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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

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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.


Review: Terrible Love’s Change Nothing

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I think people are going to be very quick to establish Terrible Love as a “super-group” as the band is made up of members of Goodtime Boys, Bastions, Funeral for a Friend, Crocus and Grappler. That’s some incredible pedigree and basically a who’s-who of some of our favourite bands, but sadly they’ve all split up or gone on hiatus making Terrible Love a very natural progression that echoes the way a lot of bands start life. No established band is ever anyone’s first band and the experience that each member brings to the table makes Terrible Love’s debut EP Change Nothing an incredibly accomplished first drop.

What’s immediately noticeable is that Terrible Love actually sound like a band made up of its component parts. It’s strange but expectations that come from such well known and recognisable bands immediately put ideas as to what they should sound like in your head, but most projects of this calibre don’t realise themselves in the way you expect. Terrible Love are the exception to the rule. This is heart-on-sleeve, emotive yet aggressive post hardcore that is equal parts memorable, interesting, biting and beautifully constructed.

The title track perfectly encapsulates what the band are about and it’s difficult to not want to instantly bang your head to the wonderfully bouncy, twangy guitar riffs. The vocal delivery is an intriguing spoken word approach that’s yelled in a similar fashion to Goodtime Boys themselves. It’s by no means free-form and definitely matches the beats of the songs but it makes Terrible Love sound vitriolic and heartfelt which is perfect for this type of post hardcore.

Change Nothing is a strikingly well-structured EP that ebbs and flows between fast-paced, punk-rock bangers like Mt. Misery and more delicate, glittery numbers like They Need You. It moves in such a natural and satisfying way that it’s incredibly difficult to find fault with the song-writing, and when it all comes together on songs like Stone in Me then it’s absolutely electrifying.

Terrible Love’s Change Nothing is an incredible debut from a band that comes with a lot of expectation and they absolutely deliver. This is a remarkably accomplished start to a band’s career that I hope lasts for a very long time.

8/10

Terrible Love’s Change Nothing is out now and available on 12″ vinyl through Big Scary Monsters.


Review: BRITNEY’s BRITN3Y

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Edinburgh-based, obnoxious noise-rock trio BRITNEY return for their third album; the aptly named BRITN3Y. If an album has ever had its music more accurately represented by its album cover (a screaming office drone who’s head is exploding) then I don’t really want to know.

BRITNEY’s sound is a violent crossbreed of bands like Down I Go and Let’s Talk Daggers. This is abrasive, thrashy, bass-lead rock with multiple, thick layers of terrifying screaming. This is not a particularly welcoming album, but it is a bizarrely enjoyable one.

BRITNEY sound like a band who are having fun and it’s impossible not to enjoy their frivolity. Songs unfold in a completely scattershot, written-in-about-10-minutes kind of way and it’s strangely engaging. The band are at their best when they’re powering through massive, fuzzy riffs and screaming a load of nonsense that at least sounds important. That’s the key to success, folks; sound like you care.

Where the record falls down is in its inconsistency. While the more aggressive, fast-paced tracks like Sneezefic, Witch Bucket and Neon Python contain all the fun, songs like Sleep Now, Dogman kill a lot of the pace thanks to the song mainly consisting of back-masked noise and retching. I’m all for a band being weird and unpredictable but not at the expense of flow. BRITN3Y has a really hard time finding its flow and its stuff like this that detracts from the overall experience.

Thankfully there are more positives than negatives. Tracks like Boss Moggy and I.I.A.H.S.W.E.S are wonderfully abstract and abrasive songs that showcase BRITNEY at their best. BRITNEY are a strange band who probably won’t click for a lot of people, but there’s definitely something very interesting and unique about them that will reward listeners who can power through their inconsistencies.

7/10

BRITNEY’s BRITN3Y is out now through Superstar Destroyer Records.


Music Video: Terrible Love’s Mt. Misery

terriblelove

Post hardcore mob Terrible Love have seen fit to drop another music video from their Change Nothing EP and this time around we’re treated to a stylish tour video of Mt. Misery from the band’s time on the road with Rolo Tomassi. The band features members of Bastions, Funeral for a Friend and Goodtime Boys and if that doesn’t excite you then you should start this video right now:

Mt. Misery comes off Terrible Love’s Change Nothing EP which is available on vinyl from Big Scary Monsters. Tune in on Friday at 12pm BST for more substantial Terrible Love coverage on UK Scumscene.


Review: Allfather’s Bless the Earth with Fire

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Allfather return with their debut… album? Mini-album? Can a 6 track record clocking in at just under 34 minutes really be classed as an album? Sorry, I’ve lost myself already. These things matter to me, okay?

Allfather’s debut album is called Bless the Earth with Fire and it marks a stylistic shift in sound that sees the band move away from their groovy, Raging Speedhorn-esque hardcore to a more sludge and doom-lead sound, similar to the way Iced Out have changed over the years. The band now sound more like Gurt or Iron Monkey which is definitely no bad thing.

Sludge metal suits Allfather down to the ground. The songs on Bless the Earth with Fire are now more long-form with a bigger emphasis on groove. No, wait; not just groove, but punishing groove. Album opener Raskolnikov showcases Allfather’s new found confidence and the power of the riffs lends the sound a lovely swagger that persists throughout.

Things get really doomy for The Bloody Noose which puts Allfather’s new found appreciation of long-form song-writing front and centre. Luckily the band have also seen fit to not completely dump their hardcore roots and have blended them nicely into their new found appreciation of sludge. Mouth of the Beast in particular starts out as the most hardcore-sounding song on the album before moving back into the slower, sludgier tempos that have come before it.

The real highlight of Bless the Earth with Fire comes in the form of the 11 minute behemoth Death, and Hell Followed with Him. Quite easily the best thing the band have produced so far, this song starts out like a doom track, unleashes a fantastic solo around the 4 minute mark and then brings back that savage groove around 6 minutes. It’s so wonderfully diverse and loaded with neck-breaking riffs; a real treat for fans of heavy music.

Allfather have evolved significantly since their debut EP and with Bless the Earth with Fire we see the band writing more diverse and interesting songs that complement the shift towards sludge metal. It also rocks like a mother fucker.

8/10

Allfather’s Bless the Earth with Fire is out now and can be bought on CD and cassette direct from the band.


Review: The Infernal Sea’s The Great Mortality

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The Infernal Sea return with their sophomore album The Great Mortality; a record all about the black death which is obviously the most metal theme you could want. The Infernal Sea deal in the sort of melodic black metal that bands like Behemoth, Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir deal in, which is wonderfully apt considering this album is being released by Cacophonous Records.

The Great Mortality is relentless. You want heavy? The Great Mortality is fucking heavy. This is eight tracks of the most punishing, flat-out black metal that you could possibly want. The drumming in particular sounds like it’s probably the most knackering thing to perform. This album is an exhausting listen that’s dark, bleak and just bloody brilliant. The opening three tracks of Way of the Wolf, The Bearer and Pestmeester form the holy trinity of metal openings; a glorious trio of songs that tell you exactly what The Infernal Sea are about, and obviously, it’s about being fucking heavy.

Alright, maybe we’re underselling how good The Infernal Sea can be because while this is a very heavy album, there’s an awful lot going on. For one, the guitar work is gorgeous on this record. Tremolo-picked riffs are in abundance and they’re loaded with melody. This is a surprisingly memorable record considering how impenetrable some black metal can be.

What also impresses is the production and mix. Black metal often favours a muddy, under-produced sound that doesn’t do the music any favours, but The Great Mortality is wonderfully produced with a thunderous, bass-heavy mix that is partnered with surprisingly bright production. If only all black metal releases dealt in such clarity.

There are also some moments of respite that do help diversify the album somewhat. The Pestmeester in particular has a striking yet delicate breakdown that introduces a violin. This gives the song a morose and sombre tone that makes the shift back into heavy territory even more impactful. Plague Herald is also stylistically different and favours a more mid-paced speed that allows you to appreciate its fantastic, stomping riff.

The Infernal Sea’s The Great Mortality is an album that you simply must own if you like metal. The Inferal Sea have absolutely mastered their craft and turned in one of the most satisfying black metal releases you could possibly want. It’s heavy, it’s memorable and it’s pretty much essential if you enjoy metal.

9/10

The Infernal Sea’s The Great Mortality is out now through Cacophonous Records.


Music Video: Press to Meco’s Autopsy

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Here, we bloody love Press to Meco. We thought their debut album Good Intent was one of the best records of last year and it’s good to see the lads are still promoting it well. The latest track from the record to get the music video treatment is the rather dreamy, post hardcore anthem, Autopsy. Check out the incredible and bizarrely trippy animated music video below; you won’t regret it:

Autopsy comes off Press to Meco’s Good Intent, which is out now and available to buy direct from the band.


Review: The King is Blind’s Our Father

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East Anglian groove metal five piece The King is Blind have seen fit to drop their debut album Our Father and it’s probably one of the most diverse metal debuts I’ve heard in some time. Taking groove metal to its extremes, The King is Blind mix in elements of doom and black metal to create an album that’s bursting with ideas.

What’s instantly striking about The King is Blind is their unrelenting guitar work which is consistently exciting and unpredictable. Guitarists Lee Appleton and Paul Ryan-Reader are always prominent in the mix and often deal in a groovy, thrashy playing style that will remind you of bands like Sepultura and DevilDriver. This means Our Father is often punishing yet strangely catchy as the two guitarists manage to conjure up riffs like it’s no problem.

When The King is Blind are going hell for leather, they are one of the most exciting bands in underground metal. Tracks like Bloodlet Ascension, Amen and All the Daemons Are Here are savage, relentless metal songs that are loaded with piss and vinegar. These songs often deal in black metal-style tremolo picking which also adds to the sheer intensity of this aural assault. Enough can’t be said about how visceral and exciting The King is Blind are when they decide to be the heaviest band in the UK.

Where Our Father unfortunately falls down is in its experimentation with doom metal. The one-two punch of opening tracks Genesis Refracted and Fragility Becomes Wrath is unfortunately stopped short by the lurching doom track Mors Somnis. While not necessarily a bad song, slowing the pace this early into the record is strangely jarring. When doom tracks keep showing themselves throughout the record you often wonder whether The King is Blind are dealing with too many metal styles as their sound becomes inconsistent.

Sometimes the addition of doom actually works quite well and it’s during tracks that meld it with the band’s groove metal sound. Venin and Devoured in particular like to change between doom and the faster, thrashier style and it works infinitely better as the impact of the band’s break-neck speed is more striking when it follows a big, foreboding, doom groove.

The King is Blind have made a great debut album with Our Father and it’s clear that a lot of diverse metal bands influence their sound. Unfortunately for the band it means that they have a hard time finding a sound that’s truly theirs and this creates some inconsistency. Regardless, this is a strong start to the band’s career and I’m confident they’ll only get better from here.

7/10

The King is Blind’s Our Father is out now through Cacophonous Records.


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