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Dance Gavin Dance – Artificial Selection


How do I even begin this review? Ever since re-discovering today’s band in 2013, my musical taste and horizon has widened to lengths that I would have never imagined, I’ve overcome personal limitations, partially, due to their music, and I don’t think that I’ve ever enjoyed listening and really getting into music more in all the years prior to today. Basically: Dance Gavin Dance changed my life drastically and you can imagine my excitement when I got the chance to listen to their eighth full-length, Artificial Selection, ahead of its release this Friday, June 8th. So let’s dig in!

First off, some facts for the uninitiated: DGD is, or rather was, known for frequent member changes, especially when it came to clean vocalists, ever since their inception in 2006 and with the release of their 2013 record, Acceptance Speech, they had reached clean vocalist number three: Tilian Pearson, previously of Tides Of Man. However, the band had struck gold, and started gaining a lot of traction with the follow-up Instant Gratification barely a year and a half later. The success was apparent when they followed that one up a bit more than a year later by their, arguably, best received album to date: Mothership. It comes as no surprise that expectations were extremely high when the quintet announced their fourth record in a row with no major line-up changes and to take the suspense ahead of time: they delivered on every level.

Full disclosure: I am probably the least unbiased person you can come across when it comes to Dance Gavin Dance, but hear me out here.

Artificial Selection is, in my opinion, the band’s most accessible record while at the same time featuring some of the most hard-hitting songs that will even blow long-time fans away. During the fifty-two minutes, technically the band’s longest record, there is not a single filler song and every track has enough individual highlights, be it in the instrumental or the vocal department, to make fast forwarding a sin. While the vast majority of ArSe is post-hardcore, the band also adds elements of genres that they’ve never truly dabbled in, like pop-punk on Story Of My Bros, and manages to incorporate even more pop-sounding elements without ever losing their edge.

While the guitar work has always been stellar on every DGD release, I feel like the bass guitar and the drums definitely steal the show this time around. Among these fourteen songs are, I would say, some of the best bass lines in not-so-recent memory that stand out so well, largely due to the really on-point mixing job, and mesh perfectly with the drums.

It is no secret that the “who is the best vocalist” debate has and always will be a major talking point in the fan community. But I think that if some people still aren’t convinced that this vocalist constellation is the ideal one for the band as a whole, it is time for them to move on. I am absolutely “all in” and I’m impressed by the minor tweaks, such as more intentional straining and a controlled raspiness, in some passages and super catchy vocal melodies in others. The screams remain largely unchanged, because let’s face it: they were perfect to begin with.

Two major highlights come in the form of the first vocal features since the self-titled album, ten years ago, by none other than former singer Kurt Travis on Shelf Life, as well as Andrew Wells, the band’s touring guitarist and vocalist of the criminally underrated band Eidola, on Evaporate. Both guest spots elevate the respective songs to a whole new level and make them definite stand-outs!

All in all, Dance Gavin Dance have managed to maintain, even surpass, their extremely high standards, and deliver another masterpiece with Artificial Selection. I really wish that more people, especially here in Europe, would discover the genius that hides behind these guys’ music, and I will continue to spread the word as much as possible. So, do yourself a favor and check out the song below, then head over to the band’s Facebook page to keep up to date with their news, finally just jam this record once it’s out…you won’t be disappointed.

Annominus – The Architect


Today I have the pleasure of revisiting a band about which I said that I’d keep my eyes on, when I reviewed its debut record about four years ago. Annominus‘ first endeavor End Of Atonement was a massive throwback to the early 2000s nu metal bands and I had tons of fun listening to it back then. The Danes’ new record The Architect is about to come out, this Friday, and I figured I’d owe them, and myself, a thorough listen.

I’ll get right to it: as I type this review I’m in a state between awe and disappointment, and the more I listen to the record, the more both feelings become stronger. I think tackling the positive aspects first is probably the way to go, so let me say that I am truly impressed by how well the quartet’s sound has evolved, while still maintaining that alternative metal note that made them dear to my heart in the first place.

Some of the eight songs feature many parts that are almost akin to doom metal, with very driving but somber guitars and very melodic singing, that are interspersed through the more straight-forward passages. Generally speaking the guitar work has some really catchy and stand-out riffs that I whistled along to even on my first listen-through. The drums on the other hand are also fulfilling their duty very well and feature some quite interesting drum patterns.

Last but not least, the vocals are, in my opinion, the absolute highlight during these forty-three minutes. The vocal melodies are not only superbly well written and sung, they also contain truly captivating lyrics that deal with the concept of the (self-)alienation of us humans in front of the rest of the world. The occasional screams also fit in very nicely into the narrative and the songwriting in general, rounding off the entire record very well.

Now, you might wonder why I was disappointed and while it pains me to mention it, given the extreme potential of The Architect, I feel like I have to at least dedicate a paragraph to it. I am a huge fan of DIY, this website being completely self-run and -financed, and I welcome it very much in bands. However, I feel like Annominus might have wasted a chance here by opting to go that route. Especially on headphones the mix is really lacking a lot of punch and the different instruments just turn into a homogeneous wall of sound, making the distinction extremely difficult. It might not be a big deal for some, but I’m truly a sucker for good production, and especially in the nu/alternative metal genre it is almost a staple. Full disclosure: while writing these lines, I am listening to the last song on the album on my speakers, which I’ve cranked up louder than usual, and it does sound more passable…so maybe try that for yourself.

With that being said, there is no denying that The Architect is a really solid album in its core and I can wholeheartedly recommend giving it a listen if you’re looking for a fairly interesting mix of influences and a passionate approach to music. Make sure to check the video below to get an idea what I’m talking about and don’t hesitate to visit AnnominusFacebook page!

Bare Dreams – Au Revoir


Until five years ago I was not aware that Israel had much to offer musically aside from pop, but shortly after discovering Ferium, I was introduced to Shredhead, and from there on out my view shifted towards the Middle Eastern country. While not being in the same genre, I am delighted to review today’s band from the same country: Bare Dreams! The quartet plays pop punk and is about to release its debut EP Au Revoir this Friday, so let’s see what the guys have to offer!

I’m not going to lie: the quartet does not reinvent the wheel, in any shape or form, but does manage to deliver six fairly diverse songs that contain solid songwriting and heartfelt performances all throughout. Since I’m a strong advocate of the „if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it“ motto, I welcome this approach very much.

One stand-out feature to me are the vocals which, aside from being very easy on the ears with their fairly wide range, have a lovely accent. To me, certain types of accents add a lot of character and make the vocalist much more memorable, while others make me cringe very hard, but that is a different story for a different review.

My only minor critique concerns the tracklist: I feel like the first two tracks would have been better off in the middle of the record, since they are on the slower side of the band’s musical spectrum and don’t build enough momentum at the beginning of the EP. I believe that the track below would have been the perfect opener, but all in all it doesn’t deter from the listening enjoyment too much.

To sum things up, I was pleasantly surprised by Bare Dreams, and it’s proven to me that there is still a lot of about the Israeli music scene that I can discover in the future! If you feel like some new pop punk tunes, be sure to give Au Revoir a listen when it drops and until then visit the band on their Facebook page and give the song below a listen!

Dream State – Recovery


Word of mouth. It’s always been a thing but there’s no denying that the rise of social media, as well as streaming platforms, has given the term a whole new dynamic and getting your music to a wide audience has never been easier. However, this also exponentially increases the one-hit-wonder phenomenon, where a band might get a million views on their song, but follow it up with one mediocre song after the other. Long story short: today I am going to take a look at Dream State‘s new EP Recovery, which is due to be out this Friday!

With a little over three years under their belt, the quintet is still fairly fresh but this is already its second EP, with Consequences being the title of the first one, and the expectations are fairly high, since the opener has garnered above five million views on YouTube at the time of writing this review. And just to get the tension out of the room: the Brits are anything but a one hit wonder! The four remaining songs deliver exactly what enthusiasts of White Lies wanted: super melodic and energetic alternative rock, that is often venturing into post-hardcore.

While Recovery is very similar in length to its predecessor, at twenty minutes, there are two key differences: first off, the production quality is much more solid and every guitar stroke and drum beat hits that much harder and more efficiently. Secondly, and more importantly, the songwriting has vastly improved as well! The different parts flow together way better, the instrumentals have much more room to shine and no longer serve as mere backdrop to the vocals. Personally, I feel like they all stepped up their game tenfold, since some of the guitar parts will get stuck in your head after the first listen.

To be fair, the vocals are, arguably, still the major focus and rightly so, because the vocal prowess of the singer is definitely playing a major role in the band’s success. She perfectly alternates between her powerfully soulful cleans and her demolishing screams, while delivering an impeccable performance. The lyrical content deals with addiction and all the ramifications that come with trying to give it up, such as anxiety, but never dives into the negative. The result is many a memorable line and super catchy choruses that have a very uplifting tone to them.

All in all, Dream State have hands down eliminated any doubts about them not being able to follow up on their initial success, and present us with five solid tracks full of emotion, that are worth revisiting over and over. Be sure to check out the video below and head over to the band’s Facebook page for more information, such as their upcoming tour that features several shows with Babymetal!

The Kut – Valley Of Thorns


Perseverance. In my opinion, probably the most important quality an artist should possess, aside from talent, if they want to be successful. A little bit over eight years into their career, The Kut are finally unleashing their first full length record on the world tomorrow and I had the opportunity to have an early listen to Valley Of Thorns, so let me give you my first impressions!

For those unaware, the trio’s sound is best summed up as grunge, with an attitude. Especially the guitar sound is very reminiscent of the good old nineties with the fuzzy distortion and the bite that stems from the interplay with the bass. The drums also pack a punch when it is appropriate, but they never try to outshine the stringed instruments; a fact that strongly works in favor of these thirty-nine minutes.

While this is the first full-length of the Brits, it is worth mentioning that they have released two EPs in the past four years, and that half of the ten songs on here are from the previous releases, which I personally find a smart move. Only slight downer is the fact that the songs were re-used exactly as they were, rather than being re-recorded or freshly mixed, but since they were on a very respectable level to begin with, it doesn’t impact the entirety as much as you would fear.

While die-hard long-time fans of the band might yearn for more new material, including a, so to speak, greatest hits of the old material is a good introduction to newer fans, which I’m sure this record will attract. On the bright side: the new songs showcase an interesting evolution in the band’s sound by being more guitar-driven and generally heavier, especially the song I Am Vain.

All in all, I consider Valley Of Thorns a well-rounded record, which merges the old with the new and should open quite a few doors for The Kut in the near future! You can find more about the band on their Facebook page and get an impression of their sound below.

Royal Coda – Royal Coda


One of my favorite aspects about art in all of its forms, is that it’s dynamic and malleable: what might start as one idea, can end up being something completely different once it’s reached its final form. Today’s candidate is a prime example of such a metamorphosis, since Royal Coda, as it’s called today, was once destined to be a solo project, then turned into two-man-project and finally ended up as a three piece…but more on that in a bit. I was fortunate enough to get an early listening opportunity to the band’s self-titled debut album and I’m absolutely stoked to give you thoughts on it!

To get things rolling, let me sum up real quick what, or rather who, the band is: Sergio Medina, guitarist of Stolas, Sianvar and, very recently Eidola, had been working on a solo record for quite a while, before asking Joseph Arrington of A Lot Like Birds and Sianvar to perform the drums on it. At the time the former was also providing vocals, but as time grew he was less and less sure of his performance and, as the stars aligned, that was when he saw the potential of recruiting Kurt Travis, formerly of Dance Gavin Dance & A Lot Like Birds, as a vocalist…and that was the birth of Royal Coda.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the meat of it! The trio’s musical direction is best described as experimental rock with a very progressive touch, which doesn’t come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the individual members’ previous work. One thing that is clear, is that each one of them brings their A-game to the table and while you can clearly recognize their unique style in their performance, none of the ten songs feel like a rehash, or even like something that would fit in any other of their projects, in the past, present or future.

From an instrumental point of view, the record has a fairly melancholic and pensive feel to it, while never truly going down a somber path, which is mostly due to the slightly more upbeat melodies and rhythms that are thrown in fairly regularly. However, the lyrics and also general vocal performance add a whole other layer of loss and separation to the spectrum.

I am fairly certain that this debut album will not appeal to everyone at first, but I can promise you that if you let these thirty-four minutes sink in, you will be rewarded with one brilliantly composed, and produced, emotional ride. I think a prime example of that is the track See Them Faceless, which has an incredible build-up with extremely complex drum patterns, a catchy guitar melody before and one of my favorite vocal melodies during the chorus. Still gives me goosebumps after the umpteenth listen.

I feel like that this debut album must have been of a mostly (self)therapeutic nature to the involved musicians and while I do love that type of record a lot, I am even more excited to see what the future holds for Royal Coda! In order to keep in touch with what’s going on with them, head over to their Facebook page and make sure to give the song below a play, to tide you over until April 27th, when this beauty is unleashed.

King Goat – Debt Of Aeons


As the saying goes: everything comes in threes. Today marks the third review of a band’s third release, in a row, and I could not be happier to end this hat-trick with a genre I only dabble in very rarely: doom metal! Ever since giving them a go four years ago, King Goat have managed to tickle my fancy for the genre, and since their new full-length Debt Of Aeons is just around the corner, it seems only fitting for me to take an early look at it and try to whet your appetite!

I’ll just be upfront: I already held high praise for the quintet’s previous record, because it was a serious step up from its predecessor, but I will have to add some more of it, since they managed to outdo themselves in virtually every aspect. The six songs, seven if you count the interlude, still have that sense of grandeur and all-enveloping atmosphere about them, but they also come with a new layer of je ne sais quoi. I want to say that it’s an even better understanding of songwriting than previously, but it could also stem from the incredibly well-done mixing.

The afore-mentioned improved songwriting is clearly palpable in the way the songs are structured: away with entire songs being devoted to one direction, be it calm or heavy, and welcome to, on average, eight minute epics that take you a journey through time. The album also packs the shortest song the band has written to date, which at the same time marks their first instrumental track, and it shows quite nicely that they can definitely build up tension without spending close to ten minutes on it.

While these forty-eight minutes, without a doubt, hold my favorite riffs of KG thus far and the drums have also gotten a much more prominent role in the band’s soundscape, it is still the singer that hammers home how much potential these guys hold in their grasp, to make it big. I’ve raved about him in the past but I can only repeat myself: the range this man has, just blows me away and I even feel like it has expanded just a tad bit further this time around. There is a scream on the title track that gives me the chills every time I hear it…truly good stuff!

There’s not much more to say other than what I said last time: this is how you advance as a band, by bettering every aspect as much as you possibly can and never giving up. Honestly, if you are even the slightest into metal and want to support a bunch of talented musicians, do yourself a favor and listen to Debt Of Aeons when it’s released this Friday, April 20th, and let King Goat take you on a little trip! For more information you can visit the band’s Facebook page and check out the lyric video below!

Not Scientists – Golden Staples


What always makes me happy is when I meet touring bands, that I’ve reviewed in the past, again, and we catch up and I maybe get the latest scoop on an upcoming endeavor. Such was the case with Not Scientists, who I had the chance to catch last November at a local gig, and I was delighted when one of their vocalists told me that they’d be releasing a new full-length in early spring of next year…so this year! And here we are now, a few days before the release of Golden Staples and I’m delighted to give you a first impression of it in written form!

It comes as no surprise that the Frenchies stay true to their minutely refined sound; quite the contrary I’m very glad that they do! Since I was a big fan of their mix of melancholic, yet happy-seeming, punk rock from the get go and I couldn’t have imagined anything that would have been a logical, read functioning, extension of it. Especially because, contrary to Mister Malmsteen’s beliefs, sometimes less is more after all.

What I like best about the quartet, is their ability to make you recognize them immediately, yet bring enough variation to the table among the ten songs, to avoid boredom or saturation and even have several eyebrow-raising moments. One of those is the inclusion of, what I think is, a Güiro on the song Sky On Fire; especially because it’s fairly inaudible at first and during the end of the song it really hits you right in the face.

Alongside the gleefully-sad instrumentation, the lyrical themes have also generally stayed the same, with memorable choruses with sing-along qualities that make you smile on one side of your face and shed a tear on the other half. The one thing that has changed is the production of the record: while I commended the choice of a rawer approach on Destroy To Rebuild, I think I like the more polished sound on this one more after all. You are also treated to the longest song the band has written thus far, clocking in at a little under six minutes, and it’s without a doubt the perfect closer to a great album. Fun fact: at thirty-seven minutes, twenty seconds, the new album clocks in at exactly thirteen seconds less than its predecessor.

All in all, Not Scientists might not have changed or evolved a lot, but personally I am a strong defender of the “why change a winning team” philosophy, so I am absolutely satisfied with Golden Staples, and I sincerely hope that you will be too! So, if you’re ever going on a roadtrip, make sure to bring this one along, since it has an opener that will bring a smile to your face, guaranteed! For more information, you can head to the band’s Facebook page and be sure to listen to the song below!

Lost In Pain – Gold Hunters


Something that never ceases to amaze me, even after many years of listening to and writing about music, is how artists always find ways to improve on something that has already been good to begin with. Sometimes I can exactly pinpoint what I feel is the biggest addition, but more often than not I am not quite sure what makes me like a release better than its predecessor; maybe it’s just because it’s new? I am pleased to present you one of these cases today, since Lost In Pain are about to release their third full-length, Gold Hunters, this Saturday!

First off, let me get one thing out of the way: almost ten years into its existence, the quartet has definitely shed its undeniable initial inspiration, from a certain Bay Area band, and matured into its own sound. While it’s still essentially thrash metal, there are a lot more experimental and even progressive touches to be found this time around, which elevate all the compositions onto a new level.

I’ve praised it in the past, but in this case I don’t mind repeating myself: LiP‘s feel for writing a coherent song, with recognizable parts and catchy hooks, never fails to impress. The eight tracks are chock-full with all kinds of riffs, ranging from headbang-inducing groovy to neckbreaking heavy, that are a pure joy to discover with all their little intricacies. I feel like the guitarists’ skill has even further improved, or maybe it’s just a matter of having a different goal while writing, but what I can tell you is that I would point towards that being a major factor why I like GH even more than Plague Inc.. The mind-blowing solos are, of course, back with a vengeance as well.

The drums have also seen an improvement, in two different ways: first off, to me, they have slowly moved out of the shadows and they’re stepping further into the foreground and, secondly, they just sound so much richer and imposing. The latter is also absolutely the case for the bass, which just sounds really good and is in great tandem with the percussive elements throughout the forty-one minutes.

The vocals are the only thing that I found to have remained fairly stagnant, which is not necessarily a bad thing, since I already liked the improved performance a lot the last time around. I would say that the technique has been solidified and, along with the great production quality, the vocals are in a very good place.

To sum things up, I would say that Lost In Pain have matured very well, and that Gold Hunters is a more than worthy successor to their 2015 endeavor. But why talk, or write, more when you can simply listen to the first single below and visit the band’s Facebook page for additional information? Also, if you like what you hear, be sure to move your booty to Rockhal this Saturday, April 7th, where the band is playing a release show!

Hungover – Wilt


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the one thing I love the most about my reviewing hobby is being introduced to music that I, probably, wouldn’t find otherwise. Especially bands that might only have a solid fanbase in their country or city, but still harbor a ton of talent and potential. Today’s artist definitely falls into that category, because according to their Facebook-like-count Hungover are fairly small, yet their debut EP Wilt packs everything that big and famous bands have…and then some.

Technically-speaking, it’s not their debut per se: it’s actually a remastered re-release, with three additional tracks, of an EP with the same name that was released two years ago, but the new mix gives the old songs a brand new shine that makes them seem completely fresh. The band’s sound is as pop punk as it can get, with all of its trademark aspects like mid-tempo verses and high-tempo choruses, but well-written and well-executed with enough recognizability to set it apart from many of the other bands in the genre.

While the instrumentation is solid is solid throughout the twenty-seven minutes, but nothing that has never been done before, the vocals stand out that much more, at least to me. I’m sure this comparison has been done ad nauseam, but I can’t go without bringing it up as well; sorry: if I hadn’t looked at the band members’ names beforehand, I could have sworn that Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy was the vocalist! This guy’s voice, especially his highs, and even the rhythm is so similar that it’s almost scary.

Lyrically, the eight tracks deal with the typical topics that can be found in this genre: separation, teen angst and lovesickness among others. But for some reason they hit me hard when I first heard them, which goes to show that even a topic that has been sung about a million times, can still have an effect if it’s packaged nicely.

There is one minor caveat that I can’t get my around though, and that is the fact that for some reason the vocals on the three new songs have a really weird mix, giving them an auto-tuned or pitch-shifted quality, which really put me off at first. After countless listens I’ve learned to ignore it most of the time, but especially in Exit – Stage Left there are parts that still occasionally make me cringe.

Aside from that one shortcoming, Wilt is an EP that I would recommend every pop punk lover or newcomer to the genre, because it has everything you are looking for to satisfy your musical thirst. You can head over to the band’s Facebook page and check out the video below to get an impression of their sound. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled on Friday when the quintet releases this baby to the public!