops everything around you in a thick veil of mist, making you forget everything outside the narrative world for the next 37 minutes. The narrative environment is a setting from the strategy video game Kingdom Two Crowns, and it is inspired by the Norse Viking culture around the turn of the first millennium. The band is supported on this journey through time by local Norwegian folk musicians, who set appropriate accents with medieval instruments such as hurdy-gurdy, nyckelharpa and moraharpa. In contrast to the debut album, Katrine Ødegård Stenbekk's deeply touching voice is no longer the all-overshadowing, dominant element on Norse Lands. Her angelic vocals are still omnipresent, but Katrine's exceptional, crystal clear voice is now used more like an equal instrument, merging with the spherical soundscape of synthesizers and percussions. Captivating vocal lines, rousing choruses and catchy songs like the absolutely brilliant “Brave New World“ from the debut are perhaps therefore sought in vain on Norse Lands, but this is not a flaw, it lies in the nature of things. A soundtrack should not distract the listener from the big picture by individual highlights, but take us into another world over the entire playing time, and Kalandra succeeds quite excellently with their second full-length effort.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by Starvynth





William Basinski & Janek Schaefer - On Reflection
[Ambient | Minimalism]


William Basinski has quickly become one of my favorite ambient composers, and even though his most renowned work, The Disintegration Loops, is a bit too gimmicky for my taste, his skill in tape manipulation is something I've lauded before. And even though he has collaborated before with the likes of Richard Chartier and Lawrence English, I still didn't really take him to be the collaborative kind. And yet, here he is, on an album with one Janek Shaefer, who I should probably get into.

On Reflection is essentially piano-based ambient spread over five pieces spanning 40 minutes. Basinski and Shaefer have both had time and its passage as core themes of their music, and the recent pandemic must've only made that disorienting and confusing relationship with time even more disorienting and confusing. Taking a piano piece from their archive, the two weave and manipulate it to serve the chronological theme. It is as somber as it is stripped back, music so quiet and ignorable that it's barely there, but whose emotional weight can drag me down even with how little it does.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Sault - Air
[Modern Classical | Choral]


Since I rarely review modern classical albums, it's a bit ironic to have two of them in the same edition, and each of them with a unique story. While Jo Quail is a celloist that has contributed a lot of metal and metal-adjacent music finally creating an orchestral commissioned piece, Sault could not be further from metal. Sault is a duo comprised of singer Cleo Soul and producer Inflo, both of whom have also worked with names like Little Simz and Michael Kiwanuka. They've made quite a few albums in the past year, all of which being neo-soul, with influences from spoken word poetry, funk, afrobeat, and gospel. Well, Air is not that.

It is weird to hear a classical album made by musicians who usually do soul. But when a lot of the music hear is focused on the vocals, even if it's not entirely acapella, some of that soul leaning can seep in. There are some tracks where that's just a vocal line, some where it's unignorably there, but for the most part Air is very triumphant and cinematic. It would be ironic to call it airy, but ethereal and lush are definitely worthy descriptors. Some of these sounds remind me of a bunch of similar sounds that Inflo contributed to on Little Simz' Introvert, so hearing them expanded over the course of an album without turning meandering is a very pleasing experience.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Jo Quail - The Cartographer
[Modern Classical]


This is a pretty hard album to review considering how much I've been sitting on it. This was announced as a commissioned piece for the 2020 Roadburn that never happened, then it was gonna premiere at the 2022 one, then I saw Jo Quail opening for Amenra just so I could feel better about missing her Roadburn set, then I went and saw the Roadburn set of the full album anyway, and then I interviewed her. And because the album was released early in May, I had to wait until this edition to review it. And I still don't find myself any closer to really figuring out what I think about it, even as I have listened to a lot of Jo Quail's other work, but The Cartographer is the biggest one in scope, both musically and in terms of it being an orchestral piece rather than mostly Jo playing cello.

And one of the reasons why this is so difficult is that all of the reviews I've seen of it come from metal (or at least metal-adjacent) websites, and nothing from something classical music focused, so as someone without enough of a classical frame of reference, I'm not sure if this is a good modern classical piece or it's just one of the few ones I checked out and one that's made by someone with plenty of contact with the metal world. The Cartographer is a real slow builder, which is generally up my alley, but there are moments of it where the buildups work better than others. Maybe I'm more attracted to the moments that have more of a "metal" feel, which were clearly made with a "heaviness is heaviness, not just genre" mindset, like the percussion, brass, and vocals all working towards creating a brooding feeling. These definitely come to their strongest in the climax of the 5th movement, ending the piece on a pretty high note.

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: 8   Visited by: 99 users
12.06.2022 - 21:18
A Real Monkey

Ain't both discs of Kendrick's album only like a half hour long anyway? It's about typical rap album length really.
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"Change the world. My final message. Goodbye."

~Last words of Harambe, seconds before he was shot, according to child he shielded from gunfire
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12.06.2022 - 21:33
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by A Real Monkey on 12.06.2022 at 21:18

Ain't both discs of Kendrick's album only like a half hour long anyway? It's about typical rap album length really.

Have definitely heard rap albums longer than that which weren't even double albums. But I guess you could say it's also divided thematically so it makes sense.
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Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
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13.06.2022 - 19:30
Lord Slothrop

I was a big fan of Florence and the Machine's first two albums, but after that I lost interest. I'll definitely check out her new one though; maybe it'll get me back on board with her.
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13.06.2022 - 20:14
Nejde
Philosoraptor
Nice to see that musclassia thought Vagrants were good enough to be featured here. It's a really enjoyable album if you're into that genre. And no one should miss out on Yīn Yīn. Perfect music for warm summer evenings.
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"You have the right to believe in what you want. I have the right to believe it's ridiculous." - Ricky Gervais
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14.06.2022 - 00:22
Blackcrowe

Great job 👏👏👏👏
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Not
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15.06.2022 - 11:24
Draugen

I've been listening to Preacher's Daughter regularly ever since its release. Such a great album that really demands your full attention. Nice to see it featured.
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15.06.2022 - 19:16
Crème fraiche

Man there is a lot to go through here!

Still digesting the new Kendrick album. So far it has to be my least favorite of his releases.

Auntie Diaries was definitely off-putting with all of the"f-bombs" dropped. Even if he was making a point and telling a story, it still comes across as pretty crass and ignorant.

Almost immediately wanted to throw on TPAB halfway through this.

Need to give it more spins.
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16.06.2022 - 15:28
Metal Rambo

Whoever came up with these non-metal articles should get a medal. Lots of these obscure pop and rock bands and albums are utterly fascinating pieces of music, and I don't think I would personally ever hear or read about them anywhere else.
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You've got a lot of guts. Let's see what they look like!
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