Album Review: Parliament Owls – A Span Is All That We Can Boast

Parliament Owls, a quintet from Canada, have quite a challenge as with any new band playing this stylistically demanding music. They either need to add something exciting and original to the genre, or be so bloody good at delivering captivating rock (that visits quite a few genres) in its conventional form that they stand head and shoulders above the oceans of ordinariness that surround them. While they will not win any awards for innovation, the debut full-length release “A Span Is All That We Can Boast” does in fact rise most convincingly from the latter category, and has enough variation in its six tracks to keep interest levels high.

A Span Is All That We Can Boast

Beginning with “Cocobolo,” Parliament Owls expertly marry the math rock histrionics of The Dillinger Escape Plan to the noise rock sensibilities of Melvins. The band doesn’t joke about with long intros, and like to get on with the business at hand, with only one track clocking at almost seven minutes. This makes for a more urgent and also provides a much more organic feel to the band’s playing.

In addition to The Dillinger Escape Plan and Melvins you can undoubtedly hear the massive influence of Cult of Luna, Mono, Mastodon, Between the Buried and Me, all the major names, but Parliament Owls somehow manage to put a unique stamp on this rather derivative framework.

Parliament Owls have risen far above the sum of their influences, and delivered a very fine rock album. Check it out!

Follow Parliament Owls on Facebook.

Review: Deus Omega – In Absentia of Light

Deus Omega - In Absentia of Light

The Sydney-based Progressive Death/Black Metal project Deus Omega — managed by singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Alex Moore — released its new album titled “In Absentia of Light” on March 20th. It includes, wait for it, whooping 23 songs in total, and remains true to the project’s genre description which borders on experimental in every kind of meaning. Sudden rhythm changes, crushing guitar riffs, combination of growl, scream and clean vocals, and blast beats are some of the parts that make up this release. 

Whole album has a cinematic, dark vibe what is easily derived from the title. That also adds a bit of avantgarde to the mix. Moore’s vocals are outstanding, and they certainly deepen the atmosphere making everything more meaningful. The only remark here is the album’s length; not that I’m complaining but there is enough material here for three separate releases what just speaks about the talent of this Australian musician.

It is a good thing to see that Deus Omega is keen on exploring different elements in their music. “In Absentia of Light” is a success, and is truly one of the 2018 albums that surprised me the most so far. Hear it on Spotify.

Review: Glaston – Inhale / Exhale

Glaston

Calling Swiss band Glaston post-rock does this Zurich / Basel four-piece a bit of injustice. They do include plethora of post-rock elements on “Inhale / Exhale,” the group’s first full-length album, but it’s definitely much more than that. Welcome to the soundtrack of emotions, free form and complexity.

Jumping on a bandwagon in 2014 with the release of the “Setting Out” single, the quartet spent next three years in honing and redefining their sound, reaching its climax with the 2017 release. Ten songs of “Inhale / Exhale” show that there is much to the of post-rock than delay-engaged tremolo riffs, what’s ultimately proven with the album opener and one of the strongholds “Game of Tones.” This polarising piece flows manually from very minimal to complex, never exuding any feelings of fatigue. And that is the biggest hallmark of Glaston and this release. Where many bands from the post-rock branch get stuck in proverbial mud of repetitiveness, Glaston manage to beautifully arrange different structures that form their songs. Be it the almost 10-minute epic contender of “Sunnar” or the shortest interlude “This Isn’t Happening.”

Even at their most repetitive, “Ihale / Exhale” doesn’t feel like that at all, as the music here is carefully put together and measured with microscopic precision. It is not to say that Glaston get mathematical, but rather it is the free-form factor of their composition skills and senses that allow them to be methodical and random at the same time.

“Ihale / Exhale” is available on Bandcamp.

 

Review: Choral Hearse – Mire Exhumed

ChoralHearse bandphoto72

Here comes an album that really surprised me. Choral Hearse is a Berlin-based all-female four-piece who are having their debut full-length album “Mire Exhumed” released on April 16th. The group creates what they call Progressive Doom Metal, which is then impeccably mashed with Experimental Rock and Folk elements.

The album flows seamlessly from track to track, carrying the listener through dark and disturbing soundscapes. The opener, “Chronic Departure,” acts as the perfect overture to the album, opening with a very simple, ominous melody, then carrying that melody through a consistent, driving beat with singer Liaam Iman’s haunting vocals adding the third layer. In many ways, this track takes the primal beats, presents them to the listener, and then shows the ways in which they have been altered and developed to produce this record.

Continue reading “Review: Choral Hearse – Mire Exhumed”

Review: PuzzleWood – Gates of Loki

Gates of Loki

The “Gates of Loki” album and its music is a desolate, introverted place of darkness that summons broodingly melancholic images of angst and tension, and it’s all been dreamt up by Russia’s PuzzleWood.

The music on this debut album, I have to say, doesn’t immediately reward you as a listener. However, the lush melodies that are imbedded deep within the ten songs found on this recording grow, swell and expand the more you explore them, and soon the shadowy lyrical themes of alienation that exist between the individual and society as a whole draw you in to the all encompassing world that PuzzleWood have fashioned.

The album kicks off cleverly with “Intro (Gates of Loki)”. Its light but sinister musicality builds over time and you find that your attention never wanders, however laid back the music feels to you; the song sweeps over your senses, taking them hostage, and its (almost) hypnotic, trance-like melody keeps you chained to the song like a prisoner, but a prisoner who doesn’t want to escape. “Remember My Name” has an almost Riverside-like feel to it. “Tyrant Who Fall in Love” is again trance-like in the extreme, but the way the song is nurtured and allowed to grow is an amazing thing to hear, and it is for me the album’s standout composition.

“To the Void” feels intricate, incorporating varied instrumentation by the three members, as well as a bouzouki performed by guest Dmitry Ignatov. There is a number of ethnic instruments that can be heard throughout “Gates of Loki,” what gives this record its specific flavour. Basem Al-Ashkar’s arabic oud on the closing “Road Will Lead” is beautifully dissonant, making for a perfect ending.

It’s not an easy album to like initially, but given the right amount of time that this weird style of Prog needs to work its magic on you, “Gates of Loki” soon becomes an impressive, thoughtful release that has all the tools needed for it to become a minor classic amongst those who frequent the shaded borderlands of the Progressive Rock World.

Stream / buy “Gates of Loki” from Bandcamp.

Review: The Mercy Stone – Ghettoblaster

Ghettoblaster

There is music that I can’t relate to. Sometimes it’s because the song is plainly stupid, trite, or obnoxious that I just wish it would be sent into the sun. It’s like your friend who posts way too much personal stuff on Facebook, you just want to scream “Stop”. Then, there is an even more perverse music, a music that speaks like a man half-way through a Xanax withdrawal, a music that both baffles the mind and produces a near awkward laughter in the listener. This is the music of lunatics, music that I would say (in the most professional of instances of course) has gone “completely bananas”.

And here we are with just an album, The Mercy Stone’s debut experimentation Ghettoblaster. An album I am sure my closest friends are sick of hearing and hearing about in the last coupe of weeks, yet it took me some time to write about it because — life.

If you are someone who actually was alive to see the prog spectacle of the ‘70s you may remember the slightly nerdy King Crimson or even the lord dorkdom of the cape wearing Yes. While there are many genuinely cringe worthy moments from those bands nothing — and until I can be proven wrong I genuinely mean NOTHING compares to the awkward vibe you get from Ghettoblaster.

The Mercy Stone is a new project; it’s been around for a few years and was assembled by composer and guitarist Scott Grady — who has a master’s degree in music composition — and who assembled a 12-piece group to “to put his composition chops to work within a project that would have the substance and sophistication fitting for a contemporary-classical concert stage as well as the accessibility that would be palatable to rock audiences.” Going simply-said for an extraordinary amalgam of Classical Music, Jazz and Rock, the group presents a large body of work with their full-length debut Ghettoblaster. Large as in bringing together Stravinsky, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Radiohead, Bach, Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd, to name but a few.

The music on Ghettoblaster is very well composed and performed. Grady tends to pull together a strong cast of performers for his musical circus act. These fine tunes tend to be something to marvel at. It is this dichotomy that provides more of the head scratching moments. The album progresses in a peculiar, but fairly typical fashion during the majority of its run time. You might find the music endearing and charming as it blends rock, jazz, and classical qualities.

The ‘70s were a glorious period in music because people were getting paid way too much money to do all sorts of crazy projects, and even though some of the end results were complete disasters there was a sincerity to them. There was no sense of irony or pretentiousness in the attitudes of the musicians, they just wanted to make weird and complicated music. With Ghettoblaster, this ensemble does exactly that. The Mercy Stone are driven by the love of music, and it pays back — maybe not filling their pockets, but rather something on a higher, more spiritual level. Highly recommended.

Follow The Mercy Stone on Facebook.

Interview with SOUL ENEMA’s Constantin Glantz

Soul Enema

It took almost seven years for Israel’s proggers Soul Enema to come up with a follow-up to their 2010’s debut album “Thin Ice Crawling,” but as it turns out, “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns” was worth a wait. On the new album, the quintet has collaborated with a number of musicians, including a guest appearance by Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen and ex-Orphaned Land’s Yossi Sassi.

Keyboardist and composer Constantin Glantz told us about the creative process behind the new record, and more.

Hey folks. How are you doing?

Thanks, it’s damn hot outside, but everything else is quite well otherwise. The new album came out June 23 and now the video for “Spymania” is out – that one was a hell of a fun to make. Interesting period, definitely!

You are just launched your second album titled “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns.” How do you feel about the release?

I feel that we accomplished what we planned here, and it’s going great so far! Very positive feedbacks, the amount of people that are really moved and touched by it – it’s just really surprising. People typically get to hear our album by chance, and then we receive some comments like – “How come you’re not more famous with this music!?” I don’t know. Seriously, we are top secret, and you are reading strictly classified information here.

How much of a challenge was to work on the album?

I think everything was a challenge, because that was one of our aims. We didn’t really do “the next studio album“, we just tried to make as great and special a record as possible, and then some. I don’t know if we succeeded, but I’m not sorry – I think this stuff deserved such attention and dedication.

Of Clans and Clones and Clowns

What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from Israel are you friends with?

We are friendly with many, and there are some new, that came in touch in the wake of the album release. That makes me think we might have done something right in the end. Maybe vodka really connecting people, but music may do it even better sometimes (laughs). In general, there’s a sort of mini explosion right now – many good Prog-related bands from Israel, some of them have quite a presence internationally, and it’s really a feature for such a small country. So, you’d better keep your eyes on the Israeli Prog scene, it has some goods to deliver, and nowadays it’s becoming more and more obvious. A touch of Middle Eastern specifics is also a distinct factor sometimes, but it’s not always raised on hummus – there’s pretty much everything here.

What is your opinion about the current progressive rock/metal scene?

I’m not a big expert, there’s really a huge amount of new coming bands and artists, and it’s hard to stay deeply in touch. In general, it’s nice to hear more originality, more gifted visionaries, and less of the “production line”. So once in a while when I recognize something of a kind, combined with great music writing – that may make me happier as a listener.

Can you tell me something about your influences?

As you can hear on the new record – it’s quite eclectic. As we jokingly put it – “from Abba to Zappa, from King Crimson to King Diamond”. Everything could be a potential influence. When I recorded some animal voices and Guinea pigs and my own kid, all of them were influences as well – they made the right kind of sounds for a particular occasion, so they ended up being on the album. I must admit that Guinea pigs received no credit in the end, so I’m giving them a tiny moment of fame here – cheers, homies! Life is the biggest possible influence; you just have to configure your antennas to catch those signals and translate them into something creative.

What are you listening to these days?

Well, last days it was some ethnic breakbit album, for some reason. Ah, here’s the reason: it was really well-done. The singing, the arrangements – they just made this electronic thing come alive on their own terms. Hardly a surprise, but I listened to some old time favorite along the way as well: “Pawn Hearts” album by VDGG – this one never falls short of brilliance for me. What else here… Split Enz, the early albums – such a unique band.

Your 5 favourite records of all time?

Impossible to limit it to just five. So, i will focus on some of my Prog-related favorites, besides the one already mentioned in the previous answer:

Cardiacs – “A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window – 1988 (ABC reissue, 1995). Some say that Prog was nearly dead in the 80’es, except a bit of Neo and a bit of RIO. I wouldn’t take it for granted. This one is beyond any clear boundaries and definitions, and Tim is a certified genius. One of my all time favorites.

Voivod – “The Outer Limits – 1993. If I still need one single Prog Metal album to pick – this is it. Always mindblowing. For some reason there’s no 5000 clones of this band and this particular album, and I’m fine with that, actually.

Genesis – “Selling England by the Pound – 1973. No surprises here, contains a few of the greatest tracks ever recorded in history of rock music. No, not “More Fool Me”. Yes, those ones you think of first.

Pink Floyd – “Animals – 1977. There’s an opinion that Prog was finished by ‘77 and replaced by Punk. Haha, not in PF world at least – this is their proggiest record yet, but it has a grain of punkish anger and sarcasm as well. This is their peak for me. No single note or sound is out of place, nothing is non essential. Zero compromise with wider public tastes, despite hitting the real rock stardom level with a large stadium tours and other attributes.

Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys – “Smile/The Smile Sessions – 1967/2004/2011. What can I say here? It should have been the most revolutionary record of the 60’es. It’s unbelievable what Brian was very close to achieve here with those limited studio technologies and his wild fantasy.

I left outside at least a similar amount of albums that deserve top places as much as those.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you used to record “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns”?

I can talk about my side, as far as keyboards go. Since I prefer the period between mid- 60’s and the early 80’s, predominantly some analog types of keyboard gear, I used anything that can convincingly replicate the authentic qualities of those instruments, without sticking too much to the retro approach. It’s mostly different VST software with some appropriate editing. Besides typical rock band instrumentation, we used violin, flutes and more exotic stuff like sitar and samisen. Sometimes not in a very strict way; for example Michael recorded those sitar licks and then I processed them in a few spots, reversing it to make the atmospheric drone that you hear on “The Age of Cosmic Baboon”. Yossi Sassi (ex-Orphaned Land, Yossi Sassi Band) used his signature bouzoukitara – a two headed beast of bouzouki and guitar on the track “Aral Sea II”. Then the mix was done by renowned sound engineer Jens Bogren in Fascination Street Studios. The analog gear that he used was particularly instrumental in keeping our sounds as authentic as possible. I think we managed to retain the general warmness while getting that big sound.

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?

We will put the new video soon, and it will be beautiful, I think I can admit to that. That’s all I can tell so far, keep following.

Any words for the potential new fans?

If you are still reading to the very end, you are hopefully ready to let the music do the talking. We have done a very complex and time consuming job here in order to take it to another level, so we hope your journey with this album will be really addictive and long lasting!

Order “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns” from Bandcamp here. Follow Soul Enema on Facebook.

Review: Art Against Agony – Russian Tales

Russian Tales

We’ve been following this Germany-based collective for quite some time now, and their brand new release — an EP titled “Russian Tales” — was conceived during the group’s tour across Russia in Winter 2016. It may be because of it that the five songs here feel a bit cold in its nature, but hey — you spend 12000km experiencing winter in Siberia, and then let’s talk. All digression aside, Art Against Agony have once again produced a mind-twisting release, something they are already known in the experimental, avant-garde and prog metal underground.

The group’s can-do attitude of mixing odd experimentation techniques into a metal state has earned them success since their 2014 debut “Three Short Stories.” The particular experiment AAA undertake is the fusion of contrasting genres, principally the extreme side of metal and fancy jazz.

For “Russian Tales” it could be said that it’s a transitional release, as it was conceived between the release of “The Difference Between a Duck and a Lobster” in February 2016 and “The Forgotten Story” EP from February this year. The production here is perfect. “Nothing to Declare” and “Tea for the Dragon” both have infectious grooves that are more riff focused rather than uncontrollable experimentation. The latter could be considered as a centrepiece of the EP. “Coffee for the Queen,” for which the band recently released a music video is another highlight here; it’s more prog metal oriented than other pieces. Throughout the album the guitars constantly build up, what gives the band, in general, both vintage and modern sound that increases the uniqueness of their soundscapes.

The closing “Saratov Incident” feels personal, and it’s by far the djentiest moment on “Russian Tales.” The band unleashes a cannonade of riffs, accompanied with lush atmospheric motif and pounding drum work.

Although a release that was written while on road and in constant motion, “Russian Tales” is very consistent in terms of its structure and material offered here. You can possibly sense how it took its form out in the wild wilderness, and for this young band it certainly stands as a huge statement. At the time when this review is posted Art Against Agony are on another tour across Russia, so who knows, maybe they will come up with “Russian Tales 2.” Highly recommended!

“Russian Tales” is available from Bandcamp and Bigcartel.