A hugely stacked week of new music this week with a large collection of albums for us to dive into. From death metal to country to synth, let’s dive into it all!
Blur: The Ballad of Darren
Joe: The other britpop band, the ones still going, return with their first album since 2015. However, it’s a far cry from their heyday with ‘Song 2’. ‘The Ballad’ was a terrible choice of an opening track. The slow, droning opener was pop at best, nowhere near rock. Tracks like ‘St. Charles Square’ and ‘Barbaric’ aren’t much better, either. Not a single track on the album can be classed as up-beat. It’s closer to the sort of stuff Mark Knoffler releases these days. It’s soft rock at a push, yet it is barely rock at all.
Don’t get me wrong, bands are allowed to change their sound, and it’s not exactly uncommon for a band to mellow out as they get older. But this isn’t what I want to listen to when I set out to listen to Blur. And it’s not really my type of music at all. It bored me to tears, honestly. 3.5/10
Greta Van Fleet: Starcatcher
Charlotte: Greta Van Fleet’s Starcatcher continues to bring shades of classic rock to the band’s style with Josh Kiszka’s eerily enchanting wails and some beautiful guitar tones. The hair-raising album takes you through psychedelic ballads and graceful licks – and who doesn’t love a harmonica solo? Finishing with the appropriately cathartic closer ‘Farewell For Now’, Starcatcher is another solid album added to Greta Van Fleet’s repertoire. 8/10
Joe: The German folk/power metal band are back with their 11th album, and third with Napalm. If anyone’s familiar with the bands more recent, serious releases, you’ll know what to expect from this, and you won’t at all be disappointed!
‘SGFRD Dragonslayer’ is a good, catchy opener while ‘Bastard von Asgard’ is a massive album highlight, made even better by Fabienne Erni’s incredible vocals. ‘Beserkermode’ is a lot of fun, a bouncy number that reminds me of their earlier days. Also, as a huge LOTR fan, I couldn’t not love ‘Urak-Hai’. Overall it’s a very well written, fun and great folk metal album. My only slight issue is that the whole thing all felt pretty similar, it was all big riffs and choruses and a similar pace. Something slower or more dynamic may have helped hold my interest a little more and made the album even better, in my opinion.
Also, anyone who checks out the deluxe edition not only gets instrumental versions of each track, but a recording of their awesome Wacken 2022 set! An awesome collection that is well worth checking out! 8.5/10
Brix’n Mortar: Something Ain’t Right
Max: Yes, this band is a hardcore band. And you can’t get through the album without seeing this. I’m not always the biggest fan of this style of hardcore and rock but I’ll be damned if this album isn’t great. When I started listening to this album I was setting up equipment for a gig and it really got me into the mood for lifting things. This album is a lot of fun, energy, and intensity throughout and it must be amazing to see live. this band has a lot of potential and each of the members really carries their weight so I want to see where they go in the future and what they end up releasing next. 8/10
Guided By Voices: Welshpool Frillies
Joe: 38 albums. That’s how many the Ohioan indie rock band have put out. And that’s including two hiatus’. Heck, they’re already on their second album of this year, and their eighth in the last three years! If it’s one thing you cannot faulter with Guided by Voices, it’s their work ethic!
Fun fact about this album before we begin the review; it was recorded to tape in a basement in Brooklyn. It definitely gives the album a different sound and feel, it being a lot more grungy.
As for the tracks themselves, they’re good. Tracks like ‘Cruisers’ Cross’ and ‘Animal Concentrate’ sound almost Foo Fighters-esque. Meanwhile ‘Romeo Surgeon’ and ‘Seedling’ are all out grunge. However, some of the older almost Bowie sounding stuff didn’t hook me all that much. ‘Cats in Heat’, ‘Why Won’t You Kiss Me’ and the traditional folk-like ‘Chain Dance’ all weren’t for me. It’s a real mixed bag of an album, but hey, at least it’s anything but boring. It’s a long album, 15 tracks, but there is plenty of variety throughout. The stuff I like I really like, and there are plenty of highlight tracks. But there is also a fair amount of meh throughout. I wouldn’t be likely to listen to it from front to back again 6.5/10
Zenith Passage: Datalysium
Max: So this album was a lot of fun to listen to. There were intense guitars that attacked your ears (in a good way) from the very beginning and the technicality to them was a lot of fun to listen to. They are definitely a technical death metal band but they have their own spin on the genre with their own flow and style that make them unique amongst the ocean of other bands.
Another interesting a fun part of this band is the clean vocals. I often find myself getting nervous hearing bands like this have clean vocals because they can often miss the mark. However in their penultimate song, ‘Automated Twilight’ they really hit the mark. It almost made me think of Veil of Maya and the song ‘The Sun, The Moon The Stars’ by Æther Realm. So basically very very good. A solid 9/10 album and I will be listening to it more and more.
Nouvaeu Arcade: Dead Hearts
We’ve already reviewed this awesome synthwave album! Check it out here.
Ian Moss: Rivers Run Dry
Charlotte: Ian Moss’ Rivers Run Dry has everything you could ever need or want from a (and this one is hard to pin down so we’re going to list it all) country-soul-pop-blues-rock album. From a grand gospel choir opening in the title track, to groovy brass sections and a distinctive and rich organ throughout. Ian Moss is a hidden gem with his signature sound, creating a professionally polished album that’s enjoyable for everyone. 8.5/10
Joe: the Canadian band are looking at bringing grunge back to prominence with their debut album. Right from the first few notes of ‘Just a Tree’ it screams Nirvana in all of the best ways. It does have that slightly heavier, darker and modern edge that Future Leaders of the World brought to the table, too, feeling like a clear blend of the two bands.
The album has a swaggering attitude and coolness that grunge typically didn’t have back in the 90s, and it’s a refreshing, fun edge to it all. Tracks like the opener, ‘NRA’, ‘Chili’ and ‘Talk to Me’ are all huge highlights of the album. Honestly, the last two are incredible and up there with some of my favourite grunge tracks due to their creativity and structure. ‘Chili’ verges on prog with the stripped-back bit in the middle whole the latter is a dark, brooding, Tool/Doom metal track. The vocal delivery and melody also reminds me of ‘Skeletons of Society’ by Slayer. Both add tonnes of inovation and push the boundaries of their typical radio-friendly grunge in the best ways.
The more I listen to this album the more I fall in love with it. I was a huge Nirvana fan in my youth and this scratches that itch and then some. It has elements of all three of their albums whole also bringing plenty of their own sound and creativity to things. There isn’t a bad track on the album and I’d recommend it to anyone! 9.5/10
Oxbow: Love’s Holiday
Joe: So, this is a bit weird. However, I think it’s in a good way. Despite their nearly 20k monthly listeners on Spotify, I’d never heard of the band before. So, ‘Dead Ahead’ was certainly an interesting introduction to the band! The chaotic, messy verses give way to a genuinely catchy, arena-filling chorus, making me not sure how I felt.
Honestly, that’s the story of the whole album. Messy, Avant Garde skater punk with some catchy hooks and good riffs dispersed between them. ‘Icy White & Crystalline’ is a big highlight of the album, as is the slower ‘Lovely Murk’ featuring Lingua Ignota. Unfortunately, after the second track it was all pretty slow. It does make for slightly more accessible music, but I was quite enjoying the chaos of the opening tracks. Outside of ‘The Second Talk’ it’s all slow, pretty boring jazz-like soft/psychadellic rock. Not my thing at all and ruined the first couple of tracks’ potential. 3/10
Mega Drive: 200XAD
Joe: We close this week on instrumental synthwave, and honestly, it’s awesome. I know 90% of y’all will have tuned out after those two words, but hear me out and, more importantly, hear the band out. It maintains a heavy rock edge to it that means we just had to cover it, and more importantly it’s fun. I couldn’t pick a highlight track as they are all pretty similar, but all are so good. This is the sort of album designed to be listened to in its entirety. The band and album name also fits so well. It feels like music made to be driving around a Cyberpunk world in a video game. Honestly if you are in any way into futuristic, synthy stuff, check this out, you won’t be disappointed! 8/10