Review: So-Crates’ v1

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So-Crates are a new project featuring members of Hold Your Horse Is and Reuben and if that doesn’t get your post hardcore senses tingling then you might need to see a doctor. v1 is the band’s first offering; a pay-what-you-want, 7 track mini album that is bursting with ideas.

The music on v1 is a pretty angular and progressive affair, but always fast and driving. Imagine At the Drive-In wrestling with Billy Talent and you’ll have a good grasp as to what So-Crates are aiming for. Despite the manic, almost nervous energy of the record, So-Crates are surprisingly tuneful with Robin Pearson’s half sung/half spoken vocals still being incredibly striking and unique.

What really adds some wonderful texture is the glittery lead guitar work by Toby Jackson. Despite the songs often being consumed by chunky bass-lines and furious punk rock drumming, the presence of Jackson’s leads means there’s always an earworm melody on display and it makes songs like Paused on a Crossfade really stand out. So-Crates are always mixing a wild and dangerous sound with extremely tuneful and welcoming melodies and it makes v1 a very unique record to listen to.

There is one obvious negative though; music of this energy could do with sounding weightier. The production work on v1 makes it sound more like a jangly indie rock record which seems at odds with how bat-shit crazy the songs are. So-Crates could really benefit from having their drums hit that little bit harder and their riffs need to carry a little more bass. It’s an adjustment that could have really set this record on fire, but it’s something we’ll have to hope the band addresses in future releases.

Overall, v1 is an accomplished and intense debut from an extremely exciting new band. If you’re a fan of post hardcore and math rock then you’ll find a lot to love here and despite some niggles regarding the production, the song-writing really does shine bright and offer a record that is greater than the sum of its parts.

8/10

So-Crates’ v1 is out now and available to download by clicking here.


Live Review: Sludgefeast, Old Forest and BiT at The Brixton Windmill 20/9/2016

BIT
bit

BiT are a noise rock band that dress up as haggard old ladies with terrifying hag masks. It certainly gets your attention because outside of their image and music, there isn’t an awful lot of banter happening. You never quite get to grips with why these 3 guys look like this and why their ultra-fuzzy noise rock is played so loose and atonal, but you’re always entertained. There’s something fascinating by how utterly bizarre this band is. Musically they’re quite lacking and their dual guitar attack (one using a low-pitched distortion and one using a high-pitched distortion) is often too abrasive to really enjoy, but sometimes the sheer shock value of a performance like this is just enough to keep you engaged and I certainly felt that way while watching BiT. This is the sort of band I’d take friends to see just to see how they’d react.

OLD FOREST
oldforest

Old Forest continue the theme of fuzzy over-distorted guitars with their special blend of noise rock and grunge. Despite being a little more tuneful than BiT, I had a hard time enjoying their music as both the bassist and guitarist used a similar sounding low-pitched distortion which meant the riffs were often difficult to ascertain. You could see the band’s drummer also had difficulty hearing the progression of the music and there were quite a few hiccups in the performance that became quite uncomfortable to watch. Thankfully the band were almost able to redeem themselves with some really savage riffs that certainly kept my head banging, but I couldn’t help but think how much better they’d sound if the band had more discernible melodies and a better contrast between guitar and bass.

SLUDGEFEAST
sludgefeast

This review of Sludgefeast’s set is going to have some pretty heavy bias to it because I can’t deny how much this band means to me. The garage rockers rarely play live nowadays, thanks to lead vocalist and guitarist James Barnard now living in Singapore, so a brand new Sludgefeast show has a very special and precious place in my heart. Now this performance wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Barnard was under-rehearsed and sloppy throughout and would often trail off between songs just to fuck about for a laugh, but I certainly did laugh for the entire set. Sludgefeast’s on-stage antics are nothing short of hilarious and even though their playing wasn’t the tightest, the band still managed to frequently play their songs well enough that you were reminded how unapologetically rocking they are. Sludgefeast are all about being obnoxious and loud and they definitely delivered on both of those points tonight. They also managed to remind you that their back catalogue is home to some pretty spectacular riffs and while they may have not been played particularly well, I was extremely happy to see them played at all.


Review: Aliases’ Derangeable

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Blimey, that new Aliases album is out! The band’s sophomore effort Derangeable felt like it was stuck in crowd-funding hell for quite some time (Safer than Reality was released 5 years ago!), but it’s finally decided to show itself and it’s certainly a mighty tech metal beast that clocks in at a healthy 49 minutes.

Now before we get into the review proper, we have to address the elephant in the room: Aliases new vocalist Joe Rosser sounds a lot like Justin Hill from SikTh. Aliases also feature Graham Pinney on guitar. You know; Pin. From SikTh. This album sounds a lot like SikTh. It sounds so much like SikTh that since its release, Joe Rosser has now replaced Justin Hill in SikTh.

So yeah, there’s quite a heavy SikTh/Aliases crossover going on here and that becomes this album’s biggest weakness. If you’re a SikTh fan then you’ll certainly feel like you’re in very familiar territory. However, if you can ignore the musical similarities then there’s still a lot to love on Derangeable.

This is an incredibly accomplished tech metal release and despite the genre’s tendency to get a bit noodly and directionless for the sake of showing off, Aliases actually manage to sculpt incredibly memorable tech metal songs that flow in a very natural way. They’re also not afraid of getting super tuneful as is evident on tracks like Back to the Start.

On the whole, Derangeable is a real treat for fans of tech metal. We’ve got all manner of guitar wizardry on offer; thunderous riffs are coupled with intricate passages of tapping and they’re sprinkled with an extremely impressive vocal performance from Rosser who effortlessly switches between sugary crooning and multi-pitched screams. Songs like Deep Sea Avenue are extremely impressive offerings, showcasing a level of musicianship that sounds like it should be impossible to achieve.

Derangeable is a welcome addition to Aliases very limited library and it’s pretty safe to say that if you were a fan of the band before, then this was certainly a record worth waiting for. However, if you’re well versed in tech metal then you’ll certainly notice the similarities to SikTh and while you’ll probably never ask yourself, “why am I not just listening to SikTh?” you’ll certainly wonder if there wasn’t more the band could have done to differentiate themselves a bit.

8/10

Aliases’ Derangeable is out now and available to buy from Basick Records.


Review: Iron Witch’s A Harrowed Dawn

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It feels like Iron Witch’s debut album has been a hell of a long time coming and the journey that the band has gone through has certainly been an interesting one, with quite a few line-up changes over the years. Thankfully, A Harrowed Dawn is still very much an Iron Witch record and it’s probably the most expansive they’ve ever sounded.

On past releases, Iron Witch have definitely straddled the sludgier end of the metal spectrum, but with A Harrowed Dawn, the band have moved into a larger, doomier playing field. This darker, more brooding sound has given Iron Witch a new lease of life and the music on A Harrowed Dawn sounds utterly monolithic when you compare it to the band’s back catalogue.

Songs like Salvation through Nothing get to boast a riff so monstrously gargantuan that it becomes a wonderfully stompy time for all involved. We even get a weirdo, psychedelic breakdown in Machinery of Violence before it unleashes another crushing, mosh-pit riffstrosity. Iron Witch have never sounded so electric and the whole record sounds enormous thanks to the brilliant production job that puts the band’s past releases to shame.

Iron Witch also manage to do that thing I love about the best low tempo music; they don’t compromise playing slow for writing uninteresting songs. A lot of doom bands really bludgeon their riffs to death for far too long, but that’s never a problem with A Harrowed Dawn. It isn’t even that slow of a doom record; songs twist and turn in a surprisingly progressive manner like on the furious Under the Pyre, but Iron Witch always know when to get your attention and beat you with another massive riff. This really is a masterclass in doom metal song writing.

Iron Witch have certainly spent a long time getting to this record and at only 6 tracks long it is a bit slight for a long-player, but those years of writing and touring have turned them into a well-oiled, doom-making machine and A Harrowed Dawn is the realisation of all their achievements so far. This is easily the best and biggest sounding Iron Witch release to date and an essential purchase for any doom fan.

8/10

Iron Witch’s A Harrowed Dawn is out now and available to purchase from Secret Law Records.


Live Review: earthtone9 and Dorje at The Camden Underworld 9/9/16

DORJE
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It becomes instantly apparent why Dorje have been chosen as main support for this earthtone9 show. The band deal in the same sort of groovy proginess that earthtone9 do, but there’s more of a focus on melodic rock rather than punishing heaviness. Dorje have a really robust and well-rehearsed sound that often reminds us of Coheed and Cambria and they play an extremely tight set that warms up the audience well. The only real negative I noticed is that the band are a little static in their performance, but thankfully they make up for this by being extremely accomplished song-writers. That Rob Chapman also has a powerful set of lungs on him.

EARTHTONE9
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Playing a career-spanning set that includes songs from every single earthtone9 release to date, this is an incredibly special performance from the underappreciated alt metal giants. It’s really quite rare to see earthtone9 on the stage again, but here they are 20 years since they first started. What’s really quite impressive is how varied earthtone9’s music is. We move from the weirdo progressive metal leanings of their first two albums to the more streamlined, almost Deftones-esque alt metal of arc’tan’gent and then we also get the more melodic rock stylings of Amnesia from the omega EP and then we’re right up to date with the groovy, Mastodon-esque sound of For Cause and Consequence and IV. What’s really striking is just how monstrous earthtone9’s early material sounds thanks to the wonderfully robust sound at the Underworld. I couldn’t help but think how good a modern remaster of lo-def(inition) discord would sound like if it had this sort of power. earthtone9 put on a legendary performance that does their amazing back catalogue justice and I really hope we continue to see more music from them because they really are one of the UK heavy music scene’s most precious treasures.


Live Review: Sea Bastard, Hooden and Allfather at The Dev 20/8/16

The Dev is one of those venues that was clearly not originally designed to be a music venue. There’s about as much floor space in front of the stage to accommodate 20 people packed in tight, the ladies’ toilets are right next to the stage and there’s two massive speaker stacks situated at the front of the stage, obscuring the band. But hey, you can’t complain too much because tonight they’re hosting Sea Bastard, Hooden and Allfather for the grand old price of £Bugger All.

ALLFATHER
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Kicking things off with their special blend of sludge metal and hardcore, Allfather have been a band we’ve had our eyes on for a while. With two great EPs under their belt, the band take the stage with confidence and command their audience with ease. Allfather sound great live with the constant switch between bruising hardcore riffs and low-tempo, sludgy beatdowns being just as exciting live as it is on record. Allfather get a suitably warm reception which is lovely to see from the audience, and for the opening act no less.

HOODEN
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Things step up a gear for Hooden. The band deals in an aggressive form of hardcore punk that utilises a lot of bluesy guitar work to add an extra layer of punishment. Musically Hooden sound great, straddling the sort of punk sound that isn’t quite Cancer Bats and isn’t quite The Exploited but somewhere in between. Vocally is where the band falls down somewhat. Their vocalist certainly puts in an unhinged and wild performance, but his actual vocals suffer due to this. There’s no consistency here; the vocal phrasing seems improvised and he jumps around between low-end belching and high-pitched yelps and wailing and it’s pretty abrasive on the ears. Hooden put on a great show regardless but if they could reign in their vocalist a tad then they’d really be onto something special.

SEA BASTARD
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This is going to be a difficult passage to write. I don’t like to criticise bands, especially if they feature members of other bands I really adore (Oli used to play in the mighty War Wolf) and that’s exactly what I’m going to have to do here. Sea Bastard just aren’t for me. While their stompy, chunky doom metal is certainly commanding, there’s just not enough going on and it ends up sounding like the band play one continuous song with almost no discernible moments of interest. Sea Bastard structure their songs around slow tempos, a thunderous bass-line and lots of power chords, but there’s a distinct lack of riffs and hooks. It’s almost impossible to tell each song from the next and it just wasn’t engaging me in the way I like.


Live Review: Cassels, So-Crates and Grieving Live at The Old Blue Last 15/8/16

GRIEVING
grieving

Grieving are a very new band with a single EP under their belt. Their twangy, angular emo is reminiscent of bands like American Football and Joyce Manor. After a nervous start they quickly prove that they’re a very accomplished and tight act, and their drummer was supposedly pretty ill throughout so huge respect to that guy for absolutely nailing it. On the whole, the band looks like they’re having a blast and seem very humbled to be playing to this audience. Grieving are definitely a band you’re going to want to keep on your radar because if this performance is any indication, they will be going onto bigger and better things very quickly.

SO-CRATES
so-crates

If you aren’t aware, So-Crates are a new band featuring members of Hold Your Horse Is and Reuben and that’s a bloody exciting combination on its own. The band deal in an unpredictably, mathy post-punk which is nothing short of exciting when performed live. Their music twists and turns on a dime with aggressive drum-work, angular guitar melodies, chunky bass grooves and some surprisingly dreamy guitar leads. While it’s still early days for So-Crates, you can see that past experiences have allowed these guys to burst out the gates with some truly accomplished music and make it all look easy.

CASSELS
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Grunge-punk duo Cassels are something really special. Sounding like a mix of God Damn and Eugene Quell, the two lads on stage make the sort of music that song-writers twice their age would be proud of. The word is clearly out on Cassels because they fill The Old Blue Last, and on a Monday night no less. The duo has a massive sound considering their limitations and they put on a friendly and engaging performance that sees everyone in the room hanging onto every note. Cassels love that quiet/loud dynamic and it was strangely weird to hear a crowd at The Old Blue Last be so quiet when the music became more introspective. Cassels are genuinely fascinating to watch and are definitely a band you’ll want to see as soon as possible because they won’t be playing venues this small for very long.


Review: Rash Decision’s Headstrung / Seaside Resort to Violence

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Cornish thrash-punkers Rash Decision have decided to load their third long-player with so much music that it’s overwhelming. Essentially a double album, Headstrung / Seaside Resort to Violence features a brand new record (Headstrung) and it’s paired with 2014’s Seaside Resort to Violence just to make sure you’ve got so much punk that you won’t know what to do with it.

Obviously what you should be doing with it is turning it up very loud and getting proper rowdy. Rash Decision sound like The Exploited, Send More Paramedics and Grand Collapse which means they play no-frills, balls-out hardcore punk and have a bloody riot doing so.

Rash Decision aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel when it comes to hardcore punk. They play loud and fast and they clearly enjoy it. We’re treated to such wonderfully blunt lyrics like, “fuck in crust we trust”, “slippers off, any hole’s a goal” and “argh it’s in my eye, it’s in my eye” which comes from a song about getting leaves blown in your face. It’s not smart and it’s not clever but my God if it isn’t fun. There’s nothing wrong with being silly if it’s entertaining and thankfully Rash Decision don’t cross the line so far that their sense of humour becomes tiresome.

Despite the often humorous lyricism, Rash Decision seem to be able to conjure up riffs like it’s the easiest thing in the world. The songs on this record hardly ever make it to the 2 minute mark and the band deal in so many bouncy, memorable guitar riffs that it shouldn’t be possible for them all to be contained on it. The band’s guitar work will undoubtedly command some intense mosh pits and songs like Rumblestrip, Dogsbody and Sunburn are heavily bolstered by said guitar wizardry.

The sheer intensity of Headstrung and its unrelenting speed is the only real negative we can sling at the band. If you want Rash Decision to mix things up and show some variety then you’ll be sorely disappointed because all Rash Decision want to do is play fast and loud. This would be fine in a live environment, but on a record it can be a bit exhausting.

Regardless, Rash Decision have managed to churn out 17 minutes of hardcore punk perfection on Headstrung and if the new material doesn’t quench your hardcore thirst then there’s another 19 minutes of songs for you to indulge in, thanks to Seaside Resort to Violence being on the B side. Rash Decision are an immensely enjoyable hardcore punk act that don’t have too many strings on their bow, but thankfully the ones that are there do the job perfectly.

8/10

Rash Decision’s Headstrung / Seaside Resort to Violence is out now on 12″ vinyl directly through the band’s Bandcamp page.


Review: Temple of Lies’ From Sand

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Leicester groove metallers Temple of Lies return with their sophomore effort, From Sand. Anyone who’s caught Temple of Lies’ live show will understand how utterly electric this band are and their bluesy riffs command some serious attention. But how well does Temple of Lies’ live sound transfer the mighty to long-player?

Sadly, From Sand is a little underwhelming. While it’s often obvious that Temple of Lies’ song-writing carries their music much better than their producer does, From Sand is a bit undercooked when you consider how devastatingly weighty the band’s live show is.

Album highlights like Bats and Fire in the Hole shine bright on an album that is extremely lacking in power. These tracks in particular are loaded with riffs to bang your head to and the bare-bones job done on the mix (that’s also thoroughly lacking in bass) can’t spoil these perfectly constructed slabs of rock. Unfortunately, you’ll still wonder how massive these songs could have sounded with the right person at the mixing desk.

That becomes the recurring thought while listening to From Sand. Songs like Rope and MoM are perfectly serviceable bursts of riff-laden blues rock that showcase Jon Scranney’s amazing guitar work, but they sound so flat that it’s difficult to get excited.

The other disappointment comes with Si Shaw’s lyricism. This is a real shame when you consider how much of a character Shaw is. When the man performs live his face is always plastered with a crazed grin and wide eyes and his barked vocal style is extremely commanding. However, when he sings stuff like, “you won’t even swallow” without a hint of irony and throws in references to crystal meth simply because he’s been singing about crystal balls, you realise that Shaw is a bit of a lazy lyricist. He writes lyrics that he thinks sound cool but they’re so overloaded with metal clichés that they become somewhat laughable.

Despite all of this, there’s a decent groove metal record hidden amongst the bad decisions. In the right hands, Temple of Lies’ From Sand could have sounded like the lovechild of Panic Cell and Clutch, and while the band’s song-writing often comes close to those lofty goals, the flat and lifeless audio mix drags this album into the dirt. Hopefully Temple of Lies can produce a follow-up that lives up to the potential created by their amazing live show.

6/10

Temple of Lies’ From Sand is out now and available to buy from all good digital music outlets.


Review: Cold Summer’s Fight to Survive

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It’s been a fair old while since we’ve heard from our friends in Cold Summer. Their 2013 self-titled mini-album left us feeling like the band were rushing their material out of the door, but no such criticism can be laid against their new EP Fight to Survive.

The band are still churning out angular, post hardcore anthems, but there’s a confidence on Fight to Survive that really steps things up a notch. From opener Bear Eats Wolf, you can instantly hear how significantly tighter Cold Summer are as a unit and the band don’t drop a note throughout the entirety of the track. We’ve got a seriously powerful performance on the drums, a beautifully constructed series of guitar melodies that burst into sharp, jagged riffs for the choruses and some fantastically memorable and saccharine vocals to top it all off.

Now I know I’ve previously given Cold Summer some grief over relying on songs they’ve had in their repertoire for quite some time, but even though Car Crash (In Progress) and Waiting appear again on this EP, they finally appear in the way they were always meant to. As we’ve previously mentioned, Cold Summer sound so much more confident and accomplished on this EP and that shows clearest on these re-workings. There have been some subtle changes to the structure of these tracks and they’re much more dynamic and infectious as a result. This really is Cold Summer firing on all cylinders.

There’s also been a considerable amount of effort put into this EP’s production. The music sounds considerably brighter than previous releases and it suits the band’s earworm melodies so much better than before. If there’s one complaint to be made about the production, it’s the way the guitar chords often sound like they’re being cut off in certain passages, almost like the guitarist is using a kill-switch. This is extremely obvious on EP closer Something, Nothing, No-one and it’s a peculiar decision that dates the EP, making it sound like an early 2000s nu-metal release in places.

Regardless, Cold Summer have finally hit their groove on Fight to Survive. This is an extremely bold and fearless record that sees all the pieces of the Cold Summer jigsaw puzzle fit together comfortably. If fist-pumping, anthemic post hardcore music is what you crave in life, then Fight to Survive is an EP you can rely on.

8/10

Cold Summer’s Fight to Survive is out now and available to purchase direct from the band.