Downtime

Due to an overwhelming schedule Album Lover Reviews will be put on hold for the foreseeable future. Thank you for all of your requests/support thus far. Outstanding requests will be completed following the blog’s revival.

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless

The sophomore release from alternative Irish rock band My Bloody Valentine has gone on to become one of the most definitive Shoegaze albums of all time. Loveless, released in 1991, combines layers of effect laden guitars with whisper like vocals and mesmerising drumming, to create a texture that is altogether dreamy start to finish. Having been a big fan of this album for quite some time now, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the album is just sublime. Not a word to be thrown around lightly, nor is it to be seen as cliche or taken for granted. However were there ever an album that deserves the recognition and praise that it deserves, Loveless is most certainly it. 

From the opening seconds of Only Shallow I was amazed by this record. The simple yet invigorating percussion fills open alongside a guitar riff that reminds me of a something much larger than itself taking hold of the song. Though it’s a simple riff, it’s one that has an enormous effect on the music. The same can be said for most of the songs from this album. The songs found on Loveless generally consist of effect driven guitar lines with snappy guitar lines, alongside rhythm guitar and bass melodies that really bring the rock vibe to it’s apex. The vocals from this album are so delicate they seem to blend in perfectly with the texture of the music. Although many albums are able to match vocals with music quite well, My Bloody Valentine bring it to an entirely new level. The entire album feels like one enormous dream, an ethereal wonderland to get lost in. This is also thanks to the lyrics on this album, which seem earnest on the surface, yet prove to be timeless the longer this album is listened to.

With this in mind, Loveless does seem to be an album that takes more than one or two listens to full understand. I do not in anyway mean this in a negative way, rather it’s the mixture of sounds found on this record that make this such a dense album, it’s difficult to appreciate it fully the first time around. This inaccessibility, again, is not a negative trait to the album. Different albums of different genres have different levels to accessibility, and Loveless is most certainly the case when it comes to this.

The album is simply wondrous, in it’s melodies, aesthetic, themes and performance. What’s most impressive to me is how atmospheric an album can be when it’s melodies are so simple. There are no technical masterpieces on this record; the majority of the songs presented consist of a handful of chords and are able go be played quite easily. And it’s this simplicity to the creative writing that makes it so inspiring as it reaches depths of musical maturity. The style implemented on Loveless allows it to leave the listener spellbound, or even awe struck in it’s wake. Words such as dreamy, ethereal, and atmospheric get thrown around a lot when describing albums, particularly by myself. Yet this is an album that is so powerful in sound and emotion, it seems as though words themselves feel too weak in describing the listening experience. Simply put, Loveless is magic.

The Devil Wears Prada - 8:18

My 60th review is for the latest release by the American Metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada. The band, who’s discography has improved with each new release in my opinion, are back this year with the album 8:18. Their a band who’s style implements both screamed and clean vocals, keyboard/synth lines, as well as passionate, Christian based lyrics. Their 2009 release Zombie EP is one of my all time favourite metal records, combining devastatingly powerful melodies with incredible performance. 

On 8:18, it seems as though every facet to the bands musicianship has been improved. Lyrics, instrumentation, imagery, you name it, it’s all at a staggering level of professionalism. The biggest feature of this album to me has to be the atmosphere that is created across these tracks. If you’ve been reading these reviews for a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge lover of when albums evoke emotions through themes and imagery, and that’s exactly what you can expect from this album. Over half of the songs start with some form of special effects sound, or at the least a form of melody that contrasts to the refrain when it kicks in. It gives me the impression that the band went through a lot of effort to convey a bleak, chaotic theme across all of the songs from this album.

Another aspect to the album that is interesting to note is justhow experimental it is. While the majority of their albums follow the same structure and style for the most part, 8:18 is enourmously varied in its focus on instrumentation, melody, style and peformance on every single track. Which is, in itself, another standout point from this LP; every song on 8:18 is unique. Across its forty minute run-time, there isn’t a single moment on this album that feels repetitive. Not one. With all due respect this was a downfall that plagued their first release to a certain degree, however on this release the very idea of the albums structure being monotonous is simply unfathomable. 

With all of these new, exciting features from The Devil Wears Prada, its not to say that the bands familiar aesthetic is gone. Clean and screamed vocals, snappy bass lines, heavily rhythmic percussion and guitar lines, as well as emotionally centred lyrics that the band have become famous for are all here, only much more refined. As mentioned earlier, there is a great variation to the album, and i feel that it is this that has lead to a maturity of the bands sound. Elements of melodic, groove and hardcore metal are executed amazingly well, often used in combination with the metalcore style that the band primarily focus on. 

The cohesion to this album is an important aspect to this collage of genres, as well as the aforementioned atmosphere and originality to each of the songs. While the style and mood of the songs does certainly change of the course of the album, the quality of the songwriting and performance does not falter for a single second. The songs themselves begin and end quietly the majority of the time on 8:18, meaning that were the album to be put on shuffle it would retain the exact same flow in terms of the records cohesion. But I digress, this is more of a personal sentiment for my feelings towards the album than anything else. 

However it’s hard for me to make this review anything but personal having been so utterly impressed with this new release. And after all, this blog is titled ‘Album Lover’ for the sole notion of being personal. In my eyes albums such as 8:18 are few and far between, so when they do happen to grace us with their presence, they deserve the utmost praise. This record is not just a testament to how hardworking The Devil Wears Prada are, but also to how impressive a metalcore album can be. Or any album, of any genre, for that matter. The bands lyrics, which have always been Christian themed (a notion they quite proudly proclaim at each one of their concerts) , pertain to such instances of sublime heartache and beauty, its hard not to feel truly blessed whilst listening to 8:18.

Master Musicians Of Bukkake - Far West

image
The following review is of request by http://dronemuzak.tumblr.com. You can send in your own requests either here on Tumblr, or at the Twitter handle @Album_Lover, for either your own albums, or albums in general that you’d like to see reviewed.

MMOB are an American band who’ve been active since 2003, and have released an eclectic, psychedelic experience a decade into their career. Though the word ‘psychedelic’ does indeed describe the atmosphere of the music, as well as the genre is spans, Far West has a slick combination of a number of styles. Drone, Experimental and Folk are present on the LP, as well as elements of Noise. The opening track WHITE MOUNTAIN RETURN is possibly the best example of this. The track begins with a staticy wall of noise that soon develops into a somewhat tribal melody, with a plethora of sounds painting a rich canvas that is both uplifting and gut-wrenching. It’s an incredibly opening to the album, and one that I believe sets the atmosphere for the album, not just in it’s aesthetic, but in it’s performance as well. The track has a somewhat middle-eastern vibe to it, with a high ranged melody layered on top of a pounding rhythm section, that gradually escalates higher and higher. The apex to WHITE MOUNTAIN RETURN is staggering, as the noises from the song increase in both intensity and volume. It reminds me of a typical post-rock structure, with the infulences of artists such as Swans and Merzbow. It is then allowed to quietly die down, to make way for GNOMI.

The second track from this LP is a much more straightforward, with dreamy chant-like vocals accompanying groovy guitar lines. Subtle percussion decorates this track, remaining delicately in the background to create a nicely detailed texture. The hypnotising melody is broken halfway through the track to allow whirring noises to spin back and forth against the sound pallete, with the main melody sinking to the bottom. Through this a peculiar electronic melody is introduced, exacting it’s own unique interlude before the main melody comes back in. The main riff is played again, sounding joyous and uplifting. Admist the sharp range of sounds from this track, to me it is an overwhelming ride of emotions, however it is enjoyable to listen to in it’s delivery. Distorted guitar effects bring the track to a poignant close.

ARCHE opens with echoing guitar leads evoking feelings of desperation, with a magnitude of maturity that is met with a rhythmic percussion line. The sounds implemented on this track are a lot less busy than on the previous two tracks, yet it is nonetheless very easy to listen to. In fact, the minimalist approach to this song works wonders, especially when the extra instruments are added in. The high pitched melodies sound as if a pained cry is echoing against the instrumentation, with a distorted guitar line adding a sleek counter-melody to the track. This instrumental is possibly my favourite from the album, everything from it’s strking beginning to it’s delicate closing.

What I really admire most from this album is the bands ability to execute a wide range of sounds and styles not just over the course of all six tracks, but within each individual tracks as well. Every song from the album, whether it be intense and aggressive, or downbeat and sombre, contain an impressive mix of melodies and effects throughout the course of their respective playtimes. CAVE OF LIGHT - THE PRIMA MATERIA is my favourite example of this. The track opens with an ominious drone that is soon met with screeching electronic sounds and tribal, chant like singing. It mirrors the songs GNOMI and CIRCULAR RUINS in this way, in it’s experimental style and structure. Not so much in a literal sense, as the structure is more or less straight forward on CAVE, but more in the sense that it is able to mimic different moments on the album. Overall this is the best aspect of the album, it’s experimental approach to establishing stark imagery through impressive musicianship.

The penultimate track from the LP spans between ethereal piano lines and dreary bass lines. Dreary, of course, not being critical of the music, but rather describing the aesthetic created. While it is, of course, an enjoyable track in it’s own right, it acts as a sort of prelude to the final track, CIRCULAR RUINS. Rather than feeling like filler on the album, it is an ambient moment of peace before the finale to Far West is introduced. CIRCULAR RUINS opens with a gorgeous guitar and vocal melody, that reminds me of World music in style. It’s a much softer song, and one that contrasts finely with previous moments from the album, most notably aspects of GNOMI. For new listeners of the band this may be the most accessible track from the album, with a catchy melody line met with simplistic bass and percussion lines. It may not capture the full imagery or theme of Far West as explored on previous tracks from the album, but it certainly builds upon it in an enjoyable way.

If you’ve made it this far through this monolith of an album synopsis, you can tell how much there is to appreciate from the album. The overall theme for the album is one slow, carefully executed chaos, as if one were to watch the apocalypse occur in slow motion. Still this is not to say that the album is depressing or monotonous. The variation of sounds, images and styles implemented insure that the band well and truly live up to their name as master musicians.

Burden - Salt

image

The following review is of request by http://dronemuzak.tumblr.com. This is his own work under the pseudonym Burden, which can be downloaded from his bandcamp at http://burdendrone.bandcamp.com/album/salt. You can send in your own requests either here on Tumblr, or at the Twitter handle @Album_Lover , for either your own albums, or albums in general that you’d like to see reviewed.

Salt is the 2013 from experimental drone musician Burden. Salt opens with clanging guitar playing on the song Quiet, that is met with ominous talking, mixed with subtle whispering. The shortest song from the album, it is a delicate interlude that I believe builds a mature atmosphere for the album. Its simplicity allows it to transition into Triple Distilled nicely, which is quite similar stylistically. Bursts of rich guitar playing are met with spoken word, repeating the same progression as a dreary tale of a broken man is told in between the echoes of melody. It creates a somewhat otherworldy experience, reminiscent of a time long past, and emulating works of experimental folk music made famous by bands such as Led Zeppelin. “Why the long face the barman queries” is repeated every so often, adding to the sombre imagery. The unsettling ending to the track encapsulates the stories theme perfectly, creating an enjoyable experience for the listener.

Cold Night In The Library begins with a dominating riff that sounds simply gorgeous in its tonality. The song is quickly met with pained singing and chanting, detailing a beautiful image of anguish and sorrow. As unattractive as this sounds, it’s absolutely beautiful to listen to, with the occasional inclusion of a high-pitched guitar riff layered wonderfully on-top of the singing and rhythm line. The foreboding droning mixed with the rising intensity of the melody creates an intense feeling discomfort and sorrow, with the use of spoken word after the midway point mirroring the previous tracks. It also adds to the intense imagery of the song that has already been created by the melody.

The closing track from this album repeats the same structure to the playing found on the previous tracks, only this time being much more upbeat and colourful in performance. What’s interesting to me too is the use of flattened notes to the melody on this track. The vocals are much darker in this song in terms of both performance and lyrical content. In my opinion Cage Around The Sun is the heaviest from these four songs, as well as the most impressive.

Overall Burden has created four incredibly detailed songs on Salt. The cohesion on these tracks is outstanding, with the long track lengths never coming close to repetition. On the contrary, to me the most impressive aspect from the album is how interesting an engaging it is. The folk/drone  aesthetic is one that suits the theme of the album wonderfully well, as it moves from moments of throat-slitting aggression to harrowing bleakness.

Alfabot - Crucify Us EP

imageThe following review is of request by http://incendiare.tumblr.com. This is his own work under the pseudonym Alfabot, which can be downloaded for free from his bandcamp at http://alfabot.bandcamp.com/album/crucify-us-ep. You can send in your own requests either here on Tumblr, or at the Twitter handle @Album_Lover. Requests do not have to be your own work, they can be any music you enjoy and would like to see reviewed, so long as they are either full albums or EPs (ie. I don’t review single tracks)

Crucify Us EP is an experimental electronic release that combines gothic, dark synth and downtempo minimal ambient. Released this year, the EP opens with the track Profane, Profound which is grimy in its aesthetic, mirroring the Witch House genre in style. The vocals on the track add an ethereal contrast to the grooving rhythms of the bass and percussion. The song is intense with a hypnotising synth lead, feeling as if it were to take place in a rave club presented in slow motion. There’s very nice layering of vocals against the percussion, with every channel presented cleanly and easy to listen to. The very same texture is emulated on the following two tracks, each being unique and enjoyable in their own right.

On these tracks the percussion is simplistic, giving the songs room to breath, rather than weighing it down. Gorgeous melodies are mixed with haunting vocals with their subtlety sounding crisp and melancholy.There’s quite a warm sound created, as though the listener is being met in an embrace of solitude. Occasional synth echoes are a nice touch, with the percussion creating solid fills to the end. The track Autofagia breaks away from this aesthetic with noisy, up tempo percussion lines. Aggressive synth lines met with droning vocals, creating a chaotic short burst of energy.

Nihilista contains an impish melody against minimal percussion and a reverberated bass line, distorted to the point where it becomes buried beneath the palette of sounds. The song is soon met with a mellow harmony line that drifts back and forth. It as if you’re floating through a sea of colours, evoking emotions of serenity and happiness. Layers of voices create a somewhat sombre image on Waves, which is accesible and soothing. The variation of melodies are memorable without being repetitive, and transition nicely into the ending track Horas. This is the most ambient moment from these collection of songs, as a soft piano is met with dreamy, high ranged vocals. The percussion repeats the same fills as before, only this time it is more dominant, rather than sinking into the background. The ending is slightly abrupt for my liking, but it is nonetheless a gorgeous ending to the EP.

Overall this is an incredible EP, with a mix of catchy melodies, stark imagery, and outstanding production. The experimental aspect really does these songs justice, allowing a unique variety of creativity in both writing and performance. Listening to Crucify Us EP gives off an impression that there is much more to come from Alfabot in terms of creating cohesive moments of pure, musical bliss.

Slipknot - Iowa


Iowa is the second album for from Heavy Metal band Slipknot, improving on the foundations from their energetic, aggressive self titled debut. Iowa is much darker and heavier than their previous album, swapping the punk-like energetic vibe for a maturer sound. The darker sound is evident in both music and lyrics, with every song feeling just as painful and hate filled as the last.

The album opens with (515) in which an electronic drone is met with with the word death screamed over and over again. This leads into People = Shit, a chaotic masterpiece of agony and emotion. All the songs on Iowa follow the same aesthetic with noisy, pulverising guitars layered on top of steady bass grooves and samples. While the sampling on Iowa is less prevalent on Iowa as opposed to the previous release, it still adds to the spacious texture that Slipknot create. And while the instrumentation is certainly spacious with regards to variety, it is nonetheless very straight forward and easy to listen to.

Iowa is a collection of songs that range between pure hatred, anger, and pain, as conveyed through lyrics that echo a nihilistic state of mind. The melodies on Iowa’s greatly aid this, with many of the songs being as enticing as they are terrifying. The care factor on Iowa is like nothing else. For veteran lovers of metal, this is an album that can still bring back the initial feelings of listening to the genre.

What I really love about this album is the collection of instruments, and how each one can be appreciated in its own right. The percussion has an amazing use of cymbals and double bass that really add to the aggressive vibe that the band are going for, yet at the same time are able to create a steady beat for the rest of the band to follow. Guitar lines often contain screeching riffs on top of the pummelling rhythm guitar and bass grooves, creating a thick sound that’s easy to appreciate. The most notable aspect to Iowa however is, without a shadow of a doubt, the vocals. Every single word present on the album is sung with an intensity that is nothing but unique to Corey Taylor. Having been a fan of Iowa for years, it still blows me away how much emotion is present on every one of these songs. Vocal delivery can often feel stale or generic on metal albums, however on Iowa it feels as if the lyrics are being cut onto the listeners flesh. The anger and ferocity to the subject matters that Taylor addresses is inescapable, songs such as Disasterpiece, Left Behind, and the fifteen minute finale Iowa showcase Taylor’s impeccable talent for conveying his inner most emotions. Mixed with the rich instrumentation from the rest of the band, the songs become unstoppable forces of brutality.

When I discovered Iowa four years ago, I distinctly remember thinking that the band had captured anger in an album. today I still think this, and I can now truly appreciate the effort that the band went to in order to achieve this. Art is the expression of emotions and ideas, and I feel that on this record Slipknot have created a beautiful, sublime work of art. It’s moment like these I wish my writing abilities were better, there’s really no other way I can think of describing how amazing the album is, and how much it means to me. Rather, I’ll end with the only word that can adequately describe this tapestry of artistic perfection; Iowa.

The Haxan Cloak - Excavation


Excavation is the 2013 release from dark-ambient producer the Haxan Cloak. The album is incredibly somber and horrific in it’s combination of percussion, samples and heavy percussion lines, coming together to create an incredibly dark and rich experience. The album starts with an ominous drone on the track Consumed, that is soon met with a stark drum line that pounds the ear drums in a frightening way. It creates a harrowing atmosphere that is continued throughout the course of the album, and is incredibly enjoyable to listen to. The dark nature of the album does not for a single moment feel repetitive of forced. 

In fact, to me the biggest trait that this album has to have is it’s range of creativity across all of the tracks. One such example is the song Miste that opens with an edited vocal sample, met with a foreboding string and bass lime. The song continues to develop into a heavy drone, that feels subtle and delicate. Another example of the interesting use of sounds on the album is Excavation (Part 1), which gives off a sensation of insanity and uneasiness. The experience of the album is greatly aided by how cohesive it is. The dark electronic songs flow quite nicely from one to the other, while retaining their uniqueness as individual tracks. The album ends with The Drop, which acts as a culmination of all the sounds and imagery from the previous songs. It’s spacious and captivating, yet also somewhat moving. Although the album is by and large one of doom and dread, it’s incredibly varied in terms of the emotions it provokes. Agony, terror, and an overall loss of hope or prevelant on Excavation.

This is an album that I feel very strongly about in terms of it’s structure, creativity, and overall enjoyability. I believe that it can be quite difficult to find the right balance in keeping an album engaging when it follows a drone/ambient aesthetic. Not only has The Haxan Cloak avoided this, he’s created an album in which every song is just as interesting as the last. The mix of instrumentation and samples on this record create a tapestry of hellish fear that’s astoundingly satisfying to listen to. To me Excavation feels as if the darker side of existence has been uncovered, one in which there’s no time, direction, meaning or hope. And its beautiful.

Metallica - Reload


The 1997 release is the second half of Load, which was intended for release as a double album. Splitting the album into two releases seems to have worked well for the band, in my opinion, as it gave more leeway to the band in terms of production and refinement, as opposed to releasing a mediocrely made double album. Regardless of this I believe that Reload should be viewed as a standalone effort, and not as merely the second half of Load, even if this was what the band intended.

Reload is drastically different from Metallica’s earlier releases, being an album of hard rock and blues influenced heavy metal as opposed to the classic thrash metal sound that brought the band into the spotlight. However this is not to say that the switch is half-hearted or poorly executed. On the contrary it’s a move that Metallica were able to handle perfectly on both Load and Reload.

Reload is filled with exciting, groovy tracks that are layered with punchy percussion and grimy guitar lines that are as slick as they are greasy. Hetfield’s vocals are on top form on Reload, with songs such as The Memory Remains and The Unforgiven II being the best examples of this. Possibly my favourite thing about this album is how catchy it is, both in terms of instrumentation and singing. What’s interesting as well is how engaging the music is both in terms of the songs verses and chorus. Rather than songs being built upon a single riff that carries the lyrics, every section of a song in Reload is captivating and expertly made. That being said, the lyrics on Reload are in my opinion the best that have ever been written. The imagery of the lyrics match the music in a way that is utterly sublime. Every song seems to have lyrics that match it perfectly, and vice versa. Whether it be a somber look at hopelessness and loss, or a straight up tale of aggression and energy, Metallica describe said songs with imagery that feels powerful and moving.

As well as this, Reload seems to be the most experimental Metallica have been in their career thus far. Where The Wild Things Are and Low Mans Lyrics are incredibly eerie and atmosphere with a range of instruments and vocal effects throughout, creating an aesthetic that seems quite alien in comparison to other tracks such as Slither and Prince Charming. The variety that this album has to offer does not only apply to the sounds themselves, but also the style of musicianship as well. Reload moves between uptempo heavy metal anthems, bluesy ballads, and even a slow moving acoustic jam that involves a hurdy gurdy. A hurdy gurdy on a Metallica album, you say? Yeah, that’s right. Creatively Reload is definitely one of my favourite releases from Metallica. Dreamy vocals on top of mesmerising instrumentation and harrowing lyrics make for an unforgettable experience.