Sept 22, 2017 Music Releases (Part 2)
"Gossip" By Sleeping With Sirens
Genre: Pop Rock
I have to admit, judging Sleeping With Sirens latest record fairly is a bit difficult as Gossip is essentially a pure pop record with live instruments. The band has always had a strong pop lean to their sound but was still well rooted in post-hardcore. This move to a more pop sound just so happens to coincide with the group's move to a major label. Something I doubt Warner Bros will be complaining much about. That caveat out of the way most of the songs on Gossip surprisingly don't make my ears bleed. The hooks are strong in their ear worm capability with vocalist Kellin Quinn being given free reign to show case his range of vocal ability. While there are some electronic elements and glossy production to be found the live instrumentation the band provides gives the album a more earnest feel than most modern pop music. Tracks like "Legends", "Cheers", and the title track are guilty pleasures that listeners will catch themselves humming whether they want to or not. I was fully prepared to take a giant dump on this album but if a metalhead like me can't hate it then actual pop fans are sure to love it.
"The Spark" By Enter Shikari
Genre: Electronic Rock
When I first took a listen to this album I had to make sure I had the right one. The Enter Shikari that I and most people are familiar with tend to have a more aggressive edge to their synth and guitar fusion. But much of the material on The Spark seem to take influence from the 80's new wave movement. Although once you get past the jarring change in sound you can hear that the quality is still there. Tracks like "The Sights" and "Live Outside" seem to particularly take notes from bands like Devo and Talking Heads. All while putting Enter Shikari's own spin on the style. Album favorite "Rabble Rouser" is a stand out style wise and sounds more like a traditional Enter Shikari track with its more rave leaning electronics and more distorted guitar tones. The band is definitely taking steps to expand on their sound and are venturing into much uncharted territory with The Spark. The style switch up is sure to divide fans but in my eyes its still a solid record. If the band chooses to expand on this musical direction the quality on their next record is sure to be up to par with the rest of their discography.
"The Amulet" By Circa Survive
Genre: Progressive Rock/Post-Hardcore
The Amulet is an album that suffers from a simple problem of poor pacing. On an album of ten tracks, the first five have far too similar qualities in tempo, tone, and vocal delivery. Individually each track is solid with the band's post-hardrcore rooted progressive rock being entertaining enough. But in the sense of an album the first half of the record doesn't diversify itself nearly enough. Things get more interesting with the album's second half however starting with "Stay". A track that comes out the gate with attention grabbing lead riffs and a higher energy than the songs leading up to it. "Rites Of Investiture" adds on to the energy of the previous track with more aggressive drumming and frontman Anthony Green showing the full range of his voice. "Flesh And Bone" is a slower, more stripped down song compared to most of the record and showcases how the band can create great atmosphere with subtlety as well as vividness. Pacing issues aside, The Amulet is a solid release but far from the band's best. It's good to see a band taking post hardcore beyond the tried and true pop elements that have dominated the style as of late. That aspect alone sets Circa Survive apart from most of their peers. But if they were looking to top themselves it didn't happen on this record.
"Hiss Spun" By Chelsea Wolfe
Genre: Experimental Metal/Doom/Sludge
This is my first taste of Wolfe's music and her reputation of critical acclaim definitely holds up on Hiss Spun. It's not often an artists comes around that can play around with aural tones and textures this much while maintaining a consistent run of accessibility. Wolfe's distinctly haunting vocals lay atop a bed of droning distortion and ambient electronics that create moods that range from terrifying to frail to somber. The songs make as much use of the space they don't fill as the space they do. A track like "Particle Flux" for example builds and releases tension adeptly creating feelings of anticipation and excitement with instruments coming in and out at alternating times. The three opening tracks are the album's crown jewel however with the pure sludgy doom of "Spun", the conventional directness and loud/soft dynamics of "16 Psyche", and the haunting industrial vibe of "Vex" which gets some extra metal cred with a vocal performance from Aaron Turner of Isis. Chelsea Wolfe strikes me as a "gateway" artist for metal that, unlike most other gateway artists, sacrifices no artistry for the sake of accessibility. Hiss Spun is an excellent record front to back and is a must buy not just for metal fans, but music fans in general.
"Cryptoriana - The Seductiveness Of Decay" By Cradle Of Filth
Genre: Extreme Metal
Cradle Of Filth is a band that takes a commitment for me to get into. While they have all the instantly gratifying aggressiveness and technical skill one could hope for from a metal band they are simultaneously very artsy with each album having a strong theatrical vibe, lyrics that weave together a consistent concept, and long compositions layered with many symphonic elements and movements. Dani Filth and company stand as a shining example of the similarities between heavy metal and classical music. The labor of peeling back the layers of their music comes with reward however as the more you familiarize yourself with each song's elements the more you realize the level of compositional skill the band has. Ghostly choirs, strings, and keys amplify the swift guitar and drum attack that draws from both black and traditional metal. Dani Filth still spams his trademark howl yet it still doesn't get tiresome somehow. Essentially the album is Cradle Of Filth still doing what Cradle Of Filth has done for a long time. Perhaps with a little more focus on the symphonic elements than their previous record. And that's not a bad thing as the band's blend of black, gothic, and symphonic metal remains a highly pleasurable experience.