Anyone familiar with Bad Suns will probably know—or can admit—that they don’t make very purposeful or impactful music. That’s far from a unique trait within indie-pop-rock (just imagine how better the world would be if it was), but it’s probably their defining one, to where it comes as little surprise to see them embarking on their ‘80s pastiche pivot a good few years after that ship has sailed. To be fair, Apocalypse Whenever’s endeavours are more built around Bad Suns’ existing framework than over it; the power-pop vibe has been augmented rather than replaced, as the guitars and bass are thinned out and paired with synths, though not in an obtrusive way. It’s more akin to Bleachers’ approach to wringing out nostalgia, particularly when the swelled, big-hearted barrelling is at its fever pitch on Life Was Easier When I Only Cared About Me. It gets Bad Suns probably the closest to being fully memorable that they’ve ever been despite the utter lack of innovation, when songs like Baby Blue Shades and Peachy are supremely catchy enough to rise above their own derivative shackles. Generally, it comes down to how well Bad Suns can work will the elements that have effectively been handed down to them wholesale; Christo Bowman’s mewling on the title track and the locked-in-place guitar hyperactivity of Heaven Is A Place In My Head represent the less-appealing carry-overs from their source, but on the other hand, the saxophone break on Silently Screaming is so predictable, and yet the sort of decision that’s always hard not to crack a smile at. At the same time, Apocalypse Whenever is still coloured by the same shades of ephemerality that Bad Suns have painted with their entire career. Part of that comes from having their ‘80s throwback so far removed from the trend (a decision they probably thought would be more auspicious than it actually is), but the same narrow spectrum of indie-rock production tactics and writing styles aren’t making this leap off the page any more. It slots in Bad Suns’ catalogue more easily than they probably anticipated, regardless of the few extra drops of personality now in the mix. It’s a case where Bad Suns’ uniform serviceability is both a help and a hindrance, but to be charitable to a band who’ve never seemed to get all that close to a big break, it can curve more towards the former. It’s likable, if unremarkable fare, and on that front, business as usual. • LN
For fans of: Bleachers, Walk The Moon, Vinyl Theatre
‘Apocalypse Whenever’ by Bad Suns is released on 28th January on Epitaph Records.
The metalcore scene is seeing a wealth of high-quality releases currently being unleashed. Australian outfit Pridelands is no exception with their debut album Light Bends. Releasing music since 2015, the metalcore act have been steadily growing and the new album is certain to take their career up a gear. Opening the album with I Reach Into Your Heart, atmospheric synths and serene clean vocals deliver a sense of anticipation which slowly builds to a dramatic climax. Erupting into the powerful combination of heavy synths and metal instrumentation, the sound is turned up a notch with a burst of raw intensity added to the sound from the lead vocals. Light Bends is a demonstration of creative composition with each track bringing something different. Ranging from the eerie, dark sound of Parallel Lines through to The Lake Of Twisted Limbs with its stunning anthemic chorus contrasted with gentle piano-led, ambient verses. The album aptly reflects the moods and lyrics that produce a genuine connection with the music. Pridelands have been inventive playing with their textures; the sheer power of Heavy Tongue is constructed from full sounding guitars, playing with dynamics and melodies. The Sun Will Find Us draws Light Bends to an epic conclusion. Pridelands have taken their music to the next level, clearly pushing their own boundaries and carving out a distinctive sound in the metalcore arena. From beginning to end the album surprises with unexpected twists and turns. It’s definitely one of those records that deserves a few listens to be fully appreciated. • HR
For fans of: Make Them Suffer, Spiritbox, Polaris
‘Light Bends’ by Pridelands is out now on Sharptone Records.
Give it a bit of the time for the music to gestate, and the takes that ‘El Moono are the new Black Peaks’ are bound to come out in force. It’s not like there isn’t truth to that either—they’re defiantly lodged in the alt-prog sound, and augmented with Deftones’ swirling thunder and Thrice’s occasional pit-of-the-gut bleakness—but it also might be looking a bit too far ahead. Where Black Peaks felt like a fully-formed, articulated force from the beginning, even in their earlier incarnation Shrine, El Moono on this new EP seem to put more energy towards establishing themselves within that same space. That comes with basically having one musical idea at this point, and refining it to near perfection without branching out too much. The quaking bass and free-flowing liquidity in the guitars is exactly the way to craft a mood of turbulence, as the cyclical rises and falls craft something intriguing on Final Execution and Requiem, but don’t allow much else in besides that. Instead, there will be sprinklings of new ideas—some quicker drumming to round out Requiem; a more ragged progression at the start of Forced To Smile—that’ll all typically circle back to what’s honestly kind of rote by the end. It doesn’t help that Zac Jackson feels like the singer of a much more straightforward rock band, free of the mystique or enigmatic personality that frontmen of his stripe will often have, albeit hitting more of a stride in his screams or cried vocals on Miseria. The mental health angle at least provides some grounding, but that’s not really an issue for a band who are yet to embrace the full power of the sound at their disposal. They get closest on the final track White Gold, almost to hint that there is indeed more to come in that vein, but Temple Corrupted on the whole serves as a better showcase of profiency to be springboarded from than much else. A shame given that bands like this tend to get their claws in quicker than most, but there’s still enough about El Moono for them to remain on the radar regardless. • LN
For fans of: Deftones, Thrice, Phoxjaw
‘Temple Corrupted’ by El Moono is released on 4th February on Lockjaw Records.
In The Midnight Hour
Proudly stamped on the front of Perennial’s new album is the phrase ‘12 songs, 22 minutes’, a mission statement that’s very easy to get behind and support unconditionally, but also one that probably undersells what’s actually contained within. For what invokes blitzed-out, no-nonsense punk only constitutes one part of Perennial’s funhouse on In The Midnight Hour, one that’s liable to zip off in multiple directions with next to zero negative repercussions on how irresistible this is. It comes across like a DNA splice between Fucked Up and Death From Above 1979, for dance-punk that’s vibrant and carrying an almost impossibly wide breath of touch points musically. It’d be nicer if some of the more out-there ideas felt less like vestigial codas (see the Arthur Brown-esque psychedelics on The Skeleton Dance or the organ-heavy beach-pop to close I Am The Whooping Crane), but there isn’t much to complain about otherwise. Where sounding frenzied and frenetic tends to come at the expense of tight composition, Perennial are keyed into methods that accentuate both beautifully. With the bass tone on Melody For A New Cornet that’s rubbery, sturdy and incisive all at once, or the terrific surf-rock riff on Hour Of The Wolf, these still feel like full, fleshed-out songs that never get lost in their myriad of swirling ideas. They seldom get the chance to, mind, when these tracks rarely crack two minutes, but that’s probably the keenest showcase of Perennial’s strengths overall. It brings to mind bands like Blood Brothers or Refused in how intense the focus can be, and how it encompasses those forward-thinking elements wholesale. Chelsey Hahn and Chad Jewett contribute over a dozen different sonic sources between them, all tightly wired in and blessed with some excellent production with The World Is A Beautiful Place…’s Chris Tufi, in what feels like a masterclass in bringing punk forward. The two also top it off with the exact sort of yelped, electrified vocals that these abstract lyrics and dynamo pacing crave, an excellent, perpetually riotous album that just brings out more and more with every repeat listen. This has all the makings of an underrated underground classic, and it’s hard to believe that Perennial would have it any other way. • LN
For fans of: Refused, Fucked Up, Death From Above 1979
‘In The Midnight Hour’ by Perennial is released on 1st February.
Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)