Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt. 2

Review | After seven months, Foals are back with Part 2 of “Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost”. As its predecessor, the album fails to stand out from their previous work. Foals didn’t reinvent themselves, despite striving to create a solid rock album.

Foals are good at drawing pictures: Humanity is on the edge of survival. Robots have made the rounds, sand dunes filled up the towns. The earth was lost in degrees. Yet, exits aren’t covered anymore. Having survived in their underground shelters during Part 1, a few survivors now embrace on a journey without destination, through the wasteland once called earth.

Innovative guitar work makes way for lukewarm rock riffs

As on What Went Down, Foals have again experimented with more straightforward rock riffs. With a catchy riff and different vocal styles, single The Runner is indeed a great listen. Opposed to the verse, the chorus is rather melodic and therefore giving variety. But with Black Bull and Like Lightning, it’s a different story. Former is a riff-driven jam, depicting in a-bull-driven-crazy-way the “unpleasant aspects of masculinity”, as lead singer Yannis Philippakis said in an NME interview. Although being one of their heaviest pieces, it’s also their most shallow one. Yes, it has energy and power – but only manages to scratch the surface.

Same goes for Like Lightning. If there was an American Gods kind of series starring Zeus as the protagonist, this would be the ultimate soundtrack. But not in a good way. More in a “we already heard that types of songs enough on Arctic Monkey’s AM” kind of way.

This is not a rock album

Although having those rock songs on it, the album itself can’t really be described as a rock album. With Wash Off and Dreaming Of, Foals rather move towards their origins than stir out of it. Both are characteristic for the band, although it’s hard to get to their core. As well as 10,000 Ft., the songs appear like they started as jams but it was never cleared in which direction they should unfold. While listening, one may constantly look for something to hold on to. But nothing is found.

Part 2 remains too close to the surface

Foals put emphasis on world-building, as seen with Ikaria, a musical interlude serving as a break. But apart from that, the album doesn’t really offer anything of value. Sure, there’s melancholic Into the Surf, a love song with a tragic ending, and Neptune, a piece of 10 minutes with the majority improvised.  But overall, the album does not leave much behind. “Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 2” is totally fine. It’s a Foals-record that you can listen to for a few times. Unfortunately, it stays too close to the surface to be something profoundly special.

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Artwork taken from JPC.

Further reading
White LiesCHVRCHES, Aiden Hatfield

What Lies Beyond – Coup De Grâce

Album Review | You wouldn’t usually connect Croatia with good metalcore immediately. Yet still, the music scene is more vivid than one might think. Ranging from pop to dance, the country accommodates a great variety of genres. With many artists using their native-language, the number of English-speaking bands is manageable. Occasionally, a band dares to face the challenge. What Lies Beyond are one of them.

Coming from Solin, a small town nearby Croatia’s second biggest city Split, Ivan Šipić (vocals) and Filip Samardžić (lead guitar) founded the band in 2012. After several line-up changes, Ante Topić (bass guitar) and Ante Katinac (rhythm guitar) finally completed the band.

Right after recording their first EP “Transcendence”, the band members locked themselves in the studio to record their debut album Coup De Grâce, which was released in February this year. Mixed and mastered by none other than Henrik Udd, who has already worked with giants like Bring Me The Horizon, Hammerfall, Architects or At The Gates, the album leaves no doubt that the band thinks big.

With a sound that can easily be named in connection with In Flames, Asking Alexandria and Killswitch Engage, the band from Solin merge modern hard rock into first-class metal. Not only does the album show great production work, it also draws the picture of a band whose songwriting is characterized by longtime experience and distinctive musical skills.

Aggressive and confident from the start

Opener Turning Tides comes with a driving beat that makes you unconsciously raise your mano cornuta into the air. With a chorus to sing along, the song soon serves as a benchmark for what listeners can expect from the rest of the album. They won’t be disappointed, because the single Drink The Night Away is up next. Impressive guitar work and a catchy chorus form the soundtrack of an awesome saturday evening in the city.

Sometimes Sipic’s vocals remind of Marylin Manson, in some tracks they have the flair of a Jonathan Davis. They move in a pleasant pitch, not being too loud or to deep. Alternating between clean and rough vocals, the band presents a varying overall picture. This is demonstrated in tracks like Behind the Closed Doors or Nothing Left to Prove, where melodies don’t come off badly. To add up on that, Sonja Rogosic contributed her beautiful voice to the tracks Neverending Story and Confessions, adding another color to the album’s musical spectrum.

An impressive climax

Halfway through the album, the band surprises with Marylin Rose, Pt. 1. The melancholic piano piece expresses the longing for a person, Stone Sour-style. Putting nostalgia into sounds, the last few notes of the track seem like an open ending but the story continues in Marylin Rose, Pt. 2. Turning away from the melancholic, the song invokes to leave nostalgia behind. Classical elements interpreted by Yngwie Malmsteen-like guitars mark the album’s absolute climax.

The only reality
Like a sand under me
Falling quickly (Bitter Truth)

Normally, closing tracks are rather unspectacular. But with Bitter Truth, they close the album with a banger, offering riffs that Funeral for a Friend would be proud of. Musically showing persistence, the band holds up their middle fingers to an ever-changing reality that “slips like sand in your hand”.

Coup de Grâce as a personal but socio-critical album

Although the songs deal with broken relationships and severe losses, the tracks don’t lack a certain degree of socio-critical aspects. Like Edge of Sanity, which deals with an overwhelmed individual that is desperate about the world we all inhabit or Guilty Crown, which reminds us of the paradox of living in a world of endless possibility. The debut album lets us see societal problems from the perspective of an individual that is like you and me.

With Coup de Grâce, What Lies Beyond put themselves right in the middle of Croatian metal scene. By further shaping their own sound, the band can move something beyond the east. Surely, the eye of What Lies Beyond now turns to the rest of Europe, one of the biggest kingdoms of modern metal. It is for sure that their debut album paved the way.

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Further reading
While She Sleeps, ArchitectsThrice

Writing Habits: What We Can Learn from Famous Authors

Those who manage to write great novels don’t do it without a certain degree of self-discipline. Regardless of which authors you look at, they all seem to maintain certain routines and habits which support them in their creative endeavors. Since all humans are different, the most diverse manifestations of these routines are perceptible.

Continue reading “Writing Habits: What We Can Learn from Famous Authors”

Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Pt. 1)

Review | It’s impossible to say in advance how a new FOALS album will sound. They’re simply one of these bands. With their musical style having changed tremendously since their freshman piece Antidotes in 2008, their bandwidth now ranges from ambient Spanish Sahara to danceable My Number and rock piece What Went Down. Now they start on a new journey with the first part of their twin album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost.

Four years after What Went Down, the band has now spent a year on the new record. With bass player and co-founder Walter Gervers having left, the band had to adjust its writing approach to the new situation. Moreover, they decided to go without a producer, giving them much more freedom in creating the album. The result can easily be described as the soundtrack to human condition and current times we all live in.

Foals draw strong visual images

Like an underground spring, Moonlight opens the album with ambient synthesizers. After picking up more and more sounds, the song finally reaches the surface, now making way for Exits.

With the single, the band turns to the odd side of the musical spectrum. According to front man Yannis Philippakis, the song visually draws the picture of a little underground world that is slightly post-apocalyptic. Individuals are trapped inside of it, finding no way out of the surreal environment. It’s true that the single sets the tone for the record, serving as a centerpiece for the album. By creating a mix that takes elements from Holy Fire as well as from What Went Down, the band tries out different sounds like in a laid-back jam session.

With its distorted guitars, White Onions then feels like a remnant of What Went Down, although not in a good sense. What is pleasurable at first quickly gets tiring after the first repetitions. Thankfully, In Degrees comes next in line. Constituting it a highlight on the album, the bassline and danceable rhythm pull your legs on the dancefloor. On The Luna aligns perfectly by combining standard power chords with colorful synthesizers and overlaying instruments throughout the song.

Demonstrating their ability to groove, third single Sunday opens with a dream-pop and rather ambient soundscape before then piling up into a danceable house-groove with repeating vocals and calibrated guitars. It shows good songwriting which is always eager to surprise.

A dystopian scenery put into sounds

“And now the robots have made the rounds
Sand dunes filled up all our towns
Foxes howl and the creepers prowl around
The peeling wet bricks of London town”.  – (Syrups)

Reaching for the paintbrush again, Syrups then draws the picture of a post-apocalyptic country. Lethargically, the bass line carries Philippakis’ voice through an isolated wasteland. Towards the end, one can imagine the individual running faster, trying to escape the world it lives in.

Ongoing from the middle, nothing extraordinary happens except for Sunday. Relying heavily on xylophones, Café d’Athens gives the album a nice pause, but nothing more except of that. Same is true for Surf, Pt. 1, which already found a use in the album’s promotion and appears rather irrelevant.

The running foxes from Syrups are now dead in the garden, lying there in the closing track I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me). A melancholy piano underlays slow-motion pictures of the dead animals, burning leaves and rainy autumn days. As Moon on Holy Fire, the album ends by sinking into the depths of depression. In this case, depression of facing a world in change.

Everything Not Saved was put on the album

It’s fun to hear a band still experimenting. Again, the band has created an album which is rich in variety. Danceable tracks alternate between ambient pieces, offering listeners a lot to choose from. But with the second half of the album being weaker than the first one, Foals’ Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost is everything yet nothing. Like a bouquet of different flowers, the record shows a colorful palette of musical pieces without offering landmarks to see the bigger picture. As the album title says, literally everything was put on the album to prevent it from getting lost. After all, the question of whether it benefits the album can be discussed. We will see how Part 2 will link the albums together.

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Artwork taken from JPC.

Further reading
White LiesCHVRCHES, ASTRAL TAURUS

While She Sleeps – So What?

Review | On Brainwashed (2015) and You Are We (2017), Sheffield rockers WHILE SHE SLEEPS demonstrated how technically adept metalcore works. Without lodging themselves in a niche of the scene, they now stand there with crossed arms and a new album, saying “So What?”.

Opener Anti-Social immediately contributes to the worldbuilding, making it clear to listeners where they will be in the next 48 minutes. Not in the cosy living room, but in abandoned factory halls and ominous side streets. Textually, the band uses the crowbar to crack open today’s superficiality on social media.

“You’re gonna follow like a freelance sucker of the next biggest trend. We are pissing into the wind to be heard by the indifferent.” (Anti-Social)

New influences meet the habitual style

Again, a re-invention has taken place. Skillfully, the band has woven new ideas into the album concept while considering threads that haven’t been used before. The result can be disconcerting, yet everything is arranged for a purpose. Like the pop vocal sample in Inspire, which was ripped out of mainstream and exhibited in a new context for the laughter of the masses. Or the pop guitar lick in the verse of Good Grief, which could have easily been purposely stolen from the latest hit single on the radio.

Most of the songs are quite catchy, while keeping brutality and melody in suspense. Known from their previous albums, overriding choirs like in I’ve Seen It All, The Guilty Party or Gates of Paradise may weary long-term fans but do no harm to the overall picture.

With all the new influences and good old choirs, the band hasn’t lost its ability to hammer out amazing riffs and fueling them with catchy melodies like in title track So What? or the singles Haunt Me and Elephant.

So What? fits into modern times

The socio-critical attitude from the previous albums is more present than ever, having its finger on the pulse of the time. Dealing with capitalism, society’s profound dissension and money-centeredness, the album is thought-provoking. Despite an allegedly frustration depicted in the songs, a call to get active shines through.

Overall, So What? offers sophisticated metalcore-pop, which can cause ingrained fanciers an upset stomach. Yet the attentive listener realizes that the music adds more to the metalcore scene than it takes away from it. From experimenting, something new has arisen. What appears strange at first maybe just needs some more time to settle. One thing is for sure: While She Sleeps went out of their comfort zone and waited for just the right moment.

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Artwork taken from Metalwani.com.

Further reading
ArchitectsThrice, The Intersphere