Polkadot Cadaver – Last Call in Jonestown Track Review

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Simply put, if you haven’t listened to Polkadot Cadaver yet, you are missing out on the best music you never knew existed. Todd Smith is easily one of the most promising musicians in the business, and this new album is shaping up to be the band’s crowning achievement. Two key members of Polkadot Cadaver, the aforementioned Smith and guitarist Jasan Stepp played in Dog Fashion Disco (with Jasan joining prior to the release of DFD’s magnum opus, “Adultery”), so you already know what an exciting time this is if you’re familiar with that band. Todd and Jasan have been astoundingly prolific these past few years. Since 2011, we’ve had a new PDot album, a debut from Knives Out!, and a second solo release under the name of El-Creepo. And now, they’re poised to release a new Polkadot Cadaver album that threatens to nullify them all.

As far as I’m concerned, Polkadot Cadaver is a continuation of Dog Fashion Disco. Both of Polkadot Cadaver’s albums make this abundantly clear with their zany circus music mixed with groove metal and the occasional disturbing ballad. The most exciting thing about this album so far (aside from the fact that the one song released so far pretty handily blows everything on Sex Offender [2011] clear out of the water) is the pride on display from the contributing members. Following several of the musicians on Facebook, every status for a while was about how “LCiJT is a rager.” or something to that effect. For reference, the pre-release hype from the band has never been this high for any of their other recent projects.

Onto the song itself: The new track is quite possibly the heaviest song the band has ever done. There were moments on PDot’s debut that had a bit of a thrashy edge (What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen? is the most obvious example), and Knives Out! certainly had its fair share of heavy moments. This song, however, is downright uncompromising in its aggression. While Jasan had a tendency to write simple, groovy riffs that were perfectly headbangable, the riffs here are much more complex yet just as catchy. Smith’s lyrics take a break from sordid love songs and serial killer biopics and instead talk about the infamous massacre from which the song derives its name. Included for good measure is a spoken word passage from what I assume is one of the cult leaders involved in the event. I can already see this song becoming a live favorite with its infectious, “shout-along” chorus. Jasan even tests the waters with a pretty solid guitar solo, which is a very rare occurrence for this band.

As the opening track on the album, this song seems like it’s setting the stage for the remainder of the album in the best way possible. Pre-orders can be found here. There’s a wide variety of bundle options including shirts, stickers, and even a freaking skateboard deck. Dig deep, folks. This is a band that deserves any support you can give them. Last Call in Jonestown releases on May 14th, with the album release party (which I will most certainly be attending) to be held at Peabodys Down Under in Cleveland, OH on May 3rd with special guests Psychostick and Downtown Brown.


Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)

Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)

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I never really loved you, but I’ll miss you anyway

Having put out the highly praised double-album Grace For Drowning in 2011, Steven Wilson is back with follow-up The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories), his third solo album. Since Porcupine Tree went on a hiatus, Steven Wilson have been making music heavily influenced by 70’s Progressive Rock, and this time he takes his talented live band with him into the studio for the first time.

Over the years, Steven Wilson have become a bit of a legend within the Progressive Rock-scene, and he has gained many fans due to his craftsmanship and ability to always evolve. “The Raven That Refused to Sing” feels like a natural progression from the previous album, Grace For Drowning, and it continues down the path of 70’s Progressive Rock, heavily influenced by bands like King Crimson and Yes.

The album starts off on a familiar note. “Luminol” is a song that was played live on tour before the album came out, and it was also featured on the live DVD, Get All You Deserve which came out last year. It is a song with very little singing, and it is almost an instrumental song with the various instruments trading places with each other. While the song is not 100% representative of how the whole album sounds, it very much sets the tone, and displays the talented musicianship that shines through on the album.

Lyrically the album is about different ghost stories, some of them are pretty scary, and some of them are sad. The title-track in particular has a very sad story about loss and mortality. The title-track is up there with some of his best work, and it is a ballad in a similar style to “Deform to Form a Star”, from the previous album Grace For Drowning. Another standout song is “The Watchmaker”, which features a clever use of acoustic guitars, but also some harmony vocals that has become Steven Wilson’s trademark.

The album is very good. The biggest issue is that it does not feel very exciting. Steven Wilson has already made most of this before, and while you do not have to reinvent yourself on every album or change genres completely, it is nice with a new twist or a new aspect if you are doing something you have done before. Soundwise it is very similar to Grace For Drowning which in my opinion is a stronger and more interesting album. Still, the album is far from bad, and if you enjoyed the previous albums, or enjoy Progressive Rock in general, I suggest you check Raven out.

Standout tracks: The Raven That Refused to Sing, The Watchmaker, Luminol.

Amplifier – Echo Street

Amplifier – Echo Street

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”Its just a few miles to oblivion now, there was a bad connection from the start.”

It has been almost a decade since Amplifier released their self-titled debut album which successfully fused different musical elements, resulting in a very interesting sound combining the best of Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Alternative Rock and Space Rock with a heavier edge. Since 2004, the band has put out several EPs and two studio albums, the latest one being a big behemoth called “The Octopus”, a two-hour long double-album. The Octopus was an album with a very dark and heavy atmosphere. But that was two years ago, and the band is now back with a new album, the follow-up, Echo Street, which is almost the complete opposite of what The Octopus was.

Where the latter was a heavier album with a sometimes muddy sound and dark atmosphere, Echo Street is a light and bright album with a more clean production and more focused songwriting. In many ways, Echo Street is a very unique album in the Amplifier catalog. While I personally really liked The Octopus, it is very refreshing that Echo Street sounds completely different. It is noticeable right from the very beginning of the album, and the opening-song “Matmos” (and the whole album in general) will probably divide fans when it comes to opinions. It starts off quiet and really takes its time to build up, by some simple and effective chord strumming and singing. When the chorus finally kicks in after almost three and a half minutes, the song really lifts to higher levels. The song sets the tone for the album and what will come.

Musically I would say Echo Street is the least heavy album the band has put out, and the focus has shifted more towards creating epic soundscapes and crafting melodies. The Pink Floyd-influence shines through on a few of the longer songs, in a positive way. The band manages to make something unique out of it. Two fascinating songs on the album are “Where the River Flows” and “Between Today and Yesterday”, both are calmer songs, and the latter has this singer/songwriter-sound to it. Very unique compared to what the band has done before, and in a positive way. The melodies in these songs really stand out, and to me it is proof that the band has matured even more since the previous releases.

But if you like Amplifier for their more Progressive-side, do not worry. There are plenty of epic moments, the 12 minute song “Extra Vehicular” features a bass line so catchy that any bassist would be jealous, and it has one of the best solo-sections on the entire album. Five of the eight songs on the album are longer than seven minutes, and they all take their time to build up. What makes Echo Street so unique is the fact that most of the songs are fairly calm and light in terms of tone. Previous albums have had heavier, faster and more straightforward songs, but this album sounds almost like you would expect from the front cover.

I also highly recommend checking out Sunriders EP which came as a bonus if you bought the limited version of Echo Street. The songs on the EP are pretty different from how the album sounds, and the title-track on the EP is just as good as the best stuff on the album. Really amazing song with some sweet melodies, overall the EP gives you four songs that does not really fit with the rest of the album, but makes an excellent partner. Echo Street is in my opinion the best album the band has put out so far. I really hope this initial reaction will remain, right now this is an early favorite for best album in 2013. But it is a long year, and anything could happen. Recommended for anyone who likes Progressive music.

Standout tracks: Matmos, Extra Vehicular, Where the River Goes, Paris in the Spring, Between Today and Yesterday.

Rishloo – Feathergun (2009)

I have no idea what's going on in this album cover, but it's pretty artsy.

I have no idea what’s going on in this album cover, but it’s pretty artsy.

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Rishloo is a fascinating entity with a very short, sad history. They released three albums before the singer (the strongest link of the band, more on that later) left for undisclosed reasons. Feathergun, their swansong, is an absolute monster of an album that deserves much more attention that it will, unfortunately, ever get. This album seamlessly blends groovy nu-metal riffs with atmospheric textures and contains one of the most impassioned vocal performances I have ever heard.

The album starts out with Scissorlips, a hard-hitting opener that dazzles with a sweeping melodic chorus interspersed with a groove-laden riff and incredibly passionate vocals from Andrew Mailloux. As the song goes on, we are treated to an ethereal bridge before the chorus is altered to a more optimistic sound. For the rest of the album’s duration, the mood seems to jump from utterly bleak to cautiously hopeful at the drop of a hat. Brilliantly, the band doesn’t rely on either style to convey a single emotion. For example, Diamond Eyes is one of the albums darkest musical moments, and it accomplishes this feeling without a single distorted guitar. Feathergun in the Garden of the Sun, easily the most technically challenging song here, has a raucous chorus that immediately turns sour with a dreary chord progression.

Special mention must be made of Downhill, the album’s centerpiece and crown jewel. Beginning with a repetitive guitar motif and some beautifully raw, crooning vocals, it eventually takes on a bit of a groove before descending again into the depressive aura that permeates the album. It later leads to the often-cliched “epic build up” culminating in the most incredible moment of Rishloo’s entire career. Seriously, the guitar solo on top of it could be up there with Comfortably Numb as one of the most emotional performances by any guitarist ever.

Now, the vocals: I can already anticipate that a lot of people probably won’t care for Andrew Mailloux’s voice that much. The high notes are often “barked” out and sound like they’re right at the edge of his vocal range. To me, this just adds to the passion that Andrew brings to the table with every line he sings. And that’s really the ultimate key to this album. The band members aren’t anywhere near the benchmark for technical proficiency in progressive metal (though the drummer has an affinity for cymbals that rivals Neil Peart), but they get by on the sheer emotional impact. The songs are rich with hooks, and the atmospheric sections are especially impressive. Every now and then, a solid nu-metal riff will stomp you back into submission.

Because of the constant stylistic variation, the album has excellent flow. It gains a great deal from being listened to as a whole, but the songs have clear and distinct boundaries. To facilitate the flow, songs are connected by the occasional beautiful interlude (See Turning Into Goats and Systematomatic). Even so, songs like River of Glass and Diamond Eyes could just as easily be listened to on their own.

Overall, this album should be required listening for anyone into progressive metal and looking for something different. Even fans of straight ambient music looking for something with a bit more substance should find plenty to fall in love with here.