Cyclamen – Creatuneau [2016]

Cyclamen - Creatuneau - cover

The music industry is in a weird, weird place right now. In the face of streaming, piracy, and the sheer amount of music one has to compete with for attention, it’s getting harder and harder to make a living for all but the most successful and strongly backed of artists. Or is it?

That’s where Japanese metal band Cyclamen comes in. Instead of bowing to industry trends or selling themselves out, they’ve remained intensely DIY and focused on giving their fans the best experience possible. And in order to do that, they’ve recently offered a subscription package with a wealth of goodies: everything from an exclusive album’s worth of music (plus a sneak peek into its writing and recording process and a physical copy of it), a custom t-shirt, a behind-the-scenes blog, and even personalized artwork from the band’s leader, Hayato Imanishi.

But you can give your fans all the goodies in the world and it won’t mean a thing unless you have the music to back it up. No worries there – Cyclamen is and has been one of the most exciting metal bands of recent years. With a sound that blends the textures of post-rock and ambient right alongside some of the heaviest elements of djent and progressive metal, they’re a band with no shortage of great ideas. And they’ve proven that once again on this newest, exclusive album, “Creatuneau”.

Things start off heavy with the opening seconds of “Apalition”. Immediately hitting the listener with a gut punch of a riff, it then switches things up with a verse that’s much more dreamy and atmospheric, buoyed by textured guitars and airy vocals. It makes evident from the start one of this band’s key strengths: their ability to make seemingly disparate elements comfortably exist within the same song, and sound all the better for being played against each other. The next track, “Naryinn”, demonstrates that same strength but a little bit differently. Trading texture for aggression, this song jumps back and forth between percussive rapped vocals, harsh screams, abrasive riffs, and finally a cathartic ending with ease. For many bands, this would end up just sounding like a mess of random ideas, but for Cyclamen, it allows for contrast and dynamics while still remaining a cohesive and interesting song. The next track, “Watarie Lawker” is an instrumental that showcases the technical ability that anchors detours such as those in “Naryinn”. Reminiscent of Periphery and Animals as Leaders, the band blends breakneck tapping leads, angular drop-tuned riffs, and rhythmic clean sections in order to create a song that stands just as strongly as any of their vocally-driven tracks.

Cyclamen isn’t just a heavy band, either – they know when to get pretty, too. “Feurlise” proves this in spades, being centered around a gentle, hopeful, yet technically complex clean tapping lead and backed up by an ever-ascending E-bow track. It builds mood and atmosphere for the first couple of minutes, giving the listener a bit of a breather after the explosiveness of the past few tracks. But it’s not without its bite, either. In its final moments, “Feurlise” explodes into one of the heaviest moments on the album, sporting a pounding blast beat and some powerful screams to match. It’s catharsis at its finest, expertly building and releasing tension in a way only the best progressive metal can do.

“Morgan” uses some of that tension building spirit too, but in a different way. Starting off with sampled voices and tense chords that purposefully jut up against each other, the song ebbs and flows between a mysterious sounding verse riff, whispered vocal samples to add atmosphere, and finally a triumphant guitar lead that closes out all of the song’s drama. And like the rapped section on “Naryinn”, “Pharse” also displays a bit of nu-metal influence with its pairing of DJ scratches and a simple, yet pummeling main riff. It’s a strong, energetic closer to an album full of strong, energetic songs.

And perhaps the most surprising thing is how all these is packed into just 25 minutes. Cyclamen both builds up rich textures and tears them down with crushing, complex riffs, shreds vocal chords with the harshest of screams and lulls you with the most pleasant of cleans, and wears a myriad of influences on their sleeves all in just 8 songs. It’s an exciting, powerful, and concise record, and the sheer quality here also excellently justifies the exclusive subscription model. Perhaps the most incredible part of all is that this record was written and recorded in the span of about five weeks, despite the fact that the number of people that would ever hear it was inherently limited, and yet it still stands as some of the best material the band has ever released. It proves a certain loyalty to the craft and a certain devotion to the fans, and when those things are made that obvious, it’s easy to see why the band has earned so much support in kind.

And as always, you can check out Cyclamen’s music over at https://cyclamen.bandcamp.com/ , or you can directly stream “Naryinn” until 3/21 here!

Artist Feature/Review: The Armed – Untitled

The Armed - Untitled - cover

The Armed have never been a band that minces words, and they have no need for shiny adornments or sparkly gimmicks. Instead, they have one motto at their core – “Destroy Everything”. And if you’ve ever heard their music, it’s incredibly fitting. Their songs get right to their point, and that point is to cause as much havoc as humanly possible using the typical rock band setup. Being based out of Detroit, Michigan, that urge to rage and destroy rings very true: steeped in the history of a once-great city that has now become desolate and derelict, The Armed have every fucking right to be angry, and angry they’ve been. This band has been hardcore music’s best kept secret, having been flying under the radar ever since their 2009 debut album These Are Lights. Since then the band has kept up a steady trickle of short, incendiary EPs, slowly growing a small but dedicated fan base, but have yet to release another full-length until last week.

Untitled comes roaring out of the gate with all of the trademarks of The Armed’s sound. Equal parts Dillinger-inspired punk chaos, sludge metal, and DIY punk aesthetic, every song on this album is designed to punch you in the face as hard as possible. And punch it does – produced by Converge legend Kurt Ballou, the band has never sounded heavier or clearer (at least when they want to) than they do on this album. Having this legendary producer behind the boards gives the band even more brunt behind their sonic assault, but it also gives them room to spread their wings as well. “Polarizer” features a Nine Inch Nails-esque breakdown that amplifies its desperate verses, and the first half of “Dead Actress” sounds akin to a Mark Lanegan solo song (at least before the latter half rips it wide open). And while not too far of a stretch for the band, “Paradise Day” sounds almost like Blink-182, at least if Tom DeLonge had taken a lethal dose of amphetamines before hitting the studio, anyway. These moments are a breath of fresh air on an album that might otherwise threaten to stagnate – a continuous wall-to-wall 41 minute assault could fatigue even the most dedicated of hardcore fans without a diversion here and there. It’s a tricky line to walk for a band that’s mostly released EPs under the ten minute mark, but The Armed pull it off with flying colors.

But really, that’s enough talking from my end. The Armed are a band that’s consistently furious, powerful, and three-dimensional, with enough awareness to let other influences shine through once in a while. And the best part of all this? If you head on over to thearmed.bandcamp.com, you can get all of their music for free, no strings attached. So you now have no excuse.

The Armed Post New Song + Video, “Polarizer”

The Armed are a force of destruction, taking their brand of hardcore to the absolute limits, stretching their sound until it threatens to fall apart under a wall of visceral drums and cacophonous feedback. Right down to their motto, “Destroy Everything”, this is a band with a clear intent, and no time for any bullshit. With their new single and video, “Polarizer”, nothing has really changed. The Detroit punks seethe with the same level of vitriol they’ve had since their self-released 2009 debut, These Are Lights, and with this song are finally gearing up for the release of full-length no. 2 (after a slew of short EPs in the intervening years). There are some wonderful hints of Nine Inch Nails in the song’s “breakdown”, and some vocals approaching singing scattered about, but they only add to the band’s power to make incredibly chaotic music blood-pumping and catchy at the same time. And as always, you can get all of their music for name your price purchase on their site. Get on board with The Armed and Destroy Everything when this album drops on June 23rd.

Artist Feature/Mini Review: Tricot

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Rock is in a weird sort of place at the moment. Bands are trying to increasingly mold their sound after radio trends in order to get the airplay necessary to sustain a career, and the ones that aren’t are usually too far off the map to ever be considered by the vast majority of listeners. Few bands try to walk the middle ground between the two, accessible yet arty, and even few manage to pull it off. Enter Tricot, an all-girl rock band hailing from Kyoto, Japan. With a mix of jangly guitars, melodic songwriting, and an eye for the arty, they’re quickly making a name for themselves not only in Japan, but around the world. The reason for this international appeal is clear once you listen to them – Tricot’s sound is incredibly dynamic, shifting between tender, almost whispered vocals to crashing guitars and drums, with Ikkyu Nakajima belting out her lines at the top of her voice. And on top of it all, guitarist Motoko Kida layers intricate guitar rhythms and limber arrangements, which are in turn held down by bassist Hiromi Sagane, giving them a sound and energy that stands apart from their peers. And yet, after all this uphill success, their second album A N D comes at a bit of a troubled time for the band. After touring through Europe and Japan, Tricot lost their permanent drummer. In a move befitting of their dynamic sound, instead of getting a full-time replacement, they instead opted to enlist the help of five of Japan’s most talented drummers. The result is an album that shows the band hasn’t missed a beat, and even in the face of adversity, they’ve only grown more confident in their music.

A N D doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel, but rather builds upon the blueprint that the band set for themselves with T H E. A N D is an album that feels more consolidated, more stripped down, and more confident – instead of dedicating an entire song to a specific mood or vibe, the band now often effortlessly mixes them together, like on “Hashire”. Starting off with a tense tremolo-picked riff and covered in reverb-laden vocals, it explodes into its chorus. “Pieeen” exhibits these dynamics as well, starting off with tender piano before kicking into the real meat of the song, blending in the band’s trademark guitars with piano work peppered throughout (and even including a piano solo). “QFF” is a long, slow build, a track that very nearly cracks the 7 minute mark, and features very little of their usual rock vibe. It’s a slow, drifting song, that isn’t overly concerned with structure or technique, and instead runs on mood and tension-building. If it wasn’t the second to last track on the album I’d consider it the centerpiece of the whole thing, but that title is a bit out of place with its actual placing. And while “Hashire” and “Pieeen” have the ability to shock with their dynamics, songs like “Niwa”, “Colorless Aquarium”, and “Noradrenaline” burst right out of the gate with all the jangly, punky urgency of any mathcore band. Ikkyu really shines on this album, vocally, especially on “Niwa”, where she shows off her punky, aggressive side, shouting and growling her lyrics with the kind of emotional power that’s not seen often in J-Rock. “CBG” shows another side of this emotional quality, too – Ikkyu sings almost in a whisper for the first half of the track, with gentle guitar arpeggios buoying the song along, and eventually achieves a catharsis resembling that of a post rock band when it finally chooses to kick things up. All these elements are what make Tricot such an interesting, exciting band. Their music is both catchy and technical, moody and aggressive, and even if you don’t speak a lick of Japanese, you can feel some real emotion come through. By taking all the best elements of mathcore and even some from grunge, they stand out as something special regardless of what country you’re from. And with this level of talent, it’s hard to see them going anywhere else but up.