Fiona Stephens

Fortify – Valhalla [EP]

Female fronted Essex rockers Fortify are due to release their debut EP,  the self release Valhalla on 27th October. Opening with What About Us, the listener’s first impression is that the group take their influences from heavier rock, however there are some pop elements which are heavily present in the chorus. The song takes lyrical influence from spurned love, reducing the heaviness somewhat. Lead singer Anna Louise’s voice also sounds quite poppy, adding to the self described ‘easycore’ genre.

Following What About Us is Survivors, opening with a slow guitar riff. It is the slowest song on Valhalla, and the only track in 3/4 time. The speed and the broken chord riff make the track the most pop/easycore on the EP. It begins to build up at the chorus without losing the pop aspect.

In the middle of Valhalla is Rumours, and the opening riff sounds like a mash up between Incubus and Madina Lake, incorporating the alt rock vibe. The chorus is the catchiest so far on the EP, and the listener can imagine Rumours would be a real crowd pleaser in a concert setting. It is hear that the listener really begins to notice the variation in lead vocalist Anna Louise’s voice, particularly in contrast to Survivors. The guitar solo here is also the best on the EP. Each instrument can be heard in Rumours perfectly in the balance of the song, enhancing the epic sound that the track already has.

Following in much the same vein is Emergency Exit, another great track that sounds more alternative than What About Us and Survivors whilst incorporating some of those heavier themes that Rumours uses. It is here that the range in vocals is really shown, from the growly lows to the perfect highs. The timing in the stops during the second verse are all nailed perfectly, before leading into the slower bridge.

Final track Strangers is another faster and heavier song, and gives the listener the impression that Valhalla has been building up to this moment. Strangers is a slightly longer song than the previous tracks, sitting just shy of 5 minutes. Here again the listener can see the impressive vocal range of Anna Louise, particularly contrasting the screamed backing vocals during the bridge. However there is no final chorus to this track, leaving the listener wanting more.

The recurring theme throughout Valhalla is half time bridges, which are all well planned and well executed. The listener finishes the EP feeling pumped from the build up of tracks and definitely wanting to hear more, and looking forward to a gig or album release.

Sleeping With Sirens – Gossip

Set for release tomorrow (Friday 22nd September), Gossip is the fifth album from Florida’s Sleeping With Sirens. The opening track takes its name from the album title, and sounds much more poppy than fans are used to. The pop punk aspect of Sleeping With Sirens that listeners are used to comes in at Empire to Ashes, however the overriding sound feels more mainstream pop to the listener, particularly during the verses. This follows to Legends, which also incorporates some mild dance themes.

Use of syncopation in Trouble makes the listener want to dance, however the overuse of effects, particularly on the vocals, detract from the overall sound of the track. Sleeping With Sirens do not need to overuse effects, however in places during Gossip there is definitely too much production. This seems to die down in the latter half of the album.

Sleeping With Sirens have moved away from the pop punk, post-hardcore music for which they are most well known. Tracks such as One Man Army and Gossip are a far cry from If I’m James Dean, Then You’re Audrey Hepburn. Indie themes come into play at Cheers, and this is the catchiest track on the album. Cheers was the second single to be released from Gossip, the first being Legends.

Closer reminds the listener of old Yellowcard and Mayday Parade, from the simplicity of the chord structure and the summery lyrics. This theme flows into Hole In My Heart, while introducing the heavier guitars which fans will be used to. Juxtaposing this however is I Need To Know, which begins with clean electric guitar chords, which was also used in Grayscale‘s cover of Love Yourself. However the clean guitar melts into drums and piano, before an acoustic guitar makes an appearance. Immediately after heavier guitars come into play again in The Chase, taking the pop punk genre again.

War is the final track on the album, giving the feel of marching from the drums and guitar. The track is not similar to any other on Gossip, and stands out for this reason. It’s a much deeper song than Sleeping With Sirens have attempted before and it works really well, both musically and lyrically.

Overall, Gossip shows that Sleeping With Sirens have attempted something more mainstream, but have lost some of their authenticity in the process. The best tracks on the album are easily Cheers and War, as they sound the most original and the least processed.

[6/10]

Blindwish – Good Excuses

Out yesterday, Good Excuses is the debut album from Dallas born Blindwish. Taking influences from the likes of Taking Back Sunday and Neck Deep, the group is sure to make an impact relatively quickly. Songs on Good Excuses seem to come paired by genre, with a break in the middle, which is a different structure for most listeners, but it does not detract from the overall experience.

Opening Good Excuses is debut single After Midnight, which captures the post punk essence of the group. Following is Bittersweet,  a more riff based track, but with a less solid chorus when compared to After Midnight. However listeners will be able to relate to the lyrics, particularly in the bridge; ‘Different day, same old shit’. The post punk element rushes back in Infected, with influences such Thirty Seconds To Mars heavily present in the verses, however the chorus returns to more of a Taking Back Sunday feel.

Rise Records, who Blindwish are signed to, have provided the best in terms of production, as the group sound epic. The  balance and spacing of each instrument and the vocals is just right. The evolution of the album throughout each track is also planned carefully and executed through both musical performance and technical production. The heavier elements begin with Single Words, and spill over to Cold Shoulders, which incorporates heavy riffs and distorted guitars, whilst still maintaining balance and space in the mix.

The softest track, Down, is placed in the middle of the album to juxtapose the heavier tracks preceding it. Using acoustic guitars and strings to bulk out the sound, the softer vocals have a lot of empty space to suddenly fill, but the track sounds great. Another surprise acoustic track comes in later on with The Maze, which is more reminiscent of the likes of Neck Deep, but Blindwish have a stronger vocalist.

They’re Not Real is the catchiest track on the album and would make a good choice for the next single, as the catchy chorus is easy to sing along to. The multitracked vocals on the chorus make the listener feel like they are in a crowd singing along. Echo is the final track on the album, beginning with autotune and a number of other effects as an introduction, and recurring throughout the track on the ‘let it go’ parts.

Overall Good Excuses is a stunning example of how varied the post punk genre can really be, with influences that range across the board. Blindwish are a great band for listeners just getting into the post punk genre, as well as enjoyable for those who are already huge fans. The biggest standout track is Down, as it will speak to quite a few fans of different genres.

[9/10]

 

 

Buster Shuffle Announce New Album

Buster Shuffle have announced that after signing to Burning Heart Records they are preparing to release brand new material soon. Up first is new single I Don’t Trust A Word You Say on 15th September.

You can also catch them live at the following venues:

August 2017

26th            Laut Lastig Festival, Kamen, Germany
27th            Spirit Festival, Niedergrsdorf, Germany

September 2017

21st            Rickshaw, Vancouver, BC, Canada
22nd            El Corazon, Seattle, WA, USA
23rd            Star Theater, Portland, OR, USA
24th            Blue Room, Sacramento, CA, USA
25th            Bottom Of The Hill, San Francisco, CA, USA
26th            Alex’s Bar, Long Beach, CA, USA
27th            Backstage, Las Vegas, NV, USA
28th            Viper Room, West Hollywood, CA, USA

Serenity Reveal Album Details!

“Hear us roar!! After we spread Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus all over the world, which you made one of our most successful records ever, we will now feed your yearnings with another historical masterpiece: LIONHEART!!! Strong, powerful Symphonic Powermetal hymns mixed with emotions from the depth of our souls – follow us into this new era and show us your Lionheart!!!”  – Serenity

Symphonic metallers Serenity have announced details for their upcoming album, including the title, Lionheart. The album was mixed and mastered by Jan Vacik at Dreamsound Studios. Gyula Havancsák at Hjules Design and Illustrations created the fantastic album artwork, which you can see below.

The full Lionheart track listing reads as follows:
1.    Deus Lo Vult
2.    United
3.    Lionheart
4.    Hero
5.    Rising High
6.    Heaven
7.    King’s Landing
8.    Eternal Victory
9.    Stand and Fight
10.    The Fortress (of Blood and Sand)
11.    Empire
12.    My Fantasy
13.    The Final Crusade

Lionheart will be available in the following formats:
1 CD 4 pages Digipack
2 LP Gatefold BLACK Vinyl
2 LP Gatefold GOLD Vinyl (NPR Mailorder exclusive)
Deluxe Box (KDS incl. Digipack CD, Bonus CD, Flag, signed autograph card)
Digital Album Download

Triggerfinger – Colossus

Belgian alt rockers Triggerfinger, who recently supported Muse in France and Russia, are due to release their next album, Colossus, on 25th August.

On first impression, Colossus, the opening track, takes influences from the UK indie scene, as well as combining alt rock from the likes of early Muse. The riff heavy track is catchy and easily rememberable. If the rest of the album is as innovative then the listener can expect good things from Colossus.

Flesh Tight takes some influences from recent Green Day in the guitars, but the vocals are very much Triggerfinger‘s own. Again there are a lot of Brit rock influences here, so much so that the listener would automatically assume that Triggerfinger are a British band. Candy Killer is more alt rock, taking influences from Red Hot Chili Peppers and U2, particuarly with bass pedal effects. The following track, Upstairs Box, follows in the same vein.

The first overtly different track is Afterglow. The slower acoustic track sounds like City and Colour, until it starts to build up, which incorporates some orchestral instruments and electric guitars. A refreshingly different track in the album, it is particularly well placed in the middle to catch the listener’s attention after four heavier tracks.

There is a musical shift in the album from That’ll Be The Day, which returns to the riff based tune but incorporates more alt rock influences with indie effects on the instruments. Following this is Bring Me Back A Wild Live One, where the listener takes a trip back to the 70’s in terms of vocal style and effects, but recorded with modern techniques.

The end of the album is a more musically refined and evolved version of the hit tracks at the beginning, introducing the listener to different themes and broadening their horizons. Steady Me takes an old American country influence and adds in alt rock and indie effects and themes to make something wonderfully weird and new to the listener.

The final track, Wollensak Walk, is another slow track, but again riff based, using the pentatonic scale which is traditionally used for walking riffs. Wollensak was an American manufacturer of audio-visual products that ceased operations in 1972, so they would have made recording desks and similar technologies. The track starts fully instrumental, however after a short ten second break, the track completely changes into a more upbeat track, again sounding like the listener has been transported back in time to the late 60’s or early 70’s. It’s possible this track was actually recorded on some old hardware such as that made by Wollensak.

The listener is taken on a musical journey throughout Colossus, from the very popular alt indie rock music in the beginning to the old style rock at the end. With all the different musical styles incorporated within this album, any listener will be able to find something they like.

Shaman’s Harvest – Red Hands Black Deeds

Following on from their 2014 record Smokin’ Hearst & Broken GunsShaman’s Harvest have released Red Hands Black Deeds. The success of their previous record smashed over 30 million streams and put them on tour with Black Stone Cherry and AC/DC.

Opening with a prelude, the listener is already hyped for something big. Broken Ones is the first full track, opening with a catchy bass riff which carries on throughout the song. If the rest of the album is to be judged from this track, then Shaman’s Harvest will definitely deliver! As well as the bass riff, the track also delivers a killer guitar solo. Following Broken Ones is another riff heavy track, The Come Up. There are clearly heavy Black Stone Cherry influences at play in these two tracks, but with Shaman’s Harvest‘s own twist. There are also some mild country influences here, which isn’t surprising considering the group are originally from Missouri.

A Longer View brings a different sound in again, as a slower track. It’s still riff centric, but dialled back to focus on vocals. There is also the introduction of piano here, bringing in a softer feel. The vocals are also more passionate and raw when compared to the other tracks on the album so far. A Longer View has provided a good break in genre to catch the listener out and ensure they are paying attention. Similar to this is acoustic track Tusk and Bone, which sounds more like acoustic pop and would probably make the UK Top 40.

The second half of the album seems to be a mish mash of various genres, which all seem to work together because of the Shaman’s Harvest unique sound. The listener is fully immersed into the rock-country genre in Off The Tracks, which works really well as a track on it’s own, but ties in really well with the rest of the album, down to the producer Keith ArmstrongThe Devil In Our Wake is the heaviest track on the album, combining guitar and bass riffs in with heated vocals similar to the likes of Nickelback. However the group would not be out of place at a festival such as Download.

Altogether Red Hands Black Deeds is a fantastic album which encompasses a variety of genres without losing itself along the way. Shaman’s Harvest have clearly worked hard on it and produced something of a high quality. The stand out track because of the genre mix is easily Tusk and Bone.