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How to Access Unappreciated Scholars Radio

Unappreciated Scholars Radio!
The Unappreciated Scholars Radio channel has launched.  So far, the station is only playing a diverse random mix of tracks called Polyhymnia Array (unless someone has a better name for it). On Wednesdays and Fridays, there will be enhanced versions of the 2013 Unappreciated Scholars podcasts, Coming soon will be Metal Mondays, Tech Tuesdays, and other daily special blocks of programming. These will be phased in over the next several weeks.

A monthly bootleg concert recording, tentatively titled Saturday ROIO, will be hosted on the last Saturday of each month.

There are a few ways to access Unappreciated Scholars Radio:

  • On the web at UnappreciatedScholars.com (check the left sidebar)
  • Via mobile smartphone apps:
    TuneIn Radio (search Unappreciated Scholars)
  • Radionomy (search Unappreciated Scholars)

If we have enough listeners by the end of April, we will be automatically added to some other easily accessible radio streaming directories.

We do not discriminate between genres. You’re going to hear a little bit of everything during Polyhymnia Array, which will serve as the main programming selection.

If you are a band or label looking for an outlet for your tracks, please contact admin@unappreciatedscholars.com. Any and all submissions will be considered for addition.

Mutated Earth Album Cover

Review: UnKured – Mutated Earth.

Fighting out of Cincinnati, Ohio is three piece death/thrash outfit UnKured with what I believe is their debut release, the ambitious “Mutated Earth”. The problem is though, for a first release the three members (Cody Knarr – Guitar/Vocals, Ben Stanton – Bass, and Adam Green – Drums) may have reached a bit to far.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not my place to suggest that a band stifle their ambitions, but when it gets in the way of the enjoyment of the music and is detrimental to the songs, something needs to be said. Maybe it’s because this record is (admirably) self produced, so there wasn’t a fresh pair of ears to assess what was being laid down that caused the problems. I don’t know. These problems, while not dealbreakers, are matters of song structure and some serious timing/synch issues on some of the tracks.

But to focus on the negatives would be unfair to this trio, as there is as a lot to like on display here too. For starters, the playing on this record is top drawer from all three musicians, and they have a great ability to mesh their take on Gothenburg scene melodic death with 80’s thrash seamlessly.

In an observation that is linked to my criticisms, the best moments on the album are when the band are keeping things focused, mainly during the solos, and some of the verses and choruses. The closing minutes of “A World at Dusk” is something straight out of the playbook of the big 4. The opening, title track, “Mutated Earth” is the highlight of the album, but there are a pick of other choice moments in songs like “They Live, We Sleep” and “Anti-Terraforming”.

Kontrary to what you might think, I would definitely give the next UnKured record a listen because there was enough good stuff here to keep my interest. What the band need to do is strike a better balance between the technical and the simple. If they can do this, they’ll shoot to the forefront of the genre, leapfrogging a bunch of their peers in the process.

– Hevy Kevy

The Undivided - Front

Review: Annihilation – The Undivided

Annihilation, hailing from Portugal, are a four piece death metal act with a penchant for pushing the boundaries of the genre with pretty good results on the evidence of this EP.

The EP itself is bookended by two tracks the consist merely of ambient, atmospheric noise in “The Undivided”, and “Wholeness”, so it’s the four tracks in between that make the meat of this release. The choicest cut of these (enough with the meat puns already) is the second track in, “Holographic Paradigm” which I imagine is the band’s calling card. If you want to get a good snapshot of this band, this is the best track to start with. Clocking in at ten minutes, it runs the gamut from atmospheric death metal, through some straight up riffage, a bass and drum break, and some classic style guitar solos from Nuno Costa, with some double tapping that Eddie Van Halen would be proud of.

“Transcending the Void”, “Feeding the Void” and “The Great Cycle” are decent death metal workouts that each have a memorable moment, but nothing that captures the immediacy and ambition of the “Holographic Paradigm”.

The thing that I found set Annihilation apart from so many of their Death Metal peers were the three different vocal styles on display at various points during the record. There’s a shrieking style that opens up “Holographic Paradigm”, there’s the mid range death metal growl, and then there’s the standard guttural roar. Whether they’re all from the one vocalist, Fabio Silva, or the duties are shared is unclear but Annihilation know exactly when to pick the points to use each one, and it gives the songs a required lift just when they’re on the verge of settling into a holding pattern.

That’s not to say this record is perfect. The production is somewhat muddy and the snare drum, which is a pivitol aspect of blast beats is sometimes buried in the mix. The other issue is one that has been an issue I’ve had with death metal for a long time is that if you pressed shuffle on your iPod it’d be hard to say which song was which. But I guess that’s more a problem with the genre as a whole, not so much with Annihilation, but for a band that show the promise that they have here, they can find a way to fix it for future releases.

All that said, here we have a solid release and with another promised soon, it bodes well for this band.

- Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: B

“The Undivided” EP by Annihilation is out on the 4th of November 2014 and will be available to buy here.

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Review: Nero Di Marte – Derivae

As pretentious as it sounds, some music just grabs you, and some doesn’t, regardless of the quality of the musicianship. The four members of Italian metal band Nero Di Marte are incredibly proficient on their given instruments, but while the songs they have crafted for their second record are well executed in their ambition, they’re just didn’t retain my attention.

Part of this may be the coldness of the record. Appropriately, the first sounds we hear on the record in the opener “L’Eclisse” are that of a percussive industrial nature. This sets the scene for the record. It’s listenable, no doubt, especially when the riffs open up on songs like “Clouded Allure”, but tracks like “Dite” and “Those Who Leave” take far too long to get going, with both starting with waves of ambient noise before the instruments kick in proper and the performance of the songs just feels mechanical to me.

I’m conflicted on this one because while I didn’t get a huge amount out of it personally I can see a lot of people that might, plus I also can’t fault the playing or production on here. If you’re a fan of progressive metal, this might be right up your street.

– Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: B-

“Derivae” by Nero Di Marte is available to buy here.

ALBUM COVER

Review: Burn the Army – The Tide to Sink the Summit

Let’s get something clear out of the way right off the bat. This release is Emma Stone in that teen comedy of hers from a few years back – Easy A. I haven’t been this impressed with a record in years. No bull.

Burn the Army sounds like what should be playing in the background of the new Godzilla movie as the creatures stomp on civilization as we know it. The word “epic” gets thrown around fast and loose worse than a Geno Smith pass, but here it actually fits. The sound these three guys produce is immense.

Each of the four tracks on this near half hour EP is perfectly measured and delivered. There’s not a moment where a riff or beat outstays it’s welcome as we’re run through the best a prog/doom/groove metal band could possibly produce. Who does it sound like, you ask? For me, it’s close in both sound and quality to “Remission” era Mastodon. I actually caught Mastodon live in Dublin a few years ago when Bill Kelliher was sick and they performed as a three piece, and this record took me right back to that night. “Sky” starts off with a slow, clean intro before the sound of a storm breaking introduces the massive distorted guitars and crushing drums. The production here is nothing short of perfection too. “Sea” is a slow tempo growler with a bit of a stoner leaning, before taking off near the end. “And” is an instrumental piece that utilizes an iconic piece of text from a HG Wells classic that had me grinning from ear to ear. Closing track, the aptly titled “End” starts off at a cracking pace before settling into some headbanging inducing grooves.

The musicianship on show here is top class. A rhythm section that is as tight as Ebeneezer Scrooge’s purse strings with some serious guitar over top and killer vocals. In just four tracks, Burn the Army have thrown down a massive gauntlet to every other band of this type on the scene right now. Hell, to every metal band, period.

– Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: A

“The Tide to Sink the Summit” by Burn the Army is available here, through the bands bandcamp page. It’s “name your price” so there’s no excuse.

sterlizer

Review: Sterilizer – Sterilizer

Maybe it’s because I’ve listened to four records on the bounce that have each had ten minute plus tracks on it, or maybe because these records have taken time to unravel themselves, but Sterilizer’s brand of straight up industrial brutality kicked me square in the face. And I liked it.

With track titles like “Vasectomy” and “Revenge”, I wasn’t expecting subtlety, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is the kind of industrial metal racket that you imagine Terminators sitting around listening too. Static beats, grinding guitars and hits that feel like body blows. There’s depth to it here too though. From the jackhammer intro of “Vasectomy”, to the industrial stomp of title track “Sterilizer”, the band from Kansas City utilize sound effects and samples in lieu of vocals to great effect, and they also know how to pace a song and not outstay their welcome. The biggest surprise was “(Dis)content” which sounds as if it’s going to be another repeated kick to the solar plexes before swerving into a killer mid tempo drum beat. For me, this was the standout on this record.

“Humanity” and “Dominion” are two more slow burners, before it’s back to business for closing track “Equalizer”. With it’s thrash inspired riffs and blast beasts it’s a perfect closer to a near perfect record. If not for the inclusion of the two tracks I mentioned at the start of this paragraph, this would have been all killer but these songs, not that they are terrible, take away from the momentum that’s built up in the songs before them. Still, this is a fun, uncomfortable (in a good way) listen and bodes well for more Sterilizer future releases.

Hevy Kevy

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: B +

“Sterilizer” by Sterilizer can be purchased here.

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Quick Hits 10.17.14: Friday Bandcamp Special – Photostat Machine, Viathyn

On Fridays, I hope to share two or three recently discovered items on Bandcamp that you should consider adding to your collection. This week brings us some synth pop and power metal. We’re all friends here, right?

Photostat Machine – Space\Calling

Photostat Machine are a UK based synth pop duo who have a wide range of sounds. They can do the fast and bright just as well as the dark and brooding, which should delight synth pop fans on each end of the spectrum. Space\Calling is the second EP supporting the Staring into Space album, also available on Bandcamp.

Photostat Machine – Space\Calling EP: Name Your Own Price

Viathyn – Cynosure

Power metal is something that I really enjoy and I’m not sorry for it. Canadian Power Metallers Viathyn have unleashed a great journey called Cynosure. Released on October 7, Cynosure is one of my favorites of 2014.
Viathyn – Cynosure: $10 CAD

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Quick Hits 10.16.14: Physical Media in a Digital World, Heavy Rotation

Physical Media in a Digital World

Pigeons and Planes wrote (back in February) an awesomely emotional letter to a future child on what it’s like to buy a CD and the sorrow that comes with the knowledge that physical media is a dying format (generally speaking). The record store experience, along with the effect of being able to physically hold an album, still holds a lot of weight in my enjoyment of music. I don’t understand why the medium has to die if enough people out there feel the same as people like me and the writer of that letter at Pigeons and Planes. We just have to continue supporting our media of choice in hopes that our voices will collectively stay loud enough for the decision makers to have to notice.

Heavy Rotation – The Cowards Choir

I’ve been tweeting like crazy about the new Cool Currency EP from The Cowards Choir and I can’t stop saying good things about it. The four guys in The Cowards Choir have found a collective voice and a sound that is majestic. If you STILL haven’t checked out their Cool Currency EP, give it a go on Noisetrade. It won’t cost you anything except about twenty minutes of your time, but if you are a generous sort, please leave them a tip so that they can continue to make great sounds.

My personal favorites on Cool Currency are “Is This a Wrecking Ball” and “Break Free”. Chunky Glasses describes the Cowards Choir sound as “big”, which is an accurate description, especially in the live setting.

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Quick Hits 10.09.14: Depeche Mode BluRay Snub, The HiFiChallenge Prepares for a Return

Depeche Mode to Release Live in Berlin, Forgot BluRay Video Exists

This is old news by now if you’re a Depeche Mode fan, but the band announced officially yesterday what had been speculated for months – the November release of the Live in Berlin home video, filmed on the Delta Machine tour in 2013. The deluxe package includes a double disc DVD set, the double disc CD audio version of the show, plus a BluRay CD of the 2013 Delta Machine album in 5.1 Surround Sound.

Wait – BluRay audio, but only DVD video? This is extremely puzzling in 2014, when BluRay players are pretty affordable and millions of households have one built into their game consoles. This is just about the same level of head-scratching as a band who releases a new album only on cassette with no digital download.

My speculation is that we’ll have Columbia – the record label responsible for Depeche Mode releases nowadays – asking us to fork out for that BluRay video in a year or so.

Please don’t, Columbia.

HiFiChallenge Returns in 2015

When I initially launched UnappreciatedScholars.com as hifichallenge.wordpress.com, the intended content was a weekly Top 10 playlist based on a theme curated by the four founders of the site. Unfortunately, life got in the way for all of us and we had to drop the concept. But now, with the advent of Unappreciated Scholars Radio, the time is ripe for a return of the HiFiChallenge.

The feature will be returning in early 2015, and we’d like your input on various themes that we should explore. Send your suggestions to admin@unappreciatedscholars.com and we’ll put them in a list for inclusion in the HiFiChallenge.

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Review: The Cowards Choir – Cool Currency

Short version: A+. Why are you still reading this? Go get it.

Long version:
Andy Zipf has been a staple in my library since I first saw him open for Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’ back in Atlanta in 2005. Last year, he started up The Cowards Choir and they are absolutely wonderful. Their self titled EP in 2013 was one of the best releases in a crowded year of great tunes. 2014’s Cool Currency EP picks right up and continues with the growth of The Cowards Choir.

An excellent blend of independent influence and good old fashioned Rock & Roll, The Cowards Choir Cool CurrencyEP is not to be missed. Andy’s words come from the heart and some great, thought provoking inspirations. The band compliment his vocal performance to create a chill bump inducing sound that deserves to be heard. For the full effect, be sure to check them out at a live show. They won’t let you not have a great time.

I feel privileged to have been following Andy’s music career for such a long time. If anyone is deserving of a breakthrough, he’s got to be at the top of the list. The Cowards Choir is a hard working and uncompromising act that won’t disappoint. Even if you somehow don’t like the music itself, the effort and creation will lead you to respect the band for what they do.

Guys – if you read this, please keep on keeping on. People need The Cowards Choir, even if they don’t know it yet. Music needs The Cowards Choir.

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: A+. Just get it. Check The Cowards Choir website for tour dates, updates, and more.