The thought of a Corey Taylor solo album shouldn’t be as off-putting as it actually is. After all, he’s successfully fronted both Slipknot and Stone Sour for decades, becoming a paragon of modern hard rock and metal in the process, and established himself as a real character bursting with wit and intelligence in the process. But looking at the bigger picture, Taylor’s musical output doesn’t extend very far outside of those comfort zones. The only real piece of solo material he has up to now is his novelty Christmas song, and while that’s unlikely to be indicative of what a full album has to offer, it doesn’t set a very stable precedent when going into a project effectively blind from an artist who’s too big to fail. The guest features from Tech N9ne and Kid Bookie would suggest that Taylor is exercising that knowledge to its fullest, but it’s probably more disappointing that instances of madcap musical alchemy like that aren’t indicative of what CMFT is at all. Sonically it’s not too far from a Stone Sour album with more of a glam-metal-ish slant, but that comparison also arises in how unnecessarily bloated and directionless CMFT can feel. He’s clearly having the time of his life with a free pass to basically freewheel through this entire album (it’s why the veering into rap-metal on CMFT Must Be Stopped does kind of work if you squint at it), but that means it becomes an album without a whole lot to accomplish or much consistency with which to do it. As far as starry-eyed classic rock ballads go, both Black Eyes Blue and Kansas are both really strong, and HWY 666 and Halfway Down work as big, burly driving songs, but to have that jerk into deeper, more lyrical material like Silverfish or Culture Head, it effectively feels like Taylor is pulling on Stone Sour leftovers just for padding. In fact, that’s what a good deal of CMFT turns out like, and when they aren’t that far removed from the quality of material on Hydrograd, it’s almost like this was just a Stone Sour album tweaked and repurposed when that band went on hiatus, with all the filler left in.
That isn’t particularly awful in itself, but bloat can be especially fatal for a classic rock / hard rock throwback like this, and when the momentum drops on CMFT, it can really be felt. These are songs that are generally better when they make use of their own lightness of touch, and so when that’s sapped away on Culture Head or Everybody Dies On My Birthday, what’s left is some okay but not particularly distinct modern metal that just falls in line with Taylor’s discography rather than recognisably standing out as its own thing. At least on a track like Samantha’s Gone that’s indebted to grottier, Guns N’ Roses-esque hair-metal, it feels new in the confines of Taylor’s work, and for a voice as bellowing and powerful as his, he fits into that mould extremely well. If there’s one unequivocally positive note to make about CMFT, it’s that Taylor himself does fit as a key singular presence rather than a band-leader; it ties into how this album is better when it’s having fun and being more exuberant than Taylor usually has grounds to be, if only because that’s when this feels most like his own work. Again, the example of CMFT Must Be Stopped needs to be brought up, as for as clunky as it can be in almost every aspect of its construction, it feels fun and entertained by what it’s doing, and this album would be much better if it followed that mindset more often. Instead it’s strangely toned-down for an artist as larger-than-life as Taylor is, not playing things impossibly safe but not being too far off that either, and when on top of that it struggles to know what it wants to be, CMFT really begins to creak under the weight of its own mass that it accrues as a result of not knowing what to slough off. Add onto that the lack of replayability that can unfortunately dog some Stone Sour records (in what is yet another unflattering comparison), and this doesn’t work nearly as well as it should. Points for effort and for Taylor trying to get out there on his own, but that can only go so far.
For fans of: Stone Sour, Papa Roach, Steel Panther
‘CMFT’ by Corey Taylor is out now on Roadrunner Records.
You’ve got to hand it to Bon Jovi – they’ve at least tried to grow alongside their original fanbase. All those women who most likely became enamoured with the sound of Slippery When Wet and Jon Bon Jovi’s model-quality looks in 1986 have grown a lot, and the band’s gradual transition from all-appealing pop-metal magnates to milquetoast, country-favoured soft-rockers can roughly be traced along that same timeline. The problem is that a lot of those original fans are now voting for Trump and declaring that COVID-19 doesn’t exist, and therefore turning on Bon Jovi for daring to bring opposite beliefs into their music. And when that fanbase is really all that Bon Jovi have left presently – they’ve become so uninspired and dishwater-bland since Richie Sambora left in 2013 that it’s honestly not been worth paying attention – they’re effectively throwing this new one out with it set to fail. And while it’s impossible to fault the good intentions here, even in its tackling of the most prescient current issues, 2020 is about as dry and surface-level as most would expect from a modern Bon Jovi album. Considering its subject matter, this isn’t a very charge album at all; even on condemnations of school shootings on Lower The Flag and the suicide rate of military veterans on Unbroken, the mood seems to be one of mild, digestible disappointment before anything stronger that would be a much better fit. It’s very indicative of the band that Bon Jovi have become, in which their home is now the middle-brow, all-appealing radio space where any sort of transgression has to be severely tamped down, and 2020 represents that almost effortlessly. It’s the ‘love wins’ mentality that’s extremely flimsy and overused here, particularly when bolted on to real, named issues like on American Reckoning in which that sort of approach can feel drastically reductive. Beyond that though, it just leads to a lot of very corny, stale sentiments that always lean on Bon Jovi’s good-natured intentions are kneecapped by an old, broad sense of emotionality; Beautiful Drug is especially predictable when it comes to this, as is the pithy Do What You Can in an approach to community spirit as a solution to the pandemic that has the dolled-up positivity that a middle-aged, America-centric audience is bound to just eat up, particularly in lines like “Although I’ll keep my social distance, what this world needs is a hug”.
Of course, Bon Jovi are far from punks and any sort of political bent was never going to bite particularly hard, but there are times when it feels like it’s being left at the wispiest ghost of a point being made, and pairing that with equally edgeless music only reinforces that, as a commercial rock album looking to make a conscious stand, the commercial aspect is always going to come first. At best, there’s a strutting Rolling Stones impression on Brothers In Arms that’s quite good, and the opulent power-ballad approach that’s always served Bon Jovi well returns just as reliably on Blood In The Water. It’s everything else that’s the issue though, in how Bon Jovi’s default setting has become quaint, sterile pop-rock that’ll easily slot on a daytime radio playlist and make no impression otherwise, an especially troublesome issue for an album looking to have real political power behind it. There’s a real hollowness to the likes of Limitness and Beautiful Drug as they try to stretch themselves out to the size of arena-rock goliaths with no meat to back that up, and though the slower songs like Story Of Love are marginally better (in that they aren’t really trying to overstep their bounds), there still isn’t much there to keep a listener hooked. A lot of the wishy-washy presence of this album can undoubtedly be chalked up to the production, in which the pop / country side of Bon Jovi’s arsenal is back in full force for a really diluted mix which the album struggles to pull back from more often than not. At least Jon Bon Jovi himself still sounds fine enough, given that his voice is already deep and raspy enough to not fall so heavily to the side effects of age, but that’s only one consolation on an album that needs a lot more than that just to reach a passable level. Granted, Bon Jovi coming out with a late-career smash was hardly an expected – or reasonable – prediction, but it’s still disappointing to see an album like this amount to so little when there was clearly an ambition here. At the end of the day, like most recent Bon Jovi albums, everyone will just forget this was ever even here.
For fans of: The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Nickelback
‘2020’ by Bon Jovi is out now on Island Records.
I’d Rather Die Than Let You In
There’s something so baffling about The Hunna and everything that they‘ve become, and that really shouldn’t be the case. Nothing about them seems to match, for a start, as recently they’ve taken to presenting themselves in a grimy, edgy, cutthroat fashion (just look at the title of this very album), even though the music is still whitebread indie-rock that somehow still has an audience. It seems even stranger when The Hunna have never been good, and yet they’re actively drawing attention to that by artificially widening the gulf between their own artistic presentation and the expectation that creates, and the reality of what they actually have to bring. As such, it’s actually quite the shock that I’d Rather Die Than Let You In has The Hunna trying to embrace a darker, more broody side, though it’s less surprising when there’s approximately zero real depth to any of it, as if the transition from generic indie-rock to generic alt-pop is meant to mean something in itself. It certainly doesn’t when The Hunna have now apparently aligned themselves with John Feldmann’s pop-rock militia, so that I Would Rather Die… definitively has no identity of its own as it scurries around varies topics that The Hunna have no interest in engaging with deeper. There really is so little ingenuity here as well – songs about the state of the world on Dark Times and Horror; turbulent relationships on If This Is Love and the title track; trying to tap into millennial / Gen Z dejection on Young & Faded; it’s all here, with the cynical marketability that The Hunna have always drenched their output in. For what it’s worth, I Wanna Know and Cover You are at least catchy, but that’s basically all The Hunna have, now more than even when they’re trying to grow some rough edges and Ryan Potter’s weedy vocals are nowhere near suited for it.
As for those rough edges though, the argument can be made that the simple act of trying them on makes I Would Rather Die… a more distinct and hard-hitting album within The Hunna’s catalogue, and that’s true, but only to an extent. It’s sonically more powerful, sure, but it also takes The Hunna deeper into a scene they’re nowhere near equipped to thrive in. The alt-pop sound tends to serve as a costume for pretty middle-of-the-road indie-pop and pop-rock anyway, but that really feels like the case here, particularly on a song like One Second Left where the AutoTune is slathered thickly across Potter’s voice for no discernible reason. The guitars might be louder and sharper but they’re still utterly toothless, swamped out by a bass tone that dominates the mix without much purpose other than that, and drums that are pretty pedestrian and unfulfilling across the board, even when they somehow rope in Travis Barker on Cover You. It’s the same unbalanced pop-rock production that’s held loads of albums back from achieving more, and the fact The Hunna aren’t putting their own spin on it or looking to innovate within this general sound leaves the result as basically the same. And it’s clear that wasn’t their perception, when One Hell Of A Gory Story… introduces the album as some groundbreaking, volatile journey, but that in itself is the perfect distillation of what The Hunna are – they’ve got their act tightened up on the surface with nothing underneath to justify it. It’s been like that from the start and it’s somehow gotten them this far, to the point where they can actually view it as a suitable way to get ahead. For the record, it demonstrably isn’t, and The Hunna need to become aware of that before it’s too late.
For fans of: Yungblud, Waterparks, Royal Blood
‘I’d Rather Die Than Let You In’ by The Hunna is out now on LMW Records.
Few death metal bands in recent memory have had the sort of breakthrough that Venom Prison have had. They’ve become a steamrolling force within metal as a whole as of late, thanks to seemingly having everything going for them – two critically-adored albums; a conscious lyrical edge that makes them feel all the more fine-tuned and relevant; and in Larissa Stupar, a vocalist currently leading the pack when it comes to the newer breed of supercharge fire-breathers. Their tear has been running nonstop for a while now, and while there’s something about their new release Primeval that feels as though it was designed as a stopgap in the midst of it all – a re-recording and remastering of their demo Defy The Tyrant and follow-up EP The Primal Chaos, along with two new songs – Venom Prison have their level of skill nailed down, to where even something like this is an exciting prospect. If nothing else, it brings forward a version of Venom Prison that’s a bit less refined than where they currently are, especially in terms of writing where their biting political bent hadn’t been fully established yet. Particularly on the material from Defy The Tyrant, it feels less ambitious than what they band would come to be, rooted primarily in the destruction and hellfire imagery that’s fairly commonplace across their genre. It makes sense for what was a new band looking to break into a certain scene, but it does feel rudimentary compared to what Venom Prison are today, and even on other tracks on this package like Babylon The Whore and Narcotic, they’re at least a closer representation of the band’s current state.
Then again, even tried-and-true death metal benefits from Venom Prison’s particular shot in the arm, especially in new recordings that factor in the slices of hardcore that contributes to their current material’s edge. It lends a more contemporary robustness to these older songs, to where they feel perfectly comfortable rubbing shoulders with the new songs Defiant To The Will Of God and Slayer Of Holofernes, without there being too much disparity. It’s not really that surprising, though; Venom Prison have always been, at the very least, a good band, and allowing them to visualise that through modern means only amplifies that. It’s wonderfully produced in how formidable it sounds, grasping tightly onto volatility and heaviness while still being crisp and undoubtedly modern in its approach. As for Stupar, she’s excellent as always in how raw she sounds, and that does translate even to older material; they feel refreshed and galvanised beyond the level of a simple remaster. It’s a genuine, conscious effort to bring their earliest efforts up to par with where Venom Prison currently are, and while that might be wishful thinking just on prospect alone – even with the extra coats of paint, this is still the work of a band unmistakably not in their final form – the end product feels surprisingly successful. It meets the intended stopgap criteria, but it is a bit more than that as well, and that’s the result of how great of a band Venom Prison really are.
For fans of: Decapitated, Tomb Mold, Aborted
‘Primeval’ by Venom Prison is released on 9th October on Prosthetic Records.
Dealing With Demons I
For a band who’ve become part of modern metal’s furniture to the extent that DevilDriver have, they’ve got some big plans under their belt. If Dez Fafara’s claims are to be believed, they’ve got new albums roadmapped all the way up to 2025, including a second volume of their outlaw country covers album Outlaws ‘Til The End which apparently is running alongside what appears to be another new series of albums in Dealing With Demons. And to be blunt, this all screams of a band vastly overextending their reach, especially when that band is DevilDriver in what already appears to be the twilight years of the career. To be perfectly honest as well, Dealing With Demons I is not the sort of album the seems to be paving the way for huge career moves going forward, though it’s one of the more solid DevilDriver albums in some time. They’re sticking pretty firmly to the playbook on this one – a lot of melodeath and groove-metal serving as the basis of a meaty sound – but it’s not so rigid that it’s distracting, like on the slower, more grinding Wishing, or The Damned Don’t Cry which coats itself with solemn, low-slung knells. Similarly, tracks like Nest Of Vipers and You Give Me A Reason To Drink are liable to delve more into the guitar pyrotechnics of classic metal for some extra spice on an album that, for the most part, can be decidedly no-frills. The sense of any risk being taken here is borderline nonexistent, perhaps reasonably so for a band nine albums and eighteen years down the road, but it would be nice to see DevilDriver cut loose a bit more often and really do something unique for themselves. Outlaws ‘Til The End might have been generally reviled, but as it concept, it had its own character and personality; by comparison, Dealing With Demons just comes across like another DevilDriver album.
That in itself has merit, of course, and there’s never the impression that this was just churned out with no thought or effort. It has the big, expensive feel of a modern metal album of this stature, and is produced to give Mike Spreitzer and Neal Tiemann’s guitars and especially Austin D’Amond’s drums some real muscle and power. But like with a lot of metal of this stripe, Diego Ibarra typically finds his bass presence marginalised, and that in itself can show how DevilDriver aren’t ascending the modern melodeath benchmark overall, even among their own material. Then there’s Fafara’s vocals, and while he’s certainly gotten better at enunciating through a scream that’s less tightened (this is probably some of his more legible vocal work to date), he’s not delivering material that has much in the way of spark. There’s dread and foreboding that comes from Iona and Witches, sure, but a track like Vengeance Is Clear is a paint-by-numbers version of the 2000s metalcore template, and opener Keep Away From Me falls back into DevilDriver’s bad habit of trying to sound tough and aggro but missing the mark by a wide margin. Saying that, trying to criticise DevilDriver’s writing is a thoroughly pointless exercise, and the music hits well enough often enough – which here, it does – that’s generally enough to warrant a passing grade. And that’s what Dealing With Demons I is getting, but for the meticulous planning that seems to have gone into the next phase of DevilDriver’s career, perhaps they could’ve done a bit more to really start it off strongly. As it stands, this is decent, but kicking off a new wave of revitalised DevilDriver music doesn’t seem to be one the cards either.
For fans of: Lamb Of God, Machine Head, Shadows Fall
‘Dealing With Demons I’ by DevilDriver is out now on Napalm Records.
Even though they’re a lot closer to the southern-rock side of things, Brothers Osborne aren’t exempt from the tempered expectations that come from a lot of country acts releasing new music. There’s rarely a tendency to evolve or change, and with how surprisingly deeply they’ve become rooted in the mainstream, it’s a wonder they haven’t fully jettisoned the rougher affectations they’ve picked up in favour of something trendier and more easily lucrative. But generally, Skeletons does feels like its undergone some movement, albeit a lateral one to their scuzzier, outlaw-but-not-quite material after the more relaxed Port Saint Joe. The production they’re given still means they’re yet to entirely clear that hurdle into full-blown country-rock – it can still feel a bit soft around the edges to really leave a mark at times – but Skeletons definitely has its moments where Brothers Osborne find the ideal balance between their rock edge and sound that’s still incredibly comfortable and listenable. Hell, they even barrel past that when they go full-on Devil Went Down To Georgia on Muskrat Greene and Dead Man’s Curve, but in the taut boogie-rock sidle of All Night and the muscular swagger of the title track, the embrace of southern-rock bravado in a filling country sound comes incredibly naturally to them. Even on more mid-tempo numbers like I’m Not For Everyone and High Note, there’s a warmth and earthiness that shines through an unmistakably slick outer layer, and TJ Osborne’s bell-clear burr feels like the perfect encapsulation of how the duo can balance clear mainstream aptitude with something more of their own.
There’s a feeling of liberation that comes from this album that makes it so likable, something that’s regularly bent towards the hard-livin’ guise that the band clearly want to facilitate for themselves. They can hold that up convincingly well on All Night and Back On The Bottle as well, and letting that tip into snarling confrontation on the title track and unhinged debauchery on Dead Man’s Curve serves as the ideal amount of spice. But there’s still a warm heart within this album, brought about early on the call for communal joy on Lighten Up, and expanded on by the fondness in the finality in High Note’s breakup, and the rather standard but pretty charming tribute to a hard-working father on Old Man’s Boots. None of this is remotely new territory or shifting the paradigm by any amount – indeed, there’s a good number of list songs early on that are generally elevated above that cliché, though not by much – but again, Brothers Osborne have a charisma and affability to them that makes their work easy to like regardless. This is the sort of music that’s embracing its broadness in the best way, and it’s unafraid to have fun and do it with gusto because of that. Even if it’s unlikely to be anyone’s favourite album, there’s something so resoundingly positive about Skeletons for how unshakably solid it is, and how Brothers Osborne are continuing to give country’s mainstream some much-needed oomph.
For fans of: LANCO, Kip Moore, Chris Stapleton
‘Skeletons’ by Brothers Osborne is released on 9th October on EMI Nashville.
Looking at Bloodbather’s debut EP Pressure now makes it so clear why this follow-up is the one getting tongues wagging. For a thudding, dense slice of nu-metalcore, that debut was fine enough and picked up a frankly obscene amount of traction for them, but to get a glimpse of where Bloodbather’s strengths really lie, Silence is the one to look at and place in comparison. Put simply, this is a vast improvement in virtually every way, and not only a considerable high in the band’s short catalogue thus far, but in ‘-core’ music in 2020 as a whole. This is like a deathcore Code Orange in its unrelenting savagery coated in ominous industrial bulletproofing, and from the first few seconds of opener God – the snarling electronics; the seismic bass rumbles; the shrieking, deadly spikes of discordant guitar – it’s a fifteen-minute packing that’s utterly caustic. And while a lot of that credit can go to band mastermind Salem Vex for the guitars and synths that give that jagged, mechanical edge to tracks like Erase and Disappear, it’s Kyler Millo who’s really taking this above and beyond. He’s got a sort of stabbing bass-playing that’s wonderfully erratic and dangerous, particularly with the tone it has, but his vocals, delivered with an absolutely eye-watering level of intensity that tops pretty much anything else released by the heavier end of the scene this year, are really the pièce de résistance of Bloodbather’s sound. This is his first release as the band’s vocalist, and the leap in quality that his presence brings is unparalleled, the sort of thing that so perfectly ties all elements together and can move perceptions from satisfyingly heavy to honestly unnerving and, at times, bordering on frightening.
As a result, the leverage that lends to Silence as a result is extremely noteworthy, mostly because Bloodbather aren’t too far removed from the broader themes of general misanthropy and nihilism that a lot of metalcore adopts. The difference is that they can actually pull off a convincing amount of dread and violence ready to boil over, and the importance of that can’t be downplayed when considering how these lyrics are supposed to come across. On top of that, there’s no singalong choruses or anything anything even orbiting that overall range; there’s a bit of postured spoken word on Erase, but otherwise Millo is the sort of vocalist who seems all too believable, to the point where a track like Void in its story of stalking and murder only piles on the horror and dread even further. It creates the sort of sensation that’s become so rare from this branch of heavy music, where repeating watered-down ideas ad nauseum has become the thing to do, and to see Bloodbather tearing that notion to unrecognisable shreds in the space of minutes produces the exact primal, visceral thrill that was undoubtedly intended. For once, the tout of ‘the most exciting new band in heavy music’ seems to have come to fruition, as Silence represents the near-perfect meeting of fearlessness and ruthlessness that puts Bloodbather streets ahead of the pack.
For fans of: Code Orange, Vein, Jesus Piece
‘Silence’ by Bloodbather is released on 9th October on Rise Records.
Tears Can Only Sting
Within synthpop, Ooberfuse are decidedly different from the norm. They seem to fully abide by the ‘fake it till you make it’ mantra by trying to leverage their small platform to meet some clearly massive dreams, but that’s often at the expense of what would make them a lot more interesting. They’re more inspired by the brighter, broader strains of synthpop that were big in the ‘80s, and when compared to how organic and introspective the genre’s modern fledgling stars can be, it’s hard to be too enthused by a sound that’s aiming to do a lot less of substance. As such, Tears Can Only Sting feels disappointingly shallow, especially for an acts whose melodic instincts can be rather promising. It’s best exemplified in Heartlight with its blurry, washed-out keys that pull from a lot of ‘80s new wave and soft-rock, but it’s not something that Ooberfuse can keep up with. They push that approach too far on hollow, breathy forgettability on Father and a version of Yazoo’s Only You, and going in the opposite direction with garish, high-energy pop on Fly High doesn’t do a lot for them either. It doesn’t help that neither vocalist carries a lot of particular strength either, with Cherrie Anderson’s waifish presence becoming lost too often with little anchoring force, and Hal St John’s occasional interjections having a very blunt, often cartoonish energy which serves his role as de facto hype-man, but isn’t all that appealing, to be perfectly honest.
It’s definitely playing into their older synthpop style, but the elements that Ooberfuse draw from really haven’t aged all that well in the face of a genre that’s doing far more interesting things. It’s especially true in the writing, informed by a lot of big, sweeping platitudes that don’t have much staying power (it makes the Yazoo cover feel especially at home here), and really only deviating from that on Father, which picks up a bit more residual poignancy as a track dedicated to St John’s later father. But otherwise, there’s not a lot about Ooberfuse that feels developed or as though they’re being forged from their own ideas. They can work with what they have to degree, but even that can feel flimsy at times, and leaves this as an EP that’s more in line with a broadly-sketched pastiche than anything else. There’s maybe a germ of greater potential there, with a bit more modulation overall and doubling down on the tones that actually work for them, but Ooberfuse are a good distance away from that at this stage. As an EP, it’s just kind of there, and while Ooberfuse themselves might have the drive to do more, this doesn’t do much on its own to get there.
For fans of: Eurythmics, Yazoo, Erasure
‘Tears Can Only Sting’ by Ooberfuse is released on 9th October on Fretsore Records.
A band like Slow Pulp can be quite a difficult sell to anyone besides the most ardent indie-rock zealots. They fit into the camp of closed-in, fuzzy indie-emo (call it ‘NPR-core’, if you want), but even more lo-fi and shoegaze-inspired again, and to the point of just skirting around the edges of slowcore at times. It’s not the most accessible of sounds, though their debut Moveys seems fully aware of that and has no interest in contorting itself to fit that standard. That’s something that actually rather admirable about this album, and it can work to Slow Pulp’s favour for how simultaneously understated yet heaving at the centre it can feel. For one, at lot of that weight circles back to vocalist Emily Massey and how much of the dejection and lassitude has been informed by everything from her diagnosis with Lyme disease and Mono, to her parents’ car crash just a week before pandemic-induced lockdown, and that makes her clearly weary voice and slow, solemn heave of the instrumentation hit with a lot more pathos. It’s evidently not an album that’s big on dynamics then, as measured, occasionally dreary acoustics and drums mesh with slight country influences on Idaho and Montana, and Channel 2 imports some grinding heft from grunge in an even more fatigued affair. On top of all that, there’s very little in the way of production interference, and that keeps the emotional bareness of Moveys very consistent and uninhibited; it’s slow and barebones by design, and Slow Pulp intend to accentuate that throughout.
That can also be something a barrier to entry though, and that’s the greatest hurdle in Moveys’ way that it unfortunate can’t entirely clear. Slow Pulp might wear their intentions prominently, but they don’t always come together for a captivating listen, something that’s attempted to be mitigated through a pretty short runtime, but an issue all the same. It’s all very bleak and methodical, and while that’s wholly the point, it can be easy to slip away when there isn’t a great deal to latch onto, particularly in the way of hooks or even just potency of any kind. It doesn’t help that Massey’s voice can occasionally fall into the background with the small amount of presence that it has, and while the likes of Track and Movey try to incorporate tighter drum machines and samples to snap everything together, they feel extremely out of place; the latter especially comes at the very end of the album as what appears to be a sample-heavy ‘80s hip-hop instrumental, and feels demonstrably the wrong way to end an album like this. Again, it’s an intentionally low, dour mood that this album cultivates and Slow Pulp craft and perform it well, but it’s an issue out of their control that can stop it from clicking in a way that something with more immediacy might. It may seem unfair to hold that against them, especially when that’s the primary issue, but it leaves Moveys as something of a space-filler within indie-rock – it’s there and its purpose can be noted, but whether it can do more is less certain.
For fans of: Phoebe Bridgers, Big Thief, (Sandy) Alex G
‘Moveys’ by Slow Pulp is released on 9th October on Winspear Records.
Of all the acts to release multiple lots of music in 2020, Overrider simultaneously feel among the most and least likely. Their debut cyc|er was released earlier this year as an industrial / progressive / electronic soundtrack to the digital apocalypse, but it was also the sort of thing that could be difficult to digest outside of very certain circumstances. But with 2020’s bag of tricks never ceasing to surprise, it’s only fitting that this mysterious lot come back with something else, and while re:ntegration looks on a smaller scale than the technological devastation of its predecessor, it feels a lot tighter and more fleshed out. This time, the focus is placed on sleep, particularly the concept of delayed sleep phase disorder and how that can tie in with greater grief, where the body’s biological clock refuses to reset itself in reaction to chronic, gnawing loss. That’s the sort of concept that Overrider really do well to zero in on, making this effectively one extended piece divided into movements that tick away and evolve as it goes along. Electronic cycles and motifs will repeat across the entire release, with a singular grinding pulse becoming an incessant heartbeat that, by the closer awaken:ng, becomes smothered in feral guitars and synths before starting all over again on runn:ng hot. The amount of focus this time has increased exponentially, and the short runtime gives Overrider the means to explore their concept without running out of steam; they really do get everything done that they need to, and the timing is almost perfect in which they accomplish it.
Still, in what will likely be the greatest stipulation for Overrider in everything they do, this is a very niche release, and despite being a purely instrumental piece, there’s a lot of density and concussive force among it, more so than on cyc|er. In turn though, that also sees Overrider embracing that industrial side of themselves, as the guitars and drums blast and contort throughout, with the more rounded bassline being the sole human element among such a cold and clinical exterior. It’s without question a tighter sound, free of some of the jagged cybernetic enhancements that made the band’s debut such a compelling prospect, but upgraded into a machine that’s a lot more efficient. It can be more or less a complete overhaul at times as far as some of the original trance and IDM elements are concerned, but Overrider have hit a bold stride on this EP that it would be wrong to ignore. If nothing else, they’re well on their way to becoming one of industrial and electronic rock’s more vibrantly liberated acts, and the seemingly endless number of directions in which that could take them is reason enough to stay onboard for the long haul.
For fans of: Nine Inch Nails, The Black Queen, Perturbator
‘re:ntegration’ by Overrider is released on 9th October.
Pave The Jungle
For what is essentially a brand new band, there’s a good amount that marks out Pave The Jungle as ones to watch. Their strong run of singles this year has seen quite a bit of curiosity piqued around their blend of post-punk and heavier alt-rock, but chief among those comes from the mentorship session with Nadine Shah and Ben Hellier that informed a lot of vocalist / guitarist Rachael Whittle’s songwriting, and the fruits of that work can definitely be seen on this debut EP. There’s a lot of stark, fixed-in imagery at the centre of these songs, and they’re developed in a way that isn’t so much literary in its execution, but the likes of Cookie Cutter and Fix are definitely aiming a fair bit higher than the standard. It’s a strong way to articulate themes that tip into and confront darkness rather quickly, and when that confrontational standpoint feels more at the centre of Emerald or Ants, there’s something very implacable about the statements and words that form them, exacerbated by Whittle’s tremulous, swooping voice that heightens that stark presence more.
On top of that, there’s a density to Pave The Jungle’s sound that makes The Hissing seem even more massive. It has a noticeably post-punk feel in how the production hits the balance between sleek, loud and cold, but there’s definitely elements of alt-rock and even emo at points being leaned towards on a track like Habitual Thinker that rounds off the edges and dials back on the overall severity. Already, it’s a sound that’s fairly distinct to Pave The Jungle alone, and honestly not that far away from its real potential. Of course there’s a bit of refinement to be done – these songs can feel a bit overstuffed at points, and that does cap the momentum rather tightly – but there’s already a mighty instrumental presence here, particularly in the guitars and bass, and it’s executed without sounding overly scrappy or underworked. The seeds of a robust, full-formed project already seem to be well on their way to sprouting with Pave The Jungle, and that’s doubly impressive for their first proper release. There’s almost certainly a diamond in the rough with this band, and The Hissing can serve as a pretty definitive early indication of that.
For fans of: Les Savy Fav, Rival Schools, Manchester Orchestra
‘The Hissing’ by Pave The Jungle is released on 9th October.
Words by Luke Nuttall