Friday, December 21, 2012

Icarus the Owl-Love Always, Leviathan review

There comes a time in every music blogger's life when an album comes across that is difficult to review.  It is not necessarily that the words don't seem to flow like you want them to or even that the music is so diverse that it is difficult to describe sometimes.  Sometimes you really want to review an album and you really want to write a favorable review, but there is something blocking you from it.

Icarus the Owl is a young band from Portland, Oregon and has crafted an interesting, yet flawed album in "Love Always, Leviathan."  Musically, this disc toes the line between modern math rock and standard pop-punk.  Neither of these genres truly interest me because there are too many bands in these scenes that are mediocre at best.  Even the heavyweights such as newer Green Day are producing content heavy in radio-friendly vibes but sorely lacking in style.  Some bands add little to the genre, others add virtually nothing.

That said, I did find this album to be interesting enough to listen all the way through.  The cover art is what really reeled me in, but like a riptide between two gnarly waves, I found myself drawn away from what the real intent of the music seems to be.

Most of the tracks on this disc are standard-fare love songs set to a fast punk beat.  This style of math rock riffing combined with the usual punkish breakdowns give the album a decent amount of flair. The vocals, however satisfying in overall tone, at equally disappointing in that they are too one-dimensional to satiate most desires for melodic singing.  Yes, this is also a staple in modern pop-punk, but I find this style to be less than appealing. 

One thing this album does have going for it is a diverse array of tempos, beats, and guitar leads that propel listeners quickly through the thankfully short run-time.  The album's 12 tracks rarely overstay their welcome, although the last two tracks average seven minutes between the two of them.  This is very long for this style of music, but these tracks do offer a slightly wider palette of tastes and are somewhat more progressive than the rest of the tracks.

The one thing that I don't like is the vocals.  If the singer used more than one octave range and varied the delivery more often and perhaps even incorporated some screams, the disc would feel fuller and much more satisfying. 

All in all, "Love Always, Leviathan" is an above average album that should appeal to fans of Bowling for Soup and some of the latter works of Blink-182.  Listen to the full album stream below from Icarus the Owl's bandcamp page.  As always, thanks for reading and enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Celldweller-Wish Upon a Blackstar review

Also from the 'somehow we missed this' vat, Celldweller's new album is upon us.  We have mentioned this band here several times because many consider them to be the gold standard of electronic/synth rock. 

When you think Celldweller, think Blue Stahli.  Think I Will Never be the Same.  All of these artists share one thing in common--a propensity for thick, chunky, and groovy electronic rock tunes.  When listening to this album I almost thought it was too good for its own...good. 

Both undeniably glitchy and impossibly catchy, this album creates a fine balance between melancholic wandering, danceable grooves and fun electronic beats.  Not unlike the aforementioned bands, Celldweller uses distorted buzzing guitars in tandem with Reznor-esque singing with sparse screams. 

The one complaint I have with "Wish Upon a Blackstar" is that I feel it overstays its welcome by about 20 minutes.  The relentlessly catchy and singable tunes need a breather occasionally, but this album clocks in with a heft 16 tracks.  Some bands try so hard to create catchy tunes that they lose sight of the real purpose behind the music. 

This is a good album, but not in the same atmosphere as the latest I Will Never be the Same disc.  This music is fun to listen to but much like an amusement park, one can only take so much of it before they are ready for something else.  If you are in the mood for some poppy, dancy, groovy electronic synth rock music, then this album should fill the niche.  Don't take this disc too seriously or it will wear on you.  Just have fun with it.

Enjoy the full album stream via Celldweller's soundcloud page below.  As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Skyharbor-Blinding White Noise review

Anyone who reads our blog on a regular basis probably knows that as a general rule, I don't do djent metal.  This is much less a rule than a guideline, so there are bound to be some exceptions.  Skyharbor's latest album is such an exception.

Here is why I am making an exception for this album: This disc is less djenty and 'core' than 99% of the scene bands in existence.  If you are unsure what a 'scene band' is, let me try to explain it in layman's terms.  A 'scene band' is a band whose music conforms rigidly to a set of stylistic standards within a certain sub genre, or 'scene'. 

While this album is certainly a metal album, it does not fall back on the metalcore crutch that many djent bands do and in fact includes syncopated djent riffs as merely a backing to the rest of the music, which in retrospect hardly sounds metal at all. 

The full title of this album is "Blinding White Noise: Illusion & Chaos".  It is essentially a two-part album where most of the tracks come with the Illusion prefix and the final three carrying the Chaos prefix.  The Illusion tracks are exceptional progressive-styled rock tunes that drift on auras of grandeur line thin, wispy clouds scooting across the sky.  Vocals on these tracks are surprisingly melodic, using vocal effects to stretch some notes.  These tracks are obviously meant to take on an illusory tone.

Conversely, the final three tracks, the Chaos tracks, are more up-front metal approaches, mixing in fewer of the stretched vocals and introducing screamed vocals for the first time.  These harsher vocals are carried out tastefully and do not invade the overall atmospheric content of the album as a whole, only further enhancing that atmospheric qualities. 

This is an album I somehow missed this year.  I certainly listened to fewer metal releases in 2012, and this one didn't even register until it showed up on a year-end best album list over at The NewReview.  The album cover alone convinced me to check it out, and I liked what I heard.  If you are into progressive metal and hard rock, you will enjoy this disc.  Listen to the full album stream from the Basick Records bandcamp page below.  This is a very good album.  To get a full taste of what this record has to offer, at least listen to one Illusion song and one Chaos song.  As always, thanks for reading and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More new music: Soilwork and Honeyslide

New music two days in a row?  The interweb has suddenly become a busy place for new music.  Today we have two more excellent items we are excited about. 

First Soilwork is streaming a new track from their upcoming double album "The Living Infinite".  This track sounds like classic Soilwork, combining massive chugging riffs, complex drum patterns, including blast beats, and Bjorn 'Speed' Strid's powerful dual vocals.  This is a really heavy track.  It shows a lot of promise for this band.  Soilwork formed in the mid-1990s and has released nine studio albums including "The Living Infinite".  Their sound began to change and adapt with the release of "Stabbing the Drama" and more so on "Sworn to a Great Divide".  Their latest album, "The Panic Broadcast", was billed as a return to form and was their best album in years.  From what I've heard so far, the new record will be even better than the last.  I'm a fan of Soilwork, so I'll be checking this out when it is released.  Strid's switches back and forth from impressive clean vocals to snarling higher-register screams that are typical of the melodeath genre.  Check out the following track and then get yourself a neck brace to wear for the next two days.

I have been listening to Honeyslide's latest EP for the last fifteen minutes and have not been particularly impressed.  This record sounds like average old-school shoegaze choked with fuzzy guitar reverb.  However, this band just released a brand new single at soundcloud, and  it is anything but average.  Instead it is very different than their EP.  The new track is more harmonious, the reverb is cleaner and better-executed, and the track is soaked with sensational electronic ambiance.  This is worlds better than their EP.  When and if this British group releases a new album, one can hope that the entire disc is a reflection of the new track rather than the EP.  Listen to the new track below and you can see what I mean.  Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A boatload of new music, some free

Once in a while, we miss some interesting new music, letting it just pass us by, so occasionally we have to make some time to catch up on stuff we missed.  Today we have a lot of stuff like this to share with you. 

First, Above the Earth has a new self-titled EP out.  The cover art is at first enticing, then not all that interesting, then just plain bad.  Thankfully, this doesn't speak to the quality of the music.  Above the Earth is a difficult band to describe, as they blend elements of shoegaze, instrumental, progressive rock, and post-rock into an interesting fusion of excellent sounds.  This band features a guitarist from the Russian extreme metal band Kartikeya.  If you listen close enough, you can hear the tendencies of metal through spiralling guitar leads and solos that permeate several of the tracks.  This EP also features lovely female vocals.  Give the EP a listen below.

There is also a new track out from The Chromatics.  If you are not familiar with their work, you need to stop what you are doing right now and check them out.  One of their songs was used on the great ambient soundtrack to Drive.  This is dream-pop meets electronica that emits plenty of good vibes and singable melodies.  The new track is a cover of a Joy Division track.  You can listen to this track below.  Hit the link to the soundcloud page to download this track for free!

Third, a band called Magnets have released a new EP.  The band describes their music as heavy shoegaze, and this is a fitting title.  Classic shoegaze tendencies collide with heavy, crunchy, distorted riffs.  This is a different take on the shoegaze/metalgaze sub genre and it is plenty impressive.  The vocals are as vast as the oceans, leaving little to be desired.  Check out the stream from Magnets' bandcamp page below.

Last but not least, I have to give a mention to a new track from Gems.  Rarely do I describe pop music as great, but I was amazed by what I heard the first time I listened to this track.  Pop music is simply not my specialty, but I recognize good tunes when I hear them.  This track, entitled, All I Ever, is fantastic.  It is generally straight-up pop with some subtle dream-pop atmospherics thrown in, but with outstanding vocals.  The track is available for free download from Gems' soundcloud page, which you can link to from the player below.  Take a listen to this track and get it now!  Thanks for reading and enjoy!!