Review: Liferuiner – Future Revisionists

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Canadian straight-edgers Liferuiner have returned. Their first full release since the Sons Of Straightedge EP, Future Revisionists is being touted as an elevation in direction, something the band are keen to highlight in their ‘Through The Eyes Of…’ series on Youtube; singer Johnny O’Callaghan talks about what sort of band they are, taking hate from people on the internet, constantly re-iterating that he wants people to think about things.

When a band goes through what Liferuiner have gone through (periods of dormancy, seismic lineup changes, fundamental shifts in focus), the events cannot help but bleed into the material. O’Callaghan is clearly a man with much to say, his desire to examine the core aspects of life leading him to irrepressibly dark places, questioning his worth as a man, and societies’ worth as an entity.

The opening lines of Vacant (made more poignant in watching the songs’ video) appear to be the singer addressing himself, almost calling himself out for being unable to fully realise his vision:

“Look there’s nothing inside of your heart
There are some things that you will never feel
Your life is a shot in the dark
Your cause is a failing appeal”

There is, in this, an overbearing negativity, a feeling of giving up, something borne across the record as a whole. Despite the implied positivity of both the bands’ intentions and thematic work, this is a grim, humourless ride.

The guitars have that marvellous early Swedish HC sound like worn drills, the bass sounds like the earth eating the mountains, the drums pounding with triumphant clarity. O’Callaghan’s vocals are, if a trifle limited, very competent and consistent. Tracks like Waivered Lives and Self-Purgatory show the band’s evolution from earlier material like 1990, growing into a much more wide-reaching musical force. The more abundant quiet sections show a band willing to take a real step back and allow the listener to reflect on the story, rather than simply battering them with a message.

Harvest/Famine is constructed of unyielding kung-fu flailing; the idea of this not kicking a pit off is harder to imagine. Instantaneous crowd-lifter Fissure is extremely likeable as well, ticking every box on the modern hardcore list (far-off distorted vocals/picked high octave line/half-speed beatdown into fast section/’we’re in this together’ etc), so reverential as to be open worship of the scene that birthed them. Feeling/Meaning sounds like the band’s most comfortable, natural habitat, and it would be interesting to hear them develop in this direction on further releases.

An imaginative blend of the old styles makes Future Revisionists a compelling listen for the most part. Using a single vocal approach for an album that seems so keen to stretch its wings seems a little short-sighted, especially given the breadth of the material on offer, another achievement considering there is nothing ground-breaking here. Lots of tips of the hat to older bands (Joy Division/Judge/Coalesce), buried beneath a sound that is assuredly Liferuiner’s own. Bonus points for the ultra-vascular verse riff on Dreamcatcher.

This is a well-produced, confident, well-meaning release from a band with something to say. Not the most elegant set of lyrics I’ve ever heard – there’s a lot bolted on awkwardly, and for a band so keen to say something, swearing is just plain lazy – but the intent of everything behind what’s going on makes it a trim, focused album.

Hardcore.

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Review: The Dropper’s Neck – Second Coming

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Drawing comparisons to the Stooges and Queens Of The Stone Age, Essex-born quintet The Dropper’s Neck have delivered their debut record, Second Coming. Recorded with Paul Tipler, who has Placebo, Idlewild and Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster on his rap sheet, it hits the streets firmly on the 29th of July.

Blessed with a guitar sound like rusty saws and a bass made of crumbling masonry, Second Coming’s title track kicks off with its legs apart, sweating and grunting away. Touchstones like early Danzig and eternal goth-rodders the 69 Eyes bury themselves deeply into the material, emerging from the mire as a whole entity. The spoken word section, however, is agonising, and genuinely difficult to listen to for it’s sheer awkwardness. No Kerouac diatribes here, just timid, counted-in vocals.

An early highlight comes in the shape of recent video “Darker Waters”, which has a truly solid chorus, the band battering away quite happily. The old-school garage vibe, highlighted so extensively in their online blurb and press, is blended with from-the-gutter stargazing, creating a halfway-house of adroit production and scuzzy, foaming guitar.

However, all the urgency in the world can’t detract from the vocals and appalling, inarticulate lyrics. Lloyd Matthews is a car-crash amalgam of Danzig, Homme and Ricky Wilson, but with screaming; screaming which, on “Sir Sibilance”, is both utterly shocking and woeful. “My Lime Tree‘s” ‘that’ll-do’ lyricism had me reaching for the bleach, in the hope that drinking it through my eyes would improve the words somehow.

There are a few tracks on this record that deserve a listen;  the aforementioned “Darker WatersI Am The Law” and closing track “Save Me From Myself” are full of merit, but in order to get to them the listener has to wade through a great deal of extremely samey rock. The dark, dangerous spirit made so much of by the rest of the world refuses to present itself, though perhaps this was due to me watching the bands’ almost motionless live footage first, and seeing those who had made the record standing around nonchalantly while their awesome tones punish the audience.

Taking the record as a whole, Second Coming sounds like a band one record away from being good. Even including some Shakespeare( ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’), The Dropper’s Neck just aren’t gelling properly, and despite that awesome guitar sound(and some on-the-edge soloing), they stop short of the volatile, swivel-eyed rawk they portend to be. Having only existed since 2011, more time is required to get the most from this cocktail.

Alright, but with plenty of room to improve.

Live Review: Plant Plants at the Sebright Arms, London

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Neatly ordered clusters of immaculately attired, moustache encumbered young men and distant, cool young women greet this writer upon arrival at the Sebright Arms. A healthy step from the tube but pleasingly tidy, the venues robust, aged, upstairs décor is a splendid contrast to the dark, well-appointed, subterranean stage. With a sound system potent enough to powder the skeleton, the environment seems ideal to see Plant Plants.

An unlikely duo comprised of Stu’s ultra-deep, blood-thirsty beats and Howard’s clean guitar and sound proclamations, Plant Plants set up facing each other across tables groaning with effects. Opener “Break Softly” sets things out nicely, the pair settling into their stride. Tonight, the boys pull out a selection of material from their as-yet untitled album, due out next year (look out for a video release in the near future), and initial signs are extremely encouraging.

In all honesty, coming out just for the riff from “E.B” would have been worth it. Furrowed brows are teamed with broad grins as the groove unfolds, deliberate and precise in its shadowy grind. The colossal beats of “No Smiling” and fight-or-flight triggering bass massiveness of “Sick Bay” pulse with knowing, living humanity.

If one thing was to make a lasting impression, it’s that Plant Plants are a great deal more than an engaging two piece. The temptation in the modern age is to see electronic musicians as laptop-dwelling cop-outs, piggy-backing from one expensive plugin to the next. Here, nothing could be further from the truth-the music is being made, the sounds created, and not a Macbook in sight.

Howard sings these opaquely-worded modern hymns from the very bottom of his well. Hints of The Cure’s Robert Smith and the inimitable Mr. Curtis (Joy Division) slope through the crowd like a light-less wave; the true details of the dark events being recounted would cause unyielding sorrow. It is hard to imagine what has befallen the creators of these songs that would lead to such a grim countenance, but, interwoven with the edge-riding rhythms and the prickling energy of their performance, it seems the horror was worth it.

The crowd seem uncertain when to applaud, saving their rapturous response for the finale of set-closer “One To Adore”, which follows a particularly aggressive reading of instrumental bounce-factory “Bells”. To whit, save for the uncertain response of those in attendance, this was a brooding, emotive show.

Ace.

Interview: Marcos Curiel (P.O.D.)

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. This was my very first interview, and though I’ve done plenty face to face on the radio since, I had never done it over the phone, so I’ll admit I’m pleased with it regardless. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Currently out on the road with Flyleaf, American rock icons P.O.D (Payable On Death) are celebrating the release of their latest record ‘Murdered Love’ that has been released.

During their busy schedule and preparation for their London performance later in the year, Fortitude Magazine caught with Marcos Curiel of P.O.D; we chat about, his eye for boxing talent, what’s in store for P.O.D and what fans can expect at shows this year. This is what he had to say:

Fortitude Magazine: Hello sir.

Marcos Curiel(guitar): John how are ya?

FM: Not too bad man, how’s things with you?

MC: Just relaxing, sitting back , enjoying the Southern Californian weather that we have now.

FM: Glad to hear it man, it’s dark and rainy here, but it is nine at night.

MC: That’s why some of the best dark music comes from there.

FM: Well, we’ve got a few,we don’t have POD though.

MC: Well, we’re going to bring the SoCal over to England for Download this year.

FM: Are you looking forward to it?

 MC: Of course man, I’m a huge fan of British culture, the football, the music, all that stuff.

FM: I’ve been having a look into your exploits of late, I understand you’re an avid boxing fan.

MC: Yeah, boxing and football. I grew up in a home of boxing-my son does boxing. I never boxed, my mom was like ‘it’s too dangerous’, so I learned to play guitar.

FM: It’s a little bit safer.

MC: I can definitely spot talent in boxing, you know, seeing it in other people.

FM: I wanted to ask you about your guitars; I understand you’ve been a PRS guitar man for some time.

MC: I’ve been a fan dude, for many many years. The way I got introduced to PRS was through Mr. Carlos Santana-I grew up listening to him, his older stuff on vinyl, from Abraxas to, you name it, Moonflower. He used to play a Gibson, then the SG, then he started playing this PRS guitar, I was like, what is that? Then I started to see them in guitar stores, and they were super expensive, hanging way at the top of the store, and I was thinking, I would love to play one, and I’d ask to play one, and the sales person would give me kind of a smirk, as if to say ‘this kid isn’t going to buy this’. But he’d have to do his job and hand it to me, and I tested it out. And at the time, there wasn’t many rock/metal players even using PRS. And I was like, dude, I wanna do that. I want to play what we do in POD, and eventually have a collection of PRS. I never even thought or dreamed of being endorsed by that company, and when we shot our Southtown video, the label we were with gave us an equipment budget, and the first thing I went out and bought was a PRS.

FM: You’re a Custom 22 man I understand?

MC: Yeah, but I’m also using a single cutaway now.

FM: I saw in the Higher video you’re using that.

MC: Yeah, that’s my main baby, that one’s got custom art that my friend did, and hey, if you’re going to get something like that, custom, one of a kind, you better play it right? I’m planning on bringing that one to Europe, it’ll be attached to my hip though, so…. I’ve already had offers, on the last tour some guy offered me ten grand for it, and I was like, well, it sounds good, but I can’t do that, it’s one of a kind you know.

FM: I had a listen to Murdered Love-it’s a very confident album, very relaxed compared to the early Alive/Satellite/Youth Of The Nation material. Whose idea was it to do it with commentary?

MC: I don’t understand-what do you mean?

FM: There’s a little introduction to each track.

MC: Ah-it’s the accent, I thought you were saying ‘common tree'(laughs)! I did a version and then Sonny, the singer, did a version. I don’t know whose you heard but I went through the songs and spoke about my view, and how the songs came to fruition.

FM: There’s not a lot of artists doing that sort of thing, and it was nice to get an insight as to what you guys thought of the songs as a group. I wanted to ask you about having Mr. Jasta on Eyes, as you guys share a label on Razor & Tie.

MC: Our relationship and friendship with him goes way back, even before we were label mates, so, we were actually, if you’ve done your past research on what POD’s done, we’ve always had collaborations, or people coming on our tracks with us.

FM: You’ve had Eek-A-Mouse and so on.

MC: We had Mike from Suicidal (Tendencies), Page Hamilton from Helmet, so we’ve been one of the lucky few rock bands/heavy rock bands that have been able to do it. We love doing it, and we were able to get him(Jasta) on the record. He was one of our top 5 choices, we had other people in mind who obviously didn’t work out, but he heard that song and it just felt natural, so we sent it to him and that’s how that all came about.

FM: About the writing process, when it comes to the lyrics, is Sonny left to take care of that while you’re more focused on the musical side?

MC: Actually, a lot of it is me and Sonny. I do a lot of the musical, riffs and chord progressions and stuff like that, and I also, when I’m coming up with the riffs or the chord progressions I’ll usually have an idea, like I was thinking about this or I was thinking about that, so maybe you want to try and go in this direction with it. Not on every song, but on a lot of the tunes I’ll give him a little push in this direction, and if he chooses to run with it, cool. If he doesn’t, then he’s on his own(laughs). But for the most part he’s open to my suggestions.

FM: Well you guys have been together a long time now-15 years I think.

MC: Yeah, but he’s got to sing about something he believes in, something that he’s truly passionate about, so you give him an idea for a tune; West Coast Rock Steady was one of the singles that came out, and that was definitely one of my ideas, and I said, hey man, we should write a song and give homage to our coast. We’ve always been that type of band, we did a song called Southtown, and we thought it’d be cool. You know, there’s this thing that we’re the super serious band, that we’re always super serious, but we’ve always had songs like Rock The Party and stuff like that, and West Coast Rock Steady came about that way too. Let’s show people that we have a good time offstage, and that we can write songs that are fun as well you know?

FM: Speaking of your songs, I see that you’re cracking on with the video for Beautiful. How’s that coming along?

MC: We may have gotten to a final edit-last night I saw it and I’m pretty happy with it, and the people I showed it to loved it. These aren’t ‘yes-yes’ people, these are people I trust-I think the song is a good song already, and the video just adds to it visually. I can’t wait for the world to see it.

FM: When I saw the video for Higher and your live footage, you always commit to it 100%.

MC: We try to keep the balance-I think you have to. I think there’s a lot of bands that can get away with being super-duper artsy, and they can be distant, we try to have a bit of that but we don’t want the listener to get lost in the video.

FM: You’ve sold millions of records now, and gone platinum a number of times. If you could go through everything you’ve done with POD, what songs really stand out?

MC: It would be a tie between two; Youth Of The Nation and Alive.Those two songs pretty much gathered the spectrum of what we can do. They’re hard, but they’re soft too, and ambient, like Youth Of The Nation. And the rocking, hard, singalong anthem of Alive, which really sets the foundation for who we are as a band, I think.

FM: There’s a deep groove to you guys do, even with the punk edge of Panic And Run.

MC: Yeah, that’s because of what we’re influenced by and where we come from. I give credit to SoCal, Southern California; everybody down here surfs, skates-well not everybody, but most people-it’s the culture down here, it’s very free, and free-spirited and open minded, whether it’s going to beach or the music-reggae, punk shows. What you hear in our music is pretty much our environment rubbing off on us, with us projecting it and amplifying it to the world. Our interpretation of it, because everyone does it their different way, like Sublime have their interpretation of it-there’s so many bands!(laughs) You know, Rage Against The Machine does their version of it, the list goes on and on. I am definitely proud to be where we’re from, and to play the music that we do, to play the music that P.O.D.’s known for, plugging in and going for it, that’s what we do live man.

FM: You’re playing the Underworld, London – have you played there before?

MC: To be honest dude, it’s all a bit of a blur to me, I don’t remember venues’ names(laughs)! I remember that we did a really small show at a place called the Garage, that was a long time ago, and I remember we did Wembley arena, we were direct support for Korn, and I want to say we played the Astoria? I know we played a bunch of venues but I can’t remember. I’ve always had a good time when we played in the UK. The accent alone, sometimes there’s some dudes that I can’t understand, cos I’m like ‘huh’?, but I really enjoy your guyses’ accent, I try to do it but it sucks ass, I can do a pretty good version of it(adopts impossibly cockney accent) ‘Can I get a spot of tea’?(much laughter at both ends)

FM: You’ve been on the road a long time, is there any one incident that sticks out to you as something that you’ve done, with the fans or onstage? 

MC: Like performing-wise? Hm, I need to think about this for a second. Well, here’s one. The day before 9/11, we were doing a bunch of promotion for the Satellite album, and the label had us running in jets going different places, and we had this TRL countdown with Carson Daly, I don’t know if you’re familiar with this, top ten in country, in the States, and we were getting played, believe it or not, we were in the top 5, battling Britney Spears and N-Sync, and we’re one of the few rock bands crossing over into popular culture, and we got to do this performance for TRL live in Battery Park, which was right next to the towers. And you know, you can never comprehend or imagine what would have happened the next day, so we were there, and a buddy from New York said ‘have you ever seen the towers?’. We were at soundcheck, before we performed, and he’s like ‘just walk over here real quick and check ’em out’. I walked over, ’bout 3 or 400 yards and I looked up, and I’m like ‘daaamn those are high’. And he’s like ‘those are the towers man’, and I was like ‘yeah man’-I didn’t really give two cents at the time, but we went and did our thing, performed live, and I woke up the next morning, people calling me cos they think I’m still there, and seeing the plane fly into the building that I’d been standing underneath. I don’t know if that’s a good enough story for you but that’s definitely unforgettable.

FM: That’s a heavy story, I can’t imagine it.

MC: Other countries have fallen victim to various terrorist attacks; that was a major one for us because we had never experienced anything like that, so… And just being so close to it the day before, when a major historical event was going to happen the next day, that was a big bit of our career. And our record came out on 9/11, and we all thought man, our record’s going to be doomed, no-one’s going to be buying music-we weren’t thinking selfishly, we were just thinking about our career-but we were shocked, and the world took onto Alive, and it became an anthem, and it went platinum in four weeks!

FM: You guys have done some incredible stuff, I’ll say that.

MC: The other thing was having a six year hiatus, and nobody hearing of us, and coming back with the album, and having the success we’ve had with the new album, I mean if we were a new band…When we had our first single which actually went to number one here in the States, it was called Lost In Forever, but I was reading some of the comments, and there was kids on there saying ‘man, this is awesome! I’m so glad there’s a new band like this!’ and I was cracking up because there’s this new generation of listener who think we’re a new band(laughs)! I’d say we’re pretty stoked.

FM: It’s a massive achievement for an artist to cross generations like that, and quite inspiring.

MC: Well we feel blessed for it, thank you.

FM: The UK’s always pleased to have you.

MC: Hopefully we’ll be more consistent next time and get over more often.

FM: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us-all the very best!

MC: Thanks man-thanks for listening!

Review: Tammy King – Higher Paradise

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.
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Recorded at Wolverhampton university, Higher Paradise is the debut solo EP by Tammy King. The 21 year old has recently been seen plying her trade on the X Factor tour and supporting agit-pop-amazon P!nk, following a bout of sessioneering. The Warwickshire native has a number of songs on YouTube,  showing her skill at singing covers.

More importantly, this era of her development shows her moving away from being a session/sideperson towards being an artist in her own right, something that has evidently been her focus since day one. A fairly bare-bones affair, with King accompanying herself for the most part, Higher Paradise contains 4 original compositions, two with a full band.

First things first-King has a stand-up voice. Lots of control and dexterity, and a fearlessness to go for the big intervals. Occasionally the guitar work falls short, as evidenced on the KT Tunstall-ish ‘You Can’t Take Me Alive’. The production is extremely uneven, as though it was simply recorded and not mixed. In truth, an artist who has plenty of studio and live experience shouldn’t have let this through, and the conveyed feeling is one of naivety and slapdashery.

‘Living In Disguise’ is a significantly improved showcase of Kings’ ability. Melodically more astute and aware, better balanced, and despite the low-rent lyricism, the verses are slow-burning and tense; less is definitely more in this case. As ‘Fossils’ stumbles into view, the slack-as-a-bag-of-ties playing starts to rear it’s head again. The backing track carries aBeverley-Knight-unplugged vibe, though the vocals sound like they were recorded in a different studio with other people.

Final track ‘Scent On Your Skin’ weighs in with slide guitar, tenderly muted country drums, and a well-judged vocal performance from King. Four songs of this calibre would have been great-King sounds much more comfortable and personable in this style than reaching awkwardly for second hand gospelisms.

There is absolutely no question that King has a serious voice, capable of a great deal, but is hamstrung in this instance by an unforgivably incompetent production and some disappointing musicianship. The whole recording has a hesitant air, which may stem from first-time jitters about her own material. There’s an abundance of natural skill and a proper set of lungs to build on here, but Tammy needs to decide who she is.

Watch for future changes, as there’s a warm, gentle voice underneath these songs.

Review: Backhand Saloon – Creature

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. www. fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Recorded during a period of some upheaval and ascendancy, Backhand Saloon’s second release takes the template laid down by Crooks & Curses and forces it through a fine mesh screen. The quintet’s southern-flecked hardcore has evolved into a more formidable creation.

Creature is a bolder, more expansive record than its predecessor, setting the band up for a more aggressive, powerful ride. Cassiopeia blurts into life with singer Harry’s declaration “In the beginning, there was nothing”. Far from a rehash of old glory, this is manly step forward.

As the record presses on, it becomes clear that there are two Backhands at work; the more delicate side(Thorns, most of Creature, the opening bars of Prometheus), new to this record, and the rough, all savage beatdowns and roaring. These two entities exist side by side on Creature, with the bands ability to inject tenderness and into their brick-hard riff work showing a maturity uncommon in many hardcore bands.

In many ways Creature is more of a suite than an EP; each track stands alone perfectly, but the band’s evolving songcraft is as clear as open water. Mora and Prometheus are crushing, the band trying to power out of the speakers with force alone. Taken as a snapshot in time, Backhand sound tense but determined, the youthful joie de vivre of Crooks & Cursesreplaced by the grown up, self-aware beast of Creature. Taking the title track through to the end of Prometheus alone would have made a great EP, but having Cassiopeia as a opener shows how far they’ve come. 

At the end of all this is Acid Fang, which sounds great live, but on record sounds like an afterthought; having the record end with Mora would have been a true cliffhanger. Backhand have a well-deserved live reputation, and as they are currently out on tour this can only improve. Having released the single Hollow Heart with their new lineup, the band has tightened, grown more aggressive, more confident.

This is a good record by a good band, who are evolving into a great band. The next record should be a genuine game-changer, and I await it with baited breath. Ace.

Review: Avante Black – Make A Mess

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Over the last ten years, my faith in music has been alternately eroded, bouyed, crippled, and rebuilt, as I watched the charts devolve into a revolting parody of the true cultural battleground that they were, even into the early 00’s.

However, following the collapse of the old industry, and the adaption of bands to new mediums, something fantastic happened; unless you were another boyband/girlband type or the flavour of the month, you were underground. Forcing bands to develop in the old ways, but to communicate with each other in a more direct and global manner, has yielded some great results, and so it is with Avante Black.

‘Make A Mess’ is a change of pace from this globally-fed outfit. Two Swedes, and Italian, and a London bloke on drums, Avante Black have produced a series of singles that made even jaded old me take notice. While songs like ‘Drug Money’ and ‘Imaginary Love’ are by turns informed by shoegaze, splinters of Joy Division, and what souds like a less-than-ideal fiscal circumstance, ‘Make A Mess’ feels more mature, full-figured, and direct. Ottilia’s voice is less sorrowful than previous efforts, especially ‘Drug Money’, and while there’s plenty of hints of shoegaze and that most apalling of epithets, dreampop, I believe Avante Black to be harder than that.

Beginning with electronics that immediately made me think of the Pet Shop Boys, ‘Make A Mess’ then decides to head to a righteous crossroads where the most serious aspects of the Cardigans, Unforgettable-Fire-era U2 and early Sneaker Pimps meet to discuss their extreme genuine-ness. So often with bands of this nature, much is made of the beautiful frontwoman, something exacerbated by videos and live performances being sexualized in some manner, but that is not the case here. I watched a live Sofar rendition of ‘Drug Money’, and it is my belief that the band genuinely and truly want to sound like this, something for which I have true respect. Ottilia both looks and sounds like she’s telling real stories, recounting events that truly took place, something that is in too short a supply in pop music.

There’s a dark edge to this single, which made me listen to it a number of times, with enough going on between the guitar and electro-bits to hear different things each time. I’ve got to give Avante Black props for balancing these two elements, so often at war, with poise and understanding, and for ensuring that neither is a lead instrument, which gives the song greater mass. While the band will no doubt be offered the opportunity to have their songs sell things like phones or perfume – such is the way in this time period – they are a proper band, no messing, and everything I’ve listened to so far firmly raises my thumbs in approval.

Top job.

Review: Bad Sign – Square 1

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Basick Records is home to a number of progressively-minded heavy bands, and is a home-grown, UK label. It’s been home to acts like Enter Shikari, the sky-tearing Ion Dissonance, Blotted Science, The Algorithm, and in this instance, Bad Sign.

‘Square 1’, their new single, is a more temperate, though no less meaty, extension of the bands’ own sound. While it is not unheard of for bands to wane in aggression as they age, here that is not the case. Watching their older material like ‘Rebuild’, ‘Confession’, ‘Intermission’ and ‘Closure’, it seems like Bad Sign are becoming what they desire to be. While earlier material reminded me of Tool – and their guitar tone of Pelican – those big, hooky vocals and allusions to faith-orientated matters gave the whole thing a different feeling.

I can imagine this going down especially well live, heavy as it is without being crushing. I have to mention the close-harmony singing as the song closes in on its third minute, which in itself points to an interesting and possible direction for the band. It would be nice to see them running further with their template, which, while hardly orthodox, feels like it is in a constant state of development. It is almost as though the band have written their material to suit their ability, something that sells them a little bit short.

Listening to this single in the company of its older brothers and sisters, I get the feeling that there’s so much more to come out of Bad Sign, and that in time, they will produce a truly killer record. No faint praise or wishy-washiness here; if they stick to their guns and hone what’s here, they will naturally blossom into a serious, brick-hard contender, something I would love to see.

Review: Blood Command – Cult Drugs

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Norway is a place with a defiant, intriguing musical history. Home to some intense conduct in the shape of Kvelertak, Darkthrone, and Tiger Fysisk Format labelmates Jagged Vision, as well as pop alumni A-ha, it seems both meet and right that a band such as Blood Command would rise from this forest-y, frozen land.

Building on a serious number of road miles, healthy reviews, end-of-year-list placings and more besides, ‘Cult Drugs’ comes out of the blocks with both arms swinging, and immediately there is a problem. Everywhere I went online there were statements that this is a punk band, a melodic hardcore band, and so on. The superb production on this record, and, I would add, on songs of theirs going all the way back to 2010, is, if anything, more industrial than anything else. There is something deeply European about the feel of it all, from the way the band present themselves live to the urgency, the welcome lack of sunshine that abounds on this single; the Distillers wish they were this forceful.

I must stress that besides the labelling issue, I’m into this. In one of those unusual situations, Blood Command sound infinitely heavier than they look, something that was comfortingly confirmed in the live footage I saw. Though it would be incredibly lazy to compare them to Blondie, whom they sound absolutely nothing like, it would be fair to compare them to Paramore, though Hayley’s lot have never sounded like grown-ups, and this is a far cry from the slightly-wounded bubblegum conduct for which that band is known.

‘Cult Drugs’ is a big, well-written single from a band who both acknowledge their sound but are not bound by it. There’s plenty going on in here and very little let-up, and the acoustic versions of their material have the same revved-up edge and gravitas, even with 9/10th’s of the sound missing. If you were into the harder side of pop-punk as a teenager but life has knocked some lumps out of you, check this out; it’s perfect.

Bra gjort.

Review: Jet Rewind – Someone Else

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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The other day I was waiting for a bus. I didn’t have my headphones with me, and I had no data left to gawp at the internet, so I was left to experience the grey sky, fresh drizzle, and indeterminate timespan that would pass before the juddering, clown-filled vehicle that I needed arrived.

At the end of this excrutiating nothingness, there awaited the warm company of a good friend, a few beers, laughter and chat, and though I knew that this time would draw to a close, the peaks outweighed the troughs, and I forgot all about the dull beginning.

The point here is that it’s perfectly fine to wait as long as something is going to happen. As I hung my laundry on this uninspiring Saturday afternoon, I listened with a keen, expectant ear to Jet Rewind’s first single, issued through Admirable Trait Records. Alright, I thought, this is sunny enough; I bet the chorus is sweet and shimmery, saccharine and swell, and will enthuse me to ride my bike to the beach house where my girlfriend lives, where we will laugh about sad songs and drink cocktails and dance with our shoes off.

This was not to be. Nothing happens. There’s a line in here that says ‘Running away like you don’t really care ’bout nothing/but nothing is something to someone else’. I wish I was someone else, someone who could have their sonic requirements fulfilled by the luke-warm, tepid, water-cooler smile that is this song. It’s not a lot to ask – even an ‘ahhh’ harmony over the chorus would have done, something to lift it up; there are times when it sounds as though the drummer wants to hit a big cymbal for some punctuation, and damn it all if I don’t hear him holding back. Madness!

If I were trying to advertise the mature clothing line for Marks & Spencers, this wouldn’t be extreme enough. Jet Rewind are pleasant, but not very pleasant, exciting, diverting, or comforting; by the same token they are not depressing, enervating, irritating or vexing, they are mild. I’m sure time will grant perspective for the band, and they’ll hear how ineffectual this record is, but in the meantime, I hope they take this review as a kick in the pants and understand that their songs don’t have to burn heaven, or kill the rich, or fix the economy, but they have to do something!

Hnnnnghghghhh!