SINGLE REVIEW: Undone by Riserfall

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Riserfall are a three-piece hard rock trio hailing from Dublin in Ireland. Their music fuses influences from a wide range of metal and hard rock, past and present. They consider their main influences to be 90’s grunge/alternative rock bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, along with more traditional hard rock/metal like Metallica and Foo Fighters. They also consider prog rock/metal bands like Tool as an influence. Riserfall have been working on their debut EP due for release later this year, recorded at Lakeland Studios in Athlone, Ireland.

Opening with a brooding lead guitar riff that ratchets up instant musical tension, the track explodes into a powerful wall of sound with tumbling tom fills, courtesy of drummer Neel Thakur, taking us into the verse. The band display a fine understanding of dynamics, veering from the restrained, chugging guitars, rock solid bass (from Ciaran O’ Cathain) and understated vocals on the verses to the volcanic chorus, where the soaring, anthemic vocals stand out.

It could be said that having a great lead vocalist is what separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to rock bands and fortunately for Riserfall, lead singer and guitarist Daniel O’ hEidhin is first rate. The sucker punch chorus is where his voice really shines and, lyrically, the song is refreshingly affirming rather than angst ridden: “Feel like nothing’s going wrong, see the woman to whom I belong…”.

It’s actually after the chorus, however, where the band truly impress and show their musical potential. The song is in 6/8 time overall, but here they show their prog rock/metal influence by switching to a 10/8 time signature before flipping back to 6/8 for the verse. This complex rhythmic switch is attained seamlessly and feels a natural part of the song. After the second chorus it enters an excellent section featuring a visceral, ascending guitar solo that takes the track to a climactic ending, where it leaves the listener hanging.

Overall, this is a highly impressive release from Riserfall’s debut EP. They have emerged fully formed, with their varying influences distilled into a unique and powerful sound of their own. With further material of this quality, Riserfall should become an extremely successful band worldwide and I look forward to hearing more from them.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Daydreamer by Abe

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Abe is an alternative rock/lo fi artist hailing from San Antonio, Texas. Not much biographical information is available, suggesting Abe wishes to let the music do the talking. He’s something of a one man army, performing and recording all the instruments as well as the vocals in his home studio and mixing it himself also. His music is decidedly in the alternative rock genre and you can detect influences such as early Nirvana, The Stooges, early White Stripes, The Libertines, The Pixies, The Black Keys and Mudhoney, amongst others.

This album, Daydreamer, is his debut and consists of thirteen tracks. It starts out with Love Maker, which showcases his slightly ramshackle, lo-fi charm to great effect. Starting with a wiry guitar riff, the drums enter with the vocals. Abe has a raw, distinctive voice with shades of Kurt Cobain and it suits the material perfectly. His musicianship has a similar raw edge, giving his music an intense, fiery energy which is magnified by playing all the instruments himself.

Love Maker is a rollercoaster ride of a song with sections in 4/4 and a punk rock 2/4 section, colliding guitar riffs and a manic vocal performance. It keeps you captivated as you never know what is coming next and gets the album off to a fine start.

Even better is Not My Problem which begins with a simple but effective Kim Deal-style bassline before breaking out into a ragged blues rock song that surges with energy and musical momentum. The jagged, diamond cutter guitar riffs augment Abe’s impassioned vocals and there’s a Cobain-esque dark beauty to lines like, “I’ve seen the sun from the end of a gun….”.

Butterfly Woman has a 70’s rock feel with a strutting riff, though the flanged guitar sound takes it to a whole other world sonically. Like The Pixies, Abe takes traditional rock and turns it on its head, a neat trick. Hard Rock Candy has a laid back feel akin to a band like Free but he intersperses the traditional elements with unexpected changes and angular guitar lines that almost sound like they’re from another song.

Anymore performs a brilliant yin/yang balancing act between melody and dissonance, an art form that a band like Sonic Youth mastered. The dynamics between the contrasting sections are very effective, something understood by Nirvana and The Pixies. Sixth song Disillusion is excellent, a White Stripes-style garage band rocker that has an immediacy and instant impact. It could become a track that opens doors for his career and is a real album highlight.

The five minute I’d Be Lying is based on a choppy, funky guitar chord progression and the main lyrical hook is as quirky and opaque as the music: “Would you love me if I killed you with a gun I made with my life?”. It has an alternative anthem feel that brought to mind Beck’s classic Loser.

Serpentine begins with a backwards sprawl before launching into an angst ridden epic that recalls In Utero-era Nirvana with its serrated-edge guitars and the anguished howling refrain, “Sun goes down…”. Ninth track How Long is a distinct contrast, a slow brooding song built around a haunting guitar motif for the most part before exploding into life towards the end.

Four In One is one of the only tracks that didn’t quite work for me, with the angular dissonance not balanced by the usual strong melodies, but this is rectified by the sorrowful and beautiful seven minute epic Fortune. Built around gentle drums and softly strummed acoustic guitar, it’s decorated with finely crafted Radiohead-like lead guitar. The way the music grows and gathers momentum shows a real sense of order amongst the moments of chaos.

Next up is the album’s title track and it’s another seven minute tour de force, this one bringing back to Stooges style wah-drenched electric guitar and features his finest playing on the album. Lyrically, it’s certainly succinct, consisting of one line: “Daydreamer, my mind is gone…”. In short, it rocks.

The album closes with Take My Hand and it encapsulates the pleasing blend of the brash and the beautiful that Abe nails throughout this exhilarating hour of music. The focused yet meandering guitar lines made me think of Neil Young’s solos in his Crazy Horse era and there’s something genuinely touching about the final refrain, “Take my hand wherever you go….”.

Overall, this is the most original alternative rock album I’ve come across this year. Abe has developed a unique, left of field approach to music making that applies to both the songwriting and performance/production. Like Kurt Cobain, he understands the potency of combining contrasts and has created an album that deserves to be recognized as an important piece of alternative art. Don’t let this gem go under the radar.

 

VERDICT: 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

Listen here:

E.P. REVIEW: Hello Clarice

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Hello Clarice are a two-piece alternative rock band hailing from Los Angeles. The group consists of Jonah Michea Judy on lead vocals and Andrew Amsden on guitar. Their music is a fusion of various alt. rock styles with elements of 90’s grunge bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden along with aspects of Radiohead, Placebo, Breaking Benjamin and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus thrown into the mix. They are far more than just the sum of the influences, achieving a unique sound of their own on this EP, their first released material.

The EP consists of five tracks and leads off with the first single, Arms of The Fall. Starting with echo-drenched guitar, a brooding musical landscape unfolds setting the scene for the distinctive and evocative lead vocals of Jonah Michea Judy.

Fans of the film Silence of The Lambs will probably recognize the line that has inspired the band’s name, and it’s a suitable moniker as there is a definite darkness to both the lyrics and the musical moods they convey. This saturnine quality gives their music a gripping edge and is captured in such sombre lines as “I think I might have set myself up for a plunge to a hopeless place.” It’s an understated but very powerful opening track and a good choice as lead single from the EP.

Second track Longshot is another memorable song with a darkly surreal lyrical vibe that makes it feel like the musical equivalent of a David Lynch film. Starting with a haunting guitar figure, the music casts a hypnotic spell with the unsettling lyrics of the chorus leaving their imprint: “Daisy wears a white plastic fox mask…..now you’re just another signature on my cast….”. It’s this kind of evocative, poetic imagery that seems missing from the modern rock lexicon but Hello Clarice pull it off with consummate style. A real grower.

The third track Anymore is relatively lighter after the sturm und drang of the first two songs, based around a chord progression on strummed acoustic guitar. However, despite the relative levity of the sound, the nihilistic refrain of the chorus shows its still very much the same band: “Maybe I don’t care anymore….”. There’s a fine build up section after the second chorus featuring strong backing harmonies.

Fourth track Abrasion also starts with acoustic guitar but that acts like a Trojan horse as this is the heaviest song by far on the EP. After an intense, claustrophobic verse it breaks out into a colossal Soundgarden-style chorus augmented by a barrage of razor-edged low end guitar chords. Jonah Michea Judy sings with a Cobain-esque conviction at the top of his range and Andrew Amsden gets to really showcase his guitar skills, from Hendrix-like funky wah wah rhythm to a fantastic guitar solo that lifts the track even higher.

Final song Wake Me is a return to their signature sound; lush lead guitar lines working in perfect harmony with the lead vocals and another anthemic, memorable chorus that brought to mind the epic high points of Pearl Jam’s Ten album, Jeremy and Alive. Lyrically, it maintains the dark romantic beauty that is one of their great strengths: “As we’re dying please pretend with me the light still burns between us in our hearts….”. A suitably poignant and cathartic ending to proceedings.

Overall, this is a hugely impressive EP that sets the bar high for the future and deserves to make a major impact on the alternative rock scene. With consistently excellent songs that run the gamut emotionally and the X factor of Jonah Michea Judy’s charismatic and compelling vocals, Hello Clarice have got everything it takes. I’d be surprised if I hear a better rock EP this year and I, for one, eagerly await future material from them.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10   

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Mr. Blue by Love Ghost

Mr Blue Spotify single artwork

http://loveghost.com/

Love Ghost are an alternative rock band hailing from Los Angeles. Despite their relative youth they have already achieved a great deal, having opened live for Buckcherry, Berlin and Smash Mouth.

Their music is heavily influenced by grunge and heavy rock bands from the 90’s including Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Alice In Chains. You can also hear the influence of a band like Yellowcard who augment their rock sound with violin.In this case, Love Ghost features Mya Greene on viola who performs a similar role.

Last year, they released their full length debut album, Lobotomy (which is highly recommended, read my review here). This latest single, Mr. Blue, sees them taking their anthemic alternative rock to the next level.

Starting with a call and response melody between low-end guitar and viola, the track bursts into life with a meaty drum sound and sharp high-end guitar octaves. Finn Bell’s distinctive lead vocals then grab the focus, his voice lying halfway between R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong.

The song itself is well structured and sonically powerful, moving from a relatively sparse verse then building up to an explosive chorus that quickly sticks in the memory. Lyrically, it depicts a troubled relationship and personal worldview: “You left your heart on the table, I wasn’t even stable……I say the world is tainted, I am Mr. Blue…”. The Nirvana-style vocal harmonies on the chorus are very effective.

Throughout the track there is a subtle sheen of electronica which becomes more prominent after the second chorus, giving the production a modern sound as well as contrasting effectively with the viola. Special mention should go to the production quality overall, as it’s as good as anything you will hear on the radio and the band’s musical vision sounds fully realized.

Overall, this is another excellent release from Love Ghost which sees them refining their signature sound and creating an alternative rock anthem that could open a lot of doors for them. The radio friendly sound and production style bodes well for its success, but it maintains a raw edge which will please those more into the alternative side of rock and helps it pack a real punch.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Breed by The Vanilla Milkshakes

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http://reverbnation.com/rpk/thevanillamilkshakes

The Vanilla Milkshakes are a punk rock trio hailing from Denver, CO. They have a compelling character for a frontman in vocalist David McGhee who is gay, autistic, an ex-junkie and formerly homeless, so he is not short of life experience. His partners in crime are Frank Registrato on drums and Mike King on bass. Together, they produce a highly entertaining racket and have a famous fan in music journalist Everett True (he introduced Courtney Love to Kurt Cobain) who describes them as ‘like Nirvana if they had been a K Records band’, which sums them up nicely.

Back in 2015, I gave a rave review to their album Tall People Have No Feelings. This track, Breed, is a cover version of a Nirvana song from their classic 1991 album Nevermind. While that album was made on a major label budget and slickly produced by Butch Vig, this version has a lot more in common with the more lo-fi sound of Nirvana’s debut album Bleach. Notably, that was produced by Jack Endino who The Vanilla Milkshakes have worked with.

Musically, it’s a pretty faithful rendition and, most importantly, it rocks. You can sense a kindred spirit to Kurt Cobain in vocalist/guitarist David McGhee and the whole band embody the raw punk rock spirit that Nirvana were accused by some of losing on Nevermind. The ascending octaves after the second chorus are just as good as the original and special credit should also go to Frank Registrato’s spirited drumming.

Overall, this is a highly entertaining version of a classic grunge song that retains the musicality of the original, whilst reinvigorating it with their own inimitable, ramshackle charm. This likeable band are keeping to the spirit of punk rock alive, and long may they do so.

 

VERDICT = 8.5 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: The Ladder The Climb The Fall by Increst

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https://facebook.com/increstband

Increst are an alternative rock band from Copenhagen, Denmark. They originally  formed the band back in 2003 which featured founding members Malte Slywest, Jonas Tange and former bassist Jonas Berthelsen. They met at a boarding school and began making music based on their shared love of Seattle grunge/alt. rock bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Eventually, this branched out into more progressive influences like Tool, Porcupine Tree and The Mars Volta.

In 2006, the bassist Jonas Berthelsen left the band, replaced by Anders Hagedorn-Olsen. In 2014, having returned to their alt. rock roots, they recorded their first album with producer Soren Andersen, Rubicon Atlas. That album made them a lot of fans and now they have returned to the fore with The Ladder The Climb The Fall, co-produced by legendary American producer Matt Wallace (Maroon 5, Faith No More, Three Doors Down) and Jacob Hansen.

The album consists of eleven tracks, and opens strongly with No Second Chance. It bursts out of the blocks with an immediately memorable guitar riff, and the first thing that strikes you is their tightness as a musical unit. What grabs you next is the fine lead vocals of Malte Slywest, whose voice lies halfway between Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and the late, great Chris Cornell (R.I.P).

You could argue that the most essential ingredient for a rock band is a strong lead vocalist who can compete with a wall of guitars, and InCrest have no problems there. Lyrically, it’s essentially a very positive ‘carpe diem’ message about making the most of your life: “You’ve seen a thousand times the ordinary turn and climb, nothing is impossible for you if you are willing to change the truth“. It would make a very good choice for a single.

Second track Nightcrawler has already been released as the lead single off the album and you can see why. It’s a superbly constructed and performed song with an anthemic chorus. Featuring a particularly good performance from Slywest singing near the top of his range, the lyrics are dark but powerfully poetic: “I am the one who shades, cut by a million blades…”. A fantastic track that alone could break them to a much wider audience.

Third track Anemia is an effective contrast, a more mid-paced song with a brooding intensity generated by the use of diminished chords (bringing to mind Queens of The Stone Age) and an anguished Kurt Cobain-style vocal performance. It features another strong chorus as well as a fine guitar solo from Slywest, who is as good a guitarist as he is a singer.

The whole band gets to shine on the excellent Aces. Starting out in standard 4/4 time, the track features a stellar drumming performance from Jonas Tange. As the song progresses, the rhythmic dynamics and accents keep the listener on their toes with an effective halftime section. It contains yet another chorus that you can imagine thousands singing along to.

Halo is another of their more mid-paced songs, with the lead vocals doubled in falsetto, a technique favoured by Arctic Monkeys on their AM album. The lyrics are world weary yet infused with hope as the chorus captures: “Fly on days of tomorrow, weight for the sorrow, the bags are heavy, high on days of the halo….”.

The following Run! is a real shot of adrenalin, a two-minute blast of the band at their heaviest, at least on the verses. Like Nirvana, they understand the effectiveness of contrasting verses and choruses, and the song lightens on the chorus refrain quite markedly.

Seventh song Highway shows their more sensitive side, a lighters-in-the-air rock ballad that shows their more modern alt. rock influences. Some of the guitar lines are simply beautiful and lyrically, it’s clearly about love without being sentimental: “You know I belong to carry us home on the highway, we’ll be long gone from here tomorrow….”.

My Own Enemy is another insightful and emotive song with lyrics that deal with severe internal struggle and angst: “Wanna fit into the plan and make myself a functional man“. The turmoil only increases on the cathartic 100 and Ten with self-lacerating lines like, “I’ve been sealed in my eyes, felt no progress, seems that I will burn inside the romance, it all dies…”.

The Ladder could be regarded the album’s centrepiece, where we find the source of the album’s title. It’s built around an insistent, chugging riff reminiscent of       the grunge classic Blurry by Puddle of Mudd. After it’s intense verse, it brings the listener from the shadows to the light again with some uplifting lyrics in the cathartic, climactic chorus: “You got to keep your spirit up, one step is closer and climb for the top, oh the ladder the climb and the fall, don’t you drop…”.

The closing song Neversleep returns to the epic ballad style of Highway, once more  explores the dark corners of the human soul: “When everything you love becomes everything you lost….”. Again though,  the flame of hope is kept burning through the possibility of redemption: “Cause I don’t care anymore where I’m from, or where I’ll go as long as you will follow me into the dark where I can’t see“. It’s an emotive and apt conclusion to this consistently high quality series of songs.

Overall, this is a first rate modern alternative rock album. Increst have taken inspiration from their grunge heroes then injected some positivity alongside the angst, aided by cutting-edge production from legendary producer Matt Wallace. Malte Slywest stands on a par with rock’s best vocalists and the rest of the band are highly proficient in their respective roles. Throw in several standout tracks and you have a recipe for major worldwide success.

 

VERDICT: 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Lobotomy by Love Ghost

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https://www.facebook.com/loveghost.official/

Love Ghost are an alternative rock band hailing from Los Angeles. Although they are young (two members are juniors in high school) they have already achieved a lot, having opened live for Buckcherry, Berlin and Smash Mouth. Their music is heavily influenced by grunge and heavy rock bands from the 90’s including Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Alice In Chains.

You can also hear the influence of a band like Yellowcard, who augmented their rock sound with violin and, in this case, Love Ghost feature a viola player who performs a similar role. This album, Lobotomy, is their full-length debut and consists of thirteen tracks, produced by Eric Lilivois at London Bridge Studio in Seattle and NRG Studios in Los Angeles.

First track Girl Pusher opens in a blaze of Alice in Chains-style low-end riffage, before Finn Bell’s cathartic Cobain-esque lead vocals grab you by the throat. The track features some complex shifts in tempo, though the chorus is simple and anthemic. The band have a strong command of dynamics, with Mya Greene’s soaring viola nicely contrasting with the guttural guitars. A fine start to the album.

The Scarlet Letter is very different, a blissed out beat, clean guitar and swirling viola lines setting the tone for an epic that clocks in at nearly seven minutes. Finn Bell gives a compelling, angst ridden performance that keeps you gripped to the end. It builds to a tumultuous climax, with the intense, frenzied viola bringing to mind John Cale from The Velvet Underground.

Parasitical Identity is stylistically halfway between the first two tracks, featuring a standout performance from drummer Samson Young. Lyrically, it seems to be about dealing with depression; there is a dark poetry and beauty to lines like, “A cold night of snow and apathy, it’s killing time for me and the moon, in a pit of silence I still hear screams…”.

The following Nowhere is perhaps the most instant track on the album, with an immediately addictive and infectious title hook that soon latches in the mind: “From this everywhere in my head to a nowhere in my soul…”. The frantic intensity of the music perfectly expresses the anxiety and emotional turmoil in the words. A potential single.

Danny Boy is another excellent track, this one another of their mid paced, powerful epics with sheets of thick electric guitar colliding with pounding drums. Again, it contains a highly memorable title hook and the balance between song structure and riffage sections is handled well by the band.

Musically, sixth track 24/7 is one of the album’s lighter moments, more towards the commercial end of alternative rock. Lyrically, it’s somewhat darker; it’s about the totalitarian aspects of authority and how it holds us in place: “There’s no escape from attack, the powers that be never have your back….”. During the breakdown section there are some beautiful, mournful viola lines that add to the emotional punch of the song. Another potential single.

Tall Poppies and This Is The Truth are two slightly slower tracks on the album, though the former features an incendiary chorus, counterpointed by melancholy viola on the verses. The latter features an affecting vocal performance from Bell, with existential ennui suffused in the lyrics: “Read the whole book, interpreted it with vacant eyes…I’m willing to leave myself behind….”.

Dead Silence and The Underground are two of the most anthemic songs, with Dead Silence containing a particularly skyscraping chorus, while The Underground starts off slowly before exploding into the sucker-punch title hook: “I’m calling from the underground, reaching from under like a crucifix...”. A tornado of viola swirls behind him, raising the musical tension still further. The verse and chorus dynamics are on a level of Nirvana-like mastery.

The lurching, colossal chorus of the following 9mm also recalls Nirvana, though not the slick grunge pop of Nevermind but the rougher, more raw songs from its predecessor Bleach. Twelth track Naked is the most experimental, an ominous sounding instrumental that brought to mind the perfectly controlled chaos of Sonic Youth, with some stunning lead guitar at the climactic moments.

The final In My Head Again closes the album with the most epic song and perhaps the most tortured. A pitch-black riff that any death metal band would be proud of encircles the verse then the music switches to frantic thrash sections, with the escalating voila sounding as spine-chilling as the screeching violins in Hitchcock’s Psycho.

They continue ratcheting up the notches of intensity until it reaches a fever pitch climax around the five minute mark. A calm moment in the storm lulls the listener into a false sense of security, then pulverizes you with the final section. It’s disturbing, unnerving and utterly compelling, the sound of a nervous breakdown.

Overall, this is a remarkable debut album from a band who have juxtaposed grunge, metal and experimental rock to create a potent fusion that sustains the listener’s interest across the durationof the album with some style. The lyrics are poetic and thoughtful, sung with boundless sincerity and honesty, along with cathartic rage. They are the natural heirs to Nirvana, with the musical range of Sonic Youth. They deserve to be huge.

 

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

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

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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

SINGLE REVIEW: Stainless by Dynamos

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http://dynamosmusic.com

Dynamos are a five piece rock band based in Los Angeles, fronted by female vocalist Nadia E. who grew up in northeastern New Jersey and took opera lessons from a young age. As she grew older, she developed an interest in other genres and was inspired by artists as diverse as Otis Redding, Amy Winehouse and Nirvana. She joined forces with Nick Schaddt (music director, bass), Jacob Mayeda (guitars), Ian Nakazawa (drums) and Carlos Barrera (guitars) to form Dynamos.

Their debut EP, Cold Comfort, made a strong impact and they have continued releasing a string of singles including Shake, Rattle & Roll, Knowledge and this song, Stainless. Its a top-tapping rocker that sounds like a cross between Parallel Lines-era Blondie and The Strokes. It begins with infectious tribal tom-tom patterns, before a slinky low-end guitar riff enters.

Nadia E. lays down a killer lead vocal with some hip, sassy lyrics: “I got sweet kids, hot licks, on the way to Dixieland, scuffle in the street, it’s cheap, and I’m doing the best that I can“. The two lead guitarists share some great interplay while the bass player keeps things solid with a melodic walking bassline, and the guitar solo is fantastic, recalling the style of The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr, if a little less loose.

Overall, this is a hugely enjoyable piece of modern rock that has a stellar cast of musicians and a superb front woman in Nadia E. Her cool-as-ice delivery and way with words set her out as a potential Debbie Harry for her era, and the band sound like they’ve been playing together for twenty years. I look forward to seeing Dynamos continue their rise to inevitable worldwide success.

 

VERDICT: 8.6 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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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