Sawthis – Youniverse

SAWTHIS (3)

Tagged as modern thrashers and sounding like the exhilarating offspring of Static X meets Bloodsimple, Italian band Sawthis unleash one of the year’s highlights in the corrosive riveting storm of Youniverse. An unrelenting and breath-taking tempest of sonic intensity and exhausting predation, the eleven track release simply leaves the senses and passions raging for its predation.  Not arguably ground-breaking but thoroughly refreshing and explosively incendiary, this is one album that all thrash fans should add to their personal playlists.

Formed in 2000, the Teramo hailing quintet bred their sound on the inspirations of the likes of Soilwork, Machine Head, Slipknot, Metallica, Testament, and Pantera. Debut album Fusion emerged in 2003 receiving very positive responses from media and fans. This was followed by an extensive time of shows which saw the band alongside the likes of Destruction, Anathema, Sybreed, Impaled Nazarene, Extrema, Sadist, Necrodeath, and Assassin. Their live performances consistently added to the stature of and acclaim upon the band; further appearances with Lacuna Coil, Entombed, Shaman, and Konkhr to name a few only cementing their reputation. Second album Egod appeared in 2009 via Scarlet Records, again to strong reception and followed by more intensive gigs and tours, this time with bands such as The Haunted, Primal Fear, Bulldozer, Cattle Decapitation, God Dethroned, and Sepultura last year. Released through Bakerteam Records, Youniverse is the next step to world awareness and domination, its aim you suspect destined to success.

A conceptual album focused on the theme of multiple personality disorder, Youniverse immediately tests thoughts and synapses with SAWTHIS_YOUNIVERSE_COPERTINA HDThe Logical Color. Rhythms splinter bone from the opening second with deep drilling riffs a muscular companion. It is an attention gripping entrance which only explodes to greater heights as the two protagonists extend their rabidity to further heights and the vocals of Alessandro Falà scorch the air with his vocal squalling, every syllable intense and malevolently sculpted but forcibly engaging like the sounds around him. Ensuring escape is futile the song relaxes into a tantalising embrace, the guitars of Adriano Quaranta and Janos Murri gnawing the senses whilst offering new mystique to the blistering encounter whilst the vocals also offer a more respectful and mellow if still an intimidating and commanding lilt. The track is a scintillating introduction, varied and adventurous but deliciously predatory from start to finish.

The following fury of The Waking Up is equally rapacious and magnetic, the beats of Michele Melchiorre building an irrepressible trap whilst his vocals slip perfectly and potently alongside those of Falà, their at times dual attack an exceptional driving force for the riveting inventive sounds. The bass of Gaetano Ettorre also creates a sinew clad prowl which menaces and tempts like a stalking beast within the torrent of intensity and energy surrounding its intent. It is another towering song continuing the immense start and soon matched by both The Voice Falls On Me and The Disturbed. The first has an insidious breath and air certainly around the vocals but tempers it with a melodic fire reminding of In Flames whilst its successor which features Rob Cavestany from Death Angel, simultaneously sears and smoulders within the ear whilst weaving melodic and vocal temptation that leaves the passions alight and guitar enterprise which spawns burning tendrils of sonic enterprise to seduce without mercy.

Through all the tracks the album deepens its hook within the emotions breeding a hunger which dares Youniverse to fail their need. No such realisation is forthcoming as the likes of The Indelible, a track which swings seamlessly from carnivorous intensity to seductive melodic flaming, The Impure Soul with its creeping twisting sonic vines of excellence within a ferocious yet carefully trained consumption, and The Spotlight only increase the dramatic strength and torrential imaginative lure of the release. The last of the three finds an extra growl and rawer presence to its caustic provocation, though melodic and harmonic exploration is only a deep breath away and soon merging into the turmoil with enchanting toxicity.

Before departing the album ensures the listener is left a wasted blissful wreck through the corrosively contagious tempest that is The Mad and the hellacious beauty of The Switch, both tracks stretching the passions and boundaries of the album further. Earlier we said that there was debatably nothing unique about Youniverse which was true except that as tracks like this and the closer, The Walking exploit the rapture seeded, it is hard to remember many others stalking the same routes as Sawthis. The final song is no slouch in whipping up the senses and satisfaction either, its rampaging stomp another blaze of sonic venom and melodic adventure wrapped in creative savagery.

Produced by Paolo Ojetti (Infernal Poetry) with the band, Youniverse is a massive war of pleasure and enthrallment, a release which takes Sawthis to the upper echelons of new metal, and without doubt another album to add to the growing pool of serious contenders for album of the year.

www.sawthis.it

9.5/10

RingMaster 30/09/2013

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Raving Season – Amnio

Raving Season pic 1

    Amnio, the debut album from Italian band Raving Season, is a release which challenges and provokes with a striking sound and imagination which however you feel about it lingers with its memorable presence. Hailing from Rome, the sextet has created an album which fuses the passionate melodic tones of gothic metal with the intense oppressive breath of doom, expansive almost carnivorous atmospheres soaking the listener in deep and forcibly expressive emotive atmospheres. Constantly intriguing and magnetic, if at times labouring within its own creative exploration and occasionally a battle on the senses, the release is a compelling and imaginative excursion through the melodrama and darkest shadows of emotions and life.

The seed of Raving Season came with the meeting of the band’s two vocalists Judith (clean) and Federica (coarse) with guitarist Sergio. Initially with the intent to blend death and doom metal with openness to other rich spices, the band evolved its distinct sound over the following years as firstly guitarist Marco S. joined the line-up and then after the release of the debut The Brightness Of My Disaster EP, came the addition of Paolo (bass), Laura (keyboards), and Stefano (drums).  Two years in the making and seeing a new bassist, also called Marco, and Luca now on drums, Amnio is the potent full introduction to the band and their impressively textured sound which persuades with a voice sure to please fans of the likes of Draconian, early Anathema, My Dying Bride, and Isis.

A warm yet almost ominous wash of ambience soaks the ear first as the first up Turandot opens its welcoming arms, intensity and Raving Season coverenergy rising the closer it comes into view expelling a scowl of shadows aligned to the great grizzled growls of Federica which court their temptation. The track conjures a dark embrace with guitars and bass scything a sinister narrative which is suddenly reined in as the melodic heart of the track opens up its sun with the full tones of Judith and her operatic strength scorching notes and air. On this track certainly, her voice takes a little while to take to, if ever wholly accepted when she is truly searing the ear, but it is a thing of personal taste only as like to the opposing style of her companion, there is an undeniable skill and depth to be admired. The song itself is a strong draw into the release if unspectacular but it does spark rewarding thoughts and emotions to its fluid course.

The following Dusk Dance and My Last Murderer continue the good start, the first an melancholic seduction with prowling shadows which goads and inspires the atmosphere to evolve with feistier dramatic colour and intensity whilst its successor offers a similar start before twisting back on the senses with a malicious technical taunting to the guitar and invention driven by the aggressive venom of Federica. It is a superbly mixed pairing of light and dark, a beauty and the beast like tempting to the sound which evokes gothic hues upon the imposing canvas of the song.  The second of the two is the start of an elevation in the impact and appeal of the already pleasing release, the next up Silent Lake taking thoughts on a darkly lit float through expressive and bracing emotion rife with menace and danger framed by powerfully evocative strings and keys whilst Restless Rain (The Noise of Rain) provides a stimulating and epic soundscape within the confines of dark corridors and troubled hearts. It has a doom laden gait, a slow and lumbering prowl ridden by an excellent mix of harsh vocals unleashing demonesque enticement within a patient beauty.

There are moments where the album arguably labours over aspects and its intentions, losing the spark and grip which enthrals in other moments and allowing thoughts to drift at times, though the best two tracks on the album My Darkest Season Pt. 2 and Suspanded in a Spiral have no problem in securing total focus. The first is a glorious emotive hug with Judith bringing her finest performance and balance on the album, the euphoric depth of the song tempered by fine growls providing the most inspiring and imagery crafting moment of the album, and the second a rapacious and hungry stretch of intensity and aggressive enticement, Federica leading the fiery and majestic assault. Easily the best track on the album it tests and seduces with skill and invention, showing the further promise of the band in which they will hopefully stretch out ahead.

With the fine instrumental title track bringing an end to the My Kingdom Music released album, Raving Season is a band to take note of, even if Amnio does not quite stoke up a blazing fire inside for its undeniably creative offering.

www.facebook.com/RavingSeasonOfficial

7.5/10

RingMaster 09/08/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Resonance Room: Untouchable Failure

    Resonance Room pic

    Drenched in thick melancholic ambiences and dark gothic breath Untouchable Failure, the new album from Italian band Resonance Room, with skill and enterprise easily captures the imagination even if it at times struggles to ignite the same blaze of engagement with the passions. To be honest it is impossible not to develop a strong appetite for the album ensuring many returns to its inventive and emotive grandeur but at the same time it lacks the consistency to spark the raging fire it certainly suggests is within the hands of the band to inspire at some point.

Formed in 2008 out of the ashes of the band Fragment, the quartet from Catania was soon signed to My Kingdom Music and released debut album Unspoken a year later. It met with strong responses towards its gothic metal persuasion veined with strong flavours drawn from other genres. New album Untouchable Failure continues where its predecessor left off with Resonance Room expanding their sound with even more diversity and accomplished craft. To its rich gothic breath the album offers essences of doom and progressive metal whispering loudly whilst elements of classic metal and melodic elegance add their impacting presences for a blaze of imagination. Heard within the album are spices of influences to the band such as Katatonia, Anathema, Pain of Salvation, and Porcupine Tree, as well as times a strong melodic emotion which sparks thoughts of Poets Of The Fall.

The opening flames of first song The Great Insomnia immediately attracts a concentrated focus, their touch a scorching rub on Resonance Room coverthe ear around rhythmic sinews and an air blistering atmosphere. The song then slips into a delicious stroll of sonic elegance, warm and inviting vocals from Alessandro Consoli, and a compelling melodic caress from the guitar of Riccardo Failla. It is a mesmeric embrace which takes no time in raising expectations and anticipation of something toweringly impressive ahead. Shifting its gait, stance, and invention consistently, the track is an outstanding start with the subsequent lure of the mischievous keys sealing the already done deal between heart and song.

The stunning start is followed by Cages Of Dust and So Precious, two songs which undoubtedly make a valid and powerful case for their claim on the passions but just fail in their quest. The two songs with craft offer imagination and invention which leaves a strong if not lasting impression with the bass of Alfio Timoniere especially in the first of the pair casting shadows in the mellower moments and prowling with strong intent when the track opens up its muscles. Neither of the two cast a permanent mark on the ear unlike their predecessor and it is this not only here but with other songs which despite their excellent thought and presence leaves the album struggling to find the ardour it possibly should have deserved or earnt.

For each track which just fails to reap its rewards emotionally there is another like New Life which more than makes up for their missed opportunity. The song is an evocative wash of vocal strength from Consoli, a singer who leaves so many other more renowned vocalists in his shade with his performance upon the album, and fiery and at times emotionally acidic guitar invention, whilst the rhythms from drummer Sandro Galati enclose and frame the impacting encounter with surety and enterprising restraint. It is a stunning track which again shows the depths and rich songwriting of the band.

The likes of Naivety and Oblivion and A Picture repeat the irresistible heights the band do attain within the album, both kaleidoscopes of aural colour and melodic imagery  which entwines tenderness and voracity within their inventive courses. Though other songs like Outside The Maze and Prometheus, like some of the earlier songs are near misses in finding a long-term union with the listener the album ensures it ends on a further intensive glory with closing song Faded, a song with a melancholy which wraps itself around the passions.

It is only the lack of enough sparking moments to ensure a continual fervour across its length which stops the album from being a full on classic. Every song on Untouchable Failure is beautifully thought out and realised with a depth of imagination many bands would deal with the devil for. One feels Resonance Room will make that classic one day, with this only just falling short it is hard to think otherwise.

https://www.facebook.com/ResonanceRoom

7.5/10

RingMaster 18/03/2013

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Interview with Greg Cargopoulos of Absolace

From the unlikely place of the United Arab Emirates has come one of the most impressive and impassioned albums so far this year in the refreshing and stirring might of Fractals from Dubai quartet Absolace. Like a breath of fresh air within rock music the album is full of boisterous riffs, melancholic atmospheres, cultured songwriting, and emotive melodies. With the feeling that things could be on an even greater rise for the band, we had the pleasure of asking drummer Greg Cargopoulos about Absolace, their new album and more.

Hi and welcome to The Ringmaster Review. Big thanks for taking time to talk with us here.

Firstly for those unaware of the Absolace could you introduce its members?

Hey guys. On bass, from Australia, we have Ben Harris. On vocals we have Nadim Jamal, from Lebanon.  Jack Skinner, from UK, is our guitarist. And my name is Greg Cargopoulos. I’m the drummer of the band, and come from Greece.

Could you begin by telling us about the beginning of the band?

It all started when Jack and I were just jamming out a few tunes that I had written. We were trying to form a full band. We were looking for a drummer first of all to jam with. I was actually supposed to be the bassist originally, but it was so hard to find a drummer, that I ended up playing drums just to jam. I really loved the drums from the very start so I stuck with it. We were also originally supposed to have a female vocalist. But that idea eventually faded away for some reason.

After a while of writing bits and pieces, we realized there was enough material for an album, so jack and I booked a studio to record drums, and put down the tracks. We then started to track guitars and bass at my place. Then approached Nadim to be our singer, and tracked the rest of the album. After the album was complete, we approached Ben to be our bass player. The rest is history :)

Is there a story behind the band name or a relevance to it for you?

Yeh big time. I’ve always been a fan of bands that switch from a heavy sound to a mellower atmospheric sound, so that’s what I really wanted to do.  Absolace is a mixture of the words Absolute and Solace. Both words referring to the two sounds we move between. The heavier sound and the ambient sound.

You are the first rock band we have come across from the United Arab Emirates, is there a thriving rock scene there and in the Middle East in general?

No unfortunately there isn’t really. There’s a bit of an underground scene, that’s about it. It is getting better though. More and more bands are pushing further and going overseas. The biggest problem here is the lack of venues to play at.

One imagines it is much harder to be noticed as a band from that region worldwide than if a UK or US based artist. Have you found that to be the case so far?

Yeah definitely much harder. Not so much to get your music out, because we all have the internet, which gives you unlimited access to the outside world for our music. The problem is we can’t tour as easily as bands from Europe, UK, or US, which means we can’t promote our music as well.

You have just released the brilliant album Fractals, a release we love here. How long has it been in the making?

Writing for fractals started about January 2011 I believe. It took, on and off, about 4 months to write. In June we started tracking the album, which finished in September or October, with 1 month off in the middle. Then mixing and mastering at the end of the year. So yeh, about 4 months writing, and then, on-and-off, about 6 or 7 months production.

The songs within Fractals are beautifully crafted and presented but with an edge that stirs up emotions, suggesting a care and attention to every detail of your music  is as deep a part of your  songwriting as any organic evolution, is that so?

Yeah we definitely paid a lot of attention to detail with this album. We literally completely dissected some songs to get them as good as we possibly could. You have no idea how much time was spent on this.

How does the songwriting process work within the band?

Some songs differ from others. Some songs are written by one person, on pro tools, using programmed drums. Other songs are written as a result of a jam. It all depends. We don’t really have a specific formula.

The new album follows up your acclaimed and again rather special debut Resolve[d].How has the band and music evolved between the two releases to you?

Yeah it has definitely changed in some way, as it is a group effort now, rather than a single person’s writing. But that’s a good thing. A band’s music needs to change, it needs to keep evolving.  We’ve all changed as well. Everyone’s keeping healthy and happy. We’re all at a good stage right now.

You have been compared musically to the likes of Porcupine Tree and Tool and we threw in the flavours of Karnivool and Sunna in our review of Fractals, but what are the influences that have firstly made the biggest impact on you as people and secondly on the music of Absolace?

As people, we have so many influences there are just too many to list. Also musically, we are all influenced by so many bands including the ones you mentioned (Karnivool, Tool, Porcupine Tree). These are just the ones people are picking up on the most.

Tell us about the apparent theme within the songs on Fractals, the link between chaos and every day details of life.

It is all about relating the chaos theory to everyday life. Our lives, essentially, are chaotic systems, that are affected largely by initial conditions.

That link can be looked at either positively or negatively, and you combine both in your songs from the calm inspiring sounds that at times challenge and raise the intensity and your lyrics. What is the underlining impression you are hoping comes over in the album?

This album really speaks out the truth. Whether its happy moments of realisation, or harsh reality. It depends how you take things really. A lot of the lyrical content is sad-but-true topics in the world like modern-day slavery, tyrants, etc… It is supposed to have a bit of a shock effect.

There is a depth and expanse to the songs within the album that feels organic, like the songs dictated their own evolution is that so?

Yes that is definitely true. We try and write in a natural way. Not sticking to traditional structures. Also, we look at all of our instruments as a whole when writing, rather than individual parts. It is more of holistic way of writing.

 Do you feel a greater maturity to your songwriting and music has grown in the two years or so between your albums?

Yeah definitely. Songwriting, musicianship, showmanship. It has all grown in my opinion. It’s a natural course for musicians as long as the passion is still there. Also, more importantly, I think we’ve all become more familiar with each other musically.

Resolve[d] was mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia, Paradise Lost) and I was led to believe Fractals too but since I noticed production on the new album was down to you and U.S. producer Joshua F. Williams (Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Flo-Rida), could you clear that up for us please?

I actually produced both albums, using Jens as the mix and master engineer for Resolve[d], and Josh Williams as recording and mix engineer, and also to co-produce it. Both guys did a fantastic job. The obvious advantage of Josh is that he is in the same country. I think it is good to keep working with different people, keeps albums different from each other in terms of sound.

 Has the album turned out as you envisaged going in to the recording or did it bring some surprises to you along the way how it evolved?

Actually we pretty much had most of the songs nailed before going in, so no surprises there. However, Chroma Mera and Wade 2.0, we pretty much made it up as we went along. They turned out awesome considering.

How did the actual recording differ this time around, were there lessons learned the first time to make Fractals an easier experience?

Fractals was definitely put together easier than Resolve[d], but still a few frustration along the way. But it only get easier with every record…..I hope

 Is there any part of Fractals that gives you an especially deep satisfaction and glow inside?

Chroma Mera….FUCK YEAH!!! Also, the production turned out awesome. I’m so happy with it.

Going back to your homeland and Dubai where there are known social restrictions does that have an impact on music and what you are allowed to bring into a song lyrically?

Ummm, I dunno really….Our lyrics are never really a problem. They are not too provocative, and we don’t swear in our lyrics. Maybe if Rage against the machine were born today, and happened to live in Dubai, there might be a problem :)

You have played some high profile shows, like supporting Anathema in Beirut and playing in the Formula 1 celebrations in Abu Dhabi as examples as well as playing the Byblos Festival in Lebanon, so I have to ask how has the rest of the world not been fully aware of Absolace before now haha?

Probably cause we have yet to Tour. It is quite hard being from a place so isolated from the rest of the world. We’re working on it though, having PR campaigns to raise our awareness in EU, UK and US. We shall see :)

Do you ever see a time where you may have to relocate to find deserved recognition?

Some people have suggested that, but it is much easier said than done. We all have jobs, girlfriends, and commitments in our lives, and it is not always easy to drop it all to move country for the band.

So you have real lives to live alongside the band and if so do they make a generally seamless fit?

Yes we are all very busy people in our professional lives, and most of us have girlfriends. Ben is even expecting a child soon. It does get difficult sometimes to find the time, but as I see it, if the passion is there, you can always find enough time.

Tell us about your video for the brilliant I Am, So I Will (our fav song on the album).

We are super happy with the video. The shoot was really fun, really cool people to work with. It was a great experience overall. The director, Cyrile, he came up with the concept of visuals and screens. It looks pretty catchy, and I gotten us some good exposure. Youtube is a huge way bands are getting discovered these days, so our video presence is essential.

Once the wave of acclaim and attention we foresee coming over Fractals, have you any plans for the rest of 2012?

To start writing again :) Not many gigging plans this year, but hopefully a new release by early/mid next year, so we’ll be busy writing for the rest of this year.

Thank you for joining us to tell us about Absolace. Good luck with the album. 

Would you like to leave us with any last thoughts?

Thanks for giving your time for reading this interview :) Please check out the tunes, and the video, and leave some comments for us, join our mailing list, etc…Hopefully see some of you at a live show one day :)

Lastly tell us the one song or release that you would say truly inspired you to make music.

Hard to nail down to one album, so can I name 3? Pretty please? This will also give you a hint as to which years I started writing our stuff :)

-          Opeth – Ghost Reveries

-          Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet

-          Tool – 10,000 days

Thanks so much for the interview. Take care :)

Read the Fractals review @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/absolace-fractals/

The RingMaster Review 04/05/2012

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Interview with Bruno A. of Vertigo Steps

One of the most striking, enterprising and formidable releases to come out so far this year is the stunning Surface/Light from Vertigo Steps. The third album from the Portuguese / Finnish project consisting of Bruno A., Niko Mankinen, as well as Daniel Cardoso, is a deeply mesmeric and empowering album full of immersive thick expansive atmospheres, a melancholic breath, and close emotive enveloping sounds. Most of all it is an album of and real songwriting and expressively well crafted songs. Wanting to know more about the band and music we had the opportunity and pleasure at The RingMaster Review of asking Bruno A. all about Vertigo Steps and the album.

Hello and thank you for taking time to talk with us

Firstly would you just introduce the band to those not yet aware of your great sounds?

VS is pretty much the best band in the world you still haven’t listened to or heard about :) A wee bit more seriously now, it’s a project based in Portugal, but featuring several foreign guest musicians, mostly Scandinavian. The soundscape is a tad hard to pin down and the best is to have a few good listens, but could perhaps be loosely described as highly atmospheric and melancholic Heavy Rock, with several Metal touches and Progressive and Post-rock leanings. We will use any colour from the palette to enhance the global canvas. Strongly emotional and cinematic, but also oddly infectious.

How and when did Vertigo Steps begin?

September 2007, my bedroom. With little more than a guitar, programming software and an internet connection.

Was there an aim or main idea behind the band or the music it was set up to create?

Well, not a very specific, closed concept or grand design backing it all. But surely a very powerful will to come up with a new, refreshing and musically rich sound and vision – with no boundaries save for a high quality standard in all aspects of the band’s output.

You set up the band initially as a solo venture or was there always the intention of having contributing musicians?

Contributions were always intended, yes. Even though I came up with all music, words and concept, I knew I needed some gifted and unique musicians taking part in the action. Another reason would be I can’t play drums as good as Daniel or sing at Niko’s harmonic power and emotional delivery :). Might come out something akin to Tom Waits strung out on opium.

The band now has a core of Bruno, Niko Mankinen, and also Daniel Cardoso? I can imagine the acquaintance with Daniel being also Portuguese and having fingers in most things great from the country haha, but how did the link up with Finn Niko occur?

Yep, that’s pretty much the main core these days. Daniel has always been our producer and drummer, occasional backing singer and also bass player (except for the debut). I actually met and became friends with him around ’99 or so, long before he was producing all those bands. At the time being he played in Sirius and I was starting out Arcane Wisdom, my first “solo” project – for which he kindly offered his drumming skills. Nowadays he’s enjoying the international success he’s entitled to (Anathema, Anneke, etc,). As for Niko, I was an appreciator of his work with Misery Inc. and contacted him through email, sent him a couple of samples and he was interested from day one. Looking back now and watching his evolution and immersion in the VS sound, lyrics and philosophy, it all makes perfect sense. His work is miles away from what he was doing back then and his growing role as lyricist is also glove fitting. We have pretty much worked as a duo for some years now, even given the geographical distance. Apart from the 3 recordings in Portugal, we’ve also met in Helsinki and will do so again next July, in Berlin.

What are your major influences as a musician that has inspired you and the music?

The tangent universe and all that’s real enough to make me feel. If you mean exclusively musical influences, I have always listened to a lot of music and a lot of different styles and bands. Probably too many to mention here, stuff I pick everywhere from metal and rock to post-rock /ambient, soundtracks, electronic music, even classical and ethnic. But none of them ever worked specifically as basis for VS: our sound comes from everything that surrounds us, not just sound and definitely not any band/musician in particular. If you ask me, that’s the way it should more often be, music evolves with one’s own vision – however filtered through particular music tastes and life experiences – and not mere idol rehashing. And I think it shows – people are endorsing the fact we actually write songs, something sadly increasingly absent from heavier realms of music.

Your debut self titled  album came out in 2008 and was a striking album to say the least, how much of its impactful songs, sounds and ideas came as the album was created and how much was elements that has been imagined, thought up and stored in the years before the band even existed?

Good question, probably 50-50! I recall the songs on the debut ranged from 2004 until around the recording date – March 2008. I used to call it intentionally incoherent, because of the major differences in style, but that’s where my mind was at and how I envisioned such a debut album. Since the compositions and lyrics all came from the same place, some kind of cohesiveness would always be present. I still hold it dear as a pretty interesting release, full of energy and strength, an emotional rollercoaster, and am thankful for its warm reception. It did take a lot of people by surprise.

You have just released your exceptional third album Surface/Light. How has your sound changed from that initial release and though second album The Melancholy Hour to this new album?

Thank you! Well as I just mentioned the debut was ostensibly diverse but the idea for the following releases was always to raise the sound cohesion a bit, whilst maintaining the VS sound identity which is always a highly versatile one – never a band to write an album with 10 or 12 songs sounding exactly the same! But with The Melancholy Hour (which also saw great reactions) and, specially, Surface/Light, the songwriting comprised a more specific time period and thus the songs are more focused and sheltered under its albums’ abode. There is a considerable sound difference between Surface/Light and the debut or parts of it, even though you can also tell it’s the exact same band, something I think is natural and expected. It would be impossible to forge what is today Surface/Light back in 2008, for the album is also the product of our experiences and progression as humans and songwriters. Fortunately, and though the new release is the crowning achievement, all albums stand strongly on their own merits.

Has your song writing process changed distinctly over the years and albums too?

Hopefully, otherwise wouldn’t be doing the job right :) I guess 10 years ago I was somewhat over-creative and would insert 10 riffs in 7min songs. The riffs themselves were quite alright, but I evolved as a songwriter into making songs which I want to be memorable and timeless (at least for some!). Therefore I haven’t since long been interested in instrumental show-off or overly complex song structures. What I most enjoy listening to and creating are strong, emotional songs, with impact and that hit you on quite a deeper level than the flashing solo or überfast blastbeat – and I’m sure you know what I mean here. For instance, I always appreciated how acts like Katatonia, Green Carnation or even Anathema gradually emerged amidst the metal scene to become much more interesting prospects on their own and crave their particular niche, still rooted in metal but going far beyond its scope and boundaries.

Are you a songwriter who works relentlessly at a song from its seed until it has a breath of its own or one that takes their time, stepping back from it time to time?

There is really no rule here, it all depends on the mood and how the song appears and builds-up. But usually the main structure and primal grounds are set soon and fairly swift; afterwards I deal more with details, add-ons, atmospheres, whatever I think suits the song in order to enhance it, to grant it wings. Sometimes a specific background ambience or piano note can be as important to me as a riff or clean guitar melody.

With Surface/Light there is not so much a theme but there does seem a kind of connection that flows throughout each track on the album?

I have been told about this seamless connection – and agree. The album is probably best experienced as a whole, creating a mesmerizing, immersive experience, sorrowful but also rewarding and offering several glimpses of light from within the generally darker pathos. I feel the album title and artwork – as well as the lyrics – all offer fine clues to this pervasive undercurrent.

What do the songs deal with and take as inspiration?

Just things that somehow affect us in life. Observations on how to struggle amidst all the madness that surrounds us in modern-day extra-fast society and the extreme complexity of humankind, up to everyday emotions and reactions.

The songs vary from pure expansive atmospheres to at times sturdy aggression and all carrying a melancholic and dark essence, but it is also full of warmth and beauty. How much attention, time, and emotion goes into your music to craft such a full and emotive experience within piece of music?

Your description is I believe quite accurate. It takes the time enough for us to be happy with it. Sometimes not that much actually – I’m guessing because nothing is forced and it’s just the natural way in which the songs come out. This time the songs were all written over a 6 month period – between October 2010 and March 2011.

Does the music and the qualities we just mentioned reflect you personally and emotionally too?

I am sure of it, even though I’m probably not the best person to be discussing that.

Surface/Light is your first release on a label, Ethereal Sound Works. Has this had a big impact on recording and releasing the album?

None on the recording, cause it was done without any label behind. When it became ready we sent it to a couple and ESW presented the most interesting proposal. They also came up with the idea for the “sublight” EP and the very beautiful special digipak edition with the full discography – something I always thought should happen once a label would pick us up, because the first two albums had only seen digital release. Everything is working rather smoothly, we just arranged a release party which was filmed for a small video-edit and will have some merchandise soon, as well.

We mentioned him earlier and the album like your previous ones includes production from Daniel Cardoso as well as his musical skills. The man seems to be in everything good coming out of Portugal musically, what are his qualities that stand out for you and enhance your music?

I’m fond of Daniel both as a person and musician and he was always the obvious option to work with. As a musician and producer, he brings professionalism, instrumental proficiency and a good taste that suits VS rather well. His playing is something I truly enjoy and as producer he’s also cool to work with, especially because we need a strong cooperation, being myself pretty involved in this area. I like intelligent input, and with all the ideas I have on the VS sound and all the pre-production work and programming that I carry along into the recording, I would hardly match as well with a more close-minded producer who would take everything according to his own views and tastes. So forget Bob Rock.

Like in your previous releases Surface/Light contains many guests. Could you tell us a few, why you brought them in, and what they particularly gave extra to your compositions?

Jan Transit from In The Woods… I think needs no further introduction. Stein R Sordal and Sophie are usual guests and both shine with vocal radiance. Patrik Karlsson from This Haven is a first time guest, singing in two songs – incredibly talented vocalist.  All of them brought something very special and unique to their songs.

The way you record your albums with guests and forth, is Vertigo Steps able to be an active live band or likely to be at some point?

Not at the moment. At some point in the future… only time will yell!

What comes next after the Surface/Light? Ideas already forming for future songs?

Yes, even if I try to steer a bit clear of composing for a while after each album, there are always new, refreshing things popping out here and there. Some ideas for new songs and mostly acoustic parts. Exploring quite magical clean melodies, over dynamic, strong backing riffs. Anyway, I’ll relocate to Germany in June so I’ll probably keep playing acoustic guitar but won’t worry too much for now with a future pre-production. All in due time :)

Once more many thanks for sharing your time.

Would you like to leave with some words for those enjoying and about to experience the impressive creativity of Surface/Light?

First of all I’d like to thank you for the excellent review and interview as well. As for future listeners, I’ll strongly advise them to check our profiles – Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, BandCamp – to see for themselves what we’re about and hopefully if they enjoy our work and vision, feel free to order the albums and spread the word around. It would definitely be rewarding and fair to finally get a bit more worldwide exposure.

And lastly we thought the melody within Someone (Like You) was a shoe-in for a Bond movie soundtrack, if there was any movie series that you could soundtrack what would it be?

Not a particular Bond-freak myself but actually quite the cinephile, so your remark is wise and amusing! I have thought of making movie or short-movie soundtracks, given the highly cinematic and ambient nature of my music – both with VS and other. Perhaps an Aronofsky or Lynch movie, or a show like Carnivàle… maybe just an indie road movie. Something moody, eerie, psychological or even epic – and surely edgy!

Read the review of  Surface/Light @

The RingMaster Review 03/05/2012

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Grenouer: Computer Crime

When a band appear out of nowhere with a sound and release that makes one stop and pour full attention on its fresh and stirring body it simply lifts and re-energises the enthusiasm to continually search and listen to each and every new band that comes into view. Russians Grenouer is such a band though they are not really as such only fresh to these ears. The band itself has been a force in their country for many years but have yet to obviously make a truly striking mark outside of their homeland borders. With their excellent new mini album Computer Crime released via UK label Copro Records, they could turn the current interest from the rest of Europe into a much more powerful energy towards them.

Formed in 1992 the history of the band seems to be one of continual change or evolution going by their bio, not only in people but sound, and not a slight change either. Initially the St. Petersburg band was an underground/death metal band and with a sound which found a definition and maturity by the time of their debut album Border of Misty Times in 1996. Three more albums followed in the shape of Gravehead, The Order O’Folly and Presence with War between 1999 and 2003 to establish the band with fans and the underground media.

2006 saw the release of Try and a new sound for the band as they moved from within their death metal sound into a more experimental sound combined with industrial and polyrhythmic invention. The album took them to the attention of the likes of Hard Rock, Rock Sound and Metal Hammer and into a full album release with Casket Music. Next came Lifelong Days in 2008 through Locomotive Records and a busy time of festival and touring to share stages with bands such as Anathema, Cradle Of Filth, Soilwork, Pro Pain, Neurosis, Entombed, Tiamat, Testament, Textures, and Tesseract. Another rethinking of direction and sound emerged from this point with the discussions and differing opinions causing the band to go through a line-up change as it split in half. Vocalist Andrey Ind and guitarist Alexander Motor brought in second guitarist Igor Arbue and drummer Michael Coroner to replace the departed members of Grenouer, and worked on new songs to add to three recorded before the split. The new hard rock and post grunge lined sound took inspiration from the likes of Alice In Chains, Filter, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden. With a quintet of tracks renewed, produced and mixed at ‘Astia’ Studio in Finland with Anssi Kippo, who played bass and keys on the songs, and Jonas Kooto, the band created Computer Crime.

The release opens with Last Stop, a track which immediately announces its arrival with muscular riffs, intimidating rhythms and a predatory prowl around the ear. Sharp melodies cut through the intensity with a sure and satisfying craft whilst the growling intensity of the song is never far away, eager and ready to pounce from behind the inventive play and strong smooth vocals of Ind. The song offers up a mix of Gruntruck, Prong, and The Sun Explodes with more than a Meshuggah flavour to the rhythms and riffs.

The following Rejected is an equally impressive and welcome invasion of the ear, placing its creative melodic enterprise and blood pumping darkened energy upon the senses with craft. The bass of Kippo is a brooding stalking beast which adds a glorious sturdy and threatening vein to the openly appealing song.

One highlight of a very impressive album is See No Sun. Opening on an emotive atmospheric melodic weave with an ethnic lining the song entrances and entices immediately. It reminds of Motherjane as it sways and lights up the emotions, the controlled and passion fuelled path a compulsive and touching experience. Then the track unleashes a surprising inner blackness in an intense and venomous expulsion mid way in before returning to the captivating grace before.

The powerful and equal best track on Computer Crimes is Fix Your Life and with Golden Years completes the release. The first is a blend of towering riffs and spiky melodic intrusions whilst the latter a warm and vibrant track which without the harder edge of the other songs is still as rewarding and an infectious song that soon has one involved.

    Grenouer maybe new to a great many but with Computer Crimes that is sure to change, and the recommendation is to just go find it before it finds you.

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Grenouer/89279191818

RingMaster 01/04/2012

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Vertigo Steps: Surface Light

The new album from Vertigo Steps is a release that immerses itself deeply inside you as you fall within its own thick expansive atmosphere and close enveloping sounds. Surface Light forges and instigates a full union and experience that leaves the senses empowered and alive whilst searching for a deep breath with which to fall under the mesmeric towering sounds again. The album is an enterprising and formidable release which brings essences of rock, metal, and progressive rock into a compulsive sky of melancholic atmospheres and warm emotive clouds that stir and incite the emotions.

Surface Light is the third album from the Portuguese / Finnish project which was formed predominantly as a studio project in 2007 by Bruno A. (Arcane Wisdom). The project grew with Finn Niko Mankinen (ex Misery Inc.) joining to give a core duo to the band whilst they also brought in guests for recordings. A debut self titled album in 2008 drew strong attention and praise with comparisons of Katatonia and Green Carnation passed upon the music it brought forward. This was followed by equally acclaimed second album The Melancholy Hour in 2010 which again saw not only more guests alongside the duo to realise the songs but returning producer Daniel Cardoso, a man who is involved with so many impressive releases everywhere you turn, to add again brings his impressive production touch and drums skills to Surface Light.

The new album once more involves guest vocalists to bring a depth and firm variety to the songs plus Cardoso with drums and bass as well as production. For Surface Light the band has called on the striking talents of Jan Transit (In The Woods…,Transit), Patrik Karlsson (This Haven), Stein R Sordal (Green Carnation, Sordal) and Sophie (Ugarit), alongside the excellent tones of Mankinen. The combinations are majestic and enhance and flavor each song as deeply as the thoughtfully crafted music that surrounds them.

The album opens with the dark but warm Vertigo Dawn, an instrumental with soaring vocal harmonies and a desolate breath that works itself in far beyond the ear as it leads in the outstanding The Hollow. The band immediately pulls one directly into its heart as a web of voices and evocative sounds touch thoughts as they wrap themselves gently but firmly around its recipient. A melancholic ambience pervades the body alongside the stirring guitar creativity and provocative additional female vocals. It is a large yet intimate sound and one which lingers long after its final emotive note, though taking the album as a whole each song is never long in being replaced by equally impactful and full songs.

The following Silent Bliss is a vibrant and energetic track which lifts the emotions with stirring eager riffs and melodies but keeps it always personal with insightful and impassioned quiet moments of calm and restraint. The song reminds of latter Comsat Angels though it is not obvious exactly why to be honest but the atmosphere and infectiousness of the emotions invoke the comparison. As the album progresses the diversity of the album is more than apparent within its thirteen affecting compositions.

The album as a whole brings a kind of undefined theme or feeling at least with each and every luxurious yet saddened song. It is a wonderful blend of vibrancy and warmth which enthralls and uplifts whilst stemming from a darkened heart wrapped in sorrow and under a dimmed light. The wonderful Tonight I Died, Tomorrow I’ll Live with its post rock/gothic tension, the excellent melodic rock Helsinki, and the impassioned Someone (Like You) with a melody that would suit any Bond film, all burn with a heavy yet glowing heart that makes the listen a complete and deep event.

With further delights in the rousing Zeppelin On Fire, the impressive and best track Schadenfreude, a song that has a life and world all of its own, and the closing The Porcupine Dilemma which feels like a conclusion pulling all before it into a final immense release of passion, the album is a tremendous example of songwriting. It is a statement of far reaching atmospheres brought from the melding of heavy and stirring sounds with emotive and ardent dark to light feelings by the band. Released via Ethereal Sound Works, Surface Light and Vertigo Steps is manna for any who revel in the likes of Katatonia, Green Carnation, Porcupine Tree, Opeth, and Anathema or basically intense melodic and passional music.

RingMaster 26/04/2012

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Absolace – Fractals

In the midst of some extremely high quality and high intensity releases so far this year the new album from rock band Absolace is a refreshing and stirring side step. A cultured impassioned album, Fractals works its way deep within senses with an emotive mix of boisterous riffs, melancholic atmospheres, and melodies that court thoughts and the heart equally. The band has created a thoughtful album that plays with its listeners own thoughts, the inspiring energies and emotions as well as ideas within the lyrical content provocative and deeply satisfying.

Absolace are a quartet from the United Arab Emirates who since 2008 have shown a craft and accomplished musicianship that defies anything but acclaim. Their debut album Resolve[d] in 2010 brought them to the attention of media and fans across the Middle East but not yet to the level they deserve elsewhere. Fractals should correct that, the release a defined progression and more mature  album to their first that sets the band as one of the more exciting and impressive bands around. The Dubai foursome of vocalist Nadim Jamal, guitarist Jack Skinner, bassist Ben Harris, and drummer Greg Cargopoulos have opened for the likes of Anathema and 30 Seconds to Mars as well as making appearances at festivals like the Peace One Day Live Festival and the Formula 1 Festival in Abu Dhabi. With a sound that recalls the likes of Tool, Karnivool, Porcupine Tree, and Sunna, their music has a beauty and grace that sweeps one up inside. It is fair to say it does not rile up the emotions to excitable levels of say a August Burns Red or Beneath The Buried And Me but instead Absolace work with a more tender and personal connection to its recipient, each song and piece of sound, certainly on Fractals, a deeply touching and satisfying experience to immerse within.

The opening Sirens is an impactful example of what Absolace is all about. The song offers punchy rhythms, testosterone lined riffs, and a bass line on a formidable prowl that veins the track wonderfully, whilst continually well crafted melodies and passions envelope the ear and beyond, the full sound searching the depths of heart and mind. Beautifully crafted and elegantly delivered the song is just the forerunner of nine more equally majestic songs.

The likes of The Rise, Wade 2.0, and The Fall all enrapture with a haunting majesty and stunning beauty, the first of the three a textured tapestry to fall wholly involved with whilst the third is a dynamic song that glides from peaceful glory through to a more muscular stirring, a near raucous treat to recharge the energies within. There is not a moment where the album does not light up the senses, the band masterful and immense whether stirring up the pulse rate with defined urgent rhythms and athletic eager riffs or captivating with soul filling melodies and atmospheric ambient laced class.

If there can be highlights in an album that is one whole highlight it is the wonderful I Am, So I Will a song with chunky riffs, growling guitars and an irresistibility catchy groove, and the outstanding Chroma Mera, a song that takes one through many avenues, all mesmeric and all revelling in beauty. The songs, as is the whole of Fractals, are infectious. Not in the usual instantaneous way but through a continual creative wash that immerses one in to delightful and ingeniously imaginative sounds.

Fractals is as mentioned just beautiful, there is no better word for its powerful and deeply impressive invention. Mixed  by Josh William at JFW Music and Sound, the album is an essential listen for anyone who appreciates well crafted and heart inspired music. Absolace may not have been on the radar of many before now but Fractals will soon change that, the album the evidence that the band and rock music has just gone up many levels.

RingMaster 23/03/2012

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