Saturday, 30 July 2011

On a label crammed full of metalcore, death metal and post-hardcore rowdies, it’s a bizarre site to read through a press release drawing on language such as ‘ambience’, ‘atmosphere’, and ‘fragile grace’. Despite the statements subtlety, it leapt out with much greater force, than something leathered in the usual ‘demolition’ ‘chaos’ and ‘rage’ – but more important than simply standing out, it was honest. At The Soundawn’s second release, Shifting, lived by its written definitions; it was l’atmosphère, a red herring, and ultimately a breath of fresh air.

Lifeforce looked to be taking a gamble with ATS. After all, the label had brought through the likes of Heaven Shall Burn, Caliban, and Trivium - not the kind of acts associated with grace and delicacy. Yet, it was the simple process of dovetailing several contacts, and then mailing out a record or two which got them onto Lifeforce Records radar. Guitarist Andrea, begins.

“The story is pretty simple. Right after we recorded our first album, we sent a CD to Drew Juergens, who was in charge at Lifeforce USA at that time. He digged it and sent it to Stefan Luedicke, who was and still is running Lifeforce EU. Stefan loved our tunes, and they offered us a deal”

All looked well. At The Soundawn release Shifting to widespread critical acclaim and then embark on a live show roundabout climaxing in a European tour. Only, the bands blog suggested otherwise. It implied that the reality of being an underground act specifically based in Italy was something of an uphill battle.

“Playing underground heavy music in Italy means a struggle. A struggle against your everyday life, a struggle against your job, against promoters and venues; sometimes against other bands and even we could turn on each other.”

The lack of transformation began to take its toll, when they took into consideration the work which they put into promoting the act, not just in their home town, but across Europe. Staying connected with their following, At The Soundawn kept correspondence with fans through open and sincere blog posts, even letting us into problems in their personal touring routines. This wasn’t about marketing, witty professionalism, or plotted naivety (nor was it a skittish way of trying to flog an extra CD or two). This was a human reflection of how life as an underground act unfolded.

“Before I even thought about running a blog for ATS, I used to spend some time reading other bands blogs. I read about great concerts, great tours, great record deals, great endorsements, great everything, and I was kinda excited. I thought ‘Wow! This or that band is doing such great things!’ This then on reflection, made me pretty mad at myself, and my bandmates. How the hell are we the only ones, who have to fight with our boss to get free days to tour? Why the hell did we travel for 2000 km to play a gig in a filthy club with no P.A. and no crowd, while other bands are playing in great clubs with hundreds of people attending their shows? Why do we have to fight so hard, while everything appears so easy for these other bands?”

“90% of those bands were just lying. Not in a bad way, but they were obscuring the worst part of the job, focusing on the positive side of it and adding a little bit of spice to it, like avoiding saying that there were ten people attending the show and instead they just talked about the great lights the show had - social networking is great at doing this! Another 5% delivered a balanced and true report of their activity but gave a really boring picture, no great success nor great defeats, just a pretty plain life in underground music. And the other 5%... well, those are the lucky ones who really made it, so horns up!”

“The point is, I realized that the very fight ATS has been living through, is the fire which keeps us alive. It’s that struggle that pushes us to do more. It’s the pleasure and unpleasure to have a small but enthusiastic crowd at our shows which gives us the strength to follow our path, to write more music, to write better music, to discuss with my bandmates about a riff, to struggle with my boss to get holidays to tour in, to waste all my money on pedals and gear, and finally, to keep on running the show… And if this is the real point of playing in a band, why don’t I tell it? Why would I keep it in the background? Why am I not sharing our whole experience? I think that every single band out there is facing our same problems. Simply they don’t share it with their fans. We do.”

Andrea’s genuine acceptance brought home the stark reality of being lassoed in the underground – especially when on the surface many make it look gullibly rosy.

Realising that the band had been able to lug their problems around with them, I asked if they had eclipsed any difficulties. Had they found resolutions? “Yes, there have been resolutions – but we’re still living in it”. He also admitted “We’re writing new music and somehow it has changed – but it’s too early to understand how our experience has affected it.”

An undisputed positive was their European tour, which garnered a buzz wherever they choose to play. Explaining the nooks and crannies of the tour, as well as Italian misconceptions, Andrea was both upbeat and modest.

“As far as I can recollect, we had such a great response everywhere. The real matter while touring, as I told you before, is: “How many people will be in the crowd tonight?” We’re not a popular band yet, plus we are Italian and usually Italian bands are not really well received by the audience”

“You know, when you think about Italian music you picture the sea, the sunset, a couple kissing on the beach, some classic guitar notes and a sorrowful vocal fading in. The thing is… how can I blame anyone? That is a big part of Italian music!”

“Anyway, sometimes concerts are pretty bad, usually they’re fine and once in a while they are really great - like the opening show of our last tour, when we played at Progresja in Warszaw, in front of three hundred plus and Shifting sold out in half an hour.”

When I asked about a new album, Andrea was privy to detail, not passing on any information other than that there was something already in the pipeline. He also mentioned a possible tour before the new album launched, hinting at a few shows within the UK.

It was difficult not to feel enchanted by Andrea’s transparency. Here he was, letting us into the core of what the band and himself had experienced, refusing to accept that what they had achieved was enough, even throughout the bands relatively short lifespan. As is often the case, bravery follows honesty, and At The Soundawn carry this in abundance.

“Thank you so much. Keep in touch guys - come to read and discuss our blog here:


Article found at Metal Mayhem UK

Posted by Posted by Andy at 12:32 am
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American, rock, blues, it’s easy to gloss over that Norbert Krief is in fact a French musician, set out to make a simple bright rock album, engrossed in personality. Krief is marketed as an old school hard rock distro, but Nono is a much more complex record. This is a light and airy rock album laden in quirky vocal and manic production, along with Krief sounding like an unhinged Christer Ortefors; which suggests that Nono really is that manic quirky record it isn’t meant to be. It’s not like he’s set out to be a Zappa l’artiste, he just is.

It’s a rarity that you’re able to jive, headbang, and ponder all within the same track, but Nono gives you no choice. Eccentric, daft, complex, fun; hello Norbert Krief.

8/10 Powerplay issue #134

Posted by Posted by Andy at 12:27 am
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Perhaps we’ve been made immune by the quality of Scandinavian progressive metal over the past decade, the formula being the Holy Grail for successive song writing on an epic scale. Surprisingly this lot are based in Chicago Illinois, that to any unassuming would swear this was the product of the Nordic plains. The Living Fields are convincing.

Layered in piano, violin, cello, acoustic guitar and electric guitar give it the kind of depth that such big ideas need for realisation. On the other hand their production, necessary for the entire piece to work as an epic lets them down – for all of their instrumentation the record simply doesn’t sound big enough. In another light it makes the checklist for anything progressive with a Nordic spin – no surprise then, to see Candlelight have fiercely hunted them down.

7/10 Powerplay issue #134

Posted by Posted by Andy at 12:23 am
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It’s the kind of rock that’s played during a crummy American drama, as the credits begin to roll after a loony remark of wit, humour or general triumph. Rhode Island Red is a super smooth, light production, that’s meant to be listened too while sipping a few margaritas with your date. Made up of three tracks, this single floats within the boundaries of pop rock, relying on front woman Lyla D’Souza to carry the band through uplifting choruses, and massive key changes. With that said it’s difficult to fault Kerosene; laden in great musicianship, catchy tunes, and solid production. Their definition will ultimately be down to D’Souza’s vocal, and the question still remains unanswered - can she carry them through an entire full length? In any case, this is a very promising, accomplished preview.

7/10 Powerplay issue #134

Posted by Posted by Andy at 12:20 am
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In the spontaneity of it all, speed metal shouldn’t be dissected into hashed out sections of dextrous power chord progressions – it’s just meant to be energetic, angry fun. So, while Dekapitator flimsily whizz on, riff by riff, the entire thing is glued together with the bands tight individual performances and a belching vocal akin to Paul Baloff of Exodus – as gathered, this is an invitation down memory lane, with no attempt to change the speed formula, but play on it. With that said, this will tear apart most headbangers because of its shear speed and brutality. It’s a snappy collection of songs too, each clocking out on average two and a half minutes. Brace yourself.

We Will Destroy… You Will Obey!!! is the reissue originally put together in 1999, and 12 years on, the scooped nineties production has more charm in its age, than something shrivelling in longevity. Indeed, this is only limited to fans in the niche, and they’ll be gloriously satisfied.

7/10 Powerplay issue #134

Posted by Posted by Andy at 12:17 am
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Usually putting a red line through a commercially viable band like Grinspoon is an easy task, but they touch base with so many different artists it’s difficult to highlight a precise definition – one thing this serves to do is push into the fore what Grinspoon should be: a creamy rock ballad act. Six To Midnight tries with the edge, the brashness and anger, but it never comes to fruition – it’s more part of the process of getting to the softer ballad tunes, which is a real shame, as the record only contains two sing-along ballads.

Perhaps it’s insecurity or a lack of faith in their own abilities, but they’ve clearly got the know-how on ballad-craft, with everything else going by the wayside. With that said, there are two tracks that’ll be adored by your sister; but for the men amongst us, you’re left with a fledgling look at Blink 182, Limp Bizkit, and Weezer. Flex those guns, or don't.

5/10 Powerplay issue #134

Posted by Posted by Andy at 12:08 am
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Friday, 29 July 2011

It’s the kind of southern hard rock that has more akin with contemporary pop than it does with the likes of BLS, and the hardest pill to swallow is that Last Known Addiction want to be edgy, scruffy, beer swaggering Texans (excuse the stereotype). The main problem lies with vocalist Stephen Cairns, who sounds far too clean to be in front of the edge which the guitars do their best to provide. It’s not a necessity of vocal range – after all the man can sing – but his pretentious performance is like your funny uncle grabbing the microphone at a family wedding, who starts to yell over a Bryan Adams sing along for a laugh. Sure, these guys can write southern hard rock, but performing it is another matter.

With that said, there’s no attempt to try anything different in the genre, as Last Known Addiction are happy enough to flex their muscles inside of the bubble. It’s a valid contribution, but one that doesn’t cut its teeth in personality, and is far too safe in imitation.

6/10 Powerplay issue #134

Posted by Posted by Andy at 11:59 pm
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Everything from The Roots of Dreamers structure, pacing and ideas are completely workable inside of its genre, but for what positives it builds upon, it severely lacks in basic production qualities, such as performance, and layering. Added to the damning, this is a progressive record, littered in bridled piano playing and guitar melody, yet it falls flat because each instrument does its own piece in isolation. Why haven’t the sections been cut on top of another?

This being a mash-up of progressive and doom dirge, its intentions are clear with well thought track planning and coherent song structure - if the only beef resides with production and performance, then they’re on the right track.

6/10 Powerplay issue #134

Posted by Posted by Andy at 11:53 pm
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