August is without a doubt the busiest album release month of the year and 2019 is no different, maybe even more so than before. This week we have five releases on review – to be honest, it could have been more, but we’ve decided to pick the best releases due out this week (August 16th). I can honestly say that all of these releases are coming out on some of the hardest working labels around, so please be sure to support the artist by picking up a copy online or at your local record shop.
Last year saw Pijn and Conjurer become two of the UK’s most exciting alternative metal acts. Their excellence was duly noted by the organisers of ArcTanGent festival, who commissioned them to perform a collaborative set at last year’s festival. As well as being asked back to ATG this year, the fruits of their labour have finally been committed to tape. As expected, this is the most perfect hybrid of what these bands do best. It’s got the furious, heavy AF riffage of Conjurer mixed with the spine tingling atmosphere of Pijn. But what we ultimately get is a group of friends having fun – from Thin Lizzy inspired solos, Queen style frills and the uplifting stomp of Baroness (you’ve all seen the memes by now).
It’s still dark and heavy, but it’s really cool to see these bands bring in new shades of colour with some really uplifting moments; ‘High Spirits‘ is a completely joyous and fist pumping opener. Pijn guitarist Joe has done an amazing job with the production, lifting up these massive, euphoric riffs whilst also making exciting sonic shifts to reinforce the progressive nature of both bands. I love the big natural drum sound captured here, which gives the ending of ‘The Pall‘ a BIG percussive bite, while ‘Endeavour‘ begins on angelic, choir like harmonies before descending into hell with ferocious distorted growls. We knew that this meeting of minds was always going to come out on top, but it’s the depth and care that’s gone into ‘Curse These Metal Hands‘ that elevates it into one of the best heavy records you’ll hear this year!
Another year, another Oh Sees LP. Y’all know the drill. John Dwyer and his merry men are back to put a spring in our step with their 22nd full length! Following on from the jazz prog vibes of last years ‘Smote Reverser‘, ‘Face Stabber’ is a mixed bag of styles and sounds but as always is bound together by fearless musicianship. We are tossed around from 2 minute garage punk work outs to stretched out, psychedelic passages, including maybe one of the bands longest tracks on 21 minute jazz odyssey closer ‘Henchlock‘.
I know that the band love a wig-out and there are plenty of fans that will be well into these moments, but for me this lot really slay when they’re keeping it sharp and to the point. ‘Gholü‘ and ‘Heart Worm‘ are fast and furious, with fuzzy as fuck guitars and the forever raging three man rhythm section going hammer and tongues underneath Dwyers distinctive vocal cackle. I also need to point out the vintage groove of recent single ‘Poisoned Stones‘, which might be one of my favourite Oh Sees tunes ever! When they put a bit more restraint on their songwriting they just seem unstoppable to me, in fact in places I am reminded of the energy that ‘A Weird Exits‘ brought to the table and made me listen up in the first place.
It might not be their most consistent release, with a few skippable tracks for me, however when it rips, it really rips and it’s great to see them getting back in our faces more and riffing the fuck out!
Benjamin Powers has created the most explosive and apocalyptic soundtrack of the decade with his Blanck Mass project. His fourth full length continues where the blistering ‘World Eater‘ left off, keeping the beats heavy but the melodies catchy. If anything, the beats are even busier and more pummelling than before, while the melodies can flicker between euphoric euro rave and sugary sweet k-pop. This is of course all blended with cutting synths, distorted keyboards and over driven death metal vocals just to fuck your head up even more; the final seconds of ‘Death Drop‘ are particularly brutal.
Although melodically this is the catchiest Blanck Mass release to date, this is also his most forward thinking and I love how everything blends so well together. It’s not only very consistent as a piece of work but extremely cohesive too. It’s a challenging sound, but there’s so many uplifting ear worms throughout this that almost throw you off guard; the beat and bass line of ‘No Dice‘ are so chunky but then you’ve got this super sweet synth line sprinkled over the top that will refuse to leave your head. The balance of heavy and infectious is perfect here, it may take a moment to get your head around everything, but I would advise you just let it absorb your mind and send you on a freaky but beautiful trip.
I remember hearing Oso Oso’s second LP ‘The Yunahon Mixtape‘ late 2017 and falling head over heels with its earnest college rock sound. After a banging two track single last summer, Long Beach resident Jade Lilitri returns with his third full length. ‘Basking In The Glow‘ is another absolutely belting collection of punk-pop tinged emo, but this time he’s really taken the ‘album’ concept into consideration. In my mind it takes a classic album format, opening on a scene setting, acoustic driven intro that leads into a run of sunshine pop bangers. ‘One Sick Plan‘ hits the mid album acoustic ballad mark but in a much more intimate and lo-fi manner, moving back into punk-pop smasher territory before ‘Charlie’ closes out one of Oso Oso’s most moving and expansive tracks to date.
I’ve always been a fan of albums that have a clear beginning, middle and end and this works so well in delivering Jade’s tightest and most focused record. Everything has been taken up a notch; I mean it still stays in the pensive yet catchy emo pop category, but melodically this is sharper and shinier sonically. I hope this is the moment that the rest of the world cottons on to the brilliance of this songwriter and how god damn good his songs are.
Late last year, UK emo darlings Kamikaze Girls changed their name to the well suited title of Cultdreams. Here we stand in 2019 and the two piece are ready to unveil the much anticipated follow up to 2017 debut ‘Seafoam‘. In classic sophomore style, Cultdreams return with an album that retains all the elements that made their debut so grand, but naturally they have created an even bolder statement in every way. Musically, this still sees them blend shoegaze, grunge and punk in an eloquent fashion, but this is a much more assured step up. The post-rock inspired dynamics of ‘Born An Underdog‘ makes for a super strong opener, the chorus of ‘We Never Rest‘ is heart racingly beautiful and the urgent, passionate grunge rush of ‘Not My Generation‘ all help lift the band to new sonic heights.
Lyrically, we see guitarist and vocalist Lucinda go deeper than before with some of her most personal thoughts spilled out. Previously, Lucinda has spoken very honestly about her mental health but here she tackles the very tough subject of loss which makes for some extremely heart wrenching moments, especially on the poignant ‘Flowers On Their Graves‘. ‘Things That Hurt‘ is a brave and beautiful album from a band that keep getting more confident and fearless with each new release.