The Soundboard Stereo – May 2017

May’s album releases have certainly been a mixed bag. On one hand, heavy hitters like Paramore, Motionless In White, Gnarwolves and Malevolence have all come out with new material that’s delivered spectacularly, but on the other, there’s also been Linkin Park, Kasabian and Machine Gun Kelly who’ve done the exact opposite. But as well as all that, here’s what else we’ve been listening to, featuring two of British rock’s favourites, a throwback to 2004 with Slipknot, and one of the 2010s’ most under-appreciated gems.

Bullet For My Valentine – Fever

While both The Poison and Scream Aim Fire are held in higher regard, Fever represents the moment where Bullet For My Valentine fully honed their talents for something truly special, and what would be their final truly great album. Matt Tuck’s iffy songwriting once again remains the sole flaw in an album where zipping, crushing metal riffs are pushed to their upper limits, combined with the sort of stellar, explosive material like Your Betrayal and Alone that would soon push them into arenas. Even in the ballads A Place Where You Belong and especially Bittersweet Memories, imbued with the ghost of hair metal, Bullet For My Valentine push their metallic and technical impulses right to the fore. Granted, the evolution (or lack thereof) on Fever didn’t display much stylistic versatility, but compared to what would follow – the limp, pale Temper Temper and Venom which continues to fade more by the day – Bullet For My Valentine signed out of their golden age with one hell of a home run. • LN

Choice picks: Fever, Begging For Mercy, Alone

Slipknot – Vol. 3: [The Subliminal Verses]

Here’s something that might shock you – before last week I had never listened to a Slipknot album in full. Not one. Listening to their entire discography in one sitting was an interesting experience; noting the development that others have charted over the course of years while hearing everything from a totally fresh perspective. And while not my favourite of the five, Vol. 3 [The Subliminal Verses] seemed to be the most notable turning point in Slipknot’s career. The out-and-out rage and emotion that powered their first two albums seems slightly more condensed here, and more focused on being packaged in a more accessible way now they were metal superstars. You wouldn’t imagine this band being able to produce acoustic tracks like Vermillion Pt 2 (its much heavier counterpart appearing earlier in the tracklist) or the string-laden Circle, but it without a doubt works. This album also hosts perhaps one of the best drum interludes ever (The Blister Exists) and of course mega-hit Duality, which has perhaps the biggest chorus of any Slipknot song. Vol. 3 is a record by a band mindful of the stadiums they were soon to play, and evidence of how a band so disgustingly heavy can reach the heights Slipknot have. Theirs is such a fascinating career to go in depth on, and it’s so easy to see why they are the modern representatives of metal. • GJ

Choice picks: The Blister Exists, Duality, Danger – Keep Away

A Day To Remember – Common Courtesy 

Common Courtesy almost didn’t see the light of day. The lawsuit imposed on A Day To Remember by their former label Victory Records left the band almost at a point of no return, leading to an awkward midweek release date for this album when some leniency was finally reached. And thank goodness it was, because Common Courtesy is A Day To Remember’s magnum opus, the best fusion of their pop-punk, post-hardcore and metalcore stripes to date with each in its finest form. Through a combination of anger (Violence (Enough Is Enough) and Life Lessons Learned The Hard Way), jubilation (Right Back At It Again) and smoldering frustration (Sometimes You’re The Hammer, Sometimes You’re The Nail and End Of Me), Common Courtesy barely misses a beat when it comes to every facet of A Day To Remember as a band, and caps off the most tumultuous period of its creators’ career in the most fantastic way possible. They’re yet to better this, and it’ll be a borderline miracle if they ever do. • LN

Choice picks: Right Back At It Again, Sometimes You’re The Hammer, Sometimes You’re The Nail, City Of Ocala

Enter Shikari – A Flash Flood Of Colour

Currently celebrating the ten-year anniversary of their debut album Take To The Skies, Enter Shikari have been a massive presence in our scene. While delivering consistently excellent records throughout their career, 2012 saw them deliver their magnum opus, A Flash Flood Of Colour. Their genre mashing is more restrained on this record, but not so much that they lose the originality that makes them such a superpower. Flash Flood… has everything – maybe the best album openers ever in System… and …Meltdown, massive radio hits (Sssnakepit, Arguing With Thermometers), angry shouting / rapping (Gandhi Mate, Gandhi) and synth-based tracks, be it the wubby Hello Tyrannosaurus, Meet Tyrannicide or gorgeous closer Constellations, all inspired by politics and the issues with the world around us. The range of moods and sounds showcased on this album while still retaining a cohesiveness and high standard of quality is such an achievement. A Flash Flood Of Colour is bonafide evidence of just how important a band Enter Shikari are – both for raising awareness of social issues and smashing genre boundaries. • GJ

Choice picks: Sssnakepit, Gandhi Mate, Gandhi, Pack Of Thieves

D.R.U.G.S – D.R.U.G.S

D.R.U.G.S were only together from 2010 to 2012, but the one release they put out proved their existence was far too brief. With a lineup consisting of members of such innocuous scene elder statesmen as Chiodos, Story Of The Year, From First To Last and more, any expectations of another slick screamo album stuck in the mid-2000s were shattered with this album, a hugely theatrical, diverse offering with some of frontman Craig Owens’ most expressive vocal work in his entire repertoire. Even the variety on this album remains staggering, ranging from sunny, Warped-friendly pop-rock on I’m Here To Take The Sky to the frantic hardcore angularity of If You Think This Song Is About You, It Probably Is, as well passages of Spanish guitar on Laminated E.T Animal, an utterly bizarre hidden spoken word passage and a clear love of palindromic song titles. To call it an acquired taste is certainly an understatement, but D.R.U.G.S’ one album was the sort of gaudy yet thrilling update that this vein of post-hardcore needed. That we’re unlikely to see another like it is a real tragedy. • LN

Choice picks: Laminated E.T Animal, The Only Thing You Talk About, Sex Life

Don Broco – Automatic 

Few bands have pulled off a reinvention like Don Broco. Circa the release of debut album Priorities, their laddish persona (cemented by their music and lyrics) meant everyone thought they had the four-piece pegged as another samey British rock band. Then 2015’s Automatic (my personal album of that year) came out – a glorious, eighties-fuelled masterpiece. Any rough edges on Priorities were sanded down. Don Broco, musically, were the tightest they’ve ever been, Tom Doyle’s astounding bass especially – just listen to the record. The guitar stabs in Keep On Pushing are expertly timed and executed, I Got Sick is perfectly polished, and every single track is irresistibly catchy and feelgood with not even the slightest dip in quality throughout. Automatic also saw Broco go through an image change – perfectly coiffed with dapper white suits. Automatic allowed Broco to finally transcend not just prior stereotypes, but scenes in general. Appearances on Made In Chelsea and the like didn’t earn them ‘sellout’ labels, because it makes sense. Don Broco are their own entity – not conforming to any expectations and making music they love. It just so happens that it’s damn good. • GJ

Choice picks: Automatic, Fire, I Got Sick

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Georgia Jackson (GJ)

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