500 Word Review: Blank Banshee “MEGA”

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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

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Update: Animals As Leaders Release First Single Off Upcoming Album “The Madness Of Many”

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As stated earlier, Animals As Leaders recently announced they will be releasing a new record this year titled “The Madness Of Many”.  Following the highly praised release of their previous album, “The Joy of Motion”, AAL look to continue this success through their inspirational songwriting and also look to capitalize on the drastic increase in interest in instrumental rock/metal.

The first single off their fourth studio album is “The Brain Dance” and it is actually a very relaxing, melodic track showcasing a surprising twist on their patented sound.  Varying from their slightly more upbeat tracks, “The Brain Dance” features beautiful mixing between bass, guitar, and drums while also demonstrating the numerous genre influences that helped form this track like indie rock, progressive metal, and even some sections that feature a slight but noticeable resemblance to the instrumentals heard in flamenco.  Of course, the complex bass solos can still be heard on this song that are a staple for the AAL sound.

“The Brain Dance” is a very therapeutic and refreshing song to listen to and suggests that “The Madness Of Many” will continue their reign of instrumental rock/metal legends with yet another groundbreaking release.  I also want to give a quick shoutout to Sumerian Records who will be releasing two phenomenal albums at the end of this year, Thomas Giles’s “Velcro_Kid” and Animals As Leaders’ “The Madness Of Many”.  Both of these records, based on the first single alone, sound absolutely stellar and I personally cannot wait for them to be released.  The single “The Brain Dance” is posted below for those who want to hear the latest material from Animals As Leaders!

Album Review: FALLUJAH Dreamless

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With the release of their latest album, “Dreamless”, atmospheric death metal pioneers, Fallujah, showcase their most recent material in their impressive discography. Following the successful release of “The Flesh Prevails”, the expectations and anticipation for “Dreamless” were very high. In fact, “Dreamless” was the album I was most anticipating this year, especially since Fallujah’s material has only gotten better over the years. Despite this tremendous widespread pressure, Fallujah was able to deliver a stellar new album that serves as a continuation of their original style, while simultaneously experimenting with ways to develop it. Personally I view Fallujah as one of the greatest modern metal acts and was curious to see what direction they would take next. I absolutely loved “Nomadic” and “The Flesh Prevails” (TFP) and was looking forward to hear the latest installment. While there are countless, positive aspects that are seen in this recent growth, there were some downsides as well that proved that even though Fallujah have already established themselves as groundbreaking songwriters, there is still room for improvement and potential to truly master this unique subgenre that they’ve created.

When you first listen to “Dreamless” you can hear slight but very noticeable changes from their previous albums. As stated before, when listening to a release, I will play a record at least 10 times through and will break down numerous tracks and sections as well. For “Dreamless” I also listened to “Nomadic” and “TFP” back to back to better understand the group’s growth in the last few years. Before hearing “Dreamless” these two releases were my absolute favorites by the band and became the standard for any future Fallujah albums. When you first listen to “Dreamless” its apparent that the production quality for this release surpasses any previous Fallujah album. Not to take away from the quality of “Nomadic” or “TFP”, but when listening to “Dreamless” it is apparent that the process that went into tracking each individual instrument and effect was far greater than any previous release. From the minute “Face of Death” begins to the end of the album, things like drum panning, atmospheric ambient fills, builds, and sections, and even mixing and effects added to vocal tracks are crisp, clear and in return give the album itself a more full, complete sound. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important improvements for Fallujah. For bands that heavily rely on ambient effects and metal riffs coexisting on a single release, you must have remarkable production quality or else you risk the chance of losing the much-needed emphasis that encompasses what this specific sound and genre represents. I was truly impressed when I heard that IDM sections and complete songs also featured this heightened and improved production. This use of IDM sounds and composition was one of the main characteristics of Fallujah that initially got me hooked on their releases. Hearing this unique songwriting through a better recording only amplified this euphoric experience. Even the small additions, like improving the mixing and adding effects to both harsh vocals and featured singing vocals help create an atmosphere for the lyrical aspect of the album. By adding these effects and increasing production quality, the echoing, full sounding harsh vocals now sound extremely ominous and the angelic, clean vocals now sound divine and mesmerizing. To say the least, Fallujah made some great strides at pushing the limits and experimenting with their created sound by enhancing production quality and the process that goes into recording the album all together.

Fallujah exemplified improvement in numerous aspects of “Dreamless” besides mixing and production quality. Improvements to the quality of artwork were also seen in this new release and surpassed the expectations set from “The Flesh Prevails”. The artwork for “Dreamless”, which was done by Peter Mohrbacher (the link to his gallery, which shows the original design for “Dreamless” called “Yesod”, is attached below), creates a perfect visualization for the album as a whole. For a band that relies as heavily on stunning artwork as they do for sound quality, it was essential that they capture the theme and vision for the album in one image. They were able to achieve this with “Dreamless”, continuing the trend of gorgeous artwork and in return turning their discography into a gallery of Fallujah inspired art in itself.

http://www.angelarium.net/treeoflife/

 

http://www.angelarium.net/treeoflife/#/yesod/

 

As stated before, Fallujah is pioneering a new sound in extreme music. Creating the subgenre of atmospheric death metal, I was extremely curious to see how they would grow and experiment with this truly original sound. What continues to impress me is the atmospheric aspect heard in Fallujah’s sound. As you may know, death metal can be extremely brutal often and rarely features anything close to being melodic. Not only is Fallujah’s “Dreamless” refreshing with its death metal infused with melodic riffs and sections, but it helps to redefine the genre by connecting the gap between iconic death metal and harmonious and melodious songwriting. This stunning composition somehow presents extremely heavy and complex songwriting with beautiful and transfixing melodies. The most memorable occurrences of this are during atmospheric instrumental sections on “Dreamless”. These parts have been heard before on earlier Fallujah records, but each release features slightly different approaches and sounds in these atmospheric sections that allow the listener to truly hear how it fits into the record itself. A perfect example of this is the intro to “The Void Alone”. The song starts off with an atmospheric intro that builds up to a powerful riff where the entire instrumental section of the band begins to play at once, creating one of the most memorable parts of the album. This, along with the complete atmospheric IDM instrumental tracks, are one of the most prominent, if not the absolute most prominent reason why I enjoy listening to Fallujah so much. My only complaint is Fallujah does not use this skill enough in their releases. While I understand their main emphasis is death metal, this atmospheric characteristic is part of the sound they have created and truly separates them from any modern death metal band out there today. I personally wish there were more atmospheric instrumental tracks on “Dreamless” like the album titled song “Dreamless”. Even if there were just a few more short IDM build sections on the record, I believe that the album as a whole would thrive off this. For example, if there was a brief IDM track before “TVA” that helped build up to the catchy intro in “TVA”, this would further improve the record and take this uncanny songwriting to even greater heights.

To continue on the theme of songwriting, there were many pros and cons heard on “Dreamless” as far as songwriting goes. To start with the positive, “Dreamless” is a great example of taking “TFP” to the next level. It takes the successful sound and songwriting of “TFP” and adds the aggressiveness of “Nomadic”, while also being inspired by “Nomadic’s” prominent use of IDM, and shapeshifts these sounds to create the final result that is “Dreamless”. The lyricism is once again phenomenal and only adds to the long list of impressive features heard on this record. However, there are a few things heard on the latest album from the Bay Area based metal band that definitely show the group’s need and room for improvement. Surprisingly, length of composition is one of these problems. Usually I love longer releases and appreciate albums that extend close to or even surpass 1 hour in length. “Dreamless” comes in at a few seconds short of 56 minutes and this actually hurts the record as a whole in my opinion. The reason for this is that the length of the release actually results in having numerous parts where the songwriting can seem redundant or even slightly boring. However, compared to other modern death metal releases, these boring sections become electric when looked on in comparison. However, the high standard that all Fallujah material is set to results in “Dreamless” having less exhilarating moments that could easily be fixed by shortening the composition in some parts. Despite the fact that the mixing and production sound remarkable, there are some times where certain instruments are mixed in a way that can sound slightly off-putting. For example, “Wind For Wings” has numerous parts where the bass is mixed a little too loud and can become extremely distracting from the rest of the song. However, if one of these bass lines were very similar to the lead bass riff heard on “TFP’s”, “Sapphire”, then this would become yet another significant moment in the album, but these bass lines are very different than those heard on “Sapphire” and the prominent mixing actually hurts the overall sound of the track.  There are also other moments throughout “Dreamless” where lead parts, whether they are guitar parts of electronically recorded parts, are not mixed loud enough. These leads are crafted so masterfully that it can become a little frustrating to not be able to hear them clearly. Although, these problems addressed only slightly take away from the album and are truly just small aspects that show room for improvement for Fallujah, rather than hurt the album as a whole.

In conclusion, “Dreamless” is yet another masterpiece from Fallujah and is probably my favorite release from them to this date. Despite having a slightly longer length, this new record sounds like a complete project where Fallujah is starting to truly embrace their pioneered sound. Making multiple references to past releases while capitalizing on resources to improve this style results in the creation of a monumental modern metal album that is absolutely one of the greatest records to be released in all of 2016, and is also one of the greatest modern metal albums period. I give “Dreamless” a 9.6/10 and for those who haven’t listened to Fallujah before, I highly recommend that you start here. If you enjoy this record or are a fan of this band please BUY “Dreamless” or any of the previous releases and financially support atmospheric death metal legends Fallujah!

Breaking News: Animals As Leaders Announce New Album “The Madness Of Many”

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Progressive Instrumental metal powerhouse, Animals As Leaders, have announced they will be releasing their fourth full length album, “The Madness Of Many”, on November 11th via Sumerian Records.  Following their phenomenal album, “The Joy Of Motion”, Animals As Leaders are back and the hype could not be more real.  They have yet to release a single for the album, however they have revealed the stellar artwork for the album, seen above, which surpasses any previous release as the greatest AAL album artwork ever.  In the meantime, listen to their older material and get stoked for “The Madness Of Many”!