The Radio Sun – “Beautiful Strange”

 Posted by on August 8, 2018 at 20:41  No Responses »
Aug 082018

It’s hard to make changes. They rock your soul. Try quitting a bad habit, or a toxic relationship. Try making good where you’ve wronged. Try standing up for your beliefs. Imagine the sinking feeling when Peter heard the rooster crow that day (Luke 22:54-62). When you’re down in a pit, you need “Hold On Tight”, the first single off “Beautiful Strange”. This song heralds the release of The Radio Sun’s fifth studio album, in as many years, on 24 August 2018.

The guitars are strident, and Jason Old’s voice encouraging. I get spoonsful of courage, similar to when I hear “Dare You To Move” by Switchfoot. The sing-along chorus of “Believe In Me” goes: “I can see forever and it’s in your eyes / No more hesitation, no more alibis / Believe in me, my fantasy” and I pause. Who’s talking here? Is it like when Samuel answers God, “Speak, for your servant is listening” in 1 Samuel 3:7-11? How do I interpret the two phrases together: “Believe in me, my fantasy”? On the one hand I’m like, “Dude, it’s a rhyming couplet. No analysis needed.” On the other hand, if it were His voice what should I take “my fantasy” to be? This is the beauty of the lyric. You can interpret it your way. Continue reading »

In The Verse “Transformer”

 Posted by on July 30, 2018 at 15:24  No Responses »
Jul 302018

It’s the keyboard melodies that had me coming back for yet another listen. I must admit, I’m a bit of a prog fan and to my ears the synthesizer can do little wrong. To be clear, In The Verse are not prog rock. They’re a hard rock band out of Wisconsin, U.S.A, started in 2013. “Transformer” is their debut release, from 2016.

Why should you pay attention to this album in 2018? Honest lyrics, for one. Noah Hulbert sings in “Alone”: You look inside my cold, hardened heart / At the things I hide that are tearing me apart”. When he appeals to God, he drops his brave face, encouraging me (the listener) to do the same. Inside, the light and dark are vying for supremacy – a fight that has me weary. God delivers victory in battle, and I am welcomed home.

While the growls and grunts of extreme metal certainly appeal, I sometimes need the clear sung lyrics I hear on this album. I was watching Jason Mantzoukas talk about his record picks at the Amoeba store earlier, where he said he’s drawn more often to the expressive qualities of the voice than to what is being sung; often not even noticing the words. On the “Transformer” album, disillusionment makes way for hope, and I wouldn’t have been able to follow this trajectory if lyrics were unclear. Continue reading »

Bismoth – “Psalmic Peace”

 Posted by on July 4, 2018 at 20:36  No Responses »
Jul 042018

Jethro de Beer, the creative force behind “Be Not Betrayed” (SkyBurnsBlack Records) and “Bismoth”, strikes me as a thinker and a fighter. The spirit of his struggle, documented online, is captured for me in the title of that Marilyn Manson / Sneakerpimps collaboration, “Long Hard Road Out of Hell”. Quoting music from a movie may look like I’m making light of a troubling subject, but no. It is as when Paul writes to the Ephesians: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (6:12). It is clear to me that extreme metal seduces the listener ever downward, and once he/she has developed a taste for its tonal palette, it becomes difficult to take anything else seriously. I returned to an interview with Pilgrim, of Crimson Moonlight where he argues for blackened liturgical metal, and while the accepted view holds that black metal can’t be Christian, he says that “… it can be anything but neutral and lukewarm.” ( I have this impression when I listen to “Psalmic Peace”.

“Waters To Dust” is set against a bleak, frostbitten backdrop and I’m immediately taken in by a gravelly voice that whispers a precis of Psalm 106. I enjoy the thin, razor-like quality of the guitars, and this is where it becomes interesting for me; sombre instrumentation, yet lyrically hopeful. When I listen to “The Lamp of Your Body” by “Be Not Betrayed”, it shares sonic qualities with “O, Majestic Winter” – for me, an altogether more experimental take on unblack metal. Continue reading »

Stryper – “God Damn Evil”

 Posted by on June 16, 2018 at 15:21  No Responses »
Jun 162018

Reader, you’re going to laugh out loud. This is the first time I’m listening to anything Stryper. You might be wondering what island I’ve been living on and all I can say sometimes it takes long for a ship to arrive on the horizon.

“God Damn Evil” has proved to be a contentious album title, but Michael Sweet says that it comes as an earnest request to God when the band reflects on what is happening in the world. “Take It To The Cross” roars, and I get the feeling that it was fun to record. The enthusiasm is palpable, and Michael’s high register is from another world! As I continue to listen to “God Damn Evil” I get a “new wave of British heavy metal” (NWOBHM) vibe, as personified by Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon. There’s the lyrics that are sung, as opposed to growled, the melodic guitar solos and the choir of voices on the choruses. Sure, that’s not all that makes it sound traditional. Continue reading »

Bassists Alliance Project – “Crush”

 Posted by on May 31, 2018 at 23:14  No Responses »
May 312018

Flipping through the contributing members’ photographs, I thought I’d start by counting the number of strings on each bass guitar. Four, five, six and seven strings were all represented, including Scott Reeder’s Katana 8. That’s quite some range, which had me curious about the sonic experiments that would be undertaken on “Crush”, the debut album by Bassists Alliance.

I am familiar with Alberto Rigoni’s production work on the Vivaldi Metal Project, a baroque and metal celebration of the masterful composer’s “The Four Seasons”, but less so with Jeff Hughell, co-producer on “Crush”. May I suggest that you watch Jeff’s Six Feet Under “Exploratory Homicide” guitar and bass playthrough on Youtube? First class. From the album cover I deduce that different playing styles will be melded together to produce a record that focuses on bass guitar as melody driver. It’s an instrumental album, and if you are able to commit to it, you’re sure of a rewarding listening experience. Continue reading »