We're long overdue for some new music, so here’s entertainment editor John Turnbull with some reviews to brighten your weekend!
New Album from a New Artist
Red Bee: Silent Enemy
Blue Mountains three-piece Red Bee got together almost ten years ago, although there’s a fair chance that bassist Jim Silk and singer/guitarist Daniel Silk have known each other for a little longer than that, considering that they’re brothers. When they met drummer Ian Dunn, the trio was complete, drawn together by a love of hard rock and a desire to make some noise.
Influenced as youngsters by bands like Mr Bungle and The Dillinger Escape Plan, Red Bee released their debut album, Ictus, in 2012. Recorded live in the studio, the album was a cracker, blending heavy guitars, a tight rhythm section and howling vocals into a blistering combination. The fact that it took the band six years to record their follow up is a testament to their attention to detail — every song on Silent Enemy has its own distinct sound.
From a sonic perspective, Silent Enemy is like a stealth bomber, sneaking up on you and then destroying your eardrums with an unrelenting deluge of riffs. It’s a nice change to hear metal sung in an Australian accent, avoiding the temptation to adopt an American twang fallen into by many heavy Australian bands.
If you like your rock heavy and distinctly Australian, check out Silent Enemy and catch Red Bee next time they’re on tour — I’ve got a feeling that this album is going to sound great live.
Standout tracks: Lotus-Eater, Silent Enemy, Chasing Shadows
Sample lyric: “Everybody’s waiting, still anticipating your move” (Silent Enemy)
Verdict: 8/10 — music to bang your head to.
New Album from a newly Solo Artist
Mike Shinoda: Post Traumatic
For those unfamiliar with Mike Shinoda, he was one of the founding members of Linkin Park, the pioneering rock/rap group that came to an unfortunate end last year with the suicide of singer Chester Bennington. The group rose to fame at the height of the Nu-Metal fad, with debut album Hybrid Theory, but managed to reinvent themselves across subsequent years and another half-dozen studio albums.
Shinoda was the rapper in Linkin Park, and part of their appeal was the juxtaposition of his raps and Bennington’s exceptional singing, alternating between haunting melodies and harrowing screams. How would an album without that contrast, I wondered; would Shinoda now be like every other rapper out there? After listening, I’m still not sure.
The spectre of Bennington is evident on almost every track on Post Traumatic, the album bookended with snippets of phone messages to Shinoda from friends and well-wishers following his friend’s death. The album starts strongly with the confessional Place to Start and the vaguely industrial Over Again, but it isn’t before long that Shinoda starts to repeat himself both lyrically and sonically.
If you’re a die-hard Linkin Park fan, then I’m sure you’ll find something to like on Post Traumatic, but I think the best thing for Mike Shinoda would be to find a new band and start again — he may not have the chops to sustain a solo career.
Standout tracks: Place to Start, About You, Nothing Makes Sense Anymore
Sample lyric: “Am I part of a vision made by somebody else?” (Place to Start)
Verdict: 6/10 — hard to listen to without thinking of who is missing.
Album I expect to Suck
Kanye West: ye
From a sociological perspective, it’s been fascinating to watch the rise to fame and subsequent loss of touch with reality that Kanye West has experienced. After getting his start as a producer at Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records, West released debut album The College Dropout in 2004.
At the time, West had said:
“My persona is that I’m the regular person. Just think about what you’ve been through in the past week, and I have a song about that on my album.”
That was 14 years ago. Now Kanye West seems to think he is God — and He isn’t afraid of making up his own truth. Back in 2013, I declared album Yeezus to be 'almost completely unlistenable' and by that low bar, ye is a slight improvement. It’s still self-indulgent, but West is a talented rapper and an even better producer — when he can get out of his own way.
Second track Yikes is a good example of this, with immaculately layered production and a compelling beat, and lyrics about West overcoming bipolar disorder. Closing track Violent Crimes addresses how Kanye’s views on women have changed since having daughters and you would almost believe that he had become a better person... if you forgot that he recently claimed that slavery was a 'choice'. Unfortunately, the rest of the album sounds like filler, which makes sense when you discover that it was apparently recorded in a single day.
When compared to Childish Gambino’s recent statement, This is America, ye is light as a feather. At 24 minutes long, it doesn’t really qualify as an album, more of a half-assed attempt at distracting from West’s gradual social self-destruction.
For true fans only.
Standout tracks: Yikes, Violent Crimes
Sample lyric: “I thought about killing myself, and I love myself way more than I love you” (I Thought About Killing You)
Verdict: 3/10 — would be better if Kanye didn’t take himself so seriously.
Ch-check it out
Mallrat: In the Sky
Mallrat is a Brisbane singer/songwriter known to her parents as Grace Shaw. She first made a splash at age 19 when her single Better was streamed over 100,000 times in a week. By that time, she had already been writing and performing for a couple of years, finding her sound and honing her craft. Mentored by Adelaide rapper Allday, Mallrat has been hailed as one of the brightest lights on the Australian hip-hop scene.
But In the Sky isn’t really hip-hop. It has elements of rap, dance and soul, with touches of jazz and funk, but it’s almost impossible to classify Mallrat into a single genre. The closest thing to pure hip-hop is the dreamy UFO, featuring Allday, but the EP covers a lot of ground in 17 minutes.
If you’re a fan of Australian music – irrespective of genre – I recommend checking out Mallrat. Trust me when I say that this isn’t the last we’ll hear of her…
Standout tracks: Better, UFO, Make Time
Sample lyric: “The beetles that he tried to kill all grew up on my windowsill” (Make Time)
Verdict: 8/10 — a rising star.
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
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