Friday, 2 June 2017

Mutoid Man: War Moans (Album Review)

Like a short, sharp, stabbing of hardcore, ‘Melt Your Mind’ comes at the listener with fast paced drums and bass setting up the flurry of attacks by the guitar. Brodsky’s vocals charge in with a scream before confidently singing “Feel the heat of a fire at your feet rising up one smoke-ring at a time, in this life we all get left behind so maybe, it’s gonna work out fine. Take it from me – don’t let it melt your mind.” Appropriate metal imagery has been reforged to bring positive balance to the thrashing instruments throughout and the album feels like an uplifting assault that sweeps the listener away with it. I can imagine crowds cheering and singing along to the line “Blow! Blow me a kiss of death” (‘Kiss of Death’).

In 2005 Cave In collaborated with Ben Koller from Converge on a two song single split ‘Shapeshifter / Dead Already’ and for the most part, this is where Brodsky and Koller decided to pick up from when they started jamming again in 2012. In 2013 the duo released the EP Helium Head, followed up in 2016 by Bleeder. Heart palpitating, unleashed fury is the best way to describe the music on these releases. It’s like the ugly offspring of hardcore and thrash metal who doesn’t care what you think but still wants to lift you up into the flames of rejuvenation.

‘Micro Aggression’ continues the bold attack while ‘Date with the Devil’ is a fun tale that ends with “Came inside her, Satan’s daughter; nine months later, who’s the father? Another day drags, tail between her legs.” Brodsky doesn’t discuss how the date came about, but the results are warning enough.

‘Irons in the Fire’ begins like an ode to both Iron Maiden and Metallica before quickly bringing back the thrash to remind the listener that this isn’t mainstream Heavy Metal here, it’s pure Metalcore!

‘Open Flame’ is a sleeper stand out that felt much like the rest of the album until I sat down and had a good listen to the song. “I tasted open flame, my tongue burned off again” rushes through two verses to get us to a bridge with pounding drums, and here the song breaks down with a guitar figure that feels like the protagonist has taken a much needed breather in preparation for the finale.

With Bleeder I felt there was a focus more on the rock and the melody, but on War Moans, while melody is still intact, the thrash has been brought to the forefront and propels everything forward with even more intensity. When the music slows down on the final track ‘Bandages’, that intensity is felt even more as Brodsky pines “Bandages on me – I’m wounded in love; Bandages on me – to cut off the blood.” A cutting guitar figure interplays with the bass over a trippy atmospheric backing, and distinctive vocals always make lines like “Scare, in the shape of my face, a version of me falling free” always feel heartfelt and sincere.

In a world where albums are getting unnecessarily longer to gain hit-counts on streaming websites, Mutoid Man reminds us at a mere 40 minutes the importance of not wearing out the listener by keeping songs at a 3-4 minute length and packing every second with tight playing, massive riffs and catchy melodies. I can’t personally claim to like this more than Bleeder, but that’s just my own taste and perhaps a bit more variety on the tempo and riff front on the previous album, but War Moans has everything that a listener of melodic metalcore could want: Riffs are furious, chords burn, bass thumps, drums pound, and vocals soar.

Mutoid Man - War Moans - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Just some thoughts...

"Why is this my life?"
Is almost everybody's question
I prefer peace
Wouldn't have to have one worldly possession
Life is a one-way street, and if you could paint it
I'd draw myself going in the right direction
When I was lost I even found myself
Looking in the gun's direction

  • Gnarls Barkley

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The challenge isn't to attack someone for their negative and unhelpful opinions, the challenge is to change the culture that has allowed those negative and unhelpful opinions to be formed and to flourish.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Young Legionnaire: Zero Worship

It was hard to believe that Young Legionnaire would write a follow up album to 2011’s Crisis Works that was better, or even just as good. A part of me believed it could be just as good, but second albums rarely hit the same nail on the head with as much precision. Thankfully the band haven’t even tried hitting the same nail and instead have left the indie feel of the d├ębut behind and gone for more of an alternative rock focus (though, to be be fair, much of Crisis Works was more Alternative than it was Indie – if that even means anything). This is a blessing in disguise, because it means they get to take some of the harder and heavier riffs that were at times less focussed on Crisis Works and infuse them with a Muse-like heaviness appropriate to the album. ‘Mortgage Rock’ from Crisis Works is more in line with what this new album is about, though also there’s a bit more focus on production as well.

‘Year Zero’ is a fine opener that cements themes, but also showing that this rock band can use their instruments to produce an Electronic vibe. The scrappiness of ‘Twin Victory’ and ‘Numbers’ can be found in ‘Heart Attack’, though in this one song there is also the low ebb that can be found in ‘Chapter, Verse’, but where ‘Chapter, Verse’ felt unnecessarily drawn out (at 5:16), ‘Heart Attack’ keeps it’s length concise and to the point allowing the odd time signature to thump out the chords and drag you through on it’s own.

‘Hail, Hail’ isn’t a cover of the Pearl Jam song and it doesn’t quite hit any high points until the 3-4 section – which is reminiscent of Shellac’s ‘QRJ’ – interrupts. Fortunately it is still good. In fact, it is consistently good, which pretty much serves as it’s own high point.
‘Simone’ is a tender song about the process of losing someone close, perhaps in a relationship, and later on ‘You and Me’ reconciles this loss with acceptance.

‘Candidate’ brings the staccato guitar and vocals, with rumbling bass underneath and another heavy riff interruption. Right when ‘Sawn-Off Shotgun’ feels like it added nothing to the poundingly heavy guitar attack and went by without even being noticed, ‘You and Me’ brings in the acoustic guitar to start the song off and replaces it with barely noticeable electrics again. This song is the calmest and most subtle with instruments working together as the song details regret and coming to terms with how a relationship has changed: “And I promise next time things will be different…”

‘Disappear’, the first single, ends up feeling the most like a song from Crises Works – remove most of the production and it would fit on Crisis Works no problem. On first listening to the album, ‘Disappear’ feels a little lacklustre – not so much the songs fault, but more at this point, it feels too similar to other songs. It is still a good song, but it doesn’t quite hit any highlights and here might have been a great chance to bring back some acoustics in the verses to add that much needed variety. In fact, I’d go as far to say, as my own personal preference, here is a song that I’d much rather hear in a full acoustic setting. ‘There Will Be An Escape Hatch’ is a sombre finale with softly pounding drums – the entire song reminds me a lot of We Were Promised Jetpacks.

Variety without tonal shifts are everything when it comes to helping an album feel like one unified whole and the album uses the wide ranging guitar riffs and time signatures to do this. What is missing from Zero Worship is the catchy chorus’s that catapulted songs like ‘These Arms’ into stratospheric flights of memorability. On the other hand, where Crisis Works relied mostly on the three band member set up and only added a second guitar track or backing vocals with some subtlety, Zero Worship takes this to a logical progression by focusing more on the soundscape and increasing the guitar and vocal layering with some subtle touches of reverb. Though an increase in production technique can at times feel a little overwhelming, especially when wondering if compression is an issue (on this album it’s definitely not), what really stands out is the fact that all three band members continue to be heard: from Paul Mullen’s distinct vocals and guitar playing, Gordon Moakes individual bass lines, and Dean Pearson’s solid, fluid, and never boring drumming – though perhaps the drums feel the weakest in terms of being heard through the guitar layering.

Overall, I feel that the album is so consistent in it’s quality, that it actually lacks a stand out track (they are all pretty awesome tracks!). And maybe this is just a personal qualm: there seems to be no ‘A Hole in the World’ that will serve as a template for my feelings in this part of my life right now, though either ‘Simone’ or ‘You and Me’ might just be that song for another person; no ‘Mortgage Rock’ that encapsulates everything I love about Hard Rock while still being firmly in the Alternative/Indie Rock camp, though the staccato guitars, drawn out vocals and catchy chorus of ‘Hospital Corners’ does well to bring me close.

If there’s one major complaint, it’s that the songs don’t really develop a great deal, if at all. Songs start and then end without much happening in between other than what you’ve already been hearing. Now, this isn’t just about dynamics, ups and downs, quiets and louds, it’s also about melodic shape, vocal tones, and chord changes. Often songs start and the vocals stay at the same register, chords often don’t feel like they’ve moved away from the initial harmony set-up – ‘Hail, Hail’ and ‘Sawn-Off Shotgun’ being major culprits of this. This is why I feel that ‘Disappear’ could have been on the previous album – the verse feels like a verse, the chorus feels like a chorus. While that’s not me saying “I just want standard song structures, please!” – you know me, I listen to Tool, Shellac and lots of Classical music – it’s the fact that often the songs haven’t done anything else once they’ve hit their end and there’s no breathing space in between. My favourite track from Crisis Works ‘A Hole in the World’ takes a catchy guitar riff and begins building the song up through verses without a chorus appearing until well past the half-way mark, and never returning to the verse after that moment. So what you get is: Intro/verse/verse/chorus/post-chorus/solo/chorus. A great build up of dynamics accompany this song structure – none of this inventiveness is present on Zero Worship, despite the polyrhythmic crossing of 3-4 (bass and drums) and 4-4 (guitar) in ‘Hail, Hail’s breakdown section, the title track’s nervous guitars exploding into frustrated choruses. If there had been some more melodic variety, if there had also been some more acoustic variety – even just acoustic guitar outside of that one place in that one song – this album would have easily hit a perfect score. I can’t help love, and come to love, every song on this album, but my objective criticism is that I can’t see it lasting long before the familiarity wears a little thin.

If you’re interested in the lyrics and themes of the album, please read Gordon Moakes’ Medium article about how the ideas came together and what drove the making of the album: Making Music About the End of Music.

The ‘Zero Worship’ theme running through the album is pointedly about not following orders, the cover being a middle-finger to corporate life, beautifully packaged on an independent album financed entirely through a pledge music project making it a success without the financial backing of a corporation. Considering the state of current affairs, this album feels timely, and is a reminder of where worshipping with thoughtless devotion can lead a populace.

With all this in mind, Young Legionnaire’s second album Zero Worship without a doubt is great, it deserves to be listened to and supported, it’s themes are current while also timeless in their concerns for humanity and the individual. But if the world’s masses don’t get to hear the touchingly beautiful ‘You and Me’ then it will be a great loss to many starving eardrums.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

The Final Position of Power, and why the law continues to fail at creating justice

What is the ‘final position of power’?

I do not defend anybody for attacking another person unless they are being attacked themselves and a form of defence has been determined to be necessary to fight back with. But when the person who ends up with the final amount of control has been established, that person – the person who has all the control – is the person who determines the outcome. This is the person who decides safety or vulnerability, care or abuse, and in some cases life or death. This is what it means to have the 'final position of power' – to determine the outcome.

If you are the person in that position, the one who is able to maintain control over another person, then you are responsible for the outcomes, you are responsible for that person’s welfare, you are responsible for whether that person can at some point move forward into a safe place on their own or not. If you leave them in a place of vulnerability and risk of death, then you are responsible for having done that because you had the control to place them somewhere safer.

When our laws begin acknowledging these positions of power and begin enforcing sentences relating to not taking responsibility, not taking the appropriate steps to help a human being, not attempting to place the not-in-control-person in the safest place possible when the person in the final position of power has the ability to do so, then justice as it is meant to be dealt will bear the fruits of success. Teachers and parents can educate about responsibility with the law actually backing them up, instead of contradicting the messages of responsibility as it currently does.