500 Word Review: Enterprise Earth “Embodiment”

embodiment

For the last 3 years I’ve been big fan of Enterprise Earth, which is the band that Dan Watson went on to found and front after leaving Infant Annihilator in 2014. I discovered the group’s debut EP “23” months after it’s release and instantly loved the entire project. Personally, at the time I thought that Enterprise Earth would be one of the bands that encompasses the future of deathcore, and if their songwriting and stellar musicianship could stay constant or even improve, they would easily become one of the best artists in the genre’s brief history.

Upon first listening to the band’s debut full length album, “Patient 0”, I found the project to be very disappointing initially. The uniqueness of “23” that made me truly enjoy the EP itself seemed to be omitted from “Patient 0”, and as a result, it took multiple listens to truly hear the distinction between tracks. However, after revisiting the album months later, I enjoyed the record a lot more than I did after hearing it soon after it’s release. “Patient 0’s” aggressive and more technical composition definitely separated itself, in a good way, from the rest of the noise heard in the modern deathcore scene, but it was still much harder to distinguish differences between tracks on the album itself compared to “23”, where each track is unique and instantly recognizable. Regardless, it was clear that Enterprise Earth was releasing material on a whole other tier than any of the other new deathcore band to emerge in the last few years, so upon seeing the announcement of “Embodiment’s” 2017 release, I was very excited to hear what Enterprise Earth would put out next.

For starters, the artwork instantly caught my full attention. With a space themed album artwork, it appeared as if Enterprise Earth was at least returning to the themes heard on “23”, which was a great sign to initially see upon album announcement. In fact, after hearing the first single, “Mortem Incarnatum”, it became more evident that this sophomore album may be very similar to the iconic debut EP.

After listening to the entire sophomore full length record in its entirety, I can confirm that this is without a doubt yet another superb Enterprise Earth release. Pummeling, complex riffs and unrelenting, face smashing breakdowns give any listener chills while making it nearly impossible to not headbang during these bone-crushing moments, especially during tracks like “Temptress”. This album is full of hard hitting, fast, and aggressive sections that are masterfully performed by the Spokane based deathcore act themselves, exemplifying why this band is a role model for the rest of the newly formed deathcore groups globally. Eerie, and at some moments, ambient leads and intricate, chugging riffs are frequently heard, which were featured on both “23” and “Patient 0” and show the references to older material and song structure that help maintain Enterprise Earth’s signature sound. Dan Watson’s vocals sound amazing, but I actually prefer how they were recorded and mixed on “Patient 0” far more and believe that how his vocal performance is mixed on “Embodiment” actually really hurts the release itself. His genre trailblazing vocal performance and technique should be at the forefront of each track, and mixing it to a quieter, less prominent volume, like what is heard on “Embodiment”, truly takes away from the Enterprise Earth sound.

“Father of Abortion” brings back the excellent use of guitar and overall production effects that I loved on “23”, especially “Masquerade of Angels”.  Don’t be confused by the handful of complaints, “Patient 0” was fantastic, but it lacked the distinct, memorable sections that every song on “23” had, resulting in a debut album where many songs seem to blend together. “Embodiment”, interestingly enough, actually sounds like the natural succession to “23”, showing a return to form from Enterprise Earth and making “Patient 0” seem almost out of place as if it were an experimental project or a diversion from the classic Enterprise Earth sound.  Essentially it almost seems like the influence from “23” skips over “Patient 0” and finds itself embedded in “Embodiment”.  It’s nearly impossible currently to determine which full length record is the best album by Enterprise Earth, as each one has unique features and qualities that I truly admire, but it definitely is interesting to have another Enterprise Earth release that features an expanded sound and overall composition of the classic EP, “23”.

Lastly, I want to reiterate that I still really enjoy “Patient 0”, and actually, at times I enjoy riffs and even tracks heard on the debut full length, like “Shallow Breath”, more than “Embodiment”, but hearing the natural succession to “23” is a great feeling and results in yet another sensational Enterprise Earth release. “Embodiment” keeps your attention on the material focused and unwavering from start to finish, resulting in a truly enjoyable full length record. I have very few complaints about this record, as it represents everything I hoped to see in a new Enterprise Earth release. Overall, I give “Embodiment” a 9.0/10, and have attached the full stream of the album below for you to listen to! The release is not only one of the best deathcore albums of this year, which is saying something as a plethora of phenomenal deathcore albums have already surfaced before 2017’s halfway point, but it should also earn a spot on our Albums of the Year list come late December. Definitely give this album, and later releases, from Enterprise Earth a listen and stay tuned for more metal content due out very soon!  Also check back in soon as I will be posting reviews for both “Patient 0” and the EP, “23”!

 

“Embodiment”:

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500 Word Review: Childish Gambino “Awaken, My Love!”

awaken

“Awaken, My Love!” is completely unexpected and original, but where did the rap go? This is Glover’s first attempt at a purely R&B album and somehow “Awaken” makes it sound like he’s had plenty of practice making them. How he satisfactorily produced this ambitious album after devoting his musical career to rapping is impressive. It is impossible to deny his multiple talents. I call this album ambitious because it is uncharted territory for Gambino. Yes, he tests out his singing voice a bit on “Kauai”, but he pushes his vocals to their limit on “Awaken” making frequent use of his falsetto. Even so, Glover demonstrates his versatility and while I was constantly anticipating his rapping, his singing did not take away from the album. Straying even further from his comfort zone, this album is full of funk, soul, and psychedelia creating a new and unfamiliar sound.

When “Me and Your Momma” kicks in, I was instantly reminded of the lazy yet precise drumming and stoned guitar of King Crimson so much that it sounded like a tribute to the band. Evidence of this influence shows up in other songs like “Boogieman” and “Zombies”. The vast, trippy production works well with this style, but the ceaseless reverb definitely gets old. Themes of love, loads of clapping, chanting, and church choir style background vocals give the album a Cristian tone that is out of place in an increasingly atheist world and rap scene. The chorus of “Have Some Love” sounds like a hymn sung around the fire at a summer Jesus camp. Peace culture and drugs certainly have a history together, but I’m not so sure the album’s psychedelia goes hand in hand with its soulful characteristics.

The album is an appropriate length, but there are still a couple of songs that it could do without. “California” is clunky and breaks up the album. Its distorted vocals are too much to comfortably listen to. “The Night Me and Your Momma Met” is just unneeded dead space wedged between two already mellow songs. This album may represent uncertainty of where to focus his talents for Glover, or his understanding that he is successful enough to artistically experiment wherever he wants. The absence of even a single rap verse on “Awaken” and his experimentation on “Kauai” raise the question of whether Gambino plans on changing genres permanently. Strangely enough he doesn’t seem to be any better or worse at the R&B trade than rapping, he’ll probably have a dedicated following either way he goes as long as he doesn’t decide to take a sharp turn again.

 

Score: 7/10

 

Album Review by Zachary Norton, March 2017

“Awaken, My Love!”:

500 Word Review: The Weeknd “Starboy”

starboy

Let’s get something out of the way: I hate The Weeknd. His whiney ass voice doesn’t work with his cool guy lyrics and it makes him sound like a twat. When I listen to his music I can’t help but imagine a 12-year-old prepubescent boy bragging about his vagina loosening abilities. His act isn’t very convincing whether it is genuine or not, and has reached a new level of annoying on “Starboy”. Fame has undoubtedly gotten to his head. The way he pronounces some words, and his offensive vibrato consistently distract from his music, but maybe it’s just because he’s Canadian. He isn’t all that original either. The Weeknd’s musical influences are easily apparent. A handful of his songs unapologetically resemble the style of his idol, Michael Jackson. Even his name is unoriginal. There was already another Canadian musical artist by the name of The Weekend in 1998. The Weeknd only adapted his stage name when copyright infringement became a worry. However, as much as I dislike this artist, it is difficult to deny that “Starboy” is a decent album.

“Starboy” doesn’t shine all the way through. There aren’t any truly bad songs, but it is certainly too long. The Weekend secured several big name features to keep things interesting, yet there are still plenty of dull moments on the album. The only feature that falls flat on its face is the one I had the highest expectations for, that of Kendrick Lamar in “Sidewalks”. His what should’ve been a solid verse is immediately derailed by the choppy line “Say, say, say” repeated five times. The end of the verse’s flow is thankfully unmolested. It looks like The Weeknd called in some favors for the production job too. “Starboy’s” production boasts a long list of contributors including Daft Punk, and it has a gorgeous crystalline sound to show for it. There are plenty of dank beats and contagious rhythms on “Starboy”. “Rockin’” pulses with energy and “A Lonely Night” has a dapper swing reminiscent of something you would find on a Michael Jackson album.

The Weeknd may admit to his affinity for the king of pop, but he has another strong likeness to a successful artist. “Six Feet Under”, “Party Monster”, and “Reminder” could be covers of Drake songs. Being compared to two influential artists would normally be a complement, but The Weeknd doesn’t seem to have a method of his own. While it leans heavily on the work of others, this album is not redundant. It does not hold up the expected clichés we have come to expect from pop music, and yes this is a pop album not R&B. Instead it breathes new and formidable life into a copy and paste genre. While he didn’t quite knock it out of the park, “Starboy” is a reminder that the Weeknd is a force in the pop genre and will be for a long time.

 

Score: 7.5/10

 

Album Review by Zachary Norton, March 2017

“Starboy’:

500 Word Review: Dwellings “Foreverest” – Single

foreverest

On November 25th, Modesto, California based post hardcore band, Dwellings, released the follow up to their debut single “Lemonade” with the release of their latest single, “Foreverest”.  For those of you who have been following the page you will know how excited I am to hear new material from this group.  Their debut single was nothing short of phenomenal, and based off that performance alone, I honestly believe that this group is the future of the post hardcore sub genre.  That being said, I was extremely excited to hear new material from this group because I’m still curious to see how their sound will develop throughout this debut EP.  This new single, “Foreverest”, definitely varies significantly from their debut release, “Lemonade”, however there are still consistent themes heard on both tracks that give listeners and fans of the group a sense of what this up and coming band will sound like!

As stated earlier, there are multiple clear differences that you can hear between the tracks “Lemonade” and “Foreverest”.  For starters, “Foreverest” is somehow even more melodic than the anthemic track, “Lemonade”.  To be clear, this is not a negative quality, but it is still a surprising feature, especially when considering how harmonious multiple sections and choruses were on “Lemonade”.  The guitar work is simply graceful and does a great job with complimenting the superb songwriting and vocal performance heard on “Foreverest”. However, the most significant and enjoyable difference between the two tracks is how the overall sound of the track ,”Foreverest”, is more unique to Dwellings.  As much as I love “Lemonade”, there were multiple instances where the track sounded a lot like previous Dance Gavin Dance releases.  “Foreverest”, on the other hand, sounds more unique to Dwellings and their specific style of songwriting, and in the process, shows off their own personal take on post hardcore.  The influences from DGD and other well known post hardcore bands can still be heard, but Dwellings’ personal and recognizable sound is without a doubt the most prominent aspect heard, and in return gives their fans a better idea to how their sound will develop and become even more unique with future releases.  “Foreverest” will probably be the most melodic and slowest song heard on the upcoming EP and it gives the project a good range from higher energy,  in your face songs to slower and even more emotional tracks.

However Dwellings, like most other major California based post hardcore acts, still show some examples of similarities to Dance Gavin Dance in this new track.  These similarities are not a bad thing, or show lack of creativity, but demonstrate how they are able to take this modern style of post hardcore and transform and mold it into their own unique sound.  The first similarity a listener familiar with DGD will hear when listening to “Foreverest” is that this song is heavily influenced by Dance Gavin Dance’s third full length studio album, “Happiness”.  “Lemonade” featured elements from both “Happiness” and “Acceptance Speech” (the fifth studio album by the Sacramento based band), but “Foreverest” appears to just draw influence from “Happiness” alone. This is not a surprise to me since they have already shown signs of writing in a similar style to “Happiness”, and Dwellings’ bassist, Anthony Pacheco, has even stated that this DGD record is his favorite to date.  That being said, it now seems obvious why “Happiness” and “Foreverest” might sound somewhat similar.  “Happiness” is one of, it not my absolute favorite, DGD record as well, so Dwellings’ use of mixing in elements from this legendary record is something that I definitely approve of.  These elements, which include everything from the sincere, emotion filled lyrics to to the slow, yet melodic song structure can be directly compared and sound similar to songs like “Happiness” off the album of the same name, but can also strengthen their own songwriting by combing their favorite moments from “Happiness” and their own personal songwriting sound.  However, it is important to note that all of Dwellings’ material has been recorded by Josh Benton, who used to play guitar for Dance Gavin Dance and now records some of their releases like “Tree City Sessions”, and has been mastered by Kris Crummett, who recorded most of DGD’s full length records and other releases by notable California based post hardcore groups.  Because of this, some of aspects of Dwellings’ material might be similar to DGD solely because their production process is almost identical to Dance Gavin Dance’s.  Regardless of where they take influence from, Dwellings is making some serious progress at becoming the next legendary post hardcore group.

In conclusion, this is another solid track from soon-to-be household name, post hardcore group, Dwellings.  My anticipation for this debut EP continues to grow with every single released and I simply cannot wait to see what they put out next.  I give their second single, “Foreverest”, and 8.9/10.  The release date for the EP, “Lavender Town”, hasn’t been posted yet by the band, but when it does the staff at Erik’s Album Reviews will be the first ones to share it with you!  Check out the review for their debut single, “Lemonade”, below and give the latest single, “Foreverest”, a listen and let us know what you think!

“Lemonade” Review:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/album-reivew-dwellings-lemonade-single/

“Foreverest”:

500 Word Review: Blank Banshee “MEGA”

blank-banshee-mega

Recently, vaporwave and experimental electronic artist, Blank Banshee, released his latest album titled “MEGA”.  “MEGA” features a recognizable vaporwave sound that is common througout the fairly new genre, but also has numerous aspects that separate Blank Banshee and his material from anyone else in vaporwave and in the process show the growth in the genre over the last few years.  Personally, I was not too familiar with vaporwave as a genre before this review and actually knew nothing about Blank Banshee himself, so I thought this would be a interesting album to review since I did not have a previous background in either the artist or the genre they write in.

Despite not knowing much about Blank Banshee himself, it was very apparent within the first few tracks that his sound was one that heavily relied on the use of reverb.  Throughout the entire release the high quality production is constantly accompanied by a heavy use of reverb, which enhances the sound and style that Blank Banshee himself is trying to achieve.  However, the use of reverb isn’t the only prominent tool used to capture this desired sound heard on “MEGA”.  The frequent use of soundscapes (that at numerous times even creates an atmospheric vaporwave sound), trap influenced beats, and various altered samples helps encompass the ultimate sound of this project.

In my opinion the strongest feature of Blank Banshee’s unique sound is the numerous soundscapes heard in tracks like “Frozen Flame” and “EXOS”.  These almost entirely soundscape based songs, mixed in with reverb and even some panning like that heard on the more hip-hop influenced “Sandclock”, help show how multi-dimensional “MEGA” is and in return prove that vaporwave as a genre is beginning to evolve and diverge into different subgenres.  These soundscapes and synth pads, created using various pan flutes, string and wind instruments, and other software-generated sounds only help to compliment the trap-like beats heard on virtually every song.  Along with this, the bright yet simplistic album artwork helps to visually describe this sound while fitting the vaporwave aesthetic.

When listening to “MEGA” the use of experimentation is also extremely obvious.  Fitting the style of the genre itself, “MEGA” constantly jumps from section to section, never staying on one riff or part for too long.  The short length in tracks (the longest track on the record is only 2:37) allows for these brief compositions to flow easily from one track to another.  Despite experimentation, there are only a few moments where the record is rough sounding and not melodic.  Usually heard at the beginning of the release, these seemingly unpleasant sections and samples are slightly distracting, but do not last long and ultimately have a small, yet significant negative impact on the release.  Most of the album is actually very relaxed and slow in tempo except for the track “My Machine”, which sounds like a modern version of a notable earlier The Prodigy release.  However, during the melodic moments, this experimental electronic sound pays off and helps incorporate the vaporwave sound in a refreshing style.

In summation, I give “MEGA” by Blank Banshee an 8.3/10.  If you’re new to vaporwave like myself I definitely suggest starting here with this album.  Its high quality production and mix of classic vaporwave influence with modern sounding beats and instrumentals helps bridge the gap between an electronic music fan and a long time vaporwave fan.  Listen to the full album below and if you enjoy it make sure to pick up a copy off Blank Banshee’s bandcamp page!

 

Download “MEGA” here:

https://blankbanshee.bandcamp.com/album/mega

500 Word Review: Expire “With Regret”

expire-with-regret

As mentioned earlier, Wisconsin based hardcore act, Expire, will be breaking up next year after being a notable hardcore band for 8 years.  With this news came the release of their last full length album, “With Regret”, which was released through Bridge 9 Records on September 23rd.  This record is Expire’s farewell album and absolutely proves that Expire is going out with a bang.  Being a fan of the group for the last few years, it was bittersweet listening to this final album by the group seeing that the record itself is phenomenal, possibly their greatest release ever, yet this is the very end of this great hardcore band.

Throughout “With Regret” it is obvious that the production on this record surpasses anything they’ve released so far.  The final product is crisp, clear, and shows a perfect balance between every instrument and vocal track heard throughout the release.  It also gives a much needed emphasis to more aggressive and hard hitting sections, in return strengthening the iconic sound of Expire.

This high quality production also helps to clearly showcase the multiple strengths heard throughout Expire’s third full length album.  Things like fast tempo catchy riffs followed by bone-crushing sections, brutally raw bass lines, precise yet impactful drum fills, and anger filled emotive lyrics that at times can be both depressing and inspiring (especially when looking at the lyrics for “Fighting the Slip”), help create the most significant and prominent parts of “With Regret” and make this record phenomenal.  There truly is not a single dull moment throughout the release, although the fact that the longest song on the release is only 2:02 might help contribute to this.  In fact, my only complaint about the release itself is that it is not long enough.  “With Regret” comes in at 22 minutes and while I understand that these brief songs are unique to Expire’s songwriting, I still believe they should have finished their last album with at least 15 songs.  With not a single bad track on this album, it would’ve made their farewell release even more electric with a massive collection of legendary songs to give to fans as their last official release.  However, “With Regret” is nearly flawless and is a great way for the Wisconsin hardcore group to ride off into the sunset.

In summation, I give “With Regret” by Expire an 8.7/10.  If you haven’t listened to the record yet the full album stream is posted below and if you like it make sure you buy a digital or physical copy!  I’ve also posted the blog I did recently about their announcement that they would be playing their final shows next year.

RIP Expire you will truly be missed.

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/obituaries-rip-abiotic-and-expire/