Tag Archives: Post-Hardcore

Atlas:Empire – The Stratosphere Beneath Our Feet

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When you go to a smaller show, you’re almost always confronted with a local support band and that can be a hit or miss thing. I’ve had to endure my fair share of terrible opening acts over the years, but I’ve also had some extremely pleasant surprises and discovered some amazing bands that I would, probably, have never come across otherwise. Luckily, today’s review is about the latter kind, because Atlas:Empire‘s upcoming debut full length The Stratosphere Beneath Our Feet is a strong first step!

The quartet plays technical post-hardcore that relies heavily on the atmosphere that is constantly being built and kept throughout the entire ride. To achieve this they use two main principles: don’t overplay, but instead serve the song and don’t worry about the duration of the track, as long as it works in its favor. Needless to say that the approach is successful, since there’s never a dull moment during these fifty-nine minutes.

Please don’t get me wrong though: not overplaying an instrument doesn’t mean that there’s no substance to sink your teeth into. There are plenty of memorable riffs and bass lines that complement the drumming perfectly, and a host of details that might strike you for the first time after your umpteenth playthrough.

The instrumental side alone of the Scots would be enough to create the trance-like state that the ten songs put you in, but the vocals add another layer that is guaranteed to draw you in even further. They take up the, in my opinion, perfect amount of space, around a quarter, of the album and due to their heartfelt performance, they are the cherry on a truly delicious cake.

All in all, The Stratosphere Beneath Our Feet is a record well worth your time and I am hopeful that it will put Atlas:Empire on the map when it releases on December 8th. If you want to find out more, head to the band’s Facebook page and make sure to check out the video below. Last but not least, if you get the chance to see these guys live, do yourself a favor and go!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueSp6DFIJ4Q]

Hail The Sun – Mental Knife

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Today, I have the pleasure of writing about a record that will undoubtedly end up at the very front of my annual top ten. A mere two years after their last highly acclaimed full-length, Culture Scars, Hail The Sun are about to unleash a fresh one on the world, entitled Mental Knife. I was fortunate enough to get early access, and I am not lying when I’m saying that I’ve jammed it non-stop ever since.

If you are not familiar with the quartet, let me preface this by saying that they play fairly technical, yet accessible, post-hardcore and are well known for their erratic and hectic live performances where the vocalist also, for some songs, plays the drums. I actually had the opportunity to catch them open for Silverstein in the UK last December, and they have pretty much become my new benchmark of what a performance should be like. Anyway, onto the important: the new record!

While the predecessor was slightly less chaotic and heavy, this new one is a lot more like the Secret Wars EP the band released in November, which itself was a mix of CS and Wake, their arguably most celebrated record amongst fans. Mental Knife expands further upon the concept and does everything better, in my opinion: the melodies are way catchier and more diverse, and the heavy parts really smack you in the face so hard that you need a minute to recuperate. A stellar example of both worlds can be found on the track Arcane Justice, which is not only a masterpiece from an instrumental point of view, but also attacks the topic of sexual abuse, unless I’m completely misinterpreting the lyrics.

While I’m at it, I would be at fault if I didn’t point out the importance and beauty of the lyrics on Mental Knife, or rather of HTS’ lyrics in general. A lot of often tabu or difficult topics find their place amongst these eleven tracks and are treated in a very poetic fashion. One recurring theme for example is addiction and the recovery, and the associated challenges, from it. One quality that I love especially about Hail The Sun’s sound, is also present on these forty minutes: every track has a dreamy undertone to it, and transports you straight into the world that the band has created for their listeners. Maybe that’s just me though.

In closing, I had no doubt that the fourth full-length would be a great album, but I was definitely not prepared for this banger! So, do yourself a favor and give the song below a listen and if you like what you hear, head over to the band’s Facebook page to keep up to date with the release of Mental Knife on September 28th! Long live swancore!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2SczshdOGE]

Maypine – Bend/Break

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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]

Dance Gavin Dance – Artificial Selection

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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]

Dream State – Recovery

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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]

Icarus The Owl – Rearm Circuits

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As the year is coming to an end, the window for good albums to be released is also slowly closing. Luckily my, hands down, favorite label at the moment decided to slate one last release from their catalogue in 2017: Icarus The Owl’s fifth full length, Rearm Circuits, is being released on December 1st and I had the privilege to dive into it ahead of time. You can read my thoughts below.

It won’t come as a surprise that the Blue Swan Records-signed quartet plays post-hardcore, but I might put you in disbelief if I tell you that they are wandering a fine line between that genre and radio pop. Did I just hear an eyeroll? Don’t, and bear with me for a second here. The beauty about ITO’s blend of styles is that they manage to create a soundscape that sounds very real and honest, since everything is played on instruments, but their knack for melodies and super catchy hooks is just beyond this world.

However, technique and intricacy is not sacrificed for said catchiness: every instrument shines and especially the guitars are a tapping extravaganza on one hand and a perfect mix of riffing and chord progressions on the other hand. That doesn’t mean that the drums don’t offer a solid foundation, because they absolutely do! There are some songs among these twelve songs where the drum patterns and fills stand out more, but in general they serve the song, rather than showing off.

The one thing that really ties these forty-seven minutes together, beside the stellar songwriting, are the vocals, which add another layer of melody to the mix. I remember when I first discovered the band, I had a few initial difficulties to get past the singer’s voice, since it has a slightly nasal and whiny quality to it, but it grows on you really quickly. I also really dig his lyricism, which has a very, for lack of a better word, dramatic and grand feel to it, with analogies and images all throughout.

To sum things up: Rearm Circuits is a phenomenal entry into both Icarus The Owl’s and Blue Swan Records catalogue, and, for me, it blows its predecessor out of the water. You should check out the song below to give you a good idea of what awaits you, and also has a super cool music video! More info can be found on the band’s Facebook page and I hope you’ll have as much fun with this one as I did!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yfi8E_Bu-Z4]

I The Mighty – Where The Mind Wants To Go/Where You Let It Go

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I would consider myself to be someone follows a lot of bands in the post-hardcore scene and thus is usually up-to-date with the evolution of the genre and the tendencies that it’s taken in the past few years. One such direction is that many bands have changed their sound into something, for lack of a better word, more radio-friendly; a fact that I don’t mind since a good record does not necessarily need screams, or mosh parts. While some listeners absolutely despise change and subsequently claim that the bands have sold out, I’d like to argue that it all lies in the execution. While I don’t like to Gossip, there is definitely a recent entry in the catalog of bands that I listen to, where the new style has failed quite spectacularly. But enough opening monologue: today I have the pleasure of writing about I The Mighty‘s new record Where The Mind Wants To Go/Where You Let It Go, which does it right!

Upon the first listen, it is undeniably obvious that the quartet has taken a step back and fine-tuned their sound into a tamer version of their former selves. However, the trademark ITM sound is still there: well thought-out rhythmic patterns brought to life by energetic performances and painted over with the distinctive vocals. I feel like the main aspect that was altered is the guitar sound, which is mostly void of distortion and fast-paced riffing; opting instead for chords and a cleaner sound. But fret not! There are some “old-school” sounding gems that can be found among these forty-nine minutes…and they are true bangers!

Where the Californians definitely stand out are the two most important features in music, to me: coherent and captivating songwriting, as well as intelligent lyrics or themes. A fact that many bands tend to forget when they change their sound. There is one song, called Sleepwalker, that stood out to me immediately due to it checking both those boxes and, on top of that, being catchy right off the bat! Another aspect where WTMWTG gets bonus points, is the order of the individual eleven songs, which is the perfect simulation of a roller-coaster. Just when you think you’ve heard all the record has to offer, it hits you with another looping!

As mentioned previously, lyrics are an extremely important factor when it comes to my personal enjoyment of music and, to no surprise, this third full-length is filled to the brim with memorable lines and clever analogies, which make every new listening a joy. The vocal performance itself is also as top-notch as was to be expected, albeit with fewer screams, but therefore a special gem in the form of a guest appearance by Dance Gavin Dance‘s Tilian Pearson on Silver Tongues, which can be found below.

All in all, Where The Mind Wants To Go/Where You Let It Go is not only a worthy follow-up to its predecessor, but also a very well-executed transition toward appealing to a larger audience. I am convinced that I The Mighty have bright days ahead of them, and I can’t wait to hear the general reaction to this record! In the meantime, you can head to their Facebook page and keep up with their doings until this Friday, October 20th, when the record is released!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnfEONkyopA]

Five Of The Eyes – The Venus Transit

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Five Of The Eyes - The Venus Transit
I really got into post-hardcore about four years ago, and ever since I’ve kept discovering new, and sometimes old, bands. Yet, every now and then, I stop and wonder if this genre can ever stagnate and become boring to me and despite some people claiming that the downfall is already underway, I find it hard to believe that I will ever be over-saturated by this genre, especially when I come across bands like Five Of The Eyes. Their debut album The Venus Transit really caught me by surprise when I was granted early access and I hope that the following words can entice you to give it a listen as well.

Now, technically, they are considered progressive rock but I found so many post-hardcore elements in the Portlanders’ sound that I will approach them as such. My first impulse was to call their style psychedelic post-hardcore, because at times I could have sworn I was listening to a modern approach to Deep Purple or the likes, mainly due to the vocalist having a similar timbre…but more on that later. I would say that 5OTE‘s music is best characterized by the words grandeur and theatrics: every note seems to build up to a great finale in each of the nine songs.

The drums undergo numerous temporal and rhythmic changes all throughout the record and serve as a perfect foundation for the guitars to unfold their entire glory of both dreamy melodies and ferocious riffs that hit you with a highly eclectic tone. In general, the forty-two minutes have this really natural and old school sound to them that enhance the experience even further, because every strum and every hit come at you in biting clarity.

On top of that, there’s the wide range of the singer who, as mentioned above, at times channels his inner Ian Gillan and really works those pipes to their extreme, though luckily not quite as high-pitched. His performance also deserves praise because he really makes every line come across as heartfelt and, coupled with a great feel for melodic singing, delivers a solid result.

All in all, exploring The Venus Transit was definitely a surprise for me and if you are into bands like Artifex Pereo or Eidola, you will have a blast with Five Of The Eyes! So be sure to give their debut a listen when it drops on Friday, September 30th, and in the meantime listen to the song below to get a first impression. Also, if you want to keep up to date with their progress, head over to their Facebook page…I know I will.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XKXUP7pn5I]

Adventurer – Sacred Grove

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Adventurer - Sacred Grove
Every now and then, an album comes along that fans are anticipating and hyping up for so long that it’s almost impossible that the final product will live up to the expectations. A bit more than three years have elapsed since Adventurer released their self-titled EP, subsequently signed to Blue Swan Records and talks of a full-length began circulating. Other than a small taste of the good stuff on a split EP in May 2016, the fans were sitting on blue balls, until the band finally dropped a new single in late August 2017…and the internet pretty much exploded. Therefore it is now time to find out whether Sacred Grove satisfies the adventurous craving, or not!

For those that are unfamiliar with the trio, I think the best way to explain their sound would be to say that they take the best elements of The Fall Of Troy, add in a few sprinkles of pop punk and fuse them together into a perfect concoction: a riff-fest from start to finish with frequent tempo changes, intricate drum patterns and a bass that actually adds depth to the songs, as well as super melodic vocals that are ideal sing-along material and, of course, fierce screams.

I, like so many other post-hardcore aficionados, was completely enamored with the Michiganders’ debut and their overall sound, since it was so matured already, that I kept asking myself how they wanted to change or improve on subsequent releases and I must say that I don’t notice a vast change on these ten songs when compared to the previous ones. But, it’s fairly simple: why change a winning team? Everything that returning listeners liked before is still here, and new listeners will have a slightly more polished first experience. Win-win, in my book.

Perhaps this is just the case for me, but I found that the EP works best when enjoyed in its entirety, and such is the case with Sacred Grove as well: some of the songs don’t do anything for me if I don’t listen to the surrounding ones. Now, unless I am completely mistaken, this isn’t a concept album per se, but the band’s lyrical focus has always, and hopefully will always be, heartache and mostly failed relationships, so I would recommend adopting a similar approach and looking at these thirty-seven minutes as one complete, pardon the pun, adventure.

All in all, I think that Sacred Grove doesn’t have to hide behind its predecessor and even outshines it in moments. While I wish there had been one or two more songs, I’ll definitely take short and sweet over long and boring! Make sure to check out the album when it drops on Friday, September 8th, and in the meantime go listen to the song below or head over Adventurer‘s Facebook page to keep up with the news!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZzPwUQlr-s]

Eidola – To Speak, To Listen

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Eidola - To Speak, To Listen
Two years ago, I discovered a band through a song off their back then unreleased second full-length and was so impressed that I blindly ordered their debut and pre-ordered the sophomore. My expectations were not met, but completely exceeded by Degeneraterra and it stayed on repeat for quite a while, which is why I was beyond excited when Eidola announced that they were already going to release a follow-up to it in 2017. Fast forward a little while to when I was granted early access to To Speak, To Listen and try imagining my amazement when I first listened to the phenomenal, albeit short, opener The Abstract Of A Planet In Resolve.

Basically, the quintet took everything I loved about the previous album and turned the dial to the max, despite it already being at eleven. Eidola is, to me, all about complexity, melody and diversity, all wrapped into truly solid songwriting and embellished with a really powerful sound. I can say without a doubt that all those boxes have been ticked on my checklist, and I can’t even begin to explain how they’ve improved, but I’ll try: every single instrument is bringing their A-game, with the drumming probably being my favorite element this time around, the levels of groove and crazy footwork along with the innumerable tiny accents and fills just blew me away every single time I’ve put these twelve songs on. And that has been close to three digits…don’t judge me.

The melodic aspect comes in the form of, what I feel, way catchier choruses and individual parts than on the predecessor. The musical diversity is more or less at the same level, but even more tightly woven together by the songwriting: in spite of there being many changes in tempo, intensiveness and general vibe during the different tracks, it never once feels awkward or forced, a feat that really allows you to dive into the experience. This is even further facilitated by the glass-clean production which allows you to distinguish every single note of each and every instrument without any great effort. To give you an idea: I am a long-standing sufferer of the “I can’t hear the bass guitar”-syndrome, but I feel like the bass on TSTL and I get along just fine.

Obviously, I can’t finish this review without at least dropping a few lines about the vocals: you are still treated to a wonderful mix of screams and cleans, but I feel like they have both gained in prowess and fierceness. Especially the clean vocals have even further expanded their range, most notably in the upper register, and the screams are more predominantly represented during the fifty-two minutes than what you are previously used to. Lyrically, Eidola still wander on a fairly esoteric level, with mature topics and well-written lines, which is not always the best sing along material, but sometimes it’s better -not- To Speak, and just To Listen. Thank you, I’m here all week.

What can I say? The guys from Utah have recorded a masterpiece and I can’t wait to finally be able to show it to my friends and talk about it on June 2nd, when To Speak, To Listen is officially released. There is not a single doubt in my mind that Eidola is the next Blue Swan Records band to make the jump to a bigger label! Until then, support the band, buy their music and go see their shows…or at least like them on Facebook and jam the song below. Infinite love!
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy_QzJOUdyw]