Maybe the rumours are true, and Arising Empire do indeed have their own Jurassic Park-style research facility just outside Donzdorf to breed its roster of totally interchangeable metalcore bands. In which case, here’s their current creation—Our Mirage, another German metal band juiced up on melody and production, and approximately zero defining traits of their own. Not a rarity among this particular camp, but it’s still a bit shocking to see how much mileage these bands can get through round-robinning every creative aspect of themselves.
Well, perhaps ‘mileage’ is the wrong word when there seems to be very little forward motion among any of them. Our Mirage might wedge in some bigger hooks overall, but their predestined stasis is rather apparent through a sound that practically invites it. Variety is not in this band’s wheelhouse, shown by some scuffed attempts to diversify with substandard rapping on Awakening, or the brighter bounce of Summertown that’s so far removed from everything tonally, it’s no surprise that it’s effectively a song from vocalist Timo Bonner’s other band Breakdown Bros jammed onto the end. They’re the album’s bookending moments too; in between, there’s a whole lot of metalcore sludge to wade through with minimal characteristics to speak of.
It wouldn’t that big an issue if Our Mirage had anything of note about them either. Instead, Eclipse is dedicated to a sound that’s always big and sweeping, but just as inert and formless. Guitars seldom have a lot of presence in how they’re buffered by the album’s copiously thick production—even when they’re asked to be a bit heavier like on Learn To Be Alone—and as always, that style swallows up the majority of form this album could have. It just gets boring after a while when Our Mirage’s M.O. is to recycle their singular idea which emphatically doesn’t have to enough to sustain an entire album alone. Ditto that for the writing, comprised of only the broadest mental health platitudes that are delivered with a lot of conviction (the more ragged screams on occasion can actually be rather effective), but less-than-adequate personality.
Basically, that exact sentiment sums up Eclipse better than anything could. There’s nothing lazy about the raw performance here; it’s just paired with a dull metalcore mass that’s forgettable the moment it ends, and exponentially more so among the company it keeps. Apply that to any of these bands and it’d be true. There’s no hierarchy that Our Mirage are battling for, nor much greater exposure in the big, wide world that’ll see them explode with popularity. They’ll simply release this album and go back to their paddock, just like all of them seem to do. Maybe life doesn’t find a way after all
For fans of: Siamese, Annisokay, Breathe Atlantis
‘Eclipse’ by Our Mirage is released on 25th November on Arising Empire.
Have Liotta Seoul achieved the impossible and made grunge interesting again? Yes, its importance as a genre can’t be overstated within the history of alternative music, but let’s be honest—most bands within it nowadays seem very reticent to break its streak of painfully incremental advancement (if any advancement at all). Liotta Seoul, meanwhile, can’t be included among that company. Even putting a pin in the touches of genre-blending that WORSE displays, this might be among the quickest the grunge’s oft-leisurely pulse has ran in a fair while.
On second thought, perhaps you can’t really divorce the more obvious grunge style from dalliances into other styles. It’s easier to when a song like Laugh will pin on an easygoing hip-hop outro to the end, but otherwise, WORSE is empowered the most by threads of punk, dream-pop and even more standard alt-rock woven into the mix. As a result, the guitars are more raucous and clearly defined on Won’t You Love Me and Star, while Disgusting is almost industrial in texture thanks to the throbbing backbeat pushed against the wall of riffs. It’s simply more powerful and engaging than the umpteenth iteration of the standard grunge kit list, even if what Liotta Seoul are doing still isn’t a million miles away from it.
The intent is clearly what matters most. WORSE is definitely made with greater ambition in mind overall, in presentation if nowhere else, and that can pull off some serious heavy lifting against grunge themes that can honestly feel a bit tiresome sometimes. The drilling down into nihilism and ironic detachment doesn’t make for the most compelling idea anymore (particularly on Disgusting where it’s unquestionably taken too far), but at least there’s enough raw size to bear the brunt of those critiques. It becomes easy enough to overlook thanks to sheer size, compounded by Sven Int-Veen’s wallop of a vocal performance that’s somewhere in the area of a more hoarse Tim McIlrath.
It’s all exceptionally easy to like, and for reasons that should be pretty obvious. Liotta Seoul are definitely playing to an accessible lane, though that’s where they shine the most, and bringing a few neat twists of their own does a lot to boost it further. So to circle back to that initial question and whether Liotta Seoul have made grunge interesting again, they’re at least working towards it; there could be more to solidify this as the genuine article, but let’s not ignore how they’re throwing the net out further than pretty much anyone else.
For fans of: Sick Joy, Fangclub, James And The Cold Gun
‘WORSE’ by Liotta Seoul is released on 25th November on KROD Records.
A band like borts doesn’t exactly feel like a rarity, in which alumni from hardcore bands come together for a much more melodic punk prospect. In this case, borts finds its members associated with Your Demise and Tireless, coming together to package some earlier EPs with a couple of new tracks for this debut. But Preach This! is nowhere near as slapdash or side-project-y as that might imply. No, there’s actually a bit here that works exceptionally well, and feels like borts coming into their own nice and early in terms of making a significant impression.
Chief among that is how, without the knowledge of this being a couple of EPs stitched together, you’d never be able to tell. The consistent throughline worked is practically seamless, in frontman Tom airing out his anxieties at returning to music, and how that’s an extension of feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that constantly rear up at him. It’s kind of reminiscent of Frank Turner in its lyrical style, often open and detailed without being overbearingly so. And that’s a good fit, honestly; particularly on a song like Me & The Demons—despite a title ready to instigate eye-rolls among anyone even remotely familiar with ‘confessional’ metalcore—it’s so smart and buoyant in its writing to toss aside any overly negative preconceptions with ease.
It’s no wonder that borts opt for the brighter alt-punk sound that they do, then. Not only is it an ideal vehicle for a very earnest brand of songwriting, but it also highlights the can-do attitude that spurs on this return to music, and does so very well. Apart from the jaunty indie-pop of The Nurse which sounds more like Kickstarter stock music for the most part than anything sufficient for a punk album, Preach This! is about as lean and punchy as you’d ever want. But on top of that, it really mirrors that tenacity that defines borts’ progression as a band, in how Like, Music Again! and Los Zapatos carry such high-defined determination. Above all, it feels triumphant but in a very human way, the culmination of small victories adding up to explosive moments of catharsis that are satisfied and earned.
Honestly, it isn’t an album that demands deep dissection or insight, because it wears its successes so plainly anyway. Honesty and directness stand as Preach This!’s biggest selling points, both delivered in ample quantities and giving borts as a band more to stand out with. Even if this is demonstrably not a game-changer, it’s on a level where near enough everything is so right that that hardly matters. borts simply come with passion and the thrill of it all at heart, and they’re all the better for it.
For fans of: Superchunk, The Menzingers, PUP
‘Preach This!’ by borts is released on 25th November on Lockjaw Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall