Muse – Simulation Theory (Review)

One of the most famous trios of all time, Muse released their highly anticipated 8th studio album 2 months ago today. With hitting number 1 in the UK album charts, the album takes Muse towards their electronic influence. With a lot of fans dissing Muse for not sticking to their pioneering stadium rock tunes, this album takes us through an aesthetic, colourful science fiction journey. Cooperating a huge sound for a trio, Dominic Howard (drums), Chris Wolstenholme (bass) and Matt Bellamy (lead vocals/guitar), you can hear influence from Jeff Buckley in Matt’s vocals, which sore us through a nostalgic sound that is “Simulation Theory”.

With the protagonist realising he is in some kind of simulation, he eventually ‘awakens’ and attempts to escape from this false reality. If you’re asking me, “Algorithm” would be perfect for a Black Mirror episode (if you know, you know). Vocals don’t arise until the 1.36 minute mark, by then, we are ready in anticipation for Matt’s warming vocals. The song doesn’t feature many lyrics, in this case, Matt really does stretch out each word to be longer then it actually should be. As for the instrumentation sounding quite game like, the imagery implies that this would be a perfect song to play if there ever was a war between, not necessarily robots, but technology as a whole. It’s a strong opener for Simulation Theory, and has a different approach for Muse (mainly the production), but it still is them down to the tee.

One of the biggest tracks on the album hears the return of similar guitar effects to the Origin of Symmetry era. As for the subject of the track, “The Dark Side” deals with mental illnesses; paranoia and depression. Mental health is probably at it’s most powerful in the world right now, so releasing a track from one of the world’s biggest bands implies that yes, even the most famous people in the world struggle too. The Dark Side deals with a perfect balance of the alternative rock and electronica that Muse desired for. This compliments and details the instruments perfectly… basically, you can hear everything spot on in the mix and the blend of it all works amazingly. 

“Pressure” was released in September as a single. Matt Bellamy explained that this is a heavier song for Muse and talks about the pressure that their fans build to keep playing in their previous styles. Pressure takes us into a sort of “Prince attempting to play with EDM beats over a heavy guitar” kind of sound. As for the orchestral parts, it feels like the band just said “oh, we should have some orchestral arrangements as we haven’t had that yet on the album!”, so in other words; forced. The music video has elements to the Back to the Future franchise, but technically it’s better as Terry Crews is in it… random.

terry crews pca GIF by E!The overall arrangement of the track is definitely more pop orientated and mainstream for my liking, but that’s a personal preference.

Using a vocoder effect on the microphone (similar to The 2nd Law’s ‘Madness’ ) instantly makes this song sound unusual. It sounds like Matt Bellamy is trying to be like Justin Timberlake, aka sleazy and smooth. It just doesn’t work that well in my eyes. “Propaganda” is about manipulation of the truth and lying. It’s a dig at governments and leaders who showcase “fake news”. Well, NOW we know who Matt is aiming this at. It’s the production that draws me into this track more than anything else. Produced by Timbaland, Rich Costey, Angel Lopez, Federico Vindver & Muse themselves, the production is in your face and can’t be ignored. Perfect for Muse.

Beginning with a rhythmical guitar part sounding badly out of tune, it initiates a feeling low kind of mood, or that something bad is going to happen and this is exactly what “Break It to Me” is about. “Break it to” usually means to reveal information that someone doesn’t really want to hear. In Matt’s case, he’s wanting someone to give him bad news, probably to make him stronger as a person. Lyrics Don’t dress it up but don’t beat around the bush, And don’t cover it up but don’t push it underground deals with Matt trying to find out the truth from his partner, friend, anyone (that part’s never really identified). This track has a subtle eastern music influence on it, with the choruses having a memorable indian esque hook line, just a shame that it’s drowned in autotune. The track reminds me of Korn with a pop arrangement – an experimental tune that will definitely grow on you.

The next track takes us more into this era, sadly. It’s modern and fits perfectly in the mainstream charts right now. That’s sad to me because it’s not necessarily “real.” Mainstream music is usually overproduced and doesn’t sound ‘human’. Ironic really, Muse were just looking for a song that was simply “Something Human”… bad joke, i apologise. It’s a shame as the concept of the song deals with going home and seeing loved ones after a long time of touring. The production just implies that when he gets home, machinery will still be everywhere, just like it is when they’re on tour. It’s a tricky one as I think this is what Matt intended to have the production like. There’s no escape from technology, it is simply everywhere we go. Longing for Something Human means connecting with someone else, not your mobile phone. This song is heartbreaking as in a way, we are all trapped by technology. Black Mirror really did warn us…

“Thought Contagion” features vocals influenced by a theremin melody that Matt created. The track describes that in today’s age, ideas that may well be incorrect, will still have a big power over what you do. Basically, leaders of the government have these bad ideas and they have great power over you, but what can you really do about it? I guess write a song in Matt’s case. The sleazy bass line takes us from the beginning, straight to the end. It’s the glue that holds all the pieces together. Towards the end of the track, Matt plays a synth-like guitar solo which you can just hear would blow a whole stadium away. Even though, it’s primarily electronic, Muse definitely made this rock, leading back to their old alternative rock approach to their music. I’m sure some of the old fans like this song, as it really is another stand out, stadium track. 

Beginning with a vocal phrase that reminds me of something that Dua Lipa or Ariana Grande would have in their songs, it definitely wasn’t something that I was expecting from a Muse track. I don’t know how to react.Get Up and Fight” is simply put as a pop ballad. It’s cheesy and is something that you probably would hear in the Eurovision song contest. It’s a protest song to an extent, as it’s about reaching goals and telling people to simply get up and fight for what they believe in. It’s a bit too trashy for my liking and not something that I’d listen to again. The backing vocals from Tove Lo makes it somewhat more cope able. 

It seems that Matt Bellamy has a preferred vocal phrasing that he does. That has it’s pros and cons, cons being that it gets repetitive and pros being that he can simply be identified. I’d love to hear him sing a bit more out of his comfort zone because we’ve been hearing near enough the same vocals all the way through the album. “Blockades” is another example. Saying all that, as you get older, your voice matures, this could be the exact reason why Matt’s voice is usually situated in his preferred vocal phrasing. The flying arpeggios in Blockades are assertive and can’t be missed. This is the Muse that I love. Floating in synthesisers and 8 bit goodness, Blockades is FFO: New Order, OMD, Yes.

Starting with an effect that reminds me of The 2nd Law’s production on Madness (again), “Dig Down” is about hope and being optimistic. The message portrayed is strong and was lacking slightly in the album. The instrumentation isn’t that exciting and isn’t memorable. With elements of a gospel/blues arrangement, it’s still pop orientated. It really feels with this album that Muse changed the way they thought and decided to create more mainstream music, maybe to please more people OR they simply had a different approach to their music that they were hearing. 

The last track on the standard edition is “The Void”. Matt exclaims in this track that the power is in our hands and no one else’s. Not in the government’s power, it’s in OUR power to change, to become a better world. It’s great that Matt has these views and stands up for what he believes in, but it’s never really indicated what exactly he is fighting for or what we need to change to become a better world. With an element of Stranger Things (even the artwork for the album was designed by Stranger Things artist Kyle Lambert), Muse have transported us back to the 1980’s with some good songs. The message that they are signalling is that we keep moving forward as a world. In that case, why are they making it sound like the 80’s again? It’s a revival, a comfort as such, to a time when things were simpler and we will get there again.

Favourite Tracks: Algorithm, The Dark Side, Propaganda, Break it to Me, Thought Contagion, Blockades

Score: 7/10

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The Tenmours – Maze (Review)

Formed in December 2013 by Alex Johnston-Seymour & Ross Tennant, the talented songwriting duo became an important part in Folk Fusion. Folk fusion is fused with folk, rock and world music – all genres that will definitely get your feet stomping and your jaws dropping. They’re known for creating a true energetic experience at their live shows. I haven’t yet seen The Tenmours play yet, but that will definitely change this year. “Maze” was released back in October 2018 and the band, joined by their additional session fiddle player, are definitely in store for a bright 2019. 

What it means, never scared “Moving On.” This song has a sense of freedom and contentment in the way that it’s a shrug to whomever the band are moving on from. A strong song to kick off the EP sees the band gelling harmonies together to create this big fusion of influences. It’s like Mumford & Sons, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley & Seth Lakeman all dipped their powers into this magic cauldron and created The Tenmours.

“No Place Like Home” is a different path towards traditional folk. The world music side really does shine in this song. A beautiful arrangement surrounds the depths of this dark track. It’s the type of song that you’d jam or even dance round a campfire with your friends. Three quarters through the track, the percussion is changed to a straight beat with the song being at his loudest. Wonderfully crafted song with Jeff Buckley-esque vocals at times. 

Sitting half way through the EP is “Lady of Gold.” A softer song to the rest of the tracks until we reach the half way point, leading us back to their Folk Fusion roots. The first half of the song is somewhat heavenly, making us feel like we’re soaring through the sky. There hasn’t been a bad song on this EP so far and I don’t think there will be one either. The band are able to put all their personal experiences and beliefs into their own compositions, if that’s not talent, god knows what it is. 

Title track on the EP “Maze” is heavenly influenced by Eastern music. One of the tracks that was posted as a video on the pledge campaign for the EP. This Maze is another avenue for the band to find and another path to explore. With Robert Plant like vocals, this song is like an acoustic track off Zeppelin 3: downbeat yet powerful. The isolation in this track and the parts that are just silence are tense, leaving us wanting more. Another great song off a great EP.

A heavy pluck of a guitar string begins “Escape of the Naturist.” It’s a warming drone that begins another great Tenmours track. They definitely have their own original sound that’s influenced by not only music, but influenced by own stories and things around them. This is probably my least favourite track on the EP, nevertheless, the song is strong and is definitely for fans of; Seth Lakeman, Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake. A strong EP for The Tenmours, hope to catch one of their live shows soon.

Favourite Tracks: Moving On, No Place Like Home, Lady of Gold, Maze

Score: 7.5/10

https://www.facebook.com/thetenmours/

https://thetenmours.bandcamp.com/album/maze

The Equatorial Group – Apricity (Review)

Think Fleetwood Mac but more folk orientated. The Equatorial Group are a group of friends from the East of Sussex. With many things in common but primarily being the same influences in music and life, the five piece band create a gentle landscape with their subtle but powerful compositions. Released on May 25th, Apricity is honest.

The smooth vocals in “Lights Shine” remind me of the control that Dido delivers through her pop songs. The folk ambition of the track is pure and nothing seems to be missing. The production as a whole is quite angelic and is the perfect music to just chill out and listen too. I feel this song may have had a reference towards the arrangement of Dreams by Fleetwood Mac. The bright harmonies create this wave of emotions of what feels like the end of a relationship. ‘I wallow in delusions of grandeur of a life that I have seldom seen” is a lyric that really stood out to me the most in the track as it means I wallow in my own head of the way that things are presented. It could be that the artists are feeling insecure with the way they look and being took to the place where the lights shine could be the reassurance of anxiety and feeling healthier. Beautiful song.

“Juggernauts” is a story that takes us constantly from the start to the finish. A truly breathtaking composition. From every pin point of the instruments; subtle drum rolls, a discrete walking bass line, rhythmical guitar chords, and those gorgeous vocal breaks in the main vocals really creates this honest song. A juggernaut usually means a large vehicle or a powerful force, so when the singer sings “we’re more like juggernauts,” I was really confused. It then hit me that juggernauts metaphorically can mean destructive and unstoppable, just like the relationship in the story of this track. The almost six-minute track really does float on a cloud of feelings. As the song’s time signature changes, it has a more progressive feel which is understandable with the band, as progressive music is honest and very emotional, just like them.

A lot more upbeat but still sits in the minor key of heartache is “Surrogate Funeral.” It’s about feeling alone even though you’re with someone at the time. This is the first track on the album that features male vocals as the lead and even though technically they may not be as strong as the females, the emotion throughout his voice is delivered perfectly for the isolation of the track. I must say that the production of the album so far has complimented the band even more. We already know how talented they are but with the engineering and mixing of Dave Lynch with Christoph Skirl at Echo Zoo Studios, and mastering by Antony Ryan at RedRedPaw, it has really took the band to the next level.

“Toy Shark” ; a track that you can definitely hear the American roots influence. It’s like a cross of the country atmosphere that Dolly Parton portrayed in Jolene and Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy.” Female vocals dominate once more. As a whole, the song is good, but doesn’t feel as powerful as the first three. Something is lacking and I feel it’s the more emotional approach. They really hit the nail on the head with all the topics they’ve mentioned in the first 3 tracks, but this track seems to be lacking the identification it’s screaming for. The arrangement as a whole is a different approach to what we’ve heard so far, which is great.

Drowning in a tremolo effect, the guitar parts at the beginning of “Burning” are like waves crashing against the sand, making us feel that this song is going to be angelic and floating above our heads. Suddenly, the vocals come storming in with a gentle, blues attitude. This track was what’s missing on the album so far; moodiness. We’ve heard a lot of heartache and sad songs, but this is just pure dark attitude. The jazz-blues essence of the track is sleazy and a completely new sound for the americana band. Like. A LOT.

Automatically, I feel emotional with this track. The album is in memory of Bradford Gross, making this album a whole other level of personal. “Farewell My Lovely” is a bridge of honesty of missing someone and running out of time. Helen Weeks’ voice is constantly angelic and never needs to do all the showing off to get her point across, she just sings the songs and makes every word have an emotion to it. An overwhelming song of being genuine in what you feel. The longest track on the whole album is “Electric Night.” Most of the track is dealt with solos upon solos which is a new adventure for the album. The album so far has been very melodic with only really vocals and harmonies, so hearing a new tone and instrument in this arrangement is welcomed with a big smile. As for the song, it deals with wanting someone with you and how its cold without them there with you. I really love how each sentence is pretty much answered with the next one and so on. It’s like reading a book that you never want to end. 

“Those Dudes” is probably my least favourite track on the album. Personally, I feel it just doesn’t escalate or dynamically go anywhere. It feels a bit like it’s tried to sound like everything else on the album so far. Saying that, the production and arrangement is still there and I have to give it to the band, they’re pretty tight and are really great songwriters. The album really does need some time to sit and study it to truly understand all the hidden nooks and crannies. I really like how more a less every title of each track has nothing really to do with the song itself, just like “Motorbikes.” Parts in this song you can really hear additional instruments being added into the set up, session musicians were hired for the album. Pioneering this track is the Hammond organ played by the engineer of the album; Dave Lynch. Other additional instruments include Sacha Kenward (percussion), Adam Seigel (saxophone) and Steve Russell (trumpet). 

The shortest track on the album, “Sometime in Spring” is a superb send off to such a personal, moving album. This would be a song that would get you up and jiving away with your friends. It’s definitely a summer (or spring!) feel good song that I’ll be playing throughout 2019. The Equatorial Group are Dave Davies, Twe Fox, Andy Tourle, Mike Tourle and Helen Weeks; a huge congratulations to the band for creating a wonderful album. 

Favourite Tracks: Lights Shine, Juggernauts, Surrogate Funeral, Burning, Farewell My Lovely, Electric Night, Motorbikes, Sometime in Spring

Score: 8/10

https://www.facebook.com/theequatorialgroup/

https://theequatorialgroup.bandcamp.com/album/apricity

Phi Yaan Zek’s Album Launch Review – 15th September 2018

Photo taken by Me on Steve Lawson's camera!

reality.jpg

Located on a warm Saturday night at Kidderminster College, the night began with one of the college’s talented bands; Hey Jester. The Hey Jester boys are really causing a stir with their progressive rock music. The songs. The image. The sound. They have the whole package. Think early Muse but with incredible Myles Kennedy like vocals. Even had people coming up to me after the show saying that they’d go watch Hey Jester play their own headline show, it was THAT good of a set. Frontman, Mirron Webb was pretty busy all night seeing as he featured in Phi Yaan Zek’s all star band…

Well, what can I say… it’s been 5 days after the show and I’m still speechless from Phi’s set. Incredible. With Phi playing electric/acoustic guitar and vocals, his backing band featured Steve Lawson on Bass (who actually stood up and played.. this was a surprise to say the least), Andy Edwards on Drums, Ola Olsson on Trumpet, Lalle Larson on Keyboard and Mirron Webb on Guitar. They kicked the show off with a new track off Reality Is My Play Thing called “Alive.” It’s fast and full of charisma. The week before the album launch, the band actually filmed a music video for Alive which features zombies… It’s rather mad. It will be released soon. Once the song was finished, there was a huge roar come from the crowd of praise towards the band and there’s no doubt that the momentum stayed all the way to the end of the gig as it truly did. The 3 minute song is filled with many notes to say the least. It’s in your face constantly and you can’t ignore it and why would you want too? It’s wonderful and hearing the song live really lived up to the expectation of the studio version. There were a few moments where Phi’s microphone feedbacked but the sound was sorted out quite quickly.

“Kindling” has a memorable chorus which I found myself singing when performed live. It’s the killer riff that is the most insane thing about the song. What an introductory to the band. I know that some of the band members had said that learning Phi’s songs has been one of the hardest things they’ve ever learnt, but my goodness, they pulled off a brilliant show. “Reunion” was a stand out track for the show. It’s a scary song anyway but seeing the musicians actually perform it was even scarier. Think Frank Zappa but slightly madder… it is possible as it’s Phi. The song was released on Phi’s 2007 album “Anomalies.” This song just put the cherry on the insanity cake. Wow.

“Frequency Calling” is another newbie and was performed near enough the exact same as the record. Starting off with Phi’s lyrics “no signal.. seems broken, your message is forgotten, so borrow this radio and allow your dreams to flow”, the song begins acoustically and even features a superb acoustic guitar solo from Phi. It then reaches it’s peak when the full band are introduced. I really enjoyed sitting back and seeing where this song takes me mentally. The interference of the song took the audience through a bizarre journey of accepting yourself and things around you.

Now… “Ecstasies of the Starlight Self” is completely prog down to a tee. It’s one of Phi’s best songs in my eyes because it’s just so unusual. The studio version is featured on Phi’s album with Marco Minneman “Dance with the Anima.” The band made the 1:51 track into an over 3 minute epic of solos coming out of solos. It’s Phi’s scat like vocals in the song which just makes it so much fun. The drum and bass style drum parts are so important in this song creating a fast pace.

The song makes you dance, just look at Phi in this video.

Starting off the next song with something different.. anyone for a game of I spy? Phi picked an audience member for a game of “I Phi” which lead into probably the funkiest song of the set. It’s Mirron’s rhythmical guitar part that sticks out straight away with a memorable wah effect added to the sound. This is a track where it was lovely to see the band wander into their own comfort zones and play their own, unique solos. I Phi was definitely one of the best tracks on the night with the audience applauding so loudly at the end that it actually hurt my ears! The genuine fretless bass sound was clear from the get go. Sometimes people just use programme effect on a pedal to get a fretless sound, but not with Steve Lawson, he has the real thing. 

One of my absolute favourites of Phi’s is “Wondrous Self” purely because of the chord progression. Harmonically, the song is clever and looks so easy to play very from all the musicians on the stage. They made every song look so easy to play which is completely inspiring. If I had a go at one Phi Yaan Zek song, I think my hands would fall off. The song seemed to have gone by quickly, probably because we all enjoyed it so much and they say time flies by when you’re having fun. The next track was simply put as a wash of all emotions… EVER. It’s angry. It’s happy. It’s a rollercoaster. It’s like a…. “Brainwash.” Off Phi’s debut album released over 21 years ago, the song reminds me of something along the lines of The Prodigy covering a Gentle Giant track. It’s dark but also so bright to listen too. 

Featuring Phi back on the acoustic guitar, “Subtle” is a faint movement towards a soft song. It’s always nice to hear a slow song after listening to complete madness of Phi’s other discography and Subtle just proves that he can write in different types of moods, making him a very versatile artist, which we already knew. Subtle featured an absolutely gorgeous bass solo from Steve Lawson, I was completely mesmerised. Swiftly onto the next song, “Break the Ice” let Phi sit back a bit with the guitar work ever so slightly and let Mirron take control with an impressive guitar solo. Break The Ice sits exactly in the middle of the first half of Phi’s latest album and it fitted pleasantly towards the end of the set. 

Let’s forget about the music for a moment, I just wanted to say how wonderful Phi’s interaction with the audience was. “Does anybody like Dragonflies? What about Dragonfly Medicine?” I think that’s Phi in a nutshell… random and weirdly wonderful. ‘Cause let’s be honest… only Phi would write a song about Dragonfly Medicine. It’s the second song of the new double album and it’s everything you want in an instrumental. The rhythm is strange and out of this world. It’s Lalle and Andy the audience are watching in complete awe for this track. Both dominated the rhythm and showed the song who’s boss. 

“Down from the Mountain” is a stand out track on Phi’s latest album, which featuring vocals from Phi, plus Mirron in the choruses making the section more noticeable and strong. The song deals with isolation and to not get stuck in your head. The lyrics are quite dark for such a happy sounding song. It’s the rhythm of the vocals over the lyrics that stand out to me as a songwriter. It’s imaginative and a different way to deliver vocals successfully. Next up in the live set just happens to be the very last song on the double album “Reality Is My Strange Thing” which takes us through so many influences. There’s part where it sounds like a jazz standard, the next it’s an uptempo ska track. It’s completely and utter bonkers but so enjoyable to listen too. 

The ‘last’ song of the set, you know the one before people go “MORE” and the band have to do one more… just happened to be “Abigail’s Place.” Phi released Abigail’s Place 3 months prior to the album launch and I’m so glad he did, because everyone in the audience, I mean EVERYONE was singing “We’re going, we’re going, we’re going, we’re going to Abigail’s Place.” A memorable moment of the whole show. It’s always amazing when one song can bring so many people together for that special moment and that surely was a lovely moment. What made the show so amazing was watching the musicians on stage thoroughly enjoy the whole set and they were certainly in their element. 

And we then thought that was the end, until the roar of the audience shone through. Phi then exclaimed “well… we’ll do one more then.” Another interaction moment was when Phi got an audience member on the stage to begin the encore with “I want to tell you about the puffball that ate my village…” and with that one lyric, we all knew we were going on another adventure inside Phi’s head. It was like Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, Gentle Giant and Gong just jammed on stage to create this circus sound. Before we knew it, the evening came to an end and I for one definitely could have listened to another hour’s worth of material. What a night.

When’s the next gig, Phi?

https://www.facebook.com/phiyaanzekmusic/

http://pyzmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/HeyJesterBand/

Valerio Lysander- We Are Like Coloured Moths Towards the Sunlight (Review)

Released on the 21st July, I’m finally getting round to reviewing Valerio Lysander’s wonderful album. The album was recorded in various locations across Rome and London with influences from Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor and Sufjan Stevens to name a few. A little bit about Valerio first is that he’s a British based Italian artist who has performed all over Europe. He situates in the genres Baroque Pop, Indie Folk & Art Rock. Having performed at events for Pride, his music is travelling across the world and I’m so glad because it’s captivating. Are you ready for a rollercoaster ride?

First track on the album, “The Moon” tells a story about nobody understanding you and feeling a bit lost with what to do. Then you realise, why not just be like the moon? The moon’s main purpose is to give light in the darkness and that’s exactly what Valerio does with this song. He turns a negative feeling into a positive, metaphorically including the moon as his example. The production of the piano mixed with the string instruments; cello and violin, create this warm, historic moment for the start of what seems to be an emotional album.

When a relationship ends, it’s the hardest thing on earth. Valerio mirrors this emotion in “Feathers,” which is about struggling to keep a long distance relationship working when its actually run it’s course. The delicateness of Valerio’s voice pours out despair of his loss. The clever chord changes echo how things can change so quickly in a relationship and how even a feather can cause a tsunami effect, in other words, similar to the butterfly effect. 

“If you Were Me You Would Be” tells the struggles of an independent musician and I can relate so much. With lyrics such as “this isn’t magic, I spent money and time on this” explaining that as a musician, people expect things will just happen when really, it’s the biggest task of all to puzzle everything together on your own. This song deals with, you could say, two Valerio’s (one being the backing vocals), the man vocal is being positive and strong, whereas the second Valerio is being slightly more, well, like the voice in your head. The song is humorous and takes us through a waltzed arrangement. Quirky music video too.

Next is a very gentle number about The Great Gatsby. “A Little Fast” has a drowsy momentum which compliments the anxiety of the song perfectly. This track also features the album title “We Are Like Coloured Mothers Towards the Sunlight.” I personally really like when a song features “we” so as the listeners, we can relate with the music. This slow number is a tear-jerker and hits you right in the feels. Beautiful.

Success is a hard thing to achieve, everyone’s perspective on it is different too and I think we all realise that. Valerio certainly does in “The Prince.” This track is a little bit different compared to everything we’ve heard so far. It features interesting vocal phrases, complicated chord progressions and subtle but haunting harmonies. The song is upbeat and really blesses ”world” music, showing another influence in Valerio’s music.

“Comme Une Rivière” means like a river. Yes, this song is in French. What can Valerio NOT do? I can picture this song being in a cinematic, award-winning film just like Into the Wild or something. It’s absolutely stunning. The song deals with the difficulties a person gets when taking their first few steps towards reaching their dream. This whole song was just like living in a dream. The simplicity, the note perfect essence and atmosphere it gives off is absolutely spine tingling.

It’s always hard to define yourself and figure out who you are as a person. “Cotton” deals with the complications of this. We live in a world full of labels that put us into categories, that some of us don’t like, unfortunately. Cotton is the longest track on the entire album and in my eyes, it’s probably the most powerful one of all too. The music video is wonderful, featuring many faces of different colours, all colours then are blended onto Valerio’s. The song aches in troubles of conflicts and desire to make a statement with yourself.

“Ryan” is a fun, pop inspired composition reminding me slightly of a Mika style arrangement mixed with Brendon Urie-esque vocals. The song simulates the feeling of being stuck in the friend zone by someone you really like. It’s an amusing song with the last lyric cementing this in stone… “Would you please reply to my text… bitch.” “I’m Screwed” is another entertaining song with the first line plummeting “why do I keep falling like a dickhead?” The song is about liking someone out of boredom. We all have been there, where we are head over heels for that one person and you get a bit, blinded by love. When that bubble pops though, you release (if it wasn’t the person you’re “destined”  to be with) that you were an idiot. The song gives off an aura that Valerio is a bit of a stressful person and overthinks, but I guess, who doesn’t?

Another song about success is “Little People.” You mustn’t forget your purpose when trying to reach your goal, and that’s where people fall sometimes. They forget why they’re doing something or even just lose the passion and that’s life unfortunately, it throws weird and hard obstacles at us all the time. The song is inspired by Mozart’s Sonata in F Major. This classical influence from Mozart shines all throughout the song and adds a pleasant nostalgic feeling to the song.

“Fools” was apparently a failed christmas song that turned into a song about how the only thing in life that’s guaranteed is death. It’s morbid and upsetting to think of, but true. “Will there ever be one time, when we feel complete inside?” is an excruciating lyric, because it’s 100% right. We all worry about things and at the end of the day, they won’t matter when we’re gone. I feel that a lot of people don’t think of death enough, the best way to think about it, is to accept it, because there’s no getting out of it. If people get worried about death, there’s a famous quote that can help …

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Mark Twain

The second to last track, “Hymn” is a solo, piano song that Valerio plays with meaning. The theme is to be true to yourself and learning from your mistakes, plus accepting them. The track showcases Valerio’s vocal range reaching from high to low within a matter of seconds. The man lives for his music and it’s so amazing to hear.

“Le Stelle De Lu Cielu” is a traditional song from Rome which is a truly mesmerizing end to an exceptional album. To make things even more emotional, Valerio added a new verse into the song dedicated to his mother who sadly passed away in July 2017. I know for a fact, she’s looking down and feeling so proud of her son for releasing a truly, personal, heart-wrenching album.

Favourite Tracks: The Moon, Feathers, A Little Fast, Comme Une Rivière, Cotton, Fools, Le Stelle De Lu Cielu.
Score: 8/10

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Crosslight – Road to Recovery (Review)

Distorted guitars, harsh bass lines and drum patterns, Crosslight‘s music is full of angst. The band formed in early 2016 and have already toured around the UK. As well as playing shows, the band have spent a lot of time in the studio recording their debut album “Road to Recovery.”  The album was released on the 6th May 2018, and I’m finally getting round to sitting down and reviewing it. Crosslight are energetic and so passionate about their work and it completely shines through every word and chord. Their live shows showcase their talent to audiences through the ages and it certainly leaves people wanting more. The band consists of

The first track, “Recovery” begins with what sounds like a heart monitor in a hospital, sneakily involving the background noise of a waiting room. Before we know it, the song transitions into track number two; “Run Into Flowers.” This song has had a really good reception so far from fans with reaching over 1,000 plays on Spotify. Lead singer, Charlotte’s voice compliments the song also sounding heavily influenced from Hayley Williams of Paramore. Musically, the track is fast and upbeat, giving the album a good start off. Hopefully the momentum sticks all the way throughout. I find the guitar tone slightly a bit generic and not very creative for a pop metal song, but it still suits the song well. If you’re a fan of the nu-metal scene in the noughties, you probably will like this track.

“Clockwork” tells the story of what feels like a battle with a mental illness with this lyric indicating the struggle; “I’ve had enough, I’ll rid the curse be normal again.” Metal is hard to not fall into the category of sounding all the same because of its aggresion and similar rhythmical guitar patterns, but Charlotte really draws you in to listen to the story. I feel that the repetition of this track makes it actually more original.

The fourth track on the album, “Time Wasted” is a bit more electronic to begin with, adding another influence into Crosslight’s inspirations. It’s a short song which adds strength to embark on the next song “Karma.” Now, this song is heavy and deals with angst from, well, karma. What goes around comes around honey, we’ve all gone through it, wherever we’re watching someone go through karma or going through it ourselves. I find that the song itself has the same attitude of shrugging your shoulders, it’s simply put as a care free nature of “Whatever!” The chorus lyrics aren’t quite the normal, metal lyrics you’d get, it’s more of an Avril Lavigne tone which is really different. “You run around oh so careless honey, karma’s gonna catch up soon, I’m done with you.” The rhythm is slightly different compared to the other tracks on the album, but it still has a similar vibe to it all. Strongest track on he album so far for me.

“Fighting for What? falls into the same attitude as everything else so far, and as a listener, I’m longing for another influence in the band’s music to make it slightly more original. The drums are so programmed which makes the song feel forced. I think the band were definitely aiming towards an angry, powerful album instead of the music actually being more felt, which is definitely not a negative thing, it’s just a personal preference. I really admire the band for striving for something and getting the product done the way they wanted it.

Overdriven bass played by Daniel begins the next song “Poison” which creates a tone that Chris Wolstenholme defines in Muse. I feel that the song doesn’t dynamically go anywhere, it stays the same throughout. I’d really like to hear Charlotte sing different phrases/tones to make the songs slightly more interesting, but saying that, I do like the angry attitude in her voice. At the very end of the song, it’s really interesting how everything just completely stops and there’s just a slightly delay that comes after from Charlotte’s voice making it sound confusing as if there’s more to come, but there’s not… clever.

“100,000 Miles” begins with a ukulele which was very unexpected seeing as the album is so angry. The song does have a rhythmical metal sounding guitar part by Luke come swiftly in after the first verse, making the band go back to their roots. I think the band tried to make this a folk-metal track with the soft string instruments sitting in the back, but it doesn’t work as well as planned I personally think. I’ve noticed that in most of the songs on the album, it feels very stiff and mixed to the grid making it sound somewhat robotic. This is used a-lot in heavy metal music as it does add more power to the songs.

A heavy prog-esque riff dominates “Submerge” and automatically I thought to myself “this is more like it.” The tone is scary and makes you instantly want to move in someway, wherever it may be a foot twitch or a head bang. The guitar tone sounds similar to the sound that Queens of the Stone Age implicated on Songs for the Deaf, which is always a great compliment. I like how the band bring their own flavouring to this prog based song. It’s definitely my favourite on the album for sure.

“Just a Kiss” features Amal Birch, a freestyle rap artist. The song definitely has an influence of what Jay Z captured with 99 Problems; the rap rock element. The rap itself from Amal feels a bit too fixed and I really wish it was a bit more loose. The words are really well thought out though and fit the topic well. With the programmed drums, it’s just not quite as powerful as this song should be. I could be completely wrong about the drums being programmed, but the mix sounds like they have been edited quite a lot. I’m sure this song live will be really great to listen to with drummer, Joe, laying down some juicy drum fills. I feel that the topic of the track is about simply having a kiss with someone in, maybe a club, well that’s what it sounds like.

Once again, the next song doesn’t really go anywhere, and sometimes when that happens, it doesn’t take me to a place. Whereas songs that have a strong momentum all the way through, it makes people shift to another place where they can really relate to the song. Saying that, in “B.A.C.K”, you can feel the energy that the band bring in their music, they really do live for this stuff. One thing that people look for in new bands are charisma, talent & passion, Crosslight certainly do have that.

The guitars in “Kingdom is Mine” aren’t quite quantised to the same tempo as the drums in some parts making the guitars sound unfinished and sort of out of time. This song is once again nu-metal down to a tee. I feel the influences behind this song are Halestorm and Evanescence with all three bands having a strong female vocal. I like the path that the band go down with their music but like I’ve said before, it’s not really my personal preference to listen too.

Next up is actually an acoustic number, Charlotte sings “Drive On” with an American twang making it show that her voice is versatile and can sing through genres. This folk number feels slightly forced still and the harsh drum editing is more obvious than before as this song is so soft. I feel that the cymbals being played, more a less constantly make the song sound a bit messy. Overall though, the song is sweet and is also the longest track on the whole album.

The last track on the album “I’m Not Done” isn’t really a stand out track as much as the last of an album should be. The song does cover the band’s genre as a whole and connects the songs altogether to fit a nice pattern for the album. If you’re a fan of My Chemical Romance, The Used, Tonight Alive, then you should definitely check Crosslight out.  The band cover a wide range of influences in their music and make them fresh. The songs are good and the talent shines. Interested to see where the band may take their music in their next releases…

Favourite Tracks: Recovery, Run Into Flowers, Clockwork, Time Wasted, Karma, Submerge.

Score: 6.5/10

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Quill – Grey Goose Call (EP Review)

Quill are not only known for their unique musical style… they create a musical journey through the ages with their live set up. After listening to Grey Goose Call, it’s now a fact that they create the same energetic live essence throughout the studio recording. They sit comfortably within the celtic folk/rock genre and it’s safe to say, the latest line up have brought a fresh new sound to their music. With Grey Goose Call written by the band themselves, the 4 songs take us into a dark, but warming entrance to what feels like a new beginning.

The title track of the EP begins with a gentle goose calling, before strong harmonies that really remind of Fleetwood Mac’s tone’s enter. The band have adapted to their influences through time, but made sure their sound becomes so fresh to listen to. For a 6:12 minutes long song, it captivates you all the way through. As the song dynamically builds, the sound becomes quite diverse and intricate. The bass comfortably sits in the mix, but you can constantly hear the pulse repeating. I must say, the production is really intense and in your face with elements of Fairport Convention shining through. Having string instruments gives the song a complete different style. I personally feel if the strings weren’t in this track, it would sound more like a pop orientated track. Joy’s emotional vocals tell the story of simply hearing the “Grey Goose Call.” Maybe the goose is a symbolic structure of something? It could be a metaphor for a cry for help. In my opinion, the percussion and drums replicates the simplicity of the song, but by making it sound complex. The rhythm makes it sound kind of African and upbeat. This is a very strong song to set the bar quite high for what sounds like a warming welcome to the sound of Quill. The song ends just as it begins, indicating that yes, this is end, but it’s certainly not over yet.

“Elephant in the Room” begins with footsteps creeping up into a simple 4/4 beat. The guitars sound heavily influenced by old progressive rock tones, similar to bands like Genesis. Quill take a simple blues sounding song and subtle add tasty melodic guitar lines over the top, making it an extremely versatile song. The chorus is moody and has the ability to haunt anyone with the harmonies generating new, elegant parts throughout. An elephant in the room is a metaphor for an obvious problem in a room basically, and I really like how Quill can take a personal matter but make the problem not known. It leaves the audience asking “what is the actual problem?” Questioning an audience is a good thing in my opinion, because they are wanting to know more about your music, indicating them to keep on listening. I love how this song isn’t rushed and is played to indicate an emotion of love. When the instruments are all cut out to just the drums, it makes me feel that anything could happen next. The drums completely stop to just Joy singing “elephant in the room” which end with a subtle breath like sigh making the audience realise that after all this time, the actual problem and the elephant in the room, was simply the singer.

The subtly comes through this song with Joy’s vocals sounding exceptionally emotional. Having someone’s affection is the most warming feeling in the world and I really like how Quill have managed to replicate this feeling through “Skin on Skin.” This song is moody in the essence that it really grips you to hold onto every part of the song. All of the members of Quill have had a memorable history in music and I really like how they bring all their stories into one, creating a really big influence to their fans. This song would really be a lovely wedding dance for a couple, as the comfort of the song is so calming. There’s genuinely no negativity shining in this song, making it really a big moment on the EP. Dynamically, the song doesn’t build as much as the others on the EP, but it works so well to keep such a calming momentum.

The last track on the EP is a fist pump for wanting love. The whole EP is situated round love and the different aspects that you want. We have Skin on Skin which is the comfort of affection, whereas the vibe I’m getting from “Little Affection” is needing to be loved. It’s the longest track on the EP and it constantly builds with influences of world music being mirrored constantly. The rhythm of the song just makes you tap your feet and really dive into the music. “I forgotten what it felt like to fall in love” takes us into a new element of the song; really needing this love otherwise things could fall apart. I personally feel that the singer is needing this love to carry on, it’s her well-being and soul on the line, if she doesn’t get this love, something bad could happen. It makes me think; what is she actually in love with? could it be being in love with the meaning of love? a friend? a piece of music? It could be anything, which makes me like this a whole lot more. The sense of not knowing what the topic is throughout the EP makes me drawn to Quill’s music more. We never really know what the actual concept Joy is singing about which is great, we’re just left with the topic of love. This track is one that the whole band wrote together which strangely enough, makes the song so much bigger than the others on the track. It’s definitely the stand out, rock ballad of the EP. It’s proggy in the aspect that the concept is here, there and everywhere.

As a whole, the EP is truly wonderful. I’m lucky enough to be supporting Quill on the 8th June at the Artrix Theatre in Bromsgrove.

The musicians on the album consist of Joy Strachan-Brain on vocals, Kate McWilliam on violin and backing vocals, Abby Brant on keyboards and backing vocals, Tony Kelsey on guitars and backing vocals, Matt Worley on bass and backing vocals, Andy Edwards on the drums and the ELO legend, Bev Bevan on percussion… we now realise the secret behind Quill’s full sound, the extremely talented musicians behind the songs. 

Favourite Tracks: Elephant in the Room, Skin on Skin, Little Affection
Score: 7.5/10

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