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

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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.

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

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

Review: Of Mice & Men, Nottingham Rock City

Last night I went along to Nottingham and saw one of my favourite bands, Of Mice & Men, performing live for the fourth time.  I hadn’t planned on attending, however a last minute change to my work and my sister’s sixth form schedule meant we could take the trip to see the performance.  I didn’t manage to get any photos from the gig, but here’s a snap from the band’s Instagram account which will give you a taste of the atmosphere.

A photo posted by Of Mice & Men (@omandm) on Oct 4, 2016 at 12:13am PDT

We arrived to the venue a little late, so unfortunately we only heard opening act Hands Like Houses perform three songs of their set.  From what I heard, I really enjoyed their performance: the vocalist’s voice was strong throughout, and the instrumentals sounded pretty tight.  These guys were definitely a solid choice of opening act.  Here’s the video for one of the songs they played:

Following Hands Like Houses was Crown The Empire, whose performance I also really enjoyed.  There were a couple of issues with microphone levels throughout this set, however: during the first couple of songs the vocalist’s voice was drowned out by the instruments, and towards the end his microphone was too loud and the guitars were overpowered.  Even noticing this issue, I still thought Crown The Empire put on a great show, and they really helped to amp up the atmosphere in preparation for Of Mice & Men to take to the stage.  Here’s the music video to one of the songs I most enjoyed hearing them play:

Then it was time for the main act to take to the stage.  Of Mice & Men opened with Pain, one of my favourites from their new record Cold World, and it was a fantastic, high energy start to the gig.  They mainly played songs from the new record, which is understandable as it was only released a couple of weeks ago, as well as a fair few from Restoring Force.  I was extremely pleased when I realised that they were also playing The Calm, The Storm, The Flood and The Depths in succession, which definitely went down well with more long term fans of the band.  Their encore was topped off with Second & Sebring, was was probably my highlight of the whole night.

Overall the performance by Of Mice & Men was brilliant, as per usual, with no noticeable technical issues or dodgy microphone levels.  In the past I’ve consistently noted that Aaron Pauley’s vocals live were fairly weak and quiet, however even though he complained of waking up with a cold yesterday morning, I think his vocal performance was the best I’ve heard.  Maybe he was pushing his voice harder than usual to make up for his illness?  The only issue I found with the band’s performance was Austin Carlile’s clean vocals during Away: I thought his voice was quite nasal, and reckon he’d be better off sticking to harsh vocals from now on.

It was definitely worth seeing Of Mice & Men for the fourth time, as to me their performances are getting better and better every time.  If you’re able to attend any of the remaining UK tour dates this month, I’d highly recommend it.

Were you at the gig last night?  What did you think of the performance?  Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Review: Take Control

It’s only been a little over a year since Kent two-piece Slaves released their debut full length album Are You Satisfied?, but it seems like Laurie and Isaac are set on taking over the world with their iconic grungy punk.  Take Control, released on Friday, contains fourteen tracks interspersed with two skit tracks, which makes the record a solid little parcel jam packed with bangers.  The album was introduced with the lead single Spit It Out: you can see the low-fi video here:

The album opens with the above track, followed by Hypnotised which keeps up the fast pace and crashing drums.  Consume Or Be Consumed, featured on Thursday’s round-up of the month’s best singles, features slower, grungier guitars, additional keyboard effects which add something a bit special to the choruses, and quieter vocals rapped over the track, including a rap verse by Mike D. of Beastie Boys fame.  Even within the first three songs of the album, it seems obvious to me that the punk duo have freed themselves from the constraints of more traditional old school punk, and allowed themselves to experiment a bit more with their sound.  That’s a solid amount of development between records.

Lyrically the album discusses issues with tax fraud and classism within the upper classes in Rich Man, troubles in the romance department in Angelica, and dwelling on past mistakes in Spit It Out.  There are also some lighthearted tracks such as Fuck The Hi-Hat, which at the end of the day are just a bit of fun.  That’s one of the things I like about Slaves: by taking every day issues and coating them in unapologetically British punk and straightforward language, their music is something everybody can enjoy.  Unless they’re not into punk music, I suppose.

Slaves have stretched their musical muscles during tracks such as the slower paced Lies, which is almost a ballad by their standards, and one of the longest songs on the record.  Steer Clear also stands out with its electronic drums, synth-infused choruses and female backing vocals adding to the chilled vibe.  In fact, much of the second half of the record is made up of slower tracks, which helps to demonstrate that these guys are nowhere near one trick ponies.

I was a little worried that Slaves would be one hit wonders, bursting onto the scene then slinking away as suddenly as they appeared.  Thankfully, following this record it seems to me that the twosome are taking this music lark seriously, and I certainly hope that the band will be around for a long time.  If you enjoyed Are You Satisfied?, then Take Control needs to be on your Christmas wish-list, or just go ahead and order it now if you don’t want to wait that long.

Highlights: Rich Man, Lies, People That You Meet, Same Again

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

Reviews: How have my opinions changed? altrocklife revisits old reviews

Today I thought I’d go back and look over some of the records I’ve reviewed over the years here at altrocklife.  I always write reviews whilst listening to albums for the first time, so they make for a good analysis of my first impressions.  However, often these first impressions no longer represent my feelings about an album after I’ve listened to it three or three hundred more times.  I often make predictions about how I’ll feel about an album in the long term, so I thought I’d go back, re-read my old reviews of some of these albums, and decide if those predictions were correct.

Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis (Deluxe)

When I reviewed this album last month, I said that I found the record daring and unpredictable, but the track Small Wishes was very much out of place.  I’ll be honest, it is a little jarring when Small Wishes plays, and it’s definitely the outlier of the album.  However, it doesn’t disrupt my listening experience too much, and I enjoy the record now much more than I did when I initially reviewed it.  Learnig Simon’s lyrics following multiple listens has definitely improved my listening experience.

Pierce The Veil – Misadventures

Whilst I didn’t do a full review of this record (I featured it in my June album haul), I did say that I wasn’t sure whether it would top their previous album, Collide With The Sky.  I’ve listened to it a few more times, and whilst I do enjoy Misadventures a lot, their previous record is still my favourite by the band. I was very passionate about Collide With The Sky, and I still am, so their latest effort had very big shoes to fill, and it didn’t quite manage that for me.

Bullet For My Valentine – Venom (Deluxe)

If you read my review of this album, you’ll be aware that I was definitely not a fan.  I’ve since made a few more attempts to listen to the record, and it still falls just as flat as ever for me.  To be honest, I’ve definitely grown out of the style of music that BFMV produce: if you’re still into it, then good for you and I hope you enjoyed Venom, but I certainly didn’t, and I’m not one to write a positive review if I didn’t feel positive about the record.

Don Broco – Automatic (Deluxe)

As per my prediction, I did add a number of tracks from this record to my party playlist, and enjoyed them whilst sunbathing in my back garden and drinking a cider.  I still think that the effort Don Broco put into the album is obvious, as the production value is much higher.  The record retained the attitude of Priorities but managed to smooth out the rough edges.

Young Guns – Ones And Zeros 

In this review, I stated that I wasn’t sure whether I’d end up enjoying this record more than their 2012 record Bones.  In hindsight, Ones And Zeros just didn’t deliver the raw emotional and musical impact than their previous record did, and it doesn’t feel like Young Guns reached their full potential with it.  If any other band had released Ones And Zeros I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more because it didn’t follow Bones…if that makes sense?  As a standalone record it is good, and I did enjoy it, but in my eyes it just wasn’t as good as Young Guns have proven themselves capable of.

Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

One of my only criticisms of this record was that, with only eight tracks, Sonic Highways felt a bit too short for me.  This still harks true: even now, almost two years after its release, I still expect another track or two to follow the album closer I Am A River.  Hopefully whatever Foo Fighters does next will pack more of a hefty punch.

What did you think of these records?  Do you still feel the same about them as you did on first listen? Let me know your thoughts on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

Review: Afraid Of Heights

Following my post featuring Billy Talent’s single Afraid Of Heights on Wednesday, the Ontario rock band have returned with their latest full-length record.  They released the music video for the single last week, which you can watch here:

Afraid Of Heights opens with the bass-y intro to Big Red Gun, before the track transforms and becomes easily recognisable as Billy Talent’s signature sound.  This is despite the band’s regular drummer, Aaron Solowoniuk, going on hiatus from the band due to a flare-up of his MS, and Alexisonfire’s drummer Jordan Hastings stepping in.  The musicians are obviously able to work well together, as the record is very cohesive and well put together.

To me, each track is easily distinguishable from the rest, with strong choruses which go around and around in your head for hours after listening – Louder Than The DJ being a prime example.  Other examples of stand-out tracks are Rabbit Down The Hole, an emotionally charged ballad about losing your loved ones, and fast paced punk number Time Bomb Ticking Away.

If you’re a long time fan of Billy Talent, you certainly won’t be disappointed with their latest record.  Lyrically Afraid Of Heights is more politically charged and makes a bigger statement than any of their previous efforts, and it’s obvious to me that the band have found a winning formula and decided to stick with it, for the most part.  Of course their sound has improved over the years, and their punk rock style has become slightly more polished, but tracks throughout their entire discography are easily recognised as theirs.  In my opinion, Billy Talent have a good thing going here, and it would be a shame to change their style too drastically now.

Highlights: Afraid Of Heights, Ghost Ship Of Cannibal Rats, Rabbit Down The Hole, February Winds

Review: Youth Authority

Youth Authority was the sixth studio album released by Good Charlotte on July 15th.  This album was a long time coming after the November 2015 release of the lead single, Makeshift Love.  You can watch the music video for the track here:

Now I’ve always been a fan of Good Charlotte, even though I don’t follow the band religiously, and on first listen it seems obvious to me that the band have stayed true to their trademark sound.  Vocalist Joel Madden sounds just the same as ever, and the tracks are made up of a winning combination of pop punk tracks with electronic influences.

Some might say that the band should be more experimental and move on from their older sound, but following their more experimental pop-sounding record Cardiology and four year hiatus, it doesn’t surprise me that Good Charlotte have gone back and explored their roots a little within Youth Authority.

There are two tracks featuring guest vocalists on Youth Authority: Keep Swingin’ features Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens and a lovely string instrumental, and Reason To Stay features a crooning verse by Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro.  These songs do break the slight monotony of the album,and Reason To Stay especially is an album highlight for me.

Overall, this latest record has a very consistent sound, and even on first listen I was tapping my foot and nodding my head along to the tracks.  It’s a fun album and very easy to listen to and enjoy, especially if you’re feeling nostalgic for the late ’90s and early noughties.  However, few tracks really stand out as exceptional to me; not even the singles Makeshift Love or 40 oz. Dream, which is a surprise as I would expect the strongest tracks to be released as singles.

Plus, I quite enjoy that even though their sound is very similar to previous albums, the lyrical content of this album has matured.  Unlike blink-182’s California, which I reviewed earlier this month and was very nostalgic for the band’s youth, Good Charlotte seem to have grown up slightly and are looking forward rather than returning to the past.

I imagine that long term fans of Good Charlotte will be more than happy with Youth Authority, however new listeners who may not have listened to their previous albums may be questioning why it sounds a little like a noughties throwback.  For me, I definitely enjoyed this album, and whilst it isn’t an exceptional piece of work, I reckon it’s a solid record with potential for mainstream popularity alongside die-hard pop punk fans.

Highlights: Life Changes, Reason To Stay, The Outfield, War