Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 4

On this Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 4 we spread our ears to two bands we’d never heard before, and one that’s attempting to escape it’s music multiverse type casting.  But honestly, we  found some great, fun sounds, new favorite discoveries, and a way to give “grin” away an hour.  We found a cool, frisky, and wicked vocal in a United Kingdom rock band that can reach some interesting styles that are accessible and familiar.  Our ears indulged in progressive rocker from Australia that has been around for 13 years without us having heard a single album (totally not fair to them).  Then we took on an album and band that live in a doubtful possibility.

 

LINK TO OUR YOUTUBE VERSION
[Mark Kuligowski discusses these (3) albums + adds two (2) more reviews at the end]

 

Frank Carter and the RattlesnakesDark Rainbow

Let us set the record, here.  There is nothing wrong with catchy, rocky, and familiarity in sound design and structure.  Is the goal to get on radio?  I’m not even sure if that’s even the case anymore, as much as it used to be, considering the reach of streaming.  It’s probably more important to snag TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube attention.  However, when I heard Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes for the first time, on their brand new, Dark Rainbow, there was something familiar about that vocal, delivery that truly kept my attention.  First, let me tell you, when I see titles of bands that have “and the” I’m already skeptical, and that’s because of so many disappointing bands and records with cool names derived from the “and the.”  When the album kicked off with ‘Honey’ I was drawn in.  That’s right boys, start it off, let it rip a bit, and if I’m lucky — you’re still saving a lot up.  True!  By the time you get to ‘Brambles’ you realize that you’ve taken on some nice twists and turns in their sound without traveling to far away from any comfort zone.  Whether that’s by intention or not, I think it’s a concept to get your audience to trust you.  And, in the first few songs, I’m trusting that familiar voice (My Chemical Romance meets Royal Blood, if I’m going to name drop).  Then, from here, the band puts in the risks, the ballad, the song-writing, the essence and spunk required to let you (the listener) know that they’re worth your ear and time!

‘Queen of Hearts’ edge and stripped musicianship from the first part of the record comes at that perfect moment.  Maybe you’re thinking like I was, maybe it’s becoming very Killers-esque?  Did the vocal suddenly become the forefront of all of this?  What a beautiful second ballad, right on the heels of the last track!  The vocal is just suddenly not where we started, becoming the focal point against a solitary piano.  ‘Sun Bright Golden Happening’ is soft, real, and word-hanging song-writing that doesn’t have a lick of cliche, which I truly appreciate!  And, wait, is that a sax in the final moments — goddamn!  Now, it’s up to the final three songs to bring us home!  Got a feeling!  Oh yeah…

I’m not going to spoil it for you.  I know — you’re like — you freakin’ tease.  Believe me — I think this ways better!  I leave you with the lyrics from the next song, and then… it’s up to you.  ‘Dance like no one’s watching, Fuck me like they all are, Kiss me like you mean it, Baby, let me be your superstar.’  Insert your emoji here later!

The Band

  • Frank Carter – vocals, keyboards
  • Dean Richardson – guitar, programming, keyboard

Additional Musicians

  • Tank Barclay – bass guitar
  • Gareth Grover – drums
  • Elliot Russell – guitar
  • Lorna Blackwood – backing vocals
  • Ronan Sherlock – violin (tracks 1, 5, 6, 11)
  • Cam Blackwood – keyboards (track 4)
  • Simon Richardson – acoustic guitar (track 5)
  • Yasmin Ogilvie – saxophone (track 8)

Dark Rainbow Tracklisting

  1. “Honey”
  2. “Man of the Hour”
  3. “Can I Take You Home”
  4. “American Spirit”
  5. “Happier Days”
  6. “Brambles”
  7. “Queen of Hearts”
  8. “Sun Bright Golden Happening”
  9. “Superstar”
  10. “Self Love”
  11. “A Dark Rainbow”

 

 

Caligula’s Horse – Charcoal Grace

I don’t know if most progressive music lovers will agree with me on this one, but I would have to say that the genre has really seen some very expansive, important and uniquely engaging bands and artists both past and present in the 2020’s so far.  The time to find music attachment to this palette of audio creativity has truly never been better.  It’s not all crazy keyboards and elongated songs that sometimes are more of the journey than the album (to some listeners).  Accessibility, is the greatest avenue to give these bands and this very wide genre a new audience of appreciators.  Enter Caligula’s Horse into this race.  A thoroughbred created back in 2011 in the country of Australia, which has had some very cool bands of influence; Karnivool, Twelve Foot Ninja, Dead Letter Circus, and King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard.  Caligula’s Horse born into the progressive metal/rock arena of the genre seems to not only capture a lot of the inventive nature of its influencers (that post metalcore touches), but have found a true mantel to rest their musicianship on with Charcoal Grace.

Not only does this album house the element that I spoke of, but it harnesses prog-flow to add an intimate audio between and within the progressive rock construct.  Even the vocal arrangement soars to compliment the song-writing as well as rising and falling action throughout the record.  They don’t leave the guitar trapped in rhythm hell either.  They let it hit solo heights, gather momentum in riff and crescendo as well as signatured calm in the tempest moments.  They come at you hard hitting at track beginnings to showcase the musicianship, as well as remind you this is a progressive metal band, too!  That’s ‘Golem,’ for you and it’s a typical scorcher with great heavy pace and riff, even as it adjust the tempo slightly.  But, it’s the ‘Charcoal Grace’ suites that truly defines this album, which makes every bit of sense, considering the title.  The vocals find a place of storytelling nature, a bit more blaze in their delivery against a slightly more melodic approach to their metal, which is a wonderful shift.  This centerpiece is gripping and exploratory at the same time, as it still maintains the integrity of the band’s passion for progressive metal exploration, letting the music breathe in and exhale, too.  ‘Charcoal Grace: A World Without’ is lovely and light-filled on all edges, vocally, guitar patterns, and keyboard, and this is the moment which arrives like the present biggie bands like Haken, and Leprous or Sleep Token (although the latter two are bigger sound departures within albums)‘Charcoal Grace: Vigil’ allows Jim Grey to showcase a hint of Maynard James Keenan, too, which fits elegantly well.

The production on this hour and two-minute recording is magnificent throughout, and the details of the flow of the record are wonderfully arranged to give you a concept record experience in sound.  Caligula’s Horse gives it all to you, track by track and as a full on album.  Charcoal Grace was our first listen to Caligula’s Horse, which has now prompted a march back in time to discover that which we’ve been missing.  This is a prime example of bands being lost in the time we have, and the musical landscape surrounding our days.  We thank the music multiverse for allowing Caligula’s Horse to come galloping into our music landscape this year.  Even though we’re late, we know we can make up for lost time by audio emersion.  Caligula’s Horse is our new favorite at the progressive metal derby gates!

The Band

  • Jim Grey – vocals
  • Sam Vallen – guitars
  • Dale Prinsse – bass
  • Josh Griffin – drums

Additional musicians

  • Kate Derepas – cello
  • Sophie Willis – flute, clarinet
  • Victoria Taylor – trumpet
  • Samuel Andrews – violin

Charcoal Grace Tracklisting

  1. “The World Breathes with Me”
  2. “Golem”
  3. “Charcoal Grace I: Prey”
  4. “Charcoal Grace II: A World Without”
  5. “Charcoal Grace III: Vigil”
  6. “Charcoal Grace IV: Give Me Hell”
  7. “Sails”
  8. “The Stormchaser”
  9. “Mute”

 

 

 

The SmileWall of Eyes

This is the hardest band to review, in my opinion.  Radiohead is by far the most unique, influential and rock defying-re-defining band of the past twenty years plus.  It was 1985 when they began their journey, and it wasn’t experimental, alternative, ambient, electronica, avant-garde progressive to start.  I think we’re all aware of that commercial start with radio friendly ‘Creep,’ but what was to come was perpetual creation, re-creation, and obliteration of any defining rock or musical genre.  They became the biggest band on the planet.  They have one of the greatest produced albums of all time in, Ok Computer.  Not to mention the most critically acclaimed bands, consistently, since the Beatles.  The ear’s of music multiverse would long to hear whatever comes next from album to album with wonderment and astonishing, unabashed musical inventive minimalistic mayhem.  So, why is there this band, The Smile?

Let’s start with the drummer, co-founder of the jazz band, Sons of Kemet, Tom Skinner.  Why?  Well, considering he’s the only member who is not — Radiohead.  This is perhaps where the jazz, looseness of the sound of The Smile originates slightly from.  Although, when you’re huddled into a band of three, where Johnny Greenwood and Thom Yorke are the other two points on your sound triangle, you’ll have to elevate your game so as to not be a third wheel instead of a key point.  If Greenwood and Yorke felt trapped or embodied by their famous band, that seems like a tricky argument due to their ability to do whatever they seem to sound wise from album to album (as well as the time between some of them).  They can be harsh sounds, soft simple or elegant, as well as completely groovy.  Even if one of the members appears to be the driving, totalitarian force, the music fetches on all sides.  Here in the audio threesome of The Smile, the experimental and creativity is not in peril, nor is it overshadowed by any dominating force.  Ok, so, again, why this band, The Smile?

Let’s go to the production and studio, as we are again familiar with Sam Petts-Davies production, but this would be the only full album recorded at Abbey Road.  So, take into consideration the drummer (that avant-jazz man that he is) and the taste that Greenwood and Yorke had on The Bends (which they recorded some at Abbey Road), and maybe you come to grips that this album and band are about as intimately sound oriented as they can get away from their own shadow(s)?  What does that mean?!  The album is slow-fully immersive and aware of the space within Abbey Road.  So, it feels intentful in the production, including the orchestra (they had to be in the studio — place is huge).  This audio has space to levitate, it has slow, modern understated grooves that you won’t catch under casual listening, and it has the Thom Yorke signature lyrical one-of-a-kind weaving that can haunt when the song’s not disturbing in the least, or underhandedly deliver clever in the shadows and slipstreams of any instrumental fusion.

Wall of Eyes is a title I do not grasp, but we are all looking in, in wonderment again.  Our ears are wide open — maybe not on the first listen, but we know we’re in the midst of something creatively remarkable subtle.  It is a thorough soaking of ears, but not by means of professorship of prog-elongated material that takes hours to appreciate.  It’s still in my ear, and there’s more to explore within the depths of sounds captured, not only at the most famous studio in history, but by two of the most modern day famous musicians, as they are still trying to find a way to be more than a part of one of the greatest band in history.  The Smile, on their second record, might not be the right amount of distance to claim that victory — but for the music listener that’s been on this ride with these musicians, it is another accomplishment that puts them on parallel with that greatest band of all time.  You know whom I speak of.  Now, just think of those side projects from that band, and the critical reception and sounds. And, get back to me (because I’ll still be trying to separate — but I always always over-enjoy it all).

The Band

  • Jonny Greenwood – guitars, bass, piano, synthesisers, orchestral arrangements, cello
  • Tom Skinner – drums, synthesisers, percussion
  • Thom Yorke – voice, guitars, bass, piano, synthesisers
  • London Contemporary Orchestra

The Wall of Eyes Tracklisting

  1. Wall Of Eyes
  2. Teleharmonic
  3. Read The Room
  4. Under Our Pillows
  5. Friend Of A Friend
  6. I Quit
  7. Bending Hectic
  8. You Know Me!

 

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