REVIEW ROUND-UP: Quicksand, The Joy Formidable, Slaughter To Prevail

Quicksand

Distant Populations

To an extent, there’s not much of a point in critiquing a new album from Quicksand. They’re a legendary band in post-hardcore and frontman Walter Schriefels’ legacy goes beyond even that, to where there’s a certain lack of stakes that comes with new music nowadays. That was even true with their comeback album Interiors in 2017 where the inertia of their seminal 1993 debut Slip remained enough to ride on, but especially now with the customary reunion outing out the way, Quicksand stand as a band very much shackled to their own looming shadow, but still not unpleasant to have around. It’s the same with a lot of Schriefels’ modern work, where the draw of a hardcore legend still doggedly moving forward at his own pace is more than enough for some to get behind. There’s definitely merit behind that, but it’d also be nice to see the magnitude of that legacy persist, not even in the same game-changing fashion, but in a way that has a bit more overall weight and profile. Distant Populations feels very similar to Interiors for that reason; Quicksand still have a proficiency within the sound they helped foster, but that ‘90s mindset still prevails and will hold things back more than it should. It’s not really Quicksand’s fault either, but post-hardcore has moved so far past their no-frills approach that it can feel a bit cumbersome as a result. The album is short enough to where it never outright limps by, but it can be easy to feel as though the pacing has been railroaded to these more overweight types of songs, where the hooks aren’t really popping out and the unguarded presentation around Schriefels’ vocals can mean they fall a bit flat. It’s worth stressing that none of this is worse than Interiors—hell, songs like Brushed and Phase 90 actually crystallise within some of those previous cues for much better results—but the same general feel of excitement that peaks at very moderate levels doesn’t go away. It’s appropriate for the political angle that Quicksand are taking then, where a lot of societal divides and the back-breakingly depressive torrent of modern news is filtered through Schriefels’ strong abstract lyrical lens and the weariness is incredibly palpable. Some allusions to social media within those divides will undoubtedly illicit the same weary response from the other side of the album, certainly, but at least Quicksand find workable formats for what they’re doing.

Furthermore, the technical aspects of Distant Populations do sound rather good a lot of the time. The lack of dynamism feels like a result of some of the spacier tones that Interiors moved forward with, maybe not in the most ideal way when the overall churn can firmly cap that wow factor, but the advent of a real beefy soundscape hasn’t been lost here. Indeed, soundscapes aren’t much of an issue when bassist Sergio Vega has the crucial Deftones experience under his belt, and there’s definitely an influence there that comes into play in how heady some of the songs can feel. The low-slung guitars will rumble and roil with perhaps more imposing volume than texture, but in the confluence of factors comes the likes of Katakana or The Philosopher, where the big, quintessentially ‘90s layout comes furthest to a head. Distant Populations probably suffers most when the ear is more attuned to the dynamics that aren’t necessarily there—it’s why the slither and hum of Brushed stands out more, even outside of being primarily acoustic—but in terms of raw overall sound, Quicksand really feel like a band who know what they’re doing and whose experience really shows. From a musical standpoint alone, this could basically be slotted into the ‘90s scene with precious few concessions made, and that will ultimately paint it in a favourable light. Whether it really gives it more legs is a different matter though; the meatiness of the sound is great, but it’s an unmistakably older sound that’s relatively rudimentary nowadays. That doesn’t automatically make it bad, because Distant Populations isn’t a bad album, but the suspicion that Quicksand continue to expect the same jolt of wonder and inspiration to emerge as in their heyday colours this album all over. It does kind of feel like a relic for that reason, which is probably why this doesn’t resonate as much when the genre has undergone such wild shifts in both quality and aesthetic. Something as stripped-down and old-school as Distant Populations is interesting and has its moments, but can also make it clear that the aforementioned theory about lowered stakes is probably the correct one.

6/10

For fans of: Rival Schools, Far, Failure

‘Distant Populations’ by Quicksand is released on 13th August on Epitaph Records.


The Joy Formidable

Into The Blue

Ah, The Joy Formidable—the sort of band who it can be really easy to forget when they’re not actually around. Harsh, maybe, but after undoubtedly peaking with their 2011 debut The Big Roar, they’ve taken up a mantle of an indie-rock band that’ll usually be sufficient, but more often than not, you won’t find anyone clamouring for them. And that’s not too bad of a position to be in, where the weight of expectations and the negativity that can come from that are severely diminished, but it also means that new albums tend to come out of nowhere and don’t really stick around. Such is the case with Into The Blue, which follows The Joy Formidable’s typical formula of indie-rock that can have a bit more muscle and outward-looking scope, but with a payoff that can’t quite equate as cleanly. It certainly isn’t bad, more so the product of a band who have a notably distinct set of abilities, for good and for ill. In the latter case, that unfortunately encompasses Ritzy Bryan as a vocalist, who regularly toes the line between ethereal and airy, and lacking a foundation with which to keep her contributions noteworthy. She can feel quite buried within the mix at times, where after the title track that’s probably her best showcase, there isn’t many instances where she stands out as a frontwoman. In her defence, she doesn’t have a particularly gripping lyrical set to work with either—feelings of adventurousness and liberation that serendipitously tie in with the progressing events of the real world, but in the ‘good, not great’ way that’s The Joy Formidable’s standard—but it can double down on the less-than-striking vibe it gives off.

Fortunately Into The Blue does bounce back somewhat with how it sounds, which tends to be another commonality among The Joy Formidable’s albums, and can be felt just as much here. Some of the starry production moments aside, this is definitely a more straight-up rock-oriented album than maybe previous releases like Hitch were, and as such there’s a surprising heft and riffiness to the likes of Chimes and Gotta Feed My Dog, less tied down by the indie-rock sphere and leaning more towards more deft garage-rock or even arena-rock. It’s by far the best part of Into The Blue and it thankfully does stick for most of the runtime; the rest might feel a bit inconsequential (and indeed, a track like Somewhere New could’ve easily been pruned with no bother), but it’s at least good to see presence redirected elsewhere in a generally successful manner. It’s a good sound too, mostly anchored in some usual production tactics for indie-rock in this vein, but feeling a bit bigger and, fittingly, more free to make those bigger swings. At the same time though, factor everything else in makes it overall feel like a reset to equilibrium, that’ll inch more into overall positivity but not by a tremendous margin. It’s still very much an example of The Joy Formidable being stuck in their ways, where they’re proficient and will get the creative juices flowing more than some of their peers, but it could all amount to more. Existing fans will most likely be satisfied, but they’re also the ones for whom the documented hang-ups probably don’t bother as much; for everyone else, it’s just more of the same.

6/10

For fans of: Silversun Pickups, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Blood Red Shoes

‘Into The Blue’ by The Joy Formidable is released on 20th August on Hassle Records.


Slaughter To Prevail

Kostolom

You’re not going to find a deathcore band with more buzz around them right now than Slaughter To Prevail. For once, it’s for good reason too, as it’s hard to think of a band in recent memory who’ve so comprehensively blended quality deathcore with marketing this watertight. They’ve already got the superstar mainman in Alex Terrible (as well some distinctly Russian energy and an eye-catching image in his absolutely sick mask), as well as the proactivity to tap into the YouTube reaction circuit that’s completely eaten up their track Baba Yaga, which is a technique that a lot of heavy bands are yet to properly clue into. For Slaughter To Prevail going into this second album, they’ve hit the ground running in a way that deathcore rarely sees, tightening up every feature and angle to its maximum level, and already seeing immense benefits for it. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Kostolom is the best deathcore album of the year so far, but the fact that Slaughter To Prevail are so far ahead of so much of the competition is what makes this a sight to behold. Putting aside the profile they’ve built up, this just feels so much more exciting and representative of what deathcore should bring that others in the same lane, and it’s hard to pinpoint a reason why other than everything going supremely right. The easy locus to attribute that to would be Alex himself, who has a surprisingly strong range in terms of vocal styles, but excels the most in that guttural, pit-of-hell growl that only feels appropriate from a man whose moment of virality came from a video of him wrestling a bear. Elsewhere, the touches of nu-metal on Your Only and metalcore across the board lend depth without being overpowering; this is still very much a deathcore album reliant on its flesh-ripping brutality, something which Slaughter To Prevail are unfailingly proficient at. The lyrics might be in Russian a lot of the time, but the usual sentiment is still very notable and very effective.

It says a lot that Kostolom has its feet so firmly planted in the deathcore ground, but it never feels as staid or uninspired as their swathes of forgettable contemporaries. Maybe it’s because the edge that’s needed for this material by default comes a lot more naturally (there’s no Attila-esque villain complex here), but moreover, the sound just feels so much richer and thicker. It’s an occasion where simply dialling up the heaviness does a lot on its own, but Slaughter To Prevail also feel distinct alongside that, where they’ll show off some flashier guitar work on Agony and Head On A Plate, or just reach a point where the skull-crushing violence of Evgeny Novikov’s drumming is just too much not to succumb to. On the basis of sheer presence alone, Kostolom steamrolls at an unrelenting rate, to where it’s easy enough to ignore the usual shortcomings of the bass being less prominent than it should, or the occasional reliance on formula. That said though, neither feel as egregious as usual, probably because being beaten into submission by an album like this makes them seem a lot less important when the band’s clear focus is being so regularly realised. It’s probably the most effective on the opening trio of Bonebreaker, Demolisher and Baba Yaga—it’s naturally where the realisation of how crushing this band is the most stark—but really, Kostolom is without a truly weak moment. It’s not changing the game either (which may just be an impossibility for deathcore at this late stage), but it’s the first time in ages that this genre has lived up to its potential capabilities. Not since Mitch Lucker-era Suicide Silence has a deathcore band stuck as fast as Slaughter To Prevail do on Kostolom; ergo, it’s the best that deathcore has been in about a decade.

8/10

For fans of: Suicide Silence, Brand Of Sacrifice, Lorna Shore

‘Kostolom’ by Slaughter To Prevail is released on 13th August on Sumerian Records.


Lorna Shore

And I Return To Nothingness

The ease and determination with which Lorna Shore have bounced back with really has been a sight to behold. Releasing Immortal at the start of last year felt more like an act of obligation rather than true desire, tying up the loose ends that had been left so explicitly dangling, but doing so with a body of work featuring their ex-vocalist CJ McCreery who’d been previously deposed for sexual abuse allegations. That decision garnered much less backlash than might’ve otherwise been expected, which showed something of a mutual respect for what Lorna Shore were doing in terms of decisively closing that chapter of their career, and on that same metric, And I Return To Nothingness couldn’t feel like more of a fresh start if it tried. Obviously it’s worth noting how new vocalist Will Ramos fares first, but he’s really not the most potent shake-up that’s been undergone, even if he is the most important. He’s got experience in deathcore but this feels like his most high-stakes endeavour to date, if only on a three-track sampler EP, and he really does fit into the fold well, proficient at both shrill and guttural screams, but also with a notable grandeur that the role really appreciates. Even if he isn’t the height of unique personality (though the rather standard hellfire of the lyrics is probably the greatest barrier blocking that), he’s effortlessly synergetic with Lorna Shore’s ambitions, and while he’s probably not the main contributing factor, he’s an important one in recognising their most assured sound to date.

No, instead, that comes from the updates made to their sound, meaning it’s currently the best that Lorna Shore have ever sounded with room to expand further still there. Of course it’s heavy, that goes without saying, but what’s more ear-catching is how much has been done with the symphonic embellishments that have often peppered their sound, now feeling like a fleshed-out element that serves as a real draw all on its own. The synths and organ that make way for the swelling choral miasma on the title track is the perfect way to kick the EP off, especially when torn asunder by Ramos’ screams and Austin Archey’s drumming with such opulence and drama. It’s almost black-metal-esque in places like To The Hellfire, where the heat of the cleaner peeling guitar line slices through the icier blasts of ferocity, while still remaining emphatically deathcore in its approach. Though, as a branch of a genre so regularly maligned, And I Return To Nothingness has so much more elegance to its execution, and lacking in what would probably be deemed ‘less-reputable’ elements. That’s been a selling point of Lorna Shore anyway, but it’s even more heightened here, albeit in a way that’s also bound to a three-track taster. Their swings for the fences could be bigger than this, but that feels like something they’ll bring in later down the line, when this release has suitably whetted those appetites. Honestly, that’s the case now; this is probably the most gripping that the build-up for Lorna Shore music has ever been, where almost every aspect feels fresher and reinvigorated. Whenever the next full-length comes around, it could easily be their best, given the evidence they’ve shown here, and to come back so resolutely on a note like that, what’s there not to be excited for?

7/10

For fans of: Humnaity’s Last Breath, Fit For An Autopsy, Cradle Of Filth

‘And I Return To Nothingness’ by Lorna Shore is released on 13th August on Century Media Records.


Kississippi

Mood Ring

You’d be forgiven for overlooking a new Kississippi album based solo on any previous work. On her Sunset Blush, Zoe Reynolds established herself as a proficiently talented indie-rock musician without a great deal of standout features, something that the DIY scene she’s aligned with isn’t exactly in short supply for. It’s not like it was a bad album either, but in the long term, and in a scene as saturated with that sort of thing as hers is, it’s hard to recall much about it outside of the broadest strokes of quality. And pleasingly, that seems to be something that Reynolds has taken into account on Mood Ring, trending in the slicker, tighter indie-pop direction the scene has found some favour in, and certainly have a more pervasive impact for it. It’s reminiscent of Jetty Bones in many ways, of two women expanding into realms of greater sharpness and colour, without completely abandoning the ethos that got them so far to begin with. Compared to Push Back though, Mood Ring isn’t quite the same soul-baring experience, that’s not to say it doesn’t succeed on its own merits either. The songwriting still has that earnestness and unguarded emotion that captures so much detail, where Reynolds’ untangling of a relationship and subsequent breakup feel distinctly rooted to her experiences, in real devotion and declarations of love towards her partner that she can’t just let go of easily. Having a couplet of tracks like Play Til You Win and Wish I Could Tell You bring such a starry-eyed yearning to the fore most of all, where the need to move on is acknowledged, but it’s always flanked by hopes that they might come back, or by Reynolds’ own weaknesses and inability to fully let it go. There’s definitely a youthful drama that comes from it all, but it’s not mawkish or overly syrupy; rather, between Reynolds’ raw songwriting acumen and what holds fast as a genuinely impactful sentiment, there’s such an ease in falling into these situations and pictures painted that it feels more weighty as a result.

It’s also got the benefit of just being a really strong indie-pop album, another feature that Mood Ring shares with Push Back, and another instance where Kelc Galluzzo’s work has the slight edge above Reynolds’. Again though, it’s a matter of margins, where Jetty Bones’ super-bright presentations represents the heightened stakes and tensions, and the relatively more toned-down fare from Reynolds opts for something more grounded. It might be less immediately striking as a result, but it makes for moments like the swooning twinkle of Heaven or the clear highlight Big Dipper in how stark the nocturnal atmosphere of it is. There are definitely hints of earlier Pale Waves too in the brushing towards a breathier emo presentation; We’re So In Tune and Dreams With You have the spry, laser-focused guitars that ultimately come to define that sound, but the blurrier atmosphere behind them leans into Reynolds’ DIY roots and gives something of an earthier feel overall. Of course, that can be expected given collaborators including Bartees Strange and members of Great Grandpa, where Reynolds’ pop focus is propped up by slightly rougher indie and emo pickups on Moonover and Twin Flame, but still allowed to flourish overall. The slow-burn aspect doesn’t hit quite as strongly given the sleek production, but there’s still enough organic bass and guitars to form a workable core, even when the percussion could afford to be the same, or at least sound a bit less obviously canned in places. But on the whole, Mood Ring is a much appreciated step forward for Reynolds into something that feels more distinct for her. The focus and ideas have a bit more unique character to them, while the general flow is still accessible for those who might have had a stronger connection to her debut; this just feels more engaging in the context of the scene overall. One or two genuinely great cuts are what elevate it into a defiantly stronger bracket, but Mood Ring just works on the whole, where near every element feels complementary and composed, and makes for a boost to the sort of indie-pop that’s already tremendously likable and listenable to begin with.

7/10

For fans of: Jetty Bones, Pale Waves, Charly Bliss

‘Mood Ring’ by Kississippi is out now on Triple Crown Records.


GosT

Rites Of Love And Reverence

It’s natural to be disappointed with the progression of crossover synthwave; by now, it’s evident that it hit a peak a few years and proceeded to collapse without haste to reinforce its own fad status. The disappointment with GosT feels different though, because there was more there to work with, if nothing else. Possessor really leaned into the relationship that synthwave had with metal at the time for something really cool and unique among the scene, which felt considerably less so on the all-around forgettable Valediction. That darker, more occult presentation is arguably GosT’s defining trait now, and while that comes through in the sound of Rites Of Love And Reverence, there isn’t much past that. Instead it’s yet another step down where the aesthetic is left to do the heavy lifting and tie everything together; between the classically occult artwork and lyrical themes around witchcraft (which, even then, are more based in spurious ‘spooky’ imagery), the beats are hit but not reinforced. There’s also the fact that these songs actually have vocals for a change, and while the creaking, vampiric direction is generally a fine fit, it’s hard to ignore some diciness when an album so rooted in feminine mysticism is fed through a lens so similar to Marilyn Manson. It’s not a knock on GosT when it works overall, but it does kind of encapsulate where the notion comes from of preserving a broader look holding the album back, where the opportunity to open up the set ideas and become its own thing isn’t given the consideration it should be.

Granted, ‘becoming its own thing’ is a luxury that electronic music in the vein doesn’t tend to have, and for an artist like GosT whose been a bit more lenient in the past in how far his dabblings with both electronica and metal go, it’s disheartening to see him adhere to that just as much. To be fair, this isn’t a carbon copy of other work by any means, not when the strains of post-punk and gothic music come through more liberally in a song like November Is Death, but these are not distinct songs for the most part. Typically the front-loaded weight of them really lets them down, where it’s an ostensibly ‘heavy’ album in the sense that it’s caught so awkwardly between groove and progression, and totally falling down as an overweight mess. Putting aside the fact that Bound By The Horror sounds awful in how gallumphing and overmixed it is, GosT will often happen upon a decent idea, though find nothing of real interest to do with it. The grand organ that opens Blessed Be just fizzles out rather than being worked in, and opting for a winsome, acoustic closer in Burning Thyme could’ve been interested if it retained the gothic pomp in any greater way. It’s not hard to see how slight retooling could make Rites Of Love And Reverence better; there’s an aptitude here, sure, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t click in the way it should. It’s not even like it’s bad all the way either, just too readily influenced by hang-ups that have seen both synthwave and gothic music become rather tedious rather quickly. Mashing those ideologies together, funnily enough, just compounds that notion further for both sides.

5/10

For fans of: Perturbator, Fixions, Dance With The Dead

‘Rites Of Love And Reverence’ by GosT is released on 13th August on Century Media Records.


Blacktop Mojo

Blacktop Mojo

On the cover of Blacktop Mojo’s self-titled album, there’s a dictionary-style definition of ‘rock and roll’, which immediately throws up some red flags. When the inevitable confusion with Stuck Mojo fades (who are really just another brand of the US radio-rock machine), it paints them as the sort of rock-or-bust lifers with zero interest in any music past the late ‘70s at the very latest, i.e. the bands responsible for some of the most boring output of the last few years. To automatically assume that isn’t really giving Blacktop Mojo the credit they deserve though, as while this is in that general hard rock catchment, there’s a bit more here if nothing else. It makes for an album that, when placed among its peers, hits a higher grade of quality than average, mostly down to Matt James as a singer. He really is the beating heart of this band, sounding like Chris Daughtry shooting for the highs of Myles Kennedy, and not falling too far short either. Give him a chorus to work with like on Latex or Do It For The Money and he’s right at home there, with the gruffness and grungy swagger that balances out with arena-filling ambition for a version of this sound that’s marginally more sophisticated. That seems to be Blacktop Mojo’s M.O. here, if only because it’s further reflected in writing that bumps up the usual ho-hum subject matter by just relaying it in a more interesting fashion. A song called Bed Tundy was never going to be profound, but you’re not seeing any other hard rock bands of this ilk describing their “felonious proclivities”.

Beyond that—and sometimes even encompassing that—Blacktop Mojo do what one would usually expect, though in a way that actually highlights how reputable hard rock like this can be without sliding so deeply into ‘guilty pleasure’ territory. The grunge and southern-rock edges are neat jumping-off points throughout, for songs like Jealousy and Hold Me Down to peel and unravel more deliberately, and allowing the band’s heavier base sound some room to breathe and swell when it does come in. It’s also pretty well produced for an album in this vein too, clearly not wholly corrupted by being an overworked cog in the mainstream machine as Wicked Woman and Cough act as examples for more direct hard rock where the evenness of each component is self-evident throughout. As much as that sounds like praising Blacktop Mojo for what should honestly be the standard, they’re coming into a scene for which it’s really not, and taking whatever you can get is really a necessity. At least with Blacktop Mojo, they’re consistent in what they’re doing; there’s nothing truly bad on this album, even if nothing towers above either, and for what’s an otherwise pretty standard sound that even the stalwarts might be running out of gas on, they’re making a good attempt with everything they try. It’s a bit more diverse and expressive than most of the hard rock it’ll be coupled with, which does play to its advantage, and for an alternative to Black Stone Cherry or Alter Bridge as their sheen lessens, you can’t really go wrong with this.

7/10

For fans of: Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry, Soundgarden

‘Blacktop Mojo’ by Blacktop Mojo is released on 13th August.


Calva Louise

Euphoric

Comparing Calva Louise’s debut Rhinoceros to where they are now would make them feel like two completely different bands. The traces of that old alt-rock sound are more a template now, decked out with noise and electronics that would likely make a more vital and distinct package. Those wheels were put most in motion on their Popurrí EP last year, as what felt like more of an opportunity to test the waters with that sound, which still mostly feels ongoing on Euphoric. It’s the frustrating thing about having an ever-evolving sound like Calva Louise have picked up, where there’s no clearly demarcated endpoint, and so the freewheeling creative style doesn’t amount to much beyond a pileup of ideas. And to be fair, Euphoric has the sense to restrain itself when needed for some overall focus, but it still suffers from those same problems that a lot of this branch of noise-pop does. Volume takes precedence above all else, which can make for a desperately unmodulated listen on top of how crowded everything be. It’s the songs primarily or entirely in Spanish that can withstand it most; Tiranito and Belicoso have that bounce in the vocal lines that can break through the harsher walls of noise, and give Jess Allanic’s rather compressed vocals a chance to show off some more dexterity.

Even so though, the roughness that informs so much of Euphoric has appeal, where the snarling, clattering shards of noise can be exhilarating in the right quantities. Thirteen tracks is probably more than something like this can sustain, but Calva Louise clearly have the ideas that they seem to be funnelling into the right places. It’s easy to see where the brazen nature comes from in the album’s concept of confronting tyrants, both in oneself and the oppressive forces outside, and the anger that fosters makes sense here in this sort of agitated digi-punk. Factor in an almost unending supply of energy and driving, pulsating gusto demonstrated, and you can really see this is as the sort of thing that’d go down well live for that power alone. Those environments are where Calva Louise will shine the brightest, not on record, and so the shortcomings that Euphoric demonstrates can be more tied to flaws of circumstance than anything else. It’s still a bit much overall, but there’s inherent entertainment value to be found here, where a punk and alt-rock canvas that always evolving and being reshaped by its contemporary surroundings is just naturally interesting to watch. It’s probably worth keeping an eye on Calva Louise for that reason alone; there’s bound to be more up their sleeve to pile onto what’s already here, and whichever way it all ends up certainly won’t be boring.

6/10

For fans of: Strange Bones, Never Not Nothing, Saint Agnes

‘Euphoric’ by Calva Louise is released on 20th August on FRKST / 300 Entertainment.


Wasted Death

Ugly As Hell II: Uglier Than Hell

Wasted Death certainly feel like the sort of band capable of dishing out multiple releases in a year; hell, with how bashed-out and frayed around the edges they are, it’s a wonder this didn’t come sooner. Their debut EP Ugly As Hell came out a couple of months ago, with the sort of feral punk-metal edge that had just the right sort of thrashed-out feel for a lockdown side-project like this to embody. Fittingly enough for what’s making no bones about being a sequel, Uglier Than Hell is basically more of the same at its rotting, crusty heart, but, when placed in contrast to similar small side-projects with quick turnarounds from Wall, this does feel like it could have legs beyond the more remote confines it’s currently in. Granted, this is an easier sound to make exciting than stoner-rock, where the loose, rampaging torrents of riffs really only have to rely on sounding riotous and heavy, and pretty much nothing else. So when the closer Nothing I Want Less adopts a sludgier guise to run for almost five minutes—truly a prog opus if there ever was one—it pushes the boat out in a way that a project like this isn’t really expected to do, and succeeds on top of even that. The onus on vile, noisy savagery is very much to the fore though, and for a 14-minute runtime with a primary focus on facilitating that slamming environment, you’re not going far wrong.

Granted, form or finesse aren’t high up on the agenda, nor is really changing the game in any way. Distilled down, Wasted Death’s sound is very recognisable in its musical touchstones, especially in the lyrics which follow suit by being by far one of the least important elements to really stand out in. It’s not like that’s a bad thing though; with a vocalist like Charlie Davis capable of wrenching out those guttural, tortured screams, while the music behind him (or, as far as the scruffy production is often concerned, around or in front of him) conveys the exact same notions. It’s all wild and ugly and completely revels in it, and that’s where the greatest strengths of Wasted Death ultimately lie. The usual no-bullshit approach comes so naturally to them, and between the individual members’ backgrounds in similarly loud, antisocial bands, and a list of influences that only compounds upon that, Uglier Than Hell is the exact raucous, exhilarating experience that, even if you didn’t hear its predecessor, you could still predict. That’s far from a bad thing when the results are so self-assured and self-evident in their quality, the sort of side-project that doesn’t feel throwaway or disposable, and instead uses its roughness to its advantage. Even with lockdowns coming to a close, it’d be nice if Wasted Death stuck around; there might be a bit more mileage here yet.

7/10

For fans of: Converge, Nails, Melvins

‘Ugly As Hell II: Uglier Than Hell’ by Wasted Death is released on 13th August on APF Records.


Words by Luke Nuttall

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