Devin Townsend has always been a fairly busy chap and as his verbal introduction to this record shows, with no less than twenty-four albums worth of material across his career to draw on, he had a lot to choose from for this set list. Technically this is a re-release, previously included as a bonus Blu-Ray disk on the super-duper extended edition of Empath and a chance to hear the songs on audio for the first time. This show was recorded in Leeds and is basically him playing more or less on his own with an acoustic guitar and a laptop for backing purposes … and a bunch of cuddly toys. Go figure.
Having got the whole Empath project put to bed, he has mined the archives for quite a broad range of tracks from Strapping Young Lad, the Devin Townsend Band and Devin Townsend Project years, many of which will not be familiar to all but the most devoted and ardent followers of his work. It sounds like it was a really informal and laid back affair, with a lot of verbal interaction with the audience. In fact we are several minutes of chat into the record before he even plays a note. What the quite short recording misses from the original show was the organic interplay between him and his audience, who would shout out requests and ask questions throughout. To be honest that’s fair enough, as unless you were watching this on video that would not work and letting the music do the talking on disk makes perfect sense. That said, there’s plenty of banter in the songs which shows his quick fire wit and intelligence and that slightly dangerous sense of spontaneity is one of the reasons why this thing works so well. Sometimes he takes it too far though, such as the numerous comic interruptions to Love? which do jar after a while.
That said, acoustic and intimate shows often lose much of their atmosphere when out of the actual room, so unless you really are a massive collector or got to see one of the performances and are looking for a keepsake, then this might not be for you. Performance wise though, Townsend as ever gives it his all and reminds us (if we needed it) as to why he is one of the most talented singer, song-writer, multi-instrumentalist would be stand-up comics currently on the circuit. 6/10
Landmvrks – Lost In The Waves (Arising Empire) [Liam True]
Since forming in France in 2014, Landmvrks have released two studio albums, an EP & a live album. Supported bands like While She Sleeps & Any Given Day and have now released their third album Lost In The Waves. Having been on my radar since 2018’s Fantasy, I’ve been looking forward to new material from the band. And they haven’t disappointed. Opening track Lost In A Wave is a slow start but hits straight into the bands signature blend of Metalcore & Hardcore with the chuggs of Nicolas Exposito & Paul Wilson turning into riffs upon riffs while Florent Salfati projects his distinguishable cleans and howls across the record. It’s a catchy song with powerful instrumentals that starts the album off right. Rainfall is a more Hardcore approach than their usual Metalcore style but it fits alongside the rest of the album as the guitars are fast and Salfati keeps up almost rapping until he emits his low growls. Visage is the most unusual track on the album as it starts almost like a trap song with Salfati rapping in French until the drums of Kevin D’Agostino breaks the sound and the booming bass of Rudy Purkart unites the band as a cohesive unit that shows they can make anything sound gorgeous.
Tired Of It All & Say No Word are where the band can change styles as it goes from the calm melodies of Tired Of It All to the fast paced Say No Word where Salfati is keeping his fast vocals up with the paced blast beats and frantic fretwork of the band. Shoreline is a small interlude that cranks right back up to eleven when Overrated, which is an ironic name, gets the band at 200MPH as the band is on fire and proves they are part of the new wave of Metalcore. Every decade has had it’s leading band as the so called ‘Passing of the torch’ has happened many times in Metalcore. The 2000’s had Killswitch Engage. The 2010’s had While She Sleeps. Now the 20’s are being pioneered by Landmvrks. And Lost In The Waves has cemented their place in the heavy hitters and leaders of the genre. 9/10
Mono - Beyond The Past (Pelagic Records) [JT Smith]
Live records can be a bit hit or miss; Sometimes, they’re the legendary Rock In Rio performance by Iron Maiden in 2001, or they’re the 72 separate live dates that Pearl Jam inexplicably decided to release in the early 2000’s (none of which were bad, but did they really need to release 72? 72?), but the prospect of a live record spanning two hours of the legendary career of Mono with the Platinum Anniversary Orchestra? With collaborations from the likes of Jo Quail and A.A Williams? Sign. Me. Up. God Bless and After You Comes The Flood are incredible in the live setting, and the very first thing that hits you is just how meticulously well mixed this is. The sound is *incredible*, and no wonder the crowd noise is at a minimum except for obvious cheering at a tracks close; You are mesmerised by this performance. Breathe is all subdued atmospherics, and breathless, quavering whispers of vocals, and gorgeous, heavily reverbed guitar...
And then… Then we come to Nowhere, Now Here.
Wow. This is just… Breathtakingly, cinematic, with ebbs and flows over the first 3 minutes of its lifetime, before building into this tumultuous, roaring cacophony that they somehow manage to maintain and keep dynamic for seven minutes of the most incredible post rock beauty. It’s a testament to the band’s incredible artistry and commitment to excellence that older numbers like Death In Rebirth or Ashes In The Snow (which is the song that they’re arguably best known for) still sound as good, especially the latter number, because playing a song for as many years as they have, one feels that maybe they’d be bored of it. If that is the case, there’s no outward signs. Jo Quail joins them onstage twice, once for the older classic Halcyon (Beautiful Days), and again for set ender Com(?), and A.A Williams joins them onstage for their collaborative single and penultimate song Exit Into Darkness, which is hauntingly, and heartbreakingly intimate.
Every bit of post rock you’ve heard in the last twenty years or so owes this band a huge debt. It is literally as simple as that. And this record shows exactly why. Simply sublime. 10/10
Cosmic Reaper - Cosmic Reaper (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Paul Scoble]
Cosmic Reaper have been making very huge and heavy music since 2017. In that time the band, who are based in North Carolina, have only made one release in 2019’s EP Demon Dance. However, as Cosmic Reaper play a particularly huge style of Stoner Doom, taking a while to get your debut album out is practically mandatory, and when the band have managed to come up with a pretty much perfect name for a Stoner Doom band they can take as long as they want. So, what have Garrett Garlington on Bass, Jeremy Grobsmith on Drums, Dillon Prentice on Guitar and Thad Collis on Guitar and Vocals come up with in that four years?
The album opens with the track Hellion, which kicks the album off nicely with a big, fat and very heavy doom riff. The tempo is relaxed but purposeful, vocals come in and they are clean and full of personality. The song has a very memorable chorus and is a very heavy and tuneful piece of fairly simple doom. Next up is Heaven's Gate, which vacillates between very slow and heavy, and a more drifting, dreamlike style. The song also boasts some very good guitar harmonies in a song that has more complexity than the opening track. Stella Death is a cracking track that mixes very heavy riffs with sections that are much more minimal and restrained.
Some of the riffing has a definite Black Sabbath Into The Void feel to it, and if that isn’t a compliment, then I don’t know what is. Next we get a two part composition with Wasteland I and Wasteland II. Wasteland I is a very pleasing bluesy instrumental that acts as an intro to Wasteland II. Wasteland II crashes in with a huge and heavy riff, the song has a fairly minimal but driving verse and a big and heavy chorus. In the final part of the song there is a very effective series of guitar solos that really make this something special, and builds the song to a huge ending. Planet Eater is the longest track on the album, which is all about dynamics. The track opens with heavy but very discordant riff, this builds in intensity until its massive, the track then returns to the discordant and minimal feel from earlier, and the build happens again. The song comes to an end with a suitably huge riff. The album comes to an end with Infrasonic, which has a slow and relaxed tempo.
There's some very nice guitar work and the track brings the album to an end in a very huge and heavy way. Cosmic Reaper is a very impressive debut album, the band clearly spent the last four years perfecting their craft. The overall standard of musicianship on display on this album is breathtaking. Its packed full of big hummable riffs that will set your head nodding, and loads of great melodies and solos full of tune-fullness. If Cosmic Reaper had been going for years this would be a very accomplished album, for a debut it’s staggering, highly recommended. 9 /10
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