While sugary-sweet pop vocals coupled with head-crushing heavy metal doesn’t seem like a recipe for success, Poppy has been changing the game. We were there when she took the stage at Brooklyn Steel last month and saw firsthand what everyone has been buzzing about. Continue reading
Even geniuses get beat up by the press and fans sometimes. There were very few albums as big, pervasive in music culture and brilliant as Nine Inch Nails career highlight The Downward Spiral (Nothing/Interscope) was in 1994. The problem is, how do you follow it up, especially when the entire world jumped on the bandwagon and copied your style? Well, you don’t do a belly flop into stasis, you work harder than ever to expand, change drastically and do all the things. The Fragile (Nothing/Interscope) is Trent Reznor doing all the things, really well. Continue reading
In the year of boy band domination, Blink-182 was the answer for the counterculture with Enema of the State (MCA Records). They were there to bring you anthems with no-holds attitude for in between classes to failed crushes and even jokes about diarrhea and animal sex. Jerry Finn who was behind the production of Green Day’s classic Dookie produced the debut album that connected with so many in more ways than one. Continue reading
Putting together a good bill is a difficult task. Sometimes the stars can align, schedules are free and the world gets Trivium with Code Orange, Power Trip and Venom Prison. Other times you get Dizzee Rascal supporting Muse. Yes, that did actually happen. When a band as fluid with genre boundaries as Enter Shikari announces a tour, wild speculation breaks out about who will be joining them, or indeed, why a certain band is on the bill. Tonight is no exception as a varied line up graces the frequently gig-bereft Leicester City. Continue reading
As the largest Metal label in the world, Nuclear Blast and it’s subsidiaries (SharpTone and Arising Empires) has a conveyor belt of exceptional talent at their disposal. Joe Naan joined their PR team earlier in the year and has been a regular in our inbox ever since, representing their incredible roster. Continue reading
Tayne is a London based Experimental, Noise, Pop outfit by Matthew Sutton. Tayne’s music is an aural assault that weld moody, atmospheric vocals, punishing guitars and overwhelming electronics, to pulsating rhythms that create an intense listening. Debut album Breathe (Strange Brew) is out now. Continue reading
Four years ago, at Cult of Luna’s heralded Beyond The Redshift festival, I saw a band that went toe-to-toe with the headline acts and matched their beauty, elegance, and musical depth. Ten years into their career and with their fourth album Nowhere (Season of Mist) about to grace our ears, we find Esben And The Witch at their darkest. Continue reading
What became of real pop stars? This is a question I have asked myself over and over the last few years. As we’ve lost Prince, George Michael, and David Bowie, and there is no new Madonna, Bjork, Sinead, Tori, or nary even an Alanis in sight, I wondered when the next generation of legends would come, if ever. A few years back I got turned on to PVRIS when I still lived in their home state of Massachusetts, and I heard White Noise right when it came out. Then I saw them live, and whoa, I was blown away by them. However, one of the hardest things to pull off in music is the second album. Sure you have your entire first act to create a sound and cultivate your style. People are fickle and expect a lot as fans. Much tougher to grow from that and keep it going, but PVRIS has pulled it off impressively. Continue reading
It’s a pleasant spring evening in one of the up and coming, trendier areas of North London and Ghost Cult is enjoying a coffee and a chinwag with Mikko Von Hertzen of Von Hertzen Brothers. Our discussion takes in musical choices and, of course the new record, New Day Rising (Spinefarm)…
“It’s YOU, isn’t it?” A 30-something woman looks somewhat star struck, gazing at the man stood next to me. “You’re the SINGER aren’t you?” My tall, elegant companion is polite enough to acknowledge that, indeed, he is the singer and it is, after all, him. The singer in question is Mikko Von Hertzen, lead vocalist with Finland’s finest rock band, the Von Hertzen Brothers and this, dear readers, is what being a rock star is all about; meeting and greeting fans and generally being far too cool for school.
Mikko poses for photos, takes hugs that go on ever so slightly too long and then it’s down to the business of meeting the media. Well, in this case, your humble Ghost Cult scribe. It’s a pleasant spring evening in one of the up and coming, trendier areas of North London and we are enjoying a coffee and a chinwag with Mikko, right at the start of the band’s UK tour in support of their latest and, perhaps, greatest record to date – the fresh and spiky New Day Rising (Spinefarm).
The seemingly inexorable rise of the Von Hertzen Brothers from hardworking studio grafters following in their father’s footsteps to feted cult progressives and now into internationally acclaimed rock band looks probably more swanlike to the outsider than the actually reality of matters for the band, but Mikko seems relaxed ahead of this leg of their European tour.
It’s 4 weeks to the day since New Day Rising came out. How have you felt about the reaction to it?
I feel good, man. Although it’s been out for only a month, we had the record ready since mid-November last year so, yeah, this is a case of living in your own shit for quite a while before you can get the record out! When you’re doing international releases like this one you need a long lead time for all the teams to be ready, to do the planning of the release – the marketing and so on.
As artists, of course there were moments when we we’re thinking “Is this too far to the mainstream?” or “Is this too rock or too pop?”, but this last month it’s been very encouraging. Our fans love this record and it’s been pleasing because, in addition to that, we have been able to gain a lot of new territories, new audiences. There are people who are looking at us for the first time, taking an interest in what we are doing, wanting to review the album, interview us for the first time so, yeah, it’s been a good few weeks.
Personally, I was hesitant about the album around Christmas time but now I feel very confident about the album being good, and it’s been fun to work the last month with better crowds than we had for the Nine Lives (also Spinefarm) tour.
If truth be known, everything feels like we are riding a bit of a wave…..
How do you deal with the pressure of having all these expectations on you – the production teams, marketing, management and so on demanding new songs? Does that affect you at all?
It doesn’t affect me that much to be honest. When I am writing songs, I am only thinking about the songs and I don’t really think about whether people are going to like it, but I do put a huge pressure on myself to want to pull something out that is good, to find new ways of doing things, to bring out new ideas for songs. Of course, we then have the discussions about what songs should be the arrowhead for the new record, are we going to go with a rock song, a pop song, a prog song…
Because we do all of that…
Indeed they do. New Day Rising is striking for its diversity of styles yet, running through it all has also been a straightforward approach that has perhaps only been hinted at on previous releases. Our conversation moves on to the band’s musical diversity and its effect on their relationship with their dedicated and knowledgeable fan base. In particular, the UK prog scene has been a particular champion of the band’s work. I wondered whether there was a risk that they might alienate their following and, in effect, inadvertently end up biting the hand that fed them. Mikko is reflective:
I think that we might be going through a cycle, he explains. Let’s look back at where this band has come from. The first album was, if you will, a bud that we…. probably…. took too early: it wasn’t a flower in bloom. It was an idea. It wasn’t a fully formed idea but we just went with it, you know? The second and third records were the Prog records where we nailed it but, and I have said this before, I don’t just want to do an another Approach (Dynasty).
We want to find something new, do something different. The reality is we like different types of music. We’re not just prog heads who like just Dream Theater and Pink Floyd. We love Abba. We love Dire Straits.
This love of different things was ingrained in us from a very early age from the stuff that was played in the family home. In some ways, the new stuff is often a reaction to the older stuff so this album especially we have reached the point where we have become the most straightforward as we are likely to.
It’s all about simple structures, simple rock songs or pop songs. It might be that the reaction to that will be an out and out prog record!
His smile is genuine and genuinely mischievous as he says it.
Having formerly been in the ranks of the much missed, oddball maestro’s Cardiacs, any band featuring Kavus Torabi was never going to be a dull or simple affair. Suitably so Kavus’ latest venture, Knifeworld, have been a leading light (along with the likes of The Fierce & The Dead) in a new generation of British Prog of a most eccentric variety.
Knifeworld’s previous record work has shown the band and Kavus’ vision and ability to combine the most unorthodox musical styles with a pop aesthetic, but latest album The Unravelling (InsideOut) is their most ambitious and impressive work to date.
The sheer plethora of ideas at play is quite staggering yet everything flows with precision and urgency, leading from one unexpected twist to another. From the short and sharp assault of ‘The Orphanage’ to the twisted, cartoon-like ‘Send Him Seaworthy’ and the nightmarish eeriness of ‘The Skulls We Buried Have Regrown Their Eyes’, this is a bizarre journey through multiple sonic landscapes, yet it remains completely cohesive.
Kavus’ vocals offer a complimenting addition with his unique tone and the splendid interplay with the additional and contrasting voice of Melanie Wood adds an extra dimension to the album’s almost demented manner.
Very few people can match Kavus Torabi when it comes to writing quirky yet brilliant music and The Unravelling is the perfect representation for this. An album built up on both the kookiest and left-field influences and poppy hooks, this is a masterclass in challenging yet still really accessible music. It is certainly not for everyone, but for those with a keen ear to left-field music will find one of the year’s most rewarding listens, and benchmark for modern British Prog.