Review: Murderofcrows – Gibbets

Murderofcrows are a new punkish hardcore four-piece from Gothenburg, here to share with you their feelings of dread, sorrow and alienation in the form of new EP Gibbets. Daniel Liljedahl wrenches the vocals out of the dry depths of his gut, joined by the punk drum beats of Johannes Koren and the strings of both guitarist Anton Hedlund and bassist Jimmy Olausson.

The EP is carved into 4 tracks, the first three flowing as you might expect for a band I’ve described as punkish hardcore – all songs less than 2mins, fast drums, throaty screams – with the final and title track offering a little something extra as well.

First track ‘Crooked Words’ is straight-up what I expected: a fast, hard-edged track, with stripped-down instrumentation but overflowing with anger and negativity. Next up ‘Ol’ Geogie’ lets the guitar and bass take some of the limelight, slowing the tempo and allowing a bit of rhythm to take over, but it isn’t long before Daniel charges back to the fore “LIVE, LIE, LIVE, DIE”. Even though ‘Set Myself Alight’ has a little guitar and drum feature at the beginning, it quickly runs into the fast-paced punk set up, with Daniels coarse cries once again a feature “SET MYSELF ALIGHT!”.

The closing track ‘Gibbets’ doesn’t just bring the title of the EP with it, it brings a bloody great surprise with it too. As a final track it really stands on its own as slower and more purposeful than the others. It showcases better crafter changes of pace, really delivering the coarsely screamed cries with a spine-chilling edge: “You look away, I look away, we all look away”…

As it kicks back into life, what is evident is that the messages conveyed in the lyrical content are far more than the angst and rebellion of some punk, it’s full on depression and despair, engulfed in hopelessness and collapsing into nothingness. I’m not sure even that sums it up accurately, but in essence, this shit is pretty fucking dark: “This life is just a fucking nightmare and we all end up alone”.

If you could put music by a colour chart, for these guys we’d need to find something darker than black.

At 11mins long I thought we were in store for an metal-esque epic, but the teases bring something much creepier to the table. The main body of the song is just over three minutes in all of its dark decent into madness; then all goes quiet. Okay, so Murderofcrows aren’t the only band to have a quiet 6-7mins at the end of an EP before a quick burst of life – but I can’t remember it ever being done this eerily.

With about a minute left on the clock, a slight sound of distortion creeps in. Distortion and white noise… or is that distorted screams? I could be hearing things here, but whatever you hear it as, it brings back memories of the horror films you shouldn’t have been watching (but definitely did) when you were young. Finally, the creepy-ass noise gives way to a brief sort of exitlude of punkish drums and Daniel’s screams.

If you like punk, if you like hardcore, if you like anything dark, listen to this.

4 out of 5 high fives!

Metal and religion: sworn enemies or friends with benefits?

Is enjoying heavy metal at odds with being religious, or are they just misunderstood friends? Well, plenty of people seem to think the former must be true: “How can you listen to music like that, didn’t you say you were a Christian?!”

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had that reaction from friends, mostly followed by them either taking the piss out of me for my love of metal or my being vaguely religious, and recently it has got me wondering – what is the place of religion in metal? It’s no surprise that a lot of metal is pretty anti-religious, seeing as metal is more largely anti-conformist, and it’s not difficult to find anti-religious sentiments spread throughout the genre, from the more subtle references to the openly satanic ‘Antichrist Superstar’ by Marilyn Manson or ‘Shepherd of Fire’ from Avenged Sevenfold.

Is it okay for metal to rubbish religion? I’m all game for freedom of speech, but something does seem wrong about demeaning people just because of their religion. I love metal’s ‘fuck you and fuck what you think’ attitude, even when it’s aimed directly at religion, but only when it’s used in a positive way. “Fuck what you think, this is how we are and we like it” – this is the sort of message that unites fans and makes people feel accepted. I shudder to say it, but it’s the sort of message that has been so successful for Black Veil Brides. When it’s just discriminatory the message only succeeds in being insanely hypocritical – “fuck religion for being intolerant and aggressive”. If you’re going to be totally intolerant of intolerance and aggressive towards aggression, then you’re headed for chaos. Have people learned nothing from Martin Luther King?!

Turn it around though, and you can argue that it’s equally unfair for religion to rubbish metal – it’s the same hypocritical stereotyping and alienation. I vaguely remember the previous pope coming out and saying that all heavy metal and the like was sinful – a pretty stupid and unfair thing to say. Especially since, to tip the scale back, there are quite a few well supported and (relatively) successful Christian metal bands out there: The Devil Wears Prada, Underoath and August Burns Red to name a few. There’s no reason that metal and religion need to be at odds with each other.

Religion isn’t and shouldn’t be untouchable and music is a good avenue to criticise and support it, without having to be extreme and hate-mongering either way. A good current example of this is Architects’ ‘Broken Cross’ – which guitarist Tom came out to defend after it was roundly criticised by certain people of a religious persuasion: “To say ‘Religion is rubbish’ or ‘God is bad’ would be rather reductive, wouldn’t it? Let’s face it, religion is an unimaginably multifaceted beast, there’s plenty of good guys and bad guys”. I couldn’t have put it better myself!

I’m going to go ahead and repeat a little more of what Tom said, because he really hits the point I’m trying to make: “For millions (probably billions) I’ve no doubt that religion serves as a peaceful influence in their lives and that’s fantastic! But the moment others are outcast for their race, gender, sexuality and yes, even religion – well that just gets my goat. And I have no apologies for being upset about that.” The same goes for metal. There shouldn’t be any place in this world for marginalising and discriminating against people just because of who they are and the life they live.

So what am I saying? Simply, don’t be a dick and just be happy with your fellow earth dwellers. That’s not said as a Christian, or as a metal-er, just as common-fucking-sense. Another great example of this message, delivered by a band who I’m much happier to talk about than Black Veil Brides, is from Bury Tomorrow. When I happily moshed around at one of their gigs in Liverpool, screamer Dani Winter-Bates took the time between songs to tell everyone to just be happy and appreciative: “You can tell me you love Bieber and I’ll still shake your hand”. I think we can all agree, that’s pretty bloody tolerant.

Like any art, metal is there as freedom of expression – it can criticise religion and I can still enjoy it, just as I can enjoy ‘Mutter’ by Rammstein, even though I get on pretty well with my own mother. Stereotyping and aiming to be offensive to any group is out of order though – we can make quality music without needing to be dicks to each other.

Depths – We Love, We Lose, We Break

What a treat we have for you my lovelies, a passionately sculpted new single by Belgian post-hardcore outfit Depths. So let’s jump right in, shall we? Title track ‘We Love, We Lose, We Break’ unleashes an unholy amount of raw, pent-up emotion, summed up in lead singer Olivier’s growl of “we lose what we love and we hate what we gain, just a vicious circle pulling us in.” The track is held together with control, a melancholic battle between heart wrenching sorrow and blood boiling fury, with pounding climaxes subsiding to gentler moments of reflection.

Second track ‘Alone and Forsaken’ follows suit, never loud for the sake of it, only to convey equal measures of anguish and anger. The intro begins slowly, coaxing in the listener before delivering on its promise of rhythmic melodies and accompanying drums – all coming together to serve up a great sequel to the title track. What can we say about Depths judging by their recent release? Regrettably not too much given that it’s only 2 tracks, but what we hear is promising!

I’ve said it before, and honestly, I’ll keep saying it, but I think bands like Depths could benefit from a little more variation with the vocals. The growls are good by all accounts, I’m not taking anything away from them. Olivier unleashes a fiery emotive and angst filled vocal performance, but sometimes it is easier to appreciate the strength of this kind of vocal performance against a softer backdrop. I’m not expecting moments where the vocals reach the levels of a soft and soothing ballad, but not only would some softer vocals boost the intense presence of the harsher vocals, it would also show a greater variation of talent (which is no bad thing).

Besides any artistic preferences about Olivier’s vocal delivery, there isn’t much negativity to bring against the release. A single is seldom indicative of everything a band has to offer, so we can hope for more variation and invention from an EP or album. When that next release comes, we’ll be listening out for it with our keen little ears on – and so should you!

3.5 out of 5 high fives!

Review: Atlases – Upbringing [EP]

“Holy smokes Batman, we sure have some killer metalcore here!” That was the first thought that entered my head upon listening to Upbringing, the debut EP from Atlases. The Berkshire hardcore quintet are releasing their debut on January 20th and it is sure to break the hold any winter blues have on you and wipe away those cobwebs. Their music is loud with heavy and straight forward yet incredibly effective riffs. The aggressive vocal performance also packs a hell of an attitude! Every track on the EP shares in a common goal: to make your headbang!

Atlases’ claim to live and play like Parkway Drive gives them a hell of a lot to prove and while we can’t honestly say that they come close to matching Parkway with Winston’s growls, who does? It is obvious that they derive a lot of their inspiration from the likes of Parkway and BMTH, but in the form of a debut EP, it would be totally out of order to expect them to match their idols with a near perfect release.

So it’s not perfect, big surprise, but what have Atlases got? Their music is perfect for merciless headbanging and heavy boozing. ‘Betrayer’ opens the EP with a fast-heavy riffing, pounding kick-drumming and angry screamed vocals from Jack Parsons. The release carries on this theme from beginning to end, an unstoppable barrage of metalcore, but perhaps a touch lacking in artistic variation. Personally I’d like a bit more rhythmic variation in the growls as they’re spat from the vocal chords of Parsons – I’m not asking for clean singing, but more growled singing. You know what I mean; if you don’t, just think of Architects, or BMTH’s second album. A few melodic hooks could really drag a wider audience in and swell the fanbase. Having said that, I admit I do like my metalcore with a pinch of sugar, so I won’t hold that against Atlases.

A nice touch to refresh the music in your ears is the British twang that Parsons holds onto in his screams and growls. It isn’t as strong and noticeable as the thick Yorkshire accent that billows out of Oli Sykes, but the British inflection adds something that is different. As they progress as a band and get a few more releases under their belts, more variation (and hopefully melodies) will come out, but for now at least the vocals set them aside from the generic North-American screams that are pedalled out on the other side of the pond.

What conclusions can we make about Atlases from Upbringing? Well, if the title and music is reflective of the band members own upbringings, them they must have been pretty brutal! The riffs are heavy, the drums pound and the screams are as throaty as you’d like. It’s a good debut and it holds a lot of promise for the future. If these boys use it as the stepping stone it could be, there will be nothing stopping them from jumping up to bigger circuits and supporting those bands that have influenced them so greatly. Whether or not they take that step remains to be seen.

4 out of 5 high fives!

Review: Crowdburn – Ignition

What first impressions can we get from Ignition, the new album from Swedish 5-piece Crowdburn? A generic album and band name, with massively over-saturated album artwork, it doesn’t bode well. In the music reviewing business, especially when you’re concentrating on the alternative spectrum, you can come across a band that is so difficult to define because they don’t sound like anything that you have ever heard before. Spoiler Alert: This isn’t one of those times. Granted, I did struggle to put my finger on a single niche that I could comfortably put Crowdburn into in my mind, but that isn’t because of their originality. What is obvious when you first listen to Crowdburn’s Ignition is that it draws its inspiration and sound from many bands already going strong. Whether it brings back memories of the melodies of Soilwork, the grooves of Pantera, or even the heavier melodic hardcore moments of Rise Against, you can hardly listen to a single song without a little déjà vu.

I bet I sound pretty negative so far don’t I? Well, I shouldn’t. Originality is refreshing, but it’s not everything. What Crowdburn deliver in the form of Ignition isn’t new, but it’s still exciting. A hybrid of thrash and melody, it probably finds its way into groove-metal more than any other meaningless pigeonhole that springs to mind. Aggressive melodies are still something to get excited about. I can envisage fans of the more commercial music complaining about the all-out ferocity of tracks like the thunderous “Alligator”, while metal-heads whine about the more commercial and radio friendly “Spider’s Nest”. Give it a break. It’s okay to pick and choose the songs you listen to and this album can cater to more than one fan grouping. Instead of bitching about the parts you don’t like, why not enjoy the tracks you do?

Harsh vocals are contrasted with clean ones; explosive riffs are slammed against doses of crushing groove; melodic choruses lift off from heavier verses (I’m thinking of “Pictures” in particular). For those of you who like to bang out melodic metal music, “Burning Crowd” will please you no end. If you’re ears are better tuned to thrashing headbanging, just put “Alligator” on repeat and slam your head back and forth until you do lasting damage to your neck. Sure, Crowdburn have a formula in their mind and some sounds they want to replicate, but I say if they do it well, who the hell cares?!

The only tack on the album I’ll refrain from praising some aspect of is “Solid Habour In A Lonely Sea”. As a closer, it couldn’t sound more out of place. I was gearing up for the solid habour to be a progressive drum beat, get thrashed by a sea of growls, riffs and anything else Crowburn had left to assault my ears with. What I actually got left me more than a little surprised and very disappointed. Sounding like a country inspired 80s/90s metal ballad, some other reviews have defended it on the basis that it is a ‘guilty pleasure’ to sing along to. As far as I’m concerned there is no pleasure in it. Fair play to them for mixing it up, but when you’re following a formula, it is best to follow it to the letter.

3.5 out of 5 high fives!