Album Review: Nihiling – Batteri

Nihiling Batteri cover

Are you the type of person who believes in the album as a whole? Do you listen to music on shuffle and make playlists from the singles, or listen to entire albums as the artists intended it?

The reason I ask is because for the past few weeks I’ve been listening to Nihiling’s new album Batteri out of sequence. When I downloaded the album the tracks arranged in alphabetical order, and not according to designated track listing, and I feel that somehow I’ve ruined the listening experience.

Not that the experience is bad by any means. But I’ve had to reflect on whether listening to the correct track ordering enhances the album listening experience, or if the tracks need be good enough to stand on their own.

I was taken by “Cellardoor”, the first track I listened to. For first impressions, it certainly had me intrigued. It begins with clicking noises (someone playing the spoons?), and drawn out cello notes. As this progresses the music grows more complex, with multiple poly rhythms that don’t fit work in well together. Despite this, it works. I found myself thinking back to Biffy Clyro’s “Living Is A Problem…”. seeing as both tracks are odd, but undeniably technically proficient.

The real first track of the album, “Ottersong” commences with a minimalist beat and singing that reminds me of Bedouin Soundclash’s Jay Malinowski. Slowly other elements come into the foray – toms and tambourines, more singers, weird glitches. Everyone has their chance to shine, with no shortage of talent fond.The guitars are especially great later in the piece , transitioning from effect laden underwater sounds to searing solos.

But like I said, there is no shortage of talent here. As biased as I am, I find the drums outstanding throughout the album – Rhythmically hypnotizing and dynamically diverse. Not to mention the singing. I’m a sucker for good vocal harmonies and Batteri offers this in spades.

But if you want my recommendation for the first track to start on, try “Power Rangers”. THIS. TRACK. RULES. Honestly, even if my review isn’t going to sell you on the album, at least take the time to listen to this one song. I’ve embedded it in the review here for convenience. The song has two  sublime elements: groove and harmonies. Just give it a listen. Please.

That’s another thing that threw me – the singing is incredible. .Not only was I listening to this album with the songs in the wrong order, but I went in with incorrect assumptions. The press release called it post-rock, but the best songs don’t fit within this description.

I’d class Batteri as eclectic math-rock. As a general rule, the post-rock genre lacks singing. Whereas Nihiling give us layered vocal harmonies to die for. Odd indie Glitches and effects. You can call it post-rock if you must, because I can’t think of any accurate genre classification.

Upon listening to the band’s earlier releases I can understand the post-rock label better. But the band have evolved and embarked into new territory with Batteri. The first half of the album offers experimental prog-rock, and the latter half gives us the post-rock that was advertised.

“Rope” lurks into trip-hop territory. I’ll give the band kudos for atmospherics. Despite the simplicity of it, there is an off-vibe permeating the track, slowly becoming more unhinged as it progresses. The messiness worsens when a chaotic programmed synth à la The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” comes into play towards the end of the song.

“Idiot” goes heavier, with doomy sludge metal that loses intensity half way through, only to be replaced by a snare drum tattoo and less saturated guitar tones.

I highly recommend that you give Batteri a listen. If you do, you’ll hear brilliant musicianship, interesting experimental sounds, great groove, mathy dynamics and vocal harmonies to die for. The first half of the album stands stronger than the reserved post-rock of the second half, but don’t let that stop you checking out this stunning release.


Nihiling’s fourth album Batteri came out on Kapitän Platte on May 5, 2017.

Nihiling links:

Joseph James

Live Review and Photo Gallery: Caligula’s Horse at Valhalla, Wellington

Caligula's Horse Valhalla Wellington

Caligula’s Horse

w/ Clæmus and ELIM

Valhalla, Wellington

Wednesday 1 February

Sadly I missed ELIM’s set, but was able to catch the other support act, Clæmus, who proved themselves a great choice to open for Brisbane prog-rockers Caligula’s Horse. Clæmus have a similar progressive sound, and plenty of energy to bring their set to life. It’s amazing how such talented locals keep coming out of the woodwork. Where do they keep hiding? Anyway, now that I’ve discovered them I’ll be sure to attend more gigs that they play.

This was a last-minute show, announced mere weeks before the event. Caligula’s Horse were due to come to NZ for the first time to support Opeth at their gig in Auckland, and seemingly decided to add a Wellington date the night beforehand, much to our pleasure.

The lads in Caligula’s Horse were buzzing to see such a turnout. And it wasn’t bad, but it was hardly packed either. It was however, a case of quality over quantity. Valhalla wasn’t filled to the brim, but the fans who had shown up were diehards, many of whom sang all along to all the words, much to singer Jim Grey’s delight.

I think Caligula’s Horse strike a great balance. They described their own music as “prog-wank”, but I disagree.Sure, the songs are long, and have noodly solos, but they don’t venture into boring territory like some other prog-rock bands. The solos are interesting, the music makes you want to move, and the vocals are on point.

I’m writing this a few days late, having been out-of-town yesterday for the Opeth gig. So with hindsight on my side, I can safely say that it was worth seeing Caligula’s Horse play at Valhalla. OK, it was worth it regardless, but the Valhalla set was far better than the set that they played opening for Opeth in Auckland. This is not to say that the band played badly in Auckland, but there are only so many songs you can fit into a half hour set when you play prog-rock. A band of this calibre deserves more than 30 minutes to show off their talents on stage. This headlining show gave provided us Wellingtonians the opportunity to see Caligula’s Horse let loose at their peak, and not constrained into a supporting slot.

Something I loved was seeing guitarist Sam Vallen’s grandmother positioned just in front of the stage filming her grandson’s band on her smart phone. I wouldn’t usually expect to see that generation at a gig, let alone at a metal bar late on a Wednesday night! It certainly brought a grin to my face to see a grandmother so proud of her grandson.

It was an absolute pleasure watching the band play, drawing from a music new and old. Half way through their set, my mate turned to me and said “I think that this is the best band I’ve seen play at Valhalla!” I thought about it for a minute, and I agree. Caligula’s Horse are a band worth seeing, and I am happy that we saw them play their own unbridled set as well as an opening set for Opeth the following night.









Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Opeth at The Auckland Powerstation

Opeth Sorceress Auckland Poster

Opeth – Sorceress World Tour

w/ Caligula’s Horse

Powerstation, Auckland

Thursday 2 February 2017

It has been 11 years and 3 studio releases since Opeth last played a show in New Zealand. And from the excitement outside Auckland’s Powerstation, we can definitely assume that they are long overdue.

19:00 The line outside stretched well over 100 meters as we came waltzing up to the gig, prompting a quick detour to Galbraith’s pub across the road for a pint. Once inside we were hit by a strong wave of B.O courtesy of the black t-shirt brigade. High spirits and freshly poured beer in hand helped to focus our remaining senses. We did, however, move outside just in case, meeting up with many well socially lubricated excited fans with tales of sold out shows and the hunt for extra tickets.

20:00 Doors open and the black sea crashes through the gates. Once inside, the merch booth is already pumping out t-shirts. Its only competition is the beer flowing from glass bottles and into plastic cups. One gladly partakes.

Caligula's Horse Valhalla Wellington

Caligula’s Horse: Beckoning the Crowd

Caligula’s Horse

Having seen them just one day prior at Wellington’s Valhalla, I was keen to see what Brisbane Prog-rockers Caligula’s Horse could bring to a larger venue. Playing with a true sense of passion executed with precision, their Brisbane sound translates well to a house packed with Kiwi metal heads. Soaring vocals and blazing yet nuanced dueling guitars showed Caligula’s Horse’s professionalism and judging from the crowd’s reaction they will most certainly be welcomed back to our shores.

Too much of the creature made us lose track of time but the short break after Caligula’s Horse four song set sent us one more time back to the bar rubbing shoulders with the ever-increasing sea of people. I managed to secure a great spot right next to the sound desk ensuring that I would make the most of the acoustics of the venue. And it provided easy access to the bar. Standing in the crowd empty-handed just did not feel right.

Opeth Sorceress World Tour Powerstation Auckland

From Darkness comes Light


Opeth walked onto the darkened stage greeted by the deafening cheer of the crowd. Crimson and silver lights flashed. Little dampened the sound of the audience as Opeth ripped into the title track off their latest release, “Sorceress”.

The well-rehearsed set is filled with a mix of old and new continuing with “Ghost of Perdition” – a personal favourite of mine – before moving on with “The Wild Flowers” (also from their latest release). Not a band famous for an overly energetic performance, the set is highlighted with Mikael’s dry humour, often followed by sensible chuckles from the rest of the band and audience alike. A well-balanced sound is at points dressed up with some silky smooth lead guitar tones (Frederik is unmatched for the night).

Opeth Sorceress World Tour Powerstation Auckland

Frederik is ripping it up!

The one low point of the night came when it was time for Mikael to announce their last song for the evening. A large portion of the crowd started to boo but was quickly turned into a cheer when they were told that it was bad form. The set ended as it quite often does with a perfectly performed rendition of the song “Deliverance” from the album of the same name.

All in all a fantastic night was had by all. Our night ended on Auckland’s Queen Street, where we were treated to a show by a 17-year-old male who was taking a joy ride in a forklift that he had stolen. We filmed this young man and sent a video through to stuff which can be viewed here.

Words by Mathias Hallberg.

Photos by Joseph James

Album Review: Klone – Unplugged (Live Acoustic Album)

Klone Unplugged Album Cover

Hailing from France, Klone are a prog rock band signed with Pelagic-records. They have released an acoustic album Unplugged, acting as a pseudo greatest-hits. Sourced from their previous two albums, the songs stripped bare and performed acoustically take on a new life. Throw in a fantastic Depeche Mode cover of “People are People” and you have a curious proposition.

The songs were recorded live at Théâtre de La Coupe d’Or, with two exceptions recorded in the studio. They offer an opportunity to hear musicians with nowhere to hide.

I’d not heard Klone before writing this review, now based on the singer’s voice alone I want to hear more. This is not the first time a rock artist has taken their music and stripped away the bells and whistles to leave the pure songwriting on display.

The first artist that springs to mind for me is Alice in Chains with their infamous Live on MTV album and video. It shows a band ravaged by drug abuse, yet still capable of incredible art. The songs usually associated with distorted guitars and walls of noise become more delicate and nuanced and take on a new life.

Wow. That cover of “People are People” is good.

The stock footage video that they’ve cobbled together fits well with the musical content. Depeche Mode seem to be a consistent thread amongst bands that I like. One of those hidden influences woven into sounds of music that has taken the next step down that sonic road. From In Flames covering “Everything Counts”; Mike Shinoda‘s (Linkin Park) excellent remix of “Enjoy the Silence”; A Perfect Circle‘s and now Klone‘s cover of “People are People”. Each version demonstrates what people take from the band and how they honour it in their own style. Those covers listed above are so vastly different, yet they all honour the same band. It’s brilliant.

If there is one thing I could criticise about this release, is the lack of backing vocals. As powerful and beautiful as the singer’s voice is – it’s hard not to imagine it being better with harmonies or other voices to play off. I’m not expecting The Beach Boys levels of vocal harmonies, but something to add another dimension to what is a very solid vocal performance.

The musicianship receives top marks, there is nothing that stands out as distracting from the song. Not having heard Klone in “Rock mode” I’m now curious how the songs will translate. No doubt for fans of the band they will have the same nerves about hearing their favourite tracks done acoustically.

Well worth a listen, it’s a great low-key soundtrack for a weekend.

Klone Unplugged Review Promo Pic

Klone’s new album Unplugged is due out on Pelagic Records on February 17 2017


This review was originally posted by Murray Stace at his site Relative Silence

Album Review: Shaman Elephant – Crystals

Shaman Elephant Crystals

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but just one look at the album art of Shaman Elephant’s Crystals should give you a fair indication of what kind of music you’ll find within.

The rollicking grooves in the title track had me head banging within the first few minutes of listening. Glorious, glorious riffing! Shaman Elephant are here to rock! Just listen to it. Outstanding. Vocalist Eirik Sejersted Vognstølen has a very 70’s throwback style of singing that reminds me of Wolfmother at times. Not that I’m calling Shaman Elephant clichéd, but it is fairly obvious where their influences lie. The keyboards are welcome – something that I don’t hear much of within the confines of my usual listening tastes – and the fuzzy guitars are brilliant – taking me back to the haze of seeing guitarists like Slash and Gary Clark Jr in concert.

“Shaman in the Woods” – centered around a busy riff that lasts the full bar – is very pretty, but bores compared to the more urgent “I.A.B”, which has a delightfully filthy bass tone, distorted guitars and wild singing. The song is saturated in effects that add vibrant texture. I want more of this driven Deep Purple feel!

“Tusco” is an instrumental track, sensitively based around introspective jazz playing on the keys. The song slowly gains momentum as guitar and drums cautiously enter the conversation and lightly dance around. Ironically, following track “The Jazz”, isn’t nearly as jazzy, but in fact feels very sludgy, bordering on doom-metal at times. Great tracks, both.

At 12.33 minutes, “Stoned Conceptions” wraps up this album stunningly. At times plodding along lazily, and then suddenly letting loose – full noise. It coaxes you into a lulled state before wailing into your faces with the fury of a hurricane.

Crystals is a sprawling, epic mess that comes together magically. Prog-rock is often convoluted by nature. In this case the psychedelic overtones add even more confusion to the mix. But what a glorious mix it is! Somehow, we have both extreme variety and cohesiveness all in one. If you want a great Woodstock-era throwback then make Shaman Elephant your next port of call.

shaman elephant Crystals

Shaman Elephant links:


20 Years On: Tool – Ænima

Tool Aenima album cover holographic

When I lived at home my family used to throw the best barbecues over summer. We had a big two-story villa with a generous backyard to match. Our parents would decide on a date and then we would invite all our friends. There would be kids swinging on the climbing frame and kicking balls at their parents, young children tormenting our dog, the blokes would stand ‘round the BBQ talking crap and the ladies would sit around in deck chairs catching up on the latest gossip and telling embarrassing stories about their children. The wheelbarrows were full of ice and there was any drink you could care to name. And more sausages, chops, steaks, salads, chips and dips than anyone could handle.

And the music. That was usually my highlight. When I was 17, my Dad and I built a stage on our roof to host some live bands. As you can imagine, I thought it was pretty damn cool to say that my band headlined a gig atop the roof of my house. We were told that the music was loud enough that it disrupted Saturday evening mass at the local church a block away. But for the sake of this story, I’m going to move on from the live bands to focus on our stereo that provided the music for most of the other barbecues.

This stereo was the stuff of legends. My mum had owned it since well before I was born and it has always made me wonder about her past. How did my gentle mother, the social worker who runs the women’s church group and does sewing in her spare time, come to acquire such a kickass stereo? And, to make it even more intriguing, we discovered some old Kiss and Led Zepplin cassettes that belonged to her. Anyway, regardless of my mother’s questionable history, that stereo pumped out some serious volume.

Dad had a worker called Tony at the time. He had been a lithographer before he decided to switch to building and he’d also had a background in the military. He was a Wellington bogan from way back who had been there when Shihad and Head Like a Hole were starting out. I always liked Tony. He treated me with respect and had taken it upon himself to educate me in the way of music. I used to help out on the construction sites during school holidays and Tony controlled the worksite radio. For the most part we listened to The Rock, but sometimes Tony would put on Solid Gold to mix it up, much to our horror. Every time a song would play Tony would quiz me about the band name and song title, and would feed me bits of trivia about the band.

So when we had our barbecues Tony always came. He would bring his little chilly bin containing bottles of vodka and mixers, and a supermarket bag full of CDs. He would control the party playlist, handing me a CD and telling me to put in on. Often he would say “Hey Joseph, you may want to skip this track – it’s a bit rude!” I remember him selecting Shihad, Rolling Stones, HLAH (Tony loved HLAH. It was a few years before I made the connection that HLAH and Head Like a Hole were one in the same.) And Tool.

Tool really stuck in my mind. Tony asked my dad if he could show me the CD cover for Ænima and then did so once he’d obtained permission. The artwork was really cool for the album. The images moved when seen from different angles. There was the box with the flames around it that flickered at different angles and the “third eye” with the two pupils that move. Under the disc was an image of the California coast disappearing into the sea. But the image that stuck in my head was a contortionist doing naughty things to himself. If you ever want to capture the imagination of a teenage boy showing him something like that is certainly one way to do it.

Fast forward a few months and I’m browsing through the albums at the local CD store, Everyman Records. Then I see it, that same Tool album, with the lenticular jewel case. Oh man! I bought it straight away and went home to listen to it. At the time I didn’t know how twisted the lyrics were for most of the songs, but I did know that I didn’t want my parents finding out that I owned the album.

They obviously found out soon enough. It’s not like I was subtle showing my newfound love for the band. My best friend Tom and I both bought matching “third eye” tshirts, much to both of our mothers disgust. And looking back, I can see why they weren’t too keen on their children listening to songs with titles like “Hooker With A Penis”…

But appropriate or not (OK, there’s no room for argument here – it’s definitely inappropriate), there was undeniable talent that went into the production of this album. Like 10,000 Days, and Lateralus – two albums that we also discovered soon after – the artwork and packaging was pretty awesome. I struggle to think of many other albums that impress me as much as the lenticular Ænima case, or the stereoscopic 10,000 Days case.

And the music was right up our alley. We were angsty teenagers wanting to rebel against the world with no reason to justify those feelings. What better way to showcase our misplaced emotions than to listen to subversive music like Tool? And we were in total awe of the musicianship that went into that album. The odd time signatures, the amazing tones, the monstrous drumming, the subtle layering. Maynard’s hypnotic singing, along with the whispers and screams and howls.

And the sheer weirdness of it all. Those filler tracks are so odd… The circus organ interlude, the recording of a needle skipping on a CD, the static and the baby cries, the cookie recipe made to sound like a Nazi rally… It added a twisted element of intrigue and humour to it all. It’s intellegent art-rock that outright snobs it’s listeners. System of a Down was the only other band I can think of that we were listening to at the time that made a  deliberate point of being so unusual.

It’s now been 20 years since Ænima was released. I’ve seen Tool play live twice (Big Day Out 2011, and Vector Arena 2013), and am among the devoted fan base who cling onto hope for another Tool album. It’s been a decade since their last, and although the rumours arise every year, we still cross or fingers and think: this year may be the one!

Until then I’ll can live with the six releases that the band has already given us.


Joseph James