Review: Corrupt Moral Altar’s Mechanical Tides

Corrupt Moral Altar - Mechanical Tides Front Cover HIRES

Corrupt Moral Altar have come a very long way in such a short amount of time. The groove-ridden grindcore sound of the band’s previous EPs has now sprouted shoots that extend into genres like black metal, noise and doom to create the band’s debut album Mechanical Tides.

The black metal influences are instantly apparent in the opening track Father Tongue which is full of bleak and moody atmospherics. The band also deliver blast-beats by the bucket load. Then the first instance of electronic noise seeps into the band’s sound for Blood Harmony and the slower pace will put doom fans in a horrible yet comfortable spot. Then we’re back to the classic Corrupt Mortal Altar combo of groove and grindcore for Die Glocke and Line Check but even then we’re getting touches of thrash and death metal in those riffs courtesy of John Cooke.

The ride doesn’t let up here. Vocalist Chris Reese takes a step away from screaming for the hauntingly stripped down Admit Defeat. This level of diversity puts Mechanical Tides on a completely different level than Corrupt Moral Altar’s previous material and it’s a beautifully accomplished cacophony of noise.

What’s all the more impressive is just how well it all works together. Corrupt Moral Altar have always had a knack for writing a smashing riff or twelve but this time they managed to being that proficiency into areas that it hadn’t previously visited. The frequent divergences into slower tempos and dark atmospherics are fantastic additions that make listening to Mechanical Tides feel like a journey into the unknown instead of a simple collection of songs.

Special mention also has to be brought to the guitar because the filthy, Entombed-esque guitar tone smears the whole record in a wonderfully disgusting veneer that is complimented by the raw aggression of Tom Dring’s drum work. Every nasty, distorted imperfection is captured perfectly and the crash-heavy drumming just makes the whole experience even more chaotic. I can’t imagine listening to Mechanical Tides through the bright and almost robotic production that gets applied to things like tech metal. This album is a much better experience for all it’s harsh, wretched volatility.

Corrupt Moral Altar have delivered one of the most amazing debut albums any metal band could hope to make. Mechanical Tides is a raucous, nasty bastard of a record that manages to take influences from as many areas of the metal spectrum it can and it fuses them into the band’s already brilliant sound with ease. It’s not often we get to experience an album that’s so magnificently loud yet diverse at the same time and Corrupt Moral Altar have made us wish this experience occurred more often.

9/10

Corrupt Moral Altar’s Mechanical Tides is out now via Season of Mist.


Review: Mage’s Last Orders

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When I noticed that Mage’s latest album Last Orders was only 7 tracks long I began to worry that the groove-metallers might have rushed an album out that wouldn’t make it to the half hour mark. What I was not prepared for was how much the band have grown as song-writers since Black Sands. Mage have evolved into a doom-ridden, sludgy beast of a band. The groove is still there but the band have seen fit to take elements from various down-tempo heavy music like desert rock and fuse it with their signature sound to create a thunderous slab of quality metal that’s immensely satisfying to listen to.

The band have also decided to indulge their proggier leanings by generally writing far longer songs than the band have created previously. Melodies are often not revisited once they shift into a new riff and there are some impressive bursts of speed in tracks like Dark Matter and Old Bones. These thrashier moments are beautiful little additions that help break up the slower pace of the album which is a genius move as the down-tempo nature of the band’s music could’ve become a bit tiresome.

Special mention has to be given to guitarists Woody and Ben who deliver massive riff after massive riff. There are plenty of thick, chunky chords to bite into throughout the album and they’re decorated with some impressive solos like the one on The Fallen. A good solo should always favour melody over technicality and Mage are fully aware of this which is why each solo on Last Orders is a really momentous occasion.

Rounding out this rather meaty package is the wonderful production job by Chris Fielding who keeps the guitar and bass tones as murky and filth-ridden as you’d expect them to be on a sludge metal record. Fielding has seen fit to give the bass prominence in this mix and it suits the huge, spacey vibe of songs like Lux Mentis and Beyond to a tee.

The only real negative we can sling at Mage is that they are an excellent sludge band in a sea of excellent sludge bands. Mage inhabit the same space as bands like Limb, Gurt, Black Moth and Trippy Wicked and they’re often a very similar experience. If more groovy, desert sludge is what you want then Mage have you covered but if you’re after something with an identity of its own then you might be out of luck.

Regardless, Mage have put together a stunning sophomore album that improves on every element of the band’s sound and marks a massive leap forward from their debut album Black Sands. Last Orders is an enormous, neck-bothering monster of an album that sludge fans will be stupid to miss.

8/10

Mage’s Last Orders is out now and available to order on CD via Witch Hunter Records.


Music Video: Cactus&Cardigan’s Neon Suplex

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Those highland bastards Cactus&Cardigan have returned with a new music video for Neon Suplex which comes off the band’s 2014 EP release Highland Bastards. We’re a sucker for music videos filmed in the squared circle so sit back and enjoy:

You can still buy Cactus&Cardigan’s Highland Bastards direct from the band. We suggest that you do and if you need further convincing you can check out our review.


Review: Royal Blood’s Royal Blood

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Interesting fact; Royal Blood only formed last year and now look at them. Their début self-titled album is talk of the town and their first headline tour sold out in minutes. It’s amazing what wonders Warner Music can pull off if they set their mind to it and let’s face it, the band certainly haven’t got this big on reputation alone.

If you’ve managed to completely miss the hype-train that is Royal Blood then 1) congratulations because that’s quite an impressive feat and 2) you’ll probably not be aware that the band are a two-piece hard rock band who draw from the electric blues of The White Stripes with a big helping of Queens of the Stone Age and a bit of classic Muse riffing for good measure. They’ve certainly nailed a very big sound that has no place emanating from only two men and they’re also pretty accomplished songwriters to boot. Songs like Out of the Black, Come on Over and Little Monster are loaded with massive riffs and infectious choruses that are going to be bothering the airwaves for many years to come.

What’s interesting about Royal Blood is that despite being a pretty hefty hard rock band (which is generally a no-go area when it comes to radio-friendly music) they manage to make their heaviness palatable thanks to the lack of harsh vocals. Vocalist and bassist Mike Kerr actually has quite a pleasant vocal sound that’s powerful yet relaxing to listen to. There’s nothing offensive or particularly rock ‘n’ roll about the man’s voice and your Nan would certainly approve.

Sadly, this is one of Royal Blood’s weaknesses. Kerr’s voice is a much more exciting listen when his vocal melodies are a little more dynamic and all the stand-out tracks like the ones previously mentioned benefit greatly from their variety. When Kerr plays it safe and sits out songs like Blood Hands and Careless in a nice, comfortable vocal range the band’s music simply strolls on by with hardly any fanfare.

This also has the unfortunate effect of uncovering the fact that Royal Blood’s sound is incredibly limited to big riffs and choruses with not much else to its name. Is this a casualty of having only two members or is it down to a lack of inventiveness in the band’s song-writing? I’d like to think that it’s a bit of both as there’s only so many places you can go with only vocals, bass and drums but that doesn’t excuse the fact that songs like You Can Be So Cruel have some of the most uninspired riffs to their name. These riffs often take the form of single, galloping chords that soon become pretty dull to listen to.

Thankfully these songs are actually a minority on Royal Blood’s début album and the album is made up of more blues rock classics than the pedestrian, action-film soundtrack rock it sometimes deal in. The album is by no means a record of hard rock anthems for the ages but it was always going to have a hard time delivering on the hype surrounding the band. Regardless, Royal Blood’s début self-titled album is an album that any band who’d only been together for a year would be proud of and it’s a promising start to a band who have likely got a long career ahead of them. Let’s hope the boys can write another collection of hard rock bangers that are a little more consistent in the future.

7/10

Royal Blood’s self-titled début album is out now through Warner Music. You can buy it everywhere.


Review: Casino Thieves’ The Quiet Road Home

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Early 2000s post hardcore! I like early 2000s post hardcore and so should you. Hundred Reasons, Hell is for Heroes and Funeral for a Friend delivered some classic albums full of massive riffs and even bigger choruses and Casino Thieves have clearly noticed this. The band have delivered an EP in a much similar vein and The Quiet Road Home bursts out the gates and doesn’t let up for the entirety of its duration.

Opener Halogen Eyes sets the mood perfectly with some gorgeously satisfying guitar work from singer/guitarist Jeremy Dessent. Dessent also powers through his vocal melodies with a brilliant voice that was made for hard rock music and its full of passion and melody. There’s also a lovely little solo before the final chorus that really sets it off. It’s a simple tactic but its effectiveness is sublime.

Also supporting Dessent’s melodies are some hugely impressive bass-lines courtesy of Leon Jones who favours a very deep, warm and twangy tone that’s always present in the mix but never to the point of obnoxiousness. A real problem with having such prominent bass work is that it can often get too high in the mix, but Jones’ work gets the balance just right. This is evident in Exit or Entrance? which contains a large passage where Dessent’s guitar work takes a sort of stop/start approach which makes the bass even more prominent but not to the point where its intrusive.

Beefing up the band’s sound is some thunderous and crash-heavy drumming from Adam Kerslake. We’re a big fan of the man’s powerful yet thrashy style and Kerslake sounds like he’s absolutely dominating his kit for the entire EP. This is a record made for air drumming.

The only real negative we can through at The Quiet Road Home is the lack of variety in the songs. This is not to say that they aren’t beautifully written but it can be a bit exhausting listening to four post hardcore bangers in a row and they all follow the same sort of pop structure we’re all too familiar with. Thankfully we are given a breather for the final track Beautiful Lenses which opens with a stripped-back, jangly, guitar melody and generally follows a slightly slower tempo than the tracks that preceded it, but it might have been nicer to have this appear at the half-way point. It’s only a slight niggle but it certainly affected our listening experience.

Regardless, Casino Thieves manage to tap into the excitement of early 2000s post hardcore with amazing results. The songs on The Quiet Road Home are thunderous and anthemic and its easy to envisage them coming from a big, festival stage where they belong. Casino Thieves have all the right elements to put them into the big leagues and this EP is a real highlight in modern post hardcore. I really hope to see these guys become a household name in a few years because this taps into an exciting era of rock music that clearly still has some life left in it.

8/10

Casino Thieves’ The Quiet Road Home is released on the 8th of December through all digital outlets.


Review: Fire at Dawn’s Fire at Dawn

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Could Fire at Dawn be any more run-of-the-mill? The 5 piece rock band from Southend tick all the boxes but manage to sound completely innocuous while doing it. The band have a snarly, old-school guitar tone that brings to mind classic bands like Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top but their moody melodies bring back memories of early Muse and Placebo but with a woman on vocal duties. It certainly sounds interesting on paper but it’s a sadly uneventful experience.

Opener Bad Trip boasts a really great riff in its choruses but the song never rises above it and vocalist Victoria Walker slots far too comfortably into her range for the entirety of the track. This damages the music because without some variation in the vocal department the song never feels like it builds to an explosive chorus or crescendo.

The same problem occurs with the pop-punk stylings of Choose Me. The song is dangerously close to being a radio rock anthem but the lack of vocal diversity means the song meanders past you and makes no song and dance about it. Walker never sounds like she is giving her performance the best she can deliver and her sugary melodies lack passion.

Things hit peak boredom around the EP’s mid-point as the slower-paced track Light shows exactly how pedestrian the band’s sound really is. A complete lack of catchy melodies, riffs or choruses turn this track into a quagmire of dull noise you’d find yourself trying to talk over at your local pub and not giving it one iota of your attention.

Thankfully there is one saving grace on Fire at Dawn’s self-titled EP and that’s the guitar work by Brand Winter and Ross Turbz. Both men deliver some great riffs and a smashing solo on Bad Trip and there’s something wonderfully nostalgic about that guitar tone. Sadly, the guys don’t deliver another solo as satisfying as this for the rest of the EP which is a damn shame considering the quality of their playing.

Regardless, guitar work alone can’t save this record and Fire at Dawn do not make up the sum of their parts. More needs to be going on vocally for the band’s songs to be more engaging and Walker really needs to flex her pipes and give it her all because at the moment she sounds like she’s phoning it in. Rock music should grab me by the balls and not let go and all Fire at Dawn are doing are lightly flicking them which is more of an irritating experience if anything.

4/10

Fire at Dawn’s debut self-titled EP is out December 1st.


News: Hondo Maclean Are Back

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UK tech metalcore legends Hondo Maclean are returning for 2 special shows in December as well as a vinyl re-release of their last album The Truth; The Fiction which was only given a limited release under the band’s later moniker of The Future.

The shows take place in London and Cardiff. Check the details below:

12/12 – Barfly, Camden (tickets here)
20/12 – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff (tickets here)

The re-release of The Truth; The Fiction can be pre-ordered from Palm Reader Records. The record will be limited to 300 copies; 100 on half clear/half blue and 200 on clear vinyl. The half clear/half blue variant is close to selling out so don’t sleep on this one. You can stream the album below:


Review: Mongol Horde’s Mongol Horde

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Frank Turner returning to heavy music is a dream come true for a lot of us who were raised on Million Dead, the post hardcore band Turner fronted before he decided to go solo and make folk pop. Turner has been messing around under the Mongol Horde name with fellow Million Dead stalwart Ben Dawson and Sleeping Souls member Matt Nasir for 2 years now and while a few songs have been drip-fed to the public nobody was expecting an album materialise out of thin air. For the unsuspecting public it really felt the way when their debut self-titled album was announced a week before release and the no bullshit approach to announcing the record really suits the music it contains.

Despite being a heavy record, this is a very different beast to Million Dead. Mongol Horde make hardcore punk infused with groove metal and each song is built around a massive down-tuned riff, frantic punk drumming from Dawson and an absolutely furious roar from Turner. This is the sort of album Refused and earthtone9 might make if they ran really fast into each other.

What’s really interesting about the band’s formula is that no real effort has been made to beef up their rather bare-bones sound. Nasir makes up for the lack of bass guitar by tuning his guitar low and running it through the dirtiest fuzzbox he has available. This gives the band a satisfying quiet/loud dynamic that means the verses generally lack bass before it drops into the mix for a massive chorus. It’s simple but amazingly powerful stuff.

Turner has also approached the vocals in a very different fashion. The man almost exclusively uses screams and spoken vocals and there’s more than a touch of humour to Turner’s lyrics. Tapeworm Uprising chronicles the journey of Natalie Portman’s tapeworm as it escapes her body to found a new republic for tapeworms. Blistering Blue Barnacles discusses the career advice Turner was given that lead him to captain his own ship just to satisfy his inferiority. Winkyface: The Mark of a Moron discusses the modern phenomena known as using emoticons instead of actual words to express yourself. It’s beautifully bizarre stuff and despite the almost constant screaming, Turner is incredibly clear and expressive which really engages you in the bonkers scenarios he creates.

The album is superbly consistent with every track being built around a traditional verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure that puts emphasis on Nasir’s enormous riffs and Turner’s aggressive choruses. It’s all tied together by an absolutely relentless display of drumming from Dawson who sounds like he probably got through about ten pairs of sticks per song.

The only real let-down comes in the lack of bass. On occasion the songs feel somewhat lacking without a dedicated bass-line and the furious openings to Casual Threats from Weekend Hardmen and Your Problem are great examples. It’s only a minor complaint as the bass often strikes at the most opportune moments, but you can’t help but imagine how utterly devastating the band would sound if the riffs were bolstered by that extra bit of bass.

Regardless, this is an explosive debut by one of the weirdest bands in heavy music right now. Mongol Horde’s self-titled debut album is equal parts punk and groove and it’s presented as a series of surrealist stories told by Turner that give the band an identity of their own. Welcome back Frank; we’ve missed your unhinged side.

8/10

Mongol Horde’s debut self-titled album is out now and available to buy direct from Xtra Mile Recordings.


Review: Goodtime Boys’ Rain

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Goodtime Boys have come a long way since 2010. When the band started out they were a far more aggressive and no-frills, hardcore punk band but fast forward four years and they’ve grown exponentially as songwriters.

While it’s clear the band’s music is still rooted in punk, Goodtime Boys have taken cues from post hardcore for their debut album Rain and the resulting sound is far more song-driven. This means the band’s music is ever so slightly less progressive. Also, hooks and melodies are often drawn out longer than on previous records.

The obvious improvement comes with the band’s song structures. The music on Rain has a far more natural flow that means melodies often build and build over the course of a song. Starting from a stripped back, vocal-lead introduction, more elements are introduced before things are really set off with some beautiful, glassy lead guitar like on Doubt.

Melody has also started to infect vocalist Alex Pennie. Pennie’s vocals are still predominantly screamed in his wonderful, heartfelt bark, but as opener Washout and Newspaper Sky prove, the man can add some eerie atmosphere to the band’s music through his voice alone.

In fact, the only time Goodtime Boys return to their balls-to-the-wall past is on Moral Decay which spends the first half of the song beating you round the head with thrashy drumming and a relentless punk riff that will ignite some serious pits. But even this track can’t escape the band’s fine-tuned musicianship because the second half manages to dial things back before an uplifting crescendo full of tremolo picking. This really is superb stuff.

The album also benefits from having Scumscene favourite Lewis Johns at the mixing desk (which would be obvious considering he’s actually a member of Goodtime Boys). The reason why we love Johns so much is because his production never compromises a live sound in favour of precision. Johns also manages to keep all the energy and grit that comes with an aggressive performance but makes every element of the sound super clear.

Goodtime Boys have really hit their stride on Rain and it’s an album every post hardcore fan should consider owning. The music is still aggressive but it now flourishes into gorgeous melodies drenched in haunting atmosphere. 2014 has been a stunning year for post hardcore records with Vales delivering an equally excellent album and it’s about time we recognise Goodtime Boys in a similar light. Rain is an astonishing debut album that deserves your attention.

9/10

Goodtime Boys’ Rain is out now and available to buy from Bridge Nine and direct from the band.


Review: All the Best Tapes’ All the Best Tapes

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Weirdness! I like a touch of the odd when it comes to music because bands who are more willing to be a bit strange often stumble across the most interesting ideas and All the Best Tapes are no exception. It should be obvious that any band who names themselves after a David Firth quote are going be a bit on the weird side, but nothing can prepare you for the mathcore/screamo lunacy that is All the Best Tapes’ self-titled debut album.

Coming across like a punch-up between Battle for Paris and Press to Meco, All the Best Tapes’ music is loaded with melody and soaring vocals but the song structures are hugely technical and progressive. No riff is revisited and no tempo is left unconquered. This is extremely challenging stuff but thankfully it’s loaded with enough memorable moments to make it engaging.

It’s also worth mentioning the tone of the record; All the Best Tapes have a knack for writing rather positive and uplifting music despite their balls-out approach and one particularly morbid song title (I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11). The band also veers into pop punk territory on occasion and the opening of Life of Gold certainly fits this mould. Enough can’t be said about how wonderfully diverse this record is.

Diversity is definitely the name of the game when it comes to All the Best Tapes. Album opener I Want to Believe has a brilliant breakdown which slows shifts into slower tempos before ramping it up for one last hurrah before the song ends. I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11 begins with some lovely reverb-heavy yet jangly guitar before stepping it up a notch and Conservatoria in Threes is full of lovely little laser-like effects that continue to add to this quite mental, space-rock odyssey.

If it isn’t apparent yet, there’s an awful lot going on here but All the Best Tapes’ real mastery lies in how well they tie it all together. The band’s sound is always consistent and each song always showcases three distinct elements; delicate yet uplifting vocal melodies, jangly space-rock passages and thunderous yet mathy riffs. It might sound like complete chaos but you soon realise that there’s method to this madness.

All the Best Tapes have put together an extremely diverse and challenging record that cleverly drenches all the music’s elements in a huge helping of melody. Albums like this are proper once-in-a-lifetime experiences and nothing can prepare you for how utterly bonkers it all sounds while still sounding like a cohesive record. Well done All the Best Tapes and thanks for being so mind-bogglingly weird.

9/10

All the Best Tapes’ self-titled debut album is out now and available to buy through FXD Records.


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