The King Said – Comet Chaser

Comet Chaser cover art

Artist The King Said
Album Comet Chaser
Genre Post-Rock / Progressive
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Label White Label
Release 26 January 2013
Rating Solid / Very Good

The King Said are yet another promising instrumental band to hail from Northern Ireland, who bring us their debut release in ‘Comet Chaser’. Drawing inspiration from second wave post rock acts such as This Will Destroy You and Mono, you might imagine a similar predictability to this before you even hit ‘play’, but this isn’t entirely the case. There is no hanging around, as the title track immediately grabs attention with a soaring guitar lead – the rest of the band catching up shortly after with pounding rhythm. This is largely constant throughout, building on a riff you will be humming shortly.

The King Said differ from the acts mentioned above in that they get straight to the point. There is still a quiet/loud element to this music, but condensed into a much shorter space of time. There’s the odd shade of post-metal; the double kick and big muff bass lines give us that extra beef. “Concrete Sky” is a slower starter, and more similar to the likes of The American Dollar or even Mogwai with looming ambient introduction and handy drum line.

Contrary to the traditional shoe gaze stance of a lot of post rock acts, The King Said invert and encourage us to look skyward, through their sound and track names. Closer “Architect” is the best example on this release, giving the impression that something bigger is up there – it is unashamedly grandiose, thumping and shuddering to its climax which is absolutely massive. This is happy post rock – think Moonlit Sailor and you will love this. Overall, ‘Comet Chaser’ is a clear and concise first outing, and if this is a taster of things to come for The King Said, the future could well be bright as their sound. – Zicowoods

Surgeon – Fjords

Fjords cover art

Artist Fjords
Album Surgeon
Genre Post-Metal / Post-Rock
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Label Independent
Release 25 December 2012
Rating Average

I’ve heard the Newfoundland, Canada 4-piece Surgeon described as Post-metal, though they are self-described as instrumental prog-rock, which is more fitting than Post-metal, as they are aren’t metal to my ears. I recently gave their latest release “Fjords” a listen, and I’m left wanting more. Some of that is due to expecting more metal in the “post-metal”. To explain:

There are a lot of moments of cool bits or great sounds on this album. A great example is the opening and titular track of the album; the listener is greeted with a barrage of heavy punches. I love albums that start out by slamming the listener around. It really gets the listener’s attention, makes one sit up and take notice. You’ve my attention, Surgeon. However, we go from that opening assault to a mellower instrumental jam section. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t live up to the promise first thirty seconds of the track delivers. We start picking up momentum, and the bits around the five-minute mark are great furrow-your-brow-and-smirk “fuck yeah” moments that end far too soon. In the end, it’s a 6+ minute song that has a minute worth of awesome and the rest is only OK.

For one more example, “Leaf Blower” has a cool guitar intro. Add some cymbal and a rad guitar harmonic part, and this track feels like it’s really going places. However, around two minutes in and we’ve lost that intensity. We’ve gone into prog territory. This is not a bad thing at all, but it’s not incredible either. “Leaf Blower” doesn’t recapture my attention like the opening 30 seconds did. The tracks on the album seem to have this in common. There are a lot of builds that don’t grow to bursting, and there are a lot of cool parts with too much “only ok” music between. This album isn’t a bad listen, but it’s not gripping. But fans of instrumental or prog music should definitely give this a listen. However, as a post-rock/post-metal release, I’d call it average. – Tim

We Used to Heave Horses – ‘Parts’

Parts cover art

Artist We Used to Have Horses
Album Parts
Genre Post-Rock / Ambient
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Label Let’s Juggle  Records
Release 25 January 2013
Rating Solid

Last year Niall Jones, the  tireless artist who goes under the moniker We Used to Have Horses, put out two albums and an EP within the first four months of 2012. While I did praise the releases for their stellar guitar work and use of string instruments, I cited muddy bass and out-of-place drumming during the more ambient segments as turnoffs. Jones is back this year with ‘Parts‘, a four-track 24 minute record that is an exciting departure from the more ambient side of the project, venturing into the heavier territories of crescendo-core filled with upbeat math-rock influence.

The intro track, “1.1” opens up the record with dual layered clean guitar-work that is shortly joined by a twinkly piano arrangement. As those layers setup a solid baseline, the track really kicks into gear at the first sound of distortion guitar which interjects itself into the fray about four minutes into the album. A solid breakdown at the end of the track really ties the whole track together. “1.2” leaps outward as the next track and is a far departure from what we come to expect out of We Used to Have Horses. A prominent bass-line plays over a math-rock sounding guitar layer as drums hurry the pace with a quick beat. Post-Rock and Math-rock somewhat go hand in hand and we see quite a bit of overlap in the genres, but I think this might be the first time I’ve heard a primarily ambient artist attempt a math-rock jam. I particularly enjoy the bass in the track and the whole track itself is an interesting number that finishes by spiraling out of control.

“1.3” is the real breadwinner on ‘Parts‘ in my opinion. The track opens with fluttering piano work that creates an aural soundscape that is calm and relaxing. A quiet gentle guitar plays a complimentary partner to the piano work as the two synergize beautifully to create an ambient soundscape that feels like the ideal track for heavy eyes to drift away to into slumber land. Building in intensity a second guitar layer steals the spotlight for a brief moment as a crescendo guitar spirals in the depth of the mix while cymbals crash at a reserved volume as to not overpower the mood. This is exactly the sort of excellent ambient jam I’ve come to expect from We Used to Have Horses and “1.3″ certainly doesn’t disappoint. “1.4” closes out the album as a strong post-rock track that is fairly heavy crescendo-core that I noticed shared more than a few similarities in the traits of bands Jones lists as influences. The album closes strong with a giant post-rock finale that sees the track come to a full head of steam before tapering off into the ambience from which the album begin.

Parts‘ is a real interesting album that tells the story of a well-rounded musician not afraid to branch out and try to create new sounds in unfamiliar territories. Each of the four tracks on this album are distinct and full of their own personality. And while they might not synergize together as well as the songs on his other albums, I still think I prefer ‘Parts‘ to We Use to Have Horse‘s three 2012 releases. The production of the album is miles better and I just feel like this album is really a breath of fresh air in the discography of Jones, who has already accomplished so much in the ambient and post-rock genres in such little time. – 2/15/13

The Autumn Leaves Fall In – “The Different Visions of Things”

The Different Visions Of Things cover art

Artist The Autumn Leaves Fall In
Album The Different Vision of Things
Genre Post-Metal / Drone
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Label Independent
Release 17 January 2013
Rating Very Good

The Autumn Leaves Fall In are a deafening post-rock/Post-Metal band from Italy who have the keen ability to create beautiful soundscapes only to blow them up with Thick guitar work that groans in agony and despair. The Florence 3-piece put out their latest album, ‘The Different Visions Of Things’ as a DIY release on bandcamp in January and I have to say that I’m thoroughly impressed by the maturity and craftsmanship presented throughout the album. Formed in 2010 these fine gents have created one hell of a record that fans of highly moody soundscapes should lavish.

From the alluring drone post-rock of “We Were One” to the layered guitar work of “Chinese Shadows Theater” which embeds multiple different styles of guitar that build in a calculating and methodical, edging but never reaching full fruition. Bass is rich and warm, playing the perfect minimalist partner to guitar work that drives each of the 6 tracks. One element of this album I really enjoy is that drummer Alessandro Lucarini never tries to do too much behind the kit. When guitar work isn’t front and center, Lucarini provides a solid beat and when the guitar peaks throughout the tracks there isn’t the non-stop cymbal riding that is rampant in post-rock. A perfect example of this is the track “Deeper Through It” in which he maintains a relatively straight forward beat that pushes the track along, pairing beautifully with the drone guitar static, only intensifying towards the end of the track as the whole song comes to a head.

Honestly this is one of the better releases I’ve heard all year in terms of heavier post-rock. We’ve seen a lot of “pretty” and “twinkly” third wave releases so far in the first month and half of the year, but not too many heavier albums that let your mind drift off to aural soundscapes and loud static-filled passages.  ‘The Different Visions of Things’ does a great job filling that void. This Will Destroy You and God Is An Astronaut fans should be feel right at home with The Autumn Leaves Fall In. This is an album that definitely has earned it’s spot on my ipod and should see ample amounts of play throughout the year. 2-15-13

Locomotora – This Very Holding Back

This very holding back cover art

Artist Locomotora
Album ‘This Very Holding Back’
Genre Post-rock / Instrumental
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Label Independent
Release Jan 25 2013
Rating Very Good

Though their debut album, ‘Canopy’, was released (somewhat unassumingly) during the tail end of 2011, it wasn’t until mid-way through last year that French post-rock newcomer Silent Whale Becomes A Dream became the most talked-about band in post-rock communities and forums across the web. They were the new Mono. To some, they were a better Mono. ‘Canopy’ was more Mono than Mono‘s own ‘For My Parents’ turned out to be. Mono.

But then people went quiet about ‘Canopy’ for a while; presumably because they were all busy listening to it. But this isn’t a review for some new Silent Whale Becomes A Dream release (who knows how long we will have to wait for that). This time, the honourary Mono album of 2013 award goes to… Locomotora, with their album ‘This Very Holding Back’.

It isn’t as straight-forward as that, however. Mono are a band of gaps. In the mid-00’s they shifted from their heavily guitar-centric “wall-of-noise” sound to a more serene and beautiful sonic fingerprint, whereby dramatic strings were growingly prominent and guitars were used to channel elegance and emotion rather than power and aggression. It just so happens that bands such as Silent Whale Becomes A Dream and Locomotora are here to fill those gaps, by playing music that embraces drama and beauty whilst still maintaining a dark and at times sorrowful quality that’s contrary to Mono‘s recent displays of romance and optimism. Locomotora are different to Silent Whale Becomes A Dream in that their focus is less on showcasing the power of textural guitar-playing, and more on composing a rich tapestry of sound, with mournful strings and songs that are both immediate and exploratory.

On the surface the tag “Mono clone” might seem appropriate when describing this band, however tonal differences are often what make an album stand on its own, a notion to which ‘This Very Holding Back’ is a striking testament.

New Music Friday!

Here’s a fresh batch of albums released in 2013 for your listening pleasure. We won’t be reviewing these but we want to hear what you think. Check them out and leave a comment letting us know what you think of these albums.

#TenderTropic cover art

Artist El Tercer Semestre
Album ‘#TenderTropic’
Genre Math-Rock
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Label Independent
Release Jan 15 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

Split cover art

Artist La tumba de Nicolas Cage/Témpano
Album ‘Split’
Genre Heavy Post-Rock
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Label Auge Records
Release Feb 1 2013

 

 

 

 

 

En vivo | Patio Espiral cover art

Artist Dos Astronautas
Album ‘En vivo | Patio Espiral ‘
Genre Ambient / Post-rock
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Label Independent
Release Jan 5 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Beginnings cover art

Artist Qualia
Album ‘Beginnings’
Genre Ambient / Post-rock
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Label Independent
Release Jan 18 2013

 

 

 

 

 

T A P S cover art

Artist Thousand Mile Channel
Album ‘T A P S’
Genre Electronic / Post-rock
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Label Housewarming Records
Release Jan 19 2013

They Rise, We Die release demo via bandcamp

demo cover artThey Rise, We Die are a 4-piece Seattle area post-rock/post-metal band who just released a rough demo via their bandcamp page that is available for “name your price”. The currently unsigned band will be performing on the same bill as X-Suns and Post-Madonna this Sunday at The Comet Bar in Seattle. Postrockstar will be on hand to check out what should be a great night of post-rock so you can expect photos and possibly video from that show in the near future!

Nomads – Nomads

NOMADS cover art

Artist Nomads
Album Nomads
Genre Post-Rock / Ambient
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Label Independent
Release 24 Dec 2012
Rating Solid

Nomads are an unsigned 3-piece band post-rock band from Ohio, which has quietly overtaken Texas as the most dominant post-rock region in America. Despite very little promotion, their self-titled debut album has been streamed over 10,000 times on bandcamp in its first month. For being a 100% self-produced album the production qualities are solid, far more so than the majorities of releases we’ve seen so far in 2013.  The band’s style is primarily straight forward 3rd wave post-rock that walks on the lighter side of the genre.

The 11-track, 42-minute album kicks off with a short one minute piano intro “Moses” before leaping into “Cleaveland On The Square“, a track that doesn’t try to do too much by staying relatively mellow. Smooth bass lines flow as free as the cymbals that crash in wide open spaces as guitar work drives the track forward. “Surveying The Western Reserve” is a track that optimizes the peaks and valleys post-rock formula by coming to a snail’s pace lull at multiple points in the track. The valleys are relatively ambient “twinkly” moments while the peaks build to the point where you think the band is ready to shed the lighter aura they’ve created on the album. It’s almost as if the band has chosen to be tastefully loud to play it safe, finding a happy medium as not to turn away ambient fans while still satisfying those who prefer the heavier breakdowns the post-rock genre offers.

“Heading North” is yet another one minute transitional track and while it serves its purpose, I would have rather seen this track and the two other one-minute transitional/setup tracks on the album worked into the tracks that lead into or follow them as to not unnecessarily inflate the track count. I suppose that’s a minor complaint though and the album is the same regardless. “Home” is the longest track on the album at over nine minutes in length and starts with an elegant piano intro that sees spiraling crescendo guitar-work hover in the deepest depths of the background as it slowly forges its way forward. With an ambient center that divides the track, “Home” finishing strong and giving the song a strong case for Nomad’s best work on this album.

Carter and The Banks of the Cuyahoga” opens with this really rustic guitar work that sets the track a part from the rest of the album. The drumming in this track catches the ear and the song itself is one of the heavier tracks found on the album. “Forest City” is a short little acoustic piece that fits in well leading up to “Unwritten Stories of the Towpath Trail” , a track in which deep bass give it a much heavier feel than it actually is. “Guardians of the City” is a wide open track that builds upon itself and before you really notice it simply overpowers you in its finale before the album comes to a close with the atmospheric ambience of “Peace on the Great Lake”.

While enjoyable, Nomad’s first effort didn’t blow me away by any means. There are certainly a lot of things musically that I like about this album and there are other things that can be improved upon. Save for “Home ” and “Carter and The Banks of the Cuyahoga“, I just found the band’s generally soft nature to be a little underwhelming and really wish the band had turned their heavy side loose a bit more. For that, I have to rate this album as solid. That being said I’m certain there will be others who fall in love with the very charming nature of this album. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit to see Nomads supporting some of the bigger post-rock names of the state of Ohio and the surrounding area in the future.

City of the Lost – At The Edge

At the Edge cover art

Artist City of the Lost
Album ‘At The Edge’
Genre Post-metal / Progressive
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Label Independent
Release Jan 7 2013
Rating Solid

City of the Lost are a three (soon to be four ?) piece band from Moscow, Russia who were formed in Late 2010. Since then they’ve put out three releases, including their latest ‘At The Edge’ , released on bandcamp on January 7th. Essentially City of the Lost is yet another solid post-rock/post-metal band that comes to us from Russia, a country that has really taken to the genre and in turn produced a handful of extremely talented and promising bands. The band incorporates a more progressive-rock mindset into their brand of post-metal, opting for sometimes flashy but almost always catchy guitar hooks and uptempo tracks rather than the standard slow, atmospheric build ups we come to expect in the genre.

“A Coming Storm” kicks off the 8-track 38 minute album and couldn’t be any more accurate. The track starts off fast with relatively little build up. The guitar work sounds like what you might expect to find here but combine with 80’s power metal solo’ing tones. The high energy pacing continues into “The Nightingale”, which quickly builds into a multi-layered giant ripe with solid distortion guitars and persistent drumming. There is some elements of crescendo-core to be found here but make no mistake, that’s not what this album is about. City of the Lost are a band that want to earn their stripes based on stellar guitar work that simply blows you away with pure rawness and power, not the finesse of crescendo-core. “Omen, Pt.1 (Temple Keepers)” feels more like a straightforward post-metal track and really takes the album up a notch in intensity. The track starts out really focused but towards the middle sort of takes a more experimental approach through a couple of tempo change before eventually settling back into a strong post-metal groove. “Back to the Future” is a really interesting track that has a total western surfer-rock groove to it. The tones are certainly different from what’s been shown anywhere else on the album.

From that point the album takes a really stark transition to “Rise As One” as the album settles back to its post-metal roots. In so many ways I find particularly this track but mostly just City of the Lost’s sound in general to be something of a cross between the intensity of Toundra and the general unpredictability of Cloudkicker‘s older work. “86 Days of Despair” teases a slow intro before immediately going into reserved yet heavy guitar riffs that would make the late Dimebag Darrel (Pantera) proud. There really is no downtime or breaks on this album, it’s just constantly streaming sick guitar segment after sick guitar segment with no signs of letting off the brakes. Normally I’d say that’s a good thing but I always think the band could have let off the gas pedal a little and offered longer passages one guitar layer. “Basilisk” returns ‘At the Edge’ to the more traditional post-metal realm and also throws some hints of doom metal into the mix.  The album wraps up with “Omen, Pt.2 (The Stargazer)” which for the most part is a relatively relaxed, slower paced track save for a hectic middle segment and a strong finish. It would have really been nice to see the band produced more songs of this nature. It just goes to show the band doesn’t need to rely on overwhelming power to still produce a solid song.

Following getting acquainted with the album I checked out some of the band’s earlier work and their musical progression became crystal clear. Each album tried to upstage the previous and the tracks became less and less linear. ‘At the Edge‘ certainly has the highest audio and production quality of their releases and without question the most energy out of all the band’s work. To me this means that the band is on the right track for success. ‘At The Edge‘ is a solid post-rock release that does everything it can to leave a solid first impression.

Oak – Not Afraid Anymore

Not Afraid Anymore cover art

Artist Oak
Album ‘Not Afraid Anymore’
Genre Post-rock / Instrumental
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Label Independent
Release Jan 19 2013
Rating Solid

‘Not Afraid Anymore’ is the first full length album from the French instrumental rock band Oak, and although it lies on the heavier end of the spectrum, it’s still undeniably post-rock. Treble guitar melodies akin to modern post-rock bands such as pg.lost take precedence over chugging guitar riffs and deep bass-lines; there is a mildly dark atmosphere to the album but it is not a resounding one. Despite the heaviness and focus on bright melody, what makes Oak different to the likes of pg.lost, for better or worse, is a lack of exploration into the dynamics of sound — a reluctance to explore both the very loud and the very quiet. Much of the music on ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ prefers to meander through different sounds — all guitar-based — with little deviation in volume. There are the climaxes you might expect from a post-rock record, but here it is less about the build-up and reward than it is the melodic wanderings and consistency of pace. The tempo is fairly constant, rendering an album that floats in and around you enjoyably, but doesn’t hit you with excitement or intrigue at many specific moments. So for this reason, ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ can be enjoyed in every moment of music that’s on offer, rather than simple anticipation for what’s to come. The result is an album that sounds reminiscent of the music that Meniscus have released in the past few years. In fact, ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ owes a lot to the Australian outfit, and this is one problem that I have with Oak‘s latest release — oftentimes I’d rather just listen to Meniscus. Oak unfortunately lack the more creative, noodly elements by which Meniscus excell so consistently. Though Oak arguably bridge the gap between the heavy, wandering sound of Meniscus and the pretty, melodic sound of pg.lost, I’m not sure that this was a gap that needed to be traversed in the first place.

There are moments during ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ in which the pace is picked up and excitement builds, for example towards the end of “Things Are Getting Bad”; but for those who are looking for excitement and drama in their post-rock, this might be too little, too late. The final two tracks, however, are where ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ really hits its stride, and this is in large part thanks to the brilliant use of a dialogue sample taken from the 2006 film ‘The Fountain’ by director Darren Aronofsky, that skirts the seams between the final two songs. This spoken-word segment — that beautifies so elegently the passage of life into death — is reminiscent of the sample used in ISIS‘s “The Red Sea” (until now my favourite sample in a rock song). The dialogue found here might be my new favourite sample, and it leaves me with a desire to watch ‘The Fountain’. The sample ends with the words “I’m Not Afraid Anymore Tommy” — a moment that builds excitement for the closing track, and signals the timely introduction of these excellent momentum-building drum rolls. This moment is undeniably the album’s highlight, and is the major reason for me wanting to return to ‘Not Afraid Anymore’ for repeated listens. It is a moment that rounds off an album that is rarely ever exhilerating, but consistently pleasing to the ears.