Over the years I’ve had a whole host of releases sent to me for review. Time is often a factor in whether I can cover releases in any detail – please bear in mind that I run this site alone, funded solely by my own income, and I have a full time job.
Often I end up covering such releases in my monthly tracks round-ups, but two albums received recently in this way were worthy of more comment, and so I’ve covered them both here.
One that arrived in the pre-Christmas period – not a time where I’m particularly looking for new music, to be honest – was this release from an artist in Greece – which appears to be the work of Nikos Marinos, and according to a short interview on Reflections of Darkness, is apparently a second album in a year (Agrypnia was released earlier on in 2016).
It’s an intriguing album, too, straddling various musical boundaries and making it a difficult one to pigeonhole, that’s for sure. There is perhaps unexpected melodic balladry in the form of Pistola (a minimalistic electronic backing is dominated entirely by multi-tracked vocals), while Baalroom is underpinned by a unusual drum rhythm but is otherwise buzzing gothic rock by numbers. Then looking elsewhere, Love The Enemy kinda reminds me of Alice In Chains (particularly that soaring chorus), Silent Nation is pretty synth-rock, while I’m still not sure about the slightly bizarre title track, which does little more than recite the title over an elastic quasi-industrial sound.
The last couple of tracks continue the scattershot stylings. We Need To Vocode stretches for nearly six minutes, initially as a powerballad, before upping the tempo and bringing in chugging guitars. Closing track Womb 128 – another ballad – even has a quaint, old-school period of silence before what I guess is intended as a secret track arrives.
This is certainly a brave, interesting release. It’s not going to appeal to all readers of this site, that’s for sure, but is worth a listen at least – that is, if you can get hold of it. The slightly retro sound comes with apparently a similarly retro method of distribution, in that you need to contact the artist to get hold of one (there is no Bandcamp that I can find).
FUCK ALL SYSTEMS nowadays seems to have been adopted as the mantra of this Belarussian band (nowadays based in Paris, it seems) whose sound is white-hot industrial fury. They’ve been around for about fifteen years or so (Ambassador21 vs The World was where I first heard them, and I’ve kept an ear open for new material since, although I have to say I was a little surprised to see that this was their first new album in six years.
One listen to the punishing gabba beats of Fear Level Red confirm that not a great deal has changed in the world of Ambassador21. The beats are still punishing, it’s recorded Loud, and there is a fair reliance on samples – particularly heavy use of Skunk Anansie’s Yes It’s Fucking Political as a hook. Bizarrely Cannibals then uses the instantly recognisable riff from Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger before yet more gabba beats blast away any possible subtlety.
Otherwise, what is interesting to me – in light of their furiously confrontational earlier material, anyway – is that the vocals are often distorted beyond easy recognition, or simply buried in the mix, which for a band that make such a play of their political views and messages, seems rather counterproductive. Scream Your Name is one exception, with the pummelling beats still allowing the vocals to break through the wall and actually bring a message to the listener.
For a lot of the album, though, it doesn’t really move me. Music this angry, with an intended message of fighting back, of making a difference, should inspire me. But instead, it just leaves me going “this is ok”. It should be making me leap from my seat, ready to start a revolution (as Do or Die Time, with hammering beats and chugging, thrash metal guitars tries to do, but stops and starts so much that it fatally loses momentum). And with what has been going on in the world recently, god knows that we need something.
But this isn’t it. I’ve no doubt that I’ll hear, and I’ll be writing about, a hell of a lot of protest music in the coming few years, and I’m sure I’ll hear more from this band, too. They’ve done better before, and hopefully what they do next will find a better focus for their rage.
Human Rage is out now and can be bought on Bandcamp