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Top 10 2018 by Yannick

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As 2018 draws to a close, I’m happy to continue my annual tradition of presenting you ten records that stood out to me during the year and that have been on repeat for most of it. A handful of those I got to review when they were released, but the vast majority will be “new”. So enjoy the year end festivities and if you feel like discovering some fresh music, give my list a little peak!

#10 Slaves – Beautiful Death

While the third full-length of Slaves is without a doubt a great record, it didn’t stay on my rotation as long as its predecessor was, and it was more of the (good) same basically. Which is why I’m putting Beautiful Death lower on my list than what’s about to follow.

#9 Sinsaenum – Repulsion For Humanity

Now, the exact opposite is true for Sinsaenum: their debut really fell flat for me, then they released their Ashes EP, which gave me a glimmer of hope…and I was rewarded. Because Repulsion For Humanity is one really solid, modern, death metal record. I also had the pleasure of seeing them live in Milan this year and they completely blew me away!

#8 Ghost Spirit/Frail Hands – Split (review)

Ghost Spirit have been on my radar since last year, when they released their self-titled debut: an eighteen minute avalanche that left me feeling drained and overwhelmed. This year round they teamed up with Frail Hands, who were unknown to me but I’ve since grown to love, for a Split…and the only thing that changed is that the time of the aural assault has increased to twenty-eight minutes. This might be the biggest “it’ll grow on you” record, for me, this year.

#7 Royal Coda – Royal Coda (review)

Royal Coda might be one of the most experimental records to come out of the Blue Swan camp in a while, and it does something to me, when I let it. It’s not a record I put on all that often anymore, but when I do, it hits hard.

#6 Night Verses – From The Gallery Of Sleep

This year marks the discovery of bands that I slept on in the past. Night Verses is one such band, but it’s also the odd one out: the trio parted ways with their singer and decided to keep going as an instrumental piece…and, to me, they’ve improved so significantly that I don’t regret waiting so long before giving them a proper listen.

#5 Andrés – Heroes, Villains, And All That Jazz

A year after his debut, Andrés is back with a new record and just like its predecessor it does everything right: it has a fresh and unique sound, it doesn’t have any fluff piece songs and it has relatable lyrics (for the most part). And let me not forget to mention one of the coolest interludes in the form of Boys In The Van.

#4 Silent Planet – When The End Began

The second band that I slept on released a new record a few weeks ago and it completely blew me away. The intense performance of the vocalist, the lyrics, the instrumentation, the vibe…When The End Began has it all. I went ahead and bought Silent Planet‘s back-catalogue without hesitation and I was rewarded with two additional phenomenal records.

#3 Ice Nine Kills – The Silver Scream

Final band that I slept on, is Ice Nine Kills. I did check out their previous record back when it was released and shrugged it off as generic, but it turns out I was just not paying attention to it, because I since went back and I totally dig it. However, The Silver Scream, which was released this year, immediately sucked me in from the first listen. It’s theatricore at its finest and the horror movie theme that goes through the entire record is just so well executed.

#2 Hail The Sun – Mental Knife (review)

I had high hopes early on for this one, and they were very much fulfilled. Mental Knife is a perfect continuation, and evolution, of Hail The Sun‘s sound and delivers a great listening experience from start to finish…but it didn’t quite make it to the top, for fairly obvious reasons for the most part though.

EP-Special
Animal Jam – Animal Jam
Boygenius – Boygenius
Brent Walsh – Are You Even There At All
Thomas Erak And The Shoreline – The Whole Story

I liked last year’s idea of giving some EPs a quick shoutout, for those that can’t get themselves to invest time into a full-length, so I’ll throw in four that stood out to me this year. Animal Jam is one of the most promising newcomers in the post-hardcore genres and their self-titled EP is well worth checking out. Boygenius is a supergroup with Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus and their debut EP is just a feelstrip from start to finish; give it a go if you want to be sad. Brent Walsh, vocalist of I The Mighty, released a solo EP this year and it is a fun blend of various styles, and emotions. Last but not least, Thomas Erak, singer and guitarist of The Fall Of Troy, released a solo project this year where he played everything himself, which I can strongly recommend to fans and non-fans of the band alike.

#1
Dwellings – Lavender Town
Dance Gavin Dance – Artificial Selection (review)

As I said above, the reason why Hail The Sun didn’t make it into the my top spot, is because Dance Gavin Dance released their eighth full-length this year. I was convinced that their previous record could not be topped, but boy was I wrong: Artificial Selection is -even better-. However, one band came out of the blue this year and took me by surprise: Dwellings! Their debut full-length Lavender Town is just the perfect post-hardcore record and if it’s any indication of what is in the band’s future, I can’t wait for what they have in store.

This year definitely held a lot of surprises for me and I got to witness so many amazing concerts in many different countries, but I also managed to write twenty-one reviews, which I’m fairly happy about. 2019 already has two local records on the horizon, that I’ve had the pleasure of pre-listening and I can’t wait to put my thoughts down about them. On the international front there is also the new Bring Me The Horizon that I’m looking forward to and a new Eidola is also in the making. So, again, have a blast and enjoy the end of the year! And most of all: read you next year!

Abstract Rapture – Hollow Motion

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If there is one thing that most Luxembourgish (metal) bands are known, or should I say notorious, for it’s the amount of time it takes them to release new material. While the reasons behind that are understandable, it doesn’t make it less tiresome to wait for more than five years for a new album by your local shredders. Today I have the pleasure of writing about a record that boosts the waiting time to a full seven years. Let me just get ahead of myself and say that Abstract Rapture’s Hollow Motion was well worth the wait to me. Read ahead to find out why I think so!

First off, a brief history lesson about what went down in those years: the vocals, drums and lead guitar are still in the hands of the original members, but the rhythm guitar and the bass has seen the addition of two new faces in the form of Maks and Alex, who (used to) play in Retrace My Fragments. The addition of these two has definitely brought a new, and at times very different, breath of fresh air to the quintet’s sound. While the fifty-one minutes still feel like your classic AR, there’s also quite a few instances where you might wonder if the album has switched mid-song without you noticing.

Generally speaking the album has a fairly high level of musicianship, but there are a couple of songs that definitely stand out high above the rest, namely Inner Plague. The song is an interesting blend of the trademark Abstract sound and something that could be straight from a black metal record…and it works to perfection! I predict many a sore neck at gigs when this song is being played! This might just be me, but the addition of the new members has had a heavy influence on the songwriting, because I feel that especially the guitars have become “spacier”, for lack of a better word, and full of new elements. I’d even go as far and say that this is the most innovative release of the serial boozers since their debut EP Dead End Entry.

Out of the eleven songs, there are two interludes that can be regarded as intros to the songs they precede, and even those have a feel to them that I haven’t previously found in the band’s sound. The drums…I honestly don’t know what to tell you about them. The man is a local legend and delivers another top notch performance that locks in extremely tightly. The vocal melodies are also more memorable to me than on Earthcrush, and the lyrics delve further into the common themes of the guys’ music. Especially the closing track, Ego Non Te Absolvo, feels like a spiritual successor to the debut full-length’s closer, Observations In A Mirror (Through The Eyes Of An Alcoholic).

All in all, Abstract Rapture did take their sweet time to hit us with new material, but in my humble opinion it was well worth the wait! Hollow Motion is going to give the local metal scene a strong record to finish the year with and I for one am very much looking forward to the band’s future! If you’re interested, make sure to check out the record when it drops this Friday, December 14th, and head over to the band’s Facebook page for more information on the release show!

Atlas:Empire – The Stratosphere Beneath Our Feet

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When you go to a smaller show, you’re almost always confronted with a local support band and that can be a hit or miss thing. I’ve had to endure my fair share of terrible opening acts over the years, but I’ve also had some extremely pleasant surprises and discovered some amazing bands that I would, probably, have never come across otherwise. Luckily, today’s review is about the latter kind, because Atlas:Empire‘s upcoming debut full length The Stratosphere Beneath Our Feet is a strong first step!

The quartet plays technical post-hardcore that relies heavily on the atmosphere that is constantly being built and kept throughout the entire ride. To achieve this they use two main principles: don’t overplay, but instead serve the song and don’t worry about the duration of the track, as long as it works in its favor. Needless to say that the approach is successful, since there’s never a dull moment during these fifty-nine minutes.

Please don’t get me wrong though: not overplaying an instrument doesn’t mean that there’s no substance to sink your teeth into. There are plenty of memorable riffs and bass lines that complement the drumming perfectly, and a host of details that might strike you for the first time after your umpteenth playthrough.

The instrumental side alone of the Scots would be enough to create the trance-like state that the ten songs put you in, but the vocals add another layer that is guaranteed to draw you in even further. They take up the, in my opinion, perfect amount of space, around a quarter, of the album and due to their heartfelt performance, they are the cherry on a truly delicious cake.

All in all, The Stratosphere Beneath Our Feet is a record well worth your time and I am hopeful that it will put Atlas:Empire on the map when it releases on December 8th. If you want to find out more, head to the band’s Facebook page and make sure to check out the video below. Last but not least, if you get the chance to see these guys live, do yourself a favor and go!

Club Silencio – I

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One of the main reasons El Gore was brought to life for, was to support the local music scene, a concept that I loved when I joined and I still do my best to review a majority of the national metal and rock releases to this day. However, every now and then I don’t think that a review is necessary or makes much sense to begin with. Today is one of those times, so I’d rather just write a few lines about why you should give Club Silencio‘s debut album I a thorough listen and hopefully it’ll whet your appetite enough to click on the Play button below!

The ten songs are all written and performed by a mysterious trio, and they are definitely the most experimental music I’ve heard this year thus far. Basically: there are no rules when it comes to the studio-only project, which means that you can find all sorts of influences of bands from virtually every spectrum of the heavier, and at times also softer, side of music.

Also, the project is purely instrumental, so there’s no need to worry about you maybe hating the vocals since there are none. But that leaves more room for shredding, of which there is a metric fuckton during these forty-two minutes.

This is all for now, just do yourself a favor and push Play below. You won’t regret it. And throw them a like on Facebook if you want. NO HAY BANDA!

Tilian – The Skeptic

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Good pop music is very hard to come by, in my humble opinion, and every time I do stumble upon an artist, or even just a record, that peeks my interest I savor my new discovery as much as possible. Because, like it or not, pop music is very accessible music and every now and then that is just what you need. Today’s review isn’t about a new discovery, per se, since I’ve been aware of Tilian‘s solo career for quite a while, but The Skeptic marks his third record under his own name and it might just be my favorite. Continue reading if you want to find out why I think so!

What sets Tilian‘s music apart from the typical run-off-the-mill pop that you hear on the radio, is the fact that it’s not only written and performed by him, except the drums, but it also holds intelligent and meaningful lyrics. However, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily overcomplicated and without a hook; on the contrary: on each and every one of these ten songs, I sang, or at least hummed, along to the chorus the second time it came around.

Instrumentally speaking, I would say that it moves in a similar hemisphere as its predecessors, meaning that it ranges from synth pop, over “soft post-hardcore”, to something close to dubstep. The latter is featured on the song Drunken Conversations, and it’s honestly the only song on The Skeptic about which I don’t know how to feel: while the lyrics have a lot of gravitas, I simply can’t warm up to the beat or the electronic-sounding vocals in certain parts.

Going back to the lyrics, and also the overall feel of these thirty-seven minutes, there is definitely another thing I dig about Tilian‘s style: each song has a happy-sad note to it, be it in the form of actually sad lyrics over a happy melody, or serious topics sung about in a self-ironic tone that almost makes them seem light-hearted. While this is his trademark writing style, it is elevated to a new level by his, in my opinion, strongest performance on his solo material to date. Right Side would be my go-to track if I had to pinpoint a highlight of his vocal prowess.

To sum things up, I can definitely recommend giving The Skeptic a thorough listen on September 28th, even if you’re not necessarily into pop music, because I have no doubt that Tilian will continue to impress non-believers. You can get an idea by checking out his Facebook page and especially by watching the video below…while trying not to go on a feels trip.

Hail The Sun – Mental Knife

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Today, I have the pleasure of writing about a record that will undoubtedly end up at the very front of my annual top ten. A mere two years after their last highly acclaimed full-length, Culture Scars, Hail The Sun are about to unleash a fresh one on the world, entitled Mental Knife. I was fortunate enough to get early access, and I am not lying when I’m saying that I’ve jammed it non-stop ever since.

If you are not familiar with the quartet, let me preface this by saying that they play fairly technical, yet accessible, post-hardcore and are well known for their erratic and hectic live performances where the vocalist also, for some songs, plays the drums. I actually had the opportunity to catch them open for Silverstein in the UK last December, and they have pretty much become my new benchmark of what a performance should be like. Anyway, onto the important: the new record!

While the predecessor was slightly less chaotic and heavy, this new one is a lot more like the Secret Wars EP the band released in November, which itself was a mix of CS and Wake, their arguably most celebrated record amongst fans. Mental Knife expands further upon the concept and does everything better, in my opinion: the melodies are way catchier and more diverse, and the heavy parts really smack you in the face so hard that you need a minute to recuperate. A stellar example of both worlds can be found on the track Arcane Justice, which is not only a masterpiece from an instrumental point of view, but also attacks the topic of sexual abuse, unless I’m completely misinterpreting the lyrics.

While I’m at it, I would be at fault if I didn’t point out the importance and beauty of the lyrics on Mental Knife, or rather of HTS’ lyrics in general. A lot of often tabu or difficult topics find their place amongst these eleven tracks and are treated in a very poetic fashion. One recurring theme for example is addiction and the recovery, and the associated challenges, from it. One quality that I love especially about Hail The Sun’s sound, is also present on these forty minutes: every track has a dreamy undertone to it, and transports you straight into the world that the band has created for their listeners. Maybe that’s just me though.

In closing, I had no doubt that the fourth full-length would be a great album, but I was definitely not prepared for this banger! So, do yourself a favor and give the song below a listen and if you like what you hear, head over to the band’s Facebook page to keep up to date with the release of Mental Knife on September 28th! Long live swancore!

Ghost Spirit/Frail Hands – Split 12″ LP

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Today, I’m delighted to write about a genre I’ve never reviewed, or spent a lot of time listening to: screamo! While some bands I enjoy come close to it, I wouldn’t consider any of them to be a good representation of the genre. Well, except for Ghost Spirit who I discovered through them being signed to my favorite record label, Blue Swan Records. Their self-titled debut never really left my playlist and I was delighted, but also intrigued, when they announced that they had partnered up with Frail Hands, a band unbeknownst to me, for a Split 12” LP to be released on August 24th. I was fortunate enough to get early access to a copy and I’m going to do my best to get you interested in it!

First off: the LP counts twelve songs altogether, six per side and per band, that amount to “only” twenty-six minutes of total playtime. Not knowing much about the genre, other than GS’ debut, I was slightly taken aback…but after my first listen-through I understood exactly why: the level of intensity is at a constant high and, what I like best, there is no fluff at all; every string plucked, every skin hit and every note screamed has its necessity and place. I’ll briefly dedicate a paragraph to each band, so you can get a better idea, starting with Ghost Spirit.

The quartet gets the longer playtime, with sixteen minutes, and employs it really well to showcase its different sides: while the majority of the songs is made up of screamed vocals, there’s also quite a few passages of clean vocals, which add an extra layer of depth to the music. Apart from that, the instrumentation generally has a melancholic and almost depressive quality to it, but every now and then it is pierced by cathartic outbursts that interplay perfectly with the lyrics. Notably the closer is a very good example of that layering and what great atmosphere Ghost Spirit can achieve in their songs.

I need to honest here: on my first couple of listens I had a really hard time getting into Frail Hands‘ part of the LP, because the vocals were recorded and the way they were almost drowned in the mix really made no sense to me. Since their half clocks in at only ten minutes, I “suffered” through it every time I listened to the record, and it must have been around the sixth or seventh playthrough that it clicked and the pieces fell into place, for me, which resulted in me really digging their approach. If I had to describe it, I would say that it’s rawer and more straight-forward music, but the minor details, especially in the guitar riffs, elevate it from just noise to beautiful compositions.

All in all, this 12” LP gave me everything I wanted and then some: it pushed just the right buttons in the first half, and introduced me to a brilliant “new” band in the second half. If you dig this record, I can strongly recommend checking out the self-titled debut records of both bands! Until then, take this as your introduction to real screamo and discover this genre so full of potential! Be sure to visit Ghost Spirit‘s and Frail Hands‘ Facebook pages for more info and listen to, so far, a third of all the songs below.

Orchards – Losers/Lovers

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Public service announcement: simplicity is underrated and I have a feeling that many musicians these days try to write complex music, for complexity’s sake. While I am a sucker for technically demanding and outside-of-the-box music, I also love putting on a record and being familiar with it after my first listen; or at least feeling that way. Orchard’s have managed to achieve just that, because their debut EP Losers/Lovers is a pure joy to listen to on repeat.

If I had to describe their sound in two words I’d call it authentic pop: the quartet’s songs could be straight off a pop radio station, because of their catchiness and recognizability, but the fact that everything is actually played by hand, instead of coming out of a machine, gives them a lot more credibility.

While I did call the Brightonians’ music simple, by no means was I implying that it was primitive, because the instrumentation and arrangement of the eight songs are all top notch. A clearly audible and groovy bassline is omnipresent and accompanies the driving drum tracks, while the effect-heavy guitar plays dreamy riffs that all pack a punch and will be stuck in your head after the first go. Yet, no song is ever overcrowded and you can clearly discern everything that is going on, allowing you to absorb them in their entirety.

Orchards do have another secret weapon though: harmonies and canon singing! The singer does a fantastic of reeling you in with her lyrics and her performance can be truly felt throughout the twenty-eight minutes. The cherry on top is the additional vocals, in select passages, by the guitarist that are either sung in perfect unison or slightly delayed depending on the various songs. This small detail lends the ensemble a whole new layer of depth and, having seen the band recently, I can tell you that they deliver that incredible power in a live setting as well!

For now, Orchards are a fairly small band still, but I can without a doubt say that they will be gaining momentum with this release and I hope that they will go far. So make sure to jump on the train of good music early and check out Losers/Lovers when it’s release this Friday, July 6th! You can get a first impressions in the video below and by checking the band’s Facebook page!

Maypine – Bend/Break

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Story time! Last year in December I flew to Brighton to see Hail The Sun open for Silverstein, and at that gig I got to witness today’s band play the opening slot. I got talking to them about a possible future release and, seven months later, here we are! Maypine are a fairly new band and their second release, Bend/Break, is just about to be released on Friday! Let’s dig in, shall we?

The quintet plays alternative rock, with a hint of post-hardcore for good measure, and manages to capture the essence and atmosphere of the genre quite well. While the drums are fairly straight-forward, they are in constant interplay with the bass, and provide a perfect backdrop for the two guitars to build the slightly melancholic, yet hopeful, feel of the Brits’ sound.

The singer delivers a solid performance with a respectable range, but at times I felt that the vocals lacked a bit more diversity. While I do believe that I heard female backing vocals every now and then, I found them to be a little too low, or buried, in the mix. The fact that the singer has quite a good ear for vocal melodies that complement the songs, makes up for most of that, though.

Despite not reinventing the wheel, the fourteen minutes feature well-written songs that are memorable enough to keep your ears glued to the speakers. So, by all means, give Bend/Break a listen over on the website of Pure Grain Audio, or check out their music video below to get a first impression. Last but not least, head on over to the band’s Facebook page and show them some love!

Astpai – True Capacity

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Ever heard of the AC/DC-Syndrome? No? Perhaps it’s just something I invented but let me explain it real quick: AC/DC have released a ton of albums throughout their career, and in my opinion they don’t vary a lot, yet they are always a good listen. Which shows that great music doesn’t always need to reinvent itself every few years, especially when the musicians played it found their “voice” and know how to use it to perfection. There are, of course, a lot of other bands, or artists, that are the same, but today I want to talk about a particular one: Astpai! The Austrians are about to release their fifth full-length, True Capacity, and I want to tell you a little bit about it!

To pick up what I said in the intro, I’ll just cut straight to the chase and say that the successor to 2014’s Burden Calls is very similar in most ways: half an hour of solid punk rock that is filled with passion and emotion. The quartet has just found its niche in the melodic aspect of pop punk and the raw part of (soft) melodic hardcore, which really works well for them.

As was the case with the predecessor, the ten songs all contain personal and meaningful lyrics, that also have a sing-along quality to them most of the time. There are two stand-out songs because they represent two polar opposites of the band’s sound spectrum: Feel Your Pain is a beautiful love song that features a really poetic lines, and True Capacity which only features screams and is akin to the band’s debut record, that was a lot heavier.

I’m going to keep this review fairly short, mostly because the band have done their fans a favor and made the record available for streaming over on the website of Visions and I believe that you can get more out of actually listening to this fun record instead of reading my ramblings. If, however, you want to get an idea what you’re in for, please give the music video below a chance and visit the band’s Facebook page!