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)

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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)

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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)

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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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