Employed To Serve, Greyer Than You Remember, Album Review
Holy Roar Records have released some great albums in the last few years and seem to have a knack for discovering great UK talent; Employed to Serve certainly fit well with their current roster which also includes Pariso, Svalbard and Rolo Tomassi amongst others. Greyer Than You Remember is a dark ride; quirky, technical, hardcore with metallic riffage which thunders and squeals under Justine’s powerful screams. The sound is meaty and often verging on dischordant, not an easy listen then, but this isn’t pop music so you get what you signed up for, on balance it’s nasty and powerful but also full of surprises (in a good way).
For the most part the record is intense and relies heavily on technical riffage, each moment is packed with noise and lyrically it feels pretty bleak at times, the occasional foray into the epic and cinematic brings you out of the gloom though. Once such moment is Bones To Break, the pace is slowed and a warmer more dreamy guitar sound takes over, bringing an almost cinematic touch, what a great track.
This reprieve is brief however and we are soon blasted back into the fray with twanging power chords and the intensity of those in your face screams on the next track, the album rarely lets up on the frenetic pacing, but if you’re in the right frame of mind its an intoxicating and addictive blend of nastiness. It’s been a while since I heard anything this intense and its reminded me how liberating heavy music can be.
The album finishes on another of those epic notes with As Cold As The Rest bringng back the widescreen feel with some restrained guitar work, spoken word vocals and what sounds like rain or static in the background, again it works as a great counterpoint to the downtuned crunchiness of the rest of the track and makes you wonder where they might be headed on future releases, I’m sold. Employed to Serve’s debut album is released on 25th May on Holy Roar Records.
Steve Von Till‘s fourth solo outing is a beautiful journey into Americana with his distinctively gruff vocal delivery leading the way along with sparse acoustic guitar sounds. This record has kept me company many times leading up to this review, becoming part of my day to day listening and a welcome change of pace as I seem to have been listening to an inordinate amount of Punk lately. It is a powerful record, a warm and comforting set of songs that work better as a whole rather than on shuffle in amongst a random selection of artists; listening to a whole album is something that I haven’t been doing enough of recently, and these tracks really encourage that as they sit together so comfortably.
I was a late comer to Von Til’s other band Neurosis, so his solo work along with Harvestman and Tribes of Neurot have not been on my radar before, however this is not a record that requires baggage to help it shine, it stands on its own as an engaging work. As Americana often does, this album conjures up a dramatic atmosphere, creating an introspective mood; the production is full of echoes, creating an expansive tone, full of possibilities and mystery. The acoustic guitar and vocal base are fleshed out with electric guitar, strings and percussion – the electric guitar is distorted and open, ringing out in the distance, and vintage synth softens and adds melodic elements. The extra instruments are added in perfect balance, only used when they will enhance a moment, add a bit of dramatic flair or help a track through a crescendo, so they work in harmony with the gentle feel of the rest.
This is a record that feels steeped in the past, in folklore; evoking a dreamy, dusty place full of shared memories that you want to linger in, I recommend listening loud and in full whenever you get the chance.
A Life Unto Itself is released on 11th May through Neurot Recordings.
Pleasingly gruff vocals, discordant riffage and hard hit, hypnotic and often complex drum patterns flesh out this great punk rock album from the Seattle based four piece. I hear hints of Fugazi and Rites of Spring, alongside more contemporary sounds like Fucked Up and Drug Church in the record; a dark mood penetrates, but flashes of melody and some hooky moments keep the album from being bogged down in melancholy.
As well as the stand out dumming, the bass lines are superb, adding so much to each track – rich and rumbling away warmly at the core of each tune, they also add an extra layer of melody. Fast and complex bass riffs when done right are always impressive and Gwen Stubbs really nails it.
There are moments on the record that feel almost timeless, Lowest is one, where classic (Dischord) hardcore style drums and riffs meet a tune that sounds fresh and new and then a flash of odd (synth?) noise takes over the ending before seaguing into the next track. The album works perfectly well at 9 tracks but the version I have for review includes four extras; a remix of the opener Leaves which doesn’t really add anything essential to an already cracking track to warrant its inclusion and even stranger are 3 radio edits of tracks that are also on the record, all are entirely unnecessary additions and spoil the flow of the LP.
BloodDrugs was released on April 14th 2015 through Good to Die Records. It’s a release that caught me by surprise, but one I’ve been coming back to quite a bit in recent weeks. Worth a look.
Musical highlights from 11th April’s one day Dimsŵn festival; this is the little sister of the Sŵn three/four day festival held in Cardiff in October, (this year confirmed to be in November due to event clashes in the City). Last year, Sŵn held it’s first all-dayer, and by all accounts it was a success, leading to a second batch of bands heading to Cardiff this Saturday, I thought I’d head down and give it the once over.
Things kicked off early afternoon and carried on into the small hours with club nights and DJ sets taking over, as usual there was a mix of bands from home and away and with a variety of genres to chose from. From 3pm in Undertone a trio of punk bands kept me coming back inbetween some tasty craft ales.
Twisted in particular were impressive. I missed them recently when they played at the DIY Cardiff gig with Caves so it was great to get another chance to check them out. Livi’s off kilter semi-spoken bark also somehow manages to carry a tune and they nail the short sharp but fun side of punk brilliantly, they seemed tense at the start but soon eased into the set. Another higlight for me was WaLL, a more abrasive, scuzzy alt-rock feel here and plenty of fuck-you attitude, it really didn’t seem to matter if they had an audience or not, however their front man did apologise to me after he trod on my foot during one of his flailing adventures off stage, so I feel it may have been mostly for the show. Bloody Knees were entertaining, bit poppy for me but worked the crowd well, plenty of stage presence from their frontman and Shinies also stood out; dreamy indie rock and a tight performance.
The one day version of Sŵn is harder to do if, like myself, you are not with a group of friends, the gaps between sets were 45 minutes meaning you couldn’t stay in one place for long as the venues all cleared out at the end of each performance and I found myself watching bands I wasn’t keen on whilst waiting for other venues to get set up. Lesson learned for me I think, but overall it was a solid event.
Poppy, female-fronted indie punks Alright hail from Charlotte, NC (USA) and feature members of Late Bloomer and It Looks Sad. Truthfully it was the Late Bloomer connection that drew me in in the first place but this self-titled EP (released on 24th March via Negative Fun) is a really sweet release with light fuzz on the guitars, simple yet catchy melodies and a light, breezy feel.
The more straightforwardly poppy Mixed Signals opens the EP, bouncy, with a punk edge, it’s fun, catchy and easy to sing along with. Cold Feet is fuzzier and slightly reminiscent of (the recently defunct) Bleeding Rainbow in that it has a more indie/shoegaze feel and unfussy production.
Watercolors is my top pick, it has a cracking melody and doesn’t rush to get going, but when it does it transports you. This track has a moody tone compared to the others and the instrumental section midway wrings goosebumps which continue with the vocal refrain at the close. The mood is successfully lightened again with Pollen & Allergies for the end of the record, making you want to re-spin it straight away.
This isn’t groundbreaking stuff but I’m hooked; the sweet, simple honesty of the tracks combined with great vocals and melodies is perfectly balanced.
It’s been 4 years since we’ve heard from Maths and this return sees them in great form with a solid release; new EP The Fires Courting The Sea is 6 tracks in just 11 minutes, a fast trip through their brand of screamo/hardcore. It may pass quickly but the journey is a satisfying one – tuneful tracks with great vocal interplay, stop/start rhythms and off kilter riffage.
Tracks like Last Night Silhouette sound like the start of an Envy epic, yet at 1 minute 56 it leaves you wanting more – they pack alot into these short tunes; changes of rhythm and tempo, fiddly riffage and a variety of vocal styles keep things interesting and leave plenty to discover on repeated play-throughs.
The EP is released on 12” vinyl (limited edition grey / black / white marble) and digital formats through Tangled Talk Records on 23rd March.
The London based purveyors of dark rock have created an addictive record in Viper Smoke; fittingly, online research on the band tends to just throw up pages on the unsolved Taman Shud case from the 40s, which would no doubt appeal to the band’s dark sensibilities.
The four piece have an interest in the occult and this carries through to the sound on the album with the moody yet tuneful rock mixed with psychedelic drones and unintelligible lyrics punctuating the murky washes of organ and twin bass. The feel is not otherworldly as such but certainly from the darker side of our world, somewhere infinitely more exotic than wherever we happen to be.
The record creates its own space, especially through headphones, an all encompassing spacey zone; the production – epic yet almost claustrophobic at the same time, the distorted vocals, twin bass and gothic atmosphere, create a place you don’t want to step out of, a space away from the banal and mundane, something all the best records manage.
This is a record that should be listened to in one sitting however there are a few tunes you tend to remember: the superb The Hex Inverted with its pounding bass and drums combo wrapped in distortion and intense vocals is a highlight, as is the punkier I Tego Arkana Dei and Crime Cycle (previously heard on the split with Fat White Family) has a spooky, odd rumbling in the background that makes you think someone is talking behind you. Fantastic.
I don’t often say this, but Super Luxury’s debut album benefits from cleaner prduction, OK it’s not slick, but it is at least cleaner than their 2013 EP Mystery Thriller Teen Drama. The Leeds 5 piece have a warm and fuzzy noise rock undertone (with the odd blast of discord) topped by meaty classic rock riffage and shouty vocals – trust me it works. The production here really brings out the riffs but still lets you hear the tunes, and they do pen some corkers; take Constant Delicious where a hooky riff and hypnotic rhythm make for a catchy tune with classic rock undertones, it’s super catchy.
The record takes a little while to get going on the first listen, with opener 25 Meters’ harsh distorted wash of noise laden with squeals of feedback feeling oddly like a long intro, even at 4 minutes; but then when a foot stomping riff comes in you get a hint of what is to come later and the promise is good.
Ian Mckaye Made So Much Money Out Of Fugazi He Lives In A Solid Gold House… is one of the highlights, starting a run of excellent tunes for the middle section of the record. This is where it feels like the album starts to pick up steam and everything begins to pull together. The best tunes include Golden Climbing and Milk Sauce. The former is initially marked by intense squealing before calming into a dreamy/sludgy but tuneful track. The latter produces a great menacing rock and roll feel with some serious downtuning and off kilter, distorted shouting. Salem Tears is another worth mentioning, again, hypnotic drums which seem to force you to move and a simple vocal line, (this time dual shouts layer up) is easy to join in with.
There is some great stuff on this record, it seems to sum up the diversity of British rock at the moment; so many different styles and influences blending to create poweful yet melodic tunes you can rock out to.
Released via Topshelf/Bridge 9 Records on 27th January, this looks to the be last release from Caravels as they have just announced they are to split; it’s a shame as I haven’t checked them out before and I like what I’ve heard from them here. The two tracks they put forward are beautiful dreamy post-hardcore; shouted vocals (reminiscent of mewithoutYou) over soaring, crystal clear guitars; the tracks have a sadness to them but at the same time the earnest feel is counteracted by the organic and dream-like structures and production, this is goosebump territory.
Octaves are as always punchy, intense and backed by some great technical riffage – compared to their Bridge 9 debut back last year these tracks feel more enthusiastic, embued with a renewed energy, and (cleaner production aside) reminding me more of their fantastic debut album Greener Pastures. The opening moments of Tom Petty Cash build exquisitely to a beautiful riff before the drums pound out their takeover and the vocals power in; great start. The track itself plays out with an almost prog-rock structure; little interludes and heavier sections woven together, along with changes of key and pace. Can’t get enough of it. AM Traffic Control is darker with soaring guitars, more discordant and with a fantastic sax (?) freaking out in one section, this track is layered with powerful riffs creating an intense wall of sound.
With quality tracks from both bands this is an EP I haven’t been able to stop listening to since the stream came my way, it’s also a solid starting point for Octaves if you haven’t previously checked them out. I’ll be picking up a copy come payday.
I love the optimism of a fresh new year and there are already some great releases to look forward to in the first quarter of 2015.
Octaves /Caravels – Split EP
Not long to wait for this first one, a split from Octaves and Caravels which has an expected release date of 20/01/15 through Bridge 9/Topshelf; one for the post-hardcore mob. Check out the Octaves track Tom Petty Cash, taken from the EP below.
Drug Church – Swell EP An expected release of 10/02/15 for this excellent new five track record from one of my favourite bands of 2013. The EP continues on where the album finished – husky vocals, playful lyrics, great melodies, heavy hit drums and rich well-rounded guitars. Opener But Does It Work? is a corker, closely followed by Ghost Dad, but again, the whole record is a great package of memorable and addictive tunes with no duds.
Pelican – The Cliff EP
Released on 23rd February, this is essentially a remix EP, reimagining The Cliff, a track from their 2013 release Forever Becoming. I’m not normally a fan of remixes but this one has piqued my interest with the addition of vocals and names like Justin Broadrick and Aaron Harris attached. The EP includes one new track too.
Also upcoming are new releases from MINE who have a new EP to be released but no date for this one yet and the debut full-length from Svalbard, both of which already have me salivating.