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

Antigama – The Insolent

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Hailing from Poland, Antigama are an absolute wrecking ball. Their breed of Grindcore is relentless, and has been since their inception way back in 2000. Now with the release of The Insolent (Selfmadegod) they’re looking to launch another assault within the scene.

The make-up of the band has certainly been very tumultuous since 2000, with only two of the four in the band still original members, but it doesn’t seem to have affected the tightness and fury in the music as formula wise this is very similar to their previous output. They’ve got a system and they pretty much stick to it – a series of short, punchy and breathless tracks.

What makes Antigama a bit more interesting than some of the others in the Grindcore scene is the fact that they’ve clearly got other avenues of influence which they’re keen to explore. Some of the tracks display an erratic series of time signatures and an all around neurotic level of chaos, with influence possibly coming from the Math-y side of heavy music.

This is most clear in the tracks ‘Used To’ and ‘Foul Play’ which both smash by in less than three minutes. Frankly though as the album progresses it all becomes a bit tiresome. Each track feels like they’ve been melded in to one, so unless you’re actually looking at whatever device you’re listening from, you’ll struggle to pick up on track changes. That is until we reach ‘The Land Of Monotony’, the final track on the album. Ironically you’ll feel that your experience getting through the album has become rather monotonous when this track hits, but this seven minute song showcases what exactly the band are capable of if they move away from their standard formula. The track is atmospheric, heavy and chaotic all at the same time and only leaves you wondering why there isn’t more of the same across the album. As good as they are at thrashing their instruments into oblivion; this song alone shows that there could be so much more to this band.

Overall then, a lot of this album is largely forgettable. If you obsess over a good blast beat and chaotic two minute tracks, then you’ll absolutely love this but with this being a seventh studio album the fact that there are only glimpses of different and exciting things being explored is a bit of a shame.

 

6.5/10

Antigama on Facebook

 

TOM DONNO

 

Deez Nuts – Word Is Bond

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Deez Nuts. Yeah, you clicked this; the band name is as bad as you first thought. But that doesn’t halt the fact that this Australian unit seriously know how to write Hardcore tunes. They’ve got the crushing riffs in absolute abundance, right from the word go, but they’ve got that ridiculously over the top macho punk bullshit needed to spit the right kind of attitude onto heavy music. This is Hardcore of the Madball and Biohazard kind of spirit, not the modern beat-down obsessed version.

Not everyone can get on with Hardcore music, and many struggle to see beyond the overbearing macho facade so many in the scene focus on, but with Word Is Bond (Century Media), Deez Nuts could very well attract a whole breed of new fans into the genre. The slow chugging riffs which run their course throughout the album just generally makes this an easy album to pick up and go with. Again, much like Biohazard, they’re also clearly more than capable of throwing themselves into a thrashier style of Punk, which will again prove attractive to die-hards within the scene already.

The song structure across the album is relatively consistent. We don’t have all that many tracks which exceed even the two minute mark, so once again you’ll be able to throw this record on and blitz through it in no time. As you give this repeat listens it also becomes clear that a lot of these tracks were written with the live performance in mind – we’ve got it all; the chant along lyrics in tracks like ‘Wrong Things Right’ and ‘Chess Boxin’’, the bouncy riffs via ‘What’s Good’ and all the chaos to fill the pits through ‘Pour Up’ and the title track.

Honestly, most of this album will likely become quite forgettable as time goes by, but live the tracks have real potential to come alive. ‘Forgettable’ may seem like a strong term, but unless you become an absolute die-hard, you’ll probably give this a couple of spins and put it aside. It’s not a world beater, not a game changer for the genre, but it is a more than welcome addition to the Hardcore Punk scene.

 

7.0/10

Deez Nuts on Facebook

 

TOM DONNO

Violent Reaction – Marching On

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In our game you get sent an abundance of music, all of which come with tags and genres attached to them. With that said you’ll often begin listening to an album with a pre-conception already in place as to what you think it will sound like. One of the genres thrown around far too much is ‘Punk’. What is Punk? How do you define punk? Well, it is certainly a word which triggers immediate awareness of what an album should sound like, and to an absolute tee, the unit from Mersyside Violent Reaction have nailed the ‘Punk’ vibe, something so many other bands fail to do when tagged under the same bracket. Part of why they’ve nailed this idea so much is the fact that, attitude wise, they really couldn’t give a fuck, it’s in your face and aggressive and they don’t care.

They’ve got quite an old school Hardcore Punk edge to them – almost like early Madball, but mashed with The Ramones. Each of the tracks just flash by in such a whirlwind of chaos it almost forces repeat listens – it clocks in at only just over fifteen minutes, yet it is fourteen tracks long. The opening couple of tracks, ‘M1 Stomp’,Leave Me Out’ andNo Pride’ will leave you breathless, but from there it is all pretty much the same thing.

Honestly on first listen you wouldn’t even notice if someone played those three tracks on a loop. It does all have quite a standard feel to it, they’ve not reinvented the wheel or anything like that but again this doesn’t fault the band’s attitude and approach.  If you’re after no frills snarling in your ears as a bit of an escape then you can’t really go wrong with Marching On (Revelation), it’s worth checking out.

 

7.0/10

Violent Reaction on Facebook

 

TOM DONNO