From the lands of rolling hills, beautiful lochs and deep-fried Mars bars comes King Witch, loaded with a double-barrelled doom assault of a debut record named Under The Mountain. The Scottish band wear their influences on their sleeves, with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and even the likes of Mastodon getting a look in here (the latter especially in track names below). What we have here are nine riff-heavy songs that encompass a relatively broad range of classic metal sounds.
Nowhere is this more present than in Laura Donnelly’s fantastic yet deceptive vocals – you could be forgiven for assuming a man was behind the microphone due to her handling of the low notes. Throughout, Donnelly has channels of Bruce Dickinson about her, although her delivery is actually more powerful, leading the line alongside the excellent, catchy and heavy riffs found in the album’s strongest tracks. “Possession” is one of the songs here where the Mastodon influence can be felt in a big way. It’s heavier and faster than the rest of the record, with drums Brann Dailor would be proud of. This track, along with album opener “Beneath the Waves”, make for the best Under The Mountain has to offer.
This latter track is a barnstormer of a song. It builds itself around a lusciously chunky, heavy central riff, slick chorus and powerful kick-drum, and never lets up. When King Witch click, boy do they click. “Carnal Sacrifice” is another quality piece which pays homage to Hammer Horror, with lyrics that cover topics of sacrifice, hell and the Devil. The track plays out much like an Iron Maiden piece, including a typically Bruce Dickinson-esque maniacal laugh towards the end. This cements that Under The Mountain is wildly entertaining when it wants to be.
As well as fun, there is plenty of emotion throughout the recording – brought to the forefront by Donnelly’s brilliant vocal performance. To this end, “Ancients” deserves a mention. It sounds like something straight out of Pink Floyd. Indeed, it’s so similar that I had to look up whether or not it was a cover. It’s not. This acoustic-led piece speaks of the majesty and beauty of Scotland, at once a breath-taking listen but also filled with a sense of dread that is never amiss in the world of doom. “Ancients” builds just like a Pink Floyd number, too; it starts off rather quiet, clutching at your mind with its simple, yet very effective hook. It slowly builds, bringing in more power as it goes, until it explodes into a face-melting, emotionally-charged guitar solo.
King Witch’s full-length debut is a resounding success. It talks of hell, sacrifice and Scotland, put to a classic metal soundtrack that incorporates some more modern sounds. Come for the tasty riffs, but stay for Laura Donnelly’s superbly powerful vocal delivery. This is a very good album!
Under The Mountain Track Listing:
01. Beneath the Waves
02. Carnal Sacrifice
04. Under the Mountain
05. Approaching the End
09. Black Dog Blues
Run Time: 43:05
Release Date: February 9, 2018
Check out the band’s video for their single “Beneath the Waves” here.
The Eighty Six Seas – ‘Scenes from an Art Heist’ [Album Review]
Overall, this album does exactly what it sets out to do in encapsulating a fictionalized version of a famous art heist. Well done, The Eighty Six Seas!
On February 23, 2024, The Eighty Six Seas released their first 11-track full-length album, Scenes from an Art Heist. Each track on this album is meant to represent a fictionalized story of the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.
The first track sets out an eerie aura that aligns with the track’s title, a dedication to Isabella Stewart Gardner. The next song is a quick switch up from the first, with flighty strings and a whispered voice from lead singer Nick Stevens.
Moving on to track number three, “Coffee and Art,” you’ll hear a faster-paced, nearly techno piece that feels like caffeine hitting your bloodstream for the first time in the morning. Their next song, “Jenny,” is a piano-led ballad spotlighting Steven’s melancholy voice. With “Lonely Afternoon,” the track transforms back into the techno feel of “Coffee and Art,” but with a darker twist.
The next song, “Cat/Mouse,” sounds exactly as you’d expect—like a tense cat-and-mouse standoff, with the music accenting this push-and-pull dynamic. “Hey Little Bird” is more or less an instrumental, with occasional lyrics included, but it is clearly meant to be the interlude.
Moving on, we arrive at a track called “The Day I Die,” a techno piece with a fabulous crescendo after its quiet beginnings. Following that, “The Eighty Six Seas” provides its track, “Portrait of a Smuggler,” which quite literally encapsulates the feeling you have while walking through a park on a sunny day.
Next, we come to “Ghost in the Cityscape,” which has darker undertones, a sorrowful cello, and a slower tempo. The final piece is titled “Frames,” which will remind you of a love letter saying goodbye or a beautiful lullaby. Overall, this album does exactly what it sets out to do in encapsulating a fictionalized version of a famous art heist. Well done, The Eighty Six Seas.
Scenes from an Art Heist Track Listing:
1. For Isabella, March 1990
2. Scenes from an Art Heist
3. Coffee and Art
5. Lonely Afternoon
6. Cat / Mouse
7. Hey Little Bird
8. The Day I Die
9. Portrait of a Smuggler
10. Ghost in the Cityscape
Release Date: February 23, 2024
Record Label: Independent
Blind Channel – ‘Exit Emotions’ [Album Review]
While ‘Exit Emotions’ (Century Media Records) contains many of the tropes from the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. Blind Channel continue to move from strength to strength.
Cast your minds back to 2021; it was a dark time for humanity, with the entirety of the world still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries going in and out of lockdowns, and the entertainment industry being brought to its knees. Yet, in the midst of all of this, mankind fought on, with some events managing to take place. One of these was Eurovision, which has delivered, over the years, some incredible winners and given lesser-known artists global recognition. 2021 saw Måneskin take the crown, but on their heels was Finland’s own Blind Channel in sixth place with their song “Dark Side.”
The Finnish nu-metalers already had a handful of records to their name but it was Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous that contained their aforementioned Eurovision entry and made the world really sit up and take notice. With its mix of metal, hip-hop, synth and a touch of glam, it was a breath of fresh air from the European region better known for its output of, let’s say, the (much) heavier side of metal.
With Exit Emotions, Blind Channel now have their eyes focused on bigger things. Whilst they have broken through to the mainstream beyond their borders, it’s not enough for the six-piece, as they explore what it means to truly be on the global stage.
Exit Emotions kicks in hard with “Where’s the Exit,” with its distorted nu-metal beat laced with some techno elements followed swiftly by distorted vocals mixing rap and metal styles seamlessly. Dual vocalists Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen bounce off each other in a symbiotic way, indicating how in tune with each other these guys can be. “Where’s the Exit” feels like it throws everything the band can portray at the wall from their varying influences, and while, on paper, a mix of metal, rock, hip hop, techno, and synth, if difficult to get right, Blind Channel nail it with absolute precision. Several songs on this record follow this formula, like “Deadzone,” “Wolves of California,” and “XOXO” (amongst others), and if the entirety of the record kept to this, whilst fun to listen to, it would run the risk of becoming samey. Thankfully, Blind Channel does mix things up throughout.
“Keeping it Surreal” maintains a relatively heavy approach but dials it back a tad to give the hip-hop elements more of a chance to shine and deliver a more emotional element with the band, highlighting the surrealness of their current position. This is followed by the extra-emotional “Die Another Day.” The tune opens with a piano melody and slows the entire pace of the record, and moves into ballad territory. Hokka and Moilanen are accompanied by RØRY, ensuring the sensitive lyrics portrayed are emphasized to the max. Despite the relative negativity of the lyrics, the trio somehow makes this extra melancholy tune drive forward positive feelings.
Exit Emotions is a great follow-up to Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous, and although it contains many of the tried and tested tropes of what was delivered in the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. The band has gone from strength to strength since their respectable placement at 2021’s Eurovision, which demonstrates they have lots more to offer than just their hit song “Dark Side.”
Exit Emotions Track Listing:
1. Where’s the Exit
W3. olves of California
5. Keeping it Surreal
6. Die Another Day
8. Happy Doomsday
9. Red Tail Lights
10. Not You Bro
12. One Last Time… Again
Run Time: 35:15
Release Date: March 1, 2024
Record Label: Century Media Records
The Western Civilization – ‘Fractions of a Whole’ [Album Review]
The Western Civilization delivers expressive vocals and a wealth of stylistic aromas with an existential richness on ‘Fractions of a Whole.’
It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Applied to Texas-based indie-rock outfit The Western Civilization, the adage refers to the chemistry between Rachel Hansbro and Reggie O’Farrell, a chemistry on display in their recently released album, Fractions of a Whole.
Speaking about the album, Hansbro says, “The new songs were inspired by the amazing people who are part of my chosen family. Reggie has always been good at reminding me of the positive things. (He is) another voice saying, ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay.’”
Reggie O’Farrell and Rachel Hansbro first met while playing in separate bands. A friendship developed, resulting in two albums and performances at the Vans Warped Tour, SXSW, Halifax Pop Explosion, and, most importantly, an artistic alliance that survived a variety of obstacles.
Revolving around Hansbro and O’Farrell, The Western Civilization is a collaborative project with a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators who expose the actuality of Aristotle’s dictum.
The album opens with “Noctambulism,” a floating, folk-rock song with hints of Americana flowing through it. Driven by a sparkling piano topped by the voices of Hansbro and O’Farrell merging, the melody wafts and undulates like drifting clouds across the sky.
High points embrace “Bible Verses for Kids,” which reveals elusive Celtic flavors, a bit like The Cranberries. A rolling snare gives the rhythm a galloping motion as layered harmonies infuse the lyrics with choir-like textures verging on grandness.
A personal favorite because of Hansbro’s deliciously casual vocals, “Fool” resembles a child’s nursery rhyme reimagined as indie-rock – dreamy, drawling, almost discordant vocals riding over loose, garage rock harmonics. The imperfect, raggedy feel of the tune makes it wondrously genuine and gratifying.
“Proselytism,” the closing track, travels on light, migrant surfaces as Hansbro’s soft, breathy vocals imbue the lyrics with subtle, eccentric whimsy, a kind of didactic reflection.
Expressive vocals, along with a wealth of stylistic aromas, invest Fractions of a Whole with an existential richness.
Fractions of a Whole Track Listing:
2. Stitches (read our song review)
3. Bible Verses for Kids
4. She’s by the Sea
5. If You’re Lucky
7. My Mess
8. The Snake and The Saint
9. The Ocean’s on the Rise
Run Time: 42:18
Release Date: February 16, 2024
Record Label: Independent
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