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Review: Will the Thrill – Sorry to Disappoint Ya

No joke, when I saw the name of the artist and album I thought, “mustn’t have gotten any new metal this week, so it’s a bit of rap to change things up”. This is mainly because of a classic “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” scene where Will bestows himself with this nickname, and he and Carlton dance to Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache (Jump On It).

But I digress. Will the Thrill is the quest of one man to bring back the fun element of metal which dominated the 80’s before grunge kicked it right in the spandex covered arse. What Will presents is a bunch of songs that would fit in well in that decade, but in 2014 it all sounds a bit passe.

There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, Steel Panther have the market cornered in 80’s throwback hair metal. I don’t know where this record falls in the spectrum of serious vs comedy. The aforementioned Steel Panther are a parody, but bands like The Darkness and Airbourne did the throwback thing with tongue firmly in cheek.  Will the Thrill  presents itself rather seriously in terms of the music and the press release attached. A bit too serious for this genre.

In said press release, Will name drops a ton of influences, but they’re all infinitely better bands. Trouble is, while the musicianship is solid, the vocals are seriously lacking for the style that Will is going for. Hair metal needs a massive voice to really sell it, but it’s just not here.

The lack of originality is the final nail in the coffin of this release. I’m all for tipping your hat to your influences, but lifting stuff wholesale does nobody any favours. Talented musicians and solid production here is wasted on a style of music that’s been dead for twenty five years.

– Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: D

“Sorry to Disappoint Ya” by Will the Thrill can be purchased here.

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Haujobb Announce New Album, Crowdfunding Campaign

German electronic music veterans Haujobb announced last week that they are releasing a new album, titled Blendwerk, in Spring 2015. Details are minimal at this time, but Haujobb are always reliable for an interesting listen. Blendwerk sounds like a perfect album title for the ever evolving act.

Additionally, Haujobb will be a part of the “Alliance of Sound” tour which also features Skinny Puppy, Youth Code, and Front Line Assembly (who are replacing the previously announced VNV Nation). Haujobb have encountered an issue with travel and are providing preorders of Blendwerk and a live album to fund alternate travel to North America for the mega tour. The campaign has already been successfully funded, but every bit helps for traveling musicians. Check out the campaign here.

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Review: Skyharbor – Guiding Lights

As per their description, Skyharbor are a progressive metal band. Unfortunately, just because a song is long doesn’t mean it’s progressive. As usual, I’ll disclaimer this review by saying yes, this is a talented bunch of musicians with a fantastic lead singer, but this to me feels like the movie “Inception”. Technically excellent, but a bit too long and with no real heart to it (coincidentally, Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” was released this week and it looks like I’ll have the same problems with it, going on what I’ve read).

The album actually kicks off pretty well with “Allure”. An up tempo, loose number that sets the bands stall from the start. Soaring vocals, interesting guitar parts, and some fantastic drumming really got me hooked into this song. It’s during the second track, the wheels started to come off. Underpinned by a nu-metal riff from the off, “Evolution” settles into a mid-tempo slump that the album rarely crawls back out of. The only notable difference is the standout track for me, which was “New Devil”.

There’s only so much of ambient guitar and uplifting vocals that one guy can take though, and that was my biggest bugbear here. To go with that, it’s nothing I haven’t heard Devin Townsend or A Perfect Circle (on their first record) do before. What set these apart is the lack of fear in exploring the darker side of the genre. Skyharbor haven’t reached that point yet.

In saying all this, there’s a part of me that sometimes thinks I’m too dumb to get something out of music like this. Maybe I am, who knows. All I know is that Skyharbor, while proficient musically and production wise, have recorded an album that perfectly encapsulates the grandiose nature of the universe; it’s vast, occasionally beautiful, but cold.

– Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: C-

“Guiding Lights” by Skyharbor is released on November 10th. For more info on the band, click here.

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Review: Thy Fallen Kingdom – Fear the Hunter

This record from Singapore five piece, Thy Fallen Kingdom, is like something that was found in a time capsule from 1988. From the “Predator” inspired cover art, to the bands ludicrous logo, to the music itself, this reeks of 80’s thrash. Not necessarily in a bad way, but in playing music while wearing their influences on the sleeves, the band have compromised originality.

Things get off to a cliched start with the acoustic track “Mental Oppression” which leads into the first metal track proper in “Army of 1″. Over the course of the next eight tracks, we run the gauntlet of thrash tropes, which includes the “soldiers talking to each other” as the start of Operation B.E.A.S.T., through the riff loaded title track. My personal favourite is “Unchallenged”, mainly because the lyrics suggest that it’s a song about football (“soccer” to my American cousins). The production is crisp to match the playing style, and Rajuna’s vocals are very early Hetfield like high pitched shrieks, but it compliments the style of music perfectly.

So, what we have here is a decent, fun, if forgettable thrash record, but I’ll give the band some credit. Their enthusiasm is incredibly evident in the music (yes, you can tell), and their professionalism is through the roof. This is the highest quality band package that I’ve seen in a long time. These guys have the basics covered. Publicity shot, the music (obviously), the cover art, a press release about the album, and an EPK. It’s incredible to me how so many bands get this wrong. It’s simple stuff guys. So major kudos to Thy Fallen Kingdom for that too.

– Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: C

For more info on Thy Fallen Kingdom, click here.

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New Sister Machine Gun in Spring 2015

Sister Machine Gun has been gone for a really long time. Even longer than David Bowie was gone between Reality and The Next Day. That’s a mighty long time indeed. In fact, it all seemed a bit hopeless – Chris Randall, the lead force behind Sister Machine Gun even publicly stated circa 2007 that he never wanted to hear the words “Sister Machine Gun” again (I am unable to procure the link to this quote, and Google has failed me, but I know he said it somewhere.)

But a day and a half ago, Randall announced via social media that a new Sister Machine Gun album IS coming in Spring 2015 via WTII Records (https://twitter.com/Chris_Randall/status/529865733774512128?s=09). I freaked out so hard that I scared Katie, making her think something was majorly wrong.

But nothing is wrong, and whether it’s a throwback sound from the 90s, the less abrasive synths from the early 2000s,or something new entirely, Sister Machine Gun is an easy day-one-purchase, no previews needed.

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Review: Psycroptic – Echoes to Come

Australian death metal mainstays Psycroptic have swung us a preview of their upcoming release, their first since signing to Prosthetic Records. The album is a self titled affair which will be dropping in the Spring, but for now we have teaser track “Echoes to Come” to give us a taste of what’s to come.

When a band releases a self titled record that isn’t a debut, it’s a statement in my opinion. I always feel like it’s the band saying “right, we’ve honed are craft and this is the record that we’re so confident in that it’s going to be the one that bears our band name”. On the evidence of “Echoes to Come”, confidence isn’t an issue with Psycroptic. This is the sound of a bad firing on all cylinders. Everything here just clicks perfectly, from the intricate riffs, the thunderous drumming and the measured vocals. This is a band on their game and prepped to conquer.

– Hevy Kevy

“Echoes to Come” by Psycroptic will be released on November 4th and can be found here.

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Review: Lauren Calve – Between the Creek and the Tracks

It’s not often you’ll find us covering something that could be classified as country. It’s not that we’re not willing to cover it, but what passes for country nowadays is usually not that country at all.

Enter Lauren Calve. I have to be brutally honest, and I think my honesty will be appreciated in this instance. I’ve been sitting on this release for a few weeks. I immediately recognized the talent, but I couldn’t get myself excited about covering it here. I felt like I couldn’t say enough good things about it and I didn’t want to give bad press to a newcomer to the scene. So I decided to keep my silence.

But something strange happened – I kept waking up with “Looking for the Water” stuck in my head. Lauren sings the song with an authority that other singers could only wish to remotely imitate. It demands a spot in your earworm list. So I gave it another listen.

I tried to resist. But I can’t resist. I’m listening to the EP again, right now. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about it sooner.

The EP has an amazing range of emotions for being so short. From the commanding “Looking for the Water”, Lauren takes us down a couple of notches with “Sweep” and “Hard” – both tracks are reflective and painstakingly performed. “Annie” finishes up the EP with another fun, infectious melody that grows to a full crescendo.

This album is a challenge to the ideas of modern country. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be classified as a country record, but in the opinion of this writer, it captures the classic outlaw country stylings of Johnny Cash and his peers with nary a Taylor Swift in sight. Pop/country crossovers are tired and old. Lauren Calve’s Between the Creek and the Tracks is at once a revival and ultimately fresh.

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: A. This EP captured my attention even though I didn’t initially want it to. It’s as solid a debut effort as you’ll find. If you’re a fan of the way country used to be, and you long for something fresh and exciting, you will absolutely love Lauren Calve’s debut.

Purchase Between the Creek and the Tracks http://www.cdbaby.com/m/cd/laurencalve“>here.

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Review: Valdrin – Beyond the Forest

If I told you that Valdrin were Scandinavian, and you then listened to this record, you’d probably believe me. In reality the band in comprised of three guys from Cincinnati, but they make a racket of a band twice their size. They’re a band with an awesome grip on how to properly structure a song and switch seamlessly from  the pure speed of black metal to some of the more over the top aspects of death metal with some old school thrash solos thrown into the mix.

“A Drain in the River” is your typical atmospheric opener, which gives way to title track “Beyond the Forest” which covers all the aspects I mentioned above. It’s a sprawling beast of a track, and is the warning shot to let you know just what this band is capable of. “Rusulka Succubus” introduces a bit of synth to the mix (more on this below), but a track like “Serpent Willow” show that they still have one hand on the brutality button.

The way the songs are presented here almost feels as if they were recorded in the order they were written. Each song seems to grow in confidence from the one that precedes it, so when you get to “Battles in the Medieval Sky” it’s as if the band are saying “yeah, let’s throw a bit of battle metal into the mix” (plus there’s an insane double kick pattern in the middle too). This progression is epitomised in closing track “Forgotten Souls”, which is a Dimmu Borgir like slice of slightly theatrical metal, but is executed with the utmost conviction. Again, the presence of synths really kick the track up an extra notch.

If there’s one complaint I have, it’s that the middle section of the record kind of get’s a bit muddled but I’ve gone into this before when I reviewed the Annihilation record a while back. A record with a bunch of tracks like “Forgotten Souls” next? It’d be a killer.

– Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: B+

“Beyond the Forest” by Valdrin can be purchased/streamed here.

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Review: UnKured – Mutated Earth.

Fighting out of Cincinnati, Ohio is three piece death/thrash outfit UnKured with what I believe is their debut release, the ambitious “Mutated Earth”. The problem is though, for a first release the three members (Cody Knarr – Guitar/Vocals, Ben Stanton – Bass, and Adam Green – Drums) may have reached a bit to far.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not my place to suggest that a band stifle their ambitions, but when it gets in the way of the enjoyment of the music and is detrimental to the songs, something needs to be said. Maybe it’s because this record is (admirably) self produced, so there wasn’t a fresh pair of ears to assess what was being laid down that caused the problems. I don’t know. These problems, while not dealbreakers, are matters of song structure and some serious timing/synch issues on some of the tracks.

But to focus on the negatives would be unfair to this trio, as there is as a lot to like on display here too. For starters, the playing on this record is top drawer from all three musicians, and they have a great ability to mesh their take on Gothenburg scene melodic death with 80’s thrash seamlessly.

In an observation that is linked to my criticisms, the best moments on the album are when the band are keeping things focused, mainly during the solos, and some of the verses and choruses. The closing minutes of “A World at Dusk” is something straight out of the playbook of the big 4. The opening, title track, “Mutated Earth” is the highlight of the album, but there are a pick of other choice moments in songs like “They Live, We Sleep” and “Anti-Terraforming”.

Kontrary to what you might think, I would definitely give the next UnKured record a listen because there was enough good stuff here to keep my interest. What the band need to do is strike a better balance between the technical and the simple. If they can do this, they’ll shoot to the forefront of the genre, leapfrogging a bunch of their peers in the process.

– Hevy Kevy