E.P. REVIEW: Entertainment by Isaac Grinsdale

Entertainment Cover

https://isaacgrinsdale.com/

Isaac Grinsdale is an acoustic/alternative rock singer and songwriter hailing from Leeds, England. Having been in numerous rock and hardcore bands, he gradually developed towards being an autonomous solo artist, including producing his own material.

His music combines the singer/songwriter style of an artist like Frank Turner, with musical elements taken from a wide range of alternative rock bands, from Jimmy Eat World to Radiohead. He has already supported artists such as Andy Mckee, Jon Gomm, Nick Harper and  Beth Orton, as we as having completed a 30-date tour of northern England.

This EP, Entertainment, contains four tracks and makes the perfect showcase for Isaac’s accessible yet idiosyncratic style. The first song, The Blind Leading The Blind, is an arresting opener. The lyrics address the parlous state of British politics in poetic style. Starting with brooding acoustic guitar and contrasted by melodic high end electric guitar lines, Isaac’s distinctive voice soon captures the attention.

He has a vocal style reminiscent of the lead singers in bands like Jimmy Eat World and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and the 7/4 time signature gives a gripping urgency to the music which fits with the words. Lyrically, he paints a bleak dystopian picture of political corruption and deception: “The suits fail to hide the facade and their words fail in their intended charm…and it all sounds so bizarre, like a lexicon based on Orwell’s Newspeak…”. A powerful and apposite song that will resonate with many.

Next comes the title track, and Entertainment is another sophisticated and accomplished piece of songwriting that juggles complex time signatures on the verses with a more straightforward and anthemic chorus section. Isaac shows what an excellent all-round musician he is, the drumming on this song particularly impressive. Lyrically, the song was inspired by a book called The Society of The Spectacle by Guy Debord, and Entertainment portrays a superficial world where everything is about appearance, inspiring the pithy line, “for a moment I understand misanthropy..“.

The third track Nullius in Verba (Latin for “not in any words”) is another cerebral and thought provoking song, this one about the importance of independent thought and having faith in science, rather than a blind religious faith. Having had a very religious upbringing, this is obviously a subject close to his heart.

Musically, it’s both highly intricate and hauntingly beautiful; cascading and interweaving guitar lines combine with Isaac’s understated but mesmeric vocal augmented by subtle backing harmonies.

The final song, Speed of Film, also has a certain emotional gravity and poignancy. It’s  about, in his own words, “how our memories make us into the people we are today”. The lyrics are highly personal and reflective, reminiscing on past experiences, both good and bad.

In terms of the expressive vocal melody, it brought to mind the lighter moments of Nick Drake’s canon and that similarity also applies to yet more of his superb, nuanced guitar work. The song is quietly epic, ending with the intriguing refrain, “I’m addicted...”.

Overall, this is an extremely accomplished EP by a highly gifted singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He’s managed to carve himself a unique musical niche by fusing elements of alternative rock with more a traditional singer/songwriter sound and approach. With an artist like Sam Fender bringing a little alternative into the mainstream, perhaps now the world is ready for the massive talent of Isaac Grinsdale.

 

 

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Visit his official website HERE

 

Listen here:

 

E.P. REVIEW: Can’t Go Home by Collin Stanley

Road Trip Mix Album Cover (1)(1)

Collin Stanley is a musician, singer, songwriter and producer currently residing in New York City. He was raised in Detroit, Michigan and his earliest musical influences were blues, classic rock and garage rock. Bands and artists such as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The White Stripes and Stevie Ray Vaughan were formative on the musical style he has today. He collaborates with bass player Chris Agar and drummer/pianist/producer Eric Hoegemeyer. This EP, Can’t Go Home, is the first fruits of their labours together

Opening track The Underground sets out their stall in emphatic fashion. Starting gently with just light guitar and Collin Stanley’s casually captivating vocals, the enigmatic opening lines draw you in: “I’ll take you down to the underground, everything is strange, so profound…it all goes down”.

After the brooding, restrained verse it bursts into a volcanic chorus of raw, razor-edged electric guitars duelling with primal and powerful White Stripes-style drumming. Atop of this Collin delivers a vaulting lead vocal, drenched in cavernous reverb. Musically, you can hear those formative influences but sublimated into a unique style that lies at the midpoint between classic, alternative and garage rock.

There’s a great understanding of quiet/loud dynamics with this song that brought to mind The Pixies and Nirvana, indeed, the arrangement brought to mind the latter’s Heart Shaped Box from In Utero. After the second chorus it enters an extended refrain section which delivers the knockout punch, where we find the EP title, Collin singing “I can’t go home anymore…” with resigned desperation. A superb song, put simply.

Second track Time Future is another song with an unusual but inspired arrangement that works perfectly. It begins with just a ghostly, distorted vocal and offbeat reggae style guitars, the haunting vocal melody bringing to mind Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs.

About a minute in and the music explodes into a chugging Black Keys-esque stomp with shades of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Again, it encapsulates an entertaining fusion of rock styles and the final section is joyously anthemic, which will be a lot of fun to hear live.

The last track I Came For You is brief at just over two minutes but packs a considerable punch. It’s a mid-paced blues rocker full of Led Zep-style riffs played in octaves and delivered with the laid back cool of Queens Of The Stone Age. It features another charismatic vocal performance from Collin Stanley, some excellent bass playing from Chris Agar and blistering energy behind the kit from Eric Hoegemayer.

Overall, this is an excellent trifecta of songs that fuses the genres of blues, classic and garage rock into a potent, hugely enjoyable amalgamation. Collin Stanley is a fine frontman, and, aided by talented musical cohorts, the result a memorable and vital sound that captures the spirit of rock ‘n roll with a healthy dose of modern day angst. Most importantly, with The Underground, they have their first classic song on their hands. I, for one, can’t wait to hear a full album in the future.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

E.P. REVIEW: Lavender Galaxy

86694862_104818271112367_4681366433966325760_o

Lavender Galaxy is the artistic moniker of a musical collective that consists of executive producer Eric Remington, engineer Nick Ortega and the vocalists Nekane, Marvin Fockens and Antonia Fountain. Their combined talents fuse to create a blend of RnB and melodic house that brings to mind artists like Pharell Williams, Rihanna, Major Lazer and Dua Lipa. This year has seen the release of their first EP containing  five tracks, which have quickly become very popular on streaming services.

The EP starts off with the sultry dancehall-infused RnB of Paradise, sung superbly by Antonia Fountain. Driven by decidedly funky slap bass, the breakdown chorus and build up is very effective, the EDM synths giving it a modern sounding edge. A very fine piece of songwriting, performance and production with plenty of commercial and dancefloor appeal.

Livin’ It Up is a fantastic follow up, an intoxicating blend of Get Happy-style RnB/disco with the slick, funky grooves and propulsive basslines of Jamiroquai. Featuring the charismatic and smooth lead vocals of Marvin Fockens, the track is laced with catchy hooks, including the pulsing Giorgio Moroder-esque synth arpeggios.

Every section of the song is memorable and addictively catchy, the anthemic chorus celebrating a carefree, hedonistic lifestyle. It sounds like the hit of the summer waiting to happen.

Third song, I’ll Follow You, is another potential hit, once again featuring the gorgeous voice of Antonia Fountain. Set at a stately, slinky tempo, Antonia delivers a sexy Rihanna-style vocal over a bedrock of chugging, rhythmic synths and a punchy beat. The chorus hook is mesmeric and irresistible (“We’re turning up the music and dancing till the sun rises…”).

Fourth track Lip Gloss is built around a sturdy 2/4 house beat and a revolving four chord synth progression. This one features the ethereal and enchanting vocals of Nekane, another gifted singer in the Lavender Galaxy collective. With its immediately addictive chorus hook and ‘easy on the ear’ sound, it has versatile potential as both a hit in the clubs and on radio.

The EP closes with another Antonia Fountain-sung track, Here You Are. This one is a potent fusion of dubstep and RnB, with a powerful vocal performance from Antonia. It’s perhaps the most cutting edge track in terms of production style and genre, and, as with the rest of the songs here, has a killer vocal hook that sticks in the mind from the first listen (“You turned me upside down….”). At the risk of repeating myself, this also has strong potential as a separate single release and it’s a fine way to finish.

Overall, this is a first rate modern RnB/house EP from Lavender Galaxy, featuring  five songs that stand up in their own right. There are very few EPs where every track has hit potential, but that’s exactly the case in this instance. Having a plethora of singers in their collective gives richness and variety to the sound, along with the mixture of genres and production styles. With further material of this quality, I’d say that Lavender Galaxy have a very bright future ahead of them.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Radio Cowboy by Rob Georg

radio_cowboy_album_final

Rob Georg is a country singer and songwriter originally hailing from Tuebingen in Germany. He became interested in music as a child, taking up the piano and then switching to guitar. He bought his first guitar at just 14 and this led to writing his own material. In 2018, he released his first official song Push That Horn and in December of that year came his first full band release, This Ain’t My First Rodeo.

That song made it into the US National Radio Hits AC Charts Top Ten. Since then he’s released several singles and this debut album, Radio Cowboy, contains songs that are nominated for the Fair Play Country Award in Europe, as well as for the New Music Award in the United States.

The album consists of fifteen songs in the country and country rock genres, beginning with the title track. It’s an autobiographical up-tempo song about how Rob swapped his life as a rancher for being a singer and songwriter, captured succinctly in the title hook on the uplifting chorus: “Cause ever since I kissed that saddle goodbye, I’ve been a radio cowboy….”.

His sincere love of music and sense of vocation is apparent in the opening lines of the second verse: “Once I picked up that six string nothing was the same, I know every highway out there, I know every DJ’s name….”. With his authentic, radio friendly voice backed up by a gifted band of top notch Nashville musicians, Radio Cowboy sets the bar high for the rest of the album.

Second song Carry The Wind is a different type of track that Rob does exceptionally well, the epic country ballad. This one is genuinely moving, about a beloved horse who has passed on and left him bereaved. The opening lines paint a poignant picture: “The last time I saw him alive was in the first rays of the morning light breathin’ in the February air….”.

Built around picked acoustic guitar, it builds to a powerful, anthemic chorus enriched by female backing harmonies. It resonates with the deep, genuine love for his horse and the longing to see him on the other side: “When I die will you wash my sins so I can ride him once again...”.

This Ain’t My First Rodeo is a return to the light-hearted country rock that opened the album, this one an entertaining yarn about an experienced rodeo rider passing on some well meaning advice to a newcomer: “Hey kid, I was once like you, full of spit with a lot to prove, but listen up lets talk it through, I can tell you’re new to this….”. With some fantastic guitar work throughout, this is one song that really cooks and you can understand its popularity.

Ghost is another fine example of Rob’s ability to write emotive, sensitive ballads.It’s  about feeling bereft after a loving relationship has ended and not being able to get over it: “I carved a headstone, here lies another sleepless night, I tried to bury the bones of all the memories you left behind….”. With its haunting melody, Ghost was understandably released as a single and you can read my full song review here.

This theme continues into This Old House, finding Rob reflecting on leaving the house that holds so many happy memories from the past: “There’s an empty house standing behind me, I’m trying not to look so I don’t cry, cause if I do, I know I’ll be reminded of all the memories we left inside….”.

The chorus is full of poignant imagery, the music perfectly reflecting the protagonist’s sense of sorrow: “Holes from where we hung the pictures of our wedding day, when we made vows we thought we’d never break, creaky wooden stairs leading down to Christmas mornings, a dirty fireplace that kept us warm when it was storming….”.

Harvest Moon Heart is the closest to a traditional country ballad on the album, a beautifully crafted song in waltz time with a lilting vocal melody augmented by steel guitar. After the emotional turmoil of the previous two songs, this touching track lightens the mood nicely and will be a popular one with country fans, both old and new.

My Family’s Got Fur is one of the more fun songs on the album, about the love he has for his dogs who help him on the ranch. It’s a sweet, mid-paced ballad that fellow canine lovers will especially appreciate. The second verse portrays the depth of his love and their importance in his life: “My dogs are braver than I’ll ever be, they run straight into danger and they’ll sacrifice their life for those in need. They’re the hardest workers on the ranch and I’m eternally grateful for the love they give to me….”.

Next comes one of my personal favourites on the album, the hard rockin’ Dust. It’s about the living daily reality of being a cowboy on a ranch, not the romanticized version we see on the silver screen: “The cowboys in the movies don’t tell you the whole story, I’m living proof we’re not it in for the glory….”. With its rich electric guitars and gritty vocal performance from Rob, it brought to mind the Jon Bon Jovi classic Blaze of Glory.

Sunsets At The Ranch is another fine ballad which portrays Rob’s love of nature, in particular the sun, inspiring some of his most poetic lyrics: “I’ve watched it sink behind the Tennessee mountains and soak into the ocean as I walked along the beach….”. With its universal qualities, again it made a suitable choice as a single, which I reviewed very favourably (read here).

Tenth track Push That Horn is one the most simple musically, with just vocals and acoustic guitar. It’s also one of the most emotionally affecting, with Rob paying tribute to a mentor who has now passed on: “I went to the States to be a cowboy, met a man who taught me how to cut. He said “Boy, you’re gonna win it all some day so I’m gonna work you night and day….”. A beautiful tribute song with some lovely Emmy Lou Harris-style female harmonies.

Time For Some Ink provides a complete contrast in mood, a playful rocker about the joys of getting a tattoo! Rob’s vocals on this are fantastic, showing he can rock out as well as perform the delicate ballads with equal ease. His cast of musicians sound great too, with crunchy electric guitar and meaty drums providing the bedrock for this entertaining anthem. You can read my full review for this one here.

This Gift Called Life is another fine ballad that deals with that most universal of themes, becoming a parent. The deeply emotional moment of becoming a father to a newborn is captured touchingly in the song’s opening lines: “She looks like you, the doctor said in the delivery room as I cradled your head. Your eyes were blue, just like the sky, reflecting over an ocean, so wide…..”.

It also shows the flip side, the pain of seeing your child suffering: “Left eye bruised from a fight at school, standing up for someone smaller than you…and as I held the pack of ice, couldn’t take away the pain but I knew I had to try….”.

Higher Ground is another song that shows his caring side, this one more upbeat with an insistent, toe tapping rhythm. It gradually builds into a real epic in strident 2/4, bringing to mind something like Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen. Halfway between a ballad and a rocker, it’s an easily overlooked gem on the album.

When I Make It Home For Christmas is one of the most beautiful songs musically, crystal-clear acoustic guitars mingling with subtle piano and drums. A close listen to the lyrics shows that its actually about a soldier fighting in a war and returning home for Christmas: “Every night on foreign ground as I lay my gun and helmet down, I can almost hear the sound of peace breaking through…”. This lends extra depth to a subject that might have been saccharine in lesser artistic hands.

The album finishes in the same uplifting fashion with which it began, this time via an ode to trucks: Beasts Made of Steel (read my full review here). As with Time For Some Ink, it’s another hugely catchy country-rock anthem that will appeal especially to automobile aficionados. It’s a fantastic, entertaining way to close out the album.

Overall, this a stellar set of songs from a country singer/songwriter as authentic as they come. Equally as skilful at writing and performing both up-tempo rockers and tender ballads, Rob Georg sings about the things that matter to us most. He’s also honest in showing the good and bad sides to the human condition. With this very strong album under his belt, there’s no limit to his potential and I hope it reaches many.

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: Without Maps – 30 Years of Moments by Moments Of Pleasure Records

Cover 1

This is a sampler of material from the Moments Of Pleasure label, founded in Brighton, England in 1989. It essentially features the work of six artists: Senses Reeling, Rogue Beauty, Almost Charlotte, Bluff, A Long Valley and B-Vox.  The common thread pretty much throughout is the involvement of Nick Fuller and Matthew Griffin – two of the five founders (along with Anthony Squires, Ian Philipson and Bill Russell) who comprised Almost Charlotte – the band behind its original single release.  The style of music throughout is essentially alternative pop/indie, though it branches out into more diverse genres over the years.

The compilation consists of nineteen tracks and begins with the upbeat funk-tinged indie pop of Rogue Beauty’s I Choose. Based around an infectious groove, the soulful female vocals are aligned with a memorable melody and an equally melodic baseline which acts as a fine counterpoint. Wah-drenched guitars add to the “dance-rock” vibe and synths complete the soundscape to great effect.

Next comes Eastern Eye by B-Vox which brings to mind some of the great indie pop of the 80’s such as Julian Cope and The Clash classic Rock The Casbah. Over crunchy guitars, the distinctive male lead vocals carry the song aided by eloquent lyrics and a highly catchy chorus hook. The subtle brass which punctuates certain parts adds an extra splash of musical colour.

Bluff’s Go Home Now comes next, written by Matthew Griffin it’s driven along by a Pump It Up-style bassline and Trevor Warman’s aggressively upfront guitar.  It notably features a contrast between the light, poppy verse and the heavier chorus which brings to mind The Pixies though musically it is more akin to the indie bands of the era (1992) such as Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, also harking back to arty punk bands like Wire. A superb and succinct piece of punk-influenced guitar pop.

This is followed by the sophisticated synth pop of Rogue Beauty’s Burn Down (Icon Park). It’s a viciously satirical song that aims its ire at celebrity culture: “Roll up folks for the PR man’s game, let’s wallow in the glory of a name, thank you Hello and Gossip and Morning TV, forget about real life and lose the real me.” Though it was written in 2001 by Nick Fuller and Matthew Griffin, the message resonates even more today, where celebrities are treated as deities in some cases.

Foreign or Poor by Senses Reeling brings us right up to date.  Infused with a similar righteous anger, this one deals with the terrible tragedy of the Grenfell fire, which occurred when a tower block in London burned down due to flammable cladding after health/safety concerns had been raised by residents and ignored.  There’s a strong sense of social injustice and moral outrage at how people were neglected as if they didn’t matter: “We can talk forever, but it has got to change, it has simply got to change.”

Their Way by A Long Valley is a more conciliatory song about not being overcome by hatred and bitterness, again a message that is more than apposite in Brexit-era Britain: “An open loving heart forgives, refusing bitterness for good, believing freedom always lives, as hatred never could.” Musically, it’s a solemn five-minute epic augmented by haunting synth strings.

Almost Charlotte’s Hope is a more traditional indie pop song, combining the light guitar style of The Sundays with the quirky vocal style of Julian Cope and Morrissey. It’s an effortlessly infectious track with a gloriously simple structure – featuring a prominently stabbing and melodic bassline by Anthony Squires – that proves sometimes less is more.

Ferocious Love by Senses Reeling is yet another song with a timely message. Recorded in 2016, it’s about those who deny the destruction of the environment or ignore it, in particular governments. Since then we have seen the rise of the eco-warrior movement which has become particularly well known this year through activists like Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg. They would certainly nod in agreement at such lines as, “Faith in our invincibility ignores a power so plain to see, no figure will make it right, no bribe will quell the fight, this place defines us and cannot disappear, we’ve got to talk“.

The following Attitude by Bluff is one of the compilation’s high-paced, punkier moments. It’s a thrilling ride, based around a simple but highly effective three-chord progression girded by an equally effective bassline.  This provides the bedrock for a lyric about someone with hypothetical views when it comes to helping those less fortunate: “There’s nothing to concern your cosy little world, on the outside there is no one suffering….”. It’s a potent, passionate song delivered with consummate conviction and one of the stand-out highlights for me.

There are shades of Depeche Mode in Paul Midcalf’s pristine production and the  pulsing synths of Easy by Senses Reeling, a rumination on the increasingly Orwellian use of data collection through our increased technology (“Surveillance or benign? Do we see the creepy line?“). Recorded in 2019, again this is a song that will only develop increased relevance as our lives become dominated by gadgets and subliminal advertising.

Anyone by Rogue Beauty is a low-key but lyrically powerful acoustic track about how losing yourself in a crowd can be a form of emotional protection: “And no one hears you scream beneath the neon sun, out here in the crowd you could be anyone.” The use of exotic percussion gives this a unique musical feel and acts as a nice contrast to the songs that surround it.

Missing Something by Senses Reeling is perhaps the most unexpected musical departure on the compilation. Based around a Latin American groove and piano style along with double bass and appropriate percussion, it’s a tour de force with a captivating lead female vocal by Rayne Gomes. Lyrically, it’s typically incisive, about how we don’t appreciate the moment if we are always chasing after the latest material acquisition (“A bigger house, a newer car…”). Full of sophisticated musical touches including some deft classical guitar work, it shows the impressive range at their artistic disposal.

Rainfall by Almost Charlotte returns us to more familiar sonic terrain, another finely crafted alternative pop song written by Matthew Griffin and recorded back in 1989. It’s a touching track about not being afraid to reach out to friends when going through some troubled times.

Someone Else by Senses Reeling is another song written from a standpoint of compassion, about how the elderly are neglected and should be appreciated while they’re still here. This is captured in such moving lines as, ” It’s only when we hold a hand so fragile and fading, that we realise the true cost….”.

Almost Charlotte’s Among The People is an interesting song, a character study about an extrovert young woman who refuses to be tied down to a relationship: “If you talk to her of love she’ll often turn and hide her eyes, if you ask her for a dance she will dance until you say goodbye…”. Recorded in 1990, it’s a poignant twist on the theme of unrequited love and says something larger about the shallow nature of modern relationships.

Some Small Control by Senses Reeling is another emotive song by Nick Fuller, with a sassy female lead vocal that brought to mind someone like Sia. It’s about trying to cling to the things you can control when all is turning to chaos around you. The arrangement here is excellent, with subtle piano and xylophone added to the musical palette.

Rogue Beauty’s Friends and Enemies is back to an edgier, fiery style, another well aimed attack at the banality of celebrity culture and how this has infected the music industry. (“What does the X stand for? Where will it end? Victorian Freak Show returns…” is clearly a dig at Simon Cowell and The X-Factor. (I heartily applaud!).

Bluff’s Switch Off is about wanting refuge from sensory overload.  Built around Joy Division-style interlocking drums and bass (the driving bassline by Colin Clifford being a particular feature) it’s built on rich, slightly heavier electric guitars than their signature sound. In “Sometimes I wish I had the guts just to switch it off, when the walls close in…..” it features one of the album’s most anthemic choruses: Fantastic song.

The compilation closes, aptly, with another social justice song, Your Place by Senses Reeling. This one is about the housing crisis in Britain where a combination of stalled social house building and the unaffordably high prices of private housing means that many people are left stranded – some at the mercy of exploitative landlords.  Musically, it’s one of the most unique here, a dance/rock hybrid that brought to mind Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr’s Electronic. The contrast between the lively, upbeat music and the serious, saturnine lyrics make for a potent dynamic: “Easy to say that we all deserve our own space but it looks like they’re keeping you in your place….”.

Overall, this is a wonderful compilation of 30 years of material produced by this little-known hidden gem of a record label, Moments Of Pleasure. At nineteen tracks, it’s quite the epic listen that charts changing styles and times through a standard that is consistently high throughout, without a dud song here. The songwriters involved show a considerable amount of musical and lyrical skill, boldly dealing with the deeper issues of modern life and the human condition. It will be particularly loved by indie aficionados but any discerning music lover will find much to treasure here and much to discover beyond by checking out the induvial releases by the 6 acts.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: V by D.Ni.L

V - jpeg.jpg

D.Ni.L. is a 35 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.

In 2018, he released the studio albums Boy Inside and Do You Know Who I Am?, both of which I reviewed highly favourably. D.Ni.L. has developed his own unique musical style which fuses aspects of progressive rock/metal (Deftones, Muse) with the emotive and well-crafted songwriting style of the Manic Street Preachers, also fused with the brutal lyrical honesty and aggression of hip hop.

This latest album, V, consists of eleven tracks and it maintains D.Ni.L’s signature sound whilst sounding fresh, owing to his highly sophisticated yet hard hitting musical approach.

As with his two previous albums the album starts with a strong, arresting track that instantly grabs your attention, in this case, Drop. Starting with taut, angular electric guitars saturated with gritty edge the time signature seamlessly switches from 6/4 to 6/8 where D.Ni.L shows the more melodic side to his musical persona, singing in falsetto and in harmony.

After these two contrasting but both highly effective sections have repeated the track then becomes ever more complex with wiry, syncopated riffs providing the bedrock for the mesmerising if enigmatic refrain: “You were my first love but I don’t think that I could ever….” which starts out sung and it’s up being growled, a sign of his strong metal influences.

The following Backhander maintains the brooding intensity and is propelled by a surging low end riff and meaty, punchy drums. D.Ni.L delivers a vocal performance full of conviction, never more so on the main hook, “There’s no turning back this time, there’s nothing left on me….” which turns into a haunting, anthemic mantra towards the end, delivered in octaves.

Third track Painted is one of the most visceral songs he’s yet recorded, with searingly aggressive vocals on the verse counterpointed by a vaulting chorus melody. The way he uses opposites in terms of both texture and rhythm/harmony provides dynamic contrasts throughout the album and this track is no exception.

Fourth song Licked is one of the album’s most instant and accessible, It starts out with an urgent but relatively straightforward 4/4 rhythm, yet even when it develops into something more complicated, the simplicity and compelling nature of the main vocal melody captivates the ear throughout.

Wallowing is a unique track on the album; a slow burning epic with a beautifully simple beat and languid tempo that brought to mind the ethereal Teardrop by Massive Attack. Musically, it’s a rich sonic landscape of piano, strings and picked guitar lines while D.Ni.L’s troubled lyrics only add to the potency. This track in particular feels like an artistic progression even from the heady heights of his first two albums, adding a maturity borne of experience as well as being one of the musically  accomplished things he’s written.

His sense of anger and resigned despair are never too far from the surface, which manifests clearly in the bottled rage of the following Fuck Right Now. Set at a brooding tempo, the music proceeds with a menacing momentum as D.Ni.L sings about being in prison “bashed about” and the all things “dark and sinister“. It’s a compelling depiction of a nihilistic, world-weary mindset that many will relate to, captured perfectly by the main hook, “If someone told this is just a little break from hell, I wouldn’t give a fuck right now…”.

If anything, seventh track Crawled Out is even angrier, D.Ni.L at his most angular and dissonant to begin with before breaking down to one of the emotive soul searching sections that he does well, then building back up to a passage of righteous fury.

Touched is one of the album’s most anthemic songs and a real grower. The verse provides the calm before the storm (“Now I smell the reaper on her breath…the smell of death was lingering..” he intones, darkly) before breaking out into blistering widescreen low-end guitars, the ascending octaves towards the end providing a gripping finish.

20/20 is one of the album’s lighter tracks that, for me, shows D.Ni.L’s gift for melody and effective harmonic progressions as well as the strong influence of the excellent and somewhat underrated Welsh group Manic Street Preachers, at least in the first half. From there it returns to his more familiar territory of prog-rock esque rhythmic left turns matched with gnarly riffage. It’s an approach he’s honed to perfection.

Bunch of Fives takes us back into a maelstrom of emotional turmoil, beginning with the tormented lines: “If I can’t figure me out, who’s gonna do it for me?”. This forms the main refrain with the music taking us through some equally dark and jagged sonic terrain; insistent lead guitar lines battle with tumultuous drums and industrial NIN-style grunting chords.

Final track Lying In Wait is the album’s uber-epic at nearly nine minutes duration and there’s not a dull moment. Featuring sections of relentless rage contrasted with sections of melodic beauty, it brings to the visceral impact of Nirvana’s In Utero, incidentally Kurt Cobain’s third album. The track reaches a powerful climax then fades away, giving the impression of an unquenchable energy. It feels like an apposite way to close things out.

Overall, this album completes a trifecta of highly consistent and unique alternative rock albums from D.Ni.L. It maintains the same quality and intensity of his first two albums while eclipsing them in certain ways, featuring some of his both troubled and transcendent music. D.Ni.L has learnt how to channel his demons into his art and the effect is frequently cathartic and electrifying. Highly recommended listening.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10  

Alex Faulkner

You can listen to the whole album HERE

ALBUM REVIEW: 666 Way$$$ by Feed The Weird

FTW ALBUM COVER.jpg

Feed The Weird are a hip hop duo who are strongly influenced by their interest in the strange and the occult. The duo, Yami Weird and HellAir, have been friends since middle school and have had a long held mutual love for hip hop and punk rock. Both grew apart after moving out of their shared neighborhood, until Yami reached out to Hell after publishing a rough version of his song 666 Ways back in 2018. After that they decided to form a group and publish their music independently, with hopes of escaping the boring life of Northeastern Tennessee. They release their material through Pump Fink Records.

This album, 666 Ways$$$, consists of 11 tracks and musically is a surprisingly unique hybrid of hip hop, trap and metal to create a fusion that brings to mind the industrial rock/metal of Nine Inch Nails, gothic aspects of Marilyn Manson and a myriad of distilled hip hop/rap influences. The album’s opening track, Pussycat Hotrod (produced by Discent), is one of the most sonically arresting and challenging,  not representative of the album as a whole.

Starting out with crunchy, raw low-end guitar chords, it breaks into a trap/hip hop groove overlaid with metal-style growled vocals. Mixed in are a plethora of vocal samples and swirling synths to create a sinister but scintillating soundscape that is unnerving but undeniably gripping. It’s also a style all of its own.

Next comes the title track (produced by Vaegud and sketchymyname) which is more accessible and essentially more traditional hip hop, but with a rock style lead vocal and edgy, explicit lyrics. This become a hallmark of their music across the duration of the album. It begins with a haunting acoustic figure and is set to a languid, simple but effective beat. The vocals are delivered in a very low register and have a strangely mesmeric quality, especially on the potent, hedonistic title hook: “Another touch is dangerous, I’ve got 666 ways to fuck.…”. It’s a clever subversion of Jay Z’s famous 99 Problems.

Bonnie Rotten is even more explicit and brings to mind the claustrophobic, darkly sexual vibe of NIN’s Closer album and Eminem at his edgiest. Produced by Skami, it marries a blistering dubstep/hip hop beat with ghostly echo-drenched glockenspiel, which gives it an almost sinister undertone. Once again, the simplest of hooks proves to be very effective (“She likes it rough….”) and despite its brief two minute duration it packs a considerable punch.

Fourth track Zombie, produced by Dannyebtracks, is a good showcase for the fine rapping skills of both members as well as an entertaining but macabre tale, the sort at which Eminem used to excel. Yami Weird and HellAir make for an effective duo, their styles complementing each other. The title hook quickly lodges in the memory and the lyrics are graphic but compelling throughout.

Snowing In Florida, produced by Hertha & Stork, is another blissed out trip hop track which celebrates the hedonistic side of life on its hypnotic hook: “I smoke dope, I do coke, I do anything I want….”. Opening with an eerie, haunting soundscape, the track balances sung vocal hooks with smoothly rapped verses to great effect. Although the music has a ‘wasted at 3am’ kind of vibe, there’s no hint of struggling with the dark side of drug use here: “Got some bad habits and I don’t wanna break them….”.

The slinky following track Red Eyes seems a continuation of the theme and vibe, seemingly about getting high and enjoy a nocturnal drive: “Red eyes at the red light…I ain’t stopping for the blue light….it’s a night ride….it’s a moonlight drive”. Like an artist like The Weeknd, Feed The Weird have a talent for bringing a sense of the poetic and romantic to their tales of excess.

Seventh track Nowhere Noir, produced by Cashmoney Ap & FORTY38 picks up the tempo a little with a beat of subtle intricacy and nuance, the backdrop for a rather troubled lyric about a femme fatale (“She’s the devil in the shape of a ghost….”). There’s an ominous vibe to the music that mirrors the words and imagery perfectly and there’s a powerful sense of turmoil in the repeated chorus hook: “Dug her nails in me….”.

By contrast, Got Me Thinkin’ is perhaps the most accessible track here, with an undeniable commercial appeal. Built around a simple but irresistible vocal hook, the production by ricci is first rate and this would make an obvious choice as a single.
G.A.T. begins with an immediately captivating synth melody, soon conjoined with an infectious rhythm. This lays down the bedrock for some super fluent rapping, reflecting on their youth as misfits and trying to find a sense of identity. It’s another excellent showcase for their considerable emcee skills, this one produced by SOLO, and one of the most instant tracks on the album.

Love Potion #69 is a return to the more X-rated style of the earlier tracks though whereas a lot of hip hop is about braggadocio, Feed The Weird come from a more troubled place, the final refrain running: “I’m wicked, I’m stricken, I am spellbound, I ain’t ever, ever coming down, I ain’t ever going up….I’m just a fuck up….”.  Produced by Sxpply, it’s another darkly powerful track.

The final track, Anarchy You Can Dance To, is the album’s most anthemic moment and could perhaps be described as their manifesto. Built on an insistent 2/4 beat and an array of futuristic synth sounds, the entire vocal melody is instantly memorable but particularly the singalong hook of “We want sex, sex, sex and violence….” which cleverly plays on the 666 motif that runs through the album. Produced by S4d TrVnk, it’s a brilliant to finish the album and a track I feel could open a lot of doors for them.

Overall, this is a consistently strong hip hop album with a distinctly original flavour. Feed The Weird are a duo unafraid of their dark side and it gives their music a decided edge. Incorporating influences from rock and metal, the combination of singing and rapping is deftly balanced throughout and delivered with charisma and conviction. With a style all of their own and several killer tracks, I expect Feed The Weird to make a strong impact on the hip hop scene with this album, and deservedly so.

 

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here: