Chapter III – Downfall
Delivering a modern symphonic metal sound, Chapter III – Downfall sees Swiss / German quartet Ad Infinitum continue their epic story telling. Balancing a heaviness with more delicate melodies, Ad Infinitum’s sound is highly compelling. Chapter III – Downfall is their third album in four years, and it’s astonishing how they have managed to produce so many high-quality releases in such a short space of time.
With each offering Ad Infinitum showcases their developmental journey as a band, both from a musical but also thematic perspective. The new release explores ancient Egypt, with a focus on Cleopatra and the extraordinary events in her life. Ad Infinitum immerse themselves, and their listeners, into this inspired historical narrative accompanied with music composed to aptly to match. Something notable with Chapter III – Downfall is that while the band have retained their distinctive catchiness, their tracks also venture further into progressive realms with more djent-styles and intricate details present in the mix. Eternal Rains kicks off the album with an intense and dramatic impact. The anthemic chorus contrasts with the darkness running through the heavy instrumentation in the verses; pounding percussion and haunting orchestral instruments manifest an eerie mood. Melissa Bonny’s vocals are incredible and both her clean and harsh performances are immaculate. Upside Down sees her cleans soar and dance around the catchy melody of the chorus hook, while her harsh growls in the bridge introduce a demonic sound.
Technical and djent-esque guitars in the breakdown of From The Ashes add another textural layer to their sound, elevating the underlying gloom that bleeds through each track. The Underworld is a musically intriguing with an arrangement of a high-octane rock track but heavier. Electric riffs, licks and guitar solos drive this track with the percussion and bass heightening the momentum. It’s a stark divergence in style to the calmer pace and folk instruments in Ravenous. Intricate orchestral parts form a delicate and yet powerful affect in The Serpent’s Downfall. The verses and pre-chorus feel more spacious with the focus placed on fewer instrumental parts, before building into a full sound for the chorus. Legends concludes by bringing the core elements of the band’s sound into one fierce and striking composition. The melodic, ethereal and anthemic, is unleashed alongside the progressive and heavy.
Ad Infinitum traverse new plains in Chapter III – Downfall. The individual characters of different songs result in a diverse track listing, and yet in its entirety the album is cohesive. The modern symphonic metal that Ad Infinitum create has the ability to captivate with enticing melodies and thrilling arrangements that are beautifully produced. • HR
For fans of: Within Temptation, Eleine, Beyond The Black
‘Chapter III – Downfall’ by Ad Infinitum is out now on Napalm Records.
From Fall To Spring
Following last year’s unsuccessful campaign from Electric Callboy and this year’s actual entrants Lord Of The Lost, From Fall To Spring are yet another German metal band to have thrown their hat in the ring to represent their homeland in Eurovision. To be blunt though, this is not a Eurovision-ready band, not when their crossbreeding of standard Euro-core with turn-of-the-millennium nu-metal comes without even a trace of irony. What they come closest to is a band like From Ashes To New, who’ll latch on to Linkin Park nostalgia and the final molecules of 2000s butt-rock to somehow become a huge deal in mainstream circles.
To be clear, RISE seldom feels as much of shrink-wrapped product. Naturally the same points will cross over—maybe the era of Linkin Park aped here is different? Who’s to say?—but there’s the rapping is overall more forceful and nimble from Philip Wilhelm, and thankfully nowhere near as dated. Trap percussion and bass wubs are where From Fall To Spring’s hip-hop flag is planted, and the results noticeably sound more contemporary, not to mention aware that rap music has actually undergone some evolution over the past two decades. In fact, when the track BARRIERS liberally draws from more melodic, guitar-laden emo-rap à la The Kid LAROI, that’s a pivot that’s usually way outside the radius of this crowd’s knowledge. Even just on the basis of surface-level aggression or angst, it sharpens up BR4INFCK or BEASTMODE by a not-inconsiderable degree. In a genre that’s lambasted for being out of touch as much as rap-metal, it’s at least encouraging that From Fall To Spring land on the better side of the argument.
But then there’s everything else, where you start to remember what sort of band this actually is, and the limitations unveil themselves in earnest. The production, for a start, is just as underfed as ever. Guitars seldom hit with any punch or flavour; nor do the drums or bass, provided you can actually hear the latter. The competency in hip-hop is much more dexterous, and while taking up a decent slice of album space, it can’t compensate for what otherwise feels like generic genre mush. And that’s a shame too, given that RISE clearly wants to be more than its firmly-sealed contemporaries. It just feels hamstrung by the same resources that they have, and thus there’s a noticeably skewed distribution between what hits and what wildly veers off target. Even on as atomised a scale as just the vocals, Wilhelm is far from a great singer, something which he’s called upon to do too regularly for it to be a tossed-off complaint. There’s also the writing and how utterly devoid of character is it, but this is one of these albums—what did you expect?
The bright side is that From Fall To Spring can still tap into some enjoyability overall; this isn’t that bad, as far as a big, dumb, just-let-the-chorus-carry-it album goes. But if you want more than the metal equivalent of a Big Mac, you’re basically out of luck. A Big Mac that’s been more carefully prepared and seasoned than the others is still a Big Mac at the end of the day, and that’s ultimately how RISE feels. You’ll never find more enjoyment with it than the brief time it takes to chow down, because you’ll barely remember it exists outside of that. • LN
For fans of: Linkin Park, From Ashes To New, Blackgold
‘RISE’ by From Fall To Spring is released on 14th April on Arising Empire.
You know how you can tell that Kicksie is a DIY indie artist before hearing even a single note of music? Well, the fact that this is their fifth full-length since beginning the project in 2018 is a pretty handy giveaway, a prolific practice that, at its most extreme, calls to mind Will Toledo releasing monthly Car Seat Headrest albums at one point. When that sort of thing starts winding down and tightening up, it’s usually a good sign; it was for Toledo (for the most part), and for Kicksie mastermind Giuliana Mormile, Slouch definitely feels like a project readying itself to stretch outside of solely the online bedroom-pop realms.
Sequestering it there would probably be a bit counterproductive anyway, considering Slouch’s wider breadth of acumen on display. It’s nowhere near as stiff or shrunken, instead powered by a richer, creamier core of 2000s emo and indie-pop, and Mormile’s wonkier vocal delivery very reminiscent of today’s ground-level indie darlings. When all of that comes to a head, there’s a sweet potency to what can be produced, like the shuffling, tessellating layers of colour on You’re On, or the big pop-rock swings of Sinking In and Jaws. Among them, the smaller moments are more a result of dynamics than backsliding; the mid-album pair of yyyy and Wish I Was (Anyone Else) aren’t too far removed from an artist like Beabadoobee in a vacuum, but act more as a preordained lull where the mood of the album still carries over.
Said mood is—as you might expect—one of stumbling through life where the path is muddled and Mormile’s own uncertainty only obfuscates it further. Not an exceptionally revelatory perspective on its own, but it’s also not as staid as the notion has often become. A lot of that is down to Mormile themself, who can play drier wit like on Boyfriend with just as much effectiveness as dejection like the closer Whatever, I Guess. The Gen Z attitude and stylistic flatness that’s become so tiresome from most others doesn’t tend to grate as much on Slouch, when it has a fuller set of sound to lean back on. That pop-rock touchstone ultimately feels like the most accurate one, where the confluence of factors falls into place the most cleanly, and the end results are more immediately engaging.
It isn’t all the way there, but just like Jetty Bones and Kississippi before them, it’s the embrace of that sparkle and sheen that makes for Kicksie’s biggest upward leap yet. Not only is the potential for growth much more apparent (particularly in the TikTok sense), but just in its own right, this is way more energised and clean, all without severing its homespun ties completely. Call it transitional if you want, but this happy medium really feels like fertile ground to build on, something that Kicksie already feels more than accomplished to do. • LN
For fans of: Jetty Bones, Kississippi, Beabadoobee
‘Slouch’ by Kicksie is released on 14th April on Counter Intuitive Records.
The crop of singer-songwriters to which Paige Kennedy belongs is in rather rude health at the moment, that goes without saying. Doubtless you’ve heard their kind plenty of times—not quite indie; not quite pop; not quite alternative; but taking in enough of each while still managing to skirt through and around. Doing so can be a serious boon too, when they aren’t bogged down by scenes or genre specifics, and have the freedom to craft something unique to them. In Kennedy’s case on their new EP Doubles, that makes for a pretty varied, promising concoction.
Across the four tracks here, that fluidity and restlessness in sonic grounding is definitely the key factor. If there’s a connecting element, it’s likely the blocky thunks of bass across This Is The Girl! and Love You From A Distance, but even that dissipates and evens on for the wistful soft-rock of Whitstable Harbour and the gauzy alt-R&B of He Is. Maybe it’s the production that unifies everything, then; colours are very muted and pastel throughout, without totally washing away. Meanwhile, Kennedy remains aware of the value of a tight, thrumming groove kept prominent, and the capacities for that to work in different ways on This Is The Girl! and He Is.
As for Kennedy as a singer, they aren’t exactly a paragon of presence or strength, but an equable tone with clarity across the board is a fine substitute in this sort of low-key musical environment. It’s almost reminiscent of a band like easy life when it comes together, sharpening what’s ultimately a bedroom-pop aesthetic and giving it an even splash of paint. Unlike easy life though, Kennedy doesn’t get lost or overshadowed by their own spaciousness. The explorations of gender identity within the music industry on This Is The Girl! and He Is are pointed enough to be anchoring points (especially the former), while both Love You From A Distance and Whitstable Harbour just have more to offer in terms of pop songwriting.
Admittedly, none of this is the absolute most ear-catching fare—not when new artists like this pop up pretty much every day and can blur together in a hurry—but Kennedy’s crop of ideas show some encouraging results among them, at least for now. This kind of sampler feels like an ideal release at this early stage, for thoughts and directions to be more clearly whittled down which seems to be what they’re doing here. Either way, nothing on Doubles would be a regrettable path to take; it’s just solid alt-pop work all around that puts Kennedy on some strong footing indeed. • LN
For fans of: easy life, Nell Mescal, Phoebe Green
‘Doubles’ by Paige Kennedy is released on 14th April.
Words by Holly Royle (HR) and Luke Nuttall (LN)