Album Review :: OFF! – OFF!

“It just feels like they tried too hard to recreate that iconic 80’s hardcore sound.”

The First Four EPs saw, punk supergroup, OFF! come out with a bang. The songs were hard, fast, and over before you could get your mind around them. A fantastic throwback to the likes of Black Flag (of whom Keith Morris was the original vocalist) and The Minutemen, this release was unexpected and surprisingly fresh sounding. Their debut full length continues where those EPs left off. We get sixteen songs in as many minutes, all of them that little bit lacking.

Though it definitely contains all of the original hardcore punk conventions, there’s a distinctly contemporary sound to each track. Part of this comes down to certain instrumental differences – the intro of ‘King Kong Brigade’ certainly wouldn’t be at home on a typical 80’s hardcore record – and part of this comes down to the production. It’s clear that the end goal was to make the record sound more ‘raw’ and underproduced. However, this is rarely subtle and I often found myself thinking more about the production of a particular song than the song itself. That’s saying a lot when the majority of the tracks are less than a minute long.

That being said, I have very little else against this record. I mean, the lyrics can get sketchy at times and it’s often off-putting how ‘clean’ Keith’s vocals are compared to the rest of the track (like I said, the production is less than impressive), but I don’t regret taking the sixteen minutes out of my day to check this out. It just feels like they tried too hard to recreate that iconic 80’s hardcore sound.

If you’re a fan of old school hardcore punk, you could certainly pick worse when it comes to checking out a new band. Just be mindful of the fact that, despite the people involved, this isn’t going to sound the same as all those older bands you love.

Interview :: Throwing Stuff

Throwing Stuff At ManchFESTer II - © 2012 J-Clique Photography

“Throwing Stuff is a collective of people who party hard and don’t learn how to play songs” – Alun Matthews (Throwing Stuff)

Ahead of their show in support of Sharks (yeah…we know), I interviewed Throwing Stuff. The band have gained a loyal fan-base and much notoriety for their high energy, erratically entertaining performances, and kept that up during our little chat outside of The Star & Garter in Manchester. We talked about falling down stairs, possible recordings and what Throwing Stuff actually is.

Podcast :: UTB #35: We’re Going On Tour With Soundgarden Too!

“If you see an old woman on the street…hit her with a crowbar” – Ian Critchley

The subject of Carol Vorderman is firmly off the table for this week’s Under The Bridge, we’re sticking to the music talk. Thank christ for that! This week Emma Hallows tells us all about her recent tour with Dave Hughes, we discuss hypothetical meetings between penguins and polar bears and are asked the question “What is Cliff Richard doing right now?”

This week’s music is provided by Great Cynics, Martha, Harker and The Menzingers. No excuse for this being late. Barlow (eds note: honestly) just forgot we’d done it. It was edited, ready to go, and everything!

Go on, have a listen:

Under The Bridge #35: We’re Going On Tour With Soundgarden Too!

Album Review :: Attack! Vipers! – Deadweight Revival

“…takes the hardcore musicality then adds a punk rock ethos and does this with aplomb.”

There’s something immensely satisfying about slamming your feet progressively on hard concrete, while listening to music that could melt the face of a room full of eight-year-old children. This is how I spent most of my time listening to the first full length from, Southsea hardcore mentalists, Attack! Vipers! Unfortunately I learnt, that without proper running shoes, I could seriously damage my shins. I put the athletic career on hold, but it seems sprint booties will have to go on the next shopping list, as the titans of UK hardcore have released a new record.

One of the greatest things about Deadweight Revival is that, within twenty seconds of listening, it’s clear this is not just another “hardcore” album. There are no cliché beat downs, as used by so many try hard bands trapped in old conventions. They seem terrified to even slightly move away from creating an integral ambience of melodic hardcore, which often comes across as sounding like a slightly better polished, more superior, technical rendition of Will Haven’s Carpe Diem. In fact, Deadweight Revival even puts the bands previous efforts to shame, with the vocal ability of singer Joe Watson pushing forward into a more mellifluous, yet still entirely brutal, timbre, putting him on a pedestal when compared to other vocalists of the genre.

Vocals are not the only thing Deadweight Revival does to push the hardcore genre to the next level. In terms of musicality, the record shows a much more intrinsic side to A!V!, with guitars that switch between nimble licks, beastly distorted chords and andante sections so seamlessly it makes the record almost impossible to put into the “hardcore” pigeon-hole. Sometimes it sounds like hardcore, other times it sounds like power metal and, occasionally, you get a part which would probably be very much at home on a fucking Sigur Ros release.

The band’s self proclaimed style of being “somewhere between The Suicide File and Envy” is hard to deny. The similarities are there but at the same time there’s so much much to the Vipers than just that. Deadweight Revival takes the hardcore musicality then adds a punk rock ethos and does this with aplomb. In doing so, it creates an energetic sound that UK hardcore had missed dearly since the departure of, Manchester’s finest, Fill the Void.

I could say Deadweight Revival was by the far the best UK hardcore album I’d heard in a long time, but I’d be lying. It’s the best I’ve heard…EVER. Attack! Vipers! have far surpassed expectations with this record, and if any band were to be at the forefront of reviving UK hardcore – a genre what could arguably be called a dying one – then these guys are sure to be it. This record proves that.

Podcast :: Under The Bridge #33: Check My Kurt Cobain Cover

“Me and Oli Wood will punch each other in the face and punk rock will end” – Ian Critchley

The latest Under The Bridge has everything you could possibly want from a podcast. Well maybe not everything, but it’s pretty much all there. We’ve attempted to be funny, we dragged Emma Hallows in to be our guest again and we’re playing new tunes from the likes of theHell, Sharks and Above Them. As per usual it’s not for the faint hearted, but I doubt there’s many out there that can resist the charms of Moon & Back’s dynamic duo.

Alongside the new music and general offensiveness, we also answer some questions from the community and have really ‘deep’ discussions on a number of topics including predicting how punk rock will end! Do you know what you’re looking forward to in 2012? Neither do we! We had a go at trying to hype some stuff up though. Tell us if it worked by emailing us at utbcast [at] gmail [dot] com, or by messaging us on Facebook and Twitter.

Go on, have a listen:

Under The Bridge #33: Check My Kurt Cobain Cover

Album Review :: This is Hell – Black Mass

Hell hath no fury like Thrash metal hardocirts!

Started in 2004, thrash metal and hardcore crossover artists This is Hell produce their latest album, 2011’s Black Mass. With a growing fan base across the globe and steady, if somewhat frustratingly stagnant rise in popularity, the question has to be asked, is there still room for this genre of music in the modern market or is it simply an overbearing, loud, throwback to decades gone by.

This is Hell are a Long Island, NY based band who are stretching their burning, hell infused, black nail polished fingers across the states and globally having played gigs in the US and Canada as recently as October of this year. With a refreshingly upbeat and enthusiastic attitude, something that can sadly be a amiss in artists following this genre of music, the work ethic and effort of This is Hell can not be questioned.

The album itself, Black Mass, released via Rise Records, is the first since 2010’s Past Present is as furious and ear drum blasting as could ever be expected from a band and album title such as this. With competent guitar work from Rick Jiminez and his accompanying percussion section of Pieter van den Berg on bass and Mike Sciulara, the musical composition on tracks such as “Acid Rain”, “Black History” and the less than creative, every cliché in the book thrown in at once if that’s at all possible titles “Black Mass,” are fine examples of the musicians at their best. Vocals by Travis Reilly again are more than competent and is more than in keeping with the traditions of the past thrash masters of old, from James Hetfield to Joey Belladonna.

But there is something amiss as an overall sound. It is perhaps not fair to lay the blame at the foot of This is Hell as they are merely the catalyst for this thought provocation. There is something distinctly old fashioned and out of date about this type of music. Where as at the beginning of the 21st century, when Nu Metal was at its peak, Green Day were on the cusp of selling out and it seemed like every youth the country over was skateboarding, wearing baggy jeans and Nirvana hoodies, as sad as it is to admit for certain circles of society, those days are long gone now.

And with their departure it seems that the market has vanished too. This of course is no great surprise, in the music industry, demand and popularity translate into pounds and dollars easier than “et tu Brute?” It is a results driven industry and it would seem that Thrash metal, hardcore crossover bands have missed the boat by about ten years.
This is not to say that there is not a scene available for those who are just coming into this music or those who remember the glory days and wish to relive their youth. There are plenty of bands, This is Hell being one of them, who still produce good music, albeit aimed at such a tight, close knit market it hardly seems to register on any big scale, even in the seemingly tireless world of endless social media. Is it fair that a band such as This is Hell have just over 12,000 likes on Facebook when “Saying ‘okay’ a million times just to get you parents to stop talking” has more than ten times that many. Maybe or maybe not but it is still the reality.
It would seem now that in the advent of pop music’s domination, bedroom DJs and producers, Thrash metal and all of its subsidiaries have been left behind in the dark, cold, 2000s with only their lengthening, greying hair and sharp edged guitars for company. But with a little enthusiasm and dedication to their cause, success and its varying degrees can still be found for bands like This is Hell and their kin.
Jonathan Whitelaw

Check out This is Hell’s MySpace page for details of their upcoming 2012 UK tour.

Interview :: Nuno Pereira (A Wilhelm Scream)

“Oh he’s gonna shit talk Blackpool” – Nuno Pereira (A Wilhelm Scream)

After a lengthy tour of mainland Europe, A Wilhelm Scream recently embarked on a few dates around the UK. The Boston-based punk outfit were playing a show in Manchester, so we went down and caught up with, singer, Nuno Pereira. We talked about spending time in Europe, the city of Blackpool, Smacking Isaiah and why the band covered The Outfield’s ‘Your Love’.

Single Review :: Funeral For A Friend – Broken Foundation

“…a highlight of the band’s career”

Funeral For A Friend are back with the third single to be released of their latest album, the brilliant ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’. Broken Foundation is a return to form for the welsh rockers that will keep both new and older fans happy.

On the heals of ‘Tales Don’t Tell Themselves’, weaker and softer tunes left the band stuck in the ‘emo’ trap and competing with pop-punk bands instead of staying to their roots. Thankfully they refused to conform any longer and are back and better than ever.

Indeed this is a return to the band’s first two albums – heavy and in your face. But it’s built on the wealth of experience accumulated over the years by the post-hardcore veterans on how to create great melodies and memorable choruses. The only problem is that this track typically starts off so fast-paced that it doesn’t get the opportunity to build up into something bigger – instead staying at the same pace throughout.

That being said, the blistering guitar work combined with the blend of singing and screaming makes this a highlight of the band’s career and one of the better songs they have come up with in the recent years and an instant post-hardcore anthem.

Album Review :: Thursday – No Devolución

“Think War All The Time in a really big bath tub.”

Okay, so this album came out over a month ago, so admittedly, this review is a little belated. No Devolución is the sixth studio album from New Jersey’s finest, Thursday, and sees the band take a different step from their usual post-hardcore stylings.

Now it’s clear from the first listen the album is a completely different sound to that of their previous efforts, but it is still Thursday. As far as instrumentation goes, there are clear instances of experimentation, mainly in the workings of keyboardist Andrew Everding, though these seem to fall mainly on the introductions to most tracks, after that it’s business as usual with verses filled with arpeggiated guitars which crescendo into hard hitting choruses.

It is clear from the get go that one of two things have happened, either Thursday have fallen into the trap of the studio magic demon known as auto-tune or vocalist Geoff Rickly has been working tremendously had on his technique, I hope and believe it is the latter. No Devolución sees Rickly push past the almost cliché “emo-whine” style singing and into a full fledged front man with a great grasp on everything from complex melodies to highly effective uses of falsetto. This album, in terms of vocal skill, is Geoff Rickly’s finest.

What really makes this album unique in comparison to their previous works in the production. Instead of the usual tough, crunchy quite raw sound the band have instead vouched for a much more ambient and almost sub-bass style. This is unfortunately, the downfall of the record. Though Thursday have always had an element of the avant-garde about them, No Devolución pushed this too far and attempts to find a marriage of post-hardcore song writing and atmospheric production, à la Sigur Rós, this gives an interesting outcome in terms of experimentation but ends up playing down on factors that make Thursday the band they are. The main example of this being the vocals which, though as previously said are great in terms of technique, due to the heavy use of reverb results in a very muddy sound. Thursday have always been revered for Rickly’s intrinsic lyrical content, which deals with dark issues coated in idiosyncratic metaphors, this is no doubt the same on No Devolución but the bizarre production techniques makes it much harder for the listener to pick the lyrics out. Think War All The Time in a really big bath tub. The album as far as studio technique and use of effect goes, has a lot of similarities to that of Glassjaw’s recent E.P Coloring Book, perhaps this pairing of post-hardcore/ambient/dub elements is the inevitable future of this genre.

No Devolución is by no means Thursday’s best album, it doesn’t even compare to an album like Full Collapse, but it isn’t a bad record by all means. It boils down to what is technically referred to as a “Marmite situation.” Listeners looking for a more melodic, ambient Thursday will love it. People looking for a more raw, old school sounding album, probably won’t.

Album Review :: Oxygen Thief – Destroy It Yourself

“…something different, that you can turn up really loud, and just enjoy”

Despite what first impressions might have you believe, Oxygen Thief (real name, Barry Dolan) is not another name to add to the ever increasing list of ‘nu-folk’ artists populating the UK. He might be one man with a guitar but it’s highly unlikely he’ll be drawing comparisons with the likes of Frank Turner and Mumford & Sons. Hailing from Bristol, Oxygen Thief’s brand of “acoustic loudness” has more in common with the metal and hardcore scenes than anything truly ‘folky’.

Destroy It Yourself brings something truly fresh to the table. The recent swathe of acoustic music has been pretty mellifluous fare, populated with songs about long lost loves, political protests and heavy drinking. Now I’m all up for that, but to have an album so passionate and anger-filled almost always relying on the power of an acoustic guitar is rare. Dolan’s intense guitar playing and forceful vocal ability is akin to an acoustic Reuben, which is no bad thing. His lyrics are equally powerful and you’ll find it hard to get them out of your head. This is particularly prevalent when it comes to tracks like ‘Modesty Is Dead’ and ‘Nice Night For A Neck Injury’ – two tracks which follow a more traditional structure than others on the album. That being said, my favorite track on the album has to be ‘Words On Walls’. It’s as erratic as they come and I can certainly see the chorus line being shouted back to the stage at live shows, which is always a bonus.

Whilst the majority of the album consists of Oxygen Thief and his guitar, it does tend to go a little mental (technical term) from time to time. The aforementioned ‘Words On Walls’ has a really odd breakdown at the very end and the sparse use of effects pedals spice it up from time to time. My only complaint is that repetition does become a factor towards the end of the album, but it didn’t stop me enjoying it.

If you want something different, that you can turn up really loud, and just enjoy, look no further. Destroy It Yourself is an album that transcends genre and Oxygen Thief will soon be adopted by punks, indie kids and metalhead’s alike. If anything, you’ll be surprised at what can be done with an acoustic guitar and a few effects pedals.