Blood Red Shoes
Ghosts On Tape
The exercise in treading water that is Blood Red Shoes’ latter-day career seems to be progressing at the expected rate. They’re a band demonstrably past their sound’s prime, both in cases of the garage-rock boom of the 2000s and the height of loud, minimalist duos in the 2010s, and really being most commendable in a tenacity to try and do something. That’s seldom better exemplified than on Ghosts On Tape, which bears the feeling of a band for whom moving forward is something they want to do, but they’re still unable to break free from a self-imposed plateau. For all the pretensions towards eerie, gothic swell that bring out the litheness these bands are starved of from birth, Blood Red Shoes’ attempts to utilise it are almost always stymied by the limitations of fuzzed-out garage-rock. Just take Sucker, with the ghostly synth hits and Laura-Mary Carter’s breathier vocal peel that’s a natural partner for it, but the loud, gated percussion still distracts from all of that in how heavily it enforces a total crawl. They seem to get the hang of it earlier in harsh throb of Morbid Fascination and better balance of low-cutting riffs and glassy atmosphere on Murder Me, but it isn’t something that lasts. More often than not, Ghosts On Tape shows that Blood Red Shoes have their ideas in place but can’t craft something all that memorable from them, and it winds up being just another flavour of the same issue that’s plagued them for years. At least this time there’s an extra dimension for personality to potentially exist in, even if it won’t achieve much of note like on Begging, or get sidelined almost entirely for the same-old on I Lose Whatever I Own. This is an album purportedly inspired by the life of serial killers and shadowy figures entangled in their own darkened psyche, and to Blood Red Shoes’ credit, the exploration and application feels about as deep as a band of their ilk is likely to produce. That is to say, the riff-rock motor will serve as the most powerful source over anything else, leaving any auxiliary features playing a distant second fiddle. To be fair, there’s more done here than with most, but Blood Red Shoes’ own predictability still finds a way to pierce through regardless.
For fans of: Band Of Skulls, Royal Blood, Deap Vally
‘Ghosts On Tape’ by Blood Red Shoes is released on 14th January on Velveteen Records.
Deathcore’s recent glow-up is becoming something to appreciate more and more, when the former base level of metal acumen is being turned into something genuinely fresh and exciting again. It’s the effect that bands like Slaughter To Prevail and Lorna Shore were popularising throughout last year, and that Enterprise Earth have taken up the mantle of now with The Chosen. They haven’t quite got the same viral groundswell as their aforementioned contemporaries, but there’s more practical experience here instead; this is their fourth full-length, and you can really tell in how they go into it guns ablaze, ready to pen their contribution among the top deathcore resurrectionists. The sound is undeniably there, huge and decadent with every coat of gloss left on, and possibly the closest to Lorna Shore’s expanse without going full-blown symphonic. It’s a great means of highlighting how imperative melody can be within this sound, especially when it’s not at the expense of levelling heaviness. There’s a succinct metal and metalcore influence woven throughout that makes a world of difference in realising scope, in how cleaner solos on Reanimate // Disintegrate, Unleash Hell and a handful of others are such an easy inroad to cranking up the bombast. At the same time, Enterprise Earth remain totally punishing, not just in tone which they’ve got in spades, but in a rhythm section that can feel surprisingly developed for deathcore as a source of momentum, and an aptitude for groove that isn’t expounded upon that much, but definitely leaves a mark when it shows up on I Have To Escape. It’s all emblematic of the more sophisticated deathcore that Enterprise Earth hit with phenomenal accuracy across the board; a song like Overpass as an eight-minute centrepiece could be seen as overextending to an almost comical degree within this genre, but the command of dynamics ramps up its effectiveness exponentially. Granted, there are still some stitches to pick apart here, mostly regarding how, despite rending apart the traditional deathcore boundaries, over an hour of Enterprise Earth’s particular flavour might feel a little much. Then again, the continued freshness in execution really does flip any such notion back on itself; as a blockbuster metal album in which its scene’s usual lyrical and performance touchstones welcome a fresh coat of paint immensely, The Chosen really is keeping that ceiling lifted nice and high. It’s effectively the perfect extension of what deathcore has been doing so right lately, from a band who completely understand where that appeal comes from and squeeze every drop of potential from it.
For fans of: Lorna Shore, Slaughter To Prevail, Brand Of Sacrifice
‘The Chosen’ by Enterprise Earth is released on 14th January on MNRK Heavy.
Back at the end of 2019 when VRSTY released Cloud City, they were a particularly anonymous new footnote in a metalcore scene that had begun to peter out long prior. Fast forward to now, and…well, they haven’t improved that enormously, but it’s enough to where it’s worth giving them a second look, if only to see where they could be heading. Issues are still the clear end goal—dense, polished metalcore helmed by a frontman with a notable aptitude for pop and R&B—but in VRSTY’s case, they edge ahead of others thanks to not treating their pop flair as mere window-dressing. Closer and Hush have a maximalist swing that leans heavily on a sweat-and-swagger pop slant, something that’s taken even further when King Of Pop subs out oft-banal metalcore empowerment for an ego that’s far more believably stirring. Unfortunately the rest of the writing is unable to rise with it, as VRSTY will swerve back into stock metalcore archetypes that the monochrome djent riffs sap even more character from, but on average, Welcome Home is probably catchier than most overall. Joey Varela has the cleaner tones and flowing vocal runs that facilitate that by design, even as the likes of Sick or Never Again try to stay locked into the usual position expected of them. That’s where VRSTY continue to stifle their best efforts, by not embracing the colour and fluidity that’s available to them, and ending up closer in prospect to many of their contemporaries mostly defined by typical metalcore bearing an R&B thread. Welcome Home is generally on the upper end of that scale, but it’d be wrong to present that as meaning the blocky guitar passages and breakdowns are any better, or that songs like We, Always and Gravity don’t feel underpowered under their own production cleanliness. Where Issues at their best could avoid that (or at least augment it with something more vibrant), VRSTY still have a way to go before the flashes of promise they exhibit are fully realised. Even so, Welcome Home is at least a couple of rungs clear of the mediocre cloud albums like this tend to fall in by default. It isn’t hard to realise that, nor is it to acknowledge that the often superficial efforts and outcomes of the scene are unequivocally more applied here. There’s enough in that to root for VRSTY if nothing else, a luxury that few bands like this even get far enough for.
For fans of: Issues, Hands Like Houses, Palisades
‘Welcome Home’ by VRSTY is released on 21st January on Spinefarm Records.
Volumes Of Vomit
Chances are you’ll recognise Party Cannon most from any number of festival posters, where their Toys ‘R’ Us logo stands out immeasurably from the illegible scrawl of the other heavy bands around them. That might be it though, considering they’re lodged in the generally unmalleable genre of slam, where even the more rambunctious implications of their self-described ‘party-slam’ spin-off are swallowed in a very normal, unsurprising genre release. In other words, Party Cannon are still more or less entirely beholden to what slam as a genre allows for them, for good and for ill. The former generally comes in moments or certain aspects, chiefly in how frontman Stony has some serious vocal fortitude to continuously sound like a clogged drain without getting worn out, not to mention switch-ups into pig grunts on 60 Stone Threesome and scraped-up gargling on I Believe In Dani Filth. Party Cannon are generally well-versed in slam’s necessities, and thus there’s at least a floor of quality they adhere to, slightly nudged up by consistently strong drumming from Count Blastula, and even a neat bit of bass noodling from Clankenstein on Electric Soldier Porygon. Looking at the bigger picture though, Volumes Of Vomit isn’t an album that offers much to differentiate itself from its peers, even despite Party Cannon’s best efforts. Among the typical incomprehensible barrage of vocalising, there’s more of a party vibe to this album, but that and the various samples peppered throughout don’t amount to much at the end of the day. The onus is put on them to emphasise a built-in ridiculousness, but simply throwing in clips from Peep Show or the ‘disgustin’’ meme won’t automatically boon something that, honestly, becomes the same background noise that so much of this genre can. If anything, Volumes Of Vomit can be quite the exhausting listen when Party Cannon insist on verging on the six- or seven-minute mark; a sound this constantly stampeding and hyper-aggressive isn’t designed for long periods, and the band will frequently test that notion until it outright breaks. Like so much of slam, this would fare a lot better when translated to the live environment, where the lack of real innovation is far less a factor and the energy given off can be more palpably embraced. As it stands though, it’s just another album to placate the slam fiends and do little else, which might be fair enough, but considering Party Cannon actively strive to be more than the norm, that can read as more defeatedly nonplussed overall.
For fans of: Devourment, Exhumed, Extermination Dismemberment
‘Volumes Of Vomit’ by Party Cannon is released on 14th January on Gore House Productions.
Words by Luke Nuttall