Saturday, 18 July 2015

NOSTALGIA CORNER: Grateful Dead-American Beauty

Alternative chief Ryan Sweeney takes a look back at a classic album in his new series The Nostalgia Corner. This week, in honour of their recent farewell tour, Ryan shares his thoughts and feelings on the Grateful Dead and the legacy of their standout studio LP American Beauty.

Welcome to what I'm going to call The Nostalgia Corner, I decided that if I'm going to do classic album's I might as well make it a little more formal and give it a name, so from now on all classics reviewed by me will be given this heading. Now that the formalities are out of the way, let's take a look at The Grateful Dead and my favorite of their work; American Beauty.

The Grateful Dead are one of the most influential and recognizable bands in American music history, psychedelic rock, folk, Americana, bluegrass, jazz, reggae, nothing ever quite seemed the limit with these guys and their live performances, whilst often bloated and odd, gave birth to the very concept of the jam band and long instrumental intro's. However, as of last night the band officially called it quits on their 50 year career following a string of sold out farewell concerts. This has lead me to ponder several things: does the music still stand up? Does the music still have anything to offer? Are they as important as many from the time would have us to believe?

13 Studio albums, 10 live albums and over 50 retrospectives, no one has been quite as prolific as The Grateful Dead in their career that spans over 50 years and over a dozen members. Starting out as one of the major players in the 1960s San Francisco psychedelic rock scene with peers such as Big Brother and the Holding Company and Jefferson Airplane, they quickly established themselves as one of the most interesting and diverse touring acts the scene had to offer, with their long winded jam sessions, jazz breakdowns and instrumentals taking up the vast majority of their live set they garnered a loyal fan base out of the thriving hippie movement of the era that would follow them throughout the rest of their career. Seriously guys, "Deadheads" are some of the loyalist fans I've ever seen and it's this devotion from the fans, their devotion to the art of the live performance as well as classic studio LPs such as American Beauty and Anthem of the Sun that have allowed them to become a cultural mainstay across America throughout their career,

American Beauty, the band's 6th album, was released in the November of 1970. It is a great album without a doubt; it perfectly blends Americana folk, bluegrass and psychedelic guitar licks that few albums have ever been able to. A masterclass of songwriting and delivery, you only need to listen to the first track Box of Rain to work out this track is a great opener, the song is chugged along by a great rhythm section (drums, bass and acoustic guitar) that all feel great to listen to and keep the pace for the rest of the track, which includes really subtle but masterful electric guitar licks from David Nelson and these great vocals from Phil Lesh that are astounding. They are seriously great, I love them and the little Beatles-esque harmonies every now and then sound awesome if a little off key. This album shows the bands incredible range and musicality with tracks like Sugar Magnolia, Candyman and Brokedown Palace that all manage to capture the the stylistic influences of the band and meld them together without ever missing a beat as well as still allowing the band to put their psychedelic and jam band style twist on them, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do. I know many a band that has been unsuccessful at trying to do this, but this is a great example of how it can work and I feel that bands can learn from it. An unfortunate downside to this album however; it does sound a little dated. It's low cost production and some of the almost rockabilly nature of some of the songs have not helped the album. Having listened to both the original and the remastered edition I can say that the remastered edition is noticeably clearer and some of the mix issues of the original are solved, however like I said, the issues lay a lot in the style. While all the folk/bluegrass style songs do still sound great, the style of the classic rock/rockabilly just feels old and dated, taking away a little from the overall experience. Does this album deserve the praise it has garnered? I think it's a great album, I really like it and I can see why it has such critical acclaim. Does the album have anything to offer? I believe it to be a masterclass in melding genres as well as developing your own identity, in that sense I believe those who listen and enjoy it can still learn from it. Does the music still stand up? Yes and no, it suffers from some age problems but all in all it still sounds great and still has a lot going for it.

Let us know your opinion, did you love it? Did you hate it? Whatever you felt be sure to keep checking out Musical Chairs for more news, reviews and blogs, for now though I've been Ryan Sweeney, this has been Nostalgia Corner and it's all been for Musical Chairs

R.Sweeney (@TheCautiousCrip)

Video Release-Armilus by The Green River Burial

As promised in our previous article, Musical Chairs brings back its lobotomised article monkey, designated "Gary Lee", to cover the new video released by German death/hardcore metal band The Green River Burial Armilus. 

Cheers, applause and good wishes are in order. We finally have a video, for you to listen to and decide if you like it enough to order Blight; the forthcoming EP by The Green River Burial. Alongside are some pre-order links! Hurrah!

As noted in the previous article, the song starts with a tension building intro of ambiance, a bass hit and a rumble of light percussion brings the tension up further before the drums begin to herald the peak of the intro and the impending crescendo. Finally, a Slipknot styled heavily distorted riff seems to suck it all back in again before the song explodes into some Meshuggah like jerky bass line, filled with all the jangly, heavy basstone and disjointed syncopated drum fills. After the bass and the drums have wrestled each other for the right to heavily assault your ears, the vocals split out. Guttural, visceral and everything this song needs; it kicks it to the more groove based motifs that swing together well to keep your elbows swinging and your head nodding.

The pre-chorus changes pace just a little as the aggression of the song emanates a smidge more, before the chorus hits and the clean vocals almost seem to plead with the listener. The song continues in much the same ilk from the second verse, very rarely slowing down, until the fade outro. I see this song being a live crowd/pit favourite and if The Green River Burial can continue to produce work as groove based and visceral as this, then they have my vote.

Blight is available to order now.

Bastardized Recordings:

Article By: Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

For more info and to keep up with everything we have to offer here at Musical Chairs, please like and support our Facebook page!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

EP Preview:The Green River Burial-Blight

Musical Chairs are back! Gary Lee is back! Metal is back! So come celebrate with us by getting yourself all perspired and excited by the news that a Blight is coming....The Green River Burial announce their new EP! Expect more news to come...

Frankfurt's The Green River Burial and Bastardised Records are pleased to announce the impending release of their new 2 song EP Blight. Blight sees the four members of the band evolve from their hardcore roots and into more groove driven territory and man, it pays off well! Now I'll be honest, I am not familiar at all with their past work. However, as their hardcore style meshes with their passion for grooves it's creating a beastily tech-death sound, almost progressive....almost Messuggah-ish, this makes me very happy for where they are going.

What makes me more excited is that Blight is simply a taster, as the band are working towards their next release following 2012's Separate and Coalesce. Ok, so enough with the fanfare and pomp! I've said it's good and now you want to know why. Don't worry I still remember how it goes!

Blight opens with Armilus. A dark and tense song with an ominous intro, thumping down tuned bass guitar that leads the grooves, disjointed and syncopated drums pepper through the mix.  The vocals are smouldering and angry, mostly screamed/growled but occasionally a clean vocal peaks through a thumping track and to be honest I think it would be a shame if this song did not make it through to the full release, I see this being a great way to open the album, or indeed kick off it's second act. I also feel that the grooves and syncopation would make this a live act favourite.

However, the second and final track on the release Dajjal leaves me with less of an impression. I feel it has less groove and certainly doesn't have that musical hook that makes me want to listen to it again and again. It's a solid track and builds on things already discussed on Armilus but doesn't have as much "life" to it I feel. I do however like the occasional industrial glitches that are thrown in here and there.

Blight will be available for purchase on 7 inch vinyl and digital formats from the 1st of August and with a new video due on the 12th of July, expect to hear more from these guys soon! I do believe that if these two tracks are anything to go by, they are worth hearing!

If you want to keep up with these guys then find them on their Facebook Page

Article By: Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

For more info and to keep up with everything we have to offer here at Musical Chairs, please like and support our Facebook page!

Album Review: Helloween - My God Given Right

It would seem to take a lot to get The Editor to appear from his bunker and share his opinions with the masses. Hidden away and unapproachable, he loiters in his murky lair. This, however, has proven enough to cause his emergence; Helloween's latest album.


Do I really need to explain the greatness of Helloween? For over 30 years the German power and speed metal kings have reigned supreme. Sharing a sound not too dissimilar to Iron Maiden, the band quickly forged a devoted following in the UK and overseas. Despite releasing their masterpiece works of Keeper of the Seven Keys I and II fairly early in their career (1987 and 1988 respectively) and then trying to sabotage themselves with the two albums that came next (albums I find so abhorrent I refuse to even name them), Helloween have established themselves as one of the most enduring and successful bands of the genre. As with most bands, the members can chop and change and Helloween have been no stranger to a few roster shuffles. This release sees the first time that they have reached five consecutive albums with the exact same lineup. But unlike some others, the group have kept mainly loyal to their original sound whilst evolving with the times. So here in 2015 they spoil us with their fifteenth studio album, back under the Nuclear Blast label for the first time since 2003, My God Given Right.

I fully intended to be one of the only people to review a Helloween offering without talking about the album artwork, but I found that to be an exercise in futility. Known for their thematic covers, they have fully embraced this and created a great ‘post war’ scene depicting the infamous pumpkin as a race of mecha-like beings rising up over the winter landscape. The album opens with Heroes, which starts with a humble, muted intro before getting into a nice, heavy beat. In fact, it is heavier than the usual Helloween opener and gets you bouncing straight away. The chorus is simple, yet solid and the solo is perfect for rocking.

The track itself combines wonderfully with the second track to deliver a ‘one-two punch’ effect that is missing from many releases these days. Heroes is about empowerment, the small scale heroes doing everything they can to make a difference. Battles Won (the albums 1st single) is also an empowering track and let's you know that the fight you have is worth it because you won.

Battles Won has a very rousing intro with a slight rising intonation to get that feeling of victory and has a strong traditional Helloween style bass line. This begins the very 80’s/ early 90’s feel of the album, which I am not opposed to but may put newcomers to the sound of Helloween off. The distinctive voice of power metal going over speedy drums and an increasing solo leaves you in no uncertain terms to whom you are listening. The track has a powerful finish and I can easily see this song becoming a closer at live shows, pre encore obviously. “Rejoice forever more. Victor to the core”

My God Given Right, the title track of the album, is a decent offering. The reliance on the drums here makes the song seem familiar despite it being brand new. The bridge gets almost floaty with some distant keyboards thrown in which is potentially jarring. However, given the story behind the track and the message is delivers, I can let that slide. Andi Deris (vocalist) had stated on many occasions whilst promoting the album that his father had once told him that if whatever he did made him happy, that would make him happy also.

Following this is Stay Crazy, some standard speed metal fare with an almost happy lilt to the riffs. The track builds very nicely and contains a fantastic solo with some brilliant guitar work from those talented fingers which made me yearn for an instrumental. The outro is odd however, it slows down to an almost ballad like pace and cuts out. Lost in America is based on a true story that has a very classic 80’s outro. The track itself unfortunately fades into the background compared to the other songs on offer.

Russian Roulé is one of my favourite tracks on the whole album. Obviously with a play on words with the word roulette and the incorporation of good ol' rock ‘n’ roll. It is a more modern song which perfectly captures the evolution of Helloween. In fact, this track sounds very much like it could act as diegetic music in an action movie during a high stake chase or moral decision or life montage. Especially now in the ‘Superhero Era’, just close your eyes and the track evokes all kinds of images.

The Swing of a Fallen World has a slow and methodical pace, with a metronome quality to it. This track would not be out of place on 2000’s Dark Ride album. You can envision the ‘fallen world’ swinging like a pendulum. It is a good track but it markedly slows the pace of the album from the previous freneticism. The 90’s style inquisitory guitar work is very much in the vein of Alice In Chains, which meshes brilliantly with the ever pulsing throb in the background of this track. Like Everybody Else displays the variety that Helloween can do, the track contains southern US style strumming and heralds the return of the empowerment theme. The change in style is a welcome break and makes Swing’s slowing of album pace work very well.

Creatures In Heaven is a great rock track with a great keyboard intro. It sounds quintessentially 80’s; distant choral chants over lamentous keyboards that picks up pace and emotion as it goes, gathering steam until we enter a full on rock disco. Over the 80’s style ‘future sound’ it progresses into almost swing metal territory. The vocals create a sound that despite it’s obvious roots, it matches the output of the past two albums by both Helloween and Iron Maiden (the two are spiritual twins after all) including the Dickinson laugh!

If God Loves Rock ‘N’ Roll is an eventuality that we’ve all questioned ourselves about at some point and Helloween provide the answer. He does. So let's all go to heaven as it has metal and rock. It’s an instant foot tapper and provides a nice change on the whole ‘rock is the devils music’ shtick. “Even in heaven, you need a bass guitar.” Living On The Edge is a classic Helloween styled track; the drums fade out and the lyrics are highlighted in an almost conspiratorial manner – very Helloween. Everything you love about speed and power metal is in this track, despite the mildly generic lyrics, the musical quality is off the scale and has a beautiful fade out.

Claws is very energetic track but again, like Lost In America, it seems to be an ‘also ran’ and becomes forgettable. You, Still of War is the longest song on the album and like all classic Helloween ballads, tells a brilliant story. With a standard, distant ballad-y opening, you know exactly what you are strapping in for. The combination of ballad and trash works very well, unlike most songs which use the effects like a roller coaster, this feels more like a snaking highway. One side has the usual powerful ballad offerings and the other has a trashy styled fast paced output. The track blends the two fantastically and does not become too disparate. It’s almost seamless and the journey it takes you on should close the album.

I Wish I Were There and Wicked Game suffer very much from track placement. I Wish I Were There sounds like an early track but comes off like filler material here. Although, props to getting an iPhone reference in a heavily 90’s style song. Potentially the only thing that lets you realise that this song wasn't recorded in 1994. Free World is a bonus track that is a much more modern song that follows on directly from the style of the previous album. Containing all the speed metal tropes, the track is socio-political in a way that is very well executed.

Despite how much I love this album and have listened to it many times, I feel I can't fully recommend this to someone who has never listened to Helloween before because there is so much love and joy to be gained from the reminiscence of this heavily 80’s/90’s based album. The inspiration for the sound is evidently from this era and if you have no desire to place yourself back there, this album will leave you wanting. However, if you appreciate power metal, speed metal and the days when music wasn't all created by auto tune and random squeaky voices; this album will keep your soul warm at night. Still, If you are looking for your first foray into Helloween, I would first recommend Dark Ride or the seminal Keeper of the Seven Keys part II, but this record will more than suffice and is a great listen. If you have enjoyed the likes of Helloween, Gamma Ray or Iron Maiden before and have not yet listened to this album, I highly suggest you rectify this.

My God Given Right is available now through Nuclear Blast

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Coal Chamber-Rivals

Well, it's been a long time coming! Coal Chamber have recently revived the band with a new album and a hefty tour schedule! How have the years apart affected the band - if they have at all - and importantly, what does that mean for the sound of the album? We asked Gary Lee to find out for us!

Coal Chamber are back! While that news when it was first announced was likely met with just as much criticism as it was excitement, I can gladly say I was among the throng of excited fans. I was a big Coal Chamber fan in my teens, ever since I heard Fiend on music television I've been hooked. Fiend came from the 2002 album Dark Days which would also contain anthems of my youth such as Something Told Me, Rowboat and Empty Jar. As I began to explore the Coal Chamber sound more, I found a sound that was as frenetic and energetic as it was dark and industrious. I unearthed Loco from their debut album Coal Chamber released in 1997, the video for which was as enthralling as it was frightening.

In same year that Dark Days was released, Coal Chamber and its members began to have their difficulties which lead to a very public display of frustration and lead to vocalist Fafara joining Devildriver, whilst in 2010, guitarist Miguel Rascón and drummer Mike Cox joined together once again in a post-punk outfit named We Are The Riot. Stylistically, Devildriver were/are a heavier sounding band than Coal Chamber, with their sound rooted in death metal and groove metal. Of course this meant that Fafara's vocals tended to be much more aggressive, with Devildriver displaying his hard gravelly growls much, much more.

However, Rascón and Cox continued to ply their energetic trade of bouncy punkish rhythms and big groove riffs in their new outfit. Yet it was done so through a slightly more mainstream vehicle than the dark and menacing tone that I always saw Coal Chamber through.

So how have the 13 years apart affected Coal Chamber? What artefacts are still carried from the musical journeys the members have undertaken since the day of the split? Is the aptly named Rivals a sign of a hatchet firmly buried and the beginning of a new undertaking for Coal Chamber? Join me as I intend to do what I can to find the answers to these questions.

Firstly it is clear just by looking at the track names such as I.O.U. Nothing, Bad Blood Between Us, The Bridges You Burn, Another Nail The Coffin and Fade Away (Karma Never Forgets) that both personal and collective demons were exorcised in the making of this album. But how does it sound? Well, the album kicks off with I.O.U. Nothing. 

The song was chosen as the lead single from the album, so some of you may have already heard it. But, nonetheless we shall cover it here. The song starts with a grating riff that has a great 'industrial metal' quality to it, as well as sounding somewhat like a metallic siren. Once the drums kick in we are back to the flailing energy we are used to with Coal Chamber; the song has a great 'stomp' to it. However, once vocalist Fafara enters the fray, the song becomes much more aggressive. His gravelly and impassioned delivery reminding me of his Devildriver days, specifically What Does It Take (To Be A Man). That is not to say that it doesn't sound like a Coal Chamber song, far from it, but the band is now the sum of their journey and it is interesting to note where they have come from. In all, the first song does a great job of heralding their return. It is aggressive and bold, yet it has enough of that old Coal Chamber flair to be considered their own. It's as though they broke the shackles of their past and charged back into relevance with a clear message; I owe you nothing for who I was, here is who I am.

Bad Blood Between Us starts with a tense scaling riff, before it is pulled apart by a menacing rhythmic chug. Stylistically, this reminds me of Something Told Me from Dark Days even down to the maddened energy and vocal bounce. Another solid offering. However the next song I want to bring attention to is Suffer in Silence. Not only is it the second single from the album, but it is the first outing of Fafara's twisted, slightly throaty vocal stylings that I have missed since the early days of Coal Chamber. Once again there is the groove and the bounce that has been spoken about in this article already, I get the sense that the energy in this song, along with the memorable and easily shouted "suffer in silence" hook, will make this a live crowd favourite. So, if you're seeing Coal Chamber live at all, watch/listen out for this one! If you're hearing them in the comfort of your own environment, turn it up!

Orion is another twist and turn down the dark end of the Coal Chamber psyche. Fafara's spoken vocals, weaving in and out of a discordant melody and a stuttering rhythm that combines to create a rather unsettling experience. But, this is the kind of thing this album had been missing till this point, so I am glad to see it's return! This atmospheric and disturbing side of Coal Chamber that is exhibited in older songs such as Dark Days, Pig and Sway, is one of the reasons I was drawn into their music in the first place.

From there, the album romps through Another Nail The Coffin, the title track, Rivals, the heavy and thumping Wait and Dumpster Dive.

Over My Head, is a thumping groove driven romper that evokes Devildriver again, as well as older Coal Chamber songs, such as I from the first album, which also features a great Rage Against The Machine style bassline opening. I firmly believe this is another one worth turning up, thrashing out to and enjoying in the physical manner metal music is best enjoyed. From here, the album speeds through Fade Away (Karma Never Forgets) before hitting the ode to the early millennium, Empty Handed. I love the rolling drums and the industrial styled guitar parts in this track, in my opinion another one to look out for!

Overall, I feel this is a fine return album for Coal Chamber and considering the trials and tribulations the band have been through to even make this album, I feel that it should be celebrated. If you were a fan of Coal Chamber then I don't see any reason why you would dislike this album. It builds rather well on the foundation the band built all that time ago. If you never knew of Coal Chamber, then perhaps you should check it out, or perhaps you have already through these videos and such like! Either way, a worthy part of a groove metal fan's collection.

Rivals is available now and is released through Napalm Records.

Article By: Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

For more info and to keep up with everything we have to offer here at Musical Chairs, please like and support our Facebook page!

You can buy Rivals here

Napalm Records

FOR THE LOVE OF VINYL! One man's insight into vinyl collecting and its culture.

Alternative aficionado Ryan Sweeney takes us through why he loves vinyl, World Record Store Day and what he calls "the beauty of the LP."

Heavy. Impractical. Redundant. But, beautifully endearing. The gramophone vinyl record is the reason the music industry exists today. Invented by the Thomas Edison Company in the mid 19th century, it revolutionized the way music was consumed, allowing the recording of and distribution of audio. Think about the effect this has had for a moment; without this we would not have music radio, studio recorded music (which also includes things like synthesizers and sampling), the entire touring system as we know it and to some extent the very idea of celebrity and fame is affected. In my opinion the vinyl record is one of the most important cultural advances ever achieved. But why in a world with CDs, Spotify and iTunes are we still drawn to this technologically outdated and ridiculously cumbersome way of listening to music?

Personally, I believe the whole style and look of a record reminds of us a time in music that fans can point to and say "that era was the most productive, the most creative and the most entertaining era in the history of the music industry." This is debatable I know, but if you look at what is often referred to as 'the Golden Era' by vinyl collectors you can see why some would think this. Within this time period from around 1960 to about 1985 the music industry exploded and the LP became the artists tool of expression and a must buy for the music fan. Think about what came out during this time: Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles, Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan, Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon and Garfunkel, Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath, Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd, Rumors - Fleetwood Mac, Hotel California - The Eagles and moreThese are only a few albums that are not just associated with vinyl collecting but have also etched themselves into the fabric of modern popular culture. So I feel there is a hearkening back to what is viewed by some as being a better time for music and the desire to relive these classics in their original form, hoping to recapture the magic of when first hearing them.

"Nothing beats the warm crackle of vinyl just before the track kicks in." We can debate audio quality until the cows come home. Yes, we know the Blu-Ray CD will take over the world. Yes, we know the remastering of Moving Pictures is so good that you can hear the sticks striking the skins. But vinyl just has an indescribable warmth to it, you can judge how loved a record is by all the little audio imperfections it has gained over time. Each little skip tells it's own story and each bit of fuzz is an anecdote unto itself. It's this wear and tear that gives the vinyl more personality than the CD and streaming services, but unlike the CD and the cassette, the minor degradation does not harm the listening experience. My 1969 original press copy of Tommy is battered, some of the tracks are fuzzy, there's a few skips here and there but I still love this edition of the album over my CD copy. Not in spite of, but because it just has that worn, well loved feeling about it, from the cover to the LPs themselves. It's this charm that I feel adds a more personal connection to the vinyl than other available mediums.

In this modern times of extensive capitalism and the global domination of chain stores, I feel it is important for us to support our local, independent record stores and what better way to do that than my favorite time of year that lets me have a consumerist binge than World Record Store Day? The one day a year that exclusive, new vinyl releases appear in independents all round the world. Over the last few years this event has grown in support, from a regional event to a world wide phenomenon. It is the perfect time of year for casual fans to check out new releases and the hardcore collectors to get their hands on limited edition, coloured, remasters, the good stuff people need to add that bit of flair to their record collections. Over the last 2 years I have taken part in the event I have come away with some really quite neat items that all take pride of place among my collection. I urge any fan who likes getting up early in the morning and standing outside shops to go down, you might just find something you like.

Will the vinyl revival last forever? I can't really say for sure, I know vinyl will always have a special place in my heart. The days killed listening to whole albums over and over again, the excitement of opening the cellophane, examining the record and flicking through the booklet. Vinyl has a magic to it that I know I will always love and it's this magic that I believe will be the reason vinyl will stand the test of time. When every new technology comes along and takes the limelight we always end up coming back to vinyl because the history of vinyl is the history of the music industry and as long as that warm crackle is still audible somewhere in the universe, someone will always be drawn back to it.

This has been one vinyl junkie's opinion on the phenomenon that is vinyl, what do you think? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Let us know and remember keep checking out Musical Chairs for more news, reviews and articles.

R.Sweeney (@thecautiouscrip)

For more info and to keep up with everything we have to offer here at Musical Chairs, please like and support our Facebook page!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Review: Schammasch-Sic Lvceat Lvx

The metal is back! Surprisingly too, black metal is back! What is normally a winter release genre hits us with a dose of evil to see us through the Summer months! Gary Lee checks it out!

Summer is here! The birds sing as dawn breaks through the cover of clouds. People laugh and children frolic (people totally do that still, right?) in their gardens. So, of course, what we need to accompany this serene seasonal picture is the crushing noxiously evil riffs of black metal! Luckily for us, Swiss black metallers Schmanmasch are here to provide just that with their new offering to the Gods "Sic Lvceat Lvx" 

The album is a follow up to 2014's Contradiction, which was a damn fine release itself that narrowly missed the top 20 metal albums of the year. So rest assured that this is a band of quality and their prolific releases suggest a band charged with passion! The album kicks off with the obligatory black metal instrumental opener Lux Aeterna, which is a dread filled dirge that wouldn't sound out of place in a doom metal album. It has that "At The Gallows End" (Candlemass) feel, although it is obviously without the operatic, Meat Loaf-esque vocals. Instead, we are treated to the brutal and morose deathrattles of the Schmanmasch vocalist and that is fine with me!

He Whose Face Is Made Of Entrails is a typical black metal buffet, with all the usual 'all the blast beats you can eat' thrills. Although the downtempo, chugging bridge with its thrashy riff is a nice little twist on the deal. Chaos Reigns is a maddening (and I mean that lovingly) journey of swirling metal riffs and insanity tinged vocals, perhaps exactly what you may expect from a song with such a name.

No Light From The Fires is another black metal romp, although it has nihilistic doom metal tinges but that seems to be a creeping trend inside modern black metal. I am, however, a fan of the fading out acoustic outro allowing the listener an area of bleak contemplation when the cacophony is over. The doom metal motifs are still gripping tight in the following track Black, But Shining with a riff that calls back to the album opener. The vocal style is once again tinged with insanity in a delivery that is charged with feeling and reminds me of the previously covered A Forest Of Stars. INRI is another 'nothing ventured' black metal affair. Although once again it is a solid offering, I do find that it often blends into the following track The Venom Of The Gods.

The Venom Of The Gods is probably the strongest track on this album, although after several listens that gulf is getting smaller. The intro takes inspiration from the more gothic/satanica end of black metal, with its swirling riffs and and shrill bends. But soon it devolves into another doom inspired melo-fest! The crushing chug and stomp of the doom march at around 4:44 is a particular highlight! In fact, I am a fan of the entire outro in general, the longer time really allows the band to stretch their wings and show more of what we saw on the previous release.

Overall, I feel this is a solid offering to their growing discography. It continues their sound, building on things heard previously and allowing the band to find their feet. They are clearly a band with talent but Schmanmasch are learning to walk before they run here and I commend that. While 'great' genre defining tracks are in short supply here, bad tracks are nowhere to be seen. This is an album that you will not be disappointed with.

Article By: Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

For more info and to keep up with everything we have to offer here at Musical Chairs, please like and support our Facebook page!

See everything Schammasch have to offer on their bandcamp, here.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

News: Sathamel begin writing again!

Has it been 5 months already? 5 months since Sathamel released their EP. Well, after an aggressive tour schedule, they're back!  

Leeds based black metal band Sathamel have announced that they are beginning to work on the follow up to their well received eponymous EP. I for one am very excited, the first EP (the full review for which can be found here) was a cracking début release that showed a vast amount of polish. The band made the following statement on their Facebook page:

"Writing has commenced and will continue to persist for the follow-up of our eponymous EP.
Updates to follow.
'Mutate, dominate all'"

We at Musical Chairs shall wait with baited breath, and we shall bring you those updates as we hear them!

If you fancy it, you can purchase the album here!

Article By: Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

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Review: Cave of Swimmers-Reflection

Our metal mediator Gary Lee is back, this time bringing the prog with the loud and dynamic duo Cave Of Swimmers and their self released EP, Reflection.

Cave Of Swimmers are a progressive metal duo based out of Miami, Florida. The duo, consisting of Venezuelan born GE Pereze and Toro, have been jamming together in various projects since their early teens. But it has only been since making the move to America that things have really come together for the pair. Their brand of jam band progressive metal has helped them carve out a dedicated following in the Eastern region of the US and now they are set to take their release, Reflection, globally.

The 4 track EP clocks in at 33 minutes, providing a look at their Latin infused take on the genre. Structurally, the EP is arguably a little off; two long tracks, both around the 10 minute mark-taking up more than half of the EPs length, then followed by two short tracks. Personally I feel this may be asking a lot from people who have never heard you before, for them to sit and listen to you for 20 minutes without knowing what to expect. It feels like a long investment, especially in today's 'impress me now' culture.

However, once you get past that barrier CoS are a fine duo. The first track from the EP and the lead song from it. The Prince Of The Power Of The Air, opens with a rather silky sounding synth line, guitars building up the tension before a crushing riff kicks the song open. Straight away the riff reminds me of some of the big blues/sludge riffs employed by the likes of Mastodon, a hypnotic head-nodding rhythm that has an amazing amount of presence. The drums do what is needed, nothing ventured, nothing gained but in this case nothing feels lacking. The track has a nice psychedelia inspired bridge complete with Latin drums. Vocally, CoS have an interesting operatic style that wouldn't be out of place alongside the voices of some of the European power metal giants. Yet, there are times when it feels out of place here, which is a constant gripe throughout the entire release. I personally feel that at times the vocals lack the gravel, grit and machismo that the bluesy riffs have and it can be a little jarring. A smidgen of aggression in the vocals would take these songs to new heights.

Nowhere is this more apparent then in the opening of The Skull. The song opens with a stoner metal riff through and through, low, riffy and slow, it's simply a wonderful riff. However, it eventually drops out and we are treated to more impressive, albeit out of place, operatic singing. The Skull does also show how well the singing can work though, with its Iron Maiden-esque chorus where the vocals take a less operatic approach and are replaced with a classic rock style falsetto much in the vein of Maiden's frontman, Bruce Dickinson.

Still Running, lives up to its name as it comes out of the gate with a relentless, almost thrash-like pace. The chorus has a catchy lyrical hook. "In my mind I'm still running/In my mind I am still free." This is complemented by a memorable proggy bridge, which once again has a fantastically Latin flavour. The album closes with the progressive instrumental Reflections, where the duo get to show off their musicianship.

Overall, Cave Of Swimmers are an interesting duo with a lot of upside. The pair are clearly talented musicians, they have a unique sound and are offering something interesting and new within their genre which will go a long way to helping them widen their fan base and find musical success. However, as I mentioned the vocals are a small gripe, although I realise this is a personal preference thing and in my opinion the riffs more than make up for it anyway. In closing if you are a fan of prog, or riffs then I would recommend checking this one out.

Article by Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

To purchase Reflection, please visit the Cave Of Swimmers Bandcamp page, found here

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Saturday, 2 May 2015

Album Review: Lee Scott - Butter Fly (Prod. Dirty Dike)

Ladies and gentlemen, Musical Chairs is back once again, delivering you your dose of hip hop goodness in the form of Lee Scott's Butter Fly. Our most esteemed hip hop guru, Chris Brown, tells all!

I am back once again with more UK hip hop awesomeness to soothe your ears. I would say High Focus are back too, but you know that's simply not true. They never left and that's why we have major love for them, they continue to grow and they never leave us hanging for too long between releases. For that I am most grateful. Yet again and like most High Focus releases, I believe this album changes the game, even if only a little. Although I don't know too much about Lee Scott, I know he's no stranger to the UK hip hop scene. I didn't quite know what to expect when I was introduced to this album, but I rapidly found myself getting excited the minute I realised the entire album's beats were constructed by none other then HF's own rapper-turned-producer, Dirty Dike.

If you aren't too sure just who Dirty Dike is, whether he's spouting the kind of filth the average human mind just can't comprehend or crafting some tasty buttery beats, this man ain't known for taking half measures when it comes to his work. This album is no exception either; you'll find it's overflowing with funky jazz filled beats and a regular uses of vinyl crackle, giving the beats a slight 90's kinda feel. All of this just works perfectly along side Lee Scott's super chilled delivery. Combine that with his humorous and sometimes obscure lyrical content and you're set for an interesting listen.
If this is sounding good to you, then sit back and enjoy.

Butter Fly slides into motion with its title track, Butterfly, easily one of the most chilled intro into an album I've heard but it's a solid one none the less. Lee Scott's slick buttery flow just melts into Mr Dikes creamy smooth beat, creating an unusual intro that gives you a real taste of what's to come.
Don't Make Me opens up with eerie ambient effects backed by a solid bass line, shortly followed by Lee's hypnotic off beat hook. This track has a great deal of dry, yet witty, punchlines on offer that are set to leave you in stitches. In fact there are moments like this throughout the whole album. Money Grip is up next and the jazz is strong in this one as the bass line takes a lovely stroll, backed by a slow punchy beat. What really sets the scene here are the twinkles of piano keys, which play an important role from start to finish and the vinyl crackle ties the whole track off nicely. This is a definite favourite. Next is Walking The Walk and that bass is still strolling along nicely as the beat remains chilled but punchy. Lee's flow here is immaculate as ever, this track is yet another treat.

Manatee Rap drifts into motion with a long trippy intro, everything from the beat, to the pitch in Lee's voice change, which is a fascinating way to change the sound without disrupting the chilled atmosphere. The quality of this track is simply superb, both deserve a drink for this one. We're at half way point of the album now with Spaced and its tremendously thumpy beat and stories of leaving our destructive world behind to find peace somewhere else. This is followed by Watch TV, which starts with an old TV sample, followed by a gloomy beat and cutz of the same sample from the intro. This track speaks truth on the effect that TV has on the world and how it can blur perceptions of the real world. I believe he's speaking the truth here and that why I like this track so much.   

Eight O'Clock In The Morning has a devious sounding intro backed with the sound of horns taken straight from a horror movie. This sets a fear striking tone before the beat drops, shortly followed by a haunting chant somewhere in the back. Creepy as hell, but the production here is perfectly tailored for to the equally dark lyrical flow. Sell Drugs is an absolute banger, with its flavoursome old school hip hop sound, so prepare that famous nod and rock to that beat! You know the one. Everything Is Money contains samples taken from O'Jay's For The Love Of Money, the choice of sample here is brilliant. Love this track simply because it sticks. Don't Tell Me, Lee Scott demonstrates his ability to switch the speed of his flow in an instant, which makes for fantastic sounding hook. The lyrical content is witty and quite hysterical at times, to top it all off that wailing guitar sample is used superbly on this track. Taking us to the last track on the album is Butter Tits, which I feel needs no description at all, I won't ruin it for you.  

This album is a gem. It's something a little different and unique in its own little way. That's why I recommend you give this album a listen, I seriously doubt you'll be disappointed. Like most High Focus releases, it pushes the boundaries just a bit further and that why we love them. UK hip hop doesn't come much better then this. Thanks again for reading.

Article By: Chris Brown

To purchase Butter Fly, you can visit the following links

High Focus Records

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Sunday, 26 April 2015

ALBUM REVIEW! Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

GUESS WHO'S BACK IN TOWN!? Alternative aficionado, Ryan Sweeney, returns from hiatus to bring you the first of two reviews based on his Record Store Day purchases. So sit back and enjoy as he brings to you his opinions on an all time classic "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel.

Every once in a while an album comes along that sets the bar, that changes musical perspectives and has a certain life to it that no other album does. Before this I only ever credited 3 albums as being able to do this: Tommy (The Who), Siamese Dream (The Smashing Pumpkins) and The Velvet Underground and Nico (The Velvet Underground) but now I feel a 4th needs to be added this list. In short "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" is a masterpiece. This is indie/low-fi/alternative pop done perfectly. I have been listening to this album for 2 days solid and I am yet to be dissapointed, I cannot recommend this album enough it is well and truly an epic and contender for album of the '90s.

Formed in Louisiana in the late 1980's by vocalist and lyricist Jeff Magnum, Neutral Milk Hotel's career would be short, releasing only 2 LPs and 2 EPs between 1994 and 1999. Influenced by Americana folk music, low-fi bands such as Pavement and turn of the century carnival imagery, Neutral Milk Hotel's first EP "Everything Is" and debut album "On Avery Island" while a little dull and amateur at times, feel very much like the embryonic stage of a band that had the potential to do something very special. They achieved this with the release of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" which, despite lacking much commercial success on release, would become a favorite of critics and later go on to sell over 300,000 copies. After this the band would only record one more EP "Ferris Wheel on Fire" before calling it a day in 1999. In 2013 the group reunited to go on tour but have not expressed the desire to record new material (at the time of writing.)

This album is quite difficult to review because of its blending of styles, grand scope and abstract lyrical themes, so where better to start than the beginning? The opening track "The King of Carrot Flowers pt.1"  is a folksy acoustic guitar/melody driven piece that really sets the ground work for the rest of album and gets it off to a running start. The lyrics, as they are through the rest of the album, are beautifully abstract making the listener question what they just heard. However, they never feel bloated or pretentious, they paint vivid pictures in your mind and drag you into the world Magnum has created. Another key aspect that crops up throughout the album is the use of odd and carnival-esque instruments; in this case an accordian plays a subtle drone in the background. Conversely, "The King of Carrot Flowers pt.2&3" shows the other head of the coin, opening with Magnum tearing his vocals (the nasal style that is used throughout) as he declares "I love you Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ I love you" before bursting with low-fi energy as it becomes almost a punk track in its fuzzy aggressive delivery, before dropping into part 3's wild instrumental that will leave even the most experienced alt fan reeling.

From there the album keeps on upping its game, whether that manifests in the lyrical themes, musical absurdity or the emotiveness of the music. The album carries on from strength to strength with songs such as the title track, the irresistibly catchy "Two Headed Boy" or the powerful "Communists Daughter". These show off not only versatility but also the attention to detail and the desire to take risks. Now let's talk about the albums biggest strength, its songwriting. I'm not going to sit here and pretend that these guys are the most technical band ever, they simply aren't. The chords are not too difficult and the structure can be simple enough to get the head around sometimes. However this album would not be what it is without its songwriting. Simply put, the songwriting is beautiful. It somehow manages to be broad without being pretentious, abstract but also linear, it manages to make allusions to Anne Frank without sounding preachy (yeah this isn't a happy album) and create Wonderland-esque worlds while still being rooted in grim reality. This all culminates in my favorite track "Oh Comely", a song that lingers with you long after it finishes as it is so much more than the surface shows. Though this lingering sense of darkness is all over, even during the untitled instrumental (track 10), there is always something that feels uneasy about this album and I love every minute I spend with it, it's magnificent.

In conclusion this album is worth everyone's time. In my opinion, this album is a masterpiece. It's just one great song after another, it appeals to so many different styles, all of which I love and I cannot urge you enough to give this album a listen. It really is an eye opener and I just can't get enough of it. If you would excuse me I have to go and listen to this album a few more times!


R.Sweeney (@TheCautiousCrip)

Review: A Forest Of Stars-Beware Of The Sword You Cannot See

Here at Musical Chairs, we love discovering music that lives on our doorstep. Equally as much, we love delivering it to you! Here we have just that, A Forest of Stars, Leeds' very own Victorian time travellers give us their latest prog loaded masterpiece. Gary Lee dips his toes into this one and lets you all know how this one goes.

At first glance, Beware The Sword You Cannot See could seem a little impenetrable and certainly intimidating. The consumer is first greeted with a 'high art' style album cover, no band name, or album title to be seen, the song titles are long and evocative, yet dipped in poetry. The 14 track album comes in at just shy of 1 hour 20 minutes and the first 5 songs do not run under 6 minutes in length. Finally, add into that the rich and textured sonic structure of these songs that contain a vast amount of weighty musical elements, which I will discuss eventually. Make no mistake, A Forest Of Stars are a black metal band. But this is a rich experience, they are evocative, they are thoughtful, they are nilishtic and yet somehow romantic. Or most certainly poetic. This is not your run of the mill shot of 'hail Satanica', this is something much denser. This is your fine aged cask spirit to your supermarket bevvy.

Yet, for all the splendour and wonder that might bring, it brings with it a great deal of complexities, a puzzling twist of layers just waiting to be unravelled and it can be quite difficult to know how to approach such a thing, or even where to begin. AFOS are another band to be featured here that are from Leeds and is a conduit for the creative muse of many (seven) musicians, who all have different visions, influences and styles. It is amazing that they have collectively managed to tame the beast of creativity and find its home in their wonderfully crafted music and Victorian concepts.

The album opens with the fantastic Drawing Down The Rain, which begins in a folky/shoegaze fashion that reminds me a little of Yes. Starry-eyed chords pull you in as the tension builds in the background. These chords are then matched by the guitar riffs and the whole thing begins to take on epic feel as the violins kick in. The intro in itself is a good introduction to AFOS, grand and splendourous, a tightly crafted affair and there is something very 'northern' about the sound, be it mountains or dales, it evokes images of grand sweeping vistas.

Eventually the tension is cut by a crushing distorted riff and the screeching vocals rip through the opening lyrics of the album. "I can hear them ranting/ Like a choir of angels, those cunts." The emotion wrapped in the delivery of those rather vicious words is disarming. Yet, the words themselves deliver the vocalist, Mister Kurse, to his descent into his entranced vocal performance which has a maddening urgency to them as he speaks the lyrics "Ragged faces turned up to the rain/ Staring down; drawing down the rain/ Staring down; drawing down the rain/ Drawing down the rain/ Drawing down..."  The spoken word delivery of these lines reminds me of Aaron Stainthrope of My Dying Bride fame. However, the hauntingly sung backup vocals that are contributed by the violin player and backup female vocalist, Katheryne, Queen of the Ghosts, are a particular highlight as they seem to point towards the songs' questioning of the human condition; toiling for a higher power without question or cause. I, of course use the term higher power loosely here, meaning both a divine being, or someone of authority. I particularly adore the notion of heaven being an empty threat. The song runs the gamut of emotion as it draws to a close on the beautifully played violin strings.

Hive Mindless is another emotional bludgeoning of a dizzying array of musical styles. However, it's jazzier interludes remind me of modern era Opeth, or indeed Genesis. Although, at around the 4:45 mark, the breakdown throws a left turn into that musical formula by throwing a riff into the breakdown that sounds like something from a brooding 90's psychedelia with a swirling grunge sound that would not be amiss in an Alice In Chains track, until the song is brought to its relentless crushing end.

A Blaze Of Hammers is perhaps the most directly aggressive offering on the album. It's opening barrage of bile-filled words, "Fuck you and the worms you rode in on", do a lot to set the tone of this particular ode to nihilism. Mister Kurse is quick to deliver his fantastically poetic spoken vocals again as he asks; "If all is soil of creation/ And all our every particle/ All intermingled is but a happy dust storm/waiting to disappear up a willing god's nose - then where should the faithful stand?/ I suppose it's irrelevant to a grain of sand."

The album then moves on to what I might have to consider my favourite song from the album, Virtus Sola Invicta, it was certainly the first to really get my attention lyrically. However, the lovely people at Prophecy (AFOS's label) have posted this wonderfully helpful lyric video, so I will just let that do the talking here.

The song itself rests heavily on a seductive and slightly unhinged performance from Mister Kurse and the amazingly poetic lyrics. Musically, while still being very much a black metal song, it feels a little more proggy. Again, comparisions can be made to early Genesis and the poetic storytelling style they held, I also guess it would be wrong to not mention My Dying Bride again, who have also often dabbled in the poetic.

The dissonance of Proboscis Master Versus The Powdered Seraphs cannot be escaped. There are some amazing uses of feedback on the guitars, while the snare is bold and big evoking the 80's snare. In my opinion the guitar work, which is moody and bluesy, once again has that 90's feel to it. All the while Kruse spits poetically vicious lyrics over the top and a haunting chorus of voices builds. This track is probably quite unlike any on the album, certainly unlike any of the ones heard so far, although the black metal stylings and motifs do make an appearance towards the end as we are once again seen out by violins that lift this song up to new emotional heights.

The next 6 songs work together to create the progressive opus of this album; Pawn On The Universal Chess Board . The first of which, Mindslide, is a haunting, ambient affair with vocals provided by the siren that is Katheryne. The song has a spectral feel, perhaps invoking a little of Floyd or once again that blackgaze/shoegaze vibe. The second part, Have You Got A Light, Boy?, takes the harmonic chorus of the first part and teams it with the powerful guitar tone that this album is filled with. Finally, Kurse returns to the vocal position as he spits "Are you a little lost, robot?/ To terminate? Stay resident?" This song then begins to build towards the third part, Perdurabo.

Perdurabo, which comes from the latin "perdūrō" meaning "to endure", was also the name Aleister Crowley took upon joining "The Golden Dawn." The song eludes to both meanings with the lyrics "I will endure. All Father" and "Can you see through the fast approaching dawn?" Thematically, it continues the story of a being or a collection of beings that seem to rally against the machinations of a higher power and try to find their own way.  Musically, there are creepings of the band moving away from the lofty and 'hard to corner' sounds of prog and back to metal.

The heavy blues bassline and stuttering drums in the intro to part 4, An Automation Adrift, once again gives this song a 90's vibe. Although lyrically, it's probably one the most arresting songs on the album. Kurse's performance is exhausting in its quivering poetic insanity. "Birthed across nowhere to ride the moon through phases/ Fazed in phases rolling nervous / lunar tick/ patchwork cut and paste parchments to feed faith's guttering furnace. /A cracked clock face nervously ticking away the night." I love the interesting plays on words in this song "lunar tick/lunatic" being a personal favourite. As the song draws to a close it erupts delightfully into full folk mode, making me think of once again of bands like Yes and,on the darker side of things, My Dying Bride.

Part 5, Lowly Worm, has the name of a grindcore song and sounds like one too. This track is unapologetically heavy and would make Napalm Death proud. However, part 6's Let There Be No Light, is back to the haunting ambiance and poetic storytelling. The music once again has a vast eerie quality to it and it is beautiful! I cannot help but think of Trespass by Genesis whenever I hear Pawn parts 1-6, a beautifully crafted prog story all in all!

The closing tracks continue the haunting, goth rock infused psychedelia that this album offers alongside its black metal plate. Gestation is a wonderful violin piece whereas Cataflaque Caravan Quandary is another dramatic melancholic poem set to a misty prog wonder, bringing to mind Floyd once again. The same could be said of the final track, Plastic Patriarch Lynch Squad (Enduring December) which is another gigantic prog track with Katheryne once again providing those killer vocals. album, I'll be honest, is a front runner for album of the year right now. It's just so huge. Having never heard AFOS before, I went into this expecting an interesting black metal album, but I'm not sure calling this a black metal album does this album justice. Yes, I will concede there are touches and flairs of black metal, but it is not these moments that lift this album above others. It is the proggressive elements and the dark psychedelia. As I have mentioned all the way through, this music harks back to the titans of early English prog; the genre bending of Yes, the folky elements of Tull, the storytelling of Genesis and the ambiance/psychedelia of Floyd, nevermind the melancholy of more modern names, such as Electric Wizard or My Dying Bride. It's like this album cherry picked of all the cool things about English music, blended them all together and created something that is as joyous as it is big.

Article By: Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

Purchase Beware The Sword You Cannot See here:

Prophecy Records

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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Dawn Of A New Day - Video

The Four Owls are back! Swooping into Musical Chairs with news of a new music video, our own hip hop crusader, Chris Brown, hits us with the details!

Here's The Four Owls with their new video for Dawn Of A New Day from their most recent album, Natural Order. Big Owl, Bird T, Deformed Wing and Rusty Take-Off are the aliases of four of the most individually successful artists on the UK hip hop scene, together they're better known as The Four Owls. 

This track is simply a straight up banger, it's just a flawless mix of energetic lyrical flow and feel good vibes. This video is a fantastic representation of that energetic atmosphere the Owls create at their shows. The Owls are currently at the half way point on their 25 date UK and European Tour.

It's been a great year for the Owls this year and it's been great to see them back in flight but as you can see they've got many more shows to rock before they go back into hibernation, so catch them while you can!  If this snippet ain't enough and left you wanting more click here and check out my latest review of the album in full.

"Things are changing the dawn of a new day, Four Owls, front of the crusade you don't like it? Fuck what you say!" 

Article by: Chris Brown

Purchase Natural Order Here:
High Focus Store
High Focus Store Limited Edition 
For more info and to keep up with everything we have to offer here at Musical Chairs, please like and support our Facebook page!

Coverage:Kaotoxin Kollektor Series-Ausstellung

Our friends at Kaotoxin Records have recently announced the first of what will become a series of exclusive high end physical content, available to buy direct from them and in limited numbers. Our metal master Gary Lee gives us the skinny!

French indie metal label, Kaotoxin, have proudly released their first 'Kollektor Series' release in the form of Ausstellung, a two song split release featuring The Lumberjack Feedback and We All Die (Laughing). Both could arguably be considered two of the labels most genre bending, eclectic and unique artists. However, before we discuss the artists, let's discuss the release in general.

The idea behind the 'Kollektor Series' is to create limited releasing by teaming up with people in other creative fields and offering these releases to the public for those collectors who have a desire to collect interesting physical releases. I believe Kaotoxin havevhit the nail on the proverbial head here. The release was created in conjunction with French photographer/artist Mathieu Drouet, who created an exhibition wherein musical artists were asked to create music to accompany the 12 pictures Drouet had chosen for his exhibition. The songs were intended to be an audio rendering of the story and emotion captured within the picture. 12 individual artists were chosen, one supplying a song to accompany one of the 12 chosen pictures and thus these two songs and Ausstellung were born.

The first track from this release is by The Lumberjack Feedback, an instrumental five-piece consisting of 2 drummers, a bassist and a guitarist whose motto is "low and heavy!" This is also their first major release on the label, having released their EP Hand of Glory (2013) and the digital EP Noise In The Church (2014). Below is A Whisper To The Thunder taken from Hand Of Glory, the video also saw contributions from aforementioned artist M. Drouet.

The track they contributed for the exhibition (and has found release on Ausstellung) I, Mere Mortal is a rolling wave of crushing emotional darkness with just the type of relentless drumming you would expect from a drummer pairing. The riffs are large enough to combat the low end assault and the distortion and feedback becomes a nihilistic melody, the absence of notes creating the most wondrous of sounds. You can judge the song for yourself here if you like what you have heard then you will be pleased to know that the band are releasing their first full length album later this year.

The second band that features on the release, We All Die (Laughing), are a two piece band, featuring former 6:33 vocalist (from 2013's The Stench From The Swelling) Arno Stobi and multi instrumentalist Déhà. The contribution made by the duo can be heard here and is a dark jazz variation of their song Thoughtscanning, which was originally released in 2013 on the album of the same name. This gentle and brooding track features dark and foreboding melodies, which is a perfect counterpoint to the crushing doom that came before it. For those interested, you can find the original track, in its 30 minute  entirety below.


Overall, this release is certainly an intriguing one, both on a musical and a physical scale. The chance to own a release that is limited to only 100 copies is enticing, whereas the music is complex and thoughtful. The release also comes in a digital form for those that don't have the space, or are only interested in the musical aspect of this release. Personally, I think this is a great start to the exclusive line of Kaotoxin releases.

Article By: Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

Purchase Ausstellung here:
Physical release 
Digital release 

For more info and to keep up with everything we have to offer here at Musical Chairs, please like and support our Facebook page!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Review: Shawn James and The Shapeshifters-The Gospel According to Shawn James and The Shapeshifters

Swamp rock is back in town here at Musical Chairs. We sent our very own primordial ooze Gary Lee off on the trail to discover the source: The Gospel According To Shawn James And The Shapeshifters.

Shawn James and The Shapeshifters are back on Musical Chairs. Last time we covered them, they were in the middle of a kickstarter journey to fund their album. Now they have their album and I shall be your guide through it. If you are unfamiliar with The Shapeshifters, then perhaps you should know that they hail from Fayetteville, Arkansas and are self-styled swamp rockers, bringing a blend of enthusiastic and infectious southern-country energy to hard rock and metal riffs, grooves and swings.

The album itself is on the shorter side of things, standing at just under 40 minutes long. Opening with the high energy, infectious and catchy No Gods, which is a fantastic song that pulls you into the style of the band well, while also (hopefully) leaving you wanting to explore this début album further. The album then closes with Sandbox, a slow and methodical plod through the musical country swamp that The Shapeshifters call home, a perfect compliment to the opener. This track allows (perhaps even encourages) you to think and reflect on journeys undertaken, both by yourself and by the album.

Like Father Like Son shows off vocalist Shawn James' powerful gospel like voice, a voice fused with the grunge 'yaarl' of vocalists like Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder. Lyrically the song muses on a personal subject of childhood and fatherly relationships, opening with the lines "my father taught me lots of valuable things/like how to drink and not get caught/or how to loose your family and friends/addictions a horrible lot." Still though, despite the lyrical content, there is that patterned energy and vigour as the song gallops through riffs and jaunts.

Lost shows the mournful side of the Shapeshifters, sounding much more like a thoughtful gospel song than the usual jig inducing swamp rock. While Shawn James' vocals are in full gospel/blues effect and slightly cleaner than they were in the previous tracks, this song is a good prelude to Sandbox. Wild Man is the lead single from this release and holy moly does this song make you get your clap on! Gospel energy, country grooves, rock riffs and the return of the grungy vocals. This song has it all and may well be an instant classic, if not a track with a large shelf life.

Strange Days goes back to the full rock effect, while Lake Of Fire shifts back to gospel vibes and a heavy dose of banjo. The inclusion of violin on this track being a wonderful touch that takes the song to new and interesting places, this is another song to listen out for and once again shows the slightly more down tempo side explored in the albums closer. Meanwhile, Just Because tracks through with purposeful tension and menace befitting a song with the lyrics "just because you want peace/doesn't mean you'll get it before you die." This is perhaps one of the heavier tracks from the album and it is wonderfully fitting.

I do however, wish that this wasn't followed by Back Down because thematically there isn't much to choose between the two of them and with Just Because being a better delivery of it, I feel Back Down loses something and becomes less memorable for it. I cannot help finding this a little saddening considering the passion and care that went into the making of this album.

Lilith is a surprising track starting with a ballad style vibe before bursting into heavy riffs and drums. Eventually Shawn James summons up all his defiant anger as he growls "no you won't get the best of me!" An amazingly metal and beautifully emotional way to see out his vocal performance duties for the track, before going on to wistful Sandbox, which although I have covered above, I will add is perhaps another track to stick in your playlists!

Overall, I find this to be a fine album that offers a varied approach to the way the band make their music. The energy is infectious and it would likely go down a storm at parties, BBQ's or other social gatherings. I would suggest you try this even if you dislike country music, because this is a rather refreshing take on the genre. Although, you'd be hard pressed to find something to like if your aversion to banjo is much like that of a violent allergic reaction, but then if that is the case, you are in the wrong part of town sonny!

Article By: Gary Lee (@thewheelbear)

Purchase the album here


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