E.P. REVIEW: Once Upon A Scary Night by Robin B. Czar

Robin B. Czar - Once Upon a Scary Night - EP Cover

http://www.rbczar.co.uk/

Robin B. Czar is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who is German but currently resides in Canterbury, England. He has developed a cult fan base owing to his unique sound; it is a fascinating fusion of old school hard rock/metal like Black Sabbath, with more modern influences such as Marilyn Manson and HIM. Vocally, he has an immediately distinctive tone reminiscent of David Bowie and Buzzcocks singer Howard Devoto.

He has released three albums, Nachtgesange, Kiss from The Abyss and Mission Bizarre, which I reviewed a couple of years back. This E.P., Once Upon A Scary Night, consists of three tracks which form a ‘trilogy about a fictional character’ who goes through an emotional journey portrayed across one night that resolves the next day. For the fans who love his established sound, they will be pleased to know it retains the virtuoso musicianship, darkly humorous lyrics and ambitious, sophisticated arrangements that have become his trademarks.

Opening track Candle In The Rain begins in a blaze of Avenged Sevenfold-esque guitar pyrotechnics, displaying Robin’s incredibly fluent style, grabbing the listener’s attention immediately with a swirling riff that he harmonizes to great effect. The first verse depicts a life of misery over a sparse musical backing: “Another endless day has passed, another sleepless night begins.…”. The bridge/pre chorus bursts out of the speakers in a blaze of guitars and syncopated rhythms, the lyrics even darker: “The torture never stops, its like a nightmare without waking up…”.

Then the gloom is relieved by the instantly catchy title hook which refers to the fleeting and fragile nature of life: “Like a candle in the rain, everything’s vain in the end….”. After the second chorus there is an excellent instrumental passage, first with a short half time section featuring beefy, low-end riffage before launching into a fantastic solo, again featuring Bat Country-style duel guitar harmonies, then one last chorus.

Second song Until The Morning Breaks is a complete contrast musically, but carries on the nocturnal theme. This one is a brooding, intense epic rock ballad which starts with a lilting piano motif before a sparse but effective beat kicks in and Robin portrays a bleak, gothic scene: “The raging wind’s outside… the winter storm, it howls, it’s banging at the door….ghosts from forgotten graves come to you in need….”.

It builds gradually in intensity across the duration of the track, with atmospheric synths and subtle lead guitar work adding to the texture. The central theme of the ‘dark night of the soul’ is captured in another memorable chorus: “In sombre silence you sit in here and wait…until the morning breaks….”. After the second chorus there is an instrumental section with a concise, well structured solo played in octaves. It ends poignantly with the return of the piano phrase.

The final track Kill Everybody, is again in strong contrast to the previous song, this one hurtling along at a hectic pace, though not quite what you’d classify as speed metal. It shows Robin’s macabre sense of humour for the first time on the E.P., with a scenario in the lyrics reminiscent of the film Falling Down, about a man who cracks from stress and starts taking revenge on whoever has slightly wronged him.

Robin clearly has his tongue in his cheek as he sings: “Now is the girl who gave the wrong change, now it’s too late for mercy or tears….”. It leads to the joyously delivered chorus hook: “Kill everybody! Now it’s payback time….”. After the second chorus, Robin wrong foots the listener once more, reducing the tempo drastically for a build up section that airs grievances in a humorous fashion: “They do the same job, but get paid a bonus on top….”. Then ensues a return to the machine gun kick drums of the first half of the song, Robin delivering the best guitar solo of all, performed with a mellifluous, silky tone to bring things to a satisfying musical climax.

Overall, this is an excellent E.P. that’s works as a complete whole rather than just a collection of separate songs based around a lead single, as is usually the case. Robin B. Czar can lay claim to a genuinely original sound and style, melding rock (classic, prog, and industrial) with elements of heavy metal, then throwing quirky, eccentric lyrical themes shot through with Gothic black humour into the mix. It all adds up to an entertaining sonic concoction and this E.P. raises the bar even higher in the context of his previous work. Rock/metal fans looking for something a little left of field are implored to give him a listen!

 

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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E.P. REVIEW: You Find Out On Your Own by Michael Reddington

RED

 

Michael Reddington is a singer songwriter hailing from Nottingham who initially had his sights set on being a sound engineer, which for a while he achieved when working at the venue Stealth, where he worked with Bastille and Shy FX. However, an escalator accident ripped off his big toe, leaving him bed ridden for three months. He turned to music to get through, and began his songwriting journey which has led to this EP.

His music is essentially well crafted pop/rock in the great British tradition and you can hear myriad influences in these three songs, from The Beatles to The Smiths, though he also cites American songwriters like Neil Young, Ryan Adams and Tom Petty. His lyrics are very much rooted in the struggles of everyday life.

Opening song You Find Out On Your Own is an excellent start, a mid paced piece of guitar pop that has a nice Beatles-esque lead guitar line, warm pulsing bass, subtle piano and rich organ filling out the sound. It alternates between a lilting 4/4 rhythm on the intro and verse then switches to 2/4 on the bridge/chorus which injects momentum into the music.

Lyrically, it’s strong, a rumination on figuring things out through your own life experiences rather than accepting what others say: “I’ve been keep on making my own rules, avoiding fools…they don’t teach you any of this in school, I guess you find out on your own…”. His vocals are very good, comfortable singing in a high range and the whole song is catchy and memorable while avoiding anything predictable.

Monotony Lobotomy is slightly faster paced and in 4/4 throughout, lyrically a melancholy tale of frustration through being stuck in a humdrum situation and longing for a chance to escape, though still with a ray of hope for the future (“Just one chance and they’ll be no stopping me….”). The vocal melody and main hook are haunting, expressing the weariness of the lyrics perfectly.

Final track Uniform is a slow paced acoustic track, and lyrically takes an acerbic look at those to conform rather than show any individuality: “You’re a nancy of a man, got to do for them all you can…in uniform“. It’s another very melodic and memorable song, augmented by some lovely strings as the track progresses.

Overall, this is an excellent EP that shows Michael Reddington as a quality songwriter both musically and lyrically, with a fine gift for melody and a voice that is both distinctive and easy on the ear. While it’s hard these days for a songwriter to break through, he has everything it takes and I look forward to hearing a whole album from him.

 

Alex Faulkner (The Faulkner Review)

 

VERDICT: 8.9 out of 10

E.P. REVIEW: Balloons by Dechard

Dj_Dechard

 

E.P. REVIEW: Pompadour by Kenny Flame

KENNY

http://kennyfame.bandcamp.com/album/pompadour

Kenny Flame is an American alternative R&B musician from Harlem, New York. He is known for his eclectic sound mixing soul, spoken and folk. His career began in 2010 when he won the 10th Annual National Black Writers Conference Writing Contest for poetry. Since then, he has won various awards for his music and had five number ones on internet radio, including the smash hit Julie.

This five track EP was inspired by the 1950’s era and this is reflected in the music and such artists as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Chet Baker and Jackie Wilson, amongst others. There is a soul/jazz element to all the songs here which he wrote himself, except for a cover of Adele’s Hometown Glory.

Opening track Oh What A Night is built around a skeletal guitar lick that brought to mind Michael Jackson’s Black or White, though the musical similarities end there.
Kenny has a fine voice for this kind of material and this mellow song has a distinct charm and emotional warmth missing from much of modern music.

City Lights is more upbeat, a 50’s style rock n roll song with a swinging beat and a real feel good vibe. There is also a country element to the guitar lines that weave in and out throughout, and played in the way you’d hear on early Elvis records. The vocal melody is very catchy and makes for a very enjoyable listen.

Friends is absolutely lovely; just vocals, dreamy reverb drenched guitar and vibraphone, though my only slight criticism would be his voice is a little low in the mix on this one. He maintains a similar style for a nice reinterpretation of Adele’s Hometown Glory but the closing Stay (For Jazz) is a real highlight and perhaps the best song here. The lyrics are emotional and fiercely honest (“My awkwardness leaves me insecure…”) which adds to the touching poignancy, sung over a beautiful jazzy chord progression.

Overall, a very accomplished EP that showcases Kenny Fame’s versatile talents as a singer and songwriter and should enhance his reputation and fanbase further.

 

Alex Faulkner

 

VERDICT: 8.3 out of 10

E.P. REVIEW: Madelyn Victoria by Madelyn Victoria

MAD

Madelyn Victoria is a country singer and songwriter hailing from Deep South Texas. She began singing and performing from an early age, entering talent competitions and earning awards. At thirteen, she became lead singer for her church and started writing songs. She now performs with her band around Texas and has shared the stage with Easton Corbin, Turnpike Troubadours, Clay Walker and many others.

This eponymous five track EP is a great representation of her talents. She writes country songs in the classic style but with modern production to bring it up to date. Opening track Hold On is a fine start, starting with a picked guitar intro and progressing into an upbeat country rock song aided by fiddle and slide guitar. She has an excellent voice, comparable to Shania Twain and Miranda Lambert, truly shining on the memorable chorus. This would make the perfect choice as a single.

Breaking My Heart has more of a swinging feel, with a nice rolling bassline and another fine vocal performance from Madelyn. The song is nicely constructed with some gorgeous flourishes of slide guitar, especially the solo towards the end. Lyrically, it’s about a relationship that is causing pain and needs to end despite the strong attraction and desire: “Oh no, now they’re playing our song, should we dance, take one last chance and let it burn all night long?”.

He Only Loves Me On The Dancefloor is slower paced and is again about the lure of a relationship based on not much more than physical attraction. The chorus to this song is particularly memorable, latching in your mind on the first listen, marking it out as another potential single.

Wild Ride is a great contrast, a fast paced country rocker that seems designed for a hoedown on the dancefloor. Madelyn gives a feisty performance on this party song that is guaranteed to uplift your mood. It’s another catchy chorus and the half time section works well. Final track Sand In A Bottle is a nice mellow song to close with, featuring both guitar and fiddle solos, plus lovely picked acoustic guitar as the song fades out.

Overall, this is an extremely impressive EP from a very gifted singer/songwriter who has everything it takes to hit the big time. With an excellent band behind her, flawless production and most importantly, great songs, her star is surely on the ascendance.

 

Alex Faulkner

 

VERDICT: 9 out of 10

E.P. REVIEW: Living In A World by Machine Modified

MACHINEhttp://www.machinemodified.com

Machine Modified are a three piece alternative hard rock/metal band hailing from Alberta, Calgary in Canada. They consist of vocalist/guitarist Matt M. Mattie, bassist Steve Dean and drummer/backing vocalist Jake Webb. They cite their influences as Nirvana, Breaking Benjamin, Silverchair and Bush amongst others. I would describe their sound as mixing 90’s style grunge rock with more metal elements, always with a focus on the song overall.

This six track EP Living In A World is their debut release and a great introduction to their music. Opening track Kingdom Under Fire gets this off to a blistering start, one of the heavier, more metal tracks on the EP. After a powerful intro, the music is propelled forward by a diamond cutter metal riff which turns into pure power chords guaranteed to get your head banging.

Matt M. Mattie has the right voice for this kind of material, somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Josh Homme from Queens of The Stone Age. As with any self respecting metal track, there is a lengthy scream towards the end which adds to the impact. I Am Gone maintains the same metal elements but has more focus on the vocal melody plus Jake Webb’s aggressive and exciting drumming is also more to the fore.

Earthquake is a great highlight of the EP with apocalyptic, other worldly lyrics and a powerful chorus: “This earthquake, this volcano, this planet Earth world as they know…”. It is particularly strong when backed up by harmonies, reminiscent of how Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl combined for Nirvana. This track also brought to mind the similarly epic Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden, more in terms of vibe than musical similarity.

Shook The Pain is a distinct contrast and a fine track, the lightest track in terms of sound. It features acoustic guitar and showing their ability to craft well structured songs. It’s about dealing with suffering, captured by the melodic memorable chorus which effectively switches to their heavier sound: “I shook the pain, and I took the blame and I watched as it faded all away….”. A nice showcase for Mattie’s expressive vocals and the concise solo works well.
She’s My again balances metal and rock structure to great effect, the rolling guitar chords slightly reminiscent of Blew from Nirvana’s first album Bleach. As the title implies, it’s about a girl, though this is lyrically probably the simplest here. Last but not least is the title track, which is much more profound. Starting out with a heavy vocal sample, the lyrics explore the overall effects of religion and intolerance in society: “Living in a world, hate is the way…we tend to tell lies, what the devil taught them to say…”. It ends with a haunting string outro to close an excellent EP.

Overall, this is a very impressive debut release from a band who have clearly honed their craft and forged their own style through the combination of various metal and rock influences.  There’s room for a higher quality of production that might help them commercially, but there’s no arguing with the quality of the songs. It’s great to know that good rock music is still being made and I look forward to hearing their first full album.

Alex Faulkner

 

VERDICT: 8.4 out of 10

EP REVIEW: Rome Will Burn

ROME https://www.reverbnation.com/romewillburn/songs

Rome Will Burn are an electronic/pop duo hailing from Los Angeles. They consist of vocalist/songwriter Alyssa Suede and DJ/violinist Manifesto. Alyssa is the sister of Beck, and their father David Campbell acts as producer/arranger on this EP. After leaving drama school to pursue music, Alyssa became a guitarist and achieved success as a singer/songwriter, appearing at SXSW and Sundance as well as winning awards for her videos to Falling From Mars and Hollow (3D).

Manifesto started out in the classical world, studying violin as a child and gaining international renown performing to audiences around the world. He decided on a different path eventually, becoming a trance/progressive DJ whilst incorporating the electric violin. After becoming popular on the underground scene, he became a producer and collaborated with Seal, Benny Benassi and Paul Van Dyk amongst many others.

They formed in 2013 and this EP is their debut release. First track Chameleon is a strong example of their musical style. It’s a mid paced pop/electronica track with Manifesto’s Gypsy violin playing incorporated throughout to give it a unique sonic flavour. This is combined with synths and percussion, handclaps providing a four to the floor pulse which becomes a kick drum on the second verse.

Alyssa has a powerful, distinctive voice that is slightly reminiscent of Sia and grabs you immediately. The song is about a two faced character who she finds difficult to resist nonetheless: “Guess I like playing with danger, till you go and change your colours again…”.

The verse bursts into an anthemic chorus that lodges in the memory instantly: “You spin me round and I don’t know where to go…”. It works excellently as a commercial pop track for radio and would also go down well in the clubs, as I’m sure was intended.

These Three Words is another finely crafted track that uses a similar quiet verse/big chorus structure, though this is more mellow and romantic. It features another superb vocal performance from Alyssa, who shows her large vocal range on the sky-scraping chorus. The lyrical hook is simple effective “I love you, I do…you came into my life as soft as a butterfly…”. It’s such a strong chorus that it is another potential single.

Waging Romance starts out in a way similar to Chameleon, with a haunting violin melody interweaving with Alyssa’s vocal. Then the pulsing beat develops into a full dance groove on yet another memorable chorus, which gives the track a big lift. After the second chorus there is a violin solo which provides an unexpected contrast and works well. Rome Will Burn have a real gift for consistently great pop hooks and this is another one.

Live By The Beat continues the high quality, and this electro-dance/pop track seems particularly suited to the dancefloor with a pounding kick drum. This is the kind of song Lady Gaga would kill for, and I’d be surprised if these songs aren’t on their debut album, as they are simply too good for just an EP.

Body Language is the most musically diverse track here, starting out electro dance with a see-saw synth riff that draws you in, then morphing into a funk guitar section with Alyssa laying down an unpredictable but highly effective vocal melody. Another violin section combined with vocoder and spoken word elements thrown into the mix further add to the heady brew, all held together by the addictive “Work that body language…” chorus hook. This one is a lot to take in on first listen, but acts as a real grower.

Overall, this is a fantastic debut release from a pop/dance duo who have carefully cultivated and developed their sound in the studio and are already the ‘finished article’. The combination of Alyssa Suede’s voice and Manifesto’s Gypsy/classical influence makes for a unique sound that will help them stand apart from the crowd. Several of these tracks would make excellent singles, and Alyssa being Beck’s sister will not hurt in terms of publicity! No nepotism is necessary though, Rome Will Burn stand out as a musical force to be reckoned with and you’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the future.

 

Alex Faulkner

 

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10