The FOLK METAL Radar (Episode #1/2019)

I believe that the combination of heavy metal with folk and epic music is one of the most successful of the last thirty years. These two genres seem to have been born to be blended together and one reinforces the other. Unfortunately, however, all successful discoveries attract hordes of bands without ideas and creativity that seek to emerge by just following trends and fashions, without adding anything new to the genre that they play.

For this reason, I think it’s important to isolate those bands that really manage to produce something interesting and valid. In the case of folk metal music, I’m convinced that this means being able to produce songs that are folk and metal, which is something different from playing folk music with heavy metal instruments, or heavy metal with some folk melody inside.

In the first episode of my new digest dedicated to folk metal I’m presenting five albums that I consider the most relevant among those published since the beginning of 2019. You’ll find here both well-established formation but also some interesting underground stuff. As far as geography is concerned, we have one band from Noway (Týr), one from Italy (Furor Gallico), one from Denmark (Vanir), one from Romania (Dirty Shirts), and a multi-national collaborative project (Ahl Sina).

Enjoy this first episode of the folk metal radar, and stay tuned for future updates.

“Hel”, by Týr

Without any doubt, one of the most awaited events by all folk metal enthusiasts was the publication of the new album by Týr, the legendary band from the Faroe Islands. The LP, called Hel, interrupts in fact a gap of six years from their previous publication, which is also the longest time between two albums that they ever experienced to date.

Once released, Hel confirmed to be a very good record. In this respect, all the years that were spent waiting for the new album have been rewarded by the release of one of the most engaging and solid folk metal records of the recent times.

Those who have been following the band throughout their long career were probably expecting something even more brilliant, an album that could shine in the night like the “Northern Star” that the band was aiming in one of their most famous songs. But when a band is as good as Týr, it manages to excite even when it doesn’t reach the highest peaks of its production.

I’ve published a dedicated review of Týr‘s new album, you can read it from here.

“Troops of Pain”, by Ahl Sina

In the early days of the year, I had the opportunity to listen to an odd album called Troops of Pain, played by a curious band named Ahl Sina. After some study, I learned that Troops of Pain was conceived almost ten years ago, but only in recent times, the members of the band found themselves in the right condition to record and release the material. Ahl Sina, in true honesty, should be treated more as a collaborative project rather than a proper band, if only because their members never met and they assembled the songs by putting together pieces that were recorded in separate countries.

It’s not the first time that I come across to such kind of projects and usually the results depend very much on the basic idea that generated the collaboration, in particular on how strong and cohesive is the originating concept, because this shall compensate for the loss of naturalness that’s naturally caused by the absence of a direct and immediate relationship between the musicians. In the case of Ahl Sina, the unifying element was the idea to mix together the elements of traditional middle eastern music with the sounds of progressive metal and to use the music to tell about ancient, fascinating and timeless stories. Nothing particularly new, to tell the truth, and in fact, the album in its essence looks like one of many other entries in the widely explored genre of Oriental Extreme Metal. But there were two things that caught my attention and made me reconsider my first (negative) reaction about the LP.

First: in the album there are actually a few particularly nice and catchy songs (the best one, for me, is called Miracle Demise); when we listen to these tracks we manage to forget, at least for a brief span of time, the inaccuracies and defects that today affect Ahl Sina’s music: from the fairly approximate musical production which generated the muffled sounds we hear in the album, to the songwriting (practically there isn’t any harmonic development in the songs of the LP: all the instruments, and also the voice, seem to follow the same melodic lines).

Secondly, beyond the stylistic considerations, I perceive in this debut LP a genuineness of intents and a passion for oriental music and folk legends that effectively impregnate all the songs of the album. Therefore, despite Troops of Pain is definitely far from being the album which can shake and revolt the world of folk metal, there is still something good and curious in this music, something which makes this project worthy of a mention, and also of our encouragement for the future.

“Dark of the Ages”, by Furor Gallico

I am extremely pleased to mention in this article the new release from an Italian band that has already collected some notoriety in the international folk metal scene. The band is called Furor Gallico, they come from Lombardia, in the Northern part of my beautiful peninsula, and they have already turned ten years of activity.

Dusk of the Ages is Furor Gallico’s third and newest LP. The album offers a new collection of nice melodic songs that are inspired by the stories and the sounds of the Celtic tradition. One of the key characteristics of this album is definitely the duality: two voices (one growling and one angelic), two languages (some songs are in Italian, others in English), two types of sound (moments of melodic death metal are opposed to atmospheric sections with acoustic arrangements). All of these contrasting elements guarantee an internal dynamic for the songs that keep the record alive from the beginning to the end, although the musical offer remains somehow restricted within the same track that has already been travelled by many other bands.

A special note of merit goes to the acoustic sections, which in my opinion give the most exciting moments of the album. Who knows what would happen if these guys will decide one day to switch to 100% acoustic music.

“Allfather”, by Vanir

Danish band Vanir is not a newcomer in the international folk metal scene, as witnessed by the fact that as the band is turning the ten years of career they have already released their fifth studio album, called Allfather. Despite a certain prolificity in publications, however, these musicians from Roskilde have not yet achieved a celebrity and a success comparable to the commitment they have always shown in the production of new material.

Will Allfather be the record capable of projecting the band higher up in the ladder of success? Honestly, I’m not sure. The metal formula that this band proposes, in fact, seems too much a hybrid of different things that is likely to leave quite dissatisfied both those who seek epic and catchy songs and those who instead adore more complex and articulated musical structures. Vanir’s new record, in this respect, is quite in the middle between these two characteristics of folk/Viking metal, without being effective in either of them.

In summary, Allfather is an album with lots of good ideas and which highlights the dedication and the passion of the band when playing their music. At the same time, if I still recommend it for the diehard fans of Viking metal, the LP won’t remain among the things that have impressed me the most in this first part of the year.

“Letchology”, by Dirty Shirt

When we speak about the combination of metal with world music or folk music, typically we have in mind those cases where metal is influenced by Celtic, Nordic or Middle Eastern traditions. Every so often, however, we come across formations that are coming from areas of the World that are quite distant from the usual ones and, in these case, we may enjoy more curious variations of the “metal folk” recipe.

Last year we were impressed by Alien Weaponry, a young band from New Zealand which debuted with a formidable collection of groove songs marked by the sounds and the hymns of the Maori tradition. This year we could appreciate an album from Romania which is offering to the fans of this kind of mixtures a nice and funny version of metal that’s impregnated with the sounds and the melodies from Eastern Europe’s tradition. The band is called Dirty Shirt, and their most recent record is Letchology.

My approach towards folk metal is based on the idea that we shall always try to distinguish between the aspects of originality and curiosity, which are those which impress at first, and the absolute value of the music. In this respect, the initial reaction that I had with Letchology was that of a funny, curious, eccentric album, but not particularly significant from the point of view of the “metal” content. This is mainly because the band’s style is characterized by evident ease of accessibility and also the adoption of riffs and progressions that – if we except the ethnic flavours – don’t bring so much innovation to the culture of groove music.

After a few more listenings the situation has improved and, progressively, I recognized that behind such light-hearted and irreverent facade it’s possible to appreciate the effort of these guys in making each song of the album quite different from the others, and I could discern also a number of interesting ideas that remain valid even beyond the initial appearance of easy-listening metal.

I’m collecting the best folk metal songs of the year in a special playlist, called The FOLK METAL Radar. It’s now featuring a bunch of tracks but it’s going to grow with time.

The ELECTROACOUSTIC Radar (Episode #1/2019)

When I deal with electroacoustic music, the main challenge for me is always to navigate into the hundreds of artists that populate the successful “mood-based” playlist that you can find on Spotify or other platforms and select those few who are really worthy of our time and attention.

This new series of articles, called The ELECTROACOUSTIC Radar, has really the objective to present a carefully selected group of artists who have distinguished themselves for having published something really special and exciting.

This first episode introduces five albums that were released between the beginning of 2019 and the middle of March. From a geographical point of view, we have one composer from Ireland (Gareth Quinn Redmond), one from Canada (Nathan Shubert), one from France (Watine), and two from the U.S.A. (Aukai and Philip G Anderson).

Enjoy these albums and don’t forget to visit the blog periodically for new updates.

“Céim• eanna”, by Gareth Quinn Redmond

There are albums and songs that do not offer pleasant melodies or intriguing and articulate harmonies to hear, but which still manage to capture the attention of the listener for some other special feature. The recent record released by Gareth Quinn Redmond, called Céim • eanna, looks to me as one of these kind of albums. The five tracks of the LP are all characterized by extreme minimalism: the songs are mostly built from a central core of a few notes, usually played on a prepared piano, which is repeated without interruptions from the beginning to the end of each piece, until they become transcendental, almost mystical. Alongside these repeated sequences of notes, we have other environmental sounds or delicate effects that complete the atmosphere.

The result is music that is at the same time hypnotic and extremely relaxing. The Irish composer calls his style as “Environmental Music”, explaining that his goal is “to help the listeners engage with their surrounding environment, allowing them to recognise the multitude of individual pulses that comprise the world. Fundamental to the concept of Environmental Music is that instead of offering a form of escapism, this music is designed to create an intimate bond between the listener and his everyday life“. I don’t know how far this goal is attainable in our daily routines, in my case it has succeeded only partially. What’s certain, however, is that Céim • eanna is a collection of very particular songs, different from what we usually listen to, and definitely worthy of our attention. Ideally without too many expectations.

“Wilderness”, by Philip G Anderson

Wilderness, by American multi-instrumentalist Philip G Anderson, is one of those albums that create beautiful and poignant atmospheres that you can listen as a background during your daily routines or while taking some rest after a busy day. Once you launch the LP on your stereo, you will start enjoying dreamy soundscapes enriched by delicate notes played by piano, violin and cello.

There is no real difference among the various tracks of the LP and therefore you will basically enjoy a placid and nice sequence of ambient-like pieces filled with soft drones and elegant touches of acoustic instruments. The mood is generally serene, with the exception of a few moments where the atmospheres become a little darker and melancholic. That’s not the kind of LP that require a depth of analysis or particular concentration, it’s rather an enjoyable half an hour of nice and fairly accessible contemplative music.

“Reminiscence” by Aukai

Aukai is the acoustic ambient project founded by American composer and instrumentalist Markus Sieber. Aukai’s new LP is called Reminiscence, and it’s one of these albums that may have the effect capturing your attention and making you feel completely absorbed by the music.

In the short duration of 24 minutes, Aukai’s new LP offers a remarkable collection of cinematic and atmospheric moments. The tones are generally melancholic and there is a sense of persistent sadness that really reproduces the idea of distant memories, sudden emotions that we feel at the thought of a person, or an experience, or a special place.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the LP, you can check it from here.

“When You Take Off Your Shoes”, by Nathan Shubert

The musical recipe developed by the Canadian musician Nathan Shubert is relatively simple but certainly effective. We have sketches of melancholic melodies or simple loops of notes played on a prepared piano, a background layer consisting of field recordings and other noises, and, more sporadically, delicate touches of strings and clarinet. Basically, it’s the typical structure of every modern electroacoustic song. Despite that, however, the album When You Take Off Your Shoes still manages to stand out from the mass of singles, EPs and LPs that are released on every week.

Shubert’s new LP may be the perfect background for many different moments of your day: it will never require all of your attention but it will provide you with an elegant and absolutely enjoyable atmosphere.

There is on the blog a dedicated review of the album, you can find there additional information on this excellent record.

“Geometries Sous-Coutanées”, by Watine

I’m concluding this digest with one of the most particular records that I’ve enjoyed in the last few weeks.

Too often, when we think about electro-acoustic music, we have in mind serene and ambient-like compositions made for relaxing or contemplation. An album like Geometries Sous-Coutanées by French artist Catherine Watine clearly demonstrates the desire to go in a completely different direction. Forget to enjoy easy-listening melodies or dreamy and melancholic soundscapes: here the music has been composed through the identification of a group of sonic “fragments” which are manipulated, elaborated, and combined together in order to arouse an effective reshuffling of your own feelings and sensations.

If I can use a metaphor, it’s like when you start rummaging through an old box that you took out from the attic. There is an initial phase of confusion when you start picking up and putting on the floor all the different objects that were in the box. But soon after you start getting back all the forgotten memories that were associated with the things that are once again in front of you. I had a similar experience with this LP, with the difference that the objects here are fragments of piano melodies, sketches of electronic rhythms, other instruments like flutes and oboes that appear from time to time, lots of tape recordings, verses, choruses, spoken rhymes, and drones that fill the silence with sounds that are sometimes serene, sometimes haunting.

The artists introduced in this article are all contributing to The ELECTROACOUSTIC Radar, the playlist that collects the best electroacoustic songs released in 2019. My recommendation is to listen and follow the playlist because it’s going to grow with time, as soon as new good albums are released.

Some of the songs mentioned in this episode of the radar were also featured in THE WEIGHT WE CARRY, which is the third episode of a series of mixtapes that uses contemplative music to accompany a poem.

The WORLD MUSIC Radar (Episode #1/2019)

My personal statistics say that in the case of World Music it’s not so common to find records that are really worthy of attention, compared to other genres of music. But when we manage to come across a valid and meaningful album, we are usually in front of an extraordinary work of art, gifted by impressive quality and intensity. This is the reason why the list of records that I’m presenting in this article is particularly important.

In the following I’m presenting four albums of World Music that I selected among all those released in the firsts part of the year, specifically between the beginning of 2019 and the middle of March. Four artists, four different ways to intepret world music, but the same deep research for the maximum quality of the musical expression.

Enjoy this digest and don’t forget to come back periodically to check for updates.

“Bosque Magico – Tu Tiempo”, by Bosque Magico

In music, as well as in many other art forms, the fusion of different styles and cultures often produces the most surprising and spectacular results. This is certainly the case of Bosque Magico, the new project founded by German guitarist Ralf Siedhoff together with the Ukrainian oboist Mykyta Sierov. Two languages, approximately 2000 km of separation, but the two artists managed to meet on the musical level.

The music of Bosque Magico is absolutely elegant, delicate, varied and exciting. The presence of the oboe is certainly the most particular element: we are used to listening to this instrument in the context of classical rather than world music. The songs of the album range between quite different genres and styles: we have in fact influences from Indian music, flamenco, pop and jazz. For recording the LP, Siedhoof and Sierov were also supported by a group of skilled musicians: percussionists Karthik Mani (from India) and Ernesto Martinez (from Spain), drummer Magnus Dauner (from Germany), flamenco guitarist Manuel Delgado and his daughter Carmela on and bandoneon.

In short: this is a record that contains many innovative elements and it also presents multiple cultural elements fused together in an excellent manner. Not to be missed!

“Reminiscence”, by Aukai

Among the most interesting releases we had in the first weeks of the year there is an album that although originally included in the category of electro-acoustic records, it still features so many components of world music that it’s absolutely possible to mention it here. This is called Reminiscence, and it’s the new album produced by Aukai, which is the acoustic ambient project founded by American composer and instrumentalist Markus Sieber.

Reminiscence has the capacity to capture the listener’s attention with the elegance and the gentleness of its songs, which are relaxing but also engaging and moving. This album is ideal for every moment when you don’t want anything else than enjoying beautiful instrumental music, and let your mind travel.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the LP, you can read it from here.

“Elephantine”, by Maurice Louca

Another album that has caught my attention in the last months is Elephantine, the newest LP released by Egyptian musician and composer Maurice Louca, who is known also for being a member (and co-founder) of a number of formations such as Bikya, Alif and Dwarves. Elephantine was introduced by Louca as his most ambitious project to date, and in effect the LP sees him guiding a 12-piece ensemble.

The disk seems to be the result of two different compositional processes. On the one hand, we have a series of experimental songs mostly relying on the improvisational skills of the musicians. These songs are on the border between world music and pure experimentation and, to be truly honest, these are not among my favourites tracks the album. Then, there are other “classical” world music songs which are still based on the elaboration of an initial sequence of notes, but where the improvisation is kept more controlled and the development of the piece is made through the progressive introduction of different instruments. In these cases, in my opinion, the album reaches the highest, and impressive, levels of quality level. The opening track of the album, named The Leper, is representative of this second kind of songs, and it’s also one of the best pieces of the whole LP.

“Black Blank”, by Laurent Assoulen

Today, we’re very much used to listen to musical hybrids, and that between Jazz and World music is actually one of the most common ones. Nevertheless, when we enjoy a new album which manages to make us travel so naturally between different genres of music, it’s always a very nice and exciting experience.

Laurent Assoulen is a talented French pianist, but what impresses of his work is not much his technique, but rather the fact that he’s a great lover of fascinating melodies, ethnic sounds and popular tunes. And what he does with his ensemble is basically to share with us these beautiful themes by transforming them into catchy but still intriguing and poetic Jazz songs.

Assoulen’s new album, called Black Blank, features a number of pieces that reflect the modern canons of contemporary Jazz, but there are also many other songs where the pianist ventures into the field of World music, mixing the typical dynamics of Jazz with deeply suggestive ethnic sounds and melodies.

I’ve published a short review of the LP, you can read it from here.

If you liked this selection of albums, you will love THE VOYAGER, the playlist that I’m curating on Spotify with the best of World Music. Almost five hours of the most exciting and fascinating music from all over the world.

The INDIE FOLK Radar (Episode #2/2019)

One month has passed since the first episode of the The INDIE FOLK Radar and we have another group of interesting albums to review in this periodic digest with the most relevant Indie Folk releases. In the first episode I introduced the albums released by Old Sea Brigade, Angelo De Augustine, Better Oblivion Community Center, William Tyler and Mandolin Orange. For this second episode I’ve selected other five LPs, most of themreleased during the month of February 2019. Adding these five new records to the ones reviewed in the previous episode, it’s possible to say that the beginning of the year was absolutely positive for what concerns folk music.

As far as geography is concerned, we have one artist from Australia (Julia Jacklin), one from Luxembourg (Jérôme Reuter‘s Rome), one from England (Rosie Carney), and two from the U.S.A. (Jessica Pratt and Mark Kozelek‘s Sun Kil Moon).

Enjoy this new episode of the indie folk music radar and stay tuned for future updates!

“Crushing”, by Julia Jacklin

I want to start this digest with one of the best albums that were released since the beginning of the year: it’s Crushing, the second LP by Australian singer and songwriter Julia Jacklin.

When you start listening to this record, the first thing which will impress you is the remarkable emotional intensity of the songs. These are reflections and flashes made by the artist on her life and her past experiences, translated into music with a naturalness and a sense of urgency and immediacy that cannot leave us indifferent.

Musically speaking, the songs of Crushing stay right on the border that separates indie pop from folk, and in fact the LP has been featured in both the two categories of this blog. The instrumentation, in particular, is that typical of folk music: the tracks develop mainly on Julia’s voice and guitar, with a simple rhythmic session made by repeated notes of bass and slow beats on the drums.

The album was included in the exclusive SBG’s category of the Best New Music, and you can read from here the full review that I wrote about the LP.

“Le Ceneri di Heliodoro”, by Rome

Among the most interesting folk releases of this period we had the new album from Luxembourg’s folk master Jérôme Reuter, the artist who operates under the name of Rome. Le Ceneri di Heliodoro (“The ashes of Heliodoro”) is the most recent entry in a very large discography which features more than 10 LPs and many other EPs, all of them devoted to telling fascinating stories which interconnect ancient wars with the struggles of modern times.

From a musical point of view, Reuter’s production can be generally classified as dark folk, but beyond tags and definitions, what’s really impressive in the LP is the sequence of emotional and brilliant songs which open the album. For the lovers of folk music who are not familiar with the music of Rome, this is definitely a good opportunity to hear something different from what we’re used to listening, and to enjoy some of the most beautiful melodies that were written in recent times.

There is a dedicated article for this album, you can access it from here.

“Bare”, by Rosie Carney

I approached with great curiosity the debut album by Rosie Carney, a young singer-songwriter that is getting great attention as one of the most promising talents of the British folk scene. And effectively the songs of her first LP, named Bare, highlight a musical sensibility and also a maturity of style that have very little to do with an artist that has just left her teenage phase.

Almost all of the eleven songs of Bare have an extremely essential arrangement: acoustic guitar, vocals, a very light and almost imperceptible layer of keyboards and some rare appearance of delicate instruments such as the xylophone. Only in a few cases, we hear drums and electric guitar. Such kind of instrumentation has the effect to highlight the beauty of the artist’s voice, which is perhaps the central point of the whole album. More than the melodies, in fact, which are very simple and linear, it is the combination of Carney’s angelic voice and her intimate lyrics that capture the listener’s attention.

The tones are quiet and meditative, the rhythms slow. This guarantees a stylistic coherence for the whole record, but at the same time makes the listening experience a little flat, even because there are only a few melodies that emerge from the memory after the album ends. Remembering that Bare is a debut album, however, the final judgment is definitely positive and Rosie Carney remains one of those artists who are worthy of our attention.

“Quiet Signs”, by Jessica Pratt

Jessica Pratt is a singer-songwriter who has never chosen to chase success and fame through the simplest ways. Instead, she has developed through the years a very personal and delicate style of music that requires a special dedication, but which can provide the listener makes the experience of listening to her songs something really special and absolutely fascinating.

Quiet Signs, her third and most recent album, is a collection of pieces that are so fragile and intimate that they really need the right conditions to be appreciated in full, and to protect the beauty of the small details from the disorder and the background noise of our routines.

The style of Pratt’s songs is characterized by a strong retro feeling and also by the adoption of instrumentation and an arrangement that are really simple and minimal. This allows her particular and angelic voice to illuminate the scene, although the record, as a whole, may result excessively linear and at times flat.

“I Also Want to Die in New Orleans”, by Sun Kil Moon

Album after album, year after year, what’s offered within every new record released by Sun Kil Moon is gradually moving out from the domain of “music” and entering into that of prose. A song like I’m not laughing at you, which is one of the tracks of the band’s new LP I Also Want to Die in New Orleans, can be a good example of what I’m saying. The song begins with four initial chords on an out-of-tune guitar, and from that moment, if we exclude a few sparse moments of “music”, what we hear is just a single guitar string that’s picked with a syncopated rhythm, on top of which Mark Kozelek whispers and tells one his many stories. That’s all: one note, a few dissonant chords, and Kozelek’s voice. For almost 12 minutes.

Musically speaking, the new album by Sun Kil Moon is one of the most minimal and essential in the band’s discography. The attention is almost totally on the lyrics, with the sounds playing an absolutely secondary role. This style certainly has something fascinating, and there are also moments in which the faint and almost imperceptible musical lines manage to generate particular and relatively intriguing atmospheres. But for my personal tastes, we’ve gone a little too far.

And frankly speaking it’s a pity, because there was a moment, between 2012’s Among the Leaves 2017’s Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood, in which I was really impressed by the charm and uniqueness of Sun Kil Moon’s style of folk.

I felt obliged to mention I Also Want to Die in New Orleans in this review of the most important releases of the last months. But in all honesty, this is not something that I think I’ll listen many more times in the future.

If you liked this article, you will love the folk music playlists that I’m curating on Spotify. One is MODERN SONGWRITERS, the playlist which features the most interesting releases from contemporary singer-songwriters. The second is named THE INDIE FOLK RADAR and it’s the one dedicated exclusively to the best songs of 2019. Enjoy!

The PSYCHEDELIC AND STONER DOOM Radar (Episode #1/2019)

The history of music of the recent decades teaches us that the musical style referred to as stoner doom was born as an interesting derivation of the classic doom genre. This version of doom metal, however, over time has assumed the characteristics of a well-defined sub-genre and we have today many excellent formations that are grouped into this category of music.

In this new series of articles, I’m selecting and presenting to your attention the most interesting records that are published in the context of this style of music, including also those bands that have added a strong dose of psychedelia in the recipe of music.

This is the first episode for 2019, and it includes five different albums that were published in the first two months of the year.

As far as geography is concerned, we have two bands from Sweden (Ordos and Witchers Creed), two from U.S.A. (Yatra and Palace in Thunderland), and one from Estonia (Mang Ont).

Enjoy the ride, and don’t forget to come back periodically to check the future updates of the PSYCHEDELIC AND STONER DOOM Radar.

“The End”, by Ordos

Expectations were very high for the new LP by Swedish band Ordos, if only because their previous album (2017’s House of The Dead) received so many appreciations from both critics and fans. Here in this blog, it was included in the list of the best albums of the year, taking into account all genres of music.

The band’s new LP, The End, basically confirms the same style of stoner doom that was already offered in their previous record, with the addition of higher doses of psychedelic and occult rock. Also, the melodic component, which was already a key point in House of The Dead, has acquired fairly greater importance, making the songs of The End gain remarkable ease of assimilation.

In more general terms, maybe I was expecting something more innovative from Ordos’s new record, but, on the other hand, their music remains so exciting and fascinating than just the fact of having new songs to listen from the band is something that can change your day for the better.

I have dedicated a specific review to the LP, you can read it from here.

“Death Ritual”, by Yatra

If The End, by Ordos, was a sort of confirmation of what we’ve heard so far from the band, one of the most interesting surprises we had in the first months of the year was definitely the debut album by Maryland-based trio Yatra, and I’m not referring only to the perimeter of stoner doom.

Death Ritual is the first LP from this promising formation, and it’s one of those records that have the capacity to take you away from the physical world, projecting your mind into a magical dimension full of pagan rituals, dangerous spells, ancient legends and dark visions.

I wrote a dedicated review of the album, you can read it for a few more details about the LP.

“Awakened From the Tomb…”, by Witchers Creed

Witchers Creed is one of those bands that I discovered almost by chance thanks to a recommendation that I’ve read on a social media, and which became an instant favourite.

This is a formation of young musicians from Sweden, who grew up influenced by the music of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, and then eventually released their first (impressive) LP: Awakened From The Tomb…

Their sound is characterized by a few but effective features: a warm and powerful stoner-like bass, which perhaps the element which impressed me the most in the LP, a guitar that churns out endless sequences of catchy and sticky riffs, a simple yet effective rhythmic session and, last but not least, a powerful and fascinating voice.

I have published a short review of the LP, you can find there additional details about this excellent debut album.

“The King of the Empty Aeon”, by Palace in Thunderland

Just a quick mention for the new LP by Palace in Thunderland, a psychedelic stoner band from Springfield, Massachusetts, in the U.S.A. The band is formally active since 1998 but, after a period of standby, it was basically re-activated only in 2011. Since then they have released three LPs.

Their newest record is named The King of the Empty Aeon and it features nine enjoyable and intriguing songs alternating between heavy moments, and other fuzzier and definitely more psychedelic pieces. This second category of tracks is the one that I liked the most in their LP, especially the 11-minutes long song This Illusion’s Come Alive, which is right in the middle of the album.

For what concerns the heavier and quicker kind of songs, the single Vicarious is definitely a good hit.

“Maa Sarv”, by Mang Ont

I’m concluding this list of albums with Maa Sarv, which is the new LP from Mang Ont, a stoner doom metal trio which arrives from Estonia. The band is active since 2011 and their brand new release is the third entry in a discography which includes also the EP Neli Aastat (2015) and the debut LP Võhk (2017). The style of their music is characterized by slow, powerful and epic songs. Their sound is thick, heavy and impregnated with psychedelic and stoner atmospheres. In some sections of the band’s songs, we can also appreciate the inclusion of fuzzy drones that introduce a further element of restlessness to their sound.

Maa Sarv is an impressive record because in the short span of only three long tracks the band has managed to develop a journey into a hallucinated and psychedelic world: at first we are greeted by inviting and intriguing sounds, but soon we realize that we ended up in a universe of obsessive riffs and hypnotic rhythms from which it is almost impossible to go out.

Drawing inspiration from the album cover, some have described Mang Ont’s sound as “prehistoric riffs echo from the Mammoth’s cave”. This is actually another good way to transfer the idea of their special and intriguing sound of the band, for which I foresee a very promising future.

I’m starting to collect the best songs for this exciting category of albums in a dedicated playlist, called THE PSYCHEDELIC AND STONER DOOM RADAR. Check it out and follow it, it’s going to grow with time.

Another place where you can enjoy some good stoner doom is the famous playlist SLOWLY. It features more than 8 hours of the best doom, sludge and post-metal that was released in the last three years. If you weren’t already following it, you should do it.

The ELECTRONIC MUSIC Radar (Episode #1/2019)

I’m starting with this article a periodical review of the most important releases for electronic music. Given the wide range of sub-genres that are included in this category, expect to find a selection of heterogeneous styles and approaches to music. All of the albums that are mentioned in this digest, however, are characterized by something unique and particularly interesting, which made the LP stand out from the mass.

This first episode features five albums that were selected among those released in the first two weeks of the year.

As far as geography is concerned, we have one band from Australia (Two People), one from South Africa (Yugen Blakrok), and three from England (Funky DL, Teeth of the Sea and Ladytron).

Enjoy the article and stay tuned for the future episodes of the Electronic Music radar!

“First Body”, by Two People

If someone asked me which was the most original and intriguing electronic release of the first months of 2019, I would have no doubts. And the fact that I’m talking of a debut LP is still more exciting. My answer, in fact, would be First Body, the debut full-length album from Phoebe Lou and Joey Clough, a duo of Australian musicians that work under the name of Two People.

First Body provides the listeners with a special kind of electronic music that gently moves towards dreamy pop, whilst still maintaining a sense of suspension and fragility. And despite it was conceived and recorded by following a strict DIY approach, from a sonic perspective the LP is impressive and extremely rewarding. Lou and Clough have found the perfect balance between intimacy, elegance, and obscurity.

This is maybe the softer electronic music that we will hear in while, but it’s absolutely enjoyable and, as I said, it’s really one of the best things I encountered so far. You can go here and read my review of the album.

“Dennison Point Instrumentals”, by Funky DL

Another interesting and fairly experimental record that we could enjoy in the first months of the year was released by the English artist Funky DL. The LP, called Dennison Point Instrumentals, was conceived over the simple but effective idea to manipulate Funky DL’s recent record Dennison Point by removing the vocals and retouching some of the original breaks and backing choruses.

The result is a style of electronic music that’s quite eclectic and original. Many call it trivially as “instrumental hip hop”, but the reality is that Dennison Point Instrumentals sits on the border between electronic and jazz music, and it contains really many elements of interest.

As a matter of fact, the changes operated onto the original material, together with the removal of the vocal lines, made this LP to acquire a value and a musical “sense” that are completely separated from the starting album. Magically, the apparently simple operation that was conducted by Funky DL allowed his music to overcome the static boundaries between genres and, at the same time, to give new life to his songs. Brilliant.

“Anima Mysterium”, by Yugen Blakrok

Being this one a blog that has never explored in depth the world of hip hop, it may seem curious enough to find in this article, one after another, two exponents of this genre of music. But when you come across an interesting and hypnotic record like Anima Mysterium by South African rapper Yugen Blakrok, you can not remain indifferent.

The beats and the lyrics that animate the 12 tracks of the album are mesmerizing, suggestive and deeply immersive. You’ll find yourself moving at the pulsating rhythm of the songs, while the mind is captured by the intriguing spoken rhymes, which typically accentuate the cadence of the drums creating a unique and homogeneous flow of impressive beauty.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the LP, you can read it from here.

“Wraith”, by Teeth Of The Sea

Wraith, which is the fifth LP from the London experimental trio named Teeth Of The Sea, is one of the most unclassifiable albums among those that were released so far in 2019. On the other hand, even the description that the three musicians give of their music doesn’t help us so much: “Taking on board influences like Morricone, Eno, Delia Derbyshire, Goblins, and the Butthole Surfers, we have arrived at an incendiary sound that marries the aural enlightenment of an avant-garde sensibility with the reckless abandon of trashy rock & roll“.

This description may sound a bit too convoluted, but certainly, the songs of Wraith present really many different components: there is a base of electronic music, but also psychedelic rock, jazz, noise and flashes of metal. What really matters, though, is that the band has developed a very beautiful, particular and extremely original style music.

I have published a dedicated review of the LP, you can find here some more details about this impressive record.

“Ladytron”, by Ladytron

I’m very happy to conclude this first digest about electronic music with one of my favourite bands of all time. Ladytron, from Liverpool, had really left a deep mark in the electronic scene of the early 2000s, but then they slowly came out of the radar. This year the band interrupts a hiatus of 8 years and they’re back with a new album, the sixth full-length record of their discography, which is named as the band.

Ladytron won’t become the most significant LP of the band’s career, but it’s, in any case, an appreciated comeback from a group of musicians who wrote one of the most important pages in the history of UK’s electronic music.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the LP, you can read it from here.

I’m collecting the best songs of the year in a dedicated playlist, called THE ELECTRONIC MUSIC RADAR. It features a compilation of songs taken from the albums that were mentioned above, and it’s going to grow with time as soon as new good tracks will be released and selected.

The THRASH METAL Radar (Episode #2/2019)

Here we are again, looking at the most intriguing and important releases in the fantastic and crazy world of THRASH METAL.

This second episode of the thrash metal radar is focused to the main releases that happened during the month of February 2019, and features six different albums that were selected among all of those published in this period of time. For those who didn’t have the chance to see the previous article of this series, the first episode of the radar was released on late January and it introduced the latest LPs by Violblast, Inferno, Dust Bolt, Flotsam and Jetsam, Fusion Bomb and Insanity Alert.

As far as geography is concerned, in this new episode we have three American bands (Overkill, Judgement and Black Mass), two for Germany (Ravager and Rezet), and one from Spain (Death Above).

Enjoy this second episode of the THRASH METAL radar, and stay tuned for the future updates.

“Warlust”, by Black Mass

The month of February was extremely rich of new publications for thrash metal, and among the albums that I liked the most, there is Warlust, the second LP from Black Mass, which is the band formed by a trio of crazy thrashers from Boston, in the U.S.A.

Black Mass offers another interpretation of old school thrash metal, but it’s played so well and with such passion that their new LP is definitely enjoyable and nice to listen to. Something which is particularly interesting is the power and the lethal precision of the rhythmic component.
Cristian Azevedo‘s bass, in particular, really looks like a machine gun: it’s shots at supersonic speed but with impressive accuracy.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the LP, you can read it from here.

“Iron Rule”, by Judgement

Let me mention here a debut album from a new thrash and crossover band called Judgement. They come from Rhode Island and New York, in the U.S.A., and they have released their first LP, called Iron Rule.

The style of music played by Judgement is basically a mid-paced thrash metal that’s all centred around the rhythm guitar: in fact in the LP you won’t hear anything else than an uninterrupted sequence of riffs (some good, some less), with very little space left to the lead guitar, and without any tangible variation on the basic rhythms scanned by the drums and the bass. The voice of the singer is powerful and abrasive, but he also offers very few variations throughout the entire disc.

Nevertheless, I wanted to introduce this group because in their music there is a good potential as evidenced by the last song of the album, Warhorse, which is really well done and engaging, and it’s definitely the most exciting moment of the album.

“Digital Breed”, by Death Above

Digital Breed, the new album by Spanish thrash band Death Above, was something that I was going to discard too quickly. When I started listening to the first track of the LP, I started to think that this was of the many records without temperament and personality. Thick but not memorable riffs, a fairly standard voice, and speedy moments alternated by sequences of melodic solo guitar leads that have the effect of lessening the tension instead of enriching the song.

But instead, as I was going forward along the twelve tracks of Digital Breed, I started to change my mind. What I realized, in fact, is that this band from the Canary Islands, which was unknown to me before this encounter, had managed to place in their LP a number of really engaging songs, and which fully reflect the very characteristics of thrash metal: speed, aggressiveness, and even a bit of healthy irreverence.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the LP, you can read it from here.

“Thrashletics”, by Ravager

Ravager is a relatively new band which is trying to emerge in the German thrash scene with a recipe that blends the classic Teutonic metal style with inserts from Bay-area thrash style and also some influences from groove. Thrashletics is their second LP, which arrives two years after their debut record called Eradicate… Annihilate… Exterminate…

The approach to thrash metal that’s presented by this formation is very focused on the contrast between extremely furious and groovy moments, with the sporadic introduction of melodic sections that recall to mind the famous arpeggios of Master of Puppets. The riffing is decidedly aggressive and powerful and I would say that this group shows really good potential. What’s missing today is mostly the capacity to write memorable or even just relatively catchier tracks, but it seems to me that we’re definitely on the right track.

“Deal With It”, by Rezet

There is another band from Germany which in the last few weeks released an interesting thrash metal album. They are named Rezet, and differently from Ravager they have already accumulated quite an extensive background in the Country’s metal scene. Active for about fifteen years, these guys from Schleswig have already released two EPs and four LPs. Their latest full-length record, called Deal With It, basically confirms their particular style of thrash that incorporates many elements of heavy metal, starting from the particular voice of Ricky Wagner, which has a decidedly classic approach, but also due to the presence of many moments dedicated to the lead guitar.

The element that in my opinion stands out most in Deal With It is the technical ability of the musicians, both as regards the guitars and also for what concerns the rhythm section. The LP offers a number of really beautiful moments in which the lead guitar unleashes fast and articulated solos while bass and drums push like crazy at high speed. From the point of view of the riffing, however, something is still missing to make the tracks more engaging. In general terms, this is for sure an enjoyable record of good and solid thrash, with an impressive technical performance. I would like to see these guys playing live.

“The Wings of War”, by Overkill

I couldn’t conlcude this digest without mentioning the new LP from Overkill, named The Wings of War, if only because for many fans of thrash this is presumably one of the major events that happened so far in 2019.

When we talk about Overkill we are speaking of one of the historical representatives of American thrash metal. The band was formed in New York City as back as 1980, but they somehow struggled to reach the same level of popularity of other legendary bands that were born in the same years. Maybe this is partially related to the fact that during their activity Overkill has gone through really many different changes in the line-up, and this didn’t favour the consolidation of a truly recognizable and solid style of thrashing.

Even for their latest LP, they arrived with a new member in the line-up, with Jason Bittner (ex-Shadows Fall and ex-Flotsam and Jetsam) replacing Ron Lipnicki, who was in the band since 2005 and participated to five of the nineteen albums of the band’s discography. In this case, however, the change seems to have been quite painless and, in fact, The Wings of Waris probably one of the most compact and solid albums of the last decade.

The latest musical offer from Overkill is certainly valuable and I believe that this record won’t disappoint the historical fans of the American band. Indeed, The Wings of War is probably the record that they’ve been waiting for since Ironbound, which is considered by many as the most successful and enjoyable albums from Overkill of the last decade.

As far as I am concerned, I must admit that I have never been one of the main fans of the band, this is because I don’t feel particularly connected with their particular style of thrashing. Anyway, I recognize and fully respect the dedication, constancy and integrity that the band has shown along with their impressive career.

If you like thrash metal, probably you will already have heard of THRASH METAL FEAST, the playlist on Spotify which features all the best and latest thrash metal songs.

The VOCAL JAZZ Radar (Episode #1/2019)

With this article, I inaugurate a new series of posts dedicated to the magical world of Vocal Jazz. You’ll find here a periodic selection of the best LPs that I had the opportunity to hear, and that I’m recommending to my readers. But, most important, you’ll have the possibility to enjoy some of the most beautiful and talented contemporary singers.

The first episode of the VOCAL JAZZ radar features six albums that I’ve picked one by one during the last two months. For each of these albums I wrote only a few introductory notes because in this case, more than any other article, I would like to leave as much space as possible to the music and these fantastic voices.

Enjoy this selection of albums, and stay tuned for the future episodes of the radar!

“Come Home”, by Rigmor Gustafsson

Rigmor Gustafsson

Rigmor Elisabeth Gustafsson is a Swedish jazz singer who has achieved large notoriety and even a number of prestigious awards, such as the Swedish Royal Musical Academy’s Jazz Award and a Swedish Grammy. She’s not only an acclaimed interpreter but she’s also the author of many of her songs. In her impressive career, she has already released nine albums in her own name, which all show an incessant desire to try new paths.

In her new LP, called Come Home, the singer interprets both original songs and covers. In both cases, the quality of the final result is a combination of her profound and characteristic voice, and the beautiful music played by the supporting trio, which consists of pianist Jonas Östholm, bassist Martin Höper and drummer Chris Montgomery.

My favourite songs of the LP are The Light Years, Twist in my Sobriety, and the final piece Come Home. The album is available for streaming from Spotify.

“First Instinct”, by Leala Cyr

Laela Cyr

The story of Leala Cyr tells of a musician who had started her career as a trumpet player, but who at one point discovered she had incredible singing skills. Today she is performing professionally across the globe, and in her new LP, named First Instinct, she showcases all of her capabilities as both musician and vocalist.

The album is excellent for both what concerns the quality of the music, and of course for the beautiful and shiny voice of the singer. My favourite songs of the LP are Give Me, Summertime, and the title track First Istinct. Cyr’s new album can be streamed from Spotify.

“Smolder”, by Kristen Lee Sergeant

Kristen Lee Sergeant

American singer Kristen Lee Sergeant debuted in 2016 with her first record, Inside Out, which already achieved important mentions by Jazz critics for her particular style of “dramatic” singing. When we listen to her songs, in fact, we quickly recognize that she is theatrically trained: in her performances, it’s possible to appreciate a capacity of interpretation of the lyrics that goes well beyond the technical vocal aspect.

Smolder, Sergeant’s new release, showcases once again her particular style of singing but also her skills as a songwriter, arranger and also creative improviser. My favourite songs on the album are the single Balm/Burn and the impressive cover of These Foolish Things. The album can be streamed from Spotify.

“Sisters in Jazz”, Cæcilie Norby

Cæcilie Norby

Danish singer Cæcilie Norby has gained an important reputation in the world of vocal jazz and in her career she has already released many successful records where famous songs belonging to different genres have been reinterpreted through her particular voice (in this regard, it’s worth remembering that for about ten years she was also the singer of a rock band, the Frontline).

For her latest release, Sisters in Jazz, the singer has called for the support of an ensemble of all female musicians from several countries and generations: Italian pianist Rita Marcotulli, Czech saxophonist Nicole Johänntgen, Norwegian trumpet player Hildegunn Øiseth, Polish drummer Dorota Pietrowska and German bassist Lisa Wulff. Together, they play both song-classics by Betty Carter, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone or Abbey Lincoln, alongside with a few original compositions by Cæcilie Norby. My favourite songs of the album are Love Has Gone Away, First Conversation and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. The LP can be streamed from Spotify.

“Vintage”, by Beth Goldwater

Beth Goldwater

Beth Goldwater is a singer and songwriter who grew up and settled down in the Philadelphia area. Her new album of Jazz standards, called Vintage, is a natural continuation of the work she did in her previous LP Seduisánte.

My favourite covers among those featured in Goldwater’s new album are Pheraps Pheraps Pheraps, Fly to the Moon, and the evergreens My Funny Valentine and What a Wonderful World. The album can be streamed on Spotify.

“Louder Every Minute”, by Susan Hanlon

Susan Hanlon

Susan Hanlon is a singer & voice teacher in the Dallas area. Susan earned her M.A in Voice at The University of North Texas. Her graduate studies centred around vocal pedagogy and commercial vocal techniques.

Louder Every Minute, Susan’s new album, features original tunes in combination with arrangements of pop and jazz standards. My favourite songs of her new LP are Let Go, Blindsided, and You Take My Breath Away, and Wild Oranges & Butterflies. The album can be streamed on Spotify.

If you liked this selection of artists, you will love the playlist VOCAL JAZZ, which features the best singers of the last couple of years. More than 70 songs for many hours of crystalline beauty.

The INDIE POP Radar (Episode #1/2019)

It is now a couple of years since I have started to explore more regularly and with greater attention the world of Indie Pop, and I have to say that typically the frequency with which I find interesting records is not high as what I measure for other musical genres. This probably happens because the “popular” aspect of this genre of music often leads the artists to trade off the profundity and the originality of their songs with immediacy and accessibility. However, there are still some albums that periodically stand out from the others, and these are the records that I’m going to select and mention in this new series of columns dedicated to Indie Pop.

This first edition of the Indie Pop radar features the most relevant albums that were relesed in the first two months of 2019. I’ve selected four LPs and one EP, which cover different interpretation of this style of music.

As far as geography is concerned, we have that four of the five albums are coming from the United States of America (from Juliana Hatfield, Mree, Buke & Gase and Adia Victoria). The last one is from Germany (Wooden Peak).

Let’s see the which were the best Indie Pop albums in January and February of 2019, and stay tuned for updates of the radar!

“Weird”, by Juliana Hatfield

One of the most important events in indie pop which occurred in the first part of the year has been the release of the new LP by American singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield. Weird is the seventeenth studio album of her intense career (only counting her solo works), which means that we’re talking of an artist that has gained extreme confidence in writing and playing music.

The songs of Weird are mostly built upon the basic combination of a clean electric guitar and Hatfield’s voice, with the rhythmic section that has the only role of keeping the pace of the song. The result is a sequence of melodic, cheerful and absolutely engaging ballads, which still maintain however an “indie” feeling.

You can read here my review of the album.

“The Middle”, by Mree

American singer-songwriter Marie Hsiao, who’s best known with her stage name of Mree, has been gifted with one of the most beautiful and angelic voices in the indie music panorama. Fortunately for us, however, she has demonstrated through the last years to have achieved also a remarkable musical sensibility together with appreciable songwriting skills, so that in the end her beautiful voice is always supported by enjoyable and intriguing pieces of music. This is for sure the case of Mree’s new EP, called The Middle, which features a collection of four delicate and intimate pieces and one instrumental song.

The Middle arrives two years after her previous EP (Silver Gold), and four years after her last LP (Empty Nest). Surely this is a sign of the artist’s will to pursue only the highest musical quality, and it increases the expectations for her next full-length release.

From a musical point of view, the EP signs also a clear shift towards indie pop and dreamy atmospheres with respect to her previous records, which were definitely more oriented to indie folk. As a matter of fact, The Middle features a couple of very impressive songs (including the title track) and this should motivate her to keep exploring this style of music, where she effectively manages to infuse passion and poetry with her fantastic voice.

“Silences”, by Adia Victoria

It was not easy to choose whether to mention the new album by Adia Victoria album in this section, dedicated to indie pop or if I had to include it in the indie folk category. The American artist is, in fact, a singer-songwriter who likes to insert in her music interesting notes of gothic and blues, but, at the same time, all of her songs have a clear “popular” and catchy feeling, at least from a purely musical point of view. As far as the lyrics are concerned, the situation is different, as her songs tell of the difficulties she had to face before growing-up, and becoming an established artist.

Silences is the second LP from Adia Victoria, and it arrives three years after her impressive debut, Beyond the Bloodhounds. In such a timespan the artist from Nashville has evidently experimented with increasing the palette of sounds and instruments. The new album, in fact, is chromatically much richer than its debut LP, and it benefits from a truly exceptional production.

Silences is a record full of many things together: engaging music, but written with a pop sensibility, deep and thoughtful lyrics, and fantastic sounds.

“Scholars”, by Buke & Gase

Among the most interesting indie pop records of the first part of the year, there is for sure the new LP by Buke & Gase, named Scholars. This is actually more an experimental record than an indie pop one, and it’s in fact included in that category of records. Nevertheless, the musical material that is processed and manipulated by the American band is, in its essence, pop music, and so the LP may find its place also here on this page. Buke & Gase is the duo formed approximately ten years ago by Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez, two musicians with a declared passion for improvisation and sonic experimentation. As might be expected, their music cannot be defined as “easy listening”, nevertheless the output of their experiments in the studio remains quite catchy and accessible.

Buke & Gase’s new work oscillates between sections that are fairly conceptual (and not very communicative, to be honest) and other moments in which their bizarre combinations of sounds generate intriguing rhythms and melodies. However, I remain of the idea that the value of this music should not be sought in the ingenuity of the solutions that the two have developed for the album, but rather on the way they managed to restructure the building blocks of modern pop music. What other artists put together to create a song, they separate it. This process produces sometimes exquisite pieces of music, other times we have musical material that’s interesting to study, but relatively difficult to enjoy.

“Yellow Walls”, by Wooden Peak

The month of February gave us an interesting and intriguing album to enjoy, although very particular. It’s Yellow Walls, the new and fourth LP by German folktronic duo Wooden Peak.

Their music has always been reduced to the essential: a simple, almost fragile, electronic rhythmic baseline on which the artists record delicate melodies of guitar, gentle layers of synths and interesting lyrics. Everything is quiet, moderate, almost minimal. And for this reason, it may be challenging at first to feel involved by their songs, which could easily seem initial drafts of songs rather than complete and finished pieces. Many times, however, the most beautiful things are hidden in the details, and that’s what happens with the new intriguing collection of low-fi and delicate songs that the duo has prepared for us.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the album, you can read it from here.

I started collecting the best Indie Pop songs of 2019 in the Playlist called THE INDIE POP RADAR. Check it out and follow it, it’s going to grow with time.

The GOTHIC MUSIC Radar (Episode #1/2019)

Rather than pointing at a well defined and specified genre of music, the term Gothic indicates a broad scope of bands which combine heavy metal or rock sounds with dark atmospheres, melancholic melodies, romantic or gloomy lyrics. As a result, every good collection of gothic music can only be quite heterogeneous. Indeed, in this selection of the six most relevant records since the beginning of 2019, you will find genres ranging from grunge to atmospheric death metal, and touching also rock and doom. Everyone of the following LPs, however, has within all those elements of charm and darkness that we like so much in Gothic music.

As far as geography is concerned, we have two bands fro the United States of America (A Pale Horse Named Death and Cold Colours), one from Denmark (Demon Head), one from Finland (Swallow The Sun), one from Spain (Helevorn), and one from Germany (Ewigheim).

Enjoy this selection of LPs and stay tuned for the future updates of the GOTHIC MUSIC radar.

“When the World Becomes Undone”, by A Pale Horse Named Death

One of the major events of the first months of 2019 was definitely the release of the new album by A Pale Horse Named Death, which is the band founded by ex-Type O Negative and ex-Life of Agony drummer Sal Abruscato. The album, named When the World Becomes Undone, provided another good example of that intriguing mix of gothic metal and grunge that the band already introduced in the previous two albums.

I was truly impressed by this LP, specifically by the beautiful combination of dark atmospheres, heavy and melodic riffs, with slow – but not obsessive – rhythms. I’ve published a full review of the album, that was included among the category of the Best New Albums. You can check that out for the details.

“Hellfire Ocean Void”, by Demon Head

Among the albums of the first two months of 2019 than more than the others feature all the typical elements of gothic metal, there is for sure Hellfire Ocean Void, the new record from the Danish formation Demon Head. Active since 2012, this quintet from Copenhagen has released in February the third LP of a discography that has attracted so far the attention of both the fans of gothic rock and doom metal.

Their new work is definitely more oriented towards rock than metal, and it’s also characterized by a feeling of antiquity that is mainly due to the particular way in which the various instruments have been recorded for the LP. When you launch Hellfire Ocean Void in your stereo, it will look like you have taken an old record of the 70s for how the sound is dark and also fairly muffled. Assuming that this was a deliberate stylistic choice, I can see its positive aspects: first of all the sense of vintage that emerges from the songs of the LP and, from a certain point of view, the relative unicity of this style. At the same time, however, the sound of this album appears a little anachronistic and, in some moments, it doesn’t make justice to the captivating and fascinating melodies that are played by the band.

In short, Hellfire Ocean Void is a truly curious album: it’s beautiful to listen to for its fascinating and obscure songs, but it’s absolutely anti-modern for its sound and style.

“When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light”, by Swallow the Sun

The new LP by the Finnish band Swallow the Sun was already included in the digest that I released for doom metal, but When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light contains so many elements of Gothic that I had to mention also in this article.

The LP is fully permeated by dark atmospheres, but mainly because of the presence of an impressive number of beautiful melodies, it never becomes oppressive. In this respect, the band has really achieved an impressive maturity in songwriting: the guys from Jyväskylä really know how to build up and dissolve the tension, and how to balance melancholic and energetic moments so that the songs remain always well equilibrated and relatively enjoyable to hear.

There is on the blog a dedicated review of this LP, you can get some more details from there.

“Aamamata”, by Helevorn

There is another publication that will appear in two different editions of the radar. It is Aamamata, the fourth LP from Spanish band Helevorn, which features equal components of doom and gothic metal, and a final touch of death metal.

This sextet of musicians has always strived for the definition of an individual and original direction for their music, which has been always accompanied by excellent performance and also impeccable recording, something that we can appreciate also in the last work. But if the recipe of their style seems to be farily intriguing, Aamamata in my opinion signs a small step back for the band. The album, in fact, seems to lack that passion and intensity that I appreciated in the first works of Helevorn. Their music, today, is stylistically impeccable, but seems much less effective from the emotional point of view.

“Irrlichter”, by Ewigheim

Ewigheim, from Germany, embodies in all respects the stereotype of the Gothic band. Starting from the name, which in German means “Eternal Home”, that is a way of saying to represent death), but also for the sinister lyrics (at least those few I had the patience to translate from German) and the melodic and dark melodies of their songs.

Compared to the other albums that were introduced earlier in this digest, Irrlichter is the one that makes the most continuous and persistent use of piano and keyboards, while on the contrary, it’s definitely the one that shows the most simple and linear structures for the songs. The result is a collection of extremely accessible but at the same time melancholic and sad songs. The album releases a feeling of distrust, of lost opportunities, so it’s hardly the record that you’ll want to hear when there is the need for a little boost in motivation.

In the broader context of the band’s discography, Irrlichter is the seventh LP released by Ewigheim. The style follows substantially what was already heard in the previous album Finding Smooth Salvation in Death: it’s a kind of music that misses the depth and the longevity of the best works of gothic metal, but which is absolutely enjoyable to listen to.

“Northernmost”, by Cold Colours

The last album that I want to recommend for the lovers of Gothic metal is Northermost and was released by Cold Colours, an American band that has consolidated with the years a very nice and fairly original style of death metal that’s full of atmospheric and gothich elements.

The music played by this band blends the melodic and melancholic aspects of gothic with a growling-like style of singing, and also quite complex musical structures. The tracks featured in Northernmost are undoubtedly interesting, but unfortunately, the album has some approximations in terms of the arrangement and also for what concerns the production. These faults don’t permit this LP to reach the level of quality of the albums that were mentioned before. Although this is the fifth album of a career which approaches the twenty-five years, there is something amateurish in the way this formation has arrived at the making of their new album. And it’s sincerely a shame because, from the point of view of the creativity and also the songwriting, the band shows unquestionable qualities.

If you liked the music presented in this article, you will love the playlist GOTHIC, which collects some of the best gothic songs of the last period. Check it out and follow it, it’s going to grow with time.

The MELODEATH Radar (Episode #1/2019)

Here in my blog I use to make some simplifications with regards the classification of music, otherwise I would be in great trouble to have thousands of different digests for every single sub-genre and style. With Melodeath, for example, I refer to that wide family of releases which span from melodic death metal to melodic black metal and blackened death, passing sometimes through symphonic metal and gothic.

Having made this clarification, let’s now focus the attention to the most important releases we had since the beginning of the year. I’ve selected five albums from both consolidated and emerging bands, these give a very good indication of what happened in the domain of melodic metal in these first two months of 2019.

As far as geography is concerned, we have two albums from Sweden (Soilwork and Diabolical), one from Finland (Swallow the Sun), one from Greece (Rotting Christ) and one from Italy (Lahmia). Only European formations: is this a mere coincidence?

Let’s see some details about these albums, and there is also a lot of music to hear!

“Verkligheten”, by Soilwork

One of the most expected events for the beginning of the year was certainly the release of the new album from Soilwork, if only because the LP was anticipated last year by a very interesting single (Stålfågel).

Soilwork have always been one of those bands possessed by the germ of change and in fact, during their long career, they hardly managed to consolidate a recognizable and well-defined style of music. After taking their first steps into the world of melodic death, the guys from Helsingborg have incrementally injected in their music external elements from quite distant genres such as metalcore, symphonic heavy metal and, in the last years, groove metal. The results, in true honesty, have been alternating between convincing albums but also a few questionable releases.

Soilwork’s new album, called Verkligheten (“Reality”), shows the same eclectic approach to metal and in fact it ranges among quite different styles. Going from the metalcore constructs of the song Arrival to the hard rock riffing of The Nurturing Grace is definitely an intriguing journey, but also a bit dizzying. As often happens with this kind of albums, there are songs where the fusion of influences is more effective (the already mentioned Stålfågel is certainly one of these), while others run away without leaving particular emotions. I’m not particularly enthusiastic about this record, despite I’ve listened to it on repeat mode for many times, but I can certainly isolate a couple of enjoyable and intriguing songs to keep in my playlists.

“When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light”, by Swallow the Sun

I’m mentioning here the beautiful album When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light by Swallow the Sun, which was already introduced in the DOOM METAL Radar. The new LP from the six-piece Finnish formation was one those we were expecting with some trepidation and, in the end, it confirmed the expectations.

The LP is impregnated by sadness and melancholy, but the atmospheres never become excessively oppressive. In this respect, the band has really achieved an impressive maturity in songwriting: they really know how to build up and dissolve the tension, and how to balance melancholic and energetic moments so that the songs remain always equilibrated and enjoyable to hear.

There is a dedicated review of the album, you can check it out.

“Resilience”, by Lahmia

I could not remain indifferent to an album that comes from my hometown. Obectively, however, this Italian band named Lahmia has demonstrated in their new LP to have really many qualities. The style of music played by Lahmia in their new work, called Resilience, represents the almost perfect synthesis of three relatively different musical genres: we have a baseline of melodeath metal, which remains the primary element of their style, but there are also elements from classic death metal and gothic.

The final result is absolutely nice, especially because all the different influences have been dosed with great wisdom and balance across all the eight tracks of the LP. But on the other hand the history of the band says that Lahmia have gone to the recording studio only when they had accumulated quality material, as testified by the fact that Resilience is the second LP in a career that started almost twenty years ago. And the results are absolutely positive.

“Eclipse”, by Diabolical

A quick mention is necessary for the new album by Diabolical, the Swedish formation that has released on mid February the fifth LP of their career, named Eclipse. The band has recently turned twenty years of activity, and their new work shows how they are still willing and somehow curious to experiment with the fusion of different styles of music.

Eclipse is a fairly particular album. The band has tangibly attenuated the more aggressive elements of death metal, compensating it with a greater emphasis on the symphonic and gothic aspects of their style. The result is a collection of intriguing and also “catchy” songs, among which I can highlight a couple of particularly compelling tracks (Failure and Black Sun). This is a record that probably won’t meet the tastes of those who prefer a heavier and more complex approach to Melodeath, but which still provides an interesting and quite original interpretation of the genre.

“The Heretics”, by Rotting Christ

Those who remember the first steps taken in the world of metal by Rotting Christ, probably are still amazed to find their works included in the category of melodeath. On the other hand, it’s been now from many years that Greek band has completely abandoned the harshness and brutality of grindcore to move into the world of melody, with generally good results,

The Heretics, their latest studio LP, offers a good and solid collection of songs that are extremely catchy and nice to hear, and which share a same thematic concept that is, precisely, about that labile border which exists between free thought and heresy.

Musically speaking, the new LP represents a further consolidation of that style of melodic music that evolves from black metal and death, which has now become the signature of the band. At times one gets the impression that in the new LP the thematic aspect prevails over the musical one, but we still find a handful of songs of great interest (my favourite ones are Fire God and Fear and Heaven and Hell and Fire).

If you liked this digest, you will love the playlist MELODEATH, which features the best melodic metal that was released in the last couple of years. Enjoy!

The JAZZ MUSIC Radar (Episode #3/2019)

With the current rate of release of good albums, it’s necessary to have frequent updates of the JAZZ MUSIC Radar. This third episode of the radar features a selection of albums that were released principally after the first days of February. As already said before, the list of records that you’ll find below is fairly representative of what’s happening in contemporary Jazz but it’s not intended to report every and single release that occurred in the period of interest, but rather to recommend a group of albums and artists that got my attention because of their quality and originality.

Before starting with the review of the new albums, let’s remember what we discussed in the previous episodes:

  • Episode 1: Jose Carra, Kevin Reveyrand, Sean Hicke, and Melon Shades.
  • Episode 2: Christian Li / Mike Bono, Andrew Lawrence, Mark Lockheart, Wandering Monster, Graham Costello’s STRATA, Manu Katché, Paolo Fresu / Richard Galliano / Jan Lundgren

Let’s see the artists that emerged in the last few weeks, and stay tuned for future updates!

“Steps”, by Salieri Govoni Negrelli Trio

I’m happy to start the new issue of the radar with an album coming from Italy, which is the second album in the discography of the Jazz ensemble Salieri Govoni Negrelli Trio, which consists of Jacopo Salieri (piano), Nicola Govoni (double bass), and Fausto Negrelli (drums). Their brand new release, named Steps, offers a nice and intriguing version of contemporary Jazz which takes influences and inspirations from many giants of today scene, from GoGoPenguin to Avishai Cohen.

Steps fits in that wide category of albums that consider the accessibility of Jazz as one of the key objectives to be pursued. And this goal here is fully achieved. In fact, the songs of Steps are full of enjoyable melodies, punctuated and groovy rhythms, and also quite linear progressions of chords. Improvisation is present but relegated to a secondary role. The cohesion among the instruments, the harmonic development and the rhythmic intensity are definitely more important for the three Italian musicians. Of course, such a “mainstream” approach to jazz brings with it the risk that music may become a little predictable, with very few surprises. Indeed, there are some tracks on the record that are destined to slip away from the listener’s memory (I can mention Along the River). Other pieces are decidedly more stimulating and manage in being, at the same time, extremely melodic and interesting to explore from the point of view of the harmonic constructs and counterpoint (the title track is a good example).

My overall opinion is positive. We all need a bunch of good records to be put in the stereo every now and then to fill the walls of our house with catchy and enjoyable songs: we’re not always in the mood to focus our attention on conceptual architectures of sounds or atonal melodies. Coming back to the specific case of Steps, here the balance between the most interesting songs and the less successful ones is in favour of the first, also because in the latter we can still appreciate a nice balance of sounds, strengthened by a remarkable production.

“The Alaska Sessions”, by Accidental Tourists (Burger, Erskine, Magnusson)

One of the most beautiful releases of the last few weeks was without any doubt the new record by Markus Burger‘s project Accidental Tourists. For his latest record, named The Alaska Sessions, Burger asked the collaboration of two of the most renowned musicians of the American jazz scene: acclaimed drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Bob Magnusson.

The Alaska Sessions features a collection of beautiful songs that were initially written by Burger during a series of trips he made in Alaska and then interpreted by the trio during an intense two-day recording session in Los Angeles. The LP is absolutely, and objectively, a great album to listen to. The three musicians managed to convey that sense of “classic” and universal amazement that only the wildest and most uncontaminated nature can give to a man. Starting from Burger’s nature-inspired and valuable material, Erskine and Magnusson did much more than just supporting the leader, they enriched all the pieces with significant and remarkable contributions.

The Alaska Sessions was included in the category of the Best New Music, and you can read here the full review of the album.

“The Addition of Strangeness”, by Doron Segal

The Addition of Strangeness, which is the debut LP from Israeli jazz pianist Doron Segal, is one of those records that can demonstrate to the sceptical ones how modern Jazz, when played by brilliant musicians, can really tell about the world where we live today, and not of something that exists only in our memories. The music offered by Segal follows the path that was initiated by other brilliant musicians like Shai Maestro and Tigran Hamaysan, which sees the combination of timeless and beautiful melodies with alterations and influences coming from many different sources of inspiration, spanning from folk to rock.

This was one of the best debut albums that I had the opportunity to enjoy since the beginning of the year. Doron Segal is a new promise of the international jazz scene and his music is at the same time modern, relatively accessible, but full of interesting details.

I have published a dedicated review of the LP, you can access it from here.

“And Then Comes the Night”, by Mats Eilertsen

An album like And Then Comes the Night is totally built upon atmospheres. The music wrote by Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen for his new LP leverages the contrasts and the combinations that are created by the instruments to arouse strong emotions in the listener, and you will end up venturing into foggy and partly haunting musical landscapes.

Eilertsen is supported for this release by Dutch jazz pianist Harmen Fraanje and renowned and prolific Norwegian drummer Thomas Strønen. The three interpreters alternate (short) moments in which they follow the same melody, with longer phases in which they diverge along different directions, with each musician following his own spark of inspiration. The three, however, always manage to keep the individual improvisations almost consistent with the general atmosphere of the songs.

And Then Comes the Night is a very special record, extremely atmospheric, in which part of the charm comes from the music, and part from the silence.

“Imaginary Friends”, by Ralph Alessi

I couldn’t imagine closing this review of the most relevant events in Jazz without mentioning the new record by American jazz trumpeter Ralph Alessi. Imaginary Friends, his latest effort, develops mainly around the duet between Alessi’s trumpet and the saxophone of his friend and longtime music partner Ravi Coltrane.

Alessi and Coltrane are the two undisputed protagonists of the album, and they basically polarize the attention on all the songs of the LP, which however benefit also of the precious support from pianist Andy Milne, drummer Mark Ferber, and bassist Drew Gress.

The album is mainly based on improvisation, and the aspect that I liked the most of these songs is given by the suspended and at times dark atmospheres that are created by the musicians. Compared to Alessi’s previous release (2016’s Quiver), the songs of Imaginary Friends seem to me relatively less immediate and dramatic, but the album as a whole is still deep and full of many details to savour with calm and tranquillity.

All the new releases in Jazz are collected in The JAZZ MUSIC Radar, the playlist on Spotify which features all the artists and the best songs that are mentioned in this series of articles. Listen to it, follow it, and spread the word!

The PSYCHOROCK Radar (Episode #1/2019)

It would seem a coincidence, but judging from what happened this year and last year, one could say that the first months of the year are particularly good for psychedelic rock. In these first weeks of 2019, we had, in fact, a series of important publications relevant to the psychorock genre. In this article, I have selected four of these, which provide an excellent representation of the state of this genre of music in contemporary times.

As far as geography is concerned, we have one album from Mexico (Lorelle Meets the Obsolete), two from England (Ed Wynne, The Telescopes), and one from South Africa (Zoo Lake).

This article features a selection of records released between the beginning of the year and mid-February 2019, stay tuned for future updates.

“De Facto” by Lorelle Meets The Obsolete

One of the most surprising albums I heard so far in 2019 is De Facto, the fifth album by the Mexican formation Lorelle Meets The Obsolete.

The recipe of De Facto is fairly simple: you put in a blender a large dose of psychedelic rock from the ’70s and a couple of abundant cups of dream pop. But beyond the single ingredients, it is the excellent technique mastered by the musicians which managed to guarantee for the album the perfect balance between psychedelic experimentations and moments of pure ambient poetry.

Sonically speaking the album is truly amazing. De Facto was recorded in Ensenada, Baja California, in a home-made recording studio and it’s surprising how from such amateurish environment it was possible to record a kind of music that seems so universal, and capable to cross the boundaries of many different genres.

De Facto was admitted within the prestigious club of S.B.G.’s Best New Music, and you can read from here the full review of the album

“Shimmer into Nature” by Ed Wynne

It’s relatively easy to introduce and describe the music of Ed Wynne‘s new LP, since it’s basically the same kind of instrumental progressive rock that he’s playing since 35 years, with all the usual heavy influences from jazz fusion, ethnic electronica, world music, and psychedelia. In synthesis: Ozric Tentacles.

Shimmer into Nature, Wynne’s new solo LP, features five long instrumental tracks which are all very nice to hear, well played and recorded, even if it suffers the same problems of Ozric Tentacle’s more recent records: pure layers of electronic and ethnic sounds without any real construction of a song.

If you want more details about the album, you can access my dedicated review from here.

“Exploding Head Syndrome”, by The Telescopes

The music played by English rock band The Telescopes seems made to confirm what I’m saying since many years (which is also the overarching concept of my blog): good music is based on a few universal features that are mostly independent of the particular genre that you are listening in a specific moment. It may be rock, electronic, metal or jazz, but there will be always some common characteristics that allow the best song to excel over the others. These characteristics, I believe, are deeply connected to how our body and our mind interact with that physical phenomenon that we call music.

Exploding Head Syndrome, which is the tenth LP from The Telescopes, fits very well with this concept because if we could make the experiment of substituting the uninterrupted and punctuated layer of electronic drones with thick and distorted guitars, and at the same time replacing Stephen Lawrie‘s whispered lyrics with some growling death metal voice, you would end up with a pack of songs that would not look bad inside an album by Conan. In the new album from The Telescopes there is, in fact, a persistent obsessiveness and a mesmerizing rhythmic component that transcends the boundaries of psychedelic and noise rock. This is at the same time the most interesting aspect of the LP, but also one of the elements that make the album relatively difficult to be appreciated in its entirety, in one single run from the start to the end of the record. After a few songs you need some rest, or to move to something else, otherwise, the constant and mechanical synthetic beat of these songs will anaesthetize your senses.

Exploding Head Syndrome may be a very good album, but taken in small doses.

“Zonk”, by Zoo Lake

I’m concluding this roundup with a curious and fairly original album called Zonk, released by the South African rock band Zoo Lake. This quartet of musicians describes their music as “a sonic onslaught somewhere between stochastic no-wave and hypnotic post-punk“. Leaving aside the questions about what they meant by stochastic (I studied stochastic processes for several years), the songs on this record are effectively unconventional and, to some extent, hypnotizing.

In Zonk you’ll find noises, weird samples, lots of distortions, psychedelic effects and hallucinated voices, all mixed together in short songs that still manage to maintain a logical sense and, surprisingly, a certain linearity. One thing that typically gives consistency to various tracks is the bass line, which draws the path from which all the other sounds departs for their excursions into noise.

Zonk is really an intriguing and quite an original record, which manages to be experimental but still enjoyable and nice to listen to.

Many of the above-mentioned artists are contributing to YELLOW EYES, the playlist with the best of modern progressive and art rock. Check it out!

The PROGRESSIVE METAL Radar (Episode #1/2019)

Like all genres of music which assign great importance to the skilfulness of the interpreters and the technical complexity of the songs, progressive metal occasionally provides us with albums and formations in which the musical form prevails over substance and passion. Indeed, nowadays it is more and more rare to find a formation where the technical and experimental aspects of the music are really put at the service of emotional communication. With this new series of articles dedicated to progressive metal, I’m going to select the most relevant publications in a given period of time, trying to see which are those that are really worthy of our time, and attention.

In this first episode of the Progressive Metal radar, I’ve picked up four albums that were released in the period which spans from the beginning of 2019 and the mid of February 2019.

As far as geography is concerned, we have one band from France (Kadinja), two from Sweden (Evergrey and Soen), and one from Russia (Shokran).

Enjoy the article and stay tuned for future updates.

“Super 90′”, by Kadinja

After reading a few good recommendations on social media I approached this album with relative curiosity. My previous knowledge of the French progressive metal band Kadinja was practically inexistent, and therefore I started listening to their new record, named Super 90′, with high expectations.

To be honest, my first reaction to the album was a little mixed, but going forward into their LP I started to appreciate more and more their music. Kadinja plays an extremely technical and cerebral version of progressive metal, which is for many traits definitely close to math metal. In the first part of the album, however, I found the band very much focused on demonstrating their technical competence rather than trying to convey emotions and sensations to the listener. Fortunately, at some point in the LP, we may appreciate a group of songs where the proficiency of the musicians and the use of non-linear and syncopated rhythms are eventually put at the service of the music, with exciting results (I can mention at least two masterpieces in the album: Icon and the closing track Avec tout mon Amour).

In summary, I’ve still a sort of perplexity about some of the songs of the LP, but in general terms, Kadinja is definitely a formation to be taken in very good consideration.

“The Atlantic”, by Evergrey

The release of the new album by Swedish prog-metallers Evergrey was clearly one of the most anticipated events of this period of time, not only within the boundaries of progressive metal. The two records that the band released after the return of Henrik Danhage and Jonas Ekdahl (2014’s Hymns for the Broken and 2016’s The Storm Within) were in fact appreciated by both fans and critics, and with this new record, named The Atlantic, the trilogy was going to reach its ideal conclusion.

Personally, Evergrey’s new record has a bit too many ups and downs to be considered among the best one published so far by the band. Alongside a few exciting tracks (Weightless and A Secret Atlantis, just to mention a couple), there are many others which are much less inspired.

That said, in this new work you still feel the passion and dedication that the Swedish band has always put in their music, and therefore even if The Atlantic won’t be remembered among the highest peaks of their career, it remains an enjoyable and solid work from one of the most appreciated representatives of this genre of music.

“Lotus”, by SOEN

A couple of years ago, Soen was included in this blog (and not only here, of course) among the best progressive metal acts of the year, thanks to their very good release named Lykaia. That’s why I was expecting with some trepidation the release of their new album. But the arrival of Lotus, which is Soen’s fourth LP, somehow didn’t confirm the great expectations I had on this record.

In this regard, it is important to remember that approximately ten years ago Soen was born as a “supergroup”. The band was created as the ideal place where a number of already well-respected musicians could gather together and create complex and innovative melodic music. The main reference for their style was that genre of conceptual and elaborated music made popular by legendary bands like Tool. As the years passed, however, Soen went through changes in the line-up which somehow affected also the style (and the overall quality) of their music. Nowadays, when we hear the songs of Lotus, we realize how the band has become definitely less “special”, and that their music isn’t intriguing and experimental as it used to be in the early years of the band’s activity.

Stylistically speaking, the songs of Lotus look much more like a sort of alternative rock played with amplified guitar-driven sounds, rather than pure and standard progressive metal. The real problem, however, doesn’t reside in the specific genre that’s played by the band, but rather in the fact that whatever they’re playing, there’s no more innovation in what they do. I see that Lotus is still getting praises from lots of fans and casual listeners, but for those of us who were so much impressed by their debut LP, back in 2010, the new album is evidently a little disappointing.

“Ethereal”, by Shokran

Shokran is a metal act from Russia, created and led by multi-instrumentalist Dmitry Demyanenko. The band has released in February their third LP, named Ethereal, which offers a very particular version of progressive metal. There is in fact really a lot of material in each one of the songs on this record, maybe even too much. Guitar solos that overlap the lyrics, clean voices alongside screams and growls, plenty of synthesizers and keyboards, vigorous riffs underlined by continuous choruses. In short, a potpourri of stimuli which may really have the effect of saturating the listener.

Nevertheless, there is certainly quality in this overflowing mix of musical elements, although I would have personally recommended a drastic operation aimed at lightening the sound and cleaning all the superfluous. Here in Italy, we have a famous saying, “Il troppo storpia“, that could be translated as “too much cripple“. This is the feeling I have when listening to this band.

In stylistic terms, those who’ll manage to go beyond the tide of disparate items that have been recorded one on top of each other we’ll appreciate an interesting variant of progressive metal that incorporates huge amounts of metalcore, along with interesting folk and symphonic influences. In summary: this is an intriguing and enjoyable album when taken in small doses.

The MODERN CLASSICAL Radar (Episode #1/2019)

Modern classical music lives suspended between the present and the past, and this is why it often manages to represent, better than any other kind of music, that concept of universal and timeless beauty. Unfortunately, very often there are self-proclaimed composers pretending to describe like modern classical music something that is, in reality, only the result of a commercial manoeuvre aimed at conquering that large share of listeners who only want atmospheric and catchy songs to be put in the background while reading the emails on the phone.

For this reason, I consider it important to know how to discriminate between valuable music and songs with exclusively commercial purposes. What I’m trying to do in this series of articles is to provide my personal contribution to this kind of evaluation which, in the end, remains absolutely subjective. The judgments that I write for the various records do not intend to evaluate the qualities and the skill of the artists, but rather to provide my personal vision of the music they have composed for their recent publications.

In this first issue of the MODERN CLASSICAL radar, I have selected four albums as representatives of the most significant events of this first part of the week. Enjoy, and don’t forget to check the playlists that are suggested at the end of the article: there is plenty of good music to listen to!

“A Different Forest” by Hauschka

There are no doubts this time: the most significant event of this first part of the year for what concerns modern classical music has been the release of A Different Forest, the new album by German composer Volker Bertelmann, who operates under the moniker of Hauschka.

The LP features a collection of pieces for piano that are stylistically closer to the kind of classical music composed by artists like Philip Glass and Dmitry Shostakovich rather than to the commercial successes that are so succesfull nowadays. Nevertheless, the music of A Different Forest has a profundity and a technical depth which, today, is definitely out of the ordinary.

The album was included in the group of the best new albums selected by this blog, and you can thus read the full review of the LP from here.

“Pianette”, by Bruno Sanfilippo

Within the large family of composers of modern classical music, Bruno Sanfilippo is one who has taken the good habit to release, with a certain regularity, nice and elegant records. In 2018 we appreciated his intriguing and relatively experimental work named Unity and now, just at the beginning of 2019, we enjoy his brand new LP, named Pianette, which is a good representative of that current of minimalism that has been so successful in the recent years.

One of the things that I appreciated of this LP is the general sense of kindness and elegance that emerges from the songs. There is a stylistic coherence between the tracks that doesn’t become boring repetitiveness, and it’s really a pleasure to play the record in the background while we are busy in other activities.

I have published a review of the album, you can read it from here.

“Pieces for Piano Vol. 1”, by Chris Child

Electronic producer and musician Chris Child, from the U.S., is mostly known for the music he released under the moniker of Kodomo. He’s, however, the author of one of the first albums of modern classical music that we had the pleasure to hear in 2019. The LP, named Pieces for Piano Vol.1, is a collection of simple piano pieces with the addition of field recordings and other electronic elements.

Although the album is produced and recorded in a way that it seems absolutely charming and well-executed (at least according to the current standards for modern classical music), in reality what you realize after a few tracks is that these pieces are all characterized by a disarming simplicity. Many songs look like exercises for kids who are learning to play the piano when they are in the first weeks of music school. In this sense, the choice to inserts additional electronic sounds was taken presumably in order to fill that sense of flatness and chromatic poverty that would have resulted otherwise. And the paucity of musical content becomes more evident when we listen to the full album in a single run.

By the way, the release notes explain that the LP was composed with the intention of creating something simple, intimate and quiet. If I can agree that this music is generally relaxing and direct, I personally expected something more about the actual content of the songs.

“Kreise im Wasser”, by Christian Pensel

Crhistian Pensel is a young composer and multi-instrumentalist from Germany. He started to get recognition in the modern classical and electro-acoustic scenes both as an author of movie scores but also as a leader and composer for a series of interesting musical projects.

Pensel’s newest work is called Kreise im Wasser (Circles in the water) and it’s fully dedicated to the piano. Indeed, the first reaction I had when I started listening to the album was the admiration for the fantastic sounds that were coming out from the stereo. Not only Pensel’s piano has been recorded in an excellent way for the album, but to some extent, the whole record actually seems a celebration of this instrument: the single notes, the melodies, the sequences of chords, the progressions, all seem conceived to enhance the chromaticity and richness of the piano.

Beyond this specific aspect, however, I missed some really memorable piece and also I would have expected some more emotion and tension in the songs of Kreise im Wasser. In any case, the record is interesting and pleasant to listen to, especially in the evening, at home, sitting and in dim light.

As anticipated in the introduction, there are a number of playlists that I’m maintaining on Spotify that feature meditative and modern classical music.

First of all, I’m collecting the best songs of the year in THE MODERN CLASSICAL RADAR, which is now featuring only the songs from the LPs that were mentioned in this article, but it’s going to grow as new records are released.

Another playlist where it’s possible to listen to a lot of good modern classical music is BEAUTIFUL PIANO, with 100 different songs picked up one by one in the last couple of years.

If you like music for piano and you have a predilection for intimate and thoughtful songs, there is a playlist for you. It’s called MELANCHONIC PIANO and it’s also one of the most successful playlists of mine.