BURY YOUR DEAD. Islington Academy, London. 17.12.08

Bury Your Dead are in a weird place right now. And that doesn’t just mean the Islington Academy- the venue inside a shopping centre- that they’re playing tonight. No, tonight marks the Massachusetts outfit’s first UK outing since their transition from hardcore heroes to heavy metal band really picked up steam.

That all started with the release of their self-titled album in March of course but tonight, with the band slowing songs down to add even more groove than usual, guitarist Slim throwing rock star moves, and frontman Myke Terry’s contant demands for people to put their hands in the air, jump up and down, and bang their heads (not at the same time, mind), it’s arrived live and in the flesh. As much as they throw their all behind it though, if the, ahem, limited attendance and odd atmosphere tonight are anything to go by then the changeover is not going entirely smoothly.

Ok sure, the songs, both old and new, are great- ‘Magnolia’ is still a brilliantly violent burst of noise, ‘House Of Straw’ is a moshable monster, and newie ‘Fever Dream’ might be the best thing BYD have ever written- but they don’t all sit well together. And occasionally, like when the wicked shimmy of ‘Top Gun’ tramples all over the smoother finish of ‘Hands To Hide The Shame’, or when Terry struggles to switch between low growls and clean singing quick enough, they downright sound like the work of different bands. And with the crowd unsure whether to throw down or headbang, windmill or play air guitar, the whole night ends up feeling a little… awkward.

Bury Your Dead are still in the middle of an evolution then, that much is clear, and while it does feel like they’ve got a decent shot at making it stick, tonight illustrates it clearly isn’t finished. Time, and whether another tour gets booked soon, will tell here.

THE GHOST OF A THOUSAND + Rolo Tomassi + The Casino Brawl. West End Centre, Aldershot. 13.12.08

This shouldn’t work. Not just because of the weather (torrential rain is great at keeping gig-goers at home) or the location (far-from-rock’n’roll Aldershot), but because the bands collected here tonight sound so very different. And how- newcomers The Casino Brawl bash out distinctly American-sounding post-hardcore, Rolo Tomassi ram wonky pop into thrash weirdness, and The Ghost Of A Thousand put the punk rock fury on top. But it does work. All of it. And like a fucking charm.

Sure, The Casino Brawl might pander to US acts like Every Time I Die but they do it mighty well, throwing themselves about with addictive enthusiasm and cracking out one song that could almost make breakdowns worth doing again. Almost. A few more tours, a bit more confidence, and just a bit of luck and they could brilliant. Next up though, and Rolo Tomassi are already there.

Second on and the Sheffield noiseniks haven’t just advanced giant leaps over the past year; they’ve very quickly become a frighteningly competent and complete proposition. Hyper-intense older cuts like ‘Film Noir’ still swell with a glorious sense of danger but the release of debut album ‘Hysterics’ has given them a much fuller palette to work with and splat across the room. ‘I Love Turbulance’ combines streamlined rage with eerie serenity, ‘Fofteen’ is an explosion of spidery riffs and feral screams, and ‘Abraxas’ is a thrilling bleeping, screeching slice of fried gold. It’s all brilliant, and should make things very difficult for the headliners.

Except The Ghost Of A Thousand are flawless. Ok, so frontman Tom Lacey has to transmit it to the crowd directly, climbing off the stage and starting a circle pit himself, but there’s more energy coming off this band than a toddler with his wet fingers in a plug socket and armed only with direct punk rock songs (albeit every one better than anything Gallows have written) they make the West End Centre feel like the only place in the world for a rock fan to be tonight.

‘Bored Of Math’ is a raw but razor-sharp call-to-arms, ‘Black Art Number One’ is brutal but brilliantly catchy, and new song ‘Running On Empty’ bodes very well indeed for the Brighton outfit’s second album due early next year. They don’t hang around to plug that though, and like all the best bands of their genre they make their set a short, sharp, satisfying shock and leave Aldershot clearly wanting more. After that, even the refreshing rain outside makes perfect sense. The gods, geography, and genre divisions be damned then- this worked out wonderfully.



What a disappointment. After all the great press, industry praise, and baited anticipation, after everything Bleeding Through endured to wrestle this album from their label, hell, after naming the thing ‘Declaration’, you’d hope there’d be a sniff of greatness about this record. But instead it’s just more of the same. Oh sure, that means more ominous darkness (‘Finnis Fatalis Spei’), driving metallic intensity (‘Orange County…’), and crushing hardcore heaviness (‘Seller's Market’) but, instead of adding up to anything classic or career-defining, it just feels faceless and kind of limp. Riffs warm up but never explode, drums rattle hard and fast but go nowhere, and there are some incredibly clichéd lyrics here. And, despite getting studio loon Devin Townsend in to twiddle knobs, the production, something that Bleeding Through have always had problems with, lacks any depth and leaves Brandan Schiepatti’s vocals itchy and scratchy instead of booming and dominant. Still, it’s no failure, there are enough riffs and roars here to carry Bleeding Through on to album number six, but it is far from the essential statement of intent it was cracked up to be.



An odd thing this. ‘Controller’, the third full-length from Misery Signals, does as the band have done before, as many bands have done before in fact- combining hulking grooves and raw rage with metallic melody and atmospheric licks- but not for a second does it feel dull, recycled, or second-hand. Instead it sounds like a band on fire. Subtle touches help- Ryan Morgan and Stuart Ross adding sleek guitar tones to their juggernaut riff collection, frontman Karl Schubach finding a clean singing voice that’s both emotional and strong, and tracks like ‘Coma’ and ‘Homecoming’ giving real breathing room to the band’s more beautiful noises - but really it’s passion, precision, and a commanding power that sets this apart from the pack. It won’t work so well if you look at the separate pieces but Misery Signals have never ever been a singles act. Instead this is a mean, moody and emotional steamroller of a record that finds the band doing what they do best- playing metalcore but doing it with original strength, purpose and stunning skill. Excellent.


SHAI HULUD- Misanthropy Pure

Shai Hulud are always worth the wait. Despite a chequered history of hectic tours, record label wrangling, name changes, and a constantly revolving line-up (guitarist and metal mastermind Matt Fox is now the only remaining original member) the band have consistently, if not quite regularly, delivered the goods. And album number four is no different. Their Metal Blade Records debut, as well as the first appearance of new vocalist Matt Mazzali, ‘Misanthropy Pure’ is 10 tracks of terrifically good and terrifying metallic hardcore. From the faux-slow then fractious fast of opener ‘Venomspreader’, past the meaty melodies of the title track and a blistering new version of ‘Set Your Body Ablaze’, to the complex attack of closer ‘Cold Lord Quietus…’, this is record overflowing with energy, enthusiasm, and raw, gimmick-free passion. Still ‘Misanthropy Pure’ won’t grant Shai Hulud the widespread respect and record-sales they’ve much deserved for ages now, but it does find them once again inspiring, exciting, revitalising, and rising to the top of a genre they helped spawn.


ANTILLES- Beholder/Destroyer

Hardcore is ruined. In fact over the last few years the genre in all its forms has been ravaged, polluted, and perverted beyond repair- by now this much is absolutely clear. But just because the raw power, innovative aggression, and honest, naked emotions of the genre’s pioneers feel horribly absent, it doesn’t mean they’ve entirely disappeared. Ohio’s Antilles for one, joyously hark back to a scene established over a decade ago- loudly and lovingly tending to the sonic ghosts of screamo leaders like Saetia, City Of Caterpillar and Pg. 99- and their debut full-lenght sounds all the better for it.

Opener ‘Beholder’ is epic, almost ten minutes long and built layer upon layer upon layer, ‘Rumors Of An Apocalypse’ churns past rattled yelps, punk hooks and post-everything dirges like the band were actually pushed for time by the coming end of days, and the complex guitars, gunshot drums and bitter words of ‘Eulogy’ make for a fitting, fiery climax. For all the successes, superior moments, and thrilling suggestions that hardcore is alive and well here though, Antilles seem destined to burn brightly, burn brief, and fade away like their obvious influences. But then they probably wouldn’t want it any other way. Awesome.


Now this is disappointing. About a year back New-Noise was heaping all sorts of praise on Surrey five-piece Tonight Is Goodbye. Sure the band looked a little formulaic, all tight jeans and fancy hair, but on disc they were brilliant. And not just decent for such young dudes, or better than average if you like that kind of thing, but damn near essential. Here on new mini-album ‘Castles’ though, some vital ingredient has been lost...

...Read on here.


FILTER- Anthems For The Damned

The last few years have not been kind to Filter. After becoming a global draw back in the 90s the band released continually more clunky records and suffered a commercial failure that sent frontman Richard Patrick into rehab. So it’s safe to say that no one was expecting them to return now, and especially not on any kind of form. ‘Anthems For The Damned’ though, leaves those problems far behind. Patrick and his voice (dude must have lungs like iron bellows) are still the central point for everything but he’s now teetotal and writing sharp, electric epics that soar down the same vein as big-hit ‘Take A Picture’ again. Sure these songs could have been written a decade ago but this is still a fine return from one of the turn of the century’s smartest rock bands. Now hands up who saw that coming.

THE POSTMARKS- The Postmarks

Like watercolour paints, schoolboy football, or milk chocolate, Miami trio The Postmarks are pleasant and nice and all but never really make that all-important big impact. Sure it’s great to hear some polite pop (in the very best sense of the word) every now and then, and just occasionally this one-girl-two-boy outfit muster up the sort of beautiful bop and sway that Brian Wilson must write in his sleep, but they haven’t found a way to ram it all home yet. More is to come, better too, that's for sure, but for now only the most dedicated indie kids will get excited by the mature melancholy here; everybody else will be too busy to bother listening.


CRYSTAL CASTLES- Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles are 100% bona fide Hot Shit right now. Not only have the Canadian boy-girl duo got online tastemakers and the indie world in a tizzy, they’ve also built up a loud enough buzz for the broadsheets, tabloids, and TV to tip them for the top in 2008 too. And hell, who are we to rock the boat. Debut ‘Crystal Castles’ is a glistening slab of techno-electro-core that glides, soars, crunches, punches, stabs and screams in equal measure. Like everyone’s been saying, it’s great.

Opener ‘Untrust Us’ is a hypnotic squish of gameboy bleeps, bass beats and alien vocals, ‘1991’ is a dreamy skit on nu-rave and if ‘Alice Practice’ shows what these two are capable of without even trying, their synthed-up cover of HEALTH’s ‘Crimewave’ illustrates the singular, spacey heights they can reach when they force all four feet down on the accelerator. Deeper in and ‘Love And Caring’ is a glam-rock pulse-rifle on overload, ‘Courtship Dating’ is so good that Timbaland stole it and sold it to 50 Cent (karma perhaps?), and ‘Black Panther’ is solid gold electro-pop- bound to make your mouth water whether you party hard, dance late, or stay home in front of a stereo. Seriously, this is much more than hip hoodies and trendy jeans. Believe the hype.

FUCK BUTTONS- Street Horrrsing

Pop-punk, chart rock and indie schmindie fans turn and run now. London’s Fuck Buttons- Andrew Hung and Ben Power if you were introducing them to your mother- are here to mess with your head. In fact, when the boys came together at the tail end of 04, they wanted to blow your brains clean out- the duo’s mission statement simply reading ‘make as much noise as possible’- but now the manifesto has changed. And ‘Street Horrrsing’, the band’s debut album, doesn’t just push up the decibels; this thing pushes limits everywhere.

For starters the ‘Buttons don’t rely on any formula or fashion. Instead they mulch up all manner of sounds, styles, elements and even entire genres to spit them out as waves of sound and walls of noise. Just check opener ‘Sweet Love For Planet Earth’, a near ten-minute electronic epic that feigns twinkling tenderness before a single slowly-distorting riff and indecipherable feral vocals turn it into something much darker and more destructive, or closer ‘Colours Move’- oddly alien but raw and muddy and sounding like the perfect thing for David Lynch’s next end credits too.

Hell, this could all be film soundtrack stuff. Sure, where ‘Sweet Love…’ could soar over some ambitious drama or epic battle scene, ‘Bright Tomorrow’ sounds like something from the outback sections of Crocodile Dundee, but there’s a hyper-intense and addictive raw power to every drum thud, feedback roar and unfamiliar noise. By virtue of that name the duo are never going to be as big as other similarly experimental acts, but ‘Street Horrrsing’ remains a galloping beginning and more than proves the Buttons, given some careful editing, could be capable of future world-shaking brilliance.


PNEU + Silent Front + Shield Your Eyes + Cassette Cassee + Wow! Pigeon Eyes. West End Centre, Aldershot. 29.02.08

From outside the West End Centre, tonight’s show must just sound like naked noise. And a quick glance at the clientele on their way in makes it easy to assume that all the mess is being made by weird beardy boys. But that would be a coward’s way out. Instead the brave and unbiased that enter find volume, sure, but there’s a friendly atmosphere, experimental charm, and truly beautiful sounds flying through the air too. Yeah, yeah, some of it might be weird, but it’s often wonderful too.

Looking and sounding like they’ve stayed up way too late drinking and listening to everything off of Steve Albini’s CV (yeah, even that Bush album) local trio Wow! Pigeon Eyes ruffle feathers first. And despite their more angular attacks the band make good on promises of pop music, combining their punk spit with some shining off-kilter melodies. Sure they’re sloppy and fuzzy and gloriously out-of-tune in places but they aren’t half satisfyingly loud and direct. And at least they ply their trade from an actual stage.

Next up see, Shield Your Eyes, Silent Front, and Cassette Cassee each stake a claim on a corner of the room and proceed to play a song in turn- kind of like Jools Holland without Jools Holland- and man does it work. Shield Your Eyes start, sounding raw and rusty even, but playing with a Kinsella-esque sense of abandon. Their more loose-limbed efforts suggest incredible things to come but their time is not now. Cassette Cassee are better, melding scything guitars, intensity, art, and drama to make the sort of noise At The Drive-In fans will start dribbling over. And of course it’s always good to have a frontman who spends more time yowling at an already disorientated audience than singing his lines.

Londoners Silent Front have a little more decorum. But just a little. Sounding like punk fans in a hardcore band playing Rage Against The Machine covers (also mixed with whatever else you need to make that feel really fucking good), the trio drive their tunes home with a goddamn hammer. ‘Misanthrope’ is a curling ball of rage, ‘One Off The List…’ prangs and roars like a jet engine and when the show finishes with frontman Phil bent double, screaming into his guitar, it’s clear that, if there has to be one, these three men take top prize from tonight’s tête a tête a tête.

The big win though, goes to Parisien two-man marauders, Pneu. Also forgoing a stage, the duo set up right in the middle of the room and tell absolutely no-one before launching into their grinding everything-core. They only know enough English to quickly thank the people crowding so tightly around them so spend the usual chat-time playing more songs that sound like exploding bombs, like Hella, back on the guided missile they hopped off before recording their last album, or like Death From Above 1979, only with more death. Hell, Mike Patton probably already has their phone numbers, Aldershot loves them too, and when Pneu screech to a halt tonight, everybody goes home happy. Beautiful after all then, but that thing about the beards was fairly accurate though.


I WAS A CUB SCOUT- I Want You To Know That There Is Always Hope

Ah, sweet relief, ‘I Want You To Know That There Is Always Hope’ is wonderful. Despite the major label and the expensive production team (man at the controls Hugh Padgham was responsible for this song) see, there was always a chance that I Was A Cub Scout were going to rush to their first full-length and dash all their early promise. But the Nottinghamshire duo, still barely out of their teens, have done nothing of the sort and instead this is an album that embraces indie, epic-pop and even post-rock to create something truly beautiful. Opener ‘Save Your Wishes’ bubbles and then bursts into life, its buzzing synths, swirling effects, gentle verses, and huge chorus all pointers to what is to follow. To things like the dynamic volume of ‘Echoes’ and the ambitious swell and stomp of ‘P’s and Q’s’. And sure, some of ‘…Hope’ was always guaranteed to please (previous perfect singles ‘Pink Squares’ and ‘Our Smallest Adventures’ are included), but if anything it’s the newer material here that’s most impressive. ‘Lucean’ slots in dreamy keys and a horn section to luscious effect, ‘Recommendations’ relishes in mixing dark lyrics with light riffing and party pop, and highlight ‘The Hunter’s Daughter’ drives dance beats through an orchestra pit, sounding far bigger than two skinny boys ever should. A wonderful record from a young British band with now obvious global potential then. But you never had a doubt, right?


MATT POND PA- Last Light

Matt Pond PA do pretty well by association. For almost ten years the band, behind the frontman from which they take their name of course, have toured alongside the likes of Ted Leo And The Pharmacists and Liz Phair, shared record labels with Braid and Hey Mercedes and online comparisons range from Owen to The Arcade Fire. ‘Last Light’ though, a full-band effort arriving almost ten years after Pond’s scaled-down debut, does nothing to deserve such rich connections. Instead the opening title track puffs up like Feeder or some shitty band from the soundtrack to the OC, ‘People Have A Way’ sounds like Mika and ‘Taught To Look Away’ is so languid it inspires no emotion at all. It’s not all awful, ‘Wild Girl’ messes around with some Beatles-eque melodies and when the band wake up they get a few neat ideas down, but nothing really comes from any of them. Hell, ‘Last Light’ doesn’t even go out with a bang, leaving charmless snooze-a-thon ‘Its Not So Bad At All’ to prove once and for all that Matt Pond PA are capable of none of the style or elegance of the groups named above. Still brilliant by association then, but absolutely ordinary otherwise.

LIVINGSTON- One Good Reason

As something of a taster for London quintet Livingston’s forthcoming debut album, ‘One Good Reason’ doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that sweet. The band share a record label with a bunch of nasty electro acts, the track has been worked over by the same people responsible for recent drivel from Feeder and Stereophonics, and worse, this thing starts off sounding like something your local funk rock outfit would cough up. Give it just a minute though and '...Reason' becomes all at once catchy, cool, emotional and powerful, takes flight like My Vitriol or even ‘Showbiz’-era Muse, and climaxes with a glorious wall of guitar feedback. Expect it to start crawling all over rock radio and the inside of your brain sometime soon then.



Ok so they might not have buzzed loud enough to make this year’s hot lists but if Death In Public carry on like this we’ll all be cheering on tinnitus by next winter. Indie kids never fear, this isn’t blood-curdling thrash and the Lancaster band certainly aren’t any kind of volume over talent proposition, but- much like their previous efforts- this thing doesn’t half rumble and fuzz and overflow with energy. ‘Biometrics’ is like Editors if they embraced a little more raw power or maybe even The Smiths if Morrisey dug The Stooges just a little, and it’s got enough heart, substance and smoky melodies to impress anyone too- except maybe those who hang about in Topshop. B-side ‘Motion Sickness’ highlights even further why this band are so promising- combining post-rock guitars with a desperate urge to be catchy and concise. The coupling isn’t quite perfect but this is still dirty pop done right- lo-fi as fuck but brilliantly anthemic, memorable and imaginative too. Here’s to Death In Public then, and all the hearing loss they’ll bring.

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