Shouting With Nothing To Say
Across two albums now, it couldn’t be clearer that Bleak Soul is a project that Ben Langford-Biss has extreme passion for. Compared to his former role in As It Is, defined by buoyant pop-rock that made no bones about some harder edges, the avenues taken with Bleak Soul sit in stark contrast; it’s fragmented and chronically stripped-back, a means of letting Langford-Biss lay his own neuroses bare with approximately zero barriers or roadblocks. That’s a commendable endpoint to strive for, particularly when it comes at the expense of near-guaranteed success that Langford-Biss could’ve rode on with As It Is. Bleak Soul is a far cry stylistically, but also in terms of how effective it is. As a vehicle for selling numbness and angst going completely unfettered, there’s definitely something here; Langford-Biss’ voice sounds weaker and more ragged, with lyrics like “I shouldn’t feel guilt for just existing” or “I had sense of some purpose and worth / But I don’t think that I do” feeling as genuine as they possibly can. As a writer, he can make this angle on depression and self-loathing feel meaningful in ways that plenty others can’t, but within Shouting With Nothing To Say as a whole package, it isn’t as effective as it could be. The small scale is fine to carry dark-folk pivots like Denver 2015 and Session #03, but it’s also tailored exclusively to moments like that, of which the album seldom sticks to. There’s also dalliances with grunge and atmospheric tones that can feel deeply underpowered or truncated, with the album as a whole ended up more like a scattered collection of thoughts than anything truly cohesive. That similarly seeps down into the very muted, waifish production, fine for the stripped-down moments that demand it, but unveiling a disappointingly shabby vocal performance and mix on Mundane, USA, or a wholly botched attempt at grand build on Broken Neon Light. There’s definitely something here in terms of how ghostly and deathly bleak Langford-Biss wants this to sound, but there’s also difficulty in getting there across the board, and the short length of some of these songs don’t amount to much within an already threadbare presentation. It doesn’t even feel just to report that, but more sad than anything; this sort of skeletal melancholy can be really potent, but there needs to be at least something to hang onto with it. • LN
For fans of: Nick Cave, Ian Miles, Delaire The Liar
‘Shouting With Nothing To Say’ by Bleak Soul is released on 11th March on Beth Shalom Records.
If you were to write off Breathe Atlantis on face value alone, no one could really blame you. The name alone is an impressively generic way to convey some kind of epic scale (says a lot they were practically the last ones to do it, eh?), and for another European melodic metalcore signed to Arising Empire, that’s already a fairly good gauge for what they’re all about. At least, it might have been once upon a time, but Overdrive does feel like a slight step up from its competition, at least in terms of where it’s aiming. Yes, Breathe Atlantis still sound exactly the same as every other band on their label, but few succeed in being as anthemic as this, mostly because the title track or Earthquake make better use of the post-hardcore fringes that often sit as mere window-dressing. This feels a lot more comfortable slotted among Hands Like Houses and their ilk, albeit without some of the same colour as a trade-off for coming in through this particular avenue. It seems like a prerequisite for this branch of the scene, to feel so locked in place to production that lends no weight or impact, only the promise of big scale to smother any potentially interesting edges. And though they’re better at running with it, Breathe Atlantis aren’t immune either; there’s still a disappointing lack of crunch despite a marginally upped guitar presence, leaving an album that could definitely work with a more metallic edge bereft of it. At least there’s Nico Schiesewitz as a vocalist to pull it all together, who rarely leaps off the page thanks to a tone that’s very intrinsic to this scene, both in his cleans and screams, but he doesn’t do a bad job either. He’s able to punch up a lyric sheet that isn’t the most inspired through sheer force of will, in terms of an emotional drive and the right employment of dynamics behind him to land on something solid enough, for the most part. Breathe Atlantis aren’t breaking down any doors with this, but it’s harmless enough, and at least tries its hand at hitting those entry-level targets with more force than others in their lane. Maybe it’s just the Stockholm Sydrome setting in from the floods of bands like this that don’t appear to be letting up, but this is easier to swallow more regularly than most. Take that for what you will, if not any kind of glowing recommendation. • LN
For fans of: Hands Like Houses, I Prevail, Bring Me The Horizon
‘Overdrive’ by Breathe Atlantis is released on 18th March on Arising Empire.
It’s practically impossible to start any conversation about Beachheads without an obligatory acknowledgment of Vidal Landa and Marvin Nygaard also being in Kvelertak, but it’s somewhat justified all the same. This is a very different sort of band and expectations should be managed as such, even if the jump from metal to indie-rock and power-pop comes fairly naturally in terms of where the locus of quality lies. With Beachheads, the level of ambition is a lot more notably scaled down, and filled by a vivacity that comes from technically gifted musicians hitting their usual marks, genre be damned. Thus, you get the scuzzy, jangly Jupiter or the wiry jitter of Death Of A Nation, all tightened and sculpted to achieve the highest degree of indie catchiness possible. It circumvents what can be a rather barebones listen compositionally; outside of the more glamourous synths and polish that adorn Shine (and, fittingly, elevate it to be the album’s high point), Beachheads stick fairly immovably to the reliable rock band setup. In some ways, it reinforces a ‘side-project’ mentality—it’s not built with the same market penetration as something more obviously innovative would have—but there’s also a purity to it that shouldn’t go ignored. Børild Haughom is able to bring more lyrically without getting lost, for one, in his experiences of being a new parent that facilitate worries about life and mortality, and a political bent on Death Of A Nation in which his fatigue seeps through excellently. This isn’t a dour album, though, as much as a pragmatic one; there’s a gumption and gutsiness to how each wire-tight guitar line or thumping bass note keeps it all moving so forcefully, ploughing through the noise to find something good at the other side of the tunnel. It’s unquestionably enough to compensate for any lack of flash, which honestly isn’t needed when Beachheads are so fundamentally solid already. In a higher tier of indie-rock, this hits a spot that it’s alway lovely to have hit. • LN
For fans of: Hüsker Dü, REM, The Vaccines
‘II’ by Beachheads is out now on Fysisk Format.
Letting Up Despite Great Faults
From the off the new album IV, offers a fully immersive experience. Carefully layering and expansive, vast guitar effects the quartet creates a dreamy atmosphere that carries through the entire record. Opening with Kisses, the cinematic soundscapes are transportive. It’s not hard to imagine being whisked away to a scenic beach, feeling the sunshine on your skin and perhaps even an ice cream in hand. Or a blissful, lush retreat somewhere in the tropics with a cocktail. Letting Up Despite Great Faults, while establishing this fanciful sound, delve into the everyday human condition whether exploring personal insecurities or jealous emotions. The combination of catchy pop melodies, soaring leads and noisy overdrive fuses together to produce something incredible dynamic. The smooth vocals blend seamlessly with the instrumental parts. There’s an intimate feeling to the performance. She Spins delivers upbeat rhythms with bright guitar tones, while Self-Portrait plays more with the contrast of harsher musical textures and shimmery elements. Each track has it’s own focus and yet the album as a whole flows cohesively. Letting Up Despite Great Faults have produced a stunning full-length that brings an alluring sense of escapism through the instrumentation. Infusing a vulnerable air into the mix introduces further character to the music, and it’s beautifully executed. • HR
For fans of: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Memoryhouse, Sad Day For Puppets
‘IV’ by Letting Up Despite Great Faults is out now.
Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)