Fractal Universe – Boundaries Of Reality

Today I’m going to write about a fairly new band called Fractal Universe, which is about to release its debut EP Boundaries Of Reality on February 20th. But make no mistake: the quartet is by no means comprised of beginners, quite the contrary. Every single musician is well-experienced and masters his instrument, which makes for an interesting first release.

The crowd-funded record shows the Frenchmen right at home in finest technical death metal, which features a great deal of variety. Be it the wet dream of the guitar-geeks out there in form of intricate riffs and fast-paced drumming on one hand, or the groove-laden palm-muting extravaganza on the other hand…it certainly never gets boring during the twenty-four minutes.

The vocals are always on point, be it in the form of deep growls or desperate screams, and from a technical standpoint they leave nothing to be desired from. There also some experimental vocal effects, such as whispered echoes or distorted lines, giving the entirety a very Gojira-esque feel…which, while nothing new, is always a nice addition, if used correctly such as in this case, in my opinion.

There is one gripe I have with the four tracks however. The production fluctuates heavily between accentuated clear guitars and a sometimes mushy sound. While it doesn’t make Boundaries Of Reality sound terrible, I am convinced that a better mixing would have benefited the record enormously and elevated it to a completely new level of awesomeness.

All in all, Fractal Universe has made a very respectable first step in the music scene, and if they iron out the minor issues, I am sure that their future will be a bright one. In terms of creativity and skill, the guys are definitely set for it. So do yourselves a favor and listen to the song below, and keep an eye on the band’s Facebook page for the release of the full EP!

Jonny X Kyle X Midnite – The Blueprint For Going In Circles

In case you are a regular reader, you might have noticed that I never, or very rarely, write a negative review. A fact that is easily explained: if I don’t find at least something that appeals to me on a record, I simply don’t bother, because I don’t get off on putting someone’s effort down just because I dislike it. And in cases when I am not completely into the music, I don’t hide that fact but I don’t emphasize it too much, because music is subjective…and that’s what’s most important to me.

Today, on the other hand, it’s time to get back to what got me into reviewing in the first place: writing about music that I truly love and want to share with the public. The Blueprint For Going In Circles is a new collaborative project between Jonny Craig, Kyle Lucas and Captain Midnite; in short: Jonny X Kyle X Midnite!

In its essence, the album is hip hop with a RnB vibe to it. Tight raps, minimalistic electronic beats, keyboards and various other sampled instruments, coupled with heartfelt and clever lyrics make these forty-one minutes an already highly enjoyable experience. But much like hot sauce on food, Jonny Craig’s soulful vocals make everything even better and complete the sonic spectrum perfectly.

As a matter of fact, the vocal duties are split slightly unevenly in the favor of singing instead of rapping, which suits me just fine, to be frank. Seven songs out of the eleven are duets, three are JC-solo songs and only one is a Kyle Lucas solo. However, the order of the songs is well chosen and at no point it feels like it’s a forced collaboration, which I applaud.

Honestly, that’s about as much as I can tell you about The Blueprint, because this might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I absolutely dig it and I predict that it will stay on heavy repeat for quite a while on my travels and at home. You can find the artists’ respective Facebook pages above, and listen to one of my favorite songs below. Enjoy! I know I did.

Go By Brooks – Rivers

One of my primary objectives since I started writing reviews, was to promote the local scene in the best way possible by trying to cover every single release. Obviously, this sometimes takes me far out of my comfort zone in terms of musical direction, but on the other hand I really love the challenge of writing as objectively as possible from time to time. Today is one such occasion, because the pop rock band Go By Brooks have recently released their debut EP Rivers!

The quartet (actually, quintet as off the beginning of this year) includes the traditional electric instruments in their music, as well as a piano, acoustic guitars and percussion, which adds a significant amount of depth to the five songs. In fact, they create a truly melancholic atmosphere that manages to capture the listener’s attention quite easily.

From a technical standpoint, there’s not a lot to say, to be honest: there’s no part that will blow your mind with its intricate execution, because it’s all kept rather simple…which can be good, because it makes the music accessible to a wider audience. However, every instrument is excellently played and coupled with the very natural-sounding production, the ensemble is definitely enjoyable.

The singer brings a clean performance to the table during these eighteen minutes, but at times I missed the oomph in her voice. While I have to admit that I’ve never seen Go By Brooks live, I’m willing to bet that in a setup with a crowd, that factor shouldn’t be an issue though, because the necessary skill is there and coupled with the energy from the spectators, it should be perfect. Maybe an idea for improvement on EP number two…

All in all, Rivers is a nice little debut EP that absolutely deserves to be checked out by lovers of slower and softer tunes. Personally, it’s not something that I can really listen to at home or on-the-go, but I wouldn’t walk out of a room if they played a show, because I believe that this type of music has its true potential in a live setting. As always, find the necessary info on the band’s Facebook page and check out the song below!

I, The Lion – Run

I, The Lion is an up-and-coming band from the UK, that has found its comfort zone in post-punk, a direction that I admittedly wasn’t quite aware of before listening to its new EP Run. Naturally, I was intrigued by this new genre and equally excited to discover it.

But, let me be honest: when I started listening to the EP for the first time, I was taking care of some stuff in my living room and I thought to myself that it was going to be just another run-off-the-mill pop punk band. But then, a bit more than two minutes in, I stopped what I was doing for a second because a cool part in the song came up, only to resume my chores…until the three minute mark when I literally looked up and sat down to enjoy the rest of the amazing sixteen minutes in peace.

How can I describe their sound best, I wonder? I’d say that it’s a mix of pop punk and post-hardcore, because it features catchy and easy-going song structures on one hand, and energetic technical explosions on the other. Let me backtrack to the above-mentioned magical three minute mark part, which is a prime example of their musical prowess, where the guitar keeps climbing a scale, only to erupt into a groove-laden part with perfect harmony between powerful drums and a crushing guitar riff, which is underlain by a dreamy high-pitched rhythm guitar part. I absolutely love it.

The one thing I have slightly mixed feelings about, however, are the vocals. Even though the singer delivers a respectable performance throughout the four songs, I just can’t really get into his clean vocals, because they come across as a bit flat and monotonous for the most part. It feels as if this is his first go at clean singing, but I’m quite convinced that with a bit more practice, the end result will be perfect. His screams, on the other hand, tickle my fancy just right!

What can I say? Run is an EP that is definitely worth your time, because it delivers in all the right places and is chock-full of memorable parts. You can check out the band’s Facebook page for more information and listen to the discussed-above opener below, before checking out the full release on February 9th.

Infact – State Of Decay

Last Friday, at the Kulturfabrik, was the release show of yet another Luxembourgish album: Infact‘s State Of Decay! Sadly, my review copy reached me a bit too late for a proper pre-release review, but better late than never…so here goes!

While the quintet has a fairly unique style with many, more or less, obvious influences; the main leitmotiv is definitely groove; add in some thrash and metalcore elements and you’re pretty close to what Infact sounds like. Coupled with the very clean and powerful production, that mix goes down like butter.

The drums are a non-stop barrage of intricate double bass rhythms and diverse handwork, covering everything the ears desire. Along with the multifaceted guitarplay, which ranges from typical headbang riffs to fairly melodic parts and fast-paced solos, the instrumental front is hands-down a forte of these fourteen tracks.

The vocals on the other hand, I’m kind of hot and cold about…while the guy definitely has great pipes and a remarkably broad range, it’s a bit too much all over the shop for me. His main style is very much alike Volbeat‘s Michael Poulsen’s singing, which I absolutely dig because I can’t think of anyone in our little country that sings in that direction. The occasional screams and growls are also a nice little addition, which blend fairly well into the ensemble, but in a few instances, he adapts a very high-pitched kind of singing or does seemingly randomly pitched parts, which just ruins the moment for me.

Another factor is the length: in my opinion State Of Decay would have been just as enjoyable at forty-ish minutes instead of the fifty-three minutes. But I guess that’s just personal preference.

To sum things up, this second full-length is a really strong endeavor and it should be to many people’s liking. For me, it was definitely not a waste of time, but to be honest, it’s not something that I will keep on repeat until the day I die. If I managed to make you curious, head over to the band’s Facebook page and listen to the song below!

Essence – Smoke And Mirrrors

Sometimes I listen to music and I just can’t get into it, even though every separate element on its own is to my liking, the final result just slightly misses my personal taste. Today’s review is about such a case: Essence is a progressive metalcore band from Belgium, and the guys are about to release their new EP Smoke And Mirrors on February 2nd!

As I said above, the quintet has all the ingredients to make me love the five songs: technically-sound guitar playing, solid drumming, enjoyable vocals, all wrapped in a matching massive production. But, in my opinion, it lacks one key thing: diverse songwriting with real highlights; which is a shame since the musicians seem to master their instruments quite well.

The other fact that kind of irks me, is the almost omnipresent “chugging”, which makes up almost half the time of these twenty-five minutes. Luckily, the progressive parts make up for that though, since they’re interesting enough to forget the rest. For me personally, an eighty to twenty ratio would have been the ideal mixture between melodic and heavy, but I guess that’s a subjective criteria.

The vocalist delivers a strong performance from start to finish, while solely relying on his powerful screams; sadly this is yet another tidbit where I would have liked some diversity. The usage of one singing style simply makes it hard to distinguish the choruses from the verses, which, to a melody-lover like myself, makes it hard to get into the songs.

I realize that this comes across as a negative review, but I’m actually really glad that I found out about Essence, because I’m convinced that, with a bit of tweaking, their approach to music has a lot of potential. Which is why, in closing, I can definitely recommend giving their EP a try, maybe you’ll enjoy it from the get-go. I, on the other hand, will follow their progress in the future and hope to get a chance to catch them live some time soon! Head over to their Facebook page for more information and watch their video below!

Tanatori – Stupids

There are moments in my reviewing “career” where I don’t know what to think or say about the release that I’m listening to. Tanatori created one such instance with their debut, Stupids, that is going to be released on January 31st. Even after listening to it more than ten times, I’m still torn between calling it awesome-sauce deluxe and deleting it from my PC forever…but I tend toward the former.

Let me backtrack a little and explain: the musical range of the quartet is an interesting mix of thrash metal and southern metal with a healthy dose of groove! The resulting sound is truly remarkable and I felt absorbed from the first second of these thirty-eight minutes. The rich tone of the individual instruments is also a strong factor that contributes towards feeling right at home and having a sense of déjà-entendu.

The seven songs are a truly eclectic journey, that is reinforced by the uncountable vocal styles that the singer adapts, but therein lies one of the problems for me…kind of. If I didn’t know for a fact that the Catalans are a genuine band, I’d assume that Stupids is a metal parody, because at times I hear Phil Anselmo, followed by Ozzy Osbourne, transitioning into Zakk Wylde, only to end up in a crazy Mike Patton rendition.

Having said that, and knowing the facts, I can conclude that Tanatori has managed to pay homage to three great metal styles on a single record, while still bringing enough creativity to the table to avoid boredom! Obviously, this means that I give this the awesome-sauce deluxe stamp of approval and I can strongly recommend everyone, who has ever liked any of the above-mentioned genres, to give this one a spin. You won’t regret it!

In conclusion, let me tell you this ancient philosophy: if a band has a name that sounds like an Asian chicken dish, you give them a go. No questions asked. Head over their Facebook page and listen to the song below to get an idea of what they’re all about! ¡Ándale! ¡Ándale!

Lost In Pain – Plague Inc.

If memory serves, I went to a private birthday party at a pub about four years ago, where I saw a band of youngsters cover some Metallica songs and, unless I’m mistaken, play some of their own songs and my initial reaction was: damn they’re good for their age. It took me a while to realize that I just witnessed my first Lost In Pain gig but I was severely impressed, a feeling that continued to grow every time I saw them play live. On January 23rd they’re releasing their second full-length, Plague Inc., and I was fortunate enough to get early access, so here’s my five cents!

As mentioned above, the Luxembourgish quartet’s main inspiration is quite clear and a well-known fact that has been talked about many times, so there’s no use beating a dead horse. What is worth mentioning, however, is the evolution that their sound has gone through in the past three years, since the release of their self-titled debut album. Time has had a very positive effect on the band members and their, already back then, respectable skills: the songwriting is way more structured, the riffs more interesting, the drums more precise and the vocals generally more enjoyable.

The ten songs showcase very versatile riffing, that will satisfy every thrash metal fan’s hunger and inspire many headbang outbursts, while at the same time bringing a very melodic aspect to the table. Which is exactly what I was referring to earlier: Lost In Pain knows how to write choruses that will be stuck in your head after the first listen; a fact that is a definite forte of their music. The technical prowess of the string department is also a factor that shouldn’t remain unmentioned, since there is a vast showcasing of crazy fast solos and many tasty licks, which spices things up quite nicely.

The adequate backdrop is provided by diverse drumming that never tries to steal the show with unnecessary parts. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not boring or monotonous, but simple enough to not take away the focus from the ensemble; a prime example of a well-executed piece of wisdom: less is often more!

All throughout the forty-six minutes, the singer delivers a powerful performance, that is mostly kept in a style akin to that of the frontman of a certain Bay Area band. To be fair, the singing is not just a cheap imitation, but rather used as a basis to add new elements and create even more melodic layers on the tracks, in the form of melodic screams, such as on Addiction, one of my favorites. I personally dig the vocals a lot, and I must admit that I can’t think of any other local vocalist that goes into a similar direction, which makes them even more interesting to me.

All in all, Plague Inc. is a second album like it’s supposed to be: an evolution of the previous one, while still keeping the initial idea! I can, without a moment’s hesitation, say that Lost In Pain have set a strong standard for 2015 when it comes to the Luxembourgish music scene and, in the same vein, that you should keep an eye on them in the future! In the meanwhile, you can visit their Facebook page and check out the video below. If you like what you hear, be sure to head to Rockhal this Friday, for the release show!

Salvation – Resurrect The Tradition

I’ve set a personal goal for myself this year, which is to review as many different genres as possible, and after being off to a good start already, I’ll continue in the same vein with today’s band: Salvation! The Florida-based old-school hardcore formation is about to release its debut album Resurrect The Tradition on January 26th, so I’ll give you my two cents on it!

Before I do so, I should probably confess that I’m not a huge fan of traditional hardcore, especially in a live setting, but there are a few bands that I enjoy quite a lot. Today’s quintet, however, has all the elements that draw me toward this specific genre: massive amounts of groove, neckbreaking riffs and a no bullshit attitude!

On the other hand, it also highlights some of the factors that make me so picky when it comes to this type of music: too many chugging rhythms and generally-speaking a very repetitive songwriting. Which is why the eleven songs all seamlessly blend into each other and before you notice what hit you, the album is over. Luckily this doesn’t always necessarily equal something bad, because in this case I actually wanted to press the replay button.

During the thirty-five minutes, the singer mainly sticks to his aggressive screams and hardcore-typical spoken word-like singing, but occasionally he goes into deep growls and sometimes even into screeches, which gives the vocal front a nice multifaceted feel. Lyrically, I just can’t get around saying that it’s nothing I’ve heard on pretty much every record in the same genre that is out there already.

To sum things up, I’ll say that Resurrect The Tradition is exactly what its name suggests: a revival of many classic elements, with a dash of modern aspects, that managed to keep me interested but didn’t exactly blow me away. If you are into classic hardcore I can strongly recommend giving it a listen though! For more information, be sure to head over to their Facebook page and if you are curious, listen to the song below!

Tanya Tagaq – Animism

I’ll be honest: today’s album is probably the weirdest shit I’ve ever listened to…but it’s good shit. Tanya Tagaq specializes in throat singing, a technique I had never ever heard of before this, which in itself is quite, for lack of a better word, special…but if you add eery and repetitive instrumentation to it, it reaches a whole new level of weird. After having a remarkable success in Canada, her album Animism is seeing a European release on January 26th…so let’s see what’s so special about it.

At the risk of sounding like an utter racist and offending an entire culture, let me say this: if I had to describe the Inuit throat singing, which is the core of these forty-nine minutes, I would compare it to a mixture of sounds that someone who suffers from severe lung cancer, coupled with extreme psychological disorders, while under the influence of strong narcotics, would emit. And I absolutely love it. In the process of discovering the album, I’ve looked into the technique a bit and it requires extreme skill as well as absolute mastery of one’s vocal chords, which I deeply respect and admire.

While the throat singing is definitely the major element of these eleven tracks, the instrumental backdrop is genuinely intriguing as well. It is comprised of several “classic” instruments, as well as electronic beats and while, or maybe because, it is fairly monotonous, it sucks you in and keeps you glued to your seat. Her regular singing is worth mentioning too, since it adds another layer to this multifaceted record.

While this review did turn out to be quite short, I honestly can’t tell you much more…because it’s really terribly difficult to describe what the listener of Animism is going through. Nevertheless, it’s one hell of a freaky “am I on acid or is this real?”-musical trip, provided you immerse yourself completely in what it has to offer. Be sure to visit her Facebook page and give the song below a listen, but be aware that it’s nowhere near the level of mind-boggling that can be experienced if you listen to the entire album!