REVIEW ROUND-UP: Our Hollow, Our Home, Of Mice & Men, Perturbator

Our Hollow, Our Home

Burn In The Flood

Our Hollow, Our Home feel like a metalcore band from another time. They’re a lot like Bury Tomorrow in that respect, where they’ve prevailed through shifts in the movement through their own sense of resolution that yields an unwillingness to buckle under trends. That’s definitely respectable, especially in a sense so quick to bend to the will of money as metalcore, but it’s also perhaps what’s held them back this long. Bury Tomorrow at least have the huge populism to fix alongside their longevity; Our Hollow, Our Home, meanwhile, have frequently been a solid band without a defining moment of crossover, and as unfair as it might seem, it’s coloured their approach to music in a more dated light than it probably should be. The whole Brit-metalcore movement doesn’t have nearly the same legs as it once did, and for those below the very top rung of the ladder – i.e. those who aren’t Bury Tomorrow – breaking through can be all the more difficult. That said though, this is probably the most concise and consistently strong Our Hollow, Our Home have been to date, where the emulation of the Bury Tomorrow fomula may be blatant, but the dividends it pays matter a whole lot more in the long run. It has the same expensive, extravagant sound, for a start, which is perhaps a bit more polished with the synth embellishments on the title track and Better Daze, but is overall reliant on much crunch and heft the band can weave into a truly titanic sound. A lot of the success of Burn In The Flood comes from an unfaltering ear for melody, even outside of Tobias Young’s regular onslaught of enormous choruses. It’s even better when the lack of compromise is evident like on Nerv and Children Of Manus, in how the clear pulls from melodeath and 2000s metalcore are so tightly produced and replicated. To contrast, Blood fits the role of a more stripped-back ballad to mark the album’s penultimate track (albeit a better example than its sort usually are), but it’s the sole exception on an album that oozes a towering, unquelled power, borderline effortlessly. It’s the most impressive Our Hollow, Our Home have sounded sonically, and perhaps the greatest single step forward they’ve taken in sounding as vast as their intentions have always beheld.

At the same time, that might come at the expense of some great adventurousness, though that’s not entirely to Our Hollow, Our Home’s detriment. There are coquettish glances towards variety with the shades of punk given to Better Daze, but on the whole, it isn’t something that Burn In The Flood really needs, given how much the band can eke out of what they already have. They never dip so low that focus levels will drop, and tapping into soaring anthemia on basically every track is usually conducive to a winning formula when everything else goes so right. That said, Our Hollow, Our Home aren’t the most tactful of songwriters, in that they fall into obvious traps when it comes to writing about inner trauma and mental health with a lot of mawkish, maudlin word choices and imagery. The Britrock-esque tone in Young’s cleans doesn’t exactly shave any of that off either, but it’s redeemed overall by some genuine earnestness and heart that’s much appreciated. None of this feels like a cynical, focus-grouped version of mental health awareness and catharsis that’s rife within metalcore; it’s more an issue with more surface-level facets of the execution than anything else. And even then, with Connor Hallisey’s roar that’s an all-too-appropriate foil and sounds phenomenal against the heavier, thicker sound, it’s not as though Our Hollow, Our Home are dragging their feet when it comes to making an impact. As well-worn as the comparison has been in this review alone, Burn In The Flood constantly gives off vibes of Bury Tomorrow in the best possible way. In terms of sound, focus and even band setup, it makes for a refreshingly uncomplicated yet refined version of metalcore that’s an unfortunate rarity nowadays, with Our Hollow, Our Home finally having worked their way up to clearing the bar that’s been hung above them for so long. It’s easily their best album and a standout for metalcore as a whole so far in 2021, where the humble roots of a band long since tied to their homegrown scene are finally sprouting into a lot more.

8/10

For fans of: Bury Tomorrow, Parkway Drive, Polaris

‘Burn In The Flood’ by Our Hollow, Our Home is released on 28th May on //Hollow Music.


Of Mice & Men

Bloom

So this seems to be a bit of a burgeoning trend, where bands will release a series of EPs in quick succession, before maybe stitching them together later on and calling it a full-length. And let’s just get it out of the way – it’s not a very good trend, not when it’s being perpetuated by bands who could really benefit from going the distance and allowing a full album statement to fully carry what they want to say. That’s not to say that Of Mice & Men can’t handle individual tracks or short releases, but when the positives that came with their Timeless EP a couple of months ago felt cut down by its clearly truncated length, it’s not something that feels worth continuing with when the same results are likely each time. That’s ultimately a similar overview that can be applied to Bloom as well, as another three good songs feel hamstrung by a presentation method that saps away so much of their memorability. The title track probably has the most built-in leverage, with the sort of sweeping chorus that continues Of Mice & Men’s nu-metal lineage in a cogent way, not to mention the thick, full sound and meaty production that – in what has been among this band’s greatest strengths for a good few releases now – absolutely doesn’t skimp on power. Flanked by the similarly menacing Levee and the rampaging stomp of Pulling Teeth that sees a clearer metalcore outline eased back into view, Of Mice & Men’s instrumental prowess remains self-evident in their transition to more melody in the wake of EARTHANDSKY. But in what’s effectively an isolated chunk of an album, it’s hard to get a sense of purpose from these songs on their own, apart from the title track as the obvious single. Exactly like with Timeless, there’s no sense of what this is building up to, and for as solid as it all sounds, it can’t help but mostly fall away in the long term.

It’s not unfair to hold that as a criticism either, not when Of Mice & Men are capable of making full album statements that will carry a fuller, more satisfying weight to them. EARTHANDSKY did, and so will this upcoming album too when it’s finally pieced together, given that, again, Of Mice & Men are doing good work here. There’s a suitably oppressive sense of gloom that clouds Levee that leads into one of their better-written tracks in a while in the title track, where a sense of profound grief becomes synonymous a love that was just as profound, in which real, true beauty will ultimately wither and find itself eroded by the passage of time. That’s a potent sentiment and one adorned with some excellent imagery throughout, and the fact it finds itself followed by Pulling Teeth with its largely formulaic Of Mice & Men-isms feels like reason enough for why this release strategy doesn’t really work. The album experience and the peaks and troughs that come with it isn’t equipped to being sliced up like this, and while the intentions to make every song feel like a single are noble, the outcome has far less grounding to it. Again, taken as what it is, Bloom is an entirely natural and therefore high-quality next step for Of Mice & Men, and it’s pulled off well across the board. The sound is on point for the stage in their career they’re at, and Aaron Pauley keeps hitting his stride as a frontman time and time again. But when the roots of this material come from a full body of work, sectioning it out and attempting to fruitlessly codify the results as their own individual releases doesn’t make for a successful end. It’s tempting to be charitable given the strength of the material on its own, but it’s hard to imagine the subsequent EPs are going to rectify an issue that’s basically baked into the DNA of what they are.

6/10

For fans of: While She Sleeps, Linkin Park, Bury Tomorrow

‘Bloom’ by Of Mice & Men is released on 28th May on Sharptone Records.


Perturbator

Lustful Sacraments

The debate on whether synthwave falls under the banner of heavy music has become less prevalent (probably because metalheads have found another pointless and asinine topic to argue amongst themselves about), and so it’s not too much of a surprise that it’s been largely muscled out of the spotlight. Hindsight would be quick to deem its embrace within those spheres little more than a fad, but it also can’t be ignored that, even more than a lot of other subgenres of electronic music, there can be a lack of variety in the sound that’s easy to get burned out on. Moreover, it’s held back by a tendency of sounding good in the moment but crumbling under any deeper thought, which isn’t a good thing for Perturbator’s Lustful Sacraments to embody all by itself. Put simply, James Kent makes excellent background music on this album, which couldn’t sound more backhanded if it tried, but also has a lot of sincerity to it. He’s clearly a talented composer, where he’ll weave the buzzy synths and clattering percussion with the lithe, slate-grey textures of post-punk and gothic music for significantly more richness in the mix. It makes for an almost floorfiller aspect to the title track and Excess, and bringing in True Body for assistance on Secret Devotion in rounding out the edges and emphasising the bleak, hollowed ring is a great move. It makes for a suitably dense soundscape overall, given some extra propulsion by the gothic elements being so prevalent within it. Even if there isn’t tremendous depth to it all beyond musings on destructive human indulgences that really aren’t all that new in music leaning in this direction, the atmosphere forged primarily does the heavy lifting anyway.

Though that also falls into the standardised trappings of synthwave rather easily, as Lustful Sacraments becomes more defined by its mood than any artistic statement or decisions. To be fair, it’s not like Kent hasn’t embraced that here to a rather clear degree, but especially towards the end when things quickly become more blown-out and unformed, it doesn’t make for a particularly gratifying listen. For one, while Kent is liable to scrape past the the five- or six-minute mark, rarely does it feel all that justified, particularly on songs like Messalina, Messaline or God Says, which don’t exactly offer many new ideas to bulk out their extended length. There’s a certain formlessness to Lustful Sacraments as a whole, honestly, both in the composition aspect that’s dominated by blocky synths and drum patterns that everything else is forced to work around (including the vocals, more often than not), and in the overall sequencing where, despite leaving its most imposing moments until the end, they don’t construe much of a climax. It’s why the album tends to fall into the background; the sound works in what it’s doing, but there’s not a lot of forward motion going on to really keep it all going. By creative decisions alone, it’s more solidly based than a lot of similar synthwave (albeit not really the crossover stuff), but it’s also easy to see how Lustful Sacraments could meet the same fate of so much else like it, as a solidly dark and moody soundtrack that has barely any longevity past that.

6/10

For fans of: John Carpenter, GosT, True Body

‘Lustful Sacraments’ by Perturbator is released on 28th May on Blood Music.


Drown This City

Colours We Won’t Know

An Australian metalcore band signed to UNFD is far from an ear-catcher nowadays, but there’s at least a modicum of intrigue factor around Drown This City that’s to their credit. It’s down to their vocal ensemble comprising of male and female interplay more than anything, a feature that isn’t all that exciting on its face, but feels like a worthwhile deviation from the monotony that this stripe of metalcore tends to offer. And that’s true here, with Alex Reade displaying an excellent amount of angst and theatricality as a clean vocalist somewhere between Avril Lavigne and a regular symphonic metal singer in tone, and new addition Toby Thomas in possession of a deep, bellicose roar that’s always an asset for metalcore releases. That all sounds good on paper, until it becomes evident that Reade is probably putting in the most work and getting the least in return, seeing as she’s so much quieter in the mix, and rarely feels allowed to belt like she could on Beyond The Glare and Carbon14. It’s a disappointingly short-sighted creative decision that turns what would’ve been Colours We Won’t Know’s killer feature into a borderline afterthought. Thomas is an impressive performer in his own right, but that alone doesn’t negate a missed opportunity, not when songs like Gemini and Time Won’t Remember Us have both vocalists on more equal footing, and feel miles better as a result.

Then again, it’s not like Drown This City are really pushing the boat out regardless, in what amounts to another serviceable but predictable metalcore release that lacks a sense of true identity. It doesn’t help that they actively seem to have suppressed that themselves, but in the chrome-plated djent riffing and conspicuous passages of ambience around it, Drown This City’s biting of the larger scene around them doesn’t display a great deal of subtlety. Hell, with occasional lyrical diversions into science and environmentalism, that feels especially true, though the writing on this EP is arguably where they fare the best. It’s nothing spectacular but there’s a good amount of specificity and imagery in a song like Time Won’t Remember Us, in which the plight of the suffering, poisoned Earth is placed in proximity and comparison to Reade’s own feelings of inadequacy and depleting self-worth. It’s just a shame it’s tied to a project that isn’t balanced or open enough to give interesting lyrics and themes the stage to really shine, and it winds up with Drown This City feeling disappointingly run-of-the-mill. It’s no worse than the slew of similar bands that this particular scene pumps out, though that’s hardly a glowing endorsement when it places Drown This City around the mark of ‘passable for what it is’. It’s just that when so many of these bands have come and gone with more or less the same shtick, it’d be nice for just one to end up as something more, but apparently even that’s asking too much. What a shame.

5/10

For fans of: In Hearts Wake, Northlane, Like Moths To Flames

‘Colours We Won’t Know’ by Drown This City is released on 28th May on UNFD.


Prey Drive

Neon God

Had Prey Drive come around just a couple of years earlier, they’d unquestionably be bigger than they are now. Among the waves of sterile Britrock around the early and mid 2010s, a band being able to fuse a Circa Survive-esque post-hardcore sensibility to that would’ve felt really fresh and exciting; now though, it’s certainly fine but doesn’t carry the same punch it could have. That impact was felt on their debut Once More With Feeling, and sure enough, it’s back on Neon God, though perhaps a bit less pronounced. Maybe it’s to do with this being an EP, but songs like Socrates and Human Furniture have enough flair thanks to more detailled guitar lines to be more than just outdated Britrock rehashes. On the whole, the advancements that Prey Drive have made are noteworthy, in song structures that are a bit more free-flowing as a theme, to let Bradley Smith’s voice assimilate in a way that does more for his breathier tone. The production could probably afford to mirror that flavour, especially for a style that sounds like it would give the bass some more airtime at the front, but it’s hardly a terrible package despite that. The biggest improvement that Prey Drive could make would be to find a pocket of alt-rock or post-hardcore that lets their creativity flourish more, though that’s not to say they’re losing out now when their melodic sensibilities are still so strong and present.

Really, it’s the fact that isolating a sole area where the issues are present isn’t that easy when it’s mainly a consequence of Prey Drive holding themselves back more than they should. It’s not that what they’re doing is bad, per se, but Neon God never allows itself to really cut loose, and barely even soars like a Britrock release should as much as it could. It comes across as a bit toothless on the whole, not necessarily bad but lacking the oomph that Prey Drive need to really make those upward moves. They’re showing they’re capable of it in the writing, sidestepping past a lot of tired criticisms of modern life and technology while still showing the brunt of its negative effects, with the title track being being the strongest example. It’s a much more layered and thoughtfully-written release than might be expected, both in genre and subject matter, which serves as another leg up that could be crucial if capitalised on properly going forward. That just needs to happen more readily now, and with the all the vigour that could see Prey Drive actually break out of the narrow straits they currently find themselves in. There’s a lot of good ideas and talent across this EP, and it’d be a shame if they didn’t take flight in a bigger, more impressive way.

6/10

For fans of: Lonely The Brave, The Xcerts, Coast To Coast

‘Neon God’ by Prey Drive is released on 28th May on Lockjaw Records.


Bachelor

Doomin’ Sun

It’s hard to get too enthused about projects like this anymore, because nine times out of ten, the results are so set in stone. Bachelor is the collaborative effort of Palehound’s Ellen Kempner and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte, both indie-rock artists in or around the genre’s more rickety, understated side. So it comes as no surprise whatsoever that Bachelor uses that as their primary foundation of their debut Doomin’ Sun, from which the resultant album is a lo-fi, lackadaisical indie effort that’s absolutely fine for what it is and nothing more. The writing is certainly to a high enough level of quality, in a lot of moods and emotional and storytelling tableaux that have the right amount of intimacy and warmth, but again, that’s just as par for the course as anything else. It all just feeds into the unmistakable aura of a side-project; the scale is smaller and the stakes are lower, all by design, and that in itself doesn’t make for a bad listen, but not achieving much of note definitely gets close. The hushed vocals certainly don’t help either, which is usually a selling point of albums like this in a recreation of the intimate environments in which they were created, but it’s gotten to a point now where this sort of thing has really lost its appeal, simply through such flagrant overexposure.

Maybe it’s a case of having to be in the right mindset, or already being engulfed by these sounds and scenes to fully grasp the minutiae of everything going on, but the shambling, ephemeral quality of an album like this that’s seemingly been replicated so many times just refuses to stick. When compared to an album like Adult Mom’s latest from earlier this year, where the sound was more fleshed-out and band-driven, Bachelor’s deliberately understated fare is lacking by comparison, where the lolling, low-tempo tick of Sand Angel or the gauzy, washed-out production of Spin Out leave barely an impression. At least in the latter case – and when the mix similarly feels a bit fuller on Anything At All and Aurora – it’s easier to latch onto in terms of presence, rather than the dull shades brought about by the guitar tone and abundant feelings of dustiness and dryness. It’s not very engaging as result, and Bachelor wind up saddled with many of the same flaws that plenty of their contemporaries also have. There’s really nothing distinctive about their own miniscule shifts to the recipe, and as such it’s so much harder to feel anything outside of the moderate appreciation these acts tend to foster.

5/10

For fans of: Palehound, Ratboys, Adult Mom

‘Doomin’ Sun’ by Bachelor is released on 28th May on Lucky Number Music.


UV-TV

Always Something

For their third album, UV-TV have relocated from Florida to New York, an apt decision considering how intently their brand of power-pop rings of a less fashion-savvy Blondie, or a version of The Strokes who stuck to post-punk. It’s certainly an effective way to become espoused within the scene, though it can similarly draw attention to a lack of identifiability that’s Always Something’s most glaring quality. It comes through in the dry, taut guitars and basslines that aren’t exactly standout features, before vocalist Rose turns to a distanced, hipster-ish affectation that has a bit of charm on a song like Distant Lullaby, but even then can feel very stock and rote. It’s worth noting that the flashes of something more do pop up around the album’s mid-section, in the lilting shoegaze touches of Plume and the clearer Krautrock influence in the motorik title track. They aren’t huge diversions, but they’re meaningful enough to take UV-TV out of the direct line of fire from such a clear crop of other bands, something which Always Something routinely struggles to do, and finds itself being less engaging and memorable as a result.

Still, in the same way that a lot of post-punk revivalism finds its footing despite a real niche for itself, UV-TV do carry the appeal that colours a lot of inextricably-linked New York indie-rock. It’s brisk enough to not be swallowed up by those around it, particularly early on when the snappy power-pop tightness is in full force, and the lyrical sentiment of grappling with darkness and unavoidable chaos to move forward, while not exactly novel in recent times, fits some of the inherent rumble that a post-punk album like this brings. If nothing else, it’s more lithe and direct than the most recent outing from The Strokes, in that UV-TV haven’t been swallowed up by the pretension the scene around them will often breed. They’re still a fairly under-the-radar prospect for the time being, and that gives this album a refreshingly grounded feel that works in their favour, especially when writing good songs is evidently when their focus primarily lies. They achieve that as well, though not with a force that’ll break any doors down for them in a hurry just yet. Always Something is still very beholden to its influences to make those sizable moves just yet, but it’s not like that isn’t a possibility in due time. Even after three albums, there’s still room for UV-TV to play around and find something that’s more uniquely theirs, and they’ll likely be all the better for it when they do.

6/10

For fans of: The Strokes, Interpol, Screaming Females

‘Always Something’ by UV-TV is released on 28th May on PaperCup Music.


Words by Luke Nuttall

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