Vales have had a peculiar run of things since their inception. Originally known as Veils, the band seemed like they were about to explode into post hardcore super stardom with the release of the 2012 EP Clarity and then the band were threatened with a lawsuit if they didn’t change their name (this was delivered by another band of the same moniker). For the rest of the year and all of 2013 it seemed like the band had vanished off the face of the Earth. The announcement of a record deal with 6131 Records gave us hope that an album would surface soon but it wasn’t until earlier this year that the record finally revealed itself and my God was it worth the wait.
So here we are with Vales’ debut album Wilt & Rise; a 28 minute surge of emotion that grabs you by the collar and shakes you violently for its entirety. It was always apparent that Vales had great song-writing ability but Wilt & Rise takes it to places that Clarity could have only dreamed of. The thing you notice straight off the bat is that there is far more urgency to Wilt & Rise and songs like Scripted and Survival absolutely steamroller you with riffs and heart-on-sleeve screaming.
Vales’ music is deceptively progressive despite its melodic, riff-laden approach and melodies are often never revisited over the course of a song. Thankfully the riffs are hugely memorable in their own right so it’s not necessary for Vales to rely on choruses to keep their audience engaged. This is also important because vocalist Chlo Edwards is a screamer. Without this concerted effort to bring as much melody as possible to the music Vales might’ve suffered from Edwards’ insistence on harsh vocals.
Let’s talk about Edwards because her vocals are an interesting one. Edwards is one of the few blisteringly aggressive vocalists that manages to be incredibly clear and understandable despite sounding like she’s going to empty the contents of her lungs onto the audience. Edwards’ lyrics are a huge draw on Wilt & Rise and they’re often dark, forlorn and poetic which is at a wonderful juxtaposition with her raw and exhausting delivery.
Like every great post hardcore band who’s listened to Refused, Vales also employ the quiet/loud dynamic to allow for gentle disassembly in their middle-eights before smashing you around the head with another great riff. Songs like Waterfalls and Survival pull this off with devastating effect and it would be hard not to join Edwards in screaming along until your throat gives out.
It’s a great relief that Vales didn’t disappear into obscurity because with Wilt & Rise finally released on an unsuspecting audience they’ve delivered an amazing post hardcore record that truly showcases their magnificent song writing. This really feels like a new beginning for the band and long may their reign continue.
Vales’ Wilt & Rise is available now via 6131 Records and FITA Records.
Samoans have stepped into brave new territory with the release of their debut album Rescue. Previously an alt-rock band with math-like tendencies, the band has stripped their sound back to maximise on soaring melodies and expansive riffs. The pace of their music also been dialled back to allow for slower building songs that explode into huge chord-driven grooves that are reminiscent of post rock. If bands like Deftones and *shels have ever intrigued you then you’ll certainly find yourself in a comfortable environment with Samoans’ new direction.
Songs like Lightning Beneath the Sea are great examples of Samoans’ new formula in action. The song begins with a delicate introduction before the riffs flow thick. Vocalist and guitarist Daniel Barnett brings everything together with his powerful yet soulful vocal melodies. It’s surprising how satisfyingly wholesome everything sounds and Barnett manages this without hardly ever breaking into a scream. It’s always a good sign when a vocalist can carry heavy music without having to resort to barking their vocals at you all the time and Barnett achieves this perfectly. The main exception to the rule is A Thousand Knives / A Thousand Wives but even when that engages the scream it’s after a good five minutes of construction that results in an amazing crescendo.
Despite the move away from the band’s earlier math-rock style, there are some wonderfully progressive little moments that creep into songs like The Moth and Dancing on the Sea Lion. The Moth is probably the closest remnant of the Samoans of old and contains some brilliantly wild snare work from new sticks-man Chris Rouse. As for Dancing on the Sea Lion, the song has these bizarre little stop/start tempo changes that make it wonderfully weird and generally quite interesting to listen to without sacrificing melody for technical prowess.
The real step up in musicianship comes in the form of the textured lead guitar work and this is all thanks to the inclusion of new rhythm guitarist Oli Miles. With another guitarist in the mix Barnett has gone to town in sprinkling gorgeous, jangly leads over the verses and even finds room to bring some rather warm and endearing solos into play like the ones near the end of Dancing on the Sea Lion and Wearing Shorts in Scotland. It’s apparent that Samoans have really grown as song-writers as everything on Rescue has earned its place on the record through necessity and not through unnecessary decoration.
Finally we have to give a special mention to another masterful job at the production desk. Despite the glittery clarity that heightens the lead guitar work and makes the sombre vocals really shine, the mix favours the bass to allow the songs to really explode when the band open up with a huge chorus or riff.
Samoans may have engaged a subtle stylistic change but Rescue is a much better record because of it. The album has a beautiful knack for textured guitar work and epic melodies with enough meaty crunch to make it a real rocker at the same time. Samoans have entered the world of rock albums with a strong statement of intent and Rescue marks one of the best alt-rock releases of the year so far.
Samoans’ Rescue is out now and available to buy on 12″ vinyl direct from the band.
I like records that don’t mess around and Grand Collapse’s début album Far From The Callous Crowd is the very definition of not messing around. The thrash-punkers stuff 25 minutes of Gnarwolves-meets-Send More Paramedics styled joy into their album’s 11 songs and not a single second of it could be described as lazy.
The four men of Grand Collapse do an amazing job of sounding like they’re putting all the blood, sweat and tears that their bodies can muster into these performances. Vocalist Calvin Sewell has a brilliantly snotty grunt to his voice that sounds like the classic punk of yesteryear. Guitarist Jon Powell delivers all the melody and manages to cram a hundred riffs into every song and every one of them has a fantastic galloping bounce to it. This is the sound of a legion of kids throwing shapes in the pit. This is then bolstered by the thunderous twang of bassist David Thomas and the blind fury of drummer Glenn Tew who punctuates every growling chord with a massive helping of crash cymbal. You simply cannot fault the abilities of these four men.
When it all comes together Grand Collapse deliver inarguable hardcore punk anthems. There is not a moment on Far From The Callous Crowd that could even be remotely described as boring. The band even manage to find variety in their madness by changing tempos and even dropping the distortion in favour of some seriously catchy leads like the ones at the beginning of Touch Paper and Memoirs of Heath Park.
Even when Grand Collapse are at their slowest like the aforementioned Memoirs of Heath Park they still sound utterly ferocious thanks to the wonderful pairing of huge chords and crash cymbal. If you can’t feel yourself leaning into a relentless session of headbanging then it’s time to see a doctor.
Tying the record together is the meticulous production. It’s no surprise to see that Lewis Johns was responsible for the production on Far From The Callous Crowd as the man is clearly becoming the UK’s punk producer of choice. The man manages to keep all the raw aggression of Grand Collapse’s performance despite presenting it in a way that highlights every element of the band’s music in perfect clarity. If Johns doesn’t have a list of bands as long as his arm lining up for production work by now then there isn’t any justice in the world.
Grand Collapse have put together a début album that I simply cannot listen to without the words ‘FUTURE CLASSIC’ coming into view. Far From The Callous Crowd is a no-nonsense shot of adrenaline and there isn’t a single moment that doesn’t sound like a cacophony of punk’s best riffs. I want more and I need it now.
Grand Collapse’s Far From the Callous Crowd is out now on limited edition CD. Buy one direct from the band.