REVIEW ROUND-UP: Future Static, Racetraitor, Birdmask, Colourburn

Artwork for Future Static’s ‘Liminality’

Future Static


Australia’s status as a hotbed of interchangeable metalcore second-stringers might have shifted over to Europe now, but the dream’s not dead yet, people! Alright, to be fair to Future Static, they’ve got more going for them than…basically any of the past generation’s mid-level put together. Chalk that up to how chugging your way to Warped Tour dominance hasn’t been a useful play for a fair time, but in the vein of Spiritbox or As Everything Unfolds taking metalcore in more soaring, explicitly melodic directions, Future Static sit on the same naturally elevated plane. But can they compare there? After all, a genre that’s never been known for diversifying tends to have its hangers-on, something which Future Static give off rather earnestly. Even if Liminality isn’t bad at all, it’s hard to extract an excellence or worth that’s unique to it.

And in a sense, that’s metalcore’s main problem in a nutshell—there just isn’t the flexibility for everyone to exist and thrive simultaneously, regardless of how far from the bell curve an individual act believes themselves to be. For Future Static, they certainly go all-in with pop-leaning immediacy on Chemical Lobotomy or Icarus, as well as perforating with flourishes of tech-metal in both blemish-free, steel-capped tone and instrumental direction on Venenosa and Iliad. And yet, for what’s supposed to define this band, it’s strikingly similar to much of what else is out there. This isn’t the cataclysmic swing for the fences that it might appear to be in a bubble; Liminality instead is rather rote as far as this kind of thing is concerned. It’s big but not impactful, at least no more so than others who’ve already markedly cut their teeth within it.

Still, what Future Static do is done well, all things considered. Both Amariah Cook and Kira Neil have strong, strident voices (even if they can be a little hard to distinguish from one another), and for tech-metal locked in the confines of its space, it’s good that they’ve cleared the all-too-common hurdle of being unable to actually write songs, as opposed to tech-demos of prowess that go nowhere of note. It’s not a wonderful commendation, but you’d also be amazed how many struggle to get even that far. At least with the overt comparisons to Spiritbox, As Everything Unfolds and their ilk, Future Static are in good company for getting this to work. Hell, when Make Them Suffer’s Sean Harmanis comes in on Plated Gold to crank up the heaviness by a few notches more, it might be the closest that Liminality comes to surpassing its peers; it’s just that potent an individual moment.

Unfortunately, that isn’t a regularity though, and Future Static wind up more comfortably swaddled in their scene than shaping their portion of it to their will. A common problem, definitely, and one that might be worth looking past had their been more to grab onto in the first place. Again, this isn’t bad, but it’s another proponent of the mix-and-match approach within tech-metal and metalcore that only seems to evolve when a real earth-shaker makes themselves known. In this case, Future Static can feel rather pedestrian, from their sound, to their lyrics, to the general mood they give off of being very cut-and-dry in what they’re doing. ‘Fine’ and ‘functional’ should not be the most emotive descriptors that can be applied to your metal album.

For fans of: Spiritbox, As Everything Unfolds, Northlane

‘Liminality’ by Future Static is released on 24th November on Wild Thing Music.

Artwork for Racetraitor’s ‘Creation And The Timeless Order Of Things’


Creation And The Timeless Order Of Things

It’s wild that Andy Hurley’s career can still jut off in directions like this. In the same year as he and the rest of Fall Out Boy have dropped their best album in years (and at the same time as enormous world tour to support it), there’s a new Racetraitor album released, destined to get a miniscule fraction of the fanfare. Even so, there’s something so cool about the independently flying flags of arena pop-rock and socially radical hardcore and grindcore having one crossover champion, and one for whom the effort in either never feels workmanlike. Obviously; you’re not raking in megabucks in Racetraitor, but passion for the craft and the message can be its own reward when the result is this brutally, unerringly carnivorous.

On Creation And The Timeless Order Of Things, Racetraitor sound as prepared to raze any and all failing, unjust systems to the ground as they did back in the ‘90s. Perhaps more so, even, with the travelogue approach that crafts firsthand observations (many of which feel distinctly outside of wider world’s purview) into their vicious swings of the axe. Even if there’s barely an enunciation to be found in Mani Mostofi’s bear-roar of a vocal, the ideal is hard to miss. At the same time though, this is a much more lyrically flavourful album than a lot of similar heavy music, in a way that might unfairly be lost among Racetraitor’s own devastation-by-design. Even just through naming cultures and locations like on Land Acknowledgement or Black Creek / Red River, there’s a sense of lived-in activism that’s worth exponentially more than boiling down issues and talking points to loud, forceful but often narrow slogans.

Besides, it’s not like Racetraitor are wanting for killer instinct in any capacity. They’re from the generation of metalcore that owed more to the extreme underground than today’s crop ever would dream, and there’s really been no struggle in replicating it. If anything, Racetraitor’s global travels have only made them more dynamic, albeit not too far outside the Middle Eastern instruments and progressions to bookend the album on Eid and Pangaea Proxima, and the occasional motif in line with black-metal that’ll crop up here and there. Otherwise, the noise and the destruction are operating at full speed; Mostofi comes out supported by an equally cratering assault from Dan Binaei and Andrea Black on guitars and R. Brent Decker on bass. But as is the case on most projects he’s on, Hurley is the showstopper, with a militant brawn in the percussion that brandishes a blazing metal impulse high and mighty. You’d be pushed to find a weak link among this unit, but Hurley might just stand out as the secret sauce to send Racetraitor over the top.

And sure, a lot of that can be attributed to context, where the Fall Out Boy drummer stepping out of that lane and back to his roots will always generate more intrigue and attention. But Racetraitor are far more than an attention-grabbing headline; they’re the real deal when it comes to hardcore that can give out an absolute leathering in the name of global justice. And honestly, if it takes the curiosity streams of a few inquisitive, open-minded Fall Out Boy fans to see that, then so be it. They deserve every bit of attention they can get, both for the cause they’re expounding, and the terrific heavy music that accompanies it.

For fans of: Sect, Day Of Suffering, Arma Angelus

‘Creation And The Timeless Order Of Things’ by Racetraitor is out now on Good Fight Records.

Artwork for Birdmask’s ‘Tristan’



It makes a lot of sense for Manuel Gagneux to embrace being a more multidisciplinary artist. With as much as Zeal & Ardor hung on its own uniqueness, it never really made sense as a singular outlet, particularly in its origins as effectively a creative challenge to blend black-metal with spirituals. Birdmask, then, is one of Gagneux’s tentative steps into being a true-blue polymath stylistically, actually predating (and now overtaken by) Zeal & Ardor, as the little acorns from which that particular might oak would grow. Blues is still an element, though fed through lo-fi chamber-pop and indie that, in terms of a finished product, certainly feels more capable than Zeal & Ardor initially did. Granted, that project is currently a quantum leap away from the cobbled-together skeleton it began is, but at least Birdmask’s steps don’t feel in danger of having the ground beneath them immediately crumble underfoot. That’s something, anyway.

At the same time though, a lot of Tristan is deliberately scaled-back and more secure, like the tentative leans into a pop project for Gagneux to feel out where everything should go. Pianos and deepened swathes of vocals provide the main support, hanging in the pristine atmosphere of something more baroque, though never crossing that line itself. Some might say there’s a sterility to it, but Gagneux is canny enough to never put too heavy an onus on that. Way Out finds him in magnetically ensconced form as a belting bluesman, accompanied by a distinct crop of backing singers and shuddering guitars and percussion that are eased back just enough. Elsewhere, Dearly Beloved falls into churning whorls of soul-pop that could realistically sniff crossover viability from someone in that sphere. It all comes out very naturally, as you’d expect from an evidently and historically talented composer as Gagneux.

It’s why it’s not too much of a surprise to find him flip the script and do more with what he has, albeit in not as radical a way as his Zeal & Ardor work. There’s no similar DNA-rewriting going on here, but the stentorian histrionics of the indie-rock pivot Leave The Rain Outside and the cut-back synth weedling on Breathe In Breathe Out are notable but sensible pivots. They aren’t as good, admittedly (especially the latter as both an underwhelming closer and an unneeded AWOLNATION impression), but that’s never stopped Gagneux before, has it? And with Birdmask now clearly being the vehicle in which to funnel these sparser ideas through, there’s a roundabout familiarity that comes through regardless.

It’s why there’s a bit of distance with Tristan that prevents full evaluation, even though it generally tilts towards being rather solid. Unlike Zeal & Ardor and its morphing into one of metal’s contemporary benchmarks for doing your own thing, Birdmask has no such ambitions. This might as well be where the cuttings are collected, or the left-of-centre ideas for Gagneux that wouldn’t work anywhere else. Of course, it’s not as flippant as that can make it sound; there’s definitely effort that’s gone into this, in sprucing them up and turning them into indie-pop cuts with a fair bit of allure to them. As far as these small-scale projects go, you can’t ask for much more than that, can you?

For fans of: Hozier, Soft Captain, GEIZ

‘Tristan’ by Birdmask is released on 24th November on MVKA.

Artwork for Colourburn’s ‘Compromise In Colour’


Compromise In Colour

Is there still runway for bands like Colourburn? Not to instantly try and bring down a brand spanking new band or anything, but they do feel as though they’re tapping into a market that’s already lost its shine. That is, another Australian-centric scene of pop-rock donning a harder, alt-rock-leaning coat, where the vim of neither is preserved all that well. It’s what ultimately did Tonight Alive in; it’s potentially the reason for Eat Your Heart Out similarly struggling to penetrate that deeply. And when Colourburn don’t appear to have much of their own spin on first glance, you’d be hard-pressed to get truly, legitimate excited about Compromise In Colour.

But to be fair, this does appear to be a bit better. Not to insane degrees or anything, but enough to where, as a debut EP, Colourburn have the worthwhile energy to show off. Perhaps its in the darker, harder carapace that’s a step or two higher than the norm, more in the vein of emo or even post-hardcore to suitably pay off an overall stormier mood. It’s a handier version of the template for what Colourburn are aiming for, and does tend to gel a bit easier. There’s room for a soul-baring lyrical content to marinate more, where even some of the circumspect qualities that tend to bleed from one act to another aren’t that much of a detriment. Colourburn do share plenty in that regard—you’d honestly find it hard to pull Jordyn Briggs out of a lineup of similar alternative singers—but they’re already closer to the sweet spot than most.

The limitations don’t just magically disappear as a result though, as Colourburn prove to remain pretty entrenched among that side of the discussion. For as big as each of these five tracks are, there’s not the flavour between them to distinguish them all that much. What’s more, it’s basically another go-around with the formula that wore down their elders so quickly—vast, mid-paced hooks erupting from a stormy backdrop of slate-greys and blacks, sounding grand but eroding in power when each hit seems to go for the same zone of impact. Opener Star probably fares the best, though it’s up for debate how much of that is through its own merited strength, and how much is due to being first.

At least Colourburn have the grace of just a five-song EP, rather than something bigger that would see the force dissipate even further. Even if it’s not a non-issue, it allows Colourburn’s clearer strengths to pick up more emphasis, and that’s a pretty invaluable quality when they’re breaking out with seemingly so many barriers in their way. Right now, Compromise In Colour chips away at them rather than blowing them to pieces, though that’s still admirable this early on. They appear to be getting somewhere, which is more than can be said for some others.

For fans of: Citizen, Eat Your Heart Out, Movements

‘Compromise In Colour’ by Colourburn is released on 24th November.

Words by Luke Nuttall

Leave a Reply