Orchards – Losers/Lovers


Public service announcement: simplicity is underrated and I have a feeling that many musicians these days try to write complex music, for complexity’s sake. While I am a sucker for technically demanding and outside-of-the-box music, I also love putting on a record and being familiar with it after my first listen; or at least feeling that way. Orchard’s have managed to achieve just that, because their debut EP Losers/Lovers is a pure joy to listen to on repeat.

If I had to describe their sound in two words I’d call it authentic pop: the quartet’s songs could be straight off a pop radio station, because of their catchiness and recognizability, but the fact that everything is actually played by hand, instead of coming out of a machine, gives them a lot more credibility.

While I did call the Brightonians’ music simple, by no means was I implying that it was primitive, because the instrumentation and arrangement of the eight songs are all top notch. A clearly audible and groovy bassline is omnipresent and accompanies the driving drum tracks, while the effect-heavy guitar plays dreamy riffs that all pack a punch and will be stuck in your head after the first go. Yet, no song is ever overcrowded and you can clearly discern everything that is going on, allowing you to absorb them in their entirety.

Orchards do have another secret weapon though: harmonies and canon singing! The singer does a fantastic of reeling you in with her lyrics and her performance can be truly felt throughout the twenty-eight minutes. The cherry on top is the additional vocals, in select passages, by the guitarist that are either sung in perfect unison or slightly delayed depending on the various songs. This small detail lends the ensemble a whole new layer of depth and, having seen the band recently, I can tell you that they deliver that incredible power in a live setting as well!

For now, Orchards are a fairly small band still, but I can without a doubt say that they will be gaining momentum with this release and I hope that they will go far. So make sure to jump on the train of good music early and check out Losers/Lovers when it’s release this Friday, July 6th! You can get a first impressions in the video below and by checking the band’s Facebook page!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpF-XDXRwDw]

Maypine – Bend/Break


Story time! Last year in December I flew to Brighton to see Hail The Sun open for Silverstein, and at that gig I got to witness today’s band play the opening slot. I got talking to them about a possible future release and, seven months later, here we are! Maypine are a fairly new band and their second release, Bend/Break, is just about to be released on Friday! Let’s dig in, shall we?

The quintet plays alternative rock, with a hint of post-hardcore for good measure, and manages to capture the essence and atmosphere of the genre quite well. While the drums are fairly straight-forward, they are in constant interplay with the bass, and provide a perfect backdrop for the two guitars to build the slightly melancholic, yet hopeful, feel of the Brits’ sound.

The singer delivers a solid performance with a respectable range, but at times I felt that the vocals lacked a bit more diversity. While I do believe that I heard female backing vocals every now and then, I found them to be a little too low, or buried, in the mix. The fact that the singer has quite a good ear for vocal melodies that complement the songs, makes up for most of that, though.

Despite not reinventing the wheel, the fourteen minutes feature well-written songs that are memorable enough to keep your ears glued to the speakers. So, by all means, give Bend/Break a listen over on the website of Pure Grain Audio, or check out their music video below to get a first impression. Last but not least, head on over to the band’s Facebook page and show them some love!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVyjJe07eQg]

Astpai – True Capacity


Ever heard of the AC/DC-Syndrome? No? Perhaps it’s just something I invented but let me explain it real quick: AC/DC have released a ton of albums throughout their career, and in my opinion they don’t vary a lot, yet they are always a good listen. Which shows that great music doesn’t always need to reinvent itself every few years, especially when the musicians played it found their “voice” and know how to use it to perfection. There are, of course, a lot of other bands, or artists, that are the same, but today I want to talk about a particular one: Astpai! The Austrians are about to release their fifth full-length, True Capacity, and I want to tell you a little bit about it!

To pick up what I said in the intro, I’ll just cut straight to the chase and say that the successor to 2014’s Burden Calls is very similar in most ways: half an hour of solid punk rock that is filled with passion and emotion. The quartet has just found its niche in the melodic aspect of pop punk and the raw part of (soft) melodic hardcore, which really works well for them.

As was the case with the predecessor, the ten songs all contain personal and meaningful lyrics, that also have a sing-along quality to them most of the time. There are two stand-out songs because they represent two polar opposites of the band’s sound spectrum: Feel Your Pain is a beautiful love song that features a really poetic lines, and True Capacity which only features screams and is akin to the band’s debut record, that was a lot heavier.

I’m going to keep this review fairly short, mostly because the band have done their fans a favor and made the record available for streaming over on the website of Visions and I believe that you can get more out of actually listening to this fun record instead of reading my ramblings. If, however, you want to get an idea what you’re in for, please give the music video below a chance and visit the band’s Facebook page!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rSHwtBi23c]

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.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJULfw3xVas]

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!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hy0m8u4Hbxc]

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!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2q8w_WrgrU]

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!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE63XBK-bhI]

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.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5RxiauMXhg]

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.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzqsML-hDpo]

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!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVO2chSz3bs]