An artist’s novelty is only authenticated when he intends on reviving the original sound of synthwave that has been integral to Sci-Fi movies, video games and cartoons dating back to the 80’s. “Isidor” being one of the artists hailing all the way from Serbia released their album “3218” only lately that juggles around with the extravagant 80’s synthwave, new retrowave and electronic beats. It fires off with “Star Sheriff” composed around the synth-driven angst and quirkiness reminiscent of yesteryears. The retro-styled chords and metropolitan synthesizers bounce on the trampoline of minimalism and nostalgia, incessantly. The dramatic filler “Secrets of the Universe” is a thematic interlude amidst the speedy tunes and the ongoing frenzy which puts the soaring hypnosis to rest for a while. The luxurious electronica and oddball slaps of synthesizers invested into “Touch the Sky”, “Apollo” and “Grid Surfer” forces a connection to synthwave monoliths like Electric Youth, Anoraak and Kavisnky. The buoyant melody of “Stardust” is mindlessly driven into a directionless oblivion uninhibited by the blaring synths. “Timeline” is definitely a highlight for me in this record that savors the trademark groove of the 80’s and slithering guitars. The ruthless assault of ambient synthesizers and dynamic bass condenses into a sonic aura that’s glutted with intergalactic elusiveness and luster. “The Last Geisha” swivels around booming acoustics and thick electronic conjunctures that manifests into a repetitive melody which manages to keep you hooked regardless. While the overall monotony might not reward an untrained ear as much, the record still has a cohesive arrangement and explosive soundscapes that the fans of the genre would definitely find appealing. “3128” pretty much feels like a propulsive journey through the fluorescent clouds of cosmic dust with a flashy and flamboyant soundtrack sketching the adventurous ascent into the fabric of infinity.
Album Rating: 3/5.
London based electro-pop duo “Tender” have produced multiple EPs before their first full-length studio album “Modern Addiction” released on 1st September which gave an insight into their artistic capability as the partisans of modern electronic music interspersed with synth-driven pop swagger. Their music is highly contemporary in essence which is generously seasoned with a libidinous mood and promiscuous dance-beats. Let’s just say, there couldn’t have been a better name designated to Tender.
While all the tracks are immersed in the lukewarm substance of volatile electronics and crooning vocals, the improvisations done in each track bring about the instrumental euphoria that’s transient yet self-sustaining. The album opener “Illuminate” is a wise choice for an introductory track and summons the relaxing elements of music that it is traditionally expected to offer. “Nadir” begins with chiming notes of percussion rendering it plain ecstatic. It later nurtures into a perky symphony laid out to embrace the contrasting lovelorn lyrics. “Hypnotized” has a bittersweet melody with repetitive jangling percussions and soft synths signifying the repletion of self-worth with a main chorus “You don’t define me” and going against the crowd in the process. “Crawl” and “Erode” sound most suggestive of all tracks and are melodically well-schemed to do justice to their aphrodisiac tendency. “Silence” serves as a meek interlude before the albums swerves to the poppy and upbeat tempo of “Machine”. The flamboyance it radiates will definitely get you on your feet to rejoice the electronic spunk of dance music which is also fairly detectable on the second last track “Powder”. “Sickness”, “Blame” and “Vow” feature spiraling synths and beats against the backdrop of chill-wave aesthetics of electro-pop. The wailing vocal tone in “Vow” dictates the oriental somberness and indecent coveting the record unabashedly spews. The last track “Trouble” is precisely warm in texture and minimalistic drumbeats provoke a sense of tranquility especially contributed by the ambient guitar licks and Tender’s signature smooth vocals.
“Modern Addiction” is an ornate mix of rhythmic blues, synth-wave and danceable electronica. Even if it’s not too far from formula-based music, it worked out splendidly. The wavering motifs of uptempo and downtempo sonic variations came forth as blissfully romantic, calm-inducing and seductive. The lightweight melodies with strokes of organic guitars and house-styled beats is tad bit in the vein of Röyksopp. While the duo intended on playing a little too safe with the overall experimentation and the abstract array of instruments, still their modern take on electro-pop reveries is fresh and unfamiliarly emotive. It’s your perfect chill-out music. However, it would be truly amazing if they explore more themes layered with the genre-induced trance and its stimulating allure in their future releases.
Album Rating: 3.5/5.
When you’re in for a debate about gothic metal and gothic doom in particular, Paradise Lost unquestionably stands out as the patron saint of the aforesaid genres. Their entire anthology has not a single bad record even though their electronic experimentation with gothic aesthetics labelled them as sell-outs by manic metal fans for once. The “return to their roots” banter is losing its appeal since the band already showcased their impeccable death-doom inspired prodigy on 2015’s “The Plague Within” after they got sidetracked with the “commercial glint”. This year they’re back again with their new album “Medusa” which is in sync with the prevailing melancholy of their last release.
The introductory anthem “Fearless Sky” idolizes the turbid, dark atmosphere it’s composed in resonance with. It’s somewhat exhaustive for an opener and breeds monotony being repetitive with the riffwork. “Gods of Ancient” and “From the Gallows” sound more propellant and pick up pace midway to deliver the inherently darker melodies they wholeheartedly celebrate. “The Longest Winter” is finally where I got the hang of this dreary ensemble with my generous attention. It’s crafted around a sludgy instrumental setup which for a change features Nick Holmes’ clean, crestfallen vocals alternating with the sinister growls on the other tracks. The pounding drums saturated with the oppressive marrow of doom is what I always loved about Paradise Lost and this record is also in accordance with that integral component. “Medusa” is fairly more captivating than the preceding tracks mainly because of the frosty lead guitars and the fragmentary keyboards which render it more dismal and wretched in essence.
“No Passage for the Dead” and “Until the Grave” are your traditional goth-doom oriented odes with a deliberate arrangement of heavy and downtrodden guitars, drums and nefarious roaring which fuels the overwhelming darkness. “Blood and Chaos” is my favorite song on this entire record. It’s powerful, energetic yet highly in key with the hovering antipathy. The lead melody is ritually raw and overpowering which this record somewhat lacked initially. “Frozen Illusion” strongly suggests a trail back to its cataclysmic lineage and hits a chord with the gruesome, old-school death-doom worship of their classic release “Gothic”. “Shrines” and “Symbolic Virtue” are the finishing tracks. While the former track still explores their inventiveness within the restricted constraints of metal and gothic-doom to be specific, the latter tracks is a bit dull and thrown in without delivering the intended impact.
“Medusa” is a convincing emblem of well-arranged heavy music and is in harmony with the enslaved darkside. Their progression is strategically headed in the direction it ought to. The sullen-paced musical ordeals and explosive moments plagued with agony and suffering are reciprocally orchestrated with the intention of revisiting the inbred emotional penchant and ultra-heavy, memorable tunes accustomed to the mighty Paradise Lost.
Album Rating: 3.5/5.
Område’s second studio album “Nåde” is an interesting combination of industrial rock and avant-garde metal. There’s a great deal of sonic experimentation on-going and the contemporary style is highly noticeable. The first song “Malum” opens with a vivid sound of electronic percussions which is integral to the industrial style of music, then progresses to a more layered structure featuring keyboards, tranquil guitars, violin and a trumpet which is the traditional instrumentation for blues rock. Suffice to say, it sets up a very dramatic mood already. “XII” maintains the sensitivity of the album as it splices swaying guitars, subtle piano notes, an alto saxophone acoustics and glitched distortions into the electro-industrial backbone of the song. “Enter” is a nicely-paced song. It plays around with themes of electro-rock and again, incorporates a consistent industrial rock sound. About time I comment on the vocals that basically involve clean singing with high-notes for the most part which is more emotional than aggressive. The next song “Hänelle” is also in the same vein as the first three tracks. There’s repetitive guitar riffs, trumpets blowing, synths in action and a decent song at the end of the day. Next up is “Styrking Leið” which has an artsy composition. It’s the most overwhelming song on the record. I like the electronic transitions and how it’s intensified with sped-up guitar riffs and those electronically automated critical junctures. It certainly leaves the impact it promises.
“The Same For The Worst” has an intro that embodies a lounge jazz feel. In a rock song? Well, yes. This also goes on to prove how they’ve rejected the stern tactics of the generic rock/metal sound. It features alternating quality of vocals i.e. frustrated screams and female backing vocals that mute down to sirenic whispers more than once. “Baldar Jainko” evokes the cryptic side of industrial metal with appealing bits of drum sequence for a change. The last song “Falaich” is mainly orchestral and wraps up the entire album with a sentimental note.
“Nåde” (which means “Mercy” or “Grace” in English) is a good record if not extraordinary, mechanized fundamentally with industrial and avant-garde musical arrangements. The turning points are executed with electronic distortions that are both bizarre and catchy at the same time. There are certain dramatized themes performed with a hybrid sound of jazz, trip-hop, electronica and metal. The overall ambiguity renders it banal, at some point. Experimentally, it is a good venture for the band however, they could’ve accomplished the task at hand in a less complex and more artistically overpowering way. In any case, fans of industrial rock and metal in general, should definitely look out for it.
Album Rating: 3/5.
Slowdive’s comeback after about 22 years is a proof in itself that quality shoegaze is here to stay for a long time. Being one of the unparalleled pioneers of the classic shoegaze genre and major contributors to explore the new horizons that transcend dream-pop, noise rock and various other forms of alternative rock, I was sure that the album’s going to be engineered fairly well. The opener “Slomo” has a refreshing, guitar-laden melody romancing with a lush ambient pop vibe. Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s vocals heard as soft, gleeful echoes are immersed within the dreamy texture of the song as perky synthesizers add to their resonance. For me, it’s probably a perfect song you should be listening to while having an aromatic cup of coffee on days when the sun is not too abrasive and the spring breeze feels impregnated with the scent of flower kernels in bloom. Yes, precisely. Slowdive’s new record is all about those imaginative metaphors. “Star Roving” is the most shoegazy song on the album and there’s a lot of reverberance, drone guitars and hypnotic noise coalesced together to give birth to an a-okay shoegaze number. It starts off like an explosive supernova, splattering the warm luster all around and dies out with Halstead’s heartsick hums. The next song “Don’t Know Why” plays around with upbeat synths, a baroque song structure and particularly vibrant chants which makes it pretty addictive. “Sugar for the Pill” is downright sensational and melodic. The song’s more on the brit-pop side but the sentimental lyrics with a meaningful delivery by Halstead is worthy enough to set the right kind of a melancholic mood to contemplate things that might have possibly gone wrong in your life. Verses like “Lying in a bed of greed, you know I had the strangest dream..” and “This jealousy will break the whole” encapsulate myriads of bittersweet sadness. “Everyone Knows” has a dense noise-pop sound ricocheting with Goswell’s wistful swoons ringing in your ears. “No Longer Making Time” has a rather ordinary sequence of drums, synths and guitars but it’s appealing and settles the fact that simple things work out well if done right.
Next up is my personal favorite “Go Get It” and it affirms a soaring flight of fancy. The main chorus “I wanna see it, I wanna feel it..” confirms unapologetic wishful thinking and is a sonic treat for all the hopeless romantics out there. The closer “Falling Ashes” is just a space-filler, to be honest and most likely I would skip it.
There’s a chance that you will end up playing the album everyday as long as the songs resonate in your head which profess a great replay value. The record swerves more to the dream-pop side than shoegaze. The preceding albums Just For A Day, Pygmalion and Souvlaki were plain ecstatic with their pensive songwriting and volatile guitar sound and in a way, it wouldn’t be totally irrational to state that this self-titled album was conceived as a lovechild to its predecessors. There is fragmentary lightheartedness, celebratory bliss, melodrama and sanguine emotions. It renews your thought process with ethereal dreamscapes and intimate perspectives. It is a good comeback album for a band that’s been on a hiatus for 22 years. Give them some love!
Album Rating: 4/5.
Saule’s self-titled debut album has a concrete sound that majorly revolves around post-rock and post-metal but has black metal and the death-doom sisterhood as its muse. The album can easily find its natural habitat on the extreme end of the musical spectrum. The introductory track “I” sets up a solid foreground for the listener to decipher what the record intends on offering. You can dismantle the post-metal enamel only to discover the immutable post-rock ingenuity in there. The vigorous drumming and down-tuned guitars promise a strong baseline knowledge of the genres at hand. The backing vocals augment into distinctly audible monstrous growls as the song unfolds. The second track “II” is a continuation of the same ambient theatrics and mysterious post-metal vibe having an interlude with minimalist experimentation and evolving crescendos. “III” is the most wholesome song on the record. It has a sublime overture, relentless growls, lamentable blues, atrocious drum solos all of which boils down to create the characteristic post-metal haze. The deceptive, slow descent into the vortex of post-rock is actually a prelude to the song’s climax that reeks of sheer profoundness and is jam-packed with magnanimously heavy guitars which somehow manifests into the classic death-doom metal combo.
“IV” and and the first two minutes of “V” are more or less like an antidote to the preliminary surge of unsolicited desolation and nebulous smog. The rest half is all about explicitly loud ascension into the esoteric. You can pinpoint borrowed influences from bands like Neurosis, Cult of Luna and Isis who’ve mastered the various avenues of post-metal with numerous releases. You know what they say. Nobody is inventing gun-powder or the wheel again.
Lasting eight minutes, “VI” feels like stretching it out a bit too long with the same morose disposition. It’s breaking point. The album terminates with the track “O” which makes the torrents of agony whittle down to a droning whir. With that being said, this makes up for a very expressive record which paints surreal strokes of despair on the canvas of life. Its manipulation of so many musical dimensions i.e. post-rock, post-metal, black metal and death/doom promises strong musicianship. The fusion of ambient elements and post-metal delivers the punch it ought to. The deviant nature of metal is dealt intelligibly with. They’ve accomplished a lot with their debut release.
Album Rating: 3.5/5.
The colossal sound of the good ol’ black metal came out pretty much refined and radically avant-garde on this record. Before I put forth my song by song review, I would like to focus on the album art which caught my attention in the first place. It conveys the sullen essence of the record with its vivid imagery. The deep-rooted pathology is aesthetically transparent. It features two people (band members probably?) dressed up as the symbolic markhor which the traditional heavy metal subculture is all too familiar with. In all honesty, I did not know about this band earlier despite being an avid listener of the relevant genre. Well, better late than never. Getting back to the critique, the introductory track “Deviant Shapes” starts of bluesy with muffled drum pounding which felt very emotionally stimulating. It picks up momentum to deliver the basic depressive black metal sound and concludes with a precise solo which is strictly bleak and gloomy. The big surprise in there is the saxophone which seems just about fitting played by Alexey Iskimzhi with proper virtuosity. It’s plausible how the song structure is intricate but definitely not overdone. The second track “Stillborn Knowledge” has the grim element intact complemented by the black-gaze precision. It doesn’t turn out to be monotonous as the arrangement is done with generous sax-synth improvisations. The song’s eventual escalation into a magnificent solo with frenzied drumming and a jazzy outro is terrific. “Homecoming” is also crafted with the same arcane black-jazz technique they’ve succeeded in establishing by now. I personally loved the sensual guitars in the intro with a piercing sense of electricity and eeriness. “Rain As Cure” is like a little ray of hope and bliss amidst the dark, sepulchral shadows. It’s full-fledged 3 minutes of abstract cleansing with a soulful jazz & blues instrumental. However, darkness prevails and builds up into a 6 minute long “Black Silent Piers” reminiscent of atmospheric black metal goodness synonymous with Wolves In The Throne Room, Lantlôs, Ulver, Drudkh and Gallowbraid.
The last song to the album is “Futility Report” which sounds essentially atmospheric with borderline progressive fringing towards the end. The sonic experimentation might feel a bit redundant but stirs your musical sense in general. The transitions lack rich diversity and become predictable at some point. The gritty guitars inter-laced with jazzy undertones and subtle synths essentially add to the modern side of the conventional blackened metal. The post-black metal vibe is consistent alongside unorthodox musical interventions. The lyrics are performed in coarse, raspy vocals for the most part with the exception of the opening dramatic monologue accustomed to the melancholic aura the album effortlessly intends on generating. The record in its entirety suggests cynical sermons delivered with purging shrieks. Menace and misery looms throughout with a hint of noir. I can easily declare this as one of my favorite releases this year irrespective of the genre.
Album Rating: 4/5.