Category: Album Reviews

ANNISOKAY – ARMS – REVIEW

From the release of single ‘Unaware’ it was clear that Annisokay are experimenting with their genre. From the inclusion of cut-up vocals to the darker message of individuals so ‘pure and rare slowly bleeding out unaware’. After mixed reviews from their previous release ‘Devil May Care’ the question still remains apparent, where are Annisokay going with this new release?

Listening to this album, there are themes that will jump out and shock you. ‘Fully Automatic’, dealing with the war on gun crime and school shootings is one of them. The message isn’t brutally obvious, but instead ingrained well into the musicality of the track, suddenly making you aware of the theme. An idea somewhat emerging in all tracks, focusing on loneliness, war, violence, hatred and entrapment, an ever-increasing mix of negatives hindering out society. Yet, a clever yet subtle inclusion the post-hardcore outfit do bring is parallels across the album. Parallels of loneliness echo throughout ‘Coma Blue’ and its counterpart ‘End of The World’, whereas the same track ‘End of The World’ can also be interpreted to have links to previous album ‘Devil May Care’s final track ‘The Last Planet’. Even in terms of videos, the impactful message etched into ‘Fully Automatic’ hiding little references to violence with ‘It’s been a while since I’ve held a gun’ also parallels with the shocking shooter video for ‘Coma Blue’. On the other hand, through the parallels of the album come the contrasts, which evoke just as much impact as the parallels. ‘Innocence Was Here’ is perhaps one of the most confusing tracks of the record, evoking a ballad style piano track about entrapment covered by the heavy punching brutality of the leading guitar track. This is a song that when truly listening to is hard to wrap your head around, but in terms of the thematic album, works perfectly in favour of the band.

Annisokay are clearly very clever in their creation of music, even if at times this may appear subtle. Exploring and evolving their sound to a greater level is apparent through ‘Arms’, as the post-hardcore style followed for many years has slowly morphed to develop into a more experimental synth infused idea. ‘Humanophobia’ gives a recurring, intricately broken style to explore the broken population that has become of us whereas ‘One Second’, through the nuanced medium of Dave Grunwald’s unclean shouts, shows a massive development of style, yet the use of eerie synths instead adds an uncomfortable atmosphere around the daunting chorus of the track with – time is limited and this track is not. meant to make you comfortable. Yet, at the same time, it’s the way the group cleverly manipulate simplicity in the bridges of their song to set a tone. Stripping back the layers of a track into the bridge section is risky, but well done, leaving listeners forced to listen to the message being spoken, such as in ‘Sea of Trees’, stripped back to nothing but Christoph Wieczorek’s clean vocals and a slight synth track, leaving you to truly hear the words behind the track, not hidden behind the heavy musicality.

However, there is one track on this album that stands out perhaps for the wrong reasons. The group are experimenting, which is good, but following the album as a whole, ‘Private Paradise’ is a track that doesn’t fit. Despite the feature of Attila frontman Fronz, the rap styled track stands out in an unfitting way to the album. Perhaps a little more dabbling into the style of rap-metal is needed to bring this track forward. Even with an evolving genre, some aspects do sink ever so slightly into the back. ‘Escalators’ is once again spreading the message Annisokay want to portray, yet just falls short of the rest of the album, falling under and being overshadowed by the other standout songs.

Yet, through the expanding evolution of the bands style, remnants of their rooted influence are still sustained within the tracks. ‘Good Stories’ from the subtler faded instrumentals, lyrical and vocal style brings a reminiscence of the bands second studio release ‘Enigmatic Smile’. Yet, one interesting input the band have brought through all four albums is the style of the closing track. Similarly to each other finale tracks, ‘Locked In, Locked Out’ emphasises a dramatic, theatrical approach, one that ends the album in a satisfying way. Is it the most complex song of the album? No, but that’s what helps it stand out. Not too simple, not too complicated but still manages to stand afloat and not get lost in the album.

Annisokay are not strangers to creating music, if anything, they have improved over the years and are still improving with every step. This album isn’t perfect, but perhaps it doesn’t need to be. With such haunting themes and the experimental approach to their sound, there could always be something that hinders the album. ‘Arms’ is a worthwhile release that despite its little blips, is one that should be heard as it is released into the scene.

Rating: 9/10

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WITH CONFIDENCE – LOVE AND LOATHING – REVIEW

‘Better Weather’ shot With Confidence straight up the ladder of smaller pop-punk bands trying to break through the scene. Despite a rocky start at the end of 2017 leading to this year, the Aussie pop-punk outfit have featured on the final Vans Warped Tour line-up and recorded their sophomore album ‘Love And Loathing’, ready to be released on August 10th 2018.

Undoubtedly, this new release has its fast paced, blue pop-punk style weaved throughout its entirety. Lead Single ‘That Something’ Creates an effortlessly catchy flow, with its strong choruses and upbeat instrumental backing. It’s through this tracks and other addition ‘The Turnaround’ where we see just how the musicianship can bring a track further out. The groovy basslines (Jayden Seeley) add an enjoyable flow to the songs while the headbanging riffs (Inigo Del Carmen) and matching fast drum beats (Josh Brozzesi) together create a fun summer happy track to infuse into the album.

Yet, there is an overall atmosphere through this release that this appears to be a safe approach from With Confidence. While there are the rare tracks that express a different forwarding approach to the Aussie bands predominant genre, the majority of the release sticks to a ‘safe’ pop-punk generic approach. ‘Spinning’ and ‘Dopamine’ are two examples of the side of the album that sticks a little too close to its roots. Even single ‘Jaded’, while having its fun feel similar to ‘That Something’ just falls into a safe trap to avoid unpopularity. However, this isn’t to say there aren’t track that make a clear breech to this idea.

On ‘Love And Loathing’, there are three tracks that truly make a stand among the rest. ‘Bruise’ sets itself as the slower ballad of the album, slowing down the pace while feeding a lighter influence into its lyrics. Even the emotional vulnerability presented in such an open format explores a side to With Confidence that could have been lost through the hype of such upbeat tracks – thankfully it came through. ‘Paquarette (Without Me)’ once again explores a much lighter touch, drifting away from the first tracks of the release. The trio aren’t entirely sticking to the safety of the core of pop-punk, this song proves it. They just need to confidence to step further out of their boundary and ‘Icarus’ is the first example of this step forward. This track is possibly one of the most diverse fast paced inputs on the album, with a much heavier rock influence weaved through each segment of the track. With Confidence have that potential to step away from these safer approaches, ‘Better Weather’ proved that and these three tracks do as well.

With Confidence have had a struggle, which may have pushed they further into their shell to escape rejection and disappointment. This album has happy summer tracks and emotional outpourings and this amplified by 10, can truly set this group skyrocketing. Here’s to their next release because we know they will go further.

Rating 6.5/10

AS IT IS – THE GREAT DEPRESSION – REVIEW

Inkling desires for a change in style have pushed As It is to a much grittier approach, one that borders the post-hardcore genre. Falling away from the jukebox happy 50’s style release ‘Okay’, As It Is are taking us back further in time, to a time of ‘The Great Depression’.

Interestingly, the 12-track album is split into four sections, ‘Denial’, ‘Anger’, ‘Bargaining’ and ‘Acceptance’. While not apparent at first, the tracks do relate to their corresponding sections, despite not entirely adding any extra flair to the album. ‘The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)’ not only creates a deeply eerie opening, but also strikes the conflict of two sides, Wife or Death, good vs bad. Not only does the track incorporate vocals from lead guitarist Ben Langford-Biss, but also conceptualises the idea of the albums protagonist ‘The Poet’s’ struggle. On the other hand, ‘The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)’ is a full honest approach to the stigma of male mental health. The sarcastically styled satire of the track approaches anger in a different view, one that mocks the stigma that ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. This is where the bands previoua pop-punk approach comes in, bringing a catchy chorus keeping the satirical message cyclical in attempts send a message.

However, the lack of Langford-Biss’ gritty vocal input does give a very personalised theme to the tracks and with the outspoken nuance of speak out, but never be listened to being cycled so constantly, it’s the incredibly impacting lyricism presented that adds the final kick. ‘The Haunting’ causes a forcefully impacting image. If the echoing chorus lyric ‘You dream to die’ isn’t forceful enough, the saddening expression of your sister staring at your grave truly forces the listener to first hand to the message, something also expressed in the closing track of the album. ‘The End’ was written according to Langford-Biss ‘In the case of Chester [Bennington] who was so open in both his lyrics and away from music, often people aren’t really listening’. Yet, it is perhaps the powerful spoken word ending that leaves the biggest impact. The creation of the image of ‘crimson arms’ and a ‘broken neck’ to ‘tell me you made this choice’ is paired with the intensive painful emotion heard through Walters vocals, something that doesn’t always come through in music, but try shows a vulnerability willing to be exposed to send a message.

Yet, through the gritty raw kicks As It Is bring to the album, the band do know how to bring a softer sensitive side to their music. Through the inherently powerful messages of how mental health awareness shouldn’t be stigmatised, ‘The Truth I’ll Never Tell’ instead shows a more sensitive personal view, that behind such an inherent desire comes the true feelings behind it. It is here that lyrically, this track has more underlying than what would appear at a surface level listen. That’s the beauty and severity of the lyricism of almost the tracks on this album, the depth lies when you truly wish to listen. Musically, ‘The Fire, The Dark’ brings a personalised sensitivity through its simplistically styled backing and heavy bassline courtesy of Ali Testo, incorporating high melodic notes, similar to that of a lullaby, as a contrast to the deeper verses.

Simplicity however, doesn’t always help portray a message, this is where ‘The Question, The Answer’ perhaps falls. At first the acoustically styled opening portrays a questioning topic in lyricism, presented in a simplistic, yet, less interesting way. The issue occurs from the chorus, becoming overlayered and overcomplex with backing vocals, strings, melodic undertones and other unnecessary additions thrown in that don’t necessarily strengthen the track, especially towards its end. On the other hand, it is a lack of interesting additions that bring down the tracks. ‘The Handwritten Letter’, while probably having the most pop-punk style of the album, doesn’t bring anything to push it out among other tracks. Not to say these tracks aren’t good, but it is hard to stop them slipping into line of fillers ammount a hierarchy of strong singles and other tracks.

‘The Great Depression’ theme in itself is a microcosm for the huge issue of mental health and As It Is have a very strong album on their hands with a very strong message. If this is the new approach the band are taking, we could be in for a real diversion away from their original sound.

Rating: 8.5/10

RAIN CHECK – DROWN – REVIEW

Singles released by smaller bands on the radar can easily a be hit or miss. This is where Rain Check definitely hit the mark. Forming in Abilene, Texas, ‘Drown’ marks the second release this year by the American quintet, a release that has quite a lot to show.

Lets take it from the start. ‘Drown’ has that dark atmospheric opening one would perhaps expect for such a post-hardcore//Emo//alt crossover. In some respects, it’s quite hard to singularly define the track to one genre, as it encompasses such strong elements of all three it becomes its own entity. Tyler Walkers soft, flowing vocals heavily contrast to the sinking depth of the instrumental backing almost embodying the tracks title in a musical aspect – a clever idea and talent. Then comes the bridge. Embodying a soft, emo styled lyrical and vocal pattern throughout, the breakdown of the bridge truly highlights that final blow to listeners, before ending on the quick cathartic straight cutout to end.

There is very little to dislike about Rain Check’s single. The impressiveness of the track as a whole never diminishes and instead, gives a very good track bordering on 10/10. To condense into a short sentence: ‘Drown’ is definitely one to add to your alternative playlists.

Rating: 9/10

AVENOIR – 3027 – REVIEW

We’re a bunch of kids who want to make a piece of art. We want to make a statement and a lot of noise’, exactly how this release is defined. ‘3027’, the first concept release from West Yorkshire alt-grunge band Avenoir.

Opening with ‘The Darkest Hour’, a unsettling atmospheric approach is taken, forming a long dragged out opening of almost horror music to set a tone. For setting an atmosphere from the start, Avenoir do well but length is a slight issue. The opening drags out very long which would work at points, however in this case, is just too dragged out. Yet, this darker theme is brought forward once again ending ‘Krakow P’, almost bringing a subtly underlying concept to the release. However, final track ‘Shoe Lick’ does take away the concept underlay sadly, even separating the tracks ever so slightly.

Lyrically, Avenoir follows their genre statements well, following lyricism of apathy and alienation, specifically in ‘Krakow P’, a lack of freedom, confinement and hints at war as explored in ‘The Darkest Hour’. Lyricism is simplistic in some forms, something in a way that is expected from previous releases ‘Columbus’ and ‘Leviathan’ but still portrays a poignant point when listened to in depth. One of the slight flaws that arises with the EP, is that there isn’t necessarily a range through the tracks. Each track sounds very similar, with each section of each track being incredibly similar from verse to chorus. With the grungy alt feel Avenoir are going for, diversity isn’t always the most important aspect, but this is something the band could perhaps work on with their next release.

Avenoir are a young band, new to the scene and still have a way to go. ‘3027’ shows that the trio have a direction, know their genre and that they understand where they want to go; refining this will be their next step.

Rating: 6.5

LIFELUST – SOCIOCIDE – REVIEW

Is our society falling into a state of self-destruction? This is the question alternative metal Band Lifelust are asking in their latest release ‘Sociocide’.

The track itself has a deeper context, far from that of something simplistic and plain, instead delving into something much more serious. The tracks focal point is its title ‘Sociocide’, the “the self-destruction of a society” and in the track, falling into oblivion. From a deeper insight, lyrically this track as previously stated knocks down into something more serious, a factor that can sometimes be lost within the complexity of the tracks rhythm and breakdowns. However, Lifelust hit the mark with ‘Sociocide’, spreading their internal message across very cleverly. In terms of its post-hardcore balance, the tracks smooth transition from screams to cleans is well achieved, leaving no gaps and saturating the outer presence of the song. Whole the track is mainly atmospherically dark and heavy, the opening clean vocal segment at the beginning of the track is perhaps the one part that doesn’t fit quite as well. By no means does it not work, because it has a place, but at the same time seems a little odd, and is quickly shadowed compared to the rest of the track.

Overall, Lifelust have come out with a track that pushes the importance of meaning in a track and just how it can push a track forward. Lifelust have given ‘Sociocide’ a purpose, something fulfilling that they can spread, that they should be proud of.

Rating: 8/10

MAYPINE – BEND/BREAK – REVIEW

Maypine have changed. Anyone who remembers their first EP ‘In The Back Of My Mind’ will be surprised at the level of change Maypine have embraced in their newest release. After a traumatic house fire destroyed nearly all of vocalist Jase and his fiancée’s possessions, it is completely understandable as to why such a change has come. The question is whether they have the potential and dedication to pull off an a diverse change with ‘Bend/Break’

‘Give’, as previously discovered, is a major step forward in Maypine’s new stylistic development. All traces of the old band are hidden beneath a much slower, darker atmospheric piece. Could the track have a little more depth? Potentially. Simplicity works well for the opening track, but can form a slight repetitive feel in the tracks chorus. ‘Kodokushi’, named respectively after the Japanese phenomenon of dying alone and undiscovered is rather similar in terms of a darker atmospheric approach (if not already hinted by its name). Echoing a strong catchy riff throughout the track, a strong start is certainly formed, becoming consistent to its end. A shift between verse and chorus is definitely more apparent, with the subtly contrasting upbeat guitar tones and fast drum beat bouncing off the more sorrowful lyrical aspects. Yet, the track still feels like it’s missing something, something different to the overused guitar patterns of the EP and the saddening lyrics. An idea that Maypine are on the edge of finding but haven’t quite found.

Penultimate track ‘Weather’ is one that during the first few seconds, seems to be poised as the more positive track from the EP. The truthful fact is, it’s not a super upbeat track as may be assumed. ‘Bend//Break’ isn’t necessarily a super upbeat pop-punk track, neither are Maypine. The track symbolises “letting your guard down and opening up to people. Specifically in this case, it refers to the person you love” and in it’s own way, ‘Weather’ perfectly sums exactly what is described, similarly to the whole album. As a symbolism for the EP, not every song is upbeat and happy, nor slower and darker, Instead, a well thought out mix protrudes through the release bringing a balance that works well for such a direction.

Final track ‘Together Alone’ incorporates more of a generalised alternative rock styling, with an opening in some ways slightly reminiscent to ‘How You Remind Me’ from Nickelback. Whether or not you like and/or agree, Maypine definitely weave in a heavier style. Verse wise, musical input is very simplistic, emphasising Jase’s clear vocals and lyrics. Evolving into the chorus, the heavy transcendence Maypine reach truly speaks out as a top track from the EP. Of a release of good strength, ‘Together Alone’ most certainly tops this release as the most polished and well created.

Simply speaking, ‘Bend/Break’ isn’t revolutionary. It’s difficult to predict their next steps as a band, whether they will move forward on such a style or if they will bend again to a new genre. For a (second) debut, this isn’t bad, a little repetitive and room for development definitely. However, It’s good with at least two out of four tracks certainly above the average for a smaller debut release. Worth a listen if you have the time.

Rating: 7/10