WE KILLED THE LION – Album Review: “Boogie Shoe Blues”

We Killed the Lion is an alternative hard rock band from Chicago I recently learned about when their keyboardist Stan Tencza reached out to me about reviewing their new album Boogie Shoe Blues. Along with Tencza, who also plays keyboards for Chicago alternative/progressive rock band Polarizer (whose album Love from the Underground I reviewed last November), the other band members are Brian Lorenc on guitar & vocals, Joe Gunia on bass & vocals, and Leonard Warren on drums. Formed in 2011, their heavy sound is infused with elements of stoner rock, grunge, psychedelic blues and even a bit of doom to darken things up a bit.

They released their self-titled debut album We Killed the Lion in 2012, then followed two years later with an EP One Way Ride, then a second album Circle of Stars in 2017. After a four-year hiatus, they began work on Boogie Shoe Blues, and dropped the first single “Final Stand” this past April, followed by “Southern Death Trip” in August. Today (Halloween), along with the album’s release, they also release a new video for “Snake Bite”. Though Boogie Shoe Blues contains only eight tracks, three of them are more than six minutes long, making the album feel more substantial than eight tracks would suggest.

Let me state up front that I don’t normally gravitate toward this type of grungy hard rock, however, I listened to the album several times with open ears and an open mind, and found lots to like about it. Opening track “Final Stand” is a fine representation of their signature brawny, dark and dirty sound. The guys get right down to business, grabbing us by the throat with a barrage of grinding buzzsaw riffs, bolstered by a deep, chugging bassline and explosive, pummeling drums that never let up for a second. Lorenc and Gunia’s dual echoed vocals sound ominous as they belt out the violent lyrics speaking of going into battle with an entity that was once an ally but now a bitter enemy: “All out of patience, love turned into vengeance. Run away in fear. Spilling out the blood, spitting out the bones, scratching out the eyes. Pray for your last breath, we’re making our final stand.”

The video for the song shows the band breaking into what appears to be an underground club, whereupon they perform “Final Stand”.

While several of the album’s tracks deal with darker topics, a few others touch on pleasures of the flesh with playful lyrics. On “Come on Get Down“, they sing of showing a hot woman a good time: “Little girl I want to take you downtown. Wanna go for a ride? Get in my backseat and spread your mind. I’m gonna show you a good time.” The song’s a sultry banger, with fantastic gnarly guitars that frequently break into a bone-chilling wail, accompanied by Gunia’s throbbing bassline, Tencza’s aggressive keyboards and Warren’s thunderous percussion. And on the sexy “Peach“, they tell a woman exactly what they have in mind: “I wanna sit on your front porch. I want a sip of your ice tea. I want to gaze at your orchid, yeah. I want to taste your peach meat.” I love the song’s deep, bluesy bassline and sludgy guitars.

Dirty Bones” is a speaker-blowing feast for the ears, with more of those fearsome buzzsaw guitars, and ditto for “Southern Death Trip“, with some of the dirtiest riffs I’ve heard in a long while. The album’s title comes from the song’s lyric “Got the boogie shoe blues.” And just when I think the guys have thrown everything in their sonic arsenal our way, they continue to amaze with the psychedelic monster “Rocket“. The song opens with an onslaught of screaming distortion, followed by a thick, lumbering bassline as the guys begin to sing. Things eventually settle into a tumultuous mix of wailing and grungy riffs, pummeling drums and heavy keyboards, that lumbering bassline still keeping the menacing groove.

I think We Killed the Lion would be a great band to see live, and I really like that their videos show them performing their songs, rather than attempting to act out the narrative of the lyrics (which sometimes works well, but more than often falls flat). The cool video for “Southern Death Trip” shows them performing the song wearing fluorescent body paint.

The last two tracks, “Pick Me Up” and the epic “Snake Bite“, have somewhat of a progressive feel, and feature their signature reverb-soaked psychedelic guitars, thick bass and booming percussion. The latter track is spectacular, highlighted by spine-tingling piercing guitars and some really terrific keyboard organ work by Tencza.

To sort of expand on what I stated earlier, this album grew on me with repeated listens, and I’m truly impressed by We Killed the Lion’s strong songwriting and musicianship. If you like your rock music on the heavier side, with elements of psychedelic, grunge, blues and doom, you will enjoy Boogie Shoe Blues.

Connect with We Killed the Lion:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

Purchase on Bandcamp

SECRET POSTAL SOCIETY – 2021 Year-End Recap

Six months ago (in July 2021) I wrote a feature article about Secret Postal Society, the music project of Welsh singer-songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Craig Mapstone, in which I focused on his intent to write and record a new song every week throughout 2021 (read my article here). At the time, he had successfully reached the halfway point in his very ambitious goal, with 27 songs under his belt. Well, I’m happy to report that Craig fully achieved his objective of faithfully releasing a new song every week, and by year’s end, he’d put out a total of 53 songs, including two Christmas-related tracks. He’s now asked his followers to let him know what our five favorites of his many songs are, and I’ve decided to write this post to tell him! 

Secret Postal Society - Craig Mapstone

Before I get to my picks, I want to say a few things: First off, Craig is one of the kindest, most gracious and humble musicians I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know as a music blogger, and I’ve become quite fond of him both professionally and personally. He’s also incredibly talented, creative, and hard-working, and his discipline and ability to remain laser-focused on his goal puts many others – including me – to shame. Which leads to my second point, that I’m absolutely dumbfounded by his impressive output. The ability to write, record and release a new song – along with an accompanying video – week in and week out for an entire year is amazing in itself, but to achieve such a high level of quality in nearly every track is nothing short of astonishing.

Though his sound can generally be described as singer/songwriter-oriented pop and soft-rock, infused with touches of indie folk, his music is actually fairly eclectic. Some of his songs feature elements of grunge, progressive, post-punk and alternative rock, so there’s something for just about everyone in his discography (other than for fans of R&B or hip hop). It was extremely difficult winnowing down my list of favorite Secret Postal Society songs to only five, but herewith are my top five picks, followed by six honorable mentions that could all have easily been among my top five. Worth noting is that most of my favorites were written and recorded in the latter half of the year, an indication that Craig’s songwriting and musicianship grew better and stronger the more songs he wrote. 

1. Fly

Though Craig doesn’t have an especially powerful voice, its comforting warmth is well-suited to his generally laid-back musical style, and no more so than on “Fly“, my favorite of all his songs. His 21st song, released last May, it’s his longest track, running over six minutes, and also his most beautiful. Craig’s twangy strummed guitar notes, accompanied by lovely strings, xylophone, and what sounds like a mellotron, create a hauntingly beautiful soundscape. His gentle vocals exude a deeply heartfelt sense of sadness as he sings the bittersweet lyrics expressing pain and regret over a relationship that’s ended, but remembering glimmers of what brought you both together in the beginning: “The ones we love are the ones we hurt the most. We fly so close. We fly so close. I kissed you once, and it took my breath away.”

The accompanying video is courtesy of The Internet Archives, and features footage from the classic 1923 silent film Safety Last!, directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor and starring Harold Lloyd.

2. A Thousand Times

Released in July as his 31st song, “A Thousand Times” is a perfect pop tune, with a breezy vibe reminiscent of songs by such bands as Fleetwood Mac, The Outfield and the Gin Blossoms. Craig’s jangly guitars and sunny synths are delightful, and the song is just so catchy and feel-good that it makes me happy. The lyrics seem to speak of a budding romance between two people who’ve been playing emotional footsie with each other for a while: “We both have secret smiles and glances. We play games young lovers still play. I believe we deserve second chances. I’ll wait a thousand times for you love.

3. Alive

While it might not be one of Secret Postal Society’s most interesting songs from a musical standpoint, “Alive” is nevertheless one of my favorites because of Craig’s thoughtful lyrics, not to mention that it was released on my birthday in August as his 35th song. Many of his songs speak not only of romantic love, but love for humankind and each other, and this one’s a fine example of that. He acknowledges that while he may not be all that important in the scheme of things, he’s glad to be alive, and urges us live our lives with love and understanding for one another: “So we fight to survive through the lows and the highs ’cause we’ve got to keep going. So I look in your eyes. You know it’s OK to cry. I’m just grateful that you are alive.” It’s a warm and pleasing track, and the guitars and keyboards in the bridge are really lovely.

4. I Will Follow You

Released in October as his 40th song, “I Will Follow You” has a strong R.E.M. feel, which is why it appeals to me so much. Craig’s a fine guitarist, and his work is especially good on this track. The lyrics are spoken to a loved one, assuring them that they’ll always have your love and support: “Time and again I was always with you as a friend. But I guess that I never told you. I know that life’s hard. No one said it was easy at all. But we’ll be fine, and I will follow you.” The beautiful video was produced by Yaroslav Shuraev (Pexels). 

5. Something From Nothing/Points of Light 

Released in November as song #47, “Something From Nothing/Points of Light” is sort of a couplet, like having two songs for the price of one. With its urgent, intricate riffs and driving melody, “Something From Nothing” has a Foo Fighters vibe, but unlike the Foos’ similarly-titled song that ends in an explosive crescendo, Secret Postal Society’s ends on a calm, lovely and contemplative note with “Points of Light”. I like that Craig’s young son Reuben sings these optimistic closing lyrics along with him: “Don’t you let your sun go out. And never let the others dim the shine of hope you have inside. I see in you the light eternal.” 

Very Honorable Mention:

Numb – A terrific alt-rock song with swirling synths and a great guitar riff reminiscent of “Lazy Eye” by Silversun Pickups

Hurt – A darkly beautiful, grungy track with industrial-sounding synths and fantastic reverby guitars.

Halfway There – A lovely guitar-driven track featuring shimmery keyboards and Craig’s soothing vocals, with optimistic lyrics addressing both his half-year milestone, but also a struggling relationship halfway toward its fulfillment.

A Song For Leaving You – A great kiss-off song with a captivating hip-swaying beat, spacey synths and some really gorgeous guitar work.

What’s Up Dude? – A languid and cool alt-rock song co-written and sung by Craig and his young son Reuben, with lyrics directed at slackers, encouraging them to get busy: “This is not a game of chance, you have to do the work, SO DO IT!

It’s Not a Christmas Song (Unless the Sleigh Bells Are Ringing) – A thoroughly delightful contemporary Christmas song that’s as good as many I’ve heard from major artists. And once again, we’re treated to Reuben’s sweet vocals.

Craig is now enjoying a well-deserved rest from his exhaustive songwriting and recording schedule, and isn’t quite sure where he’ll take Secret Postal Society going forward. But I for one hope he’ll continue putting out more great songs, albeit at a more reasonable pace.

Follow Secret Postal Society:  Facebook / Instagram 

Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube

LOWRY LANE – Interview & Album Review: “Lonely War”

Lowry Lane is an earnest, thoughtful and talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Regensburg, Germany. Born Paul Friebe, and inspired by “the naive and bold simplicity of Andy Warhol, and the sobering and disillusioning insights of Hunter S. Thompson“, he named his solo music project after English painter L.S. Lowry as a way of exploring his “musical self discovery, which aims to recklessly unfold the inherent conflicts he finds within himself and in the world around him.” He names an extensive and eclectic list of artists and bands as influences for his melodic and complex style of alternative rock, including The Smiths, Fugazi, The Pixies, Sonic Youth, The Libertines, Joy Division, The Cure, Nirvana, Wavves, Pavement, The Strokes and Kurt Vile. 

I learned about Lowry four years ago when he followed me on Twitter, and was immediately impressed by his debut single “Find A Way”, a superb track with strong Nirvana elements that I liked so much I reviewed it. He followed with another fine single “Why Bother” in early 2018, and had planned to release a full-length album later that year. However, his struggles with personal and financial issues, as well as trying to juggle university studies with making music, led Lowry to put the album on hold, though he continued writing and recording new songs. Happily, he finished the album, which he’s named Lonely War, this past summer, and began releasing a series of new singles in anticipation of its release. One of them, “Angel Falls”, I reviewed in September.

Lonely War features 14 excellent tracks touching on dark topics like relationship troubles, personal loss, addiction and mental health, while still offering glimmers of optimism. In preparation for reviewing the album, I asked Lowry some questions about how he got into making music and his creative process, which he kindly took the time to answer.

EML: Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions Paul. I’ve been a fan of yours ever since first hearing your debut single “Find A Way” four years ago. I know you started out playing with other bands while in your teens, and decided in 2017 to branch out on your own as a solo act. I’m guessing that, like many musicians who’ve played in bands but later go solo, you wanted to make music entirely on your own terms, am I correct?

LL: Thanks for having me and for the kind words, Jeff! Making music on my own terms definitely played a large role in starting a solo project, in a way it has really streamlined the whole process of decision-making. It allowed me to focus more on my musical instincts when it came to songwriting. But there were also other, more practical aspects, that played a role. Many of my band mates at the time were taking university and or work a lot more serious than I ever did, so there was this really great disparity in terms of free time available between us. I also felt the great desire to get a lot more involved in making music and to take on other roles as a recording and mixing engineer and as a producer. Lowry Lane was an opportunity for me to work on these things day in and day out for the last four years. In the long term, however, my hope is for Lowry Lane to evolve into a proper band, like we saw happen with projects like Wavves or Bass Drum Of Death.

EML: You’ve cited as influences for your music such iconic acts as Nirvana, The Pixies, The Cure, Sonic Youth, The Strokes and Fugazi, as well as more current acts like Kurt Vile, Surf Curse and the aforementioned Wavves, and I can definitely hear elements of their music in your exciting and wonderfully eclectic sound. This may be a dumb question, but how do you go about incorporating those many elements into your songwriting?

LL: I think that’s a really interesting question, albeit a tough one to answer. I think a lot of it happens unconsciously. And a lot of it probably comes down to being shaped by what music you listen to in your youth and throughout your lifetime in general. For me, those bands and their music just feel deeply ingrained into my sense of self. The way it usually works for me in practice is that a certain song or an element of a song takes my mind on some kind of journey. They remind me of a place I’ve been, a dream I had or a situation or feeling I’ve lived through. Then I just let that mood guide me through the whole process of writing, recording and mixing.

EML: Of all those acts, who would you most like to have the opportunity to open for at a concert?

LL: Honestly, opening for any of them would be a dream come true, so it’s impossible for me to decide. Realistically, I think opening for Lunatics on Pogosticks or Gringo Star one day would be amazing!

EML: You’re an accomplished multi-instrumentalist who I understand plays all instruments on your songs. As someone who plays no instruments whatsoever, I find that to be an incredible and admirable talent. Has your ability to play so many instruments been mostly or entirely self-taught, or have you had some musical training?

LL: I took a few guitar lessons at 14 or 15, when I started playing guitar, but other than that I had no musical training in the traditional sense. But there are so many other ways to learn music that I just didn’t really feel the need to take lessons. I’ve been very lucky to have met a lot of amazing musicians over the years. I regularly jam with my friends at our rehearsal space and I learned so much simply by playing together with great musicians. At some point I just started banging around on the drums before and after our jams, got a few tips and tricks from our drummers and just kept practicing for a few years. And then there’s of course the internet. I learned a lot of stuff from message boards, blogs, and YouTube videos, too.

EML: I’ve reviewed a number of other German musicians and bands over the years, all of whom write and record their songs in English. I’m guessing that doing so opens their music up to a potentially wider audience, right? What is the German music scene like these days?

LL: The potential audience for English lyrics is a lot bigger, that’s true. And it’s also the language of music that a lot of us here have grown up with. I very rarely listen to music with German lyrics (with the exception of Isolation Berlin). I’m not really that informed about the German music scene in general, but the indie music scene, at least here in Regensburg, is very small. Most professional live musicians I know make their living from teaching and playing at weddings, fairs and festivals. We have a few small venues here, like Alte Mälzerei, where you can regularly see cool indie and underground artists, but a lot of places closed in the last years, even before Covid-19. And there are a few places that used to have open stage nights, which were really fun sometimes, but I don’t know if they’re still around. The scene is much bigger in cities like Berlin, of course. Usually, when I want to see a band from overseas, I have to drive to either Munich or Berlin. And at that point there’s really only a few concerts a year I’m even considering going to. It’s great for seeing amazing indie bands at really small venues, though!

EML: I love your new album Lonely War. As with many singer-songwriters, your songs are often inspired by your own experiences. Many of the album’s tracks address topics like failed relationships, loss and mental health, while still offering glimmers of hope and optimism. Has writing these songs been cathartic to you on any level?

LL: Absolutely! Making music is by far the best emotional outlet I have. Every song on the album has some personal story behind it. Be it about my on/off relationship, the difficulties between me and my parents, substance abuse or simply the ongoing journey of finding myself. And writing about that stuff can really help you reflect on things and heal. Psychotherapy has also helped me a lot with improving my mental health and also with finally finishing the album.

EML: The Covid pandemic prevented artists & bands from performing live for much of 2020 and early 2021. Do you have any plans to tour or do live shows to promote your new album?

LL: Not at the moment, sadly. I would love to play live again (it’s been years..) and I hope I can get a band together sooner than later, but we’ll have to see.

EML: Is there anything I’ve neglected to ask that you’d like your fans and my readers to know about you or your music?

LL: Well, I’d like to say that I’m definitely planning on putting out new music much more frequently in the future. Also, Matthew Agoglia from The Ranch Mastering did an amazing job on the album!

Lowry in his element, and just look at that amazing hair!

So let’s get into the album, shall we. Lonely War is fairly long, with 14 tracks and running over 51 minutes. It opens with “New Waves“, a gentle rock track with a mesmerizing guitar riff that instantly reminded me of the Smashing Pumpkins’ iconic song “1979”. When I mentioned that to Lowry, he told me I was spot on, as the song was definitely an inspiration for “New Waves”. The poignant lyrics speak of looking back on past events, some good and some bad, that shape who we are today, also realizing that time marches on in a continuous stream of waves: “New waves form. I know you from before the storm. Don’t regret a thing. Despite our struggle, memories of you keep me warm and out of trouble.” He has a fine, mellifluous singing voice, and his vocals here are especially pleasant and soothing. The same goes for “Tuesday” a lively song with a wonderful garage rock vibe, highlighted by jangly guitars that border on surf.

One of my favorite tracks is “Angel Falls”, a glorious hybrid of new wave and punk, with elements of Joy Division and early The Cure. I love Lowry’s psychedelic and jangly guitars that are perfectly layered over a chugging bassline, assertive drumbeats and ominous swirling synths, all creating a dark, almost menacing soundscape The lyrics seem to describe someone who’s losing touch with reality, and possibly having a mental breakdown or experiencing a drug overdose: “Messy wiring, Flashing images, Neurons firing, Hidden messages, Thoughts expiring, Brain cells in distress, Oh so tiring, Oh so limitless./ Voices in the walls, Haunting silent calls, Echo through the halls, Another angel falls.

Ghosts” is another favorite, both musically and lyrically. The interplay between Lowry’s jangly grunge-like guitar riffs and strong bass notes is really wonderful, and I love his plaintive vocals. The lyrics are spoken to a former loved one, expressing regret and sorrow for the mistakes he’s made that caused the relationship to fail; “No excuses in the end. I know I failed you as a friend. Torn apart with every tear. You’re in my heart, but you’re not here.” “White Noise” is a rousing rock track with fast-paced gritty riffs, punctuated by a blistering little solo in the bridge.

Lowry taps into his love for grunge on several tracks. “Comfort Zone” is a dark song about feeling of pain and ennui, highlighted by trippy psychedelic guitars and his monotone vocals as he drones “So much comfort in my pain. Every morning feels the same“. The Nirvana-esque “Boring” is yet another favorite, as I love the fantastic mix of jangly and grungy guitars. The song speaks to feelings of dissatisfaction with a partner he’s done with: “Never coming back again. I always hated all your friends. I don’t want to stay with you another day, boring. That’s okay, you never had a chance to run. I just don’t think that I could take it any longer. I know I’m not the only one.” And on “Super Silver Haze“, he uses a mix of grungy and psychedelic guitars and synths to create a dark and trippy vibe.

Midway through the album, Lowry unleashes “Black Hole“, an intense track featuring a relentless barrage of reverb-soaked, super-gnarly guitars, accompanied by spooky synths and a droning bassline. His calm vocals contrast sharply with the menacing soundscape to great effect. “Water” lightens the mood markedly, with a bouncy melody and beautiful chiming guitars, but “On My Mind” brings us back to a darker reality. Similar to “Ghosts”, the lovely but mournful song is an honest confession of regret for the hurt and pain he’s caused: “Goodbye friend, I guess it’s time to move on and draw a line. And I know you know I would make it better if I could. Kill the pain I put you through. Fix our broken hearts with glue. You are always on my mind.
I was wrong and I was blind
.”

Lowry closes the album on a decidedly more upbeat note with the final three tracks. “Easy” is a pretty song with a bit of a Beach Boys feel, thanks to his sweet, echoed vocal harmonies and jangly surf-like guitars. “Sea of Tranquility” is an outlier on the album, in that it’s an instrumental only track and, running 6:48 minutes, far longer than any others. Featuring a repetitive strummed guitar line, and accompanied by airy, somewhat spacy synths, pleasing piano keys and a pulsating bassline, the song has a languid, relaxing vibe, as suggested by the title. The Green Day-esque closing track “Here” has a lively post-punk feel, with a rousing melody, snappy drumbeats and colorful frantic riffs.

What more can I say about Lonely War other than that I absolutely love everything about it! I love Lowry’s songwriting and poetic lyricism, his brilliant musicianship – especially guitar-playing – and his beautiful vocals. He’s done an impressive job with the album’s arrangements, recording and production, and once again, credit must be given to Matthew Agoglia for his expert mastering.

And here’s the album on YouTube:

Connect with Lowry:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Find a Way”:  Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube
 Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

FROZEN FACTORY – EP Review: “The First Liquidation”

I’ve recently featured more international acts on this blog than ever (in the past few months I’ve written about artists & bands from South Africa, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, England, Wales, Germany, Italy and Denmark, as well as a compilation album featuring artists from across Europe), and today I’m pleased to introduce my first ever act from Finland, a wonderful band called Frozen Factory. I learned about them when band vocalist Stephen Baker reached out to me about their new EP The First Liquidation, which dropped May 28th.

Formed rather spontaneously at the end of 2018, the Helsinki-based group has undergone numerous personnel changes, and now consists of founding member Tomi Hassinen on bass, Stephen Baker (who’s originally from England) on vocals, Mici Ehnqvist on lead guitar, and Marianne Heikkinen on drums. Influenced by some of their favorite acts like Alice In Chains, Iron Maiden, Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd, System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine, they create moody, complex and melodic alternative rock with strong undercurrents of progressive, grunge, symphonic, metal and dream rock. This seemingly contradictory and eclectic combination of stylistic elements makes for some incredibly compelling and darkly beautiful music that’s a joy to listen to.

They released their marvelous debut album Planted Feet in June 2020, then followed with a series of singles from December 2020 to May 2021, which culminated in the release of The First Liquidation. Interestingly, the EP almost never got made, as Frozen Factory originally planned to drop a few one-off singles before moving on to focus on their already-written second album, to be released later this year. But they were having so much fun creating these new songs that ‘a few singles’ eventually grew into to a five-track EP, which then ballooned to become what the band describes as “an EP with a suspiciously high number of tracks.” It now features eight tracks, six of which are fully fledged songs, with the other two serving as intro and outro. Because it runs less than 30 minutes in length, the band feels it doesn’t quite qualify as an album, hence their insistence in calling it an EP. The songs were co-written by Stephen and Tomi, with Tomi also flawlessly producing the EP.

About the EP, Stephen explains: “We’re extremely proud to present this record to you. In between our main records we wanted to spend some time practising our craft using some strong songs that didn’t match the theme of our previous or upcoming albums. It’s been even more rewarding than we imagined in terms of fun and from how much we’ve learned making these songs. This record takes a brief look at human-to-human relationships, expressing some thoughts on empathy or lack of, and telling a couple of true stories. We think you’ll enjoy the emotive true-to-life direction of the record and the expanded use of sound design. We’re active with talking to those who follow us, especially on Instagram, so please come and say hi and join our mailing list on http://www.frozenfactorymusic.com.”

In listening to the EP, what first strikes me is that, despite its relatively short run time, it feels almost like a rock opera or an epic musical in the vein of Les Misérables. This is partly due to the music’s complex and cinematic arrangements, but also the sounds and interludes used between songs that work to tie them together. Also, Stephen’s gorgeous vocals have a rich and commanding timbre that make them perfectly suited for the more grandiose orchestration. (As a side note, he recorded his vocals in a tiny home sauna that he converted into a sound booth, so as not to disturb his family and neighbors. Because it heated up very quickly within the enclosed space, he recorded vocals in his underwear.)

The opening track “The Alternate Missed” starts off rather ominously, with dark, cinematic synths and distant choral vocals, followed by sounds of footsteps in snow and a door opening and closing as someone enters a building. The ominous music returns along with Stephen’s vocals earnestly singing the profound lyrics that seem to speak of a fallen leader, and setting the tone for the EP: “And once his head’s spun with truth and fiction. The wise lament lest they ignore his final diction. And languish their judgement or vanquish indeed. His theatre has vanished and with it his heed. And we all miss the man that he could have been.”

The song immediately segues into “Au Contraire“, a lovely, melodic song with lyrics in both English and French. The song continues with the theme introduced in the previous track, namely what seems to me to be the duplicity of a hubris-afflicted leader who disregards the suffering of his/her citizens: “Fait accompli. The value of the public’s clear. Raison d’être, to earn for you through their blood, sweat, and tears. Objet d’art, the walls of that cathedral stand, Vis à vis, now aligned with your contempt for those who truly need.” Stephen beautifully sings the English and French lyrics with ease, accompanied by guest vocals by French singer Madeleen singing the choruses. The whistling at the beginning of the song, as well as the warm organ and accordion notes and gently-strummed guitars give the song an intriguing French flair.

One of my favorite tracks on the EP is the anthemic “Hour of Need“, with its stirring piano-driven melody and dramatic soaring choruses. The song’s arrangement and execution are first-rate, nicely showcasing the exceptional musicianship of all four band members. I don’t know who plays piano here, but it’s stunning, and I love Stephen’s plaintive vocals, backed by Marianne’s hauntingly beautiful harmonies. The poetic lyrics are somewhat ambiguous to me, but my guess is that they speak to the current fears and strife facing many of us, urging us to remain focused on the big picture, and make the best of this one life we’re given: “In our hour of need, we’re adrift endlessly / Always remember this journey’s but once. Don’t cast it away. A sound destination sits on the horizon. Keep above the waves.”

Frozen Factory taps into their metal sensibilities on “Old Money“, which has a frantic, almost punkish vibe, both musically and lyrically. Mici rips through the airwaves with his blistering guitar work, while Tomi and Marianne keep the pummeling rhythms moving forward at full throttle. Stephen’s rapid-fire vocals sound fiercer than ever as he launches into a diatribe against the wealthy elite and how they keep the rest of us financially enslaved: “Some are born in, with every way out they could wish for. Others are born out, with no way in. Yet many search endlessly for an open door./ Their old money. Their old kings and queens. Their bloody tricks. They’ve had us on our knees.”

I have a special fondness for female drummers, and this video shows Marianne working her magic.

They then show their softer, more introspective side on the poignant ballad “Two Dads“. The touching song is about a man on his way to work who encounters a homeless man begging for a handout. He fumbles through his pockets, only to discover he has no change to give him, and thinks about the fact that they both have children who they’d give their life for, and how fate and luck have put them in such differing life circumstances: “His face says that he knows, my growing dread has been shown. He’s sensed me thinking of my son. We’d both die to save a cherished one. I can’t begin to comprehend gifts only received by the few lucky kids. Ought’a run to my job, can’t be late, no I won’t miss my stop. After leaving I ponder my time. Could have gone to get cash, my career would survive.”

When You’ve Grown” is equally poignant, with lyrics spoken internally from a father to his child who’s growing up so fast, thinking out loud about how he will miss them as they are now, yet looking forward to knowing them as an adult too: “I feel I will miss you when you’ve grown. That child you are today, it’s sad that we won’t meet again./ I’d never hold you back. Never hope for that. I’ll be proud to see the grown-up that you will be.” The song starts off slowly, with eerie synths and a far-off gently pounding drumbeat that’s soon replaced by somber piano chords as Stephen wistfully sings. Halfway through, the music and Stephen’s vocals turn more dramatic and impassioned, with heavier metal-rock guitar and percussion, before calming back down at the end.

The powerful and haunting rock anthem “You” is another strong track, with outstanding guitar work, sweeping keyboards and thunderous percussion. Mici’s fiery guitar solo and Stephen’s impassioned vocals are fantastic, leaving me covered with goosebumps. The lyrics seem to speak to a leader of some kind who’s waging a valiant but continuously threatened effort against tyranny: “You build us up, and you’re torn down. We suck the gun aimed at you. Target of the noose. You call injustice by its name. And you won’t stop until it’s better. Though you’re sick of the lies. You give yourself for our lives. Enduring the pressure.”

The EP ends on a somewhat optimistic note with “An Improbable Flame“, a brief, rather dark-sounding track that opens with harsh sounds of radio static, eerie thumping drumbeats, ill winds and breaking glass, which are eventually replaced with a somber piano movement. Stephen speaks the hopeful lyrics that perhaps we’ll do better next time: “A flame is improbable in a storm that’s unstoppable. Yet it is not the storm but the greed that tips the candlestick. To light for one a second wick, only to snuff their blessing out. Yet when gifted another time and place, perhaps this soul won’t make the same mistake. But share instead that flame around, til’ the winds blow not amongst the circled crowd.

In another review of The First Liquidation for Finnish webzine Kaaos, a writer criticized the eclectic nature of the music and songs, commenting that “the listening experience leaves you wondering what the band really wants to be: serene, flexible British pop, gloomy Gothic rock, or post-grunge world pain?” He couldn’t be more wrong, as I think the variety of styles and sounds of the songs are a real strength, keeping the EP sounding fresh and surprising, rather than boring and predictable. Every track is superb, and I found that I grew to love each song with repeated listens, as the music is so complex and rich, and Stephen’s arresting vocals such a joy to hear. The First Liquidation is an exceptional work on every level, and I’m now a committed fan of Frozen Factory.

Follow Frozen Factory:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicYouTube

Purchase:  BandcampAmazon

Krosst Out featuring Melotika – Single Review: “Runaway”

I’ve been following Canadian artists Krosst Out and Melotika for more than four years, and it’s been gratifying to watch them grow both artistically and professionally. Krosst Out is the musical alter-ego of singer-songwriter and rapper Aaron Siebenga,, who grew up in a small town not far from Toronto, and melds hip hop with grunge, alt-rock and punk to create his own unique contemporary sound. Melotika is the alter-ego of Mel Yelle, a Montreal-born sultry-voiced singer-songwriter who makes intriguing electro-pop.

The hard-working and creative duo met in Toronto, but are now living in Montreal. They’re both successful artists in their own right, as well as a delightfully charming and hilarious couple I’ve grown quite fond of over the years, and have featured them both numerous times on this blog. Last October, I reviewed Krosst Out’s debut album Phone Calls With Ghosts, a deeply personal work addressing youthful mistakes, broken relationships, and the reality that nothing will ever again be what it once was. (You can read that review here.) And just last month, I chose Melotika’s latest single “Beautiful Disguise” as my New Song of the Week, which you can read about here

Now the two are back with a hot new collaborative single “Runaway“. The song was recorded at Phase One studio in Toronto under the guidance of long-time collaborators Jor’Del Downz and Sean Savage. Drums were played by Spencer “Taabu” Heaslip, who also mixed and mastered the track. With “Runaway”, Krosst Out and Melotika wanted to create a dynamic, punk influenced hip hop ballad reminiscent of the late 1970’s London punk scene. Krosst Out explains “I’ve been calling it 1977 punk meets rap, or Sid and Nancy meet hip hop. I wrote this at the same time I was writing my album Phone Calls With Ghosts, [but] in the end, I just felt like this song deserved to be a stand alone track. ‘Runaway’’s message is one that all can relate to, especially during these times; it’s one of escapism, running away from a place you no longer want to be in. There’s times where we do just need to pick up and run away from everything. If you find yourself in a place you don’t want to be in, pick yourself and run away from that spot, put yourself someplace better. It’s meant to be this cross between both happy and melancholy. The beat was an anthem type feel that gets you amped up, but my chanting of ‘I don’t want to be here’ gives you the feeling of hopping on the next train to anywhere, running away.”  

The song opens with a flurry of spritely skittering synths, then expands with a layer of brooding synths as Melotika croons her lyrics followed by Krosst Out, who raps his lines as a deep trip hop beat kicks in. Soon the melody ramps up into a frantic punk beat at they both shout “I wanna run away, I gotta run away, I’m gonna run away!” This back and forth continues throughout the song, providing alternating moments of frenzied tension with calmer interludes of introspection that convey a cool sense of self-awareness and humor. 

The two have made a crazy-fun video that nicely showcases their strong charisma and zany playfulness.

Connect with Krosst Out:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp 

DUDERAMA – Album Review: “New Views”

Duderama is the instrumental music project of Melbourne, Australia-based Liam Stack and Pierce Brown. The two met in the 1990s while both part of the alt-rock music scene in the capital city of Canberra, and played together in the alt-rock band Narco Wendy and lounge-rock act Coocoo Fondoo. Their collaboration as Duderama began in 2015 when Pierce was living in Melbourne and Liam in Ethiopia. Back in those days, the two created their musical collaborations remotely through phone apps and compressed files that, in their words, “were barely able to squeeze their way through the intermittent (or non-existent) internet of the authoritarian regime at the time.”

Their first release, in July 2015, was the EP The Mask, followed by a couple of double singles and their debut album Peace Fire that November. The duo continued with their prolific music output over the next two years, releasing four more albums by the end of 2017, as well as a couple more double singles and an EP, just for good measure. In July 2019 they released their excellent sixth album Quiet Life, and on January 22nd, they returned with their latest album New View, which they describe as “an elixir for these dark and strange times, where deftly executed and inventive guitar rock interplay can provide a simple joy amidst an era of mass anxiety. A lesson in the joyousness of lo-fi indie rock made with passion.” The guys’ skills for remote collaboration came in handy once again, as the album was recorded and produced during the Covid-19 lockdown. Liam mastered the album, while Pierce designed the art work.

New View features 11 guitar-driven instrumental tracks drawing upon numerous elements of rock, including alternative, progressive, grunge, electronic, psychedelic, and experimental, as well as jazz and funk. They kick things off with “Progtronic Man“, a moody lo-fi track dominated by a super-gnarly droning guitar riff and pulsating bass, punctuated here and there with more melodic guitar notes that add a bit of color to the proceedings. “Deepening Sky” features a funky head-bopping bass line overlain with wonderful jazzy guitar notes, accompanied by the perfect amount of percussion that make it one of my favorites on the album.

The title track “New Views” has a greater sense of urgency, with heavier rhythms, more pronounced synths, and multiple guitar textures, all blending to create palpable tension while still keeping things on an optimistic note. The mood shifts with “No Looking” to a languid, dreamy vibe that conjures up images of a romantic interlude on a sun-drenched tropical island. The warm synths and mix of shimmery and gnarly guitars are all exquisite. “Collapse Away” picks up the pace with an irresistible thumping groove that had me doing a lap dance on my chair! This song has it all: a terrific funky bass line, dynamic percussion, glittery atmospheric synths, and superb intricate guitar work. And speaking of superb guitars, the interplay between the guys’ shimmery and grungy guitars on “Entanglement” is positively mind-blowing.

As it’s title suggests, “Space Yacht” features spacey synths and gnarly psychedelic guitars set to a mid-tempo groove. Those super-grungy, buzzing guitars are back on “Light of a Billion Suns“, heavy, meandering lo-fi track that still manages to sound hopeful, thanks to well-placed melodic guitar notes. “High Life” is a fascinating track, with sort of a low-key Nirvana-esque grunge vibe as its foundation (at least to my ears), and embellished with a mix of late 60s psychedelic guitar notes along with some progressive elements. “Hollow Point” is rather pretty and melodic, with more of the guys’ marvelous intertwining guitar work and some really nice piano keys adding warmth to the track.

The album closes on a high note with “Liquid Beret“, a wonderfully mesmerizing track that’s another of my favorites. I love that powerful walking bass line that gives the song its deep, pulsating groove, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, once again I must gush about the brilliance of the guys’ intricate, multi-textured guitar work. I’m not even sure how to describe it, but that persistent undulating riff is fantastic.

I’ve written about many instrumental albums, a lot of them heavy on synthesized electronic music, which is perfectly fine as I really like that kind of music. But what I especially love about Duderama’s music is how they put their guitars front and center, then build the rest of the music around them. New Views is an outstanding and expertly-crafted work, filled with instrumentally-complex tracks that captivate and surprise with every listen.

Pierce also writes a terrific music blog The Press Music Reviews, so do check it out.

New Song of the Week – “Undone” by Tough on Fridays

In early October, I wrote a review of the outstanding debut album A Fantastic Way to Kill Some Time by Texas grunge pop-rock band Tough on Fridays. I knew the talented female-fronted band had a loyal and growing fan base, but I had no idea just how large and passionate it was. In just two and a half months, the review has received nearly 1,000 views, the most of any post I’ve written in 2020! Now the trio, consisting of Caleigh on vocals & guitar, Carly on bass & vocals, and Chris on drums, are back with a great new single “Undone“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

The song opens strong with Carly’s intricate moody bass riff and Caleigh’s cold, matter-of-fact vocals that perfectly convey the sadness and pain expressed in the biting lyrics addressing a selfish and miserable friend of her disappointment with them: “I wish you were special / I really wish you were special / No one was miserable like you.” Suddenly, we’re hit with a blast of her raging gnarly guitars and Chris’s smashing drumbeats as the song ramps up to a fast-paced punk-like tempo. Caleigh’s vocals turn more impassioned as she bitterly informs her friend that their relationship is broken beyond repair and finally come ‘undone’. It’s a banger, and I think it’s their best song yet.

 I wish you were special
 I really wish you were special
 No one was miserable like you
 No, no one had it as bad as you
 Oh lately
 You’ll always be temporary
 
 So point blank and in your face
 Maybe you’ll learn someday
 Make sure I’m not a necessity
 Right before you dispose of me
 Hate yourself and that’s ok
 I want out of your fucked-up game
 
 You’re in misery
 Stay far from me
 I want out of your fucked-up game
 
 You never had anyone
 You never liked to have fun
 I wasn’t just anyone
 Made me come all undone
 I was never really done
 Lie to me,
 Use me
 Stay far away
 Can’t use me up anymore

Follow Tough on Fridays:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / Reverbnation

Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

New Song of the Week – “Shame” by Saboteurs

Saboteurs is a terrific rock band from Lincoln, England who I first featured on this blog in June 2019 when I reviewed their superb debut album Dance With the Hunted. Now they’re back with a dark and hard-hitting new single “Shame“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. Consisting of Ben Ellis (lead vocals/guitar), Rick Whitehead (lead guitar/vocals), Geoff Standeven (bass), and Pete Botterill (drums), they combine elements of alt-rock, grunge, post-punk, metal and folk with driving rhythms, intricate melodies, powerful instrumentation and intelligent lyrics to create music that excites and surprises us at every turn.  

As with Dance With the Hunted, “Shame” was produced, mixed and mastered by Hamish Dickinson at Phoenix Sound Studio, Notts UK. Angered by the failed libertarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and inspired by influences of bands like New Model Army, Biffy Clyro and Thrice, Saboteurs has created their most intense and brooding track yet. The song has a harder rock feel, with more pronounced elements of nu-metal and grunge than their previous songs. The band explains that the song “comments on the struggle within liberal democracies to reconcile the tension between civil liberties and the protection of society. And asks whether in fact, we are facing a Malthusian catastrophe as nature fights back against human population growth.”

The guys drive home their withering message with a furious onslaught of grungy riffs, crushing bass and thunderous percussion. The song opens ominously with spooky synths and distorted guitar chords, then we’re hit with a blast of buzz saw riffs and smashing drumbeats as Ellis angrily snarls “You sit around and say it’s a shame but you’re not us and we’re not them.” The dual raging guitars of Ellis and Whitehead set the airwaves aflame while Standeven’s powerful bass line drives the relentless rhythm forward, accompanied by Botterill’s speaker-blowing attack on his drum kit. By song’s end, I’m breathless. “Shame” is a blockbuster rock song, and it’s good to see Saboteurs back and in fine form.

Follow Saboteurs:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on Bandcamp / Apple Music

ERIN INCOHERENT – Album Review: “Déjà Vu”

I’ve featured scores of artists on this blog over the past five years, and one of the more interesting and unique among them is singer-songwriter Erin Cookman, who goes by the wonderful artistic moniker Erin Incoherent. Originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and now based in Philadelphia since late 2017, the self-described “singer, musician, poet, writer, mental health advocate, model, artist, makeup junkie, loudmouth and strong woman” is a hyper-talented songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. She’s also a fiercely passionate and outspoken champion for mental health and issues like domestic violence and sexual abuse, topics that often appear in her powerful songs. Erin’s music style tends mostly toward folk/indie rock with strong punk and grunge elements.

I last wrote about Erin two years ago, in December 2018, when I reviewed her album Medusa, a brilliant 11-song manifesto addressing anxiety, trauma and pain. Now she returns with her new album Déjà Vu, which dropped November 30th. The album was co-produced by Erin and Bill Nobes, and recorded and mixed by Nobes at The House of Robot studio in Wrightstown, New Jersey with assistance from Vincent Troyani. Erin sang all vocals and played guitar and bass, with help from a number of musicians, including Chris Olsen on drums and additional percussion, Nikki Nailbomb on cello for “Of Roaches & Roommates” and bass on “25” and “The Fog”, Skelly on upright bass for “Harvestman”, and Joe Falcey on drums for “Of Roaches & Roomates”. The album was mastered by Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins. Bill Nobes also did the photography and cover art for the album.

With Déjà Vu, Erin continues to explore themes of disillusionment and pain stemming from emotional trauma, the loss of loved ones, and relationships gone bad. She’s a very fine singer and acoustic guitarist, but it’s her unflinching and profound lyrics that impress me the most. Each song is laid out like a deeply personal story told though a lengthy poem, and her lyrics are so good I’d like to quote them all for every song, but will control myself. The opening title track “Déjà Vu is a shining example of how she skillfully uses tempo and melodic changeups to reflect the different moods expressed by her lyrics. The song starts off with Erin’s gently-strummed acoustic guitar and soft breathy vocals, then both turn more aggressive and harsh as she coldly proclaims that she’s done with the relationship: “I never wanted all of this / Neglect is cold as snow / And now I don’t care where you went because I’d rather be alone.” 

On the bluesy “The Fog“, Erin bitterly laments to a lover whose drug addiction has destroyed their relationship. I like how she uses the words ‘heroine’ and ‘heroin’ in the song to great effect. In one stanza, she sings “And I will never be your heroine / Not for my lack of, lack of trying / You left me, I was broken / No longer, your trophy / Why would I wanna be the habit you’re always kicking?“, then in another almost identical stanza, she sings “And I will never be your heroin…” “The Storm” is a great kiss-off song, with Erin telling the man who broke her heart that he’ll be facing dark times ahead: “And I hope that when the rain comes for you, you’re a little too late, just a little too late to find your way back home / And away you are swept with the hurt, and the pain, and the grief, and the shame that you left me.

25“, with it’s chugging guitar-driven melody and Erin’s gentle, heartfelt vocals, has a haunting Americana vibe. The introspective lyrics seem to speak of being overwhelmed by anxiety and self-doubt: “I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew / I’m scared of dying but I’m scared of living too / I’ve never really felt like I belonged / I don’t feel like people listen, or ever really wanna talk / So now I’m always dreaming of a life that feels like home / Somehow I must make it on my own.” She drastically changes the mood with “Aculeus (The Sting)” a provocative and sensual song that speaks to pansexual desires. First she seductively croons ” Hey, oh yeah, alright boy you’re looking like you want it. Cause I like it hot, I like it cold. Unpredictable and bold / And I think that part of who I am is part of what’s driving you mad.” But then she later sings “…alright girl you know I fucking want you. Cause I like it hot, I like it cold. Unpredictable and bold / My favorite part of who I am.

Perhaps the most poignant track on the album is “Of Roaches & Roommates“, a heartfelt tribute originally written for her friend Bonnie who died of a drug overdose, but now dedicated to friends Erin has lost to addiction-related struggles, as well as those fighting to remain clean in recovery. “So now we’re smoking in the basement drinking Old Crow / And we tuned up the Ibanez so we could sing every song we know / Cause Bonnie didn’t have to die man but she shot up / Slug said he didn’t have the narcan but we can’t trust that fuck no, we can’t trust him.” With the help of videographer Shad Rhoades, Erin has produced a deeply moving video featuring interviews of people who’ve lost friends or loved ones to drugs, interspersed with footage of her and her fellow musicians Joe Falcey and Nikki Nailbomb performing the song.

The next several songs deal with emotional pain and the struggle to heal and feel ‘normal’. On “The Plan“, Erin resolves to learn to love herself, warts and all: “One day I’m gonna wake up in my someday / Cause if I don’t, I’d rather not wake up at all / The hardest thing that I’ve learned is to love me even though it hurts / Cause not being able to love me just seems worse.” Continuing on a similar vein, the rousing “The End of the World (again)” sees her feeling overwhelmed by self-doubt and wallowing in her emotional pain: “I can’t seem to live my life with consistency, no matter how hard I try, and I don’t know which is worse – Feeling like ‘I shouldn’t hurt’ or living so comfortably with pain, that it’s all I feel, and all I look for.” But then she resolves to not let it defeat her: “No, it’s my turn, give me time / Piss off, I’m gonna be fine Yeah, it’s my turn.” And on the hopeful and comforting “The Edge of September“, she vows to emerge from her mental breakdown as a stronger person: “I’m pinning my hope on the edge of September and praying the payoff’s not too far away / I’m trying to focus and change for the better / Breakdown’s cause breakthroughs, I’m reminded each day.”

The Coal” seems to speak to the pain each partner in a dysfunctional relationship is going through, with each of them trying to heal without also hurting the other in the process. Erin sings “Maybe it’s your time. Time to fight, time to feel. To do not just what’s right, but what will help you heal / Cause now that the storm has lifted, it’s left you with this view / What the hell will you do?” But then she points out that their actions are detrimental to her own well-being: “And I think you try to make your words hurt. Yeah, I think you like knocking me down. You’re daft if you think that it’s working. You’re not an anchor, I’m not gonna drown. No, nobody ever held me back.

The track “Harvestman” is a bit of an outlier on the album, both musically and lyrically. The song has more of an ethnic folk vibe, with a jaunty Latin guitar-driven melody and lyrics in both English and Spanish. I’m not certain as to the meaning of the spiritual lyrics, but I’m guessing that the harvestmen is a metaphor for death: “The harvestman comes now for me, as fire greets the stars / And I could not grieve, for silently, I knew just where we’d go.” The forest sounds and chirping birds at the beginning and end of the song are a nice touch. The album closes with “Déjà Vu (Reprise)“, a brief track featuring Erin’s lilting and rather haunting a cappella vocals pondering what it all means: “No, you’ll never get it back / Where you’ve been keeps what you’ve lost / Yeah, there is no real conclusion Are we memories, or thought?” To me, it serves to end things on a somewhat upbeat and optimistic tone, while acknowledging there’s not necessarily a ‘happily ever after’.

I’ll admit that it took me a couple of listens to fully grasp and appreciate this rather intense album, as the melodies aren’t immediately catchy, nor are the lyrics the kind you can quickly sing along to. But once I delved more deeply into those meaningful lyrics, as well as discovered the many nuances contained in the music and Erin’s emotive, wide-ranging vocals, I’ve come to realize that Déjà Vu is another brilliant work of musical art by this amazing storyteller.

Follow Erin on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

DYING HABIT – Album Review: “Until the Air Runs Out”

From the picturesque Isle of Anglesey in northwest Wales hails alt-rock band Dying Habit, who in mid-October released their debut album Until the Air Runs Out. Officially formed in 2016 after a few years of informally playing together, the band now consists of brothers Nathan (vocals & bass) and Mark Jones (drums), and Alan Hart (guitar). Influenced by some of their favorite bands such as Dead Letter Circus, Katatonia, Biffy Clyro, Therapy?, The Wildhearts and Karnivool, they play an intense and grungy style of melodic alternative rock with progressive undertones.

I’ve previously written about Dying Habit a few times on this blog, first in July 2018 when I reviewed their magnificent single “Unrealities”, then again this past May when I reviewed their single “Solutions”, one of the tracks featured on Until the Air Runs Out. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.) About the album, which dropped October 16th, band front man Nathan Jones explains: “Almost a year in the making, this album portrays our passion for music, grunge, and a 90s feel which has been given a contemporary makeover. It also explores the difficulties of how our world changed in 2020, as well as mental health, loneliness and how even in the darkest of times there is always hope.”

It’s an ambitious work, featuring 13 tracks and running a total of 46 minutes. There are quite a few gems here, and I’ll touch on the ones that most resonated with me. Kicking things off on an ominous note is “The Prey“, a dark track with heavy stab-like riffs of grungy guitars, spooky synths and a grinding, wobbly bass line, all of which succeed quite nicely in creating a menacing vibe. I really like the instrumentals a lot, and my only criticism is that Nathan’s vocals are sometimes overpowered by the music, making it difficult for me to understand much of what he’s singing.

Lost On You” is a great example of Dying Habit’s superb songwriting and musicianship. I love the meandering melody that goes from a moody, Nirvana-esque groove to a dramatic crescendo, highlighted by a torrent of fiery buzz-saw riffs. I cannot gush enough over Alan’s phenomenal guitar work, and Nathan does a great job on both bass and vocals here as he sings of his frustration to a partner who doesn’t value or appreciate him: “I will never burn these bridges / What are we hurting for? All my reasons, all my conscience, must be lost on you.” The beautiful track “Solutions” speaks to feelings of regret over past mistakes and hurts inflicted toward others, and yearning to make things right but not fully knowing how: “Whatever my mistakes were / Whichever lies I told / The heat is overwhelming but my skin’s remaining cold / This serenity engulfs me yet the world keeps passing by / I long to find solutions.”

I like when bands leave unintended sounds at the beginning or end of their songs, so the belch heard at the beginning “The World’s Too Big For Us” is perfectly fine by me. That said, it’s a terrific progressive grunge rock song, with a chugging start-stop groove, highlighted by a cacophonous mix of super-gnarly and distorted guitars, heavy throbbing bass and spacey synths. Along that same vein, “Red Lines” delivers a wonderful fantasia of grungy as hell riffs, accompanied by pummeling bass, Mark’s crashing percussion and wild psychedelic synths that make for a dramatic and fascinating track.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Out of My Hands“, an enchanting song where the band shows their softer side. The chiming guitars are simply gorgeous, and accompanied by a subtle bass line and just the right amount of percussion that allow the guitars to shine. Once again, it’s hard to make out many of the lyrics Nathan sings, but the exquisite instrumentals more than make up for it.

The title track “Until the Air Runs Out” is another great track that’s heavy on progressive grunge vibes. The song starts off with dark, ominous sounds that conjure up images of an impending battle in a sci-fi movie, then a driving, bass-heavy rhythm ensues along with wailing buzz-saw riffs as Nathan begins to sing. As the song progresses, Alan introduces an upbeat melodic riff that ends things on slightly more optimistic note. “Scared of the People We Love” is a moody six-minute-long tour de force, with an extended instrumental segment that nicely showcases Dying Habit’s outstanding musicianship and skill at playing as a tight unit. And the mesmerizing melody, stunning guitar work, and hypnotic drum beats on album closer “Nowhere to Run” are fantastic.

I must admit that I’m generally more a fan of melodic and dream rock than heavier grunge or progressive-style rock. Nevertheless, I still have a great deal of respect and appreciation for those genres, and do enjoy a fair amount of it. Dying Habit have packed quite a lot of complexity and nuance into their songs, and it took a couple of listens for me to fully get into Until the Air Runs Out. But once I did, I fell head over heels in love with this excellent album. I’ve been following this band pretty much since their beginning and I’m so proud of them. I know they worked hard on this album, and their skill and dedication for producing quality music really shows.

Nathan is also a talented visual artist, with a number of remarkable paintings to his credit. Inspired by their lyrics, album, lockdowns, and anxiety, he created this wonderful abstract oil painting titled ‘Until The Air Runs Out’:

Connect with Dying Habit:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/Purchase their music:  Apple Music / Spotify / Amazon