Album Reviews

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Nocturnalian

Contrarian

Sect Appeal Records

There is no let up for artist, musician, and songwriter Gøran Karlsvik who dons the mask of CONTRARIAN for third outing ‘Nocturnalian’. Released via the indie imprint Sect Appeal Records, ‘Nocturnalian’ makes connections with, and continues the work left by mammoth debut ‘Hit Singles 2018-19’ and follow-up ‘Anomaly Lounge’. Entering a tunnel that is filled with bright and colourful electronics is where the listener will find her/himself during opening portal ‘Cartoons For Dystopians’; a slowly emerging blend of cheerful-sounding rays of electronica, sparking and fusing with snippets of 80s/90s computer games and soundbite impressions lifted directly from the factory floor. It provides the impression of a long and arduous road littered with confusion and one this Mario Super enters with nothing but his own mind for company. It opens the door to late-night operations and where sleep is minimal. ‘Basement Dweller’ does its best to provide such meaning, and in direct contrast to the brighter sounds of the album’s opening track, with its clouded and constricted electronic sounds clicking and chiming in repeated fashion. It is the sound of contemplation once more and one that eventually manages to find an exit via ‘Hades Operating System’. Despite connections linking these two tracks to the bottommost level, ‘Hades Operating System’ is the springboard to a different route from its controlling station, with breathing apparatus applied before its electronic ascent. It drops a massive hint to filmmakers looking for an appropriate track for their film score, and one instantly supported by the interplanetary ‘Game Over V.2’; a track of considerable depth and filled with rich textures and appropriately so given the colossus journey ahead. The contemplation continues for the rest of the duration of the album and with interesting outcomes from cheerier-than-it- sounds ‘Want A Happy Ending With That?’ given its colourful notes blossoming, before ending in a far grounded sound congested by overlapping chatter and muffled beats of ‘Busy Signal At The Self-Help Hotline’. Latest, ‘Nocturnalian’ is a detailed account of sleep deprivation where thought processes are at once blurred as they are clear. Contrarian achieves all of this by successfully fusing ideas and sounds to provide a picture of a soul working through various emotions with electronic equipment the best source of communication.


Released Out now

 

The One That Won’t (Single)

Three Star Riot

OWN LABEL

Fast becoming something of a favourite at Famous Last Words (FLW), and clearly showing signs of rising in stature is Three Star Riot. Swiftly moving on from last month’s digital single release ‘Golgotha’, latest offering ‘The One That Won’t’ sees the trio from Finland moving from first, to second, and now third base in rather quick succession as this new single is equally on par with its predecessor, but also unveils another facet of the band’s song writing. Playing to a similar beat, ‘The One That Won’t’ ticks all the right boxes as far as their punkabilly references go, with a fine melody woven into its fabric and a chorus that reveals links to their past with earlier line-up TimeKillers. Despite any similarities, its strengths are those moments where the pace of the rhythm diverts itself, and the lyrics make strong decisions about the direction this subject is heading. Already proving themselves to be a three-piece with more than one creative string to their bow, Three Star Riot is a band to keep a close watchful eye on judging by the compelling goodness of ‘The One That Won’t’.


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Golgotha (Single)

Three Star Riot

OWN LABEL

Coming out of lockdown, Three Star Riot keep the creative momentum going with the brand-new single ‘Golgotha’. Clocking in around the two-minute mark, this latest song from Three Star Riot reveals a band with a conscience where socio-political thoughts infiltrate its words and leaves one with an afterthought of, and to cite one of their heroes, a “thinking persons” The Living End. Therefore, with much to offer, ‘Golgotha’ rumbles along at considerable pace and remains concise in its overall execution via a sharp rhythm of rumbling upright bass, a gruff vocal, and rapid guitar. In other words, ‘Golgotha’ is a song you can set your watch to, and all the remarkable considering its brief stay yet somehow managing to shoehorn in much food for thought via some interesting social and political commentary.


Released Out now

 

I Confess (Single)

Jo Below

Inverse Records

Finnish hard-rock quartet Jo Below make a return trip in 2021 with new single ‘I Confess’. The brand-new offering is the second track to be lifted from the forthcoming EP, ‘No Control’. As with previous single ‘Ms. Death’, the musical leaps in progress for Jo Below since their debut record, ‘By The Rules’, continues apace as ‘I Confess’ ditches the polish for a far grittier sound. The comparisons offered up by the band’s press release including Stone Sour, Halestorm and Paramore are accurate reflections of latest single ‘I Confess’ given its post-grunge connections. Whilst Jo Below’s music may not be reinventing the wheel, the decision to apply a far thicker layer of grease to the creative spokes of this musical creation was an inspired choice, drawing in additional comparisons with Antipodeans Super Jesus and thus opening a pathway to the alternative-rock universe. Truly, ‘I Confess’ is a song worth getting excited about.


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Strangers/Lovers: Side B

DAGNY

Little Daggers Records

After releasing phase one of her debut album ‘Strangers/Lovers: Side A’ last summer, DAGNY issues phase two of said album. With ‘Side B’ submitted a few months later during the same year, FLW arrived a tad late to the second half of this full-length LP. However, any decision to submit feedback of DAGNY’s debut offering was always on the cards due to being mightily impressed with ‘Side A’. With a colossal number of tracks considered before entering the recording studio in Oslo, a final figure of twelve tracks was decided upon to make the final grade. Focusing on ‘Side B’ of ‘Strangers/Lovers’, singer-songwriter DAGNY (full name Dagny Norvoll Sandvik), the immediate connection with these tracks is the subtler tone of the music on offer. Heartbreak is central to the narratives of these final songs, where much reflection is given via the emotionally raw ‘Bad At Love’ with its pared-back arrangement of vocals and barely audible piano adding to the overall mood. There’s toned-down pop such as the memory-driven ‘Moment’, which continues in similar fashion during ‘It’s Only A Heartbreak’ and stirring finale ‘Coast To Coast’. It has taken some time to arrive, but the wait has been worthwhile as DAGNY has written and recorded a debut album to be proud of, and one that will stand the test of time.


Released Out now

 

Digging In The Dirt (Single)

Janita

ECR Music Group

Following on the heels of previous single, and aptly titled for the current times we are all experiencing, ‘Not What You’re Used To’, singer-songwriter Janita issues a cover of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Digging In The Dirt’. The chosen track is also reflective of the times as Janita explains in her own words, “This song hit me like a ton of bricks when Peter Gabriel first came out with it, but never has the message of the song been more timely than it is right now. To make sense of the world, you have to first make sense of yourself. And in this time of division, to deeply understand what you stand for—and what you can’t tolerate—is everything”. Getting to the root(s) of the present-day pandemic has been, and remains, a challenge. Thankfully, ‘Digging In The Dirt’ provides no such barriers when it comes to listening, which is due to the chameleon-esque inventiveness of both the song’s originator, Peter Gabriel, and current creator, Janita. By choosing to pick up the baton to deliver a cover, Janita remains faithful to its original creation, only there is an added crispness (especially in the guitars) to the song’s overall sound. Helping to deliver such a healthy rendition of ‘Digging In The Dirt’ is fellow singer-songwriter and New York resident Blake Morgan on production duties, to a song examining (personal) mental health and wellbeing issues and one delivered effectively by the sting contained in its verses and then softened by tender, sweeter choruses. With news of a promotional video still in production and to support the single release of ‘Digging In The Dirt’, the jury waits in anticipation for Janita’s interpretation considering the surreal visuals of the original. A timely reminder of a compelling song and one that deserves to be heard, especially in these difficult times, ‘Digging In The Dirt’ remains a classic.


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Vexilla (Single)

Aryokal

Bandcamp

An electronic sound with a dark, atmospheric touch can be heard via latest single ‘Vexilla’ from independent outfit Aryokal. The new track features a hands-on approach from duo Antti Ruokola and Pekka Loponen, with Antti Ruokola responsible for the band’s compositions, programming, and production duties, and Pekka Loponen handling the vocals. What the listener can expect is a lengthy brooding track where minimalist, electronic pulses keep momentum in the background and allowing for an almost free-flowing piano to roam and taking its inspiration from jazz music. There is, however, an interesting turn in the single ‘Vexilla’, punctuated by a halfway point where the previously spoken word feel of the vocals breaks out into a more full-bodied voice, and with the electronic sounds becoming far more prominent. Hopefully, Aryokal is in the planning stages for a full album given the intriguing qualities of current release ‘Vexilla’.


Released 12 February

 

Stain Remover (Single)

This Sect

Sect Appeal Records

It has been a while since Norwegian’s This Sect made something of an impact on home soil, not to mention reaching the perimeters of the UK with their debut album ‘Shake The Curse’ (2014). Since that period, the six-piece has been busy writing and recording, in addition to its various members pursuing other musical goals. Step forward however, and there’s a brand-new single, and promise of a second album in the offing. First song to be lifted from sophomore album ‘Everything We Know Into A Black Hole’ is ‘Stain Remover’. Instantly, the song reveals This Sect on a much subtler path than before, where it is clear the twin-turbo of vocals and guitar often highlighting the caustic, jagged edges of their debut record are toned down somewhat without losing any of the former’s close associations to such post-punk references as The Chameleons. ‘Stain Remover’ is the sound of a band moving on from this debut, but it remains a record that never forgets its past, with the difference being the understated way it goes about its business. Older and wiser therefore, but there is an anger that still simmers beneath this first single that becomes more apparent in the steady progress of its rhythm, which accumulates in layers and quickens in tempo and identifiable in the almost overlapping vocals and swirls of instrumentation. People friendly ‘Stain Remover’ most certainly isn’t as far as its words detail, rather a more telling sign of a figure scraping away at the innermost layers of humanity in the hope of finding something constructive. The wait, however, may be a while. ‘Stain Remover’ is the perfect response from a band which has taken an awful long time to reply to that echo that called out for a new release which, on this hearing, This Sect is certainly forgiven. Welcome back!


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Strangers/Lovers: Side A

DAGNY

Little Daggers Records

Adopting a novel approach to her debut album release is DAGNY. Having written an impressive number of tracks, two hundred and fifty to be precise, in addition to taking part in numerous sessions and recording studios the world over, the singer-songwriter Dagny (full name Dagny Norvoll Sandvik) entered Livingroom Studios in Oslo during 2019 to finalise the tracks for the first half of debut album ‘Strangers/Lovers: Side A’. Seeking a common thread throughout the album, the aforementioned “novel approach” was taken as a result of sifting through eighteen months of work and realising that all songs from this period were good enough to make the cut for the debut record; hence the debut album being split in two for two separate releases. Focusing on the first half of the record, ‘Strangers/Lovers: Side A’ is full of pop songs that are bright as they are bristling with intelligence. Such examples can be garnered from the gradual awakening that is ‘Come Over’, to sleek electronic beats steering ‘Somebody’ and its joyous realisation of love echoed by its words. What goes up however, also tends to come down as the emotions suggest during the tail end of this debut record, best served by honest admissions of ‘Let Me Cry’. An exceptionally good start is ‘Strangers/Lovers: Side A’ and one that, no doubt, will become even more clearer once its imminent second side is released.


Released Out now

 

Falsehoods (EP)

Terrible Love

Bandcamp

The future of Terrible Love remains unclear, with truly little information surfacing from the band’s social media pages. That said, the latest breaking news concerns brand-new EP ‘Falsehoods’, issued (For the moment?) as a digital only release. The new material is welcome news, despite a clear statement from the band that the tracks are DEMOS carefully selected from a still unfinished/unreleased full-length album. With much credit owed to Sam Manville for tidying up, mixing an mastering the songs featured on ‘Falsehoods’, it is difficult to accept that these tracks are not the finished articles because the quality is of a high calibre and worthy of an official CD/vinyl release. Likely financial constraints have taken their toll here, not to mention the unprecedented times society is undergoing, but no matter as fans of post-hardcore, post-punk and alternative music in general will lap these up. Beginning with the lone-skeletal guitar chords of ‘Dose’, which soon morphs into second-track ‘Come To Harm’; that has all the feel of a demo during its opening bars, only to unfold into a thunderous, guitar-driven song with melodic passages and red-raw vocals. Whether it is an individual or agency at the centre of ‘History Will Not Be Kind’ is open to interpretation, but either way makes for compelling listening in addition to the more considered approach of the song musically. Concluding with the excellent and forceful ‘Maw’ that signposts feelings of angst concerning the unusual times society is experiencing, Terrible Love fire enough flares during ‘Falsehoods’ signalling for life to be given to this EP, which is warranted considering the quality on display and therefore persuasive enough for any suitors listening to officially release the long overdue album. Trying times indeed.


Released Out now

 

Sweet Nothings (Single)

Seed Husk

OWN LABEL

Testament that alternative indie guitar rock is not a dying art can be heard via latest single from alternative rockers Seed Husk and ‘Sweet Nothings’. Continuing a run of recent new recordings before a full-blown album not too far down the pipeline, the new release speaks of a fracturing relationship that is about to free fall with rivalling sides expressing their views where honest admissions are given and the regret that comes with this as one dissected example shows: “I can admit I overdid it, Some brutal wind went over me”. The accompanying video directed by Nora Niemispelto supporting ‘Sweet Nothings’ has a darkened fairy-tale quality reminiscent of Radiohead’s gothic trip into blackened woodland of ‘There, There’, and thus falling in line with the reference points Seed Husk continue to pick away at circa 80s-90s alternative bands. It’s the layers Seed Husk build into their songs with ‘Sweet Nothings’ being no exception from this rule where chirping, echoing guitars are present one moment only to run a more ragged course along with tumbling drums and impassioned vocals stressing the anxiety felt at the heart of this song. If ‘Sweet Nothings’ is the sound of what is to come regarding the band’s impending sophomore LP, then the long wait will be utterly worth it.


Released Out now

 

Paying For More (Single)

Jo Below

Inverse Records

Flipping through the catalogue of rock music’s past, and then applying their own modern twist on the genre, is Finnish (alt) rockers Jo Below. Surfacing in 2017, the four-piece band quickly got to work writing and recording tracks that will feature as part of a forthcoming EP scheduled for release in September 2020. Providing a flavour of this upcoming record is the track ‘Paying For More’, which is available now via all good digital streaming platforms. The song itself is an energetic rocker that melds the previously mentioned influence of traditional rock music, but with something more modern where rock and punk music fuse and produce something akin to the likes of Blink-182 largely due to the melodic passages appearing in various places of ‘Paying For More’. From such a confident beginning, the anticipation for the rest of Jo Below’s debut EP is greatly anticipated when that arrives this autumn.



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