Album Review: Ghosts Of People We Should Have Been – Cathodes

Cathodes

Band: Cathodes

Title: Ghosts Of People We Should Have Been

Genre: Rock, instrumental, post-rock

URL: http://cathodes.bandcamp.com/

Band introduction: An eclectic, experimental instrumental band whose chief concerns are shredding eardrums and melting faces, Cathodes was formed in 2011 by former members of Redditch’s Keiko, Cheltenham’s Nurse and Derby’s YouNoGoDie. Rather than rehearse in service stations between these locations they decided to set up shop in Birmingham, where they set themselves to honing a set of tunes that fused post-rock, mathcore, alternative and grunge into a dark, heady brew that led one seasoned observer to note, “You’re like the evil version of The Shadows, you are.” – Taken from the band’s Facebook page

1st Listen: The first time I listened to this was through my phone speakers whilst in the shower. So probably not the best way to appreciate the production, but damn did it sound good. Even worse was the fact that the bass player from my band had asked me to listen to it in relation the way it was produced so that we could learn from it with our latest recording. So, naked and wet, I pressed play and lathered up…

It sounds great. The production is a very clean studio production that suits this math\post-rock\metal style down to the ground. Four tracks later I am blown away. The last two tracks are the highlights, but I think that may be down to remembering that I have heard them live; so I already have them in my head.

I’m looking forward to listening to this again through something better than a phone speaker.

2nd Listen: “The Orphanage Meets the Avalanche” starts of the EP with brooding guitar parts and pounding drums that build up to math rock, palm muted riffs. It is full of tension and barely lets up for the entire 4 minutes and 25 seconds. It leaves me a little out of breath.

“Bergerac” is quirky, but not in a cheesy sort of way. Then that tension makes its appearance again. Cathodes seem to have the gift of making you wait for something to happen. When that something happens it is not what you expected, but it works perfectly. A solid understanding of dynamics really drives these tracks along. Based on my previous listen however, I think this is probably the weakest track on the album. The, almost, 7 minute track loses some momentum towards the end and I wish they had reined it in by a couple of minutes.

“C.B.T.” kicks off with some reversed guitar and then a riff straight out of You Slut!’s back catalogue. Not accusing of ripping them off, I can just see a head nod to their style. The track builds and builds. Tension, tension, tension, and then things calm down, the reverse guitar that comes back in is brilliantly placed and that tension builds again. Another exhausting track!

The final track’s “I Am The Big I Am” starts with a monstrous riff; the highlight of the whole EP. The whole track sort of plays around this idea and moves to and from the riff in various progressions. There is slightly less of that (here is that word again) tension that has held the track together and I think the EP could have finished on a bigger “high”, but nonetheless this is a very impressive debut from the Birmingham based band.

3rd Listen: I get strange body “tremors” while I listen to this EP. That’s a sign that either it’s damn good, or I indulged too much in my youth; probably both. I can see myself listening to this for some time. I cannot get over how well these guys build up that uncertain feeling you get when the tension builds in a song. You just want it to resolve and make everything right again, but Cathodes string you along throughout the tracks until you can hardly cope anymore. That is a good thing, by the way! I hope anyone who listens gets that feeling. If you don’t you are missing out; seriously.

Conclusion: An impressive debut from a band I cannot wait to hear more from. The EP is not perfect, but it is pretty damn close. Did I mention how tense it makes me…?

  • First Impression: Good
  • Final Impression: Good
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The February Roundup

Wow, some real stand-out albums this month. Some not so good ones as well. We can’t have it all though, can we? With a change in my job role I am going to be busier than I used to be. I will endeavor to find quiet offices where I can plug my headphones in and carry on reviewing. Thanks for all of your kind words over the last month. I am glad that people are reading.

Now, without further delay:

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

It was a toss up between The Echelon Effect‘s Field Recordings and Betrayal at Bespin‘s Rains. Both albums displayed songwriting that take me places when I listen and it has been hard to say for definite, but I have decided on…drumroll…Betrayal at Bespin.

The fact that this album puts you into a film that has never been written is inspiring. The nods to different genres without the music becoming convoluted and schizophrenic is the sign of ingenious song writing. You all should go and listen to this album and buy it. Now. Thanks.

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE MONTH

Charun‘s De Ortu Solis was the first record to get a bad score from me. It did improve the more I listened but it was not enough to make it an album that I would listen to again. By all means have a listen, you might find something you like, but there are plenty of other albums you should listen to instead.

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Album Review: Euphoria… Of Flesh, Men and The Great Escape – Bauda

Bauda

Band: Bauda

Title: Euphoria… Of Flesh, Men and The Great Escape

Genre: Rock, Acoustic,Alternative, Folk, Indie, metal, post-rock, progressive, soundscape

URL: http://bauda.bandcamp.com/album/euphoria-of-flesh-men-and-the-great-escape

Band introduction: Bauda is formed by Cesar Marquez in 2006, an architect by profession, studies in 3D animation and photography, make up a solo character entity with some guest musicians. The sound images are fused with landscapes, textures, surfaces of Chile in different shades and styles of music, either post rock, folk, ambient, dark, finally alternative rock. – Taken from the band’s Bandcamp page

1st Listen: Some really interesting arrangements and sounds on this album. I’m not sold on the vocals 100%, but I feel they have their place and will grow on me overtime. However I lost interest after the first two tracks. Maybe my mind was elsewhere, maybe there is a lot to take in and I didn’t give it my full attention. There are some very folky elements that I’ll probably have to get my head around as that is not something I listen to often, save maybe some folky black metal, but that’s a different sound all together!

I think this album is promising, but I need to listen again.

2nd Listen: Something rustles, synths crawl; a Mike Pattern type whisper comes in with claps. The vocals evolve into singing and “Ghosts of Phantalassa” is well underway. The change to a clean acoustic guitar and shimmering sounds is unexpected, but well received. Skipping back to the whispered parts sounds forced though. It moves back to the acoustic guitar and some typical tremolo picks lines are put in the mix until the track steps up a gear, driven by the drums. This is a really cool sounding part, but the whole song is bitty, and the ruins the overall emotion conveyed.

The rest of the track feels good and then bursts into “HumAnimals” which just does not feel like it wants to let up and is borderline thrashy until about 2.5 minutes where a simple arpeggio brings the tempo down with some beautiful swirling synths that slowly introduce the vocals. We have whispered and sung parts again and again which fit into the mix and carry the track. The track gets heavier again and almost wears it out. Maybe it could have been shorter; maybe that was the idea.

“Silhouttes” is folky with a rock edge. It’s almost a straight up song with verses and choruses! It’s got this heaviness that almost wants to break out, but does not quite. The double bass drives the track along, but really makes you listen as it should be out of place; but it is not.

“Oceania” starts off with vocals, again both sung and whispered. The track drags on and on. The drone after the vocals cut out is brilliant, but does not feel like it should be part of the track. Then it just stops and the track changes again. It could be a whole new song.

Damn, I missed the rest of that and suddenly I’m halfway through “The Great Escape”. I’m still finding the structure of these tracks to be far to all over the place. Some very cool ideas, some of the vocals are pretty good, there’s just nothing holding it all together. “Ascension”, again, could be two tracks. An eastern feeling first half of the song goes on too long and then the vocal part comes in. I do like the marching, driving feel of the drums on this part.

“Crepuscular” has a chilled out acoustic guitar part that holds the track together. It’s the shortest track on the album and therefore the most together of all the tracks. Beautiful, and completely out of place! This is my favourite track.

“…Mare Nostrvm? (El llanto de Quintay)” tries to tie the album together as a whole by using the rustling samples that were used in the first track. How can you tie something together that is so badly put together in the first place? I am so disappointed by the fact there are amazing ideas here, but just chucked together with seemingly no thought. However this last track is another great track. It does not go anywhere because it does not have to, 10 minutes of noise ends the album perfectly.

3rd Listen: It’s hard to really feel this as an album. Each track has its own charms, but most lack in structure that drives the track from beginning to end. There are probably ideas here that could be expanded into twice as many tracks, each one with purpose. “Crepuscular” is still best idea on this album. It is so simple and wonderfully melodic.

All in all I enjoyed the album more on this listen as I was not listening closely. The complexity of the album would make me think that the composer really wanted you to listen; to find all the subtle nuances that make the ideas great. In that respect it fails.

Conclusion: Bauda have delivered an album with some superbly realised ideas that have been stuck together like pasta shells on paper.

  • First Impression: Indifferent
  • Final Impression: Indifferent
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Album Review: Medemia Argun – Ash Of Nubia

Ash of Nubia

Band: Ash of Nubia

Title: Medemia Argun

Genre: Alternative, rock, instrumental, post-rock

URL: http://ashofnubia.bandcamp.com/

Band introduction: Ash of Nubia is Marco, Aldo and Fab from Torino. We’re kinda postrock band. We play desert, we sing ash. – Taken from the band’s Bandcamp page.

1st Listen: This starts like a classic rock track with pop rock sensibilities. It’s alright; more of a post-rock\metal sort of feel is incorporated. Some of the heavier riffs do remind me of early Red Sparowes, which is no bad thing!

What is also good is that this band is not afraid to put different influences into the tracks. I’m getting rock, metal, punk, post-rock and, despite being listed as instrumental, some vocals are thrown which have a shoegaze sort of feel to them.

Am I getting much from it though? Not really, there are some really great ideas in here, I don’t have any gripes with the production, the songs are written relatively well; but there is an underlying “amateur” feeling that I get from it. I think some of the riffs could have been better conceived; perhaps I’m being too harsh, but I am relatively indifferent to this album.

2nd Listen: “Wrong Mistakes in the Right Place” kicks off like a grungy punk band, but starts to explore the riffs in a typical post-rock style i.e. working around the same riffs but changing dynamics. It’s a nice track, but does not really deliver.

“Dust of hope” feels like a nu-metal track to start, but then delivers some clean guitar parts with some great choir like synths behind then. Really sounding good, but the vocals detract and spoil the feeling. Luckily they are short lived and it builds back up with the God is an Astronaut style synths being used to very good effect. The vocals come back in and ruin the feeling again.

“Your Zenith is My Horizon” is similar to the other tracks in that it starts heavy and then gets more subdued. The clean parts are really what make this band stand out; the heavier parts are not pushing the right buttons for me. I can imagine this track is pretty cool live though.

Ballad time? “Soft as the Massacre of Suns” starts off clean and builds nicely and does not bring in the chug heavy riffs until a little later. I can’t help but struggle to differentiate between the tracks enough. There’s nothing wrong with having a sound, but it needs developing so that I know which song I’m listening to. What is bad about that is that I am doing a track by track review and therefore should know which track I’m listening to!

There are more vocals in “Be What You Breath”. Now I know that vocals are difficult to get right, and I applaud anybody for trying, but they don’t work here. This the weakest track on the album so far.

“In this Morning it could Happen”, but it does not. I could really take or leave this track; it is music like the others and does not excite me at all.

I am still not enjoying this album and I thought I might start to get something out of it. One more spin and we will see what happens…

3rd Listen: “Dust of Hope” is a really cool track, apart from the vocals. It is definitely the strongest on the album. When not scrutinising the tracks, as I am prone to do on the second listen, this is a pleasant album to listen to. That it does not hold up to close inspection is obviously a negative, but it could be much worse. I’m not aching to hear this again, but I would not switch it off.

Conclusion: A good background album, but it only delivers on that level. Closer listening shows that the band could do with more song writing experience to truly give us an album that blows us away. I believe they have that ability; we just need to wait and see.

  • First Impression: Indifferent
  • Final Impression: Indifferent
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Album Review: The Broken Suite – Diego Stocco

Diego Stocco

Band: Diego Stocco

Title: The Broken Suite

Genre: Experimental

URL: http://diegostocco.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-suite

Band introduction: Diego Stocco is an Italian sound designer and composer for movies, television and video games. He also constructs musical instruments and has used both a tree and a burning piano in his pieces – Taken from Wikipedia

1st Listen: Damn, I’ve listen to a lot of music today and had to give them all Good ratings. I was hoping for something to mix it up a bit. Should I be complaining that all the new stuff I’m listening to is sounding cool?

Actually, I wrote that during the first track. Second track is not getting off to a good start. I like discordant, glitchy, music but this is not doing it for me so far. Shame, because the first track, “Broken”, was a keeper.

Next track I’m not too sure about either. It does have an industrial, Nine Inch Nails, flavour that is tempting me to like it, but it is not touching the right buttons yet. Same with the last track, there is something there; I’m just not getting it yet. My initial thought is that I need to listen to this again.

2nd Listen: Broken comes in like an episode of Inspector Morse! A single piano key lays down now a simple melody. Then heavily equalised drums enter followed by synth bass line and lead lines weave in and out of each other. The instruments drop out and there are layers of different noises, possibly including a clock ticking. The instruments come back in and take us to the end of the track. This is a promising first track, chilled out, dark, trip-hop like electronica.

“Half M” has a main melody that is discordant and has an eastern feel to it. Rhythms chop and change behind, giving a glitch type feel to the mix. I really enjoy glitch, but the overall melody is off putting. I really can’t find it in me to like this track.

“Shatterproof” has an industrial edge to it. It sounds like its using Timpani drums (or at least a sample). I can’t get along with it though. The track doesn’t take me anywhere. Unlike “Emily” which is a cool little track that has a dark vibe to it with a really brooding piano part that really works along with the electronic beeps and waves of dark synth.

A good end to a half disappointing album, or should I say a half pretty good album? I don’t know if the two good tracks are good enough to overshadow the two mediocre tracks.

3rd Listen: After a third listen I am actually more prepared to listen to the tracks that I didn’t like before. Whereas the tracks that I really liked are just OK, but still better than those I didn’t. I think that as an experimental artist Diego Stocco has to push his boundaries and because of that you won’t often create music that is instantly gratifying. One of his other releases is a recording made using twigs that he got from his back garden. I’ve not heard it, but I can imagine it’s a release that have to work with, rather than “getting” it straight away. Despite giving him an excuse, I’m not going to be rushing back to listen to this again.

Conclusion: The Broken Suite is a recording that I feel most listeners would need to be patient with and give it time to grow on them. An understanding of Diego’s other works would be beneficial, to give context, and that is something I lack. I may revisit Diego Stocco in the future, but I’m not champing at the bit to do so.

  • First Impression: Indifferent
  • Final Impression: Indifferent
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Album Review: I Have Lived Like An Animal, But I Will Die Like An Angel – BONE DANCE

BONE DANCE

Band: BONE DANCE

Title: I Have Lived Like An Animal, But I Will Die Like An Angel

Genre: Hardcore, Metal, Punk, Sludge, Post-Hardcore

URL: http://bonedance.bandcamp.com/album/i-have-lived-like-an-animal-but-i-will-die-like-an-angel

Band introduction: BONE DANCE is a progressive hardcore band from Boise, ID. – Taken from the band’s Facebook page

Utter, desert-driven nihilism. – Taken from the band’s Bandcamp page

1st Listen: Heavy! The first track bludgeons you into submission and the album continues to do so. Short blasts of 2 minute songs move from sludge to hardcore and back again. Not being an expert on this genre of music, I listen to it occasionally; I can’t effectively compare, but Converge come to mind. The vocals are solid hardcore shouts, by the third track I’m feeling pretty worn out. Whether that is the unrelenting noise coming through my headphones, or just the caffeine comedown I’m way overdue; I don’t know. I would wager that it is the latter.

Having not listened to any hardcore recently this is a breath of fresh air. Love it!

2nd Listen: “No Sun” opens the album under a wave of feedback and a sludgy wall of guitar chords makes way for a riff that is reminiscent of early Isis, a band that I truly adore. It becomes “Apolonio” and the shouted harsh vocals make their first appearance over the repeated drum fills and hardcore riffs. Like most of the tracks, this is about 2 minutes long; it finishes long before it feels it should.

The drum intro “Black Tongues” is awesome. This track is faster than its predecessors and really driving. The breakdown at the end is nice and sludgy and ends the track well.

It feels like this albums tempo is increasing track by track as “Dead End Rendezvous” charges headfirst through my headphones; only to take a slight step back for the rest of the track until the track’s ending seconds plow into my ears and makes way for “Ghosts” which barely lets go until about a minute in where it allows me to take a breath.

“Felix Wolfe” is the shortest track on the album and does not give you much time to think before it is over. “Your kind eat the young” bludgeons into the mix, the drum roll build towards the beginning is a welcome break from the full on riffage of the previous tracks. Then it is back again, unrelenting, until the tracks end.

“Nom De Guerre” doesn’t let up either until a trail of feedback is left to build into a slower sludge section that makes way for “David” and its pure sludge intro riff. This is the longest track on the album, at 5:17, and has more noticeable melody rather than the usual power chord heavy riffage.

The album ends with “…And they had it all” which starts off in much the same way as “David” but gets faster as it progresses and incorporates a lot of chugged guitar chords to carry the vocals.

Across the album the vocals are very similar screamed\shouted harsh vocals. I have to say that this makes me happy. I find some similar bands that I listen to will try to incorporate clean vocals and this barely works. If you can’t sing, scream!

3rd Listen: I do like this album; it’s not breaking any boundaries, but then it was released in 2009. I doubt it was breaking boundaries then. It’s raw and does not mess about with anything like clean vocals (different sound, but I much prefer Killswitch Engage’s first album to anything else they ever did. Reason? No clean vocals!). The sludge ideas contrast with the hardcore elements enough to keep the sound fresh throughout. I do think that on certain tracks a little more experimenting could have been explored. That is just a little suggestion. However I have not heard any more of their material, they no longer play any of this album’s tracks live, so I will be exploring their later releases to see how they have progressed.

Conclusion: This album takes no hostages, back to back hardcore and sludge. If you want to let out some aggression I’d definitely give these guys a listen.

  • First Impression: Good
  • Final Impression: Good
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