Secret Archives of the Vatican – Barsoom

After spending 2018 releasing singles and an ep, I had expected Secret Archives of the Vatican to follow the same pattern this year… but they started the new year by teasing a full length album. They released that album in April. Their promo promises everything from “classic pulp science fiction” to “a mysterious Orient that never was” to “Middle Eastern culture” and all kinds of musical genres, and to be honest – that is exactly what they delivered and more. I wish I could find the words to convince you to at least check them out if you never have before. If you are looking for an album that sticks with one genre the whole time, then… well, why would anyone want that anymore? Even punk rock bands mix in other genres all the time. This album would be on whatever side of the spectrum would be from “one genre.” Lots of mixing of various sounds from around the world, although I do feel the Middle Eastern culture a lot on this one. See “Cairo in the War” for example. For the most part, the beats seem to have a mid-pace feel to them, although songs like “Barsoom,” “Citadel of Dust,” and others are faster paced. Really cool cover art as well. So go give them a stream, add them to your playlists, and consider buying a download (name your own price) to support independent artists – especially ones like Secret Archives of the Vatican than have been going since the 1980s.

[2019 Broken Drum Records | Purchase:]

Sea of Orchids – Washed Out Colors

Sea of Orchids is a new band that evolved from The Distortion Mirrors, a band that long-time readers might remember was reviewed here way back in 2014. Well, now it is Luke Worle on his own doing “technicolored love letter to the 1980s.” Oh, and did I forget to mention that Sony will release the next Sea of Orchids album called Silvergirl on September 6th? Pretty big deal. So anyways, what about the music you say? The sound really is a mixture of noise, dream pop, shoegaze, 80s nostalgia, and emotion like the promo blurbs online proclaim. You really kind of have to listen closely to appreciate the layers to the music – it’s not so much guitar riff-based music as it is constructed levels that build from each other, like the way the bass and guitar play off of each other in “Evil, Inc.” Of course, then the heavy 80s-new wave synth inspirations of “The Teardrop” come blasting through your earphones and you wish you had a boom box to play it on. But don’t forget there is still the pop element – many songs like the title track “Washed Out Colors” are catchy and experimental and complex at the same time. So go check out this album for now and then their label debut in a couple of weeks.

[2019 Independent | Purchase:]

RB Brown – Six

Six is a nine song album written and performed by RB Brown in 1997 but not released until 2019. RB Brown was a member of the Australian band The Crux, who changed names to Sal Paradise and released albums with Tooth & Nail Records and Velvet Blue Music. This album was apparently recorded in 1997 and then lost until Pop.Vox.Music was able to rescue it from obscurity and release it this year. The sound is an interesting mixture of moody, acoustic, indie, piano, drums, alternative, bass, harmonica, and a few other instruments mixed in. Overall the music is acoustic, but there are songs like “Six” and “Anywhere” that have a full band sound. Other songs like “Bus Trip to Melbourne” and “I Loved You Once” are acoustic guitar and harmonica or piano. but there are also piano-based tunes like “Those Red Mournful Lips” and “Late Afternoons in the Company of Mr. Cohen” (which is actually a simple but effective piano-only instrumental). Its a good mixture that keeps the album interesting from beginning to end.

[2019 Pop.Vox.Music | Purchase:]

Prayer Flags – Prayer Flags

Well, we missed the boat on this one. We reported way back in January of 2014 that Mark Robertson of Legendary Shack Shakers / This Train / Under Midnight / Altar Boys / The Stand / etc fame had started a new “noisy poppy post punk” band called Prayer Flags. Well, in September 2017 they actually did release an album… and we missed it somehow. Argh. Turns out it is on BandCamp for you to listen to and purchase digital files, or grab a nice looking vinyl version (just got one myself, so I know they still have some). Sorry Mark! Noisy poppy post punk is a good place to start describing it. There are some electronic elements and samples, as well as some experimental parts and structures. Which all makes it sound a bit like a combination of Mark’s above mentioned bands… which it kind of is, but really isn’t. But I would say that if you like any of Mark’s work with any other bands, then check this out.

[2017 File 13 Records | Purchase:]

Good Saint Nathanael – Hide No Truth

Nate Allen of Destroy Nate Allen fame takes on a dark but redemptive journey through his past, present, and future with the debut album from his new project Good Saint Nathanael. I should warn you that “redemptive” is not used here in the form that many in evangelical church circles would recognize. This is redemption that is still in process, the kind that comes from opening up your life to honesty and baring of the soul in the same manner that the various writers of the Psalms that you never read in church did. Nate Allen uses terms like “dark folk,” “good sad songs,” “bummer slowcore,” and “trauma-informed” to describe the music on Hide No Truth. Those are good starting places – I would recommend listening to Nate’s recent interview on the Down the Line podcast for more information. The music and lyrics on this album are probably some of the most soul-baring you have heard in a while. If you have had any problems with institutional religion, you will recognize yourself in these songs. Musically, many of these songs are Nate singing over simple guitars – but there are other layers in other songs as well. “Heaven” has some electrified atmospheric guitars playing in the foreground, while the acoustic guitar is played in a way that provides a rhythm. You feel like you are listening to a slow rock song until you tune in and realize there are no drums. Other times, like in “Lightening,” the electric guitars provide ambiance in the background of the acoustic guitar. There are many other sonic nuances in various songs that I won’t spoil here, but all of this to say that this is not just an entire album of one dude and his guitar and that’s it. There are layers to the music just like there are layers to the lyrics. This album is releasing February 1, so I would recommend that you get ready and go grab it when it finally does get unleashed. Your inner demons will thank you for it.

[2019 Independent | Purchase:]

Altar Boys – No Substitute

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you – this is a new release from the Altar Boys… kind of. You see, for decades No Substitute was a rumored “lost” Altar Boys album. In an interview for Down the Line in 2009, Mike Stand confirmed those old rumors of an unreleased album to be true to some degree. The songs for the album had been recorded as demos, but the album was shelved when the Altar Boys called it a day. Some songs (in newer format) made it into the Clash of Symbols catalog. Then more recently there were Facebook postings about a cassette of said demos surfacing, and how the demos were near studio quality even. Then the band decided to dust off a couple of the demo songs for a documentary. Then silence. Finally, Lo-Fidelity announced out of nowhere that all of the songs would be finished (by adding a few missing full instrument tracks), cleaned up, and released. Miracles do happen in all kinds of ways. But the question is – what would these tracks sound like? I don’t have the demo versions to compare to, but the final tracks on the official release sound studio quality to me. Stylistically, I would say this continues well from Forever Mercy while still reaching back to some of the anthemic punk of Gut Level Music. A bit too melodic to be pure punk, but a bit too punk to be pure rock? I got my version on vinyl, but you can find various digital versions out there as well (CD, download, and streaming). The layout, sound, and packaging are all top notch. Great job by all involved in bringing this long lost album back from the beyond. This was initially funded by a Kickstarter, but you can get extra copies now (although I would suggest you make sure to snag a copy before they run out).

[2018 Lo-Fidelity Records | Purchase:]

2Minute Minor – Blood on Our Front Stoop

posted in: Music Review, October 2018 | 0

2Minute Minor is all about unity, good will, positivity, helping our fellow humans (and animals), and packing 13 songs into a 7-inch ep. I know that most people that say that today are faking it to some degree, but these guys come across as sincere to the core. Which is refreshing. Yes, they are a faster punk band… but they don’t always play every song at break neck speed. They just get to the point and get it done. 2Minute Minor shares some band members with October Bird of Death (including their vocalist Wiley Willis), but 2Minute Minor is faster and more old school punk than October Bird of Death. No pop punk cliché here. Just old school hardcore punk beats and healthy dose of social consciousness. In other words, they have the speed, but they don’t hit the same three chords over and over again. Old school 80s hardcore punk the way it was meant to be.

[2018 Zap Records | Purchase:]

Secret Archives of the Vatican – Singles 2018

posted in: Music Review, October 2018 | 1

This is not an album per se – it is an expanding collection of single songs recorded throughout 2018. At the time I am writing this review, there are 7 tracks posted. More will probably be added before the end of the year. SAotV has been around for decades, so this year they have been taking some different tactics at getting their music out there. They have been creating compilations on various streaming services, revisiting older albums, and focusing on singles for new music. Gotta roll with the times. I always love SAotV because of the way they masterfully weave world instruments and electronic music together. These “singles” are no exception – even though they also work together as a cohesive whole. “Mishti Dub” is probably one of my favorites of the bunch, with nice combinations of Indian, Middle Eastern, and chill bass and drum. Although I also enjoy the near disco-beat with deep groovin’ bass of “The Sword Maker of al-Shams” as a very close second. But really, pick any one track and you will not be disappointed. You can download these tracks for free, but be sure to add in some money to help the band out. Also, check out their compilations on Spotify and iTunes, as well as the re-issues of older albums like Reformation, The Beautiful Names of God Volume 1, and Dust: The Remixes.

[2018 Broken Drum Records | Purchase:]

October Bird of Death – Assemble

posted in: Music Review, October 2018 | 0

I’m not sure if this is a side project or full band – but as long as they are putting out great music I don’t care. Made up of current/former members of 2Minute Minor, The Blamed, Headnoise, and Ballydowse, October Bird of Death has punk rock cred oozing out of every pore. But rather than rest on their credy laurels, they have taken things up a notch and put out an new ep that tops the last one by a huge leap. On this ep, the grooves are thick and the guitar rages alongside pounding drums and snarling vocals. Of course,  those vocals will sound familiar to fans of 2Minute Minor (as they share the lead vocalist), but the overall sounds is still distinctly October Bird of Death. Where many punk rock bands find their favorite few notes/chords and play those one at a time really fast, October Bird of Death likes to find a more complex killer hook or groove and play it full throttle to bring the punk rock vibe. It’s the difference between being a band playing punk songs and being punk rock to the core.

[2018 Zap Records | Purchase:]

The Choir – Bloodshot

posted in: Music Review, October 2018 | 0

By now, I am not sure what I can say about a new album by The Choir to convince more people to check it out. You are either a diehard fan, or part of the small minority that has given up on the band completely. Let me attempt to appeal to those hold outs: yes, I am one of “those people” that likes much of their recent output. But this album is a whole new level for the band. I feel this is their most consistent and listenable album since their 80s/90s heyday. And again, I like their recent albums. This is just a another step up for them. I’m also not a huge fan of the name of the album, but the album art is cool at least. The feel of this album is darker than past albums. Why you ask? Sure the lyrics are tackling more difficult topics, and the guitar is more prominent on more songs – but it really just a general feel to the overall song writing. Stylistically, I would place Bloodshot as a bit heavier than Shadow Weaver, but still not as heavy as Kissers and Killers. Of course, songs like “Californians on Ice” and “House of Blues” are incredibly catchy… almost pop in sensibility. I’m also digging the upbeat-but-still-somehow-nostalgic-and-melancholy sweetness of songs like “Magic” and “We’ve Got the Moon.” But really, I’m not finding any songs to skip on the whole album. This is currently available streaming, digitally, and on CD… but the band seems to be taking input on a vinyl release – maybe? Hopefully that will happen, as this is screaming for a vinyl pressing!

[2018 Galaxy21 Music | Purchase:]