Tag Archives: post hardcore

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: Cult Cinema’s Cosmic Horror II

Cult Cinema return with the second volume in their trilogy of concept EPs about being abandoned in outer space and despite a change in producer, this is a direct follow-up to their previous Cosmic Horror EP that continues with their frantic post hardcore sound.

The main difference with Cosmic Horror II is we get a more substantial offering this time around. While the first EP felt like a taster of things to come, this release feels more like the main event. Across these four tracks we’re treated to an outstanding display of versatility as Cult Cinema blend hardcore with moments of delicate ambience and harrowing black metal. You’re not just getting heavy music on Cosmic Horror II; you’re also getting a cohesive piece that takes you on a journey that ebbs and flows wonderfully. There’s an awful lot more to Cult Cinema than just playing fast and screaming.

Structurally it’s actually quite similar to Cosmic Horror I. The EP starts with a vicious one-two assault in the form of Bad Blood and Midnight Man before closing with the gargantuan Labyrinth of Solitude. This seven minute monster of a song slows things down and focuses on creating a disparate and terrifying atmosphere that matches the concept of the record perfectly. It’s largely instrumental as well which adds another string to Cult Cinema’s already varied bow.

What’s really interesting is how naturally this volume of the Cosmic Horror trilogy follows the first. Playing it directly after the original reveals an obvious connection that adds some additional context to this record. It works well enough on its own, but partner it with the original EP and you create something very special and bizarrely consistent considering the change in producer. By the time the third volume comes around I can imagine Cult Cinema will have created a long-player that will also deserve to be played sequentially with its previous volumes. Multi-volume records aren’t exactly a new concept but it’s fascinating to watch Cult Cinema’s Cosmic Horror come together in such an organic way.

Cosmic Horror II may be a smaller part in a larger release, but as it stands it marks another bold step forward for Cult Cinema who continue to showcase their violent yet beautiful song writing. Cosmic Horror II is the sound of a band who understand that heavy music is a hell of a lot more powerful when you create contrast and juxtaposition and once again the results are fantastic. By the time this trilogy comes to a close we should have a real highlight of modern post hardcore to enjoy and that in itself is very exciting.

9/10

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


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.


Year End: The 10 Best EPs of 2016

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10) Cold Summer – Fight to Survive

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“Regardless, Cold Summer have finally hit their groove on Fight to Survive. This is an extremely bold and fearless record that sees all the pieces of the Cold Summer jigsaw puzzle fit together comfortably. If fist-pumping, anthemic post hardcore music is what you crave in life, then Fight to Survive is an EP you can rely on.”

Click here to read the full review.

9) Conjurer – I

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Despite making a name for themselves in the UK underground’s live circuit for what feels like ages, Conjurer finally released their debut EP this year and it’s fantastically difficult to categorise which is always a fun job as a music critic. This EP is a seriously challenging slab of metal that draws on so many different elements from genres as wide and diverse as death metal, classic rock, black metal and doom metal. Conjurer manage to sound like Mastodon, Between the Buried and Me and Deicide running at each other full pelt across a room with the resulting impact birthing whatever Conjurer are.

8) Wren – Host

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Wren continue to impress us with their huge, atmospheric take on doom metal. Host may be only 4 tracks long, but there’s an awful lot of music to indulge in. This is a creepy and forlorn take on doom that intersperses the music with elements of post rock to create a truly desperate and bleak tone that permeates the entire record. If you’ve been looking for a doom release that could probably make you emotionally well up, then Wren will certainly deliver that. Host is a really unique record from a band who are doing something very interesting with this genre.

7) Terrible Love – Change Nothing

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“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.”

Click here to read the full review.

6) Nembutal – Pay to Die

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When bands put out releases like this I always get tempted to just write, “FUCK” and leave it at that. Nembutal’s follow-up to their 2014 demo is about as no-nonsense as hardcore punk records come. The goal of every song on Pay to Die is to play as loud and fast as possible and it just so happens that Nembutal are bloody excellent at doing both. Nembutal’s music has about as much depth as a roadside puddle, but if you enjoy your hardcore punk being played with as much energy as the human body can muster then you absolutely have to listen to Pay to Die.

5) Allfather – Bless the Earth With Fire

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“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.”

Click here to read the full review.

4) So-Crates – v1

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“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.”

Click here to read the full review.

3) Underdark – Mourning Cloak

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Nottingham’s Underdark exploded out the gates with a black metal release that’s scarily accomplished for a first drop. Mourning Cloak is a wonderfully textured and beautifully structured EP that betrays how heavy it is. The ebb and flow of every song on this record is so gloriously natural and well placed that there’s a dream-like quality to the music that’s at juxtaposition with all the screaming and double-bass drumming on offer. Underdark are a very special band that instantly have my attention and have me begging for more.

2) Watchcries – Watchcries

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Another EP that took me by complete surprise, Watchcries’ debut self-titled EP is never short on ideas. This 3 track offering of metallic hardcore fuses itself with elements of death and black metal and instantly grabs you by the collar and gets right in your face. Watchcries have no interest in nuance; this is a band who are itching to make the most visceral and aggressive metal they can and if this debut is anything to go by then their next record might actually kill you.

1) Razoreater – Vacuum of Nihil

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“Vacuum of Nihil is a loud, noisy, racket of a metal EP and it contains Razoreater’s finest work to date. This band has only managed to get more ferocious with every record and still manage to find new ways to assault your ears. Vacuum of Nihil might have been a long time coming but when Razoreater deliver a record as disgustingly vicious as this it makes you realise that it might have all been worth it. This is an essential UK metal release.”

Click here to read the full review.


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: Cold Summer’s Fight to Survive

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It’s been a fair old while since we’ve heard from our friends in Cold Summer. Their 2013 self-titled mini-album left us feeling like the band were rushing their material out of the door, but no such criticism can be laid against their new EP Fight to Survive.

The band are still churning out angular, post hardcore anthems, but there’s a confidence on Fight to Survive that really steps things up a notch. From opener Bear Eats Wolf, you can instantly hear how significantly tighter Cold Summer are as a unit and the band don’t drop a note throughout the entirety of the track. We’ve got a seriously powerful performance on the drums, a beautifully constructed series of guitar melodies that burst into sharp, jagged riffs for the choruses and some fantastically memorable and saccharine vocals to top it all off.

Now I know I’ve previously given Cold Summer some grief over relying on songs they’ve had in their repertoire for quite some time, but even though Car Crash (In Progress) and Waiting appear again on this EP, they finally appear in the way they were always meant to. As we’ve previously mentioned, Cold Summer sound so much more confident and accomplished on this EP and that shows clearest on these re-workings. There have been some subtle changes to the structure of these tracks and they’re much more dynamic and infectious as a result. This really is Cold Summer firing on all cylinders.

There’s also been a considerable amount of effort put into this EP’s production. The music sounds considerably brighter than previous releases and it suits the band’s earworm melodies so much better than before. If there’s one complaint to be made about the production, it’s the way the guitar chords often sound like they’re being cut off in certain passages, almost like the guitarist is using a kill-switch. This is extremely obvious on EP closer Something, Nothing, No-one and it’s a peculiar decision that dates the EP, making it sound like an early 2000s nu-metal release in places.

Regardless, Cold Summer have finally hit their groove on Fight to Survive. This is an extremely bold and fearless record that sees all the pieces of the Cold Summer jigsaw puzzle fit together comfortably. If fist-pumping, anthemic post hardcore music is what you crave in life, then Fight to Survive is an EP you can rely on.

8/10

Cold Summer’s Fight to Survive is out now and available to purchase direct from the band.


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

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

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

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


Live Review: 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: 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.