• Infected Mushroom - Legend of the Black Shawarma

    Set 8 2009, 20:14

    Infected Mushroom - Legend Of The Black Shawarma
    Release: 09-08-09

    I have a confession. I have not been following Infected Mushroom since the days of Classical Mushroom, nor even Converting Vegetarians. I first really got into the duo in 2007, with the release of Vicious Delicious. So you'll notice that, perhaps, I'm not a "true fan" or whatever that means. It seems a commonplace occurrence that as bands deviate from their initial themes and sounds, there is a vocal group that is there to loudly yell "this band sucks now" or "they've really jumped the shark with this album," or even "this album sucks, why couldn't it be more like --insert older album--." Such is the case with Infected Mushroom... though to be clear this 'deviation' occurred with Vicious Delicious, as Legend Of The Black Shawarma is thematically quite similar to its predecessor. Some people will like that, others will not. I am of the former persuasion.

    Legend Of The Black Shawarma is replete with all the fashionings you'd come to expect from IM (Infected Mushroom); insane build-ups, eclectic vocals, and very intelligently programmed tracks. However, it does seem to me that IM has played this album quite "safe"; there's nothing like Artillery on this album. While there's nothing particularly wrong with playing it safe, the genre of psychedelic trance lends itself very well to exploration and experimentation. So I am rather disappointed in the conservative approach IM has taken to this album.

    Compared to Vicious Delicious I'd say this album has a more solid tracklist, though it does not reach the same heights as Becoming Insane or Suliman. That said, there are a few tracks that are quite good.

    Smashing The Opponent - The first single off the album is also exceptionally good. Featuring a guest performance by Korn vocalist Jonathan Davis, this track will likely become a favorite for anyone that enjoyed Vicious Delicious. One could say that this song comes very close to being outright pop, but listening to the cohesion and maniac synths of I.Zen and Duvdev will convince you that this is 100% Infected Mushroom.

    Project 100 - For the purists out there, this track is worth a listen. This is a fairly traditional psychedelic trance track that features masterful progression and all the stylistic tendencies you'd come to expect from an IM effort. It's the longest track in the album, but it never falters even a second. Without a doubt the best track in Legend Of The Black Shawarma.

    The Legend Of The Black Shawarma - Closing out the album is the title track. It has heavily spliced vocals, lush piano accompaniment, deviously sliced beats, and the traditional IM buildups. A great track, all in all and a fantastic way to close out the album on a high note.

    While Legend Of The Black Shawarma doesn't innovate or do anything insanely-awesome-that-you'd-never-expect, it is very much a solid endeavor by Infected Mushroom that takes the style of Vicious Delicious and uses it to the utmost potential.

    4 / 5
  • Celldweller - Celldweller (Review)

    Ago 25 2009, 15:06

    I hear the sound of a heart,
    from the shadow in the dark,
    waiting for the poison to hit its mark,
    I see the darkness surround,
    the shape on the ground,
    the killer straight up,
    and a body face down

    Celldweller - Celldweller
    Release: 02-11-03

    I'll be honest... it's hard for me to write about this album. Ever since I discovered Celldweller, I have been more or less listening to this album constantly. It has made an indelible mark on my taste in music and I'd even go so far as to say that it has changed my life.

    This album is the result of one man's vision: Klayton is the creative force behind nearly every aspect of Celldweller. This was his labor of love, an album crafted with meticulous attention to detail. As a whole, the album is incredibly diverse, yet retains a common theme of betrayal, regret, and the longing to be free. The texture of this album is quite dark, and that is often reflected lyrically, but it never gets heavy-handed or pathetic; Klayton's a deft lyricist, and his vocal delivery is superlative.

    Ranging from intense cyber-goth (The Last Firstborn), to industrial metal (Switchback), to electronica with a touch of metal (Afraid This Time), Celldweller reaches dizzying heights. Each song is a multi-faceted experience that only gets better on repeated listens.

    Choosing my favorite songs from this album is akin to choosing one's favorite child. Instead, I'll choose the songs I feel best represent Celldweller.

    Switchback - The album's first track is a highly energetic industrial metal song with towering guitars set to a diverse backdrop of synths, drums, and vocoded effects. Klayton's vocal presence is undeniable here; from passionate "clean" vocals to the occasional highly vocoded growls, Switchback showcases his versatility.

    The Last Firstborn - This song is what dreams and nightmares are made of. If I had to describe this song in one word, I'd choose "intense." Some of the vocals would make death metal fans take notice. The texture and theme of The Last Firstborn is very, very dark as well as disturbing as all get-out (I've posted some of the lyrics right below the cover art). With its quasi-apocalyptic overtones and stunningly dark lyrics, The Last Firstborn is not something you can listen to in the background. This song demands your full attention, and once you start listening you can't stop until the nearly eight-minute duration is over. There are very few songs that can match The Last Firstborn's breathtaking intensity.

    So Sorry to Say - Where The Last Firstborn posits losing oneself in madness, So Sorry to Say deals with trying to come to terms with one's true nature. In a way, these two songs are opposites in both theme and tone. While still featuring a degree of relative "intensity," So Sorry to Say is nevertheless far more contemplative. Sharp string stabs mesh with Klayton's meditative vocals before reaching a denouement set to meticulously programmed drum beats, and ever-present guitar riffs. Transformative.

    "I wish we could" she whispered near
    "Go some place far away from here."
    While hoping that small voice would
    disappear that said "Welcome to the end."

    Celldweller truly transcends words, and while I've attempted to convey why I think it's amazing there really is no substitute for hearing it for yourself. Go find this masterpiece, and prepare to have your mind blown.

    5 / 5
  • VAST - Visual Audio Sensory Theater

    Ago 21 2009, 17:29

    VAST - Visual Audio Sensory Theater
    Release: 04-28-1998

    Without preamble, I'd like to say that this album is unlike anything you've ever heard before. And I mean that in the best possible way. There is so much passion put into this album that you will undoubtedly find something to like here, whether that be Jon Crosby's soaring vocals, the delightfully odd music samples used (including celestial chanting, exotic hymns, etc.), or just the superb display of musicianship. Are there any bad songs in this album? No. In fact, every song is really good; VAST cut no corners. There's a good mix of the energetic (Three Doors, Temptation) and the somber (You, Flames).

    As I mentioned before, every song is worthy of your time, but there are a few that stand out more than others:

    Here - A fantastic opening to the album. The tone is cinematic, and almost visceral. VAST purports to offer a complete sensory experience, and this track shows that they aren't just talk. The vocal performance is arresting, the tribal beat / instrumentation is pervasive --- I can't describe it any better than that, this is something that has to be experienced to merit full comprehension.

    Touched - This is VAST's most popular song. And for good reason. Touched is essentially a ballad; one infused with a tribal chorus, and a stunning vocal performance by Crosby.

    I'm Dying - This is my favorite of the album. Jon Crosby, frontman and mastermind behind VAST, has many spiritual influences; among them, Christianity. I don't think it's a stretch to say that this track focuses on self-doubt and religious belief (or the lack thereof). Set to a downright hypnotic benedictine-esque chant coupled with brilliant lyricism, I'm Dying is tragic, moving, and incredibly powerful.

    Every song on this album could have been listed above... Visual Audio Sensory Theater is that good. If you consider yourself a music lover, you owe it to treat yourself to VAST.

    4.5 / 5
  • Saosin - Saosin

    Ago 20 2009, 19:06

    Saosin - Saosin
    Release: 09-26-2006

    I'd like to think of this album as one that is as unpretentious and unassuming as they come; it makes no claims of being anything other than what it is, which is a straight-laced post-hardcore romp through a solid dozen tracks. There are no real "losers" in this album, though there is a bit of a "didn't I just listen to this?" monotony to some tracks. Nothing as bad as "DragonForce-Syndrome" though.

    The greatest strength of Saosin's eponymous debut album is that it's thematically solid; there are no great deviations and it does "what it does" well. However, this is also a weakness in that there are few truly standout songs. That being said...

    It's So Simple - Highly energetic, emotional song with a great sense of dynamic range and an inspired vocal effort by Cove Reber.

    It's Far Better To Learn - The first track is an especially good song instrumentally, though the vocals are nothing to sneer at either. Guitar riffage is awesome enough to draw you into the album. Bonus points for the awesome transition into the second track, Sleepers.

    Some Sense Of Security - A solid song with an especially haunting outro. A perfect song to conclude the album.

    While this album certainly wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, it does leave a bit to be desired; some of the songs sound like a wash, though that may be an intentional choice. Still, Saosin is an album worth your time if you are into the genre.

    3 / 5
  • Shiny Toy Guns - We Are Pilots (v3)

    Ago 20 2009, 17:55

    Shiny Toy Guns - We Are Pilots (v3)
    Release: 2006-10-17

    An intriguing blend of electronica, pop and rock. While it never gets anything remotely near "heavy" the "rock/metal" elements make the album both catchy and appealing to fans of both genres. The thematic depth of We Are Pilots is quite diverse; you'll get the aforementioned epic tracks, but at the same time, considerably lighter and "poppier" songs like When They Came for Us are interspersed throughout. The highlight of the album is undoubtedly what I consider to be a masterpiece of electronica, You Are the One. Sweepingly epic, yet subtle and melodic at the same time, You Are the One is by far the strongest song on the album. Its presence alone more than makes We Are Pilots worth your time.

    Other standout songs are:

    Le Disko, for its trip-hop trappings and stylish, multifaceted dynamics.

    Don't Cry Out is a great song that is a cross between STG's electronica and straight-out dream pop, complete with sonorous, reverb-laden bells.

    Rainy Monday is essentially a no-frills upbeat electronica / pop song with a great vocal performance by Gregori Chad Petree.

    Overall, We Are Pilots is a unique take on electronica that has more hits than misses, including one song that is truly transcendent.

    3.5 / 5