Review: Pure Love ‘Anthems’

Pure Love 'Anthems' (Vertigo 2013)

Pure Love ‘Anthems’ (Vertigo 2013)

Maybe it shows just how self involved I am, I’m ginger all right? No one wants to be my friend, but I always feel a sense of being on the right path when I find that artists I admire seem to share something of my thought processes. In this case when it comes to a broad musical taste. I love challenging and aggressive music that forces me to think. On the other hand I just love good songs. Good pop songs in particular. Pure Love proves that despite the bands that made them famous, Gallows and The Hope Conspiracy, both Frank Carter and Jim Carroll share that aesthetic.

Pure Love is all about the songs. They’re all tight, coiled and focused works. Verses, choruses, bridges and dynamics you know and love. Calling the album ‘Anthems’ is perhaps a touch misleading, these are not arena friendly slices of rock, but they do sound perfectly suited to the kind of heritage soaked clubs the band have toured so far. Its a record of songs to be sung back with passion from a couple of hundred mouths who mean every word. Personally I think that’s cooler than an arena anyway. Even if it doesn’t pay as well. Surprisingly Frank Carter’s drastic vocal change has paid off tremendously here. He’s not a stellar singer but he knows his range and plays well within it and always gives it enough drive and conviction to make the whole record sound convincing where some of the more retro influences could have left it feeling contrived.

It’s an album of songs that will probably always be good fun. Even ten years from now when you definitely feel too old to dance to them anymore. You’ll probably still remember the dances though.

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Review: Your Demise ‘Cold Chillin”

Your Demise 'Cold Chillin'' (Pinky Swear Records 2013)

Your Demise ‘Cold Chillin” (Pinky Swear Records 2013)

Modern ‘hardcore’ is kind of oddity. It’s a movement very much defined by its own feelings of itself and yet a lot of the artists within the confines of the word are still pretty sonically diverse. Your Demise are kind of a key example of this from the perspective of the younger generation of fans with the band blending the nostalgia and fun of early 00’s pop punk to with the pit welcome heft of the more aggressive strains of hardcore.

For the most part it works pretty well, the odd gang vocal section in ‘Just Like the End’ being an unfortunate blip. ‘Karma’ in particular sounds much more like an old NYC hardcore scene cut and is pretty convincing in its attitude and approach. There’s no extra frills this time round the band simply running ahead full tilt and doing it pretty well. The record sounds good and the band sound like they mean it. This time around the forays into more melodic and upbeat territory don’t clash as much with the heavier moments making the whole seem more cohesive if not more mature. There’s still a bit too much of a wanton influences on their sleeves approach, ‘bleghs’ and vague unity statements lyrically for them to really pull off the maturity angle. But the band have skillfully dropped all the fat from these compositions which lets them hit with the strongest impact from first listen. On the other hand, that does limit the replay value of the EP somewhat unless you’re really invested in this kind of music for its own sake. There’s nothing here to discover time and time again.

Then again maybe that’s the whole point right? Your Demise are a young band writing the kind of songs they like for the kind of people who like that kind of song. In truth they’re doing all that pretty well. After all four pretty good songs is a lot more than a whole lot of bands who would be considered the peers of Your Demise have ever managed.

Does it really matter that you won’t be listening to this in five or ten years? You’ll probably not be in the club then so you may as well make the most of it just now.

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Review: Mesuggah ‘Pitch Black’

Meshuggah 'Pitch Black' EP (Scion Av)

Meshuggah ‘Pitch Black’ EP (Scion Av)

It’s always a magical day when new Meshuggah material gets released and this song definitely set my week in motion with a bang. Though, this isn’t strictly a ‘new’ release, it was actually recorded back in ’03 and for whatever reason hasn’t seen the light of day for a decade. Let’s call it an anniversary gift. Anyway, this track has been released in tandem with a live version of ObZen’s ‘Dancers to a Discordant System’ which I reckon is in their top few greatest songs, and, as you’d expect, it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a cool bonus to finally get a live recording of this song, to be honest, I never thought they’d even play it- it isn’t the easiest. Sure enough though, Meshuggah prove that they’re as good live as in the studio (some would say Al’ Mumim of The Haarp Machine could learn a lot from these guys).

Anyway, the song itself slides in between the recording of ‘Nothing’ (2002) and ‘Catch 33′ (2005) and was assumingly written during the ‘I’ sessions. As you’d expect, ‘Pitch Black’ is a B-side in many respects, though, as you’d also expect, it’s bloody great. It’s refreshing to hear a song like this after the relatively disappointing ‘Koloss’ (controversial, maybe, but it was no ObZen). This has cemented the fact that, for me, this is the definitive Meshuggah formula and I’d love to hear them start releasing songs like this again. Tonally, it’s one of their darker songs, rumbling along a little like ‘Spasm’, with Haake’s vocals to boot. I’ve always been a huge fan of his voice, especially on ‘Dancers…’ and I can see why they chose to bundle together these two tracks for release. Both are largely mid-paced affairs with the trademark Thordendal tapping solo, foreboding atonal leads and of course, the heavy-as-anything-else-ever outro fade out riff- perfected on 1998’s ‘Chaosphere’. Overall, this new/old gem brings together aspects of their sound from the late 90’s material all the way up to date, and for this, I’m sure most Meshuggah fans will be very pleased that this finally reached their ears. With any luck, the band will look at the positive feedback and explore a bit more of this territory on their next release. I for one don’t believe that they entirely finished honing the sound they departed with on ‘Catch 33’.

Even though ‘Pitch Black’ is an afterthought, it’s a valuable addition to Meshuggah’s already impressive back catalogue and one which they’ll hopefully add to their live set in the coming year. Oh, and the three second silence at 1:19 is genius. Kudos to whoever decided to put that there. The probable three year silence before the next album, though: not as good. Let the wait commence.

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Review: Killswitch Engage ‘In Due Time’

Killswitch Engage 'Disarm The Descent' (Roadrunner 2013)

Killswitch Engage ‘Disarm The Descent’ (Roadrunner 2013)

Shit rules.This first real taste of Killswitch Engage back with original vocalist Jesse Leach is certainly a touch more melodic and upbeat that I was originally expecting but it sounds massive and its catchy as fuck.

The vocal change is obviously the key focus for this track so lets get into that. Vocally Leach sounds better than ever, his soulful vocals balancing out his coarse and textured screams which sound great mixed with Adam D’s more guttural backing barks. There’s a great texture to Leach’s voice throughout this track, his clean vocals sound lush and soulful while his screams vary from more visceral efforts familiar from ‘Alive or Just Breathing’ and some more tonal and for lack of a better term ‘larger sounding’ moments. I’ve long been an advocate of the reasonably talented singer technically with a tonne of character and passion over the singer who can hit ever note you could dream of. If I was to pick names as an example as to my position then Leach would surely be among them. Lyrically the song returns to Leach’s more emotive and focused ferocity and imagery which lends it a bit more weight and perhaps more accessibility when compared to Jones’ material. Few other lyricists in hardcore and metal are capable of making such universal statements of intent sound so visceral and convincing.

Musically the song runs on a cool grove during its heavier sections, never going so far as to be techy and but its not exactly straight ahead either, the band once again proving that as instrumentalists they still remain some what underrated when compared to many of their showboating peers. It just goes to ram home the point though: songs > than riffs any day. The chorus to this track is huge, by the time it kicks in for the final time you find yourself singing along, which given the songs less than three and a half minute run time is no mean feat. cred. But they’re going to reignite a whole generation who fell in love with them over a decade ago and make them remember just how timeless and impactful heavy music can be.

Killswitch circa 2013 probably aren’t going to grab that many new fans. They’ve not got the necessary scene

I’m stoked.

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Review: City of Statues ‘Bringing Back The Dead’

City of Statues 'Bringing Back the Dead' (Self-release 2013)

City of Statues ‘Bringing Back the Dead’ (Self-release 2013)

Some of this is based purely on nostalgia. But so fuck right? By that I mean music is subjective and not objective, nostalgia giving it impact is just as legitimate as your finding impact in a particular musical arrangement. City of Statues are a home town band for me who started as something much more experimental and progressive and grew into something much more melodic, song focused and dynamic. It was a pretty impressive transformation, even if the previous incarnation was much more my thing. Sadly the band called time not so very long ago but recently reformed for a purely studio based effort ‘Bring Back The Dead’.

If you’re  fan of the strain of alternative rock that is informed by roots in heavier and more aggressive music then this for you. City of Statues specalise in those pounding mid-tempo grooves, emotive soaring vocals and driving guitars. The EP sees the band branch out either side of this with the more aggressive ‘Graveyeard’, with its layered screams and fast paced sections and the mode sedate and electronica laced ‘Echoes in the Snow’. That the band can stray so far while staying within that same blue print is impressive stuff. The band don’t have a sound of their own per se, its all bits of things you’ve heard before, but its put together all shiny and convincing and its all the bits you love of that stuff you heard before. That’s no bad thing ? The EP is also served but a pretty warm and textured production, it’s not the most polished effort, but that informs the kind of sense of angst and urgency that the band aim for musically. In the digital age vibe is fast becoming what sets you apart. Technologically that’s arguably something of a regression but emotionally it stills makes the most sense.

Reacquainting myself with the band and these songs after a while makes me wonder where they could have gone have they kept at it. Given how unsupportive a lot of the Scottish underground scene can be the cynic in me suggests they wouldn’t have gone much further. But what little bit of idealist remains me very much wishes they’d been given the chance.

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Review: Funeral For A Friend ‘Conduit’

Funeral For A Friend 'Conduit' (Distiller Records 2013)

Funeral For A Friend ‘Conduit’ (Distiller Records 2013)

Funeral For A Friend sound aggressive as fuck on this record. I’m sold.

That’s not to say that Conduit is their heaviest or most metallic material, that credit still belongs to previous album ‘Welcome Home Armageddon  but its their most straight ahead hardcore influenced release with a tone of the tracks clocking in at under three minutes. It’s driving and groovy riffs over fast paced drums and moshable tempos with the band’s trademark impassioned vocals. In short it’s a fucking winner. The band don’t miss original drummer Ryan Richards and his trademark screamed vocals too much, new comer Pat Lundy is power house and vocalist Matt Davies is able to deliver enough impassioned grit throughout the make up for any of those now missed more ‘obviously’ heavy characteristics. In fact, it’s Davies best vocal performance since the band’s stellar debut hands down it puts the rest of the modern UK hardcore scene to shame quite frankly.

True not every track is a winner, a couple are pretty interchangeable, but if you’ve been following the band since day one like I have then this is sure to help you recapture some of what made you fall in love with them in the first place. It isn’t the same thing, but its the same aesthetic tempered by age, maturity and a total sense of freedom. How many bands manage that at this stage of their career?

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