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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Review: Co-Exist ‘Skelf’

Co-Exist 'Skelf' (Self-release 2013)

Co-Exist ‘Skelf’ (Self-release 2013)

Co-Exist are stalwarts of the Glasgow extreme music scene by this point. Or arguably just worts. Your call. Skelf is business as usual. But business is going pretty well for them in that case. 

‘Skelf’ doesn’t let up for a second. It’s either full on blasting and barking fury or monolithic, straight ahead and crushing. I’m inclined to say that its’ actually during those more paced moments that the band really show their worth as opposed to the moments of full throttle assault but there’s no denying how impressive the band sound at full tilt, even if its arguably not as satisfying to listen to. The fact that the EP has a great production certainly lends the songs an additional sense of weight. Co-Exist manage to fall the right side of organic on this release which sets them apart, too often bullet precise extreme metal releases end up losing their sense of intensity through over production and insistently clicky kick drums. It’ short running time also does it favors as it makes the whole seem like an intense and exhilarating ride, although in truth, the introductory samples to each track related to killing and what are tiresome at best.

It’s not an EP to win over new fans to metal this extreme. It’s Co-Exist doing what Co-Exist do and doing it well and sounding great while they do it. There’s a whole world of bands, particularly in extreme metal, who could learn a whole lot from that approach. 

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Review: Nathaniel Noton Freeman ‘The Great Gesticulator’

'The Great Gesticulator' Nathan Noton-Freeman (Self-Release 2013)

‘The Great Gesticulator’ Nathan Noton-Freeman (Self-Release 2013)

The internet has proven to be a wonderful thing for instrumental music. It’s not so much that its now more popular or more prevalent than it once was its just that everyone can get at it a lot easier as instrumental music was very rarely the friend of the chain stores. Like I say though the internet, for the most part anyway, is everyone’s friend. Which is nice because it meant it introduced me to Nathaniel Noton-Freeman and his great acoustic guitar instrumental work.

‘The Great Gesticulator’ marks Freeman’s first release of 2013, a single track composed of acoustic guitar and e-bow and its a misleading name is the track is much more chilled and ambient affair that you might expect. It’ s a short and sweet track clocking in at a radio friendly three and a half minutes but it does take you on quite a journey despite its length. The song is also nice and pacy, there’s no lackadaisical noodling and or melancholic picking to slow things down which marks it out from a lot of acoustic music already. That the track moves from fast to slow and back instead of the other way around is in its favour. Breaking the standard dynamic ever so slightly like that so often makes the difference. The layers in the song are subtle but give it a sense of texture that kind of slips by you until after a few listens, which is a pretty sophisticated move in itself.

Chances are though that if instrumental music isn’t your thing you might not get a whole lot out of this. But if the worst you can be excused is writing material that really appeals to the kind of people who like that kind of material then you’re doing not bad. Unless you’re writing for cunts that is. I don’t think Freeman is myself but really you’d have to ask him.

Click here to like Nathaniel Noton-Freeman on Facebook to be kept up to date on future shows and releases.


Review: Soilwork ‘This Momentary Bliss’

Soilwork 'The Living Infinite' (Nuclear Blast 2013)

Soilwork ‘The Living Infinite’ (Nuclear Blast 2013)

The thing with Soilwork is that to a certain extent they’re running on past pedigree at this point. ‘Natural Born Chaos’, ‘Figure Number Five’ and ‘Stabbing the Drama’ explored the melodic death metal blue print in a startlingly diverse and satisfying fashion and to a certain extent robbed the band of more ground to cover. Because of this ‘Sworn to a Great Divide’ and ‘The Panic Broadcast’ weren’t bad albums by any stretch but they didn’t create the replay value of those ‘classic’ albums. In 2013 the band are once again sans main song writer and occasional producer Peter Wichers and are gearing up to release a double album. Do a band who haven’t really released a single album of consistently brillant material for some years now have a double album in them? Who knows? But if ‘This Momentary Bliss’ is anything to go by it may be the most fun Soilwork record in years.

To be clear, I’ve every expectation that  ‘The Living Infinite’ will fall into the ‘good album but I don’t go back to listen to it often’ category like the last few Soilwork releases but ‘This Momentary Bliss’ recaptures some of the pop metal magic of ‘Figure Number Five’ though doesn’t scale the progressive heights of ‘Stabbing the Drama’. As is often the case, vocalist Bjorn Strid remains the jewel in the band’s crown with his dynamic and powerful vocals running the gauntlet from guttural growl to soaring melodic refrain within the song. It says a lot about the quality of musicianship within the band that they’re able to deliver musical passages that warrant this kind of vocal diversity without any of the parts seeming as if they’ve been bolted in. The song throws up a through catchy riffs that hark back to those classic melodic death metal riffs of the early 00’s which helps those of us who grew up on Soilwork latch on to our nostalgia, but whether they’ll have the same effect on a new generation of fans who demand breakdowns and drop tuning behind every corner is yet to be seen.

Perhaps that’s no bad thing though. If you long for the Soilwork of old ‘This Momentary Bliss’ is pretty close, with a few added bells and whistles, like thier new set of shred friendly guitarists and Dirk Verberuen’s incredible drumming. ‘The Living Infinite’ may just be a fantastic nostalgia trip for all of us that want it. That’s no bad thing right?

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Review: Clutch ‘Earth Rocker’

Clutch 'Earth Rocker' (Weathermaker Music 2013)

Clutch ‘Earth Rocker’ (Weathermaker Music 2013)

What’s this, a new Clutch single? Cue excitement in spades. This, the eponymous song from their new album, is their first in four years. With such a lengthy gap between Strange Cousins from the West and Earth Rocker, the most interesting discussion points are ‘have they changed things up?’ and ‘if so, is it any good?’

The short answer to both is yes. The track dusts off the blues-rock stylings of their previous two records and instead returns to the balls-out groove laden rock of what many fans consider to be their opus, Blast Tyrant. Though, nine years later, there’re no signs of the band settling for re-writing that classic. But don’t fear, it’s still Clutch and it’s still absolutely awesome. The lyrics about booze, blues, and generally just having it out are still in place, and delivered in true style by Neil Fallon. Not to undersell his lyrics either, they’re often very clever, witty and poetic (but also very often about booze, too). The instrumental side of the proceedings are also impressive, with guitar, bass and drums all providing an excellent canvas of pure groove for Fallon to do what he does best.

Really, there’s not much else to say except for the fact that the production (albeit on a compressed youtube video) sounds like it’ll be as good as ever (the snare in particular is especially punchy) and the album artwork is interesting and eye-catching. I very much doubt that there will be many more satisfying rock albums released this year than Earth Rocker. Clutch are still proving that nobody does it better.

Click here to ‘like’ Clutch on Facebook to be kept up to date on future shows and releases

B. Armstrong

Review: Cloudkicker ‘Hello’

Cloudkicker 'Hello' (Self-release 2013)

Cloudkicker ‘Hello’ (Self-release 2013)

This week, and in trademark style, Ben Sharp covertly released ‘Hello’, his new and completely unanticipated release. When I was told he had something new out, I had no idea what to pre-empt, after all ‘Hello’ is preceded by his post-grunge rock full length ‘Fade’ and more traditionally styled ‘christmas present’ to fans, ‘Signal/Noise’, a single song.

‘Hello’ is one 10 minutes and 14 seconds long track, and stands as the longest single composition in his back catalogue. The reason for this is quite clear: it’s an ambient soundscape. There are no drums, no real hooks or melodies, no vocals (as usual) but what it sacrifices for all of those elements is atmosphere, and huge amounts of it. I listened to it for the first time in a dark room, lying on my bed with decent headphones on (as I try to do for any music of this sort) and it really did allow me to drift off and up into somewhere else. This kind of song is pure escapism. The first two or so minutes see guitar feedback building up into a crescendo, only to be out-fought by swirling, slowed down waves of guitar overlaid by what sound like reversed chords. It gives this section of Hello a real ethereal quality as you are forced to slow down with the song, to pay attention, and most of all, to get lost inside of it.

At around six minutes, the soundscape begins to subside, its layers strip away and a hypnotic (and quite memorable) ticking sound (presumably made with scratching guitar strings or something similar) provides some form of percussion as the feedback hum gradually creeps away into silence, ending the track. I recommend that whilst listening, you look at the absolutely stunning album artwork (which is also available to buy on a limited edition art-print). Even the fact that this single, experimental song has album artwork or indeed promotional merchandise is, in my mind, a testament to the effort and respect he shows toward his fanbase, and knows is reciprocated by them.

A short review which doesn’t need to be overlong; if you like Cloudkicker or ambient/drone, this is definitely worth checking out. Also if you like relaxing. I’m pretty sure everyone likes relaxing. ‘Hello’ is an absolutely unique entry into Sharp’s repertoire and, while not necessarily pointing the way towards the future, is yet another valuable string to his bow.

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Review: Bring Me The Horizon ‘Shadow Moses’

Bring Me The Horizon 'Sempiternal' (Sony 2013)

Bring Me The Horizon ‘Sempiternal’ (Sony 2013)

I’ve shared my suspicion before that Bring Me The Horizon are a band who suffered from being signed to young. I stand by the view that their first EP and album are fucking atrocious. Come their second album I couldn’t say I was a fan of the band but the sound obviously had a lot more potential and was executed in a much more coherent fashion. The horrifically titled third album was a further step in the right direction, albeit one I never felt the urge to revisit but the fact remained the band were becoming a much more interesting and focused beast who deserved more credit than a lot of the more elitist parts of the underground allowed for them. Also regardless as to your opinion of the band and their music, a band who sounds like this from the UK being signed to a major label in the current climate is a big deal for heavy and alternative music. Accept it.

‘Shadows Moses’ is the first look into their forthcoming album and it may be a turning point for some who previously didn’t rate the band. To my own genuine surprise I’m a firm fan of this song. It’s not spectacular by any means, but it is certainly solid. The chorus vocal dynamic in particular is infectious and has obvious live potential. The band’s new found love for electronic elements of their song bleed seamlessly into their more straight ahead heavy influences creating something much more textured than you’d expect from them. That said, for the most part the riffs remain as uninspiring as always, though the focus throughout the song on a more mid paced crushing rhythm does create a more convincing effect than the traditional fast paced hardcore approach. This is also by far and away the most dynamic the vocals on any Bring Me The Horizon release have sounded, though they remain an acquired taste and one that I’d still rather spit out given the chance, but they their effectiveness in this kind of sonic setting is obvious.

Like I say, it’s a good song though it still remains unspectacular  It’s obvious that there is a wealth of more cutting edge, edgy and exciting underground talent in the UK when it comes to progressive music but if this is anything to go by, there are a whole lot worse bands to serve as a mainstream gate way into those acts than Bring Me The Horizon  It’s nice to see them finally come of age.

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Review: Touche Amore/ Pianos Become The Teeth Split 7″

Touche Amore / Pianos Become The Teeth Split 7" (Deathwish 2013)

Touche Amore / Pianos Become The Teeth Split 7″ (Deathwish 2013)

Splits are awesome. Touche Amore are awesome. Pianos Become The Teeth are also awesome. Deathwish are undeniably awesome. So unsurprisingly enough all of these things combined into 7 inchies of vinyl is an exceptionally good time. Even if it is fleeting and short.

Though by Touche Amore standards ‘Gravity, Metaphorically’ is positively an epic. Running at just over 4 minutes it sees the band explore more of a dynamic than their usual full throttle approach. The expansive nature of the instrumental allows the band more room to play melodically, the bass in particular has some real star turns throughout the later half of the song, but it also allows the lyrical and vocal movements of the song to shine. ‘At least I tried’ becomes a tortured and infections refrain that is certain to become a live favorite. Whether Touche Amore would benefit from adopting this more traditional structured approach for more of their material I’m not so sure, but for ‘Gravity, Metaphorically’ it brings something new and fresh to the table that keeps the band as exhilarating as we’ve all come to expect.

Pianos Become The Teeth are traditionally a more expansive band. The interesting thing about ‘Hiding’ though is probably how melodic it is. It’s a very sedate, slow build of a song though it doesn’t lack any of the band’s trademark desperate intensity. In truth I actually find the more ambient and melodic sections of the song more exciting and satisfying than the nosier sections, which is unusual for me when it comes to Piano Becomes the Teeth. The track does posses some interesting dynamics in its near stop-start moments but it never quite reaches the immediacy that the Touche Amore track of the split does. What is nice though is that were ‘Gravity, Metaphorically’ is an immediate track, ‘Hiding’ is the very definition of a slow burner. Each listen reveals a new layer and subtle moment to the track that sinks it more at home in your heart. That’s a sign of a whole different kind of quality.

Click here to ‘like’ Touche Amore on Facebook to be kept up to date on future shows and releases. Click here to ‘like’ Pianos Become The Teeth on Facebook.


Review: Empress ‘Perplexed Again’ Single

Empress ‘Perplexed Again’ /’Breathe’ single (self-release 2012)

Empress are a new four piece band from Reading, UK and are making waves all over the country at the moment. It’s evident why from the off, but I haven’t quite made up my mind about them yet; I think a full length release to back up the singles released so far would help sort this out. The band are unlike anything I’ve heard before, but nonetheless sound familiar, current and most of all promising. Empress definitely have talent, being both solid musicians and also having the ear for a good hook. A-side and title track ‘Perplexed Again’ immediately showcases the band’s hardcore influences, with concrete guitar chords and a blend of melody and dissonance. The elastic opening riff (if sped up considerably) would not sound out of place on a Dillinger Escape Plan album and much of their exploration with sonic landscapes is reminiscent of Deftones et al. Empress opt out of an instantly catchy chorus in favour of a slow burning one and the atmospheric centrepiece of the song reminds me of No Made Sense circa 2009. Overall, this is an extremely well rounded effort from a band who are only just finding their feet in the grand scheme of things. Dynamically, they have already mastered the loud-quiet shift and unlike most groups of this kind, the vocalist is extremely impressive, being versatile but never punching above his weight.

Though, the real curveball of this release is the B-side cover of ‘Breathe’. I am a huge Pink Floyd fan and I consider any cover of them to be a bold statement of confidence and intent, with a huge degree of risk attached, to say the least. It’s pretty cool that a metal band with as much aggression as Empress can happily jam along to Floyd. This explains the group’s interest (and skill) with shifting dynamics, in my opinion. Breathe is a great, short song with a dreamy vibe and predominantly vocally driven. Empress manage to emulate Floyd with a high degree of success, and the production, playing etc is superb. There really isn’t much to say except that this is, for the most part, an extremely accurate and faithful cover of the original (whether you’re a fan of those sorts of covers is for you to decide). However, the ambience is broken when vocalist Loring screams the hook of the song when it recurs a second time, and this genuinely surprised me, I’d never expected ever to hear growled vocals in a Floyd song. It works well enough, though, adding to the dynamic intensity of the song and, if nothing else, is a ballsy statement that sets Empress apart from the competition if not by style or execution, then by sheer fearlessness.

For these reasons, Empress are definitely one to watch in 2013 and beyond. I’ll call it now that their debut album will be a great success and that they have a killer live show to boot. Watch them creep into the festival circuit and up the roster as the months pass.

Click here to ‘like’ Empress on Facebook to be kept up to date on future shows and releases.