Album Review: DANNY BROWN Atrocity Exhibition

danny-brown-atrocity-exhibition

Last last year accomplished hip-hop artist, Danny Brown, released his latest project, the full length record, “Atrocity Exhibition”.  After switching labels to Warp Records, there was speculation that Danny would yet again venture into a different sound and approach for this 2016 release.  However, no one, including myself, could’ve seen this drastic new change in sound and experimentation coming.

Personally, I discovered Danny’s material during the “Old” album cycle and instantly fell in love with the EDM based hip hop tracks.  Songs like “Side B (Dope Song)”, “Kush Coma”, “Dip”, and his collaboration with EDM artist, Rustie, with the song, “Attak” almost immediately became not only some of the greatest rap songs I had ever heard by the Detroit based artist, but some of the most stellar hip hop tracks I ever heard period.  It was clear that Danny’s distinct songwriting and sound was unparalleled to the rest of the noise in the genre, even after hearing only a fraction of his entire discography.

After listening to “Atrocity Exhibition”, my first reaction was complete shock at how Danny Brown was able to take 15 of the most odd, peculiar, and to put it simply, weirdest, beats I had ever heard and turn them into successfully written hip hop tracks.  Especially starting out with tracks off “Old” that follow a very simplistic, catchy, festival-oriented structure, it completely took me off guard to hear such experimentation from Danny on “Atrocity Exhibition”.  Tracks like “Downward Spiral”, “Get Hi”, and “Goldust” left me utterly dumbfounded at how Danny can take these bizarre instrumental tracks and record a vocal performance that not only rhythmically makes sense, but actually results in well-written songs that I actually enjoy.

Despite the odd approach to songwriting, every track seems to fit well in the track listing.  The songs themselves, beats, and song structure may vary greatly, especially when comparing songs like “Really Doe” and “Goldust”, however each track seems to fit perfectly into the overall composition of the album as a whole. On one hand, “Really Doe” features a very modern, almost radio friendly beat with features from Kendrick, Ab-Soul, and Earl Sweatshirt. On the other, “Goldust” features multiple, repetitive horn section parts accompanied by an overly distorted electric guitar strumming barely audible chords.  However, each track features the same avant-garde influences while also including impactful lyricism that is often filled with dark imagery and honest depictions of Danny’s thoughts, experiences, and environment around him, like what is heard on “Ain’t It Funny”, “Really Doe”, “Pneumonia”, “When It Rain”, “Tell Me What I Don’t Know”, and “Get Hi”, showing how each track does not seem out of place on “Atrocity Exhibition”, despite the fact that no two songs are fairly alike in sound or overall composition.  The spectrum of influences, sounds, song structure, differences in beats, and even vocal delivery is extremely broad in Atrocity Exhibition and trying to compare any two songs on the album, whether its “Ain’t It Funny” vs “Hell For It”, “Get Hi” vs “Pneumonia”, or “When It Rain” vs “Downward Spiral”, perfectly exemplifies the blatant diversity that is without a doubt the most memorable aspect throughout the latest Danny Brown project.

There really aren’t any significant complaints I have about this album in general.  The only songs I really don’t like on “Atrocity Exhibition” are the “Downward Spiral” and “Rolling Stone”.  “Downward Spiral’s” beat is so bizarre that it takes multiple listens to just get used to its odd sound.  Also, “Downward Spiral” is a fairly weak way to start out the album.  The lyricism represents what is to come in “Atrocity Exhibition”, however, the very laid back, lazy sounding beat should not be the first thing you hear on this latest Danny Brown project.  Honestly, if “Downward Spiral” and “Pneumonia” switched places in track order I think this album would sound even better when listening to it from start to finish.  I personally can’t imagine how powerful it would sound to have “Pneumonia” as the first track you hear off of “Atrocity Exhibition”.  The haunting, echoing bells heard in the hook that starts the song would instantly grab my attention and keep it unwavering, which is something that “Downward Spiral” simply cannot do.  Also, having “Downward Spiral” at the halfway point of the record would symbolize how the audience is about to dive further into Danny’s unique songwriting and dark lyricism before hearing tracks like “Today, “When It Rain”, and “Dance In The Water”. To me, “Rolling Stone’s” hook is both redundant and annoying and I personally believe it slightly holds the entire album back.  If it had a different hook it might be better overall, but regardless it is definitely one of the weakest songs on the project.

Despite these minor setbacks, there are numerous aspects that I personally thoroughly enjoyed on “Atrocity Exhibition”.  For starters, the sampling on “Lost” is sensational.  The repeated looping of the horn part, keyboard melody, and female vocal track provide a simple, repetitive beat that fits Danny’s vocal performance flawlessly (not to mention this song would fit in well with any of the old Tony Hawk video game soundtracks, as it features the same looping beats heard on hip hop tracks on these soundtracks).  Interestingly enough, “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” and “From the Ground” are songs that don’t feature vocals from Danny himself.  This is something he’s done before on previous releases, but it’s very interesting to hear a song he wrote that does not feature any vocal performance from the rapper personally.  In my opinion, I would love to see more prominent hip hop artists write songs that don’t feature their own vocals, as I think this is a really interesting concept that adds further diversity to projects, but I can see how this idea might cause some negative feedback from these artists respective fan bases.  I absolutely loved “Dance in the Water”, as the internationally influenced beats, backing vocals, and overall melody make it an extremely catchy song that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear on the next FIFA soundtrack.  Lastly, I personally think that “Ain’t It Funny”, which recently saw the release of a music video directed by actor Jonah Hill made for the track itself, despite the criticism the song got.  The beat on “Ain’t It Funny” is stupid catchy, and when mixed with the self-destructive, dark, and honest lyricism featured, “Ain’t It Funny” instantly becomes one of the most significant songs you will hear from Danny Brown on this 2016 project.  My favorite tracks off “Atrocity Exhibition” have to be “Ain’t It Funny”, “Really Doe”, “Pneumonia”, “When It Rain”, and “Dance in the Water”, and the more I listen to the record the closer I get to declaring “Atrocity Exhibition” as the greatest Danny Brown release in his discography.

“Atrocity Exhibition” was the greatest hip hop release of 2016, and was the 6th best album of 2016, only falling behind artists like Saor, Trophy Eyes, Fallujah, Real Friends, and Every Time I Die.  This project truly pushes the limits and creativeness of hip-hop and will hopefully pave the way for future projects at the same caliber of excellence as “Atrocity Exhibition”.  Personally, I still can’t get over my initial reaction of how shook I was after hearing “When It Rain” and waiting for the bass to drop, like in “Dip”, only to never hear the anticipated drop.  Even though I was initially disappointed to not hear more EDM inspired tracks from Danny Brown, I am ecstatic to instead receive one of the best projects ever released in hip hop’s modern history.  Danny Brown will be remembered as a trailblazer in hip hop and his projects will surely inspire countless other phenomenal artists and projects.  In summation, I give “Atrocity Exhibition” a 9.6/10, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to listen to and truly appreciate this album.  Danny Brown’s latest project is attached below.  Give it a listen and stay tuned for more reviews due out very soon!

 

“Atrocity Exhibition”:

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500 Word Review: Enterprise Earth “Embodiment”

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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”:

Breaking News: Oceano Announce New Album “Revelation”

oceano revelation.jpg

Chicago based deathcore giants, Oceano, are back with a new album for 2017!  The 5th full length album, titled Revelation”, for the Adam Warren headed band will be released May 19th and will be the first release on their new label Sumerian Records (Oceano has released all previous material through Earache Records)!

For those who have read Erik’s Album Reviews for the last few months, you will remember that the album we deemed as the absolute best record of 2015 was actually Oceano’s “Ascendants”, which beat out Cattle Decapitation’s “The Anthropocene Exctinction” for the number 1 spot.  Not only did “Ascendants” feature beautiful artwork and the best material Oceano had ever written as a band, but it also served as a pivotal landmark in deathcore history, as the use of mind numbingly heavy riffs with eerie leads played through an Axe FX 2 system along with Adam Warren’s impossibly low harsh vocals, which seem to be taken straight out of the Mariana Trench, have created a unique sound and song structure that have influenced countless modern deathcore bands.

The first single off “Revelation” is “The Great Tribulation” and it is everything I hoped the new Oceano album would be.  Based off the album artwork, which is equally as gorgeous as “Ascendants'”, and the first track attached below, it appears that “Revelation” will be a continuation of the “Ascendants” era with some slight changes.  For example, it appears that production quality has gone up since the groundbreaking 2015 full length album (which might be due to the fact that Sumerian might have higher production quality standards for their releases) and the songwriting is slightly heavier and puts the impactful, breakdown filled verses and Warren’s impeccable low screams at the forefront of each performance.  After only one single, I’m 99.99% this new Oceano album will also be one of the best releases heard all year and will be a strong contender for best Oceano release of all time!

Being a massive Oceano fan myself, I can guarantee I will post a ton about “Revelation” both before and after it is released on May 19th.  Also, thanks to Sumerian Records, I can now finally own an Oceano album on vinyl!  If you would also like to pick up a copy, I’ve attached the link below to the merchandise store.  Give “The Great Tribulation” a listen below, check out our 2015 album of the year list, and pre-order a copy of what might be the best album of 2017 below!

Erik’s Album Reviews’ 2015 Album of the Year List:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/2015-albums-and-eps-of-the-year/

Oceano Vinyl (FINALLY!):

Vinyl Records

“The Great Tribulation”:

Track of the Day Tuesday: ELDAMAR Winter Night

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Recently I was browsing through bandcamp’s metal section when I came across an album that I have slept on for awhile now.  Eldamar’s “The Force of The Ancient Land” has some of the most breathtaking album artwork I have ever seen and it’s appearance alone instantly caught my attention and remained in the back of my head as a constant reminder to listen to this project.  I’m not sure why I never gave it a listen until now, but I’m extremely glad that I finally did.

After listening to the entire full length record it is, to put it simply, impossible to pick my favorite track, or even the most memorable song.  Each and every song heard from the beginning of this atmospheric black metal album to the epic finish is captivatingly beautiful.  That being said, I decided to choose one of the longest tracks on the project, that way listeners who have yet to hear anything off “The Force of The Ancient Land” can obtain a near perfect understanding of how elegant these tracks are.  Coming in at exactly 11 minutes in playing time, “Winter Night” is without a doubt the track you need to listen to today.  Melodic and harmonious guitars and backing instrumental tracks lay a solid foundation as distant, yet piercing screeching vocals and a dreamy, remarkable synth lead trailblaze through the project as a whole, like a mythical creature graciously flying through an awe-inspiring landscape like the one depicted in the captivating album artwork.  The occasional string sections and choir like vocal sections only add to this bittersweet sounding, melancholic melody that does nothing but leave the listener at a loss for words for how beautiful this whole album is.

Even though it is unlike the traditional style of recording black metal, I truly enjoy the high quality of recording and overall sound.  Branching off from the traditional lo-fi style heard in some of the most influential releases in the genre’s brief history, “The Force of The Ancient Land”, in my opinion, would suffer greatly from having anything short of a high quality overall sound.  In a similar way to how my favorite black metal band of all time, Saor, uses high quality recordings to strengthen the truly inspirational and melodic sound heard on “Roots”, “Aura”, and “Guardians”, Eldamar simply would not be able to achieve such excellence in recording “The Force of The Ancient Land” without the use of this high quality recording style.

Personally, I only have two minuscule complaints about “Winter Night”.  For starters, I personally love the choir like section at 7:02, which features a simply gorgeous lead sung by a female vocalist.  The only problem I have with this section is that it is clearly obvious that the vocal parts, especially the girl’s, are computer generated and artificial.  Even though these parts are sung as perfect as one can possibly sing them, it results in a section that sounds almost robotic as it is completely flawless.  This, of course, is a ridiculous complaint to have, but part of me wishes these sections were recorded with actual singers.  However, that is an outlandish request, especially for a one man band that has already produced one of the best albums of 2016 with or without a live choir.  Lastly, I was also hoping that some soundscapes would be added to the track to further build upon its ambient and atmospheric roots.  Even a sample of the wind howling through the Norwegian mountains, where Eldamar is based out of, would greatly increase the experience that listening to “The Force of The Ancient Land” truly is.  Again, these are very, very minuscule complaints and this track is still absolutely breathtaking.

I wish I could go on and on about “Winter Night” and the other 7 phenomenal tracks that “The Force of The Ancient Land” encompasses, but to be honest, I’m at a loss for words at this point.  I’ve clearly said enough to convince you as to why this is the Track of the Day Tuesday, now it is your turn to experience this monumental album and hear for yourself why I’m completely blown away by it’s elegance.  The song “Winter Night” is attached below, and the full album stream for “The Force of The Ancient Land” is also attached, as I’m sure you will not be able to resist listening to the rest of the project after hearing “Winter Night”.  Let us know what you think of these Eldamar tracks, and of course, don’t forget to say what track you think should be next week’s Track of the Day Tuesday!

“Winter Night”:

 

“The Force of The Ancient Land”:

Breaking News: Business Casual Announces the First Few Releases of 2017

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Yesterday, prominent vaporwave record label, Business Casual, officially announced the first few releases scheduled for 2017!  Through their twitter page Business Casual announced four records that will all be released in January, starting as early as next week! The first release of 2017 will be BIZBOX 4 “Chill”, which is a project I am extremely excited to hear!  For those familiar with Business Casual, you will know that the label runs a bi-monthly release where a selected album, or multiple albums, are sold in a cassette bundle with random tapes of previous Business Casual releases.  This project is a fan favorite, and after buying a copy of BIZBOX 3, I can without a doubt say that these label specific release projects are phenomenal and are something I now look forward to!  Following the release of BIZBOX 4, Business Casual plans to release “Fantasy” by Fla.mingo and “Caffeine” by R-RODD.  I personally am unfamiliar with either of these artists’ material, but just from looking at the aesthetic of the album artworks shown, I assume that at least one of the upcoming projects will feature a sound somewhat similar to future-funk.  Regardless of their genre, I definitely plan on checking out these records due out in the next few weeks!  Finally, the last announced January 2017 release is actually a cassette release for STAQQ OVERFLO’s “Promise”.  “Promise”, which was actually last month, is a very successful album that has found its way on to numerous AOTY lists recently.  I personally plan on giving it a listen before I finalize my album of the year list, and you should too!  All of these releases will be sold on cassette as well through Business Casual’s website!

Business Casual is one of the leading labels in the vaporwave genre and their massive catalog of releases have helped shape the future of vaporwave itself.  If you still haven’t checked out any projects associated with Business Casual, I highly suggest you visit the label’s site, especially since all of their albums are available for free download!  I’m very excited to see what’s in store for Business Casual, and these 4 projects should definitely be a solid start to a successful year for Business Casual!  Check out the list of scheduled releases below, visit the label’s page, and be sure to come back often for more vaporwave related news, reviews, and content!

BIZBOX 4 “Chill”: 1/6

Fla.mingo – “Fantasy”: 1/13

R-RODD – “Caffeine”: 1/20

STAWW OVERFLO – “Promise”: 1/27

 

Business Casual website:

http://music.businesscasual.biz/music

 

The Thursday Ten: 12/29/16

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Even though we are a little late with posting this, here is this week’s “The Thursday Ten”!  This segment has been very rewarding to write this year and we’re glad to see that our viewers enjoyed reading these installments as much as we did with writing them!  This post is actually the last “The Thursday Ten” for all of 2016.  It’s amazing to see how many albums we gave ratings to this year and the staff here at Erik’s Album Reviews can’t wait to see what albums will make it onto “The Thursday Ten” next year!  Once again thank you for support and we will be back with more installments to “The Thursday Ten” next year!

  1. Deftones – Gore: 6/10
  2. Shokran – Exodus: 8/10
  3. Abbath – Abbath: 7/10
  4. Phantogram – Three: 6/10
  5. Zao – The Well-Intentioned Virus: 9/10
  6. Solange – A Seat At The Table: 8/10
  7. Norma Jean – Polar Similar: 8/10
  8. Emarosa – 131: 9/10
  9. Angelmaker/A Night In Texas – Split EP: 8/10
  10. Hodgy – Fireplace – TheNotTheOtherSide: 8/10

The previous “The Thursday Ten”:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/the-thursday-ten-111516/

Track of the Day Tuesday: PZA “BEAUT1FUL”

american-rituals

PZA, the prominent vaporwave/trapwave artist, has officially become the first artist to be featured at least twice on the “Track of the Day Tuesday” segment.  This might be due in part to the fact that PZA has an immense discography, but it is mostly because PZA is one of the greatest producers in vaporwave and “American Rituals” is one of his best releases to date.  Being released on New Years Day of 2016, “American Rituals” is a project by PZA that combines the use of plunderphonics, his signature EDM/trap inspired synths and beats, and chopped and altered samples of modern pop music classics.  Taking samples from artists like Drake, Justin Bieber, and Lana Del Rey, PZA puts his own twist on these famous songs, and in return, creates one of the greatest vaporwave projects I’ve ever heard.  This style of songwriting is slightly different from PZA’s usual sound, but the experimentation results in one of his best releases that has the potential to be an Album of the Year contender.

The entire album is phenomenal in my opinion, but if there is one track you have to listen to, it is “BEAUT1FUL”. “BEAUT1FUL”, which samples Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful”, is probably the best track you will hear on “American Rituals”.  By altering the various Lana samples and adding reverb filled synths and instrumental fills, PZA is able to turn this fantastic pop song into a dreamy, captivating vaporwave song.  If you like any form of vaporwave or Lana Del Rey’s music you need to listen to this song, which is attached below.  Unfortunately, the only stream of the track I could find was the stream of “American Rituals” on PZA’s bandcamp page.  “BEAUT1FUL”, along with the rest of “American Rituals”, is attached below.  I highly suggest listening to the entire project, but if you just want to hear “BEAUT1FUL”, then skip to track 5 and enjoy the stellar PZA track.  I will also attach the link to PZA’s bandcamp page as well for those who would like to check out more releases from the vaporwave artist.  Only a few of his releases are posted there, but it is a great place to start for those who are not familiar with his work.  We often post about electronic music and vaporwave in particular on Erik’s Album Reviews, so if you are a fan of these genres make sure to visit often for more electronic music news and content!

PZA’s Bandcamp page:

https://pza420.bandcamp.com/

“American Rituals” (“BEAUT1FUL” is track 5):