Fresh Nelson – ‘Take My Time’
Released: June 14th, 2016
Words: Alex Sievers
Let’s start this second instalment of releases we missed last year with the release pictured above – Fresh Nelson’s ‘Take My Time‘.
Back in 2015, Fresh Nelson played at Wrangler Studios in Melbourne while on tour with Stepson and instead of their lively, rough-around-the-edges melodic hardcore sound, what was heard was an entirely redefined beast. In a short but sweet set, the then three-piece band ripped through a performance that was instead characterised by an alternative, grungier, post-rock influenced sound; one that caught me completely off-guard, as there had been no inklings of this style change prior to the tour. It was a set of mainly new material with only very few nods to the music they had previously released, and this new sound eventually came into tangible form about a year later with their damn fine 2016 EP, ‘Take My Time‘. The dynamic, emotional vocal deliveries of soft singing and reverb-heavy screams (unlike the distinct yelling of their previous works), the booming toms, crisp cymbal strikes mixed with the snappy snare and bass drum hits, the warm bass lines and the ambient, haunting guitars that weave into suitably distorted chord progressions tie up this new sound very nicely. These four tracks are a far cry from their earlier work, and while it seems like two different bands at times with the style and production differences, this change up is all for the better. The key difference between the two iterations of Fresh Nelson is that this current one just feels so mucg more natural, so much cleaner, so effortless (in a good way) and just so sincerely genuine. Fresh Nelson has severely upped their musical game with ‘Take My Time‘ and they are indeed a band to watch out for in 2017.
Heaven Shall Burn – ‘Wanderer’
Released: September 19th, 2016
Label: Century Media Records
Words: Alasdair Belling
Something I’ve realised is that the world of metal, regardless of how much it may appear to be evolving, is paralysed by a deep-seated fear of change. Technology, sound and image all change, but it’s only the bravest that embraces new horizons. For the better part the hair, leather and god-damn drop-D chugging remain the same, and that is exactly what Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn are guilty of here on ‘Wanderer’, their 8th record. To be fair, there are some really cool riffs on this album. The opening groove of ‘Bring The War Home’ flows just as well as any other new-wave American death metal circa 2008. However, for the better part, there’s nothing new to really see here. In fact, most songs here are guilty of the same old boring sins that naughties bands have been unable to let go of. A soft intro in the ‘Passage of the Crane’ exploding into double kicks and a big “Raaaaaaaaaw” scream? Tick! Playing the same riff in double time before slowing it down to half time on the china? ‘They Shall Not Pass’ gets the points for that. Cheesy build up with machine gun snares to try and convince people at festivals that running into people on the opposite side of the field is still cool? ‘Prey To God’ has you covered! And last but definitely not least, edgy titles to trick the kids that they are politically informed because they know your words? ‘Agent Orange’ (a Sodom cover), ‘A River Of Crimson’, ‘The Cry Of Mankind’. Tick. Tick. And tick. Also, a late nomination for the cringiest lyric of 2016 goes to ‘Save Me’, with “Am I the only one to see and do I really roam alone on the shores of empty seas?” Ocean references? STOP IT!
Don’t get me wrong; these guys are by no means bad at their craft. Christian Bass pounds the drums to kingdom come on most tracks and guitarists Maik Weichert and Alexander Dietz pull out enough hammerings to make any fan of All That Remains reminisce of the simpler days of wearing singlets and sneakers at Soundwave. In a time of more new and exciting possibilities to fuse with music than ever before, plus the ease with which artists can collaborate and gain more inspiration (just ask Mastodon about one of their many supergroups) you simply cannot play it safe anymore. ‘Wanderer’ is Heaven Shall Burn doing just that; doing what they are admittedly good at, and that’s the problem. An artist can be an incredible painter but paint the same landscape time and time again, and after a while it’s no longer pleasing to look at. Of course, if you like the same old stuff, then you’ll enjoy this. Otherwise, There’s a million other fish in the sea, folks.
Liferuiner – ‘Nomads’
Released: January 22nd, 2016
Words: Alex Sievers
In 2013, Canada’s Liferuiner released one of my most cherished hardcore releases, ‘Future Revisionists’. That album didn’t upheave the musical conventions of hardcore music nor did it redefine the genre; it simply delivered the style’s conventions in superb fashion and it produced two of Liferuiner’s best songs; the crushing, hopeful yet melancholic anthem that is ‘Vacant’ and unbridled, anti-homophobe rager that was ‘Fissure’. Light years away from the band’s cringe-inducing joke beginnings, to be sure. Then in early January of 2016, the Ontario outfit released their new EP, ‘Nomads’, and with just four songs, they offered yet another solid release for straight edge followers and mosh lords everywhere to enjoy.
The band’s music is indeed generic by the current hardcore templates, but it’s their ear for melody, lyrical honesty and palpable emotion that makes them stand ou from the tattooed crowd. the first song ‘Degeneration X‘ is an all-around mixture of their heavy riffs and breakdowns, melodic leads, philosophical samples, all juxtaposed by their equally hopeful outlook and overly aggressive attitude for worldly change in human actions, ethics, and morals. It’s also the kind of song that I’m sure Shawn Michaels and Triple H would love. Well, probably. The title track is a short, groovy affair, whereas ‘Lost & Found’ is the cathartic, emotional focal point of the whole EP and the best of the four songs with its pacing and memorable guitar work. Like the trio before it, lead single and final song ‘Daywalker‘ is a hard-hitting conclusion on all accounts. In fact, this whole release felt like the long lost cousin to the band’s ‘Sons Of Straight Edge‘.
Overall, this EP was a decent release to follow on from ‘Future Revisionists’, but of course, ‘Nomads‘ could never hope to hold a candle to that record. For that would be like trying to eat the sun – fucking impossible!
Gone Is Gone – Self-titled EP
Released: July 8th, 2016
Label: Rise Records
Words: Owen Morawitz
Ah yes. The ‘supergroup’. No longer just fodder for those completely unnecessary, shitty, hip-hop exploits that literally no one asked/cared for (I’m looking at you Prophets of Rage). Gone Is Gone is the type of alumni jam-room project that I always pictured going down in my head. You know, a bunch of band dudes from other successful bands, all just hanging out together backstage, crushing beers and being like ‘Yeah man, I really like your shit. Wanna get together and jam?’ This self-titled EP sounds like the product of such a half-baked union, only slightly more elucidated and the benefit of a decent label push. With a suitably impressive line-up (bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders of Mastodon, guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age, drummer Tony Hajjar of the hiatus-defying At the Drive-In, and multi-instrumentalist Mike Zarin) it’s fairly easy to deduce what’s on offer here without even hearing it: plodding, self-indulgent alt-rock songs that occasionally flit between Mastodon’s ethereal soundscapes and not-so-funky, QOTSA B-side riffs.
Is it life-changing? Absolutely not. But then again, it sure as hell beats listening to ‘The Party’s Over’.
Thrice – ‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere’
Released: May 27th, 2016
Label: Vagrant Records
Words: Alex Sievers
Considering that Thrice’s third album, 2003’s ‘The Artist In The Ambulance‘ is an all-time favourite record of mine, you would think that I’d have been all over ‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere‘ like a rabid dog in pure breeding heat upon its release back in May 2016. But no, you would be dead wrong. I only listened got around to listening to this record on Boxing Day of 2016 (because we were driving to see family and I had time to kill), which I’ve since decided was a personal injustice to myself as this album is a damn fine piece of work, even by the astronomically high standards of Thrice. Yet the reason being for me digesting this record nearly exactly seven months on from its releases and not sooner was that I do sincerely miss the Thrice of old; the youthful, aggressive, pissed-off Thrice that was energetic and gave legit hardcore bands a good run for their money. Since the subpar release that was ‘Beggars‘ and the truly mesmerising epic that was ‘Major/Minor‘, the band have certainly eased off the accelerator in their music. Which is fine, yet it does leave something to be desired. But man, I completely sold the band down the river without letting them voice their case with ‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere‘, which is one of the best releases to ever fall under the Thrice banner.
Songs like ‘Blood On The Sand‘, ‘Death From Above‘, ‘Whistleblower‘, and ‘Black Honey‘ contain such strong social and political metaphors and messages that result in some of Dustin Kensrue most poignant lyrics and song themes since ‘The Artist In The Ambulance‘ and 2005’s ‘Vheissu‘. While the album’s straight up rock tunes like the droning ‘Wake Up‘, the almost-poppy ‘Stay With Me‘, and ‘The Window‘ are far from their best songs, they’re still solid cuts no matter how you spin it. As for the record’s easy standouts, one cannot go past the emotional highs and ear-perking guitars of ‘The Long Defeat‘, the sheer scope and impact of opener ‘Hurricane‘ or the dynamic rollercoaster and layered meanings littered across ‘Black Honey‘.
This ninth record from the Californian outfit has been stripped back to showcase its raw honesty and the very real soul and performances that have been expertly poured into it. It’s simple and direct in its musical delivery. It’s honest and sharp in its lyrical content and topics. And to reiterate a prior point this is one of the best records Thrice have produced. Period.
Saosin – ‘Along The Shadow’
Released: May 20th, 2016
Label: Epitaph Records
Words: Alex Sievers
Back in June of 2010, Story Of The Year toured Australia with Saosin and blessthefall in support. Teenage Alex loved Story Of The Year for the simple fact that ‘Page Avenue‘ and ‘In The Wake Of Determination‘ are two classic post-hardcore records (at least the former more than the latter). Teenage Alex also enjoyed what blessthefall had to offer, especially their current record at the time, ‘Witness‘ and then there was Saosin, whom teenage Alex also liked. So this tour was a no-brainer to attend. Yet those who are familiar with Saosin’s history know that this tour was the last in which then singer Cove Rebber would front the band, being asked to leave due to his diminishing vocal performances and his inner band attitude only a month on from that Aussie tour. So out goes Rebber goes, and cue Saosin entering a weird hibernation period of sorts, where they said they weren’t broken up but had nothing to really show for it. Then finally – finally – original singer Anthony Green, who had since gone onto to shape the textured, psychedelic rock sound of Circa Survive, comes back to his first love after a 12 year absence and boom – they drop their first album in seven years, ‘Along The Shadow‘, fulfilling fan expectations and creating new, imposing music that still feels relevant today. And let me just say that with ‘Along The Shadow‘ and from the word ‘go’ with the triumphant opener ‘The Silver String‘, Saosin has never sounded this cohesive nor this fucking good.
As expected, there is quite a lot of Circa Survive to be found in this new Saosin soup, with the obvious inclusion of Green’s raw screaming and soaring, high-register vocals being integrated back into their sound, but I’ll gladly lap that shit up! Whether it’s the aggressive-meets-delicate-beauty in personal favourite ‘Ideology Is Theft‘, the discordant and groovy ‘Racing Towards A Red Light‘, the soothing and clean ‘Second Guesses‘, the restrained tempos and sheer emotion in ‘The Stutter Says A Lot‘, or the dark, surging epic that is the album’s finale of ‘Control And The Urge To Pray‘; this is such a consistent record! There is a kind of purity to this album’s sonics and its instrumentation, showcasing a band delivering a sound that they themselves and their old and new fans adore and love, with little to obstruct their passion or drive in what is a grand comeback. Even if the older Saosin songs are put on the shelf for the time being, I am more than happy to let them run with this new material, no matter how bloody good that self-titled record was.
Now, let us hope that it doesn’t take another seven fucking years to see more from Saosin. I don’t think I could handle that again.
Dangers – ‘The Bend In The Break’
Released: October 14th, 2016
Label: Topshelf Records
Words: Owen Morawitz
Dangers have existed in the negative space of the hardcore scene for over a decade, subsisting on a steady diet of punishing albums and split releases, full of unbridled anger, basement-show energy and an old-school, punk-rock ethos. Yet on ‘The Bend In The Break’, their third full-length album, the California group hits a resonant fever-pitch, with their most cathartic, abrasive and engaging collection of songs to date. Ragers like ‘The Straight World’ and ‘Darkest Arts’ tackle gender and race issues with equal parts fury and frustration, while ‘Kiss With Spit’ echoes the risk and vulnerability that makes hardcore so vital and addictive. The record even gets downright progressive at times, with the incredibly melodic ‘Loose Cigarettes’, an ode to the helpless victims of police brutality, and closer ‘To Finn, With Our Regrets’ which tackles some light subject matter: human irresponsibility and the inevitable end of the world as we know it.
Beautifully chaotic, darkly introspective and blissfully vitriolic, ‘The Bend In The Break’ is hardcore with a conscience.
Gatecreeper – ‘Sonoran Depravation’
Released: October 7th, 2016
Label: Relapse Records
Words: Owen Morawitz
After hearing a thousand Deafheaven clones and a bunch of third-rate Sabbath wannabees fall over their distortion pedals and call it ‘doom’, it’s refreshing to hear a band strip their shit back and get down to the basics. Gatecreeper isn’t here to fuck spiders, kids. Hailing from the mesas and blistering heat of Arizona, this five-piece outfit do old-school, meat-and-potatoes death metal that sounds like it was bootlegged straight from a 90’s Florida basement show. And they do it really fucking well too. Fans of anything from Bolt Thrower to Dismember to Entombed will find shit to grin about here, and ‘Sonoran Depravation’ – the group’s Relapse Records debut – is exactly the type of relentless, headbang-inducing record we all wanted. It’s 30 minutes of savage vocals, HM-2 riffs, and plenty of hooks, with a level of intensity that feels like a dishevelled long hair grabbed your puny little neck and stamped their fucking boot on it from start to finish.
Sometimes, the gutter just tastes so good.
Renounced – ‘Theories Of Despair’
Released: August 22nd, 2016
Label: Carry The Weight Records
Words: Owen Morawitz
Before bands like Attila and whatever-pile-of-shit-ring-in-vehicle Ronnie Radke is in right now made Limp Bizkit look like Pink Floyd, there were bands with substance and integrity exploring the curious intersection of metal and hardcore. The old guard featured pivotal acts like 7 Angels 7 Plagues, Poison The Well, Disembodied, Unbroken and the still-running juggernaut that is Misery Signals. Fast forward to 2016, and young bands like AXIS, Discourse and the UK’s Renounced are popping up, proudly flying the flag for a mix of creative and traditional heavy sounds. On Renounced’s second full-length album ‘Theories of Despair’, the group takes the platform of their 2014 debut ‘The Melancholy We Ache’, and pushes forward with another onslaught of impassioned vocals, discordant riffs, spoken-word sections, delicate melodic leads and bone-crushing breakdowns. Tracks like ‘Heart Beats Cold’, ‘Abandon Your King’ and the pummelling heaviness of ‘My Last Dying Wish’ will make you want to pit furiously and express your feelings.
Metalcore isn’t a dirty word, so long as you say it right.
The Pretty Reckless – ‘Who You Selling For’
Released: October 21st, 2016
Label: Razor & Tie
Words: Matty Sievers
My relationship with The Pretty Reckless has been rocky, to say the least. I sweated their debut record immensely hard, loving it for its intensity and audacity. It was edgy as fuck but in a fantastic way that only rock music could be. Then came the band’s second record, ‘Going to Hell’, which I loathed so hard it made me physically hurt and stressed to the point I actually got haemorrhoids*. So coming into this new album, ‘Who You Selling For’ I was cautious, to say the least. I was worried that I might get hurt again should I dive back into the foray that is our tenuous relationship. Alas, my concerns were unfounded. This new record is everything that was missing on ‘Going to Hell’. There’s a certain sense of animosity in the songs that gives it that edgy and dirty aesthetic that their debut had. The songs are also never afraid to just sit and simmer, brewing quietly and sternly in your eardrums. The band does so with such confidence that it never feels cumbersome or uninspired. It, in fact, feels the opposite. The great structure and timing the band brings out here
It, in fact, feels the opposite. The great structure and timing the band brings out here instils a level of trust within you that says, “We know what we’re doing, let us do it.” ‘Who You Selling For’ on its surface feels emotive and cathartic; right from the heart to the guitar and some could say that it’s the naturalness of the writing, but for me, when I listen to this album, I get the sense that there was an astronomical level of thought and process to achieving this openness and this aesthetic. It’s calculated rawness and it works to a goddamn tee.
Vektor – ‘Terminal Redux’
Released: May 6th, 2016
Label: Earache Records
Words: Owen Morawitz
Progressive thrash? ‘Space thrash’? Could it truly be? You bet your goddamn, vacuum-rated battle jacket it is. Philadelphia thrash metal outfit Vektor burst through 2016 with their first-ever concept album: the 73-minute opus ‘Terminal Redux’, which – according to vocalist/guitarist David DiSanto – tells “the story of a test subject and his rise to power within the all-controlling Cygnus Regime. His ultimate goal is to restore balance in the galaxy by controlling the ebb and flow of life and death.” Two minute blasts about last night’s kegger and really hating cops this is not! ‘Terminal Redux’ is a full-throttle assault on the senses, with dynamic vocals, meteoric shrieks, warped drumming and some of the most intense and virtuosic guitar solos this side of a Rush LP. It’s like Iron Reagan and Kreator had to collaborate on the soundtrack to Battlestar Galactica or Stargate SG-1 (not Universe… for obvious reasons).
The force is strong with ‘Terminal Redux’.
Taking Back Sunday – ‘Tidal Wave’
Released: September 16th, 2016
Label: Hopeless Records
Words: Matty Sievers
Look, I really like The Clash. See now, that’s a very valid point when talking about Taking Back Sunday’s latest record, ‘Tidal Wave’ because it is in a lot of was, a circle jerk to The Clash. There’s a whole heap of classic punk rock vibes in ‘Tidal Wave’ that come through in its arrangement and the way this band builds most of the songs here. It works really goddamn well because this band really knows how to make certain songs “poppy”. But that’s all well and good and for the most part, there is indeed a lot to like here. Though that doesn’t change the fact that there are moments on this record that just feel downright awkward. Whether it’s the disjointed structure of ‘You Can’t Look Back’, or the bland and dull bass and unfitting groove that underlines most of an otherwise fantastic ballad on ‘I Felt It Too’, some sections just don’t fully work, in the worst bloody way.
There are choices on this album that seem very well intended and have huge potential, and it’s easy to see where the band are going with them. But they’re just that: ideas. They are never fully fleshed out nor are they well-placed in the band’s wider musical framework. Like that really nice shirt your auntie got you for Christmas that has a kind of dull and unflattering bluer tint to it. Sure, the gift itself is good and something you’re looking for, but it just misses the polish and refinement to be something you’ll wear out in public.
DriveTime Commute – ‘Bag Of Snakes’
Released: August 4th, 2016
Words: Alex Sievers
I was made aware of Melbourne’s DriveTime Commute when I first saw our very own Chris Giacca listing this EP in his top ten Australian releases a couple weeks back. Always on the prowl for bands that I am not familiar with, a few clicks on the ol’ Google machine lead me to the group’s Bandcamp page and me hitting play on their five-track EP, ‘Bag Of Snakes‘. And smoke my kipper, did I dig what I heard! Seriously, listening to this EP leaves me desperately craving more music from this band, ensuring their position high up on my list of bands I cannot miss live in 2017. Because if their ‘Chum Fists‘ music video (found below) is anything to go on, it should be a time and half, filled with flying bodies and a good amount of blood and sweat.
‘Bag Of Snakes‘ is simply five maniacal songs displaying intense musical chaos. It’s 12 or so minutes of abrasive, Dillinger Escape Plan-like rhythms, back-and-forth gritty riffs and killer grooves akin to that of Norma Jean and Every Time I Die without hitting the point of plagiarism, and frenzied vocals that skirt between incoherent barks, voice breaking yells, biting snarls, and deep growls. On top of that, there is an old-school metalcore aesthetic and approach to this EP’s instrumentation and it’s sonic colour that is usually only found in the other bands I just mentioned, with the inclusion of Poison The Well, The Chariot, Botch, The Number 12 Looks Like You, and Queensland’s She Cries Wolf. Much like their peers and the various international heavyweights before them, DriveTime Commute has a method to their complete and utter fucking madness, one that the band have already mastered despite still being a young group in the ever-flowing, expansive river that is time. Each track here is a winner and these songs are just as long as they need to be, with honourable mentions going to ‘Millions‘ and ‘Sir Seizure‘, the longest and shortest tracks respectively for being pure standouts. Yet no matter the song length, this band’s sound is so engaging due to their knack for tapping into what is perhaps the best kind of heavy music; the kind that’s rare to feel phoned in or generic; the kind that’s raw and unforgettable; the kind that scratches the itch left by so many cookie cutter, creatively bankrupt bands playing it comically safe.
You don’t know it yet, but you need DriveTime Commute in your life. Take the plunge, you coward.
Will we do another one of these? Yeah, maybe. Stay tuned, folks. You can check out Volume 1 here.
Also, we won’t be reviewing Blood On The Dance Floor’s 2016 album (whatever the thing was fucking called) just out of sheer principal.