Unbelievably it’s already February, and the volume of quality releases in multiple genres shows no sign of abating, which is a very wonderful thing indeed, for those of us with an insatiable desire for new, new, always new music.
It’s most certainly time, therefore, for another round-up. This time, the spotlight, quite deliberately falls on punk and hardcore. There are 2 main reasons for this calculated choice. Firstly, our library of late 2016 non-reviewed submissions from artists operating (however loosely) in this area was positively bursting at the seams. Secondly, with what is going on politically in the West currently, it is not going to be very long before the ill-equipped Echoes And Dust section for music of a punk, hardcore, grindcore and generally sounding very pissed off persuasion is going to need a significant extension. We thought we’d better clear the decks.
So, buckle up folks, as an able team of writers, who like it a wee bit shoutier, provide concise assessments of no less than 12 records from the second half of 2016, for your reading, and hopefully listening and liking, pleasure.
Between Life and Nowhere by Art Of Burning Water – Released 1/7/16 via SuperFi Records by Jamie Jones
As a nation Britain has an unfortunate long-held habit of under-appreciating it’s best heavy talent. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that Art of Burning Water don’t ever seem to get their due. Hands up, we’re as guilty as anyone – this, their 6th full length, deserved better than this belated 150 word pat on the back. Album after album they just keep getting better – Between Life and Nowhere is their most immediately gratifying release, full of Converge-esque hardcore ferocity that careens off into any extreme form of whiplash-paced guitar music you care to mention – without ever sounding like anyone but themselves.
It’s nothing short of a god damn masterclass. Do yourself a favour – pick this up (it’s pay what you want on Bandcamp so there’s no excuse) and go see them at your earliest convenience. They won’t disappoint you. I’m not sure they know how.
Newts by Newts – Released 17/9/16 via Self-Released by Jody Dunstan
Newts are a noise rock three piece from London, other than that the information is somewhat lacking. Their eponymous EP is only 15 minutes long and the influences are many and varied. Although it’s firmly in noise rock territory I am reminded of everything from early 90’s noise bands like Weezer and Pavement to more recent artists such as Shellac and Dozer, with a whole lot of stuff in between.
Opening track ‘Pin’ is full of thick, muddy, fuzzy guitar, lazy sounding drum track and distorted, slightly otherworldly vocals. In contrast, ‘Back’ is harder edged, choppy and spiky, and with vocals that have an angrier tone. ‘Pure’ has cleaner vocals and harmony and a melodic backing, although ends in a haze of static and feedback. ‘Lungs’ has a similar feel to ‘Back’ but with a progressive rock influence. The greater proportion of the song is again taken up by static and feedback.
The EP is somewhat disjointed and appears to be a young band exploring and finding their sound. All in all, for a work in progress, not bad at all.
SIBIIR by SIBIIR – Released 9/12/16 via Fysisk Format by Andy Price
Ah – this is an absolute cracker. Blackened hardcore is the order of the day from these Norwegians, aided by a brutal production that absolutely emphasises the power in the songwriting. The closest comparisons to SIBIIR would be the nastiness of Plebeian Grandstand, the urgent power of Trap Them and a soupcon of Converge invention.
The record packs in the riffs across its 36 minute run time, and has some genuinely joy-inducing moments. Those moments come thick and fast in opener ‘Bekmorke’ and the template is largely followed through the record. There are a couple of dips – the slightly doomy ‘Apathetic’ probably could have been edited a bit- it doesn’t really have enough to carry it through its runtime, but overall this is a great trip into a dark violent place.
Combat by Civil Elegies – Released 13/8/16 via Bandcamp by Stephen Fallows
Combat is the third album from Glaswegian trio Civil Elegies, and is an intense introduction to the band if, like me, you hadn’t been aware of them before. Nine tracks of slow heavy, churning noise that sounds like the bastard son of Helmet, Fudge Tunnel and even Godflesh in places. Imagine all of those bands mixed together with Sick Of It All’s Lou Koller on vocals and you won’t be far from this release.
From the down-tuned darkness of ‘Life Of A Stupid Man’, the more experimental noise at the start of ‘I Am The Same’ right through to the completely deconstructed version of Queen’s ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’, they have created an album that is very heavy, very noisy and not very nice, which is exactly the way I like my music. Highly recommended and available from the band’s Bandcamp page.
Welcome To Poetry 201 by The Nietzsche – Released 1/9/16 via Bandcamp by Simon D Smith
In 2016, the mathcore world was shocked by the fact that the sixth album by The Dillinger Escape Plan was going to be their testament as a band; the news overshadowed most of the records put out during the year, but now that the dust has settled it’s time to discover all the gems we guiltily overlooked, one of which certainly is The Nietzsche‘s new record.
Welcome to Poetry 201 is the band’s second EP, following Intro to Advanced Poetry, released in 2015: the records’ titles are not casual at all, since the lyrics are exclusively poems, whose author is cited in the title of each song. While the main influences stayed the same (namely The Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge), their second work is much more mature, faster, heavier and catchier at the same time; they also managed to include in their usual style some blackened parts, which contributed more diversity to the record while always sounding natural. It’s really hard to find a flaw: complex structures and odd time signatures characterise the heavier parts, which are interchanged with great melodies and powerful clean singing.
The strength of the songs often depends on the strength of the riffs, and here they surely are always on point; the whole band relies on solid technique, which is regarded as a tool at the service of the song and not as an objective per se. To sum up, The Nietzsche’s new effort represents a big step forward in their path; in its brevity, it shows perfectly all their strengths, while leaving you eager for more.
Covenant Of Teeth by Morrow – Released 2/9/16 via Halo Of Flies by Andy Price
There are very few people I follow from band to band, but Alex CF has done nothing but good things since Fall Of Efrafa finished its run a few years back, and Morrow does not buck that trend in the slightest. It’s a heavy, atmospheric and deeply emotional experience, drawing on post metal and crust influences.
Opening with a gentle vocal over washes of muted guitar and falling rain, the album layers on cello and big wide open riffs that build and deliver emotional pay-offs in spades. The four lengthy songs on this record absolutely deliver and it’s rare that one listen through is sufficient.
The use of guest vocalists keeps the album feeling fresh throughout and, well, it’s just a staggering achievement, especially for a debut full length. If intelligent post metal and crusty hardcore are your cup of tea, then you’re going to find a lot to love here.
The Incubus by Famous Last Words – Released 30/9/16 via Revival Recordings by Steve Fallows
US five piece Famous Last Words released their third album in late 2016 and with it brought to my attention a slightly different take on the whole metalcore thing. They have a mixture of clean and shouted vocals, but the thing which really grabbed me was that alongside the vocals they switch between the usual breakdowns and a much more melodic early 00’s pop punk sound, and this mixture of the two contrasting styles keeps it from being too generic.
Over the course of twelve tracks it does get a little bit repetitive in places, but all in all it’s a very well-produced and realised album and there is plenty of little twists and turns to keep your attention and not get bored of it. A pleasing change and something which has interested me in listening to their earlier offerings.
Mourners by Hoist The Colors – Released 23/9/16 via Hardline Entertainment by Jody Dunstan
Hoist the Colors, judging by their social media profile, are positioning themselves in the Irish influenced, folky, punky rock realm. There are obvious comparisons to Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly and vocally Chuck Ragan‘s solo work. But Mourners see them taking a new direction, with the band developing and expanding their sound.
Listening to earlier albums such as 2012’s Miles To Go Before We Sleep the development of the band’s own sound becomes apparent. Earlier tracks such as ‘Shackles and Chains’ have a frenetic, punkier sound with heavy use of a fiddle. On Mourners the fiddle is supplanted by mandolin and it seems that the band have looked closer to home for influences, with some neo-bluegrass and alternative country being added to the mix.
The ‘old’ sound is still there on tracks like ‘Little Rebel’, if maybe softened slightly.
The mandolin on ‘Muse’ and the country style guitar on ‘Stowaway’ show these influences, while ‘Mariposa’ is a much more gentle ballad, which adds some lap-steel guitar, giving it that familiar country style.
‘Mourners’, ‘Dancing with Ghosts’, ‘Rainer’ and ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, are memorable, anthemic tracks. Skilful mandolin work and strong vocals carry the tracks along. The urge to thump a table in a beer soaked Irish bar is strong!
Hoist the Colors have a sound that is both familiar and unique at the same time. Their influences are obvious but they have taken them and created their own sound. Joshua Linden’s vocal work is strong throughout the album and the combination of backing harmonies give a melodic feel to the tracks.
The only criticism I have is the production, it’s too slick. The raw and raucous feel of old is somewhat lost. A quick Youtube search shows a live band with a real excitement and edge, something that doesn’t come across here, which is a bit of a shame.
All Paths Lead To Nowhere by Colombian Necktie – Released 30/9/16 via Black Voodoo Records by Jamie Jones
This is apparently Colombian Necktie’s cut-loose-and-have-fun record after years of taking themselves rather seriously. And how do metalcore kids have fun? By ramping up the rock n’ roll side of their sound, letting their inner Slash off the leash and soloing like it’s 1989. And occasionally by busting out stoner riffs like they’ve just stumbled over their old copy of Sleep’s Holy Mountain.
Fans of Every Time I Die or Cancer Bats will get a kick out of the faster numbers here, whilst the bong-packing faithful will find much to like in stuff like ‘Silly Kid.’ The trouble is that for all its dress up kicks All Paths Lead to Nowhere is a bit short on distinctive personality. I’m not entirely sure Colombian Necktie have figured out exactly what kind of band they want to be yet. But they sure sound like they’re having a blast figuring it out.
Still EP by Cowards – Released 2/12/16 via Throatruiner Records by Andy Price
This is a brutal listen, but good lord is it great. Cowards take the square peg of hardcore and smash it horribly through the round hole of sludge metal, all dissonance, potent, bristling rage and feedback. The band tear through three new tracks of nihilistic destruction, taking in mosh-free hardcore, black metal and depressive sludge, and coming out the other side sounding like, well, no-one else, really. The closest comparison would be Eyehategod at their most pissed off ambushing ‘Young And In The Way’ in a grotty Parisian alleyway.
It’s a brutal and exhilarating creation, aided by a clear mix and it makes for a heady listen. On top of the three originals there are two covers, including a suitably horrific and harrowing take on ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police – frankly that’s worth the price of admission alone.
Untitle by DEAD – Released 20/9/16 via We Empty Rooms by Stephen Fallows
Australians DEAD come from a sludgy, heavy place that immediately grabs your attention and keeps it for the duration of this five track release. Available through the bands own WeEmptyRooms label, they pay homage to the likes of TAD, The Melvins and ‘Bleach’ era Nirvana.
Five very different tracks on show here, of which ‘Don’t Pray For Us’ is probably the most accessible. Otherwise there is the instrumental three part track of ‘The Kid Was All Wrong’. Other tracks take on a much slower and more malevolent turn. Opener ‘Grizzly’ and closing track ‘Line ‘Em All Up’ are very measured and draw you in more and more as the tracks evolve. Not the easiest of listens, and something you need to be prepared for.
Venomous Tongues by Casket Feeder – Released 30/1/17 via Bandcamp by Andy Price
There are very few guitar pedals that can claim to have inspired a genre, but the trusty HM2 pedal has ticked that box squarely. This debut EP from Casket Feeder takes the template established by Entombed and honed so memorably by the likes of Trap Them and mixes in big dollops of black metal blastbeats and even (shock!) touches of blackened melody.
It’s a hugely enjoyable EP that doesn’t outstay its welcome; there’s not an ounce of fat on any of these songs, with four tunes skipping past in 12 minutes, and the replay button looming large each time following the closing riff of ‘Victim Complex’. The production is claustrophobic, kinetic and perfectly suited to the songs. I’m not sure how well this would translate to a full length record, but as an EP it’s a highly recommended blast.