Horseburner – Thief

Ripple Music is one of those labels, that you can pretty much buy all their albums without hearing them, and they are just going to be strong from start to finish. They have a great roster and one of the newest additions for 2019 is Horseburner! They do not burn horses and in fact, are sweet dudes from what we gather. Their music, however, gives no quarter at all: punishing the ears and the soul. Rising from West Virginia, these guys get their Stoner Rock and Trad influences on without being derivative or sacrificing that base instinct to rock. On Thief, Horseburner establishes themselves as a major future creative force. Continue reading

Agnostic Front – The American Dream Died

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When a band has been going for over 30 years and people all over the world are eagerly awaiting their new album, it is safe to say that they are probably incredibly talented. Cue Hardcore legends Agnostic Front, who are releasing their eleventh studio album, aptly titled The American Dream Died (Nuclear Blast).

The longest song on the album is only two minutes and fifty-three seconds, with the shortest being just thirty-seven seconds. Despite this, each of the sixteen songs has been created with both passion and talent, giving you an insight into how Agnostic Front view the world (or more specifically, America).

The introduction track instantly proves that this isn’t going to be an album about sex or relationships, it’s about much more than that: freedom and equality. The hardcore guitar riffs merge with various speeches, allowing you to instantly understand how important this album is to Agnostic Front. It isn’t about money or fame; they just want to get their views heard.

Title track ‘The American Dream Died’ is fast-paced, angry and loud. Pure passion oozes out of every guitar riff and lyric, proving that Agnostic Front are one of the most powerful hardcore bands in the world. It’s hard to listen to this song without subconsciously thinking of what is happening around the world and forming an opinion on it, which means that this album is definitely doing something right.

‘Police Violence’ is one of the most exciting songs on the album due to its fast-paced nature and aggressive guitar riffs. Roger Mirets’ vocals are on top form as always, allowing you to fully absorb the lyrics and nature of the song.

Final song ‘Just Like Yesterday’ is a brilliant end to an exciting and emotion-filled album. The group vocals allow it to be one of the catchiest songs on the album, and yet again the lyrics are a stand out feature and extremely noteworthy.

If you are someone who does not like albums which make you think about how you are viewing the world then this album is not for you. However, if you enjoy listening to fast-paced songs filled with emotion and passion, then you should definitely give The American Dream Died a listen.

 

8.0/10

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JULIA CONOPO

While She Sleeps – Brainwashed

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Much like some stretched and requiring-a-suspension-of-disbelief set of circumstances in ‘Swords and Sorcery’ Fantasy films that bring about the fulfilment of the prophecy of the chosen one(s), so every now and then in the rock and metal world it is exactly the right time for the right band to make “the right record” and catapult themselves not just several rungs up the ladder, but crashing through the glass ceiling to establish themselves as the major players in the scene. Trivium did it with Ascendancy, Killswitch Engage did it with Alive or Just Breathing (both Roadrunner) and now While She Sleeps have done it with Brainwashed (Search and Destroy).

Not just the album they “needed” to make, like The Black Album (Vertigo) was the culmination and definition of heavy metal and the birth of “new” metal, so Brainwashed is the defining statement of what “modern/metallic hardcore” actually is. Throughout the forty-five minutes on display, While She Sleeps destroy any connotation that the genre is creatively redundant as ‘New World Torture’ seethes and slams before opening up, paving the way for a vibrant title track that ends in savage thrashery before ‘Our Legacy’ and its gang vocals and melodic leads provide an alternative anthem.

And “anthem” is the right word to describe damn near every track on display, as each song takes on that larger than life feel and you can already picture packed festival fields baying, swirling and shouting every word of songs like ‘No Sides, No Enemies’. In an album packed full modern hymns, ‘Four Walls’ manages to stand even taller, a song more than worthy of carrying the band to the next level and heading rock channel playlists for years to come.  ‘Life In Tension’ is another highlight, rattling along, before hitting a half-time call to arms; one that will ignite live performances with massive pits and a sea of arms and voices aloft, before its melodic guitar lead spirals and wah’s off into arena filling glory.

Considering the genres have been smooshed together for over a decade, Brainwashed is the perfect combination of metal and hardcore, and the Sleeps deserve credit for not cutting their nose off to spite their faces and actively encouraging catchiness in the right places. Alongside that Brainwashed has all those clever touches the truly great albums have, little guitar licks, drum inflections that enhance grooves and an excellent thick, warm production that captures and reflects the energy of a band on creative fire, rather than stifling (and it’s no surprise to see the name of the legendary Colin Richardson among the credits).

Vocalist “Loz” Taylor has overcome serious throat surgery to produce the ideal modern hardcore performance – aggressive in the shouts, versatile in vocal, and melodic and tuneful when required, without losing intensity, and projecting a credible emotion that you can believe in. These aren’t empty songs; from the rising chatter of opener ‘The Divide’ to the dying strains of ‘Modern Minds’, this is an album that matters both to its protagonists and to its fans.

And ultimately that is key. Not only is Brainwashed a collection of excellent modern heavy songs, but it is dripping with conviction; more than just an assembly of songs, it delivers and is a real album, connecting on a level that so few do. The hardcore attitude that is often missing from the bigger albums these days is vibrantly present as While She Sleeps take their roots from metal, from Machine Head, from hardcore, from artists like Funeral For A Friend, and from the best bands of the last twenty years, to produce an album that stands not just as a genre marker for others to be measured by, but as a statement of intent and a challenge to their peers.

For the bar has now well and truly been raised.

Forget the arguments and discussions about who the next Metallica will be, about who will be the next festival headliner, because right here, right now, is the right band with the right album at the right time to be not just the future, but the now.

 

9.5/10

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STEVE TOVEY

 

Mastodon – Once More Around The Sun

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The evolution that Mastodon began almost fifteen years ago, continues in 2014 as they prepare to drop their newest album. Along the way there have been few easy roads taken, and any battles won were well-earned on their climb to success. Certainly no one who started out with the band in their early days would have predicted where they would be today as a major international headliner, but this is where they are. As the band has grown they have picked up some new fans along the way who seemed to click with the newer, psychedelic rock vibes of their last few albums, while some die-hard lovers of their sludgy early forays have abandoned ship. That was bound to happen. If you stopped liking this band around the time of Crack The Skye, Once More Around The Sun (Reprise) will likely not see you make a return. However, if you have followed their entire oeuvre from the start and stayed, or came in as of late, this album has your name all over it.

 

Feeling like an erstwhile greatest hits album of tracks you have never heard before, there is a familiarity to the songs on Once More…. that calls to mind the best moments of the bands’ career. Even if it wasn’t intended, it has an odd effect on the listener. On one hand there is a comfort to this, like “Oh hey! I remember when they did that before!” The other effect is when the band goes back outside of the box yet again, it seems even a little more way out than before. Not every band can pull this off mind you, but the guys in Mastodon learned from their idols (mainly Neurosis and The Melvins) how to break down the machine of creativity, and build it back up again like few other modern bands do. For better or worse they always reinvent themselves slightly with each new outing and they do it selfishly, not the fans or their label. Take that for what it’s worth, this is what they do best.

 

And now for the music. When the band said earlier in the year that this album was a continuation of 2012’s The Hunter, they weren’t kidding. Although this album is a little less fuzzy and bright sounding than its forerunner, there is a ton of catchy prog and stoner grooves on this album to satisfy. The middle eastern-tinged guitars that open ‘Tread Lightly’ actually remind me of the opening of the Jonah Hex movie soundtrack Mastodon did a few years ago. This brief intro gives way to a driving rock anthem with some urgency. Bassist Troy Sanders and his dusky vocals dominate the track. So slick changes in the pre-chorus and bridge are typical of most Mastodon’s better releases. As usual, about ¾ of the way through the track Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher just go to town with layers of neat guitar parts. With almost no let up, ‘The Motherload’, also rocks. Drummer Brann Dailor’s lead vocals are stunning, the way they were in ‘Oblivion’. They knocked me out of my seat, as does his entire performance here. Impossibly, he continues to get better and better all around, every time.  The first single ‘High Road’ comes next and in the context of the first two tracks, its welcome grooves bring us back down to earth a little bit. Totally obtuse and weird, the title track will leave your jaw agape. It definitely calls to mind Remission and Leviathan (both Relapse), but also has the prog factor of their recent work too. I was also surprised by the track’s brevity too, but for once the band of high-minded idealists gives you the Cliff’s Notes. And if it hasn’t set in by now, the concept of this album is time, life, and loss, and acceptance; as these are the things marking the lives of the Mastodonians for the last few years.

 

‘Chimes At Midnight’ has a touch of the old Mastodon in its DNA too. Fabulous string skipping guitar riffs, tribal beats and stellar vocals comprise the track. By now, the three-headed King Ghidorah monster vocals of Sanders, Hinds, and Dailor can rival any band for their ability to bring a variety of chops to the table. ‘Chimes…’ also has a musical and lyrical call-out to fan favorite ‘Hearts Alive’, which may explain why that song returned to the set list on their last US tour. Meanwhile ‘Asleep In the Deep’ mines some new ground melodically, while going with some staple song structures: call and response like vocals, and a nautical beat. Hinds just glows on this one, with his soulful crooning in full effect.

 

‘Feast Your Eyes’ is a raucous feeling song with a lot of twists and turns, but left me a bit flat as a trying-too-hard progressive/psychedelic rock tune. ‘Aunt Lisa’ was shaping up to be one of the best tracks on the album until the clunky ending gang vocals just made me cold. The Coathangers do the cheerleader-esque chant, but I feel this is better left to Faith No More and even Marilyn Manson; and adds some unnecessary schlock value to an otherwise good song. These represent the only less than par moments of the record for me.

 

Returning to form, ‘Ember City’ is transcendent, and a special song in the band’s history. When they do everything right, this band can give you chills. This is a great song on every level and I hope they add it to the set list when they tour behind this album. ‘Halloween’ follows quickly with yet another, killer fast song with great signing, baddass solos and basically a lot of head-banging material. ‘Diamond In The Witch House’ is another collaboration with Scott Kelly of Neurosis, once again it’s a marriage made in hell. Troy and Scott trade vocals in a way that just contrasts the other so perfectly, you wonder why Scott doesn’t just join this band already too, until you remember he has two other bands. The song itself is excellent and almost would be a more fitting title track for OMATS.

 

While still lacking the fierceness of their earlier rage-fests, the new Mastodon album is definitely worth a listen if you can forgive them their emotive, proggy trespasses.

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8.5/10

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KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES