Review: Lay Seige – “hopeisnowhere”

Following on from their 2012 debut EP “Obulus”, and having signed to Lifeforce, March 23rd sees the release of Lay Seige’s first full length record “hopeisnowhere”, and it’s a bruiser.

LaySiege_Landscape2LO

“Irebot” kicks things off in fine style, setting you up for what to expect with the rest of the record. It’s brutal, heavy and technical in parts, but never overplayed. “Glass Veil” picks up the tempo in a welcome way, and we get a bit of a respite from the onslaught during the two minute instrumental title track before the beating begins again with “The Afflicted” through to album closer “A Fictional Sound”

There was one main issue I had with the record, however. It’s excellently produced and performed no doubt, but the slow-mid tempo that dominates the songs on this album tend to slow the pace. This results in some songs that only last four minutes feeling like an awful lot longer. There are moments like in the aforementioned “The Afflicted” for example, where the tempo picks up, but the first minute or so of five tracks in a row start at essentially the same tempo, I doesn’t always entice the listener to continue. This can be seen on more of a reflection of the genre than the band, but I would hope that it’s something that Lay Siege address on their next release. They’ve got the talent to do something great next, hopefully they can act on it.

– Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: C

“Hopeisnowhere” by Lay Siege is released on the 23rd of March. For more information, you can visit the band’s website.

This Week in History: Depeche Mode – Violator

March 19-20, 1990. On this two day span 25 years ago, a series of events took place that would launch Depeche Mode’s popularity into the thermosphere.

March 19, 1990 saw the worldwide release of Violator, the band’s seventh studio album and first since the massively popular Concert for the Masses at the Rose Bowl in June 1988. The “Personal Jesus” single had been released in late 1989 to massive fanfare. All this just created the spark that would soon start a massive wildfire.

March 20, 1990 was the fuel that would turn Depeche Mode into arguably the most successful “underground” act of all time: it was the day of the Wherehouse signing that was shut down by police in full on riot gear. For a fascinating insight into that day, check out The Wherehouse on www.depechemode-live.com.

Violator would go on to become a multi-platinum smash. Depeche Mode have continued to release an album and tour every four years (give or take), the most recent being 2013’s Delta Machine. They are frequently included in annual lists of “Most Successful Tours”. And they are my favorite band of all time. In fact, if not for Depeche Mode, I might have had a drastically different life. Violator isn’t my personal favorite Depeche Mode album, but I still love it and I’m glad that it helped bring some much deserved attention to an amazing band.

For a much more well written piece on Violator, please check out David McElroy’s “Classic Album” piece.

Review: Bad Guys – “Bad Guynaecology”

To call Bad Guys a comedy band is kind of doing them a disservice, but to say that some of the lyrics of their songs could be potentially heard on a new Spinal Tap record wouldn’t exactly be inaccurate either.

This four piece straddle the fine line between punk and stoner metal pretty well, and while some of this record stutters, it’s mostly good stuff.

BANDPHOTO-2

The tone is set by opener “Crime”, a story of how the simple act of stealing a toy can change a young man’s life. Stuart London doesn’t sing so much as dictate the lyrics, but in his own unique way. This streak continues with “Prostitutes (are Making Love in my Garden)” which is not a thinly veiled metaphor. It’s about a guy that faces the rare dilemma of prostitutes making love in his garden. Hate that. “Zoltan” completes a hat trick of killer tracks to start this record, which at this stage of my listening, promised an awful lot.

Where the band are less successful, and where the wheels started to loosen for me, is when they flex their muscles into tracks like “Fabled Succubus” and “No Tomorrow”, the latter clocking in at a far too long eleven minutes. They just lack the punch established by the first three tracks, and my favourite song on the album “Motorhome”.

A record of mixed successes, but the good here way outweighs the bad. If Bad Guys can streamline their sound, maybe even play their punk card a bit more, the next record could be quite something.

– Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: B

“Bad Guynaecology” by Bad Guys will be released on 16th of March 2015 and can be pre ordered on the Riot Season Records bandcamp page, where you can also stream “Crime”.

Quick Hits 03.11.2015: iVardensphere’s Fable, Ryan Culwell’s Flatlands, Email Newsletter

iVardensphere’s Fable Destroys

I’m late to the iVardensphere game, but what an introduction through Fable, the fifth album from the electronic tribal industrial project. Thanks to the guys at http://www.idieyoudie.com for the tip.

Fable is what might happen if Recoil and Juno Reactor hooked up to make a record – except there’s no copycat ripping off here. While similar in style to those acts, iVardensphere stands alone with Fable. It’s an electro-tribal journey that even pulls in some metal inspired vocals on “Black Lodge”. I’d say this is a must listen for fans of most genres.

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: A

Ryan Culwell’s Flatlands

Ryan Culwell is going to be compared to Bruce Springsteen. That’s not fair, though, because Ryan Culwell’s ability to tell his personal stories is not easily matched. Having seen Ryan with The Parlor Sessions in Nashville, TN, I had an idea of what to expect going into Flatlands. It’s a gritty sort of country sounding record that will let you know exactly what it was like to live in the barren Flatlands of Texas. Ryan’s voice is a treasure, and his songwriting is quickly becoming some of my favorite.

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: A+

Email Newsletter Contest

The next issue of the Unappreciated Scholars Email Newsletter will be delivered to your inboxes on Friday. All who are subscribed to the newsletter prior to it being sent will be entered into a drawing. The winner will receive a choice of the new Twilight Fauna/Old Thunder Bloodlines on standard edition cassette + download or a download of Sister Machine Gun’s return EP The Future Unformed. Giveaway is open to all, but non-US winners are only eligible for the digital version. Also, a Bandcamp account is recommended.

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Review: [debut] (Postcards from Berlin, 2015)

debut-postcardsIt’s possible that the name of Gareth Thomas’ musical project, [debut], is intended to denote the reimagining of his ‘band’ with every new album, fresh cast and new direction (Thomas calls it “a collective venture with a revolving door of talent”. It’s an admirable goal, but his new release, Postcards from Berlin, seems heavily laden with the last 35 years of musical history. If this is a debut, perhaps it’s the debut of an unlikely supergroup composed of the ghosts of many musicians past.

Postcards from Berlin may please current [debut] fans, and possibly some fans of 80s dark pop and 90s goth pop. The album opens with one of its strongest tracks, “Not the One,” with its opening piano riff that immediately recalls Nine Inch Nails, followed by a nod to Ultravox’s “Vienna.” The song is dark, sleek and catchy, though, like many other tracks on Postcards, it fails to mount to a defined climax. Ultravox caught our hearts with the final, triumphant “It means nothing to me.” “Not the One,” lacking this denouement, builds, recedes, builds and recedes without ever reaching a clear destination.

Cinematic strings and synth pads weight many of the tracks, possibly reflecting [debut]’s past involvement in film and television soundtracks. Sometimes, as on “Everyday I Love You More,” the large symphonic sound (reminiscent of, but less effective than, Pet Shop Boys) seems out of proportion to the song. The patch choices could be broader; as is, they lend a canned, heard-it-before quality to much of the album. In addition to the abovementioned artists, the album brings to mind variously Depeche Mode, Everything but the Girl, Evanescence, All About Eve, and Fuel, for starters. Some musical allusion, of course, provides a hook for connection with an album; Postcards is so rife with references that it risks appearing a pastiche.

On “Come Around,” the sound is theatrical at best, with the pushed-front vocal sounding like a stage musical; at worst, it’s Casiotone. An attempt to introduce dubstep sounds in “Open Your Soul” doesn’t quite come off. And despite website evidence of a careful writing process, the lyrics on many of the songs are so weak as to actively detract from listening enjoyment. Particular offenders: “Don’t hate on me” in “Come Around”; “I wandered lonely through the night” and “I can’t live without your love” on Everyday I Love You More.

gareth_thomas11The album closes with its best track, “Passion” — this track was (wisely) the one selected for inclusion on the fourculture fundraiser album. Although still plagued with some Casiotone elements, “Passion” features an appealing piano riff and a bit more shape than some other tracks. In a brilliant Kickstarter move, Thomas promised to fill Postcards with “the voices from all the pledgers” as a virtual choir. Each pledger was to mail Thomas a single note that he would then blend into a choir. A choir sound was used to pleasant, if not monumental, effect on “Passion”, though our demo copy lacked liner notes so we can’t be certain it was the Kickstarter choir.

In all, we must deem Postcards from Berlin a well-produced disappointment, a patchwork of familiar scraps into a smooth, faceless whole. Postcards was to have been “a collection of songs inspired by the city. Songs filled with the coldness of Eastern European winters, soaring pianos of classical eras gone by and a raw industrial edge that only that city can inspire,” but we could detect no trace of the Berlin provenance. The album is (mostly) not unlistenable, but it could have been much, much more.

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: C

Album is available on iTunes. Follow [debut] on Twitter at https://twitter.com/debutsounds and hear recent sounds and samples on Bandcamp. Visit the official website at http://www.debutsounds.com

Review: Night Falls Last – “Deathwalker”

As peculiar as it sounds, when a metal band are firing on all cylinders, I can’t help but smile. It’s like your football team scoring in the last minute to win the game. Night Falls Last had me grinning from ear to ear, for it’s full duration. I know smiling isn’t very “metal”, but really, what is “metal”? A conversation for another day…

I digress. Back to the topic at hand. Night Falls Last kick ass. It’s that simple. Remember when Lamb of God were really killing it around the mid noughties around the time of “Ashes of the Wake” and “Sacrament”? Yeah, they’re that good. They might not display the technical proficiency of the Adler brothers, but they surpass current LOG in terms of pure intensity and the ability to write a cracking tune.

The album starts as most metal records do, with a short instrumental that builds to a circle pit inducing belter, in this case it’s “Invasion” that leads into “Fear the Machine”. “Detonate” has a chorus I could imagine a huge crowd shouting along to in between the heavy as all hell verses.

Titular track “Deathwalker” is the centrepiece of the record, and will probably become the band’s calling card. It perfectly encompasses everything that the band can do.

The band closes out with the triumvirate of “Rise”, “And”, and “Fall”. Rise clocks in at a whopping nine plus minutes, but it absolutely flies by, “And” is pretty much a drum solo that bridges the gap into “Fall”, which closes the album in fine style.

Night Falls Last have here a savage record that is borne from the ashes of the so called “New Wave of American Heavy Metal” style of metal, but have created an album that stands up to any of the landmark releases of that period.

– Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: A

“Deathwalker” by Night Falls Last was released October 2014, and can be downloaded via the band’s website.

Listen to “Fear the Machine” below:

Review: JUDE. (The Bedroom EP, 2015)

jude-bedroom

West Palm Beach teen electropop duo JUDE. (Kevin James Neal and Sydney Morris) appeared on the scene in early 2014 and have just released their first EP, The Bedroom. Even for an EP, it’s short — three original tracks and one rework (an acoustic take on the beautiful “Drive”). Even so, this brief, sparkling taste makes it clear that JUDE. is one to watch.

jude2The comparison to Lana del Rey is impossible to avoid, especially on the first track, “Can’t Breathe,” and the third, “Without You,” but Morris is a much more palatable del Rey. No poor-little-rich-girl vibe here: just a sensual, long-legged alto crooning songs of strength in the face of love’s devices. “Don’t call me when you’re drowning,” Morris warns us on “Can’t Breathe.” On “Drive,” she’s even more determined: “I think that after this drive I’ll be fine,” she asserts.

Even for such a short EP, the track order isn’t ideal. The weakest track, “Can’t Breathe,” opens the album; whereas the first-time listener is more likely to be drawn in by the elegant “Without You” or the brave, compelling “Drive”:

“And no one sees they can never come clean / But I sit in this car and remind myself / That I’ll be fine.”

JUDE. sounds polished, diverse, and rich, thanks to Neal’s production skills and Morris’ flexible, multi-textured voice. The tone is dark and resigned, but the clear vocals ride across the music like a ribbon of light.

They’re just getting started, but there’s promise here. Here’s hoping they can stick it out long enough to give us a bigger bite.

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: B+

The Bedroom is a free download on band website or Bandcamp. Follow Band on Twitter at https://twitter.com/judemusicfl. Visit the official website at http://judemusic.net/

Review: Muck – “Your Joyous Future”.

How hardcore are things in Iceland? If this record is anything to go by, very. Clocking in at about a half hour, Muck are here to smack you square in the face and then leave before you even know what hit you.

MUCK_by_Alisa-Kalyanova

“Provoke Me” is the first of such shots. Even though Muck would class themselves as a punk band, there’s elements of metal in the blast beat drumming technique used. This is just one of many things that Muck do to try and make themselves stand out from the pack. They’re very good at pure, balls out rock but when the time calls for it, they display a keen sense of melody among the madness in songs like “Waiting”. Arguably the strongest track is the album  is the album closer “Today I’m Hungrier”, which is a maelstrom of speed mixed with technical ability. It’s as if the entire album builds to this finale, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Your enjoyment of this is dependent on your tolerance for abrasive punk rock. At times (for me) it got a bit too much which is why I marked it down a bit, but when Muck stay on course they make a fantastic noise.

– Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: B-

“Your Joyous Future” by Muck was released on the 23rd of February, and can be purchased through the Prosthetic Records site. You can check out the promo video for “Provoke Me” below.

 

Review: Dope Stars Inc. – “TeraPunk”

Dropping their fifth release since their inception in 2005, Italy’s Dope Stars Inc.’s new record “TeraPunk” is a fun industrial industrial release that sprinkles in elements from other branches of metal and punk to make something unique, and for the most part it works.

TeraPunk-Live

Full disclosure to start with though. I think this band have the worst name, on paper. No offense to the band themselves, but I had to get that off my chest. But after a few plays through “TeraPunk” I had to concede that, yes, the name suits the band. What Dope Stars Inc. have in spades is the ability to craft perfectly good, catchy rock tune. “It’s Going to Rain For You” without the synth and electronic elements would be a pop punk standard, but the elements the band adds make it something different. “Many Thanks” has a Rammstein style stomp to it, with earworm chorus. “Along With You” is a terrific 80’s influenced, synth driven dance song.

If there’s one issue, it’s the the album starts to run out of steam after “Along With You” and it almost feels like the band have shown their hand a bit too early, which is a shame as up to this point it was a compelling listen. Maybe as a stripped down EP, this would have gotten a higher rating, but it’s one of those things when a band takes a chance of releasing a full album.

“TeraPunk”  is, on average, an enjoyable listen even if it does peter out towards the end. If you’re having a house party though it’d be a great one to have on, and people will definitely ask “Hey, who’s that band?”.

– Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: B-

“TeraPunk” by Dope Stars Inc. was released on the 13th of February and can be purchased via the band’s Soundcloud page.  For more information, check out the band’s website. You can listen to “Many Thanks” below.

Crash Course – Where to Start if You Haven’t Started Yet: Oasis

Special thanks goes to Dan Kaplan, from Horns Up – A Weekly Metal Podcast, for stepping out of his wheel house to provide us an Oasis crash course. We hope you enjoy Dan’s piece and visit Horns Up. 

Wonderwall. Champagne Supernova. Live Forever.

Ask most American music listeners if they know any Oasis, and they’ll most likely name some combination of these three songs. That, or they’ll ignore the topic of the band’s music and instead start a discussion of how its central figures, brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher, famously and repeatedly clashed with each other over the years.

It’s the polar opposite of the band’s enduring popularity in their native United Kingdom. Where every single album of theirs has topped the charts. Where they had 23 Top 10-charting singles, including eight that hit No. 1. Where their popularity hit such dizzying levels that even a 14-minute recording of the Gallaghers arguing during an interview could register on the charts. (“Wibbling Rivalry,” which hit No. 52!)

All of this is to say: there’s a lot that people are missing out on when it comes to Oasis. But the following two playlists should help right that ship. The first covers album tracks, while the second focuses on b-sides and “others.” (Oh yeah, that’s another thing that’s often forgotten here across the pond: Oasis had some killer b-sides, many of which became live-show staples over the years.)

So let’s get into it, shall we?

ALBUM TRACKS

A couple of ground rules with this list, before we begin:

• First, none of the three signature tracks above are included. There’s simply no point in featuring three songs everyone knows on a list that’s meant to open people’s eyes to something new.

• Secondly, the list contains at least one song from each of Oasis’ seven studio albums. (Yes, even Standing on the Shoulder of Giants.) How else could one demonstrate the sonic evolution the band underwent throughout its career?

Now that we’ve covered that, what exactly do we have here?

Lots of different things, frankly. We’ve got peak-era Britpop, but we’ve also got some psychedelia. We’ve got pure, unbridled joy, as well as gloomy introspection. There are rockers, but there are also love songs. There’s one song that took part in the infamous “Battle of Britpop” chart war with Oasis’ bitter rivals, Blur. There’s one of the few songs from the band’s overblown third album, Be Here Now, that they managed to keep less than six minutes long. There’s an absolute foot-stomper of a tune from the oft-forgotten Heathen Chemistry album that might just be the most underrated song in the band’s entire catalog. And then there’s a song that proved that, even after losing themselves in excess and late-period-Beatles imitation, Oasis could still write the hell out of a pop song.

These descriptions haven’t been ordered chronologically, but the songs in the playlist have. Give ’em a listen and see if you can match them up. (And also, you know…marvel at all of the songwriting glory on display. Priorities, folks.)

PLAYLIST:
Oasis – Crash Course (Album Tracks)

B-SIDES / OTHERS

Oddly enough, the list of non-album tracks might actually paint a better picture of Oasis than the main list—at least in terms of describing the ins and outs of their history. “Step Out,” for example, ranks as one of the more notable cases of alleged plagiarism against Noel Gallagher, of which there were many. Initially slated for inclusion on (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, the song ended up being removed at the last minute for its striking similarity to Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright).” We’ve also got some songs that draw from the Gallaghers’ volatile relationship with each other: “Talk Tonight” was Noel’s response to a bust-up that nearly led to him quitting the band, while “Acquiesce” captures a rare moment of vocal collaboration between the brothers. (One of just four in the band’s entire catalogue to feature both on lead.) There’s also “Noel’s Track,” from the aforementioned “Wibbling Rivalry” single—not even remotely a “song,” but rather an uproarious, obscenity-laced exchange that should be required listening for any budding Oasis scholar.

And in between? Six more of the kind of catchy, uplifting anthems most songwriters would have to make Faustian bargains to happen upon. Unlike the Album Tracks playlist, these aren’t ordered chronologically; in this list, it’s all about flow. So sit back, take them in, and welcome yourself aboard the Oasis bandwagon.

PLAYLIST:
Oasis – Crash Course (B-Sides)