30 Day Song Challenge, Day 27 – “The Drop” by David Oakes

The subject for Day 27 of my 30-day Song Challenge is “A song by an instrumental artist“, and once again, the possible choices are immense. Musicians and composers have been creating instrumental music since the dawn of time I suppose, with classical music, followed by jazz, being the two most widespread forms of instrumental music composed up until the beginning of the so-called ‘rock era’ in the mid 1950s. After that, instrumental music created by more mainstream artists became popular, and from the mid 1950s through early 1980s, scores of singles like “Tequila”, “Sleep Walk”, “The Theme from ‘A Summer Place'”, “Green Onions”, “Stranger on the Shore”, “Love is Blue”, “Classical Gas”, “Grazin’ in the Grass”, “Frankenstein”, “Love’s Theme”, “T.S.O.P.” and “Chariots of Fire” became huge hits. Why instrumental songs failed to become hits after that has been a subject of debate, which I won’t delve further into here, other than to say that I think it’s unfortunate.

That said, there are still lots of musicians and artists out there who are creating some great instrumental music, and I’ve featured many of them on this blog over the years. One of my favorites, and also the very first I wrote about as a new blogger way back in March 2016, is David Oakes. Born in England and now living in Wales, he’s an imaginative and prolific musician and composer of electronic alternative rock music, ranging from gentle synth-driven compositions to aggressive guitar-driven hard rock, and everything in between. I really like his music, and have written about quite a lot of it (you can read some of those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post).

David’s been actively involved in making music since his late teens, when he started playing in various bands. From 2001-06, he and his younger brother were members of the rock band KOTOW, for which he played drums. He went on to study guitar and music theory at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildord, England from 2009-12, after which he started composing and recording music as a solo artist. Since 2012, he’s released an astonishing 10 albums! One of his non-album singles is “The Drop“, which I’ve chosen for my latest song challenge.

It’s an intense song, with a strong chugging bass line overlain with gritty staccato guitar and relentless pummeling drumbeats, highlighted by some tasty melodic riffs of metal guitar riffs. As with all his music, David played all the instruments, and recorded, produced and mixed the track.

The equally intense, horror-film like video, produced by Dark Fable Media, shows David playing the song on his guitar in the woods, where he encounters a man in a frightful-looking mask. The masked man attacks him, whereupon they struggle until David stabs him and runs off. The story seems to be a kind of nightmare, as all three men shown in the video are the same guy, stuck in a disturbing time loop. The entire video is filmed in black and white, with the only color shown being the red blood on the knife and the stabbed man’s hands.

Here’s David’s latest release Ten Years A Dave, featuring what he feels are his ten best tracks over the past ten years, including “The Drop”.

Stream/purchase David’s music on SpotifyApple MusicBandcamp

PLAINS OF SILENCE – EP Review: “Archangel”

Plains of Silence is a progressive/post-rock act based in Lincolnshire, England, and comprised of the very talented double threat of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rick Whitehead and bassist/guitarist Geoff Standeven. The busy duo have also been active with other bands and music projects both in the past and present. Both were members of alt-rock band The Saboteurs (who I’ve previously written about and are now on hiatus). Rick also records music under his music project Sparralimb, and was previously a member of now defunct rock band Tripswitch, while Geoff also plays bass with metal rock band Sleepless.

As Plains of Silence, Rick and Geoff create exquisite instrumental compositions that incorporate elements of progressive, alternative, grunge and metal rock. Rick plays lead guitars, keyboards/synths and drums, while Geoff plays rhythm guitar and bass. Last August, they released their debut single “Jeremiah”, a darkly beautiful 8-minute, 40-second long tour-de-force of melodic guitars, meandering rhythms and cinematic crescendos. Now the guys are back with their debut EP Archangel, which they’ve released on Bandcamp. The EP will be available beginning March 4th on all major streaming sites.

Archangel features “Jeremiah”, along with four new tracks, each of which sounds uniquely different and most of which are fairly long, running well over five minutes. Kicking off the EP is the gorgeous title track “Archangel“, which Geoff told me is dedicated to all mums everywhere, and in particular his own mum who’s currently battling cancer. He said he wanted to write something from the heart that people could connect with, and after listening to the track, I think he’s succeeded quite nicely. The song begins with a somber but lovely acoustic guitar riff, backed by a rather mysterious gravelly background synth of some kind that provides a fascinating contrast with the haunting guitar notes. Two minutes in, the music expands into a glorious and almost spiritual Pink Floyd-esque soundscape, with shimmery guitars, throbbing bass and emphatic drumbeats.

Plains of Silence switch things up on the next track “Redded“, a moody rocker with a blend of grungy and melodic riffs layered over a strong driving rhythm. Rick lays down a tasty psychedelic guitar solo in the bridge, before the song fades out. This is followed by “Jeremiah“, which I think is my favorite track on the EP. As I alluded to earlier, the song is a monumental tour-de-force and a feast for the ears. The song starts off with a simple but arresting acoustic guitar riff lasting slightly over a minute, at which point it’s joined by a rhythm section of subtle bass and measured drums. Soon, the guitar becomes more intricate and melodic up to around 3:45, when the tempo increases with edgier riffs and more forceful drums and bass. The instrumentals continue to build until everything erupts into a dramatic crescendo of grinding gnarly riffs, pummeling bass and assertive, military-style drumbeats that transition to a barrage of thunderous percussion. The music calms back down to just strummed guitar and thumping drumbeats for the final minute as the song ends on a somber note.

As its title would suggest, “The Saint of Killers” is the darkest, most intense track on the EP, with strong progressive and alternative metal underpinnings. Much of the song features a furious barrage of grinding buzz saw riffs, crushing bass and explosive percussion, interspersed here and there with brief interludes of beautiful chiming guitar notes and subtle drumbeats, all of which serves to create a powerful and sonically fascinating track.

The final track “Starlight” is a wonderful melodic rock song, highlighted by Rick’s impressive guitar work and Geoff’s gorgeous driving bassline. The first two-thirds of the song is hard-hitting, with an onslaught of heavy riffs, bass and drums. But at around 3:45, the tempo abruptly changes to a serene, contemplative mood, with lovely strummed guitar notes and ambient natural sounds of birds chirping in the breeze all that we hear. It’s a fine, soothing close to the EP, ending it as it began with the first notes of “Archangel”.

Archangel is a stellar EP, and a testament to the creativity and talents of these two musicians Rick and Geoff. Anyone who’s a fan of progressive rock or alternative metal, delivered with outstanding musicianship, will enjoy this record.

Connect with Plains of Silence: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicYouTube

DAVID OAKES – Album Review: “The Anomaly”

David Oakes is an imaginative and prolific musician and composer of electronic alternative rock music, ranging from gentle synth-driven compositions to aggressive guitar-driven hard rock, and everything in between. I really like his music, and have written about quite a lot of it on this blog (you can read some of those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post).

Based in the coastal town of Aberporth, Wales, David’s been actively involved in making music since his late teens, when he started playing in various bands. From 2001-06, he and his younger brother were members of the rock band KOTOW, in which he played drums. He went on to study guitar and music theory at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildord, England from 2009-12, after which he started composing and recording music as a solo artist. He released his first album The Juggernaut in 2014, and in the years since, has recorded and released an astonishing nine more albums, the latest of which is The Anomaly, which he released on Bandcamp on April 2nd.

The new album features many of David’s signature electronic and guitar-heavy elements we’ve come to expect, but has more of a cinematic feel than his previous albums, with a sound he describes as “Nine Inch Nails meets Rammstein and Depeche Mode with a Danny Elfman Aperitif!” In fact, The Anomaly would make a great soundtrack to any number of films by Christopher Nolan or Tim Burton. Things kick off with “Intronomaly”, a darkly wonderful piece with an ominous droning sound sort of like an engine, over which David layers a captivating warbling synth riff. It all works beautifully in creating a portentous mood, setting the stage for what’s about to unfold.

Next up is “Enter the Anomaly”, a brief composition highlighted by a brooding piano riff and pounding drumbeats that seem to convey the sense of an invading force, in this case ‘the anomaly’. David hasn’t used piano very often on his previous works, so its addition here is a nice touch. His outstanding guitar work makes a return on “The Anomaly (Part 1)”, accompanied by gnarly industrial synths and chugging rhythms, keeping things firmly planted on a dark path going forward. On “The Anomaly (Part 2)”, he uses unusual guitar chords, pummeling drumbeats, and an almost spooky carnival-type melody, then bathes everything in a fuzzy texture to create a discordant, otherworldly vibe.

“The Anomaly (Part 3)” has a definite film noir feel, thanks to those wonderfully moody piano keys, while “The Anomaly (Part 4)” immediately made me think of Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman, which was scored by Danny Elfman. I could imagine hearing this piece, as well as “The Anomaly (Part 6)”, while watching Jack Nicholson as The Joker wrecking havoc on Gotham City. The dark, cinematic vibes and driving rhythms continue on the next several tracks. David told me his guitar riff for “Part 6” was partly inspired by the Primus song “Welcome to this World”.

One of my favorite tracks is “The Anomaly (Part 7)”, with its rousing, hard-charging beat, grungy guitars and exuberant swirling synths. Though the instrumentals are still pretty intense, the synths and lively melody give the track a somewhat lighter tone. The album goes full circle as those enchanting droning and warbling sounds we first heard on “Intronomaly” make a return engagement on “Exit the Anomaly”. The brief but gorgeous final track “Set a Course…For Home” provides not only closure, but a sense of hopeful optimism, expressed through hauntingly beautiful piano keys, glittery synths and soaring strings. It’s a stunning end to another stellar album by David.

Follow David:  TwitterInstagram

Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud

Purchase on Bandcamp

DAVID OAKES – Album Review: “Elevation”

I’m still in Wales (figuratively speaking, having just reviewed the Welsh band Revolution Rabbit Deluxe), this time to shine my spotlight on musician David Oakes. Based in the coastal town of Aberporth, he’s a creative and prolific composer of electronic alternative rock music, as well as a damn fine guitarist. Over the past five years or so, he’s produced a tremendous output of instrumental music, ranging from the guitar-driven melodic rock of his brilliant 2014 work The Calm and the Storm, to the gorgeous atmospherics of The Dawn and the Dusk, the dark experimentation of Sturm Und Drang, and the aggressive hard rock of TheMENACE, for which he also added his own vocals for the first time.

My regular readers may recall that I’ve previously featured him on this blog twice this year, first in May when I reviewed his fantastic album TheMENACE, then a month later when I followed up with an interview. David has now recorded a new album Elevation, which is scheduled for official release in early January, but is available for digital download now on Bandcamp.

David Oakes2

Elevation is structured in eight parts or tracks, sort of how a long classical piece is arranged into movements. Part 1 is a great introduction, setting the tone for what’s to come with moody ambient synths, a pounding drumbeat and an ominous-sounding mix of jangly and distorted guitar riffs that gradually build to a crescendo by the four-minute mark. It all calms back down to the hypnotic cadence we heard in the introduction, and continues through to the outro, accompanied by bits of David’s intricate guitar work that make for a satisfying listen.

Part 2 continues to build on the tension introduced in Part 1, and really showcases David’s stellar guitar playing, not to mention his impressive drum skills. Part 3 brings more jaw-dropping guitar work, with some tasty bits of funk occasionally injected into to the mix. I also love the hard-driving drumbeat, always a big plus for me. Part 4 conjures up images of the Arabian Nights, with layers of intricate guitar and exotic-sounding synths lending a somewhat dangerous vibe. This feeling continues in Part 5, with gritty chugging riffs augmented with chiming guitars, and a deep buzzing bass line providing a sturdy foundation for this powerful track.

Part 6 features moody synths and layers of multi-textured guitars that create an ominous soundscape. I especially like the dark piano synths that appear later in the track, further adding to the song’s overall brooding vibe. David shifts direction on Part 7 with a somewhat jazzy feel and catchy as hell tempo. He uses horn synths, bluesy riffs and a deep, humming bass line to create a fantastic and exhilarating song.  It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album, as I love its urgency and deliriously infectious melody. He really lets loose on the final track Part 8, with furiously pounding drumbeats and frantic riffs of joyously upbeat guitars. It’s an exuberant and celebratory head-banger, and the perfect track to finish the set.

I love this album, which gets better with each listen, as there’s a lot of nuance to David’s compositions and guitar work. If you’re a fan of guitar-driven instrumental rock, then Elevation should be part of your collection.

Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Elevation will be officially released on all major music platforms on January 4, 2019, but is currently available for download on Bandcamp