The fact that Holy Wars have so brazenly titled their new EP Cult Classic has some notable implications, intended or not. They’re yet another band for whom the building blocks of alt-metal, nu-metal, hip-hop, pop-rock and pop are there to be mixed and matched, with the intent of creating something revolutionary from what’s quickly revealed itself as a very limited sonic pool. Holy Wars are not the act to shake that up, either; they’re deigned as a ‘cult classic’ inasmuch as literally any like-sounding act. And yeah, that kind of makes the whole shtick a wash, doesn’t it?
Well, not completely, anyway. There’s still a handful of qualities worth fixing on, such as an ear for a decent hook on the title track, or the low-hanging lurch of VenoM that casts its net a bit further to encompass an act like Mimi Barks in very cursory doom-trap touches. Still, it’s a pretty shallow pool, all things considered. The majority of Cult Classic is, instead, the expected formula rinsed out with little awareness for how ineffectual that feels. Attempts made to wring out searing edge are ubiquitous and, with as many times as it’s been done by so many other acts—both well and badly—completely pedestrian. The reference points aren’t even that hard to come by either—there’s Poppy, Hot Milk, Wargasm, and the glut of interchangeable metalcore that congeals into such an obvious combine.
The worst part is that Holy Wars don’t even rise to the occasion like so many others will. Efforts are made to sound ferocious and assertive, of course, but they don’t land. Part of that is down to how feigned the firepower in this sort of thing currently is, but even more simply, there just isn’t an effective vehicle here to present it. Kat Leon might be a uniformly decent singer (as in, she falls entirely in line with the majority of her crew), but it rarely goes over the top, or into something more uniquely visceral. When she tries, there’s the yapping rap-scream collision on Deus Ex Machina, or TENSION//RELEASE’s ‘whispering to sound intimidating’ tactic that’s become so tiresome by now. It might be less of a slog to wade through at only five tracks proper, but the individual issues become magnified that much more. There’s no buffer when Holy Wars are isolating the most played-out, boring qualities of this sound, under the impression that it’s what makes them interesting.
To put it simply, it isn’t. There’s precious little about Cult Classic that is interesting, and what is there has still been done to death already. For what it is, it’s competent—you can give them that—but does that really count for anything? Countless numbers of these acts can muster ‘competent’; doing something more is what you’re really after. And with Holy Wars, you’re combing for scraps on a picked-clean carcass if you’re looking for something more. In a sound that’s already been worn thin, an approximate facsimile of the actual good stuff is the complete opposite direction you want to head in.
For fans of: Poppy, Wargasm, Saint Agnes
‘Cult Classic’ by Holy Wars is released on 10th November on Pale Chord Music.
GOLD TOOTH GURU
HourHouse’s debut opens with THE SIT DOWN, a skit based around vocalists Milly and Neeco as mob bosses gunning down moles in their ranks, and putting on the table a motif that’s…never really explored again. Not in as explicit terms as an album based around street-level activity from a mafia perspective, anyway, though you kind of wish it was at times. After all, for a band with supposedly a wealth of influences—musical and otherwise—factored into their brand of rap-metal, GOLD TOOTH GURU doesn’t quite hit the mark in ways it should. It’s especially annoying when 2023 has produced a surprisingly strong rap-rock suite, and while HourHouse definitely feel as though they should be among the top bracket, there’s just something preventing them from getting all the way.
It’s hard to really pinpoint what that is, too, because from its composite parts, this actually seems quite strong. Throughout, the rapping drips with confidence and bravado (and a technical prowess that’s always appreciated), and the heaviness connects on brutalising power regularly, somewhere between hardcore and metalcore that prioritises its low-slung bludgeonings well. But for some reason, the resultant product just isn’t more than the sum of its parts. Maybe it’s because the allusion of slathered-on genre-bending doesn’t typically manifest until the very end, only with the slow-jam RIDE and the semi-‘90s-alternative / semi-Post-Malone mashup CONSTRICTING THE ANIMAL (neither of which feel like hard-hitting closers, if we’re being truly honest). Otherwise, HourHouse have a rather clean-cut repertoire on display here, of which they’re clearly adept but seldom as iridescent as they want or believe to be.
But still, that isn’t too severe an issue, not when said adeptness comes through pretty strongly. There’s the inherent coolness breaking through in how trap and drill cues are fed into the mix on a track like DO IT LIKE, or how the upped heaviness on SWARM feels like an incredibly worthwhile avenue to explore further. There’s also Milly as frontman, who’s easily among the most capable MCs that have cropped up in recent times, shown off all the more when he’s given more straight-up hip-hop production to perform over. GOLD TOOTH GURU seems to be all about accentuating the strengths of its creators, and while it’d be nice for that to branch out or try to reshape the established norms, it does accomplish its goals. Even on choruses that sound unmistakably like Korn (right down a vocal that’s about as close to a Jonathan Davis impression as it comes), it’s pulled off with as much consummate effort as HourHouse give elsewhere.
So while this mightn’t be totally stellar, or the grand redefining of the scene implied in bios or promo copy, GOLD TOOTH GURU is still exceptionally competent for what it’s doing. Among rap-rock and rap-metal, HourHouse easily fit among the good quota, bearing the skills and drive necessary to make that rather evident. Still, a bit more oomph to the formula wouldn’t go amiss, if only to really feel like they aren’t being boxed in. The sonic profile they carry really doesn’t suit that kind of limitation, and getting something down to more readily define themselves will only be a good thing going forward. File this one under ‘promising, but not all the way there yet’, for now.
For fans of: UnityTX, Borders, Stray From The Path
‘GOLD TOOTH GURU’ by HourHouse is released on 10th November on UNFD.
In a past life, Locket were Safe To Say, the Canadian emo band poised to really explode, only to get swept under the rug before they had the proper chance to. This rebrand seems to be something of a second chance then, but has that really resulted much more just yet? They’ve been around in this current guise since 2019, with a more pop-rock-oriented sound to boot, and yet the trajectory doesn’t seem to have altered at all. They might as well have kept the same nebulous ‘on the rise’ tag, only this time, it doesn’t even feel as though they’ve hit the same level of recognition. Nor are they even that much worse; they simply don’t present a lot to talk about.
And that kind of speaks for itself when they’re up to their second full-length, with the outcome being so inconsequential. Superluminal is by no means bad, but it’s also the kind of pop-rock album for whom the moment has long since passed. The heavier, bulkier guitars against a slicker production style has had any luster severely worn down (and there wasn’t a great deal to begin with, to be honest), and while Locket’s attempts to paper over the cracks is admirable, it’s rare that anything stands out that much. At best, there are more propulsive hooks on Blame My Brain and Kilayear, making better use of the darker, more matt sonic shades they’re provided with. They do pack into the album’s front, though, to where a lot of the middling tones and passé emo-pop-rock mush proceeds to bulk out the rest. Again, not unlistenable at all, but not anything special to an equally extreme degree.
But is there any greater payoff seemingly waiting in the wings? Any direction that Locket appear to be pointing to in which to exercise something greater? Well…no, not really. What you see is what you get with Superluminal, or at least that’s how it feels. Brad Garcia is as emotionally honest as you’d expect from a mid-pack emo frontman, never exorcising with soul-bearing detail but sketching broad anxieties and post-COVID uncertainty with appropriate ease. In similar fashion, the general sound plugs in the tropes necessary—the added flecks of gloss on you&i; the acoustic closing note in Finale; the usual emo and pop-rock packages at numerous points—with little of its own to say. The equable, averaged-out feel prevails a lot on Superluminal, almost like an album template of sorts. You seldom get a sense of who Locket are and how they differ compared to the droves of others who sound exactly like this, and that’ll inevitably be the reason that they’re yet to rise as high as they may formerly have been tipped to.
Of course, there’ll be some for whom this scratches every possible itch in terms of emo and pop-rock, and to an extent, that’s also understandable. For something this tried-and-true, where attempts to push the boat out are pretty infrequent, Superluminal isn’t exactly a failed effort and delivering exactly what its listeners will want. Whether that’s entirely worthwhile instead of continuing to develop and fly independently of immovable genre touchstones is another matter all on its own. In that sense, Locket aren’t achieving much, or even putting themselves in good stead to do so. It’s all well and good if they want to stay in the dead centre of their already-heaving pack, but why would they want that in the first place?
For fans of: Homesafe, Young Culture, Weathers
‘Superluminal’ by Locket is released on 10th November on Fearless Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall