He Is Legend – Few

Returning from their very own Cabin In The Woods experience, North Carolina’s He Is Legend are back with fifth album Few. Retreating to a remote location in Carborro, NC – the band locked themselves away, far from phones signals and as frontman Schuylar Croom explains “Rather than turning on the TV at night, we’d be sitting around a fire to stay warm drinking wine. It brought an element of darkness out of me”. It was truly do or die during the almost entirely crowdfunded record too ; the band declaring that if they reached their target, Few would become a reality and if not, the record would not see the light of day. Luckily fans responded in droves, easily exceeding the band’s desired amount. So with all of the energy and motivation of knowing just how much their audience wanted another record, could He Is Legend build on the acclaim that 2014’s Heavy Fruit saw them receive?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Early singles Air Raid and Sand were impressive in their scope and impact ; the former a winding, trippy intro launched head-first into pummeling low-slung riffery and the latter a punchy groove-metal assault complete with as catchy a chorus as you would hope to find. Two tracks in and the band have already demonstrated most of the key elements that fans have come to love about them and guess what… they aren’t about to stop there.

Throughout their musical tenure, He Is Legend have found ways to wrap up big-time melodies in burly guitar riffs and on Few they have damn near perfected this art. In parts, the record plays as part deux to their previous effort, albeit alot heavier in places. The sinewy rhythmic funk of Alley Cat and acid-trip fever dream of Gold Dust recall the dramatic yet hooky vibes of their predecessor. Part of what made this dramatic feel work on previous outings and certainly what aids the band’s overall sound this time around is Croom’s lyrical output ; maturing from the twisted story-book fare of Suck Out The Poison to the cryptic but no less spellbinding imagery of Air Raid here, which Croom explains “It’s about how the earth wants humans to be gone”.

For fans of their earlier outings, there is nothing quite as erratic as The Seduction here – in it’s place jagged southern-rock ala Beaufort and the lumbering Down-esque grind of Jordan. Thankfully, alongside the more experimental and indeed heavier moments, the band don’t forget to suck the listener back from oblivion with hummable melodies, as can be heard on the previously mentioned Sand and the alluring yet grimy Silent Gold.

Morphing from post-hardcore sensation into southern metal purveyors to mention but a few of their incarnations, He Is Legend have pooled their collective résumé into a sound that is uniquely them. It’s what makes Few such an fascinating listen as unlike the foggy brilliance of Heavy Fruit or the jittery fun of It Hates You, Few not only has something for most every fan of heavy sounds, but it twists and pushes each one of these elements, in turn getting the very best out of each track. Nearly fifteen years in the making, He Is Legend might just have put together their most cohesive record yet and no doubt an early contender for album of the year.

Few is out April 28th on Spinefarm Records.

Black Map – In Droves

Black Map are big music in every sense of the word. They are big ideas, fat riffs and towering melodies pooled together to somehow create a fusion-rock sound that just wails. Hailing from San Francisco, California, the post-hardcore supergroup contains members of Alt-rock crews Dredg and Far and if those credentials weren’t enough, just wait until they smack you upside the head with a sound that shouldn’t quite be possible from just three people. Latest effort In Droves looks to push Black Map beyond it’s initial foray into metallic rock and showcase a band whose years of experience can conjure up something special.

The tranquil Transit I keeps things cool before the band launch into first single Run Rabbit Run. On first listen, the band sound like a much more riff-heavy Thrice, blending the dominant guitars of Chris Robyn’s previous band Far with soaring vocal lines to create a truly three dimensional sound. Unlike their previous musical paths however, Black Map embrace a concise progressive element in same way Deftones have as of late. Cutting to the core of what makes their songs powerful, they add layers and effect-laden guitar lines on tracks like the bulky Heavy Waves and gargantuan ender Coma Phase which mutates between elegant choruses and builds to an epic, doomy finale.

The band know how to pen an anthem as well with the brilliant Ruin and the driving Indoor Kid being definitive highlights of the record. The former utilizes low-tuned guitar lines with a chorus which echoes Suck Out The Poison-era He Is Legend, whilst the latter ploughs along with desert-rock vibes reminiscent of Hollywood’s Open Hand . The production on In Droves compliments the band’s expansive sound too and while the focus is clearly on the band’s weighty guitar sound and Ben Flanagan’s enigmatic vocals, nothing is lost in the widescreen mix.

For all the credibility that Black Map may have accrued from it’s members previous endeavors, In Droves is entirely its own beast. It’s a record which takes the listener on a journey from start to finish and doesn’t let up until its songs find a permanent home in your brain cavity. As a collective body of work, it unfolds upon repeat listens and despite the immediate impact of some of the huge sounds on display, will undoubtedly show the listener new things with each spin. As with late album cut Just My LuckIn Droves not only aims to aid you in rocking the f**k out, it aims to show you that it can do that and so much more.

In Droves is released via Longbranch / SPV on March 10th.

CRNKSHFT – CRNKSHFT (EP)

Taking a quick scan over the cover of the self titled EP by Canada’s CRNKSHFT it’s fairly clear what vein the band is drilling. From the intentionally mis-spelled name right down to motor-inspired artwork it’s safe to say that the band won’t be penning Operation: Mindcrime anytime soon, but for the style of music they play, which is stomping party metal, they really don’t need to. The Vancouver crew have being plying their trade since their last EP, the bluntly titled Hard F**king Rock : touring with monster rockers Lordi and sharing the stage with visceral metallers Prong also. So with their latest EP, produced by Metallica collaborator Darren Grahn, can the band make waves within their metallic niche? The answer is both yes and no.

There are positive and negative elements to CRNKSHFT which both define and hinder the band’s sound to a certain degree. The first of a handful of positives is the dynamic voice of frontman Shane Jolie, managing to go from Layne Staley croon to Soil-esque screams in the space of a single song. It adds to the overall impact of the tracks here, particularly on second helping Old Habits which combines rolling guitar riffs with a soaring chorus. Another pleasing element to the EP are the song’s themselves, managing to utilise stop-start dynamics and solid structures to help tracks such as lead single Systematic, with its Spineshank-like disco-metal, remain memorable and concise.

The negatives of the EP are not vast but as mentioned earlier, they define the band in a way that may stop them from maximizing their fan-base beyond post-grunge and it’s dated template. As strong as tracks like Breaking The Silence come across, with repeated listens the slightly one dimensional guitar grooves and nu metal choruses can become monotonous and as with bands such as Soil and Drowning Pool, it could leave the band languishing in a genre that they could easily outgrow. A saving grace, helping the band occasionally break from its formulaic approach are the shred-heavy solo’s of lead guitarist Geoff Way which are both technical and catchy in equal measure.

Ten to fifteen years ago CRNKSHFT could well have ruled the roost alongside their biker-metal brethren, but unfortunately with so many fresh and unique sounds emanating from the metal world, music of this style doesn’t bring anything new to the table. So where does this leave CRNKSHFT? Well upon reading vocalist Shane Jolie’s words regarding how music has pulled him out of hard times, CRNKSHFT‘s blend of nitro-fueled guitars, punishing grooves and charismatic melodies may be just the ticket if you need some hard-rocking tunes to get you out of your funk. It may even resonate with fans of a bygone era of music who long for it’s return. However as an overall product, CRNKSHFT doesn’t quite deliver enough new ideas to be considered essential listening in 2017.

CRNKSHFT is released on March 24th.

Red Fang – Only Ghosts

Over the past two decades, Relapse Records have brought us some of the most seminal albums in metal history. They hold a catalog of releases, that between 1990 and the present day, boasts titles such as Neurosis’ ground-breaking Through Silver In Blood, the first three Dillinger Escape Plan albums and Mastodon’s goliath sophomore effort Leviathan. It’s a feat only matched by fellow metal titans Roadrunner Records, who have adopted a slightly more mainstream focus as of late. So kudos to Relapse for gathering a diverse, if no less heavy roster, and further credit to them for upcoming release Only Ghosts from Portland’s Red Fang, which echoes the spirit of Relapse’s past, all the while dragging it kicking and screaming into 2016.

Only Ghosts begins with a thudding kick drum and southern-fried guitars before kicking into a surge of guttural yells from guitarist Bryan Giles. It leads to an eerily memorable vocal refrain by bassist Aaron Beam in which he confesses “You know that I can’t sleep, I’ve been awake for weeks, and someone’s dying”. Flies is everything you could want from an opening track, rampaging out of the speakers with gusto and ending with a veritable smorgasbord of savage leads. Cut it Short continues the riff-a-thon. All swaggering guitars and desert vibes, it proves to be one of the most accessible songs in the bands catalog, while the Queens Of The Stone Age meets Mastodon grooves of No Air packs enough punch to topple buildings.

Unlike the slightly muddier sounds of previous releases, Only Ghosts finds the band sounding absolutely vast in comparison . The drums of John Sherman in particular, pushed right up front, every tom roll sounding seismic, every snare hit driving the record forward. This helps the all-out rock of Not For You to sound as polished as more mainstream acts, but doesn’t take away from the raw grime of tracks like album centerpiece The Smell Of Sound which mirrors the brutal, sluggish pace of bands like Crowbar and EyeHateGod.

A comparison could be made to ex-label mates Mastodon, with towering screams and murky clean vocals over a punishing metal backdrop. Truth be told, they do share a similar sound, but what Red Fang may lack in true pioneering spirit, they make up for in sheer, forceful rock n’ roll power. The likes of I Am A Ghost, which comes across like a Lemmy-fronted doom band and the mid-section shred of Shadows, sound truly feral.

Red Fang have worked intensely hard to get to Only Ghosts. Previous releases such as 2013’s Whales and Leeches showed the band helm their influences into a mixing pot of dark, technical malice, but a heavy touring schedule and acquired studio savvy have helped Red Fang truly master their craft here. On this, their third album, the band sound bigger, grimier and even catchier but lose none of their fire in the process. Whether it be at a snail-pace grind or a foot-on-the-accelerator pummel, Only Ghosts is a filthy, bruising riot from start to finish and a sure-fire contender for album of the year.

Black Orchid Empire Announce UK Tour Dates

Not long after announcing details of debut album Archetype, the awesome Black Orchid Empire has revealed the dates for their upcoming UK tour. Speaking about the tour, the band comments “Playing live is what it’s all about for us. Getting to tour round the UK and hang out with the people who keep this killer rock music scene alive is always incredible. We’re so excited to share our new record with everyone – we cannot wait to see you guys on the road!”

Check out where you can see Black Orchid Empire on tour below.

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The London trio will release Archetype on November 11th. Find out more over on Facebook.