REVIEW ROUND-UP: Black Label Society, Like Pacific, Kid Bookie

Black Label Society

Doom Crew Inc.

After eleven albums, the Black Label Society machine comes with more than a few expectations. New releases are likely to be a little long and drawn-out, but there’ll always be a level of quality that keeps it afloat regardless, and end up evening out to something worth paying some attention to in the end. It mightn’t even be worth going much further when Doom Crew Inc. is effectively that to the letter, but at the same time, it’s impressive that Black Label Society have maintained such an unshakable standard this far in, without ever being pushed into more of a realm of recognised greatness. Granted, that’s probably because Zakk Wylde has a space in that pantheon all to himself, and he really exercises his right to be there on this album. As is to be expected, the guitars are easily the meat of the matter on Doom Crew Inc., between the titanic solos given as much room as they need to spiral and roar, and the base of Alice In Chains analogues in the slow, downbeat floes of riffage that are always entertaining to get caught up in. It’s perhaps the slower moments that stand out most though, in a couple of different senses; going full piano-ballad on Love Reign Down is not the most entertaining of directions for a singer as burly and rough-edged as Wylde, but it’s far better realised on Forever And A Day and Farewell Ballad, the bones thrown to classic rock worship that’s right in the sweet spot of working for a band who draw this much from more traditional heavy metal. That’s where the most attention is going to be paid, in the style and palette that Black Label Society have been amongst for over 20 years, and which is yet to budge from its sources but yet to disappoint either. Particularly in the writing, there’s nothing here to outright shock, but the combination of evident talent from all involved and a drive that’s yet to quelled gives Doom Crew Inc. the edge by design. What’s more, there are few noteworthy dips in tonal tempo that are that negatively affecting, as if two-plus-decades’ worth of inspiration doesn’t have to fall victim to attrition by time, and a band can simply continue being good without plugging into a cash-grab. Perhaps that’s why Black Label Society aren’t as big as others in their field—they aren’t willing to compromise as easily and water down a talent that’s stood out for them so prominently. Still, it pays off in the output, with Doom Crew Inc. maintaining a luster that doesn’t look to dull any time soon. • LN

7/10

For fans of: Alice In Chains, Down, Corrosion Of Conformity

‘Doom Crew Inc.’ by Black Label Society is out now on Spinefarm Records.


Like Pacific

Control My Sanity

In the past, the stranglehold that the mid-2010s pop-punk du jour had on Like Pacific was palpable. A wave meticulously crafted around The Story So Far’s career path led to a band greatly weakened by a lack of individuality, something that was only amplified by a hardcore ‘angst’ that had genuineness to it, but could also feel like an extension of a norm that wasn’t that appealing to begin with. That was the case even as recently as 2018, but thankfully, Control My Sanity is a lot more likable, perhaps being Like Pacific’s most melodically satisfying work to date. Yes, they’re still no closer to being wholly original—their most unique qualities are the occasional screamed accompaniment and the elventh-hour post-hardcore experiment Time Won’t Heal—but they feel a lot bigger and more powerful here, rather than riding off the residual push of their own wave. To be fair as well, they’re not entirely in line with pop-punk’s mainstream anymore; any sleekness or highly-produced mixes are pretty absent, in favour of a brawnier sound that does hit the right punk criteria. Particularly early on with Ketamine Jesus and Love Them And Leave Them, among others, the balance between a pop core of songcrafting and the churning weight of the guitars and drums is met to an exemplary degree. It’s also a more natural context for Jordan Black’s vocals, replacing what could feel like a somewhat stylised angst with something that’s more free-flowing and naturally evolving, the product of two years of depression and the most real, genuine catharsis that Like Pacific have ever produced. It’s darker and stormier than the genre is wont to be nowadays, and that’s entirely to its credit, where following the expected genre guidelines ultimately has more merit when considering what it’s currently going up against. As much as Like Pacific have never been a force within pop-punk, Control My Sanity is the first time they’ve really stood up and made a body of work that demands attention, perhaps a bit later than would’ve been preferable but with impact all the same. • LN

7/10

For fans of: The Story So Far, Trophy Eyes, Real Friends

‘Control My Sanity’ by Like Pacific is released on 3rd December on Pure Noise Records.


Kid Bookie

Cheaper Than Therapy

It’s fitting that the biggest rapper featuring on Cheaper Than Therapy is Tech N9ne, another spitter with fleeting connections to rock crossovers, and yet remains pretty scattered with regards to his own works. That, in a nutshell, is how Kid Bookie comes across, fresh from building relationships with Corey Taylor and Hacktivist to further the crossover rap-rock angle and finding whatever ways he can to twist them around here. On one hand, it’s refreshing to hear this sort of approach given more agility in the delivery rather than another Scarlxrd-esque torrent of cranium-rupturing screams, but it’s hard to isolate whether there’s much more benefit from that. Clearly Kid Bookie isn’t trying to be a full-force, and there’s a few lyrical flows that earmark someone who clearly knows what they’re doing, but so much of this struggles to connect in notably familiar ways. For one, the lyrical themes rarely extend beyond the norm for this sort of material, albeit with a bit more flavour, but not enough to justify the album’s 20 tracks that can feel awfully shallow at points. Where the novelty is present on earlier cuts like Fur Minxxx and Liquor, Sex, Weed, it really starts to plummet as the album goes on and becomes to considerable slog to get through. There’s also the Chad Noback ‘skits’ to add onto that, where the industry-baiting humour (to use the term so incredibly loosely) is always forced and predictable, and they’re frankly awful inclusions on an already flabby release. Clearly the emphasis on proctoring Bookie himself is the album’s main goal, and to be fair, he’s got enough character to get a good amount of the way there. The problem comes in how he doesn’t yet have an interesting lane in which to fix himself and explore; the rap-rock moments feel crisper in the beats but just as slovenly and tuneless, and the pop concessions like Really Really Like You and As Long As My Heart Bleeds aren’t all that compelling from an artist who clearly has his sights set greater. It presents an odd dichotomy of mismanaged ideas and the wherewithal to try more than expected regardless of the outcome; hearing Corey Taylor rap is not something anyone has ever wanted, but no one else has it on their album. That has to count for something at least, and Kid Bookie’s willingness to try at least sets him above his peers, if only barely. • LN

5/10

For fans of: Tech N9ne, Astroid Boys, Scarlxrd

‘Cheaper Than Therapy’ by Kid Bookie is out now.


The Browning

End Of Existence

The Browning’s new album End Of Existence is the ultimate experience of their electronicore sound. With guttural death growls and heavy intensity of deathcore, epic electronics bringing a huge EDM sound and a unique creative edge, the genre fusing produces a dynamic result. Anticendency features a haunting softly delivered, clean vocal line accompanied with bouncing synth melodies driving the track forward. Pounding djent guitars and bass, along with intense percussion provide a solid grounding for the electronics to explode above. The album transcends between the heavy extremes and ethereal soundscapes. Cataclysm begins with the focus on the latter. Airy pads create a vast backdrop for lead melody that has a soaring, uplifting feel. Even when the distortion fuelled guitars kick in a gothic choir pad maintains the ethereal mood, only now it has much more gravity. The widespread interplay of genres and styles across the instrumentation opens up numerous possibilities for sounds and The Browning take full advantage of this. No Man Can Become A God sees some really interesting experimentation with tones and chord progressions. The eerie dissonance segues into a major progression before falling back into darker, minor tones. The effect is powerful with a somewhat chaotic feel. The metalcore style chorus thrown into the mix works perfectly as does the intense breakdown. There is some much that could be said about End Of Existence and this review only just uncovers the surface. The sheer audacity to combine so many different styles, textures, and instruments is fantastic. Each track brings something new and unexpected. It’s probably not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you love the experimental and utterly ridiculous this album is not to be missed. • HR

9/10

For fans of: Vildhjarta, Trivium, Spiritbox

‘End Of Existence’ by The Browning is released on 3rd December on Spinefarm Records.


No Bragging Rights

No Bragging Rights

For some, the return of No Bragging Rights will be something to scream of on high. Their reputation within melodic hardcore really does precede their comparative size, a band with the emotional, thought-provoking songwriting to stand out within the scene and lend their fast, blasted-out hardcore even more power. The thing is though, the same description can be applied to plenty of other bands just like them, to the extent where it can be pretty easy to see why No Bragging Rights haven’t caught on in the same way as more obviously ambitious or powerful bands. That’s not to say this new self-titled EP isn’t good, because it certainly is; it’s their first lot of new material since 2014 and comes without a hint of rust on it, both in the instrumental pummelling from sharpened guitars and drums, and in lyrics from Mike Perez’s experiences as a social worker that tackle typically biting and personal subject matter. It makes for the expected full-force yet intelligent beatdown that’s synonymous with No Bragging Rights, even if the lack of surprise or subsequent growth can form a ceiling above it. There’s also the fact that No Bragging Rights aren’t quite as refined in their melodies as some of their contemporaries, meaning that, while the hallmarks of the same success are there, it doesn’t punch to the same degree overall. To call it experimental would be going too far, but the lack of real obvious hooks or easy-to-latch-on melodic moments means this isn’t as potent as its admittedly excellent sound and presentation would want it to be. It’s a shame when No Bragging Rights are punching above the usual weight class expected for this sound, but it goes to show more than anything that the norm works for a reason, and this isn’t quite there. Maybe a full album will sound more impressive; hopefully so, but something like this really deserves more praise than it can actively justify here. • LN

6/10

For fans of: Comeback Kid, Close Your Eyes, For The Fallen Dreams

‘No Bragging Rights’ by No Bragging Rights is released on 3rd December on Pure Noise Records.


Kid Dad

Bloom

Kid Dad feel like the modern reincarnation of a ‘90s alt-rock band in a lot of ways. They’re accessible to a fault, but there’s a creative instinct and flexibility that’s comparatively rare nowadays, and for what’s still a pretty new band to have that shape their identity is unquestionably a good quality to have. It’s basic the defining feature of this new EP after all, with each track individually feeling like something of a proposed new direction for any upcoming work, but still being able to fit together rather concisely. This time, they’ve dialled down some of the post-hardcore of their last album for a deeper art-pop sound, swirling across the likes of Apartment and As Soon As America while Wire & Guns affixes it to a more standard rock banger via a tactile, Strokes-esque guitar fizz. The implications of this being a collection of singles are definitely there in some diffuse creative moments and lyrical content, but it’s never as distractingly looming as these sorts of EPs usually boast, and Kid Dad have the sort of technician approach to music making that they’ll lean into it and still find great success. Marius Vieth is the standout among the outfit which a sharp, nasal vocal tone that, just like those ‘90s staples, brings more in personality than technical proficiency, but that’s totally in-keeping with Kid Dad as a unit. For what could be effortlessly slotted under the ever-nebulous ‘alt-rock’ banner, Bloom has far more defining characteristics of its own and continues to find this band stand out all the more for it. There’s a freshness that comes through without being completely alien, a testament to how deeply Kid Dad’s creativity runs when a significant overhaul can still produce material as reliably strong as this is. Kid Dad really are becoming sleeper-hitters of modern alt-rock, seemingly under everyone’s noses, and while that’s impressive in itself, it’d still be nice to see them paid the dues they’ve earned. After all, they’re better than most who’ll actually get that recognition. • LN

7/10

For fans of: Biffy Clyro, The Strokes, The Deadnotes

‘Bloom’ by Kid Dad is released on 10th December on Long Branch Records.


Rising Insane

Afterglow

As much as European metalcore has become a domineering market in its own right, the truth is that you’d be hard-pressed to remember much of it. That can be applied to most waves or subsets of metalcore, a genre that always seems to get shafted with oversaturation at every turn, and seldom seems to produce much in the way of standouts at any point. So while it mightn’t be totally accurate to say Rising Insane are that, they’re definitely a better flavour on Afterglow, if only because a degree of accessibility and tunefulness isn’t treated as an afterthought. They’re akin to a poppier Architects at points, not only in Aaron Steineker’s vocal tone that’s a dead ringer on its own, but in a sound that’s robust and clean and not obscuring its composition. Unlike so many in their lane, Rising Insane do feel as though they have songs rather than extended djent-y pieces; the songs themselves might be fairly standard fare in the mental health and inner demons template, but the first steps do count for something. And it’s not to say that Rising Insane tower over their contemporaries either, not when the production is still a bit too scrubbed and colourless the cultivate much weight, but Afterglow remains far easier to swallow regardless. If nothing else, it’s a competent move forward that most would be wise to take heed at, because this is ultimately where better music in that specific metalcore vein can come from. See this more as a proof of concept than a triumphant paradigm shift then; there’s still a way to go for Rising Insane to reach the top of the hill, but at least their path feels marginally less obstructed. • LN

6/10

For fans of: Architects, Annisokay, Northlane

‘Afterglow’ by Rising Insane is released on 10th December on Long Branch Records.


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

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