Make Team Presents Maxim Mental In Maximalism
If almost two decades of Say Anything albums has shown anything, it’s that Max Bemis isn’t an easy individual to get a bead on. Multiple sprawling satirisations of emo will do that, and opting for a death-on-stage approach to 2019’s Oliver Appropriate felt as though it closed the book for a man whose relationship with music has often been fractious at best. Here though, it isn’t the return under the moniker of Maxim Mental that’s the surprise, but how closely it resembles those Say Anything albums, dense and unrestrained with an approach to expression that’ll frequently tangle among itself. It’s difficult because Bemis makes it difficult, as he’ll bundle together tones reminiscent of hyperpop and emo-rap while overlaying his thick emo brogue that’s always been an acquired taste. It’s hard to not be engaged though, cycling through the knots that comprise the neuroses of both Bemis himself and his wife Sherri without much of a cogent throughline, but with an empathy and vulnerability towards themselves. From an outside perspective, that does appear somewhat at arm’s length—the gallons of AutoTune that contort Cliffwood can be the hardest to get a grip on—but the embrace of Bemis not being a great singer on Jay Were A Jew and Fucking Part 2 (Fucking On A Trampoline) push forth an honesty to be unclouded by a more programmed, even mechanical instrumental backdrop. It yields a brand of deconstruction through an undeniably modern filter that’s emblematic of Bemis all over, as parts will audibly clunk and thunk into place with all the dissonance that he’s wont to play with. Though when it’s the more accessible moments that most readily click, it can ring like an experiment that hasn’t fully panned out, not least when the eight-and-a-half-minute closer Simple Sweet tries to pack in four or five completely independent ideas with little connective tissue, and feels enormously lopsided for it. By comparison, the glitchy, glittery pop-rock of Grace Beyond Christ and Mime are far cleaner; they aren’t comprised exclusively of harsh angles in percussion and electronics, which do more to make the sounds interesting than palatable. At the same time, that’s not an edict that Bemis is unfamiliar with, and untied from Say Anything branding and in his own creative headspace, this is exactly what one would expect him to come up with. It’s uneven and unkempt, and probably in need of an edit in some obvious places, but it’s real in a way that’s extremely on-brand for Bemis and his own plotting of reality. That is to say, resonance or enjoyment will vary wildly, even though it’s well worth a go regardless, if only to see where you might fall.
For fans of: Say Anything, Reggie And The Full Effect, Smrtdeath
‘Make Team Presents Maxim Mental In Maximalism’ by Maxim Mental is released on 8th July on Dine Alone Records.
Satan Will Follow You Home
Not even a month has passed since the barnstorming return of Alexisonfire with Otherness, and George Pettit is already operating on full power to lay down his next steps. It does make sense; of the three vocalist, he doesn’t have the same expanded profile of Wade MacNeil and Dallas Green, and when Dead Tired aren’t a million miles away from Pettit’s main gig, getting a long-awaited album out in close range can benefit from some residual punch. Not like that’s needed, mind, when Satan Will Follow You Home already hits a self-evidently excellent cross-section of Alexisonfire and Every Time I Die, and can burn its way across a hardcore / rock ‘n’ roll fusion with total aplomb. The electricity of that particular blend is what makes the likes of Predatory Loans and Breakfast Of Participants so successful, with barbed lyrical edge and Pettit’s snarls and gnashes making the locomotive punk thrashing all the more thrilling. The cues from Every Time I Die are numerous but never unwelcome, as Dead Tired plough into the southern grit that’ll colour Aging Out, or even tilt into full-on sludge on the bone-rattling Vast Lethality. That track in particular feels like a particular lynchpin moment on the album, in how the quaking bass and guitars and shards of ragged, ripped saxophone culminate in such a heavy, oppressive atmosphere, the sort that stands out from the lithe hardcore bites of most of Pettit’s other work. It’s still a deviation rather than the norm, but its ripples are present throughout, where SWFYH and Creeping Dread embrace the low-hanging weight, and Tyrant’s Palace pounds into itself with how caving Marco Bressette’s bass tone is. The sound across the album is just great in all forms; initial influences of acts like Converge and Kyuss can definitely be felt in how thick and full it sounds, balanced by post-hardcore vigour and southern-rock heat. They’re the exact ingredients for Every Time I Die too, to be fair, but more of that is never bad, seeing as Dead Tired are remarkably close in terms of going for broke and squeezing every drop of determination from themselves. Any pejorative connotations of ‘side-project’ can be left at the door; Dead Tired are running ahead of the pack and leaving a scorched trail behind them.
For fans of: Every Time I Die, Converge, Alexisonfire
‘Satan Will Follow You Home’ by Dead Tired is released on 8th July on New Damage Records.
Bands like Amongst Liars tend to benefit from tempered expectations. They’re a newer hard rock band without a staggeringly impressive profile yet (one of their presented accolades is opening for Theory Of A Deadman, for perspective), and that tends to be where most appraisal starts and ends. Except there might be a bit more here on this self-titled album, at least in the sense that Amongst Liars seem to have the awareness of the limitations that’ll be imposed upon them, and are looking to buck them. Thus, Amongst Liars belong more in the stables of Royal Blood or—at a push—Queens Of The Stone Age, as a hard rock band looking to adopt an alternative slant to prop up something more thoughtful. Granted, the political engagement that goes on with Amongst Liars is hardly revolutionary (and with the number of angles they’re looking to comment on based on this album’s accompanying pull quote, it’s very broadly sketched), but you can still tell there’s meat on the bones and drive underneath it, not least thanks to how stone-faced and coiled Ian George sounds as a singer. It comes into place rather well when there’s a tangible tension in songs like Reign and All Over Now; the guitars quake a lot more than they’ll howl, even on songs like Burn The Vision and Tick The Box that find neat ways to blend that style with classic rock shit-kicking. Putting Amongst Liars squarely in the throwback camp feels disingenuous for that reason, when the qualities of modern power-rock remain clearer in focus and do pretty well for them. By no means is this incredible, but it’s still a handy few notches above the prevailing norm when Amongst Liars actually have ideas to begin with, and play them out with notable impact. To all the Theory Of A Deadman fans interested but to whom the prospect of music that requires you to think a bit is little scary—it’s still well worth the jump.
For fans of: Royal Blood, Badflower, Audioslave
‘Amongst Liars’ by Amongst Liars is released on 8th July on Earache Records.
There’s a certain expectation that comes when an up-and-coming hardcore band opens up their new EP with a sample of Patsy Cline’s I Fall To Pieces, namely that they’re openly willing to have some fun that the beatdown-heavy version of their genre may otherwise scoff at. It’s even more evident when it feels as though End It do it simply because they can, on top of a swagger-to-burn mentality that finds Unpleasant Living leaving a brand far more resilient than its meagre length would suggest. That’s a handy quality to have when your EP doesn’t even crack a double-digit runtime, though still not enough to circumvent any questions of long-term impact from this release specifically. As a hardcore fan, there’s no reason you wouldn’t want more of this; End It serve up volleys of Molotovs with negligible hassle, and a destructiveness combined with the street-walking, Beastie Boys-esque bray of Akil Godsey for some additional head-knocking on top of all the teeth-shattering. Godsey really is the band’s greatest asset in just how completely unconventional in hardcore he is, though that’s simply in tone rather than intent. He’ll squawk across New Wage Slavery with a bugged-out mania that makes him sound like he’s looking for necks to throttle, before he tries out Bruce Dickinson-style hollers on L’Appel Du Vide with a complete straight face. All the while, his bandmates remain well in tune with exactly what heavy hardcore should deliver, with no superfluous space or fatty overhang to be seen. Particularly in how street-level the writing is, End It’s blanket approach to hardcore has that old-fashioned snarl of Sick Of It All or Biohazard, but with enough switches flicked in their own direction to sound more revitalised. Again, this is the easiest sell in the universe for hardcore diehards—a band with unimpeachable levels of cool to match their kick, where the solitary noteworthy flaw is how much more you’ll be craving when it’s over.
For fans of: Sick Of It All, Biohazard, Turnstile
‘Unpleasant Living’ by End It is released on 8th July on Flatspot Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall