Reviews

ALBUM: Earth Crisis – To The Death

Release Date: April 20th, 2009
Label: Century Media
Rating: 6/10

Website: www.earthcrisis.us
MySpace: www.myspace.com/earthcrisis

Earth Crisis profile

After a six year absence Earth Crisis announced their reunion in 2007, and ‘To The Death’ is the first full length we’ve heard since their questionable covers album that closed out what was then presumed to be their musical career. A straight-edge hardcore band, always passionate about many social issues, adding prominent place for animal rights issues amongst the hardcore scene, will the six year gap have added perspective and clarity to their music or will they have lost their place in a scene full of bands with outspoken opinions in a fast-moving socio-political world?

Musically speaking Earth Crisis has hit their bull’s eye. The guitar work is solid and mixed well with the frantic drum work, and what we get is a slick slice of metalcore which never feels overproduced. Vocally they never stray from harsh style; perhaps a response to a number of fans who complained about the overindulgence in clean vocals on 2000’s ‘Slither’ or just an attempt to reset their own pace reminiscent of their earlier days by just doing things straight up hardcore. Whatever the reason is it works; for the most part. The screams are strong and the statements being made in songs like ‘So Other’s Live’ work in a proclamation like manner but over the course of an entire album the lack of variety starts to grain and some of the straining can irritate. However, the solid guitar soundtracking helps this minor complain along nicely. The band have concocted an unstoppable siege of loud, loud metal music and there are plenty of breakdowns, a refreshing amount of solos (refreshing in them being kept to the minimum and to where it benefits the actual song) and at half an hour, they keep a breakneck pace that keeps the listener’s attention. And while it would be easy to take us through 10 straight-forward metal songs discussing socio-econo-political issues, the band don’t fail on intensity with the combination of breakdowns and doubled up screams in ‘Cities Fall’ meaning we get a song befitting its epic title. There is plenty of momentum developing build-up work, particularly in natural breather instrumental break ‘Plague Bearers’ that prepares us for the even angrier second half, where the band slow things down a little but continue to pummel you incessantly and make their point, with the titular finale being appropriately brutal and strong stately with the band shouting “vegan, to the death” to close us out. Lyrically and thematically the theme of non-conformity is there from the start; what else would you expect with an opener entitled ‘Against The Current’? And to answer my own earlier question, yes, the band seemed to have kept in touch with the world working its way around them. There are various political attacks on the likes of American terrorism policy in ‘Security Threat #1’ and societal chaos in ‘Control Through Fear’. The thing is, they’re not saying anything particularly new or interesting, but this isn’t necessarily the band’s fault. The way governments both sides of the Atlantic handle various dangerous issues means it is very easy to have a negative opinion on our fair rulers, and the media oversaturation globally means there aren’t many opinions left that haven’t already been expressed by a disgruntled citizen. You can’t fault the band for effort though.

So while the music is brutal enough to get a feel of the malice the band feels toward many areas of society and the government and it’s own revisionist history, and the topics on hand are of social conscience as much as they ever were, you can’t help that feel after so long of this genre being prevalent in alternative music that the band play this one a bit too safe. ‘To The Death’ is by no means weak but it ticks the boxes of the genre’s conventions, a feel that I’m sure the band would like to pervade if their music is to match their message. All the same, the ‘fuck the world’ attitude is still there, and I can ponder exactly where Earth Crisis‘ place in the scene and the genre’s world view is, but at the end of the day the material on this record would start a pretty big pit – and that’s as much as a lot of fans of this band and genre would ask for.

Written by Paul Smith

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SINGLE: Duke Special – Freewheel

Release Date: February 5th, 2007
Label: V2
Rating: 8/10

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

Duke Special profile

This single is one that really moves you. ‘Freewheel’ – a re-release from Duke Special‘s 2005 album ‘Adventures In Gramophone’, features a piano and a group of orchestral instruments with great effect.

The lyrics show off Duke Special‘s poetic and soulful side, and also contain an obvious Irish folk influence. This track is definately one for those who enjoy their slower and more melodic music, but it has elements which would appeal and brance off to many more music fans.

Keep your eyes (and ears) open, you’ll be hearing a much more about this guy in the very near future.

Written by Zach Redrup

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SINGLE: Dropkick Murphys – The State Of Massachusetts

Release Date: February 4th, 2008
Label: Cooking Vinyl
Rating: 6/10

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

Dropkick Murphys profile

A fusion of Irish folk music and angry modern punk, Dropkick Murphys release ‘The State Of Massachusetts’, a song with a good few layers behind it, which together create a piece of Celtic Rock that grabs your attention.

The song combines a collection of various instruments and sections into what it is, with the opening being the main song riff played on a ukulele before the electric guitars and drum beats come crashing in. You’re not too sure whether to dance or mosh along to this track. In the lyrical department of things, Dropkick Murphys present what seems to be a narrative storyline along with an occasional gang shout here and there of “They’ve been taken away” and “Hey!” getting the listener to sing along.

With this in mind though, the song does have an element of repetition behind it though. Whether this is a negative or positive one is all a matter of personal opinion.

Written by Zach Redrup

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LIVE: Title Of Injustice @ The Norfolk Inn, Stoke (13/10/2009)

Date: October 13th, 2009
Venue: The Norfolk Inn, Stoke-on-Trent
Support: Drederick Tatum, Hyde

Rating: 7/10

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

Title Of Injustice profile

The Norfolk Inn is soon to be shut down, and is hosting its last few gigs during October 2009; one of which being Title Of Injustice and others. All bands are going without a mixing desk or stage, and playing straight on the pub floor besides the bar, and straight through amps like a practice session would be.

Chester’s Drederick Tatum (***) set things off with a bang. Though the crowd size is minimal, vocalist Gary Challinor and bassist Tom Plant still insist on jumping into people and getting them involved and more lively. The band had to bring in a new replacement guitarist Shaun Hayes (from I, Said The Spy!) for the night, who doesn’t seem to have dampened the group’s tight sound during songs like ‘I Am The British Beyonce’. The lack of spectators though seems to restrict the band’s true potential and energy output.

Vocal duties go to a duo effort with Crewe’s 5-piece Hyde (***), bringing a more hardcore metal sound with different influences here and there. Songs like ‘Beers Galore And Girls On The Floor’ offer the crowd a more fun aspect to the whole heavy sound the night seems to focus on, and vocalists Nath and Shane trade roles swiftly like a married couple. Bassist Tom seems to enjoy going mental and twirling his bass in all different directions, almost taking people like it was a spear. Things go to apocalyptic for the band’s closer ‘There’s No Such Thing As An Outro’, with both vocalists jumping head first into the audience, bassist Tom rolling around the floor and slamming his instrument to the ground, while guitarist Daniel French soon chucking his guitar alongside it.

Another Crewe-based metal band Title Of Injustice (****) are set to finish one of the pub’s final nights off, and though do so with a title of justice. Drummer Mat Capper‘s ability, and the guitar works of Scott Chesworth and Rowan Eason overshadows their ages, and show that even the youngest of musicians can show promise for something in the future. Though not quite as energetic as the frontmen from the previous acts, Shaun Povall still manages to hold his own equipped with his strong vocals. At one point he climbs up on a set of stage speakers before jumping off in front of the small crowd, and gives an unnatural but comforting charisma. The crowd-participating ‘Enemy’ doesn’t draw much of an input from the audience, but none the less reveals a great songwriting ability the band owns.

Maybe not the most packed out of gig nights, and maybe not the most popular or well-kept venues on offer, but the local acts that played there that night have given The Norfolk Inn a send-off it should be more than proud of.

Written by Zach Redrup

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EP: Drederick Tatum – The John Demo

Release Date: September 1st, 2009
Label: Unsigned
Rating: 8/10

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

Drederick Tatum profile

Talent can be found in the most surprising places, and the speed in which it grows can be just as surprising too. Drederick Tatum from the Chester/Wrexham area are a product of both said surprises, and their debut 3-track ‘The John Demo’ is a stapled piece of evidence to help support this.

As soon as that first distorted chugged note from the opening of ‘In My Neighbourhood? I Don’t Think So’ is played, up ’til the screamed outro of “We’ll live our lives in misery” in ‘They Made Worms Meat Of Me’, there’s very little – if any – breather moments for whoever’s the subject in front of the speakers. They’re tight, heavy, and about as angry as an unemployed chav who’s missed his last dole payment. Frontman Gary Challinor‘s vocals are clearly emotive, from his screams and bellows you can feel the sincerity in what he’s yelling about.

The catchiest moments of the chorus to ‘I Took Her Slam City’, the repeated “I took her to Slam City / Without remorse, without pity / This is right where she belongs / A piece of scum for us to walk along” is a dark and bitter lyric which achieves to be as catchy as chlamydia. The dual-guitar onslaught of Sim and The Shed, combined with the bludgeoning bass lines of Tom Plant, and the fast but steady drum work of Lewis is exposed at its strongest in ‘In My Neighbourhood…’, driving along the hurtful outro line “I was there for you / You weren’t there for me” to an epic climax. Though true and strong, Gary‘s vocals could be seen as a tad too ’emo’, ‘broken’, or ‘whiny’, but the sincerity of the lyrics he wraps them in more than overpowers this slight flaw.

Drederick Tatum can’t really capture their live presence in CD format alone, but if they could, I’m sure ‘The John Demo’ would at least be three times more brutal… if you can imagine it.

Written by Zach Redrup

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LIVE: Title Of Injustice @ De.Bees, Winsford (28/07/2009)

Date: July 28th, 2008
Venue: De.Bees, Winsford
Support: Laid To Ruin, Heartless, Drederick Tatum

Rating: 8/10

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

Title Of Injustice profile

If you want a surefire way to catch yourself in a moshpit, circle pit, or any sort of pit to that vain really then metal nights are the way to go. With the Cheshire area spawning off these brutal music groups more than rabbits going at it, it’s about time Winsford hosted one.

Tonight’s metal night openers Laid To Ruin (**) have the bare essentials down right; the loud screams and guttural lion growls, the fast galloping guitar riffs, and the heavy and dirty bass and drum combination, but lack the essentials to make them standout from being just ‘another local metal act’. Energy only comes in short little bursts, but when the most prolonged showing of activity comes along it’s in the form of frontman Ryan Nicholls (who we were told after writing this review was replaced that night by a friend of the band due to Ryan being ill) ridiculously smashing his fist (along with his microphone) into the head of what he later describes as a ‘friend’… odd friendship.

Needless to say, this sets an easy place for Heartless (***) to pull off something a little better for the locals. Having more of a hardcore sound as opposed to the more metal focused predecessors, they bring brings from earlier to a slightly new realm. The shortage of band to crowd communication leads to Heartless not getting too much of a reaction from the spectators but all the while still do themselves justice. Their set closer eradicates all of this though, with a member of the audience even jumping on stage and stealing the microphone to sing/scream-a-long.

Things are laid to waste entirely once The Simpsons boxer inspired deathcore novices Drederick Tatum (****) take to the stand. Their humourously titled songs like ‘In My Neighbourhood? I Don’t Think So’ and Friends referenced ‘Joey Doesn’t Share Food’ may at first seem to belie in comedy, but have a core and presence of pure anger, aggression and passion. This is all depicted and showcased through the explosion of frontman Gary Challinor, usually spending more time on the floor and moshing with the crowd and jumping off the stage – clearly giving it his all. What’s more, various members of the band have only just cleared themselves of the currently popular swine flu and still manage an appearance tonight.

High quality metal just keeps rolling on thanks to headliners Title Of Injustice (****). Coming onstage dressed in a Spider-Man costume, vocalist Shaun Povall shows a passion for the music he creates, and a stage presence beyond his years – being probably the youngest frontman to perform tonight. His screams and barks through a set with the likes of ‘Serenade In Smoke’ and ‘Left For Dead’ can put a lot of older local acts to shame. Accompanied by the dual guitar attack of Scott and Roca (who are again both fairly young), the band breathes a promise that sometimes those seen as the students can elevate to become the teacher. Sure, they’re not perfect and getting everything down like a 50p hooker, but a little more time and experience can give them the chance to fix that.

Written by Zach Redrup

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LIVE: DissolvedIn @ De.Bees, Winsford (30/06/2009)

Date: June 30th, 2009
Venue: De.Bees, Winsford
Support: Sgt. Wolfbanger, Meadow View, The Last Alive

Rating: 7/10

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

DissolvedIn profile

Everyone knows that Download Festival is a monster, and in comparison the De.Bees music bar in Winsford is like that monsters arse stain on its underwear – not in the sense that it’s a terrible rock night, but just not even a scratch upon the experience. Regardless, previous Download headliners of the Red Bull Bedroom Jam tent DissolvedIn are making an appearance in the middle of nowhere. True dedication in their helms.

First in the following of local support acts comes Sgt. Wolfbanger (**) aren’t ones to make too much fuss about. Their sound is for the most part mainstream and their set is relatively tight, but the audience stood before them are distant, bored, and ultimately not that interested the whole time they’re onstage. The band make little to no effort to try and make this any different either, and though they look like they’re enjoying themselves, they lack in their much needed stage presence. Confessing you played a new song wrong last time you performed isn’t too smart of a move either, not that this has any affect on their show.

More energy erupts however when pop-punk 4-piece Meadow View (****) have their turn in the spotlight. The crowd from the predecessors increases two-fold at a minimum and all bring more spring in their steps, with groups of jumping bodies being ever present. Frontman Andi Barlow is a charismatic chap with their fans – old and newly acquired – and their onstage presence is an energetic and fun fusion for all. A few nuts and bolts need to be tightened here and there, but Meadow View are definitely on the right track to becoming a strong and worthy live act.

Things go a little more ambient and progressive in song style with The Last Alive (****). Currently in the middle of a tour across the most part of the country, the band have managed to hone and work on their live shows. Mid-song banter brings elements of comedy between vocalist Rob Scrannage and guitarist Stu Williams, but it’s the songs themselves and the way they’re delivered with that level of passion which brings The Last Alive up step after step. The random belts of harsh vocals make their first appearance of the night with these boys, and songs like ‘Cocaine White’ and ‘This Is Your Escape Route’ reveals an act that’s quality more then precedes their popularity and experience.

After playing to a crowd size more than twelve fold to what they’ve received tonight, it’s a quite a big change from their Download performance just more than a week beforehand. However, Reading’s DissolvedIn (****) march onwards like soldiers and deliver a set just like they would any other night or venue they perform at. Songs like ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ have that fun pop-punk vibe and prowess to incite a party in anyone’s hearts, and though the reception and feedback in return is far from one these boys deserve they earn respect along with the knowledge to know their set was one to be proud of none the less. They can also remain confident in the fact that they’re probably one of the most popular acts to ever play at the De.Bees music bar, and have shown just why that is.

De.Bees is far from any music festival, but DissolvedIn came out like champs. Still, let’s roll on the next rock night and see what’s in store there.

Written by Zach Redrup

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LIVE: Finch @ The Sugarmill, Stoke (11/11/2008)

Date: November 11th, 2008
Venue: The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent
Support: DissolvedIn, Shadows Chasing Ghosts

Rating: 7/10

Website: www.thebandfinch.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/finchmusic

Finch profile

Bands split up all of the time, whether it be a highly profilic band, one only just breaking onto the scene, or even just a small club band. When Finch announced their split back in 2006, many fans felt the void that the post-hardcore group imprinted for the genre since their establishment and rise in 2002. Now it’s November 2008, and after their reform last year they’re back on UK soil again, showing just why we should give a fuck when a band of their calibur leaves the spotlight.

Opening band DissolvedIn (***) are the closest neighbours to Stoke on tonight’s bill, hailing from the Reading area. Though their a young band and there’s room for some improvement, DissolvedIn‘s pop-punk offerings are ones that have the forumla to entice some serious dancing, warm-up the crowd, and ignite some energy for what the audience are to endure for the rest of the evening. They put the effort in onstage too, with bassist Jamie acting like a toddler overdosed on Lucozade all over the stage, and frontman Dan bouncing and prowling around during Blink 182 cover ‘Pathetic’. They’ve laid their foundations as a band, but just need that extra push to take it to further and better places.

Ten minutes or so after they’ve cleared up, Shadows Chasing Ghosts (***) take it a level higher in terms of heaviness, producing a sound somewhat similar to the previous act of the night, but with the inclusion of beatdowns and harsh vocal work. Vocalist Trey Tremain bobs up and down throughout most of the set whilst screaming and singing from the top of his lungs, and guitarists Matt Jones and Rich Jones compliment one another’s efforts effectively. The odd full-body swing of a guitar is thrown in here and there for good measure too, just to improve the visual factor of their performance. It seems though that maybe a bit more effort could be made for encouraging crowd participation, with the random appearance of the band’s manager shoving a microphone into the crowd doing little to nothing extra then before.

It’s clear from the chants since Shadows Chasing Ghosts disappeared who the crowd have come to see – Finch (****). From the moment they take to the stage ’til the second they walk off, they kick in to song after song pulled-off flawlessly. You can tell they’ve been greatly missed – and greatly thanked for their reformation – the crowd setting off mosh pit after mosh pit like terrorist detonations blowing up. The post-hardcore superstars are ones to get involved with the crowd a little bit too, with Randy Strohmeyer standing on the crowd rail and falling onto the crowd on one or two occassions, and vocalist Nate Barcalow pacing in every possible area of the stage. A man of very few words, Nate rarely introduces any song on the setlist, and hands out the occassional “Thanks” to the audience, but from just watching you can see the emotion he pours into the songs. They have a comical side within them too, as Randy and Nate return after a short encore singing the infamous ‘Day-O’ song, before kicking back into the rest of their set. ‘What It Is To Burn’ finishes their set off perfectly, after having many shout-outs across the whole night for them to play it. The mosh pits become a complete frenzy, with the fans along with the band givingi it their all before the returned Finch leave the stage, and Stoke for the evening.

Written by Zach Redrup

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EP: Dinosaur Pile-Up – The Most Powerful E.P. In The Universe!!

Release Date: August 17th, 2009
Label: Big Brain Records
Rating: 8/10

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

Dinosaur Pile-Up profile

The Leeds trio which created a buzz last year for the best part of 2008 – thanks to its aggressive and paradoxically delightful debut singles ‘My Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Love Is A Boat And We’re Sinking’ – are coming back with their brand new confidently titled EP, ‘The Most Powerful E.P. in the Universe!!’. And as their new sound is definitely darker and much more mature than their previous tracks, their fans will be undoubtedly surprised.

Keeping confident titles rolling with opener ‘Summer Hit Single’ and its penetrating chorus, our three dinosaurs quickly introduce us to their new sound and what they’re about. With songs such as ‘Opposites Attract’, and the relaxing ‘Melanin’, the band can easily be compared with the likes of Weezer or The Subways. ‘Cat Attack’, far from being the most interesting song of the ensemble, would have been perfect for a good old American teenage movie due to its repetitive but maybe slightly boring riff. If you are patient enough to wait until their last yet arguably best track, ‘Beach Bug’, you will surely think that it smells like teen spirit with its reek of grunge, all thanks to its dark and sensual vocals.

Is ‘The Most Powerful E.P. In The Universe!!’ really the most powerful EP in the Universe? Probably not. But what really matters is that Dinosaur Pile-Up‘s EP is definitely going to improve your rainy summer and has to be listened to. The boys’ influences might remain a little too obvious, but the band is promising and will hopefully reach its potential very soon.

Written by Elise El Ouardi

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ALBUM: DevilDriver – Pray For Villains

Release Date: July 14th, 2009
Label: Roadrunner Records
Rating: 8/10

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

DevilDriver profile

Californian five-piece DevilDriver made their mark in the metal world in 2003 with their self-titled debut. The distinct vocals from frontman Dez Fafara caused people to stop and pay attention, and soon enough the band’s ferocious sound was loved by metalheads everywhere. With the help of prestigious label Roadrunner Records, the quintet went on to release ‘Fury Of Our Maker’s Hand’ and ‘The Last Kind Words’, two striking albums that took their sound to extremes.

Three years since their last full-length and the band are ready to showcase their fourth masterpiece, ‘Pray For Villains’. Upon first listen, it really comes as no surprise that it’s one of the most anticipated albums of 2009. From the second opening track ‘Pray For Villains’ begins you are sucked into a fierce and vicious record that does not stop for air. This album stresses how versatile DevilDriver are: ‘Back With A Vengence’ sounds like a cross between Slipknot and Velvet Revolver, where as ‘I’ve Been Sober’ could quite easily pass as a Dragonforce and Lordi collaboration. It is also very clear to see that Fafara has developed as a lyricist and has made the songs a lot more personal – on ‘Teach Me To Whisper’ he screams “Another day, another decision / One that eventually affects us both / Teach me to whisper ’cause I feel like screaming”. Other stand-out tracks include ‘Another Night In London’ and ‘Bitter Pill’, both of which flaunt the more melodic side to the metal band.

‘Pray For Villains’ is an immense record, however in certain places it sounded a little too similar to their previous record and shows little musical progression. This is by no means a bad thing and fans are without doubt going to love it regardless. The thirteen tracks on this album are overwhelmingly good and needless to say DevilDriver have done their utter best to outdo themselves. The Californians have once again taken their musical genius and pushed it to the limit their known for. With nearly an hour of music that is both melodic and brutal, it’s safe to say that this record will be a hit with fans of the band. ‘Pray For Villains’ will undeniably sound amazing live, resulting in what can only be an unbelievable reception during their UK tour later this year.

Written by Kate Rees

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