REVIEW: EPiskey

Let’s jump right in this time, shall we?

Splendid.  So, quite awhile back, the fairly new band Leth I. Fold asked me to review his EP, EPiskey.  Now, he won points right away for a very clever album title that I’m honestly a bit surprised hadn’t been done before, so I decided to give it a listen.  Now, since this is a fairly new band and their (technically, “his”, but, whatever) first release, I’m going to be grading it in the same way I did the band Hermione and the House-Elves (again, you should check her out – definitely the best new voice to hit wizard rock in quite awhile) – not as nitpicky as I would be with more established bands, and giving less of a grade and more of overview of the band’s strengths and weaknesses.

We start off with “Slytherin” (also, all of these song titles have the word “demo” appended to them, except for “Lethifold”), which is a… well, for lack of a better word we’ll call it a rap, over the best (albeit only) wizard beat boxing I’ve ever heard.  The beat boxing is quite adequate, and definitely improved by the clever twist of bookending the beat with “Rhythmus Totalus” and “Finite Incantatem”.  As for the rap, well… well, it’s a good effort, and sort of works with the low key beat-boxing aesthetic that the song has, but I’m not exactly clamoring for more.  The flow is aight, but the writing is pretty weak, which is weird for this EP which overall has very strong writing.  I mean, look at this verse:

I am not very popular it’s because I’m a Slytherin

But when Lucius wants the prophecy you know I will not give in

If Voldemort wants it then I tell you it is mine

Since I care about Longbottom I will stall for some time.

(pause)

Stall for time…

This verse just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.  I mean, is it implying that there was some Slytherin student or spy or whatever down in the DoM working against the Death Eaters?  And why does caring about Longbottom lead to the stalling of time?  And why Neville specifically?  Is it just because his surname is long and it helped the line scan properly?  I get that this verse was trying to show how Slytherin ≠ Evil, but it just did not work.  On the whole, this is the weakest song on the EP, and while it certainly helps add an eclectic vibe to the album as a whole, it was not a wise choice to start things off with.

When Jared requested that I review her EP, he also requested that I listened to it with headphones on, and while I’d listened to the EP a few times already by the time I sat down to write this review, I hadn’t listened to the EP with headphones yet.  So, I’m giving each song one last listen before I review it, and the headphones definitely did change what I was going (am going?) to write about the next song, “Friend or Foe?”, and not for the better.

“Friend or Foe?” is yet another song about Snape, and yet again, about his loyalty, but lyrically, things take a very interesting twist.  Not only is it fun to have a song about Snape’s loyalty that was made two to three years after the release of DH, it’s from Snape’s POV (again), but this time, he’s swearing his loyalty to Voldemort.  Not only has that never been done before (as far as I’m aware), but almost all the Snape’s loyalty songs are about the Order or whatever questioning it, or maybe Snape himself, but rarely, if ever, Voldemort or the Death Eaters, though that’s just as important a facet to Snape’s character.  So, lyrically, “Friend or Foe?” takes a unique idea and executes it well, if not with much pizazz, but then, that would fit Snape, wouldn’t it?  However, musically, things start to break down, at least once you put your headphones on.

See, Leth I. Fold plays around with the left and right channels in this song, and while it works really well at first with the two voices in different outputs echoing each other but rejoining quite effectively, but once we leave the intro it all falls apart.  What had before been a rather pedestrian, but adequate guitar section that nevertheless helped keep the song grounded and moody (and gave the song a bit of neat faux[or should I say “foe”?]-percussion) was transformed into something that makes the song practically unlistenable.  You see, every time there’s a strum, the location of the strum switches channels. EVERY. FREAKIN’. TIME.  It’s distracting, and it gave me a headache really quickly.  Every now and then, the strumming switches back to both channels, and I breathe a sigh of relief, but then just as quickly we’re launched back to an instrumental section that sounds less like a guitar and more like a particularly musical ping-pong match.

Now, without the headphones, it’s a perfectly fine song once again, and I even think that the back-and-forth strumming could have worked, but not with the channel outputs apparently set either all the way to the right or all the way to the left.  If he kept the alternating strumming but made the differences much less drastic, it could have worked a lot better, and vocally, everything works great.  Speaking of which, Leth I. Fold’s voice is very able, and the delivery on this song is superb, adding an unmistakable Snape-like edge to the proceedings.  Now this is a demo, so there are a few small missteps in the song – a few quick hitches, and the alternating voicework doesn’t work as well in the last 30 seconds or so, but these are all things that could easily be cleaned up by a bit more rehearsing and polishing.

“Lethifold” is another song that is changed by the addition of headphones, and again, not for the better.  Now, the effect is much less damaging than in the previous song – things are only affected for the first ten seconds, but it still isn’t a lot of fun.  One of the great things about this EP is that it’s a rather eclectic blend of different styles of music, and “Lethifold” is a surprisingly well-made electronic song .  However, for the first ten seconds the electronic chords go back and forth rather clunkily across the channels like it was being played by a Cylon.  After that, it’s all smooth sailing.  Really, there’s nothing especially complex about the song musically beyond a somewhat nifty percussion loop, yet it works together to create a very suffocating atmosphere, and appropriately so.  Thematically, the music fits the lyrics perfectly, and it’s also catchy as hell – I’ve had this song, as well as this song (unfortunately), stuck in my head off and on for the past few days.

Now, when I first heard this song, I liked the idea of having two different voices – one who’s singing the actual song, warning about lethifolds, and then another voice that’s speaking and talking back to the singer and freaking out because some omnipotent voice is singing about their doom.  However, it felt crowded, and there are times when the two sets of voices drown each other out (especially around 1:25 to 1:40).  Still, if you removed the spoken word voice, the song would feel sparse, forgettable, and would be much less funny (I especially love “Hello? How do I cast the patronus charm? Anyone?  Hello?  Hello?” at the end).  So, my advice would be to re-record the section mentioned earlier – it’s too soft and too crowded, and maybe prune the spoken word lines a bit – talking back to each and every sung line is not strictly necessary.  It’s funny, because this is the only song on the EP that is not labeled as a demo, and I think it still needs a lot of work, but that’s because it shows a lot of potential, and is already pretty good, but I think that with a bit of tweaking it could be really damn good.

“The Cruel Ball” will definitely be on my list of Top Ten Meta-Wrock songs that I will do… eventually… and a big part of that is because it is not the usual type of meta-wrock song at all.  In fact, it’s actually a bit critical of wizard rock.  Note that I said critical, like what I do, not hating on wrock or anything.  “The Cruel Ball” basically lists all the wizard rock cliches (songs mourning Cedric, choosing right over easy, etc.) that Jared, and coincidentally, I hate.  Well, hate may be too strong a word, but, as the song says, “the magic’s become cliché“. So lyrically, I absolutely love it.  Musically, it’s basically competent singing over the same four bars of strumming, but the simplicity of the guitar playing works to this song’s advantage, because of the slow building up of the tempo to a glorious John Williams-related dénouement that I won’t spoil here – seriously, just listen to the song on his MySpace – oh, damn, it got taken down.  Well, I guess you’ll have to buy the EP, then, won’t you?

The last song on the EP is “Harry’s Lament”, which is a cover of “Hey Dragon” from A Very Potter Musical (the sequel of which I still haven’t seen – I mean what is wrong with me?!), but all about Twilight.  All about how it sucks, that is.  Now, while I do think that the Twilight series is comprised of awful writing with flat characters and it exemplifies pretty much everything wrong with popular culture these days, and especially the accepted image of the female role which sadly does not seem that different from that of fifty, or a hundred years ago.  But I have gotten a little tired of the over-the-top reactions just saying the word “Twilight” will elicit in a Harry Potter chat room or whatever, especially since there are so many fans that love both series.  It’s really gotten to extreme levels, sometimes bordering on outright hate, and divisiveness and strife is never a good thing.  Still, massive caveat aside, “Harry’s Lament” is a damn good song, and a very witty parody, even though sometimes the lines weren’t changed very much – and that actually often works out very well (“you’re just living off the glory of a necrophilia story that I want nothing to do with” and “Just please don’t tweet me” get me every time), though there are a few lines that remain completely unchanged and don’t make much sense in context, and stick out a bit.  Still, on the whole it’s a well done parody and the chorus of “external conflict rocks!” at the end is particularly fun.

Also of note is the return of a second voice talking back to the main singer, which is a musical trick Jared seems to be rather fond of, and I heartily encourage it – after all, The Remus Lupins have those “bah bah bahs”, I think it’d be cool for other bands to have recognizable favourite musical flourishes.  Anywho, this time the voice talking back is actually singing, and it’s handled better than in “Lethifold”, though the bit where the song breaks down for a little tête à tête doesn’t completely work for me.  Still, the ending is really damn funny, and on the whole, the song definitely succeeds.

So, if you can’t tell by my tone, I was definitely impressed by Leth I. Fold’s Episkey, and I wholeheartedly approve.  So, we’re gonna do things a little differently this time: I’m going to list the band’s strengths, and areas for improvement.  Sound good?  Well, I don’t care what you think, so I’m going to do it anyway. Humphf.

Areas For Improvement:

  • More complex guitar work, explore the synth side of things more, maybe try melding the two and see what happens
  • TONE DOWN THE DAMN MESSING WITH THE AUDIO CHANNELS
  • Seriously, don’t scrap it all together, it’s interesting, but make it not annoying, okay?
  • I would like to see more vocal work along the lines of what you did in “Friend or Foe?” – don’t switch over to only that, of course, but I really liked the vocals in that song, and I’d like more of that, please.
  • I’m sorry, but I really don’t see rap being in your future.  Far be it from me to say “NO! THOUGH SHALL NOT SPIT MAD RHYMES! (Leviticus 13:42)”, and I have nothing against a silly one-off song here or there, but I would caution you to exercise your strengths

Strengths:

  • Pretty much everything else
  • Seriously though:
  • Great vocal work, though as I said before, I would encourage you to try lots of different styles – your voice seems pretty damn agile
  • Even when some things don’t work out (the audio channels stuff) it’s still interesting and fresh
  • Really great lyric writing – sometimes really funny (“Cruel Ball”, “Lethifold”, “Harry’s Lament”), and sometimes powerful and canon-probing “Friend or Foe?”)
  • Fantastic “acting” – there are some bits where you sound exasperated or oblivious, or whatever, and you truly sound exasperated or oblivious.  This sort of thing leads to some of my favorite moments on the EP – the John Williams bit, the end of “Harry’s Lament”, etc.

Okay, so I know that both lists look about the same, but I am a nitpicking motherfucker (you know how at the beginning I said I wouldn’t nitpick and stuff? I lied).  Truly, the good outweighs the bad, and if it wasn’t for that audio channel nonsense, I would have almost nothing bad to say about this EP.  However, I still can’t give it a true grade, and for a couple of reasons.  First, I generally would rather not give a hard and fast grade to the debut work by a new artist, and instead prefer to do the sort of thing I’ve tried to do – list successes, room for improvement, not be as much of a hardass.  Second, the EP doesn’t really feel like a true album, and more like a sampler.  I mean, it starts with an accapella rap (technically), goes into an acoustic Snape song, then there’s an electronic song about lethifolds, then a musically simplistic meta-wrock song, and lastly, a song that is pretty much just about Twilight.  It’s basically the hops and barley for what, when tweaked, refined, and expanded, could become a delicious IPIPA (Independently Produced Indian Pale Ale).  I hope to be served a frothy pint of such brew in the coming years.

I APPROVE

See y’all on Wednesday.

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14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Arodhwen
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 08:58:29

    I was worried for no reason. I definitely agree with most of the things you said. EPiskey was the album where I discovered how to mess with right and left and decided that that was my new favorite thing. I don’t think it happens again. Well, there is an intro to a song on DEmos. But it’s just the dialogue. I promise.

    As for the Neville lyrics- I think you should re-read the DoM chapter again… Lucius is asking Harry for the Prophecy, and threatening to torture Neville to death unless Harry forks it over. He actual DOES crucio the Neville, and Harry is literally handing the prophecy to him RIGHT as the Order pops in. If JK didn’t give the Order such perfect timing, it would have been such a different story.

    I’ll admit to being insanely proud of the fact that you thought the beatboxing in Lethifold was a loop. I had to re-do it like fifty times because I kept messing up about two minutes in because my mouth was like “NOPE! I do not like doing the same beat for this long!”

    And can I clarify two things? The Cruel Ball’s been taken down because I think it’s offended some people in the past. And it has a new title. (“I Love All Wizard Rock Ever in the History of Wizard Rock Ever Ever Ever Really” or ILAWRE for short.) And the line “But, hey. I’m glad you’re reading” is my concession that reading Tw*light is better than nothing. I have nothing against people who read those books, and am one of the few people who dislikes the series- and can back it up with canon evidence. I never hate on anything I haven’t read/seen/heard. (I hated Harry Potter before a friend forced me to go see the first movie in theaters with her… And look how that turned out.)

    Anyhow. Disclaimers and don’t-hate-me’s aside, I really appreciate the honest feedback. And find myself again wishing I could find something like Garage Band for cheap and PC.

    😀

    Reply

    • wrocksnob
      Oct 19, 2010 @ 09:21:56

      No, I remember what happened in the book, but I don’t understand what that has to do with being a Slytherin. I mean, was the verse saying that if you happened to be a DE down in the DoM, you would have stalled for time? Because, I’m sorry, but that’s quite a logical jump to make from the lyrics, to expect us to immediately think you’re talking about some hypothetical situation. Also, I’m definitely impressed that the beatboxing WASN’T a loop – I definitely couldn’t do that. Damn.

      Reply

    • Russ
      Oct 19, 2010 @ 13:24:55

      “And find myself again wishing I could find something like Garage Band for cheap and PC”

      Check out Mixcraft. It’s as close as you’re going to get to a GarageBand-like software DAW for the PC

      http://www.acoustica.com/mixcraft/

      Reply

      • wrocksnob
        Oct 19, 2010 @ 19:08:27

        Huh. Cool. That does seem fairly Garageband-esque.

        Reply

      • Arodhwen
        Oct 20, 2010 @ 07:27:51

        Russ- thanks for the link! I suck at finding good software.

        WS- Hypothetically, if a Slytherin were in Harry’s shoes at that moment. The idea is that the Prophecy is the most important thing. Harry doesn’t know what it is, only that it can give You-Know-Who a powerful edge. For all Harry knows, as soon as the Dark Lord touches the thing, the whole world will go kablooey. So, even though it SUCKS, every single one of them dying in the Ministry (minus whoever held the Prophecy) would be less than the whole world going kablooey. The Prophecy was leverage. He couldn’t smash it, or leverage gone. All he could do was hold onto it and use it as his ticket to escape and find the Order. Stalling is the best thing he could do if he really couldn’t hand the Prophecy over. This is totally why Dumbledore wasn’t a Slytherin in spite of his youthful creed and loads of cunning. He knew EXACTLY what had to be done for the greater good but, in the end, he just couldn’t sacrifice anyone.

        It’s not pretty, but it’s true.

        Reply

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  4. Rürup Rente Vergleich
    Oct 30, 2010 @ 20:00:24

    You forgot Andrew Jackson’s Big Block of Cheese with nary a macaroni in sight.

    Reply

  5. wrocknquidditch
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 09:25:10

    I am so happy that you reviewed Leth I. Fold. I positively adore Janet…and her music is among my favorites.

    Reply

  6. Download VLC
    Nov 12, 2010 @ 17:01:15

    i want it

    Reply

  7. Trackback: REVIEW: Jingle Spells 4 « The Wrock Snob

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