Archive | October, 2016

Album Review: Dusks Embrace – ReAwakening (2016)

31 Oct

album-cover

7/10

Dusks Embrace is a Progressive Rock/Metal band from Salem, Oregon and in the past eight years they have released three full length records (Paradigm Shift (2009), The Twilight Enigma (2010), To Realms Beyond (2012)), and two EP’s (Oblivion at Hand (2009), From Idols To Dust (2014)). This year sees the release of their new full length effort, ReAwakening.

When a band states that they draw inspiration from death metal to Michael Bublé and everything that comes in between, you get the sense that you’re going to hear a record that is haphazard and inconsistent with no real focus but ReAwakening is anything but that. What this range of inspiration does is give the band additional sensibilities that they can tap into where, perhaps, their contemporaries can not. It also gives them a melodic edge. Refreshing.

ReAwakening open up with “Harbinger” with its tinges of EDM, Periphery style and video game music all rolled into one. Mix that in with some black metal elements and clean, melodic vocals courtesy of new lead vocalist, Aldo Arevalo and you have a solid slab of Progressive Metal.

Next up is “With Cleansing Flames.” This song has a Dream Theater feel to it in places and comes across as a more traditional Prog Rock song. The way the vocals soar is beautifully haunting and gives the track a dark undertone and a Gothic quality that I enjoyed.  I also enjoyed the majestic sounding synths, giving it moments of a Nightwish or Within Temptation sound.

“Face Forward” is a slight change of pace from the opening two songs and it’s the first real glimpse I got of the bands clear Katatonia/Porcupine Tree/Opeth influences. Vocally this song channels Steven Wilson, Jonas Renske & Mikael Akerfelt. The intro has a definite Opeth vibe and would not feel out of place on Damnation.

“Psycasthenia” is another mellow track featuring more Katatonia-esque vocals and showcases once again, the talent that is Aldo on vocals and proves that the band can handle the gentle, melodic side just as well as they handle the heavy. “Reflections” is a short, jazzy instrumental piece. Very calming. Very Opeth. Very good.

“Lydian Dreams” picks up the pace once again with it’s synthy, Dream Theater intro and melodic lead guitar before the vocals kick in over what I could only describe as experimental, jazz-fusion. Experimental would be a good word to use actually because this song is where the band seem to jump from one idea to another. However, it works. It never feels like anything is out of place or that change-ups are made just because they can be. Controlled chaos 🙂

“Winters Epitaph” is a dark, haunting song that is reminiscent of Porcupine Tree with a beautiful backing track. Possibly my favourite song on the album actually. The album closes with the title song “ReAwakening” , and instrumental featuring Industrial drums and synths that comes across as a Depeche Mode number. Has a very different feel about it than the previous seven songs but closes the album up nicely.

Now, the one thing I haven’t touched upon in my review are Josh Brewers guitars. This is a seriously talented player. Everything he plays has a purpose, with all the lead lines meticulously crafted and it never once feels like he’s overplaying, or playing for the sake of it. Don’t get me wrong though, I like a good guitar wank like the next man but Josh just plays to serve the song and I thoroughly enjoyed his melodic guitar playing throughout the entire record.

This album is a grower, not a show-er . On first listen I enjoyed it, especially as I didn’t know what to really expect and on subsequent listens it got better and better. It’s a band that deserves to be heard as they have some serious talent on display. If you’re a fan of bands like Dream Theater, Circus Maximus, Scar Symmetry, Katatonia, Porcupine Tree and Opeth, I feel that you will enjoy Dusks Embrace immensely.

ReAwakening is out on November 15th 2016 and I urge you to check it out.

David

Dusks Embrace are

Aldo Arevalo – Lead Vocals
Josh Brewer – Guitar, Keys, Vocals
Michael Daniel – Bass
Liam Manley – Drums

Official Website

Official Facebook

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Album Review: Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues (2016)

27 Oct

jimmy_eat_world_integrityblues

7/10

Full disclosure. I haven’t listened to Jimmy Eat World for years. Not that I was so ignorant to think that they simply ceased to exist but they just weren’t on my radar until I came across “Get Right” on my phone, and made a mental note to check out the album when it dropped, and check it out I did.

Integrity Blues is Jimmy Eat World’s ninth album and some say it’s their best since 2004’s Futures. (I wouldn’t know!). Going into this I didn’t know what to expect other than that I had heard the two singles they released prior to the album launch, “Get Right” and “Sure and Certain” and that I liked them. My impression of those two tracks were that this was a more grown up sounding Jimmy Eat World, with a moody, modern electro pop-rock sound and evoking images of night-time driving and headlights etc. A far cry from my memories of their emo, pop-punk days.

They certainly are a band that I need to delve deeper into because as soon as anyone mentions them I instantly think of “The Middle” or “Sweetness” from 2001 release Bleed American and it’s quite evident from the get-go that they have more to offer me.

The aforementioned “Sure and Certain” puts me in familiar territory, a bright, up-tempo rock song but it is opening song “You With Me” with its synthpop sound that sticks in my head long after it finishes. This is possibly my favourite track on the album. “Pretty Grids” also has a synth hook at the end of the chorus that could very well be put in an 80s movie soundtrack and not feel out of place.

“Pass The Baby” starts off with a drum machine and has a very dark and eerie quality about it. Again it’s another song that has that movie soundtrack feel to it in that I instantly imagine a dark and sleazy Los Angeles with glimpses of neon here and there. Very atmospheric indeed. What comes next though is completely unexpected as the understated tones fade and the song erupts into noise and a big, hard Audioslave-esque rock riff kicks in. Not being overly familiar with a large chunk of their discography I wouldn’t know but, is that the heaviest Jimmy Eat World has ever been? My only gripe with the end of the song is that it ends abruptly. Doesn’t feel right to me. This leads us into “Get Right” with its chugging guitars and  where singer Jim Adkins seems to channel his frustration with stagnation and the anthemic “You Are Free”

The acoustic breakup song “The End Is Beautiful” is pretty but nothing about it stands out. “Through” is another decent effort but to me sounds like a generic Jimmy Eat World song. Title cut “Integrity Blues” is very experimental and has a Sigur Ros quality about it. Delicate layers of textured guitars, organs and brass play underneath Jim’s vulnerable, reverbed vocals. “It’s all what you do when no one cares” he sings.

The second half of this 11 track album is definitely weaker than the first, but, for me, its momentum does carry it through and leaves you with the feeling that you’ve just heard a good album as opposed to a great one. I have listened to this album a few times since its release and I do enjoy it for the most part and definitely recommend it. I’m off now to pore over their back catalogue.

David

Album Review: Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason (2016)

26 Oct

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9/10

One of the most anticipated releases of the year, Swedish colossus Meshuggah return with monolithic new album, The Violent Sleep of Reason, chock full of groovy riffs and such an intense, relentless atmosphere. For a band going into their 30th year(!) they have staved off any hint of stagnation and produced an absolute belter.

For this, the bands eighth full-length album (excluding EPs), Meshuggah seem to be time travelling back to their beginnings. Not only was this album tracked live in the studio, it also marks the first appearance of proper live drumming on a Meshuggah album since possibly as far back as the original version of the Nothing album. *side note* the band had been using Drumkit From Hell samples exclusively (Catch 33) or augmenting Tomas Haake’s performances with these samples since then).

This has resulted in a more organic, less sterile sounding album and the most alive the band has sounded in ages. (bonus points for use of Alive pun). I would say that the music itself has become a little faster and perhaps a little less technical. In terms of the polyrhythms and the riffs, this is Meshuggah’s most straightforward album in a while. So let’s dig a little deeper.

“Clockworks” kicks off the record and it’s a bit of an overture to what has made the band so loved over time: brutal, technical riffs, Tomas Haake’s incredible drumming (how many arms does he have??), screaming guitar solos. It is also the albums longest song, clocking in at 7:15. “Born in Dissonance” and “MonstroCity” follow and they comprise of similar-sounding material as all three of the opening tracks seem to come off as ever so subtle variations on a theme. With those opening three songs, there is a heaviness and a speed which resembles the Chaosphere era.

There are then the songs that sound reminiscent of the Nothing days, “By the Ton” with it’s slower groove and “Stifled” that features a fantastic solo from Fredrik. In fact, Fredrik’s solos on this record are some of my favourites things about the album as a whole. He seems to have taken time and care over these solos and they never feel out of place, or a bit slapdash (looking at you Koloss)

“Ivory Tower” is mostly a slow groove with a block levelling guitar riff and again features a superb guitar solo. “Our Rage Won’t Die” opens up with a thrash riff that sounds like it could have been pulled from Contradictions Collapse and “Into Decay” rounds off the album as another slower groove song.

The last time I felt a Meshuggah album was this complete from start to finish was probably with I (though that was just a single 21 minute EP) or Catch 33 (2005) and The Violent Sleep of Reason should completely satisfy those fans already enamoured with the bands aggressive music and should surely attract more metal heads to fall in love with the art they create. Though if you could never “get” Meshuggah before, you probably won’t get them now to be honest.

For me, it’s a masterpiece.

 

David

 

 

 

Album Review: Korn – The Serenity of Suffering (2016)

26 Oct

kornserenitycdcover

7/10

History Lesson: Korn is an American Nu-Metal band from California that formed in 1993. Their current lineup consists of founding members Jonathan Davis (vocals), Munky (guitar), Head (guitar) and Fieldy (bass), along with Ray Luzier (drums), who replaced original member David Silveria back in 2007. The Serenity of Suffering is Korns 12th studio album and for many, a return to form.

For me, and most people would likely agree, this is probably the heaviest Korn have ever been. Certainly heavier than their last album Paradigm Shift thanks to riffs like “A Different World” and “When You’re Not There,” and Jonathan Davis’ use of manic scatting and guttural growls. If you’ve ever heard a Korn album before then you’ll be on well-trodden ground, and I can see why some people do not rate this record very highly in the grand scheme of things because of that familiarity. The same way I can see why people DO rate this album. For example, “Rotting in Vain” is essentially a heavier reworking of 1999’s “Falling Away From Me” with some throat-burning screams and aforementioned guttural vocals. I heard some “Freak On A Leash” in “Baby”, “Next In Line” doesn’t stray too far away from “Make Me Bad” and lyrically, Davis doesn’t surprise anyone who has been listening for the past 20 years. Basically, if there was a Korn bingo game, you’d easily be ticking off the boxes as you go along.

Where this record really shines though is on inventive bridges that switch moods in an instant. “Black is the Soul” feels like a Helmet song for about 20-30 seconds, “The Hating” finishes with some Primus-esque syncopation, whilst Corey Taylor (he of Slipknot and Blabbermouth.net fame) chimes in with some impassioned crooning on “A Different World”.

The Serenity of Suffering is a heavy enough return to form that will satiate fans clamouring for a return to the ‘good ol’ days’ and I would say it stands proudly amongst their discography.

So have Jonathan Davis and co released their best album in around 15 years? It depends who you ask, I suppose. I personally have enjoyed everything they’ve released since Untouchables. I even enjoyed their foray into Dubstep on 2011s The Path of Totality, but there is something very familiar and “Korn like” about Serenity that makes everything feel right and because a lot of people did not like the musical direction that the Head-less Korn were taking, this will go a long way to satisfy them.

All in all, I would recommend this album. It rarely breaks new ground but it is still a worthwhile listen that I have enjoyed on repeated listens.

 

David