REVIEW ROUND-UP: Bad Omens, Broken Field Runner, downcast, Alfie Neale

A naked woman sitting on a table covered with a red cloth. She is bent over with her head facing the floor

Bad Omens

The Death Of Peace Of Mind

Let’s not mince words here—why did Bad Omens make an album like this? Far be it to presume that mid- to low-rung metalcore bands are capable of more than just colouring inside the lines of the trends they’re unwaveringly beholden to, but they’ve thankfully been less common lately, or at least more ignorable. The Death Of Peace Of Mind, meanwhile, wears its lack of individual concrete ideas on its sleeve, hampered even further by a frankly absurd length that makes it every bit a chore to get through. The Bring Me The Horizon worship isn’t exactly subtle, and that’s also infused with hefty cues from Chase Atlantic and any number of other scene no-marks who find caking their entire output in copious production to be a suitable creative tactic. It really does emphasise how underfed the potentially good ideas here are; the swampy trap production of Somebody Else and the synthwave roil of What do you want from me have the freshness they’re clearly clamouring for, only to be smothered by the usual barrages of gated metalcore flash with so little behind it, and none of the colour that could at least pop out a bit more. To a degree, Bad Omens feel as though they’re attempt to be outside-the-box with this album, but that congeals with the mind-numbing thud of the title track or the melodic turns on the likes of Nowhere To Go and Just Pretend that feel a good half-decade out of date. Furthermore, when there’s so little unique flavour interwoven in a practically impenetrable tapestry of stylistic lifting, The Death Of Peace Of Mind feels so messy and mismanaged to a pretty baffling degree. Noah Sebastian’s breathy coo can get pretty insufferable pretty fast, and to have that be the execution of choice for blocks at a time utterly guts most momentum the album has. At fifteen tracks with sequencing this lumpen and ill-balanced, it makes the album feel so much longer and more laborious than it otherwise might, to say nothing of some blatant Oli Sykes impressions on Nowhere To Go and Miracle that divert impact even further. It’s just a mess from a purely creative, logistical standpoint, with little to really latch onto in the content to mitigate that, and a handful of okay ideas that aren’t given a suitable platform or breathing room to get very far. Kudos to Bad Omens to stepping outside the bare minimum that’s usually their wont to perform, but they’re not getting much further with something like this.


For fans of: Bring Me The Horizon, Chase Atlantic, Issues

‘The Death Of Peace Of Mind’ by Bad Omens is released on 25th February on Sumerian Records.

A young girl in a tutu running in a dark room. She is standing in light coming from a window

Broken Field Runner


There’s no doubt that Tony Bucci has some great creative impetus. Under the Broken Field Runner name, this is actually the third of a three EP cycle, with the previous outings dipping into electronica and indie-rock respectively, as a means of showcasing an artistic breadth that this branch of the indie set doesn’t tend to accommodate for. And while that’s all well and good, and in keeping with where Bucci’s past material has been, there’s something to be said for just getting the lead out and rushing headlong into old-style pop-punk and emo with impeccable confidence. As a spiritual successor to Jimmy Eat World or The Starting Line—or any number of bands that get the nostalgia juices flowing with just a mention of their name—RUNNER has the concentrated command of melody that’s totally unmistakable. Get past the rather superfluous intro Home Is Where You Kill Your Plans, and the likes of Save You and Hair In My Mouth exude such a wonderful richness and organic tone. Innovation isn’t necessarily high on the agenda, but Bucci clearly has a working knowledge of this sound that’s second-to-none and it shows through how the fundamentals of the sound just feel so energised here. There’s a sparkle to the production but it’s not suffocatingly polished; similarly, the guitars and bass are so flawlessly balanced, and that singer-songwriter edge is still able to sneak through on Baby Satan and In The Sunshine because of it. Most crucially though, there’s a focus to it all, where there’s so little space or energy wasted and it culminates so cleanly across the board. Even lyrically, this feels a cut above most still chasing this sound, in no small part down to Bucci’s voice which has the recognisable emo tone but the control to make it thrive in this space. Compared to the proclaimed ‘pop-punk renaissance’ that’s currently going on, the difference here is just night and day; RUNNER feels purposeful and human, and willing to swing for the fences when it comes to leaving its mark. It’s by far the most accomplished of Bucci’s collection of EPs and by no small margin either, as a genuine delight that rockets into the emo stratosphere in seemingly fell swoop.


For fans of: Jimmy Eat World, The Starting Line, Citizen

‘RUNNER’ by Broken Field Runner is released on 4th March on Jetsam-Flotsam.

A devil’s hand breaking through a ouija board that is on fire


i saw hell when i was with you

There’s something about downcast that feels notably caught between two approaches. On one side, there’s a sway into the heavier brand of modern pop-punk that’s closer to evolving into post-hardcore; on the other,there’s the sort of pop-punk that would’ve cleaned house back in 2014, but begins to show its wear and tear all these years later. It’s probably the latter that has the greatest sway on where this debut album goes too, for better and for worse. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what that is, but it is noticeable; something about the specific British vocal timbre and delivery combined with this lyrical set and maximalist production feels as though it’s pulling its punches, like it isn’t as cutting-edge or trenchant as it could be. Where songs like someplace safer and sylvan view do feel more personal in addressing a struggling family life, plugging the gaps with some fairly rote post-relationship excising isn’t going the same distance. If anything, it can feel like downcast are playing into the conventions of pop-punk totally straight, with any of the implied moves towards darker or more transgressive shifts shorn off and sitting at their feet. It’s not the most ear-catching thing in the world, but it isn’t necessarily bad either, and that’s something that does need to be taken into account here. There’s clearly effort that’s been put into this, most prominently in keeping the sound organic without neglecting a crisper crunch that’s always good for these sounds to have. Jame Hill’s drumming in particular can often be found to have solid power and drive, and the darker surge of britannia mills and the tense throb of mistakes that i have made show the potential for something more in a Trash Boat vein. Beyond that, downcast aren’t exactly breaking any doors down, but the seeds are there in how overall watertight their melodic construction is. catharsis and if u want 2 in particular draw from the high-energy, high-gusto well that you’d find from a band like Me Vs Hero, and it’s done rather well, even if some fragments of melodies do seem to bleed over and get shared around the album. That appears to be more a factor of downcast’s newness than any real creative deficiency though; this is clearly the work of a band still finding their feet and carving out a place for themselves, and in that respect, they’re doing pretty well so far. There’s still more to come and the sooner it does, the better, but even as it stands now, this is worth a look, and it’s not hard to see downcast pulling in a substantial amount of fans through this album alone.


For fans of: ROAM, Trash Boat, Me Vs Hero

‘i saw hell when i was with you’ by downcast is released on 4th March.

A white rectangle with a brown border standing upright in a hilly field.

Alfie Neale

everywhere / nowhere

Alfie Neale generally seems to have a better idea of what makes his homespun, understated pop work that a good number of his contemporaries. There’s less of the chronically online kitschiness and Gen Z dejection that can wear out its welcome in record time, instead replaced by an almost classic sensibility that improves the half-life of bedroom-pop severely. That gives everywhere / nowhere a notably higher platform to start with, and how well each flicker of a particular era in pop seems to fit together makes this feel more substantive as a direction. Granted, ‘classic’ is relatively speaking; the shades of older soul are there for Neale as a performer to wrap around his willowy, breathy voice, but generally speaking, this is more informed by a 2000s style of production, namely in the lanes of crossover hip-hop that producer Cassell The Beatmaker would explore with Plan B or The Streets. There’s a tact to that which softens how ramshackle this sound otherwise is, with the stiffened percussion and sonic profile that’s deliberately smaller than its allotted space that’s given more flexibility through the light funk bass and glossier synths. I Don’t Wanna Dance becomes the obvious highlight in that vein, shuffling through its taps and whirrs with an easy-breezy glee that’s a natural baton for Isaiah Dreads to pick up for his rap verse. This is the sort of EP that indulges and embraces its own command of light, both in the tones of its instrumental palette being so warm and inviting, and how Lifetime and Mercury exude such a comfort with every passing moment. Give it a few months and it arguably becomes the perfect listen for summer 2022 in particular, a tentative step into festival-ready normalcy that’s still embellished by an introverted streak that carries the weight of the past couple of years. That’s less of a crutch than plenty will use it as though, and coming from someone like Neale who’s willing to be more expressive and straightforwardly earnest, it adds to his charm if anything. In other words, it’s what easy life’s debut from last year should’ve been, as an injection of sunshine and ease into the bedroom-pop all-rounder profile that goes past just the pitch and actually delivers. Good stuff overall then, and the chances of it becoming even better with time are extremely likely.


For fans of: easy life, Plan B, Anderson .Paak

‘everywhere / nowhere’ by Alfie Neale is released on 25th February.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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