Posts Tagged With: 2012

Antigravity – Ummagma

For Ummagma’s sophomore album effort, following up from their self-titled debut effort, the band present ‘Antigravity’, featuring a more mature style of music than what was present on ‘Ummagma’. For ‘Antigravity’, Ummagma offer up more of their dreamy pop-styled alternative music, similar to what was present on the first album, though all sounding more progressed. There’s an element that ‘Antigravity’ offers a little less of a diverse album experience than the band’s debut effort, with specific musical styles not being present on the new album, though what is present on ‘Antigravity’ is all interestingly progressed and thought-out.

On ‘Antigravity’, Ummagma offer up a more meticulous album experience. Each track seems to follow more strict rules than what was present on the debut album, which results in a very strong album that flows brilliantly. Each track contributes towards the overall album’s feeling, each being relevant to the presentation of the album itself. At the forefront of everything though is the sheer quality of how great everything sounds. The musical style of Kretov still combines brilliantly with McLarnon’s vocal styles, with the duo’s natural chemistry coming through brilliantly to present the strengths of the songs. Everything seems well thought-out, with specific care and attention to how each song contributes towards the overall album’s presentation. For the most part, it all works well and helps present ‘Antigravity’ as a very strong album.

As enjoyable and strong as ‘Antigravity’ is, it seems to fall ever so slightly flat at certain moments, with the overall album not really sounding as interesting as the band’s debut effort. There’s a number of great tracks on ‘Antigravity’, but for the most part, they’re all contributing towards the whole album, and sadly don’t sound as interesting as stand-alone tracks (unlike the highlights from the first album). The particular weakness comes in the album’s first half, which seems to open the album up to a somewhat sluggish pace, before it all really gets going.

Although there’s an element that it might not be as good as the band’s debut album ‘Ummagma’, ‘Antigravity’ does contain a good number of strengths of its own that helps make it a great album in its own right. It contains a number of strong working elements that wasn’t present on ‘Ummagma’, which suggest that the band are really thinking about progression, and are trying out new ideas and elements to help progress themselves as a band. Perhaps one or two ideas need fine-tuning here and there, but at least Ummagma have managed to utilize enough strengths to present ‘Antigravity’ as a good strong album.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Colors
  • Beautiful Moment
  • Autumnmania
  • 1+1=3

Ummagma’s latest album ‘Antigravity’ is out now and can be purchased at: http://ummagma.bandcamp.com/album/antigravity

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Ummagma – Ummagma

Lush elements of the dream-pop genre combine in fine style with alternative-rock and progressive rock techniques to make up the debut album by Ummagma. The self-titled effort by duo Alexander Kretov and Shauna McLarnon makes for what is simply an incredibly enjoyable and easy-listening experience. On ‘Ummagma’, the duo offer up a brilliant range of musical styles and techniques, all encompassed and presented in a dream-pop style that makes for a very smart and enjoyable album experience. There’s a great number of ideas being showcased on ‘Ummagma’, many of which work brilliantly to give the album a brilliant character and shape.

From the moment go, Ummagma launch into a wonderful array of lush tracks that are simply wonderfully dreamy. The combination of Kretov’s talents as a musician with McLarnon’s talents as a lyricst and vocalist  both make for a brilliant partnership in music. The two utilize both of their own talents to make incredibly enjoyable music. ‘Ummagma’ contains a good number of strengths, with the album itself featuring a nice diverse range of specific styles. The album itself navigates along its journey, taking shifts and turns here and there in terms of musical style to make up a very interesting and easily-listenable experience. There’s a nice number of style as well being demonstrated on the album, all of which flows naturally though to present a strong album.

There’s few faults with ‘Ummagma’, which showcases a number of strong ideas and efforts from the band being pulled off in fine style. If any faults are to be found on ‘Ummagma’, it might be the within the few songs that ares simply too similar to each other for it to make sense on the album. Considering the wide range of styles and techniques being demonstrated by Ummagma, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense that a few of the songs should follow similar sounding structures, and demonstrate similar ideas to each other, especially considering how versatile the band really is. Ummagma luckily don’t do this enough for it to bring the album down, but it doesn’t warrant consideration.

Ummagma have certainly created a brilliant album experience on their self-titled debut effort. The lush melodies created by Kretov, combined with the wonderful vocals of McLarnon make a match made in heaven when it comes to their musical style. Everything sounds brilliantly polished and carefully considered, with their being very little that doesn’t have a place on the album. It seems Ummagma have a great thing going for them, and if they continue to do exactly what they’re doing, then it should result in more wonderfully enjoyable and gorgeous music from the band.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Upsurd
  • Outside
  • Rotation
  • J.S. Bach

Ummagma’s debut album ‘Ummagma’ is out now and can be purchased at: http://ummagma.bandcamp.com/album/ummagma

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Dynamite Drug Diamond – Tang

The latest album by alternative-grunge band Tang titled ‘Dynamite Drug Diamond’ is a very enjoyable and intense experience of truly aggressive and angry music. Featuring noisy guitar riffs and positively strained vocals that present the (at times) visceral lyrics of the songs, ‘Dynamite Drug Diamond’ comes across as a very enjoyable album experience (or enjoyable in the context of angry music). It’s a brilliant indulgence into the angrier side of music, where the use of loud instrumentals and screaming vocals work well for the presentation of the ideas themselves. It seems Tang have a good thing going for them, with their utilization of the strengths of ’emo’ or ‘hardcore’ music working well for their own sound.

Although Tang may not be the best band of their genre, their latest album ‘Dynamite Drug Diamond’ certainly presents them as one of the strongest. Tang utilize a number of elements that easily go wrong on their latest album, and make them work well for themselves. There’s a good number of strengths on ‘Dynamite Drug Diamond’ that makes it an enjoyable and interesting album to indulge in at darker times. The technical aspects of the album seems to work well in many of the songs, with the instrumentals and vocal style sounding very strong. It seems most of Tang’s efforts on their latest album have been pulled off brilliantly, making ‘Dynamite Drug Diamond’ a very enjoyable album.

Although a good number of Tang’s efforts have worked well on ‘Dynamite Drug Diamond’, it seems they miss the mark on one or two steps, most notably in the beginning of the album which seems to open the album up to a sluggish pace. ‘Dynamite Drug Diamond’ takes a little while for it to really get going, though once it does, the weaknesses’ of the album’s opening are instantly forgotten. The weaknesses of the album’s opening might hurt the overall album in one or two places, but it’s never enough to truly bring the album down in any real significant way.

Overall though, Tang have produced a great album, that certainly pushes them as one of the better bands of their genre. A lot of the techniques used by Tang on ‘Dynamite Drug Diamond’ have been tried by many bands prior to them, and it never seems to truly work. Tang on the other hand make it work well for their music, giving it a nice edge when it comes to music of this genre. ‘Dynamite Drug Diamond’ is essentially a brilliant sounding album that is a wonderful indulgence in angry pissed-off emotions. It’s certainly nice to hear music of this style done right.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Paint In Black
  • Eve Of Ceasefire Talks
  • Wrong Place Wrong Time
  • Roses Out Of Chaos

Tang’s latest album ‘Dynamite Drug Diamond’ is out now and can be purchased at: http://soberuprecords.com/store/

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The Secret Life of Blue – Róisín O

The latest album by Irish musician and songwriter Róisín O offers an incredibly enjoyable pop/rock/folk experience, where beautiful vocals are accompanied by perfectly complimenting instrumentals. On ‘The Secret Life of Blue’, we see some incredibly strong elements working together to present a very enjoyable album experience. Conventional pop techniques combine with some rather unconventional techniques to create a very vibrant album full of enjoyable tracks. ‘The Secret Life of Blue’ is a highly enjoyable album that is only marred by one or two negative attributes that thankfully don’t drag the overall album down in any significant way.

On ‘The Secret Life of Blue’, much of the album’s enjoyment comes from the gorgeous and charming vocals of Róisín O herself. Róisín O offers an incredibly charming song-writing technique that evokes the likes of Joni Mitchell or Kate Bush. Róisín O simply lets her music do the talking for herself, where her own vocals simply soar amongst the incredibly strong instrumentals that have been produced for the album. It is a very strong debut effort and it certainly presents the many strengths Róisín O has as a song-writer and as a vocalist. What is lovely to see here is how Róisín O hasn’t gone down the cliched route of attempting to do everything by the textbook, and produced songs where her vocals go all over the place. Instead, Róisín O offers a much more fun, and at times very gentle experience, where she simply sings on every song.

The only limitations on ‘The Secret Life of Blue’ is in the album’s progression. The album starts off with an interesting track, but it is perhaps one of the more weaker tracks present on the album. Considering the first track should serve as an introduction to Róisín O, it seems that a more stronger track, though not necessarily the strongest, should take place at the beginning, over the one present at the moment. It means the album starts off to a somewhat clunky start, and it’s only when the track offers it’s best does everything start to make sense. The whole album manages to display enough strengths to compensate for the somewhat clunky start, though it does leave a rather sour note on the overall album.

Róisín O though has managed to produce a brilliant debut effort, where her own vocals are accompanied by incredible instrumentals. What is lovely to hear on the album is how nothing has been over-produced, where everything gets drowned out in over-production. Instead, Róisín O and her collaborators on the album have opted to only go for instrumentals, techniques and ideas that assist the songs, and elevate them to the best of their abilities. There’s some truly wonderful tracks on the album, where everything just seems to work. It’s a fine debut effort with very few negative attributes. It’s a wonderful start to this incredibly promising Irish musician, who clearly has an enormous amount to offer.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Sycnhronicity
  • How Long
  • Tea Song
  • The Secret Life of Blue

Róisín O’s debut album ‘The Secret Life of Blue’ is out now and can be purchased at: http://roisino.com/the-secret-life-of-blue-out-now/

 

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Childhood Places – Devin Roth

The gorgeous ‘Childhood Places’ by Devin Roth, performing as a sextet with some very find musicians, is a wonderful jazz story, feeling much like the journey through a number of vignettes related to what one might assume are Devin Roth’s personal memories (though two songs are written by band-member Steve Wilkinson). ‘Childhood Places’ demonstrates a wonderful understanding of the jazz genre, where piano, drums, bass and horn sections all combine harmoniously to create a wonderful listening experience. There’s a definite sense that a lot of work has gone into the album, whilst at the same time making everything seem natural and almost improvised, which gives it a lovely level of appeal and enjoyment.

‘Childhood Places’ utilities many of the strengths of the jazz genre, and is simply nothing more and nothing less. Each instrument plays a part on the album, acting almost as characters in a stage play, performing their own musical sections for the benefit of the overall album. Nothing seems to take the limelight at any given moment, as every instrument and it’s performer seem to just play to support each other. It gives off a sense of community between the members of the band, who all understand and strive for the same common goal when performing on the album. Musically, the album sounds wonderful, as it demonstrates not only a good understanding of the genre, but a wonderful array of different tracks. There’s some almost manic crazy jazz tracks, where everything seems to go into total organised chaos, and more gentle tracks where the instruments just slowly progress along their slow track. It’s a wonderful album that is easily very enjoyable.

I find my only faults with ‘Childhood Places’ is in the album’s first half, which seems somewhat weak when compared with the album’s second half. It seems to take a little bit of a while for Devin Roth (and his band)’s strengths to really come out. Despite the manic pace of the album’s opener, it seems to act almost a little sluggishly in terms of presenting the band’s strengths. It also seems that it’s only in the album’s later tracks do things really start to come together, where there’s no moments that seem a little dreary or sluggish. Once everything starts to come together, ‘Childhood Places’ comes across as a very strong album, that overshadows it’s own weaknesses with its many strengths.

I find there is a lot to enjoy on ‘Childhood Places’, which is simply a wonderful jazz album. Each performer on the album offers an incredible amount to the overall album, with nothing really sounding out of place or redundant. The wall of sound made up by each performer is just wonderful, and there’s a brilliant scope to the amount they can offer as well. I find the most enjoyable tracks to be the more slow tracks, where the instruments each have their own chance to sing out on the album, though the more pacy and manic tracks are equally enjoyable. It is a fine album by Devin Roth, who has managed to produce a wonderful jazz album that could easily be enjoyed by many.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Longing
  • Losing A Winning Battle
  • Mountain Dream
  • Catharsis

Devin Roth’s new album ‘Childhood Places’ is out now and can be purchased at: http://music.devinrothmusic.com/album/childhood-places

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Temps Libre – Stefan Christoff

The stunning experience that is ‘Temps Libre’ is a musical story comprised of four instrumental tracks, capturing a story from an incredibly charged and for Stefan Christoff, an emotional time in Canadian history. Drawing heavily from the student movement in 2012, the EP helps capture the emotion and the various stages of intensity that was present during these times. ‘Temps Libre’ is at times a fairly downplayed music experience, with a highly improvisational element. The EP features Christoff on the piano, accompanied by Brahja Waldman on alto saxophone, and Peter Burton on contrabass, who all play an incredibly active role in the EP’s shape and sound. It is instrumental jazz music that seems to have been designed to be experienced, (though it is at the same time highly listenable). There’s a wonderful sense of creativity and talent that exudes through the instrumentals, making for an incredibly thoughtful experience.

‘Temps Libre’ is a somewhat short EP, comprised of four tracks simply titled ‘1-4’. The only clues as to the song’s identities are the history surrounding the recording and influence of the album. Stefan Christoff insists that ‘Temps Libre’ draws influence from the emotional intensity of the Quebec student riots, which when the EP is listened too, definitely seems to be the case. There’s some incredibly interesting elements to the music on the EP, with a lot of emotion coming through in the music. It feels like there’s a sense of struggle for justice coming through well in the music that seems to resonate with the history that has helped influence the record. It’s an interesting EP, where the music comes across as being highly creative and interesting, whilst being something that is simply listenable. There’s an element of improvisation on the music, as though the musicians aren’t 100% sure of how the music is going to end up sounding in the end, but also having some kind of idea of what direction the music will ultimately be going in. It forms a major part of the appeal of the EP which remains to be an incredibly interesting instrumental experience that takes many different unexpected twists and turns that are to an extent fairly unpredictable.

The main problem I can see with ‘Temps Libre’, is that it is a somewhat challenging EP, and one that is almost hard to truly understand unless the history behind it is understood and considered. It makes ‘Temps Libre’ a fairly polarizing album as there’s elements on the EP that may be hard to understand if one doesn’t know, or is perhaps simply not interested in the history. It is also fairly sparse for a musical experience, as there’s many gaps between notes that are fairly lengthy. It’s music that to some extent isn’t the most accessible, and therefore may not spark the interests of all those who choose to listen to it.  It is also music that is somewhat hard to truly understand, as the message is clearly present in the music, but it seems to take time for it to be understood, providing one is willing to allow it to in the first place.

Overall though, Stefan Christoff has produced a marvelous EP that is an incredibly conscious effort to capture what is to Christoff an incredibly charged and emotional time. There elements of jazz music combined with an incredibly creative effort has produced an incredibly interesting EP that seems to be going unnoticed these days. It’s a shame, as it is at the base of what it is, simply just music. It’s interesting to listen too for many reasons, not just for the story behind the EP’s creation, but also for purely how the EP sounds and has been arranged. It might turn out to be one of the most under-rated musical releases of this year, though one that is highly rewarding for those who enjoy creative music.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Stefan Christoff’s EP ‘Temps Libre’ is out now and can be purchased from the Temps Libre website available at: http://howlarts.net/temps-libre

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Somewhere Down The Road EP – Ilias

Ilias’s debut EP ‘Somewhere Down The Road’, released last year back in May, shows us a taster of the gentle style Ilias is establishing in his music. Comprised of four somewhat short tracks, there is simply a lovely element of songwriting present on this EP, showing off very well the talents that Ilias has as a musician and song-writer. The EP is fairly down-tempo, but it is relaxing, and is simply a nice listening experience. It certainly has a lot to offer as well, with it showing off the capabilities of Ilias in fine form. It is in that respect a perfect EP release, as it simply makes the listener yearn for more, and thus gives them anticipation for Ilias’s future releases.

‘Somewhere Down The Road’ has a gorgeous simplicity about itself. It is evident that it is musically anything but simplistic, but it has a simple quality about it that forms a main part of the appeal. It’s style draws the listener in, with the gentle acoustic riffs being accompanied by Ilias’ wonderful vocal style. It is well written and well composed music, with everything on the EP sounding brilliant and having its place. It seems Ilias on his debut EP release hasn’t allowed over-production to ruin the sound of his EP, with Ilias simply letting the gentle use of acoustic and electric guitars build up the layers. There’s nothing on the EP that sounds bad, which makes it a wonderful taster of what Ilias has to offer.

There’s essentially nothing wrong with this EP release. It is short, but EPs are meant to be at the end of the day, and the purpose I see in them is to simply show a little bit of an artist or band, and hopefully engage with the listener to the extent where they’ll be interested in hearing more. ‘Somewhere Down The Road’ does this perfectly, and should certainly make people want to hear more from the artist. It’s well written, with well composed instrumentals that play a very important part on the EP. Combined with Ilias’ brilliant falsetto vocals, it is simply a wonderful EP release with a lot to offer.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • My Girl With Blue Eyes
  • Regret
  • Better Off
  • Somewhere Down The Road

Ilias’ debut EP ‘Somewhere Down The Road’, and his debut album ‘Somewhere In Time’ is out now, and can both be purchased at his bandcamp page at: http://ilias.bandcamp.com/album/somewhere-down-the-road or http://ilias.bandcamp.com/album/somewhere-in-time

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Wonder Way – Gerald Krampl

The latest album by Gerald Krampl, released back in 2012, draws influences from many modern classical composers such as Ludovico Einaudi, Nils Frahm and Ólafur Arnalds. Krampl’s music can easily be seen as coming from the same train of thought as many of Einaudi’s compositions, which feature gentle piano melodies, sometimes accompanied by beautiful violin strings. The result on Krampl’s latest album is for the most part, a fairly harrowing musical experience, which is sometimes punctuated by moments of sheer beauty. It is a fine modern-classical album, that fans of musicians like Einaudi, Frahm or Arnalds would be sure to enjoy.

‘Wonder Way’ seems to focus mostly on the relationship of the piano and the violin, which accompany each other for nearly the whole album. There isn’t much else in terms of instrumentals, except for a surprising use of guitar in one of the last songs. It is an interesting musical experience, as the music pretty much talks for itself. Each track paints a new picture through the melodies, which the only clues for their identities is in the names that Krampl has given his compositions. Some tracks are startlingly lovely, whilst others are beautiful harrowing. The tracks all offer up their own range of emotions, which is the essence of what the music is meant to do really.

There are many strengths to ‘Wonder Way’, and whilst Krampl is clearly an accomplished musician and composer, I find that he is slightly let down by the true lack of variety on the album. For the most part, the tracks on the album are very interesting, and all conjure up their own different emotions. I find though that some of the tracks seem just a little too similar to each other, which (for when it happens) slightly lets down the album. This isn’t true for the whole album, but I find it is one point that lets down the album just that little bit. It is thankfully, not enough to let down the overall quality of the album, which remains as a truly beautiful album.

Overall though, ‘Wonder Way’ is a wonderful album that contains a lovely range of emotions. It is a fantastic album to just play and shut off, letting the music wash over you and bring up their emotions. The compositions on the album sound easily as though they could have come from any kind of movie, (much like most of the music produced within the genre). I find comparisons to other modern-classical musicians easy to make, with the music of Nils Frahm sounding like one of the most important influences for the album. Overall, Krampl has composed some truly beautiful images, and produced an album that he can surely be proud of.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • On A Rainy Monday
  • A Winter’s Tale
  • A Walk In The Park
  • Come Sun, Come Rain
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¡Tré! – Green Day

Green Day are back, despite never leaving, and now we have the final instalment in the ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! trilogy. So what does this album have to offer? Surely it departs from the fast-tempo mixture of guitar chords, bass and drums, right? Of course not. ¡Tré! is simply more of what has preceded it.  Same formulaic songs once again. The exact same bloody style that began with ¡Uno!, that didn’t change on ¡Dos! and has refused to change on ¡Tré!. It just makes me wonder what is the point of these albums?

The problem I have with this whole trilogy is that it seems that any half-arsed idea Green Day had for a song made it onto any one of the three albums. It basically leaves you with a collection of around 7 or so good songs split up onto three albums and separated by an enormous amount of filler material. These kinds of songs don’t amount to anything, and just makes me think, why are these on an album in the first place? Surely bands want to write the best songs that compliment each other, right? It just seems that Green Day thought they’d just do the easy thing, and not actually get down and try write some great material. I’ve said it before, that Green Day are perfectly capable of writing some great songs, and they have done so in the past. When people think of Green Day, there are some songs that come to mind as being some of their best, like ‘Holiday’, or ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams.’ Even ‘Basket Case’ from Dookie is a great song by Green Day. But on these three albums, it just feels like none of the songs stand out to the calibre that some of their previous works have done. Sure enough, the music could be enjoyed by some people, but it isn’t great material. Even after listening to all three albums, I am finding it impossible to think of any songs from any of the three albums that stand out as great pieces of work. They’re all uninspired and lacklustre in my opinion. Just crashing chords and bass and not a lot else…

I have little more to say on this subject. My overall opinion of the trilogy of albums is that it’s not worth it. Sure enough, some fans must be overjoyed that they’re not getting one Green Day album, but three Green Day albums. But I know, I’d have much preferred one Green Day album with 10 or so really thought out songs, that have had a lot of effort thrown into them, rather than having three albums in moderately quick succession that just have whatever garbage the trio could come up with. It’s harsh, but it’s my opinion on the matter, and I can only hope that Green Day will get their arses in gear and write something they know they can be proud of.

Album Rating:

  • ★★☆☆☆  2/5

Selected Songs:

  • Drama Queen
  • Walk Away
  • 99 Revolutions
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An Omen E.P. – How To Destroy Angels

The second release by Trent Reznor’s other band departs somewhat from the first release, which was a self-titled EP released back in 2010. Considering the inactivity of Reznor’s main band Nine Inch Nails, (and the effort he’d been putting into the various soundtracks he’s worked on), it was a surprise to see a release by Reznor. How To Destroy Angels, when they first began, was an interesting band, featuring Reznor’s long-time collaborators Atticus Ross and Rob Sheridan, and Reznor’s wife Mariqueen Maandig. The music was somewhat different from what we’re used to from Reznor, straying away from what could be described as Industrial Metal, and instead opting for a more Dark Ambient style.

I find this EP to be much more preferable to the previous self-titled EP. There’s a much more developed sound to the music on this EP, and it’s improved greatly from their first effort. It’s interesting, cause the music on this EP feels slightly more sparse than that on their previous. There’s more ambience and drum loops that occupy the various tracks. It just feels more complete than the first EP, and thus highly preferable. Even the vocals sound better, with Maandig seeming to find her comfort in her own style. It’s a definite improvement from their previous EP, which I couldn’t help but feel gave me a mixed reaction. As much as I enjoy Reznor’s music, I found the EP to just not be as enjoyable as his efforts with Nine Inch Nails. It was certainly interesting, and it wasn’t that the music was bad. What I mean to say is that it didn’t hit me in the same way that his previous albums have done. Even Reznor’s soundtrack albums were met by a positive reaction from myself. But the first How To Destroy Angels’ EP just didn’t really work for me. It is more than likely that I just didn’t get it. And perhaps now I am starting to get what this whole project is all about.

Overall, I am quite impressed by this new EP. For me, it serves as a better introduction to the type of music we can expect from How To Destroy Angels, and it is also a much easier to listen to album. It certainly gives me anticipation as to what the full studio album release, (Welcome Oblivion, set for release in March this year). An Omen E.P. serves as a great taster of what is to come by this side-project, and considering the inventiveness and sheer talent that not only Reznor, but all those he works with possess, it is likely that the full album will be another masterpiece.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Keep It Together
  • The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
  • The Loop Closes
  • Speaking In Tongues

 

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