18 November, 2015

Gus McArthur EP review

Gus McArthur - Gus McArthur |Evolution Square Records, 2015| 5/5 metal/hard rock

1. Good Evening, 2. Overlord, 3. Slaves Of The North Sea, 4. Succubus

It seems that Gus McArthur belongs to the group of recently created metal bands joining the music scene with proper preparation. They have met all known requirements that help a reliable artist become noticed in the sea of new bands quickly. Firstly, they have a great acoustic potential created by successful song writing and high performance skills. Secondly, they rely on a well established belief in their sound and talents alone for the initiation of their career, instead of super-duper outfits or an army of stylists hired for promotional purposes. Such a natural, organic band can be trusted much more easily than something more akin to a "product".

There is a diversity of moods and melodies brought by this self-titled EP, so the chances are low that you could get bored during its running time of 22 minutes. These tunes bring novelty to the fold of well known, mostly metal subgenres. Their refreshing new style is based on an intelligent mix of various influences together with a solid carving of the band's own sound definition.

The EP opens with "Good Evening", presenting sweet and innocent melodies from the beginning, in contrast to what metal music usually offers. Initially, the track is kept in a lyrical pop-rock style, but don't let yourself be fooled. The vocals along with increased riff and drum dynamics announce that something edgy may be coming next. There are strong hard rock influences in the choruses and a return to the opening, sugary style in verses. You'll stay with the band when you hear their evergreen, Santana-esque guitar riffs at the end here.
Gus McArthur have released a video for this track and possibly destroyed all expectations. If you had already visualised the audio on your own, you could be forgiven for placing these guys on a big stage, covered by blasting lights, in typical shredding poses reminiscent of Van Halen or Megadeth. In reality, you get a deep green cornfield under a blue sky and you'll watch Gus McArthur's musicians passing through, wearing totally ordinary clothes (there’s even a Star Wars T-shirt!) and black & white masks. You'll then realize that besides the band's ironical sense of humor, their musical talent shines through on its own, so they need no fireworks or masquerades to attract listeners to their music.

"Overlord" starts off as an in-your-face cannonade of sounds which also sticks closely to the style of hard rock through fast paced guitar riffs, drums, and bass. Vocals take on a classical hard rock and power metal direction, then switch to a more modern tuning. This song is about WWII soldiers who fought and died during the D-Day (also known as Operation Overlord). Indeed, said riffs stitch the composition like bullets released from a machine gun. The rhythm section works very nicely together, always in position to enrich the listening experience, instead of sabotaging each other. The band doesn't shy away from borrowing from hip-hop music, either. Since there are two vocalists in the band, this time you'll hear Gus performing spoken word during a part of the track where arrangements go to the background and serve to highlight lyrics. And again, everything fits together very well, thanks to the overpowering rhythm.

A victorious, cinematic theme opens "Slaves Of The North Sea" with a classical feel. It is then followed by fast paced, tight guitar riffs, a thrilling drum beat and a muezzin's prayer mixed together. It gives the impression that Gus McArthur might have been inspired by some of Ministry's music here, though a careful listener will also spot acoustic influences derived from progressive rock later on in the song. The tempo accelerates and the composition evolves into maturity by taking various, sometimes unexpected turns, surprising listeners on many occasions. Honan's vocals sound expressive and well controlled. The extensive skill of all musicians (Honan "The Destroyer" - guitar and vocals, Gus "The Hater" - vocals/spoken words, Jake "The Duke" - bass) can be heard in this track. Not only do they showcase an excellent collaboration within the collective, but also their own individual skills. "Slaves Of The North Sea" is another song on this EP with a 'military' background, and the theme is carried by accompanying SFX (the whizzing of falling bombs and people's screams) at the end of the composition.

The last song, "Succubus", opens with another thought-provoking and moody intro. It is then followed by arrangements which thematically oscillate between 70's progressive rock and 80's metal. The chorus sounds as if dedicated to Megadeth, due to melodious vocals - but there's no cheesiness about that, since it's performed very skillfully. Honan's riffs sound vital, clean and are performed extremely well technically. Drums and bass kick each other to run faster, or stop for the moment when the guitar wants to talk solo. "Succubus" is a potential hit waiting for all those listeners who enjoy both harmony and gradation of said arrangements. Other metal fans will definitely enjoy headbanging to an irresistible rhythm.

It should be noted that these Californian musicians keep a strong grip on the song writing process so neither do arrangements slip away nor are any of the elements misplaced. Even if the instrumental parts leave a bit of a space, the vocals fit in the gaps as smoothly as the only matching piece of a puzzle. Moreover, the trio's work is enriched by Alex Venders' excellent drumming - he's an Italian session & touring musician, who has worked with many other bands.

Finally, the audio quality of this EP (mastering and production) is exceptional. You can clearly hear every separate instrumental track along with the vocals, so you can easily switch your focus between them while listening to any of the songs present on the release. If you listen even closer, you'll soon discover that these compositions should work extremely well also as 'instrumental only' versions. Still Honan’s memorable and well-employed vocals complete these songs in their entirety by tying all and any loose ends.

Overall, true talent in connection with hard work pays off sooner or later - so Gus McArthur should continue sticking to their goals and never feel discouraged. Their live performances should be powerful enough to carry the vibe of the songs they recorded in the studio. Hopefully they will not make us wait for another EP or full album too long.

(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Music Magazine, November 18th, 2015. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)

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Reviewed by Fabryka Music Magazine

03 November, 2015

DMK - Going Under

DMK - Going Under (song review) |self-released, Going Under, 2015| 5/5

Connecting various types of art takes the most expressive turn when musicians get access to the right tools to picture their compositions, along with storytelling through lyrics, in the form of a music video. Darice M. Kannon however, aside of her musical interests and holding two degrees (in business and paralegal), also enjoys writing stories. She formed DMK and ventured deeper, to not only add visuals to her music but first and foremost, to illustrate her novel entitled Condemned (due to be published in 2016) with a matching soundtrack of her own making. This lead to releasing the "Going Under" single in early 2015 together with a supporting video.

DMK's musical inspirations range from electronic to guitar driven (e.g. Trent Reznor, Papa Roach, Bastille, Breaking Benjamin, Coldplay, Lacuna Coil) and such is her music. "Going Under" is split between two contrasting yet surprisingly matching styles. The song's core is built upon a variety of electronic beats found in techno, hip hop, and drum'n'bass, with their slow paced but obviously catchy dynamics. The vocals, on the other hand, come in a classical, operatic style.
Based in Los Angeles, Darice has been a professional vocalist and live performer across the country in cover and original groups between 1989 to 2005 - and her experience definitely shows. Her voice immediately grabs your attention - it's mature, crystal clear, with a thrilling timbre. She has great control of her vocal abilities - she can sail the waves of both high and low tones with cool professionalism.

This unusual mix of modern and symphonic attributes gives the song a theatrical feel and puts it a bit ahead of its time, perhaps. "Going Under" may either get your attention right away or grow on you with time, but it’s surely hard to dismiss or skip. Musical purists might be confused at first, but after a few listens, they will find it extremely memorable. In addition, the sound quality is very pleasing here. It often becomes a challenge for indie musicians to come up with high quality audio, so James Pequignot (involved with mastering) did a great service for DMK.

Darice definitely brings forth a novel sound here which should get her noticed in the sea of new bands. In fact, illustrating poetry, novels, and other works of creative writing with soundtracks may become a new music business model very soon. Not only would it be gratifying for musicians, but also engaging across three demographics - the listeners, the readers, and those who combine these inspiring activities, enriching their own artistic experience.

(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Music Magazine, November 3rd, 2015. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)

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Reviewed by Fabryka Music Magazine

13 October, 2015

Dogmachine - Futuristic Urban Cult

Dogmachine - Futuristic Urban Cult |self-released, 1997/2015| 4/5 industrial rock metal

1. The Killer Inside, 2. Adrenalin, 3. Disorder, 4. Wetware, 5. Fetish, 6. Bastard Son, 7. Machinehead, 8. Endymion, 9. N.F.F., 10. Love Is A Disease, 11. Shadows Of The Abyss, 12. Rock Pig, 13. Headwound, 14. Scream Of Croetious

Stereotypically, Australia is a country where you'd rather expect to find organic, folk or easy-listening electronic music courtesy of Icehouse or Kylie Minogue, rather than industrial - unlike in the usually noisy regions of Europe or US. Of course, Australians have the mining industry digging in Aboriginal sacred sites and port harbours with their specific acoustic atmosphere, but a vast part of the land doesn't inspire creating cacophony. Yet there have been several bands utilizing industrial noises which have received an international recognition such as S.P.K. or Foetus.

Dogmachine is an industrial band from Brisbane founded in 1993 by Kraig Wilson and Mark Finch. They had their music videos for "Fetish" and "Headwound" aired on MTV during the 1990s, the station's best years. They toured with Atari Teenage Riot, White Zombie, Pitchshifter, Pop Will Eat Itself, Snog, and Insurge amongst others. However, the band was put on hiatus after releasing their Futuristic Urban Cult full-length album - the only in their so far discography (1997). When Pop Will Eat Itself toured Australia again and played in Brisbane in 2014, Dogmachine was reformed to support the PWEI's event.

The digital version of Futuristic Urban Cult that you can buy these days is a re-release of the original album. It has 14 songs on the tracklist and begins with "The Killer Inside" - a murderer's confession supported by steel factory-like bursts and beats. A short techno synth sequence joins next and is followed by guitar riffs kept in then trendy metal-esque arrangement mixed with pulsating synths. The song obviously brings a lot of influences derived from punk, industrial, techno, rock, and metal.

The beginning of "Adrenalin" recalls an 8-bit game's laser shooting SFX that is then combined with punching yet bubbly synths. The arrangements are mostly built upon sound effects that the entire track is full of. After getting the 'let's go', the tempo accelerates to catch up with the pace typically offered by speed metal. If you recognized any guitar riffs here, your ears didn't mislead you - they were digitized. Vocals are distorted and quite silent. The track brings the vibe of simplistic 90s industrial rock mixed with cyberpunk and therefore, may melt a few hearts of the older generation industrial music listeners.

We're entering the factory again at the beginning of "Disorder", where the metallic hammer beat dictates the rhythm. Messy, 'disordered' guitars join next and break that harsh industrial atmosphere apart by adding more lively dynamics. Simple, repetitive riffs are quite typical for the 90s decade and may be found in other industrial bands' compositions. The lyrics are rhythmically recited, because industrial songwriting often treats the human voice as yet another device, rather than letting it preserve its natural timbre.

"Wetware" is a noisy track which may be appreciated by die hard industrial music fans thanks to its knotty composition filled with simple arrangements. It begins with a buzz and sound distortions followed by short and looped guitar riffs. The instruments keep communicating in their own secret language, while male vocals whisper and groan for 'more'. The guitar riff becomes heavier and more dominating at times, but is then quickly pushed away by dry beats.

As mentioned before, "Fetish" was featured on MTV. It is a song in vein of Atari Teenage Riot, with feisty female vocals and a speedy tempo built upon beats and a looped guitar riff. There's also a cyberpunk accent with an old-school digitized computer voice commanding to 'enter the data now'.

A transformed bass guitar sound along with a vibrating riff open the following track, "Bastard Son". It sounds very rhythmic, concrete, and probably most organic from all the songs so far present on the album. A simple arrangement reoccurs like a smashing hammer's stroke through its entire length. The spoken lyrics match it very well, leaving some space between the instrumental and vocal parts, and avoiding excessive density.

"Are you human? You are simply a machine." This statement seemingly borrowed from Robocop, opens "Machinehead". It is followed by a suggestive mix of SFX once again reminiscent of old 8-bit video games. The drum beat and down-tuned guitars join next to take this initially old-school atmosphere into a hellish underground. The arrangements are quite tight and complex, making it another non-easy listening yet classically industrial track.

"Endymion" opens with the voice of a weeping woman and a short speech delivered by a man in one of Eastern European languages. The atmosphere turns tense through slow, ritualistic drum beats dealing their sound in unison with looped synths. A sense of panic goes alive through a crowd’s screams, the chorus in the song. Such a doomed mood may illustrate some kind of an ultimate, inevitable judgment day.

Another 90s industrial metal tune is brought with "N.F.F". This song's topic refers to Nazis so you get a sample of Hitler's voice. The song keeps a military mood delivered by harsh bass lines and a lot of drumming. The repetitive vocals may embed "N.F.F." deeply in your memory.

The following "Love Is A Disease" is a short and noisy, beat-driven track with an experimental vibe and science fiction SFX wheezes. The song title is repeated over and over as the sole line of the lyrics.

When you hear "Shadows Of The Abyss", you'll notice it is kept in a completely different mood when compared to all the other tracks on the album. The atmosphere is creepy, 'vampirish' and based on graded synth arrangements and female vocals inviting comparisons with Goth music.

"Rock Pig" sounds very complex from the very beginning, contrary to the title. It offers a dirty, distorted, garage sound in the vein of 80s hardcore bands. The arrangements written for drums, bass and guitars dominate here, while vocals are aggressively spoken as accompaniment. The overall mood makes it a good interlude for the next track, "Headwound", available as a single on many CD compilations. The dynamic, in-your-face intro brings looped chunky guitars, occasionally sprayed with industrial noises, pushy drumming, a spiral-esque rhythm, some police sirens, and the feverish mood of a street riot. "Headwound" could also illustrate three attributes of modern life that make your head spin - constant rush, stress and pressure.

The ultimate track, "Scream Of Croetious", brings a murky cinematic vibe that could easily act as a soundtrack for a post-apocalyptic short movie. Background droning is mixed with a piano, spoken lyrics, a man's screams and a crying baby. This mix is followed by a large scale explosion, similar to that of a nuke or a volcano. Later, guided by a carefully selected batch of sounds, listeners may imagine lost scared souls of deceased people escaping life’s hellish drama through a skewed dimension.

Futuristic Urban Cult is a trip back to the sensibilities of 90s industrial music, proving the genre’s and the era’s authentic vibe. The rise in popularity of electronic devices in making mainstream music was profound twenty years ago. Industrial musicians were the cutting edge protagonists in testing the boundaries of what could be done. Popular yet simple sound effects and sample libraries, utilized with analogue samplers in 1997 may sound a bit rough these days, but they give you a true taste of the past. In addition, every track on this release seem to have its background story announced through the song title, and then expressed with a collection of thematically composed sounds.

The reformed Dogmachine played two shows, but currently have no plans on performing live until another opportunity comes. The musicians have other musical projects going on. Roger Menso's NyteShayde (formerly known as Punch Drum Monkey) is busy making a new album. Daniel Newstead runs Omegachild, while Craig Wilson owns Synaptic Studio and creates under the moniker of Replikant, his solo project. Jodie Taylor is an educator, author, producer, vocalist and LGBT activist. Finally, Stephen C. Birt keeps drumming for many bands and is a prolific drum teacher.
More reissues from Dogmachine’s back catalogue are coming soon, so if you enjoyed Futuristic Urban Cult, check them out and share your feedback with the musicians.

(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Magazine, October 13th, 2015. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)

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Reviewed by Fabryka Music Magazine

29 September, 2015

Interview with The Seas 2015

NINa: Does having 2 full-length albums released so far (A Separation, 2011 & Give Up The Ghost, 2015) make you feel self-confident about your band and the reception these albums have enjoyed, or do you still feel that you need to 'prove' yourself musically and grab more attention of the music industry? What response to your songs do you desire the most?

Michael Sliter: We are really proud of our two albums. I think there is a confidence that comes from all the hard work that goes into writing and recording the songs. There’s something cathartic about the whole process. Releasing those albums have probably taken away some of the pressure to prove ourselves to others, but we are perfectionists - so I think it’s more about proving to ourselves that have more to contribute that what we’ve already accomplished. Ultimately, I just want people to hear our music and feel a deeper connection to it.

Source & full interview:

Interview by Fabryka Music Magazine

The Seas - Give Up The Ghost

The Seas - Give Up The Ghost |self-released, 2015| 5/5 electronic/rock/metal

1. Battlecry, 2. Across the Earth, 3. Broken Bones, 4. The Hunter, 5. Premonition, 6. Mistakes, 7. Heterochromia, 8. Give up the Ghost, 9. All Our Weight, 10. Staring at the Sun, 11. Into the Fray, 12. Down, 13. Sharona

It's been 4 years now since The Seas released their debut album, A Separation. The musicians of this American electronic-rock quartet have a special creative bond that has naturally grown throughout those years. This has resulted in putting out another well-thought, arranged and composed album, Give Up The Ghost, offering 13 brand new songs. The music on the new release is mostly guitar driven, but all compositions offer a variety of flavors and contrasts - either tense or uplifting, and always touching.

"Battlecry" opens the album with soft guitars, switching later to a heavier tune. The high-pitched vocals (by Michael Sliter) along with the guitar (by Logan Powell) occupy the foreground, while the bass (by Jeremy Williams) and drums (by Richard Sester) provide a matching fill in the background. The tempo is rather slow and the general feel is that of despair. A prolonged scream and low tuned guitars lead listeners to the song's end.

Give Up The Ghost was thought as a concept album and thus, every song is linked with its immediate neighbors - not technically, but rather based on moods and tempo. Therefore, "Across The Earth" begins with a heavier vibe which, judging by repetitive bass lines and slow drum beats joined by emotional male vocals, is reminiscent of Tool's music. Michael controls his voice very well - his tone and range make The Seas' songs sound very characteristic. On top of that, "Across The Earth" is a memorable, very well written composition with each arrangement in the right spot, but not sacrificing the melody’s freedom.

"Broken Bones" sounds straight up goth from the very beginning thanks to a melancholic guitar tune which once goes low and deep, then reaches up for higher, melodic tones. There are also screams of panicked people, so listeners may imagine some incoming horror. Nevertheless, the entire song sounds more like an intro to a potent sequel rather than an already completed composition. The tension is growing towards the end but never reaches the anticipated apex.

The first notes of "The Hunter" jump in with a refreshing vibe, making it an instantly memorable melody. There are samplers (by Richard Sester) in use as well, which give the arrangements an electronic feel. However, the combination of vocals, guitar, and bass keeps the organic priority here. There's even an interesting synth addition which a receptive ear may associate with Delia Derbyshire's Dr Who main theme. Such placement makes it a neat contrast with the low tuned bass and high-pitched guitar riffs so the execution of this nifty idea can be considered successful. The track's mood is nostalgic and heart-opening to the point that it might make a few more emotional listeners shed a tear or two.

"Premonition" opens with weird, quite disturbing sound effects that may be an attempt at imitating the resonance of telepathic communication or even an alien's messages. This short instrumental track brings a murky and mysterious atmosphere, that could easily be utilized in a thriller movie.

You will love "Mistakes" for its well written, heavy composition, amazing arrangements and professional performance. The song's intro doesn't reveal what's to come but once it develops further, you'll know there's so much to discover with every new bar.

The transition gap between "Mistakes" and "Heterochromia" is virtually inaudible. The latter is both heavy and melancholic. It seems to be written for Michael mostly, letting him present the best of his voice. His vocals are supported by subtle arrangements written for all instruments and combined with samplers. There's also a melodic guitar solo which artfully emphasizes the emotion of the voice track.

If you loved "Mistakes", you will get definitely hooked on the album’s title song as the well. The composition is rich with arrangements, including both organic and electronic sounds. There's nostalgia, mystery and tension. The melodies will carry listeners far away, anchoring their attention with a single bass line. "Give Up The Ghost" crowns the tracklist on the strength of its amazing song writing and skillful performance.

While most of so far songs sounded guitar-oriented, "All Our Weight" brings an electronic addition just in the very beginning. A repetitive, clapped beat, characteristic of pop and hip hop appears next to more elusive guitar tunes, definitely capturing listener attention. It is later replaced by drums which along with affectionate vocals continue the main motif to the end of the song.
And again, the end of the track is swiftly linked to the beginning of "Staring at the Sun". This composition is a return to the sound heard at the opening of the album - the low tuned bass and high-pitched guitars creating memorable melodies. Gazing at the Sun is generally not recommended due to the obvious danger of having your retinas damaged, but listening to this potent song (especially with eyes closed) should please you immensely.

"Into The Fray" is yet another short interval between compositions, akin to "Broken Bones" and "Premonition". Its piano-based instrumental arrangements make it a good fit for a thriller movie, while scary breathing makes eerie food for imagination.

The first tunes of the lyrical yet heavy "Down" should make your heart beat faster through a slightly increased tempo, like in "The Hunter". The vocals are high and charged at times, later giving instrumental arrangements enough space to grow. If you listen closely, you'll notice both magic and technology present in the song. The drum beats are irregular but matched within the composition very well. The bass lines sound solid and the guitar doesn't jump before vocals. Yet another song to enjoy Michael's voice.

It's time for a cover now. The original, rock'n'roll version of "Sharona" was released by The Knack in 1979. The evergreen hit song has been covered by several other artists throughout the last three decades. The Seas had taken their shot at it as well. The tune’s atmosphere feels slow and weary at first, quite surprisingly if you consider the original source. One could tell The Seas have been inspired by Nine Inch Nails' newer songs and Reznor's method of singing, specifically when Michael sings "never gonna stop, give it up". The arrangements gradually open up and grow to the point of expressing peril, supported by very heavy, pleasantly entwined and graded guitar riffs. The cover's finishing guitar sound imitates a motorbike’s engine, in accordance with the lyrics.
It definitely has the heaviest guitars on the album and certainly speaks for the band's creative potential. If the next album is going to be this massive, it should be greeted with applause.

Sensitive listeners may identify with all the difficult theme present throughout the album - spiritual development towards original purity, strength, and balance within. Songs on Give Up The Ghost speak of accepting change as a means of progress, defying fear and negativity, separating the truth from the lies, stereotypes and imposed dogmas, then finding one's place and fulfillment in the Universe. In addition, the diversity deeply entrenched within The Seas' work make their songs feel as if they were much shorter than they actually are. Four or six minutes pass by so quickly that listeners, captivated by the sound, may take a while to realize that another song is already on. If you've enjoyed the band’s first album (A Separation) or if you love Tool and similar bands but are looking for something fresher, make sure you buy Give Up The Ghost and support the band.

(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Music Magazine, September 29th, 2015. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)

Interview with The Seas

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Buy this album: iTunes | Bandcamp | CD: CD version

Reviewed by Fabryka Music Magazine

10 September, 2015

Cerakai - I Feel

Cerakai - I Feel (song review) |self-released, 2015| 4/5 rock/punk

If you're looking for an extremely memorable track here's one which is pretty short and has massive hit potential. "I Feel" talks about the importance of understanding the world around you with your heart and soul, not just with cold logic, as expressed in the lyrics: "We believe only what our eyes can see / We don't believe how to feel no more". The downside of an industrialized society is that when someone turns out to be sensitive and uses their feelings rather than the brain or acquired skills, the less empathetic but ego-driven people unfairly judge such an individual as 'weak'. Though, said empaths are a step further - feelings help humans connect with nature, since they come from it, and this link had never ceased to exist. When we go to a forest, we first feel its energy, then our brains recognize colors and sounds, yet all these are frequencies. The living Earth feels our actions, not just physically, but on an energetic level too, thus we must care for this meaningful relationship.

UK based Cerakai's "I Feel" addresses this subject through feisty, dynamic arrangements and an emotional performance. The track opener already gives listeners a taste of the chorus. The rebellious rocking mood turns subtle when the first fire is put out. Technically, the shift between verse and chorus is extremely well synchronized. The verse arrangement is reminiscent of 80s Punk, and New Wave judging by the melodic guitars and recognizable, slightly melancholic vocals.
Cerakai knows well how to serve tension by changing the tempo. Here, it also includes a mix of vocals and a random drum beat, both of which intensify during intersections between verses and the chorus. The voice then turns into a temperamental scream while the instrumental arrangements continue, joined by bass and guitar.

With such a track, Cerakai may reach out to Greenpeace or any other legal ecological organization about its placement on a various artists compilation album (in case they have another musical project to be announced). Undoubtedly, "I Feel" will be a perfect match, with its intense, rebellious vibe and the main theme referring to humanity's increasing ignorance towards its natural environment. It's enough to mention that the pushy industrial society hasn't yet developed any affordable and successful ways to let the entire population escape Earth in case of a global, man-made catastrophe. Hopefully, "I Feel" will raise the awareness of its subject matter among music fans.

(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, Fabryka Music Magazine, August 31st, 2015. Proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński)