Thursday, 4 June 2020

Under The Pier - Puff Pieces


Labels: Dark Trail Records
Formats: CD/Digital
Release Date: 01 May 2020

Tracklist: 

1. Brown Note Baptist Church
2. Four Sided Triangle
3. Wagon Wheel On Repeat Until You Kill Yourself
4. The ICU
5. A State Of Heightened Anxiety
6. Idol/Idle
7. Read'em And Weep Kids
8. By Attrition
9. Payoff

I need a kick up the arse. Been struggling with writer's block and general laziness over the last couple of days, as you can tell by the lack of posts. The weather's gone from hot and sunny to grey and cold, so I'm spending more time trying to get on top of things. That's where the new album from Baltimore's (Maryland, US) Under The Pier comes in. This is their debut album and it's been released with help from Dark Trail Records. If you're familiar with that label, you'll know that this is going to be mathcore-related and it'll no doubt rule!

Under The Pier only released their first EP in August of 2019, so they haven’t wasted any time in writing, recording and releasing their debut album. Opener ‘Brown Note Baptist Church’ sets the tone and reminds you of the Myspace-era glory days of the sub-genre. It’s technical, skilful but also groovy as Under The Pier make use of multiple tempos, riff patterns and dual vocals along the way.

There are touches of metal, hardcore and industrial on ‘Four Sided Triangle’, which is totally chaotic. The production/mixing/mastering helps with that as well, because everything sounds airy and big, as opposed to being compressed and thin, which is sometimes the case with earlier releases by bands, where they haven’t quite got the budget.

‘Wagon Wheel On Repeat Until You Kill Yourself’ flies by in a flash but makes you pay attention with it’s rhythmic breakdown at the ninety-second mark, before turning into a mad death metal/noisecore beast. Following it is ‘The ICU’, which sounds slower and chuggier but that’s just an illusion, as pinch-harmonics and progressive instrumentation grab you by the throat.

The pace of this record is striking. Under The Pier don’t allow you any time to relax and each song comes thick and fast. You’re supposed to listen to this is one full sitting. Before you know it, you’re at the midway point of Puff Pieces. ‘A State Of Heightened Anxiety’ starts with a weird, recorded phone message and follows it up with a brief but blasting slab if mathcore that sounds glitchy at times. It’s great!

They head down a slightly more introspective path on ‘Idol/Idle’ but it’s only brief. The calming mid-section builds expectation for more dissonance, which is delivered in spades. It is a lengthier song and is more stop/start. There’s some really clever percussion on ‘Read’em And Weep Kids’ and it really messes with your head, as Under The Pier tear through the song. There’s not a great deal of melody going on though, aside from the treble created by the guitar work, which is actually quite effective.

Penultimate track ‘By Attrition’ is the most brooding piece on the album. It’s lengthy and almost post-punk intro leads to a virtuoso instrumental display that’s only interrupted by rasping screams that sit amongst it all. Album closer ‘Payoff’ is another song that relies more on lengthy instrumental passages and this time borrows more from the blues/jazz end of the spectrum. It’s a (dare I say it) relaxing end to Puff Pieces.

Overall, this is an album that sits amongst the best of the modern mathcore/tech scene and one that will definitely put Under The Pier on an upward trajectory. It’s running time maybe short but is still long enough to leave it buried in your head. 

You can stream Puff Pieces and grab it as a digital download below:-




You can buy one of the last remaining CD copies from Dark Trail Records here -

Monday, 1 June 2020

Empire Of The Moon - Eclipse


Labels: Iron Bonehead Productions
Formats: Vinyl/CD/Tape/Digital
Release Date: 10 Jan 2020

Tracklist:

1. Arrival
2. Imperium Tridentis
3. Per Aspera ad Lunae - I. The Resonance Within
4. Per Aspera ad Lunae - II. Two Queens Appear
5. Per Aspera ad Lunae - III. Descending
6. Devi Maha Devi
7. Per Aspera ad Lunae IV. Son Of Fire

This feels like such a strange release to be reviewing when it's baking hot and glorious outside. That said, maybe it isn't so strange after all as the heat is slightly oppressive. This is the newest album from Greek black metal band Empire Of The Moon. Released by Iron Bonehead Productions in January, Eclipse is the second full-length offering from the band since their inception in 1996 and their first release in six years.

These are very dark times and tensions are high amongst many. Tension is a good descriptor for the feeling thats created by Eclipse opener ‘Arrival’. It builds in volume and majesty before giving way to ‘Imperium Tridentis’ and it’s ravaging tempo, shrieked vocals and blasting percussion. Initially, the guitars are slightly buried amongst it all but they come to life later on and instrumentally, everything comes alive. Even the Jets that were just flying overheard failed to dampen it.

‘Per Aspera Ad Lunae - i. The Resonance Within’ is a doomier affair, with a slower tempo during instrumental sections and verses alike. It’s a texture that works so well when applied to Empire Of The Moon’s music. As this album progresses, it gets harder to plant Empire Of The Moon into one sub-genre. They go from fast to slow to scathing and then symphonic on ‘Per Aspera Ad Lunae - ii. Two Queens Appear’ and make it all sound effortless while doing so. 

It’s surprising how much momentum is gained through this record. ‘Per Aspera Ad Lunae - iii. Descending’ heralds the beginning of a trio of lengthy songs, but goes by in a flash. Once again, choral symphonies sit alongside heavy yet catchy music. There’s nothing that can be compared to this and considering it’s classed as black metal in a broad sense, it’s very well written and confidently delivered (I’m not bashing other black metal here).

Penultimate song ‘Devi Maha Devi’ is more orthodox in approach but it’s filled with dread and evil. The multi-vocal approach makes it sound like insanity is taking over, but Empire Of The Moon drag you back from the brink just in time, through the use of upbeat tempos and simple but effective riffing. The album’s closer ‘Per Aspera Ad Lunae - iv. Son Of Fire’ is the perfect way to end, as it gathers up all of the band’s qualities and brings them together perfectly. Use this as a time for reflection and introspection before you go back into the crazy world that exists outside of your home. 

Eclipse is another album that proves that extreme music doesn’t have to mean extreme listening. It’s a beautiful body of music and art. 

You can stream Eclipse below:-




Vinyl, CD and Digital copies can be purchased via Iron Bonehead Productions below:-


Thursday, 28 May 2020

Dødskvad - Krønike I


Labels: Caligari Records
Formats: Tape/Digital
Release Date: 20 Feb 2020

Tracklist:

1. Rike I Ruiner
2. Adelrate
3. Pakt Med Dypet

It feels like a Friday evening, but alas it is not for another twenty-four hours. I'm looking forward to having two weeks away from the daily grind, please excuse me. I'm not promising I'll be anymore productive blog-wise, because whenever I say I'm going to be, things never happen that way. Enough of my ramblings though and on to Norwegian heavy/mysterious band Dødskvad. Krønike I is the trio's first release and it's found a home on renowned underground US label Caligari Records after being self-released by the band in February. Not a lot is known about them but a little research shows that they've got a good pedigree. Formalities aside, I'm looking forward to some extreme and dark tones.

The last Caligari release I reviewed was the perfect blend of death and doom. I suspect this will be a slightly different affair. Opening with ‘Rike I Ruiner’, Dødskvad’s sound is a cross between rotten death metal and early raw black metal. The bass is right up front on this recording, which gives it a  jazz/blues edge, while the percussion is dominated by cymbal crashes and there’s a subtle folkiness to the guitar melodies. The vocals are pure black aside for some (maybe?) choral tones towards the song’s end. 

Dødskvad have clear musical skill, as demonstrated with the opening wailing solo on ‘Adelrate’. Yes, the overall feel of this demo might be slightly primitive given what some listeners may be used to, but those in question will just have to suck it in. This is a sound that was influenced by much of the first-wave of death/black metal bands and it’s very true to that. There are keyboards present on this recording too, which take centre stage and conclude things here.

Dødskvad call time of their first demo with the lengthier Pakt Med Dypet, which is more of a dirge-like death metal song with oddly upbeat melody and traditional heavy metal leanings. Who would’ve expected twin guitar melodies! That’s what you get though, before you’re whisked once again into the dark depths of demonic hell. That image aside, It’s got an odd sci-fi feel in places, due to the use of synths and that lightens of mood when needed. 

Writing a proper summary of this release would be pointless as the words above should tell you all you need to know. Krønike I is a really strong debut. Dødskvad have their own sound already nailed, so here’s looking onto their next release.

Stream and purchase the demo digitally from the band below:-



Tapes can be purchased from Caligari Records here - http://caligarirecords.storenvy.com.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The Mild - Old Man EP


Labels: Assurd Records/Hecatombe Records/ZAS Autoproduzioni Records/Youth Of Today Records
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 20 Jan 2020

Tracklist:

1. The Creation Is Beyond Saving
2. Dictates From The Cradle
3. Light Beam
4. Confusion Reigns
5. Horrible Visual
6. Gazing At My Lifeless Body

The bank holiday weekend was an unmitigated write-off for me. Over indulgence and the resulting tiredness put pay to any chance of me writing. A bit of fast hardcore/powerviolence should help banish the guilt I feel. Old Man is the latest release from Italian trio The Mild. It's their third release, following their 2015 debut 7" Left To Starve and their 2018 full-length Coffin Tree. As with every other band at the moment, The Mild have been forced to cancel their live plans for the year until things get back to normal. Instead, they're relying on support from fans via digital downloads and merch sales.

‘Six songs on a 7’ EP?’ I hear you say! I can’t remember that last time I listened to one that was packed with more than four, but then again I have missed quite a few I’m sure. Italian band The Mild are here to change that with their most recent EP Old Man. EP opener ‘The Creation Is Beyond Saving’ starts off like a heavy hardcore song, with bigs riffs and a pace that’s more sludgy-like than it is fast. The tempo does build but it never explodes like you might expect.

‘Dictates From The Cradle’ is more raucous and thrash-like. The noise that this trio creates is brought to life by the EP’s mixing/mastering and despite the short song lengths, there’s a lot going on. The Mild covers a lot of ground in a short time musically. They also love feedback and black metal curiously. ‘Light Beam’ begins with a smattering of both before launching into another huge piece of heavy hardcore. It may sound from my opening descriptions like they don’t know what they want to be, but trust me, The Milld certainly do know.

There’s a much bigger metal influence coursing through Old Man that first appears and it’s again evidenced on the technical ‘Confusion Reigns’. It’s not technical in the modern day death metal sense, but in a way that is, when you look past the layers of grind and punk that make up the backbone of this release.’Horrible Visual’ reminds me that powerviolence has changed greatly over the last five years or so. Bands that I used to worship (and still love) like Famine (UK) and Water Torture have either disappeared or split and what’s left just ins’t as groovy or as fun. The Mild help to fill that hole here.

EP closer ‘Gazing At My Lifeless Body’ is as grim as the title suggests. There’s a gloomy death metal element here and The Mild are not messing about. There are so many comparisons you could draw here (and indeed I’ve already mentioned some above) but as kick-in-the-balls heaviness and punk attitude goes, The Mild wins 2020 already. Italy has a thriving scene at the moment and these guys are doing it justice for sure!

You can stream Old Man and buy it on vinyl or digitally (and with other merch) via The Mild's bandcamp page below:-




You can also grab the 7" from the labels below:-

ZAS Autoproduzioni Records - http://zasrec.blogspot.com/

ZAS Autoproduzioni Records - https://www.facebook.com/ZAS.AUTOPRODUZIONI/

Friday, 22 May 2020

Moloken - Unveilance Of Dark Matter


Labels: The Sign Records
Formats: Vinyl/CD/Digital
Release Date: 31 Jan 2020

Tracklist:

1. This Love Is A Curse
2. Surcease
3. Shadowcastle (Pt. 1)
4. No Ease, No Rest
5. Hollow Caress
6. Venom Love
7. Repressed
8. Lingering Demise
9. Unbearable
10. One Last Breath
11. Unveilance Of Dark Matter

Finally my review schedule is back on track, even if my inbox isn't! With the lockdown still in place in the UK (albeit with some slightly relaxed rules), I wanted to spend this balmy evening losing myself in some more heaviness, this time from Sweden. Moloken released their fourth full-length Unveilance Of Dark Matter in January via The Sign Records. They've been playing atmospheric and progressive metal/sludge for over a decade and have release two EPs alongside their full-length albums over that period. As they prepare for a full live performance of the record on May 23rd, you can prepare yourselves by giving it a listen.

Moloken has been a name that I’ve been familiar with for a while, but whose music has always flown under the radar slightly. The quartet opens album number four with ‘This Love Is A Curse’ and it’s a precursor of sorts. It’s mainly instrumental, save for the final thirty seconds, where the vocals kick in and pull you into the band’s angular extremity. ‘Surcease’ is a different beast. The tempo is faster and the atmosphere is darker. It’s a mix of many different musical elements, from sludge, to death metal, to unnerving post-hardcore and it’s certainly got plenty of metallic chops.

You’ll find that as Moloken’s songs get longer, they become more progressive. ‘Shadowcastle (Pt. 1)’ is a case in point. It reminds you of Leviathan-era Mastodon and it gives a proper glimpse of what the band is capable of when they stretch out their songs. That progression and momentum is broken up by the piano-led interlude of ‘No Ease, No Rest’, which is still dramatic enough to hold your attention as it fades to reveal ‘Hollow Curses’, with it’s blackened hardcore-like riffs and low growls. The Sign Records has become a reliable stable for hard-rock and metal that sits at the traditional end of the spectrum, so Moloken is a different prospect for the label’s followers.

Their sludgy side comes out on ‘Venom Love’ thanks to some subtly NOLA-inspired vocals. That said, it’s still a technical song that brims with post-metal atmosphere. It’s a lot more instrumental-led this time but that’s no bad thing, especially when it’s delivered by a band that are this good. Talking of post-metal (again), ‘Repressed” features a riff plucked out of the top draw. It reminds me of Scottish (short-lived) post-metal/doom band Voe, if any of you remember them. It’s a very short little interlude but it’s ideally placed here. 

‘Repressed’ blends into the striking ‘Lingering Demise’ very easily indeed. I wasn’t expecting this kind of breadth from Moloken, but when they do flex their muscles during longer songs, they’re a joy to listen to. Again, there are notable glances to some of the more well known bands in the genre, but with metal constantly evolving and revolving, it’s no surprise. To go from ‘Lingering Demise’ to the black metal rasps of ‘Unbearable’ is a bit of a shock. I’m not sure it was Moloken’s intention to sound that way, but that’s how it comes across during the opening bars. From there it becomes a mash of death metal vox and prog/jazz instrumentation. It’s great!

There’s time for a final stirring interlude in ‘One Last Breath’, which is aptly titled as it allows you to take yours before album closer and title track, ‘Unveilance Of Dark Matter’. This is your last chance to dance and Moloken make sure you remember it. This record flows in such a coherent way and goes by almost effortlessly. It contains enough truly emotive anger alongside a heap of great musicianship, which really brings it to life. We’re already nearly five months deep into 2020 and with January still serving up albums like this, the expectations for the rest of the year are great.

You can stream and purchase 'Unveilance Of Dark Matter' on all formats via Moloken's Bandcamp page here:-




You can also grab copies from The Sign Records here - https://freighttrain.se/en/the-sign-record/

The Sign Records - https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Muscipula - Little Chasm Of Horrors


Labels: Caligari Records
Formats: Cassette/Digital
Release Date: 28 Feb 2020

Tracklist:-

1. Descending Into Chasm Dionanea Muscipula
2. Closed Shut (Enzymatic Death By Digestion)
3. Sphagnum Bog Of The Depraved Droseracea

This is a perfect release for a Sunday night, as the weekend's coming to a close and the grim thought of joining the rat race enter your mind once more. This is the debut demo from US death/doom band Muscipula, which has been released on tape by Caligari Records. There isn't much I can tell you about this band, as their identities and history is unknown. The tape is limited to 150.

I really need to step up my death metal demo collecting game! The artwork on this release is so detailed and it matches the nasty tones of Muscipula perfectly. ‘Descending Into Chasm Dionanea Muscipula’ is a sewer water-drenched take on death metal. It’s got an industrial edge to it thanks to it’s tempo and the precise drumming. The vocals are low and terrifying while the guitar/bass work is surrounded by feedback and white noise. The first impressions are really good.

‘Closed Shut (Enzymatic Death By Digestion)’ is equally as disgusting as the demo’s opener but it also seems more slamming in a strange sort of way. The pinch-harmonics and the thick riffs couple together with the slow tempo to make it sound way more claustrophobic in places. Towards the end, the pace changes and the vocals become even more abrasive.

This is unlike any death metal I’ve heard before. Demo closer ’Sphagnum Bog Of The Depraved Droseracea’ contains a more urgent feel. The industrial influence is still there but Muscipula seems to power through this one with a perverse focus. The warm bass tones are the only thing that keep you from going completely insane. 

This demo goes by very quickly and while Muscipula is from the US, the music on Little Chasm Of Horrors definitely reminds me of the murkiness of Finnish death/doom and bands like Profetus and Solothus. Great stuff indeed and hats off to Caligari for unearthing such a decomposing delight.

You can stream Little Chasm Of Horrors and buy it on tape via Caligari Records here:-



The Sawtooth Grin - Cuddlemonster


Labels: Dead By 1918/Wax Vessel
Formats: CD/Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 2001 (CD)/04 Oct 2019 (Vinyl/Digital)

Tracklist:

1. Give Me The Amulet You Bitch
2. A 2 Minute Lecture On The Finer Points Of Instability
3. Sometimes She Tasted Like Burnt Plastic Smells
4. Meat Hook Marty & The Pajama Party
5. Please Shit All Over Me, I Love It
6. Satan Would Sit In The Smoking Section But He Doesn't Like The Creepy Waiter
7. Good Touch Bad Touch 123

Having written about three of the four Wax Vessel reissues I own (still got Dr. Acula to review), I figured I'd carry on. As with the other's so far, I missed out on The Sawtooth Grin when they originally released Cuddlemonster. The reissue sold out so fast and is now only available via sellers on Discogs. The band started life in 1999 before releasing this EP in 2001 on cd via Dead By 1918, then followed it up with the Pervavor EP in 2004. 205 copies of this EP were pressed on single-sided vinyl by Wax Vessel last year and there were some amazing looking colour-ways, as per usual.

I promise I’ll get onto some newer stuff once I’ve written about this. ‘Give Me The Amulet You Bitch’ is overwhelming straight off the bat. Ridiculously fast, grinding and heavy, but with a nod to post-hardcore and vocals that are as piercing as anything The Body could do. It takes as long to type the song titles out as it does for TSG to play them. ‘A 2 Minute Lecture On The Finer Points Of Instability’ picks up right where the opener left off and just goes for it! I can only imagine how mesmerising this band would have been live, as their energy must have been intense.

TSG were obviously big fans of gaming, as Cuddlemonster is brimming with those kinds of samples, like at the start of ‘Sometimes She Tasted Like Burnt Plastic Smells’, which makes use of so many tempos and crazy riffs, as well as more of a metal vibe in places.Meat Hook Marty & The Pajama Partyonly just broaches past the one-minute mark but it’s enough trust me! I don’t mean that disrespectfully at all, it’s just that it’s such an extreme and abrasive song that too much will really be too much. For a trio, TSG make a lot of noise.

The amusingly titled ‘Please Shit All Over Me, I Love It’ is the longest track on the EP and with that, the most experimental too. It contains fast parts, slow parts, breakdowns and a total descent into madness along the way. Everything you’d expect from a mathcore band really. Not much comes close to the grin it creates on your face. Almost instantly afterwards, you’re thrust straight into ’Satan Would Sit In The Smoking Section But He Doesn’t Like The Creepy Waiter’ and before you know it the penultimate song is over. It doesn’t stick around long but it will stick in your head!

Final song ‘Good Touch Bad Touch 123’ sounds positively radio-friendly when compared to the rest of the album. The chilled-out surf-rock style guitar riffs and steady tempo is unexpected. It’s variation that goes a long way on a record that’s this extreme and abrasive in sound. That being said, it is hugely entertaining.

You can stream and purchase Cuddlemonster digitally below:-



Friday, 15 May 2020

Old Soul - Natures Arms Encircle All



Labels: Self-Released/Ancient Injury Records/Dingleberry Records/IFB Records/Maniyax Records/Zegema Beach Records
Formats: CD/Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 07-Aug-2011 (CD/Digital Self-release)/04 Nov 2014 (Vinyl release)

Tracklist:

1. Ocean
2. Triton
3. Orbit
4. Shallows

After what seems like an age, I'm back with another ZBR roster review. I'm persisting with it because I enjoy it and I enjoy music. I first became aware of US band Old Soul when they released Tidal Lock, thanks to UK label Dog Knights Productions, who were one of five labels involved in the vinyl pressing. I picked up a copy of Natures Arms Encircle All when I ordered a load of records directly from ZBR. Old Soul foamed in 2010 and since then the six-piece have released three albums, an EP and three split records. 

Never have I heard a record with such a beautifully placed emo/screamo beginning. I mean that in the nicest way possible, as the child’s spoken-word that adorns opener ‘Ocean’ is perfect. So to is the clean guitar that lends it’s atmosphere to the space in between that spoken-word and the dissonant sludge-like verse that follows. Old Soul are not a chaotic band by any means. They prefer to paint pictures with clear musicality and even when they launch into what they call ‘black trip dreamo’, they’re still on the right page. ’Triton’ continues where ‘Ocean’ left off. At first it’s more of an archetypal screamo song but nothing is truly that way on this record and before long the blackened instrumentation and atmosphere is heightening your senses, while wrapping it’s arms gently around you. 

I love the way that all of the songs on here flow, continuing where the previous one had left off. ‘Orbit’ is more angular in places and the full band has more room to play here. They unleash something that’s both fast in tempo and engaging in design. It’s added running time means they can be more expressive and it works. If you’re a sucker for longer closing songs on records, ’Shallows’ is the one you’ll lose yourself in. It’s a mix of all kinds of emotions and genres, albeit heavy ones. Old Soul do come from a darker direction but it doesn’t overpower their post-hardcore/metal sound and in fact it makes it better. The quality of the recording is amazing as well, considering Natures Arms Encircle All was Old Soul’s first release. 

The LP came in a wraparound card sleeve containing a printed inner sleeve, poster/lyric insert and the record itself was pressed on brown/grey merge coloured vinyl (though I think colours do vary). It was also self-released by the band on CD. Both the physical release and the music contained on it are a thing of beauty. Grab a copy if you still can.

You can stream and purchase the album digitally from Old Soul below:-




As for physical copies, Zegema Beach Records is the only releasing label that still has copies (as far as I can tell from my research):-


Tuesday, 12 May 2020

The Owl - Voyage


Labels: Self-Released
Formats: Digital
Release Date: 23 Mar 2020

Tracklist:

1. Learning From Those Humble Beginnings
2. One Thousand Hymns
3. The Integral Moments Of Existence
4. The Euphoric Journey
5. To A Modified Reality

It is a great honour to have received this review submission. The individual behind The Owl is someone I've had the pleasure of knowing for a good few years now, although meeting in person has been irregular to say the least for a couple of years (my fault). Voyage is one of the newest releases from a project that is obsessed with experimentation, improvisation and electronics. It is a complete re-work of the project's first release Frá Auðmjúkum Byrjun, which is Icelandic for 'From Humble Beginnings', which coincidentally was The Owl's first song (according to Bandcamp). The Owl recently remixed 'Ease Me' by Oathbreaker. You should definitely check it out too!

I go through waves of enthusiasm for my hobby, just like anybody else does. Sometimes I don’t have the energy for writing/listening and other times, it’s all I want to do. I’m currently at the latter end of the spectrum and with so much music to inspire me, it should continue. The Owl is intriguing. A musical endeavour that’s been born out of so many human emotions, it’s hard to put it into perspective. Voyage is just one example of that and through musical experimentation and noise, those emotions reach out to you. ‘Learning From Those Humble Beginnings’ is a quiet opener with bass guitar being joined by loops, droning samples and atmosphere that can’t be replicated through instrumentation.

Given that The Owl shares it’s creator with Leeds noise miscreants Sloth Hammer, it’s unsurprising to hear a heavy use of electronics throughout this release. ‘One Thousand Hymns’ takes on that kind of crazy form early on, with rumbling tones, repeating laser-like sounds and bass-effects coupled with lowly guitar work. I’m not an expert at describing this form of music but that’s my best effort. At times there is an earthy doom/black metal feel to Voyage, but also a hauntingly unnerving one, especially on ‘The Integral Moments Of Existence’, which is minimalist yet spine tingling. 

‘The Euphoric Journey’ is a journey alright. It does actually feel quite euphoric though, as it twinkles and winds it’s way through percussion and key-led ambience to a bizarre ending that may or may not be a metaphor for the current breakdown of society. The album’s final song ‘To A Modified Reality’ finishes it just as ‘Learning From Those Humble Beginnings’ started proceedings. Quietly and with a gentle wrap-around feeling that you’ve escaped real life for a brief moment and are being taken somewhere entirely more peaceful. 

This album is a lot calmer than I was expecting. That’s a good thing though as during this bizarre time in our lives, the less anxiety and stress that effects us the better. If you want a rest from extremity and blasting, then please listen to The Owl. It’s enriching mentally and that can only be positive. 

The full album is available to stream and download (name-your-price). As part of the stream, you can listen to it all in unspoiled glory as it was intended through the 'complete' version of Voyage that is included as one 27+ minute piece:-



Also, here's a link to that Oathbreaker remix I mentioned earlier:-



Monday, 11 May 2020

Fjords - Onirica


Labels: Self-Released
Formats: CD/Digital
Release Date: 22 Nov 2019

Tracklist:

1. Into The Vista
2. Blossom In Rapture
3. Onirica
4. Prometheus
5. Unbound
6. Tides Of The Sea
7. The Godless Shade
8. Ode To The Albatross
9. Polaris

It feels like my whole day has been leading up to this moment. Granted, that day went pretty quickly but after a quietish weekend musically, getting back down to it is much needed. My focus this evening is fixed on UK progressive metal band Fjords, who self-released their debut album in November 2019. They're been compered to Leprous, Novembre and Opeth amongst others and they count them as influences too. I'm excited about this.

When people think of progressive music, they think of long and sometimes noodling songs. They’re right about them being long but in these modern times, the noodling has been replaced by extremity. Fjords are one of the new breed of UK bands that mix progression with both extreme instrumentation and growling/clean vocals. Opening song ‘Into The Vista’ illustrates that perfectly with all of the aforementioned elements being tied together to create something genuinely rousing. The vocals remind me of the likes of My Dying Bride in places too. 

The songs on Onirica vary in length and while some are atmospheric and gloomy in places, they are also upbeat and light in others. ‘Blossom In Rapture’ is a case in point with it’s modern approach, which contains epic melodic guitar work, off-kilter but up-tempo rhythms and an overall musical vision that’s hard to replicate. This is only track number two and already I feel a complete idiot for missing it last year. 

People on the outside looking in often say that metal music doesn’t require any skill, that it’s just noise. Even the most primitive grind and noisy black metal takes some form of genuine skill to perform. Progressive music such as this takes a considerable amount and Fjords demonstrate that skill more than proficiently on title-track ‘Onirica’. The band does feature some very experienced musicians amongst it’s ranks and that experience shows through here. All of a sudden I feel so warm and contented thanks to this record.

‘Prometheus’ is one of the softer songs vocally on Onirica, but that’s only because the melodics vocals are used more often. It’s still a heavy song and when the harsh vocals do kick in, the tempo slows to a slightly more menacing pace. It contains light but you have to reach for it through the dark. What really is engaging though is the musicianship, which one again stands out for it’s quality and for the emotion that it projects. 

In between all of the lengthy numbers comes ‘Unbound’, which is essentially an instrumental interlude that breaks up the album. It works and actually builds a great deal of anticipation for the second half, which begins with ‘Tides Of The Sea’. In fact the former flows into the latter (albeit with a rather off-putting pause between the two, which breaks up the atmosphere). ‘Tides Of The Sea’ itself is another upbeat song that borrows from modern metal, metalcore (in places) and death metal. I guess Fjords have more influences under their sleeves and they use them really well. Being able to use them all and still not be classified within one specific genre/sub-genre means they’re doing everything right.

I can sometimes be accused of using a lot of words to say a little, especially when describing songs and albums but what’s the point in writing a paragraph that doesn’t do it justice when I can write seven! ‘The Godless Shade” made me reflect on how much I write, given how short the average attention span is these days (especially when taking long-form written media into consideration) and I decided to carry on anyway, because this song deserves it. It’s rad and once again shows just how good the UK scene is if you just scratch the surface a little bit. Screw all of those people who stopped listening to music in the 90’s!

Things become oddly mysterious and goth-like at the start of ‘Ode To The Albatross’, which borrows from the Peak District that surrounds Fjords. The Peaceville three also make their presence felt here and while the progression overrides the doom, there are still subtle elements of the latter within this penultimate song. Fjords wait till the end to unleash their most majestic song, in the form of the orchestral ‘Polaris’, which weighs in at over ten minutes in length and sounds truly epic! The opening riffs are simple yet oh so catchy and there’s no point ignoring how they make you feel. They carry on throughout the song, as it gets better in it’s entirety, containing the right balance between dissonance and melody, old-school and modernity. You’re taken on a journey that you won’t want to reach the end of. 

This is an incredible album that deserves a lot more recognition. Fjords, despite being a new name to many (including myself) are destined to be one of the UK’s brightest metal hopes. They just need a leg up and I’m sure you can help make it happen by supporting them and spreading this album as far as possible. 

You can stream Onirica and grab it on CD or as a digital download below:-



Fjords - https://www.facebook.com/fjordsofficial/