REVIEW ROUND-UP: Converge & Chelsea Wolfe, Heart Attack Man, Red Rum Club

Converge & Chelsea Wolfe

Bloodmoon I

Before anything, it’s worth acknowledging that this album isn’t just Converge and Chelsea Wolfe. There’s also Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky and Wolfe’s bandmate and writing partner Ben Chisholm in the mix too, not only rounding out what might be the most legitimate supergroup that underground heavy music has to its name, but also serving as effectively a recorded version of the lauded Blood Moon live project all parties were involved with in 2016. The uniqueness of this album goes without saying, but it’s necessary to appreciate the level of coordination that’s gone into it, in assembling names as acclaimed and in-demand as this with a combined creative mojo that’s tantamount to something far more spectacular than a simple side-project. It’s a testament to the alchemy at play that each individual part does so much for each other; the overall sound might skew most towards Wolfe’s doom, but the reverberations of sturm-und-drang hardcore and progressive density can still be felt. Furthermore, it’s got all the captivating of each artist positively coursing through it, particularly in its longer tracks as Blood Moon heaves and roars to an almost cinematic degree, while Daimon and Crimson Stone bring a scorched energy almost reminiscent of Alice In Chains in their dirgelike torrents and harmonies. It’s also just a huge sound on top of all of that, particularly in terms of production that heightens the calamity on both sides of doom and hardcore, leaving some naturally ferocious guitars that have a pleasing penchant for shapeshifting in tone, but also a noteworthy bass presence and, in some areas, a sense of tunefulness that feels like it elevates everything here. Again, going into this strictly as a Converge affair with additional add-ons isn’t the right mindset; this is definitely its own thing, moulded by the shapes of each individual performer without necessarily imitating one in particular. It’s what makes this so fascinating to dig into, as the combination of heaviness of varying stripes and shades blend and bounce off each other so well. To call it a galvanising decision would probably be misleading when none of the involved parties really need that, but it’s perhaps their most distinct turn respectively in a while, as a non-side-project / parallel-project that always seems to throw out new ideas with each spin. Outside of the so-so lyricism, which is probably this album’s least impressive feature (albeit one that success was never predicated on to begin with), there’s really not a lot to really fault here, in such an ambitious undertaking that succeeds with flying colours for all involved. That telling I at the end of its title is tantalising enough to keep a look out for in future; if it hints that there’s more to come, this could wind up being a pretty special project indeed. • LN

8/10

For fans of: Neurosis, Emma Ruth Rundle, The Body

‘Bloodmoon I’ by Converge & Chelsea Wolfe is released on 19th November on Epitaph Records.


Heart Attack Man

Thoughtz & Prayerz

Heart Attack Man have a bit of a reputation for being edgier than most of their DIY compatriots (though that really isn’t hard), and while it’s not unwarranted, it’s not the most extensive guise either. The tendency to feel a bit try-hard does carry over from time to time, which isn’t the most flattering look when it’s played so straight. On this new EP, both Puke and the title track feel like prime candidates to highlight how little that really offers, in some pretty back ‘I hate you’ songs that have the benefit of angered flurries but very little else. Thankfully the rest of Thoughtz & Prayerz does pick up the slack; Cool 2 Me seems to channel the band’s sharper edges much more effectively to bite back against the dismissal of sexual assault survivors, and Pitch Black and Leap Year go through the cycle of falling back into darkness, even if the initial foothold seemed stronger this time, but being able to claw your way back out again. Not only is it more in line with the indie-punk fare of their peers that does come more naturally, but it does so without sacrificing the ‘real’ punk edge that Heart Attack Man are clearly set on. They do well in channelling that punk side too, in how the guitars have a grittier crunch to them that even launches into a darker, almost metallic groove on the title track, all while stripping back the flash and making the fundamentals still sound thrilling. Eric Egan also has the combination of strained and volatile that works really well for this sort of thing, and across the EP, it highlights a performance strength that’s imperative to Heart Attack Man’s success. They’re able to capture a flammable energy while still remaining crucially melodic; something like Pitch Black is effectively a pop-punk song in execution, but with the prickly edges and scratched-out veneers left intact. That’s where the prospect of Heart Attack Man works the best, and where they thankfully lean towards the most often. Thoughtz & Prayerz isn’t a defining release for them, but it brings a lot of their strengths to the fore overall, and building on them could propel them even further going forward. Otherwise, the existing fans will like it, but it’s short and frenetic enough that it’s worth a spin regardless. • LN

7/10

For fans of: Mom Jeans., Prince Daddy & The Hyena, Oso Oso

‘Thoughtz & Prayerz’ by Heart Attack Man is out now on Triple Crown Records.


Red Rum Club

How To Steal The World

Just by iterating that they’re an indie-pop band from Liverpool, it’s easy to formulate a pretty fair idea of what Red Rum Club sound like. It’s very indebted to Britpop and an older style of guitar-pop in the execution, the key difference being the presence of horns across much of it, in what can be deemed their de facto play for a more modern audience. If nothing else, the courtesy to attempt to appear more distinct is appreciated, but How To Steal The World still feels as though is flowing around the indie doldrums more than anything, in a punt at easy life-esque market share but feeling similarly underdeveloped. To be fair, Red Rum Club aren’t nearly as skeletal and underweight, and will actually fall into a decent groove on Vibrate and Anna Marie, mostly through the auxiliary strings and horns that give just the right splashes of colour in a way that does indeed owe a lot to certain strains of Britpop. Here though, there’s a funk element that keeps everything pretty uniformly light and breezy, avoiding the stiffness that can regularly plague music like this, and giving the lightweight, easygoing lyrics a suitable backdrop to rest on. But there is only so much that Red Rum Club can get away with there, before they’ll tip into thinness and a lack of much body to fall back on. The horns especially, while perky enough, can be rather thin in spots, as can the guitars when trying to facilitate an indie-rock rollick on the title track. The production stylings of slightly grainier layers to offset the polish has been employed, but it’s also easy to see through and can leave How To Steal The World feeling a bit boneless in spots. There’s nothing about that screams ‘indie darlings’ as much as ‘half-throwbacks that struggle to fully sway either way’, something which ends up just as middling as the liminal spaces that Red Rum Club’s music finds itself in. The ideas are certainly better than a lot of their ilk, but shortcomings in the execution that can’t afford to be there in the first place are more glaring than ignorable, and Red Rum Club don’t have the wherewithal in their sound to power through them. It’s a shame when this could’ve been something a bit more interesting, but the likelihood is this is just another prospective indie breakthrough that isn’t likely to happen. • LN

5/10

For fans of: easy life, Dodgy, The Boo Radleys

‘How To Steal The World’ by Red Rum Club is released on 12th November on Modern Sky Records.


Justin Courtney Pierre

Ghost World

Across Justin Courtney Pierre’s creative tear this year, certain trends have become apparent. He hasn’t tended to stray too far from his Motion City Soundtrack output, but even when that was most noteworthy on The Price Of Salt, it remains imbued with a singer-songwriter sensibility that’s noteworthy to his writing style. It what gives those releases such inimitable character, and what makes the third EP Ghost World possibly the best of the trio, or at least the one most certain of its identity away from Pierre’s main band. It’s good that some of that has been wound back in since The Price Of Salt, now in a slightly smaller alt-rock palette that still has its fair share of similarities—most notably the tone and affinity for ‘90s indie-rock and power-pop—but does feel noteworthy in its differences too. There’s a looser feel to it, in the Weezer-ish hums of Steady As She Goes and Somewhere A Dark Heart, or in the build of Gate Kicker which seeks to be a climatic finale without sacrificing its homespun scale. Admittedly the production isn’t the most flattering, hanging in the awkward middle ground between true intimacy and widespread indie fuzz, with Pierre’s vocals somewhere in the middle of the mix to only emphasise it further, but of what can be deemed a de facto lockdown collection of releases, those details and imperfections do make Ghost World feel the most authentic. As for the writing, it has the signature literary qualities that tend to define Pierre’s work (hell, even just in the past year), and it’s still compelling as a result, in what feels like just the right dashes of MCS to keep the familiarity afloat overall. Where The Price Of Salt felt a bit too tied to it base, Ghost World gives itself a bit more freedom to move away, and the result is a decent ease back into solo material that has its own distinctions and individuality. In truth, across the three 2021 EPs he’s released, Pierre hasn’t released anything outright bad, and while that’s a testament to his artistic acumen, there’s a lot to like just through the lens of slight older-leaning slices of indie-rock. Whether he’ll continue with this little-but-often style remains to be seen, but he’s certainly settled into his groove through doing so. • LN

7/10

For fans of: Weezer, Superchunk, The Get Up Kids

‘Ghost World’ by Justin Courtney Pierre is released on 12th November on Epitaph Records.


Orbit Culture

Shaman

Following their previous critically acclaimed EP Nija, Orbit Culture have taken a different approach with their song writing. The five new tracks on Shaman are designed to have maximum impact when performed live. Heavily distorted instrumentation, thundering machine-gunning drums and colossal sounding harsh vocals hit hard from the off. Mast Of The World is a strong opener. The chorus brings an unexpected twist with haunting organ parts introducing an ethereal element. Anthemic, soaring choruses with orchestral instrumentation mixed in are immensely powerful. The balance of anthemic aspects with deliciously heavy breakdowns is spot on. Orbit Culture have somehow managed to capture a sense of a mosh pit through their sound. Carvings’ deafening marching rhythm induces a sense of anticipation; it’s fast, with high energy levels and its storming momentum. Shaman is a powerhouse of metal that doesn’t let up. Each track has a distinctive feel and own compositional style, and all are incredibly effective. The instrumentation and vocals feel huge; Orbit Culture have unleashed a force of sound that is impressive to hear recorded. The live performances can only be eagerly anticipated. • HR

8/10

For fans of: Fit For An Autopsy, Cypecore, Trivium

‘Shaman’ by Orbit Culture is out now on Seek & Strike Records.


Vildhjarta

måsstaden under vatten

Swedish extreme metal giants Vildhjarta continue to push the bounds of creativity with their distinctive flair for experimentation. måsstaden under vatten delivers their signature heavy sound, epic grooves and immersive atmosphere. Vildhjarta understands their instruments inside and out. The band have the skill of knowing exactly which tones, textures and effects will produce their desired mood. Lavender Haze delivers thundering heavy textures with heavily distorted, overdriven rhythm guitars and impactful percussion. An ethereal clean lead provides a stark contrast between dark and light themes, making the overall effect even more haunting. Vildhjarta’s use of vocals emphasises their music. The track brännmärkt sees demonic death growls brough in which add the to layering of the instrumentation and adds further texture. Choral vocals combing harsh and clean in tracks including mitt trötta hjarta, and their use of clean vocals in detta drömmars sköte en slöja till ormas näste, add further interest. The vocal arrangement in paaradiso not only sounds fantastic but is also incredibly haunting aspect. Vildhjarta’s måsstaden under vatten is a thrilling album from beginning to end. The outfit continue to produce the distinctive, epic sound that sets them above the rest while pushing their own boundaries even further. • HR

9/10

For fans of: Humanity’s Last Breath, TesseracT, Orbit Culture

‘måsstaden under vatten’ by Vildhjarta is out now on Century Media Records.


Bailer

Disposable Youth

To a degree, reviewing a band like Bailer doesn’t even feel necessary. Here’s another furious metallic hardcore band to add to an ever-growing list, and they’re just as good as the bar set for them would insinuate. It’s mostly a case of Disposable Youth having such a flawless command of what’s expected from it rather than looking to actively advance the scene, but when it’s to this extent, the results can be just as good, if not better. Bailer make their familiarity work for them, channelling the likes of Every Time I Die, Cancer Bats, Gallows and a boatload more of hardcore’s absolute best for what could arguably signal a band who could go toe to toe with even giants like that. Bailer have a taut, tightened approach to hardcore that emphasises their snarl; there’s not an inch of space wasted among the guitars and pummellingly meaty basslines, and on tracks like Bastard Son and Scourge, a quicker drum pickup to make the hardcore freneticism feel even closer and more volatile. Topped off by Alex O’Leary’s vocals, akin to that of an urban apex predator comprised solely of teeth and killer instinct, Disposable Youth ticks every box to be among modern hardcore’s greats, without feeling forced or looking to hit a quota. This is hardcore borne out necessity, fighting through the omnipresent bleakness of the world where abject nihilism seems to be the most appropriate driving force. The Gallows comparisons feel a lot more pertinent there (which, for Bailer, can be both a blessing and a curse considering the quality of work they’re immediately pitted against), but Disposable Youth can unequivocally make it work. The hunger and desperation that’s on show is nigh on impossible to fake, and Bailer’s own ground-level presentation and ethos is as glaringly indicative of hardcore authenticity as it comes. Hardcore fans—this is one you can’t afford to be sleeping on, especially going into the new year. With any luck, Bailer hitting some real strides within the scene in no time; there’s certainly no reason why they shouldn’t. • LN

8/10

For fans of: Every Time I Die, Gallows, Cancer Bats

‘Disposable Youth’ by Bailer is released on 12th November on Blood Blast Distribution.


Hollywood Burns

The Age Of The Saucers

Right from the beginning of The Age Of The Saucers, you get the impression that Hollywood Burns mastermind Emeric Levardon has avoided the greatest pitfall of modern synthwave by a pretty wide berth. It’s unclear when the genre’s natural density in sound conflated with a self-seriousness that all became monumentally boring, but this is definitely not that in some rather clear ways. For one, Levardon embraces the cheese that many of his ilk will willfully—and detrimentally—avoid, ramping up the squealing guitar solos and cinematic ambitions, in what makes for an even thicker wall of sound, but one that remains crucially identifiable throughout. A lot of that is to do with the more reasonable length the album has as a whole, but there’s an actual sense of momentum that The Age Of The Saucers has, with quicker tempos and a more visceral crack to how the grooves and progressions land. In terms of conjuring up the stylised neon ‘80s aesthetic, this is some of the most effective work the genre has offered in some time, in the colour palettes that dazzle and radiate out with such concentrated force. There’s rarely much beyond the soundscape, but that shouldn’t diminish how forcefully the likes of Saturday Night Screamer and Fear In The Eye Of The Tyrant pulse and throb, all while coated and embossed in searing pinks and purples and an indomitable rockstar spirit. Of course, that isn’t quite enough to escape some of the other synthwave traps—although Levardon is a bit more flexible with his genre’s one trick, that’s still an albatross he has to carry here—but compared to how dull and samey this sound is more often than not, a shot of life like this that actually seems to understand the sound’s base-level appeal can definitely be appreciated. Moreover, it’s just a more entertaining version than what’s usually offered, through the tried-and-true medium of loud noises, shiny lights and bright colours. It really is that simple, which might say more about the synthwave scene as a whole than Levardon in particular, but at least he’s actually got to grips with it. • LN

7/10

For fans of: Perturbator, Carpenter Brut, Gunship

‘The Age Of The Saucers’ by Hollywood Burns is released on 12th November on Blood Music.


Suntitle

In A Dream

If there’s one way to encapsulate Suntitle’s In A Dream, it’s that it feels like the work of a band placed in the wrong time. About half a decade ago, when this sort of dreamlike but still pleasingly meaty emo was all the rage, this would’ve probably cleaned house in terms of the directions it goes in. The production is organic and warm but also open enough to let the colours flow and meld across each track, and Suntitle wisely avoid being overrun by the haziness of their compositions by locking themselves into a tight alt-rock foundation. But there’s just something about this album that doesn’t click as readily as the best from, say, Citizen or Balance And Composure, and it’s hard to put a finger on what it is. Maybe it’s the need for stronger hooks outside of the robust sound; it would definitely help Suntitle feel more defined, rather than just finding comfort within a very recognisable class of emo bands. And that in itself isn’t necessarily bad when they sound generally good, but this definitely feels like a debut on multiple occasions, in lyrics, sound or just general feel having yet to pick up something to call their own. They probably come closest on Royal Blue in its pop-punk-esque leanings, but that’s hardly a tremendous leap out of a comfort zone. It does feel a bit overly critical to labour on that point so much, but it’s not helped by emo’s already saturated presence and the huge number of bands that Suntitle could easily be mistaken for, a lot of which are at their level. That is to say, In A Dream operates with a notable floor of quality from where it is, and the appeal can definitely be recognised, but it’s also not hard to wish there was more. It’s still good, just lacking the spice to be much more. • LN

6/10

For fans of: Citizen, Balance And Composure, A Will Away

‘In A Dream’ by Suntitle is released on 12th November on Know Hope Records.


GILT

In Windows, Through Mirrors

By this time next year, there’ll be a lot more people talking about GILT. A big statement at what’s still an early stage, sure, but it’s not like it isn’t warranted, or that GILT aren’t already blowing the doors of post-hardcore wide open with only a three-track EP. It’s like the immense aptitude that Spiritbox displayed even in their earliest days; In Windows, Through Mirrors has the same lucid, flooding approach to melody and atmosphere, but with hints of bands like La Dispute in the quivering negative space they leave. Final track Through Mirrors (I Didn’t Want You As A Mirror) puts the greatest emphasis on that particular quality, where Ash Stixx rips open their initial pensive vocal for the raw, unmodulated flaying that’s often so thrilling in this stripe of post-hardcore. Across these three tracks though, there’s not a whole lot to complain about, particularly when GILT’s openness around gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia and a collapsing state of mental health has so few filters or barriers in front of it. At the same time though, there is still a bit of accessibility, serving as accentuation more that anything, in the swirling heave of In Windows (Ignore What’s Missing), or just a production style in general that so perfectly balances its headiness with something more precise. Besides a quick runtime that really doesn’t seem to do justice to the mountains that this band are clearly capable of, In Windows, Through Mirrors sees GILT hitting such a fine point in their development already, where the bar for themselves has been wrenched up so high, but they show all the signs of being able to continuously meet or better it. There’s already more on the horizon for 2022, and that can’t come quick enough; that’s how potent the impression this EP alone leaves. • LN

8/10

For fans of: Spiritbox, Touché Amoré, La Dispute

‘In Windows, Through Mirrors’ by GILT is released on 12th November.


Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)

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