REVIEW ROUND-UP: Annisokay, Guilt Trip, Samurai Pizza Cats, Rocket Pengwin

Artwork for Annisokay’s ‘Abyss Pt. I’


Abyss Pt. I

Annisokay have a habit of delivering metalcore bangers. Bursting with anthemic choruses and ludicrous breakdowns, they continues to deliver immensely catchy tracks in the new offering Abyss Pt. I. The new EP follows the 2021 full-length Aurora. That album marked a new chapter with Rudi Schwarzer joining their ranks as they new harsh vocalist. Over the past few releases, we’ve seen the band find a formula and a style that works for them in terms of creating charismatic metalcore songs.

Opening with Into The Abyss this introduction makes for a cinematic soundtrack, haunting and eerie it could easily belong on a game soundtrack. There’s drama and intrigue through the arrangement and instrumental layering. Leading into Human, the thundering guitars and dark heaviness continue some elements of the intro track, while also transitioning further into the metalcore world. Of course, the anthemic chorus takes off with Christoph’s soaring cleans and Rudi’s gutturals inject a fierce burst of aggression into the mix (this is Annisokay after all!). Human is one of the moodier and darker tracks on the release, the thundering chugs take a more prominent position while we see electronics become the more central focus as the track list progresses.

Ultraviolet’s opening drum sound is reminiscent of the early 2000s; think Evanescence or Linkin Park. Airy and atmospheric synths give an uplifting, elevated feel to the track. The heaviness grounds Ultraviolet adding depth, and soon the breakdown hits with a fair amount of force. Throne Of The Sunset’s driving rhythms burst into life accompanied with Rudi’s harsh. Constrasting with a lighter pre-chorus, we’re soon thrown into Annisokay’s staple anthemic chorus. They have a talent for effective vocal melody lines and the mix across the EP is pretty much on point. Calamity, a reinvention of German singer-songwriter Leony’s Remedy, brings something a little different to the EP. Annisokay bring the original’s catchy melodies into their dynamic synth realms and the arrangement fuses well with addition of heavy instrumentation. Time concludes Abyss Pt. I with an enticing synth build-up before bursting into full heavy chugs. Time has a wonderfully ethereal aspect in its anthemic chorus, as well as an emotive feel. Fast-paced verses layered with subtle electronics create a sense of urgency and anticipation, which is enhanced by the arrival of the chorus.

Abyss Pt. I unveils some intriguing hints of possible developments in their music, Into The Abyss particularly feels like it could transform into something more. Is it the most groundbreaking release – no, however it doesn’t need to be. Not everything needs to be (or can be, realistically) completely innovative in every single aspect. Abyss Pt. I is a solid EP with some powerful tracks and is a great addition to the band’s discography. • HR

For fans of: I Prevail, Siamese, Sleeping With Sirens

‘Abyss Pt. I’ by Annisokay is released on 22nd September on Arising Empire.

Artwork for Guilt Trip’s ‘Severance’

Guilt Trip


It figures you’d find Guilt Trip making a home on Malevolence’s MLVLTD. When they sound practically just like their label-heads—not to mention the way they’ll be opening for them on tour later this year—the likelihood is that a built-in audience is read to go for them. That’s not to mention how their 2018 debut River Of Lies picked up some scant but resounding acclaim, on top of everything else. The path lined up for Guilt Trip seems to be pointing directly in their favour, in the realm of metallic hardcore fused with thrash and classic metal for what’s equally as elder-statesman-friendly as it is appealing to current generations of mosh-fiends.

And yes, as may have been inferred, Severance’s place among the Malevolence school of thought has a lot to do with that. It’s not as all-encompassing as they’ve come to be in recent years, but as a newer incarnation of it, Guilt Trip are hitting the correct beats with fair ease. It goes without saying that it’s heavy, in a particularly satisfying way when the tightest imaginable synergy is achieved between thrash and hardcore’s individual speeds and ferality levels, like on Sweet Dreams or Broken Wings. Conversely, the moments of deep, hollowed-out guitar á la classic metal atmosphere might just be Severance’s best; not only do they expand its breadth almost singlehandedly, but the likes of Reaching Paradise and the buildup it founds on Hell Will Replace The Rain just sound great.

Granted, that’s about the extent to which Severance offers much to mention, in any direction. That’s mainly through Guilt Trip simply being self-evidently strong—in everything they’re doing here, there are next to no edges in need of touching up or redefining—but it’d be remiss to not mention the kernel of truth to how they aren’t shooting past a clear limit. At no point is Severance looking to expand the reaches of heavy music; it’s just Guilt Trip getting their head down, and doing what they want. And that’s all well and good, but maybe a bit more unique personality wouldn’t go amiss either. Jay Valentine’s street-level vocal delivery come across like an amalgam of plenty of hardcore’s existing heavy hitters; meanwhile, you struggle to avoid the Malevolence comparisons at many junctures, with how plainly they’re presented. Even the artwork isn’t too far off.

Still, rarely will a consummate metal enjoyer object to any one of those things, and it’s all arranged in a way for Guilt Trip to present an easy win overall. It’s not hard to imagine this getting really big in the right circles, particularly in the coming months when that’ll be practically thrust upon this band from all angles. In the wider metal world, however…yeah, the same could certainly be true, but a bit more development is still needed for longevity’s sake. At this point though, when Guilt Trip are still ostensibly at the point of getting their feet wet, they’re doing enough. No real complaints here, for the most part. • LN

For fans of: Malevolence, Judiciary, Sylosis

‘Severance’ by Guilt Trip is released on 22nd September on MLVLTD.

Artwork for Samurai Pizza Cats’ ‘You’re Hellcome’

Samurai Pizza Cats

You’re Hellcome

Wow, what a lol XD random band name that is… To be fair, it’s probably taken from the cartoon from the early ‘90s, but Samurai Pizza Cats are also associated with Electric Callboy, so you can’t be too sure, can you? Of course, the latter option presents its own set of ramifications—a band actively trying to recreate comedy-metalcore routine, and for whom the writing is already on the wall whenever an ‘effort’ like that is made. I mean, the song featuring Electric Callboy’s Nico Sallach is called Pizza Homicide, and it’s about killing someone who orders pineapple on their pizza. Bet you’re rolling in the aisles already, eh?

Because there’s evidently some mercy in the universe, though, that’s not really what You’re Hellcome is. It really can’t be, seeing as Electric Callboy themselves have only just captured the lightning in a bottle that’s made them properly fun, and it certainly isn’t about to replicated by Samurai Pizza Cats of all bands. Not for a lack of trying though, when there’s clearly an ‘amusement’ factor that’s had conscious work put into it, albeit mainly present in their music videos. Though in that case, it never really works out in the music on its own; Samurai Pizza Cats aren’t over-the-top enough for it, certainly not in a fashion to usurp their progenitors’ out-and-out Europop interpolations. Divorce The Wolf In Me or Outcast from any visual accompaniments, and they barely rise above where metalcore of this stripe tends to go anyway.

Ultimately, that’s because, removed of any pretense of what it could be, You’re Hellcome is basically just another metalcore album. A bit of an anticlimax, honestly, but when Samurai Pizza Cats present so little to go off, it’s the most applicable conclusion. With the last leg especially, it runs together with little effort, a result of how this just isn’t as colourful or vibrant as it’s maybe supposed to be. Synths are present but generally only used to fill whatever gaps are left, of which the wall-of-sound metalcore approach leaves very little to begin with. To be fair though, Samurai Pizza Cats do go fairly heavy, and Sebastian Fischer lets out a way more vicious scream than is really demanded of him. It’s, if nothing else, a flicker of an indication that something more could be latent below the surface, as is the short but largely fun solo on Kill It, and the pummelling drum work on Falling Down that’s actually really good.

But at the end of the day, when qualities like that aren’t being capitalised on, the results are just going to match. Chances are that Samurai Pizza Cats will still be welcomed with open arms into the world of meme-metalcore, which is a dubious ‘honour’ to begin with, but they aren’t even flashy or obnoxious enough for that to be warranted. Having music videos to maybe back it up is no excuse, especially when an album that’s supposed to work on its own merits is concerned. And as far as that goes, You’re Hellcome just feels so generic, as if the tryhard energy gone into being metalcore’s next big ironic darling has crashed and burned in spectacular fashion. • LN

For fans of: Electric Callboy, The Browning, Bad Omens

‘You’re Hellcome’ by Samurai Pizza Cats is released on 22nd November on Easthaven Records.

Artwork for Rocket Pengwin’s ‘Polar Opposites’

Rocket Pengwin

Polar Opposites

Here’s the elevator pitch for Rocket Pengwin—it’s the solo pop-punk / emo-pop project of singer-songwriter Eddie Sears, with the visual theme of always appearing next to another person in a penguin costume, and with this debut album closed by pop-rock covers of Miley Cyrus’ Jaded and Taylor Swift’s Anti-Hero. …yeah, the vibe of ‘TikTok-friendly aesthete’ is not lost here in the slightest, nor are the pop-punk impulses pulled off the rack with the express intent of making their purveyors viral heavyweights. At least Sears’ rise seems much more organic, and seeing as the genre’s foetid hypebeast wave appears to be clearing itself away as quickly as it came, Rocket Pengwin does have a place for itself. Of course, the fact that it’s just plainly better works too.

That’s true even with the litany of shortcomings that pop-punk like this seems required to have. The production is an obvious one, retaining much of the weakness and lack of integrity that’s so often the first sign of how low the spectre of awfulness is looming. A less-sure act could easily cave beneath that, the crushing blow coming from alt-pop pivots that—in the case of the plinking, lurching, generally unsettled Heaven—ring as about a decade out of date. The element of being strongarmed by its pop polish still rests heavily on Polar Opposites, despite Sears generally being able to hold his own among it. It still stands unshaken at its worse, but a better creative vision inside it can mitigate some of the most abject damage.

Often, that can simply be a case of undeniable catchiness at a fair number of junctures that Sears knows exactly how to work. On the title track or Central Park, that can shoulder an almost inhuman amount of weight, while some Travis Barker-esque drum patterns on Save Me and What It Seems and a dominant, determined bass on Promises inject some complexity that’s definitely appreciated. Not enough to really elevate Sears beyond the pop-punk standards evident in his writing, but certainly enough to reinforce some kind of worth. It’s the commonality with modern blink-182 that actually matters, and Sears’ more distinct voice lilting in and out of a British accent feeds a bit more distinction into that. The broad strokes can work when there’s just an amount of competence, effort and know-how behind them; it’s why, despite being blindingly obvious grabs for wider attention, the closing pair of covers work here too, in the vein of already-proven high points.

Even if you’d struggle to find set-in-stone evidence for Rocket Pengwin being a project ready to dominate on Polar Opposites, there’s more in its favour than with a lot in the same boat. Next to what it could be, this is immediately preferable multiple times over, an album that at least has a cogent hook to bear, as opposed to very scant highlights among a sea of nothingness. The recommendation isn’t glowing as a result of a few ties to that sort of pop-punk yet to be cut, but it’s further than most of them ever got. As a result, the sign of potential from Rocket Pengwin is more apparent from that and that alone. • LN

For fans of: blink-182, MOD SUN, LiL Lotus

‘Polar Opposites’ by Rocket Pengwin is released on 22nd September.

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

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