Albums/EPs

ALBUM: Iglu & Hartly – & Then Boom

Release Date: September 29th, 2008
Label: Mercury Records
Rating: 2/10

Website: www.igluandhartly.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/igluandhartly

Iglu & Hartly profile

If you’re a fan of amazing music that has truly amazing musicianship, meaningful lyrics, and is powered by passion and emotion both vocally and instrumentally then you’re best avoiding ‘& The Boom’, the debut full-length album from chart bothering group Iglu & Hartly. They’ve managed to enter the mainstream charts recently with their latest single release, but upon hearing what they have on offer it makes you wonder how they even got in there at all.

Perhaps the above was a tad harsh, as to be truthful there are moments where ‘& Then Boom’ would be considered a good piece of work from a hard-working band. The fact that it’s unarguable to say their tunes are really catchy, thanks to the inclusion of programmed electronic sounds, and pleasurable synthesized hooks that will no doubt keep the pop fans happy. However, as some people would say, you can’t really polish a turd. Everything encased in those electronic layers isn’t far from awful, and as shown in ‘DayGlo’, their music seems a little bit outdated to our time. Yeah, 1980’s fashion is ‘in’ at the moment, but that doesn’t mean 1980’s music is coming back. At times the vocal work from Jarvis Anderson and Sam Martin isn’t too far from a pre-puberty version of Phil Collins, especially in ‘Build’ and ‘People’. But, on a more positive note, their chart-breaking hit ‘In This City’ is probably the only thing that would be close to a gem on the whole record, and most of you might even be bored of that now with the amount of times its been aired on the radio. The chorus line is one that’ll probably get caught in your head though, or at least the line “… in this city”.

Iglu & Hartly have entered the charts with ‘In This City’, but with an achievement like that possible it makes you wonder how the public even thinks the music this band make is good enough to purchase as many copies to get them there. As said before, their material is incredibly catchy, but that doesn’t quite cover up how pants everything else is. ‘& Then Boom’ might be a contender for one of the worst debuts of 2008.

Written by Zach Redrup

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SINGLE: Ida Maria – Oh My God

Release Date: January 26th, 2009
Label: Sony BMG
Rating: 7/10

Website: www.idamaria.co.uk
MySpace: www.myspace.com/idamaria

Black Lips profile

Britain has certainley caught onto the current indie/indie rock style being pushed into the mainstream at the moment, including the fashion style aswell as the music and artists. One of which Ida Maria is one of these popular acts, and is still on the rise, hoping to boost further with ‘Oh My God’.

It has everything a single needs to help hook onto the public’s eager ear; repeated lyrics and lines, rock and quieter sections ever interchanging, and a radio-friendly voice similar to that of Kate Nash. Despite it having all the makings of a successful single, which it undoubtedly will be, you can’t help but think that perhaps ‘Oh My God’ is a little bit bland, and that Ida Maria could’ve tried releasing a new single as opposed to re-releasing this one.

Written by Zach Redrup

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SINGLE: I Left You For Summer – Play Dead, Wear A Mask

Release Date: August 1st, 2008
Label: Unsigned
Rating: 9/10

Website: None available
MySpace: www.myspace.com/ileftyouforsummer

I Left You For Summer profile

Not long after releasing their debut EP, I Left You For Summer are soon back with another piece of alternative rock revealing talent can crop up from the smallest and most unknown places of the UK.

In such a short space of time, the band have gotten nothing but better with their musicianship and songwriting skills. Opening with a slow paced string section over a mellow guitar riff and vocal teamwork of Rob Scrannage and Stuart Williams, delivering dark lyrics with a beutiful deliverance. It soon explodes into the main rythm of the song, again with dark lyrics like “Maybe you were misinformed / The cancer isn’t in your lungs” and “Spilling your guts across the bathroom tiles” bringing a bit of horror into the frame.

It’s not long before we soon see how the musicianship quality increases, with an impressive guitar solo and moment of chaos before being brought back down to Earth, again shot with dark and spiteful lyrics from Rob like “This is gonna hurt like a bitch” and “Let’s be honest, you deserve it”, before being thrown back into the violence again and brought to the end.

With a single like this, it makes you wonder if there’s any other undiscovered UK talent like I Left You For Summer. If the band can cook up something to this degree and improve so dramatically so quickly, who knows what else is on the cards for them.

Written by Zach Redrup

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EP: I Left You For Summer – Midnight In A Dream

Release Date: April 27th, 2008
Label: Unsigned
Rating: 9/10

Website: None available
MySpace: www.myspace.com/ileftyouforsummer

I Left You For Summer profile

From the smaller and less-known areas of Cheshire in the UK, I Left You For Summer from Holmes Chapel formed together from the ashes of other fallen local bands, and using guitarist/back-up vocalist Stu Williams’ home studio equipment recorded debut EP Midnight In A Dream, and the results are nothing but impressive.

Right from the start, Midnight In A Dream displays energy, passion, and songwriting abilities that are rare to find in newly formed bands, even if the members have been in and out of many bands for the past few years. Lyrics that speak of various things, including a reference to Jesus Christ in the track ‘My Mannequin Can Slamdance’, asking “And were you there when they nailed him to the cross?” exploiting an area not found in many of the local Holmes Chapel bands. Vocalists Rob Scrannage and Stu Williams complement one another like salt and vinegar, offering a range of clean vocals and some harsh vocals here and there, such as the breakdown section in opening track ‘Midnight In A Dream’. Though there are elements that may make them come across as a somewhat emo band with this track, with lyrics such as “Waiting on your porch step in the rain”, “Wondering if this reflection could be me”, this is immediately countered with a sense of power, with lines like “You couldn’t stop me if you tried” shoving it right back in your face. The band name itself of I Left You For Summer just proves this further, but anyway, who says that emo is a bad thing?

One of the strongest moments on the album is closing track ‘Our First Date At The Graveyard’, starting with jerky but well-planned guitar work, a burst and blend of dual vocal work, great and advanced song structure, and a mixture of soft and heavy moments throughout, exposing the band’s diversity. It even has a humours outro dialogue between two of the band members.

On the whole, I Left You For Summer is a very advanced and impressive showcase from such a young band. Four tracks full of passion and labour, with various different influences and sounds, crafted to please most fans into any form of alternative music. If this is just their first release, then expect many great things to come.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: I Am Ghost – Those We Leave Behind

Release Date: October 7th, 2008
Label: Epitaph
Rating: 7/10

Website: www.iamghostmusic.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/iamghost

I Am Ghost profile

With two Christian band members leaving before the recording of the record, surely California’s gothic punk group I Am Ghost should be open to writing much darker and more sinister material to suit fit their genre path. Surely enough, a more gothic feel is present on ‘Those We Leave Behind’ than there was on their debut ‘Lovers’ Requiem’, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the band have improved since then, or even gotten worse.

Basically, to explain it as simple as possible, there’s very little difference aside from the darker undertone present within the lyrics and music. There’s nothing wrong with staying in safe territory at all once you’ve got into a position like I Am Ghost have managed, but is always important that a band progresses, adapts, or even just experiments with each continuing record. Despite the lack of change however, ‘Those We Leave Behind’ shows a band that’s passionate and knows what they’re doing when writing a record. They know who they are, and what they sound like, so the lack of change has without a shadow of a doubt pushed them forwards on the one-way musical scope they’ve set out for themselves, resulting in not brilliant, but fairly adequate gothic punk/post-hardcore record to call their own. The melodic singing and violent screaming duo battalion present on the likes of ‘Don’t Wake Up’, ‘Smile Of A Jesus Freak’, and ‘Make Me Believe This Is Real’ will push all the right buttons for most post-hardcore fans out there. Another plus side with the work is the increasingly dark nature within the band’s lyrics, such as “But it was too late, the killer’s home / And knows you well, I assume” from ‘So, I Guess This Is Goodbye’ shedding the twisted lyrical nature Steven Juliano possesses.

It goes without saying that I Am Ghost are sticking to safe ground with this one, using the ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ ethic of doing things, and though it’s a sure way of pleasing their current fanbase, it’s not the best tactic when wanting to acquire others.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: The Hottness – Stay Classy

Release Date: April 29th, 2008
Label: Ferret Music
Rating: 8/10

Website: None available
MySpace: www.myspace.com/thehottness

The Hottness profile

With a name like The Hottness and an album cover as calm as that of ‘Stay Classy’, you wouldn’t expect this band to produce the heavy material that they do. Driving and powerful guitar riffs throughout, and battering drum lines to accompany the ‘pissed-as-fuck’ vocal work creates something that is far from classy, but that is also far from dull.

Opening with the sound of someone urinating and flushing the toilet, ‘Straight Brown’ throws you straight into the hard rock atmosphere of The Hottness. For those not too keen on all the hard vocal work don’t worry, it’s not anger every second, ‘Dearly Departed’ consists mainly of much more harmonised vocal work, but with them being a hard rock band mainstream isn’t something to expect or to receive on the agenda. The breakdown in the same track just smashes you in the face too, with so much negative energy you get just as angry feeding off from it.

‘The Ghost’ starts things a little differently to the rest of the record, bringing the listener in with notes other than hard chugging chords. The structure of the song and its sound is much more appealing to a wider audience, and just shows the capabilites of this young band. ‘Classy’ is a little piece of something different too, taking things a little slower than the rest of the album. It doesn’t quite reach the level of a James Blunt release, but is a slow-paced song for a band of this caliber.

Though their sound doesn’t derive from a fresh source or newly generated genre, The Hottness develop material that shows evidence that they’re trying to revive a deteriorating scene. The whole ‘hard rock/alternative metal’ scene has been giving birth to nothing but carbon copies of older bands in recent years, and with ‘Stay Classy’ The Hottness show promise, maybe not now, but in due time.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: HORSE The Band – A Natural Death

Release Date: August 28th, 2007
Label: Koch Records
Rating: 6/10

Website: www.horsetheband.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/horsetheband

HORSE The Band profile

HORSE The Band‘s inventive new genre creation of ‘Nintendocore’ is definitely an original one, and a genre they carry on as strong as ever in ‘A Natural Death’. Laced with music you’d hear when playing on your classic Game Boy, or NES console. Combined with the frantic and aggressive nature of this group’s music, and you’ve got computerised chaos.

Tracks like ‘Murder’ and ‘Face Of Bear’ are full of 8-bit sounds with the ballistic offerings from the other band members, making a riot of music and emotion, and creating a dance-like underline within the songs while Nathan Winneke‘s angst fuelled vocal work, coming across like a tyrant. The album gives rests of instrumentals before you feel too overwhelmed with the ferocity of ‘A Natural Death’, lots of listeners may need the breather it allows.

Though it’s arguable that most of the material created by the band sounds just the same as everything else they’ve done, those with the patience will be rewarded to discover that each song gives across it’s own character. ‘Kangarooster Meadows’ sticks out from the rest of the bunch like a sore thumb, edging more towards a country sound than what else you’re to find on ‘A Natural Death’, and doesn’t sound anything like HORSE The Band in any way, shape, or form.

The best moment of the album is the closing full track, ‘I Think We Are Both Suffering From The Same Crushing Metaphysical Crisis’, which charges like a freight train of force and power, with a perfect blend of hardcore brutality and subtle yet appropriate and original 8-bit Nintendo samples. It holds a rare quite and melodic bridge featured on this album, with the sentence “Time after time” sung with somewhat beauty from such an angry band. The song has so many levels and variations that if there’s only one track from this record you hear, it has to be this one.

Being pioneers of the ‘Nintendocore’ label, HORSE The Band deserve credit for creating something new and exciting in ‘A Natural Death’, and being able to pull it off so effectively too. Though a lot of their material sounds fairly similar, if you listen over a few times you’ll find something a little more.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: Hollywood Undead – Swan Songs

Release Date: May 18th, 2009
Label: Polydor
Rating: 3/10

Website: www.hollywoodundead.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/hollywoodundead

Hollywood Undead profile

Ahh, to be 11 again. An album three years in the making, Hollywood Undead bring you their debut full-length ‘Swan Songs’. Natural precursors to rap/metal fathers Limp Bizkit, the band have created a lengthy album of shredding, intimidating keyboards and well not exactly Sugarhill Gang-esque rhymes with riffs, and some straight-up clean singing to appease people who have moved on from ‘Chocolate Starfish…’.

The band earned over 1,000,000 MySpace plays over the course of their first nine weeks of digital genesis. This led to the band signing with MySpace Records – a deal that allegedly fell apart due to the label trying to ‘censor’ the band’s album; those bastards. Why would they stifle a band with so many important things to say, following in the footsteps of other political thought songs like ‘Nookie’ and ‘Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)’?

However, I’m not going to do my usual grand sweeping statements (not lazy journalism, honestly). This isn’t a straight up Bizkit rehash, not completely anyway. They’ve modernised or varied or somethinged the formula with some catchy punk-pop, like second track ‘Sell Your Soul’, and some pop rap. However, it would be easy to change your mind with the song that comes straight after it; ‘Everywhere I Go’ having the pathetically terrible hook of “Everywhere I go, bitches always know / Charlie Scene has got a weenie that he loves to show”. Come for the beats, stay for the poetry, this one is about hoes and various despicable acts related to said hoes. Fred Durst was never quite this obvious. The opener ‘Undead’ is a more straightforward (seriously) proclomation of how good they are – with swearing. Lots of that, because that’s ill. Anyway, further along this musical odyssey other highly stimulating subjects such as Los Angeles, guns and alcohol. The avid listener would notice that these topics are fairly regularly returned to, perhaps in case we didn’t understand these complex theories of bitches and how good the band are. However, this backfires (not that it was especially working in the first place) when they do admirably attempt to rhyme (with choirs and everything) on youth violence and the doomed new generations it comes across as ridiculous when you put it in the context of the misogyny and violent threats that have preceded it. Most hilarious is the ambitiously titled ‘Paradise Lost’. I mean it is about death and looking God in the eye and all that, but Milton it certainly isn’t, but a nice try to try and switch things up albeit it at the end of the album.

Musically this isn’t particularly inspiring either. I mean, there’s some very uninventive beats in there, the same power chord at frequent intervals, and basic keyboard work with different settings on it. But at least the voices are different which you would expect and hope for in a band with six guys in. I hear that guy who’s always angry, the one who sounds vaguely like Eminem and the one who insists on using the classy auto-tune sound that everyone and their dog is using these days. In fact, with the seemingly sorrowful piano samples in ‘Young’ things are getting awfully D12-like in flavour. As I began, to be 11 again. To be honest though with you fair reader, this isn’t as much like Limp Bizkit as I lured you in to begin with. That was just to give me a journalistic hook. The truth is this is more on the rap side of the rap/rock alchemy. This in truth makes it a lot worse, I mean they attempt to reference Wu-Tang Clan in ‘Bottle And A Gun’, and then on ‘California’ they do the whole angry synth strings bit. It’s kind of ‘don’t touch what you can’t in any way dream of emulate’ territory.

Truth is, this might be fun for about between 2-10 minutes depending on your tolerance level. Otherwise this is this ‘genre’ at it’s very worst and uninspired. Let us pray for this band fulfilling their own album title’s prophecy.

Written by Paul Smith

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ALBUM: HIM – Venus Doom

Release Date: September 17th, 2007
Label: Warners
Rating: 5/10

Website: www.heartagram.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/heartagram

HIM profile

After two years without the release of a studio album, HIM (short for His Infernal Majesty) have now released what lead singer Ville Valo claims to be the band’s heaviest piece of work to date – ‘Venus Doom’. This Finnish 5-piece are very popular for their infamous ‘heartagram’ symbol, and past single releases ‘Buried Alive By Love’, ‘Right Here In My Arms’, and ‘Solitary Man’.

Definitely one of the more heavier albums in this band’s arsenal of releases, HIM still seem to tread on familiar ground with their music. Defining their genre into one unique category – ‘love metal’, this band sound like themselves and nothing else. However with six studio albums and several demos and compilation albums, you would expect a band to progress or change their sound a little more than this. They write about love, and nothing else. Yes, this keeps in touch with their own genre, but after album number four this idea can seem a bit repetitive and boring. With song titles like ‘Dead Lovers’ Lane’, ‘Love In Cold Blood’, and ‘The Kiss Of Dawn’ you can see where this idea is coming from.

HIM and ‘Venus Doom’ are not completely dense with faults though, they do manage to do what they do well even if they do this all the time. You’ve got the classic HIM sound and haunting vocal work, crunching guitars and technical solos, lyrics about vampire hearts and crimson doors, under laying piano lines, and that extra gothic feel that makes any work by HIM complete.

‘Song Or Suicide’ is a nice interlude from the rest of the album’s tracks, a short acoustic track lasting just over a minute with low vocal work bringing the haunting gothic touch into play.

Album opener and title track is another great highlight from this album, opening the album with the sound of Ville Valo lighting and smoking his cigarette before being intruded by a heavy attack of instruments. “Watch me fall for you, my Venus Doom / Hide my heart where all dreams are entombed, my Venus Doom.” is a chorus line you’ll have stuck in your head for a while after hearing it.

Although exciting and enjoyable to listen to for the most part, this album barely ever reaches the point of no control. The closest you’ll ever get to frantic or chaotic on any track is a guitar solo from Linde, and even then the frenzy is soon over.

On the whole, ‘Venus Doom’ is a good album and is worth a listen. If you’re current HIM fans then you’ll love this album, which is just like their older work with more of a metal touch to it than usual. However, for those of you who were perhaps cautious of this band in the past, you won’t be changing your mind here. Although a fairly repetitive band, HIM do what they do well, and rarely sound like anyone else out there right now.

Written by Zach Redrup

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ALBUM: A Hero A Fake – Let Oceans Lie

Release Date: January 19th, 2010
Label: Victory Records
Rating: 8/10

Website: None available
MySpace: www.myspace.com/aheroafake

A Hero A Fake profile

Rather than slamming down a few fistfuls of heavy-as-lead beef to labour through, A Hero A Fake have instead decided to lay on a stylish banquet of 11 accessible yet technical tracks of metalcore for us all to feast on for this, their second album, ‘Let Oceans Lie’.

A Hero A Fake‘s sound lies somewhere between that of now defunct UK tech outfit SiKth, New Jersey’s Trophy Scars and the southern rock-styled five-piece that is He Is Legend. It’s a potent mix of modern post-hardcore’s smooth, energetic melodies and metalcore’s clinical punch to the belly impact. The foundations of bass and drums are as solid as you could wish for, allowing the guitarists the space to spray the eardrums with some beautiful and technical interweaving lines that create an intricate, rich web of melodic textures. The vocals work well within the overall sound thanks to some much needed restraint that other bands in this genre often fail to make use of. There’s no cringingly ridiculous vocal freak outs here, and you’re never left with the sense that the vocalists have outstayed their welcome within any of the songs. The melodic work is held together with some extremely tight rhythms and meandering, twisting song structures that fires you through section after section without overwhelming the listener.

The entire 11 track roster is consistently strong throughout, yet there are some standout moments that deserve particular attention. ‘Swallowed By The Sea’ is four and a half minutes of engrossing interplay between the melodies of the guitar and the savage beat keeping of the drums that climaxes in an almighty melee that could melt as many faces as you can throw at it. ‘Sleepstate’ sounds like a machine gun going off in a room full of pop-punk bands with the results super glued together and played until it blisters. The album’s title track sounds like the evil yet brilliant mutated half-brother of a Billy Talent song destroying a city. Curtain closer ‘A Year In Passing’ finishes off the album in a decidedly more civilised manner that manages to create some kind of farewell fanfare without turning everything an unwanted shade of cheese.

‘Let Oceans Lie’ manages to do metalcore with an accessible edge without weakening the end result. As an album it does everything you’d expect with songs that often do anything but (it even has the quintessential acoustic number on track seven!). A Hero A Fake are clearly a band able to match their ambitions and ideas with their abilities and this, their sophomore effort, is well worth checking out even if their genre usually sends you running to hills.

Written by Greg Johnson

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