For a band like CHVRCHES to be coming out with a new album met with very muted anticipation feels odd. Even if 2018’s Love Is Dead got some lukewarm reactions overall, this is still CHVRCHES, one of the brightest, most beloved bands within the current wave of synthpop, and who, before that one blip, could seemingly do no wrong. But maybe apart from the collaboration with Robert Smith of The Cure, Screen Violence seems to have really fallen by the wayside in terms of what this band would once foster in an album lead-up; there hasn’t been much talk about it overall, and while that can maybe be attributed to uncertainty in a liminal stage of mid- and post-pandemic, you would think that CHVRCHES are big enough to maybe transcend that. It feels even stranger when Screen Violence could easily be seen as a return to form, in how the gleaming synths and tightness are brought back following their ill-fated indie-rock dalliance. At the same time though, an album outright called Screen Violence comes with some extrapolations that are harder to shake, in how easily the elder statespeople status can slide into a ‘technology bad’ rhetoric and feel the expected clunk. Thankfully Screen Violence doesn’t go to that extent; the whole theme isn’t exactly ripe for the mining at this stage, but it’s not like CHVRCHES are pulling from the lowest hanging sources either. It’s more personal and representative of Lauren Mayberry’s individual ennui, at the centre of the hostility and unceasing criticism that can be so demoralising to face the brunt of. There’s also the repeated reference to the screen that serves as ever-anonymous barrier for the hate to hide behind, which isn’t a novel image but definitely fits for the dejection that Mayberry’s voice can portray on a track like How Not To Drown. On the other hand though, you’re not getting images that are too stark or deeply memorable, and Screen Violence’s commentary relies more on its consistency in batting back the negativity than any true spikes of power. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, and CHVRCHES are skilled enough to make it work, and the notable emo quality that pervades their songwriting feels right at home here.
It also feels like a slide back to the standard that CHVRCHES laid out on their first two albums, though maybe not quite to that extent. The synthpop side is far more prominent again, as the one-two opener of Asking For A Friend and He Said She Said make aware, but the indie-rock leanings haven’t gone away either. Rather, they’re more smoothly integrated this time, particularly through Ian Cook’s bass that pops out more on California and Final Girl, but there’s also a peeling guitar presence that slides just beneath the surface, and the twinges of sourness and melancholy that the instrumental package as a whole brings. The most obvious example comes in How Not To Drown, not only in how dour and minor its chorus can be but how easily Robert Smith slides in against the ghostly, echoing synths, in a creative moment that’s a different flavour for CHVRCHES but still recognisable as them. Sure, the vibrant colours and gloss haven’t gone anywhere most of the time, but the sugar rush is tempered overall in favour of a more measured and mature presentation. That can definitely yield a lumpiness in some spots—Nightmares clearly wants to sound imposing and cinematic but ultimately ends up weighing itself down with how calamitous it feels—but it’s overall an interesting creative direction that pays off more than it doesn’t. CHVRCHES have always had a bit more longevity to them than what a breezy hit of a synthpop might otherwise have, and dialling deeper into that on Screen Violence only pushes that notion further, and makes the synthpop / indie crossover appeal a lot more noticeable in the process. And that is something to note on the whole, because it’s a comfortable lane that CHVRCHES have ingratiated themselves in, even if it’s not their most stark or standout. This slightly darker, more understated vibe for them does remain gripping, and comes together for an album without a ton of tremendous highs, but very few lows either. Whether they’ll keep on this path remains to be seen (even if the chances are that they won’t), but even as a one-off detour that brings to light some hitherto unbroadcasted creative beats, there’s still a fair amount to find enjoyment from here.
For fans of: Bleachers, Oh Wonder, Passion Pit
‘Screen Violence’ by CHVRCHES is out now on EMI.
If there’s one other punk band that’s the most logical comparison point for Turnstile, it would be Refused. It’s easy to take that as a face-value reference point too, in the aptitude that both bands have for music outside of the traditional punk and hardcore spaces; with Turnstile especially, they’ve always had a ‘90s alt-rock streak that’s given their work shades of Jane’s Addiction or early Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the fact their last album had a track produced by Diplo indicates a net cast out far further still. But to really nail down that comparison, it’s necessary to be more forward-thinking, where the realisation comes in that Turnstile are so far ahead of most current punk, and, with all fortune, will be shaping what the genre is in the next few years. Glow On really is that sort of album, that white whale of an album that reshapes and remoulds its entire format while being able to transcend it at the same time. This is still a punk album, without question, but it’s also the sort of one that could realistically get someone into punk, or open further doors down the road of musical exploration. It’s in the heated Latin flourishes of Don’t Play or the woozier progressions of Endless and Alien Love Call, the latter being a collaboration with Blood Orange in yet another crossover moment with an entirely disparate scene for Turnstile to cross off. Moreover, the whole thing is grounded in the sort of accessibility that rooted between the camps of punk and hardcore; it’s produced in a way that feels clean and sharp (particularly in the drums which pick up a really nice crispness), but it doesn’t neglect the coursing bass and guitars, or how fluid Brendan Yates’ vocals are while still having a harsher, more authoritative bark. It moves really briskly because of it too, particularly on the likes of Humanoid / Shake It Up and T.L.C (Turnstile Love Connection) with a really powerful sense of groove in tracks that don’t even clock two minutes.
The beauty of how each elements comes together really comes through in just the versatility of purpose and mood that Glow On shows. This is still pit music, for certain, and even something like Underwater Boi with its grungier rumble and crystal-clear guitar licks has that kinetic motion to it, but there’s also a nice contemplative air at times, or just an exploration of light that, within its scene, can feel decidedly its own thing. There’s an uplifting, human heart that beats all across this album, all encompassed by the liberation and freedom that feels so rampant across the board. Even just from the title and artwork, there’s a sense of defined humanity within this album that’s just such a refreshing palette-cleanser; the desire to take all unneeded weight away on Blackout and Don’t Play feels palpable, as does the amicable parting of ways on Dance-Off. At the same time, there’s a pragmatism that everyone might not make it in the same way on Wild Wrld, but above all, Yates presents himself as such a spirited, gung-ho presence across this album, where a line like “I wanna thank you for letting me see myself / I wanna thank for letting me be myself” on T.L.C (Turnstile Love Connection) effectively serves as the mantra for the album. It’s loose and ready to plow forward with positivity in mind, and that’s something that’s so worth appreciating from a modern punk album. Just across the board, Glow On is a real breath of fresh air, and Turnstile’s knack for diving headfirst into whatever ideas and creative junctures they can hits the spot on such a deep level. This is the new standard that punk bands should be aiming for going forward—dare we say, the shape of punk to come?
For fans of: Refused, The Bronx, Angel Du$t
‘Glow On’ by Turnstile is out now on Roadrunner Records.
The Bronx VI
Oh look, a new album from The Bronx! And it’s great—who’d have guessed?! Yeah, let’s not beat around the bush—The Bronx are probably one of the most consistently strong bands around, and the fact they don’t really get the credit for it is supremely unfair. Then again, the band themselves probably wouldn’t complain, given that they’ve displayed the sort of ‘get in, get out’ creative style that’s very fitting for punk, and six albums in, that formula still seems to be serving them well. If anything, they’re probably leaning more to the sound of their fourth album, in a ragged classic rock styling that’s just a shamelessly melodic and hook-driven as it is rooted in snarling, bashed-out punk. At the same time, it’s clearly the work of an older punk band, and so the mood comes less through rage and more the snark and sneer that The Bronx pull off so well. When Curb Feelers builds its hook up to the line “And now you’re dying like the punk scene”, there’s a winking knowingness that’s so excellently realised by the type of vocalist that Matt Caughtran is, and that’s replicated across the album with such succinctness. It’s nothing new for The Bronx but it’s never not entertaining, and even when it falls away for a more decidedly hard-edged sentiment on Breaking News, there’s no verisimilitude lost even then. The Bronx feel like an incredibly smart band in the way they can tap into that, and it always works wonders; there’s a consistent punch across this album that’s so forceful and insidiously infectious, and it never gets old, even when that’s what The Bronx have become known for.
None of that is all that surprising though, nor is the fact that this album sounds as unrepentantly raucous from front to back as it does. The fact that this band are now up to their sixth album with basically the same title feels like ideal proof for not wanting to tremendously innovate, but it clearly comes from the knowledge that they don’t need to, given that what they’ve got always works anyway. The scratchier production style works so well for this classic rock slant, and when spiralling into brighter, high-end guitar pyrotechnics like on Superbloom, there’s such a key sense of revelry that’s hard not to be swept up by. This is an album that isn’t big on individual highlights, but that’s only because it can easily be applied to more or less the entire thing, even from just a compositional standpoint for how excellent The Bronx sound. There’s a tightness without ever feeling too hemmed-in, where the guitars, bass and drums can still rage and clash against each other, while keeping an impressive degree of pace and intensity. The older mindset never offsets just how wildly intense The Bronx can be, where the likes of High Five and New Lows barrel forward with the single-mindedness of a band whose hunger is yet to diminish after nearly two decades of existence. This is the sort of legacy albums that bands should be aspiring to make, where the concept of ‘legacy’ is a motor rather than a crutch to be leaned on and hollowly justify a clearly lesser version. The Bronx, meanwhile, are still on the same torn-up path as they’ve always been, and they’re all the better for it; they keep delivering great work as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, and there’s a beauty to that that deserves to be appreciated.
For fans of: Cancer Bats, Hot Snakes, The Drips
‘The Bronx VI’ by The Bronx is out now on Cooking Vinyl Records.
The reason that OneRepublic don’t catch the same rancor as other obvious sellouts like Maroon 5 is simply because they’re just more ignorable. Where Maroon 5 still have some charting presence, OneRepublic have had their fizzle away in their shallow adult-alternative schlock, to where it’s very possible to forget they’re even a thing most of the time. Even on this album, which at least has the distinction of being subject to numerous COVID delays, feels as though it barely exists, given how underwhelming and undercooked OneRepublic’s creative style is. They aren’t as paper-thin as Maroon 5’s efforts, but the washed-out tones, the miniscule guitars and the onus placed heavily on big, booming percussion feels imported from commercial pop and indie from 2015, only sanded down even further lest the possibility of an edge remain. And Human really is as flat and nondescript as it comes, to where the title could be an easy misnomer for the numerous times it feels that there was never an organic source of its creation. At least Ryan Tedder can sound mostly focused, even if his default setting of wet-blanket simpering never has true weight to it, but outside of the choppier thrum of Run (i.e., the album opener, for everything to go downhill afterwards), Human has so little working in its favour. It’s drained and flaccid across the board, shorn of hooks or clearly melodic focuses that could potentially do something for it. It’s the influence that Tedder often have when he works with other artists, but it’s astounding to see how much more concentrated it can be when he’s at the centre.
As such, it’s the sort of chronically uninspiried listen that never gets any less monotonous, saddled with the plastic production that brings its lack of depth to the very front (even when a choir is brought in on Savior), and just winds up boring to the nth degree for effectively its entire run. It’s not like OneRepublic seem bothered about swinging it back around either, not when the writing is as utterly boilerplate and generic as one would expect for this sort of pop album. There’s no believable stakes or emotion beyond the very, very surface, but rather the preened, airbrush version that’s still succinctly marketable on every front. It’s endemic of the silent-majority unit-shifters that OneRepublic fall into, where they’ll subsequently become even more faceless amidst the mush that’s basically open source for acts in their lane. It’s not even worth the derision most of the time, more just a nonplussed shrug of how any act can find fulfillment in making music this empty and uninteresting. Of course, swap out the notion of fulfillment for a hefty payday courtesy of consumers looking for something safe and easy and it makes all the sense in the world, to which it can be said that Human isn’t the absolute worst of that sphere. By the standards of music for people who don’t find tap water too spicy though, this is pretty bad on all fronts, and really deserves all the lack of recognition that OneRepublic have immovably grafted onto their persona.
For fans of: Maroon 5, American Authors, AJR
‘Human’ by OneRepublic is out now on Mosley Music / Interscope Records.
When deathcore is currently undergoing its big resurgence in quality, it only seems fitting that Carnifex release a new album at the same time. In a genre that gets frequently maligned and dumped upon, Carnifex have always been able to reach a level far outside that of most of their peers, where they’ll end up as deathcore by technicality in a larger, more ‘reputable’ metal scene. And that’s always worked for them, especially lately when their popularity seems to be on the upswing again, and the groundswell behind new albums from them has been a lot more noteworthy. Though, with Graveside Confessions being put in comparison to their last couple of efforts, the buzz doesn’t seem to be quite as loud, perhaps on the basis that there is an element of predictability to Carnifex’s sound that’s beginning to sink in once again. It’s not like there’s anything close to reinventions or new ideas here; this is a Carnifex album from skin to core, resplendent with all the usual tricks that this band have called their own basically from the start. And that isn’t a bad thing, but it does make Graveside Confessions that bit more anonymous within their catalogue, even if they’re still hugely successful at pulling off their own flavour of deathcore. It’s a version that continues to feel a bit more opulent and beholden to melody, to give the usual deathly lyrics something of a boost into being more sophisticated. With Scott Lewis as a frontman being as visceral and tight in his screams as ever, Graveside Confessions ultimately still pulls off the high grade that Carnifex albums will typically have, in continuing down their well-worn path without showing fatigue.
It’s hard for a band like this to really show fatigue, after all, given that a) deathcore by nature rests on its rampaging, full-blast heaviness, and b) Carnifex’s particular take has always had more energy and dimensionality to its benefit. A lot of that is down to the glances towards black-metal they’ll make, in the tone of their instrumental and the feeling of noteworthy regality that’ll bleed through it. The synths and strings around the edges lend a flair that can be really gripping at the right moments, and a track like January Nights to serve as a haunted, sombre centrepiece works so well for the directions this band go. They don’t feel restrained per se, but there’s an element of poised composition that continues to work so well in their favour. Especially when compared to other deathcore that can feel so one-note at all times, Carnifex at least have a wider pool to draw from; Graveside Confessions mightn’t be stepping out of their own wheelhouse too much, but what they’ve got feels a lot more interesting just on a default level. And as always, that’s on top of the usual crushing guitars and drums, and a bass that can lean a bit on the underpowered side but gets the job done on the whole. It’s all just very representative of the style Carnifex have built up over the last decade-plus of existence, and that’s far from a bad thing when the output is as consistently strong as this is. Admittedly, that holds more weight in the context of their discography above all else—next to Slaughter To Prevail or Lorna Shore, this isn’t to that standard—but the product does speak for itself and Carnifex continuing to be served well by the sound that’s done so for years just feels right at this point.
For fans of: Suicide Silence, Despised Icon, All Shall Perish
‘Graveside Confessions’ by Carnifex is released on 3rd September on Nuclear Blast Records.
With Confidence continue to serve as a perfect example of how to fall off with very little chance of recovery, where they had a solid debut album, fell into controversy with a former member, sought to resolve it, and have been met with crickets ever since. That can also be down to the nominal hiatus they went on, but it’s probably not unreasonable to say that With Confidence have pretty much been left behind within pop-rock and pop-punk now, regardless of any efforts to try and claw back up the chain. And that’s exactly where this self-titled album falls, resplendent with a sensation of ‘been there, done that’ that doesn’t even have a nostalgic leg to lean on this time. They just aren’t a band that feel equipped for the modern scene, where an alternating suite of scrubbed-up pop-rock on Anything or Atlanta meets an attempt at heftier emo on What You Make It and Cult, neither of which can stand up against the best of what’s currently around. It’s not a very exciting album for what With Confidence are trying to do, in how the staples of their scene are rearranged without much deeper application, and where there isn’t a great deal of meat to the sound as it is. This can be a very slight-feeling album at times, reliant on a few catchy hooks from City and Big Cat Judgement Day to be something of a crutch for it. But that’s really all it’s got—no great instrumental turns; no real production flourishes or momentum to keep it interesting; just a cut-and-dry representation of what this kind of pop-rock is, and that’s just not all that compelling anymore.
It’s worth stressing that With Confidence are never truly awful with what they’re doing. They play competently enough and there’s some surprisingly noticeable bass for this type of pop-punk, and while Jayden Seeley isn’t a great singer (probably because a thick yet transparently put-on American accent strong-arms him into that position), he follows suit in being listenable enough. But when that’s the best this album can muster, you aren’t getting much worthwhile, reflected in writing that never leaps off the page or feels truly impactful. Again, it’s very rote pop-punk fare, in relationship melodrama and everything else that entails, not to the degree of banality that the TikTok crowd will write with, but also not to a level that’s interesting or suitably meaningful. In other words, With Confidence basically prop themselves up in the dead centre of their genre, shielded from outright derision by the moonlighters for whom they just about surpass, but feel vastly out of their weight class when presented with anything even marginally more interesting. It’s the worst kind of album that sparks no real dedication in either direction, instead just plodding along for half an hour until it’s forgotten within seconds of turning it off.
For fans of: State Champs, Seaway, Oh, Weatherly
‘With Confidence’ by With Confidence is out now on Hopeless Records.
It feels weird to say this is Tigress’ debut full-length considering they’ve been around for quite a while now. Even outside of their past incarnation as The Hype Theory, singles and EP hit with the ‘next big thing’ hammer have been around in abundance, to wind up as competent Britrock without much to set it above. Maybe that’s why a full album seems so strange at this point, especially when it felt as though their momentum peaked a good few years ago. So it comes as quite the surprise that Pura Vida comes as a substantially different flavour of Tigress, one that feels more mature and self-assured of how to be a quality band after so long of playing it safe. The Britrock core hasn’t gone away, but the elements of grunge and indie-rock, particularly in the album’s back half, feel more contemplative and lived-in. It also gives a slightly harder edge to the likes of Choke and F.L.Y, though without sacrificing a rock-solid grasp of melody, the sort of easy-to-like foundation that Tigress have always had, but that feels more solidified now. It’s the most identifiable that Tigress have ever felt, and by a comfortable degree at that; there’s a chunkier bass presence and willingness to feel more unpolished and ramshackle like on Starting Tomorrow, and the general air of a weightier is far more appealing on the whole.
That said, it’s not like Tigress are acting as tremendous innovators, nor in the realms of modern rock with a clear ‘90s glaze are they among the most engaging or potent. Instead, it’s the relative distance they’ve leaped that does the most for them, now with a lyrical focus about maturing and confronting the encroaching torrent of doubt that it brings. Generation could easily steer the album’s tone drastically wrong on premise alone, but winds up a lot more thoughtful at examining the opinions that spur in generational divides; the same thing can said about Feel It or New Friends too, songs that take the bellwether of ‘maturity’ and actually do something with it rather than just keep it as another buzzword. And with a vocalist like Katy Jackson and her specific style of delivery—more power than precision but in a way that’s beneficial to the end result—Pura Vida ends up as easily Tigress’ strongest note to date, even if it still doesn’t leave a tremendous amount to say. It doesn’t really need to though, not when they’ve transformed themselves into an alt-rock band that’s so uniformly solid that the results really speak for themselves. For a band who’ve never been flashy, it’s good that their retooling has gone such a long way, and actually goes towards justifying the longevity they’ve enjoyed rather well.
For fans of: Foo Fighters, Counterfeit, You Me At Six
‘Pura Vida’ by Tigress is released on 3rd September on Humble Angel Records.
The Major Minor Collective
This isn’t the sort of album most would expect to come from The Picturebooks, where they bring in a lot of high-profile artists to co-create and feature on different individual songs, in a blatant example of contact list flexing akin to Slash’s solo debut. In that case though, it made sense for someone with as high a profile as Slash; The Picturebooks, meanwhile, don’t have that profile, nor does their already-limited blues-rock feel immediately equipped to handle a project like this. For one, they can’t really adapt their sound to fit some of the needs of their guest stars, meaning that the existing blues-rock or hard rock performers have an immediate advantage already; they’ll attempt something scrappier and punk-adjacent to fit Refused’s Dennis Lyxzén on Here’s To Magic, but it’s such an awkward, jerky fit for them. The window of real success comes from artists who a naturally more up to speed with the duo’s natural style, so while Catch Me If You Can with Black Stone Cherry’s Chris Robertson and Holy Ghost with Monster Truck’s Jon Harvey can be some standard throwback hard rock fare, they at least fit with the centralised theme of The Picturebooks’ existing music. Honestly, the most impressive point of this album does come from simply skimming through the names of those involved, where the pull is undeniable even if it doesn’t always hit an impressive stride. That’s only heightened by the individual lyrical contributions made from each guest, leading to no real cohesive theme at best, and at worst, songs that feel like cast-off versions of their performers’ regular work. There’s the expected bug-eyed density that comes from Clutch’s Neil Fallon on Corrina Corrina and former Kvelertak vocalist Erland Hjelvik on Multidimensional Violence, and that feels like a huge leap up from something like Holy Ghost or Riders And Farmers, both in writing quality and dexterity.
And really, that can bring to bear the lack of true adaptability that The Picturebooks themselves have. Tonally, this is very emblematic of modern blues-rock in the fuzzed-out guitars and no-frills presentation, along with the limitations that sound offers of completely falling into the background in a pool that still remains densely populated. And you can really tell this is something that the band aren’t used to breaking away from; Here’s To Magic has already been mentioned, but there’s such an empty feeling to Beach Seduction when it tries for a psychedelic ‘60s vibe that never picks up, with the same fate held for the brooding arena-rock of Rebel, which even a powerhouse like Lzzy Hale can’t properly save. Rarely do the performances feel awful here, but for such a tremendous undertaking in terms of person power, it’s not really on the level it needs to be, and thus The Major Minor Collective winds up a lot less impressive than it should on paper. The reach that The Picturebooks clearly have to pull a feat like this off will always be commendable, but the final product is a lot less so when it just isn’t memorable or all that effective in what it’s doing. Going back to the Slash album and the natural comparisons that will arise, that album made far better use of its guest artists’ strengths, and yielded something far more impactful and lasting for it; The Picturebooks just simply don’t, and it makes for a middling experience overall with a handful of bright spots that still aren’t enough.
For fans of: The Black Keys, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, Black Stone Cherry
‘The Major Minor Collective’ by The Picturebooks is released on 3rd September on Century Media Records.
It’s not like Dead Romantic are automatically predetermined to be bad, but it’s the ongoing theme affixed to acts resplendent with the big-name support that they have, without the real road miles or teeth-cutting to show for it. This is still a pretty new band on the eve of their debut album, but with behind-the-scenes names like Zakk Cervini and Steve Diamond lending their talents—not to mention guitarist Mike Krompass being a multi-platinum producer in his own right—the hum of self-drummed industry back-patting isn’t something that leaves Dead Romantic’s vicinity in a hurry. And sure enough, Voices feels like exactly the sort of album driven through those processes, in pristine, faultless execution that’s free of weight, grit or true power. It’s another instance of a band not realising that there’s more to Holding Absence-style success than merely hitting some of the same beats; whereas that band feel raw and intense despite their giant, sweeping size, Dead Romantic are closer to The Amity Affliction in terms of intent without payoff. Granted, Voices never feels quite that hollow, but the giant swings for heartfelt rending and escaping demons don’t connect as viscerally as the band would want. More often than not, the language used will stop that when it doesn’t feel all that strong or unique to the situations Dead Romantic are trying to sell as earth-shaking scenes; if any other super-polished, super-wide-reaching post-hardcore band took this exact lyric sheet, not a whole lot would change.
There’s also the case of Dead Romantic themselves there too, who similarly don’t leave a lot to say. Other than the fact that Dan Taylor sticks with his native accent in a slightly more restrained version of a spluttering Yungblud-esque delivery (which is indeed as awkward as it sounds), there’s something about this band’s determination to fall in line that doesn’t spark an impetus to pay much attention. With all the big mainstream hands in the pot, rock or otherwise, it’s not a surprise that Voices feels as limited as it does, where the main formula is sweeping, monochrome post-hardcore devoid of bass tone, where the rounded, lightened guitars and prominent drums form the archetype when painted by similarly slate-grey tones of atmosphere. To give Dead Romantic some credit, they’ll stumble across a hook on Kissed With A Lie that can squeeze out some surging power and actually sounds pretty good, but for the most part, Voices just doesn’t hit. This sort of thing has been done a million times and very few of them have been good, and Dead Romantic aren’t pushing far enough to fall into that camp. It’s not precisely objectionable, simply because the weight of influence behind it has gotten to a point where outright incompetence is impossible, but there’s very little chance that Voices will move any sort of needles organically. Holding Absence are still the gold standard for this sort of thing, and at this moment in time, it’ll take more than one album to shift that paradigm, especially when the album itself isn’t doing anything new or ear-catching. At the end of the day, Dead Romantic feel like little more than a band enjoying their spike of hype and approaching the comedown, which is probably the progression that could’ve been most expected.
For fans of: Holding Absence, The Amity Affliction, Normandie
‘Voices’ by Dead Romantic is released on 3rd September on Mercia Records.
Usually annual album releases—or at least ones with notable regularity—come saddled with some blatant financial motivation behind them, but there isn’t really the same stigma around EPs put out in the same way. Maybe because the turnaround time for a handful of songs is naturally shorter or it’s simply less commonly marketed as such, but for an act like Earth Groans to become known for regular EP releases, it feels less like a gimmick than if they were full-lengths. Nevertheless, The Body isn’t without its noteworthy shortcomings, not all of which are directed towards its method of release, but that doesn’t necessarily help. For one, this is the sort of metalcore for which drastic ideas aren’t among the usual notes on the spreadsheet, and especially with the focus on slamming heaviness being upped with chaotic tics resigned to garnish on a track like Believe, it’s not the most immediate thing in the world. It’s reminiscent most of a truncated version of Norma Jean or The Chariot, both in its Christian metalcore standing (see how notably billboarded the angle of positivity and triumph among darkness in the lyrics are), but also in a sound that has the ferocity without the creativity behind it. The fact it’s only five tracks does soften that blow, but metalcore reliant on its legacy more so than actual creative impulse is going to hit some roadblocks on its way.
That’s not say that automatically makes The Body bad, though; on the contrary, it can be nice to have a more visceral wallop to come from this genre at times, and the snappier runtime can aid it quite a bit on that front. It’s also played well to accentuate its strengths, in Jeremy Schaeffer’s roars and an instrumental bent that favours the darker, more punishing end of the metalcore spectrum. It all feels reasonably classic in the way that Earth Groans were unquestionably going for, on top of production that keeps that darks dark and the heaviness stampeding throughout. For what Earth Groans are trying to do, they’re hitting the right beats, and nothing they’re putting out has much enormously wrong with it; it manages to be engaging enough, and for only five tracks, that’s always handy to have, if nothing else. But there isn’t a lot past that worth mentioning, outside of the usual taglines that come bundled with metalcore’s heavier, harder variants, and the fact that the band aren’t advancing past that does feel notable. Like with a lot of metalcore in this vein, it’s just a shame that Earth Groans don’t do more with what they clearly have; should they choose to, they could actually be a fair bit more interesting.
For fans of: Norma Jean, The Chariot, Parkway Drive
‘The Body’ by Earth Groans is released on 3rd September on Solid State Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall