ElephantGrey is the solo project of 20-year-old UK artist, Emanuele Duchi. Born in northern Italy, Duchi started playing guitar at the age of 12. Since then, he’s been playing in several local rock bands, until he moved to London last September to study guitar at BIMM Institute in Fulham. Even though he had a bunch of songs recorded and ready to go, he couldn’t seem to find the right mix of musicians to play the songs live, so Duchi felt it was the right time for him to finally release something that maybe could attract other musicians to play the material live in the future. With programmed drums, recorded bass and guitars, he wrote all the music for his EP debut by the same name, TheElephantGrey. The original project was to release a seven-track EP and once he finished the demos and started recording them, Coronavirus began to spread, and he couldn't take the time in the studio to finish the songs. The result is what you’ll hear with three tracks and also an intro by the same name.
Described as a “modern hard rock” release, Duchi’s main influences are Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Alter Bridge, Tool and Queens of The Stone Age. Being the only musician involved, the process of recording, mixing, etc. was slow, but consistent. He states that even if he had already recorded it, the bass track on “Letter? Answer” is not played by Duchi, but by a really close friend of his in Italy that he was in a band with before the Coronavirus put distance between them. He was also helped by another friend for the EP’s elephant head artwork. As mentioned before, the drums were programmed and all parts were transcribed on Guitar Pro's staff, then exported as midi files and imported into Logic. Duchi exported a separate audio track for each component of the drum kit so he could mix and compress them individually, which if I’m guessing right, gave the artist the ability to make the drums sound the way they did. Between classes at BIMM, he recorded the bass tracks with a bass that he rented at the institute, through my M-TRACK audio interface directly into GarageBand on his MacBook. All the guitars were recorded in Emanuele’s room through a Mooer GE-200, an amp modelling unit, apart from the acoustics, which were made just like the bass. For the vocals, he took advantage of the partnership between BIMM and Pirate Studios and went to one of their rehearsal spaces. Once all the tracks were completed, he sent the work to an audio engineer and they found a way to do the mastering via Zoom.
The opening track is a mere 18 seconds long, as well as the EP’s title track and Duchi’s moniker. The sounds are well, hard to describe, but chillingly distorted. The sounds built up and get louder in such a way, as to sound like a “Matrix” computer taking over the world. You’ll hear a faint “sigh” at the end as well. The next tune “Letter? Answer” nearly ejected me from my seat. Explosive would be one word to describe this intense, fever pitched metal rock song. There are elements of both old and new metal, at least from what I heard, bringing the metal genre (i.e. new metal here, I suppose) to the next level. Lyrically, ElephantGrey sings about writing some sort of letter – a letter of regret, apology, remorse? – I don’t know, but coupled with the music, this tune has a unique fresh tone to it. The first single to be released before the EP is “Ocean of Chains” – a cacophony of layered metal guitars, echoing vocals, and warm, thick bass lines. This one pulls back the harsher metal style just a bit compared to the second track, but certainly not the energy.
Rounding out the EP is “My Dear Lonely Bridge” a much quieter sound starting out that gives the listener a taste of Duchi’s vocal tone. Overall, the singer’s voice is more reserved during most of the song and the lyrics more interpersonal and reflective. The words seem to be about a man facing his fears, laying down his former life at a “lonely bridge.” Oh yeah, and the guitar solo is pretty damn good, too. Sure, the drums were programmed, (but they sound way more convincing and natural compared to back in the early programming days) and The ElephantGrey EP was all executed mostly in a studio and mostly by one guy, but the result is pretty amazing. I hope Duchi can pull together a group of other musicians to play his music live someday and perhaps some time in the future write a full-length album, too.
Our Final Disaster formed in mid-2019 and recently released a five-song self-titled EP Our Final Disaster. All the members seem to have a good amount of experience prior to this formation. The proof is really in the pudding because the songs are professionally delivered.
This was a complete DIY effort and the band delivers with high quality sound fidelity. The songs felt fit for radio play on an FM radio station. In fact I would say their music has a commercial viability to it. There was a sliver of time where this type of music was immersed in pop culture and very popular.
The band gets going with “No Sleep” and it was one of the highlights. I thought the first ten seconds or so of the track was a little misleading because of the synths but that felt more like an intro. The song has some Soundgarden vibes mixed with a hard rock/metal type of vibe. They certainly rock out hard.
Up next is “Animals” and it is a song that soars. The vocal harmonies gave this song a Linkin Park type of quality. It’s not quite as hip-hop inspired but I'm sure fans of the music will be familiar with what I’m referring to.
“Smile” is another song with a slight turn but not much. The pop punk qualities were subtle on this song but enough for me to take notice. “Endgame” is an anthemic hard hitting song that is dynamic while “Heartbeat” is a lush closer that is much more ambient than anything else on the album. It’s an emotionally resonant ballad.
Our Final Disaster seems like it would appeal to a large demographic. The band has a sound that defined a lot of commercial rock stations for years. Take a listen.
Flubdub is a Pittsburgh-based band formed in the late summer of 2019. The band consists of Zack Leya (guitar), Jake Leya (keys), Mark Kowalczyk (drums) and Ben McConahy (bass). They mention their release Season One is “a collection of five instrumental songs that are meant to be enjoyed whether you're listening, dancing, partying or whatever else you might do. Our songs are inspired by bands like Dopapod, Umphrey's McGee, and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong among others.”
It was about twenty years ago now that I was attending college in Champaign, IL and almost every weekend my friends and I would go to The Canopy Club to check out music. Oh those were the days. I have no idea what’s going with that venue these days but this band would have been right at home at that venue.
These five songs are jam band worthy and the kind to me that sound best live with a beer in your hand on a Friday night. Suffice it to say since most venues are not open these days feel free to turn this one up loud in your own home.
They get going with “Monkey Brain” and there is an overt funk vibe. It’s easy on the ears and revolves around guitar, warm organ, a funky walking bass line and a driving beat. The song is dynamic and they go back and forth with intensity but for the most part the vibe is similar the whole time. The bongo breakdown section was on point.
They change things up on “Juice.” It’s a lot less funky and the piano plays a role in the song. There are more jazz elements and the band showcases a good amount of technical skill. “Flubbin'” is another testament to their technique and the jam band qualities were really shining here.
The highlight was “The Labyrinth and the Minotaur.” They get more epic and grand with this song and with elements of post-rock and a side of Pink Floyd. Last up is “Morning Golden Hour” in which there are meditative moments and also some great builds.
The songs felt cohesive and they did feel like a set of songs for almost any occasion. I think the band accomplished what they set out to do.
Tasha’s Laughter is an indie rock power trio out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The band recently released A Vision of Stone. Their album contains twelve songs and they are fuzzy, catchy and repeatable. I grew up listening to ’90s rock and this release felt aligned with a lot of artists I grew up with. I was reminded of bands as far ranging as Alice In Chains to Fountains of Wayne. The band unequivocally rocks but also writes really infectious songs. I found this album a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end.
The band gets going with “Bent” and you will be able to hear what I’m talking about on this song. There is a good amount of rocking combined with a fairly straightforward but infectious structure. That being said I was impressed by the instrumental aspects. The band has a defined chemistry and know when to push and pull.
The energetic and adrenaline fueled “House of Cards” felt like it came straight from the ’90s. To top it off the blaring guitar solo was brief but effective. “Talkin' Trash” was very short but grabbed my attention. The more subdued approach let the vocals breathe and I thought it sounded great.
As the album progressed I felt the music remarkably consistent in its quality. That being said there were some songs which stuck out. The hard rocking “Lottery” and slightly dark and 311 sounding “No More” were highlights. I also really loved the lush closer “Good Night” which had a sick groove.
This album to me was a bit nostalgic because I remember when music like this was ubiquitous in pop culture. It goes without saying those were the days. I’m glad a band like Tasha’s Laughter is able to keep the flame alive so a newer generation can be exposed to this type of aesthetic. Recommended.
Darkfield aka Joey Westerlund is an artist from Portland, Oregon. Around a year ago he released History is Violent and he is now back with Carry Us Away. He explains: “Something I tried to do with this album was to write each song as if it was on a soundtrack to a sci-fi or space exploration movie and the song titles reflect what would be happening during each chapter of the film.” On that note this would certainly be an epic movie and in my opinion a drama.
The album starts with “A New Beginning” and was one of the highlights. I thought the piano playing in particular was beautiful. The song starts to build with drums and other elements. I did feel like there was a sense of exploration and wonder as the song progressed. This song builds and for the most part felt like a transition into “Phoenix Down.” “Phoenix Down'' is dynamic and one of the heavier songs overall. There are distorted and clean guitars and a nice dichotomy of sections.
The mood becomes tranquil, meditative and warm on “Echoes” at least initially. As the song progresses it does rock out with drums and distorted guitars. “Halcyon” felt inspirational and motivated. This song made me want to go out and accomplish something.
“Bloom” is arguably the most dynamic song in the batch. The beginning is very still and intimate and the second half simply blows you through the roof. “The Outsider” continues with epic qualities while “Ares” could be considered the centerpiece at almost seven minutes in length. “Back to the Sky” is the closer which is a solid track.
There is a formula with these songs. A simple way to put it would be soft to loud or perhaps pensive to cathartic in terms of emotion. Westerlund upped his game with this release and yes the cinematic post-rock is right on the nose.
If any film makers out there are making a dramatic movie about space exploration you might want to give this composer a ring.
K Rose (vocals/guitar), Sean Morel (guitar), Ryan Christianson (drums) and Dakota Seven (bass/guitar) are Bliss Foxx. The band formed a little over a year ago and recently released a three song self-titled EP Bliss Foxx.
The bands sound harks back to a lot of rock bands from the ’90s such as PJ Harvey, Hole, The Pixies and other like-minded artists. Their sound is fun but like a lot of this band it contains some angst, danger and bite.
The band gets rolling with “Not Zen” and Rose gets the vocal delivery exactly right for the music. Musically, we are greeted with some distorted guitars and a steady rhythm section. They don’t waste any time and quickly find their way to the hook. With a good amount of attitude and swagger Rose sings “I'm gonna call you up / I'm gonna call you out.”
Up next is “Tongue Tied” and it is a little more lush. There is a slight shoegaze vibe on this song. The melodies are catchy and Rose really crushes the vocals here. She is dynamic and is able to put on a different inflection quite often but it feels seamless. She can go from spunky to something more intimate sounding with zero problems.
Last up is “Soiled” and the song starts off with a brief guitar intro before going into the initial riff. There are some great riffs here and Rose goes full on spoken word at points. The mood felt like a combination of Courtney Love and PJ Harvey.
This EP goes by in a flash. That being said the songs were cohesive and I got a very good idea of their sound in about ten minutes. I know the band is currently working on an album so If you take a listen you can get ready for some more tunes in the not too distant future.
Everyday Sensei is a Kalamazoo, MI based project that consists of Spencer Alden (guitar/bass/vocals) and Colin McKernan (drums). The band released their debut album entitled Denihilism.
Denihilism was recorded over the course of six months in a couple of Kalamazoo houses although the songs were written and worked on over the course of six years. And it couldn’t have come any sooner. These batch of songs are a real delight to the ears. Ladled with full-ranging reverberating guitars, driven bass lines and fast drums, the band displays their range as musicians.
Denihilism opens up with “Things Can Change,” where a welling of guitars crescendos with a tall order of reverberating effects toward the start. The drums are rapidly paced. Alden’s vocals almost get lost in the maelstrom of sound.
On “’Bout To Break,” the guitars lean into a psychedelic rock n’ roll sound. The guitars are fuzzy and have a pulsating vibe. Next, the bass lines and drums give off a jazzy flair. The atmosphere is pleasing to the ear. The guitars are drenched in reverb. The vocals come in, in a straightforward manner. On “Overboard,” the band holds the stamina throughout the song, which lasts for a good three-minutes. On the closer “What’d You Have In Mind?” driven guitars and bass lines pave the way to this hard-hitting song. The track is free-flowing and melodious.
Dipping into alternative, garage rock and indie territory, the band’s inescapable infectious energy is something to look forward to. Delving into themes of depression, alienation and existential nihilism, the band oozes of the DIY mentality having been featured in the local scene at most Kalamazoo basements and bars, including Bell’s Brewery. Lots of distorted guitars and full-on vocals make their delivery spot-on. Revved and consistent, these numbers will get you moving in no time. Be sure you have a listen today!
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The Animal State is a genre-defying, one-man band, created by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Col Mullins who hails from Portsmouth, UK. Mullins style is a “dark driving energy” blending elements of alternative and progressive rock and metal on his debut Genus – a “conceptual offering” with each song packing in “compelling riffs, propelling forward through a melodic progression which never pauses for a rest.” It’s an “ambitious album – an epic journey through the misty reaches of ancient history to the bleak landscapes of some post-apocalyptic future… invoking the structural traditions of the prog rock era” while also having newer sounds and styles of metal prog rock. The lyrics are provocative and fit into the larger concept of the album, which deals with mankind’s precarious relationship with the natural world.
The album was recorded and mixed by Col Mullins at his home studio Colmination Music. Drawing from a wealth of influences, from the classic psychedelic and prog rock acts of the ‘60s and ‘70s to the contemporary post rock and progressive metal scenes, The Animal State could be placed somewhere on the rock spectrum between Mastodon and King Crimson—loud, metamorphic and utterly compelling. Mullins is currently in the studio working on a follow-up and is writing material for a second full-length album.
To begin, “Bucephalus” is an epic 11 minutes plus, filled with plenty of drum fills, intricate guitar playing and yes or course, a guitar solo. I did not expect a string section though, which was quite enjoyable in the first few measures. Mullins then switches into playing some heavy metal guitar chords with a rock metal style. Bucephalus, if you remember your ancient history, was the name of a favorite horse of Alexander the Great, whom he rode through many battles. The lyrics read like an epic Greek or Roman poem, or for the modern times, think Iron Maiden, Dio or Led Zeppelin. I liked what Mullins did about midway into the song, repeating guitar chords as if mimicking a war battle. The prog rock edge comes a bit later after this, with keys, bass, varied time signatures and a style that’s more dramatic and inspirational. “Talon” begins with a repeating guitar chord build up and then explodes into a metal riff that’s memorable – a lot of great guitar action here, especially the separate layers of fingering guitar parts to rhythm parts towards the end. The speed in which the drums are played and the “take charge through the battlefields” approach of the guitar remind me of Zeppelin’s “Achilles Last Stand.” Mullins’ guitar work and songwriting structure will easily be lodged in my head for a while with this one.
Next up is “Cerberus” – the three headed dog who vigilantly guards the gates of Hades in mythological lore - gets good and heavy for starters. Mullins takes a line from a poem about the interconnectedness of humanity by John Donne, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Mullins’ words suggest a time when Hades and the devil’s hordes of demons will rule the earth, even though he doesn’t explicitly mention that in the lyrics, he hints at a time soon when Cerberus’ reckoning will come “and know, you shall feel his wrath.” The words to “Howl” were quite chilling – “I dwell in darkness / I haunt the spaces in between / maybe you can hear my breath in that urgent moment as you fall asleep.” I thought Mullins’ writing in the first person were effective and his words reminded me of those dark ‘80s metal masterpieces that kept me up all night, wondering what was lurking under my bed. A fantastic head banging moment comes about midway.
The last number is “Fawn” which I thought was the most prog rock sounding song, at least in the traditional way of the classics. The lyrics read like a letter written from an elder to a young person, giving them guidance and encouragement before they take leave to some far-off land, never to return. There is more hope and optimism in this number in my opinion – “but these days of dread won’t last forever / so don’t surrender your heart to despair / there’s beauty in this world beyond all measure.” I also thought this was Mullins’ most creative and dynamic song on the entire album. There are a lot of great parts to it, both softer and harder-edged moments with styles of prog rock and metal. There’s even a break with bass, drums and keys in the latter half of the song that give the album as a whole, a sort of concluding feel – a musical story that has reached its end.
If you like progressive rock and metal with imaginative lyrical stories from the ancient past, as well as visions of an apocalyptic future, stay a while, and give The Animal State’s Genus a listen.
Roy Shiels is an independent musician and songwriter from the seaside town of Rush, north county Dublin, Ireland. He is proficient in playing the guitar, bass, drums, one-finger piano and singing. He creates, performs, produces and records alt rock & acoustic music. The artist released his debut studio album entitled Big Kiss.
Shiels plays rock n’ roll. Each song on this album is brimming with catchy hooks and an upbeat fervor. With tight musicianship and on-point vocals, Big Kiss shines with a brightness that is certainly ear-catching. These rock tunes will stay in your head long after the record has stopped spinning.
Big Kiss opens with “The Lonely Eye” where the music is full-on and impactful. Following is “Farewell To Youth,” where the wave of guitars gushes forth creating a wall of sound. The vocals are urgent. This is a driven anthem.
Catchy riffs and melodious sounds from the guitars add a striking cadence to “Tragic Romance.” This song is a definite highlight.
The closer “Samantha” is a soft number. The album ends on this apt note with a lulling sense that sounds a lot like a lullaby. Shiels’ vocals are executed in a near whisper. The vibe is relaxing and mellow and will ease listeners into a pensive and contemplative mood.
Inspired by a range of artists like The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, Ryan Adams, Arcade Fire, Pearl Jam, Weezer, Slint and My Bloody Valentine, you can tell that Shiels wears his influences on his sleeve. With themes that include love, love-lost, struggle, growth and loss, these set of songs are registered with a positive spin as a feeling of hope permeates these tracks. Each instrument provides steady backing and the album wouldn’t sound the same without each instrument’s contributions. But it is Shiels’ vocals that really steals the show. His voice takes centerstage and the artist’s stellar showmanship and theatrics really vies for audiences’ attention. Oscillating from a coo to a croon in a matter of seconds, you can tell his onstage presence will translate well in a live setting. If you can’t wait for the concert experience which is currently on the backburner for now, be sure you give the record a spin. It will definitely make your day!
Pulse Park is a band that formed in early 2020. I don’t know much about them but their formation is certainly interesting. They explain: “four men first met some time ago on an arctic expedition in Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut/Canada, and started learning their instruments during the long polar nights. These were ukuleles that they traded dry fruits for with the Inuit. After the successful introduction of a breeding program for bowhead whales the band decided to sing about this very rare and intense experience. Songs about the cold, the dark, cod-liver oil and not to forget the dinky white arctic hares.”
I have to admit their sound on their self-titled debut eponymous album Pulse Park was not what I had envisioned. There are no ukuleles from what I heard and their music mixes elements of alternative and shoegaze. On that note I found the three songs to be well written and executed.
The band starts with “Aspairt” and there are multiple guitars, a steady bass and a driving drum beat. I liked the energy right off the bat and found the vocals treated in somewhat of a shoegaze fashion. They were audible but low in the mix. I don’t get any surprises from the song but it was really well executed.
The band had more success with “Apollonian Heart” and I loved the groove. It drives but it is buoyant, melodic and very infectious. The band weaves out of the song dynamically. Similar to the previous songs I had a sense of where the song was going but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Last up is “The Equidistance'' and another one for the win column. The band utilizes a similar aesthetic. This song had a shoegaze infused breakdown which lead to an Interpol type of rock riff.
The three songs weren’t reinventing the wheel. They sound like seasoned musicians and quickly formed a signature sound with this EP. I hope this is just the beginning for them.
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