REVIEW ROUND-UP: Devon Kay & The Solutions, Telltale, Crown Magnetar, thrown

A ski slope, with a ski lodge in the background, and skiers and a lift in the foreground.

Devon Kay & The Solutions

Grieving Expectation

Any band with the thesis of writing ‘an album of singles’ is already off to a good start. It’s the sort of fast-track that can work ridiculously well when all the pieces fall into place, and even if it doesn’t, the intent in hook-craft will still shine through more often than not. And it’s the candidness with which Devon Kay & The Solutions have opined their approach that sees them trend well towards the former right away, in Grieving Expectation so readily sharpens its take on pop-rock and power-pop to truly excel in both fields. That finds another favourite tactic come into play, namely juxtaposing an apocalyptic sense of existence with the most buoyant, melody-stuffed fare imaginable, and managing to not feel oversold or artificial. That can be difficult given how pronounced Kay’s voice can be—not the only area of this album that’ll inevitably draw comparisons to Say Anything—but that can ring as more of a holdover from the DIY pop-rock scene, and cranks up the album’s more self-effacing qualities to smoothen out the severity in tonal differences. It’s handy for keeping a defeatist streak in check on Liver or No One Is Thinking About You (Or Anyone Else For That Matter), coming closer to that of The Space In-Between as a love song resting in the omnipresent shadow of the pandemic. In the wrong hands, this could all be an exhausting wallow in territory that everyone wants to get away from as soon as possible, but there’s such a welcoming vivacity to the way that Devon Kay & The Solutions play it, as a nudge and a wink to keep the existentialism at bay just for a while. Thus, Grieving Expectation is played as bright and decadent as possible, not just in some very noticeable ska-punk cues, but in how the horns and effervescent keys with breathe so much more life into the pop-rock framework. There’s a bombast to a track like Parchment & Patroleum that relies on it being as overstuffed as it is, and matching it on Frustrated People Of The World, Unite! or A Little Bit for sheer gaudiness. All of that is meant as a true compliment, of course; there’s a level of personality that comes through that’s virtually unmatched in places, such is how the album pops off while keeping a pop-rock core in place among it all. Admittedly that’s not as impressive, but the results ultimately speak for themselves when a framework is decked out to this degree and elevated on the basis of how far that goes. Even on the slightly-over-a-minute S.A.F.E.T.Y, there’s experimentation with a harder edge to make the horns more fiery and throw in a solo that’s borderline hair-metal, just to poke out those boundaries a little further. It really is great pretty much across the board, and the sort of pop-rock surprise that hits in all the right spots for the fact that it wasn’t really expected. Devon Kay & The Solutions are fairly long-running with a rather low profile, but pulling a gem like this out of the blue marks out a band deserving of far, far more. • LN


For fans of: Say Anything, Telethon, Dollar Signs

‘Grieving Expectation’ by Devon Kay & The Solutions is released on 1st April on Pure Noise Records.

A bathroom, with a man in the bath, a face in the mirror, and a tentacle coming from the bidet.


Lie Your Way Out

Telltale’s particular path is extremely well-worn, as a band who initially started out in pop-punk moving to darker, heavier waters as a means of showing a consciousness and maturity. The first name that comes to mind is probably As It Is, and Telltale aren’t that far removed as far as this new EP is concerned, but the parallels don’t line up entirely cleanly.More so, they’re approaching the ‘modern rock’ ballpark from an angle between that of Hands Like Houses and Nothing But Thieves, dense and sturdy but also rather static in a way that can offset some select endeavours. That’s most noticeable on the opener Slowburn, with the heavy drums and rock-hard guitars that build an imposing presence without the incendiary fuel behind them. It might be the percussion that’s the most distracting in that regard, as Travis Slack’s work feels way higher in the mix than everything else and proceeds to lock everything behind it together. It’s less prevalent in the curtails back to pop-punk on Pessimist and the title track though, implying that Telltale are more or less at the germination points of these new ideas, and they’re effectively trying to work out the kinks in real time. There’s enough of a catchy framework to Out Of Control! and COBAIN to where they never feel totally incompetent, but the inconsistencies in balancing and fidelities are notable enough to where it can’t really be given that much of a pass. Guitars will feel underpowered and small, and most bass foundation is sidelined in one of the less-than-favourable traits this sound is the frequent bearer of, to where the wavier trap touches on COBAIN act as welcome respite on the basis of some oxygen in the mix. It’s compounded by a lyrical sentiment that’s similarly hard and incisive but can lack flavour; the whole ‘generational divide’ thing isn’t the worst here overall, but opening with Slowburn and how hard it goes on the usual tired touchstones of those themes can leave a pretty unflattering taste going forward. It’s not even like the whole product is that bad either, but Telltale’s vision at this stage is definitely uneven, where there’s still a lot of tweaking to be done in how to effectively piece things together efficiently. When they’ll only truly get that right in places they’re already versed in, there’s still a significant hurdle to get over there. • LN


For fans of: As It Is, Hands Like Houses, Bearings

‘Lie Your Way Out’ by Telltale is released on 25th March on Rude Records.

A painting of a woman sitting under a tree with a bleeding lamb on her lap.

Crown Magnetar

Alone In Death

While 2021 ended up being the year of metalcore, 2022 has taken a significant U-turn down towards the brutal realms of deathcore. Crown Magnetar’s new EP may only be 19 minutes in length, but the Colorado based outfit have packed a hell of a lot of savagery into the EP’s six tracks. The title track descends kicking and screaming into the depths below. Their ludicrous speed and low tones form an utterly immersive atmosphere. Each thundering beat hits hard and Crown Magnetar have clearly had a lot of fun forging the jarring soundscapes that run throughout the new release. As their epically heavy sound is established, Crown Magnetar then go and drop a track like Realistic Flesh Mask with its death-defying speeds increased tenfold from the last—or at least that’s how it feels. The quartet come through with dynamic vocals perfectly suited to the outstanding instrumentation. Graverot is a great example showing off vocalist Dan Tucker’s range from demonic guttural lows to eerie banshee shrieks. There’s something incredibly appealing about a band who know how to tease the unexpected on their unsuspecting listeners. Alone In Death isn’t just a solid deathcore release, the band have strived to push boundaries and turn their extreme sound up to elevent unleashing the monstrosity within. • HR


For fans of: Lorna Shore, Thy Art Is Murder, Beneath The Massacre

‘Alone In Death’ by Crown Magnetar is released on 25th March on Unique Leader Records.

thrown’s logo and the EP title on a black background with a red blur.


extended pain

The most unique thing about thrown is that they’re signed to Arising Empire while still sounding like actual humans make their music instead of an algorithm. That is to say, for a band mixing groove-heavy hardcore with metalcore and keeping a fair layer of gloss intact on the surface, their extended pain EP is exactly what you’d expect, almost note for note. It’s not bad though, which, sure, can be an assessment somewhat informed by factors outside the music itself. For one, it’s remarkably brief and never too taxing of a listen, which can make hardcore in this vein go down a bit smoother when it’s just a morsel rather than a whole, overfilling serving. The disparity between thrown and their labelmates works in their favour too; there’s simply more appeal to this sort of bruising sound than another load of overegged metalcore, all while keeping the production sharpness and clarity without it hindering a heavier overall palette. It’s fairly suprising how unencumbered this sound is, setting the scene on grayout with the tar-thick guitars and bass and percussion that can be remarkably forceful, and keeping it up throughout. But even that’s enough to say that thrown aren’t the most dynamic band in the world, and you do get the impression that, even here, they’ve pretty much expended their tricks. It’s there that the parallels to other, bigger bands become so much clearer, in the mistanthropic lyrics, or the general cache of musical cues, or just how Marcus Lundqcist sounds like a whole host of other hardcore frontmen, and thrown don’t really impress all that much. You can be charitable in the argument that they’re still pretty good at what they do, but between listening to thrown and pretty much any other of the countless bands doing this sound with more flair and proven longevity, it’s not even a contest. Not bad, but nothing to write home about either. • LN


For fans of: Bury Tomorrow, LANDMVRKS, Void Of Vision

‘extended pain’ by thrown is released on 25th March on Arising Empire.

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)

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