Akhlys is not for everyone. In fact, they’re probably not for 95% of avid PureGrainAudio.com readers. Why the review then? Well, it’s art via musical landscape and deserves attention whether it’s niche or not. For those of you that have a slight interest in checking out Akhlys, the only way I can describe them that you’ll appreciate as a form of musical expression is “the soundtrack to your nightmares.”
A brief background for those (most) that have never heard of Akhlys; this is a one-person musical project by an artist known as Naas Alcameth. Naas keeps a low profile and, in fact, Akhlys keeps an even lower profile. There’s pretty much little to no information on him or Akhlys other than that the project is based out of Colorado and was started in 2009.
Supplication (find it on Bandcamp) is this obscure band’s second production and the expectations to top their debut were abundant. Akhlys’ first album, The Dreaming I, was an absolute shining jewel of the ambient black metal genre when it was released in 2015. It made several appearances in “end of year lists,” so there’s been some well-deserved enthusiasm leading up to the release of Supplication.
If you dare, stream some Supplication here:
So, how does it fare compared to the debut outing? Well, it’s pretty much of the same calibre though generally not quite as prolific as The Dreaming I. I would have actually entitled it The Dreaming I.5; It just doesn’t suck me into the horror dreamscape that its predecessor did. I wanted those horror-scapes to stick with me, but Supplication doesn’t quite have the same evil that its older sibling boasts. If none of this makes any sense to you, or if you’re looking for some ambient music that invokes feelings of uneasiness, darkness and fear, this is your jam regardless of which Akhlys album you listen to.
Supplication Track Listing:
01. Part I
02. Part II
Run Time: 37:06
Release Date: October 11, 2019
Record Label: Annapurna
The mysterious man that is Naas Alcameth:
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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