Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - January 2019


Written by: RaduP, nikarg
Published: 10.02.2019


Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - January 2019
Metal Storm's outlet for nonmetal album reviews

This is the first issue of our new feature, wherein we'll post short reviews of stuff we checked out that wasn't metal and wouldn't fit anywhere else on this website. We hope to make this a regular thing, each month covering music released the previous month. We know that you're probably already busy checking out a lot of stuff from the Metal Storm Awards and, if you're really something, some stuff from the Clandestine Cuts as well. We understand. We've been very busy too, which is why most of the write-ups were done by just one person with too much time on his hands. We hope you find something you enjoy here.

The place where we'll talk about music without growls or blast beats
unless they still have those but still aren't metal


We here at Metal Storm pride ourselves on our thousands of metal reviews and interviews and article; metal is our collective soul and passion, which is why we bother with this junk. That being said, we'd be lying if we stuck to our trve-kvlt guns and claimed that metal is the only thing we ever listen to. Whether we want to admit it or not, we do check out some other stuff from time to time; some of us are more poptimistic than others, but there's a whole world out there aside from Satan-worshiping black metal and dragon-slaying power metal. We do already feature some nonmetal artists on our website and have a few reviews to back them up, but we prefer to limit that aspect of the site to those artists who have been a strong influence on the metal scene or who are in some way connected to it. This article series is the place for those artists who don't matter to metal in the slightest but still warrant some conversation - after all, good music, is good music, and we all know metal isn't the only thing on this planet for any of us.

Down below, you might find some obscure Bandcamp bedroom projects or some Billboard-topping superstar; as long as it ain't metal and the album itself isn't a best-of compilation, it fits. Obviously, we're certain that not everything will be for everybody (you guys can be viciously territorial even when metal is the only thing on the menu, and we're all supposed to like the same things), but we do hope you find at least one thing that you can enjoy, instead of just pointing and screaming in horror "Not metal!" as if that would be an insult.

And now to the music...








Toy - Happy In The Hollow
[Space Rock / Shoegaze]

Turns out there're more ways to make spacey music other than worshiping Darkspace. Toy's music wouldn't be overly cosmic if not for its use of synths that are a colossal throwback to sounds of early-'70s space rock or kosmische musik. It's not just the synths that transport us to early-'70s Germany, though; tracks like "Energy" have a strong krautrock percussion perfectly blended with a shoegaze/indie pop feeling to create one of the most psychedelic pieces of music released so far this year - so much so that you'd be surprised that most songs aren't longer than five minutes, because they sure do feel longer.

And with this being their fourth album, first on a new label and first to be self-produced, there's a stronger sense of identity and exploration. It's not just space rock or shoegaze or indie rock, but there're tinges of post-punk, of folk, of country (just listen to that cosmic twang on "Last Warmth Of The Day"); and this sense of exploration is clearly felt in the album's changing moods, from forlorn and dark to dreamy and comforting. This indeed is Toy at their most effective in creating both immersive atmosphere and memorable melodies. While it could definitely fool me that it was released in 1972, its versatility and creativity would've put it on equal ground with some of that era's giants.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP

Malibu Ken - Malibu Ken
[Alternative Hip-Hop / Indietronica]

I have to admit I had no idea who Tobacco was before getting into this; being a massive Aesop Rock fan, I didn't mind having another collaborative record like his one with Homeboy Sandman, but Malibu Ken is a rapper-producer collab instead of the rapper-rapper one that I thought it would be. And then I found out that Tobacco is a member of Black Moth Super Rainbow, one of the most fun psychedelic indietronica bands of the last decade. And the two have actually collaborated before, as Aesop guested on a song on Tobacco's debut record from more than 10 years ago.

And goddamn do these weirdos play on each other's strengths. Tobacco's psychedelic and kaleidoscopic beats make sure that those analog synths are everything we've ever missed underneath Aesop's intricate and abstract and honestly often almost impenetrable wordplay. But here on Malibu Ken his rhymes sound less cynical and infinitely more fun - though obviously verbose cynicism and black humor still dominate a lot of this record, if it wasn't obvious from the disgusting cover art. Anything as long as you can keep up with the storytelling, considering that half of your brain is probably jamming to the retro fuzz of Tobacco's production. Barely over half an hour in length, Malibu Ken feels less like a meeting of the giants the way something like Madvillainy was and more like two musical misfits who like the same things and hate the same things.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP








The Twilight Sad - It Won/t Be Like This All The Time
[Post-Punk / Gothic Rock]

Wearing their The Cure influences on their wrists has certainly been beneficial for The Twilight Sad, who were personally picked by Robert Smith to open for The Cure a few years ago, giving the band a bit more of the exposure they deserve. Starting out as more of an indie rock band, The Twilight Sad have drenched their music with post-punk, goth rock, krautrock, folk, and shoegaze to create an emotionally intense and cold listen. I mean they even have "Sad" and "Twilight" in their band name; you can expect that the music would be cold. It could've been either this or a bedroom DSBM project, but thankfully it's this. And hopefully soon they'll gain enough recognition that reviews for their upcoming records won't have to begin with specifying their connection to The Cure. I know; guilty as charged.

Though certainly not clones of anyone nor merely rehashing older sounds, their music still is strongly rooted in the sounds of the early '80s, and in certain moments, if not for the spotless production, I could've mistaken a few songs for some hidden Scottish cult classic. Heavy emphasis on the Scottish here, because a great deal of The Twilight Sad's sound and impact is lead singer James Alexander Graham's unapologetically strong Scottish accent, so that specific "r" emphasis on choruses like "I don't wanna be around you anymore" only become more memorable due to it, like they really needed any help. And that catchiness, combined with the gloom and the grief, is only one side of their sound, with the dreamy and throbbing combination of guitars and synths and drums with a slight tinge of industrial making this an extremely engaging and emotional listen. This is a band that doesn't merely imitate its influences but understands what made them great.

And, yes, the "/" is intentional in the album title.

Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP

Sharon Van Etter - Remind Me Tomorrow
[Indie Rock / Singer/Songwriter]

It's been five eventful years since Sharon Van Etten's last album, Are We There. She became a mother, studied psychology, and started acting (including one appearance in Twin Peaks, where she performed at the Roadhouse at the end of one episode, which was my first contact with her). So it's obvious that Remind Me Tomorrow would feel a lot more mature and seasoned. Teaming up with producer John Congleton, she delivers her most atmospheric and aggressive album, at least in terms of mellow indie rock. Incredibly sparse, but still with a new plethora of sounds. Less focused on surging guitars and more in favour of drenching everything in synths, Remind Me Tomorrow feels both nostalgic and adventurous.

And the new synthy sounds make the album jump from intimate and uncluttered to anthemic and grandiose. But most of all, her music feels like a mix of Portishead and Bruce Springsteen, with its lush atmosphere and personal storytelling. While she feels a lot more bold and confident, there's still a creeping sense of anxiety and uncertainty about her life that she feels now as she can reflect on her life and relationships from the position of maturity that she achieved. It feels afraid to really embrace this new step of life, quite like postponing a computer update with a "Remind Me Tomorrow". And that sense melds perfectly with the throbbing electronics in whichever direction it needs to go.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP








Alice Merton - Mint
[Indie Pop / Pop Rock]

I'm something of a poptimist. I listen to my fair share of Billboard music when I'm in town and I don't mind it much, though I don't actively search for it. A lot of the pop music that I like I don't actually listen to on the radio anyway, and vice versa. One of the times in recent history when I actually saw a music video in public and stayed until the end of the song to see who it was was Alice Merton's "No Roots", because it actually felt like she had some sort of defining characteristics instead of being another blank person. I found out that that was her first smash hit and she hadn't released her first album just yet; fast-forwarding to now, I'm actually curious as to whether she can capitalize on the success of that one single and actually go somewhere or if she's just gonna disappear into obscurity.

As far as commercial success goes, "No Roots" charted in a lot of top 20s and reached Platinum and Gold status in a few countries. Meanwhile, all other singles from this album barely charted and only one of them actually reached Gold status. Ouch. But bah, the charts are overrated and if they meant anything quality-wise, Maroon 5 would have been out of business years ago. Mint is a great pop album made by someone who you can actually feel is passionate about music, which I can't say about the aforementioned band. Alice Merton has that really strong larger-than-life voice and presence that I wouldn't be surprised to see her front some Florence + the Machine-like band someday. And I actually might as well call this album indie pop, considering that Alice Merton actually founded her own label to avoid censorship, which makes the success of "No Roots" even more surprising. There's a lot of electronic production, but compared to most pop there're a lot analog instrumentals used, so there're a lot of moments that genuinely feel closer to pop rock that melds with her persona very well and delivers some massive choruses, like "Two Kids" or "Lash Out", and some genuinely heavy moments like "Speak Your Mind". Too bad the rest of the album didn't have its deserved commercial success, but I hope we'll be seeing more of her in the near future.

Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP

Deerhunter - Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?
[Psychedelic Pop / Indie Rock]

I have recently talked about another album that, like this one right here, contrasts upbeat music with some very dark lyrics. But while Death In June was more ambiguous and showcasing a slight musical smirk, Deerhunter music here is completely '60s psychedelic bubblegum pop with some more social lyrics. You have lyrics like "What happens to people? / They quit holding on / What happens to people? / Their dreams turn to dark / The rust in your castle / You're trying to fill" or "Your friends have died / And their lives, they just fade away / Some worked the hills / Some worked in factories / Worked their lives away / And in time, you will see your own life fade away" sung as if played by later-era Beatles, and Bradford Cox's irony is slightly more subtle; at first glance, everything seems genuine.

Much more constrained and focused than Deerhunter previous more garage and shoegazing records like Monomania and Microcastles, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? uses its pop sensibilities to create some sort of cynical journal of the world's descent into nothingness. Thankfully, Deerhunter music is still wonderfully psychedelic, airy, and hypnotic, along with the aforementioned bubble-gumminess. While a lot of the psychedelic revival that folks on this site are likely familiar with is more of the jam-stoner variety, it's good to remember some more experimental and lush sounds that it can also have, from the completely instrumental "Greenpoint Gothic" to the deconstructive "Nocturne". Deerhunter employ more than just the classic guitars, bass, drums and organs, with plenty of piano, horns, harpsichord, and percussion to be found throughout.

Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP








Hante. - Fierce
[Darkwave / Synthpop]

Hante. is the one-woman project of Paris-based Hélène de Thoury, whom you might know from Phosphor or Minuit Machine (or you probably have not heard of her at all since this is Metal Storm). Fierce is the third full-length of this solo project of hers, a coldwave vessel with striking electronics and tons of passion and emotional depth. Imagine strobe lights and people dancing in slow motion, ostensibly (ScreamingSteelUS - MSA 2018) having fun but in reality getting in touch with their well-hidden unconscious self.

Hélène de Thoury creates dense and highly atmospheric soundscapes and delivers her haunting vocals in a particularly solemn way to complement the coldness of the synths. Minimalist drum beats (fans of Portishead will recognise the machine-gun drum pattern of "Machine Gun" in "Silence The Voices") and sporadic bass lines enhance the dark, romantic, and bleak ambiance, and the introspective lyrics help a lot to make you feel even more connected with the music. For example, "Wild Animal", which is probably the most dance floor-friendly track of the album, is written about the DJ and producer Steve Aoki, who found out that a friend of his had died from an overdose just before he had to go on stage and play. Just like Hélène's other projects, Hante. is influenced by the '80s soundtrack music, as well as the famous darkwave, post-punk, synthpop, and electronic acts such as The Cure, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Visage, Depeche Mode, etc., so if you're into any of this stuff check out Fierce and you won't be disappointed.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by nikarg

MZ.412 - Svartmyrkr
[Industrial / Ambient]

MZ.412, previously known as Maschinenzimmer 412, are the progenitors of a subgenre of ambient called "black ambient", which combines death industrial, ritual ambient, and black metal atmospheres, so it's just about as close as an industrial album can get to being metal without actually being industrial metal. MZ.412 go back a long way, since they released their first recordings 30 years ago. Svartmyrkr is also some sort of comeback, as it's their first album in about 12 years.

Conceptually centered around Helheim, the Norse underworld ruled by the goddess Hel, Svartmyrkr manages to be incredibly cinematic and tense. With oppressive and constantly building atmospheres with a martial stomp, it often does feel like it would perfectly fit as trailer music or as a soundtrack to Saruman creating the Uruk-Hai. It's constantly dark and evil, and with some vague cues of black metal, there's always an apocalyptic and frightening feel, even in the subdued moments. Svartmyrkr is extremely immersive and engaging, and while it's technically an ambient album, it's less of one that you can put on in the background and do something else to, more one that constantly gets your attention. It's great when a band that has been at it for this long can make something so effective and that isn't just a simple rehash. I guess the 12-year break actually did them good.

Bandcamp

by RaduP








Dawn Richard - New Breed
[R&B]

Despite being part of the industry for more than a dozen years, Dawn Richard never really reached star status. She was part of girl bands and worked with Puff Daddy, but she never really came into her own until her alternative R&B album trilogy of Goldenheart, Blackheart and Redemptionheart, which are some of the most forward-thinking and interesting R&B albums of the decade and could still just as well work as club bangers. So now, after that trilogy was finished, where else to go but trying to reconcile the more straightforward R&B sound with her newfound innovation?

New Breed oozes confidence and empowerment. With certain interview samples like with some of the Washitaw Nation members (hence the album cover) and one with R&B giant Grace Jones, there's a lot of social context to be given to this album instead of it being just fun music to dance to, which it also often is. So even with those themes of New Orleans and romance and being a female in the music industry, New Breed is still incredibly groovy and sensual and fun, with funky beats and bass lines for days, though everything obviously everything is glued together by Dawn's incredibly colourful vocals. Even though it's rather on the shorter side of the R&B album spectrum, New Breed achieves a lot in little time.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP

James Blake - Assume Form
[Electronica / Alternative R&B]

Despite working with numerous colossal names in the biz such as Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar or Jay-Z, singer/producer James Blake has never really reached pop stardom, being more well known for his R&B-infused UK garage, trip-hop, and post-dubstep of his early career. Assume Form sees a progression in sound, leaving the ether of his previous work and assuming form. The music is still quite abstract and lush and intimate, but the lush part is the only one that still maintains a strong presence. The entire album feels a lot more straightforward in both sound and themes of coming out of a depression through love, which obviously ties to Blake's personal life, thus making everything feel less abstract and more intimate. A few moments feel cheesy in how unexpectedly romantic and infatuated Blake sounds compared to the shy and reserved one I remember, but they're still enthralling in how full of life they seem.

Soundwise, there's some new ground covered by Blake, specifically in the really laid-back trap/hip-hop influences, especially on the two tracks where Metro Boomin collaborated in some of the production, one featuring Travis Scott and the other featuring Moses Sumney. While quite a few of the tracks feature collaborations, the solo ones have not been overlooked. While I don't like all of the vocal processing, I can't deny the absolutely mesmerizing production on songs like "Are You In Love?" or the title track or "Don't Miss It", which might be due to coproducer Dominic Maker's (of Mount Kimbie) presence on some of those. But I can't de[font=Verdana][/font]ny that the two greatest tracks are also two other collaborations. First comes "Barefoot In The Park" with flamenco singer Rosalia with the spellbinding interplay of voices of the two; and even more powerful of a trap song that the Metro Boomin tracks the bouncy "Where's The Catch?" with Outkast's André 3000.

Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP








Toro Y Moi - Outer Peace
[Synth Funk / Future Pop]

Toro Y Moi has always been versatile in that each album has quite a different direction and vibe to it, first from pioneering the fleeting chillwave genre and then going to everything from synth funk to synthpop to alternative R&B and psychedelic pop and indie rock and everything in between. This has led to quite an interesting but slightly uneven discography, though it also means that there's always reason to be excited for a new release. Now already in his 30s, Toro Y Moi makes Outer Peace update funk and disco to the internet age of anxiety.

The general vibe of the album is one of uneasiness and cynicism that is drowned out in a lot of fun and libertinism. Though the flow is quite uneven, jumping straight from groovy funk to moody trap, Outer Piece still sells the idea of modern youth. The often intense vocal processing and sleek production feel like they try to mask that, and the album is best when they achieve that, when the album almost makes you think that it is fun in its most disco moments, though it never actually is; this isn't a collection of club bangers, and none of the songs I think could work seamlessly in that setting, but the contrast between the two conflicting feelings is what drives a lot of it.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP

Blockhead - Free Sweatpants
[Instrumental Hip-Hop / Alternative Hip-Hop]

That instrumental hip-hop genre tag is only half-through, seeing how half the album is a completely instrumental beat tape, while the other half is a producer-curated hip-hop album with a few underground guest rappers. The two halves aren't clearly limited to either the first or the last half, the album constantly switching between the two from track to track, so you never really know without looking at the track list whether you're gonna hear someone start rapping over the beat you're hearing or not, but usually when you do you're gonna hear familiar voices of folks that Blockhead has collaborated with before a lot, like Aesop Rock or Billy Woods.

As far as the beats themselves go, they're usually of the very subdued and "chill" type, somewhat less engaging and more fitting for background music, but they work like a jigsaw puzzle falling into place on the tracks with guests. Even though the instrumental pieces may feel a bit too long, there's always a layer change going on just before they would've started to feel too stale. Even though it feels far from Blockhead's best work, Free Sweatpants has a fairly consistent vibe and a strong plethora of guests, from the aforementioned Aesop Rock and Billy Woods to Open Mike Eagle, Homeboy Sandman and a few other names that I wasn't as familiar with beforehand, but I was most impressed by Marq Spekt.

Bandcamp / Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP








Backstreet Boys - DNA
[Pop]

Uhh... yeah... I used to listen to Backstreet Boys back when I was, like, 10 and I had my first computer. I was never really a "fan" in the way that boy bands like this usually have, but I found a lot of their songs in those shitty "1000 Hit Party Songs" torrents you found back when I discovered pirating music. If I somehow made my old computer work again, I'd probably find that "HIT1" folder full of ABBA and Billy Ocean songs, and obviously Backstreet Boys. And when I started getting more into music and got into my "if it doesn't have electric guitars, it's shit" phase I promptly forgot about them with the sole exception of seeing that one "My back: hurts / Backstreet's back: alright" joke. So seeing that apparently they're still together and released a new album, I was curious to see how a boy band's album would sound like 20 years after their popularity faded.

And... it's alright. It doesn't sound like teen pop at least, but in its place it sounds like most pop you'd hear on the radio anyways to the point where it's often pretty indistinguishable other than their voices being somewhat recognizable, though you can tell that they can't really hit those high notes like they used to. It takes cues from EDM and funk and R&B, so even if they're not that original, at least as far as their sound goes, they sound pretty smooth. It's pretty distant from the sugary sound that I've known them for, though that creeps in slightly. So, DNA seems to find Backstreet Boys doing pretty good, considering that they're promoting it with the biggest tour they've had in decades.

Google Play Music / Spotify

by RaduP




And that was it. You've made it through still alive. Congrats. See ya next month.



 



Written on 10.02.2019 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments page 2 / 2

Comments: 36   Visited by: 287 users
13.02.2019 - 20:43
nikarg
Old Nick
Written by RaduP on 13.02.2019 at 20:30

I tried that. For some reason it completely fucks up the coding as in not all nominees show up. I can't for the life of me figure out why, since there is no coding grammar error nor is it a thing about the size of the images. I tried it with just 1-2 images, I tried with different image sizes and image hosts, different image placements. Nothing works as it should. I'm kinda pissed off about it since I was envisioning some big 1000x1000 images for each of those since I know how much cover art can really sell an album, but I guess that's a sacrifice we gotta make.

I didn't really believe that you hadn't thought of it but I had to say it just in case. If it weren't for these tiny details, we'd be as big as Loudwire now. Damn.
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14.02.2019 - 17:17
LedZep
Sharon Van Etten is my AOTY for now, incredible stuff. Julia Kent, Malibu Ken, Sarah Louise, Mono and Spielbergs have all released quality albums so far this year, highly recommend all of them!
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14.02.2019 - 17:22
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by LedZep on 14.02.2019 at 17:17

Sharon Van Etten is my AOTY for now, incredible stuff. Julia Kent, Malibu Ken, Sarah Louise, Mono and Spielbergs have all released quality albums so far this year, highly recommend all of them!

I've seen JK, SL and Sb mentioned but I didn't manage to get into them yet. I will soon

Since you mentioned Mono
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Take off those stupid glasses and kiss me
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14.02.2019 - 22:22
Fellow Duh Say
Lol. I listened to the Sharon Van Etten when you suggested it on the Emma Ruth Rundle thread. I really liked it, but it is definitely a certain type mood album and I haven't been there lately. I will listen to the James Blake track but just had to laugh at "makes my knees melt."
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14.02.2019 - 22:35
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Fellow Duh Say on 14.02.2019 at 22:22

Lol. I listened to the Sharon Van Etten when you suggested it on the Emma Ruth Rundle thread. I really liked it, but it is definitely a certain type mood album and I haven't been there lately. I will listen to the James Blake track but just had to laugh at "makes my knees melt."

There may be a better way to phrase that since that kinda makes it sound sexual in a way, but you should get the point once you listen to the track.
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Take off those stupid glasses and kiss me
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28.02.2019 - 06:44
Feng
Loved the Hante. recommendation. Thanks!
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