65daysofstatic have revealed details of a new piece called 'Decomposition Theory or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Demand the Future’. It will be premiered at Algomech Festival in Sheffield. There will be three performances 9th - 10th November, 2017. Each one will be different.
One Ok Rock have announced three UK shows as part of a European tour. December 11 O2 ABC, Glasgow 12 Academy 2, Manchester 13 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
While She Sleeps have announced a special one-off hometown gig on 8th December at O2 Academy in Sheffield.
Rolo Tomassi have announced their only UK headline show of 2017. The band will play The Borderline in London on Saturday November the 4th, with support from Conjurer. Sheffield’s Malevolence will play a special hometown show at The Plug on November 10th. Support comes from Nasty, Knocked Loose, Cold Hard Truth and Guilt Trip. Although he is now a live member of Brand New, Kevin Devine announced 'We Are Who We’ve Always Been’, a stripped down reimagining of last year’s 'Instigator’ LP. Due for release on October 20th via Procrastinate Music Traitors and Triple Crown Records, the album sees guest appearances from SWIVS, The Mynabirds and Half Waif.
The Xcerts have confirmed details of their new album. 'Hold On To Your Heart’ is set for release on January 19th, 2018 through Raygun Records.
Metallica will reissue their third album, 'Master of Puppets’ on November 10th on their own Blackened Recordings. The 'Master of Puppets’ reissue will be available physically as a Standard LP, Standard CD, 3 CD Expanded Edition, and Limited Edition Deluxe Box Set and digitally as a Standard CD (available to stream and download), a 3 CD Expanded Edition (available for download only), and a Digital Deluxe Box Set (available for streaming and download).
Beach Slang have revealed plans to release a stripped back EP called 'We Were Babies & We Were Dirtbags’ under the moniker of Quiet Slang. It will include two reworked Beach Slang songs along with covers of songs from The Replacements and Big Star. It will be released on the 20th October via Big Scary Monsters (UK/EU) and Polyvinyl Recordings (US).
We Came As Romans have detailed their new album. 'Cold Like War’ will be released on October 20th via SharpTone Records
Lacuna Coil will celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album with a very special show at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Friday, January 19th 2018.
Quicksand will follow up the release of 'Interiors’, their first album in over 20 years with a short run of UK shows. November 24th Rescue Rooms, Nottingham 25th Sound Control, Manchester 26th Islington Academy, London
The Front Bottoms will follow up the release of 'Going Grey’ with a UK/Ireland tour in February. They’ll be joined by The Smith Street Band and Brick + Mortar. February 09 The Albert Hall, Manchester 10 Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow 11 O2 Academy, Newcastle 13 Vicar Street, Dublin 14 Mandela Hall, Belfast 16 O2 Academy, Sheffield 17 Rock City, Nottingham 24 The Pyramids Centre, Portsmouth 25 The Waterfront, Norwich 26 The O2 Institute, Birmingham 27 O2 Academy Bristol, Bristol 28 The Roundhouse, London
Architects announced guitarist Josh Middleton as a full-time member. The Used will return on October 27th with the release of 'The Canyon’ via Hopeless Records. After being shown in hundreds of cinemas worldwide for one day only recently, Slipknot have announced they will be releasing 'Day of the Gusano’ on various formats on 20th October via Eagle Rock. The film documents the Iowa band’s long-awaited and first ever show in Mexico City in December 2015 and will be released on digital, DVD and Blu Ray formats, as well as special gatefold deluxe triple vinyl/DVD and CD/DVD packages.
Deaf Havana have announced plans to release a deluxe edition of their latest album, ‘All These Countless Nights’ on October 27th on SO Recordings. The two disc release is called 'All These Countless Nights Reworked’ and includes a complete re-recording of the entire album.
Lonely The Brave have announced they will be giving their second album, 'Things Will Matter’ the “redux” treatment. Due for release on November 10th through Hassle Records, it sees the quintet completely rework the album with the addition of one new track also called 'Things Will Matter’. Chicago’s Sleep On It have announced the release of their highly-anticipated debut full-length. 'Overexposed’ will be released on November 3rd via Rude Records (UK) and Equal Vision Records (North America).
Good Tiger have revealed their long awaited second album will be released on February 9th, 2018. It’s called ‘We Will All Be Gone’ and will be released through Blacklight Media/Metal Blade Records.
Like Moths to Flames will return on November 3rd with a new album titled 'Dark Divine’. The album will be released through longtime label Rise Records.
Evanescence have announced a UK tour where they will be accompanied by an orchestra. Also their fourth album, 'Synthesis’, will be released on November 10th. As previously reported, the album sees the bands “best-loved songs” reworked with a full orchestra and electronica. March Fri 30th Royal Festival Hall, London Sat 31st Royal Festival Hall, London April Mon 2nd 02 Apollo, Manchester Tue 3rd Arena, Nottingham Thu 5th Armadillo, Glasgow Fri 6th City Hall, Sheffield
Prophets of Rage will play London’s O2 Forum on 13th November as part of a European tour. With the 'Fireball UK Fuelling The Fire Tour’ fast approaching, it has been announced London modern reggae torch-bearers The Skints have been added as very special guests to the Liverpool and Sheffield dates. They’ll be playing alongside Reel Big Fish, Mad Caddies and Sweet Little Machine, who will be playing all dates of the tour. In additional news, the winners of each regional date can be revealed as followed: October 11 O2 Ritz, Manchester – Everyone And Anyone 12 O2 Academy, Bristol – Tree House Fire (SOLD OUT) 13 O2 Academy, Leicester – Last Edition 15 O2 Academy, Leeds – Eat Defeat 16 O2 Forum Kentish Town, London – River Jumpers 17 O2 Forum Kentish Town, London 18 O2 Academy, Newcastle – Death to Indie 19 O2 Academy, Glasgow – Lost in Stereo 20 O2 Academy, Liverpool – Meet The Robots * 21 O2 Academy, Sheffield – Frank Grimes and The Disasters * *The Skints will appear instead of Anti Flag on these dates
Holy Roar Records have announced they will be hosting four free Christmas shows at The Old Blue Last in London. Amongst the '12 Bands of Christmas’, are Wren, We Never Learned To Live, GIANTS (their final show) and Slabdragger. November 30 Wren / Special Guests / Watchcries December 07 We Never Learned To Live / Pijn / 52 Commercial Road 14 GIANTS / PINTS / GOBLINS 21 Slabdragger / Haast’s Eagled / ADCX
Grant Hart, drummer for influential punk band Hüsker Dü has died at the age of 56 following a battle with cancer.
Marilyn Manson has announced he will be releasing a new album called 'Heaven Upside Down’ on October 6th.
Fall Out Boy will play a one-off London show as part of a short European trip in January. They will play Electric Brixton on January 11th.
At The Gates have announced Jonas Stålhammar as their new guitarist. He is also currently a member of The Lurking Fear, Crippled Black Phoenix, Bombs Of Hades and God Macabre. He has previously played in Abhoth, Utumno and Macabre End.
Skinny Lister have announced a deluxe edition of their latest album, 'The Devil, The Heart & The Fight’. It will include new artwork, live tracks and three brand new songs. It’s set to be released on October 27th via Xtra Mile Recordings.
All Time Low have announced a UK arena tour for March 2018. They’ll be joined by Pierce The Veil. March 12 SECC, Glasgow 14 Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff 15 Genting Arena, Birmingham 16 Arena, Manchester 17 Alexandra Palace, London
At The Drive In will return to the UK in March 2018 for a headline tour. Support comes from Death From Above and Le Butcherettes. March Fri 9th Brixton Academy, London Sat 10th O2 Academy, Newcastle Mon 12th Academy 2, Birmingham Tues 13th O2 Apollo, Manchester Thu 15th O2 Academy, Glasgow
Iron Maiden have revealed details of a new live album titled ‘The Book Of Souls: Live Chapter’. Set for release on November 17th via Warner Music, the album consists of 15 songs captured during ‘The Book Of Souls World Tour’, which covered 39 countries. It will be released physically in CD, deluxe CD & vinyl audio formats, with the concert film available to stream free online or as a digital download.
Interview with Julian
How did The Gospel Youth originally get together? It started out as just a couple of writing sessions between Sam and I. It was all for fun and the music we wrote was for ourselves as we just wanted to escape from our day jobs in the evenings. We uploaded a song online to show our friends and it just took off, so we recruited the other guys and made the band official.
Also, how did you get to the band name The Gospel Youth, and what does it mean to you? It was pitched by Sam. I thought it had a good ring to it. Then I found out that it was a play on The Gospel Truth from Hercules, but Sam denies that film had any influence on the name!
What bands have inspired you the most since starting out, and why? Before we started this band we were in various bands amongst the UK rock scene and made friends with a lot of bands who have gone on to do incredible things. Seeing how hard those bands have worked (Don Broco, Deaf Havana, The Xcerts etc) is the inspiration. Musically I wouldn't say that there was anything in particular that has directly influenced our sound, just the push and drive we see in our friends is enough to tell us that we can do it too, if we put the work in.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this summer, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We were lucky enough to play the whole of Warped tour in the US. I still can't quite describe to anyone how insane the whole experience was, but we did it and didn't kill each other in the process. Other than the food being incredible and visiting places I could only dream about, a personal highlight was Warped FC and the bands that got involved with making it happen. We would escape from the festival every week or so for a game of football (not American football, real football, haha). It sounds silly, but I made a lot of new friends and the down time was much needed after the exhausting days. Trenton (Hands Like Houses) on the last day made up and gave everyone involved a shirt with the Warped FC logo. It was by far the best souvenir from the tour.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Always Lose'? We've been a band that has covered the darker side of life when it comes to lyrical content and the album doesn't stray too far from that. But even though life can be tough sometimes, there's hope that things will get better and that's what we have tried to reflect on with the album.
How did you end up working with Romesh Dodangoda, and how would you say he has helped shape 'Always Lose'? He contacted us a while ago and came to a show we played in Cardiff. We played awfully but he saw the potential and he threw his hat in the ring. A year and a half later we called him on that offer and decided to make the album together. We wanted it to sound as anthemic as possible and he definitely helped with that.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Always Lose' together for you guys, and why? It was the fact that we were never in the same room together during the recording process. Kurtis recorded drums with Romesh in Cardiff, then those tracks were sent to me so I could record guitars in my home studio. I then sent back the guitars to Romesh who then tracked Sams vocals back in Cardiff. And once those were done, I filled in the gaps with all the extra sparkles like piano and strings to brighten up the tracks. Without the Internet, Dropbox and Google Drive, we would have been screwed as we were all so far away from each other.
Last year you released 12 crowdfunded singles in 12 months. So how did that idea come about, and what was that whole process like for you as a band? It was Samâ€™s idea but ultimately it was myself who had to carry it out as I had recorded every TGY song up to then. It was the only way it was going to happen because we couldn't afford the studio time so I put in the work into making the songs come to life. We were going through a lot of member changes and what with us all living so far away, we kept the song writing and recording to how we knew best. I would write and record a bunch of songs and Sam would pick one he wanted to write melodies for. Once he had a song ready, we would then get together and record the vocals. I'll then mix the track, draw a line under it and repeat the process the next month.
How did the front cover for 'Always Lose' come together, and what does it mean to you? It was just a reflection of some of the lyrical content on the album, that sometimes things never go your way.
What else can we expect to see from The Gospel Youth in 2017? For the rest of the year we will be releasing various videos, some expected, some not so much. As this year is drawing to a close, we're preparing for a busy 2018 on the road.
How did Blindwish originally get together? We were all part of different projects that serendipitously fell apart around the same time. We quickly went into the studio with Drew Fulk to record a few demos, then announced our band and played our first show in March of 2016. We shopped our demos around and struck a deal with Rise Records in April and were in the studio recording our full length in May.
Can you tell us a bit about the music scene in Dallas, and maybe what it's like to be a part of? Only 2 of us (Kendrick and Garrett) are from Texas, and only Kendrick is actually from Dallas. Even with that, the Dallas music scene has welcomed us with open arms. I've honestly never been apart of such a supportive local music scene. I recently moved into the music meca of Dallas, Deep Ellum, where all the venues are and I love it. We're all very grateful to have Dallas as a home base for Blindwish.
How did you end up signing to Rise Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? We shopped around our demos and Rise really liked them, and we all have great respect for Rise Records as a label and as individuals. It was a no brainer as far as we were concerned. Working with them has been amazing. A lot of people have this warped view of what a label is or what they should be or what they are. Rise has been exactly what a label SHOULD be. They support our efforts, give invaluable insight when we need it, and let us write and record music we love.
Interview with Zack
So, how did you get to the album title 'Good Excuses', and what does it mean to you? ‘Good Excuses’ is pulled straight from my favorite song on the album, track 5 ‘Down’. I'm not going to get into what it means, I like people to make up their own interpretation of what it means in the confines of that song. Listen and let me know!
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run through 'Good Excuses'? Our music can be described as "moody" we don't really stick to one type of genre or feel of music. We like to just focus on writing the best song possible. A lot of our songs have a darker feel and message behind them, a more realistic approach to the human condition in my opinion. We may not all experience more dark than happy, but I feel the darker times make more of an impression on us and that's what I like to focus a lot of writing material on lyrically.
How did you end up working with Ryan Furlott, and what was he like to work with? Our guitarist Dakota had worked on a previous album with Ryan when he was in Alive Like Me. We really liked the quality of the recordings so we were excited to work with him, and we're extremely happy with how it came out.
How did you end up working with John Feldmann on the tracks 'After Midnight' and 'The Maze', and can you tell us a bit about what he was like to work with? I flew into Portland to finish up some vocals for our record with Ryan in September of 2016. One of the nights we went over to Craig's house (president of Rise Records) to jam and hangout. While we were there he brought up that he had recently been talking to John and that there was a possibility that he could be interested in working with us if we wanted that. He didn't have to sell me on the idea, I was ready to go that night. He sent John some of our album expressing our interest in working with him, and in October I went out and wrote and recorded those two songs with him. John was absolutely a dream to work with, as were his engineers Zakk and Matt. He taught me a lot about song writing, and a lot about controlling anxiety I was having, even recommending a book to read.
Leading on from that, how did the music video for 'After Midnight' come together, and can you tell us a bit about what the track means to you? The video for that song is about what the song is about. It's about doing things to the ones you love and not really knowing why you do it, and what the consequences are of that.
How did the front cover for 'Good Excuses' come together? It's from the opening line of the song ‘Down’, "I'm the king of good excuses". Using a little kid instead of an adult was saying that when we mess things up, we all feel so small. Our guitarist Billy did a photo shoot with the kid in the picture here in Dallas for the cover. There were hundreds of pictures and a lot more of them are all throughout our album booklet. Pick up a copy to see the rest!
What else can we expect to see from Blindwish in 2017? Some tours, some music, some memories!
How did Kublai Khan originally get together? We started as a jam band to just let off steam and spend some energy but soon fell in love with creating music.
How did you get to the band name Kublai Khan, and what does it mean to you? It is based off the poem kublai khan. And unfinished work that we adopted as our own name.
Can you tell us a bit about the music scene in Texas, and maybe what it's like to be a part of? Texas is a definite hot spot of great music. The scenes are so invested and supportive and the people are the best of earth.
How did you end up signing to Rise Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? They approached us about being interested and we were extremely excited to work with them. So far it has been above and beyond what we could have hoped for.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Nomad', and what does it mean to you? Our lifestyles have become extremely nomadic with touring and traveling so it was only fitting with how we live our lives.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run through 'Nomad'? Very personal lyrics and topics but also common struggles and even social and political issues.
Who produced 'Nomad', and how would you say they helped shape the record? Our awesome friend Randy LeBouf. He is our dude and he always pushes up in the best direction possible and genuinely cares about our band.
How would you say the sound of Kublai Khan has grown/changed since the release of 'New Strength'? We have gone back to our roots in heavy music and really simplified our sound to harness that traditional kk sound.
Also, looking back on 'New Strength', how happy are you with this album Interview with Matt still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Kublai Khan? It was definitely important to us. Every song we write has a purpose and that album was an important stepping stone in our development.
How did the music video for 'The Hammer' come together, and can you tell us a bit about what the track means to you? It came together far better than I had expected. The dismal and aggresive lyrics were really captured by the tone of the video itself.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We are over the moon about it. They can expect plenty of new songs and a 100% live show from us every night.
What else can we expect to see from Kublai Khan in 2017? Lots of touring. Shows. Mosh. And memories
Interview with Alex
Touring wise, what have you been up to this summer, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? This summer was mainly spent in the US actually. We recorded the new record in LA then went straight on tour with our best friends in As It is across the US. I’d say that in itself is a highlight. We’ve kind of become one big band as opposed to two separate ones so we’re most comfortable when we’re on tour with them.
So how did you get to the album title 'Great Heights & Nosedives', and what does it mean to you? The title is a play on a lyric from the opening track ‘Alive’ - “From great heights comes a nosedive”. It’s basically saying life has these insane highs and lows and sometimes it’s really easy to get caught in the lows. But understanding that it’s all part of the ride and making the best out of every situation life throws at you is what defines you as a person and it’s definitely how we grow.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Great Heights & Nosedives’? There’s a lot based on taking every situation and making the best out of it. Life inevitably will give you lemons but it’s whether you accept them and let it get you down or demand a refund and move on that builds us as people. A few members of the band, myself included, had a really rough year last year for various reasons and at times it felt like there was someone or something that didn’t want us to be happy, but we dealt with it and moved on and we’re undeniably better for it, a lot of those stories are channeled on this album.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Great Heights & Nosedives' together for you guys, and why? I think the hardest part was finding our sound. We went into this album thinking we were going to do this dark pop punk record with huge rock chorus’ and as the writing progressed it just didn’t take shape that way at all. It’s no bad thing because I think what came out was something far more original and special than we could have ever imagined, but that initial spark of direction was definitely one that took a while.
How would you say the writing process on ‘Great Heights & Nosedives’ compares to anything you've done before? With this record we had a lot more time and resources writing-wise. We’d never demo’d before this record, ‘Backbone’ was almost 99% writing in room, full band, and then we’d stick a phone on record in the middle, play it and listen back that way. With ‘GHAND’ we sat down and demo’d every song in huge detail. We’d listen back and change parts just for the sake of improvement even if we were really happy with it. Also working with Kyle Black was incredible. The songs were already in a vastly better place than before, but having Kyle’s expertise really helped the songs become that bit more special.
How did the music video for 'Playing Fiction' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? That video was a lovechild of mine and Costello’s. We had for a long time said we wanted a fairytale video, then the title of that track and the fact it was going to be lead single gave us the green light and we got to work, in typical ridiculous ROAM fashion. The track is really about a relationship at the beginning of the end, it’s a place we’ve all found ourselves and it’s a hard one to accept. You begin to make things up to fit what you want to hear and pretend everything's ok when it’s not.
How did the artwork for ‘Great Heights & Nosedives’ come together, and what does it mean to you? I take back what I said earlier, the artwork was the hardest part. We’re all very different creatively and sometimes that means a decision can take FOREVER. We had so many different idea’s mocked up for the album artwork, none of them were unanimously liked until the final one you see on the album. The pic was taken by Fraser Taylor (Young Guns guitarist, but an incredible photographer in his own rights). We sent him the themes of the album and the track names and he came back with this huge email of 10 different ideas to match that theme. The one we all agreed sounded coolest was the cactus with the balloon. It represents the highs and lows of life, one minute you’re floating around on top of the world, the next you hit a spike and pop and it seems like everything’s over. I couldn’t love the artwork more, Fraser did an amazing job.
What would you like ‘Great Heights & Nosedives’ to do for the representation of ROAM? Honestly, we wanted it to rebrand us. ‘Backbone’ was great, it took us all over the world, but we’re not those kids anymore and we needed to grow up and show people what we were capable of.
How excited are you for your upcoming tour with New Found Glory, and what can attending fans expect? Insanely excited, we’ve been home for a while now and it’s getting boring, we want to be back on the road so bad. Fans can expect two new songs, which is so exciting to finally be able to say!
What else can we expect to see from ROAM in 2017? Headline tours is all I’m saying for now.
Interview with Adam
Was there a particular moment when you knew that you were going to be more than just an upcoming band? Getting recognition and being personally asked to play alongside bands that we have respected and have influenced us definitely felt special. Being asked to open for Biffy Clyro and Muse were very surreal moments and definitely felt like we were starting to make some waves.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this summer, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? This summer has been mainly about prepping for our album release. So it has been a bit quieter, show wise, than past summers. Summers are always about festivals for us and being asked to return to Reading/Leeds is always a great privilege. Playing our first ever show in Russia was a highlight. We were treated so well and to get a taste of a different culture was a great experience.
You've just released your new single 'Off The Floor', can you tell us a bit about how that track in particular came together, and maybe what it means to you? This song, unlike a good number of songs on our upcoming album, came together quickly and pretty much the original version that was written is the one that remains. It has a more traditional Arcane Roots feel to it as well as being one of the more straight forward â€œrockâ€? songs on the record so feels like a bit of a link to our previous releases.
As a track that touches on politics, if you can pick one subject in that world that people should be much more aware of, then what would that be, and why? It feels like, especially in the past year, that the “West” has had an opportunity to show solidarity with the choices that we make. We love Europe and the European people and with the result of the E.U referendum, it felt like a step backwards. So it's definitely more important now than ever to show how much we do appreciate, especially as a band, what different people and cultures can offer you.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Melancholia Hymns'? Andrew came up with the album title. I think it was a decision based on the pacing of the words, how it sounds. It had various incarnations of Melancholia.......but eventually settled on hymns. I think the title helps to give meaning to the record as a whole, but there are also plenty of joyful moments as well as melancholic ones.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Melancholia Hymns'? We wrote the record as a whole, as one piece of work that should be enjoyed as such. There are plenty of musical influences that were fairly new to us, electronic music being something we tried to immerse ourselves in as inspiration, anything from James Blake to Three Trapped Tigers.
How would you say the sound of Arcane Roots has grown/changed since the release of 'Blood & Chemistry'? ‘Blood And Chemistry’ was our attempt at a big polished record. It was an attempt at a record that had big choruses, we came up with a formula of writing songs that worked well for us at the time. But with this new record we wanted to challenge ourselves and use a completely different formula and way of writing. An example being we tried to avoid, where we could, the traditional Arcane Roots big ending (even though there are some).
How did the front cover for 'Melancholia Hymns' come together? Imagery has always been important for us as a band. We have always felt that visuals should be as strong as the music and we never just settle for something. The front cover was inspired by our 'Curtains' video shoot, the beautiful scenery where we filmed, we used as a theme throughout the album imagery.
What was it like to tour with the mighty Muse, and what do you think you learnt? It was humbling and such an honour to be asked to open for them. It was exciting stepping out on a stage in front of tens of thousands of people but also, as you can imagine, very nerve wracking. With most big bands we play with, we try to steal as many ideas as we can. But the main thing we took from those shows was actually how to fill and own a stage, especially being just a three piece.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We can't wait. This album and tour have been a long time in the making and we are eager to show people what we have been working on. We have tried to create a show, an event that will be more than just a band playing some songs live. We have always tried to add value to everything we do and live is no different. We have thought very hard about the production and lighting for the tour which we have a whole system we are taking out with us as well as the set itself.
What else can we expect to see from Arcane Roots in 2017? We are just going to be doing as much as we can to push this album and to expose as many people as we can to it. We are not a band to rest on our laurels and we have plenty of ideas for content and different ways to make this record not just a collection of songs, but something with which people can interact with and get further enjoyment out of.
Interview with Cameron How did The Contortionist originally get together? Starting in high school, Christopher Tilley and I met the Baca twins. We then performed as a hobby until 2010, when we recorded ‘Exoplanet’.
How did you get to the band name The Contortionist, and what does it mean to you? There is some hot debate on this subject actually. Joe and I had used the name in reference to a song by Between the Buried and Me – ‘All Bodies’. I think I came up with it when I made the band logo, but Joe will tell you another truth! Haha.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Indianapolis, Indiana? Indianapolis was a great place to play and perform music. We had friends who would always be there to support the music – even if we we’re playing in a barn, powering our gear with a gasoline-powered generator, out in the sticks of rural Indiana.
Was there a particular moment when you realized you were going to be a career lasting band? I believe this moment happened in 2013, when Michael joined the group, taking over Jonathan’s duties as he had his first child.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? This year, we finished writing and recording our new record. We then jumped into a US tour to support Periphery followed by a European Tour to support the same group. This led us into our first ever Headlining tour of the UK. One of my favorite times this year was traveling from Copenhagen to Helsinki to Stockholm via ferry. It felt like we we’re on a cruise and just having a true vacation. Imagine a bunch of your favorite musicians/entertainers breaking it down on the dance floor at 4am. Plus, we’d never been to Finland, so that was also very intriguing. In this business, as you can imagine, we always love seeing new places.
How did you get to the album title 'Clairvoyant', and what does it mean to you? These lyrics were crafted by Michael and the themes resonate very strongly with me. In the past, we had talked about intuition and being in harmony with the universe; however, this time it was clear that Michael wanted to approach similar themes in a different light. There is a much more realistic expression to the atmosphere and lyrical content this time around. He wanted to show his strong suits in sarcasm, realism, and ultimately a much darker atmosphere. For everything simple, there is something complex. For every bright light there is - and always will be - a stark darkness at the other end of the spectrum.
How did you end up working with Jamie King once more, and how would you say he helped shape the album? We chose to work with Jamie King again, because of how great our last experience was. He really is special in the sense that he can be part of the band, but also put himself as the listener. He excels at confidence – knowing how to let the band’s sound breathe, and complimenting that rather than using techniques that he is familiar with. He knows how to adapt in any situation, and showcases this with interest towards evolving his own techniques throughout the process. I really do feel that Jamie King is a producer’s producer.
How did the front cover for 'Clairvoyant' come together, and what does it mean to you? We had Matthew Hay and his team at Fore Fathers Group take a photo shoot with our visual idea in mind. We all think he did a fantastic job at capturing the sense of nature, what lies beyond, and the sense of cult in our album themes.
How would you say the sound of The Contortionist has grown/changed since the release of 'Language'? It’s all still the same people playing, but the compositional approach has widened and become much more broad. This allowed us to do things we hadn’t done before. We took a path we hadn’t mapped out yet, and we feel great about it.
So, what do you want 'Clairvoyant' to do for the representation of The Contortionist? I want this album to show that we can write songs of all variety. And amidst this, you will still be able to hear our musical voices with honesty and genuineness. We are choosing to always be omni-directional.
What else can we expect to see from The Contortionist in 2017? We will be seeing even more new places, and we will be doing things we’ve never done before. It’s really going to be a great year.
Interview with Nick
How did Citizen originally get together? Mat, Eric, and I had played in bands together since I was 10 years old. This really started no differently than the rest. Around 2009, Mat was making songs under the name Citizen and asked Eric and I to play with him. I suppose we really had no idea that this one would be any different than the rest.
How did you get to the band name Citizen, and what does it mean to you? I actually planned to start a hardcore band called Citizen and Mat really liked the name and asked me if he could have it, before I was even in the band. There's really no deep meaning but I do think it's kind of cool that it was gifted between friends and it reminds me of that time of my life.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Detroit? Well, three of us are from Toledo, Ohio so we are definitely most associated with it. Mat is from the very very southern border of Michigan and Jake lives in Detroit. But I will say that when we were first starting, there was more of a place for us in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Michigan in general. Heavy stuff was pretty dominant in Toledo at the time and we were lucky that a lot of our friends liked what we were doing. We used to try to play any Detroit show we could and would generally get denied or ignored. Oddly enough, Jake's wife Sara was the one that probably would've been doing the ignoring when we were trying to play The Magic Stick in Detroit. It's a funny full circle thing.
Was there a particular moment when you realized you were going to be more than just an upcoming band? We always wanted to be more than that. But, all we could do is play shows, play shows, play shows. We would try to play out of town on the weekends and that was a really exciting thing for us. We were getting asked to tour with bands like The Story So Far when we were still in high school. I suppose that was when I thought maybe we could try to do this instead of doing school.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Over the past year, we went to Japan and Hawaii for the first time. I suppose that's the highlight right there! There was a point I never thought I'd get on a plane, let alone play in Honolulu.
So, how did you get to the album title 'As You Please', and what does it mean to you? Honestly, it was a huge process. People might think it's a fairly simple title compared to the last record, but it was discussed for months before we landed on it. We went back and forth with titles and even made the artwork with a different title, before we pulled back and landed on ‘As You Please’. I just think it's a really nice phrase. The spirit of it is not abrasive in any way, which is quite a change of pace from where we were at a couple years ago.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run through 'As You Please'? Musically, it's more direct and rock solid than ever. The album touches on a lot: substance abuse, family, love, death, the band itself. I really think the lyrics are going to connect with this album. Mat is sharper than ever before.
How did you end up working with Christopher Good for the 'In the Middle of it All' music video, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? We received a link to his reel, and I recognized his Perfume Genius and Joyce Manor videos. I love his work. I really think he is doing some of the most exciting videos right now. We contacted him and it was just perfect. He drove to Toledo to work on the Jet video with us and then did ‘In The Middle of It All’ by himself in Kansas City. As for the meaning, I don't want to communicate Mat's specific lyrics and do them any disservice, but they're some of my favorite lyrics on the album.
Who produced 'As You Please', and how would you say they helped shape the record? We worked with our friend Will Yip, once again and he absolutely kicked our asses to get the best performances we've ever given. The spirit in the studio is always positive but he is not shy in telling you that you can do better and I think that's super important. You walk out of there a better player, every single time.
We've read that "As You Please is a confrontational record, incapable of turning a blind eye toward the inescapable strife" so can you elaborate on this, as well as how you think the record compares to anything you've done before? Addiction is something that has completely taken over the midwest and I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone who wasn't affected by it in some way. The record certainly confronts it, but also confronts its side effects. I think musically and lyrically, it's absolutely the best music we've ever made. I think it's better on a surface level but also contains more nuance and depth than ever.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? I can't wait. We're bringing along an awesome band called Honey Lung. Aside from that, we now have the luxury of choosing from a huge arsenal of songs to make up the setlist. So, I would expect the most exciting set that we've ever played. Some songs will be debuted in the UK so I hope they go over alright.
What else can we expect to see from Citizen in 2017? We'll be staying active. We're already planning into next year so it's an exciting time for us and hopefully for the people who are paying attention.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year? Weâ€™ve only just started touring again. We're not that much of a touring band at this point. We all have a lot of obligations outside of the band, so we squeeze in as many shows as we can when we can.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Light It Up', and what does it mean to you? We pulled it from one of the song titles. It felt like a good title and out of total happenstance it worked really well with the artwork we had.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run through 'Light It Up'? Same as usual for us, personal experience. Chris and Chuck write about whatever is on their minds. That said, this one's a little angrier than we've been in a while, no doubt.
Interview with Jason You've just unleashed a new track 'Complicated'! Can you tell us a bit about how it came together, and maybe what this track in particular means to you? That song is about how we're (people) basically ruining the planet and--even with the best intentions-it's not so easy for people to get on the right side of things because of how complicated day to day life is.
What made you want to self-produce once more, and how exciting was this whole process for the band? We figured that if we couldn't make a record on our own after 20 years, we had no business making another one, so we went for it. It was great and I can definitely see us doing it again.
How would you say Hot Water Music has grown/changed musically since the release of 'Exister'? We've always had a "no rules" policy when it comes to music, so the changes between records are really just more what ideas we come up with when we're writing. I think we're making better use of the technological side of things with sharing demos online, which has definitely helped out with writing since we don't live near each other.
Also, looking back on 'Exister', how happy are you with this record still, and what do you think it has done for Hot Water Music? Yes, we're definitely happy with that record. Recording with Bill and Jason at the Blasting Room was an awesome experience. As far as what the record has done for the band...that's very hard for us to answer. There's not a great objective viewpoint from the inside after 20 years, haha.
As Hot Water Music, can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? Any of the shows we did with Leatherface were great fun. Anytime we manage to make it to Leeds, it's always great, as well. The UK has been kind to us, and we appreciate that.
What else can we expect to see from Hot Water Music in 2017? Hopefully we can fit in some more shows throughout 2017 and 2018. We want to do our best to get to as many places as we can.
Interview with Vinnie
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We just started our US tour. Every show has been fantastic so far. We feel very lucky to have the fans that we have. They all seem very energized and enthusiastic about the new record and of course the old tunes.
So how did you get to the album title 'Cities In Search Of A Heart' and what does it mean to you? We live in such strange times. Compassion and righteousness is desperately needed and those with these virtues need to stand up. Our hearts need to burn brighter than the black cloud we are currently living in the midst of.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Cities In Search Of A Heart' ? The opener is a re-introduction. A mission statement for the record to carve its way into your heart. We then begin writing from under this dark cloud trying to make sense of the senselessness. There is a lot of love happening. A lot of confusion. Ultimately I think it's inspiring and not too much of a bummer but sometimes I can't help myself. Big melodies and big tunes shine a bit of light on the darkness. Music will pull us through.
How would you say the sound of The Movielife has grown/changed since 'Forty Hour Train Back To Penn'? It still has that same heart. Brandon and I have only grown as songwriters so we are coming from a way more confident and informed place. We have a special relationship and bring out the best in each other. It feels amazing to be writing together again.
We've read that you â€œand Reilly initially struggled with writing the record until last year", so can you elaborate on that, as well as how you overcame this to put 'Cities In Search Of A Heart' together? We wanted to make sure we didn't try to replicate what we have already accomplished, all the while maintaining a familiar sound but one that has progressed. It needed the same energy. Figuring out what a band sounds like so many years later is no easy task. We were making nice chord progressions and melodies but all of the dynamics were still up in the air. We turned a corner when I wrote the music to the opener. We used it as a launching point of directions we can go and how to make punk tunes that have depth and that matter. We wanted to be proud of anything we created and also satisfy our fans as well.
Can you tell us a bit about the recording process for 'Cities In Search Of A Heart', and how it compares to anything else you've done before as The Movielife? We recorded with Brett Romnes, our drummer, at Barbershop studios in Nj. It was just Brandon, myself, Brett, and Joe Canetti who works very closely with Brand New and who is a dear friend and trusted sonic confidant. We all worked our asses off and had a blast. We usually started at 9am in our pajamas and worked til about 10pm. Brandon played all the guitars and the bass. Brett played the drums. Each night we'd unwind usually with a film and have a much deserved beer. This went on for about a month.
How did the front cover for 'Cities In Search Of A Heart' come together, and what does it mean to you? Our friend Jani has an endless wealth of striking photos from his travel around our country with his band Caspian. The one we picked represents a bleak scene. Desolate and gray. One that desperately needs warmth and love. It needs the sun. These songs feel like a great juxtaposition to cover. The record makes you feel. The heart beats. The record carries you through to the other side.
What do you want 'Cities In Search Of A Heart' to do for the representation of The Movielife? I want it to showcase where we are. That we have only grown stronger, and are here to stay. Life has to be about music. We have dedicated our life to it and it's a very fulfilling relationship. The music is for the listener but also for us. It has helped me heal. Writing music keeps me alive.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Completely over the moon. We share a very special connection. We will be playing some killer new stuff, and of course a lot of old favorites. Our love affair with the U.K. is no secret . Our last visit was at festivals and now we return to play small clubs. These will be very special.
What else can we expect to see from The Movielife as we head towards 2018? As we travel we will continue to write and prepare the next record. We have a lot of shows in the states for the rest of the year. We plan to go to Japan and Australia in the winter, and return to the US, UK, Europe, and more in 2018. Get busy living or get busy dying. I plan to live. Music is life .
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? I've been on the road pretty consistently since February this year... we started in the U.K. with Taking Back Sunday, did a full Russian headline tour in March, we did a few festivals which were a blast and then some US touring with Dave Hause and the Mermaid and then again with Rise Against, Deftones, and Thrice. This whole year has been full of spending time on the road with good friends and talented people who I find inspiring.
How did you get to the EP title 'Keep The Coffins Coming', and what does it mean to you? I like to entitle records by referencing where I feel the songs stem from. During ‘Stomachaches’ I became ill continuously and could trace every song back to a feeling of sickness. ‘Parachutes’ were stories of instances where I felt I was saved or at least able to enjoy the fall. this album I started to think about how as an artist we need to relinquish control of our creations in order to release them. We must bury our feeling of ownership. In a way kill our creations, put a bullet in their heads, so that they can eventually be exhumed by the masses, in hopes they may rise to live again in other interpretations or forms.
How did you end up working with Steve Albini, and how would you say he helped shape the EP? Working with Steve was always a bucketlist/dream come true type project. After we finished touring on ‘Stomachaches’ last year my manager, Paul Clegg, and I sat down and discussed what was next. He basically asked me for a list of things I've always wanted to do but never got to do and we've been checking them off ever since haha. I think getting to work with Steve really opened a lot of doors in my mind and gave me a creative confidence boost. We were able to make a really great recording together that is the perfect bridge between what ‘Stomachaches’ was and where we ended up on ‘Parachutes’.
How did you end up working with Dan P. Carter for the 'Keep The Coffins Coming' artwork, and can you tell us a bit about what it means to you? I've always been such a fan of Dan's. He's a great guy and his art is just stunning. We were lucky enough to have him do the art for our split 7inch with Lonely the Brave a few years back and I had seen this piece he created and it just spoke to me. The aging of what we find to be dangerous and thought to be timeless. I saw a lot of comparisons to my younger self in my career to where I find myself now. Dan is just so smart and talented, I'm so glad we were able to work together again.
How would you say the sound of 'Keep The Coffins Coming' compares to 'Stomachaches' & 'Parachutes'? I think you see the band progressing from ‘Stomachaches’ to ‘Parachutes’, growing and evolving. I think it's heavily evident in listening to the coffins version of ‘I'm a Mess’. I spent a lot of time wondering if we beat it after we recorded the song with Ross for ‘Parachutes’, and I came to the realization that it didn't matter, both were good and both stood firmly on their own. They're just different. A snapshot of a moment in time and I love that. ‘Keep the Coffins Coming’ are basically single takes of full band, and we took that mentality into making ‘Parachutes’. I think these songs were begging for that approach.
What was the most challenging song to put together from 'Keep The Coffins Coming', and why? Maybe our cover of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ may have presented the biggest challenge. It's such an iconic song, a standard that so many artists have taken different approaches to. It was fun and a difficult process joining that club, throwing our hat in that ring, and putting our own stamp on it.
So looking back on 'Parachutes', how happy have you been with the reception to the album so far? I'm truly happy with the reception so far. I think people are really connecting with the songs and that's all you can ever hope for. It's hard to put out a record and then have a tragic event put you out of commission for the first five months of release... but if this were an easy life everyone would do it.
Also, what songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Parachutes' at the moment, and why? All of them honestly, these songs are really what got me through our accident back in October and able to get me back up on a stage again. It was as if I had written myself a manual on how to get back up after being struck down and put it in a time capsule, only to be opened in an extreme time of need. So now getting to play these songs on tour, songs I didn't think I would ever get the opportunity to play for people, every night feels like a gift.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? I'm really excited. I love touring the U.K. when I was young I was dumb and didn't always have the best time touring abroad, Iâ€™m not sure what my problem was to be honest because now I really look forward to it. I think the fans can expect to hear a really good mix of material from all of our releases. I'm really looking forward to making setlists that incorporate a lot of different material.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the last couple of years? Well the most recent was playing Slam Dunk festival with a bunch of our friends. Our stage lineup was kind of a dream come true. Then our tour in February with Taking Back Sunday was such a fun time, we really love touring with those guys. And then throw back to 2014 touring with Mallory Knox, Moose Blood, and Fort Hope for our first U.K. tour ever. That was something I'll never forget.
What do you love the most about touring in the UK? I find there to be an unparalleled love and excitement for music there. Bands mean something, shows mean something and it doesn't feel fickle or fake at all. I admire that and I enjoy being a part of it. It's an honor and a privilege to play for people who care as deeply as they do. It makes the band better.
What else can we expect to see from FRANK IERO and the PATIENCE in 2017? Well we have a little more touring planned but then I think at the end of the year I'd like to take some time off the road to write and explore some new things.
Going back to the beginning can you tell us about your formation in 1999? Three of us were already playing together in a straight edge hardcore band, and wanted to go in a different direction. I had been playing together with KJM, since I was 15 years old, Mathieu had joined us a year before and the three of us wanted to use the art medium of music to its full capacity, we wanted to see how far we could go. We wanted it to be simple and effective, see what notes and words were needed to tell our story in all honesty. We try to touch people’s hearts and let them close us into theirs for the rest of their lives. It took us two albums and a couple of years to find direction, as we still are looking to find any.
How did you come up with the band name of Amenra and what does it mean? It’s a merging of “amen” being the end of a prayer, meaning “so be it” and “ra” taken from the Egyptian mythology symbolizing “life”. Life so be it. You take it in as it is, for better and for worse. That is ultimately the one thing we work with. Life and what it brings us.
Interview with Colin
Photo credit: Jeroen Mylle
Can you tell us a bit about the ‘Church Of Ra’ which you started in 2005 and includes collaborations from acts such as Oathbreaker, how did this happen? COR is mainly a term to gather all souls who helped us along the way and the people whom we helped along their own journey. AMENRA quickly started cooperating with talented friends and we all helped each other in creating something bigger than we had. We all reinforced each other. We crossed paths with a lot of different artists and I soon realised that we were all working with the same “gods clay”. We all told the same stories in a different way, and soon started to spread our collective abstract word. People only talk about the side projects and bands, but it’s way more than that. The painters, photographers, video artists, dancers, and so forth inspired us as much as we inspired them.
You signed with Neurot Records which was founded by Neurosis, how did you come to sign with them, and how did you first meet? I can’t really recall when that was, but eventually we started to play with different Neurot bands, and I think they also spoke to Neurot, about what was happening in Europe. I got in touch with Scott through his radio show KMBT, and we started writing and I shared some of the different stuff, I did back then, with Amenra and Kingdom. He liked what he heard I suppose, and we got along really well. Shared stages, got invited to their European Beyond the Pale festival in Holland, and eventually we toured with Neurosis, and were invited to join their roster. Neurot kind of likes to know the people behind bands as well, before they make any decisions.
So your latest album ‘Mass VI’ will be out on October 20th, what can we expect from this new offering? I am not going to bullshit you with the standard marketing promo of how this album is the best yet, and throws a shadow over all we’ve done, and how we all excelled in our own musicianship. It’s a continuation of what we do, it took us five years to write this one. In AMENRA an album is written out of shear emotional necessity. We lost loved ones, had disease and illness in within our family. Tumours, cancers in children and parents. Weddings and divorces, births and deaths. Joy and sorrow. We tell our story.
Can you tell us about any lyrical themes as well as where you draw inspiration from to write these tracks? Everything around me, everything that brought me and the others to their knees in the last five years. This is the story of each one of us getting on our feet again.
How do you think it compares to your past releases? Of course, we are the same band. We do not reinvent ourselves for the sake of gaining listeners.
How was the recent tour with Neurosis and Converge in the US and Canada in July/August and have you got any particular highlights? A man burst into tears in my arms in Montreal Canada, telling me how we kept him alive. He waited years for us to come and play his city, and thank us for what weâ€™ve done for him. Those are the moments you cannot describe, and make you small. Humble and thankful we can be at the wheel of this vehicle. The whole tour was a highlight for us, it was the best thing that ever happened to us. All bands got along so well, and soon started complaining that we were dumb to not make it a longer run.Converge and Neurosis have done so much for us over the years, when we thought it couldnâ€™t be topped, we got this offer. It was beautiful, and probably is one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
photo credit: Stefaan Temmerman
So on October 8th you are playing a UK exclusive set at Mammothfest in Brighton, how excited are you for this and can fans expect to hear some new songs? It will be our only UK show this year, so it's worth coming along to see that, but unfortunately I don’t think we will be playing any new songs before the release. We've actually played in Brighton twice already, and love all of the shows. One of them with Fall Of Efrafa. We met some great people there and love the city.
What other touring plans do you have for the year? Release show end October, some key EU cities, video clips and visuals need a lot of attention it doesn’t end with writing an album with us, it’s only the beginning. 2018 will bring more EU and US tours, we want everyone to know we are still here, and not going anywhere.
As a band that have been around for nearly two decades, what have been some of your best and proudest moments in that time and what else would you like to achieve in the future? It’s like a child, from its first steps to whiping its own ass, learning to read and graduating university. Founding a family. You take pride in everything. Continuing what we have now, would already be a blessing.
What else is in store for Amenra in 2017? Now is the time again to start working on our acoustic material, and material for our side projects.
Interview with Frost
So how did Satyricon originally get together? The band was founded in 1991 and went through a couple of constellations until Satyricon as we know it today emerged in late â€™92, then with Satyr as bandleader, vocalist and composer, and myself on the drums. Personally I was introduced to the band through my friend Faust (Emperor), and came to discover that Satyrâ€™s ideas and ambitions for Satyricon were something I could relate to, appreciate and share.
How did you arrive at the band name Satyricon, and what does it mean to you? The original guitar player Lemarchand came up with the name and wanted to remain mysterious with regard to his intentions, but we have come to see it as the God image of the Satyr, and find it to be a great and highly suitable monicker for this band.
What was it like to be an up coming band in Oslo, Norway? It was indeed exciting to be part of the black metal movement in Norway in the early nineties, which was then in a formative and happening stage, but most of all we were focused on our own band and what we could achieve with it. We did always see Satyricon as a force in itself rather than as one band among others in a scene or movement.
Was there a particular moment when you knew that you were breaking out of Norway? We saw black metal as an international expression, even with our strong spiritual bonds to Norway, and never felt confined to operate within any national borders (or other borders, for that matter). Like many of our ancestors, we were driven by that conquering spirit, I suppose.
What made you choose the album title 'Deep calleth upon Deep', and what does it mean to you? It was a title that presented itself to Satyr late in the album process, and which dawned upon him as perfectly fitting. It relates to how the album is spawn from the depths in us, and speaks to the deeper strata of the listener.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Deep calleth upon Deep'? There aren’t really any concepts or main themes, but there is definitely something deeply existential and severe about the songs – spiritually and lyrically. First and foremost this is a soulful, loaded, electric and magical album.
How did you end up working with Mike Fraser once more, and how would you say he helped shape the album? We knew Mike Fraser from his work with Satyricon on ‘Now, Diabolical’ in 2006, and imagined he would have just that set of skills that ‘Deep calleth upon Deep’ could benefit from. He helped us achieving that organic, powerful sound which we wanted this album to have.
Satyr has said that "Approaching this release, what I always kept in mind is that either this is the beginning of something new or it’s gonna be my last record" so can you elaborate on that, as well as how you think the creative process ended up comparing to any album you've done before? Making this album was a lot about stimulating creativity and opening up musically, and about working hard and with devotion. We were determined to make evolution happen on a grand scale, to significantly transcend everything we had done so far, and to make each and every song on the album truly come alive through the arrangement and solutions, the performance and the production.
How did the front cover for 'Deep calleth upon Deep' come together, and can you tell us a bit about it? Why choose Munch? Satyr came to see that Munch-drawing in a catalogue, and found himself to be staring at the cover for ‘Deep calleth upon Deep’. It just connected with him instantaneously, and I believe Munch’s very unique style – direct and simple, yet elegant and expressful, the sense of motion, the underlying and uncanny feeling of danger and drama, the intriguing and mysterious presence – is a beautiful parallell to how our album sounds.
It's been just over ten years since the release of 'Now, Diabolical', so looking back on this album, how happy are you with it still, and what do you remember the most? I feel that the album has stood the test of time very well. It was in many ways the first album we made where we put a great deal of focus and emphasis on how we structured the songs and how energy was flowing through the different parts, and I remember that it took quite some time and effort getting used to that way of working. Traditional song structures weren’t that common in Satyricon up until then, but learning to master those turned out to be a truly valuable and important asset.
Lastly, what else can we expect to see from Satyricon as we head into 2018? It’s going to be about ‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’, and touring the world with that album.
Can you tell us about the formation of The Black Dahlia Murder? We came together in 2001. Pretty much met everyone on the internet, like I'm sure many bands have formed since. We kicked around Michigan for about three years before getting signed and taking off on tour never to look back. In retrospect, I had no idea the band would go this far, but I did have asperations of getting us out on tour and of making albums. Eight albums in now, and no signs of slowing!
How did you get to the band name The Black Dahlia Murder, and what does it mean to you? I was searching for a name that would elicit some kind of visceral response. I wanted it to have the shock value that a good death metal band name should. I felt like we'd never find the right name until a friend told me to investigate the black dahlia murder. I read about it online, and then coincidentally saw a special on it late that night at about 3am. It scared the shit out of me, and I took it as an omen that this was the right name for the job. To me it signifies the death of the american dream. A young starlet named Elizabeth Short came to hollywood with stars in her eyes and was brutally cut down and made an example of by a killer who still remains on the loose. Her body was found cut in half and drained of blood, with a huge slash across her mouth like a smile.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Waterford, Michigan? It was shitty. We couldnt seem to get anything going. We were outcasts of the local scenes and had a hard time getting anyones respect here. It wasnâ€™t until we left that we started to be given a chance.
Was there a particular point when you realized that you were going to be more than just an upcoming band?
nterview with Trevor
That notion started once we released our first EP on lovelost records and saw it being distributed well and reviewed favorably. We got wind from some artists at Relapse records that they had been talking about us. Nothing did pan out with them, but that was enough to light a real fire under our asses and inspired us to reach for more. It was then that we decided to record a new three song demo and send out packages to all the labels big and small in hopes of getting something going.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We've been to Australia, Europe, Mexico, and around the states once already since recording the album. We're just getting started on a two year touring cycle jam packed with travel. I would say playing â€˜Nocturnalâ€™ front to back for the US fans was a real nostalgic treat. The response was huge and the tour was a major success. We also unfurled the title track from the new record then, was very cool. I also really enjoyed the festival season in Europe. We had some really killer shows... both of the ones we did in Denmark were my favorite.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Nightbringers', and what does it mean to you? It essentially embodies a theme in our lyrics that has been ongoing since the first album. Metal is a villains music, and night time is our element. The time when the normal world is asleep and we can thrive unfettered. It's a theme of power, vampirism and individuality. Also, everything cool happens at night, shows, horror, parties... Night time is the right time!
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Nightbringers'? I've definitely noticed a theme of being abandoned by god throughout the songs, whether itâ€™s committing heinous acts in God's "blindspot" or disbelieving him altogether. Religion as a whole is skewered throughout the album, encouraging self reliance and free thought. Throwing out age old notions that poison humanity still after all these years.
How did Brandon Ellis end up joining The Black Dahlia Murder, and what did he bring to 'Nightbringers'? He was hand selected by our last lead guitarist, Ryan Knight, to take his place in the band. Ryan had to step down for family reasons, but did us a big solid in warning us more than a year in advance. He did this to make the transition as smooth and seamless as possible for us... a real gentlmenly way to step down. Brandon also plays in Arsis, where we mined Ryan from, meaning he has exceptional chops. He still plays with them and has an incredible new album in the works with those guys, who are friends of ours. I feel like Brandon made this record as a whole as exciting to listen to as it is. He brought not only the most breathtaking solos we've ever had, but also penned some of the greatest tunes we've ever put our seal on... he was really gung ho and offered up four scorchers for the album... that was a level of enthusiasm we did not expect. He also took the reigns a lot when it came time to mix, he knows his way around the studio and what a good guitar should sound like. In a way, it feels like he gave us a facelift. We're young all over again!
The track 'Kings Of The Nightworld' is about leading a legion of awakened minds into battle, so can you elaborate on that? Yes, this and the title track particularly are a call to arms to banish religion and embrace the self. No more wars, no more fear of some fictional cosmic spanking ruling human existence. Real ultimate freedom. Respect for the human animal.
Can you tell us a bit more about the recording process for 'Nightbringersâ€™? It was recorded in many locations here in Michigan. Our former bassplayer Ryan "Bart" Williams tracked the drums, bass, and rhythm guitars, dude does not get enough credit for the incredible work he still does for us. Next Brandon tracked his solos at home in NJ while I did vocals in my closet here in MI with Joe Cincotta (Obituary, Suffocation) at the helm. Finally, the album was sent to Denmark to recieve the golden mixing touch of Jacob Hansen. Overall, I dont feel like this process was incredibly different than any of the recent albums we've made. We prefer to record at home when we can and are seldom in the studio all at the same time. As far as material goes, I think it's tried and true TBDM at its core, but there are a lot of exciting new elements we've incorporated, a lot of which came with Brandons influence. Speed metal, thrashy gang vocals, sleazy ass Winger death metal riffs, the guy is a maniac and a well of brilliant ideas. The result is our most varied album yet, I feel like every song stands strongly on its own. It was difficult to select the three singles that would lead off the album.
It's been ten years since the release of 'Nocturnal', looking back on the album, what do you remember the most about putting it together, and how would you say it compares to anything else you've done? ‘Nocturnal’ was a very important record for us. It marked a new line up with a very skilled new rhythm section, and our beginning to use protools to make demos. This allowed us to make more complex compositions, and see Brians ideas really come into the flesh in ways we hadnt seen before. I remember being blown away by ‘What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse’ upon fist listen, it had some really fresh ideas. There was a major hunger to prove ourselves as a force with that album, and it definitely helped put us on the map. We were able to headline summer slaughter then which was a huge deal, we were over Kataklysm, Cryptopsy, Aborted, Psycroptic, Despised Icon, the line up was tremendous and would pave the way for things to come for us. Having just played the whole album again for Summer Slaughter 2017, I think ‘Nocturnal’ is an important piece of our puzzle. Not my favorite per se, but I understand why people like(d) it. It's one of our more dynamic albums.
What else can we expect to see from The Black Dahlia Murder in 2017? More music videos, more tours, more merch, more everything! Get ready to be sick of us! We'll be coming on very strong this year and the next.
So how did Nothing More originally get together? MARK: I met Jonny at a church camp in the summer of 2000 when I was in 9th grade. He was in the praise band with Dan at the time. He heard me jamming Metallica songs at some point during camp and asked if I wanted to be in his band. I told him no because I just enjoyed playing other people's music... I called him 6 months later when I had come to my senses and told him I totally wanted to be in the band if he still needed a guitar player. We set up a jam session and I was going to sing and play guitar for us. About 4 years later I finally convinced Dan to join our band even though we had another bass player at the time. The other bass player actually told me if we converted Dan to join that he would kill me... fortunately, I didn't die and got Dan to join even though he wasn't sure we had enough groove for him to be a happy member! So fast forward 3 more years and picture Jonny being wasted in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He told me he wanted to sing because we were all so tired of having to part ways with other singers. I told him I knew that he wanted to and that I believed in him and would have his back. So a few months later we fired our current singer and decided to have Jonny focus on singing. After 5 singers, 4 drummers, 2 bass players, and 1 other guitar player we met Ben. This was 2 years ago actually and we're stoked to have him behind the skins. He is an excellent, diligent musician. Since we all immediately gelled so well together personally and musically we decided to have him be a part of the writing of our next record. He has been a huge asset creatively and logistically because he has a background in sound engineering. We have done our past three albums ourselves so it was perfect to have another DIY dude handy.
How did you get to the band name Nothing More, and what does it mean to you? MARK: We honestly exhausted many different names. In fact I sang and played guitar while we were going under the name Under Siege. We later decided that being associated with a Steven Seagal movie might not be the best choice of a band name... So after much deliberation we joked about being called 'Nothing' and I remember a specific moment when Jonny was sitting on my stairs and said, "What if our band name was Nothing More?" He then talked about how important it was to us as fans to see a band we loved and see those same band members off stage be “real” and kind to their fans. We both acknowledged that nothing's worse than seeing a band you love and finding out the band members are full of themselves or jerks to their fans. So based on that logic we thought it would be awesome to name ourselves Nothing More to push that message and be a reminder of where we came from.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in San Antonio, Texas? JONNY: It was a bit of a “lost” feeling since the music scene was run down, lame and fragmented. I mean, even to this day with a number 1 single at rock radio, and multiple songs that went top 5, our local rock station STILL doesn’t even play our music! haha! On top of that, Austin (the live music capitol) is a little over an hour away, so most musicians and creative minds would move there. So San Antonio was left with the scraps. But honestly, I think that’s part of the reason we have become what we are as a band. That “lost” feeling in San Antonio was good for our creativity and development because we didn’t fall into any trends that may have been present in a more thriving music environment. It forced us to become who we are rather than what everyone thought we should be.
Was there a particular moment when you knew that you were becoming more than just an upcoming band? JONNY: There were moments along the way that were cool landmarks to reflect on, but honestly I knew that we were going to be something special one night when I called a meeting in an empty parking lot with Mark and Dan. To give a little context, this was before anyone knew who we were, I was still the drummer, and I didn’t even know how to sing yet. We had just parted ways with our 3rd singer and had lost our other guitar player who I started the band with originally. We felt defeated, lost and full of doubts. The outside temptation was to get “real jobs” and the internal temptation was to quit and blame fate. It was that night that we came together and I looked at the guys and said, “Fuck it, I’m not going to live my whole life wondering if we could have been something more than just a band that tried and failed just because we couldn’t find the right singer. I am sick and tired of being controlled by a crippling fear of public speaking and stage fright. It’s sink or swim and we either need to make this music thing work or die trying. We don’t have money, but we have resourcefulness… we don’t have a label, but we have our minds… we have no manager, but we have each other… we don’t have certainty, but we have an unshakeable belief in our passion.” This was the night I told the guys that I wanted to be the singer, and this was the night they backed me up, even when it didn’t make sense to back up a guy who couldn’t sing much of anything and was afraid of talking in front of people. This was the night that I knew nothing could stop us but ourselves.
So, how did you get to the album title 'The Stories We Tell Ourselves', and what does it mean to you? JONNY: Last year was the most neurotic, introspective, mentally chaotic and soul challenging year I’ve ever had in my life. I felt like I was flying through a storm and all my instruments went out. I had to dive deep and get in touch with my intuition again. ‘The Stories We Tell Ourselves’ was a constant reminder for me in this time to remember that my mind is telling me a story *about reality, and to not confuse that with reality itself. When we are in moments of vulnerability, fear, anxiety or uncertainty, our minds often attempt to protect us by using all of its tools and resources. But many times it will spin out of control and overreach its purpose. The mind is a great servant but a horrible master. This title was a reminder to stay present, calm and *responsive to life rather than *reactive.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'The Stories We Tell Ourselves'? DANIEL: I think another theme that runs throughout the record is the idea and feeling of having your heart pulled in different directions and not knowing what’s right. For example we used a lot of semi vague imagery in the song ‘Ripping Me Apart’ to portray the trials of relationships/drugs/sex addiction. One of the hardest things in life is recognizing when something that was good has turned toxic. We build our identities around so many illusions and sometimes the floor falls out from them. We touch on this theme in ‘The Great Divorce’ as well. I grew up in the Christian church and really put everything I had into my faith. I remember when my pursuit of God started taking me to places far outside what is taught and I realized all of the ideals programmed into me caused the overwhelming fear I had, and caused division between myself and my fellow man. The liberation of one’s soul is the bloodiest revolution that there is. Another theme comes from my personal hero: British Polar Explorer Ernest Shackleton. He had a great quote, ‘By Endurance We Conquer’. If there’s one thing this band knows best it’s how to never give up.
What is it like to record your own material, and how has that process changed/progressed over the years? DANIEL: Anytime you do something on your own it’s always a very rewarding experience. With the record process it has allowed us to take a lot more time exploring tones and interesting song arrangements than if we were paying hourly at a studio somewhere. The record really becomes your “baby” when you oversee every aspect of it. The biggest jump in our recording process happened when we made the switch to Axe Fx for guitar and bass. It’s so good that we are no longer borrowing all of our friends amps, cabs and pedals to find the right sound. It’s all right there to tap into.
How did the music video for 'Go To War' come together, and what was it like to work with Wayne Isham? DANIEL: I actually had the idea a long time for a huge slow motion bar fight over our rock ballad ‘Here’s to the Heartache’ but that didn’t come to fruition. When it came time to make a video for ‘Go To War’ Jonny brought the idea back to life and it seemed perfect. Wayne Isham is the man! What a legend. He wears his sunglasses indoors without fail and you feel like you’re hanging out with Jeff Bridges when he’s around. We will definitely be working together again.
How did the front cover for 'The Stories We Tell Ourselves' come together, and can you tell us a bit about what it means to you? BEN: We’ve always been a fan of album artwork by bands such as Tool or Circa Survive where they have found an artist that seems to always be able to set up how you should feel or perceive what you’re about to hear, in almost certainly the way the band wanted it to be perceived. Something that is unique and almost a part of the music. We were all looking for different artists for this same purpose when we came across Gabriel Isak’s Instagram page and were quite impressed. We in particular felt very moved by one piece from his work in the series ‘The Shadow and the Self’. The relationship between the feeling that piece gave us, and the feeling we have about what our album means to us were one and the same. Everyone has their own inner voice that they listen to, and can lead them down paths of greatness or darkness. For us and with this album, it’s about living with both.
Looking back on your self-titled album, how happy are you with it still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Nothing More? MARK: I know we are all very happy with our self-titled record. It did exactly what it needed to do. We are an alternative progressive rock band and that is an alternative progressive rock album. It takes a band 10 years or 10K hours to become an expert at their sound. Malcolm Gladwell has written extensively about how it takes this long for anyone to become an expert in their field. I feel like this album is a perfect example of the balance between artistic integrity and commercial appeal. We are very aware of the great divide between the two and we constantly try and maintain this balance. We all come from a nerdy musician background and we all went through the phase of trying to play as many notes as possible in as little time as possible. Every musician goes through this phase at some point and then you mature and you understand what it means to be tasteful. We are all still growing and we do our best to let each song lead us where it needs to go. We try to be as open as possible to do what the melody and lyric wants. The self-titled record is the perfect culmination of us maintaining this mantra. It's been a great stepping stone for us to carry on to the next chapter. ‘The Stories We Tell Ourselves’ will showcase the next step for us. I can't wait for everyone to hear it and see where it takes us next.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? BEN: We can’t wait to come back overseas! We have such great fans over there, it makes it a real treat to go over every time. We have a bunch of new show pieces, as well as debuting a number of songs off our new album, so we’ll be giving the fans a show they haven’t seen from us before. We can’t wait!
What else can we expect to see from Nothing More in 2017? BEN: We’re planning on that you see us a lot in general haha. We worked on our record for a long time, so now we’re ready to get out there as much as possible, travel the world, and show people what we’ve been up to.
Interview with Jeff
How is your weekend going so far then? Itâ€™s been good. Yesterday we played London, and we had a sick show in Kentish town. It was really great. When you go to London you kind of expect people to cross their arms and wait for you to mess up. I think from the start there were a lot of expectations. People were really cool, and anxious to see the show. We were playing a 15th anniversary of the first record, it was just kickass. The coolest part about it was seeing all these people that grew up with us, there were older people, but there were younger faces as well. I have no clue how the hell they heard about us, but they did somehow. Itâ€™s a really healthy mix, for a band in our position to see.
At a time like this, how important do you think festivals like Download are to the UK? Playing music in front of a crowd is sort of a communion, it’s people getting together, and sharing their love and passion for music. People are just basically in the same room saying that they love this same music together. We have this in common. We played the Bataclan recently in Paris. To us that was standing up for something. That was not only a show, we could of played a bigger room, but we decided to play there. When we played Rock am Ring recently as well, people got evacuated because of a bomb scare. We decided that we’re going to keep going. We’re not stopping this. To be very honest, we’re not heroes for doing this. It’s not as if it wasn’t organized and well secured. I feel safe here. It’s more for the concert goer now. There is a thought like shit can happen. But people decide to still go out and be in crowds.
If the bands stop it’s game over? I think Manchester was a beautiful sign. With Ariana Grande coming back to sing, it was pretty cool. That’s pretty heavy metal to me. It says a lot about what she stands up for.
How did Simple Plan originally get together? We were high school friends, we played in many bands together, not together. We competed, we were friends, we were not friends. Your typical high school stories. Eventually the drummer and the singer had a band called Reset which was a really heavy punk rock band. They fought together at some point, I just went back and got Chuck, and eventually Chuck got back to Pierre, and we were a band. We were like 18-19 when we started. We just played the music that we wanted to play. You have to understand that in Quebec as French Canadians, you don’t play the common music that we play, and you don’t sing in English. So it was sort of a reblious thing to get out and just be like “Well we’re not going to sing in French, whether we’re getting the grants to make records, we’re going to get out there and tour the world” everyone was like “Ha you’re stupid!”, but we proved them wrong. That was the first obstacle that brought us together. It was like “We love this type of music, we’re not going to compromise it, change our sound, this is what we do” it might not be fashionable or what you should be doing, coming from a French Canadian background, but that’s what held us together.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Montreal? There’s no scene whatsoever, no it’s different. People in the UK go to shows, festivals, there’s a certain industry, there’s a context. Where we’re from you didn’t have any rock shows coming from Montreal, it’s the coldest part of Canada. Nobody cared to come, but it kind of changed. It might be surprising to you now, but 15 years ago those big bands would come through, but not the more alternative bands, we didn’t have the venues for that. Now we have Osheaga as well as other cool festivals.
Do you think the scene there changed because of you guys? No, it actually developed on the side, we never were part of it. We had to leave Quebec for the longest time, and we lived on a tour bus for many years, we live in California now. We left because we didn’t have a choice. It developed over the years on its own, which is awesome. It still makes us somewhat outside of the scene.
How did you get to the band name Simple Plan, and what does it mean to you? That name was supposed to be a temporary name. We stole it from that movie A Simple Plan, I hope we never get sued for admitting that. We were going to change it, but we printed posters and stuff. There’s not a lot of meaning to it, there’s an after thought, like a simple plan to tour the world, to get out there. The reality of it was that it was just a film.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were going to be a career lasting band? If so, what was that like for you guys? We did it the other way round. We quit our jobs before anything was happening. We just jumped all in. It was pretty tedious. Every t-shirt we sold would provide an existence for us. We really fought hard. We decided that we were going all in. You also have to remember that we were 18-19. Sébastien was really young. We just went all out. We toured our asses off, and built from touring. I guess when I paid for my rent, with what was I doing, I figured that there was something there. We were not very demanding guys, and touring for us was enough at the time.e.
So, when did you decide that you wanted to do a ten year anniversary tour for 'No Pads, No Helmet... Just Balls'? It’s a thing that’s starting to become a little bit more common. We see bands in our genre do it more and more. Those records had a big significance for a lot of people. So we thought let’s do a couple of shows around the anniversary which was on March 19th. Promoters started calling in and asking us to do more. And we thought well why not! It’s kind of cool. At first, the initial thought was “Are we that old? Are we really at the stage where we are going to play old songs only.” I think you’re celebrating what changed your life. It changed people’s lives around us. You see it in people’s faces, when the right song from that record comes up, it’s like those songs mean something. It’s cool to play. I hated playing ‘I’m Just A Kid’ for so many years, I was like “That’s the stupidest song ever”, but people love it, they’re happy, they’re smiling, they’re jumping around. More so now than ever, I’m just opening my mind to the concept that people can like that song. It makes me love it more now. I would say now it’s probably one of my favourite songs that has shifted in my head. It’s weird, it’s a state of mind whether you like something or not, it’s how you position yourself. It’s been full of love, and amazing moments on this tour. We played a show in New Jersey, had no expectations as we had just played some sold out shows in New York, which were kickass, and then we played New Jersey, crowd surfing everywhere, really crazy, and you’re like “Wow, okay!” It’s kind of like a return for us, it’s cool.
What was it like to rehearse for the tour then, and were there any particular tracks that you found extremely exciting to re-visit? There were a lot of songs that you would call B-side on the record that actually have strong messages, but we never played any of those songs properly. We spent so much time in the studio, there’s a big story about our producer and I butting heads throughout the whole recording, he had a certain vision. It took like a year, year and a half. It was a really long record to make. That record should of taken a month to make at the most. It’s simple, it’s straight forward, it’s more intricate as far as songwriting and arrangements go. We spent so much time re-arranging, making sure that everything was like as efficient as we could get it. So it was a long record to make. I don’t think we were the musicians that we needed to be to play those songs live in 2002-45. Now we can play the record properly, and we do. I would say even a song like ‘My Alien’ it sounds kickass. It’s the dumbest, most light hearted song, but it works, we made it work. We arranged and shifted things around. If anything the way we play the record now, is how it should of sounded then, but we just weren’t there yet.
How would you say tracks from that record have changed the lives of your fans? ‘Perfect’ is that song off the record. We do the record from top to bottom, and then we stop and play the hits from the other records. That song really changed people’s lives. Sometimes kids tell me that I saved their life, and I’m always like that’s pretty intense. Did I actually save your life, I don’t think so. But, I remember music being very powerful for me as a teenager. It’s like a soundtrack to your life, it’s a context, it’s your identity too. When I was into grunge as a teenager, it was my life. I was more into the heavier grungier music. I was wearing the boots, flannel shirts, it’s all coming back. It was my identity. My friends had to listen to that music, or else they weren’t cool. I just couldn’t identify with them if they weren’t in that scene, and I understand that people are still the same. I heard a kid tell me today, “I have friends because of you”, that’s pretty crazy right? I understand it, although it’s a little extreme. But everything is a little extreme when you’re a teenager, everything is.
To never know your whole impact as a band is kind of crazy right? You basically start a little fire, and it becomes a gigantic storm.
How did Mark Hoppus & Joel Madden end up joining you as guests on the album, and can you tell us a bit about what they were like to work with? The GC guys were contemporaries of ours, and they were already touring. I think a little before us, and their name was getting around. They were building something, and in that scene you kind of help out the other bands that are growing with you, and that’s what they did. In the case of Mark, it’s a completely different story, they were the biggest band in the world at that point. It was around ‘What’s My Age Again’, and when Mark decided to take us out on tour and sing on that record, be in that video. It was a huge endorsement. If anything that was probably the single biggest factor to us making it as a band. Oddly enough, ‘I’d Do Anything’ isn’t even a hit for us. It didn’t do that well, but it kind of opened the doors, it was important. ‘Perfect’ was a song that broke us. Mark put a stamp of approval on something that was too young, the band was nothing at the time. It was pretty impressive that he did that. We were in the studio recording an album in Toronto, and Chuck and Pierre flew to San Diego to have him sing on the record. That guy had balls, he was in the biggest band in the world, and he didn’t have to do it. He didn’t take a penny, we didn’t even pay him. He just did it out of sheer love of the music, and wanting to help.
Looking back on 'Taking One for the Team', how happy are you with the album still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Simple Plan? I think it’s important to really see music that still touches people. You don’t want to be strictly a nostalgia band. As a musician you have to release new material or else it defies the purpose of doing what we do. Art has got to grow, you have to evolve, as a human, musician, artist. It was cool to see that oddly enough it was one of those songs that wasn’t meant to be a single but became the biggest song off the record, the track ‘Boom’. Some songs are slow growers, they do their own work, it’s pretty cool. It was all online, no radio, no nothing. Pretty impressive.
What arrangement from 'Taking One for the Team' was the most rewarding for you to put together, and why? There’s a song called ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Sad’ that’s kind of not even like a band song. All the horns come in, the percussion. It’s cool. We are the type of band that listens to so many genres, have so many influences, and then you throw them out as you’re arranging the songs, then you bring them to the studio and you hope that it’s going to be cohesive, and work. On this particular record I think that we might of stretched it a little too far in some instances. If anything it’s a transitional record, but we’ll see.
Have you started work on any new material just yet, if so, what can fans expect from it? Yeah we have. Lots of songs are ready, and we’re going to start recording by the end of the year.
Interview with Chris
How did Anti-Flag originally get together? Justin and Pat started the band when they were just kids, Justin naming the band Anti-Flag as a statement against nationalism and war. It took them a while to sort out playing/learning instruments, but the vision to make protest punk rock was there from the beginning. Chris Head and I joined after the first record, and this line-up of the 4 of us has been in tact since 1998.
Also, how did you get to the band name Anti-Flag, and what does it mean to you? Hinted at this above, the main idea of the name is still the same. To challenge nationalism. But I don't think that really hit home to us until we started to tour the world. It's so abundantly clear the commonality of people, regardless of what flag is flown above their heads, how much money they may or not make, their color of skin, gender identity, etc. These things exist solely to divide us. Anti-Flag is a challenge to all divisiveness, a call for social and economic justice.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? Pittsburgh was a politicized town for our entire upbringing. The steel mills left in lieu of cheap labor, our families, aunts, uncles, fathers, mothers, struggled to keep things afloat during tumultuous economic times in the city and that galvanized us. We wanted to make music that had empathy for the simple reason we had hoped others would have empathy for us. That reflected in all of the bands comping up at that time. A strong sense of us vs them, us vs the world. A challenge to the status quo that had left so many behind.
Was there a particular moment when you knew that you were going to be more than just an upcoming band? I think we're still an upcoming band. We play big shows, small shows, basements, clubs, festivals. There are still so many ears to find and so many things to challenge. We are not complacent.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this summer, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Festival runs this summer were great. Germany is always too kind to us. We spent the first half on our first warped tour in 5 years. It was crazy to see how that tour has changed and remained the same. We made a lot of friends, shared a lot of stories, fought racism, Donald Trump, fascism, and bigotry of all kind with every set.
So, how did you get to the album title 'American Fall', and what does it mean to you? It's the follow up to our ‘American Spring’ record. They are sisters in a sense, the story continues, the documenting of this struggle. ‘American Fall’ on the surface can seem dark, but to us it’s optimistic, a chance to write our own future, one where we don't have to choose only between status quo democrats and republicans, but a push further from Trumps or Obama’s or Clinton’s, but something new and ACTUALLY progressive.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'American Fall'? Empathy. You don't need to be homeless to have empathy for a homeless person, you don't need to be a refugee to have empathy for refugees. Our reach and numbers multiply so fast when we put ourselves in other’s shoes. There is great optimism in that sentiment. Choose it over cynicism. Choose empathy over apathy.
How did you end up working with Benji Madden, and how would you say he has helped shape 'American Fall'? We're working with the MDDN team on the management side of Anti-Flag. So we worked hand and hand while writing songs. We used their studio to make the record and Benj was continually there, making notes, sharing thoughts, and guiding us. Before we knew it we said to him "Hey, you know you're producing this record right?" It's was natural. It wasn't the intention or plan, it just happened. He has a great sense for where a song needs to go. Other than that it was just the 4 of us and our friend Courtney who engineered and got amazing sounds.
How would you say the sound of Anti-Flag has grown/changed since the release of 'American Spring'? This is far bigger of a record. The themes are bigger, the battles are bigger, so in turn the songs are bigger. We wanted to use the music to add hope and levity to some dark times. Donald Trump will not define us, brexit will not define us, the AFD in Germany will not define us... our reaction and work to stop the degradation of human rights will.
How did the front cover for 'American Fall ' come together, and what does it mean to you? We worked with the same artist on both ‘American Fall’ and ‘American Spring’. Doug Dean, Pittsburgh brother and as you can see a genius artist. He was given loose ideas, some music and the lyrics, he dreamt up this powerful statement to portray what essentially drives American politics. Corporate money, warfare, greed. Not a human. Not a president. He worked with another friend and amazing artist Noah Scalin who did some of the inner artwork and creates these beautiful 3 dimensional skulls, we used his work as inspiration for the money skull on the front.
How did the music video for 'American Attraction' come together, and can you tell us a bit about what you want it to mean to the viewer? We filmed it pretty early in the process. We knew that ‘American Attraction’ as a song was one we wanted to share. This idea of distraction politics that has dominated the Trump regime. Scare with a tweet, smash and grab the White House and let corporations roll back environmental and humanitarian protections with deregulation. The video tries to shift the emphasis back to humanity while flashing our distractions back at us.
As a political band, if you can pick just one subject in the world that people should be much more aware of right now, then what would that be, and why? Take corporate money out of politics. Make it illegal for corporations to donate to campaign finance. Make it illegal for the education and pharmaceutical and health industries to monetize our well being.
What worries you the most about Donald Trump being in power? The deregulation that is firing on all cylinders. He is leaving an infrastructure in place so that big businesses can grow, the wealth gap between rich and poor can grow, and our ability to challenge it shrinks. He has emboldened racism and the fascist police state. His climate change denial is only based on economic interests, he is lying.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? A mix of old and new songs. A celebration of the fact that for this hour we are free from racism, hatred, war, bigotry of any and all kind. And that freedom is very rare in 2017 so it should be celebrated with the best party we can throw.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from touring in the UK over the last couple of years? Our run with Rise Against was amazing. Headlining the Astoria in London so many times, it was an awesome venue. Our multiple shows at Old Blue Last. Any time we've ever played in Birmingham or Manchester. Our work with Emmaus, a U.K. charity that aided the homeless in your country. Our work with Amnesty and Rock Against Racism in the U.K., always inspirational.
What else can we expect to see from Anti-Flag in 2017? We release ‘American Fall’ on November 3rd. This is our 10th record, it is our most focused and one of if not the most passionate records. Our aim is to play every show we can and share these stories of empathy with anyone who will listen. And then we set our sights on 2018 being 25yrs of Anti-Flag
How important do you think festivals like Download are to the UK after the recent events in Manchester? It’s such a big deal. Hopefully, all that shit, whatever is going to happen is going to happen. It’s such a horrible thing. I am glad that we are coming here, and everyone is still supporting music. I consider it to be the best festival of the year. Andy Copping always puts on a great show, he always has great lineups. We are just excited to be here, and the security has been great. It’s going to be great.
So, how would you describe the sound of Steel Panther? Heavy metal! Right now, music has got away from being fun. We think that partying, and taking a responsible amount of drugs is very fun. That’s what the 80s was all about, and that’s what we want to show the kids of today what that was all about, instead of singing about too many dark things about like hating our parents, grandparents etc. We just talk about having fun. That’s what we try to bring. At the same time we try to be as colourful as we can.
Interview with Lexxi What was it like to be an upcoming band in Los Angeles? That was the craziest thing, because we had residencies for the longest time. We started doing shows at the Viper room in 2001, and it’s just a phase to me. We would all get high. We ended up getting a deal, which was cool. The strip changed a lot. The Roxy Theatre and The Whiskey are still there. We’ll go party at the Rainbow and things like that. But like I said, at the same time it still changed a lot from what it was like in the 80s. We are still trying to bring it back as much as we can.
Was there a moment when you realized you were going to be a career lasting band? We kept bouncing around. Every place that we went, from the Viper room, to the Roxy, the Key Club, the House of Blues. We just saw the numbers consistently just keep going up and up to the point where they sold out, and that was the point where I was like “Fuck, this is amazing!” People were coming for our originals. We started out just doing covers, but more people wanted our original music. So we just started playing our own songs. We would mix it up a little bit, because if we were playing every week then we liked to do different stuff. Depending on who was going to be there, as we always had special guests that came up to play with us.
Can you tell us a bit about the first time you ever toured in the UK? It was when we just signed with Universal. It was eight years ago to the day. We were on the third stage at Download Festival. And we were like “Man, what is this going to be like!” It was our first time touring over here. It was a trip, getting off of our bus, and then going straight to the backstage of the third stage, and peeking out, I could see that there were people past the tent area. I couldn’t believe it. I’m an old man, so I can’t see that far, or hear that well anyway, but I heard them go “PANTHER, PANTHER”, it was awesome, and then just every year we’ve always gone up. So it’s always a humbling thing to be here.
What was the UK tour with Bowling For Soup and Buckcherry like? That was a trip as well because both Bowling For Soup and Buckcherry are so great. They supported us, which was such a big deal. We are probably on the same level, but obviously we dress bitching. It was really cool to do a tour with those guys. We will probably take a break after this festival run. We just wanted to come over here to support some of the new tracks that we’ve done.
With that tour Bowling For Soup said that you guys are actually pretty professional behind the scenes, so how true would you guys say that is? Hell no! We party as much as we possibly can, because again, we have to see each other every day. Especially on our tour bus, I get hammered. You’ve got to live with other dudes, they don’t pick shit up, they fart, burp. We get messed up, so I don’t know how professional that is. We try to be a little bit more professional when we are on stage. As we want the fans to experience us have a little bit of a party, but then usually we just find a party after.
What songs are you really enjoying playing live from 'Lower The Bar'? All of them right now, because they’re different. We’ve been playing the same songs for so long. Even though they’re great songs, it’s just been great to see the reaction to the new stuff we’ve been playing! We’ve been very excited to do more from ‘Lower The Bar’.
How would you say the writing process for 'Lower The Bar' compares to anything you guys have done before? Satchel did an amazing job. Writing about experiences from touring. We would all get together and share some input, but I’ve never had an idea that made it onto the record. There are some different songs on there as well. That are still heavy metal, but it’s still a little different to the other albums that we have.
Can you tell us about the meaning behind ‘Poontang Boomerang’? Yeah, I can’t tell you her name, but it’s basically like “The whole band have slept with her, and she still keeps coming back, and nobody wants to sleep with her any more, please leave us alone.” She knows who she is.
What was it like to work with Jay Ruston? It’s always a blast, working with Jay, because he does a great job at getting out what we want to deliver from every record. I know that a lot of people like his work, and I just like him because he is bitching! And he is super, super nice.
This weekend you will be the third from headline at Download Festival! How crazy is that? Yeah, it’s completely insane, and every time we come here it’s always humbling. Every time we come here and see fans dressed up like we are, it’s a big deal. We are always happy to be here. It’s the best festival of the whole year, and it’s because Andy has treated us so nicely every time we’ve come. I think the fans of the festival are showing support when it comes to where we are on the line-up as well. That’s how we got to be where we are. Especially here.
What do you think fans can expect from a Download festival headline slot? If there’s a long enough break, and people are demanding that, then cool! If we were to headline, we’ve always talked about that, then we would bring in wild animals and just let them run wild, there would be no poison, and we would take all of the claws out of the tigers. There’d be bitching leopards and tigers to add to the element, but they would be nice ones! We would declaw them, and take all of the venom out of the snakes. We would want to have like a jungle atmosphere! We would probably call it “welcome to the…..” That’s what people can expect if we ever do a headline.
What else can we expect to see from Steel Panther in 2017? More Steel Panther, and I want to move out of my mum’s house!
So how did you get to the album title 'Dead Reflection', and what does it mean to you? Originally I wanted to call the record ‘Don't Die Like Me’. It's a quote from footballer George Best, who I'm sure all your readers know but over here he's not very famous. Well, on his death bed he called the press in and said that to them as a warning for people. For some reason that resonated with me. I was going through a really dark point in my life, not caring about myself and being very self destructive. So I was working on the lyrics for ‘Retrograde’ and I came up with the phrase ‘Dead Reflection’ and I immediately thought it had a nice ring to it and could be interpreted a lot of ways, but also was the way I felt about myself, like a reflection in a mirror, but also the word reflect as in looking back on things after they happened. Sometimes when you look back on things and realize they weren't what they really were, it can be a pretty dark feeling.
You've said that with this record "you can find that happiness, and sometimes you have to go through hell to find it" so can you elaborate on that, and maybe some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Dead Reflection'? I think despite having such a rough and dark year, overall in my life I have been a positive person who has tried to be uplifting and move things forward. And with our music I think the message of hope is one that is a common theme on almost every record. But I think you need to talk about those hard times and struggles to get to the question of how do I move forward? How do things get better? And I think on this record with the closing song ‘Wake Up’, it's another example of that. It's literally about a wake up call for me, and I think a lot of people have those thoughts daily with whatever they're struggling with. They just need to get over that hump and hopefully this record has a hopeful message for them in the end.
Interview with Shane
How did you end up working with Derek Hoffman & Paul Marc Rousseau, and how would you say they helped shape the album? Well Derek is way more hands on than any producer I've ever worked with. He really had his hands all over this thing and he pushed me super hard. He wanted all my lyrics and melodies and everything before he tracked a note and for me that was a challenge because I'm a bit of a last minute guy sometimes. And Paul Marc was the chief songwriter on this thing, so him being around and co-producing I think really helped him realize his vision. Having the 3 of us all working on vocals together really made them stand out I think.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Dead Reflection' together for you, and why? Getting my head straight. I had to pick up the pieces in my life and put my home studio together and put in the time and headspace to write. I rented some airbnbs and it was a challenge for me at first to get anything written. But once I was able to channel that emotion and sadness I had into music, things started pouring out of me. Then I wrote some of the best riffs and lyrics I think I ever have.
With the song 'Ghost' you had ten different people mix it, so how did that happen, and what was that whole process like for Silverstein? Yeah, well our main producer/mixer for the last 4 albums Jordan Valeriote sort of retired from making records and we knew we needed some new blood so we went with Derek to record a new track and see how it went. He was awesome, but we decided to get a bunch of test mixes done just to see how different our band could sound. So we had all these mixes coming back and I made sure I didn't know who was who so I could rank them without and prejudice. So our favorite was done by this guy Anthony Kalabretta who is a Canadian guy who works on a lot of EDM. So that was unexpected but we had him mix â€˜Dead Reflectionâ€™ and he crushed it.
How would you say the sound of Silverstein has grown/changed since the release of 'I Am Alive in Everything I Touch'? We aren't as scared anymore to try some different things. We tuned different, we put some different sounds on things, we experimented with different structures, I mean lyrically I really went for it. I just looked inside myself and decided what comes out is what comes out. So I was angry and a couple F bombs came out. Haha it happens.
It's been ten years since the release of 'Arrivals & Departures', so looking back on this record now, how happy are you with it still, and what do you remember the most about putting it together? No I'd say of the 8 records we've made it's my least favorite. The recording process was kind of a pain in the ass and I hated a lot of the way we recorded it. It still sounds a bit unfinished to me, and yes there's a couple cool songs I still like and we still play, but overall if I could have one do over it would definitely be that record.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We're stoked! You know we don't come over that often at all, especially headlining, so this will be nice to play for some people who don't see us all the time. Also Paul is excited for Wagamama - he's obsessed, and I am ready to drink all the Punk IPA. Expect a rocking set that will be really long and full of a ton of different songs from all eras.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from touring in the UK over the last couple of years? Definitely all the Greg's 99p sandwiches. Also the Curry Mile in Manchester. Shoutout to M+S salads as well.
What else can we expect to see from Silverstein in 2017? Tons of touring, more music videos, and probably some other cool stuff that I don't even know about yet! Stay tuned!
Interview with Dani
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We are very excited, we’re under new management. I hate the word reboot but obviously they want to put us out there so they’ve got this huge world tour, the most comprehensive world tour that we’ve done for absolutely yonks and it starts in Loud Park in about five weeks. Then the UK tour, then the main bulk of it starts in January and goes right through to June. I toured with Devilment just before Christmas last year, it was one of those tours that you just start to get a taste for it and it’s over. I kind of forgot how accommodating British fans are. I did play with Devilment at Bloodstock recently, got to meet quite a few people then as well. But yeah, excited.
So the album is infused with Victorian Gothic Horror, what do you love most about working in that kind of world? I love the Victorian era in general because of the attraction to the macabre and the literature and look of the day, the aesthetics, the architecture. It was almost like Gothic revival. When Queen Victoria’s husband died she started wearing black, it became almost like a fashion statement. Women started wearing black. There was a general morbidity about it. In an age that was literally in the onset of scientific discovery and medical discoveries and at that point as well spiritualism and palmistry and tarot reading and seances and all of that was considered scientific as well. Even by the leading lights day, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Darwin. There’s a big attraction to it and you can see even nowadays that the literature survived because of the rebooting - there’s that word again - the universal horror characters, like Tom Cruise in The Mummy and Johnny Depp in The Invisible Man. It proves that the literature of the era definitely survived the test of time.
So would you say that is the main influence of the album? Well the literature, but then we went to Brno in the Czech Republic to collate all of our ideas. So basically people had been working in the band, we’d literally dispersed amongst the galaxies. Czech people, Czech mates we called them, Scottish bass player, two of us in England but the opposite sides of the country and the Canadian keyboard player. We collated the ideas in Brno in the Czech Republic and we came away from a very successful writing session with much of the album written. It was then that I had to kind of throw an idea umbrella over the album to try to draw it all in. I know it’s a bit of a weird season to be reading it but I’d been reading a huge amount of Victorian ghost stories by the likes of E F Benson, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Machen, Algernen Blackwood, Robert Louis Stevenson, Merle Haggard, that sort of thing, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well. The album was sounding very ornate and spectral and it just seemed like the perfect thing to do. One of the follies of being in Cradle of Filth is that every album people expect not a full concept as in az...but conceptual. Like it’s orbiting a main thing. Then the artwork has to follow on suit and everything else. We’ve kind of backed ourselves into a corner with that but it’s cool. It just adds to the bizarre theatricality of it.
With the artwork did you go in with an idea for Arturs Berzins or did he have his own take on things? We loved what he did on ‘Hammer of the Witches’ and we found that he was supposedly a better film director or a media director than he was an artist, so with that in mind we went to Riga in Latvia and we pulled all our budgets into one and did everything there. He actually took a lot of the scenarios of the video out of context and filmed them and then morphed them into the artwork. The video looks amazing, it looks really lavish and fortunately no CGI was involved. Basically with the artwork I gave him all the lyrics and some of the songs and just literally let him have free reign. We went backwards and forwards with sketches and ideas and what have you, but with the cover we just wanted to show that theatricality. Obviously he’s based it on Botticelli’s Venus she’s emerging from a coffin as opposed to a clam shell, you can see it’s theatrical because of the waves in the background, as you would get in a theatre. She’s being assailed by three graces but they look like Victorian villains, the triumph of vice over virtue. She’s being seduced and hence the seductiveness of decay. It’s a bit like mans attraction to the theme of self annihilation. It’s something I know all about because I had a heavy birthday recently.
Sounds like it was pretty good to be described that way! Yeah it was awesome and so was Bloodstock, hence why I’m on a four month alcoholic hiatus at the moment till Christmas, which I do every now and then.
What was the hardest part about putting the album together then? Well if it wasn’t difficult everybody would be doing it. It was a lot of fun. We really enjoy what we’re doing, we’ve got a great line up at present and everybody’s really into what we’re doing hence why that writing session was so prolific. We’d actually only hoped to come away with a sort of skeletal structure not 80% of the album written from that. That was because everybody had just put so much work into either whole songs or parts of songs or pieces they thought could better fit the puzzle. We then took it further through the Autumn and went through the polishing stage. Even in the studio it mutates further, the producer Scott Atkins, he’s a friend of ours, he really pushes us and he doesn’t take any bullshit, he won’t pander to anybodies egos when it comes to if a song sounds good or not. If people think it sounds good and he doesn’t he’ll literally say “It’s not sounding good.” He will let you know for sure to get your head out of your arse, when it’s not working.
How do you go about putting a setlist together at this stage in your career? You break it in to new album, last album, fan favourites, you don’t want to favour any particular era of the band so you’ve got to have a general suave of tracks from the albums. On top of that you’ve also got to try to appease the people in the band. You don’t want to keep playing the same things. The criteria is pretty dastardly. It’s a tricky one, and one that we are undertaking right now. At the moment we’ve got a setlist that literally lasts about three weeks, we’re hopefully honing that down or else the tour will go on forever. I think the answer is really to come up with two or three setlists then just have setlist one for one day and setlist two for another day etc, and keep the fan favourites. It’s one that we’re getting around at the moment.
You can’t please everyone can you? Exactly, it’s the same when writing a record. You can’t please everyone, you’re always going to get a couple of disparaging reviews and you learn not to take it to heart. If you favoured those disparaging reviews and wrote an album accordingly you’ll find that the rest of the world absolutely hates you or something.
On the track ‘Vengeful Spirit’ you worked with Liv Kristine. How did that come about? It was one of those last minute mutations. Scott and I were talking about it, the rest of the album we loved but we thought that song hadn’t reached its full potential. We thought about it a lot and what we could do to it. Eventually we came round to the idea of contacting Liv and we managed to get her just before she disappeared on holiday, she actually postponed it for a couple of days so she could get into the studio and come up with some ideas. We were backwards and forwards, we changed the song a little bit to incorporate her and then it just clicked and we thought “That’s perfect.” She plays a very different character to the one that she was on ‘Nymphetamine’. Rather than playing the innocent she was like a woman betrayed, her character commits suicide and returns from purgatory as this vengeful ghoul creature who torments the person who wronged her in life, which in the context of the song is me. She’s the protagonist, I’m the victim, and we sort of feature as the cruel duet throughout the song.
It’s great to do that as it allows fans to have an inward look at the creative style. It’s cool the way it’s ended up as a fan favourite as well and the fact that we’ve revisited the collaboration just enforces people’s opinion. It feels like we’re keeping it in the family a little bit. It’s a nice nod to the past as well, although it’s very different. People expecting ‘Nymphetamine’ may be disappointed. Well, I don’t think they’ll be disappointed because this is catchy and it’s got her voice on it and it’s this whole “Beauty and the Beast” vibe. Something else that’s quite unique to this album is the special edition, which I urge people to buy because obviously we love each and every one of our children and that’s how we consider our songs. When we write an album we don’t write for a special edition that gets divided later into what’s the extra tracks and what’s the bulk of the album. Basically what I’m saying is they sound as good, the quality, the music is as good on the extra two tracks. Sometimes people go, “Wow why didn’t you put that in the main bulk of the album, that’s even better than the rest of the release.” That’s just a matter of opinion. It’s also how songs sit together as well. We undertook a cover of Annhilator’s ‘Alison Hell’ which we’d been wanting to do forever, it just felt like the right time. We’d just bumped into Jeff Waters who wrote the song on several occasions recently and told him about it and he gave us the green light for it, and since then he’s heard it and put it on his website saying that it’s the best Annihilator cover he’s ever heard anybody do. We played it very close to the original, we didn’t bastardise it or Cradle-ise it too much. Normally we’d do something that wasn’t really metal and make it into a metal song, this song was fine as it was so we played it close to the original. That’s something also new to the album, as is the inclusion of acoustic guitar and some really, really great guitar solos, a bit of choir on there that’s emphasis on lead soprano, it’s very ghostly and fitting for that Victorian Gothic Horror vibe. There are other things that we did bring to the table for this record that were planned, but anything else that people say is reminiscent, well it would be because it’s the same band.
Does it still feel surreal thinking that people still want to see you play and hear your music? Is there any time where it almost becomes the norm or taken for granted? It’s always surprising, we haven’t been to Japan for quite a while and we’re going over there to play Loud Park Festival in about five weeks, then we’re going back as part of the world tour. That’s going to be great fun. Then we’re going to Asia and Australia and possibly Tel Aviv which is somewhere new for us, as well as eight weeks in Europe. It’s probably the most comprehensive tour that we’ve ever done of Europe. That ends in Russia actually, that tour. Then we have a week off and then we go straight to South America, the States, and Canada. Then over to Japan, Asia and Australia, so yeah. We’re getting offers for things and they’re always good. Playing strange places like India, we’ve been meaning to play Turkey for quite a while but every time we go there or are supposed to be going there there’s always some kind of riot or conflict going on that involves the government shutting down anything to do with heavy metal.
Is there anything else you would like to add? The new album is out right now, buy the special edition as it’s got three extra tracks, an extra 15 minutes worth of music, extended artwork that looks amazing. We update everything on our Cradle of Filth and Dani Filth Facebook pages, once, twice or three times a day. News on touring and the album and whatever else goes on there!
You talked about your anxiety and how that can affect people in different ways, with all that going on in your personal life did it still feel like you had the expectation to be the frontman, bouncing all over the stage and stuff? Yeah absolutely. My mind was a bit of a war zone in terms of it was like an angel and a devil on my shoulders and they were going at it constantly. It was a weird time. I can remember especially in the first month I had so little energy. If you watch YouTube footage of those festivals I wasn’t static but I wasn’t going as hell for leather as I would do normally. I remember the saving grace was just concentrating on my vocals, and just saying “Okay so what I’m going to do and how I’m going to enjoy this, is just try and give my best vocal performance ever and try to keep concentrating on that.” Basically, I’d be like blacking out, not like passing out on stage but just kind of going with the motions. So every time I’d get too energetic then that would happen. I felt like I didn’t have the functioning to give it my all in that respect. To be honest I learnt quite a lot in terms of vocal performance in those few months as well. It was quite interesting. It would have been better if I could have enjoyed it more I think.
This year you released ‘Dear Future Historians’ which was awesome for the fans to get a grip on their favourite songs. Was that like a way of escapism? Like creativity but with no time frame to it? Writing is a very solitary thing so it is kind of escapism, you just go into your own world and get into that flow state, you write and rewrite lines over and over again. I actually find it quite interesting, especially going back to the earlier material. I completely forgot what all the songs were about, I forgot the mindset I was in at the time and what was influencing me so it was almost like a bit of detective work going back and trying to find the clues on various lyric sheets, diaries, notepads and going back through photos. I found it a really interesting time as it’s something we’ve never really done, looked back as a band. We’re so fervently looking forward all the time, we’re all about progressive music, progressive stands, so it was the first time I took a breath and turned back and looked at what we’ve achieved. The same with when we did the ‘Take To The Skies’ ten year anniversary, it was nice to realise the path that we had created and I think that emboldened me a little going into writing the new album.
Speaking of which, you guys did the ‘Take To The Skies’ anniversary tour, was that a decision that you came to as a band, Interview with Rou or was it an onslaught of fans saying you had to do it? Even when it was approaching, when we were like eight years in I can remember being like “Are we going to have to do a ten year thing?” and so it was in our minds. We actually weren’t going to do it for a while, and then I’m not even sure what triggered it, we just had a change of heart. With ‘Dear Future Historians’, I enjoyed doing that so much, indulging in nostalgia for once, allowing myself to do that. One of the big things for me is that we never played ‘Today Won’t Go Down In History’, which is one of our tracks from ‘Take To The Skies’. I don’t know why we never played it because it’s one of my favourite songs on the album. It’s one of the songs that wouldn’t feel too out of place on any album that we’ve released, it’s aged quite well, so I really wanted to play that live. We said we’d never play ‘Adieu’ live again, we said we’d never play ‘Jonny Sniper’ live again. We said “Okay let’s indulge ourselves, let’s practice them, let’s see what they sound like, and see how they feel in the practice room.” We just found ourselves smiling, and we just thought, “You know what, lets do it!” Let’s allow ourselves a few months to celebrate how far we’ve come and what this album enabled us to do. Because without that album, we wouldn’t have been able to do this for ten years.
Do you think revisiting ‘Take To The Skies’ influenced ‘The Spark’ in any way? It must have, as biological machines we’re just sponges. We’re just going around absorbing up everything we see in terms of what inspires us. Obviously we can choose what type of thing we’re going to create and therefore we can concentrate on specific inspirations. A lot of the time subconsciously we’re being inspired by what we’re around, by our environment. It must have rubbed off in some way. The realisation that we’d been releasing music for ten years when that was absolutely nothing we’d set out to do, I always say this was just a hobby that got out of hand. The fact that we are now still going, and not just still going, but still going from strength to strength as well. Somehow still building up a bigger audience and in our opinion writing better music. We wouldn’t have gone in with that emboldened view, like “We must be doing something right so let’s go on, let’s push ourselves further, let’s try and do something that’s even bigger.” That definitely must have been on our minds.
On ‘The Spark’, there are a few songs that are obviously very personal to you, like ‘The Sights’, ‘Airfield’ and 'An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces’, how do you prepare playing those songs live for the first time? You know, I’m not really sure. It’s a really interesting question, I haven’t thought about it a great deal. ‘Live Outside’ is the only track we’ve played a lot. We’ve played ‘Take My Country Back’ once as well. The one thing with this album, ‘Live Outside’ is a perfect example, and ‘The Sights’ to a certain extent - the lyrics approach a lot of very dark, sobering and sombre themes but we do that to a backdrop of upbeat melodic music. That’s a classic thing, it started off in post punk with bands like Depeche Mode and Human League. That’s something that I enjoyed doing. I remember thinking at the time of writing these songs “You know what, maybe in a year’s time when this album is done and we start to tour, maybe I will be in a better position in my life and I can play these songs and I can do them with a smile on my face and enjoy the upbeat nature of them.” I didn’t want to make a very slow and sombre sound. Weirdly a lot of the music that I was writing naturally was coming out super positive. Even though, as I say, a lot of the lyrics are quite serious and sober, the music seems to have this element of hope in it that I couldn’t really batten down and get rid of. More than anything I’m just looking forward to playing them. I’m sure ‘An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces’ will be a struggle, I can’t really even listen to that without sort of...I wrote the string quartet part straight after going to my Nan’s funeral so it’s a very, very intense chord sequence for me. That’ll be interesting, but one big thing about this album is not being afraid to show complete and utter openness and human vunerablility, and not shying away from just being honest basically. That’s something we want to do live as well.
Is ‘Take My Country Back’ based on the people who voted in Brexit saying they want to leave because they want to go back to how things were, where as we should be trying to move forward? Yeah absolutely, that is certainly one of the multitude of examples that inspired us. I try not to write about just specific events or specific people, I try and always take a step back and look at the bigger perspective. There seems to be a general theme throughout Europe and America with Trump, this rise of nationalism again, which ten years ago if you said nationalism was going to become a big danger in terms of disrupting social cohesion, people wouldn’t believe you. People felt like it was dead, it was petty patriotism, and now it’s become very ugly again and very divisive and people are very passionately spouting these views that they’ve heard in their echo chambers which is another thing that ‘Take My Country Back’ is very much about - how people’s views are strengthened by their little in-group and they are never challenged because all they see with social media is “You read this, so you’ll like this” or “You bought this so you’ll like this.” We’re creating these small communities that are at war with each other philosophically and it’s creating quite a nasty atmosphere. Brexit was a huge inspiration for that song. What I can’t understand with that mentality as it’s usually quite masculine this far right view, was that we were just upping and leaving. There was no desire to actually fix the problems that were wrong with the EU. I’m quite a realist, but the fact that we’re just going to go and destroy however many years of peace that the EU has created, I thought was very cowardly.
You said you were finding it quite difficult to turn the influences for ‘The Spark’ into art, so how did you do it? A lot of the time I feel like my mind is just constantly offering melodies and rhythm whether I like it or not and I’m just there with a bucket to catch the good bits. The lyrics were very difficult, it wasn’t until worryingly nervewrackingly far along in the process that I sort of felt that there was a path now. It was the fact that I’d got over my six months of intensified anxiety and insomnia and as well at the same time we were seeing on a large scale the death of apathy in the youth, political apathy with the rise of the momentum behind Jeremy Corbyn. There started to be little glimmers in my personal life and there’s a lot of amazing movements out there and amazing ideas. There was a few documentaries I saw, there was a book that came out by Rutger Bregman which, if we’re talking politics, is an incredibly inspiring book. There was just a couple of things that happened within a few months and it was like “Okay, I needed that glimmer.” I didn’t want to write a gloomy slow negative album. We’ve always written about a whole vast range of emotions. The music I was writing, a lot of it was coming out positive, it was this whole subconscious thing trying to will myself out of the rut that I was in.
You’ve said that you were influenced by David Bowie when it came to the singing? A lof of the time I’ve felt like I was the one who fell into being the frontman. I’m quite a reserved person in real life, I don’t really crave attention or anything like that. The frontman thing was more because I loved writing songs and if you’re a songwriter you usually end up singing them yourself. It’s only the last few years that I started to feel like an actual singer and I started to feel confident. There are a lot of things that inspired that change of mindset and the Bowieoke that I did which was the David Bowie karaoke night that I put on to celebrate his life. Then I had the software for another week so I was just doing David Bowie karaoke by myself, learning a lot about my voice because he’s got an incredible range. My usual karaoke go to is Sinatra, I was developing a confidence in my lower pitching, baritone. Coming up through the post hardcore scene you take it as written that if you’re looking for emotion and intensity and passion then you sing at the top of your register, so you sing as high as you can and as loud as you can and there seems to be little debate on that. I’ve fallen for that for too long and I suddenly found myself having confidence and being amazed at the amount of passion and emotion you can put into lower or folsetto vocals. I just wanted to not only sing music but write music that could make people think again about who we are. Some of our biggest influences are in that lineage of British bands and artists, starting with The Beatles and going through punk and then post punk like Joy Division, New Order, Depeche Mode and things like that. Then going through to Brit Pop, Stone Roses and Blur, and just wanting to write music that would muscle its way into that lineage and be like “Look we can write music that’s as good as any of this.” I don’t know whether we’ve achieved that but certainly that’s what I wanted to try and do instead of feeling slightly pigeonholed as being an alternative band or a “noisy shouty band.” We will always have the most electric and intense live shows and have heavy music as one of our biggest sounds and vibes but I think there’s a lot more to us and there always has been. With this album it’s just been allowed to come out slightly more.
With such a dynamic sound has there ever been a point where you or one of the others have come up with an idea and presented it and it’s not really gone down well? Absolutely. I think I have an alright filter. The guys are great for being honest, and you would be I suppose if you’re still together after fourteen years being in a band now. I’m quite lucky, so when I write a piece of music and take it to them I’m feeding off their enthusiasm and if it’s not there then I know something is not right and it’s not good enough to be considered for a Shikari song.
The artwork for ‘The Spark’ is quite minimalistic compared to what’s been done previously, is that a conscious decision, and where is the trademark Shikari triangle circle? It’s on the radar! And on the inside cover too, that’s still our logo or whatever. I’ve been very interested in all sorts of realms of modern art from minimalism to kind of more brutalist structures and retro futurism and all this kind of stuff. We came together and we wanted to have like this actual physical structure instead of just a photograph or a drawing or a piece of art. We wanted to make something for this album because it feels like the music from this album has guided me to some extent, it’s been a bit of a radar through this difficult period and we wanted to kind of replicate that and make that into art so we’re actually having that thing, we call it “The Machine”, it’s like mysteriously ominous. That’s being made at the moment so that will be the keyboard that I’ll be playing live in November. I can’t wait, we’ve just seen the first bits of it being made. It’s being 3D printed as well which is super exciting, I can’t wait to have it finished.
You’ve said that ‘The Spark’ is like a whole new beginning, so do you feel like it’s a new beginning for Enter Shikari or a new beginning in the idea of ‘The Spark’? I feel like this is a new era for Shikari, this isn’t just another album, it feels like Shikari mark two. I’ve never had that feeling before. It feels very fresh, it feels like a real departure from everything we’ve done. I suppose I should make it clear that that’s not to say that we’re disowning anything we’ve put out before. The live show will always have tracks from every era of our band but yeah, in a weird way it feels like we’re on the cusp of something bigger and everything we’ve done up until now has been preparation for this album and this era of the band. I know that probably sounds ridiculous.
With that being said what do you hope this album leads to in your career? Generally I don’t really put any big grandiose hopes on things or desires. I’m very happy and very content making music, whatever that music is. That’s what I live for. It’d be nice to reconsider what we are as a band as I think there are a lot of people who have perhaps heard one track here or there and have dismissed us. Which is absolutely fine, I’ve done that with bands before. I’m hoping this will reposition us slightly because to be honest I do think we put on some of the best live performances out there and especially now we’re doing arenas again. The shows are stepping up. We want to prove ourselves, not only in the live arena but prove that this song writing is up there with the best of them and hopefully we can have people give us another chance I suppose if they’ve written us off or it’ll get us out to more people. I’m all about human connection and growing up as a shy kid music was the one way that I was able to connect with people. The more people I can connect with and the more people that can get something from this music the better.
What else can we expect to see from Enter Shikari as we head towards 2018? 2018...blimey. Just going hell for leather on the tour really. We’ll be going to America, we’ll be going to Australia, I think Japan as well. It’s just going to go mad and we’re just going to be thrown around the globe and prodded and told to perform. We’ll be doing lots of European festivals as well, I’m not sure what we’re going to do in the UK yet. We did Slam Dunk obviously this year, hopefully we’ll come back and do some big UK festivals as well next year.
Interview with Murr
So, when did you first get into the comedy world? I think when I was born, my parents took a look at me and knew that I would be a comedian! The guys and I actually got into it together, probably back in 1990. We went to high school together, where they had a comedy/improv group. We started doing comedy together in freshmen year of high school. We did it together all throughout high school and college. When we all graduated college, we created the comedy group called The Tenderloins, and we did live comedy together for many, many years while trying to get on TV, we eventually created Impractical Jokers, and here we are! I knew I always wanted to do it, itâ€™s been a long time coming.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you wanted to do it as a career? There are a couple of big moments that I remember. I remember my father always being the life of the party, looking up to him, admiring him over BBQs and things like that. I remember some of the school plays in high school. Just really getting a rush when people would laugh at something funny Iâ€™d do on stage. Then I remember when the guys and I went on stage in 2000, the first live show, and how much of a rush that was. Those are the moments that stick out that made me want to do this, making people laugh with me, or at me.
Leading on from that, can you tell us a bit how the show Impractical Jokers came together? This is our third TV show. We tried creating TV shows for a long time. We sold two other shows before this, we did a pilot for a network in America called Spike TV like a comedy sketch show. We shot a pilot on our own, tried to sell it to networks. My job outside of Jokers, I’m a senior vice president for a TV company called NorthSouth Productions, my job is to literally create and sell TV shows. For the best part of thirteen years now I’ve been working there. That was like a crash course in how TV was made. In 2010 the guys and I talked about what was selling on TV and I said “There’s a lot of networks looking for hidden camera shows again, what’s our version of a hidden camera show?” That’s when the guys and I created Jokers. The twist being that it’s an upside down prank show. Instead of any other prank show that you’ve ever seen where comedians are pranking the public, we’re best friends pranking each other. The public is just there to witness our embarrassment. That hook, twist, and the real friendship that we have was enough to sell the idea to the network. That’s it. We’re on season 10 in the UK, and in America we’re filming series 7. We’ll pass 200 episodes this year, which is pretty exciting.
Was it hard at all, adjusting from sketch comedy to Impractical Jokers? It was, and it wasn’t. It was exactly what we needed to do. We tried for many years to find the right format, to show the world what we do, and what our skill set is. We’re an improv group. We did a lot of improv shows. Then we switched to sketch comedy, we got pretty well known on the internet for our sketch comedy, and that lead to us getting our first TV pilot. But ultimately we came back to improv because that’s the best vehicle to show our chemistry, our friendship, because we just naturally screw with each other. That’s what we’ve always done since the freshmen year of high school. It took us a while to find the right format to show the world our brand of humour. But now we finally cracked the code.
Also, was there a particular moment when you realized that the show was becoming a global success, if so, what was that like for you? In terms of global success, we came to the UK. We did two small little shows, one in Manchester, one in London, about two years ago, before the January shows. About 1000 people something like that. They sold out immediately on pre-sale. We were like “Wo! OKAY that’s pretty interesting.” Joe and I, since it was our first tour, and there was a lot of people that couldn’t make it to the show as it was only 2000 people total in the country that would see us for the first time, we thought “Let’s go to The World’s End pub in Camden.” We’ll tell fans that we’ll be there after the show if they want to come and meet Joe and I. We got to the pub, and literally 1000 people turned up, we had to shut the place down. They had to have security drag us out of the place, we skidded off, because it was just crazy. I was saying to Joe like “The show is popular, I didn’t realize how popular it got here!” That’s when shortly after we booked the 02. We put the 02 on sale, and all of the tour that we did in January, it sold out in the first day! I couldn’t believe it. We did a show ten years ago in New York City, and only two people came to see us perform. To sell out the 02 in a day, we were like “Okay, let’s do a second night!” that night sold out faster, then we added a third and fourth night, and in a couple of weeks it will be our fifth night sold out at the 02. It’s mind blowing to us, and humbling, exciting. It’s back to what we love. Obviously we are a live performance group. It’s unbelievable.
So, I feel like one of the worst punishments was when they shaved your eyebrows off! However for you, what's been the worst punishment, and why? That’s right up there! It took two months for my eyebrows to grow back. You know what it’s like living as a human with no eyebrows? Everything else seems normal on you, but you have no eyebrows for no reason. It’s mortifying. Two weeks after that punishment I had to go to church, for my newphews confirmation. There was like 500 people there, and everyone reconized me, wondering why I had no eyebrows. It was so uncomfortable. The weird part was, about like four weeks into the no eyebrows, they had just started to come back. People didn’t know whether they were coming or going, were my eyebrows on the way in, or the way out! That was the weirdest part you know. It just seemed off. I got two prostate exams in front of a live audience. I never expected that. Posing nude in front of my childhood crush Danica McKellar who plays Winnie Cooper in the show The Wonder Years. That was embarrassing. Posing nude in front of the art class was embarrassing. A lot of these have to do with nudity don’t they!
I saw an episode where you had to remove cigarettes from people smoking, how awkward was that for you, and what do you remember the most about that prank? It’s never our intention to make people angry. In my mind, I was like “How do I do this in a way that won’t get me punched in the face!” Thank god that British guy was there, he came to speak to me, and he was so very kind. He was like “What are you doing?” With a cigarette in his mouth. I was truly afraid that I would get punched in the face.
When you interviewed your childhood crush Danica McKellar pretty much naked. How horrible was that for you, and how do you go about being as normal as you possibly can be in those insane situations? There’s no way, everything is heightened. They totally tricked me. I thought I was walking into a body building competition. Which would have been an awful punishment, because I have the body of a pencil! They piped in the sounds of a fake competition going on. So in the room I was waiting in, there were body builders, vendors selling stuff, like herbal supplements. These real legit vendor setups. There was no reason why I would of thought that it was fake. So I go to walk in the room, and to walk into a silent room with my childhood sweetheart. The girl that everybody in America loved in the 80s. First of all I didn’t even know that they knew her, much less got her into a room, and that she knew the show. She wasn’t wearing an ear piece, she just improvised those answers, and she just tore me apart, which is hysterical. Not my finest of moments. I will say that her and I are now good friends, the joke is on America and the UK. One day, if her husband screws up, I’m taking her out on a date.
What's been the scariest prank or punishment you've had to do, and why? The skydiving looked pretty intense! I didn’t go skydiving, I went crydiving. When you do it the way I do it, it’s called crydiving! I didn’t just go skydiving, I got thrown out of an airplane. I did not willingly choose to jump. Also, you’ll see here in the UK in just a few weeks, that they forced me to swim with sharks. Which is my number two fear. The only thing worse than skydiving, or swimming with sharks, would be that while I was skydiving there was a shark next to me skydiving, I would of shit myself.
Like Sharknado!? Like Sharknado! Thank God that’s not real. If they ever figure out how to make that real, I am quitting the show.
Can you tell us a bit about the process of coming up with a prank? How long does that take, and how does it end up becoming a part of the show? That’s what we’ve been doing the past few weeks. We are about to start shooting season seven in New York. There’s no end to the ideas. We have 28 years of history. We made a promise in season one that if we felt like we weren’t having fun anymore or coming up with new ideas. Or if we weren’t pushing the format in new directions, we would stop doing the show. I’ve got to tell you that some of the new stuff we are coming up with. The season airing in the UK now, I think it’s the best season we’ve ever had, the punishments have grown and become something amazing and spectacular. We are pushing the show in new directions. The last season was when something bad was happening in our real lives, but the guy didn’t realize it wasn’t real, and all part of the TV show. In this season, for the first time ever, something amazing will be happening in one of our lives, and the guy has no idea. I can’t tell you anymore details than that. That’s crazy shit. Like, to think that something amazing happening in your life is not real, and you don’t know it for months. There’s things like that. What we do, is we lock ourselves in rooms. When one of the guys leaves the room, the other guys will come up with an idea, when he comes back in from the men’s room, you hear them all whisper “Shh shh!”, and you’re like “Damn, I shouldn’t of gone to the bathroom!” That’s how the show works, there’s a lot of secret planning, You just get ideas from what’s going on in our lives, and what we’ve done in the past. We have a team of writers that we’ve known for many years, like our high school friends that know us really well. They pitch ideas too, we throw them around, and turn them into something bigger. That’s how the show works.
When the show first came out, how much creative control did you have when it came to what pranks you could do, and would you say you've had more freedom with the shows success? We are in complete control of the show. It’s unlike any other show. My job outside of the show is that I run development for a TV company, and I’ve never seen a show like this before. Where the cast of the show have complete creative control over it. Which I think is why the show stays as cutting edge as it is. With season one it’s always difficult. You’re trying to prove yourself to a network. So season 1 and 2 were tough. We had to continually prove ourself. When the ratings started coming in strong, and growing, the network to their credit gave us pretty much unprecedented creative freedom. Which is really amazing, and unheard of in television. It’s as much a testament in America to TruTV is the network it airs on. They’ve been great partners and now trust us comically to deliver. It’s been the most satisfying part of the job. That we can create whatever TV show that we want.
What can readers expect from the UK tour? It’s the Where’s Larry tour. It’s totally different to the show that we did in January. It’s the four of us on stage with a giant screen behind us. We shot hidden camera challenges just for the live show. There’s an interactive element to it. It’s like a stand up comedy show. There’s a part of the show that involves a member of the audiences cell phone, that will bring the house down. You’re going to die when you see it, it’s so funny. It’s basically a friendship on display. It’s everything you love about the TV show live on stage. The one thing that I wanted to mention. We’re all 41 year old New Yorkers, so when everything happened in Manchester a few months back. Our hearts broke with you, we support you guys, we stand with you through all of the craziness that happened in the UK, in London as well, particularly over the last couple of months. We’ve been through that, and we know what it feels like. As a result, we are kicking the tour off in Manchester again. The second time this year performing at the Manchester Arena. 100% of the proceeds that night go to the We Love Manchester Fund. It’s a great organization that raises money for these families of the victims of the terrorist attack. That’s how we kick off the whole tour, and then we come to Cardiff. We play all over the place, and we’re excited to be back.
What was your first major project, and what was that like for you at the time? My first major project was actually designing the box art for the Avengers Phase One box set. Up until that point it had been more of a hobby for me, but the awesome folks at Marvel saw some of my alternative takes on their movies and hired me to do the same for the box set. I quite clearly remember emailing them back after they first contacted me asking if it was a joke. That job led to everything I have done since and was a huge deal at the time for me, and still is.
What artists influenced you the most growing up, and why? The obvious ones are the old movie posters guys, so Kastel, Struzan Peak, Alvin. I was also influenced by comics a fair amount and like any 90s teenager with good taste I was into Image comics and Spawn. Greg Capullo is an artist, I have always admired.
How did you end up working with Marvel Studios designing the artwork for the Avengers Blu Ray collection, and what was that whole process like? They saw my fan stuff online and hired me because they liked my take I guess. The process of working with Marvel for me has always been amazing. They give me complete freedom to come up with whatever wild concepts I like and then we work together to refine the ideas into final art. It can be quite a fast process a lot of the time.
Is there a particular process you have for your work? If so, can you talk us through it, and maybe how long it takes to do just one piece? I start by thinking up ideas of what I want to do with the poster or art. I usually pick one single image or try to boil down what I think the particular subject is about. Then I will draw a bunch of thumbnail drawings to see if anything will work on paper. If it does then I will take the art straight to digital and go to final. When doing client work they often will have feedback and want certain little things changing about a poster and using digital just makes it much easier to edit and change layouts etc. Each piece takes a different amount of time to do depending on the complexity of the image and also feedback from the client, so anywhere from an afternoon up to a month.
We have to talk about the Guardians of the Galaxy/Star Wars print you did. How did the idea for that come together, and how did you put them in a different world? The idea was really a simple one, I think I read somewhere that Guardians was on track to be this generations Star Wars. Then the trailer made it very clear that it was a space opera film but also one that was tongue in cheek, it then hit me that I should do a fun mashup. It just seemed like a good idea so I did it. In terms of putting the characters into the Star Wars setting it was simply a matter of laying the poster out in the same composition as the original Star Wars one sheet by Tom Jung. I also remember spending quite a lot of time getting the type correct to really give it the same vibe.
What did you enjoy the most about working on the Alien/s prints for Bottleneck Gallery, and how did you go about doing this iconic world in your own style? For me that was a long held idea I had of doing the two prints/films interconnected because it's the same planet, so I just really enjoyed making the two prints connect as I felt it was a fresh idea for those two films. Using the tall and thin ratio is something I have done a lot in my work and I think that helps to identify the posters as mine, plus it also really helps add scale to a poster when you have tiny figures and then a huge landscape. It makes you feel the scope of the films a little bit more.
Which Rogue One print was the most exciting for you to work on, and why? That would be the minimalist Death Star/Rebel Logo poster. It was a fun concept and also I knew it would stand out from the crowd because it's a simple clean design. It also told you the story of the film in one image which is something I always try to do.
How long did the Total Recall print take to put together, and how fun was that? Total Recall was a couple of months. Again I enjoyed trying to tell the story of the film in one image, the machinery around the mountain is supposed to remind you of the Rekall device that Quaid uses in the film, which is one of the themes of it I guess - is it a dream or is it real life?
Can you tell us a bit about how the Doctor Strange print came together, and what it was like to work with this mysterious character? I've done several, however the cityscape one was a direct response to the trailer. At the time I was throwing a lot of Dutch angles into my posters as it instantly makes a comp seem more exciting, so I did that. In terms of working on it I went more with my gut, as I hadn't seen the film, so I tried to just make it seem exciting.
What's been the most rewarding print for you to work on, and why? I always think about the Block War Judge Dredd poster I did for Vice Press as one I really enjoyed working on. But probably the Stranger Things print was the most rewarding because we managed to raise over 20k for charity and buy a lot of bikes for kids.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2017? I'll be debuting new and exclusive prints at NYCC. After that... I will be taking a break hopefully.
When did you first realize that acting was what you wanted to do with your life? First of all, I am a background actor in a lot of these block buster movies mentioned in the questions below, commonly known as a film extra or supporting artist. I am often booked for my look, as a featured face on these films. I have worked as an actor in other projects. I can’t honestly say that I wanted to be an actor per se, but I have always wanted to be involved work wise in something creative whether it be art, music or film.
What actors influenced you the most growing up? I would have to say David Yip. David Yip is a British born Chinese actor that is known for his acting roles in Brookside, The Chinese Detective and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Like myself David was born in Liverpool. There were very few role models that I could identify with while growing up in 1970s/80s Liverpool, so it was refreshing to see a British born Chinese male actor take the lead in a TV series such as the Chinese Detective. I worked with David last year on the Sky TV show Fortitude. I played one of the locals in the artic Norwegian bar, so it was a lovely moment to work with someone that I respected and admired. Today sadly with the exception of Benedict Wong (who was born in Manchester), there are still very few British born Chinese male actors given that kind of opportunity in the TV/film industry today or east Asian representation for that matter.
What was your first major project as an actor, and what was that whole experience like for you? I was cast in the role of Tong, a snivelling conniving cheat who was secretary to the main protagonist and hero Dr.Ho who was Chinese Consul in 1938 Vienna in the movie Exodus To Shanghai which was shot in Romania. It was my first speaking role and I have to say that I was a little out of my depth, so was under a great deal of pressure from start to finish. I learned a lot on that job, working with the director and camera to really convey the narrative and to really pull something out of my life to give a good performance. It was a fabulous experience in retrospect.
What was it like to be a prisoner in Guardians of Galaxy, and what did you enjoy the most about working in that epic set? Guardians of the Galaxy was a hard shoot physically. Shot in August 2013 in a 360 degree set made of 350,000 pounds of steel I believe. It was very very hot in there and we did a ton of running as most of the scenes were about the Guardian’s escape. In the scene where Drax throws Rocket a gun, we spent days running around the Kyn on different levels avoiding FX Bullets that spark when they hit walls.
What was it like to be in Spectre, and what do you remember the most from this experience? The thing I remember most about working on Spectre was how lucky I was. That in our scene at the secret meeting in Rome (shot at Pinewood Studios), there were hundreds of extras, and quite a few of them were hidden in shadowy doorways down on the ground floor, and I ended up on the top floor, central balcony with one of the best seats in the house for the next 5 days. And “best seats” is a figure of speech because everyone was standing, literally in the same place for 5 days. The glamour of working on James Bond.
What did you enjoy the most about being a resistance fighter in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and how does this experience compare to anything you've done before? Truthfully, you get to be a big kid for a moment, to geek out for 5 minutes and then you put your professional hat on and go to work. It’s the biggest movie franchise in the World, so maybe you can see that in the budget or the size of the sets. I always try to give 100% to my work no matter what the project is, so any comparison would only be about the work.
You've been in a stack of Doctor Who episodes, so which character or story have you enjoyed doing the most, and why? I have worked on ten episodes of Doctor Who so far, but definitely without a doubt working as a Creature Performer in Peter Capaldi’s first episode Deep Breath playing a Clockwork Droid and more recently in Series 10, Oxygen where I got to play a Zombie (corpse) in a space suit. Playing a Doctor Who monster means that you’re generally more involved in the thick of the action, its very gratifying. Oxygen was a terrific story also, selling oxygen as a commodity where life is expendable is a little too close to the truth.
You got to be a Kamar-Taj disciple in Doctor Strange, so how was that, and what did you enjoy the most about being part of such an awesome film? Originally I attended training for the big kata scene in the Kamar-Taj temple where Doctor Strange is practicing martial arts and his sling ring technique, sadly I was ill the days of that shoot. I got a call back though, for the scene I did at the Hong Kong Sanctum which I was really happy about, purely because the costume that I had made for me was amazing and also the hair and make up department had put in some really intricate work on my hair. I think just for them and for the sheer amount of hard work that they put in, I was happy that the scene made the cut.
What future film would you really love to be a part of right now, and why? I would love a small role on Star Trek, just because it’s probably the only major franchise that I haven’t had any involvement in (Laughs) or something on the Syfy Channel. I love the Expanse, Dark Matter and KillJoys. But really any small acting roles in something like that would be great whether it was a big production or a small independently funded film, as long as the character is engaging and that I see myself developing in the process.
What's the hardest part about being an actor? Getting (paid) work for sure. Taking the knock backs in casting, maintaining self belief. There are plenty of doubters out there ready to take you down a peg, so developing a thick skin is essential, but at the same time humility is your best friend.
Alternatively, what's the most rewarding part about being an actor? Watching, learning and hopefully developing.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2017? I don’t know if it will be released in the UK, but I worked on a movie early this year called Three Dots and a Dash. I think it’s intended for the Indian release market, but I play a villain in that. Other than that, I did work on Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One which is out next year and the set I worked on was unbelievable. I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised by it and it’s going to be a massive film.
You can find Clem So on IMDb, Twitter: @Clem_So and Instagram: clem.so !
So when did you realize that a comic book artist was what you wanted to do with your life? I was always interested in art and comics from an early age but thought being a comic book artist was like being an astronaut, It was something other people do and not a person in the suburbs of London. At school I focused on studying graphic design before working in advertising. During all that time I was still reading comics and I remember reading Zenith in 2000AD and thinking I'd like to try and draw a comic, so in my spare time I started to draw them and things led on from there.
What artists influenced you the most growing up, and why? Different artists at different times in my life really. From the start it would of been John Byrne and George Perez in American comics and in 2000AD it would of been Brian Bolland, Garry Leach, Steve Dillon and later Steve Yeowell in Zenith. During my art college years Dave McKean, Bill Sienkiewicz and Mike Mignola. I also liked artists from outside comics, I think it's important to have outside sources and be aware of all art. One thing I would say is as I've got older my tastes have also changed, I now have a total appreciation for Jack Kirby and Mick McMahon, something I didn't get growing up.
What was your first major project, and what was that like for you at the time? The first thing I had drawn was called Something Inside written by Paul Carstairs. It was something like 40 pages long and we didn't have a publisher. After sending it around to different publishers, Caliber Comics printed it in America. This felt special seeing something you worked on printed. Later Caliber asked me to draw a number of their strips and I pretty much learnt while drawing and being published. The work I did at Caliber allowed me to get published by other comic companies and a snowball effect happened. I went from Caliber to Image to 2000AD, Marvel and now Dark Horse. Each one is a milestone.
How did you end up joining 2000 AD, and can you tell us a bit about what they've been like to work with? 2000AD are great to work for. When they saw my work for Image they said I was ready. I had previously sent in samples but had them rejected. The important thing is to listen, learn and try again. I pretty much grew up reading 2000AD, so this was a big thing. So when the editor at the time rang to say my first job for them would be a John Wagner Judge Dredd I was very excited. I think after I put the phone down I had so much excited energy in me I just ran around the park to get rid of it.
What do you enjoy the most about working on the iconic Judge Dredd, and how do you go about bringing your own approach to him? One of the things which dawns on you when you're drawing Dredd is the history of the character and the artists who have worked on him in the past. Dredd himself is great but so is the city (Megacity 1) and the characters who live in it. At some point I'd like to draw some more Dredd, I feel we have some unsettled business.
We must ask, did you enjoy the Dredd film, and how would you like to see the future of this character play out on the big screen or TV? I love the new Dredd film, It seemed right to me. When someone was shot and hit you could feel it. It felt like a good introduction to that world. I would love to do a Dredd TV show. I think it could really suit the Dredd world, spending a bit more time getting to know the city, how it works, develop the characters. It would be good to do this with seasons of a show rather than 2-3 hours of a movie. I think that format would suit it.
How did you end up working with Marvel, and how do they compare to anyone else you've ever worked for? I'd been working with Rob Williams on Breathing Space for 2000AD which is set in the Dredd world but on the moon. We sent samples off to Axel at Marvel and he offered us a Wolverine issue which blew my mind at the time. Axel is a great editor, really looks after you and gives you the help you need. After working on Wolverine I did a number of issues of Punisher Max, it was at that point I had started inking myself and started to feel things were clicking into place.
What was it like to to work on Wolverine, and how would you say he compares to any other character you've worked on? I've been lucky with the characters I've drawn, most of them have been street fighting heroes like Dredd, Wolverine, Punisher etc. I seemed to have drawn characters who have a darker edge or problems. These type of characters hold more interest to me.
What was the most exciting scene to do with him, and why? I enjoyed drawing Marvel Universe vs Wolverine by Johnathon Maberry. I got to draw Wolverine killing most of the Marvel Universe, that was good fun. Wolverine killing a crazed Colossus along with a number of other heroes and villains was a bit of a fan boy moment for me.
If you could pick any character out there to work on next, who would it be and why? That's a tough one. At the moment I'm drawing BPRD (which is set in the same world as Mike Mignola's Hellboy). I'm having a real blast drawing this world, getting to draw destroyed cities and huge monsters, what's not to like. I've been drawing on BPRD now for about 4 years and we've just started the final part which BPRD Devil you Know.
What does a typical day involve for you? I normally get up and start work around 7.30 - 8.30 and work through until around 7.30 -8.30 at night. Stopping for lunch, diner and taking/picking ups of son from school. The studio is part of the house so I have to make sure I get out for walks. I normally work 6 days a week, it can be full on sometimes but I enjoy it.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2017? I'm working on the final arc of BPRD Devil you know with Mike Mignola, Scott Allie and Dave Stewart. This is the third and final part of the story and so itâ€™s an exciting project for me.
Photo credit: James Daly What has it been like organising the festival for this year? 2017 has been a very challenging but rewarding year. The acquisition of an investor at MF2016 (whom we lovingly call â€œMr Xâ€?) has paved the way for larger bands in a larger venue and enables us to really rise at a rate never possible without the funding we needed. So 2017 has been an incredible year for us but there is no denying the pressures are greater than ever now that we have our largest venue and world dominating bands to look after but we are organised, prepared and ready to welcome all so bring it on!
How excited are you for the fifth Mammothfest and how much do you think it has grown since it first started in 2010? In 2010 it was really only me running the business with a few mates helping out on the day. I didnâ€™t then have much in place in the way of processes, risk management, marketing or anything, I literally was learning on the job. Move into 2017 and we now have 30 people on the team all working tirelessly to cover all aspects of the business needs professionally to deliver (we hope) a sold out stunning weekend of intense metal. Without the team Mammothfest would be nothing, they are very much the reason the business is going so strong now so I must salute them all for their dedication to our mutual cause!
You have impressively managed to secure all three headliners as UK exclusives, how happy are you with this, along with the rest of the line-up you have got? We are all absolutely over the moon to have 4 UK exclusive performances from such world renowned bands. Rotting Christ, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Amenra & Tsjuder all bring legendary status to our bill and shows not only that we mean business but that these bands recognise Mammothfest as a festival to play in the UK which, again for us means everything. We come from humble beginnings so to add to this so many other incredible bands like Dragged into Sunlight, Akercocke, Ethereal, Lawnmower Deth, Vodun, Ohhms but to name a few and also just as importantly to us, to have such an array of dazzling emerging bands across the weekend makes for such a high standard line up that it’s almost hard to get our heads around it. That said this is just part of a much grander plan we have in motion so it’s only going to get bigger and better!
For those that have never been to the festival, what can festival goers expect at Mammothfest and what makes you stand out? We released a t-shirt in 2010 with the slogan “Fucking intense heavyweight metal – Mammothfest” and to be honest we have been unable to improve up on this ever since. We have fast changeovers between bands so we pack our shows with as many live performances as possible across two stages with staggered times so it is possible to listen to live music for at least ten hours each day. Add to the mix some of the most extreme and/or musically talented musicians in the world from both headline and emerging bands and you have a melting pot of consistently high quality music that few other festivals can compete with. It is this standard that gives us our unique edge at this time and as we move to an open air festival our principles will come with us to bring more of the same. To affirm this we are finding more and more record labels are attending our events looking for the next big band which is very much what we are trying to achieve.
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to festival organising? Competing with the big boys such as Download and Bloodstock are by far our biggest challenges. They have the budget, systems and reputation so they can get any band they want. We are still growing so we don’t have the luxury of the choices they have but this is all changing as we progress and it’s only a matter of time before we are at a level where we can do exactly what we want too. Rest assured we will rise and we will have an open air festival but it is not our intention to compete with them, we have our own ideas to make our festival unique and a “must attend” festival.
What bands in particular are you looking forward to seeing, and are there any bands you would recommend that people check out? Honestly, all the bands. There is not a single band on the bill I regret booking and we say this with absolute pride. Sometimes people ask me “what sort of music do I like” to which I reply, “it’s easier to tell you I only dislike most pop music than to try and list all”. The same applies here so my advice to all is to check our line up on the poster and look up the bands and make your own minds up. You will find all have incredible music and I recommend all get in the venue early to make the most of the mind boggling talent that’s available, what have you got to lose?
You recently revealed that you would love to become an open air festival by 2019, why is this the goal and how likely is this to happen? It has always been a goal, my dream if you will, it has just never been realistic until recently. We are so very proud to have acquired an investor whom truly believes in us and works closely with me as a mentor to help us develop in all areas of our business. We have consultants around the world offering amazing advice to help us shape the “Mammothfest of the future” and have a business plan that sees us go open air in 2019. I have never been one to mince my words or talk bollocks, either you are going to do something or you don’t say a word because you only look stupid later down the line. So when I say we are going to become an open air festival this is a fact and only a matter of time. This is all I can say at this time but we hope people will continue to support us as we grow so we can deliver all a truly unique and inspiring Mammothfest weekend.
Following on from that, although we still have Mammothfest 2017 to go, have you started planning or getting the line-up together for 2018 yet? When we have completed our business plan for 2019 we will be looking at how we bridge the gap between now and then as we will be making some considerable changes to how we operate. I feel it is important there is a sense of direction every year and that changes made aren’t so out of the blue but again I am not at liberty to go into any details at this time other than to say it will be bigger and heavier.
How much do you think Mammothfest is putting Brighton on the map for the metal scene locally, and how do you think it helps the music scene to thrive? I love the idea we are part of the metal scene here and that’s how it is. We are not the music scene, we do our bit and we are proud of our contributions but I must mention Mark Woodbridge (Jackhammer promotions), BMC (Brighton metal collective), Anivian promotions, Apocalypse, Rock of ages and other such events/club nights etc all play a very important part in offering Brighton many alternative events. I just hope we continue to work together the way we all do because there is no room for stresses and tensions when we all share the same passions. I love Brighton for this as I all to often hear how metal communities are fractures in other areas of the UK.
Following on from that, unfortunately festivals and venues continue to close and collapse, why do you think this is, and how important is it that people support their local scene to prevent this? It is deeply concerning that the government(s) of today have proven to be so inept at improving our society and protecting such important movements like the ARTS and all associated, after all this is part of their responsibility. Instead they invest billions into Trident to build nuclear submarines and waste countless billions in failing systems to then only admit they have no money having sold many of the companies (Royal mail for example) that generated them a profit and improved “income” which could be reinvested into our country. Anyone who runs a company will understand the term “cash flow” and the importance of having plenty of regular income. When you privatise or you remove revenue streams and drive our economy into the ground making these services often far more expensive to the public at the hands of private companies which then reduces disposable income for all. Where am I going with all this? My point is that they are not getting the grass roots issues right as a priority so they then have more work to do fixing these major issues and so cannot afford the time to address less important issues such as the ARTS. They breed this problem from the top down and still seem to be doing very little about it. They don’t care if another venue turns into a coffee shop, why should they, they like coffee and we pay for it! It is deeply frustrating and painful to see the impact and I truly hope that one day something will be done but for now it really is down to every venue to be inventive & creative about how they turn a profit while keeping their venues alive. We will certainly do all we can to support them and we urge the public to get off your asses and support them too because they simply will not survive without us as we are seeing. Nothing can be taken for granted.
What have been some of the highlights of Mammothfest over the years for you? There are so many but to name three, booking Onslaught was a personal high, been a fan forever, booking the line up we have in 2017 and to be honest, simply bringing Mammothfest back in 2014 after a deeply challenging few years after Mammothfest 2010. Those who know our story will know what I am referring too.
What else can we expect from Mammothfest in the future? Open air festivals, I will be touring the UK in 2018 looking for the best emerging bands around, we may be diversifying our music choices so there maybe new shows, brands and more popping up and we will continue to bring the biggest metal bands in the world to Brighton!
Neck Deep - The Peace And The Panic For as long as I can remember Pop Punk has been my poison so to speak. From the first time, I heard ‘Pathetic’ by Blink-182 to becoming engulfed by the Drive Thru Records sound. It has spoken to me, what makes sense. So I have continued to listen to this wonderful genre for most of my life. There have been periods that I wasn’t too keen of. For instance the last few years, there have not been too many popular bands that I have enjoyed. So I have stuck to local, unsigned, and bands on smaller labels. One band that I have never really listened to is Neck Deep. That changed the first time I completely listened to ‘The Peace and The Panic’. Before I listened to this album I had not really given them a fair shot based on what I had heard and read. They just didn’t seem like a band I would like. Boy was I wrong. ‘The Peace and The Panic’ very well might be the pop punk album of the year. I mean look at what it recently did on the Billboard charts, in the United States it debuted at #4, was the #1 physical album, and the #2 alternative album. In The UK it was the #1 Vinyl album, #1 independent album and #3 album sales. Not bad at all for a pop punk band these days. Upon first listen all the way through my initial thought was wow, this is so much better than I thought. This album is well written and it’s not generic pop punk. My second listen I focused more on the lyrics as I do with all albums. And once again I thought wow. Death to politics to love are dealt with on this release. My third time I focused on the music. Much like the first two times, I liked what I heard. With this release, Neck Deep very well may have solidified their place in pop punk. ‘The Peace and The Panic’ has many standout tracks from start to finish, starting with the opening number, ‘Motion Sickness’. This track has a slight feel of that early 2000s pop punk sound that so many of us love so much. This is an excellent track to open with. The first track that truly sticks out for me is ‘Parachute’. From the very first note, I was hooked. Once I listened to the lyrics I really enjoyed this song. As it’s one of those songs that people can easily relate to I feel. In the chorus there is a line that goes, “I want to let go, and fall for you. And when it gets rough, be your parachute. I want to do the things that you only read about.” That line is a great example of the strong songwriting on this album. It's also lines like that that make it easy to relate to. Another track that standouts is the single ‘In Bloom’. This track blew up really quick. Within a week people were quoting it on social media. To be honest I did not know what it was until I heard the song. I must have listened to it 3 or 4 times after that first listen. It’s so catchy. Do you ever hear a song and it just makes you smile? This is that song for me. I hear it and everything around lights up and just seems better. That is a feeling that I enjoy. One of my favorite tracks is ‘Don’t Wait’. This track features guest vocals from Sam Carter of Architects. This is a banger of a track. I love when pop punk bands of today have a political track on an album. I feel all pop punk bands should have at least one on every album. I would really like to hear this live. I can imagine the energy that emits from it. The last track that truly standouts to me is ‘Wish You Were Here’. This is the one that has the feelings. The one that hits home. This is the one that gets the tears flowing. Without going into it, I had a close friend pass 13 years ago and it was one of the hardest things ever. Simply because we were so close. Yes, I’ve had family members pass but it’s different when it’s a friend, especially when they were young when it was not their time. And this song says everything I have felt in the last 13 years, especially the bridge. It goes, “And they say you’re in a better place but a better place is right here with me. Yeah, they say you’re in a better place, too bad it’s not what I believe.” That line hits home every time I hear it. Overall this album is really good. And I would suggest it to anyone, fan or not, this is an all-around solid album that needs to be heard. As I told a friend just the other day, these guys are now stars. This album has propelled them to the next level. So if you are in the states, make sure you catch them on their winter tour because that will be the last time you’ll see them in rooms that size. RC
One More Weekend - We Used To One More Weekend is an alternative rock group from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. They write the type of songs that get caught in your head and you find yourself singing or humming at any given point. That and also their sound reminds me of the bands from 90s movies. Which I love. If any of either these aspects appeal to you, I would give these lads a listen to. The lead single, ‘Boxheads’ from ‘We Used To…’ is a very infectious one. I like when musical artists release a good strong single from a new album, especially a debut album. A lead single should say, “hey look at us, this is us”. And One More Weekend has done that. Also if you are a fan of music videos, the one for this song is done really well. It’s also a bit funny. One of my favorite tracks is ‘Listen’. It is one of those songs that gets stuck in your head and you don’t mind that it is there. It is also this track that the vocals of Connor Dougan are at the forefront of the song. As he has a very distinct voice. The next song, ‘Cover Talk’ is another one that sticks out. This one unlike the ones I mentioned before is more laid back. And that’s ok. Albums need to have a good mixture of sounds and feels to them. This track is just guitar and vocals but it fits. At this point you have had four tracks of in your face tunes, so why not slow it down here. Earlier I talked about 90s movies, well this is the song that I feel would fit perfectly in one. It could be the song playing in the background or they could be the band playing at the school dance. It’s a feel good song. I can’t help but smile when I hear it. Overall this album is really good. However the fact that the last song is a slow song kind of bums me out. It’s like saying bye to a friend feeling not good about the interaction. I like to leave things/situations on a positive note, on the upswing. However, the album is still worth listening to or picking up. This is a band that if they catch a little steam we will be seeing and hearing about them more in the next few years. RC
Primal Age - A Silent Wound Primal Age is a 5 piece metal band from France. Their latest release is a 4 song Ep called ‘A Silent Wound’. While it’s nothing new, it does showcase the talent that this unit has and I for one can respect that. Over the course of four songs we get a touch of thrash to hardcore to metal. And all of it is done really well. If this does not work out for them they could have a very successful career as a tribute band of sorts. The first track, ‘The Whistleblowers VS World Health Organization’ serves as a good opening song as they go right to the brutality. They do not hold back. At times in this song I got an Anthrax feel and at times a little Hatebreed. The Hatebreed feel should be no surprise. Zeuss Harris, who mastered this release has worked on seven of Hatebreed’s releases. And has worked on all Jamey Jasta’s side projects. The title track, ‘A Silent Wound’ is my favorite song on the record, simply because of the breakdown. As a hardcore kid, I have to respect that. And let me tell you, it is brutal. This is the one that will get you moving if the opening track didn’t. ‘Counterfeiters of the Science’ is their thrash song. If you like good guitar work, this is the one for you. The drumming on this is also very solid. It stands out. Above I mentioned if this does not work out for them that they could start a tribute band, if they did that, Slayer would be the band. The last tune is called ‘To Jeff’. And I’m guessing that’s in reference to the late Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman. It has a bit of a Slayer Medley, the only songs I could pick out were ‘South of Heaven’, ‘Angel of Death’, and ‘Raining Blood’. They do them well. To be honest hearing a little of ‘Raining Blood’ made me want to listen to Slayer and more metal. At 4 songs under 15 minutes this is good listen. It does leave you wanting more but that’s ok, just listen to it again. This is a release that any metal head could get behind. RC
The Gospel Youth - Always Lose I first came across pop rock band The Gospel Youth this past summer. I was making my Warped Tour list of bands to see and they were a bubble band. This was based on just hear say and the one song I listened to. That day at warped I ended up catching one song from them as I was on my way to another stage. Turns out that was a mistake. In the past week or so ‘Always Lose’ has become one of my favorite albums this year. I’m going to go ahead and get this out of the way now if you are a fan of Mayday Parade, this is a band you should listen to, RIGHT NOW! I have heard many bands try to duplicate Mayday Parade and no one has, until now. However I’m not saying they are a clone, they very much stand on their own two feet. They just used Mayday Parade as a blueprint and it worked for them. ‘Always Lose’ starts with ‘I Will Deliver You to the Fireflies’ and right away you are introduced to the smooth relaxing vocals of Sam Little, which are present throughout the album. He has one of those recognizable voices. But on this track, it is at the forefront and it’s a nice introduction. Do you ever just hear a song and it just makes you feel calm or relaxed? One of those songs that puts a smile on your face. Well, this album has a few of those, the first one is ‘Wildfire’. For some reason, I can’t help but feel at peace when I hear it. It may have something to do with the line, “I am meant for something more”. It is said a few times throughout the song. I like songs of hope and this is that. The more I listened to the album the more I realized that it is full of songs that could be radio hits. That is a very good thing, as we could use more bands like this on the radio.
‘Tired Eyes and Heavy Hearts’ is a great example of that. The music in this song is so catchy and upbeat, added with Sam’s vocals it has a bit of an R&B feel to it. I welcome that. It reminds me of later Fall Out Boy. The standout track is ‘Revolutions’. It also happens to be my favorite. Everything is right with this song. The music, the vocals, and the lyrics are all on point. The first time I heard it I just sat there contemplating my life and relationships. I like songs that make me think about my life. If you have a tendency to play songs over and over then be prepared to do that with this one. One aspect that makes an album good is the first song and the last song, I mentioned the opening song already, so now on to the closing song, ‘Bloodines//Love Stopped Me Coming Home’ is also a banger of a track. It’s another upbeat song with good lyrics. It does leave me wondering if the writer ever got back with the love of his life. This is a really solid release. This is a band that needs to be heard. RC
Blindwish - Good Excuses For those of you looking for a new listen that hits hard, and leaves lightly, Blindwish definitely delivered on this one. The ten track full length is taking heavy tones and balancing them enough to make this album an every day listen, not just your angry head bang in the car listen. ‘After Midnight’ opens the album, and immediately drops into an aggressive, riff driven track. With a catchy flow to the lyrics and tracking that transitions flawlessly in the progression of the song, this definitely made a very strong start to the piece. Most noteworthy up next was ‘Down’ a three minute and forty five second acoustic song that did well to be placed in the middle of the album (fifth song) as the climax and in my opinion, the strongest track on this full length. Emotive, vulnerable lyrical content and wholesome acoustic guitar riffing make this song a fulfilling and touching experience. ‘Echo’ finished the album, rounding out with a semi-upbeat tempo and a tension filled chorus that swells through the progression. With a distinct intro and ending that gives great closure to the piece as a whole, this track makes a mark on the end to this full length. Overall, this album hits a solid 8.5 out of 10 for me. I really loved the semi aggressive theme to the album, where it satisfies a craving for heavy music but definitely balances out well and backs off where it needs to. The reason why it doesn’t rate any higher for me is because the album gets the tiniest bit sluggish in the middle tracks; they tend to blur together as opposed to being their own separate entities. Otherwise, I really liked this full length and will definitely give it another go. LD
Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile to The Surface The only thing that I have to say about this album is that it is an absolute masterpiece. Manchester Orchestra brought it way beyond expectations on ‘A Black Mile to The Surface’. Way beyond. Eleven tracks of glorious composition that seamlessly capture the beauty of life, death, pain and glory - all expertly crafted with care and craftsmanship. ‘The Maze’ offers a cool, winter tone through the intro that moves into a swinging pendulum like rhythm, and finishes with notes of childish innocence. As a first taste of these guys, this song put me in a meditative like state and admittedly it was difficult not to fall asleep at the lull and consistency this sound puts forth. ‘The Alien’ takes a light hearted rhythm, filled with angelic notes and delicate fills. My favorite thing about this track are the vocals. Even though they remain relatively consistent throughout the entire album, there’s something about the vocals in this particular song that seem to be especially innocent and have that ‘feel good’ quality.
‘The Silence’ ends this aural painting with a six minute and fifty nine second track that offers subtle triumph and feelings of victory and homecoming. To round out this complex yet spotless album, “The Silence” ends on a note that leaves you speechless. Overall, this album hit the ten out of ten mark for sure. It was a really fresh breath of music, and I highly recommend this to new listeners and anyone looking for a remedial piece to chill out to. LD
Uncle Sid – Rock The Universe Fronted by a strong female vocalist, Uncle Sid is a hard rock four piece hailing from Western Canada. The ten track album was unimpressive in some aspects, however I can appreciate the melodic, classic rock feel that the album had. Vocals were very strong, and I think the individual parts to each individual track had a lot of potential and talent but they didn’t combine in an overly special way for me. As an overall picture, there wasn’t a whole ton of differentiation and I felt as if the band could have taken a more creative or risk-taking steps towards the material to add more dimension. I felt as if this album had the potential to be a multi dimensional piece but instead fell flat in areas that needed to be rounded out and complex. While none of the songs fall short of four minutes, an obvious sign of time and effort put into the material and writing process, the album just didn’t hit home for me. For fans of melodic, grooving rock that gives off an old school and classic feel - this one’s for you. LD
Sin Camino - Without A Path Three piece rock/ blues fusion piece Sin Camino from Houston, Texas have recently released their EP ‘Without A Path’. ‘Wakeup Call’ as the opener proved to be a very strong track for the number one spot on the EP. Both acoustic and electric influence shine through, with vocals that will lull you to sleep as a rich and brewing tone. ‘Arrhythmia’ opens with a circus like acoustic influenced intro that continues throughout the four minute and twenty seven second duration. The chorus delves in with a heavier, guttural vocal style that has more of a rock feel than blues but still rolls with the swinging rhythm and haunting tone.
While this EP I found to be a smudge boring, and didn’t reflect a sound that continued to grow but instead plateaued around one general tone, I think that Sin Camino are definitely on the right track to carving a hole in the scene with a unique combination of genres. LD
PVRIS – All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell Electric dark alt-rock trio from Massachusetts had huge success with their hit 2014 debut ‘White Noise’ and the prospect of living up to the hype and keeping the calibre as high on their sophomore release was a hard task, but luckily with AWKOHAWNOH, they are more than up to the challenge…The opening track ‘Heaven’ was the first single unveiled and acts as the perfect medium between PVRIS debut ‘White Noise’ era and the new transition of their sound with AWKOHAWNOH, sounding quite different but with the signature PVRIS characteristics, such as dark atmospheric synths, great varied and edgy vocals from Lynn Gunn and a big chorus which grabs you, especially with the soaring vocals. The ending is especially enthralling and depthful, going from light to dark with passionate dramatic shouts of “You took my heaven away!” to close. ‘Half’ has a different feel to it, which goes along with the ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ theme which is clever and intriguing. This is one of my favourites as it is haunting and all-consuming, fast and extremely infectious and makes for a great live fan favourite. It features some standout drumming that progresses and ends on a crescendo. This has an upbeat feel but with dark undertones, especially aided by Lynn’s bleak lyrics such as “One foot in the grave, other on the ground”… Latest single ‘Anyone Else’ immediately pulls you in with the opening lyrics “Oh, my blood, once was my own, but in one touch you made it yours” and goes on to feature some of the best lyrics yet, something that the album has plenty of off, as Lynn bares her soul. The instruments and atmosphere always perfectly match the feel of the song, and the end half of this song is gripping and one of my favourite moments, again with Lynn loudly shouting “I don't belong to anyone else!” followed by eerie outro music makes this a must hear. Second single ‘What’s Wrong’ is quite different in the verses from typical PVRIS and Lynn again is very open about her thoughts and feelings, with memorable and impactful lines “Don't need a metaphor for you to know I'm miserable” and again similarly with tracks ‘Heaven’ and ‘Anyone Else’ it follows the same format where things come to a massive head at the end, with all the angst unleashed and with Lynn not holding back as she screams her heart out in an emotional battle declaring “No I never sold my soul!”. ‘Walk Alone’ is the longest song featured and is very dynamic. This has some of the best verses in my opinion and again continues the brilliantly standard of cynical lyrics. The whole construction and loud and quiet moments entwined works wonderfully, with lots of layers, which aid and help to create these massive heavy emotional moments that seep into your skin and soul. The lyrics are very relatable, so the music and words make for a hard impact. ‘Same Soul’ is more mellow and chilled instrumentally, with a more upbeat vibe, again making for a good live track. Although it is more positive sounding, it still has an edge with Lynn’s vocal delivery. ‘Winter’ again like ‘What’s Wrong’ is quite a change from previous PVRIS, it works and again it has hard hitting lyrics “Can you burn a fire in my flesh, 'Cause your love's so cold I see my breath”. ‘No More Mercy’ is the most surprising and not only one of the best songs on the album, but one of the best songs they have ever done, and is comparable to ‘Let Them In’ on ‘White Noise’ as it is loud, fast and dark – this is them at their heaviest and bleakest and it is exceptional. It possesses particularly murky lyrics such as “We've made such a mess of this place, There's blood stains on your face.” This is stomping and exhilarating. A stunning track that should appease fans and attract many new ones. ‘Separate’ is also one of the bleakest songs and therefore flows well following ‘No More Mercy’, however, it is a slower sombre number but is equally powerful. So we reach the end with ‘Nola 1’ which after all the immersive mighty dark offerings feels a little bit out of place and although offers a different and optimistic sound it isn’t the most powerful note to end on, with ‘No More Mercy’ or ‘Separate’ perhaps being better options, but this is still a good song and it hardly matters when they have created another belter of an album. The new album sounds like PVRIS but a more evolved, darker version, offering up the perfect blend of altrock, with their imagery and their music videos helping to reflect this also. They have managed to blend their already unique fresh rock sound and expand and build on this further, exploring darker and new territories whilst bearing all and showing how far this young band have come. Lynn has always created brilliant lyrics, but here sees them at their best and most intelligible whilst being highly relatable. The dark atmosphere they create with the help of the synths paired with Lynn’s honest powerhouse and sorrowful lyrics will touch your soul and make you feel whatever the mood of the song commands. So, luckily their sophomore release lives up to the hype and exceeds it in my opinion, showing they are still fresh, exciting and unique, creating their own unique alt-rock armed with boundless creativity that will see them continue to soar. CL
Silverstein - Dead Reflection Canadian rock act Silverstein are known for incorporating elements of posthardcore, punk and emo into their sound, and they are back to do it again with their ninth release and follow-up to their 2015 album ‘I Am Alive In Everything I Touch’ with new album ‘Dead Reflection’ released through Rise Records. Opener ‘Last Looks’ is an exhilarating start, which is largely belligerent and fully charged with a dynamic mix. This is a great way to kick things off in their signature winning style still packing a punch. First single ‘Retrograde’ fortunately keeps the pace and momentum running high, with a great balance of aggressive and clean vocals that make a big impact, constantly aided by solid riffs and melodies throughout. Up next is the latest single ‘Lost Positives’ which has some twists and turns, starting with driving riffs before calming down, to then build up again to a big chorus. Again they get the balance right, going from fast and heavy to atmospheric and emotional, with more emphasis on the clean honest vocals to help add to the vulnerability. ‘Ghost’ keeps the energy high and is more in your face than the previous track. It is extremely infectious, with memorable riffs, and a killer soaring chorus which is one of the best featured throughout, making it a standout track. ‘Aquamarine’ changes the tone yet again, showing a lighter more positive sound, but not without its heavy moments, especially with a powerful hardcore breakdown for good measure. ‘Mirror Box’ is an emotional powerful song with vocalist Shane Told bearing his soul with lines such as “A little bit broken, I'm not the only one. A little bit desperate, I'm not the only one” which are vocally delivered in a crushing and memorable way.
‘Demons’ is extremely catchy and will cling to your mind, especially as sonically this is brilliant with a great texture and depth. The strong lyrics help elevate this further such as, “Take off your mask, your faded design. Break off the chains, your cross to bear. Shake off the demons left in your mind. You take them everywhere”. ‘The Afterglow’ lightens the mood and sound like we have throughout the album to keep it balanced. This is a fast and more mainstream anthem which may just be their most pop-infused song yet, but they pull it off very well and it is an instant hit as a result. In contrast ‘Whiplash’ may be one of their heaviest, as it is a hardhitting and emotionally charged song about a dying relationship. Closing song ‘Wake Up’ flows perfectly on as it is about moving on and pulling yourself together again, adding some hope and optimism, at least lyrically. It starts off in a sombre stripped back way which is raw and delicate, displaying Told’s impressive vocals, but goes through some well-structured transitions and build ups. What a belter of a track to end on, making the perfect way to close, leaving behind a bleak atmosphere and ambiance. The band follows the same formula as before, but why fix it when it doesn’t need changing? They yet again deliver strong melodic post-hardcore anthems that are filled with emotional rawness, and all the while still manage to sound exciting and fresh, even after all this time. They are certainly not done yet, and this is evident in the potency of the album, as well as perhaps delivering one of their heaviest and sonically driven releases to date. They have plenty of fight and creativity left in them yet. CL
The Road Atlas - Two Tone Blues EP The Road Atlas are an international punk rock act based in London, UK comprised of Julian (from Costa Rica), Fabrizio (Italian), Alan (British), and Andreas (Greek). They have unleashed their new and second EP ‘Two Tone Blues’ which explores the many changes that life throws at you and the freedom you can achieve by rolling with these changes. The opening track ‘We Were Young’ has a nostalgic fun vibe both musically and lyrically, with punk roots running through it, whilst maintaining a mainstream sound and is reminiscent of The Offspring. It features nice tuneful guitar work and soothing vocals and is a great song to kick off the EP. The title track ‘Two Tone Blues’ is immediately edgier, with fast driven riffs and fiercer vocals and has an angsty vibe, making a good contrast to the previous track. ‘Bourbon And Coke’ which is a great mix, and luckily so is this track, with its chilled fun vibes, slick bass lines and guitars and gang cheered chorus. This has plenty of swagger, aided by the emotive sorrowful lyrics with upbeat sounding instruments. Final song ‘Slide Of The Map’ instantly grabs you with an alarming opening riff and fast drums, with a strong punk sound seeping in, which is slightly reminiscent of AFI, and makes for a catchy, solid and memorable one to end on. This is a strong and enjoyable EP that leaves you keen to hear more, whilst delivering an inspiring message about moving on and coming out strong after life’s challenges, as the band clearly state: “Yeah I’m a fool, I’ll sing it loud and proud. I’m black and blue, but I’m not beaten down.” CL
The Virginmarys - Sitting Ducks The Virginmarys new EP ‘Sitting Ducks’ had me anything but sitting, and anything but a duck. Through colorful chords and a well mixed blend of elements and complexity, these guys packed a big punch in a four song EP. ‘Sitting Ducks’ builds great tension through the intro and pre chorus, dropping into a ripe chorus complete with a gruff, down and dirty vocal style. An upbeat, funk-like rhythm turns this song into one you’ll want to bob your head to immediately through and through. A zinging outro nails this dance along song on the head as a strong opener. ‘Sweet Loretta’ brings in a rock and roll like intro, and a minor key completes the lyrical content and riffing. The chorus channels a heavier set, hard tone with a grabbing tension that finishes the track with a solid bang. ‘Through the Sky’ opens with some fast paced drum lines and riffing that as the third song on this EP begins the wrap up quite well. Definitely one of my personal favorites, this track mixes up beat tempo with a heavier sound well and bodes well with the down and dirty vocals. ‘Sleep’ begins with some wholesome acoustic notes and an exposed vocal style that suits the stylings well. I think here, the talent of the vocals shine the most as well as the versatility of the band as a whole. I love the overall feel of this song as a vulnerable, and emotive track mixed with a purposeful progression through the chorus and a simplistic riff from the guitars; a prime example of the notion that less is more. Overall, 7 out of 10 from me. I can appreciate the refreshing take this EP is as a tone that is very distinct and a great bunch of tracks to get your foot tapping. However, the only reason this EP didn’t make it up higher is because I felt a little bit like with such unique vocals and sound it would’ve boded well for them to push the envelope even more or even throw in one or two more tracks. LD
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Ancient VVisdom - 33 As a eleven track album, this full length didn’t really catch my eye (or ear) at first listen. There are certainly some gems of elements in the entire piece but overall I wasn’t terribly impressed with it. As far as stylings go, none of the tracks really stood out to me as a solid listen or an extraordinary one. However, in ‘Light of Lucifer’ I felt that the riffing in the beginning as well as the dark and somber tone hit a note that often doesn’t get hit; reminiscent of the works of Ghost. ‘True Will’ definitely brought the same sort of feel, which was a sound that these guys definitely pull off very well. I can appreciate the lyrical quality though as it explores deeper thought, paganism, and satanic philosophy which gives a nod to all the ways music connects people and relates to many different audiences. I also really enjoyed the opening and ending track as simple ways to start and end the piece in a wholesome and complete manner. Overall from me I give this a 6/10 as I really like the concept of occult rock and exploring paganism and satanism through music, and the sound overall gave a good nod to that. However, simplicity is a double edged sword in that if not done just right the simplicity can read as predictability. LD
Searching for Nostalgia - Self-Titled These guys definitely brought it on the self titled EP game. This six track peek into these guys talents definitely notes a relatable sound for a broad audience and hard hitting tone any post hardcore fan will most likely love. ‘Her Cold Eyes’ gave me serious A Day To Remember vibes, with fast paced riffing, and a heavy dense rhythm line contrasting with a swinging vocal style and abrasive screaming to complete the look. ‘Nostalgia’ ends the album with a bang by opening with an uber heavy riff and doesn’t disappoint with the follow through. For fans of those, get ready for a mosh pit even if you’re in the middle of a grocery store kind of tracks - this one is for you. A solid 8/10 for me! I think that the vocals could have improved a tiny bit by just cleaning up the style and tone to become even more in line with the already well put together tracks. LD
Nothing More - The Stories We Tell Ourselves A band that have really started to make a name for themselves and since ‘Go to War’ was used as part of the new Planet of the Apes film has brought them to a far wider audience than ever before. This is a big album and it needs to deliver and it does, in a big way. The collision of different styles could make for a messy affair but they have done it very well making for arena rock ready songs that will sit just as well in any smaller venue. They have taken a big step up in just about every aspect, from song writing to production making for an album that keeps you listening to see what is coming next, there are big epic moments and rough raw energy. ‘Do You Really Want It’ is a great opener that does everything an opener needs to get a listener to carry on listening while ‘Let em’ Burn’ brings some great attitude into it with an almost stroppy feel. ‘Go To War’ is the money track, the mix of clean and hard hitting vocal create the atmosphere while the band create a swirling backing. It is a song that was well chosen as a lead single. It isn’t a perfect album, ‘Don’t Stop’ ambles along and doesn’t do much and some of the spoken word interludes become a distraction at times but that said, this album delivers in a big way and should see Nothing More making waves very soon. AN
Antighost - Creatures Melodic punk just took a turn for the best, with Antighost and their new release of ‘Creatures’. With a fantastic blend of styles and elements of different genres, this album made quite the impression at fifteen tracks long. I really enjoyed the diversity of tracks here as well as a good chunk of them being acoustic tracks (or combining that element) and the rest more upbeat and catchy rhythm driven songs. ‘The Lunar Months’ opens the album with a delicate, acoustic riff and vocal style and wraps up with a striking, low note to lead into the following songs. Next up came ‘Patient Zero’ which contrasted as far from the preceding track as you could get however I found that the ending to ‘The Lunar Months’ made this transition smooth and enjoyable as it set me in a better mindset for this fast paced, blistering track complete with a drum heavy line and garage-skate punk-esque vocals. It definitely was a risky move in terms of track placement but it definitely paid off. Tracks like ‘Walking in the Dark’, ‘House of Farms’ and ‘Thank God For Ghosts’ turn to a more walking rhythm, with a swinging tempo and takes a more mellow approach aside from the aforementioned more driving tracks. I’d definitely give this a 9/10. ‘Creatures’ shows a lot of skill to these guys for putting such a diverse fifteen piece out there, as well as making each track succinct enough with the overall picture but special enough in its own way that it didn’t get boring which is the problem sometimes with longer albums. Overall, a solid listen for almost anyone! LD
Oceans - Dopamine (single review) Opening with a moving riff, these guys definitely start off on a good foot. I’ll be honest, the vocal style took me by complete surprise but a very pleasant surprise. Mellow and cool, the track bops and sways to a natural rhythm before taking a more driven approach to the chorus and bringing back the same riff from the intro. There certainly is no doubt that the song is distinct, and it has a very recognizable rhythm. I would be very curious to hear this song live as it definitely has a quality to it that makes me think it would be a hit. However, it blends elements of funk and rock that is done well here especially with the vocals, but could have appreciated a little more ‘togetherness.’ In that I mean that it was a little too broad of elements to try to blend, and if you are going to do that, it could be very pleasing or not so great. This track falls somewhere in between - more on the pleasing side but definitely in between. For me this would be a 6.5/10 because I enjoyed it, and found it to be a pleasant surprise however it didn’t make the repeat list.
LD Falling Under- Don’t Go (single review) Rolling in with a riff that screams summer nostalgia and mellow vocals, moving up into the chorus was a flawless transition. I can definitely appreciate the production value on this one; a well thought out and timed piece that is reflected in the quality of sound. My only complaint with this song is that the vocals can get just the littlest bit sludgy in some places where it feels like you hear the same words over again which can be pulled off right in many cases but here it wasn’t hitting home for me. 7.5 out of 10! LD
Devilfire - Dark Manoeuvres As much as these guys grabbed me with their intros, I found that once the first verse was up I wasn’t so hot on the track. They sure have some great elements and turbo driven riffs that amp up the quality on these songs, but at thirteen songs long I wish that these guys had cut down a little and really amped up the songs left which may have done better to keep me hooked. However despite my gripes, these guys have a great, consistent sense of movement and the vocals were a fantastic fit for the overall sound. For fans of hard rock with a safe sound that doesn’t pop any fast ones on you - this is for you. Overall I would give this a 6 out of 10 for the vocals and consistency, however I would’ve hoped to see a more grabbing track as a whole rather than just the intro and the first minute or so. LD
Klogr - Keystone Clocking in at twelve tracks long, I can certainly appreciate the technical high points of this album. This is a very clean cut and well put together piece, especially on tracks like ‘Dark Tides’ which moves with a dark progression and offers your daily dose of heavy. ‘The Wall of Illusion’ gives a great taste of the innovation these guys took to the tracks through an intro that slides perfectly into the following verses despite its earthly nature, and a downbeat progression through the finishing of the guitar solo. Wrapping up strong the song finishes with a blistering outro, growls and a drop into a cricket ending completing the listen. Personally, this album reminded me of my Slipknot days in some elements and for that I commend these guys as that’s a big name to look up to even if it is only a slight reminding. I think that for our fans of heavy set, relentless music that won’t take a break, this album is absolutely worth a listen, so give it a shot. LD
Circa Survive - The Amulet I found this album to be quite an interesting piece; a plethora of sounds and a perfect listen for October as I found the overall tone quite chilling. A good chillingI promise. ‘Lustration’ had quite the qualities of an opener for this ten track album. I quite liked the downbeat of the track, that took its time to develop tension in the five minutes and thirty three seconds it was given. Especially through the intro we get a lofty, airy, vocal style that follows through the rest of the track even as the drum lines subtly pick up to introduce an understated way to build progression, and simplify to give light to the vocal style. ‘At Night It Gets Worse’ turns to a more consistently steady rhythm that plays on a similar vocal style however enjoys a more waking tempo. At five minutes and fifty four seconds, this track takes the cake as the climax of the album in the number 5 spot. I really appreciate how these guys can incorporate nods to heavier genres, and indie genres, even some subtle touches of earthly singer song writer. ‘The Amulet’ as the title track drops back to a more downbeat tempo, with a remedial tonal blend. Lyrics play a huge role for all of these tracks, with thought provoking content that speaks to the content of the instruments as well because while it appears on the surface to feel simple and wholesome there is a lot of complexity there, but you have to able to appreciate that. Overall I would rate this an 9 out of 10. I am definitely going to listen to this again, as I loved the intricate and woven nature of all of these tracks. I was definitely stoked to have heard something so complex and earthly.
Plastic Barricades- Mechanics of Life These guys started out on a fantastic, energy filled foot for the intro to ‘How Goldfish Grow’. I’m quite fond of this track for its upbeat and catchy tune, which infects you from the bottom of your toes to the top of your hair and makes you want to dance. ‘Our Favorite Delusion’ takes a walking rhythm to the chill-dance track. Combining elements of indie and alt-rock with dance and even a little funk, these guys take the blend in stride and put their own spin on it which makes a really well layered and complex piece. These guys definitely nailed it on the head for this one. For fans of a indie listen, that is a relaxing more meditative one then this is for you. In the alt world it can be hard to blend elements and genres well, but I found that these guys brought in evident influences from a lot of places and did it well which is commendable. 9/10 from me! LD
Ward XVI - The Art of Manipulation I can always, always, always, appreciate a good circus like - theater sounding track, with a merry-go-round like tempo and these guys are no exception. As a concept album to tell the story of a female psychopath who used her charm to convince a man to kill for her in the past life that caused her to be locked away in a high security asylum, I really enjoyed that the album had a rhyme or reason to it (or both really) to explain the tracks and the way they fell in the order they did; to tell the story of the psychopath. ‘Crystal Ball’ is the perfect example of this mix of hauntingly exquisite elements that I am so fond of. A unique blend of jazzy notes and rocking riffs, this track proved to be a personal favorite off of the 16 track album. ‘Cry of the Siren’ introduces an influence of electro and showcases the capabilities of their female vocalist who has one impressive set of pipes on her. ‘Ward XVI’ as the finishing track makes a bang at the end of the already note worthy album. It rounds out as a triumphant selling sound, complete with a blistering mini-solo and vocals that rival that of an opera singer and the theatrics of a legitimate circus. I love the concept of this album, and how the sound really fit the story it would tell. Sometimes with concept albums it can be hard to find the truth of it behind the tracks but here it was clear as a whistle, and equally as fitting. 9/10 from me, absolutely, and I am currently in the process of listening again. LD
The Bronx - Self-Titled Back for their fifth album, The Bronx have built a solid reputation over the years for their mariachi fused style of punk rock that has made them one of the more interesting bands in the scene. ‘Night Drop at the Glue Factory’ and ‘Strange Danger’ are a superb one-two punch to open things up, rough and raw with plenty of attitude and supremely catchy while ‘Side Effects’ slows things down a bit with thoughtful verses and a big chorus. There is a bit of a 70s rock feel to ‘Channel Islands’, a fast paced foot tapper with great builds and melodies, a great song that continues the array of style they have at their disposal, this is one of the tracks of the album for me and there are a lot of very good songs on this record. It is an album that would be hard to explain to someone that has not heard The Bronx before, it is undoubtedly punk at its core but there is so much more to it. At moments hard rock, elements of blues but it’s real beauty is the fact that it all works so well. Fans of the band will lap this fifth record up, while it should bring new fans with what is a fine addition to The Bronx discography, one that will find the repeat button used regularly. AN
Cradle Of Filth – Cryptoriana - The Seductiveness Of Decay ‘Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness Of Decay’ marks the twelfth album from British extreme metallers and comes two years after their previous successful and wellreceived album ‘Hammer Of The Witches’. This time around the album is inspired by Victorian gothic horror and the infatuation with the supernatural and the fascination with death and all things morbid. The perfect pretence to a Cradle Of Filth album… To open we have the deliciously dark ‘Exquisite Torments Await’ which is mental, glorious and massive, a brilliant start to get ready for the following afflictions… First single ‘Heartbreak And Séance’ has resonant striking guitars and demonic screamed vocals with furious riffs and pounding drums, whilst possessing a heavy gothic ambiance throughout, a hefty and well-crafted dark beauty. New single ‘Achingly Beautiful’ has a mysterious exotic feel to it, before all hell unleashes, as it goes on to become grand and haunting, especially aided by a gothic choir. It has some seriously immense instrumentation, and their older style roots are more present here. The title track features raging melodic guitars, cinematic dark keys and many clever and twisting transitns. You could easily be overwhelmed with the manic flurry of instrumentation but in the greatest sense – you could never get bored as all the offerings are constantly changing.
‘Vengeful Spirit’ features guest vocals from Liv Kristine and is very atmospheric and eerie with thrash inspired riffs charging on, whilst Liv’s vocals are beautiful and gothic and compliment Dani’s extreme contrasted vocals wonderfully. The intense ‘You Will Know The Lion By His Claw’ gets off to a blistering start that builds up, and we are yet again treated to an array of melodic and technical riffs which soar and help elevate the song further. Final song ‘Alison Hell’ is actually one of the shortest offerings but it still manages to be brimming with an intense and impressive amount of riffs and different dynamics, however it isn’t quite as gripping as some of the other songs, so maybe it wasn’t the best way to close, but it still is a very worthy and well-constructed number, especially with the use of creepy female vocals and soaring dancing riffs, something which we are graced with throughout the entire album. All the songs are consuming and epic in composition, delivery, and duration, making this one of their best and most dynamic to date, whilst oozing with stylistic flair and gothic ambiance, it is exquisitely dark as you would expect. There is no other band that sounds like them, especially with Danni Filth’s impressive shrieks and growls, and that is impressive in itself, that they have retained their identity and signature sound since their formation over two decades ago. But better still, they still know how to surprise and stun fans and haven’t run out of ideas. Cryptoriana is a grandiose and masterful offering which is thrilling to listen to, showing they can still work their alluring charms. CL
The Contortionist - Clairvoyant I am honestly quite surprised I had no idea these guys existed until now, since they quite frankly blew my mind. Props to Stencil for giving me such a good album assignment right? The Contortionist take a fantastic blend of progressive metal with elements of atmospheric metal and are incredibly forward thinking. ‘Godspeed’ set the tone for the album in the number two spot featuring impressive vocals and a soundscape that rivaled that of the beauty of the earth. At three minutes and forty eight seconds, these guys move through the time exquisitely and seamlessly. ‘Reimagined’ slows it down a bit with a downplayed tempo and exposed verses. Keeping a good grip on themselves as artists but trying from the path of conventionality and into innovation was done extremely well; one foot in their box while putting the rest of the limbs into experimentation. The vocals here mimic a rich mahogany, and are easy to appreciate no matter what your poison is. ‘Clairvoyant’ took me down a path reminiscent of Periphery, which are also one of my favorite names (no wonder why I like these guys). It’s easy to tell why this track is the title track because it sets off as an immediately more heavy and deep song than the previous, as well as being considerably more atmospheric and grooving with deep riffs contrasting a delicate element of notes. I think this track would’ve been ridiculously hard to pull off with a sound that is a plethora of different tones and compositions, however these guys did it fantastically well. ‘Return to Earth’ had a breathtakingly heavy yet wondrous feel to it, that I was shocked at. That kind of mix is hard to attain well, and these guys did it. Accomplished through airy vocals, and dense, impenetrable bass and drums, I felt like these guys reached a third dimension through this track in particular. This album was definitely a home run for me, and will be for anyone looking for a great progressive metal listen or even anyone looking for a breath of fresh air. 10/10, hands down. LD
The Black Dahlia Murder - Nightbringers There are lot of bands in the death metal genre today who push melodies, big sweeping solos and try to make it sound so epic that falls out of touch with what the style actually is. With Black Dahlia Murder’s eighth album, they stay true to what death metal is, aggression, anger and brutality. Right from the off, ‘Nightbringers’ is an explosion of noise, ‘Widow Maker’ pounds away with frightening precision while ‘Of God and Serpent, Of Spectre and Snake’, when you sit and really listen to it is an outstanding piece of work. Structured in a way that any song would be but the sheer pace and ferocity of it finds you being swept away. The title track is immensely catchy, no small feat in the extreme side of metal, the tempo changes and adds a nice dynamic into the album, it continues with, ‘Kings of the Underworld’. The solos may be short and crisp but at no time do they over indulge, something I find with a few of the newer bands on the scene today. The best is saved for last with ‘The Lonely Deceased’, an immense five minute crusher that showcases the song writing prowess of the band ending with the wail of feedback to close out and ball busting 34 minutes of extreme brilliance. With the amount of sub genres within metal, it is good to see a band still nailing their colours to the death metal mast and staying true to it while adding something to it, The Black Dahlia Murder are very worthy flag bearers.
Comeback Kid – Outsider Canadian hardcore punk legends Comeback Kid return with their new album ‘Outsider’. The album bursts into life with the opener ‘Outsider’ a massive anthem with Andrew Neufeld’s distinctive vocals, and the regular cry of “Outsider, rise!”, it’s a powerful way to open the record, very typical of Comeback Kid. The second track ‘Surrender Control’ is a fantastic track, and reminds me of the Wake the Dead era, you’ll struggle to find a more captivating chorus this year, one that will be extremely effective on a live stage, ‘Absolute’ has a rapid drum beat mixed with some ferocious gang vocals, the riffs are also masterful, the addition of Devin Townsend is a clever feature towards the end of the track. ‘Hell of a Scene’ is one of three shorter tracks, and sees Comeback Kid implement their pop punk influence, it’s a clever experiment and reminds me a lot of No Trigger. ‘Somewhere, Somehow’ is another anthemic number, with a punchy sound, short sharp verses and then another memorable chorus. ‘Consumed The Vision’ is dominated by gang vocals making a real statement over a simple riff, really focusing on the lyrics – again Andrew Neufeld adds such distinct vocals. ‘I’ll Be That’ reminds me of Madball with fast rhyming vocals creating a hardcore-rap combination which has been popular in recent years with the likes of Turnstile and Cold World.
‘Ourtrage’ kicks in with a grungy bass line and a lively riff, followed by some “woah, ohs” – this song feels rushed and not as clean as the other tracks on the album. ‘Blindspot’ is another track that doesn’t add a lot, with a slow riff. ‘Livid, I’m Prime’ is much better, the band define the word fast, and the vocals are insane at times in this song. ‘Recover’ is the perfect balance between pop punk and hardcore punk, the right balance of melodic and aggressive vocals, clever riffs and storytelling lyrics. The penultimate track ‘Throw That Stone’ reminds me a lot of their ‘Symptoms + Cures’ album – two minutes of chaos in your ears. The album concludes with ‘Moment in Time’ which begins with a creepy intro courtesy of Northcotes Matthew Goud which grabs your attention, followed by a barrage of noise, and the closing verse is effective at telling the narrative of the track. Andrew Nufeld finishes the album strongly with the repeated cry of “Help Me, Help You”. It’s another very strong release from an underrated band who have been playing for what seems forever, it’s great to see a progression on this record from ‘Die Knowning’ in 2014 as the band have opened up many more options for their sound in the future. JP
Caelo - visions Three piece Cape Town outfit Caelo released their four track EP on September 4, an alt-rock gourmet blend. ‘Visions’ takes a subtle, quieter tone to the opening track of the EP as well as the title track. Here the notion of less is more didn’t quite do it for me, I felt like less was less. In some cases less is more can be done really well and nailed directly on the head, but I just felt as if there was something missing here. For me I think it was the fact that the tension they built through the progression did take a bit of time to set in, and I found myself getting a little bored with it rather than intrigued. ‘Renegades’ gets off on a better foot with a rolling riff to open and grab attention then dropping into a minimalistic verse, and the same rolling style through the transition from verse to verse. I liked the riffs and the attempt at something a little bit on the heavier side but I felt as if there wasn’t enough connection between the down beat and minimal verse and the bold, jazzy riffs that filled the in between. Through the bridge we get a pick up in tempo and a drop in key, which doesn’t seem to fit with either of the tones we had before. Initially I was excited to hear this track for the rolling riff that opened because I am a huge fan of riffs such as that, but the lack of connection between the elements left me feeling like it needed something else. The only part of the song that truly wrapped it all together was the ending riffs and drum lines which almost would’ve done well as the intro because it had a lot more decisiveness and togetherness.
‘All You Need’ opened with an interesting vocal style and riffing, as it was on the up swing but with the lyrics being sung it felt a little immature. I didn’t particularly enjoy this song for the intro and while it combined better than the past two tracks did, it seemed to be a tad bit all over the place with hands in lots of honey pots that they didn’t need to be in. ‘Catacombs’ started off on a good foot with a slightly punk feel, and a vibe that wrapped everything together wholly. Even through the verses that toned it down and stripped down to necessities, I felt that this one did the best job of wrapping elements together and more so than the past three. Combing a bit of a heavier sound and a take up in pace, this song definitely did more for me than the others. Overall, a 5.5 out of 10 for me. I think that this could be a gem or a diamond but it is in the rough right now. For the lack of cohesiveness that failed to combine elements well, and rather just flopped around it didn’t quite do it for me. There were a lot of sounds that seemed to get thrown around that didn’t really have a rhyme or reason. That being said, the production quality on this EP is excellent and it is clear that these guys worked very hard. LD
Foo Fighters - Concrete and Gold Foo Fighters are one of the biggest American rock bands going, with ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl forming the group back in 1994 and have ever since grown to dizzying heights and achieved their stadium powerhouse rock. So after such a long career, you wonder if they have anything new up their sleeves and with their ninth album Grohl had an interesting ambitious idea in mind, saying he wanted it to sound like “Motörhead’s version of Sgt Pepper”. This is a big and bold desire which immediately builds hype, but does it live up to his vision… Opening song ‘T-Shirt’ is a short number with a chilled soulful vibe initially before bursting to life, with a Beatles vibe present as promised. While first single released ‘Run’ is the heaviest offering, with prominent drum beats and heavy distorted riffs that dance around madly against Grohl’s fierce fuzzy vocals, making it quite a contrast to the opening song. ‘Make It Right’ sees the first superstar collaboration with Justin Timberlake, however, if you were expecting an obvious appearance, you will be surprised to hear, that he only provided backing vocals, so unless you read that he was featured, you wouldn’t really know. Although the song does make an impact with its bouncy rock ‘n’ roll vibrant riffs, with a strong classic vibe shining through. The second guest appearance comes from Alison Mosshart from The Kills, on the second single ‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’, which has a powerful opening with Dave Grohl’s pained loud shouts with slick catchy swooning instruments to accompany. The joint vocals are very effective and help give it that extra oomph, with the end result being rather epic. After doing a stellar job and adding extra depth with her backing vocals, Alison also contributes to the next offering ‘La Dee Da’ which gets your attention with fuzzy and distorted sounds again and a heavy emphasis on keys, giving it a weird/interesting sound and is comparable to the earlier hard-hitting single ‘Run’; again being on the harsher and louder side of the band, whilst maintaining some light-hearted parts. Next up, ‘Dirty Water’ this time sees beautiful backing vocals from Inara George with nice tuneful acoustic guitars, giving it a mellow feel, which helps to break up the album and add more variety. The biggest guest comes from Paul McCartney on ‘Sunday Rain’, which seems fitting considering the Beatles influence running through the album, however you may expect his appearance to be lending his vocals or guitar work, but being the talented multi-instrumentalist he is, he actually plays drums here. The song kicks off with a chilled swaggering guitar lick and pop-inspired effects to add to the ambiance, and whilst Paul helps with drums, the band’s actual drummer, Taylor Hawkins takes the lead on the vocals instead, so the whole song has a different feel and his soft vocals work wonderfully with the backdrop. Latest single ‘The Line’ is vibrant, dynamic and powerful, making it a perfect choice for a single and helps inject some different energy. The final song and title track has a dark sombre presence, coming off a bit slow and dreary at times, but then it intensifies with more instruments loudly coming in, but the main focus is still Grohl’s vocals. This may not have been the best way to end the album, perhaps a faster more edgy number would have been better placed, but it does help mix things up once more. Foo Fighters can almost do no wrong after their impressive consistent career, and although what they set out to do may have been a hard task to live up to, saying they wanted it to sound like “Motörhead’s version of Sgt Pepper”, they do a brilliant job, and this is a bit out of the norm for them but without straying too far from that characteristic sound. Despite all the guest appearances and comparisons or influences running through this, it still very much sounds like the Foo Fighters and it is an interesting album filled with hits, perhaps not your classic anthemic rock hits we are used to, as some songs may require a few listens before they grab you, but it is still a top notch composition from Grohl and co. CL
Satyricon - Deep Calleth Upon Deep Emerging from the chaos, murder and fire of the early 90s Norwegian Black Metal scene, Satyricon grew to be a band that didn’t adhere to what black metal expected from them, instead evolving and crafting their own path. While still unmistakeably black metal, Satyr and Frost have made the band more than that. ‘Deep Calleth, Upon Deep’ takes the band in a new direction, when hearing the title track for the first time a few weeks ago I was struck by a distinctly bluesy riff that almost bounces away. Unlike the opening ‘Midnight Serpent’ which is vintage Satyricon, slow, brooding and methodical. Satyr has always had a distinctive voice and this is him at his best. ‘To Your Brethren In The Dark’ brings plenty of atmosphere, taking the pace right down and allowing for some nice melodies which dip into the creepy sounding at times, the breakdowns show the intricacies that make Frost one of the best metal drummers out there. It’s the little things with him that give the songs that extra depth and edge. Back to the title track and the layers within it, it has its explosive moments, its slower bridging moments and continues with atmosphere created on the other tracks. The backing vocals bring a haunting operatic voice which sits with Styr’s voice so well following on from their hugely successful collaboration with the Norwegian National Opera Chorus. This continues with ‘The Ghosts of Rome’. Satyricon have taken the experience at the Opera and seem to have channelled it not only with the vocals but musically. They have always had epic songs but these seem to have another depth. This is a band still very relevant, they have tapped a new well of inspiration and are using it well. A triumphant return for one of Norway’s finest. AN
Stone Sour - Hydrograd Off the back of the momentous double album ‘A House of Gold and Bones’ was never going to be an easy job for Stone Sour, two albums of such brilliance as ‘Gold and Bones’ can have people thinking one of two ways. One – they will struggle to top it or two – how will they top it? Well this album for me falls a little bit in between the two. It all starts well enough ‘YSIF’ is a nice intro track and ‘Taipei Person/Allah Tea’ is a classic sounding Stone Sour number with crisp tempo changes, the rumbling bass and Corey Taylor as always firing on all cylinders. The sound, which was always going to have a different feel with the absence of Jim Root feels a lot more polished and lot less raw then the band has done at times and despite the aggression present in certain forms also finds it with a much more radio pleasing sound. A song like ‘Knieval has Landed’ sounds like it should be a great song but something just seems to be missing perhaps the Jim Root component, I’m not sure, but something holds it back from being a true banger. The album really kicks into high gear following the title track, ‘Song #3’ changes the tone and pace in a sufficient way to change the direction of the album before its highlight ‘Fabuless’ which is an absolute crusher. Starting big and dropping down before upping the dynamic again by launching into an angry and no fucking about aggression, this is how Taylor sounds best, his voice dipping into anger and venom before seamlessly entering into the angst ridden clean vocal. When he’s like this it is hair on the back of the neck stuff. ‘Hydrograd’ is an album that I think is a grower and in time I will appreciate far more, in certain ways they have done well in following ‘A House of Gold and Bones’. No, they haven’t topped it creatively but in terms of just a straight up rock album it is deserving of attention and of time to let it grow. AN
Seek Nothing - Self titled Berlin based hardcore band release their second EP which is ten quick and brutal minutes that manages to hit and miss in equal measure. 44 second opener ‘Mint As Fuck’ dips into early American political punk and finishes just as quickly as it took to load up, it isn’t a great start but then the far superior ‘COMA’ kicks in to a very decent metal song. One that brings a certain amount of groove in stages among the carnage. ‘Nackskott’ mixes elements of hardcore with melodic death metal, featuring some cracking break downs and skull splitting sections. Closer ‘Victims Nest’ again has a healthy mix of styles even dropping in more than a hint of Machine Head at times, with the breakdowns and thrashy main sections. At their best this EP showcases a band that could be very good but its low points show a band with things to work on. The second and fourth songs stand out, the third song is decent enough but the opener nearly lost me. A decent enough effort however. AN
The Darkness - Pinewood Smile This is a band that I will hold my hands up and admit I have never been able to get to grips with, as in life in general, some bands you click with and some you don’t. This time though, I think I’ve been brought round to The Darkness, this is an album I rate highly. ‘All the Pretty Girls’ strikes the right note from the start with a fast paced rocker with massive riffs, catchy melodies and an amusing look at life in a touring rock band. ‘Buccaneers of Hispanolia’ shows a band that are revitalised with Hawkins hitting some big notes and ‘Solid Gold’ keeps the riffs flying right into the superb ‘Southern Trains’ which if there is any justice to be found in the world should be an anthem. “Fuck you Southern Trains” is a sentiment I know plenty of people down south would share, it brings a few laughs but the message is fucking bang on the money!
The emotional side is shown on ‘Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry’, it is well placed to slow the furious pace of the start of the album, a fine song and on an album full of balls to the wall rock it is a superb song with immense harmonies both vocally and guitar wise. There really isn’t a bad song on this record, even the weaker ones are high quality and once ‘Stampede of Love’ has wound down (in a way I won’t spoil but it’s brilliant!) I am a newly converted believer in The Darkness. I have blasted the band in the past but with this one, after I’ve stopped listening to it at least, I’ll be going back to see if the earlier albums will find a new resonance. Even if they don’t, I still love this album! AN
Black Stone Cherry - Black To Blues I am a big fan of cover albums, seeing bands take another’s work and interpret it into their own. Especially when it isn’t a carbon copy of the source material, Black Stone have done this in their way and it makes for great listening. I’ve long been a fan of Howlin’ Wolf, I see him as the first metal singer, his vocal was unheard of at the time and he was a true trail blazer. They take this ‘Built for Comfort’ and make it their own, no mean feat given the quality of the original but it could be one of their own and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this end up a live staple for them. ‘Champagne and Reefer’ (Muddy Waters) is also done very well, giving this slow groover a shot of adrenaline and upping the sludge as is the case with Freddie King’s ‘Palace of the King’. They take the essence of these songs and update them to a generation where music technology is unrecogniseable. Albert King’s ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ feels tailor made for Black Stone Cherry, this is a banger and probably the most well-known to the masses. They smash this one and it is a rip-roaring effort as is the closing ‘I Want to be Loved’. The blues is an essential ingredient in what makes up Black Stone Cherry and they have paid tribute to the roots of rock n roll, if it hadn’t been for the guys they are covering then music would have been very different today. This is a very good EP, they have been faithful while making them Black Stone Cherry. One thing I always say about cover albums, and I’m sure the band would agree, use this as a marker and check out the source material as well. It will be well worth it. AN
Queens of the Stone Age - Villains It is a noticeably darker tone that opens up this seventh Queens of the Stone Age record, it also brings a distinct change in style, ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me’ brings a healthy amount of groove, nothing new of course for the band. The funky sound is still there in abundance but there is more aggression to it. ‘The Way You Used To’ breaks out the staccato heavy grooves in a fuzz fused ode to the 70s. This one is a genuine foot tapper and as Josh Homme croons along, it is impossible not to be carried away with the music as it concludes in a sonic blend of noise, riffs, effects and then ending abruptly.
‘Fortress’ turns things into a more melancholic affair, its gradual build is well done with an Iggy Pop feel of the guitar riff which gives the song a raw feel under the clean Bowie like voice. It’s a groover and leads well into a typical QOTSA stormer that ‘Head Like A Haunted House’ is. There is plenty going on and it is a gem, punk in sections, funky and in moments just screams Dead Kennedys while keeping that distinct signature sound. Possibly the albums stand out track comes with ‘Un-Reborn Again’. Using the riff and synth mix that is a massive part of the album to best effect, along with the numerous backing vocals it makes for some unnerving sections as the strings fade in and out. It is a fantastic piece of song writing, sometimes less is more but on this occasion, more makes for six minutes of musical mastery. This is an album that marks a new chapter for QOTSA, some will love it, some may hate it but it is an album that shows the band can tap into a wealth of musical knowledge of how to mix rough and raw with big production values. AN
CONS - Slowhealer Melodic hardcore by way of Tucson, Arizona comes the debut extended-play from the self professed household names of the genre CONS. There is a lot to dig into from the 5 tracks that make up ‘Slowhealer’ with explosive bursts from all the musicians which at times make it hard to hear what is being sang/screamed. The majority of the songs consist of heavy blasting with undertones of melody. To say that there is no melody would be dismissive, good examples are at the beginning of ‘Outpatient’ and the clean vocals incorporated into ‘Exhaler’ plus a number of lead lines. However the band does as previously mentioned rely on hard hitting playing. This approach to 80% of the LP really makes the listener take note of what is being played and in turn realising the quality on show. Outro’s to songs 1 and 2, ‘Remorse Code’ and ‘The Burden of Knowing’ are both fantastic, the former is splattered with awesome harmonics.
A relatively strong EP that shows the bands multiple facets musically however a household name they are not, well not yet anyway there is nothing stopping them from becoming one if they improve on the balance of clean and brutal vocals. Also it would be interesting to hear what CONS would do if they sang clean a little more, or at least mixed that element in. There are a couple of flaws with ‘Slowhealer’ but as a first release it has some impact. EJ
Misery Loves Company – Love Notes and Highways After forming in 2015 the band from South Jersey are products of their environment. That meaning another emotionally charged heavier band like amped up version of current Sleeping with Sirens and State Champs but better. This extended-play and not album (though the band is calling it an album) is okay there are some interesting elements in the short opener and ‘All Used Up’ which has a very catchy vocal melody showing the ability to get their music into your head. However the generic lyrics leave a lot to be desired and fit right in at home with the post-emo (basically just emo) genre bringing a few roll of the eyes moments. Nothing else was to be expected either as just from the band’s name and title of the songs e.g. ‘Goodbye Forever’, ‘Beautiful Tragedy’. If the EP was more like ‘All Used Up’ or as eerily creepy ‘Save Me from Myself’ it would certainly have more of a pull. Misery Loves Company doesn’t particularly stand out from the crowd but do not get dragged into the bad tier either. Fine is what ‘Love Notes and Highways’ is with a couple of nice tid-bits to excite. EJ
Everything Everything – A Fever Dream The Manchester formed quartet have released their fourth album ‘A Fever Dream’ on the back of three very distinct acclaimed records leaving enthusiasts salivating over what the album would add to the catalogue. It is safe to say that the album is not as instrumentally dense as 2015s ‘Get to Heaven’ however it still has that Everything Everything quirky, sometimes frantic musicianship on a number of tracks including the opener ‘Night of the Long Knives’. With a building synth, sparse bass notes and Higgs coming in singing the title of the track within the first 39 seconds. A droning air raid like siren sound explodes into your ears quickening the pace and bass grooves up. Lyrically it is focused on the rise of the Alt Right in recent times hence the title’s reference to the murders of opponents of the Nazis in June/July 1934. That theme sets up the direction of the following 10 tracks. Singles ‘Can’t Do’ and ‘Desire’ are accessible art-pop that have gone down well with mainstream radio as they are not too out there (for the group anyway) especially ‘Can’t Do’ being very chorus driven with Higgs singing “Can’t Do” a lot maybe to the point of annoyance, over the steady infectious rhythms. ‘Desire’ is more guitar based both in the electric guitar and bass departments. You would be a fool for not expecting exemplary musicianship as every album is brimming with creative melodies, structures, weird lyrics and vocal arrangements etc. ‘Put Me Together’ is one of a number of slower songs (’Big Game’ and closer ‘White Whale’) with clean ringing guitars, softer rhythm playing. The song writing here is exemplary Higgs outlines in his words the views of the neighbours who do the same things as him but are completely the different. Echoes of tensions between people in the wake of that B word pointing at the large refugee/immigration “crisis” and the firm belief that other people are nothing like me, when in actuality they are. All framed in a looking over the hedge idyllic suburb. Though the band are not directly pointing fingers and calling out specific public figures or groups it is rather easy to see who they are having a dig at. Could they have done that yes but considering the image of the band it may not have been the most sensible manoeuvre.
Title track ‘A Fever Dream’ is good but is drawn out with the band overextending it for an extra minute or so than it needs to be. Even if the piano melody is great but by having the outro being so long with minimal changes to the repetitive “All I see a fever dream before me now”. Additionally the song is supposed to be really surreal which it is to a point but it would have been extraordinary if they went crazy, making it really mind-bending instead of it just being a bit surreal. Even if it was too much for some it would have been a memorable risk. Succeeding ‘A Fever Dream’ is the blistering ‘Ivory Tower’ (like ‘Run the Numbers’) is a familiar, quick addiction with the epic chorus, a bridge that ingrains itself into your skull and a guitar solo to boot. It really is an exhilarating highlight. ‘A Fever Dream’ is a culmination of tremendous musicianship, clever writing and accessibility. Accessibility is a characteristic that people did not apply to their debut. Everything Everything are as inventive as they have ever been but now know how to shape that into music that can be played on mainstream radio but have not compromised any originality to do so. The balance of slower songs with the faster ones is perfect, leading to a very rewarding listen. EJ
Arcane Roots - Melancholia Hymns A lot of artists do genuinely believe they can embody a lot of different influences in their music and that it shows in the final result. However only a few actually do, this is certainly the case for Arcane Roots. Admitedly when the first track ‘Before Me’ started as a steady almost harmonic burst of music I felt initially bored. So many bands do this, throw out big tracks with some dull high pitched moans over the top but this was different. This genuinely made me feel like I was on another planet about to explore what was out there, what was to come and what had already been. The true genius to Arcane Roots lies in their ability to story tell. I was concerned this album would be quite similar in tone for the whole album, really this was the beginning. Arcane Roots ARE one of those bands that can use any type of sound to display their efforts. This is shown with ‘Matter’, away go the high pitched vocals and out come the powerful singing chords along with a rock inspired drum beat to complete it. Fast forward this spectacular album and get to ‘Curtains’ and again it’s a total change in the perception of this band. No big melody, no massive chorus to strike the significance of the words, just a smooth singing voice and a steady melody, culminating with an amazing synth finish. For the more heavier fans out there then AR have got you covered, ‘Solemn’ begins with what I can only describe as an intense bass line and a dominating looming doom of a drum beat. The vocals that accompany this track are almost reminiscent of Black Sabbath in the way the words are spun around. As this song kicks into the middle it becomes an intense collaboration of incredible instrument work and vocals. Easily making it one of the best songs on this album. ‘Melancholia Hymns’ is an amazing album that a lot of people should listen to, it’s not go go go every single second and there are some parts that drag on but the use of different styles used is incredible and it does make for some good easy listening. RO
Shatterproof - Self-titled EP Shatterproof get fired off the starting post from the word go! Taking inspiration from Yellowcard their pop punk with a difference of the violin infused rock is infectious and consuming. ‘So Punk’ kicks off this awesome EP and it’s raucous sound and style is similar and yet different, the vocals go from melodic smooth to rock rough in an instant and the melody is just awesome. The lyrics describing the issue with the pop punk scene of today “I’m tired of working for no pay. All work and no play.” Ending with a close to metal grind it begins ‘Paper House’ with a huge bang. Displaying their use for various instruments ‘Cookie Cutter Life’ begins with a catchy hamornica intro before slipping into an almost Pierce the Veil style of singing before it kicks in with the awesome guitar riff. The song slows in the middle to an almost creepy halt before it kicks it back into overdrive. Demonstrating the vocalists use for screaming as well as melodic singing. To quote internet memes and Facebook videos “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t dance to Karma” the melody all the way through is just far damn too infectious not to toe tap to. It’s an odd one because it’s dancy but slow at the same time, definitely one of the strongest on this EP though. The end of this album is the spectacular ‘Lykos’ which manages to pull influences from a LOT of other artists and the result is a song that’s almost like being in a hurricane one minute to being in a spa the next. RO
Brand New – Science Fiction It has been a long, frustrating 8 year wait for Brand New to release their fifth studio record. There were plans/roomers to have it be released last year but as it was the 10th anniversary of arguably one of the best albums of the 2000s ‘The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me’ (2006) they celebrated its importance with a tour playing it in its entirety. There were tours as well as a few early demo collections alongside two singles ‘Mene’ (2015) and ‘I Am a Nightmare’ (2016) to tide people over. Straight from the off there is an aura that something extraordinary lies ahead. Eerie is an apt description for a couple of reasons. One, it opens up with a recording of a woman recalling a dream to a psychiatrist (similar snippets and oddities appear again and again across ‘Science Fiction’). Then the delivery of ‘Lit Me Up’ is somewhat isolated Lacey’s vocal and sole guitar is all you hear for a good chunk of the run time, even when the rhythm section join in it is very subtle but none the less great. It is one hell of an introduction or welcome (full) return.
‘Can’t Get It Out’ has a little more bite and a catchy whistle (plus the muted chucks are always a hit) here lyrically focusing on depression one of the multiple topics that are delved into linked to the complexities of being a human. ‘Could Never be Heaven’ is a sweet sentiment but again it has a darker undertone. ‘137’ is a philosophical account of the end of man due to the dropping of nuclear bombs, questions of why we would do such a thing, why can’t we just love one another. Here possibly being influenced by current tensions around the globe and the grim realisation that there is a chance that we... 'all go play Nagasaki, We can all get vaporised, Hold my hand, let's turn to ash, I'll see you on the other side' Furthermore ‘137’ is musically layered with acoustic guitars some wah-wah effected electric guitar, killer lead lines leading to a great ending. Mixing these lyrics with this music genuinely creates one of the most hard hitting, chilling songs in recent memory. A masterful 5 minutes and 1 second. That should make it onto year end lists for best song of the year as it is that spectacular. Suitably titled ‘Desert’ is simplistic instrumentally whilst Lacey embodies a man of strict faith who is disgusted at seeing two men kissing in the street; his unwillingness to give up his gun and other ideals/values of the depicted character has on the state of the world he lives in. ‘451’ is damn groovy taking from the electric Chicago blues of the early 20th Century blended with more modern rock elements to create another memorable moment. Album number five tips its hat respectfully to each LP that came before ‘Science Fiction’ which will probably be the last one. ‘Science Fiction’ is everything that Brand New represent for many people, the flaws of being human, difficulties of relations either romantic or not and the struggles of life. It also draws attention to the massive hole left in Vincent Accardi, Jesse Lacey, Brian Lane and Garrett Tierney's absence a connection to genuine emotion. If this is indeed the end for Brand New then there is no better way to close their career. EJ
Bad Mary- Glitter Bomb Opening with ‘Motor Mouth’ Bad Mary definitely starts out strong and gets even stronger. Grabbing your attention with a slap in the face and a shot down the hatch tempo and riffing, I definitely would not have asked for a better first song to an album. ‘Will You Still Love Me’ follows in the number two spot with a consistent grooving rhythm, and vocals to match the garage jam. I take this track to mean that the album started high, and is only going higher. Title track, ‘Glitter Bomb’ combines the sound of the two prior, with a relatively quickly timed progression but vocals that get right down to the bottom of your soul and make you want to get up and move. I loved the movement of this chorus and the hard hitting upbeat nature of this track, a perfect choice for the title. Ending with, ‘Japan’ to round out this six track piece, this track gives great closure to an album that gives punk a great name. As with the rest of the songs, this song is loaded with swinging vocals and energy that is as infectious as the sound of these tracks. Overall, I. Loved. This. Album. 9.5/10 for these guys on a six track album chock full of good tunes to sing, dance, laugh, and cry, or do whatever you want to. LD
Four Year Strong - Some of You Will like this. Some of You Won’t ‘Some of You Will like this. Some of You Won’t’. An apt title for this latest offering from the pop punk group Four Year Strong. Usually known for their fast melodies, high powered vocals and guitar riffs they’ve stripped everything back to basics and have produced something truly magnificent. Even as the ever popular ‘It Must Really Suck to Be Four Year Strong right now’ begins in a lower acoustic tempo with keyboard accompniment it doesn’t feel like the same song. The massive drop at the end is wonderful and done in such a way that it still remains a ballad more than a rock song. It’s truly awesome to hear how talented these guys are, all you can usually hear from the American four is the breakdowns and the very big vocals they offer. To actually hear singing rather than shouting is a treat for any fans of these guys. Not only that but all the songs are damn catchy. ‘Go Down in History’ sounds like something you could hear at a barn dance.
The same can be said for ‘We All Float Down Here’, it almost has a comparison to a Mumford and Sons song rather than a very popular pop punk outfit. What Four Year Strong have done is completely change their playing style and it’s paid off in a massive way. Foolishly I thought Four Year Strong were a one trick pony, I’ve not ignored them persé just set them to the side as I’ve listened to other bands of a similar disposition. However with the release of this album I feel like I should give them the recognition they deserve. Every single song has that essense of originality and energy that make them completely different from their counterparts. RO
Hot Water Music - Light It Up Formed way back in 1993, Hot Water Music have numerous EPs and albums behind them. After being stop and start over the past few years they return with a brand new album that is very welcome and sees them hit the heights once again. Chuck Ragan has one of those distinct and stand out voices in rock and it is refreshing hearing him in the heavier end of the spectrum because his voice just works so damn well in it. Keeping the same outpouring of emotion, and character he is able to spit out an extra amount of venom with songs such as opener, ‘Complicated’ and ‘Sympathiser’ where as he can lay out the passionate and tender side with the albums first single ‘Never Going Back’ and ‘Rabbit Key’.
They manage to dig into various styles and be very strong in each, the punk rock melodies in ‘Vultures’ makes for some powerful moments, while ‘Bury Your Idols’ brings those big singalong sections that will have any crowd crooning along without needing much, if any encouragement. This is a record that is powerful, emotional and a real page turner from start to finish, showing mastery of the craft of song writing with catchy choruses, thoughtful verses and simply a very good album. AN
Theory of a Deadman - Wake Up Call Starting with a bouncy staccato beat, there is a very radio friendly beginning to this sixth Theory of A Deadman album, ‘Straight Jacket’ has a nice groove to it, then the tone takes a darker turn with the album’s first single ‘RX’. The song takes in drug rehabilitation and relapse and questions of religion, it is a slow dirge of a song with a haunting whistling rhythm that fits in perfectly and adds the perfect layer to the song. It is a hard song to listen to but it is easy to see why it was chosen as the lead single for the album. Apart from the quality of it, it is an intriguing song that causes the need for more investigation into the album. ‘Echos’ follows on with a more upbeat tempo although it has its bleak moments that rise up to the big chorus, already this is an album that asks a lot of questions. How can such dark sections be made so bright and crashing back down be so compelling? As an album, this is a release that asks a lot of the listener that may not be realised at first but as the album progresses, it becomes one that is hard at times to listen, with the flip-side being that it is impossible to stop. It is bleak but when the clouds break there is an upbeat that lifts it up. This is obviously a personal album with subject matter close to home, it isn’t one I’d put on repeat but it is one when I hear a song, I will have to play the full record. AN
Enter Shikari - The Spark Enter Shikari have managed to build an incredible name for themselves during their 13 years as a band. They’ve always broke down the barriers between music genres and have constantly kept their fans guessing what direction they could head in next. This is not merely maturing, it’s beginning a new chapter. ‘The Spark’ itself begins with a light synth number that feels like it belongs in a rogue 80s film. It’s quite a contrast as they’re usually one to boast epic intros, this is a little less ‘Take to the Skies’ and more Depeche Mode. It is a wonderful piece of art. Kicking into ‘The Sights’, we are instantly introduced to a brand new sound that these guys have not produced before. Taking inspiration from David Bowie, lead singer Rou has toned down his usual screaming vocals and has instead gone for a more soprano feel as he searches “far and wide for a planet to orbit”. The lead single ‘Live Outside’ is very much in the same category as ‘The Sights’, an upbeat pop rock track with some heartfelt undertones. It’s truly the harmonies that make this track incredible, never before have Shikari had such a sing-a-long anthem. It is one man’s struggle into yearning for escape from a broken mind and it works perfectly. Always ones to be at the front of a political agenda, they’ve gone head first into the deep end this time with ‘Take my Country Back’, more of a fast paced rock song that is Shikari’s bread and butter. This is an old school fan pleaser for sure. There are still moments of screaming but this is a track when the vocals are really ranged. They even throw in a reference to ‘Ok Time For Plan B’ as they chant “look what we’ve done to ourselves, we’ve really gone and fucked it this time”. Undoubtedly one of the most emotional and intense tracks that this band have ever produced is ‘Airfield’. The lyrics are beautiful and you can hear the raw feelings in Rou’s voice as he softly delivers them over a piano melody. The message itself is one of loss and rather than offer the comfort that most do “everything happens for a reason” Rou states his apologies saying it’s “false and it’s poison.” This end culminates in a fantastic sing along featuring the whole band and the drumming is next level, it stands out above anything else and proves that Rob Rolfe is one of the best around at this moment. There are times when this band know exactly who they’re going up against, for example in the hell raising ‘Rabble Rouser’ when he spouts “I torture rockstars with pliers, they’re so stock it wouldn’t be a shock if I opened them up to see wires” feels like a direct message to all the preppy stuck up “rock stars”’ on the scene. The most notable thing through this track is the ominous rising bass going all the way through it, it’s definitely going to be an incredible performance at their live shows. It’s awesome how this band manage to give throwbacks to previous albums, there’s a part where the old riff for messy track ‘Jonny Sniper’ can be heard and even on ‘Shinrin-yoku’ it feels like ‘The Mindsweep’ could start again. The lyrics utilised by Rou are bewildering and thought provoking. “We are the dust on the stained glass windows, trying to comprehend the cathedral” is a particular favourite during this track, again it’s a slow builder but ends in something so spectacular. ‘Undercover Agents’ is a bizarrely addictive track boasting the amazing lyrics of “I am currently under construction, thank you for your patience” which again is another personal reference for the frontman. It makes good use of the new style synths that are on this album also. The end result is half rock ballad and half dance anthem, the electric guitar work is a fantastic addition as well. The best thing about these guys is their ability to throw out what people don’t expect, I never expected for an almost ska anthem to be thrown out and yet with ‘Revolt of the Atoms’ that’s exactly what we get. The album ends with the beautiful ‘Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces’, once again it’s a look into the world of Rou as he comprehended what to do with himself when his world practically fell apart. It’s a story of a breakdown of a relationship and how to pick yourself back up again. It’s an emotional and beautiful track culminating in a spine tingling ending with an incredible vocal performance from the frontman. It’s so crazy to imagine that this album was inspired by some of the darkest times of lead singer Roughton Reynold’s life. His long term relationship ended, he lost his grandparents and he had intense anxiety, so why then is this possibly the happiest Enter Shaker album produced? Probably because he has this talent to take any situation and put a brilliant spin on it musically. Whether throwing his hand in at the subject of loss with ‘Airfield’ or ‘Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces’ or giving fake rockstars their comeuppance in ‘Rabble Rouser’ one thing is clear when listening to ‘The Spark’. This is a new start for Enter Shikari and it might be the key to ruling the world. RO
1986 was a landmark year for metal. Megadeth released ‘Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying’, Slayer released ‘Reign in Blood’ two albums that raised both bands to heights unimagined but, one band released an album that began to push them to heights on a par with the clouds. 1984, with the release of ‘Ride the Lightning’ Metallica began to evolve their sound from the all-out thrash metal assault to a more structured and refined sound that while still immensely heavy, began to incorporate new influence in the songwriting. Thanks largely to one of the finest bass players of all time, Cliff Burton who introduced Hetfield and Ulrich to the likes of Simon and Garfunkal and classical music. March 1986 saw the release of ‘Master of Puppets’, still to this day considered the pinnacle of thrash metal and for most the best Metallica album. Even today, 31 or so years on, the album sounds as powerful, fresh and beautiful as ever, the album is a thing of beauty. Opening with the acoustic guitars and harmonised guitars before launching into the brutality that is ‘Battery’ makes for one of metals biggest and best openings, the rumble of Burton’s bass pounds along making the sound monstrous. It is simply stunning. With no respite, the title track smashes in to the start of a song that made people stand up and realise just what Metallica were capable of. About three minutes in comes the rolling guitar harmonies, building into a crescendo and gradually moving into the screams of “master, master”. They had something that no other metal band had at that point, the ability to suddenly drop a classical sound in the heaviest of thrash. They also showed that melody had a place in thrash. That being said, ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ and ‘Disposable Heroes’ are about as heavy as you can get and still are. Then there is ‘Orion’ and Cliff Burton. It is impossible to over-state how important Cliff Burton is on the Metallica story, the influence he brought to the band expanded horizons for the members of the band, showing them, just how much is out there. ‘Orion’, I have often said is Cliff Burton’s masterpiece. He was a visionary bass player, experimenting with sounds and causing people not to know when the bass is being played. This is a song that belongs to the bass, it is everywhere and it is to the fore of the song. The solos are exquisite and he made it seem easy. In future years people have slammed Metallica for songs such as ‘Nothing Else Matters’ saying Cliff would have hated it, to them I always ask if they knew anything about Burton. He would have loved it and it shows the influence he had that five years later a song like that would be recorded. By the time ‘Damage Inc’ has closed the album out it would have been known, even in March 1986 that this album was a classic. In terms of thrash metal it is the finest example of the genre and one of the best of all time in general. The loss of Cliff Burton just a few months later was a crushing blow to Metallica and brings a bittersweet feeling to the album even now. It would have ended most bands but in just a few years James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and the soon to join Jason Newsted would become the biggest band on the planet with no band or musician selling more concert tickets than them in the 1990s. Without ‘Master of Puppets’ it may not have happened and without ‘Master of Puppets’, metal would have been in a poorer state and classic albums of the future may not have ever happened. AN
Feeder - Chepstow Racecourse - August 25th It's hard to believe that it's been over twenty years since the formation of Feeder, and what an incredible career they have had so far! I mean, if you are from the UK and haven't heard of 'Just A Day', 'Buck Rogers', 'Feeling The Moment', 'Just The Way I'm Feeling' then you've probably been living in a cave. With each album they harness an exciting progression unlike any other band, and with their tenth studio album 'All Bright Electric' they've displayed this once more. Last year we were doing an interview with Grant Nicholas and at this time he spoke of the possibility of doing a hometown gig in Chepstow to celebrate their story, so what a pleasure it is to of been in attendance as they stuck to their word and put the gig on. Launching in with a new track 'Universe of Life' they show the raw sound that they have captured superbly on their latest album 'All Bright Electric', a set opener that will surely be in their performance for a longtime to come. 'Insomnia' takes us back to the earlier/grungey days of Feeder, and simply hits everyone in the face with its captivating chord progression and relentless approach. Now we kick into a string of classic tracks, all in a row: 'Feeling a Moment', 'Shatter', 'Pushing the Senses', 'Lost & Found', 'Just the Way I'm Feeling', 'Turn'. So basically if you need the toilet, then this is not the set for you. It's insane just how many great (not just good) songs Feeder have right now, and it's no surprise that they have just unleashed 'Feeder The Best Of' to back up my point. Coming full circle in the set, they play 'Eskimo', which is one of my favorites from the new album, and unsurprisingly it goes down extremely well with the audience. As soon as 'Buck Rogers' starts you know that you have to jump when the song kicks in. An absolute anthem of the 00s, and without a doubt one of the most iconic songs the band have put out. An absolute masterpiece to watch live. Returning with a five song encore, the band get an interesting smell going in the crowd with the song 'High', hit ‘ Out' (live debut), and then cruise through 'Seven us with an awesome brand new track entitled 'Figure You Days in the Sun', 'Just a Day' and 'Sweet 16' to basically melt our minds and leave us wanting more. Feeder have an incredible backbone of hits under their belt, so when you see the band live now there is just no escaping the fact that every track performed will go down an absolute storm. If you haven't seen this band live yet, go out and pick up their 'The Best Of' album, and then book your tickets for their live shows in March! Do it! AD
Muse - 02 Shepherd's Bush Empire - London - August 19th As I stood in the line outside of the legendary Shepherd’s Bush Empire I knew this was going to be a special night and how lucky I was to be there. As this was a charity event and they were doing it FOR FREE there were no supports but it didn’t matter, instead the entertainment was getting to talk to people around you which was an incredible experience. Everyone discussing favourite songs, favourite shows and how far they’ve travelled to be here tonight. Even as I was walking in I saw someone with a sign saying they were from Africa. That’s dedication. This was a stripped back Muse show. No massive screens dominating the stage, no incredible intros just three guys walking on stage to deafening screams and cheers. This is a big night for Muse and their set list has been chosen entirely by the fans and this is clear as they kick off with the mighty ‘Assassin’, all around people are reciting it word for word and at that moment I realise how spectacular this night is going to be. As the night continues we’re treated to even more of the older tracks including ‘Dead Star’, ‘Glorious’, ‘Showbiz’ and one of my favourites ‘Muscle Museum’. I’ve seen Muse a few times and this is the first time I’ve heard Matt Bellamy talk as much as he has, even stopping to explain that we’re about to hear the live debut of ‘Easily’ a track from the ‘Showbiz’ days. Of course some of the popular singles come out to play such as ‘New Born’, the ever impressive ‘Butterflies and Hurricanes’ and fan favourite ‘Hysteria’ featuring a short ‘Back in Black’ intro. Their first encore features the awesome ‘Sing for Absolution’ of which Bellamy says “we didn’t expect this one so high up on the list but here it goes” it could be that he’s not a huge fan of the song anymore considering he got the lyrics wrong halfway through to cheers of the audience when he addressed his mistake. This was followed by ‘Plug In Baby’ because they weren’t not going to play that. The second encore featured ‘Futurism’ which again shocked the crowd to its very core and ended with the only song they can end on these days ‘Knights of Cydonia’. As I was leaving Shepherds Bush I realised that never again would I see such an incredible show, the passion that was put into this performance was staggering and to see this stadium sell out band in a 2000 person venue is something I’ll never forget. Everytime I see these guys I always say “that was the best time”, but it will take a hell of a lot to beat this. RO
“‘Anyone Anytime Anywhere” these are the words used for Nintendo’s latest console The Switch. The idea is amazing and really could revolutionise the way games are played, to have something portable but still give out exactly the same power when it’s taken away from a wall is fantastic. Nintendo have struck gold. So, the main questions I’m asked by people who visit “should I buy one? Is it worth it? Can we play? You putting the kettle on?” the last question is just what people always ask me. Infuriating. I was fortunate enough to get a Nintendo Switch when they came out even though they seemingly now have turned to gold dust. While most people have bought the console for Zelda: Breath of the Wild I instead prefer the basic games such as 1 2 Switch, Bomberman and glorified friendship killer Mario Kart. Not that Breath of the Wild isn’t amazing. The amount of freedom you have is staggering and the scenery is beautiful, you can approach a situation in any way you like and choose to diffuse or run away from it. The amount of choice is breath taking…if you’ll excuse the pun. I just don’t have time to invest in large games these days. Stupid adult responsibilities. Like jobs and shopping and making my own dinner. Ugh. 1 2 Switch is the real game changer on the console by far, obviously Nintendo have made quite a name for themselves for rearing “party consoles”. When the launch of the Wii happened and its predecessor the Wii U, they provided games that were fun for the whole family and that is exactly what 1 2 Switch has done. It’s quite simple you choose a game and using the coloured controllers you play against friends/family. It sounds cliché and cheesy but it is a great game to play with friends. Whether you’re shaking a champagne bottle trying to get it to pop, running on a beach, storming the catwalk, (of which I nailed) or milking a cow. A small note, 1 2 Switch is about eye contact but when you and your male friend are milking an imaginary cow it just gets weird. It is just fun to have though. Also with the added option of being able to take the Switch anywhere, it’s not limited by what you can do.
I wouldn’t have thought the idea of the portable console would work. I was under the impression that people enjoy their games indoors and that’s it, don’t need to move don’t need to do anything. However I’ve now taken my Switch to quite a few parties (on the demands of the host) and it’s been awesome! It is a very nifty thing to have and brings a lot of people together. If I hadn’t known my friends for as long as I have I know that by now with anyone else I’d have been punched, kicked, stabbed and maybe even shot for the rage that I throw out playing Mario Kart. You know how it is, you’re just on the last lap, you’ve just dodged a green shell, the last bomb was nowhere near your kart to affect you, you’re on cloud 9 and maybe a little bit smug. Then it happens the death from above blue shell claims you. This is the point where my rage hits the ceiling and that is why I think Mario Kart 8 on The Switch is the best one yet. The mechanics are on point, the character selection along with vehicle customisation is fantastic and all the levels are unlocked with no need for any purchases. Mario Kart 8 bought me back to the old gamecube game and rejuvenated my love for this series, the love coming out in searing screams towards the TV and AI players messing me over. I will never forgive Donkey Kong. I’ve also lost all my friends. Worth it. It’s easy to get bogged down and just talk about the amazing games on The Switch and the amazing ones coming, I mean Skyrim is going to be portable! If that’s not designed for people on the toilet then maybe I’ve lost touch with the gaming community or possibly the human race. Although it’s only been out for a short time I feel it’s more than proved it’s worth and with a whole heap of updates and games coming out across the next year I think this could be Nintendo’s biggest pay off yet. So to answer my initial question. Yes it’s worth it to own but is it worth the current price tag I’d say wait until it drops down a bit, it’ll probably be cheaper by christmas and you’ll have a Super Mario Odyssey bundle too! That’ll be cool!
Published on Sep 30, 2017
Features interviews from the following: Enter Shikari, Cradle of Filth, Silverstein, Steel Panther, Anti-Flag, Simple Plan, Nothing More, Sa...