REVIEWS ROUND-UP: Week 47/48 Five Finger Death Punch, Silent Descent, InAir, Felix Hagan and more…

 

The Ghost Cult album roundup is back in town, for your vulgar delectation, though we’re taking a different approach this week and grouping together some of the less-“heavy” releases that are polluting our ears; it’s a walk on the lighter side of the Ghost Cult coin…

 

…and where better to start than with one of modern Metal’s biggest, and most hardworking bands Five Finger Death Punch who celebrate a decade of knuckle-dusting Heavy Metal with two brand new songs and a whole host of anthems in the form of A Decade of Destruction (Eleven Seven). While the merits of releasing a “Best of…” in today’s playlist age is a debate for another day, this throw-back to the sort of release only the very biggest can get away (the title nods knowingly to Motley Crüe’s ten year package) contains every smash you could wish for, and acts as a studio set-list tour de force. The full gamut of 5FDP’s arsenal is displayed, and while die-hards may argue the tracklist, when collated in one seamless collection, it’s a reminder of what a top band they truly are. While opening with two new songs doesn’t quite work, even if the balladic ‘Gone Away’ is up there with their best lighter moments, from track three and the neck-snapping ‘Lift Me Up’ (featuring a claw-inducing turn from one Rob Halford), through the singalongs (‘Wash It All Away’, ‘Jeckyll and Hyde’), via the reflective (‘Wrong Side Of Heaven…’, ‘Battle Born’) and onto the covers, the great (‘Bad Company’) and the, um, not so great (but still entertaining – ‘House Of The Rising Sun’), if you’ve never gone in on the Death Punchers, this has everything you need, and is full of hit after hit after motherfucking hit. The band have their critics (name one successful Metal band that doesn’t) as to the complexity of the output on display, but if producing huge, arena-filling, monster Metal anthems was so fucking easy, everyone would be doing it, and, quite simply, 5FDP do it better than anyone out there. Just stick on the anthemic ‘Remember Everything’, clear your throat and belt it out, or dust off your camos and get on down to the ridiculously great stomp of ‘Over And Under It’ and embrace the fact the Five Finger Death Punch have some absolutely brilliant heavy Metal songs, and they’re all here waiting for you on A Decade of Destruction [9.0]

 

A word of advice on our next offering – don’t be put off by the “Trance Metal” tag associated with Silent Descent on their second full length Turn To Grey, nor by the fact the band has an alumni list rivalling Cradle of Filth despite only being in existence for a third of the lifespan, there is something worthwhile in the South of England collective (and fair play for referencing the most metal place name in England with the track ‘Gravesend’). While synth and electronica form a prevalent part of their sound, the regular pounding guitars and metalcore song structures are firmly rooted in contemporary metal. The keys do add a dance element in their sound and style, all without detracting from the metallic clump that SD maintain all through, with Turn To Grey reminiscent of a car crash of There Is A Heaven… era BMTH, Amaranthe (sans the massive choruses and Elize Ryd) and Enter Shikari’s The Mindsweep. While some of the lyrics are a bit, well, naff (come on lads, you can do better), and the clean vocals lack the character and power of the guest slot (Bjorn “Speed” Strid from Soilwork rips his throat on the catchy pummel of album highlight ‘Vortex’), there are stomp-and-chant-alongs a plenty, ‘Rob Rodda’ for one, and a plethora of strong and stirring songs littered throughout to make up for these shortcomings. With the main intent of this album to resurrect a band that feels it’s gone through the industry mill and been spat out the other side, and to define a distinct sound and style, Turn To Grey achieves both objectives, and should they catch the right touring breaks, Silent Descent should be making a much noisier climb back up the ladder. Promising. [7.0]

 

Contemporary alternative rock is the InAir way of things on their debut EP, the independently released A Different Light. While the band are keen to emphasise the use of synths and electronica as being a partner to their Arcane Roots stylings, these are well integrated into the overall entity, and not an overriding or distracting factor, serving instead to fill out the sound with lush underpinnings and by adding quirky hooks. The Reading trio are able to step on the distortion pedal when required, such as the swirling builds to the catchy ‘Tonight Is The Night’, and they have succeeded in crafting four decent, patient, rise-and-fall songs that maintain a coherent thread while covering a fair amount of ground. While they still sit in the box marked potential, InAir aren’t too far from being the finished article and there is plenty to match the optimism of the band’s lyrics in terms of the future. As such, as to what a debut, introductory EP should achieve, A Different Light must rank as a success, and it’ll be interesting to see where the song-writing goes when the band tackle a full length. [7.0]

 

So, Are We Having Fun Yet, Ghost Culters? They Uncultured clearly are, all while asking the question via the title of their self-released debut album, full of wiry, rocked-out punky anthems, the cut of the jib aligning with BritRock of the Nineties through a Josh Homme filter, in a most pleasant way. A mix of stomping Earth Rockers like ‘Release The Light’, bar-brawlers like the catchy punch-in-the-face opener ‘Bark Like A Dog’, sleazier rambles (‘Modern Man’) and grungy discordant moments (‘Let Me Touch Your Wife’) that aren’t too far from some of Eagles Of Death Metal more off-kilter moments, all with two fingers permanently sticking up. Are We Having Fun Yet? is a diverse, interesting, shambolic (in a good way) collection to put They Uncultured on the map. [6.5]

 

I’ll be honest, other than Grindcore, the thought of a twenty-song album, even if it was to be of my absolute favourite tipple of music fills me a little bit with dread, so with Raven Cain’s Oblivious (From The Ashes) offering that many doses of Southern Rawk, and across an hour and a quarter too, I was a bit unsure as whether I’d be able to give this the requisite plays and attention. The thing, though, is, when this collaboration between Raven and guitarist/producer Tommy Harrison, contains good fun 12 bar-boogies of the quality ‘All American Bad Ass’, it’s not too much of a slog. There’s nothing to surprise or intimidate here, and the tracks do blur into one looooong Southern blues-tinged rock shuffle, but Raven is a talented guy who knows his craft inside out, and if this sort of rocking is your thing, then you’ll find it whiskey coated spades right here. [6.5]

 

Cheeky and chirpy, and way poppier than the usual Ghost Cult fare, so therefore the most obvious way to end this round up off, nonetheless, it’s smiles and thumbs up from me for Felix Hagan & The Family with their self-released Attention Seeker, an album that has touches of musical theatre, electro- and Glam Rock, whilst possessing songs with hooks to reel even the most miserable sod in, such as the cheerful refrains of ‘The World’s Yours’, which boasts the kind of sing-a-longa-chorus that makes the world seem a better place. While it can, at times, be a bit much to be presented with something so relentlessly chipper and optimistic, Felix’s Family is clearly enjoying itself, and this is a break from the usual po-faced or introspective fare, taking the larger-than-life presence of a bygone from the Seventies Glam age, the spirit of joy from the eighties, and the outrageous early Noughties pop of an S Club 7 (I never, ever thought I’d reference SC7 while writing for Ghost Cult!). While I think it’s pushing it to label FH&TF “punk”, this is still a good, fun album, though you’ll need a dose of something horrible lined up next as this is as sugary as pop-punk gets. [7.0]

STEVE TOVEY