Review: Demise Management – The Collective Vol. 1

Demise Management, which as from the name you can tell deal in heavy heavy metal, have put out a new compilation showcasing some of their most up and coming bands. Here at TwoBeatsOff, we love finding something that’s a bit off the main road and I have to say, this compilation is a bit like veering off track, finding yourself near a haunted house and having no way out. Bear in mind that if you’re into metal, that’s a very good assessment. This is also available for free download, so if you like progressive metal, give it a look –

Each track is very different to its neighbour, really displaying the range of talent on show by Demise. First on offer is ‘Heroes’ by We Are The Illusion. It starts off strongly, with some good metalcore vocals and appears to be familiar, yet interesting. And that’s when it breaks into some truly haunting vaudeville-esque instrumental that completely knocks you back. A great mix of melody and aggression, reminiscent of newer Bring Me The Horizon which as I have come to realise, is never a bad thing.

Followed by ‘Attentive Continuum’ by Visions is a little less slickly produced but in no way less superior. Time signatures are going mental. Complete with some spooky strings appearing throughout, listening to ‘Attentive Continuum’ feels like you’re getting your stomach ripped out and being made to watch as a cat plays with it. It’s like a constant assault, but about three minutes in, the clean vocals and melodic breakdown assuage your fears, before dragging you straight back into hell. If only this was Halloween.

’10 Inches Of Sin’ by The Long Count is interesting. A dual vocal effect is maintained throughout, with some ridiculous high pitched black metal affair and some plenty deeper Cookie Monster growls. While part of me really wants to enjoy this song – I love all the individual components in it – they just don’t quite gel together. An Opeth-esque acoustic guitar is brought in midway and a swap to slightly cleaner vocals appears which is a lot better; it’s a lot more together and a lot more convincing. On the whole though, not my cup of tea.

Chronographs are a band that we’ve been following for a while (which you’ll find out about when I finally get my laptop working properly; I am plagued by technical difficulties wherever I go) and ‘Tides’ is one of the first songs from their new incarnation. From the second the vocals hit, I knew this was going to be good. Chronographs have mastered the fine line between melody and crushing, crushing guitar, and it is well complimented by Jon’s perfect balance between growl and scream. As the name suggests, the song is simultaneously crushing and soothing; pulling you along like waves in the ocean, dragging you up above the surface before throwing you back under. The sheer quality on offer is incredible and this could be the most technically proficient song so far, but that certainly does not make it cold and mechanical. Best song on the compilation? I think so.

Entrosolet’s offering, ‘You Are (Not) Alone’ is also excellent. It’s not quite as heavy as some of the other tracks available (although its subject matter may be) and is possibly the most melodic song on offer, but it isn’t immediately noticeable; there’s a thread of something softer, something beautiful running throughout which gets more prominent as the song goes on. About halfway through, it breaks into clean vocals and that’s when it really hits you. Great stuff.

InHollow bring us ‘Tales Of How We Bleed’. A thirty second intro is there before the song pretty much rapes your ears. It’s murky, it’s damning, it’s a bit like a swamp monster. Things get a bit solemn, then they get heavy again. While I initially thought the production hindered the song, it actually helps make it a bit more terrifying. It’s not bad.

‘Until Sundown’ by Kraken grabs you right from the start. This is some fine metalcore, complete with heavy breakdowns and everything. It doesn’t really toy with your expectations, except for the clean vocals at the beginning which are very misleading, but it does everything right and that’s all you can ask for.

Final song is ‘A Battlefield Between Us’ by Plagues. My belief is that an album should always start with a strong song and end on one, which it certainly does. ‘A Battlefield Between Us’ is definitely reminiscent of that early ’00s sound and again strikes that balance between melody and aggression very well. Imagine really early Funeral For A Friend crossed with Parkway Drive and you’re about there. It certainly ends the compilation on an oddly uplifting feel, despite the lyrics. The song itself ends on a stellar breakdown, which would make for perfect mosh material. Nice.

4 out of 5 high fives!

Review: AFI – Crash Love

I wouldn’t be lying by saying that this was my most anticipated release this year. I’ve been excited about a lot of records coming out in 2009, but well… none of those were AFI. Which is why I was completely furious when I didn’t receive my pre-ordered CD for at least five days after the release date. Truth be told, I should have gone out and bought it from Rapture, but I wanted that extra bonus disc. It’s not even like I was waiting for the limited edition with lithograph plates which can be bought by you lucky Americans, but still, it’s AFI. I’ve got to have as much as I can get. And I’ve got to be honest, I can’t get enough of Crash Love.

Firstly, I’ve got to give praise to the band themselves. AFI have never sounded this in sync, and it just goes to show that this is the definitive line up. Everything fits so well – Jade and Hunter reach a great balance with Davey’s dramatic-as-usual vocals, and Adam keeps it all going with some awesome beats. With this in mind, I stress that the live show will be pretty spectacular, and you should definitely go and see them if Crash Love piques your interest at all.

Unlike the last three AFI albums, Crash Love has no introduction as such, and while that ‘once upon a time’ feel is lost from this album, Torch Song is just as entrancing and hypnotising as any of those introductory tracks. It’s still telling a story, but it’s more like the opening of a Shakespearean tragedy – we’re in mid conversation and we’re getting straight into the action. Torch Song is most definitely one of the most striking tracks on the album and an excellent one to start with, with its melancholic gang vocals in the chorus, crashing melodies and a typical return to Davey’s metaphorical wonderland. Nice start. There’s the ending though, in It Was Mine, slightly reminiscent of last album’s Endlessly, She Said, due to the epic chorus. Unlike Endlessly, it’s not a heart-wrenching epic all the way through, but the angelic choir in the climax of the song sounds wonderful, fitting Davey’s lyrics just perfectly.

And like the last two AFI albums, virtually every song on Crash Love sounds different. It’s a bit more streamlined than Decemberunderground, but there’s still a lot of variation. A couple of cues are taken from Jade and Davey’s side project Blaqk Audio, and you can hear that most clearly in Beautiful Thieves, with that awesome delayed guitar. My favourite song on the album is End Transmission, a deliciously 80s feeling track about a surreal road trip. I can’t wait to see the theories on the AFI boards about this stuff, really, even if the lyrics can really be determined to be about a particularly messy relationship. Too Shy To Scream struts along with a ballsy drum beat and a self assured cockiness that yes, AFI are just as good as they’ve always been. First single Medicate is catchy as hell, getting me singing along from the second listen and really shows off Jade’s skills with one hell of a solo at the end. AFI have always had a knack for the grandiose, and this is clearly seen on Darling, I Want To Destroy You, a song that could be as easily placed on Sing The Sorrow due to its rising vocals and dark, crushing guitar. The bonus disc is also really interesting, highlighting a few b-sides from Crash Love, Sing The Sorrow and Decemberunderground. It also shows a different side to AFI. For example, Fainting Spells starts as an acoustic ballad, until they totally tear it up with a rocking chorus and some of those frenzied hardcore screams from way back when. However, although some great songs are on this disc, it’s probably not going to intrigue casual AFI fans.

Where variation is a good thing, it’s also this album’s biggest downfall. It still doesn’t feel like a complete record. At least Decemberunderground had a clear beginning and end, whereas Crash Love burns out towards the finish. That’s not to say that the rest of the album isn’t fantastic. In fact, there isn’t a bad song on the album, but they just don’t sound connected. The only real defining factor to bring all the songs together is that this is a rock album. It’s not punk, it’s not horrorpunk, it’s not goth. It’s all of those, swirled together with 80s pop – influences from The Cure and Joy Division are rife throughout, as they have been for the latter part of AFI’s career – and the band have finally started to figured out how to make it work. It’s true, they can’t go back to being the happy-go-lucky punk band they once were, and they don’t need to, because Crash Love is truly great.

4 and a half high fives!

Monodon Monoceros

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Iquanodon Anglicus

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Crossota Millsae

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