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James Maddern

Modern Ruin frank carter and the rattlesnakes

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – Modern Ruin

Opening the album is a slow, slightly dark but thoughtful track titled Bluebelle which is performed by Frank alone. It acts as the only track from the band so far for which he has recorded an instrument, and doing so on the opening of the Modern Ruin chapter as many will know it seems like a logical move. At just over a minute long, it would be expected to be the shortest track on the album but no – that is saved for the absolutely savage Jackals later on which has been performed a few times around the country on tour.

Modern Ruin does a fantastic job of contrasting musical styles presented within the new era of The Rattlesnakes and there is no exception through the whole thirty-eight minutes of the album. Bluebelle starts quietly, then Lullaby has a groove and Snake Eyes is darker and gets progressively heavier. Vampires is fuzzy and agressive behind a veil of backing vocals and control, Wild Flowers is almost alt-pop in a very catchy way and Acid Veins is incredibly dark with a confident swaying rhythm. God Is My Friend is quick and loud yet shows a lot of control, Jackals is quicker, louder and shorter with a murderous edge, and Thunder is much slower and more reflective. Real Life is bold with a crashing and punchy rhythm, Modern Ruin is gritty and purely vicious throughout the whole period, and Neon Rust is the epic finale that gives a slow closure to the piece to mirror Bluebelle after a reflective look back at the masterpiece sandwiched between the two.

The standout tracks have to be Acid VeinsLullaby and Modern Ruin. As a trio, they represent what the album is about – exploring different ideas in very different ways that can gel into one big artistic expression. Acid Veins has a swing in the beat that few would have predicted this time last year on the back of Blossom, which gets combined with some of the darkest lyrics on the album to create an imaginative dichotomy within the storytelling. Lullaby holds a groove yet has distinct undertones of fighting against mental darkness as Carter asks “sleep, where have you gone?”. Modern Ruin is the heaviest song on the album in terms of instrumental, and it would have easily fit in on the debut album. It has a huge buildup that waits for the explosion which by no means disappoints – an absolute venue-shredder of a track.

In addition, Jackals adds a short burst of fire to liven up the quieter tracks in the middle of the album. With crashing drums and echoed vocals that climax at around 50 seconds, the quick and beat-heavy track culminates in the slightly terrifying lyric “burn them all like sickened cattle and leave nothing for the jackals”, which indicates that although the band may have seemed to mellow out musically their content is just as dark in other ways.

Overall, a very different and nearly-as-perfect album from Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes that contrasts nicely with the 2015 debut Blossom. The tracks only touch on common ground with its older sibling, but it is clear Frank and Dean are exploring their musical range. Whether musically heavy or not, the album aches with sickening danger that characterises the band and there is no doubting this will help them break through on mainstream radio despite them keeping the incredibly dark feeling in their fabrication of material. Some people will adore it, some will hate it but it is sure to make their live set crank up  yet another notch. Modern Ruin hits shelves next Friday (20th Jan) so don’t sleep on it.

afi the blood album

A Fire Inside – AFI (The Blood Album)

The Blood Album opens out in a way that may not be expected of AFI: the big, heavily electronic sound of Dark Snow appears with a little guitar lick played over the top that works well. The vocals here are an instant pull back to the older material in the veteran band’s catalogue with melody and harmony atop the instrumental, though the instrumental is perhaps not of the norm.

They return to what would be expected on second track Still A Stranger however, which opens with acoustic guitar chording followed by a lead-bass-drum buildup to the eccentrically-voiced verse and a soaring chorus. The layered backing vocals half-harmonising and half-shouting are a throwback almost to Decemberunderground all those years ago. Octave guitar parts and bass fills keep the track particularly AFI, and the middle eight section brings back the classic Havok desperate layered shout style which works well to break down the energy for a time.

Vocally, the album varies hugely. Mixed with the layered screams there are traces of rock, punk, pop punk, alt-rock and even some chorus sounds in tracks like Dumb Kids reminiscent of a child of Kaiser Chiefs‘ Ricky Wilson and Meat Loaf. The backing vocals again fit fantastically on the back of Havok’s leads, with stacked sounds absolutely filling any remaining space in the audiosphere with harmonies and powerful shouts.

Stylistically, Aurelia is one of the better tracks. It acts as one of AFI‘s more alt-rock ended songs as opposed to their “punk” pigeonhole in many minds, and shows how they can explore different parts of their sound in a short period of time. It has just the kind of rhythm that would lend itself to an acoustic version incredibly well – whether one of those will come is another question though. It is almost impossible however to ignore Hidden Knives when speaking of Aurelia – the two tracks sound as if they are each two halves of a conversation. The former acts as the more upbeat reply with its more constant rhythm as opposed to Aurelia‘s lilting and more pulsating feel.

Overall then, it’s a very solid return for the California crew. A vast array of styles have been combined in AFI (The Blood Album) that they haven’t fully explored in past releases and hearing them become very comfortable within that area cranks the album up a notch. It sounds almost like AFI got a bit excited with some new pedals and effects they’ve found so they’ve spent hours working them into songs – a bit weird but working in a very AFI way.

ambitions

ONE OK ROCK – Ambitions

ONE OK ROCK are a band that bring pop to rock in a way that very few others do in the modern day. With extreme melodic hooks straight from mainstream radio and electronics mixed sometimes with distorted guitars that bring a punch to the album’s underneath, Ambitions sees the Japanese giants collaborate with All Time Low‘s Alex Gaskarth (with whom they toured the US on last year’s Back To The Future Hearts Tour) for Jaded and apparently the whole of 5 Seconds of Summer on one track. Yes, really that mad.

Opening the record with Ambitious states exactly what the record is trying to be on multiple levels. The title shows their conceptual will to experiment with the music, and the music itself introduces the electronic sounds. Following it with Bombs Away gives a clearer picture of how the record means to go on musically though – the strength of electronic beats combines with Taka Moriuchi’s powerful vocals and a hard-hitting underpinning of drums, guitars and bass that allows the whole track to pull together which really uniquates Ambitions as a whole.

The lyrics in English are just as good as any band writing in their native language, yet ONE OK ROCK have recorded two versions of the album – the English version and Japanese one. The ability of the band to do this is impressive, and the lyrics hold great meaning. For example, the second verse of We Are is all English in our version but in the Japanese version it’s all in their native tongue yet both seem to fit the instrumentals perfectly. Not only that, but they have managed to engineer the lyrics to rhyme in English as well which is an added complication – well managed as always.

The most touching track on the album is Hard To Love, which is a well-executed acoustic(ish) track that stands out from the rest of the album quite distinctly. The crazily-blended electronics ONE OK ROCK bring are not even evident in the track, but to a more controlled extent than in other tracks where they just let rip on that aspect. Lyrics like “you showed me I was just a diamond in the rough” and “I was a rebel with a cause, I just didn’t know quite what it was” display the band’s ability to write cleverly even in a foreign language to them, and the heartfelt emotion included is best felt here.

Overall, one of the most bizarre releases in the scene probably since their last one so it could be said ONE OK ROCK have stuck to their winning formula on Ambitions. If you haven’t heard any of their music previously, listen to it – love it or hate it, it sure is an experience.

halestorm reanimate 3.0 covers ep

Halestorm – ReAniMate 3.0 The CoVeRs eP [EP]

The opening of Still of the Night proves yet again that Lzzy Hale’s voice was absolutely made for rock music. The Whitesnake classic has got a vocal verse with no real instrumentation that Hale has used to show off the grit in her voice, and the band breaking in with the hair metal-influenced hard rock proves their versatility while keeping their own style. Layered vocals and similar instrumental parts keep the sound close enough to the original to be easily recognisable, but there are subtle differences like guitar tones that make it sound very Halestorm. An interesting take on Sophie B Hawkins‘ Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover follows, which keeps its pop feel more than most of the ReAniMate series yet the distorted guitar and cymbal-heavy drums leave it with an expected rock touch to it too.

Joan Jett classic I Hate Myself For Loving You is third, which is kept perhaps the closest stylistically to the original with the female-fronted rock act holding a similar place in the market to Halestorm in the modern day. The tom/snare/clap beats are reminiscent of the original as are even the guitar tones, and the confidence of Lzzy soulfully over the top gives a real flashback. They’ve even managed to put more energy into Twenty One Pilots‘ smash hit Heathens from Suicide Squad. With no electronic sounds unlike the original, the track turns into a fairly slow rock powerhouse which is almost unrecognisable without the vocals. Penultimately, a cover of Soundgarden‘s Fell On Black Days plays out which by its original would be the least showy of the EP. This does prove to be so. While not disappointing, the track is very simple and would act perhaps as a better final track, though that was definitely saved for the best to go out with a blast.

The release then brings itself to a close with a rendition of Metallica hit Ride The Lightning which works fantastically. The solo is a thing of wonder and the chugging rhythm guitar coupled with bass and drums keeping the punching rhythm ticking over. Anyone that doubts Lzzy Hale before hearing this most certainly will not afterwards – her voice shines as the central powerhouse in the mix with left-right panned guitars and directional drums. The gruffness in her voice would challenge any male vocalist performing the track and her style on the lyrics just fits superbly. A fitting finish to a fantastic EP.

Overall, ReAniMate 3.0 shows again that Halestorm aren’t limited to putting their original style into their tracks to sound unlike any other band but that they can do it to other artists’ tracks too.

Homemade Aim Higher

Aim Higher – Homemade [EP]

The opening track of Homemade, titled Stain on Your Generation in true punk style, gives an instant flavour for the EP, which isn’t saying all that much as at 0:50 it is almost a quarter of the length of the 4 and a half minute EP. The styling sounds very much like 7 Seconds music-wise, which is perhaps unsurprising – the guitars are quick change power chords as would be expected, the drums play a generic quick hihat-heavy groove which pins under the vocals well. The downside however is the production; the mix sounds quiet and the vocals are higher in the mix than would be ideal for the style and it sounds rather messy in parts. Second track For A Reason furthers this with its speed, but the vocals have harmonies in the chorus (if you can call it that, it happens twice!) which don’t work too well and sound messy again. A good song as it goes, but it’s clear to hear it’s a DIY job…

Homemade, somewhat ironically maybe, is the best track in terms of production and therefore overall. All of the tracks are solid musically, though second mix of them would improve them greatly! Dual vocals appear in this track, with more punky vocals with less attention paid to tuning of the lines. Closing track Mouth of a Stranger tells of “brighter days ahead” in a quick, roots punk track that doesn’t stop the momentum of the EP at all.

Overall, the release shows a real potential for the project and Seconds will gain traction with it. What the project lacks in production should be made up with fans by putting his name on it and the momentum hopefully will produce more of this songwriting that has drawn everyone to 7 Seconds all these years.

Fearless Records

Fearless Records confirm tours, albums

The time of year has come for Fearless Records to release their latest instalment in the annual “Coming in” series for the new year.

The announcement includes new albums from Volumes, Mayday Parade, Wage War and August Burns Red as well as the new As It Is release (read our review here) and tour plans for bands including Real FriendsTonight Aliveblessthefall and our friends in I Prevail. This year sure does look to be Fearless.

Check out the label’s site here and see the video below:

Okay. As It Is

As It Is – Okay.

Okay. opens with the second track released from the era in the shape of Pretty Little Distance. Its video set out the first filmed interpretation of the style with swing dancers dressed in 50s outfits and the song somehow holds some of that swing within its pop punk beats. The solo towards the end sounds like it is taken straight from a rock & roll track in the period. Fast, tom-heavy drum verse parts fuel the emotive lyrics throughout and the layering of vocals allows for a fuller, more whole sound.

This is followed up with lead single Okay. which gave fans the first taste of the era pre-release. The song features a soaring chorus with a slightly more punchy verse that gives a fuller flavour of the album that contrasts nicely with Pretty Little Distance. The lyrics here are deeper than the previous track as Patty admits how he’s “felt a year’s worth of hurt and sadness catching up” and clearly felt brutally low while turning this track from words on a page to a stage-filler as it has turned out.

One of the standout songs is Hey Rachel, which is written as an apology to one of the sisters of the members of the band (presumably with a name change). The piece has one of the best choruses and emotive lyrics apologising for not being there when she needed someone, admitting faults of being “selfish and stubborn” and “a terrible brother”. The whole song feels like it is in some kind of desperation to close a guilt and move forward in the relationship.

The album closes on a strong sentiment with penultimate track The Coast Is Where Home Is provides a sentimental look back at the roots of As It Is on the UK’s south coast which has provided so many new bands with a shot at the big leagues in recent months and years. This being followed by Still Remembering creates closure for the album. It acts as the slowest-tempo song on the record which asks whether it is “remembering, still remembering or forgetting” in terms of happy memories.

Overall, a step up from anything As It Is have released before. If anything, a whole album viewing of Okay. seems like the natural progression from the EPs before Never Happy, Ever After in the styling of a more centre-spectrum rather than the debut’s more pop-end style. A very good release that sees the band hit their stride more confidently than ever.

Preorder the album here or here on iTunes.