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Retrace My Fragments – Tidal Lock

Retrace My Fragments - Tidal Lock
Three years have passed since the local progressive death metal heroes in Retrace My Fragments have released their skull-shattering full-length Ethereal Flux and it began to be quiet around the quintet for a while. It wasn’t until recently that they announced their return with a small EP in order to whet the appetite for new adventures to come. However, Tidal Lock is much more than just an amuse-bouche: it is a transition.

The reason for said transition is the, amicable, departure of their vocalist after more than ten years as the frontman. After several try-outs and careful consideration, the guys decided to continue as an instrumental four-piece; a choice I wholeheartedly welcome! While the Luxembourgish metal scene has a few very talented instru-bands already, I am convinced that RMF has a fairly distinct sound that will nicely fit between the existing and established formations without singers.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, back to the EP: in a way the sixteen minutes sound nothing like the band’s previous material, but on the other hand they feel very much like what we’ve grown to love about the band. The song structures are on the same crazy level as before, with frequent tempo changes and numerous riffs being thrown at you in rapid succession, whereas the content is “simpler”. The technicality takes a step back in favor of the almighty beast that is groove, and it works…for the most part.

There is no doubt in my mind that large portions of these three songs were written with a vocal melody in mind and were later on changed into an instrumental arrangement, which is absolutely understandable and legit. But I am also convinced that they do not represent the final form of the new Retrace My Fragments, and that future endeavors will have that extra little something that will make people fall in love with their sound all over again.

If you want to see the band one last time as a quintet, I advise you to move your sweet cheeks over to Rockhal this Friday, where the band will hold a release party for Tidal Lock which will at the same time be the farewell for their singer. In the meantime, you can check their Facebook page for more info!

Adventurer – Sacred Grove

Adventurer - Sacred Grove
Every now and then, an album comes along that fans are anticipating and hyping up for so long that it’s almost impossible that the final product will live up to the expectations. A bit more than three years have elapsed since Adventurer released their self-titled EP, subsequently signed to Blue Swan Records and talks of a full-length began circulating. Other than a small taste of the good stuff on a split EP in May 2016, the fans were sitting on blue balls, until the band finally dropped a new single in late August 2017…and the internet pretty much exploded. Therefore it is now time to find out whether Sacred Grove satisfies the adventurous craving, or not!

For those that are unfamiliar with the trio, I think the best way to explain their sound would be to say that they take the best elements of The Fall Of Troy, add in a few sprinkles of pop punk and fuse them together into a perfect concoction: a riff-fest from start to finish with frequent tempo changes, intricate drum patterns and a bass that actually adds depth to the songs, as well as super melodic vocals that are ideal sing-along material and, of course, fierce screams.

I, like so many other post-hardcore aficionados, was completely enamored with the Michiganders’ debut and their overall sound, since it was so matured already, that I kept asking myself how they wanted to change or improve on subsequent releases and I must say that I don’t notice a vast change on these ten songs when compared to the previous ones. But, it’s fairly simple: why change a winning team? Everything that returning listeners liked before is still here, and new listeners will have a slightly more polished first experience. Win-win, in my book.

Perhaps this is just the case for me, but I found that the EP works best when enjoyed in its entirety, and such is the case with Sacred Grove as well: some of the songs don’t do anything for me if I don’t listen to the surrounding ones. Now, unless I am completely mistaken, this isn’t a concept album per se, but the band’s lyrical focus has always, and hopefully will always be, heartache and mostly failed relationships, so I would recommend adopting a similar approach and looking at these thirty-seven minutes as one complete, pardon the pun, adventure.

All in all, I think that Sacred Grove doesn’t have to hide behind its predecessor and even outshines it in moments. While I wish there had been one or two more songs, I’ll definitely take short and sweet over long and boring! Make sure to check out the album when it drops on Friday, September 8th, and in the meantime go listen to the song below or head over Adventurer‘s Facebook page to keep up with the news!

Blanket Hill – Trenches Of Reality

Blanket Hill - Trenches Of Reality
Today’s review is a bit different than usual, because I’m writing about a local band where I purposefully ignored the release of their debut EP and didn’t cover it on this website…that’s how much I hated it. Two years have since passed and I’m delighted to say that Blanket Hill have fixed everything that I disliked about their debut on their sophomore release called Trenches Of Reality…well almost everything. But more on that in a bit.

In 2014, the quintet rose from the ashes of the hardcore youngsters Order Of The Oceans and underwent several line-up changes before settling on the constellation as it is today. The musical style has also been slightly altered, taking a more traditional old school route, akin to the NYC hardcore and throwing in thrash metal elements for good measure. While it is not them reinventing the wheel, they definitely know how to pull it off convincingly!

The six songs, one of which is an instrumental intro, flow nicely into each other and before you know it, you’re done with Trenches Of Reality…but contrary to the predecessor, it never feels like you’re listening to the same song over and over. The groove-laden riffs and the occasional short solo bring enough variation to the table to avoid that. This was hands down my biggest gripe with Kaizen, so I’m glad that it is no longer an issue, despite there still being some room for improvement.

The vocal situation is still very similar to what we previously heard: not quite my cup of tea, because it’s too much Sprechgesang and fairly monotonous, but since it’s almost a staple in hardcore, I can’t really say anything bad against it. It just isn’t for me. To spice things up. there is one guest appearance by Andrew Wilson of Revulsion that, sorry to say, does nothing for me either.

Reading through what I just wrote, it might seem that I hate the nineteen minutes that are ToR, but consider that I’ve never been a huge fan of the genre to begin with and that I see a lot of potential in the songwriting. So, please, do yourself a favor and listen to the song below to see for yourself whether Blanket Hill is your jam or not, and if they are, make sure to swing by Food For Your Senses in Luxembourg this weekend, where they will perform and release their latest endeavor to the public. More info on that can be found on their Facebook page, enjoy!

Eidola – To Speak, To Listen

Eidola - To Speak, To Listen
Two years ago, I discovered a band through a song off their back then unreleased second full-length and was so impressed that I blindly ordered their debut and pre-ordered the sophomore. My expectations were not met, but completely exceeded by Degeneraterra and it stayed on repeat for quite a while, which is why I was beyond excited when Eidola announced that they were already going to release a follow-up to it in 2017. Fast forward a little while to when I was granted early access to To Speak, To Listen and try imagining my amazement when I first listened to the phenomenal, albeit short, opener The Abstract Of A Planet In Resolve.

Basically, the quintet took everything I loved about the previous album and turned the dial to the max, despite it already being at eleven. Eidola is, to me, all about complexity, melody and diversity, all wrapped into truly solid songwriting and embellished with a really powerful sound. I can say without a doubt that all those boxes have been ticked on my checklist, and I can’t even begin to explain how they’ve improved, but I’ll try: every single instrument is bringing their A-game, with the drumming probably being my favorite element this time around, the levels of groove and crazy footwork along with the innumerable tiny accents and fills just blew me away every single time I’ve put these twelve songs on. And that has been close to three digits…don’t judge me.

The melodic aspect comes in the form of, what I feel, way catchier choruses and individual parts than on the predecessor. The musical diversity is more or less at the same level, but even more tightly woven together by the songwriting: in spite of there being many changes in tempo, intensiveness and general vibe during the different tracks, it never once feels awkward or forced, a feat that really allows you to dive into the experience. This is even further facilitated by the glass-clean production which allows you to distinguish every single note of each and every instrument without any great effort. To give you an idea: I am a long-standing sufferer of the “I can’t hear the bass guitar”-syndrome, but I feel like the bass on TSTL and I get along just fine.

Obviously, I can’t finish this review without at least dropping a few lines about the vocals: you are still treated to a wonderful mix of screams and cleans, but I feel like they have both gained in prowess and fierceness. Especially the clean vocals have even further expanded their range, most notably in the upper register, and the screams are more predominantly represented during the fifty-two minutes than what you are previously used to. Lyrically, Eidola still wander on a fairly esoteric level, with mature topics and well-written lines, which is not always the best sing along material, but sometimes it’s better -not- To Speak, and just To Listen. Thank you, I’m here all week.

What can I say? The guys from Utah have recorded a masterpiece and I can’t wait to finally be able to show it to my friends and talk about it on June 2nd, when To Speak, To Listen is officially released. There is not a single doubt in my mind that Eidola is the next Blue Swan Records band to make the jump to a bigger label! Until then, support the band, buy their music and go see their shows…or at least like them on Facebook and jam the song below. Infinite love!

A Lot Like Birds – Divisi

A Lot Like Birds - Divisi
If a band loses their vocalist, fans usually start to worry who the replacement is going to be and how that person will impact the music. In the case of A Lot Like Birds, they simply decided to not look for a new band member, but instead had their screamer take vocal lessons in order to take over clean vocals and their bassist revealed that he has the voice of an angel…but I’m getting ahead of myself. On May 5th, the guys’ fourth full-length, Divisi, was released and I am going to try to explain to you why separation can be a positive thing.

Since the record has been out for almost two weeks, this is going to be somewhat of a mix between a review and a retrospective, since it’s apparent that the reaction to the most recent release could not be more polarized. The thing that many listeners fear when it comes to their favorite artists, is change, or rather too much change. Obviously, evolution is necessary in order to avoid staleness and repetition, but when a band almost throws everything overboard that their fans loved about them, it is a natural consequence that the opinions will range from one end of the spectrum to the other opposite one. In this case, this means that there are barely any screams left, and the instrumentation is a lot less erratic and, at first glance, less complex; arguably three of the main pillars in the sound of the quintet.

But first impressions can deceive: the fourth pillar and at the same time the core element of ALLB has always been emotion. And I can say without a doubt that the amount of feels that these twelve songs bring along, is hard to quantify. Especially since they are not only limited to the lyrics but are also brought to the surface by the incredible songwriting, which is in no way as bland as many first-time listeners thought. It is true that, generally-speaking, every instrument is playing less notes in short succession and that the songs have less tempo changes and whatever other crazy stuff you would find in the band’s previous material; but that does not have to be a bad thing.

This record is definitely a grower, that will only get better the more often you listen to it and thus start analyzing the different instrumental parts, or backing vocals or discovering the smallest details about it, like a howling dog in the background of a song. And don’t get me start on complexity: do yourself a favor and dedicate an entire listening to just paying attention to the drums and you will change your opinion. There might be more fills than feels during these forty-seven minutes, and that is saying something.

Last but not least, the big elephant in the room: the vocals or rather the, almost, total lack of screams. The frontman’s clean singing is definitely on a new level and it blends really well into the new sound, and I knew before going in that there would not be any screams on here, since the band mentioned it somewhere on the internet. Which is why I had major goosebumps on my first listen during the two instances where there -were- screams: it just fit like a glove. In hindsight, after having listened to the record about forty times…I’m OK with there not being more screams, since it fits the ensemble. The best thing to come out of the aforementioned separation, though, is hands-down the inclusion of the bassist in the vocal department: the man’s got pipes and so many brilliant lines on Divisi. Solo project please!

In closing, I hope that I was able to change your opinion or at least stir your interest in this record, since it really is worth discovering and listening to repeatedly. You can find more info on the band’s Facebook page and get your very first impression in the video below!

Fractal Universe – Engram Of Decline

Fractal Universe - Engram Of Decline
As a reviewer, there are few things as gratifying as seeing a band evolve in a positive way, even more so when you pointed out their weaknesses and predicted great potential in their future while talking about their debut release. Such is the case today, because I’m proud to write about Fractal Universe‘s new full length, Engram Of Decline, which manages to surpass the band’s preceding EP, which was already remarkable, by light years.

In 2015, the quartet had laid a solid foundation with Boundaries Of Reality, which was a ride of finest technical death metal, but there were several minor flaws, especially in the production department: it just didn’t sound as good as it could. Fast forward two years, and you are treated to a sound so crisp that it pierces right through your eardrums and into your brain! But that wasn’t enough for the Frenchmen, since they also stepped up their songwriting game, as well as their musicianship, to a whole new level. The ten songs are so well composed, giving certain passages an almost symphonic, albeit heavy, quality and not a single transition ever feels awkward.

The drums are so tight and accurate that I would not believe that it’s not a drum computer, if I hadn’t seen them play live in the past. The interplay between them and the bass guitar is a real treat, especially in the groovier parts of the songs. Add to that the intricacy and precision of the two other string heroes, and you’ve got a true work of art. It’s also worth noting that the band has taken a daringly experimental step with the inclusion of a saxophone part on the song Backworldsmen, which on top of that is also sung in German!

Speaking of singing: the vocals have also improved both in execution and recording! Possibly due to the increased production value, every line sounds much better enunciated and every scream is another bone-chilling exclamation that drives the lyrics home with force.

While listening to Engram Of Decline for the first few times I couldn’t help but crack a smile, simply because it was so reminiscent of a technical death metal record I absolutely adore: Obscura‘s Cosmogenesis! And if that album was an inspiration for the Fractal Universe guys, I tip my hat to them, because they managed to capture its essence perfectly! You should be the judge yourself, and you can do so on Friday, April 14th, when the record is being released. In the meantime you can whet your appetite by listening to the single below and checking out the band on Facebook.

Tvesla – Tvesla

Tvesla - Tvesla
In the olden days, back when I first started going to local shows, there were a handful of bands that could be found on almost every line-up: Inborn, Sad But True, Mercury, John McAsskill and Kitshickers were pretty much playing at every bigger concert that happened around that time. However, there were also bands that were sprinkled into the mix every now and then in order to make things interesting. One of those bands was Tvesla, a three-piece instrumental band, who played something that I could not get into for the life of me, back then…but times change. After a couple of years on hiatus, the guys are now back with their new self-titled release. I’ll try to give you a few, admittedly short, impressions but I must warn you: this is not the kind of music you write about, because you need to listen and experience it yourself.

These eight tracks can only be described as hypnotic and entrancing. As a matter of fact, they’re fairly repetitive and simple but those two ingredients are, in my opinion, exactly what give this record its intensity and at times disturbing atmosphere. This is not to say that the musicianship is bad or lacking in depth, it just feels like the band deliberately avoided putting in hundreds of parts in one song just to show off, but rather chose to tone down on variation in favor of the entire composition. A formula that works out perfectly in my book.

I’m not entirely sure how people in general feel about post-rock such as this, but at least for me it has to be enjoyed in a live setting. That’s exactly what my biggest concern was when I first dived into these thirty minutes: will it work without that key factor? On my first listen, I feared that it was not possible, because I was walking to work and focusing on other things, the second time I tried in front of the PC while taking care of things around the apartment and the music still failed to grip me entirely. The solution to my problem came to me on my third try: listen to it on headphones while doing little to nothing else on the side. Only then was I able to get into the state of mind to fully embrace the journey.

That’s all I’m going to bore you with, because as I said in my opening paragraph: it’s best to give it a try on your own and make up your own mind. You can do so in a live setting on March 18th at Rotondes, because that’s when Tvesla is going to unleash their new creation! So be sure to head over to Facebook in order to get additional information on that evening, as well as keeping up with the future endeavors of the band!

Heaven’s Scum – Beyond Human Footsteps

Heaven's Scum - Beyond Human Footsteps
It’s been almost three years since the local Heaven’s Scum released their debut It All Ends In Pain, a record that had its fair share of flaws but essentially was a solid album. The quartet has been quite active in the meantime, playing gigs and writing new material, which they’ve recorded and decided to fund via crowdfunding, a concept that no longer needs an introduction these days. The result is called Beyond Human Footsteps and I’ve had the privilege of getting early access to it in order to write down my thoughts.

Back in 2014, when I reviewed the debut album, one of my major gripes was that the different musical styles didn’t always blend together very harmonically, thus taking the listener out of the experience. I am happy to report that the guys have gotten rid of any unnecessary fluff and that the new and improved sound is a lot more concise, settling in in the modern death metal genre.

Another aspect that was slightly lacking in quality on the predecessor has also been improved: the production. While the general approach of the instruments remaining as natural as possible is still the same, the methods of doing so have become drastically better and they make the eleven songs sound extremely crisp. The songwriting itself has also, I feel, seen improvement and everything comes across as much more mature and well thought out. A good example of this can be heard on the song They All Died, a mostly instrumental song which finishes in an epic interplay of groove, intricate guitar parts and just a well built atmosphere.

The selling point last time was hands down the diversity of the vocals and I’m happy to report that they are still just as strong and impressive during the fifty-three minutes of Beyond Human Footsteps. The improved production quality also contributes to them hitting harder than previously and better displaying the frontman’s vocal prowess. Lyrically, there are a couple songs that stood out to me for different reasons: Bow Down To The Crown, since it has this catchy growl-along chorus that could become the band’s anthem and the truly disturbing The Dead Don’t Judge. I’ll let you discover for yourself why that is the case.

All in all, Heaven’s Scum have without a doubt managed to take a huge leap in the right direction and know exactly how to construct a highly enjoyable listening experience. I, for one, am very much looking forward to what the future holds in store for these guys and I hope that the people will enjoy Beyond Human Footsteps, when it’s being released on March 18th, as much as I did. There will be a release show at Kulturfabrik on said date to celebrate in style, so be sure to bring your dancing shoes. In the meantime, be sure to head over to the band’s Facebook page for more information!

Memory Lane – Virtues

Memory Lane - Virtues
There are certain things that you never think you will get to write in your life without it being a lie. Like: “boy, I sure like the 45th US president” or “I just had an life-changing and meaningful conversation with a neo-nazi”. Well, the year is 2017 and I can finally cross another of those sentences of my list: “there is just no good post-hardcore band in Luxembourg”. Because, lo and behold, Memory Lane has just entered the scene! It has taken us a long to get here, but I can tell you right off the bat that the wait has been well worth the while!

There are two things that the youngsters did exactly right, in my book: first off, they didn’t create a social media account just to invite all their friends and gather likes (or followers) without having anything to show for. That is one of my biggest gripes when it comes to new bands, whether they be local or international, and while I do understand that songwriting and recording is at times challenging, I would always advise newcomers to just wait until they at least have a demo recorded. These guys just did the polar opposite of that and recorded an entire album, called Virtues, before even creating their Facebook page. Secondly, they even have an actual music video out already…color me impressed. But enough about the behind the scenes, let’s get down to brass tax: the music.

I already took away the surprise in my opening paragraph, but I must repeat that it’s actually really good. To begin with, the one thing that differentiates Memory Lane from most, if not all, bands in the genre around these parts of the world is that they know how to write good songs, not just cool parts that awkwardly stumble into one another. Don’t get me wrong: not every song is a composition that could only be rivaled by Beethoven, but there is always a coherence in their song structures that makes listening to these thirty-three minutes a pure joy. While some staples of the genre, like vigorously hammering that open top string or the occasional breakdown, are present in every track, they are underlined by tons of interesting riffs and licks. Add to that a solid drum track which keeps everything in check without ever showing off unnecessarily and the occasional use of keyboards that add another melodic layer, and you’re left with a solid foundation for a record.

As is the case with many bands in this genre, most of the eleven tracks feature two different vocalists, one performing the clean parts and one taking care of the unclean ones. While it has taken me a few listens to get into the screamer’s style, I ended up appreciating his screams because he reminded me of the ones on SecretsFragile Figures, a record that I love to bits. The clean vocals immediately captured my attention from the get go, simply because we have very few good clean singers that are active in the scene. At least on the album the guy delivers a top notch performance, and while I am not quite sure if and how much the singing was digitally polished, it works just fine for my listening experience. A spicy little guest appearance by Everwaiting Serenade‘s Julien on the song Honesty is just the icing on top of all that. Lyrically, it’s honestly nothing you’ve never heard before, but there are some fairly catchy and sing-along worthy choruses here and there that I actually found myself humming at times.

As a summary, what can I say? I am sold. If Memory Lane can deliver these songs on stage, I can guarantee that you willl be sold too! Virtues is digitally dropping this Sunday, February 19th, with a physical release following at a still unknown point in the future. In the meantime, be sure to watch the video below to get an idea of what I’ve been raving about the entire time, and drop them a visit and a well-deserved like over on their Facebook page!

Top 10 2016 by Yannick

It’s that time of the year again, where people recap everything and in the case of 2016, I think we can all agree that it’s been one of the shittiest ones in recent memory. Countless deaths of famous people, a plethora of social and ethical injustices and numerous acts of terrorism that shook the world. But at least 2016 has granted music lovers like myself a wide array of safe places to disappear to, which is why I’ve decided to make sure to share my top 10 with you in order to maybe get you away from the shitfest that has been 2016.

#10 Serpentine Dominion – Serpentine Dominion
Serpentine Dominion - Serpentine Dominion
Let’s start this off with a little nugget that surprised me toward the end of the year: Serpentine Dominion is a side-project with Killswitch Engage‘s Adam D on guitar, Cannibal Corpse‘s George Fisher on vocals and ex-The Black Dahlia Murder‘s Shannon Lucas on drums. It’s a really interesting take on classical death metal with a somewhat modern feel to it. So much fun to listen to!

#9 Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”
Childish Gambino - Awaken My Love
Gambino is without a doubt my favorite rapper, and I spent hours on end listening to Because The Internet. When it was announced that his next record would be drastically different I was both worried and excited to hear what he had come up with. At first I felt that he had strayed too far from the path with this funk-groove-soul sauce that is AML, but it turns out that the record is quite the grower!

#8 The Majestic Unicorns From Hell – A Matter Of Less In More (review)
The Majestic Unicorns From Hell - A Matter Of Less In More
Since 2015 didn’t have a local spot, I figured I’d honor my favorite instruMENTALists, The Majestic Unicorns From Hell, with a spot on my list. Not out of courtesy or pity, but simply because their latest release rocked the socks of me every time I listened to it. Feel free to read my review for more infos.

#7 Emarosa – 131
Emarosa - 131
I’m a huge Jonny Craig fan, and have ended up seeing him twice this year, so naturally I love the two records he did with Emarosa. Which is why the first record with the new singer in 2014 was so-so for me, but with 131 the band has proven that they’re far from being dead!

#6 Every Time I Die – Low Teens
Every Time I Die - Low Teens
Does this band need a reason for being in this list? I sure hope not. ETID continuously improves and delivers ferocious quality time and time again. Low Teens is no exception and could even be considered the band’s strongest record. Listen to it!

#5 Artifex Pereo – Passengers
Artifex Pereo - Passengers
A band that I checked out a couple of yours ago, enjoyed, but quickly forgot about, Artifex Pereo caught my attention again this year with the release of their second full-length. The record is pure genius in terms of pretty much everything there is when it comes to complex post-hardcore.

#4 A Day To Remember – Bad Vibrations
A Day To Remember - Bad Vibrations
Can’t have a new ADTR record and not include it in my top 10. While some people didn’t enjoy this one very much, in my humble opinion Bad Vibrations is the band’s most solid record, with barely any weak songs. Without a doubt it includes the catchiest song of their career in the form of Justified.

#3 The Fall Of Troy – OK
The Fall Of Troy - OK
Aside from the reunion gigs of At The Drive-In, the release of a new The Fall Of Troy album and a subsequent world tour (where I got to see them absolutely kill it!) was probably the biggest musical surprise of the year for me! OK is a record that I’ve listened to way too often and still enjoy every bit as much as the first time.

#2 Hail The Sun – Culture Scars
Issues – Headspace
Pierce The Veil – Misadventures
Sianvar – Stay Lost
Top 5 2016 - Top 2
What is this? A four-way tie and it’s not for the first place?! Well, what can I say? This year simply had a clear winner for me, but more on that in just a second. These four records have been on heavy repeat when they were released and should be checked out by everyone. Ironically, both Hail The Sun and Sianvar feature the same singer and are (or were) Blue Swan Records bands, while Pierce The Veil has managed to build on the success of its previous record (not quite surpassing it though) and Issues simply putting their debut record to shame with their newest masterpiece.

#1 Dance Gavin Dance – Mothership
Dance Gavin Dance - Mothership
There is nothing as clear as the fact that 2016 has been the year of Dance Gavin Dance for me. First the release of their live record Tree City Sessions, which blew me away; then the release of the milestone Mothership, and last but definitely not least: getting to see them live! I’m still baffled how a band can manage to release such a strong record barely a year after a nearly perfect record, but the guys did it and deserve to be heard by more people, so get on it!

Despite 2016 was a truly lazy year on my behalf, with only eleven reviews written, I’ve decided to continue El Gore, with my focus remaining on the local metal and rock releases. 2017 can come!