There’s no shortage of great acts out there, as proven by the amount that I get to promote on a weekly basis. But originality is difficult to find nowadays, given that there’s little left available in the way of ground breaking. However, Calista Kazuko is someone special, and there’s no better testimony of that fact than her recently released debut album – Empress.
To begin with, we get this prologue of sorts that establishes the mood and the setting in the most thespian manner possible, and this leads into Come To Mama which gets the hairs rapidly on end, the main qualities causing this being the delicious bassline swimming through and Calista’s gorgeous voice, which radiates with a grasping, seducing tone; ideal given the subject matter of a woman’s power to influence and control.
Lady Cherry has a swinging 60’s vibe reminiscent of Shirley Bassey and Nancy Sinatra, especially notable from the graceful melody and sweet chorus, and the guitars are pretty crisp here too. Benzo Belle is so delightfully off-kilter and surreal sound-wise, with the similar fundamentals of a broken music box, and it suddenly intensifies to something so vast and sharp.
Ode To Genevive is a majestic piano-and-string driven spectacle that serves as an effective empowerment war cry to women breaking the shackles of oppression. Covering that same field, Dear Sabotage is a tribute to mothers who fight tooth and nail to provide the best for their children.
SS Lizzie is another huge-scale offering that spans multiple styles in the space of 5 minutes. In fact, the entire record has a staggering Broadway feel to it, to the point where if you close your eyes with full attention paid to the music, your imagination can run wild and you can almost see the scenarios unfolding in front of you. If she could ever gain access to the money and devices to do so, Calista should consider adapting this for the stage, no matter how small or big it may be.
Sick Like Me is easily the most blunt and pungent of the lot, covering the effects that social media has on one’s image and how much it mentally screws with their head, and in her uniformly empathetic style, she delivers an outstanding climax in the form of Cake, before taking her fabulous leave with We Are Empress.
On a thematic level, this is a candidate for the best in that category that has emerged in 2019, with very few others that could even come close to matching it in terms of lyrical content, and it blooms through Calista Kazuko’s extraordinary, out-of-this-universe performances that hit your soul like nothing else.
Enigmatic, thunderous and poignant all at once, Empress is as close to a masterpiece as it gets and proves without a shadow of a doubt that Calista is a gifted human being. And in my personal opinion, I think she has done her father proud.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH LOST IN THE MANOR
FALSE FRIENDS – A Great Day For The Parish
I’ve been following Glaswegian pop five-piece False Friends for nearly 3 years now, and I’ve been dying for this group to come out with a record for the longest time, but much to my delight, my prayers have finally been answered as they have their debut EP on the horizon – A Great Day For The Parish.
They get the ball rolling in magnificent fashion with God On A Hill, radiating with this sweet vibrant sound, as well as a mixture of pure harmonies, light chords and the most awe-inspiring of choruses imaginable.
Thankfully, they didn’t give away all the goods too early, as Can’t Breathe keeps that momentum running at a vivid high, thanks to this buoyant life created from the dashing bassline, bouncy drum beat and gleaming synths.
The lead single Sea Level is another euphoric doozy that features a lot of character in the dedicated vocal performances, strong lyrics and an immensely catchy melody, but for the final track, they opt to go for something more low-key with the impeccably produced and compelling Careless, plus a wonderfully memorable hook acting as the cherry on top.
There’s no denying that False Friends have thrown every fibre of their beings into this project, because A Great Day For A Parish stands as not only one of the most brilliant debuts of 2019, but one of the year’s best EPs altogether.
The quintet have proven that they have what it takes, and hopefully it won’t be long before bigger and better opportunities are chucked their way going forward.
***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 29TH NOVEMBER***
ONLY THE RIGHTEOUS – Severance
Since breaking onto the scene back in 2016, Manchester metalcore outfit Only The Righteous have time and again staked their claims to be one of the next big things under the umbrella, and they have sufficient evidence to back them up on that – their upcoming debut EP, Severance.
An ominous intro piece precedes the first proper track, Late Nights With Bukowski, which ignites a fire with its whopping dynamic vibe and a rocking force that is built upon the formidable drumming.
It only gets all the sweeter withWhat We Could Have Been, a storming track that delivers stiff vocals, vigorous riffs and a hell of a chorus. Perhaps one of the best metal songs I’ve heard this year, if I have to be honest.
The shattering Her Last Goodbye ups both the tempo and the hostility, reeling with these heated emotions, although the spoken segments feel a little out of place and somewhat hurt the pace.
After a quick interlude, Raise Your Glass retains that relentless consistency, and tenacious guitar streaks serve as the focal point of the rampant finale and latest single, Betrayal.
Despite one or two negligible flaws, Severance is a non-stop, immense, action-packed barrage that has cemented without question that Only The Righteous are here to stay, and only going to ascend the ranks from here on out.
***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 22ND NOVEMBER***
IN ASSOCIATION WITH SAN PR
Since the age of fourteen, London-based artist Ollie Trevers has committed himself to the world of music, intensely developing his craft from day one and refining it as best as he can, and you couldn’t ask for a better way to be introduced to this guy than through his most recent EP – Cordelia.
As the title suggests, Dispassionate Love focuses on a withering romance faulted by the effects of an inner mental struggle, and Ollie conveys this through his broad harmonies that only amaze further as he heads into the sweeping chorus, while a tight guitar line makes its presence felt through the verses.
These qualities plus the melancholy theme run into the equally supreme Can’t Make It Up, which envelops with a vivid, swaying melody, and Stage Of Fools continues to impress with a combination of an engaging rhythm, great lyrics, sensational vocal overdubs, and brief, striking clap hooks.
I Need Someone inspires with this astonishing outburst of fervour that is intensified by a vast scope and turbulent drum fills, taking a breather in the middle before returning to glorious form, and following on from that, Lost Alone stimulates with one last dose of fine writing, a grand size and a potent raining of emotions.
Ollie Trevers’ latest effort is a tremendous undertaking, executed in spades through his keen eye for heartfelt writing and piecing together a production that efficiently brings it to a dazzling life.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH LOST IN THE MANOR
Motherwell quintet Inferiem have proved themselves to be one of Scottish metal’s major success stories across 2019, whether it’d be winning Metal 2 The Masses, claiming the SAMA prize for their genre, or releasing their self-titled debut EP, which is naturally the focus of today’s review.
The opener Kill The Poison is a hefty banger that tears through at a relentless clip, surging with a great, progressive rhythm. They then pick up the pace for Bury Me, where the vocals are packing a broader density than before and the multiple drops throughout are so heavy and carry his stiff stomach-dropping weight, and the closing sequence is just flat out massive.
The main single The Fall is bloody tremendous; a no holds barred blitz that belts the insanity off the scale, delivering a superb chorus and a cracker of a breakdown in the midst of it.
But it isn’t over yet, for with Roll The Dice, they somehow manage to ramp it up to levels beyond belief, dishing out a mixture of really great riffs, basslines and drum fills in conjunction with the best writing on the record, all while maintaining the manic energy that straight up exhausts you as it finally comes to a close, it’s that mental.
Seriously, what else needs to be said here? Inferiem’s first EP is an absolutely face-melting experience that is so electrifying, and their games are only stepped up with each subsequent track that they churn out.
Inferiem have thoroughly deserved everything they have accomplished this year, and I’m super buzzing to see what it is in store for them for 2020.
When he’s not hitting up the American pop punk scene with his fellow band members in Aspiga, Kevin Day has kept himself occupied otherwise with his solo project, Graduation Speech, from which he is fresh off releasing his second record – Maintenance Required.
Your Heart, My Lungs is a fresh opener that is defined by an ace blend of electric riffs and acoustic chords, which create this pretty addictive melody impelled by Kevin’s peachy voice, while Ourselves has more of a force behind it, thanks to a thick, pulsing drum beat.
The writing truly gets to take centre stage in Small Apartment, which is a lot more slow and smooth, and there’s a real compelling sense of emotion seeping through here, particularly as the words are looped and become locked in the head.
Shedding Myself has this light, palatable essence to it, and makes a mark with a great, memorable chorus, and Kevin adds an extra tier of magnetism to his singing with the final number Love And Patience, and as a result, the lyrics sink in stronger than ever and leave you mulling as it wraps up.
A sublime little EP we’ve got on our hands here filled with polished tunes that are rich in their content; also exhibiting Kevin Day’s ability to venture into multiple styles of music and succeed, no matter what he partakes in.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH PART TIME PR
BROKEN EMPIRE – Parasite
For the past few years, Oxford hard rock quartet have been working tirelessly to build up and cement themselves as key players in the nation’s busy metal scene. They’ve had plenty of success so far in 2019, garnering much attention with their last effort, Fractures, and not content on sauntering, they’ve been quick to come through with a follow-up – Parasite.
Promptly with the titular opener, the dual-style vocal attack is effective, the riffs are damn good and the chorus is a catchy, electric one. On top of that, we get a nice solo and a walloping breakdown. Halls Of Power radiates with this coarse tone definitely harsher than the previous track, opting to go less mainstream-inspired and instead give the listener something that is raw and stamps with a sturdy impulse, particularly reflected in the rhythm section.
They curb the pace for the slower but just as forcible Defcon1, where they take their time adding layer after layer while entertaining with great singing and pretty solid writing. Soon enough, they reinstate the power with the closing number Time Is Running Out, chock full of formidably penetrating screams, raucous drumming and a hair-raising dynamic energy; clearly, they saved the best for last, and in doing so, leaving the audience totally buzzing and hungry for more.
True, the guys fall back on a lot of traditional elements here utilised widely across the genre, but whatever they may lack in freshness, they sure as hell make up for in execution. All four tracks on this are tightly produced and performed, each offering fundamentals that earn them their inclusions, and the final result is a staggering record that gets the job done supremely well, also proving that Broken Empire are only getting better with each subsequent release.
***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 22ND NOVEMBER***
It’s been a while since I’ve explored the French scene for some sweet new music, and Poitiers rock trio Uncut have not let me down in the slightest with their latest record – From Blue.
They lay down the enticing heavy stuff straight away with Blue Eyes Lover, which dazzles with aggressive riffs, impassioned vocals and just this infectious, larger-than-life sound in general, and the closing sequence is a thing of rollicking beauty. With a buzz in the air, they continue on with Bee Blues, a meaty progressive blinder that goes back and forth between slow and groovy, and loud and stirring.
Deandra is another wild hard-hitter defined by an awesome chorus, and they go spectacularly off the chain in the final third. With no rest of the wicked, they belt right into the fast and furious Snake Boogie, and they keep the frenzied party rolling into the supreme, solo-littered Gold Digger Woman.
What else can I say? From Blue is a superb collection of high-octane tunes from top to bottom that is sure to excite anybody with a working brain.
SKULL ABOVE THE CANNON – Dagos
Originally hailing from Catania in Italy, the now London-based alternative metal trio Skull Above The Cannon are back in the limelight after sitting quiet, set to unleash their debut album to the world – Dagos.
While the rhythm can get a little clunky in spots, Away does a well enough job in establishing a buzz. Jungle drum-esque shots and thick bass notes kick off Devil’s Tail, which eventually comes in with a solid chorus and culminates in rocking style.
Things considerably improve with B The Fish, with a lot of palpable energy to it and the sweet guitars finally getting an opportunity to shine, not to mention the breakdown towards the end hits with a heavy force. Pigmen is a swift banger that charges through firing on all cylinders.
After the first of interludes, next up is Trip To Descent, easily one of the best here, interchanging between these cool, grooving sequences and awesomely mental, high-tempo bursts. All elements are stepped up, including the vocal work and the murky-toned riffs, and they remain in strong form moving into the gravely stiff Kaori, retaining that grimy, grungy strain as they chug along.
Another brief break, and it is on to Burst, complete with these stabbing chords and an immense display of tight basslines, although around the halfway point, they go off-beat for whatever reason and it just gets plain messy, but this is only a fleeting setback as they do eventually recover from that, even treating us to a bombastic climax, and this leads into When The Music Is Over, which makes for a decent way to wrap this up.
So it’s clear that there are problems here, with the band needing to put more care into producing their tracks, as a few on this record are rough around the edges and sloppily handled. But when this isn’t an issue, what we do get is a pretty enjoyable, hard-hitting product, and when the songs succeed, they really succeed, in the process getting the listeners stimulated with juicy headbang-level material.
There is a fair amount of promise with Skull Above The Cannon, and if able to tidy up the flaws, then we could be in for something extra special down the road.
***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 22ND NOVEMBER***
IN ASSOCIATION WITH MANI IN FACCIA
PEACE TAPE – Abstract Works
Earlier this year, Last Night From Glasgow formed a brand new sub-level by the name of Komponist, presenting a focus towards composers as opposed to traditional musicians as they normally do.
If needing to get a taste of what this branch is involved with, then you must be sure to keep an eye out for their forthcoming release – Abstract Works, which comes courtesy of the group, Peace Tape.
Eating Alone begins light before suddenly descending into an uneasy spooky territory. That haunting essence is emphasised twofold in Walking Through Wind, with digital glitchy hints becoming more prominent and increasing the tension further yet.
The jarring instrumentals of Men Waiting For Something keep it going until these spellbinding extra-terrestrial influences start to creep in. 8-bit scratches are dotted about the first half of Lucio Fontana, until it launches out of nowhere into these loud, sharp blasts that split the ears.
This Machine Is A Mountain is definitely more subtle but still remains foreboding. Richter doesn’t let up the pressure over the 5 minute duration, although it does gradually quieten down as it proceeds towards the end, before Mental Self Portrait Of A Wednesday hits you with one last dose of uncomfortable noise to see you out
You know what, for a project described as “abstract” that’s not meant to fall into one distinguishable category, they inadvertently produced a really effective horror soundtrack that gets under your skin and shakes you up.
An interesting concoction overall, and if more like this is to come out of Komponist, then consider me hooked.