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If you have found this blog, it probably means you were searching for something that isn’t in the public eye. My intention is to promote awareness of artists that you would otherwise likely never know existed. If you like what you hear, support the artist by purchasing their music so that they can continue to create, and enjoy the release in the quality they intended.

Over the years this has grown into my own personal project, reviewing the artists that I discover and interest me. If you wish to see more of my work, particularly my more metal-orientated material, you can find me as a regular contributor for the online magazine
Axis of Metal.

Rolo Tomassi – Cosmology

Posted by T. Bawden Saturday, 24 July 2010 0 comments


Rolo Tomassi – Cosmology - 3/5
{Link Removed at Request}

The opening moments of this album feels fitting to the title, electronica synths making for a nice short intro. Then this annoying bass kicks in – I thought it was an annoying sites background music at first, until I realised that this was part of their music. 'Oh awesome, perhaps they've started dabbling in polyrhythms.' Nope. It just sounds really fucking out of place, and seeing as my last review had firm hopes on them finding their sound and continuing to expand on that, improving their insatiable grooves, showing more of their clean side and more insane tempo changes, the fact they've taken one step further towards the musical void of No-Face has me a little annoyed.

There are three main components to their overarching sound; three distinct styles – all defined by the synths and guitars – that combine with one another to form the final entity. The first is the full hardcore overdrive with the sound of blast beats, the same note plucked at random times and the frustrated keyboardist smashing his head against the keys in a fit of despair. The second sadly isn't a lot better, though credit where credit is due both musicians do begin to play their randomly chosen notes without concern for what the other is doing. In fact, these passages may well truly live up to the math title in mathcore as I wouldn't be surprised if they used a random number generator to determine what note should come next and then proceeded to play them as fast as possible.

The final style is decidedly absent for the first ten minutes, but when they start allowing their tracks some breathing room they find the time to actually listen to what their band mates are playing and actually form this crazy thing called a melody. When the vocalist actually stops screaming her bad imitation of a mechanically pitch-perfect howler monkey and is confronted with some actual discernible musical harmony between the instruments, she starts to sing cleanly and suddenly the entire piece opens up for a short while, at least until they feel the incessant desire to start incessantly chugging again.

As things progress to the final moments, the melodies start flourishing and everything suddenly shows promise right up to the monumental finalé demonstrating the finest work they've done to date. I almost feel its worth rating the two halves of the album separately as they sound little alike to one another; the first half could be the result of crackhead monkeys on their equipment for all the abilities on show but once that seventh track finally arrives they prove their worth as potential successors to the mathcore throne. I guess its not time to write them off quite yet...

Highlights: Tongue in Chic, Cosmology

Decadence – Chargepoint

Posted by T. Bawden Tuesday, 20 July 2010 0 comments


Decadence – Chargepoint - 4/5
Link

With a woman fronting them who calls herself 'metallic' kitty and band photo's of her (gorgeous) frame proudly sporting a shirt emblazoned with the word's “I'm Fucking Metal,” it seems apparent that by the time their previous effort (3rd Stage of Decay) rolled out they felt they had something to prove, and prove it they did. But three years have passed since then and finally the follow-up has fallen into my lap after the decision to release it in Japan and nowhere else – a decision I neither understand nor like, especially seeing as this is a Swedish thrash band – along with an unusual piece of merch, the metallic kitty PVC doll. Now don't get me wrong, they haven't all suddenly became wussy and start singing about how their girlfriends dumped them and that life isn't fair, but it does call into question their frame of mind during the three year absence in writing this release.

I could pick out the production, which rather amusingly was done 'professionally' this time instead of letting the guitarist do it as before, yet feels for worse as a result. The guitars, whilst always a highlight, have been pushed so far up this time that the drums often feel sterile in the back and even the vocals genuinely have to fight to be heard above the melodies; the aggression rather than coming from all angles is instead focussed on the one aspect, which whilst certainly not performed poorly leaves things feeling all too monotonous. But its not simply this one aspect that feels entirely to blame for my disappointment, the composition of the tracks themselves too feel as though they've backtracked somewhat; the vocals remain all too similar and the guitar riffs for all their aggressive glory too readily blur into one another.

Yet despite all this Decadence remain one of the strongest retro-thrash bands on the scene, always maintaining their tried and tested tentative balance between power and melody resulting in a distinctive tone that remains crisp and yet still with a razor sharp viscerality. With solos galore and a sense that no matter what the volume is set at on the stereo it's still too quiet, this may not live up to the heights of their last but its a far cry from a sour patch on their career. It may have all been done before but this one of those rare breeds that still remember how to swing the old way.

Highlights: Strength of Mind, Challenge


Oingo Boingo – Only a Lad – 4.5/5
Link

Originally discovered from the popular Azumanga Daoih AMV which made use of their track 'I like Little Girls,' it wasn't long before I had explored a little further into this new wave band's origins and uncover than Danny Elfman (now famous for his collaboration with Tim Burton, providing the soundtracks to most of his films) takes the lead role in this new wave band not quite like any other. There aren't any of the overt synths that plagued much of the genre, far more reminiscent of 'The Knack' in their use of multiple guitars to create their core melody, but they don't even finish here making sure to find ample use for all manner of keyboards, flutes, trumpets and trombones to lend an almost 'Madness'-esque sensibility. Which is to say, not particularly sensible at all.

With lyrics ranging from the 'are they serious or sarcastic' depths of pro-capitalism and offering support for capital punishment, all the way to the rather forthright 'Nasty Habits,' all about masturbating, and the far more bluntly put 'I like Little Girls.' Elfman's quirkiness is displayed from the very beginning and makes it no wonder Burton picked him out for work on his film 'Beetlejuice;' its all too sadistically happy to evoke images of an eccentric figure with a rather creepy smile grinning from ear to ear, delivering with a memorable ska-like skip in its step and an old fashioned theatrical gothic twist.

With this debut effort there shows a determined reluctance to follow in line with other artists at the time, but neither has he entirely figured out his trademark sound. This fact results in a gloriously experimental release that sways around with its influences, never straying far from the eclectic and instantly recognisable vocalist but often providing something distinct from the rest of the tracks. This is new wave as it should be performed, making full use of everything at their disposal to provide music which whilst not absent of punk attitude, is more willing to push a few buttons. In their own words, “Isn't this a dream come true? Isn't this a nightmare too?”

Highlights: Controller, Little Girls, Nasty Habits

Pin-Up Went Down – 342

Posted by T. Bawden Monday, 12 July 2010 1 comments


Pin-Up Went Down – 342 – 4.5/5
Link

For anyone who missed the last time I professed my love for the most schizophrenic ADHD-laden piece of musical theatre to ever grace my ears, you'll have missed my cautionary warning that such genre skipping would not be to everyone's tastes, and in fact may well serve as a decent test of just how musically open-minded you can be. If I had one expectation going into this release it would be that they wouldn't settle unless they'd succeeded in more than matching their previous effort, and as my brain balances on the edge of falling out of my open mind I dare say they succeeded. With the new addition of a keyboardist bringing their member count to three, this goes beyond a simplistic merger of unusual musical styles and instead feels like they've strived to pack every genre in existence into this 42 minute album, and even scarier than this notion is that they've come damn close to doing just that.

I won't even bother to list all the different styles I've observed as the whole thing would become an exercise in futility, but suffice to say that it wouldn't be possible if not for every member present bringing their own mindset to the table. With the lead vocalist's acrobatic display of J-pop cutesiness, soprano roaring, gothic wailing and beyond, she feels as much a vocalist as an impressionist, successfully mimicking the tones of Bjork, Alanis Morisette, Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation) and various children; her versatility then combines with the backing deathly growls and even Andy Schmidt (Disillusion) joins in to roar a bit as a guest on one track, resulting in a variety that would make Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle) proud. Except even he wouldn't dare try to do them all in under an hour whilst remaining coherent.

Whilst overshadowed by the vocal work, the instrumentation is critical in maintaining the tone of the piece and it isn't so much the versatility of how each instrument is performed as much as the way they work together, no instrument forgotten for long. The tempo and aggression in the drums is constantly changing with the piece, the bass guitar shifting back and forth to add a bass presence to the more metallic portions and providing much of the funkier tones, psychedelic guitar work combine with synths, classical piano passages and subtle atmospheric keys (amongst the less subtle) in a masterful demonstration of what tones and atmospheres can be produced by combining the various instruments in certain ways.

With such mind-bending variety, the drawback is the fluidity of the composition, which certainly isn't to say its bad or even any worse than before. Everything has simply been kicked up a notch, the transitions coming thicker and faster than ever before and as a result things can initially feel jarring until you come to learn the track and expect that J-pop intro to morph into a funky death metal piece; the gothic church organs to turn into – actually i'm not sure how to describe this section – only to sound like “Stolen Babies” brand of circus of hell, often all occurring before a minute has passed. Whether you love it or hate it, the one thing I can guarantee is that you'll have a very tough time finding another artist this diabolically insane.

Highlights: Khabod of My Aba, Vaginaal Nathrakh, Murphy in the Sky With Daemons

Kaori Kobayashi – Solar

Posted by T. Bawden Friday, 2 July 2010 0 comments


Kaori Kobayashi – Solar – 4/5
Link

Yes, it would appear as though its time for me to crank out another overdue review from the artist capable of reviving my interest in the unfortunately underestimated instrument, the saxophone. Whilst capable of superb melodies my interest has been largely superficial, its use often slammed directly into that 'softcore porn' sensuality displayed by Kenny G, or the likes of John Zorn who proves you can wank off with a sax just as readily as a guitar, and so perhaps unsurprisingly I've long since thought it limited to one side or the other. And once more it appears that the Japanese are showing me otherwise for only with their slightly warped sense of jazz could fusion and hard-bop be combined so seamlessly (and only with a face this adorable would I have listened long enough to shatter my previous misconceptions).

Everything remains remarkably smooth and fluid with production left rather minimal allowing for a very natural fluctuation in both volume and pitch, and whilst the saxophone naturally becomes the albums centrepiece is certainly not alone in the composition; the creative drumming often packed with various fills, always mixing up the pace, right down to the occasional guitar solo and romantic and delicate keyboards, all demonstrating consideration. But as important this creativity is to the music, it is never traded for melody; never displayed outright for its own sake and none other, and the result takes on an almost ambient like quality, the subtle and yet simple melodies hypnotically washing over you in waves.

I'm almost certain that from a technical perspective there are many with abilities surpassing this woman of her mid-20s, but raw ability isn't the only thing to look for in a musician. Even with her covers of George Bensons “Nothings Gonna Change my Love For You” and Shanice's “I Love Your Smile,” both cheesy romantic tracks of epic proportions, she succeeds in revitalising them with the new instrument, making a far better job than most of straddling the genres knife edge with “Never Gonna Give You Up” on one side and on the other a softcore porn director's eager stare just a short fall away. And that's precisely what works for this album, finding that compromise and never going over the top with one aspect so as to forget another; never feeling alone in the composition but retaining focus, maintaining a catchy melody without forgetting the creativity, and adding just the right level of romantic cheese to still remain perfectly listenable.

Highlights: Bird Island, Sunset Ocean, Smokey

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Guide

Guide to the Ratings
0/5 - This caused me physical pain
1/5 - This is really bloody awful
2/5 - This was below average
3/5 - This was above average
4/5 - This was pretty darn good.
5/5 - I cannot fault this epitome of perfection.

I cant guarantee all reviewers adhere to these guidelines, but work as a general guide.

Author's credit is given on all posts.