Ho99o9 – The United States of Horror

If you were lucky enough to catch Ho99o9 (pronounced ‘Horror’ if you’re looking at that and wondering where to start) recently on tour with The Dillinger Escape Plan or on the festival scene then you know that this is a group who are equal parts unpredictable and excellent. Excellent because whether you’d heard any of their music before or not there is absolutely no doubting that you were walking around with a “What the fuck was that!?” look plastered on your face in the immediate aftermath. Continue reading

Loathe – The Cold Sun

When you look across the whole metal spectrum you’d be hard pressed to find a sub-genre more over-saturated than Tech-Metal. There has been an absolutely massive influx of bands in that scene over the last few years, with a lot of them falling well short of what is needed to really stand out and make a mark. Enter Loathe. Hailing from Liverpool, this band are still relative newcomers so with The Cold Sun (Sharptone) have they made any kind of lasting impression? The short answer is “Yes”. The slightly longer answer is “Very much, yes indeed”. Continue reading

Ecstatic Vision – Raw Rock Fury

When told that a band pride themselves in being part of the psychedelic rock scene, certain images come to mind almost instantly; from acid to colourful retro art to funky sunglasses – the point being, this is a scene very much rooted in the past and an era almost incomprehensible to some. Continue reading

Intronaut – The Direction Of Last Things

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Intronaut are a Prog Metal band who up until this point, it’s fair to say, have pretty much gone under the radar. With The Direction Of Last Things (Century Media) the band are on studio album number five and, not to completely suggest that it is only now they’ve finally hit the sweet spot, but with this record Intronaut have collated all of the best bits and pieces from their previous work and found the kind of inspiration which might just squeeze this into a few ‘Album of the Year’ lists.

Across the album we find Intronaut mixing expansive sounds with heavy brutality via a truly masterful level of precision. As far as wider inspiration is concerned, there’s definitely a bit of Opeth and Mastodon (Crack The Skye era) rooted at the core with all the barmy eclectic, yet ridiculously perfect, sounds you might expect from the likes of King Crimson. As a scene, Prog Metal has certainly been shooting out some great bands recently, and whilst album number five probably means they’re far more seasoned than some of the younger bands pushing through, The Direction Of Last Things will likely elevate Intronaut into a far wider consciousness, forming for many a complete introduction to the band.

The album kicks off with the track ‘Fast Worms’ which does in fact sound like a neurotic tribute to the popular computer game franchise Worms, as a little 8-bit sounding intro suddenly makes way for some absolutely crushing riffs. Even if it has absolutely nothing to do with it, if you’ve ever played Worms before this track actually perfectly epitomises the eerie atmospherics which capitulates into a blaze of chaos which you would tend to experience on screen. Its sudden grasp away from the powerful riffs into an atmospheric soundscape took some getting used to, but after a few spins you’ll be fully on board.

To be honest, this approach is true of the album as a whole; it’s not overly accessible and it’s therefore likely that along the way they may lose a few people. When some of the tracks veer off into the wilderness, you do find yourself longing for the next explosion of riffs, and may even fast forward till you find them. A die hard Prog Metal fan will be critical of that sentence, but the key to albums like this is to make every element interesting and frankly Intronaut are better at doing the heavy than they are the calm – for example in a head to head the tracks ‘The Pleasant Surprise’ and ‘The Direction Of Last Things’ highlights this perfectly.

Overall then, with their fifth studio release, Intronaut have certainly made their mark once again in the prog metal world. However, where so many of these bands fall down with these huge sounding albums is the fact that they need to ensure every single minute is as engaging as the last, and it is difficult to argue that they’ve actually achieved this. It needs repeat listens – it is “one of those” which does get better with each spin, but even so whilst a large section of the Prog Metal community will probably salivate all over it, an equal sized section will probably allow it to pass them by. That said, the strong production does make it an excellent listening experience, but the fact you’re left questioning whether it’s quite so great even after several listens says a lot.

 

7.5/10

 

TOM DONNO  

Anti Flag – American Spring

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There are far too many Punk bands who ‘talk the talk’ as far as being political and proactive about the issues that rile them. This is not the case with Anti-Flag who are arguably one of the only true Punk bands in the fact that they look to use their art and their talents to make a real difference – this album has been streaming on the Amnesty International website which in itself says it all. So what of American Spring (Spinefarm) itself then? Well if you’ve ever listened to Anti-Flag in the past then you know what to expect really – it is 40 minutes worth of politically fuelled melodic Punk at its best.

The album is jam packed with tracks which will both cause scenes of chaos in a live setting and trigger massive sing alongs. Opening track ‘Fabled World’ is a perfect encapsulation of both of these – as immediately the band hit you with a track which will make you want to dance around whilst sticking your fingers up at the Government. Because much like the rest of their discography, American Spring draws you in so easily to evoke the kind of emotion you perhaps didn’t even know you had. Of course with it being so politically heavy, this could very well turn people off – but to be honest at this stage in their careers they’re only really going to be adding to their fan base. A couple of other key highlights on the album are ‘Song For Your Enemy’ and ‘Set Yourself On Fire’ which again displays the band at their best. Justin Sane hasn’t really lost any of his fire as he crafts melodies around the lyrics to again evoke a brilliant sense of attachment and emotion to the message he is delivering.

Overall then, if you’re familiar with what Anti-Flag are all about, this is another good dose of their political modern Punk. Don’t expect to throw this album on and be sat in awe at the band changing the rulebook, because they haven’t. Instead what we’ve got is one of the bands who can truly call themselves “Punk” – and there are just not enough of those anymore.

 

7.5/10

Anti-Flag on Facebook

 

TOM DONNO

Employed To Serve – Greyer Than You Remember

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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.

 

8.5/10

Employed To Serve on Facebook

 

TOM DONNO

Needs – Needs

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Needs are a Punk five piece hailing from Vancouver in Canada, and whilst their homeland may well garner a reputation of kindness and chilled out vibes, somebody better tell these guys that! Their erratic delivery of punk on this self-titled release (File Under Music) feels almost neurotic and overall makes for a very strong release. Don’t think anyone is doubting the Canadian level of humour which is on display here in abundance, either as some of the track titles alone should pick up some kind of reward – ‘Clowns To The Left Of Me, Dzhokhars to the Right’ and ‘We Don’t Know Why We Are Protesting is Why We Are Protesting’ are two particular gems in that respect.

A key aspect to this record being altogether very impressive is the fact that whilst aggressive sounding, they’ve injected their music with a whole load of fun as well. You can already envisage people bouncing around at live shows singing along to some of the lyrics. A good example of this is with the track ‘We Forgot the Records to Our Record Release Show’ which displays a high tempo punk sound underneath some genuinely entertaining lyrics, “What am I doing? No seriously, what am I doing. I’m 36 Years Old, 37 in a couple of months– a sentiment which no doubt a hell of a lot of bands will be able to identify and relate with.  

Overall then, this album is indeed a strong dose of Punk which will hopefully not go completely under the radar. Needs are evidence of the fact that if you search hard enough amongst the million bands out there at the moment, you will find a gem, and an entertaining one at that – this is definitely worth checking out.

 

7.0/10

Needs on Facebook

 

TOM DONNO