Synth Spotlight: Vampire Step-Dad

0005214567_10Today is Father’s Day and I therefore thought that now would be as great a time as any to shine the ol’ Synth Spotlight on everyone’s favorite supernatural surrogate patriarch: Vampire-Step Dad!

I already reviewed his latest and greatest release, “Love Bites,” which again is amazing but when you reach a certain age you just have to ask your father the really tough and awkward questions, like why is “My Biological Father a Werewolf“?

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Gloom Influx: First LP

a1686032119_10The “First LP” by Gloom Influx is, simply put, pure unadulterated and infectious high energy from start to finish. With an impressive range of synth work, shredding guitars, hard driving chiptunes, and blast processing beats this release is one that you cannot miss and, for my money, is already a contender for one of the best releases this year. Also, how amazing is that artwork by SWZ? Vinyl worthy! *hint*

The first track, Entropy, kicks things off with some subdued sound before ramping up into overdrive like a spaceship passing through the atmosphere. This song has it all with both synths and guitar in a duel for supremacy before being silenced by a nice breakdown featuring some sultry sax-like sounds.

Transient features some of that hard driving chiptuning that I mentioned earlier, which reminded me a bit of Master Boot Record, and here it’s used as a nice backing complementary to the overarching beat of the song by helping to give it a nice edge. Afterminage, in comparison to the songs that have come before it at this point in the album, is a much more relaxed and chill affair for the most part but it still manages to ramp up the difficulty on the beats at just the right moments. Obsidiane is simply an epic track, featuring choir-like vocals, an up and down range of emotions hitting you with dreamy synth work complimented by the more hard hitting guitar. It’s an all around delight.

Anodizer ramps the intensity back up, assaulting your senses with more of that chiptune goodness, and helps give you that real feeling of being able to overcome the odds and accomplish anything; like the kind of music that would play over an intense boss fight. Of course, like any boss fight, once it’s over you’re happy to find that next Checkpoint and the song of the same name on this album also has that ability to fill you up with an equal sense of exuberant relief; Continue?

Yes, with Aeons, which slows things down a little bit by providing a more haunting and cryptic sound but keeping it heavy all the same throughout. Plus, those choir-like vocals make a comeback too, which again not only gives it an epic feel but at points can send a shiver up and down your spine. Metropolis, the last track on the album, is in a way a more technological affair than most of the other songs; it has this way about it which is very reminiscent of Snatcher.

Gloom Influx - First LP - album-backcoverOverall, the “First LP” from Gloom Influx is an incredible ride, and I implore you to pick it up today as well as their “First EP” because they are both extremely well put together and polished releases. As I said before, this is easily in early considerations for one of the best albums out so far this year, and I am already waiting in anticipation for the “Next EP” or “Next LP” to come out in the future!

Magic Dance: Vanishings

a2535849606_10This is one release that I have been wanting to highlight for some time now because I feel it’s a great example of just how many different types of acts there are out there in the synthwave, retrowave, and other genres influenced by the 1980’s.

Also, at least for me, it’s another prime candidate to point to when the debate about vocals is brought up. To me, I can go either way, but always make it a point to acknowledge just how amazing some vocalists out there really are and Magic Dance knocks it out of the park.

Now, before talking about the music any further, I just want to point out the amazing cover art done by Nick Taylor. Like something straight out of Fright Night, this visage of an old house in the suburbs illuminated in the night by a full moon just oozes a dark and foreboding presence, especially with that mysterious figure in the window. Of course, looks can be deceiving.

For stepping inside unleashes upon your ears not anything so dark and sinister but quite the opposite, in fact, as you discover one of the most surprising and rewarding pop rock albums to come out in some time. While these songs were certainly influenced by the 1980’s, they also could have been released in the same decade, finding homes on a number of movie and television soundtracks.

For example, “Another Lost Boy” would have certainly worked well in the movie of the same name, whereas “I Wanna Know” (my favorite track on the album) would have been amazing in a John Hughes film, and “Still Haunting Me” could have worked well in a certain movie about ghosts. All of these songs, and the rest on the album, are so tightly written with catchy hooks, memorable lyrics that you can sing along to, and with top notch production they are therefore just plain fun. So do yourself a favor, if you haven’t yet, and enjoy some Magic Dance!

State of the Site Address

When I started Watermelon Banzai not even a little over two months ago I had but one goal in mind and that was, simply put, to support the synthwave scene. Through my reviews, interviews, and features I think that I have accomplished just that and more in such a short amount of time. I have networked, made friends, discovered acts and helped get them noticed, seen my readership, viewer count, and social media presence continue to grow to which I say to all of that: thank you.

If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be writing this right now, and you wouldn’t be reading it, because as much as the initial goal for this site was to support the synthwave scene it is amazing just how much support I have received back from them and others in turn. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for a select few who encouraged me and pushed me over that proverbial edge, I would have never even started out on this path. Yet the support never ended there at the starting line, as it continues to this very day, and therefore I wanted to take this time to make a very special announcement.

I was recently contacted by another music oriented website, Heavy Blog is Heavy, about joining their staff in order to write a monthly column that will highlight the synthwave scene for their readers. To say I was surprised, honored, and all sorts of other whirlwind emotions is an understatement. I am not usually one to be at a loss for words, but the fact that they enjoyed my work so much and saw fit to extend an offer such as this left me utterly speechless.

Thankfully, after about a day to take it all in, I did eventually find my words and accepted.

So, what does this mean for Watermelon Banzai? Nothing, really, as I plan to continue operations around here pretty much as normal but will now just have one additional avenue for doing what I’ve loved doing since I started: supporting the synthwave scene.

Now, as I keep alluding to throughout this poor attempt at a “press release,” I never got into this for personal gain but feel it’s important to acknowledge it when it happens and it never would have happened without your support. Therefore I will also never take that for granted, this is my promise to you, and I look forward to starting this next chapter in my adventure together with all of you very soon.

Again, and always, I thank you.

– Nikolai T. Nelson

Greyskull: Eighties Kids

a0296667320_10As I mentioned in my day one recap of the Human Music Festival, before even entering the building I randomly bumped into Greyskull, which was amazing as much as it was unfortunate. What I mean by this is that, by such an act of happenstance, Greyskull officially became the first synthwave producer that I’ve ever met in person.

Unfortunately, due to the randomness of our encounter, I was woefully unprepared to capitalize on the moment and let it slip through my fingers. While we would later swap words on Twitter during the show, I felt as though this long overdue review is partly my way of saying sorry and that next year, at the 2018 Human Music Festival, I hope that we can reconnect for real as I also hopefully watch him get to play on stage!

It was a shame he couldn’t do so this year, because he absolutely deserves the opportunity, especially with such a fantastic album as “Eighties Kids” on his musical resume. The album as a whole is like the soundtrack to one’s youth, not simply thanks to the title of each song, but particularly in the emotions that each track manages to encapsulate about one’s more carefree and innocent days:

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Synth Spotlight: DREDDD

0010374517_10I am convinced that DREDDD is a machine of some sort, perhaps a half-man/half-synth hybrid, built in a lab deep underneath Mega City One. I say this because, not just a couple months ago, I reviewed his first album entitled “I Am DREDDD” which was quite the pulse-pounding and adrenaline-pumping debut. In that time he has since released three more albums, a single for Alien Day, a sampler of his work in partnership with Echosynthetic, has a Versus album with FacexHugger due out soon, and a live show is on the horizon. While we sleep… he synths.

Seriously though, on a personal level, I feel both proud of his accomplishments after first being highlighted on my site and ashamed of myself in not doing more to cover him since then. Regardless, consider this spotlight less an excuse for me to try and catch up with DREDDD and more to help bring you up to speed with what he has to offer before the big fight, because there’s no chance in hell that I’m going to miss out on covering that Versus album with FacexHugger.

As mentioned before, I already reviewed his first album “I Am DREDDD,” so let’s begin our spotlight with his second which is simply entitled “EP2.” Now, I won’t go through each and every song, rather I’ll just run down some of the highlights.

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Unholy Rat King: Wine Into Blood (Review and Interview)

a0144397714_10There is an infection spreading across this neon soaked landscape, covering it in a darkwave sludge that is oozing straight out of the sewer, and this #SynthPlague has completely consumed Watermelon Banzai today with the release of Unholy Rat King‘s “Wine Into Blood.”

It’s raw, it’s gritty, and although it’s coming was foretold in the unholy scriptures (a wonderfully written blog that explains it’s backstory), ultimately nothing could have prepared you for the auditory assault that would ensue upon its outbreak.

The first track, “Fallen from the Pure of Faith,” is like a psychedelic signal of impending doom. It pulsates, fluctuates, inching ever so closer towards its next victim; the darkness attempts to envelop your brain.  It tries to completely take hold in “Proselytized,” and though you try to resist, in the end you can feel the #SynthPlague being to cloud your mind and every thought.

As you enter “The Sacristy,” you feel the sounds of the old world are quickly drowned out, replaced by the haunting melodies of your new reality; you are now officially one with the #SynthPlague. As the newly crowned “Harbinger,” yourself now a plaguebearer, you feel the desire, privilege, and honor to convert more to the cause of the Unholy Rat King; no matter the cost to your own soul.

And it ultimately comes to that because, try as hard as you might, your attempts at forceful persuasion are met with equal force that overwhelm you; you’ve become a “Supplicant Sacrifice” as you hear the church bells ring in time with your last dying breaths. As your soul spirals through the darkness, taking a “Shortcut Through Hell,” that familiar pulsating sound of uneasiness returns… followed by something all too reminiscent of chiptunes? Was it all just a game?

Perhaps you better play it all over again to make sure… but not before pressing start on the remix to one of Unholy Rat King’s earlier songs, “Activation Sequence,” masterfully crafted by FacexHugger. Overall, this is an infectious release from the Unholy Rat King, who has put together an impressive collection of dark and heavy synth work. This might be his first extended sermon, but the hymns contained within still hit you hard and leave a lasting impression, showing that the King of Rats knows how to put you under his spell.

If you have yet to pick this release up, I suggest that you do so now, for these is no escaping the #SynthPlague! I enjoyed this release so much myself that, not only did I preorder the album, but I also asked his Unholiness to sit down with me for an interview of which he so graciously accepted below…

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Ethereal Delusions: Wingman (Feat. Noah Bernstein)

a2323524224_10The #SummerofSynth kicks off strong with a hot new single straight off of Ethereal Delusion‘s upcoming album “Summer Haze,” which is due out on August 1st, but he’s not alone on this one! Much like the title itself, he’s got a Wingman in the form of Noah Bernstein, who absolutely tears it up on this track with his sexy saxophone skills.

The sounds in this song just conjure up images of them both riding along the beach in a suped-up sports car, like a rather infamous crime fighting buddy cop duo from the 1980’s, with the sun setting and giving way to the neon soaked night as they cruise for danger.

They find it on the B-Side, “Outrun the Dark (2017 Edit),” an updated version to a song of the same name from Ethereal Delusion’s “EP1.” I always enjoy when a producer goes back into their catalogue and updates a track, it really shows their progression as an artist, and Ethereal Delusions continues to show off his talent and skills not only with this updated version but with Wingman as well. If this is but a taste of what we can expect come August 1st, I have no doubt that we’re all in for a treat, because passionate producing such as this can’t be stopped.

Also, there’s a music video, which you can check out below!