The new LP released by the British formation Forged in Black shows how exciting and intriguing heavy metal music can be when the songs contain the right amount of creativity and inspiration. Descent of the Serpent, which is the second full-length record from the band, features, in fact, nothing more than the usual ingredients that we typically expect from an heavy metal album, and it has also a sound that is blatantly borrowed from legendary records like Dream Theater’s Awake. But everything is combined so well, and also accompanied by extremely engaging riffs and solos, that we are immediately captured by the music and forget all the rest.
Said in other words, so often we are looking for original and innovative songs and styles that sometimes we get surprised when we come across to an album which offers pure and simple heavy metal, but damn enjoyable to hear.
Pay attention, however, you don’t have to make the mistake of thinking that Descent of the Serpent is just a sequence of catchy riffs, nice solos and melodic choruses. Indeed, it’s impressive to see how every song of this record is absolutely rich of many details, intriguing musical ideas and nuances. Listening to the nine tracks of the album we clearly recognize how much passion and care has been dedicated by these five guys from Essex in perfecting and improving every single piece of their work. And the result is really good.
The band describes their sound as “fresh, melodic and powerful Heavy Metal where you can find classic elements from british bands like IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST or ANGEL WITCH“. I feel, however, that the riffs and the songs’ structures of Descent of the Serpent are enough articulated and powerful to appeal also to the fans of bands such as Symphony X, Royal Hunt, and the already mentioned Dream Theater .
I was positively impressed by this record, much beyond my initial expectations. My rating for the LP is 6.5/10, and my favourite songs are the first two pieces of the album (Seek No Evil and One in the Chamber) and the title-track Descent of the Serpent.
Forged in Black’s new album is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.
Forged in Black are now featured in The PROGRESSIVE METAL Radar, which is the playlist that collects all the best progressive metal songs that have been relased in 2019. Check it out and follow it since the playlist is going to grow as soon as new good albums are released.
This year I thought that the best way I had in this blog to celebrate the Women’s Day was to highlight and collect together the best records among those we could enjoy in 2019 which exist thanks to the talent and creativity of women.
I’ve selected nine albums which span from jazz to metal, passing through hip-hop, folk and rock. It can be an opportunity to listen to something new and maybe widen our musical horizons. Enjoy!
The Australian singer-songwriter has released in late February 2019 her second LP, Crushing, which is filled with emotions and played with passion and elegance.
Rigmor Elisabeth Gustafsson
The Swedish Jazz singer has published this year the ninth album in her own name, and it’s another brilliant entry within an impressive career.
The American singer and guitarist is the undisputed leader of rock band Cherry Glazer. The band has released this year an exciting new LP that you’ll start enjoying since the very first listenings
For her latest release, the acclaimed Danish Jazz singer has called for the support of an ensemble of all female musicians from several countries and generations
The South African rapper has released in 2019 one of the best albums in the category of electronic musc. Her LP is absolutely enjoyable to hear, even if you’re not a passionate fan of hip-hop.
Anette Uvaas Gulbrandsen
The Norwegian fascinating singer is one of the leaders of American doom metal band The Sabbathian, which arrived this year to their impressive debut LP.
The Scottish singer and songwriter has released her second LP, and we may enjoy once again the talent of one of the most promising figures of contemporary folk.
The Australian singer and musician is one of the two founding members of electronic project Two People. Their debut LP is the perfect balance between intimacy, elegance, and obscurity .
The American singer-songwriter has accumulated a huge number of different musical experiences throughout her intense career. Her new LP oscillates between a sparkling and catchy rock and roll and a mainstream-oriented indie pop.
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!
Sometimes the most intriguing and beautiful things arrive completely unexpected. This was for me the case of the new LP released by Welsh metal band Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, named Yn Ol I Annwyn. This album is the third full-length record of their career and it arrives after their debut in 2015 (Noeth ac Anoeth) and a second LP in 2016 (Y Proffwyd Dwyll). Certainly, the name of the band is a bit extreme, and I can understand if someone should approach them with a good dose of scepticism. But their music, believe me, is absolutely enjoyable and valid, and it’s also full of many different elements of interest.
If you search for them on the web you’ll see that the band is typically tagged as sludge/doom. Their new record, however, basically offers a good selection of psychedelic doom songs, with very few elements of sludge. In fact, in the eight tracks of Yn Ol I Annwyn the band has softened the abrasiveness of sludge through the introduction of poetical melodies, huge doses of psychedelia, epic riffs, and the beautiful female voice of the singer Jessica Biel.
The eight songs that comprise thes album, sees the band delve deeper into their collective influences, embracing full on space rock, atmospheric film soundtracks, melancholic acoustic interludes, psychedelia, cosmic moogs and percussion, moments of introspection and light … and of course, large helpings of doom.
From the album’s Bandcamp page
The music played by Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard is heavy and slow, but thanks to the skilful balance of distorted guitars with many other different sounds it has the effect of an obsessive and hypnotizing stream of sounds rather than that of a rough and violent blow of energy. The combination of psychedelic sounds and catchy riffs that are repeated over and over until the exhaustion has really the capacity of dragging you down into hallucinated and colourful worlds: the unpronounceable Yn Ol I Annwyn becomes, in the end, a psychedelic heavy trip that eventually leaves you drained, and exhausted.
One thing which is really good of this album is the nice variety among the different tracks: we have atmospheric pieces with only voices, synths and arpeggios (no distortions, no drums), alongside with powerful and psychedelic songs, and also very long doomish tracks based on the obsessive repetition of a single epic motif.
My overall rating for the album is 7/10. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard play a very nice version of doom which is fascinating and powerful at the same time. This is a band that shall be followed with attention and curiosity because we can expect even greater things from them.
My favourite songs of the LP are Katyusha (a 13 minutes epic doom song), Fata Morgana (a delicate and soft atmospheric ballad), and The Spaceship of Ezekiel (one of the most psychedelic tracks of the album).
Yn OI I Annwyn is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are now featured in SLOWLY, the famous playlist with the best of new sludge, doom and post-metal, but also in The PSYCHEDELIC AND STONER DOOM Radar, the playlist that’s totally dedicated to the best songs of 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.
Those of my generation know very well the genius of Les Claypool, the fantastic American bassist and singer that became famous during the ‘90s as the leader of that crazy formation which is Primus. The golden sequence of Primus’ records that goes from their debut Frizzle Fry (1990) to the legendary Pork Soda (1993) has marked the musical development of many fans of rock music, allowing us to broaden our horizons outside the usual genres that we were used to listening on the radio and in the car stereo.
Like all good things, however, the magic of the music of Primus’ first albums began gradually to fade, and Claypool himself embarked on a parable that led him, year after year, to maintain a niche of fans which was, at least in size, decidedly different from the masses of enthusiasts who were following him in the beginning. Even for what concerns myself, I slowly began to lose track of his works, also because those few times that I approached the new publications from Primus (the last was released last year) I was quite disoriented, to use a euphemism.
Anyway, among the many projects were Les Claypool has been protagonist in the recent times, the one initiated with Sean Lennon is perhaps the one that intrigued me the most: this mixture of alternative rock, psychedelia and classic progressive rock is definitely interesting, and it also allowed Claypool to find again a fertile ground for his unique and particular style of bass.
On February 2019 the collaborative project between Lennon and Claypool named The Claypool Lennon Delirium has relased their second LP, South of Reality, which follows their debut album Monolith of Phobos (2016) and the following album of covers Lime and Limpid Green (2017).
Honestly, I found myself enjoying this album well beyond what I could expect at the beginning: Claypool’s craziness and creativity merge perfectly with Lennon’s melodic sensibility and the songs of the album result at the same time intriguing and curious as they are fresh and catchy. South of Reality is really fun to listen to, and in this respect, it reminds me, with all the due differences, of the great album that was published last year by the King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.
My overall rating for the LP is 7.5/10. It’s really nice to be surprised again by an artist whom we had lost sight of. The music of South of Reality, however, is enjoyable and objectively valuable even for those who aren’t aware of all the impressive background of Les Claypool.
My favourite songs of the album are Amethyst Realm, the opening track Little Fishes, Cricket Chronicles, and the title track South of Reality.
South of Reality is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium are now featured in YELLOW EYES, the playlist with the best of modern progressive and psychedelic rock.
I’m sharing with you a mixtape that I’ve created by selecting and combining together the best Atmospheric Stoner Rock songs that were released in the last few years. You’ll find in this compilation masterpieces from bands and artists of the calibre of Monster Magnet, Brant Bjork, John Garcia, Truckfighters, and many others masters of stoner rock.
The complete tracklist of the mixtape is as follows:
Intro / The Dream of Life, by S.B.G.
Diamond, by All Them Witches
Exordium, by Ordos
Sun Shivers, by King Buffalo
What Is Human, by Palace in Thunderland
Calm Before The Storm, by Truckfighters
Night Creeper, by The Blackwater Fever
Tao of the Devil, by Brant Bjork
Drowning, by Moster Magnet
Catamaran, by Yawning Man
Rest Easy, by The Flying Eyes
Softer Side, by John Garcia
Most of the songs of this mixtape were taken from THE DELICATE SOUND OF THUNDER, which is one of the playlists that I’m curating on Spotify. Check it out.
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.
I remember very well that many years ago I was definitely a fan of Ladytron’s music, but every time I checked with my acquaintances it seemed that, at least in my circle of contacts, I was the only one to know this band. This is just to say that in my opinion, these guys from Liverpool have never achieved the success and popularity that they deserved, at least outside the boundaries of the English electronic scene. As a matter of fact, their music has always been truly original and unique: not only they crafted a brilliant mix of many different styles of electronic music (electro-pop, synth-pop, EDM, darkwave) but they also managed to give to it a nice retro feeling.
Year after year, I slowly lost sight of the band and, to be honest, I was fairly surprised when I discovered that they were still active and that there was a new record on the shelves. Investigating a little deeper I realized that it was not just my fault if I lost track of Ladytron since the band had effectively entered a period of hiatus after their 2011’s album Gravity the Seducer. Their new LP, which is named after the band, basically signs their official comeback after many years of silence.
For everyone who was already a fan of Ladytron’s music, the new album doesn’t bring any dramatic change or surprise, if not perhaps for the fact that the atmospheres are, at times, a little gloomier than what we had in Gravity the Seducer. In this respect, Ladytron may appear at first sight as closer to the early works of the band rather than what they were playing before the hiatus. At the same time, however, the new songs lack the impetuousness and abrasiveness that characterized the first phase of their career. This is compensated by an increased maturity of style, and an overall sense of elegance that clearly reflects the fact that in these years the musicians have grown, not only musically.
For those who don’t know the band or missed their golden age, which for me is the period included between 2002’s Light & Magic and 2005’s Witching Hour, it’s sufficient to know that this music is absolutely different from anything you heard until today: a fascinating interpretation of electro-pop which mixes delicacy and aggression, angelic voices and engaging rhythms.
Ladytron is not the best LP of the band’s discography, but it’s still an appreciated comeback from a group of musicians who wrote an important page in the history of UK’s electronic music.
My overall rating for the LP is 7/10. In my opinion, the LP suffers the unbalance between the most beautiful songs (Deadzone, The Animals, The Island, Far From Home), and those tracks which seem less effective and particular.
Ladytron is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.
Songs from Ladytron are featured in ELECTRO POP (the playlist with the best electro-pop songs of the last couple of years) and also in The ELECTRONIC MUSIC Radar, which is the selection of the best electronics songs released in 2019. Enjoy!
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.
Can there be beauty in suffering? Listening to the last record of the Swedish band The Moth Gatherer, one can say that yes, this is possible. The songs of their new album, named Esoteric Oppression, convey a sense of impotence, of discouragement, of broken dreams, but they are so poetical and emotional that you feel like you never have enough. This is one of those records that arrive at the end too quickly and you feel like this journey shall be done again, and again.
By the way, it’s not by chance that these are the main feeling that I’ve got from their music because actually the band was created with the exact purpose of translating into music the desperation and the sadness that everybody feels in front of an important loss.
The Moth Gatherer was founded in Stockholm in 2008 by Victor Wegeborn and Alex Stjernfeldt. They started The Moth Gatherer as a sort of therapy, a way to deal with the loss of people they loved and the hole it left behind. The Moth Gatherer was a way for Alex and Victor to move on.
About the name ”The Moth Gatherer” Alex commented in an interview: ”We went through some personal tragedies and felt like we were lost in darkness and we fumbled towards a source of light, just like moths. So the name The Moth Gatherer felt kind of fitting for us.”
From the band’s Facebook page
Beyond the emotional aspect, the element which impressed me the most inEsoteric Oppression is the sense of musicality and fuidity that emerge from the songs. The album shows a fairly impressive melodic sensibility, and the band has achieved with the years the ability to re-manipulate the constituting building blocks of sludge and post-metal to produce something special, and original, even without having introduced nothing really new.
This is really one of those rare and exceptional cases in which a specific kind of music becomes really the way by which a band communicates emotions and inner feelings. Many groups, on the other hand, aim to play a given genre of music according to some stylistic dictates, but, in the end, they end up composing pieces that can be stylistically impeccable, but that are often cold and unattractive.
Musically speaking, the sound of the band is basically post-metal with many and relevant influences from doom and sludge. One of the more characteristic elements of the band’s style is the recourse to electronic sounds and drones, which are so beautifully balanced with the rest of the music that they enrich the overall atmospheres without taking away the attention of the listeners from the melodic development. As I already said, however, it’s not the introduction of new sounds or other kinds of innovations wich makes the music of Esoteric Oppression so nice, but rather it’s the perfect way they have put all the elements together. This is first-class post-metal. And one of the best works I’ve heard in recent times.
Another intriguing element of the LP is the contrast between the elegance of the sounds and the abrasive voice of Victor Wegeborn, which provides the album with a further enhancement in that sense of oppression that I mentioned before.
I really loved this album since the first played it in my stereo. I really recommend it to the wider family of lovers of good music, well beyond the perimeters of metal.
My overall rating of the LP is 8.5/10. It’s hard to say which are the best songs of the LP since I really liked all of them. If I should in any case give a special recommendation, I would mention the opening and closing tracks of the LP: The Drone Kingdom and Phosporescent Blight.
Esoteric Oppression is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.
The Moth Gatherer are now featured in many playlists of those I’m curating on Spotify: TOTAL SLUDGE (the best and latest sludge metal songs), THE POST METAL RADAR (the best of post metal in 2019), and the succesfull playlist SLOWLY (the best of modern sludge, doom and post metal).
Sometimes I find myself thinking about how many groups or artists try to reach the hearts of their fans with compulsively conceptual songs, or stylistic choices that want to be innovative, but that ultimately do nothing else than putting an unnecessary distance between the music and the listener. Then, all of a sudden, a young musician arrives, with just her voice and a guitar, and she sweeps away all these overcomplicated artefacts with the simplicity of beautiful songs that speaks directly to the heart.
Julia Jacklin is an Australian singer and songwriter based in Sydney, and she has released in late February 2019 her second LP, Crushing, which follows her 2016’s impressive debut studio album, Don’t Let the Kids Win. Similarly to what happened on the occasion of her first record, the first thing which impresses of Crushing 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.
When you listen Julia Jacklin’s new record, it really seems to be alongside an old friend of ours who decided, on a rainy day, to tell us about some of the strongest emotions she has experienced in the last few years, and she does it with passion, transport, and using a musical language that’s simple, as it is effective and confidential.
This album came from spending two years touring and being in a relationship, and feeling like I never had any space of my own. For a long time I felt like my head was full of fear and my body was just this functional thing that carried me from point A to B, and writing these songs was like rejoining the two.
Julia Jacklin, from her Facebook page
From a musical point of view, the songs of Crushing stay right on the border that separates indie pop from folk. 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. Rarely we hear a piano. The simplicity of the arrangement, however, is compensated by warm and beautiful sounds of all the instruments, which in the end enhance the sense of intimacy of the tracks.
As far as the style of the songs is concerned, Crushing alternates between poetical moments with meditative and confidential tones, and others where the rhythms rise (relatively) and the songs embrace a rock and roll feeling. The first category of songs is that one that impressed me the most, and which in my opinion makes this LP so beautiful and gorgeous. The opening song of the LP, Body, is perhaps one of the most expressive and engaging tracks I’ve heard in recent times. The song tells of the end of a relationhsip, and of how the destiny can have an impact on our lifes in the most unpredictable ways.
On the album-opening lead single “Body,” Jacklin proves the power of that approach, turning out a mesmerizing vocal performance even as she slips into the slightest murmur. A starkly composed portrait of a breakup, the song bears an often-bracing intimacy, a sense that you’re right in the room with Jacklin as she lays her heart out. And as Body wanders and drifts, Jacklin establishes Crushing as an album that exists entirely on its own time, a work that’s willfully unhurried.
Excerpt from Julia Jacklin’s Facebook page
Crushing is an album filled with emotions and played with passion and elegance. Julia Jacklin is improving her style and storytelling skills year after year. We can really expect the best from her future career.
I’m giving the LP an overall rating of 8/10. As I said, I was particularly impressed by the most intimate and delicate songs of the LP, which include the already mentioned Body, Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You, Convention, Turn Me Down, and Comfort.
Crushing is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.
Songs from Crushing are now featured in a number of different playlists among those I curate on Spotify, namely: CRESTS OF WAVES (the softer side of music), THE INDIE FOLK RADAR (the best of Indie Folk since the beginning of 2019), THE INDIE POP RADAR (the best of Indie Pop since the beginning of 2019), and MODERN SONGWRITERS. Check these out and follow the playlists, these are updated frequently with new songs.
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 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
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
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
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 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 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.
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 relatively monochord 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. Unfortunately, these best songs are interspersed with a few less interesting moments, but this is something we can tolerate for a band that has just released the second album of their career.
From a musical point of view, the songs alternate between fast and very fast moments. There are a number of things that I really enjoyed of the LP: the rhythm section is frenetic but always precise, both the two guitars sound very compact and have a nice and enveloping sound, and in the best songs I appreciated also an intriguing mix of thrash and groove. Last, but not least, the lead guitar did an impressive job and it’s not confined to sporadic and predictable moments, but rather it’s a presence that characterizes many different moments of the song.
In summary: Digital Breed is a nice entry in the selection of the best thrash albums that we heard so far in 2019, and it further confirms the rising wave of good bands coming from the Mediterranean area.
My overall rating for the LP is 6.5/10. Favourite songs: G.R.B., No Vacancy in Hell, the final track Slaughter on October 31, and the damn fun Acoholic Bastards.
Digital Breed is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.
Death Above and their new LP Digital Breed are now featured in THRASH METAL FEAST, the succesfull playlist which features the best and latest thrash metal song. Check it out and follow it, it’s continuously updated.
Back in 2017, the impressive second LP from Ordos (House of the Dead) was included here in this blog within the list of the Best Albums of the Year, across all genres of music. As I wrote at that time, I felt in love with the band and in particular with House of the Dead since the moment I started listening to the initial guitar riffs that are in that record, and the positive impression remained unchanged after many and many other listens of the entire work. This could justify the great expectations that I had for their new record, The End, which is the third LP of their career.
If their second LP was reminiscent of the ’70s and fitted with many elements from heavy rock and doom, The End further amplifies this aspect and introduces additional elements of psychedelic and occult rock. From this point of view, while it still maintains an extremely dark and gloomy sound, the music played by the Swedish band seems to have settled on the less abrasive side of stoner-doom. The melodic component, which was already a key point in their music, has acquired even greater importance, making the songs of the album gain remarkable ease of assimilation. In this regard, even the riffs seem to adopt almost all the same pattern throughout the entire record, where a chord, or a single note, is repeated obsessively, with the addition of small intervals of semi-tones in order to increase the sense of restlessness and gloom.
To give an example, the sixth track of the LP, Upsala (S:t Erik), which I presume is a cover from the first demo of the psychedelic Swedish band S:t Erik, begins with a blues and southern motif that seems to break the atmosphere of darkness and despair that characterized the earlier songs. But it takes only a minute and even this song returns to embrace the same style of the other songs, except for the sporadic return of the bluesy sounds during the chorus and the guitar solo.
Based on these stylistic choices, and because of how homogeneous and similar are the various songs of the album, The End seems to be like a single story told through one haunting introduction, 6 gloomy chapters, and one instrumental conclusion. This aspect obviously has tangible positive effects in terms of the obsessive and emotional impact of the record, but it also carries with it the limits of making the LP definitely linear, and fairly monochord. This phenomenon is further amplified by the fact that the rhythms are constantly settled on an average mid-paced beat count, and in this respect there aren’t significant variations from one song to another.
On the other hand, the sounds, the melodies and the atmospheres that these guys from Uppsala can generate with their instruments are absolutely unique, beautiful and engaging, and the fact of finding yourself entangled in a continuous and uninterrupted flow of obsessive and repetitive music is something that can be definitely rewarding. Probably the longevity of the album will be compromised by the similarity that there is between all the songs, but, at least in the short term, the effect is absolutely impressive and overwhelming.
In summary: maybe I was expecting something more remarkable from Ordos. The End is basically a new collection of songs that confirm and consolidate the style that was already introduced in their previous work, except for a certain softening of the most abrasive parts in favor of the melody. On the other hand, their music remains absolutely exciting and fascinating, and the fact of having new songs to listen to is, by itself, something that can change your day for the better. My overall rating for the LP is 7/10.
Favourite songs: The Hunter of Hades, III, and the beautiful haunting intro Exordium.
Songs from The End have been included in some of the playlist that I’m curating on Spotify, such as SLOWLY (dedicated to stoner/doom and sludge), and THE DELICATE SOUND OF THUNDER (dedicated to the softer side of stoner music). Check these out!