FIDLAR Are Sillier Than Ever On “Almost Free”

FIDLAR first properly entered the public consciousness in 2013 with their self-titled debut album. An energetic garage punk affair with lyrics focusing around themes of drug use, depression and general debauchery, FIDLAR’s lyrics have always been on the cringey side but their debut had a level of charm and strong, simple songwriting which made it the soundtrack for angsty teens experimenting with drugs and skateboarding everywhere.

Almost Free has FIDLAR flex their versatility as a band. The group plays with a varied palette of sounds with the band dipping their toes in hip-hop, blues, and even gouse music, amongst other styles. The album also boasts a warm and full production style that contrasts nicely with their earlier lo-fi leaning endeavours.

This album also stands out as FIDLAR’s most hilarious album to date. When the listener puts on Almost Free they are immediately hit with the group trying to do a cool hip-hop track complete with aggressive, yet cringey vocal delivery and cool dad-rock worthy blues licks. A truly strong start for the band if they were aiming to make their funniest album yet. The problem here is that it’s unlikely the band were trying to make funny music (with the exception of By Myself but we’ll get to that). However, the blend of sounds the band has adopted over the years mixed with the still cringe-ridden lyrics makes a lot of Almost Free just unintentionally funny.

Too Real features lead vocalist Zac Carper giving out hot takes about current American politics and society today with an attitude that can only be described as too woke. The bridge section sees Zac spitting venom about flaws in both left and right leaning politics in a progressively angry tone. After some awkward ranting the chorus hook enters “Was that too fucking real?!” the listener is left thinking No. Not Really.

By Myself, arguably the silliest track on the album starts with Carper on acoustic guitar singing the song’s chorus, solo: “I’m cracking one open with boys, by myself”. Now ignoring the glaring fact that the boys in FIDLAR have based the hook of their song around a long dead meme there seems to be a level of irony built around the track that’s a bit refreshing. By Myself proves that FIDLAR are able to laugh at themselves from time to time and also shows a level of self awareness they’ve never shown before (Carper can even be heard laughing at his own bad joke). However, when the song launches into the verse section and adopts a cheesy house beat the self awareness disappears and we can be treated to FIDLAR running a dead meme song into the ground for just under four minutes.

This is all quite unfortunate as a level self awareness would greatly benefit FIDLAR’s music at this stage in their career because in some ways they seem to have developed into an unironic parody of themselves over the years.

When this album isn’t being edgy it tends to just be downright bland. Tracks such as Can’t You See and Flake have very generic indie aesthetics especially with the former which sounds like a track written by any local Arctic Monkeys influenced band ever.

Almost Free is far from terrible with songs such as Alcohol and Called You Twice been stand out tracks. The band are obviously competent songwriters and skilled musicians but it’s the band’s blend of cliched ‘cool’ blues riffs, generic indie stylings, bad integration of hip-hop and the all round cringefest that is FIDLAR lyricism that really makes Almost Free stand out as FIDLAR’s most unintentionally funny album yet. – Liam Toner (@tonerliam)

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The 12 Days of Halloween

The best time of year is upon us and it is time to celebrate all things spooky.

Watching horror films and putting up macabre decorations is a good start to getting into that Halloween spirit, but we find it’s just as important to have a spooky soundtrack to boot. So until Hallow’s Eve graces us on the 31st of October Transistor will be bringing the spook in early with the 12 days of Halloween.

Each day we’ll be updating this piece to post some of the darkest and eeriest sounds that have been committed to music from a variety of different genres and styles but all with the same shared goal: to create music that unsettles the listener, explores the occult and in general, conjures the Halloween spirit into the listener. – liam toner (@tonerliam)

Day 12 – Static Age by The Misfits

At the end of the day, it’s night. But also, at the end of the day there’s only one band you need to listen to on Halloween and that’s the Misfits. Misfits were a punk band formed 1977 in New Jersey and would become internationally loved as a cult band thanks to marrying of punk music with horror themes. Early in their career, their dedication to horror would have them arrested for grave-robbing after a gig. Although over the years The Misfits would go through a plethora of members with several good albums under the belt there best album would be 1996’s Static Age. Although released in 1996 Static Age should have been their debut as it was recorded in 1978 but no labels wanted to put it out which is such a missed opportunity as Static Age stands as one of the greatest punk albums of all time.

There are many reasons to why this album stands out as their best and one of those reasons is consistency. Listening to the album is such a thrill as were giving anthem after anthem with probably only Theme for a Jackal being a missable track. As the album features the bands early material they’re still wearing their influences on their sleeves but unlike other punk bands of the time Misfits influences added up to a very interesting sound. Many of the compositions (all by vocalist Danzig) take riff and chord progressions from rock and roll, rockabilly and doo-wop and mixed with Danzig’s vocal’s sounding like a gritty mish-mash between Jim Morrison and Elvis make for a potent combination. The icing on the cake for the band is, of course, the morbid, b-movie inspired lyrics.
The track Hybrid Moments which is essentially a punked up 50s song with a twist shows the band at their most infectious with hooks-a-plenty and a song that is just emanating raw energy throughout the tracks brief length.

Another fan favourite would be Last Caress. This song stands out as one of the most Ramones sounding songs the band has done but it’s Danzig’s vocal work on the track that makes the track so exciting. Although the lyrical approach of the track was apparently to be as edgy as possible it’s the juxtaposition between abhorrent lyrical themes mixed with high energy poppy punk that makes this track downright amazing. It’s hard to listen to the vocal break near the end where Danzig bellows out the track title without getting chills down your spine.

 

Day 11 – Christian Death’s Only Theatre of Pain

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In the late 70s/early 80s goth rock music would be pioneered in England with bands such as Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy but across the pond a similar sound would be developing under the moniker Deathrock, where Californian band Christian Death would influence and inspire the whole scene thanks to their debut album Only Theatre of Pain.

Whereas the UK goth scene favoured low baritone singing to create moods, vocalist Rozz Williams’ vocal style would be much more whining and manic and at times Williams would create tortured soundscapes by layering his pained moans. While the modus operandi of the group would be anti-Christianity, lyrics would also allude to graveyards, Satan and necrophilia amongst other antagonistic topics which creates a lot of chilling imagery in the band’s work. The other thing that made the band really special was the guitar work from Rikk Agnew. Agnew originally played with punk band The Adolescents but the approach he had to guitar in Christian Death would perhaps be his most powerful. Making use of guitar effects regularly Agnew would create all sorts of haunting atmospheres with weird lead lines, solos and guitar manipulations. His unique style is particularly good on the track Spiritual Cramp a song based around a punkish dirge with a completely eerie and strange solo.

Following from Spiritual Cramp comes Christian Death’s most renown song Romeo’s Distress. The song has a morbid pop sensibility to it that makes the track totally infectious but still retains an evil spooky quality that makes it essential listening for the Halloween period.

Day 10 – Obscure and Forgotten Horror Rock of the 60s

There was a weird time in the early to mid-60s where (mostly) American rock and roll bands decided to make songs about monsters, horror clichés and in general, Halloween flavoured topics. A lot of the examples of these songs were made by small bands that only ever released singles here and there. Fortunately, in today’s day and age, we have Youtube, a platform for all of these forgotten gems. This spooky phenomenon was very scattered and doesn’t seem to originate from anything or anywhere in particular and as such a lot of these types of songs vary in style. In this playlist we have for you today you’ll get a blend of surf rock, rockabilly, blues, garage and rock and roll all related by their ghoulish themes.

Day 9 – Drei Lieder op. 25 by Anton Webern

Anton Webern was an Austrian composer that in the first half of the 20th century would become known for his unsettling and avant-garde compositions. Webern was a student of Arnold Schoenberg and would take a lot from his teachings, but Webern would become most known for his use with the serialism technique. Serialism, as created by Schoenberg, is a guideline for creating atonal melodies. It is done by taking all 12 notes in an octave and arranging them in random orders without repeating any notes.

This means that the melody will never find a tonal centre as all notes are used equally. Drei Lieder op. 25 is made for two instruments: piano and female voice. Both the voice and the piano make use of the serialism technique and in doing so create a skin-crawling and creepy piece that would be the last thing you’d want to hear when exploring a graveyard at night.

Day 8 – Funeral Parade by Part 1

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Part 1 are a bit of a strange band. They came out of the UK’s late 70s/early 80s Anarcho-Punk scene, home to such overtly political bands such as Crass, Flux of Pink Indians and Conflict. Part 1 would be regulars to the Wapping Autonomy Centre (also known as The Anarchy Centre) where many of these bands spent their time and put on charity gigs. Despite all this, the band’s sound would be separated from all of their peers’ thanks to its macabre subject matter and ghostly sound.

The band never managed to get too much recorded in their short run but their EP Funeral Parade is a mostly forgotten goth-punk banger. The songs are held together by hypnotic post-punk basslines and at times the bass is the key melodic element. Throughout a great deal of the EP the guitars (soaked in chorus/flange effects) just scream with feedback like banshees; in fact, feedback is used fantastically as a compositional element throughout the EP and is what creates such an eerie vibe throughout. Reading the tracklist gives us an early indication of what type of sound the band is creating with tracks such as Graveyard Song, Ghost, and Salem. One of the only things that might be recognized as Anarcho Punk is the vocals, a gravelly bite which keeps the tracks aggressive and punky making the bands spooky tone sound downright evil.

Day 7 – King Night by Salem

Salem are an American group whose debut album King Night, released in 2010, would gather a lot of attention for being a pioneering album in the Witch House genre. Their sound would blend chopped and screwed samples, trap style beats, ethereal operatic vocal samples with synth-laden instrumentals. This blend of sounds creates very dense soundscapes expertly blending between darkness and pop sensibility that would make the album one of the most interesting releases of that year.

Although other artists in this style would go much deeper into the occult themes and imagery it’s fair to say that this album would be a starting point and level of excellence that witch house artists would aspire to reach. King Night most importantly has an overall spooky and arcane vibe yet in a very modern way that makes it ideal for this time of year.

 

Day 6 – Memphis Rap

Memphis in the 90s was home to one of rap music’s spookiest subgenres – Memphis Rap. The groups that would come to define the style favoured dark instrumentals, 808 drum kits and fast double time and triplet flows (Memphis Raps influence on modern trap music is understated but huge). Groups would regularly sample horror movie scores and a great deal of the music was laced with a chilling, ominous atmosphere.

Many Memphis groups struggled to get much recognition and as such acts quite often relied on a D.I.Y. ethic in order to put out mixtapes. This led to many of the classic releases of the time being lo-fi in nature. However, this lo-fi quality at times added an extra depth to the music and adding to the mystery.

Three 6 Mafia

Of all the Memphis groups Three 6 Mafia would become the most commercially successful in the scene thanks to their debut album Mystic Stylez. Boosted by higher production value and by radio play of the track Da Summa Three 6 Mafia would become the face of the Memphis rap sound and would help inspire many artists for years to come.

The instrumentals on Mystic Stylez are rife with creepy atmosphere with most of the group contributing to production. DJ Paul brings a special flare to some of keyboard and synth lines due to his background as church organ player.
The title track of the album is the best representation of the groups unique sound and Lord Infamous’ triplet flow verse would make Migos blush.

“Mystic Styles of the ancient mutilations
Torture chambers filled with corpses in my basement”

 

Tommy Wright III

Although never quite attaining the success of Three 6 Mafia, Tommy Wright III was, to many, just as significant as the former. Wright would also heavily flirt with satanic themes, lyrics about murder as well as with the rapid-fire flows and eerie beats that Three 6 would use. On the cover for his Ashes 2 Ashes Dust 2 Dust mixtape Tommy can be seen standing in a graveyard with a shovel in his hand as if he’d been out graverobbing and stopped for a quick photo. His track Gangsta Forever is a strong representation of his talents as a rapper and the instrumental is nothing short of spooky.


Criminal Mafia

Criminal Mafia never came anywhere close to the level of modest success that the two previous artists but their Crucifixion mixtape stands out particularly for its totally lo-fi sound. The grainy and dusty sound quality of the tape gives it a very mysterious aesthetic. The songs all sound ancient as if this was a tape that was discovered in the dark woods with nobody knowing it’s origin.

 

Day 5 – Monster Mash by Bobby Pickett

When it comes to Halloween music there’s nothing that’s quite as iconic as Monster Mash. The song is your generic 50s doo-wop dance song but with a totally campy Halloween twist. The lyrics tell a story from a mad scientist’s perspective (Dr. Frankenstein’s most likely) of a monster he created coming to life and dancing “The Monster Mash” a dance that would become a fad amongst all your classic horror monster tropes such as zombies, ghouls, and vampires. The Monster Mash even made Dracula himself jealous as it usurped his dance craze the Transylvania Twist. The production takes the song just a little further with added B-movie horror sound effects spread throughout the track.

There’s nothing deep or ground-breaking about this track but Monster Mash is undeniably just a lot of fun and to this day is still considered by many THE Halloween song.

Day 4 – Bauhaus

Bauhaus are forever remembered as the forefathers of the goth rock genre. Forming in the late 70s alongside the rise of post-punk, Bauhaus would take the sounds emerging at the time and push them into much darker more theatrical realms. Vocalist Peter Murphy’s voice (a sinister baritone) would be mimicked by a huge number of bands following in their footsteps.

The band would release four albums over their initial short career but their debut In the Flat Field would stand out as their best with songs such as Dark Entries being a standout track with its high energy minimalist riff, smutty lyrics and the great backing vocal chant in the second chorus.

Bauhaus are one of those bands who are known for starting out at their peak and deteriorating in quality as they progressed. It’s easy to see why people think this when you take into account their very first single Bela Lugosi’s Dead. The track is an almost 10-minute-long masterpiece.

It starts with the clicking of percussion that is manipulated with delay effects to create bizarre and eerie sounds and then is joined by the bass guitar. The bass plays a very simple creeping bassline that varies subtlety while the guitar slowly starts to join the mix. The song consists of this unsettling instrumental until 2:50 when Murphy’s vocals finally kick in and hen they do it’s completely worth the wait. His baritone voice sings of Bela Lugosi the Hungarian actor whose performance in the 1931 adaption of Dracula would become legendary, particularly for giving birth to the stereotypical accent that Dracula would forever be associated with.

This track is a true goth rock anthem and is probably one of the best songs ever written around vampiric themes. Perfect for Halloween.

 

Day 3 – Dracula’s Music Cabinet by The Vampires of Dartmoore

It’s hard to find much information about this strange band other than they were a German band blending elements of jazz, blues, surf rock and psychedelia and their album Dracula’s Music Cabinet would be there only known release. Despite this, the band would be remembered in some circles as a cult band of freaks who created a soundtrack to a non-existing horror film and would stand out as one of rock music’s best forgotten, spooky gems.

You won’t find this album on youtube but Spotify and Apple music listeners should be able to hear it in all its glory.

Day 2 – T.S.O.L.

T.S.O.L seemingly started as a standard American Hardcore band in the late 70s but their magnum opus would prove to be 1981s Dance With Me. Some found their transition from straight punk into more gothic/deathrock material jarring, but the early blooming of deathrock on this album would make this record standout above a lot of the other hardcore releases at the time.

Tracks such as Code Blue would have vocalist Jack Grisham sing about no longer trying to get off with the girls at school, but instead, Grisham now fantasises about Necrophilia and breaking into the mortuary to enact his morbid fantasies. Silent Scream with its dark post-punk stylings featured lyrics stating, “I’m the cobwebbed stairs, the ancient bones…I’m the demon cowering in the corner”.

The title track Dance With Me stands out as a perfect closing track. The bridge section of the song breaks down into a single note pulsing bass line backed up by chorus drenched minor chords from the guitar. This builds into a climax where the songs main lyrical theme returns:

Dance with me my dear
On a floor of bones and skulls
The music is our master
The devil controls our souls”

Despite half of the album’s songs not quite embracing the spooky vibe of some of the standout tracks on here it’s quite easy to see why Dance With Me can be considered a horror punk classic and an album perfect for Halloween. We’ll leave you with this quote from vocalist Jack Grisham.

Yeah, we dug up some graves, but we dug up graves even before the first record. All that crap, like breaking into mortuaries – we’d done that before. Look at the first TSOL record, it thanks to the church PA – we’d been busting into churches and desecrating the altars. We’d steal the PA and spraypaint the altars.” 

 

Day 1 – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins originally planned on becoming an opera singer, but when that didn’t work out for him he began to sing for blues bands. However, he took a lot of opera’s theatricality into his stage presence which would have him donning crazy stage clothes and macabre props.

His stage performances along with his wild roaring vocal style on the track I Put a Spell on You would have him considered the father of ‘shock rock’ and he would inspire countless artists from Alice Cooper to Marilyn Manson. These days, I Put a Spell on You is considered a Halloween anthem and has been covered by countless artists.

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Now that you’ve got enough music to soundtrack the day, fling your costumes on and go hit up the graveyard and, most of all, Happy Halloween!

 

Ghostemane struggles to keep things lively on ‘N/O/I/S/E’

words fae liam toner (@tonerliam)

With songs like Mercury: Retrograde going viral, Ghostemane‘s spooky aesthetic and rapid-fire flow have made him an artist worth keeping tabs on.rating 5

Over the past few years, the Florida rapper has managed to gather a great deal of attention in the modern trap scene, in no small part due to his sound encompassing influences from industrial to hardcore, all the way to Memphis rap which was all wrapped up in a black metal aesthetic.

His aforementioned popular single came from his 2017 album Plagues and although the album would show a lot of potential for the young artist due to his uniquely dark style, Plagues would still leave much to be desired for. Coming into 2018 and with his newest album N / O / I / S / E,  there was a feeling of cautious optimism that all Ghostemane’s talents and unique qualities could come together and result in something truly great.

Unfortunately,  N / O / I / S / E falls flat throughout most of its runtime with there being one element that seems to be holding Ghostemane back, that being songwriting. His tenth release actually features great production, arguably some of his best, but the bare bones of each track aren’t as fully developed as it could be which is quite a shame.

Many of the tracks are short in length and don’t develop into much else after a couple of verses: the track Flesh starts with Ghostemane’s signature dark ambient styled atmospherics and into a hardcore breakdown section. This intro serves the track well, putting things into full swing, but after only about 30 seconds of the young star actually rapping, the track falls silent and then goes back to hardcore breakdown section before the track fizzles out at a measly 1:19. This track could stand out as one of his best if he took more time to flesh out the track (no pun intended) with another couple of verses or a vocal hook but the track finishes almost as soon as it starts and it comes across as such a missed opportunity.

A fundamental flaw with this record is that while Ghostemane’s blend of genres is very well done, it seems he is too stuck to the traditional hip-hop way of songwriting. A hip-hop track can be based around one sample for the whole track and still be amazing. However, with Ghostemane’s shorter song lengths and minimal rapping on each track, each song struggles to go anywhere properly exciting. This can be seen on the track The Singularity which sees Ghostemane dip his toes into a fully industrial/goth style song which bares obvious similarities to some Nine Inch Nails work. The song is based around a simple four on the floor kick drum beat which goes between Ghostemane’s singing and then the same beat but much more pummelling and distorted. The song is very interesting on first listen but ends in just over two minutes and no change is made in the basic melodic idea or the structure of the song. This again leaves the listener with a dissatisfied feeling and it’s this feeling that carries on throughout most of the album as almost all of the tracks suffer from these same flaws.

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This ultimately makes the album a bit of a slog due to these criticisms being apparent on nearly every song. The instrumental tracks Intro.Desolation, Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and My Heart of Glass all suffer as well, with the latter being based around a simple guitar riff that seems to build up tension in its repetition only for the tension to blend into more industrial noise which leaves the album on an anti-climactic end. However, this is quite a fitting end for an album that left this impression track after track.

Overall N / O / I / S / E proves to be a disappointing release that could have been so much more. This tends to be a common theme through most of Ghostemane’s work and it’s genuinely a bit sad because he really does have a unique and interesting sound going for him – sadly, he fails to deliver something truly special or consistent.

 

 

Album Review: Merzbow & HEXA – Achromatic

words fae liam toner (@tonerliam)rating 8

Recently a friend of mine asked me how people tell the difference between good and bad harsh noise music. A fair question as for non-listeners of the genre a top 10 list of the best noise albums must seem like a list of top 10 TV static screens or a list of top 10 loudest power drills. However, nearly 40 years into his career Japanese noise musician Merzbow has released almost 300 albums where some are considered absolute staples of the genre such as Pulse Demon and Venereology (not to mention his discography with numerous collaborators) whereas many more fall into forgotten obscurity.

This newest album titled Achromatic is another collaboration, this time with the group HEXA. HEXA are an industrial/dark ambient group featuring Jamie Stewart of cult indie experimentalists Xiu Xiu and Lawrence English. HEXA’s most recent output was a sort of soundtracking of David Lynch’s factory photography. The pair created music that was droning and mechanical, creating lifeless soundscapes that perfectly fit Lynch’s photography.

The title Achromatic itself is a good hint of how the album will sound. Western music typically is made up of twelve semitones and is the basis for all our scales and chords. These twelve notes together are known as the chromatic scale. What Merzbow is doing with this title is giving the listener fair warning that what they’re getting into is a piece of music that is devoid of melody and rhythm and is reduced to something that is purely textural and, thanks to HEXA, rather atmospheric.

The album is split into two parts. The first side Merzhex being produced by HEXA and the second half with the track Hexamer was produced by Merzbow. This choice was quite an interesting move as it gives each a distinctive sound and it allows the listener to see how each artist interprets the work. The core of this release is made up of a few elements: the sonic chaos of Merzbow’s feedbacking harsh noise and HEXA’s low droning synthesisers and distant industrial sounds.

Despite being a noise project Achromatic is basked in atmosphere (at times it sounds like field recordings are being used) and it’s this atmosphere that makes the album so interesting. The combination of the two artists sounds complement each other greatly and throughout listening I find myself imagining all sorts of scenes and environments. HEXA’s droning dark ambient elements form the base of the whole sound, creating an atmosphere and giving the music a sense of slow progression. Merzbow’s signature noise elevates the atmosphere to something truly otherworldly, at times it becomes quite hard to even tell the different elements apart as they combine to create a maelstrom of blaring sound. The combination of these sounds gives the album an ice cold and impenetrable vibe.

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Merzhex 2 sounds like being trapped in a huge glacier in the arctic. While trapped inside you can hear the winds batter off the sides and the slow rumbling bass synthesisers imitating the cracking, groaning sound of the glacier moving slowly across the Arctic. Merzhex 3 conjures up the image of a desolate and unforgiving frozen wasteland. H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ came to mind when listening to this track; a story where a group of Antarctic explorers discover a mountain range in a treacherous environment even larger than the Himalayas. In further discovery, they find a mysterious and ancient alien city where the explorers would discover secrets that would lead them to death or utter madness.
Since there is nothing else to go off except from basic titles this album is infinitely interpretative and allows the listeners mind to run free as they are engulfed by the cold sounds of buzzing and cacophonous electronics

Reviewing industrial and harsh noise music can be a fruitless activity. For a start, trying to describe the musical qualities of something devoid of musicality and essentially being a form of anti-music is slightly pointless and honestly, a wee bit daft. Noise also tends to be highly divisive and the idea that some people actively enjoy and even try to review, some would find laughable. To some listeners, the experience can be cathartic and mesmerising but to others, it’s simply one thing: not music, and in a way, they are correct. It would be untrue for me to claim that Achromatic is a brilliantly composed piece of music.

However, what Merzbow and HEXA have released here makes for an engaging listen that also works as a blank canvas to derive your own meaning from. Or maybe you’ll just think it sounds like a big loud pile of nonsense, either way, the combination of each artists sound and the excellent production make this one of the more stands out releases in Merzbow’s gargantuan discography and if you have an open mind then it’s well worth checking out.

Grouper gets lost in its own atmosphere on Grid of Points

words fae liam toner (@tonerliam)

rating 6Liz Harris is an American musician and songwriter who since 2005 has released 12 albums and three EPs through her solo project Grouper. The Grouper sound Harris has crafted over the years has varied from album to album, but on each release, you’ll always find some key elements: reverb washed production, feathery vocal delivery and an overall tone of dreamy melancholy.

Harris’ music often features field recordings and everyday sounds along with tape hiss that gives her music a much more personal quality that a lot of fans have come to love. Her most ambitious project to date is probably her 2007 album A I A: Alien Observer, an ambient drone influenced album with Harris’ signature vocal style on top that creates an otherworldly spacey atmosphere where the listener can easily lose themselves in its dreamy haze.

Grid of Points is Harris’ newest output and clocking in at around 22 minutes the short album has a much more stripped-down approach than some of her other work. Similar to her most recent album Ruins, each song is mostly just Harris’ soft vocals and a piano. The production is atmospheric as usual, with all sounds engulfed in reverb which creates overtones that soar over the mix and add to the ethereal quality of the tracks. Harris will utilise her signature vocal harmony style and you’ll also hear the tape hiss throughout, meaning it has all the key ingredients of a Grouper album.

The first track is a short acapella number which sucks the listener in to the downtrodden mood of Grid of Points and sets the moody tone for the rest of the album. Each track onward just features Liz and her piano. The tracks are slow and sparse, devoid of any flashy musicianship made with the intention of creating atmosphere.

With this comes my issue with the album, however. The stripped-down sound Harris is going for on this release exposes the songs to be very minimal and vague without a strong sense of progression. With all the elements of each track being so understated and washed out it can give the music a lack of substance. The music often falls into the background, leaving the listener to forget about the subtleties of Harris‘ songcraft. Now this would be fine on an ambient record, but on a stripped back solo piano album the understated qualities leave something to be desired. It could be argued that the lack of standout musical features on this release is what makes it good, but it couldn’t have hurt to have chord progressions or themes that are a bit more developed and interesting. All of the songs were said to be written over the course of a week and half, and at times it shows.

Although the music on here can suffer from being a bit sonically reserved, it is far from unenjoyable. Harris’ silky voice is a warm presence that, accompanied with her sparse piano playing, makes for a very pleasant listen. Blouse is a particularly beautiful song that did grab my attention on each listen and probably stands out as the best song on the album. The humming engine sounds at the end of the brief album also add a rather relaxing quality. If anything, this album absolutely delivered on how peaceful it was intended to be.

Grid of Points is an album that, while very pleasant and nice to listen to, doesn’t leave a huge impact and won’t likely be remembered as one of Grouper’s more memorable or ambitious releases. However, will probably be just great for the loyal Grouper fans.

 

Suicidal Tendencies deliver disappointment and boredom in equal measure on new EP ‘Get Your Fight On!’

by liam toner (@tonerliam)rating 3

When first hearing that Suicidal Tendencies were releasing a new EP, the expectation was a collection of mediocre hardcore punk tracks performed by a cast of past-it middle-aged guys; upon listening, it becomes very quickly apparent that not even those expectations have been met.

Suicidal Tendencies’ golden moment in their long tenure came in the form of their 1983 self-titled album which blended sounds from both the early developing thrash metal movement and the sounds and energy of the American hardcore scene to pioneer the sub genre crossover thrash. The band went on to put out a slew of quality releases through the rest of the 80s and gathered a considerable fan base. Going to hardcore shows today you’re still likely to spot somebody with a trucker cap sporting the word ‘Suicidal’ beneath the visor.

The first glaring issue with this EP right off the bat is that this release clocks in at 45 minutes long, which is an absurd length for an EP. This might not have been so bad if 45 minutes of new Suicidal Tendencies was engaging and interesting, but they dropped the ball on that as well. We, the fortunate listeners, are treated to ten tracks. Two of these tracks (#1 and #4) are re-recordings of songs from vocalist Mike Muir’s 90s solo project Cyco Miko, the 6th track is a Stooges’ cover and the last four tracks are all different versions of the same song. This leaves us with three new, original tracks not including the four versions of Get Your Fight On.

The opening track Nothing to Lose is the strongest track on here for sure. It’s a high energy slice of crossover thrash with some really solid riffing and lead guitar work that, on the first listen, raises hopes for the EP actually being not too bad before progressively nose diving as it continues on. The only issue with this particular track, however, was some of the cheesy “let’s go let’s go” backing vocals.

Unfortunately, Nothing to Lose is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cheesy vocals and lyrics. The subsequent two tracks consist mostly of mid-tempo funk rock grooves allowing members of the band to rap over, which lets the cringe-worthy lyrics really shine through. There’s just something inherently silly about a bunch of middle aged guys writing childish lyrics about not taking shit from anyone and hating authority, but you’ll find plenty of that on here. The most cringe-inducing song on the EP is definitely Ain’t Messing Around and although you can see the band were trying to come across as inspiring and free thinking, the result was a lot more unintentionally hilarious than the band would have planned.

When Dave Lombardo’s name appears on the drumming credits for this Suicidal Tendencies release, it’s hard not to get excited to see what he would bring to the table. Lombardo played on all of Slayer’s classic 80s albums where he set the stage for how most drummers in thrash metal would play, as well as solidifying himself as one of the most influential metal drummers of all time. Unfortunately, though, his talents can’t make up for some of the lacklustre songwriting on the EP. As mentioned earlier, the second half of the EP features 4 versions of the same song. Two feature different vocals, while one is just a backing track for a four minute bass solo and the other for an equally long guitar solo. It’s mind boggling to think why the band decided putting all four of these tracks on here would be a good idea. All they do is bore the listener beyond belief and take the EP up to a ridiculous 45 minute run time.

Despite Suicidal Tendencies being a band of very talented musicians, what they have put out here is awfy disappointing – featuring sub par songs, cringe-inducing lyrics and instilling an overall feeling of boredom on the listener.

Album Review: With Doom We Come by Summoning

By Liam Toner  (@tonerliam)rating 8

Summoning are a symphonic/atmospheric black metal band from Austria who, after one traditional 2nd wave style black metal album in 1993, morphed its sound into the synth-heavy epic take on the genre that opted for programmed percussion and stripped back on the guitar riffs to form that signature Summoning sound. With Doom We Come sticks to the usual formula the band has finessed over the years wherein the guitars leave behind an evil and dissonant tremolo picking style of most black metal and opts for more melodic musicianship that functions more as a textural element than anything else. Textural is the key word in describing the band’s sound, as guitars, vocals, and synth after synth are layered on top of minimalist structures creating the long, epic, fantasy-inspired tracks that have become synonymous with the band’s sound.

At this point it feels necessary to put in a disclaimer here as although Summoning’s music can be thought of as majestic, ethereal and heroic, it can also come across as cheesy, campy and downright nerdy (in the best way of course). The band have spent their career making songs about J.R.R.Tolkien’s rich lore-filled back catalogue set in the fantasy world of Middle Earth and generally have more in common with Dungeon Synth than they do with Darkthrone, so bear that in mind.

Tar-Calion opens the album and is an instrumental track that lures you into the cinematic atmospheres that will continue throughout the album. The core sound of the track utilises the harmonic minor scale, which is found in traditional Arabic, Egyptian and Indian music, as well as other Eastern cultures. This scale, when used by Summoning, conjures up images of a mysterious far-off land in the listener’s mind and overall sets the scene for the epic journey to come.

The vocals first come in on the second track Silvertine and coarse and raspy they may be, the vocals come across intelligibly, which benefits the music well as it allows the listener to become immersed in the bands’ images of icy, mountainous landscapes and the realms of Tolkien’s works that so heavily inspire the band. The vocals come off as jarringly strong on the album in general and nearly steal the show on tracks such as Night Fell Behind which is a personal high point on the album as its darker, more melancholy tone gives the track a mystical quality that stands out from the more uplifting atmospheres present on the other tracks.

Summoning tends to keep song structures quite simple and minimal as usual on With Doom We Come, sticking to the same slow tempos throughout each track and not even making many changes with the chord progression in tracks that can last up to 10 minutes long. This would come across as a demerit to the band’s sound if they weren’t so adept at letting different instruments come and go to keep the songs’ energy moving. The band will break at times and just let the synths play to give the long tracks some breathing room before the rest of the instrumentation joins in again. Other times, immaculate choir singing will be introduced and grasp your attention again. On Carcharoth, Summoning employs a very uncharacteristic technique for them in the form of a grandiose key change that takes place halfway through the song and lifts the track to even more fantastical heights.

The production on With Doom We Come is a lot warmer than the tinnier sound you would find on the bands earlier releases. And although raw lo-fi textures have always better suited the genre of black metal, the rich, spacious production fits Summoning’s own aesthetic far better and allows the lush layers of synthesisers to shine through the mix.

With Doom We Come clocks in at around 1 hour and 5 minutes, which you might be inclined to think is perhaps a wee bit too long. However, you’ll likely find yourself able to sit through it all without growing bored. Plus, each track is so crucial to the album’s overall sound that removing any songs from the tracklist would severely detract from the album, as each track stands out well on its own.

Summoning manages to bring a great level of quality on this album despite the fact that you could argue that they’ve been releasing essentially the same album again and again over the years. But this just goes to show how timeless their nostalgic, medieval sound is, and will probably continue to be.  If you’ve never heard a Summoning album before and you are prepared to embrace the goofy fantasy elements of black metal, then With Doom We Come wouldn’t be a bad place to start.