Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pinkish Black - Razed To The Ground

Pinkish Black
Razed To The Ground
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

On paper, the signing up of Denton (Texas, U.S.) based outfit Pinkish Black to Century Media Records’ roster simply doesn’t make sense. Just why would a label that specialises in all things metal sign up a duo that doesn’t even have a guitarist within their ranks? Has Century Media Records lost the plot and put their credibility on the line for the sake of simply branching out into territory previous uncharted genre wise?
While Pinkish Black (Comprising of keyboardist/vocalist Daron Beck and drummer Jon Teague) may not boast a guitarist, and their music isn’t strictly metal, their sound sits comfortably amongst some of Century Media Records’ more left of centre/avant-garde outfits. Clearly Century Media Records aren’t afraid to take a gamble on a near unknown outfit, because while Pinkish Black is somewhat of an oddity, there’s something truly captivating and dark within their latest release ‘Razed To The Ground’ (The follow-up to 2012’s self titled effort through Handmade Birds), and that’s sure to captivate those who are drawn to the more experimental side of atmospheric metal.
The duo opens up the album with ‘She Left Him Red’, which after a slow build-up is a track that’s awash with densely layered keyboards that create a truly heavy and gritty bass sound, and a drumming attack that’s relentless throughout that gives the song a real urgent drive. Despite the lack of guitars, the duo manage to deliver a haunting metallic sound that’s quite hypnotic and bizarre, and yet progressive and thought provoking in an almost avant-garde black metal sense. It’s a captivating way to open up the album, and one that immediately won me over.
The follow-up track ‘Ashtray Eyes’ tones down the frenzied rush of the opener to make way for a more relaxed pace, albeit in a droning doom/shoegazing depressive manner. Beck’s heartfelt and melancholic vocals really adds an air of morbidity to the atmospherics created on the musical side of things while the lead keyboards add a touch of ‘70’s mystique to proceedings, which brings to mind fellow keyboard rockers Zombi in part.
‘Kites And Vultures’ is most likely to appeal to those who prefer the heavier side of things with the duo cranking up the speed and aggression to deliver one truly menacing and venomous effort to counterbalance the laid back vibe of the former track, while the title track ‘Razed To The Ground’ is a more rock based grooving kind of tune that again reminds me more of Zombi – but with a truly thicker and grittier sound, and vocals that play a supporting role in giving the song a catchiness rather than lead outright.
‘Bad Dreamer’ sees a return to the melancholy and downbeat sound and tempo of ‘Ashtray Eyes’, but with a stronger piano presence and an almost gothic influence brought to the forefront, while the combination of tribal drumming and churning keyboards on the upbeat ‘Rise’ is another favourite on the latter half of the album.
Finishing up the album is ‘Loss Of Feeling Of Loss’, which is undoubtedly the most retro progressive sounding and psychedelic sounding track on the album, and is a breathtaking way to finish off the album (Barring of course the somewhat strange tinkering piano/windblown effects based hidden track).
Pinkish Black’s ‘Razed To The Ground’ isn’t remotely related to anything metal, and yet it’s so appealing and relatable to those who prefer the heavier side of music. With ‘Razed To The Ground’, Pinkish Black have delivered an album that’s dark, interesting and heavy, and all in one that showcases Pinkish Black’s truly unique sound.
This album is a winner for the band, Century Media Records and to those who have an interest in the unusual and left of centre releases rather than the mainstream. Your efforts will be rewarded.

For more information on Pinkish Black, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dead Letter Circus - The Catalyst Fire

Dead Letter Circus
The Catalyst Fire
We Are United Pty. Ltd./Warner Music Australia

When Brisbane (Queensland, Australia) based progressive/alternative rock outfit Dead Letter Circus finally released their debut full-length effort ‘This Is The Warning’ in 2010, it earned unanimous acclaim from all corners of the globe. Over the next two years, the band seized the opportunity to take their music as far as they could, with much of this time spent touring both here in Australia and abroad. With three years having passed since the release of ‘This Is The Warning’, the newly revamped five piece outfit (Who comprise of vocalist Kim Benzie, new guitarist Clint Vincent (Ex-Melodyssey), new guitarist Tom Skerlj, session guitarist Luke Palmer, bassist Stewart Hill and drummer/backing vocalist Luke Williams) returned to the studio with producer Forrester Savell (Who also produced the band’s debut effort), to emerge with their highly anticipated second full-length ‘The Catalyst Fire’. And much like their debut, their latest effort is another winner.
Obviously keen to maintain the momentum built up with ‘This Is The Warning’, ‘The Catalyst Fire’ doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground for the group in the sound sense. But while the album may lack in true experimentation and departure from the expected sound Dead Letter Circus have been offering up since the release of their first E.P., they more than make up for in refining their song writing to damn near perfection.
The album is opened up with ‘The Cure’, which immediately reveals some of the subtle changes the band have made to their sound in the last three years, while maintaining their trademark sound. The song’s notably dense sound is opened up a fraction more to allow Vincent and Skerlj to showcase their strengths on the guitar/keyboard front with considerable success (Especially given that former guitarist Rob Maric was largely responsible for helping give the band their unique sound), while the overall darker vibe within the song works hand in hand with the darker themes depicted on the lyrical front.
The electronic elements coupled with the heavier guitars works a treat on the faster paced ‘Alone Awake’, and when incorporating Benzie’s mesmerising falsetto vocals into the mix, the song easily stands out as a favourite.
Although a solid enough tune, ‘Burning Man’ doesn’t quite hit its mark with much of the song coming across as a leftover/rewritten idea from ‘This Is The Warning’ and a chorus that comes across as fairly predictable and underwhelming.
But despite the shortcomings of the former track, it’s on the faster paced songs such as ‘Lodestar’ (The first single lifted from the album), ‘Say Your Prayers’, ‘The Veil’, ‘Stand Apart’ where the band truly manage to fire on all cylinders, and duly amaze listeners with the results.
Elsewhere, there are some slow-burning efforts such as ‘Lost Without Leaders’, ‘I Am’ and the closer ‘Kachina’ to give the album the right amount of variation in tempo and character to make almost every track on the album to stand out on its own.
Overall, while ‘The Catalyst Fire’ isn’t a huge departure from where Dead Letter Circus left things three years ago, it does seem to come across as an album that’s filled with songs that have a clearer message and purpose, and delivered with a newfound sense of previously untouched maturity. And at this early stage of their career, that’s enough to attract my attention, and keep it.

For more information on Dead Letter Circus, check out -

© Justin Donnelly