The Intersphere – The Grand Delusion

Review | How real is reality? For austrian psychologist Paul Watzlawick, every so-called reality is a construction of those who believe that they’ve discovered and explored it. The assumption that only one reality existed would be the grand delusion of humanity. With their new album, German alternative/progressive rock band The Intersphere take the discussion to musical grounds.

Topics like perception of reality, consumerism and society lay the foundations for the songs that make up the colour palette of their fifth studio-album. Prior to the release, the singles served as forerunners of the album’s general theme. Dealing with individuals questioning their own reality, danceable rhythms come upon an energetic breakdown in Mind over Matter. Additionally, first single Secret Place illustrates the problem of today’s fast-paced society in which it’s hard to find the time and space for creativity. The yearning for creative calm underlays Christoph’s vocals. The marching drums in the middle of the song strongly remind of the cadence of individuals, which are then pulled out of their misery by the intro-riff. Varying from ominous silence to hard metal-guitars, lead single Antitype lines up perfectly. By drawing a bow between different spectrums, the band constantly presents us their ability to experiment.

Demonstrating what’s possible musically

On the whole, a wide range of musical components is offered to the listener. With a fuzzy bass and a straight-forward rock chorus, Overflow sounds like something that Incubus would’ve come up with for their next album. Strings and piano bits and pieces in Man On The Moon create a listening experience that is rich in variety. Furthermore, opener Don’t Think Twice as well as New Maxim convince with well applied and up-beat structures.

Apart from being a generally heavy band, they show their capability to write mainstream music in the ballad Linger, without giving in to the temptation to fall for the genre. When the balance is on a tipping point, they return to their s.o.b.p.– roots such as in title track The Grand Delusion, Smoke Screen and You Feel Better When I Feel Bad.

Closing track Shipwreck moves the musical events to the electronic world. Through the connecting of attuned guitars and electronic sounds, the listener is granted a final ear candy before he finds himself alone in his perceived reality again.

A logical step in the band’s development

With The Grand Delusion, The Intersphere have created a diverse record which synthesizes multifarious styles, creating its own reality as it unfolds. No matter if it’s math-rock, metal, pop or electronic – everything’s technically adept. Drums and bass fit perfectly together, the guitar sounds have no rivals and Christoph’s vocals keep everything under control. Overall, the album fits seamlessly into their discography, giving us the sound that we like about The Intersphere without big surprises.

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Artwork taken from JPC.de

Architects – Holy Hell

Review | As drummer Dan Searle correctly stated it: Pain is a part of life. While growing from it, we learn our lessons and often, something wonderful comes out of it. In this case, it is ARCHITECTS’s new and 8th studio album Holy Hell. More than two years after their genius work All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us and the aftermath of losing founding member Tom Searle, the band from Brighton UK was reborn with new strength.

Accepting Tom’s inheritance

Opening track Death Is Not Defeat takes up the thread that has been spun in All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us and left with Memento Mori. With its orchestral elements, the track offers a familiar sonic image added by powerful guitar work and lyrics. Continued by Hereafter, the general sound offers a seamless transition from All Our Gods, giving us the characteristic sound that made the band one of the best acts in Britain. The hymnic song combines electronic elements with outstanding guitars, adequately defining the album’s general style.

Overall, hope and despair are fighting for supremacy withing the album.  Expressed through bright and dark moments as in Mortal After All and Holy Hell, high melodies and contrasting riffs constantly question the mortality of mankind. Images of the soul surviving the human body after death are drawn. A spiritual component has been added to the songs, providing a compass to navigate through chaos.

The tracks can be characterized by powerful lyrics supported by great guitar work. With a main riff that could easily be on the next Deftones album, Royal Beggars is a paragon of the band setting course for their future. The characteristic sound becomes acquainted with new elements, both converging as the song takes shape. Lyrically, the verses are carried smoothly until the chorus crashes in, giving us an aggressive but powerful vocal performance. Similar but different, third single Modern Misery has aggressive elements to it without losing its melody throughout the track. The catchy lead guitar carries Sam Carter’s voice while being underpinned by a harrowing bass.

With Damnation, Dying To Heal and The Seventh Circle, listeners get a wide picture of the whole musical spectrum the band has to offer. Last year’s single Doomsday, which was co-written by Tom, provides a familiar soundscape defined by great clean vocals and an engraving chorus. Varying from silent parts to wide tapestries of sound, closing track A Wasted Hymn depicts a ballad that leads the album to its resolution with a shimmer of hope, shining out of the battlefield that hope and despair have left behind.

A band in transition

Thematically, the themes have stepped away from social and environmental topics to make way for the personal. Dealing with the passing of Tom and drawing hope and inspiration out of it has been the blueprint for the album that became Holy Hell. Like death itself, it has more than one metaphorical level. It’s dark and brutal, yet leaves room for the beautiful. Without being a religious album, it surely has a spiritual level shining out from between the songs.

It’s astonishing how ARCHITECTS took their grief, dealt with it and created something that was never there before. However someone likes Holy Hell, it simply cannot be ignored what this band went through. Coming up with an album of that caliber is something that everyone has to respect, no matter what. They made the best out of their situation and created something wonderful. Something that Tom would have been deeply proud of.

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Thrice – Palms

Review | Remaining true to oneself while expanding one’s territory is a balancing act that not every band is able to manage. THRICE show us how it’s done. Their new creation Palms bears witness to a band that can be seen as one of the most experienced in post-hardcore.

Starting with Only Us, the musicians around band leader Dustin Kensrue show us that they don’t need a guitar to start an album. With the synthesizer being supported by great guitar and bass work, the piece depicts an overall nicely written song which makes the listener excited for the ones ahead. Lead single The Grey takes over the energy, carrying the listener through a powerful chorus.

“The Grey is all about setting aside certain rigid certainties and embracing the contextual complexity of the world around you”Dustin Kensrue

The Dark allows the listener to easily sing along the chorus before impressively closing the track with a choir of 1000 fans – a great way to involve them. With the passionate centerpiece Everything Belongs, the album reaches a nice break. It builds up greatly, adding more and more instruments and melodies. Through that, the overall intensity is stepped up nicely as the song goes on.

A Branch in the River brings us back to the times of Vheissu and The Artist in the Ambulance, providing an aggressive and distorted sound. As Kensrue puts it, the song is about fighting against the flow until realizing that letting go is the key to become a part of the whole. At this point, I have to highlight the bass work, which simply stood out on this record. In songs like
A Branch in the River and Just Breathe, Ed Breckenridge shows his musical craftsmanship through his outstanding bass-playing.

With a pre-chorus that is astonishingly un-innovative and a chorus that is definitely repeated too often, Hold Up a Light is one of the weakest moments on the album. The song went through a lot of changes in the writing process which in this case did not make the song better. Also, My Soul appeared to me like a fill track, with nothing much going on. Although the song has a nice Beach House flair, it cannot compete with the other tracks on the record.

Blood on Blood then convinces with great guitar and bass work. Also, the bridge is supported by a dreamy, experimental harp that completely moves the song’s overall style in another direction. Lyrically, closing track Beyond the Pines is the strongest song on the record. Based on the poem “A Great Wagon” by Rumi, the piece shows us what makes Dustin a great songwriter.

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to Palms. Although not belonging into my category of “unexpected”, it’s a good and consistent album that is in no way inferior to its predecessor To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere. The Lyrics seem to be focused on simplicity opposed to complexity, which I strongly admire. These days, it is not self-explaining that a band of this calibre continues to write decent music. Thrice really show that they consistently search for new territories, despite of being twenty years into their career. In my opinion, this is a great achievement.

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Further reading
While She Sleeps, CHVRCHES, ASTRAL TAURUS

CHVRCHES – Love Is Dead

Album Review | The world is not always wonderful and with all that goes on in society, one could say that: love is dead?! At least that’s a question raised by Glasgow-trio CHVRCHES in their newest album “Love Is Dead”, which was released on Friday 25th and produced by Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia).

The frustration and melancholy of the lyrics seem to argue with the bright and catchy melodies about the answer of this central question, looking at it from various angles. However, many words of lead-singer Lauren Mayberry are being repeated so haunting that the listener actually gets the message right from the first chorus of Get Out, Forever or Miracle. Also the single My Enemy with The National’s Matt Berninger comes across comparatively dragging and gloomy, providing no real alternation whatsoever.

Overall, it can be said that the characteristic indie-sound, which was established in their strong debut album The Bones of What You Believe (2013), has made way to mainstream pop music, aiming to address and spark the biggest audience possible. Since this development has been announced beforehand with the successor Every Open Eye (2015), it is no surprise that the new album’s style continues to go in this direction.

Thematically, Love is Dead dedicates to the issues of adolescence, nostalgia and ignorance. The Band aims to express how some people constantly have blinkers on while not taking responsibility for things that happened (Graves). Rather than dealing with a general theme, many topics are addressed by the band, leaving a large margin for interpretation.

Although it is definitely not their best work in my opinion, I still appreciate the honesty of the band and the thought-provoking themes. After all, it is hard for an artist like CHVRCHES to not incorporate political and socio-critical topics in their songs these days. And in the end there’s still the question whether we pronounce love dead or whether we rise to do something against it actively.

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Astral Taurus – Monolith EP

Review | A musical journey through time and space. A daydream of soundscapes and melodies for which someone wants to fall without hesitating. Not from this world yet terrestrial, the debut-EP of ASTRAL TAURUS promises much while staying modest. Hidden behind the silhouette of catchy pop- and wave-songs, the multi-instrumentalist Andre Kretschmar holds the creative reins and impresses with great concept behind brilliant songs.

Monolith is great in diversity

In Mirage, joyful melodies and uplifting drum rhythms meet the imagery of mistrust and loss in the lyrics. In this way, the song appears constructive and comfort-giving on the one, but oppressively melancholic on the other hand. As the song takes its course, the walls of disappointment slowly seem to burst open and at the end it shines through, the dawn of hope.

The single Supercluster already convinces with the first sound of the characteristic wave-synthesizer-line, which draws itself through the song like a comet. Spinning around the core of the single, the catchy chorus takes you on a trip to distant galaxies on the outskirts of imagination. Escapism and wanderlust carry the song, leading an individual to remove itself and its lover from their current situation to explore new worlds in the unknown.

Oppression and disappointment however lay the foundation of Tyrant, followed by the craving to be liberated and stricken from the will to break away from one’s tyrant to be free forever. The Song awaits the listener with an expressive chorus and convincing verses, which empty into a climatic bridge to finally dissolve into the chorus.

Perfectly for farewell, the EP closes with the well-structured synthie-pop piece Chosen One, which seems to scream out the lack of comprehension for death and the loss of loved ones. The mind-blowing solo of Kretschmar forms the climax of the song and leads to its resolution starting from the bridge. One thing is clear when the stardust has settled: The craving for more ASTRAL TAURUS will remain.

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