Tim Steinruck, Bob Wagner, and Gustavo Valderrama are The Mighty One. The trio recently released Torch of Rock and Roll. Their music seemed like a combination of hard rock, metal and even a little bit of power pop. It felt like a mix of ’90s and ‘00s style.
The band gets going with “Coming On” and after a couple of warm swells you are greeted with a familiar metal/hard rock vibe. Think Soundgarden. The song gets progressively heavier and more intense as it approaches the hook. On that note the chorus was more alternative and less heavy than the verse.
The title track “Torch of Rock and Roll” is a bit of a slow burn with clean verse but explosive vocals. It doesn't take long for the guitar to introduce some distortion and lead to a pretty epic chorus. The lyrics are great as the singer reminisces about meeting Paul Stanley and this experience he had in his life.
The metal tendencies are put on hold with “So High” at least at first. There’s some acoustic guitar on this song which gives it a distinctly different quality than the previous songs. That being said the song reaches for some great heights especially when the band climbs and climbs and come to a peak with a blaring guitar solo.
The band sounds closer to a band like Queens of the Stone Age but with more of a ’90s vibe on “Disruptor.” There’s a very cool breakdown and build around the two-minute mark which was effective and dynamic. The band introduce some unique guitar effects on “Burden” and creates a hypnotic and atmospheric environment while “Master of Reality” is a solid but straightforward song.
“Darker Side of Me” is a darker and intimate ballad until the end where the band rocks out. I was getting major ’80s vibes from “My Garden” and some of that might have had to do with the vocals. There’s one more ballad “Kickin’ Stones” where you get some piano which shakes things up nicely. They close with a burner called “When This is Over.”
The band sounds very tight and is a fun and explosive band. They are covering familiar territory here and I think fans of the aforementioned will enjoy what the band brings to the table. Take a listen.
Multi-instrumentalist Ed Hopkins needed something to fill his time when lockdown happened, and so the group Terpsichorea was formed and right away they got started on recording their debut album Holy Fool. A nine-track collection that sees the band fusing EDM beats with space rock and unconventional instrumentation like the Hurdy-gurdy, ney, darbuka and rig. With themes about occultism, religion and spirituality, the band can come across as new-age.
Holy Fool gets started with “The Sly Man,” where synths and EDM beats come forth on this recording. Next, some new wave-like vocals enter for more of a dance vibe. Guitars come in, pushing the pulsating music forward. I was getting some space vibes on this song. Synths and keys light up the music on “Glad Day.” There is definitely a whole lot of atmosphere to this track. Slowly some beats enter for more trance and EDM vibes. The distorted vocals are evoked through tons of reverberation. Some acoustic guitar brings in an intimate sound on “Mary Jane Again.” The combined vocal harmonies provided a backdrop to the music. This was a departure from the more EDM vibes previously. The band takes on a more natural and organic course here. The electric guitars interwoven into the song were another great addition.
Choral background vocals add a celestial vibe to “Pangur Ban.” As some acoustic guitar sounds out, it is joined by some distorted vocals. The dissonance gives off an off-kilter vibe to this track. I thought this was a good blend of natural and synthetic instrumentation. The band makes good use of both worlds on this song. The sound of wind instruments also lights up the sounds here for a Celtic vibe. Sounds from the Hurdy-gurdy sends out a very impactful vibe. Synths, melodic keys and beats bring in more of the band’s eclectic sounds on “Sights Unseen.” Once Hopkins’ vocals come in, he spews his vocals out in a fast-paced manner that reminded me of a rap sequence. The sounds of the sitar add to the vibe on “Imaginary Mongoose." Hopkins half-raps and half-sings the number here. I found myself enjoying the hip hop-inspired notes.
On “Anima Mundi,” some wind instruments send out a very Eastern flair. The sound of percussion and programmed beats added a very lively effect to the music. On “I Tego Arcana Dei,” synths add a moody vibe as sparse guitar riffs and keys come in for a melodic pulse. The sound is meandering and takes its time in unfolding. Next, some clubbing beats arrive for a very EDM feel. The band continues to incorporate into their sounds a melding of both organic and synthetic instrumentation for a full sound. This was a colossal instrumental piece with 8:25 minutes of recording time. Last up is “Rabbit Hole,” which sees the band changing up their electronic numbers for a more intimate setting with just the acoustic guitar, vocals and synthetic strings. What comes across is an up-close-and-personal performance from Hopkins.
A lot of these tracks had a ‘70s vibe to them that made them very dance-worthy. EDM rhythms alongside pulsating beats, with a dash of Celtic vibes, powerful guitars, melodic keys and more, all come together. Although a lot of their sound caters to the ‘70s and ‘80s, there was a touch of a modern twist that will speak to a lot of fans rooted in the contemporary scene today. This was a good start from the band and I look forward to seeing any new music that Terphischorea has up their sleeves in the not-so-distant future.
Juhani Saksikäsi - 44:22 – Instrumental Trip-Hop Journey – Live at Ääniä Festival Äänekoski Finland 2021
Juhani Saksikäsi is a 42-year old sample-based musician from Helsinki, Finland, and a cult legend in the Finnish Hip-Hop Scene since 1995. Saksikäsi’s father was a record store owner and vinyl collector, and at age 10 Saksikäsi stumbled upon his first rap records by Public Enemy, Run-DMC, N.W.A. and The Fat Boys, to name a few. At age 13 he began experimenting with beats on a 4-track tape recorder. Twenty-five years later, Saksikäsi works mostly on instrumental music and at live gigs in Europe. His new release consists of one 44-minute track and is titled 44:22 – Instrumental Trip-Hop Journey – Live at Ääniä Festival Äänekoski Finland 2021.
Though Saksikäsi has worked with both major and indie labels, he’s now returning to his DIY style from the nineties. He describes his current music as “sample based melodic progressive trippy spacey groovy art trip-hop stuff" that also may fit the prog rock, ’60s fusion jazz and avant-garde genres. This album was recorded live at a music festival in Finland on an art park stage in July 2021, using two Akai MPC Live II workstations. The track was recorded straight to stereo without mixing, to keep the sound as it was played live as much as possible.”
The album cover art evokes a cave, and that’s how the music starts out, with low analogue synth rumbles and reverb’d percussion, like you’ve fallen into a dark crevasse. At 1:27 a beat suddenly appears that sounds inspired by the ending of “Strawberry Fields Forever” with melodic percussive overdubs. This is clearly the first example of Saksikäsi’s facility with beats.
At about four minutes the music sounds Middle Eastern, though of course through an electronic, futuristic lens. This melds into an extended “jam” with gentle wisps of melodies and different samples trading space against an active, steady beat. At 12:00 minutes the beats drop out, with the rhythm continuing simply by way of warbling synth sounds. This is a good time to note how good the live stereo mix turned out, with each sample or instrument having plenty of room to make its statement. A more active beat resumes at 15:00, with a simple, ascending 4-note Moog motif carrying the melody. At any point I was expecting to hear: “I buried Paul.”
As the beats continue for a while, it makes me wonder how the audience receives this music. Do they sit respectfully, or get up and dance around? I can’t see how you wouldn’t actively participate in these rhythms, especially out in the open.
At almost the halfway point, the beats take a three-minute break while the melodies and percolating synths continue. Then the drums kick back in, still carrying a bit of that Ringo magic. By this point I have a better sense of the architecture of this piece: there haven’t been any radical changes, and the same basic beats with variations continue all the way through. Even the “main” melodies just hold the center while Saksikäsi plays around with his samples. In that sense this track is almost like a pop song remix, though way longer than one side of vinyl.
Whether or not you respond to this kind of extended beat improv may depend on your appreciation of longish club remixes, but for what it is, I found this work interesting and engaging in a low-key, hypnotic way. I can easily imagine Saksikäsi creating more great works in the future.
Cherry Hill, NJ’s Penny Be is a writer and musician who is making a name for herself with her contagious punk rock riffs and endearing singer/songwriter persona. Be has been writing and playing songs for over ten years.
As the bass player of punk band Billy & the Bad Peach, her expertise shows through and through in her debut self-titled EP Penny Be, a four-song collection that gives listeners Be’s immediate sound the instant you hit play. A chillingly honest portrayal that took over three years to write, this is Be’s take on the indie, punk and acoustic genres. Be serves it to you straight, an amalgamation of the artist’s inspirations throughout the years.
Penny Be gets going with “Letters,” where drums and airy sounding guitars light up the sounds. Once Be’s vocals arrive, her punk rock aesthetic has a startling energy. This is definitely one sure-fire starter. On “Hide & See,” some drumming beats bring in the sounds. Next, a wall of guitars feeds into the sounds. The vibes feel moody and just grow. This track felt more like a slow burn as Be’s vocals pick up on a darker mood than what the intro exhibited. I was getting some grunge vibes as well.
On “Savior Self,” guitars slowly sound out in the start of this track. Gradually, some drumming beats pull in for a more sauntering sound. This was another slow burning number. Clanging of the cowbell gives this some unique instrumentation. Solely on the acoustic guitar, Be’s vocals ring out on “Let’s Do The Dishes (It’s The End OF The World).” She closes her album with this acoustic send-off, which proved to be an excellent way to finish the EP.
Be belts out the lyrics to the tracks with charm and attitude and the guitar is a great accompaniment to her voice. Together with drumming beats, the sound is at times energetic and other times contemplative. With just four tracks on this EP, and most of the songs under three minutes, here’s to hoping she releases more tracks that expands upon her sound.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Max Capistran White Water. 4.0
Dolphin Group Dolphin Group. 3.8
New Media How It Was 3.7
Oracle Rorschach 3.7
Bunny Lowe Memory Palace. 3.9
Multi-instrumentalist Pete Bentley hails from Blackburn, in the northwest of England. He’s brought his guitar, vocal, keyboard and saxophone talents to a number of different bands. The album Headlock, recorded as Troy Bentley, is his first solo release.
For the album, Bentley included appearances by his brother Tony (drums) and his sister Kathy (piano) on one track each. Tony also produced the album art, based on his sculpture “Black Dog;” the black dog makes a lyrical appearance in the title track as well. Everything else is Pete, from writing, to performance, engineering, and mixing.
The album kicks off with a question – ”what time is it?” This is answered by the first three parts of “Tick Tock,” an instrumental soundscape with shimmering keyboards under soaring, long-note guitar work, much like a classic Pink Floyd track. The track morphs into a groove tune driven by pulsing bass work – a good preview of some of the later tracks – before cutting into Part IV, a darker, mid tempo vocal number driven by acoustic guitar. Bentley asks his subject if he’s taken the time to live (apparently not, yet), but finishes with a message of hope (“There’s still time for hope now / There’s still time for change”). In a nice musical touch, Part IV references keyboard parts from Parts I-III, helping with album coherence.
The dark feel continues with “Headlock,” a track that’s a cross between ‘70s funk and heavier guitar work. The lyrics here introduce images from nature and evoke some mysticism, which will be a recurring theme over the next few tracks. For vocals, Bentley chooses to speak, more than sing the lyrics. “The Black Crow Cries” has a similar vocal approach – there’s no real main melody, although the backing vocals offer some. This makes the tracks a little less memorable, unfortunately.
“Witch Land,” though, combines the best elements of “Headlock” and “The Black Crow Cries” and leads us to a happier, almost soaring chorus. It’s the first bit of levity on the album, and it lands as a refreshing relief. Kathy Bentley’s piano is a nice touch, too. The melodies continue on the funk-tinged “Family”, and help elevate the track. “High Noon (The Queens of Clubs)” has cool keyboard parts and the best drum breaks on the record, straight out of the Steve Wonder canon.
The instrumental “Road” was my favorite of the eight tracks. The bass-and-piano groove works well, as do the horn parts. It paints a nice picture, and could fit as a part of a classic Hollywood movie score. The atmospheric sounds are a nice coda.
Headlock is a solid offering. It’s dark and gothic in parts, but offers enough optimism to balance. Bentley’s instrumental performances work well, and the album sounds great. When his writing is focused on vocal melody, he crafts some memorable tunes, too. I look forward to hearing what he brings us next.
Abattoir of Illusions is a pandemic project from London based musician Ciprian Miclaus. A guitarist of 20-plus years, it took a pandemic to finally get Ciprian to put something tangible out. His debut album Madness is focused on the pandemic and the madness it generated. It triggers a re-assessment of who we are and whether we'll be the same again, as in the album’s title song “Madness”, a philosophical question about what's the meaning of life as in “Sisyphus” and “Higher,” a desire to live on “One life” and questions around the mind games played on social media and by the governments, as in the song “Mind Control.” It also covers the artist's pet topics: anti-racism/anti-xenophobia/anti-hate, on the opener “I'm human too” and governmental corruption on “Revolution, baby” and “Killing in your name.” Song themes cover both universal topics and current ones. Very timely in our world’s current state.
“I’m human too” starts off with a fantastic guitar riff – classic, grungy and funky all in one. The rhythm guitar keeps the song’s melody going as the lead plays a tasty solo. I also liked the solid backbone, deep bass and drum sounds keeping it all together. “Revolution, baby” has an even more classic, hard rock sound, like something from the early ‘70s meeting up with a revived rock sound from the ‘90s. Artists like Soundgarden, Black Sabbath and Lenny Kravitz come to mind so far. “Higher” has a more sophisticated ‘70s soul rock approach. Gary Moore or Gerry Rafferty come to mind here, but in a heavier alt-rock style. I really liked the bass line to this one as well as the guitar solo – well done! The opening to “Killing in your name” begins with bombing sounds and explosions and a fantastic metal guitar riff. What I thought made this song unique was that each instrument, including Ciprian’s voice, seemed to be doing its own thing. The drumbeat has this almost electronic dance beat, the bass line is thick and groovy, the guitar is in a metal rock style and the song is sung in this sort of freestyle way. The album’s title track begins with a funky bass line and solid snare beat. The guitar riffs are very classic metal, but with a ‘90s grunge vibe. This one reminded me of Soundgarden in some ways. Let’s hope that after all the world’s ‘madness’ ends, if it does, that we’ll come out on the other side a little wiser, more hopeful and optimistic than ever.
Next up is “Many faces” and it’s more low key than most of the album’s other songs. With a moodier style and softer beat, Ciprian sings “Everyone wants to be heard / But no one wants to listen / We think we know all the truth – Truth wears many faces / Not just one / Many faces / not just one, not just yours.” Boy, isn’t that the truth! “Mind control” has a groovy and sly style, and kind of reminded me a bit of Alice in Chains. The best thing governments and social media can do for us “is to open our minds” – and leave us alone a bit more often, too. “Sisyphus” tells the story of the Greek mythological character trying to find the meaning to life’s bigger questions – questions we all have asked ourselves at one time or another. Musically, I found this song’s style on the lighter end of alt rock with catchy pop guitar riffs. The album’s last track “One life” is one of the funkier rock songs which mixes two guitar sounds together and offers some sound advice – “We only live one life / Better make it the best / Be the best you can be / Don’t waste your years away / Make the best of it now / Turn the volume up loud.” I’ll second that! There’s also a great guitar solo to round out the tune.
Abattoir of Illusions’ Madness, offers solid rhythms and guitar solos, smooth and groovy bass lines and timely lyrics. What I would have liked to hear instead of a drum machine, is a real drum set. But with that said, I thought the mixing of the vocal and instruments were well done.
Retrovai is a ‘90s-inspired alt-rock band hailing from Northeast Pennsylvania. The band brings in the sounds of the ‘90s with influences that range from Green Day, Nirvana, Death Cab For Cutie and more. Their debut EP No Longer, Not Yet is a five-track collection that packs in the band’s great energy filled with a great retro ‘90s sound that furthers the genre as well as carrying the torch for like-minded bands of the era.
No Longer, Not Yet opens up to “Hints Of Autumn,” where bass lines enter this track with its deep rumbling sound. The vibe meanders for a bit, gradually growing and building across the sonic landscape. The bass riffs are very sparse. Eventually a full inclusion of guitars hits the wall of sound. Right away the next song “Feel Alive” transitions from the previous. This made for a very seamless listening experience. The sound that immediately comes in is really top notch. The wave of instrumentals comes and goes from wall-to-wall of sound to a simpler approach. The band tackles each sound with finesse and aplomb. On “Paradise (Fortune Cookie Song),” a drumming beat drives up the drama on this piece. Once the lead vocalist’s vocals enter, you can feel the music really coming together. The music paid a distinct homage here to ’90s powerpop and punk bands from the era. I was getting very nostalgic vibes while listening to this track.
On “Shattered,” guitars and drums pick up for a jaunty rhythm on this fast-paced song. This felt like a dance-worthy track to get moving along to. The catchy melodies and riffs were both contagious and moving all at once. The scream-o vocals in the chorus added to the zeal coming from the band here. The clash of instrumentals came in for some more of the band’s resonating sound on “Monsters.” I was reminded of bands like Taking Back Sunday and Thrice. The band throws themselves all-in on this epic of a punk rock song. The band decisively sends you off with this bold and moody closer and what a finish it is!
According to the band, No Longer, Not Yet “tell stories of overcoming codependency, guilt and learning how to not enable the sick. Everyone has baggage and an inner child with wounds that we cannot see. It’s important to recognize that and take time to heal before those wounds hinder your present day life.” While Retrovai’s set of songs on this EP certainly sends out an impactful message, this by no means diminishes their sound. No Longer Not Yet tells a story about breaking free from the mold and making a difference where it counts. This is a talented band with a whole lot to say. Here’s to hoping they continue this conversation in a follow-up full-length release soon.
Ed Miller is an artist from Richmond, VA, who we first heard from on his release Crayon Drawing. Miller is back with a new release entitled Love Songs For Mongoloids. The album contains seven songs and revolves around heartache and headaches, and love lost and love found according to his Bandcamp page.
The album opens with “Baby....I Love You” and revolves around clean and melodic guitar picking, a steady beat and a formidable bass line. I thought the vocals were delivered in an attractive way which felt loose and comfortable. The music sounded somewhere between Mac Demarco and a hint of ’50s pop. It’s raw and human sounding and also just a great opener.
“Take It Slow” literally slows it down. This is more of a ballad in the spirit of a band like The Beatles. The vocals are emotionally resonant and are really well delivered. I loved how Miller goes into falsetto harmonies when he sings “is any of it real.” There’s also some well done guitar work. The song does change energy, mood and BPM. It took a second for my brain to adjust but it works well in the song.
“How To Be” is a serene and tranquil song. The beat lays down the foundation for the guitar and bass work to freely explore. Miller’s vocal approach matches the aesthetic of the song is lush and kept at a comfortable vocal range. As the song progresses there are some wah wah effects on the guitar which do make it feel more dream-like and even sensual.
“Dogs” is the arguable highlight. This song is a piano ballad and blends thoughtful nostalgia and reverence. I really loved the vocal approach. Miller goes all in with the emotion on the vocals and it pays dividends. The ’80s sounding ending with the synths was also a nice touch to the song.
I also thought “Chayanne” was a highlight. This song is a fun time. There are well executed horns which sound great and a soulful ’50s and ’60s flavor. “Time” felt a little more ’70s inspired. This song has some great grooves and is very atmospheric and dreamy. Miller’s vocals blend with the synths and have a symbiotic relationship. The album ends with the most intimate sounding song entitled “Wasting My Life” which felt like a proper send-off.
I thought this a really good album from beginning to end. Miller evokes a classic, timeless sort of style many people love and gives it his own unique spin. Take a listen.
Jacob Danielsen-Moore is a singer/songwriter from the southern end of Appalachia, Johnson City, Tennessee. For over twenty years Jacob has recorded, wrote and toured in multiple punk and hardcore bands. His recent release New Year, K(no)w Me strays away from the punk and hardcore genres and replaces them with a blend of folk and country.
The title track “New Year, K(no)w Me” is the opener and starts with the line “if you talk to god for me / tell him I said what’s up.” I have to admit this line in particular struck me as funny and charming. The song moves forward with strummed acoustic guitar chords and emotionally resonant vocal performance. There are some well focused vocal harmonies but the song is sparse and perhaps more powerful because of that.
“Hammer and Axe” starts with some beautiful guitar patterns. The vocals are more intimate than the opener and also rest in a bed of melancholy and warmth. There are occasional chords which add atmosphere and depth to the song.
“Shitty Podcasts” is another choice of words that struck me as humorous. The song feels much deeper and more dramatic than the title might imply. Reverb is the other element here that adds to the dramatic and emotional depth of the song but it’s the vocals which are at the center of it.
The mood and energy picks up slightly on “Charcoal Suit” which is the arguable highlight. I enjoyed all his previous vocal melodies but this melody had such a fluid and seamless quality to it that it stick with after the first time I heard it. Up next is “Deep Valley” and Danielsen-Moore stretches his vocal cords here. The hook was certainly memorable. The next song and closer “Buskers” had a very similar guitar pattern and emotional energy. It sounded to me like the last two songs felt bonded together.
New Year, K(no)w Me isn’t breaking boundaries or melding various genres but it does a great job at creating honest and heartfelt songs that feel relatable and human. Recommended.
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