A few years ago, four teenagers from Cornwall’s rugged coastline set out into the UK hardcore scene in a veritable flurry of fraught screamo and a commendable work ethic that defiantly belied the group’s collective youth. Through a prolific touring schedule and consistently impassioned performances, Vales garnered a respectable following in the blogosphere. Surprisingly, the band decamped to heady climes of LA to record an eagerly awaited full-length with the same producer who previously put to tape the screamo darlings Touché Amore. The hype steadily grew, the band poised to reach greater prospects, but then … silence. Vales dropped off the map for the better part of a year, the completed album lying dormant and the buzz they had sweated and bled so hard to garner seemed on the verge of dissipation.
But sure enough, Wilt & Rise, their debut full-length, has finally emerged from hibernation and by all accounts the extended wait is well worth the reward. Through its ten song repertoire, Vales demonstrate a tantalizing ferocity that hones much of chaos and wild furore of earlier releases into a different level of anger-fuelled song-craft. It remains a fervently bleak aural accompaniment to a fractured and decimated world, devoid of hope and future, a collective howl of anguish at a bewildering and alienating modern landscape. Uncompromising and unflinching, Wilt & Rise is positively bursting at the seams with almost unfathomable levels of emotional vitriol, embodied first and foremost in the larynx-shredding screams of vocalist Chlo, whose capacity for producing such consistently terrifying vocals is rather astounding. Around her, a savage storm of semi-melodic guitar and blistering drums are repeatedly whipped into a frenzy that’s breathtakingly intense, relenting only for a brief period of introspection on ‘Katrina’, the track acting like the eye of the very storm which bears the now infamous moniker. It’s a brief moment of reflective splendour but one that is crucial to the record’s brilliance, juxtaposing the savagery with measured beauty; it’s a much required breathing space to take stock before being plunged headfirst back into the cacophony.
Benefitting from a considerably higher production value than their previous releases, Vales are afforded new levels of depth and space to explore which they take full advantage of throughout Wilt & Rise. Closer ‘Waterfalls’ is an expansive demonstration of dynamic ability, the intensity fluctuating into a climactic close that bears resemblance to former touring partners Suis La Lune and their rather grandeur version of screamo. ‘White Horse’ and ‘Wildfire’ demonstrate similar levels of epic inclination, the former acting as the records high point of which almost every track is a genuine contender, it’s outro a passage of head-banging hardcore stomp.
Wilt & Rise is a record of true uncompromising brilliance. It doesn’t quite reinvent the screamo canon, instead it injects it with a dose of intensely aggressive hardcore that’s emphatically British in its bleak outlook. Aside from its tenacious ferocity, Wilt & Rise momentarily exudes a startling beauty, demonstrating that Vales are far from a one-dimensional band of pure unbridled anger. With a full-length finally tucked under their belts, Vales can only move onto greater prospects and rise through the hardcore ranks to reach levels of devotion that they so unequivocally deserve.
I have a bit of a music habit. I think that’s become evident across the five years (!) that this website’s been running. A very big part of this is going to see bands live. I do at least one festival a year, I go to as many local shows as I can and I probably go to at least two ‘big’ shows a month in one of the cities nearby. There’s nothing better than seeing one of your favourite bands tear it up on the stage, or to discover a great new band in a dingy little shithole of a venue. That being said, local shows aside, it’s an expensive hobby. You can expect to pay anywhere between £13 and £28 per ticket for a gig at the Birmingham O2 Academy, and that’s without booking fees on top. And these days, they’re not even giving us a chance.
Last week, the Pop Punk’s Not Dead tour got announced. And a few days after it got announced, tickets went on sale for that tour. Admittedly, you’re getting a lot of bands for your buck, with New Found Glory, The Story So Far, Candy Hearts and Only Rivals, with more acts to be confirmed. The gig’s over eight months away, in bloody November, but is likely to sell out quickly due to the hype generated by Kerrang, Rock Sound et al. Did I feel pressured into buying tickets now? Yes. And I’m not sure we should be operating like that any more.
It’s totally not fair to announce a tour like this and put tickets on sale so soon after. The festivals have already started taking note, announcing their line-ups nice and early before tickets go on sale, and other gig promoters need to do the same. I’m lucky in that I’m an adult with a full-time job, and I usually have a bit of cash set aside, but this tour is exactly the kind of tour that the teens are going to go gaga for. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t generate demand, but it means that there’s a lot of people going to miss out, and not just that, but it means you can’t just stroll in on chance any more.
I miss door tickets, and I’m sad that most of the young music fans these days are going to miss out on the experience of heading into a ‘big’ show on a whim and discovering something incredible. But after all, when record sales are falling, the labels have got to make that cash somehow – pre-ordered tickets are a guaranteed way of doing so. There is one thing that we can do though. Get down to your local and support your scene. There’s plenty of fantastic music popping up, even in middle England. In Worcester, we’ve got the excellent Surprise Attacks series, amongst others, and it’s not even hosted in a seedy venue! If you ignore the folk epidemic in Cheltenham, there’s a swiftly growing punk scene and plenty of ace bands coming through on a regular basis. Just listen for the whispers, click the ‘attending’ buttons on Facebook, pay your three quid on the door and put your middle finger up to the big guys. Unless, of course, AFI tour again any time soon.
The boys in Last Night’s Victory have done an absolutely bangin’ version of Girls That Scream‘s latest track, ‘Days of Hysteria’. Check it out!
I’m a little bit of a purist when it comes to my black metal. In my awkward “goff daze”, circa mid-2000s, I listened to a hell of a lot of Emperor, Dissection and Mayhem. If it was not from Scandinavia, I did not have time for it. Which is why the new Heron EP is a bit of a strange one for me. The North Carolina quartet obviously do not fit that bill, but their strange melding of atmospheric black metal with modern post-hardcore makes for an intriguing listen.
The first of two tracks, ‘Ghost of Seven Hearths’, has all the speed and fury of some classic black metal, with blast beats like nobody’s business and a soaring atmospheric verse. However, the band introduce far more melody, and at times, it’s more like Circa Survive are playing than Darkthrone – not always a bad thing. The vocals are chilling and don’t sound like some kid who needs his cough syrup after trying to do a Cradle Of Filth; instead, the shrouded effects placed on them in production create a truly ghostly feel. But just when it starts to sound genre-breakingly good, there’s a few sections that creep out, twisting it into a Final Fantasy boss fight theme – and I’m not sure if that’s endearing or not.
‘Venus Swallowing Torments’ proved my esteemed colleagues’ law that pretty much every release of this nature has to have a song that creeps past the five-minute-metal territory. Clocking in at 6.28, it does feel like a bit of a journey to get to the end. That being said, the production values on this are enough to keep you going – black metal is notorious for sounding like it was recorded in a toilet, but Heron’s efforts are just distorted enough to sound authentic without being completely offputting. Plus, the guitar about halfway through is just perfect; even if black metal is your idea of hell, this EP is worth picking up for that.
Blending the old with the new has worked well for Heron, and Sacrifice is a genuinely interesting and progressive record. Let’s see where they go from here.
3.5 out of 5 high fives!
Hornets are incredibly hard to define. And that’s just the way they like it. The Belfast four-piece are a powerhouse of slow grooves and hardcore punk riffs, consistently smashing genre boundaries and playing with an absolute precision that’s hard to rival.
Their new EP No Faith is the perfect example of this. Opening track and lead single ‘Stay Free’ is completely arresting, with a rumbling bass and fast and furious riffs. The backing vocals are occasionally more akin to black metal than hardcore, giving the song a terrifying and demanding edge. ‘Advice’ and ‘Jehovah’ take slower, doomier routes, but are no less compelling; intriguing effects and a consistently strong rhythm keep things interesting, while the verses hit like nuclear blasts. And for those too afraid to let go of a good breakdown, there are plenty of opportunities to throw down throughout. ‘For Always’ goes deep – both lyrically and musically, with a disturbing timbre. Closing track ‘Behind Me’ is surprisingly groovy catchy, despite chilling screams and doom-laden bass, and leaves a certain message lingering – Hornets are not to be trifled with.
This week, I caught up with Andy and Ricky to discuss No Faith’s musical direction, future plans and heavy, heavy music…
When first stepping into the studio, what were your intentions for No Faith? What was your biggest influence on the record?
I guess the main intention was to get into the studio with Rocky O’Reilly (Start Together Studio Belfast) and get the songs tracked, in a reasonable time period, to the absolute best of our abilities. We had all the song structures and most of the lyrics in place before heading into the studio in an attempt to save time and money, in total we spent 4 days tracking the EP which we thought was pretty reasonable. In terms of influence, Belfast based heavyweights “Slomatics” have played a big part in inspiring us to incorporate more elements of sludge / doom into our music. We’ve played a few shows with them and they’re all awesome dudes, keep an eye out for their new album dropping soon.
How long did it take No Faith to come to fruition?
It was a relatively short process to get the songs for this EP banged out. Stay Free and Advice were written first, and then the last three tunes on the EP were written together. No Faith was crafted over the space of about two and a half months, most of the writing took place in the rehearsal room as a three piece before Craig (our new bassist) joined the band.
Although your previous material is still pretty heavy, No Faith seems to have taken on a slower and much doomier edge and sounds worlds apart from anything else you’ve done. What led you in that direction?
The main focus with this EP was attention to the groove and pace of the songs. We’ve written plenty of fast stuff before and decided that it was time to change it up a little. It was an opportunity to challenge ourselves and keep the writing process fresh, we wanted to see if we could approach the process with more emphasis on groove, yet still retain the heavy nature of Hornets. It was refreshing and I think it’s definitely put us on the right path to refine this doom / punk sound we have been working on.
That bass is RIDICULOUSLY deep. What tunings are you all playing in?!
Yeah at points we’re verging on brown note material with the bass! The first two tracks on the EP (Stay Free and Advice) are dropped C tuning (CGCFAD). The last three make use of an even lower tuning, dropped G (GGCFAD), you can get some seriously filthy chords out of this tuning. A lot of the guitar tones on the EP also have an octave down effect on them, this helps to add even more bottom end into the mix.
Lyrically, No Faith paints a very desolate picture. What fed into that as you were writing?
The lyrics make reference to personal relationships, struggles in everyday life… also the usual cathartic exorcism of demons you might expect to find in music typical of this genre. James (lead vocals) considers it a positive way to release this build-up of negative energy. Some of the lyrics were written when we were in the studio recording about events that were happening at the time. I guess more than anything the vocals on this EP are honest and straight to the point.
Is there a particularly big scene for this kind of music in Belfast, or do you find you stand out from the crowd?
There’s not a huge scene in Belfast for heavy music, the punk / hardcore scene in Dublin would be better established. From the beginning we’ve always tried include ourselves in as many diverse gig line-ups as possible. Whilst there’s no denying our music is heavy, I think it has the potential to appeal to people who maybe don’t listen to predominately heavy music. We try to incorporate snappy song structures with heavy hooks in an attempt to keep our music accessible to a wider audience.
You’re just about to embark on your first tour outside of Ireland, and you’ve chosen a couple of reasonably unconventional destinations. How do you think you’ll be received, and for those who are watching you for the first time, what should they expect?
Hopefully we’ll be received well. We really enjoy playing to new people and it’s always a refreshing challenge to try and win over new fans. We look forward to the sincerity of people’s reactions upon seeing Hornets for the first time. Our live show is fairly intense, everyone steps up and gives 100% every time we play so that’s something to look out for!
What else have you got in store for 2014?
We’ve already started writing more new material again, so we’ll be in the studio before the year is out. We’ll also be back on the mainland to tour, and hopefully further afield so stay tuned on all the usual social media outlets.
Hornets are James McAuley, Andy Shields, Richard McAuley and Craig McCloskey. No Faith will be released on March 31st, and all other releases are available on their Bandcamp.