Album Review: Employed To Serve – The Warmth Of A Dying Sun

Review from Ben Forrester

I’m gonna start this review with a bold statement; Employed To Serve are the best heavy band in the UK in recent years. Their debut album ‘Greyer Than You Remember‘ was a crushing as fuck collection of doomy riffs and hardcore breakdowns with a death-metal intensity that blew my head off back in 2015.

Needless to say that the announcement of a second album earlier this year got me very excited. Lead single ‘I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away)‘ heightened my anticipation to the max, boasting the best head banging riff EVER and a breakdown that was so brutal it made me want to put my head through my computer screen! So yeah, as you can imagine, I am going into this new album with the highest of expectations!

As expected, this record fucking rips! It retains all the elements of its predecessor but pushes them further, which makes for an even more earth shattering piece that is equal parts epic and hammering. Although opening track ‘Void Ambition‘ starts off with some techy guitars and lightning bolt drumming, there seems to be a more general sense of control with the writing on here, and the band really let the riffs and breakdowns pummel into your ears.

Of course, each tune is packed with tons of ideas and dramatic shifts (‘Lethargy‘ is the most wonderful head fuck of a track) but I think that there has been more of a conscious effort to make some head-banging bangers, which I’m all for. In allowing this, the band make for some of their heaviest onslaughts yet, from the snarling, gnarly riffage of ‘Platform 89‘ to the gut punching, vomit inducing beat-down of ‘Good For Nothing‘.

The second half of the record taps into the bands more melodic, expansive side with tracks like ‘The Warmth Of A Dying Sun‘ and ‘Half Life‘ coming to the most euphoric and climactic conclusion, while closing track ‘Apple Tree‘ acts as their most ballad-like moment to date. It combines beautiful clean vocals and spoken word to finish the album in the most devastatingly beautiful way. I think they’ve tapped into another side of their heaviness on this track and it’s very intriguing to see if this is something they expand on in the future.

The Warmth Of A Dying Sun sees Employed To Serve angrier and heavier for some gloriously furious results. It goes in harder and deeper than before, taking them up to new realms of power and cements my early statement of them being the UK’s most powerful proposition in heavy music right now.

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Album Review: Tricot – 3

Review from Ben Forrester

Tricot have been Kyoto’s best kept secret since 2010. Although they’ve made considerable waves in their homeland of Japan, the rest of the world had been oblivious to their razor sharp brand of twiddle-pop. In spring of last year, the three-piece made a trip to these shores and knocked everyone for six with their tight as fuck live show. So, it makes total sense that labels such as Big Scary Monsters and Top Shelf have gotten on board in order to distribute their first official global release, their third long player ‘3‘.

For those that have delved into Tricot’s back catalogue, 3 will act as a welcoming hug from an old friend as they intricately blend math-rock with K-pop to stunning effect. There is just no denying the amount of ear worm hooks that they throw into their tunes. From the mile a minute blast off of ‘Tokyo Vampire Hotel‘ to the groove-pop pomp of ‘Yosoiki‘, Tricot write melodies that really soak into your skin. It’s great to hear previous EP track ‘Setsuyakuka‘ make an appearance, with a super pumped drum track ready to make you sweat. Oh and the chorus on this track is catchy as hell! Even though I’m not very versed in the native tongue in which they sing, vocalist Ikkyu has an irresistibly sweet voice that packs a punch when needed.

Although I’d say that this record is mostly full of straight up math-pop bangers, Tricot do explore their sonic palettes a little further with some more dynamically interesting ideas. Current single ‘DeDeDe‘ begins with an almost lounge style introduction, before ascending into this more angular passage which eventually bursts into a beautifully melodic chorus. ‘Sukima‘ takes on a more jazz like vibe, with ride heavy drums and a silky smooth interaction between the guitar and bass slinking around each other seductively. ‘Pork Ginger‘ is a definite highlight and key example of their dynamic switch ups, as it floats around crisp guitar chords and a spaced out rhythm section to then cut into the most infectious and urgent chorus on the album. It’s hard not to have a big grin across your face when it kicks in.

There’s a lot of fun to be had here and you’ll be hard pressed to not crack a smile at the e-number induced buzz of ‘Namu‘ or the perfectly uplifting fuzz of breezy closing track ‘Melon Soda‘. Tricot are a band that care a lot about making music that makes you want to dance and they understand that international fans like me may find it hard to understand the lyrical themes of their music, which is why the melodic and instrumental aspects of their sound are full of life, passion and colour.

3 will act as the most perfect introduction for people who have yet to embrace the brilliance of this band, while old hands are going to fall in head over heels for this energetic and uplifting set. Tricot truly deliver the goods here and cement themselves as exceptional musicians, songwriters and, most importantly, an unstoppable unit.

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Album Review: Weirds – Swarmculture

Review from Ben Forrester

I will always champion the bands that try something different. A band that take their influences and flip them on there head. Leeds based quartet Weirds do exactly that. They take big, bulky, sludgy guitars and mix them with this sci-fi synth pop vibe that takes Space-Rock into totally new realms. On their debut album, accurately titled ‘Swarmculture‘, Weirds want to take you on an exploration into this new world that they’ve discovered.

It took me a while to get past opening track ‘Things That Crawl‘, simply because it is a planet imploding opener! Once that riff kicks in, there is no going back – there is so much power behind it and I can imagine a gust of wind viciously blowing through my hair as it pumps out of a PA in a sweaty little venue. It’s a clear indication on what this album is; big, cosmic and groovy.

Recent singles ‘Valley of Vision‘ and ‘Phantom‘ are brilliant slices of space-pop, full of thick guitars and drum thrashing in the choruses with urgent bass driven verses that make you wanna stick your neck out. I think a lot of fans of that early 90’s indie-dance scene will relate to this record, especially if you like the darker, pyschier moments of early Primal Scream and New Order. I’ve always been a fan of accented vocals and front man Aidan lets his northern drawl loose throughout, which I reckon will appeal to fans of that whole Madchester scene.

The first half of the record is big on the riffs (try not headbanging at the start of ‘Old World Blues‘) but it’s on the second half that Weirds go deeper sonically. Whether it’s the psych-kraut pomp of ‘Weird Sun‘ or the brooding indie pop balladry of ‘Crows‘, Weirds do a good job to cover all bases here. They find new ways to be heavy and instead of riffing out, they just let the fuzz ring out and use synths to elevate their sound to new stratosphere’s; ‘Salamander’s Sister‘ is the best display of this and is a reminder of how far out this band can go.

Ultimately, Swarmculture is a really exciting album. I remember a friend of mine going to see them recently, not knowing what to expect and they came out shouting ‘well, that was exactly what I needed‘ (Sounds familiar – Ed). And that is the exact sentiment I had with this album. I expected the unexpected and came out of it ready to run to the moon and back! This is a hefty debut, powerful in its execution with a sky’s the limit attitude. Leave your safety blankets at home and prepare to embrace Weirds.

Listen to singles from ‘Swarmculture’ in our Now Playing Spotify Playlist!

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EP Review: Gun Shy – The Long Dance

Review from Ben Forrester

On their debut EP ‘First Transmission‘, Gun Shy made quite the impression on the alt-punk world with a swirling mix of emo, punk, post-rock and grunge. Although it was quite an abrasive collage of sounds, the four-piece really pulled it off with a good grasp of dynamics and structure. It was one of those records that made you go ‘what was that?‘ and I think that’s why it resonated so well with the underground rock scene because it was a breath of fresh air.

So here we are 12 months on and Gun Shy return with their next instalment ‘The Long Dance‘. Clocking in at 21 minutes and featuring 7 tracks, just on its length alone, this makes me think that the band are gonna go even further down the rabbit hole here. And to be fair, I would say that was a fair assumption to have made.

Although it’s still as varied and dynamic as its predecessor, Gun Shy have made a more conscious effort to bring a stronger sense of melody and have sharpened up their songwriting skills here. ‘Test You Like Gold‘ reminds me a bit of a Brand New track, with that hazy yet regimented verse groove before going into this fuzzy chorus with an ear worm hook. It’s emo as fuck but it’s deliciously melancholic. The title track also carries a very nostalgic tone, jumping in between grunged out scuzz and beautiful post-emo sparkles. It feels a bit more coherent than previous material and the songs seem like they have more of an identity.

Although the band do indulge in that loud/quiet dynamic pretty much throughout the EP, they do keep it straight on tracks like ‘Whilst You Execute‘, which is a proper angular-punk party banger while ‘Holding Onto Nothing‘ is an atmospheric post-rock inspired moment of solitude. But there is no denying the bands knack of switching up mood within a track to sky scraping effect, the last 40 seconds of ‘In Perfect Silent‘ providing the best WTF moment on here!

The Long Dance is another unapologetically emotional and passionate piece that hits hard with a sincere delivery. Gun Shy are an innovative modern punk band and it’s this totally fearless attitude that they take to making music that makes them an extremely promising prospect in the UK scene right now. Don’t be shy now.

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Live Review: Jamie Lenman at Sound Control in Manchester 01 May 2017

Review from Ben Forrester

It’s been quite the journey for Jamie Lenman these past few years. His band Reuben were the unsung heroes of British post-hardcore throughout the naughties and they worked ridiculously hard through the 10 years they were active. After their split in 2008, Lenman took some well needed time off, eventually emerging from the shadows in 2013 with his debut solo album ‘Muscle Memory‘. The release of the record managed to spawn a whole new wave of fans for him, with many going back and discovering the genius of his previous project. This new lease of life has lead to Jamie becoming one of UK rock’s most treasured voices.

Tonight, I am sweating my face off in Sound Control, ready to catch him and his band as part of a full UK tour in support of his new double A single. Having just signed to supreme indie label Big Scary Monsters with talks of a second solo album on route, there is a lot of hype and excitement in camp Lenman right now and this is very much transferred to the crowd this evening.

I noticed that all the supports for this tour are two-pieces and it isn’t until Jamie walks on stage backed by just drummer (Dan) that I realise that this was deliberate. That’s something I love about Jamie, his attention to detail. I am instantly intrigued as to how this is going to sound, particularly with some of the tracks on Muscle Memory being so fucking crushing. From the minute him and Dan rip into the sprightly rock rush of new single ‘Waterloo Teeth‘, you know that this is going to be a savage set as they sound monstrous!

Having played in  a noisy two-piece myself, I am astounded at how chunky the guitar sounds, the low end is properly booming out of the PA and it sounds fucking huge! Without little break, we get the ferocious thrash punk of ‘Fizzy Blood‘, followed by the bounced up rock of Reuben track ‘Parties Break Hearts‘ – they’re only three songs in and already the crowd are pure putty.

The set tonight is a celebration of Jamie’s past, present and future. We hear a nice chunk of Reuben songs with no skimping out. We get album tracks like ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave’ Em‘ and ‘Cities On Fire‘ and even rarity ‘Blitzkrieg‘ thrown in for the OG’s. By playing these particular tracks, it shows that Jamie respects the fact that Reuben fans go in deep and caters to our nerdy needs and doesn’t just bring out ‘crowd friendly hits’! I am totally delighted to hear his cover of Kerbdog’sMexican Wave‘ too as I remember hearing a recorded version of the cover years ago and it blew me away! It still blows me away tonight, especially its brief brutal breakdown at the end!

But of course, a lot of tonight’s set is dominated with Lenman’s solo material and rightly so! Muscle Memory is an incredible piece of work, consisting of a heavy side and softer side and it’s a testament to his songwriting talents that he can go from the acoustically driven ho-down of ‘If You Ask Then You’ll Never Know‘ to the utter, riffed up filth of ‘Six Fingered Hand‘. It’s also super cool to hear the new stuff he’s been working on and previous single ‘Mississippi‘ sounds properly massive with a strong confident groove, while brand new tune ‘All Of England Is A City‘ is a proper chest out rock hit in the making, with a QOTSA style swag.

As you might have guessed, Jamie and Dan absolutely smash it tonight. The set is full of twists and turns, the in-between patter is interactive and charismatic as always cementing Jamie Lenman as an utterly brilliant and unstoppable performer. I urge you to get to a show on this run and prepare for a seriously fun filled evening of hits, laughter and RIFFS!

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Album Review: At The Drive In – in•ter a•li•a

Review from Ben Forrester

When At The Drive In announced their reunion back in 2012, I was fully pumped. In my eyes their 2000 album ‘Relationship Of Command‘ is a post-hardcore masterpiece, so the idea of them playing these songs in a live capacity again, knowing how crazy their live shows were, made me shriek with excitement! Although I didn’t make it to any of these comeback shows I did see some live footage of them and it was very apparent that the band weren’t the sprightly, care-free teens they once were. It just seemed like the passion had been sucked out and money had taken over.

After the tour, At The Drive In seemed to just disappear back into the ether again, but here we stand five years later and they’ve only gone and made a brand new bloody full length! I’ll admit that after the 2012 shows, I wasn’t completely overjoyed at the prospect of new At The Drive In material, but due the the sheer magic of their previous outputs, I was prepared to give them a chance and give ‘in•ter a•li•a‘ a spin.

No Wolf Like The Present‘ starts off the record with 30 seconds of tension; there’s this ominous bass tone underneath whispered voices and the sound of tape being rewound. It makes you nervous, on edge, unaware of what is going to happen and then, on the left side of your speaker a spiky as fuck guitar riff comes in to then be joined on the right side, fully fizzing. And then, BANG! A big bastard firework of a rhythm section explodes in your ears, wanting to make your dog bark, wanting to piss of your neighbours, and it’s clear that within 1 minute that At The Drive In are BACK BACK BACK and taking absolutely no prisoners.

Every member in this band plays a unique part in creating the sound that makes people lose their shit and although this album may not bare any new tricks, it doesn’t want to, it just wants to make unapologetic cosmic punk bangers. It’s a pretty straight up rock record really, it barely takes a breath and every track is packed with the same sweat and urgency as it did nearly two decades ago. Bassist Paul Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar are the prefect team as they deliver each track with a ferociously stomping rhythm section. They have such a way with groove too and it’s hard to not get locked into the drive of ‘Hostage Stamps‘ or the chest swelling punch of comeback single ‘Governed By Contagions‘.

Another strong partnership within ATDI was the inventive and playful interaction between guitarists Jim Ward and Omar Rodriguez. With Jim out of the picture here, new boy Keeley Davis steps up and totally holds his own, delivering some sharp rhythm guitar lines to counteract Omar’s well loved, phased out noodling; check the intro to ‘Pendulum in A Peasant Dress‘ for the sweetest licks. All the guitar lines are really great throughout, I guess it can come across a little too angular at first but a few listens in and everything seems to slot into place nicely.

I also felt the same way with some of the methodical hooks on here. At first, I struggled to hear the catchy as hell hooks that ATDI are so well known for, but again it requires another listen to really let them sink in. Once you’re in there though, it’s hard to get out – the chorus of ‘Incurably Innocent‘ being the best example here, with vocalist Cedric Bixler bringing one of his most heart on sleeve moments to date. Cedric sounds completely convincing throughout the record here, his vocal acrobatics sounding revitalized and strong.

In a world of uncertainty, filled with anger, many have been waiting for a way to mentally vent their energy and frustrations. in•ter a•li•a provides this soundtrack. It combines the cosmic fury of Relationship Of Command with the youthful punk scrappiness of ‘In/Casino/Out‘ and punches through a brick wall with it. Some have said that At The Drive In have become a parody of themselves here, but the point of this album is not to re-invent, it is to re-instate. At The Drive In have pissed all over your front door again, what ya gonna do about it?

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EP Review: Peaness – Are You Sure?

Review from Ben Forrester

I think it’s fair to say that Peaness are one of the most talked about indie-pop bands in the UK right now. Twee-pop fans have been going pretty mad on this Chester based trio, with all physical releases selling out in record time and all live shows being totally packed to the rafters. So it makes total sense that dead good indie label Alcopop snapped them up at the start of the year in order to put out their second EP, ‘Are You Sure?‘.

Although their name is getting out there, this EP is likely to serve as an introduction to many, so there are a few previously released singles on here as well a couple of new jams! I’d say it was a good move of the band to include older tracks like ‘Oh George‘ here, because they act as perfect examples of why Peaness are such a well liked act. It’s all down to this interesting dynamic they’ve got, combining these sprightly bubble-pop instrumentals with melancholic lyrics and particularly on Oh George, they sing so sweetly about heartache and deceit, at first you miss how heartbreaking the track really is.

That bittersweet dynamic is one that runs throughout the record. Musically it’s like butter wouldn’t melt, but dig a little deeper and you get commentary on global food waste (‘Ugly Veg’) and that sinking feeling of being trapped in your own town (‘Same Place’). It’s all wrapped up in sumptuous harmonies, head swaying beats and bright, breezy guitars that take you away from some of the harsh realities that the band tackle lyrically.

Peaness do switch things up a little bit on the track ‘Seafoam Islands‘, which has sharp guitar chords and a pulsating to the floor beat which has a slightly more darker tone to the other instrumentals here. But instead of putting a bleaker lyrical spin, they actually transcend into this beautiful chorus that coos “I wanna get lost in you“, which is just lovely! It adds a really nice balance to the rest of the record and shows that this is a band that think carefully about what they’re writing and why they’re writing it.

Are You Sure?‘ is a record that demands your attention in order to understand its full intent. You have to peel the onion here to get to the core of what Peaness are about, which is making pop music for those who embrace the mundanities of real life, giving it a pleasant hair ruffle and cracking the fuck on.

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