Dapper Dan Man…

March 20, 2010

Powerplay reviews – February

These are album reviews published in the February issue of Powerplay magazine.

Pure Hate – Hate is Coming

Genre: Metalcore

Label: Unholy Melodies

It’s no surprise that an album with this kind of music is called “Hate is coming”. The deal on this Polish band’s debut is tough guy metalcore with testosterone overload and a dose of melodic riffs influenced by the popular Gothenburg death metal strain of music.There isn’t much subtlety on offer on “Hate is coming”- songs like “Warriors” and the title track are chock full of slow, lurching riffs while a few like “Power and Pride” provide the kind of modern melodic metal popular today.

The brutish hardcore parts are preferable as they get the blood going and make you feel energized.

“Hate is coming” makes no claims for originality but if your Hatebreed and Killswitch Engage albums have been worn out during the gym sessions then reach for this competent substitute.

Rating: 5


Nargaroth  – Jahreszeiten

Genre: Black Metal

Label: No Colours

This German one-man black metal entity has based this latest outing on the concept of seasons of the year, hence the title. The prolog is followed by four long pieces, starting with Spring.

It is a fitting concept for a black metal band but the first song leaves you instantly bewildered when the riffs on “Frühling” kick in- it sounds like a bouncy old folk song in its melody and in all honesty a tad too chirpy for this kind of music. This last for a few minutes and finishes in the same manner but in between you get the usual grim, frosty riffing so familiar to black metal. It is at least an interesting touch but with songs this long variety is welcome.

Herein lies a small problem-most songs are too long, save for “Herbst”, whose mellow and melancholy build-up merits its rich length. As for the others, all the grimness and emotional cold could have been conveyed in less time but Nargaroth is clearly one of the better black metal bands around today.

Rating: 6


Fallen Within – Intoxicated

Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Label: Coroner Records

All the way from Greece what we are graced with is a piece of pure, Sweden-inspired melodic death metal with a fair deal of electronic influences. It actually feels as if death metal is a misnomer as the melodies and clean vocals in parts evoke modern metal releases and seem to shun the heavier end of the spectrum. The Greek band’s debut brings to mind In Flames’ 2003 release “Reroute to remain”- the sound is very similar, albeit more rich in industrial overtones with Fallen Within, especially on songs like “Pain Right Under”, which has a thick layer of electronic throughout.

The guys are clearly competent musicians but will more than likely suffer for operating in a genre that has clearly reached its saturation point already. They would be wise to expand on the electronic influences and carve out their own niche, while toning down the obvious In Flames/ Sonic Syndicate influences.

Rating: 4

I Shalt Become – The Pendle Witch Trials

Genre: Black Metal

Label: Independent Release

These days the grimmest black metal seems to come from across the pond rather than from the parts of Europe where it started. Thus, this release is brought to us from Michigan and it is one truly depressing piece of work. Every fibre of “The Pendle Witch Trials” breathes utter hopelessness and desolation which makes for quite an unsettling companion. It is not recommended to listen to this while taking a nightly stroll through the park.

I Shalt Become is mid-tempo, atmospheric black metal inspired by the likes of Burzum. In evoking a sense of unease and a world devoid of hope this album clearly succeeds with its intent but the bad production ruins the experience. The vocals are so far down in the mix that they are barely heard and can hardly be said to even accentuate the harsh music- in that respect this could have simply been an instrumental album and sounded better for it.

Rating: 4


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July 29, 2009

Music Review: Aimee Allen – A Little Happiness

Filed under: Music,Writing — gazzabazza @ 10:29 AM
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Published on Blogcritics.org July 16, 2009

Link

Aimee Allen is described as an “explosive, outspoken voice” on her website, and that is probably right when considering her earlier work.

But now it’s hard to imagine that when this album, at least music-wise, exudes gentleness and serenity. It’s a collection of mostly acoustic tracks that sound tailor made for contemplation in the sunshine or sitting by a campfire. Without delving more into comparisons, these are the images brought up while listening to A Little Happiness — the mellow tones of the music inspire it. It’s only in the reflective lyrics that less happy themes come up like heartbreak and organized religion.

Allen has a great voice, part soothing and part sass, and the slow reggae-like tones definitely benefit. This album actually brings to mind the much missed ska punks Sublime. One of their finest songs, “Santeria” even gets the cover treatment here, with this version coming close to the sun-drenched perfection of the original.

The funky piano in “Crazy” is a nice touch, which along with the sing-along chorus provides the song with an even more upbeat feel. “Calling The Maker” has much of the same influence, but with a much more thumping drum beat and backing vocals that bring to mind gospel singing, a touch that makes it more memorable

Not all songs on A Little Happiness have that bouncy, happy sound though. A few, like “Silence is Violence” deal with the same musical template, but differ in the melancholy sound they carry. The same can be said about “La La Land,” a song about bad relationships and infidelity. Some of that edge that Aimee Allen is usually known for definitely comes across in the more sombre moments of this record. But A Little Happiness carries a more positive message in the end. Read the lyrics and this will come across.

This is a great summer album, perfect in every way for this season, but which will also sound good when listened to at any other time of the year.

May 29, 2009

The Poison Arrows – Casual Wave review

Filed under: Music,Writing — gazzabazza @ 12:25 PM
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Posted on Wednesday May 27th, 2009 – Scenepointblank

Being from Chicago, The Poison Arrows have a style that unmistakeably brings to mind the old, early to mid 90’s alternative rock scene. Since that particular time spawned quite a few great bands then this can be considered a good prospect. The debut EP from this band doesn’t necessarily resemble the noisy endeavors of Steve Albini or the madness of The Jesus Lizard – instead, their languid, flowing sound has more in common with the dark and gritty sound of an underrated bunch like Girls vs. Boys, while the wash of the mellow synth and electronic sound behind them adds color to the urban feel.

This sounds like it was borne out of a concrete jungle, as the repetitive beats of the likes of “The Lure of Lore” evoke visions of city lights and neon reflecting over Michigan Lake. Casual Wave finds the band in a dark and contemplative mood, something they manage to bring to the listener with ease. It’s in the small details, like the moody trumpet in “Frozen Human State.” It’s just a tad frustrating that four songs are all we can listen to at the moment.

Should The Poison Arrows continue to deliver on the promise of this EP than those who like their brooding music have much to anticipate.

Link to the review

May 12, 2009

Landmine Marathon – Rusted eyes awake album review

Filed under: Music,Review,Writing — gazzabazza @ 4:23 PM
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Here, finally after several months’ abscence is a piece published on Scenepointblank.  It’s about Landmine Marathon, a death metal band from Arizona (my favourite place in America, but the again I am slightly disturbed.)

Link to the review on Scenepointblank.

Otherwise, read on below…

One of the biggest pleasures of listening to Rusted Eyes Awake was to hear the music and not walk away with the opinion that this is just another modern U.S. metal band labeled with the death metal tag that actually plays nauseating post-millennial death-core. Landmine Marathon still does have some of those influences interspersed but for the most part the Arizonians play old-school- caked death metal with a heavy nod towards the old Earache Records releases. Even the cover art is brings to mind Repulsion’s seminal Horrified.

This album is an almighty brutal attack, it has to be clarified. There aren’t many pauses for breath amidst the scattergun approach, save for the occasional mid-tempo, chugging breakdown that betrays the band’s modern hardcore influences. Aside from this, Landmine Marathon let rip with pummeling drums and buzzing riffs. Rusted Eyes Awake is the kind of album that raises your pulse and puts you in the frame of mind to do something physical. A two hour Thai-boxing session would seem like the perfect activity for the soundtrack, as elbowing a sand bag (preferably with the boss of London underground’s face plastered onto it) is what you will be most inclined to partake in.

“Bile Towers” has the ultimate tempo for an album starter, immediately charging at you with churning, bass-heavy riffs with a loving nod to Bolt Thrower and old Entombed records. Sometimes the guitar players sidestep this with a few melodic riffing turns, and harmonies are good when avoiding monotonous rumblings. Along with this comes a worthy vocal performance by Grace Perry. She is definitely up there with the best in terms of bile and vitriol and the acidic throat renderings in “Heroin Swine,” to use one example, definitely do their best to convince you.

What makes Rusted Eyes Awake even better compared to many other modern metal records is that it doesn’t get weighed down by an overt technicality, something that can be a problem in this genre. Old school feel and grimy, lurching and sloppy riffs are always better for sheer enjoyment than a frenetic wankfest.

This isn’t perfect album by any means but it’s a joy to annoy neighbors with it. Supposedly these guys tour a hell of a lot – they need to bring their desert asses over to Europe soon.



April 30, 2009

Isis – Wavering Radiant

Filed under: Music,Review,Writing — gazzabazza @ 11:43 AM
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Forget about genre classifications and under what category to place Isis; they have, as a band, always been bigger than that. When listening to Wavering Radiant all you have to do is take in the nuances of the record and think about how far the band has developed since the early stages.

Their brooding type of musicianship has travelled from the rhythmic and suggestive rumblings of “Celestial” to the more introspective nature of the spacey Celestial and the utterly majestic “Panopticon” where the mellowness of the electronica that was interspersed injected even more beauty to the music. They continued to develop over the previous album as well Wavering Radiant comes across as all their history and summed up into one recording. It is noticeable that the band has taken their time with developing this album, having also claimed to have done that. Every instrumentation and texture sounds as if it was given space to grow and create the perfect soundscapes.

“Hall of the Dead” starts of with a stuttering riff before kicking off with sludge-heavy grooves and Aaron Turner’s growling vocals. The keyboard that is utilized throughout the song adds an unmistakable depth, especially during the quiet breakdown when unified with the emotive guitar slings.

The following song “Ghost Key” goes the opposite way and begins with the placid and touching keyboard before the sludgy riffs are unleashed. It shares this characteristic with “Hand of the Host”, a song truly grand in the way its lush, thick riffs contribute to the epic ambiance. The interaction on Wavering Radiant between idyllic beauty and sonic darkness is what makes this, as all other Isis albums, such an enthralling listen.

Complex though it may be, it’s still a recording with a strong earthy feel to it and one — due to the songs creating a one cohesive whole — demands to be listened to in its entirety, the way all music should be enjoyed.

Wavering Radiant is the type of record where you need to just close your eyes and let the sounds carry you away and your mind wander. Isis have always had a strong cinematic feel to them due to the music having a palpable narrative structure to it, thus creating an overwhelming desire to hear their soundscapes as a backdrop to a movie.
The songs of Isis have always demanded concentration and many listens before one can even begin to grasp the nuances but
Wavering Radiant stands as an equal to their finest work so far, but its continuous growth tells of an album towering above its peers in the very near future.

Link to review on Blogcritics.org.

April 16, 2009

Music Review: Bigelf – Cheat the Gallows

Filed under: Writing — gazzabazza @ 3:09 PM
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Written by Mirza Gazic
Published April 15, 2009

Many bands have a massive affinity with the seventies. They love the classic recordings of that era and those influences shine through in their own albums — homages to an era that most music lovers have a kinship with and a love for. This is not news to anybody, but most bands tend to have one musical part of that decade as a basis for their sound. Usually it’s the doomy heaviness of Sabbath or the proto-punk of MC5 and The Stooges but that is not the case with Bigelf.

They can be considered an amalgamation of nearly every rock and pop-based sound that the seventies had to offer and their latest album, Cheat the Gallows is the showcase. It is a sign of ambition and a restless nature to attempt such an album and in the hands of a lesser band it would have been a failure, but Bigelf have managed to create the right mix of bombast, trippiness and straight-forward rock here. They have surpassed the former characteristic of being a band simply influenced by Black Sabbath and The Beatles and incorporated much more.

This fact hits home right at the opener “Gravest show on Earth” with its operatic tone and influence made all the more unusual by the carnival music that suddenly appears. It may sound strange but it works to, at the very least, draw your attention to the album. Psychedelia and progressive inspirations are rich in scope on “Cheat the Gallows” and they are mostly prevalent in the anthemic “Money, it’s Pure Evil” that draws a lot from Pink Floyd and their rich sound and production can also be heard in “The Game”, especially in the lush and evocative guitar playing.

Some of the finer moments on Cheat the Gallows come in the form of “Blackball” and the southern rock jamming midway through that draws up images of a muggy swamp and the effect-ladden “Hydra”- this tune has instrumentation that, for lack of a better word, sounds bewildering.

The closer “Counting sheep” can be seen as a summation of the entire album, as it attempts to put all the influences into one 10-minute song. It’s erratic nature means that it is interesting more than good, but Cheat the Gallows as an album is a bold and ambitious piece of work. It demands concentration if you are in any way interested in music then you will feel rewarded for your effort.

Two reviews up here on the same day? Something must be wrong- judging by how briefly things come up here this means that I won’t be back on “The Ballad” for another month. Hopefully I’m wrong and I am expecting to write a piece on the new Isis album this week- stay tuned.

Review of the album up on Blogcritics.

April 2, 2009

White Darkness – “Nothing” review

Filed under: Music,Review,StonerRock.com,Writing — gazzabazza @ 4:45 PM
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If there is one thing this project does very well, it is the ability to inject you with a sense of overwhelming unease. From the static and feedback heavy opening and onwards, Nothing is, to say the least, a very ominous and eerie sounding album.

Being largely instrumental, the pounding drums, monotonous electronics, and the mellow and melancholy piano are blended expertly and invoke a feeling of fright and dread throughout – the entire album would have been a perfect fit as a soundtrack to a psychological thriller about a serial killer. Imagine a psychopath stalking somebody through a dark, damp alleyway as the haunting melodies and the near-silence midway through, save for some pastoral guitar plucking, are the sound effects.

Nothing would have sounded even better if the calm, introspective melodies had been given more space to roam over the harsh noise, but that’s just a minor gripe. This is still a record that grabs and manages to leave its imprint- an emotional blend of serene beauty and ugliness that will have you looking over your shoulder while walking down a deserted street.

Published yesterday on StonerRock.com. Read it on the site and check out some other excellent reviews and features.

March 24, 2009

Music Review – Exciter – O.T.T

Filed under: Music,Review,Writing — gazzabazza @ 2:24 PM
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As seen on Blogcritics – Published March 24, 2009

Thrash metal isn’t the only classic metal genre that has experienced a massive resurgence in the last few years. Melodic but heavy ’80s old school speed and traditional heavy metal and its own brand of young upstarts have not gone unnoticed either: tight denim and vests covered in one of the holiest of metal manifests, the patch, are all over the place at the moment.

The revival of thrash has made it stronger and more powerful than ever, so now it is time for trad metal to gain its credibility again. Bands like Canada’s Cauldron or Sweden’s Wolf, Enforcer and Bullet are flying the flag for their more melodic inspirations and it’s as good a time as any to have some news from grizzly old troopers like Exciter to remind everybody where the young ones got it from.

I’ll be completely honest and say that “Exciter” or O.T.T as this album is also known, is in no way a perfect re-release of an ’80s heavy metal recording; it was already done about a decade ago and the same package is pretty much available this time too. The old, dusty and muffled production is still intact so not much has been done to boost the sound of it. The volume is, quite frankly, annoyingly low throughout and all the qualities don’t shine through, but there is no need to be completely negative about this.

The songs are top notch heavy metal and it is certainly a positive occurrence that one of the classics of the genre is getting a revival. O.T.T is definitely not one-dimensional; there are speedy songs like opener “Scream Bloody Murder,” which is heavy on adrenalin and unsurprisingly brings to mind Judas Priest’s finest guitar shredding. You get slow, groovy numbers such as “O.T.T” and the chugging “Enemy Lines” with their rolling tempos and anthemic songs like “I Wanna be King” where the singer gets to flex his vocal prowess. The hallmarks of a good metal album are all there.

One slight criticism is directed at the length of the songs. A few of them should be at least one minute shorter because that way this disc would have delivered more of a lasting punch. This, along with the fact that the tame production wasn’t injected with some more juice, brings the impact down.

Don’t ignore O.T.T based on these minor faults though. It is still way north in the quality stakes than a lot of metal currently out there.

March 4, 2009

The Grasshopper Lies Heavy – Gun EP Review

Filed under: Music,Review,StonerRock.com,Writing — gazzabazza @ 5:57 PM
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This obscurely named Texas trio is one of those rock bands that has found itself lumped in with the not-insignificant number of groups with the word “post” as a prefix used to explain their sound. In other words, they play instrumental songs heavy on ambience and emotion and with this six-song EP, they show potential and possibilities of musical growth.

The slight difference with The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is that they don’t delve into the light instrumental sound of bands like Mogwai or The Red Sparowes but instead rely on a more heavy and sludge-based sound, with melancholy guitar effects that broaden the sound and strengthen the impact of their music. The first “proper” song – opener “Equalizer Drone” is two minutes of feedback noise – has a subtle background effect that keeps going until the end and creates an even tenser atmosphere.

The guitar playing is what makes the biggest contribution to their amorphous, airy sound – it’s thick like broad strokes of a brush on canvas for the majority of time. It’s relaxing music as it stands, but I would have preferred a bit more of the pastoral, calm guitar plucking like at the end of second song “Gifts”. This is only a minor disturbance though and Gun is a strong debut release.

With their propensity towards a darker, sludgier sound, they have a start and now they just need to keep evolving their sound and avoid getting stuck in the “post” category.

Review now up on StonerRock.com. Read it here.I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for instrumental music of this kind so it wasn’t hard to enjoy this album. I look forward to hearing more from these guys and hopefully it will keep expanding.

February 23, 2009

Defcon 4 – The Bad Road

Filed under: StonerRock.com,Writing — gazzabazza @ 11:32 AM

Playing metal with heavy sludge influences will inevitably bring comparisons to a certain seminal New Orleans band – slow, grimy music ridden with misery and frustration. This Boston group definitely invokes them, particularly the first part. The singer almost brings Mike William’s sick vocals to mind but doesn’t quite have as much of his bile spewing wretchedness and anger. He does still bring enough to make their sophomore album the uneasy listening experience that it should be. The Bad Road consists in large parts of torturous sludge but also has a few unexpected twists, like the jarring, angular noise rock of bands like Botch and the legendary Unsane, along with a few nods to their label chief’s own band, Today is the Day.

The album is split into four acts, each with several different titles, and over 22 minutes Defcon 4 venture effortlessly from each s t y l e in each segment. After the first act’s slow, doomy section, they venture into strange rhythmic drumming that is at first a tad disorientating, especially after the simplistic initial sludge groove, but once you get used to it, the section blends in very well and there is no doubt about the skill here. All the s t y l es that are blended into this brief album seem to be there for a reason, from the hardcore punk speed and the rock ’n’ roll guitar shredding in “Act II…” to the off-kilter rhythms interspersed throughout the album.

Those into this kind of music will now that it’s not to be listened to at the wrong time, since The Bad Road definitely does not carry any feel good elements. Even the guitar carries a certain dissonant and sombre tone, but you could do worse then adding Defcon 4 to your collection.

To read this review on StonerRock.com, click here, and check out some of the other reviews on the site as well.

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