Roundup – May 2018

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

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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

Head With Wings – From Worry To Shame

Release date: 1 June 2018. Self-release.

I’ve been looking forward to this release for a while and it’s safe to say it’s exceeded expectations. If you’re an EARTHSIDE fan then you’re probably already aware of HEAD WITH WINGS as Frank Sacramone and Jamie Van Dyck have been a big part of the writing and production of HEAD WITH WINGS’ work. The band is formed of vocalist/guitarist Joshua Corum and fellow guitarist Brandon Cousino. With the melodic nature of the work and the prog influences, comparisons have been made to PORCUPINE TREE/STEVEN WILSON and KARNIVOOL but I think they extend further from just prog (sorry prog snobs). I’m not denying the prog is there but they are one of those magnificent rock bands who effortlessly transcend the alternative rock realm. I might upset a few people when I say this, but every time I listen to HEAD WITH WINGS it’s like I’m listening to a more conceptual JIMMY EAT WORLD – and I promise that is a good thing. It is the emotion and melodies that HEAD WITH WINGS pull off so flawlessly and the delicate instrumentation beautifully puts the cherry on the cake.

After the first listen of From Worry To Shame the depth of the emotion is quite overwhelming. There’s something about Corum’s voice which is truly mesmerising. If you like soaring melodies then this album has 9 songs chock full of ’em! Corum is at risk of becoming one of rock’s most signature voices and Sacramone’s and Van Dyck’s production wizardry have really helped to heighten the feelings and beautiful accompaniments to create a haunting masterpiece. There is also a significant reason as to why From Worry to Shame is such an important release. 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the kidnap/murder of Corum’s cousin. He wishes to raise awareness of the importance of remaining astute when journeying through life. The album also touches upon other tragic events such as the Sandy Hook massacre and Chesire Home Invasion. Some really heavy topics to draw from, HEAD WITH WINGS do them justice through the storytelling feel of Corum’s lyrics, making their tributes that much more potent.

The opening of the album, Goodbye Sky features all the beautiful components I’ve already touched upon. It is a perfect example of the arresting composure Corum and Cousino exhibit throughout the album. I’ll never forget when I first heard this song, even before I knew the subject matter of the album I was overwhelmed with the vehemence that pours from this track and I had to hold back tears. Words cannot describe how stunning this opening song is, but it is the perfect opener for such a soul-stirring record.

A narrative is tactfully constructed for second track Somewhere, Something Gives; a rock ballad inspired by the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre that occurred in the band’s native Connecticut. I say ballad because the emotive riffs and hushed vocal approach during the verses superbly tackles the sensitive topic. Song theme aside, it’s a solid rock song which submerges the listener in its rich depth of textures. The same could be said for In Memoriam, another ballady type song which erupts into spiralling riffs and climatic melodies.

Now Misanthropy is a bit proggier with its brooding guitars and mystic nature of the poetic lyrics. The way the acoustic strings resonate then burst into electric solos is what dreams are made of. The production is particularly good with this track as the tone of the guitars is warm yet still slightly chilling. Corum’s voice is also well mixed here, it sounds so natural and comfortable nestled amongst the impressive guitar work. The same can be said for the album’s title track; From Worry To Shame has great use of harmonies where every component has its place.

Things turn a bit proggier with post-rock vibes with Beyond The Wall. It is quite a haunting song which turns into a post-rock ditty halfway through. The guitars and Corum’s evocative laments make it one of the darker songs on From Worry To Shame. A contrast then occurs when the upbeat Stepping Stone starts. There’s something summery and shimmery about this track. Where Beyond The Wall was mesmerising with its haunting nature, Stepping Stone is mesmerising in its own relaxed way, it does pick up nearer the end when it becomes a resounding rocky ruckus. It’s become very evident by now that HEAD WITH WINGS are disgustingly talented song writers; catchy, beautiful and haunting, they seem to have found a winning formula.

The last two tracks, In Dark Motel Rooms and Treading Lightly are further examples of brilliant alternative rock perfection. The latter is a fitting finale with its beautiful guitars and poetic storytelling. Featuring a guitar solo from Jamie Van Dyck himself, this was always going to be a special song and a storming conclusion to a spectacular album. The ending of Treading Lightly is the most rousing of all, closing this absolutely staggering debut.

METALMANCE RETROSPECTIVE: Cancer Bats

My thoughts on their spectacular back catalogue.

CANCER BATS  are one of those reliable bands in heavy music. Spouting the grooviest hardcore punk of this century, the band have been shouting and raging for over a decade now. With a fiercely loyal fanbase the ‘BATS have always been close to their supporters and this always adds to their element of fun at their live shows. And what gigs they are! They’re the band I’ve seen the most and it’s always an incredible experience. Five times I’ve seen them and I’m hoping to make that six when I see them at Chinnerys in Southend next month. They crossover many styles and audiences, having oodles of appeal in different scenes. They recently released their sixth album The Spark That Moves as a surprise and it’s stirred all sorts of nostalgia in me. To celebrate the band making a triumphant return I have compiled a retrospective on their back catalogue and included my thoughts and favourite tracks of each album.

Birthing The Giant – 2006

Birthing The Giant

I feel like I’ve grown up listening to CANCER BATS the past 12 years. I first heard of them when Rock Sound magazine featured Golden Tanks on one of their cover mount CDs. I remember listening to this track over and over again in my GCSE Art mock exam, and loving the grooves and energy so much. I then heard French Immersion on a Hassle Records sampler and I knew I just HAD to buy Birthing The Giant the next time I made a trip to my nearest HMV. They instantly became my new favourite band. Despite the fact I cold never imitate Liam Cormier’s yaps I would always shout along and bang my head. I found them so heavy, yet extremely catchy and Scott Middleton’s riffs were so addictive I was completely besotted. I mean, 100 Grand Canyon anyone? You never know whether to dance or to mosh and that’s the beauty of their music.

Favourite track: Pneumonia Hawk. To be honest it could easily be one of the others I’ve just mentioned but this song has a special place in my heart. Still one of the most crushing songs live, CANCER BATS always reduce venues to rubble with this song. Throw in guest vocals from George Pettit from ALEXISONFIRE and you’re onto a winner.

Hail Destroyer – 2008

Hail Destroyer

CANCER BATS recently played four shows at The Underworld, Camden to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this absolute masterpiece. Every song is a gem in its own right with fan favourites being the devastating Sorceress and the fast-paced Pray For Darkness, both absolutely slay live and nothing compares to the poison Cormier spits during the former. The reissue a year later features their incredible covers of TEGAN AND SARA’s So Jealous and THE FAINT’s Agenda Suicide. Both of which are still some of my favourite covers to date.

I think the reason why young people related (and still relate) to Hail Destroyer is the fact it’s a collection of anthems that provide optimism and solidarity. At their live shows they make everyone feel like one big family and that sticks with fans forever. The raucous energy in the recordings are reflected in their live shows which results in utter chaos. I saw CANCER BATS three times while they toured this album and I almost suffocated at one, and blacked out at another. Utter madness.

Favourite track: Harem of Scorpions. One of THE most underrated CANCER BATS songs and one which I’ve never seen them play live. It has a powerful message which resonates with me and a lyric from this is one of my favourites of all time;

“And the greatest thing you’ve ever done, is made yourself truly happy. Not doing it for anyone, it’s your life to live as you choose.”

Couple this with incredible riffs and a guest appearance from RISE AGAINST’s Tim McIlrath and it’s an unstoppable track.

Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones – 2010

Bears Mayors Scraps and Bones

Named after the members’ nicknames, I always felt with this album Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones, CANCER BATS started to go in a sludgier direction. It’s not quite as fast and aggressive as Hail Destroyer which disappointed me initially, but listening to this album now I think I’ve totally taken it for granted. Still heavy as hell and catchier as ever, you’ve got the classics We Are The Undead, Fake Gold, Black Metal Bicycle and Snake Mountain to tickle your fancy. Groovy riffage runs throughout and of course the cherry on the cake is their cover of BEASTIE BOYS’ Sabotage. This cover further propelled them into the mainstream and rightly so, it’s a fantastic cover but I still get annoyed when people say it’s their favourite CANCER BATS song. I think the band have a whole wealth of material that surpasses this, but it is a great example of what CANCER BATS are all about; groovy, punky-hardcore that’s hella addictive and easy to enjoy.

Favourite track: Scared To Death. I think this is three minutes of perfection. So much happens in this song yet it sounds a tad more reserved than shoutier efforts. The way it all tumbles out from the get-go instantly captures your attention. I absolutely adore the pure metal riff after Cormier says “Ask me now I’d say I do”. JUST SO METAL. And let’s not forget we all tried to copy Cormier’s “uh uh – uuhh” but never sounded as cool. CANCER BATS always manage to write one-line anthems and this song has one too;

“I wanna kill everything I fear”.

I always feared CANCER BATS would crumble under the pressure of the success of Hail Destroyer but I needn’t have worried.

Dead Set On Living – 2012

Dead Set On Living

I don’t know how many times I skipped back to the intro of this album but R.A.T.S still sounds bloody HUGE. Probably one of the biggest sounds CANCER BATS have ever made, yet I feel this is the album which always gets overlooked. I think one reason for this, and this is only my personal opinion, is that the band sound a bit detached from their fanbase on this record. It’s a bit more of a straight-up metallic hardcore output but it’s got a few more doomy influences, such as the song The Void. You got some classic Middleton riffs on Drunken Physics and Rally The Wicked, but I find the album is missing an ‘anthem’. New World Alliance or R.A.T.S could arguably be treated as such but they’re not as in your face as previous efforts. All in all, this is till a very interesting and well written record, listening back to it now I feel like I’m listening to it for the first time.

Favourite track: Old Blood, because once again Middleton becomes extremely close to stealing the show with his riffing. I think the feel of this song harks back to their early days, with a little more balls. The gang vocals give it a cool hardcore feel and the energy is infectious.

Searching For Zero – 2015

Searching For Zero

This is probably the album I’ve connected with the least. That’s not exactly a criticism but I thought CANCER BATS had lost some of their oomph with Searching For Zero. I always thought this album was more doom metal than hardcore and the old school mix effect made it hard for me to digest. Songs like All Hail and Beezlebub still had a groovy riff and that CANCER BATS charm but tracks like Dusted and Cursed With A Conscious were always lost on me. It was interesting to see when they toured this album, the audience was no longer punk rock kids, but the band’s old school fans who had grown up into fully fledged adults. The gigs were still crazy but not as [cancer]batshit crazy like I was used to. I was always worried this album spelled the end of CANCER BATS but luckily, I was wrong…

Favourite track: True Zero. This song didn’t really ‘click’ with me until I saw them play it live. I’m not a massive fan of the verse and the overuse of reverb but it’s stupidly catchy and Cormier’s grit during the chorus is absolutely captivating. There are still glimpses of old CANCER BATS in this song and that’s what I always clung on to.

The Spark That Moves – 2018

Precision 12 Inch Jacket Template

When CANCER BATS surprised the world with the release of The Spark That Moves, I was a little apprehensive to give it a listen after the disappointment of Searching For Zero. I needn’t have been concerned because The Spark That Moves is clearly the best thing CANCER BATS have done since Hail Destroyer, and I’m not alone in this belief. The Canadian group have returned to their old roots and kicked all doubt out the window. Each track also has a unique music video to accompany the album which makes this record an audio and visual treat for all music fans. The energy and pace reflects that of their earlier albums with tracks like Brightest DaysRattlesnake and Can’t Sleep sounding like they wouldn’t be out of place on Birthing The Giant and Hail Destroyer. From the opening riff of Gatekeeper, you are hooked. This album is also the first record for a while CANCER BATS have got guest vocalists involved such as Jenna Priestner of MOBINA GALORE on Rattlesnake (the first female vocals on a CANCER BATS record?) and the amazing Chris Hannah from PROPAGANDI on the last track, Winterpeg which is just a fabulous finale. An all round fun album that has brought CANCER BATS to the forefront of hardcore punk again.

Favourite track: Bed Of Nails. I absolutely adore how this track begins, from the vocals to the groovy riff. This song actually ends up featuring some of Cormier’s ‘melodic’ vocals which emphasises the heavier lyric of “Before I die I’ll live forever”. CANCER BATS sound like they have got their mojo back and the anthems are back in full force.

 

 

Employed To Serve/Conjurer/God Complex/Nervewrecker

The Waterfront Studio, Norwich. 16 May 2018.

Queuing outside The Waterfront this evening was an interesting affair, with hardcore kids and metalheads standing in line with quite a few of East Anglia’s middle aged folk. Why exactly? Well Heather Small was playing the other room tonight which encouraged a few impressions of “What have you done today to make you feeeeel proud?”. Well Heather, I’m not necessarily proud of what I’ve done, but I am proud of my bros in NERVEWRECKER. You might remember I recently reviewed their latest EP Murmur and it was great to finally see them when they opened the gig tonight. As it was a Wednesday evening the Waterfront Studio was slowly filling up but it was great to see local support for the Norwich doom lads. It was going to be one of those nights where people stand a mile away from the front but after a couple of songs there was enough nodding of heads to show at least the punters were enjoying it. “This is a fast one!” quipped vocalist Ed Bell before the band plunged into the slowest song EVER. In a live setting the majority of songs sounded like the same chord, add this to the band being submerged in smoke and you’ve got a doom fan’s paradise. They’re impeccably fun to watch, pulling out all the moves like a band 1000x faster, but they won over a new legion of fans to tonight.

After NERVEWRECKER we all needed a boot up the bum to wake us up out of our doom trance. Luckily the steel-toed boot came in the form of GOD COMPLEX and my word, they captured our attention. They reminded me of early EVERY TIME I DIE and their energy on stage was contagious. Frontman Harry Rule struts and raves and holds his head in his hands like a man possessed but it’s bassist Alex Chan who steals the hearts with his expressions and stage presence. They had a terrific grungy turn part way through the set which made me think of CANE HILL and I loved it. A fantastic set, they ended up being an unexpected highlight for me and proof it’s always worth seeing opening bands (I never understand why people go out of their way to avoid opening acts). One British band to watch for sure.

CONJURER were up next and things took a heavier and more serious turn. They were flawless and incredibly impressive, with vocalist/guitarist Dan Nightingale opting to scream without a microphone at one point which earnt him top points for stage presence. The band were tight and you could see why they’re getting a great reputation in the scene. The next time I see them on a tour, I’d be extremely surprised if they weren’t headlining. Amazing.

The Waterfront Studio had filled up quite a bit more by the time the main event was about to start. EMPLOYED TO SERVE got on stage with their matching Warmth Of A Dying Sun windbreakers and the aesthetic worked because they sure as hell looked like a band, a unit. When they played they blew me away with their confidence and charisma and they played with the same professionalism as a band who have been doing this for decades. The mix was spot on and they sounded just like they do on record. Guitarist Sammy Urwin demanded the crowd get involved and people finally wormed their way to the front. Mostly playing songs from last year’s Warmth Of A Dying Sun, EMPLOYED TO SERVE gave it their all and vocalist Justine Jones sounded equally as brutal as she does on the CD. Only a few minutes into their set you could understand why there is so much hype surrounding them. A disgustingly heavy and talented band who can deliver the goods live – what’s not to like? When the opening riff for their finale, I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away) rang out, the venue descended into chaos (should be noted no gig is a gig without a man doing the worm in the middle of the pit). A spectacular gig, these British hopes are destined for great things. Catch them live in small venues while you still can.

Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope

Label: Holy Roar Records. Release date: 25 May 2018.

The Bristolian quartet SVALBARD are proving to be a gem in the British metal scene. It’s Hard To Have Hope, the band’s second album is sure to propel the band further in high esteem. A band who do not shy away from tough topics, it would be easy to fall in the trap of focussing on the song titles and lyrical content, but the band’s music is just as hard-hitting. So much aggression AND passion has been poured into this album, I genuinely think it’s going to blow everyone away.

Starting with a topic most of our generation can unfortunately relate to, Unpaid Intern is as angry and aggressive you feel when you’re confronted with the pessimistic job prospects of today. What I find exciting about SVALBARD is their ability to avoid being pigeonholed. Hardcore is present, as well as post-rock riffs and black metal musings…and that’s just the beginning. I think this diversity hopefully predicts the longevity and accessibility of the band, as they will comfortably flow from one scene to another and it’s sometimes the crossover bands who achieve the most awesome things. Unpaid Intern is a perfect example of what SVALBARD are all about.

The dual vocals of guitarists Serena Cherry and Liam Phelan have a nostalgic KYLESA feel about them. I’ve always thought Cherry sounds a cross between Laura Pleasants and WALL OF JERICHO’s Candace Kucsulain. One of the most unforgiving female vocalists around, Cherry often steals the show on this record with her screams and hushed vocals. The latter can be heard at the beginning and end of second track, Revenge Porn. If the subject matter wasn’t so serious I would dare to call this song beautiful. A disgusting yet current topic, this song is complimented by the equally damning approach the band take with their delivery. A black metal influence is strong here, with its soundscapes and hectic drumming. Comparisons to OATHBREAKER could easily be made here but you can understand why label mates MØL will be joining SVALBARD as support for a few of their forthcoming shows, as they both have that glorious post-black metal sound.

Feminazi?! continues the black metal feeling with the drums and riffs sounding like WINTERFYLLETH and ENSLAVED. It is quite spectacular and once the middle eight kicks in you will be well and truly under SVALBARD’s spell. After two strong opening songs, this track keeps up the pace and gives It’s Hard To Have Hope a further, darker edge. Things slow down a notch with the opening of Pro-Life?!; Cherry sounds like she is channelling her inner MYRKUR, but things accelerate again in the usual black/post metal manner. The laidback moments shine and emphasise the heavier parts.

Next track For The Sake Of The Breed is one of the album’s highlights for sure. It rages HARD. It charges, drops, crashes and has the most brilliant pacing, bringing back those KYLESA vibes again. Things take more of a post-hardcore turn with How Do We Stop It? There is something about this song that feels different to the others. There’s less urgency but the emotions feel deeper, giving the track a heightened aura of importance. Similar can be said for Try Not To Die Until You’re Dead; the pace and delivery is modest and eerily mesmerising, but bursts of determination crash through with triumphant riffs and passionate vocals. This could be a dark horse to be fan favourite.

The album finale Iorek is an entirely different beast. It is an instrumental wonder, taking influence from post-rock and even indie, it provides light to the dark intensity of the record. The bright riffs create shimmering soundscapes and shine hope on the darkness. It provides a stunning conclusion to an incredible album. The organic production of It’s Hard To Have Hope ensures the gritty tunes retain their rawness. Beautifully constructed and executed, SVALBARD have potentially made a modern classic. The British underground scene is bursting with potential and SVALBARD are worming their way to be the cream of the crop.

Broken Girls From Affluent Backgrounds – Fiction Will See Us Through

Release date: 25 May 2018.

Ever feel nostalgic for the glory days of GRATITUDE and CIRCA SURVIVE? Well luckily BROKEN GIRLS FROM AFFLUENT BACKGROUNDS fill that void. With second EP Fiction Will See Us Through, they will hopefully attract a larger audience with their stunning and heartfelt post-rock and ambient-infused rock. The four piece from Phoenix, Arizona write irresistible melodies with twinkly riffs and poetic lyrics that make you lust for the days of NIGHTMARE OF YOU.

Opening with the blissful Bridges, the melodies resonate like those of CIRCA SURVIVE. The mesmerising riffs are very MINUS THE BEAR, giving a sun-drenched feel to proceedings. A very well executed track, it’s a good taster of the quality work that BGFAB offer.

Next track Ghosts of Self might possibly be my favourite track on the EP. The shoegaze tones are to die for, with bands like MY VITRIOL and SILVERSUN PICKUPS springing to mind. The music may seem quite simple, yet it is so beautiful and charming it is impossible not to appreciate what BGFAB are doing here. The production isn’t too polished and that’s exactly the right approach as the songs are so organic and precious that if they were overworked they would lose their innocent charm.

Long Lost is a bit of a belter. With a soaring chorus and its brooding verses, it’s a gem! The atmospheric guitars sound like the more melodic end of MAYBESHEWILL and with the rumbling bass and accompanying drums it is all a winning combination.

Exit Sign is especially blissful. The opening sounds like the love child of MINUS THE BEAR and OPEN HAND and it continues to be absolutely perfect. The hushed vocals and shoegaze guitars sound like the soundtrack to a daydream. If there was an aural equivalent for a cheeky snooze in the sunshine, then this would be it.

The finale of Fiction Will See Us Through is suddenly upon us in the form of Blind Spot and it is a bit of a slow burner which takes a couple of listens to fully appreciate. Featuring the title of the EP in the lyrics, it’s a reminder of the poetic prowess of the band. At times it feels a little like JIMMY EAT WORLD which is always a glorious thing. The ending is a fantastic post-rock soundscape which brings the EP to a spectacular close. You may find yourself sitting there dazed, wishing it wasn’t over so soon . That’s the beauty of a fantastic record. With Fiction Will See Us Through, BGFAB are teasing the world with the magical tunes they have the ability to conjure. More please!