Motionless In White – Disguise / Brand New Numb
To many, the return of Motionless In White isn’t going to mean much. 2017’s Graveyard Shift was hardly a critical darling to begin with, but when this is a band whose primary shtick revolves around nu-metal hammering married to goth schlock that still tries to be sinister and edgy, on paper, they tick every box as far as a band who hasn’t aged well in the slightest goes. It doesn’t even seem like they’re trying to take the provocative half-measures that could at least make them fairly entertaining either if these two new tracks are anything to go by, particularly in the case of the former which is effectively Motionless In White on autopilot, with metalcore banality given a slight hint of theatricality and flair that doesn’t make it absolutely awful, but compared to the skyscraping singles that few could deny from this band, it’s a considerable few notches down. As for Brand New Numb, the cock-rock sleaze is on-brand enough as cultivating an edgy image goes (not to mention the lyrics which push that notion further again), but it’s still not great, mostly in progressions that feel so rote and tiresome that end up feeling as if Black Veil Brides had any self-awareness about how silly they can be. Neither track is outright atrocious, if only because Motionless In White have an established sound that’s enough of a boon to get by, but they’re both just as bitty and inconsistent as this band’s entire career has been up to now, and the fact that hasn’t improved when going into their fifth album is a bad sign indeed.
Aaron West And The Roaring Twenties – Just Sign The Papers
After Runnin’ Toward The Light already sent expectations for Dan Campbell’s next album under the Aaron West And The Roaring Twenties moniker skyrocketing, the question became whether he could keep them at that level. It was never much of a question, given that he’s easily one of the most gifted, compelling emotional sources in modern emo, but the margin of error is always there, no matter how small. Thankfully Just Sign The Papers is firmly away from anything like that, slightly scaled back from the rollicking heartland rock of the previous single, but with a ragged folk-rock guitar progression and chunky drum work accented by horns for a few shades of brightness, this is deeply in Campbell’s comfort zone and it shows. It’s even more evident in the emotional pathos and rigour of the writing, not to mention the blatantly cracking vocals that only heighten the importance of such imperfections being left in with music like this. It’s pretty much what anyone would expect from a track like this from Campbell, especially when it’s as compact and condensed to wring out every last drop of potential it has. It’s pretty much perfect, in other words.
The Dangerous Summer – Way Down
As odd as it seems for The Dangerous Summer to be releasing a brand new album not even eighteen months after their last, it’s easy to admire the grind that they’re on, especially when their former status as emo’s next big deal was sadly cut short, something that last year’s self-titled effort didn’t do much to rectify. Thankfully, Way Down continues down a much stronger path, focusing on a heady, robust brand of emo that’s not typically been explored much by this band, but with the chunky guitars and drums breathing and surging with impressive consistency, there’s definitely a deeper atmosphere that feels incredibly well realised. But what really steals the show is AJ Perdomo’s vocals, bringing a broken, brazen roar that comes so naturally to him, and yet hits a point of true catharsis that’s never really been touched upon in this band’s music. It’s a much beefier sound overall that what they often deliver, and that’s what makes it stand out so much; it’s The Dangerous Summer but more, and when it’s done as well as this, it’s intriguing to see how much more they’ll continue to bring.
Weatherstate – Medicate
There’s not a straight-up punk band in the UK today capable of better than Weatherstate. Sure, the comparisons to numerous acts have and most probably will continue to dog them, but in terms of sheer melodic prowess coupled with the gruffness to make their hooks hit with so much more force, everything released thus far from Born A Cynic has hit the mark with virtually pinpoint precision. So here’s Medicate as the latest addition to that list, taking their usual formula of battered yet personality-filled guitars and pitting them against an ear for hook-craft that’s second-to-none and Harry Hoskins’ vocal performance that has all the grit and snotty sneer left in. As far as its biggest failing goes, that’s probably the same as with every Weatherstate song, in that the band are so good at honing their powers in on the best outcome possible that there’s really not a lot to say about it, but when that’s the extent of negative points that can be made, it’s hardly a bad thing. It’s just great that Weatherstate are going into such a long-awaited debut at full capacity and with songs that have all the potential to show exactly what they’re capable of, and that should make for one hugely exciting release indeed.
HalfNoise – Who Could You Be
Up to now, there’s never been much of a reason to get excited about HalfNoise. Sure, the idea of Paramore’s Zac Farro creating a dreamy indie-pop project is a cute novelty on paper, but when none of it has really been all that interesting at all, it’s felt more like a case of an artist who already has clout simply transferring it laterally. But with Who Could You Be, not only is this a much more robust and kinetic sound, but it’s probably the best track under the HalfNoise name to date. It helps that the psychedelic funk-rock vibe is so much more engrossing with fizzing guitars and stalking basslines, enough to overshadow the fact that it barely scrapes the two minute mark and really could go on a bit longer. But even then, it’s hard to complain when everything else has been significantly improved, even Farro’s vocal delivery which greatly benefits from being pushed forward in the mix to give his breathier tones a bit more immediate space. Honestly, this is the step up that HalfNoise have needed for ages now, and while it would’ve been nice for it to come in a more timely fashion when this was still a project getting established, it’s better coming late than never.
False Advertising – You Won’t Feel Love
For as long as False Advertising’s name has been out there – whether that’s through support slots, festival bills or releases and singles showered with positive reception – it feels as though they’re yet to have their real breakout moment to shine. They’ve been leading up to it, and You Won’t Feel Love is a competent, complete next step towards it, but it still doesn’t feel like they’re quite there yet. The snappy bass groove certainly has a lot of personality, and Jen Hingley’s vocals toe the line between unhinged raggedness and pop friendliness well, but on the whole, there could be more personality on show here that’s not quite been picked up on, especially in a guitar tone that can feel unfortunately dime-a-dozen, particularly in indie-rock and post-punk within this mould. It’s certainly not a bad track, and False Advertising will continue to make considerable headway regardless of one song, but when they do reach that defining moment where they truly blow up, it most likely won’t be this track that’s the catalytic factor.
3TEETH – American Landfill
For a band like 3TEETH who’ve been known to traffic in dark, nihilistic industrial metal whose main component is doubling down on each of those outlined qualities, the danger can be reaching a stumbling block that makes progression difficult. It’s not like industrial metal is the most versatile genre anyway, but they’re close to reaching that wall if American Landfill is anything to go by. Sure, the grinding guitars and clinical sense of stomp are pretty much required in music like this, but with production that indulges in nu-metal greasiness and a pivot towards creaking sinisterness that never really pays off, this feels like little more than a castoff from the Queen Of The Damned soundtrack, albeit a tiny bit more polished up. And sure, there’s a place for something like this to exist, especially when 3TEETH clearly aren’t phoning in their vision for the sake of a crossover into nu-metal’s returning stable, but when put alongside those bands, this is how Mushroomhead come across next to Slipknot, and that’s hardly a good position to be in.
Black Surf – Eleven Dando (Good Time)
It’s good to hear from Black Surf again, especially after their downbeat but phenomenally infectious indie-rock did so much for them a few years back. It’s hardly a surprise that they’ve largely stuck to that then, but with two EPs already pencilled in for a release this year, maybe there’s a few more ambitious undercurrents working than meets the eye. If there is, it’s not something that’s really shown with Eleven Dando (Good Time), though that’s more the fault of expectation than the track itself. On its own, this is a fine slice of indie-rock, suitably scuzzy with a good sense of pace and melody, with Ali Epstone’s understated but warm vocals only contributing to the swaying sense of comfort. The looks over to Weezer and (even less surprisingly than usual) The Lemonheads are as blatant as they’ve ever been, but Black Surf have always been good at taking those comparisons in stride, and this is really no different. It’d be nice to see just a bit more evidence of progression over the last couple of years, but for what it is, this is definitely a solid reintroduction from a band who could potentially be doing a lot more.
Words by Luke Nuttall