Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Review: Such Gold - Misadventures

 There's undeniably something of a re-assessment going on in the world of pop punk over the past several months, in the sense that, it's becoming more dominated by the punk element of the genre name once more. As the relevance and popularity of the overly glossy bands begins to fade away, the most celebrated pop punk belongs to those that unleash an extra layer of brutality and mix it with metalcore, obviously A Day to Remember and Your Demise come to mind, while other bands have actually simply given the pop punk formula the modern day update on the frantic sound of the original style of the genre that The Descendants originally crafted - think of The Wonder Years or Our Time Down Here. However, no matter what way it's done, it's always done with a smile on the face and a power to brighten anyone's day. Such Gold prove themselves to be an exception to this rule with their debut full length Misadventures.

 They find themselves in the latter category of pop punk bands. meaning they're the type of band that has followed the roots of the genre ever since The Ramones sung songs about hanging out and having fun in the California Sun. Yet the Rochester quartet go off and do the opposite as the snarls of Ben Kotin on Committee Circus are splattered with caustic bitterness and nihilism. It feels like a living contradiction in such a sense. Kotin growls as though his world is ending to the sound of energetic hooks that bands like Apologies, I Have None and Fighting Fiction makes so positive.

 The album blitzes along with a range of 2 minute punk blasters fueled by complete rage and melancholy. The rough production makes the spiked up riffs and battering drum beats a rougher force that effortlessly drags listeners out of any painted fantasy that pop punk has offered and into the grit and destruction that paints up these songs.

 This formula isn't particularly deviated from at any point during Misadventures, but the band seem capable of finding new ways to keep songs exciting and in many ways bleaker. Amongst this swelling of total despair, there are some really great melodies and classy guitar solos to be found on the likes of Survival of the Fondest and Locked Out of the Magic Theater. But it's the epic closer of You Are Your Greatest Threat (The Doctor Will See You Now) that really sums up the kind  of reaction Some Gold wish to pine from listeners, fusing post hardcore melodies with jagged punk riffage, while spreading lyrics both grim and philosophical, leaving listeners pining for more whether they enjoyed the album overall or not.

 In many ways, Misadventures is the start of what could be seen is anti-pop punk. Such Gold uphold the principles of pop punk but unlike most of their peers choose not to sing about the light at the end of the dark tunnel and instead choose to bury themselves deeper within it. Within this, there's an interesting juxtaposition to be found that adds another page to the realms of pop punk re-obtaining it's punk element. But until that is worked out,we have this album to constantly depress us. And with enough luck, all of pop punk will become a grey slate of doom and misery.

Such Gold's Misadventures is out now via Razor + Tie.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Review: Cherry Bloom - Open and Die

 It's common knowledge that whenever someone says "Without trying to sound bitter...", they're incredibly bitter about something, so I've been making an effort to avoid issuing such a statement about the ongoing Reading & Leeds festival by looking for some new music that isn't having a blat at the festival grounds. It's not an easy task. It really isn't. So instead, let's look to Paris for some inspiration of different bands to look at and check out Open and Die the new album from Cherry Bloom, with which they prove themselves to be France's answer to [Any two piece rock and roll band performing at Reading & Leeds.] Great.

 At first reflection, it's difficult to comprehend that such musical genius has come from the minds of two people. Across Open and Die, Octave Zangs and Julien Jourdan have made an album that has everything that ticks all the boxes for an rock and roll must have effortlessly.

 They've certainly created a must have if you like to have fat riffs delivered in a more blistering kind of way and Zangs does the job just right, delivering crunching metallic guitar strokes across Blood Rights, Sick Rabbit and the groove infested Lovely Deer, that can appeal to those that like their stoner rock and their hard rock with a more polished gleam as well, which is never an easy task to achieve, but with the right balance of slick thrashing and power through dirty distortion, the essence of modern rock and roll is summed up effectively. And in this creation of the basis for rock and roll in this modern age, Zangs manages to do his own thing with writing melodies and open up a vast gateway to funk influences, as Breaking Down and Flying Over are filled with sweet rhythms that just make you want to move your feet along with your head.

 Zangs is only complimented by the powerhouse drumming that Jourdan has on offer. There's little more exciting than the opportunities to hear his blasting solos on Get By and the pounding that opens the atmospheric intro of The Everlasting Movement of the Red River. The drumming is of purely beastly proportions that proves just how untamed and let loose Cherry Bloom really manage to be, which creates utter epic-ness.

 So, in many was, it's interesting how they manage to balance out such unrelenting wildness with a truly gripping ability to paint an absorbing soundscape that they play amongst. Fall of a Dead Whale and Red River sound purely desolate with psychedelic melodies and the haunting harmonies between Zangs and Jourdan. That they manage to fit such a tone that brings up feelings of emptiness into something that is so musically full is beyond breathtaking.

 If it's everything in rock and roll that you're looking for, you know that the new wave of cool laid back rock and roll duos have the works for the job and Cherry Bloom are no exception, as they prove with Open and Die, giving the best of fast desert rock riffs, garage rock melodies and psychedelic backdrops, all in a tone that is their very own. So, as a lover of rock and roll, I think I've gained a new favourite new album for total rock and roll. Seriously, was France ever this good a place for good riffs? Is it the only place to find good riffs right now that isn't at Reading or Leeds? I become less ignorant with each new song.

Cherry Bloom's Open and Die is out now via Cherry Bloom.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Review: Yellowcard - Southern Air

 Y'know, I remember there was this time when I saw Yellowcard as this genuinely awesome pop punk band, thanks to the use of massive riffs compacted into intricate pop rock belters on their fourth and their biggest album Ocean Avenue and continued this thought when looking through some earlier and subsequent releases. When discovering the band had emerged from a two year hiatus with the release of last year's When you're Through Thinking, Say Yes, it served as a sign of rejuvenation within the band, and a chance to sharpen up their songwriting and make best use of their unique standpoint in the musical world as a pop punk band that makes use of violins in their songs. Well, that's what I thought, when stepping into the album and as you could imagine, the sloppy, hashed out songs smothered in poppy sweetness that turned the violin into nothing more of a gimmick was quite the disappointment. It's not really done anything to massively set me up for their eighth album Southern Air, which surprisingly, is a shame because as overly sweetly and poppy pop rock albums go, this one's a banger.

 Right from opener Awakening, Yellowcard offer nothing less than the most uplifting feel good moments in all of pop punk music delivered through gargantuan hooks that gives listeners an instant shot of total ecstasy. And as the album rides on, the sunshine just doesn't set at all. Surface of the Sun and Sleep in the Snow soar over the clouds with beefed up riffs from Ryan Key and Ryan Mendez compacted into zippy three minute pop punk belters and with a more prominent appearance from the electric violin skills of Sean Mackin, that compliments the hooks of these new songs, everything provides an overwhelming sense of joy.

 Now granted, there are certainly moments on the likes of Always Summer and Here I Am Alive that the sense of positivity does become a bit too high on the sweetly sugary side. And it becomes somewhat groan inducing. And by the time the band go on a pop punk day out with All Time Low's Alex Gaskarth, We Are the In Crowd's Taylor Jardine and Hey Monday's Cassadee Pope on Telescope the constant hearing of high pitched vocals, including those of Key becomes a little too sugary to the extent that you feel like your drowning in honey. Certainly after the album, I had to seek an instant remedy by listening to some Crowbar.

 But there is more to Southern Air than sweetly pop punk tunes, as I've built it to be so far. A Viscous Kind carries punk riffs along with a firmer more melancholic tone that instantly becomes a more mature and gripping listen, while Key lets out the full extent of his ability to write sad songs with Ten. It's always pop rock bands that sound the saddest when they write overly realistic lyrics about someone that's dead, so when the song's chorus opens with the calling of "You could be ten years old", it's definitely one of the band's most emotionally demanding songs that has clearly taken much courage to write, especially if it's based on real events, I couldn't tell you. Either way it's a fairly tragic and entirely gripping listen.

 That's the basic outline of Southern Air. When the songs aren't emotionally draining ballads, they're epic pop rock belters that will make you feel like you can fly, that certainly prove that the band have managed to pick up from last year's release and prove that their comeback is something worth shouting about after all. While, there isn't necessarily a real standout track on the album - the magnificent Breathing from Ocean Avenue comes to mind wouldn't you believe? - the album of a whole is just fully indestructible pop rock. Just forget any attempts to be badass and feel the joy.

Yellowcard's Southern Air is out now via Hopeless.

Review: The Faceless - Autotheism

 It is indeed difficult to come up with a new way to discuss the new wave of technical metal bands and with California quintet The Faceless, things are no different. Of course, The Faceless proved themselves throughout their 2006 and 2009 efforts Akeldama and Planetary Duality to be a band made up of various different elements that proved them to be a more diverse group than their peers. They have enough brutality packed within their songwriting to allow them to tour with Cannibal Corpse and are technically impressive enough to land a tour with Meshuggah and that's all while being part of the often-slated Sumerian Records, a record label that has been known to put more emphasis on the unwelcome poppy side of metal. You have to admit they've proved themselves an impressive group somewhere along the way. If you're unsure yet, perhaps their latest offering Autotheism should make you come up with some sort of reconsideration.

 3 years onward from Planetary Duality, The Faceless have taken their time to witness changes amongst the world of metal, and have taken it into their own hands to deliver something more potent and powerful than any other of their contemporaries. The resulting effect sees all the group's passion, energy and overwhelming creativity go into their third album that delivers many a refreshing and unexpected result along the way.

The most notable feature is the building up of the album into a grander and more atmospheric affair than anything they've done on previous releases. Some of the album's most tense moments come from the sole use of symphonic backdrops, as each stroke of violin strikes fear and overwhelming power into the minds and hearts of listeners. Maybe it's the sheer extent to which symphonic music has no place on a death metal album, which all and all makes it a much more curious affair with unpredictable results.

 The more surprising fact about the moments in which the sheer monolith-ism of Micheal Keene's battering riffs hit throughout the album is in the fact that it doesn't really sound that contrasting from the more subtle moments and symphonies and melodies. A seamless flow exists across the set of nine songs and it really serves as testament to Keene's role as chief songwriter. That and the extra emphasis of melody itself. Sections of Accelerated Evolution and In Solitude feature the kind of progressive melodies which sound more like that which Devin Townsend would pen down and the opening trilogy of Autotheist Movement serves as a perfectly absorbing work of progressive death metal that so many bands have attempted to do by mixing aired out passages with generic deathcore breakdowns, (Here's looking at you Spawn of Possession) yet sounds perfect here in a way that shows a genuinely natural progression.

 Of course those wanting brutality will not be let down by the sheer density of the album either. Hymn of Sanity is a complete blur of monstrous guitar battering that in conjunction with the in your face death growls of lead vocalist Geoffrey Ficco, however a crushing weight can be found anywhere you look, with the lead guitar of Wes Hauch managing to be just as thick amidst frantic solos as the main riffs from Keene, which is a genuinely surprising and mind-shaking feature.

 So, while it's still hard to think of anything new or revolutionary to say about The Faceless, Autotheism should realistically be impossible not to fall head over heels for. The mixture of death metal and progressive melodies has never sounded so captivating nor has served as such a considerable force in songwriting so much to the extent that Keene's clean vocals have a much bigger and engaging role across the album. It's with this that The Faceless should see their time to step up and dominate the new wave of technical metal and Micheal Keene be recognised as one of metal's best songwriters today. Again, it's difficult to discuss the new wave of tech metal bands now, but an easy thing to say is that The Faceless are the best going right now.

The Faceless' Autotheism is out now via Sumerian.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Review: Lynyrd Skynyrd - Last of a Dyin' Breed

 I've always felt like an unwelcome member of the community of music fans for my dislike of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama. What with it's lyrics boasting the joys of being a redneck and calling out of superior words of Neil Young, it seemed obnoxious and not something I'd agree with. And something that makes Lynyrd Skynyrd a perfect example of a band with which your first opportunity to hear them isn't necessarily the time to hear them at their finest, because the likes of Freebird, Simple Man and Call in the Breeze are all incredible works of classic rock and I know I could listen to many an album of theirs with no problem. And while thirteenth release Last of a Dyin' Breed is very much a hit and miss affair, ultimately one could come to the same agreement.

 Obviously, looking at Lynyrd Skynyrd now, there's been a notable amount of shifting in the band's lineup, with Johnny Van Zant and Gary Rossington being the only two original members now, so across the band's recent work, the focus has truly come down to these two. And in the case of Last of a Dyin' Breed, this considerable focus on Rossington is what provides the album with some of it's greatest hits. As the title track opens with a gentle array of blues riffage, a feeling of utmost class within their work has to be recognised.

 Rossington's prominent ability to mix this classic sound with that of a harder sound comes across effortlessly in the album's best moments whether it be the solid badassery of Life's Twisted and Poor Man's Dream, the swinging melodies of Low Down Dirty and the perfect balance between blues finesse and distortion that makes up One Day at a Time. Rossington proves why many... through and through Americans would happily refer to him one of the greatest guitarists of modern age in a way that really backs up their claims.

 While Van Zant proves himself to still possess a powerful set of pipes and has a performance that really compliments Rossington's best moments, I can't personally get too into his overall performance because well, with the exception of what has become known as Southern rock, it's incorporation into hardcore music, traditional blues music and a few other important exceptions, I've never been particularly keen on a lot of music to originate from the South of the USA. Country based music, again with a few important exceptions, it's not for me. And as always, Lynyrd Skynyrd delve excessively into this type of music and the balladry of Ready to Fly and Something to Believe In may be felt by some people but not by me, my friends. It's performances here that are most reliant on Van Zant's performance to deliver the full effect, but I really don't feel it. Further performances of Mississippi Blood and Van Zant's discussion about how it takes most of his money to fill his pickup truck on Nothing Comes Easy have a tendency to sound like parodies of redneck country anthems that just can't be taken seriously.

 So, Lynyrd Skynyrd achieve for me what they've managed with every album and created something that one could easily sit through albeit having to go through a few tracks that are just too Southern, however the amount of rock and roll that can be provided elsewhere provides a forgivable balance. The album comes with no such thing as a sing-along ballad, which by Lynyrd Skynyrd's account is Sweet Home Alabama so, thank goodness for that, meaning listening to the album as a full set of songs is the best way to appreciate it. So if you are feeling in the mood for some Southern rock done as it should be, Last of a Dyin' Breed is another album that provides a perfect amount of riffs and moonshine. God, I know nothing about the South.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's Last of a Dyin' Breed is out now via Roadrunner. The band will tour the UK in November.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Review: Spector - Enjoy It While It Lasts

 Some people have been viewing them as the last great hope for UK guitar based music (and are probably wrong, they'll be plenty more) while other people have been viewing them as that weird looking band fronted by that weird looking bloke that wears weird looking glasses, but London quintet Spector have undoubtedly made a name for themselves over the past twelve months, whether it's being nominated for the BBC's Sounds of 2012 poll (A poll that has never been kind to metal fans, or recognise that they exist), touring with indie pop superstars Florence + the Machine or performing at just about any indie friendly festival you can think of off the top of your head. And with this major buzz surrounding them, they release their debut full length Enjoy It While It Lasts, where it's apparent that the weird looking band fronted by an ex-MTV presenter are actually as passionate about great music as MTV are not.

 From their statements of bands that influence them, The Strokes, The Killers, Roxy Music, there's nothing more than rock music altered to it's most indie suited setting, but it's very much indie rock performed with a high indie fervour. It opens with the soothing buildup of milky synth backdrops that make up True Love (For Now) accompanied by the irresistible baritone of the panned lead singer Fred Macpherson executed with a reminiscence of some of the best vocalists the 2000's indie explosion gave us, in the vein of Tom Smith of Editors and Harry McVeigh of White Lies. There lies an unpredictability of what the song will build into at this point and if you're sympathetic towards alt rock in any way, you'll surely find the splash into synthesizer laden power pop melodies to be a sweet payoff.

 It would be easy to state this sets the tone of the album because hook filled indie rock anthems are what's on offer and anyone that disagrees with that after hearing the smashing hooks of Chevy Thunder is... deaf. However, the crystalline production of Craig Silvey, who has already lent his talents to R.E.M., The Horrors and Arcade Fire is just as appealing a feature across the album, as delicate keyboards bleep warmly across Grey Shirt & Tie while symphonic backdrops sprawl beautifully amongst Upset Boulevard. The charm and emotional output put into the album has such a high level of triumph and emotional output that perfectly identifies the tone of the song that it's difficult to describe them save for that they truly drag you into the world of the band's message that you can stay and be immersed within even if you don't care for hook filled indie rock.

 While elements of this album will be picked up upon for being nothing more than simple laddish indie rock that relies on big choruses (Friday Night, Don't Ever Let it End) and the claim being made that Spector are going to be the people that can save guitar music is ridiculous, there's so much beauty across the music of Enjoy It While It Lasts. This song combination makes the likes of Celestine hopelessly uplifting, while the synth heavy Grim Reefer and Never Fade Away divert from such notions by providing an absorbing work of hip-hop inspired backdrops that many fellow indie acts wouldn't dare to venture.

 And the idea that Spector might be the saviours of guitar music is probably so ridiculous sounding because the work of synthesizers are far more advanced and wonderful than anything else you'll hear from other indie bands. The production of Enjoy It while It Lasts is simply spectacular and is only complimented further by the vocals of Macpherson and simple but powerful guitar work from Chris Burman and Jed Cullen. So you are wrong if you view Spector as the last great hope for UK guitar based music and you're right if you view them as that weird looking band with that weird looking lead singer with the weird looking glasses. But if being weird and thinking outside of the box can deliver results like this, then I'd rather be a weirdo than a saviour any day.

Spector's Enjoy It While It Lasts is out now via Fiction. The band will play at Reading and Leeds festival from 24th-25th August and will tour the UK from October-November with Splashh, Swim Deep and LULS.

Review: The Darkness - Hot Cakes

 If you followed the amount of trendsetting that NME magazine thrived upon in the early 2000's, first of all, shame on you and second of all, you'll view this as the comeback that nobody wanted. If you love Permission to Land through and through and believe it to be a kick ass rock and roll album for modern times, then the comeback from The Darkness must surely be one of the most anticipated events of the year. I've certainly been excited. With the band's solidarity as strong as ever, new songs, and evidence of their strength being seen through their storming performance that kicked off this year's T in the Park (which I would have enjoyed more if someone hadn't been passed out and in need of help during half the set. Russell.) there's been little reason for me not to be. So with all this, does the perceived strength manage to be reflected through and through across their comeback album Hot Cakes?

 Obviously, The Darkness are no strangers to failure. Despite being brilliant, 2006's One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back was a commercial flop after the band went down more of an alternative route, so with Hot Cakes, they've learned that the real way to win the hearts of rock fans everywhere is to just chill the fuck out and rock. And that's the basic essence that can be heard in the smooth opener, Every Inch of You as an instantly catchy drum beat from Ed Graham accompanies subtle guitar duels between Dan and Justin Hawkins that sound reminiscent of AC/DC at their most chilled out, all before Justin screams "Every man wanna try/Wants to/ Suck my cock!" unleashing his infamous falsetto vocals, that makes you remember why The Darkness were always labelled as being such a ridiculous and mental band. Which also reminds us of why we love them so very much.

 From there, the album is a treat of over-the-top pieces of rock and roll with a quarry-load of hooks and the bravado and the big man boldness that dominated the rock scene of the 1970's and 80's so well made effortlessly enjoyable. With a Woman has the obvious groove of Led Zeppelin compacted into a pouncing three minute belter while the adrenaline packed Nothin's Gonna Stop Us with it's charged up guitars and operatic choruses is so filled to the brim in it's songwriting with sugar coated fun, that an inability to raise a smile in the process of listening to it should be an encouraging sign for you to question your place in life.

 The sense of good times is raised in more ways that creating the amount of fun that could give Andrew W.K. a run for his money however. The uplifting sound of Keep Me Hangin' On and Living Each Day Blind is testament to just how unexpectedly solid and seriously taken the band's songwriting really is, which sometimes has an ability to be overlooked by many people. The sturdy melodies upheld by the entire band gives the songs power that grips listeners by the ears and forces them to genuinely take Justin Hawkins seriously in what he says and in the moment Hawkins takes grabbing the audiences attention into his own hands on Concrete, the ability to make his messages utterly sincere and heartfelt while simultaneously projecting his voice to new heights is purely mind shattering. It feels less like an epic moment to a song, and more like a moment that defies all basic logic of reality.

 Since I dig my Radiohead quite a lot, I was initially horrified to see that Hot Cakes featured a cover of Street Spirit (Fade Out) because, you know, The Darkness is kind of the opposite of Radiohead musically. I suppose that's what makes the song so incredibly mind blowing. Because the bands are so incredibly different, The Darkness could never do a straight simple cover of such a beautiful and delicate song. The result sounds like the original Street Spirit after going through a car crash in the middle of a theatre. The subtle and delicate riffs of Thom Yorke are turned into a faster thrashier proposition by the Hawkins brothers here and at times sounds less like Radiohead and more like early Iron Maiden. As a Radiohead fan, this should sound disgusting, but yet, it's utterly convincing. With this more metallic take on the song, The Darkness give Street Spirit a wilder more aggressive sound while also managing to highlight the vulnerable tone of the original which in many ways give the song a more tragic element. I really don't think I can do the kind of thing where I instantly state the original is better. I think the original and this cover will have to  exist as separate entities. They're both amazing.

 There are moments on Hot Cakes that will remind you of why The Darkness originally kicked so much ass first time around with Permission to Land and why the method of well constructed rock and roll songs with big hooks can essentially never die, but can also prove that they're so much more capable of making songs with very genuine messages that you can take seriously without showing any signs of mellowing out. Even if you don't view the comeback of The Darkness as a highly anticipated event, you can surely view this album as a triumphant work of great rock and roll that proves that maybe there was always something substantial to them and they were always more than some NME trend. Let The Darkness reign.


The Darkness' Hot Cakes is out now via PIAS. The band will tour the UK in September with Lady Gaga and Lady Starlight.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Review: Bloc Party - Four

 Whether you view them as another band that caused the UK music scene to be overrun by indie bands or are one of the most exciting and unpredictable band to come from the scene of the naughties, London quartet Bloc Party have always been one of the most kinetic and dynamic indie bands that gained notoriety throughout the indie explosion that dominated the rock scene at over the past ten years and may start to make a big resurgence before we know it. From the wild indie tunes of 2005's Silent Alarm, to the trippier influences from dance music that fueled their further releases and allowed them to climb up the singles charts in 2008 with Flux, to the further diversity in their side projects, like the heavier Young Legionnaire and the thrilling electronic solo career of frontman Kele Okereke. Following a hiatus that's allowed them to do projects like these, the band make a long awaited return for fourth album Four, that sees them slam back into action in a way that some fans might not have expected and other fans have long waited for.

 If you did find yourself unsatisfied by the band's venture into more pop based electronic territory then Four acts as a return to original form that goes far beyond what the band originally proved themselves to be capable of. In interviews, Okereke stated that he had been listening to a lot of Nirvana before recording this album and from the dirty riffs that thunder into action on So He Begins to Lie, it's obvious that Bleach had had a fair amount of plays before the songwriting process began. Songs like this and Kettling show the boldness of Bloc Party and their ability to do what would have gotten them nowhere during the 2000's indie rock explosion and grow some extra balls, crank up the distortion and play their songs heavy with the ferocity of the kind of bands that built up the fuzzed up reputation of Sub Pop Records.

 The heaviness can be felt across Four in a fully convincing style. We Are Not Good People has the fat riff rock style that wouldn't sound out of place on Queens of the Stone Age's self titled debut, while 3x3 delivers charged up riffage reminiscent to Nirvana's Tourette's. The fearsome growls from Okereke across the song gives listeners the sound of danger once again, on which the foundations of rock and roll lay.

 There are also moments that carry of the swagger on which the foundations of rock and roll lay in a totally convincing manner as well. Real Talk serves as a perfect foot stomping rock song where hooks are swinging, vocals are smooth and amongst the prolonged roughness, there lies the characteristic of a song so effortlessly slick. The classic rock influence that the garage rock revival brought back to life at the start of the year has a brief visit on the album, but damn, does it make an impact. It shows Bloc Party and be more fearsome and cooler than their competition without even trying.

 Yet amongst all this rock and roll bravado, there too lies a more sensitive emotion driven element to the album. With  it's repetition of tender guitar patterns and soft vocal melodies, Truth manages to find itself to be extremely simple but touching at the same time, while the delicate arrangement of The Healing into textured atmospheric musical backdrops is so easy to become absorbed within, you can feel the rush of emotion simply encircle you and realise that beauty does lie within the band's work.

 So, with the rush of emotion, the urgency of performances and the amounts of swagger and fierceness put into their songs, Bloc Party have come back stronger than ever with Four. I know there are still a high number of people that still only know the band because of Flux, and nothing from that song and that era of songs could prepare them for the monster contained within this album. It's genuinely thrilling to hear the band become heavy and it's beyond anything one may expect from a band that were once big on the indie scene and I know that if there are people that clung that scene of bands in the hope that one of them may produce a real rock and roll record, then they've finally found it. And this might not even be the band you expected it to come from.

Bloc Party's Four is out now via Frenchkiss. The band will tour the UK in October with Theme Park.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Totally pointless ramblings: A message to those whose hatred only moves in one direction...

 I figured it's about time I talked a bit about the London 2012 Olympics, now that they've been over for about a week and all the hysteria regarding them is beginning to cool down. If I'm honest I really wan't so obsessed with the sports save for the odd running event and bits and bobs of other events that really just made me want to go outside, but when it came to watching the Opening and Closing ceremonies, my eyes were glued to the TV screen, save for the part where I spent the first part of the Closing Ceremony coming home from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Because of course, as the music fan that I am, these ceremonies that lots of cool stuff on offer. From the massive surprise of the first performance of the Opening Ceremony coming from folk punk troubadour Frank Turner and the sight of cartoonish punks with massive Mohawks jumping up and down to Sex Pistols' Pretty Vacant and post flame-lighting performances handled by the Arctic Monkeys (Yeah, I think they're pretty cool these days. What a difference a year makes.) and Paul McCartney to the closing ceremony's solid performances from the likes of Madness, Ray Davies and Elbow and the absolutely stellar concluding performance from The Who. Even the massively slated performance of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here fronted by acoustic singer/songwriter star Ed Sheeran joined by Nick Mason and Mike Rutherford of Genesis was done with utmost class.

The good stuff.

 However, when comparing the two ceremonies, for me certainly, the Opening Ceremony goes down as the better. Frankly, the Closing Ceremony had a lot of moments that were, well, shit. It goes without saying that I wasn't too impressed by the appearance of the Spice Girls and to hear Liam Gallagher perform a wheezing, tired rendition of Oasis's Wonderwall with Beady Eye was just cringeworthy and painful to watch even though I really hate the guy and there was something satisfying about seeing a performance so poor. Alongside this, the entire world were basically clenching their fists in excitement when the vast amount of clips of David Bowie started to appear in anticipation for the fact that Bowie might actually perform. To have that followed only by essentially a catwalk display taking place with Bowie's Fashion playing in the background was a massive letdown and while the appearance of Brian May and Roger Taylor onstage following electrifying footage of Freddie Mercury across massive screens started off a very badass celebration of the music of Queen, things quickly turned sour when they decided that joining them for the ever-magnificent We Will Rock You would be none other than the "delightful" pop singer Jessie J, who came fresh from claiming that "It's not about the money" while riding in a 300 grand Rolls Royce to ruin We Will Rock You with every added line of "We're gonna rock you, baby!" and creating one of the worst moments in the history of music.

The bad stuff.

 But, in spite of all this dread, there was still a phenomenal amount of hatred pointed to one small factor of the ceremony, and they were hated for their performance just for the reason that they're hated in general and while there was nothing wrong with the performance, their presence alone just caused everyone to become very hating and mocking. And the easy shots people take is something that should be discussed in order to protect the ability to actually love and care about rock music and should be criticized as all that do it are pathetic. You may have worked out by now that I'm talking about the meaningless and pointless hatred pointed towards mega-selling boyband One Direction.

"Hi there rock music fans! We're One Direction, we've made songs that  everyone will forget in a few years, and we've ruined EVERYTHING! EVERYYYYTHIIIIING!"

 Now, after a statement like "rock fans criticizing One Direction is pathetic and pointless" you might be thinking something like "What's this Andy? Are you defending One Direction? Are you a fan or something?" No of course not. Having actually taken the time to go through their massive debut effort Up All Night, I find it only to be a collection of commercially produced glossy pop songs in which the performance of all five members are put into harmonies that do nothing but create a cutesy romantic element to their songs that no one that isn't looking for some kind of soppy cutesy romantic sound would ever want. (And being a child raised in the town of Blairgowrie on bleakness and disappointment, I'm not going to have such a desire any time soon.) Musically, the production is dire and there's nothing to lure me into anything beyond the overly sugary vocal performances which is obviously what's selling this album. The only thing that is relied upon musically is creating hooks and honestly, there's enough going on in the pop punk scene now to make a song being catchy an original and unique factor for a band anymore. Seriously, the only teen-friendly pop band I can handle now is All Time Low. I'm highly confident that I'm still the band's only male fan and the only person whose favourite song isn't OMG! Alex is So Hot! So hopefully, after that explanation, you can realise that One Direction aren't exactly the band that I like to listen to in between Kyuss and Electric Wizard. To me, they seem like a band that will lose all relevance at some time in the next five years and will only be loved in those years by people who loved them at the time, possibly at a trashy hen night party of some sort.

 So as you can see, I've managed to write a statement that criticizes the music of One Direction. However, judging by the kind of criticisms handed by fellow people that call themselves rock fans, I've achieved something rare on the internet and criticized the band without the use of such popular critiques as "Ugh! These guys are gaaaayyy!!" or "These fags look like girls!!!" or "I hope these wankers go and diiiieeeee." Seeing this kind of thing is just pathetic. It really brings shame to me as a massive fan of all things rock and roll to see other people with such a music taste emerge as such a bratty and immature looking individual when they're music taste is actually fairly respectable. When someone tries to make themselves look respectable and instead look pathetic, it takes their music taste down with them as well. Anyone that uses these terms to describe these groups are officially not allowed to listen to Queen, Bowie, Judas Priest, Twisted Sister, Black Veil Brides or any Japanese dance rock band of your choice.

Just you remember us the next time you complain about bands looking a bit on the feminine side.

 Honestly, there are so many cases of people criticizing pop bands like One Direction in the lamest of ways, while displaying that they aren't even trying to do anything to improve upon their own music taste and develop upon their taste in rock music. I feel sick to my guts every time I go on Youtube and see that the top comment on a Led Zeppelin videos reads along the lines of "Hi! I'm 13 and I'm sorry for what my generation has done to music." You little prick! You think you're the best and have the mot in depth taste because you listen to classic rock music! Don't you dare apologise about what this generation has done with music because this generation has done noting bad to rock music. You just haven't looked in depth enough to find the truly amazing bands that just haven't managed to get as much attention as the likes of One Direction. And if the only level of band popularity you're looking towards are bands that have major popularity today and already well-established bands from the 1960's-80's, then frankly, you're one of the reasons that our generation of music has reached a level that you may refer as bad. You like Led Zeppelin huh? That's easy! Rival Sons, The Union, The Treatment, CauldronGraveyard. Not so sorry now are you kid?

Please go on to tell the world about how there's no better album than the Mothership compilation and totally undermine our influence. We're very intrigued. And we're not playing live again.

 The worst part about the widespread hatred for easily mock-able chart toppers is the way that metal fans have adopted a manner of instantly stating metal is the best because these groups exist. I've seen the way modern metal fans go through this and it's groan-inducing. Conversations are so generic and senseless these days. Get together, state that Sepultura are better than Justin Bieber, agree, go on to state that Trivium are superior to One Direction. Yeah, that's real metal guys, real fuckin' metal. How are you meant to show that you give a shit about your taste in metal if all you do is compare your bands to musicians that effectively create a musical style the opposite. You can't display a love for your band that way. If you want to love metal and you want to love metal through and through (and I know that that is the way for lots of you) why not just fully coat your musical conversations in the most unrelenting heaviest metal. Do you need inspiration for some conversations? Try some of these: Which Meshuggah album provides us with the heaviest highlights? Who's made better riffs? Bobby Gustafson or Mille Petrozza? (Obviously adding Eric Peterson to the mix would eliminate any sort of competition.) Does the grandeur created amongst the spaciousness the music of Behemoth compare to that of Nile? What album was the biggest disappointment? Supercharger, Illud Divinum Insanus or Cold Lake? How does Varg Vikernes spend Christmas? May you never grow bored.

These people are far more worth your time than elaborating upon  how much you hate whoever topped the charts this week.

 There is one underlying problem when hatred is just pointed from rock fans towards chart music that isn't made to be enjoyed by those with a rock and roll mentality. There's an element of blindness that goes on and these people somehow just seem to refuse that there are in fact bad rock and metal bands out there. The other idiotic comment that is seen too often on Youtube is the notion that everyone that likes rock and metal should get together to take down people that like pop music, as though we all enjoy the same thing. That's ridiculous. Seriously, it's not possible to enjoy all rock music in a world in which Brokencyde and Vampires Everywhere! exist. These bands make a music built up of pure trash with no merit whatsoever. The only time Vampires Everywhere! make any riffs, you can specifically tell specific parts of which Marilyn Manson song they're ripping off and when Brokencyde perform... it sounds like the end of eternity. The fact that people are ignorant to the fact that both bands toured together but take so much hatred towards some simple pop tunes is simply worrying.

If you experience rage when you hear about  generic boybands, but don't view this tour poster as apocalyptic, you need to get your head checked, mate.

 So far I'm saying that if if you are a rock fan and you're hating pop music that should be of no relevance to you, you're kind of wasting your time and appearing pathetic. At the same time there's absolutely no reason as to why these pop artists shouldn't be of any relevance to you. The biggest One Direction fan I know is also a massive fan of Guns N' Roses, AC/DC and Nirvana and could tell you anything you need to know about the genre of pop punk, from it's classic roots and serve as the epitome of anything worth listening to in the charts. She's probably better at talking about music than I could ever be. In fact, almost everyone I knew in school came with some strong musical passion. It's no wonder I got shaped into the person I am today. Thanks for setting me up for life guys.

 But maybe, it's ingrained within you that you just like your music driven by guitars packed with distortion. I know that as I further contemplate the possibilities of wearing a Queens of the Stone Age Songs For the Deaf style tattoo for the rest of my life, I know that that's the type of music that means the most to me. I know that the world of boybands and teen popstars really don't have a place in my life, so I don't really choose to elaborate on them. And I know that I don't really have a place to talk about One Direction, because they're so far removed from the kind of music I live for that there's no possible way I can pick up any good things about them. If you're the same, then it really is true that in the case of groups and singers like these, that if you don't have anything good to say, just keep it to yourself. Sure it's fine to display some hatred towards bands in your life, but if it's just pop bands that make simple catchy songs that you're displaying a hatred for, where's the fun in that? Do you think that makes you look like a truly know-all music fan? Maybe instead of posting that One Direction look like girls and writing homophobic slurs, you could spend time looking deeper into the genre you love, finding the modern bands with the same class and style as your favourite classic bands and finding the actual bad bands that you can display a hatred for, and become someone with a much greater musical outset. There's so much close mindedness existing in modern music today towards any artists that top the charts with sweetly pop songs, that anyone wants to have a pop at them. The fact that rock fans simply state themselves to be superior by writing a large amount of passionate hatred for these acts is pathetic in it's entirety. It's the most pointless, attention seeking act I've ever seen and just makes me sad about the total lack of passion rock fans for rock music. Seriously, sort yourself out. You want a full spectrum of rock and roll that you be totally immersed within, stay the hell away from the charts.

Gathering some thoughts on the Pussy Riot situation

 So, depending on your beliefs and what you believe, their has been some divisive opinions to have come from yesterday's top news story about three members of Russian feminist punks Pussy Riot receiving a sentence of two years imprisonment after being found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, following their arrest in March after preforming a "punk prayer" at the altar of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in which they spoke against the re-election of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The three band members Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich confidently stated their line of defense throughout the trial to be that their acts of public protest where in no way religiously motivated but, as we all know by now a protest against the re-election of Putin and the support towards Putin from the Orthodox Church. In the trial these arguments were rejected by judge Marina Syrova, as the band were sentenced to the cries of "Shame!" from many inside and outside the court and from cries of shame from people across members of a more Democratic world, wether they be political enthusiasts, genuine members of British Parliament and rock fans and those in support of punk's typically boisterous and loud way of yelling about current issues. Seriously this is like a much more dramatic version of the Sex Pistols attempting to play God Save the Queen on a private boat sailing down the River Thames on the day of the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, before having police force the boat to dock, only this time, the protest is more political and has really given the world a greater insight into the tyrannical rule that Putin has had in Russia, specifically in terms of democratic standards. Better still it may seriously affect his chance of re-election and if it doesn't it will be obvious that some fixing has been going on in elections.

 It's no secret that in the past, a history of denying a certain amount of free speech that could unsettle the running of Russia and the rule of it's government has existed over the years, particularly during Putin's rule and it seems that the world has finally fully opened their eyes to this fact. I probably wouldn't manage to fully justify his tyranny in explaining this past actions, however one of the most shocking stories regarding the control of free speech in Russia in recent times is a fairly famous one that you may or may not know. I was only discovered it after being casually told about in a History class in 4th year at school. But it comes from the aftermath of the horrific explosion of the submarine Kursk when it sank into the Barents Sea in October 2000 and a leak of hydrogen peroxide in a torpedo led to an explosion of fuel, which then triggered the explosion of further warhead torpedoes. The Russian government were already being slammed due to their refusal to allow British and Norwegian rescue teams to intervene and for trying to downplay the situation by claiming the submarine went through "minor technical difficulties" and that bad weather stopped any rescue attempts from being made, but it's the measures taken when some panic was created by the situation that really just took the piss out of the sheer extent to which they wished to keep people quiet. On 18th August, during a news briefing about the fate of the Kursk, Nadezhda Tylik, the mother of Kursk submariner Lt. Sergei Tylik, produced an hysterical outburst of emotion. Several attempts were made to keep her quiet as the Putin continued to try and downplay the situation. After failing to keep her quiet, a nurse walked up to her, putting her arm around her in a friendly manner, in a way to show support and to try and clam her down. Shortly after this Tylik passed out. The event, captured on film had in fact revealed that the nurse was holding a needle filled with a sedative and has injected it into Tylik's neck. on behalf of Russia's government, it served as an act of fear on their behalf, and being unable to deal with people that spoke their mind with force and passion and only using their powers to keep them quiet. This situation with Pussy Riot is the exact same. The band members were locked up for passionately stating their own beliefs that the Russian Government could not create any response to so, best to throw them in jail! Now, if only I could say that the UK and USA were exempt from this. This section didn't have a lot to do with music at all. Go and listen to Travel is Dangerous by Mogwai. The entire song was inspired by Kursk.

I have to say, now that the band are such a major news case, it's impossible to find any music recorded by Pussy Riot and it seems they only formed at the start of last year and specialize in making their shows improvised, which is a shame because a campaign to get a single or album to top the charts would be a seriously great cause. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places. However, the response from more popular names in music in support of them is phenomenal. Whether it's in the form of vocal support from Madonna, a Pussy Riot T-Shirt being worn by Anthony Kiedis during a Red Hot Chili Peppers show in Moscow, or the Punk Prayer that was performed at the Cathedral being covered by Anti-Flag, it's clear that this is not a topic being ignored by the world of music. Obviously, many metal fans have just come out of a state of rage against foreign authority with the support for and demand for freedom of Randy Blythe, but the case of Pussy Riot is a completely different subject. Certainly no one's died in this situation and this is an equally important cause to get riled up about if you thought the authorities of the Czech Republic were unjustified towards the Lamb of God frontman.

 That's all I can really think to say on the issue. Three woman have been arrested for standing up for what they believe in and with the odd exception, that's something we would never see in the UK. And if you are from the UK and believe that the woman's action did justify the "hooliganism" sentence they've received, do try and remember that we've had much worse acts take place here and that there weren't nearly enough arrests from the London Riots of last year and those things were mindless. Perhaps in time, Pussy Riot will become inspirational figures. Certainly, if they ever make an album following the release of Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich, it is guaranteed to be killer. Along with this, in questioning authority they've been a vital display of what punk is truly about, which is seen clearest in a worldwide disapproval towards Putin. Maybe because I'm all young and left wing, I'm opposed to Putin's ability to get away with screwing with people's freedom of speech while residents of Russia look at matters outside of this with much positivity but Pussy Riot have made a huge mark in the fight for a more democratic, fairer Russia that identifies the right to freedom of speech and maybe their actions will inspire millions of people to stand up for their causes, no matter how small they may be, no matter what kind of challenges face you. The photo taken of Tolokonnikova and her triumphant pose really illustrates this ideal. I'm done with being political for now. I should keep it cool and talk 'bout some riffs and stuff.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Review: Heart of a Coward - Hope and Hindrance

 This review really has been a long time coming. I've been in possession of Hope and Hindrance, the debut full length from Milton Keynes metallers Heart of a Coward since it came free with last month's Metal Hammer magazine. And since then, the band have come to gain a higher profile, helped amongst the underground metal scene by the fact that it is in sense the new band by Jamie Graham, formerly of the wonderful Sylosis. So, with a new ambition and a major influence from this upcoming style they call "djent", the band have already come into their own. And it's easy to see why.

 When people first started talking about this "djent" style in the way that all bands were inspired by the likes of Meshuggah and Sikth, I was a little terrified that the entire genre would consist of guitar snobs using their time recording music to simply show how technically gifted they were on guitar and not really take the time to write real songs as a result. However, Heart of a Coward prove this notion wrong thankfully again, as Hope and Hindrance reveals itself to be a song of intelligently constructed songwriting.

 It's such songwriting that sees the skillful guitar work of Carl Ayers and Steve Haycock built into thundering grooves that you can find on the likes of Around a Girl (In 80 Days) and And Only Time Will Tell, alongside the surprisingly catchy We Stand as One, one of the catchiest and most uplifting decent metal songs since perhaps Pantera's Cowboys From Hell. Given the use of palm muting across the album, these grooves come thicker, with much greater depth than much competition. (Sylosis, perhaps?)

 The songwriting in itself feels like a proper event musically. From the moment opener Killing Fields reaches it's conclusion and seamlessly flows into All Eyes to the Sky, something of a sense of enlightenment can be felt from the delicate soundscaping the band captivate. Built into graceful melodies and dramatic backdrops, the progressive element brought into the music is only too beautiful. By the time the album bows out on the magnificent outro of Break These Chains mixing such absorbing atmospherics with such pulsing grooves, you're left knowing that this is a band that Jamie Graham has put his heart and soul into and are on a completely different page to his previous musical outing.

 You learn that, and the fact that maybe there is something to this specific "djent" scene after all. It's really not a term I want to use regularly, but if it manages to create something as wonderful as Hope and Hindrance, then it's probably a term worth looking out for if it's able to give bands a guideline of how to make their albums. Heart of a Coward have looked down this path while bringing in their own knowledge of progressive metal and metalcore to bring something truly heavy, truly clever and truly mind-blowing to the ever-rising world of new British metal bands. And for not checking them out until now, I feel dirty, like I've committed a criminal offence.

Heart of a Coward's Hope and Hindrance is out now via Self-Release. The band will tour the UK in November on the Metal Hammer Razor Tour with Devil Sold His Soul, Heights and Steak Number Eight.

Review: Carcer City - The Road Journals

 I've recently become something of a music scrounger, bagging up any chance there is for me to download any albums that are intended to be free for free. And the idea of giving away album's for free at a stage in any band's career is something that one can easily get behind. While it may baffle some artists to not make any money from what they do, album giveaways are a great way to attract a wider fanbase from those on the stingier side that don't want to throw their money straight away (me) and shows that a band really care about the music, to the extent that money doesn't need to be made from it. It's for this reason that these free albums actually have a tendency to be brilliant. Such as today's offering, The Road Journals, the debut offering from scouse metal quintet Carcer City.

 It's no secret that as the year has gone on, there's been a great influx in bands, specifically British bands that have been doing their part to make the genre of metalcore an overall genre of respectability again and take it from the hands of the American bands with stylish fringes and permanent fixtures on the Warped Tour lineup. Even the likes of Bury Tomorrow have stated their mission to be to take the genre name and make it not a title of scorn anymore. And Carcer City prove themselves to be another worthy band of such a reputation and such a cause. With The Road Journals, metalcore becomes genuinely heavy once again.

 As the full band effort crashes into action on Lifeless, Awaken, the levels of urgency and full frontal passion in their performance simply slams through the roof as the full band effort carries a sense of gritty ambition that makes their efforts feel more real and intense than any sort that other recent metalcore acts have achieved.

 It goes without saying that this is what makes up the main basis of the album and that Carcer City always sound epic when they're doing it. The Constant and Mistakes I Have to Live With are packed with the density in their furious breakdowns and frenetic bursts of pure metallic riffage from Lewis Hughes and Owen Randles that no Bury Your Dead fan could possibly pass up, while the kinetic drumming of Ollie Graham serves as an unending fixture of chaos in the band's course of action. In the best possible way.

 There is time for melody as well on The Road Journals. It's a little more subtle than the ability that Bury Tomorrow have to unleash massive choruses that sound genuinely absorbing, as opposed to an auto-tuned emo pop chorus. But smoother, more solidly written moments are discovered on the beauty of Distance and If We Make It Home, and it takes solidly attentive ears to truly pick up on  the beauty and wide emotion the band pack into the performance of these songs. You can find this extra amount of ambition in the emotion of the storming piano aided title track and the well arranged Ghosts trilogy, the kind of songwriting that surpasses the metalcore standard, surely.

 With metalcore becoming a genre once more deserving of proper recognition, there's an unpredictability existing in much of the new music coming from the new bands. And with The Road Journals mixing real brutality with real emotion and real songwriting, Carcer City have nailed this notion right on the head. With this album, you're in for a bumpy ride of massive breakdowns with a perfect tightness that the heaviness seams out of, and each song will bring a new layer of freshness and grandeur to the road on which you travel as a listener. Basically, if something is lying in front of you for free, just snatch it up. There's a good chance it could be of quality like this.

Carcer City's The Road Journals is out now via Self-Release. The band will play the O2 Academy Liverpool on 25th with Malefice, Silent Screams and Oceanis.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Review: Don Broco - Priorities

 Sometimes when one scene is filled with a new band appearing every which way, you do start to wonder who is the real deal in the entire unfolding of the scene and more attention is put to some bands, while others levels of attention are diverted. For a long time, when ultimate focus had to be placed on the likes of Twin Atlantic, Young Guns and Lower Than Atlantis, Bedford's Don Broco, were a band tat I couldn't really make an effort to focus on, or rather, they weren't on my list of Priorities. When first hearing their name appear when listening to new songs all I could think was "Well come on then, let's see what you've got" and what they had was the title track, from their debut album. How could I be anything other than blown away?

 However, this was months ago and it's only now that we've gotten to the moment that Priorities has been released in it's entirety. Don Broco have risen in their overall prolific-ness since then and have been recognised as a group of cool lads making some hard hitting pop rock tunes, with enough freshness to last an album. That's all you really need to know about them. That and the fact that this logic may sound unappealing but it is in fact brilliant.

 Opening on the song that those that love their rock songs spiked with hooks are forced by choice to fall in love with, Priorities takes listeners on a thrilling spiked up journey through North London, hearing stories of real life situations, thoughts and ideas told through the effortlessly smooth vocal performance of frontman Rob Damiani, creating the songs to be like the musical equivalent of spending a night in the pub hearing loads of different stories from one guy, and never getting bored..

 Smoothness seems to be an overriding musical idea throughout the album. Riffs hit hard throughout the album from the instant leap into distortion provided by Hold On to the rush of urgency packed into Back In the Day, however, though they hit hard, you can always find some kind of a velvet laden texture to surround the overall sound, even amidst piles of distortion created by Simon Delaney. This is a good way to be though, as the song is given a greater depth in which one may fully lose themselves, as you'd want to with a good pub story. I think there's a link here. Or a theme about hanging out at the Bedford local.

 With these smooth song textures laid out, it's the performance from Damiani that gives Priorities it's ever diverse nature. The smooth shifting dynamic between high pitched calls and lower gruffer vocals on the title track, the song with one of 2012's best choruses and the ultimate "bros-before-hos" anthem highlights the sense of constant concern from the songs antagonist towards his lover, and the "shut the hell up" sense of cynicysm from the song's protagonist, before Damiani furiously calls out "Mate, you know how much you've changed?/ Where's my buddy I was hanging out with yesterday?" Throughout, his vocal influences enter a wide range, from the raw calling of Yeah Man to the more chilled vibes of Here's the Thing and Fancy Dress, which take influences from indie rock and some chilled R n' B, done smoothly enough for it to become a completely gripping and convincing performance of the musical style. Making a wide range of modern rock influences is a prime issue for the album but this does mean the indie pop path can be followed and while lyrically Let's Go Back to School's dramatic realization of how far real life is removed from school days (Been finding that one out myself pretty hard) is totally gripping, it falls flat a little musically.

 But, if you want pop rock that leaves you with a definite rush, it's difficult to think of any album that's going to do it for you better this year than Priorities. With the band putting in a full frontal effort to create a work of songs so powerful and passionate, the translation into a set of simple finely crafted alt rock songs will be enough to lift anyone up. And without any doubt, Don Broco have made themselves a permanent fixture on the table of modern British rock bands. And this is only the first step.

Don Broco's Priorities is out now via Search and Destroy. The band will perform at Butserfest 2012 at Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield on 15th September, Underground Festival at Gloucester Guildhall on 30th September and will tour the UK in October with Lower Than Atlantis, The Dangerous Summer and Transit.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Review: While She Sleeps - This Is the Six

 When Killswitch Engage released Alive or Just Breathing in 2002 and Lamb of God released Ashes of the Wake in 2004, the heaviness and simultaneous heights of popularity these albums received effectively acted as the final nail in the coffin of the by then plague of nu metal that had brought metal music to the mainstream forefront all those years before. With the return of genuinely heavy metal music being of mainstream attention again, under the guise of metalcore in 2004, what followed was a Charles Darwin like process of natural selection, which goes on to this day. It means that the bands that fill their music with bullshit, loaded with auto-tuned vocals and needless electronics who try and make metal songs about partying and have people take them seriously at the same time are going to be left behind for all metal enthusiasts to jeer at (Yes, I've displayed a love for these bands many a time now, but even I'm getting a little fed up now) Meanwhile the bands that carry on in the vein of Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God and create crushing displays of unrelenting metal with a real emotional core and a genuine message will be the ones that go onward to become the most outstanding practitioners of metal in this day and age. They will be a band who, just like the original heavy metal resurrectionists can be looked upon with impenetrable respect. So there's a certain amount of pride that after a ten year wait, we finally come face to face musically with the debut offering This is the Six from the band that has wholeheartedly proven itself to be the forerunners of this natural selection of metal, While She Sleeps.

 At the start of the year, While She Sleeps were just another metalcore band with a mini album that the kids from Sheffield dug, living in the shadow of their fellow Sheffield metal peers Bring Me the Horizon. But somehow over the months, over the past few years even, the dirt, grit and never-ending mires of determination that comes with the Northern working class background has become ingrained within now iconic frontman Lawrence Taylor, guitarists Sean Long and Mat Welsh, bassist Aran McKenzie and drummer Adam Savage.

 And with this determination and unspeakable levels of passion having seeped into their music at long last, While She Sleeps have managed to charge forward on their debut full-length This Is the Six with a set of songs that boast the kind of forward thinking bullshit-free songwriting and performances that boast what is metal perfection. The kind of metal perfection we have been waiting ten years for from every single metalcore band.

 The boldness of the band smashes listeners straight in their unsuspecting faces within milliseconds of opener Dead Behind the Eyes, which already comes with the heaviness that would make the meanest pile of bricks look tame, only build up to a manner in which Long, Welsh McKenzie and Savage's combined work makes a sound heavier than the works of Lamb of God and Machine Head combined. Add a shedding of emotional heaviness that effortlessly shines through within the bellowing Northern screams of "Loz" Taylor and we have the heaviest new band ever.

 All to well it may be to be the heaviest kids on the block but While She Sleeps go far beyond the theories that many bands seem to hold of "brutality=art" and the amount of melodic grace heard across This Is the Six and the sheer extent put onto making it as potent a force on the album as heavy riffage is simply breathtaking. The lead guitar skills of False Freedom has the kind of widdling that would allow Iron Maiden to truly identify that they've influenced metalcore along with all the hardcore punk bands. That guitar work alone reflects the principles of what classic heavy metal wanted to achieve more than all that Unearth have done, which I can only hope is really saying something. The extent to which lead guitar builds up an immersive atmosphere across the likes of Our Courage, Our Cancer and Be(Lie)Ve is simply staggering, as the lush soundscapes still unleash an air of beauty even while your teeth are being rattled by the album's heaviness. And in terms of making a good metal song, that is legitimately multi-tasking.

 The real gift of melody is the ability that the band presents to craft songs that do push the metallic boundaries that still flow in an ideal way, packed with bursting choruses that you can sing along to at shows, whether you wish to chant along to the reflective messages of Seven Hills or scream your lungs out to "WE CAN SLEEP IN OUR OWN GRAVES!!" the prominent message of the album's title track, the best song of 2012. And by the time you realise how well the band are able to fit in verses, bridges and entire songs led simply by piano with rousing sing alongs, whether it's in the joyous Love at War or the emotionally forceful and though provoking of Reunite, which sees the band chant solidly to "The North still stands for nothing/ but the streets don't say the same/ We are the neighbours of broken promise/ In a nation that will never change", in a way that just makes you want to jump in and sing along, you realise that we have the new greatest songwriters in metal on our hands. So many bands try this and it ends up sounding cheesy, or like their attempt to make a pop song. While She Sleeps just make it so real. They make music real.

 Yes, many have been looking at metalcore as a musical genre, questioned it's validity, looked at the current state of bands and assumed the genre a train wreck. Yes there will always be people looking to bring down the genre in any way they can. Guys with big bears and Kreator T-Shirts will slam the genre to the ground on online forums, other blogs and in real life in as many ways as possible without taking any listen to the best names in the business. Those poor people. They'll never know. With This Is the Six, not only have While She Sleeps become their very own beast, but they've become their very own beast with a long line of metalcore musicians before them, many that are highly respected within the genre's circles and become a beast that triumphs all of them. They have gone on to make the kind of album that Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God were meant to set the path for all those years ago and though the wait has been long, it's been worth it in the long run. Because, it's given birth to a fact that no one may want to believe, the elitists will long to deny and will change the way things are run for a long time, because this is only the band's debut album and the future ahead is long and bright:

 While She Sleeps are the new kings of metal. And they demand their crown now.

While She Sleep's This Is the Six is out now via Search and Destroy. The band will tour the UK froM September-October with Bleed From Within, Crossfaith and POLAR.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Review: Fozzy - Sin and Bones

 I really don't know if this makes me any cooler or more lame, but I could not tell you the first thing about professional wrestling. I know it's something of a desperate go to if everything on TV is terrible, but nothing more. So when Atlanta metal quintet Fozzy started to gain some notoriety, talk of the group being fronted by Chris Jericho came thick and fast. Never would I have realised that this talk was coming from the fact that the frontman of this band was a professional wrestler and as soon as I found that out, my main thoughts on what Fozzy's music would be like was hook filled metal songs that would be effective to work out to. Yup.

 This is probably an instant turn off to many a listener, since the kind of metal you could work out to instantly translates of generic and Über-mainstream. If that's the case, I can only imagine you don't work out enough. I may not look it, but I like to visit my local gym when I can and I know from personal experience that bands like Disturbed and Five Finger Death Punch are a blessing for working out. As unsophisticated as their music is, having a band like The Teardrop Explodes or My Dying Bride would kill you. So, in this instant what better to have than music you can gain strength to that is packed with charisma and personality from Jericho, one of the most knowledgeable metalheads ever and bold frontmen of modern times? Fozzy's fifth album Sin and Bones gives you that with a little extra for your money.

 Well, with the power of the steel plated riffage from Rich "The Duke" Ward and Billy Grey that ignites the album as soon as opener Spider in My Mouth kicks into action (which follows an unfortunate attempt to make Itsy Bitsy Spider scary), there's a high package of adrenaline to be found across the album, whether it comes out in the frantic urgency with which the title track is delivered, the bold anthemic power of Shine Forever, or the ridiculous amount of fun put into the glam hair metal soaked choruses of She's My Addiction that screams Def Leppard without even trying. Undoubtedly, Fozzy want their music to have as much strength as their muscular frontman.

 Speaking of whom, Chris Jericho proves himself to be on good form, in terms of performing with a high level of vibrancy and charisma. A Passed Life easily shows off the dynamic ability in which he can perform, as his vocals open with the delivery of a blues ridden reflective tone which builds into a thrilling set of upbeat melodies, while his crunching harmonies with Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows on lead single Sandpaper shows off a shared ability to create a vocal line that manages to uplift and carry a real amount of girth at the same time, much as Shadows has proved throughout his time in A7X. With this considered, Jericho's performance also comes with it's imperfections. As solid a song as Blood Happens is, it's very much ruined by Jericho's attempts of doing death growls, that simply sound sloppy and created without much thought or preparation.

 Of course, so far I've talked about Fozzy's music being only a great source of songs to work out to. But there's much more thought crafted into Sin and Bones than that. Inside My Head leans a lot on the more blues based side of hard rock music, which sees the band travel more down the root of trying to make a feel good ballad. While showing a more sensitive side to their music, it also sounds like something that just belongs in the 1980's and shouldn't be allowed to travel in any other decade. More importantly is the album's closer Storm the Beaches. Correct me if I'm wrong, but of all the very mainstream hard rock bands that have chosen to put their songs over the five minute mark, Avenged Sevenfold have been the bravest with their City of Evil album, so the idea of a band of a similar caliber ending their album with an eleven minute song was curious at first, but on Storm the Beaches, Fozzy actually pull this off, making use of a Steve Harris-like galloping bassline to lead their D-Day inspired charge of heavy metal into action. However, if it does anything once more, it proves that Fozzy shouldn't try and get too emotional. Jericho's opening to the song of reading a fake extract from a soldier's diary in a poetic style is all too cringeworthy.

 So, like a successful wrestling match from Chris Jericho, Sin and Bones has it's hits and misses, but the amount of hits outweighs the misses and leads the album to achieving victory in the form of some kind of belt or something. Packed with a selection of knockout hooks delivered on stony guitar riffs, the heaviness the band play with is delivered in it's most pulsing form. The album has it's weaknesses without a doubt, especially when symphonic elements are added to the mix which honestly come off as tacky. However, the strength of the album in the face of these moments ultimately make Sin and Bones a fully solid listen, that will make Chris Jericho noticed off of the wrestling ring more than ever and will make the music of Fozzy something that will start to make it's appearances in the gym more frequent but also more frequent out of the confinements of treadmills, rowing machines, bikes and endless amounts of weights.

Fozzy's Sin and Bones is out 14th August via Century Media. The band will tour the UK in November with Soil and Breed 77