Dan Cooper

31 year old music dork. Plays and writes in bands in his spare time, as well as been a self confessed WWE fanatic. Loves anything from the Black Metal to Alt Country. Play him a Gaslight Anthem song and all will be good with the world.

Prong – Zero Days

A dictionary entry describes a Prong as “each of the separate parts of an attack or operation, typically approaching a place or subject from different positions.”  The reference is almost a perfect definition of the above named New York metallers in that they combine many different metallic stylings to come together as somewhat of an unstoppable musical force.

A little history on the band ; starting out in the late 80’s hardcore scene, Prong were led by the uncompromising vision of frontman Tommy Victor and after signing a major label deal at the tail end of the decade, moved slowly away from the sound which they had become known for. Landmark release, 1994’s Cleansing saw the band hit upon industrial metal sounds, leading to tours with titans such as Pantera and SepulturaHaving succeeded in morphing their sound throughout the next few decades, Prong arrive in 2017 with latest release Zero Days.

Almost bursting at the seams with fury, However it May End revels in Slipknot-esque riffery, calling on Victor’s ferocious bellowed vocals to drive the opening track. The band’s crossover thrash leanings come into play throughout the record also with Forced into Tolerance letting rip with full throttle drumming ; underpinning both the faster and groove-based sections of the song.

It’s refreshing to hear that, aside from the all out thrash, the band incorporate melody into their sound too, coming across as more technical Fear Factory at times and providing standout moments such as Blood Out Of Stone which feels closer to the nu-metal sound that they helped forge in the mid-90’s.

The consistent nature of the record helps tie everything together too. Whether it be the more commercial sound of anthem Divide & Conquer, the winding groove of Self Righteous Indignation or combining both on the excellent Interbeing – Zero Days manages to sound completely fluid without coming across as one dimensional.

For the already initiated, Zero Days will come as no surprise and picks up almost exactly where last years X-No Absolutes left off. This is no bad thing though, as the record has enough identity and topical subject matter to stand alone as one of the band’s better later-day releases. A fine example of a band who haven’t let up despite passing musical trends, Zero Days has plenty for metallers around the globe to enjoy.

All Tied Up – Breaking Silence

Southern pop punk outfit All Tied Up make their return to the British Pop-punk scene with latest EP Breaking Silence. The boys have racked up an impressive résumé thus far with support slots for British scene mainstays such as Whitmore and [Spunge] as well as bigger American names such as The Ataris. Not a bad start for a bunch of lads from from Milton Keynes and with an album and two EP’s already under their belt, the band look to take that vital next leap on Breaking Silence.

For fans of that early 2000’s pop punk sound, opener So Enthusiastic will hit all the right notes, coming on like a vibrant cross between the unshakeable vocal hooks of the Madden brothers and the jangly cleans of mellower Blink 182 numbers. It’s a cracking start and stands as one of the strongest moments on the EP. While it’s not a bad thing to have a such strong opener, there are a few things that box the EP in a little.

A small issue is the production, which while not terrible at all, tends to compress the mix a tad, leaving little space for the songs to breathe and some of the heavier moments such as the mid-section of Better Day sounding cluttered and stiff. It almost seems a little unfortunate as some of the numbers on here shine through regardless ; with Master of Disguise coming complete with a belter of a chorus reminiscent of The Ataris best work and the title track’s excellent double time riffery. The lyrics are typical of the genre but work well alongside the musical backdrop covering everything from self doubt, road stories and good old fashioned love.

With Breaking Silence, it’s abundantly clear that All Tied Up have worked hard to craft an EP full of catchy choruses, itch-scratchingly fun riffs and singalong lyrics. They show maturity with strong harmonies and bravery with vocalist Dave Palfreyman embracing his accent and in turn adding charm and identity to the music. Aside from the minor complaint regarding production, this drops just in time for you to listen to it all through the colder seasons and memorise these tunes for summer 2018.

Breaking Silence is released September 22nd on Stack in-a-box Records.

Earl Grey – The Times You Cross My Mind

Looking at the cover of Earl Grey‘s latest release, one might wonder if such a band name holds much meaning other than a penchant for hot beverages. All jokes aside, Monchengladbach, Germany’s very own Earl Grey are a band who have surely been treading the hard-worn path to success. Two EP’s down, the band followed these releases with 8000km’s worth of European touring and a slew of success on their home-turf’s DIY punk rock scene. With latest release The Times You Cross My Mind being mastered by Seb Barlow (Neck Deep, As It Is, WSTR), the band look to garner further acclaim within the wider musical community.

The EP opens with 1 minute 37 seconds of adulterated melodic hardcore joy. Nothing bursts out of the speakers, the track revolving around a series of muscular, soaring guitar parts which back vocalist Malte Unnasch’s Comeback Kid-like vocal approach. Never Sleep connects seamlessly with the opener with chugging fury and features gang vocals aplenty. The band don’t particularly take an original approach here, treading the same lines as band’s like The Story So Far, but it’s the sheer force of delivery both from Unnasch and the rest of the band that make them such an irresistible prospect.

The production locks everything in tightly with snappy drums underpinning both the rhythmic and melodic elements well. These elements shine bright on the faster tracks such as Hollow which begins with classic hardcore vehemence before shifting into half-time grooves with minimum effort. Even on the slower moments such as the stomping Snake Hips the band still don’t let up despite offering some beautiful guitar lines ala early Alexisonfire, giving the EP a little room to breathe before kicking into the next belter.

The third EP for the German crew is easily a defining moment in their short career. It pulses with vibrancy and despite this essentially being a modern hardcore record, the songs on offer are just so darn catchy that there is a good chance of seeing them supporting some of the scene leaders in the coming year. Although The Times You Cross My Mind will be many listeners first time hearing Earl Grey,  the band are unquestionably worth every second of your time.

The Times You Cross My Mind is released on the 16th July.

Jack The Envious – In Your Own Way

Jack The Envious are a London quartet formed, interestingly enough, during core members Nir Perlman and Guy Avnon’s respective military service. After recruiting bassist Guy Checkarov, the band set out to combine their experiences in the forces and band life, distilling it down to produce debut EP Pull You Down. Since the EP’s release, it would seem the band have sought to push themselves, combining punk stylings and a post-hardcore rush for maximum impact. With a string of successful local shows, the band is all set to release their sophomore EP In Your Own Way.

Straight off the bat, the band embrace a dark atmosphere with pulsing synths and music box sounds ascending before they kick in with Shut It Off. It’s a fine start to the EP with a tectonic opening riff, coming across with the same snarling energy that My Chemical Romance embraced on their first couple of records. Single Begging For More starts with choppy acoustics before the songs signature riff makes way for a hooky chorus, vocalist Perlman sounding like a hybrid of The Used’s Bert McCracken and The Movielife’s Vinnie Caruana.

The mix on the EP is strong, the guitars sitting well and creating memorable, anthemic parts and also huge backdrops for Perlman’s snarling vocal jabs. This is demonstrated no better than on the thunderous Guilty which comes complete with a stomping breakdown section and Letlive-esque spoken word part which helps set the song apart from formulaic hardcore structure.

The album closes things off with Never Look Down which is possibly the strongest offering here. The track builds from its ethereal intro and goes onto incorporate the best parts of the record, including huge reverberant guitar lines, gutsy vocals and another huge chorus. As only the second offering from Jack The Envious,  In Your Own Way makes it clear that the band are determined to prove themselves as unique commodity of the British music scene. They stand to make their mark with this dynamic and energetic EP.

A Trust Unclean – Parturition

The evolution of extreme metal in the past twenty years has taken on many forms. One area which has not been afraid to include fresh influences is Death Metal. Take a look at where the genre stood in the early 90’s – bands such as Obituary and Deicide delivering what is considered now to be the genre’s most primordial, basic template. Later innovators such as Cynic – incorporated progressive elements – and Nile with their Egyptian styling’s proved that the genre had room for new ideas without sacrificing the raw power of what came before. As things stand in 2017, Death Metal seems to have merged with everything from hardcore to jazz and with their new offering Parturition, Oxford crew A Trust Unclean attempt to push things even further.

The title track invokes sinister theatrical themes, setting things up nicely and preparing the listener for the onslaught that comes after, sounding like a much-more technical Clandestine –era Entombed . Its glitched-out guitar lines all lead into the super catchy riffery of Dominion Over Bone, which showcase the hyper speed drumming of Noah Plant, breaking down into Messhugah-like tech-metal.

Kyle Lamb unleashes vocal hell with death grunts and blood-curdling screams, allowing tracks like the rhythmic To Encompass and Eclipse with its staggered, crushing beatdown sections – to sound positively unnerving. His voice also sit’s well alongside the records layered keyboards, which accompany both the high speed and the sludgier moments to give the record an ethereal feel in places, really elevating the caustic mood.

As previously mentioned, the band clearly seek to innovate and that they do. They incorporate many influences into the melting pot, notably the groove based chicanery of Lamb of God on riff juggernaut Aeon, a whole host of progressive metal luminaries on tracks like Apex and the full speed ahead brutality of Job For A Cowboy which shines through on the majority of tracks here. The only trouble with the record really is that the band move so quickly through tracks that it really is hard to pigeonhole a specific style in which they sit.

With Parturition, A Trust Unclean deliver a veritable battering ram to the senses, slinging hyper speed blast beats, intricate guitar lines and harrowing vocals at the wall and it most definitely sticks. Of course this wouldn’t work nearly as well if it weren’t for the magnitude of influences here, all underpinned by crisp production and an eerie backdrop that hasn’t been done quite as well since hardcore merchants Bleeding Through burst on the scene. A ferocious new release by a promising British act.

Hollowstar – Some Things Matter

St Ives quartet Hollowstar fall heavily into the bracket of classic rock. It’s a genre that by the very nature of being labelled ‘classic’ can at times be somewhat redundant in its approach to fresh sounds. There are still bands (The Answer for example) who have managed to keep the bombastic flame from going out by penning music that although it may be rooted in the older school of rock, delivers on songs and musical presence. On Some Things Matter, Hollowstar fall somewhere between those two extremes.

The emphasis here is on the blues side of rock with opener Lay Down – a song seemingly about an ageing hometown girl not able to let go of her youth – being driven by a huge groovy riff reminiscent of Audioslave’s Cochise. Vocalist Joe Bonson delivers some heavyweight moments throughout the EP, sounding a lot like The Cult’s Ian Astbury and tracks like the slow build of Feel The Burn allow him to show this off well.

For a band still in its relative musical youth, the songwriting although somewhat repetitive in nature at times, has clearly developed from years of listening to Led Zeppelin, Whitesnake and even heavier acts such as Pantera. Guilty in particularly shows off crunchy rolling guitar lines, punctuated by a sturdy rhythm section – coming together to sound like a mutated take on The Black Crowes.

For a straight up classic rock release, the songs on Some Things Matter are strong and deliver on expectations of dominant choruses and churning riffs. The thing missing here is a sense of urgency and reliance on basic song structure which can occasionally leave songs blurring into one another. If however the listener is one who frequents classic rock nights/clubs and enjoys blues driven rock turned up to eleven, Some Things Matter is an enjoyable trip into rocks past.

A Thousand Horses – Bridges

Modern country seems to splinter into almost as many camps as metal music in some ways. On one side you have the traditionalist old time heritage sound; on another you have the folksier chapter who embrace lyrical depth and musicality. There is also the area of the genre that embrace a far more mainstream sound, using country’s down home lyrical topics yet openly embracing modern pop trope’s to appeal to a wider audience. Nashville’s own A Thousand Horses fall into the latter domain, and on EP Bridges, they draw on widely used aspects of both southern rock and country in an attempt to put their stamp on an already overflowing segment of American music.

Blaze of Something attempts earnest with galloping acoustics and lyrical clichés about leaving your mark on the world. The song reaches it’s apex on its larger than life chorus with vocalist Michael Hobby’s southern drawl packing enough of a punch to resonate with whiskey soaked fans of the genre.

Honestly speaking, there really is nothing fundamentally wrong with the above track or in fact many of the other’s on display here – Weekends In A Small Town swings with its lilting country soul and the blissed out title track could fit comfortably in the Top 40 – it’s more a feeling that music of this ilk is being produced in such vast quantities at this moment in time, that despite momentary popularity, this is not country music that will remembered alongside the heavyweights of the genre.

Despite its ‘moulded for chart success but not longevity’ sound, Bridges works as a record that facilitates the band with the music they need for their reputable and noteworthy live shows. It’s stomping southern charm and ultra-relatable lyrics will no doubt appeal to many show-goers and in that light Bridges, as well as previous release Southernality, can be seen as solid selling points for the real action.

At its best Bridges makes the most of its player talents to produce a fun if somewhat unoriginal take on southern fried country rock.

Bridges is out now

Cock Sparrer – Forever

It’s certainly interesting when musicians known for such a strong body of work within their genre, release albums so intermittently. In the case of London street punks Cock Sparrer it comes as a real treat for their fans when the band drop a new album – and with Forever, their sixth album in a whopping 45 year long career, the band update their sound without shifting too far from the classic Oi! sound which they helped to define.

The key thing to remember about Cock Sparrer is that, despite their sometimes aggressive, socially questioning lyrics, the band has always managed to deliver the melodies that keep these lyrical barbs stuck in the listeners head. This comes across on lead single Gonna Be Alright with its very British take on pop-punk – sporting a punchy chorus complete with vibrant harmonies.

To be fair to the band, they keep the hostilities at a minimum here, with only a couple of tracks like opener One By One – which recalls youthful scrapping – coming across slightly brutish. The majority of the record deals with themes of unity and even tackles socially relevant issues such as unprovoked attacks on Somebodies Brother, Somebodies Son.

Although the format remains familiar, what separates this record from early releases, even from 2008’s Here We Stand, is the chunky production. Where once they embraced the minimal, buzzsaw guitar approach – on Forever, a meaty rhythm section holds up Mikey Beaufoy’s ultra-melodic lead guitar lines, even frontman Colin McFaull’s cockney snarl is pushed front and center.

With the band now releasing music at a declining rate, it seems that Cock Sparrer has put all they have into Forever and it shows through walloping anthems and their trademark brutally honest lyrics. It’s more than likely that the question on the lips of fans is “Could this be the bands last record?”  If the answer is yes, Forever stands as a fine epitaph for an enduring band.

Forever is available now.

Wednesday 13 – Condolences

20 years ago, a quirky little band named Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13 was birthed, fronted by horror and shock rock aficionado Wednesday 13. As purveyors of sandpaper-throated horror rock ‘n roll, they developed a cult like following and several sleazy releases later, caught the eye of one Joey Jordinson of Slipknot. In a shared vision between between Jordinson and 13 the group morphed into platinum selling ghoul group The Murderdolls . Fast forward some 15 plus years and our man Wednesday 13 is cranking out spooky tunes at an extremely prolific rate, bringing us to his latest (trick or) treat, Condolences.

Kicking off the record is undoubtedly it’s strongest cut – What The Night Brings. Like the majority of the record, it rips and roars with machine gun guitars, spooky keys and gutter-trash vocals, serving up a devilish slice of ghoulish rock. Speaking prior to the albums release, 13 announced “The punk rock vibe has left the building and it’s become a full-on metal vibe” which is certainly apparent when listening to the bruising metalcore of You Breathe, I Kill and the thuggish grooves of Prey For Me. 

Previous releases saw high octane punk rock combined with Wednesday’s beloved shock rock – giving songs a buzz that matched his b-movie themed snarls. Here, the emphasis on slickly produced stock metal riffs and pitch black lyrical content can at times feel tiresome, leaving the record a little empty. For fans still looking for the full speed ahead vibe of old though, Lonesome Road To Hell comes complete with a monstrous chorus, while Cruel To You injects a little Motley Crue glam into the proceedings.

Wednesday 13 remains a troubadour for a bygone age of rock –  A fiend who may not have the mainstream spotlight he once held, but whose frequent and consistent output hopes to place him alongside such greats as Alice Cooper and The Misfits someday soon. On Condolences, he shifts gears slightly, beefing up the sound and darkening the tone a little – but for fans who have followed Mr 13 this far, there is nothing on his seventh solo release that will scare them off. That is….unless you want him to…

Condolences is out now on Nuclear Blast Records

The Family – Welcome to the Family

Sheffield’s Dead Harts built a reputation around scorching live shows and their pulverizing take on hardcore – 2016 saw the band part ways, and out of the ashes.. The Family have risen. Ex-DH vocalist Matthew Baxendale and former guitarist turned bassist Dominic Bass have pulled together a new crew of rebels, this time finding themselves on a less metallic, much more scuzzy path. After debuting their single Radio Headphones earlier this year, the band recently have launched their debut EP – the aptly titled Welcome to the Family.

The first thing fans of DH will notice is that as opposed to the Dillinger Escape Plan meets Norma Jean sound of their previous band, the South Yorkshire mob have taken a much simpler and downright filthier approach to their music. Ain’t Gonna Happen Like That opens proceedings with an almost glam rock stomp before Baxendale lowers the tone with snarling vocals, venting his spleen about someone who has crossed him. For those hoping that some remnants of hardcore remain, the band do just that, but this time it’s more in the vein of Gallows/Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes as can be heard on degenerate anthem My Kinda Scum.

The production, loose as it is, pulls everything together, helping the record sound grimey as heck, all the while retaining the classic garagy-vibes of Bleach-era Nirvana. It’s a record that feels raw and pained but one than upon repeated listens finds it’s melodies and catchy vocal lines getting stuck in your head for days.

Welcome to the Family is a bold move and almost a leap in scenes for Baxendale and co, but one that works as an exercise in simple, snotty punk sounds. Fans of Dead Harts will no doubt be interested in seeing what some of the boys are up to now and will be happy that despite a change in sound, no intensity has been lost.

Welcome to the Family is available now on all streaming services.