Album Review: THEY CALLED HIM ZONE – “Crow Swan Wolf”

It might seem to my readers that I’m obsessed with UK artists, but there’s just so much really fine music coming out of the British Isles that I’m compelled to feature their music time and time again. Another UK act I recently stumbled upon is a duo that goes by the intriguing name They Called Him Zone. Their music is hard to classify because it draws from many stylistic elements, but a good label might be ‘Dark-wave Gothic Alternative Psychedelic Electro-pop.’

Barely a year old, They Called Him Zone formed in early 2016, and consists of  Mik Davis (lead vocals, programming) and Steve Maloney (guitar, programming, backing vocals). They are joined by John Bradford on keyboards and percussion for live performances (coincidentally, the band is from Bradford, England). As their bio states, ‘Their approach combines a love of post-punk abrasiveness and electronic experimentation with a pop sensibility, albeit one at the darker end of the spectrum.’ Hallmarks of their sound are mesmerizing synth chords, heavy bass, shredded guitars and Davis’s seductive, breathy vocals.

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They released their debut EP Miami in early 2016 to wide acclaim, receiving airplay both globally and on BBC Introducing. They’ve now produced a new six track mini-album titled Crow Swan Wolf that’s due for general release through Ambicon Music in February 2017, although they’ve made two of the songs available for purchase on Bandcamp, as well as released two videos on YouTube.

The first cut on the album, and also one that’s already available for purchase, is the spellbinding “Just Fall.” A hypnotic EDM beat is overlain with lush synths that alternate between soothing and raw, a warm guitar riff keeping pace. Davis’s seductive vocals lend a mysterious, almost menacing vibe to the song, although the lyrics seem to be about plunging into a romantic relationship: ‘There will be a place where we can settle down. Watch ourselves in the sun, reaching up to clouds. Waking up from dreams. Holding out for love.‘  The song’s gorgeous video features stunning computer-generated imagery.

The second released track, and a real standout, is “Devil Dying.” A delicate synth movement begins the song, then scratchy guitars are introduced, along with a heavy bass line. Halfway through, the music ramps up with a guitar riff that would make The Cure proud, and our ears are treated to more of Davis’s sultry vocals.

More dark synths and scratchy shredded guitars are featured on the ethereal “Oh Well Nevermind” and “Wish You Were Here.” The band channels Depeche Mode in “Only You,” with a catchy EDM beat and echoed synths and guitars that create a compelling, otherworldly vibe. The darkest track on the album is “Waste You.” To a languid, repetitive bass line, distorted synth chords and a mournful guitar riff, Davis menacingly sings “I’ll waste you, I’ll take you. Even in my dreams I like to hate you.” The song closes with a computer-altered voice-over of a portion of the moving speech Robert Kennedy gave in Indianapolis after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., that tragically foreshadowed his own assassination two months later.

This is a great, well-crafted album that explores man’s darker sensibilities with imaginative use of electronic synthesizers and artful instrumentation. Support They Called Him Zone by following them on  Twitter and Facebook. Stream their music on Soundcloud and purchase it on Bandcamp.

Featured Videos: WHALE HOUSE – “Red Sun/Think of Me”

As I’ve stated before on this blog, there is so much great rock music being made by so many talented artists and bands today, that I’m sometimes overwhelmed by it all. And every once in a while, I discover a band that stands out from the crowd by virtue of their incredible musicianship and sound. Whale House is such a band. Hailing from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, they describe their sound as ” a sublime blend of Noise & Melody.” More accurately, their dynamic sound has elements of experimental, grunge and psychedelic alternative rock.

Whale House was formed in 2009 by Clayton Brice and Caleb Price, both on vocals, guitar and bass. The duo released a 3-track EP From the Traps in 2011.  Drummer Chris Dunn joined the band in 2013, and they subsequently released Stand Out. They followed up with their superb highly experimental 5-track EP The Negative Space in 2015, and dropped the excellent single “Freeway” earlier this year. Now they’ve released two new videos for their awesome songs “Red Sun” and “Think of Me.”

The electrifying videos were produced by SCOSH Films as Collaborate Forever Live Sessions filmed at Ambient Inks print shop in Eau Claire. Involved with production were videographer Scott Kunkel, photographer Kyle Lehman, sound engineer Steve Norwick and Bryan Hanna on mastering.  The videos were filmed using movable walls and lots of fluorescent lighting, creating an otherworldly vibe. The guys all wearing sunglasses adds an edgy sense of mystery.  I really like the videos for several reasons, one of which being that I enjoy seeing the band actually performing their songs, rather than act out some odd story line like in a lot of videos.

“Red Sun” starts off with a thumping bass line, then explodes with a barrage of shredded and swirling guitars and Dunn’s thunderous drums that instantly brought chills.  Brice and Price coax scorching hot riffs from their guitars, their commanding, intertwining vocals in perfect harmony. This is one gorgeous rock song!

“Think of Me” is more experimental and psychedelic, and everything about it is jaw-dropping amazing. Clocking in at 6 1/2 minutes, the song is a tour de force that astonishes from start to finish. First off, the buzzing bass line is monumental – seemingly powerful enough to slam you against the wall. Then come the hard-hitting, staccato guitar riffs that practically tear your face off, followed by more snarling guitars and pummeling drums that make your heart race. The guys’ vocals alternately smolder and scream, sounding a bit like Kurt Cobain, and guaranteed to raise the hair on the back of your neck.  By song’s end, I had to catch my breath. Wow, just wow!

Support these amazing musicians by by following them on Twitter,  Facebook  and  Instagram. Subscribe to their YouTube channel, and stream their music on Spotify, or purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes.