ALBUM OF THE WEEK (1st April 2014): “The Future’s Void” by EMA

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I’ve been waiting for the third album from EMA for quite a while now, ever since I had my life changed by her amazing second record “Past Life Martyred Saints” which was one of the first real classics of the new decade. Like her previous work, EMA’s new album “The Future’s Void” continues her commitment to avoid genre and to simply communicate a vast range of influences with her music. Depending on which glimpse of “The Future’s Void” you’ve heard first, it can be hard to describe exactly what kind of music EMA makes beyond labelling it some of the best pop music of the modern era.

Like so many forward thinking artists that came before her EMA demonstrates on “The Future’s Void” that she is poised to make her big leap onto the world stage. My first listen propelled me to picture a 2014 where EMA will dominate the world of pop music. The music of “The Future’s Void” is more focussed but still loose and flawed and it tangles itself in enough polish to shed its lo-fi dust but it never becomes a victim of the big pop sheen payoff. There is a synergy of emotion and humour sprinkled inside each song with enough nostalgia to satisfy those who thirst for the old via the new. It is this humour that makes these rather emotional songs so poignant and it is what sets EMA apart from her peers. Add to this EMA’s ability to go deep and parade an intensity that is equally as poetic as it is full of nonsense. The little reflective moments on both her own personal life and the world around her give an accurate snapshot of the complexities of living in the warmth of old world yearnings in the digital age.

I’m reluctant to steer you to a particular song because the journey of “The Future’s Void” lays within its diversity stylistically but the swoony pulse of “3Jane” is a fine example of when EMA does the melancholy singer / songwriter storyteller with a degree of modern fragility that it’s hard not to be sucked into the sway of it. You can then listen to a song like “So Blonde” and hear the humour and playfulness mixed with the serious and the sublime to paint a unique picture of what EMA communicates as an artist. The lazy lo-fi vocal strum of “So Blonde” has an almost rehearsed sleaze that plays into the stereotype of the subject matter and this is what makes this song such a middle finger to all that is glorified in the modern pop world whilst also embracing it.

I think EMA is fucking brilliant, she is pure class and has a million levels of talent and outshines everyone and everything happening at the moment. I’m confident that this will be a very important record for not only me but a lot of other people in 2014 and although I’m reluctant to let what I’ve felt was my own “best kept secret” out to the wider listening public, I’m also excited that EMA will finally start to get the praise she deserves.

The new album from EMA is called “The Future’s Void” and it is a truly flawless musical odyssey.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/cameouttanowhere
Official Website – http://emathefuturesvoid.net/

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EP OF THE WEEK (1st April 2014): “On For You” by Michelle Xen

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I’m disappointed I didn’t feature this back when it was released in November 2013 but no time like the motherfucking present to direct you to the healing power of Michelle Xen’s music via her newish EP “On For You” which is a celebration of all that is glorious about music. Beyond the incredible discipline on display with the overall arrangements it is the emotional journey of “On For You” that draws you in and takes you deep into the imagination of Michelle Xen. There is an incredible ache that swirls in and around the mechanical pulse of each track.

I think it’s worth mentioning that this is a truly original sound and one of the most soul connecting experiences I’ve had with a local artist in a very long time. This connection heightened the joy of my interaction with the music. I fell deeper in love with it as each listen hypnotised me with its emotional dialogue. Despite the theatre and wonderful visual aesthetic that Michelle Xen puts out there with her music, it’s quite clear that underneath that there is a deep sigh she is tapping into and wrestling with in order to deliver the music she has. Lyrically, “On For You” illustrates a very personal side to Michelle Xen and for all the futurism it strives for the simple rhythm of heartache and general disengagement with the ordinary and mediocre is blushed by pure imagination and fictional space flight yearnings to escape herself and the cruelty of the world around her. This music is about discovery and although it remains open to your own interpretation you get the feeling that Michelle didn’t want to make this music, she had to. It was vital to her overall existence that she communicates all of this swoony angst in order to build a new vehicle of survival and in the process finds a new safe place to land.

There is warmth to this largely electronic affair and it borrows dynamics from influences as diverse as modern hip hop and artists as timeless as Bjork. These are merely reference points however because Michelle Xen is a true original and people would be foolish to ignore the intense level of energy she puts into her art. This is a shiver pop classic designed for the loneliness and dilemma of modern disconnection where artists quite often struggle with the choice between art and pure commerce. With her EP “On For You” Michelle Xen illustrates that she is not only a master of making very viable modern pop music but she also can use the many stylistic influences of a wide range of art movements to communicate what an intelligent and vital artist she is.

I’ve long lived by the ethos that there is a big difference between being a musician and being an artist – Michelle Xen is an artist and her music may not be the instant hit of commerce you need to style your existence with but she is the warm hug that lasts long into the night and takes you on an adventure full of imagination and shivers.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/michellexen
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/michellexen
Official Website – http://www.michellexen.tv

ALBUM REVIEWS (1st April 2014) – Featuring – Wolfmother and Neil Finn

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Wolfmother – Album – “New Crown”

It’s painful to watch a band trying to remain relevant when clearly they were only meant to last a short distance. It’s not a new critique of the band but it’s one that has been leveled at them since their second album and for the third time round Wolfmother prove that their creative vehicle is running on the smell of an oily rag. Considering all of the money that has been wasted on promoting the disgusting music of Wolfmother for the past decade, it really wears thin that this band are still trying to push an agenda of revolution when all they represent is nostalgia and redundant rock n roll dynamics.

For their third album, Wolfmother have decided to cash in on the guerilla album launch campaign in order to garner some kind of hype. It certainly worked from the angle that it sent certain parts of the music world in a social media spin. I wouldn’t say it made the dint that artists like Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine or Beyoncé did but it was still enough to grab headlines for a rather slow news day culturally. The promotional campaign itself has had about as much thought put into it as the albums front cover and I could describe the blandness in which Wolfmother communicates on album number three by simply pointing to the front cover. If this album does anything, it tears away just how much studio trickery was used on previous albums to push the band to epic proportions.

On “New Crown” we get to witness just how amateur this band really is and how underdeveloped Andrew Stockdale is as a songwriter. It was always fairly evident that he lacked any kind of originality but in this bold yet predictable attempt to return to his “roots” we see sloppiness and a creative fatigue pepper fairly standard rock n roll songs. Even Andrew Stockdale seems tired of this formula but he remains committed to pushing brand Wolfmother and fails miserably with every song presented here.

An artist like Andrew Stockdale is not only careless but incredibly irresponsible considering the amount of success and fame he garnered from Wolfmother’s debut album. Even though that album was terrible it provided him a launch pad to explore and evolve what he established but instead of finding new ways to communicate the rock n roll language he chose to keep harvesting all of the dynamics and creative ideas of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Jack White in order to deliver the same sound over and over again. To have that kind of power and to waste it on being a formula writer is no new thing but considering how famous he was there for a while, it disappoints me to think that so many people believe that what he communicated with Wolfmother is what Australian Music is all about, pure artistic plagiarism. For the most part people would be right to assume that because a lot of our modern and most popular bands are simple clones of more popular American or European artists but overall Australia has some brilliant music underneath all that and Wolfmother have damaged the reputation of that.

I’d be very disappointed if Wolfmother make it to album number four because after listening to “New Crown” it’s quite clear that Andrew Stockdale never had a voice or an original idea worth expressing and I’ve always felt he’d be more successful and comfortable being in a Led Zeppelin / Black Sabbath tribute band that could tour the RSL and local Pub circuit across Australia. That is where a band like Wolfmother would at least be believable because once again they have proved just what an epic waste of time their input to the global creative dialogue has been.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/wolfmother

 

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Neil Finn – Album – “Dizzy Heights”

On his third solo album, Neil Finn illustrates that he has now managed to supersede Lennon and McCartney in terms of his extreme knack for writing some of the best pop music ever. Already known for his radio anthems courtesy of his days with Split Enz and Crowded House, on “Dizzy Heights” we get to witness Finn’s commitment to experimentation and for those who have stuck with him through “Try Whistling This,” “One Nil” and the recent Crowded House reunion albums “Time On Earth” and “Intriguer” you will once again be rewarded with a movement of music that is a timeless take on modern dynamics.

The one thing that stands out with “Dizzy Heights” is the production of Dave Fridmann who is most famous for his work with The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala. When Fridmann’s production is applied to Finn’s songwriting you get to hear a darker and rawer sounding version of the Neil Finn pop standards. There is a funk and ferocity to how this record is communicated and as is the case with an artist this deep into their career, there are the obvious reflections on mortality. For that reason alone this album contains some of Finn’s darkest songs. The sound of Finn’s voice and his ethereal melodies always connect to that deepest sigh in all of us and there a lot of spine tingling moments across “Dizzy Heights” were we are reminded why Neil Finn is so supremely regarded as a pioneering force in the pop music world.

I love the mood of this record; it is so fuzzed out yet soaked in bliss with a heavy dose of deep funk inspired grooves that push each song into psychedelic territory. It was bound to happen that if you paired Finn with Fridmann that you’d get music this deliciously infectious yet bizarre. Each song links into the next with a warm degree of still consistency allowing for a world of Finn soaked imagination to spread out and allow for maximum connection. There is a real mystery in the way that Finn can sing to your deepest wounds but also elevate your most beloved and joyous memories of existence. I imagine it is why so many people are fans of his music because it is hard not to make a deep connection to what he communicates as an artist.

From start to finish “Dizzy Heights” reminds the world of the relevance of an artist like Neil Finn and how he still has the ability to evolve his already strong creative dialogue by immersing himself into the modern landscape as an observer and then coming out the other side as a revised revolutionary who has once again re-invented a sound he helped shape. This album is a flawless illustration of experimental pop music from an artist who has nothing left to prove. The very fact that Neil Finn still pushes his sound this deep into experimental territory signals that his best work is still lingering in the atmosphere somewhere, waiting for him to patiently summons it through his muse. For now, just having “Dizzy Heights” is a gift that is soaked in pure divinity and an education on how to communicate music successfully.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/neilmullanefinn

All Reviews By: Dan Newton

EP REVIEWS (1st April 2014) – Featuring – Nana Vigilante, Smoking Martha and Ultrafeedy

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Nana Vigilante – EP – “Foreign Land”

I recently had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Nana Vigilante and I have to admit it was one of the most refreshing experiences I’ve had playing live in recent times. It just felt like everything that Nana Vigilante was communicating was coming from a fresh new place and that punk rock had found a new place to shoot from. Yes on the surface Nana Vigilante creates hip hop laced electronica that balances a fine line between the experimental and the accessibility of pop music but if you dig deeper you’ll hear so much more than the limitations of genre tags on a piece of paper.

In 2013 Nana Vigilante released the beautifully lo-fi glitch EP titled “Foreign Land” and perhaps it is my extreme love of M.I.A. but fuck godamn this EP moved me. It was great to hear something so different to the usual “Hey Dan, I play lo-fi guitar music” shtick that I usually get sent to me. The production is moody and the rhymes are delivered with a hushed malaise never really raising to a scream and never really staying still inside the whisper. There is so much for Nana Vigilante to explore as an artist and on “Foreign Land” she’s only glimpsed the genius and talent that she possesses. I know that Lindsay is a creatively diverse individual who has many creative outlets but I think that Nana Vigilante is her strongest example of self-expression.

Nana Vigilante is the first real underground hero of 2014.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nana-Vigilante/472677446096192

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Smoking Martha – EP – “Self-Titled”

The debut self-titled EP from Smoking Martha is all about rock n roll. The album was produced by Ian Haug whose production skills provide an even balance of raw yet slick tones to give life to the songs presented here. I imagine this band sound great live when there are a bunch of beer soaked punters in the palm of their hands but the recorded material sounds like a simple yet wonderful tribute to all of the aesthetics provided to us over the years by rock n roll. It’s not everyone’s intention to re-invent the wheel creatively and this clearly isn’t the agenda of Smoking Martha so what they lack in substance they make up for with their style.

The strongest part of Smoking Martha’s sound is the vocals of lead singer Tasha D who manages to weave flourishes of intense emotion across proceedings. It bears repeating that it is Tasha’s sincerity that makes her performance and her band feel authentic and like you want to believe it. The clash of colour and pop skills is only fleeting however as the distortion pedals drown out what are some very strong melodies. The band are tight musically and being a tight band is important but it also brings with it certain restrictions and rules that make the emotion and feelings of the music get lost amid the solid clichéd song structures. This tightness can distract you from enjoyment as it can descend into feeling like the music is way too scripted as opposed to an exciting and fresh new idea. Even the most recycled ideas musically can sound exciting when played with a looseness and fragility that connects purely on the soul power of what’s being communicated.

The strongest song here is without a doubt the lead single “Sweet As Honey” which sums up Smoking Martha in just less than four minutes. This song swings with a stadium swagger bringing to mind the good time anthems of Motley Crue and Warrant with pepperings of 1980’s era Ozzy Osbourne. These nostalgic qualities of “Sweet As Honey” are linked to a very now look stylistically linking the band to the recent boom in all things guitar rock.

The appeal of Smoking Martha’s debut self-titled EP all comes down to what kind of rock fan you are. If you like a real good time where you get to dance and drink a lot of beer and just take on the night like you own it, then yes Smoking Martha is for you. If you require a little bit more art, intensity and depth to your rock music then Smoking Martha probably isn’t for you. Either outcome, Smoking Martha prove they are the perfect house band for any mindless good time and will no doubt win over a lot of punters with this infectious sound.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/smokingmartha

 

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Ultrafeedy – EP – “Self-Titled”

You’ve probably heard me go on a lot about the idea that sincerity is the key to authenticity and in the case of Ultrafeedy’s debt self-titled EP this is quite true. What the band lacks in originality they make up for with their earnest and taunt ode to 1990’s guitar driven rock n roll. I believe this band and you can hear that the songwriters involved are fans of a wide range of music. An obvious textural love of Queens of the Stone Age guitar tones mixes with tense post-punk rhythms to build exciting but very traditional Big FM radio rock.

I’m a phenomenally massive fan of the Kyuss family tree and it sounds like Ultrafeedy are as well but it is the flourishes of the golden era of post-hardcore (think Jawbox and Sunny Day Real Estate) that really excites me when I listen to this EP. So many of the songs ease into a surprisingly different journey only to return to that straight up Homme riff chug which is always going to be more rewarding than a Wes Borland “fuck yeah” riff. This is music that hasn’t been accurately captured in the studio because I feel these songs would explode and really change lives in the live arena.

A band like Ultrafeedy has the ability to escape the standard dynamics involved with traditional rock n roll. This is evident all over this EP but you can also hear the struggle of wrestling with so many genres in order to create simple pastiches of punk infused rock. That confusion stained desire is what I find myself connecting with here because Ultrafeedy’s EP carries with it the typical sound of a band who through that exploration of diversity and influence will one day stumble across their unique voice.

Overall I think that Ultrafeedy are a band to watch because they have illustrated enough interesting ideas dynamically on this EP to suggest that they could just make an impact on the rising 1990’s rock revival scene happening in Brisbane at the moment.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Ultrafeedy

 

All Reviews By: Dan Newton

SINGLE REVIEWS (1st April 2014) – Featuring – The Phoncurves, Stellar Green, Guards Of May, The Delta Riggs, Babaganouj, Magenta Voyeur, Devil You Know and Down

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The Phoncurves – Single – “Lover”

When I first listened to the new single from The Phoncurves – which is called “Lover” – I instantly thought about Sade. The song is very vocally intricate and delicately executed but unfortunately the music side of things isn’t as creative as the vocals. The instrumentation of the song is fairly stock and bland and it really distracts from the ethereal tone of the vocals. If the band were to be as creative with the instrumental arrangements as they are with the vocal arrangements then this could be truly life changing. All in all, “Lover” by The Phoncurves is another simple exercise in nostalgia that helps bridge the gap between young moderns and people who remember 1990’s alt rock forms of expression.

Useful Links:

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/thephoncurves

 
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Stellar Green – Single – “Refuge”

A familiar Adam Jones chord progression gallops across the opening of Stellar Green’s new single “Refuge” but it soon transforms into a Homme drenched robot rock swagger. This is essentially very explosive delay drenched rock with an obvious Dead Letter Circus influence especially in the chorus which ensures that the appropriate heartstrings are tugged. This is an incredibly sincere piece of modern rock that will connect deeply with people who love the dust of stoner rock via the sheen of Karnivool.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/stellargreen

 

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Guards Of May – Single – “Arcadia”

I have an extreme soft spot for the kind of overly emotional pop metal sound that is present on the new Guards Of May single “Arcadia” which illustrates the positive impact of bands like Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus in terms of its influence on young Australian Humans to get epic and progressive with their pop music. This song is very much a “single” but it shows that Guards Of May are attempting to go deeper and aiming for something greater than simple pop hooks. This kind of song sounds very familiar, like I’ve heard it a million times before but it also excites me because it previews a band who may just be working on a new modern Australian prog rock / metal masterpiece.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/guardsofmay

 

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The Delta Riggs – Single – “Supersonic Casualties”

There is nothing pure or artistic about what a band like The Delta Riggs do and I’d go as far to say that they aren’t even what I’d define as musicians or artists. As a band, The Delta Riggs are the living example of what a bunch of bandwagon jumpers look like. Due to their ability to pay the right kind of publicity team they’ve managed to fool the public into thinking that their dire change in direction with their new single “Supersonic Casualties” is a natural evolution when in fact it’s a simple exercise in the band staying relevant and trying to ride the wave of trend into the sweet comfort of hookers and blow. It’s a horrendous mess of a song designed for Triple J and the kind of music blog that will be foolish enough to think that this is a “band to watch” – so in that sense there is intelligence on display here but it’s the same kind of intelligence a CEO of a major corporation illustrates in order to make his company money.

A song like “Supersonic Casualties” is attempting to be groovy and sexual but it is so fucking limp that any kind of achieved sexual advance done courtesy of anything this song is communicating is saturated in sleaze. Don’t let the modern dynamics fool you, this is essentially “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Motley Crue and for that reason alone it is a downright fucking travesty. If this is The Delta Riggs “challenging themselves” as it was put in the press release then fuck, go back to the drawing board lads or maybe stop trying to be careerist fucking assholes and learn to play from your heart / soul.

I mean listen to the lyrics, is this guy fucking serious?

This band is fucking terrible and I feel sorry for anyone who has to work on their publicity team and who honestly believes in this music.

When The Delta Riggs started they wanted to be Wolfmother and now they want to be Tame Impala. The music they make is about as psychedelic as Justin Bieber or Katy Perry and in all honesty I’d much rather sit through a marathon of that.

It is quite clear that The Delta Riggs don’t care about or respect music. If they did they wouldn’t parade themselves as some fucking nostalgia act that jumps from trend to trend. When I listen to their music all I can think is that they have no originality or anything to offer the music world. Get used to the understanding of the word “who” because in five years that’s exactly what people will say when you mention the name The Delta Riggs. If it was trendy for modern indie bands to eat shit I’m pretty confident that The Delta Riggs would be the first band to jump on board and give it a try.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/thedeltariggs

 

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Babaganouj – Single – “Too Late For Love”

The new Babaganouj single is called “Too Late For Love” and it is everything you’d expect it to be – it jangles and gallops along with a lo-fi consistency and is the perfect tribute to all that is glorious about the 1990’s indie rock scene and it makes you think about girls from the eighties named Stephanie Kay. In essence it is an exercise in nostalgia. There is nothing really original about it but the earnest way in which it is communicated ensures maximum enjoyment. I found myself pressing the repeat button. Clearly the band has found a better publicity team because this band seems to be all over my newsfeed and being “featured” in all the right places. As a band Babaganouj are essentially a 60’s pop group who have hijacked 90’s lo-fi (think Lemonheads, Replacements and Sebadoh) aesthetics and put enough modern spins on it to make it appeal to young humans. If Triple J is going to play a guitar rock band then it makes sense that it is Babaganouj. I think Harriette and Ruby need more air time vocally, everyone knows that Kim Deal is better than Frank Black. The b-side to the single “4U” is where it’s at really and I think that should have been the lead single but I think that’s because it offers more lyrically and has more interesting dynamics overall as a song.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/thenouj

 

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Magenta Voyeur – Single – “Strigiformes”

The brand new single from Magenta Voyeur is called “Strigiformes” and it is a slice of progressive psychedelia laced with some minor peppering’s of glam to help flesh out the dramatics.  It communicates itself quite nicely as a rock song and has enough weirdness to distance itself from being “just a song” with the freak funk edge reminding me of Clintonesque P-Funk excursions into china white soaked summers.

The overall execution of this song and its resonance with you really depends on what decade you were born in and what kind of experience you crave from your music. I like this song and I love what Magenta Voyeur as a band are striving for and I’m very confident that their collective intelligence will guide them to weird and wackier places but for now “Strigiformes” is a nice tribute to rock n roll when it’s soaked in mind expansion.

Useful Links:

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/magentavoyeur

 

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Devil You Know – Single – “Seven Years Alone”

I’ve always been a big advocate of Howard Jones and although people remain divided on the issue, I think that he brought a degree of vocal elegance to Killswitch Engage. After he left the band quite abruptly a few years back I was very keen to hear what he’d tackle next creatively. With his new band Devil You Know, Howard Jones re-establishes himself as one of the most important vocalists in the metal genre. The new single is called “Seven Years Alone” and it combines all that is great about melodic extreme metal. I’m not familiar with All Shall Perish so I can’t really comment on the guitar work on display here but having been a fan of John Sankey and his work with Devolved since they started I get a real kick out of hearing his influence all over the music of Devil You Know.

I’ve already pre-ordered this album and I’m feeling confident that it will be one of the best metal albums of 2014

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Devilyouknowofficial

 

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Down – Single – “We Knew Him Well”

The music of Down is a fine example of how a band can tackle an established creative dialogue and completely destroy and re-invent it. The formula for Down is simple, they are a tribute to the doom and power of Black Sabbath but for some reason whenever they release new music it manages to sound fresher than anything being made in the metal and rock world. I reduce this down to the NOLA sludge that infects any song made by this band and the fact that such experienced artists like Phil Anselmo, Pepper Keenan and Jimmy Bower are handling the shaping and direction of this band. These are humans I idolise beyond belief and who have been attached to some of the most forward thinking metal in the past 30 years. I’ve long maintained that Down are the greatest living rock n roll band currently and with their new single “We Knew Him Well” this gets illustrated perfectly once again.

This song is the first glimpse of the bands second EP release and it twists and turns with more Doom than on the previous EP. It feels like EP number two will be darker and more doom metal influenced with a commitment to longer songs and more sludge grooves inside the riffs. Everything feels right when this band is blasting through my headphones and with “We Knew Him Well” Down continue to make the opposition look like mere pretenders.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/down

 

All Reviews By: Dan Newton