I Prevail – Bow Down / Breaking Down
There was absolutely no reason for I Prevail to return. Lifelines still stands as one of the most formulaic, worthless metalcore albums released in the past few years, and with the cover of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space continuing to haunt them as their one lasting moment of relevance, new music from this band hasn’t exactly been clamoured for. And given how Bow Down and Breaking Down have turned out, that was probably a wise move, as these could’ve been released in 2013 and probably would’ve blown people’s minds back then, but in 2019, they only reinforce the notions of how unnecessary this band is. The questionable decision to fall into trap desaturation to ‘complement’ how uninspired the fury in the latter is is a pretty immediate turn-off, and while the former has a bit more guitar crunch thanks to some ever-reliable nu-metal influences, the boring, faux-angsty lyrics and cut-and-paste formula lifted for the billionth time is indicative of a band with precious little to say and even fewer meaningful ways of saying it, to the point where they’re both just another few minutes apiece of white noise amidst the void that is this band’s entire catalogue. Still, I Prevail’s penchant for spamming out paid Facebook ads probably means you’ve not heard the last of them just yet, so get used to them while they’re around.
After The Burial – Behold The Crown
As good as After The Burial have typically been, they’ve never really gotten the chance to really show it, and that’s not always been their fault; their 2016 album Dig Down had some great moments, but they were arguably overshadowed by the tragic death of guitarist Justin Lowe that hung over it. Thus, Behold The Crown feels like their next of many chances to really do something great, and it’s pretty much as good as ever for this band. They’re able to do a lot with progressive metalcore that keeps it concise and tight but still allows the prominent technicalities to flourish, and Anthony Notarmaso still has the sort of ironclad vocal presence that’s always been an easy to sell in this brand of metal. If nothing else, it might be a bit too similar to what After The Burial have done in that past – leading up to their sixth album, that can largely be expected – but this is still a strong listen overall, especially for a band who’ve never really wavered in that department in the past.
Man With A Mission – Left Alive
The urge to like Man With A Mission has always been a niggling sensation, even when their music has typically provided very little to act on that impulse. Their talismanic wolf masks have typically been more memorable than cluttered, overly ambitious J-rock, and considering how gimmickry has historically been used to sell bands like this within a more mainstream rock context, that’s a bad sign. Still, the desire to like them comes from a clear diversity and grasp of multiple sounds, which can definitely be seen in Left Alive with skittering drum ‘n’ bass electronica, speedy J-rock and a very western take on hard rock melody all clash and jostle for space. And in typical Man With A Mission fashion, it’s a total mess with very little coherency to its name, and does generally feel too cluttered and busy for its own good. Even digging deeper into less-than-stellar production and a guitar solo tacked onto the end that sounds far too grating to achieve anything, Left Alive stands as yet another strike-out from a band who, with just the bare minimum in terms of refinement and focus, could achieve so much more.
Brutus – Cemetery
Brutus really do seem to be pulling out all the stops to ensure their next album hits an incredible high at this rate. Between a lead single in War that took their part black-metal / part math-rock sound to new heights and a live presence that has captivated pretty much without fail, this unlikely, avant-garde success story only looks to be rolling on even more, and Cemetery is a testament to that. In terms of structuring it’s the typical minimalism this band has stuck to for a while now – guitars and drums rumble by for an implacable sense of atmosphere with Stefanie Mannaerts‘ vocals being what cuts through it – but there are layers upon layers that weave together for an enrapturing, if slightly unsettling listen. And of course, like most of what Brutus has done, this won’t be for everyone, but that’s part of what makes Cemetery so fascinating; this is a band playing to their off-kilter sensibilities so unashamedly that it’s hard to deny what they’re doing works, and when the final product is among some of the most interesting and detailled rock music around right now, the results speak for themselves.
Rarity – Shawinigan
If the name Rarity doesn’t ring any bells, that’s pretty understandable. They broke through at a time when every new pop-punk was touted as the source of some enormous shake-up within the scene, only to drop away pretty much as soon as anyone new came around. With Rarity though, their clear ties to post-hardcore made them a bit more interesting, and Shawinigan does develop on that, albeit not hugely. There’s more of a surging power and darkness within the instrumentation, particularly guitars that aren’t afraid to snarl and contort themselves a bit more readily, but on the whole, this could be attributed to any post-Story So Far chancer looking to push the sound that bit further. The sound is pushed, that much can’t be denied, but Rarity are still playing it rather safe, and at a time when pop-punk really isn’t in favour anymore and can’t afford to embrace that safety, Shawinigan can fall a bit short of the mark.
Idiot Pilot – The Pushover
In terms of the prominence that electronic rock would gain in the 2010s, it’s easy to look back on Idiot Pilot and see a band well ahead of their time, combining synthesised beats with the indie-rock and post-hardcore of the 2000s when that could still be seen as a new, exciting idea. Therefore, it makes sense that they’re choosing now to return, twelve years after their last lot of new material, and in a way, it does feel like they’re trying to slip back into a genre that’s largely moved on without them. That’s not to say that The Pushover is bad as, with its soaring, dramatic take on melody in the cinematic guitars and tapping, omnipresent beats, it has a nice presence, but particularly as a return, it’s a bit too low-key to get all the way there, only really roaring towards the end with bigger, meatier riffs to take it home. It doesn’t help that Michael Harris isn’t the most dynamic vocalist in the world either, and that only contributes to the notion of this being a track that simmers nicely enough but does little else. It’s definitely okay, but after more than a decade away, wanting a bit more doesn’t seem too out of the question.
Orchards – Young
It really is great to see Orchards picking up as much steam as they have. Losers / Lovers was a killer little EP of indie-pop glory that solidified a band that could easily be as big as bands like Fickle Friends or Pale Waves doing similar things, and to see how much traction they’ve gotten from that is genuinely encouraging going forward. Clearly the band feel the same way as well, as Young feels like their biggest pop pivot to date, but not in a pejorative sense. If anything, the bubbly guitars and bouncing synths have already proven to be what this band do best, and here they’ve only been sharped and coloured in to an even greater extent to maximise on the candy-coated joy. Along with Lucy Evers’ glittery vocal performance and lyrics examining love that have enough depth to neatly avoid being throwaway, Young is the sound of a band with enormous things on their horizon who are doing everything in their power to reach them without compromising even slightly. Of course, with a sound as insatiable as this, compromise was hardly ever going to be an issue, but that’s only a testament to how much excellence Orchards can already bring.
Fresh – Withdraw
There’s a certain energy about Fresh that makes them easy to like, even among an indie-punk scene that’s regularly crowded and doesn’t tend to deviate too much from what they’re doing. Part of that is thanks to the warm fuzziness that exudes from their sound thanks to easy traces to old-school indie-pop and scruffier pop-punk, while Kathryn Woods has a very inviting vocal style that can still fit in moments of frustration and disenfranchised ennui when necessary. In any case, it gives Willa enough of an edge to stand out, getting by on crunchy, mid-paced guitars and a nice jangling sense of momentum, while still fitting so snugly within the scene that it can occasionally get lost amongst the crop of very similar acts. That’s not to knock what Fresh are doing here, though, and in a very open and real portrayal of youthful angst that only seems to die down when playing live, there’s still a lot to like about Willa. Their upcoming album will have to do quite a bit more to really hit home, but for now, this is an exceptionally solid sign of what’s to come.
Crows – Wednesday’s Child
Up to now, Crows haven’t been offering a lot to get truly excited about, not when their variation on post-punk doesn’t seem to be stretching beyond the pretty rudimentary basics, and not when Fontaines D.C. are doing everything they are to a generally higher standard. It’s not worth dropping them entirely just yet though; they’re still largely finding their feet after all, and Wednesday’s Child does feel like a definite improvement. It’s still not great – James Cox’s vocals don’t offer much by being both buried deep in the mix and unable to break from a ceaseless monotone – but the noise-rock angle is one that feels a lot more stable, particularly in the noisy, clattering guitars and firm bass grooves that do have a decent sense of progression. It’ll hopefully come to light more when Crows’ debut comes out, but this does seem to be a step in the right direction from a band who previously struggled to hit even that.
Sleep Talk – Everything In Colour
From the very start it’s easy to peg what Sleep Talk are doing here. Australian metalcore have fallen drastically out of favour in recent times, and thus by pairing it with emo-grunge that bands like Basement and Citizen have been so proficient with, it mitigates some of the potential damage. In theory, at least, because Everything In Colour feels remarkably bitty and abortive for the sort of fusion it’s attmepting to pull off, moving from grunge parts that are alright to screams and a whispered sense of dread that don’t really gel with anything else. Coupled with the fact that it feels like numerous elements piled on top of each other with very few attempts made to build on any besides a chorus to bookend the track, Sleep Talk clearly show they have a wealth of ideas but nothing concrete to do with them. Maybe something can come of this in future, but it’s going to take a lot of work to make that happen.
Delaire, The Liar – One Of Us Is The Killer
The whole notion of Delaire, The Liar is an interesting concept. Two-piece rock bands on their own aren’t necessarily, but when said band lists their influences as Touché Amoré, Pianos Become The Teeth and writers such as E.E. Cummings and Audre Lorde, that’s a bit more unique. Indeed, One Of Us Is The Killer definitely has a sound that pretty much immediately yanks Delaire, The Liar away from being lumped in with rock’s ever-crowded clique of duos with a sound that’s much more slow-burning and reliant on deep, dense atmosphere Ffin Colley’s incredibly distinct and elasticated vocals. It might be a bit too slow-burning at points, especially given how long it can take to get going, but when things really kick up in the back half with gnashing tension and a calamitous, portentous sense of frustration, this is pretty much unstoppable. And yet, the buildup doesn’t feel perfunctory or out of place, and as a whole piece of work, One Of Us Is The Killer is the sort of off-kilter but deeply intriguing post-hardcore track that makes it hard not to want more.
Words by Luke Nuttall