Category Archives: International Bands

Band Profile : Sectioned (Edinburgh, Scotland)

For ears like mine who would love the mere thought of sludgy rusty guitars and modern day tech-metal song structuring – Sectioned is here. The music is not just a refreshing turn to the constantly saturating, trend following bands that have been coming out lately but also a very good example as to how the right kind of music should have the right kind of production. Sectioned is one of the many bands that have come from Europe (Scotland precisely) which have truly revolutionized the way we look at music making, structuring and groove. UK is one particular country (along with Sweden ofcourse) – that has been churning out band after band with really top-notch music making skills . With Chimp Spanner,Tesseract and many more , Sectioned  is another uniquely sounding and yet pleasurably heavy band that has emerged in the recent years. The have recently released a 3-track EP called ‘Monotone’ which , according to me, is a very ironic name for their sound. The 3 track EP spells madness. The sound is unique in itself but distinctively has influences from Between Buried and Me, Sikth,Isis and a overall spread of Post-Rock feel (God Is An Astronaut , Explosions In The Sky) . The track ‘Dog’s Blood’ is a perfect example of the bands capability (and my personal favorite) to hold to the groove and yet induce heavy madness from start to finish. The tracks ‘Monotone’ and ‘Rot’ are punishingly heavy and have the signature rusty/sludgy guitar tone which works perfectly with the bands sound. Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge’s influences are most heard in these two tracks. The production value is perfect. Most of the bands spend months trying to figure out how to make it ‘awesome’ when the trick according to me lies in the fact that production should be ‘supportive’ of the sound and not overriding it. The bouncy transitions and post-rockish feel is tightly captured by Pedram Valiani who has deliciously produced the album. Talking about the band – formed in since 2009 , the band emerged as a fully touring ,5 piece outfit after the release of their first EP ‘Wake Up,Its Starting’ in September 2011. The band played with some really marinated bands in the scene like Textures,Aliases and Ocean Collective.

In conclusion, the year 2011 to the beginning of 2012 seemed a very eventful one for the metal fraternity and most of the unique music ive heard – is free and unsigned . Same applies to Sectioned and I am sure that record labels should definitely be signing bands like these and not rip-offs and trend-followers.

You can hear their tracks on their bandcamp page – Sectioned

Like their Facebook page –Sectioned

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Review : Skyharbor – Blinding White Noise :Illusion and Chaos

Skyharbor is probably like the new textbook which is introduced in the ‘music fraternity’ – so pertaining to the analogy, it also will be at the receiving end of both accolades and rants. Nonetheless , the album which is hyped from such a long time needs to have a lot to sustain (marketwise) and amaze (music wise) , considering the amazing releases we had in the first quarter of 2012.

Since the inception of Keshav Dhar’s (writer,producer ,head honcho of Skyharbor) solo project Hydrodjent , a lot of metalheads in the indian scene were exposed to Djent/experimental/heavily odd-timed music. This happening more on general terms, international acts who were far ahead in their game were quickly absorbed by the indian fans and thus relative comparison resulted in discussions/rants regarding Hydrodjent’s music as well as future.But in the four years which Keshav took as a musician and producer to craft his dream into a fully blossomed project as well as a total band (original was with programmed drums etc), his unperturbed determination becomes now evident after you hear the entire album.

Coming to the album,it is just impossible to do two things as a listener – find Keshav’s influences and categorize the album into a genre/sub-genre . Prog-metal can be the closest it can get.The album is primarily divided into two aspects – ‘Illusion’ and ‘Chaos’ which are like Yin-Yang in the album, but musically. The thunderously layered guitar work in the songs coming under the ‘Chaos’ shelter is like the exact opposite of the soothing distant melo-chugging of the songs spanning the ‘Illusion’ shelter.Since the dawn of musicians making ‘Concept’ albums, bands like Eluveitie(New wave of folk metal) , Vildjharta(Djent/experimental) or even Skyharbor , the musical wow-ness has exponentially   rocketed . But not all nail it the way Skyharbor has done it, the songs flow like seasons of india, turbulent and soothing alternatively. The musical genius shows when Keshav does this ‘weather-change’ effectively in each of the ‘illusion’ and ‘chaos’ tracks.The title track ‘Dots’ has the most peppy intro riffs iv heard in recent times. Sounding unique is one aspect but creating a distinct sound right from the first note is no cakewalk.My personal pick off the entire album is ‘Aphasia’ – the track is a maddening adventure with soothing  clean layers perfectly moulded.  Sunneith Revankar(Sunny) of ‘Bhayank Maut’ (India) features as the growling vocals on the album – by far the best growls from the Indian Subcontinent ,he shook my ground with his clean sections on ‘Aphasia’ . The intensity which is created because of the vocal layering is just too overwhelming. As for the tracks featuring Dan Tompkins (ex- Tesseract,Absent Hearts) , the less said (more heard) the better.First off he has completely chucked ‘Autotune’ on all the tracks which add a raw edge to his highs and bring out a very unique listening experience. Most of the fans are loving this approach and tracks which have ridiculous vocal variations like ‘Catharsis’ and ‘Celestial’ sound mind numbingly smooth yet impossible to replicate. Out of the ‘illusion’ shelter – ‘Catharsis’ and ‘Maeva’ stand out as unique pieces both for their progression and chug-work.

Speaking about the guest-guitars, Marty Friedman (Ex-megadeth) and Vishal J Singh (Amogh Symphony,India) deliver the required punch to their respective tracks.Friedman’s solos quite honestly feel dated but Keshav’s production makes them sound amazing and has placed them at places which truly bring out the best in tracks. Vishal is a well-known virtuoso in india and his contribution plays an importantly role if you view the album from a producers perspective. Anup Sastry , the prodigy of a drummer did a fantastic job as the bands first ‘real’ drummer (since the original drums were programmed) and set the stage on fire at the NH7 Weekender gig Skyharbor played for the first time as a complete band. Moreover the machine-gun double bass patterns or the silent high hat plays, Anup nails every task Keshav set in the programmed drums with ease and finesse.

Speaking of production value – no 0ne in the indian production scene ,and i mean no one, makes guitars sound ‘warm and delicious’ at the same time. Keshav’s prowess as a producer outshines his musical genuius to be honest. The ambient tones of ‘Celestial’ and ‘Aurora’ are work of art.Skyharbor’s album is undoubtedly the most production-wise outstanding album . The only indian band which matches this is Providence and that too because their album is mixed/mastered by Keshav himself.The album art is equally intriguing . With an instragram churned picture of a calm ,serene ocean – the cover art with the name is enough to give you a calming feeling when you see the CD or hear the album, although the calm before the ‘CHAOS’ is also my own interpretation of the album art.Keshav Dhar = Skyharbor is a wrong equation since the ideas need concrete and fitting pillars which are provided by all the supporting artists. The mastermind undoubtedly is Keshav.

The album is captioned by Basick Records (Record Label of Skyharbor) as ‘India’s brightest hope’ and is quite apt to a certain degree. Keshav’s efforts are appreciated worldwide and he deserves every bit of it but to any label reading this review i strongly urge you’ll to step inside and hear the indian bands which infuse a lot of elements catering to variety of emotions and new musical ‘needs’.If you are an indian listening to this album- right from the oceanic artwork to the guitar work – every moment will make you realize how strangely the album relates to our roots in some way or the other whereas for a global listener , its a treat catering to his (almost) every expectation of how a Skyharbor album should sound like.

Prog-metal fan or not, the ambience and warmth from one end and relentless surge of adrenaline from the other converge perfectly and will make you hear this album now and 20 years later with the same zeal – timeless in every sense.

Rating 9/10

Animals As Leaders : Weightless

Animals as leaders (AAL) take instrumentalism to another level. The amount of emotions and genre versatility the band pours into their albums is unmatched.

Their first release which was produced by Misha ‘Bulb’ Mansoor of Periphery was less of a band effort and more of showcasing Tosin Abasi’s (Lead ‘8 string’ guitarist) guitar skills. It also had programmed drums which made the album worth relishing but leaves a bit of a want to hear something with the real thump .

Their second offering called ‘Weightless’ was more of a test than a release. It tested the sound and feel of the band with a REAL drummer. It tested the production value since their prior work lacked heavily on production terms. It also tested on how AAL sounded as a band together and not just Tosin showing off his skills.Amazingly, AAL passed with flying colors.

Right from the first track AAL takes you on a journey which is ‘weightless’ in true sense. You do not have the confines of a genre or theme or even time-signatures (sick swings between tracks). Tosin not only brings out the best in him but also merges successfully with the band and becomes one when it comes to creating ambient drum-riff combos or just tapping when the drummer takes charge.

The album starts with ‘An Infinite Regression’ which is one of the ‘Best First’ tracks I’ve heard since a long time. Tosin doesn’t fill in solos just to please – he fills in emotions which turn out to riffs. The solo in this song makes you realize what Tosin is trying to convey without even the need of words.
‘Somnarium’ is one such gem – classical songwriting layered with modern groove , the song is a roller coaster of crackling riffs one after the other.
‘Isolated Incidents’ which was released as a single and the finest track in the record in terms of grip,guitar work,songwriting and song structuring. The guitar virtuoso baffles you with a single riff which loops itself after almost 20 seconds in the song.
‘Do No Go Gently’ has a trippy feel to its whole structuring and showcases probably the best rudiments by the drummer in the whole track.
The tracks transition as if there is a storyline told musically. Ex – the track ‘To Lead you to an overwhelming question’ is a mad track with sick time signatures and suits the title and then sinks into a dark ,broody and ambient ‘Weightless’ in a way that is unreal even to seasoned ears.
The culminating moments of the track ‘Weightless’ has one of the best riffs/solos iv heard in recent times – it twists you from the inside and spills out Tosin’s magic and your admiration at the same time.

All said and done, AAL is not a band for listeners who wish to tap their feet 20 seconds in the song ,neither it is for people who are looking for growls which take you beyond brutality  .It takes its time and beautifully lets you grow into it ,never to come out.The band is a boon for people looking forward to hear something musically baffling and at the same time de-stressing the minds which get torn and tattered in todays fast paced world.Put this in your iPod/phone/music player and go on a  long journey – you will have two journeys in one – one of your own and a musical one by AAL

Rating – 9/10

Chimp Spanner : All Roads Lead Here EP (2012)

Chimp Spanner never lets you down – be it the musically diverse and rebellious ‘At The Dream’s Edge ‘ or the latest offering ‘All Roads Lead Here’. As a listener, i always wanted and imagined music breaking the barriers of genre – how bands would one day come up with music that is just impossible to classify into a particular genre. Something that music lovers could just absorb , and find something new to savor with every listen,relate to their own taste.

With bands like Animals As Leaders and Chimp Spanner making music which isn’t just musically advanced and brilliant , but also spans an array of sounds and musical elements.Paul Ortiz a.k.a Chimp Spanner does exactly this with the latest release.While recent bands who are cashing on the ‘Djent’ scene go haywire with the ‘low tuned’ guitar sound – Chimp Spanner sticks to standard tuning , incorporates ‘Djent’ and yet does full justice to other elements which are used in the songs , all at ease.In terms of production value – its priceless.

The album starts off with ‘Dark Age Of Technology’ which travels to your ear from a distance (Literally!) and comprises of Paul’s guitar wizardy backed by some amazing bass grooves. To be honest the first track sounded like an Animals As Leaders track and got me thinking of how the rest of the EP would sound like .But to my surprise , it proved to be amazing.’Engrams’ is an relaxing interlude that follows and builds up for the ‘Mobius series( Parts I, II and III).Mobius – which mathematically means a 3D rectangular strip which starts from one point and ends at the same point.

Why the need for the above statement? The sheer brilliance of the 3 track series lies in the fact that Paul creates a musical ‘Mobius’. The series is aptly ( and intelligently) titled ‘Mobius’ – where Mobius Pt I builds up the tempo with a constant and looped shred-fest. Mobius Pt II is where the same sound builds up into a beast and has some really insane time-signature swings.The track culminates into a mellow ambient sound and the Mobius Pt III combines best of both. Notable is how Paul manages to keep the riffs looped in the same tempo and yet travels through each track ,varying the ambience and heaviness effortlessly.I would go far by saying this but musically it does rival Tesseract’s ‘Concealing Fate’ series.Paul leaves the best for the last – the closing track ‘Cloud City’ is by far the most ‘musically delicious’ track my ears have bit on. The tones ,the riffs the song structure is worth million praises. It is a cocktail of jazzy atmospherics and Paul’s unique style.
Though it is an EP , ‘All Roads Lead Here’ does have the presence of a full length record. It encompasses such variety in so little time which is also something not every artist/band can do.

For the fans of Chimp Spanner – this is an album which takes you into a completely different mystical and orgasmic world and does not sound anything like Chimp’s prior works.
For the new ‘Chimps’ – finding bands from a similar genre and then listening to each is mostly the strategy all of us follow ,but if you wish to hear something that is practically ‘beyond genre’ and fits every mood of yours into one tight album effortlessly, then – ‘All Roads Lead Here’.

Rating – 8.5/10

Alcest – Les Voyages De L’Ame (2012)

The french seem to be on ‘baffle the world’ mode ! First with Uneven Structure (Progressive , Djent) and now with Alcest , France has indeed given us music to savor.

Alcest’s music can be defined as ‘spiritual’ and ‘straight from the heart’. Right from the first track to the last , the music seamlessly flows through channels of gently built emotions and takes you into a journey of your own life. The serene ambient moments remind you of your happy place and hard hitting transitions get you in terms with your own dark side.Bands like Alcest are one of the few who dare to represent their own feelings through musical instruments without any self-imposed rigidity of genre or fan-base.

If you hear the opening track ‘Autre Temps’ , the guitar infused ambience is naturally created. You realize that the band does not force themselves to fit into a genre or push to achieve a sound. This attribute is probably their biggest strength apart from their musical genius. Every song is a testimony to how these guys connect with you on a personal level without even taking any effort to do so.

Tracks like ‘La Ou Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles’ and ‘Les Voyages De L’Ame   ‘ are benchmarks when it comes to Post-Black Metal. The piercing yet calm vocals grip tight with the blast beats of the drums and give you an experience which is impossible to put into words.Progressive fans will love the ‘Les Voyages De L’Ame’ which showcases brilliant progressive song writing and ethereal moments.’Beings of Light’ has the quintessential  Black Metal machine-gun drums laced brilliantly with distant growls .The foreclosing track ‘Havens’ is a dark passage to the finale ‘Summers Glory’ , which culminates in a high pitched vocal extravaganza and you just refuse to accept the end of the album.

On a personal note (though i don’t usually get personal in reviews) – Alcests latest offering came out when i was experiencing a rebellious but liberating phase in my life and the album was just the companion i needed. The album pulls you in on a roller coaster ride to all human emotions and grips you to the seat. One of the few albums i heard which actually shuts you off from a buzzing world around you only to take you to another celestial place altogether .

Conclusively ,striking artwork , top-notch production value and start of the year release makes this album easily one of the most loved albums of this year. So also the entire album is in french. Im not french nor do i understand the language but i could call the album my own and fit in all the emotions i myself experienced while listening to it and so can you.

 

Rating – 9.5 /10

Friend For A Foe – Source Of Isolation (2011)

I discovered this band while browsing through the many children-bands who Meshuggah fathered. Keeping a mindset that this would be yet another band trying to get itself to “forcefully lower the tone” and chug-chug djent-djent.
Within the first few minutes of the album I was amazed at the sheer grip of this band. Though the production seems a little on the downside the band manages to rip your brain at certain places.
Most bands,new or mature, always struggle to find “that sound” but If this band is going to stick to THIS sound its definitely going to go places.
Being the debut LP – it is a very good effort.
The songwriting is similar to Textures which has alternating growls and gorgeous clean patches but thing that made me sit up and give it a listen was the guitarwork.
Superb riffs which scale extreme speed and drop down to 2-3 instant pedel-shifting change of tones.
Electronic sounds which lace the album are very much a good thing because no matter what people call them (fake sounds etc) they always add a feel and groove to the whole arrangement.
Songs like ‘Formulaic Transition’ which is a instrumental number have the most smooth yet tight transitions between the various moods the song has to offer.
The tracks are nicely placed between thunderous ‘Idle Hands’ and ‘Vultaggio’ followed by the instantly catchy ‘Formulaic Transition’ ,closing the album with ‘Niacin’ and ‘Fallout’
Artwork – Very very unique and sends out a much deeper message than the obvious ‘Friend for a foe’ – showing a drowining hand which pleads for help.
With the range of bands touching the Djent/Prog-djent genre its difficult even on the bands to give something unique.
FFAF have done it pretty well with choruses which last long enough to tingle you and breakdowns short enough to leave you hungry for more.

Rating – 8/10

Lamb Of God – Resolution (2012)

Probably the only torch-bearers of the “new wave of American Heavy Metal” ,Lamb Of God(LOG) have managed to create a new passage with this new release.
Despite the feel being similar to Wrath,the song writing is much heavier and relies more on melodic choruses and more “old-school” guitar magic.LOG also goes more “Thrashy” with this release and has some brilliant orchestral backgrounds for few of the songs which make it a complete new-yet-old eargasm.USP if you ask ? – Randy’s bone shattering vocals.
With him the album sounds their heaviest work till date (excluding Burn The Priest)
The album kicks off with a painful but heavy intro and proceeds straight into a “in-your-face”kinda track – DESOLATION.
GHOST WALKING (superb acoustic riff) and GUILTY are for hardcore LOG fans, nothing unique musically but quite the punch from their previous albums.
For the people like me ( tastes gone haywire because of recent tech metal bands) – the REAL album starts after THE UNDERTOW.
Superb song structuring and mean drum-fills by Chris Adler pace up the album to infinity.
LOG have pepped up their feel by being more thrashy as well as groovy- which makes them even more tasty!
THE NUMBER SIX, INSURRECTION and TERMINALLY UNIQUE are tracks which tell you the calibre of the band,technically.
Guitars swing ridiculously and pedel-presses are bad-ass, specially in INSURRECTION.
TO THE END marks the perfect foreclosure with aggressive but groovy and flowing choruses.
The closing track KING ME is what is the highlight and probably the most versatile track in the album. Comprising of the aforementioned orchestral arrangements and female backing vocals , it literally dilates your pupils.
Randy Blythe (Vocalist) is one member who stands out in this album.
Delivering his most melodic choruses and rage-driven growls at the same time.
The surprise element is the small patch of a song which has his clean vocals!
I wont be more of a spoilt-sport and leave the anxiety to work its magic when you hear every song.
A great start to the new year – this album definitly is going to gather more lambs to slaughter before their metal gods!
RATING : 9/10

Cynic – Carbon Based Anatomy (Progressive ,Fusion, Groove Metal)

Cynic started off as a band with fusion elements and “robotic” processor based vocals. Their wagon got momentum with their first LP “Traced in air” which was nothing short of brilliance. Fusing elements of Jazz ,metal and blending beautiful tonal atmospherics Cynic is a band which comes along once a decade. “One album wonders” have made way into the market and still do almost everyday but with their new EP – Carbon Based Anatomy – Cynic just reached the new checkpoint in their musical journey.The EP is short. 20 minutes is all you get.The album fuses elements from India – Tabla ,shlok(hymn) and some odd timed sitar work. If this is the first record you will be hearing from Cynic i urge you to do so on a noise canceling headset. Jaw dropping interludes at the most unexpected places is their specialty.The much appreciated (also ridiculed at the same time) robotic vocals snug in perfectly in every song. The way these guys stick to their tight song writing and detail to each passage in the song is commendable.The songs are NOTHING like their first album. They managed to change their “Sound” and yet sound amazing!
“Carbon based anatomy” the 2nd track of the album – has the most downright melodic outbursts supported by drums sounding like gunshots. A feast to the ears and you get depressed when it ends in just 20 mins ( with 3 interludes).
“Box up my bones” has the Cynic complexity to it and “Elves Beam Out” gets you bouncing to the most synth-prog-metal fusion you would hear in recent times.
Progressive metal/music certainly has its best year with the slew of releases and Cynic just added a gorgeous Ep to the list.Ive never thanked the internet so much – and thanked possibly my existence – their album and now their EP is the best thing to have fallen on my humble ears.

Carbon based Anatomy : –

Uneven Structure – Februus (Djent,Math,Progressive Metal)


Apart from their mouthwatering cuisine and romantic hotspots , the french have yet again offered us – Uneven Structure.

They came out with their EP in 2009 – time when the Djent scene was picking up pace – and it wasnt untill  a year later that their efforts got the credit(globally) it deserved. These guys have been on my ipod for almost a year now and their musical brilliance still baffles me.

Two words to describe this album – Heavily Ambient
Right from the first track “Awaken” to the aptly named “Finale” you are made to bow down before this pagan-god themed album. The echoing screams and the crystal clear vocals blend in effortlessly into each track.
The beauty of Februus is that even when the songs reach their climax in terms of heaviness – the atmosphere created is nothing short of serene.
“Frost” – my pick from the album- has its atmospheric passages which make you feel you are actually coming in terms to something that is beyond words and celestial . The influence of Tesseract is quite audible but the dark ambient passages which throw a bright light of maximum “djenty twang” is something that is signature Uneven Structure.

With the saturation of bands trying to go over-board with Djent guitar tone – Uneven structure preserves their progression from their EP and add up brilliant atmospherics and insane drum rudiments to their debut LP.
Fans of ANY sub-genre of metal can seamlessly fit into their style of music as it caters to ears that crave for melody as well as musical complexity and brutality.

This album is a sure winner in the slew of releases of the similar genre (as of yet – we still have Vildhjarta to surprise us)  and marks the beginning of a band which knows exactly HOW to harness the power of Djent .

Recommended Tracks
1.Frost

…and the whole album!

Five Finger Death Punch – American Capitalist (Modern Metal)

Modern Metal

 Five Finger Death Punch – American Capitalist

Love them,hate them – they will be going with evil grins to their bank accounts.
3 albums old and these guys have made a mark and probably a new genre in the metal scene. Touted as “Modern Metallers” , their approach focuses on mainstream melody packed with realist lyrics and quintessential metal elements

“American Capitalist” is a perfect gift to a oven-fresh metalhead friend of yours . It is nothing new – musically. But it packs the punch in terms of melody and catchy songwriting and has the essential “RAWRRR” element to it. The songs are easy to pick in the first listen itself and you might find yourself humming them unknowingly.
Their first release “Way of the fist” lacked the mainstream sound that they were trying to find (i think) . But after their 2nd album “War is the answer” they finally found what they actually wanted to make.
Songs like “Under and Over it” and “Coming Down” are good getaway if you have saturated your head with complex bands like Meshuggah or Opeth and will leave you pleasantly surprised with their heaviness yet catchy outline.
“The Pride” could be America’s national anthem in these difficult times since the lyrics and song production seem government funded – superimposing the goodness of America.

When you have commercial success in just two releases bands tend to either crack in pressure or come out with “just another album”. FFDP did manage to up the ante a little bit but doesn’t give fans a reason to look forward to their next release. The brutality combined with chunky melodic patches in “Way of the fist” or the brilliant war-ballad “Far From Home” in their 2nd album “War is the answer” would make fans revisit their prior work rather than give this one a second listen. Although the vocals are the BEST part of this band . Every album they just get getting better and better – probably the only reason why i go back to their previous work and could pass comfortably through this one.

Recommended Tracks
1.Under and over it

2.Coming Down

3.Generation Dead

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