Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Let's Wrestle

Artist: Let's Wrestle
Album: Let's Wrestle
Record Label: Fortuna POP!
Release Date: 10th February 2014

Over the past 5 or 6 years there's been a significant increase in the amount of spiel written about the evolution of a select few UK bands that deservedly have garnered sizeable followings due to their forward-thinking ethos' and creativity. Foals, Wild Beasts and The Horrors have been flying the flag for those who still have a morsel of belief that UK Indie didn't spend its last pickings when The Libertines split up. The somewhat conservative nature of the UK press however means that several bands have been left in the corner to trundle their charm to those diligent enough to seek it out; The Wave Pictures, British Sea Power and London trio Let's Wrestle all wear this sense of being left in the lurch on their sleeves, and albums like the latter's self-titled new release are testimonies to how much unknown talent resides in those distant corners.

The general artistic trajectory of 'Let's Wrestle' is almost romantically eccentric. A wry, often forlorn sense of humour sits atop jangly indie pop with a backbone of swirling orchestral instrumentation. Its charm is thoroughly placed in its quirkiness, its ability to not take itself all that seriously, and the fact that the lack of a massive fan base doesn't matter; 'Let's Wrestle' is wrapped up in its everso-slightly cutesy universe.

Opener 'Rains Ruin Revolution' is a jangly, clean-cut affair that kicks into action the band's sardonic take on the wider social situation in 2014, seeming like a call for more confidence in today's youth as it asserts "rains, ruin, revolution, they'll all get wet, they never have belief in themselves". 'Codeine and Marshmallows" is a sombre but summery Real Estate-esque affair about the aftermath of a relationship, sagging deep into melancholy as the chorus suggests that "codeine and marshmallows have an aftertaste of sick, blood and loneliness".

'Care For You' is a witty, Girls-esque brass inflected pop bounce that indulges in the complications of young love (sample lyric: "I love you... But just not enough to need you honey"). The idiosyncratic thrill is given extra vertebrae by a complimentary saxophone solo.

'Opium Den' is lined with '60s psychadelic synth parps that only get more oddball as the track continues, coupled with slightly angular, catchy guitar noodling and lyrics seemingly about losing a friend to a soul eating drug addiction. They end on the resonantly positive 'Watching Over You', a boisterous but controlled reverb-laden jaunt, like a toned-down My Bloody Valentine. It's a clamour that feels somewhat righteous and a fitting ending.

'Let's Wrestle' is a mish-mash of charm, wit and heartbreak, and those things combined make for a kind of story-telling that, although entirely of its own, never loses its grasp on tangible entertainment. As they head along it seems increasingly unlikely that Let's Wrestle will get the attention they deserve. In their case though, it hardly matters; they're happy inhabiting the territories that people stumble across almost by accident. They're still among the last bastions of off-kilter, secretive romance in British Indie.


Key Tracks: 'Codeine And Marshmallows', 'Opium Den', 'Watching Over You'
For Fans Of: The Wave Pictures, British Sea Power, Christopher Owens

Friday, 11 July 2014

Home, Like Noplace Is There

Artist: The Hotelier
Album: Home, Like Noplace Is There
Record Label: Tiny Engines
Release Date: 25th February 2014

For all its emotion, "Home..."'s distinctly unoriginal flavour leads boredom to settle in at an early stage

Massachussetts youngsters The Hotelier are seemingly the archetypical band to be spearheading the renewed interest in the late '90s/ early '00s Emo scene. Their debut album, "Home, Like Noplace Is There", is certainly emotionally charged (especially on the duo of 'Your Deep Rest' and 'Among The Wildflowers') and there's some decent lyricism abound too, like on 'Housebroken'. The sorry truth though is that there is NOTHING on "Home..." that hasn't been done before, and thus tedium settles in at a distressingly early stage.

Key Track: 'Housebroken'
For Fans Of: The Wonder Years, early Brand New

Rooms Of The House


Artist: La Dispute
Album: Rooms Of The House
Record Label: Big Scary Monsters
Release Date: 17th March 2014

The Michigan Post-Hardcore crew's latest is an emotional, poetic and refreshing take on expansive alternative rock

With their 2011 album "Wildlife", La Dispute re-invigorated the Post-Hardcore scene with a sprawling, tender sense of musicality that had always largely been unacquainted with the bands they'd previously been lumped in with. "Rooms Of The House" indulges in many of the same resources as its predecessor; raw emotion, ambitious story-telling and an energetic self-awareness that leaves a strong after taste. 

"Rooms Of The House" narratively revolves around the dissolution and eventual collapse of a long-term relationship, and thus it's never short on vivid and explosive wordiness. 'Woman (In Mirror)' sees frontman Jordan Dreyer searching his coupling and finding how all the small, menial things seem to have meant infinity; "the notions of ordinary love" are "tiny dots on an endless timeline". The symbolic imagery on '35' is arguably the album's darkest moment; it depicts a bridge collapsing into a violent river below and people drowning as they try to escape from their submerged cars. 'Stay Happy There' finds Dreyer raucously and desperately trying to recover the relationship from its dying throes, and the closer 'Objects In Space' is a solemn spoken-word piece that encompasses a sense of loss and nostalgia. 

"Rooms Of The House" is somewhat less expansive than "Wildlife", and its slightly limp production means that sonically it's not always as powerful as it tries to be. However, La Dispute's driving honesty and poetic firepower is in full swing here. This is still one of the more refreshing takes on Post-Hardcore you're likely to hear in 2014. 

Key Tracks: 'Stay Happy There', 'Woman (In Mirror)', 'Objects In Space'
For Fans Of: Thursday, At The Drive-In

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Horns Aloft!: 5 Recent Metal Albums Reviewed


As you may have been able to work out, the ability to write for this site has been mightily rare over the past year or so. How much time I have to dedicate it over the coming months remains unclear, however one thing that certainly hasn't dissipated is my passion for music of all genres and sub- genres alike. Such has been the influx of fantastic new music in 2014 thus far that it would seem remiss not to acknowledge any of it. 

Although I'm sure nobody gives much of a shit (and quite right, too), I've decided to embark on a series of pieces that will feature 5 mini- reviews of albums that I've heard in 2014. There will be a Metal segment, a Hip Hop segment and miscellaneous segment that'll focus on works from the worlds of Indie, alternative and probably some Electronic music too. Some of the albums covered in these segments may have been out for some months, but they're all records that have forced some kind of reaction out of me, and unfortunately for you lot I feel the need to dispense a portion of that reaction. 

Anyway, quiet at the back there! Enough chatter! The first of these segments in the first edition of the Metal edition of this series. I hope to get the Hip Hop and Misc editions up over the course of next week, with a second Metal edition to follow some time after. Perhaps in the not too distant future I'll find the time to go back to writing proper reviews (the words "proper" and "review" should always be taken with a pinch of salt when regarding my writing). Until then,

Horns aloft! 


Agalloch- The Serpent & The Sphere

On 'The Serpent & The Sphere', all the characteristics that have defined Agalloch as one of the most favourable USBM stalwarts are here in abundance; their thunderous, cosmic scope, the sharp acoustic dalliances, the slight romance with synths as well as lyrical themes of deities, folklore and general star- gazing mythology. However, much of the epic coda that made records like 'Into The Painted Grey' so powerful is somewhat missing from the core here. Quite often Agalloch don't reach the absolute magnitude they've previously relished in. That being said, Celestial Effigy soars with seamless grandiosity, and the utterly spell- binding 13 minute instrumental Plateau of the Ages brims with all the vastness its title suggests and ends on a particularly heart rendering segment of harmonised tremolo picking. 


Anathema- Distant Satellites

Far more to do with a Radiohead- meets- Sigur Ros brand of sonic mass rather than anything Metal related these days, Anathema's sumptuous romanticism soars as expectedly as magnificently on 'Distant Satellites' as one would hope. What makes it so awe- inspiring is that, in all its scope and ambition it seems so seamless, as though it's the only thing that makes sense. It builds its own languorous world and wraps its planet- sized arms around you and refuses to let you go until you're totally a part of it. It's the kind of album that was made for all corners of the spectrum; perhaps a peaceful night in with a significant other and several bottles of wine, or perhaps across one of Iceland's sprawling glaciers.  In more down to Earth terms, if you don't weep at least once during 'Distant Satellites' then there's nothing for you. 


Eyehategod- Eyehategod

For a band renowned for incessant drug- guzzling and writing songs about the supposed favoured redneck past- time of incest, on their first album in 13 years Eyehategod sound monumentally focussed. All the riffs and grooves here are smothered in their trademark marshland- caked fuzz and filthyness, but on tracks like the Hardcore crossover opener Agitation! Propaganda! and later the dystopian political disenchantment of Flags and Cities Bound  prove that they have plenty of fearsome societal deconstruction to throw around too. And in Trying to Crack the Hard Dollar and Nobody Told Me, 'Eyehategod' boasts some of the best, most monstrous riffs the band have ever written. 


Martyr Defiled- No Hope No Morality

Exactly the kind of prospect and album that Death Metal purists will turn their righteous noses up at, Birmingham bruisers Martyr Defiled wear the "Deathcore" tag unashamedly on their sleeves on 'No Hope No Morality'. True enough, they sincerely buy into the breakdown- heavy mentality, but this is an example of this kind of music being performed exactly as it should be. There are moments of insidious atmosphere (Demons in the Mist), nails-on-the-blackboard brutality and defiance (616), heartbroken bitterness (Under The Influence) and Neverender even has a HOOK. You'd have to be pretty stone- hearted to not be moved into neck- snapping action by at least some parts of 'No Hope No Morality'. 


Trap Them- Blissfucker

For all Black Breath's hulking rock 'n' roll vibes and all of Nails' blistering nihilism, there isn't one band in the wave of crust- indebted, hardcore inflected Metal bands that comes as close to reducing the human race to a pile of smouldering shame and faeces as Trap Them. On 'Blissfucker', the band pummel that home perhaps harder than they ever have before. The glistening riffing on Gift and Gift Unsteady  and the epic but bleak-as-all-Hell 7 and a half minutes of Savage Climbers prove that there's plenty more to the band than crusty meat- headed chug, but it's the violent moments that hit home the hardest, like the terrifyingly feral Habitland or the furious Death Metal of Former Lining Widen the Walls. This kind of righteous hopelessness gives Behemoth's 'The Satanist' a serious run for its money for Metal record of the year. 


Next time on Horns Aloft!: Mastodon, Mayhem, Feed the Rhino and more. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Half- Arsed History: 300: Rise of an Empire Reviewed


Film: 300: Rise of an Empire
Director: Noam Murro
Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey
Age Rating: 15+
Release Date: 7/3/2014

When Zack Snyder made the first 300 film, it was always clear from the outset that it was something delivered with tongues firmly placed in cheeks. Upon the film's release to the mass public this turned out to be one of the most favourable things about it; stylish, intensely homo- erotic (though it can be debated as to how far Snyder would have perceived it as so) and action packed, it somehow managed to balance an OTT fanaticism for the modernism that engulfs special effects in cinema in the 21st century as well have a fairly level headed approach to entertainment. 

When regarding its sequel (or indeed, prequel; yeah, it's THAT question again) 300: Rise of an Empire, one begins to wonder where the lines between entertainment and sheer self- indulgence become blurred. Directed by Noam Murro, there's a slight switch up certain aesthetics here, admirable in the way that it tries its hardest to draw a concrete distinction between itself and its predecessor. The action scenes are still largely extra-ordinarily choreographed; they're not so much based on the male physique as they are on actual swordplay.

Murro's ambition for special effects pales in comparison to Snyder's however; the blood effects are supposed to be more gruelling and perhaps less unrealistic, though they only succeed in being less watch-able. Although the fight scenes are to an extent always enjoyable, they just don't have the same purposeful vigour that made those in 300 so perpetual. 

The next point of contention is the story line. The premise of a second 300 film always seemed slightly questionable due to the fact that they all the protagonists died in the first one, however it was also obvious that this would probably have a limited amount to do with its predecessor. The links betwixt the two are heavily imposed enough to make sense. However, the back story here of transformation into a God and an entirely naval- based campaign, although fabricated, still seems somewhat half- arsed. It seems the film falls into the trap of valuing flashy and fleshy occurrences over actual substance, only those said flashy scenes aren't enough to hold the film up. 

And then there's the acting. Sullivan Stapleton takes centre screen as the Greek warrior protagonist Thermistocles, and if you can get past the occasional dip into his native Australian accent then he's merely wooden. Eva Green is playing the role she was supposedly born to play as the villainous sea commander Artemisia, but she brings so little charm to the performance that rarely is she enjoyable. And Lena Headey's slow- burning, clunky delivery of clich├ęd philosophy and historical narration does little to redeem her just as troubling performance in the first film. 

If there is something positive to be taken away from 300: Rise of an Empire, it's that not at any point does it attempt to ram down your throat any notion of historical accuracy, or even morality. The film knows it's ridiculous, and wears this like a badge of honour. However it's hard to value that above the fact that the film is, more than anything else, hackneyed and shallow. 

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 10 April 2014

New Sounds: Trap Them- Salted Crypts

Furious Hardcore/ Sludge/ Metal riff lords Trap Them are back with an absolute monster in the form of 'Salted Crypts', the first track to drop from their upcoming full- length 'Blissfucker'. I was a HUGE fan of the band's last full- length, 2011's 'Darker Handcraft', and to say this track has whetted my appetite for its successor would be an understatement. 

The track entails pretty much everything we've come to expect from Trap Them, but in many cases it amps it up to 11. The doom- laden, crushing progression that kicks the song off is as bone- breakingly heavy as always, and the cavernous backing vocals add some distant, unnerving atmosphere. Soon the track breaks from its hold and bursts into a skull- burstingly abrasive, raw and frantic Hardcore meltdown. The track keeps in check with the Converge/ Dismember influences that have always been prevalent in the band's sound, but melds them together with a renewed sense of vitality. Another notable thing is the production. On 'Darker Handcraft' the general sound was massive and more considered, but on 'Salted Crypts' it reverts back to the gnarlier, much rawer sound of their 2008 debut. 

All in all, it's the kind of track that makes you want to neck beers and smash tables, and thus is everything it should be. 

'Blissfucker' is due to be released on June 10th via Prosthetic Records. 

Catharsis Absolute

Artist: Avichi
Album: Catharsis Absolute
Record Label: Profound Lore

Enough has been written about the influx of creativity and diversity in Black Metal since the first Wolves In The Throne Room album, but there's plenty of blastbeat conservatism being bandied about too. One man BM project Avichi's new album 'Catharsis Absolute' is one that merges both ball- parks, and thus should appease fans of both. 

There's the old- school darkness of 'Flames In My Eyes', the Agalloch- baiting melodicism of 'Lightweaver' and the 13-minute repetitive magnificence of 'All Gods Fall' to boot. The sinister piano lament of the title track will also conjure reminiscences of Mayhem's more ambient moments. All in all it's a largely wholesome, cascading beast. 


Key track: All Gods Fall
For Fans Of: Cult Of Fire,  Agalloch