REVIEW: Forever Losing Sleep – “I Lost Myself Again”

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It’s hard to not group bands in a generational kind of way. Forever Losing Sleep is a band that you could easily put a throwback, nostalgia tag on. That might be the curse of playing this kind of emo music. Everyone wants to drop a 1990s reference. It’s accurate to a point, but it’s not fair. I Lost Myself Again is filled with things that could be perceived as callbacks to that era of the genre, but there is more to it than that.

Forever Losing Sleep is a band that understands what makes music engaging. I Lost Myself Again is built on the shifting quiet/loud dynamic. “Esprit D’ Escalier” starts the record on a very mellow, calm note. It mostly stays that way until the last minute, where it just sounds huge. It then drones out, but it’s buzzing fade out serves as the intro to “Twitch.” Everything really jumps off on the third song though. “Trophied” is a beast of a song, and it adds a great bit of heaviness and aggression that carries on throughout the rest of the record. In fact, the shifts in sound works brilliantly. Forever Losing Sleep are an indie/emo band with a great sense of melody, but what makes them stand out is that they allow themselves to just fucking go. Things can jump from calm to aggressive, and back again, at the drop of a hat. “Havre De Grace” is a perfect example.

This is a genre record, and it will appeal to genre fans. Forever Losing Sleep have made a very engaging emo/indie record. The tinges of screamo and post-hardcore only add to it’s power. There’s a lot of skill and promise in these songs. This is a band to keep an eye on, folks.

Forever Losing Sleep
Bandcamp
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REVIEW: Kaji – “What Safe Means”

kajiwsmSincerity and authenticity matter. There is a lot of hubris and noise coming from bands. The music and delivery is intense as fuck, but they aren’t really saying anything. It’s a problem. Sincerity counts, everyone. This is what makes Kaji is a very compelling band. It’s what makes What Safe Means is such a promising record. They are sticking close to the genre staples in terms of sound, but they’ve got more than enough going on to be very engaging.

It’s a very good EP. It touches on a variety of topics, but it all that fall in a similar theme. It’s a record that discusses the concept of feeling safe. It’s a vulnerable record that filters the overall theme through topics like abuse, identity, and self worth. It can get a little heavy, but never overwhelmingly so. It’s not really a record that invites itself to quoting random lyrics out of context, and it’s not a record that really allows itself to be pigeonholed when it comes to content. This is an absolute strength if ever there was one. It shows that Kaji have made a singular piece instead of some random collection of songs.

It is, on the other hand, very easy to discuss from a musical standpoint. It definitely excels in the realm of post-hardcore. It also has a fair amount of a screamo influence as well. It’s really not hitting all the genre touchstones of the latter, but it has enough for it to be an apt description. The music is heavy, the vocals are forceful, and everything has a lot of muscle behind it. There is something here for anyone who enjoys music under the greater umbrella of hardcore and punk.

It would be easy to overhype things here, but I’m not going to bullshit you. This is an EP that is worth your attention. It has a lot of heart. It has a lot of passion. And, ultimately, it’s worth a listen based on that alone.

Kaji
Band Camp

REVIEW: Casper Elgin / Handwriting / C’est La Vie – “Triples Therapy”

triplesSplit releases are a vital part of any music scene. This is especially true for punk rock. There are a million band out there. You’ll never be able to work your way through all of them without a bit of assistance. Split releases are perfect for this environment. You get to hear multiple bands at once, decide if they sound good to you, and then instantly have a few new bands to explore. It’s almost the perfect kind of release.

Triples Therapy is a three way split between Casper Elgin, Handwriting, and c’est la vie. All three bands are, in one way or another, emo bands. They all represent a different style of that genre though. So, beyond being a nice introduction to three bands, it’s a split that is a nice introduction to the increasingly more fragmented world of emo music.

Casper Elgin play a more punk/emo sound. Think more along the lines of Dikembe or Snowing. So, as much as I hate to say the phrase, very inline with the whole “emo revival” thing. “My Pipes Are Primo, Champ” and “Wicked Man Of The Desert” are both pretty fair example of where this band (and genre) are heading these days. Both are really good offering, and both show a band with a lot of potential. This is a band that can do a lot if they pushed outside the genre a little more.

Handwriting is similar in tone. They also play a more punk/emo style, but they have a bit more of that old Midwest influence to them. They are taking some moves more from the Grown Ups or Algernon Cadwallader side of things. “Hooray! Everything Is Meaningless!” is built around the twinkly guitar building to a driving style more than more straight ahead riffing or whatever. They sound like, and are, basically an East coast band playing Midwest emo. Those two styles and influences work well together.

C’est La Vie, on the other hand, is kind of the outlier on this split. Rather than playing like the other two bands, they are more of a screamo band. Their one song on this split, “Meraviglia,” has a bit more going on. It’s three and a half minute run time is mostly spent building upon itself. It never gets too heavy. Quite the opposite, it actually stays pretty low key musically. The vocals are where most of the muscle comes from. It’s a strong song, but it never really pays off. There isn’t that release. It feels more like an intro song than a song song. Does that make sense?

Triples Therapy is a split that, if I’m being honest, is basically the sum of it’s parts. The bands play in a way that is perfectly acceptable within the genre norms. They are all strong enough to be enjoyed by any genre fan. I just feel like they’ve got more to offer than this split shows. They may need to step a little more outside the emo homebase. Otherwise, a great listen.

Casper Elgin (Band Camp)
C’est La Vie (Band Camp)
Handwriting (Band Camp)

REVIEW: Øjne ​/ ​Улыбайся Ветру – “Split”

ojnesmiletothewindLanguage doesn’t really exist when it comes to music. Let me rephrase that. Music can exist beyond language, because music is it’s own language. It’s why you can be moved by sad song in another language. It’s why Italian opera has sustained its popularity for so long, even outside the Italian speaking world. What this all means is that I am going to talk about a record by two bands that make music in a language I don’t speak. Alright? We’re talking about Улыбайся Ветру (also known as Smile To The Wind) and Øjne.

Улыбайся Ветру opens the split. They go through four songs in about 5 minutes. Hailing from Saint Petersburg, the songs are in Russian. They play short, aggressive songs. The longest song, “Смерть Прометея” (“Death of the Prometheus”), clocks in at 2:11. They play a more chaotic type of screamo. They definitely pull more from the hardcore roots of the genre.

Øjne, on the other hand is from Milan. As such, you guessed it, their song is in Italian. They also play screamo, but in a more melodic variation. While they only provide one song to the split, it is about as long as the four songs by Улыбайся Ветру combined. “Sotto i Tigli” (“Under The Lime Trees”). While the last band was driving forward aggressively, Øjne gives the song room to breathe. It is still aggressive as fuck, but it a different way.

The overall production on this thing is fantastic. It is very cohesive. This despite it being recorded and mixed in three different places (two in Russia, one in Italy), only to be sent to the US to be mastered by Will Killingsworth. There were a lot of hands on this record, and everyone did a great job. Genre fans absolutely need to give this one a listen.

Øjne
(BandCamp)

Улыбайся Ветру (Smile To The Wind)
(BandCamp)

It’s a Trap! Records [US]
Pike Records [DE]
Flood Records [BE]
Zegema Beach Record [CA]
Unlock Yourself Records [RU]
La Agonia De Vivir [ES]
Pure Heart Records [CZ]

**All translations came courtesy of the bands. Via their respective BandCamp pages.So, you know, check that out.

REVIEW: Flesh Born – “Han”

fleshbornhanI might be one of the least qualified people to review a record like this. I don’t listen to metal, and I really have no sense of what is considered good or bad in regard to it. Things that take influence from, and use tropes of, that genre are outside of my wheelhouse. Flesh Born is, in this regard, an interesting band to me. It’s a bit of a challenge. Promotional material paints this band as “screamo-meets-black metal.” I certainly can’t argue with that. I’m really familiar with screamo, but don’t know whether to shit or wind my watch when it comes to metal. I can’t talk about this record as an example of a wider genre, but I can talk about it as something I like.

Han is a killer of an EP, and you can tell the band has put a lot of effort into what they’re doing. It also serves as a great introduction to the band, especially for people like me who hadn’t heard them before. There seemed to be more of a grind influence on their earlier releases. While Han is still in line with All The Pain I Built Up and their split with Cara Neir, it does allow for a bit more space. Though, let’s be real, it is still aggressive as fuck. This is especially apparent on “Unforgivable,” which was originally released on that aforementioned split. They added an extra 20 seconds or so to the song, did the vocals in a different range, and more or less changed the very feel of the song. Jumping a song to 1:12 from 0:55 might not seem like a lot, but it is really noticeable. That is the strength of this EP. Flesh Born is building on the material they’ve released, but aren’t afraid to try things in a different way.

The music is chaotic. The songs are short (the longest being 2:40). The lyrics are the expression of anger and hate. Han is a lot like the soundtrack to the most fucked up, frustrating day of your life. Like, look at the song “Lament.” It is 40 seconds long, and the lyrics are “I want to rip the heart out of people who hate those whose only crime is being themselves. I get so much joy in knowing that they, like me, will die.” “The Fever of Feeling” is another short one that consists wholly of the lyrics ”I am miserable with hatred for you, for me, for everything.” This is not a happy record. This is a pit of frustration.

Is this a metal record? Maybe. Is this a screamo record? Definitely. Genre purists can sit and discuss that shit, this certainly isn’t the place. It fucking rules though.

Flesh Born
Skeletal Lightning
BandCamp
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REVIEW: Anodes / Enta – “Split”

anodesentaThe constant splintering of music into genres is awful. It makes sense in some cases. There is quite a large difference between certain things. But, the genres get subgenres, then the subgenres get subgenres, and so on. It creates this weird environment where two things that don’t necessarily sound the same get called the same thing. This split is an example of that. Enta and Anodes are both “screamo” bands (or whatever). The ways they approach it are different.

Enta are more on the melodic and bright side of things. The guitars absolutely shine, and feature a healthy amount of reverb. The vocals have a bit more of the gruff, post-hardcore delivery. The drums are crisp and drive things home. Overall, it’s a bit more atmospheric in some regards. There is a bit of a post-rock influence to some parts. The juxtaposition between the bright music and the darker, intense lyrics is what makes the whole thing work.

Anodes, on the other hand, dwell in a much different place. They come a little more from the Circle Takes The Square / Pg.99 side of the genre. They’re heavier and darker. The instrumentation is a little more angular. There are melodic interludes in the songs, but the band is driving and forceful overall.

It’s the two different approaches that make the split work. Each band’s pair of songs work well in the grand scheme of things. In general, this is a great documentation of one genre can be when filtered through two different sensibilities. You can’t go wrong with that.

Anodes
Enta
Skeletal Lightning
BandCamp
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REVIEW: Lord Snow – “Solitude”

solitudeThe term “emoviolence” rarely gets used anymore. It was obviously a genre tag that started as a facetious thing, but goodamn. If it was created to describe bands that mix powerviolence with screamo, then we need to bring it into the discussion here. Lord Snow don’t fuck around. Made up of members of Chicago area bands (Suffix, The New Yorker, Lautrec, and Raw Nerve), this is a band that knows exactly what they’re doing.

Solitude is not a record that you put on as background music. It’s 11 songs that demand your attention for the record’s 19 minute run time. It’s jagged, it’s raw, it’s loud and it’s one of the best things to come out in 2013. If you miss the days of emo music being hardcore, this should be your new favorite record. But, genre discussions don’t really matter in the end. It’s the music that counts.

Solitude is an abrasive record. It may not be for everyone, but even people who don’t like this kind of stuff have to appreciate the heart. The band leaves everything it has on these songs. There is one thing I think about every time I listen to this record, and it’s about how Steph Maldonado even has a voice after recording it. Her scream is raw and it sounds like her voice could give out at any moment.

The rhythm section of Steph Maldonado (bass) and Erik Anderson (drums) lay down a great foundation. Anderson is especially great. He’s able to go from full blast to reigned in at the drop of a hat. Niko Zaglaras (guitar) is able to shift between fast and chaotic to calm and melodic just as quickly. There are some great dimensions to this record that a lot of people are going to overlook.

This is a blood and guts record. The lyrics are great, the music is fantastic, and everything about it works.

Lord Snow
Lord Snow (Tumblr)
Adagio 830
Bandcamp

*Note: this seems to only be available in the US from the band directly (and is currently sold out). So, if you really want a physical copy, you’ll probably have to get it on import from Adagio 830. Bummer.