Wintersun - “The Forest Seasons”
You can fund these con-artists’ sauna here.
Wintersun is a band from Finland that started as the solo side-project of former Ensiferum frontman, Jari Mäenpää. This quickly became his main focus, however, after he was seen taking his sweet-ass time apart from Ensiferum, who wanted to get back to recording their own music, and was kicked out of the project. An incredibly smart move on their part, as between 2003 and now, Wintersun has released two studio LPs. Despite their incredibly limited body of work, they managed to gather an incredible cult following in the metal scene. After their self-titled debut, Jari claimed to be working on their sophomore LP, Time. Fans waited and waited, and in 201...we got the first half of their second LP, Time, and were told that the second part would come out early 2013. Fans waited almost a decade for new music, and were given only 40 minutes of it. People had more patience, though, because we were promised that the second part would come out the next year. Quickly, that turned into an even longer wait…and in 2014, Jari went off on a number of insane rants, blaming Nuclear Blast Records for the delay in Time II, because they weren’t “given him what he needed” to record it. Wintersun’s devoted fanbase blasted Nuclear Blast, spurring them to begin working with Jari to see that his needs were met. What we didn’t know was that Jari wasn’t asking for money for the LP: he was asking for money to build a studio. Actually, scratch that. He was basically asking them to build a goddamn house for him. He claimed it to be a studio, but what fucking studio has a sauna?! Many became understandably skeptical of Jari, but he was very persistent and pretty much blackmailed the people that refused to fund him. He threatened to not leave his music unreleased.
It is now 2017, and after half a fucking decade, Wintersun has announced a third studio LP! However, it is not the long-awaited Time II, oh no. This is The Forest Seasons. It’s been five fucking years since Time I came out, and we still don’t have the second part of this LP. That’s not all: In order to get this LP on the day of its release, you had to participate in a crowdfund to help the “beginning stages” of their hou--I mean studio, cleverly titled the “Wintersun Headquarters.” The only perks were digital files of Wintersun’s entire discography, going for 50 euro, with an option for a 20 euro “expansion.” That is 58.33 in USD, and all you got was music you probably already had as a fan. Regardless, $60 for digital files. Any other band would have been called out for blatant stupidity, but Wintersun managed to gather almost 8,000 backers on this perk, and it was pretty much immediately funded. After all of these betrayal of trust, Wintersun managed to actually fund what will soon be their fucking house. Now, The Forest Seasons is out. I could go out of my way to give this a serious review, but what Wintersun have done brings up a serious issue in music, and that is con-artistry: taking advantage of your fans with the power of the internet.
The internet is a very powerful tool. Pretty much the only way to get recognition as a local music artist in this day and age is through the internet. There are sites like Bandcamp that allow you to upload your music for anyone to listen, and that’s pretty much how you gain support. Crowdfunding is also a popular tactic, and one that I initially thought was very good for artists. I have donated my fair share to crowdfunds, and some of them I felt very rewarded by, such as Protest the Hero’s one for Volition. However, I started realizing that there are artists out there who use crowdfunding to scam their fans. I donated to Corelia’s crowdfund for their debut LP back in 2015, and after almost three years, I haven’t gotten anything out of it. The last update was back in October 2016, which pretty much just read as “We’re still working on it, and it’s going to be the best shit ever, and you will say it’s the greatest album ever”. To me, this is just taking advantage of your fans, and nobody is doing that more blatantly than Wintersun.
I have to give them credit where credit’s due. Despite releasing only three LPs in fourteen years, their following is loyal to a fault. 8,000 fans were willing to pay $60 just for MP3’s of songs they, for the most part, already had. They waited five years for the second part of an LP, and when told they’d get a different LP first, still managed to just say “Yeah, I’ll hop on board for this!” It takes serious manipulation to trick that many unfortunate souls into such an obvious scam. I really don’t think anyone would have fallen for something like this if it was any other artist, but of course, it’s goddamn Wintersun, a band that got legendary off of…what? Is there really anything about these guys’ music special enough to warrant all of this inconsistency?
I admit, back when Time I was coming out, I really did love Wintersun. I got their self-titled in a record store and was beyond stoked when Time I came out, and blasted it on Spotify. However, that was five years ago. Since then, I’ve come to realize that there’s so much more to music than just the world of metal. Artists like Kendrick Lamar and Lorde are pushing the envelope for music as a whole. There was not a single point in Wintersun’s entire career where you could argue they were pushing boundaries, and I could even admit that when I was a fan of theirs. They pretty much just perform melodic death metal mixed in with power and progressive metal. You can go on and say that they perform their music very well, but they are not innovating, and are not worth waiting on for so many years. We honestly should have all been disappointed when Wintersun released Time I because there’s no fucking reason in this world that it should’ve taken nearly a decade to release one part of an LP, and there is absolutely NOTHING that can justify the delay in Time II.
So no, I did not listen to The Forest Seasons, and you shouldn’t, either. The music world is huge, with artists in all genres releasing music that is actually worth your time and released on a consistent basis. You shouldn’t waste it on these con-artist hacks who are literally shelving their music and pretty much threatening you to buy them a house in order to listen to it. If you really love Wintersun’s music that much, put that support toward Whispered. They’re musically identical, but they won’t make you wait five years for music and ask for a sauna in return.
Birdflesh and Organ Dealer- “Birdflesh/Organ Dealer”
Listen to and buy the split here.
Birdflesh is a very influential grindcore act from Sweden. Since their inception, they’ve released four LPs and a ton of EPs and splits. All of this material is what you would expect from a grindcore act: relentless aggression that doesn’t surpass the 20-minute mark, with songs that last as little as nine seconds. Their lyrical content tends to be much more humorous, depicting ridiculously violent scenarios. While it may seem like nothing original now, keep in mind that this band have been in the game since 1992, and have pretty much been the reason we have so many grindcore acts performing songs in this vein. Outside of a few LPs back when I was really investing time in grindcore, I will admit that I never really thought of Birdflesh as more than just a super fun, influential grindcore act.
Organ Dealer, on the other hand, is a band I hold in very high regard. They’re a relatively new grindcore act from New Jersey, formed in 2013, who are very active in the tri-state area’s grindcore scene (meaning New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania). Back in 2015, they released their debut LP Visceral Infection, which is an incredibly solid LP. They aren’t doing anything new, but they are angry, noisy grindcore, which is fine by me. These songs are pretty damn kickass in the studio, but take it to an entirely new level in a live setting. I’ve seen these guys twice and they’re a lot of fun. Now, in 2017, these two bands have come together and recorded a 19-track, 24-minute split, which in grindcore terms, is basically considered an LP.
Birdflesh start things off with a bang with “Born to Wait,” which explodes in your ears. The vocals on this track, along with the other tracks on Birdflesh’s side, really remind me of Behemoth’s Satanica. The instrumental is what you’d expect from Birdflesh: fast, angry, and punk as fuck. “Dead is Alive” is one of the best examples of this sound. Towards the end, you get a straight-up punk section with screams of “Death is alive!” and an instrumental that makes me think of early hardcore punk bands like Black Flag. The major complaint I have with this portion of the LP is that, like everything else by Birdflesh, it’s just solid. It’s not groundbreaking and it won’t blow your mind, but is it is ten minutes of really fun grindcore and nothing more. The vocals are great, the instrumental is super tight, and the songs are fun, but that’s all I can really say.
As soon as Organ Dealer’s side starts, the shift in quality is apparent. “Violence Ensues” is a fucking banger and the perfect way for Organ Dealer to introduce themselves. It’s far meatier than anything Birdflesh’s side has to offer. Alongside the band’s relentless energy,, they include these monstrous breakdowns to balance the pacing on tracks like “Cage Resentment.” Other than technical chops, Organ Dealer showcase how fun they can be with tracks like “Exasperated” in the mix. Their side ends on a high note with the incredible track “Consent to Hatred” pulling the curtain down with two minutes of aggression and a very nicely placed breakdown before finishing the track off with some more aggression. Maybe it’s nothing super original, but Organ Dealer takes this grindcore style and makes it extremely in-your-fucking-face and uniquely theirs. I am in love with their side. If this is the direction they’re heading, I am beyond stoked to see what they do next.
So, I think I’ve made it pretty obvious whose side of the LP I enjoyed more, although I think that people who want punkier grindcore along the lines of Napalm Death and Repulsion will dig the Birdflesh side much more than I. However, if you’re someone like me who digs the angrier, noisier grindcore of Pig Destroyer and Full of Hell, do not sleep on Organ Dealer. Regardless, if you are a fan of grindcore, check out this split LP. You’re guaranteed to find something to your liking.
- Alex Brown
Stream and buy on Bandcamp
’Sabella are revolutionizing the hi-hat cymbal. It’s the delicate fulcrum upon which their deceptively simple brand of downtempo rests, accumulating tension and releasing it all at once in four sharp ticks prior to each breakdown. In defiance of the very laws of hardcore, it doesn’t get old. We owe this little miracle to ’sabella’s continually refined songcraft, which had the opportunity to sprawl over the thirteen tracks of their debut full-length (doubling their existing output in one shot), but rejects it for a minimalistic tune-up of everything they already do best. In fact, DOG DAZE begins with co-vocalist Connor Hogan singing over nothing but some guitar strums and a few cold strikes of the hi-hat, triggering a Pavlovian response in listeners familiar with their EPs and split with Pennsylvania’s Kaonashi: limber up, because shit is about to go down. It’s there on “LONG STAYS” and “W CLINTON” too, lighting the fuse on the first of the album’s many excellent breakdowns, and propagates unease even on the album’s ballad, “RIVER.” The song never explodes, but while Hogan opens his heart to some lost love, we hear the bomb ticking quietly away in the background, eroding our security.
The hi-hat may be their secret weapon, but ’sabella is a force to be reckoned with anyway, now more than ever. The band’s hand-and-soft dynamic has never been more divided than on DOG DAZE, but neither have the poles of their sound ever been this potently represented. As our own Alex Brown phrased it, DOG DAZE can sometimes come across like “a mixtape of ideas for live [shows],” which is true--usually (or at least as it used to be), the heavy and the light would operate side-by-side on a ’sabella track. “Frostmourne” softballs the listener before dropping the hammer, but DOG DAZE sees ’sabella taking a different approach, distilling the basic components of their music out, smearing them across thirteen little petri dishes, and sitting back to watch what happens. The clean stuff grows folksier and more introspective on “APRILED,” “RIVER.,” and “GREEN THUMBED,” which could have made for a fine little experiment of an EP all on their own, while the harsh stuff mutates into the tectonic heaviness of “WHISPER,” “WARS,” “WAIST DEEP,” and “THE NOISE.” Hogan takes the lead on the former material, his alternative-indie timbre totally at odds with his bloodcurdling scream (play “GREEN THUMBED” and “THUNDER BAY” to someone who has never heard the band before, and the chances they would recognize them as songs by the same band are guaranteed to be slim), while second vocalist Markus Russo, whose hellraising shout makes a proper foil to Hogan, also flexes his gritty Never Home growl on the heavier fare.
In between, we get a fascinating tour of ’sabella’s expanding sonic palette. “W CLINTON” and “UP LIKE THIS” embrace the Korn Theory of doing more with less as the former consists almost entirely of bends, feedback, and even some tasteful chugging (’sabella frequently do the impossible). While their approach to riffing is more traditional on back-to-back “FREE FALLIN” and “LEAD ME TO THE DANCE FLOOR,” they showcase vastly different textures despite being cast from the same mold. “FREE FALLIN,” for example, brandishes a Swiss Army knife of a riff that is by turns 1) danceable, 2) headbangable, and 3) knock-a-motherfucker-out-able, while “LEAD ME TO THE DANCE FLOOR” is a funky and infectious track thanks to some tightly-woven guitar/drum interplay and the most tongue-in-cheek lyrics on DOG DAZE. On the other end, “THE NOISE” is unfiltered crowdkill brimming with gutbucket guitar tones and topped with a murderous call-out of “I spy a bitch in disguise!” that will put people on stretchers (having witnessed them live once already, I can say that's not much of an exaggeration). This is one of a number of lyrical gems which ’sabella seem to drop effortlessly from track to track, whether it’s the soul-baring mission statement of “THUNDER BAY” (“I don’t believe in soulmates / and I don’t believe in God / I could fall in love with anyone / if given the time”) or the album’s emotional centerpiece on “RIVER.,” a heartbroken (and heartbreaking) portrait of failed millennial love: “And then the sun came up / and I made you breakfast / dressed in nothing but the way you hold me in your mind / I swear I’m better when I’m gone.”
Admittedly, the sectoring of ’sabella’s sound hurts the record a little. It’s easy to imagine how stitching some tracks together might have benefited DOG DAZE in the long run (“APRILED” and “LONG STAYS” is a no-brainer; “WAIST DEEP” and “THE NOISE” could have banged even harder as a single piece), but it will, in time, be regarded as a milestone in ’sabella’s evolution, and not just because it’s their first full-length. Although it lacks the atmospheric unity of their half of the Never Home split, DOG DAZE is thematically airtight and sees the band relentlessly interrogating the core of their songwriting from thirteen different directions. Once again, we can’t discount the fact that this album now comprises more than half of their recordings. There’s a strong chance that whatever direction ’sabella chooses to take from here on, the way is mapped out somewhere in the experiments of DOG DAZE. I look forward to what’s next.
Hundredth - Rare
If you’re a follower of melodic hardcore/metalcore, you probably know, or at least heard, of South Carolina based act, Hundredth. A band that has drawn dozens of comparisons (mostly to Counterparts), Hundredth has gone through three albums and two EP releases of aggressive yet emotional songs in their nine-year tenure as a band, but their latest release, Rare, throws what you know about Hundredth right out the window. Similar to the shake up A Lot Like Birds made with DIVISI, Hundredth make a complete 180 on their traditional sound and leave longtime fans dumbfounded. Screaming vocals, the rolling thunder of drums and chugging drop-tuned riffs are nowhere to be found. This is the new and improved Hundredth.
The album begins with “Vertigo,” a dark, upbeat track that channels the post-punk vibes of bands like The Church and The Jesus & Mary Chain mixed with the dreamy shoegaze atmosphere of My Bloody Valentine, whose influence you will hear all over the record and in just about anything shoegaze. Like the title, this track brings on feelings of tunneling vertigo, but in a good way, if that makes any sense. Amongst the dreary chords that burst into excitement, vocalist (and now rhythm guitarist) Chadwick Johnson’s voice fits quite well and destroys any doubt regarding his ability to deliver. Following “Vertigo” is “Neurotic,” the first single. From start to end, this track is filled with energy that doesn’t stop. It’s an up-front song that doesn’t drag and clearly shows that Hundredth hasn’t completely abandoned their punk/hardcore roots. Next up is “White Squall,” another fast-paced song reminiscent of English post-punk/new wave kings New Order and the Cure. The influences are dripping all over on the album so far, and it’s enjoyable.
“Hole” erupts with a spacey alt-rock vibe that can’t help but recall when Cave In wasn’t a metalcore band for awhile (deja vu, right?). What’s exciting about everything so far is that Hundredth is still riffy. Underneath the wall of sound and fury are those elements of Hundreth’s hardcore past life, tweaked for their new sound. Fifth track “Suffer” feels like “Neurotic” with a more laid back personality, which makes for a nice segue into the panicky “Disarray.” This song’s ostensibly metalcore lyricism blends better than expected when sung over the shoegazey instrumentals. Those invigorating riffs are present once again.
Calmly entering the halfway point of the album is “Down.” Particularly on this track, Lee Hutchinson’s drums are excellent despite being a bit buried underneath everything else in the mix. Interesting to note, there are screams at the end of this song, but as with the drums, they’re buried, this time a little more rightfully so. There’s nothing too notable about “Gray,” as it’s more or less the same as previous songs, and may be the “weakest” song on the album. “Shy Vein” makes up for it by continuing to emit those Cure vibes, and the hypnotic guitar tones bring on those euphoric feelings of driving late at night in pitch-black darkness, maybe on a highway or alongside a sleeping cityscape.
“Chandelier” closely follows the sonic tradition of the record, passing on its energy to the listener like electric currents. Johnson’s lyrics are somewhat brief and ambiguous, reminding me of Chino Moreno’s style without becoming too serious or cringey. I can’t get enough of them. Andre Minervini comes charging in with a rugged bassline on “Youth,” which evolves from an upbeat reverie to an adrenaline rush with simple but emotionally hefty words like, “Go home, lock the door. Put on something you’ve heard before.” Closing off the album is the fittingly-titled “Departure.” Whether it be Rare literally departing from your ears or Hundredth leaving hardcore behind, the song ends the album on a somber, reflective note shaped by Alex Blackwell’s twinkling notes backed up by wavy rhythms and a melancholy vocal delivery. It’s a rather great end to a great album, because as with most of the album, it’s straightforward, to the point, and not complicated for the sake of being complicated.
The production could have been tweaked a bit, but other than that small complaint, everything works smoothly. It feels less like a traditional record than a single, sustained vibe, and it works perfectly for this kind of material. Say what you will about the genre swap, but there is no doubt that this is a great release and one of the best of this year. Hundredth has simply moved on and done something new and true to themselves.
Standout tracks: Neurotic, Hole, Shy Vein, White Squall
Make Them Suffer - Worlds Apart
Preorder (Release on June 28th 2017)
Make Them Suffer is without a doubt one of Australia’s most popular metal bands of the past decade, with their debut record, Neverbloom, making serious waves in the deathcore scene. Old Souls took a different approach and was greeted by fans with a vastly different attitude as people wondered what came next. Would they revert to the sounds of the first record or grow from here? With the worldwide release of their third album, Worlds Apart, on June 28th, Make Them Suffer are finally ready to answer that question.
The first single was greeted by fans as “underwhelming” and not what they wanted, but I found the track to be a ton of fun, so I was excited to get hands-on with the new album and see if they had polished the experimental sound on Old Souls. I was surprised by the first track, “The First Movement,” in a good way. For the most part, the song feels fresh compared to the current metalcore scene, resembling the new Northlane record but maintaining its own character. I’m happy to say Make Them Suffer are back on their feet and hitting the ground running, picking up a new clean vocalist and keyboardist in Booka Nile, as well as bassist Jaya Jeffery. I can almost say they have never sounded better. “Uncharted” is a wonderfully energetic and moving track packed with both insane groove and some beautifully placed chorus passages. It sits perfectly next to “Grinding Teeth,” one of the most standout tracks on this record with its equally melodic and crushing guitars pounding through the snare drums and complemented by the heavy vocal patterns in the verses. “Grinding Teeth” definitely starts to ramp things up for listeners as they proceed into one of the heaviest tracks on the record, “Vortex,” a must listen for old school Neverbloom fans. Certain parts of this song feature almost Stray From The Path-style screams that are relentless and brutal, and fit well in the instrumental. I can only say that the band chose what’s actually the weakest track for the record as their single, “Fireworks” (which I still love, but is now overshadowed by other tracks).
“Fireworks” just doesn’t seem to pack as much of a punch as the other songs on Worlds Apart, but it does work well as a transition from the first to the second half of the record. This part of the album kicks off with an interlude track made up of ambient noise and “extraterrestrial” sounds, titled “Contact.” “Power Overwhelming” feels mildly out of place preceding the last three tracks. “Midnight Run” is the second best track on the record following “Vortex.” It’s not as crushing, but it heavy and melodic, and is probably the best example of the progress the band has made. “Dead Plains” is the last heavy track before “Save Yourself,” making for an amazing pair of finale songs.
Make Them Suffer have really perfected their sound. Following this album, I’m really excited to see them tour North America with Enterprise Earth and Spite this July, now knowing how they crush the stage following their tour with August Burns Red and Silent Planet last fall. Whether you accept it or not, Worlds Apart is the best Make Them Suffer record yet, and I can definitely see myself revisiting this more than I did Old Souls or Neverbloom.
FFO: Northlane, While She Sleeps, Parkway Drive
- Dakota G.
Lucretia - The Hiraeth
Listen to the EP here.
If you are active in the local Connecticut hardcore scene, you have probably heard the name Lucretia. They’re a metalcore act that’s been in the game since 2010, but took a break between 2013 and 2015 and are now back. They are a special band in the scene for the fact that they don’t really play often, but when they do, it seems everyone gets hyped beyond belief, and local show turns into riots fast. There’s no wonder why, either. They were on the lineup for the very first local Connecticut show I’ve ever been to, and they are an incredibly fun band live, easily the best band that day. Every member was having a complete blast, and the crowd went crazy for them. Knowing that the room could only really fit 30 people made the experience that much more amazing.
Their discography is quite limited as it stands, with only one EP, Yearbook, and two other songs released before this EP. However, 2017 is a new year, and Lucretia decided this would be the year they grace us with a brand new, four-song EP entitled The Hiraeth. Metal Lifestyle was approached to premiere the first track, “Those Who Shoot/Those Who Dig,” a few weeks back. Now, it’s been over a week since The Hiraeth came out, so it’s about time we take a closer look.
For the most part, this EP is ten minutes of really, really solid metalcore. “Those Who Shoot/Those Who Dig” is a great way to start up, with just enough breakdowns and riffs to set a threatening mood. “Ellipsis” is a really nice treat of a song as well, having a slow and ominous introduction that breaks into a full-bore metalcore groove as the track progresses, touched by moments of Gaza-like hardcore. The last track, “Ultramarine,” is essentially a 33-second mosher that closes the EP off on a solid note. Every instrument is solidly played, and the vocals have a really gross and throaty sound to them that meshes well with the heavy instrumental approach. There is also a noise influence here and there that I find myself enjoying quite a bit.
Other than its brevity, what really brings this EP down is the second track, “Homewrecker, Housemaker.” The song itself is pretty decent, featuring guest vocals from Danny Cuneo of up-and-coming Connecticut powerviolence act Kidnapped, a fitting inclusion in theory. So what exactly is the problem? Well, it really doesn’t make sense with the rest of the EP. See, every other song on this EP is a metalcore track with the same production style, but this one is much more in the vein of powerviolence, which means it’s noisier and more chaotic, throwing off the pace and feel of the EP. The mood built up over “Those Who Shoot” and “Ellipses” vanishes, and there isn’t enough time for it to recover before the EP ends.
Otherwise, this is a very solid release from one of the best in the local Connecticut hardcore scene. If you’re looking for something in the vein of groups like Zao and Botch, you will definitely enjoy what The Hiraeth has to offer. Lucretia has matured, and I am beyond excited to see them release more music. Hopefully it doesn’t take as long as last time.
- Alex Brown.
Conveyer - No Future
You can listen to the album here.
Conveyer are a melodic hardcore/metalcore band hailing from Eau Claire, Wisconsin that formed in 2011, and have been steadily pumping out material since. Their 2013 debut, Worn Out, was self-released, and their sophomore effort, When Given Time to Grow, was put out by the infamous Victory Records in 2015. I had first heard of the band around a few months ago, when Connecticut hardcore outfit Lift plugged their upcoming record, No Future, on their Instagram page. Being a fan of the melodic form of hardcore/metalcore pioneered by bands such as Shai Hulud, With Honor, and Misery Signals, I took a listen to “Whetstone,” the first single off the record, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t find myself too excited for the record’s release. Oddly enough, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that No Future, despite being a bit of a late bloomer, is a solid record 100% percent worth your time.
Conveyer don’t really strive to reinvent the wheel on this LP; dissonant-yet-melodic minor leads and chords dot the record from start to finish, with vocalist Danny Adams giving impassioned deliveries of lyrics describing heartache, death, and religion. Guitarists Ty Brooks and Nick Matako do what they do better than most of the dime-a-dozen melodic bands in the hardcore scene these days. Sometimes the guitarwork can be just a little samey, with the verse riffs of both “Whetstone” and “Haunt” being almost identical. It’s something that would be passable if the songs were maybe on different sides of the record, but they’re right after each on the tracklisting, which makes the similarity a little jarring.
Earlier I mention that this record is a “late bloomer,” by which I mean that while the first half of No Future is adequate, the band really comes into their own on the second half of the record, starting with “Levity.” The song begins with a quiet intro before exploding into a wall of melodic sound as Adams yells “Spinning away from our youth (from ourselves) / weaving in and out of regret.” The band pulls zero punches from here, with the title track and “Carrier” especially sure to get the mosh going at shows across the country. “Parting Words” is a fitting and touching album closer about the loss of a friend as the album fades out.
Production wise, the album sounds great. Recorded by Greg Thomas (ex-Misery Signals, Shai Hulud, etc) and Chris Teti (of The World Is… fame) at Silver Bullet Studios in Connecticut, the guitars carry a good amount of punch for when the band decides to get heavy, and the leads cut into the mix well. The drums hit hard and Adams’ vocals are mixed so that they don’t get lost in the wall of sound or overwhelm it, either.
Despite its slow start, No Future is a fine melodic hardcore record that fans of the genre will definitely enjoy. No, it doesn’t break any ground, and some of the songs might blend a little, but it’s certainly worth checking out. Despite playing an oversaturated genre, Conveyer manage to make a memorable record and prove they, contrary to what the record’s title might suggest, have a future within their scene.
FFO: Counterparts, Shai Hulud, Misery Signals.
- Cesar G.
Sworn In - All Smiles
Oftentimes, I hear people bash Sworn In and usually defend them by mentioning Death Card is a fun album. After multiple listens, it's hard to deny their “heavy just to be heavy” attitude (as one of them pretty much said in an interview promoting DC), along with the high-school-freshman angst on “Hypocrisy.” A lot of their energy comes from their mix of frantic scenecore chugging and panic chords and Tyler Dennen’s vocals, but the lyrics are always less than average. Then there was that My Chemical Romance-ripoff album the band denounced prior to All Smiles, a good thing since it was the second worst album of that year for me, right behind All That Remains. So, with the band saying they’d go back to what made them popular, one would expect All Smiles to be a return to form.
“Make It Hurt” pretty much crushes those hopes. Getting through a serviceable verse, Sworn In seem to return what they wanted to get away from: melodramatic clean choruses that scream beginner lyricism like “Make it hurt, make it hurt, I can’t feel you if you don’t.” It's quite painful listening to these vocals as the heavy auto-tune is not stylistic, and the notes are theoretically not very difficult to hit. If you’re hoping that this is an isolated incident...no, it’s not. Unoriginal chugging, weightless guitar tones, slow and empty drum beats, and tinny screams make up the majority of the album. The title track maybe the most egregious, showing there isn’t much differences between All Smiles and The Lovers / The Devil. It almost makes your skin crawl to hear “Round and round we go” as a chorus, as if Sworn In are trying to find a middle ground for more pop-oriented listeners.
Then there's absolute messes of songs like “Helluputmethru.” The band try to induce anxiety with smooth cleans and guitars filtered through a glitchy mix, but the song stumbles and winds up sounding like a really bad impression of Tourette’s than an unraveling psyche, which I assume was the intended effect. “Hell...” is completely unforgivable. “Cry Baby” is a close second. Want basic nu-metal grooves and more of Dennen’s lackluster vocals? Yeah, I didn’t either, but it's there.
To compound the fact that the album just isn’t written well at all, the production is terrible. Moments that could have been fun, like the very end of “Puppeteer” which is just a braindead breakdown to headbang to, is ruined by a total absence of the meaty, biting tone that made similar moments on Death Card work. On “Dread All,” a brief, juicy guttural almost breaks through the arid vocal effects, but succumbs to a totally drained production job.
I don’t know what to say about Sworn In anymore. This was supposed to be a return to form, but it’s just more of the same. We could blame the production, but when the entire album is written this poorly, it almost doesn’t matter. One song is all you need to hear to understand. This could easily end up as my worst album of the year, unless All That Remains surprise us.
- Alex B.
Home Seeker - Cemetery Mindset
Home Seeker is a new melodic metalcore group founded out of Poughkeepsie, NY. Releasing their debut EP, Cemetery Mindset, on June 30th, I decided to take a look over at the EP before its release and I was nothing short of shocked. I had no clue what to expect walking into this album, I didn’t even listen to the single the band sent before listening to the album in its entirety to get the full effect and I was more than happy I did. Home Seeker is a prime example of the new wave of melodic metalcore that is emerging and as long as we keep bands like them around, it will take over the world.
It’s almost instantly noticeable the inspirations the band has taken from people like Capsize and even Counterparts. It’s almost like a beautiful love child from the two groups, with the first track “Born a Burden,” you are greeted with both harmonic cleans that add background and melody to the more faster hardcore verses comparable to that of The Angst in My Veins by Capsize. There’s just something about those feedback based softer more ambient riffs and the depressing yet relatable lyrical content that brings the listener back in for more and it’s blatantly obvious that Home Seeker has already mastered the art of leaving the listener wanting more already with their debut record. Cemetery Mindset without a doubt starts on one of the highest points I’ve heard this year and provides all the way throughout, it just leaves you sad that there only are four tracks on the album. “I Only Have Myself to Blame” is perfect in that it provides perfect melody between the drums and the guitars while the vocalist adds his own take to the tune. Kicked off by an amazing passage into the track from “Born a Burden,” the track follows a newer more two step-y approach with some more hardcore elements found during the latter half of the song. “I Only Have Myself to Blame” ends with a crushing breakdown before being lead into the next track, which happens to be the single that you can find embedded above, “Scarecrow.” Being the first track on the second half of the EP, it actually feels out of place without listening to “I Only Have Myself…” before it, but it is also probably the most standout track from the EP, showcasing a perfect amount of range from both vocalists and all of the talent from the instrumental members. It’s insane the amount of energy these guys have in these songs, you can almost feel it throughout the record. There’s a softer spoken word passage at about the halfway point of the track that feels almost perfectly placed.
I can easily say that “Moving Forward” really does well with ending the album by leaving the audience eager for more. I can also really easily say that it feels stupid that the EP was only four tracks instead of five, I really think five would of sufficed for the first record a bit better. However, at least every single track of Cemetery Mindset blends well and works wonderfully. There really isn’t a single time you’ll feel bored with this EP, I promise.
Cemetery Mindset is a solid example of what melodic metalcore is now and should stay as, Home Seeker is wonderful. I hope this band really kicks off and we get more music sooner than later, as I’m not sure how long I can keep sticking the same four songs on repeat. Cemetery Mindset releases on Bandcamp on June 30th of 2017. If you live in NY are around local venue, The Loft, there will be a release show featuring the likes of other kickass locals such as Downswing and even Degrader from MA. Don’t sleep on Home Seeker because if you do, you’ll only have yourself to blame.
- Dakota G.
Listen to the album here.
Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, more well known as Lorde, is a vocalist born and raised in New Zealand that gathered an incredible amount of attention back in 2013 for her debut LP, Pure Heroine. With such hits as “Royals” and “Tennis Court,” she became a worldwide phenomenon in no time, and it’s not hard to see why. At such a young age, the girl has a serious set of pipes, and her music, especially for something that was constantly played on the radio, was pretty darn unique and tasteful. It’s been almost four years since Pure Heroine came out, though, and it seemed that Lorde had sort of disappeared. She provided a few updates in between, speaking about how different Melodrama was going to be from her debut, but other than that, there weren't really any details. Then in March, she announced the LP and dropped “Green Light” as a promotional single. In an interview with the New York Times in May, Lorde described this LP as an exploration of loneliness, which got me even more excited to listen.
I’ve always respected Lorde, especially knowing that she’s a few months younger than me and has an incredible voice, but I didn’t really love anything she put out until I heard “Green Light.” That song is something really special. Lorde certainly makes it clear that she is going for a much more artsy style. She released “Perfect Places” shortly afterwards, but I decided to wait to hear the entire LP before checking out the song, so now that it’s out, I have some more to say.
Lorde was not joking when she said she would be exploring the concept of loneliness. There are lyrics on tracks like “Sober” about suffocating under it, and how her hips are missing someone else’s hips. That’s one of many lyrics alluding to a breakup during the writing of this LP. This is even showcased on “Green Light” by lines like, “Thought you said that you would always be in love, but you're not in love, no more” and “Oh honey, I’ll come get my things, but I can’t let go.” Lyrics in this vein continue throughout the LP, such as on songs like “The Louvre” (with a title like that, it has to be in some way about her previous relationship), and “Liability,” but in the interview posted above, it is obvious that this isn’t what Lorde wants the LP to be known for. It’s less of a breakup LP, and more an LP about the comforts and discomforts of loneliness, with her breakup playing as a large inspiration. During the second part of “Sober” (full title “Sober (Melodrama),” making it the title track), we see how Lorde has sickened of fame in lines like “All the glamour, and the trauma, and the fucking melodrama” and on “Liability,” on top of all the breakup allusions, she talks about the fake people in her life with lines like “The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy 'til all of the tricks don't work anymore and then they are bored of me.” I’m not one for lyrics unless I really like them, but in this case, I fucking love them. We get a huge insight into what Lorde has been going through since Pure Heroine, showing us that even the girl who released one of the most popular songs of the decade so far has troubles with depression and loneliness. We see her trying to avoid her problems on “Supercut,” singing lyrics like “In my head, I do everything right.” With depression comes problematic behavior, and Lorde is not afraid to show that in her lyrics.
On top of that, Lorde continues to prove the brilliance of her voice. This is something I’ve been aware of since her debut, but it's the way she presents herself as a hopeless, melancholic woman that makes you want to sing along. I knew this was going to be the case after hearing the verses on “Green Light,” but I am really happy to say that it gets better. On “Hard Feelings/Loveless, ” when she begins singing about a “loveless generation” and spells out the word “loveless,” her delivery is so somber it seriously breaks my heart. The introductory lyrics on “Writer in the Dark” have the same effect on me as she apologizes for not being “good like you.” The backing vocals only add more to this depressing atmosphere, especially on “Sober II (Melodrama)” as they chant “We told you this is melodrama” in a high pitched, emotive register.
The instrumental aspect of this LP is varied. On tracks like “Green Light” and “Supercut,” it is obvious that, despite their very melancholic lyrics, they are made for the masses to enjoy, with a very sweet, catchy beat that goes along nicely with Lorde’s voice. The poppier songs have beats that pair up with the lyrics in a way that, while still vulnerable, are much more “covered” than the less commercial songs. In a sense, I guess you can say that Lorde seems to be singing about her issues to an inattentive audience on the poppier tracks, but on the more “serious” tracks, Lorde is expressing herself to an audience she knows will actually hear her out on her loneliness and depression, be it over a breakup or something else. Regardless, all the instrumentals on this LP are well-suited to their respective track’s lyrical content, cementing the introverted direction of the LP.
I wanted to write a separate paragraph devoted to the final track on this LP, the aforementioned second single “Perfect Places.” This song is such a fantastic way to end this LP because the song is so much more hopeless than I could have imagined. It has the poppier tone for radio appeal, and the lyrics are definitely more obscure, but they add up to a truly gut-wrenching conclusion. The song starts off with Lorde trying to break her life of depression and solitude, unable to stand her loneliness, but toward the end of the song, she starts accepting that this is how life is going to be and that those perfect places won't be found. So she begins a cycle if drugs, alcohol, and meaningless sex, singing lines like “Meet somebody, take 'em home, let's kiss and then take off our clothes, it's just another graceless night.” What really gets to me are the final lyrics of the song and the LP, where Lorde pretty much justifies the self-destructive behavior she got herself in by singing “What the fuck are perfect places anyway?” It's as if she’s completely given up on the idea of healing, so she comforts herself with the notion that a “perfect place” doesn’t actually exist. It is such a beautiful, tragic way to end Melodrama.
I would expect an album like this from an experienced performer like Bjork, but here we have a twenty year old woman from New Zealand who, on her second full length release, transformed from a respectable musician to an artist I adore. Even the songs that are meant to be enjoyed simply for their catchiness offer something so much more than meets the ear, and the album amounts to a beautiful overview of Lorde’s emotional ordeal. Melodrama is as harrowing as it is sublime, and I think the fact that it present an easy resolution just makes the entire experience that much more powerful. This is an LP that I think anyone can really love, whether they’re a casual fan or an experienced listener in search of more.