REVIEW ROUND-UP: The Word Alive, Filter, Des Rocs, Knife Bride

Artwork for The Word Alive’s ‘Hard Reset’

The Word Alive

Hard Reset

Oh, is it time to oversell a new The Word Alive album again? That’s where most of the conflict lies in evaluating their album, in the constant push-pull between their willingness to let the currents of metalcore trends dictate where they go, and the fact that they’ll end up landing with a lot more grace than the more obvious chancers. Rarely is it all that special, but it can be way more enjoyable. And once again, they’ve pulled that off with Hard Reset, in the zone of ultra-dense, ultra-produced melodic-core that Bad Omens have yet to atone for popularising. (Though, the fact they feature on this album and have all past efforts handily shown up by The Word Alive across the board isn’t nothing by any means.)

In fact, this is probably among the best that this particular sound has turned out in a while, even with some of the hang-ups that continue to persist. Yes, the full-on nature of it all can be fairly overbearing on an album that’d feel overstuffed without it, and even within that, The Word Alive aren’t sporting much innovation. It’s exactly what you’d expect from this band, from front to back. That’s also why it works though, when a lot of that can be easily held firm by their characteristic amount of effort. Hard Reset wants to sound shamelessly grand, in the production and the breakdowns and the general apocalyptic scale that colours near every one of its thirteen tracks. And The Word Alive kind of nail it; the likes of the title track and Fade Away are inescapably huge, and just two examples of what’s a very clear norm.

But it’s also hugeness with purpose, beyond simply boasting how much expensive studio wizardry they can afford. No joke, Hate Me might just be the catchiest song The Word Alive have ever written, with One Of Us and Static Rain not that far behind. It’s a bit of a waste that none of the collaborators provide much more than vocal support (especially when full bands are credited, and you’ve got the likes of Normandie and From First To Last here), but as a means of showing off The Word Alive themselves, this is more than respectable. Telle Smith mightn’t scream that often but there’s a sharpness to it that’s phenomenally impactful; furthermore, he’s easily one of the more accomplished clean singers this section of metalcore has, in terms of vocal clarity and fluidity. He brings a believability to the emotions peddled that’s not often this legitimate, even managing to avoid really any meddling from the processed mix.

In a sense, it’s kind of like what Bring Me The Horizon have become in their most recent eras. The Word Alive are nowhere close to being that inventive, but they’re pulling out arguably the best results from what they’ve got to work with. Practically no one else has indulged this form of metalcore and turned out a body of work that’s fully enjoyable, to where if you fancy being a bit flippant, you could say The Word Alive are in fact breaking new ground. Really though, it’s more a case of good knowledge and experience colliding with a largely higher watermark for quality—a less exciting reality than you might want it to be, but a much better outcome that what might otherwise be expected.

For fans of: Bring Me The Horizon, Bad Omens, Dayseeker

‘Hard Reset’ by The Word Alive is released on 25th August on Thriller Records.

Artwork for Filter’s ‘The Algorithm’


The Algorithm

Did you know it’s been seven years since Filter last released an album? Feels longer than that, doesn’t it? Well, that’s probably because—unlike with Richard Patrick’s past venture Nine Inch Nails—there just isn’t the demand for ‘90s-originating industrial-rock like this, unless you’re the absolute most ubiquitous name it has to offer. So in the case of Filter, a lot of general awareness of them is isolated to their ‘95 debut Short Bus, their ‘99 single Take A Picture, and at a push, a couple of soundtrack contributions for Spawn and 2012.

Then again, Filter’s fade might also be a consequence of them not quite being in sterling stead. Though to be fair, The Algorithm is nowhere near as cynical as plenty of acts of their vintage would trend, nor as its title might allude. There is effort put in here, which makes it that much more of a shame when it refuses to pan out. That can chiefly be applied to how Filter’s approach to rage and unleashing revolution just doesn’t land the same way three decades past its prime. It’s trying to force the ‘90s industrial tones back into place, leading to a good portion of The Algorithm feeling lumbering and unwieldy, and greased up in a production film that only highlights its most dated affectations. You can even add Richard Patrick himself in to how they’re craving to thrust their heyday forward; his voice has become truly difficult to get along with, as he tries to crank out genuine intensity on Up Against The Wall or For The Beaten, but ends up sounding hoarse, strained and generally difficult to listen to.

But again, that’s at least indicative of Filter trying, no matter how misguided their efforts are. Trying to recapture some acerbic desire is a better starting point than having no interest whatsoever, which at least starts them on a better foot. And there are moments where The Algorithm finds ways to pay it off; the darker, grisly throb of Be Careful What You Wish For runs away as the best cut (indeed, the decision to soak individual tracks in ragged bass is ultimately a good one), and despite being an out-of-nowhere grunge pivot, Summer Child is also quite strong. There are seeds of something here, desperately trying to sneak through the concrete wall built up in front of Filter by the natural passage of time. It’s just difficult to find something tangibly, satisfyingly coming together among it. Flickers of good stuff can only account for so much, particularly when the album’s momentum entirely fizzles out in its drippy, acoustic closing pair Burn Out The Sun and Command Z. With just those two alone, odd sequencing becomes yet another factor holding The Algorithm back.

It’s the kind of album that has ‘forgettable’ written all over it—not good enough to be a stable bellwether of more to come; not bad enough to hit exceptional lows in its field. At least in that sense, Filter are historically on par with themselves, and a catalogue that’s been similarly unimpactful for decades. It’s not a concession at all, but it’s a less severe kick to a band whose ability to stand back up has been wavering, at best. A charitable outlook and praise for its isolated bright spots are really all that can be afforded to The Algorithm, though for a Filter album coming this late in a lengthy career, that’s hardly unprecedented.

For fans of: Nine Inch Nails, Orgy, One Minute Silence

‘The Algorithm’ by Filter is released on 25th August on Golden Robot Records.

Artwork for Des Rocs’ ‘Dream Machine’

Des Rocs

Dream Machine

Apparently there’s been a bit of buzz around Des Rocs predominantly stateside, as he’s found himself integrated among their cache of throwback-rock acts for whom there’s little danger of finding anything too complex. At least, that’s the vibe that most radio commodification tends to give; in truth, Des Rocs—the musical pseudonym of Danny Rocco, FYI—offers up an example of this sort of thing that aims slightly higher. An incredibly low bar to cross, yes, but Dream Machine isn’t without its moments that do earmark it as something more than the average. To put it plainly, Des does, indeed, roc.

…albeit without leaving the controlled environment that tends to constitute most retro revivalism and classic rock worship. Musically, it offers a lot of what you’d expect—big, fuzzed-out riffs reliant on a worship of blues, upon which the cycles of rock’s household names can be recognised in earnest. (There’s also the cloying acoustic closer Up To You if you want something ‘different’, though can be easily excised with no overall loss.) It’s not like Dream Machine is particularly shy about that either. It might start on its own footing with the burbling, anxious rumble and stream-of-consciousness ranting of the title track’s intro, but it isn’t long until normal service is resumed after approximately one minute. From there…well, it’s a retro-rock album; you get what you’re going in for.

Although, on occasion, Rocco provides slightly more inspiration than your typical midlife crisis vehicle. He’s a lot more histrionic of a singer than the usual lot, which sees Dream Machine encroaching on moments of borderline theatricality in spots. If Royal Blood were as close to Muse as it often feels like they try and convince themselves that they are, it wouldn’t be a million miles from this. On top of that, he simply has a higher standard of quality for the basics. It’s all very burly and maximalist, as elements like the gospel backing vocals on Natural Born Thriller fill it out in ways that feel fun, something acts like this typically don’t allow for themselves. This isn’t a staid, Greta Van Fleet-esque facsimile; at the very least, Rocco injects some of his own personality and ribaldry in. How far that goes on an album that’s largely still chained to its rockstar archetypes is an open question, but it’s still something.

And at least Dream Machine goes by quickly enough to where it’s rarely weighed down to an unworkable degree. As far as retro-rock offerings go, this is far from the most objectionable, even if Des Rocs is a name that’s not projecting exceptional longevity on its own just yet. The opportunity to establish a brand and an identity unto himself remains on the table, and you can certainly feel it here. Still, for what it is, this is fine. It’s clearly doing well enough already, and if another one of these simply has to exist, there could be a lot worse.

For fans of: Royal Blood, Muse, Wolfmother

Dream Machine’ by Des Rocs is released on 25th August on Sumerian Records.

Artwork for Knife Bride’s ‘don’t dream too much’

Knife Bride

don’t dream too much

It’s a little tricky to know where to place Knife Bride on initial exposure. You wouldn’t think it’d be, seeing as they exhibit plenty of telltale signs of a forwardly edgy alternative act, whose ‘transgressions’ are paradoxically what lets them fit in—the all-lowercase track names; the explicitness with which their dark atmosphere is cultivated; the name. But while their biggest break so far might’ve come from touring with Wargasm, Knife Bride’s approach feels distinctly less calculated and cleanly manufactured than that.

Of course, don’t dream too much mightn’t be the most definitive evidence of any of that. At only three tracks, it’s a morsels if anything, designed to put pieces on the board rather than make a full-on gambit. Still, there’s something here all the same, even if it can mainly be boiled down to a confidence that’s already serving Knife Bride well, and will only do even more in the future. The chromed nu-metal grooves feel like a good start, as do the emergings of courting Spiritbox’s loftiness or In This Moment’s juxtaposition of the feminine-coded and the ferocious. Wrapping it up together is vocalist Mollie Buckley, who’s just as comfortable with a sweeter pop leaning as something more actively stalking and closed-in, like the whispered breakdowns on smother (make me suffer).

On the other hand though, when that’s the basis for all three of these tracks with a hard cap seemingly placed over them, it’s worth questioning whether Knife Bride are exhausting their supply already. It’s doubtful that they are, mind, but the niggling feeling is there, particularly when permanent s m i l e—the one song that hadn’t dropped prior to release—is on that same wavelength too. Still, there’s worth in Knife Bride embracing where they are musically. They’ve clearly not skimped out on ensuring this production sounds expensive and blemish-free (even if Buckley’s vocals can be a smidge too quiet in spots), which does lend this brand of alt-metal the crunch and sharpness it requires. If Knife Bride can bring over some more of their impressive live heaviness on record, there’s nothing to worry about here.

As it stands right now though, there’s still a solid bit to be enthused about here. Whether it’s how they appear to pull from some more interesting sources, or how they just seem to have landed directly on their feet with decent work in their own right, it’s really not hard to envision the kind of traction that Knife Bride are destined to get. Especially with certain audiences, this will likely resonate a lot, even if one last push to lengthen their runway further would do even more. It’s probably unfair to expect that from such a tiny sample size as a three-song EP, though; for where they are currently, Knife Bride are cooking up some solid stuff.

For fans of: In This Moment, Spiritbox, Lake Malice

don’t dream too much’ by Knife Bride is released on 25th August.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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