Sister – Hated

Since their beginnings in 2006 Stockholm glam metal punks Sister have gained much notoriety for their impressive live shows, and with the added release of demos have fuelled a growing anticipation for a full length album. The release of Hated on Metal Blade Records will satisfy those eager ears as well as gaining more attention from new comers to their sleaze punk sound.

Hated is bursting with dirty aggression, the tracks standing proud and loud in the faces of all who dip into their filthy punk sound. Their music is and gives nothing particularly new, frequenting the same cemeteries that Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13 or Murderdolls call their home, but the irresistible riffs and hooks their songs are bursting with makes that nothing more than a welcome signpost for what to expect from the quartet.  

The album starts with a meaningless forgettable intro but with a length of just 20 seconds the release really starts with the impressive ‘Body Blow’.  It is grimy, dark, and very satisfying, the guitar of Lestat driving and joyful alongside the compelling rhythms from Rikki and Carl on bass and drums respectively. Vocalist Jamie brings his Wednesday 13 delivery, whether intentional or it is just his natural sound, there is a close similarity which many other bands also share, though admittedly Wednesday 13 is probably in most of them. Most of all, the track is great fun, undemanding and delivering exactly what it says ‘on the tin’.

The album contains a firm and strong consistency throughout, the tracks of the punk thrasher ‘Bullshit & Backstabbing’ and the Motley Crüe like ‘Hated’, fine examples of what the band does best, which is to entertain without bringing any pretensions.

Two tracks stand out head and shoulders over the strong line-up, the infectious ‘Mother Fuckers (Like You)’ and a dirty rock ‘n’ roll classic in ‘The Unlucky Minority’. Both ride upon stomping riffs and pulsing basslines, grabbing the listener giving no hope of escape until the last note has dropped. There is also a third track that grabs more attention than most, the piano led ballad ‘Would You Love A Creature’.  Vocally the whole band get involved and the song flows with an ease and confidence that shows the band can bring surprising ideas and directions to their sound if they so wish, mainly though they just want to entertain.

Hated is a simple satisfying chunk of extremely enjoyable sleaze punk rock ‘n’ roll. Sister do not try to or pretend to be anything more than what they are, a very agreeable and entertaining band that guarantees nothing more than great rock music and total fun.

Pete RingMaster 05/07/2011 Registered & Protected

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Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax Hypersleep Dialogues EP


   The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues is an EP of just three tracks, but a trio of tracks that in length, substance and quality are immense and powerfully rewarding. The sound within the release invades and consumes, leaving one an empty but fully satisfied shell as the last note slips inside and away.

The EP is the first release from North Carolina metalcore band Between the Buried and Me since their 2009 album The Great Misdirect, the band returning with a release bulging, within its trio of songs, with ingenuity, complexities and impressively creative ideas. The acclaim and response to their previous release has made the spotlight on this new EP even more intense but it is a challenge the band more than live up to. The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues is also the first release on Metal Blade Records, the label and band seems a perfect fit for each other, and it should be an enormously fruitful union.

   The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues serves as the first instalment of a two-part story involving two human characters who live in different planes of existence, separated by millions of light years, each confronted with similar personal issues that they need to deal with leading to both having to face decisions that will change their lives, and perhaps the course of the universe, forever.

Spectacular Reflection’ opens the release, a track engaging many variants of noise, aggression and impressive melodies to ensure 11 minutes of joyful innovation. The track is intense, the invasive guitars of Paul Waggoner and Dusty Waring are vibrant and harsh, striking alongside the war like bass of Dan Briggs and the explosive destruction dropped by Blake Richardson’s drums. Within the song the fluid transitions from the aggressive tones into smooth vocals from Thomas Giles Rogers Jr are impressive, matching the switch to melodic harmonies and chords musically. This repeated switch back and forth and the turn towards a vibrant bass led piece all adds together to make a track that is mesmeric and pleasing.

Augment Of Rebirth’ comes next, its absorbing black metal darkness and vocal harmonies working gloriously with the integration of a warped distorted folk metal vibe with a polka piece, is neatly surprising and enjoyable. Between the Buried and Me as they can do like no others, flow seamlessly through aggression and relative calm with perfect ease. The track ripples with intuitive and inventive musical ideas, merging dark crushing metal with eccentric melodic sounds and sections that bands such as Dog Fashion Disco or Circus Of Dead Squirrels employ, though neither do so with the organic uniqueness and flow that Between the Buried and Me achieve.

Final track on the EP ‘Lunar Wilderness’ is a powerful steely progressive rock track, the drums of Richardson hitting like missiles behind the visceral powerful  vocals of Rogers, the track immense and completely impressive.

Production on The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues comes from Grammy award–winning David Bottrill (Tool, Muse, King Crimson, Dream Theater, etc.) and together with the band has translated and brought to the surface with clarity and complete understanding all the ideas and skills they brought forth to the recording. Every track is a rewarding experience, a journey through little worlds of sound giving a stunning exploration of the light and the dark.

Pete RingMaster 05/07/2011 Registered & Protected

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Intensus – Self Titled

Reviewing an album like the self-titled one from Intensus is certainly not easy if even possible. There is no good or bad about it and there really is neither a like or dislike option with it, it is simply a release that either reaches inside and connects or it does not, and even if that connection is found it may only for certain moments and not over the albums whole length. It also is not an easy listen, the visceral intensity and experience threatens the senses and reaches deep into the skull gripping the aural receptors tightly and with sonic aggression, at times it is painful but the investigation has to continue to the end.

    Intensus is a recording project from multi-instrumentalist Eli Litwin, the drummer for Knife the Glitter, Burden, and Normal Love amongst many. His aim with Intensus was to bring together the worlds of metal and the avant-garde/improvised music scene to create a freely improvised extreme metal album. Extreme is certainly a word that can be used in regard to the result, alongside brutal, abusive, and most of all intense. Taking around a year to complete from the first recording session where Litwin improvised drum tracks for the entire album, start to finish, in one take, he repeated the process with the guitars and then the bass, keeping everything as spontaneous as possible.  

Once the music was finished he recruited an array of vocalists to add the final element to his music, a collection of guests bringing something different to each track they lent their immense styles to. The likes of Chris Alfano (East of the Wall / Postman Syndrome), Travis Weinand (Burden / Tetsuo), Evan Moore (Gypsy Wig / Birth Screams), and Jerry Jones (Trophy Scars), all bring their power and growls effectively to the project, as also did guitarists Alex Nagle (Satanized / ex-Normal Love) and Jason Herrmann (Burden / Tetsuo) with their colossal shredding skills.

The biggest successes in the tracks personally, came in those graced by Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me), Robert Meadows (A Life Once Lost), and Jesse Korman (The Number Twelve Looks Like You). ‘Outlast Robin sum’ and ‘I Am A Wisdom’ featuring Rogers, ‘Man Crusher’ and ‘I Gave up’ with Meadows, and ‘New York, Yeah Scranton’ and the immense ‘Man Crusher’ loaded with vocals from Korman, all hit the mark with increasing power and venom.

Are they good? That is hard to tell but certainly they are the most effective and hit the sweet spot compared to the other creations on Intensus. It is all relative, and even more dependent on each individual who takes the challenge to plunge into the album, which all certainly should. Intensus brings everything into its improvised maelstrom of boundary breaking sound; grindcore, doom, death metal, jazz, mathcore, you name it there will be those sounds in the multi layers of random, loose and controlled textures in some way.

With Intensus released on Metal Blade Records right now, it is not a matter of being good or bad but  is all about a adventurous experimental project that has attempted and succeeded in creating something new and provoking mentally and physically. Many others will be inspired and will try to walk through the doorway Intensus has opened and most will fail to cross the threshold that Eli Litwin has created.
Pete RingMaster 05/07/2011 Registered & Protected

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Pope Joan – The Celebration

Those moments when listening to a release for the first time and a knowing smile emerges, growing wider and wider as chord after chord emerges from the speaker are rare but when they come are extremely rewardingly enjoyable. Those are the moments when a band or song clicks and connects on every level, a moment that happened when the new single The Celebration’ from Brighton’s Pope Joan reached its eager hands out.

Previous single ‘A Drowning’ released in March has already stirred up the heart rhythms for many fans and critics alike, but the new single will go much further with its infectious beats, jangly guitars, and urgency of rhythm and vocals. The art-pop quartet create sounds that link to the primal beats in our hearts, enticing all with siren like beckoning through deep enchanting synths and alluring hypnotic rhythms, it teases, it invites and then it satisfies as one succumbs to its majesty.  

The Celebration’ saunters in on a military like beat as vocalist Sammy Aaron Jr delivers a dark tale which in the vocalists own words is “… about the aftermath of a celebration, where tragedy is looming”. There is a haunting and unsettling tone to the song due to Aaron Jr and his lyrical emotive words, complimented by the almost sullen moments either side of the erupting crescendos of emotion and music.

Accompanying the lead track is a crowd favourite at their shows, Billy’s Bride’. More tribal beats and vibrant groaning synth sounds frame the impressive Aaron Jr. The unrelenting beats behind the glorious post punk slides and feedback wails of the guitar and throbbing bass sounds grab the limbs making them move in unison and maybe even sympathy to the unsettling wonderful feel.

The single was produced by the band themselves with the mastering skills of  engineer Mike Marsh (The Kills, Nick Cave, Hot Chip), and a fine result they achieved, the clarity within the feeling of impending shadows especially in The Celebration’ is impressive. Each song is a living breathing creation provoking reaction from the listener as Tom Windsor, David Coomber, Andre Millin, alongside Aaron Jr take them into the unknown shadowy primitive side to their music. With something akin to The Birthday Party mixed with The Horrors backed by De Staat, Pope Joan has spawned a classic.

Having already shared stages with The Vaccines, Danananankroyd, New Young Pony Club, and The Fall, one can only see Pope Joan headlining said acts very soon. Pope Joan is the future of indie music, The Celebration’ an example of why that will be so.

Pete RingMaster 04/07/2011 Registered & Protected

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Strangers – EP2

London dark pop trio Strangers are one of the new bands igniting the genre of electronic pop with music that carries emotions which are impossible to ignore. Their music has deep rooted echoes of 80’s electronic pop fused with a haunting modern feel and clarity, impressively evident on their new release EP 2. Set to be released on July 18th via Stranger Sounds the three track EP is a soulful and senses caressing wave of electronic sounds, music that flows over and through the listener making it not only a simple listen but an experience too.

Strangers was created and formed in 2010 by David Maddox-Jones, formerly of The Departure. They released their debut  EP1 in March of this year to strong acclaim and interest, both critical and from their growing wealth of fans. This new release should go further to compound and increase that enthusiasm. Produced by band member and renowned remixer/producer Glen Nicholls (Depeche Mode, UNKLE, Everything Everything), it finds a fine blend of a kind of nostalgic influence and today’s clean urgent electronic indie rock.

Leading off the EP is ‘It Was A Sin’, an infectious and inviting pop sound, with soaring synth swells and flows surrounding the smooth vocals of Maddox-Jones. There is an obvious Depeche Mode sound, it is undeniable and as much comes from the David Gahan like vocals as from the music, but rather than making the song something that can be passed over as a copy it expands and enhances the track, due to the bands skilful songwriting and how they use melodies and their synth hooks.

Bound By The Sea’ follows close behind carrying a vibrancy and expressiveness that makes one take notice. It has a film track feel to it and images like a video in the mind for it are rife as it plays. Again it has that 80’s feel but with a freshness of a band at the top of their game in songwriting and performance.

The triplet of satisfying songs is completed by the soulful ballad ‘Lies’. Its simplicity and the unassuming impressive vocals from Maddox-Jones take the song on a slow graceful flow that radiates emotion before exploding into a climactic starburst of orchestral like intensity. It is a glorious track that is probably the strongest of the three, a haunting melodrama of the heart that though not instantly as accessible as the lead song is powerful and rewarding.

Where EP1 placed Strangers on the radar EP2 takes the band direct to its target, the hearts of the listener. With music that takes the listener into its arms to dance or serenade them, Strangers look like a band to reignite the electronic pop world and infuse new purpose into its backward looking direction.

In addition to the digital release of EP2, Strangers will release a limited edition 7inch single, through Killing Moon Records on 4th July, featuring the lead tracks from EP1 and EP2, ‘It Was a Sin and ‘If I Found Love.
Pete RingMaster 04/07/2011 Registered & Protected

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Great Imitation – The Tao of Polite Crunk (Making Rap Middle Class)/Bitter Sweet Heart Attacks (All About You)

Where do you start describing the style and music of Leicestershire band Great Imitation, a sound that has more elements than an industrial toaster. The quartet’s music blends rap poetry with singer/songwriter passion that lies within an Englishman’s soul, and some hip hop vision with acoustic finery, all infused with some indie pop. Well something like that, the result is what matters and that is very satisfying indeed.

Great Imitation formed in 2009 with the linking up of rapper James Scott-Howes and guitarist and vocalist Ryan Albutt, a union that was destined to work as within an hour of meeting they had written a song together. Performing acoustic sets the duo added drummer Joe Lambden and Mark Connor on bass to the line-up. Winning the National Finals of the 2010 Surface Festival followed as well as featured radio spots and becoming artist of the week on Kerrang Radio, but probably the most important event will occur July 25th with the release of new double A-sided single The Tao of Polite Crunk (Making Rap Middle Class)/Bitter Sweet Heart Attacks (All About You), a taster of things to come in the subsequent release of the ‘Making Rap Middle Class E.P’ late in the summer.   

The Tao of Polite Crunk (Making Rap Middle Class) is a self deprecating humourous declaration of the bands ‘making rap middle class’ mantra. Over a neat light summery soundtrack the lyrical amusement is complimented by the engaging guitars and upbeat riffs and rhythm. The track and band sets out with witty honesty what they are all about maybe in preparation for what sadly is still inevitable, a gathering of all too serious and anal views that white men should not rap or even listen to it seemingly.

Bitter Sweet Heart Attacks (All About You) is a different creature and reveals how varied and rounded Great Imitation can be. It is a fuller blend of rap vocals and indie soul, the lyrical commentary on modern relationships incisive without any element of preaching. It courts a neat mix of subtle wit and emotive statements all over an enjoyable strolling summer sound.

Musically there is lightness to the two tracks that is infectious and helps make this a single that is much more than rap delivered vocals, something that many will focus on. Scott-Howes rapping ability is spot on and supported by Albutt’s conventional singer songwriter delivery makes for a strong union. Add the music and this is a very worthwhile release to investigate.

Already renowned for their enjoyable live shows and with the impending EP plus videos from Black Revolver Films, this double A-Sided single just could and should be the moment people catch onto a band that is delightful and thoughtful but with that suspicion of being just as easily instinctively wicked. As to what Great Imitation sound like…………. imagine The Divine Comedy bowling to Sonic Boom Six whilst Dizzee Rascal keeps wicket on the cricket field of an English village. Well kind of close…

Pete RingMaster 04/07/2011 Registered & Protected

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Unearth – Darkness In The Light

Whatever the view of the band’s previous album The March, which was mixed at best, Massachusetts metalers Unearth are back on form with their fifth album Darkness In The Light via Metal Blade Records. To say the band is fired up on the release is an understatement of the highest degree, the quintet do not just break the doors down they obliterate them with a challenging intensity and enthusiasm that few if any have touched this year so far.

  Unearth are veterans of sorts having delivered their metalcore ferocity since the late nineties but on Darkness In The Light there is freshness and vitality that puts some of the young newcomers to shame. The album may not be breaking down old and setting up new boundaries but it certainly leaves a trail of satisfaction and immense enjoyment in its wake. The eleven tracks that flex their muscles within the release are well written and perfectly realised by the Boston quintet, and produced with clarity and understanding by once again returning producer Adam Dutkiewicz, the Killswitch Engage guitarist. He and the band have a unity in knowing what is needed and how to achieve it that is nine times out of ten spot on, and on Darkness In The Light 11 out of 11.  

An aspect of the album which helps gives it an air of warlike attitude is the bringing in of long time friend and Killswitch Engage drummer Justin Foley for the release to replace the departing Derek Kerswill. The split was amicable and as guitarist Buz McGrath explains “Derek is an amazing drummer, and we’re still good friends, but his style wasn’t what we were looking for on the new record. He’s more of a rock guy than a metal guy, and we wanted something a bit more extreme,”, ands he continues in reference to Foley, “I think he slips under the radar a little bit as far as drummers go but he’s an outstanding technical drummer,”. After the release of Darkness In The Light that recognition should soar as he is impressive to say the least and alongside the other members of Unearth is a perfect and effective fit.

Watch It Burn’ opens up the onslaught, it is stark, aggressive, and hits like a machine gun attack. Political, powerful, and direct it is a dynamic start to the album, the smooth blend of melodies and supporting vocals from Ken Susi a great contrast and compliment to the harsh, grating, powerhouse vocals of Trevor Phipps. The guitars of Suzi and Mcgrath flow majestically whether in the creative melodic turns or the riff churning wall of noise, and with the resonating bass power of John Maggard, it is a track laying down an immediate statement of intent for what is to follow.

What follows throughout Darkness In The Light is some of the best metal heard this year so far but particularly so on a number of the tracks, songs that show Unearth still lead the way for others to follow. ‘Shadows Of The Light’, ‘Coming Of The Dark’, and ‘The Fallen’ all ride the wave of creativity and inspiration, their crushing onslaught of heavy urgent riffs and melodic surgical strikes are soul feeding. The one track that towers over all though is the deeply personal ‘Last Wish’. Striding, rampant and flesh melting, it is a giant wall of metal and to be honest would have made a far better single than the band’s choice ‘Eyes Of Black’ from the album.

There is also one moment of the album that works beautifully though whether intentionally would have to be asked of the band. The incoming explosion of ‘Arise The War Cry’ is a defiant, aggressive call to arms and plays like a battlefield with Phipps standing centre and confrontational as bullet like riffs fly overhead, his intense vocals direct to the skull, his venom dripping from the ear. What is so effective is the placing of the following track ‘Equinox’, a song that is sombre, again seemingly personal, and though unconnected brings a tone and imagery of the aftermath from the battle waged right before it, the hopelessness felt as the dust settles.

Darkness In The Light is a brutal, inventive and totally satisfying album showing that not only are Unearth back but they are better than ever.

Pete RingMaster 04/07/2011 Registered & Protected

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