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.


Review: Bad For Lazarus’ Life’s a Carnival, Bang! Bang! Bang!

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So here it is; Bad for Lazarus’ debut album has finally arrived. Formed by Rich Fownes back in 2009, the band have made their name by being a frantically hypnotic live act and after a series of singles and the odd EP they’ve seen fit to make the jump to full length record. It’s been an odd journey to get to this point as the album seemed like it was due for release a long time ago and even current singles like Burnt! didn’t make the final track list. Regardless, Bad for Lazarus have decided that Life’s a Carnival, Bang! Bang! Bang! in this form is the best example of their achievements to date and it’s difficult to argue with them.

If you’ve yet to experience the grungy rock ‘n’ roll glory that is Bad For Lazarus then try to imagine the sort of thing that Little Richard would make if he resurrected Kurt Cobain and joined The Hives. This is big, bluesy, poppy rock ‘n’ roll written with nasty guitar tones and a huge helping of fun.

What becomes apparent very early on in your first play of Life’s a Carnival is that the record is absolutely crammed with singles. This makes complete sense when you think about the five singles that preceded it, but Bad for Lazarus are scarily good at making a catchy little number or twelve. Caught in the Twist is a funky affair that puts the gnarly guitar tones front and centre, My Muddle’s keyboard riff is pure earworm glory and Bad Stallion is superlative in its raw, post punk madness. There is no shortage of infectious melodies on this record.

Thankfully Bad for Lazarus’ rather unruly style makes the album wonderfully exciting and it constantly throws surprises at you. Disco Biscuits (For Breakfast) puts a soulful little vocal melody in the mix and it really sets the song off. A change of vocalists ensues for 7 Minute Itch which allows guest vocalist Liela Moss to take centre stage. What’s so excellent about this track in particular is that despite the change to female vocals, the song is clearly Bad for Lazarus which is a true testament to how beautifully original the band sound.

Continuing with vocals, an interesting change has occurred with Fownes himself as the frontman has completely dropped his lower, gruntier vocal style in favour of a higher, cleaner range that has a retro rock ‘n’ roll vibe. It generally suits the music on Life’s a Carnival much better than Fownes’ lower range did on some of the band’s older material with one exception; Old Rats on a New Ship. Old Rats is the band’s first song and after five years of hearing it with Fownes’ lower vocal range, it simply sounds wrong without it. It’s still a brilliant song with its massive hip hop beat still taking the driver’s seat, but something’s lost without Fownes’ deeper, bluesier vocals.

Regardless, this is a minor complaint on a near flawless album. Bad for Lazarus’ debut album may have been a long time coming but the five years the band have spent writing, recording and touring has changed them into a well-oiled yet raucous, blues rock machine. Life’s a Carnival, Bang! Bang! Bang! is loaded with infectious songs and there isn’t a minute of it that’s not worthy of your attention. Buy this album and tell your friends; Bad For Lazarus are coming to town.

9/10

Bad For Lazarus’ Life’s a Carnival, Bang! Bang! Bang! is out now and available to buy through 1-2-3-4 Records.


Review: Nathan Detroit’s Peace of Mind

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Whilst listening to Nathan Detroit’s Peace of Mind EP I wondered if people are happy with digesting pop punk band after pop punk band who are happy to just regurgitate each other’s material. How many You Me at Sixs, Kids in Glass Houses’, Paramores and Lower than Atlantis’ do we really need and what’s defining them outside of having different sounding vocalists? I can’t help but think that pop punk has plateaued and bringing something new to the genre is near impossible at this point.

So, Nathan Detroit then; they’re a pop punk band. They sound like the aforementioned bands. You’ve got radio friendly, pop song structures, sugary vocals and upbeat melodies. There’s no aggression on show here; Nathan Detroit want you to stick your arm round a friend and pogo your floppy fringes off and for the most part it’s difficult to criticise a band that sound like such a lovely bunch of happy lads. Your Mum would certainly approve of their poster on your wall.

Now let’s talk music; Peace of Mind kicks into action with The Way Down which is a glittery, jangly anthem with big, soaring choruses that see the shiny guitar tones opt for a bit of overdrive to give things a satisfying punch. Some songs tend to favour the overdrive pedal a little more than others like the explosive Never Enough which bursts out the gates and keeps up the pace for the entirety of the song. It’s all very well written and absolutely crammed with earworm choruses that will help the band appeal to a huge audience.

So why does the whole EP leave a massive emptiness in my ears? Nathan Detroit’s music is so devoid of creativity that it simply becomes an occurrence instead of an event. The pop punk formula is so established now that Nathan Detroit could simply change their name to Me Vs Hero and nobody would notice. There is nothing identifying about the band’s music and it’s a bit sad listening to a band that offer nothing unique.

The real shame is that there is nothing particularly wrong with the band’s music. The choruses are memorable, the riffs are decent, the song writing is great and it’s incredibly well produced, but listening to it is like being shown two different shades of Dulux white paint and being asked if you can see a difference. But who am I to complain? A legion of kids will happily lap this up and hail them the new kings of pop punk simply because they adhere to the standard and pull it off well.

Nathan Detroit are a pop punk band. If these words are enough to interest you then you’ll probably like them. Peace of Mind is a solid, well written EP that will satisfy fans of the genre, but its biggest problem is exactly that. Are you happy to welcome another pop punk clone into your life or do you want something that offers some originality? I am firmly in the latter camp and this EP has done nothing to convince me that Nathan Detroit have anything unique that’s worth my time.

5/10

Nathan Detroit’s Peace of Mind EP is out now and available to buy from Saint November Records.


Review: DeadAudioSaints’ The Purge EP

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DeadAudioSaints are a 4 piece hard rock band from Yorkshire who are big on riffs. Their music is also punctuated with an industrial flair giving them a sound which sits somewhere between Rob Zombie and Deathstars but with a much cleaner set of vocals courtesy of vocalist and keyboardist Danny Jones. The Purge EP is their first release and it’s a surprisingly accomplished slab of hard rock that pulls no punches.

It appears that DeadAudioSaints wrote The Purge EP as a studio project as they lacked a drummer at the time of recording. Despite this, the drums by Tyla-Joe Connett are well produced and feature all the power and impact you’d want from a record of this calibre. Bass duties have also been shared between Connett and Corey Jones who also plays guitar on the record and also shares synth duties with Jones. Now that’s a confusing combination but thankfully it all works on record.

The title track is a thunderous opener that is full of massive arena-bothering riffs and a chorus that will push a crowd into a frenzy. This is also complimented by the following track Tear Apart which has a glorious Marilyn Manson-esque stomp that would sound absolutely massive coming from a big stage.

The band’s music structure is mirrored across most of the EP but DeadAudioSaints change their style slightly to make the songs sound more unique. For example the title track has elements of industrial in it, Don’t Like You has an almost pop punk vibe going on and Taking Control has an opening riff that’s more metal than anything else on the EP. It’s wonderfully diverse stuff that all works well together.

Keeping everything cohesive is Jones who consistently delivers catchy chorus after chorus. He’s also no stranger to a satisfying scream especially during the band’s middle-eights. Jones sounds like he’s enjoying every second of the band’s music and his performance is full of gusto.

The band is a considerably better outfit when their music is full of energy which is made more apparent when things slow down for The Game. While the track still contains a huge riff, the slower nature of the song doesn’t create the same explosiveness as the band’s higher tempo tracks. Jones’ sugary vocals also make the song feel more like a ballad which doesn’t excite in nearly the same way the proceeding songs do.

Regardless, DeadAudioSaints have burst out the gates with a rocking EP that is full of massive riffs and choruses. The Purge EP is the beginnings of an exciting band who sound hungry for big things and with music this well written they deserve to reach those heights.

7/10

DeadAudioSaints’ The Purge EP is out now and available to buy digitally from iTunes.


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