Reviews

Max Karon - Will to Exist review

Max Karon - Will To Exist [Full-length]
February 8, 2012 - Self-released
9
9

Max Karon is a music producer and audio engineer, releasing his self-created instrumental debut entitled 'Will To Exist' under his own name, yet cultivating the eventual agenda to form a real deal band to play this music - with vocals - on live shows in the future.

Surviving the Storm

Sithu Aye - Isles [EP]
February 11, 2012 - Self-released
9
9

For fans that have nearly exhausted their ears with Sithu Aye's debut album Cassini, his new Isles EP could not have come at a better time. Piggybacking from the hype created by his surprise seat at number 20 in got-djent.com’s albums of the year poll, this release is a splendid answer to those who have been begging for more. The liner notes state that the album was written and recorded in only two weeks between semesters; one might expect that music written so hastily might be only a collection of B-list ideas left over from the Cassini sessions and shelved to perhaps never see light again. But this album delivers and kicks just has hard as anything you might expect from Sithu.

The opening song ‘Isles’ begins this journey through Scottish waters with a calming jazzy piano melody accompanied by clean guitar and rhythm section. The mood is set as if you’re piloting the toy boat on the album cover under the clear star-spotted night sky of the northern seas. All of a sudden, ‘Skye’ begins and the storm of Sithu’s groove and flowing breeze of his melody thwart your ship. You begin a torrential struggle to keep afloat, but there is no fear, his music is uplifting and bright, as if you’re having indescribable fun steering your dinky dinghy through the waves. Having already released this song as a teaser, Sithu showcases that his music still has its energy and the recording quality is crisp as ever. His sound is evolving as his guitar contains more twang and rock influence. Yet, he has not lost any touch of his style; the rhythms and melodies are still as catchy as ever while never desiring vocals.

‘Islay’ begins uncharted waters. It is heavier still and pulls you in with its fast pace and high energy. The ship is continued to be pushed and settled as the sea attempts with ever more fury to pull you under into her abyss. The music gracefully breathes more experimental rhythm, harmony, and melody as Sithu begins to reveal new influence to his music; one can grasp a sense of Steve Vai and even a bit of bluesy Stevie Ray Vaughn. The song is fast but short and ‘Cullin’ comes as a much desired breath after the waves calm; but the storm is only preparing for its strongest blow.

‘Mull’ is the albums highest point and the sea throws everything she has at your little liferaft. It begins much like Animals As Leaders' ‘Point to Point’ with a singing clean guitar that gently rocks and sways the listener into a lull before being struck by a turbulence of tidal rage when the drums and distortion enter. Sithu attempts to blow you away farther than you ever were after your first listen to Casinni. The song dances between its clear cleans and dirty distortions all while adhering to that high energy feel before fading away.

If you have managed to survive this far, the ride is almost over as ‘Jura’ is the final island to sail past. The worst of the storm is finally upon you but you have surpassed all that came before it and you ride the waves with confidence and mastery as you captain your vessel across the waters and over the horizon into the sunrise; it’s the perfect epic work to finish off such a polished album.

With such a high bar set from Cassini, Sithu Aye has truly delivered a masterful follow up with his new Isles EP. Written in only two weeks, this album does not feel like a sloppily slapped together collection of recycled ideas. It is another testament to Sithu’s style that he has yet to exhaust. He has quickly lept to the highest ranks as one of my favorite artists and I am very excited to see this musician grow and enrich more lives with his sound.

TL;DR: It's just as good as Cassini

Isles EP: A journey across the sea

Sithu Aye - Isles [EP]
February 11, 2012 - Self-released
10
10

Clean, crisp and emotionally driven progressive metal sums up ‘Isles EP’, the latest release from instrumentalist Sithu Aye. In a style of music where the production relies mainly on quality of composition it can be easy to loose an overall sense of direction; so how has the follow up to Sithu Aye’s previous full-length release ‘Cassini’ turned out? The EP is anything but dry and repetitive; in fact, we hear growth throughout this entire release.

Tetrafusion delivers a solid Free EP

January 31, 2012 - unsigned
9
9

Tetrafusion definitely deserve recognition for their latest EP, a free download titled "Horizons". It is never stale, each track moving to the next with a sense of anticipation, as you wonder what they'll throw at you next in this barrage of guitar, keyboard, bass, drum and vocal work.

The group have a nice vibe to them, much like Dream Theater or Between the Buried and Me. It's a very progressive metal sound that really focuses on the instrumentation, rather than just pounding out groovy riffs to a couple of nice changes. Vocals work nicely, not trying to strain for anything too high or sink too low. Guitars and keys paint a colorful, rich texture of sounds that move to unexpected riffs, licks, and solos to keep the listener interested throughout the album. I love how the riffs are full of movement, as I find a lot of bands take the easy way and stick to just single notes that work and don't really do much to progress through the song. This group keep their tracks moving and grooving. The changes aren't abrupt like a math metal tune, but rather they flow from one section to the next. While this could have resulted in some really fragmented tunes on the album, it works beautifully, like having all of the different pieces fit into one puzzle.

There's not much to say about this group that isn't blatantly expressed in their awesome music. Go download the EP, go listen to the songs for yourself, because this band has worked hard to be noticed and it's about time that their fan base keeps growing!

Sithu Aye: Isles

Sithu Aye - Isles [EP]
February 11, 2012 - Self-released
9
9

Waves crash against rocks that have defied creation for uncountable millennia. Rain slices my vision into blurry sheets, coating the landscape in a strangely reassuring calm, highlighting the amazing durability of nature and the unique presence of beauty that many experience but few appreciate. Wind tears at my hair, scratches at my skin, draws me to realise that I will only ever be a visitor to this otherworldly domain. These were some of the thoughts that struck me on my expeditions amongst the peaks of Scotland’s island wildernesses. They are also themes explored by Sithu Aye on his upcoming release ‘Isles EP’, themes which are very prevalent in the urbanised sprawl of concrete the earth looks destined to become.

The opening theme of the EP is one of enormous satisfaction, as though you had just awoken from an excellent dream to find yourself alone, surrounded by serene wilderness untouched by man’s clumsiness and ineptitude. The drenching ambience and thick, jazzy chords make you feel as though you are breathing the heavy sea air yourself, and the light piano runs add good dynamic precision: it is already obvious that Sithu has given much thought to the production and programming of this venture. The bass is ridiculously smooth, with gracefully ornamented melody and good textural awareness. You drift on timelessly for a little, admiring the scenery.

Then, rising from nothing, the opening riff of ‘Skye’ kicks you in the teeth, with a fat djenty tone and big chord-driven riffs. It’s as though the sea air has moved on to reveal to a cloudless night sky, and we are standing atop one of the awesome peaks of Skye, perhaps running across rocky plateaus, or gazing in awe at the stars. Sithu’s unique brand of virtuosity begins over the top of the heavy guitar beneath, with flourishes of polyrhythmic intuition added for good measure. Repetition is used to very good compositional initiative on this track: the key theme remains throughout, even suggesting of a continuation from the massive riffs of ‘Cassini’, his previous full-length, but is never identical, always altered and changed: clearly Sithu has been cultivating this for some time, and has added a lot to his composition and arranging pallet. The song slides into a toned-down mid-section around two minutes in, with short bursts of reverberating chord piercing the driving bass groove. Such sections of respite were possibly missing from ‘Cassini’, but here they strengthen the song with their dynamic balance. Another such section raises its head later on, and the glitchy electronic drum parts, polyphonic guitar textures and strong ambient presence heard in the work of Animals As Leaders indicates Sithu has not lost any of his core djent approach.

As a whole, the release is a combination of the Tosinesque riffs and groove displayed on 'Cassini', and a degree of spontaneity which was maybe not present before. This EP is a marked progression by Sithu from the work done on ‘Cassini’, with a much better musical awareness and variation which was possibly lacking in his previous work. Take, for example, the track ‘Mull’: this track displays a great knowledge of how to draw on many different genres and bands simultaneously to create a truly impressive overall package. The playful riffs and relatively simple drumming which makes full use of small areas of the drumkit instead of overexpanding and overcomplicating give me a big indie vibe in the vein of bands like Foals, who draw influence from funk artists as well as the indie scene, and Bloc Party. In parallel with that, the awesome groove and screeching blasts of lead work amidst the riffs which cement Sithu’s popularity within the djent community shine through unblemished. In my mind, this combination of what may seem polar opposites creates far more entertaining listening than was present on ‘Cassini’ and shows that Sithu has decided that he needs to breathe fresh air into a scene which could be argued to lack originality. Another highlight for me was ‘Cuillin’, which could be termed a filler track; I prefer to consider it as an entity of its own. The thick ambient texture and calculated, spacious guitar work, similar to that pioneered by Acle Kahney of TesseracT, convey an age-old wisdom and clarity of mind, similar to the feeling you get when standing atop the mountain range itself on a clear day.

To draw this summary to a close, I think it’s important to say that this release may not have a huge appeal on first listen, as it is not at all orthodox or even that “metal” in its approach. Sithu does not write heavy music: if you like djent because you can bang your head to it, then you may not be able to appreciate this album for what it is. However, if you feel that the internet is becoming saturated with mediocre bedroom creations by deathcore breakdown fanatics, and are searching for something new and refreshing that you can enjoy without being obliged to slam dance around your house, then this EP is just the ticket!

Avensis - When We Ran Out of Universe

January 5, 2012 - Self-Produced
8
8

Throwing caution to the wind, Avensis' full-length instrumental "When We Ran Out of Universe" is a genre-bending experience bordering on the cinematic. Opener "Hello" ushers you to your seat with soft solo piano notes before it's lights out, curtains open. "Erase Cache" is a whirlwind of electronic dissonance, towering guitar marches, chaotic interwoven leads, and piano interludes. This frenetic formula managed to keep me on my toes as a listener, without being so confused as to lose interest.

Escher's EP

Escher - Escher [EP]
January 10, 2012 - Self-released
5
5

There's not much to say about Escher. And yet, there is much that can be heard from Escher. Sure, you can spend time focusing on the fact that the album was mixed and mastered on a budget, using whatever they could get there hands on. Maybe that was the case, but I'm not here to critique just that side of the album.

Red Seas Fire: Debut album easily one of the best of 2011

September 4, 2011 - Self-released
10
10

I remember the days when Red Seas Fire were just trying to find the members and means to have their group come together. They had a couple of tracks up, all instrumental, and showed promise of offering a new, original band to the mass of deathcore copycats and death metal wannabes. This group had flavor, fusing an aggressive, heavy modern metal sound with jazz elements (chords, solos, etc) to keep the listener enthused. Now these songs are on their debut album, with a full band including vocals, and my only question: WHY HASN'T ANYONE WRITTEN A REVIEW?

On Impact: When they say "Impact", you'll feel it

October 30, 2011 - Unsigned
9
9

I recently read through the editors' picks for best albums (whether up for free download or not) that didn't make this last year's top albums of 2011. I saw a lot of names that I had seen but hadn't really followed through with downloading their stuff, and "On Impact" was one of them. I saw the description on the page, that they fused all sorts of musical styles into their metal combo (seeing as it was created by two people), and it peaked my interest. The purple cover harboring a dinosaur was even more convincing that this wasn't going to be a run of the mill, ordinary album.

Sworn In: Start/End drops in hot and heavy

January 23, 2012 - We Are Triumphant
9
9

Sworn In recently put out an EP that they promised would deliver a punch. Well, that's an understatement if I ever saw one. It has been awhile since 6 tracks played in a row have delivered a hurricane of fists that bombarded my eardrums on the bus ride up to campus. It is the sound of two ideas working in sync that can work beautifully, but only when done with such skill and precision as Sworn In has done.