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Saturday 3 November 2018

Reviews: Euringer, Damnation Gallery, Osukaru, Sulphur (Reviews By Stief & Alex)

Euringer: Euringer (Metropolis Records) [Stief]

It’s only natural that a solo project from the lead singer from long-standing Electropunk band Mindless Self Indulgence starts with a trigger warning, which could be seen as a commentary on today’s offense culture, or it could just be Jimmy messing with us. Featuring an eclectic mix of guest singers; Serj Tankian, Grimes, Gerard Way and Morningwood singer, Chantal Claret, this album is exactly what you’d expect from Jimmy. Electronic music that jumps from frenetic to heavy at a moment’s notice. There are a few interesting pieces, including Internal Organs, an instrumental synthwave interlude with some surreal whispering voice asking why Jimmy is crying, before flowing directly into an electropop cover of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights which strangely doesn’t feel out of place at all.

Sailor In A Life Boat is almost pop-punk in its uplifting tones, and Random EMO Top Line Generator builds up to one of the most frenetic crescendos I’ve heard in a while. The whole album seems to be an introspective journey for Jimmy, with titles such as That’s How Jimmy Get’s Down, The Medicine Does Not Control Me and album closer Two And A Half Years, an odd splicing of recorded pieces, halfway through which Jimmy seems to run away from a phone conversation, before ending in birdsong. Oh, also he ‘covers’ the Doobie brothers. So there’s that. Overall, if you enjoy Mindless Self Indulgence, you know exactly what you’re getting and you can’t go wrong picking this up. 8/10

Osukaru: House Of Mirrors (City of Lights Records) [Stief]

As soon as House Of Mirrors starts, you’re immediately dipped into the 80’s, with synths and drum beats plucked right from the brains of Phil Collins, before throwing you into a delightful AOR soundscape. Straight from the outset, Fredrik Werner - with a voice that has just the right amount of sandpaper roughness to lead this kind of music – brings 1980 straight into 2018. Backed up by bassist Olof Gadd and founding member Oz Osukaru layering the keyboards all throughout the album, the band’s sound is fast-paced, good-times-all-round classic rock, some of which wouldn’t feel out of place behind the credits of a feel-good movie set in some sort of high-school.

Honorable mentions go to Inception, which includes a delightful saxophone solo, album closer Felicity Drive with Fredrik, Oz, Olof and Drummer Vidar MÃ¥rtensson all throwing themselves into the music with pure emotion to great effect. It wouldn’t be and AOR album without the classic ballad, and Until Forever Ends doesn’t disappoint. Bonus prize goes to MacGyver It if only for the title alone. As a fan of AOR, this is right up my alley, and if you enjoy a bit of cheesy 80’s style rock straight from the heart, you can’t go amiss with Oz and co. 8/10

Damnation Gallery: Black Stains (Leynir Booking) [Stief]

Tolling bells, eerie choral chanting, these sounds lull you into a false security before you hear it, the faint pounding and vicious riffage before blasting into Damnation Gallery, the harsh vocals of Scarlet tearing out from the pounding drums of Coroner and aforementioned riffage from the two Lords, ‘Edgard’ and ‘of Plague’. Bassist Low keeps it just that, the bass work sounding almost groovy in places. Now, I’m a fan of heavy metal, especially when it starts to teeter into the black end of the metal spectrum, but I’m on the fence when it comes to this album.

Scarlet’s voice, while delightfully gravelly, seems to suit the deep guttural growls seen in title track Black Stains and Psychosis but lacks something when singing ‘clean’. I say ‘clean’ because she retains the harshness from the growls, but seems almost strained as she pushes her voice. It’s a decent album, but I feel it needs a couple of listens, if only to get used to the varying vocal work. 7/10

Sulpher: No One Will Ever Know (Oblivion) [Alex]

Admittedly, I struggle with industrial metal. Not to say that I detest the genre. Members of Sulpher have spent years as touring members in Marilyn Manson’s live band and the Prodigy, consequently pulling inspiration from the ominous stamp of Rammstein and the vast electronic soundscapes of Nine Inch Nails. All artists who I at least admire, or enjoy wholeheartedly. Yet there are facets and elements to the style – embodied largely by Ministry’s sound – which I interpret as obnoxious. Approaching Sulpher's first album in over 17 years, I looked for elements I typically enjoy in electronic-infatuated rock!

Striking me first is the influences from genres which create immersively dark metal. Vocals on No One Will Ever Know are morosely wept. On Follow You Down the guitars and bass are aggressive and distorted to a confrontational level, whereas Nothing and You Threw It All Away introduce a few more of those chaotic and noise led aspects. By contrasting these ideas, Sulpher does play around with atmosphere effectively. As an example, one of the most admirable sections is witnessing the sheer difference between Tomorrow: an acoustic-led ballad utilizing orchestral flourishes, with the following song, Fell Through: a broodingly twisted few minutes of pure catharsis. It is these lurches in approach which actually imbue the album with emotionality and spine-tingling ambiance

In a weird way, however, the same ideas which work in the record's favour are the same ones which make it flawed. I have long said that there is nothing wrong with paying homage to your influences and doing so respectfully. That is different though from creating pale imitations of those artists and losing any sense of your identity. Distinctiveness feels lacking to the extent that you could play me Used or Feels Like The End, and easily convince me that they’re rejected demos from an early Deftones recording session. Furthermore, while setting a mood is vital, there are entire five-minute pieces in the vein of Didn’t Ever or Nothing, which only set a tone and do nothing else, having the effect of making the run-length seem wasted and counter-productively sucking away emotion and feeling.

Taken to its core, No One Will Ever know plays to its influences and brings in some interesting ideas to compliment the moroseness and sinister qualities of the style. Yet it is a lack of willingness to either fully commit to these ideas or to take the sound in a unique direction that makes the work suffer, feeling short-sighted and definitely lacking potential given the talent of the musicians on offer 4/10

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