REVIEW ROUND-UP: Brand Of Sacrifice, Black Coast, Lemonade Shoelace

Artwork for Brand Of Sacrifice’s ‘Between Death And Dreams’ - a robot made to resemble a woman, with half the face removed to reveal the mechanisms within

Brand Of Sacrifice

Between Death And Dreams

You’d think that basing more or less your entire musical existence around a subject as niche as the manga Berserk would be something of a limiting factor. But no, Brand Of Sacrifice have seen themselves elevated off the back of it to become a deathcore band for whom there are real expectations to succeed. And like their contemporaries in Slaughter To Prevail, this is the good variety of deathcore, the kind that’s willing to go unbelievably huge and use polish and opulence to its advantage. You could almost consider Between Death And Dreams an ideal jumping-on point then, as a four-song EP that’s clearly here to set the board for their next phase of decimation, but also retains Brand Of Sacrifice’s colossal, packed-to-the-rafters stature in abundance.

That degree of size is absolutely what defines Brand Of Sacrifice, too. Stripped of their bells and whistles, they’re maybe not as dimensionless as some previous genre bellwethers, but the most impressive results come from the pomp and flash of it all. It’s a common trick among this wave of deathcore, but it’s not like it doesn’t pay off. The gnarled, electroplated riff that introduces Blinded is a fine indication of the bulking-out that takes place, courtesy of choral augmentations and big palettes of synth that not only bring scale, but colour too. Their vaunted manga influence also seems to cross over into touches of J-metal into the sonic footprint; it’s not like Brand Of Sacrifice are going full Crossfaith or anything, but especially on Dynasty and the title track (more so the latter in its embrace of caving metalcore), it can be noticeable.

It’s still deathcore at the end of the day though, replete with the titanic heft and ironclad production that its current incarnation has brought to the fore. For the extent to which Brand Of Sacrifice take those factors, there’s not too much to complain about either. Kyle Anderson is about as earth-rendering a growler as you could want, and flanked by unceasing floods of falling-anvil breakdowns and a percussion tone that could turns skulls into powder on its own, it’s a reliably strong affair. Maybe enough to where just four tracks isn’t all that much of a hindrance, as Brand Of Sacrifice can rattle through their repertoire—both musically and lyrically—without burning out too soon.

Because yes, on a base level, Between Death And Dreams isn’t a revelation; even next to scene contemporaries, the impact of being beaten to the punch when it comes to revitalising deathcore can weigh on Brand Of Sacrifice. But if you were looking for a band to stand firmly among the stalwarts leading the charge, there’s enough here to where betting against Brand Of Sacrifice doesn’t make a lot of sense. They feel like a band who can easily keep their momentum going and their profile high, and when that reaction comes from what’s effectively an album teaser, it’s doing exactly what it needs to. Maybe more, considering that even in deathcore’s purple patch, there’s a lot here to get really enthused about.

For fans of: Slaughter To Prevail, Enterprise Earth, Make Them Suffer

‘Between Death And Dreams’ by Brand Of Sacrifice is out now.

Artwork for Black Coast’s ‘Black Coast’ - a black-and-white photo of a derelict room filled with cables and other equipment. The door is open revealing light, and there is a red smear at the top of the image

Black Coast

Black Coast

Is this a step back? Well, it depends on how you look at it, and also how intensely you look at it. To those who really got onboard with Black Coast’s prior material—riotous, ripping hardcore wedged deep in the Beartooth vein on tone and melody—it might be seen as such. As a self-titled EP proudly add new musical stripes of grunge to its pre-existing hardcore coat, there’s a clearly telegraphed expansion at play here, as Black Coast’s reinvent themselves fairly blatantly. But ‘step back’ would likely infer that this isn’t very good, and that isn’t entirely the case here.

It is worth saying that some of this doesn’t quite feel finalised yet, though. A longer lifespan doesn’t give Black Coast immunity to the thorns that can stick on this kind of outward growth, displayed most prominently in the Deftones impression of Sex that doesn’t even try to hide its intentions. It isn’t awful by any means, but it might be a bit out of Black Coast’s depth when their particular take on the atmosphere is more stolid than seductive; they’re no Loathe, in other words. But as Chains right before it shows, the middle ground is where their chances of flourishing are greatest, in the vein of slower, more methodical post-hardcore where crushing louds and roiling softs work in tandem.

They aren’t abandoning full-on hardcore either, perhaps for the best given that opener Real (are you listening?) is probably the best song here. The more urgent pace and taut, militant percussion just fits Black Coast more snugly, and acts as a better vehicle for Charlie Hewitt’s voice in which screaming comes more naturally than clean singing. But it’s even like Black Coast are finding it difficult to adjust outside of that either, as both Chains and Mercy carry a lot of size and dynamism, and add different threads of emotion into the overall tapestry. It all fittingly feels like it’s building up to something bigger; it isn’t a particularly cohesive tease, but the ending in sight isn’t hard to parse either.

So to answer the initial question, maybe it’s a step back, but only insofar as what Black Coast were doing before landed with less turbulence. They’re clearly looking to do more and stretch out further, and with that comes some expected growing pains when it comes to everything meshing together. But as the harbinger of a bold new era, there are some cool ideas here regardless. Black Coast have often been a band who’ve deserved better than their scene has deigned to give them, and something new like this could be a sign of those brighter things to come. If it is, it wouldn’t be unwarranted.

For fans of: Deftones, Loathe, Beartooth

‘Black Coast’ by Black Coast is released on 28th April.

Artwork for Lemonade Shoelace’s ‘Do Whatever Makes You Happy’ - an alien being dragged into a doorway by a balloon with a smiling face on it. The walls around it are rainbow-coloured, and the floor is a black-and-white checkerboard

Lemonade Shoelace

Do Whatever Makes You Happy

It’s kind of insane how quickly these bedroom-pop artists are to rack up buzz, but in a lane as proven lucrative, it’s not all that surprising. Lemonade Shoelace is a new addition to that list, the project of Ireland’s Ruairí Richman whose already performed at SXSW before even releasing this debut EP. He’s on the right wavelength for it, though; imagine the spirit of Kevin Parker transposed into a ramshackle bedroom-pop body, a project that’s evidently struggling to contain how much indie cred is oozing from every pore. Any haughtiness aside though, Do Whatever Makes You Happy is proper sound-of-the-summer stuff, and clearly revels in how much it knows that.

The Tame Impala comparison isn’t just a lazy catch-all to place Richman’s psychedelic pop somewhere. Richman doesn’t quite sprawl as much as Parker, but he nails the mood and kaleidoscopic feel all the same. Vocals regularly mask themselves in the heat-haze of the music behind and around them, in the gauzy Britpop maximalism of Hopscotch In The Sky, or the refracting synths and drum shudders of Autopilot Paradise. There’s also the whirring, proto-prog synth to be caught on pseudo title track Do What Makes You Happy, revealing of a deep bench of influences that Richman tends to mine quite heavily. Even when it’s all mushed together and blurred over in psychedelic clouds, they can still be picked out.

But as is often the case with music like this, vibe conquers all. As long as Do Whatever… is awash in colour and light and sun, the minutiae of composition doesn’t really matter, and that’s something that Richman gets away with pretty easily. He’s not a technically gifted singer, but that’s hardly a roadblock when his primary function is big, repeated hypnogogia loaded with emotion. Similarly, the sweep and swirl of the guitars and synths knocks back the need for production definition by a significant amount. It’s an obvious workaround—and one that psych-pop can frequently get away with—but Richman is fully onboard and knows how to work it to his advantage.

What transpires is an EP that fills its intended purpose, but definitely shows the early signs of bleeding out into something more. It’s appropriately like Tame Impala in that sense, with a propensity for bigness without sacrificing its own homespun charm or human touch. Richman still feels a way off becoming lost in his own particoloured spiral, and that’s undoubtedly a good thing when the results are this enticing. Considering how momentary the half-life of this kind of home-brewed pop has historically been, that’s a major accomplishment.

For fans of: Tame Impala, Kawala, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (sometimes)

‘Do Whatever Makes You Happy’ by Lemonade Shoelace is released on 28th April on Shoelace Studios.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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