Gojira’s story is well-known, but no less worthy of being told. Alongside Mastodon and Lamb Of God, their name has become the shorthand for modern metal that’s constantly pushing and refining its own creativity and craft, in how the death metal of Terra Incognita has evolved over two decades into something much bigger and more cinematic. Add in a sense of progressivism in the senses of musical construction, lyrical themes and philanthropic work, and Gojira are basically the template for how big, exciting metal should operate in the 21st Century. But as has been said, that’s a well-worn spiel by now, though the fact that Gojira continue to embody it is encouraging in itself. Where most would be waiting for, or even expecting the slip-up seven albums and 25 years deep, that’s never really felt like an issue here. It’s where the comparisons to Mastodon and Lamb Of God only extend even further; Gojira have the Midas touch and have done for many years, all while following their own path and never letting their own focus dip. As a matter of fact, Fortitude bears a lot more similarities to Mastodon than that, where it’ll view expansive human issues through a lens encapsulating nature and folklore, in a way that’s so much grander and more reverent. Here, it’s tenacity through the oncoming storm where the only options are immediate change or succumbing to the destruction, as Gojira bore into the crux of the issue in civil disobedience and an environmentalist streak that’s always been in their wheelhouse. It’s why the cycle of colonisation and destruction they rally against feels so prescient on Amazonia and Another World, and why the message of unity conveyed through The Chant has the power it does. The grounded nature of Fortitude doesn’t feel as though it’s lost the might of a band who’ve previously been as cosmic and expansive as Gojira have; on the contrary, there’s an unshakable. Herculean resolution that defines this album, and where, on songs like Born For One Thing and New Found, Joe Duplantier brings that into such a human perspective. It’s excellent, and feels like a pivot towards directness and gravity for Gojira without sacrificing the enormity they’re so proficient at creating.
It’s the same for the music itself too, where any traces of death metal have pretty much vanished, instead replaced by a dense, humid brand of metal, almost as a crossbreed between Sepultura and Alice In Chains. The Sepultura comparisons have already been well-established on Amazonia and The Chant, where the rainforest heat meshes with the heaving riffwork and twanging jaw harp of the former, but as far as Alice In Chains goes, there’s a stony, dusty quality in abundance on the likes of Hold On and Sphinx, and in the keening bass that rips through the final leg of Grind. It’s an imposing sound through and through, especially when some of the band’s more progressive and intricate moments have been pushed aside in favour of letting these compositions flow and heave organically. It also finds Joe Duplantier resting in a comparatively cleaner register a lot more, which acts as the correct sonorous adjunct in a sound like this, but it’s also not mixed in a way that would allow him to stand out. It’s not particularly bad – he’s never outright inaudible at any point – but there’s definitely a muddiness that can be found which simply isn’t present on Sphinx in his sharper roars, or Grind which serves as a more ‘traditional’ Gojira song. It ultimately is a nitpick though, given that this production does the job required of it, and a less technical approach to raw instrumentation behind it definitely pays dividends. It’s a direct result of Gojira continuing to retool and reinvent themselves from album to album, where on its face, this might seem like a step back, but actually presents the most worthwhile and logical version of them for 2021. Fortitude is exactly the hulking, unceasing colossus of an album that it needs to be, tailored to a point where it hits like a train and just keeps going and going. Obviously it’s another win for Gojira – it was always going to be – but it’s also a notably great one, and an album that’s likely to just keep giving, many spins further down the line. • LN
For fans of: Mastodon, Sepultura, Baroness
‘Fortitude’ by Gojira is out now on Roadrunner Records.
The Million Masks Of God
In the vein of Thrice or Touché Amoré in recent years, curtailing expectations significantly has been a theme that’s hung over the release of Manchester Orchestra albums. Pretty much from 2011’s Simple Math onwards, Manchester Orchestra have felt like a much different band, less understated within indie-rock and emo for their towering, palatial sound to fully come into its own. Cope in 2014 felt the most direct representation of that, but 2017’s A Black Mile To The Surface ultimately perfected it, with a huger sound than ever caught in the throes of the band’s ever-keen grip on emotionality. By comparison, The Million Masks Of God is a more scaled-back affair, but that’s both welcome and necessary here. It’s a de facto sequel to the album directly before it after all, where the promises of birth and new light are flipped, replaced with ruminations on humanity and faith set to the backdrop of the last days of guitarist Robert McDowell’s father. There’s a lot of weight brought about by the ever-evocative writing style, in both the oncoming loss itself on Inaudible and Obstacle, but also in the embrace of unconditional love and dedication on Telepath, or the guidance that belief in a higher power has yielded on Let It Storm. It’s not a sad album per se, but more ponderous and wistful, and able to thread those emotions through such a wonderfully rich canvas. The writing on Manchester Orchestra albums is always a key strength to them, and it’s no different with The Million Masks Of God in the level of intricacy and nuance that it brings.
It’s also very much a return to the slow burn formula that’s served Manchester Orchestra so well before, but especially this time, there’s a wonderful sophistication to how everything flows and reshapes itself. There’s a notable downward curve in overall intensity, where the slithering bassline of Keel Timing and the incessant crunching beat on Bed Head will be trimmed down and flattened out for a more plaintive experience moving forward, though that feels entirely the point. Songs like Telepath ultimately need the windswept space to breathe, and watching that crescendo and pick up again from the darker turn of Dinosaur to the climactic explosion of The Internet becomes incredibly gratifying. Manchester Orchestra have always made album statements, and The Million Masks Of God fits that same bill entirely, in the subtleties of gentle acoustics and strings that reveal themselves the most when placed in the greater context. In terms of their sound, there’s a bit less heft and rippling, coursing might this time, but it’s no less vivacious a listen for it; indeed, hearing the distinct ebb and flow of this album be so clearly and naturally telegraphed really can be stunning when it hits at the right moments like on Telepath. It remains the perfect vehicle for Andy Hull as a vocalist, where his tone is warbling and gentle but never meek or underpowered, and he’s got such an exemplary way of conveying feeling in his delivery that’s as great as ever here. It’s all very indicative of where Manchester Orchestra are as a band now – comfortable but never complacent, and with a penchant for expansion and development that still feels so tightly woven into their defining style and characteristics. The Million Masks Of God feels familiar insomuch as it’s where Manchester Orchestra excel, in the such of beautifully rich, poignant slow burn that mightn’t quite be to everyone’s taste, but will do so much for those for whom it’s geared towards. • LN
For fans of: O’Brother, Lydia, Kevin Devine
‘The Million Masks Of God’ by Manchester Orchestra is out now on Loma Vista Recordings.
girl in red
if i could make it go quiet
As much as calling brand new indie artists a ‘phenomenon’ is endemic of just how necessary click-chasing hyperbole has become in the industry, an exception to that cynicism can probably be made for girl in red. When “Do you listen to girl in red?” has become recognised slang for women asking if another woman is gay, that probably constitutes a phenomenon in itself, in all honesty. Truthfully though, the hype around Marie Ulven’s work has handily surpassed most other bedroom-pop and indie-rock, where this debut full-length is all but ready to see its creator propelled from the crest of the wave she’s always headed into the wider musical conversation. Having Finneas contribute to production in places can never hurt, but the real kicker in if i could make it go quiet comes in some very clear parallels to Beabadoobee’s Fake It Flowers, as an expansion of the bedroom-pop base that feels well-timed and well-executed, but also utterly necessary in moving forward. Granted, it’s not quite as good, but it’s also a somewhat expected outcome for an artist in Ulven’s lane making their first steps into a wider musical landscape. The reverberating indie rollicks of Serotonin and You Stupid Bitch are carried out in a way that doesn’t complete cut those bedroom-pop ties, while hornylovesickmess and Apartment 402 feel very indebted to that mainstream-adjacent brand of alt-pop, where the tones are a bit scratchier and the mix is allowed to open into something more liquid and exhaling. Rarely does it feel like Ulven is innovating in sound or production, but it doesn’t really matter honestly, not when the mix is commanded by her particularly strident voice and allowed to luxuriate in its newfound size. It’s always to the benefit of smaller-scale artists to break out in this way, and if i could make it go quiet really feels like it makes the most of that opportunity. All the elements of a big, polished debut are present and accounted for, in that any edge in the sound has been sanded off and left to Ulven to provide that herself.
That’s not an unworthy trade-off by any means, but it also draws a lot of attention to Ulven’s songwriting, and how it mightn’t hold up quite as well under that level of scrutiny. To be fair, that’s an assessment coming from the perspective of someone most definitely not in her target demographic, but she has a bluntness in sentiment that doesn’t connect as viscerally as she clearly intends it to. Again, that isn’t bad per se, nor is it that rigid of a rule when Rue, Apartment 402 and . all have a welcomed poetic slant to them, but it’s hard to say that songs like Body And Mind or midnight love are all that unique, even from the queer perspective that Ulven writes from. That’s important to take note of though, as it does reframe some of these songs to have some added intricacy and longevity, like how Did You Come? and You Stupid Bitch have that different viewpoint within various moments of headlong relationship brashness. Even when that impact comes through the context of the artist making the music rather than the music itself, and even when it’s not guaranteed (see I’ll Call You Mine for how those two factors really don’t meet in the middle), there’s still a charm that Ulven brings to her work that’s likable enough, even if it doesn’t quite square up to bedroom-pop wunderkind she’s been billed as. It’s evident she’s got a lot of talent and expertise when it comes to making music, and the target audience for whom it’ll resonate with far more deeply will lap it up, but what’s needed is some fine-tuning to close those expectations together. It’s a bit of a tentative start, all things considered, and it could and should be a lot more. • LN
For fans of: Beabadoobee, Phoebe Bridgers, Chloe Moriondo
‘if i could make it go quiet’ by girl in red is out now on AWAL.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
When God Was Great
Perhaps it’s a bit premature to say that ska is undergoing a revival, but it at least feels more appreciated now, with artists like Skatune Network doing cool and interesting things within a genre previously sidelined within alternative music. It’s also a genre whose existence of the old guard seems to have very little influence, especially when so many of them have been going for years without making even a peep outside of their circles. In a nutshell, that’s The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, now up to their eleventh album with a legacy that, for many, boils down to which soundtrack they’ve heard The Impression That I Get on. Still, when placed next to recent output from Less Than Jake or Reel Big Fish, When God Was Great seems to set its sights a bit higher and wind up more robust as a result. There’s a sense of community that’s brought up really well across this album, both in seeing old members of the band returning to the fold, and in Dicky Barrett’s gravel-strewn vocals that lend a gravity and surprising solemnity to a song like Certain Things. The events of the past year hang heavily in the background of this album, and the band make the wise decision of acknowledging them but not being shaped by them, and that brings forward a thematic weight that not much modern ska-punk really has. It also means that the threads of ska’s community spirit ring all the brighter, and culminating in The Final Parade – the eight-minute opus that brings together musicians past and present for a giant love-in the genre – there’s celebration there, but also catharsis at making it through and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It genuinely feels like a giant group of people all in one room together having an amazing time collaborating on the music they love, and it’s hard to think of a better way to round off an album like this.
It takes a while to get there, mind, though a core lineup of ten people making an hour-long album is bound to yield some bloat. There’ll definitely be certain stretches where that might indeed feel like overkill, where the ‘Bosstones just aren’t varied enough to warrant something of that size, but it definitely helps that this isn’t a boring album, and the energy they bring all across it is definitely palpable. They have a tendency to lean deeper into the punk and heavier side of the traditional ska-punk sound, and thus When God Was Great feels like a meatier, more substantive listen that can prop up the traditional bounce really well. Songs like I Don’t Believe In Anything and The Killing Of Georgie (Part III) put more stock in the weight of guitars and have horns as an auxiliary presence, and there’s a pleasing roughness and rowdiness that seeps through, doubled up by Barrett’s timbre and how it’s perfect for gang choruses to be built around. Even when the bright, brassy melodies are more obviously at the fore like on M O V E and What It Takes, it’s a considerably richer, fuller sound that won’t skimp on its own punk background. That makes sense when the production is shared between Rancid’s Tim Armstrong and The Gaslight Anthem and Dropkick Murphys collaborator Ted Hutt, where the ska know-how of the former is taken so much further thanks to the latter’s knowledge of how to work a bounding punk melody. It definitely makes for one of the better sounding ska-punk albums to come out in a while, but all the same, there’s a flair that’s built in to the ‘Bosstones way of operating, where they mightn’t always land (and on a song like The Truth Hurts, they emphatically don’t) but they go for it regardless. The older sound doesn’t negate the drive to create something fun, and for as overfilled as this album can be, it hits that mark with impressive force more often than not. Moreover, it has a longevity that ska-punk nowadays can really lack, if only because the ‘Bosstones tangibly push themselves to make something more than the norm, and the payoff for their efforts doesn’t go unnoticed. • LN
For fans of: Streetlight Manifesto, Big D & The Kids Table, Suburban Legends
‘When God Was Great’ by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones is released on 7th May on Hellcat Records.
It’d be lovely to say that returning to Sumo Cyco has revealed they really didn’t deserve the thrashings they were given at every turn during the 2010s, but that just wouldn’t be true. Both of their albums are still horrible, arguably more so now in the overweight, chaotic alt-metal production and Skye Sweetnam’s vocals that are unstable at best and hideously, hair-rippingly obnoxious at worst, often trending more towards the latter. They wisely laid low for a few years after 2017’s Opus Mar, though even as Initiation marks a return with practically zero improvements made, it’s hard to muster up the same blend of befuddlement, rage and incredulity. Sumo Cyco releasing a bad album isn’t news anymore, and the fact they’ve passed through that storm with barely an alteration made implies they’re leaning into their own potential for controversy. In reality, there’s nothing ‘controversial’ here; it’s just really, really bad in obvious ways. Sweetnam remains the tentpole presence in that regard, with a vocal style that can really only be described as ‘unique’ in an uncomfortably skittish Frankensteining of valley girl nattering, shrill, brittle screams and a very inauthentic pastiche of a Caribbean patois. It’s incredibly irritating, right from the start with the spit-smeared screams of Love You Wrong that extends right the way to some truly egregious and out-of-place vocal runs on This Dance Is Doomed. She’s animated, that’s for sure, but it’s in the throttlingly obnoxious way that ensures she’s never out of frame for even a second, even when it’s probably necessary. It’s rare she has all that much to say either, beyond broad statements around change presumably linked to the band’s own spurious mythology that aren’t exactly cringeworthy (though maybe right on the border enough times), but exist purely through their own caterwauling loudness rather than any meaningful precision.
But again, that’s nothing new; if anything it’s the absolute expectation of what Sumo Cyco would deliver, and that feeds into a sound similarly characterised by scorching maximalism in service of nothing but taking up as much space as possible. That in itself is bad enough, where guitars will utterly pulverise themselves to sound as low-hanging and muddy as possible – to where the expectation of any sort of bass groove on a track like Vertigo is completely misguided – but it’s Sumo Cyco’s frivolous desires to be quirky and poppy that really run this thing into the ground. There’s nothing wrong with being melodic, but there particularly viewpoint on it takes the form of fake clattering noise on M.I.A, or wedged-in electronic gurgles all over the place that have the cheapness and mass-produced consistency of a bad energy drink. There’s a crunchy, tooth-rotting quality to Initiation as a whole that’s hard to quantify but impossible to miss, as Sumo Cyco ensure that they’re being noticed at every turn, lest they actually happen upon some of the modulation that would do them some good. Honestly the heavy guitar tone on a song like Bystander wouldn’t be too bad if it wasn’t crushed into place by production, the key enemy of Sumo Cyco that’s a vastly limiting factor when it comes to just simple listenability, in how songs are wrenched into place in such an ugly and unappealing way. This feels like an album that’s been micromanaged to hell and back in how overworked it is, but simultaneously feels like the product of Sumo Cyco’s own singular, misguided vision that no hands could’ve possibly been added to the pot. If they were, they’d probably have the good sense to say this is an awful direction to go in, just like they should’ve with the past Sumo Cyco albums, and yet the tear that this band have been on implies that they’ve somehow got the clout to control their own creative faculties. Initiation alone shows how that’s a worrying thought, where this candy-coated, low-slung, belching disaster of an album has turned out exactly how its creators wanted it to. If that’s the case, we don’t need Sumo Cyco around, even more than we didn’t the first time. • LN
For fans of: Skindred, Icon For Hire, New Years Day
‘Initiation’ by Sumo Cyco is released on 7th May on Napalm Records.
Invicta sees Skarlett Riot take their unique sound and push it further than ever before. Skarlett’s distinctive clean vocals are now joined by her experimentation into harsh territory. Invicta is a powerful journey from start to finish. Breaking The Habit opens the album with a dramatic entrance. It’s clear from the off that this album is going to heavier than their previous releases. This is not a bad thing – personally, I’m excited to see them venture into somewhat heavier realms. Their sound adapts to it well. The soaring vocals from Skarlett contrast well with the lower tones in the instrumentation. The melodic side of their sound is still prominent with plenty of guitar leads and riffs present throughout all of the tracks on the album. The layering of the lead guitar riff, clean vocals, harshes and heavy rhythm parts in Breaking The Habit is incredible.
Gravity’s soaring chorus is just fantastic, and it complements the heavy, djenty rhythmic guitar chugs. Black Cloud delivers a different mood. It’s great to hear each track has its own ‘identity’, if you will. The album feels very cohesive whilst also exploring different tones and textures across the tracks. Skarlett’s harsh vocals add an extra texture to the track. Into Pieces is more of a ballad with an emotional delivery that really shows off Skarlett’s voice. The cinematic style percussion alongside acoustic guitar melodies is minimal whilst producing an intense effect. The progression of the track to the full band instruments adds an extra something. The gradual build-up gives the change a stronger impact. Skarlett Riot have produced a superb album in Invicta. It really shows off their growth as an ensemble; they’re continuing to explore and develop what makes them unique. The combination of heaviness, anthemic choruses, and attention to detail across the instrument parts delivers a fantastic sound. • HR
For fans of: Asking Alexandria, In This Moment, Bullet For My Valentine
‘Invicta’ by Skarlett Riot is released on 7th May on Despotz Records.
Ghost Iris are the sort of metalcore band who’ll undoubtedly have fans and defenders, but not really enough to percolate outside of their own circle. 2019’s Apple Of Discord is generally seen as their best work, but even at the time, the excitement around it wasn’t particularly rapturous, mostly because Ghost Iris’ career up to this point has lived through significant waves of metalcore and djent that they’ve been unable to penetrate. Maybe it’s a case of seeming less impressive compared to what’s around them, where Ghost Iris have typically been unable to live up to the most progressive or most catchy of the best in their lane. And so, on Comatose where that hasn’t been rectified too much, it makes for a metalcore album that feels a bit more underwhelming than it possibly is. It’s not badly done or anything, but there’s nothing that truly pops out or gives Ghost Iris a sense of portent within the larger landscape. It can be very boilerplate lyrically, in rising out of a state of darkness to push on through into the light, and even with notable melodic turns on ebb flow and cold sweat that find Jesper Vincencio Gün primarily in his clean register, rarely does it stick. If nothing else, it’s encouraging that Ghost Iris can be a bit more pliable with some traditionally tired metalcore song structuring, but that doesn’t achieve much when the actual material doesn’t resonate any more than usual.
At the same time though, if you’re going to pull out metalcore albums that actively hamper the qualities their genre should possess, Comatose wouldn’t even be in that conversation. The production is clean but it can also lean into something decently heavy when it wants to, as the edges are allowed to be a bit sharper on paper tiger and power schism to trend slightly more in a tech-metal direction. It’s a solid enough sound, but it’s one that also faces the same problem as before, where Ghost Iris don’t really do a lot with it to stand out. Those progressive moments feel locked behind a barrier to prevent them going too off-the-rails, and there’s a sense of truncation of creativity that brings about that hangs over this album rather profusely. It definitely feels longer than it actually is, largely through to a lack of satisfying moments and tightness to bring them on. The seeds of solid ideas aren’t enough to keep Comatose moving all the way through, and by the time it starts freewheeling, that’s noticeable in how little effect most of this has. It’s a repercussion of being in such a crowded scene as metalcore is, where Ghost Iris would most likely be a little more impressive without the genre’s predetermined walls stacked so highly in front of them. Then again though, it’s not like Comatose really pushes the boat out in any way, nor does it put Ghost Iris in a position where any wider breakthrough feels justified. Even as a slight cut above the rest of the mid-pack on execution, it’s still very much at home among the mid-pack regardless. • LN
For fans of: Architects, Novelists FR, Time, The Valuator
‘Comatose’ by Ghost Iris is released on 7th May on Long Branch Records.
Diamante’s debut Coming In Hot felt like an interesting opportunity royally squandered, presenting an alternative to the boys’ club of American, radio-ready hard rock, only to make her just as generic in almost every way. Big industry connections made for a good boost (most notably in her collaboration with Bad Wolves Hear Me Now), but that album felt like the sort of mandated output that often gets shouldered onto a lot of female rock musicians, to prioritise a look, a killer voice, and nothing else. Evidently it’s down to the second album to tighten up and reshift some focus, and though it’s still very broad and commercially-driven in sound, the steps in the right direction on American Dream are apparent. There’s less thematic skimming in place that definitely benefits it, where self-examination in the wake of a broken, unfaithful relationship dominates, and feelings of self-loathing and doubt on Ghost Myself and Unlovable mesh a righteously vindictive streak on a song like I Love Myself For Hating You. It also gives Diamante’s huge voice more of an opportunity to show off its range, where she’s not exactly breaking the bank in terms of how far she goes either way, but she hits all the right beats in both pounding rockstar swagger, and equally forceful but more vulnerable territory like on Unlovable or the cover of the Goo Goo Dolls’ Iris.
That cover is actually a collaboration with Breaking Benjamin’s Ben Burnley, where the two will actually have some decent interplay and chemistry, before the production favours Burnley’s voice over Diamante’s and all but drowns her out. It’s a result of the mix being tailored to accentuate Diamante as a presence within it, and overlaying a booming, more sonorous voice on hers will undoubtedly have the effect of drawing that attention away. Fortunately that isn’t a problem elsewhere; she’s still front and centre everywhere else, with the big, polished hard rock instrumentals she’s given having punch if not panache, as to not draw too much attention away. Sonically there isn’t too much that’s all that special here (and trying to thread in some glitchy electronic effects on Unfuck You feels a bit too outside of this wheelhouse), but as far as driving radio-rock like this goes, it’s easy to give it a pass. It’s slightly less throwaway than its predecessor in terms of momentum, where pivots into darker, heavier material on Serves You Right owe more to Halestorm while not alienating the pop streak that still shows up on Wake Up Call. Taking everything into account, Diamante continues to give off similar energy to Avril Lavigne or Kelly Clarkson in their early days, in opting for more of a crossover path adjacent to pop rather than fully suiting herself to fit within rock. Though even then, American Dream is probably a more legitimate example of that, where it’s a bit more brooding and searing while still having a wide canvas applicable to both pop and rock. It definitely still gives an element of playing the game to Diamante’s work, but it’s a loss less self-evident this time, and the improvements made are pretty worthwhile when it comes to her own artistic direction. Still not exactly great then, but it’s closer than anything came on the debut – that’s definitely something, at least. • LN
For fans of: Halestorm, Orianthi, Shinedown
‘American Dream’ by Diamante is released on 7th May.
Y’know, for an act whose previous releases include an EP themed around Generation 3 of Pokémon and an alt-rap detour whose artwork is a picture of Steve from Minecraft, a double album really doesn’t seem that far-fetched. At least Origami Angel seem to be having fun within modern emo, and these weird, experimental avenues they’re prone to taking make for a very interesting crystallisation of the DIY scene’s creative ethos, especially for a band whose reach barely penetrates outside their own little pocket. Gami Gang certainly extends that thought process out as well, spanning twenty tracks which feels extensive on its own, but keeping at a fairly fast clip throughout to make for a slightly iffy combination of breathless and bloated. The decision to keep most individual tracks under three minutes is a wise one, but Origami Angel’s sound – where modern emo is tempered slightly with pop-rock and math-rock – will struggle to facilitate something of this length regardless. Expectedly, tracks will fall away across an album that could desperately use some pruning to accentuate that it is still rather good underneath its shaggy exterior. There’s a wildness to the duo at their best that manifests in the bushy-tailed speed of Neutrogena Spektor or Tom Holland Oates, and the DIY production captures an element of classic pop-punk that’s glorious to hear when it hits the right spot. As for Ryland Heagy on vocals, he’s not the most distinct when lined up in his scene, but he’s able to carry a sort of hangdog charisma that songs like Möbius Chicken Strip and Footloose Cannonball Brothers depend on. There’s a quirkiness and childlike sensibility that feels earnest instead of stylistic; scattered samples of Revenge Of The Sith, Malcolm In The Middle and Jimmy Neutron lean into it heavily, but in both Heagy’s voice and the writing style of the album, there are pockets of charm here that stand out in a great way.
Unfortunately it’s not something that the album can keep up for the duration, as hard as it may try. While the very frank and wholesome style of writing has a lot to offer, where Heagy’s anxieties and past memories will feed into relationships and friendships while he simultaneously tries to foster his own positivity and self-confidence, there’s definitely the impression of it running in circles at times and not really building on what it previously established. It’s a case of Gami Gang feeling like Origami Angel have played their hand too early, or overextending past their reasonable means when it comes to what they’re capable of at this point in time. Again though, the foundations they’ve got are still good, where fast cadences fit in with the nerd-rock lyrics and references well, and already develop a lot of personality for this band, despite being as small as they are. Honestly, the shortcomings on Gami Gang almost all circle back to an unwieldy length that can dilute a fair bit of what’s here; scaled back by about half, and this would be verging of great for what this sort of emo and pop-punk has delivered recently. Sadly it’s stopped from getting there pretty impenetrably, and the flashes of excellence peppered across an uneven final product are the closest this album gets to that. It’s still something though, and it does make the difference, to where that combined with Origami Angel’s sense for weapons-grade nostalgia and references easily has the potential for something truly special in the future. • LN
For fans of: Oso Oso, Michael Cera Palin, Prince Daddy & The Hyena
‘Gami Gang’ by Origami Angel is out now on Counter Intuitive Records.
What’s The Rush?
A band explicitly centred around taking their time and letting creative freedom blossom naturally doesn’t exactly sound like the product of alumni of The Story So Far and Set Your Goals (particularly the latter), but Cold Moon aren’t stretching expectations either. They fall in the cross-section of emo, acoustic-founded indie-rock and slight country touches that tends to shape side-projects like this, though this one feels notably more fully-formed in terms of how it goes about meeting its goals. It sounds lush without being overly ornate or decorated, especially when the acoustics are padded out by subtler electric guitars, bass and muted drums on Gold Lake, or will pick up a smoothened, calmed rollick on Lost and Frontage. Rough edges are practically nonexistent, but the earthy texture that runs across each of these nine tracks does make up for it, in a song like Simpleton that tempers a clear pop streak with the rustles and instrumental clarity of its production. There’s also a stability to it that reinforces itself as a side-project, where a pretty risk-free style is palpable though not unlikable, and it’s to Cold Moon’s credit that they can consistently eke out a solid base from that.
Moreover, What’s The Rush? simply feels inviting to listen to, in the way that really helps a lot of music this understated find more to offer. Jack Sullivan has a more controlled and equable voice than many pop-punk-adjacent frontmen, which does help on an album that’s exploring emotion growth and resonance that’s similar, but given its own slant. It feels more comfortable in going slower and taking things as they come, but with the simmer just below the surface keeps it all from being too sleepy or inconsequential. There’s a good balance that’s kept up, and the richer melancholy feeds into that to keep What’s The Rush? feeling engaged even despite its slower pace. That’s a design choice after all, one that Cold Moon clearly have the means to make something from on a debut that’s unshakably solid on all measures. It doesn’t particularly floor on any front either, but expecting that feels like missing the point of an album this deliberately pensive yet layered and engulfing. Rather, Cold Moon feel like the best kind of side-project, where the main bands aren’t overshadowed but the output is more than capable of standing on its own. • LN
For fans of: Elder Brother, Same Side, Mat Kerekes
‘What’s The Rush?’ by Cold Moon is released on 7th May on Pure Noise Records.
Tail End Of A Hurricane
Cue the exasperated sigh at yet another throwback-rock band vying for a share of a spotlight that barely exists anymore, except Trucker Diablo have actually been around for quite a while, at least compared to others in the same boat. That at least generates the impression that there might be a bit more to them to keep them around, though that’s promptly quashed by Tail End Of A Hurricane being exactly what anyone even remotely au fait with this scene would expect. Once again, it’s a case of a band looking to slot into the retro-rock slot (that’s already been occupied multiple times over) by simply just recreating that old sound instead of applying it to anything new or fresh, and suffering from the same bloat that these albums are wont to indulge in doesn’t make Tail End Of A Hurricane less of a chore. What’s more, Trucker Diablo do show off a bit of flair to be capable of more, when they get a fair bit heavier and more coursing on BTKOR or the title track, where the guitars and bass are allowed to roar with a wilder energy. By comparison though, I Am Still Alive and The Edge Of Tonight feel like obvious concessions to a more agreeable MOR formula, and between that and a simple lack of greater ideas that’ll lose steam regardless of how much beefing up they’re given, Tail End Of A Hurricane seldom feels like much of anything noteworthy. It’s not a new problem – hell, it’s probably the most common one bands like this will ever field – but it’s the fact that it’s such an obvious shortcoming when it comes to such a basic, necessary factor as standing out. They have power and drive (though the bizarrely flat mixing on Tom Harte’s vocals steers away from that rather harshly), but it rarely coalesces into much more than usual empty calorie fare.
Credit does need to go to the simple fact that Trucker Diablo seem to have at least a marginal amount more vision than others though. They’ll at least try and manifest something more powerful from their drive, even if it won’t go much further than rockstar badassery, but a song like This Burning Heart can pull it off with a certain amount of authenticity. Honestly, if Trucker Diablo were to stay in that lane of exclusively burly, masculine-coded hard rock, they’d still feel a bit out of time but it’d establish a certain unified brand. But on Rock Kids Of The ‘80s and Set The Night On Fire, the allure of classic-rock nostalgia pandering is evidently too great to withstand, and Trucker Diablo fall back into the bad habits that’s such a depressing inevitability with throwback bands. The ‘social commentary’ is just as heavy-handed as expected, too; the sentiment of Don’t Hold On To Hate is fine, but moaning about the Internet on Insects makes for the same tired ‘social media bad’ spiel that everyone has had enough of, and wedging in a muddled ‘it’s okay not to be okay’ framing doesn’t help. Again, it’s all the usual problems that befall albums like this, coming back to earmark Tail End Of A Hurricane as just another one for the meat grinder. It’s not the worst example, mostly because Trucker Diablo do seem to acknowledge that leaving in some tangible danger and drive will ultimately help, but it’s a small gain for what ultimately doesn’t amount to much, roughly like what the majority of these albums deliver. • LN
For fans of: Toseland, Inglorious, Those Damn Crows
‘Tail End Of A Hurricane’ by Trucker Diablo is released on 7th May.
Cvlt Ov The Svn
We Are The Dragon
In hindsight, the positivity shown towards Cvlt Ov The Svn in the past might’ve been more attributed to wanting to like what they were doing. Conceptually, their Luna In The Sky Forever EP wasn’t too far removed from what attracts about a band like Ghost, with the masked, mysterious lineup and a musical blend of occult symbolism and imagery with a much poppier take on gothic rock and metal. But by comparison, it’s not something that Cvlt Ov The Svn have nearly the same longevity with, and the greatest piece of evidence for that? All four of those previous EP tracks feature on this debut album, and the overall luster has dwindled considerably. It’s just not a sound that carries over a full album or completely gels with everything going on in this context, in what can be seen as a fairly straightforward collection of rock numbers without much distinguishing musical flavour. The drumming is a standout once again in re-threading the roils found on Whore Of Babylon into My Venom and Hellbound, which is greatly needed when the meandering pace and dirgelike guitar tone drains any real gusto from these tracks. Going back to Ghost, their appreciation for psychedelia and blues-rock shapes a far more likable tone across similarly paced work; Cvlt Ov The Svn, on the other hand, are more embedded in a modern production style that’ll make the mix sound slushy and unenthused. If anything, the new material here is a step down from those returning EP tracks; while they might bleed into the general morass now, there’s at least a nice squelchy synth to keep Luna In The Sky Forever and The Murderer held together.
Then there’s the vocals, where the whispered rasp is supposed to convey menace, but just comes across as flat and dry when the ability to sound dynamic is a total non-factor. A song like My Venom demands some oomph on a chorus drop as conspicuous as it has, and yet it’s given the same tone that never evolves across the course of the entire album. On an album capacity especially, it gives Cvlt Ov The Svn the feeling of putting on an act, where the pitch of ‘accessible rock songs through a Satanic lens’ is explicitly worn as a gimmick rather than the source of creative intent. It comes through in how boring the overall writing style can be, where evil imagery is unceremoniously thrown into songs like Twilight and I’m Gonna Find Out that don’t say anything beyond what’s at face value. My Venom and Don’t Be Tender Love Me Cruel feel a bit more complete as pseudo-love songs given a darker, gothic edge that’s predictable, but it’s something. They show a germ of an idea if nothing else, but it’s hardly enough to recommend We Are The Dragon on, not least because Cvlt Ov The Svn have degraded and stagnated so heavily after an interesting, promising first impression. This feels like a project that had no ideas past that, and the attempts to stretch them to fill space are blatant almost across the board. Add to that the lack of a spark beyond what’s on the very surface, and We Are The Dragon is exactly the sort of disappointment that a venture like this could’ve easily devolved into. The fact that’s only be clued into now after the fact is equally as disheartening. • LN
For fans of: Ghost, Belzebubs, Grave Pleasures
‘We Are The Dragon’ by Cvlt Ov The Svn is released on 7th May on Napalm Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)