Robyn Likes Music – Sweden’s So Hot Right Now

This is a new column I’m working on because I’m getting bored of doing nothing but reviews, but I still want to recommend loads of new music! If you’ve got any bands to recommend to us, or know of any shows we should be at, drop an email to Robyn via and you could get featured!

I’ll be honest, I’ve not really checked out a hell of a lot of new music recently. A lot of my in-car listening has darted back and forth between things I listened to a lot in my teen years and angry, shouty hardcore. One album that has continued to impress me over the past couple of months is the new record from Refused. Freedom is not The Shape Of Punk To Come 2.0, nor did it need to be. Instead, it’s got some real groove, a more subtle and nuanced passion and some of the catchiest choruses to come out of Sweden this century. So far, it’s my record of the year, but I’m excited to see what might come and claim its throne.

Speaking of Sweden, if you’re into your great skate-punk heroes (I know I am), then Millencolin’s True Brew is also a contender for this year’s top 10 records so far. It’s definitely more of the same, but that is never a bad thing when it comes to Millencolin. Particular track highlights include opening banger ‘Egocentric Man’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, and the piano-led beauty that is ‘Wall of Doubt’. I saw Millencolin take on Slam Dunk festival earlier this year and they were the best thing about it (which wasn’t hard because operationally, it was largely fucking terrible). And it’s great to see them back with a collection of fantastic new songs.

I first discovered Millencolin because they were on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 — that bastion of teenage discovery. But it doesn’t look like I’m going to be getting nostalgic for those days any time soon, because the soundtrack to THPS5 looks totally wank. Here’s the photo that the Birdman himself posted on Instagram:

Bit disappointing, isn’t it? There are tons of great technical skate-punk tunes out there — maybe Tony needs to take a trip over here and check out fellas like Darko, or the new project from the now defunct Stillbust (RIP xoxo) guys, Rail Means Rail. Those bands might be a little heavier than Bad Religion or Goldfinger, but that’s what the kids like these days. And you want to be down with the kids, don’t you Tony?

But let’s take a trip back to deepest, darkest Sweden for a moment, because this past month has also seen the release of the brand new Ghost album, and it is a delicious slice of sin. If you’ve never seen Ghost before, or heard any of their songs, all you need to do is think Satanic doom metal meets Kiss and you’re pretty much there. Meliora is an absolute triumph — equal parts theatre and good ol’ Scandinavian darkness. If Satanism isn’t your thing, don’t worry too much — it’s all fairly tongue-in-cheek, and you’re missing out on some excellent keytar if you skip by this one. Personally, I’ll be drawing a pentagram in red crayon on some kitchen roll and lighting some scented candles to try and make the time before their UK tour pass faster.

Review: Darko – Sea Of Trees [EP]

Surrey’s Darko are a rare breed of band. When it comes to metal, you get bands who are blindingly skilful at their instruments but seem averse to putting any accessible elements into their music and are completely chorus-shy. You also get bands who can bring out an epic chorus with the best of them but have to stick to their Neanderthal drop-D riffs and run for cover at the mere mention of a guitar solo. Darko are a rare breed because they marry these two styles together; you get incredibly feats of musicianship coupled with super catchy choruses. This should be a world-beater, and yet…

Sea of Trees begins with an intro track, which always strikes fear into this reviewer. The EP should be a short sharp shock of a manifesto and few bands can get away with beginning anything with what is essentially filler. Darko’s ‘Prologue’ acts as a 30-second statement of intent, but what it truly amounts to is an intro and a verse which – given the time and development – could have turned into a killer song.

There is plenty to like on Sea of Trees. All of the songs display a dizzyingly high level of technical ability and musicianship with guitar figures that recall Architects, or even early Funeral For A Friend – the choruses are huge, and the production is slick and professional so you can hear everything clearly in the mix. The vocal attack is also impressive and when they allow themselves to switch gear into a more mathy, prog-styled instrumental section, as on ‘Canthus Viewpoints’, they prove that there are some pretty interesting ideas going on here.

The problem is that there is little if any variation on show here. Darko have proven they can do technical punk-metal but essentially Sea of Trees is a prologue and five songs which are more or less identical in terms of structure, length, tempo and style. If Darko want to go on to bigger things, they are going to have to learn some new tricks.

2 out of 5 high fives!

Top 10 Punk Rock Beards – The Band Edition

It’s time. Our punk rock beard list finally returns. Some of you may or may not remember a piece that I wrote in 2008, compiling some of my favourite dudes and their super rad beards. I didn’t expect it to be a big thing, but somehow now, when you search ‘punk beard’, we’re the first thing on Google. It’s been a big year for facial hair, so it’s time to get serious. Get ready for the band edition.

DISCLAIMER: this might just be a list of sweet bands who have a couple of members with beards, either currently or just ‘tour beards’. But who gives a shit, there’s beards involved!

10) Summerslam 88
Summerslam 88 very rarely have facial hair but when they do, they look like skeezy 80s dudes. They also do sweet skatepunk that sounds like the Offspring when they were good.

9) North Lincoln
Beard punk. What a genre. Were North Lincoln ever really ‘beard punk’? Probably not, but they were kind of brilliant. And look at that full beardage going on there.

8) Fights and Fires
Worcester ‘geekcore’ lads like sitting on cannons, apparently. They also like beards a lot because their current logo is a guy with a massive beard. And most of them have one in some way or another!

7) Every Time I Die
Do you remember that time when all of Every Time I Die thought ‘fuck it, we’re all gonna grow beards and look kinda dirty?’ I sure as hell do. It was awesome. And if nothing else, Andy Williams has enough beard for everyone.

6) The Menzingers
Quintessentially rugged and responsible for some of the finest punk records of the 21st Century. You know it.

5) The Lawrence Arms
I don’t care if they’re not real moustaches. Nobody cares if they’re not real moustaches. And now these dudes have signed to Epitaph, which is not the home of the beard, but, along with another band further down on our list, they’re making it a classier place.

4) Darko
Darko’s beards were unexpected and highly surprising. But excellent. Skatepunk probably shouldn’t involve beards but I’m very glad it does.

3) Bike Tuff
We did a feature on these guys a few months ago, and while Into Shore is probably my favourite emo-revival-esque record right now (and possibly forever), these dudes all have pretty sweet beards.

2) letlive.
Jason Aalon Butler’s beard is a thing of beauty. Furious, furious beauty. Nothing else needs to be said.

1) Arliss Nancy
LOOK AT THE MAJESTY OF THOSE BEARDS. Arliss Nancy probably couldn’t function without said beards. Americana blended with punk aesthetic to create something kind of beautiful, Wild American Runners is deep and heartfelt with a touch of jaded gruffness that can only come from beards that excellent.

Honorable mention: Enter Shikari
Can one class Shikari as punk? I suppose that imposing trance on post-hardcore and trying to make people more aware of the broken society we live in through their lyrics is pretty punk. Not usually known for the beard, this new video reveals a different side to them…

Ten Hardcore Bands That Do Actually Get It

I posted an article last week about misogyny in hardcore and just the general lack of respect for fellow human beings that’s running rampant throughout the scene at the moment. There’s certainly a lot of that going on. In honesty, my piece refers mostly to the mainstream – the branch of particularly popular hardcore bands that are dominating the magazines and the social networks at the moment. There’s a lot of bands out there that aren’t subscribing to this at all, that are striving for a community again, that are promoting a very healthy attitude at shows and through their music. Loosely based around the hardcore genre, but with a smattering of punk and metalcore, this is just ten of those bands promoting a better future for the scene. There’s a few more mainstream and a few more underground acts here, and these are the people we should be throwing our weight behind.

1) Finish Him!
Our favourite Coventry partycore lot know what’s going down. A Finish Him! show is always a ridiculously fun experience for everyone – everyone gets involved, everyone keeps each other safe. You’re far more likely to end the set in a massive group hug than with a punch in the face (although that’s mostly just to keep yourself standing after some intense moshing!). And many of their song names are references to classic kid’s shows and video games, which is always a bonus.

2) We Came As Romans
Everyone’s new favourite synthy metalcore band, they don’t have a bad word to say about anyone. Their albums are all about positivity, and their recent slot on the Take Action tour in support of the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign couldn’t paint them as any more angelic. If you’re ever feeling down, listen to Understanding What We Came To Be and you’ll instantly feel better about life.

3) Parkway Drive
Okay, ‘Romance Is Dead’ might be about wanting to choke the life out of a former loved one, but we can all say we’ve had those moments at one point or another. Otherwise, Parkway Drive take their anger out on more noble causes, such as our rampant destruction of the Earth. Atlas is all about the potential demise of our planet if we don’t buck up our ideas. Parkway are also massive fans of the circlepit, but only if you treat each other with respect. And we will, Winston and co, we will.

4) iwrestledabearonce
Ever been to an IWABO show? You’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t. Me and Kate threw many a pencil sharpener and a few egg and spoons the last time we were in the general vicinity. It’s also super rad to see such an incredible female vocalist in play in both cases – Krysta’s screams were utterly sublime and I figured there’d never be anyone who could replace her, but Courtney has done pretty admirably, bringing just as much flair and insanity to their live presence as Krysta did. It’s pretty hard to make out exactly what they’re saying though sometimes, so pick up a lyrics booklet and appreciate.

5) The Smoking Hearts
Victory! is a great record. It’s a real snapshot of life in the 2010s, but without subscribing to the bullshit. There’s plenty of stuff in there about standing up tall and rising above, but THS aren’t afraid to party on down with the rabble either. Sick guitar solos aside, THS bring it in every way possible in a live format, but while being perfectly pleasant to everyone around them. Top lads.

6) Sick Of It All
Have you ever listened to a Sick Of It All album and thought ‘well, I can see where they’re coming from but I just can’t identify with this in any way, shape or form’? I thought not.

Skatepunk enthusiasts DARKO blend the Duracell bunny energy of that 90s sound with technical hardcore for an unbeatable thrill ride. From Trust To Conformity has a lot of anger and frustration in it, but it’s pointed in all the right directions, and a lot more poetic than you might first think. Get listening, get excited.

8) Attack! Vipers!
I literally can’t express my love for Attack! Vipers! enough. Completely standup guys with an explosive live show (high risk of human pyramids included) and stupidly talented musicians to boot. Feeling bad about popular hardcore and its shitty attitude? Have a scroll through the Attack! Vipers! Tumblr page and you’ll see posts speaking out against discrimination and injustice, in the scene and wider. Great stuff.

9) Empire
Shedding Skin is a slice of crashing, beautiful melodic hardcore. The desolate landscapes that it describes and the feelings of discontent and fear are ones that are applicable to all of us. Back in the early 2000s, most of the bands doing this kind of thing were writing songs crying about how girls had wronged them. Empire take a far different approach and we love them for it.

10) Not Right
Definitely more punk than hardcore, but it’d feel wrong to write a piece about solidarity and community without including Not Right. Queer riot grrl noise with a focus on trans issues, general activism and, in their own words, “the politic of people before profit”. And well, they definitely play loud and fast enough to fit in on this list.

Summer Sesh All Day Skatepunk/HC Extravaganza – The Matrix Club, Grimsby, 18/8/12

My beloved hometown Grimsby, despite its impressive levels of knife crime and teenage pregnancy, doesn’t seem to have a lot going for it. Considering our greatest claims to fame include Ian Huntley and the battle scenes from Atonement, it’s safe to say that civilisation often seems to pass us by.

When I was a whippersnapper, the local music scene was positively crackling with excitement and innovation. Thanks to the Cleethorpes Winter Gardens (God rest her soul), local bands were given the chance to perform both at extensive showcases or alongside such established and dare I say it, legendary names as Hanoi Rocks, The Damned and even Marky Ramone. While the Winters met its untimely end at the hands of a wrecking ball, the Grimsby Matrix Club bubbled in the background. Hosting the odd gig here and there and seeing bands such as Bring Me The Horizon and Enter Shikari pass through its doors, the Matrix began to set itself up well. But as the gigs began to lessen in number, I got older and discovered city venues, leaving hometown music as far away as possible.

That was until a brightly coloured gig poster cropped up online and practically tore my eyes from my skull. A £5 all-dayer with great names, cheap booze and a BBQ? I was in.

First to the tiny stage (playing to an even tinier audience) were Ricochet (3/5), a new, local, 90’s-esque post-punk effort who were celebrating their first official gig. Despite their young ages and the unfamiliarity of a new band, they played incredibly well, with the young drummer drawing particular acclaim for his skill. Although they hardly pushed any boundaries, they showed themselves to be a solid group with the potential to create a very impressive sound should they stay together for the long haul. Next up were Hoof (3/5), a hard-to-place alt band combining the gang vocals of Sum 41 with the simplicity and upbeat pace and tone of bands such as The Headstart and NFG. Not fitting comfortably into the punk or hardcore camps, they were nonetheless a very fun support act who did well to bring up the tone and mood of the whole gig. East on Main (3/5) continued on the gang vocal theme, but used it to such a degree that it soon lost its appeal. While their set wasn’t particularly exciting or overly-memorable, their sound was something quite interesting. Imagine the bastard lovechild of Rise Against and Bullet for my Valentine was lightly washed in hardcore, and you’ve just about got it. If they stripped back their layers and rebuilt their sound, they could become something very interesting indeed. LITFO(2/5) and Darko (3/5) proved to have nailed the vocal problem that was prevalent in previous acts; great gang vocals used in bursts, but with enviable control throughout. Strong vocals and great riffs triumphed over the dodgy sound system and left themselves being the first memorable sets of the night. Despite this, there were two major flaws in LITFOs set. Firstly, the vocalist’s efforts at more guttural or screamy tones should really be confined to the practise room; the natural tone wasn’t there and drew away from his other abilities. Secondly, and this was what really tainted their set for me, their ill informed verbal attacks on more successful acts were frankly disgusting and infuriated me beyond belief. Jealously isn’t a pretty trait and malformed speeches with an ‘us against them’ attitude destroyed any lingering enjoyment of their sound. No Contest (2/5) were an odd band to place; with an atonal vocalist and no real direction to their sound, they were far from engaging. Despite this, I did find myself enjoying the basic instrumental parts of their songs. Each musician was certainly competent and sparks of innovation stopped me from wandering off back to the bar. Saying that, much more work is needed before their sound becomes something of real merit.

When Fair Do’s (4/5) came to the stage, my confidence in the evening was waning, but thank the punk lords, they brought a smile back to my face. Blasting out a solid, exciting and fun slab of post-hardcore inspired punk (like a heavier version of Set Your Goals but with less of an agenda), they earned both the attention and respect of the entire venue. With their usual vocalist stranded in some foreign land, guitarist Danny took over vocal duties and performed with such ease that a casual listener would be hard pressed to see why a separate vocalist was necessary. Almeida (4/5) followed suit with a gripping, if odd, set of prog-thrash with a smattering of synths for good measure. With their dynamism and innovation, they reminded me of a young Enter Shikari; a band made of pure energy, just waiting for a stage big enough to contain them. The Departed (3.5/5) brought the evening back down to a more familiar genre. Performing a very animated brand of melodic hardcore (similar to that of Comeback Kid) they showed themselves to be a powerful force that could really take off should they manage to get themselves a higher profile support tour with a TDON darling. Headliners and Lockjaw stalwarts The Fear (4.5/5) easily stole the evening with an incredibly engaging, impressive and professional set. Combining the power and raw passion of hardcore with a palpable upbeat energy, their very personal sound was so absorbing that I began hoping the night would be a few hours longer. Somewhere between and old Deaf Havana and MXPX, their moment of glory is no doubt just around the corner.