Dan Andriano & The Bygones
Dan Andriano’s presence among the suite of punk-journeymen-turned-solo-troubadours does step out of convention, but it’s no less welcome. As the bassist of Alkaline Trio, he’s far removed from bearded, bellowing confessionalism that tends to accompany this career trajectory, but the pedigree still stands, both in his main gig and in what he’s put out on the side. Dear Darkness comes as more of the same, the first release with his new band The Bygones, and yet another succinct summation of what makes alt-punk like this frequently great. The presentation is no-frills and the songwriting is brimming with character, maybe only let down by a comparative slightness exacerbated through who exactly it’s squaring up with. The Gaslight Anthem stands as the obvious comparison point, not just in the rustic soul-punk roots but also the sepia shades of country and classic rock seasoning, and the ever-so-slight dip that Dear Darkness undergoes in its last couple of tracks highlights how Andriano and co aren’t quite on the same footing yet. That’s far from a deal-breaker though, when so much of this album can still drill down into the core appeal of this sound and run with it. When the choruses of Sea Level or the title track hit, they’ve got the weathered, slightly older but no less exuberant viewpoint that’ll forever be an easy sell, backed by a mid-paced warmth and inviting bass and guitar tone, and Andriano’s distinct vocal tone that’s arguably the most tangible source of light here. That’s definitely appropriate for the journey out of the titular darkness this album takes, in which Andriano finds new sources of positivity and spends the album extolling its blessings. That also contributes to the slightness that the album can suffer from in spots—there’s just something about a good bout of Sisyphean existentialism that makes albums like this pop, y’know—but tracks like Wrong or One Minute Wasted never sound cloying either. Indeed, when the jangling pianos of the former are set aside for its big guitar swings and arena-rock solo, the ease of which this album can be liked rarely feels more apparent. The odd lyrical detail is just the icing on the cake too; Narcissus, Amateur Classic Narcissist throws out the absolute gem “I can rely on what appears to be / An alarming lack of vertebrae in me”, but as with every other aspect of their work, Andriano and his band are as reliable as one could expect. It’s seldom mind-blowing but hits its target with remarkable accuracy and frequency, the sort of alt-punk album that has a place in any anorak’s collection even if it won’t be at the vaunted top spot. The pejoration of ‘side-project’ shouldn’t apply here; the natural charm, talent and prowess alone practically assures that from the start. • LN
For fans of: The Gaslight Anthem, The Menzingers, Hot Water Music
‘Dear Darkness’ by Dan Andriano & The Bygones is released on 11th February on Epitaph Records.
When new emo-rappers come up on the radar, it’s hard to feel much else other than pity. Even when the genre peaked a couple of years back, the lack of originality from basically everyone could make it all a tremendous slog, so to see the stragglers try and found something worthwhile now with the crest of the wave far behind them never drums up much hope. So props to sadeyes, then, for taking a few more creative liberties taken than with your average emo-rap potboiler on monarch, albeit not enough to spur a sea change on its own accord. The hyperpop clashes are actually a pretty decent touch for exacerbating a frayed mental state on i’m not okay or hi hru, and make the aversion to the usual skeletal, dour setup feel all the more noteworthy. sadeyes actually places a lot of stock in pop instinct; that can yield the clump of cottony bedroom-pop fluff to underwhelmingly round things off, but also brings a smoothness and a glisten to unexpected and hopeless (even if the latter effectively riffs on the instrumental from Post Malone’s Circles). And yet, beneath all of that, the staid, ho-hum heart of emo-rap beats as rhythmically as ever, colouring a broken relationship and an ever-blasé state of depression to fall perfectly in line with all the rest. It’s the exact thing that made the last crop so tiresome, and with very few concessions made to standing out thematically. There’s scumbag and poison that try and crank up the toxicity to achieve something, only to wind up as supremely childish in the routes they take, to subsequently make an album already barren of much detail feel even more like a posture. Once again, the levied criticism of never fleshing out the depression in a tangible, unique way runs rampant here; maybe there’s an edge thanks to context clues in how jagged and erratic some production choices are, but that’s still a long way from rectifying a fundamental issue with the entire genre that’s still refusing to grow. sadeyes himself isn’t helping on that front either, another dead-eyed, monotone sadboi largely indistinguishable from the rest, if not generally shown up by the bigger names guesting on the album like nothing,nowhere. and lil xtra. It’s very much a ‘one step forward, one step back’ deal, where the widened musical palette and embrace of production styles runs into the immovable banality of emo-rap as a format, and averages out to something that’s only stronger than most by a hair. It could’ve been a cool new spin, but a destiny to be generally forgotten is just too inescapable, apparently. • LN
For fans of: guccihighwaters, lil xtra, Ashnikko
‘monarch’ by sadeyes is released on 11th February on Epitaph Records.
Remember InVisions? No one would blame you if you didn’t, seeing as they were once positioned as their heirs to Attila’s unpleasant, probably sticky throne, only to expectedly bottom out into too-typical metalcore banality. Well, the good news is they’re not chasing that particular goal anymore, but neither have they risen that far out of the metalcore quagmire to produce more than what you’d find from a typical opener in 2017. To be fair, they’ve clearly got something of a budget and a cache of experience behind them, in production that’s reasonably sturdy and heavy, but with the knowledge that touches of strings and increased melody is often a good thing to put alongside it. It’s enough to separate Annihilist or the title track from the stragglers, while their deathcore bents have been implemented in a bit more sophisticated a fashion on a track like Amour. It’s indicative of a band staying in their lane but sprucing up what they do have to make a better impression, which is the sort of backhanded assessment that it’s impossible to avoid on an album that feels this out of tune with where its genre has gone. Even if InVisions aren’t doing anything particularly wrong (it’s a fair sight better than on some of their earlier work), to ignore how far metalcore has changed past this point wouldn’t be productive, nor would suggesting that holding still as the last remnant of a passed wave is tantamount to uniqueness. There’s stuff here that could be fostered into something more exciting—Ben Ville has a hell of a low-end scream, and they don’t skimp on a guitar tone in favour of production slickness like so many others would—but where it is right now isn’t achieving any of that. The impression that the writing is already on the wall is hard to miss, both in the no-frills musical approach and in the writing, which, again, isn’t doing much to differentiate itself. Besides not leaning so heavily on obvious clichés as an even more obvious crutch, there’s nothing that really jumps off the page here outside of a central emotional force, for which any sort of refinement isn’t doing a lot. It does feel unfair in a sense to take so many hits on InVisions when they’ve definitely persevered and improved, but at the same time, they’ve also largely stalled out in a position that’s currently doing them no favours. It’s just hard to see this catching on all that much, but at least this time it’s more disappointing than being tough to care. • LN
For fans of: Asking Alexandria, THECITYISOURS, Rising Insane
‘Deadlock’ by InVisions is released on 11th February.
Near Death Condition
Ascent From The Mundane
There’s a haunting, foreboding mood that seeps through Ascent From The Mundane. The bleak death metal act, Near Death Condition, explore the introspective curiosity of humanity with some unexpected musical twists in their new album. Witness of the Martyr thunders into life wasting no time to descend to the depths below. It’s incredibly intense, immersive, powerful death metal. Atmospheric motifs of ghostly piano melodies introduce something a little extra into the scene setting with subtle sound-scaping bleeding steadily across the tracks. Becoming gradually more noticeable as the record progresses, Near Death Condition cleverly weave the narrative through the instrumental parts. The melodic, soaring guitar lead in Nothing From Naught may seem out of place on a first listen but it’s a purposeful link to the light that exists despite the darkness in life. The penultimate and final tracks And Then We Have Shined Above All… and …In Eternal Embrace are not necessarily the concluding tracks you might expect after a journey through the utterly heavy. Thematically it makes perfect sense and brings a glimpse of optimism into the seemingly ongoing despair. Ascent From The Mundane is a dynamic album that goes beyond your average death metal to bring in dramatic sections of eerie instrumentation. The trio from Switzerland are definitely ones to watch. • HR
For fans of: Obituary, Bolt Thrower, Entombed
‘Ascent From The Mundane’ by Near Death Condition is released on 11th February on Unique Leader Records.
One more thing… we just wanted to give a plug to alright (okay). They’re a new indie band that could do with a bit of exposure, so definitely give them a listen below:
Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)