Review: Echoes

It’s only been about a year since the release of Ones And Zeros, but Young Guns are already back with a new record, released last Friday.  The band have said that they wanted to make up for a long period with no releases by putting out two records in quick succession, but I’m not sure if this has worked out for them.  In my review of Ones And Zeros I said that I didn’t think the record would top their second album, Bones, for me, and I still stand by that.  I’m interested to see if Echoes will succeed where their previous album failed.

The album starts with lead single Bulletproof, a track which features electronic elements as well as proper guitars, and a fantastic chorus which reminds us of how impressive vocalist Gustav’s voice really is.  You can see the music video for the track here:

This is followed by title track Echoes, which demonstrates that the increased electronic elements from Ones And Zeros are still part of Young Guns’ sound.  There are more beefy guitar riffs in this track, however, which hark back to their earlier days and heavier sound of the past.  Said heavier guitars are found throughout the record, including during Careful What You Wish For and Mad World.  These heavier tracks interspersed with electronic intros and effects helps each song to stand out from the rest, and the overall effect is pretty special.

The pace of the record slowed down slightly with Awakening, a more relaxed track with one of Young Guns’ trademark soaring choruses, and Living In A Dream Is So Easy, a wistful and emotionally charged number.  The intro to Buried quickly returns the record to its previous high energy.

I’ll be honest and say that I went into this record with fairly low expectations.  I was disappointed by last year’s release, so I became a little worried that the band were creating music in a style outside of my preferred genres.  After giving Echoes a good listen, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that Ones And Zeros was an experimental prototype in the lead-up to their latest album.

I really enjoyed Echoes, and I think that the band have balanced alternative rock guitars and drums with electronic elements to create a sound that really works.  In truth, I found it difficult to write up my little ‘highlights’ section because I really enjoyed most of the tracks, and they all had features I found interesting or unique, so it was harder to pick out favourites.  Does this album top Bones, though?  To be honest, Bones became a very important album to me during a difficult time in my life, so it will always mean more to me than anything else Young Guns put out.  I do think that Echoes is musically on a par with their second album, and it’s fantastic in its own right, but the meaning I’ve given to Bones probably means it will always top any other music they put out.  #sorrynotsorry

So to conclude, if you were disappointed by Ones And Zeros the same as I was, I suggest that you give Young Guns another try and listen to Echoes.  I’m certain that you wouldn’t regret it.

Highlights: Bulletproof, Careful What You Wish For, Paranoid, Buried, Afterglow

Review: Cold World

Following Of Mice & Men’s previous album, Restoring Force, propelled them firmly into stardom, the Californian five-piece have returned with their latest effort.  Promotion for Cold World begun with the release of lead single, Pain, easily the heaviest song they’d released since The Flood era.  This raised expectations amongst fans hoping for the band to step away from more electronic influences and return to their hardcore roots.  You can watch the slightly freaky music video for Pain below:

Pain was followed by two more tracks, Real and Contagious, which were similar in style and tone to Feels Like Forever, with more clean vocals and less aggressive guitars and drumming.  Real included clean vocals from Austin Carlile, which is a new direction for the vocalist, and one I’m not sure I’m a fan of.  His voice sounds a little nasal in places, which I don’t really enjoy, so maybe he should leave the clean vocals to Aaron Pauley in future.  This mixture of singles led me to believe that Of Mice & Men plan to head further from their hardcore roots, but let’s see how I feel by the end of my first listen, eh?

Cold World opened with the slow atmospheric track Game Of War, which I personally felt dragged on for maybe a minute too long, as it didn’t get me excited to begin listening to the record.  However the pace soon picks up with the 8-bit sounding intro to second track The Lie, followed by the emotional single Real, the chorus of which packs a solid punch.

There are some points within Cold World, such as the intro and outro of Contagious and the filler track , which have electronic influences that remind me a little of Linkin Park’s earlier albums.  Others, such as the chugging verses of Like A Ghost, remind me of Slipknot’s latest record, and to me The Hunger shares similarities with Stone Sour’s sound.  To me, the band’s homages to their inspirations and favourite artists are apparent.

Lead single Pain sits in the middle of the album, and for me marks its high point.  I can understand why Of Mice & Men chose this track as their lead single, as it’s definitely my favourite on the album – and the heaviest.  Lyrically the album varies: some tracks are pretty emotional and poignant, others, such as Relentless, have pretty cheesy and overdone sentiments.

I had very high expectations for Cold World, considering how much I loved the band’s previous record Restoring Force, and my first impressions are that I don’t think Of Mice & Men have managed to better their previous effort. Sure, there are some fantastic tracks on this latest record, but there are also a significant number which could have easily slotted into the Restoring Force tracklist.  I’m a bit disappointed by the lack of growth in the band, but this doesn’t mean I love the Orange County boys any less, and I’m hoping to see them live in November where I’d enjoy hearing some of their new tracks performed live.

Highlights: Like A Ghost, Pain, The Hunger, Transfigured

Review: Venom (Deluxe)

Last week, Welsh rockers Bullet For My Valentine returned to the scene with their latest album, Venom.  A lot of fans were disappointed with their 2013 record, Temper Temper, so I was interested to see whether the band have redeemed themselves.

Lead single No Way Out was typical BFMV for me – lyrically the track bored me, as it was pretty boring, unimaginative and predictable.  Matt Tuck’s lyrics have always been on the boring side, and haven’t really evolved since their debut LP The Poison.  If you want to listen to tracks with moody lyrics that hark back to heavy rock of the early noughties, then BFMV are probably the band for you.

Leading up to the release of Venom, the band said in an interview with Kerrang! that the record would be their heaviest yet.  Whilst I agree with that, I would argue that heavier doesn’t always necessarily mean better.

Now, I thought there were a few redeeming tracks on BFMV’s previous album that made it worth purchasing for me, but overall I’d argue that the band have been on a downward curve following their brilliant first three albums.  There are a few redeeming tracks on Venom too – take a look at my highlights list at the end of this post – but I think I may have outgrown the kind of music that they create.  Some of the tracks on Venom sound like they belonged on Temper Temper, which is never a good thing.

If you enjoyed Temper Temper then I’m certain you’ll enjoy Venom, but if you were less than impressed, like me, then I wouldn’t bother picking it up.  With the deluxe version of the record being 15 tracks long, I honestly struggled to find the motivation to listen to the entire thing, but I managed it so that you, my lovely altrocklife readers, wouldn’t have to suffer the same fate.

What’s your verdict on Venom? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

Highlights: Worthless, Venom, Skin, In Loving Memory (Demo)

Review: Blossom

On Friday, Frank Carter made a triumphant return to hardcore punk music with his new band, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes.  Blossom is an explosive debut record full of raw emotion.

The album opens with lead single Juggernaut, which when it was released was a great indicator of things to come.  Anyone expecting the Rattlesnakes to sound anything like Carter’s previous band, Pure Love, would have had those illusions shattered by this powerful track.

Frank Carter is probably best known for his stint as the front man of Gallows, who were well known for their loud and volatile sound.  While it’s obvious that the sentiments explored in Blossom come from a similar place, exploring anger, hatred and loss, The Rattlesnakes manage to make these feelings feel even more raw and visceral.

I wouldn’t want this entire review to focus on Frank Carter, though. Even though he’s the frontman of this incredible new band, without its fantastic musicians there wouldn’t be much to listen to.  The guitars throughout, especially in single Juggernaut, are fantastically powerful, and the drumming is as cymbal-heavy and up tempo as you’d expect from an album of this genre.

Blossom is fast paced for the first half of the album, but towards the end the tracks slow down a little and become more moody and reflective.  The change of pace forces the listener to pay attention, as it’s pretty difficult to predict where the record will go next.  Most of the tracks clock in at under four minutes long, which helps them to pack a more significant punch – it’s surprising how much anger The Rattlesnakes managed to force into each track.

If you were a fan of Gallows when Frank Carter was frontman, then The Rattlesnakes will definitely be right up your street.  If you’re looking for a brand new and explosive record to sink your fangs into (see what I did there? There’s a track on the album called Fangs and – oh never mind), chock full of human emotion with raw punk roots, make sure you get to a music store or online and pick up a copy of Blossom as soon as you can.  I, for one, cannot wait to get my mitts on a physical copy of it.

Highlights: Devil Inside Me, Loss, Beautiful Death

Review: Positive Songs For Negative People

Friday saw the triumphant return of Frank Turner, who released his sixth studio album Positive Songs For Negative People.  I was lucky enough to see Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls play at Reading Festival in 2013, and he put on a fantastic show.  It’s clear on my first listen to his new album that it will be full of crowd pleasers, the same as his previous records.

Fans of Frank Turner will be well used to his melancholy lyrics, and as the title of his latest record implies, it successfully carries on this trend.  Get Better, a single from the album, gave us a good idea of what to expect from his latest effort.

Positive Songs For Negative People does a great job of obscuring sad lyrics behind upbeat acoustic guitars, although the actual reasons for his melancholy – apart from heartbreak – aren’t made particularly clear.  It often takes a second or third listen to the tracks to see past the music and work out what they’re actually about.  Frank Turner’s music is ideal for sitting at the window with a steaming cup of coffee, watching the rain pour while you contemplate your life choices.  There are still enough positive stories in the lyrics to prevent the listener from spiralling into depression though.

Angel Islington is a beautiful, stripped-back and chilled introduction to the album.  It’s not exactly an explosive start, but it manages to set the overall tone of the record very well.  Get Better and The Next Storm help to kick things into gear, but the most energetic track is Out Of Breath by far, which brings the record to a crescendo.  The album is wrapped up by the contemplative Song For Josh, written in homage to his friend Josh Burdette who committed suicide in 2013.

While this album sums up Turner’s work in a nutshell, I don’t think it stands out from the rest of his discography, so if you were hoping for something a bit different or experimental you may be disappointed.  Overall, if you were a fan of Frank Turner’s previous albums, then Positive Songs For Negative People will feel like a triumphant return for the Hampshire singer/songwriter.

Highlights: The Next Storm, Mittens, Josephine, Silent Key

Review: We Came As Romans

We Came As Romans
Photo Credit: Florian Stangl ( via Compfight cc

Last Friday saw the release of We Came As Romans’ fourth and self-titled album, and the Michigan six-piece has produced a record more alternative rock than ever before.

We Came As Romans is an ideal album for fans of bands who mix clean and harsh vocals; Kyle Pavone and Dave Stephens’ vocals work really well together, and help to influence the mood of each track.

It’s difficult to pin this album down and define it as one genre.  While the six-piece seems to be leaning more and more towards alternative rock as time goes on, there are still enough breakdowns and verses with harsh vocals to hark back to their more metalcore roots.  I’m especially fond of the closing track of the record, 1230, which is a great summation of the bands’ sound.

My main criticism of We Came As Romans is that, for a fourth full-length album, it’s pretty short.  The record is made up of 10 tracks and clocks in at just over 33 minutes long.  Speaking to Kerrang! in May, vocalist Dave said that the band “wrote close to 40 songs for this record and only ten made the album”.  With so much potential material, the bands’ decision to only release 10 of these songs on the original release is a little disappointing.

Overall, the album is a strong effort, and each song had enough unique features that they didn’t blend into one, which can happen easily on records of this genre.  We Came As Romans’ latest album is well suited for fans of Of Mice & Men, Memphis May Fire or The Word Alive.

What are your thoughts on We Came As Romans? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

Highlights: Regenerate, Who Will Pray?, Defiance

altrocklife’s favourite underrated albums

Hello altrocklifers! As a music blogger, it’d make sense for me to be obsessed with all things rock, punk and alternative music.  I’ve actively been seeking out the best new music since I was in secondary school, and all of my friends and family know that when I discover a new album I don’t stop talking about it until everyone I know has a) listened to it and b) is as in love with it as I am.

That said, there are a number of albums that I feel haven’t received the appreciation they deserve.  Whenever I mention said albums, even to fellow rock and punk fans, they’re often met with “I’ve never heard of that band”, “I heard that album was rubbish”, or “I didn’t like the band’s earlier/later music so I didn’t bother listening”.  So I’ve put together a list of my favourite underrated albums and my reasoning for why they’re so damn good.

Gallows – Gallows

Understandably, a lot of Gallows fans were disappointed when vocalist Frank Carter left to pursue his now defunct side project, Pure Love.  After being replaced by Wade MacNiel (previously of Alexisonfire and Black Lungs) many fans shunned the band, suggesting that without Frank Carter they could no longer call themselves Gallows.  Now, I love Frank Carter as a musician as much as the next person, but he left Gallows of his own free will, and he needed to be replaced.  The band’s self titled album is an absolute cracker, and is in fact the album that introduced me to Gallows in the first place.  It seems like a number of people simply wrote the band off after Carter’s departure, which is a real shame.  Here’s Cross Of Lorraine, one of my favourite tracks from the album.

Band Of Skulls – Himalayan

It seems to me like Band Of Skulls are a criminally underrated band.  They have slow, chilled acoustic tracks back-to-back with the wailing guitar solos of their heavier tracks, and who can resist a band with both a male and female vocalist?  One of the album’s singles, Asleep At The Wheel, got a little radio airplay last year, but definitely not as much as it deserved.  The video for Hoochie Coochie is really interesting, and a great fit for one of my favourite Band Of Skulls tracks.

Avenged Sevenfold – Diamonds In The Rough

This album, released alongside the band’s Live In The LBC live DVD, seems to be regularly forgotten by A7X fans.  That is, aside from their cover of Pantera’s Walk, which is pretty much unanimously considered a fantastic cover.  Diamonds In The Rough includes B-sides and a number of tracks never heard before its release.  Unfortunately there is no official video for either of my favourite songs from the record, Girl I Know and Until The End.

The Blackout – Start The Party

Start The Party was the last full-length album by The Blackout, and it definitely struggled to get the recognition it deserved.  Some would argue that the album was a lot more pop oriented, and I wouldn’t disagree with that entirely.  Unfortunately the band’s (intentional or otherwise) attempt to appeal to the masses didn’t seem to work, and just over two years later The Blackout is no more.  One track which never fails to get me in the party mood is the record’s title track below.

Twin Atlantic – Great Divide

Following the huge success of Twin Atlantic’s second studio album, Free, many fans believed that their third album was made to appeal to a wider, more mainstream audience.  While it’s true that Great Divide isn’t quite as heavy as its predecessor, there are still a number of awesome tracks alongside poppier numbers.  Take a listen to Cell Mate, one of my highlights of the album.

Green Day – ¡Dos!

Due to lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong’s admission to rehab around the time of the release of Green Day’s trio of albums, neither  ¡Uno! ¡Dos! or ¡Tré! received the recognition they deserved.  Unfortunately, publicity was focused on Armstrong rather than the release of the albums. Out of the three, ¡Dos! is by far the best, as it demonstrate’s Green Day’s ability to incorporate a number of different genres and styles in one punk-rock package.  Stray Heart was the only single released from this album, which is a shame as tracks such as Nightlife are, in my opinion, much stronger.  Make your own mind up about Stray Heart below.

What do you think of the albums I mentioned?  What’s your favourite, criminally underrated album?  Let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

Currently listening to: BonesYoung Guns

Review: Drones

As an aside, before I start this review I just realised that this is my 100th post on altrocklife!  It’s always exciting to reach milestones like this, and I’ve had a fantastic time writing all of these posts.  Thanks to all of my loyal readers who have continued to read altrocklife, and I look forward to the next 100 posts.

Back to the matter at hand: Drones is the seventh studio album by Muse, the Devon three-piece formed in 1994.  I’m one of those rare creatures that has enjoyed everything Muse have ever released.  In my opinion, even though Muse have never really stuck to one genre and continued to experiment with their sound, every musical risk they’ve taken has paid off.

Saying that, Drones is a return to Muse’s heavier, prog-rock roots, and it sounds absolutely fantastic.  Vocalist Matt Bellamy’s wailing vocals are as powerful as ever and strong throughout, and there are plenty of instrumentals and guitar solos that are sure to keep every listener happy.  Plus, for fans of The 2nd Law, electronic influences still play a role on this record.

The record has a good mixture of heavier tracks, such as Psycho and Defector, and slower ballads like Mercy.  The autotune and heavy use of synthesisers in Reapers adds something a bit different to the track and helps it to stand out from the rest of the album.  And for fans of Muse’s 2003 album Absolution, The Handler has been lauded as Stockholm Syndrome on steroids, or its cooler, more badass older brother.  The title track is a bit of a strange way to end the album, in my opinion, but that doesn’t detract from the overall package.

Muse’s most recent albums have followed a theme, and Drones is no different: Matt Bellamy, in an interview with NME, hinted that the album would follow the themes of World War Three, deep ecology and the empathy gap.  These themes are apparent in every song on the album, which helps to make it a more complete package.

Drones weighs in at almost an hour long, and with almost every song over four minutes long, each track is a saga in its own right.  The two short filler tracks help to break the album into more manageable chunks.  I was listening to the album on Spotify Free, which saddens me as I was unable to access The Globalist, which is a Spotify Premium exclusive.  The album doesn’t seem to suffer without it, however having never heard that track I’m unaware of what I’m missing.

One criticism I have is that, by the time of its UK release on June 8, Muse had already released seven out of the 12 Drones tracks.  This made listening to the finished package a little underwhelming: it’s difficult to get excited while listening to an album for the first time, when you’ve already heard over half of the tracks.  That doesn’t make the record any less fantastic, though!  To be fair to Muse, with so many amazing tracks on the album, I’d struggle picking two or three to release as singles as well.

To conclude, for existing Muse fans who enjoyed their first three albums, this album should be a dream come true.  In my opinion, this band can do no wrong, and I’m extremely jealous of everyone who’ll be seeing them headline Download Festival this weekend.  My favourite music is music with a message, and Drones is certainly that.

Highlights: The Handler, Reapers, Defector

Review: Ones and Zeros

Hello altrocklifers! It’s good to be back blogging again after my exam hiatus, and what better way to welcome you back than with a review of Young Guns’ latest album, Ones and Zeros.

Ones and Zeros is the third album by the Buckinghamshire five piece, a band who have consistently evolved stylistically from record to record.  I doubt I was the only Young Guns fan surprised by I Want Out, the first single released from their latest album.  It was definitely a change of pace, with a lot more electronic influences, but deep down at its core the track is still unmistakably them.  If you missed it when it was released last August, here’s the music video for you to check out:

Admittedly, once the second single Speaking in Tongues was released, I started to feel a little worried about what Ones And Zeros would be like.  I wasn’t a massive fan on the first listen, feeling like the track had lost its alternative rock roots and was leaning too far towards electronic or dance music.  The track has grown on me though!  Plus, the release of the third single, Daylight, managed to win me over and get me excited for the album once again.

The album opener, Rising Up, is an explosive yet atmospheric start, combining heavy guitar riffs, synthesisers and strings, which makes it sound almost orchestral.  It’s obvious that the band are still making good use of vocalist Gustav Wood’s distinctive voice.

Lullaby is a mid-album change of pace, which forces you to take a step back and really listen to the lyrics.  However the album quickly picks back up again with the distinctive introduction of Daylight.  The fast-paced guitars during Colour Blind are awesome, and if you’re a fan of strings, Die On Time is likely to be your favourite track from the album.

For die hard rock ‘n’ roll fans, Ones and Zeros might not be the best album for you.  However, if you’re more open minded when it comes to combining genres, you should definitely give this record a try.

With 12 tracks clocking in at just over 45 minutes, this album is a fairly significant effort.  With just under three years between their second album, Bones, and their latest record, I’ve been chomping at the bit for more music from Young Guns.  While it’s obvious that each of the tracks belong to Ones and Zeros, each one has its own defining elements that made me feel like I was in my own little world listening to each track.

The big question, however, is will Ones and Zeros top Bones as my favourite album by the Buckinghamshire five piece?  Bones has a special place in my heart, and it’s probably one of my favourite albums of all time, so understandably I had big expectations for Young Guns’ third record.  Stylistically they have their differences, which makes them pretty difficult to compare.  Right now, I think the scales tip towards the direction of Bones, but who knows?  I’m sure I’ll be giving Ones and Zeros many, many more listens, so it could come out on top after all.

Highlights: Memento Mori, Daylight, Gravity, Ones and Zeros

Review: Romantic Errors of Our Youth

Here’s the latest review I wrote over on Scene Better Days, take a look!

Scene Better Days

When I was sent Brawlers’ debut album to review, I didn’t think I’d ever listened to their music. That’s until I heard ‘Windowmisser’, and I realised I’ve heard them played on BBC Radio 1 multiple times. They made a good impression on my first listen, and that good impression has continued while listening to Romantic Errors of Our Youth.

My initial reaction to the Leeds four piece was that their vocalist sounds a little bit like The Wombats’ Matthew Murphy. With a punk rock core running underneath quirky lyrics, Brawlers seem to have crafted a pretty original sound. Plus, the vocalist doesn’t struggle to be heard over the instruments, which is definitely a bonus.

‘Drink & Dial’ is perfect for radio play: in fact, a lot of the tracks would be suitable for a more mainstream audience. That doesn’t take away from the guitar riffs and cymbal-heavy percussion, however…

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