Frank Iero And The Future Violents – Young And Doomed
Clearly Frank Iero isn’t one to stay still for too long. The Future Violents is the third incarnation of his musical endeavours post-My Chemical Romance, and while it can be questioned how much these sorts of shifts are warranted (there’s not a great difference in sound between any of them, after all), it’s hard not to admire Iero’s tenacity and how – on a musical front, at least – he’s achieved the most success following his former band’s dissolution. And going off Young And Doomed, not a lot seems to have changed on that front; this is the usual loose, rough-around-the-edges garage-punk that’s been his calling card for a while now, but there’s a sense of anthemia here that previously remained absent, whether that’s in the triumphant gallop of the guitars, particularly towards the end when they really pick up, or production that, while arguably the clearest it’s been in any Iero-fronted band, fleshes out the ‘90s alt-rock vibe especially well. As for Iero himself, his clear limitations as a vocalist are once again masked by the DIY nature of it all, and even without a huge range or control of his vocals, the punk spirit he’s obviously trying to capture remains in abundance. Therefore, it’s pretty much the expected from him at this point, but that\s not necessarily a bad thing, and Young And Doomed proves that this new era looks to be carrying on with as much strength as had been left off.
Dance Gavin Dance – Head Hunter
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Dance Gavin Dance released their last album, but while Artificial Selection was a definite step up from what they’d previously delivered, there was still very little about it that suggested follow-up material should come so soon. That can also be justified by the simple notion that if you’ve heard one Dance Gavin Dance song, you’ve basically heard them all, and that’s exactly how Head Hunter feels. It’s just as messy and cluttered as ever between Jon Mess’ erratic screams, Tilian Pearson’s attempts at R&B vocals that sound lathered in more AutoTune than ever, and a general lack of cohesion between the blazing guitar work that feels like prime style-over-substance material. At the very least, it’s following the path that Artificial Selection laid down of avoiding being straight-up migraine-inducing, and a decent chorus can pull back some much-needed points, but Dance Gavin Dance are still a long way from being a great band, and when they keep chasing their own tail with songs like this, it’s hard to see how they’re ever going to break out of that.
Amon Amarth – Raven’s Flight
At this point, no one is going to be surprised by what Amon Amarth bring out, and on the same token the only thing that’s really there to compare it to is their previous work. It’s not like they’ve had any serious fluctuations in quality though, and even for an assertions towards their Viking-inspired death metal running out of ideas, they’ve always been able to remain entertaining. That’s largely the case with Raven’s Flight, a track that wholeheartedly sounds and feels like an Amon Amarth track, and thus fares just about as well as everything else they’ve done. The chugging guitars have plenty of meat and presence in their triumphant sense of pace, and Johan Hegg remains a commanding vocalist in his hoarse, barrel-chested shouts. Maybe the drumming could have a bit more weight and texture, but beyond that, this is as good as Amon Amarth have always been, and for a band who’ve lasted as long as they have with a shtick that still has mileage in it, that’s good enough.
Sainte – Back 2 Me
When Tay Jardine released smile, and wave as her debut EP under the Sainte moniker, it was made pretty clear that pure pop was her strongest suit. Before then, We Are The In Crowd had begun to waver, and moving to something sleeker and tighter felt like it did a lot to complement her vocal style and personality. It looks as though Back 2 Me is going in a similar direction as well, co-opting a sleek, synthetic modern pop aesthetic in its misty keys and touches of guitars in the vein of acts like Chvrches or Sigrid, but keeping the pessimism and struggle that’s provided such a fundamental core in her music. On the flipside, Jardine’s more plaintive lower range can lack a bit of expressiveness, and compared to the neon pop that mostly made up her EP, there’s a bit less distinction here. Still, as an audition to be a proper modern pop star, it’s not like Back 2 Me stumbles any more than those in the field Jardine is trying to break in to, and with a bit more development and refinement, it could turn an already likable prospect into something even greater.
Plague Vendor – New Comedown
As good as Plague Vendor have historically been (and this is a band with barely a bad release to their name), there’s definitely an argument to be made that they’ve not totally lived up to their potential. Especially now, their brand of scuzzy garage-punk would be an easier sell for a much larger audience, and it’s a bit disappointing to see that they’ve not fully taken advantage of that just yet. New Comedown might be a sign of that changing though, as it feels indicative of Plague Vendor sharpening their abilities to a finer point than ever before with ploughing basslines, screeching, acute guitars and Brandon Blaine’s erratic vocal performance for a track that mightn’t be particularly diverse or expansive, but offers what this band are best at in spades. That’s definitely where New Comedown succeeds the most too, and by focusing on the skills that they’ve already made evident, there’s a high chance that Plague Vendor’s fortunes could see a substantial upswing in the months to come.
Yours Truly – I Can’t Feel
There’s almost certainly a good band somewhere in Yours Truly, but up to now, it’s not been something that they’ve been too ready to let loose, and that feels as though it comes from a lack of confidence to do anything of their own. The comparisons to Stand Atlantic are pretty obvious, even on new single I Can’t Feel, and even if they have been admittedly dialled down here for a more pop-rock centric approach, those gaps just seem to have been plugged in by various shades of We Are The In Crowd, whether that’s the poppier bounce of the guitars or Mikaila Delgado’s vocal timbre that can sound distressingly like Tay Jardine at points. To be fair, there’s a bit more unique substance in the lyrics detailing Delgado’s experience with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and the pain that’s cause her throughout her life, and if nothing else, it shows that Yours Truly are moving in the right direction when it comes to music of their own. But overall, while not exactly bad, I Can’t Feel still feels as though it’s holding back from truly delivering something great, and things will be all the better for Yours Truly when they finally reach that point.
The Nightmares – Dorothy
The main problem that The Nightmares have displayed so far is that they’ve not really shown a tangible identity of their own; Adore was okay as far as modern post-punk goes, but the Joy Division worship is what ultimately weighed it down from being anything better than a passable replica. Dorothy, on the other hand, definitely seems to be moving in the right direction, with more of a generalised indie-rock feel that lends itself well for darker post-punk guitars and chilly synths to fill in the negative space. It still lacks a certain spark though, and even as the vocal fidelity seems to increase for the hook, there’s no other modulation, and that can leave this feeling particularly flat and one-note, especially with how short it is. Still, the pieces are being put in place at the minute and The Nightmares can be commended for that, but there’s more to be done before they really begin to reap any significant rewards.
The Alchemy – Intertwined
The Alchemy at least deserve a bit of credit for their attempts to give Britrock something of an update. It’s more than what other upcoming bands have been doing, and with the more prominent synthetic elements they bring to a rather standard rock sound, there’s the potential for something good. That largely feels like the case with Intertwined as well, though it’s not exactly fantastic just yet either. It’s definitely a bit too hollow and understated with a simple mix of gentle guitar, tapping beats and layered vocals that, while elegant, can lack something of a punch to really get it going before the very last minute. That said, as far as this sort of electronic indie-rock goes, The Alchemy at least have a sense of drama and swell, almost like the very early material from Bastille in terms of that wider pop focus with a hint of indie sensibility and off-kilter vibe to push them forward. More like this would definitely help build a wider picture, but for now, this feels like a good move from The Alchemy at getting themselves on the ladder.
Words by Luke Nuttall