ALBUM REVIEW: Two Fingers In A V by Wasabi Fire Alarm

3000_pxls.jpg

https://www.wasabi-fire-alarm.com/

Wasabi Fire Alarm are a band hailing from York, England with quite a unique history and formation. They formed in 2017 when vocalist Sue Egypt (a moniker inspired by the Captain Beefheart track) decided it would be fun to form a band at a Musication course, which inspires ‘recovery through music’ for people with major life issues including homelessness, addiction and mental health difficulties.

This resulted in their first incarnation as Resistance. One early band member, Sin Bad, had made the news in his own right, from living in a tent next to a main road, captured in the song A Dying Man Lies Homeless. When Sin Bad left to pursue his own career, the remaining members formed Wasabi Fire Alarm in March 2018.

The title track begins the album, which I gave a glowing review to a few months back. It’s the perfect introduction to the Wasabi Fire Alarm sound and style. Fundamentally, they belong in a lineage of alternative/post-punk groups like cited influences Pere Ubu, Siouxsie Sioux and Portishead, along with rock/metal bands like Deftones, Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine.

You can also hear elements from diverse artists such as Captain Beefheart, Public Image Ltd., Elastica, Wire, and Slint to name but a few. On paper, it might sound difficult to imagine how a group could combine these disparate influences into a cohesive sound but Wasabi Fire Alarm pull it off with aplomb, forging their own unique oeuvre in the process.

Two Fingers In A V captures their signature strengths; Sue Egypt’s emotionally honest, often troubled lyrics and naturally melodic voice combine with the band’s taut, muscular musicianship. Wiry, precise guitar lines interweave over a tight, solid rhythm section and aggressive male backing vocals provide further contrast and variety. Lyrically, this song is a classic outsider’s anthem that many will relate to.

New Start is another honest lyric about trying to face the future positively, but struggling with memories of past experiences. Built on a foundation of chugging, crunchy guitar, moody bassline and a focused, circular drum pattern, Sue Egypt delivers a nuanced and emotive vocal performance, singing words that many will relate to: “The art of the easy smile is mine, in the bag, got it covered…even if life, again and again, turns out the same as it was before…”.

Third track 5&4 opens with haunting, saturnine piano that forms a bedrock for the song, which incidentally is in 5/4 time. This gives it a subtle feeling of displacement, as if the ground is constantly shifting under your feet. The beat is pure drum ‘n bass which is both unexpected, yet consistent with this group’s musical versatility. The lyrics have a disjointed, abstract quality which fits with the dislocated rhythm, bringing to mind William Burrough’s technique of cutting up words to create original phrases.

The following Numb is much more lyrically and musically direct: “System shut down, shutters in place and I am not facing this anytime soon…”. Starting off with a brooding, restrained verse, it explodes into an angular, dissonant but thrilling chorus with anguished male vocals (by D.Ni.L who I also reviewed) taking precedence. It’s a rollercoaster ride through emotional neurasthenia.

Endured is another brutally heartfelt song, this one a contemplation about being a survivor when others have fallen by the wayside: “The years are a barrier to the abyss, but there’s nothing there, no signpost of rulebook, just a belief we will endure…”. Musically, it’s another contrast with a lilting 6/8 rhythm and blends melody with restrained aggression in a powerful way.

Self Doubt is the epic of the album at five minutes and is perhaps their essence distilled. Based around a dark, skeletal riff that Slipknot would be happy to have written, it develops into an intriguing fusion of dissonant post-punk and modern metal with Sue Egypt bringing the whole track into cohesion with another insightful lyric about battling one’s inner demons: “My dark hour of the soul – the same time as it always is….”.

Not The Whole Truth (Twisted Dream) explores the dysfunctional relationship between a woman and an addict lover. Whether autobiographical or not, it’s a gripping narrative with a perspicacious perspective on this affair and relationships generally: “I loved the image of you in my head, you loved a version of me projected just for you…”. Special credit should go to the driving bassline on this, though this applies throughout, along with some superb drumming.

Eighth track Control is a masterclass in building musical tension. Built on a fraught, repeating guitar figure, Sue Egypt lays out a defiant stance about not allowing herself to be pushed around: “I will not ever be controlled, and will slip and slide even when the game is up….”. Shake That Bunny Tail is a nice contrast with a lighter tone, and one of the more traditional song structures on the album. It’s a positive song about being yourself despite personal hang-ups, with a superb vocal arrangement featuring lush harmonies.

The closing song Wrong is the closest thing Wasabi Fire Alarm come to a piano ballad, with a musical backdrop of nuance and subtlety. But rather than the insipid sentimentality of much chart music, it’s a poignant reflection on the difficulty of human relations, dealing with criticism and wanting to be the best person you can be for someone: “My biggest fear is letting you down…”. Aptly, after an album of such unflinching self-examination, the last lines show resolution through self acceptance: “What a lucky thing it is that I am happy with what and who I am….”.

Overall, this is another classic album to emerge from the Musication camp. Instrumentally, they are a very tight unit and Wasabi Fire Alarm are able to traverse disparate genres with consummate ease whilst remaining cohesive. In Sue Egypt, they have a unique vocalist and lyricist; astute, unflinchingly brave and emotionally open. With their forces combined, they make music that is vital and hugely relevant to our turbulent times. Two Fingers In A V is the sound of authenticity and I only hope it gets the widespread acclaim it deserves.

 

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen to the album HERE

Advertisements

ALBUM REVIEW: Boy. Inside by D.Ni.L.

Front___Back0_2.jpg

https://www.d-ni-l.com/

D.Ni.L. is a 34 year old hip hop artist, musician, producer and Emcee hailing from Yorkshire. Having played with bands growing up in York, he developed the ability to compose in his head and play by ear. He has battled alcohol and drug addiction since the age of twelve, and spent four years living in hostels and sleeping rough.

These tough life experiences give his music an edge and intensity, and his record label Musication specifically uses music as a tool for recovery for people who face issues like homelessness and addiction. This has led to collaborations with Buttercream 87 and Wasabi Fire Alarm, as part of the band. As a solo artist he released two albums in 2017, This In’t A Party and the more guitar-influenced Suicide In Sips.

He regards Deftones and early Manic Street Preachers as his inspirations, and these rock influences are apparent on the compelling opening track Glue which blends heavy rock riffage and rock drums with hip hop beats. D.Ni.L has a fiercely arresting vocal delivery and this gets the album off to an incendiary start.

Summer Fool is where his music starts to get seriously clever, employing a Deftones-style 14/8 compound time signature which, put simply, means it’s hard to dance to. This music isn’t for the dancefloor, however, but for the moshpit. A pulverising, intense low-end guitar riff and crisp, punchy drums drive the momentum of this track. Lyrically, it’s a masterclass in barely restrained fury, about a beef with someone he has issues with: “You’ve got another thing coming if you think I’m taking this lying down, you might be a step ahead, but I’m not in the ring…”.

Gutted is another good example of how he fuses different styles of rock together, combining punchy, aggressive riffage with sections containing memorably melodic and anthemic vocal lines. There’s more rhythmic inventiveness and you can hear the influence of American metal/hard rock along with British rock groups like Muse and the Manics.

Indeed, the excellent Safe To Say, is driven along by a superb Muse-esque distorted guitar riff. This one is slightly mellower than the previous tense trifecta, but still packs plenty of punch with D.Ni.L. delivering a memorable vocal refrain that will be sung back at him by the thousands one day, if there’s any justice: “Safe to say, I won’t be back here anymore…”. It’s inspiring how he takes negative emotions and turns them into something cathartic and somehow uplifting, this song about a relationship gone sour being the perfect example.

As the album progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that D.Ni.L. has an almost uncanny mastery of dynamics and contrast. He cleverly juxtaposes the angular and dissonant with the melodic and gentle, and has an understanding of rhythm and complex time signatures that’s on the level of a progressive/math rock band like Tool. It takes quite a talent and musical vision to successfully converge such disparate elements in a seamless and uncontrived fashion.

The following Without You is an unexpected change of pace. Starting with just a melancholic jazzy chord progression on guitar and a gentle, languid vocal melody, it then bursts into his signature sound of barbed wire guitars and blistering rapping. The dynamic contrast is startling and highly effective. It’s a genuinely remarkable gift to be able to switch from a sweet R&B style croon to a ferocious rap style, and Plan B managed that in the past, but D.Ni.L. takes these contrasts to the next level.

Onions racks up the tension once again, with a brooding, twitchy verse composed of off-kilter rhythms and very smart use of syncopation. Over this sophisticated, ever evolving musical backdrop, D.Ni.L. expresses brutal honesty, asking a question that all those who have suffered from inequality ask: “How come you got apples and I got onions….”. A very relevant song for the times.

Eager Eyes is one of the more sombre tracks here, with an almost hazy, drugged out vibe. His vocals on this are almost angelic, then you realize he’s singing, “I wouldn’t mind if you laced my tea with cyanide...”. You don’t really hear lines like that in the Top 40 too often….a haunting, beautiful but very troubled song.

Next comes the title track, entering with a series of brooding, edgy guitar riffs and it’s another brutally honest expression of deep pain caused by someone in the past: “All the things that you told me were hurt and to scold me…. master manipulator, ego masturbator, I’m sayin’ see ya later with you…”. It’s the crux of the album emotionally, reflecting the struggle of his life and the problems he’s had to overcome. Gripping stuff.

The momentum continues into August, which shows once more his Manic Street Preachers influence with a very James Dean Bradfield-style falsetto vocal melody. Musically, it is harder to define with some fiendishly complex sections featuring rapidly changing time signatures. In Jars continues the rhythmic sophistication, with some addictive instrumental passages based around a sinewy, swirling guitar riff and intricate drum patterns. While sometimes the vocal melodies are reminiscent of the Manic’s Gold Against The Soul era, this track is more similar to the wiry, apocalyptic intensity of their classic album The Holy Bible.

The final track Gone Away is the album’s epic and a suitably ambitious way to finish at over seven minutes long. It somehow manages to balance raw metal guitar with soaring vocal refrains sung at the top of his impressive range. It’s one of the most memorable and straightforward choruses on the album, one to sing along to while getting crushed in the moshpit. The last three minutes of the track then develop into a blazing instrumental section which acts as a fittingly cinematic coda for the album as it fades out to silence.

Overall, D.Ni.L can lay claim to have made one of the best British rock fusion albums in recent years. The combination of raw, edgy emotional lyrical expression with precise control and understanding of his chosen forms of music make for a potent meld. And when you add his talent as an Emcee into the mix you realize this is a versatile and highly gifted artist bringing rock/metal and hip hop into the 21st century. He has the potential to appeal to rock and hip hop fans across the board, and this album is recommended to anyone looking for new music that’s both real and original.

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10  

Alex Faulkner

Listen to 3 tracks here:

Listen to the whole album HERE


 

SINGLE REVIEW: Glue by D.Ni.L.

D_ni_L_Cover-660x400

D.Ni.L. is a 33 year old hip hop artist, musician, producer and Emcee hailing from Yorkshire. Having played with bands growing up in York, he developed the ability to compose in his head and play by ear. He has battled alcohol and drug addiction since the age of twelve, and spent four years living in hostels and sleeping rough. These tough life experiences give his music an edge and intensity, and his record label Musication specifically uses music as a tool for recovery for people who face issues like homelessness and addiction.

This has led to collaborations with Buttercream 87 and Wasabi Fire Alarm as part of the band (who I recently reviewed). As a solo artist he released two albums in 2017, This In’t A Party and the more guitar influenced Suicide In Sips. He regards Deftones and early Manic Street Preachers as his inspirations, and these rock influences are apparent on this single Glue. It’s the first track to be taken from his EP The Boy Inside.

D.Ni.L. has an intense and direct lyrical and rapping style that gives his music a force which brought to mind hip hop rapper/singer Plan B, who also mixed hip hop with rock on hit songs like Stay Too Long and Prayin’. While Plan B certainly keeps it real, D.Ni.L. has an edgier sound, with hard hitting guitars reminiscent of Royal Blood combined with atmospheric synths, providing the perfect backdrop for his rhymes.

Lyrically, it’s a celebration of his increased creativity after achieving abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Over a brilliant guitar riff that Muse would be happy to call their own, D.Ni.L. bares his soul with admirable honesty: “Gonna be someone I’m proud of when I’m older, I might not have the uniform but I’m still a soldier”. It’s that stoic and positive attitude that defines D.Ni.L. as an important role model, particularly for those who have faced major issues in life.

Overall, this is a hugely inspiring fusion of hip hop and rock that shows how personal struggle and overcoming problems can result in creating art that has an emotional power and vitality lacking from most of what you will hear in the mainstream. D.Ni.L. is a hugely talented rapper and musician, injecting new creative energy into an art form that is having more influence and success than ever. D.Ni.L deserves to share in that success and this brilliant track should open many doors.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Two Fingers In A V by Wasabi Fire Alarm

29791860_352996851886192_1844206269500699760_n

https://www.wasabi-fire-alarm.com/

Wasabi Fire Alarm are a band hailing from York, England with quite a unique history and formation. They formed in 2017 when vocalist Sue Egypt (a moniker inspired by the Captain Beefheart track) decided it would be fun to form a band at a Musication course, which inspires ‘recovery through music’ for people with major life issues including homelessness, addiction and mental health difficulties.

This resulted in their first incarnation as Resistance. One early band member, Sin Bad, had made the news in his own right, from living in a tent next to a main road, captured in the song A Dying Man Lies Homeless. When Sin Bad left to pursue his own career, the remaining members formed Wasibi Fire Alarm in March 2018, and this song is from a mini album of the same name, released in May 2018.

The song combines their influences of experimental rock such as Slint, Pere Ubu and Captain Beefheart with heavier influences such as Deftones and Rage Against The Machine. Rhythm section Mike and AI (drums and bass respectively) form a solid platform and funky groove for Neil (The Offender) to overlay funk and rock/metal guitar to great effect.

Vocally, Sue Egypt is reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux, Gwen Stefani and Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, delivering a performance full of barbed spirit. The song is about not fitting in and teenage rebellion, highlighting the importance of maintaining this rebellious spirit in life. Lyrically, it brought to mind the edginess and outspoken style of John Lydon: “Last girl standing, and I’ve still got something to say….I am not part of this, I spit on your fashion and popular culture and your small talk and your fake concern…”.

Overall, this is a superb track from a band fizzing with musical and lyrical ideas, fusing their eclectic influences in a way to form a genuinely original hybrid. For fans of experimental rock and indie, I highly recommend adding Wasabi Fire Alarm to your collection and I look forward to future releases.

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

E.P. REVIEW: Closer To Reality by Room 24

Room24__Andy_Cooper__Michael_Cooper_James_Caton http://www.room24band.com/

Room 24 are a three-piece alternative rock band from hailing from Austin, Texas. They have been voted among the Top Ten Best U18 Bands in the Austin Chronicle’s Austin Music Awards poll for the past 2 years and won the 7th annual Jam Fest 2014. The bands consists of guitarist/vocalist Andy Cooper, bassist James Caton and drummer/vocalist Michael Cooper.

They cite their main influences as Incubus, Deftones and Foo Fighters, but consider their music is best described as “melodic alternative rock”. They have similarities to the 80’s rock band Husker Du, in that they are a 3-piece and both the drummer and guitarist share lead vocal duties. This EP, Closer To Reality, was produced and engineered by the noted producer Tim Gerron, due for release on September 26, 2015.

Consisting of four tracks, it gets off to a strong start with opening song Gravity and Reality. It’s driven along by a pulsing lead guitar riff, thick low-end chords and a complex, syncopated drum pattern over which Michael Cooper delivers a powerful performance in the upper part of his range. The bridge has a see-saw riff that brought to mind Nirvana’s classic Scentless Apprentice. The chorus is anthemic, though with opaque lyrics: “Where would you go? How would you know?“. There is a short section in 7/8 time after the second chorus, which shows the influence of bands like Tool and breaks up the rhythm effectively.

Second track Out There has a similar drum beat, though the guitar riffs are more rock than metal on this one, bringing to mind Foo Fighters. As with the first track, the band display an excellent understanding of dynamics and rhythmic control, which keeps the music gripping throughout. Room 24 do not write obvious choruses that get old after a couple of listens, but seduce the listener gradually with deceptively addictive vocal and instrumental melodies. This is the case here, with the outro featuring some effective backing vocals.

Third track Clone begins with an eerie, haunting guitar figure drenched in delay, a precursor to the brooding verse with Michael Cooper singing in a lower range. It has one of the most immediate vocal hooks on the EP, which latches in your head straight away: “There is no need for another clone, though it’s just unknown…”. It has another interesting instrumental section after the second chorus and this quietly epic song makes a case for maybe even being the lead track from the EP.

Fourth and final track Parade again features a brooding, minor key lead guitar figure though this song is set at a faster tempo, however. Guitarist Andy Cooper takes lead vocals on this one, and does a fine job. It builds from a quiet verse to perhaps the biggest, most anthemic chorus of the four here and the dynamic created from a low to high vocal melody is also effective. Unexpectedly, for modern alternative rock, it breaks into a highly enjoyable wah-wah drenched lead guitar solo that shows their rock/metal influences.

Overall, this is a very well written, performed and produced EP that displays a musical maturity above and beyond what you’d expect for a band their age. They have transcended their influences and landed on their own style, taking the aspects of rock/metal that they love and melding them with the songwriting style of Alt. Rock. A consistently excellent EP.
 

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.7 out of 10