Album Review: Nåde by Område

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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.

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“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.

Album Review: Slowdive by Slowdive

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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.

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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.

Album Review: Futility Report by White Ward

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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.

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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.