Propaganda (Pelagic Records) is the first full length I’ve gotten my hands on from Belgian exports, BEAR. In description to their sound I see lots of online chatter about it being labeled as Progressive Hardcore which to me sounds very appealing as it conjures up thought of Botch or early Between the Buried and Me. And while there are moments of zonked out Prog on Propaganda, I’d say it was akin to Groove Metal even though I’ve never been particularly jazzed about that as a genre moniker. Continue reading
Belgian Prog metallers Bear will release their new album Propaganda on May 8th via Pelagic Records. The long-running Antwerp-based crew draws influences from 1990s hardcore metal with their brutality, songcraft, and intellect. The new release will be their fourth in ten years, and the band has raised their international profile in that time touring throughout Europe and India and appearing at festivals such as Graspop, Roadburn, Rock Herk, Euroblast, UK Tech Fest, and Complextiy Fest, Check out the new lyric video for Bear’s new single ‘Kuma’ and pre-order the album at the links below! Continue reading
HexMachine by False Flags is a self-released debut mini-album, although when you give it a listen it certainly doesn’t feel particularly mini, this packs some considerable force. False Flags rise out of the ashes of the once spectacular Leeds DIY scene consisting of former members of Red Stars Parade, Whores Whores Whores & Year Of The Man: so it certainly doesn’t feel like a debut either.
Opener ‘Earl Black’ starts slowly, a gentle intro stopped abruptly by a sucker punch of savage hardcore, crushing riffs and disjointed time signatures. Slamming guitars and shouty vocals scream their intent and it feels fresh and furious. Reminding me somewhat of the late great Beecher with a hint of Dillinger Escape Plan the track builds in its heaviness throughout.
Followed by ‘Last Screen Goddess’ which is slower but with a refined intensity rather than diminished. This pulses along rhythmically, swaying and mesmerising and constantly building. There’s enjoyment to be had being swept along with the song.
‘Fate (Has A Driver)’ starts off with pounding drums, but with a more understated yet infectious groove infused into snarling, but more straightforward rhythms: which get the head nodding along with ease. There’s a notable intensification in their ebb and flow particularly in the solid groove of the bass work as the song progresses.
When we get to track ‘Pet Wolf’ False Flags start to show off their hardcore chops in full fury, the shortest at 2:15 this screaming statement is a short sharp shock to the system, build a substantial weight to the track before pausing momentarily before launching into the stormy intensity of ‘Namedropper’, which subsides then screams and smashes against the ears with a blackened throb and erratic pulse, giving you just enough pause for breath before suffocating you again with their punch to the gut sound.
Final Track ‘Phone My Wallet’ steps things up yet another gear and undulates between the now familiar pulsing throb and out and out blasting of discordant riffs, this album finishes with the sound of the band giving everything they have and then some, until they have nothing more in the tank and rolling to a cathartic stop.
This may be a debut album, but there’s an all encompassing confidence about this which harks back to their history within the Leeds DIY scene. Definitely a band to watch out for in 2016.
Call it unpredictable, call it spazzy, call it powerful, and in the case of Employed To Serve, call it where it’s at. Polyrhythmic, aggressive, acerbic and ascending, hailing from Woking, England, a very “nice” and Conservative (both capital and lower case C) part of the country, Employed To Serve are lighting a fire and blazing a path on their debut album Greyer Than You Remember (Holy Roar) and introduced themselves to Ghost Cult.
While progressive / technical hardcore is this years’ Sludge Metal in terms of being bang on trend, there is enough about Employed To Serve to suggest that the critical acclaim isn’t due to them being in the right time at the right place, with Employed To Serve in it for the long haul. “Not being concerned about being a leader or keeping up with the trend is a good way of keeping the longevity of a band” is the bands collective response. “We never really set out to be a technical hardcore/post hardcore/whatevercore band it just happened from growing up loving bands like Meshuggah, Botch, Norma Jean etc.”
“Employed To Serve is the embodiment of that kid who had so many aspirations growing up, but they got lost somewhere along the way to being an adult and they eventually succumb to the norm of working a job where you’re under appreciated and hate every minute”, state the quintet, showing the negatives of a “Nice” middle-England existence. The band name, song/album titles, all indicate a very cynical view of life. “We only write about topics that are close to home so there’s weight behind our lyrics and songs in general.”
“At the end of the day the reason why we play music is so people can listen to it. Hardcore/metal is supposed to be a sanctuary for all the people who didn’t quite fit in or wanted to listen to something more challenging. We would never want ETS to be perceived as an ‘elitist’ band whereby we turn our noses up at someone who couldn’t name the first Cannibal Corpse album (Eaten Back To Life 😉 ) or someone wearing a Black Veil Brides shirt at one of our shows.”
Employed To Serve live:
Jun 25: Ekko, Utrecht, Netherlands w/ Rolo Tomassi
Jun 26: Asteriks, Leeuwarden, Netherlands w/ Rolo Tomassi
Jun 27: Capsloc, Cappelle Aan Den Ijssel, Netherlands w/ Rolo Tomassi
28 Jun JC Kavka, Antwerpen, Belgium w/ Rolo Tomassi
09 Jul Camden Underworld, London, UK w/ Biohazard
Whilst all the talk around ‘Technical’ Hardcore may well be surrounding Palm Reader at the moment, and deservedly so, don’t let that stop you exploring other releases of the same ilk. Delivering that violently erratic smash-mouth style a la The Dillinger Escape Plan, Employed To Serve’s breed of music will hit you square between the eyes right from the word go.
The opening few tracks pretty much set the tone for the rest of the album – the band doing their upmost to not go down a path whereby you can predict what comes next. They’ve shunned the idea of a ‘normal’ song structure and instead launch through complicated arrangements, and mind bending riffs. A lot of the time, this level of description ends up putting people off checking this kind of music out, and like many of the bands playing a similar style will attest to, it can take time to get in to it. If you take the time around an album like this you will feel rewarded and some of these tracks won’t just become fodder to skip through on shuffle. Alongside the Dillinger type vibes on this album, there is an all round sense of bleakness, something made instantly plain by the track names, ‘Watching Films To Forget I Exist’ and ‘Greyer Than You Remember’ serving as clear examples. The absolute star of the show across the album is vocalist Justine Jones who delivers a performance containing so much venom you get a genuine sense that had she not been involved it would have been a lesser album as a result.
Overall then, this is some seriously high quality Hardcore music, whether you want to throw them into the Technical Hardcore bracket or Post Hardcore, it doesn’t matter – Greyer Than You Remember (Holy Roar) genuinely an exciting album which will hopefully hoist Employed To Serve on to more of people’s radars.
Opening track ‘Sweetheart’ serves warning of the intent of The Lovers / The Devil (Razor & Tie), second opus from Illinois discordant hardcore act Sworn In. With the success of their debut The Death Card (also Razor & Tie) providing a heightened sense of expectation, ‘Sweetheart’ shows that this time around the quintet are going to be doing things differently as the track eases in with a lilting clean introduction before hitting a dirged repetitive stab slab of guitar with unhinged screaming to take us through to the end. With the album being a concept album about the duality of love, and incorporating, in the main, a duality of styles, it’s an appropriate introduction.
Lyrically, there’s a deliberate juvenility and a picking up where Korn left off with ‘Shoots and Ladders’, with several nursery rhymes being referenced, including songs called ‘Olioliolioxinfree’ and ‘Pocket Full of Posies’, a staggering, lumbering off-kilter rage of screaming over a broken lurch, with elements of Slipknot’s ‘Skin Ticket’ before a juxtaposition of cleaner, angelic singing over the chorus. Tyler Dennen sounds genuinely disturbed (small d) when catharting, but less convincing when hitting the cleans, like on the ineffective ‘I Don’t Really Love You’ which seems to be aiming to be a meld of King 810 and Deftones, but definitely lacks the clarity and single-mindedness of the former, or the epic scope and vocal class of the latter. Burning Down Alaska, for example, show how to mix battery and beauty much more effectively.
Ultimately, The Lovers / The Devil, comes across as a spliced Bioshock experiment, with two different styles being forced together and making uncomfortable bedfellows, and like when Chunk glues the penis back on the statue in The Goonies it’s the wrong way round, Sworn In end up pissing in their own faces as the heavy/screamo bits aren’t interesting enough, despite Dennen’s venom, and the cleans not convincing or catchy enough. ‘Sugar Lips’, first track “proper” is a key example, kicking off showing low-slung quasi-Deathcore discordance with screams and touches of electronica, before hitting a clean metalcore chorus that underwhelms rather than lifts. While there’s nothing wrong with bringing the two styles of rhythmic djent and emo-based-metalcore together, and ambition and experimentation should always be encouraged and lauded, in the main the execution is unskilled and clumsy.