Outcast: Awaken the Reason

As we go into the fourth month it is increasingly becoming apparent that the choosing of an Album of the Year when December closes its darkened eyes is going to be a task and a half, the amount of impressive contenders already building up into a formidable challenge even this early into 2012. Well that was until French metalers Outcast stole a march on everyone with their staggering new album Awaken the Reason. The release is truly immense in sound, power, and invention. It is a disruptive and addictive maze of ingenuity and invigorating ideas, a maelstrom of unpredictable diversions, senses twisting manipulations, and a beast of intriguing mischief and heightened intensity. It is simply brilliant, an album that sets the heart on fire, sends the mind racing, and triggers deep emotions to an orgasmic conclusion.

      Outcast is like an alchemist come sonic chef. The band takes ingredients from previous inventions, as well as flavours and spices borne in musical recipes elsewhere to turn them with their own special ingredient of imagination, into something completely and stirringly new. Awaken the Reason is an explosion of innovation and a seemingly chaotic tapestry of sounds, a mighty journey that challenges, hypnotises and offers something new on each quest taken within its pulsating metallic walls.

The Parisian band formed in 1998 and originally under the guise of Overlander, started grabbing attention from the French underground scene with their death metal tinted thrash flavoured debut 4 track CD The Source Of All Creation in 2002. March 2005 saw the release of First Call/Last Warning, a ten track album blending the power of Swedish thrash metal with the intensity of death metal whilst bringing in passion fuelled melodies. The current line-up of vocalist Wilfried Fagnon, guitarists Jean-François Di Rienzo and Nicolas Soulat, bassist Clément Mauro, and Mathieu Santin on drums, was established in 2007, the quintet releasing the second Outcast album Self-Injected Reality a year later and the emergence of a diverse and technical sound alongside their enflamed melodies that has evolved wonderfully in Awaken the Reason.

Released via Listenable Records on April 4th this metal/progressive jewel is set to place the band firmly in the eyes and ears of the world. If the likes of Uneven Structure, Texture, and Meshuggah get your juices dribbling, Awaken the Reason is an essential must, but there is so much more within the release and its creations. The progressive metal Outcast unleashes has essences found in the likes of Between the Buried and Me and Circles, the aggressive uncompromising intensity they grip the ear with can be heard from the likes of Bloodsimple and especially vocally Society 1, whilst the sheer eccentric and unpredictable conjurations remind of bands like Five Star Prison Cell. All this is disassembled and designed into something wholly unique and wholly Outcast.

The album breaks out with the opening frenzy that is Elements, the track taking no time in sending splintered acidic melodies and grunting riffs through the ear whilst seeking and filling every corner of the senses with progressive meanders seeded in insanity and upon an intimidating metallic vein. Flitting through chaotic changes and detours the song never sits still or leaves one time to grab a deep breath, its driven manic evolution surprising and pure temptation from beginning to end.

Every aspect of the band and songwriting is at a staggering height, from the manipulative guitars that mesmerise and exploit with intrusive riffs, the acute and scorched melodies that sear the senses with innovational skill, through to the uncompromising yet stunningly and attentively crafted rhythms. Adding vocals that bring a caustic menace and expressive added texture to the brilliantly conceived constructs of sound, the likes of Abysmal, the epic A Solace from the Shade, and the metal wildness of Isolation, emerge as the astonishing results.

     Awaken the Reason – Part IV: When Dawn Brings Clarity slows things down with a beautifully atmospheric piece of music, the haunting ambience and piano/string grace striking at a personal level as it transports one to a lonely shore and mind. It finds a climax that unravels within a distorted cloud to turn to the best track on the album in Spin Angular Moments. The track blisters the ear with stupefying acute explosions of melodic insurgency and uniquely structured provocative rhythms and malignant toned growls and power. The senses are then blindsided by wonderful progressive invention before succumbing once more to the psychotic nature of the composition. It plays like the continually shifting mind of a madman, a glorious ingenious kaleidoscope of warped brilliance.

There is not a weakness on the album as the likes of What Would be my Final Commitment? and the closing Awaken the Reason – Part XI: Reprise prove. Mixed by Jochem Jacobs (Textures) and mastered by Alan Douches (Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan) Awaken the Reason is truly a masterful and magnificent feast. Outcast have probably escaped the attention of a great many until now but with this stunning album that is just about to change.

RingMaster 31/03/2012

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What The Night Brings: Bound By Apathy

Leaving the listener bent double and struggling for breath the new EP from UK metalers What The Night Brings is one of the most destructive releases to accost the body in a long while; it is also one of the most satisfying. The band with Bound By Apathy do not just pummel the ear into submission or obliterate the senses into numbness they also create a connection through deeply impressive melodies and stirring thoughtful invention to raise them high above others with a similar sounding intent.

Formed in 2008 the quintet from Buckinghamshire first made a noticeable shout with debut EP Tides but with Bound By Apathy they have reached out and turned things up, from sound, craft, and sheer intensity showing that What The Night Brings has evolved into a truly magnificent band. Still retaining their raw intensity and uncompromising aggression the band has unleashed four beasts within the EP that prowl, attack, chew up and spit out the hearts of their victims, the listener unable or unwilling to resist. With an ever evolving mix of hardcore, deathcore, groove and melodic metal, each song within Bound By Apathy treats and abuses to the greatest satisfaction, and for a still relatively young band the promise of what is ahead is staggering.

The moment Barren opens up the assault one is stuck in an aural wind tunnel, with acidic melodic scythings splitting flesh as intensity and rhythms bruise every one of the senses. Drummer Pete Bright plays like a vindictive puppeteer, his beats and rhythms unpredictable and merciless whilst the guitars of Darren Tunaley and Scott Rand trip every switch and circuit through heavy masterful riffs or scorching melodic violations. It is a threatening and devastating mix that one allows to consume greedily, not that one has much choice. Vocalist Adrian Noone spews and spits every word and syllable with bile and malice, and though his delivery is generally unvaried it works perfectly within the annihilation.

Deus Ex-Machina continues the assault to equal quality and effect, the song scraping down the wall of the ear with a nastily acute melodic cuts backed by tumultuous rhythms and group shouts which bring an added depth and force to the already excellent demanding trespassing of Noone. Just like the following The March That Makes A Man, there is an instinctive and primal essence and power which permeates just as fully as it overwhelms through brute force. The second of these two is a staggering storm upon the ear, an angry venomous one with only the thought of removing all peace and calm within its recipient. It offers a groove behind the artillery sent rhythms that is mesmeric yet intimidating, and the combination of all a compulsive transgression that is as rewarding as it is testing.

The release is completed just as pleasingly by Front Towards Enemy, another formidable and infectious track. It offers a leaner metallic groove to make it more accessible than the other three songs but just as imposing and strewn with great quality and invention.

One can only see What The Night Brings having a big part and influence within extreme metal coming out of the UK in the future, and already with Bound By Apathy they have laid the evidence to their current importance and undeniable promise. Already an impatient anticipation for more from this great band is brewing.

www.facebook.com/Whatthenightbrings

RingMaster 31/03/2012

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Kingsize: All These Machines

The multi flavoured debut album from LA rock band Kingsize is a mischievous and intriguing little creature. Consisting of ten vibrant and thoroughly engaging tunes, All These Machines made this review one of the longest written time wise. The lengthy time was taken up spending ages trying to work out what and whom parts of the diverse songs sounded like. Surely the same with 99% of the releases I hear you say and agreed but with Kingsize they do not really sound like anybody, their compositions and sounds unique and distinct but like a seductive perfumes on other beautiful women fragrances of other artists would impose themselves before swiftly passing in a breath. This admittedly added to a deeply enjoyable and satisfying date with a long awaited and thrilling album.

L.A. based Kingsize first came to notice with their 2008 EP’s The Good Fight and The Bad Night. Between them they brought twelve captivating tracks which instantly made one stand up and take notice with a smile on the inside. Before then the band almost did not come to be as guitarist Cary Beare was planning to leave town disillusioned with things in search of his musical dream. Right before he was to leave old friend drummer Jason Thomas Gordon called him up to see if he wanted to jam. Thankfully this led to the duo impressed with what they created, to talk about forming a band. Agreement was reached but only on the promise that Thomas Gordon provided the band with the lead vocals, Beare loving what the drummer brought to their music and knowing no one else would do. Eventual agreement was the beginning of Kingsize, an initial duo added to when they heard bassist Matt DelVecchio in another band and told them “We’re stealing your bass player.”

Since their two EP’s the band has evolved into an important force on the Southern California music scene, as well as having three songs in popular videogame Rockband 3, writing the theme song for the CBS sitcom Gary Unmarried, and having a trio of songs included on the soundtrack of Philip G. Flores’ award-winning film The Wheeler Boys, not to forget their track Sweetheart, I’m Only Stopping to Start being placed the new Robert DeNiro movie Freelancers co-starring Forest Whitaker and 50 Cent. Now with finally the release of their excellent debut album, 2012 looks like being the year Kingsize steps out boldly into the wider world.

All These Machines opens with the high tempo enthused rock of Switch, an invigorating follow up to earlier songs like Miss America and Elevator, all insatiable rock music fused with the energy and thrust of garage punk and dirty rock n roll. The band has always been strong songwriters with an instinctive grasp on how to captivate their audience but within the first song there is already an apparent maturity and tighter feel to their music something the remaining tracks more then back up. With guitars that seek and rile up the heart and rhythms from bass and drums to get the pulse racing the song is rock at its easy best.

Following track Dead Broke continues in the same vein with air punching riffs and eagerly stomping rhythms. The garage feel continues to permeate and the flitting thoughts of other bands are in full swing. Essences of the likes of MC5 and Eddie and The Hot Rods come though then tastes of The Cars and Television, eclectic and quickly dissipating the spices are all there.

The variety of the album spreads from this point, with the pop orientated hypnotic Overdone, the soulful grace of The Technocratic, as well as the emotive ballads of the title track and the closing We’re All alcohol with its wonderful choir parts, all leading one by the hand down bright and distinctly different avenues.

The opening duo of songs excites deeply but the highlight of the release is Heart Surgery a song that brings Tom Petty, Tom Verlaine and We Are Scientists into an infectious twisting of the senses. With guitar melodies that burst like sunspots and a murmuring bass behind the great emotive vocals of Thomas Gordon, the song is a gem and glows brighter still with the classic rock fuelled solo Beare unveils. It is given a run for its money though by the Bowiesque Ambien with its Jean Genie driven stomp through the ear to make a quartet of songs the album is a must have for alone.

All These Machines is a party for the senses brought with thoughtful and well crafted sounds and invention. Kingsize are here and waiting your attention, it would be rude to make them wait surely. http://thisiskingsize.com

RingMaster 30/03/2012

 Kingsize are also involved with the wonderful Music Gives to St. Jude Kids campaign, a project created by Jason Thomas Gordon with the sole purpose of raising money and awareness for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (which Jason’s grandfather Danny Thomas, founded in 1962) through music-based initiatives.

Music Gives to St. Jude Kids has already forged partnerships with artists like Sheryl Crow, Kings of Leon, and Stone Temple Pilots and has garnered the sponsorship of both Live Nation and Ticketmaster to name a few.

For more information on this great project go to stjude.org/musicgives, thank you.

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General Surgery: A Collection of Depravation

If you are a goregrind fan and definitely a blood soaked follower of General Surgery than the release of A Collection of Depravation is a must investigate invitation. Having re-signed with Relapse Records recently the band has brought their rarer slices of bloodied mayhem from across their twenty odd years into a charnel house of pleasure in the shape of this compilation album. The thirty track medically ruptured colossus includes tracks from out of print singles, some vinyl only EP releases, unheard demos, songs that blistered compilations and also a few covers. With the release digitally remastered by Scott Hull of Pig Destroyer the result is an intense and malicious blood fest that if it is your kind of car crash tipple will please intensely, a gore hound metal treat.

General Surgery are often called Carcass clones which though it is easy to understand with the sounds the band violate with taking a definite lead from that band it has always been a harsh and uninspired comment to throw against them. Admittedly here at RR neither band has previously been high on our listening list or featured on our table of knowledge but the General Surgery sounds we have come across has always had that individual something to easily stand tall and distinct in their own right, the new release the proof.

A Collection of Depravation features almost every General Surgery line-up in their time, the members across the years having also featured in the likes of Dismember, Afflicted, Crematory, Nasum, Repugnant, Regurgitate to name a few. The release is a major slab of band and goregrind history which with its quality tracks and the considered attention given to its contents and release stands high amongst a flurry of rediscovered/re-released materials from bands in recent months.

The majority of songs on the album barely learn to count past two minutes, many much shorter but they still leave one breathless and eager for more of their intrusive festered sounds. Though their chosen structure the excellent Convival Corpose Disposal Methodology and its six minute carnage shows the band has the ability to turn their violations into an epic brutal assault just as easily and skilfully.

Personal standout tracks on A Collection of Depravation include the brilliant pair of Fulguration and Idle Teratoma Core, both offering a groove and hypnotic grind that leads one eagerly into the less welcomingly putrid blood baths elsewhere. The duo easily take top honours on the release but the likes of Mortuary Wars, Restrained Remains, Unruly Dissection Marathon, and Scalpel Infestation all are very impressive slabs of meat too as well as the excellent Xysma and Carcass covers of Foetal Mush and Empathological Necroticism respectively. There is no weak track anywhere to be fair, the proof of maybe how underrated the band have been.

A Collection of Depravation in many ways is mainly for goregrind and Swedish death metal lovers though there is plenty for other extreme metalers to get their kicks from within the release. As mentioned General Surgery has not previously been a band followed closely here but after this fine compilation a look into their other releases is certainly the next order of the day.

Ringmaster 30/03/2012

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Massive Assault – Death Strike

Death Strike the new album from Dutch death metal band Massive Assault is a bulging belligerent brute which does what it says on the tin, well as the band name suggests for sure. Through ten cantankerous bruisings called tracks the release thunders and bludgeons to great and eager effect. The admittedly album does not explore brand new avenues but instead draws a deep  energy and colossal sized sounds from the well of old school Swedish death metal linking it to veins of thrash, hardcore and seeping drops of punk. As a result Death Strike is a tanker of formidable fully charged metal that gets the job done to a fruitful and pleasing satisfaction.

Since their formation in the early part of the last decade Massive Assault has left lingering marks through early demos, their debut EP Conflict , their first album Dystopian Prophecies, and the Slayer EP of last year. They are a band that leaves one breathless even if unsurprised with each release, their sounds driven by a familiar flavour and direction but with a feel and energy that leaves many other similar spiced bands choking in their dust. Their second album released through FDA Rekotz, a label that impresses with each release they share to the world, sees the quartet again assault the senses with their expected and thrilling sound though with a possibly leaner and tighter craft to their compulsive creations. If the likes of Dismember and Entombed rile up your juices than Death Strike is an album for you, a release deeply footed in the pits of Swedish death metal but with more than enough freshly cultivated additives to offer not necessarily something markedly new but music that churns up your senses and hikes up the pleasure.

Opening track Drive towards Death sets out the intent of the album from the first note. Destructive riffs flying from every angle whilst a teasing groove from guitarist Fredde Kaddeth spears through the ear with mesmeric appeal so that within moments the song an essential treat. Alongside these delicious infectious manipulations the bass of Jozze lays darkened ominous muscular tones whilst the rhythms and beats of drummer Gideon strike with the precision of the keenest artillery.  It brings nothing remarkably original forward but the track is a wonderful irresistible partner in crime, a metal song that hits all the right spots.

The consistency across the album is high though some of that is down to the songwriting not worrying too much about being openly varied from song to song. That is not a big issue as the core sound and creativity is distinctly and strongly enjoyable and Massive Assault do add noticeable flavours to songs to stop them being simply reorganised clones, the likes of Plead Not Guilty full of punk infused energy and the excellent Pride adding a heavy metallic coating to its intensity.

Throughout vocalist Carl Christ spews out the lyrics with a delivery as caustic and venomous as the war born themes of the song, his unvaried delivery a vibrant stinging compliment to the combative sounds around him. Often lack of variety in vocals across a release is a negative but here it works perfectly, his inflections and the pacing of his grizzled assault controlled and intelligent.

As Death Strike sends its tracks relentlessly onward some songs leave a deeper enjoyable scar. Finished Sympathy tramples through the ear with a steady and even pace, its heavy weight consumption impressive as it crushes bone and sinew under foot. With rhythms using the senses like a punch ball the track leaves a gasping husk in its wake, an open victim for the following chug fest of Turning Tides. The slow stalk opening of the song prowls and glares, the muscles of the song flexing through swarming oppressive riffs and drums sure of their dominance. Eventually erupting into a gallop of thumping solid guitars and rhythms the track stomps all in sight whilst a brief but enlightened solo alleviates the pressure for a brief yet inspired moment.

Death Strike has no pretensions to be what it is not, the release simply a powerful and completely enjoyable unrestrained companion to share mayhem with. Massive Assault does not open new doors but they certainly make the room they command a very thrilling place to be in.

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RingMaster 30/03/2012

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Candidate23: Stay Awake EP

Photo @ copyright Jeb Smith

The new EP UK indie band Candidate23 graces the ear like a breath of fresh air, its masterful weave of striking melodies, expressive vocals, and heart borne invention instantly making one stand up and take a focused attentive look which many other releases fail to achieve. All bands deserve and get from music lovers a respectful attention but some demand a little bit more by offering something extra. Upon their Stay Awake EP  the quartet do just that to take one on a fulfilling emotional ride from first note to last, the vibrant experience a complete and joyful pleasure.

Hailing from North West England the band formed in 2010 and have already made a noticeable mark through sharing stages with the likes of Funeral for a Friend, Young Guns and The King Blues as well as with debut single One For You in the November of their formation year and its successor Confusion, both riding high in the iTunes Rock Chart in 2011. Their sound is tagged as indie pop but there is a height and depth to it that goes much further in sound and within the listener.

The release starts off with Mona (I’m not leaving) and an immediate engagement with the ear is achieved through its persistent yet unobtrusive guitar welcome and keys that soar with style around the ear. As vocalist Will Hayes adds his impressive tones the song takes a deep breath before swelling with a purring bassline from Ryan Dennett alongside firm beats from Jono Tringham and the expressive guitar play of Alex McIntyre and Andy Perrin. With a flavour that reminds a little of Mind Museum and Post Adolescence the song leaves the emotions pumped and eager for more.

The title track steps up next with a less boisterous flow from the first but with just as satisfying results. Vocalist Hayes within two songs shows what a fine talent he is, his vocals strongly expressive and with a depth that is controlled and easily impressive. The song does not grab as firmly as the opener or as those that follow but more than provides the evidence of the songwriting skills of the band and the realisation of their well rounded and imaginative ideas.

10 Minutes Of Fame is an emotive song which caresses the ear with a textured drama and weight that pulls one deep within its captivating heart. The song opens up the band to nothing but praise, the song though less instant as maybe the others taking the senses on an impactful stroll through the artistry and passion of Candidate23.

The best song on the release closes things up beautifully. Karma is majestic, its glowing soundscape a warm and vibrant field of sound to share feelings and thoughts with. The picky guitars play the senses like a harp whilst the rhythms and bass add a bubbling vein to the song, and the orchestral sounding expanse that washes over at times adding to the wonder and magic of the song.

Candidate23 at times remind of other bands but one can never truly pinpoint who or how but there are moments on Stay Awake when thoughts of bands like Placebo, The Verve, and Doves flit through. Their sound has a friendliness which seems familiar but has a distinction which is fully their own. We will hear a lot more of Candidate23 as they make what is surely a rapid rise and an eager anticipation is in full flight after this release.

http://www.candidate23.com

RingMaster 29/03/2012

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Anton Mink: Outside The Lines

Anton Mink is a band that wraps itself around the ear like a balmy summer night, their sounds a sultry and sexy mesmeric pleasure that teases and inflames leaving one a little bit sweaty and more than a touch excited. Their latest album Outside The Lines is a temptress, a wanton fusion of sirenesque melodies and vibrant warmth borne from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It leaves one with a glow, an inner tingle that can only be appeased by diving right back into the refreshing light and hazy sounds that caused the problem in the first place.

Already previously hooked by the track Beer On The Floor, a song repeatedly on a consistent rotation here the prospect of reviewing the album unleashed an impatient anticipation and eagerness before it even found its way into the ear. Outside The Lines does not disappoint as the ten songs within offer a varied and completely rewarding treat for the senses. From the opener through to the closing notes the album is a fiesta for the heart and a mischievous pleasure for the soul.

Louisville, Kentucky quartet Anton Mink came to be when punk bassist Curtis Flame (Anton Z) started a project to combine distinct creativity and individuality. An initial advert in a local paper led the talented electronic inspired singer Chloa and her wonderfully unique vocals to answer his call, and already the band taking an inventive form. After a harder search the duo found a drummer off a post on a music shop wall and guitarist Andy Jack via an ad in a local school of music. A small tour followed as well as their self titled debut album in 2007. With the follow up Outside The Lines unveiled in the latter months of last year and a new drummer in Clinton added through craiglist, Anton Mink are set to make a striking and naughty mark during 2012 with the album taking the lead.

The album opens with Watchman, colourful melodic notes spotting the ear as drums hustle eagerly in preparation for the glory ahead. Flame’s bass pulsates with a beckoning glee whilst the jazzy play of Jack dazzles without blinding. Immediately Chloa joins all attention veers towards her enthused and distinctive tones. She offers a teasing vibrancy and intriguing delivery that captivates and leads one by the hand like a seductress. The quality of the songwriting allows her to shine, hard to stop really but uses her irrepressible style as a focus to wrap its equally inventive and infectious ingenuity around.

Shysty swaggers in next moving from the jazz funk leanings of its predecessor into a rock n roll based song with a soulful feel to it that blends perfectly with the keen stomp that veins the track. The song is like that legendary tart with a heart, its flow enticing like an exotic dancer and its emotion touching.

As mentioned the sounds are diverse and unpredictable, the likes of the excellent classic progressive rock/pink spiced My God which gives a thought of this is how The Pixies would have sounded if around in the late sixties, Pristine Chapel with its southern rock/country infusion, and the sizzling burn up of Volcanic Vacation where the band venture into the harder electrified rock of a Blood Ceremony, all offering something strikingly different and fully compulsive.

The best moments on the album lie side by side starting with the delicious Chronic with its reggae/Caribbean driven flourishes and hypnotic pulse beat. With Chloa adding an extra lit to her irresistible vocals so she reminds a little of Asa, the song is a hot cruise for the heart, a party to revel in, and an addiction impossible not to be hooked by. This is followed by the previously mentioned Beer On The Floor, a lustful song of drunken mischief with a tinge of regret but at the same time musically sounding quite proud of itself despite the words Chloa expresses, she cannot fool us.

Outside The Lines is pure pleasure from start to finish, an unassuming release that inspires and offers something new persistently. If you have not heard of Anton Mink, start right here and be prepared for that cold shower you might need right after.

http://antonmink.com/

RingMaster 29/03/2012

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