Tag Archives: hard rock

Review: InMe’s Trilogy: Dawn

trilogydawn

What were your dreams as a teenager? Could you see yourself achieving those dreams? Could you continue to follow them into adulthood or would you lose interest in them? Is what you dreamt of doing as a teenager the same as what you dream of doing as an adult? InMe are a band that delivered on the dreams of two young men in the form of Dave McPherson and Simon Taylor and twelve years on from their debut album the two men have recruited two other men to continue their dreams into adulthood. It’s an inspiring tale but also an amazing story of knowing what you want to do with your life at such a young age.

Five albums later, InMe are now ready to drop their sixth and it’s the first part in a mammoth three album project. Each album in this trilogy is linked thematically and each showcases a signature part of InMe’s sound. The first album of the project is called Trilogy: Dawn and it showcases the more song-driven, anthemic side of the band that they previously explored in their earlier days. Unlike InMe’s earlier days, the band’s dynamic has changed dramatically with the inclusion of Greg McPherson and Gaz Marlow and while the band showcase moments of rock radio glory on Trilogy: Dawn, a lot of the songs feel bloated and lacking choruses as strong as those in songs like Crushed Like Fruit and So You Know.

There are also some bizarre choices in regards to the album’s running order. Instead of beginning with a song that sets things off in an explosive manner, opener Creation: Amethyst sounds like a mid-album ballad and it’s a very limp and underwhelming experience. In fact, it feels like Trilogy: Dawn takes quite a while before it gets into its stride and starts to deliver the sort of anthemic rock that InMe are so good at.

Four songs in we get Loss: Children of Exile and it finally feels like InMe have arrived. The angular riff that carries the beginning of the track is one the band’s best and it reminds us of Far Reaching from Daydream Anonymous. It isn’t long before the song opens up into a chorus that demands to be sung by a legion of fans and InMe are finally firing on all cylinders.

The second half of Trilogy: Dawn has some of InMe’s best work with the electronic-tinged Amnesty: Bonsai Forest being a real highlight. This is one of the most interesting things InMe have created so far and the beat in the chorus gives the song a trap music vibe. Then there’s the double dose of Chrysalis: Lone Dance on an Empty and Hymn: Ivory Elder which are future InMe classics. InMe have seen fit to make Hymn the lead single but it’ll be a massive shame if that wonderfully uplifting guitar hook in Chrysalis doesn’t get the radio play it deserves.

On the whole Trilogy: Dawn does a lot to showcase how fantastic InMe are and songs like Chrysalis feel almost celebratory. Unfortunately, a lot of Trilogy: Dawn feels unnecessarily drawn out and quite a few songs suffer from a lack of truly memorable melodies. InMe have all the capability to create amazing rock albums and they’ve proven that with their last effort The Pride, but Trilogy: Dawn feels overindulgent and bloated in comparison.

6/10

InMe’s Trilogy: Dawn is released on May 4th via Pledge Music.

Advertisements

Review: Bulletproof Rose’s Loud, Hard and Fast

BulletproofRose

Bulletproof Rose are clearly big fans of classic rock which is at odds with their youthfulness. Their debut EP Loud, Hard and Fast draws influence from bands like Guns n Roses, Motley Crue and Van Halen and the band have an unashamed amount of fun pretending to be their heroes.

Bulletproof Rose also have an unnerving talent for writing great riffs and it’s here where the band excel. The EP opens with a statement of intent; Bulletproof Rose is named after the band (or the band are named after the song) and it delivers every trick the band have up their sleeves. The guitar work is exceptional and the riffs will worm their way into your psyche in no time. There’s some outstanding guitar solos to boot and they’re generally used to push a song to its climax during the final moments. The vocals are equally memorable and their anthemic nature means the band should have no trouble commanding big crowds.

Sadly as the EP progresses the lyrics get weaker. Gypsy and My Girl have some of the laziest vocals I’ve witnessed for a long time and they’re repetitive choruses have the unfortunate habit of becoming irritating very quickly. Bulletproof Rose haven’t quite figured out that writing rock anthems requires a chorus that’s punctuated by a memorable line, not drowned in the same phrase until you’re driven into a murderous rampage.

Unfortunately the music also suffers from repetition. Despite the opening track and the bluesy closing track Loud Hard Fast, Bulletproof Rose often write songs with a tiresome, meandering pace that does little to entice the listener. When the band step up the tempo, their songs become infinitely more exciting but even Loud Hard Fast can’t escape its middle-eight which spends far too long in an extended solo and the lack of lyrics during this section make the experience feel incomplete.

Bulletproof Rose have all the right elements to be one of the best bands in a new breed of classic rock but Loud, Hard and Fast doesn’t have enough ideas to keep it interesting for its entirety. When the band are at their best and enjoying what they do, they evoke memories of some of your favourite rock and tracks like Bulletproof Rose and Bang Your Head are great examples of this. However, unless the band can condense all their ideas into shorter, sharper bursts of rock n roll fury, they’re going to suffer from becoming another pub rock band with delusions of grandeur.

6/10

Bulletproof Rose’s Loud, Hard and Fast is released digitally on the 27th of April.


Review: Hawk Eyes’ Everything is Fine

everythingisfinehawkeyes

It pains me to say it but Hawk Eyes have lost something on their latest record, Everything is Fine. The riff rockers have been riding a wave of success thanks to their wonderfully thick Engerica-meets-Reuben sound and their last EP, That’s What This Is showcased a more song-driven side to the band that seemed inevitable. It was energetic and exciting and I could hear the band lighting up rock radio up-and-down the country.

Sadly that song-driven style has been dropped on Everything is Fine and the whole record feels like a backwards step back into Modern Bodies territory. This is obviously not a huge issue because fans of that record will feel right at home thanks to the return of the dense, down-tuned and somewhat dark atmosphere that Modern Bodies is known for. That’s all here on Everything is Fine but listening to songs like Permission and Terribly Quelled sit side-by-side next to a re-recording of More Than a Million, which grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let go, makes it clearly apparent that a more direct and less progressive song structure does Hawk Eyes more favours than their moodier material.

The darker and more brooding tracks on Everything is Fine just feel lacking. While they certainly sound impressive on face value with their nasty, oozy guitars and dense production, the songs always lack a tasty hook or riff that could really push them to the next level. Tracks like The Ballad of Michael McGlue are bizarrely pedestrian listening experiences which is not something I ever thought I’d find myself saying about Hawk Eyes.

The weird thing is it’s apparent that this is still the same band. All the Hawk Eyes signatures are here; the riffs are heavy, the drums are thrashy and the vocals are a blend of raw barking and sung choruses. This is still the same Hawk Eyes you know and love but for whatever reason the songs on Everything is Fine simply drift on by without a riff or chorus barely managing to be as devastating or memorable as something like Witch Hunt or Skyspinners from Ideas.

Hawk Eyes have unfortunately made a slight miss-step on Everything is Fine. While the band’s satisfyingly thick riff-rock is still on show throughout the album, the meandering and broody nature of the music doesn’t accommodate memorable riffs and choruses. The absolute barnstormer that is More Than a Million proves exactly what most of Everything is Fine is missing; this album needs to spend more time getting to the point quicker and punctuating it with a catchy melody.

6/10

Hawk Eyes’ Everything is Fine is out now and available to buy direct from the band.


Review: XII Boar’s Pitworthy

pitworthy

It’s been 2 years since XII Boar piqued our interest with their Split Tongue, Cloven Hoof EP but now the band have returned with their first long-player and it’s got the rather bold title of Pitworthy. If that doesn’t indicate a record promising a collection of songs that’ll make you move then I don’t know what is.

XII Boar are still making their special blend of bluesy, groovy rock with a touch of metal (think Black Spiders wrestling with Panic Cell) and it’s still as engrossing as ever. Opening track Sharpshooter bursts out the gates with a riff that is going to ignite their fans into a feeding frenzy and it’s a joy to listen to.

Things continue in a similarly riff-heavy fashion. XII Boar have a real knack for writing a great slab of hard rock that’s stuffed full of hooks and their music has a strangely danceable quality to it. If you put The Schaeffer Boogie on in any of the UK’s many rock clubs it would have the whole place humming along to the melody in no time.

Unfortunately, Pitworthy suffers from a problem that the band didn’t have to worry about previously thanks to the shorter length of their EP. By the album’s half way point you’ve heard everything XII Boar have to offer. I was suffering from some painful fatigue during the middle of Pitworthy and when Tommy Hardrocks gleefully barks, “bitch” I was beginning to worry why a band needs to use a sexist slur in 2015. It isn’t shocking anymore and it’s simply quite embarrassing to hear such sloppy lyricism.

The final nail in the coffin comes with the last song on the album. The song in question is called Quint and it shows an incredibly self-indulgent side to XII Boar that is completely unnecessary and dull to listen to. The tighter more direct song-writing that’s explored through most of the album is completely dumped in favour of an eleven minute desert rock jam that’s so bloated it might burst due to overindulgence.

XII Boar were so very close to making a hard rock debut that would be remembered for decades. The band have a wonderful sound that’s stupidly fun to listen to and when they get it right their music is full of groove and enough hooks to fill a butcher’s pantry. Sadly, Pitworthy becomes a tiresome and bloated experience that indulges in extended desert rock jams far too often. When XII Boar pack all their ideas into shorter songs they’re absolutely on fire but sadly these songs only take up half the record. A missed opportunity.

6/10

XII Boar’s Pitworthy is released independently by the band on the 9th of March. You can pre-order it direct from the band by clicking here.


Review: Royal Blood’s Royal Blood

royalblood

Interesting fact; Royal Blood only formed last year and now look at them. Their début self-titled album is talk of the town and their first headline tour sold out in minutes. It’s amazing what wonders Warner Music can pull off if they set their mind to it and let’s face it, the band certainly haven’t got this big on reputation alone.

If you’ve managed to completely miss the hype-train that is Royal Blood then 1) congratulations because that’s quite an impressive feat and 2) you’ll probably not be aware that the band are a two-piece hard rock band who draw from the electric blues of The White Stripes with a big helping of Queens of the Stone Age and a bit of classic Muse riffing for good measure. They’ve certainly nailed a very big sound that has no place emanating from only two men and they’re also pretty accomplished songwriters to boot. Songs like Out of the Black, Come on Over and Little Monster are loaded with massive riffs and infectious choruses that are going to be bothering the airwaves for many years to come.

What’s interesting about Royal Blood is that despite being a pretty hefty hard rock band (which is generally a no-go area when it comes to radio-friendly music) they manage to make their heaviness palatable thanks to the lack of harsh vocals. Vocalist and bassist Mike Kerr actually has quite a pleasant vocal sound that’s powerful yet relaxing to listen to. There’s nothing offensive or particularly rock ‘n’ roll about the man’s voice and your Nan would certainly approve.

Sadly, this is one of Royal Blood’s weaknesses. Kerr’s voice is a much more exciting listen when his vocal melodies are a little more dynamic and all the stand-out tracks like the ones previously mentioned benefit greatly from their variety. When Kerr plays it safe and sits out songs like Blood Hands and Careless in a nice, comfortable vocal range the band’s music simply strolls on by with hardly any fanfare.

This also has the unfortunate effect of uncovering the fact that Royal Blood’s sound is incredibly limited to big riffs and choruses with not much else to its name. Is this a casualty of having only two members or is it down to a lack of inventiveness in the band’s song-writing? I’d like to think that it’s a bit of both as there’s only so many places you can go with only vocals, bass and drums but that doesn’t excuse the fact that songs like You Can Be So Cruel have some of the most uninspired riffs to their name. These riffs often take the form of single, galloping chords that soon become pretty dull to listen to.

Thankfully these songs are actually a minority on Royal Blood’s début album and the album is made up of more blues rock classics than the pedestrian, action-film soundtrack rock it sometimes deal in. The album is by no means a record of hard rock anthems for the ages but it was always going to have a hard time delivering on the hype surrounding the band. Regardless, Royal Blood’s début self-titled album is an album that any band who’d only been together for a year would be proud of and it’s a promising start to a band who have likely got a long career ahead of them. Let’s hope the boys can write another collection of hard rock bangers that are a little more consistent in the future.

7/10

Royal Blood’s self-titled début album is out now through Warner Music. You can buy it everywhere.


Review: Fire at Dawn’s Fire at Dawn

fireatdawn

Could Fire at Dawn be any more run-of-the-mill? The 5 piece rock band from Southend tick all the boxes but manage to sound completely innocuous while doing it. The band have a snarly, old-school guitar tone that brings to mind classic bands like Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top but their moody melodies bring back memories of early Muse and Placebo but with a woman on vocal duties. It certainly sounds interesting on paper but it’s a sadly uneventful experience.

Opener Bad Trip boasts a really great riff in its choruses but the song never rises above it and vocalist Victoria Walker slots far too comfortably into her range for the entirety of the track. This damages the music because without some variation in the vocal department the song never feels like it builds to an explosive chorus or crescendo.

The same problem occurs with the pop-punk stylings of Choose Me. The song is dangerously close to being a radio rock anthem but the lack of vocal diversity means the song meanders past you and makes no song and dance about it. Walker never sounds like she is giving her performance the best she can deliver and her sugary melodies lack passion.

Things hit peak boredom around the EP’s mid-point as the slower-paced track Light shows exactly how pedestrian the band’s sound really is. A complete lack of catchy melodies, riffs or choruses turn this track into a quagmire of dull noise you’d find yourself trying to talk over at your local pub and not giving it one iota of your attention.

Thankfully there is one saving grace on Fire at Dawn’s self-titled EP and that’s the guitar work by Brand Winter and Ross Turbz. Both men deliver some great riffs and a smashing solo on Bad Trip and there’s something wonderfully nostalgic about that guitar tone. Sadly, the guys don’t deliver another solo as satisfying as this for the rest of the EP which is a damn shame considering the quality of their playing.

Regardless, guitar work alone can’t save this record and Fire at Dawn do not make up the sum of their parts. More needs to be going on vocally for the band’s songs to be more engaging and Walker really needs to flex her pipes and give it her all because at the moment she sounds like she’s phoning it in. Rock music should grab me by the balls and not let go and all Fire at Dawn are doing are lightly flicking them which is more of an irritating experience if anything.

4/10

Fire at Dawn’s debut self-titled EP is out December 1st.


Review: DeadAudioSaints’ The Purge EP

deadaudiosaints

DeadAudioSaints are a 4 piece hard rock band from Yorkshire who are big on riffs. Their music is also punctuated with an industrial flair giving them a sound which sits somewhere between Rob Zombie and Deathstars but with a much cleaner set of vocals courtesy of vocalist and keyboardist Danny Jones. The Purge EP is their first release and it’s a surprisingly accomplished slab of hard rock that pulls no punches.

It appears that DeadAudioSaints wrote The Purge EP as a studio project as they lacked a drummer at the time of recording. Despite this, the drums by Tyla-Joe Connett are well produced and feature all the power and impact you’d want from a record of this calibre. Bass duties have also been shared between Connett and Corey Jones who also plays guitar on the record and also shares synth duties with Jones. Now that’s a confusing combination but thankfully it all works on record.

The title track is a thunderous opener that is full of massive arena-bothering riffs and a chorus that will push a crowd into a frenzy. This is also complimented by the following track Tear Apart which has a glorious Marilyn Manson-esque stomp that would sound absolutely massive coming from a big stage.

The band’s music structure is mirrored across most of the EP but DeadAudioSaints change their style slightly to make the songs sound more unique. For example the title track has elements of industrial in it, Don’t Like You has an almost pop punk vibe going on and Taking Control has an opening riff that’s more metal than anything else on the EP. It’s wonderfully diverse stuff that all works well together.

Keeping everything cohesive is Jones who consistently delivers catchy chorus after chorus. He’s also no stranger to a satisfying scream especially during the band’s middle-eights. Jones sounds like he’s enjoying every second of the band’s music and his performance is full of gusto.

The band is a considerably better outfit when their music is full of energy which is made more apparent when things slow down for The Game. While the track still contains a huge riff, the slower nature of the song doesn’t create the same explosiveness as the band’s higher tempo tracks. Jones’ sugary vocals also make the song feel more like a ballad which doesn’t excite in nearly the same way the proceeding songs do.

Regardless, DeadAudioSaints have burst out the gates with a rocking EP that is full of massive riffs and choruses. The Purge EP is the beginnings of an exciting band who sound hungry for big things and with music this well written they deserve to reach those heights.

7/10

DeadAudioSaints’ The Purge EP is out now and available to buy digitally from iTunes.


Review: Freeze the Atlantic’s Freeze the Atlantic

FTA (ideas11)

Freeze the Atlantic have been through some key line-up changes since their debut album Speakeasy. Even though Sean Shreeve had joined the band on bass duties by the time Speakeasy was released, it was actually Jon Pearce who wrote and recorded all the bass on that release. Freeze the Atlantic’s self-titled follow-up is actually Shreeve’s first written material with the band. Freeze the Atlantic have also had a change in vocalist with Chris Knott being replaced by previous guest vocalist Liv Puente who appeared on Volcanoes from Speakeasy and previously found fame with Laruso.

So how has this affected Freeze the Atlantic’s sound on their latest self-titled album? Musically, the band sound more wholesome and a tad more aggressive. Andy Gilmour and Tom Stevens’ guitar tone is considerably rawer and throaty which makes for a more satisfying crunch when the two guitarists unleash their riffs. The sound they generate is considerably closer to early Hell is for Heroes or Kill Your Own-era Hundred Reasons which is pretty fitting seeing as Gilmour was in Hundred Reasons. Riffs flow thick and fast on tracks like Welcome Back to Nibelheim and Stompbox and both guitarists have to be commended for bringing the majority of the melody to the band’s music and upping their technicality in the process. This is immensely satisfying guitar music.

The most noticeable change has to come with Puente who has a very distinctive vocal style that is more powerful than Knott’s. Puente is a great rock vocalist and he’s the perfect choice in regards to the musical shift to more direct and punchy songs.

Unfortunately Puente is also the weak link on this album. Puente’s vocals never stray out of the vocalist’s comfort zone and all of Puente’s melodies sound remarkably similar. As a vocalist, Puente isn’t particularly creative and by the end of the album’s first song you’ve already heard everything the man has to offer. This is a real shame because as previously mentioned Puente’s voice is a great fit for the band’s music.

But this isn’t Puente’s biggest problem. Over the course of the album you soon begin to notice that Puente only delivers the bare minimum in his vocal duties. This is really noticeable in songs like Occams Razor and You Drove Me to Taxidermy which contain huge passages where the vocalist simply stops singing and it often comes across as laziness. Puente never sounds passionate and every time it feels like the man should let out a roar when the music steps up a notch he simply doesn’t bother. There are so many times when the music presents a massive riff for you to head-bang to and it would sound absolutely electric with a simple vocal flourish along the lines of “urgh!” or “go!”. Idiot Check has the room for a lot of these moments but they simply never happen and the music never excites in the way it should.

Freeze the Atlantic’s self-titled sophomore album is a record stuffed with exciting, energetic and riff-heavy rock music that should have been bolstered by a strong vocal performance but what you get is a very pedestrian vocal delivery that sounds phoned in. There simply isn’t a song as well structured or as catchy as something like Broken Bones off Speakeasy and that song wouldn’t be what it is without its fantastic melody and chorus. I wouldn’t be surprised if Freeze the Atlantic’s self-titled album was written without Puente’s input and the man was brought in after the music was recorded to simply add the final touch.

What makes this even more apparent is that the song This Fight has been re-recorded after previously appearing on a Rock Sound exclusive CD. The original version was a Knott-era Freeze the Atlantic song and it’s instantly apparent because the vocal melody is more dynamic and there’s hardly any moments when the music isn’t accompanied by vocals.

Freeze the Atlantic’s self-titled album is an album of missed opportunities. All the pieces were in place for an impressive follow-up to the band’s debut album what with the music being more accomplished, but it’s let down by a lacklustre vocal performance that rarely delivers a catchy melody. Puente needs to work on sounding like he cares and delivering a performance that sounds like he’s putting his all into the band’s music. If Freeze the Atlantic can return with a more fiery performance from Puente then they’ll be onto a winner.

6/10

Freeze the Atlantic’s self-titled album is out now and available to buy from Alcopop! Records.


Review: InMe’s The Destinations EP

Essex rockers InMe return for a release that marks a sort of a stop-gap for the band. The Destinations EP was crowd-funded on Pledge Music as a smaller release to satisfy fans before the release of next year’s incredibly ambitious triple album. It also marks the first time the band have released anything independently which is a bold step forward for the band.

The EP follows the foundations the band laid on previous album The Pride which means these songs are built around interesting song structures which are punctuated by huge choruses. This also means that harsh vocals are still completely absent and Dave McPherson no longer uses strong language. It really feels like InMe have grown as people and are now completely focussed on making great songs with heaps of melody.

A nice surprise for fans of the band’s guitar work are three amazing solos in Anthemusa, Driftwood Figurines and Beached Whales. The band have dabbled in solos in the past but they’ve never sounded as accomplished as this. Their appearances on The Destinations EP are as important parts of the song structure and not just an excuse to show off which is so often the case with these things.

We have to return to Driftwood Figurines as it’s clearly the highlight of the EP. This is one of the best songs the band have written in recent years and it’ll sound familiar to fan’s of the band’s second album White Butterfly as it has more than an air of Faster the Chase to it. The song is built around a catchy guitar melody which makes way for a massive chorus that’ll hopefully be a permanent fixture in their live set.

It often feels like InMe have taken a retrospective look at White Butterfly in particular to help with the creation of these songs because you’ll often notice that The Destinations EP draws many parallels to it. All the songs showcase a more focussed, song-driven structure that means you’ll be singing the choruses way after the songs have finished.

InMe continue to be one of the UK’s most exciting rock bands and their long career is a testament to how great their song-writing is. It’s a shame The Destinations EP is only 4 tracks long because once it rolls to an end you’ll be gagging for more. Thanks to the band’s increased focus on using Pledge Music as a platform to release their music, it shouldn’t be too long until we get another release from the band but The Destinations EP is a solid release that’ll happily satisfy fans until then.

8/10

InMe’s The Destinations EP is out now through Pledge Music. You can download Pelorus Jack for free via this link.


Review: Cactus&Cardigan’s Highland Bastards

I like to think Cactus&Cardigan were born out of a frustration that the band members live in a town that is largely ignored by touring bands. Cactus&Cardigan hail from Thurso which is about as far north of Scotland you can go before having to get on a boat. If you’ve ever looked at the sort of cities that bands play when they tour Scotland you’ll often see shows in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. To give you an idea of just how awkward it is to go to a Scottish show if you live in Thurso then you’ll be driving 5 hours to get Glasgow. Yeah, that would annoy the piss out of me too.

So suitably Cactus&Cardigan have released an EP called Highland Bastards and they sound pretty pissed off. Their music can be described as a cross between Reuben’s heavier moments and Hawk Eyes’ Chickenhawk days. Another element that characterises Cactus&Cardigan’s sound is that their lyrics often deal with daft concepts like 80/20s predominate meatball theme. Yes, you read that correctly.

Despite the comedic nature of the lyrics, Cactus&Cardigan make an immensely satisfying racket. The band deal in big riffs and even bigger grooves and conquer their lack of vocal melody thanks to their brilliant song-writing. Screamer and guitarist Peter Bacon has an unnerving knack for writing huge riff after huge riff and it’s bolstered by an amazing performance by drummer Jack Macphee and some seriously thunderous bass-work from Marc Sutherland.

EP highlights come in the form of the title track (which is punctuated by an amazing solo from Bacon) and 80/20 which begins with a hook that reminded us of The Strokes’ Juicebox before unleashing an absolutely crushing riff.

Like Cactus&Cardigan’s previous EP Gag Reflex, the band clearly work well within their comfort zone but Highland Bastards manages to present the listener with 6 very different and very interesting songs. Take Neon Suplex for example; Cactus&Cardigan slow the tempo slightly and strip things back for a spoken introduction before the songs steps into gear. Explosions Implosions starts with an introduction that’s remarkably similar to Holy Mountains by System of a Down before it gives us a riff so terrifyingly massive it wouldn’t sound out of place on a doom release.

Cactus&Cardigan have put together an alternative rock/metal release that is never short on riffs. The songs are all enormous, groove-laden affairs that deserve to be heard outside of the band’s native Scotland. Heavy music needs bands like Cactus&Cardigan to remind us that heavy music doesn’t need to be overly technical to provide a satisfying impact and Highland Bastards is one of the best examples of this mantra we can think of.

9/10

Cactus&Cardigan’s Highland Bastards is released independently on May 26th. Keep an eye on the band’s Big Cartel for order links.