Category: Album Reviews

GLASS HOUSES – LOST CHOICES – REVIEW

Following up a debut release is tricky, with added pressure of living up to your last release while keeping a similar structure to please an existing fan base, how exactly can you do it? This is the idea ND based band Glass Houses are ready to explore. Following up from their 2016 debut ‘Wellspring’ the tried-and-true band are bringing a new wave with their new single ‘Lost Choices’

An instant and a clear dominating factor of the tracks outreach is its strong drum beat basing as an extremely strong foundation for the track. Alongside the heavy rock-laden riffs and basslines, every aspect of the instrumental musicality is evident. Musically this track is incredibly strong, however in terms of vocals and lyricism, there is a noticable difference. The lyrics and vocals are very good, but sadly it’s almost as if a wave of generic sound washes over exposed sections of the track. While the hardcore edge of the second verse and the lighter stripped back touch of the tracks bridge bring a spark of new life to the band, the first verse and even parts of the chorus fall victim to something already heard. Yet, as a bridge combining the two sides of the track, the bridge itself is one of the most promising features of the track. Melding together the light singing with the emerging intensity of the unclean vocals, there begins a formulation of a musically stripped back, yet hauntingly present instrumental background with the inner personal depth of the lyrics protruding. If anything, that is the one focus to look out for in the track.

It can be said that ‘Lost Choices’ is perhaps different to the bands previous singles, in a good way of course. Sparks of life set this track alight and its finding these that can bring the track up to a whole different level. Make sure to check it out on its release on the 19th October or pre-save the track at the link below!

https://show.co/nLCbdxj

Rating: 7/10

STAND ATLANTIC – LOST MY COOL – REVIEW

‘You’re so full of shit, why don’t you swallow it?’ – the tagline of the fiery, cynical angst of second single ‘Lost My Cool’ presented by Stand Atlantic. In the line of fresh talent emerging from Australia, the trio made waves with their debut EP ‘Sidewinder’ in late 2017 and are now set to present their newest album ‘Skinny Dipping’ on October 26th.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liWHie0irMg

From the start, ‘Lost My Cool’ instantly follows a different vibe to the fast beat-prevalent single ‘Lavender Bones’. Blatantly honest cynicism makes a running appearance through the lyricism and despite some lyrics being questionable at times, they  bring a simplistic message deep from the heart – I hate you. Interestingly, it feels as if this track is much more lyrically dominated, unlike the melodic, faced paced drum rhythmed cycle of its predeceasing single. Simple instrumentals, bringing the vibe of a more generic ballad/angst crossover. Yet, we can’t forget Stand Atlantic mainly claimed their spot in the scene with their quick fire energy shots from ‘Sidewinder’, to hear something slower and simpler is actually a nice change that we should appreciate – it can only be imagined there will be more on the final release.

Does ‘Lost My Cool’ stand up to ‘Lavender Bones’? Simply, no. In a more complicated sense, the two perhaps don’t match as well due to the different nature of the two tracks. Sadness and truthful experiences brush through both, but the whole approach to this presentation is completely different in both tracks. Can both could be compared as simply two singles? Of course, but that’s up to each individual listener to decide.

Rating: 7/10

STARSET – BRINGING IT DOWN 2.0 -TRACK/VIDEO REVIEW

With great cinematic depth, Starset create in-depth audio sequences that takes the listener through an array of atmospheres in each individual track. With the release of their new deluxe release ‘Vessels 2.0’, how does their one recreated track live up to its previous counterpart?

Listening from a new, outside perspective, ‘Bringing It Down’ and ‘Bringing It Down 2.0’ sound very similar in their depth of vocals, instrumentation and cinematic depth, but it’s the subtle edge the new track brings that pushes these layers further. An impressive fete from the band is their ability to change the atmosphere of the track by altering the 12 second pre-chorus’ and minor tweaks in the underlayers of the tracks. In its originality, ‘Bringing It Down’ follows an upbeat rhythm and tone, something fast and dramatic whereas in 2.0, the shift is that of something darker, heavier and more layered than before. Subtracting the upbeat, more synth-oriented samples and instead leaving a stripped back simplicity already instantly changes the track, but it’s the addition of the strings Starset use through their music that truly adds a new persona. Other than a few minor string additions, some production editing and clearer vocals, there is little that has been changed. However, it’s the way in which this has been done which is perhaps the most intriguing and effective. Creatively portraying two different atmospheric approaches in the two tracks is a clever direction to go. Was a second version of ‘Bringing It Down’ necessary? Probably not, but alongside a deluxe release, it fits in rather well.

As for the music video, Starset are no strangers to creating stories. With a visual novel released and award-winning videos for other album tracks, its no surprise that ‘Bringing It Down 2.0’ is an audio-visual story written by frontman Dustin Bates. Being set in such a style is different to how their usual videos are presented. Offering audiences a warning to the misuse of technology and a doomed society, instead we are given a simplistic yet dramatic action ‘boy saves girl’ narrative (with a twist). Of course, while the story does stray from the path of their previous visuals, the classic message of the ‘Starset Society’ still reigns true – even if subtly. The story doesn’t just revolve around the saving of the ‘heroine’, instead looks at the how future technological advances such as memory infiltration devices can be turned against us. Yet, even in subtle ways the message is spread, such as the holographic figures on gravestones (a possible link to the tracks lyrical aspect) always presenting an aspect of you through death.

In terms of cinematography, lighting and editing sequences, the video fits perfectly with the music it follows. Directed and edited by Brian Cox the video offers a clear homage to a gothic horror/action mystery crossover. From external establishing shots of gothic literature styled castles to Dutch angled mid-shots presenting a homage to ‘Frankenstein’, the video is very well presented in an ominous, gothic fashion with a modernised twist.

For a new and improved re-release, Starset have done a rather impressive job. As previously stated, not incredibly necessary, but a nice addition among the other reimagined acoustics/remixes of the ‘Vessels 2.0’ release.

Rating: 9/10

MKII – BREAKING OUT – REVIEW

Winning ‘best band’ at the unsigned music awards in 2017 with only one track released, MKII have set themselves a standard that is going to be hard to break. Recorded with producer Nicholas Fournier, even more expectations are set upon the duo, so how exactly do they fare in this new musical world?

MKII set their standards high with their original single ‘Breaking Out’. Mixed by Nicolas Fournier, (Muse, Biffy Clyro, Fall Out Boy), it’s easy to see where that varying musical influences stem from in the EP. Brash electronic vibes with a hint of simplicity is a complex technique that the duo has cleverly claimed from their first single and thrown across the whole release. Interestingly, while their single stands out, the other tracks do not fall behind whatsoever, all following a similar strength and potential throughout. As a whole, the talent seeping through this release is the bands ability to create almost an entirely new world just through their sound. The beauty of cinematic, atmospheric rock truly comes through here, especially through the track ‘Isolation’. Simplistic atmospheric expanses with hints of the cinematic touch MKII are bringing into their music.

‘Delirium’ picks up through its progression. A packed bridge with added strings (featuring the string quartet from the Up North Session Orchestra) and other effects turn the track into something comparable to a movie soundscape. Atmospherically, the musical duo is high up on adding a cinematic, open space aura to their tracks, giving listeners almost a story narrated by Alex Spychalski powerful vocals and Andy Hind’s electronic musicality. Even the end gives listeners a beautiful outro, something slow, supple yet still with that flowing heaviness etched deep in its core

Forwarding to ‘Victorious’, engraved with a simplistic, beautiful flowing pre-verse slowly evolving into the heavier core at the root of the groups sound. Perhaps a little more depth through the chorus is needed in this track, but that’s always an improvement that can be worked on in the future. A highlight of the track is the echoic backing vocals haunting the tracks inner layers, just one example of the hidden gems carefully filtered between the tracks layers. Then ‘Guilt’. Everything in this track flows in a very interesting way. The creative mindset shows the smooth techniques the duo can use to push their music down the stream of sound. Progression through ‘Guilt’ is like its own story, similar with ‘victorious’ in a simpler level. Being able to create a story, almost a sense of action or narrative simply through an instrumental styled approach is a skill well rounded by the group, showing they have the fundamentals of a cinematic sound.

MKII have had some big expectations thrown at them, but with five tracks and a defining sound they have broken through this barrier faster than ever expected. Could they be the next Muse? No, because this group are their own defined style that will only become more refined as they progress. Keep these guys on your radar, as they’re not losing sight of their future.

Rating: 10/10

FAILURE IS AN OPTION – SECOND CHANCE – REVIEW

Birmingham rockers Failure Is An Option are in the cusp of releasing their split EP with counterparts Discordance, releasing their first single ‘Second Chance’ very soon. Being created and produced independently by the heavy rock group, they are taking this EP in their own hands. The EP can mainly be described as ‘ a mix of Emotional Hardcore and Heavy Rock. Failure Is An Option and Discordance are both bands local to the West Midlands area and have made links to each other for over a year now back when both bands were founded.’

Opening in a rather melodic fashion, the track starts rather simplistically, an echo styled viva track interweaved between the lines of guitar fluctuating through. Even through the luxuries, Failure Is An Option begin to emerge as lyricists, not only showing emotion but through simplistic measures, opposed to relying on effects and emphasised metaphors. Circling around ‘losing a bond between yourself and someone that you hold dearly to your heart’ is well portrayed, perhaps a little lyrics development can ensue in their progression as a band however.

However, a small letdown for this track is the mixing. Failure Is An Option are a smaller band, it is understandable that they may not be able to afforded high quality mixing and having done this independently, this is a good attempt. The problem is, this unfortunately does take down the quality of the track, making it hard to hear each individual section for what it is, instead of a blended compression.

Failure Is An Option have been floating around the Birmingham scene and you will definitely see them grow. Time and growth will bring this band further, this split so just being one of the ways to do so.

Rating: 6/10

AMORLA – SAIL ALONE – REVIEW

Two tracks out and another now released, Amorla are working hard to get their material out there since the release of debut ‘Matches‘ in April. Now with the recent release of ‘Sail Alone‘, the Southampton 5 piece are ready to push forward their music to all who will listen.

Incorporating a spacious, almost hollow and simplistic opening to the track, Amorla waste no time on setting their personalised tone. A track etched into a sorrowful atmospheric approach, the post-hardcore outfit manage to capture a balance in both vocal techniques, with the raw, gritty screams successfully capturing heartfelt vulnerability – the clean vocals also integrating well in the emotive release. While the bridge breakdown could have a little more of a kick, it works in favour of the track, paving a path for the final lyrically dominant closure of the song. To have a good track is key, but to leave something impactful, something to truly help it stand out is an important factor often lost: ‘Sail Alone’ does not forget this. Ending strong, the band bring listeners onboard, closing the lyrical story and leaving them to truly consider the meaning of the track.

As a whole, the track is blended together in a harmonious and memorable way. The band tell a story, one that isn’t clear till the end, but hits hard through the final lyrics. There are few downsides to this track and this is another great release to add to their previous two track list.

Rating: 9.5/10

MIRAGES – PROMISE – REVIEW

Alternative rock outfit Mirages are taking on Gloucestershire with their debut ‘Promise‘. Will it be easy? No, but that’s not hindering them with their groovy new release.

Opening with a slow, simplistic buildup, ‘Promise’ has the feel of a slow old style rock track, a feel that quickly proves to be correct. Groovy basslines dominate the track, giving it a classic yet relaxed feel, nothing too complicated or simple in its buildup yet balances rather well in the middle. However, the track itself can feel a little repetitive, following a similar structure throughout and not thronging any surprises or changes through its running time. It’s a good track in the sense of its calm, relaxed nature, but perhaps just needs that little bit more behind it to push it a bit further.

For a debut, Mirages haven’t done bad. To break out of Gloucester will take more work, but that’s inevitable for any band with a first single. We will be keeping an eye on these guys, we’re ready for more.

Rating: 7/10

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

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