REVIEW ROUND-UP: LURK, snake eyes, Heavenward

Artwork for LURK’s ‘Natural Causes’ - a dove flying into a black sky with a line drawing of sad eyes in it


Natural Causes

On their new EP, LURK feel driven. And not just in the way you’d expect from a still-rising band ready to leave their mark; this is driven in the sense that they could bore through a cliff face and come out the other side with barely a scratch on them. And with clear knowledge and appreciation for over five decades of punk that have preceded them, you’d kind of expect something like that. And that’s what’s so cool about Natural Causes—the bits and pieces are laid out and labelled, but the final composite is entirely LURK, right the way down.

And those bits and pieces aren’t exactly slacking in terms of touchstone points either. The Stooges; The Hives; the contemporary strains of post-punk; you’ll find them all present and accounted for here. And with them, LURK just go for an absolute ride, cranking the bass up to feverishly quake and carve, and applying a rough-and-tumble garage-rock sensibility to something much more impactful. The title track embodies that in how it morphs from a sweating punk jitter into a classic rock riff that AC/DC wouldn’t turn down, without losing any kind of speed or momentum. It’s more spread out elsewhere, but it’s far from unrecognisable; the screaming rock anthem Honey Hive rubs shoulders with the post-punk-tied-to-an-electrode of 1229, before Dark Humor punches forth with its snarling, slobbering riff that shows LURK at their most carnivorous.

All the while, the production emphasises the dark corners and uneven edges present across the board, and Kevin Kiley shrieks and sneers and convulses with all the due course necessary. There’s barely a moment across these six tracks that doesn’t feel completely instinctual, or gives the impression that LURK aren’t totally committed. That’s where the most thrilling kind of punk comes from, as the lashing and gnashing feels utterly real and the lack of definition around the vocals only exacerbates it. And all of it’s just really cool; that’s the dominant emotion that LURK elicit. Just like the classic punk they clearly hold in esteem, LURK work best because of the roughness and rawness they embody, topped off by being able to do it in a fresh-feeling, compelling way. Again, none of this is new on its own, but the vibrancy and vitality radiating from every growl of guitar and thunk of bass is unmistakably arresting.

And yeah, that’s pretty indicative of a driven band like this. If anything, it’s the pinnacle of what LURK bring to the table on Natural Causes, where an ability to rocket ahead in such a fashion absolutely gives them space to stand out. They’re far from the only band taking this approach, but if you’re looking for ones for whom it comes the most effortlessly and powerfully, LURK are definitely up there. Natural Causes might just be the best thing they’ve done up to now for that reason; if not, it’s a sign of being coiled up and primed for something pretty special indeed.

For fans of: The Stooges, The Hives, Fontaines D.C.

‘Natural Causes’ by LURK is released on 16th June on Pure Noise Records.

Artwork for snake eyes’ ‘health’ - the word ‘health’ written in different fruits on a light-blue background

snake eyes


For the duration of their career, snake eyes have been a deceptively difficult band to talk about. Not because they’re bad, but because their tendency to boil down the essence of DIY indie-punk to its most pure, base form naturally doesn’t leave a lot of room to move. ‘Grit-pop’ is the term they’ve coined for it, highlighting the nexus between simplicity and indie humanity that they’re among the greatest proprietors of. But despite a lack of analytical meat compared to their peers—or maybe because of it—snake eyes tend to be a lot of fun; they’ve always had punch and pep in abundance, and health shows no deviation from that at all.

If anything, this kind of release is where they feel most in their element—a brief, lean EP with barely a semblence of complexity, allowing for the natural strengths of snake eyes to shine unimpeded. They’re driven by taut, scuffed garage-pop riffs and basslines, and a knowing sense that what they’re doing really can be achieved by anyone. Don’t take that in a chastening sense, either; health is absolutely a stronger release for it. There isn’t a whiff of pretentiousness or self-importance within about a ten-mile radius, which, when paired with snake eyes’ penchant for tightening up the bashed-out indie-punk approach, has a lot of appeal to it. Where songs like no one is truly cool and crybaby shine most is in how unassuming they are, simple and prominently featuring an untrained vocal performance from Jim Heffy, but unfailingly catchy all the same.

The ‘pop’ end of their self-imposed grit-pop label really can’t be ignored in that respect. health is extremely committed to getting its hooks and melodies as robust as possible, to where snake eyes will notably surpass others in their field for it. It’s the generally upbeat sensibility that works in their favour too, espousing kindness in a music industry where rockstar bullshit continues to run unchallenged on no one is truly cool, and simple acts of self-care on 40 winks. Whether physical or mental, health definitely seems like an accurate banner to place these songs under, as a friendly, warm embrace from a band for whom their own approachability remains consciously unobstructed.

And so while snake eyes can be a bit limiting to talk about and dissect, that’s really just because they’re so self-evidently good. Across health’s five tracks, there are no real dips, or any out-there swerves that land on shakier ground. At the same time, it’s brisk enough to where it’s never overly safe, and never boring either. snake eyes simply have too much of a tight grasp on pop songcraft for that to be the case, and it comes through pretty resoundingly here. Their longevity and reputation within the DIY scene is there for a reason, y’know—they’re just too unshakable to be rid of.

For fans of: Martha, The Xcerts, Fresh

‘health’ by snake eyes is released on 16th June on Alcopop! Records.

Artwork for Heavenward’s ‘Pyrophonics’ - a hospital ward



A bit of an interesting one, this one. Heavenward is the newest project from Kamtin Mohager, better known as the indietronica musician The Chain Gang Of 1974, but also as the original vocalist of Teenage Wrist. Since his departure in 2019, that band really have come on leaps and bounds, by embracing deeper pop sensibilities alongside an already solid ‘90s alt core. Heavenward, meanwhile, is the product of Teenage Wrist’s convergent evolution, in which Mohager plays more to their original tack of loftier grunge and shoegaze. And while Pyrophonics can find it difficult to stand up to the scrutiny of how much the genuine article has flourished in the years since, it’s not like Mohager has lost much of a knack for this, or doesn’t know the best way to make this work throughout.

You can clearly tell it all comes from an artist well-versed in how all this works. Mohager approaches it with the sensibilities of an act like Basement, in more ways than one. There’s definitely an uptick in melodic nous that breaks through, as opposed to just a blurred mass of reverb to render it immobile; similarly, emo has a role here, but it’s more a stabilising element than a driving force. Thus, Pyrophonics’ wall-of-sound approach is less impenetrable overall, while still set up to be at an imposing size. The guitars are languid and washed-out without sacrificing some real massiveness to get there, held together by a rhythm section with some occasional moments of surprising dexterity that releases like this tend to ignore. As for Mohager himself, he’s about as archetypical as singers in this mould get, though he produces some really impactful vocal hooks in the three-song run of Gasoline, Wish and Something Real.

Drill down a bit further, and you notice boxes being a bit more readily ticked overall. Hell, you’d be hard-pressed to find much that’s truly original on Pyrophonics, such are the limits of the style that Mohager is playing with. Other than some pleasing brawn on Planned Human Combustion, the usual holding pattern is abided by, in all the shimmering and waves of guitar that fall into the background instead of hitting that heavily. It’s certainly not unpleasant, but it’s side-project fare to a T, generally as a vehicle for Mohager to tap into his old interests in a more casual way. You might get the occasional trail of analogue synth in very small quantities like on Be My Blues, but stick it in the same field as Basement or Narrow Head—the acts that generally serve as the tentpole names within this part of grunge—and the spark isn’t there in the same capacity. Still, Mohager’s competency does work in his favour; there’s no danger of Pyrophonics overtaking its field’s key players, but neither is there a shortage of decent impulses in the exact vein.

So with the initial statement of this being ‘an interesting one’, it might be worth amending that to say it’s interesting ‘on paper’. Simply for the rarity in an artist making their name with such a drastic stylistic leap, and then returning to their original well for another go, Heavenward has its place in that regard. On the other hand, there are scores of bands you’d turn to before this, simply through recognition within the scene even if there’s no huge disparity in quality. Because, sure—Mohager can do this well. His aptitude clearly shines, bolstered by experience that’s similarly hard to deny. But it’s a reach to say that gets Pyrophonics all the way there, and not just as another name to throw into the hat when you’ve worn down Colourmeinkindness a bit too much.

For fans of: Basement, Balance And Composure, Narrow Head

‘Pyrophonics’ by Heavenward is released on 16th June on Fever Ltd.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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