500 Word Review: Flume “Skin Companion EP I”

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Following his successful release of his sophomore full length album, “Skin”, which came out earlier this year, Australian EDM artist Flume is back with his latest EP “Skin Companion EP I”.  The EP, which apparently seems to be a continuation of “Skin” made up of what appears to be b-sides from the record, is a short, 4 song project that was released only a few days ago.  “Skin”, which in my opinion is an album of the year contender, saw widespread positive approval from his fan base and became Flume’s most successful release to date.  I personally was not familiar with Flume until after the release of “Skin”, but he has since become one of my favorite electronic artists and “Skin” is easily one of my favorite EDM albums of all time.  That being said I was both surprised and shocked when I recently opened my Youtube app to see new material from Flume.  “Skin” itself is a 16 track album running over an hour in length, so the fact that there is still material left over to be released is shocking to me.  However, I was still very excited to hear this latest project from Flume!

The songwriting on “Skin Companion EP I” is slightly different from “Skin”, but as the EP’s title suggests, it is still fairly similar to the sound heard on the 2016 full length.  Overall, “Skin Companion EP I” is a collection of upbeat, almost trance like songs.  The song structure for each track is eclectic with a heavy use of unique, peculiar beats and synths that is fairly similar to “Skin”, but is rather a perfect match to Flume’s signature style and the subgenre, wonky, that Flume often writes in.  Some percussion is mixed in in an odd manner, like for example what is heard throughout the track “v”, but this ultimately further compliments Flume’s signature style of electronic music.  The jittery randomness that flows well with the rhythmic beats can be, at some points, reminiscent of Blank Banshee’s material.  Honestly, despite the fact that pop influenced, high pitched female vocals are heard in nearly every track on “Skin Companion EP I”, this EP in my opinion, is actually closer to sounding like a vaportrap release than a radio friendly edm release, which is not a bad thing at all!  This collection of songs seems a little more experimental than what is heard on “Skin” and even though these tracks sound similar to the material on the 2016 full length, I can see why they are grouped together in a separate release altogether.  However, these variations heard from “Skin” are very slight and these four songs could easily have been mixed into “Skin”, and in fact, they could’ve served as trance like, calm sounding interludes or tracks that provide breathing room between the more intense songs heard on “Skin”.  This would give “Skin” even more range, from a song structure perspective, and would ultimately improve “Skin”.  Regardless, “Skin Companion EP I” is a great release on its own and is another phenomenal project from Flume.

In summation, I give “Skin Companion EP I” an 8.3/10 and I can without a doubt say that this release will be a fierce contender for the EPs of the year list!  This latest project from Flume is interesting, compelling, and extremely relaxing and enjoyable to listen to.  If you are a fan of electronic music you need to give this EP a listen.  Also, if “Skin Companion EP I” is the first installment to a list of projects associated with “Skin” to be released, which I am assuming it is, then I cannot wait to see what Flume releases next during this “Skin” era. Each of the four tracks from the album are posted below for those who want to check out the project and be sure to visit the site this week for more album reviews and music content!

“Trust”:

“v”:

“Heater”:

“Quirk”:

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500 Word Review: Metallica “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct”

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Last week, thrash metal legends, Metallica, released their tenth full length studio album, “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct”, which is their first full length album since 2008’s “Death Magnetic”.  Personally, I’m not a massive, avid fan of Metallica, however, they are the first ever metal band I listened to and became a fan of, and the releases I do enjoy are very important to me.  So with the announcement of a new Metallica album to be released in 2016, my anticipation and excitement for new material was very high.  Although, if you are familiar with Metallica’s discography, then you will know that the California based metal act has had some questionable releases in the post-“The Black Album” era.  So my excitement for new material would greatly depend on how the record’s singles sounded.  Thankfully, these singles exceeded expectations!  The three singles, “Hardwired”, “Moth Into Flame”, and “Atlas, Rise!” were phenomenal tracks and only increased how much I was looking forward to hearing the rest of the project!

When you first listen to “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” the first thing you will notice is that this is probably the best production a Metallica album has seen in literally decades.  Albums like “St. Anger” and “Death Magnetic”, which were the two releases prior to “Hardwired…”, feature some of the worst production quality in Metallica’s career.  Everything from how the drums were recorded to the mix and mastering of the entire album overall were terrible and at some points unbearable.  On “Hardwired…”, the exact opposite is seen.  The drums, especially the tight, bone-snapping snare sound, are recorded perfectly and the distorted guitars and bass tracks sound amazing.  The vocals sound powerful, well mixed, and most importantly, in tune.  Overall, the great production quality allows the album to sound like a successful modern day thrash metal record, and in return makes the whole release more enjoyable.

The songwriting exemplified on the new Metallica album is ridiculously good as well.  The entire album is full with catchy, memorable tracks that sound like great, classic thrash metal songs.  Chugging, head-banging worthy riffs are simply powerful, especially with stellar vocals.  Tracks like “Now That We’re Dead” and “Halo On Fire” are perfect examples of this and are reminiscent to their older sound heard in the mid to late 80s.  Even tracks like “Atlas, Rise!” and “Murder One” are instant classics and should be praised as some of their best tracks in their extensive catalog.  If you are a fan of the mind-numbing guitar solos from lead guitarist, Kirk Hammett, then  you will love this album as it is full with solos of his, like the extremely impressive solo heard on “Murder One”.  Overall, there are only two songs that personally I thought were just ok or decent songs on the record, but there is still over an hour of amazing material off this two disc record.  Besides the fact that there are only two decent songs, “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” is mostly fast tempo, in your face, classic thrash metal with some great, short, melodic breaks in between the hard-hitting riffs and catchy choruses.  There is rarely a dull moment throughout “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct”, which keeps the listener attentive and into the album despite the fact that it is well over an hour in length!

In conclusion, this is one of the best Metallica albums in literally decades.  The record features all the classic, widely praised aspects of Metallica that make their old releases so phenomenal.  It’s important to not listen to this album thinking it will be as good as the legendary releases like “The Black Album, “Master of Puppets”, or even “…And Justice For All”, considering the fact that these are some of the greatest metal albums of all time, but “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” is still a remarkable album and is for sure their greatest release in the post-“The Black Album” era.  I give “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” an 8.5/10 and highly encourage anyone, regardless of their opinion on Metallica, to give it a listen!  The Youtube playlist for the album is attached below to view and make sure to check back in this weekend for more reviews and other music content!

Classic Album Review: METALLICA St. Anger

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Metallica may be a thrash metal band, but for all their aggressive drive, they manage to make their music balanced. The same cannot be said for “St. Anger”. To put it quite simply, it is a mess. In an attempt to recreate the raw sound of their early work, Metallica decided to make new material for their album in an old military barracks. A noble idea, but one that ultimately failed. In the end the band decided the sound was too raw, and moved to their own studio to record the final product. Sadly, even a bona fide studio and the skills of producer Bob Rock were not enough to save this album.

Shortly before recording started, Metallica’s bassist Jason Newstead left the band. Determined to release a new album, Metallica had Bob Rock step in as a temporary replacement. James Hetfield’s alcohol addiction and personal issues further complicated recording, and a sloppy album was the result.

Metallica’s drummer Lars Ulrich is often criticized for his decision to remove the wire from his snare drum, and for good reason. The drums are overwhelming. The kit doesn’t sound raw, but like it is composed of trash cans. The gimmick is distracting from the rest of “St. Anger’s” noise, which is probably a good thing. Apart from their sound, the drumming is tame compared to the skill Ulrich has shown before.

Putting it mildly, the vocals are strident. Hetfield is frequently off key and manages to sound far less suave than before. Uncomfortable wailing and ugly shouts plague the album too. The lyrics are all things childish, cliché, and boring. In the title track, Hetfield spouts cringe worthy lines like “fuck it all and fuckin’ no regrets” and the album ends up sounding ridiculous, rather than metal. Other times the lyrics are lazy.   For example, Metallica lists off as many words as they can think of ending in “or” in the track, “Dirty Window”, to show off their rhyming skills. The background vocals are usually buried in the mix, but Metallica has hung on to the kind of gang vocals that have worked for them in the past. Unfortunately, we can often hear what sounds like layers of Hetfield screeching over each other, like what is heard on “Some Kind of Monster”, as if he wasn’t making enough of a ruckus already.

It was depressing to listen to a Metallica album without a single guitar solo. Kirk Hammett usually delivers standout riffs at the least, but none were to be found on “St. Anger”. In general, the guitar could be described as uninspired. Hetfield’s performance wasn’t very impressive either. It doesn’t have much of an impact on the album, instead it’s just there. Perhaps they are rusty or old, but it was a lackluster performance.

Bob Rock’s bass performance was completely drowned in the mix, which is strange considering he was the album’s producer. You really have to press your ear to the speaker to notice the bass, and when you do, it sounds like a carbon copy of Korn’s signature rattling bass, especially when listening to “Purify”. On the other hand, who knows what that sound is. It could even be Hetfield puking into one of Lars’ trashcans.

“St. Anger” is not cohesive. Each transition is clumsy, and the instruments fail to complement each other. Not a single aspect of this album is without flaw, and that includes its themes. The lyrics, like those heard on the track, “Invisible Kid”, try to be philosophical, but sound like they were written by an angsty teenager. The songs last too long and even when they have something good going, they ruin it moments later. One of the albums redeeming moments, reminiscent of the stylish rhythms of Metallica’s self-titled album, is when the band lays down a grooving riff to Hetfield’s well delivered lyrics of “Open your heart, I’m beating right here”, but the moment is murdered moments later with more horrible wailing. Overall, this is a horribly discordant album that relied too much on production despite its goal of achieving a raw sound. Something tells me that recalling an album on the sight of a trashcan is not a good sign.

 

Score: 3.4/10

 

Album Review by Zachary Norton, November 2016

The Thursday Ten: 11/24/16

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After missing last week we are now back with the next installment to “The Thursday Ten”!  Like usual, the rules for “The Thursday Ten” haven’t changed and we encourage you to check out every album listed below on any of the major music streaming services.  Let us know what you think of the ratings, which albums we should do next, and don’t forget to read previous “The Thursday Tens”, like the most recent one attached below!  Here is this week’s “The Thursday Ten”:

  1. Hail The Sun – Culture Scars: 8/10
  2. Stolas – Allomaternal: 8/10
  3. The Devil Wears Prada – Transit Blues: 7/10
  4. Gallant – Ology: 9/10
  5. Sianvar – Stay Lost: 8/10
  6. Memphis May Fire – This Light I Hold: 6/10
  7. Fire From The Gods – Narrative: 7/10
  8. twenty one pilots – Heathens *single/not an album*: 5/10
  9. Rob $tone – Chill Bill *single/not an album*: 9/10
  10. Leon Bridges – Coming Home: 8/10

The previous “The Thursday Ten”:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/the-thursday-ten-111016/

Happy Thanksgiving From the Staff at Erik’s Album Reviews!

It’s hard to believe that this site has already been live for 3 months! We’ve had readers in 6 different continents over about 30 countries and we are both ecstatic and humbled to see this response to the page. It’s this support for our hard work and dedication to something we love that we are beyond thankful for! We are very grateful for all of our fans and readers and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for Erik’s Album Reviews! To our American readers, have an amazing Thanksgiving and to all other readers have a wonderful holiday season, and once again thank you from all of us at Erik’s Album Reviews!

The post for “The Thursday Ten” will be released later tonight and we have more reviews coming today and tomorrow so stay tuned for more new content!

Track(s) of the Day Tuesday: GALLANT Weight In Gold and ROB $TONE Chill Bill

As we mentioned before, last week was extremely hectic for the writers at Erik’s Album Reviews, so we were unable to create new installments for our weekly segments, like Track of the Day Tuesday.  So, like we’ve done before for weeks when we were unable to post a track of the day, we have TWO tracks for this week that you should listen to!  These tracks are Gallant’s “Weight In Gold” and Rob $tone’s “Chill Bill”.  Both of these songs I actually found through commercials and I have since become a fan of these artists!

Rob $tone is an up-and-coming rap artist who released his widely successful single, “Chill Bill”, earlier this year.  The track has been featured on Spotify commercials and features one of the catchiest hooks you will hear in all of 2016.  The track has solid flow and a well put together trap beat, however the most memorable part of this song is the whistling lead part, which serves as the melody to the addictive chorus.  It is impossible to listen to the chorus once and not want to play it again and whistle the melody yourself.  The only problem I have with the song is that I think the whistling melody is over used.  If it was prominent in the verse as well, I believe that the impact the melody would have on the chorus would be even greater than it is now.  This track, however, is still an amazing start for Rob $tone and I look forward to hearing what he chooses to release next!

Gallant’s “Weight In Gold” is the other track you must listen to today.  After hearing his best selling single on a Red Bull commercial I absolutely had to check out the full song.  Gallant is a modern day R&B artist with an absolutely stunning vocal range.  Gallant’s music also incorporates a lot of electronic influence and even some sections in “Weight In Gold” feature EDM like sections.  “Weight In Gold” is an instant classic and an all around well written, extremely impressive song.  “Ology”, Gallant’s debut album, is phenomenal as well and will definitely be an album of the year contender.

I’ve posted links to both songs below for you to check out!  I also attached Gallant’s live performance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.  If his live performance doesn’t convince you of his unfathomable talent and musical ability, then I don’t know what will.  Both of these artists will be house hold names in the next few years and I can’t wait to see what they do with their careers next!

Rob $tone “Chill Bill”:

Gallant “Weight In Gold”:

Gallant “Weight In Gold” Live: