REVIEW ROUND-UP: Rob Zombie, Tom Grennan, ERRA

Rob Zombie
The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy

It’s frankly amazing that Rob Zombie has lasted as long as he has, and it’s not due to any sort of controversy. If anything it’s the complete opposite, where his particular shock-rock image has such deliberate schlock and grindhouse sensibilities that it’s a wonder he’s been able to stretch it over a two-decade-plus solo career, and that’s just outside of White Zombie. There’s definitely good material within it, but even on the most superficial level, his work isn’t something that inspires much considerable of longevity, particularly on his later works. It can’t be avoided that 2016’s The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser felt like a direction being drilled into way too far, where the splatterpaint horror style that might embody Zombie’s films was being translated to his music, resulting in an album that, especially with hindsight, felt undercooked, rushed and supremely forgettable. There’s already a shelf life to this sort of industrial alt-metal, and that album felt more or less like drawing attention to that in a very obvious way. But conversely, that can also be why albums like this tend to work, where the disregard for conventional structure or composition is more peripheral above anything else to foster that over-the-top, B-movie style. Longevity still winds up on the chopping block for it, but as the last album tried to establish and The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy tries to reinforce, there can be a bit of worth to that in the brazen moment. That’s far from a sound judgement, but it’s apt for the sort of slime-coated, cartoonish slurry that Rob will come out with, big on schlock if not on substance. Depth might as well be a foreign concept, but that’s clearly engineered to be the case, as the likes of The Ballad Of Sleazy Rider and Boom-Boom-Boom find a lot more mileage in what they can do with the image and aesthetic. It does need to be stressed that there’s few outright great songs here, or at least not to the standard of previous Zombie cuts like Dragula or Never Gonna Stop, but going about repurposing the ideas of those songs works about as well as it has for the past however many years he’s been doing it. This is very much in his wheelhouse and by that standard he’s holding steady, but that’s not something to hold against this album either.

What is more in that vein is the fact that The Lunar Injection… can suffer when there isn’t much beneficial done with that sameness. It’s certainly less slapdash than its predecessor, but in a way that does take away some of the character overall; even as a more competently created album, it isn’t much more than another Rob Zombie album. Of course, that brings with it the usual features that’ll contribute to the baseline of quality, most prominently Zombie himself with his hoary, shredded rasp that has a lot of inherent appeal, but for a fairly weighty album in terms of track presence, the only places where it really sticks out are in the vastly different stylistic shifts. There’s the gonzo country gallop of 18th Century Cannibals, Excitable Morlocks And A One-Way Ticket On The Ghost Train and bedrock-cracking blues smoulder of Boom-Boom-Boom, but otherwise there isn’t much that’s all that memorable about this album, at least musically. It’s good that it feels a bit more balanced and consistent, and on its own, the grimy industrial coating on this sort of alt-metal is solid and solidly produced, but it also gives off the impression that it could be more with the right application. There’s a lot of interludes that don’t need to be here as well, serving as a further implication that Zombie’s style when it comes to crafting albums doesn’t really have an economical middle ground either way. That’s at least something to talk about on an album like this with disappointingly few of those moments, but even then, it’s not like this is bad or unlikable. Hell, you’d be hard pressed to call any Rob Zombie album actively unlikable, given the amount of personality he puts into them, but for a clear indication of one that’s falling into the middle ground in terms of entertainment value, that would be The Lunar Injection…. It’s fine enough for what it’s trying to do, and Zombie knows how to do it successfully, but it’s not exactly a crowning achievement, by those or any standards.

6/10

For fans of: Static-X, Powerman 5000, Dope

‘The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy’ by Rob Zombie is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.


Tom Grennan
Evering Road

Given the UK’s infatuation with Tom Grennan doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, it might be worth giving him some kind of reevaluation. Except maybe it’s not, because he’s among the inoffensive singer-songwriters that came out of nowhere to soundtrack an ad and somehow stuck around. He’s among the Tom Walker camp in that vein, and while he’s not as bad (it’s hard to be), he still represents the sort of safe, commodified ‘indie’-pop whose sole aim is to play to the least discerning mainstream audience possible. Evering Road doesn’t even try to hide that fact, in how borderline weaponised it is for the crowd looking for ‘real’ music, and who’ll happily dish that praise onto anything that sounds even slightly older or more organic, despite being just as patently shallow as the pop they’re railing against. And Grennan has those qualities they’re looking for in spades, in his gravel-throated oversinging and glances towards soul in the strings, horns and choirs that back him up, presumably trying to emulate the appeal of Amy Winehouse or Adele, but with a minute fraction of the character. It’s the obvious downside of an album that wants to present itself as raw and real, but also shamelessly commercial, as a lot of Grennan’s storytelling about lost love and self-reflection follows the uber-imprintable template of Lewis Capaldi before him. It’s build around the medium of radio play to the extent where Grennan’s voice is the only semi-distinct thing about it, and when Little Bit Of Love comes out with the line “Lately I’ve been counting stars”, such a direct lift from OneRepublic couldn’t seem more appropriate for an artist gunning for the exact same pale, middle-of-the-road facsimile of alternative music. It’s just empty calories at the end of the day, saved from utter insipidity by Grennan having presence, but not enough to distinguish the bulk of Evering Road from any other crop of doe-eyed, white-boy ballads.

Honestly though, there is almost enough there on a musical front to allow Grennan to stand out from the pack, until it becomes clear that Evering Road really only has that leverage when judged alongside its peers. The big, brassy opener If Only might suggest something different – it’s livelier than usual with more of a punchy groove – until the album winds up largely a drier, formulaic version of that that’s nowhere near as engaging. There’s clearly an eye kept on sounding swelling and theatrical, where the Hozier impression of Amen and piano knells of It Hurts will attempt to foster a brooding atmosphere, but between percussion that’s unnecessarily stiff most of the time and production that’s far to clandestine to make anything of it, there’s precious little forward movement to be found. More often than not, there are parallels drawn to an act like The Script, where the desire to appear truly earnest and emotive is kneecapped by a presentation style that in no way allows that, and so it just ends up feeling mawkish and saccharine. Even on a song like Oh Please that’s supposed to sound big and triumphant, the jittery Rag’n’Bone Man beat and the bizarre low fidelity on the production give off a cheapness that an artist with this amount of a push should not have. As well as the fact that there’s a frankly level of sameness between these songs – not helped by the album feeling stretched beyond its means as it is – Evering Road just doesn’t feel like a product that gives its creator much to work with in terms of formulating an artistic identity. That’s basically the tagline for the singer-songwriters of Grennan’s ilk, and to his credit, there’s evidence of trying a bit harder, but it just ends up as shallow and empty as all the others. Even for ‘real’ music, there’s crossover indie or pop-rock that’ll at least spur on some kind of response, which is more than can be said for another plain slice of white bread moonlighting as an album.

4/10

For fans of: Lewis Capaldi, Rag’n’Bone Man, Tom Walker

‘Evering Road’ by Tom Grennan is out now on Insanity Records / Sony Music Entertainment.


ERRA
ERRA

The important question to ask when going into ERRA’s self-titled album is “what exactly does this add?” They’re easily one of the more popular bands in the current wave of tech-metalcore, but like with a lot of their peers and contemporaries, they play to their genre’s conventions and formulae rather than leaving their own stamp. It’s a frustration that runs a lot deeper than just the output of this one band, but ERRA stand as one of many that embody the monotony that can cripple so much of tech-metal. It’s why that previous question is so imperative in the case of this album especially, with ERRA now five albums deep and their reputation demanding something more from them to keep them on the genre’s front lines. But alas, that isn’t really the case, with ERRA instead giving a good reason to pull out the usual tech-metal script of ‘technically proficient but not much else’. At least here, that proficiency impresses a bit more on its own, given the penchant for bending traditional song structures in a way that shows off the band’s instrumental skill without going too off the rails. It’s a good showcase of both JT Cavey and Jesse Cash as vocalists, especially when they aren’t tied to an unmoving verse-chorus-verse trade-off, and in terms of sounding the part in a big, expensive way, ERRA can pull that off just as well as anyone. Simply through sonics alone, this is clearly the work of a band who’ve been cutting their teeth in this scene for a while now, with the grand, chrome-plated production to fully ensure the inherent technical opulence of the genre is intact.

That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the exact same description could be applied to virtually any other longer-running tech-metal band with minimal effort. Hell, in the case of someone like Periphery, there would at least be some distinctive features to pull out within it; with ERRA, that just doesn’t feel like the case here. It doesn’t help that they adhere to tech-metal’s bad habit of really padding its albums out to further facilitate that grandeur, and running the risk of everything running together as a result, but on the whole, it gives very little to work with beyond the pre-requisite points. Yes, it’s played well across the board and sounds good enough, but when the production style and the angular djent guitar tone are basically just the standard issue, it’s hard to really get excited by any of that. It effectively makes analysing individual tracks pointless, and when the writing doesn’t really help by sticking to a lot of the usual crop of themes (including yet another ‘technology bad’ song in Divisionary that, to its credit, tries to be marginally more clever with the subject), it creates a state where there’s very little to talk about. It’s not a bad album by any means, but it’s also not one that highlights ERRA as an individual prospect, instead applying their efforts to the usual template and allowing them to fill it out in the usual manner. These sorts of albums can be tedious enough, but when it’s an established act that easily could’ve moved past this sort of roteness behind it, it can be an even greater disappointment. That said, it’ll satisfy the itch for any sort of tech-metal basically without fail, but that’s yet another thing that can be applied to every single release this genre has to offer.

6/10

For fans of: Northlane, Heart Of A Coward, Thornhill

‘ERRA’ by ERRA is released on 19th March on UNFD.


The Blue Stones
Hidden Gems

At face value, The Blue Stones seem a bit out of date with what they’re doing. The power duo mould is nowhere near as lucrative as it once was, and despite releasing their debut in the midst of that renaissance in 2015, they didn’t catch on nearly as much as, say, Royal Blood around the same time. Maybe that’s because The Blue Stones have never had the dyed-in-the-wool, classic rock or bust approach that’s become the staple of many a blues-rock duo, and having that open out to include both airier production and hip-hop elements feels like a way to hold fast in 2021’s rock scene, but one that isn’t entirely out of character. It gives Hidden Gems more in common with slicker, groove-driven indie in the vein of Nothing But Thieves or Mutemath, complete with the more middle-of-the-road elements that find those acts similarly lacking in staying power. That need for presence is the particular sword of Damocles that would hang over The Blue Stones regardless of which predetermined impulse a mainstream-leaning rock duo could act on, where they’ll struggle to move the needle either way as opposed to being straight-up bad. It’s clear that more is trying to be done outside of the norm, where the duo will try and sidestep some of the conventions of riff-rock for a less clumsy or unwieldy sound, but that conversely opens it up to greater weaknesses itself. Justin Tessier’s drumming stands out in how it creates a crisper sense of groove, but it ultimately dominates a mix smothered in atmospherics to beef it out, which can lead an already watery guitar tone hanging in the mix like on One By One or Spirit where it actively feels weak among everything else. It’d probably be unfair to call it entirely weightless – things click into place better on Shakin’ Off The Rust and Grim, and embracing the hip-hop influences almost completely on Careless makes for an interesting detour – but there isn’t much longevity to it overall. Being rooted in highly-scrubbed modern radio-rock will do that, further highlighting the weaknesses that The Blue Stones struggle to escape from.

That’s not exactly rectified by the writing, with this album reportedly having the greatest focus on lyrics of The Blue Stones’ career but not impressing much. Like a lot of the instrumentation, it’s more a case of being uniformly down-the-middle rather than noticeably bad, elevated slightly by the fact that Tarek Jafar has a good, clean voice that can suitably convey emotion when it needs to. Even so, these are songs painted with a lot of broad strokes, without much in the way of ear-catching depth or detail outside the odd flourish that’ll come and go rather quickly. At least songs like Shakin’ Off The Rust and L.A. Afterlife have the hooks and vocal melodies to flow more smoothly than average, a quality which does stand to be The Blue Stones’ greatest advantage on this album. Hidden Gems doesn’t have the jerkiness or inflexibility that will weigh down plenty of rock duos, meaning that it might go down easier as a result, but can also feel a bit insubstantial at the same time. In a way, it’s reminiscent of the direction that Highly Suspect took on MCID, but without a lot of the brazenness and adventurous that at least made that album noteworthy, regardless of how it was received. With The Blue Stones, they pretty much feel designed to fall into the crowd, with a modestly pleasing album that’s just a bit too empty to achieve much more. It’s not a problem exclusive to them by any means, but propagated in such a way really doesn’t help anyone, be that the band or the scene as a whole.

5/10

For fans of: Badflower, Nothing But Thieves, Highly Suspect

‘Hidden Gems’ by The Blue Stones is released on 19th March on eOne.


LANDMVRKS
Lost In The Waves

Well, this is a bit of throwback. Not necessarily LANDMVRKS themselves, but the event of seeing a metalcore band come around and fielding buzz around their new album that’s so obviously trying to facilitate a breakthrough. To be fair to them, LANDMVRKS haven’t just spawned overnight in the way that others in the mid-2010s would appear to have; they’ve been around for a few years, with Lost In The Waves actually being their third full-length. That does come as something of surprise after listening to this album, as the total disregard for stylistic cohesion and the overall loose presentation feel more indicative of a band just starting out than one that’s actually made some prior headway. Unfortunately it’s more messy than liberated or unbound to genre conventions, to where it genuinely doesn’t appear that Lost In The Waves has a concise game plan besides trying everything. Consecutive songs will feel as though they belong on different albums, often from different bands, with barely anything in the way of connective tissue to align everything into a satisfying whole. There’s definitely a ballsiness to it – the three-song run of trap balladry on Visage, skyscraping modern rock on Tired Of It All and guttural, low-end metalcore on Say No Word is something very few would try, for good or ill – but the overall appeal couldn’t be more scattered, if it’s even there at all sometimes. The one constant is probably the production, though having it as the sleek, clean, most modern variant will often only diminish any colour or intensity even more.

The effects of it can be felt in earnest too; LANDMVRKS skirt all over the map to the degree that they never feel as though they real strength in one area, and so the saving grace of a huge chorus or melody is a lot less prevalent. The one true standout moment comes on Visage where vocalist Florent Salfati will rap his verse in French, acting as a solitary moment of definitive personality that could be worth developing on, but never is. It ultimately becomes lost on an album that doesn’t know what to do with itself, a criticism that even extends to Salfati at the helm. He’s got more of an unkempt vocal style than this slicker brand of metalcore typically allows, and while that lends itself well to screams on Rainfall and Say No Word (though the word-vomit pileups of the latter can be excruciatingly awkward), elsewhere it again feels like a piece taken from another band. His cleans have a tone that feels derived from the simpering, performatively vulnerable side of Britrock that’s just as unctuous here, and as a vehicle for some pretty standard metalcore lyricism orbiting around the usual touchstones of depression and inner turmoil, it fits but it isn’t all that appealing. In fact, none of Lost In The Waves is, in what bizarrely seems like a conscious decision on LANDMVRKS’ part. It most likely isn’t, but the lack of the clear throughline and the generally untidy nature of the album – not to mention the songs that just aren’t memorable – seldom sits well in any regard, nudging it from the usual ‘forgettable metalcore’ safe zone into something a bit more noteworthy for the wrong reasons.

4/10

For fans of: Void Of Vision, Polaris, Dayseeker

‘Lost In The Waves’ by LANDMVRKS is released on 19th March on Arising Empire.


Kali Masi
[laughs]

Kali Masi are a profoundly interesting band, in that they defy almost all expectations of where they are in the musical landscape. Comparisons to The Menzingers and Joyce Manor illicit ideas of another rollicking, earnest punk band, maybe with a slightly scrappier edge, but then there’s also a lyrical hardcore bent akin to La Dispute that morphs the sound into its own thing entirely. Their debut album Wind Instrument flew pretty far under the radar, but it was a great example of a band taking so much of what’s loved in modern punk and emo, and doing something fresh with it. Even now, when that same appreciation of depth is being withheld excellently by a band like Spanish Love Songs, Kali Masi still have something of an edge when it comes adventurous spirit that moves independently of the pack. That’s evident from the very first track of [laughs], Still Life, a literary, dramatic mission statement winding across five minutes that feels like such a substantive leap from virtually anything that Kali Masi’s peers are doing. As a whole, [laughs] will conjure similarities to The Wonder Years in its breaking of the punk and emo structure, and how its insularity and thoughtfulness is allowed to take its own paths. Sam Porter furthermore stands as an excellent lyricist among that, never really leaning on emotional bluntness but spinning evocative writing on Guilt Like A Gun and Trophy Deer to a point where it’s just as strong. The themes of self-actualisation and defining your own path have a considerable place within punk and emo like this, but there’s an articulation and breadth to Kali Masi’s work that continues to feel unique, even among all of that.

As a result, [laughs] doesn’t quite have the same anthemic volatility as some of its contemporaries, but Kali Masi are smart enough to make up for that in resonance of sound alone. This is absolutely the best form of alt-punk and emo from a sonic perspective, where the guitars with seethe with a wonderful rawness and heaviness, ahead of coursing basslines and drums that, when put together like this, has always and will always sound excellent. At its most melodically rich, [laughs] will hit strides similar to Against Me! or The Menzingers on Paint Me Jade and Long Term, though the momentum barely dips. For an album that’s not as adherent to the traditional punk structure, that feels even more like a victory; the wrung-out diatribe of Still Life and the sandpaper tone and lonely horns of Recurring (I) will bore down so deeply that, even free of a standard big hook, they will last for a long time. That can be attributed to how well Kali Masi’s sound is realised – though with Jay Maas behind the production desk, that was always going to be the case with his track record – but really, [laughs] succeeds as a culmination of everything that makes modern punk great that primarily punches well above its weight class. It’s something fresh within a scene that often relies on the familiar, though never too far removed from where its roots lie. It’s the ideal advancement of this sound, where more put into the emotion and thought-provoking themes that gives [laughs] a highly beneficial amount of extra weight. It may cut back on blistering populism as a result, but for what Kali Masi deliver, it feels largely worth it for an album as entirely compelling and storming as this.

8/10

For fans of: The Menzingers, The Wonder Years, La Dispute

‘[laughs]’ by Kali Masi is released on 26th March on Take This To Heart Records.


Saint Agnes
Vampire

It’s an interesting current wave of Britrock that Saint Agnes are riding, where the overall sound remains ostensibly melodic but incorporates more abrasive, sometimes industrial sounds within it. It’s done a good amount for bands like Nova Twins and Wargasm recently, though there’s yet to be a moment where the prompted inspiration of it all has fully clicked into place, though perhaps Vampire gets a bit closer than most. That’s likely to be handled even better on the digital version, without the interludes – or ‘psalms’, as they’re referred to as – between nearly every track to cut the momentum to ribbons, but on their own Saint Agnes fall into the zone of a band with heaps of potential, even with the good bit of honing to undergo to make it shine even more. The first impression they make is that they’ve got one hell of a wall of sound, as the heavy guitars and bass will splinter off as this more vicious brand of alt-rock is wont to do, but there’s almost a macabre sensibility to how sharp and clinical it can feel, more so than other bands in this vein. It exacerbates the angst surging through the likes of Repent and the title track, and a cover of Grinderman’s No Pussy Blues that sees the clattering, industrial chops of Saint Agnes come into full swing. They don’t feel as bound by the need for accessibility as others, instead getting there through creative intent in how they’ll feed in and contort their sound to let the serrated edges stick out, even among the bigger melodies.

It’s almost serendipitous to how Vampire feels more piecemeal as a release, particularly after making the distinction between physical and digital versions, where the goal seems to be getting the ideas down and playing around with what they can really offer. It’s hard to look past at times, but not debilitating to Vampire as a release, and that’s a good thing for Saint Agnes to have at this stage. They’ve got enough presence and uniqueness as an outfit to thrive simply through throwing themselves in as they do, and frontloaded by Kitty Austen’s piercing but undoubtedly powerful voice and lyrics that add a darkly theatrical bent to the more visceral content, that adds up overall. Within their wave, Saint Agnes definitely excel in showcasing their rawness, and on a pretty brief mini-album like this (albeit one that has enough to never feel insubstantial), it’s easy to get the feeling that they’d do well courting more of a punk or even a hardcore audience. It has the right qualities for those scenes, representative of the moves Saint Agnes are making when it comes to rock with a bit more volatility that still feels satisfying composed and complete. It’ll be interesting to see how they’d tackle a full album of this; there’s an impressive spark shining here that won’t be easy to translate, but will almost certainly be worthwhile.

7/10

For fans of: Nova Twins, Never Not Nothing, Wargasm

‘Vampire’ by Saint Agnes is released on 26th March on Death Or Glory Gang Records.


Ego Kill Talent
The Dance Between Extremes

Now that the full album is here, it feels more worthwhile to try and deduce why Ego Kill Talent opted to release The Dance Between Extremes as a series of EPs. It’s not like the album particularly benefits from it or is sequenced in such a way to make it make sense; really, the only logical explanation is as a ploy to convince newcomers that Ego Kill Talent have more of intrigue to offer to than they actually do. The untruth of that statement really sets in with the full context of the album, where the band’s previous lack of dynamics is exacerbated to make this fairly innocuous, middle-of-the-road rock album feel like a lot longer and more tiresome than it should. This post-grunge space is already limited in what it can offer, and stretched across twelve tracks without much of a shift in mood or tone just isn’t exciting. It was an issue on the preceding EPs, but the sense of how unimaginative Ego Kill Talent are can be felt in spades here, not only in some exceedingly formulaic radio-rock themes, but also in how little is actually done with them. For a love song, Silence has an odd sourness to it that a line like “Let me fall into your arms tonight” is completely at odds with, while Starving Drones (A Dinner Talk) sees it best to vocalise frustration and broad-ranging anger through clunky spoken-word passages reminiscent of bad nu-metal. The natural hookiness of this sort of music is a useful safety net to have, but Ego Kill Talent also project a reliance on that which doesn’t get them anywhere.

And even then, it’s not like being by-the-numbers is too damaging on its own, but it requires a certain musical and composition calibre to back it up that Ego Kill Talent rarely exude. Compare this to a band like Nickelback who can be just as unadventurous, but you’ll also find a bravado there to move it forward; The Dance Between Extremes, meanwhile, has the meaty, downtuned riffs and a pleasingly – and surprisingly – prominent bass tone, without the drive to give it a chance of working. There’s a notable slug of old-school grunge and hard rock in their mix (presumably why the parallels to Soundgarden’s Spoonman on The Call are so noticeable), though they lend presence above anything else. The result is an album that trudges and drags itself by without much urgency, where Jonathan Dörr’s vocals will be shaped by such a groggy pace that renders them similarly uninteresting. From a construction point of view, near enough everything fits where it should, but this sort of radio-rock fixated on the purity of that image needs to do more to thrive; there are multiple instances on this album where a guitar solo could’ve easily been plugged in to the respective tracks’ benefit, and the absence is glaring. On the whole, it just makes it hard to care about Ego Kill Talent as a band, when this sort of rock doesn’t achieve much anymore and their approximation of it struggles to even clear down-the-middle likability. They’re aiming to be among the Foo Fighters or Alter Bridge clearly, but whereas those bands have the power and the songs to keep themselves rested at their stratospheric heights, Ego Kill Talent still have their feet rooted to the floor.

4/10

For fans of: Foo Fighters, Alter Bridge, Stone Temple Pilots

‘The Dance Between Extremes’ by Ego Kill Talent is released on 19th March on BMG.


Distant
Dusk Of Anguish

A new EP from Distant so soon after their last doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. Their past couple of releases have put the focus on world-building for their fictional hell-realm Tyrannotophia, and as effectively a sequel to October’s Dawn Of Corruption, it makes sense to continue that thread with Dusk Of Anguish to push that narrative forward as quickly as they can. What’s more, Dusk Of Anguish sees the general pieces remain the same – monstrously-sized and slow deathcore with touches of black-metal and slam – but with enough tweaks to surpass its predecessor on the whole. The big one comes in the production, which has wisely cleared up some of the runnier edges it previously had; there’s still an opulence to how massive Distant sound, particularly with their walls of guitars and crashing drums, but it’s noticeably tighter on the whole now. That only improves on what was already a solid heavy formula, especially when Distant have a bit more going for them with regards to versatility. It’s never anything huge that would distract from their customary slabs of hellfire, but the battering percussion on The Eternal Lament and Cryogenesis and the icy howls that slice through Ravka widen the scope considerably compared to other acts for whom brutality is the square, centre aim. It’s where having a higher budget mix pays off, where the atmosphere can be more ominous and ghostly, and tie in more directly to the EP’s overall theming.

It’s also worth noting how welcomely integrated those moments are on Dusk Of Anguish, where the world that the ever-present destructiveness and destitution is tied to actually feels present in the context of the music. In this case, the focus is on Tyrannotophia’s new despotic ruler and torment they’ve wrought upon the world, and basing the sound on colder backing tones that Distant’s natural enormity smashes through adds a layer of detail that most in this form of heavy music wouldn’t entertain. The difference is noticeable, particularly when Distant themselves are one of the more gripping bands in this particular scene. It’s mainly down to the size of it all which is simply unavoidable, but Alan Grnja as a vocalist still does a good job at standing as a formidable presence within it, in the low-end, evil growls that feel seismic and imperious all on their own. It does feel like a turning point where Distant have hit their stride, with a tidier, more beneficial mix to elevate a sound that already had a good amount of redeeming qualities in the first place. It makes Dusk Of Anguish feel more complete with regards to Distant’s end goal overall, as well as edging them further from the doldrums of blackened deathcore to where they’re easily one of the scene’s more compelling bands. It’s a good, necessary next step to take, and long may the chronicles of Tyrannotophia continue if they’re going to stay at this quality.

7/10

For fans of: Black Tongue, Bound In Fear, Drown In Sulphur

‘Dusk Of Anguish’ by Distant is released on 19th March on Unique Leader Records.


Lewis
Inside

The plain artistic mononym aside, Lewis is actually a rather interesting figure when it comes to his output. His work specialises in the exploration of music psychology, naturally through more layered forms of prog, folk and psychedelia that’s shaped his musical palette. As such, this debut solo album is a consolidating project of sorts, in which the sounds of his many previous and current projects can be brought together in a more open-ended fashion. The result is the sort of topshelf, high-end prog that could easily carry itself on clouds of self-importance, but that’s not really the case with Inside. The abstract lyrics are probably the closest it comes to that, swirling through metaphors about humanity that can generally be taken or left, but the genuineness in Lewis’ vocals can keep them anchored surprisingly sturdily. He’s easily a great singer, with a range and fluidity that might squeak through into over-emoting in his upper register, bur regular get by on sonorous presence alone, backed by the echoing production on the likes of Time, Money And Fear Part 1 and I Just to pull that scope out even further. In what can be such a cavernous mix, he’s not quite the powerhouse that fills it all out, but he ensures that the focus is always centralised on him, and the music this album offers, that’s arguably a better route to take.

That’ll be what the biggest draw of Inside is, to see how a lot of these tones and textures can flow and breathe in a way that complements named influences like Pink Floyd and Steven Wilson. The fingerprints of both of those acts are definitely here in the opulence and expansiveness of Cruel World and King Of Falls (not to mention the latter’s pop sensibilities that feed into Fox and Cry A Man), but touches of garage-rock and the avant-garde make Inside a more fleshed-out proposition that feels like its own thing. There’ll be elements of jazz horns and flutes sprinkled throughout, but the liability to lose itself in wild, spasmodic detours is thankfully avoided, making for an album that’s not exactly lean but has greater structure. You probably couldn’t call it accessible either for the most part, but there’s definitely a magnetism in abundance regardless of where you look that keeps Inside so fresh and engaging. Even for an album like this that’s so deeply rooted in its tapestry of influences, there’s enough diversity within it to emphatically stick the landing and impress on a good handful of occasions.

7/10

For fans of: Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Steven Wilson

‘Inside’ by Lewis is released on 19th March on Klonosphere Records.


Words by Luke Nuttall

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