A sea change seems to be afoot in the heavy music game. Young bands like Code Orange, Knocked Loose and now Nequient’s approach to the genre is to craft albums that pull from as wide a net of influences as possible and spinning that yarn into functional songs. On Wolves at the Door (Nefarious Industries) Nequient uses d-beat-laden Crust Punk as a framework, and stacks on Thrash, Grindcore, Hardcore, Sludge and Black Metal to create a collage of brutality. Continue reading
What keeps Converge in the race these days? I don’t mean that as a slight or implying that they’ve lost a step, quite the opposite. More than 20 years into the game and each studio album have been tasked with following up the obelisk that came before it. We’re finally getting The Dusk in Us (Epitaph) five years after their last release. Am I disappointed? Hell no. Not everyone is in the business of following up All We Love We Leave Behind, or Axe to Fall before that. Continue reading
Not your average bear, founded on a love of guitar-less metal noise and groove, Ghastly Sound have announced themselves with this self-titled taster EP (Magnetic Eye). Formed by old friends, bass and drum duo TJ Maynard and Ryan Lewis, while the EP, four songs in thirteen minutes, is the sound of a band finding a starting point for their musical endeavours, it shows plenty of promise. Continue reading
The start of the new year is supposed to be a time for quiet contemplation and reflection No one seems to have told Code Orange this, though. Forever (Roadrunner) is a veritable wake-up call, a crushing and triumphant blast of ferocity that isn’t the simple throwing down of a gauntlet, it’s an entire suit of armour. Continue reading
For those who have followed my reviews through the years, I am pretty lenient on hardcore releases considering I am pretty picky with the genre. I have been able to review some great hardcore albums which in turn added some respect points from me. Having said that, I am perplexed when it comes to The Suffering Spirit (Good Fight) from New Jersey’s Old Wounds. I found myself absolutely in love with some of the tracks and then others had me holding my face in my hands, impatiently waiting for the next track. A positive pointer for me is I enjoy the harsh vocals for the most part. The clean vocals, however, seemed a little bland and just came off as simply a needful break from the harsh vocals. Instrumentally, Old Wounds is a tightly captained ship that sounds like what you would expect from a modern hardcore band. Oh and breakdowns. It might just be impossible to have a hardcore band write music without a breakdown nowadays.
The album opener, ‘Rest in Piss’, had a great feel for the opening track in an attempt to set the mood across all eleven tracks. Each time through The Suffering Spirit, this song would get me excited to hear the rest, but I only enjoyed a few other tracks. ‘The Secret Song at the Center of the World’ was one of the tracks that grabbed my attention once again with its slow tempo and sluggish personality. The same sort of characteristics seen in this track are seen later on in the album on ‘Moral Hex. These two tracks alone will get your head banging. I feel as if Old Wounds went for a more mature sound on these two tracks and really hit the nail on the head, unlike most of the remainder of the album. The final track, ‘Desecrate’, was one of the more interesting tracks on the album. Not only is this the longest track at over four minutes, but it sounded like a Mudvayne song with hardcore elements over it.
As a whole, I was not feeling Old Wound’s latest album. In no way did I think this was an awful album either, just not that exciting. In a larger spectrum, when it comes to modern hardcore, this latest release from the Jersey foursome is certainly one of the better ones I have listened to.
Palm Reader are one of those bands who have been steadily bubbling under the surface in recent years. Their live shows have consistently impressed, and often outshine anything they’ve put down on record. Now whilst this is the common view with Palm Reader, wait until you hear Beside The Ones We Love (In At The Deep End). It may be considered a bit of a dark horse, but this is almost certainly looking like one of the albums of the year. Similar to the Architects release last year, this truly could be the album to explode them above surface and into the consciousness of a far larger audience.
Fundamentally the band are often tagged under the ‘Hardcore’ scene, but as soon as you throw this record on and ‘I Watched The Fire Chase My Tongue’ explodes into an absolute onslaught of noise you’ll immediately begin to draw comparisons to the Mathcore style of The Dillinger Escape Plan. That is because Palm Reader haven’t just produced stuff similar to what they’ve done before, they’ve taken their sound, expanded on it and struck absolute gold.
It doesn’t really let up either as ‘Pedant’ and ‘By The Ground We’ve Defined’ keep it rolling and pummelling into your face. Creatively on this record, Palm Reader have gone completely beyond what they’ve done in the past. You’ll listen back to this album a lot, not only because it is absolutely brilliant, but because with each listen you’ll still be surprised by each little twist and all the nuances, it constantly changes path down a road you don’t expect. Again this will easily ignite comparisons to the great Dillinger Escape Plan, but this album is that good, it truly is of that level. Because even despite all the frenzied powerful riffs throwing you all over the place there are still really anthemic chest pumping moments, most notably on ‘Sing Out, Survivor’.
When a band begins to build hype, and you’re not absolutely convinced on what they’re able to do to live up to it, there is no better feeling than hearing said band release a record which grabs that hype and throws a grenade in its mouth. Palm Reader’s stock will rise with the release of Beside The Ones We Love and it is absolutely what they deserve.
A phenomenal record from an extremely talented band.
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.
The first thing to say about Germany’s Burning Down Alaska and their debut release Values and Virtues (Redfield) is that this feels much more like an album than an EP. Coming in at 9 tracks (7 songs actual) and displaying a progression from the build of, um, ‘Intro’ (one of the few short tracks that commence an album that actually enhance and do the job of leading you into the first track while setting the scene of the music that will follow), through the utilisation of a thoughtful album dynamic, to the closing anthemic ‘Trophies’ with its hollered chorus over a hooky lead.
The second is that this is a mature and very well put together proposition for a debut, particularly one in the modern/post-‘core field (can we not come up with a genre tag without the word “core” inappropriately tagged on the end of something?). No generic breakdown chugs for the sake of it, where matters do “break down”, such as on first song proper ‘Brighter Days’ it is to a slower expansive, reflective music piece, that led by the throat of Tobias Rische is used to provide contrast to the next section, where a gang shout brings the song back to tempo.
Credit is due to the musicianship on display, as littered throughout are careful and clever melodic quasi-clean, quasi-lead based guitars, multi-layered and excellently composed, with Marvin Bruckwilder and Dario Sanchez complimenting and interweaving with each other perfectly, with a reflective almost gothic quality on the ‘Reality & Fiction’, a track that belies the stage of development this band should be in.
In terms of comparisons, Burning Down Alaska have jumped straight to the more progressive, grown up and developed point of their career, pitching in the Sempiternal (Bring Me The Horizon – RCA) or Daybreaker (Architects – Century Media) ballpark, fully developed and ready to stand their ground at that level. ‘Savior’ introduces female vocals to the mix to brooding effect, and proves, along with the excellent melodic hardcore anthem ‘Phantoms’, that this Recklinghausen quintet have the depth, gravitas and vision to really make a mark in the modern field of heavy music.
An excellent first impression.
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