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Tag Archives: USA

Tilian – The Skeptic


Good pop music is very hard to come by, in my humble opinion, and every time I do stumble upon an artist, or even just a record, that peeks my interest I savor my new discovery as much as possible. Because, like it or not, pop music is very accessible music and every now and then that is just what you need. Today’s review isn’t about a new discovery, per se, since I’ve been aware of Tilian‘s solo career for quite a while, but The Skeptic marks his third record under his own name and it might just be my favorite. Continue reading if you want to find out why I think so!

What sets Tilian‘s music apart from the typical run-off-the-mill pop that you hear on the radio, is the fact that it’s not only written and performed by him, except the drums, but it also holds intelligent and meaningful lyrics. However, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily overcomplicated and without a hook; on the contrary: on each and every one of these ten songs, I sang, or at least hummed, along to the chorus the second time it came around.

Instrumentally speaking, I would say that it moves in a similar hemisphere as its predecessors, meaning that it ranges from synth pop, over “soft post-hardcore”, to something close to dubstep. The latter is featured on the song Drunken Conversations, and it’s honestly the only song on The Skeptic about which I don’t know how to feel: while the lyrics have a lot of gravitas, I simply can’t warm up to the beat or the electronic-sounding vocals in certain parts.

Going back to the lyrics, and also the overall feel of these thirty-seven minutes, there is definitely another thing I dig about Tilian‘s style: each song has a happy-sad note to it, be it in the form of actually sad lyrics over a happy melody, or serious topics sung about in a self-ironic tone that almost makes them seem light-hearted. While this is his trademark writing style, it is elevated to a new level by his, in my opinion, strongest performance on his solo material to date. Right Side would be my go-to track if I had to pinpoint a highlight of his vocal prowess.

To sum things up, I can definitely recommend giving The Skeptic a thorough listen on September 28th, even if you’re not necessarily into pop music, because I have no doubt that Tilian will continue to impress non-believers. You can get an idea by checking out his Facebook page and especially by watching the video below…while trying not to go on a feels trip.

Hail The Sun – Mental Knife


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!

Ghost Spirit/Frail Hands – Split 12″ LP


Today, I’m delighted to write about a genre I’ve never reviewed, or spent a lot of time listening to: screamo! While some bands I enjoy come close to it, I wouldn’t consider any of them to be a good representation of the genre. Well, except for Ghost Spirit who I discovered through them being signed to my favorite record label, Blue Swan Records. Their self-titled debut never really left my playlist and I was delighted, but also intrigued, when they announced that they had partnered up with Frail Hands, a band unbeknownst to me, for a Split 12” LP to be released on August 24th. I was fortunate enough to get early access to a copy and I’m going to do my best to get you interested in it!

First off: the LP counts twelve songs altogether, six per side and per band, that amount to “only” twenty-six minutes of total playtime. Not knowing much about the genre, other than GS’ debut, I was slightly taken aback…but after my first listen-through I understood exactly why: the level of intensity is at a constant high and, what I like best, there is no fluff at all; every string plucked, every skin hit and every note screamed has its necessity and place. I’ll briefly dedicate a paragraph to each band, so you can get a better idea, starting with Ghost Spirit.

The quartet gets the longer playtime, with sixteen minutes, and employs it really well to showcase its different sides: while the majority of the songs is made up of screamed vocals, there’s also quite a few passages of clean vocals, which add an extra layer of depth to the music. Apart from that, the instrumentation generally has a melancholic and almost depressive quality to it, but every now and then it is pierced by cathartic outbursts that interplay perfectly with the lyrics. Notably the closer is a very good example of that layering and what great atmosphere Ghost Spirit can achieve in their songs.

I need to honest here: on my first couple of listens I had a really hard time getting into Frail Hands‘ part of the LP, because the vocals were recorded and the way they were almost drowned in the mix really made no sense to me. Since their half clocks in at only ten minutes, I “suffered” through it every time I listened to the record, and it must have been around the sixth or seventh playthrough that it clicked and the pieces fell into place, for me, which resulted in me really digging their approach. If I had to describe it, I would say that it’s rawer and more straight-forward music, but the minor details, especially in the guitar riffs, elevate it from just noise to beautiful compositions.

All in all, this 12” LP gave me everything I wanted and then some: it pushed just the right buttons in the first half, and introduced me to a brilliant “new” band in the second half. If you dig this record, I can strongly recommend checking out the self-titled debut records of both bands! Until then, take this as your introduction to real screamo and discover this genre so full of potential! Be sure to visit Ghost Spirit‘s and Frail Hands‘ Facebook pages for more info and listen to, so far, a third of all the songs below.

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.

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.

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!

Icarus The Owl – Rearm Circuits


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!

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

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!

Five Of The Eyes – The Venus Transit

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.

Adventurer – Sacred Grove

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!