Master of Illusion is a new album from Michigan-based metal band KILJIN. I hesitate to refer to their sound as “old school” because it makes it seem dated or retro or something. However, it’s old school in the sense that it is very high quality and on par with many of the truly iconic metal bands I remember from the late 80s-early 90s. Even the album cover art measures up to all those classic covers (Megadeth, Testament, Acrophet etc), the imagery of which has been etched in our brains forever.
This is metal in its purest form. By almost any conceivable metric, the performances are impeccable. Despite the fact that the fact that KILJIN was formed in 2020, these are established musicians with strong technical ability. They don’t cut any corners. The vocals are sung in that dramatic, theatrical manner reminiscent of Iron Maiden, one of the most challenging styles for any vocalist. Yes, this guy really does sing that well. I used to watch Headbangers Ball on MTV back in the day, and this is as good or better than anything that ever aired on that program. The guitars feature some robust distortion, but it doesn’t obscure the sonic detail or rhythm.
In terms of content, the songs reference a lot of familiar fantasy motifs like warlocks, wizards, death and magic. The track Beard of Wizard is particularly creative with its ominous spoken world monologue and killer guitar shredding. It’s a masterpiece. My other favorite jam is the opener, Path of the Warlock, which has an instantly impressive guitar intro and is catchy in a way that’s not typical of this genre. Anyway, I’m obviously a fan of this album. It’s awesome, and you should check it out.
Brown Boy is a new single from hip hop artist Ali Kulture, featuring Jay Beato. The production quality on this jam is excellent, boasting a pristine mix that’s brimming with sonic clarity. There’s no annoying static or muddled noise. It’s mostly just a clean and legit studio sound. The vocal delivery is crisp and punchy, as the artist offers up some forthright social commentary, relating it personal experience. He really lays it all out there in a storytelling fashion. His flow is straightforward, on point and he holds nothing back. Blending emotions like angst and anger with sentimentality, the track balances itself out nicely. Brown Boy should be a hit with contemporary hip hop audiences. It hits all the marks while maintaining a deeply personal touch. Be sure and check out the video below. It’s professionally made and correlates with the narrative of the song.
No Kingdom is a new single from NYC-duo, Cyborg Asylum. This futuristic jam dazzles with its well constructed complexity and rich songwriting. These guys obviously know what they’re doing. Featuring melodic synths, guitars, well-chosen samples and a plethora of radical beats, this track is stacked. It’s like a piece of musical machinery that runs with precision. This is balanced by the emotionally expressive and soulful vocals, which are sung quite impressively. Everything in the mix is so well choreographed. The overall ambiance is slightly dark and atmospheric, a vibe which is enhanced by the band’s aesthetic choices and imagery. The song slowly builds and ultimately culminates is a rather epic finale. Everything here is recorded and performed to a very high standard. This release should turn some heads, even in a place as competitive as New York.
Down the Drain is a new single from Clara Zimm. This delightfully haunting track entrances with its exotic charm. While Clara is obviously a gifted vocalist at the technical level, it’s her cadence and avant garde delivery style that gives the song its mesmerizing appeal. Her performance is jazzy and soulful, and the way the backing vocals are strategically layered just makes this a class act. It’s almost like a 21st century lounge tune. It’s dark, passionate and has that sultry spirit. Clara keeps things quaint and mellow in some parts of the song, but in those moments where she reveals her voice’s true power level, your jaw will drop to the floor. This is a terrific recording. It’s mainstream audience friendly while having enough substance and cutting edge appeal to retain artistic credibility.
I Deserve Better is a new single from artist, Chaylyn. This heartfelt and sentimental track features a dreamlike piano/synth backing. The ambiance is very theatrical, almost like you’d hear in a dramatic sequence of a romantic film. Chaylyn can actually sing, and her voice is the driving force that carries the entire song. There’s nothing flashy here and no production gimmickry, just naturally beautiful vocals.
In terms of performance, Chaylyn demonstrates the kind of purity and genuine expressiveness that money just can’t buy. As the title implies, I Deserve Better is characterized by a relentless romantic longing and an underlying touch of angst. It’s bitter sweet, but more of the latter than the former. Ultimately the song encourages empowerment and self-affirmation through honesty. For those of us on the outside, listening to this jam is like finding someone’s break-up letter to their significant and reading it to ourselves. The production is studio quality and ready for prime time. I Deserve Better deserves a spot on the charts, and Chaylyn has what it takes to go far in this industry.
No Tomorrow is a new single from Louisiana-based hip hop artist, A1 DA DAWG. He lists his primary (current) influences as being Rick Ross & Drake, but when he was younger was originally inspired by artists like Cash Money and No limit. This latest track from A1 DA DAWG has an ambient, mellow and even philosophical vibe. It features a bright summertime beat that’s chill and melodic. A1 DA DAWG’s delivery style is natural and easy going. He’s very effective without coming across as trying too hard. The lyrics blend mundane aspects of daily life with deeper thoughts about life. This is done quite well, and the lyrics themselves contain some choice lines. The video for this jam is brand new and is set to a warehouse backdrop a lot of colorful graffiti visuals. Follow A1 DA DAWG on social media to keep up to date with his latest releases and shows.
Fxxx you too is a new single from San Diego-based (originally from Las Vegas) artist, PICOxlemonlarry. First thing you’ll notice about this jam is that the beat is groovy and super chill. The recording style may be lo-fi and PICOxlemonlarry doesn’t waste time with a lot of slick packaging and marketing, but the musical substance speaks for itself. Despite the confrontational title, this track is actually pretty mellow and relaxing. Musically, it’s quite melodic and the lyrics are surprisingly catchy. PICOxlemonlarry’s vocal delivery and cadence sets up the hooks nicely. As an artist, he cites some of his primary influences as being Miles Davis, Lauryn Hill, Mac Miller and Wu-Tang clan.
This song doesn’t merely consist of “rhymes.” There’s some creative songwriting structure here, and sonically the music is just very pleasing to listen to. This is one of the better backing beats I’ve heard on a hip hop song. It gives the track more of a classic, smooth ambiance. Fxxx you too is an enjoyable and avant garde cut. PICOxlemonlarry has an EP called Adulting that’s slated for release in October of this year.
Playology is an upcoming EP from ErMonii. In addition to being an artist, ErMonii is also a music producer, audio engineer and the CEO of a music production company (The Product LLC). He has a pretty decent following already. Some of his releases have over 40,000 plays on Spotify. His jams often feature exquisite and ambient beats, fronted by passionate and expressive vocals. The sound is ethereal and the vibe is inspirational. You can tell he really puts his heart into creating and performing these jams. The preview tracks for Playology are tantalizing and crisp, with backing beats containing some slick synth sounds. In terms of lyrical delivery, he really has a solid flow and gets on a roll when he’s rapping. Other times he opts for a more intimate and sentimental approach. There’s a lot of artistic versatility here, and plenty of creative variety in his catalog, as ErMonii is something of a jack of all trades. Playology will be one to watch for.
In The Hills of California is a new album from Santa Barbara-based artist, Clay Rodgers. This album is interesting in that it actually contains a narrative storyline. Basically, it’s about an individual who ventures into the San Ynez mountains looking for people who have gone there for various reasons (to commit suicide, find themselves, indulge in their addictions, etc). Musically, the sound has an indie, experimental jazz sound. It’s very organic, and almost seems like it’s from another time period. The vibe is cool and swanky, with elements of folkish psychedelia. My favorite track on here is A Silent Hill Weeps which has a 1960s quality comparable to that of groups like The 5th Dimension, (only with thematically darker undertones). Also notable is the multi-part epic, Another Bend In the Road, which spans three full tracks. I review all kinds of music, but this album probably comes closest to what I actually listen to in real life. In The Hills of California is authentic, soulful, and just an all around great work of art.
Just Another Tuesday is a new single from hip hop artist, Santa Sallet. This song has one of the coolest retro-futuristic synth beats I’ve ever heard. It almost sounds like something you’d hear on a 70′s scifi soundtrack. The intro is really attention grabbing and will instantly pique your interest with its subtle and mysterious vibe. Inspired during a freestyle session with a friend while driving home one ordinary afternoon, this jam offers up catchy lyrics and precise timing. The flow is tight and rhythmically hypnotic. Santa Sallet makes rapping look easy, as he blends casual confidence with subtle humor and entrepreneurial spirit. He spits out gold bar rhymes like he’s got a vault full of them to spare. Sallet has a natural talent for songwriting and a good ear for “beat aesthetics” as well. Just Another Tuesday is a prime example of how great songs can materialize out of seemingly mundane events in our daily lives, if we are willing to seize the creative moment.