REVIEW ROUND-UP: Fear Factory, Drug Church, DE’WAYNE

Fear Factory

Aggression Continuum

This is the sort of album that, on the surface, no one would reasonably expect much from. Not only is it a late-period album from a band for whom their style, standard and ceiling of quality were established long ago, but it’s also attached to the sort of drama that tends to overshadow the actual music on display. In this case, it’s the departure of vocalist Burton C. Bell last year under some rather messy circumstances, although his vocals are still present on the album given that they were recorded all the way back in 2017. And yet, for a band like Fear Factory, the longstanding veterans of industrial metal who many will view as one of the faces of the genre, it’s not all that surprising. Their multiple lineup changes speak for themselves, but in the vast pantheon of legacy acts still knocking about, you’d be hard-pressed to find one for whom the wheels haven’t fallen off in some capacity, but who’ll plough through motivated by profit, inertia or most likely both. By some miracle though, Aggression Continuum is actually pretty good, and with the immediate benefit of not sounding like an album assembled piecemeal and which began life nearly half a decade ago. The naturally heavier sound of industrial metal prevents Fear Factory from losing their edge too quickly, but the dense, mechanical nature of their sound remains incredibly prominent here. Mike Heller’s drumming is the clear standout, where it sets into a pummelling lockstep on a song like Cognitive Dissonance that reinforces that machine-like style, but in reality, Fear Factory continue to sound ferocious across the board. Of course, that’s not an absolute statement – you won’t find any terrific basslines here, and it’s not like the industrial / nu-metal cross-section is the most cutting-edge sound in the world – but it’s the fact the bruising power continues to hit this hard, over three decades in. The production really works wonders here, as the sleeker synths and strings create a finish that’s definitely striving towards modernity, but never has it to where Dino Cazares’ guitar is underpowered; quite the opposite actually, where his adoption of djent-leaning tones is the most obvious pivot to make, but still has that nu-metal crunch to it all the same.

To continue the metaphor, Fear Factory do feel like a well-oiled machine here, predominantly for the fact that they sound like a band who are up to their tenth album, but don’t feel complacent in that knowledge. Sure, the lyrics feel rather boilerplate for this band (and really this style of music as a whole), splitting the difference between nihilistic intent and imagining the cybernetic dystopia that ensues thanks to advancing technology, but it’s not lazy or in the way. There’s no obvious ‘phone bad’ allusion, thank God, and the likes of Fuel Injected Suicide Machine and Manufactured Hope at least go the distance in hammering in the bleak, cold mood, rather than sticking to boring, surface-level sloganeering. What’s more, Bell as a vocalist still has the presence on these recordings to make it work, in the barks and screams that cut with a curt efficiency. It’s less evident in his clean vocals, which almost universally sound like they were recorded on significantly worse equipment and further doused in effects, though it’s not like that’s a new phenomenon on Fear Factory albums. In fact, you could probably go further and say that Aggression Continuum is ‘just another’ Fear Factory album, and while that wouldn’t be incorrect, the releases tarred with that sort of derision are usually markedly worse than this. That implies a band resting on their laurels, and while there’s no indication that this was any sort of creative load to bear, the energy and power expected haven’t gone anywhere. It’s actually rather impressive that this has even turned out remotely well, let alone a competent addition to their discography that’s been thoughtfully assembled and created this far in. Regardless of whether that means anything now, it’s not something to be completely overlooked when Fear Factory easily could’ve phoned this one in, or not released anything at all. Pettiness like that isn’t uncommon, and not succumbing to it has led to a surprisingly strong album.

7/10

For fans of: Static-X, American Head Charge, Machine Head

‘Aggression Continuum’ by Fear Factory is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.


Drug Church

Tawny

The impression that Drug Church have often given off is that they’re a smart band that’s all too aware of that fact, and especially in the realms of punk where that isn’t a pre-requisite factor, that can rub some people the wrong way. This sort of post-Wave post-hardcore is divisive as it is, but Drug Church’s own density, while occasionally fascinating to pick apart, has typically felt like the quality of a band relying on self-importance to do what their music otherwise could itself. On the other hand though, the fact that Drug Church’s entire brand virtually has been built around that nervy, overthinking brand of rock has allowed them to come into their own within, where 2018’s Cheer did a lot of the legwork for shaking off some of their more thorny and pretentious affectations. Going into their fourth album, they’re in a place where they’re better equipped to deal with their own stylistic baggage, which makes a prelude EP like Tawny feel like a rather sensible decision. After all, it’s not like these are concepts that Drug Church won’t be looking to develop further, in social criticism verging on a nihilistic, misanthropic outlook relayed through tar-thick levels of sardonic bite, and bringing that down to just four tracks as a stepping stone at least alleviates some of the crushing weight that previous releases have fallen victim to. It also helps that it has some of their most sharply memetic moments in a while, in Head-Off’s rather layered refrain of “Sometimes the collective wisdom of strangers / Can put a smart man squarely in danger”, and in their version of Arcwelder’s Remember To Forget, a line like “Just sing a little pop song, then everybody loves you” that’s positively doused in sneering invective. Of course, there’s definitely an argument that both of those examples alone just feed into the established narrative of Drug Church, in the mould of distanced rock-snobs that’ll gleefully make their stances on cancel culture and the mass-produced music industry respectively known, but it’s not like Tawny is the sort of release to simply fire indiscriminately. Drug Church are smart enough to realise that, which means that some of the more reactionary pulls are tempered to actually bring forth and justify that intelligence. It’s what ultimately gives Drug Church the leverage to acknowledge how smart they are, and it’s not like Tawny isn’t a more satisfying listen for it.

That also comes down to some notable instrumental shifts, in how their sandpaper punk feels a bit more open to experiment and advance on some flirtations with indie-rock and hardcore. It’s most present in Patrick Kindlon’s vocals, which is typically more obscured and deeper in the mix, but in a way that’s entirely complementary to the surging bass roils of the title track or the hammering walls of guitar on Bliss Out, arranged with a pop focus that can be undeniably infectious. That’s definitely been a boon for Drug Church from Cheer onwards, where falling into a stronger, straightforward rock mould without sanding themselves down has paid some of their biggest dividends yet. Even on a song like Head-Off, opening with its watery indie guitars shimmering within their clouds of delay (and serving as the most direct evidence for how that era of ‘90s indie is so formative within this scene), it’s surprisingly lightweight and bouncy in tone. It becomes important to realise how deftly Drug Church are now balancing a sense of lyrical density with accessibility and a skew towards hooks that takes them from the company of, say, La Dispute, and puts them closer towards acts like The Menzingers, or maybe more realistically between the two. These aren’t shirt-tugging arena anthems by any degree, but serving as an exercise in condensing what can typically be a rather immoderate form of hardcore and still doing a lot within it proves to be a useful skill to have. For a four-track EP clocking just over ten minutes to not seem flippant or throwaway is impressive to manage, though Tawny still has the feeling of a taster to it regardless. This doesn’t feel like an underlined sentiment from Drug Church whatsoever; the rabbit holes they’re likely to go down will probably pick up on their next full-length, but in the lead-up to that, they’ve fostered a lot more excitement and hope with this than they might’ve done otherwise. Perhaps that’s just a personal perspective, given how well-loved this band within their scene, but when they’ve always felt as though they’ve got so much more to offer, a measured step towards that is always helpful.

7/10

For fans of: Single Mothers, Self Defense Family, Fiddlehead

‘Tawny’ by Drug Church is released on 25th June on Pure Noise Records.


DE’WAYNE

Stains

The degree to which DE’WAYNE’s success has panned out can be a rather contentious topic to discuss. On one hand, there’s no denying that his reams of singles over the past few years have built him a solid profile, especially pertaining to collaborations with Chase Atlantic and even Anti-Flag, but where Yungblud has similarly risen to the top under some meticulously calculated means, it kind of taints whoever else falls into the same spotlight. Because here’s another artist who’s displayed a marginal political bent, looking to blend hip-hop, pop-rock and indie music in a way that highlights its ‘genrelessness’, with an industry push that seemed to come out of nowhere one day. Now, to immediately level the claim of ‘industry plant’ at DE’WAYNE may seem a bit premature at present, but when Stains doesn’t produce much in the way of standout potential – or rather, it falls into the quagmire of alt-pop chancers at alarming speed – it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about. At his most distinct, DE’WAYNE does give a more unique perspective of a black man finding success in an alternative lane on National Anthem and I Know Something, but in the context of Stains as a larger body of work, they feel like asides to yet another skim through very well-worn themes and tropes. Especially on a song like Money where his come-up story is incredibly by-the-books, DE’WAYNE doesn’t give off any stunning personality outside of the occasional flashes. It’s a similar case where any previous political selling points are greatly diminished, making the initial promise of forward-thinking artist a lot damper by comparison. As much as he’ll call himself “Young Kurt Cobain” on Radio-Active, the generation-defining presence rarely is there, insomuch as DE’WAYNE will fall into the manufactured stereotype of an ‘alternative’, ‘outsider’ artist almost to the letter.

He’s really trying to sell it too; there’s a handful of references to falling outside of the genre boxes and deliberately jeopardising the chances of radio play, when a) it’s not like the vast majority of alternative music gets radio play anyway, and b) DE’WAYNE’s brand of it isn’t that different from the grandsons and K.Flays crippled by their own delusions of artistic grandeur. The deliberately rickety and shoddy production is no less played-out here, and actively phasing out the more restrained guitars and rolling percussion of Land Of Snakes for blocky fuzz doesn’t accomplish much outside of suffocating the mix. There’s more of a pop-punk rollick to Super 8 and Perfume which are a lot more successful (despite, again, the ragged production), but Stains stands out most as being another victim of the clunkiness that afflicts so much of this brand of alt-pop. Any progressions wind up feeling so gated and locked-in when the percussion is used to clunk everything together, be that in the lumbering instability of Radio-Active or the hip-hop section wedged haphazardly between bashed-out pop-punk on the title track. It’s got the air of being sloppy on purpose, like so much of this stuff has, only exacerbated by DE’WAYNE himself. He’s certainly an energetic performer, with a vocal tone reminiscent of a more elasticated Kendrick Lamar, but even that won’t save him from falling into disaffected or willfully dejected runs that offer a lot more aesthetic over substance. It’s not quite to the extent of Yungblud where nothing feels all that sincere, but it comes close, to where Stains will seldom meet any expectations of a new genre-defying classic-in-the-making. More often than not, it’s yet more proof how empty declarations like that usually are, given that nothing about DE’WAYNE really wows or creates the impression of an artist forging his own path. It’ll certainly be marketed that way, though that can be seem as a rather damning criticism in itself, in another case of spin being the customary fallback when music can’t speak for itself.

4/10

For fans of: Yungblud, grandson, K.Flay

‘Stains’ by DE’WAYNE is out now on Hopeless Records.


Buckcherry

Hellbound

If there’s one factor that goes against Buckcherry and has done for many years now, it’s that they’ve got no ideas that make them worth keeping around. Hell, that even extends to related projects; it’s not surprising at all that both Spraygun War and Josh Todd & The Conflict have seemingly folded, given that they were both on roughly the same wavelength at all times. And yet, for some reason, Buckcherry have kept trundling on, in their lane of hard rock that’s seen them feel increasingly tired, and even unable to propagate the sleaze and coarseness that at least belonged to them the most. Right now, they’re making revival-rock that’s not even shooting for the classics, but the past-it late-period fare, where the songs are just as shallow but don’t even have the good graces to be wild or fun. The extent that Hellbound cribs from ‘90s Aerosmith is especially evident, as the most friendly, inoffensive version of debauchery shows up on So Hott and Gun, and Wasting No More Time splits itself between there and the winsomely tame country-rock of latter-day Bon Jovi. All of this goes on while Buckcherry carry such a checked-out attitude, free of any sort of urgency or bite that a better production job could lend them. At best, they accidentally stumble upon an admittedly great bass groove on Junk, but it’s at the expense of guitars chronically lacking in body, and Josh Todd’s total humourlessness as a frontman clashing rather awkwardly with his braying, yawling voice. All of that comes subsequently smothered in its own safety net, where on average, it’s better than their last album, but by virtue of aiming so much lower; their cover of Head Like A Hole might’ve been painful, but it was a talking point that this album simply doesn’t have.

It’s not like Buckcherry have the skills as writers to make up for it; their default was bottom-of-the-barrel hard rock anyway, and to see that catch up with a sound that matches a boilerplate, surface-level approximation of what they’re going for makes sense, but is no less exasperating. Even among their own selection of tropes, Buckcherry really feel as though they’re scraping here; So Hott would actually benefit from being more lecherous if it could pretend to sound enthused, and a lyric like “I like the way you love me / I like the way it makes me feel” on The Way is a perfect example of how dramatically underachieving this band are when it comes to ballads. Uncharacteristic for Buckcherry, Hellbound is such a safe and tepid listen in basically everything it strives to be, never outright appalling but with a degree of nonchalance towards literally everything that it makes it difficult to care about its mere existence. At least in the past, while they could be horrendously obnoxious in doing so, Buckcherry made you pay attention; here, they’re slipping into the forgettable morass of radio-rock has-beens, and probably not a moment too soon. They already feel like a band who’ve outlived their expiration date by a frankly alarming amount, and Hellbound is the skidding halt into milquetoast mediocrity they’ve been so desperately seeking to avoid. This isn’t the real, raw rock ‘n’ roll that Buckcherry want it to be, but the sort of music for those who want nothing more than to jump on their Harleys and blissfully ride away from their midlife crises. In other words, it’s for the exact audience that mirror the band Buckcherry are.

4/10

For fans of: Sixx:A.M., Hinder, Seether

‘Hellbound’ by Buckcherry is released on 25th June on Earache Records.


Pendulum

Elemental

The last time Pendulum released new music (bar their remix album in 2018) was in 2010 with Immersion, an album that felt as though it might’ve been building to something they still haven’t paid off. It felt like the point where Pendulum were embracing a crossover status that was hitherto thrust upon them, expanding an arm of drum ‘n’ bass with rock and metal that presented them as the modern adoptees of The Prodigy’s uniting of the tribes. Since then though, thanks to a four-year hiatus and Rob Swire focusing his efforts of Knife Party, the dangling threads of Pendulum’s rock-oriented direction have yet to be tied, and the fact that their comeback is a slight four-track EP doesn’t herald the cleanest of resolutions on that front. It feels more like a whistlestop tour through the sounds that Pendulum should’ve been embracing had they continued and reshaped with where electronic music has gone in the last decade. It’s definitely more of a reassertion that they’re back opposed to any tangible next step, established verbatim when the central line holding the opener Driver is “We’re back with a track called Driver”. It’s not like this is much than Pendulum in festival mode throughout, where Swire’s lyrics might flirt with some political text, but that’s practically steamrolled by the weight of the populism that Pendulum are looking to extol on top of it. It’s not like that wasn’t expected, but for their first new material after a decade’s absence, it can feel a bit slight and more weightless than it ultimately should, especially when the EP literally announces its own arrival in such portentous fashion.

At the end of the day though, no one’s going to a new Pendulum release – EP or otherwise – for a thought-provoking experience, especially at this stage. Having Swire’s creative decisions established with Knife Party carried through is an obvious move, though bolstering it with this band’s heavier crunch forms at least the basis of a throughline, and largely hits back to where they left off on the stormy electro-rock of Come Alive. Channelling gungy, Marshmello-esque synth-thuds on Nothing For Free isn’t a wise decision in the slightest, but rounding it out with the hard-edged drum ‘n’ bass of Driver and Louder Than Words’ loftier, airier soundscapes (no doubt courtesy of assistance from Hybrid Minds) skews a generally diverse package more towards the positive. At its core though, Elemental serves the usual Pendulum fix at the end of the day, being constantly high-octane and leaning heavily on its production for that customary slam. Even if it’s not a tremendous return in terms of pushing the boat out and forming the basis of a new era, it’s hard to complain when the end product is of more or less the expected degree of quality. It’s Pendulum, after all; even when they’re trying to be more open and embracing of new sounds, they’ve got a formula they’re liable to stick to, and doing so on Elemental is largely fine. Presumably there’s at least album on the way after this; after more than a decade away, this is a solid appetiser, but not a whole lot more.

6/10

For fans of: The Qemists, Chase & Status, Nero

‘Elemental’ by Pendulum is out now on Earstorm Records.


Light The Torch

You Will Be The Death Of Me

The fact that Light The Torch have been basically written off already is disappointing, but not totally surprising. As a band fronted by a post-Killswitch Engage Howard Jones that’s already undergone a rebrand, there’s an implied lack of stability that’s probably put a good percentage of their potential catchment off, even though Jones’ work with Killswitch was pretty great overall, and this band’s work as Devil You Know was pretty solid melodic metalcore. Maybe it’s the impressively generic name or the fact that their last album Revival wasn’t exactly the huge shake-up its title indicated, but from the perspective of raw musical materials, Light The Torch aren’t lacking in opportunities to succeed. Just take this new album, which might as well be the archetype for how gigantic, treated presence is an easy shortcut for a metal album to connect. After all, it’s not like Jones’ lyrics have shed the melodramatic emo prostrating that’s always been his wheelhouse, where between a very stark sense of broadness and choice cuts like “I’ll make you hate me like I hate myself”, it falls into a very Bullet For My Valentine-esque disconnect with the sound. That was also an issue in his Killswitch days, but with Light The Torch, it’s all laid on so much thicker, and the umpteenth iteration of a broken soul and heart ripped asunder can just feel like overkill when it’s so straight-faced. There’s no denying that Jones has a tremendous voice, and as far as projecting that outsized emotionality, he sounds committed to every word, particularly on an album that’s more reliant on his clean singing, but that really only exacerbates the wallop that such cloying material has.

But it least it’s appropriately sized; at least Light The Torch carry their unashamedly maximalist approach right the way down, to where it might just come back around into quality again. It’s a case of being grabbed by the scuff of the neck by just how all-consuming it is, where the approach of the new wave of American metalcore meets the gloss of modern metal in the most perfectly synced way. And musically, it’s nothing too special on the whole, but the head-caving might of Wilting In The Light and Death Of Me, and the glances toward Five Finger Death Punch at their most arena-worthy on Something Deep Inside end up circumventing those criticisms rather readily. At least the lack of defined riffs is made up for by sheer presence, not necessarily in the bass as a usual casualty of this sort of metal, but in how unrelentingly heaving this album sounds, while also being deeply accessible almost to a fault. It’s a result of having a vocalist like Jones, where his metal credentials still aren’t to be doubted even as the rub shoulders with a pop-friendliness that make a cover of Terence Trent D’Arby’s Sign Your Name actually work. Plus, it’s just the sort of metal that’s easy enough to switch off too, free of the need for progressive baggage and more than content with just beating down its target as forcefully and powerfully as possible. It’s the music that Jones has always excelled with, to be honest, even if it doesn’t fit with metal’s prevalent stylistic narrative these days, and sometimes it’s good just to embrace that.

6/10

For fans of: Killswitch Engage, Bullet For My Valentine, Wovenwar

‘You Will Be The Death Of Me’ by Light The Torch is released on 25th June on Nuclear Blast Records.


Urne

Serpent & Spirit

It’s good to have Urne back around, simply because their sort of music has such a primal degree of appeal that more is always a good thing. That’s the impression that their EP The Mountain Of Gold gave off, taking the guttural heft from its members time in Hang The Bastard, pairing it with a Mastodon-esque penchant for spiralling, progressive riffage, and letting the whole thing burn with a vicious glow. Perhaps it’s not too different from the rest of the doom-y, stoner-y crowd they’re a perfect fit for, but at the same time, you’ve got to admire just how balls-to-the-wall Urne are within the sound and with utilising its trappings. They’re only moving further in that direction too; with Serpent & Spirit, the moods are heavier and the songs are longer, dragged out to accentuate the primordial, earthen heaviness that Urne give off. Even then though, they’re still able to pack in a sense of scale, in trad-metal solos and flirtations with blast beats on Desolate Heart and a cleaner, more cinematic tone on Memorial – Sing Me To Sleep. It sounds great in the realms of towering majesty slowly being engulfed by flames, perhaps representative of the overall tone superseding firmer song construction, but effective all the same. As ever with this sort of music that doesn’t betray its heaviness for expanse, it’s so easy to become lost in a really feel the blistering energy that Urne bring, when the production is so laser-focused on preserving the weight and power.

As for Joe Nally on vocals, he’s still got the knack of sounding like all three Mastodon vocalists at once in his bear roars wrenched up from the pit of his stomach, but there’s also a more guttural twist on them, trending towards the slower, more oppressive branches of hardcore on The Palace Of Devils & Wolves. It’s another example of the confidence that Urne have developed leading up to this album, especially with the risk of instrumental track like Memorial which could easily ring as self-indulgent, but still manages to forward the creative vision. Again, it shows the importance of mood on this album, even in the lyrical threads of battling against internal light and darkness that are fine enough on their own, but contribute to a much grander whole. The Mastodon comparisons have been hammered in already, but it does feel as though Urne are chasing those big, conceptual ideas that earned their forebears so much acclaim. There’s definitely that same element of sophistication at play, both in compositional freedom and the pools of metal they’re drawing from, and though there’s not the same degree of literacy or grand detail, this is nothing to scoff at for a proper first effort. Urne are chasing a stripe of metal that’s a lot higher-end than their relatively small status might allow for, but Serpent & Spirit is far from ambition without payoff. The fact they’re on the cusp of real greatness already is enthusing enough, but years of growth and evolution ahead make what could be down the pipeline truly special indeed.

7/10

For fans of: Mastodon, Alice In Chains, Hang The Bastard

‘Serpent & Spirit’ by Urne is released on 25th June on Candlelight Records.


Lustmord & Karin Park

Alter

It feels obvious to say that this isn’t an album for everyone. You’ve got Lustmord for one, the renowned dark ambient producer whose earlier works consisted of field recordings taken from crypts and slaughterhouses, paired with Karin Park of Årabrot, a band whose leaning towards the more experimental side of gothic rock and post-punk already has a high barrier to entry. This album leans much further into Lustmord’s wheelhouse too, in how minimalist the sound is beyond the gloomy, cavernous atmosphere that’s borderline acousmatic in the aching drones of Perihelion, and Park’s vocal presence that solely feels like a source of necessary light when words can barely be made out. It’s the reliance on how its components remain in equilibrium that’s the key point of Alter, and how it’s blatantly designed to feed into an engulfing sense of background noise rather than provide much in the way ear-catching stimulation. There’s almost a vibe of musique concrète given to it, in how the whole point is to convey a bleak room torn asunder, with only cracks of natural light to serve as an almost angelic nexus among the destitution. As far as that mindset goes, Alter gives off that mood pretty exclusively, in how its existence feels designed to swallow up any pre-existing atmosphere and use itself to replace it. It’s what ambient music does, and if nothing else, it succeeds in that regard pretty objectively.

But as with any music – and especially ambient music in some circles – objectivity will only get you so far, and it’s where the acknowledgment of Alter’s own difficulties will ultimately colour how it’s viewed. Because this isn’t music for everyone; more accurately, this is niche among niches, and succeeding at what it’s setting out to do doesn’t really redeem what can be a rather impenetrable listen overall. It’s all certainly arranged well, and the sounds in both the vocals and the production will trade off their respective angelic and infernal intentions well, but at over an hour where tangibility is scarce at best and momentum is barely a factor, this isn’t sinking in anywhere near as deeply as it would for its target audience. And that’s understandable, but it doesn’t make Alter any more enjoyable, or an album that’s likely to get repeated spins. It’s in its own comfort zone, which just so happens to rather far outside of this writer’s own one, and the likelihood of it connecting deeper becomes severely diminished as a result. It’s worth a cautionary recommendation, maybe for a listen or two, but it’s one of those albums where the circles it’s courting could easily love this far more than a review like this might convey.

6/10

For fans of: Dead Can Dance, Sephiroth, Massive Attack

‘Alter’ by Lustmord & Karin Park is released on 25th June on Pelagic Records.


Lovebreakers

Primary Colours

Though the name Lovebreakers might be relatively new, the band themselves have actually been around for a few years, first under the name Lovebites which was wisely changed, to prior to even that, as members of other acts picking up some stream in the early part of the 2010s. The most prevalent of those was Sharks, with a sound operating in classic indie-rock and alt-punk, and which has been translated more or less uninhibited here. There’s an unmistakable flavour of cool about these songs that cross-breeds a sun-kissed American punk vibe with Britpop fuzz and horns, very similar to what Sharks would do but leaning into it more comfortably. It makes Family Man and L-A-U-R-A (Vintage Movie) ring out with a great brightness and clarity, while the spry skip of I Will Love Life and the easygoing Cling On exude a warmth that’s impossible not to like on some regard. There’s a timelessness to Lovebreakers that’s always so appealing within alt-punk, and where a lot of the Social Distortion comparisons come through in the shimmering, vintage filters overlaid across it. On top of the fact that Jack Perry has a notably old-school vocal delivery, Primary Colours has a refreshing lack of pretentiousness that keeps it light without being weightless.

Similarly Lovebreakers’ writing takes a similar approach, backed by the glorious LA sun to give stories of growing up and finding hope in whatever may come a swirling romance intrinsic to that style of Americana. Even with the self-admitted sarcasm that Perry’s writing is coloured with, Family Man and I Will Love Life brim with that zeal, as does Hørizøns in its yearning for youth that’s dappled with an unquantifiable but present ‘Brits in America’ feel. The album has such a clear sight of what it wants to be, to where the lightweight presentation and content is welcome, if a bit insubstantial at times. This isn’t an album that bores down deeply, but rather swiftly swills around for an experience that’s always pleasant regardless of some notable ephemerality. It’s part of the charm, after all, and Lovebreakers make it work with such an earnestness and degree of passion that it’s hard to take umbrage with at all. It’s an ideal summer album in that regard, probably as good as Lovebreakers could possibly be at this stage.

7/10

For fans of: Social Distortion, Sharks, The Computers

‘Primary Colours’ by Lovebreakers is released on 25th June on Wiretap Records.


ISLAND

Yesterday Park

ISLAND operate in a strange position within indie-pop, occupying another slot among the scores of whom sound rather similar but are still alright to listen to, except they’re about as far outside the mainstream bubble as they come. Even on the grounds of media-mandated swell, that hasn’t been the case at all here; more accurately, their existence feels like an opportunity for the indie scene to have its equivalent of Blossoms, and potentially the space for it to be a bit more interesting on the whole. And while there are traces of that on Yesterday Park, what ultimately transpires is a pretty lukewarm album that’s not precisely objectionable, but doesn’t amaze in any conceivable way. The leanings of a smaller, more independent band aren’t totally missed, in a sound that’s a bit more ramshackle overall in its scratchier production and bass volume, and the wafting tempos will thin it out again to give a bit more delicacy the muted colour palette. ISLAND have the design philosophy of those smaller bands, but it’s in trying to meld that with the more spaced-out feel of festival indie that the complications begin to arise. In a scene that relies predominantly on directness, Yesterday Park doesn’t show off much of that outside of the clumsy Everyone’s The Same. It makes a number of songs feel like the customary slow moment on other indie albums, lumped together into one where they’ll often run together with little hassle.

Perhaps it’s a deliberate slow burn, but it doesn’t feel sustainable when the album meanders as regularly as this does. Regardless of how pretty it sounds – which, with spidery guitars and glittering clouds of rever on We Used To Talk and The Lines We Follow, is definitely a factor – ISLAND are simply unable to strike a chord that feels palpable to them. It’s trying to split the difference between both sides of the indie coin too evenly, in writing that wants to encompass big youthful scenes and emotions but feels as though the band aren’t operating on full power, and in Rolo Doherty, a frontman that’s very bright-eyed and dulcet, but also with a tone whose space on the indie spectrum is already crowded. To be fair, what ISLAND do have ensures that none of the parallels with bigger bands are exact, and it’s easy enough to see how the melting pot of perspectives will be compelling for some deep in the scene. As mentioned earlier, nothing about ISLAND is particularly awful or offensive, and the appeal is there, but they’re caught too profoundly in the middle ground to do more than hang ineffectually. Yesterday Park is more reliant on competence than actual spark, and leaves ISLAND as a fairly large casualty of the fickle indie-rock maw. More standard bands than this have had an all-too-brief window in the sun, which unfortunately, barring a minor miracle, mightn’t bode too well moving forward.

5/10

For fans of: Blossoms, Coasts, JAWS

‘Yesterday Park’ by ISLAND is released on 25th June on Frenchkiss Records.


Crashface

Heavy Infectious

That’s a good name for this band, Crashface, because it’s a pretty apt summation of what they’re like. They’re part of the wave of brash, loud post-hardcore that’s really enjoying its moment right now, similarly following the cues of having their very first release be similarly bruising and caustic with whatever steps it takes. So with Heavy Infectious, it’s deliberately frayed and splintered around the edges, but in a way that ramps up the animalistic thrash-about of ultraplasticplanetkiller, or the halfway house between modern Bring Me The Horizon and a far more aggro stripe of punk on Loading Screen Infinity. There’s definitely a pick-and-choose element that makes the broken lines between styles a bit more obvious, but Crashface’s own brazenness ensures that’s never dwelled on for too long. This is all about the clattering volume and venom, and the guitars and bass will roar on Molotov Smile and You’re The Worst Thing That’s Happened To Me, Ever, while still having some semblance of balance and not being steamrolled by an omnipresent digi-hardcore finish. That’s definitely there to an extent, but Crashface have a leaner, purer punk sensibility that’s able to skirt around it being so volatile that any melody is cut outright.

It’s useful for a band who fall squarely in the territory of angry, electrified seething, where Charlie Hinton brings the requisite savagery in his barks and gnashes on COLD, as well as a more refined melodic sensibility, as Molotov Smile and Loading Screen Infinity launch back into their Bring Me The Horizon-esque lane. It’s an interesting mesh that Crashface have made for themselves, undoubtedly locked within the vibrant throes of post-hardcore just on the fringes of the underground, but not outright neglecting potential mainstream appeal. A band like Nova Twins have done similarly well in that regard, but Heavy Infectious brings a bit more colour and sonic diversity by comparison, all without sounding too scattered for its own good. Even on just a five-track EP, Crashface are showing the same degree of refinement that’s taken their peers and contemporaries great lengths in short periods of time, and should very likely do the same for them too. Their moves and steps towards carving out a small but effective niche are noticeable even just here, a sign of yet another upstart act that shouldn’t be slept on under any circumstances.

7/10

For fans of: Wargasm, Static Dress, Nova Twins

‘Heavy Infectious’ by Crashface is released on 25th June.


Words by Luke Nuttall

One thought

  1. my favourite part of your reviews is when you mercilessly slander yungblud lmao.
    also are you planning to review olivia rodrigo’s debut lp? the mainstream critics love it (for some bizarre reason) so i really want to see what y’all think haha.
    great reviews as always!

    Liked by 1 person

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