Wednesday 27 November 2019

Candy - Super-Stare

Labels: Relapse Records
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 23 Sep 2019


1. Super-Stare
2. Win Free Love

I've seen US hardcore band Candy making waves recently, no doubt helped by joining forces with Relapse Records over recent months. I'm a big fan of what Relapse does and the signing of Candy adds extra variation to an already damn solid roster. Candy released their first demo songs in 2017 and followed them with their debut EP "Candy Says" in November of the same year. More demos and their first full-length "Good To Feel" followed a year later, along with tours and shows with the likes of Harms Way, Fucked Up, Quicksand and Nothing (to name a few) proved that they were destined to reach wider audiences. Their latest two-song EP "Super-Stare" was released via Relapse in September as a precursor to their up-coming second full-length. Here, they bring hardcore and metal even closer together, if that were possible.

I’ve listened to this EP a couple of times in recent weeks and even though it only consists of two songs, it’s super addictive. Kicking off with Super-Stare, Candy provides stomping riffs alongside a slightly psychedelic influences, before pounding drums and harsh vox take over, nestling for room with bass-heavy tones. It’s extremely noisy and that noise grows to almost industrial-like levels before there’s an unexpected break-up featuring guitar work that could’ve come straight off Metallica’s “Black Album’. Those memorable riffs close out the song in the same way that they introduced it.

Second song Win Free Love is urgent and definitely more of a hardcore bruiser, but it still contains the band’s industrial influence (if I'm hearing it right). It’s grinding and chaotic, with no let-up in tempo, but like the title-track it’s catchy. Catchiness is certainly something that you can take away from this EP. Candy’s next full-length is going to be well worth waiting for. This is a good starting point though if you’re new to them.

You can stream and purchase "Super-Stare" on vinyl and digitally via Candy's bandcamp page below:-

Sunday 24 November 2019

Mental Health In Music: A Musician's Perspective #5 - Ashley Merritt (Local punk/emo musician)

Here's the latest in the Mental Health In Music series. By now, if you've been reading the previous interviews you'll know what it's all about but for those of you who're venturing into it for the first time; the series features interviews with musicians mainly from DIY/Underground heavy and punk bands, giving them an opportunity to talk about mental health from their perspectives and offering advice to those of you might be struggling. This interview was answered a friend of mine, who's also a musician from my local town.

1. The idea of this feature is to talk about the problems that musicians face, especially those in DIY or up-and-coming bands. Would you mind talking about your own experiences with mental health? 

A. My main struggles in mental health revolve around obsession and anxiety. I was diagnosed with clinical OCD in my early twenties and have been dealing with that ever since. I think it would be fair to say that I’ve always been a very obsessional and emotionally intense person but relationship trauma through my adolescence had the effect of magnifying those negative compulsive ways of dealing with hardship and conflict to the degree where it was really beginning to affect my emotional wellbeing and happiness. Since my OCD diagnosis I have been through some incredibly difficult times but through a great deal of failure and determination as well as three courses of therapy I have managed to find a way to come to greater peace with myself and my mind. My mental health struggles have taught me so much about myself that it would be hard to see my experiences as one-dimensionally sad. 


2. Being in a band can be an outlet for people to express their feelings and to help them get over certain things in life but do you feel that it can also have a negative effect? If so, what do think these effects can be and are these linked to writing, recording, touring etc?

It would certainly be fair to say that I use songwriting as an outlet for dealing with my mental health and where this is mostly positive there are certainly drawbacks. It can be incredibly hard to contextualise lyrics about darker more internal topics to your nearest and dearest, songwriting needs to come from a place of overwhelming honesty, honesty which can hurt or worry those around you. I have also found that It can be very easy to fall into the trap of becoming over immersed in your mental illness when writing about it constantly. Part of my recovery process was putting my OCD into the fabric of my personality instead of having it be my everything, it’s hard to keep your mental health in perspective when you immerse yourself in it to explore it. 


3. How do you deal with things now? Have you got any advice for those who are struggling themselves, musician or otherwise? 

I would count myself as in recovery, I have some hard periods but nothing like I did a few years ago. I feel like once you’ve finally started to challenge your brain and see its negative patterns as just odd ticks of how your mind works, it becomes very hard to un-learn that and as such, no matter how hard it can get, hopefully you have the tools to deal with it. If I have any advice it would be to never, ever be afraid to seek out help, never feel bad about talking to your closest friends, relatives, partners, they all want to help you and see you happy! You really never need to suffer alone. 


4. What more do you think can be done in the underground scene or even the wider music scene to support people who may be struggling? 
Mental health awareness gigs and benefits are a wonderful thing and could always happen more. I think we should aim to perhaps even put on full festivals where the branding, message and bands put on are all there in solidarity with mental health, I like that idea because frankly, everybody struggles and I would like to think that full festival bills of artists admitting that they struggle and that it’s OK to struggle would help remove the stigma around mental health. I think a lot of people would come out of the woodwork to support that, that the public at large would never imagine. 

I just want to say thanks to Ashley for taking the time to answer my questions. Also, apologies for the lack of photos in this post. I'm not being lazy but I didn't was to use non-music/performance photos.

Thursday 21 November 2019

Earthbound - Desolate EP

Labels: Self-Released
Formats: Digital
Release Date: 11 Oct 2019


1. Of Suffering
2. Solitude
3. Worlds Apart
4. Remnants

I've been looking forward to doing this all day. The day job is hard, especially mentally, so it's nice to be able to let go. Earthbound only recently came onto my radar and "Desolate" is the Southern  England quintet's second EP in two years. They're more experienced than you might think for a band with just two EPs to their name, having played at Bloodstock Festival last year, as well as supporting Doyle (of Misfits fame) that same too. Live shows are a big part of any band's life and Earthbound have certainly done their fair share so far. 

Proper riffs and a full-on metal attack is what you get from Earthbound. They have influences that cover the likes of Soilwork and Trivium and actually they’re not too far off when you hear opener Of Suffering. The melodic choruses are great and it all manages to sound British, as opposed to overly American. Earthbound weaves really heartfelt and beautiful tones into Solitude, especially thanks to the orchestral elements and clean singing, It will be a departure from their opener for some but that’s okay. They do inject it with some heaviness during the latter half but it fits the overall song really well and doesn’t take away from what they’re trying to convey. 

Their use of other musical elements within these songs adds an extra edge to the EP and Worlds Apart sees them going in a direction that’s akin to the likes of Amon Amarth and Dark Tranquillity, albeit subtly. There’s a Norse tone to the music and the melody once again adds to that. The twin-guitars are so lush on here, it’s hard not to be moved by them. EP closer Remnants rages with full-throttle death and thrash. Old school in a good way and something that’s been missing from the UK underground metal scene for a while I think. This one and Worlds Apart are lengthier tracks and the momentum they create is exactly what is needed on a short EP like this.

Earthbound are brilliant. They’re more deeply rooted in heavy metal as opposed to hardcore or progressive metal, so their sound is simpler and more direct. They perform really strongly on “Desolate”, so much so that a full-length album can’t be far off for them. They certainly sound assured enough to make the next step and you better be there when they do. 

You could stream "Desolate" via Spotify though correct if I'm wrong, but the band will get more money if you purchase a digital copy from their Bandcamp page, which you can do below:-

Sunday 17 November 2019

The World Without Us - Incarnate EP

Labels: Self-Released
Formats: CD/Digital
Release Date: 25 Oct 2019


1. Listen In Obsidian
2. Man-Sized Hail
3. Things To Tell The Press
4. I Am The Mist

As I wearily looked through my e-mails earlier this morning, I wondered if I was even going to be able to focus long enough to write a review and then I saw the cover art for "Incarnate"by The World Without Us and they opened widely. The colours and the design immediately caught my attention. This is the debut EP from the US quintet (based in West Chester, Pennsylvania), who play modern progressive metal. 

The opening bars of this EP are certainly dramatic. Listen To Obsidian starts with melodic guitar and singing, with percussion that slowly builds with the song. At the mid-point the full-band comes to life but instead of an all-out attack on the senses, The World Without Us hold back slightly longer. Their true heaviness comes out towards the end. After the mid-paced opener, Man-Sized Hail gets the blood pumping with it’s Southern rock n roll swagger and stop/start approach. From their it descends into proper technical death metal territory. Musically impressive, The World Without Us keep you guessing.

They get more upbeat still on Things To Tell The Press, which incorporates hardcore into the mix. The technical metal isn’t far away though and the extensive soloing reminds you that they’re musicians first and foremost. That might seem like a bit of an obvious thing to say, but in modern music you’ve either got musicians or entertainers (musicians can entertain, but entertainers aren’t necessarily good musicians). EP closer I Am The Mist is straight-up heavy from the get go. It’s a proper metal song with soaring clean vocals and harsh growls. The music that sits behind is drowned out slightly but that’s a small thing and not worth worrying about.

The World Without Us are very talented and this is a great debut. It’ll be good to keep an eye on their progression (sorry!). Settling on a sound takes time but they’ve hit the ground running and will grow and grow for sure.

You can stream "Incarnate" and buy it digitally below:-

Friday 15 November 2019

The Heartland - The Stars Outnumber The Dead (Repress)

Labels: Creep Records/Wax Vessel
Formats: CD/Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 29 May 07/21 June 2019


1. The Goddess Did Not Produce A Shadow
2. The Blue Period
3. I'm Not Wearing A Belt To NY
4. Ms. Elanious
5. You And Me, Were Monsters
6. Tackle The Monster
7. $150 Worth Of Tarantulas
8. It's Your Haunted Chair...You Drag It
9. If We Take This Any Slower, We'll Have To Speed Up To Stop
10. The Coliseum

I write this knowing that I've still got to begin writing my full-length feature on the resurgence of Myspace Grind etc. In between writing my review of Wax Vessel's first repress, "The Dead Sleep Like Us For A Reason" by Destroyer Destroyer and this, I've received both LPs in the post and I couldn't be happier. The Heartland repress that I ordered came on clear vinyl with a red centreburst and black splatter, foil stamped (I got number 47). It also came on a red/black swirl as well. Limited to 200 copies, with 15 test presses and 4 special band-only copies. It all started in 2006 for The Heartland with "Two American Kids Growing Up" before "The Stars Outnumber The Dead"  in 2007 and they followed it with "Frontier" in 2009. That's all I know, so if there was any other music, please let me know.

This is exactly what the doctor ordered! Intense and technical grind/metal with all kinds of everything going on. The Goddess Did Not Produce A Shadow kicks things off in fast and loose styles with crazy riffs, ever-changing percussion and a hazy mix of low and high-pitched vocal growls. Things don’t get any more sensible on The Blue Period, which has a disturbing hint of deathcore to it, before The Heartland’s experimentation puts pay to that. 

There’s a subtle simplicity to I’m Not Wearing A Belt To NY given the madness of the opening duo, but what it’s lack in full-throttle heaviness it makes up for in creativity and clever song-writing. Heck, there’s even an indie-like passage with clean singing and danceable melody. The Heartland certainly wasn’t a one-trick pony, that’s for sure. The off-kilter jazz-like riffs are back on Ms. Elanious, which includes some of the best musical phrasing I’ve heard since I realised Myspace grind was a thing. I like traditional grind but this has something more (feel free to call me a heathen if you want to!). 

If you think that grind is all about thirty-second songs as well, you’d be wrong as The Heartland demonstrates. You And Me, Were Monsters breaches the five-minute mark (like Ms. Elanious before it) and it starts with melodic guitar that Fleetwood Mac would be proud of. It’s instrumental and it splits up the album well, even if people may be yearning for the momentum to carry on. Tackle The Monster gives a huge dose of Southern flair, as if they’d got into bed with Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster or something. They don’t go redneck on you though and still manage to create a song that’s both emotive and fun. 

$150 Worth Of Tarantulas isn’t quite as terrifying as it’s name would suggest, though it is pretty insane for all the right reasons. I had never heard of The Heartland before this repress, but I love discovering obscure bands whether they’re old or new, so this is right up my alley. Hopefully you’ll agree too. For some reason It’s Your Haunted Chair…You Drag It reminds me of my office. Don’t know why, but it might be due to the unpredictability of the song. It’s only short but it’s more than enough.

If that previous number was short, then If We Take This Any Slower, We’ll Have To Speed Up To Stop goes by in the blink of an eye (almost). Album closer The Coliseum starts with the laid-back approach you’d expect. You get another instrumental that’s moody and emotive, just as You And Me, Were Monsters was. It rounds out a record that’s a really varied listen, certainly more-so than I was expecting. It’s awesome that people and labels want to unearth bands like The Heartland. Bringing them to the attention of people who might’ve never of heard them is a great thing, for both the band and the music as a whole. 

You can stream "The Stars Outnumber The Dead" and purchase a super cheap digital download from Pattern Recognition Records (which helped to distribute this repress) below:-

The LP versions are completely sold out.

Sunday 10 November 2019

Harrowed - Chaotic Nonentity

Labels: Feast Of Tentacles/SuperFi Records
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 18 Oct 2019


1. Stark Terrors
2. Postmodern Prison
3. One Hundred Years
4. Disconnexion
5. Inauthenticide
6. Derelict
7. Living Unknown
8. Interlude I
9. Coward
10. Interlude II
11. Disused Limbs
12. Chaotic Nonentity

The burden weighs heavy. Not that listening to the new release from Harrowed is a burden, It's just been a long week. This is the first new music to come from the Kent heavy hardcore band since their 2013 debut full-length "Into Inferno" and it couldn't be more apt for the current social climate. It was release last month by two of the UK's longest running DIY labels, Feast Of Tentacles and SuperFi Records.

I’m hungover. A weekend of excess after another long week has left me feeling a little peaky today. Not sure if this will help or hinder my recovery but I’m willing to take the chance. Harrowed have always been super heavy and on album opener Stark Terrors, they throw all sorts into the mix, from blackened riffs, sludge-like refrains and straight-up dirty hardcore. Great start so far. There’s an assured feel to this record. The riffs that kick off Postmodern Prison are downtempo and negative before the band lurches into a grinding and noisy sub two-minute blast.

One Hundred Years follows quickly after and it’s thrashing backbone is joined by a lovely solo and clever time-changes, alongside those scathing vocals that seem to pierce your very being. I’m struggling with words and typing today, so apologies if this review reads weird at times. Harrowed delivers one of their longest songs in Disconnexion and it’s one where the percussion really shines. The drumming is authoritative, as it is throughout the album, but alongside the stripped back structure, it comes to the fore. It carries their sludge influence too, which adds to that feeling of dread and claustrophobia that the record presents.

When listening to Inauthenticide, it’s easy to understand why it took Harrowed six years to follow “Into Inferno”. There’s a swagger to the music, but not in a cocky sense and the instrumentation seems to be on another level. The songs are short but seem long and contain a lot of music, if you get what I mean. The quiet build-up to Derelict is a misnomer because no sooner have you sunk into it’s warming tones, that it jumps into life again with dissonant misery. At this point and despite the genre influences I’ve already mentioned above, I think this could well be the evolution of what was metalcore, before that particular sub-genre went south. It’s about time good metalcore (like Shai Hulud and Blood Has Been Shed etc, made a comeback). 

The misery mentioned earlier continues during Living Unknown, which drags you into the second half of “Chaotic Nonentity”.  At this point Harrowed decides to throw in an interlude, but calling Interlude I such a thing is a bit unfair. It’s an extremely solid instrumental hardcore song and it’s the perfect bookend for Coward, which comes and goes in a whirlwind of grinding ferocity and thick breakdowns. Interlude II is haunting with it’s spoken-word sample and uneasy instrumentation. The blackened screams on penultimate song Disused Limbs are disconcerting but this is Harrowed back at their heavy best and as the title-track concludes “Chaotic Nonentity” with up-tempo chaos and pummelling drumming, it’s like they’ve rolled everything from the album into one song. 

This record is concise, really well-written and performed. It’s gritty but also enjoyable. Listen to it in it’s entirety and you’ll be hooked, as it’s not one that you should dip in and out of. 2019 is still giving birth to awesome records.

You can stream "Chaotic Nonentity" and purchase it digitally below:-

You can buy LP copies from the labels below:-

Sunday 3 November 2019

Foxmoulder/Coma Regalia - Split 5"

Labels: Boslevan Records/Middle-Man Records/Zegema Beach Records
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 22 Mar 2014 (roughly)


1. Foxmoulder - Pine
2. Coma Regalia - Suffering/Anger/Peace

I'm trying to keep the content coming, so here's another dive into the discography of awesomness that Zegema Beach Records has either released or helped to release. This split 5" goes all the way back to 2014 and features Foxmoulder and Coma Regalia, two bands that don't really need an introduction. This was Foxmoulder's penultimate release, while for Coma Regalia it's one in a long line of vinyl releases of varying sizes. It was released with the help of Boslevan Records, Middle-Man Records and Zegema Beach Records, and was limited to 500 copies altogether with 50 featuring fluorescent ink on the covers and 450 with normal ink. I've said the R word way too many times in this paragraph.

This split is small in size but musically it’s more than big enough. Foxmoulder’s Pine is a fine slab of screamo in their usual vein, with melodic riffs, furious drums and vocals that feed off the emotion in the song. It’s over all to quickly but the melodies will stay with you. Foxmoulder’s sound is quite expansive and even on this format, it shows.

Coma Regalia manages to fit three songs into the same running-time. Suffering begins without any such intro and is filled with angry hardcore and emo-violence, but with a big cinematic side as well. After a brief rest, Anger comes and goes within seconds and leads to the aptly titled Peace, which is an instrumental outro that brings just that.

Good things come in small packages and it’s true here. Sometimes, it’s difficult for such releases to leave an impact but both Foxmoulder and Coma Regalia do just that. It may be over five years since it’s release, but unbelievably there are still copies available, which I’ll link to below. If you’re a fan of hardcore, screamo, emo or anything then a copy up.

You can stream and purchase the split digitally and physically from Middle-Man Records below:-

You can also still get copies from Zegema Beach Records below:-

Friday 1 November 2019

Black Fucking Cancer/Gloam - Boundless Arcane Invokations

Labels: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
Formats: Vinyl Digital
Release Date: 13 Sep 2019


1. Black Fucking Cancer - Boundless Arcane Invokation
2. Gloam - Boundless Arcane Invokation

I have no will to be sociable this evening, mainly due to the dank gloomy night outside and the constant, spontaneous fireworks that are being set off (I'm one of those people who thinks that they should only be used on Bonfire night and New Year's Eve). Instead, I'm delving into this collaborative US black metal split featuring Californian bands Black Fucking Cancer and Gloam. Both offer forth contributions of the same name, both are near or passed the twenty-minute mark and both were recorded in the same studio following the same concept. It was released in September via Sentient Ruin Laboratories on black vinyl (limited to 200 copies) and also digitally.

Straight away, Black Fucking Cancer’s Boundless Arcane Invokation sounds disturbing and chaotic. The instrumentation is shrouded in feedback and noise during the initial build-up, while the vocals are held within the mix, sounding like they’re trying to escape. Of course, that’s only the intro and when the commotion dissipates, you’re greeted with a much clearer form of black metal. What you also get is music that encompasses the best elements of the genre, with an upbeat tempo and swathes of technicality alongside the ever-changing growls and shrieks. The further you get into BFC’s contribution, the more musical and impressive it becomes. Sumptuous solos and constantly changing movements are delivered with ease. Their’s is a blueprint born of black metal that’s more sinister and evil, like those from Scandinavia and Europe in general.

Following on from the engrossing sound of BFC, Gloam’s immediacy is obvious. Their own interpretation of Boundless Arcane Invokation is filled with metallic barbarity and black-thrash undertones. When they strip things back slightly, there’s a mesmerising quality to their music. It’s also technical as well, with off-kilter tempos and progression in the right places. As mentioned earlier on in this paragraph, the metallic guitar work really compliments the song and indeed Gloam's overall sound. There’a certainly a sense that Gloam is coming from the same angle to that of the more orthodox US black metal bands, as opposed to the likes of Wolves In The Throne Room etc, but that’s not unappealing and again, alongside BFC, they provide you with plenty to enjoy. It’s great and rounds out a split that offers up something outside of the norm.

Both Black Fucking Cancer and Gloam are fantastic here. Their kinship is obvious and the music they’ve crafted only makes the bond grow stronger. Black metal may be anti-humanistic and solitary at times but it’s also positive and mind altering. Both bands invoke emotions from both ends of that spectrum and that just goes to show how talented they are.

Stream and purchase "Boundless Arcane Invokations" digitally and on vinyl below:-

Sentient Ruin Laboratories -