REVIEW ROUND-UP: Helen Love, Great American Ghost, Age Of Apocalypse, Led By Lanterns

Helen Love

This Is My World

From the off, This Is My World feels like a substantially different Helen Love album. Love and her eponymous band have built a reputation off a hefty collection of buoyant, fizzy punk-pop, something that’s been considerably pulled back on here. The shift in sound feels clearly informed by the pandemic, in how insular and tied to Love’s Welsh seaside hometown it is, not to mention the greater streaks of indie-pop that can easily be traced to countrymen like Super Furry Animals or even a recent Manic Street Preachers. But like with a lot of punks of a certain stripe—that being welcoming of pop influences rather than actively hostile towards them—This Is My World can struggle to leave its mark. Particularly in the writing, it’s indicative of a more old-fashioned approach to indie-pop that’s so hyper-earnest that it’s difficult to totally dislike, but can be rather twee and kitschy at the same time. Perhaps that’s where the cynicism of the modern world has caught up, but the bubblegum angle of songs like Go-Kart and Let The Sunshine In can feel borderline weightless, and not in a particularly riveting way. ‘Quaint’ is probably the best descriptor for what this averages out to, where there’s a slighter, more whimsical feel to it that can sometimes be at the expense of an emotional identity that songs like My Seaside Town and Our House are better at mapping out. At the same time though, the homegrown charm is genuinely nice and warm, when Love’s approachability as a vocalist lends itself well to how self-contained Billy Liar or The Social Club are. The change in sound is also quite refreshing too; there’s more of a tastefulness in how the guitars and strings will flutter, as distortion is largely cast off and in its place sits a calming, comfortable exhale that’s almost always well-executed. There’s definitely more of that quaintness but it’s arguably more consistent here, and more facilitating of a childlike quality that Let The Sunshine In or Clearing Out Mum’s House are tied to. If nothing else, the disco-infused title track stands as the album’s thesis, a celebration of what was and what is that always has its heart in the right place, no matter where the focus lands.

6/10

For fans of: The Ramones, Devo, The Just Joans

‘This Is My World’ by Helen Love is released on 28th January on Alcopop! Records.


Great American Ghost

Torture World

Pure and simple, the last Great American Ghost album wasn’t appreciated nearly enough. As one of hardcore’s shining lights whose praises have gone routinely unsung, that doesn’t come as a surprise, but they’re also as good as this stuff gets, and it doesn’t seem fair that isn’t being highlighted more. That’ll likely also be the same for Torture World too, when it really shouldn’t; there’s rarely this much of a clear thrill in modern hardcore, either in listening to it or being the ones playing it. This is undeniably good, that couldn’t be more obvious, but the bid to so regularly top themselves and sound so righteous through it is where Torture World burns brightest, even just as a four-track EP. None of them sound that similar, but the bristling, bruising fervour of a band continuing at the top of their game is a more forceful connector. It all just goes unbelievably hard too, in the serrated lurch-and-lash of Kingmaker; the gnashing frenzy of Womb; or just the oppressively bleak mood that amplifies the crush. Even in the spots of melody on the title track and Death Forgives No One, they’re still filtered through a gnarled clean performance from Ethan Harrison, who carries a caldera-forming intensity over from his screams with faultless ease. That’s to be expected on a release looking to rip apart systems of societal disparity and equality with a violent vim, but the extent to which it’s amplified is where the conversation about Great American Ghost’s underrated status really lies. It’s the other side of the coin to Knocked Loose in a way, subbing out a grip on old-school metalcore for death metal and its colder, harsher heaviness. Debating which works better simply comes down to a matter of preference seeing as both bands represent the apogee of metal-infused hardcore, of which Great American Ghost find themselves battling against the tide but prevailing nonetheless. Seriously, this is not a band to keep sleeping on; that’s been the case for way too long, and it’s letting one of the brutal, brilliant acts in hardcore today fall by the wayside.

8/10

For fans of: Knocked Loose, Jesus Piece, Judiciary

‘Torture World’ by Great American Ghost is released on 20th January on MNRK Heavy.


Age Of Apocalypse

Grim Wisdom

Fitting for a band sharing their name with one of the more noteworthy X-Men storylines, there’s a bit about Age Of Apocalypse that’s fairly mutant. ‘90s hardcore stands as the base, crossbred with an alt-metal bent that’s yielded plenty of comparisons to Life Of Agony already. That’s all well and good, but it also feels like selling something that’s not there when Age Of Apocalypse’s ‘impression’ is too flabby and ill-defined to even hide behind a likeness for leverage. The immediate killing blow is rather obvious too, namely in Dylan Kalpowitz’s vocals. Sticking largely to cleans on an album like this is a bold decision, but the execution at times is borderline indefensible for how shabby and unpleasant it is. At best, it’s limited to contributing to the darker atmosphere against the knells of Begging The Reaper; at worst, it falls into inelegant, cow-being-branded bellowing with an attempt to inject some gothic pomp that winds up presenting as the lovechild of Glenn Danzig and Sloth from The Goonies. The mix does it no favours either, muddy and mid-level that can make the words formed almost indecipherable when his cries are being fully hacked out. It’s the greatest kneecapping factor on what would otherwise be a fine enough listen, at least for what Age Of Apocalypse are trying to do. Granted, there’s not a ton of mileage in that either when the majority comprises of mid-paced chugging that can feel bizarrely cut-down at times, but the roil and rumble is solid enough, and moments of gold do shine through in the metallic clatter of the drums on Ghost (Hart Island) and the rounder pockets of bass on Casualty Of Time. In terms of where this hardcore / alt-metal hybrid goes though, Grim Wisdom is a rather truncated, unfulfilling example of it overall. Age Of Apocalypse never truly hit a stride, nor do they provide substantive evidence of what they can do actually working, and on an album not even cracking half an hour, it’s a problem when the highlights are so meagre and isolated. This is not unsalvageable by any means, but there’s not much to be wowed by either; less of a death by a thousand cuts, and more a couple of bludgeons to the face that achieve the same result.

4/10

For fans of: Life Of Agony, Therapy?, Prong

‘Grim Wisdom’ by Age Of Apocalypse is released on 21st January on Closed Casket Activities.


Led By Lanterns

Paralysis

For all the inferences that can be made about Led By Lanterns on a first impression, that they’re only a couple of steps away from last decade’s Britrock that’d barely get further than its Lava TV rotation (if you know, you know), it doesn’t take long to realise they’re a far worthier prospect. They’re actually closer to the Don Broco school of modern alt-rock, in how dense and snappily produced they are while still factoring in some impressive instrumental crunch. Even for what’s effectively an expanded collection of singles that have floated around since 2019, Paralysis’ formidable momentum is something to behold, in the band’s knack for a cratering hook across a great swathe of the tracklist. Shaun Hill has the ideal voice to steer it too, buttery smooth with a notable smoulder and harder edge that, for the typically broad swings at mental health and inner darkness, offer more weight than most are willing to. There’s the feeling of actual turbulence and tension in the buzzed-out heft the guitars bring, albeit lacking some of the groove that could do more here. Compared to Don Broco and how their basslines frequently feel like a track’s central element, a song like Catacombs on here can feel bricked-out and over-mixed in its rigidity, something which tamping down even the heaviness for Satellite makes an even more obvious downgrade. At their best though (which, to be fair, comprises a lot of what’s offered here), Led By Lanterns can tap into their best qualities with remarkable ease. They’ve already got a good crop of explosive moments in Alive, the title track, Six Feet Down and plenty others, where they’ll simply smash through their own lack of dynamics on the back of how massive this all sounds. They vault past ‘standard’ Britrock without even breaking a sweat, and having more or less filled out a solid contemporary mould is the important boost that’s always useful to have for a band like this. Even away from being the totally finished article, there’s already an angle with lot more personality to go off, and that’s a rarity worth holding on to.

7/10

For fans of: Don Broco, Normandie, Modern Error

‘Paralysis’ by Led By Lanterns is released on 28th January.


Words by Luke Nuttall

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