The Last Element is Undoubtedly Dynamic

“I hear your voice, it’s calling out my name, I had no choice, I watched you slip away from me.”
-The Last Element, “My Heart Became Your Home”

No matter the genre, a general love for music is vital for success. Achievement, however, is relative, and when a group can come together and exert the same passion as the next member, it will show in their final product. The men in The Last Element have exemplified their desire for music.

“I call it home again because my heart has been exposed.”

The alternative quintet formed in Amsterdam in 2016. Each member of The Last Element had experience in the rock world, touring and playing shows with other acts. With the combination of industry knowledge and musical love, the group banded together to form their own signature sound, and has created an organic following while doing it independently.

Guitarist Nick Polman simply stated, “The love for music is what brought us together.”

That dedication is surprisingly difficult to sustain in the music world because of false expectation and immaturity. The Last Element is made up of vocalist Jasper Roelofsen, guitarists Noah Grim and Polman, bassist Jan Bijlsma and drummer Robert Spaninks. The five have committed to making better music no matter where it takes them, which is refreshing.

“It’s not exactly about the prospect of being able to retire to your own private island in the Pacific for any band making modern metal these days. Few are able to make a living from it. But hey, you’re a musician and you have this terribly romantic idea of being in a band, touring and playing to audiences around the globe. Unless you gave it a proper try and pushed aside everything to where you want to be, you’re not entitled to give up.”

Not only does devotion advance an artist, so does honesty. That doesn’t mean The Last Element are content, though. They’re learning and growing tremendously.

“I created my own hell, I hate it, but I’m still stayin’.

With an endless supply of influence, The Last Element has definitely found a place in the modern rock and metal world. As discussed in previous articles, acts are currently revisiting the roots of modern metal and the emo-alternative scene of the early-2000s—which span the greater part of this century’s first decade. It’s a fantastic era of rock and metal, and The Last Element is pulling from the time but keeping their sound unique and fresh.

One of the major features the band uses is soundscapes. There’s synth, and then there’s fitting synth appropriately with the aura and emotions of a track. The Last Element is able to master this technique with each song which is impressive.

Polman explained, “We all have certain preferences or elements we’d like to hear back in our songs and, of course, along with that boundary, also shift towards what’s current these days. We feel that we are stronger when we’re together and click like pieces of a puzzle forming the bigger picture.”

On first listen, especially with their latest release, there are notes of Nonpoint and Taproot. There are other influences present, such as Breaking Benjamin and Anberlin. If I may go a little hipster here, I believe The Chuck Shaffer Picture Show is present as well. The Last Element is able to mix fast-paced distortion with backing synth and a combination of vocal tone and tempo. For listeners outside of the genre, screaming can be quite eloquent if done correctly.  

The Last Element doesn’t drift from their sound; they know what they have and don’t need to be entirely experimental. Sometimes changing a genre isn’t a good thing and it leads to the delusional confidence in the ability of an artist, which eventually hinders their progression. This band, however, is dedicated to the process and their craft.

With normal approaching, or whatever normal may become, The Last Element is excited to share their music live. In the meantime, they have been perfecting their sound, almost obsessively, and they have remained consistent. The proof? Having over a million streams. Not bad.

“Now you follow me just to watch me bleed.”

The Last Element has released a slew of singles the last five years. In 2016, they debuted with the song “Broken.” This track right away shows their modern rock and alternative roots. Though the structure is slightly choppy during transitions, it’s a solid song. The same year, they put out “Lost” and their sound begins to develop. They still have the heavy riffs and drumbeat, but the synth is more apparent at the beginning and Roelofsen’s transitions flow better. It also displays the band’s rhythmic ability.

The following year, the band released four more tracks. “Gravity” brings in that emo element and listeners can hear the structural progression. The composition changes; there seems to be more theory involved with how chords are broken up and arpeggios are used. “Dreamweavers” adds another shift in cadence and vocal tone. Roelofsen begins to show his range and utilize different elements of his voice throughout the song. Then with “Hollow” we have what is always needed: balance. Musically, the band shows they are capable of capturing a mood, especially during the intro which also is used in stages of the verse. It’s not a soft, acoustic track, but the sound meshes with the lyrics and emotion well. “My Heart Became Your Home” is the song of 2017 for the band, and is one of their best to date. Ballads always catch the attention of listeners, and this song fits in with some of the best painful emo love-themed songs on the radio.

In 2018, the band only released one song, “Not All Said and Done,” and it was a tad underwhelming, but not because it’s a bad track. If anything, it’s crisper in production, but it didn’t seem to advance the band’s sound. The first two years there was obvious progression.

Then, in 2019, The Last Element wrote their best song. Right from the beginning of “My Own Hell,” it was a hit, and there is no doubt about it. When a rock song is that loud, that rhythmic and that catchy, both musically and lyrically, a listener knows within in seconds. “Forget About The Sun” and “Damaged” both show how hard the band worked on perfecting the theoretical and structural parts of composition. Everything is smoother, everything blends well.

Last year, the band released four tracks. “Stuck In My Head” and “Ocean Floor” are continuations of their 2017 emo sound and then “Blood Diamond” and “The Devil” goes back a little further with their more powerful riffs, bass and drums. However, just like they band has proven they can evolve, Roelofsen’s lyrics similarly grow, becoming deeper and more complex. This is what good bands do.

The Last Element’s latest release, “Cut It Off” debuted this year. If we track back their progression, or their evolution, if you will, this track can be considered a final draft. It’s a solid rock song that can be on the radio and was composed by a very seasoned band. The vocal bridge could remind rockers of “Runaway Train” by Oleander—which is good a thing—except The Last Element truly comes into their own emotions and sound. It will only get better for the band from here.

Polman and the band view their music as they do life. “It’s an ongoing process that will only stop as soon as you take your final breath, a process you try to get a grip on and if you take the occasion to learn from all that you encounter, the journey through life can be an adventurous and rich experience. If you are granted the time, do something good with it, tomorrow may never come.”

The Last Element has developed a great sound the right way. They have songs that should be on the radio now, and they’re an act that will be touring and making music for a long time.

Blitz Union Surges Forward

“We are the revolution.”
-Blitz Union, “Revolution”

Metal is a fascinating genre; it’s creative, broad, progressive, explorative and always searching for respect outside of its devoted enthusiasts. From Metallica’s pairing with the San Francisco Orchestra to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s innovative Christmas classics to The Sound of Metal earning six Academy Award nominations and taking home two golden Oscars this year, metal music is a lasting, at times misunderstood form of entertainment. Blitz Union is adding to the genre’s advancement.

“Hello, hello, my name is plastic.”

Though research is more affiliated with academia, exploration can be used in a variety of fields and independently. For artists attempting to shift the industry and offer something visionary, they must have experience in knowledge in performance and theory.

Blitz Union is from Prague, and there aren’t many international cities more in tune to the structure of composition. Of course, locals and visitors alike have a deep passion for classical music, but this is something that has been consciously and subconsciously ingrained in the minds of Blitz Union’s members. Strangely enough, that wasn’t what brought the band together at first.

Lead vocalist Mark Blitz said, “It was not music at all that put us together. Our ways crossed because of our common research/obsession. And this research was later on the main impulse to found Blitz Union.”

Commonality leads to camaraderie in a band, and the musicians in Blitz Union are definitely on the same sheet.

“Ignorance means happiness, otherwise you see there’s nothing you can change.”

Stylistically, the band describes themselves as EDM-Rock, and it’s a fitting description. Their sound can be traced back to the golden era of nu- and industrial-metal in the late-‘90s and early-2000s. Many of those acts successful fused different musical elements to remain relevant for decades. Two artists that stand out, and perhaps blend together to form Blitz Union’s style, are Linkin Park and Rammstein—and on a lesser scale, Orgy and Ultraspank. I say, how promiscuous.

Blitz explained, “Our sound consists of heavy riffs, energy-driven rock elements and catchy EDM hooks. This fusion became very natural for us as we enjoy the freedom during the creation process. There are so many options how you can approach a song by combining those two styles. It’s fun.”

One thing that should be noted, which always has to be said to combat assumptions in rock and metal, is that the men in Blitz Union are incredibly musical. Shodushi and Schtorm have mastered the guitar and bass, respectively, and Governor pulses infections beats on the drums. Then they all contribute to the act’s style.

Electronic elements sometimes get a bad rap because they come from a “box” but an artist also has to have a good understanding of rhythm to produce quality content. The mastery of an instrument comes in a variety of ways as well. For example, Christian Lorenz of Rammstein is a terrific keyboardist and composer, but you can tell he’s a piano player at heart. Classical dynamics just fit well in rock and metal, and Blitz Union captures that same essence in the EDM portion of their sound. Plus, the lyrics aren’t half-bad either.  

“All that I learned, is from TV, I saw it on TV, and I strongly believe.”

Another thing that makes Blitz Union a tad different from their influential comparisons is vocal tone. Though they were inspired by the techniques of Korn, Mudvayne and Slipknot, for example, Blitz’s range behind the microphone helps the listener understand the lyrics, and their message is a strong part of their plight.

“Inspiration for our songs comes to me in waves, which I carefully listen to,” Blitz shared. “Then I try to put it into words. Everything that happens afterwards is somewhat of a mysterious process for us, but we as the band have developed a certain technique to approach it.”

With a moving message, Blitz’s lyrics challenge the direction humanity is heading and focuses on the affairs that haunt society today. They expose the wicked layers of society, but at the same time offer hope and inspiration to bring us back to the surface. They have a voice.

“I can see the fake smile, don’t lie, let’s not for once pretend.”

In 2019, Blitz Union released their EP Revolution. The title track starts off the record, and it is perfect in a variety of ways. You can’t open a rock or metal album better than the distorted rhythm of “Revolution” which was introduced by a great electronic tone. The mix built, and though short, it provided enough of an intro to not only the song but the capabilities of the band. The track has Disturbed and Rammstein written all over it, and besides Blitz’s immediate display of vocal versatility from verse to chorus, this is an anthem song. Blitz Union gives you everything they’re about right off the start.

“Cyberbully” then introduces the band’s message. The pain and struggle of abuse, which is customary in rock and metal, is covered but in a more focused way to modern society. The music in “Everybody Else” is pristine and structured brilliantly. However, if I had a criticism, it’s the strange monotone backing vocals that are apparent on this track and others moving forward. Vocals also need to mesh, and there just seems to be a lack of balance without a buffer. If, and this is just a suggestion based on personal preferences, the support vocals were more hissing and sinister, it may perfect that element of their sound. Something like Rob Zombie’s timbre in the verses for “Superbeast.”

“Broken” is a great song, and this is where Blitz Union truly beings to impress. They subtly add another sub-category of metal into their repertoire, especially vocally. This track contains those dark harder emo elements. Finally, the short EP ends with another anthem-type song to remind listeners of what they experienced and what is to come, not to mention “Deleted” is a mindset rock audiences have shared, but that simple title makes it so modern. The sound and cadence is very 2000’s nu-metal, but the ideology twists the past to fit with the future.

The band put out their second EP, Not Proud, earlier this year, and new styles are fantastically blended into their sound. Think this weird thought: The Bravery and Jukebox the Ghost.

Of course, those two bands are not in Blitz Union’s genre. However, “Tv” has those Bravery tones mixed into the verse, both musically and vocally. They keep their sound with more great distorted rhythm, and somehow add a punky catchy chorus.

Then the listener is brought back decades and into yet another genre. “Money Crazy World” has a very new wave, synth-pop, Depeche Mode feel. That continues with “Human Robot” except the chorus falls a tad short, but somehow remains fitting for the song. I could picture someone doing the robot to that brief chorus.

“Plastic” returns the listener to what Blitz Union is about from their message to their style, and their ability to transition different musical elements is on full display, especially from a synth standpoint. Then “Not Proud” almost continues and combats “Human Robot” because it discusses how someone can distance themselves from society, but admitting the similarities at the same time. Admitting, but not quite yet accepting (in the character’s mind), we’re all human beings.

The piano rendition of “Tv” finishes the EP and this exemplifies what I was talking about with musical talent. If outside listeners don’t think rock and metal bands have roots in classical training, just listen to this track. This is also where the Jukebox the Ghost comparison comes in. They did an entire bonus album of their self-titled 2015 release with just piano renditions of each track and it was fantastic. It wasn’t a surprise when they did it, however, but Blitz Union offers something different with their change of pace.

Blitz Union is visionary. It’s difficult to blend the amount of styles they do, because it’s not just about EDM and rock, but if done subtly, and if the artists possess a true understanding of composition, it can be masterful.

“I am happy about the music which I make and how our Union is doing,” Blitz stated.

This band has the ability to be an international headliner, and they’re have every intention to stay relevant for a long time. The look to unionize a revolution.

Pressure Looks to Provide a Release

“You reach out to the stars, but they move further away.”
-Pressure, “Path of a Shadow”

There’s a heavy feeling in the world today. It’s not the weight of the earth, but rather the figurative burden of uncertainty and growing anxiety. Sweden’s Pressure attempts to relieve the stressors of daily life and help listeners embrace their existence. Music can always be a release, a guide to navigating each step we take.

Based in Stockholm, Pressure was formed after 10 years of performance experience and audience analysis. Simon Forsell once was Emil Salling’s guitar teacher, and soon they were part of a successful cover band. After experimenting with a blend of pop and metal, they discovered an invaluable reaction from the crowd: artist appreciation.

Forsell said of their origin, “We wanted more challenging things in our music journey. Because of this we started to change the songs, both the lyrics and also the arrangements, taking pop songs and making them into metal songs. The crowd loved the versions and we wanted to explore this even more.”

To an average music follower, pop and metal are two genres that don’t sound like they would mesh well based solely on the stereotypical surface of each. The assumption makes sense, but couldn’t be further from the truth. Denser vocal tones and distortion differentiate the two genres from a style standpoint, but at a song’s core, there’s a relation.

“We play story metal. That is a sub-genre of heavy metal but focuses on the stories that we tell and the mood of the songs.”

Why do you think ‘80s hair metal was so popular? Look, both styles of music are written together in that sentence. When done correctly, it’s a fascinating sound.    

“You always talk, but never listen.”

Forsell is a story collector. His inspiration comes from the tales told by people around him, the life experiences that can be turned into an anthem of sort.

“We take our inspiration from the mood of the Pressure that we sing about and from the people around us who inspired us to write the stories,” Forsell explained.

Lyrics and finding that relation to the listener are key elements to how Pressure produces a track. Occasionally, especially in the modern era of rock, experimentation can lead to complexity and lyricists believe they are deeper than they actually are. They stress image, uniqueness and progression, and the final product suffers. Sometimes a listener just wants something they can share and something that sounds good. That’s what Pressure is attempting to offer. Acts like Rob Zombie, Powerman 5000 and The Union Underground created some fantastic content back in the ‘90s using this industrial, groove metal concept.

Whether it is heavy metal, folk, thrash and power metal, punk, or simply standard rock, there’s one thing that people appreciate: a relation. This is where Pressure starts to drift into pop metal. Pop is popular for a reason, people understand it and it makes them move.

“We tried our concept at a private party. It was cool and we were rocking out poolside as people had a really good time.”

Sometimes that’s all an artist needs to be successful.    

“Do I exist or is it only a way not to be lonely.”

Something refreshing about Pressure is their devotion to the genre and the local scene. Social media, especially when everything has become over-saturated, can be daunting at times. The future of promotion may be lifted from the past.

Forsell shared, “We go to a lot of other bands’ shows because we really think it’s important to support the local scene. Especially now when the pandemic has hit our business really hard. There are so many stages and clubs closing down. We need to support each other if we shall have a live scene that is working well after the world has become somewhat normal again.”

Touring is vital to sustainability, but while profit and live inspiration is on hold, writing new material and practicing performances is important to a band’s goals. Pressure wants to broaden their audience and bring their sound and style to the masses. If they continue to focus on the local scene and creating quality content, then they will re-enter the international scene with ferocity.  

“Every day I keep on fighting for a chance to be myself.”

Though Olaf Jönsson sings primarily in Swedish, other European acts have certainly became mainstream without English lyrics. Rammstein’s dominance can’t be stressed enough. The band has flourished, and this is partially due to their melodic metal and stage performance. The rhythm is certainly there for Pressure, but I’m not going to impress anyone by using a translator for the lyrics.

The band released five tracks in 2020. “Osårbar” and “Ännu Mer” have a straight ‘80’s metal feel similar to Mötley Crüe. The riffs are infectious and the tempo is perfect for bobbing your head or tapping your foot. Song structure starts to become more seasoned and modern on “The Shadow,” however. This is a great example of solid metal vocal rhythm and is a hit, perhaps Pressure’s best song, and the Swedish metal sound is on full display. This would be a great end to an opening set if their Scandinavian brethren Ghost were headlining.

“Beaten But Not Dead” and “Julstress” regress a tad on vocal flow and structure, which are important elements to creating anything pop—whether that is dance, punk or metal. Pressure rediscovers its guitar cadence on “Julstress,” and the chorus is catchy, but the verse rhythm needs more consistency.

In 2021, Pressure released “What You See (Is What You Get)” and they clearly found a distinctive sound that blends what they’re going for. They have been able to capture four decades of metal into one track. The guitar becomes more modern, like Avenged Sevenfold, as does the structure. With the vocals becoming spoken word before a nice solo, it reminds rock fans of Five Finger Death Punch.

With future releases “No One Can Hear You” and “Path of a Shadow” in queue, Pressure has the ability to put together a quality album, but must truly stick to the pop metal sound for consistency. It’s a popular genre that has international appeal, and the band has the talent to gain a massive following. The lyrics are there, and the musical philosophy and stories are greatly appreciated as well—as proven on their website because they share their lyrics. It’s like looking in an old CD jacket which I love. They are doing it the right way; they are paying attention to the local scene, working on their craft, and eventually they could entertain the masses by bringing generations of metalheads together. They could because they know how to adapt and relate.

We could all work on that