Dragged Under – Upright Animals (Mascot Label Group)
Having turned heads with their opening salvo, 2020’s The World Is In Your Way, Seattle melodic punk troupe Dragged Under are snapping them the full 360 with the follow-up, the infectious, energetic Upright Animals, a vigorous mix of punk and rock, with hints of metalcore roughing up the edges.
Armed with two guitars to add to the zeal and vigour and to keep things bouncing along, the first comparators to spring to mind to the uninitiated are peak Sum 41, though with a dash more maturity, as the quintet barrel through the opening few tracks as if their lives depend on it, a speedball of churning guitars, melodies, choruses.
Determined not to outstay their welcome, within the rollercoaster dash Dragged Under still manage to deliver a relentless barrage of big tunes to have you two-stepping, headbanging, grinning or just plain singing along (such as to the bass-and-vo-kill of ‘Never Enough’ – woah-oh-ohh!) and leave you wanting more. They still find time to show breadth, at times dialling up the theatrics and calling to mind My Chemical Romance (‘Weather’), and at others Architects as Tony Cappocchi channels his inner Sam Carter on the impressive and deep ‘Crooked Halos’ which sees strings splash under the darker track.‘Long Live The King’ swirls it all in the cement-mixer, unleashing a wild solo to top it off, while ‘Brainwash Broadcast’ (featuring Spencer Chamberlain from Underoath) is a wild mix of pace and Bad Religion catchiness.
Armed with an impressive second outing, and a touring market that is opening back up, Dragged Under have every chance of success, of climbing the ladder and pulling themselves upright. Animals!
Buy the album here: https://amzn.to/3Mu8yKW
8 / 10
Moodring – Stargazer (UNFD)
While it has been over twenty years since White Pony, Deftones have always been more of a subliminal than a main influence in the wider scene. Yet it is an influence that appears to be growing as burgeoning acts such as Loathe, Thornhill, and now Floridians Moodring are boldly embracing the alternative ‘tones of the Sacramento overlords mid-period.
Presenting a mix of churning, thick guitars and soft dark melodies in an interesting and impactful way, Moodring make an impressive debut statement with Stargazer, compacting their ideas into succinct, digestible (no song stretches beyond four minutes) chunks, able to convey mature progressions and moods without the need for over-expansion.
Ditching with the usual album dynamics of pointless electro intro into most-aggressive-track (hooray!), the four-piece alternative metal group ease us in with a contemplative intro and reflective first song, before track three (and second proper song) ‘Constrict’ slinks into a Linkin Park meets Northlane territory before they take us on a well-crafted journey of immersive, quality alternative metal. Elsewhere, ‘n.i.k.e.’ swaggers through its industrial pulses, never dropping the quality or Moodring’s innate ability to weave in subtle hooks, and ‘Peel’ brings a Diamond Eyes dirge to the party.
Stargazer may be Moodring’s first full-length, but there is no bedding in needed, as this well-realised vision of classy reflective alternative music has both the muscle when needed, and delicacy and refinement to set it apart.
Buy the album here: https://unfd.lnk.to/stargazer
8 / 10
Hollow Front – The Price of Dreaming (UNFD)
Personality and identity play a big part in breaking out from the seething mass of competent and confident metalcore acts that proliferate the scene, and that is the element of their work that Hollow Front need to invest time in the most.
When the hook-entwined-with-savage throat of ‘Self Sabotage’ is upfront and centre, or when the premium Killswitchisms of the title-track are playing out, it looks like the band are on course to really establish themselves on their second full-length. It’s a height they don’t quite match all the way through, though, despite making a strong fist of it. All the component parts are there, they just need to find a way to set themselves apart from the crowd a little more often than they have managed to so far.
It doesn’t help that a couple too many of the sub-genre tropes are played a bit too earnestly, such as opening up for the synth-and-heartfelt track four (‘Thick As Blood’, which to be fair has a touch of the hands-in-the-air anthem to it) or that some of the mid and later album moments could literally be anyone (howl, howl, staccato riff, synth fill, clean chorus, staccato riff, howl, howl etc), but that shouldn’t detract from a series of well-crafted tracks – and it certainly doesn’t seem to be stopping the Minnesota four-piece from racking up the digitals.
Buy the album here: https://unfd.lnk.to/ThePriceOfDreaming
6 / 10
Future Palace – Run (Arising Empire)
There’s a strong upside to trio Future Palace, who hit the sweet spot regularly throughout Run, and in a particularly satisfying way when they lock into a Paramore-meets-While She Sleeps vibe, such as with early cut ‘Dead Inside’. Likewise, when vocalist Maria takes centre-stage, as she does on the more grandiose ‘Sleep Tight’ and it’s running order partner the poppy ‘Defeating Gravity’, a track that could almost be Kelly Clarkson fronting Bring Me The Horizon, there are signs aplenty that this is a group we should well be hearing plenty of in the very near future.
Gorgeously produced, Future Palace’s second full-length is an album brimming with promise and positives. Lean slick pop-splashed contemporary metal-flecked anthems (I struggle with this being called post-hardcore, but this is the less abrasive of the two types of music called that – sub-genre get-in-the-box police steve) with strong vocals, not too dissimilar in melodies and delivery to the more recent Within Temptation releases are the order of the day. With enough variety and pop sensibility allied to knowing how important it is to push the guitars at the right times, there is a lot to enjoy here.
Buy the album here: https://futurepalace.lnk.to/run
7 / 10