REVIEW ROUND-UP: Mayday Parade, The Darkness, Zebrahead

Mayday Parade

What It Means To Fall Apart

It’s probably incorrect to say that there’s any great expectations for a new Mayday Parade album. Other than a blip into harder-edged emo with Black Lines, they’ve always been a fairly easy band to track, generally floating around pop-rock that can sidle into emo with a few more interesting ideas, though never too drastically. It’s why much of their later-period material hasn’t had much staying power; it’s seldom bad but indicative of a band whose creative efforts are basically in place where they want them to be. That comes with both positive and negative slants which can definitely be seen on What It Means To Fall Apart, an album that fits the usual mould of Mayday Parade likability, but also the just-as-usual mould of being a pretty forgettable entry in their catalogue. That’s hardly a surprise when the bulk of their albums now can feel like that, but What It Means To Fall Apart seems to tug at the degree that both extremities can meet, where it yields Mayday Parade’s strongest material in a while, but also their most formulaic. In the former case, Kids Of Summer and Golden Days fits their ever-popular style of nostalgia, all bright-eyed and sun-dappled, and while One For The Rocks And One For The Scary feels like three different song fragments grafted together, it’s unlike this band to move that far from the middle of the road and that can be respected. On the other hand though, particularly arriving at the album’s back half brings forth the real morass of predictability here, full of the maudlin presentation and lack of forward momentum that’s typically hung over this band (whether true or not). It doesn’t help that Derek Sanders’ affability in his voice is precariously close to being saccharine, something which can really add a zest of sugar to the acoustic- and piano-driven tracks that doesn’t always work in their favour. There’s a reason that Miserable At Best is yet to be dethroned as Mayday Parade’s go-to sappy ballad—it was one of their first, and it came at a time when that sort of emotionality captured the zeitgeist of their listening base. Now, it’s hard to see where said listening base really comes from outside of nostalgia; Mayday Parade have never really created in-roads for new fans beyond their built-in accessibility, and that’s part of the reason why their new releases don’t tend to stack up against pop-rock of a similar vintage. They feel like they’re playing directly to a fanbase that just isn’t as receptive, and as such, the material has a similar streak to it. It’s fine enough but not exactly thrilling or electrifying, words that don’t describe Mayday Parade at the best of times, but seem to have really fallen away as of late. And thus comes the usual conclusion that affixes Mayday Parade these days, that of a band that are profoundly enjoyable when they want to be, but by no means on a long-term basis. • LN

6/10

For fans of: Boys Like Girls, We The Kings, Every Avenue

‘What It Means To Fall Apart’ by Mayday Parade is out now on Rise Records.


The Darkness

Motorheart

It’s fitting that The Darkness are releasing a new album at this time of year, when their Christmas song is making its annual rounds, because that seems to be the only time anyone cares all that much about them. Regardless of how well-loved Permission To Land was, this sort of flagrantly camp ‘update’ of classic glam-rock was always going to have a shelf life, and The Darkness’ past few albums have really been testing how resolute that limit is before it shatters altogether. It’s honestly a wonder they’re still plugging away when their limitations are as blatant as they are, perhaps nowhere more so than Motorheart, an album which could be a reasonable nail in the coffin if it wasn’t for the band’s baffling longevity. They’ve certainly never felt as tired as this, as songs like The Power And The Glory Of Love and Eastbound opt for a classic power-pop slant, unaware of how flaccid that sound can actually feel nowadays. That’s probably the best descriptor for Motorheart as a whole; it’s not a particularly long album, but rarely does it feel as though The Darkness are doing more than spinning their wheels, as their humour is broader and more predictable than ever on the title track or the frankly embarrassing Jussy’s Girl, without even the go-for-broke vamping that a band like Steel Panther can at least use to their advantage sometimes. Granted, The Darkness do have more restraint and are less reliant on being irredeemably puerile, which is always a plus, but the notion of their shallowness when it comes to songwriting feels extremely pertinent here, especially when there’s rarely a catchy hook to launch a song forward like in their heyday. That’s not even mentioning that Justin Hawkins feels totally committed to embracing the shrieking parody of himself, even though there’s no depth to the sound of his performances and, like a lot of the album, he just sounds flat most of the way through. The guitar flair and glamour hasn’t been totally stripped away, thankfully, but that’s only one of a very few redemptive qualities that Motorheart has. Perhaps more than ever, this is the album where The Darkness feel like a gimmick band, lurching headlong into a joke they once wisely kept at arm’s length and losing almost all enjoyability through doing so. Then again, every post-resurgence album from The Darkness just seems to blend together or fade away anyway, so hopefully Motorheart will suffer a similar fate sooner rather than later. • LN

4/10

For fans of: Steel Panther, Airbourne, The Answer

‘Motorheart’ by The Darkness is out now on Cooking Vinyl Records.


Zebrahead

III

While Zebrahead have been due a shake-up for years now, they probably could’ve afforded to take it a bit further than this. III is the first release with new singer Adrian Estrella replacing Matty Lewis who, of the band’s vocal team, was arguably the least impactful element when it came to defining Zebrahead’s sound. Ali Tabatabaee is still here to rap, and the pop-punk / rapcore framework remains largely unchanged, meaning that apart from a slightly different vocal personality in areas, this is effectively Zebrahead operating completely unimpeded and unchanged. To be fair, it’s more on their harder-edged side this time which tends to produce their more—for lack of a better term—reputable material, and indeed, on Homesick For Hope and Russian Roulette Is For Lovers, there’s definitely something added from darker, heavier guitars, almost in a Sum 41 vein in the momentum it picks up. Conversely, Lay Me To Rest and A Long Way Down are more standardly buoyant, in what ties together III as more of a cross-section of Zebrahead’s style, or a re-introduction to benefit their new vocalist. But while Estrella definitely sings well in a slightly different flavour of pop-punk frontman, it isn’t really necessary to belabour so much on the same formulae when it’s not changed that drastically. It feels like an affirmation that Zebrahead could do more than what’s expected of them, such is the pliability within their means they show here, but the fact it is all within their means leaves III as just a bit unimpressive overall. It’s all very standard, in sound, execution and writing, and though a general solidity within those features prevents this from being bad, it’s not alleviating the weight of thirteen albums that have rapidly begun to blur together. And for what’s being touted as a new era for them, III suffers from all the same problems; Zebrahead are fundamentally the same as they have been for years, a fact that ultimately colours how much worth this EP has, whether positive or negative. From a purely critical point of view, it’s still okay in the way that most of Zebrahead’s stuff is, but it’s also not the bold new stride they want to believe it is, and it doesn’t take long at all to realise that. • LN

6/10

For fans of: Sum 41, Less Than Jake, Yellowcard

‘III’ by Zebrahead is released on 26th November on MFZB Records.


Between You & Me

Armageddon

There’s a weird situation going around with some pop-punk at the minute, where bands seem to be trying to update their sound and find new avenues of contemporary success, but it just hasn’t panned out. It’s where the whole ‘New Romantic’ wave of pop-punk comes from, in bands bringing in ‘80s synths and big, John Hughes-esque earnestness, which can result in decently catchy songs that just haven’t stuck for whatever reason. So it’s not much of a shock that Between You & Me’s attempts on Armageddon don’t seem to move the needle that much. They’ve typically been a decent pop-punk band but nothing revelatory, and that can definitely be seen when the strongest moments on this album trend more in that straight-up pop-punk direction. The opening pair of Pleased To Meet You and Deadbeat have enough forward motion and airtight compositional presence to be pretty sticky, and Go To Hell with Yours Truly’s Mikaila Delgado only pushes that even further in what’s easily the album’s most propulsively arresting number. Just in general, Armageddon has a good melodic sense to it; the choruses punch hard, if not exactly outside of the wheelhouse of this style, and it does hit a generally high watermark in terms of what Between You & Me are doing. But among all of that, there’s just something that isn’t clicking as deeply that keeps Armageddon in the same camp of halfway-house effectiveness. Maybe it’s something to do with the lyrics that aren’t particularly special for the most part (and really only adhere to the ‘armageddon’ banner at the very end), but the production and heavy programming can prove a significant stumbling block, particularly when they drive the direction of a track like Supervillain and its iffy sense of theatricality. That’s not to say to good songs can’t emerge from it—indeed, Butterflies and Goldfish indicate Between You & Me probably have a better track record than most—but that’s generally secondary to a feeling that this doesn’t really permeate outside the movement it’s a part of. Not bad, but also not enough to stick the landing completely. • LN

6/10

For fans of: Seaway, Stand Atlantic, Bearings

‘Armageddon’ by Between You & Me is out now on Hopeless Records.


Black Coast

Outworld

It’s good to see Black Coast back again, especially when their last work was all the way back in 2019. They could’ve easily become one of those hardcore bands with a couple of vaunted EPs that end of disappearing right after, but at least getting a full-length down quells some of those worries. Further still, they’re roughly on the same wavelength they always were on Outworld, in a meatier, nu-metal-inflected version of hardcore that’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, but spinning it near enough as fast as it’ll go. It’s a definite boost that this sound lends itself well to more typical hardcore themes of bleak mental prison in an equally bleak world, and Black Coast’s Beartooth-meets-While-She-Sleeps approach to aggro is just as perfect a fit. Tracks like Ache and Vodka Smile carry that almost militant sense of stampede so naturally, with the slightly groovier elements of Mental and the title track acting as just the right amount of spice that a full album needs to feel like its own beast. Charlie Hewitt is a really impressive vocalist here too, able to keep the balance between roars and slightly unstable cleans in place to hit remarkably close to the bands they’re emulating. This is still an emulation, mind, and the threads of influence are rather blatant throughout, but Outworld is the sort of debut that these bigger moves can springboard from, and the fact that Black Coast have been pushing along for as long as they have is reason enough for why they deserve something like that. • LN

7/10

For fans of: While She Sleeps, Beartooth, Blood Youth

‘Outworld’ by Black Coast is out now.


Imminence

Heaven In Hiding

Imminence have reinvented themselves with their new album Heaven In Hiding. The alternative metalcore outfit from Sweden continuously delver powerful tracks and take care in attending to the accompanying visual details. The new chapter adheres to there established strengths but sees the quintet push the creative boundaries even further. Delicious djent guitars, soaring cleans and aggressive harsh vocals mark the band’s signature sound, along with the iconic violin leads performed by vocalist Eddie Berg. The atmosphere in this new album brings something more, there’s something in the air that is thrilling. The opening track I am become a name… sets out to clearly show the soundscape is taking a different direction. It’s dramatic but not overbearing. There’s a raw, gentleness to it while also carrying a foreboding mood. Surrender’s catchy chorus hook is not only a certified earworm, but also soars. The technical guitars and pounding rhythms produce a huge impact. Alleviate carries a haunting emotion; lyrically and musically it’s raw and personal. The stunning piano tones and violin emphasise the vocals in the track, elevating the sound. While Enslaved leans more into the avant-garde of the new album. From trap-style electronics to intricate guitar riffs, Enslaved fuses multiple genre and style influences creating something greater than the sum of its parts. Concluding with the title track, it’s soft and gentle with a haunting undertone. The dynamics in the instrumentation see the serene and the heavy dance together. Heaven In Hiding feels like an extended art piece transcending multiple forms. The carefully crafted visual elements in their videos and album art, and of course the music itself combines into an extensive expression of emotion. • HR

8/10

For fans of: Annisokay, I See Stars, Spiritbox

‘Heaven In Hiding’ by Imminence is released on 26th November on Arising Empire.


Pass Away

Thirty Nine

All you really need to know about Pass Away is that it’s comprised of members of I Am The Avalanche and Crime In Stereo, and any judgement on quality is remarkably easy to parse out from there. The fact they’re in the bracket of hyper-earnest alt-punk only makes that call even more straightforward again, but if you really want to nitpick, Thirty Nine isn’t as adorned with the same life-affirming gumption as one would find from, say, The Menzingers or Spanish Love Songs. Though to hold that against Pass Away—already effectively a side-project that can still dodge the connotations of coasting that may bring to bear—would be remarkably unfair to a band who are so easy to like. Outside of the slightly grungier texture that fills out a track like Halloween, Thirty Nine runs through the alt-punk songbook with consummate ease, in earthy riffs and a warm, chunky production style that never really gets old when it’s done well. The band’s experience definitely shines through in that respect, and Mike Ireland’s middle-of-the-throat rasps and a lyrical set serving a street-level of view of Brooklyn (often in a bar) find the right beats hit with plenty of heart behind it. Familiarity is more of a feature than a flaw with this album, particularly with tracks like Bartender’s Lament and Oreo which jack melodic cues and features from at least half-a-dozen others around them, but in a way to accentuate the camaraderie and kinship this scene is built on. There’s such an unmistakeable attractiveness to what Pass Away are doing that it’s hard not to appreciate it; regardless of how stacked their scene is, there’s always room for another helping to keep things going, and that’s exactly what this album excels at. • LN

7/10

For fans of: I Am The Avalanche, A Loss For Words, Saves The Day

‘Thirty Nine’ by Pass Away is released on 26th November on Suburbia Records.


ten56.

Downer: Part 1

‘Deathcore supergroup’ probably seems like an oxymoron, but if there’s one band who want to embody that mindset more than any other, it would be ten56.. It’s more down to preference whether or not they get there (or whether members of Betraying The Martyrs, Uneven Structure and others constitutes ‘super’), but they’re nothing if not clearly confident, something which definitely carries this debut EP further than it might go otherwise. They’re more in line with the nu-metal-infused deathcore of the 2010s, meaning their writing is predicated almost exclusively on how much swagger and bravado they can pull off, something which they do do reasonably well. Aaron Matts has exactly the right vocal tone to get there, and they’ll lean into real standout pockets of groove on Shitspitter or Sick Dog in their low-end sear. By comparison, the drums can sound unfortunately flat, particularly early on with Exit Bag and a tone reminiscent of smacking plastic tubs, but it adds up to some production inconsistencies that stop ten56. from entirely impressing here. It’s more a case of the intended jagged edges in the composition coming across as fractured and disconnected, in the band’s attempt to cultivate a more mechanical, industrial vibe feeling shakier than intended. Especially towards the end, these can stop sounding like full songs and more like pieces grafted together, and while the ambition is preferable to another generic deathcore chug-a-thon, there could be a bit more tact there to see it to the end. Still, for a debut in a genre that regularly proves mightily unimpressive, the fact that ten56. have produced anything worth sticking around for is a minor miracle in itself. The issues are noteworthy but not excessive for a new band, and getting a proper hold on where they’re going could spawn something pretty cool in the future. It’s not totally there now, but who knows what could happen with just a bit of time. • LN

6/10

For fans of: Betraying The Martyrs, Cane Hill, Emmure

‘Downer: Part 1’ by ten56. is released on 26th November on Out Of Line Music.


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

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