Rise Of The Northstar
“I can’t choose where I come from,” bellows out Rise Of The Northstar frontman Vithia on the track Clan, “but can choose who I walk with”. Just that line is pretty much the perfect encapsulation of who this band are, where most indications of their French heritage have been obfuscated by the veneer of Japanese culture, particularly in an aesthetic drawn heavily from anime and manga. But that’s kind of all it is—an aesthetic. In terms of music, Rise Of The Northstar traffic in hardcore wreckers tilting into nu-metal and metalcore, perfectly fine for what it is but often sidelining the big, glaring source of influence that’d make them stand out exponentially more. On Showdown, artwork that sick should not be plastered on an album of beatdown-core as by-the-numbers as this.
Actually, that sounds too disparaging of an album that’s still…fine enough. In terms of throwing out a fat, heavy groove, Rise Of The Northstar remain especially proficient, kicking off with their reassertion of dominance on The Anthem and seldom letting up from then on. The album moves at a good pace too, when tracks like Third Strike and Shogun No Shi are so indebted to the pockets of momentum that they craft. It’s basically exactly what you’d want from hardcore like this, as roundhouse kicks to the temple are doled out with regularity with Vithia as the ringleader to sanction the beatings. He’s also got a real attitude to his delivery that helps out a lot; maybe that’s from a lack of eloquence in the vocals (likely a layover from some good ol’ English-not-as-a-first-language-itis), but especially in his gutturals, there’s ample brute force to barrel along with there.
Of course, the elephant in the room is that none of that is exceptionally unique. Swap out the name and most of that descriptor could be applied to virtually any other band in the same lane; Rise Of The Northstar just aren’t showing up with any additional colour or flair. In fact, it might be the case where Showdown marginalises the Japanese sphere of influence more than anything else they’ve done. It’s seldom present on a deep level, mostly in callbacks to mythology on Shogun No Shi or Raijin to stabilise some otherwise rote hardcore songwriting (as well as the kanji subtitling for Rise [ライズ] to presumably wedge in some greater authenticity). It honestly feels kind of wasteful, and not at all making the most of an element that, visually, has defined Rise Of The Northstar as a band. That’s still worthwhile to have, sure, but this isn’t a visual medium they’re working in, and in a vacuum, the absence of a necessary extra step is all too conspicuous.
It’s worth remembering that there is precedent for Rise Of The Northstar bringing that greater creativity. Just look at Kozo, a track from their last album The Legacy Of Shi that explored greater narrative depth and character around Japanese folklore, and remains their best individual piece of work for it. Though even that is just an isolated track; the rest of the album was good, but it’s more or less faded from memory now. Showdown, meanwhile,doesn’t even have the benefit of that sort of pinnacle, instead remaining another decent hardcore outing with a half-life destined to be monumentally short.
For fans of: Sick Of It All, Stray From The Path, Knuckledust
‘Showdown’ by Rise Of The Northstar is released on 7th April on Atomic Fire Records.
Later this year, Archetypes Collide will be touring the US opening for Beartooth and Trivium on their massive co-headline run. Bear in mind, they’ve not been subjected to any significant breakout or wave of swell just yet; clearly there’s something about this band in particular predicted to get tongues wagging in droves. After all, this isn’t the sort of opportunity awarded to just any metalcore band if they aren’t going to put in the work to back it up. Sure, being on the Beartoothier end of their headliners’ spectrum might make that harder to believe, but honestly, Archetypes Collide go down a lot smoother than your typical helping of scene-metalcore empty calories.
Maybe it’s the fact that they aren’t as shackled to the genre zeitgeist as their peers that works in their favour. There are moments where trigger-happiness to indulge in unwieldy, Bad Omens-esque production stodge is expected (lookin’ at you, Silence), but restraint proves far more fruitful. Instead, this is more in the vein of Bring Me The Horizon / Linkin Park worship that metalcore couldn’t get enough of a few years ago, in what hasn’t entirely skirted around the backlash zone but is done well enough here to not be subsumed by it. Thus, there’s a nu-metal wallop to how the hooks of Suffocate Me or Destiny land, or how cuts like Parasite and Separate will chug along. Yes, it’s entirely familiar, but Archetypes Collide come loaded with the melodic appeal a sound like this really needs to thrive. Even as beats are hit in necessary sequence, they aren’t bogged down by regimentation or the fact that you’ve heard all of this before.
Because let’s be frank—you have heard all of this before. Outside of one of two ancillary flourishes like the more glittery synth tone on My Own Device, Archetypes Collide are racking up the last decade’s genre cues with impressive conciseness. It’s driven by its low end and buffed and polished to the most flawless sheen imaginable, a potted description that could encompass scores of similar bands just as easily. Even in Kyle Pastor’s screams, the echoes of Underøath’s Spencer Chamberlain are rather glaring. But it’s hard to hate or come down too harshly on, because at least Archetypes Collide have the decency to bring it together with far greater tightness and hardiness. It’s enough to pull the usual metalcore lyric sheet out of the never-ending doldrums, at least, thanks to some appreciated purpose in its…existence.
Granted, for those entirely burned out on metalcore and its infernal oversaturation, nothing about Archetypes Collide will convince otherwise. They might as well be another drop in the bucket, waiting to be overtaken by the next group to do the basics just a bit better than normal. And while that’s hard to argue with, they also have a bit more oomph to them overall. Working with what they’ve got yields output with a better understanding of how this can more effectively come together, and as the de facto progenies of Beartooth—a band for whom that’s basically their entire shtick—Archetypes Collide are on a good path. Just don’t expect to have any doors blown open or anything yet.
For fans of: Bring Me The Horizon, Beartooth, Wage War
‘Archetypes Collide’ by Archetypes Collide is released on 31st March on Fearless Records.
The Bar Stool Preachers
Above The Static
In the grand tradition of British ska operating on an indelible working-class level, The Bar Stool Preachers are very in touch with their roots. One of said roots just so happens to come from frontman Tom McFaull’s father being Cock Sparrer’s Colin McFaull, something which has more than likely shaped shaped the punk components of this band. On Above The Static, that’s basically all there is now, as only remnants of a ska-punk past remain with a bracing, thunderous Brit-punk monolith standing in its wake. Splitting the difference between that and some of the pop-punk cues indicative of their new home on Pure Noise, Above The Static is probably The Bar Stool Preachers’ highest hit to date.
Regrettably, it’s The King Blues that come to mind the most, though luckily just in their musical profile. It’s particularly true in the deviations from a ska forebear to something brisker and inclusive of poppier elements, reaching its limit with the mid-album piano-ballad Lighthouse Keeper. It’s more true tonally overall, as Call Me On The Way Home heralds the big, major choruses and flecks of Britpop and pop-rock in composition. In general, Above The Static’s own sharpness and taut songwriting chops are what ultimately carry it. Just take the scruffed-up riff and locomotive thump of Doorstep, or the mottled rambunctiousness still present in the album’s final leg with Two Dog Night and Don’t Die Today. They’re properly classic punk in ethos, refined and tinkered with to feel just as crisp to modern ears.
Obviously a reflection of, say, The Clash is never going to be as revolutionary as the genuine article, but that’s not a stymying force to The Bar Stool Preachers by any means. They’re too deeply in-tune with the perspective of the man in the street for that to be the case, in what could read as everyday musings and societal gripes (told with some exquisite quotables on Never Gonna Happen) over a couple of shared pints. The classic punk grime of dear old dad is brought out there, as well as McFaull’s own pronounced pub-rock delivery that’s deeply lodged in the genre’s past. The kicker, though, is that The Bar Stool Preachers have enough of a contemporary streak about them to work. They’re not struggling through superficial classicism for style points; it actually comes naturally to them, and doesn’t clash with viewpoints and angles fitting of the day.
By no means is this all that new—indeed, they’re more of a piece in the wave of new punk bands looking the split the difference between past and present than any driving force—but The Bar Stool Preachers pull it off well. The inherent listenability is always there, as is the substance balanced with an aptitude for hooks that’s the bread-and-butter of most punk nowadays. In that regard, Above The Static slots into the crowd nicely. Not a game-changer by any stretch, but it certainly bridges some gaps that punks of all generations can appreciate.
For fans of: The Clash, Grade 2, SNAYX
‘Above The Static’ by The Bar Stool Preachers is released on 31st March on Pure Noise Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall