REVIEW ROUND-UP: Cannibal Corpse, Chapel, Anna’s Anchor

Cannibal Corpse

Violence Unimagined

Be honest – is there any tremendous anticipation of change at all for the fifteenth Cannibal Corpse album? They’ve been key proprietors of gory, full-blast death metal since the late ‘80s, and though they’ve barely missed a beat, they aren’t ones for messing with the formula either. The most significant shakeup to come on this album is the recruitment of Erik Rutan as new guitarist, but even then, it hardly feels like the catalyst for something fresh to come on Violence Unimagined. And if all of that sounds a bit accusatory or lambasting, it’s not really meant to. Cannibal Corpse are, without a shadow of a doubt, trailblazers within death metal, and being objectively the biggest in their field creates a significant buffer when it comes to criticisms of not innovating. At the same time though, it’s not like Violence Unimagined is a brave new reinvention for Cannibal Corpse, as much as just another step in continuing the legacy of a band who are pretty much solid when it comes to a status as metal all-stars. This is firmly in their wheelhouse, where the grisly, over-the-top murder fantasies of their lyrics haven’t really toned down over time, nor has George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher’s frankly insane screaming ability which remains the ace up this band’s sleeve. There’s a visceral single-mindedness that’s barely been touched even since their earliest days, and for a death metal band trafficking in whatever gruesome imagery they can muster, that’s a handy quality to have. Of course, that can also circle round to the notion of Cannibal Corpse effectively holding fast in terms of progression, which can be a definite problem to have here. At least there’s certain creative flourishes to their murder fantasies that prevents outright stagnation, but it doesn’t stop an overall predictability that’s not exactly a new phenomenon with them either.

It’s that dichotomy in viewpoints that’ll ultimately see Violence Unimagined as an album for the diehard set almost exclusively. They’ll be getting another dose of everything that’s been given to them over the last thirty-plus years, delivered to a high standard without the unnecessary baggage to distract from it. That sort of consistency can be worthwhile to praise as well; compared to a band like Napalm Death, who’ve moved throughout extreme metal through their lifetime and lost some of the supercharged intensity of their earlier work as a result, Cannibal Corpse have stayed pretty firm. There might be a bit more of a budget to the production now, but there’s still a wrecking tone to the guitars across the board, and Paul Mazurkiewicz’s drumming lends a necessarily murderous intent to songs like Neurogenic Resurrection and Follow The Blood. Musically, Cannibal Corpse still have a ruthlessness about them in how unrelenting they are, with barely a moment taken for breath and respite that would distract from their overall violence. But again, that’s all from the perspective of those who are happy with just more of the same; for anyone else, for whom Cannibal Corpse’s shtick might be a bit repetitive or lacking some of the momentum that could very well betray their role of a band who’ve stuck to their one collection of ideas for decades, it won’t stick nearly as much. Honestly, it’s a combination of the two sides that feels the most reasonable way to approach an album like Violence Unimagined, where it would definitely be nice to see how Cannibal Corpse could try something new or outside of their comfort zone, but the fact that they can routinely throw out albums of a pretty good quality with effectively the same source of inspiration from the beginning deserves recognition in itself. As such, this is more of an adornment to the band’s legacy rather than an advancement, where it doesn’t add a whole lot, but drawing attention to the overall importance and quality that Cannibal Corpse have maintained is a noble goal in itself. • LN

6/10

For fans of: Deicide, Suffocation, Dying Fetus

‘Violence Unimagined’ by Cannibal Corpse is released on 16th April on Metal Blade Records.


Chapel

Room Service

It’s a gutsy move for Chapel to leave such a long fallow period between releases. Their last release was all the way back in 2017, with a debut EP in Sunday Brunch that offered some of the sharpest offerings the burgeoning alt-pop scene had produced up to that point (seriously, Caught Up has remained an earworm to this day), but they’ve not capitalised on that success since. They’ve been floating away in the very back of the scene, even in its relative decline, but for an act with so much promise shown so blatantly, it’s odd that they effectively painted themselves into a corner by doing nothing with it. Even on this much-belated follow-up EP, the mood comes as one of obligation above anything else, being shorter, far less energetic, and with a nonchalance that’s utterly counterintuitive to the direction Chapel once mapped for themselves. The source of that can primarily be traced to Carter Hardin’s voice, in which the rubbery expressiveness of old has been leached away for a more aloof, traditional alt-pop delivery complete with blurred-around-the-edges diction, something which has never sat well and continues to do so here. He doesn’t even sound necessarily vulnerable on these more stripped-back songs, to the point where, when he’s lamenting a past relationship on Miss The Days (which, on First Love, he’s maintained a connection with but still isn’t fully over), there’s no sense of true pain or longing conveyed in his voice. That’s also an effect of these songs being far less interesting and varied than on their preceding release, but even so, the effort doesn’t feel there to elevate them beyond some pretty meagre foundations. Compared to Sunday Brunch, Room Service has the feeling of routine baked down to the bones, of which Chapel themselves seem to be more than willing to promote and facilitate.

Ultimately, it means that Room Service radiates such a disposability that’s nigh on impossible to look past. Naturally that’ll be cast by the shadow of Sunday Brunch and the vibrancy it touted, but on a compositional level alone, these songs just give off so little of worth. Pillow Talk might fare the best with its bassline, but it’s all that’s keeping skeletal nothing of a song afloat that feels like a constant buildup that never pays off. Wow suffers from the same issue in its lumpen trudge amplified by how lazily its guitar hangs in the mix, with Hardin’s seemingly elective lack of presence compiling all of those shortcomings together. Meanwhile, there’s the blurred-over pull from 2015 indie on Miss The Days that’s equally as forgettable, and First Love which might have the most competent arrangement in its bass, rolling percussion and synth horns, but still only acts as a vehicle to limp over to the finish line. Any of the tightness or pop-rock sparkle that once defined and elevated Chapel is basically an afterthought now, as they instead opt for the awkward, stilted version of alt-pop that has long since fallen away with the genre’s cutbacks over the past few years. It’s borderline impossible to even know what Chapel’s end goal is here; it’s an expansion in the complete wrong way, for one, with only a handful of motifs or instrumental lines that can even be realistically deemed passable. Even calling it perfunctory seems to generous, when it comes across more like an attempt to burn themselves out of a career that they’ve barely even done anything with. That’s certainly a way to go out, though even from an outsider’s perspective, there’s probably a less volatile way of doing it than incinerating any good will you went in with. • LN

4/10

For fans of: PVRIS, Waterparks, Super Whatevr

‘Room Service’ by Chapel is released on 23rd April on Rise Records.


Anna’s Anchor

A Glorious Ruction

There’s something distinctly comfortable about Anna’s Anchor’s presence within modern rock, akin to Deaf Havana on Old Souls and All These Countless Nights. Heavily indebted to the Britrock formula as they may be, there’s a songwriting nuance paired with a widescreen, almost coastal take on the sound that has far greater resonance behind it. It’s always done a lot to differentiate Anna’s Anchor from the competition, when there’s a clear focus placed on Marty Ryan’s Irish heritage that can be notably felt in his songs and presentation, and even if the music has seldom broke new ground, the quality has always been a considerable step above the usual median. On A Glorious Ruction then, there’s something so naturally appealing to Anna’s Anchor about the way it’s turned out, with the sound being its most fleshed-out into that ebbing Britrock territory, and Ryan’s writing style that balances greater lyricism with suitably sized hooks has its greatest grounding. It’s a good way to tailor the Deaf Havana approach to Ryan’s vision as an artist too, chronicling states of loneliness and loss through the imagery of a particular walking route around Limerick, where certain landmarks will evoke corresponding feelings and memories. There’s a great sense of flow through this, where a song like Sarsfield Bridge will swell in a way distinct from something like Oldest Part Of Town, all while being coloured with the same melancholy nostalgia that’s sold so well in its earnestness. For a pretty short album, it’s probably got just the right amount of emotional beats within the same field to not feel stale, and the expertly done trade-off between broadness and deeper detail actually makes this quite a brisk and approachable ride.

That’s not exactly surprising given that the sonic foundation that A Glorious Ruction is built on, but it does need to be appreciated that the super-clean variant that can be tempting to slide towards has been deftly avoided. It’s another example of the balance that the album wears so prominently, where a song like Derelict will undercut potential closing ballad saccharine through a rustling acoustic guitar and some gorgeous fiddle pickups, or how A Treaty Of Sorts brings a power-pop jangle with a slightly rougher, more Celtic feel. It’s the instrumentation that’s most integral in how A Glorious Ruction succeeds, with a more blustery presentation that’ll weave in elements of choppy acoustics and mandolin, taking half-steps into folk-rock outside of its anthemic indie-rock baseline. As for Ryan himself, he’s not a fantastic singer and sometimes can be unfortunately muffled by the mix around him, but it’s always nice to hear his Irish brogue ring out more prominently; it’s a source of much-appreciated personality that alt-rock of this stripe can sometimes lack. It’s the perfect example of an all-rounder album that knows exactly where its strengths are, and while it plays to them accordingly, it’s not too safe or insulated within that. There’s still a good amount of rollick to accompany the earnestness that’s so deeply baked in, as Anna’s Anchor’s run of immovably solid, resonant-by-exactly-the-right-amount music continues forward uninhibited. • LN

7/10

For fans of: Deaf Havana, We Are The Ocean, Luke Rainsford

‘A Glorious Ruction’ by Anna’s Anchor is out now.


Årabrot

Norwegian Gothic

Årabrot’s new album Norwegian Gothic delves into the darkness and brings with it some unexpected twists and turns. There is so much going on in this album, I’m sure my review will barely scratch the surface. The genre mixing, exploration and experimentation across the album is fantastic. Along with traditional Gothic elements, rock, punk, metal, electronic, jazz and blues elements come across in various forms throughout the album. Opening with Carnival Of Love, the dark male vocals are introduced. Carrying a very unique tone that is perfectly suited to the gothic style – very reminiscent of the seductive and haunting qualities found in tracks such as Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Feel It On brings in somewhat more punk and rock influences particularly in across the guitar tone. The dissonance in the guitar chords adds a suitably eerie twist. The chorus of this track has a great energy with dynamic synths and distorted guitars packing a punch. The Lie also carries the dissonant punk style (this should totally become a sub-genre!).

Moving through the album, Hailstones for Rain introduces some progressive elements in the instrumentation. Despite having a fairly simple rhythm focus for the verse, the repeating motif of a melody that leans towards the oriental style adds some interesting drama to the track. The Voice sees a spoken dialogue section bring a theatrical aspect, along with a more detailed narrative to the album. Hallucinational features wonderful ethereal female vocals with a traditional classical style sound. The orchestration and haunting synths keep the dark mood present without the need for heavier instrumentation. Impact Heavily onto the Concrete, and the last track You’re Not That Special, is a very interesting section of dialogue – it helps to provide insight into the background of the album and the goals of Årabrot. It feels like breaking the fourth wall in way; removing you briefly from the art to explore the state of the artists. The Moon Is Dead has an avant-garde feel to it. The repeating bassline, haunting vocals and powerful saxophone melodies creates a fully immersive atmosphere. This album takes you on an unexpected journey – in many ways it feels like you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole into a Gothic wonderland. The composition and execution displayed on each track is of a very high standard. Årabrot have delivered a truly unique and diverse album that isn’t afraid to deviate from an ‘atypical’ release format. • HR

8/10

For fans of: Swans, Killing Joke, Wovenhand

‘Norwegian Gothic’ by Årabrot is out now on Pelagic Records.


Hail The Sun

New Age Filth

It’s rare to find a band in Hail The Sun’s circle where their impressiveness doesn’t have to be qualified with ‘on paper’. This sort of progressive post-hardcore will typically have so much soaring power and melodic richness, yet be bogged down by overwrought pretensions attached to prog (see much of the output of Coheed And Cambria), or an all-out assault on the senses that can borderline migraine-inducing à la Dance Gavin Dance. With Hail The Sun though, a band now on their fifth album who’ve been relatively in the background compared to those aforementioned acts, there’s no unnecessary clutter to trudge through on New Age Filth. This is the refined, pristine version of progressive post-hardcore, where the brightness and vibrancy of the melodies have the room to pop and shine on their own merits entirely. It’s a far more balanced version of this sound than what’s usually offered, layered to give prominence to the colours without feeling like a sensory overload, thanks to John Stirrat’s keening bass that’s always identifiable, and a tone to Aric Garcia and Shane Gann’s guitar this isn’t emphasised to the point of being razor-tipped. Poppier moments like Make Your Mark highly benefit from this, especially when there’s the freedom for more intricate guitar moments within it, but even on Parasitic Cleanse and Hysteriantics, the heaviest, most explicitly metal-leaning songs here, the benefit of that manoeuvrability shows itself when there’s significantly more flow and fluidity. On top of having the usual fallback of technical impressiveness, New Age Filth actually has the chops in song construction to back it up, and with gorgeously organic production to boot, it’s such a necessary salve to how frazzled and overwhelming this scene can be.

It’s frankly amazing what a simple thing like stripping away baggage can do, when at their core, Hail The Sun really aren’t all that different from the peers in their scene. They’ve got another vocalist in Donovan Melero whose register has the skyscraping heights and tartness of many a mid-2000s Warped Tour frontman, though as usual, the vocal gymnastics and flow make it far more palatable in this setting. There’s much of the same wide-open emotionality to the writing as well, kicking off with the no-holds-barred self-criticism of Domino and running from there, but again, it’s the grip on nuance and excellent tonal layering that brings out a richness in what might otherwise be dismissed as rote emo prostrating. It goes without saying that Hail The Sun hold a much higher standard than that, mind, particularly as Melero has more of a pointed intensity to his performance that gives that sharpness a more stable foothold; it’s been compared to Anthony Green from Circa Survive a lot, and those similarities really hold everything together here. To that extent though, there’s just something about Hail The Sun that clicks so profoundly well compared to who they’ll be posted up alongside, where of their particular hit-or-miss subgenre, they’re probably the biggest surprise hit to come from it. Having a better working knowledge of balance than pretty much anyone else is a great start already, but when it’s applied to let its intricacy and emotionality grow at a natural rate, that’s impressively dynamic for this scene to undertake. Even when its good will seemingly burned out long ago, New Age Filth is a surprising shot in the arm for progressive post-hardcore that really came out of nowhere, but leaves a profoundly satisfying impression. • LN

8/10

For fans of: Coheed And Cambria, Circa Survive, Dance Gavin Dance

‘New Age Filth’ by Hail The Sun is released on 16th April on Rude Records / Equal Vision Records.


Harker

Axiom

If nothing else, it’s good to see that Harker are still around. They were one of those punk bands in the latter half of the 2010s that showed incredible promise, but would ultimately subsumed by other excellent alt-punk breaking through at the same time, and simply not being granted a sufficient share of the limelight. Fast forward to now and that scene hasn’t really calmed down, but Harker’s perseverance is commendable regardless, and they haven’t lost touch of what made them stand out in the first place. Instead, it comes augmented with a grungier, slightly more abrasive sound that doesn’t quite yield the sparks of greatness their previous material had, but feels like a necessary concession made to move forward. The likes of Adulthood and Daisychain are more worn-down and rough-hewn in their presentation, with less immediately anthemic potential but instead carrying a grit that brings to mind bands like Citizen or Basement. As an evolutionary step forward, this is a natural one for Harker to take, especially when there’s still wiggle room for Hellion or Flex Yr Head to surge past on rip-roaring momentum, or, conversely, Antenna to fall into a bleaker noise-rock rabbit hole. And of course, because the punk spirit within Harker simply never dampens, there’s a lot of rugged power to the guitars and prominent bass, and even if Mark Boniface’s vocals begin the album slightly too smothered on The Beast Must Die, it’s rectified quickly enough to still feel robust for the majority of the time.

Overall, it makes the transition to a darker tone and subject matter come a bit more smoothly, where Harker will open up their musical palette instead of swapping individual parts out, and it makes the experience feel more adventurous as a whole. Simultaneously though, the scale isn’t nearly as bombastic and triumphant, as the grittier sound butts heads with ideas of political disenfranchisement, isolation and music industry cynicism with almost equal force. It makes Axiom a less accessible album on the whole, but that’s unquestionably by design, and Harker lean into it with a comfort that never bleeds over into complacency. There’s still a wiry, on-edge energy that serves as Axiom’s thick coating, but Harker know how to tackle it, and the result is a state of distinct yet deliberate instability. It’s indicative of a band pushing themselves to do more without overstepping their boundaries, pulled off with less of the vim of before, but just as much drive. What’s more, the conscious decision to move away from an easy, straightforward alt-punk follow-up says a lot in itself, both about Harker’s own musical philosophies, and how they’ll manifest themselves in such a compelling and ever-changing way. • LN

7/10

For fans of: The Menzingers, Basement, Teenage Wrist

‘Axiom’ by Harker is released on 23rd April on Wiretap Records / Disconnect Disconnect / Shield Recordings / Fixing A Hole Records.


Havelocke

Arsonist

There’s something encouragingly Creeper-esque about the conceptual prospect of Havelocke, in their throwing back to the emo melodrama and aestheticised darkness of the early 2000s to pair with their own musical sensibilities, though post-hardcore instead of punk. In practice though, Creeper have the expanse and the bombast – not to mention the amazing songs – to carry their vision; Havelocke on Arsonist, meanwhile, are a lot less impressive across the board, to where a very straight-faced adoption of these sounds can feel more throwaway than anything else. It’s the flatness that afflicts Havelocke that does the most damage, where their source sound isn’t really adapted for a modern setting and winds up showing its age in terms of lyrics especially. The visceral themes of pain and heartbreak are fine on their own, but they’re rooted in the same played-out semantic fields that defined those initial 2000s acts. It’s not just in the vaguely horror-themed coating either, but rather the committing cardinal rhyming sin of “night” and “morning light” in a couplet on Vampire Eyes, or the eye-rolling chorus of “You’ve played with fire one too many times / And now you’ve finally got burned” on The Arsonist. It’s not precisely thrilling content on its own, but being so heavily linked to that era, to the point where this could’ve easily been transposed word for word with little issue, just underwhelms even more, with a safeness that Havelocke are almost certainly trying to buck against.

Fortunately the sound of Arsonist is a bit better. It’s still a bit dated, in that this stripe of post-hardcore is effectively locked to a period circa 2003 in how unchanged it is, but it’s still not entirely objectionable overall when Havelocke can pull it off. Even divorced from any nostalgic impulse (which, to be honest, Arsonist is lucky to be riding on so strongly), there’s definitely a weight to the production that mightn’t flatter any basslines too heavily, but lends a darker, stormier tone to the guitars and drums that feel appropriate for the mood cultivated. In the same way as Finch or Eighteen Reasons can still be enjoyed nowadays despite their gaping holes that have widened over time, Havelocke have a decent amount of acumen when it comes to propulsiveness and hookiness. They’re alright with a chorus overall, despite Owen Cousins’ rather lacklustre vocal capabilities, and the whole thing goes down quickly and easily enough to where it’s never objectionable to listen to. But that also brings up the notion of what Havelocke bring compared to the acts they’re emulating, particularly when they bear a lot of the same flaws in the same capacities. It’s an impressively legitimate recreation of that sound, but when that’s all it is and doesn’t further the narrative or widen the creative bounds, it can feel a bit inconsequential. They could easily set the precedent for growing out of that, but they aren’t quite there just yet. • LN

5/10

For fans of: Finch, Senses Fail, From Autumn To Ashes

‘Arsonist’ by Havelocke is released on 13th April on Silent Cult Records.


Out Of Love

Funny Feeling

Considering they started up as mainly a live outfit, it’s fair to say that Out Of Love have made the most of a pandemic that’s put that entire enterprise on ice. This is their second EP in under twelve months, and another handy taster of how good that live show is likely to be when the opportunity does come back around. They’ve found the right sonic basis for it for a start, operating in the cross-section of ‘90s alt-rock, grunge and a hardcore that’s been occupied by the likes of Milk Teeth and Drug Church, and that Out Of Love have taken to almost effortlessly here. This is also their first studio-produced effort, and the knowledge of what makes this sound pop really feels imbued deeply, with the frayed, raucous guitars and bass that, alongside an equally vigorous drum performance and Jack Rogers’ perfectly rough-around-the-edges vocals, have some real muscle to them. The wall of noise approach could maybe be turned down a bit, but it’s rarely an intrusive issue when songs like Wishlist and Dog Daze don’t even clock two minutes, yet still feel like meaty, satisfying experiences. That’s the sign of a punk band with a lot to offer, and it’s where Out Of Love can really shine when they hit this bounding pace, far from meandering but never overly breathless either. It’s another example of the ‘alt-rock anthem’ mode that Milk Teeth nailed particularly on their EPs, and when that approach has basically been translated note for note here, it’s hard to complain when those abject similaries are what work the most.

The primary difference comes in a relative looseness on Out Of Love’s part. They still carry themselves like the live act they intended to be, in a more brazen, gung-ho fashion that’s about the force of the expression rather than digging into the minutiae. It’s not like they’re simplistic though, as self-critical moments on Play Pretend and See Right Thru and wider condemnations of life’s unsavouries on Wishlist couldn’t feel more in line with the modern punk playbook. It’s an ideal middle ground that Funny Feeling holds, where its depth is never at the expense of raucousness that’s such an integral part of Out Of Love. Even within that, it never comes as meticulously planned to fit certain quotas within its approach; they do truly feel like a live band, even on record, dishing out what comes to them naturally and finding great success through doing so. Again, that environment will undoubtedly be the best one to experience these songs to their fullest, but it’s impressive that Funny Feeling captures that electricity so succinctly. Definitely a band to keep an eye on, especially when the return of touring finds them in their element. • LN

7/10

For fans of: Milk Teeth, Drug Church, Brawlers

‘Funny Feeling’ by Out Of Love is released on 16th April on Venn Records.


Crown

The End Of All Things

Crown have come a fair distance since Psychurgy in 2013, where since then, their pounding, drum machine-driven blackgaze has evolved into something moodier and more sophisticated, though no less enamoured by a state of industrial bleakness. It felt touched upon on 2015’s Natron, but The End Of All Things is a colossal leap away even by that standard, where the duo will now stalk through more ostensibly gothic industrial brooding in a fashion that’s a lot more indebted to Nine Inch Nails. Even on Shades where some of their more aggressive tendencies and exposed edges will rear up again, it’s set to a throbbing pulse that picks away at the guitars and Stéphane Azam‘s throaty screams to sound more vicious overall. Above all though, for as ultimately different as this is from their origin point, it’s probably the most focused and, overall, best that Crown have ever sounded. Songs may not spiral across eight- to ten-minute runtimes anymore, but the clearer insidiousness to them benefits a tightly compacted construction, where the bleak guitars will reverberate behind Azam’s haunted vocal performance that borrows just as much from Nick Cave as it does Trent Reznor. It’s a very clean sound that Crown have, but it’s not lacking in weight for it, in the creeping kneels of Illumination and Extinction; the acoustic pivot of Fleuves that grows into a more ragged, throbbing piece; and the very dramatic, orchestral sweep of Utopia led by Årabrot‘s Karin Parks and her fantastic poise.

It’s a case where the atmosphere is definitely the most important thing overall, in that every element feeds into it and strengthens it, as inadvertently as that might be. Lyrically, this isn’t a particularly profound listen, for as much nihilism as Crown will wallow in and spread across their material, but Adam has the imposing voice and presence to isolate the darkness from it to thread through everything else. Nine Inch Nails might have perfected it with a lot more detail and scope, but the slightly truncated version from Crown is by no means bad with how complete the final product feels. This isn’t some slapdash paring-back for an easy fall-back to a less demanding sound; The End Of All Things truly feels like a conscious creative decision that pays off significantly. It’s their most accessible album to date by an immense degree – and wide open to accusations of selling out for it – but because of that, it’s also their most propulsive and forceful too. Plus, it’s not like Crown have forgone their creativity, and the consolidation of their palette on The End Of All Things has really only opened up more avenues for that to really shine looking ahead. • LN

7/10

For fans of: Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, Massive Attack

‘The End Of All Things’ by Crown is released on 16th April on Pelagic Records.


Low Island

If You Could Have It All Again

If there’s one thing that Low Island prove they can do exceptionally well on their debut, it’s craft pop hits without too much of a noteworthy throughline between them. They draw a lot from an indie-synthpop set that includes the likes of Caribou and Glass Animals while also paying attention to lithe nu-funk and nu-disco, and thus If You Could Have It All Again occasionally feels a bit fractured when it comes to what sounds come into play. But even then, it’s nowhere near as bad as it could be; after the unnecessary reprise of Don’t Let The Lights In, there’s definitely a stride of quality that’s struck upon, in the glassy twinkles of In Your Arms to kinetic throbs of Who’s Having The Greatest Time? and Feel Young Again, and the rather excellent indie-pop slow burn of Momentary. There’s also What Do You Stand For? earlier on that, with its jagged snarls of guitar and more enclosed atmosphere, almost leans towards post-punk, but it ultimately feels a bit too at odds with where Low Island’s focus lies. They’re at their best looking at their lighter end, where the sharper bass has more expressiveness against a colourful backdrop, and where there’s an elegance to their synth work that does a lot to foster a lushness and opulence. There’s definitely a meticulousness when it comes to crafting individual moments, but never to where it feels stiff or mechanical, and that’s an important distinction to have when it comes to making this album as hugely listenable as it is.

That alone is enough to get Low Island the bulk of the way to the finish line. The reliance is placed so heavily on instrumentation, and for a synthpop album like this that casts its net out into wider climes, there’s enough propulsiveness and infectiousness within their creative vision to keep things moving rather indefinitely. It’s interesting, then, that If You Could Have It All Again doesn’t shy away from the introspection that colours the most long-lasting of modern synthpop, albeit not to the same degree. Carlos Posada is nowhere near the emotional powerhouse, for starters, and while there’s definitely a human focus throughout, it’s never quite as explorative within itself as someone like Shura will have a tendency to be. That said, there’s a natural compulsion towards the uncertainty of growth, where the rough edges and uncontrolled volleys of cynicism on What Do You Stand For? will open out for questions on finding purpose and stability in life on Momentary and What The Hell (are you gonna do now?). Posada’s voice fits more naturally in a quivering, uncertain mode too, and that does amplify some of the moments of contemplation towards the album’s end for a pretty strong climax, where the emotional presentation carries some of the weight that a less rigorous core might forgo. It all averages out rather well, with If You Could Have It All Again as a whole feeling like a welcome addition to the contemporary synthpop canon, even if it’s not as weighty in tone as its peers. It still accomplishes a lot though, and the creative streak within Low Island points towards a lot more of this calibre in the future. • LN

7/10

For fans of: Caribou, Hot Chip, Glass Animals

‘If You Could Have It All Again’ by Low Island is released on 16th April on Emotional Interface.


Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)

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