While She Sleeps make a welcome return with ANTI-SOCIAL

Some artists will become the flag-bearers for their genre; a hallmark of quality and THE starting point for any genre. However, some bands will take that flag down and put up their own, reshaping the genre and changing the face of it, or creating a whole new genre. Step forward, While She Sleeps.

Ever since introducing themselves with The North Stands For Nothing, WSS have been a band on the rise, somehow remaining solidly consistent across three full-blown releases, peaking with You Are We last year. Whilst classed as a metalcore band, they, like Architects, transcend the genre with their approach to musicianship and production.

So at some point, they’ve got to run out of puff, right? Potentially, but with the release of their new single ANTI-SOCIAL last night, the Sleeps brothers don’t look like that’ll happen any time soon.

There’s something different with this track, but it’s hard to put your finger on it. The track still contains the classic Sleeps trademarks – big riffs, and bigger gang screams – but feels more progressive than You Are We.

It’s not like they’ve turned down and pursued a poppier sound, it still hits with the same venom and angst as ever before. You could argue the heavy, ominous synth is something new, but not exactly outside their range. The sound just feels like an upgrade, but not from one album to the next, it feels like they’ve learnt a lot and are applying it to their craft.

Past the synth however, it’s business as usual with frantically picked guitars, thunderous riffs and a chorus of screams. It just… it just feels like an evolution of the band. As if they’ve gone from being a Pikachu; an absolute unit, roundly popular, to a Raichu; even more electric and more powerful than ever before.

ANTI-SOCIAL is the first release from Sleeps’ fourth full-length album, SO WHAT?, due next March, and whilst we’re just one track in, you’d be foolish not to already be tipping the band to release an album of the year contender in 2019.

However, this album does come with an added pressure. The band have sold out halls, institutes and academies across the land, and SO WHAT? will be crucial, in that it could be the album that takes them to the arena-filling and festival headlining level, and turn them into metal’s latest giants. – oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

Album Review: Grimmest Hits by Black Label Society

by Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Zakk Wylde likes to keep busy. When he’s not spinning riffs for Ozzy Osbourne, he’s spinning riffs for his own band Black Label Society. When he’s not doing either, he’s spinning riffs for his own solo project, and when he’s not doing that, he’s spinning riffs that have been written before for his cover band, Zakk Sabbath (guess what kind of music they play!). When he’s not doing all or any of that, he’s shaving his legs. Gotta keep those pins supple!

This time, however, the Wylde Wheel of Fortune has landed on Black Label Society, producing the band’s first album since 2014’s stunning Catacombs of the Black Vatican, Grimmest Hits. Hits? Yes. Grimmest? No. Despite the fact Wylde has starred on 25 studio & live albums in his time, plus countless guest appearances, he still hasn’t run out of fresh ideas. Grimmest Hits is misleading as fans might think this was going to be a swansong ‘greatest hits’ album, but a large chunk of these songs have the potential to become classics with BLS fans. Grim isn’t a word you shouldn’t associate with this album, whilst the riffs are dirty, ‘glorious’ is the word of the day.

Plumming influences from all walks of life, Grimmest Hits is an eclectic mix of blues, country and hard rock. Unsurprising considering that Wylde’s first musical love was Elton John, looks like the Norse god of lumberjacking, and channels papa Ozzy when singing.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=v0yheeyt6YQ

Giving us a strong flavour of what to expect from this album, we have been treated to Room of Nightmares, All That Once Shined and Trampled Down Below prior to its release, all of which, stylistically are a million miles apart from each other, and it’s the final single that opens the album, with John DeServio’s moody bassline parting the seas for an almighty heavy metal attack, featuring, of course, a lightning strike of a solo from the bearded man of the hour.

However, whilst the uninformed may think “Zakk Wylde, Black Label Society, Grimmest Hits” is a huge flag for heavy metal, the pleasant surprises on this album are the ballads and the slow jams, with The Only Words grabbing you by the soul and not letting you go. Same for The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away and the aptly named closer Nothing Left To Say showcasing the softer side of rock & roll, but nonetheless driving the knife deeper into emotional wounds.

This isn’t a negative point on the band at all, but this album is drowned in Sabbath. Keen fans will known that Sabbath isn’t all heavy metal and pseudosatanism, with many tender & more complex moments coming from the band, and Grimmest Hits is no different. Since Sabbath retired just over a year ago, who better to become the torchbearer for doom-laden metal than Ozzy Osbourne’s right hand man? It’s impossible not to sound like your influences, but Black Label Society give their retiring heroes a very appropriate 21 gun salute.

We’ve spoke about ballads, but you’re here for riffs right? Dark, heavy riffs?! Check out The Betrayal and Disbelief. These tracks embody the “Grimmest” in grimmest hits, both of which could be the trumpet that heralds the coming of the apocalypse, combining lyrical-based terror and anthem-esque delivery, that will easily get venues shaking to the ground. It’s just what you need, with emotionally twisting ballads, you need a good shake to get you back to the land of the living. Seriously, The Betrayal absolutely stomps through this album. Anybody who wants to tell you that “rock is dead” and “radio killed the riff” REALLY needs to have a chomp on this prime cut of rifferoni pizza.

From front to back, Grimmest Hits is a prime cut of beef that you can milk countless riffs out of. Despite not being a greatest hits album, it provides wall to wall choice cuts that could easily have it mistaken for a greatest hits compilation. Anyone expecting a linear musical theme will be sorely disappointed, as this album has a rich mix of genres, lyrical themes and emotions as you ride from start to finish.

Album Review: Satyricon – Deep Calleth Upon Deep

 

rating 8By Liam Toner (@tonerliam)
Norwegian Black Metal outfit Satyricon have been biding their time. Their ninth effort Deep Calleth Upon Deep is coming off the heels of a four year recording hiatus. Yet despite this sabbatical and the group’s overall tenure (Satyricon now being an active band for 25 years), this new album manages to sound interesting and fresh.

When it comes to Satyricon there are two general eras: the mysterious and raw sounding ’90s Norwegian Black Metal sound whose atmosphere hearkened back to ancient and medieval times and later, the more rock driven approach to Black Metal which favours mid-tempo arrangements and catchiness. Deep Calleth Upon Deep seems to combine both of these two styles together very naturally and we can clearly see how the band have successfully matured on this release. Whereas both of the band’s previous eras were polarising for different camps of fans (old school patrons tended to shun the rock driven and more commercial 2000s era of the band), DCUD seems to have something for every fan.

Frost‘s drumming on this tends to stay away from the intense, hypnotic blastbeats typical of Black Metal and instead sticks mostly to mid-tempo rock grooves. However, that’s only the bare bones of what Frost brings to the table on this release. Though he experiments constantly on basic patterns, Frost does so without being too flashy and overshadowing the songwriting. This variation and experimentation adds another layer of interest to the songs that rewards the listener on multiple listens.

Satyr‘s vocals on the early Satyricon output tended to be high shrieking screams, but on DCUD the vocals are more of a mid-register snarling bite which is more decipherable than the former and gives the vocals a more powerful sound. The guitar work on this is very eerie and switches between dissonant riffs and chords to more melodic riffing which together create a strange, unsettling atmosphere. A lot of the guitar work on this seems heavily influenced by the dissonant angular style riffing of ThornsSnorre Ruch.

The album starts with Midnight Serpent, in which a syncopated dissonant riff plays on top of one of the few blast beats on the album and then falling into the creepy metal grooves that dominate this album. The song changes in a few different directions throughout, not keeping with a familiar structure. The lack of traditional structures continues throughout the run time of the album, making each subsequent section of the music often a surprise. The track near the end falls in to an upbeat rhythm where a melodic lead comes in and creates a very strange evil circus vibe. To Your Brethren in the Dark starts with an exceptionally eerie, crawling riff which follows into a atmospheric dirge of chilling minor chords. This main riff creates a great backdrop for Satyrs’ vocals to shine through the mix, and the combination makes this one of the most memorable songs on the album.

The title track introduces classical singer Håkon Kornstad, whose haunting vocals and use of strings add an extra layer of darkness to the already spooky mix. The central riff in this song proves to be quite catchy while also making this song stand out as an anthem on the record. It becomes immediately clear why the band chose it for the single release.
The Ghost of Rome has a very driving beat throughout and Frost‘s drums really carry this track with his use of fills and the way he tends to use every piece of the kit to make the arrangements pop a bit more. Like the eponymous track, Rome also features the vocals of Håkon Kornstad, giving the song the ghostly sound to fit the title.
The track Dissonant heavily features saxophone, which works amazingly for all the wrong reasons, but makes you recognize the saxophone as an instrument for its expressive capabilities in any genre.

Deep Calleth Upon Deep is a fantastic return to form for Satyricon, one that will probably impress old fans and new fans alike and only seems to get better with each listen as you dissect its many layers.

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Album Review: Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun

By Liam Toner (@tonerliam)rating 7

Hiss Spun is Chelsea Wolfe’s 5th album and her darkest and heaviest one yet. The Californian singer-songwriter’s music has always been hard to define: while a lot of reviewers might give her the tag of doomfolk, she’s experimented thoroughly with sounds ranging from electronic music, goth, dark folk, industrial. On this new album, however, rock and metal shine through as the biggest influences on its sound. A lot of the tracks on Hiss Spun were never intended for release under the Chelsea Wolfe name as they were originally a side project of hers with drummer Jess Gowrie and Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen. However, they decided to take the songs and use them on the next Chelsea Wolfe release with the intention of touring these new songs.

Another reason for this particular album being one of Chelsea’s heaviest yet is due in no small part to Kurt Ballou’s producing. The Converge guitarist’s production back catalogue is rife with extreme and heavy bands from grindcore bands such as Full of Hell, Nails and Magrudergrind to other heavy bands more recently such as The Dillinger Escape Plan and Code Orange to name just a few. Understandably, choosing Ballou for this project makes it easy to see why this album sounds so colossal at times.

Spun starts the album and opens with wailing guitar feedback into a thick sludgy riff which is then joined by Chelsea’s haunting vocals. The song grooves along from here and creates quite an ominous, foreboding atmosphere. Twice in the song the momentum of the groove breaks and the instruments fall in to a brief frenzy complete with a blast beat from drummer Jess to then snap right back into the ominous groove. Chelsea’s vocals in the choruses almost mimic the feebacking guitar as she sings “spun”, blending in perfectly with the dark noisey backing of the band.

16 Psyche continues the album in much the same way with an almost bluesy riff playing in the verses and building up to the gargantuan power chord section of the choruses. Again it’s Chelsea’s vocals that really bring the sound together with her high reverb-drenched voice on this track, adding a layer of emotionality unachievable with just instruments.

Vex stands out as probably the strongest and most musically diverse track on the album. A driving, lively yet dark bassline carries the song’s momentum while Chelsea’s vocals add an ethereal melody on top. Vex also stands out as one of the most metal influenced songs on the album. During the verses a distorted electric guitar plays a hypnotic tremolo riff which would fit in easily on a black metal recor. The track also features guest vocalist Aaron Turner (of metal band Isis) adding death metal style growls to build up another layer of brutality on an already brooding and heavy song.

The album continues on in much the same fashion, which proves to become a little formulaic. This is probably in part to the songs being written as full band with the intention of being rock songs. On Chelsea’s previous releases she tends to do all the writing herself then takes it to the band, allowing for a wide variety of styles and song structures to come out as she doesn’t have to think about the chemistry and dynamic that comes with playing with a full band.

Until the penultimate track, the doomfolk label usually associated with Chelsea’s music seemed completely void as Two Spirit showcases the only track featuring acoustic guitars. Running into Two Spirit is the interlude style track Welt which begins with a minute of industrial noise leading into a soft piano section that winds down the album perfectly for the upcoming acoustic track. Despite the lack of distorted heavy guitars on this track it still ends up being incredibly dark and sinister, but also one of the more beautiful ones as well thanks to Chelsea’s dreamy atmospheric vocal work.

A last criticism is that the album is too long at 48 minutes. If a couple of the weaker tracks were taken off then the album could come across less repetitive and would make for a better listen all round without sacrificing what makes the rest of the album so good.

While Hiss Spun might not be one of Chelsea Wolfe’s strongest or most unique albums it still proves to be a very captivating listen, featuring some tracks that really stand out artistically as something they should be proud of creating.

 

 

Sacramento Rockers Sages Are Back With ‘Close Your Eyes’

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

Hot off the back of re-releasing their Sleepwalker LP, Californian five-piece Sages haven’t let the creative juices fizzle with the reveal of new single Close Your Eyes. The band, best known for their ambiguous lyricism and visceral narrative, continue their staples traits on the newly released track: channeling a lot of influences (Deftones and Tesseract to name but a few), Sages manage to mix the new with the familiar enough to stop them from walking into a trodden path. According to Dino Vidovich of the band, the track has multiple interpretations:

In one context, it’s about a man who is broken over losing a loved one, and he wants to reconnect with her in his dreams, but she keeps telling him not to fall asleep, because she’s going to haunt him. It’s an interesting situation. However, It’s also symbolic of being spiritually guided to stay “awake” and not succumb to the illusions of desires and attachments.

Announcing a bunch of new tour dates alongside this track, Sages are beginning to kick their career into top gear thanks to some extensive coverage from the likes of Alternative Press and Tattoo.com.

Tour Dates: 

May 27 @ Country Club Saloon – Loomis, CA
 
June 7 @ Powerhouse Pub – Folsom, CA
 
June 24 @ Blue Lamp – Sacramento, CA
 
August 4 @ Goldfield Trading Post – Sacramento, CA w/ Black Map
 
August 19  @ Starlite Lounge – Sacramento, CA

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Slammin’ Beers: A Slam Dunk Review

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Prologue

One of the finest pleasures of the late May Bank Holiday weekend is the fact you get a three-day weekend, but better yet, there’s bound to be some tasty musical action at Slam Dunk Festival, one of the UK’s finest touring pop punk/metal/rock festivals. Every year the festival offers great variety, with the bands and headliners presenting something for everyone, with a few upsetting clashes along the way. Plus, at under £50 for the ticket, it’s a great way to discover some brand new favourites as well. 

Also, it’s a brilliant excuse to get on the beer.  Six cans deep and thirsty for more, I decided to fully immerse myself into the day’s action, offering gonzo journalism from the pit. A metal Hunter S Thompson if you will. Whilst I can’t confirm that the Doctor didn’t enjoy opening this place up, I doubt he’s ever been headbutted during Bury Tomorrow and couldn’t stop sneezing. 

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Crossfaith

Kicking off the day’s personal schedule were Japanese electrometal enthusiasts Crossfaith, whose brand of full-frontal metal mixed with some heavy synth produces a sound akin to the Prodigy having angry sex with a wasps nest. Despite being on at half 2 in the afternoon and only the second band on, they nearly managed to fill out the entirety of the Genting Arena‘s floor, which is, give or take, about 8,000 people, and will host the likes of fellow metal heads Take That and Little Mix in the coming week. Mega. 

But it’s not hard to see why Crossfaith pulled in such a big crowd so early. The energy carried by their band was enough to send the arena into a mosh-heavy, fist-pumping frenzy during their six-song set, featuring an appearance from Beartooth‘s Caleb Shomo for an adrenaline laced performance of Ghost in the Mirror. One of their party pieces is a full-blown cover of Omen by the Prodigy, which does the original justice, but adds a smidgen more of ruthless aggression. Setting the bar high for the day’s action, Crossfaith were the perfect hors d’ouvere on the Slam Dunk menu. 

Rating – 7/10

Beers consumed – 1 pint Amstel (7 total)

Black Foxxes

Appearing in the middle of the Genting‘s food court on the Key Master stage, young and hungry Exter rockers Black Foxxes were one of the top dishes available in the food court. Perfectly enjoyed with a slice of overpriced pizza and a bottle of warm Heineken despite asking for a cold bottle, Black Foxxes banged out some proper, good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.

Their debut album, I’m Not Well came out towards the latter half of last year, with songs like Husk, Wilder People and River steadily impressing everyone passing through the food court at that point. In retrospect it’s a fucking great idea to stick up and comers in the middle of a food court , because you’ll reach a wider audience. Great bunch of lads playing great rock ‘n’ roll with a shite slice of pizza. Lovely. 

Rating – 8/10

Beers Consumed – 1 bottle of lukewarm Heineken, 1 pint of Amstel (8 total)

Bury Tomorrow

Yes, yes, oh yay! At this point I was actually a bit pissed, which made the fact I was going to see Bury Tomorrow, a band I’d actually discovered at the same festival some two years back and met frontman Dan Winter-Bates whilst cuddling a two-pinter even more exciting than usual. There’s a theme developing here, isn’t there. 

Unfortunately the start of Bury Tomorrow‘s set was delayed by technical issues, something that would plague the Jagermeister Stage for the rest of the day. However, what was short was undoubtedly sweet as the set began with the scintillating Man on Fire, turning the floor of the Genting into a frenzy as pits opened up quicker than Maggie Thatcher could close them. Somewhere in between Lionheart and Sceptres I’d acquired an Obey snapback, something which oddly suited me and would stay on my head from that point onwards. Interesting side note, none of the bands I like make snapbacks, rendering this discovery void. 

During the final song Cemetery, I took damage in a moshpit, getting headbutted in the nose, causing me to sneeze uncontrollably, which meant I was unable to hear that their set was only going to be as long as that. Whilst technical glitches scuppered their set, they certainly made up for it in power and delivery. 

Rating – 6/10 (based on injury and technical glitches)

Beers Consumed – 1 Amstel (9 total)

Beartooth

No time to spare as Bury Tomorrow would be directly followed by their metal counterparts Beartooth. Well, there was time for a wee and another beer, so that bit’s a lie. 

The main offering of today’s action was always going to be Enter Shikari‘s tenth birthday party for Take to the Skies, but Beartooth‘s lightning set would mean that the Shikari boys would have to go some to beat this performance. On fire from start to finish, the Columbus crowd pleasers got a nearly full arena bouncing, jumping and moshing to their sound.  

Returning the favour that Caleb Shlom payed earlier, Crossfaith frontman Kenta Koie came out for a louder-than-hell duet on Body Bag, with a mix of old tracks such as In Between from debut album Disgusting rubbing shoulders with songs from 2016’s sophomore album Aggressive (which is only £9.99 on vinyl in HMV, get on it lads), getting a hungry Birmingham crowd hyped up. The set was jam packed with action, energy and passion, producing one of the standout performances of the day, and would definitely require a huge effort from other bands to beat that whirlwind performance. 

Rating – 8/10

Beers Consumed – 2 Amstel (11 total)

I Prevail 

Fucks sake. We didn’t get to the poorly placed Impericon Stage in time and we can’t even see the bastard thing. It’s like hidden behind some bushes, how bloody stupid. Pretty sure they were great anyway. Might as well have a pint and watch the FA Cup Final. Saw some of Citizen as well, they were good, if not my bag. Also saw some of Waterparks as well. Ended up doing an impression of the front man and sounded like a stereotypical American teenager. Like, oh my god Kelly. 

Rating – ???

Beers Consumed – 2 Amstel (13 total)

Don Broco

Christ Jesus I can’t stand Don Broco. I’ve got no idea where they fall into the musical spectrum but they sound and look like someone fed a Topman catalogue after midnight. They opened with Everybody which is a pretty enjoyable track mind you, but at the point it ended I descended into a fiftieth circle of musical hell which I am going to dub Fuckboicore, because why not? 

It’s easy to understand why people like Broco, because it’s something a bit heavier but not too heavy, but they’re wearing short sleeve shirts from Topman so they’re just okay, I guess? Frontman looks like a young Jeremy Clarkson, and I struggle to comprehend why anybody under the age of 50 tucks a t shirt in. My dad does that and I wouldn’t want to see him front Don Broco either. To be honest I got distracted trying to get my booze-laden pal to calm himself down, which was a comical interlude as we all ended up wrestling. Whole reason I was there to get into pole position for Shikari so I’m really not the guy to ask about it. 

Rating – 5/10

Beers Consumed – 1 Water, 1 Amstel (14 total)

Enter Shikari

LADIEEEEEES AND GENTLEMEN, SHOW YOUR YOUR APPRECIATION FOR ENTER SHIKARI!

Being honest the rest of this review is just slightly comical preamble to the main event. No more beer, no more comedy, it’s time for Enter Shikari to host the latest leg of the Take to the Skies anniversary tour. 

The atmosphere was tangiable and the excitement could be bottled and sold as a performance enhancing drug as the lights went out at the intro to Stand Your Ground/Enter Shikari hit, with the crowd going into a frenzy during, with the excitement carrying straight over into Mothership. At some point I lost my found snapback, but there was no room for passengers aboard the mothership. The excitement and ecstasy carried over into Anything Can Happen in the Next Half Hour, and it did, as Labyrinth followed directly after. This is brilliant, the production values were amazing if not a few technical niggles, and the passion interweaved in these old songs was incredible, but there was just as much love for the new classics as The Last Garrison, Anaesthetist and Redshift all made an appearance with The Appeal and the Mindsweep II bringing the set to an aggressive end. 

What a joy it was to see tracks like No Sssssweat, Jonny Sniper and Adieu, especially, performed live, with the crowd reaction showing that Take to the Skies still has the same impact and effect it did ten years ago, except this time, Shikari are now deservedly an arena filling band. However, whether they should be playing arenas is up for debate, as the sheer power of their sound, their message and their fans has caused severe structural damage in every venue they’ve played. That damn good. 

With a tribute to the people of Manchester weaved in, there was an emotional sing along to a cover of Oasis’ Half the World Away before the beginning of Adieu. 

In between songs, frontman Rou Reynolds made us all aware that June 8th is our opportunity to get rid of Theresa May once and for all, but if you’re a Shikari fan, and you’re not politically engaged, you’ve gotta get on the trolley. It’s music with a message, stupid!

All in all, I’ve been to lots of gigs in my time, ranging from small-time gigs where there’s more band members than fans, to blockbuster gigs from some of the biggest and best, but I’ve rarely seen a 10/10, to the point they barely take up one hand. But this, my dear reader, with the passion, the sweat, the love and the energy, makes this 10th birthday party one of the best gigs, and 10th birthday parties I’ve ever been to. 

Rating – 10/10

BEER TOTAL – 14 beers and I felt good enough to drive! But I didn’t. We got a taxi. OH and I had a few cans when I got in.  

FINAL OPINION

SURPRISE PACKAGE – Black Foxxes, rock and fucking roll!

BEST BAND – Shikari, no doubt about it. 

PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT – Finding out that snapbacks suit your man. Swag, motherfuckers! 


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