Korn – You’ll Never Find Me
While Korn may be one of nu-metal’s longest-lasting sons, that’s not been a result of immense consistency. Particularly in the later parts of their career, their output has been spotty at best, and given that 2016’s The Serenity Of Suffering’s main upside was that it fell into a groove that rarely went wrong even if it wasn’t all that impressive, it leads to the impression that Korn have been around this long through inertia more than anything. That said, they’ve always been a great singles band with the ability to blossom out to making a good album, and that’s always been a driving factor when it comes to their material, and given that You’ll Never Find Me is ultimately solid overall, it’s enough to stay onboard. The big alt-metal guitars haven’t changed even slightly from their modern incarnation, neither has Jonathan Davis’ ragged howl of a vocal, but they’re able to still capture enough of a sense of tension within the staple brand of angst to remain compelling, albeit a fair bit less so than when this was something fresh and new. It’s all more or less a version of a general theme, which is something that Korn have largely been good at in the past, and while some of the paint is becoming to come off, they’ve still got life in them that lets them move forward. It’s hardly the best thing they’ve ever released, but for a lead single from Korn in 2019, it’s exactly what anyone would expect.
Killswitch Engage – Unleashed
It feels like it’s been way too long since Killswitch Engage released new music, especially when Incarnate really wasn’t all that great back in 2016 and hasn’t held up to the test of time at all. That said, it would mean there’d be a considerable amount of pressure to bounce back if this was the case with most other bands, but a generally spotless track record means that there’s a bit less to worry about here. And indeed, Unleashed does come out strong in the end, drawing on the metalcore of the 2000s where the band initially found their feet, but beefed up to modern proportions, both in the severity of the breakdowns that actually feel rather necessary when it comes to driving the track as a whole, and in Jesse Leach’s vocals which have the same oversized bombast as ever, but feel a lot sharper in the screams to fully accentuate how firmly Killswitch Engage are back on the horse. And it’s not like this is a drastic reinvention or anything, but when they’ve aligned themselves to this level once again, it’s hard to look at a track like Unleashed with anything less than a sense of real excitement of what’s to come. They’re one of the most consistent metal bands around, after all, and now they’re back to showing it.
Palaye Royale – Fucking With My Head
The popularity of Palaye Royale is still one of the most perplexing happenings in modern rock. Besides a look that, in all honesty, is probably the main reason that so many have gravitated towards them, there’s really been nothing here with them; their garage-rock stylings have always been enormously basic, and as a frontman, Remington Leith hasn’t developed much in the way of vocal control that can make the whole thing seem even more amateurish. And yet, they’re a band who keep trucking along, to the point where they’re already kicking off a new album cycle with Fucking With My Head, and adhering to all of their usual trappings that have never been all that likable and haven’t changed here. The grainy production doesn’t lend any suitable texture to lightweight guitars, and while there’s a nice sense of rollick that can at least make this go down marginally smoother, Leith’s vocals are once again the final nail in the coffin, as they slide across the mix in a way that’s presumably meant to embody rock ‘n’ roll danger, but just sounds sloppy above anything else. This is most certainly for the fans and no one else, though like with much of Palaye Royale’s material, why you’d be a fan is still something of an unanswered question.
Silverstein – Burn It Down
It’s honestly baffling that next year will be Silverstein’s twentieth year as a band. For an act who many would expect to be left in the dust of the mid-2000s screamo boom-and-bust, they’ve not exactly thrived, but they’ve constantly been slugging along and putting out new music. It’s a worth ethic that’s easy to praise, even if the output hasn’t really deviated from an incredible staid norm, and that’s something that Burn It Down is really burdened by. There are changes here, but they’re more around the perimeters, like the more rampant guest turn from Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo or the slightly more metallic production that comes from their signing to UNFD, but this is otherwise a Silverstein song through and through, complete with overflowing post-hardcore angst and Shane Told’s ultra-pronounced delivery that hasn’t really changed (or, to be honest, aged all that well) since their heyday. It’s hardly anything to get excited or offended about in any measure, but if nothing else, Silverstein are sticking to their guns and moving forward with solid amounts of momentum. Perhaps they could be doing more, but overall, it’s easy enough to take what’s here.
SAINTE – Everything Makes Me Sad
While Tay Jardine’s material under the SAINTE moniker has been sparse up to this point, the quality has generally been high, especially when so much of alt-pop seems to be jostling for space in an increasingly narrow window of both exposure and quality. Then again, Jardine does have greater experience with pop-leaning fare than some, and while that leaves a general expectation for higher quality, that’s not always guaranteed, and Everything Makes Me Sad feels like the clearest example of that yet. It’s not that it’s an awful track, especially when Jardine has a clarity and breathy vulnerability that works in her favour, but the blocky synth drips feel increasingly stiff and stagnant against the heavier percussion, and with a track like this that could’ve benefited from either a greater sense of groove or something more understated, it all hits in a way that struggles to connect or leave much of an impression. It’s definitely catchy enough to stick for a bit, but Jardine has made far better songs with SAINTE, and it’s easy to see how that could feel like more of a filler cut than anything else.
The Contortionist – Early Grave
While The Contortionist are still in the upper echelon of modern tech-metal, that remains an incredibly crowded field, a fact that’s only highlighted by how often they can feel like just another in an ever-growing list of bands vying for some sliver of the spotlight. It’s what makes their decision to move forward with a new EP a bit confusing, given how many limitations are put on what that can offer as a whole, but with new track Early Grave, they don’t even seem to be pushing the boat out at all. Make no mistake, this isn’t a bad song; technicality always prevails with tracks like this, and in the rumbling, tense progressions pitted against Michael Lessard’s clear, earnest vocals, there’s a solid sense of momentum, but there’s really a moment where it kicks out of the lower gears, and that compositional credence feels somewhat wasted on a track as one-paced as this. Again, The Contortionist still have the power to stand out, but they’ve undoubtedly put it to better use in the past than they do here.
Slaughter Beach, Dog – Heart Attack
There’s a lot to like about what Jake Ewald does with Slaughter Beach, Dog, and even if the first two tracks from this upcoming album didn’t alight much of an impression, this sort of folky indie-rock has potential to at least turn into something more than what’s initially shown. And to be fair, that’s exactly what Heart Attack does, operating on a much more simplistic basis of jaunty acoustic guitars and steady percussion with Ewald’s typical currents of melancholy underneath in a move that’s rather stripped-down and unassuming, but is just layered enough to feel as though it’s not just scratching the surface of what this sort of thing has to offer. The simplicity can occasionally circle back round to something that can lack a bit too much deeper insight, but with a short runtime and some fairly infectious sensibilities to buoy it up, this is quite likable overall. It won’t change the world or anything, but it makes good use of Ewald’s strengths in an appealing, endearing way.
Betraying The Martyrs – Parasite
More so than a lot of their deathcore contemporaries, it’s easy to just feel sad for Betraying The Martyrs at this point. Their cover of Let It Go was honestly the only moment that saw them catch fire, and seeing them trying to recapture that spark repeatedly to no avail always winds up highlighting their limitations over anything else. Parasite is no different either, taking stock, standard deathcore creepiness that has lost plenty of its appeal at this stage and doing nothing even remotely new or transformative with it. Sure, there’s a decent amount of tension that’s fairly admirable, but on the whole, this is about as basic and barebones as it gets for this genre, and with the tidal wave of millennial whoops in the back half to serve as more padded bluster, it just makes it clearer that Betraying The Martyr are severely lacking in ideas. That’s not exactly a new phenomenon, but they can at least try to make it less noticeable.
Hesitation Wounds – Paragons Of Virtue
It’s no surprise that Hesitation Wounds sound like they do, given they’re fronted by the sandpaper vocals of Touché Amoré’s Jeremy Bolm and bulked out by a hardcore assault comprised of members of The Hope Conspiracy and Trap Them. It all makes for a violent, volatile cocktail, something that Paragons Of Virtue wholeheartedly embraces with its sub-two-minute runtime and general whirlwind of destruction that feels very on-brand in almost every way. The only real downside is that it doesn’t leave a whole lot to say; sure, this is good in the way that most of this breathless hardcore is good, but Hesitation Wounds aren’t necessarily breaking the mould or doing much that’s all the new or transgressive. Then again, it’s not that they really need to, and for the audience they’re currying, this will more than suffice, but it wouldn’t be too much to ask for a bit more meat on these bones.
Sick Joy – Shoot Your Lover
There’s been something of a buzz around Sick Joy for a while now, but it’s always felt as though they should be better than they really are. As far as rather no-frills grunge goes, they’ve certainly got their appeal, but their whole execution can leave a lot to be desired, especially when there’s plenty of other bands doing much more interesting things. It’s a good thing that Shoot Your Lover has doubled down on quality over anything else then, now riding on a Queens Of The Stone Age-style bass grove that gives a nice sense of roil and momentum to what would otherwise be another functional but understated grunge track. And really, that’s the best way to describe this track, especially towards the end when it seems to want to get more discordant with the dancing piano keys and louder execution, but really just feels like a thinner, rougher approximation of what came before. Even then, it’s not bad, but Sick Joy desperately need to find a lane to settle down in, because drifting between rock as a nebulous concept like they’re doing now isn’t yielding the best results it possible could.
Words by Luke Nuttall