Album Review – Eths / Ex Umbra In Solem EP (2014)

Rachel Aspe is definitely here to stay. Or should I say she’s here to scream?

Rating4

CoverAfter the departure of singer Candice Clot from French Heavy Metal/Hardcore band Eths, no one knew exactly what was going to happen with the band, as she was considered an essential part of its musicality. However, the other band members didn’t waste any time, immediately replacing her with the gorgeous and talented Rachel Aspe (who will pretty soon be our “Metal Chick of the Month”), and now releasing a new EP called Ex Umbra In Solem.

Although the music from this Marseille-based band is entirely in French, “le langage de l’amour”, they’ve chosen Latin instead to name the EP, which in English means something like “From Shadow to the Sun”, maybe as a representation of the moment the band has been through in the past few months before finding Rachel. Anyway, Ex Umbra In Solem is a special digipak limited and numbered 1 to 1,000 (available exclusively at the Season Of Mist’s official e-shop and other French stores), containing a brand new song, three classic tracks recorded live on October 24, 2013 at the Divan du Monde in Paris, France, mixed by Nikhertz at Studio Phantom, and three songs from the III album, re-recorded with Rachel on vocals.

So let’s get down to business with the title-track, Ex Umbra In Solem, the only original song of the EP, with its slow, obscure and delicate intro that suddenly turns into pure violence with great riffs, all fostered by a really nice chorus (“Et je mâche, au plus profond je nage / J’abandonne lentement / Vide, elle flotte à déraison / Isolée, je tombe (in solem)”). Rachel’s voice is really powerful when guttural and smooth when clean, sounding like some of The Agonist songs, and I really wish there were more original tracks here. Well, we’ll have to wait for their next full-length album for that.

Then come the three live tracks recorded last year in Paris, with all instruments cleanly captured for our delight: Samantha might be a very short song, but its live recording sounded amazing, explaining why it was included in the EP. Moreover, Rachel is pretty good live, which is when it really matters, and it’s interesting how she can quickly change her voice in a very consistent way without any sudden breaks. Bulimiarexia shows that, in my humble opinion, although Rachel clean vocals live are not bad at all, she just needs to adjust them a little. And kudos to drummer Guillaume “Yom” Dupré in this track, he sounds amazing. The last live track is the classic Crucifère, and as you can see in the official video below, Rachel’s onstage performance is another reason why she was the chosen one.

In regards to the re-recorded songs from III with Rachel on vocals, they all sound very professional and as heavy as they should be: I have the III album and after listening to both old and new versions of Voragine I’m pretty sure even diehard fans will love Rachel as much as they loved Candice; Harmaguedon is my favorite of the re-recorded versions and will probably be Rachel’s “secret weapon” to win the hearts of the “unfaithful”; and finally Proserpina closes the EP in a very good way, following the high quality of the recording of all songs.

EthsLast but not least, the album art was once again created by photographer and designer Nicolas Sénégas, who already worked on the art of III, and it is a very good graphic translation of the dark, gothic and heavy music generated by Eths.

So after all those good things I’ve said about Ex Umbra In Solem, you might be asking why only a 3.5, right? In fact, it was supposed to be only a 3.0 for having just one brand new song, as there’s a lack of originality and creativity in the whole EP, but at the same time Rachel’s performance is so electrifying in all tracks that it deserved a 4.0, which leads to an average of 3.5: simple math to represent how awesome this new singer will be for the future of the band.

Best moments of the album: Ex Umbra In Solem, Crucifère and Harmaguedon.

Worst moments of the album: The fact that the EP has only one brand new song.

Released in 2014 Season Of Mist

Track listing
1. Ex Umbra In Solem 4:06
2. Samantha (live) 2:38
3. Bulimiarexia (live) 4:22
4. Crucifère (live) 4:33
5. Voragine (Rachel on vocals) 3:49
6. Harmaguedon (Rachel on vocals) 4:45
7. Proserpina (Rachel on vocals) 5:48

Band members
Rachel Aspe — lead vocals
Stéphane “Staif” Bihl — guitar, samples
Damien Rivoal — bass
Guillaume “Yom” Dupré — drums

 

Album Review – Syndrome / Colourful Cows EP (2013)

An interesting and totally experimental alternative outside the world of Heavy Metal.

Rating5

Colourful CowsWhenever you want to have a “break” from all the intensity of Heavy Metal (if that’s humanly possible), an interesting alternative is the EP Colourful Cows, launched in 2013 by Israeli/English Electro-Rock Alternative band Syndrome. Formed in 2010 and based in Israel and London, UK, this independent band adds a lot of different elements and experimental techniques to their regular instruments, generating a unique sonority that will certainly please fans of alternative music.

According to the band, the EP tells the first part of a story about the “Colourful Cows”, a metaphor to our life and society, and their music is totally designed based on virtual and real instruments mixed together, live sampling, programmed synthesizing and new live performance methods. All this “technical” explanation might not make a lot of sense for anyone who’s not connected to this world of electronic/experimental music. However, after listening to the entire EP, you’ll be able to better understand their proposal.

The first track of the EP, Exhibition Trial, works as a welcome card to what the band can offer us: it’s a very experimental song, with heavy keyboards and some moments that make me feel I’m inside a “psycho circus”. It’s a good start that will make you want to listen more of Syndrome’s music. The following song, Change, is a song full of special electronic effects and samples that also has an interesting intro with a female voice saying we have to shoot “them” in the head in order to kill them. Are they referring to zombies, or maybe to real living human beings as per the original idea of the album? Even being a huge fan of zombies, I choose the second option without a shadow of a doubt.

SyndromeThen come Open The Gate, a ballad with several elements that remind me of what artists like David Bowie usually present in their compositions, and L.Q.C, a more Rock N’ Roll and by far the heaviest song in Colourful Cows, which nice solos mixed with strong synths and drumming made it my favorite of all.

Colourful Cows has three more tracks that are completely different from one another: Exhibition Trial II is an instrumental ballad based on a calm and smooth piano; Get My Words is another crazy music voyage, full of synths and with a curious synthesized guitar solo; and the outro Colourful Cows is totally experimental and as odd as it can be.

The music in Colourful Cows is so “weird” that I didn’t know where to add this review, if in the 2013 New Releases or in the 2014 New Releases. Well, guess what? Neither category was selected, first because the EP was released back in August 2013 (a long, long time ago), and second because it’s not Heavy Metal at all, so it couldn’t be added to any of those categories anyway. That’s why it ended up here in the middle of the Other Reviews, which might sound weird, but remember that’s what Syndrome are and enjoy doing after all.

Last but not least, if you’re a musician interested in knowing more about how Syndrome creates their music, go to their technical webpage called Insight, which displays video clips demonstrating their technology and methods.

Best moments of the album: Exhibition Trial, Change and L.Q.C.

Worst moments of the album: Open the Gate.

Released in 2013 Independent

Track listing
1. Exhibition Trial 3:29
2. Change 3:09
3. Open The Gate 3:12
4. L.Q.C 4:18
5. Exhibition Trial II 3:00
6. Get My Words 3:59
7. Colourful Cows 1:23

Band members
Eric Shlomi – vocals
Amo – guitar & synth
Kiki Kalifa – guitar
Shaltiel Elul – synth & conductor
Gil Zissu – bass guitar
Dima Shchukin – soundman

Album Review – Halestorm / ReAniMate 2.0: The CoVeRs eP (2013)

Why instead of launching two EPs with cover songs in less than two years didn’t they launch only one full album?

Rating6

ReAniMate 2.0I’m not a fan of Halestorm nor will ever buy any of their albums, but when I saw they launched another covers EP which included one of my favorite Priest tracks of all time, Dissident Aggressor, I decided to give them a try. In 2011 they launched ReAniMate: The CoVeRs eP with cover versions for Slave To The Grind (Skid Row) and Out Ta Get Me (Guns N’ Roses), among others, and now they come up with another covers EP. This either means that they simply love playing songs from their biggest influences, or that they don’t trust their own music that much, because I can’t understand why they had to launch two covers EPs instead of only one full album, such as the magnificent Undisputed Attitude recorded by Slayer back in 1996.

Dissident Aggressor opens the EP and it’s undoubtedly the best track of all, although I prefer a million times the version from Slayer and a billion times the original song from Judas Priest. Anyway, there’s nothing special in this version, it’s just a well-played cover song. Then comes Get Lucky from Daft Punk, and here we have one of those cases where the cover version is superior to the original, such as DevilDriver’s version of Sail (Awolnation), mainly because the original song is not really heavy, but again nothing special. In Shoot to Thrill (AC/DC), they turned an all-time classic into a regular song, despite all the effort from Lzzy to sing as “Hard N’ Heavy” as possible. Hell is for Children from Pat Benatar and Gold Dust Woman from Fleetwood Mac are so close to the original ones that, in my opinion, do not add any true value to the EP. Finally, their version for Marilyn Manson’s 1996 is not as good as the original one, and it even lacks the energy Manson had when he recorded it.

HALESTORMThe album art is too generic, especially if compared to the first covers EP. And regarding the musicians, although they are all pretty good I guess no one cares too much about any of them except for the beautiful and competent lead singer Elizabeth “Lzzy” Hale: she’s the only reason why Halestorm became so famous in the world of music, and the only thing that can keep the band alive in the following years. Nevertheless, her voice might be powerful but it’s certainly not unique; if you listen to Mia Coldheart, from the Swedish band Crucified Barbara, you’ll understand why I’m saying this. By the way, Crucified Barbara is not as famous as Halestorm only because (GUESS WHAT?) they’re not from North America.

In summary, it’s an interesting EP with some good covers from a band that is currently under the spotlights, but that’s it. And if they launch another ReAniMate covers EP in 2014, well, then they’ll take the 1st place of “best professional band in the world that only plays cover songs” from Finland’s Children of Bodom.

Best moments of the album: Dissident Aggressor and Shoot To Thrill.

Worst moments of the album: As I previously mentioned, the fact that it is their second covers EP turns it into some kind of “rip-off”.

Released in 2013 Atlantic Records

Track listing
1. Dissident Aggressor (Judas Priest cover) 3:12
2. Get Lucky (Daft Punk cover) 3:08
3. Shoot to Thrill (AC/DC cover) 5:07
4. Hell is for Children (Pat Benatar cover) 4:46
5. Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac cover) 4:10
6. 1996 (Marilyn Manson cover) 4:22

Band members
Lzzy Hale – lead vocals, rhythm and lead guitar, keyboard
Arejay Hale – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Joe Hottinger – lead guitar, backing vocals
Josh Smith – bass guitar, backing vocals