REVIEW ROUND-UP: M.A.G.S., Any Given Sin, Rituals

Artwork for M.A.G.S.’ ‘Destroyer’



M.A.G.S. is the creative alias of Elliott Douglas, an artist who’s musically aligned with entirely cool things. And there’s a lot of ‘em packed in, spanning alt-punk and indie-rock to clear throughlines into soul and hip-hop, all under the guise of a musical polymath with a lot of inspiration. It’s a comparison that’ll inevitably become old hat soon (if it isn’t already), but Douglas is clearly embedded in the Bartees Strange world of alternative music, where nothing is off-limits and ‘alternative’ is emblazoned with its true, proper meaning.

The difference is, on an album like Destroyer especially, it’s all put together to feel a bit more single-minded. If it juts off to a new style, it remains tethered to an indie-rock whole, to where there’s marginally less dynamism on display. On the whole though, it leaves Destroyer as a different side of the same coin above all else, particularly with how sure-footed Douglas is throughout. Composition is the big one, with the right points to tense up and slack off being prioritised for a really interesting sense of flow. Admittedly, it grips harder in the former that’s more standardly alt-punk; Sins has an absolute monster of a hook complemented by one of Douglas’ most visceral vocals, and the rubbery garage-rock swing of Floyd is such a fresh way of using that style.

That’s not to say that, when the album eases back, it’s bad. On the contrary; it’s probably the best showcase of Douglas as a vocalist, allowing a languidness to come out that benefits his breathier, gentler timbre. Plus, it just sounds incredible, in the glowing shimmer of Swimming that somehow faultlessly meshes into its own trap remix, or the hardcore-through-an-indie-lens of Wednesday that finds its disparate ideals working in fair harmony. The one time that Douglas does go out of range is Red Sky, which aims for a Coheed And Cambria-esque prog-pop track that feels a bit clunkier than it should. Otherwise, it’s genuinely impressive how much is packaged in successfully, while still having a concentric flow to it. It’s a key strength that Douglas is able to flaunt with real gusto, tapped in sync with a flowing, expressive lyrical style that could easily be as much about the mood as the emotion within.

To top it all off, there’s simply a great feel to it all. When Douglas cites a desire in his process to “make as many choruses as possible”, that invariably pays off when Destroyer can hit with such regularity. The fact it pulls that off in an interesting way makes it even more of a draw, as the well-known acumen of the alt-punk maestros interweaves the intelligence and quirks of an indie-rock soloist, for something that handily plugs in the gaps left by both individually. Not to say it floors absolutely—or harder than the top class in either field—but it’s close, and done so through its own creative means spread impressively wide. For nailing that alone, Destroyer deserves a healthy amount of attention and admiration. • LN

For fans of: Bartees Strange, Spanish Love Songs, Peach Pit

‘Destroyer’ by M.A.G.S. is released on 4th August on Smartpunk Records.

Artwork for Any Given Sin’s ‘War Within’

Any Given Sin

War Within

Look,just because Pop Evil did better than normal this year doesn’t mean we need more of it. Not from them, and not from anyone doing impressions either, no matter how accurate they are. Because to be frank, Any Given Sin sound, down to the letter, exactly like Pop Evil, but don’t construe that to be a good thing. When Pop Evil Proper basically fluked their own decent album, it’s hard to imagine copycats getting there on force of will alone. No, War Within ends up more like their standard fare—forgettable as anything, and completely faceless.

Though, let’s not pretend that’s anything surprising, when the first sound made might as well be Any Given Sin thudding to the ground as they fall from the radio-ready alt-metal assembly line. It’s an unavoidably generic sound that they sport, locked into your usual cavalcade of chugs that are nowhere near as impactful as they think they are, thanks to the scrubbed-clean production in abundance. It’s felt in earnest when every track feels the need to pull the ‘fade in to show off the modernity’ trick that’s already played-out, and never feels any different in any case. On top of that, the lack of ideas is pretty galling here. You’d be lucky to remember any song after the ballad Cold Bones, when the remainder barely have a distinctive characteristic between them, outside of some attempt at ‘drama’ on Dynamite that can barely pick its own feet up.

Just like Pop Evil, as a matter of fact. Indeed, any prior descriptions are just as applicable to them as to Any Given Sin, such is the lack of ingenuity displayed when photocopying a much bigger band wholesale is your game plan. If it were just sound, that’d be plenty objectionable, but vocalist Victor Richie sounds borderline identical to Leigh Kakaty at numerous points, including singing patterns and cadences. (It might be slim pickings with a hard rock sound reliant on mild variations on mid-tempo grandeur exclusively, but it’s still noticeable.) At least that means he has a better voice than your average active-rock bozo, but none of that character is remotely his own. Of course, wanting ‘character’ in this type of rock at all is likely asking too much, seeing as Any Given Sin are firmly on the train of big, sweeping statements about the state of the world, that don’t actually say a solitary thing. Again, Cold Bones might actually deliver the most, in what could pass as the album’s most explicitly Christian-rock pivot with how applicable to talking about Jesus it feels.

But when that’s your big spike in notability—a decision that puts you on par with esteemed names like Skillet—you ain’t doing a whole lot. And that leaves Any Given Day in the same squalor as the other chancers who try and pull this off, willfully ignorant of the fact they’re doing nothing that countless others haven’t done with a lot more success. Even the name is own-brand; there’s another band called Any Given Day, and they’re far better than this! So, so far, Any Given Sin’s entire roadmap seems to consist of banking on their name getting confused with a bigger, more worthwhile band, and leeching onto Pop Evil’s entire existence, to where they might get stumbled upon by mistake. Just outstanding… • LN

For fans of: Pop Evil, Through Fire, Saint Asonia

‘War Within’ by Any Given Sin is released on 4th August on Mascot Records.

Artwork for Rituals’ ‘I Found Myself In The Dark’


I Found Myself In The Dark

Newcastle metallers Rituals are following up their sophomore EP Show Me The Signs with the new dynamic offering I Found Myself In The Dark. Bringing unceasing energy and riffs, they’ve taken a step up with this new release.

Opening with a foreboding and pulsing electronic bass synth, Living Blind explodes into a fury of intense heavy instrumentation. Demonic harshness emerges in an anguish-fuelled delivery alongside the brutal rhythmic guitars and percussion. A soaring contrast arises when the chorus hits—powerful, emotive clean vocals with catchy hooks are supported by lighter guitar lead layers that add new textures and tones into the mix. Despite taking a different turn, Living Blind works as a cohesive track showcasing two sides of the same coin in terms of the dark mood that prevails. The EP’s title track entices you in with electronics and a riff that builds seamlessly into a wall of sound. Compelling clean vocals soon transform into fierce harsh matched with the brutal change in the instrumentation. Thundering rhythms see vocal melodies and guitar leads weave and entwine around each other through the verse. The anthemic chorus continues the multi-textural arrangement with guitars and synths carrying a sense of momentum. Intensity runs throughout this track from double-pedal drumming to thrilling melodies. Slowing for the breakdown, it builds eager anticipation for the following heavy attack.

Rituals have a multi-faceted approach in their songwriting. Drawing from technical and progressive elements and combining an array of styles, the quartet manage to create a fusion of metalcore with a melodic and experimental edge. Cataclysm, the final track,unleashes a monumental sound from the off. Booming blows drive the track’s marching rhythms producing a huge impact. There’s a punishing savagery here, it feels like they really are holding nothing back. Breaking into more technical riffs and fast-paced percussion, the power in this song metamorphoses across different states. Soaring vocals and a gear change instrumentally once again sees a dynamic contrast, which makes the return to the heavy land even harder than before.

I Found Myself In The Dark carries a chaotic and yet mesmerising collection of songs. Each track from Rituals brings its own through epic combinations of groove-heavy rhythms, technical guitars, and charismatic vocals. • HR

For fans of: The Ghost Inside, Bury Tomorrow, Of Mice & Men

‘I Found Myself In The Dark’ by Rituals is released on 3rd August on Marshall Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)

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