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Icarus The Owl – Rearm Circuits


As the year is coming to an end, the window for good albums to be released is also slowly closing. Luckily my, hands down, favorite label at the moment decided to slate one last release from their catalogue in 2017: Icarus The Owl’s fifth full length, Rearm Circuits, is being released on December 1st and I had the privilege to dive into it ahead of time. You can read my thoughts below.

It won’t come as a surprise that the Blue Swan Records-signed quartet plays post-hardcore, but I might put you in disbelief if I tell you that they are wandering a fine line between that genre and radio pop. Did I just hear an eyeroll? Don’t, and bear with me for a second here. The beauty about ITO’s blend of styles is that they manage to create a soundscape that sounds very real and honest, since everything is played on instruments, but their knack for melodies and super catchy hooks is just beyond this world.

However, technique and intricacy is not sacrificed for said catchiness: every instrument shines and especially the guitars are a tapping extravaganza on one hand and a perfect mix of riffing and chord progressions on the other hand. That doesn’t mean that the drums don’t offer a solid foundation, because they absolutely do! There are some songs among these twelve songs where the drum patterns and fills stand out more, but in general they serve the song, rather than showing off.

The one thing that really ties these forty-seven minutes together, beside the stellar songwriting, are the vocals, which add another layer of melody to the mix. I remember when I first discovered the band, I had a few initial difficulties to get past the singer’s voice, since it has a slightly nasal and whiny quality to it, but it grows on you really quickly. I also really dig his lyricism, which has a very, for lack of a better word, dramatic and grand feel to it, with analogies and images all throughout.

To sum things up: Rearm Circuits is a phenomenal entry into both Icarus The Owl’s and Blue Swan Records catalogue, and, for me, it blows its predecessor out of the water. You should check out the song below to give you a good idea of what awaits you, and also has a super cool music video! More info can be found on the band’s Facebook page and I hope you’ll have as much fun with this one as I did!

I The Mighty – Where The Mind Wants To Go/Where You Let It Go

I would consider myself to be someone follows a lot of bands in the post-hardcore scene and thus is usually up-to-date with the evolution of the genre and the tendencies that it’s taken in the past few years. One such direction is that many bands have changed their sound into something, for lack of a better word, more radio-friendly; a fact that I don’t mind since a good record does not necessarily need screams, or mosh parts. While some listeners absolutely despise change and subsequently claim that the bands have sold out, I’d like to argue that it all lies in the execution. While I don’t like to Gossip, there is definitely a recent entry in the catalog of bands that I listen to, where the new style has failed quite spectacularly. But enough opening monologue: today I have the pleasure of writing about I The Mighty‘s new record Where The Mind Wants To Go/Where You Let It Go, which does it right!

Upon the first listen, it is undeniably obvious that the quartet has taken a step back and fine-tuned their sound into a tamer version of their former selves. However, the trademark ITM sound is still there: well thought-out rhythmic patterns brought to life by energetic performances and painted over with the distinctive vocals. I feel like the main aspect that was altered is the guitar sound, which is mostly void of distortion and fast-paced riffing; opting instead for chords and a cleaner sound. But fret not! There are some “old-school” sounding gems that can be found among these forty-nine minutes…and they are true bangers!

Where the Californians definitely stand out are the two most important features in music, to me: coherent and captivating songwriting, as well as intelligent lyrics or themes. A fact that many bands tend to forget when they change their sound. There is one song, called Sleepwalker, that stood out to me immediately due to it checking both those boxes and, on top of that, being catchy right off the bat! Another aspect where WTMWTG gets bonus points, is the order of the individual eleven songs, which is the perfect simulation of a roller-coaster. Just when you think you’ve heard all the record has to offer, it hits you with another looping!

As mentioned previously, lyrics are an extremely important factor when it comes to my personal enjoyment of music and, to no surprise, this third full-length is filled to the brim with memorable lines and clever analogies, which make every new listening a joy. The vocal performance itself is also as top-notch as was to be expected, albeit with fewer screams, but therefore a special gem in the form of a guest appearance by Dance Gavin Dance‘s Tilian Pearson on Silver Tongues, which can be found below.

All in all, Where The Mind Wants To Go/Where You Let It Go is not only a worthy follow-up to its predecessor, but also a very well-executed transition toward appealing to a larger audience. I am convinced that I The Mighty have bright days ahead of them, and I can’t wait to hear the general reaction to this record! In the meantime, you can head to their Facebook page and keep up with their doings until this Friday, October 20th, when the record is released!

Five Of The Eyes – The Venus Transit

Five Of The Eyes - The Venus Transit
I really got into post-hardcore about four years ago, and ever since I’ve kept discovering new, and sometimes old, bands. Yet, every now and then, I stop and wonder if this genre can ever stagnate and become boring to me and despite some people claiming that the downfall is already underway, I find it hard to believe that I will ever be over-saturated by this genre, especially when I come across bands like Five Of The Eyes. Their debut album The Venus Transit really caught me by surprise when I was granted early access and I hope that the following words can entice you to give it a listen as well.

Now, technically, they are considered progressive rock but I found so many post-hardcore elements in the Portlanders’ sound that I will approach them as such. My first impulse was to call their style psychedelic post-hardcore, because at times I could have sworn I was listening to a modern approach to Deep Purple or the likes, mainly due to the vocalist having a similar timbre…but more on that later. I would say that 5OTE‘s music is best characterized by the words grandeur and theatrics: every note seems to build up to a great finale in each of the nine songs.

The drums undergo numerous temporal and rhythmic changes all throughout the record and serve as a perfect foundation for the guitars to unfold their entire glory of both dreamy melodies and ferocious riffs that hit you with a highly eclectic tone. In general, the forty-two minutes have this really natural and old school sound to them that enhance the experience even further, because every strum and every hit come at you in biting clarity.

On top of that, there’s the wide range of the singer who, as mentioned above, at times channels his inner Ian Gillan and really works those pipes to their extreme, though luckily not quite as high-pitched. His performance also deserves praise because he really makes every line come across as heartfelt and, coupled with a great feel for melodic singing, delivers a solid result.

All in all, exploring The Venus Transit was definitely a surprise for me and if you are into bands like Artifex Pereo or Eidola, you will have a blast with Five Of The Eyes! So be sure to give their debut a listen when it drops on Friday, September 30th, and in the meantime listen to the song below to get a first impression. Also, if you want to keep up to date with their progress, head over to their Facebook page…I know I will.

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!

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!

Devil You Know – They Bleed Red


Quick fact about myself: ever since I got into Killswitch Engage around 2009, I’ve become quite a huge fan of their music. Naturally, I was a bit devastated when their singer Howard Jones left the band in 2012 due to medical reasons. It turned out to be be a blessing in disguise, when their original vocalist eventually returned to the band, but that’s the point of this story. Jones was officially no longer in the music business, and I was quite saddened because I consider him to be one of the most unique and strongest singers in metalcore. Fast forward to 2014, when I learned that the man himself was back with a new band called Devil You Know, who were about to release their debut record, The Beauty Of Destruction. Despite my high hopes for the record, I wasn’t really convinced by the instrumental side of it, since it was a bit generic and lackluster, only being above average due to the vocal performance. Little did I know that merely a year later, the quartet would surprise with a fresh album called They Bleed Red, which is the subject of today’s review!

After that lengthy introduction, I should really just cut to the chase: it’s a major step up from its predecessor! The songwriting has vastly improved and actually has numerous memorable riffs and hooks that embedded themselves in my head even after the first listen. The heavy parts are truly in your face and guaranteed to instigate many vicious moshpits as well as enthusiastic headbanging! The technical level has also definitely been raised, providing more than just mere background noise to the vocals. The same goes for the melodic side of these eleven tracks, which frankly has a much catchier aspect to it.

The fact that the production packs a by far fiercer punch than before is just an added bonus to these already neckbreaking forty-seven minutes. All this provides the perfect stage, so to speak, for the afore-mentioned vocal prowess present on this record. It goes without saying that HoJo nails it and actually delivers, what I feel is, his strongest performance to date. The amount of face-melting screams and growls on TBR just can’t be put into words, it’s that good.

To sum things up, Devil You Know have definitely saved face with their new record and proven that they are a force in the making to be reckoned with. At the time of writing this review I am, as a matter of fact, going to see them live in three days, so I’m twice as excited as before to witness their performance! Check out the song below, which admittedly is one of my least favorite on here, and visit the band’s Facebook profile for more info!

Trivium – Silence In The Snow


After BMTH have drastically changed their style, it is now time to write about yet another band that has strayed quite far from its roots. Trivium has always been an ensemble whose music I’ve greatly appreciated for the most part, but their new record Silence In The Snow has taken a very different path from what I was expecting. Let’s see what has happened, shall we?

The quartet started in metalcore, and has constantly expanded its musical range by adding new elements and also removing some…but never in their fifteen year history has the evolution been this drastic. Well…almost. The band’s third record The Crusade had the lead singer mostly refrain from screaming, especially live, because he blew his voice while constantly being on tour and not having a proper technique. Along with that, the music felt a bit too much like a cheap Metallica copy and it is with no doubt my least favorite release of the band.

On subsequent albums he had not only regained his screams but also vastly improved his range and vocal power, resulting in amazing works of art and live shows. But apparently he damaged his voice again in 2014 and was thus forced to refrain from screaming again. Which is why, I suppose, the band chose to go a different route with their seventh release: no screams at all. The reaction to this decision has been very mixed so far, as was mine at first…but Superman damn it: it works! And how!

Logically, this also has a small influence on the instrumental side of things, but not as much as you’d think. Trivium still very much sounds like the fans have grown to love them, but the focus is clearly more on melody and, for lack of a better word, grandeur. The eleven songs all have this majestic feel to them, while at the same time remaining heavy; albeit having less of a “mosh-along” vibe. The only minor gripe I have is that some more technical aspects have gone missing in the process.

Now, onto the main change: the vocals. There is not a single scream, growl, shout or anything alike during these forty-three minutes and everything is kept in clean singing. However, the sheer vocal range of the singer has so vastly improved that it doesn’t feel like that much of a loss. But I have to admit that there were a handful of passages where I would have expected and loved the guitarist to maybe add a little growl here and there, simply because I kept waiting for it. On the other hand, I have to quote the latter: “you don’t need screams to be heavy”, and I have to agree 100%.

At the end of the day, there is no doubt Silence In The Snow will divide the ranks of Trivium fans, but to the naysayers I can only say: the old records did not disappear from the face of the earth, so feel free to go back and enjoy them! I, on the other hand, embrace this change wholeheartedly and while it probably won’t be my favorite record by them, I will fully support them! So be sure to listen to the track below and head over to their Facebook page if you want to do the same.

Kali Uchis – Por Vida

Kali Uchis is an exciting Colombian artist raised in the USA who has been around since 2012 when her first mixtape dropped, but has only moved into the spotlight in 2014 following the release of the first single off her first LP Por Vida. The album came out in February this year and since discovering it a bit late I haven’t been able to free myself from its spell.

Kali’s musical style is an interesting mix of influences that I haven’t heard in this form before. Her voice is all sultry and soulful and is backed by a sound that can be best described as an experimental cross between vintage bubblegum pop and R&B combined with some serious hiphop vibes (not least because she’s had really cool and well-known support coming from hiphop backgrounds for this album, such as Tyler the Creator and BADBADNOTGOOD). She also flirts with reggae elements, most notably in Know What I Want, and her Latin American roots definitely take hold in her music. It’s all over the place but blends in together so nicely!

Lyrically, Kali’s moments of sass are irresistible: “Fuck me over, I’ll fuck you worse and take off to Japan”. She also has a knack for analogies, which is evident in Melting, Lottery and Loner, the slower numbers on this record.

In rough outlines, Por Vida is composed of saccharine love ballads, smooth hang out jams and bouncy late night tunes to feel like a million bucks to. While still decidedly making up an accessible pop album, every single one of the 9 tracks is unique and strays from the usual boring recycled mainstream pop formula. I sure love a well-crafted pop record – definitely don’t miss this artist if you feel the same! Find her on Facebook and stream the album on Soundcloud.

Slaves – Routine Breathing


Wow! Talk about being productive! It’s been a little over a year since Slaves have released their debut, but they already have a follow-up which came out on August 21st, titled Routine Breathing. Productivity doesn’t always equal quality though, so let’s see what the guys have come up with!

First off, I find that the songwriting has greatly improved, with each track being memorable than the last one, even though I found this album to be more of a grower than a shower, so to speak. While a few catchy parts stood out to me on my first listen, it wasn’t until my fifth or so round that I was able to actively differentiate between the various songs…but the investment was well worth the while. Because the substance of the fifteen songs is quite enormous.

Whereas the instruments on Through Art We Are Equals were more of a backdrop to Jonny’s singing, they all play their own role this time around but still don’t overshadow the, arguably, core of the band. Several riffs really impressed me when I first heard them, and now I always look forward to the part they kick in. The same goes for the drumming, which is still played rather purposefully, instead of showing off…but it simply delivers more strongly than on the predecessor.

As I mentioned above, the main reason, I think, we all listen to Slaves in the first place is found behind the mic…and fuck me running if it isn’t an amazing reason for us fans to enjoy album number two. The performance Jonny puts forth on these fifty-one minutes is beyond astounding and, even though I said that last time already, is the strongest in his career thus far. The sheer emotion and power that can be felt in every note is what firmly cements his place at the top of all the singers out there, in my book.

However, same as last time around, the band must have felt that even a strong voice can need some back-up, which is why they got several guest singers to perform on four tracks: Garret Rapp of The Color Morale, Spencer Chamberlain of Underoath, Kyle Lucas and Tilian Pearson of Dance Gavin Dance. Especially the latter delivers such a heartwarming performance on the song Winter Everywhere that I seriously hope that in due time there will be another co-lab of these two former and current DGD singers.

All in all, Routine Breathing is anything but what its name suggests…because I’ve been heavy breathing the entire time. The Californians outdid themselves on the whole line, and have without even a second of doubt delivered an album that is a worthy contender in my top five. But don’t just take my word for it! Check out the song below, and if you like what you hear, head over to the band’s Facebook page to get information about where you can buy the record!