Jonathan Hill Dot EU

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Turisas Battle Metal Review

General Information:

Artist: Turisas
Album: Battle Metal
Genre(s): Folk Metal, Symphonic Metal
Subgenre(s): N/A
Released: 2004
Length: 57 minutes
Language(s): English, Finnish, Swedish
Label(s): Century Media Records

Track List:

01. Victoriae & Triumphi Dominus
02. As Torches Rise
03. Battle Metal
04. The Land of Hope and Glory
05. The Messenger
06. One More
07. Midnight Sunrise
08. Among Ancestors
09. Sahti-Waari
10. Prologue for R.R.R
11. Rex Regi Rebellis
12. Katuman Kaiku

Turisas Battle Metal Cover

Turisas Battle Metal Cover

Turisas Battle Metal Review

Battle Metal is the debut album of Finnish metal band Turisas. Stepping beyond the reach of the main subgenres of heavy metal, Turisas incorporate a choir, violin, recorders, an accordion, acoustic guitar and keyboard instruments into their sound; a unique blend of both the folk metal and symphonic metal fusion genres.

Turisas set a high bar when they introduce themselves to the world with the intro piece Victoriae & Triumphi Dominus. It is a proud procession composed of keyboards used to emulate trumpets, marching percussion and a dramatic choir arrangement. The former instrument is somewhat unexpected given the number of multi-instrumentalists and session musicians enlisted to bring this album to life but they are effective in their goal nonetheless.

While the lyrics for the intro piece have never been published in the album booklet or on the internet, they sound like some variation of the song title. The lyrics elsewhere focus on medieval battles, adventuring and the riches found afar, drinking and pagan themes. Between all of this and the image projected by the band in the booklet and elsewhere the question is with such an ambitious and all-encompassing vision on a debut album, do Turisas reach their lofty aspirations?

Living up to the Battle Metal title, both As Torches Rise and the title track throw the listener straight into the middle of the medieval fantasy realm. Lyrically this is done through the first person narrative in As Torches Rises. It details a failing battle with both moral and human losses (“I think of my family, I think of my home/Interrupted by a fearful tone:/”We’re practically dead, they’ll slaughter us all!”/Through a cloud of dust I see our right wing fall”). The last verse goes on to describe a bloody scene while contrasting it with descriptions of nature and the surroundings, a common theme found often in the band’s lyrics.

The narrative changes to third person for the title track (“They’ll crush your skull with a blow/And pile them in a row” and “As the battle rages the dearest to you, you hold in your hand – and stick in their lungs!”). This back and forth in perspectives can be found on other songs while, musically speaking, the listener is thrown into it the world of Turisas through the frequently bombastic arrangements, folky interludes and often gruff vocals that are sometimes accompanied by gang shouts. Guitars are almost always present and work in tandem with the instruments traditionally not found in heavy metal. They aren’t given the particular spotlight common to heavy metal so the bridges and interludes of the songs tend to be led by the non-metal side.

Prologue for R.R.R. is an inversion of everything else on Battle Metal. It is a third person monologue that uses textural keyboard effects to evoke a timeless space between present day and the past. Over the course of three minutes the speaker asks the listener to “remember those memories; grand and tearful which still, after hundreds of years, remain now radiant with the brightness of sunlight” in reference to their ancestors. This leads right into Rex Regi Rebellis and is performed in a mix of English, Finnish and Swedish. This is a bit pointless since the monologue before was performed entirely in English and breaks away from the strong narrative that Turisas was building if you don’t understand the three languages.

On the other hand Sahti-Waari is an effortlessly joyous drinking song in the folk metal vein. It is sung exclusively in Finnish and references the pagan narrative also found elsewhere in Battle Metal when they sing “No Christian sword will break us” in the second verse. It is one of the finest moments on Battle Metal and warrants multiple listens on its own.

Battle Metal ends with a second instrumental piece, Katuman Kaiku, with the first half being folk-orientated and the electric guitar coming in for the second half, if only to remind you that this is still a metal album, but it is a far cry from where Battle Metal began musically and thematically.

Midnight Sunrise and Among Ancestors are effectively one song linked together by an overly long recording of wind sounds that should really be on a separate track between these two songs. Along with The Land of Hope and Glory, that features an organ interlude that isn’t bad in its own right but is out of place, Turisas show some minor progressive rock leanings but they never becomes a significant component of the song-writing.

Turisas have wide-ranging scope for Battle Metal and what they want to present to the world. Some parts could have been fine-tuned but it is fair to say that their aspirations have been achieved here and that the band landed on both feet with their debut.

Performers:

Mathias Nygard: Vocals, recorders (alto, soprano and sopranino), programming, additional percussions
Jussi Wickstrom: Acoustic, bass and electric guitars, double bass
Tude Lehtonen: Drums, bongos, congas, djembe, udu and electric percussion
Antti Ventola: Hammond organ, Piano, synthesizers, vibraphone
Georg Laakso: Acoustic and electric guitars

Additional Performers:

Riku Ylitalo: Accordion
Olli Vanska: Violin
Emmanuelle Zoldan: Vocals

External Links:

Turisas Homepage
Turisas on Wikipedia
Battle Metal on Wikipedia

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Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Review

Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Review

General Information:

Artist: Lana Del Rey
Album: Ultraviolence
Genre(s): Dream Pop, Indie Pop
Subgenre(s): N/A
Released: 2014
Length: 51 minutes
Language(s): English, Spanish
Label(s): Interscope, Polydor

Track List:

01. Cruel World
02. Ultraviolence
03. Shades of Grey
04. Brooklyn Baby
05. West Coast
06. Sad Girl
07. Pretty When You Cry
08. Money Power Glory
09. Fucked My Way Up to the Top
10. Old Money
11. The Other Woman

Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Cover

Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Cover

Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Review

Ultraviolence is the third album from American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey. The title proves to be ironic in terms of the music with Cruel World instantly showcasing her embracement of the soft melancholic spirit. This sets the tone of the entire album and, unlike her previous album – the nihilistically named Born to Die, there isn’t much energy behind these grey-black textural pity-revelling slow burners. It keeps coming, one song after another, with her voice being the major focal point and the most compelling aspect of the album.

Lyrically, the album touches on the light-hearted topics one has come to expect on a pop album. Domestic abuse on the title track, cooking cocaine (“White palms, baking powder on the stove/Cooking up a dream, turning diamonds into snow”) on Florida Kilos, the love of drugs on Pretty When You Cry (All those special times I spent with you, my love/They don’t mean shit compared to all your drugs) and Lana Del Ray apparently whoring herself out for success on the bluntly titled “Fucked My Way Up to the Top”.

In case you think the last of those is coated in artistic license, it probably isn’t. From an interview with “Complex” she responds to the question “Is it about people not wanting to give you credit for your success? Or is it about fucking people to get to the top?” with “…You know, I have slept with a lot of guys in the industry, but none of them helped me get my record deals. Which is annoying.”*

On one hand, songs from Ultraviolence can be listened to individually and thoroughly enjoyed. On the other, the framing of them on a single album creates a scene limited by its narrow musical vision. The glamorization of decadence is to the point of drabness, if nothing else, and feels forced.

Performers:

Lana Del Rey: Vocals
Dan Auerbach: Claps, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, shaker, synthesizer
Collin Pupuis: Drum programming, synthesizer
Leon Michaels: Claps, synthesizer, piano, Mellotron, tambourine, percussion, tenor saxophone
Nick Movshon: Claps, bass guitar, upright bass, drums
Russ Pahl: Pedal steel guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar

Full list of performers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraviolence_(album)#Personnel

External Links:

Lana Del Rey Homepage
Lana Del Rey on Wikipedia
Ultraviolence on Wikipedia

* https://www.complex.com/covers/lana-del-rey-interview-against-the-grain-2014-cover-story/

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Chad Mossholder Non-Site Specific Review

Chad Mossholder Non-Site Specific Review

General Information:

Artist: Chad Mossholder
Album: Non-Site Specific
Genre(s): Ambient Industrial
Subgenres(s): N/A
Released: 2014
Length: 57 minutes
Language(s): N/A
Label(s): Artificial Music Machine

Track List:

01. Fennel
02. Slope
03. Framework
04. Nephilim
05. Azoth
06. Cobweb
07. Oracle
08. Ataxia
09. Nascent
10. Chymia
11. Illuminated
12. Illuminated (Richard Devine’s Cylindrical Modular Mix)

Chad Mossholder Non-Site Specific Cover

Chad Mossholder Non-Site Specific Cover

Chad Mossholder Non-Site Specific Review

Non-Site Specific site is the debut solo album by American ambient industrial musician Chad Mossholder. It is an unconventional combination of ambient sound-crafting, unidentified noises and electronic manipulation expertly woven together into a series of atmospheric tracks.

They immediately conjure images in the listener’s head of abandoned factories, mechanical insects scuttling around in the wilderness, desolate cityscapes and seclusion. Nephilim comes to life with sounds that are reminiscent of small rodents squeaking around inside something, somewhere not readily identifiable. By contrast Cobweb has an almost percussive quality interwoven with spontaneous noises that ebb and flow from parts unknown. Each soundscape is crafted with remarkable attention to detail that will paint the listener’s mind with vivid imagery. The layers of textures and effects that come in and out of being over the course of Non-Site Specific can be just as rewarding on the first listen as any subsequent revisits.

However, it should be noted that none of these recordings can be considered songs in any conventional sense and, in spite of the variety on display, they can easily blur into one another because of their formless nature. Non-Site Specific is a cerebral expedition for those that dare tread out into the realm of the unconventional. Another example of this is Oracle. Full of echoes and signal-like sounds coming from a machine repeatedly trying to connect to another one, only to become enveloped and ultimately replaced with static noise in the process.

Nascent, on the other hand, teems with small life underneath a distorted backdrop of more signals, pointing to a bigger mechanical presence in a derelict environment. It is a bizarre blend of seemingly biological on-goings and mechanical processes that has been derived entirely from the technology used to create everything present in the recording.

Non-Site Specific is an honest title, with appropriate cover artwork, for the soundscapes contained within. When listening, it is best to do so in a quiet, darkened room without any distractions and a good pair of headphones to experience the meticulous craftwork involved bringing everything to fruition. In some ways it is the audio equivalent to a time-lapse video that depicts the development of a garden over several months. It is a gradual, unfolding process that operates in a similar fashion and is rewarding to the patient listener.

A casual listener will struggle to get beyond the first couple of tracks before throwing in the towel. This is their folly and those that press on, along with existing fans of both soundscapes and unorthodox compositions, will be rewarded for their efforts and hear these recordings as something akin to auditory vignettes.

It is not often that a highly untraditional album, in terms of content and techniques used in the creation of said content, can elicit such imaginative scenes in the mind of the listener. Yet Non-Site Specific, created with computer programs and lacking any formal structure, defies convention and does exactly this in an undeniably paradoxical fashion.

Performers:

Chad Mossholder: Programming

External Links:

Chad Mossholder Homepage

Non-Site Specific on Bandcamp

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Opeth Damnation Review

General Information:

Artist: Opeth
Album: Damnation
Genre(s): Rock
Subgenres(s): Progressive Rock, Soft Rock
Released: 2003
Length: 43 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Music for Nations, Koch Records

Track List:

01. Windowpane
02. In My Time of Need
03. Death Whispered a Lullaby
04. Closure
05. Hope Leaves
06. To Rid the Disease
07. Ending Credits
08. Weakness

Opeth Damnation Cover

Opeth Damnation Cover

Opeth Damnation Review

Damnation is the seventh studio album by Swedish band Opeth. Unlike all of their previous albums, Damnation sees the band shedding themselves of their renowned death metal, progressive metal, folk and acoustic music blend for a hybrid of progressive and soft rock. The album is soft to the point that at times it can be seen as pushing the boundaries of what can be considered rock music, progressive influences or not.

Windowpane sets the tone perfectly with a sound crafted around a central clean-sounding guitar melody that interplays with an acoustic guitar and a steady rock drum beat devoid of metal tempos that give room for the prevailing melancholic mood to take hold. This is further enhanced by the keyboards and is indicative of what Damnation is about. Fans hearing this for the first time, and being familiar with their previous output, will be anticipating the sudden transition to Opeth’s metal sound but that moment will never come. On top of this, vocalist and guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt has also left his death growls in favour of a restrained singing voice that sounds fragile at times. While some fans will have undoubtedly being disappointed by these drastic changes, it would have also been impossible to fit that aggressive vocal style into Damnation and make it work.

The melancholic mood is a central theme to Damnation and in some ways this helps to paint the album as a by the numbers effort. This is due to the songs, at times, blurring together and losing their distinctive nature when listening from start to finish. Two of the biggest standouts are the minimalist Weakness, which is centred on a subtle keyboard arrangement and is entirely devoid of percussion. Closure, the only song that shakes of the passive sound thoroughly, actively engages the listener in a different way. The tempo picks up as the song progresses and Opeth pushes it even further towards the end to create a total cacophony when put next to the rest of the album. This abruptly cuts out and if you had downloaded this song through one of the illegal file sharing services around at the time Damnation was released you would have thought that the song had been corrupted or was incomplete. This leads directly into Hope Leaves and makes these songs contrast in a way that can be seen an intentional throwback to their previous albums where the acoustic and metal parts can come right after each other. This way of integrating that aspect of Opeth’s character into Damnation is not as well executed as desired, if that is the case, since it is more disjointed than fluid in its delivery.

It’s difficult for any band to break away from their established sound to explore new ideas but Opeth embrace their progressive rock influences honestly and passionately. This combined with the efforts of co-producer Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) on the keyboard and piano rounds off their sound and helped them to realise their vision. Damnation is an important milestone in Opeth’s history and is recommendable to anyone wanting to experience the softer side of rock music.

Performers:

Mikael Akerfeldt: Vocals and lead guitar
Peter Lingren: Rhythm guitar
Martin Mendez: Bass guitar
Martin Lopez: Drums

Additional Performers:

Steven Wilson: Keyboards, piano, Mellotron, backing vocals

External Links:

Opeth Homepage
Opeth on Wikipedia
Damnation on Wikipedia