Sunday, 31 January 2016

Yuri Gagarin - At The Center Of All Infinity

(December 2nd, 2015, Kommun 2, Sulatron)

Yuri Gagarin are an instrumental psychedelic / space rock quintet hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden and At The Center Of All Infinity is their second full-lenght album. Right from the start, without a big introduction, you are launched straight into orbit with a great opener "The New Order". Heavy riffing, spacey effects and synths, absolutely face-melting guitar leads and a tight rhythm section are the features of this very experienced crew which definitely did their psychedelic homework. From the space and kraut rock classics like Hawkwind, early Nektar, Ash Ra Tempel  to a bit more contemporary psychedelia like Ozric Tentacles, Acid Mothers Temple and the heavier stuff like Monster Magnet,  these guys pretty much cover it all. The cosmic atmosphere, the unbelievable groove and the incredibly catchy melodies and solos make this album superb and one of my favourite space rock records. The further you listen to it, the further you travel into the vastness of their sonic cosmos, swirling, twisting and turning like a comet with each new riff and each new melody. The lead guitar really stands out in this band (although all of them are clearly magnificent musicians). It is executed with great precision, but it never sacrifices the groove and the melody for the technique... It's really easy to listen and get lost in it.  The song "I See No God Up Here" is a nice ambiental intermezzo that gives you a short break from this intense interstellar trip, but as soon as the title song kicks in you're back in faster-than-speed-of-light gear, wooshing through space.

   Yuri Gagarin set a high standard with their debut and they definitely kept it with At The Center Of All Infinity which has pristine production and even a bit more originality while the overall vibe of the album is a bit darker and oriental influences can occasionally  be heard. It feels like an upgraded and longer version of the first one and a clear step forward by the band.
   The album is available in multiple formats. Digital, CD (released by Sulatron records) and vinyl (first press sold out within 24 hours, but the second one is on its way and available for preorder). The stunning cover artwork was done by Pahl Sundstrom.

   I recommend this great release to all experienced cosmonauts, but also to newcomers to the genre. Its great groove and fluidness make it an easy listening and a great introduction into contemporary psychedelic and space rock. Definitely an album to "turn on, tune in and drop out". Enjoy it.

- Luka

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Mammatus - Sparkling Waters

(November 20th, 2015, Spiritual Pajamas)

I love progressive rock with all my heart. Of course, I’m talking about classic prog rock from the 70s. It’s really hard to find something with the same amount of feeling, originality and beautifulness. The “neo-progressive rock” doesn’t excite me nowhere as near as the earlier stuff . So I was living in the 70’s prog without caring about a horrible truth that this genre is dying. Well…maybe not yet. Something happened. Something really promising. In last few years there are some new progressive rock acts. Not as original as the first wave of this music, but with something that “neo-prog” bands couldn’t capture – magical feeling and some kind of mystical, psychedelic and cosmic atmosphere. Astra, Eye, Diagonal, Ancestors and Mammatus. These are the most promising acts of the new wave of prog rock. They are a sign that something is definitely happening on the scene and I find it very exciting that one of my favourite genres isn’t dead yet. Maybe the best evidence is the album in this review. Ladies and gentlemen – Sparkling Waters by Mammatus. 

   Mammatus is the most spacey band of all mentioned. These Americans are drowning in the sea of early Hawkwind and Gong. There’s definitely more groove in their stuff, but they surely know how to get a cosmic trance going on. Mammatus, while maybe considered a part of a stoner rock scene, do not rely exclusively on heavy riffs and this is what distinguishes them from the other bands in the genre. They love to swim into another direction, into a world full of astral vibes. There are a lot of ambient moments on this album, beautiful melodies, really good compositions, all accompanied by a polished production. These guys really know how to make fantastic, breathtaking music. This is also a very chilled out and soundscape-ish album. It’s great to a calm yourself a little, take a break, not to think and just dive into their music.

   No, this is not an easy listening experience for somebody new to the genre. Four long tracks (the shortest one clocking at fifteen minutes)…so if you are searching for catchy choruses and songs for singing in the shower this is definitely not your thing. But person like this is probably not reading this anymore. If you love spiritual experiences, mellow melodies, atmospheric feeling and complex songwriting this album is definitely for you. In this case it can be even one of your favourite albums, like it is to me.  It’s one of the best albums of 2015 and, within the genre, it’s one of the best albums in a long, long time. You can also hear more originality than in previous Mammatus’ stuff. They know where to go, where to evolve their sound… I can do nothing but clap passionately. Beautiful job, great album, keep on rockin’.


David Bowie - Blackstar

(January 8th, 2016, ISO Records, Columbia, Sony Music)

I know that maybe David Bowie isn’t the best topic for this blog. He’s mainstream, famous, and his work isn’t from the depths of the sonic underworld. But I just couldn’t resist. I couldn’t resist not to write a review of his newest album. Not only because it’s great but also, sadly, because this genius musician, and one of my biggest personal heroes died just after he released it. I want to give him a little homage with this review. He deserved it by influencing me throughout  big part of my life. I loved his music since I met it, and I will until my death.
   New album, Blackstar, welcomes us with its ascetic graphical style. On front cover is –surprise!- a black star. This is the only album of Bowie, where on front of it isn’t his photo… Well, technically, because in the vinyl version his photo is exactly within the black star. Speaking of the vinyl version, it is very worth buying the album in this format. It’s just beautiful and very enjoyable to see such well issued album in a collection. You can feel that you’re holding last album of one of the greatest musicians in the history of rock. Hard to feel disappointed...

   Bowie didn’t want to stay in safe boundaries, and his last album is full of his signature signs – changing the genres as easy as gloves, marrying many styles and giving them his special touch, which make, even most complicated music, easy and catchy listen. He always knew how to make complicated things sound easy. So, we have here a little mishmash of krautrock, fusion, jazz, classic pop and even slight influence of rap. In my opinion, the most heartbreaking track on the album is "Lazarus". Reflections of death, gentle saxophone and vocals full of pain... The best recipe for a beautiful song. I also love the fantastic title song, the most krautrock-ish track on the album, where Bowie shows his avant-garde side in all it’s glory. It’s really unbelievable. However, writing about the songs individually doesn’t make any sense. Mostly because whole album is surprisingly balanced. Nothing is really standing out from the rest, no bad songs at all. Well, to be honest, I would like a more powerful ending than "I Can’t Give Everything Away". But that’s just fine. It’s still good song, and this is just a little “fly in the ointment “.
   In stylistic way, Blackstar is closest to Bowie’s industrial experiment from 1995 – 1. Outside, but Blackstar is more subdued and calmed down. You can really feel the wiseness of an old man reflecting upon his fate after death. There are experiments, but nothing really mad. And that’s good. Mad times are gone. A Lad Insane isn’t immortal. This album also needs more than only one listen if you want to discover all its special spices and tastes. This definitely isn’t easy listening despite what people say about Bowie. But, to be frank, maybe it’s just my excuse to listen it all over again, and again, and again. Because I just can’t let go of this album and since it came out I listen to it every day. But I don’t see anything wrong in it… It’s probably one of the best Bowie’s albums ever. After some years, it’ll be another classic from his discography and I’m proud that I own this one. The only question is... where are we now? Will we find another genius as Bowie? Time will tell... Bowie learns the patience, so let’s wait, shall we?

- Tomek

Monday, 18 January 2016

Tyranny – Aeons in Tectonic Interment

(September 18th, 2015, Dark Descent Records) 

Funeral doom metal was always a cradle of heaviness, inscrutable darkness and pitchy filth of slowness. Nobody can deny that. It’s a fact since great classic bands like Disembowlement , Thergothon and Skepticism laid foundations to the genre.  There is something very deep and emotional in this heavy music which passes through ear drums like an earthquake. Funeral doom can be brutal and disturbing but at the same time also quite calming. Most certainly – this music is not boring, as some anti-fans like to think. In this review I will describe you one of the best funeral doom albums of the year. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome – Tyranny from Jarvenpaa.

    Tyranny is a two person project from Finland whom you may know from a band named Wormphlegm, which was interestingly mixing various doom subgenres like sludge, drone and funeral doom. One of Tyranny’s members is also a current member of a death metal band Corpsessed. Aeons in Tectonic Interment isn’t the first album of the band. In 2005 they released their debut – Tides of Awakening.  It was a very dark, brooding, haunting and extremely heavy album which set a high standard for their next release. 

   It seems these Finns don’t like long intros, so we are immediately taken to the point. At the very beginning you are already surrounded by heaviness which will make your vertebrae tremble. The production is quite good; dark, extremely heavy, but also, surprisingly clear and atmospheric (probably the first thing you will notice if you compare it to the debut album which sounded much rawer and somewhat muddier). One could think the whole thing was recorded in a big cathedral. This is the feeling I get while listening to the album. Tyranny’s immense atmosphere and heaviness surrounds us from the first second and doesn’t let go until the very end. Album’s nightmarish soundcapes make it great for late night listening while reading something by H.P. Lovecraft. It’s practically a soundtrack for his stories.
   I don’t know what more I can say to recommend you this album. This is probably the best album in funeral doom metal in the past year (and there were some great albums released by Skepticism and Bell Witch). I have a feeling I will spend many more nights listening to this masterpiece, and hoping we won’t have to wait another ten years for next Tyranny album (although it was definitely worth the wait).