Category Archives: Review

Review: The Tidal Sleep and Svalbard’s Split 7″

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It’s a double-dose of glittery yet aggressive post hardcore from Germany’s The Tidal Sleep and Bristol’s Svalbard on this extremely dense slab of wax. The two bands complement each other amazingly well making this a surprisingly cohesive release that betrays its split format.

THE TIDAL SLEEP

The Tidal Sleep’s Are You Ok? is a very interesting and progressive track that isn’t afraid to get weird and spacey in its middle eight. Bursting out the gates with a venomous punk rock fury, the band get wonderfully introspective for a lot of this track and it makes for a bizarrely pleasant and atmospheric experience that distracts from the fact the band were just screaming their lungs out a minute ago. As the song slowly builds itself back up for the final attack, it explodes with one final burst of energy and it’s absolutely magnificent. This is a fantastic offering from The Tidal Sleep that deserves to be heard.

8/10

SVALBARD

Open the Cages is another monster of a song from Svalbard, complete with shimmering guitar leads and an absolutely relentless and exhausting pace that shows no sign of the band slowing down. It also does that patented Svalbard build to a monstrous and uplifting crescendo that’s full of hope, despite the visceral nature of the music on display. Svalbard haven’t put a foot wrong for the entirety of their career so far and this release is just another example as to why they’re one of the most exciting bands in the UK right now. Svalbard have no right churning out songs as good as this for a 7” split and it’s satisfying to know they didn’t phone this one in and save themselves for a larger release.

9/10

Despite being a brief listening experience, this a brilliant split 7” that fans of post hardcore should not be sleeping on. Both bands put forward fantastic songs that are well worth your time and the production quality is magnificent throughout, making the entire release sound absolutely massive. Again, it’s wonderfully surprising that such a small release like this can contain such quality.

The Tidal Sleep and Svalbard’s split 7″ is out now and available to buy through Holy Roar Records.


Review: Cult Cinema’s Cosmic Horror I

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Cult Cinema have returned with a new focus and the first part in a high concept series of EPs that focus on the loneliness of outer space. Cosmic Horror I is the band’s first EP in over five years and also marks the debut of a brand new line-up that brings some interesting changes to the band’s sound.

While the band’s debut EP Iscariot certainly had some very interesting things going on, it was a little more straightforward in its song structures. That record was heavily entrenched in a darker and more brooding hardcore sound and while that certainly returns on Cosmic Horror I, there’s just a more consistent approach to delivering those ideas in a more effective and cohesive way.

Opener Glass Coffin lurches in with a moody yet glittery shower of guitar that hides the onslaught that’s about to ensue. By far the most hardcore-sounding track on the EP, Glass Coffin is a fast-paced assault that lends its sound more heavily to post hardcore and screamo. This means we get a more varied and textured showing from Cult Cinema that sees them experimenting with progressive song structures, guitar leads and blast beats to great effect. It’s very much akin to the sort of noise bands like Svalbard and Terrible Love are making and it’s a great and natural direction for Cult Cinema to follow.

Closing track Distress Signal takes Cult Cinema’s new found love of varied texture and applies it to a slower and more drawn-out song that brings in a lot of atmosphere to the band’s sound. Distress Signal does an amazing job of sounding like a harrowing and forlorn tale of abandonment complete with an absolutely terrifying and stricken vocal performance.

The only real problem with Cosmic Horror I is that it’s all over far too quickly. Both tracks are such a sumptuous and enticing appetiser that it feels too abrupt when it comes to a close after only two songs. It’s certainly got me excited to hear more from the new and reformed Cult Cinema, but in hindsight it might have been nice if the band just held on a little bit longer and put something together that had a little more to offer.

Regardless, this is a minor quibble with an otherwise fantastic return from one of the UK underground’s best acts. Cosmic Horror I is a bold step forward for Cult Cinema that showcases a sound with an increased scope that has me begging for more. I’m lucky that the band is heading into the studio to record the follow-up next month then, eh?

8/10

Cult Cinema’s Cosmic Horror I is out now and available to buy direct from the band’s Bandcamp page.


Review: A Cunning Man’s Practical Applications of Theurgy

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A Cunning Man is the one-man metal project of Ged Cartwright who previously fronted Scumscene post hardcore favourites Teenage China. This new project is extremely high concept stuff; a progressive and symphonic metal project that simply shouldn’t be coming out of the mind of one man.

Practical Applications of Theurgy is such a dense EP that it inspired me to do some background reading on a lot of the references in the song titles. Each track contains a name that appears in The Grimoire of Pope Honorius, which is a 1760 text that was made to be read during mass. Whether or not this is actually the influence on Cartwright’s lyricism remains to be seen, but the fact that I was even intrigued enough to find some meaning in this monumentally enormous sounding EP is a true testament to how interesting A Cunning Man’s music really is.

From the first track Honorius & the Choral Forecast, the listener is assaulted with a symphonic metal attack that’s heavy on blast beats and ethereal strings. Think of a melding of Dimmu Borgir, Between the Buried and Me and Periphery and you’ve got a good idea as to how wild this all sounds. Cartwright’s virtuosic vocals are placed front and centre and rightly so; the man’s singing is nothing short of staggering with its beautiful, lilting melodies permeating every song. It’s a huge amount to take in for a first track and if there’s one criticism to be levelled at this track then it might be a case of over-egging the pudding.

The next two tracks actually reign in A Cunning Man’s tendency to throw every influence under their belt into the mix. A more considered introduction leads the listener along carefully before the instrumentation picks up and when it does it never gets overindulgent. Closer Juratus & the Sulfur Psalm also follow a similar structure and it allows the impact of A Cunning Man’s crescendos to really shine. There’s more of a post rock influence on these tracks that remind you of prog bands like TesseracT, as they show less outright visceral metal like on the first track.

Practical Applications of Theurgy is an extremely unique and almost overbearing symphonic metal release from one of the most gifted Scottish musicians I can think of. This is an extremely accomplished first offering from A Cunning Man and while it sometimes veers dangerously close to being a little too dense for its own good, the song-writing shines brighter and makes for a record that’s more than the sum of its parts. A Cunning Man have an awful lot to offer over these 3 tracks and I’m very excited to see where the project goes in the future.

8/10

A Cunning Man’s Practical Applications of Theurgy is out now and available to download direct from the band’s official Bandcamp page.


Review: Simmer’s Paper Prisms

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Glittery emo quintet Simmer have returned with their debut album entitled Paper Prisms. Simmer previously impressed us with their 2015 EP Yellow Streak; a beautiful and delicate yet sharp and biting rock record that showcased an extremely accomplished sound for such a young band. Personal anticipation was high for this record, so do Simmer deliver the goods when they move onto their first long-player?

Sort of. This is clearly the same band that wowed us last year, but there’s something about Paper Prisms that feels like a band trying to spread their ideas too thin. The setup is identical to Yellow Streak; we get beautiful, sweeping guitar melodies complimented with sombre, lilting vocals and it’s all accompanied with a punchy performance on the drums. The one/two opener of Faze and Control is a perfect beginning to the record and it showcases all these elements beautifully.

However, what becomes apparent very early on is just how much time is spent on overindulgent moments of guitar feedback. Every song seems to start with a big wailing burst of feedback and in the case of some songs like Antwerp, they even linger to a limp conclusion using even more feedback. Simmer are clearly trying to create atmosphere on Paper Prisms and the guitar feedback is never abrasive or obnoxious in anyway, it just feels like it takes away from the immediacy of the song-writing. Songs like Calendar don’t kick in until half the track’s run time has gone by and it’s a bit annoying that so much time is spent holding a guitar to an amp.

It’s also a shame that the vocals often get lost in the mix. The vocals on Paper Prisms are often treated more like an instrument and they’ve been hidden away in the composition to the point that you can’t really make out what’s being said. It’s not the biggest problem because thankfully the gorgeous melodies are still audible; it just would have been nicer to have heard the vocals front and centre.

Simmer’s Paper Prisms is by no means a bad record by any stretch of the imagination. This is still a wonderfully light and dreamy emo record and as a debut album it certainly sets the band up with a great foundation to build on. Sadly it’s let down by a lot unnecessarily drawn-out moments of guitar feedback that have a tendency to kill the pacing. It Simmer can tighten up their song-writing and think of ways to meld the extra texture into the songs themselves, then their next release should be something really special.

7/10

Simmer’s Paper Prisms is out now and available to buy from Dog Knights Productions.


Review: Wode’s Wode

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Wode’s debut long-player shouldn’t have turned out this good. How does a band debut with something this wonderfully nuanced, textured and accomplished? This album sounds like it came from a band that’s been writing and touring for a decade, not half that time. If Wode’s debut album proves anything it’s that you shouldn’t rush your art and Wode have certainly perfected their own blend of melodic black metal.

Black metal can be a challenging genre to get your ears around. Often lacking in melody, being purposely under-produced and focussing on heaviness instead of melody, Wode’s self-titled album suffers from none of these factors. Well, it’s certainly heavy and there’s almost always a blast beat happening, but it’s so much more than simple heaviness.

First of all the guitar work is astounding. Melody permeates every riff on this record and the amount of tremolo picking is astonishing. It’s exhausting listening to how fast and tight the guitar work on this record is. There’s a wonderful ebb and flow to the riffs as well; always moving in a very natural and calculated way and adding an almost glittery texture to the proceedings.

There’s some real variety to the sound of the songs on this album as well. Opener Death’s Edifice is a pretty bleak and foreboding track that leads into the stunning melody of Trails of Smoke which is almost uplifting in nature. I certainly didn’t expect to have my mood lightened by a black metal song but here we are. There’s also a surprising thrash influence on a lot of this record and the riffs on Cloaked in Ruin certainly have a classic heavy metal vibe which once again adds some welcome melody to the record.

Wode’s debut self-titled album is a fantastic achievement. Every element of the band’s song-writing has been so carefully crafted and sculpted to maximise the impact of their music and it makes this album one of the most approachable black metal releases I’ve ever come across. If you’re a fan of heavy music in general then Wode’s self-titled album is something that has a much broader appeal than most underground black metal and it’s a release I’d thoroughly recommend.

9/10

Wode’s self-titled debut album is out now and available to buy from Broken Limbs Recordings, Vendetta Records and COF Records.


Review: Harrowed and Art of Burning Water’s Split 7″

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HARROWED

Harrowed’s take on dark, metallic hardcore is one of the best in the UK and their debut album Into Inferno is a vicious and dangerous sounding record that takes all the best bits from the genre and plays them really well. However, on the two tracks they offer on this split, the elements are all still there but Harrowed don’t sound as volatile. This is Harrowed doing what Harrowed do and that’s fine because Harrowed make great hardcore, but they’re missing the edge that made Into Inferno so utterly sumptuous.

This is mainly due to the production style which is a little rawer than the band’s debut. Into Inferno certainly wasn’t a bright, shiny album when it came to production, but the guitar sounded deadly. It had a real bite that’s sadly missing on these tracks and it just means that they’re missing a special something that would make them stand out better, especially now that dark hardcore is such an overpopulated genre.

Harrowed are still an exciting hardcore band and these tracks are by no means bad, they’re just not up to the band’s usual standard. Fingers crossed Harrowed have another belter of a long-player in the works because it’s about time we saw something more substantial from the band. It’s weird to think that Into Inferno is around 3 years old now.

7/10

ART OF BURNING WATER

Art of Burning Water are one of those bands that have been slogging their way through the toilet circuit for what feels like forever and never really been given their dues. Their music is very difficult to categorise as it draws in so many different influences from the heavy music spectrum, but it’s mainly a form hardcore punk that’s sprinkled with elements of black metal and grindcore. Vocals are always high-pitched and raspy giving their music that nasty, brooding vibe that black metal does so well and the loose, short bursts of almost free-form song-writing definitely lend themselves heavily to hardcore and grind.

Thankfully, despite all these elements coming into play, they manage to fuse in a way that makes Art of Burning Water’s music sound utterly ferocious. Let Me Let You Finish is the perfect example of all these musical styles coming together harmoniously and it’s a terrifying and scattershot explosion of disgusting metal that demands your attention. Please start paying attention to what Art of Burning Water are doing because a band like this shouldn’t be so criminally overlooked.

8/10

Harrowed and Art of Burning Water’s split 7″ is out now and available to buy from Secret Law Records.


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.


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.