Infinity Shred‘s Forever, A Fast Life (3DOT Recordings) is like if Health had their own interpretation of Deafheaven‘s Sunbather. Yeah, I never thought I’d type out a such a sentence and half of the readers have probably walked away at this point but hear me out. Again, imagine Sunbather, but only strip away George Clarke‘s corrosive vocals and replace them with copious amounts of synths. Again, not the best sentence to describe Infinity Shred, so I’m going to need you to put on some headphones and take this thing for a test drive. Continue reading
MSRY is the band that felt like the hardcore classification simply wasn’t enough, so they branded themselves as Miserable Hardcore. I first misread that as “melodic hardcore” but melody is in short supply on their self-released Safety First EP. Misery, however, is available in spades and that’s without mentioning the surplus of rage. And how does a power trio sans bassist work up such ugly emotions? By taking a look at the world at large, of course. Continue reading
I can already read the social media potshots. With their latest LP, Heartless (Nuclear Blast/Profound Lore), Pallbearer are likely set to be the next whipping boy for metal elitists. It’s what happens after those trolls feel like you’ve gotten a little too much love from traditionally non-metal circles. Just look at the amount of shit Nails got for just having a brief Rolling Stone write-up. Continue reading
It has been said that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”. While I paraphrase The X-Files, there is nothing quite like an anti-hero with an existential crisis to detail that future in a chilling way. I am talking about singer Mat McNerney. Much was made the last few years of his band Beastmilk being the next great hope in underground music. They certainly acquitted themselves well over a demo, an EP and their full-length, the much-loved Climax (Napalm Records). Many bands have since picked up and jumped on the trend they started, bringing the romantic post-punk/No Wave (look it up) sound and style back in a heavy modern context. Few could do it as well as the masters. Of course such magical things cannot last and as the band gave way to lineup changes, and dissolved. What they mutated into is Grave Pleasures. While their début Dreamcrash has been out for a while in Europe, its proper release comes from Metal Blade on a more appropriate gloomy early November day.
Dreamcrash, in spite of the new players in the band is the spiritual child of Climax in many ways. The album plays with a sense of urgency and a dripping sexual swagger that makes you take notice on repeated listens. It is very consistent track after track and when you first hear it all the way through, it is a very satisfying feeling when you think of the progression from the old band to now. McNerney channels all of his energy to his rubber-voiced range, making some stunning melodic choices and killer phrasing per usual. It helps that his lyrics here are among his most biting, yet sad at the same time. Mat has all the dour charm that the Ian Curtis/Peter Murphy/Adam Ant wanna-bees all wish they had. At the same time his vocals have a deeply fragile psychosis about them, not unlike Roger Waters conveyed at his peak. Something tells me Mat would hate that I reached this comparison, but that is what is in my heart listening back to these tracks.
The music is the real equalizer on this album. Although my own jaw dropped at the thought of Linnea Olson (ex-The Oath) joining the Dreamcrash dream-team, her contribution is only part of the special equation. Juho Vanhanen (Oranssi Pazuzu) was the real difference maker in the writing. Together Olson and Vanhanen crafted beautiful menacing tracks, with layers of riffs and motifs that pop up unexpectedly. Songs like ‘Utopian Scream’, ‘New Hip Moon’, ‘Futureshock’, ‘Crisis’, and ‘Lipstick On Your Tombstone’ play like the soundtrack to the end of the world, or at least the end of your love life. If you were somehow in a group of people who were not ready for the sooth-Sayers’ words to come true about the apocalypse, this music would cut right through you.
In terms of originality, Grave Pleasures are not trying to reinvent themselves or music here, and so over time you do feel a sameness in the songs that takes this down a slight notch. However, in the view of the band re-imagining itself a bit and fulfilling their earlier bands’ glorious promise, they get full marks. Hopefully the apocalypse is everything they ever wanted and more.
Publicist UK’s sound is not what I expected to hear when first seeing internet headlines of a group featuring bassist Brett Bamberger of Revocation and drummer Dave Witte formerly of Burnt by the Sun and currently Municipal Waste (among 2,000 other bands). I’ve listened to Forgive Yourself (Relapse Records) three times already today and I’m still slightly surprised by the sound. The compositions here are lush, moody, and at more often than not beautiful.
It’s the kind of music that the cool kids on college radio play while wearing obnoxious hats and chastising Interpol for “selling out.” And I like it. A lot.
Rounding out this supergroup is Goes Cube guitarist David Obuchowski and Freshkills vocalist Zachary Lipez. If you, like myself, are a fan of lower voice ranges, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised with Lipez’s haunting baritone. It alters from Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy to Joy Division’s Ian Curtis while also summoning sounds not unlike Type O Negative’s Peter Steele. Lipez has sounded strong on Freshkills releases, but here he sounds fully committed to the performance.
‘Blood Relative’ and ‘I Wish You’d Never Gone to School’ are world weary and almost shoegaze in nature. Think Deafheaven, but without the black metal edge. Music that can maintain its dark heart all the while remaining tuneful and soothing. Even old man Morrissey would nod his stubborn head to these songs.
Acting as counterbalance to the gloominess is a heavy guitar chug that wouldn’t be out of place on a Helmet record on tracks like ‘Slow Dancing to this Bitter Earth’ and ‘Levitate the Pentagon.’ ‘Away’ closes out the affair while making good use of that heavier dynamic and even throwing in some of Witte’s famous double kick-drums without feeling out of place.
When I cranked this album on my laptop the last thing I expected was the musical equivalent of Joy Division on a collision course with Cave In, but what a lovely wreck it turned out to be.
If art is a manifestation of the human spirit and the human heart, then I wouldn’t have liked to have gone through the emotional pain and heartache that War Waves lead singer and chief protagonist Marc Newby has been through. His latest artistic endeavour, following on from his previous outfit, Collisions, has been conceived as an attempt to win back the love of his life.
Working with Steve Mann at Backwater Records, a man who has been a longtime champion and supporter of bands from the Ipswich area, War Waves passionate and heartfelt approach to songwriting will appeal to the ears of listeners already won over by the likes of The Gaslight Anthem or Idlewild; listeners of a certain vintage will doubtless be able to wax lyrical over the more than occasional nod to Mr. Stephen Patrick Morrissey.
These are no bad things of course. There is a rawness and emotional heft to the songs that often startle as much as they reassure. Whether down to the colourful language in the lyrics- the dropping of the c-bomb once or twice raises the eyebrow- or the matter of fact candour, the net effect is immediate and dynamic. The production retains that sense of this record being recorded as live and that lack of tinkering adds to the sense of a man on a zealous, emotional mission.
The ordinariness of the songs settings – ‘My Friends Wedding’ and ‘Hockey Stick’ are good examples of this – and the universal messages within them remind one, thematically at least, of the kitchen sink dramas beloved of The Streets or Plan B or, even Jarvis Cocker at his most suburban. Newby’s drama is highly personal but his honesty and lack of self-serving sanctimony means you are drawn to his tale. The fact that he has a way with a tune doesn’t hurt either.
Newby pulls no punches and grants no quarter; fortunately there’s an absence of hubris as well which is all the more appealing given the self-satisfaction that often accompanies records that are about the state of a heart. War Waves have conjured a decent début album with plenty of ideas and flourishes that you will doubtless be filing very readily under: ones to watch.
Oh, Jesus. Richmond, Virginia has proved a fertile ground for the heavier end of metal over the last two or three years, but the cheesy 80s synth and tinny-sounding drums that overshadow Silaluk (6131), the début three-track EP from quartet Shadow Age, sadly give me all the wrong kind of chills.
Changing their name from Colony some months ago, their ethos has remained post-Punk yet the feel loses some of that intensity. The rapid bass of the opening title track underpins coldly mellow strings, while lacklustre yet melodic vocals, a cross between Barney Sumner and Morrissey, enforce the pervading Mancunian air. Sadly, save for the lead shimmers and slightly more urgent delivery of ‘A Portrait of a Young Man Drowning’, the first two tracks have more of the Indie / Pop of New Order than the angular, piercing swagger of forefathers Joy Division.
It’s the booming drums and Post-rock leadwork of the moody, balladic closer ‘Innocence’ that finally give this outing a bit of steel. The building swathes of pensive atmospherics take the listener into Shoegaze territory, that Smiths vocal link ever more apparent and lightly dusted over the emotive instrumentals which are evocative of the heady days when both U2 and The Sisters of Mercy were both capable of appealing to the harder rockers among us. The sound that Shadow Age are peddling is indeed an attractive one in many respects, but overall it’s missing a row of teeth which would generate real interest outside the NME readership.
Psalm Zero is the last offering of the Canadian label Profound Lore Records and, once again, they hit the nail in the head (please do not forget about the amazing Artificial Brain’s Labyrinth Constellation that was also released by the label). This time around with Psalm Zero, a project that unites two great musicians and artists: Charlie Looker (Extra Life and Zs) and Andrew Hock (Castevet). Two musicians, two artists that have pushed the boundaries and delivered art of higher level. More often than we would like to admit, projects with members of known bands (if you don’t know them it’s your problem) fail because the members of those projects are afraid of facing with each-others style, influences and artistic output. Well, that doesn’t happen with Psalm Zero. With their debut full-length album The Drain, they face each other and there’s an enormous clash which makes the album such an enormous piece.
The first thing to make an impression on the listener its how the harsh vocals of Andrew Hock face the beautiful, overly dramatic – just imagine Morrissey (The Smiths) singing on and old, beautiful and huge cathedral and you will have an idea how profound, romantic and heartbreaking Hock’s vocals are – making a game of power sometimes and other times just a simple and incredible beautiful harmony like if they were meant to be together. The other thing is the all atmosphere of the record: perhaps the best description is post-punk industrialized that operates in this all spectrum of melancholy being sometimes just mournful other times just fuckin’ heavy with nothing on its mind other that pure and utterly rage. Seven songs and a record with just thirty eight minutes of running time, The Drain is an incredible and amazing introduction into their universe. There have been a lot of projects lately that are based on the 80s post-punk sonority, Psalm Zero are just one of most, if not the most, interesting projects of them all. Another pearl at the end of the ocean. Addictive and exciting.
Since bursting onto the scene with their bold and beautiful 2009 release The Martyrdom Of A Catastrophist, Bostonites Junius have carved a niche of bleak romanticism, which has deservedly attracted many admirers. Like the subversive writer from which their moniker is derived, the music on Days Of The Fallen Sun (Prosthetic) comes from the darkest recesses of the psyche yet is served with enchanting melodies that marry noise rock with an inherent pop sensibility.
The immediate difference in this latest work is how the voice of Joseph E. Martinez has been pushed to the forefront of the music. Martinez has always been a clever lyricist and storyteller but there is a new confidence about vocals. ‘A Day Dark With Night’ sums this up beautifully with Martinez delivering the line “We’re all fearless” with heart rendering passion. ‘Battle In The Sky’ is ominous, reverb drenched melodrama. A sensuous journey delivered with such intensity where every line sounds like Martinez would gladly tear his beating heart from his chest and lay it at your feet.
Will Benoit’s production allows every shimmering effect and tone to stand out. Martinez intense lyrics have drawn comparisons with that of Morrissey, but his vocal delivery is far deeper in tone. Ambient passages allow you to immerse yourself completely in the atmosphere and mood of this record. Delicate ambience building to post rock like crescendos yet their sprawling repetition would be better suited to a full-length affair.
“Days…” is a life affirming journey of desperation and triumph taking in delicate introspection juxtaposed with searing heaviness in both mood and tonality. The real masterstroke is left until last as ‘Forgiving The Cleansing Meteor’ is unleashed built on a foundation of gothic soundscapes, delicate chords that builds to an elating climax. It is this track where Martinez unleashes the eerie mantra, “We are the dreams of God/ We are the lights that follow/ We embrace the dark/We are the light we are the fire”. It is a haunting couplet, which embeds itself in your consciousness long after the album draws to a close. Moments of ecstatic bliss penetrate this brooding collection of exquisite material. Roll on the next album!