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James Maddern

Of Mice & Men

Of Mice & Men – Defy

Many of Of Mice & Men‘s fans were surprised when clean vocalist Aaron Pauley confirmed he would be taking on lead vocal duties alongside the release of first single Unbreakable, but Defy takes on a blend of the sounds of Of Mice & Men‘s older material and Pauley’s former band Jamie’s Elsewhere during his vocal tenure.

Defy is kicked off with the title track which again shocked a large portion of the fanbase when it was released. A return to heavy riffs and crushing vocals is evident as soon as the song kicks in with screams and chugging guitars dominating all of the space on the recording. Come the chorus, these somewhat make way for a wide, sweeping gang vocal that demonstrates the incorporation of Restoring Force ideas for what seems like the first time since it was released. The heaviest breakdown since at least 2011’s The Flood hits around halfway through the track, bookended by the choruses that ground the track safely in the band’s style. A very promising start.

Following up the opener comes what is arguably the best song on the album – titled Instincts. The sheer power of the guitar work is sure to be enough to make many sit in awe of the tone crafted throughout, and backed up by the cymbal-filled drum wrap-around created by Tino and the producers that cuts through the chunky guitar-bass hybrid. The wah-riddled solo from Phil sounds dystopian in sections and is just plain technical in others – this is a lead guitarist who has his confidence and ability on display now more than ever before. It’s not all heavy and crazy though – lighter songs including pre-release single Back To Me are sure to keep fans of the newer eras of the band with the catchy choruses and more middle-of-the-road rock sound they have crafted.

Vocally throughout, Aaron sounds very much in practice as if he never slowed up his screaming at all. Forever YDG’n is written somewhat as a tribute to the first two albums of the band, and the vocal work throughout the tune does it justice entirely. Slightly contrasting the nostalgia is Sunflower which brings a new dual-scream dynamic with Pauley providing harsh growls alongside higher screams to create a wonderful blend that matches the feeling of the instrumentals perfectly.

The elephant in the room must be addressed though: yes, the track titled Money really is a cover of that Pink Floyd song. Was it expected? Not at all. Does it work? Honestly, it does in its own strange way. Taken as a single, the cover seems to be a rather strange rendition and outside the comfort zone of Of Mice & Men as a band, but when woven into the fabric of the album as a whole the placement of the song and the themes within the lyrics work to slot in seamlessly.

Overall, Defy is a fantastic return to form for a band that seemed to lose their way with their last release. Losing the spearhead figure of your band often crushes all morale and demands dramatic reinvention. As Robert Burns said in his poem from which the band’s name originated, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley” – Of Mice & Men had the perfect solution to Defy all expectations.

Rattlesnakes

Live: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Rock City – 6/12/17

Opening the show to a largely empty Rock City were Aussie alternative artist Ecca Vandal, who was almost a surprise addition to the lineup with quite how different she is from the other two bands. She and the band played through their electronic-influenced tunes taken largely from her debut self-titled album. A seemingly well-rehearsed machine, Ecca had a huge energy and optimism that would not be broken by the lack of crowd – a quality to be admired in a vocalist. Not a bad set at all, and definitely one that will have gained her some fans. [6/10]

Following up in the middle of the sandwich were Ipswich emo punks Basement who brought with them an instant wave of excitement as they hit the Nottingham stage. With a huge back catalogue to choose a setlist, the band produced a collection of their greatest hits from through their career. The weighting towards previous album Colourmeinkindness was somewhat surprising, but nonetheless the audience were as active through the older songs as the new; the pits weren’t big but they were very active throughout WholeSpoiledAquasun and Covet which got frontman Andrew Fisher into a mixture of humility and excitement as he finishing off their set with new fan favourite Promise EverythingBasement had set up headliners The Rattlesnakes immaculately well with a set as fantastic as usual. [9/10]

Closing up the night were Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes who had high hopes resting on their performance from the raving crowd. Carter is known as one of the best frontmen around, and the set did not disappoint; this whole tour was to celebrate where they are now as a band with Manchester and Brixton’s stops receiving a performance of all 23 songs to date. In Nottingham, the band pulled out a modest 19 – missing only Beautiful Death and Trouble from debut album Blossom, and opener/closer pairing Bluebelle and Neon Rust from this year’s Modern Ruin.

Exploding onto the stage somewhat fittingly with Primary Explosive, the energy in the room just lifted on seeing the long-term punk talisman set foot on the stage. The first section of the set played out non-stop BlossomRotten BlossomFangs and Juggernaut providing a reminder of just how riff-driven the band were from the very start, contrasting with the riff-vocal balance in the following VampiresWild Flowers had Frank asking for all the women in the audience to crowdsurf and urged everyone to keep them safe so they could experience it safely just as he has in most of his shows this year, which ended up leading to a stageful of ladies dancing with him and singing their lungs out – their faces just summed up the event as a whole.

Acid Veins and new single Spray Paint Love made their first outings on this tour and the Nottingham set contained both, performed with the swing and swagger they deserve from the very roots of the song. A crowd-surfing Frank and Dean both finished Jackals atop the moshing sea of people before the frontman made his way up to the balcony for the title track of the latest album. More crowdsurfing, an accidentally-stolen GoPro and a piano version of Loss later, the rollercoaster of emotion wasn’t near winding down as the band dedicated Thunder and Paradise to victims of terrorist attacks at musical events, citing the songs as chapter one and the epilogue of the same story in the fight against terrorism.

The Rattlesnakes finished their set off with a glorious rendition of I Hate You which was dedicated to a fan who had been punched in the face by someone nearby, who was rapidly ejected from the venue.  Thanking the crowd, Frank left the stage with a tangible mood in the air of the excitement and cathartic nature of the set that had just gone – a fitting feeling for the night. [10/10]

For those interested, The Rattlesnakes had taken her and a friend backstage, taken a photo with her and had a long chat – a class gesture to end a fantastic night from one of the best British bands of modern times.

Northlane

Live: Northlane, Rescue Rooms – 1/12/17

Opening up the US-Australian hybrid bill was Aussie nu-metallers Ocean Grove who released their debut album The Rhapsody Tapes back in February. Unfortunately, the boxy venue did their sound no favours as the sound bouncing off the walls muddied their thick tones to the point of being an indiscriminate sludge. Not a particularly good impression from the band, but hopefully they can come back to the UK for a better run in 2018.  [5/10]

Northlane

Invent Animate were next to hit the stage, playing songs from both of their albums. They had a lot of energy for their performance and seemed to be raring to go, but they just seemed a bit lacklustre throughout. The vocals were sounding good for the mostpart but like Ocean Grove the sound was sludgy. The highlight of their set sadly was a below-par guest appearance from ERRA clean vocalist/bassist Jesse Cash – a slot which unjustly gave the crowd a bad first impression of his performances of the night. Unfortunate, but one show isn’t everything – especially when it’s the last night of tour. [5/10]

Northlane

ERRA started to turn the show around. Kicking off with Luminesce from 2016 album Drift, the US metalcore mob proved they were a cut above the bands playing before them as they blasted the Nottingham crowd with their heavy riffs. What seemed like a set filled with breakdowns turned the crowd from being supportive to being active in the mosh and the atmosphere built immensely from the start of the set to the end, leaving the headliners with a crowd chomping at the bit for more downtuned barrage. [7/10]

Northlane

Closing up the night came headliners Northlane who haven’t touched UK shores for a headliner since before the surprise drop of their latest album in March. Taking to the stage with a crushing rendition of Colourwave, the five-piece made it clear from the off they were going to put on a good show; the guitars were tight with very little aide from backing tracks, drums mixed into the PA perfectly and vocals perfectly weighted. They didn’t hold back at all as they fired out material from all four albums with absolutely no trouble; Marcus not only performs his own songs to perfection but through his time fronting the band has made all of former vocalist Adrian’s parts seem his own to mix seamlessly in with new music. The set as a whole contained eight of the eleven tracks from Mesmer which is a thoroughly impressive and somewhat bold choice for Northlane, but the gamble seemed to pay off with fans from all eras causing havoc in the somewhat intimate venue. A highlight of the set came in the performance of fan favourite Quantum Flux which caused some kind of hysteria to wave across the crowd which stepped up the rest of the show to another level. Ending the night with Paragon seemed to sum up the feeling of the night in its cathartic, reflective nature while retaining just how heavy Northlane can be.

A stunning performance from a band on the top of their game – Marcus Bridge is one of the finest frontmen around right now and he proves it every single night. [9/10]

Asking alexandria where did it go?

Asking Alexandria announce fifth album, release song

 

Following the announcement of their album, Asking Alexandria have announced the title and have released another song. The new record will be self-titled and is set for a 15th December release. The album is the first to have original frontman Danny Worsnop back after his departure in 2015.

The new song released today is called Where Did It Go? and throws some serious shade at modern metal bands… It sounds a bit like this:

Frank Iero & The Patience

Interview: Frank Iero, 16/10/17

At the Rescue Rooms, Nottingham date of their ongoing tour of the UK, we caught up with rock icon Frank Iero to talk about everything from food and touring to mental health.

What’s the rationale behind the tour supports? It’s a very diverse lineup…
For me, I’ve been doing this a long time. If I can’t tour around with bands I like then I don’t want to do it. I get to hand-pick who comes out with me and throughout the years I’ve got to meet some really cool people. I wanted to do a tour that would be my last one for a little while and these are my friends that are free and up for touring now.

What would you say is the best aspect of touring?
It’s definitely not the travel; the travel is what gets really hard. Getting to play these songs for different audiences is great – you get such a different reaction every night. Especially going overseas to Europe or the UK in that the cities aren’t far away from each other but the reaction is so different. Realising that and being able to duck and weave with that kind of thing to be like “this really works here, this doesn’t work here” helps you look really professional and get good at performing every night.

Would you say the worst aspect of touring is the travel?
Definitely, it’s hard! The fifth week of tour is where things get really hard, especially when you’re overseas. That’s when people start to crack get really homesick and get angry like “I can’t believe there’s no chips left!” People just explode. The fifth week is especially hard when there’s a sixth week happening though because by week five everyone goes crazy but if you have another week after this one it seems like it’s endless. We’re all really twitchy by the end of the fifth week. I’ve been doing this a long time and it’s always the way [laughs]. By the way, this is the fifth week…

Why do such an extensive UK run as opposed to playing the cities like everyone else?
I know I’m going to take a break after this year and I just wanted to do as much as I could. Nobody else does that, I don’t think. People have been coming up to us saying “why are you here? Nobody comes here,” and we just reply “because nobody comes here.” It’s fun! I just want to go out on a bang.

What’s the difference tour-wise between Frank Iero and the Patience, My Chemical Romance and Leathermouth?
Everything. It’s like asking what’s the difference between being a fireman, making doughnuts and being a shark… Literally the only thing the same is that there are shows involved.

What do you eat on tour?
[laughs] we’ve been using chopsticks a lot. Nando’s and peanut butter jelly… That’s been the staple stuff. Pizza Express just came out with vegan pizza too which is dope. Quavers is the other food group too.

Who’s the favourite band you’ve ever shared a tour bill with?
[sighs] all the bands I’m with right now…? Honestly that’s like picking your favourite kid, I’ve got a lot of friends. I’ve done tours in the past where I thought “oh this person sucks” and I just didn’t tour with them again. I think you can tell from my track record the people I like though.

Is there anyone you want to tour with in the near future?
[long pause, friend Cara Shaw suggests The Breeders] The Breeders, oh man… They would be amazing. How did I not think of them?

You’ve spoken a lot about working with Steve Albini on the new EP but can you sum it up in five words?
Unlike any other experience ever.

How did the cover art with [Radio 1 DJ] Daniel P Carter come about?
Dan and I have known each other a long time and he ended up doing the cover art for the split seven inch we did with Lonely the Brave a couple of years ago then we discussed working on the cover art for Parachutes but when the full scope of what that record was about it made sense for both of us to go in a different direction. I’d seen the first painting [the vampire that was to become the cover] and loved it enough to say “we should definitely do this one”.

You’ve spoken before about issues with anxiety – could you give us any advice for how to manage it at shows or on tour, from your experience?
I have to say – it’s rough. Sometimes you just go through a period where you don’t know what will set it off but your brain is so powerful it throws everything off kilter. I have a prescription I take for moments like that, when I don’t know when it’ll happen. The most important thing is to recognise you’re having an episode and the world isn’t falling apart around you. You need to settle down, breathe deep and compose yourself a bit. It’s almost like you’re having a nightmare and you have to remind yourself that you’re dreaming. It still sucks, but you’ll get through it. Surrounding yourself with people you love and feel comfortable with also helps.

What’s been your career highlight?
I have an answer for this because I was asked this the other day. It has to be getting to write a song with my kids [Best Friends Forever, from the new Frank Iero and the Patience EP] and record it with a childhood hero [producer Steve Albini]. That was a very full-circle moment. It’s almost like I planned it out… I didn’t but anyway [laughs].

Have you got any advice for young musicians?
It’s not a miracle thing that just happens. You’ve got to want it, and you’ve got to work really fucking hard. Ultimately it’s down to the saying ‘nobody cares, work harder’ [laughs]. Do it because you have to, not because you think you’ll get something out of it. You’ll be miserable for a long, long time. If you do it for the right reasons you’ll spend years and years trying.

Is taking time off what’s next for you?
Yes, totally. We end literally the 30th December and nothing else is booked. Back to the US after this to do three shows with The Descendents, one with Every Time I Die then three with Thursday and PUP then we’re done for a while.

 

Huge thanks to Frank for taking the time out to talk to us, it was a hugely surreal experience and he’s a hugely inspiring character!

Hear the new version of BFF below, or the original featuring his daughters in 2014 here:

Frank Iero & The Patience

Live: Frank Iero and the Patience – Rescue Rooms, 16/10/17

Dutch three-piece Paceshifters were first up on the bill with their energetic alt-rock anthems being belted out at the ever-filling venue. Despite being first up, the band has been going longer than any of the other projects by a considerable margin but that hasn’t made them look tired; brothers Paul and Seb Dokman co-fronting the show brings a warm connection with not only each other but with the audience, and a portion of the audience fell in love with the fraternity all three members seemed to have onstage. Drummer Jesper Albers is by no means the odd-one-out alongside the siblings either – his hard-hitting drumbeats and phenomenal energy showed off he was the best drummer of the night’s bill. Finishing off with a guest appearance from The Patience guitarist Evan Nestor to play a Nirvana cover A punchy and momentum-building tour for them, no doubt. [8/10]

Paceshifters Patience

Next up, bringing his stripped-down stage show to the UK stage was Derek Zanetti (better known as The Homeless Gospel Choir) who possesses unique stage presence which just makes every member of the audience feel at ease with his style and grace. Very much the US Frank Turner in terms of song-style, his recorded music varies from acoustic to full-band but his stage show is an incredibly vulnerable, heart-on-his-sleeve affair with breaks mid-song to talk to the crowd. The stop-start nature is anything but a disappointment though, and it felt like he became a friend to every audience member watching on in his time onstage performing songs largely from his latest album The Homeless Gospel Choir Presents: Normal. A fantastic talent with some very poignant opinions and stories to share, someone to never miss if he’s touring. [9/10]

Homeless Gospel Choir Patience

Punk frontman Dave Hause may have only been with The Mermaid as a band since February, but the last show on the tour before he departed was his 111th of the year with them – not bad going for a new band. The diversity in his catalogue was evident throughout with some songs having hints of Bryan Adams in them and others being far more middle-of-the-road rock and roll styling, but Hause‘s frontman capabilities are completely evident throughout every single song. His display of Rickenbacker, Gibson and Nash guitars showed his experience and commitment to the road after all these years, and storming through songs from each of his solo albums proved his songwriting prowess. Dedicating fan-favourite Dirty Fucker to Donald Trump proved popular, but not as popular as him giving out free shirts throughout the song because he didn’t want to take them back home to the US. A cover of Tom Petty seemed a fitting tribute as members of The Patience came out to make a giant supergroup of the two bands. A classy set from a band that will definitely make their name on the road with ease if they choose to stick together as The Mermaid. [9/10]

Dave Hause The Mermaid The Patience

Now infamous in his own right after 2 stellar albums and fresh of the back of his first EP, Frank Iero and his band The Patience came out to a lot of excited fans and immediately broke into World Destroyer to kick off one of the best punk rock sets Nottingham has seen in recent years. The no-holds-barred, sing-scream-shout blend of Frank’s vocals brings the level of excitement through the roof and the backing of long-time guitarist Evan Nestor brings a stage chemistry to rival many of the biggest bands in the world right now. A The Replacements cover with Dave Hause and a rendition of The Beatles‘ Helter Skelter threw some proof of their cultured influences (as if they needed the proof anyway), and the emotional performance of Best Friends Forever proved a set highlight – a song cowritten with his daughters back in 2014. Between songs, the chats with the crowd and accepting beers from the crowd just demonstrates Frank is one of the last true punk rockers onstage in 2017 –  a sad reality but he is keeping the breed alive. Fantastic set from a fantastic band, The Patience are one of the most exciting touring bands right now. [9/10]

Frank Iero & The Patience

Muskets CHEW

Muskets – CHEW

Following a long period of playing shows with no big releases, emo/grunge mob Muskets are back with their debut full-length album CHEW, which quickly establishes its dominance over the modern grunge scene. Opening track Pond Drop features chunky guitar sounds with altered chords for a slightly eerie tone.  First single 17 Years follows this up, showing the more brutal side of this album which is more reminiscent of 2014 EP Spin. The track itself was released about a year ago before the album prep was complete and this version is a rerecording on the new label to go with the album. The gruff vocals that dominate the chorus and the crunchy bass tone through the bridge show Muskets at their best are a force to be reckoned with.

The guitar and bass tones shine throughout the album on every track; the bass introductions to 17 Years and Decay are distorted and groove-laden but even under the loud, punky Chewing Gum it beats away to underpin the sliding leads. In the same way, throughout intros like Breathing the guitar is a dirty hum of chording with lead sections in You’re So Cool are packed with a shimmery shoegaze tone that sounds fantastic over the top of the rest of the beat.

At the more punk end of the album’s spectrum, Frankie Stable is a fast, dynamic track with a bit more of the “let’s keep this sloppy and see how it goes” feel that defines Muskets in the market today. The first verse is a fairly high, shouted section that breaks into slower, groovy chorus to make a smooth blend of tuned and raw that works to great effect. Closing the album with Umbilical saves the slowest for last but is by no means the least of the tracks. The trippy end piece plays the album out with a mellow guitar feedback section with a slow bassline thudding away to finish off the collection.

Perhaps the most notable thing about the whole album (as with the rest of the band’s discography to date) is the rare addition of Anglicised vocals throughout CHEW which comes as a welcome break from the faux-American accents put on by a lot of UK vocalists across the genres. Hearing the UK origins in a band is particularly satisfying when they have such great natural potential.

Overall the only real criticism that can be made of the album is that it lacks stylistic variety, but the fact it’s their debut album just goes to show they’ve found their sound throughout the last few years and have made a mastery of it before releasing the full-length. A fantastic delivery on the promise their single and EP showed, very exciting emerging UK talent on display.