Album of the Week : the Zzips "20 Years Late"






After a fifteen-year delay the zzips are finally releasing their long awaited debut album. The band sound more than twenty years late, but are right on time as they have still managed to carve a niche in-between the genre lines on "20 Years Late." The vocals tell the songs stories with that lazy indie rock slackness to them. On a song like "Therapy" they take you back to 90s alternative combining electronic sounding drums with organic elements. This brand of blues is closer to Everlast than BB King or Howling Wolf. The record scratching even takes it all the way back to classic Beck. The hooks grow tighter on the smooth coast of "Bad Habits" which would make the perfect the soundtrack for a night drive on Mulholland. They have a wide range grooves to compliment the lyrics of course a song called "Scratch Cards and Junkies" would sound like a slithery slink not unlike Scott Wieland era Stone Temple Pilots.

The album keeps you on your toes, as "Murder By Mistake" is an unlikely ballad, its piano driven and bordering on Brit pop. The lyrics of "I killed a man/ completely by mistake" make out sympathetic to the killers perspective. They continue to dig deeper growing even more introspective despite the pace picking "All of My Everything", a breezy folk song for a rainy day and a bottle of wine. It's hard to believe these guys are from Sussex and not Orange County when it comes to the West Coast blue-eyed beach funk to “Weight In Gold”. There is a great deal of swagger to their take on alt-rock with "Venus". The band works well together, there are no shredders, just solid in the pocket playing, this is evident on the syncopated sections of "Ruination.com". 

Some of these songs are more pop the rock in a similar way that Inxs was pop in their heyday. This is where pop doesn't have to be a bad word. The pop leanings are oddly set against some of the albums more blues drenched songs that begin to crop up latter in the album. Even then a song like the title track still has a smooth hook to its chorus. The harmonica takes this is a more down home direction despite the electronic beat that propels "You Just Don't Need Them". These guys are impressive songwriters they have a range of dynamics that mixes genres without sounding contrived, but still retain a signature sound in the process. 

Not only are they gifted songwriters they are also prolific, as at sixteen songs (not counting the bonus track "No More Hits") it’s almost a double album by today's standards. Though lengthy the album moves fluidly so there is never a point where it drags and falls by the wayside to turn into background music. You don't have to wait for the July 21st release date, as there is a taste of what's to come from these guys below, so check out the single "We Could Be Anything" and mark your calendars for the official release. 





Album Review: Paul Doffing's "Songs From the (quaking) Heart"





It takes a folk artist a lot to gain my attention. Most tend to not reach too far beyond what has already been done a hundred times over and better. Paul Doffing succeeds on the first song of his new album when his effects slathered vocals come in to give the song a more psychedelic warble. One of his song writing strengths is how thoughtfully he layers the guitar. From the lyrical content of the first song it appears the album is aptly titled, as he is not spinning bardic tales, but using his guitar to dig into the viscera of his inner world. He takes a more organic approach with his vocals on "Sure Doesn't Matter Anymore" and creates a wide dynamic range in terms of feeling. Lyrically there is a shift in a broader look a things like war and while some of the lyrics on the album do look at his snap shots of society, there is never a moment where it feels like he is up on a soap box, which is the first thing I thought when I saw he is an environmentalist

While most of his songs are in a similar sonic range as Neutral Milk Hotel or Neil Young, he has a fully realized sense of identity. There is never a moment on this album that made me stop to think, “well here is his Bob Dylan tribute” or “here is where he wants to be Mumford and Sons.” He strips down to just his guitar, with out the distraction of a backing band, keeping the focus of these songs clearly at the forefront. Band. The rest of the album wanders along a path closer to "Sure Doesn't Matter Anymore" in terms of the vocal delivery and general presentation, with some twists and turns along the way.

Paul begins to wander into the bounds of what would be considered a more conventional approach to folk on "How Could". Rather than saying some songs are more up beat than others it’s best to describe the dreamy brightness to "New Day Dawning" as being a more hopeful song. But up beat could apply to the closing song "Nuclear Radiation" that he launches into a full strum ahead .The sense of movement increases with the slightly faster finger picking of "Slow I Go" where he introduces a small chorus of backing vocals as the guitar wraps itself around them. Through out the album are placed instrumental interludes, some of these sound like you are listening in to him playing in his bed room playing and the song that follows is just coming out of this improvised jam. Not many singer-songwriters step away from the mic to allow their guitar to tell the story for them. Below is “Slow I Go” the single from the album that comes out May 30th. If you like folk heavy on the intimacy and personality then make it a point to catch Paul when he rides his bike into your town.






This Weekend : Steve Gunn


If you are into boozy folk rock then you are in luck because Steve Gunn is playing two shows in Atlanta this weekend the first is tonight at Vinyl which is the Official Shaky Knees After Party, so your chance to bump into some of the artists who have already played or will be playing this weekend. But if you can't catch Gunn tonight he will be playing tomorrow at the Shaky Knees Festival. His  emotionally exploratory song writing and introspective baritone make for good music to drink to.  You can check out the single "Milly's Garden" from his new album "Way Out  Weather " below.



Album of the Week : Calatriloz's "Psalms of Zahyin"



Despite defenders of the faith such as Calatriloz who clearly remembers the days when metal was not solely dependent on cookie monster vocals and singers actually sang, power-metal tends to get written off as being a throw back to the 80's no matter how progressive it is. Symphonic metal saw a rise in popularity with bands like Within Temptation but have returned to take their place alongside the other power-metal bands as the redheaded stepchild of metal,  despite the genres  proven staying power. It has been around longer than thrash, death and black metal. Having it's roots in the first wave of British Metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, whose edgier hard rock drive balances out some of the gaudier Dungeons & Dragons trappings fully embraced by another one of the pioneers Ronnie James Dio . The fact that the genre really came to its own in the 80s the same decade that saw hair-metal as the poster-child for arena metal, often makes power metal guilty by associates. It does share the
falsetto yodels that immediately bring the 80s to mind. Calatrilloz  might not go as over the top with hitting notes only a dog can hear, but does have a similar operatic quality. The layered vocals are pretty soaring. It only takes the first song to conclude that if you are into symphonic progressive metal, then these guys are well worth your time. 

So the challenge for Calatrilloz is not to get mired down by the over indulgent pretense of the 80s, but pay homage to the roots of the genre. It's a very delicate balancing act.  The chug to "I'm Alive". The guitar has some ample blues licks holding the solos down rather than it just being shredding for the point of shredding. Vocals are always way up from for this genre. While they have a some of the majestic sway of Kamelot's  "Ghost Opera"  which could very well be one of the albums that inspired this, the singer is not just doing a Geoff Tate impersonation. If you were going to say he sounds like any one I would say Dennis De Young of Styx. To be from England the accent is coming from somewhere else. I can also hear strains of Crimson Glory, which is much more welcomed than the typical Helloween  or Iron Maiden lite. "The Long Winding Road" is pretty ambitious to the
point of sacrificing some of the heavier elements, with the only edge being the
bridge that is a little darker. When they roll out the Victorian pageantry on " A Glimpse at a Fool's Destiny" the hints of darkness return to an even greater extent after the refrain four minutes in. the arrangements are meticulous. Every thing transitions smoothly and the only problems I have with
these guys are the similar problems I have with even the likes of Kamelot Some of the gaudy romanticism takes the metal edge off of things. "Z The Psychopath" is rightfully the
heaviest song on the album. This is slightly compromised on the brighter melody
where he sings" I can't stand it / I won't let it."




These guys are going to be converting any one who doesn't at least own a Queensryche. fans are still split when it comes to the use of actual singing rather than death metal growls, however fans of the
genres more melodic leanings and penchant for keen musicianship will find plenty to sink there teeth into. Though not as hard as Iced Earth or even Symphony X they understand the classical element of neo-classical and have created an impressive piece of work. 
 




Track of the Week : The Unravelling's "Revolt"





The Calgary duo the Unravelling are back with an impressive new single called "Revolt. The industrial revival has not come back full swing yet. Nine Inch Nails put the hard edged guitars away in favor of a more edm styled sound. So if that is something you have been missing then you have come to the right place. Though this project doesn't have the same stiff chugged feel many of the bands that came out in the wake of "Psalm 69". This is the first we are hearing from the group after their lead singer was out of commission for a year due to heath problems making this the first new music since their 2010 release “ 13 Arcane Hymns”. This shows the project evolving from being just another Tool influenced hard rock stuck in the 90s to something more promising.

Though their influences are not always worn on their sleeves they do shine through rather brightly in some moments. The first comparison that came to mind was this is what it might sound like if Devin Townsend decided to cover Nine Inch Nail's "Reptile". I think the results would not be too much unlike this. The guitar carries a similar chug to the one Reznor captured on that album. If you can be compared in any way to the "Downward Spiral "then you have made something on that has to at the very least be on the upside of decent, as that album is one of the best sounding albums ever recorded. This makes the work of the due’s instrumentalist Perhaps these guys are into progressive rock as they claim on their Bandcamp page, but this much closer to industrial than prog. Nothing wanders out of place, the song is only four and a half minutes, which is what the intro to a prog rock song would be. 

The vocal delivery falls closer to the God Lives Under Water side of industrial rock, when he backs of and uses a more subtle dynamic it's much more Nine Inch Nails, as is the trickling single note melody. If you missed out on when this music peaked in the 90s these guys have a grasp of the more Head banger’s Ball style industrial, where the emphasis is the guitar rather than the electronic smoke and mirrors. The lyrics are one of this project’s strengths, they cloaked in metaphors while still being a harsh, but spot on criticism of big American materialism that spreads it's infection on a global level. 

Who would have thought that the band would come across heavier without being as centered around guitar as their previous efforts? This might not rival Ministry’s tougher moments and Meshuggah has nothing to fear, this has a tangible emotional rawness that makes up for the lack of blast beats and gurgled growls. I look forward to hearing what an entire album heading into this direction will bring from this project which has no shortage of talent and has begun to carve our their own identity for themselves with this release.  Check it out below.





Tonight : Swans




Tonight Michael Gira brings the loudest show on Earth back to Terminal West. This  time in support of  their 2014 album "To Be Kind" which graced many end of the year best of lists including mine a review of  it can be found here.... http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2014/05/swans-to-be-kind.html.
You might want to familiarize yourself with it as Swans are anti-greatest hits and will be either playing songs from their 2014 release which were born from the stage much like some of the sonic excursions you can expect to be taken on this evening. A Swans show is felt as much as it is heard.

Way ahead of their time when the band crawled out from the under belly of the New York punk/ noise scene they are one of the fore fathers of both industrial as well as what is being called post- rock. If not for Swans bands like ... Neurosis, Tool, Godflesh, Tombs, Godspeedyoublackemperor!, and  Ministry would not exist and that is pretty much just the tip of the iceberg  on their profound influence on heavy music today. Swans are not heavy as in metal but sonically dense. They employ a similar pound to what black metal bands have since adopted , but with a more orchestrated blend to their chaos and some times finding their way back to the melodies of Gira's rich baritone that one more recent outing as become more of a maddened rant.

If you are a fan of intense music, you are fooling yourself if you think you know what intense or loud if you have not attended a Swans show. If you are a metal head who is proud for having withstood the volume of bands like Motorhead and Slayer, you are a pussy unless you can make it through a Swans show. They go up 12 while you are stuck at 11.


www.ticketfly.com

Swans
Little Annie Featuring Paul Walfisch On Keyboards
Sat, March 28, 2015
Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

$20.00 - $25.00



Album of the Week - the Splashing Pearls' "Tabloid Tales"




This is actually the trios' faith release, so it no wonder they are so self aware in their sound. They originally formed as a duo called "Daydream Hostages" until the bass player brought his niece in to add vocals and their sound has continued to evolve from there. The first thought that came to my mind upon hearing the band was old school Decemberists mixed with swanky cabaret. There is some of the bar-haze ambiance the likes of Tom Waits paints, but different brand of theatricality involved. The steel drums at times brings a more sea shanty quality . The Decemberists don't have a Caribbean flare and were way more anglo in their ventures back in time. On "Voodoo Love" You can almost hear  Disney's animated characters singing this in one of their films , think "Under the Sea" from the Little Mermaid if sung by Amy Winehouse.

This must be listened to by large bodies of water, and while Delaware is close to water it's nt the setting you would think this would come from. The pick up into more of a pop jangle on "Awkward" Lyrically they are just as smart. "Emerald City" takes another look at Dorothy perspective. The male vocals on "Mr. Splitsville" have an almost rockabilly  meet rag time feel to them, of course the music surrounding them captures more of the ambiance new Orleans carries which the lyrics reflect upon.

the lounge jazz of "Soldier Girl Blues" feel authentic to the time being recaptured here and have a wider ear for the world than just trying to replicate what Amy Winehouse created. When in truth she too was pulling from an area of girl groups. The twang and honky tonk of "Good Idea" swings more like steampunk than punk rock. "This Old Building" takes you to Paris for the jazz torch singing that came from the brothels. The Perfect Storm get back more into the era of girl pop, but with the trio's own spin on it. There is a reggae skip to " Only a fool" allowing the singer to show a strong sense for hooky melodies on the chorus and this song would certainly sit well even on pop radio between Bruno Mars and Pink.

By the time they close out the album with more introspective and oddly progressive "Cactus Flower" I find myself giving the band the biggest compliment I can by debating what to delete so I can fit them on my iPod, considering how much music passes through my inbox on a daily basis this means the band has something that makes them stand out. This has elements you already love in music , but are put together in a unique way and with all the bizarre stuff I listen unique doesn't come easy.