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Karnivool – ‘Asymmetry’

18 Jul

Karnivool has emerged from their recording sessions at Studios 301 in Byron Bay to present us with a new collection of their musical ingenuity with the album title of ‘Asymmetry’. The band has come together after a releasing ‘Sound Awake’ nearly four years ago with an album which has extended their eclectic musical sense, incorporating far more atmospheric passages within their songs. This may alienate the more dedicated fans that have been following them from their formative years that have been left demanding the sound that put the band in the limelight of the progressive music scene in Australia.

‘Aum’ is the opening track, a good precursor which prepares the listener and gets them in a headspace to comprehend what is to come. The stuttering bass and guitars create a soundscape that settles the listener into a place of aural tranquillity, like resetting one’s palate with the scent of coffee beans. Coincidentally, the song draws comparisons to ‘Lost Key’s by Tool, which isn’t too far of a stone’s throw from the band’s musical influences.

The album lends itself to many musical devices which are tied into Karnivool’s style (polymeters, polyrhythms, syncopation), but the fresh of breath air to their compositions comes with the more interesting use of effects subtly leaked throughout many of the songs, particularly applied to the bass. The tremolo bass effected bass in ‘We Are’ makes a great appearance, and intriguing application to how it comes in and out during the first half of the song. This is paired up with the over saturated fuzz guitars in the later half to build to a climax of a sensual peeling back of most of the instrumentation, leaving back Ian Kenny’s vocals to carry an almost a capella outro.

An interesting inclusion to the album is the track titled ‘Asymmetry’, a short musique concrète backing track which seems to act like a prelude to the section half of the album. The track includes eerie and disjointed vocals and distorted guitars ringing out over the top of the piece. This song is by far one of Karnivool’s more experimental tracks, but ties in with the album’s atmospheric sensibility to be a suitable inclusion.

One of the more intriguing musical directions that the band has taken is with the song ‘Float’. Almost starting like a lullaby, the song features an uneasy sounding guitar evocative a Danny Elfman composition from a Tim Burton film. Kenny’s vocals softly caresses the track in a way that shows a quality in his voice that he seldom shows off, but just as emotive as when he goes at it in full force.

The album is definitely a different step from Karnivool’s previous albums, with the core progressive sensibility of the band being evident, but there are far fewer heavier sections when compared and contrasted to the ‘Sound Awake’ and ‘Themata’ albums. ‘The Refusal’ and ‘Nachash’ are great examples of the heavy sound that they were better known for, but this album has got many great moments from the interesting use of effects throughout to create the atmospheric sections. This album has the potential to grow on any Karnivool fans that may feel alienated at first, but they’ll need to give the album a chance to heard in full, otherwise several of the experimental tracks may come off as obscure.

8/10

 

Karnivool’s new album, ‘Asymmetry’ is available for pre-order here:

http://www.karnivool.com.au/music

‘Interior City’ – The Gabriel Construct

16 Jul

‘Interior City’ is an album which brings elements from numerous genres which can leave the most dedicated progressive metal fan wondering how The Gabriel Construct pulled it off.

Drawing influence from an outer worldly Dream Theatre and The Mars Volta, the album is a warped avant-garde musical journey from the moment you start the first track. ‘Arrival in a Distant Land’ opens the album with an experimental piano piece which would suit a cinematic thriller scene, making use of block chords with a sprinkle of alien high register notes and unorthodox extended piano sound effects – this pays homage to the work John Cage (‘Dream’ meets a prepared piano). As the song progresses, Gabriel Lucas Riccio reveals his vocal tenderness, which compliments his performance behind the piano. The album is also entirely the composed by Riccio, with the remaining instrumentation being credited as performed by numerous session musicians.

From there on, the song smashes in with a collective of staple metal instruments and musicality that makes the composition standout as intricate and highly developed. Throughout the album, you hear exotic elements sneak through, lending itself to the sounds of The Mars Volta, but replacing the Latin sounds with a more Middle Eastern undertone. This is further enhanced with Riccio’s voice being reminiscent of Serj Tankian and Maynard James Keenan use of parallel vocal harmonies throughout many of the tracks.

This album is not for the faint of heart, with several songs tipping well over the seven minute mark and makes use of unconventional compositional techniques. The palatability of the more experimental tracks, such as ‘Curing Somatization’ may be alienating to those who have not heavily studied music. The abstractness of the music, particularly the Buckethead-esque guitar solo, seems to be designed to evoke an emotional response to the listener, which can be far more engaging to the listener than one may initially think.

It has been a while since this reviewer has listened to an artist/band that has released an album with such a wide range of textures that aren’t heavily derived from synthesizers. A special mention goes out to the inclusiveness of the opening saxophone and continuing brass section in ‘Inner Sanctum’, particularly for a track that turns into an industrial slow marching song. This album demonstrates what one man has going on inside his head, and it is quite remarkable to see it all come out with the chaotic sections blending in to the cohesive sections without being too abrasive.

8/10

 

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The Gabriel Construct Official Website

‘Night’ – Beijing

16 Jul

Best way to sum up Beijing’s debut full-length album, ‘Night’? Raw wailing emotion! The album has a sound which steps back from an overproduced sound and allows the band to shine through without any studio gimmickry. The album lends itself to be heavily rock guitar driven, with the band tipping their hat to the late 1990 and early 2000 rock bands of Jimmy Eats World, Taking Back Sunday and The Killers. Paired with spacious guitar bending solos, roomy drums, and pounding low-end from the bass, the band gives singer, Eric Thornberg, a foundation of music which suits his howling and lamenting vocals.

Musically, the album does a great job to contrast the songs to break up the feel. The first half comprises of solid rock tracks, with elements that keep the listener glued to the groove which gives the impression that they drew influence from the early work of The Killers. The album breaks up the pace by introducing ‘Let Down’ mid-way through the album, an acoustic guitar ballad that evolves to a full band build up to the climatic ending vocal hook, reminiscent of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ with more grunt.

The album picks the pace back up with the up-tempo track titled ‘Standing’, a song of constant rhythmic movement from the drums, compliments of Bill Pruchnicki behind the kit. This track has a quality that gives it a dancing feel that reels you to the chorus, a great quality that reaches out to a more mainstream audience, which shows that band isn’t afraid to accommodate to a wide range of listeners.

Eric Thornberg’s vocals is a well-rounded singer, knowing when to lunge his vocals to give the power that the song needs, but also is able to be versatile enough to be delicate in executing the more sensitive passages throughout the album. His unpretentious gives a quality of emotion that gives a real feel to how the songs comes across, paying particular notice to the subtleness and slight inflections when he digs into the lyrics during the bridge of ‘Violent’.

The album does a good job in delivering a sound of the band that most likely represents what the band would sound like when they play live. I look forward to seeing how this band develops over the coming years, especially with the wide range of different influences that come across from this album.

8/10

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Beijing Official Website

David Plaehn – ‘Amos Got Soul’

21 Jun

David Plaehn is an American Blues artist who has been strutting his stuff in the industry for quite some time now. His sound takes pieces from a somewhat large musical palette including Soft Rock, Pop and Blues. He now has a new album out entitled, ‘Amos Got Soul’ and it’s a record that will satisfy older fans as well as draw in more new fans.

Initial listens will have you eased back into a couch, reaching for a wine and a smokey dinner. This is definitely music for the older generation but nonetheless, can be appreciated by open-minded young listeners. David Plaehn seems to just float effortlessly over   silky smooth  and perfectly mixed poppy Blues tunes. Although the music is very well controlled and laid back, Plaehn is the true star of this album and shines through with complete ease.

As far as Blues music is concerned, this is definitely one for the modern era. Non-existent are the inaudible slide guitars and mumbled lines of loss. This is a record that is clear, crisp and calm. Although if this record did have one draw back, it would be that at times it can get quite a bit sappy or cheesy. It’s not a raw, raspy blues album of the 50’s (Don’t think that was the goal though) so if you’re expecting some traditional Blues, this isn’t the record for you. This is a record for someone after a well produced, laid back album.

The standout tracks to me were  ‘I Want To’ and ‘Stranger Blues’. ‘I Want To’ is a great ballad with some very powerful sections. Keep an eye out for that guitar solo around the end as well! ‘Stranger Blues’ is a track for the purists. Nothin’ but harmonica baby. Some great playing on this song and it’s great to see  David Plaehn paying tribute to traditional Blues music.

If you’re into the sounds of Kenny Rogers, B.B King, Eric Clapton or even Joe Bonamassa, I’d recommend the latest David Plaehn record to you. It’s definitely one for the older generation but if you appreciate a relaxed, well produced and well mixed Blues record, then check out ‘Amos Got Soul’.

7/10

Shorelines – ‘The Solstice’

14 Jun

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Brisbane Post-Hardcore band, Shorelines are set to drop their debut album, The Solstice this month. This will be a follow up to the bands debut EP, ‘Rebirth’ which was released back in 2012. Since then the band have gone on to support some huge bands including Northlane, House vs Hurricane, In Hearts Wake and Boris The Blade. Recently, fans were treated to a preview of the new album with the release of the single, ‘DGCWC’ which was met with positive reactions. We had the chance to take a listen to The Solstice and gather our thoughts on a debut album from a rising Brisbane band.

Initial listens of the album suggest a band that has massively improved in terms of sound, structure and dynamics. Although the music is consistent and repetitive, Shorelines differs each section with different rhythms or by thickening/thinning textures within the section. It’s a great song writing technique employed by the band and by utilising it, have managed to keep it heavy without interupting your headbanging sesh.

Another awesome feature to this bands sound is how delicate they can be. Although the majority of their sound is heavy and ballsy, at times the band can break into sections of beautiful cleans and silky chord progressions (which really emphasizes their Post-Hardcore sound). These sections give the listener a break and really gives him/her a chance to appreciate the heavy guitar riffery and the intense drum work but at the same time, appreciate the skill and open mindedness it takes to produce beautiful cleans in a predominantly brutal album.

If you’re into the Hardcore sounds of bands like Parkway Drive, The Amity Affliction, Northlane or Buried in Verona, then you’ll definitely dig this album. However, I also think that these guys can appeal to a wider audience given their sound is quite diverse. I’d definitely suggest this album for fans who like the heavier side of all things Post and to fans of the Djent Genre. Check this album out and check this band out. Shorelines just might be a game changer in Brisbanes Hardcore scene.

Rick Shaffer – ‘Stacked Deck’

29 May

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Pure unadulterated, no fucks given Rock n’ Roll is what Rick Shaffer is all about with his latest album, ‘Stacked Deck’. It’s a non-stop barrage of riffs, power and old school gritty vocals. Shaffer stays true to the sound and vibe his fans have come to love, so if you loved his previous work, expect to love this one as well.

The sound of this record is what we’ve come to expect from Rick. Stripped back, raw and nothing but balls the the wall. It’s an immensely pure album in a sense that it embodies what Rock music is and should be about, the essence of humanity. You can feel that there’s only people making music on this record. Nothing is fake, nothing is digital. The sound retains its human element and thus, hits you where it matters.

Rick Shaffer is as gritty as they come. His vocal delivery on this record is superb and shows just how it’s done. He nails that old school, ‘Howlin’ Wolf’ vocal groove with no trouble at all, giving his music a distinct characteristic. Shaffers instrumental abilities are also second to none. The guitar work is tight, twangy and plucked with feeling whilst the rhythmic section is solid, meaty and ballsy.

If you dig the tunes of Southern music, Jack White, The Black Keys or Early Rolling Stones, give Rick Shaffer a listen. His pure stance on Rock n’ Roll will have you movin’ and shakin’ in no time.

8/10

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Rick Shaffer Official Website

Joshua Worden – ‘Always This’

29 May

The smooth and silky, Joshua Worden returns with his latest release ‘Always This’, due in June of this year. This is a real mellow album with some perfectly sculpted, laid back beats. Your chilled out summer is complete with this album.

Joshua Warden is a perfect example of young musicians with exceptional maturity towards their music. His vocal control is extremely good and his ‘less is more’ approach to music is inspiring seeing as how thick he manages to make his songs sound. This record is also fantastically balanced in terms of melodic dominance and rhythmic dominance. Warden manages to fluctuate between the two elements very well, giving each it’s own unique highlight during a song.

Something else I noticed whilst listening to this record is how appealing it is. No matter what your age is, or even demographic, you’ll find yourself sucked into the mellow vibe of Joshua Wordens, ‘Always This’. Hip Hop is definitely entering a new age and artists such as Joshua Worden are pioneering the way for new age, accessible Hip Hop.

If you’re into new age artists such as Frank Ocean, Flume or James Blake, definitely grab a copy of Joshua Wordens new album, ‘Always This’. It’s a fantastically chill and beautiful album. Don’t be surprised if you hear this guy dominate the airwaves soon.

9/10

 

 

Joshua Worden Official Facebook

Joshua Worden Official Website