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File Transfer Protocol - The Gargoyle Studio Sessions (2010-2012) self-released, 2012 Rating: 4/4 Genre: industrial rock
01. World of One, 02. Rain, 03. Shadows, 04. Attrition, 05. Ivory Towers, 06. The Singularity, 07. This Machine, 08. 99%, 09. Regime, 10. Subversion
The true industrial rock scene has seemed to be dead for some time now, but this is not a secret for die hard fans. Provided that the United States has been the genre's homeland where it found success in the 1990's, European bands have come up with a few new industrial musical sub-genres over the course of the past 5 years that are personified as i.e. electro rock defined by more melodic arrangements. I cannot say however that these modifications have increased the chances for a revival of the original scene. Nonetheless, there are still new bands being created by musicians who's period of teenage revolt occurred in the last decade of the 20th century. Some of these artist have never set themselves free of this revolutionary attitude, yet they have been ignited by idiotic ideas that are introduced by factions of our governments. Following this theorem, we'll look into Texas, the police state of America where Sean Rieger, the founder of File Transfer Protocol makes his music.
It should be noticed first that FTP's sound has undoubtedly been inspired by the accomplishments of Nine Inch Nails, Gravity Kills and Stabbing Westward at some point. New artists who seem to be fascinated with cold, industrial & guitar driven music have been encouraged by the success of Trent Reznor. Many of these artist find themselves as the founders of one-man projects that they utilize to express their frustrations through music with either aggressive or melancholic attributes.
Sean Rieger appears to be well balanced somewhere in-between. His songs bring positive vibes, yet they do not touch upon the common elements of pop music. His lyrics raise awareness about topics that should be important to every down to earth American, however Sean doesn't stir anger by relying on the use of brutal arrangements either. The idea behind his music seems to be rooted in the promulgation of warnings supported by sheer facts. He wants to redirect the listener's attention to issues which may happen to become a real danger in the near future and which are being prepared by legislators whom the citizens have elected.
After three years passing since the release of the debut album Bipolar, a new compilation album has just been released entitled The Gargoyle Studio Sessions. The album title harks back to Sean's personal fascination with magical gargoyles which he collects as figurines and displays in his recording studio, although he treats them as protective totems. This release features a set of 11 songs recorded and released as singles between 2010 and 2012.
"World of One" is the opening track for this compilation. Pulsing beats as well as various effects that are created with the utilization of samplers build an intriguing atmosphere which is followed by slightly echoing vocals. The tempo speeds up as the intro is joined by drums and guitars. There are ethereal piano sounds as well in the end of the track which standardize the composition, giving it a classical feel.
"Rain" is an instrumental arrangement that features distorted guitars, most probably inspired by Nine Inch Nails' album The Fragile. Once again, the piano appears to create a very interesting contrast when held in comparison to the sound of modern electronic music. The atmosphere feels kind of sad, but this may have been done to illustrate the psychological process of dealing with some problems.
"Shadows" is the best song on this album as far as I'm concerned. The first element of the song structure brings arrangements that are inspired by 'big bubble' effects and phat beats that are commonly utilized in electronic dance music. Although these aspects can also be heard in rock-sounding songs by bands such as Nine Inch Nails or Gravity Kills. Most often, Sean creates tension within the verses of his songs which becomes a sensation that increases and is finally released throughout the choruses; a method that has also been used in “Shadows”. The overall sound of this track is far beyond uncanny, which may cause the listener to feel shivers up their spine. This effect is due to an interesting mix of guitars and samples. A contrast of lazy, sensual tempos and non-distressing tensions have built a plot for a song that has turned out magnetic.
Gothic sounds reverberating from a bass guitar along with industrial samples and declaimed lyrics are the opening sequence for the following track called "Attrition". The listener may find a few connections to the music of Gravity Kills, but also to another industrial rock icon - Stabbing Westward. Effectively distorted guitar riffs are reminiscent of tunes on The Fragile as I mentioned above. Due to a slow rhythm, piano and lengthy vocals present in the choruses, the atmosphere of the track sounds a bit epic. Nevertheless, it has been wisely crosscut with beats and rasping guitars, but also hushed up effects.
"Ivory Towers" plainly forces the listener to react either by stamping the floor, headbanging or other activity which lets them adjust to the rhythm and dynamics of the song. This specific method by FTP of building tension in the verses as I mentioned before, stands out in this track and makes emotions explode through the following choruses. Overall, the composition recalls of a junction between songs such as "Gave Up" and "Wish" by Trent Reznor, which are both marked by turmoil and nervous anxiety.
"The Singularity" is the next song on the tracklist. It is expressed by a murky, concerned introduction that is based on synths and cold, layered, protracted guitar riffs. This composition blooms in time, which enables it to gain speed along with a colorful portrayal of emotions. Sean perfectly matched the rhythm of the lyrics into the arrangement. There are also subtle effects present in the verses which are laid over the vocals. On top of it all, memorable choruses turn out as catchy as those which are present in the song "Ivory Towers".
A melancholic and gloomy intro foreshadows a song entitled "This Machine". It is surrounded by samples and intelligently layered guitars, drums as well as bass which create an interesting background for deeper, brooding vocals which come next.
On the other hand, both "99%" and "Regime" originate from two events which occurred in the United States, but gained momentum and spread across several other countries in 2011. The first song is related to the occupy movement which featured angry Americans dissatisfied with levels of poverty. Many of whom are seeing their rights abused every few weeks by legislators whose actions are exposed through the national news cycle. They oppose the policies and long accepted practices of banks, Wall Street and the super wealthy during this time of extended economic crisis. The mood of the song is closest to "Ivory Towers", which is characterized by a rapid tempo that may illustrate anxiety and insecurity as well as methods of escape or attack. Background sounds have been orchestrated into layers enriched by screams, guitar riffs and vocal communications that are stylized to sound like the TV news.
The idea behind the track "Regime" has come out of a recent attempt at censorship towards Internet content as well as advancing surveillance upon civil society. This is based on legislation masked by innocent looking four-letter acronyms such as acta, sopa or PIPA. In fact, ACTA has been signed by representatives of the United States along with a few other countries without any public consultation, but a few countries in the European Union have given up on this idea due to the fervid public protests of internet users. The pulsing beats in “Regime” are for instance reminiscent of early Stabbing Westward songs. This aspect combined with edgy guitar riffs and well matched vocals make yet another memorable track that has been written to encourage the mentality of the people to wake up.
"Subversion" finishes The Gargoyle Studio Sessions album. It's the newest track and is a bit different from the other songs due to heavy, funky bass lines a'la Red Hot Chili Peppers which begin this composition. As for the atmosphere, "Subversion" brings an aggressive feel with it mainly due to a rhythmic bass line along with buzzing samples, effects and screaming vocals. There is no graduating advance of tension either. Instead, listening to the entire "Subversion" track feels like sitting on a bomb while playing with a TV remote-control style detonator in hand which works as good as a game of Russian roulette.
There are a few ways to call for a revolution - from throwing Molotov cocktails to making punk music. This can also be accomplished with the use of more subtle methods such as presented by File Transfer Protocol through this album. I'm not sure if Sean has successfully gotten rid of his tension, however a listener will be undoubtedly left watchful and alert after listening to The Gargoyle Studio Sessions. Both the music and lyrics assign a mature form of rebellion which is used by this artist to protest against the abuse of a citizens' freedom by their respective governmental institutions more and more often. The Gargoyle Studio Sessions will open the eyes, ears and minds of listeners in regards to a few issues which are not only important to Americans, but also citizens around the world who blindly follow 'Made in the USA' trends which sometimes have a bad impact on their individual rights and liberty (see: ACTA controversial legislation).
Musical know-how, writing skills, intelligent arrangements for multiple instruments, well thought out compositional characteristics, valuable inspirational elements, smooth performance techniques as well as high quality mastering and overall album production make this compilation stand high among many other industrial rock releases. To top it all off, The Gargoyle Studio Sessions are the tireless work of one man. Ten years ago an album like this would have been released by a major label and never have been offered as a free download. In this current market independent artists control their own business and a digital copy of this release can be easily downloaded for free directly from FTP's official website. Of course this doesn't mean that a listener should not try to offer support to this musician financially if possible. It is important to keep Sean motivated to come up with yet another great album while he remains inspired and there are definitely many other items you can purchase from his online store!
BELT - Cause & Infect (song review) |self-released, Cause & Infect, 2011| 4/5
Industrial rock music has faded in and out since the late 80s. However, every decade has brought several famous names, first to the mainstream, then to the ever green underground. The 90s has seen dominant names like Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Marilyn Manson, Filter or Stabbing Westward supported by labels and MTV who have not only influenced listeners, but other musicians as well.
An American multi-instrumentalist performing under the Belt moniker is one musician who decided to make industrial music on his own terms. "Cause & Infect" has a song structure that is simple along with moods that are classically brooding. The verses are based on a repetitive beat and this technique may make the composition memorable. At the same time, theatrically articulated and screaming vocals bring to mind the picture of half-Joker/half-demon singer. BELT's voice matches all sorts of dark music very well, so it fits this song properly. There are samples and synths in use that help to create a specific atmosphere. When the choruses come in, the bass and guitar fuse together and tear the beat to shreds. Matching guitar riffs as well as bass lines make these segments of the song sound very aggressive.
When you listen to "Cause & Infect" you will be able to tell whom inspired BELT the most... Marilyn Manson, who scared and offended as many people as he mirrored in the world through the "Antichrist Superstar" track. This song was supported by a unique video that must have had an artistic impact on BELT's "Cause & Infect". It can also be proven by watching this video single (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnDyjGpyczw) where the vocalist with the painted zombie-like face wears a pope robe and acts like a psychotic preacher. Musically, BELT as well as Manson operate within the method of a strong beat where the vocals can be heard without any additional background present.
As for the less positive impressions, the intro of the song is quite long. Secondly, an automated and basic cymbal beat appears throughout the entire song with hardly any variation. The beat seems to be missing the greater vibrancy and depth that could really make the track much more powerful. This usually happens in black metal music too, where great riffs miss a bit a percussive excitement that could really make them stand out. Last, the mastering doesn't underline or emphasize any of the instruments or vocals during any moment. The combined tracks sound as if they were equalized at the same level.
It should be noted however that BELT did everything from A to Z on this track. He arranged, composed, recorded, mixed, mastered, produced then drafted a screenplay as well as performed in his video. As an indie artist he may be currently crafting his skill level on everything, but he's definitely driven by passion and this is something that you can't buy or learn without fighting for. Moreover, industrial musicians usually claim to release frustration and anger though their music or visuals. These negative, yet powerful emotions feel reliable to fans who seem to both savor as well as identify with the tunes that reflect their own opinions or problems. As does "Cause & Infect" by BELT.
Testimonials: Your the first professional to give me a review and I love it. Yes everything is correct. Reading it fills me with hope and is a real confidence booster. (...) You've been a big help (...) Thank you for what you said about my video, because I straight up did the filming and the editing by myself and it was the first time I had done anything like that. Belt | 07.08.2012 |
Mike Drazka - Songs from the Asylum |self-released, 2012| 4/4
01. The Awakening , 02. Angels Of War, 03. The Nightmare, 04. Black River, 05. Sucker Punch, 06. Crown Of Thorns, 07. Path of Destruction
Mike Drazka is an American songwriter and self taught multi-instrumentalist who has already placed his music into various forms of visual media such as TV, radio and internet multimedia sources including Oxygen Network, News12 Networks, MSG Networks and The Motion Picture Association of America with the award winning documentary Flight 587. His Songs from the Asylum album brings seven instrumental tracks that could be easily utilized in action video games as well as movies.
The album begins with "The Awakening" which brings orchestrated rock sounds spiced up with electronica. It would be perfect if Mike hired a metal genre female singer to add vocals to it. The compositional aspects of the song are built on verses and choruses with cumulative moments and spots where a listener's brain can relax as well. Arrangements which have been written for guitars, bass, drums and keyboards have resulted in a cool rock track that has a chance for hit potential despite missing vocals.
"Angels of War" is a heavy track due to its looped guitar riffs and sampling. Atmospheric parts in the background based on angel-esque voices and violins are interlaced with the main theme. On the other hand, "The Nightmare" has an intro that consist of brooding metal bass lines and drums which are joined by noisy guitars and cut with a synthesizer sometimes too. This would be also a perfect song to have male rock vocals added that could intensify the track and add a remarkable aspect. Overall, the dark and heavy moods sound as if they smuggled a nightmare into an asylum.
Creative noise opens the fourth song on the tracklist called "Black River", which I personally find one of the best compositions on this album along with "Crown of Thorns" and "Sucker Punch". "Black River" sounds powerful due to chunky guitars joined by keyboards while the drum beat builds the structure of the song. An unforgettable and ear-friendly guitar motif that appears in segments of the song may also steal your heart. Moreover, the guitar tracks act as a surrogate to vocal parts which makes a listener take no notice that the song is missing a vocalist. The composition flows quite stable and the arrangements match one another well. "Black River" is as full of dynamics as it is memorable, this is thanks to Mike's great songwriting and sound design skills.
Mike Drazka wrote and played each instrument on every song except for two. You can hear very heavy metal, yet distorted riffs played by American guitarist Frank Guertin as well as the drum beats by Russ Miller in "Sucker Punch" and "Crown of Thorns". The first of the two, “Sucker Punch”, is a track where heavy metal collides with electronica. Hardcore riffs lead the song over backgrounds which feature drums, bass and rhythm guitars, but electronic effects and sampling appear in some spots too. This track would be a great fit to an action movie trailer since it can underline specific scenes and moods very well. "Crown of Thorns" turns out quite short (less than 3 minutes), though it is fully dominated by deep tribal drum beats. The initial mixture of Mike's concept of synths and silence gave me a flashback of Harold Faltermeyer's compositions. The intro may be a bit too long, but the track continuously evolves. However, if the purpose of the song was to be background music for a presentation or a video game with a few images slid into the beginning, the length of the intro would make a perfect sense.
"Path of Destruction" finishes the Songs from the Asylum album. It seems to utilize the same ideas as are found in "Crown of Thorns" (the length of intro) in the beginning, but the overall vibe is more electronic and noisy than in the previous songs. There are some guitar riffs involved, although it seems like they were processed through a digital sequencer.
Well designed music doubles the joy of playing video games as well as watching movies. Images and motion do speak directly, yet they become harsh without matching music. Some game designers and movie directors have awesome works in progress, but they are missing music that can emphasize their work to a maximum dynamic effect. Mike has an excellent set of songs which would match any type of 'action' motion picture or video game due to their climactic guitar driven instrumental themes. It would be great if Mike had a chance to collaborate with such professionals as mentioned above to utilize his music in their productions and allow for visually stunning multimedia. Hopefully some professionals who are in the gaming and film industries may find Mike Drazka thanks to this review and begin a creative and successful collaboration together.
(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Magazine, June 11th, 2012)
Testimonials Quoth Mike Drazka: Thank you sooo much for the fantastic review! It is very honest and well written. I agree with you that some of the tracks would work really well with a vocalist. Unfortunately I don't sing and I didn't want to ruin a good song with bad vocals. If you happen to know any singers who might be interested in collaborating please let me know. (June 18, 2012)
It's quite difficult to stay neutral when a concept album in the vein of A Separation is wrapped up with such a huge emotional charge. It comes like the attraction of a first love - it opens up, steals one's soul completely, then it leaves the fragile human dry, crying for more. What's important, A Separation is The Seas debut album. Most bands usually shape their style with time to sound their best on their 2nd or 3rd releases (unless they've quit a previous project that has already released a debut album). When listeners come across The Seas music, they cannot say "I've heard that song before" or "What was that band name?" They will simply say it's The Seas and that the band is nothing but pure talent.
Regardless of their influences (such as Nine Inch Nails and Tool) whose music has been copied by many musicians, The Seas do have a distinct, particular sound of their own and they can remain confident about it. The influence of NIN can be heard throughout Logan Powell's guitar riffs ("The Great Wave", "Paper Moon") while Jeremy Williams' bass lines as well as Rich Sester's drum beats recall the groovy, yet dark moods of Tool songs ("Judas", "Human Condition", "The Great Wave", "A Separation"). However, the closest match to their music may be a band called F.E.V.E.R. from Portugal and the sound of their 4st - Fourstalbum. This is mainly due to some songwriting concepts and minor similarities when it comes to atmospheres.
If you must label music, then music by The Seas has been tagged as 'industrial rock'. It may draw the attention of many listeners, however it's not the pure industrial rock we've gotten used to. The band uses samplers programmed by Rich Sester to intensify the songs. Samples fill in the background of tracks like "You're The One We've Been Waiting For...", "Paper Moon", "Paper Sky", "Lost At Sea" or "United/Divided". This post-production technique deepens the impact of the music on the listener's perception. Thanks to atmospheric and melodic compositions, the music sounds closer to alternative rock than industrial rock, however the sampling makes the overall sound comply with the second above mentioned genre as well.
The vocals give A Separation unique character. Not only will Michael Sliter's voice steal your attention, but it may steal your heart too. The vocals release maximum emotional impact and are passionate, yet very far from falling into the abyss of hysteria. His voice operates within a wide vocal range so that he can sing in harmony ("Human Condition", "The Great Wave", "Meltdown") as well as scream low or snarl ("A Separation", "United/Divided", "Paper Sky"), but he doesn't sing out of tune in any case. His clear, distinctive, memorable, well controlled and professional voice gives the song additional significance. Michael accents every single word and verse of the lyrics on this album. This is what makes the meaning of the music even more powerful. When he's singing, the listeners body will respond and make them feel like they want to sing along with him. It's a huge advantage to have such a voice in a guitar driven band.
There's very good collaboration between the musicians and they avoid showing off their talents in an overbearing manner. The songwriting and compositional structures aren't complicated, however they are arranged extremely well. The tracks were specifically created with each instrument in mind as though they were created for a classical orchestra and set in a manner which would feature their sounds fully and thus let them build specific moods. The band efficiently operates within the confines of both sound and silence while utilizing techniques such as muting instruments in spots where other instruments come in to take part.
Listeners may remember an instrumental track entitled "Lost At Sea" very well. The sounds of digitalized dolphin-esque voices and mysterious whispers coming as if from the depths of the sea are interlaced with waves of guitars. "A Separation" will open you up, tear you apart, then leave you dry. It comes in silently and pleasantly with a funny disco intro, then turns into a powerful rock'n'metal composition as intense as a hurricane ripping through your soul. It is a song certain to have a huge impact on sensitive ears and wandering souls thanks to both the attractive vocals, the song structures and an overall performance. The song "You're The One We've Been Waiting For..." is an intro to "Judas", then "Paper Moon" makes an atmospheric space for "Paper Sky" to come along next. Both are connected and cross over extremely well. Additionally, in each intro the lyrics include a verse pertaining to the previous song title. "Paper Sky" is as meaningful and recognizable for the sound of The Seas as "A Separation", and both songs should be promoted as often as possible. Fans of melodic, yet emotional tracks may also enjoy "Meltdown" which is the track that completes this album. The first quiet seconds of "You're The One We've Been Waiting For..." are mixed very well with the song. Techniques such as this provide the listener with the most impact from this album when played in rotation.
You can't go wrong with arrangements that are crafted so well and allow the songs to be so inspiring. Each musician works hard while collaborating with the lead singer's vocals. This is what makes the songs so memorable. These intelligent and very intense rock songs contain real spirit which even the best known top Billboard songs seemingly lack these days. Music by The Seas may turn out to be timeless, leaving their sound as intriguing in 2012 as it can become 15 years from now.
This sort of music however needs a closed venue for the purpose of live shows. It might require a high end sound system to make the most out of The Seas music in a live context. Their vibe is simple, yet rich in moods and thus the silence plays a huge role in the overall song structures. Any feedback caused in a live setting due to bad wiring or microphone setups could ruin the atmospheres of the songs.
The band has been working on a new EP, but it seems this should be no problem for them to make another release that is just as good as A Separation. They shouldn't hurry with their next release either. It takes years to make meaningful music. The entire process can be compared to writing a novel that withholds a tight yet unique storyline. A Separation could be a life changing experience, but a spiritual catharsis is guaranteed. This band deserves a lot of exposure from the music press, TV, radio as well as possibly being featured on compilations and in movies as well. Many opportunities should start dropping like rain when The Seas music goes viral. Hopefully their songs will be purchased as often as listened to.
(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Industrial Rock Magazine, April 17th, 2012)