THE AUTUMN STONES – EP Review: “Into the Light”

Autumn Stones EP

The Autumn Stones are a Toronto, Canada-based band who play music that’s difficult to label as any particular genre, but who cares, really, so long as it sounds great. Their beautiful, pleasing sound incorporates elements of alternative rock, dream pop, jazz, and what the band refers to as “literary rock,” which I take to mean songs built around intelligent, thoughtful lyrics – which theirs have in abundance. Another aspect of their music is their use of a wide array of instruments, especially saxophone and organ that, along with their signature gorgeous jangly guitars, creates a lush soundscape for their wonderful songs.

Autumn Stones

Formed in 2009, the band’s current lineup consists of founding member Ciaran Megahey (vocals & guitar), Marcus Tamm (bass), Dan Dervaitis (guitar, keys, piano), Gary Butler (sax & keyboards) and Raymond Cara (drums & percussion).  They released their debut album Companions of the Flame in 2011, followed by Escapists in 2015, which I reviewed in 2016. In June of this year, they dropped their third album Emperor Twilight, a stunning work that I also reviewed. Now they’re back with a new four-track EP Into the Light, which dropped November 23. Like Emperor Twilight, the EP was co-produced by The Autumn Stones and Andy Magoffin, and is described by the band as a companion piece to the album.

First up is the title track “Into the Light.” Band frontman Megahey explains about its creation: “We were working on ‘Into the Light’ around the same time as the album sessions, but it wasn’t quite ready to record. Simultaneously, we all felt it was among our strongest songs and couldn’t wait to realize it fully. I’m glad we took the time to fine-tune it and now the track gets its own spotlight in this EP release.” The wait was certainly worthwhile, as “Into the Light” is magnificent. The gorgeous track features layers of exuberant jangly guitars, along with warm saxophone, both hallmarks of The Autumn Stones’ beguiling sound. Megahey’s smooth vocals are sublime, with a seductive quality that also manages to convey a sense of vulnerability. The lovely sax notes on this track were played by Paul White.

The second track “Hardwired” is a terrific pop-rock song with jazzy undertones, courtesy of Gary Butler’s wonderful strutting sax. The guitar work is great too, and the distorted flourishes at the end make for a nice finish. Megahey sings of his hedonism: “My dirty brain is like a slave. It’s like a beatnick. I’ve seen the light. I found the truth. It doesn’t hide. It doesn’t need to. I’m hardwired.” “Higher” soars with lots of soulful sax and fantastic jangly guitars, accompanied by Marcus Tamm’s deep bass and Ray Cara’s crisp percussion.

The Bigger They Fail” is an acoustic version of a song by the same name that appeared on Emperor Twilight, and was previously released as a B-side to that single. Like the original, it’s a hauntingly beautiful dreampop song that reminds me a bit of “Under the Milky Way’ by The Church. This stripped-down version features only acoustic guitar, piano and a bit of tambourine, but is still every bit as stunning and compelling as the original. And it goes without saying that Megahey’s vocals are bewitching as always.

Like all their releases, Into the Light is perfection from start to finish. I love the Autumn Stones’ music, and will likely continue to feature all of their future musical offerings. They will be launching Into the Light with a show at Toronto’s Monarch Tavern on December 8, with guests TBA.

Connect with The Autumn Stones:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunesBandcamp

REVOLUTION RABBIT DELUXE – Album Review: “Tales From Armageddonsville”

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe

Being a music blogger who’s earned a reputation for writing reviews, I receive a continuous stream of requests from indie artists and bands to listen to – and hopefully review – their music. So it was a pleasant surprise when I was contacted by Welsh band Revolution Rabbit Deluxe (is that not a great band name!) about their debut album Tales From Armageddonsville. I gave a few songs a listen and was immediately intrigued by their lively, Brit-rock sound and deep, thought-provoking lyrics.

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe began as a solo act by guitarist & vocalist Revolution Rabbit (RR), but eventually grew into a four-piece band with the addition of three very talented ladies: May Dupp (guitar, vocals), Una Corne (drums, vocals) and Chanda Lear (bass, vocals). How can you not love a band with such a sense of humor? In their bio, they describe themselves thusly:

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe live in one house, just like the Monkees, and in between writing, recording and gigging, they tour the world looking for suitable crimes to solve. They lost their summer jobs as archaeologists on Time Team after a drunken lunchtime argument with Tony Robinson led to an unfortunate incident with a toilet, some dynamite, and a very angry, wet, red-faced, tender-assed TV host. To this day, Tony twitches violently when he passes a lavatory.

The album kicks off to a rousing start with “Tarred and Feathered,” a pointed attack on racism and inequality that are institutionalized by the state: “When you’re judge and jury to approve but are disapproving. / Our best qualities are arrogance and pride.”  The band delivers chugging riffs of gritty guitars set to a hard-driving beat and strutting bass line. The piano keys used throughout the track provide a nice melodic counterpoint to the guitars, making for quite an exciting and powerful song.

The band takes on cultural and media mind-control on “Pavlov’s Dogs,” driving home their message with a barrage of punchy guitars, fuzzy riffs, screeching synths and thumping drumbeats. RR fervently laments of the false expectations we fall victim to: “See that girl, she’s so unhappy. Thinks her life should be like the silver screen. Sometimes she wants to scream./ The video is so seductive. Feeds the dream, but denies the needs.”

One of my favorite tracks is “In God We Trust,” a song that calls into question one’s faith in God with an air that exists somewhere between a catchy Beach Boys-esque vibe and a darker psychedelic tone. RR implores “Save me, why don’t you save me?” He goes on to ask why not save a whole assortment of entities that society deems ‘undesirable’ – like the hookers, the pushers, the pimps, the dealers, the one-parent family and the union local. He finally caustically beseeches “And while you’re at it, you can save the man. And while you’re at it, save the man in the moon!

I Can’t Change Your Mind” speaks to mental illness, with jangly guitars and spooky synths that lend a strong 80s feel. RR laments of his feelings of loneliness and irrelevance: “I’m alone here in the dark. / Please don’t throw in scraps of hope. / Fade away, I fade away. A shadow lost on sunny days” while a backing chorus whisper/sings the refrain “I cannot take much more. I cannot change your mind” throughout the track.

The terrific lo-fi guitar-driven tracks “Going Solo” and “Chords Played All Wrong” would have been right at home on the Beatles’ White Album, and “Blackwood Calling” has a throwback 60s Brit-rock vibe, but with an early 80s New Wave sensibility. More grungy lo-fi goodness abounds on “Helen Needs,” a song about a woman looking for relief from her negativity and self-pity. “Helen needs another love song. Spitting sweetness from her headphones.” I especially like the quirky little guitar notes and powerful drumbeat that continue throughout the track.

Another favorite of mine is the hard-hitting and provocative “Whore?” – a song that, in the band’s words, “deconstructs the modern Western family and asks why so many people in the Third World suffer to give us our standard of living.” “You perfect family, for you it’s milk and honey, while for others it’s a river of blood.” The song has a bit of a Depeche Mode vibe, with its strong, crunchy guitars, spacey synths and the kind of heavy, mesmerizing beat that I love. “Catechisms Cataclysms” urges us to change our wicked ways for the betterment of the world, delivered with a barrage of gritty guitars and a hard-driving beat.

Armageddonsville” closes out the album with an ominous warning of the consequences of our wicked ways. The track opens with late 80s-sounding techno synths and a strummed guitar as RR cautions: “It’s getting hotter and they say we’re gonna fry. The ice is melting, polar bears are gonna die. Spilling blood for oil, it makes me want to cry.”  The guitars, bass and drums intensify to become a tumultuous onslaught, driving home the seriousness of the subject matter. RR wails “Welcome stranger, take a seat and say a prayer. There’s nothing else to do in Armageddonsville.”

Tales From Armageddonsville is a fine work, and succeeds quite nicely as a concept album that speaks to a number of thorny issues currently facing Western societies. The songwriting, lyrics, instrumentation and arrangements are all exceptional, and I enjoyed this album immensely.

To learn more about Revolution Rabbit Deluxe check out their Website and follow them on Facebook & Twitter
Stream on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

THE SILENCE KIT – Album Review: “Fall Protection”

The Silence Kit2

The Silence Kit is a Philadelphia-based band that plays dark indie alternative rock inspired in equal parts by post punk, shoegaze, neo-psychedelia, goth rock and avant-garde. Formed in 2002 by singer/guitarist Patrick McCay, the current lineup also includes Justin Dushkewich on bass, Darren O’Toole on drums & percussion, James Gross on guitar, and Bryan Streitfeld on synths. The band has released a number of albums, EPs and singles over the years, and in late October, they dropped their fifth album Fall Protection, which follows their acclaimed 2014 album Watershed.

The Silence Kit album

Their music has been compared to bands like The Cure, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, Nick Cave, and Television, but they’ve forged their own signature sound over the years, and Fall Protection sees the band continuing to grow and evolve, fusing together the atmosphere and intensity of early 80s post-punk and goth rock with the spirit of early 90s grunge and indie rock. In the recording of the album, the band had assistance from guest musician Kristin Kita, who played guitar on tracks #1, 7, 9, 10 and synths on #3, 5, 6, 8. The album was recorded and mixed by band front man Patrick McCay and mastered by Dave Downham.

Supermarket” kicks off the album with dark, almost psychedelic synths and grungy guitars propelled by a strutting bass line and infectiously melodic drumbeat. McCay’s vocals are wonderful, with a vulnerable urgency as he croons “In the glow of the supermarket. I wanna feel like I’m in my own dream…again. I miss the kiss of your first attraction. I want to be in deep and sleepless love…again. Time and time again, I will find you. / Lucky me, you found me too.” “New Year’s Eve” speaks to the random nature of our lives year in and year out: “There’s no such thing as karma, or what other’s like to call fate. What you give is irrelevant, and what you get is random…” The music features exuberant layers of fuzzy and jangly guitars and powerful drums.

This Time” serves up a deep, thumping bass line, delicious jangly guitars and the kind of strong, pummeling drumbeat that I love in songs. McCay’s emotionally wrought vocals seem to channel The Cure’s Robert Smith on this track. And the stunning chiming guitar work and sweeping melody on “Can We Skip This?” really showcase The Silence Kit’s strong musicianship. By the fifth track, the stellar, hard-hitting “Everything You Feel Good About,” I’m pretty well hooked on this band’s arresting music style and McCay’s slightly off-kilter but always captivating vocals.

The phenomenal “Wound” is another great example of what I’m talking about. The dark song starts off with a melancholy piano riff, accompanied by ominous synths, a deep, buzzing bass line and chugging guitars as McCay sings with a low, almost menacing voice. “I got this one thing on my mind. I’ve got to keep from losing you. / I wear this like it’s my own, a fine wound, so much to lose.” Two thirds of the way in, the tempo speeds up to a frantic pace as guitars rage and McCay screams “Don’t say a word” several times, then the music slows back down through to song’s end.

One of my favorite tracks is the brooding “Worry,” with its reverb-heavy layered guitars, sweeping psychedelic synths and tumultuous percussion that create an immense backdrop for McCay’s intensely passionate vocals. Another standout is the monumental six and a half minute-long “Never Say Goodbye.” Its haunting melody, lush, soaring instrumentals, and intricate guitar work are all positively breathtaking. The band keeps dazing our senses with raging riffs, dark synths, thunderous drums and raw vocals on “How Does it Feel?” and “Tablecloth.” McCay’s vocals sound decidedly British on the former track as he wails “How does it feel when you’re down and you find out everyone loves your best friend now? How does it feel when you’re gone?”

They seem to pull together all the elements of their signature sound and put them on full display on the gorgeous album closer “Discard.” The stunning reverb-heavy jangly guitars that open the epic track and continue throughout are fantastic, serving as the foundation for this magnificent song. Waves of sparkling, psychedelic synths wash over the guitars, aided by a deep bassline and layer upon layer of crashing cymbals and turbulent drums. It’s a massive song and the perfect ending to an equally massive album that leaves me awestruck.

Connect with The Silence Kit:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

THE MILLION REASONS – Single Review: “Battle of Sound”

The Million Reasons New Lineup

I’ve been revisiting a lot of artists and bands lately on this blog, and today I’m featuring another one for the second time – the incredible Chicago rock band The Million Reasons. The band is comprised of Scott Nadeau (lead vocals), Ken Ugel (guitar), Mike Nichols (guitar), Colin Dill (drums) and their newest member Jason Cillo (bass). Following up on their outstanding 2017 debut EP The Runaround, they released their gorgeous single “Dizzy” in July, a magnificent song that went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 (you can read my review here). Today they return with another fantastic single “Battle of Sound,” which I’m pleased to review.

The song has a hard-hitting old-school rock vibe, starting off with punchy riffs of gnarly guitar that provide the driving force for the track. The song expands as layers of guitar are added, accompanied by a solid bass line and power drums, then suddenly erupts into a furious maelstrom in the bridge as the guys let loose on their respective instruments. It all makes for an exhilarating and highly enjoyable rock song.

Scott has a wonderful singing voice, with a raw power that’s perfectly suited to the music and biting lyrics that speak of a relationship that’s irreparably broken to the point that further communication is now impossible.

I didn’t know that we were fighting
I didn’t know that the lines were drawn
But here we are with our weapons at the ready
And the sides have been decided upon

If it’s a battle of silence, I’m winning
Never see me come around again
If it’s a battle of sound, I’ll take the crown
You’ll never see me come around again

You didn’t come prepared for battle 
You didn’t expect me to react 
You didn’t know that I own moments like this 
Where the lights go out and the power blows 
You’re in the black 

Who do you think kicks the power back on? 

The humorously charming video opens with the guys pulling up in a van, where they pick up a guy waiting by the curb who’s the new band member Jason Cillo. They hand him a bass guitar, whereupon he immediately gets into the groove as they all begin to play the song, heads furiously bobbing to the beat. As the video progresses, they’re shown alternating their seating positions and instruments, while the poor drummer Colin Dill gets tossed around a bit in the back as he tries to play his drums. The guys clearly had fun making this video.

Connect with The Million Reasons:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

VOODOO – Album Review: “Ashes”

Voodoo Ashes album

Norway has a vibrant music scene, and I’ve featured on this blog a number of bands and artists from the Scandinavian nation, including No Mind State, Sherpa, Antipole and Lazy Queen. My latest find is alternative rock quartet Vöödöö. Formed in late 2014 and based in Bergen, the band consists of Gøran Stavang Skage (Vocals), Sveinung Fossan Bukve (Guitar), Stian Brungot (Bass) and Giuliano Antonio LoMonaco (Drums). They combine powerful rock beats with massive guitar riffs and catchy melodies to create their exciting modern sound, which is showcased on their debut album Ashes. The album dropped in mid-September, after the release over the past several months of a number of singles that are featured on the album.

In their bio, they describe the elements of their music thusly: “The unique sound of Vöödöö comes from the band’s wide span in musical background and approach. Guitarist Sveinung Bukve is a gear-freak with a vast selection of pedals, sometimes combined to create overwhelming huge effects more similar to an organ or a spacecraft than an actual guitar, sometimes more controlled to cut through the mix with in-your-face riffs. The rhythm section is all about hard beats and hard bass fingering, though dynamic, it is about making you feel the beat, not only in your eardrums but through the torso and into the home of your soul. Last but definitely not least, Vöödöö will charm you all the way with the high-pitched mind-baffling vocals of the theatrical Gøran.”

Voodoo

So let’s dig into Ashes to see if Vöödöö lives up to the hype. The album opens strong with the sensational title track “Ashes,” immediately hooking us in with a spooky chord and strong drumbeat, followed by a cascade of jangley riffs. The guitars, bass and drums intertwine nicely with Gøran’s soaring impassioned vocals as they all build to a spine-tingling crescendo halfway into the track. Then Sveinung unleashes a blistering gnarly riff as Stian’s deep bass and Giuliano’s crashing cymbals bring things to a dramatic finish before ending with a drawn out repeat of the opening guitar chord. It’s a fantastic song, and listen for yourself to hear what I’m talking about:

Next up is the anthemic “Lay Me to Rest,” Vöödöö’s very first single release and a sizable hit, earning over 110,000 plays on Spotify. I can see why, as it’s a real banger, with a heavy, pounding beat, hard-driving bass and jagged guitar riffs that’ll have you shouting “fuck yeah!” Gøran brings chills as he all but screams: “But the only thing I want from you is to save me from being scared. Love me, then disappear. Hold me, then let me go. Drag me, but I’ll never face the fire to see you again.” The guitar work is outstanding, and I love the little flourishes of piano synths sprinkled throughout.

By the time the third track “The Secret” plays, I’m hooked on this band. I love their melodic, thumping rhythms, killer guitars and Gøran’s fiery vocals that bring unbridled passion to every track. And “Dots” has all these qualities in spades. The track starts off with a cool keyboard synth-driven melody, fuzzy guitars and lots of crashing cymbals. Suddenly, it’s all ripped apart by a stabbing cadence of gritty riffs and Gøran’s frenzied vocals that leave me gasping for breath all the way to the end.

Vöödöö continue delivering hard-hitting rock goodness with “Shine On,” the bluesy “Broken Cage,” and the frenetic “Let it Burn.” But one of my favorite tracks is “King and Clown,” a monumental work that borders on symphonic rock. This song has it all – catchy as hell surf guitar, dramatic, achingly beautiful melodies, heart-stopping percussion, and gorgeous soaring vocal harmonies. But the real highlight is Gøran’s jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics that bring a new layer of chills on top of the ones already caused by the incredible instrumentals. This man can sing! He alternately seduces, pleads and screams, his voice nearly reaching the breaking point as he wails “Freedom is power you know. It’s not over. Free from deception and lies, it’s not over.” My god, this is an awesome song!

They close the album with “The Rope,” a slow, mournful song that’s a major departure from their other hard-rocking songs. The brief but beautiful tune opens with only an acoustic guitar, accompanied by Gøran’s sorrowful vocals, then is joined in the second half by a gnarly electric guitar that seems to convey the sense of heartbreak expressed in the lyrics: “When you are gone. Left me here, I’m hanging by the rope. You broke, even though you never meant to hurt.”

To sum up, Ashes is a phenomenal album and an impressive debut for this talented band of musicians. Their songwriting, musicianship and vocals are incredible, and they should be very proud of this work.

Connect with Voodoo:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  Bandcamp / Indie Recordings

PAUL IWAN – Single Review: “Parasite”

Paul Iwan

Paul Iwan is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in the music mecca of Liverpool, England. He’s been involved in music since his early teens, playing and touring with numerous bands and, more recently, writing and recording his own songs. In 2008 he was mentored and championed by Ray Davies of The Kinks, and continues to collaborate with other artists and friends across the UK. He released his debut album Reveal in September 2016, an impressive tour-de-force that I reviewed, and encourage my readers to check out. Now, Paul is back with a powerful new track “Parasite.” It’s the first single off his forthcoming second album RESISTER, a autobiographical work of sorts that will address his newfound sobriety.

Paul told me that not long after the release of Reveal, “I was involved in a motorcycle accident, just as I was preparing to gig, which set me back quite a bit. In the following 18 months, I got clean and now I’m in recovery… I didn’t realise I had an issue, until I did! ‘Parasite’ is a warning, a lesson and a true story. Like all of the songs on RESISTER, this song is a fragment of my life prior to getting clean. It’s a song about addiction becoming a permanent fixture to solve issues, to erase memories and repress feelings.

“Parasite” was written, performed and produced by Paul, with Steven Burkert on drums. It was recorded at Studio 45 and SPACE in Liverpool, mixed by Andy Fernihough and beautifully mastered by Pete Maher (U2, Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode). The song opens strong with a gnarly guitar riff and Burkert’s pummeling drumbeat, accompanied by an echoed backing chorus repeating ‘OH!’ as Paul sings in his urgent tenor vocals of his internal struggles: “My head begins to spin, my double vision taking me. My soul, my body, my mind, I wish I could control it all again.” The music builds with heavier guitar and bass, hammering drums and glittery piano synths, ultimately exploding with Paul’s frantic riffs of jagged guitar in the chorus as he fervently agonizes: “I’m a pulsar. I’m paralyzed. Pulled apart by the parasite. A stranger in my own skin.

Eventually, a male voice over speaks of the pathology of alcohol addiction:  “Nobody quite knows which drink it is that takes him over the edge of being a merely social, hearty, laughing drinker into a morose and hungover wretched creature.” Paul laments of his inability to shake off his addiction: “The shame I feel is all too real. I know that I’m addicted. I’m too weak to stay in the fight. I’m down.” The guitars and power drums continue to rage and roil through to the end, making for a dramatic finish to a spectacular and deeply moving song. The lyrics, instrumentation, vocals, and production are all superb, and I look forward to hearing RESISTER upon it’s completion.

Connect with Paul Iwan: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on  Amazon

LOUIE JAMES – Single Review: “Real Friends”

Louie James3

Louie James is an outstanding young singer/songwriter from Wakefield, England who’s quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. I featured him on this blog only a month ago, when I reviewed his lovely acoustic single “Yellow Doors” (which you can read here). Now this prolific artist is back with a moving new single “Real Friends,” along with a brilliant companion video. On “Real Friends,” Louie departs from his usual mellow acoustic style, employing layers of glittery synths to create a beautiful and haunting track.

In the verses, Louie sings in his gentle vocal style, accompanied by delicate electronic synths that convey a sense of sadness amid the lovely sounds. His vocals become more impassioned in the choruses as the synths swell into a lush soundscape brimming with emotional intensity.

The mournful lyrics speak to a bitter realization that the friends you thought you had don’t really care about or support you:

Who needs enemies with friends like these?
Talk all the shit you want
They’re out for blood and…
A lonely life when you trust no one.

Walk around with a chip up on your shoulder
21 but I don’t feel any older
Run me off, take another stab shot
Tear it all down, this is everything that I’ve got

Real friends are with me til the end but…
Woke again to another fatal head shot
Don’t forget me, this thing you’re making
Real friends but I know you’re only snaking

The video opens with Louie staring into a mirror, crossing out the eyes of his forlorn reflection with lipstick. As the video continues, he’s shown singing while soaking in a bathtub or standing in front of the mirror, where he writes “Real Friends” on the glass with lipstick, eventually crossing out the words. I love the song and video!

Connect with Louie:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

HEIST AT FIVE – Interview and Single Review: “Finish What You Started”

Heist At Five is a charismatic and multi-talented electro/hard rock band based in London, UK. Their aggressive, innovative sound borders on experimental rock, with complex melodies, intricate chord progressions and brilliant electronic and guitar-heavy instrumentation. This past February they released an impressive debut EP The Blacklist (which I reviewed), and now return with a wicked new single “Finish What You Started,” which officially drops on October 26.

Heist at Five finish what you started cover

Like many bands, Heist At Five has undergone a few personnel changes, but the current line-up consists of Oskar Abrahamsson (vocals), Jozef Veselsky (guitar), Marco “Fuzz” Paone (bass) and Josh Needham (drums), with assistance from production guru Kim Björnram. A special shout out goes to David Marvelly and former band guitarist Huw Roberts, who helped the song come together with production, and mixing. I sent the guys some questions about their band, creative process, and the new single, and received thoughtful – and sometimes cheeky – responses from four of these charming lads on every question.

EML: Hi guys, thanks for wanting to discuss your new single “Finish What You Started.” Before we get into the song and video, tell me how you came together to form Heist At Five, given your international origins. (Oskar is from Sweden, Jozef from Slovakia, Marco from Italy and Josh is English.)

Marco – The paths we chose individually took almost all of us to the same music uni in London. Oskar and I met in the very first week of uni and he soon invited me to jam with his new flatmate. There, I found Josh behind the kit! We clicked almost instantly; I remember our first feedback said that it felt like we had been playing together for years, and at that point we realised this could really go somewhere.

Josh – When we started playing together and eventually made it a band, we went through a fair few line-up changes, which I think is quite normal. Eventually, Jozef appeared, and Heist At Five was born!

Jozef – Yeah. I’d studied music in the UK, same as the rest of the band, just at a different institution. About a year ago I was simply on a lookout for a new project and among the ads, the selection was pitiful. So I just went for a lesser evil 😀  Kidding – the first part is true, but when I looked up these guys I knew it was it! The rest is history.

Oskar – It is really cool to have a group where every member is from a different country. It has really opened my eyes in a lot of ways.

EML: How do you go about creating new songs? Do you all share songwriting duties?

Jozef – We try to have songwriting sessions regularly and write together as a band. Sometimes one is inspired, sometimes other …sometimes no-one.

Oskar- If it’s good, its good. Then where or from when or what it comes from doesn’t matter.

Josh – Yeah, our songwriting sessions are completely random. The intro riff to “Finish What You Started,” for example, was accidentally written when we were just checking if our MIDI keyboard was working! But we always try and use different approaches to songwriting, we haven’t got a specific “process” (yet).

Marco – Initially we would write more independently, everyone bringing his own little song. Then we realised that, probably because of our different tastes, they would differ too much from each other. Since last year we started having sessions all together from start to finish of a song and it’s been really refreshing. Ideas come from everyone, we all motivate each other and we got to known ourselves much better since then.

EML: “Finish What You Started” has a bit more of a progressive metal vibe than the songs on your debut EP “The Blacklist.” Is this representative of the new musical direction you mention on your Spotify page?

Jozef – It definitely is! In this song we wanted to show that we’re not afraid of going heavily electronic. At the same time, with this song being the first one with me on the bill, I pioneer a slightly more modern approach to metal guitar playing within the band. In various forms and shapes, we hope to manifest these trends in our music going forward.

Josh – We definitely wanted to try and be a bit more ballsy, and make ‘Finish’a big “IN YOUR FACE” kind of statement. And I think that will continue to be our approach. We all have different influences but we all have the collective vision to take those and make something modern and massive.

Oskar – I’d say both yes and no. I want everyone to know that you never will be able to predict the next move from Heist At Five. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t…

Marco – While ”The Blacklist” already flirts quite a bit with the electronic edge, with ‘Finish’ we decided to be even bolder to the point of undermining the usual hierarchy you find in modern pop/rock song with a big chorus. I love the fact that it’s boiling hot but it never quite explodes, and always leaves you on the verge.

EML: It certainly does! I’ve listened to the song several times, but can’t quite figure out what it is that was started that needs to be finished. Is it perhaps a metaphor for the band’s music mission?

Jozef – I’ll leave this one for Oskar to answer.

Oskar – I’m going to break every songwriters golden rule to not explain the lyrics and ruin the magic, but please, keep on coming with your own interpretations – they are as true, if not truer, than ours. By following our mission statement of letting the audience make up their own minds about the world they live in, it’s written very open-mindedly on purpose. One layer in the song is about the fear and uncertainty of going through with ideas and things in life, as there is no guarantee they will turn out the way we envisioned. Is it worth finishing these things? Maybe it ends up in a place that is great! But if you are unlucky, it could be terrible, so maybe it’s better to never finish what you started.

Josh – Maybe you made a cup of tea and forgot about it, and it’s going to go cold soon. (You’re welcome by the way)

Marco – Josh’s right, I always forget to drink my tea!!

EML: In the video – which is very cool by the way – the mysterious person whose face we never see is shown at the beginning putting on a hoodie he finds laying on the pavement. He then walks around, almost stalking the different band members, but never actually threatening or accosting them. At the video’s end, he vanishes into the night as his hoodie returns to the ground. What or who does the mystery guy symbolize?

Oskar – We wanted to make a video that didn’t just show what we spoke about in the song, but added layers to the story and concept.  Maybe “hoodie man” is just a projection of our consciousness, seeing our actions from an outsiders point of view, a symbol of doubt or disbelief in if we are doing the right thing. In the twist at the end, in true M. Night Shyamalan spirit, it is maybe implied that ideas are bigger than the people and personalities behind them. As the idea is executed, the faces will be forgotten but the idea they finished will remain. But I’m not going to rant on for an eternity, go on and make up your mind about what it means to you 😉

Marco – Another potential interpretation is that the “Hoodie man”, as we like to call him, by restricting his view, only has the focus on what’s in front of him. He perseveres in whatever direction he wants, regardless of what happens around him. His goal? That’s for the viewer to decide.

EML: Are you guys currently writing and recording more songs? Any plans for a second EP or possible full-length album?

Jozef – With the trends in today’s music industry in mind, we decided that for a while we’ll continue with single releases until the time comes for something bigger. The next one is being recorded as we speak!

Oskar – Yeah, we think that by doing individual singles, we get the opportunity to take bolder creative decisions, and totally go in a new fresh direction for each release.

Marco – A lot is in the pot right now: Yes, we are recording and writing new material. Our plan at the moment is to keep the hype up with new single releases, although I wouldn’t exclude the possibility of including them in a new EP or an album in the near future. Only time will tell!

Josh – It’s actually exciting not knowing exactly what we’re going to do next. We’re not limiting ourselves musically, and I think that’s clear to see with “Finish What You Started”.

Thanks guys! So let’s check out the new single. The track opens with a buzzing riff, then Josh’s pounding drums enter the scene, accompanied by discordant spacey synths as Oskar sings in an almost sinister voice:

Is this how you imagined it? That work of art inside your head?
What you once saw in black and white is fading out.
Spinning round and round, and suddenly it’s harder to see what’s up and what’s down.
Swimming in the deep end now.
So take a deep breath, and finish what you started, started, started.

Marco lays down a heavy bass line that serves as a sturdy foundation for Jozef’s gnarly guitar and Josh’s power drums as the spacey industrial-sounding synths continue. I love how the the roiling riffs of distorted guitar and pummeling drums are so thoroughly in sync, punctuated here and there by frantic flourishes that seem to rip at the airwaves, making for a unsettling, yet mesmerizing song. Watch and listen:

Connect with Heist at Five: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp

BLACK | LAKES – Single Review: “The Divide”

I’m back in the UK, this time to shine my spotlight on the band BLACK | LAKES, who just released their phenomenal debut single “The Divide.” The band is comprised of five members who hail from South Wales and Southwest England, including Will S. Preston (lead vocals), Scott Bradshaw (guitar, backing vocals), James Rowlands (guitar, backing vocals), Lee Harris (bass) and Dafydd Fuller (drums). Influenced by too many bands to name, they play an electrifying and melodic style of progressive alternative metal rock.

Black Lakes Promo 2

The single is the title track from their EP The Divide, which was produced and mastered by Romesh Dodangoda at Longwave Studios, and premiered along with a review on Down the Front Media, which you can read here. As the band explained in that post, “The Divide” is “about rejecting the predetermined path laid out in front of you by mainstream society. It’s about demanding your individuality in a world hell bent on making you the same.” The article’s author Claire Hill goes on to say: “Based on the band’s collective personal experience and persistent, bitter disappointment at being let down by those holding positions of power and authority, ‘The Divide’ is a pretty good assessment of what a lot of people feel about what is happening in society today.”

The song starts off with a delicate synth chord, then blasts open with a cascade of gnarly and wailing guitars, mammoth bass, and thunderous drums. As the song progresses, layers of jangly and distorted guitars are added to the already dynamic mix, propelling the track into the sonic stratosphere.  Will’s gorgeous vocals are filled with passion as he fervently sings the powerful lyrics, soaring to intense heights in the choruses that spread chills up and down our spines: “One by one we fall in line with docile obedience. In lies we trust, stand in line justified you’re one of us. Father forgive them for the lives they have stolen. Further we are taken down the paths they have chosen. One more time.”

It’s a monumental track, and as close to perfect as any rock song I’ve heard lately. The brilliant video was created by Yuvraj Imaginaria. Check it out:

Connect with Black | Lakes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream on  Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

FIELDCREST – EP Review: “Canvas”

Fieldcrest EP

Guitarist/songwriter Will Thacker and singer/songwriter Jena Jones were both artists from small towns, each struggling on their own in the search for someone to work with to bring their songs to life and get them heard. After nearly giving up hope, Will almost jokingly posted an ad in his home town of Casper, Wyoming, and to his surprise and good fortune, Jena answered and Fieldcrest was born. (Jena is now based in Wyoming, and Will in Georgia.) Incorporating elements of their shared love of music influences ranging from 70s classic rock to grunge, they developed their own hard-driving style of modern rock, and began fleshing out songs Will had written, which they presented to the world with the release of their debut EP Meadowlark this past April. Building on the success of that EP, they continued writing and recording new songs, which are featured on their second EP Canvas, which dropped on September 14.

The songs address themes of self-identity, life changes and loss. First up is “Strange Girl,” a rather dark-sounding but optimistic song about female empowerment. Jena’s clear vocals are filled with urgency as she sings the lyrics encouraging a woman who’s marching to her own beat but unsure of her path: “You’re a little unconventional, strange girl. Don’t be discouraged, you are wonderful. I know you’re scared, but you will be OK. There is nothing in your way, except you.” Will’s guitar work is impressive as he delivers an array of textures ranging from delicate strums to jagged, gnarly riffs, all nicely layered over a throbbing bass line and anchored by a strong drumbeat. The track closes with a gently strummed guitar that gradually fades to quiet but, curiously, continues for another 30 seconds after the music ends.

Perhaps it’s to provide a moment of calm before the storm, which arrives like a thunderbolt in the form of the next track “Tuesday.” The song blasts through the gates with bombastic riffs of Will’s raging guitars and pounding drums. Jena emotionally sings of being stuck in a rut, feeling like she’s losing herself: “Sitting in the same place, same chair as I did last year. You’re in the same place. Hey do I know you? I don’t think so. Life’s too short for this.” The heavy modern rock goodness continues with the hard-hitting “The Silence,” a song about a couple who’ve gotten to the point where they’re no longer able to communicate with each other. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but Will’s guitar work is so fucking good! He shreds and distorts his six string, coaxing riffs that sing, wail and soar, bringing goosebumps. The song has an Evanescence vibe, partly due to the fact I think Jena’s stong, passionate vocals remind me a bit of Amy Lee.

Transitional” is a lovely instrumental interlude consisting only of a simple piano movement, along with the sound of falling rain at the beginning and end. It’s sublime, and I’d love to hear more music like this from Fieldcrest, as one of them is a pretty good pianist.

The final track is the dark and mournful “Empty.” a powerful song about dealing with loss. Will’s jagged and wailing guitars, combined with Jena’s emotionally-wrought vocals, dramatically convey the heartbreak and desolation that remains after the death of a loved one. It’s a phenomenal song.

In my grief I just can’t accept this
It’s a blow that knocks me to my knees
In my grief I held you last night but then I woke up empty
I’m gonna miss you forever
I would have never pictured life without you
You helped hold me together
How can I be strong without you
People keep talking at me about how God has called you home
A Part of me hopes they’re right cause you had so little time
It seems so unfair, I wasn’t ready to let you go

I will admit that it took a couple of listens for these songs to really click with me, but once they did, I was hooked on this band. Jena’s sultry and emotive vocal style is utterly beguiling and Will’s guitar-playing is positively badass! Canvas is a solid EP, and I look forward to hearing more from Fieldcrest very soon.

Connect with Fieldcrest:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase on cdbaby / iTunes