REVIEW ROUND-UP: Don Broco, Biffy Clyro, Whitechapel

Don Broco

Amazing Things

In hindsight, Technology shouldn’t have been as big a launchpad for Don Broco as it was. Even putting aside the accompanying allegations around frontman Rob Damiani, the album was just a supremely flabby listen, in which its best moments that would redefine Don Broco’s sound were either right at the front or blotted out entirely by filler. Clearly it was successful enough to warrant another pivot though, and thus Amazing Things seems to advance their dense, heavy alt-rock forward, thankfully trimming things down slightly but sounding even more physically bloated and lumbering in the process. That seems to be an effect of how much angrier and heavier this album is than any of their previous work, which isn’t an unworkable idea in itself but Don Broco aren’t really the band to pull it off. In the past, the touches of theming like that have always been lighter and cheekier with a bit more verve to them; here, it’s placed right at the front, to the point where it can feel like indiscriminate shots that either don’t have much defined purpose, or display this sort of rage for its own sake. A song like Uber shows how it can work, biting back against ingrained cultures of racism that Damiani sells with a surprising amount of successful force, and compared to Gumshield or Bruce Willis which seem to be swinging punches at incredibly ill-realised targets, it’s one of the few moments on the album that feels successful in its intentions. It also doesn’t help that the fallout of the aforementioned allegations still hangs in the background here and there, and while this is entirely conjecture, you can pull out attempts to recentre that focus to online harassment on Manchester Super Reds No. 1 Fan or self-flagellation on Endorphins, and it’s not the most pleasant when it does hit. Indeed, that can be attributed to the sourness and calamitously stone-faced presentation of the album itself; it’s for a reason, sure, but that’s so far removed from where Don Broco’s best would lie, where only the density of the production remains. To their credit, they appear to have ramped up the ferocity and volume to even greater degrees here, though away from the nu-metal of their earlier days and into something more post-hardcore / metal-adjacent, which isn’t bad at bringing forth a snarling attitude to Bruce Willis or Revenge Body when accented by blown-out electronics. Notably though, the killer bass presence has been dialled back, meaning that Amazing Things’ moments of plod are more glaring, whether in crashing, surging slowness on Swimwear Season or One True Prince, or surprisingly cut-down numbers reliant on production blankets to bulk themselves out on Anaheim and How Are You Done With Existing?. It creates a grind and almost workmanlike trudge that Don Broco have never fallen into this deeply, even on Technology, and the album feels like so much more of a drag because of it. The same spark that was once so bright is barely even there anymore, with a self-serious, monolithic yet underwhelming album left in its place. Of all the ‘amazing things’ that Don Broco might want to stake claim to, this isn’t one of them.

5/10

For fans of: Fightstar, Young Guns, Funeral For A Friend

‘Amazing Things’ by Don Broco is out now on Sharptone Records.


Biffy Clyro

The Myth Of The Happily Ever After

It shouldn’t seem too surprising that Biffy Clyro have another album already. In the past they’ve typically been prolific with different collections to plug the gaps in between album cycles; think of the roles that Lonely Revolutions or Similarities filled coming away from their parent albums. The Myth Of Happily Ever After though—while bearing resemblance to last year’s A Celebration Of Endings in its artwork—is very much classified as its own thing as opposed to a collection on B-sides, which is interesting in principle, but in practice, carries the usual mark of a Biffy Clyro album to where it doesn’t need the safety net of a rarities package to buoy it. To be fair, it’s not quite as good as its predecessor, even if, for all intents and purposes, it’s supposed to be some sort of companion piece, but it’s not by much and doesn’t feel like a tossed-off addition in any sense. Biffy Clyro continue their crusade to blend stadium-ready alt-rock with a weirder sensibility even here with songs like Witch’s Cup and Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep (the latter of which should go without saying), but on the whole, this does feel like a more streamlined album sonically. It’s more down to how masterful this band’s blending abilities have gotten, where the likes of A Hunger In Your Haunt feels so intrinsic to how to they operate, even on a decidedly lower tier to their best. That comes through more in how the hooks aren’t the strongest they’ve ever been, but when that’s the only real black mark, that’s nothing to complain about too much. Other than that, there’s the same intelligence and creativity that regularly goes into Biffy Clyro’s work, now driven by the current state of the world in lockdowns and rising death tolls, elucidated in a way that has their typical esoteric flair but still feeling grounded. This does feel less enormous than Biffy Clyro albums are typically wont to, though as evidenced by Holy Water or Haru Urara, there’s still something that can be done with that, and it still sounds incredibly strong. Even if its not as stuffed with anthems as past entries in their catalogue, it’s a testament to their creative rigour that such a short turnaround time can yield an album this good with so few corners cut. It still sounds weighty and thick as their brand of alt-rock tends to, and Simon Neil is exactly as good as a vocalist as always. It’s just another Biffy Clyro album at the end of the day, borne of unorthodox circumstances and not quite dazzling as much as others, but still to the standard of what some of alt-rock’s finest should be aiming for.

7/10

For fans of: Reuben, Twin Atlantic, Feeder

‘The Myth Of The Happily Ever After’ by Biffy Clyro is out now on Warner Music / 14th Floor Records.


Whitechapel

Kin

It’s so wonderful to see Whitechapel continuing on the same thread they opened on The Valley, an album that felt like a true creative rebirth for a band who could well have been swallowed up by the deathcore mire sooner rather than later. Granted, it was more the stylistic movements that album made that held the fastest, with a dirgelike nu-metal grind that supplemented more traditional deathcore thrashings, though Kin feels like the true growth needed to unlock that special something that was already so close to breaking through. Make no mistake, this is most likely Whitechapel’s best album, not just in sound but in the way their maturation, even from their last effort, feels so natural and purposeful. Once again, deathcore is not the main focus of the palette, instead serving more as a brutal accompaniment to the slower heft of A Bloodsoaked Symphony, or providing a jolt of centrepiece aggression on To The Wolves. The focal point does come from an almost insidious mood that Whitechapel foster though, in Slipknot-esque turns that colour Anticure and Orphan that carry startling weight and atmosphere. If anything, they’ve upped the quality of that from The Valley to really capture a sense of insidious, looming melody, without forgoing the intensity that’s so crucial behind it. Phil Bozeman also deserves a lot of praise for his vocals, carrying simultaneously a tense weight and a haunted despondency that his stellar cleans convey so well. It really does feel like a natural successor and expansion on what its predecessor offered, now with an execution that’s more sure-footed and willing to dive into the bleakness that made that album so enrapturing in its best moments. The only difference is that’s the entirety of this album, continuing the semi-autobiographical story of Bozeman’s childhood traumas, now with the demons that have joined him into adulthood and are ready to drag him back into the abyss. The details unlock an even greater darkness and sense of depression, but it feels so much more real than if this album were just transposed into the usual deathcore formula. Whitechapel definitively feel like their own entity now and the fact they’re carrying that on through multiple albums only solidifies the excellence this newest leg of their career holds. To call them deathcore at all almost feels disingenuous at this point when they’re so much more; they’re tapping into an area of metal that feels so much more raw and exposed, with a lived-in hollowness that’s so powerful and affecting. This is the sort of uniqueness that deathcore bands should be aiming for, though it’s not like most of them to could get to a level this high.

9/10

For fans of: Slipknot, Parkway Drive, Trivium

‘Kin’ by Whitechapel is released on 29th October on Metal Blade Records.


Dave Hause

Blood Harmony

At this point, a new Dave Hause album isn’t going to offer any surprises. It’s all about the stripped-back, heartfelt writing and the overwhelming charm of Hause himself that does all the heavy lifting, a formula that’s worked countless times before for the punk-goes-troubadour set. It’s hard to think of anyone who’s tapped so deeply into how effectively its simplicity can be more than Hause though, something which Blood Harmony seems acutely aware of and looks to really shine by it. Be it in the solo acoustic numbers that still come imbued with immeasurable warmth, or the more fleshed-out tracks that are practically dripping with comforting, sepia-toned nostalgia, this feels as deep in Hause’s wheelhouse as it’s possible to get, probably the reason why he sounds so comfortable and self-assured across the board. His voice has a deeply equable quality to it throughout, which results in the pliability that comes from songs like Gary or Surfboard, where the humour is a bit more explicit but there’s still a kernel of care and grit that’s yet to be fully covered. More often though, the frank earnestness on display is where the greatest dividends are paid; it’s hard not to be worn over by such sweet dedications to his children on the bookending Northstar and Little Wings, or Sandy Sheets which might as well be the musical definition of the concept of nostalgia. It all makes for such an easy album to like, free from extraneous frills or tassels as another fat-free slice of Americana that always goes down smoothly, especially coming from Hause. Maybe it’s more of the same, but that hardly matters when it’s this good, and when the pocket that Hause continues to inhabit frequently has so much likability to offer.

7/10

For fans of: Frank Turner, Chuck Ragan, Brian Fallon

‘Blood Harmony’ by Dave Hause is out now on Blood Harmony Records / Soundly Music.


Save Face

Another Kill For The Highlight Reel

Who saw this coming, eh? After vast speculation and countless hype cycles for so many bands, the true heirs to My Chemical Romance’s sound could be as leftfield an option as Save Face. Obviously that’s some huge extrapolation and conjecture, but the evidence on Another Kill For The Highlight Reel speaks for itself, where an already strong alt-emo sound has been sharpened and beefed up for a metamorphosis in the truest sense of the word. It’s borderline to being a completely different band given how retooled their focus is, but in a way that makes so much sense and works so readily in Save Face’s favour. The oft-interchangeable roots of their DIY scene origins have been shed for something far more visceral and gnashing, and embracing of the theatricality and melodrama that gives the title track or A Song For Your Futile Heart their gnashing, heated bravado. On top of all of that, Tyler Povanda can sound uncannily like Gerard Way at times, something which could be seen as a criticism when Save Face do pull so much from such a clear influence, but it’s more impressive than anything else that they’re so bang on with their homage. Even down to the production glimmers and echoing pianos (something that the closer Please Murder Me gets especially right), there’s something about Another Kill For The Highlight Real that’s so gripping in the same way as bands of that era were, going past pure nostalgia and straight into greatness in its own right. The lyrics might play into that lane a bit too much, where the general consensus appears to be playing up an edginess that fits with the style and sound above making a statement of its own, but again, the fact that Save Face as so committed to this turn does a lot in their favour. There’s a true, genuine effort made to embody the spirit of this era of post-hardcore, making for arguably the most faithful and flattering recreation in years. More than that though, the chameleonic aspect of Save Face is brought right to the fore; it never feels like they’re pandering to nostalgia, but rather offering a conscious expansion of an already great sound into even more avenues of greatness. Save Face have never really been given the dues they deserve, but this definitely feels like it could be a turning point for that; if this catches on with the right audience, get ready for the fireworks.

8/10

For fans of: My Chemical Romance, Thursday, The Used

‘Another Kill For The Highlight Reel’ by Save Face is released on 29th October on Epitaph Records.


Calling All Captains

Slowly Getting Better

Well, someone listened to pop-punk in 2013. That’s the main takeaway from Calling All Captains’ Slowly Getting Better, an album that’s clearly designed to invoke The Story So Far and their ilk, and does so pretty well too. It wisely manages to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that could make that scene so tiresome, replacing the put-on scowls and needless double-time percussion for something that flows a lot better and more genuinely. The big draw is obviously Luc Gauthier’s vocals for their throaty rasp that can send this sound brushing against post-hardcore at times, and serving as a more palpable form of emotional turbulence that works unequivocally in Calling All Captains’ favour. Some pretty standard themes of navigating the mid-twenties wasteland and the trials it presents feel a lot more robust and meaningful than just the usual wrung-out aphorisms, with enough melody to make them stick far more resolutely. Rarely is it full-blown easycore, but Calling All Captains have the means of capturing that style’s chunkiness and heft in their own compositions, while also spinning into more emo-inflected touches like on Collapse. Primarily though, Slowly Getting Better mainly serves as a vehicle to launch the older, unflinchingly anthemic pop-punk playbook into the modern day without sacrificing what captured the zeitgeist so unwaveringly, and really seems to hit that mark across the board. There’s barely a moment where the sense of bounce and barrelling, angsty momentum doesn’t hit its target, with a degree of acumen that’s hard to fault when it comes to recapturing the sound. Honestly, for what they’re trying to do, Calling All Captains have the sort of sincerity and genuineness that’s hard to complain about, even when they’re relying so heavily on nostalgia to get there. As such, you’re probably not going to find much modern pop-punk of this stripe pulled off with all the necessary features so firmly and confidently in place, and with the self-assuredness of it all that this album has.

7/10

For fans of: The Story So Far, State Champs, A Day To Remember

‘Slowly Getting Better’ by Calling All Captains is released on 29th October on Rude Records.


Light Grey

Are You Even Real

It’s very clear that Light Grey’s creative ethos is very in line with modern alternative conventions. Between their releases being solely singles and EPs to date, and a sound that’s deeply lodged in the alt-pop-rock framework, this is a duo looking to juice that contemporaneity for all it’s worth, which does seem to be working well enough for them. That can probably be attributed to the fact that, on this new EP, they aren’t going that far outside the norm—some admittedly predictable pop-rock with the odd skittering beat placed behind it—but there’s a factor of catchiness to Haunted or PRBLM that do have a crossover-minded focus baked into them. There’s a TikTok readiness here, in the polish and sharpness of the production combined with a sound and feel that’s still homegrown and small-scale. That also comes around in how Light Grey perhaps aren’t going as far as they could; they’re still better than a lot of the messy, ‘genreless’ alt-pop they thankfully skirt around, but the adventurousness to hit greater highs just isn’t there yet. Right now, their genre-blending shtick feels more like a branding tactic, especially when the current wave of TikTok pop-rock and pop-punk isn’t all that different in concept. Of course, Light Grey have the upper hand by actually sounding like they care about this style, and they aim a substantial bit higher than the true dregs of lyricism you’ll find elsewhere (even if the parity in subject matter is significantly greater). It’s more a case of some pieces and some creative decisions being there, but the gaps are still one show, even if they’re not that hard to close in future. Light Grey don’t really stand out too much at this stage either, but at least the potential to rectify that hasn’t gone amiss.

6/10

For fans of: Hot Milk, All Time Low, Machine Gun Kelly

‘Are You Even Real’ by Light Grey is released on 29th October.


Words by Luke Nuttall

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