At The Gates – At War With Reality

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Let it go down in the history books, that 2014 marks the year that one of the most-awaited reunions in metal has happened. In case you don’t know it by know: the legendary At The Gates are back with a new record, called At War With Reality! Almost twenty years after they set a huge landmark with Slaughter Of The Soul, the quintet is back with new music and what can I say? It’s as if they never left!

The Swedes are arguably solely responsible for making melodic death metal into what it is today, and that can clearly be heard on this fifth album: every element that defines the genre can be found, executed in utter perfection! Groove-laden drum patterns, that can turn into fast-paced technical explosions, go hand in hand with intricate guitar parts that lack neither in variation, nor in atmosphere.

The fifteen tracks, on the limited edition, are a blast to listen to and always give off a slight feeling of desperation, while still at the same time being brutal when necessary, which is definitely emphasized through the fantastic vocal performance. In my opinion, the screamer’s vocal chords must be completely torn, or he simply has a perfect technique, because the above-mentioned desperation can be felt at any moment that he opens his mouth.

However, there is one negative aspect about these fifty-three minutes…but it only applies to newcomers to the band, I would say. While At War With Reality is a brilliant record, there are very few new elements that have been added and therefore it might come across as “just another melodic death metal” release to younger listeners…but I, for one, love the fact that ATG didn’t try to re-invent themselves in an unnecessary way and just stuck to what they pretty much invented: Gothenburg fucking death metal!

This album has hands-down been on top of many wishlists for just as many years, and I can only say that it did not disappoint, in any way whatsoever. And the best thing about this is: with a new record comes a new tour, so keep your eyes peeled for any dates in your general vicinity and be sure to wait…I’m sorry…At The Gates early enough! So be sure to follow the band on Facebook and listen to the track below!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzjshF0TFm8]

Unfaithful – Streetfighter

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The list of bands that I would have almost missed out on, if I hadn’t kept an open mind, recently grew by one more name: Unfaithful! When I received the promo material for the debut full length Streetfighter of the Swedes, I wasn’t very intrigued by the description but I gave it a shot anyways…and holy shit is it good!

The quartet plays an interesting mix of hardcore elements, tons of groove and a nu metal nuance to it. As I’ve said before, I don’t like making comparisons, but they bare a striking resemblance to Five Finger Death Punch…or at least to their early, and better, times. Crushing riffs and drumming that will pound you into the ground are predominant, but the groove is the band’s almighty secret weapon that always, and I mean every single time it sets in, makes you want to move.

The record features enough variation in order to allow the average listener to differentiate the nine songs without any feeling of déjà-vu, yet it all sounds like an ensemble of brute force. The complexity and variety of the guitar work is highly enjoyable and includes several highlights in the form of solos and quite epic parts. The drumming, as mentioned above, is tight as hell and holds the music together perfectly with a huge spectrum of patterns that guarantee a good time.

Another strong selling point for these thirty-six minutes are hands down the vocals, which are mostly growled screams, for lack of a better word, during the verses. The special touch, however, comes during the (pre-)chorusses in the form of the clean vocals which are flawlessly executed and fit into Unfaithful‘s sound like a moshpit into a good concert. The lyrics deal with all sorts of topics, like drug addiction, bullying and gambling problems and while they do come across as a bit poserish at times, they don’t make you roll your eyes at any point.

All in all, Streetfighter is a record that does everything right and I sincerely hope that it will garner the deserved attention in the international scene, because I’d love to hear more from these guys in the future! It will be out on November 10th, and you can keep up with the band on their Facebook page as well as get an impression of their sound below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shmHKSE5C8Q]

Distance – I

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Ever wondered what it would sound like if Faith No More had a healthy dose of metal injected into them? Well, look no further because the Spanish formation Distance is just what you want to hear! Their debut full-length simply called I will be released on November 10th and it’s quite a blast from start to finish!

The reason why I compare the sextet to the above-mentioned band is because they have a massive amount of groove with some slightly funky undertones, but to be more precise they play modern progressive metal. There are two elements that are ever-present: heaviness and creativity. The guys don’t shy away from using synths and keyboards while the stringed instruments just dish out heavy riffs, and the drums do one tempo switch after the other.

I guarantee you that you will not bored at any point during the forty-eight minutes, simply because the whole songwriting is so fluent and save for a few instances the music never slows down completely; keeping your ears busy at all times. The complexity of the songs is truly a validation for the genre the band is part of, and it should be a delight for every musician to discover the numerous highlights.

However, the eight tracks would not be as brilliant without the performance of the band’s vocalist, who reminds me so much of Mike Patton with his experimental clean vocals that I suspect it to actually be him. After looking at the band’s promo pictures, I know for a fact that it’s not him but I still can’t shake the resemblance. The only thing that really sets him apart are the extremely powerful growls that add another layer of heaviness to the mix and makes I a record to remember.

To wrap things up: Distance is a band to keep your eyes on because I predict that if they are discovered by the right people, they will have a bright future. Their style of progressive metal is a blend that I’ve rarely come across, and I can only recommend listening to the song below and visiting their Facebook page for more information. I hope you’ll enjoy the ride as much as I did!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0Y4wuDxmlk]

Misgivings – Delete History

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I like honest music, which is why I despise most pop music that is out there with a few exceptions, and when it comes to sonic honesty there’s few genres that come across as genuine as punk. A perfect example for this are Misgivings, from England, who are about to release their debut EP Delete History on November 3rd!

The quartet’s style falls into the general vicinity of melodic punk rock, with mostly fast-paced guitars and matching drumming, and is deliberately held simple yet effective. Instrumentally it’s pretty straight-forward and there aren’t many, if any at all, surprises and that’s fine to me…but more about that later. Out of the six tracks, the last one, Stay Dull, was the one that stood out to me the most since it has this really neat intro and general good mood feel clinging to it due to its sing-along-inviting chorus.

As for the vocals and the lyrics: they are nothing to write home about, to be quite frank. Well-performed but the singer wouldn’t win an award for best voice in the world. Yet again though: I don’t give a damn. They match the music and round off the package quite well.

If you’ve read until here, you’ll probably think that I hated every second of these twenty-one minutes…but even though I hate to disappoint your expectations: nope. Because, as I mentioned in the beginning, Delete History just feels real: no bullshit, no over-complicated arrangements…just music that is heartfelt, made by a couple of friends who like to play their stuff and have fun while doing so. I’m down with that.

So in closing, would I recommend Misgivings to everyone? Probably not. I would say that they’re more of a band that you should discover for yourself, preferably at a random gig because, even though I haven’t had the chance to see them myself yet, I’m quite convinced that they deliver a stunning performance. If you do want to give them a shot in your own four walls, don’t be shy and listen to the song below and go to their Facebook page for more information.

Natas Loves You – The 8th Continent

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Fellow lovers of good pop music, rejoice! Seven months and three days following the release of the Skip Stones EP that whet our appetite for more, the Paris-dwelling outfit Natas Loves You came out with their debut LP entitled The 8th Continent. To begin with, it is safe to say that the past two years have been fruitful for the five-piece band. Their lush indie pop/rock has been met with increasing popularity and they’ve had the opportunity to work with reputable people, like Chris Zane who produced their album and none other than Larry Clark who directed the video for their most recent single Got To Belong, and I have a feeling that we will watch this quintet skyrocket even further.

After the delightful foretaste that was Skip Stones, I was expecting 40 minutes of good vibrations with some profound and philosophical touches from the LP, and that’s exactly what I got. Natas Loves You have a knack for catchy melodies and lyrics that are irresistible to dance and sing along to, so unsurprisingly their 8th Continent is fraught with accessible and upbeat compositions that float somewhere between soulful pop, disco and psychedelia. In addition to the four tunes featured on Skip Stones, they delivered seven more songs that all have single potential and could stand comfortably on their own outside of the context of the album. Even so, there is a thread that runs through The 8th Continent that connects the songs and makes the overall recording an entity in and of itself as opposed to just a collection of individual songs: the whole is dunked in an airy, dream-like quality and there are recurring themes of feeling lost and disconnected, finding your place, and, of course, love and sensuality.

The album features a series of songs that could be interpreted as anthems for a lost or emotionally degenerate youth, most notably Got To Belong, Game Of Tribes and Go Or Linger. Got To Belong has decidedly motivational lyrics and evokes that euphoric “fist in the air” kind of feeling, the other two tracks seem more about catharsis and venting frustrations whilst still retaining an energetic, uplifting tone. One of the music’s defining characteristics are the three vocalists who do a lot of harmonising and take turns with the lead, which contributes to the infectious dynamic of the songs. Natas Loves You definitely isn’t the band to turn to if you’re looking for mopey and melancholia-laden music — even when tackling somewhat sombre topics, they seem to be dedicated to releasing positive energy out into the world first and foremost. You can take away a sense of hope or inspiration from every part of this sonic journey.

Natas Loves You have an active online presence on Facebook, an official website you can lurk, a couple of sweet videos up on YouTube including the one I embedded below, and The 8th Continent is available to stream for free on Spotify. If you dig what you hear, you are welcome to support the band financially by buying the album off iTunes. Enjoy and God bless!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEO2MMah8zM]

Mysteries – New Age Music Is Here

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I am back with a review of something quite fundamentally different from what’s been featured in our music department lately! An obscure trio called Mysteries has appeared on my radar and I’m excited to present their upcoming debut New Age Music Is Here today.

As the name suggests, Mysteries have a deliberately enigmatic presence. I can’t work with real names, faces, personal backgrounds and concrete locations in this review, which seems to be part of a concept to let listeners focus on the music without drawing attention to the people making it. I recently read an interview with British indie rockers Alt-J, who apparently wanted to go that same route at the beginning of their career, but had a change of mind when their ever-growing concert audience started cluttering their Google results with unflattering cellphone pictures. So while I find the anonymous approach really refreshing, I feel it’s appropriate to cross my fingers that we will one day be able to put faces to Mysteries, as well.

For now, let’s ignore the mystery and move on to the music. New Age Music Is Here is a little out of my musical comfort zone and it took some serious getting used to the first time round, but boy, has it penetrated my brain since. With its spellbinding mix of industrial, electronic, ambient, post-punk and at times even trip-hop elements, it’s one of the more unique things to hit my eardrums as of late. It sounds like it might be inspired by the Blade Runner soundtrack, and the vocals have a Tears For Fears meets Future Islands vibe, which adds to the intense and dark nature of the album. All of this, coupled with sombre synthesizer keys galore, is a formula at a high risk of veering into cheesy territory (and not always in a charming 80s way), but these guys confidently lay it on thick and make it work with pure skill. They left nothing to chance, as this is an extremely clever, clean and calculated record.

Mysteries‘ carefully crafted ambient pop probably doesn’t hit the mark for everyone, but I encourage the curious sceptics to open up their minds and give it a spin, ’cause it really took me by surprise just how much I ended up loving it. They certainly venture out of the conventional indie box and take risks, and do it so well that I can’t help but tip my proverbial hat to them and spread the word!

New Age Music Is Here is out on the 28th of October on Felte. You can have a sneak listen on Bandcamp or Soundcloud, pay the band a visit on Facebook and pre-order the album on iTunes.

Wank For Peace – Fail Forward

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Wank For Peace. If that concept was actually working, the recent celebrity nudes leak would probably have brought peace to the Middle East and, most of all: what a fucking amazing name to call your band! I won’t lie that the name of the French hardcore punks was the only reason that I checked out their new record Fail Forward, but in hindsight I have to say that I would have missed out…so good on them!

The second full length by the quintet is mostly past-paced, good-mood-inducing, melodic hardcore punk that simply managed to suck me in from my first listen-through. Quite frankly, the thirteen songs won’t win any awards for being the most technical, the most innovative or even the best written ones ever…however, they have something by far more important: genuineness and energy!

On the instrumental side, the dominant word is definitely speed; something that is present in both the guitar work and the drumming. The fact that the bass is clearly audible all throughout the thirty-four minutes is another plus in my book, since it provides that little extra touch with its groove.

In the vocal department, you are treated to heartfelt screams and the genre trademark gang shouts, so nothing groundbreaking here. On the other hand, I have to tip my hat to the singer, since he does an amazing job at actually making you feel the lyrics with his raw and powerful voice. Another interesting side-note: the song titles made me chuckle quite a few times. These guys don’t lack humor that’s for sure.

Wank For Peace have discovered the perfect formula of having an eye-catching name to get your attention and solid music to keep you interested, which is why I’m quite sure that they won’t disappear anytime soon. While I don’t expect them to headline any major music festivals, then again I’m pretty sure that’s not one of their priorities, I am convinced that they will manage to convince many more listeners out there of their talent. If you want to be one of those, be sure to go their Facebook page and listen to the record below!