ALBUM REVIEW: Do You Know Who I Am? by D.Ni.L.

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

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). As a solo artist he released two albums in 2017, This In’t A Party and the more guitar-influenced Suicide In Sips.

Earlier in 2018, he released the album Boy Inside, which received a stellar review from me. Hot on its heels is this new album, Do You Know Who I Am?  Both thematically and musically, it feels like a continuation of Boy Inside although there is noticeably less rapping on this one and an emphasis on musically expansive song structures.

D.Ni.L. has formed an entirely new sound unique to him, 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. The complex sonic structures that D.Ni.L. constructs require multiple listens to be truly appreciated, but the emotional directness of his music resonates the first time you hear it.

Opening track Analogue Bath is a good example of this. Musically, it is built around brooding, swirling low-end guitar riffs and basslines, with meaty yet intricate drums. This provides the soundscape for D.Ni.L. to lay down a brutally honest lyric that sounds at first like he’s addressing a person he’s in a relationship with.

As the song progresses, it transpires that he is addressing his struggle and continual battle with drug addiction: “I didn’t know better when you flowed into my life at eleven and saturated me, you infatuated me when in fact you hated me, groomed and then dated me…”. The rapped verses are counter-pointed by vocal sections that provide an effective contrast, especially the haunting falsetto section towards the end.

This lead vocal style is more prominent on the following Buried, and you can hear the influence of James Dean Bradfield as well as several American hard rock/metal band vocalists. This track epitomizes D.Ni.L’s ability to fuse disparate elements together seamlessly, so it starts out as angular and aggressive with a syncopated rhythm before breaking down halfway into a beautiful extended passage. This features some fine vocal harmonies and usage of guitars in a much more delicate, nuanced and melodic way.

The overall transcendent effect brought to mind the blissed-out modern prog rock of Radiohead’s Pyramid Song. Again, lyrically it’s about battling the demons of his addiction: “So many problems traceable back to you, infected from the start…fed by your roots I’m maladjusted, malnourished right to the heart“.

Third track Feelings is musically more upbeat, driven by a catchy guitar riff and bouncy bassline, offset by a clever, off-kilter syncopated beat. This is alternated by sections of straight 4/4 that again works as a contrast. The second verse shows his mastery of rhythm as he continually displaces the accent, so that the listener feels the music shift underneath their feet. Lyrically, it’s another confession of his inner self as he explores how addiction and hedonism stunted him as a person: “I thought that sex was love, that love was belonging, belonging to me and no-one else, that was jealousy and do-wronging….”.

Forever is one of the more slow-paced epics, with a long and languid vocal melody. Musically, its a chance to express his more melodic side with some gorgeous strings towards the end. There’s a poignancy and double meaning to lines like, “Someday I’ll find another thorn to put in your side….”. Here, he is singing in the first person personifying addiction itself, and its hold on him.

Fifth track Let The Side Down is one of the album’s most instant tracks, with its anthemic title hook and compelling, addictive rhythms. Musically, it gradually builds in intensity until it climaxes with an electrifying rap section: “You were cheap but I was cheaper, as I fell deeper your price tag got steeper….”. Most importantly, it depicts how he is winning the war against his addiction with lines like, “No longer stuck to me, bringing bad luck to me, I’ve written you out of this story….”.

Melt is one of the album’s darkest tracks with a strong metal influence on certain sections which are cleverly alternated with complex, cathartic verses and another passage of great melodic beauty in the middle. It’s one of the most tormented tracks lyrically, as he portrays the seductive and all encompassing nature of addiction with harrowing imagery: “I chased you from brown to black, then you fizzled into nothing… now you’re long gone, even from the tips of my hair…..”.

Nod begins with a solemn string introduction before bursting into one of the visceral riffs that form part of his signature sound. It develops into another fully realized fusion of rock, metal and progressive genres, juxtaposing memorably anthemic sections with sparse and unrelentingly intense verses, brimming with restless rhythmic invention. Lyrically, it feels like it touches on the album’s main theme of gaining self-knowledge: “I didn’t even know myself, spent my life living in my head, no perspective, one dimension, I shut myself out….”.

Running starts by showcasing the flipside of his main sound, with a dreamy and delicately performed lengthy introduction that shows his musical craftsmanship as well as his more sensitive side. This is alternated with a more typically heavy section, yet the sensitivity is maintained with a soaring falsetto performance. Lyrically, its perhaps the most opaque thing here but conveys huge emotive power through lines such as, “I knew that we had an opportunity, now running, running away home and running out of oil soon….”.

Ninth song Sweet Man and the following Top and Bottom Of It feel like a potent diffusion of all the elements of his sound and style that he displays complete command of across the duration of the album. The former features some killer opening lines (“Could be the swig that takes you out of the game, could be the dig that adds deceased to your name…”) while the latter is one of the effective arrangements, building enormous cathartic tension through gradually developing themes and dynamics.

Under My Wing is one of the lighter, more immediately accessible songs here, with a seductive title hook and vocal melody, sung over equally infectious, pulsing low-end guitar. This more laid back style continues into the album’s final track, which takes the template of the slow burning epic to its ultimate conclusion.

Clocking in at nearly nine minutes, Way Back Down spends its first five minutes building up a brick wall of unbearable tension before it explodes into a brief section full of deep-seated rage. It then returns to the haunting, disturbing refrain of, “Under your breath, you swear that you’ll take me down….”, leaving the listener wondering if the addiction battle is ever truly won.

Overall, this album is a compelling musical journey that depicts the struggles of drug addiction with unflinching honesty and raw emotional expression. D.Ni.L is artistically fearless, taking the listener to some dark places but also unafraid to express sensitivity and vulnerability. The result is a work of enormous cathartic power that offers the hope of recovery and redemption throughout, making it the perfect follow up and companion piece to his previous masterpiece Boy Inside.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10  

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen to the whole album HERE

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Montauk by Montauk

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www.takemetomontauk.com

Montauk are a British pop/rock band and the musical brainchild of songwriter and lead vocalist Drew Richardson. He has been writing music from an early age and Montauk is the culmination of a lifelong dream. The band is much a product of the internet era; on this album Drew worked face to face with producer/guitarist Tom Jobling, vocalist Rebecca Chambers and drummer  Sam West, however fellow members Jon Wright and Max Saudi (guitar and drums respectively) recorded their parts online, a method used by many artists and producers today.

This self-titled album, and the band name itself, was inspired by the classic film Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, about a couple who have their memories of each other erased to get over their relationship. This theme recurs on certain songs on the album. Musically, while they can be essentially described as commercial pop/rock, there’s an eclecticism within the songs and you can hear similarities to bands like The Killers, U2, Bon Jovi, The War On Drugs, Snow Patrol and Red Hot Chili Peppers, along with solo artists like George Ezra, Ed Sheeran and the more mature solo work of Gary Barlow.

Opening track Doom Dust is a superb start to this twelve track album. Beginning with echo-drenched guitars, it builds into an anthemic, uplifting song about trying to realize your full potential. You can tell quite quickly that Richardson is an experienced and accomplished craftsman. There’s a firm understanding of dynamics in how he keeps the verse and chorus cohesive, yet contrasting.

The chorus itself is huge, augmented by the fine backing vocals of Rebecca Chambers, whose voice complements Drew’s nicely. Lyrically, it expresses something many will relate to, feeling things block you from truly being yourself: “I want to shake this world to the core and let the people know that I’ve got so much more“. It’s the kind of music you can imagine thousands singing along to in sold out arenas, and the mellifluous guitar solo fits perfectly. A perfect balance between rock and pop.

Fall in Love is one of the album’s more romantic moments, and another very finely crafted song. It’s one which wears its heart on its sleeve, lyrically: “Could you be the missing link, the mixer for the bitter drink that is my life?“. It’s another lighters-in-the-air epic chorus and the subtle combination of male and female vocals made me think of one of Britain’s great unsung pop groups The Beautiful South (early era).

Hanging Baskets has the most beautiful intro on the album, crystal-clear picked acoustic guitar setting the tone for an intimate lead vocal from Richardson. It’s a song about wanting to just enjoy being in love without letting anything else intrude: “I don’t know if its wrong, don’t know if its right….I don’t know what has gone, I don’t care what’s to come…”. This is a very touching song that should win him many fans.

Welcome To You is an interesting song, with shades of later period Mumford and Sons in the folk-inflected melodies and rolling drum patterns. The vocal melody is very modern sounding to go with the production, and the instantly memorable vocal melody makes it very suitable for radio. After the second chorus, it breaks out into a gorgeous symphonic section; the album is full of these nuanced touches that add richness to the sound. A potential single.

Heart Attack takes things in another direction entirely – an upbeat funk/blues track driven by rhythmic piano and bursts of organ, featuring some slick harmonies. Drew gives an excellent vocal performance here and this different style shows the versatility of his songwriting. Lyrically, its a classic tale of falling for someone where the passion burns so much that it makes for a tempestuous relationship. Well written, high quality pop .

The intriguingly named Osidius (Just A Girl) returns to epic rockier style of the opening song though this one leans more heavily to the rock side. Alongside another massive, memorable chorus (an area where Richardson excels), it features some gorgeous, plaintive strings and a blistering stood-on-a-cliff-edge lead guitar solo. The following Love For Sale maintains the Bon Jovi vocal and guitar style, with the riffs and harmonies on this one really showing the more classic rock side of his oeuvre.

Eternal Sunshine is the first of two consecutive songs based on the film mentioned earlier. Here, Richardson effectively captures the emotional torment the lead characters go through in the film. Musically, it’s one of the more sparse tracks and it’s a proper duet with Rebecca Chambers, who depicts the character played by Kate Winslet. It works so well, that you could imagine it as part of a musical based on the film. Their voices combine and harmonize beautifully on the tender chorus, a real album highlight.

Take Him To Montauk is essentially the title track and it’s a good one. It starts with a vocal ‘dum-de-dum’ section that brought to mind George Ezra, whilst the gorgeous high end acoustic guitar and vocal delivery recall the lighter moments of Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s clearly about the main character of Eternal Sunshine (played by Jim Carrey) and how he’s missing his lover despite having had all memories of her erased. The title hook (“Take him to Montauk, driver….”) is very effective and latches in the mind upon the first listen. Another potential single.

Tell The Fool is another moody epic ballad in the Bon Jovi mould and stands out for a particularly good lead vocal. It should be said that his singing voice is as good as anything you’ll come across in the upper reaches of the charts, and this song is one crowds will love to sway along to.

I Won’t Want To Wake Up With You is a return to the toe-tapping pop funk style of Heart Attack, propelled by an irresistible groove and Chic-style funky high-end electric guitar chords. Special mention should go to the restlessly inventive bassline (including a superb bass solo!) and the smoky Rhodes piano. Richardson’s falsetto vocals in parts of the track sounded like Justin Timberlake, and this ability to switch genres gives massive potential to his fanbase.

Closing track Dance With The Devil is essentially his signature pop/rock sound, though with an intriguing arrangement. It starts out sounding like The Police with reggae-infused quarter note guitars then unexpectedly switches into an almost punky full-on rock style. The rich organ gives the song a 70’s Deep Purple vibe, and it works. There’s a tremendous brooding energy that seems to explode in the orgasmic guitar solo, then leads into the penultimate choruses. Lyrically, it’s by far the most raw and edgy he gets on this album, with a few words at the end I can’t repeat here! A blazing way to finish.

Overall, this is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, one that runs the gamut in terms of both genre and emotional range. Drew Richardson has honed his songwriting craft to a fine pitch and can go from sensitive balladry to headbanging rock n’ roll with consummate ease, throwing in funk, soul and even a little reggae influence along the way. Though this is far from an easy era to break through to the ‘big time’, if any band deserves to it’s undoubtedly Montauk.

 

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

You can purchase a CD or download the album from the official website HERE

2 bonus tracks are available only for those who download or purchase through the website!

Listen here:

 

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: On My Way by Martin Lucassen

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Martin Lucassen is a singer and songwriter in the adult contemporary pop/rock genre, hailing originally from the Netherlands. After developing his skills as both a singer and songwriter over time, he found a method of sending his demos to production companies to produce the professional backing tracks to his vocals. This worked well for him, and in this way he completed his debut album The Night Turns to Morning Light, released in 2015.

He has a strong Beatles influence in his melodic songwriting, though in fact I would say his signature sound is acoustic pop/rock in the same vein of John Lennon and George Harrison’s solo music. His singing voice is strong with a tone that is easy on the ear, somewhere between Lennon, George Harrison and Neil Finn from Crowded House. This album, On My Way, consists of eleven tracks and sees him branching out into other styles.

The opening song Nobody Knows Me starts out like a country track with an intro featuring plucked mandolins and picked acoustic guitar. This folky style is maintained on the verse but brought more into the rock sphere with rich electric guitar chords on the excellent chorus. Lyrically, it’s a rather poignant song about how little it’s possible to really understand and truly know each other as people, captured in lines like, “So you think that I’m predictable, can you read my thoughts so well?“. Superbly performed and produced, it gets the album off to a flying start.

Next track Human Revolution is somewhat of a musical departure; a brooding power pop/rock song with a pulsating, dance-influenced beat and an array of guitar styles. There is a definite 80’s vibe to certain aspects such as the epic sound of the production and the stellar lead guitar solos that appears after the choruses (bringing to mind Ritchie Sambora from Bon Jovi). Lyrically, it has an interesting theme, telling the story and progress of the human race itself in three minutes. An extremely accomplished and enjoyable song.

Why Today shows the more emotive and vulnerable side to his songwriting; a tender, string-augmented piano ballad that wears its heart on its sleeve. It captures the low emotional mood that results from the end of a loving romantic relationship and portrays it with simple but affecting honesty: “Everyone makes mistakes and I know I’ve made a lot…”. A fine example of his songwriting craft.

Fourth song Live for Tomorrow quickly lifts the mood back to positive and life affirming. It’s a pop rock with an angular, syncopated beat that keeps the music from feeling predictable. It’s a sunny anthem with an important message about keeping hopeful and contains one of the most instant choruses on the album. The following Keep Running Away is a return to his balladry. It starts out sounding like White Album-era Beatles with its crystal clear arpeggiated acoustic guitar, then builds into the epic pop style that he makes his own.

Yearn For The Past is another highly emotive song about a relationship going badly, and a feeling of nostalgia for how things used to be between them: “I yearn for the past, for our first kiss that beautiful night….”. As with most of his songs though, Lucassen manages to balance the dark with the light, ending the song with the optimistic refrain, “You’re still the one I’m longing for…”.

Brotherhood is a nice change of pace, a country-tinged upbeat track in 2/4 time and featuring one of the most life affirming lyrics on the album about sharing life’s ups and downs together: “Life is all about what is real, happy smiles and shedding a tear, getting and giving, emotions keep them living…”.

Passion & Attraction is a very well written song about the things that keep a romantic relationship, captured in the anthemic chorus: “Passion: open our hearts and release desire, Attraction: we’re old but still pretty, light the fire“. The haunting echo-drenched lead guitar lines and subtle strings add much to the emotive power of this fine example of songwriting craftsmanship. By contrast, ninth track Happy Dancing is perhaps the album’s most light-hearted moment. It’s a rollicking rocker that celebrates the simple joy of dancing, and the infectious vocal melody captures the subject matter perfectly.

Next comes the title track, and it’s a fine song with an interesting arrangement and unexpected chord changes. It features a crunchy, Money For Nothing-style guitar sound and lyrically it’s a continuation of an earlier theme – wanting to return a relationship to a previously happy state.

The album ends with a deeply moving song, Painted Nails. It’s a tragic and heartrending true story about a six year old boy called Tijn Kolsteren, close to death from brain cancer. He decided to raise money by painting people’s nails and raised millions of dollars which went towards research. This poignant subject is treated with great sensitivity by Lucassen, who sets the story to a beautiful piano ballad.

Overall, this album is a consistently strong set of songs that shows how Martin Lucassen has developed as a songwriter. Whilst his debut album was good evidence of his songwriting talent, this one shows his creative progression. Aided by very talented musicians and excellent production values,  he manages to convey the vicissitudes of the human condition with heartfelt passion and time-honed musical skill. The result is a piece of work that will appeal to music fans right across the board, ticking the boxes of both commercial appeal and artistic endeavour.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Spirits in Smoke by REVELEVER

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https://www.facebook.com/REVELEVER

REVELEVER is the artistic moniker of composer/songwriter and multi instrumentalist Randy Lever. Having started out as a drummer playing pop, rock and metal he became increasingly interested in synths and the creative freedom of technology. His music is highly influenced by the synth-driven artists of the 1980’s such as Gary Numan, Duran Duran, Talk Talk and Japan.

This short album, Spirits in Smoke, consists of four instrumental tracks that all clock in between the four-to-six minute mark. They are ambitious in their scope and structure, with an intricacy in the composition that shows a clear artistic vision from the composer. The title of the album is very apposite, as REVELEVER’s music has a mystical vibe that takes the listener on a journey.

Musically, the soundscape consists of a very 1980’s synth rock sound, when technology and musicality truly combined. So alongside synths, we hear drums, bass, piano and guitar (the latter performed by his father Ferry Lever . The album starts with the title track, and it’s a stately, evocative epic that gradual grows in complexity. The main melody has a haunting quality, underpinned by jazz-inflected piano chords. The different sections of the track contrast well, and the lightness of the synths also works with the more low-end, darker sounding instruments.

Second track The Driving Force of Nature starts with a beautiful piano melody and sparse percussion. Subtle synths weave their way into the sonic texture before it bursts into an uplifting section led by crystal-clear clean lead guitar and strings. This piece really showcases his gifts as a melodist and there’s so much musical detail that you barely notice that six minutes have passed. It ends the same saturnine way it began.

Third track The Beauty of Innocence is more rhythm-based, with a tense classical-style piano motif heard over an intricate world-music influenced beat and another prominent role for strings. The music is driven along by a chugging, picked guitar and the complexity of the arrangement brings to mind the sophisticated pop of Peter Gabriel and Talk Talk. The track takes a more Eastern direction in its second half, with the introduction of the magical sound of the sitar. It gives the music a very exotic flavour and this was my personal favourite.

Closing track Sunshine is much lighter in tone compared to the sultry intensity of the previous track. Set to a gentle, laid back bossa-nova beat it once again showcases his talent for melody and interesting harmonic structures. Ascending piano lines interweave with soothing string melodies to create a sound picture that made me think of a sunny holiday on a foreignb each. The restrained lead electric guitar was a nice touch, and the EP very much ends on a high note.

Overall, this a highly enjoyable album of synth-rock instrumentals, written and performed by a composer of consummate skill. Inspired by the more interesting and ambitious aspects of 1980’s pop, he has brought that sound into the 21st century and added his own musical idiosyncracies. The result is a compelling sonic journey.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: A Voice In The Wilderness by David Vaters

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https://www.facebook.com/davidvatersalbum

David Vaters is a country singer/songwriter and musician originally from St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada. During his career he has worked with well known musicians and producers such as Henri Spinetti (Eric Clapton, Tina Turner), Dave Markee (Eric Clapton) and Dan Cutrona (Joe Cocker, Bee Gees) amongst many others. He regards his influences as legendary singer/songwriters such as Neil Young, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

This album, A Voice In The Wilderness, comprises two volumes and it is his debut release. It features well known Nashville musicians such as Tom Hemby (Vince Gill, Kenny Loggins) on guitars and mandolin, John Hammond (Amy Grant, Vince Gill) on drums and percussion, along with Jeff Cox on bass and David Vest on keyboards. The latter co-produced with David Vaters, who performs all acoustic guitars and lead vocals.

Volume 1 of the album consists of ten tracks and begins with the melancholy country ballad Let It Rain. It showcases David’s fine voice, which is somewhere between Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. It’s a song that works as a story about a farmer needing rain for his crops, but also as a metaphor for going through hard times and the need for hope. These deeper themes feature throughout the album, with a philosophical style similar to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

Running To You is more upbeat, a mid-paced country rock track with Like A Rolling Stone-style drawbar organ. It features a particularly strong chorus which is augmented by some excellent backing harmonies. A standout moment on  this first volume. 8 Ways from Sunday is a tender lighters-in-the-air love ballad devoted to his wife and it’s also the first song on the album that mentions his strong Christian faith: “Only with God’s grace I begin to smile….”.

Brighter Than The Stars is another ballad and is explicitly about his faith and strong relationship with God: “Faith comes by hearing then accepting you…”. It’s a powerful, deeply spiritual song that brings to mind Bob Dylan after his conversion to Christianity. This theme continues on the next track This Cross (“Salvations coming, my work is done”) which gradually builds in intensity across its four minute duration to reach a cathartic climax.

Mansion In The Sky is a poignant song about how having faith and a belief in an afterlife helps you cope with thoughts of death. Credit to David should be given for having the courage to write about life’s most difficult subjects. This one is musically very colourful, with the rich sound of accordion and plucked mandolin.

Sixth track God Help Me Out is another song of humble gratitude about how his faith has sustained him through difficult times. Musically, it’s another organ-driven country rock song, with bursts of bluesy harmonica and slide guitar. See You In Heaven is a very touching track written from the perspective of someone who has died and reassuring his loved one that he’s still around and they will be reunited in the afterlife. This song will comfort anyone suffering with bereavement and deep grief.

It’s Time is an album highlight, an uplifting epic piano-led ballad with a powerful ‘carpe diem’ message and a magnificent vocal performance from Vaters, whose passion and sincerity is axiomatic. Musically, it’s based around a classic descending chord sequence, counter pointed by ascending string lines. The final track on Volume 1 is an instrumental version of Brighter Than The Stars, which shows the musical intricacy of this fine composition in a new light, bringing this volume to a gentle close.

Volume 2 opens with another of David’s philosophical songs that contain a lifetime’s experience and wisdom. Castles In The Sand is about the transitory and ephemeral nature of man’s achievements and how everything we do is only temporary in life. Second track Forgive is one of his deeply moral songs, about the importance of forgiving those who have wronged you. It was an obvious choice as a single.

Godly Man is one of his more uptempo rock tracks that reiterates his faith, interspersed with moments of mellifluous electric lead guitar and some rather cool vocal effects towards the end. Brothers In Need is a poignant song with a minimal but effective musical backdrop, a tale told from the perspective of a homeless man who is helped by others and by finding faith in God. It’s sort of a modern parable, an update of The Good Samaritan.

Prepare is a nice contrast, built around a Sixties-esque picked guitar riff and rich vocal harmonies that brought to mind The Byrd’s circa Younger Than Yesterday. Talking To God is another song about finding the strength to overcome adversity through prayer and faith, a message which will resonate most with fellow Christians.

Like I’ve Been Born Again starts out similarly as a piano ballad before breaking into a muscular beat and as the title implies, is about finding redemption through his faith. I enjoyed the lead guitar section that injects drama into the music halfway through. Service of The King is another single taken from the album, and its easy to see why, with a very radio-friendly sound also featuring gospel-tinged female vocals.

Resurrection Day is musically a bit of a departure, this one an exciting stomp that made me think of Springsteen’s Born To Run album. Lyrically, it’s about the Christian belief that the dead will one day resurrected from the grave at some point, provided they had accepted the Christian doctrines before they died. The second volume closes with another instrumental, with this one being Talking To God. This version allows the musical beauty of the arrangement to shine and ends the album on a high note.

Overall, this is a highly accomplished and ambitious two-volume album. In an era where the art form of the album is dying out and people’s attention spans grow ever shorter, it’s to his great credit to release a double album as his debut. But his decision has already been vindicated, as it has been streamed in the millions already. For those of faith and those without, David Vaters writes songs that capture the timeless human condition.

VERDICT: 8.6 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

Listen here: 

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Down The Line by Snir Yamin

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www.facebook.com/sniryaminmusic

Snir Yamin is a singer and songwriter hailing from Israel. His music is a hybrid of folk, pop and rock and he cites influences such as Damien Rice, Jeff Buckley, Neil Young and Elliott Smith amongst others. You can also hear sonic similarities to bands like Muse, The Killers and the lesser known British band Nothing But Thieves. In 2016, he was awarded Best Folk Song by The Akademia.

This song, Down The Line, is perfectly pitched between rock and pop. Beginning with an evocative synth-based intro, low-end guitar stabs grab your attention before Snir enters with an immediately distinctive and captivating voice. The poetic nature of the lyrics also quickly becomes apparent from the opening lines: “From slowing down to running free on wild roads and buried dreams….”.

The bridge creates a nice sense of tension before exploding into the anthemic chorus, which is melodically uplifting while at the same time lyrically troubled: “So-called friends keep watching me, they want me to lose my sanity down the line….”. After the second chorus it breaks into a half-time section with another catchy refrain, before it builds back up for one last blast through the title hook, aided by tight vocal harmonies.

Overall, this is one of the best examples of songwriting I’ve heard this year in the rock/pop genre. Snir Yamin writes affecting songs that many will relate to lyrically, and he has the ability to marry his melancholy words to soaring, cathartic melodies. This was a gift shared by his musical heroes, and Snir has a very bright future ahead of him if he can maintain the quality of Down The Line. It deserves to become an anthem in the alternative rock scene.

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

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