Wage War – Low
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Wage War no longer seem to be pegged as the future of metalcore, both because of how much the genre has changed and evolved since those claims were made, and because, for as solid as it was overall, Deadweight didn’t hit the highs that could have ensured a permanent seat at the table. In principle then, copying Architects does seem to be a way to go to get that success, but when it’s as blatant as as it’s made out to be on Low, it crosses over from promising reference point to a mediocre approximation of the genuine article. Perhaps ‘mediocre’ is the wrong word, as this certainly isn’t bad; Briton Bond continues to boast one of the most powerful screams in modern metalcore, and the typically burly style that Wage War have become known for is here in earnest. But it’s hard to deny how much Architects have played a role in the sound of this track, to the point where it’s possible to point out entire passages that feel ripped wholesale from Doomsday, such is the similarity in instrumental and production style. And sure, if you’re going to copy someone, copy the best, but it leaves precious little room for Wage War to show their own talents, and it leaves Low as the sort of imitation that feels kind of pointless when the original remains so fresh.
Mark Morton ft. Chester Bennington – Cross Off
When it was revealed that Mark Morton’s solo album would feature an appearance from the late Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, it was hard not to feel a bit dubious. Even if not on the part of the Lamb Of God guitarist, this wouldn’t be the first time that a label has capitalised on an artist’s death to try and get a rise out of fans looking for whatever musical relics may remain, and that could’ve easily been the case here. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be; instead of a hastily-cobbled piece of a song that has so often been the norm, Cross Off at least has the vibe of two artists working with each other instead of letting the pins connect by chance, with Bennington’s sneer fitting surprisingly well over Morton’s heavier guitar work, even if the hook can feel a bit undercooked and shakier than it should. Still, Bennington’s contributions are layered and versatile enough to make this a spectacle beyond the mere inclusion of his name, and produced in the slick-but-heavy manner of so much modern metal, it’s a good enough track to override any potential cynicism about its creation to simply succeed on its own merits.
Catfish And The Bottlemen – Longshot
To some degree, the return of Catfish And The Bottlemen is the ultimate litmus test for staying power within modern indie. Given that the renaissance of leather-clad white lads with both feet in the Arctic Monkeys and Oasis camps has died a flaming death, it’s both a test of fan devotion and overall talent that’ll ultimately see what this band have to offer in 2019. That’s assuming they had anything to offer it start with, mind, and while a couple of songs elevated above the sum of their rather meagre parts, it’s hard to say that Catfish And The Bottlemen were ever astounding, and Longshot is really no different. Besides a decently choppy guitar groove, this could’ve been lifted directly from 2014 without hassle, such is the stagnation that this band have undergone in their absence, and given that Van McCann can’t even be bothered to pushed past a mid-ranged drawl to at least match instrumentation with a tad more bombast, it’s a mid-level, average cut at best from a band who might as well have that phrase tattooed on their foreheads at this point. The fans will probably enjoy it, but clearly someone who actively identifies as a fan of Catfish And The Bottlemen isn’t the greatest judge of quality to start with.
Millencolin – Nothing
Even for as well as they’ve been doing recently and for as strong of a lead single as SOS was, there’s something about the nature of a new Millencolin album that doesn’t lead to much anticipation, purely because they’ve remained so consistent over time that there’s really nothing to worry about in terms of quality. In turn, Nothing feels like that most natural extension of that statement possible, as the band shun any sort of innovation or reinvention in favour of the galloping melodic punk that’s taken them so far up to this point. And somewhat surprisingly, there’s still mileage in that, especially when this track embodies the natural pace and perennial youthful but distinctly mature viewpoint of a band that really have nothing to prove at this point. That might sound like a bad thing or indicative of a band spinning their wheels, but Millencolin know how to channel it in such an effective, fat-free manner, and run with it as emphatically as possible. Even then, it’s probably not one of their best, but there’s not exactly anything wrong with it anyway, and as long as Millencolin can keep it up to this standard, they should be onto another winner.
Puppy – Bathe In Blood
When Puppy release The Goat in about a week’s time, it’s likely to be the sort of early-year release that – depending on it being good, that is – will see 2019 open countless doors for this band like so many of their modern Britrock peers in the last couple of years. For now though, Bathe In Blood stands as likely the final taster of that album, representing the sort of step forward that will undoubtedly have a great number of tongues wagging. This is Puppy’s heavier, crunchier side, relying on thick guitars and erratic percussion imported directly from the ‘90s, but with Jock Norton’s ethereal vocal delivery acting as the boon for that core of melodic sweetness to rest on, there’s more than a hint of Deftones in their, perhaps closer than any band in recent memory has come to capturing. It’s that attention to detail that’ll serve Puppy well going ahead too; it’s easy to pinpoint where their influences lie and what’s gone into making a track like this, but it’s all blended so seamlessly well that the result congeals into its own beast entirely. Of course, it’ll be interesting to see whether they can keep that up for an entire album, but considering their track record up to now is virtually spotless, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have an album of the year contender already with this one.
Holding Absence – Perish
Now that Holding Absence have announced a proper album, it feels like what was once hope that they could deliver on the incredible hype built around them has become genuine, unquenchable excitement that one of the most promising bands in modern British post-hardcore are at long last making headway. Perish definitely feels like a considerable next step too, most notably in how utterly, irrepressibly huge it sounds, building from smoky, ethereal keys into crashing walls of sound in a way that over-polished post-hardcore bands only wish they could. As for Lucas Woodland, there’s a genuine claim to be made for him being among the biggest stars in the scene when this album is released, given his ability to convey such intensity and vulnerability with next to no concessions made, and pushing this track forward with the grandiosity that it really does make its own. If nothing else, this is the sort of proof needed that Holding Absence are a true force to be reckoned with, something that their album is bound to only make more evident.
FIDLAR – By Myself
Considering how deeply entrenched in the zeitgeist-riding garage-punk aesthetic they once were, to see FIDLAR become what they are today is both slightly surprising but also rather expected. In the same vein as SWMRS, they appear to have left most of that behind, but what they’ve become is still a bit jarring in comparison, moving towards taut, snappy alt-pop that isn’t just a significant departure, but also a lot more likable. Even better, By Myself actually shows competence in structure compared to SWMRS recent work, with a hopping bassline and rattling percussion formulating a decently sunny vibe that Zac Carper’s untamed howl feels well-equipped to work with, and bringing the veneer of snide yet self-deprecating wit into the equation, there’s actually quite a lot of appeal here, particularly compared to how run-of-the-mill and dimensionless FIDLAR could seem in the past. It mightn’t be amazing given how overly repetitive and throwaway it can occasionally feel, but any progression is still worthwhile, particularly for a band like FIDLAR whose period of fallow uncreativeness seems to be coming to an end.
Within Temptation – In Vain
Choosing to move their album release to February was a wise decision for Within Temptation, not just because it moved it away from the late-December deadzone that was bound to see it flounder regardless, but it gives them more time to convince the listening public that it could still be good, despite the previously-released singles implying nothing of the sort. Maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration to call them outright bad, but they’ve all been indicative of a band truly resting on their laurels, and while In Vain is a bit better than its predecessors, it doesn’t do a lot to break that trend. At least it’s not overshadowed by a guest star this time, and that does give Sharon den Adel room to make this track here own, but as yet another slick hard rock ballad with electronic embellishments, it’s about as whitebread as it comes for this genre as a whole, let alone for Within Temptation. There’s at least a good deal of bombast that can be appreciated, but In Vain really does fall flat on the whole, feeling exactly like the flaccid, uninteresting cuts that have come before.
Busted – Radio
At this point, the existence of Busted seems to be to peddle early-2000s nostalgia and nothing more; nothing from Half Way There has even come close to reaching a point where development of the sound seems like a possibility, and even from the point of cartoonish pop-rock, it’s hardly been even decent, really. At least Radio is a bit better, taking the form of the low-key, wistful adult alternative of the ‘90s, particularly in Charlie Simpson’s chorus and the deeper gravitas it carries. Alongside the gentle acoustic guitar and pianos, there’s a lot of schmaltzy charm to the instrumentation, enough to carry another fairly barebones track that falls into the usual ballad mould and a series of vocal performance that sees none of the three members at their best. Still, for the low bar that Busted have set themselves for this new album, this is probably the best track to come from it, and though it’s not enough to rebuild the largely-crumbled hope of anything decent, it’s at least a bright spot to suggest that maybe it won’t all be bad.
Zebrahead – All My Friends Are Nobodies
Like the rising of the sun and the changing of the tides, you can almost time your watch to the point when Zebrahead will release a new album that’ll have little to no progression from the last. It sounds harsh, but at this point, there can be few bands who’ve made less of an effort to evolve their sound over the years than Zebrahead, and All My Friends Are Nobodies couldn’t fit that mould more, this time falling into their more serious, grown-up punk trappings in the vein of a track like Ricky Bobby, and while the surging guitar crunch is a nice foundation to base all of this on, it hits such a cluttered median within Zebrahead’s catalogue that it’s hard to distinguish what makes this different from so many others like this. They’re fine at what they do, sure, but the time is going to come where they’ll need to actually evolve and stop spinning their wheels to simply get by, and All My Friends Are Nobodies is the warning shot of that having to come sooner rather than later.
Masked Intruder – No Case
If more people would just give Masked Intruder a chance, they could genuinely be amongst the best-loved bands on the planet. They’re probably among the best bands on the planet at fusing pop-punk and power-pop, and with the sharp hooks and deliriously catchy melodies they’ve been known to peddle, there’s no reason that their reach shouldn’t be so much bigger. Just take No Case, a track that does indeed play in to their bank robber image, but with enough pliability to stand as a fantastic track on its own, pairing a distinct sweetness in the vocals with a pleasant crunch and a pace that means it never outstays its welcome. Even the sprinklings of humour that can be so divisive manage to land, and it leads to the perfect, fizzing bottlerocket of a track that isn’t exactly new for Masked Intruder, but could be the gateway for so many more to realise what they’re missing. Seriously, give them a chance; you’ll absolutely love them.
Rotting Out – Reaper
In terms of hardcore punk in 2019, Rotting Out are about as straight-laced as it comes in terms of sheer sonic destruction and brevity that’s all about how hard-hitting they can be. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with that, mind, but given how many bands are currently peddling that sound (and how many of those can be classified as true greats of the genre), a track like Reaper doesn’t have the same brutality as it would otherwise. It’s definitely not a bad song – Walter Delgado’s yelps fuel the claustrophobic atmosphere while the chunky guitars rage around him – but it can feel a bit by the numbers at time with regards to execution, even if the more personal lyrical focus is a nice touch for a genre that can feel a bit reticent to lean into that. Overall then, the positives outweigh the negatives for what is effectively a good track, but Rotting Out could definitely afford to branch out and go further; it would only benefit them in the long run.
Guided By Voices – The Rally Boys
With a reputation for being exceptionally prolific that precedes any and all notions of music (since 2010 they’ve released ten albums as well as going on hiatus for a couple of years), it’ll take a special sort of album for Guided By Voices to really be noticed in the right ways. Sure, Zeppelin Over China being a double album doesn’t exactly quash the notions of prolificness over anything else, but at least with The Rally Boys they’re continuing on a strong note. There’s a warmth to Robert Pollard’s vocal tone almost in the vein of Elbow’s Guy Garvey, something mirrored in the sweeping strings and synths and rousing drum pickup for a slice of art-rock that’s a tad too unconventional for radio, but feels fully fleshed-out despite being less than two minutes long. Even then, it doesn’t offer a whole lot beyond a grown-up indie-rock fix, but it’s definitely a pleasant one, and when it comes to placing the quality of their output to the fore for a change, Guided By Voices could use more tracks like this.
Kill The Lights – The Faceless
Given how emphatically and utterly Bullet For My Valentine are floundering at the minute, it feels like little wonder that former drummer Michael ‘Moose’ Thomas has distanced himself as much as possible, not only choosing to make his sabbatical from the band permanent but forming a whole new project focusing on the metal that, as Gravity showed, has become such a waning focus in the other camp. Granted, Kill The Lights’ lineup is far from an all-star cast – members of Throw The Fight, Glamour Of The Kill and Still Remains bulk out the roster, for whatever that’s worth – but for no-frills, meat-and-potatoes metal, The Faceless is good enough. There’s enough meat and heft to the guitar work and drums to create a foundation that’s stable enough, and James Clark displays a decent amount of versatility and fluidity in a vocal style that feels ripped right out of the mid- to late-2000s. That’s essentially the case for the track entirely, and while it may struggle to surpass those boundaries in a scene that’s moved on quite a lot since then, it’s hard to deny that this is still alright for what it is. It’ll take more to fully convince that Kill The Lights are worth keeping an eye on in the long term, but this is a solid start regardless.
Royal Trux – White Stuff
Royal Trux’s new album will be their first album of brand new material in eighteen years, something that, for a band that have remained decidedly underground throughout their career and are possibly most noteworthy for a tentative-at-best affiliation with Jon Spencer, is rather impressive. It’s their extensive back catalogue that’ll prove most surprising to newcomers though, especially when White Stuff could easily be the debut single of any new garage-rock duo looking to capitalise on a scuzzier, rumbling guitar tone. That’s both a blessing and a curse, too; on one hand, the emulsive combination of Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema’s vocals lend a shot of rough-and-ready personality that’s definitely noticeable, but with a disjointed instrumental canvas behind them comprising of a handful of fragmented moments that can only ever clunk into place, it’s an awkward listen without the inexplicably long fade out. There’s certainly more of a gnarled edge than so many others duos in this vein, but Royal Trux seem to using their legacy as a boon to get away with more than they should, and that’s not really the best course of action to take for a return that’s almost two decades in the making.
Mozes And The Firstborn – Blow Up
Up to now, Mozes And The Firstborn’s output hasn’t exactly impressed, a fact that’s disappointing in itself considering that there’s a lot that can be done within the typical shoegaze / fuzz-pop remit, and the fact they don’t seem to be pushing themselves in that direction has frequently underwhelmed. And while Blow Up might fall into the same camp, it at least has them reviewing and refining what they do have for a track that’s a lot more impactful in its aims. This time, they’ve played to the sunny, almost inconsequentially lightweight of a band like Best Coast, and with the blurry, lilting guitars and Melle Dielesen’s filtered but booming vocals, there’s a sense of presence that their previous singles have lacked up to now. And sure, it’s still deep in the well of hipster-baiting indie-rock that feels totally unashamed of that fact, but it’s at least possible to let them off the hook when the music that’s coming from it is enjoyable, and with Blow Up, it’s probably the most they’ve delivered yet.
Kid Kapichi – 2019
It’s hardly a shock that the current socio-political climate, especially in the UK, has inspired a lot of music recently, but Kid Kapichi’s brazen attempt at condensing down everything currently wrong about two weeks into the new year is probably one of the more on-the-nose efforts yet. That’s not to say it doesn’t leave a mark though, and riding on sleazy bass grooves reminiscent of gritty cop dramas and barked, blunt vocals that definitely leave their impression, 2019 feels like the seedy underbelly being exposed. And for what so easily could’ve devolved into another Slaves-esque punk pantomime, Kid Kapichi genuinely feel fired up here, whether it’s in a lyrical canvas that takes the usually-appealing post-punk route of humour to balance the gnashing, or the screeching, purposefully discordant guitar solo to fully tip the scales in their favour. Post-punk might be continually doing well across the board, but if they carry on like this, there’s no reason that Kid Kapichi couldn’t rise to the very top of that pile in no time at all.
Superlove – Book A Holiday
There’s an art to making simple music about simple subjects without coming across as asinine, and for as much of a tightrope walk as it can be, generally the stuff that’s pushed forward seems to do it rather well. And while that’s largely a case for Superlove’s Book A Holiday, there’s a lack of dimension that has very little to say beyond what’s already in the title. It doesn’t help that musically it falls in a Britrock headspace pitched somewhere between mid-period Lower Than Atlantis and Press To MECO, especially when the former already have English Kids In America as an example of doing this exact sort of thing better, and the latter’s naturally sunny presentation and execution doesn’t feel as forced as this can. It’s certainly competent from an instrumental standpoint, but this doesn’t feel like the greatest opening salvo, and if Superlove go ahead being typecast as just another party band with little to really say, it wouldn’t be all that surprising.
The Murder Capital – Feeling Fades
Like former tourmates Fontaines D.C., The Murder Capital are another band who’ve been bringing the Dublin post-punk scene swathes of acclaim and hot tips, even if they’ve kept themselves deliberately low-profile amongst it all. Of course, it’s that entire shtick that’s only fuelled their virality more, something that feels necessary when the music isn’t quite up to scratch to hit a similar level. In terms of post-punk, theirs is a brand that hits the correct beats – James McGovern is an imposing frontman in his gritted delivery against the buzzsaw bass and rattling guitars and percussion – but this isn’t something that breaks the mould or does much new compared to so many others in the same vein. Occasionally, there’s something about them that edges out a more violent, roughneck demeanour that would definitely suit them to develop, like the audible spit at the very end, but ultimately, The Murder Capital need to do a bit more to really impress and take themselves the extra mile.
Words by Luke Nuttall