Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sykotyk Rampage - "Karrs" Review!!

It's time for our 32nd monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, and for the first time in the site's history, we're reviewing a fourth album by a local band this month! After previously reviewing "22", "Bella Disgusta", and "Zombiez" by this band, we're taking a look at local "blue Chinese metal crash punk" quartet Sykotyk Rampage's August 2011 album "Karrs" today! One of five new albums that this prolific band posted onto their Reverbnation page last year,"Karrs" is Sykotyk Rampage's 27th album, and though it's not chronologically next for a review, it's the second heaviest of the band's 2011 albums (after "Zombiez"), so it gets priority for our next older review of their material. Recorded live as they played it last year at River Front Recreation Studios, "Karrs" features Sykotyk Rampage's current lineup, including Paul Becker on lead vocals & drums, his brother Dirk on guitar (and vocals on four songs), Shane Kokis on guitar, and Paul's son-in-law Brian Cattapan on bass. "Karrs" is currently available to purchase at the band's Reverbnation store for $6.99 in mp3 format or $9.99 on CD, with individual tracks at 99¢ each and $2.49 each for ringtones. (Updated on November 6th, 2012)

The full album (featuring 13 songs at about 53 minutes in length) can also be streamed for free at the above links, but I'd say support Sykotyk Rampage and buy "Karrs" for yourself as well! Without any further adieu, let's begin our "Karrs" review with the first song, "Nothing But"! After a short sample intro of the "Gentlemen, start your engines" call from a car race and a revving engine, the band fades into view with Sykotyk Rampage's familiar crash rock sounds and some singing from guitarist Dirk Becker, who continues to use his punk-influenced quavery singing to good effect! The early chunk of the song is fairly repetitive, though I like Brian Cattapan's bass work, and the drum beat's catchy enough to keep things interesting! This son's biggest drawback is it's length, as it's mostly the same stuff for almost 5 minutes despite some effective off colour singing from Dirk and some instrumental variance, and I'd have cropped it in half to avoid the repetition. Still, it's a catchy song that plays to Sykotyk Rampage's strengths well, and hopefully later songs on "Karrs" follow the same alternative path while shaking things up a bit more!

Second is the intentionally misspelled "Konstruction Zone", and after some sounds of construction work, the band launches into a quaint opening with what sounds like a cowbell and some low guitar and bass work. Paul Becker's bluesy shouting vocals make their debut on this song, where his distinctive vocals seem too excitable for the backing music. The later guitar work has an odd scratchy quality, and the beat of the song is nicely paced, but there's an odd contrast between the vocals & music that I'd have corrected. Paul's singing until the faster paced ending doesn't seem fitting for the music, which also gets repetitive in it's own right. Good song, but it needs some work. It's followed on "Karrs" by "Krap Gathered In My Karr", a shorter bluesy number that flows much better than the previous track to match Paul's singing with the music. The lyrics are amusing, the band are keeping a nice bluesy pace, and it doesn't feel nearly as repetitious. It feels like some of Sykotyk Rampage's better blues-influenced material, and addresses the problems on "Konstruction Zone" fairly well! I prefer their heavier and faster stuff, but for what this song wants to accomplish, it does it about as well as you'd expect!

Fourth is "I Fuck The Best", which is the longest song so far on this album. It starts with sample audio of a car speeding off before some slow guitar work solitarily kicks off this newest song. It starts off as a mid-paced rocker with sort of melodic talking from Paul Becker, but it definitely isn't as repetitive, and about 2 minutes in, the music picks up from a slow paced backing track to some more up-tempo rocking that helps add to the song's sound! The guitar work is probably at it's height so far on "Karrs", and there's even a guitar solo later on that, though messy, feels like Sykotyk Rampage! I definitely like "I Fuck The Best" the most of the first four songs on this album, and despite it's length, it has the energy, variance, and flow that the first three songs needed a combination of, and as the title implies, there's definitely a confidence here that I liked! The falsetto vocal at the end was odd, but overall, this is so far the best song on "Karrs", and hopefully there's more where that came from!

Next on this album is "Washout", which starts with what sounds like a horn or siren before launching into a familar crash riff with lower singing from Paul and a nicely paced rhythm, though the volume seems very low on this track compared to earlier songs. Seemingly about Paul's wishes for a close friend not to go down to New Orleans, the song does pick up in intensity and energy in the second half, but I found that the song really flew by as a whole. Like "I Fuck The Best", "Washout" builds to a more entertaining second half, but it just sort of sped up with more excitable singing, and didn't evolve as much. I like this song too, but it was missing a real punch to put even further over the top. Sixth is "Doesn't Matter Anymore", a short blues rock with some interesting vocal messages about what Paul knows and wants to ask. It's fairly straightforward, with a melodic bluesy pacing and the return of his more talking-based singing, but there's some more varied lyrics later on. It's not a real consequential song compared to some others on "Karrs", but it doesn't get repetitive or boring. The abrupt ending leading into a speeding car sound was a disappointment though. Solid track, just too short and similar to other songs on this album.

Track number seven is "You Got Me", which fades into a slower tempo crash rock sound with some softer melodic singing from Paul and some good distortion effects on the guitar riffs, but it feels too similar to some earlier songs on this album. It has that bluesy pacing and low melodic vocals, and though it has a nice rhythm, it's not really a memorable song compared to others on this album. It's not repetitive in and of itself, and it doesn't run long, but it feels like I've heard this song done better, and I'd have liked to have seen some added aggression or variety. Good song though for some crash/blues rocking! Eighth is "Get Outa My Way", which is longer but has a promising start with some faster paced guitar riffs and a a solid beat, with soft wailing from Paul before he starts fully singing. This has some of the energy or spark that I've been missing, and it has a well timed blues rock attack with solid drumming and some nice rocking guitar riffs! The song's structure could be tightened up a bit and streamlined, but this is one of the more fun songs on "Karrs" for sure, and it's got a nice easy to listen to sound that flows well with the crash music they brought for us!

That song is followed by "Into The Canyon", another shorter track that begins with 23 seconds of what sounds like wind or highway traffic before finally launching into a two minute song that finally sees the return of Dirk Becker on lead vocals! That said, this song is definitely one of the strangest on "Karrs", featuring lyrics that reference a murder, a messy and rambling first half, and a very aggressive second half & increasingly angry vocal work. That said, it's never boring, and it is one of the heaviest on the album, though thanks to it's length, we don't get much of this song. I'd have liked to have seen where Sykotyk Rampage went had this song been longer, but as it stands, it's worth checking out on it's own offbeat merits! Then, we have song #10, "Never Ever Life", which is initially very repetitive in a slow build of a catchy blues riff that fades in and out in volume. This keeps up for the first half of the song, with very brief vocal additions until about 2:30 in, when Dirk adds some softer quavery singing, and not a lot of it. Though not even 4 minutes long, "Never Ever Life" is a tale of the same riff over and over at different levels, and it got to be a bit much, though the fake ending later in the track was unique! I'd have at least cut this song in half, if not extended on it, as on it's own, "Never Ever Life" just feels like an extended demo riff with unfinished vocals.

Eleventh is "Roller Koaster", and after an upbeat (though overly long) guitar intro, Dirk returns to give us some very soft singing that doesn't call to mind a roller coaster at all. The whole song moves along the same path, never really getting off the ground so to speak, staying at the same low rhythm and soft style. The title's honestly misleading, and even compared to the repetitive bluesy numbers early in the album, "Roller Koaster" comes across as a soft and not very memorable song, with an abrupt ending to boot. It's not badly played, jut not very exciting. "Things I Will Never Have" is both the penultimate & longest song on this album, and it leads off with a slow and depressing sounding intro before Paul's singing kicks in, and he stays with the song's tempo and vibe pretty well. There are parts where Paul's vocals go off on their own without really flowing, but there definitely seems to be more emotion in his words and lyrics here, which is fitting of a song like this! This is definitely not the most exciting song on "Karrs", but it's obviously not supposed to be, and fits the mold of a softer ballad well, while still being in their unique improvised style, though the record-skipping-esque ending is odd. I prefer earlier rocking songs to this one, but for what it's trying to accomplish, it does the job well!

"Spinout" closes this album, but it starts with an odd intro with layered backing vocals, a sole guitar in the background, and some soft singing from Paul Becker. It stays like this for the majority of the song, and I have to say, it sort of leaves this album hanging. There's no real punch, the tempo and intensity never grows, and it feels like the Paul-sung equivalent to "Roller Koaster", in that it's a soft original song that never diverges from the path it starts on. The guitar work is good, and Paul's singing fits with the material, but for an album closing song, it doesn't seem right. So how do I grade "Karrs" overall? Well, it's definitely a good album when compared to earlier Sykotyk Rampage albums, but it's definitely not my favourite of their earlier works. On the positive side, the band members are definitely showing their talent and range on this album, from Paul's solid drumming and nice bluesy vocals to Dirk & Shane's creative crash guitar riffs! Brian Cattapan's bass work is dependably good as you'd expect as well, and it was nice hearing Dirk get more lead vocal time as a whole here then on some other recent albums, where he sang less or shared duties more. Songs like "I Fuck The Best", "Into The Canyon", and "Washout" were among my favourite tracks that showed their intensity and crash styles well!

However, compared to "Zombiez", it falls short. Though Sykotyk Rampage's use of off colour lyrics and car samples are welcome, it seems to fall into the more reserved overall style of an album like "Bella Disgusta", and too many songs sound similar with lower blues riffs and soft or repetitive overall sounds. The middle of "Karrs" was the peak in my opinion, but it started and ended softly, and it left me hanging. That said, I like what Sykotyk Rampage have done here, and it fits their mold of improvised alternative music well, even if it's not my absolute favourite CD of theirs! If you're a diehard fan of Sykotyk Rampage, you'll definitely enjoy "Karrs", so check it out at the above links, and take in their sykotyk brand of hard rock as only they can deliver!

I hope you guys enjoyed this month's CD review! So, what's coming up next month? Well, I was operating under the premise of reviewing Woods of Ypres' final recorded album "Woods V: Grey Skies & Electric Light" in early March, given it's European release earlier this month, but that was dependent on me either getting an advance copy of the CD or someone posting "Keeper of the Ledger" online, as I don't want to review the album incomplete. Well, luckily, the latter has occurred, so I can now confirm that "Woods V" is next on the review docket, and we will likely review it by next Thursday! This will be our 4th review of a Woods of Ypres album, but will it live up to the recent review hype and David Gold's legacy in my opinion? We'll soon find out! That said, while I know that End of Existence's debut album is slated to come out TODAY, I don't want it to hang in limbo for longer than it has to if the release is on schedule, so I plan to review it within the first week of April. So our next few CD reviews at the SMS are likely set, but if any changes or alterations need to happen, I'll definitely let you guys know in advance! That's all for today, but stay tuned for more news and concert previews very soon! Thanks everyone!

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