Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

‘Phenomena of the Mind’ is a re-mastered EP of selected tracks from the album of the same name released by Mieko Shimizu in 2006, the year after the London Terror attacks. Something dispirited and unexplainable lay heavy in the air off the sprawling city we lived and breathed. In the title song, ‘Phenomena of the Mind’, her intense Japanese rap echoes the deafening noise of the chaotic streets we walk each day. “Visualise”, she said, try to imagine a way to fight your way out of this ominous, dystopian world.

In the track ‘Signal Found’, the theme continues to shattered Dance Hall beats that reverberate to the “twisted sound of broken down London town.”

“Have you lost the plot? Are you ok?” she asks.

In the track ‘Black Salt’, a dark melancholic theme floats over fragmented, glitchy beats, compounded by the repetition of “black” which hammers the constant bombardment of racism prescient of the call for freedom that Black Lives Matter.

Wonderland Magazine has described Mieko’s music as, “beautiful poetic verses and stunning musical arrangements” and Mark Taylor of Record Collector as “An avant garde artist pushing boundaries.”

Mieko Shimizu is a London based Japanese singer, songwriter, composer and producer. Mieko first erupted onto the UK electronic scene as Apache 61; her searing alter ego. The self-titled album garnered plays by John Peel and she quickly build a name across the London & Berlin underground scenes.

Previously she had released 2 albums in her own name, Totem & Road of Shells, then the album Minimal Dance as Mekon Zoo and in 2020 she released her latest album I Bloom.

Watch ‘Phenomena of the Mind’ here:

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Industrial band Panic Lift continues the unraveling of its themed EP release cycle with the band’s first release of 2022 titled Stitched.

This four song EP features two new songs titled ‘Every Broken Piece’ and ‘Bitter Cold’ with remixes from Mechanical Vein and Tragic Impulse.

Lyrically, “Every Broken Piece” and “Bitter Cold” continue with the familiar themes of stress, coping, and concerns of self-image. Hardcore Panic Lift fans may remember “Every Broken Piece” from Panic Lift’s lockdown shows in 2020 that were broadcast online during the height of the COVID19 Pandemic.

For Stitched, Panic Lift explores a harsh ebm sound more stylistically similar to their landmark debut record , Witness To Our Collapse. James Francis explains “I’ve always tried to find a happy medium between what I’m doing now, and where I started” he continues “but now that I’m doing smaller releases, I have the ability to experiment with different styles without having to worry much about how they fit with the rest of my catalog.”

Watch ‘Every Broken Piece’  here:

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Italy’s Red Rot is the new extreme metal band of Luciano Lorusso George and Davide Tiso, formerly of Ephel Duath, and their debut Mal de Vivre, is a relentless opus of technical beauty and bludgeoning grace.

Dubbed after a French expression to describe a sense of profound discontentment, the idea of losing the taste for life, Red Rot’s Mal de Vivre was written, recorded and mixed between October 2020 and May 2021 as the world was reeling in the throes of pandemic. Featuring eclectic drummer Ron Bertrand and bass virtuoso Ian Baker to flesh out their powerhouse of cutting-edge extreme metal, Red Rot are an emerging force to be reckoned with.

The seventeen songs in Mal de Vivre are musically intense, raw and passionate, but with a multi-faceted elegance that envisages Red Rot appealing to fans of radical and heavy music right across the spectrum. Engorged with elements of Death Metal, Doom and Thrash: Mal de Vivre sounds like a twisted blend of the roots of early Morbid Angel and Paradise Lost with the experimental discord of Voivod and the hardcore clash and klang of bands like Converge. Lorusso’s lyrics on Mal de Vivre explore themes of mental illness, psychological deviance, rage, gloom and paranoia, all delivered with agonized and emotional conviction. Davide Tiso further illustrates their themes and origins in his concept for Red Rot by explaining:

“When it was time to give a name to the music coming up, I thought about two elements: something sulphuric, malignant in its essence, combined with the idea of rot.

I found out that the Red Rot present in the vegetable tanned leather of old books that remain stored and untouched in humid locations is a result of binding components turning into sulphuric acid. This idea of old knowledge left rotting into itself created sulphuric essence clicked with me. It took quite a long time for me to start playing rotting sounding music: my career started playing sophisticated jazzy sounding metal. Now I feel I added sulphur to my music and Red Rot is the result of it. Apparently the damage caused by red rot is irreversible, I like to think that Red Rot’s music could do the same”.

Red Rot have also shared the video for first single "Ashes” directed by Niklas Sundin. Watch it here:

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North Wales Psychedelic rock band Holy Coves announce brand new ‘Druids And Bards’ 24-date UK Tour and are set to release brand new ‘Desert Storm’ single which  on Friday 29th of April via prolific North Wales Label Yr Wyddfa Records.

Dropping swiftly into the slip-stream and following on from the successful ‘The Hurt Within’ which was released last month, ‘Desert Storm’ sets the psych mood with droney riffs, hazy vocals on an epic musical landscape.

Lead by Welsh Singer-Songwriter Scott Marsden, Holy Coves find themselves crossing an unseen threshold on a fantastical new journey where new psych-hazed material spells an exciting new era for the collective.

Through long time friend and Producer David Wrench, Holy Coves were put in touch with Texan Producer Erik Wofford (The Black Angels / Explosions In The Sky) and have built quite a magical working relationship, one where Wofford found himself on Mixing and Mastering duties for the material and certainly contributes to their new sound.

Listen to ‘Desert Storm’ here:

Tour dates are below:

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Temple Invisible have unveiled their arresting new single ‘Over My Feet’, taken from new ‘Chiasm’ EP coming next month.

Fusing chiffon vocals with impending electronic beats, ‘Over My Feet’ comes as the third single plucked from Temple Invisible’s forthcoming ‘Chiasm’ EP, and boasts the breadth of the genre-defying duo.

Showcasing the two-piece’s knack for creating evocative electronic-tinged tracks that are as dark as they are diaphanous, “Over My Feet” feels eerie and overcast yet optimistic and inviting all at once.

Speaking of the inspiration behind the track, vocalist Irina Bucescu explains:

“’Over My Feet’ is like a walk in the forest. It draws its roots from the deep and rich life of the underground — the mycelium. As you progress deeper into the forest, you connect with the life force, inside out, and blend the deeper and more disturbing truths into a multi-layered view of reality. The metamorphosis of death can be a beautiful thing when you walk in the forest.”

With its opening moments unfolding like a silken ballad — gauzy vocals and gentle key taps wind themselves around one another with cushiony ease — the docile ambience is soon underpinned by swirling electro rhythms that steadily threaten to erupt, before overflowing into a meticulous amalgam of rippling instrumentals.

Watch the video here:

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Christian Death – Quicksand

10th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Christian Death have long shown a love of Bowie, which has subtly permeated their work but was rendered concrete with their version of ‘Panic in Detroit’ in the Rage of Angels album. But anyone who would think that the Bowie fandom was specific to the Rozz Williams era of the band would be mistaken: Valor has long embraced androgynous elements in his style, and never shied away from pop / art rock elements within the music itself.

There have, of course been numerous covers of ‘Quicksand’, and the one thing that’s apparent from all of them is that a great song is a great song, whoever’s playing it, even Seal. If Dinosaur Jr’s cover was a brilliant example of reconfiguring the song into a slacker anthem, Christian Death’s take, which stretches the original five-minute song well past the seven-minute mark is remarkably faithful to the original and doesn’t goth it up in the slightest. This isn’t a complete surprise: their previous covers, from Garyn Numan’s ‘Down in the Park’ to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Angel’, which appeared on All the Love, were straight and sensitive, even reverent in their approach.

Performed by Valor and Maitri, it’s predominantly acoustic guitar and piano, but there’s a full backing with drums, bass, and sweeping string sounds, making for a take that’s bold, theatrical, and yet, at the same time, intimate, and fitting at a time when Bowie covers and links to his songs are proliferating on social media: it may be the fifth anniversary of his death, but the week also marks what would have been his 75th birthday, and it’s fair to say few, if any artists have had quite the impact he did. Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones, may have all broken immense ground, but Bowie was an entirely different proposition, on so many levels, and it’s clear the shock and grief are still strong for so many. This, then, is a fitting and well-executed, heartfelt tribute.

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Iranian groove metal/hardcore band Confess describe themselves as a “five-piece street protest”. It’s not a figure of speech: Nikan Khosravi (vocals/guitar) and Arash Ilkhani (DJ/Sampler) have experienced political persecution first-hand. Theband’s upcoming album “Revenge at All Costs” is a cry of outrage in the form of chunky down-tuned riffs marinated in the Norwegian winter.

The journey started in junior high school in Tehran when Nikan got a CD from a classmate. It contained music videos by metal bands from the 90s and 2000s. "I was fascinated by the sound of the genre," he states. "Ever since this music has been the centre of my life." Nikan and Arash started the band as
teenagers in 2010, releasing their first album "Beginning of Dominion" in 2012. Their early sound gravitated towards old-school death metal and 90s hardcore, always with some grooviness to it.

Nikan started his own label "Opposite Records" in 2014. Up until now, this could sound like the story of any European band. But change the context and being a metal musician in Iran could mean anything from government surveillance to execution. Arrest and prison followed the release of the band’s second album
In Pursuit of Dreams in 2015. This led to the pair being arrested and facing execution on charges of blasphemy in one of Iran’s harshest prisons.

Fast forward to 2018, when both Nikan and Arash obtained refugee status in Norway. Confess started experimenting with seven strings and adding modern death metal sounds. But the groovy headbanging spirit of their musical DNA is very much alive. Confess has played in public without fear of repercussions ever since. After several concerts in Norway, their latest milestone has been opening for Mayhem at Festspillene i Nord.

As a taster for the 2022 album ‘evenge at all Costs, they’ve given us ‘Ransom Note.’ Watch ‘Ransom Note’ here:

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DROTT have released hypnotic new single and video ‘Arch of Gloom’. The song can now be streamed/downloaded on all platforms . The video was directed and edited by Jens Kristian Rimau.

The band comments on ‘Arch of Gloom’: “At the end of a dark and bouncy road lies the Arch of Gloom. Through persistent bass and drums, Arch of Gloom is driven to the point of desperate collapse by a haunting guitar solo. Mesmerizing in its mystical attraction, it hypnotizes desperate souls into a surrealistic dance before they are lured down the abyss to face the verdict of Orcus.”

DROTT is comprised of Arve Isdal (Enslaved), Ivar Thormodsæter (Ulver) and Matias Monsen and hails from Bergen in the west coast of Norway. With their varied musical background ranging from metal and jazz to classical music, they create the genre which can only be described as DROTT. Inspired by forces of nature, superstition and spirituality the trio explores light within darkness through their music. 

The group, recently established (2020), released their self-titled EP in March 2021 and received great reviews. It established the Drott’s instrumental Progressive Rock sound as a breath of fresh air in the genre! Their first full-length Orcus album takes Drott in a new creative and artistic direction. With 10 tracks they dive deeper into sonic, experimental landscapes!

Check the video here:

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Pic: Jens Kristian Rimau

Cruel Nature Recordings – 27th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Grunge isn’t dead. Not by a long way. Although, the trouble with grunge is that even at its height, most of the bands weren’t that impressive, and the ones who were achieved the widest success were the weakest, most accessible of the crop. Without the polished and ultimately marketable Nevermind, Nirvana would have never achieved global domination, although both Bleach and In Utero were, and remain, far superior albums, while the like of Tad and Mudhoney are the true sound of grunge, and capture the gritty, sweaty toil of blue collar labour channelled into aural catharsis. These bands never set out to change the world, but to vent their frustrations and ultimately their sense of powerlessness through music.

Perhaps it’s an age thing, but being in sixth form when grunge exploded it felt like not only an exciting time for music, but that this was a wave of music that actually spoke both to and for my generation at the time. In a way I feel rather sorry for the Millennials and Gen Z; the blandness of contemporary music speaks of nothing but surface. Even when addressing genuine issues, there feels like not only an absence of depth, but an absence of real emotion, of soul. Perhaps it’s just that the mainstream industry, represented by the mainstream charts, dominated by mainstream artists on major labels is simply giving the entirety of its focus on monetising slick sonic wallpaper. It seems odd that generations so riven with pain and angst (and who can blame them?) should find solace in this kind of anodyne slop. It can’t just be the numbing effects of antidepressants: something is clearly awry. Small wonder, then, that some delve into their parents’ collections in order to find music that contains what’s missing for them.

New York’s Cronies formed in June 2020 by brothers Jack and Sam Carillo, the press pitch describes the project as ‘the creative offspring of Covid and isolation’. Creative is the word: having pulled in a couple of mates to render this a full band, they’ve already banged out a brace of Eps in the last year ahead of this, their eponymous debut, which Cruel Nature are releasing on another Bandcamp Friday, with Proceeds going to charity.

It’s a bowel-shaking bass note that strikes first, and the sustain is something. And then in lurches a grimy guitar that’s welded to a stumbling rhythm section – and it’s heavy. Then the drawling vocal rips into a fill-throated roar that’s pure Cobain. These guys have taken the relentless battery of Bleach and the nihilistic squall of In Utero as their template, with a dash of thrash and some of the grimy heft of Tad in the mix (‘Slush Fund’ even leans on the riff from Tad’s ‘Behemoth’ but chicks in some stun synths and some manic hollering that’s more reminiscent of The Jesus Lizard), and ‘A Slippery Slope’ throws all of these in at once, along with a sudden change of pace and direction two-thirds of the way in. On ‘Ritchie from Lebanon’ they build a massively dense bulk of noise, the guitars and bass churning, overloading at great volume.

What Cronies have that their peers lack – well, there are many things, if we’re analysing (and of course we are: that’s the purpose of music criticism). But first and foremost, it’s raw passion and energy. There’s nothing slick or ultra-processed about this: Cronies are unashamedly ragged, and really embrace the grunge ethic of the time when most of the bands from Nirvana to Mudhoney were still on labels like Sub Pop. It’s perhaps because of the band’s origins – confined, trapped – that the songs on Cronies teem and seethe with abject frustration. Sometimes, words simply cannot articulate those feelings, and all there is to do is scream and unleash howls of feedback instead of neat chords. And this is what Cronies do, and this is why they speak to us: it’s accepting the limitations of articulation and unleashing a primal howl. It’s powerful because it’s real.

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Internationally acclaimed composer and virtuoso cellist Jo Quail has today released, ‘The Parodos Cairn’ to raise money for the ‘Save Our Venues’ crowd funder. This new composition is comprised entirely of 167 audio samples sent to her over the first few weeks of lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis. Jo comments,

‘I was of course disappointed following the necessary and inevitable cancellation and postponement of all concerts and tours, but primarily I felt an overwhelming urge to somehow connect with you in this time, to still symbolically meet with you and though without a concert hall and stage I felt sure we could still somehow unite, and create an inclusive, unifying experience.

I posted a video on social media outlining these thoughts and suggesting people record a note or a sound, then send these to me, and from these I would create a piece of music. I suggested using phones to record, as I wanted to make this creative outlet available to everybody, musician or not, with or without a recording facility.  At the outset of this project  I envisaged receiving perhaps 10 or 20 contributions, writing a piece of music for solo cello and then incorporating within this piece whatever samples I received. The incredible take up and enthusiasm from my initial video request meant I had to rethink my strategy! I never foresaw this reaction – I received all kinds of contributions, far beyond my expectations. We in fact have 124 musical contributors sending 167 samples, from 24 countries across the world – everything  from operatic soprano to shamans, pianos, printers, table thumps, singing bowls, amazing overdrives, percussion, hiphop beats, cows,  guitars, flutes, rattling keys, recorders, dulcimers, strings, and the list goes on!’

Watch the video now for ‘The Parodos Cairn’, directed and produced by Dorian Robinson, incorporating photographic and video contributions generously donated to the cause:

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