Distorted Harmony – A Way Out

Release date: 19th July 2018. Self-release.

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This album has felt like a long time coming. It’s been four years since the progressive metal band from Israel released the masterpiece Chain Reaction. The band have been teasing new music to fans for the past year as well as having some line up changes. Last year saw the departure of guitarist Guy Landau, then DISTORTED HARMONY announced they were not only replacing Landau with another guitarist, but TWO guitarists; Amit Plaschkes and Yoel Genin. Some fans, me included, were worried how much a second guitarist would shake up the wonderful dynamic of the band. But seriously, it was the perfect step for the evolution of DISTORTED HARMONY’s sound.

Four years is a long time between albums, so progression in sound is expected. The band have become a lot heavier with A Way Out, their third album, but not too far to alienate older fans. Personally I applaud the techier and riffier direction as this will hopefully see them gain a stronger footing in the progressive metal scene. They still have their (not so) secret weapon though, in the form of keyboardist/mastermind Yoav Efron and it’s his signature flourishes which enable DISTORTED HARMONY to remain unique.

The album begins with such a flourish in the opener Downfall. Immediately you can hear the progression from Chain Reaction. The sound is bigger, bolder and far more confident. This includes vocalist Misha Soukhinin and his distinct and charming vocals. He really steps up the game in this release and proves he can belt a tune out just as good as the rest. This first song is a superb example of what DISTORTED HARMONY offer in 2018; intelligent compositions, challenging lyrics, big choruses and thinking outside the box. Fans might be anticipating riffs, riffs, riffs with this release but nothing prepared me for the utter groove-fest that is second track Room 11. Everything is ramped up for this track and this completes the spectacular beginning of A Way Out.

Things get extremely interesting with third track Awaken, whose first half soothes and matches the charm of Chain Reaction. The subtle electronics here underline the amazing song-writing prowess of the group, but it is the second half of this track which will blow you away. Everything ramps up and soars creating an unexpected climax for so early on in the album. The closing riff sounds not too dissimilar to Methylene Blue which perfectly completes the song. Things get extra technical with Severed, where the keys and guitars satisfying align before it breaks down into a djenty breakdown. It’s really interesting to hear the heavier influences coming into play here and sitting seamlessly amongst the classic DISTORTED HARMONY components.

For Puppet On Strings, things sound a little MARTIN GRECH in places. The eerie and brooding composition coupled with the musing vocals make this song one of the most haunting on the album. This is followed by the rousing interlude of For Ester, which is an utterly compelling instrumental break before our ears are pummelled by the opening riff of Anima. The melody reminds me a little of TOOL which is amusing because of the choice of title track used. The sweeping chorus is classic DISTORTED HARMONY which is complimented by the newer techier riffs.

A Way Out of Here has an innocent tone and is stripped down to piano and vocals at the beginning. Quiet and haunting, when other instrumentation is introduced it reminds me of the charming days of KRISTIAN LEONTIOU, the kind of heart-wrenching ballad with a soft accompaniment which emphasises the emotions and lyrics. DISTORTED HARMONY have always been the masters of creating captivating tunes and it appears they’ll continue to be so. If you really are craving the days of Chain Reaction then the next track Time and Time Again is for you! With hints of Natural Selection and Hollow, it will appease old fans and new.

The first song DISTORTED HARMONY released off A Way Out is still one of the most provoking songs of the album. We Are Free is a glorious track of tech riffs and mesmerising programming, topped off with the powerful chorus and imagery. When the breakdown drops, it drops hard. DISTORTED HARMONY use breakdowns to great effect, they never add one unnecessarily, but they know when to sprinkle them in for an intense impact.

Before you know it, it’s the album finale, Someday, which is another melodically intense affair. The pacing and use of multiple vocals may remind you of Every Time She Smiles. DISTORTED HARMONY seem to lean towards a modest closing track and Someday is no different. It never quite takes off but this is the eerie magic of it. A bewitching end to a spectacular album, don’t be surprised if A Way Out sees the band breaking out. It would be a shame to keep such a talented band hidden away. Once they’ve fully unlocked their potential, who knows what DISTORTED HARMONY could achieve. Another stunning effort.

Hopesfall – Arbiter

Label: Equal Vision Records. Release date: 13 July 2018.

It’s been almost 11 years since HOPESFALL released their last album Magnetic North and since 2008 there has been a massive HOPESFALL void left the metal scene that no other band could quite replace. Luckily the band reformed last year and have recorded Arbiter, their incredible comeback album. There is a clear evolution which has happened here, immediately you can recognise the classic HOPESFALL sound and frontman Jay Forrest’s distinct vocals, but Arbiter sounds like HOPESFALL 2.0. It’s a bit like what you always wanted the band to achieve, it has the ambition and progressive sensibilities of Magnetic North and the melodic approach of A Types, which makes for a winning combination. This release has a bigger sound, bigger production and bigger songs. HOPESFALL aren’t going to sneak back onto the scene quietly, they’re going to crash in and show the youngsters how it’s done.

Things get off to a raucous start with Faint Object Camera. Definitely one of the ‘rawer’ HOPESFALL songs vocally, it is a bit of a serious affair but one with massive impact. I was half expecting A Types style quirky riffs, but instead I got a HELL IS FOR HEROES-cum-DEFTONES vibe which is equally as glorious. Second track H.A. Wallace Space Academy is a lot more ‘classic’ HOPESFALL but with an added GASLIGHT ANTHEM-esque twist to proceedings. Forrest is back in business with his big melodies and big screams with the last minute sounding a tad more DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL/JIMMY EAT WORLD than usual, but stick with it as this mix is very rewarding.

If you are desperate for something a bit more old school HOPESFALL then look no further than Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the verse wouldn’t sound out of place on A Types with its twinkly riffs and Forrest’s vocal approach. The chorus entertains the newer style but the spacey riffs soar. I Catapult is another spectacular example of stratospheric rock. Its delicate notes somehow perfectly reflect the artwork. There is a sense of weightlessness in the sun-drenched riffs. You can imagine the pure light you witness when you’re at great heights. When the sun kicks in it is HOPESFALL at their best, one of the album highlights so far.

Tunguska is an emotive track of huge proportions. It has a glorious old school sound, not necessarily HOPESFALL but it sounds like early noughties era rock which has been brought kicking and screaming into 2018. Brooding riffs and a chorus which lapses into a mammoth TAKING BACK SUNDAY-esque passage. This is special stuff. The same could be said for Drowning Potential which is another intense track that would appease old HOPESFALL fans. Angry, fast-paced then oddly soothing, this track matches the intensity and pacing of Magnetic North.

We are suddenly at the penultimate song of Arbiter and HOPESFALL keep our attention with the brilliant To Bloom, which could easily be the album opener. It has that wholesome sound and features all that the band have to offer, from the big choruses, the intense screaming and the twinkly riffs and spacey guitars. It nicely settles down to the album finale Indignation and the Rise of the Arbiter which proves to be one of the most melodic songs on the album. A soothing and blissful track, it continues HOPESFALL’s spacey musical odyssey. The melodies and whispers hark back to the glory days of A Types which satisfyingly wraps up the HOPESFALL nostalgia for the album. Arbiter certainly is not A Types Part 2 or Magnetic North Part 2. This is a different beast entirely and the sound of an experienced band evolving and coming back with a bang. Let’s hope this time they stick around!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamshade – On My Own

Single, self-release. 29 June 2018.

Out of the blue last Friday, Metalmance favourites DREAMSHADE dropped new single On My Own and it’s a corker. Taking the plunge and self-releasing this song, DREAMSHADE are taking a risk putting their new music out there themselves, but with top notch music such as this and a dedicated fan base, they’ll pull it off.

Old fans who were unhappy with the lighter output of last album Vibrant will no doubt be disappointed with this new song, but DREAMSHADE have evolved into a much bolder and a more vibrant (sorry) outfit. They have outgrown their metalcore roots and nailed a mature DREAMSHADE sound. Most bands never achieve a signature sound but this Swiss band achieved it by album number two. Now looking at releasing a fourth album, if On My Own is anything to go by then we might see their most ambitious release to date.

On My Own has that glorious signature DREAMSHADE sound courtesy of guitarist Fernando ‘Fella’ Di Cicco’s shimmering riffs. But it is vocalist Kevin Calì who captures attention in this single with his ballsy approach with his clean vocals now having an extra zest. Immediately you’re confronted with a strong rock song that would keep the radio listeners happy as well as metal fans happy. This winning formula reminds me of later ATRYEU, especially the album Lead Sails Paper Anchor, with it’s catchy yet heavy sound. The chorus sounds a little like a continuation of DREAMSHADE’s single Where My Heart Belongs, a fan favourite from their last album. This will make the transition between Vibrant and the next release a lot smoother for fans.

With the song title and their current situation of self-releasing their material, I can’t help but interpret this tune is their anthem of going it alone and allowing DREAMSHADE to be who they want to be, and create the music they want to make. By releasing On My Own on their own they are making a statement while testing the waters. A promising progression for the band, it will be exciting to see how their direction will evolve for their next full length. More please!

 

 


If you would like to read more DREAMSHADE related posts then follow the links below:

INTERVIEW: Dreamshade

Dreamshade + The Royal Live Review

Metalmance Top 20 Albums of 2016 featuring Dreamshade

Dreamshade – Vibrant Album Review

Roundup – June 2018

The hottest releases and band picks of the past 30 days.

How are we halfway through the year already? One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be bloody difficult to choose the top 20 albums later in the year! 2018 has seen some absolutely stellar releases and this month was no different! I’ll start with my top 3 releases as usual then I’ll talk what else I’ve been enjoying and which bands I’ve been listening to in preparation for Tech Fest.


Metalmance Top 3 Releases from June

1

SICKONES – Find Energy. Release date: 12 June.

Do you ever feel like yFind Energyou’ve discovered a band at exactly the right time? That’s how I feel about SICKONES. 2018 might be great for music but 2018 hasn’t been kind to Metalmance. When I saw these Bristol hardcore punks support CANCER BATS a fortnight ago I was struck by their stage presence and performance. Considering their lyrics can be quite serious they exude so much positivity in a live setting they’re utterly infectious and they’ve really resonated with me since and got me through a particularly challenging month. I’ve been digging their latest EP Find Energy a lot this month, with catchy songs such as Bad Way and chaotic hardcore tracks like Moving Forward and The Choice making this EP is as entertaining to listen to as they are to see live. Their music takes influence from 80s hardcore bands (I can hear a bit of GORILLA BISCUITS and MINOR THREAT, can you?) and its this raw energy and organic recording that I find so utterly charming and addictive. I think I’m showing symptoms of being a SickOne indeed.

 

2

HEAD WITH WINGS – From Worry To Shame. Release date: 1 June.

Head With Wings

Since reviewing this album last month, the alternative rock duo HEAD WITH WINGS have been gaining a following in the prog and rock community alike and it’s very reassuring to witness. With songs and music of high quality, it is great to see this promising band aren’t being overlooked. With emotionally charged songs and progressive twinklings, songs such as Goodbye Sky, Stepping Stone and…actually I could list all the songs as examples of the stellar songwriting talent the duo boast. From Worry To Shame is a powerful album which is also catchy and memorable. This is a dangerous combination and could run the risk of HEAD WITH WINGS dominating the proggy rock scene…which would not be a bad thing. I’ve written a more in depth analysis in my review of the album which you can find in the link below.

Head With Wings – From Worry To Shame Metalmance Review

 

3

NINE INCH NAILS – Bad Witch. Release date: 22 June.

Bad Witch

I think a lot of people won’t agree with this but I still think Trent Reznor is one of the most severely underrated musicians in metal (I’m even going to upset people by classing NIN as metal). A lot of the younger fans of heavier music still completely overlook them but Reznor has proved NIN is still relevant and as ground-breaking as ever. Yes, the likes of The Fragile and Downward Spiral may never be surpassed but the more recent releases, Bad Witch included, are still edgy outputs that push boundaries and give industrial music new life. Songs like Play The Goddamn Part hark back to the avant-garde instrumental days of The Fragile but with a fresh attitude. The record sounds like an evolution of his previous work with God Break Down The Door reminding me of Year Zero and I’m Not From This World sounding like the more claustrophobic moments of Downward Spiral. Many turn their nose up at new NIN releases but they have no idea on the gold they’re missing. Don’t miss out.


 

On the playlist…

LIGHT THE TORCH – Revival. Release date: 30 March 2018.

Revival

Not going to lie I normally have a few older albums on the go during the month, but the past few weeks I’ve finally checked out Revival by Howard Jones and co in LIGHT THE TORCH and I haven’t been able to take it off repeat since. I didn’t fall in love with the last DEVIL YOU KNOW ALBUM, but the lineup and name changes have somehow given the band an extra spark and I think Revival is one of the most underrated releases of the year so far. I’ve seen little love for this album which is shocking because it is a ridiculously strong release. Hojo is on top form here and you can rely on him for some massive choruses but bloody hell the album is compiled of banger after banger. Die Alone, Virus, The Great Divide are just some of the belters on this incredible album. There are also some interesting musical passages with electronic flourishes nestled in the background, which really add to the rich texture of this album. Hopefully more people will appreciate this album over the time, this is a gentle nudge to encourage you to give it a listen.


 

Prep For Tech Fest

Releases by 3 lesser known bands playing Tech Fest you HAVE to check out…

VNDTA – Pale Glow. Release date: 13 April 2018.

VNDTA

Possibly too good to be an after party band, VNDTA (VENDETTA) from Hertfordshire dropped one of the most promising EPs of the year back in April. Mixing djent, tech, groove metal and even pop influences, Pale Glow is an exciting little package. Frontwoman Megan Targett can scream, growl and sweetly sing as good as any other but it’s her confidence and swagger that sets her voice apart from the rest. It’s one thing having a disgustingly talented vocalist, you need to have a decent band to back the vocals up, luckily the rest of the band deliver. Stand out tracks are the SIKTH-ish Martyr and the INME-esque Swine, but it is the title track and Excuses which you will have in your head for hours on end. Not only am I excited to see how this band will be received at Tech Fest, but I’m also extremely curious what VNDTA will conjure up for their next release.

 

CHIASMATA – EP. Release date: 14 May 2018.

Chiasmata

For a band a little over a year old, CHIASMATA have already achieved great things such as supporting notable tech metal acts along the likes of SARAH LONGFIELD and VALIS ABLAZE, and in May the young progressive metal band from Manchester released their debut self-titled EP. The production and mixing of the EP leave a lot to be desired, which is a shame because the potential of the songs is staggering. This just makes it more exciting to see how the songs translate live. Another female fronted band playing one of the after parties, expect to hear TESSERACT inspired melodies and a cheeky bit of post-rock influences amongst their irresistible techy dynamics. This EP only has four tracks but it has the ambition of a full length album. Vocalist and bassist Zoé Gale is quickly gaining respect and admiration in the tech scene for her charm, talent and ever improving vocals, of which can be appreciated the most in the song Subsidia which is one of the best little treats of the year so far. The band have still got some work to do to nurture and refine their sound but I expect to hear a lot more from these guys and gal. Promising stuff.

 

SIAMESE – Shameless. Release date: 2 June 2017.

SiameseI was very surprised but very pleased to see Danish rockers SIAMESE had been announced for Tech Fest. They may be hidden away in the opening afternoon but I think they would well be worth heading to the showground early for. There are quite a few bands on the melodic end of tech metal this year, including fellow Danes VOLA and proggy bands VOYAGER and VALIS ABLAZE, but SIAMESE are another beast entirely. Radio friendly rock with techy flourishes, they almost sound a guilty pleasure but I can’t feel ashamed listening to Shameless when the songs are this good. Songs like My Turn have an IMAGINE DRAGONS feel to them but others, like Tunnel Visions sounds more like DREAM ON DREAMER. I can’t imagine the INGESTED fans will be queuing up to see SIAMESE do their thang but for those who do rock up early to catch the band, they will no doubt be rewarded with shimmering melodies and chilled vibes before the rest of the weekend obliterates their ears.

Walk In Coma – Blur The Line Of Fiction And Fate

Release date: 22 June 2018. Self-release.

When you think of Essex you may think of fake tan, TOWIE and Olly Murs, but thankfully after what seems like a long dry spell of decent metal in the county, Essex’s music scene is picking up again and Southend’s WALK IN COMA are at the forefront of it. After 2015 EP Narrenturm, the band have slowly been gaining momentum and with Blur The Line Of Fiction And Fate there’s no reason why WALK IN COMA wouldn’t be able to launch themselves out of the county to wider audiences. This EP is one of those records you wish were a full length album. Six songs is generous for an EP but with music of this quality it just doesn’t seem enough! This of course is still a good thing as it spells the potential of this promising band.

The first thing that should be noted is the massive sound WALK IN COMA somehow behold. I can’t fathom how a small band from my home county can sound like America’s next big metal act. Opener Wings sounds like PANTERA with KILLSWITCH ENGAGE riffs and it absolutely slays. The chorus goes in a PARKWAY DRIVE direction but the synths add a cheeky dynamic to the wholesome metallic crunch. A fantastic start.

Now, I’ve been aware of second track Through Your Eyes since they dropped the banger on YouTube back in 2016. It’s felt like an age to finally hear it on an EP. But I’ll tell you one thing. Every time I listen to it, it still feels like the first time. When the groove kicks in you can’t help but bang your head. Alex Adlington is on full form here with his flawless screams and his spectacular cleans. The chorus is one of the most magical moments on the EP with its IN FLAMES vibe. Beware though, this song will remain in your head for days.

Third track Gospel sounds like the lovechild of MACHINE HEAD and SOILWORK. WALK IN COMA definitely have a knack of mixing the sound of Scandinavian melodic death metal with the boldness of the new wave of American heavy metal. It’s this confident, groovy style that could potentially attract new followers in their hundreds. The same could be said for Apathy, which can only be described as melodic nu metal overseen by DARK TRANQUILITY. There is quite a dark and brooding dynamic to this song which makes it slightly haunting.

If you like groovy riffs then you’re going to love Subhuman. All components of WALK IN COMA come to the fore here. But it is Serpents & Vermin which brings Blur The Line Of Fiction And Fate to a storming close. The symphonic elements are handled well to add an intensity which propels the band into SCAR SYMMETRY territory. This track is also hard as nails, with parts which remind me of TEXTURES. A blistering conclusion to an impressive EP, don’t be surprised if WALK IN COMA whip up something special for their debut album. These guys need to be on your radar.

Cancer Bats/SickOnes/Walk In Coma

Chinnerys, Southend. 12 June 2018.

If you’ve been following Metalmance then you’ll know how much I was looking forward to seeing CANCER BATS for the sixth time. I’ve been witnessing them tearing venues to shreds for 10 years now and tonight proves they are still as riotous as ever. The Chinnerys, Southend were hosts to the ‘BATS tonight and walking into the intimate room, you knew then you might not make it out alive. Or if you do, you’ll be covered in other people’s sweat and spit.

There was a decent amount of people to see the opening band, WALK IN COMA who are residents of the town. Rapidly gaining a reputation in Essex with their bold metal tunes, these Southend lads appeased their existing fans and gained new followers with their blistering set this evening. Playing songs from their first EP Narrenturm and their forthcoming EP Blur The Line Of Fiction And Fate, their sound is a cross between PANTERA and IN FLAMES so you can probably gauge how beastly WALK IN COMA sound live. It’s one thing having a big sound, you’ve also got to be able to pull it off live. Luckily the band are natural showmen, looking at ease and confident like they do this every day. Singer Alex Adlington is proving to be quite the beguiling frontman with his brilliant harsh vocals and cleans (the chorus of Through Your Eyes anyone?) and his stage presence was quite formidable. The new songs sounded absolutely massive, don’t be surprised if you find them playing a city near you soon.

I was not expecting what I was about to witness next. Hardcore punk trio SICKONES were an impressive sight to behold. Frontman Ben Curd can only be described as the Louie Spence of hardcore punk with his stupidly magnificent dance moves and jumps and spins. He has to be seen to be believed. Add this to their ridiculously charming hardcore punk and you’ll soon be dancing along and being converted. Playing songs from their EPs The Red Line and Find Energy, these Bristolians are truly something special. Explaining the messages behind each song, whether it be about feeling stuck in a rut, not conforming to lifestyle choices of the majority or if you feel stuck in a relationship, the band somehow make everyone in the room feel encouraged to be themselves and feel happy. It’s obvious SICKONES are all about the music and expression and it’s this sense of authenticity that is so appealing. Their music itself is hard, fast, fun and deceivingly catchy. The whole SICKONES package is a truly exceptional one. This is one band you absolutely HAVE to see live.

Standing at the barrier at a CANCER BATS gig is always going to be risky business and tonight was no different. As soon as Liam Cormier and co. graced the stage the bars of the barrier acted as a climbing frame for Southend’s eager hardcore kids. A few brave souls climbed up to the lighting rig and dived into the crowd from there causing absolute carnage. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Tonight felt like the reunion of kindred spirits. The majority of people here have been witnessing CANCER BATS slay venues for a decade now and the Chinnerys is one venue they always return to. And you can understand why judging by the raucous reception they receive! The set was full of classics such as Hail Destroyer, Pneumonia Hawk, R.A.T.S, Scared To Death which sounded timeless amongst new tunes such as Gatekeeper and Bed Of Nails. Seeing Pray For Darkness and Sorceress live is still an essential gig experience, it’s incredible to see 10 years on these songs still get the same intense response at shows. CANCER BATS have still got it and it looks like they’re not slowing down yet. Once the riff of Sabotage was played, the security surrendered and let the chaos ensue. This will be a night Southend will remember for years to come.

Svalbard/Møl/Group of Man

The Black Heart, Camden. 24 May 2018.

A sold out show at The Black Heart is always going to be a hot and sweaty affair. It’s also a special evening as it’s the album release show for SVALBARD, the first ever UK show for MØL and also an album release date for GROUP OF MAN. All of whom had their most recent records released by Holy Roar Records. A bit of a Holy Roar showcase if you will.

Heading upstairs just as opening act GROUP OF MAN are about to start and the room is almost full to capacity already. The UK post-hardcore troupe recently released EP What We Got In Common and the band were bouncing off it. Post-hardcore with a bit of groove, it took a while for the crowd to feel it but by the end of their set, they had the room nodding along and cheering. A good start.

Now for something a bit different. It’s no secret I’ve become a massive MØL fan, having reviewed their debut album Jord which was released in April and interviewing the lovely chaps just before this very show. MØL’s music needs an equally powerful and emotive live response so my expectations were very high and I was anticipating the atmosphere the Danish blackgaze group would evoke. Let’s just say I was not disappointed. As soon as MØL kicked in with Penumbra, the crowd was enraptured with the intense performance and huge sound the band produced. Frontman Kim Song Sternkopf is an absolute madman on stage, almost knocking people off their feet with a swing of his mic stand. His voice held out live too, in fact all the components of MØL sounded on par. Playing the songs Storm, Ligament and Vakuum, it all amazingly sounds like it does on record. When the band finished with the title track, Kim was in the crowd almost reducing the Black Heart to rubble. MØL are one of those bands you feel lucky to have seen in a small venue. Catch them before they get huge!

After the stunning performance by MØL, tonight’s headliners SVALBARD had a hard act to follow. By now the venue was heaving with hot and sweaty bodies but everyone was in high spirits. Serena Cherry and co took the stage and they were thrilled to see the turnout for their release show for It’s Hard To Have Hope. Considering the intense topics covered in the album, there was a strong sense of fun and positivity in the room, with the band members clearly having fun and sharing jokes with the crowd. Playing songs from the new album and One Day All This Will End, the band were amazed at the amount of people who already knew the words to new songs such as Unpaid Intern and Revenge Porn with the rest of the set being well received and increasingly chaotic. Serena took a moment in between songs to thank Holy Roar Records for their support and great work ethic. And seeing the quality of the roster tonight and the stellar performances from the bands, you have to agree Holy Roar are onto something special.

Link to my interview with SVALBARD can be found here: Q&A with Svalbard

Link to album review of It’s Hard To Have Hope is here: Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope

Link to my interview with MØL can be found here: INTERVIEW: MØL

Link to my album review of Jord is here: Møl – Jord

 

 

Roundup – May 2018

My top 3 albums of the past month as well as other records that have captured my attention.

May has been another corker of a month, with releases from notable bands such as IHSAHN, AMOPHIS and of course SVALBARD who I have featured a lot in my blog this month. I’ve selected three bands and releases you need to watch, as well as what else I’ve been listening to and an album I’ve been discovering all over again. See you in June!


 

Metalmance Top 3 Albums from May

1

CALLIDICE – Anthem For Resistance. Release date: 18 May 2018.

Callidice

I’ve put CALLIDICE in the top spot as I’ve been looking forward to seeing how this Finnish metal would progress their sound for their debut album Anthem For Resistance and I was not disappointed. I really liked their EP Scarlet, released in 2016. I heard potential but it was obvious they still hadn’t quite anchored their sound or focus. With Anthem For Resistance they’ve achieved a beast that sounds like the love child of INSOMNIUM and SONIC SYNDICATE. It may not be the most original sound but it is a hugely enjoyable listen. CALLIDICE brilliantly mix synths into the mix and still sound impeccably heavy. The song Scarred is a gem, with an IN FLAMES Come Clarity vibe, while Brotherhood of Bastards is more SOILWORK mixed with IHSAHN. Basically, if you’re not a fan of Scandinavian metal then you should steer clear of CALLIDICE. If not, you could do a lot worse than giving Anthem For Resistance a listen.

2

SERAPHIM – Shades Of The Future. Release date: 25 May 2018.

Seraphim

Another severely underrated band, SERAPHIM have surpassed all their previous material with this brilliant effort, Shades of the Future. What’s so exciting about this band from Michigan is their ability to meld an array of metal styles into one gloriously flawless sound. Tech riffs? Check. Screams? Check. Djent? Check. Progressive elements? Check. Massive melodies? Cheeeeeeccccckkkkk. Their transitions from soaring melodic vocals to their heavier moments are seamless, they’re exactly what you always wanted ISSUES to be. The production on this album is the icing on the cake, enabling all of SERAPHIM’s components to shine. Songs like Unmask The Enemy sound a cross between DEAD BY APRIL and PERIPHERY, and it’s this mix of tech and melodic metal that gives their music that much needed modern crunch. An unsigned band with heaps of potential, SERAPHIM should be on everyone’s radar.

3

DREAM ON DREAMER – It Comes And Goes. Release date: 25 May 2018.

Dream On Dreamer

A friend of mine actually recommended this band to me. A friend whose musical opinion I trust and he didn’t let me down again. DREAM ON DREAMER are a band from Melbourne, Australia who seamlessly mix soul and metal together yet still sound heavy and avoid sounding like a teeny-bop band. My first thought is they sound like a metal PVRIS with their catchy melodies and meaningful lyrics, but they could also be compared to bands like VOICES FROM THE FUSELAGE and SAOSIN because of the beautiful combination of heavy components and euphonious vocals. Last track Tell Me Why could easily be a radio hit with its YEARS AND YEARS vibes, yet opener Let It In reminds me of the atmospheric moments of LOATHE and the djent goodness of NORTHLANE. Don’t be surprised if you hear more of these guys this year, DREAM ON DREAMER have the talent and capabilities of being bloody huge.

 


 

On the playlist…

NIGHTMARER – Cacophony Of Terror. Release date: 23 March 2018.

Nightmarer

Definitely the heaviest band I’m featuring in this month’s roundup. NIGHTMARER is an apt name for their devastatingly heavy music. Formed in 2016, the band includes former members of bands such as GIGAN, THE  OCEAN and WAR FROM A HARLOTS MOUTH. Cacophony of Terror is definitely a contender for most crushing album of 2018. Suffocatingly heavy, it seems to suck the soul and light from all that is nice in the world and belches them out into a pitch black filth. Dissonant death metal at its finest, you try and think of bands to compare NIGHTMARER to but you’re stumped to find a band who melt all the gnarly ingredients into the same kind of morbid beauty NIGHTMARER exhumes. If you were to describe extreme metal to someone, then Cacophony of Terror would be the record you’d introduce them to. Spectacular stuff.

 

TURNSTILE – Time & Space. Release date: 23 February 2018.

Turnstile

Time & Space has been playing in my car all month, it is an absolute gem. When I found out these guys had signed to Roadrunner Records I knew this album was going to be special. I remember seeing these guys in Norwich in 2015 supporting THE STORY SO FAR and the stage diving and crowdkilling was on another level! I hadn’t even heard of them until that night and I didn’t really hear about them again until their signing announcement. I love how old school they sound and their live show firmly lodged them in my memory. Time & Space shows a more ambitious direction for TURNSTILE, I think it’s absolute gold. The songs I stick on repeat the most are The Real Thing, Generator and Right To Be. I love the grooves, the pacing, the switch from hardcore to metal riffs. It makes me want to dance and mosh at the same time. TURNSTILE are one of those bands I’d see live again in a heartbeat, it’s great to see them finally getting the recognition they deserve.


 

Rediscovering…

HOPESFALL – A Types. Release date: 2 November 2004.

Hopesfall

At the beginning of 2018, HOPESFALL announced they had reformed (finally!) and they will be releasing new album Arbiter in July! After the recent reunions of EIGHTEEN VISIONS, BLEEDING THROUGH and THE AGONY SCENE, I was absolutely thrilled to hear about HOPESFALL too. In my early teens I used to have their third album, A Types on heavy rotation. I had actually picked it up on a whim in a charity shop after I saw the Trustkill Records logo on the CD. Being a fan of EIGHTEEN VISIONS and BLEEDING THROUGH I trusted Trustkill and bought the CD. HOPESFALL were quite different, more post-hardcore than metal but they do have some quite progressive sections, especially on their album Magnetic North. This album is where it all started for me with HOPESFALL and it is still such a charming record. From the catchy It happens to the spellbinding Per Sempre Marciamo, HOPESFALL take you on a little journey through delicate melodies and intelligent songs. Songs like Champion Beyond Blessing and Icarus reek of that glorious early 00’s sound that make you feel nostalgic for the days of emo and post-hardcore. I’m incredibly curious to see what direction HOEPSFALL have gone in for their forthcoming release. One thing’s for sure, it’s sure to blow everyone away.

 

Q&A with Svalbard

Frontwoman Serena Cherry on their live shows, feminism and tough song topics.

SVALBARD have just released their latest album It’s Hard To Have Hope and their album release show at the Black Heart, Camden went down a storm. I asked frontwoman Serena Cherry about the new record, bands she recommends and fans’ reactions to their hard-hitting song topics…

Q. You’ve just finished a UK tour and released your new album It’s Hard To Have Hope. How were the new songs received live? 

Serena: I was genuinely astounded by the reactions to the new songs live, people already knew some of the words which was crazy! It’s really nerve-wracking, to be playing new material for the first time on a tour, so it’s a major relief to me that the crowd seemed to enjoy the new songs so much.

Q. The album seems to be getting some really good responses. With the hard hitting topics covered in the album, have you had any indication that fans have related to the themes? 

Serena: A few people have reached out to share their stories with me, with regards to their own experiences of unpaid internships or sexual assault at gigs. I think there is a huge power within the bravery of people sharing their personal experiences, even if the experiences are often traumatic. When you discover that other people have been through similar experiences you feel less isolated by what you have suffered.

Q. I have to unfortunately admit I relate to the song Unpaid Intern. The work climate for our generation is a joke at times. What spurred you to write the song? Have you yourselves had bad experiences with jobs?

Serena: Sorry to hear that! The majority of my working life has been a string of exploitation and bad experiences. Such is the joy of needing a zero hours contract to enable you to get time off to tour. When it comes to Unpaid Internships, I’ve never had one as it’s something I could never afford to do. Being from a working class background means I am never financially comfortable enough to work for free. That’s what the song is about: how unpaid internships basically restrict the poor from access to certain job roles. Speaking personally, as a writer, I have had several companies offer me unpaid internships and I have to turn them down because…you know, I have to pay rent and bills and stuff. I can’t just go a few months without income. So I know too well that feeling of a door of opportunity slamming shut in your face, not because you don’t have the appropriate skills, but simply you are poor.

Q. I saw your album release show at the Black Heart, Camden, and your comment about the hard work ethic and amazing support of your label Holy Roar really stuck in my memory. Just how important is it to have a good relationship with your label?

Serena: You have to have a label that understands and supports your vision, otherwise the whole creative process becomes stifled and restricted by what “the big bosses” want you to make. We are very fortunate to be with Holy Roar as they aren’t afraid to take risks, they appreciate musical diversity and they support us for who we are, rather than for what they think they can make from us. In some ways, I’d hate to be on a bigger label and have to churn out the same safe, toned-down product just so the guys at the top can afford one more ivory backscratcher.

Q. What struck me about your live show is the positivity and sense of fun as a band you project, especially considering the difficult topics you cover. Do you find being yourselves and being positive help to get your messages across to the audience?

Serena: That’s interesting! I never think of us as particularly positive, but I guess we do have fun when we play together and we would never make an attempt to hide that enjoyment. I just assume it doesn’t come across! In the live setting, as I am actually quite a shy person, I have to really make a conscious effort and force myself to talk to the crowd. I find it quite daunting, but at the same time I think we have written the music with a message, so we should discuss these things onstage too. It just takes a lot of effort for me to come out of my shell when I have to actually talk instead of scream!

Q. We’re seeing a shift of strong women fronting metal bands who are not afraid of confronting issues relating to the objectification and disrespect of women, with the likes of VENOM PRISON and SVALBARD with yourself. I was especially moved by your passionate performance of your song Revenge Porn when I saw you live.  Do you feel you are able to give a voice to women, not just in the metal community but in general?

Serena: I think it’s incredibly important for women to have a voice in metal, to be represented and respected as musicians, rather than dismissed or pushed out or othered. I am keen to address sexism within the music industry head on and to speak out about injustices, but I never want to assume I speak for others. I can only share my views and experiences and hope to generate a healthy discussion on how things can change for the better!

Q. Have you received any backlash to your feminist approach? 

Serena: Yeah. From being called a Feminazi, to being dismissed as having “no hard evidence” when talking about sexual assault, to a reviewer saying we couldn’t “identify as a feminist band because we are not an all-female band.” You don’t have to be female to be feminist! Every member of SVALBARD is for equal rights, it doesn’t matter what gender they identify with, they can still acknowledge oppressive patriarchal systems. To say you can only be a feminist if you are a female is such a reductive way of thinking.

Q. Lastly, with my blog I focus on new and up and coming bands. Are there any bands on your radar people should check out?

They’re not exactly new, but COR SCORPII and SHYLMAGOGHNAR have been captivating my ears recently. There’s a band who practice in the same studio as us called DOWNARD who are also very good.

 

 

Stay tuned for my gig review of SVALBARD/MØL/GROUP OF MAN. In the meantime you can read my review of SVALBARD’s It’s Hard To Have Hope by following the link below:

Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope Review

INTERVIEW: MØL

A conversation with the Danish blackgaze group about their album, music and the year ahead.

Relaxing downstairs at Camden’s Brew Dog, MØL vocalist Kim Song Sternkopf and guitarist Frederik Lippert are in high spirits and excited about the events of the day. Having flown over from Denmark that morning Frederik tells me this is their first ‘flying gig’, their first time flying over as a band and first time in the UK. “A lot of firsts” laughs Frederik as the other members of MØL join us in the booth; guitarist Nicolai Busse Hansen, bassist Holger Rumph-Frost and drummer Ken Lund Klejs. First thing I wanted to do was learn how to pronounce MØL (meaning moth) correctly, it’s more like ‘moel’, “or ‘mooel’ if you’re from Copenhagen” jokes Nicolai. The title for their debut album Jord (meaning earth) is pronounced ‘yor’, with the ‘d’ being silent and the ‘j’ having the European ‘y’ sound. Having got to grips with the Danish it was time to get the lowdown on the life of MØL…

Before MØL, were you in bands before? How did you guys come together as a band?

Nicolai: Ken and I played in a shoegaze band which broke apart when I moved to England to study. We wanted to continue making shoegaze music and wanted to be harder I guess.

Ken: It kinda took over and we just did more our own thing, whatever we wanted to do. I’ve been very much influenced by heavy metal, metal in general and with the shoegaze it kinda moved into something else.

Nicolai: It was around that time we started exploring the boundaries of shoegaze, bands like ALCEST were moving into it and other European bands. That’s what kind of inspired it.

Holger: I’ve played in another band before and it was something completely different. It was like melodic death metal and I met Nicolai in coalition with another project and we just started talking about our common interest in black metal and shoegaze music and it was natural for me to join when there was an open spot for a bass player.

Ken: Frederik joined when I tried to form another different project and he came in…

Frederik: I didn’t know what it was we were trying to do…

Ken: No it didn’t become anything and it was like “hey! Would you play in this shoegazey thing we’re doing?”. And he was like “yeah ok” and then we, er…dissolved.

Kim: That didn’t work, but you had another idea with Nicolai.

Ken: Yeah, so we had my cousin on bass, he left the band and we had Steffen on vocals who also is not in the band anymore. And then we got Kim two years ago and that also added a whole new level to the sound of MØL.

Kim: I originally came from death metal and I also play in another band where I do post-hardcore and chaotic-hardcore stuff. So I played in a technical death metal band called 100 KNIVES INSIDE before and I actually knew the guys. I think I took photos of your second gig…

Nicolai: That’s when I broke my collar bone and so we had Simon as a stand in.

Frederik: Ah yes Simon from the Danish black metal band SUNKEN.

Kim: So it’s a mish-mash of a lot of different bands. Steffen stopped doing the band and I think our manager, Mirza actually hinted that I was pretty fond of the music so we kind of found out that it would actually fit. I think for me, I’ve always been drawn to more atmospheric music and something that’s more moody, but the other bands that I’ve played in I’ve never really had the chance to explore that realm so it’s really something that taps into something. That’s what I’m really fond of, that mood, I only get that from post-rock or classical music.

I was wondering this, if some members were more shoegaze than others or how the sound came about. So with the whole ‘blackgaze’ thing, is that something you were aspiring to, or are you happy to just fall under that bracket?

Holger: That’s a good question. When Ken started this shoegaze project, there was then a huge wave with DEAFHEAVEN and SUNBATHER and so on, also ALCEST. We’re doing an abnormal thing combining these two genres and I don’t think we’re inspired so much, I don’t think we can deny that.

Ken: I mean I hadn’t heard of SUNBATHER before we started to be honest. We were doing black metal, I love black metal and especially symphonic metal, so we kinda just edited it in and when we heard those bands as well we were like cool! That really sounds nice. You know, we’re the only ones doing it. What we were doing wasn’t actually solid enough because other people as well were doing it.

Kim: I also think because a lot of people are comparing us with DEAFHEAVEN so you think you kind of want to break away from that, although it’s not a bad thing. But we definitely want to do our own thing.

I suppose the danger of being seen as part of a trend is when that trend ends it might spell the end. So how do you see your sound evolving?

Ken: I guess just doing whatever we wanna do still I guess!

Kim: The transition from the previous EP to now I think, there’s like a really distinct prioritisation of some certain elements, especially in some of your guitar work…[Nicolai]

Nicolai: What are you thinking?

Kim: It’s got kinda heavier. Not as typical gaze but it’s more rocky.

Nicolai: Yeah I think it’s a good way to put it. There’s a focus on writing the metal parts to work and of course combining them with shoegaze parts and making them flow together.

Ken: And in general we’re better musicians now so we can do more things that we actually want to do and that’s important for MØL because we’re doing it so much. And Kim also put a whole new level on the singing and the lyrics and with everything mixed in it made a lot of difference.

Kim: The instrumentation, the whole picture, what really got me on board was the opportunity to be kinda a part of the orchestration, so that I don’t just specifically sound like a vocalist but as an instrument on the same level as everybody else in the band, contributing to this sound. So it’s relaxing to you you’re not the one driving the whole show that you usually do as a frontman in a death metal or hardcore act for that matter, so relying on this intense atmosphere that we’re trying to create that’s really something that’s brought a new dimension into my songwriting or at least my way of using vocals. So I think the main thing about where I come from I really thought about not doing purely high pitched vocals all the way through, so I think the variation that I provide with some death metal growls and some hardcore vocals as well, that can support this dynamic of all the shifts and stuff that actually happens throughout the whole album.

The album has been out for about a month now, so how has the response been? How have you been finding it all? Because you’ve been getting some pretty good responses!

Frederik: It feels like we’ve had several months of good feedback in a short amount of time so we’re very grateful for the response we’ve got.

Ken: The opportunities we’ve been offered have been the greatest already.

Kim: But it’s also because half a year ago we were recording this album and were planning on releasing it on our Danish management, so none of this was even in our minds back then. And then Holy Roar came in the picture and then suddenly everything just blew up.

Ken: That opened up a new door and the response we got and the great PR work they made and all of a sudden..boom! In come the offers and we have a lot in store. We can’t say anything [laughs]. We got some goodies coming.

I’m looking forward to hearing that! You’ve got Arctangent and Damnation festival coming up, what else are you looking forward to this year?

Ken: Seeing other bands at Damnation [laughs].

Frederik: And Arctangent.

Kim: We have some touring in store but that will be revealed later.

Holger: In general just getting out and playing more shows like we’re doing now with this tour. That is at least for me, what it’s all about. Getting out and meeting new people and playing some music.

Ken: It’s funny you make music sort of for yourself, but then you see all these people on Instagram upload the album, the album that we made, it’s really touching. It’s like damn, this guy gets it! [laughs]

Holger: Also the fact that, at least I don’t have any reference of whether is it good is it bad, it’s just something that I like and we like and we think it’s good music and then the fact other people like us is really touching.

Kim: All those personal messages we have over the past month has just been really overwhelming. I think it takes a lot of courage to listen to something and think I’m gonna write to those guys, I’m gonna say this really means something to me.

Especially with new bands, some people still don’t check out new bands.

Kim: Yes you know, it is an oversaturated market and with all the streaming services to even get noticed just a little bit, that just doesn’t happen everyday. We’re really grateful. And talking about the lyrical context and the theme of the whole album like…I joined MØL at a time where I was kind of in a down-low period, so I was burned out with stress so this album kind of is a way of processing that really awful period in my life and that’s just really weird, you know performing those songs live because as a vocalist you’re actually sharing a pretty private place.

So does it become really cathartic to perform it live?

Frederik: It’s amazing to see people share the same feelings.

Kim: I think that’s the essence of both our concepts, much of what we experience of the band is the feeling that you get to get to project or share with the audience. That’s something of substance.

For me personally, when I first heard Jord I just latched onto the emotion and I could just immerse myself in it and then when I did my review, when I read more after I wrote mine everyone else seemed to have the same experience. So it seems a lot of people not necessarily relates to the lyrics, but relates to the emotion that comes out of the music. And I’m really interested to see how that translates live. So how would you describe your live show?

Nicolai: It’s going to be a lot different tonight, it’s quite a smaller stage to what we’re used to. We used to have a light show and also smoke, so it’s going to be…

Frederik: Bare bones tonight.

Holger: But we have a lot of experience with these closer support shows. We did a Europe tour about two years ago, which were mostly sports and smaller places.

Kim: That was before my time so I’m still looking forward to it.

Frederik: We played in an abandoned orphanage which we found out the day after we slept in there overnight.

Ken: So we’re cursed from now on but that’s fine.

Frederik: That was Germany.

Ken: A wine cellar in Paris…some really cool places.

Frederik: Unique experiences.

Ken: The mood kinda changes we often feel the room, sometimes the smaller shows get more intense and ferocious because the sound in general in the room compresses it. Then larger venues are maybe more mellow. It’s kinda reading the room and the sound you have and take it from there.

Kim: I think it’s cool at this point we can encompass both kinda shows, either the more intimate, intense, small pub show and the big live set-up. We recently got a light technician who does some shows with us, they made like a whole LED panel and stuff and we do usually bring strobe lights and fog machines. This will be a bit more plain…

Ken: Straight in your face. But it will be good.

On a last note, so with my blog I focus on new and up and coming bands. Are there any bands on your radar that people should check out?

Frederik: I’ll start, there’s a Norwegian black metal band called CHÊNE. They’re really amazing guys, I really recommend checking them out.

Holger: We’ve been jamming that hard.

Frederik: Their album is called Atlas.

Nicolai: I’m gonna go for a Copenhagen band called WOES, because their second album is really good and they’re kinda this hardcore/melodic hardcore. Really, really good.

Ken: ASTRONOID I guess. It’s not a new band.

Holger: They’re not a new band but they’ve just toured with TESSERACT.

Ken: It’s kinda the same sound as us but much lighter and happier. I think it’s a cool mix. And more symphonic. It shouldn’t work, it’s like spacegaze/powergaze [laughs].

Holger: I know you’ll pick these [Kim] but I’m gonna pick CABAL, from Copenhagen.

Yep, yeah I know them. I reviewed Mark Of Rot then I found out you [Kim] did the artwork…

Kim: Yeah, I have another one. I have some good friends in a band called TELOS and they just released a two track EP called HELIOS/SELÊNÊ.

And there we have it. The history and musical style of MØL explained by the band themselves. They then had to dash off to soundcheck and considering they mentioned the plainer stage show they were anticipating tonight, no one could expect the incredible performance that was to come. My gig review will be up soon. All will be revealed. M