Review: All These Countless Nights

Deaf Havana are an English five piece alternative rock band who have been performing and producing punchy rock tracks since their formation in 2005.  All These Countless Nights was announced last August during the band’s performances at Reading & Leeds Festival, and the excitement for the album has built gradually over the past five months.  The single Trigger was featured as Daniel P Carter’s Rockest Record on his BBC Radio 1 show, and you can hear the track here:

All These Countless Nights is the fourth full length album to be released by Deaf Havana, and I’m very excited to hear how the band has progressed over the past 12 years.  Their sound has shifted over the years, from hardcore guitars and harsh screamed vocals, to a more lighthearted rock vibe with 100% clean vocals and big stadium-filling choruses.

The album opens with Ashes, Ashes: it begins with a deceptive acoustic introduction before singer James Veck-Gilodi’s vocals pick up passionately and the drums and lead guitar kick in.  The “whoa-oh”ing backing vocals help to build layers of atmosphere, as does the delicate piano playing within the verses.  The record then leads into Trigger, easily one of the strongest songs on the record with a chorus full of emotion and drums more complex than you might expect from a song of this genre.

One of my highlights of the record is L.O.V.E, a moody ballad discussing the darker side of love with an electric guitar solo from Matthew Veck-Gilodi and a great instrumental running from about the three and a half minute mark onwards.  It’s the longest song on All These Countless Nights, clocking in at almost five minutes in length, but it doesn’t feel like it’s been dragged out; more that the instrumentals and vocals have been given the breathing room they need to create the biggest impact.

Each track contains features which help them to stand out from the rest, from Fever’s grungy guitars, to the fantastic guitar solo in Pretty Low, to the acoustic-led Seattle.  But what does stand out to me as a whole is the band’s ambitions and desire to succeed, grow and reach more fans than ever before.  Whereas previous records sung about regrets and sadness fuelled by booze, songwriter James takes these feelings and looks forward more optimistically than ever before. If Deaf Havana continue to produce cracking records like this one, they’ll surely reach the success they deserve.

Having listened back to some of Deaf Havana’s older tracks to refresh my memory, I’ve found that vocalist James’s voice has improved and strengthened massively over the last 12 years.  He wasn’t the band’s original front man, but he’s definitely settled into that role now.  His tone is great, and I’d argue that he’s much better at conveying his feelings through the sound of his voice than ever before.  Some older Deaf Havana fans much prefer the band’s earlier music, but to disregard their more recent records is to disregard how much these guys have grown and improved as musicians.  If that also includes changing their sound, then so be it.  I certainly think the band have changed for the better, resulting in All These Countless Nights, their strongest album yet and another contender for one of the best records of 2017.

Highlights: Happiness, Fever, Pretty Low, Seattle, Pensacola, 2013

8 incredible tracks you need in your life – January 2017

We’re now in 2017, and a new year means new releases.  January has seen the release of a number of great albums, including efforts by You Me At Six, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, As It Is, and the Dropkick Murphys.  There have also been a number of singles released over the past month, so today I’ll be giving you a rundown of the best tracks around.

Mallory Knox – Better Off Without You

Mallory Knox have released a couple of singles in the lead up to their third full length album, Wired, due to be released in March.  I love the rhythm of this track, and it has a powerful chorus which ties the song together.  I’ll be seeing the band alongside Lonely The Brave and Fatherson on their Wired tour in March, and I cannot wait!

Acceptance – Haunted

Acceptance is a band with a tumultuous past.  They formed in the late 90s and released a couple of EPs as well as a full length album, Phantoms, in 2005.  Not long after this the group disbanded, and its members took part in a number of other projects until they reunited in 2015.  The pop-rock group have released their latest single, Haunted, in the lead up to their second album due to be released next month.

Touché Amoré – Benediction

Post-hardcore rockers Touché Amoré released their fourth studio album, Stage Four, last September, and this track is their most recent single.  If you want emotive choruses and great drumming, this song is for you.

Lower Than Atlantis – Boomerang

This track has a heavy electronic influence, with programmed drums, synths, and autotuned introduction and vocals.  So far Boomerang stands out from the rest of the singles off of Lower Than Atlantis’s upcoming record, Safe In Sound, as the rest fit more comfortably with the band’s rock sound.

Dryjacket – Spelling Era

I featured another Dryjacket track, Two Toasters, in the November 2016 edition of …incredible tracks.  I really enjoy this band’s lighthearted sound, which is why I decided to feature them again.

Biffy Clyro – Flammable

It should come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of this track, the fifth single to be released from Biffy Clyro’s latest record, Ellipsis.  Although this album received mixed reviews from fans and critics, I think most will agree that this track is one of the closest on the record to their trademark aggressive proggy sound.

Breaking Benjamin – Never Again

It can’t be denied that Breaking Benjamin are a cornerstone of American heavy rock music, and have been for many years.  The video for Never Again was released this month, taken off of their 2015 album Dark Before Dawn.

Halestorm – Heathens (Twenty One Pilots cover)

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of Twenty One Pilots, but I am a huge lover of Halestorm, so I knew Lzzy Hale and the rest of the group would be able to put their own spin on this track.  This single is taken from the third volume of ReAniMate: The CoVeRs eP released earlier this month.

What do you think of these tracks? Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Review: Modern Ruin

This Friday, punk legend Frank Carter returned with a new release from his band, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes.  Their debut LP, Blossom, was one of my favourite albums of 2015, and even before then I’ve followed Frank Carter’s career since his days as the front man of UK punk band Gallows.  Anyone who’s followed altrocklife for any length of time probably will have realised how much I love this man’s work, so you can bet I have huge expectations for the latest album, Modern Ruin.  Promotion for the record kicked off with the single Snake Eyes all the way back in June of last year, and you can watch the provocative music video here:

Now to the album.  Modern Ruin kicks off with the acoustic track Bluebelle, named after his frankly gorgeous pet dog.  The pace picks up with Lullaby, with its bass led verses and Frank’s signature voice belting out the chorus.  Just after hearing the first two tracks, one named after a pet and the other written about Frank looking after his daughter Mercy when she was ill, makes it obvious that Frank’s love for his family is a significant theme of Modern Ruin.  This is a nice shift in pace from The Rattlesnakes’ previous record, which featured tracks overflowing with hate and anger.

Already this record is much more melodic than their previous effort: Frank still uses screams and harsh vocals for effect, but they are much less frequent in Modern Ruin than they were in Blossom, especially in the verses.  This is pretty evident in track Vampires, which is much heavier on harmonised backing vocals than previous songs.  Does this make Frank Carter And The Rattlesnakes any less punk?  Arguably not: Modern Ruin still has the same attitude as its predecessor, but it’s definitely the more mature and refined album of the two.

One of my highlights of the record is the riff heavy outro of God Is My Friend, followed by the explosive 56 second long Jackals.  Guitarist Dean Richardson and drummer Gareth Grover are forces to be reckoned with, and their performances on this album are outstanding.  Each track is a perfectly wrapped parcel, which gets its message across in a succinct and punchy way.  For me, the most aggressive track is the title track, full of harsh vocals and incredible riffs, and its intro reminds me slightly of Paradise from their previous record.

If anyone was expecting an identical copy of Blossoms in The Rattlesnakes’ latest release, they were totally off the mark.  One thing I know about Frank Carter, following his career from classic punk band Gallows, to Brit-rock duo Pure Love, and now to The Rattlesnakes, is that the man is anything but predictable. He makes exactly the music he wants to make, rather than what is expected of him, and that falls under my definition of punk pretty nicely.  I absolutely cannot wait for my preordered Modern Ruin book to arrive, so I can flick through all of the behind-the-scenes photos, and get the CD in my car pronto.  Even though it’s only January, I can already tell that this record will be a serious contender for the best album of 2017, because it’s absolutely blown me away.

Highlights: Snake Eyes, Vampires, Acid Veins, Thunder, Neon Rust

Review: Avenged Sevenfold, Nottingham Motorpoint Arena

Last night I had the great honour of seeing Avenged Sevenfold live for the second time, at the Nottingham Motorpoint Arena. Last time I saw them, they were performing in the O2 in London during their Hail To The King tour, so it was great to witness how the band’s performance and stage set-up has evolved over the past few years.  However, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Here’s my photo-dump of the few, poor quality pictures I took on my phone.

First up on the line-up were the Swedish metal band, In Flames.  Unfortunately I was unable to watch these guys perform, as we encountered a traffic accident during our drive to Nottingham which put us behind schedule.  I was pretty gutted to miss them, because I reviewed their latest album Battles in November and I really enjoyed it.  If anyone was at the gig last night and you saw In Flames, comment below and let me know what their performance was like!

Next were Disturbed, a cornerstone of American metal music over the past couple of decades.  I had no idea what to expect from this four-piece band, as I only really knew arguably their biggest hit, Down With The Sickness. However, I was absolutely blown away by singer David Draiman’s fantastic voice.  His range and performance was incredible, and was totally not what I was expecting from him.  Overall the bands’s performance was excellent, and their 45-ish minute setlist was full of high octane riff-heavy tracks which got the crowd jumping and circle pits forming.  One moment of calm amongst the storm was the band’s beautiful cover of Simon And Garfunkel’s The Sound Of Silence, accompanied by a live strings section.  If you’ve never heard their cover before, you can check out the music video below:

Finally, Avenged Sevenfold took to the stage, suitably enough opening their set with The Stage.  Bassist Johnny Christ was ill during this performance, which put a dampener on things slightly, but he still performed well and I certainly didn’t notice any issues with his bass playing.

The band played tracks from across their impressive discography, including a few tracks from Waking The Fallen and Sounding The Seventh Trumpet.  I can understand that Avenged Sevenfold must find it difficult to put together setlists, considering that the band has fans of their different eras of music, but I was glad that they managed to play a good number of their older songs to keep long term fans happy.  I was a little disappointed that they only played Bat Country from City Of Evil, but when you’ve got a two hour setlist to fill and seven albums of songs to choose from, something’s gotta give!

My highlights of the night included the performance of two of my favourite songs from The Stage: Sunny Disposition and God Damn.  I also really enjoyed hearing the band perform Planets followed by Acid Rain from Hail To The King: the two tracks naturally go together, and it was a great opportunity to get the flashlights out and belt along to the epic choruses.  And of course, the encore included the incredible A Little Piece Of Heaven, which singer M Shadows dedicated to The Rev’s “fucked up lyrics”, which was a wonderful nostalgic touch.

However, I think I can guess the highlight of the night from Daniel, the man M Shadows pulled up on stage to sing Johnny Christ’s backing vocals for Nightmare in his place.  He looked like he was having the time of his life singing along, and I think everyone else in the arena wished they were on stage in his place.

Overall, the band’s performance was polished and well executed, the same as it was when I saw them live in 2013.  It’s plain to see how well M Shadows, Zacky Vengeance, Synyster Gates and Johnny Christ play together, and they’ve been a band for long enough to work together like a well oiled machine.  New Drummer Brooks Wackerman fits into the band really well, and I really enjoyed his performance of both new and old Avenged Sevenfold tracks.

If you’re planning to see Avenged Sevenfold during the rest of their The Stage tour, you’re in for a real treat. Have you already seen them live this year?  What did you think of the show? Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Can’t keep up with a bullet journal? altrocklife gets organised for 2017

Hi altrocklifers! Today I decided to do something a bit different on this blog, and turn my hand to making a YouTube video.  As we have now entered the new year, I decided to get myself organised and ready to tackle the year ahead, by combining a weekly desk planner and the Google Calendar app on my phone.

I absolutely love watching videos of people drawing up and planning out their bullet journals, however my messy handwriting and incapability to draw and design attractive pages means it’s not really the organisational tool for me.  I decided to purchase a weekly desk planner, with a section for each day already drawn out for me, where I can write down all of the essential to-dos and appointments for that week.  This is combined with the Google Calendar app, which I use to schedule appointments, my work hours and social events as they’re organised.

So, without further ado, here’s my video!

There you have it! Did you find my video useful?  Do you think you’ll be taking on my organisational tips for 2017? Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Review: Lush’s Garden Party gift set

Last Christmas, I was lucky enough to be given one of Lush’s beautiful gift boxes by my sibling.  Whilst everyone else was busy unwrapping boxes of chocolate and bottles of wine, I was in my own little world of cruelty free and vegetarian cosmetics.  Now that I’ve had a chance to use all of the products, I decided today would be a good time to round up the positives and negatives of each of the products.

Just to note: two of the products from this gift box, Rose Jam and Sleepy, are no longer available to buy as they were winter exclusive products. Apologies, but hopefully next winter you’ll be able to pick some up for yourself.

Respect Your Elders soap (vegan, £3.50 for 100g, link here)

Initially I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy this product, as I’ve never been the biggest fan of using bars of soap.  However, I was won over by the scent of Respect Your Elders, which has a lovely, light berry fragrance.  It’s does a brilliant job of cleaning my hands as it lathers up very well, and the scent lingers on my hands for ages after each wash.

Ro’s Argan body conditioner (vegan, £16.50 for 225g, link here)

If you’re a fan of rosy scents, then Ro’s Argan is the product for you.  This body conditioner is extremely buttery and decadent, and it really makes me feel like I’m pampering myself when I use it.  I often get patches of very dry skin on my arms during winter, but Ro’s Argan has kept these at bay.

Sleepy body lotion (vegan, no longer available to buy)

When I went into Lush in December, I gave Sleepy a sniff and I honestly wasn’t a very big fan of the scent.  I also wasn’t a massive fan on Christmas morning, when I opened up the tub to give it another try.  However, I used the lotion one night after a shower and the fragrance absolutely transforms itself when it’s rubbed into the skin.  It’s a wonderful comforting fragrance of lavender, and it helped me drift off to sleep that night, as the name suggests.

Rose Jam shower gel (vegan, no longer available to buy)

If you want to have a wonderfully decadent shower, I recommend using Rose Jam, followed by Ro’s Argan.  The fragrance of roses lingers on the skin for hours after your shower – I couldn’t stop smelling my arms!  Rose Jam is an excellent shower gel, which cleanses effectively yet gently.

What do you think of these products? Which of Lush’s winter products are your favourites? Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Review: Night People

After three years of silence, on Friday the Surrey five piece You Me At Six returned with their fifth full length album, Night People.  Their previous record, Cavalier Youth, was definitely a mixed bag for me: it contained excellent rock tracks such as Room To Breathe and Fresh Start Fever, but also contained soft pop fillers like Be Who You Are and Carpe Diem.  However, after hearing the upcoming record’s lead single, also titled Night People, my faith in You Me At Six was restored.  You can listen to the track and see the music video below:

The album begins with its title track, which certainly does the job of setting the tone for the rest of the record.  Its bass-y groove and simple yet effective chorus sounds like Night People is set to be a stadium or festival main stage pleaser.  The pace is picked up with the short but punchy Plus One, then slowed down again for the ballad Heavy Soul, with its trademark emo lyrics and yet another powerful chorus.  I’m only three tracks into the album, and I can already tell that vocalist Josh Franceschi has pushed his voice on this record, which has definitely paid off.

To me, Night People is a defiant album, telling You Me At Six’s naysayers that the band has no interest in anything doubters have to say.  One of my highlights is Take On The World, the title of which gives away its message, and the lyrics are a love letter to the band’s fans who have stuck with them through thick and thin.  I would also argue, however, that this record shows that the five-piece have found their niche.  They’ve managed to perfect the formula for creating crowd pleasing, arena-filling singles, as well as making a name for themselves on mainstream radio which of course brings them more success.

Another highlight is the moody Spell It Out: the gentle undulating guitars and emphasis on Matt Barnes’ bass give the track a dark atmosphere, before building up to a huge crescendo of chugging riffs and an understated yet effective guitar solo.  The record closes with another emo ballad, Give, which I’m certain will become a fan favourite.

After listening to this record in full, I found that I didn’t struggle to pick my stand-out tracks: each song has its own punchy chorus, catchy guitar riffs and inventive drum fills which demonstrate the band’s musical talent and ability. I don’t think Night People shatters any preconceptions, or really surprised anyone with its content, because I don’t think You Me At Six have done anything particularly inventive across these ten tracks.  But as I said before, the band have definitely perfected their formula for success, and as long as they continue to create solid rock tracks like they did within this record, I think there’ll be plenty more success to come.

Highlights: Heavy Soul, Brand New, Swear, Make Your Move

#OOTD: New Look holiday sales haul

Happy New Year to all of my followers here on altrocklife! I trust you all had a relaxing holiday season. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that as soon as the Buck’s Fizz hangover had worn off, I was ready to hit the shops and start spending my Christmas cheques.  I was also lucky enough to be gifted a £50 New Look gift card, so that is where I spent most of my time during the sales.  Here’s an outfit I put together from my new purchases.

Shirt, £11: I think I’ll always be a sucker for collared shirts.  I bought this shirt a size too big, because oversized shirts work well as a smart/casual choice: you can either wear it as-is for a more casual feel, or tuck it into trousers or a skirt to smarten it up.  I also love the pattern: the bug design is simple but cute, and not too busy or overpowering.  There’s a slight blue colour to the bug design, which means it’ll be nice to match with some blue earrings or a necklace.  Plus, the shirt is a nice lightweight material which means it can be styled for all seasons.

Jeans, £24.99: Admittedly, the jeans I purchased weren’t on sale, but they fit me so well, I had to splash out on them.  I bought a black pair of these jeans about 18 months ago and they’re still going strong, so I knew that this pair would be a good investment.  They’re very comfortable, and I know from experience that this cut suits me well and the jeans themselves are durable.

Boots, £22.49: I’ve been after a nice pair of black boots with no heel for a while, and after buying a couple of cheap pairs from bargain outlets and being disappointed, I was very happy to come across these beauties.  They’re extremely comfortable to wear, and the sole means that walking across mud or ice is a breeze.  I like these boots because they have a similar look to Doc Martens, without the hefty price tag, and they haven’t taken me months to break in.

What do you think of this outfit? What were your best holiday sale bargains? Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.