Tag Archives: metalcore

Review: Esprit D’Air’s Constellations

One of the things I really enjoy about running UK Scumscene is getting sent records like this. Esprit D’Air are a Japanese metal band based in London who make the sort of music that should be coming from more established J-metal acts like Coldrain and The Gazette. Yet Constellations is only their first long-player and it sounds absolutely enormous.

Esprit D’Air take a broad range of influences into their sound. Constellations sounds like a blend of post hardcore, metalcore and trancecore, meaning you get an album that sounds like Blood Stain Child mixing it up with Girugamesh.

Now if the alarm bells are starting to ring because of the amount of sub-genres listed with the word ‘core’ in the title, then you’ll be pleased to know that while Esprit D’Air love to pound a single-chord riff, there’s enough variety and melody in these songs to keep them engaging. Songs like The Hunter manage to draw from post rock to create a delicate and tuneful middle-eight and there’s so many outstanding guitar solos to choose from that you’re a little spoilt for choice.

As with most metal in this style, Esprit D’Air’s big focus is on massive, stadium-sized anthems and Constellations is wonderfully consistent in delivering them. Starstorm sounds like a future rock club classic in the making, Guiding Light has the sort of sing-a-long quality you’d want from your favourite arena rock band and even when things slow down for penultimate track Reminisce, you’re still treated to an absolute monster of a riff.

While this sort of metal heavily draws from pop music for song structure, Esprit D’Air manage to drop in some nice progressive elements. You often find the first half of any song on Constellations is where you most frequently revisit riffs and melodies, while it’s the second half where things get a little weird. The aforementioned The Hunter does this with its post rock middle eight and Ignition is another track where the final half builds to a wonderful crescendo full of impressive guitar solos. It’s just enough variety to keep Constellations fresh and not as derivative as a lot of Japanese metal releases.

Esprit D’Air’s Constellations is a wonderfully accomplished debut album that’s full of massive anthems that stand toe-to-toe with the more established J-metal acts. The band also manages to add enough of their own love for progressive music and post rock to make the album stand on its own merits. If you like anthemic, sing-a-long pop metal full of massive riffs and soaring vocal melodies then you can certainly rely on Esprit D’Air to become your new favourite band.

8/10

Esprit D’Air’s Constellations is released on the 30th of June 2017 and is available to pre-order from the band’s Bandcamp page right now.

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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: Karybdis’ Samsara

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London metalcore outfit Karybdis return for their sophomore album Samsara. Despite having a sound heavily rooted in metalcore with its heavy use of single-chord rhythms, Karybdis layer their music with soaring leads and occasional flourishes of symphonic metal and melodeath. This means Karybdis sound less like Killswitch Engage and more like Machine Head or Sylosis.

So Karybdis have a very accomplished and diverse sound that sits closer to groove and thrash metal. If we ignore subgenres for a second, Karybdis offer up a powerful metal record that draws from a wide range of influences that when put together sound exclusively like Karybdis.

The guitar work on Samsara carries most of the music’s melody. The title track is a great example of this, with its melodeath riffs punching you in the gut during its verses, but then breaking out into some seriously epic leads during the chorus. It makes a very angry song sound almost euphoric and it’s glorious to behold. We’re also treated to an amazing guitar solo that displays a masterful level of musicianship.

As previously mentioned, Karybdis’ music is built on a very noticeable metalcore rhythm with its heavy use of driving, single-chord riffs paired with double-bass drumming. This gives the band a very contemporary sound that they’ve seen fit to garnish with elements of other subgenres. For example Forsaken begins with a high-paced thrash riff, Summon the Tides is interspersed with that lovely, bombastic, symphonic sound that bands like Dimmu Borgir or Blind Guardian deal in and songs like the title track definitely display shades of that wonderful Gothenburg, melodic death metal sound.

Vocally the record even manages to be pretty varied despite the almost exclusive use of screamed vocals. The vocals often switch between low-pitched, death metal growls for verses, and high-pitched, raspy screams for choruses. Occasionally the band even breaks out into a massive, soaring melody like during the chorus of Rorschach or even the delicate, operatic melodies that accompany the rhythms of Summon the Tides. It’s incredibly striking vocal work that once again keeps the album varied.

Karybdis have put together a smorgasbord of metal subgenres and masterfully fused them into a sound that is exclusive to the band. Samsara is a metal album that heavy music fans will be championing for years to come and it establishes Karybdis as one of the UK’s best metal acts.

9/10

Karybdis’ Samsara is out now and available to buy direct from the band.


Cast Iron: Bullet for My Valentine’s The Poison (Episode 4)

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Some of you might not be aware that I (Lewis) also take part in a metal podcast called Cast Iron with a good friend (Alan). In each episode we take a retrospective look at a metal album and pick it apart, learning about our personal music tastes and how well it holds up in the process. We’ve managed to feature 3 British metal albums in our journey so far. Those include Iron Maiden, SikTh and with our latest episode we’ve now added Bullet for My Valentine to the list.

We’d really appreciate the support and you can now listen to the Bullet for My Valentine episode on The Poison by clicking here. You can also subscribe to podcast updates via iTunes, like us on Facebook and follow us on both Twitter and Tumblr.

A lot of time and love goes into this so if you enjoy it then please tell your mates and pop a review on our iTunes entry as it helps get us more exposure and to be quite frank, the state of heavy music podcasts on iTunes at the moment is a bit dire. Let’s make it better.


Review: Red Seas Fire’s Resolution

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Technical metalcore mob Red Seas Fire return with Resolution, a 4 track EP stuffed with the sort of tech metal that bands like Periphery and SikTh deal in. If constantly evolving prog metal stuffed with a thousand riffs, screamed vocals and soaring melodies sounds like something that’ll whet your appetite, then Red Seas Fire certainly deliver.

Red Seas Fire are actually a far more approachable prospect than a lot of tech metal bands as their heavier moments generally take on the sort of shape that metalcore often deals with. This means lot of double-bass drumming and the sort of single-chord beatdowns that I often don’t get on too well with. However, Red Seas Fire actually use these moments a lot more sparingly which means they never outstay their welcome before they segue into a beautiful melody like the one nearer the end of Blood Bank. There’s still no denying that this sort of heaviness is still a lazy excuse to have an obvious passage for people to mosh to, but at least Red Seas Fire understand how to temper these moments with some genuinely fantastic riffs and vocal melodies.

Sadly the band do get a bit bogged down in this territory for the 9 minute behemoth that is The Mistakes We Make; an apt song title for a song that spends too long worshipping down-tuned beatdowns and not doing enough to warrant it’s enormous length. This is a real shame because the band manage to prove elsewhere (and in the latter half of the song) that they’re genuinely talented songwriters who understand nuance and not just bludgeoning their listeners over the head with heaviness.

Resolution is a solid tech metal EP that’s at its best when the songs trade off their moshier moments with huge, anthemic melodies that will be stirring crowds into massive sing-a-longs. Red Seas Fire clearly have the ability to write great metal but their over-reliance on beatdowns means they undersell their abilities. Thankfully the better moments on Resolution shine brighter than the duller, chuggy, one-chord riffs that the band often deal in and the whole EP pops with a satisfying chunky mix that will get your head banging in no time.

7/10

Red Seas Fire’s Resolution is out now and available to download for free via the band’s website.


Review: Kill the Silence’s Kill the Silence

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Kill the Silence are a post hardcore band that sound like Bring Me The Horizon’s later, stadium rock work mixed with more radio-bothering, metalcore influences like those found of an album by The Defiled. Their debut self-titled EP sees the boys firmly setting their eyes on the big time.

The band’s post hardcore-meets-metalcore sound makes for some interesting song structures. The less heavy-handed, straight forward rock elements of the band’s music are generally accompanied with singing but this is often changed up for screaming when the guys decide to get their mosh on.

Sadly the band can’t get the two styles to meld naturally. Kill the Silence often sound better when their songs are more melodious and catchy but then they break the flow to add a beatdown or two for the sake of heaviness. Get Out! Get Out! suffers from this and songs like S.S.D.D. and Chapter II also manage to end in silly beatdown territory.

The real problem with the band’s music is how forgettable it all is. The vocals rarely stumble upon a memorable melody and considering the overdriven nature of the guitar work, the band never manages to drive home a massive riff. None of this is helped by the reliance on single-chord beatdowns which don’t add any melody anyway. The weak production doesn’t even give these moments any impact.

Kill the Silence are clearly attempting to find a sound that doesn’t just riff off someone else’s but they haven’t quite got the song-writing talent to make their music flow naturally through their anthemic rock stylings and into their own blend of macho metalcore. Kill the Silence end up being a very average and by-the-books exploration of heavy guitar music with barely any defining characteristics of their own.

4/10

Kill the Silence’s debut self-titled EP is out now and available to buy direct from the band.


Review: All to Ruin’s Among Us

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The last time we visited All to Ruin in 2013 they were churning out a by-the-books take on metalcore that reminded us of every metalcore band that’s ever had their time in the sun. Has anything changed for All to Ruin in 2015? No.

The latest EP by All to Ruin is entitled Among Us and if you’ve ever listened to Killswitch Engage or Trivium you’ll be in familiar territory. Killswitch Engage are definitely a stronger influence this time as the band have made a more conceited push towards guitar riffs that contain more melody and less “single-chord” abuse.

Where things generally go right for All to Ruin is with their choruses. The choruses on the EP are always full of stadium-sized vocal melodies and beautifully uplifting guitar riffs. All to Ruin definitely have a talent for structuring their songs to emphasise their choruses and it always feels like the song has reached a peak when the choruses roll around. Disconnect in particular has a chorus that sounds like a sea of metal fans would happily scream it back at the band if they were playing the main stage at Download. You can’t deny that All to Ruin have an absolutely massive sound for such a young band.

All to Ruin have definitely progressed as musicians and the lack of reliance on one-chord riffs and beatdowns means they now resemble some of metalcore’s finest and if you told me this EP was released on Roadrunner Records circa 2005 I would have a hard time arguing with you. There’s some fantastic guitar solos doing the rounds as well and songs like History are all the more better for their exemplary guitar work.

Unfortunately, there’s always a feeling of familiarity creeping into the band’s sound and it really hurts their music as a result. All to Ruin sound like Killswitch Engage, Trivium and Bullet for My Valentine and while it’s completely fine to wear your influences on your sleeve, All to Ruin have a difficult time offering anything that you could truly say was unique to them.

All to Ruin’s Among Us is a perfectly competent EP that actually manages to prove that metalcore is a respectable genre when it’s in the right hands. The melodies, choruses and sheer scale of the EP are wonderful to experience but the band simply doesn’t stand out. This style of music has been beaten into submission by an absolute torrent of similarly sounding bands and All to Ruin need to offer something else to stay relevant.

6/10

All to Ruin’s Among Us is released on the 27th of April 2015.


Gone But Not Forgotten: Project Abner/The Abner

Let me tell you a tale of four very talented chaps who got dealt a bad hand. Dave, Olv, Apple and Wilson are the four members of Project Abner; an emo/pop punk/metalcore hybrid act who were functional from 2001 to 2004. The band toured and played lots of shows with bands like Days Ago, Zero Cipher, Eden Maine and Aconite Thrill. In 2002 to 2003 they wrote, recorded and released an EP called All My Love.

Now here’s where things get strange; the All My Love EP made it to press and some reviews also refer to it as the Follow the Pig EP. It would appear the EP was scheduled for a physical release in October 2003 but for whatever reason I haven’t been able to find anything as to the existence of physical CDs. This EP would have contained the songs As Kids Do, The Fable, Pour Fair L’Amour, Suited and Useless, Sighing Like Furnace and All My Love. Sighing Like Furnace and The Fable got released on a promotional CD-R that was given out at gigs.

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Here’s where things take a turn for the worst. Project Abner’s management got them into a position where they were being blacklisted by promoters and booking agents. It’s not clear what had happened but the band were furious with their manager and decided to dump him and their name in the process.

In 2004 Project Abner are reborn as The Abner. With renewed energy and focus the band record an EP called Chinoiserie Lounge for Basick Records and it’s sprung on the world in 2006. The EP is a wonderful mesh of Horse the Band and early Enter Shikari and the band christen their special blend of noise as partycore. Sighing Like Furnace is also revisited and given a fresh coat of paint and renamed The Penitent Man Will Pass. Copies of this EP are still available from Basick Records and every household should have one.

The band continue to trudge on but it becomes apparent that the band’s live appearances are becoming more infrequent and it isn’t until 2008 that new material surfaces. The Abner release a new single called D.I.S.C.O and it’s a frightfully catchy slice of up-beat punk-metal. I remember seeing the song live for the first time at a Basick Records showcase gig which included Without Thought and Fell Silent and it was an absolute joy to behold.

Work began on what would become The Abner’s debut album but interest in the band seemed to have completely faded. The Abner were appearing at incredibly under-promoted shows and one show at The Hope and Anchor only drew about 5 people (myself included). This sort of reception is heartbreaking when it happens to a band you care about and by 2009 The Abner decided it simply wasn’t worth the effort.

The band split without a farewell show but they gave their fans one final gift in the form of 5 album demos and the previously released D.I.S.C.O single. This final release is even more tragic in the fact that it shows a noticeable progression in the band’s song-writing. The songs are all wonderfully unique and progressive numbers like A Cowshed Riot Against the Glutton sit side-by-side with straight-forward rockers like Whiskey Punchout. The songs were initially shared by the band via mediafire but thankfully Basick Records have seen fit to give the songs another lease of life and re-released them as an iTunes EP called If You’re Listening To This… Where Were You In 2008?

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Did The Abner’s management kill the band’s chance at success? It’s difficult to say but in 2009 the UK lost one of the most original sounding rock acts to ever grace the toilet circuit. It’s not nice watching a band you love fall into obscurity and making heavy music in this day and age is a real labour of love. The Abner stuck with it for 8 years and they don’t deserve to be a footnote in UK rock’s history. Go and hunt down The Abner’s 2 EPs on iTunes and indulge in one of the weirdest rock bands ever birthed in the UK. You won’t regret it.

Andrew has kindly put together some additional information on the band which we present below:

“Our very last attempt at a show was in 2009 at the Water Rats where we turned up on a Thursday night to play and were told by the venue that they thought we would bring a crowd. We told them that they were sorely mistaken (haha), so they told us we wouldn’t be playing. We packed up our gear and that was that!

All My Love was a massive blow for us. We had been promised the earth by a con man and left out to dry with his dirty laundry. Basically we got an initial run of one hundred CDs and the printing was wrong on them. They never got a re-pressing because the label head hadn’t paid the bill. Almost cursed, you might say. One of the main reasons that Evolving Music (the label) collapsed is that they over stretched themselves time and time again. Properties in central London, full page adverts in Kerrang! and Rock Sound, t-shirts, stickers, you name it. All good stuff if the money is coming in. They booked a huge 30 date tour for the 3 bands potentially signing to Evolving (ourselves, Through Silence, and Shellshock) with 2 revolving headliners. Half the dates were scheduled for Skindred, and half for Mahumodo (with Mahumodo being the headliners for our shows, drawing a more suitable crowd for us). 3 days before the first show Mahumodo split up and the tour was a disaster as a result! Then we were lied to, etc etc. and the rest is history!

Basick Records saved us from the brink and we helped them by signing a free deal. They pressed our CDs and we bought them at cost. Any that Basick sold were their own. It worked for us and Nathan always had faith in us and our music. It was just a shame that the small piece of momentum we had left when we signed with them ran out before we managed to write a whole album.

Another note worth mentioning is that we toured with My Chemical Romance on their first 3 date UK tour (just before being blacklisted) and also with Skindred around the time that our label collapsed.

We got to the point where we had more fun being ourselves and we never ever fit into a pigeon hole from a visual perspective. We just enjoyed rocking out (and slagging off the crowd between songs).

I’d have loved it if we could have carried on but sometimes life just gets in the way. It’s really nice to know that there’s a little legacy out there though!”

PROJECT ABNER/THE ABNER WERE
– Dave Shanley (vocals)
– Andrew Wilson (bass)
– Apple (guitar)
– Olv (drums)

DISCOGRAPHY

As Project Abner
2 Track Promo CD-R (2003)
Subverse Volume 1 Compilation (2003)
All My Love/Follow the Pig EP (2003)

As The Abner
2 Track Demo CD-R (2004)
Chinoiserie Lounge EP (2006)
A Day for Light Refreshment Promo DVD (2007)
D.I.S.C.O Single (2008)
If You’re Listening To This… Where Were You In 2008? EP (2009)

Do you have memories of Project Abner/The Abner? Let us know in the comments below or drop us an email at ukscumscene[at]live.co.uk.


News: Hondo Maclean Are Back

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UK tech metalcore legends Hondo Maclean are returning for 2 special shows in December as well as a vinyl re-release of their last album The Truth; The Fiction which was only given a limited release under the band’s later moniker of The Future.

The shows take place in London and Cardiff. Check the details below:

12/12 – Barfly, Camden (tickets here)
20/12 – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff (tickets here)

The re-release of The Truth; The Fiction can be pre-ordered from Palm Reader Records. The record will be limited to 300 copies; 100 on half clear/half blue and 200 on clear vinyl. The half clear/half blue variant is close to selling out so don’t sleep on this one. You can stream the album below:


Review: Zoltar Speaks’ Save As I Save

Zoltar Speaks are a metal band from Somerset that fuse a sound similar to that of Avenged Sevenfold with a more modern streak that brings to mind Panic Cell and Lamb of God. The difference is the band favour singing instead of screaming and their vocalist Louise Body definitely takes some cues from In This Moment’s Maria Brink. The band released their debut album ‘Save As I Save’ at the tail-end of last year and now they’re gearing up to give it a wider release in April.

‘Save As I Save’ is formed from a nice blend of modern and classic metal that is lead by the accomplished guitar work of Daniel Pratt and Jason Coles. The two guitarists become the most enjoyable element of the band’s sound and it’s clear that they have the ability to deliver a great series of thrashy riffs. Songs like ‘I’m Coming’ and ‘Cannot Be’ are also given some rather impressive solos which really set them apart from a lot of the other songs on the record.

Outside of the extremely polished guitar work we start to enter some problems. The main issue that plagues ‘Save As I Save’ is it all sounds a bit flat. Vocalist Louise Body is nothing special to listen to and while she can certainly hold a note she often finds her comfort zone and sticks with it. This means a lot of higher range melodies that all sound very similar from song to song. The real problem with Body’s voice is when she decides to scream. Body sounds like a woman doing an impression of a metal scream and the noise that comes from her mouth sounds like it’s coming from her throat and not her diaphragm. It’s not a pleasant noise to listen to and if she really is using her throat then she’s going to cause herself some damage in the future.

The real casualty of the album’s rather limp delivery is Simon Roocroft’s bass which is so low in the mix you can barely hear it. ‘Save As I Save’ is a record that could desperately use a heavy dosage of bass to help punctuate the riffs and the drum work to make the whole listening experience feel brighter and more energetic. What you get instead is an album that’s under-produced, one-dimensional and delivered in the most passable way possible.

Zoltar Speaks are clearly a group of fairly talented musicians because outside some unnecessary metalcore chugga-chuggas like in ‘I Can, I Can’t’ there is a fair amount of decent melodies, riffs and and solos on offer throughout their debut album ‘Save As I Save’. Their main problem is their rather mediocre delivery which lacks the power and intensity that a lot of their peers are managing. This leads to an unfortunate vibe of averageness that means ‘Save As I Save’ will likely get listened to once and then stuck on a shelve for many years to collect dust.

5/10

Zoltar Speaks’ ‘Save As I Save’ is out now and available to buy on CD direct from the band.