Freeze the Atlantic have been through some key line-up changes since their debut album Speakeasy. Even though Sean Shreeve had joined the band on bass duties by the time Speakeasy was released, it was actually Jon Pearce who wrote and recorded all the bass on that release. Freeze the Atlantic’s self-titled follow-up is actually Shreeve’s first written material with the band. Freeze the Atlantic have also had a change in vocalist with Chris Knott being replaced by previous guest vocalist Liv Puente who appeared on Volcanoes from Speakeasy and previously found fame with Laruso.
So how has this affected Freeze the Atlantic’s sound on their latest self-titled album? Musically, the band sound more wholesome and a tad more aggressive. Andy Gilmour and Tom Stevens’ guitar tone is considerably rawer and throaty which makes for a more satisfying crunch when the two guitarists unleash their riffs. The sound they generate is considerably closer to early Hell is for Heroes or Kill Your Own-era Hundred Reasons which is pretty fitting seeing as Gilmour was in Hundred Reasons. Riffs flow thick and fast on tracks like Welcome Back to Nibelheim and Stompbox and both guitarists have to be commended for bringing the majority of the melody to the band’s music and upping their technicality in the process. This is immensely satisfying guitar music.
The most noticeable change has to come with Puente who has a very distinctive vocal style that is more powerful than Knott’s. Puente is a great rock vocalist and he’s the perfect choice in regards to the musical shift to more direct and punchy songs.
Unfortunately Puente is also the weak link on this album. Puente’s vocals never stray out of the vocalist’s comfort zone and all of Puente’s melodies sound remarkably similar. As a vocalist, Puente isn’t particularly creative and by the end of the album’s first song you’ve already heard everything the man has to offer. This is a real shame because as previously mentioned Puente’s voice is a great fit for the band’s music.
But this isn’t Puente’s biggest problem. Over the course of the album you soon begin to notice that Puente only delivers the bare minimum in his vocal duties. This is really noticeable in songs like Occams Razor and You Drove Me to Taxidermy which contain huge passages where the vocalist simply stops singing and it often comes across as laziness. Puente never sounds passionate and every time it feels like the man should let out a roar when the music steps up a notch he simply doesn’t bother. There are so many times when the music presents a massive riff for you to head-bang to and it would sound absolutely electric with a simple vocal flourish along the lines of “urgh!” or “go!”. Idiot Check has the room for a lot of these moments but they simply never happen and the music never excites in the way it should.
Freeze the Atlantic’s self-titled sophomore album is a record stuffed with exciting, energetic and riff-heavy rock music that should have been bolstered by a strong vocal performance but what you get is a very pedestrian vocal delivery that sounds phoned in. There simply isn’t a song as well structured or as catchy as something like Broken Bones off Speakeasy and that song wouldn’t be what it is without its fantastic melody and chorus. I wouldn’t be surprised if Freeze the Atlantic’s self-titled album was written without Puente’s input and the man was brought in after the music was recorded to simply add the final touch.
What makes this even more apparent is that the song This Fight has been re-recorded after previously appearing on a Rock Sound exclusive CD. The original version was a Knott-era Freeze the Atlantic song and it’s instantly apparent because the vocal melody is more dynamic and there’s hardly any moments when the music isn’t accompanied by vocals.
Freeze the Atlantic’s self-titled album is an album of missed opportunities. All the pieces were in place for an impressive follow-up to the band’s debut album what with the music being more accomplished, but it’s let down by a lacklustre vocal performance that rarely delivers a catchy melody. Puente needs to work on sounding like he cares and delivering a performance that sounds like he’s putting his all into the band’s music. If Freeze the Atlantic can return with a more fiery performance from Puente then they’ll be onto a winner.
Freeze the Atlantic’s self-titled album is out now and available to buy from Alcopop! Records.
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.