Gig Review: Doyle / The Dead XIII / Ward XVI – The Lounge, London, 7/4/18

Doyle

Opening tonight’s show are Ward XVI, an enthusiastic theatrical/folk-metal bunch. Their lead singer braves the early crowd and manages to get a line of people dancing a jig mid-set, and one gets the feeling they’re here to enjoy themselves. Though their presence doesn’t quite fill the decent sized venue, they give a determined first performance.

Now we’re all in the swing of things, The Dead XIII stride onto the stage, bringing with them a foreboding air. Painted faces loom over us in the darkened room. Their selection of gloomy-yet-synthy horror metal tracks buzz through the venue, sepulchral vocals backed by menacing guitars. The room abounds with wild hair flying in all directions. They get the energy flowing and successfully achieve their self-proclaimed target of preparing everyone for tonight’s headliners.

Doyle are our grand finale tonight, but unfortunately they’re not quite as, well, grand as one would expect. There’s no denying that the band is made up of talented musicians who put energy into their performance, but considering they have been through various incarnations to get here they lack a definitive sound – instead they fluctuate from generic metal, to Rob Zombie, to Pantera-tribute-band. There isn’t even a coherent style to their appearance, sort of like they all turned up for a different party. The crowd manage a decent level of enthusiasm, though it could have been infinitely more had lead singer Alex Story not absent-mindedly mumbled the words “this is a love song, you can dance if you want to” before every single song. Despite this the set is an entertaining one, though probably not for all of the right reasons.

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Gig Review: Halflives / Finding Kate / Elswhere – London, 9/1/2018

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After a literally string-breaking warm-up, local band Elswhere embark upon an absorbing opening set, showcasing their very own brand of alternative-rock with flares of influences as diverse as metal, pop-punk and hip-hop. Vocals range from rapping, to melodic singing, to screaming; it seems there is nothing that this band won’t turn their hand to. Many would falter under such a wide-ranging repertoire but it works for them. They even produce a cover of Post Malone’s Rockstar and manage to make it sound like a half-decent song. They set the bar high for the rest of the bands; and certainly aren’t matched in terms of unique style.

Melodic metal follow-up Finding Kate take the stage to a large crowd, and please them with a fairly energetic set full of long, drawn-out, powerful vocal notes and heavy guitar/drum mixes. Their style does seem to be quite confined within their genre and some of the songs do have the unfortunate quality of blending into each other. However, they are certainly accomplished at what they do and their set is definitely entertaining.

Headliners Halflives bring a more pop-rock feel to the night; with the calming quality of singer Linda’s voice giving it a stand-out quality which it may otherwise have lacked. They instil the most life into the room, getting the crowd to clap, sing, jump along and call for an en-core. Two cover songs – MCR’s Welcome To The Black Parade and 30STM’s The Kill – fall flat, being frankly an odd choice considering that both songs are so well-loved that any attempt to cover them would not be adequate. Overall, an enjoyable set, but definitely better when they stick to their own songs.

Elswhere: 8/10. Finding Kate: 7/10. Halflives: 7.5/10.

Top 10 Albums of 2017 by Genre

As we near the end of 2017, here’s our rundown of our favourite albums from 10 genres…

Alternative Rock

Creeper – Eternity, In Your Arms

Creeper’s first full album had a lot of expectation placed upon it, riding on the back of the hype built up by their theatrical story of The Stranger and the disappearance of James Scythe. The record is certainly impressive, retaining their ability to make you feel nostalgic about a time, a place and events that have never even happened. The modern rock ‘n’ roll style is best showcased in Suzanne and Hiding With The Boys, while the well-loved ballad Misery is re-released. Only occasionally can it feel like they’re trying a little too hard, such as with the overly ‘inspirational’ I Choose To Live. On the whole, however, it is easy to see why an entire cult has formed around this band.

Pop Rock

Lower Than Atlantis – Safe In Sound

Safe In Sound certainly seems to have been produced with radio play in mind to a much greater extent than their previous releases, meaning that LTA lose some of the raw elements of their earlier sound. This secures them as more of a pop-rock band, but allows an abundance of big, catchy choruses and strong melodies. Each song seems to vary from the last and stand alone in its own right.

 

Melodic Rock

Of Allies – Night Sky

Of Allies’ self-funded debut album builds on the sound defined by their first two EPs – haunting melodic vocals, melancholic opening notes and powerful choruses – to produce impressive tracks such as 17, Collapse and Lost Not Found. However, it also includes new elements, most notably the punk influences on CMD-Q. The theatricality has also been ramped up to give it a more immersive feel. It seems that a full album has given them the freedom to experiment and further distinguish themselves from the pack. 2018 will surely be a big year for them.

Indie Rock

Nothing But Thieves – Broken Machine

The second release from Nothing But Thieves builds on their first, with vocals ranging from soothing melodies to towering cries upon a backdrop which channels the usual indie-rock sounds but gives them a distinctly modern feel. The contemporary theme also runs to the lyrics, which will no doubt appeal to the young generation. The whole thing has been intricately put together as one entity rather than merely a number of individual songs, each element with its own sense of drama.

Mainstream Rock

Asking Alexandria – self titled

The return of Danny Worsnop sees AA take on a rather new sound in their fifth album, beginning a move away from their metalcore beginnings and towards a more arena-filling rock sound. The lyrics throughout have a very personal touch, relating to the singer’s experiences during his time away from – and returning to – the band. The record winds alternately through heavy, anthemic, and ballad-like tracks, and though it can feel a little uncertain in its trajectory at times, this is certainly the beginning of something new and exciting from the band.

Hardcore

Rise Against – Wolves

The melodic-hardcore quartet retain the essence of their sound and their politically charged lyrics, whilst adding in diverse elements where punk roots meet with pop undertones. It is not as heavy as some of their previous releases, and can take a few listens to fully appreciate, but the energy and talent behind it ensure that it stands as an impressive headliner for the genre.

Modern Metal

Never Found – The Human Condition

Never Found’s debut album came crashing into existence in 2017, feeling like they’ve managed to successfully capture all of the hatred and anger at the world that they’ve been trying to express since their first EP. This is channelled into an impressive, well put-together album which includes rock, metal and punk influences, and even a secret ballad at the end of the physical CD. Songs such as Misanthropy – a fan favourite at their live shows – finally get an outing on record, and are all the more impressive for it.

Metalcore

While She Sleeps – You Are We

The album that is finally pushing While She Sleeps into the limelight is a self-funded release that manages to stay true to their original sound. The slashing main vocals and forceful riffs keep their raw edge as the record is not over-produced, but experimental touches such as the rapping on Steal The Sun ensure that it is full of variety. It also features guest vocals from Oli Sykes of BMTH on Silence Speaks.

Melodic Metalcore

Motionless In White – Graveyard Shift

Reflecting on their past but taking their music in a more experimental direction with some new sounds, Graveyard Shift shows that MIW are not willing to sit back and let things come easily. Heavy, breakdown-filled songs such as The Ladder and 570 contrast rock ‘n’ roll/nu-metal influenced Loud (Fuck It) and emotional anthem Eternally Yours. The usual industrial influences are still abundant, but this definitely feels like something fresh.

Mainstream Metal

Trivium – The Sin and the Sentence

The latest release from Trivium manages to meld together some of the best elements from their often hit-and-miss backlog, putting a new spin on them to give it an up-to-date sound. The classic sounding clean vocals become increasingly prominent, and provide a pleasing contrast to the more modern harsh screams. Abundant riffs fill the songs, the majority of which are rather lengthy. A band as well-known as them could have gone down a more commercial route, but it has certainly played in their favour that they did not.

EP Review: Never Found – The Human Condition

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The second instalment from punk-metal quartet Never Found comes more than two years after they released their first EP ‘Sorrow and Cyanide’. The time in between has been spent touring; sharing a stage with bands such as Aiden and FVK has allowed them to hone their talents. New EP ‘The Human Condition’ provides an exploration of the effect humanity’s worst elements can have on a person. The genuine lyrics demonstrate a band who are not afraid to put their soul into their music, and it pays off.

Recent single Come to Me opens the record with an explosion of vocals, the dynamic guitars sending the fires spiralling upwards in time with the forceful beat. Not quite out of control but dangerous. Favourite Mistake feels the full force of the blaze; full of anger but also devastation, like burning and drowning at the same time. From all of this emerges The Monster Remains, a creature formed from the ruins of the destruction. Its vengeful lyrics couple with driving drums to create a heated energy that infects the listener, forcing them to take pleasure in the monster’s revenge on the things that created it.

Anyone but Me’s conflicted lyrics don’t slow the power of the beast. The standout guitars and perfectly timed hang in the chorus ensure that it keeps everyone’s attention. Penultimate song My Grave has a more decisive feel than before, embracing the life it has whether that will ultimately lead to greatness or ruin. A song that will go down very well at live shows, with a menacing breakdown that is impossible to resist. The grand finale Misanthropy is an ultimate defiant stance, quite literally saying ‘fuck you’ to the world. Atmospheric yet heavier than the previous songs, its ferocious vocals will haunt your spirit until you give in and listen to the whole thing over again.

There’s also one final surprise in store, but only for those who buy the physical CD. The secret song at the end of Misanthropy is a stripped back ballad which shows a rare glimpse into the ‘good’ side of the monster, the side that still has some hope for the world. The fact that this song is a lot harder to find than the others seems to emphasise how far deep down this feeling is hidden.

You can find ‘The Human Condition’ at http://neverfound.bigcartel.com/product/the-human-condition-cd, as well as on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify. Check out the video for Come to Me below.

 
Score: 8.5/10
Listen to: Misanthropy

 

Album Review: Without Andrew – ‘With Great Power Comes Great Irresponsibility’

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Without Andrew are a three-piece Manchester punk band who already have five years of experience in the music industry (with various line-up changes) despite their young ages. Their first full album Let’s Boo Boo was released around two years ago and they’ve since played a sold-out home show and supported bands such as Ashestoangels, William Control and The Dead XIII. Never feeling the need to stick to convention, their live shows and lyrics can be relied upon to be entertaining.

New album With Great Power Comes Great Irresponsibility has been a DIY production due to financial issues, but the band say they are immensely proud to have accomplished this. It comes after a tough two years in which the band nearly broke up. Commenting on this, drummer and backing vocalist Mat states:

“Our new album… is what we are referring to as a bit of a ‘comeback’ album, if you will. We’ve had a rough two years in which the band almost split up due to drama and tension within the band, which made this album somehow very special. The problems sparked songs and the songs sparked an urge to put out the best damn thing we could; we have touched on topics we never dreamed we would and have opened ourselves up in ways we didn’t think we would. This album has turned into something we are all super proud of. It takes a slightly different tone in comparison to our first album; it’s darker, heavier and not as whimsical, although, as you can tell by the art, we haven’t lost our fun side!”

The album certainly has the punk feel we’ve been promised; occasionally straying a little too far into Green-Day-mode but with more than enough originality to get away with it. They’ve certainly matured their sound since the last record, without having compromised on personality or the interesting song titles (see Who Hurt Lionel Richie.) Right from the start Wheel and Neverwinter throw catchy hooks at us by the bucketload, the type that get you singing along before you even realise you’ve picked up the lyrics. There’s instantly a strangely classic-yet-modern sound about it, how one would imagine the original punk bands to have sounded if they’d begun to make music today. Braindead adds an interesting pinch of harsher vocal style and more pop-punk guitars, all accompanied by lyrics about “fucked up braindead youth” which one can imagine being enthusiastically screamed back at them at a live show. No Escape also has the feel of something which could easily catch on, its fast pace ensuring a lively response. Dirty Rotten Liar produces a more relaxed tempo, but this doesn’t stop the powerful chorus rousing your emotions. The most forlorn track of the record is unquestionably Time Turner, but rather than being merely the token “sad song” of the record it has a sincerity to the lyrics which isn’t difficult to identify. The vocals prove increasingly versatile as the record goes on, and one notices how good the whole thing sounds for a self-produced album. There’s certainly a lot more to come from Without Andrew.

Score: 8 / 10

Listen to: Braindead

 

Harbour Sharks Release Ferocious New Video ‘The Killer Inside Me’

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The Killer Inside Me is the first track released from Kingston alt-metal band Harbour Sharks’ upcoming debut album. The band have spent two years touring and perfecting their sound since forming in 2015, producing the grizzly, rhythmic riffs and powerful vocals present in this track. They should appeal to fans of Beartooth, A Day To Remember and Stone Sour.

When asked about the themes behind the song, the band explain:

The Killer Inside Me is about the thought process of a serial killer with a split personality who feels hard done by and struggles to act on their instincts. The killer eventually reasons that as humans we are insignificant, yet vows to never feel this way as he doesn’t feel he fits in with human normality. Although we don’t condone the acts of serial killers, we feel that this is a song for anyone who has ever felt outcast or humiliated in social norms that they can relate to.”

The video further encapsulates this theme with its portrayal of a man who is clearly such an outcast and its depiction of his disturbed mental state. It is an excellent overall piece and we highly recommend checking it out.

EP Review: Seasonal – ‘Bloom’

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‘Bloom’ is the five-track debut EP from Guildford quartet Seasonal. It is intended as an exploration of the trials and tribulations involved in growing up in the UK, based on the personal experiences of the band. Their pop-rock sound should appeal to fans of You Me At Six, Kids In Glass Houses and Five Seconds Of Summer.

The record has a reminiscent tone; opening up a vivid window to past experiences most of us can relate to. Their style isn’t something that instantly smacks of being totally unique, but has the ability to infiltrate the senses and make limbs start bouncing along. Latest single Headphones has a distinct singalong quality, its upbeat tune wrapping you in a warm blanket of nostalgia. The catchy riffs of These Games give it a little more of a rock aura, whilst Certainty opens with much gentler guitars merging into a lively song which retains a laidback beat. Ranger‘s added emotion is especially perceptible through its repeated lyrics assuring listeners “you’re not alone”, emphasised by the strong, building beat. Final track Homeward has a calmer, dejected tune which grows ultimately towards an impassioned chorus and a sense of closure. An appropriate ending.

The record feels like it would have fairly wide appeal, especially to a younger crowd. Check out ‘Headphones’ – the latest single from the EP – below.

Score: 7/10

Listen to: Ranger