TASTE OF CHAOS. Hammersmith Apollo, London. 03.12.09

Tonight, it turns out, is all about the line between solid and outstanding, competent and bloody colossal, standard fare and all-out classic performance.

Sure, Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster can play- their three-guitar onslaught sounds muscular and mighty powerful and while they kick things off without a single original member onstage (even singer Dallas stays home tonight, replaced by erstwhile He Is Legend frontman Schulyar Croom) they don’t drop a note of their southern-fried countrycore. But, the furious howl of ‘Caution, Dangerous Curves Ahead’ and some sleazy dance moves aside, there’s no vital spark in their show and the crowd remain mostly unmoved.

Every Time I Die on the other hand are goddamn electric. They bristle and bellow and roar and force folks to wake up and pay attention. ‘The New Black’ and ‘Floater’ are vital, sonic nailbombs of songs that sound all-at-once deadly explosive, dramatic and huge, and while new cuts like ‘The Marvelous Slut’ and ‘Wanderlust’ may take them into sleeker, slightly more straightforward territory, tonight this is a band showing just how vital their party-starting, party-spoiling hardcore has always been. Brilliant.

After that In Flames suffer. Yes, they are greeted with rapturous applause, horns aloft and banging heads but they’re clipped, clinical metal sounds a little too clean, a little too slick, and a little too safe compared to what’s come before. And then when Killswitch Engage arrive a little later, claiming their crown to an intro tape of comedy theme tunes and a lightshow of cheap fireworks but claiming it all the same, the Swedes are completely forgotten.

Ok, so the set is clunky, the pace is off (perhaps anything over an hour is too long for KsE), and Adam D still constantly plays the fool, but song after song the headliners excel. An opening ‘My Curse’ is massive, with twin guitars crystal clear, drums punchy, and frontman Howard Jones struck silent by just how loud the crowd return his words, ‘Bid Farewell’ is pretty much the distillation of everything great that melodic metal has to offer, and while ‘Fixation On the Darkness’ goes out to all the old fans, newie ‘Take Me Away’ slots in like an old classic. And as the final strains of their last song (‘Holy Diver’, dedicated to a sickly Dio) ring out, it’s so good to know that no fluke, cheap hooks or fashion brought this band here but outstanding songs, superb attitude, hard work and night after night of similar all-out classic performances.

This was supposed to everybody’s tour- the sponsors, the fans and all the bands, the Taste of Chaos- but tonight belongs only to Killswitch Engage. Perfect.


PORT-ROYAL- Dying In Time

Evolution in action, this. ‘Dying In Time’, the third record from Italian troupe Port-Royal, continues their steady transition from promising but pretty formulaic post-rockers to electric-powered, genre-jumping god-knows-what. Hell, with 8-minute opener ‘Hva’- all breathy, ambient swells rising to crashing-surf static and fidgety glitches before succumbing to total meltdown- the band have pretty much captured the shifting sands of their sound. It’s more missing movie soundtrack chapter than proper song and while at times it’s docile and dreamy and at others a bracing wake-up call, it’s ever-so-exciting as it goes and always disarmingly beautiful.

Growth isn’t always so graceful though and while the closing three-part epic here is post-everything, Radiohead-ian (‘Ok Computer’ and Kid A’) bliss, other tracks skip and pop and clash and struggle to gel their separate elements. So instead of accomplished, complete conclusion, the impression is that this is a sound that needs work, needs time and love and attention. And it’s a sound which we’ve caught only part way to its best. Like Port-Royal have released demos of a dramatic, awkward but rewarding growth spurt rather than their third album proper.

Sure, there is balance to be found- on ‘Exhausted Muse’ and among the ethereal whispers and icicle cracks of ‘Anna Ustinova’ especially- and something like ‘Nights In Kiev’ is a signpost to a future even further away from pure post-rock, but really this is the sound of a band in flux, a band perhaps on the edge of discovering something great, and it’s where Port-Royal go next that’ll really be worth watching.


OWL CITY- Ocean Eyes

Not every album can really mean it, man. ‘Ocean Eyes’, the major-label debut for one-man band Adam Young, is simple, fun, and generally skips across the surface of things. But while that might irk a few grumps and curmudgeons, it doesn’t stop this from working like a charm. All skittering electronics, gentle sighs, and flossy pop sounds, fans of The Secret Handshake and The Postal Service will find much to enjoy here. Opener ‘Cave In’ is bright and breezy, ‘Hello Seattle’ will hum around your head for days, probably working even better if you know the city and can follow Young on his alternative tour, and if ‘Umbrella Beach’- featuring gentle surf sounds and slick boyband-pop- were any sunnier it’d burn holes in your headphones. ‘Fireflies’ though, is the sleeper hit (or not so sleepy, as it’s currently number one in the US charts), glossy and clean but shot through with emotion and just a hint that Owl City does have more than one road to travel down. ‘Ocean Eyes’ rarely dares to be deep and meaningful then but it does find Young having major fun, inspiring smiles with serious aplomb, and pretty much mastering his pop art. Take that, haters.


THE FALL OF TROY- In The Unlikely Event

Sometimes you get what you wish for. And all you pesky kids that thought The Fall Of Troy’s last record, the thoroughly excellent ‘Manipulator’, wasn’t fast, hard, or (sigh) extreme enough, better be happy with ‘In The Unlikely Event’. Everything you complained about being missing is back- there are schizophrenic extremes, off-kilter structures, thrash riffs, blinding technicality and dozens of strangled screams. Unfortunately though, that means almost everything else the Washington outfit were doing that was quietly pushing them into a league of their own has been abandoned to make room.

Opener ‘Panic Attack!’ starts strong but just brushes the surface of what the band have done before, ‘Straight-Jacket Keelhauled’ sounds like the band actually were having panic attacks at their instruments, intense but forgettable and even a little silly in the long run, and although Protest The Hero’s Rody Walker adds some powerful vocals to ‘Dirty Pillow Talk’, the song struggles to go in so many directions at once it ends up getting nowhere.

Thankfully, some things never change. It’s still impossible to believe that it’s just three skinny dudes making all the noise here, they’re still dudes with some serious skill, and, underneath the silly schizophrenia and forced fury, this is a band that still have an uncanny knack for a hook. ‘Single’ feels like a collection of cool parts rather than a complete song but pivots around a killer chorus, and ‘A Classic Case Of Transference’- somewhere between a lost Muse classic and the next Tim Burton movie soundtrack, packed with genuinely experimental licks, big riffs and shimmering, pristine pop hooks- is truly brilliant.

It’s not enough to save this record though and perhaps the worst news of all here is that these highlights won’t have you sticking with this record but digging out your copies of ‘Doppelganger’ and ‘Manipulator’ instead. ‘In The Unlikely Event’ is what so many people asked for but in the end there’s little traction, depth, drive or character here. This is a backwards step and then some.


Sure, there’s always going to be a nagging feeling that this is all one big joke. A silly, giggling, desperately arty, music hack’s wet dream of a joke that’s about as subtle as a lead pipe to the brain. With a stupid name. But there’s just no discounting the industrial soundtrack chug of ‘Rough Steez’, sidestepping the seismic yet sparkling shifts of ‘The Lisbon Maru, or stifling your subconscious from painting images along to the wails, walls and waves of noise of ‘Olympians’. And if you can ignore the euphoric, cinematic scope of opener ‘Surf Solar’, you’re probably deaf. Or very very dull. That a few of these tracks go past the ten-minute mark but never feel fat or tired is a feat all of its own too, but when all you want is for them to go on longer, reach further, and push harder, you’re on very rare territory indeed. This isn’t just a great record then, one that renders the Fuck Buttons debut pretty much redundant, but a grand one- a post-everything dance epic meant to make your mouth water and your mind wander and your heart soar. And if you still don’t get that as ‘Flight Of The Feathered Serpent’ crashes to a close then you never will. Wonderful.


Surely no one was expecting this. By now Bon Iver (just Justin Vernon to his mum) was supposed to be busy writing a debut full-length, an album to capitalize on the success of ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. If not that then at least crumbling under the pressure of following up one of the most warmly (if not quite widely) received records of recent times. He’s certainly not supposed to be releasing an experimental electronic side-project with some friends from back home. But thank god Vernon doesn’t care much for how things are supposed to go, because this is beautiful.

'Husks And Shells’ starts simply enough, with a slight, sombre acoustic guitar strum, but it soon stutters and loops and layers alongside vocal swells, picked strings and an insistent soft beep, finishing not a billion miles from where it started but surprising all the same. ‘Seeplymouth’ too revels in the unexpected, a six-minute cut-and-paste experiment of drum loops, soft drones and Vernon’s pitched and altered clicks and harmonies, ‘Cool Knowledge’ is a collage of humming and sparse but dancey beats, and ‘Youlogy’ is like the soundtrack to some great adventure going horribly wrong.

‘Still’ sounds warm and familiar as it cribs lyrics from Bon Iver’s ‘Woods’ and ‘Island, IS’ is about as close as this choir get to a conventional song but the best, most beautiful bits here are the odd, hypnotic and alien moments. And while none of these are breakneck twists and turns, they’re more than enough to have your head reeling and your ears finely pricked for whatever else might come next. Totally unexpected but utterly exceptional.


THIS TOWN NEEDS GUNS+ Tubelord. Oakford Social Club, Reading. 18.10.09

The start of a tour featuring a terrific tag-team of totally tuneful but arty and inventive, tousle-haired, twiddly-guitared outfits, tonight has the potential to be great. And Tubelord don’t disappoint. Sure, the Kingston trio (now with new bassist in tow) owe a lot to acts like The Fall Of Troy and Biffy Clyro but they sound more like their own band with every show. Tunes from new album ‘Our First American Friends’ are tight, dynamic, and, vitally, original too. And if getting everyone to sit down while they recite Ginsberg is hokey, a schizophrenic but captivating ‘Night Of The Pencils’ starts superb and explodes into what our merry ears might call one of the best songs ever written.

Not that This Town Needs Guns lack killer tunes. ‘Lemur’ pops in all the right places, ‘Baboon’ is all-at-once off-kilter and even a little out of tune but trap-tight and beautiful too, and ’26 Is Dancier Than 4’ is perfect, the sort of no-hit wonder that deserves to be dug up and discovered in years to come and declared the classic it’s always been. The Gunners air new material too, showcasing an unnamed song that’s a real revelation for them- magnetic and complex but slick, fast and danceable, all without once sounding cheap and dirty. It points towards the bigger things that this band have deserved for some time and rounds up a night that delivered all it promised, terrific from start to finish.



This is so easy to fall in love with. There’s the raw talent, it takes just two minutes to work out that the three members of Chicago’s Sleeping At Last have got some serious chops. There’s the lyric sheet, with lines like “when we awake, we are left with the eggshells inside of the nest and the promise that one day soon, it will come back to us” that could have come from a poetry book. There’s some real pedigree here as well, contributors have also worked with Paul McCartney and Death Cab For Cutie, Van Dyke Parks (whose resume includes time with U2, The Beach Boys and Walt Disney) arranged the strings, and the whole shebang was recorded at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio Studio. And then there’s the music all those skills combine to create- ‘Side By Side’, which sounds like Coldplay but modest and captivating too, the sombre but sunny layers of ‘Unmade’, and the fragile, tender ‘Naïve’, one of the most delicately beautiful tunes of the year. Of ever, really. Listen to this album immediately then, fall in love, but don’t blame us if it leads to an affair that lasts the rest of your life.

ON HISTORIES OF ROSENBERG- On Histories of Rosenberg

What’s in a name? Obviously not enough for promising Winchester outfit Caesura who, in the light of the 50 or so other Caesura’s in the world, have become On Histories Of Rosenberg. But while some things change, others stay the same and the music on the History boys’ debut EP picks up right where their old band’s final efforts ended. Opener ‘Am I Awake?’ is a slowly-swelling 5-minute mini-epic with real emotional power at its core, ‘Danger Danger’ gets all starry-eyed before becoming a proper belter mid-way through, and ‘Leave Us Here’ combines a love of Minus The Bear and Jimmy Eat World with handclaps and a post-rock climax to make for a powerful conclusion. Admittedly how hard you fall for this will depend on how much musical melancholy, heartfelt musing and twinkling guitars you can handle but only the harshest souls will deny the presence of massive promise and potential.


Lovely this. But never quite the masterpiece it was supposed to be. After all, from the springboard that was 05’s ‘Speak For Yourself’, Imogen Heap could have gone anywhere, taking her breathy and experimental pop to pastures entirely new. She could have spent the last few years working on music to blow minds. Instead of fresh and challenging though, this is beautifully familiar, perfectly charming, and utterly comfortable stuff. If that sounds like a slating, it’s not. Not at all. Hell, Heap could hum a shopping list and make it sound as handsome as the most heartfelt poem, and ‘Ellipse’ does sound better than ‘Speak…’, supported by a sweet but not sickly production job that really suits. It’s just that for a girl that had the potential to reach for outer space and soundtrack the stars (instead of just Hollywood blockbusters), the clean, pristine pop songs here don’t feel quite enough.


GIRLS- Album

All the rage at the minute this lot. Not that ‘Album’ explains why mind. Kinda like The Strokes or Weezer’s green album, this is indie pop that leans towards lo-fi and purports to be warm and genuine but actually comes across as cold and distant. Ok so one-man band Christopher Owens slurs his words like he’s spent too long in the sun and there’s a laid-back, hazy production quality that actually works pretty well with the more shoegazey material here but there’s no real contact, no spark, nothing truly special. Yes, at times Owens sounds a little like Elvis Costello mumbling over what could be an old Beach Boys cast away but he’s certainly not alone there and if that’s all it takes to be the next big thing then we’re getting on the next bus out of here.

KEELHAUL- Keelhaul's Triumphant Return to Obscurity

Like fellow hardcore veterans Coalesce recently, Keelhaul return here after years of radio silence. And just like those other comeback kids… ahem… men, the Ohio bruisers are back with a vengeance. From jagged start to apocalyptic finish see, ‘Triumphant Return…’ feels mathy and technical yet bloodthirsty and brutish at the same time, the sound of a band who really know how to play their instruments but choose to smash them to splinters instead. And yes this is pretty typical for Keelhaul but there are new flavours of rage here, more grit, more curmudgeonly hate, and a layer of grimy sludge that’s inches thicker than what they’ve conjured up previously.

‘High Seas Viking Eulogy’ sounds like Steve Albini got hold of Mastodon, ‘The Subtle Sound…’ is anything but, making like Will Haven forgetting to write songs and instead recording their musical bad moods, and as well as having a great title ‘Everything’s A Napkin’ is a fine example of tense-and-release rock, what the edge of your seat was made for. And if this all sounds too much then it probably is, it probably won’t sell many copies or get Keelhaul any new fans, but they definitely couldn’t care less. Another great return from another band back from the dead. Now if somebody can just pass the memo on to Botch.


Introducing a husband (Justin Small, also part of Do Make Say Think) and wife (Kat Small), bottling thunder on their second record and intent on making an impression on you and your eardrums. Lullabye Arkestra have abandoned any softer edges that fluffed up their ‘Ampgrave’ debut and given in completely to their collective Black Sabbath and Motorhead obsession. And holy fuck is their loss of control everybody else’s almighty gain. They’ve written guaran-damn-teed indie rock hits only to smother them in black Canadian sludge (‘Get Nervous’), punk rock steamrollers (‘Icy Hands’), and the sort of post-everything ragers that Death From Above would be writing if they could have held it together (‘We Fuck The Night’, ‘Euroshima’). For fans of Big Black, Liars, and late nights that leave you with a ringing in your ears.


EMMURE- Felony

Some of this is so stupid. From the lyric sheet to the guitar tabs see, Emmure have broken down their already simple formula to the very basics. Seriously, it might have cooler tattoos and tighter t-shirts but some of ‘Felony’ is “I did it all for the nookie” silly. Despite all that though, it’s bloody brilliant.

It’s the landslide-heavy chug that Emmure, alongside names like Recon and (best of friends) The Acacia Strain, have spent their careers perfecting that is pivotal to this. Oh sure, if you concentrate on frontman Frankie Palmeri screaming “Oh shit, what the fuck did I just do” over and over or the gunshots introducing the big breakdown in the title track you’ll only get frustrated that Emmure aren’t trying harder on their third full-length. But the big, brutish power and massive, moshable grooves elsewhere here are simply irresistible. ‘Sunday Bacon’ is two minutes of terror and ridiculously low growls, ‘I Thought You Met Telly…’ gets as many points for referencing Kids as it does its dark and dirty riffs, and if the midsection of ‘You Sunk My Battleship’ doesn’t make you want to throw down just a little then you’re taking life far too seriously.

This isn’t a completely one-dimensional record either- ‘First Impressions’ features the usual feral vocals and thunderous drums but plenty of technical guitars and drive too, ‘The Philosophy Of Time Travel’ is the sort of interlude that Deftones regularly pen, and where ‘I <3 EC2’ introduces proper clean vocals to Emmure’s cannon for the first time, the croons through ‘Don't Be One’ work so well that it could be a new Glassjaw cut. And as ‘Immaculate Misconception’ hammers to a close, 12 tracks and 30 minutes after ‘Felony’ first exploded into life, it only leaves you wanting more (although if Emmure keep producing albums at this rate, the wait won’t be long). Young, dumb, and full of fun, but brilliant too.


FOTLED- Sun Water

This is impressive. Most music this quiet needs you to calm down, loosen up, and listen through earphones to take effect see. But ‘Sun Water’, the second record from one-man outfit Fotled (Brian to his mum), is powerful enough to punch through the fuzz of the world, the noise of the 9 to 5, and properly move you. Ok, sure, it owes a lot to genre godfathers like Godspeed, Red Sparowes and another Brian, right down to the titanic song titles, but Fotled pushes his project much further than cheap imitation or mere tribute, this is beatless watercolour noise of genuine quality. Opener ‘Beams Of Light Fell From The Sky’ is a soft and slow synth workout, ‘Only Bones…’ sounds like an alien chorus of strings, and ‘Peacefully, Unafraid’ is a brilliant experiment in sighs and echoes that says more in two minutes than other bedroom projects do across their entire existence. And unlike even Jonsi Birgisson’s recent advance into the ambient world, the slow-motion moves here come with an emotional weight that doesn’t need art, film, or a rocky icescape to make complete sense. Hell, if you can listen to the last thirty seconds of ‘Like The Severed Spinal Cords Of Distant Rotting Stars’ alone without checking over your shoulder for creeps and ghouls then you’re braver than anyone round these parts. Powerful stuff from a name to remember.


MONOTONIX. South Street, Reading. 17.08.09

Nowhere is safe. There are no hiding places. There’s no getting away with being a simple spectator tonight. Israeli six-legged, three-bearded, no-clothed monsters Monotonix are here see, and within seconds of their amps rumbling into life there’s beer, water and ice across the floor, bottles and cans flying through the air, a dustbin on the drummer’s head, and this stuffy little corner of Reading doesn’t know what’s hit it.

Before the headliners turn South Street inside out though, Empress, Throwing Knives, and The Black Heart Orchestra share band members, a love of Converge, and a desire to wreck all nearby eardrums. Of the three, Empress have got the best tunes, combining crusty hardcore with a dark metallic edge and aggression that comes out as an emotional punch rather than flying fists, but none are better than support band status yet.

Monotonix’s music isn’t actually that thrilling either- like Queens of the Stone Age with the peaks and tr
oughs rounded down into one chugging, persistent riff- but the three dudes on stage (and off stage and behind the bar and in the toilet) could be playing their favourite TV theme tunes and it wouldn’t matter at all, attached as it is to one of the most mind-blowing live shows ever witnessed. A set that starts, surges past frontman Ami Shalev stripping to his underwear and dry-humping the bar, guitarist Yonatan Gat playing on his back, on his head, and upside down, drummer Haggai Fershtman handing parts of his kit out to the crowd, and Shalev surfing the bass drum across the room, and threatens to never stop.

And really you can’t just witness this, you have to join in, you’re forced to experience it. And sure, there’s an air of menace here, there’s just no other way to describe a show that rumbles relentlessly on past blood, bruises, and the owner of the venue screaming in the promoter’s face to make it all stop. But bigger than that is a shameless joy, a grin-inducing excitement that’s catchier than swine flu, twice as deadly, but a billion times more fun. A gig not to be missed from a band on the edge.



What would you expect a record featuring members of Comeback Kid, Figure Four and Sick City, and produced by Devin Townsend to sound like? Whatever you’re thinking we’re willing to bet our entire CD collection (you remember CDs right?) that it isn’t anything at all like Sights & Sounds and their debut full-lenght ‘Monolith’. Instead of any red-blooded hardcore or mental metal see, this is an album of post-hardcore, experimental emo and epic rock songs. Opener ‘Sorrows’ sets the scene perfectly- peppered with piano and acoustic stirrings but powering along on serpentine riffs and melodic rises and falls that are more like Thrice than Throwdown and more like Saosin than Strike Anywhere, it’s a revelation, the sort of stirring rock that doesn’t get made enough anymore. Basically it’s bloody massive. And things only get bigger and better from there. ‘The Clutter’ is a smoky 7-minute marathon that’s never less than compelling, ‘Neighbours’ sounds like it could crumble castle walls and soothe you to sleep at the same time, and ‘Pillars’ finishes things up with a climax that could have been written by an orchestra not a rock band. And while some parts of ‘Monolith’ do still rage, it’s these softer, more slow-burning moments that really make an impact. Seriously good stuff, from a seriously surprising place.



Problem solved. Where Californian metal experimentalists Arsonists Get All The Girls used to produce a blinding blur of admittedly proficient but not terribly exciting noise, here they’ve nailed it. After accusations of not taking their music seriously, the death of a bassist and the departure of a vocalist, the band have got their heads down for album number three and come up with their best material by miles. Ok so no record with an 8-bit breakdown or titles like ‘Tea Time Tibbons’ is totally straight-faced but such is the hike in quality here that this could be a completely different band.

‘Interdimensionary’ is part space-opera, part deranged disco, part runaway train terror and all awesome, ‘Skiff For The Suits’ spies claims that the Arsonists just rip off Horse, The Band and cuts them to shreds, and ‘Violence In Fluid…’ has got the lot- arena rock pomp, pop nous, tech-metal noodling and heavy metal rumble all combined into a wild-eyed and sporadic but vitally coherent opus. Creative, smart, and oh so skilful, ‘Portals’ is the doorway to much bigger things for Arsonists Get All The Girls.

VIATROPHY- Viatrophy

Something strange is going on in Reading. The commuter town, formerly only famous for… well, nothing really, is slowly building up a respectable roster of metal bands. Sure, there aren’t any shops, jobs or things to do there but any place that produces talent like Sylosis, Malefice, and Tesseract at the same time can’t be all bad. And with the release of their debut full-length, new additions to the list Viatrophy certainly haven’t let the side down either. Hell, they’ve even come up with the goods to compete on an international level.

Opener proper ‘Mistress of Misery’ is as technical as it is epic (a mix the band employ fantastically and frequently here), ‘Seas of Storms’ is made to please headbanging metallers, post-metal beard-strokers and hardcore chug-lovers alike but doesn’t ever get muddled or lost in metalcore tedium, and if ‘Futile Prayer’ is an almost black metal burst of rage then ‘Sufferance’ is the smart, melodic scene-stealer- a song blessed with strength, style, shiny hooks, and that irresistible x-factor that suggests it won’t be long before Viatrophy break through to bigger things. Oh, it’s not going to change the world- leave that for this lot’s next album- but turn this up loud enough and it is more than capable of shaking it damn hard. Superb.

VITAMINSFORYOU- He Closed His Eyes So He Could Dance With You

The problem with most of the music lumped with ugly labels like emotronica, laptop rock and electro-emo is that it all tends to value emo stylings over emotional connection, genre clichés over genuine hooks, and melodrama over melody. Well Vitaminsforyou, the musical nom de plume for Toronto resident Bryce Kushnier, is here to reset the balance. Oh sure, there are some soppy lyrics and plenty of breathy vocals here, and there’s no getting away from just how Dashboard Confessional that album title is, but ‘He Closed His Eyes…’ is actually more likely to make you get up and dance than write in your diary. ‘One Nite Stand’ piles on bubbly beats, jazzy glitches, and washes of noise until it’s really cooking, ‘Leave My Head Around’ is like Hot Chip with proper tunes, and ‘War’ is capable of getting fans of emo, dance, IDM, and indie all on the same dancefloor all at the same time. Oh, and no record that starts with a song called ‘Flesh Python’ could ever, ever be accused of being too emo. Aces.


YOUR DEMISE- Ignorance Never Dies

Full of surprises this. For a debut it’s an unbelievably confident and accomplished outing, for a group that claim not to practice often it’s a tight, professional beast, and for a small British band this isn’t half a big, brutish thing capable of appealing to heavy music fans worldwide too. But the most unexpected thing about Your Demise’s first full-length is just how much it feels like a hit record. Oh sure, ‘Ignorance Never Dies’ is packed with spiky metal-edged hardcore that spits and hisses and wants your blood but there’s more energy, attitude and shiny hooks here than on both Gallows albums put together. The title track is a buzzing, edgy two-minute taster of what’s to come, ‘Burnt Tongues’ unleashes a wall of rage that would be utterly inaccessible in lesser hands but is involving, exciting, and addictive here, and ‘TF’ is just begging to be ripped off this record and wrung out in front of a baying crowd. And it’s not all heads-down hardcore destruction here either. ‘Unknown Dub’ is a grimy slice of electronics that’s as dark as any downtuned doom, ‘Great Shape’ is a neat glitchy interlude and ‘Black Veins’ adds both punk spit and steamroller metallic grit to the mix too. Ok, so few records featuring lines like “Slit my fucking throat, your life’s a fucking joke” are destined to truly take the world by storm but ‘Ignorance Never Dies’ doesn’t just put Your Demise alongside the best of British but next to names like Hatebreed, First Blood, and Biohazard. Brilliant.


ALEXISONFIRE- Old Crows/Young Cardinals

Alexisonfire have grown up. And if the whiff of maturity about 2006’s ‘Crisis’ didn’t confirm that then the strength and authority of ‘Old Crows/Young Cardinals’ or lines here like “we are not the kids we used to be” certainly will. That doesn’t mean they’re dull and done just yet though. Despite the title ‘Old Crows’ is punk rock, it is, just with less emphasis on the spit and smashed instruments and more on the addictive melodies and freedom to do whatever the damn hell you want, ‘Emerald Street’ is perhaps the best the three voices of Alexis have ever sounded together, and if ‘No Rest’ works brilliantly as a balls-out rager, the hymnal ‘The Northern’ and slow-burning closer ‘Burial’ mine a deep, earthy vibe that not only feels perfectly natural but opens up masses of new options for these boys in the future. It’ll all be too much for some- mostly those that lurk online still demanding Alexis repeat their first album- but for everyone else this is the sound of a band putting the scenesters to shame, putting their peers in the dust, and stepping off in a fully-formed but fresh direction that they can confidently wander for many years to come.


COALESCE + Taint. Underworld, London. 19.06.09

This kinda feels like it should be bigger. It kinda feels like Coalesce, one of metallic hardcore’s pioneers arriving in the UK for the first time ever, should be selling out somewhere huge instead of just comfortably-filling the Underworld. But get inside, get up close, and when things get started, it really couldn’t be better. No one is here to see if the band mess up or miss a cue, too old to rock. Instead everyone is on the same side from the first note and it’s pretty much perfect.

Before all that though, Taint tear into unsuspecting eardrums like they hate the ability to hear. A little like tonight’s headliners in their own country, the Welshmen have remained relatively unsung heroes of Britain’s metal scene for some time. But based on tonight’s performance, the reason why is a mystery. Armed with huge richter scale-bothering riffs, primal sea beast power and enough beardy menace to put Mastodon to shame, they bash through a set like jackhammers through concrete, convert people by the bucketload, and are a bloody revelation. At least they would be if it wasn’t for Coalesce.

For the headliners see, this is the first trip outside the US and they’re clearly here to make the most of it. Within seconds of ‘Have Patience’ click-click-booming into life both guitarist and frontman are in the crowd, writhing like their fingers are jammed in the mains. And that crowd aren’t slouching either- some people here have waited over a decade to see Coalesce in the flesh and as tracks like ‘My Love For Extremes’, ‘A Disgust For Details’ and killer newies like ‘The Plot Against My Love’ spin heads and seriously bother the venue’s foundations, they go suitably apeshit.

There are no Led Zeppelin covers but 'Cowards.com' is a howling beast, 'You Can't Kill Us All' a raw-throated sing-along, and one new song, newer even than comeback record ‘Ox’ and due out on an EP soon, sounds like one of the best the band have ever written.

That doesn’t mean it’s a pretty set, not once, but it does snarl, roar, and push on relentlessly. And instead of old dudes going through the motions, Coalesce play together, feeding off a crowd that could listen to them play over and over and over again, and they play like goddamn champs. Stunning.


The world needs another metalcore album like it needs the ozone layer to fail, but there’s something about the way For The Fallen Dreams mix their heavy metal riffs, hardcore chugging, and rabid monster vocals that makes them impossible to hate. Possessing the same combination of headlong intensity and easy listenability as Bury Your Dead used to and bands like Impending Doom and Emmure still capture now helps. But things like the kitchen-sink clatter of 'The Call Out Perceptions', the face-scrunching thunderclap booms of 'December Everyday', guitar lines that are equally metallic and melodic, and a fine choice of repeated one-line fist-in-the-air phrases are really key. There are stumbling blocks though. And the biggest, not just here but across this whole sub-genre, is variety. Sure, Jeremy from A Day To Remember adds his distinctive clean vocals to ‘Nightmare’, ‘Defiance’ is close enough to the quality of Misery Signals to make you sit up and take notice, and there are electronic clicks and whirs scattered throughout but if you’re not paying attention all these songs could easily blend into one moshable, but not terribly moving, breakdown. And nobody wants to think the band wrote these songs just to make people throw down right? No, knuckle down with ‘Relentless’ and it will repay tenfold, and with more than just knuckles to the face when you hit the pit.


GALLOWS + Every Time I Die. O2 Academy, Oxford. 15.05.09

Gallows have a lot to do tonight. They’ve got a setlist packed with brand new songs, a seriously road-weary frontman (although the skinny, wiry singer is convinced it’s swine flu), and, with a personalised tour bus outside, sponsorship from a certain unrelenting energy drink plastered all over the place, and two pages of very particular specifications taped to the sound desk, they’ve got to convince people that they’re still a proper punk band too. But none of these things actually come close to spoiling the show. Nope, instead the headliners came undone about four months ago when they booked Every Time I Die as support.

From start to finish the Buffalo brawlers are brilliant. ‘We’rewolf’ roars and claws out the speakers, a fiery ‘Floater’ proves the band having been writing amazing songs for years while ‘Cities And Years’ shows that they’re only getting better. Best of all though, even though they’re about to release their fifth record (of which we get a title, ‘New Junk Aesthetic’, and a song, the raging ‘Buffalo 666’), the quintet play with the same bristling energy and headlong intensity as a group just beginning. As well as being goddamn electric though, their is a sharp, tight, powerful and magnetic set that probably has Gallows backstage cursing the decision to ever bring them out.

And it’s not that the headliners are bad, not one bit. The Watford (or London now apparently) lot still tip the scales way towards pissing in the mainstream rather than following it, but after ETID they just can’t compete. For all the rave reviews there are no absolutely killer tunes on new album ‘Grey Britain’, in fact there are only two in the band’s entire back catalogue, and in this big, black, slick square of a venue, it’s just impossible to recreate the in-your-face rage that made that lack of material so easy to forgive, and this band so damn vital in the first place.

Gallows might have the press clippings, the sponsorship, and the label cash on their side then, but tonight in Oxford, it’s Every Time I Die’s night. And with a new album on the way and more UK tour plans in the pipeline, it doesn’t look like being their last either. Hot damn!


MASTODON- Crack The Skye

This is some weird shit. Ok so Mastodon have never really done anything normal but the monstrous quartet’s fourth full-length is officially freakin strange. The concept (of course there’s a concept) is a collision of time travel, ghostly possession, spirit worlds, and Russian wizards, and the music is no simpler.

First single ‘Divinations’ mixes warped country twang with wrecking ball metal, Quintessence’ could be a pop song if it wasn’t for the devil voices and Brann Dailor’s drumming, and four-part epic ‘The Czar’ sounds like 15 bands playing at once. Not one of those bands made Mastodon’s previous albums though. Here, the irrepressible roar of 2004’s ‘Leviathan’ and the ragged edges of 07’s ‘Blood Mountain’ have been smoothed over and replaced with a cleaner, more psychedelic but somehow more streamlined power, Troy Sanders’ vocals have gone from rawsome bark to grungy croon and the prog factor is way off the scale. It’s going to drive some people mad.

If you can get over the oddness and softness though, this record is capable of taking you on a real ride. A journey that doesn't stop for ages either as the serpentine riffs and layered hooks get into your head and refuse to leave. It's an album made to stay with you for... well, forever really. And from a band that don't need to work anywhere near this hard anymore (Mastodon have just about become the Radiohead of metal now, not quite above criticism but guaranteed to sell a certain amount of records regardless of what weird and wonderful directions they go in), that's mighty impressive whatever your opinion of prog rock.


36 CRAZYFISTS + Poison The Well. O2 Academy, Oxford. 06.03.09

This isn’t a gig, it’s a party. A really loud and really sweaty party.
From the second he bounds on stage, 36 Crazyfists vocalist and talented grizzly bear impersonator Brock Lindow treats tonight like it’s a hometown shindig and his best friends are moshing below him. The man’s attitude is downright infectious too and though the first strains of ‘I’ll Go Until My Heart Stops’ are harrowed screams, it’s impossible not to have a great time tonight.

Of course it’s difficult to be down when you’ve just seen Poison The Well play. The pioneering hardcore band might not share as many jokes as the headliners but from the opening assault of ‘Letter Thing’ to the fantastic final flurry of ‘Nerdy’, they’re perfect. Fucking perfect. And a lengthy set (rather than the 20-minute outings PTW have endured on these shores recently) means they’re able to pick from a back catalogue that has amazed, astounded, and confused people over the last decade with greedy glee. ‘Artist’s Rendering Of Me’ is a the same firebomb of a song it was 10 years ago, ‘Botchla’ is achingly beautiful but raw and aggressive as well, and if the two new songs aired tonight are anything to by then the band’s forthcoming fifth album (Titled ‘Tropic Rot’ if we heard Jeff Moriera correctly) is going to fit in perfectly.

Which should probably be quite hard to follow. Except as 36 Crazyfists really get their set going it becomes very clear who the crowd have come to see. The whole room turns into a fantastically off-key choir for the big choruses of ‘At The End Of August’ and ‘Bloodwork’, spins into a huge circle pit powered by the barreling power of ‘Elysium’, and goes suitably apeshit for metallic ragers like ‘We Gave It Hell’. And it’s fun and all (even the wall of death is good-natured) but for a group that started in the wintry wastes of Alaska, survived the major-label wringer, and were supposed to have disappeared with nu-metal, it’s very impressive stuff. See these bands live as soon as possible.


ARCHITECTS + Misery Signals. O2 Academy, Oxford. 29.01.09

OK, so a big part of tonight is about British boys making good, about a young band becoming a big deal, and about Architects going from energetic support-slot show-stealers to bona fide headliner status. And yeah, it’s been bloody brilliant watching them go from playing to just a few people a few years ago to a few hundred tonight. But something is not quite right.

The problem certainly isn’t Misery Signals. The Milwaukee outfit power through a stunning set- ‘In Response To Stars’, ‘The Failsafe’, and feral rager ‘Weight Of The World’ all highlights- and in just 30 minutes prove that they marry crushing intensity to emotional beauty better than anyone else in this scene. Superb.

Which was always going to leave a lot for the headliners to do. But it’s not energy that Architects lack, it’s not material (album number three ‘Hollow Crown’ dropped this week), and it’s certainly not confidence either- the band storm out like stars to an incredible reception. No, the one thing that truly taints proceedings is the attitude, and just how much it stinks.

Sure, songs like ‘To The Death’ and ‘Early Grave’ sound like the building might be caving in and frontman Sam Carter sounds plenty ferocious and passionate, but he also possesses an unstoppable potty mouth and desire to see the crowd punch and kick their way through the gig. At one point he demands more action on the floor only to berate the audience for not paying enough attention to the stage. Yes, his job is getting people going but Carter stirs this pit so hard it becomes tricky for anyone outside of it to enjoy themselves. And lines like “when this next song starts, punch your best friend in the face” are just stupid.

It’s good to see the band make it here, a UK group powering along under their own steam, but instead of grown men arriving in Oxford to claim their place by letting their admittedly ace music do the talking, Architects come across like bratty kids tonight, short of the real deal. Shame.

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