It’s almost become ironic how in Britain’s musical landscape, at least over the last 5-10 years, most (I stress, most, not all) hardcore punk bands all conform to the same tried and tested method of a 4/5-piece with an overly-aggressive frontman. Howls break away from that mould. Brighton’s own Howls consists of only three, Will Richards (guitar), Ollie Shead (bass), and Sam Barnes (drums). Only having one guitarist could seem surprising for a band like this, but it is the sharing of the vocal duties between the trio that is the real surprise. But don’t worry, the burden doesn’t soften them, as Howls prove in their latest EP, the coarse and at times volatile No Living.
The EP reminds me a little of Gallows, especially when the riffs kick in, but the overall sound seems a little more murky. The vocals are often more reminiscent of good ol’ fashioned punk – they’ve been described as larynx-lacerating hardcore, I think that’s fair – but they still manage to fit in some of the more catchy shouted lyrics, which should be a great bonus for crowd involvement. With only the one guitarist, the bass plays a more prominent role than in a lot of modern punk and hardcore as well, which helps Howls carve out more of an individual sound, mixing up traditional punk and modern hardcore with tracks flowing from explosive riffs to slow but crunching heavy grooves.
Opening track ‘Rest Well’ screams to life with an example of the aforementioned ferocious riffs paired with some head-slamming drum-pounding. When the vocals screech in, the song really comes together. It’s fast, there’s intricacy, but more importantly it’s completely fucking brutal. Lovely.
Title track ‘No Living’ also houses a peach of a riff, but it is a touch simpler and noticeable slower. That’s no criticism, it’s still ‘fast’; besides, a bit of variety is appreciated. The track shows a bit more artistry with some decipherable structure and varied sections of sound. The vocals, particularly nicely done across the chorus, gain a lot from being threefold. Whereas it could easily sound confused, jumbled, and chaotic, it provides complexity and a layered texture of sound. Pretty neat stuff.
The third and penultimate track ‘Black Dust’ brings with it an eruption of raw emotion which flares-up to form a corrosive wall of anger and vigour to slam against. The energy is ruthless and infectious; it’ll be a pleasure to experience live, that’s for sure. Final track ‘Ides’ almost made me think that Howls had forgotten the winning formula evident in the former three tracks, but they were just being a tricky bunch. ‘Ides’ doesn’t explode like the grenade on your face that the first three tracks form, but they haven’t lost their touch, the slower start allows the upsurge of sound to creep up on you, before destroying you one last time.
Howls combine threefold throat shredding vocals, raw riffs, and destructive drumming into an EP overflowing with aggression and potential. One of the best compliments I can give them is that they definitely sound like more than three guys. Seriously impressive stuff.
4.5 out of 5 high fives!
In the age of the emo revival, it’s getting more and more difficult to just find straight-up punk rock. You know what I mean – just plain ol’ rowdy guitars, frantic vocals and wicked basslines, with more lyrics about getting drunk and going to a show rather than just crywanking in your bedroom. So in some ways, Resuscitators are a breath of fresh air. In others, they’re little more than a whisper of nostalgia, refusing to accept the fact that times have indeed moved on.
Make It Through Another Night is messy. It’s difficult to tell whether this is a good or a bad thing at times, but on the whole, I’ve considered it to be more on the good side. After all, punk was not created to fit into a box, but to tear the box apart and spit on it when you’re done. I imagine most of the songs on the record would sound fantastic live, but on record, there’s a certain lack of cohesion that occasionally frustrates. Take ‘Stronger Drinks’, for example – there’s a hell of a lot of energy, but hardly any of the parts are in time with each other. In a time where you can effectively make an album on your iPad, it seems bizarre. The backing vocals often overshadow the lead – towards the end of ‘Jaws of Life’, it all becomes a bit shambolic and while that may be part of the charm in a live show, it seems very out of place on a record.
However, there are plenty of great moments peppered throughout. The bass is fantastic – it’s got that classic punk tone and absolutely storms through every track with Matt Freeman-esque bravado. ‘Little Victories’ starts with some triumphant gang vocals and shows the most potential out of all – it’s exactly the kind of track you’d imagine on a Tony Hawk game, with loads of Bouncing Souls-inspired licks. Final track ‘WWPD’ sounds incredible – it’s the only acoustic track on the record, and the vocals are amazing. However, it’s let down by an invasive electric solo that sounds totally out of place, ruining what could potentially be a really poignant end to the EP. It’s too typical a cliché – sometimes, this results in some pretty fun moments, like the “one two, fuck you” in ‘The Ataris Ruined My Sex Live’, but at other times, it’s damaging and too irritating to let go.
Make It Through Another Night has the potential to make for a really fun experience, but putting it all down on record makes it seem like something’s been lost somewhere. On the plus side, the songs all have a solid foundation, but a lack of control stops them from reaching their full potential. However, there’s no doubt that Resuscitators would be an absolute joy to see perform, and hopefully on the next record, they’ll have worked out a few of the kinks.
3 out of 5 high fives!
Ten years after he started and with his fifth studio album, Luke Leighfield is back in business. It hasn’t all been smooth-sailing, but with the fan-funded album V, Leighfield returns packing a pop-rock punch. Just three years ago, in mid-2012, it looked as though Leighfield’s musical dream was over. Sure, he’d had a good run, playing hundreds of shows across the globe, but four albums on he had become tired of music – or tired of touring – and found himself a day job instead (albeit one in the lights and sounds of Berlin). Luckily for his loyal fan-base, this wasn’t the end.
That loyal fan-base rallied around Leighfield and pledged £13,000 on Kickstarter towards the production of a new album. With their financial backing, it was off Ohio to record V with none-other than much-admired producer Jim Wirt (Jack’s Mannequin, Incubus). After falling in and out of love, as much as in his personal life as with music itself, Leighfield has used his wealth of experience to create 12 anthemic pop-rock tunes custom made for summer – almost making it ironic that he’s British.
As soon as the snare hits introducing album opener ‘Begin Again’ reaches your ears, the production quality sounds crisp and clear, the perfect delivery method for Leighfield’s brand of pop-rock. As a song it is simple but effective, there isn’t too much going on but what you can hear starts to get stuck inside your head. ‘Fading Fast’ does anything but fade, carrying on from where the opener left off with another perfectly package piece of pop. The range of instrumentals is a big bonus, as Leighfield doesn’t follow some solo acts in depending far too much on their preferred instrument and their vocals. ‘Fading Fast’ doesn’t cling to acoustic guitars, but pushes beyond with the introduction of keys and even a catchy electric guitar solo. The song structure is still simple, but the melodies are catchy, it is exactly what pop-rock is all about.
‘Fool for Love’, the lead single from V, sums up Leighfield’s sound perfectly. It brings with it a subtle backing of keys and sweeping melodies from an electric guitar, the perfect stage for vocals to come out front and centre. As well as the insatiable melodies, there also seems to be an emo-tinge to some parts of the album, particularly evident on ‘Oh, Canada'; a simple song of heartbreak (which, it should be added, features a horn section and somehow still comes off sounding sincere – bravo!)
I was worried that the album would drift away into a mire of pop sameness, but final and aptly-named track ‘Something Different’ leaves a lasting impression with a little more rock introduced to the pop. The sighs, regrets and heart-felt longing that can be found in other parts of the album are banished. I can only think that this must be the song that came into Leighfield’s head as he started to wonder whether he had left all of the music behind him, pondering life from an office in Berlin. The songs depth seems to come from ridding one’s self of the worries of the past and moving on, to something bigger and better. “I know that I was made for something different”, sings Leighfield, perhaps reflecting on all of that time sat behind a computer instead of sitting behind a piano in a recording studio.
Granted, V is nothing new. Leighfield’s pop-rock isn’t unique – I couldn’t help but hear elements of later Dashboard Confessional, and perhaps even a sprinkling of Hellogoodbye’s pop-monster for good measure – but it is really well done. There is simple songwriting, catchy melodies aplenty, and the expert production you would expect from Jim Wirt. If you like your pop with a large helping of rock, or you like your rock infected to the core with catchy pop melodies, V is for you.
4 out of 5 high fives!
Plymouth punk upstarts Boxkite formed in 2013 to play sad hardcore, apparently. This first release showcases this young band’s first forays into the recording studio, with mixed results.
Opening with ‘Struggles’, Boxkite put forward their sonic manifesto in 70 concise seconds, beginning calmly with sinister and brooding picked guitar chords before going blast-beat crazy for probably only about 15 seconds before settling into a grinding, sludgy Melvins riff. As an intro it works really well – it’s reminiscent of Mike Patton’s Fantomas project and is similarly entertaining.
This transitions seamlessly into ‘Cycles’, the collection’s first proper song. It opens with a high-paced bass riff and some incredible chops being displayed on the drums but unfortunately, there aren’t any real hooks to speak of. The next song, ‘Red Skies’, is more or less identical and both tunes descend into a feedback-laden sludgy breakdown towards the end. There isn’t a great deal that sets these two songs apart.
The next couple of tracks have a combined run time of less than two minutes and where it’s fine to have a short song, these tunes don’t feel like they get a chance to develop – ‘Groom Lake’ in particular feels like it could have been something special if only they’d given it legs.
Over all, there are some really great moments on show from this young band here. It feels like they would be a hell of a spectacle to witness live with extra special props going to the absolute octopus of a drummer they have behind the kit. On record, they’re not quite there yet but you feel like it’s only a matter of time.
2.5 out of 5 high fives!
Post-rock electronica duo Worriedaboutsatan return with Even Temper, their first album in six years. That’s not to say that Thomas Ragsdale and Gavin Miller have been taking it easy in said downtime, having released some truly stunning music from the atmospheric techno of Ghosting Season to their own solo projects and film soundtracks. Regardless of which name they are recording under, my favourite thing about the Leeds duo has always been their seamless mix of cold electronica and heartfelt songwriting, with the lo-fi samples, vocals and guitars adding a layer of ‘realness’ that is so often missing from purely electronic music. Their live approach to writing through jamming is evident in the evolving song structures and extended workouts, with many songs breaking the five minute mark yet never outstaying their welcome. Highlights include the vocal-based ‘MV Joyita’ featuring the voice of Morgan Visconti and the seven and a half minute emotional outpouring of ‘Sleep of the Foolish’. Find someone who claims not to like electronic music and play them this record to undoubtedly change their mind.
On a completely different note comes the new record from Hot Nerds who feature Some Girls’ guitar mangler Nathan Joyner, joined by synth tweaker Alia Jyawook and drummer Thomas O’Connell. With an album called Strategically Placed Bananas, adorned with cover art featuring said article of fruit protecting the modesty of a reclining cartoon mullet man, you know what you’re getting before you even press play! Fortunately the musical content doesn’t disappoint, consisting of discordant synth punk along the lines of the much-missed Test Icicles or label boss Justin Pearson’s electronic grindcore pioneers The Locust. Unapologetically weird and noisy, with many songs lasting just a minute or two it is equally wonderful and bizarre anti-pop. My personal fave on the record is the fantastically-monikered ‘Stuffed Party Animals’, which features scatty clipped drum beats, whiny vocal chants and a classic hoover synth sound.
German party boys Eskimo Callboy return with their third album of generic but enjoyable electronicore mixed with autotuned pop choruses, trappy synth leads and a good dosage of nu-metal! At its best, Crystals comes across like the Linkin Park glory days mixed with the pop hook of Issues (without the majestic vocals of Tyler C). It will no doubt polarise listeners and certainly won’t win the German band any new fans, but it’s good (in)offensive fun that’ll soundtrack a fair few throwdowns and catchy singalongs for those so inclined. The twin vocal attack works well in the classic sing/scream metalcore template and the guitars are suitably tight and chuggy mixed with some danceable beats and glitchy electro noises in the same vein as Palisades and Attack Attack!. Plus ‘2 Fat 2 Furious’ is an absolute banger about not wanting to ‘live without burgers and fries’… ‘nuff said.
On the opposite side of the audio spectrum comes the new record from alt-poppers the Go! Team. Ridiculously jubilant and stuffed with samples, singles ‘What D’You Say?’ and title track ‘The Scene Between’ tread a similar sonic path to The Flaming Lips, with experimental indie pop being the order of the day. Delightful harmonies and guitar strummed major chords take precedence over the six piece’s hip-hop infused earlier material but it is all pleasant stuff and an early contender for your summer soundtrack.
Unless you’ve been living in social isolation away from all radio, online and print media (in which case you probably won’t have the wifi connection to read this, but that’s a moot point) you can’t have missed the announcement of a new Prodigy album to hit stores at the end of this month! Back to regain the dance-rock crossover crown from the likes of Pendulum and Shikari, Liam Howlett and co launched their latest attack on the airwaves with ‘Nasty’, a suitably-titled drum & bass banger with growling synths, belligerent vocals and a typically dark guitar riff. The rest of the pre-release singles from ‘The Day Is My Enemy’ have followed suit with the Sleathford Mods collaboration ‘Ibiza’ ripping apart lad culture and ‘Rhythm Bomb’ delivering an instantly catchy floor-filler alongside the talents of dubstep don Flux Pavilion. Twenty-five years on from the birth of the rave scene, the Prodigy remain at the top of the pile, shitting on those who have attempted to steal their crown in gloriously literal fashion.
Finally, this months’s Keytar Hero award is a collective one going to Shiny Toy Guns, who boast not just one keytarist but two in the form of frontwoman Carah Charnow and synth player Jeremy Dawson. The lucky buggers have been boasting two shiny non-toy Roland AX-synths of late, which is just greedy and they really should donate one to me. Once the envy subsides you’d do well to revisit 2006 electroclash anthem ‘Le Disko’ to see why they justify such lavish playthings.