TMR

Ian Arkley – “One”

 Posted by on May 5, 2021 at 15:29  No Responses »
May 052021
 

Opa Loka’s release of Ian Arkley’s “One” is evidence that record labels can be brave. When you listen to My Silent Wake’s song, “Warhawks” from the album “Damnum Per Saeculorum” – also released on Opa Loka – you get a taste of what’s to come. “Warhawks” breaks the song down to its basic elements and it sounds like it comes from olden times. “One’s” soundscapes dial into the mythic. Mood is favoured over melody and as it is an ambient album, you can expect the pace to be somewhere between the dirge and the glacial.

I am reminded of Sir Paul McCartney describing how different it was to compose “Standing Stone” with full orchestra. Suddenly the palate was much larger, which meant the nuances could be greater. I imagine Ian Arkley having a similar revelation once he let go of the guitar. To be sure, with a plethora of guitar pedals at one’s disposal an electric guitar needn’t sound like a stringed instrument at all, and hearing certain phrases that present in reverse on “One” I wager that the guitar was used, albeit differently. The voice also features, but again it is used to add texture. When there are few words to guide interpretation, you start to listen to other things like how a drum reverberates or how a sound travels within the stereo spectrum of the recording. Is a sound in the foreground, receding into the background? Does a sound drone in the depths of my psyche, only to travel to the front of my awareness over time? Listening to “One” is much like when you stand in front of a painting in a gallery; you’re left to derive your own meaning when confronted with increased levels of abstraction.

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Everything In Slowmotion – “Influence”

 Posted by on January 15, 2021 at 13:05  No Responses »
Jan 152021
 

2020: what a year to be a touring musician! With some bands opting for the livestreaming route – with varied success – one can’t help wondering what the new year will bring. Will more venues close? Will album and merchandise sales keep bread on the table?

Influence​, released on 16 October 2020 by Facedown Records, is the second full-length album by Shane Ochsner’s musical project, Everything In Slow Motion. “Tell me all your feelings love / Put everything on me / The truth is what you say you want / But the truth you won’t believe” – the first lines from “Apollo” – are so heavy, and hold up a mirror not only to the individual’s own biases but to society at large. I’m reminded of how Steven Wilson invites us to observe his characters in that excellent Porcupine Tree album, Fear Of A Blank Planet​ ​, and some of that despair permeates Influence ​ ​too.

The title track, featuring Aaron Stone (lead singer and guitarist of My Epic​ ​) is a fiery rocker. My ear immediately goes to Brian Aubert, lead singer and guitarist of Silversun Pickups​ ​. Listen to “The Royal We”, off the grammy-nominated album, Swoon​ ​.

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Michael – “Michael II”

 Posted by on October 31, 2020 at 19:29  No Responses »
Oct 312020
 

Hard rock fans may already be familiar with the name, Michael. Hailing from South Amherst, Ohio, Shane Freeman, Todd Waites, Mike Slone and Dennis Raymond released their debut album, “The Battle Rages On” in 1995. With the support of Roxx Records, this cassette-only release was mastered to CD in 2019. While work on “Michael II” began shortly after the release of “The Battle Rages On”, personal setbacks meant a sophomore release was in the balance – until earlier this year. On 29 May Roxx Records proudly released “Michael II”, a testament to the tenacity of its then two remaining band members, Shane Freeman (guitar, vocals) and Vaughn Zajicek (drums, programming).

When Michael started tracking this album, the power trio of Freeman, Zajicek and Slone (bass guitar) remained. With their focus more squarely on guitar-driven rock, they created such gems as “Lost At The Cross”, “You Need Some Faith” and “We Got A Prayer”. When Slone had to leave because of ill health, the two remaining members agreed to finish the album before going their separate ways.

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May 062020
 

Enzo Donnarumma truly knows how to set a mood. “Precariousness” has an uneasy feeling, and this sense of foreboding is ramped up to breaking point as the prelude transitions to “Nothingness (It’s Everyone’s Fate)”. The string arrangement and the percussion immediately propel me to the Middle East even as the ensemble cast sing of traveling from Africa, but the Glory Ensemble interrupt themselves by introducing a progressive rock run toward the middle of the song and suddenly I’m in a different world altogether. How mighty the guitar sounds when backed by a symphony orchestra! Against a choir singing “It’s everyone’s fate” there is a world
of clamouring voices and instruments and you realise very quickly that on the album, “In The Name of The World Spirit” there will be a lot to take in.

This album is the third in a trilogy by Enzo & The Glory Ensemble, and has certainly retained its fiery delivery. The band changes tack on “The Bronze Age”, where the sequenced elements suggest a hive of activity. A lilting acoustic guitar is introduced while the vocalisations of the choir stitch this peaceful interlude to the heavier part that follows. What keeps amazing me are the contrasts achieved in the music. “Try To Put In Pit The Fear” features Kobi Farhi of Orphaned Land. The earlier uneasiness has made way for a feeling of celebration. I have found myself listening to increasingly heavier music since we’ve been in precautionary lockdown and while it has matched my somber mood it has left me dejected. A song like “Try To Put In Pit The Fear” is the remedy that blows the cobwebs of negativity away. “To Every Chest” is a beautiful duet and a little slower in pace. The combination of the male and female vocals is very effective, and there is ample room for heavenly guitar solos. The Glory Ensemble are very good at combining instruments that invoke the ancient world with those that fit more squarely in the present, like in “Just In My Heart The Blame”. There is the thumb piano but also a stringed instrument towards the middle of the track that picks up the melody and truly stands out
amongst the modern orchestration. I love the inclusion of the harp on “I’ll Add More” and if ever there were a musical intro suited to the opening scene of a film, it would be this one. It feels like a very personal song, beautifully sung by female voices.

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Northlander – “Forces of Light”

 Posted by on March 6, 2020 at 17:35  No Responses »
Mar 062020
 

Chris Ratzlaff, vocalist and guitarist of Northlander, inspired my February listening journey. You see, I’d had only my own rough idea of what metalcore and post-harcore was about and to be honest, equated it with My Chemical Romance’s emo stylings, mistakenly. I’d also recently taken Bring Me The Horizon’s crib notes anthology “2004-2013” for a spin, and if you’ve heard “Amo” (2019), marvelled at their brutal musical beginnings before turning pop. The difference between Fallstar and Northlander is like this in a way. Northlander are Chris, Bryan and Cody from Fallstar but in a different guise.

In an interview around the time of Fallstar’s 2013 album “Backdraft”, Chris listed bands that influenced how he wrote music, as well as his vocal style. He mentioned bands like August Burns Red, Beloved, Senses Fail, Taking Back Sunday and The Used, and listening to “Backdraft” I could hear how these influences may have shaped Fallstar’s sound. With less of a hardcore bent than some of the others, and perhaps not as stylistically experimental as The Used are, Fallstar has a heaviness that puts them outside what might be conventionally considered “worship music”. I also get that many churches questioned whether heavy metal music could glorify God, and that many bands like Fallstar were given a cool reception. Christian heavy metal bands continue to fight ridicule from secular bands, but like Fallstar gospel joy continues to shine through in their performances. It is in this time that members of Fallstar composed songs for a future project now known as Northlander.

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