Album Review – The Sun Through a Telescope / Black Hole Smile (2017)

Brave the psychedelic sludge waters of Doom and Drone Metal brought forth by this inventive one-man band from Canada, and have your musical boundaries pushed further in a unique way.

I love when a band challenges our senses and pushes our musical boundaries further and further, which is exactly what you’ll face in Black Hole Smile, the brand new album by Canadian Drone/Doom Metal one-man project The Sun Through a Telescope, led by Ottawa-based multi-instrumentalist Leigh Newton (also known as Lee Neutron). In nothing less than 17 (yes, seventeen!) distinct tracks, Lee offers the listener an unconventional fusion of several styles and genres that will blow your mind, or as he likes to say, his music is where “Blackened Doom meets Ambient Drone, soaked in psychedelic sludge water.”

Lee has been very active with his The Sun Through a Telescope since 2011, having released a few EP’s that year before his first full-length album, titled I Die Smiling, came to light in 2013. The following year saw the birth of a new EP named Unnatural Cruciform on a Moss Covered Rock, paving the path for Lee to go even further with his creativity and bring forth Black Hole Smile. Each song will sound different than the others, each one being a distinct experiment by Lee, creating a parallel universe of music that might not make a lot of sense at first, but that will certainly get you entranced from start to finish.

In the very atmospheric, psychedelic and experimental Never Pray, Lee’s clean vocals sound as if he was in a different dimension, with the song’s background being only a distant, smooth noise, becoming an interesting warm-up for Living Every Single Hell, where alternative and distorted guitars are complemented by slow, sharp beats before an explosion of rage and anger with elements of Black and Death Metal invades our ears. Furthermore, Lee goes from maniac growls to desolated clean vocals and back to his demented mode à la Mike Patton, guiding us in a 10-minute voyage through the world of The Sun Through a Telescope. With such an impactful name, I couldn’t expect anything less visceral and experimental than Worm(hole)s, where Lee offers more of his hypnotic guitars and doomed beats, as well as his sick gnarls blending Drone and Doom Metal in a very gripping manner; followed by The Inverted Cross Of A Sunday Funday, a fun and solid instrumental piece by this one-man army displaying less than two minutes of demonic sounds inspired by the meanest forms of Industrial and Drone Metal.

“More Light” continues with Lee’s movie score-inspired extravaganza, being somehow epic and building an instant connection to Every Single Living Hell (note the word play with the second track of the album), with the crow in the background giving it a funereal vibe before becoming a hellish hybrid of Blackened Doom and Drone Metal, also presenting wicked sounds usually found in Alternative and Groove Metal. Focusing on its choir-like vocals and gentle guitar lines, the purely atmospheric composition Dead Dies, New Born gets to a more Alternative Rock and Metal sonority halfway through it, giving even a sense of hope to the whole song, whereas Something Witchy offers 40 seconds of a demented devastation full of distortions and wicked growls before peace returns in No Way Home. However, that peaceful ambience lasts only until half of the song, when Lee beings firing his blast beats and atmospheric vocals again.

Black Hole Bile and “Oh No, This Is Mine” are two similar but somehow unique one-minute deranged instrumental tunes, while A Prolonged Vegetative State presents a more violent side of The Sun Through a Telescope, showcasing deeper guttural and heavier sounds as if Faith No More was “poisoned” with the darkness of Drone and Doom Metal. And never tired of experimenting with different sounds, Lee delivers the Ambient Black Metal tunes Burn Everything and No More Light, with things only getting weirder and more experimental as the album progresses, so alternative it’s impossible to label what’s happening. If I try to explain the music in Caught, Drugged, Trial, Exile, one more atmospheric creation spawned by Lee, I would say there’s an inner fury in this song that never fully comes out, increasing its anxiousness and despair, while the melancholy and the sounds of birds in the background in Dead Tomorrow flow into the pleasant sonority with smooth vocals and the delicate instrumental from Whitehole / Brighthell, with moments of anger meticulously inserted at specific parts of the song, building a suffocating and climatic conclusion to this extravagant album.

If you want to know more about Lee and his The Sun Through a Telescope, simply visit his Facebook page for the most up-to-date news, with Black Hole Smile (which can be streamed in its entirety HERE) being available for purchase on BandCamp, CD Baby, iTunes and on Amazon. After swimming in the psychedelic sludge waters of Doom and Drone Metal proposed by The Sun Through a Telescope, I’m sure your view of the current state of heavy music will change considerably, proving how important independent artists like Lee are for music and arts in general.

Best moments of the album: Living Every Single Hell, Every Single Living Hell, A Prolonged Vegetative State and Whitehole / Brighthell.

Worst moments of the album: “Oh No, This Is Mine” and No More Light.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Never Pray 2:55
2. Living Every Single Hell 9:57
3. Worm(hole)s 6:20
4. The Inverted Cross Of A Sunday Funday 1:39
5. “More Light” 1:35
6. Every Single Living Hell 7:50
7. Dead Dies, New Born 4:06
8. Something Witchy 0:38
9. No Way Home 3:14
10. Black Hole Bile 1:06
11. “Oh No, This Is Mine” 1:17
12. A Prolonged Vegetative State 2:59
13. Burn Everything 1:04
14. No More Light 2:05
15. Caught, Drugged, Trial, Exile 5:38
16. Dead Tomorrow 0:51
17. Whitehole / Brighthell 7:08

Band members
Lee Neutron – vocals, guitars, bass, drums, programming, samples

Guest musician
Ava – additional vocals

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Album Review – Fear Factory / Genexus (2015)

Once again, it’s time to enter the machine and surrender to the mechanized reign ruled by the undisputed masters of Industrial Metal.

Rating4

fear factory_genexusI honestly don’t understand why the music by American Industrial Metal masters Fear Factory has never been part of any of the Terminator movies. I mean, ANY of their songs are powerful, metallic and atmospheric enough to provide the perfect background for all the destruction and chaos caused by the one and only Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is also the case with the music found in their brand new automaton entitled Genexus, the ninth studio album in their exceptional career and the first to feature drummer Mike Heller (Malignancy, System Divide).

However, it’s not only the density and strength of the music by this Los Angeles-based nonstop machine that amazes me every single time they release a new album, but also the whole futuristic concept surrounding their work. For instance, the new artwork, designed by American artist Anthony Clarkson, reminds me a lot of three iconic movie characters that have everything to do with what the music proposes: the unstoppable killing machine known as the Terminator; the brainy and rebel hero Iron Man; and the mesmerizing but extremely dangerous Ava (from the cult flick Ex Machina). Put differently, Fear Factory marvelously know how to give life and emotion to cold metal.

The opening track, Autonomous Combat System, is Industrial Metal at its finest from the very first second, a violent and harmonious tune just like we always expect from this amazing band, and when the sick riffs by the unparalleled Dino Cazares and the band’s famous industrial drums begin the energy level goes through the roof. And their futuristic awesomeness goes on in Anodized, another masterful lesson in shredding (who doesn’t love riffs like these?) supporting its meaningful lyrics from a not-so-impossible future for all of us (“A transhuman state / Will liberate man’s evolution / A singularity / Maintains the peace / Machined solution / Lacerate, eviscerate / My body to redefine / My design”). The performance by Mr. Burton C. Bell with both his harsh screams and clean vocals is superb, and if you’re a fan of Alternative Metal or Nu Metal let me tell you this is an awesome example of how everything started. In Dielectric, you can feel the electricity flowing nonstop, especially through its drums that sound like a machine gun, with its background effects being so important I cannot imagine this amazing tune without them.

Then it’s time to bang your fuckin’ head to the low-tuned bass lines by Tony Campos and the vicious riffs by Mr. Cazares in Soul Hacker, where its great chorus will stick inside your mind for sure, followed by the dynamic and thrilling rhythm of ProtoMech, enhanced by its excellent lyrics (“Take everything away from me / Replace my skin with circuitry / All that I have bleeding from me / To feed the machine”) and an amazing feeling provided by its mechanized atmosphere. In my humble opinion, this is the best song of the whole album, proving once again how skillfully Fear Factory are capable of feeding the Heavy Metal machine we all love so much.

fear factoryThe superb title-track, Genexus, is like a journey to a desolated world ruled by machines, exactly like what the future shows in the Terminator franchise, showcasing all the elements that took Fear Factory to stardom, with Burton sounding enraged and ready to confront the machine for his freedom. Church of Execution also provides that mechanic and industrialized sounding and an eerie ambience with lots of groove, despite not being as kick-ass as the others due to the lack of a more violent chorus; while Regenerate, with its weird robotic effects in the background, is perhaps one of the best examples of traditional Thrash Metal modernized by Industrial and Groove Metal. Moreover, I love the energy of its chorus, and how can we not bang our heads to it?

Battle for Utopia is intended to represent the march of the machines with its furious and imposing sonority, including lots of special effects to create the atmosphere desired by the band, before Expiration Date closes the album in a very traditional way, which in the case of Fear Factory means in the form of a melancholic music voyage. Pay good attention to the beauty of its lyrics, gently declaimed by Burton (“Under the surface we’re not machines / Under the surface we’re living dreams / Death lives just one breath away / Somewhere my heart beats in silence / I made my way through the violence / Nobody lives forever”), close your eyes and let yourself be absorbed by the music and its message, the final result is outstanding.

And finally, on a side note, the bonus tracks that come with the limited edition of Genexus keep up with the rest of the album in terms of complexity, violence and electricity, with highlights to the ominous atmosphere in the smooth Enhanced Reality. In summary, if you’re ready to enter the machine engendered  by Fear Factory for the first time, or if you already surrendered to their mechanized reign a long time ago, Genexus is definitely a must-have album to your collection of extreme and melodic music.

Best moments of the album: Autonomous Combat System, ProtoMech and Genexus.

Worst moments of the album: Church of Execution and Battle for Utopia.

Released in 2015 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Autonomous Combat System 5:28
2. Anodized 4:47
3. Dielectric 4:19
4. Soul Hacker 3:12
5. ProtoMech 4:56
6. Genexus 4:48
7. Church of Execution 3:21
8. Regenerate 4:02
9. Battle for Utopia 4:14
10. Expiration Date 8:48

Limited Digipak bonus tracks
11. Mandatory Sacrifice (Genexus Remix) 5:43
12. Enhanced Reality 5:36

Band members
Burton C. Bell – vocals
Dino Cazares – guitar
Tony Campos – bass guitar
Mike Heller – drums

Guest musicians
Deen Castronovo – drums on “Soul Hacker”
Laurent Tardy – piano on “Autonomous Combat System” and “Protomech”
Mister Sam – spoken words on “Autonomous Combat System” and “Expiration Date”
Damien Rainuad – programming, keyboards
Giuseppe Bassi – samples, keyboards