Author & Punisher
The latest of nine full-length releases in their extensive career, the album dives into a dystopian fantasy of intense industrial soundscapes and epic electronics. Returning three years after the last release, Author & Punisher’s sound feels revitalised and refreshed. Drone Carrying Dread kicks off the album with towering beats, pounding bass and soaring vocals. Everything combines to produce a ludicrously huge sound. Each instrumental and vocal layer has its own places perfectly balanced against each other. The heaviness comes through with a hard-hitting impact while the melodies and soaring components elevate the music. Incinerator descends into the depths of oblivion with dramatic, nightmarish synths. Soft vocals contradict the more aggressive impactful chorus, the dark nature of lyrics emphasises the haunting atmosphere even further. Centurion, featuring Justin Chancellor of Tool, brings a thrilling combination of mechanical electronics and utterly heavy guitars and bass. Misery with Tool’s Danny Carey not unsurprisingly places the drums in prominent position in the mix and this creates an interesting dynamic with the other parts. The power of the percussion drives the momentum, while droning bass synths blend the track’s constituent parts together. Blacksmith featuring VYTEAR fuses harsh lead synths bringing an air of chaos. Some of the synths perhaps could have done with taming slightly as the listening experience is somewhat tricker to digest here out of all the tracks on Krüller, that being said the creativity and themes running through are well designed. Krüller is an explosive album, Author & Punisher has strived to go in bigger and better with this release and it shows. Each track has its own identity; the range of soundscapes and ideas explored makes for a very strong album. This album does require a few listens as it is so extreme, but it’s worth the effort for the epic payoff. • HR
For fans of: Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Perturbator
‘Krüller’ by Author & Punisher is released on 11th February on Relapse Records.
Mad Gone Wild
Once again, Johnossi’s continued plugging away with a work ethic completely separate from worrying about trends underlines them as a band to really root for. ‘Underdogs’ might be pushing it when they’re now seven albums in (and, y’know, they’ve won a Swedish Grammy), but it never takes long on their albums for it to snap into focus how big they could be when they’re playing with an unmistakable accessibility. They’re trying to make it known how noteworthy that is on Mad Gone Wild too, ending up generally separated from those shackled to the very middle of the road, but in a way that’s not indicative of one of Johnossi’s stronger works. Perhaps expectations are skewed after 2020’s Torch // Flame was more fiery and rejuvenated, but Mad Gone Wild’s general air of haphazardness and inconsistency is a real downer coming from this band. They’re working with Pelle Gunnerfeldt on production once again, but it’s noticeably less impactful, whether that’s in spins on riff-rock that feel incredibly unbalanced between guitars and drums on Something = Nothing and Yeah Yeah, or an overall rounding out that kneecaps a potentially workable groove on A Passenger. The base is still recognisable at the end of the day—Foo Fighters, Muse, Queens Of The Stone Age, et al—but this particular spin isn’t as assured as it has been. Inconsistency has been there in the past too, but not as obviously as this; there’s a piecemeal approach to crafting an album that was thankfully evaded in the past, only to take the brunt of it now. The hits do land though, in the bassy thrum and clean synthesis between imperious atmosphere and rock elements on the title track, or scuffed variations of Springsteen-esque heartland-rock with Koala Before The Storm and Black Hole. It’s Wizard Of Os that’s the headline-grabber though, weaving through instrumental stoner-rock and a sun-baked insidiousness in its central riff that’s by far the best composition here. It’s outward-reaching without going beyond its means, something that Mad Gone Wild should have more of a foothold in considering the type of rock they’re drawing from, though struggle to manage. Add to that what’s supposedly an exploration of insanity supposedly inspired by both Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver—something which this medium is emphatically not equipped for to begin with—and Johnossi begin to seem a bit confused as to where to go next. It’s always good that they’re not just coasting, but there comes a time when some stock needs to be taken of the most efficient way to do that. It’s probably about time they give that a try, for the sake of what comes next. • LN
For fans of: The Black Keys, Foo Fighters, Muse
‘Mad Gone Wild’ by Johnossi is released on 11th February on BMG.
Cold Night For Alligators
The Hindsight Notes
Yes, that band name is a special kind of awful, but at least Cold Night For Alligators have strived to make up for it over the years. Early classifications of ‘progressive deathcore’ that have stuck around seem pretty inaccurate now, for a band who’ve become far more attuned to the fluid, melodic side of tech-metal that tends to produce the genre’s better results. And largely, The Hindsight Notes is one of those albums, but more for the fact that Cold Night For Alligators aren’t simply the newest rehash of the tech-metal template over anything they’re doing themselves. On its own merits, this isn’t bad, but there isn’t much instrumental dynamism to keep it memorable outside of some occasional heavier guitar chugs (still as stiff and regimented as ever, though) and the screams that very infrequently show up on Behind Curtains or Thin Line. On the plus side—and where Cold Night For Alligators come into their own the most—they’ve got a better command of pop hook-crafting than others in their field, where Verism and Worn Out Mannequin have a swell and bluster to them that, at times, can even carry shades of more accessible prog from Karnivool or Dead Letter Circus. It’s definitely more easily listenable for that, and even if vocalist Johan Pederson has a tendency to indulge too much in his own histrionics (how very Matt Bellamy-esque of him…), there’s still plenty of character there that’s easy to appreciate. Cold Night For Alligators are extremely driven by their own sense of drama here, which is why the production feels so dense and forward-facing to represent that, and the lyrics are effectively draped around that impulse. And honestly, that can be good to hear from a band who (compared to the wider genre) are more in their own lane; The Hindsight Notes does feel as though it’s been built from something more in line with the norm and expanded upon appropriately. Granted, that puts it in the same ballpark as a band like Periphery, and comparing the two, it’s no contest as to who comes out on top. Cold Night For Alligators simply don’t have the same verve or excitability to make their music even fresher still, no matter how much of a nice surprise the saxophone break on No Connection is. In that respect, this is still a bit too guarded to properly fly, but that’s not to say the jumps it makes are nothing. It’s a solid palette-cleanser for a scene that’s still in desperate need of a shake-up, and it’d honestly be nice for Cold Night For Alligators to have that honour. Even with a lot of worth still needing to done, more of this over the umpteenth diet iteration of Northlane would be much appreciated. • LN
For fans of: Periphery, Nothing More, Dead Letter Circus
‘The Hindsight Notes’ by Cold Night For Alligators is released on 4th February on Arising Empire.
In A Middle English Town
If you somehow still need proof of the trickle-down effect ongoing in post-punk, look no further than the new EP from Home Counties. Yes, it’s a phenomenon that’s yet to pass, and the updraft created by Sports Team is clearly taken full advantage of on In A Middle English Town, not to an unenjoyable degree either. Compared to some, Home Counties do actually strive to create an identity of their own, through the rubberiness and excitable tics and whirrs peppered across the expected foundation of staccato guitars and well-endowed basslines. There’s an older, more ragged indie-pop colour to it, as the synths bubble and saunter across a post-punk backdrop that has the same homegrown uniformity that’s become the expected norm, only now with a bit more unique flavor to it. Of course, when that’s stacked up so high on a track like Village Spirit—complete with a progression styled on dub and a much less concise layering job overall—there’s a tendency to topple, but Home Counties are surprisingly good at avoiding that, or at least getting themselves in a position when it’s not as noticeable. For only four tracks, there’s a lot packaged in here musically, and the almost skittish approach to where the most focus is placed actually does them more good than harm. Will Harrison has the expected austere vocals and sardonic humour that frontmen like this always tend to embody, but pitted against the ever-moving instrumental and his own embrace of poppier agility (see the spoken-word ramblings and undeniable earworm of a chorus on Back To The ‘70s), and you start to see where the pieces come together rather cleanly. For a band who still sit deeply within their genre remit, Home Counties aren’t regimented to the same extent; fittingly enough, they do share more with Sports Team for that very reason. Just as much through a look at nationwide division and austerity isn’t a miles away from most others (particularly in the brand of humour it’s woven with), through the lens of smaller Middle English towns, there’s a different style to it that does come through. It’s probably too early to say where that’ll lead—and indeed, whether the career cues of their spiritual predecessors will continue to be mirrored here—but Home Counties make the sort of music that it’d be good to see more of, as a means of ruffling up the post-punk and indie monotony. The fact they’re already capable of that is as good a sign as any that there’s probably a lot more to be found here going forward. • LN
For fans of: Sports Team, Courting, FEET
‘In A Middle English Town’ by Home Counties is released on 11th February on Alcopop! Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)