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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!

Decipher – Intuition

Decipher - Intuition

Despite no longer writing as often as I used to, I always try to stay up-to-date when it comes to the local music scene, but I have to admit that the mere existence of today’s band completely eluded me until they contacted me to do some minor videowork for them. Fast forward several months and the release of Decipher‘s debut album, Intuition, is only a couple of days away, which is why I figured I’d end the year with one last pre-release review!

The young quintet has chosen technical death metal to be their playing field and have taken the time since their inception to refine their sound by adding various elements and fine-tuning it to create an interesting take on the genre. While the addition of djenty riffs and atmospheric parts is not an entirely new approach, I feel like the guys are pulling it off without sounding like a re-hash of every other band you’ve heard before.

This is, in my opinion, largely due to the simply remarkable level of musicianship that each member brings to the table. The harmonic interplay between the spot-on drumming and the tight bass lines makes for a solid foundation on which the two guitars battle in tandem of who can play the most intricate riff or the craziest solo. While there is also a healthy dose of chugging, it never feels overly mind-numbing and merely gives you a short breathing pause.

The vocals are the one aspect where I’m not one hundred convinced yet, but still see a ton of potential: the singer has a respectable range and technique, but I feel like for a majority of the parts in the different songs, he chose the wrong one at the wrong time. His main modus operandi are deep growls, that could almost be used in a grindcore band, which made it very hard to understand the lyrics for the most part of these thirty-six minutes. However, in other parts he uses screams or screeches that are fairly well articulated and might have been the wiser choice.

On the other hand, the vocal department also holds the biggest surprise of these seven tracks, in the form of a guest vocal appearance by the local singer Anna Felke on the song Soulbound. While the song is fairly untypical while compared to the rest of the record, it fits in perfectly into the concept of the entirety and, aside from the closing track L’or Bleu, is definitely marks the highlight of Intuition.

In closing, I can only say that I’m convinced that Decipher will manage to make a splash in the local music scene once they start playing shows and get their name out there a bit more. One thing is certain: they don’t lack talent. So do yourself a favor, listen to the track below, check out the band’s Facebook page and head on over to Rocas this Friday, December 16th, for a cozy listening party marking the release of the band’s firstborn.

Kitshickers – III.0

Kitshickers - III.0
Instrumental music: you either love it or you hate it. Generally-speaking, it’s difficult for that type of music to win me over, which is why I wasn’t a huge fan of today’s band in recent years. But as chance has it, the Luxembourgish progressive veterans, Kitshickers, are returning to their roots and have a proper vocalist again, instead of guest appearances. For their seventh album, III.0, they’ve recruited Yann Dalscheid, who was the singer of An Apple A Day for quite some time and has recently been added to the Scarred roster, to add a fresh but familiar layer to their complex sound spectrum.

For the second time in a row the band has decided to use the crowdfunding model, in order to cater to the exact needs and wants of their dedicated fanbase, and thus set out to best their previous effort. To cut to the chase, spoiler warning: they absolutely achieved that goal and then some. While their sound is still recognizably them, I feel like they’ve shed some of the overly experimental fluff in favor of a more concise and, for lack of a better word, streamlined style. Don’t get me wrong though: these six tracks are anything but simple and boring. Massive riffs coupled with hard-hitting drumming hammer you into the ground, just to pick you up again and repeat the process.

No need to lie here: the concept, birth and death, behind this new record is one that has been done a million times and yet the quintet managed to captivate me on my first listening session and have kept doing so even after the tenth time through. But be warned: if you’re going to take this ride, you better bring some spare time and the ability to let music have an effect on you, because at one hour and one minute, III.0 is not the type of record you put in while you run and grab some bread from your local shop. At least in my opinion, this is the kind of album where you only get the full experience if you listen to it with headphones and are able to forget about your surroundings.

No small part of this beautifully immersive journey is due to the resurfaced (almost) permanent use of vocals. When I first read that Kitshickers got a new vocalist I was slightly excited, then upon learning who it was going to be I was initially skeptical…since I was definitely underestimating what the guy could do. Finally, when I got to listen to the finished product, I was totally blown away: I knew he could scream, growl, shout and pretty much do everything in the repertoire of a “typical metal vocalist” to a T…but when he switched to perfectly sung clean vocals after an initial scream at the beginning of the first song, I had total goosebumps that lasted for the remainder of the track.

What can I say? III.0 is not a record for everyone, especially in today’s fast food world…but if you allow yourself some time off and dive into the trip that the band has cooked up for you, I can assure you that you will not be disappointed. And if for some reason you are not into the vocals, there is the possibility for you to listen to the entire record in a purely instrumental form also. Head over to the band’s Facebook page for more information and do yourself a favor and move your butt to the Rotondes in Luxembourg this Saturday, October 22nd, since that’s where the guys will be holding the release show for their new baby! See you there!

 

Fusion Bomb – Pravda

Fusion Bomb - Pravda
Little history lesson: about three years ago, there was a surge of new young bands emerging in the local scene and playing a lot of small shows. The vast majority of those bands were of the same genre: something-core; be it hardcore, metalcore or deathcore. A fact that I have nothing against, since I enjoy most of those genres, but there was one gang of youngsters that stood out to me. Simply because they decided to go against the grain and play an “unpopular” genre, because it was what they loved: crossover thrash metal!

If by now you haven’t figured it out, the quartet that I’m talking about is of course Fusion Bomb, who finally have actual recorded music to show in the form of their debut album called Pravda! Depending on your general knowledge, the name might give you an idea of what this concept album might be about, but just in case: it’s about the history of the Soviet Union and its eventual downfall. Well, except the last song, Beertroopers Of Death, which on one hand is a homage to genre pioneers S.O.D. and on the other an instant-classic drinking hymn!

In the guitar department, the six tracks, including an intro, are generally-speaking very fast-paced and straight-forward, with one gallop riff fading into the next, but manage to infuse just the right amount of groove and technicality in the form of intricate solos to keep you interested as a listener. Throw in fairly organic sounding drums that know exactly how to go along with that vibe by bombarding your eardrums with blast beats and double bass attacks, and you’ve got yourself quite an enjoyable package. I do have to mention that the songwriting isn’t exactly diverse and many passages are repeated ad infinitum during the individual songs, but to be fair: that is a staple in the genre.

However, I do have one partial gripe with these twenty-eight minutes: the vocals. While they sound very powerful and well-performed, it is almost impossible to make out any of the lyrics because the enunciation is at times really horrendous. I wouldn’t have a real issue with it, if it wasn’t a historical concept album, where the lyrics are potentially a major factor of enjoyment.

To sum things up, what can I say? Is Pravda a breath of fresh air in the fairly repetitive Luxembourgish scene? You betcha! Is it flawless? Definitely not. Is it worth your time though? I would say so, yes. Fusion Bomb have a lot of potential and talent, and this respectable endeavor is perhaps the first step toward greatness! Be sure to listen to watch the lyric video below and head over to the band’s Facebook page for more info on the release of the album next Saturday, September 24th, at Angerfest in Kulturfabrik!

Soulhenge – Anachronism

Soulhenge - Anachronism
One of the biggest new phenomena of the past ten years in the realms of heavier music is hands down djent. While its roots lie in even earlier times, there has clearly been a very steep increase in its popularity, and almost every new band seems to at least have djent elements in their sound. Sadly, it’s never guaranteed that with quantity, there also comes quality, since a lot of new bands seem to follow a “djent-by-numbers” scheme, where it’s the same uninspired open palm-muted note over and over again, followed by a breakdown, and so on. You get the idea. This is mostly the reason why I’m not a huge fan of this kind of music, and I must admit that I tend to ignore most of its new releases these days.

However, since I set myself the goal of covering the majority of local releases, and I had already skipped their previous album, I decided to give Soulhenge‘s new EP a chance. So let’s see if Anachronism will let me add “djent” to the list of things that I enjoy from my hometown, besides beer.

Right off the bat, one thing I appreciate here is that the quintet chose not to include a separate track as an intro, but instead incorporates a (possibly shortened?) version in the opener. It always annoys me when an EP is artificially inflated with uselessly long intros that add nothing to the big picture, so this is a clever approach. Throughout the four tracks, the djent formula is clearly recognizable, but at least to me there are enough ideas and variations thrown in at the exact right moments to make the listening experience very enjoyable.

The other major positive aspect is that there is an actual singer. Doing clean vocals. In a metal band. In Luxembourg…and they’re fairly good too! It’s always been a big complaint of mine that our local metal scene had no good clean vocalist, a fact that I remained convinced of until a bit more than a year ago, when I was taught better. During the seventeen minutes, Soulhenge‘s vocalist also displays very respectable screams and fairly deep growls, that go hand in hand with his clean vocals. The only problem I had during all my listening sessions, is that I’m having a hard time understanding almost half the things he’s saying despite being fairly well-versed in scream-decyphering.

Even though the Diekirchers don’t reinvent the wheel in any shape or form, I really like their approach and I would say that while their songwriting is at a good level already, that’s the only point they can and should improve on…because talent is not amiss here. Anachronism is definitely an evolution in comparison to its predecessor and is a solid and fresh entry in an over-saturated genre. Check out the teaser below and head over to the band’s Facebook page for more information. And last but not least, if you want to experience them live, head over to Rockhal on May 20th for the release party!