Aether Realm – Tarot

a4166387068_10-500x500After getting goosebumpy by the original sounding intro of the starting track of Tarot (2017), The Fool, the multitude of Finnish metal influences really caught me off guard! A lot of melodeath, Wintersun’s epic song-writing, combining clean, heroic and very Jari Mäenpää-style raspy vocals. Power metal elements and blastbeating with bright melodic backline are straight out of Wintersun’s repertoire too. Insomnium style very melancholic guitar melodylines pop up ever so often. There’s a huge folk metal backbone that could, logically after two such clear influences, be based on Ensiferum, but just as well to some other influental 2000s folk metal band. Then! All the sudden The Emperor is a pure Kalmah track! Have these guys from North Carolina listened to anything else except Finnish metal!?

And why would the Finnish metal influences be negative?

Lo! They are using these influences with a lot of class, Tarot is a really really solid album. The four above mentioned Finnish bands are huge influence on my metal background so it’s no wonder that I’m keen on placing them on Tarot. Upon further listens it is clear that Tarot is not a copycat but an original album and a great mesh. And fair enough, there’s technical death metal riffing, power metal (Tarot), flashy pure rock solo (The Tower), black metal intro and a flamenco break (The Devil), midi intro (The Sun, the Moon, the Star), melancholic acoustic material (Temperance)… I cannot place the backbone of the album anywhere else than on good old Finnish melodic death metal but it does not make the album any lesser.

On actual negatives and melodies

How many times have I stressed that an album that clocks 73 minutes is TOO … FUCKING … LONG. Sure enough, Strength is a filler track and The Chariot not much of my liking. Notable weaknesses are the very cheesy and unoriginal folk metal melodies in Strength‘s verse and chorus and The Chariot‘s chorus. The American groove metal vibe and attitude lyrics of The Chariot are not to my personal preferences either. However Strength does have a pre-verse that does some good old goosebumps and The Chariot a c-part that grooves like a moose. This package would be tighter without them even though these tracks are ok and especially The Chariot may interest a lot of fans. Better to have more material than too little i guess.

Mostly Aether Realm use their melodic patterns, if not originally, but well enough for me to enjoy them. It is not a melodic symphonic extravaganza like the fellow US band Wilderun, through which I found them. Aether Realm’s melodies are often folk but stellar enough to not slip into joyful major keys. The melodies have been used with good harmony. Symphonic sections and melancholic melodies, keep the folkish melodies fresh. An occasional less melodic riff-storm like The Devil is a very welcome addition.

I am very picky about folk metal melodies, I got tired of Ensiferum’sand Korpiklaani’s hip folk metal in about 2004.

Few more notable tracks…

Tarot does have major charm. Especially The Fool, hard-hitting and rhythmic Death (Only For The Weak in the beginning riff, anyone?) and the 19 minute opus, The Sun, the Moon, the Star which has some serious epicness going on. The Sun, the Moon, the Star is really hard to dissect into bits but it flows smoothly as hell from choir hits to electronic sounds, symphonic melodeath riffing with folk cleans to power metal riffing followed by straight to your face melodic guitar frenzy and black metallish blastbeating. Then a piano interlude! And this was just a 3 minute part in the middle of it!

Even the drinking song King of Cups does not fall into an unoriginal drinking song pothole but is genuinely a good track with mean vocal delivery, some killer fucking guitar work and lovely weird ass solo.

8½/10

Lauren Bousfield – Fire Songs – Music Quickies of sorts

a4189338573_10Nero’s Day At Disneyland’s breakcore/gamemusic mesh developed into more artistic and feminine, even electronic indie-pop flirting Lauren Bousfield. BUT the 2017 EP Fire Songs takes a step back towards Nero’s sprained breakcore instrumental music, the electronic indie-pop is largely gone. Is IDM (intelligent dance music) the correct term? What a douche genre name that is by the way. 19 minutes long Fire Songs EP seems like easily the best Lauren Bousfield release. It is a quick starter too, I was really digging it immediately on the first listen. There’s way too little love for EP’s in the world…

Little Half Dead Fire Exits Hi and Piles of Black Dresses… are A-fucking class melody spectaculars with heaviness on beats too. Little Half Dead Fire Exists Hi is almost a melancholic piece, remember the time you got badly burned and were forced to crowdfund your medical bill? Those were the days…

No One3 and CirlGocks (with Omiinindustries, collaboration?) are a step into more atmospheric electro. Girlcocks, i mean Cirlgocks, even does rave beats. The beginning of the album is a strange deja vu “I know this melody from somewhere on her releases, is it a remix?”. Creative continuity of sorts, I dig that. It’s kinda fresh to hear familiar parts in a new context after a long pause from Lauren Bousfield’s music. Here I am on the 4th listen of Fire Songs, 3rd in a row and the album developed into really fucking good. The glitching is gradually getting more pronounced on Lauren’s releases, there’s really a lot of that and it works wonderfully.

Personal crisis often makes musicians give the best out of themselves and it seems this fire certainly did that with Lauren Bousfield. Can we get more good musicians burnt up a bit? Anyone? Please? I’ll pay for the gas.

Best of all, Fire Songs is on Fire Sales! The release is pay what you want in bandcamp! Free download if you so wish:
https://laurenbousfieldanyev3r.bandcamp.com/album/fire-songs

Xenoverse – The Fall: Part I

a1427198727_10Progressive rock/metal “newcomer” Xenoverse seems to have been in the cusp of releasing their debut album since 2015. After a lot of polishing, a few gigs and apparently nearly finishing a 2nd full-length too, their debut The Fall: Part I has finally been released. Xenoverse is full of seasoned musicians but it’s clearly the brainchild of the vocalist/keyboardist Arttu Juntunen.

The music tiptoes on the edge of progressive rock and progressive metal, there’s plenty of virtuosity in instrumentation but also catchiness in choruses. The keyboards play a major role in the compositions, but guitars and drums are both well mixed too. Refreshingly bass also peeks out from behind the guitar riffs and is used as a driving instrument. Behind Enemy Lines is a good example of a track where the bass is constantly present.

There’s not much heavy guitar walls to be found but dynamic interplay between the instruments. The album sounds to be done with live performances in mind, for example the guitar solo of Behind Enemy Lines has no backing guitar, just the bass beating about. This reflects their live setup with just one guitarist. It actually works very well and doesn’t sound gutless, but groovy.

The Torturer is nearly death metal with industrial in keyboards, very far from the other tracks. The “hit” track that is also arguably the best, One Can Rule The Sky, is from the other edge of the pallette; a rocker and a melodic extravaganza! It does not feel like a 7 minute track at all. Disintegration is among the heaviest tracks with lovely hypnotic repetition and space rock whirrs and buzzes after a solid progressive rock beginning.

The album could probably do without The Torturer even though I enjoy the Scorngrain-like industrial keyboards. The mellow finisher Aria’s Premonition is quite boring especially as the album has a lot of mellowness. Perhaps the concept of the album cannot do without it. There’s no denying that the mellow tracks Solitary Confinement and Is This The End are solid, and when the distortion guitars kick in after 4 minutes of Solitary Confinement it sounds frigging fresh. How about the majestic symphonic elements then? Violins, Trombone, Cello, French horn, Viola, Majestic keyboard pad sounds; I admit, I’m a sucker for most things epic.

All in all The Fall: Part I is a complete solid progressive rock/metal album with fine attention to detail. A very impressive debut.

8/10

I also did a live review of their gig a few years ago.

Buy & listen to the album in bandcamp:
https://xenoverse.bandcamp.com/

 

Genghis Tron – Board up the House – Music quickies

R-1242139-1500594095-7229.jpegThe lost bastard brother of The Dillinger Escape Plan slowly created a unique style and broke up after their definitive album Board Up The House in 2008. Genghis Tron mixes mathcore with hardcore and grindcore but with a surprising twist electronic / industrial elements too.

Expect frenzied boosts of speed followed by ambient, sonic mid-paced sections, twisted leads, riff-jams, then an atonal keyboard melody, groove-metal… Just come with an open mind and expect all things in metal, pop, rock and electronic canons. That’s how diverse Genghis Tron is and boy do they make it work. Vocals are mostly very aggressive growled/shouted hardcore vocals, paired with sky-soaring cleans.

9-/10

High Points: City on a Hill, Colony Collapse.

https://genghistron.bandcamp.com/

Summoning – With Doom We Come – Music quickies

R-11361677-1515085236-7610.jpegSummoning has drawn Lord of the Rings influences since the early 90s and does it without resorting to annoying cliches. Sure, the music is pompous, repetitive and doomy but in the right way. If one didn’t happen to know their themes come from Lord of the Rings, it couldn’t be guessed.

As they’ve been really deep in the mythos for a long time, there’s no artificial Merri and Pippin or Aragorn bullshit. But there is a feeling of vastness, glorious mountains and adventure. The slight casionism’s in keyboard sounds can propel some people away but to my delicate casio-ear it is not bad. I guess it helps that the compositions are really strong, unique and epic metal tracks. Monumental, one could say.

Tar-Calion draws middle-eastern influence, showing that they should continue to experiment with melodies. Carcharoth‘s main riff is pretty much the riff of the year. Night Fell Behind sports an extremely atmospheric piano melody with a great riff in a composition that keeps developing and adding new melodic layers. All of these three are in my top 2018 tracks. Silvertine and With Doom I Come are both also really easy to label as very good. That doesn’t leave much to not like in the album. One of the best albums of the year for sure.

9/10

Best music just now – Music quickies

Best music just now, Aether Realm (melodic death metal), Iglooghost (some crazy wonky electronic artist), Carpenter Brut (synthwave/retrowave), Radien (sludge metal) & Saimaa (Finnish progressive poprock for sportsmen).

Æther Realm – Tarot (2017)

a4166387068_10-500x500My face when I was listening to a random rather praised American metal band that turns out sounding a lot like a mixture of Wintersun, Insomnium, Ensiferum and Kalmah. And they do this Finnish melodeath thing supremely fucking well. Every other year I lose my hope on ever finding really good melodeath anymore, then I am proven wrong…

The Fool is probably their most original and best track, but by no means the only great track in the album. Full review of the album has also been released in Like Music To Your Ears.


Iglooghost – Neō Wax Bloom (2017)

669158533299_T35318255470054If you don’t like bright complex electronic music, you might still dig this crazy Irish guy. Must be a love it or hate it artist. As a very raw definition one could say Iglooghost combines IDM, trip-hop / wonky, breakcore, dubstep and bright and fucked up vocal sounds. It has also been called a maximalist album which fits really well as there’s a shit ton of stuff happening.

Once more I didn’t know music like this could exist and be so goddamn logical and mind-boggling at the same time.

I am almost ashmed on how much I dig Neo Wax Bloom, the album does not wear out with tens of listens. Bug Thief is the best electronic track of 2017, hands down. The background story is also worth a mention: “It’s a story about a void named “Mamu” and its destruction by two falling eyeballs. “… OK OK.


Radien – Maa (2016)

Radien-maaFinnish sludgepulverizing. Very hypnotic, mostly based on gigantic riffs, but Radien also flourishes in good spareful use of melodies. Even if you don’t speak Finnish, this is a supreme release. Also free to download from bandcamp!

 

 


Carpenter Brut – Leather Teeth (2018)

R-11608612-1519344046-6788.jpegI am not as taken aback with Leather Teeth, as I’d like to. I expected it to be a full time heavy as shit electronic retrowave joyblast like Trilogy but… It is good but the ridiculously strong melodic themes are not as apparent as on Trilogy. On some tracks like the title track everything sticks together like it should. Bringing in two great vocalists in Ulver’s Kristoffer Rygg and Beastmilk/Grave Pleasures Mat McNerney also helps the case.


Saimaa – Urheilu-Suomi (2018)

R-11561131-1518526844-2996.jpeg

Finnish progressive poprock with full-on sports theme. A lot of 70s/80s resembling instrumental material infused with nostalgic clips from the past, and spoken word sections that somehow remind of electronic occult band Tähtiportti. The totality sums as a really competitive album. It is really not just a classic rock album, but nearly a big-band album too. There’s an array of wind and bowed string instruments and synths. I don’t think a mixture like this has ever been made.

There’s a lot of humour like the over of the top hero story Kuningas (footballer Jari Litmanen). 99 % of the album is really far from normal depressive Aki Kaurismäki like Finnish music tones. Yet out of the blue Saimaa crafts a supremely touching track in Suo Porkka ja Suksi. It tells the tragic story of cross-country skier Mika Myllylä like a Kalevala poem. If you want just instrumental goodness, I recommend the crazy bass leads of Pikataipale.

Even the first part of the double album is too long (77 minutes), hence I made a better 41 minute version of it to a Spotify playlist under this paragraph. You are welcome Saimaa, next time maybe hire me ;)?


Bandcamps:

https://aether-realm.bandcamp.com/album/tarot-2
https://iglooghost.bandcamp.com/album/ne-wax-bloom
https://carpenterbrut.bandcamp.com/album/leather-teeth
https://radien.bandcamp.com/album/maa