After over a decade, Barrabus have returned for the release of their debut album. Lead by the mighty UK underground overlord that is Paul Catten of Medulla Nocte, Lazarus Blackstar and Murder One fame, Barrabus are a noise-rock band that draw comparisons to USA Nails and Chickenhawk-era Hawk Eyes.
The first thing you’ll notice on the band’s self-titled debut album is Catten’s voice. It’s as instantly recognisable as ever. Catten has a wonderfully unique, piercing scream that loosely flops around between low-pitched grumbling and spoken word sections accompanied by a bizarre, Southern-American drawl. Catten does what he wants and does it with passion. Similarly to Mike Patton, here’s a vocalist who could easily sound like he’s taking the piss, but thanks to how wonderfully heart-on-sleeve his performance is, it always sounds genuine even if it’s a tad unconventional.
However, we should move on from Paul Catten’s vocals because these are just a single element in this almighty racket. Frequent Catten collaborator Mark Seddon (also of Medulla Nocte and Murder One) is playing guitar on this album and my word does that man have chops. Despite this album being quite a frantic, often messy slab of noise, Seddon keeps the album grounded with big riffs that are memorable enough to get their hooks deep into you. Porn! is a real highlight in this regard (I mean with a title like that, obviously) and its punky guitar work is surprisingly catchy considering how unapologetically heavy it is.
Album highlights include the slow-burning, somewhat doomy opener of My Nightmare as a Reality TV Contestant and the no-nonsense thrill ride of Behind Closed Doors. This track barrels along at a devastating speed before breaking down into sheer lunacy. Let’s not forget the similarly structured Kleptomania which gets equally weird after its opening barrage of riffs. Then we’ve got songs like In League with Vader which decides to add a touch of black metal to the mix with its opening tremolo-picked riff. There’s just so much going on here that it’s difficult not to be enamoured by the sheer amount of ideas Barrabus have managed to include in such a short space of time.
Barrabus’ debut album is a fantastically weird collection of songs that don’t outstay their welcome. It’s all over in 29 minutes and rarely gives you a moment to breath. This is a noisy, sludgy punk album that isn’t too interested in showing any restraint. This album has certainly been a long time coming considering Barrabus’ last release was a demo in 2006, but its arrival is much like Paul Catten himself; unexpected and unrelenting. Long may he reign.
Barrabus’ self-titled debut album is out now and available to buy through Undergroove Records.
The Gnarwolves album has finally landed. It seems like this album has been a long time coming and Gnarwolves have been mastering their craft after 3 very successful EPs, but have the boys from Brighton managed to make a full length that does their rowdy pop punk justice? The short answer is, “yes”.
The long answer is that even after 3 EPs, Gnarwolves are still churning out skate punk anthem after skate punk anthem. Every track on Gnarwolves’ self-titled debut album is a real fist pumping sing-a-long which is unnaturally impressive. No band should be able to consistently make such catchy punk for so long but Gnarwolves are making it look easy.
What makes Gnarwolves so effective is their ability to write a chorus that will stick with you for weeks. The best tracks on the album have the most memorable choruses and songs like Boneyard, Bottle to Bottle and Smoking Kills are easily going to become live favourites.
Speaking of live, special mention has to be given to the production which captures Gnarwolves energy in a similar way to a great live recording. The one element that seems to make this work so well is the vocals which are shared between all 3 of the band members and makes for a beautiful collision of raw, grunted vocals and the sort of crooning you’d expect from Rise Against and Green Day.
The only negative you might level against Gnarwolves is they’re basically writing the same songs they’ve always written, but is that really a negative? When the music is this memorable and passionate I’d argue, “no” but even if you’d written off Gnarwolves’ creativity something shows up right at the end of the album that truly surprises.
There’s a bloody hardcore song at the end of this album. The untitled song in question is full of aggression, riffs and beatdowns and Gnarwolves pull it off just as well as any of hardcore’s finest. If there were any worries of where Gnarwolves could go after this record then I’d happily put money on them getting heavier because hardcore elements really suit their abrasive punk sound.
Gnarwolves have successfully delivered the album they were always threatening to make. This is a wonderful 28 minutes of direct yet anthemic punk that showcases a band at the top of their game. Gnarwolves are one of the most exciting bands in UK punk right now and this is an essential purchase for anyone who likes their music catchy yet lairy.
Gnarwolves’ self-titled debut album is out now through Tangled Talk Records and Big Scary Monsters.
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.
Royal Blood’s self-titled début album is out now through Warner Music. You can buy it everywhere.
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.
Fire at Dawn’s debut self-titled EP is out December 1st.
Weirdness! I like a touch of the odd when it comes to music because bands who are more willing to be a bit strange often stumble across the most interesting ideas and All the Best Tapes are no exception. It should be obvious that any band who names themselves after a David Firth quote are going be a bit on the weird side, but nothing can prepare you for the mathcore/screamo lunacy that is All the Best Tapes’ self-titled debut album.
Coming across like a punch-up between Battle for Paris and Press to Meco, All the Best Tapes’ music is loaded with melody and soaring vocals but the song structures are hugely technical and progressive. No riff is revisited and no tempo is left unconquered. This is extremely challenging stuff but thankfully it’s loaded with enough memorable moments to make it engaging.
It’s also worth mentioning the tone of the record; All the Best Tapes have a knack for writing rather positive and uplifting music despite their balls-out approach and one particularly morbid song title (I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11). The band also veers into pop punk territory on occasion and the opening of Life of Gold certainly fits this mould. Enough can’t be said about how wonderfully diverse this record is.
Diversity is definitely the name of the game when it comes to All the Best Tapes. Album opener I Want to Believe has a brilliant breakdown which slows shifts into slower tempos before ramping it up for one last hurrah before the song ends. I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11 begins with some lovely reverb-heavy yet jangly guitar before stepping it up a notch and Conservatoria in Threes is full of lovely little laser-like effects that continue to add to this quite mental, space-rock odyssey.
If it isn’t apparent yet, there’s an awful lot going on here but All the Best Tapes’ real mastery lies in how well they tie it all together. The band’s sound is always consistent and each song always showcases three distinct elements; delicate yet uplifting vocal melodies, jangly space-rock passages and thunderous yet mathy riffs. It might sound like complete chaos but you soon realise that there’s method to this madness.
All the Best Tapes have put together an extremely diverse and challenging record that cleverly drenches all the music’s elements in a huge helping of melody. Albums like this are proper once-in-a-lifetime experiences and nothing can prepare you for how utterly bonkers it all sounds while still sounding like a cohesive record. Well done All the Best Tapes and thanks for being so mind-bogglingly weird.
All the Best Tapes’ self-titled debut album is out now and available to buy through FXD Records.
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.
Freeze the Atlantic’s self-titled album is out now and available to buy from Alcopop! Records.