Revew: Svalbard Album

Svalbard album coverSvalbard – One Day All This Will End, Album Review

This may be their debut album but you know you’re listening to a band already totally in control of their sound,  elements of post-hardcore, post-rock, metal and doomier genres combine seemlesly with fantastic melodies and classic structres meant to draw you in.  The result is a poweful and positive record which is easy to connect with and come back to.

A listen to the band’s earlier EPs reveals a leaning more towards post-hardcore, a route they could easily have gone down and still been a great band, but they have gradually edged into more interesting territory.  So, by the time their split with Pariso came out last year, their sound was much more complex and rewarding and they were poised to hit us with this beautiful beast.

There was no doubt this record was going to be huge, but it is also dreamily epic and for such a heavy album, very uplifting.  Take the opener, Perspective, the melody running underneath soars and takes you with it, all the while those aggressive vocals add edge. Mid-way a slower section reigns you back in before the build towards the horizon.  Yes, yes yes.

Svalbard know how to work their listening audience, wringing out goosebumps and closed eyes and pounding fists. Disparity is richly layered and addictive, the kind of track you want to put on repeat. There are moments of post-rock beauty like measured and melancholy track The Vanishing Point and more straightforwardly hardcore moments like The Damage Done but all are bound in that unmistakable Svalbard feel.  This is the record we’ve been hoping they would release and it doesn’t disappoint, put it on your christmas wishlist.

The record is out now through Holy Roar Records.


Review: Shopping, Why Choose

Admission time. I haven’t listened to Shopping before. They are a band that have been at the edge of my radar for an age, people mention them all the time and they often feature in best of lists but I’d never got round to listening to them before, so, the long and short of it is, that I won’t be making comparrisons to their old records.

Standing on it’s own this is a decent record of jangly, minimal Brit punk with a surf edge to the guitar sound and shouty, slightly bratty female vocals – all good so far but not particularly out of the ordinary.  It is charming though, the charm comes from the jagged rhythms and relaxed ‘spoken’ vocals – it’s a record that is impossible not to bop about to.  Opener Wind Up sets things up nicely, the surf feel bringing a fun and breezy Summer vibe.  Take It outside has some nice (slightly shambolic) gang vocals and Straight Lines mixes things up again with male vocals taking the lead – they keep you on your toes throughout the record.

The album has a minimal sound; they aren’t afraid to let you hear the spaces between the notes, resisting the urge to pack it full of feedback and distortion – it does feel very raw and real but also clean and crisp, letting you hear the great melodies in full.

A solid record, fun but also well put together.



Now Playing: August Round Up

This hasn’t been the best month; laid up, recovering from a dislocated knee, missing gigs I had tickets for and trapped in the flat because I can’t make it down the three flights of stairs I need to navigate to get to fresh air.  To avoid cabin fever I’ve been sprucing up the blog, catching up on reading (fanzines) and listening to some great music. Here are some recommendations from my recent binges:


Twisted UtopiaTwisted – Utopia
This album is so good. It was released in January but I only just picked up my copy from Specialist Records on the back of seeing them live – I urge you to check them out if they play anywhere near you. The album will be making my top ten this year because I haven’t heard a better example of catchy, scuzzy female fronted Brit-Punk in an age.  There are so many great melodies it feels unfair to pick favourites but if you want to check out a track look no further than Toxic Convener for a class example. It may be catchy fun but the record also doesn’t let you down on the punchy punk attitude, it oozes from every note. Fantastic.


the good lifeThe Good Life – Everybody’s Coming Down
I’m a total sucker for anything by Tim Kasher, no secret there, this is a great album though despite my predisposition.  Pretty minimal but sporting plenty of fuzzy off-kilter guitars; it doesn’t go as far as dischordant but certainly skirts around it and the guitars ride over some nice melodic touches.
If you’re looking for comparisons I’d say it walks the line between Tim’s solo work and his Cursive output, you can hear touches from both; folksy indie but with heavier blasts of guitar. As with other Good Life records though it’s more laid back and dreamy than both his other projects, some great female backing vocals on tracks like Diving Bell help to define the sound too.


Nervosas stNervosas – Nervosas
This new self-titled full length from the Ohio Punks feels more frantic than their previous records – they haven’t lost the dark edge or the melodies, the vocals are as goth as always with fantastic female backing and their sound is as immediate and addictive as ever but the pace is x2 and more aggressive.
Not very easy to get hold of a hard copy of this one in the UK unless you want to pay some epic postage but it is available on Bandcamp as a digital download.


EnvyEnvy – Atheist’s Cornea
Envy are one of my all time favourite bands, so its always a huge treat to get my hands on a new album from them. This record is, dare I say it, more accessible than I’ve heard from them in the past – shorter tracks, very melodic, some actual singing rather than all screams or spoken word, however, none of these are negative observations, this is as huge and dreamy as they’ve ever been.  This is of course an album of epic post-rock tunes, quiet/loud dynamics, beautiful strings and incredible crescendos of guitar to overwhelm.   I don’t think they have a bad record in them.


Towanda EP
Towanda – Black Sheep EP

The super crunchy guitar sound on this EP is brilliant, along with the bratty female vocals, I’m into this.   I thought I’d heard enough of this kind of thing recently but the Montreal trio have really got to me.



ParisoPariso – Pariso
This is Pariso’s final record, side A is new material which would have gone on a full-length and side B is essentially a rarities collection. Pariso are unashamedly shouty male hc, they batter you with noise, but, have some great moments of technical finesse, which, along with the heady nastiness is what drew me to them in the first place. The A side of this record points to what would have been a classic Pariso record in the making, it becomes tinged with melancholy when you know it will be their last release of new material. The tracks are dark and meaty but with an underlying core of something more dreamy; some of the riffs really soar. The B side is a nice touch, some gems to be had from their back catalogue, a nice package overall.


Album Review: Tyranny Is Tyranny

Tyranny Is Tyranny – The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism

Tyranny Is Tyranny coverI was pleased to see this record arrive in my inbox as I was a big fan of the United Sons Of Toil record I reviewed for Roomthirteen back in the day, and this is a new band featuring the same folks. I was impressed with their activist spirit and their mix of alt-rock, punk rock and doom laden metal amongst other sounds and whilst this new record is something different it’s still very much the sound I would have expected. I was also pleased to hear that for a group of people with such strong ideals the lyrical messages still come across; they haven’t lot any of their anti-Capitalist edge.

Tyranny Is Tyranny still employ technical riffage and a dark feel as they once did under that different moniker, however this has a more post-rock, post-punk feel with moody atmospherics taking centre stage rather than a scarred angsty edge.  I love this change in direction, especially since they have kept hold of their uniqueness, that rootless melting pot of ideas and noises, but this record feels more relaxed and subtle.  The melodies are strong and the whole feel is expansive with widescreen orchestral moments in evidence.

“The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism” was released on 13th June 13 through Phratry Records. I haven’t heard Tyranny Is Tyranny’s 2013 debut, but I feel compelled to check it out having heard this, if you’d like to do the same head over here to their Bandcamp.



Album Review: MAKE, The Golden Veil

Make album coverMAKE’s new album (out 20th July) is a serious, doom laden affair but it has a gentle heart.

In the three years since I reviewed their debut album, MAKE have been busy evolving their sound – they are stlll making epic metallic post-rock but this new record feels infused with a wider set of influences.  Although the record has a greater scope it somehow sounds more refined; a softer side to the band has emerged and with it a dreamier soul, taming those hard edges and bringing everything together to create a more satisfying mix.  Where Trephine was more direct and sludgy The Golden Veil feels less grounded, drifting wonderfully, concerned more with atmosphere and beautiful expansive guitars than with power chords.  As with their previous releases there is a cinematic aura at the core of the record with a  widescreen feel still in evidence (on tracks like The Architect), but this record brews more slowly, giving you time to enjoy the view.

Its great to hear an album that plays out as a whole experience, something I seem to come across less and less – this is old school post-rock, taking me back to the days of early Godspeed, Envy, Pelican – a no nonsense, moody record full of all encompassing tunes; huge, heady and powerful, it’s easy to get lost in and is sure to feature in my records of the year.


Now Playing: June 2015

There have been some great releases the last few months, I haven’t been able to cover them all in full so here’s a rundown of some of the records I’ve been enjoying:

fist cityFist City – Everything Is A Mess
This is a very accessible and immediately memorable sophomore album from the Canadian indie-punk four piece. Melodic songs, with excellent off-kilter clipped vocals, are backed by sometimes jangly, sometimes fast and spiky guitars and hypnotic rhythms; the combination is just perfect for rocking out to and will make you want to do just that.  The songs meld with dreamy/spacey rumbling instrumental interludes to add interest and what you get is an accomplished, well rounded record made to last.
(previously published in Buzz mag June)

flesh world
Flesh World – The Wild Animals In my Life

I consider this a grower compared to their 2013 record, but after a few play throughs I’m now fully on board.  Abrasive yet melodic post-punk gems, dark and scuzzy yet also quite accessible in its own way.



Valet – Nature

A nice bit of super-dreamy shoegaze which also touches on many other genres here and there and has lovely floaty vocals and 90s sounding riffs.  The opener, Sunday, is a favourite, reminding me of Slowdive (if they were covering the Cocteau Twins perhaps).  A decent change of pace.


annabel album coverAnnabel – Having It All
While I don’t think this is Annabel’s strongest release,  a new release from them is always welcome so it doesn’t take long for me to get lost in their emo, indie-rock tunes.  This record feels slicker, less immediate and quirky,  however there are still some great tunes here and it is worthy of your time.  The jury is out on whether it will stand the test of time for me against their other records, but I’ll worry about that later.

sweet john bloom
Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer
Short melodic punchy tracks, ranging in style from indie rock to post-punk and power pop the album is certainly diverse but not erratic.



Fleabite cover small
Fleabite – TTYL

Jagged yet melodic girl fronted punky pop tunes from Fleabite who are one of my new favourite bands. They have top tunes and this new record is, if anything, even more melodic than their last. Fleabite always have a layer of harsh blown-out fuzz over everything but on this new EP their sound is richer, a little easier on the ears and has a lovely surf-rock quality. Love this.


Telepathic cover
Telepathic – Powers Of Ten EP

The new 6 track EP from the Bleeding Rainbow folks.   This is not a million miles from their old rockin’ shoegaze sound, if you were a fan of the old band you’ll likely be in to this too.  The EP has great melodies and is nicely heavy on the guitars.



Temple cover
Temple – Kill/Let Die

Just two tracks here but really decent (emo) indie-rock tunes and getting repeated spins from me.  I love the punchy, jagged guitars, strong bass lines and the mix of sung and shouted vocals running over eachother.

Brother Ghost buried cover

Review: Brother/Ghost Debut Album

I first encountered Brother/Ghost back in 2010 when I covered their debut six-track EP Black Ice, a beautiful post-rock record that left me wanting more.  Since that initial release however it’s been four years since we’ve heard from them (due to line-up changes and a hiatus), Buried, their debut full length, is such a great record though that it totally makes up for the wait.

Now reduced to a trio from a four piece (with two remaining original members) the band has reconstructed their sound, yes, it’s thankfully still unashamedly post-rock, but this release is also richer in texture and more varied than I would have expected.  Where Black Ice was quite low-key and went in for gentle, long slow builds, Buried brings out the big guns straight away, with fuzzed out distorted riffage and a huge cinematic sound on the opening track Satan; it’s a killer opener, one you can’t help but pay attention to.

The album holds more than just the cinematic sinew of tracks like the opener and the dreamy Cripple, (although just that would keep many of us happy), as you move through the record layers of other styles and genres start to make themselves known; a flurry of psychedelic synth at the tail end of the epic Harpies turns your expectations upside down, the bluesy riffage and gruff vocals of Pendulum will have you headbanging and the top notch folky indie of Causeway, with its jangly fuzz and rousing anthemic vocals, again brings a new layer to the record – it all hangs together so well too, never feeling disjointed or overly complex.  There is so much here to discover and keep you coming back, its real gem.

Buried is released on June 15th 2015 through Shelsmusic and comes highly recommended.


Album Review: Employed To Serve

Employed To Serve, Greyer Than You Remember, Album Review

Employed to ServeHoly 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.


Album Review: Steve Von Till

Steve Von Till – A Life Unto Itself, Album Review

steve von till album coverSteve 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.


Review: Blood Drugs S/T Album

Blood Drugs – Self Titled Album Review

blood drugs debut album coverPleasingly 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.

Blood Drugs 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.