:(- First Blood

Somewhere between the melodic flair of the Fuelled By Ramen roster, the chirpy appeal of The Postal Service and the background music to your favourite Nintendo game lie online Aberdeen quartet, :(. The band, pronounced Colonopenbracket for the messenger-impaired, began as a one-man thing but, by the power of MySpace, quickly blossomed into the four-piece behind debut disc ‘First Blood’.

If you have heard a :( song before it might have been the upbeat growls of ‘Syntax’ or the gentle buzzing promise of ‘Gone’, both early efforts from frontman Mart, both indicative of a fresh sound full of promise but, neither included here. The addition of a real live drummer and a thicker, louder production means the quaint appeal of those first tracks is long gone but in its place is a big-time-party vibe and a powerful confidence.

Opener ‘Fake Blood’ has all the same 8-bit bleeps as before but now the mix kicks and screams to take your hand instead of politely asking to dance. It’s like Panic! At The Disco with square eyes and joypads instead of all the silly style and circus pomp. The melodic pulse of ‘Codes’ is destined to be sung back to these boys and gals by thousands, ‘Pre-Emoticons’ is electric indie brilliance and yes, this is all about having fun but if the forlorn rise and rise of ‘Heartache…’ doesn’t do something to the hairs on the back of your neck then you might just be dead inside.

Computer noise and retro chic may be all the rage at the minute but you’d be wasting your time looking for this sort of thing done better elsewhere. Bleeptastic.

Also appears at New-Noise.


People used to be able to know this band was around by actually following the bloody trail of dead. They used to be hard-touring, hard-drinking, punk-rock renaissance men. They used to write records that felt as powerful as a kick to the brain and they could never play the songs live because they were too busy swapping instruments or breaking them over the edge of the stage. They used to sound like the next Sonic Youth. Now though, now they sound like Coldplay.

It’s not quite that bad. First song proper, ‘Stand In Silence’, marries the discord of old to the new-wave sass introduced on last year’s ‘Worlds Apart’ with some success and parts of the title track rock like an absolute bastard. For the most part though all the ear-splitting power has been replaced by folksy indie strum, all the raw vocal passion traded for mild-mannered melodies and in the place of that brain-pounding intensity is the stubbornly sedate pace of a band growing old. Ever so disappointingly gracefully.

Occasionally the softer touches work just as well as all the raggedy volume. ‘Naked Sun’ takes an age to get there but eventually turns into a swarming, orchestral highlight and a cover of Guided By Voices’ ‘Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory’ is a gentle gem of a song. It’s flowery and nice but you can’t exactly smash a guitar to pieces with it. …Trail Of Dead probably behave like proper gentlemen when they play live now too. How dull.

Also appears at New-Noise.


VAUX- Beyond Vice, Beyond Virtue

Major label wrangling nearly killed Vaux. Which would have been a real shame because the band’s second full-length, ‘Beyond Vice, Beyond Virtue’, is amazing. This is an album set to vault the band behind it out of any emo discussion and towards the sort of greatness that Thrice and Thursday now toy with. There are songs that echo artists as varied and interesting as Muse, Radiohead, Refused and Rival Schools but Vaux stamp their own feel on everything. There are acoustic lows, spacey electronic highs and the ghost of some shadowy Wild West bar-band that would make this as dark and disquieting a thing as heard all year if there wasn’t Quentin Smith’s vocal angst and three (!) guitars grinding away here too. The fact that this record has been gathering dust in the Atlantic Records vaults for over a year is a filthy crime but when it makes Vaux megastars, and it bloody well should do, the success will feel all the sweeter. Buy ‘Beyond Vice…’ today and show the fatcats who the boss really is.



And you thought The Dillinger Escape Plan were noisy? Pennsylvania natives From A Second Story Window put those rowdy innovators to shame when it comes to volume of ideas, if not quite in the brilliant execution of them. Will Jackson’s vocals run the gamut from dinosaur roar to smooth croon to an inhaling noise akin to the devil clearing his throat. This is all spewing out over ten-ton-heavy riffs that stop and start at blinding speeds, spidery and frantic leads and warped post-hardcore melodies. Oh and there’s piano, marching drums and some unearthly bell chimes too. There’s no hope of taking over the world with these compositions, they’re too fucking venomous. There’s also not enough genuine quality here to have the Story boys taking on Dillinger for the spazzcore crown jewels just yet. What remains is a dizzying headache and a completely fresh metal experience.

SEEMLESS- What Have We Become

When a band contains former members of Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage and Overcast you’re going to be onto a metalcore winner right? Wrong. Seemless might have a shred heavy history but the Massachusetts regulars incorporate elements of classic rock, grunge, stoner rock and the sort of swampy sludge you’d get if Queens Of The Stone Age invited Pantera on a 24-hour smoke-out into their sound. Members of whiny bores like Creed, Nickelback and Seether should be strapped down and forced to listen to killer tracks like ‘Numb’ and ‘Parody’ so it can be pointed out exactly what their bands might have sounded like with some heart, soul and a decent-sized pair of balls. Taken as a whole this is even a better album than any disc Audioslave have ever put their name to. Vocalist and former KSE man Jesse Leach sounds overwrought at times and some of the material he is hollering over is a little dry but ‘What Have We Become’ remains a solid album destined to settle in the bottom half of many critics end-of-year top tens. If you own more than one Soundgarden album you owe it to yourself to listen to this band now.