Monday, 29 October 2012

Review: Blood Command - Funeral Beach

 Be honest, how often do you actually find yourself becoming hooked with a new band from the second you hear them? It doesn't happen a lot, you'll need several listens before a band can really mean something to you. And then there are other cases where you fall in love with a band straight away and they mean a lot to you from one song and onward. The best example I've had of this for ages has been with Norwegian mentalists Blood Command, whose 2010 debut full length Ghostclocks was alive with massive songwriting and the distinct sound of boundaries being pushed at in all they did.

 So to learn that they'd be releasing a follow up this year was the stuff of pure excitement for myself and after some frustrating weeks of trying to find a place to listen to the album. But after finding the time to listen to Funeral Beach in full, the sound of boundaries being pushed and extremities in crafting dynamic works in modern rock and roll have been reached even higher.

 As Pissed Off and Slightly Offended! opens the album with injections of adrenaline packed hooks, the band display a confidence in becoming the driving force of your senses for the next 40 minutes of your life. And thus your life becomes a blitz of filthy rock and roll with a crystal clear production that brings out the crust stains in a clearer form.

The dirt comes out best in the band's blasting riff-athons that fuel the belting punk raging from the likes of Cult of the New Beat and High Five For Life from Yngve Andersen who fills the album with meaty guitar work with a real amount of backbone behind it through pulsing basslines and drumbeats from Simon Oliver Økland and Sigurd Hakaas. Their performance is packed to the brim with tightly formed intensity that never slows down in it's boldness, sense of danger and further sense of atmospheric grace.

 Of course, the central piece to the band's assault of rock and roll thunder is the commanding frontwoman tones of Silje Tombre, whose piercing voice lights up Death to All But Us! and Here's Next to Murderous
 with a voice that effectively sums up the sense of danger and violence Blood Command effortlessly display but having a soul that listeners can uncover as well that adds a certain beauty, sleekness and even a sultry quality to the songs.

 It's with those credentials that Blood Command pull off a commendable musical perforamance but with Funeral Beach and throughout the group's work there's always something a little more that makes the songs that bit more special. Amongst the fierce post hardcore influence that shows off the best of the genre's bands (Cult of the New Beat is New Noise on steroids.) there's always something resembling the quality of 10-year-old boy fantasy in their songs. Every song sums up icy imagery of gun fights, car chases and other adrenaline packed scenes straight out of a James Bond movie. And I think the fact that that imagery bursts through music that sounds genuinely heavy and written with pure sincerity is the coolest thing ever. It puts a smile on the face of 10-year-old me and puts whiplash in the neck of 17-year-old me.

 And this makes Funeral Beach a surprisingly special offering of 2012. Blood Command use their skills in crafting pure rock and roll into full hearted performances that manages to sound as genuinely beautiful as it does ferocious that brings back feelings of childhood excitement while upholding the hardcore fury that all the older kids love so much. Maybe it's the combination of full hearted dirty rock and roll, fierce poundings of hardcore riffage that gets perfectly heavy and the beautiful sense of 10-year-old dreams of winning gun fights and exploding the bad guys cars that makes Blood Command the kind of band you can fall in love with straight away and when they make an album of music you fall in love with straight away, is it little wonder that this confidently passes as one of 2012's most breathtaking releases.

Blood Command's Funeral Beach is out now via Fysisk Format.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Review: Sucioperro - Fused

 Your favourite Scottish band loves Sucioperro. The Ayrshire trio have made firm name for themselves through touring the UK with some of the most influential names in modern underground post hardcore and have gained major respect in the eyes of my lovely homeland's biggest names, being a regular namedrop in interviews with Twin Atlantic and Biffy Clyro. But while those two have found themselves scaling new heights, the Ayr boys are still an underground force. But if small clubs are the place for the kind of explosive performances displayed on their latest effort Fused then we really can't complain.

 On reflection of Fused, there's actually a good chance that the band had a similar thought to the one I had at the end of my introduction because the songs written for the album were made to be played in tiny rooms. The album is a sufficient collection of dirty rock and roll songs played heavy. From the pounce in opener River of Blood to the blast of What a Fucking Champ, the higher emphasis of downtuned riffs and basslines from frontman JP Reid and Stewart Chown serve as a crucial tool in not only making the band's efforts heavier than before but adding a genuine sense of brutality. And with the sheer bluntness and directness from Reid in repeating the phrase "What a fucking chump" over and over again and outpouring his fullest emotion on Discipline Office, the band manage to unleash their brutality in a clearer way than many of the more aimless names in deathcore have managed to.

 The increase of heaviness and brutality on this release is focused on in some detail even coming into the lighter moments, with the prominence of Chown's bass on Glass Cable. However, the bands reputation of begin an alt rock band with pleasant alt rock tunes is effortlessly upheld across the album as well. There's the melodic delicacy of Rabbits in Boxes, the albums shot of having a ballad-like song which upholds Reid's vocal tones from the album's heavier offerings and still causes them to translate in a more delicate style. There's even some radio friendly indie rock in the form of the album's title track, however the calmness of the song is a refreshing feature following the storm of riffs and emotion before the album emerges into the trippy dream inducing You Should Get Some Sleep, which sees the band performing in a way that brings their instruction to the listener. It's a soothing way to finish an album of grand filth.

 Who knows if "grand filth" serves as an appealing album description? I think in the base of Fused it works very well. Sucioperro have looked more at the idea of making a dirty rock and roll album free of polished production that will manage to unleash it's grimy riffs and basslines in intimate venues and create the perfect storm of mental gig viewers and they've finally created the music for it on this album. It displays the same kind of step up into heavier territory that anyone who heard Bloc Party's Four a few months ago will have experienced. And even amongst this extra face shredding, there's room for absorbing melodies that reflect their earlier work for people to fall in love with. It's with this considered that it's little wonder that your favourite Scottish band loves Sucioperro. They're our countries main source of real rock and roll.

Sucioperro's Fused is out now via Medals for Everyone.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Review: Parkway Drive - Atlas

 You may have noticed by now that it's been a hell of a year for metalcore. Whether it's the return of the British contribution to the genre setting new standards courtesy of my unending favourites While She Sleeps and Bury Tomorrow, the best in the world of American electronic metalcore bands unleashing their best bands courtesy of Adestria and My Ticket Home or the return of some old school heavy hardcore favourites from Vision of Disorder, the whole pounding breakdowns and high melody methods have finally been making a real name for themselves. And now it's time to see a contribution come from one of the most consistent bands in the genre, Australia's own Parkway Drive.

 You may know Parkway Drive to be the main band that have allowed metalcore to be viewed as respectable in it's darkest of times and prove that just because something's been done before, it doesn't mean it can't be executed with any kind of class and pristine brilliance. Well, that's what fourth effort Atlas is all about, only the ambition has been upped even more. This isn't just about making a great metalcore album. This album is about injecting listeners with a real vision of misc, a real vision of life and through this a real vision of the world like an atlas.

 It means that this album isn't just about big riffs and breakdowns and why should it be? The band have proved themselves to be premier songwriters of this modern age of metal, but the kind of grand soundscaping on this album takes things to a new level. The album opens with the first notes of Sparks which sounds like the backdrop for a proper blockbuster film complete with a fully mournful atmosphere, while the beautiful melodies that form interludes of The River and grand closer Blue and the Grey have a less brutal more angelic quality within their graceful passages.

 But you know as well as I do that these moments are the calm before the storm and man, what a storm Parkway Drive unveil here. As a band cited by many as the figureheads in making the perfect metalcore album, they even outdo themselves here with Luke Kirkpatrick and Jeff Ling's powerhouse riffage creating the perfect hardcore rushes on the likes of Swing and Sleight of Hand with much abrasive fury, while Jia O'Connors bleak basslines makes breakdowns in Old Ghost/New Regrets and Dark Days form a new level of darkness and excitement that also shows Parkway Drive to be figureheads in being heavy now especially with the drumming of Ben Gordon completing the rhythm section with a new craft in playing blast beats formed. With this, the band form themselves as one of the most real metal bands in the world, even across the albums moments that some would look at cynically, from the grand symphonic backdrops of the album's title track to the decision on The Slow Surrender to characterize the moment of bleakness with an out-pouring of Sid Wilson-esque DJ scratching, a fearsome sign of nu metal influences.

 And then there's the growling. The violent screams of one of metalcore's most engaging and entertaining frontmen Winston McCall have never been anything less than genuine but this is a chance to hear him at his most visceral and most real. And just as the power of the vocals can be identified as he bellows over the band at their hardest, it can be identified in the recording of the vocals amongst the album's softer sections. The extent of the realism of genuinely shocking and surely beyond the expectations of the band's hardest fans.

 Parkway Drive have never been shy of delivering the full package to listeners but with Atlas we have a full package that goes on to think outside the box. Relentless amounts of chaotic brutality presented through bleak soundscapes is enough to make a full album but for a band to constantly come up with new ideas with this combination sounding refreshed with every new song allows the band to leave most of their contemporaries in the dust is a truly awe-inspiring feat on any account even if you already expect them to deliver the goods. All this makes Atlas Parkway Drive's most accomplished release to date and finally launches them into the land of the big leagues, without any hope of coming back down. And in a year where metalcore has been at it's A game, that's the perfect way to round things off.

Parkway Drive's Atlas is out now via Epitaph. The band will tour the UK in November with Emmure.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Review: Deacon Blue - The Hipsters

 They might call themselves The Hipsters but you don't need to be a hipster to know that Deacon Blue are one of the best bands to come out of Scotland of the past 25 years. With countless singles that have gained them a name for themselves since their platinum selling debut Raintown, they've been a constant inspiration on what it is to be a good pop band. And with a number of recent live shows that have been praised by everyone from The Times' David Sinclair to... my Dad, everyone's falling in love with them all over again.

 And that's not surprising given the amount of time it's been between this latest release and 2001's Homesick there is a high amount of people looking to see Deacon Blue once again. And with this album they certainly deliver in the delivery of lush power pop tunes with strong melodies. And it's one of those rare albums were the simplicity of the songwriting can still deliver engaging results in a pop music context, it's actually quite a rare thing these days.

 It of course makes the charismatic performance of frontman Ricky Ross the standout feature of Deacon Blue's performance throughout the album which on grand opener Here I Am in London Town reveals that in Ross' time away he has matured like a fine wine, with a dustier vocal performance that matches the finesse of the musical backdrop. And that's really quite unexpected because they're from the West End of Glasgow and wouldn't know what wine was. The closest thing would be Buckfast. Man, I'm funny.

 In it's grandeur and crystalline production, the rest of The Hipsters drifts along with an air of grace and warmth, as listeners are immersed within the shrilling backdrops of Stars and britpop reminiscent melodies of The Outsiders, while becoming much more emotionally gripped within the powerful emotion packed into the stirring balladry of She'll Understand awash with the delicate harmonies of Ross and Lorraine McIntosh, one of the few husband wife duos that have actually, well, lasted. And as the album ends on the melancholic tones of This Year's Drug of Choice, you've learnt once more that Deacon Blue hold they key to writing pop songs with class, subtlties and charm.

 So to hand out the kind of critique that everyone gives to bands like Deacon Blue when they release an album in this modern age, it's not an album with a powerful killer single. There's no Dignity or Real Gone Kid on this album. And the fact is, they don't need to have songs like that anymore and if you think there needs to be, you've clearly not absorbed their back catalogue enough. The Hipsters is the sound of a band that have spent the past years struggling to show the world what they're made of and now that they have they're chilling back and playing nicely written pop songs. So indeed, no song on the album is a game changer like previous material has been seen as. But it's a beautiful set of songs on it's own that should surely satisfy even the most stern of listeners. Anyway, if you say band things about Deacon Blue, I'll have to take it as a personal insult against my family. An that's another thing that makes it good listening.

Deacon Blue's The Hipsters is out now via Demon Music Group.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Review: Wintersun - Time I

 Anyone that's become a browser of the now massive Metal Memes Sub-Reddit on the big old internet will have come to learn over the past few months that one of the most long awaited and anticipated releases of the year has been Time I the first part of a planned concept album and the first material from the band since their highly acclaimed self-titled debut album from 2004. Of course, it's been so long since an album's been released from them, that I've really started to go off of the brand of symphonic heavy power metal that they deal in, as bands like Rhapsody and Kamelot start to turn into bands that just come off sounding cheesy when they're meant to be taken seriously. Yet in spite of this, not even I in my cynical-to-this-style-of-metal state can be prevented from being blown away from what the first part of this concept has on offer.

 And that's quite a powerful statement on the quality of this album because in terms of overtly cheesy power metal ingredients, Time I has it all. I believe the term "Disney metal" has been devised by some cynics to sum up the cheesy symphonic backdrops and constant sense of triumph and glory packed into these music and certainly as you sit through the four minute intro track When Time Fades Away it does sound like you're sitting through the intro of a well animated film set in historic times where you may learn about your morals through battling or something. Obviously, some people will listen to this, take joy in the symphonic elements and describe it as "epic!" and it's probably the reaction of these people alone why I take much more joy in listening to hardcore and stoner rock bands.

 There isn't a second in this album where you won't hear the shrill of some kind of classical instrument but when the band actually choose to pick their own instruments up and play above the symphonic backdrops things sometimes change for the more intense. Former Ensiferum guitarist Jari Mäenpää takes on a commanding frontman role once more programming any further keyboard elements and cooking up a storm of riffage and massive guitar solos alongside Teemu Mäntysaari as the pair unleash a rapid fire attack of guitar madness on Sons of Winter and Stars that still sounds cheesy amongst the symphonies but also has it's own sense of extremity and intensity, which continues across the album whether it's the big grooves of Land of Snow and Sorrow or the frequent beatdowns of the album's title track, aided effervescently by former Rotten Sound drummer Kai Hahto.

 But to go back to the matter of Mäenpää's frontman performance, the most impressive part is the contrasting dynamics of his vocal performance that constantly shifts from the kind of operatic bellowing that gives the cheesy nature of this band a name for itself, with it essentially sounding like the lead role in a classic Disney sing along. But the frequent shift from such melodic power to the traditionally cackling vocals of proper black metal that shows a certain skill and variation of power which is always an impressive feat, when you consider the fact that Immortal probably couldn't sing properly to save themselves. Actually I've never checked if the can, and probably never will. Either way, it puts little doubt into Mäenpää's frontman ability.

 It's with these elements all wonderfully weaved together that makes Time I one of the year's best works in extreme symphonic metal. Wintersun make an album featuring that gives fans of extreme power metal all that they're looking for in setting up backdrops with big orchestral passages and using operatic vocals mixed with the blackened screaming to create something that is truly grand. And if that style of music is your cup of the then this album clearly is a recklessly essential buy. Which is why it's difficult for me to come to a final verdict since unlike the Metal Memes community, this isn't my scene at all. While being unashamedly impressive and accepting a certain cheesiness in all it does, there's no way I would spend money on this album or put it in as part of my music collection so unlike certain names in power metal Wintersun aren't a band that can find it's way into the hands of metal fans everywhere. And maybe there's something in the fact that the best that a genre has to offer should be kept for those that care the most. And that will surely go on to make Time I and II the power metal albums for power metal fans. And no one else.

Wintersun's Time I is out now via Nuclear Blast. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Review: Three Days Grace - Transit of Venus

 I had a nice surprise today when a friend from school who since coming out swinging from sixth year with the rest of us has traveled far away to Hong Kong got into touch with me through a nice bit of social networking. Anyway, one of his big announcements was that he finally found what he believed to be a metal song that he loved, sending me a link. Obviously I never know what to expect with that person in particular other than a general distaste for rock music so to discover he had actually sent me a link to a rock song was a good surprise. However, the surprise itself was turned somewhat sour by the artist of the song itself, Three Days Grace.

 Until this moment, I've been quite successful in avoiding Three Days Grace as they seem to be a band in one of those bizarre sub section of highly mainstream rock bands where they can gain well over a million Youtube views, yet there will be little to no press on them at least in magazine form meaning that no professional reviewers are around to inform the public that their current output has been nothing more than a bland collection of riffs that were left out from the commercial wave of nu metal. For being too bland. For being too bland to appear in a Staind song for goodness sake! And in the case of Three Days Grace, the lack of negativity means the love for the band has reached non understandable levels in which thousands of people have gotten lyrics and logos tattooed on them in a grim celebration of blandness! But everyone to their own, eh?

 So that's been my thoughts on the Canadian quartet so far with their efforts on their self titled debut, 2006's One-X and 2009's Life Starts Now. And that's quite possibly why their latest effort Transit of Venus is something of a relief. Because this album has seen the band begin their quest of thinking outside of the box and taking on the idea of crafting music into something more expansive, more flowing, not just made for instant radio airplay.

 But of course, that's not to say that the album isn't free of guaranteed singles. With their feel good choruses played out on the big riffs of frontman Adam Gonteir and lead guitarist Barry Stock, tracks like The High Road and The Time That Remains show that the hit single formula hasn't been completely ditched. But in favour, songcrafting has been built upon. Inspect lead single Chalk Outline. Amongst the swinging melodies and grungy guitar work, the song makes use of pounding synthesizers of the modern swirling type that you may have heard on Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero or on any band from the world of indietronica, which (In my horrible head of straightforward stereotypes where I always imagined that Three Days Grace's average fanbase would use lots of glossily produced uber-mainstream pop rock bands as evidence that "rock n' roll ain't dead" then don't even consider listening to acts that provide the original danger of rock and roll through a completely different musical style) seems like something that would cause something of a backlash.

 More importantly than judging for lead singles though is the fact that with this album, there's just so much more thought and effort put into it. With the help of pop rock's most beloved producer Don Gilmore, big backdrops are put into place making the massive opening of Sign of the Times and Give Me a Reason much grander affairs that when put into work with the big riffs and grooves really helps them charge forward. It particularly helps Gonteir's sense of anger and tension come out effortlessly on the group's cover of Micheal Jackson's Give In to Me, a performance that the band do make their own.

 When you hear the new intricacies and detail that shine through with this heightened album production, there's a sense of heightened boldness, ambition and passion that comes through in the band's performance and when you compare these tracks to one of their older singles Pain, it's obvious that big grand production is the kind of thing that bands like Three Days Grace need to rely on to have any hope of having any performance of worth because the older material now comes off as sounding exceptionally lazy.

 It would hardly be a challenge for Three Days Grace to make an album that's been better than their previous releases so far given their quality, or lack thereof, but with Transit of Venus it seems that the band may have gone and defied all expectations and made something resembling a credible album. Of course radio fodder is still to be found on the album but no one's been tearing into Shinedown and Halestorm that much this year, have they? What's important is that for the first time, they've made something that wants to be a fully recognised album and not just a collection of would-be radio hits. Perhaps my friend in Hong Kong could have sent me a link to one of these songs and his introduction into rock music could have been a more interesting proposition. But he doesn't really need to impress me. Really, you won't get very far if you try to impress me to get through life.

Three Days Grace's Transit of Venus is out now via RCA.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Review: Imagine Dragons - Night Visions

 It's about time that I covered this band now that the mainstream world of alternative music is being dominated by quirky indie pop bands a la Fun., Of Monsters and Men and Dog is Dead. And so we come to Imagine Dragons, a indie quartet from Las Vegas looking to follow in the steps of their Vegas alt rock brethren The Killers by taking their influences from 1980's synthpop, the best of britpop and taking their honest thought out lyrics and threading them within absorbing atmospheres. Sounds decent right?

 It's decent enough for them to be selling out every venue they've played in the USA so far and with a growing reputation that sees them coming to these shores and a recently released debut full length Night Visions this is a band destined go far. Especially if they do just let the album do the talking and they'll move to unstoppable heights.

 It's never a fully manageable feat with a lot of bands in the same vain as Imagine Dragons, but their prime skill is the creation of music that is highly reliant on electronic backdrops and usage of synthesizers that still boasts a strong human element throughout the songwriting with both executed to a tee in their overall skill and perfection of craft.

 The usage of synthesizers to create vibrant and gripping backgrounds and foregrounds to their songs is more advanced than their fellow indie pop peers as the thumping opener Radioactive proves, with it's beautifully demonstrated ability to balance out gentle spidery guitar riffs with strong synthesized backdrops that have surely taken on a dubstep influence which is all brought together through the powerhouse melodies of frontman Dan Reynolds. ("Wait, melodic dubstep? That can't be right, it's just random computer noises!" said the people that don't care.) Aside from that, the use of electronic serves as a prominent reminder of the potency and substance that the best of the 1980's pop musicians gave us today.

 The influence displayed within the band's music does happen to last decades however. From thereon, the sound of chilled 90's britpop in the vain of Blur and Pulp can be heard in Demons with the chilled attitudes of those bands being shifted up a gear into the greater sound of ambition and big booted determination, while the more soulful sound that britpop boasted in the early 2000's is reflected in the Keane-isms of Amsterdam.

 It's with this fine amount of production that Imagine Dragons summon up a finely crafted album that boasts a tonne of inspirations and it's the soulful performance of Reynolds that serves as the cherry on the top of the cake. His stunning performance on the likes of It's Time boast enough power to sound reminiscent of The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon which in the context of powerhouse emotional performances on the likes of Hear Me and Bleeding Out are vital in unleashing a powerful empathetic response from listeners.

 With these basic ingredients, Imagine Dragons have created a powerful debut offering that shows them to be dynamic songwriters that can take the best of 30 years of pop music behind them and summon it into a wonderfully fitting musical show of immersion and beauty. And with a frontman who boasts his pure sincerity in every line sung, the music melds together with the same truthfulness as the lyrics of Dan Reynolds. Of course if you were never convinced by the rising of these fun loving indie pop bands this won't convince you in any way apart from continue to show you the joy you're missing out on I suppose.

Imagine Dragons' Night Visions is out now via Interscope. The band will tour the UK in November.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Review: The Acacia Strain - Death is the Only Mortal

 It makes sense that I look at this album because I've found myself continuing to do what all stereotypical teenage guys do these days and going to metalcore shows. That's right, I'm off to see Architects in November, which is an extremely exciting proposition given the strength of Daybreaker and a frankly stellar back catalogue behind them, it's going to be a wicked night. So, in an attempt to make myself seem like I know what I'm doing I'm taking a look at the support acts and have discovered a recent release Death is the Only Mortal has come from opening act The Acacia Strain, an overlooked shaper of the more hardcore based style of metalcore that has formed some of the genre's best bands.

 If you're unfamiliar with The Acacia Strain, you should know that the Massachusetts quartet have never the cheeriest of people around. And it shows clearly on this latest album filled with fearsome deathcore performances that feel blackened by the band's sense of hatred and tiredness of life and even bleaker via the intense heaviness that comes through in a doom metal state of mind.

 And the heaviness is delivered effortlessly through a range of sluggish beatdowns from Daniel Laskiewicz and Jack Strong where the likes of Brain Death and Dust and the Helix are guaranteed crushers that with the brutal growls of frontman Vincent Bennett talking about his obsession with death will lure listeners into a realm of unending despair.

 Of course, The Acacia Strain always do go beyond the realms of deathcore and unlike your average collection of breakdowns that Emmure like to hand out, there's a lot more focus on structuring a range of vibrant textures to provide the backdrop to songs that make the performances of disturbing opener Doomblade and Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow really come to life. A highlight within this is the enthralling interludes and moments of gripping mellower passages heard longingly throughout Time and Death and God, which with Bennett's roars of "I wear a watch even though I don't believe in time" a more rounded mark of the band's devastation.

 This amount of bleakness and doom is highly effective in making Death is the Only Mortal a solid deathcore album. It's bleak brutal and will definitely create a storm at places like The Garage. It's no secret that nothing on this album could be considered new or innovative in any way, but the band make their playing of metalcore work in their own favour, just like the selection of artists they're soon to be touring with. And with that, one of the band's that helped shape the best names in the modern day "core" movement will open up proceedings to a selection of bands that act as their natural torchbearers.

The Acacia Strain's Death is the Only Mortal is out now via Rise. The band will tour the UK in November with Architects, Deez Nuts and Bury Tomorrow.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Review: Stone Sour - House of Gold and Bones Part 1

 There's some curiosity for Stone Sour to be releasing a new album at a time when the entire world points it's concerns and thoughts towards another certain band hailing from Iowa. Yes, the state's favourite son Corey Taylor is returning with his "other" band with the start of their most ambitious album series to date at a time when people are only concerned with seeing Corey put his leather mask back on and play in Slipknot. I don't want to be critical of people for having this mindset. Ever since buying my ticket for next year's Download Festival, there hasn't been many other bands at the front of my mind, since you know, I'm going to be seeing the band that first got me into metal who I've wanted to see since I was 14 years old. That and with the final release of Slipknot's Antennas To Hell Greatest Hits Set, everyone is now expecting new material from the band.

 So indeed, lots to say about Slipknot, less to say about Stone Sour, which has officially been demoted again to "side-project" status despite being releasing fourth album House of Gold and Bones Part 1, an album billed by Taylor as sounding like Alice in Chains meets Pink Floyd's The Wall and serving as the first part of a major two part concept album. But even if this album gets less attention than previous releases it will go down as one of the finest works of music that Taylor has done out of Slipknot, in some cases even bettering them.

 The earlier material of Stone Sour is still great but when you hear it, there's always a sense of restriction, a sense that this band is purely in operation for Corey Taylor and guitarist James Root to show off a more sensitive side to their work in the 'Knot. But now, it seems that House of Gold and Bones is playing out with no holds barred, unafraid to lay down an extra amount of density and adrenaline yet to be found within the Stone Sour body of work. Unlike previous singles from the band, Gone Sovereign and Absolute Zero don't sound like obvious ready for radio airplay singles but fit in well as album pieces. And with monolithic chugging blasted out by Root and fellow six stringer Josh Rand on these singles, this is an album that really shows straight away that Stone Sour can be truly heavy in ways unheard of from who may have been their fellow peers in the big ugly post grunge scene.

 And so exists an awareness from all the band of their requirement to do something bolder and more challenging in the face of adversity, that a post grunge band shouldn't be able to convincingly become a legitimate modern heavy metal band in one album, but with soaring melodies that hit hard along A Rumour of Skin and RU486, boasted further through the growling vocals of Taylor completely different to those executed in Slipknot, there's no denying that this is how heavy metal was meant to turn out in this modern day and age with a voice of pure anger edging it onward.

 While the band may have only now become heavier and more metal based than their post grunge contemporaries, they've always been equipped with more class, and this album is no exception. It's seen in the recurring performance of The Travellers with wonderfully layered soundscapes awash with grand sweeping orchestras that gives the album the sound of a film score that surely lures the listeners into the swelling melancholy of the album and it's concepts.

 But the most apparent theme on this album really is that of doom and despair, of the type that Alice In Chains effortlessly planted into rock music for all kinds of bands to rip off poorly. Not here though. Tired and Taciturn are both layered in absolute misery with melodies that drag listener into the veins of Taylor's sorrows. And with Taylor's heart rendering vocal performance, the music is a force of pure empathy and beauty.

 I suppose this is what makes it a shame to see Stone Sour being billed as nothing but a "side-project" for Corey Taylor and Jim Roots. It's apparent that they've put just as much of their hearts and souls into this creation of pure excellence as they have into Slipknot yet the individual power of the band is yet to be recognised. However, House of Gold and Bones Part 1 shows itself off as the band's boldest and most accomplished albums that sees them come into their own right as a real band and not just a radio friendly side-project. There's obviously some worry that Part 2 of this double album may not live up to the incredible album, but if it does, then Corey might just have put his name to something that will outshine the band he works for when he slips that mask on.

Stone Sour's House of Gold and Bones Part 1 is out 22nd October via Roadrunner. The band will tour the UK in December with Papa Roach.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Review: Dog is Dead - All Our Favourite Stories

 I have a memory of our time at T in the Park early on the Sunday morning in which me and my fellow companions were hanging out in a tent pissing around while pissed and looking at the lineup, in the search for a good band to see. At that moment, one individual looked at the page and mockingly stated "We could go and see a lovely band with friendly songs like Dog is Dead!" And so we laughed, safe in the knowledge that a band with suck a harsh name would never get anywhere in the mainstream eye or manage to write any kind of nice song.

 Therefore, it's only natural that the first CD I should find stacked everywhere as I walk in to HMV in Aberdeen this week is All Our Favourite Stories, the debut full length from Nottingham indie pop quintet Dog is Dead filled with all kinds of brief rave reviews regarding the album. And wouldn't you know it's fairly well deserved.

 Like it's various indie pop peers that have also made some fantastic albums this year (And the only group I can think of right now is Of Monsters and Men. My bad.) the band can take themselves through a varying array of emotions and rich tones in their performances but always end things on a high note in a very beautifully heartwarming way. Opener Get Low might not suggest that feelings of joy can be found with the slithering basslines of Lawrence Cole and layered keyboard backdrops creating something rather unnerving.

 However, it's through a journey of different ideas, craft and varying musicianship through each band member that listeners feel a varying emotional output that always provoke some intense response from listeners. There's the subtle swing of Do the Right Thing, that even at it's softest moments should encourage listeners to start swaying with their arms in the air, the sense of shiver and immensity that comes with the performance from frontman Robert Milton on Teenage Daughter which feels like a performance with no barriers between headphones and the listener and that he may as well be singing directly in your ear.

 But making uplifting pop music is a priority within the band and from the sensitivity that can be heard in the performances of Hands Down to the tense backdrops of River Jordan, all songs are eventually tackled with an uplifting grace delivered through colossal choruses and beautiful harmonies, truly the main ingredients to get a stadium of people on their feet.

 If there is one put-down I have to give the album (And I don't really want to because they all seem like cool guys) it's the unavoidably cringeworthy work of true indie pop on Glockenspiel Song, a song so light and quirky, that you can just tell it'll be used in adverts before you know it, just like Frankie & the Heartstrings are now best known for flogging Dominoes Pizza. It's a genuinely good song filled with pure pop euphoria, but one cannot help but listen to it and imagine a voice appearing over the top of it informing us about the new sale at DFS.

But with my uniquely weird complaints aside, All Our Favourite Stories shows a solid craft if songwriting that explains the way that more organically created music with an immersive kind of charm is making a big return to the mainstream forefront. Dog is Dead have the skills needed to pull off simple alt rock songs with big pop-induced hooks and melodies and can go beyond the call of duty, crafting songs for listeners to lose themselves in. And if you can't recognise good songwriting through that, I'm sorry for you. You're probably afraid to approach a band with as harsh a name as Dog is Dead. Yeah what a harsh name! I bet they're a crust punk band or something!

Dog Is Dead's All Our Favourite Stories is out now via Warner Music. The band will tour the UK from October-November with Beans on Toast.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Review: Trash Talk - 119

 In 2010. the world of hardcore punk was introduced with a head on collision to one of the new most thrilling and dangerous names in the business. It was through an album known as Eyes and Nines, the third album and proper breakthrough for Sacramento quartet Trash Talk. It was an album showing signs of true gritty hardcore punk that had gone missing from the public eye for some time. And the band's efforts in following this performance up with a fearsome show at the following year's Download festival, we had a new iconic act in the realms of hardcore.

 And it seems the sounds of Trash Talk have recently been heard outwith the world of punk music as well. There was some amount of remarks to be made about the band's recent decision to sign with Odd Future Records for the recording of their latest offering 119 making them the first band on the label that wasn't a member of the critically acclaimed hip hop group of the same name as well as being the first proper rock band on the label. I mean, it raised a lot of questions. Would the band lose their punk fury in favour of a more alternative and hip hop based direction?

 Well actually, having gained a reputation for being one of the most ferocious hardcore bands of modern times, it really does seem like Trash Talk are looking to hold on to that. You can hear it throughout the album, from the opening rush of brutality that comes with Eat the Cycle with it's rough production that gives any listener the impression of having their face turned on it's side and being dragged along a path of grit. Truly the stuff dreams are made of.

 And with the rush of songs that come lasting an average of a minute and a half in length, you have more than enough time to get behind the spread of fear, anger and built up intensity that the band have on offer. From the poundings of Uncivil and Thanks But No Thanks to the bigger built Fuck Nostalgia and Apathy which carry a spirit of old school punk rock and rock and roll about them amongst the brutality, there's no time wasted in creating as much intense shredding and beatdowns as they possibly can.

 To prove themselves as one of the best names in hardcore today, songs like these would be enough but more on offer, Trash Talk do answer the question of whether a newer hip hop direction has been taken in the form of Blossom & Bloom, the album's longest song at two minutes and thirty seconds. It's the slowest most doom laden performance on the album with an opening more reminiscent of Electric Wizard than Bad Brains and with guest performances from Odd Future members Hodgy Beats and OF mainman Tyler, The Creator that proves the unconventional sense of fear and intensity they put into their own off the wall hip hop songs works just as well in a riff laden context, it's a song that proves how dynamic the results of bringing heavy rock and intense rap music can be like it's Public Enemy and Anthrax all over again.

 So, with a highly destructive follow up to the album that gave them a reputation of a band to keep your wits about you when listening to, Trash Talk have made an album that can keep them relevant in a time when the band that shakes the world of hardcore changes at a fairly constant rate, often depending on what bands hipsters that have never been to a hardcore show say they're listening to. And the fact that they can keep this hardcore intensity with an accompaniment with some new friends int he world of hip hop, 119 manages to show off the best elements of what both genres of  music have in this modern day and age in terms of ferocity and intensity in a time where a lot of big bands show less credentials. And where would we be without someone offering us fear in music?

Trash Talk's 119 is out now via Odd Future Records.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Review: All Time Low - Don't Panic

 This time last year, Baltimore's beloved pop punk quartet All Time Low found themselves with a split in their  fanbase and were being viewed as fairly average with the release of their fourth album Dirty Work. And it's little wonder. With the band's claim that the album was the sound of them growing up, it was a very bland collection of pop rock songs with little in them that sparked them to life. And in the same year where You Me At Six also promised a maturity in their music and released the phenomenal Sinners Never Sleep, it left listeners looking at releases like Dirty Work and New Found Glory's Radiosurgery and becoming very much insecure about the ability for pop punk to last on.

 It seems that the band clearly paid attention to the growing circles of "meh" that came with Dirty Work and took on a back to basics idea with their latest offering Don't Panic. Generally, if a band does go straight back to a previous style after a previous album goes down less well (I really don't need to say "See Metallica" do I?) it's viewed as just backing away as a move of fear and wish to pander to the masses. But sometimes when it's done brilliantly, then it just works. And that's the success of this new album. Because every song on this album just so happens to be a complete banger.

 No time is wasted and massive riffs from Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat kick the album into action on lead single The Reckless and the Brave with nothing you wouldn't expect from All Time Low. Big choruses, sweetening hooks and a vocal performance from Gaskarth recklessly encased in sugary pop delight. With elevated production across the album the guitar work has a much bigger outing than on previous releases and that's including 2009's stellar Nothing Personal. And that production makes tunes like To Live And Let Go feature genuine walls of distortion, in the poppiest way possible.

 It would be terrifying to come out with a statement like "All Time Low have an understanding of how making metal works" because they're a prime example of a band that would confuse you if you saw them in the Metal section of HMV. But an understanding on making highly genuine punk music with a hardcore edge does come across in the rapid fire attack of So Long Soldier, the true definition of pop hardcore if there is one that even has breakdowns that suggest attention payed to fellow metalcore bands. Yes, Warped Tour standard metalcore. They're not turning into Throwdown.

 Even with this greater desire to amp things up greater than before, the band do still find that time to show off that big pop band that we all know they are. The softer performance of Outlines is a much smoother and emotional offering from the band while the bitterness of Thanks To You shows their ability to really pen down a song that carries the context of feelings with total understanding. Moments like these show a greater maturity within the band than anything on Dirty Work, and that was the entire goal of the album.

 So without trying to completely berate last year's ambitious release, Don't Panic really does wipe the floor with Dirty Work. It has the sound of All Time Low refreshed, back on the path to put real adrenaline into a world of pop music that has gone way down in it's quality and be as emotional as they are explosive. There will be many who consider this a lazy return to what made them popular but with the energy, heightened production and all out massiveness that are on these songs, they certainly prove that they're doing what made them popular with much more passion than ever before. And that's the kind of attitude that keeps pop punk alive.

All Time Low's Don't Panic is out now via Hopeless. The band will tour the UK in February.

Review: KISS - Monster

 Your favourite band loves KISS. Since the taking off of hard rock in the 1970's, KISS have been doing the rounds with massive rock and roll party anthems, an influence that has been cast on every hard rock bands and most metal bands today and of course, the rad make up and costumes. It's difficult to think of any rock band today whether they're an indie band or a black metal band that hasn't at some point been immersed within the big riffs of Paul Stanley or Ace Frehley's shredding, who of course we can't really talk about in a justified way now because he left the band some time ago.

 And despite all this, it still feels like someone needs to stand up for KISS in this day and age. People have become cynical towards the band's concepts. They've become cynical to Gene Simmons and his constant schemes of making money through his band's image and merchandising, which arguably reached it's pinnacle last year with the announcement of KISS themed coffins and urns. They've become cynical with the supposedly irreplaceable lineup being replaced with lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer, who wear the same makeup as Frehley and Peter Criss that stood before them. And apparently KISS don't even have enough love in the UK to prevent the Sonisphere festival that they were to headline from being cancelled.

 Sad as it is, perhaps something is to be said about The Hottest Band in the World's fire beginning to cool down. However, with a mass collection of die hard fans, and an unmovable amount of respect aimed towards them in the world of modern rock, the band release their 20th album Monster which will sadly, at best test the patience of their biggest followers.

 That's not to say that the album is band or anything. In a time where writing a solid set of three minute hard rock songs bursting with positivity that carry an air of good times, KISS still have a knack for getting people's heads moving. Opener Hell Or Hallelujah slams the album into action with big riffs from Stanley and a bigger vocal performance. As tracks like Freak and The Devil is Me go on with massive hooks and rousing cheer, there's an assurance that KISS do still know the ways of rock and roll and it's need to unite people.

 And surely we know by now that if you pack a song with nothing but good time hard rock songs, it becomes a repetitive mesh of the same thing. And by the time KISS get to Shout Mercy, they're already pushing their luck on just how long they can keep a listener attached to the album as we get to Outta This World which sounds less like it's being fired out and more like churned.

 But of course, you can't be seen to criticize KISS, because, well they're rather legendary in the grand scale of rock musicians and have such an indestructible legacy that being critical seems un-doable. Even now, I don't want to write disparagingly about these iconic musicians.

 However, with all the criticism and love for the band laid down by everyone, it seems that the band should be trying something that can continue to blow all their listeners away as they've managed so effortlessly in the past. Maybe it's something that comes with age and maybe with age and maturity the amount of partying one does should be toned down a little, otherwise your attempts to continue partying will become less impressive. (Unless your name is Andrew W.K.) It's why with Monster, KISS' attempt to show they can still party at their current age is often a sign of them playing at their most underwhelming and even as someone who loves KISS as much as your favourite band does, there is room for criticism in what they've done of late after all.


KISS' Monster is out now via Simston Music.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Review: Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind

 If there was any real justice in this world, Converge would be up there with Slayer as one of the universally agreed heaviest bands ever. And if metalcore was viewed as a genre that genuinely showed signs of hardcore punk mixed with heavy metal work, everyone would be a fan of the band and view them in as the kings of the genre. Yet, they've always been a fairly underground force despite making albums like Jane Doe and Axe to Fall some of the heaviest, sludgiest and most doom laden albums of this age. Basically albums that express what metal is all about, all done from scratch with little money and lots of devotion behind them.

 And this devotion and despair is captured breathtakingly on eighth album All We Love We Leave Behind with the freshness that first made them a band worth listening to ten years ago and even the energy of the kids they where when they started all this in 1994, only with the despair built up.

 Sure enough the band waste no time in showing us this with the impressively dynamic and textured opening of Aimless Arrow, set alight with a range of mental time signatures from Kurt Ballou, an established guitarist in his own right now, that works amongst impressively written layerings encased in a perfect tone of despair. It's a further sign of Ballou's genius.

 As always, All We Love We Leave Behind is a real outing for the intense riff machine that is Ballou with 1-2 minute blasters like Trespasses and Shame In the Way giving the chance to deliver bruising hardcore riffage with a horrifying amount of intensity and aggression attached. The songs bring on a freshness in the pure filth of the bands performance, in the sense that they will never grow old with each listen. Converge have always had a habit of making music that becomes increasingly brutal and meaningful  the more you listen to it and this album is no exception.

 Of course, this bleakness, brutality and apocalyptic nihilism would be nothing without the pure ferocity packed in the performance of Jacob Bannon, whose delirious raspy vocals across the likes of Sadness Come Home and A Glacial Pace captivates the perfect sense of crushing bleakness that fuels hardcore and doom metal, the precise elements that Converge balance with such grit-laden perfection.

 In a simple glance, Converge have the utter intensity and sense of skill and tone to summon up the hounds of Hell and put on the wings of despair in their full performance. And on All We Love We Leave Behind, they've summoned up enough of a behemoth performance to unleash this brutality all over again with the same intensity and freshness that has made them such a potent force and such a subtly influential band on the world of metalcore which has admittedly watered down in some way. Perhaps now, the world can act some justice and give this band the justice they deserve. As one of the heaviest, most aggressive and greatest bands ever.

Converge's All We Love We Leave Behind is out now via Epitaph. the band will tour the UK in November with Touche Amore, A Storm of Light and Secret.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Review: Vision of Disorder - The Cursed Remain Cursed

 Anyone that became attached to the wave of groove metal bands in the 1990s must have known that they were following some of the most serious and now respected bands in the business today. They also must have been aware that they'd have reached something of a pinnacle when the true blend of hardcore and groove laden heavy metal came crashing towards them in the form of 1996's self titled debut from New York bruisers Vision of Disorder. As an underground force in metal and a hidden influence on some of metalcore's biggest names today, the band find themselves with a reunion taking place in a time when the genre they influenced has sprung back to life with a whole new passion and integrity. And after eleven years, they prove that they have similar qualities about them with their fifth album The Cursed Remain Cursed.

 And with eleven years away, it's obvious that this album is an outlet for a lot of anger and intensity that has built up during this time. No moment for utter delirium is left to waste for a single second of this 40 minute rampage. From the opening grooves of Loveless, Matt Baumbach and Mike Kennedy dominate the mindset of listeners with pounding grooves, face kicking breakdowns as seen on The Enemy and Skullz Out (Rot in Pieces) and enough heart racing punk charges across the likes of Blood Red Sun and New Order of Ages to prove that they really do represent the perfect hardcore band of our modern age.

 It's with the return of the intense hardcore riffage the Vision of Disorder manage to characterize themselves perfectly within this modern context, thus making the marks of a perfect comeback. With the nihilistic screams of frontman Tim Williams that is just as thrilling on frighting on Annihilator and The Seventh Circle as they are melodic and near theatrical on Be Up On It and Set To Fail, the band set their craft to a sound that is unmistakably their own that will give fans of 90's hardcore some faith in today's generation of metalcore. But where could they go wrong with a frontman whose raspy vocals can be adapted to be the voice of energetic hardcore, doom-laden dirges and big punk based melodies. As someone that listened extensively to Every Time I Die before Vision of Disorder, it's now obvious who passed the torch on to the Buffalo quintet.

 With this combination of forces, the band create an album that is consistent in it's mixture of thickness, adrenaline and underlying grit from the streets of Long Island. Even the tracks like feel a little filler based have moments that will leave your jaws wide open. That said, filler is filler and with the purpose of hardcore albums to get it's point and sheer devastating impact across in as quick a time as possible, filler's not really an option.

 That aside, you're in for a no holds barred ride of pure hardcore with an album like The Cursed Remain Cursed. Vision of Disorder have never been a band to take things easy and with this album, it's a pure outlet of eleven years of fury, tension and built up rushes of intensity and unreleased energy, bursting out with heart racing velocity and ground shattering heaviness. One listen and the understanding of how serious metal with grooves was in the 1990s is reborn with a whole new relevance and understanding. And in a year where metalcore is really turning back into a musical style where the "core" element really means something, Visions of Disorder are back in action and topping the bills again.

Vision of Disorder's The Cursed Remain Cursed is out now via Candlelight.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Review: Enslaved - RIITIIR

 Truly a band that boasts the most infamous elements of Norway's musical culture in the most glorious of ways, Enslaved have been a pivotal force within the country's metal scene over the past 20 years with consistently interesting, engaging and thrilling works of metal at it's most evil and most progressively thought provoking. The fact that the band's main leaders Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson started this aged 17 and 13 speaks volumes of how much passion and constant intelligence this band has to offer. And it's reflected perfectly on their twelfth album RIITIIR.

 Because Enslaved are such a truly eclectic proposition as bands go, you never really know what to expect as you approach every corner of the album. Sure, you're always going to find yourself being drawn closer into the jaws of death, but you'll do so with utter wonder felt around you, feeling encased within the powerfully blackened and doom laden performance of the band.

 And with this idea that your journey through RIITIIR will be nothing short of epic in a deathly sort of way, the buildup of cathartic screams and chunky riffs on Thoughts Like Hammers is a good way to set listeners off into the apocalyptic charges of frantic riffage from Bjørnson and Arve Isdal and ever dynamic vocal performance of Kjellson, which on the album's mass opener alone transpires from morbid growling during the band's performance at it's blackest and finding itself progressing along with the music into a 
 dirge-based performance alongside the rest of the band, achieving the sense of melancholy so perfectly.

 Along with he first song, such an analogy is mirrored perfectly for the desolate ending of the album on the major Forsaken, a perfect progressive journey from metal at it's most extreme to it's bleakest. But in between these songs there's much to uncover by a band that have progressed so much over their twenty years to such a sophisticated musical proposition.

 We will be indeed treated to the intense charges of this band's history since they and their Norwegian black metal peers first started making kvlt music, through the delirium of Roots of the Mountains to the bashing Death In the Eyes of Dawn, one of the occasional moments of this album paying tribute to the band's early days of setting themselves up as a viking metal band. And of course with Kjellson's most cackle-like vocals on Veilburner bearing a reminiscence to the silliness of Immortal's Abbath, there's always enough hints to the past years of black metal floating around this album.

 On more occasions, Enslaved regularly tread the line between the characteristics of black metal and doom metal on RIITIIR. Cato Bekkevold's tolling drum beat at on the intro of Materal is perhaps the perfect example of such a nature of doom as the full band crashes in with what can only be described as the sound of hopelessness. While the album's title track fairs no better hope of sounding like a summer hit, it's opening of Bjørnson and Isdal's riffage filled with bizarre signature switches sounds more akin to something Neurosis could have composed than anyone from the black metal scene. The doom can't even stay away from the more adrenaline packed moments of the band's playing. The moments that show a power metal influence sound at best like Iron Maiden and Blind Guardian on a severe downer while any dreamier progressive moments sound like the best of Pink Floyd's nightmares.

 And if you wanted something that was uplifting, then maybe you should have thought better than approaching a band that everyone likes to call a black metal group, because with this prolonged misery, bleakness and blackened fury, Enslaved have created an opus of misery for 2012, that may never make you smile again, but proves that after nearly 20 years, Enslaved are still one of the most creative, challenging and thought provoking names in the wave of a genre that meant only trve bands could be respected. And if making the perfect metal album is all about dwelling int he darkness and bitterness then RIITIIR could be one of Enslaved's most trve releases so far. Intelligent, nightmarish and uneasy to handle at first, this is what black metal is all about. This is why Enslaved are legends among the scene.

Enslaved's RIITIIR is out now via Nuclear Blast. The band will tour the UK in March.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Review: Rival Sons - Head Down

 I have a lot of love for Rival Sons, how could you not? With last year's Pressure & Time being a dazzling array of big rock and roll hooks done in a way to evoke memories of the '70's, how could you not feel the love for a band like that? Probably by having a more modern taste that doesn't make you sound like a whinging teenager wishing he lived in the '70's. Anyway, after last year's spectacular release which made it onto the now inexperienced looking Ramblings of a Rock Fan top 50 albums of 2011 list, the band have wasted no time in constructing a follow up that's just as killer, in the form of their third full length release, Head Down.

 While other bands would gladly carry the blues rock title and instead use it the guise to release some bone headed heavy songs, Rival Sons are very much the real deal, playing with the kind of subtly and grace that you can notice in some of the finest soul and blues musicians in history, while being able to rock as hard as any big names in hard rock without losing any sense of that grace. It sounds like some kind of undo-able task, but, I believe I've already established that this band is brilliant.

 This songwriting concept can be noticed across the album as lead single Keep On Swinging opens the album with a selection of blues riffs from Scott Holiday and frontman Jay Buchanan with the positive sound of Led Zeppelin pumped out in a less bombastic characteristic, going for a much greater sense of class in favour, which is summed up perfectly by the ever soulful howling of Buchanan. Even with Robert Everhart's bassline sounding oddly reminiscent of AC/DC's Back in Black, there's an undying sophistication upheld perfectly.

 More than obtaining a sense of class and sophistication, in everything that Rival Sons do on this album, they always just manage to sound cool. Like a constant stream of coolness bursts out of every note the band plays. From the smooth indie melodies and massive vocal hooks of Wild Animal, to the irresistible grooves of All the Way, a song for Buchanan to display the true extent of his showman-like charisma and tell a tale of his life through song in a way that will make all listeners jealous and loving towards him at the same time.

 A lot can be said of Buchanan's vocal performance, yet it's best to hear it at it's best when it comes out during the more delicate moments of the album. The performance of Jordan and True are an outlet for so much emotion, that his perfect smoothness and tone of voice that says a thousand words alone are a perfect way to point at the man being this generation's Robert Plant.

 Beyond this, the band's musical performance is stunning as ever and shows much influence from all kinds of established rock bands that came before them. With it's intros clattering drum solo from Mike Miley, You Want To sounds like the band trying to make a song that continues on from the end of The Who's My Generation, while the guitar work once more from Buchanan is second to none. And once again, the amount of emotion poured out across his five minute solo on Manifest Destiny Pt. 1 is completely captivating and keeps you in the constant flow of guitar lick after lick. That's before the song is followed by Pt. 2 of the song, sounding like a classic blues rendition of the Beastie Boys' Sabotage, a slightly different take on the concept of the band replicating the sound of already established bands.

 Ultimately it's with the shimmering production that keeps each track sounding as crisp and fresh as the album goes along that really allows the band to create a spacious atmosphere that reflects a sense of absolute grandeur. It means the album can always seem like a touching experience as you listen to it again and again. Wouldn't you know, that's how all the critics would describe the best albums of all time?
 In the space of a few months, it's wonderful to see a band that has previously shown brilliance come back with something possibly better than the first experience of listening to them for the first time. And this is what Rival Sons have effortlessly done with Head Down. Subtle, grand and still rocking, this is an album that you can be constantly attached to with smoothness that has come from an influence by some of the biggest names in rock and roll and the talent of a band just as good a many of these names. And with the mighty frontman presence of Jay Buchanan, surely a future rock and roll icon, Rival Sons are likely to get some major recognition with this album now. And with recognition being gained for a modern band with the influence from classic rock and blues musicians, as all bands should really have, what is there not to like?

Rival Sons' Head Down is out now via Earache.