Can’t Swim – Filthy Rich
There’s a lot to be optimistic about with Can’t Swim’s new EP, which sees them bringing in an impressive pedigree of hardcore and post-hardcore guests to give their already great foundations a bit more unique spice. Just look at Filthy Rich for proof of how that can work, recruiting arguably the smallest name among the list in Trash Talk bassist Spencer Pollard, but he still proves to be an invaluable contribution noneless, with a vocal turn that amps up the rage and intensity that Chris LoPorto already brings in spades for what’s a decisively punk twist on Can’t Swim’s typical sound. It’s absolutely fantastic at that, with guitar and bass tones that have a ruggedness and toughness without sacrificing their core melodic progression, and the sort of vital hook-craft that’s certainly deep in Can’t Swim’s wheelhouse, but injects an extra bit of venom into proceedings to hit that crucial bit harder. It’s difficult to fault on the whole, especially when it’s all so condensed into a tight package clocking in at not much more than two minutes, and using every second of that time to really leave a mark.
Black Peaks – King
If there was one band to epitomise how the most exciting current British rock bands can so succinctly fuse progressiveness and uniqueness with mainstream-bothering sensibilities, Black Peaks would undoubtedly be it. They’ve only gone from strength to strength over the past few years, plying a brand of progressive post-hardcore that’s only seemed to win over everyone who’s exposed to it, and King doesn’t see the ascent ending any time soon. Perhaps it’s not quite as soaring as some of their best work, but the enormous drums combined with swathes of dense guitars and a truly formidable bass tones makes for an absolute monolith of a track, and bringing in an equally titanic vocal performance from Will Gardner who continues to exercise just how versatile as a frontman he is only makes it even better. There’s weight to this track, both physical and emotional, and it’s so impressive how the band are able to sell that in a track that just seems to grow and morph into an even more sinister beast across a five-plus-minute runtime that feels like about half of that. And again, this isn’t even Black Peaks at their best, and the fact that King could realistically topple the majority of most acts’ work says a lot about how great this band actually is.
Stand Atlantic – Hate Me (Sometimes)
While it’s definitely good to get more new music from Stand Atlantic, it still feels as though they’re cutting off the Skinny Dipping cycle prematurely if this is indeed leading up to another new release. There was still a fair amount of mileage left in that album, and given the track record of this sort of rapid follow-up that other bands have displayed, apprehension is only natural. But Hate Me (Sometimes) isn’t some thrown-out castoff like it very well could’ve been, instead hitting the melodic sweet spot that Stand Atlantic are so great at with another really strong pop-rock track. Bonnie Fraser’s vocals are as clear yet powerful as ever, and there’s enough surging might to the guitars and drums that feels organic without losing any of the polish that allows it to comfortably slot into the modern scene. Admittedly it’s all more of the same, especially with the intense focus on melody and how to make it as enormous as possible, but when Stand Atlantic have had so much success in this mould before, rolling it out again isn’t too objectionable when the results are just as infectious. Like most of this band’s music, there’s an inherent likability in how simple it all is, and even if that’s more or less a nicer way of saying they’re still yet to develop of strong individual identity, this is really good all the same.
Loathe – Gored / New Faces In The Dark
In terms of vital voices in the UK’s heavy music scene, Loathe are right up there with the best of them, especially in a live environment but also in a sound that’s not quite caught up to that level, but has shown near-constant advancement that’s really done well for them. And they’re slowly but surely getting there too, as these two new tracks attest to in an advancement of the various sides of their sound and how they’re undoubtedly getting better at bringing them together. New Faces In The Dark does feel like the stronger of the two in its breaking down of Slipknot-esque chaos into the bleak, crushing noise that Kadeem France’s incredible vocal brutality only solidifies, but the low-slung, equally-heavy Gored brings the deathcore bludgeoning to one of Loathe’s strongest attempts at it to date, and does feel like a step forward in its own right. They’re maybe not as forward-thinking as some of Loathe’s past work, but they’re clearly moving ahead in a way that’s genuinely thrilling, and it’s only fair to assume what will come next will be equally so.
Press To MECO – Easy Life
It’s no controversial statement to say that Press To MECO should be far bigger than they are now, especially when Britrock is indefinitely trending towards more interesting sounds that their progressive yet deliriously melodic and infectious alt-rock can so easily gel with. It’s good to see them pushing along regardless though, with new single Easy Life highlighting just how much this band can bring and why it’s such a shame they’ve not reaped the necessary benefits yet. To be clear, this isn’t quite the peak of Press To MECO’s powers – the vocal harmonies that were so prevalent on previous releases feel slightly diminished here – but there’s such an infectiousness to the winding guitars and constant stream of momentum that doesn’t so much build as pile on the layers to culminate in a much bigger, more imposing sound. It’s great songcraft on the whole, and while Press To MECO have done better, this isn’t something to be dismissed; it’s a really strong track, and one that has all the hallmarks of what has always made this band great.
Like Moths To Flames – All That You Lost
It can be genuinely difficult to remember that Like Moths To Flames exist sometimes. They’re just another one of those metalcore bands, falling as just another face in the crowd in that they bring nothing new to the table beyond the newfound distinction of now being signed to UNFD and not being Australian. But clearly their new home hasn’t had much determination on their output, as All That You Lost is what anyone would usually expect from this band, namely another metalcore song shoved together from the usual composite parts of stock guitar chugs, the occasional melodic, atmospheric interlude, and scream / sung vocals that leave no impression either way. It’s such a tired mix that does absolutely nothing to freshen itself up, and for a band like Like Moths To Flames who’ve never stood out in any way, that’s not a good sign. It just leaves them bringing up the rear once again with yet more material that’s as forgettable and uncreative as the last lot, and when that becomes a band’s defining factor, there’s a big problem there.
Belmont – By My Side
Belmont have often felt on the fringes of pop-punk’s grittier, gruffer scene for a while now, mostly by virtue of not having the one killer number that so many of their contemporaries already have. It’s hardly a case of not being good enough given how they’ve often favoured more progressive, off-kilter melodies, but the two sides have struggled to mesh well historically, and By My Side is unfortunately no exception. This could be a fairly solid pop-punk track with its heavier, chugging guitars breaking up energetic progressions that have the size and power, but with the incessant ticking trap beat wedged into whatever spare space is left in the background and the fragments of pitch-shifted vocals only adding to a mix that on its own doesn’t work, the track becomes cluttered by too many loose ends that never connect to anything or feel like they’re adding up to a substantial hole. There’s definitely a good idea in here, but Belmont deciding to cloud it so much unnecessary noise until it’s more or less blanked out doesn’t seem like an advisable move on anyone’s part.
Best Ex – Bad Love
Things have felt a bit touch-and-go with Best Ex for a while, mostly because it seemed as though Mariel Loveland’s post-Candy Hearts project fell completely off the map after its 2017 debut EP Ice Cream Anti-Social. That EP certainly wasn’t terrible as a pivot towards straight-up indie-pop, but those couple of years have clearly been dedicated to refining the project into something leaning much heavier on the modern pop aspect, and thus we get Bad Love. And it’s all a bit of mixed bag, given that the lumbering percussion and drizzled-on trap skitters have only grown more tiresome over time, but the smokier vibe and coquettishness in Loveland’s vocals that still have a recognisably twee tone do set it apart into its own lane. On top of all that though, it’s incredibly well-produced in a way that accentuates what its individual parts have to offer, and while everything mightn’t quite be connecting just yet, there’s definitely an interesting direction that being looked towards, and Bad Love could be the start of something much bigger if all goes to plan.
Take Offense – Keep An Eye Out
Hardcore in the vein of Take Offense’s work is hardly anything new, but it’s never unwelcome. The clear parallels to the genre’s ‘80s material that made its way into crossover thrash definitely separate it from the trendier hardcore that’s more prevalent, but Keep An Eye Out does just enough to make a mark, even if that’s through how vicious it can feel and not much else. The solo taken straight from the Bay Area is great, as are the unrelenting, barked vocals, but there’s definitely a bit of roteness about the whole thing that can diminish the impact, not to mention a blurrier production style clearly designed to emulate the likes of Suicidal Tendencies’ older work, but that hasn’t really aged all too well. There’s not absolutely horrible about this track overall, and as far as heavier throwbacks go, Take Offense do scratch an itch with this one, but it’s hard to place it at a level higher than just fine, or a decent piece of nostalgia to have around.
Words by Luke Nuttall