If this song is anything to go by, then I’m really looking forward to the new Awooga album, released on Friday 20 April 2018.
Written and performed by Goya. Recorded at Tremolo Recording Studio, Staffordshire, England, UK. Mixed by Dan Rowley and Goya. Mastered by Sam Taylor. Artwork by Sam Taylor. Released 8 December 2017.
- Jason Kester—Guitar
- Sam Taylor—Bass
- Mark Connolly—Drums
- Collider (4:02)
- Venenatus (13:05)
- Ashoka (7:39)
- Kathmandu (7:35)
I’ve been sitting on a number of releases for the last few months while the craziness of my personal life gently explodes around me. In a moment of relative calm I decided to take a listen to this EP, released by Goya a couple of months ago.
Flippin’ ‘eck it’s good! So good, in fact, that I’ve listened to it at least eight times in the last few weeks.
Goya are a three-piece instrumental group from Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands (England, UK) and Kathmandu is their first EP. It’s what guitarist Jase Kester describes as the band’s “initial musical statement”. And what a statement! Not least that the whole EP was recorded live, with all three musicians interacting with one another in the same room. There is no substitute for such chemistry.
“We’ve tried to take all the things that we love about rock—the riffs, rhythms and sounds, the building blocks and devices—strip away some things that we feel have become clichés of the genre, in an attempt to create ‘absolute music’,” he said in an interview.
The idea of absolute music—or abstract music—developed at the end of the the 18th century. It’s the idea that music is not explicitly about anything, and that “instrumental music transcends other arts and languages to become the discourse of a ‘higher realm'”. It was the belief that music could be more emotionally powerful and stimulating without words.
“Collider” (track 1) is built around two riffs that seem to call and answer one another. It’s a bouncy, upbeat song that you can’t but nod along to. It’s a simple post-rock track that kicks things off nicely but it doesn’t give too much away of what is to come.
“Venenatus” (track 2) which is Latin for venomous is a 13-minute epic. It may not be poisonous but it’s definitely infectious. The track opens with a delicate guitar piece that playfully rises and falls like a children’s piano piece. Then about a minute in (see the video below) it changes direction completely into a crushingly heavy, doom-laden riff that slices its way through the next few minutes before returning to its delicate roots.
The track seemingly has a life of its own. From its fragile, pseudo-classical intro, through the Sabbath-like darkness, the stark bass and drums-only section, to a decidedly up-tempo movement, a section of feedback, and an acoustic outro that was entirely improvised during the recording session. It’s a prog-lover’s dream.
“Ashoka” (track 3) is built around a simple three-note riff that evolves and revolves around a bass heartbeat. The track has both a sense of urgency and mournfulness. Around six and a half minutes in, the music gradually slows and dissolves into distortion and white noise.
The final and title track “Kathmandu” (track 4) brings the EP to a beautiful conclusion. It begins in a quiet, contemplative way; it sounds how I imagine it would be to hear the sun rising in the morning. A few minutes in a bass line drives the song through a few twists and turns until the rather distinctive outro in 6/4 time.
This is a really beautifully crafted EP. It has something for everyone: fragile and delicate guitar, thundering bass lines, crushing doom-filled riffs. This is absolute music—bring your own meaning—and it is absolutely gorgeous. The music speaks to me regardless of my mood: at times invigorating, at times mournful.
In places it reminds me of early Amplifier (a very good thing), and Shutter (a former prog/post rock style band from Inverness); but it always sounds vibrant and… well, without trying to be too pretentious, human. There is an honesty about this music that somehow makes it feel like it’s been the soundtrack to my life that I’ve not heard until now.
If this is Goya’s “initial musical statement”, I am all ears for whatever comes next.
Review score: 98%
KLOGR release their third studio album ‘Keystone’ (mixed by Grammy winning producer David Bottrill (Stone Sour, Muse, Rush, Tool and more) on Friday 6 October 2017 via Zeta Factory (distributed in the UK/Europe by PHD).
The artwork is a piece of a painting by renowned Italian artist, Andrea Saltini.
- Gabriele “Rusty” Rustichelli—Vocals/Guitar
- Pietro Quilichini “PQ”—Guitar/Backing Vocals
- Roberto Galli—Bass
- Maicol Morgotti—Drums
- Sleeping through the seasons
- Prison of light
- The echoes of sin
- Pride before the fall
- Something’s in the air
- Drag you back
- Sirens’ song
- Dark tides
- Silent witness
- Enigmatic smile
- The wall of illusion
Keystone is the third album from Italian-American band Klogr (pronounced Kay-logger). A band that I’d never heard of until now, but isn’t that the joy of this project.
Musically, the band sits somewhere between alternative rock and alternative metal. The album is very nicely produced and mixed. It has a warm, full sound that suits the melodic arrangements. The guitars are heavy without sounding harsh.
When you listen to album for the first few listens, if you’re anything like me then you’ll try to reach for comparisons. The album reminds me in part of Stone Sour fused with Freak Kitchen with a little Seven7 thrown in for good measure.
The album opens with what sounds like the start of the Star Trek theme tune, but accompanied by a children’s plinky piano. (“Sleeping through the seasons”, track 1) Then the guitars introduce a chug-chug-chug-chug riff. It’s catchy and melodic.
And so the album continues. “Prison of light” (track 2) features a nice ascending riff; “Technocracy” (track 3) is a fast-paced track with a twisting-turning riff; “The echoes of sin” (track 4) has a Dream Theater vibe to it; “Pride before the fall” (track 5) sounds a bit like a slowed-down “Technocracy”.
For me, the stand-out track is “Something’s in the air” (track 6). It’s a mid-paced, chugging rock track with a beautifully heavy, slide-y riff. I could listen to it all day. It’s heavy, it’s melodic, it’s interesting and varied. Brilliant stuff!
“Drag you back” (track 7) is built around a fluttering riff; “Sirens’ song” (track 8) is a short track that sounds like it was recorded underwater, and leads beautifully into “Dark tides” (track 9) which has an ’80s metal ballad feel to it.
“Silent witness” (track 10) opens with a bass riff that gives way to a complex guitar riff, that changes directions. Every. Few seconds. “Enigmatic smile” probably has the most metal riff on the album but gives way to a melodic rock track.
The album plays out to “The wall of illusion” which probably encompasses everything that Klogr have thrown at us so far in this album.
And then it ends.
To be honest, there is little to criticize the album for. Some of the songs do begin to sound a little bit same-y as you progress through the album, but that would only really become a problem if the songs weren’t great. And these are really good songs. There is more than a little prog influence contained in the tracks on this album, and that is also a good thing. The songs have dynamics, and a shape, that each tell a musical story.
I really like this album. I can see myself returning to it again and again.
What more could you ask for from a piece of music?
Review score: 85%
Recorded and mixed by Kurt Ballow at Godcity Studios, Witchcity from 2 to 12 January 2008. Mastered by Alan Douches at Westwestside in New Windsor, NY on 22 January 2008. Released by Level-Plane Records on 15 April 2008.
- Nat Coghlan—Vocals and guitar
- Garrison Nein—Vocals and bass
- Brad Wallace—Guitar
- James Moller—Drums
- Morning sickness
- The price of gasoline
- Brass bones
- Diet of worms
- Pillar of salt
- The ghost hand
- Letter of resignation
- Celluloid rats
This appears to be the one and only release from New Hampshire hardcore/grunge band Transistor Transistor.
New Hampshire, New Hampshire, so good they named it twice.
Having been mostly reviewing symphonic and avant-garde black metal bands for the last few weeks this requires a little change of gear. But having established quite firmly a few months back that it no longer takes me by surprise every time I listen to a hardcore album and discover that I like it, it shouldn’t take a detective to hear that this album gets the thumbs up from me, too.
As well as the usual hardcore elements, there is more than a dollop of Bob Mould-inspired alternative/post-punk rock infused in this particular recipe of high energy, shouty-vocaled hard rock.
A few highlights: The cheeky riff in “Brass bones” (track 3).
- The opening riff from “Diet of worms” (track 4) with its slightly acidic phrasing and the full-on chorus. I could probably listen to that all day, to be honest.
- “Pillar of salt” (track 5) is a pounding, plodding behemoth – like the hardcore equivalent of Metallica’s “Sad but true”.
- The complete change of pace in the dirgeful “The ghost hand” (track 6).
- “Harvest” (track 7). All of it. It is epic, uncomfortable, melancholic, angry, relentless and strangely beautiful.
- “Tertogen” (track 11) is a wonderful closer that draws this collection to a fine conclusion.
There are not many albums that make me smile involuntarily while listening to them on first listen, but this was definitely one. This is inventive, creative, exploratory and downright exciting. It’s not perfect but I fully expect it to grow on me and with me.
Review score: 96%
Recorded at the Old Chapel by Gavin Johnson. Mixed and mastered at V-Edition Studios by Gavin Johnson. Produced by Gavin Johnson and Steroid Freak Pussy.
- Tommy Shan—Vocals
- Lee Coates—Guitars and backing vocals
- Lizard—Guitars and backing vocals
- Craig Dougan—Bass and backing vocals
- Tony “MEatball” Batley—Drums, percussion and backing vocals
- Anneka Latta—Vocals on “Nitroglycerine” (track 3)
- Mr Pete Shaw—Vocals on “Suicide nation” (track 4)
- Sweeney Todd—Vocals on “Shut your mouth” (track 6)
- Pussy blowout
- Fire your guns
- Suicide nation
- Wrong side of right
- Shut your mouth
With the chorus of the opening song “Pussy blowout” (track 1) including the line “Everybody wants a little bit of pussy / Everybody needs a little bit of pussy” it’s quite clear — as if the band’s name itself wasn’t enough of a clue — that UK sleaze rockers Steroid Freak Pussy are going down the in-your-face sexual imagery path of the likes of WASP, Faster Pussycat and Mötley Crüe.
It’s not really my thing really, either the lyrics or the music. That said, there is a bit of a Warrior Soul sound lurking in there somewhere but the cheap lyrics put it off for me, to be honest.
“Fire your guns” (track 2) is an energetic rocker that would probably sound great blasted loudly on the motorway. It’s probably my favourite track on the EP, but that’s not really saying much, to be honest.
“Nitroglycerine” (track 3) is built around a start-stop riff that is planted firmly in the sleaze rock genre, and features Anneka Latta’s vocals on the chorus (or pre-chorus).
“Suicide nation” (track 4) has a punk vibe and chugs along cheerily but there isn’t much to it. “Wrong side of right” (track 5) reminds me a little of early Motörhead in its attitude but it doesn’t have enough of a riff to interest me. It’s sleaze-by-numbers,
“Shut your mouth” (track 6) opens promisingly with a chugging riff and pounding drums. Alongside “Fire your guns” this is probably one of the strongest songs on the disc, but despite the strong intro it fails to deliver much during the verses,
This album wasn’t really for me. I was never really into glam or sleaze metal. This has a very 80s LA feel to it, in attitude if not entirely musical content. They weren’t so close to Warrior Soul (a band that I’ve seen live and would rank among my favourites) to redeem them for me. Thankfully the overly sexualized lyrics didn’t extend far beyond the opening track but by then they’d done their damage.
Review score: 45%
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Joe Cincotta and Dan Kennyat Full Force Studio. Produced by Joe Cincotta, Danny Kenny and T$S.
- Rick Limenez—Vocals
- Brian AudleyGuitar
- Chris Mazella—Guitar
- Andrew Jones—Bass
- Dan Bourke—Drums
- John Moore—Guest vocals on “Even worse”.
- Jeff Tiu—Guest vocals on “Damage is done”
- Brendan Garrone—Guest vocals on “Since day one”
- Even worse
- Sever ties
- The reclamation
- Decide and conquer
- Choosing revenge
- Bound by defiance (T$S)
- Damage is done
- Nothing more, nothing less
- Own up!
- Since day one
- Smoke and mirrors
- Living hell (bonus track)
Every time I come across a hardcore album I’m always surprised at how much I like it. My average score for hardcore albums on this project is 73%. I perhaps should just accept that I’m a bit of an unconscious hardcore punk fan.
I like hardcore punk.
I like hardcore punk.
I like hardcore punk.
I like hardcore punk.
That should help. Until I listen to the next hardcore album, of course. I should turn this into a film: 50 First Hardcore Punk Albums starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.
Anyway, with that little bit of amnesia over, the album.
Soldiers are a hardcore band from Long Island in New York, formed in 2006 from the ashes of This Is Hell, Subterfuge, Last Conviction, and The Backup Plan. Following a debut EP in May 2006, this follow-up from December 2007 remains their only full-length album.
And do you know what? It’s good. If anything, it is let down a little by the mix. It often feels like it was recorded with the microphones in the wrong room or facing the wrong way, and the lead vocals are a little hidden in the mix. But otherwise the album is full of energy and contains all the key constituent parts required for a solid hardcore album: punchy bass sound, thrashy guitars with a good mid-range sound, shouty vocals with enthusiastic crowd-fueled choruses.
The songs are also typically and appreciatively short. “Nothing more, nothing less” (track 9) is only 53 seconds long and definitely proves the less is more rule. None of 13 tracks outstay their welcome. They come in, do their job, and they are done!
The only anomaly is the final track, “Living hell” (track 13) which is a rap track. Like, straight-out rap. Not crossover. Rap. I’ll just leave that there. Rap.
Unsurprisingly, given my newly acquired awareness of my love of hardcore punk. I liked this album. With a clearer and more balanced mix it might be better, but as it is, it rocks!
Review score: 90%
Descended and handed down in Copenhagen around 1997 and consecrated in Bornholm in 2007-2008. Recorded at Soundscape Studio, Copenhagen, as well as Texas, Washington and Berlin between 2007 and 2008. Mixed and mastered at Soundscape Studio, Copenhagen in June 2008. Engineered by Louise Nipper.
- Kim Larsen—Vocals, guitars, keyboards, organ, glockenspiel, percussion
- Michael Laird—Appalachian dulcimer, recorder and glockenspiel, backing vocals
- Fenella Overgaard—Whispers in the apple grove
- Anne Eltard—Violin and backing vocals
- Louise Nipper—Backing vocals
- Pythagamus Marshall—Singing bowls, recorder, bodhran, and percussion
- Chelsea Robb—Vocals
- William Wiegard—French horn
- Jonathan van der Lieth—Vocals
- Vincent Farrow—Accordion
- I saw them through the pines / they only walk on moss
- Through the trees spears the sun
- The blood of my lady
- O deep woods
- Nakkiel II
- Midnight garden
- The blood of my lady II
- Hemlock and mandrake fields
- The swallows spirals through them
- Nihil sum
- I saw her through the trees
With an album cover that looks like it has been taken from a medieval edition of Where’s Wally (that’s Where’s Waldo for our North American viewers) I perhaps should have anticipated this being a folk album (neo-folk or dark folk, for those into more defined sub-genres), but having listened to this album on and off for the last three weeks I’m now up to speed.
Of all the other albums I’ve reviewed to date, this can be most compared to Splinterskin—Wayward Souls (2009). But it’s much, much less spooky. This album I wouldn’t think twice about playing in the dark.
The whole album is very acoustic (as opposed to electric) in nature. The songs are formed around acoustic guitars with accompanying flourishes played on violin, glockenspiel, Appalachian dulcimer, recorder (but more Stairway to Heaven than primary school music class), accordion, and bodhran. It’s a very gentle album but mildly dark in places… just like human nature, I guess.
The opening track “I saw them through the pines / they only walk on moss” (track 1) is built around a repeating, descending chord progression with gentle vocals that at times whisper “I saw them through the pines”… which I’m hoping is some kind of happen-chance romantic encounter and not a medieval-sounding ballad to stalking.
“Through the trees spears the sun” (track 2) is a beautiful song, in a similar nature to the previous. Instrumental “Fenella” (track 3) opens with a very pretty high, picked arpeggio that makes it sound like a harp, over which are blown recorders.
“The blood of my lady” (track 4) is a song that makes a reappearance later in the album (track 9). I still haven’t worked out what it means. Has she been injured? Or put to death? Or is it some kind of medieval homage to menstruation? Whatever it is, it’s still pretty dark.
“O deep woods” (track 5) features a reverb-heavy female vocalist that gives the song an other-worldly feel. It’s here that we venture more closely towards Splinterskin. It’s a beautiful song, though.
“Nakkiel II” (track 6) has some pace and a bit of life. Like sunshine filling an otherwise shaded forest. This song should have been called “Through the trees spears the sun”! French horn, glockenspiel. This instrumental song has it all.
“Midnight garden” (track 7) is one of the most stereotypical medieval songs on the album. You can imagine the court at dance to this one. Instrumental “Samorost” (track 8) follows suit: more dancing please. Samorost, seemingly is a Czech word used to describe objects that have been sculpted from discarded wood..
“Hemlock and mandrake fields” (track 10) features an accordion. Now, I usually can’t stand the sound of accordions (ever since one chased me down the road when I was a little child!) but it works here, although it does little more than pad out chords.
“The swallows spirals through them” (track 11) is another beautiful track. The melody played on violin spirals like smoke into the sky. And the lyrics haunt:
There’s a vault in the woods
And a throne of moss
A crown of black caress
And a spell of emptiness
They all have black hole eyes
Their voice between the mist and the moor
The swallows spirals through them
The swallows spirals through them
“Now that the blackbird took my eyes” sings the opening line of “Nihil sum” (track 12). Things are getting weird now. This is the song that jars most on the album, and feels a little out of place.
The album closes with a redux of the opening track, this time “I saw her through the pines” (track 13). A gentle end to a gentle album.
This has been quite a lovely album to live with over the last few months. It is gentle but in places dark. I’m not sure we can truly claim that it is metal but it does have some of the attitude of metal, and there are elements that wouldn’t go amiss on an Opeth album, so we’ll let it pass this once.
I’ve really enjoyed this album. It has emotional depth. It is interesting. And quite, quite beautiful.
Review score: 98%