Sunday, 17 February 2008

Sika Redem - Entheogen

Sika Redem are a sadly underappreciated band from Coventry. Their schizophrenic, cathartic yet beautiful sound could be broadly generalised as screamo, but there’s so many different elements to take note of in their music that it’s quite hard to tell. While it fuses together so many different influences, never once does Entheogen sound contrived or, indeed, anything less than unique. There is a broad sonic range on display here: the epic album opener “The October Bird of Death” showcases Sika Redem’s capabilities perhaps better than any other track here, an impressively seamless flow from jarring discordance to inventive mellow guitar-tapping; from furious screamo to enormous epic climaxes. ‘Mr. Hunk’, ‘The Race From Hominid To Star Flight’ and ‘Shields’ sound, to throw some lazy journo metaphors out there, somewhat like Off Minor teaming up with Mogwai to fend off Isis at their most colossal. Their noodling post-rock guitar lines are juxtaposed with towering walls of almighty noise. ‘Euglena’ and ‘Proud Sons of a Magnanimous Land’, meanwhile, show that they also have the art of short bursts of cathartic screamo-meets-mathcore firmly under their belts. Sika Redem’s sense for the epic is, opening track aside, most noticeable in ‘The Protagonist Fails, The Pugilist Falls’ and ‘Stretching for the Zenith’, two sprawling, gargantuan tracks that reward attentive listening immensely. Tommy Jones’ vocals also display an impressive range, flitting from impassioned, abrasive screams and desperate yelps to ethereal crooning. Browsing the lyric sheet only makes things more involving – Entheogen is a complex, compelling album brimming with emotion. The production, done by Magnus Lindberg (most notable for his involvement with Cult of Luna), is also of note – it sounds enormous,s yet distinctly unpolished, a raw titan of an album. This review makes Entheogen sound frankly all over the place, but that is simply because it is hard to describe the sound without resorting to lazy comparisons. It is a very coherent and unique-sounding record, each song carrying with it a distinct sound that could only be attributed to Sika Redem themselves, whilst displaying an impressive amount of invention and variety. Don’t miss out, immerse yourself in their chaotic, dizzying wonderland – it’s a trip that you won’t forget.

Download three tracks from this album here.

Friday, 15 February 2008

American Nightmare - Background Music

Despite acknowledging that “Screaming gets you nothing”, Wes Eisold decided, regardless, to pen the lyrics to Background Music, a 24-minute hand-grenade of lovelorn desperation. American Nightmare (now using the moniker Give Up The Ghost) play hardcore in the hard ‘n’ fast tradition, coupling their short, frantic songs with Eisold’s passionate, throaty rasp. His delivery makes words often undistinguishable on first listen but, when accompanied with the lyric sheet, Background Music is a tour de force. You’re not even getting half of it if you don’t listen to the lyrics – behind this album’s incessant power chords and drumbeats lies a lifetime’s worth of upset and frustration. There is the odd Modern Life Is War-esque tale of suburban depression (‘I.C. You Are Feeling Drake’) but the most poignant thing here is Eisold’s stories of heartbreak and unrequieted love. It is something that most of us have been through, and he puts his frustration in such an eloquent way that the listener feels an immediate connection with what he is feeling. He displays a keen sense of wit with such gems as “I took a shot at the world/and I missed” and “If imperfections are illegal/Then you should call the cops/and they should lock me up”. In these lyrics you can hear how many lonely nights he’s had, how many times love has pushed him to the edge, how many times he would have rather been dead. Despite all this depression, you can still hear how much he values the world around him and those close to him in the final stanza of ‘Farewell’: “I've lived through days/I've lived through nights/I've had my loves/I've had my fights./You've got to know, you have my heart.” Background Music is the perfect soundtrack to being young, male and lovesick, and it is nothing short of inspiring.

Download three tracks from this album here.

mewithoutYou - [A-->B] Life

mewithoutYou have always been a band that have been misunderstood and mislabelled as a “Christian” band. Yet even the most hard-hearted atheist should be able to appreciate the lyrical genius of Aaron Weiss: his ruminations on faith, love and life are well thought-out, passionate and intensely personal. It is clear that his views on religion are well informed, intelligent and honest, far from the imagined black-and-white ethical system that so many misinformed Dawkins-worshippers jump to criticise. Lyrically as well as musically, there is an interlinked trajectory to be noted in mewithoutYou’s discography: the first two albums show increasingly searching reflections on faith, showing the difficulties and moral tests Aaron has faced on the path to finding God. Meanwhile the latest offering, Brother, Sister, is a more mellowed-out effort with a new-found penchant for lush instrumentation, its lyrics suggesting that while Aaron still faces plenty of tests, he has also found many answers to the questions posed on earlier albums. As such, [A→B] Life is a more endearing album to many fans, because, as the raging and yearning beginnings of mewithoutYou, listeners find themselves searching and asking questions alongside Aaron. Musically, it is far rawer than its successors, with an increased emphasis on post-grunge-isms and raging punk-esque guitars, while Aaron is more likely to be found screaming his heart out than speaking soft spoken word passages. The main element that makes the album what it is, however, is Aaron’s incredible lyrics: there are still ponderings on spirituality here, but what is more evident is a theme that is familiar to everyone, believers and non-believers alike, and is thus instantly relatable: love. Throughout the album there are so many eloquent passages that send instant shivers down the spine – take the line in ‘Silencer’ “She put on happiness like a loose dress/Over pain that I’ll never know” or ‘Gentlemen’s declaration of “And I’ll live without your love/But what good is one glove without the other?” Aaron’s poesy is made all the more authentic by his honesty: he is unafraid to admit that he is imperfect, that he makes the same mistakes that everyone makes in his relationship both with other people and with God. His impassioned delivery adds to the power of his lyrics, frenetically mumbling over spine-tingling breaks in the music. The beauty of his lyrics here is that many of us have felt exactly what he feels, while he communicates his problems in a way that is simultaneously breathtaking and heartbreaking. mewithoutYou have, to this day, maintained a near-flawless discography that is as affecting as it is essential. Whatever your beliefs, mewithoutYou are more than merely a band to check out – they are a band that you need in your life.

Download three tracks from this album here.