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
allfather

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
hooden

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
seabastard

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
cassels

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

record cover

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

COVER ARTWORK

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

FRONT

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.


Live Review: Man with a Mission at the O2 Academy Islington 4/7/16

RORY INDIANA
roryindiana

Brighton’s Rory Indiana make satisfyingly bouncy, riff-heavy alt rock in the style of Marmozets and Press to Meco. The band deal in a very angular, unpredictable noise that presses my buttons in exactly the way I like and they put on a captivating show that puts the band’s musicianship front and centre. This is an incredibly strong start to the evening’s entertainment and Rory Indiana manage to show an unfamiliar crowd they have the chops to support a band as well-loved as Man with a Mission and keep everyone absolutely enthralled. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where life takes these boys in the future.

MAN WITH A MISSION
manwithamission

I feel like we’ve reached peak gimmick when I watch Man with a Mission walk on stage. 5 guys wearing big, fluffy, wolf heads with light-up eyes and another guy in a kabuki mask is quite the sight and it never really gets any easier to take in how utterly stupid their image is. It’s an enjoyable stupid, though. Regardless, Man with a Mission manage to put on a bloody great show. Sounding like a fusion of Rage against the Machine, Skindred and Sum 41, Man with a Mission deal in the sort of rock that gets played on the radio all day long and the audience hang onto every note. Man with a Mission offer up a multitude of huge riffs and choruses to get your rocks off to, but sadly their mix on the night betrays them ever so slightly. Their turntablist often buries their guitars under a sequence of electronic bleeps and bloops which is a real shame because when the guitars are given room to breathe, they carry a serious amount of groove. Their only major miss-step comes in the form of set-closer Raise Your Flag which has a chorus that sounds as wonky live as it does on record. Man with a Mission are certainly a band who grab your attention and their showing tonight was definitely host to more highs than lows, but I feel like a better audio mix would have really made them shine tonight.


Live Review: Meet Me in St. Louis Live at The Dome 18/6/2016

VINCENT VOCODER VOICE
vincent

Full confession from the get-go; I got to the venue late and only caught the last 2 songs of Vincent Vocoder Voice’s set so this won’t be the most insightful opinion on their live show. What I saw of the band showcased an abstract fusion of alt rock and grunge that was purposely played with an unpredictable sloppiness. I’m not sure if this works in their favour as the vocals in particular sounded a bit off key. Regardless, the band are definitely interesting and I’d like to see more of them if I get the opportunity.

TTNG
ttng

TTNG (previously This Town Needs Guns) are a joy to watch if you appreciate musicianship. I was drawn to their drummer for most of their set as the man is an absolute machine on the kit. Their math rock stylings are technically proficient, glittery numbers, but things step up a notch when original vocalist/guitarist Stuart Smith shows up to sing a couple of TTNG classics. There’s an instant step up in energy and the crowd reciprocate with unbridled enthusiasm. TTNG with Stuart Smith are a seriously exciting band which makes the end of their set somewhat bittersweet as Smith leaves the stage for the final song and it simply can’t stand up to what came before.

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS
mmisllive

No band should be able to come back from an 8 year hiatus and sound this good. Meet Me in St. Louis have reached a near mythical status since their split and listening to their one and only album Variations on Swing in 2016 is still as electric and ground-breaking as it was in 2007. Imagine my surprise when the band appear on stage with suitable pomp and circumstance and absolutely nail every song of their set with ease. The math rock/post hardcore act have some wonderfully complex songs to their name and they perform them with an unbelievable tightness that puts so many other bands to shame. This was an absolutely astounding performance that felt a little too good to be true and the crowd lapped it up. The whole room held onto every word and all I can think about is how much of a shame it is that Meet Me in St. Louis will once again be no more at the end of this tour. We need you, guys.


Live Review: Holy Roar X at The Dome/Boston Music Rooms 21/5/2016

Holy Roar’s tenth birthday party took place across 2 stages at The Dome and Boston Music Rooms on the 21st of May 2016. No fewer than 18 bands played live during the day and while we would have liked to have seen all of them, there’s only so much a man can take. Regardless, this was a hugely enjoyable and celebratory event for one of the most consistent and long-lasting UK heavy music labels. So here are some thoughts on the 15 bands we managed to catch throughout the day:

HELPLESS
01helpless
What a start to the day. Helpless might only have a single EP to their name but they’re a vicious, fiery band that plays some of the tightest dark hardcore I’ve seen in years. I was instantly enthralled by Helpless and I’m looking forward to seeing where they go from here.

UP RIVER
02upriver
Next up we had some explosive and emotional young post hardcore talent in the form of Up River. There’s something very Vales and Svalbard about their music which is no bad thing as we’re treated to a passionate performance full of youthful energy. Up River are definitely a band to keep an eye on.

EULOGY
03eulogy
We’ve made our love for Eulogy very apparent on the website for quite some time now and seeing them live just solidifies exactly what we like about them. This was a brash, scrappy performance by the metallic hardcore quartet and another fantastic early set from HRX.

SVALBARD
04svalbard
What’s left to say about Svalbard? They just get better every time I see them. The post hardcore band is firing on all cylinders and from the moment Serena screams, “We’re fucking Svalbard from Bristol!” they have the audience eating from the palm of their hand. Svalbard are unstoppable right now and this was another flawless performance from one of the UK’s best bands.

HAAST’S EAGLED
05haasts
I don’t know if this was due to seeing them directly after one of the best sets at HRX, but Haast’s Eagled felt like a bit of a downer for me. The band make long-form, sludgy desert rock that was certainly accomplished but essentially a polar opposite to the barrage of glittery guitar melodies and blast-beats that I’d just witnessed via Svalbard. Maybe in a different environment I’d enjoy Haast’s Eagled a little better, but today was not that time.

EMPLOYED TO SERVE
06ets
This was our first special set of the day seeing Employed to Serve perform their debut album Greyer than You Remember in its entirety. Another Scumscene favourite, Employed to Serve basically prove to everyone in attendance why they’re the most exciting mathcore band in the country. Greyer than You Remember is an incredible record and Employed to Serve perform it with all the bile and fury you could possibly want. This was one of the best sets of the day.

MEEK IS MURDER
07meekismurder
My God was this a surprise. Meek is Murder are a band that has been on my radar for a while now but this is the first time I’ve seen them live and it was jaw-dropping. The band deal in some vicious, angular hardcore and their performance is about as no-nonsense as you could want. The band obliterates their set-list and put on an amazing performance to boot. If hardcore is your thing then you need to check out Meek is Murder right now.

THE LONG HAUL
08longhaul
Holy shit! The Long Haul are back for a one-off reunion show and it’s like they’ve never been away. The Long Haul still look like a band of fresh-faced hardcore upstarts and they power through their set-list with an unnerving ease. This was all over far too soon and it instantly reminded you why the band are so dearly missed.

APOLOGIES, I HAVE NONE
09apologies
Like Haast’s Eagled set earlier, I felt like Apologies, I Have None were battling against being a band that couldn’t really match the energy of what had come before. The pop-punk act seem like a strange fit for Holy Roar and while their bouncy emo melodies are perfectly serviceable, they just didn’t push my buttons in the way I like.

GIANTS
10giants
I don’t think Giants are for me. There’s nothing particularly wrong with their angst-ridden hardcore and there’s certainly a lot of crowd-killers in attendance that are loving this set, but the band didn’t feel like they were doing anything a thousand other hardcore bands have done better.

OHHMS
11ohhms
Allow me to get hyperbolic for a second; OHHMS blew me away like no other band has done since… well, probably Rolo Tomassi to be honest. The band’s psychedelic, groovy doom is heavier than a sack of breeze blocks and the quartet put on a feral performance that sees every member of the band chewing the scenery. This was a hypnotic performance that I cannot recommend enough. Go and see OHHMS live.

VALES
12vales
Another special set, Vales take to the stage to perform their debut EP Clarity for the last time. Vales are hinting a new direction for their next release which seems like an odd decision when you see how the audience hang onto every last word of the songs from Clarity. Vales clearly mean a lot to many and their explosive post hardcore is some of the best in the UK. Clarity might not be representative of the band members anymore, but you can’t deny it’s a record that exudes a youthful ambivalence to trends and gimmicks and their performance tonight bolsters that sentiment perfectly.

SLABDRAGGER
13slabdragger
My notes for Slabdragger’s set simply read, “The heaviest band” and I’m quite inclined to leave it at that, but I’m not going to because I want to tell you how incredible Slabdragger are live. Fucking incredible. The room explodes as the band unleash an onslaught of monolithic riffs. Nobody can compete with Slabdragger and this was probably my favourite set from HRX. Slabdragger; you beautiful bastards.

HANG THE BASTARD
14hangthebastard
Speaking of bastards, it’s time for Hang the Bastard to play Hellfire Reign in its entirety and with original vocalist Chris Barling making his first appearance in four years. The sludgecore giants suffer some technical difficulties throughout their set but this doesn’t bother anyone in attendance because the room felt like it might explode with the amount of energy the band were creating. I thought Hang the Bastard’s performance tonight was a bit sloppy in places but I suppose that’s to be expected when you summon a mosh-pit as violent as this.

ROLO TOMASSI
15rolotomassi
In the words of Holy Roar’s own Alex Fitzpatrick, “Only Rolo Tomassi could headline” and he’s not wrong. The band power through a set list that sees the band cherry-pick a few songs from each of their releases in chronological order and it never lets up. Rolo Tomassi are one of the most unique and important UK mathcore bands and even if their change in sound in more recent years has polarised you, their performance tonight can’t be denied. Rolo Tomassi are still one of the most enthralling live acts around and this is a fitting end to an incredible day of music. Happy birthday, Holy Roar. Here’s to 10 more years.


Live Review: Funeral for a Friend (Hours Show) at the Kentish Town Forum 20/5/2016

ZOAX
zoax

London post hardcore act Zoax are a great booking for these final Funeral for a Friend shows. They’re a young, confident band with hooky rock anthems to draw the earlier attendees in. They also get the audience moving early thanks to vocalist Adam Carroll’s insistence on being everywhere. Carroll makes his way onto the Forum’s balcony before making his way onto the floor and getting the audience moving. It wasn’t obnoxious either; the man has a charisma that’s hugely endearing. Zoax left a great impression and put the room in good spirits.

RAGING SPEEDHORN
speedhorn

Booking a band like Raging Speedhorn was an odd choice for this show considering how much louder, heavier and screamier they are than everyone else on the bill, but it was great to see some variety that reminded me of a lot of my early gig experiences. Raging Speedhorn weren’t exactly greeted with the same enthusiasm as Zoax but they weren’t booed either; definitely a warm reception, just not a particularly fiery one for a band this aggressive and my God was it aggressive. Raging Speedhorn don’t feel like they’ve been away at all and they power through classics like Fuck the Voodooman and The Gush while showcasing a few numbers from their upcoming album Lost Ritual. The new songs sat perfectly alongside their older material and this offering certainly has me excited for what might be one of the greatest British comeback records in recent years.

FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND
ffaf

When a very soft-spoken Matt Davies-Kreye takes to the stage unceremoniously and then followed by his bandmates, it brings with it an honesty that has always permeated Funeral for a Friend’s music. This is a band that just wants to make music and play it to people. There’s a sombre tone in his voice throughout tonight’s set and he takes every opportunity to give the fans a little backstory about each song from Hours, something he has previously shied away from.

There’s a bizarre atmosphere in the room throughout their performance. Davies-Kreye establishes from the get-go that this is a celebration but that it’s perfectly acceptable to cry if you feel you must and if anything, it felt like he himself actually would at any point during tonight’s set. The audience are phenomenally loud regardless and every song off Hours is sung with enormous enthusiasm by every person in the room.

Funeral for a Friend mean a great deal to a huge amount of people and the band treat the fans to some great surprises in the form of Streetcar b-side I Am the Arsonist and a surprise reunion with Darren Jones and Ryan Richards for a retro version of Juno from their debut EP Between Order & Model. Even so, at no point do Funeral for a Friend go over-the-top tonight. There’s no fanfare and no encore, just wonderful, honest music. God damn it Funeral for a Friend; I’m going to miss you.


Review: Hacktivist’s Outside the Box

hacktivistoutsidethebox

Fans of metal are very quick to criticise anything that might be regarded as gimmicky, despite the fact the whole genre was essentially built on daft gimmicks. You can imagine that a band like Hacktivist who meld tech metal with hip hop aren’t exactly going to be welcomed into the metal community with open arms and there are some vocal metal fans that have already expressed their displeasure when it comes to Hacktivist’s music, but if a band are making something unique and memorable then what’s the problem? The problem is Hacktivist’s debut album Outside the Box is very unique but not very memorable.

The big issue with Hacktivist’s music is nothing to do with how sacrilegious fusing metal with hip hop can be for some people; it’s more a problem to do with tech metal itself. The popularity of tech metal has grown exponentially in recent years and the formula has become so tried and tested that it’s managed to become stale. Hacktivist’s rhythm section commit to the tech metal archetype so closely that they offer nothing new and it’s completely lacking in melody.

Hacktivist are big on angular, down-tuned, 8 string guitar work and every song features a lot of low end rumble but not a single noteworthy riff. You won’t get any of the guitar melodies stuck in your head and the structure of the songs is so similar from track-to-track that the album feels like one 41 minute long song with multiple choruses. Jermaine Hurley and Ben Marvin’s vocals carry no melody due to their focus on rapping and while their delivery and flow is always passionate and energetic, they don’t write lyrics with the same iconic phrasing of someone like Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari (who actually appears on Taken and puts in one of the most memorable choruses on the record, proving my point perfectly).

Occasionally, there are glimpses of something great. Hate has a very simple yet effective electronic melody that makes it stand out amongst the cesspool of atonal, down-tuned guitar sludge and No Way Back has a massive chorus that you can envisage a sea of fans singing their hearts out to, but these moments are few and far between.

Hacktivist have something incredibly original going for them and they’re obviously very proud of it, thanking the listener for giving them a chance at the very start of the record. Tech metal has become stagnant in recent years and Hacktivist have to be commended for doing something to mix it up, but simply adding some rapped vocals is not what this album needed. Outside the Box is distinctly lacking in memorable melodies and riffs and while it certainly marks the birth of a very interesting band, Hacktivist need to address their lack of melody and start writing songs we can all remember otherwise they’re going to fall into obscurity pretty fast.

5/10

Hacktivist’s Outside the Box is out now through UNFD.


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