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Album Review

cEvin Key – “Brap and Forth Vol 8” [Album Review]

Cevin Key’s Brap & Forth Vol. 8 showcases production over arrangement in a selection of outtakes and demos – but still captures the overall essence of Remission (1984) and Bites (1985), Skinny Puppy’s groundbreaking first two albums.



The industrial movement would not be what it is today without Skinny Puppy – and by extension, cEvin Key, the man behind the music. Long and vehement have been the arguments regarding his role in the development of so many electronic music genres in his various incarnations (Download, Cyberaktif, Doubting Thomas and so on), but Skinny Puppy is always where they end up.

The Brap & Forth series [1] has always been a B-sides collection, showcasing unreleased material, remnants and demos that may (or may not) have developed into more recognizable finished cuts. The first of these – a collector’s dream – was a self-released cassette of only 35 units and, while next to impossible to track down in this form, the music was remastered for Series Two. While these may represent niche records for completists rather than easily marketable items, the lengthy history of Skinny Puppy means there is more than enough of a target audience for these to actually sell. The speed at which limited coloured vinyl releases of this edition, Brap & Forth Vol. 8, sold out well before physical release date is testament to this.

And that’s what makes this anthology so exciting: not only is it a glimpse behind the curtain of the embryonic phases of the greatest industrial act the world has ever seen, but it’s a paradox in terms of musical marketing: nowadays, singles sell, not albums – and especially not albums of vague, nebulous semi-compositions [2] and noise sequences.

Check out “Home BASS”, a 1984 Back and Forth outtake.

Musically speaking, that’s all this is: electronic experimentation. And while the free-form arrangements (“Sniper” is almost pure atmosphere, while “Floating” is a primordial experiment in ambient/chill electronica) may be charming in their retro analog approach, it’s not an easy listen for the uninitiated. Long-time fans will thrill at hearing proto-Puppy signatures in the music, like the movie samples on “Coma” that were first heard on “Far Too Frail”, one of Skinny Puppy’s early hits. They may even notice the beginnings of Download-esque IDM stylings making themselves known (the incidental sounds, dissonances, and effects on “FlyZ” are a portent of things to come) but the abstract, non-rhythmic compositions are anything but accessible.

Even when electronic percussion does play a greater role (“Doobie Drive” or “Jam Brak”, for example), it is heavily delayed and manipulated: in this way, Brap & Forth Vol. 8 showcases production over arrangement – but still captures the overall essence of Remission (1984) and Bites (1985), Skinny Puppy’s groundbreaking first two albums. “Home BASS”, in particular, drives home the nostalgia – and feels the most like a completed entity in its own right, rather than another of the forgotten, dusty outtakes dragged into the harsh light of 2018 that make up Brap & Forth Vol. 8.

So, if you’re new to the glorious chaos that is Skinny Puppy’s enduring legacy, swipe left, keep scrolling. If you have an already established relationship, though, then Brap & Forth Vol. 8 is another cEvin Key gem to be cherished – even if it does feel a little like he’s been digging through his attic and is holding a yard sale with the pickings.

Whether or not you’ve ever actually had a “Coma”, this is what it probably sounds like.

Brap and Forth Vol. 8 Track Listing:

01. Scratch BRAP (1988)
02. Remember Ash (1984)
03. Coma (1984)
04. Pathway (1983 demo)
05. Don’t Look Behind Your Eyes (1984)
06. Home BASS (184 Back-and-Forth outtake)
07. scraPpy BrapPy (remnant slice 1984)
08. Jam Brak (1983)
09. Sniper (1984)
10. Floating (Dragon Experience 1985 outtake)
11. Doobie drive (1984 outtake)
12. ChromaDOG (Remission demo 1984)
13. lifeRAMP (2001)
14. FlyZ (1984)

Run Time: 50:32
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Record Label: Artoffact records


1. Originally called the “Back and Forth” series, when volumes three and four were released in 1996 they were collectively titled “Brap” – a nonsense term coined by Cevin Key and Frontline Assembly’s Bill Leeb in the early 1980s.
2. Cevin Key does talk potential listeners through the album on this Bandcamp daily segment.

This is Dayv. He writes stuff and makes being an aging goth cool again. Actually, nobody can do the latter, so let's just stick to him writing stuff. Predominantly about black metal, tattoos and other essential cultural necessities. He also makes pretty pictures, but that's just to pay the bills.

Album Review

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.



Blind Channel ‘Exit Emotions’ album artwork
Blind Channel ‘Exit Emotions’ album artwork

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.

Blind Channel, photo by Christian Ripkens

Blind Channel, photo by Christian Ripkens

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.”

Read our interview with Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen at last year’s Download 20.

Exit Emotions Track Listing:

1. Where’s the Exit
2. Deadzone
W3. olves of California
5. Keeping it Surreal
6. Die Another Day
7. Phobia
8. Happy Doomsday
9. Red Tail Lights
10. Not You Bro
11. Flatline
12. One Last Time… Again

Run Time: 35:15
Release Date: March 1, 2024
Record Label: Century Media Records

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Album Review

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.’



The Western Civilization ‘Fractions of a Whole’ album artwork
The Western Civilization ‘Fractions of a Whole’ album artwork

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.

The Western Civilization in 2022, photo by Jack Potts

The Western Civilization in 2022, photo by Jack Potts

Fractions of a Whole Track Listing:

1. Noctambulism
2. Stitches (read our song review)
3. Bible Verses for Kids
4. She’s by the Sea
5. If You’re Lucky
6. Fool
7. My Mess
8. The Snake and The Saint
9. The Ocean’s on the Rise
10. Proselytism

Run Time: 42:18
Release Date: February 16, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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Album Review

Two Faces West – ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ [Album Review]

Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock. On ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.



Two Faces West ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ album artwork
Two Faces West ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ album artwork

Denver, Colorado-based blues rock trio Two Faces West released their debut album, Postcards From Lonely Places, in the middle of last year. The album’s title discloses a singular theme: stories of American lives and the daily grind of life experienced, in all its glories and defeats, tragedies and triumphs.

Produced by Glenn Sawyer and Rich Veltrop, the album was initially intended to be an EP but grew into an album after a change in personnel.

The band explains, “If Postcards From Lonely Places seems like a stylistic mess, it probably is just that. This album was originally conceived as a 5 song EP and slated for release in early 2020. Vince Carmellini joined Two Faces West in 2019, and the new line-up decided to write five additional songs. The result is a group of songs with essentially a very dynamic group of songwriters and players, with different flavors and moods.”

Made up of Kurt Ashmore (vocals, guitar, sax, banjo), Mick Knudsen (drums, vocals), and Vince Carmellini (bass, organ, vocals), Two Faces West’s sound merges rootsy blues rock, rock, and hints of funk into what the band calls ‘crankin’ rock and blues.’

Of the 12 tracks on the album, entry points include opener “Ain’t Got a Clue,” riding a funked-out rhythm topped by skiffing guitars and dramatic flourishes of braying brass. Because of its familiar, irresistible funk flavors, the song grabs listeners’ attention.

Rolling out on a cool drum shuffle, “Vegas at 3AM” features dark, dirty guitars giving off grimy tones as Ashmore vocals imbue the lyrics with cautionary timbres. The mood of the song conjures up suggestions of ZZ Top, especially in the solo section, highlighted by sleazy, virtuoso licks.

Hot Tamale Baby” ramps things up with its scorching textures of galloping blues-rock, radiating retro-infused energy. A personal favorite because of its muddy, growling guitars and Elvis-like vocals, reminiscent of “Jailhouse Rock,” “Brand New Suit” struts the pure essence of down-and-dirty blues rock.

Another grinder, “Moonshiners,” travels on a deep, gritty bassline and Mitch Mitchell-like percussion as Ashmore’s raspy vocals give the lyrics the dangerous savors of whiskey bootleggers. Whereas “Dirty Ol’ Man” snarls and grimaces on murky, sliding guitars that ride an austere, pummeling rhythm.

Freedom,” a live track recorded at The Bluebird in January 2020, recalls the grand live performances of Humble Pie, oozing low-slung, smoldering, bluesy surfaces and a jam band atmosphere.

Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock: they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.

Two Faces West, photo by Perks Photography

Two Faces West, photo by Perks Photography

Postcards From Lonely Places Track Listing:

1. Ain’t Got a Clue
2. Vegas at 3AM
3. Hot Tamale Baby
4. The Ballad of Jerry Davis
5. Rocks Like a Country Song
6. Mountain Sunrise
7. Brand New Suit
8. Moonshiners
9. Late Night
10. Spinnin’ Circles
11. Dirty Ol’ Man
12. Freedom (Live at the Bluebird 01/02/2020)

Run Time: 56:33
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Record Label: Independent

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