Review: Battles

In Flames are a Swedish group who were formed back in 1990.  Their sound started off as metal, but the group was one of a few who pioneered and developed melodic death metal as a genre in its own right.  Over the years the band have released twelve full length studio albums, the first five of which came under the banner of melodic death metal.  However their sixth record, Reroute To Remain released in 2002, marks the band’s shift towards more alternative metal.  Its clear listening to the band’s latest album, Battles, that the band has stuck to that more alternative sound, and gained more mainstream success in the process.  You can hear the first single from their latest record, titled The End, below:

Battles opens with Drained, a great track with awesome riffs throughout and a really catchy chorus.  I had no idea what to expect listening to this record, as I’ve never followed In Flames as a band, so this was a great initiation for a newcomer to the band’s sound.  This is followed by above single The End, which features a cracking guitar solo and female choir-style backing vocals which give the track a real atmosphere.

Lyrically the tracks switch between more introspective lyrics surrounding the songwriter’s personal life and his place in the universe.  In the same vein, I like how some tracks are very melodic with great clean vocals and electronic elements, and others, like Through My Eyes, have chugging riffs and harsh vocals which hark back to In Flames’ melodic death metal past.  Each track has a catchy chorus which helps to tie the album together.

For me, the highlight of the record is the epic seven-minute long Wallflower, a complex track with prog metal influences and lyrics discussing the challenges which come with growing older and reflecting on past mistakes.  This song is absolutely massive and it honestly ended too soon for me.

Battles is a 14 track record, which is a pretty hefty offering that demonstrates that the band still has a lot to offer, even after multiple line-up changes and a massive change of sound.  After listening to some of In Flames’ older music, I can understand why their fanbase is so conflicted: their sound is very different now to how it was back in the ’90s and early 2000s.

Overall, considering I went into reviewing this album completely blind, I’ve really enjoyed listening to Battles.  I’m much less into more classic metal than I used to be in my younger teenage years, so that explains why I liked this record more than I liked what I heard of In Flames’ older music.  I’ve always been a sucker for a monster chorus with catchy repetitive lyrics, and this album has those in droves.  There are also plenty of electronic elements, interesting backing vocals, creative drum fills and guitar solos to keep me interested and listening intently.

So if you’re into In Flames’ older, pre-2002 music, this album probably won’t be for you.  However if you liked the band’s newer releases, Battles is the logical follow-up to their 2014 record Siren Charms.  Now that I’ve been introduced to In Flames, I’ll be following them much more closely in future.

Highlights: Drained, The Truth, Here Until Forever, Wallflower, Greatest Greed

Review: The Stage

Following the surprise release of a new track earlier this month, Avenged Sevenfold decided to pull a Beyoncé and drop a new full length album with no announcement.  The Stage is the band’s seventh full length album, and the first with drummer Brooks Wackerman.  You can see the music video for the album’s title track here:

Going into reviewing The Stage, I was unsure how I’d feel about the record.  Musically it seems like the album will have a similar sound to City Of Evil, which could be a good or bad thing.  I’m hoping that Avenged Sevenfold will have taken those vibes and given them a more modern twist.

The record opens with the title track, which is a great way to begin the band’s concept album about artificial intelligence and the breakdown of society.  If you didn’t get the meaning behind the lyrics immediately, watching the video for the track above will clear things up for you.  This is followed by Paradigm: the chorus, guitar solos and complex drum fills of which make it obvious that this record has moved on from the more classic metal stylings of Hail To The King. 

Even though the record is pulled together by M. Shadow’s signature vocals, Johnny Christ’s undulating bass and Zacky Vengeance’s backbone of guitar riffs, each track has its own influences from all sorts of musical areas.  These additional touches are demonstrated by the addition of brass during Sunny Disposition, to the chugging opening riffs of God Damn, to the choral backing vocals during Higher. 

There are a couple of ballads on this album, as is to be expected from Avenged Sevenfold.  Angels is a grade A ballad, but the guitar solos starting at around two and a half minutes and again at around the four minute mark managed to sneak in and completely blow me away.  The layering of vocals towards the end of the track give it an incredible, almost cinematic atmosphere.

The feel of The Stage is absolutely massive and theatrical, and in my opinion it’s 100 per cent what the band needed to put out following Hail To The King.  If you’d asked me to guess what this album would sound like, I would not have come up with this in a million years.   Another reason for this is that the drumming on Hail To The King was very classic and more simplistic to reflect the style of the album, however Brooks Wackerman’s drumming is much closer to The Rev’s than Arin Ilejay’s is, which makes the album fit much better into their discography than their previous album.

Avenged Sevenfold managed to keep details of the album under wraps very well, and that air of mystery really boosted the hype for this record when it dropped on Friday.  Another reason for the hype is that The Stage is the band’s longest record to date, and includes their longest ever song, the epic Exist which runs for almost 16 minutes.  You definitely get a lot of bang for your buck with this record.

To be honest, I don’t think Avenged Sevenfold will be making many new fans with this record.  I think half of its charm is that it hails back so beautifully to City Of Evil, and even their self titled album and Waking The Fallen in some tracks, which shows that even though the band have grown massively over the years, they haven’t forgotten their past.  This charm will be totally lost on new listeners.  Plus, I think the band’s attitude, theatrical style and love for putting on a big performance definitely comes through much more on this record than they did on Hail To The King.  I do think that existing fans will enjoy this record as much as I do, and I absolutely cannot wait to see some of these tracks performed live when I see Avenged Sevenfold play in Nottingham in January.

P.S. I didn’t mean for this review to sound so negative about Hail To The King: I do love that record, but I’m so much more excited about The Stage as I was for their previous album, and it’s difficult not to draw comparisons.

Highlights: Sunny Disposition, Creating God, Roman Sky

7 incredible tracks you need in your life – October 2016

It’s that time again, folks: it’s the end of the month, and time I rounded up the best tracks put out over the past few weeks.  With no further ado, let’s get on with the show!

Descendents – Feel This

If you’re after a minute long punk rock punch in the face, this is the track for you.  Descendents may be the honorary Dads of the punk rock world, but they’re still going strong as a band.

Cover Your Tracks – Cages

To me, the sound of this track reminds me of Bring Me The Horizon’s latest album, and that’s no bad thing.  I like how the piano and electronic elements work with the track, and whilst I’ve never listened to Cover Your Tracks before, this track has left me wanting to find out more.

Moose Blood – Cheek

Punk rockers Moose Blood have released the video for Cheek, a track from their popular second full length record, Blush.  This is a cute track with an uplifting catchy chorus.

Palisades – Aggression

Even though Palisades have been around for a few years, I’ve not listened to a lot of their music.  This track shows great promise, and I’ll be looking out for their third album due out in January.

Franz Ferdinand – Demagogue

As part of the 30 Songs 30 Days Challenge, indie rockers Franz Ferdinand have put together a little track which essentially is a two and a half minute long middle finger aimed straight at Donald Trump.  What else could you need?

Bloc Party – Stunt Queen

Bloc Party’s latest single is a fantastic, feel-good song, which really puts me in a summery mindset.  Too bad it was released in October really.

Korn – Everything Falls Apart

Korn recently released their twelfth studio album: Everything Falls Apart is one of the singles from the record, which shows the band have grown and matured whilst still maintaining their original attitude.

What do you think of these tracks? Are there any singles I missed off this list? Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Review: Who You Selling For

New York rock band The Pretty Reckless have returned with their latest full length record, only a two years since the release of their album Going To Hell.  Hype for Who You Selling For started to build with the release of the first single – you can watch the video for Take Me Down here:

To me, this track was less heavy than the band’s previous releases and had some pop and even country vibes, so it definitely piqued my interest to hear what the rest of the album would sound like.

Immediately Who You Selling For takes a surprising turn, starting out with the piano-led introduction to The Walls Are Closing In/Hangman.  However the track quickly picks up with a lot of emphasis on bass guitar and the bass drum, and layered backing vocals give the track an atmospheric, grungy feel.

My impression that this album could end up sounding more pop than previous records was shattered by the second track, Oh My God, with its impressive guitar-led introduction and vocalist Taylor’s gravelly voice layered overtop.  The worry that The Pretty Reckless are turning into a pop band, thankfully, seem unfounded.  However, there are definitely country and blues elements to be found throughout Who You selling For, and these are most apparent on tracks such as acoustic-guitar led Back To The River.

Some of the songs that really stand out from the rest include the fantastic bassy groove of Prisoner, the riff heavy Wild City, and the chilled out Bedroom Window.  This record is made up of a strong collection of songs, most of which have enough individuality to stand out from the rest.  This mix forces the audience to really pay attention to what each song has to say.

Lyrically, to me, the album seems to take a lot of influence from more classic rock and metal.  Taylor sings about religion, young women heading to “the big city” and trying to avoid the vices and temptation there, and making deals with the devil.

To conclude, I reckon that fans of The Pretty Reckless will be pleased with the band’s lyrical maturity and progression of their sound over the past couple of years.  Sometimes I find it hard to believe that Taylor Momsen is only two years older than me, because her lyrics and rough-around-the-edges voice may suggest she’s older to those who know nothing about the band.  There’s definitely more to Who You Selling For than meets the eye, and I look forward to listening to the record a few more times to pick up on anything I missed the first time around.

Highlights: Oh My God, Prisoner, Living In The Storm, The Devil’s Back

Essential albums you need in your car

Hi altrocklifers! In massive life news, I officially got my first car this week, and I feel like I’m one step closer to becoming a responsible adult.  It’s a cute little navy blue Ford Ka, 11 years old, and named Lzzy after one of my favourite vocalists, Lzzy Hale (cringey, I know).

Katie sat in her new car on her driveway
Isn’t she cute??

Naturally, as a music lover the part I was most excited about when I got the car home was filling the glove box with CDs.  I haven’t driven it much, which isn’t surprising considering I haven’t passed my test yet, but here are the albums I’m looking forward to listening to on the road.

Slaves – Take Control

I love this record, and the aggressive riffs and lyrics means shouting along is a great way to channel any road rage without crashing the car or giving other drivers the middle finger.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – Blossom

I always think it sounds badass when a car blasting punk music drives past you: that’s what I’m aiming for when I play this record.

We Are The Ocean – Ark

This record is great for long drives, especially at night: plenty of big choruses to keep you awake, and some more mellow numbers for stretches of empty road.

A Day To Remember – Bad Vibrations

This is, so far, my favourite album released this year, so of course I had to put it in my car to maximise the amount of time I spend listening to it.

Pure Love – Anthems

Frank Carter’s discarded project produced one of my favourite all-time records.  You can’t beat a car sing-a-long to tracks like Handsome Devils Club or Bury My Bones.

Bastille – Other People’s Heartache Part 3

If I fancy listening to electronic music, this EP by Bastille is always one of my top choices.  My favourite track on the EP is Remains, featuring the beautiful voices of both Rag N Bone Man and Skunk Anansie.

Foals – What Went Down

This album always manages to keep me occupied and entertained during boring, stop-start town driving.

What are some essential albums or tracks on your car playlist?  Let me know your on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Review: WALLS

To me it seems like Kings Of Leon have been around on the music scene forever.  The band of brothers (and a cousin) have been making music since 2000, and their sound has evolved from grungy alternative rock to become more indie and acoustic.  Kings Of Leon started promotion for their latest record, WALLS, earlier this year with the release of the single Waste A Moment – you can watch the video here:

Public opinion of the band’s sound has shifted over the years, with many fans critical of their more easily accessible, and in turn more mainstream, recent records.  To me it sounds like their more chilled out vibes, first explored in Come Around Sundown, then followed up in Mechanical Bull and now their latest record, will be here to stay.  If I’m in the mood for more chilled out, acoustic tracks, Kings Of Leon are my first choice of band to listen to.

Anyway, back to WALLS, which was released on Friday.  The record opens with Waste A Moment, arguably the most popular single from the album with a monster chorus, and is quickly followed by the slower, bass-y Reverend.  The album doesn’t fall into a predictable groove, however: Find Me picks up the pace with quick-fire guitar riffs and a big chorus, and Conversation Piece features sweeping strings which adds something special to what could have been a simple ballad.

Lyrically this album is pretty downbeat and introspective. Vocalist Caleb sings about the death of a friend on Muchacho, which wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to a country and western film.  The album’s title is an acronym standing for ‘We Are Like Love Songs’, and as the title track discusses how difficult it is to move on when a relationship fails, this title is definitely appropriate.

I’ve really enjoyed Kings Of Leon’s past releases – and I still do, to be fair – so it’s safe to say that I had pretty big expectations for WALLS.  To me, this latest album is the logical follow-up to Mechanical Bull, and the band have become even more chilled, which I didn’t think was possible.  I reckon that now the Followill lads are onto their seventh album, they’ve probably just stopped caring what critics and fans think, and decided to make the music that they want to.  If that means more relaxed indie vibes from them in future, then I’ll be happy.

Highlights: Reverend, Over, Eyes On You, Wild

8 incredible tracks you need in your life – September 2016

September has been a massive month for album releases, with albums by Twin Atlantic, A Day To Remember, Young Guns, Of Mice & Men and Against Me! already out, and records by Slaves and Yellowcard are due out tomorrow.  Has the market for singles been just as good?  Today I take a look back at the best singles of September.

Frank Carter And The Rattlesnakes – Lullaby

This fantastic track was accompanied by news of the band’s next album, due out next January.  Lullaby is a great indicator for things to come.

Kings Of Leon – Waste A Moment

The Tennessee rock band are back with another lighthearted track, with indie and country influences similar in tone to their previous album, Mechanical Bull.  

Taking Back Sunday – Death Wolf

Following a slow-burning introduction with cute synthy elements which are replicated throughout the track, punk-rockers Taking Back Sunday have released a fab new song from their recent album, Tidal Wave.

Sum 41 – God Save Us All (Death To POP)

Sum 41 have well and truly stuck their middle finger up in the direction of mainstream popular music with this track and music video.  Whilst I don’t think pop music is the great evil it’s sometimes portrayed as by alternative bands, you can’t deny that this single is a banger.

Green Day – Still Breathing

The latest track from the upcoming Green Day album Revolution Radio is here, and it’s a slower, more reflective track with an explosive high-impact chorus.  I reckon this track will be the 21 Guns of the new record.

Twenty One Pilots – Cancer (Cover of My Chemical Romance)

Rock Sound recently released a covers album celebrating 10 years since the release of My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade. I honestly thought most of the covers were terrible, but Twenty One Pilots took an iconic, much loved track and made it 100 per cent their own.

Slaves ft. Mike D. – Consume Or Be Consumed

The latest Slaves single is everything I hoped it would be: loud unapologetic punk with brilliant tongue-in-cheek lyrics and a chorus which will be very easy to headbang along to.  The feature by Mike D. fits perfectly within the track.

Memphis May Fire ft. Jacoby Shaddix – This Light I Hold

Papa Roach’s vocalist Jacoby makes a brilliant addition to Memphis May Fire’s usual brand of religious-themed metalcore. His and Matty’s vocals work extremely well together, and whilst I wasn’t hugely excited for new Memphis May Fire music before, I am now.

What do you think of these tracks? Are there any singles I missed off this list? Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

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: Bad Vibrations (Deluxe)

It’s official: after a month’s additional delay, A Day To Remember are back with their sixth full length record.  Promotion for Bad Vibrations begun with the ultra aggressive Paranoia, which let us know that the anthemic crowd-pleasers and more radio friendly tracks of Common Courtesy were being left behind.  As soon as I heard this track, I knew I was going to love the record: I still get goosebumps at the breakdown and I’ve listened to the song hundreds of times!  You can see the music video for their lead single here:

This single was followed by the album’s opening track, Bad Vibrations, which made it obvious that A Day To Remember took inspiration from their earlier hardcore roots on this latest record.  Immediately the album’s tone is set as aggressive, punchy, and reflective of the band’s struggles: the reflective tone is most obvious during Naivety, a strong punk-rock offering in which vocalist Jeremy McKinnon sings about how his outlook on life has changed as he’s grown older.  I think it’s important to note that the band haven’t taken a step backwards with this record – their post-hardcore roots are given a 2016 makeover, with polished production and additional electronic elements to add an extra punch.

Unlike Common Courtesy, A Day To Remember haven’t included many quieter emotional ballads or acoustic tracks in Bad Vibrations.  Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of emotion packed into their latest record, but the overall tone falls more towards the anger/frustration end of the spectrum, rather than dealing with sadness, grief or heartbreak.  A few tracks, such as Justified, allude to being a quieter track, but the introduction and bridges are soon swallowed up by powerful chugging guitars and harsh vocals.  The only true ballad on the record is Forgive And Forget, which features gorgeous strings that add to the orchestral feel of the booming, echoey drums.

Bad Vibrations contains a number of changes of pace and tempo across the record, and even within tracks, to prevent the album from melding into one solid mass.  We Got This is an inspirational pop-punk number akin to All I Want or Right Back At It Again, slap bang in the middle of the record to change the tone and keep things fresh.  As well as We Got This, I can see Turn Off The Radio becoming a fan favourite.

I can conclude this review very simply: I absolutely love this record.  A Day To Remember have outdone themselves, and I think it will be very hard to top Bad Vibrations on my list of favourite releases of 2016.  I definitely don’t aim to be a rabid fangirl, and I listened to this record with my ever critical ear, but I honestly didn’t hear anything worth critiquing…unless you were hoping for a lot of friendly poppier tracks, in which case, you’ll be disappointed.  A Day To Remember are a band in their prime, and this record makes me wonder what additional musical masterpieces they’ll be capable of in future.

Highlights: Bad Vibrations, Paranoia, Exposed, Reassemble, Negative Space