Only Fumes And Corpses – Selfish Act II [EP]

Still existing resolutely under the radar after a good few years of touring and recording, Only Fumes And Corpses fly in the face of convention with their latest musical “fuck you” – Selfish Act II. The record sees the Irish punks challenging not just their own musical abilities and powers of song construction but their listener’s expectations by releasing a single seventeen minute track. The release sees the band striving for longevity in their song writing, the polar opposite to 2012’s Selfish Act I which contained thirteen tracks in even fewer minutes and encompassed a staggering array of disparate elements into a selection of rollicking breakneck hardcore punk tunes. It’s refreshing and encouraging to see a band who have yet to fully assert themselves within the scene challenging themselves and looking upon compromise as a declaration of weakness; utilising unorthodoxy as an integral part of the group’s outlook and refusing to bow down to whatever pithy fad is currently being nurtured by the fickle hype machine.

Selfish Act II is all raging hardcore, underpinned by some rather ruthless drumwork with sticksman Benny deserving upmost credit for managing to keep his arms attached to his body through repeated flurries of devious fills and blastbeat workouts – cruelly denying himself any respite for the entire duration of the track. Reigning in the genre spanning intuitions of Selfish Act I, the group’s musical vision casts a smaller net than its predecessor whilst upping the intensity and brutal nature of their vast array of riffs. For a seventeen minute song, Only Fumes And Corpses aren’t keen on simply filling out time through any ambience or atmospheric interludes as would most bands undertaking a song whose length lays within the realms of prog rock territory. But once the obligatory opening wall of feedback has pricked up ours ears, the band kick into a furious demonstration of impossibly fast hardcore. The anger is still there for all to see – vocalist Momme quite clearly monumentally pissed-off like any true punk should be in these worrisome contemporary times. He rails gruffly against societal ills through thinly veiled analogies covered in a generous layer of caustic bile that will make you sympathise with his long suffering vocal chords.

A level of frantic immediacy is maintained throughout much of the self-titled track, speed injected into their playing whenever the pace begins to slack – everything careering towards cataclysm via a brief two-step friendly excerpt complete with cheeky pinch squeal for good measure. The closing minutes foreground the guitarist’s abilities. Fingers dance across the frets, apparently never keen to linger on a single chord for more than a second, instead digressing into spasmodic tremolo-picked twenty-notes-per-second runs. It’s scrappy as hell, but a million times more listenable than any Dragonforce fret wankery.

It’s disorientating at first – seventeen minutes of continuous screaming and intense hardcore clattering appears a little hard to digest. After a few listens however, structure becomes tangible and there’s a realisation that there may even exist a deceptive chorus amongst all the hell-bent ferocity. Together with the first part of Only Fumes And Corpses Selfish Act series, the Irish punks have more than proved their competence and much needed desire to suggest alternatives to homogenous hardcore and its tired clichés. If justice were always to prevail, Selfish Act II should be the release that lifts Only Fumes And Corpses from obscurity and into the hearts and minds of the multitude of pissed-off kids across the country.

4 out of 5 high fives!

Still Bust – A Few Things We Might Agree On (A Few Things We Might Not)

A Few Things We Might Agree On (A Few Things We Might Not) is the debut full length from Gloucester hardcore punk lot Still Bust. Following their debut EP Pile O’ Knives, a full length record seems like it’s been a long time coming. Upon first listen, it’s not actually that hard to believe that Still Bust have been sitting on this one for about a decade. Debut full lengths, usually released far earlier within a band’s life cycle, are normally like the beginning of a long-term romantic relationship; it’s all still new and exciting and you still go and make out with each other in public places, but there’s nothing solid behind it. As time goes on, that begins to wane and you get the ‘sophomore slump’, that second record that sounds like you’re really trying but really, you’re together because it’s comfortable. No, the ridiculously long titled A Few Things We Might Agree On (A Few Things We Might Not) really sounds more like that third record, when you accept that you’re stuck with each other, but you know how to push each other’s buttons, and actually, it’s pretty great.

It starts out like every great hardcore record should – with a bang. ‘If You Don’t Like Video Games (You Probably Like Other Things)’ is bombastic but despite its frenzied nature, still has plenty of melody punctuating throughout before leading into a catastrophically discordant breakdown. There’s more gold to come, and Still Bust’s rough and ready approach is tempered with an intelligent, philosophical and sometimes downright mental approach to their lyrics, like in ‘Physicist At A Funeral (Godless Thoughts On Death)’. There’s enough gang vocals to satisfy the tuffest hardcore fan and plenty of frenetic riffs and wacky time signatures for the more discerning listener – tracks like ‘This Box Is For Standing On (But Look At How Big It Is!) have it all. There’s gloriously irreverent flashbacks to a simpler era in ‘Ball (Sac Magique)’, a 45 second blast of hardcore madness. It ends like every great hardcore record should as well. ‘Be Optimistic (Said The Mayfly)’ is a dramatic statement of intent, fading out into crackling static and a killer breakdown. If you weren’t into the record nine tracks deep, by the tenth, you’d be clamouring for more.

There’s times when it feels like Still Bust are apologising for something though. Self-deprecating song titles comparing themselves to Rise Against aside, there’s moments in the album that undermine their otherwise brilliant approach. Tracks like ‘First World (Band) Problems’ go on for far too long and prevent the band from achieving a clarity and fury that they’re more than capable of. However, even moments that fall flat, like the extended vocal-only tirade in ‘Physicist At A Funeral’ that doesn’t know quite when to finish, are brave attempts at transcending the stereotypical punk formula. Lest we forget, fortune favours the bold. For every tiny failure, there’s at least two massive triumphs. Quite simply, A Few Things We Might Agree On (A Few Things We Might Not) was worth the wait.

4 out of 5 high fives!

DARKO – From Trust To Conformity [EP]

DARKO are yet more proof that the scene is alive and well in the UK. The Guildford lads have put out a blinder of an EP that you’d be an absolute fool to miss out on. From the taunting screams of the fifteen-second intro to the abrupt and brutal close of title track From Trust To Conformity, this is a fifteen minute thrill ride like no other.

Opening track AWOL is fast and furious and instantly displays what’s really special about this EP. DARKO are not your typical hardcore band. Sure, everything’s played twice the speed of a normal song, there’s some brilliant growls and screams from Dan Smith but there’s also some ridiculous riffs. Chris Brown and Rob Piper’s guitars are completely and utterly relentless. AWOL itself sounds like somebody’s kidnapped Avenged Sevenfold and Fight Paris and forced them to work together until they create the perfect track. It dispenses with the typical breakdown, instead including a truly inspired instrumental part, where everything rings out clear.

DARKO are a band of many tastes though, and while they obviously have a very unique style that comes through in all their tracks, each track has a totally different feel to it. Neo Was An Amateur is fairly skate-punk in places, but with a hearty infusion of woah’s and pinch harmonics. The Smarter I Think I Am, The Dumber I Actually Am is reminiscent of No Trigger in its frenetic pace and posicore lyrics. It’s a total crowd pleaser in so many ways, with perfect singalong moments and a banging chorus, but it truly comes into its own in the solo, which is one of the coolest, most ass-kicking dual lead solos I’ve heard in a long time. Mindblowing. That’s not to say that the rest of the band isn’t as solid though – in Chewbacca Defence, Andy Borg’s drumming is so precise and so punctuating, giving the track an edge sharper than a samurai’s katana and Karl Sursham’s bass is just fantastic. Closing track From Trust To Conformity is simply a masterclass in how to end an EP. Melodic, aggressive and desperate, it drives the EP home, combining everything that was perfect about the release and ending with a chilling, droning closedown.

A very exciting addition to the UK hardcore scene, From Trust To Conformity is not to be missed. Blast it everywhere you can because these guys deserve to be huge.

4.5 out of 5 high fives!

Review roundup – 1/8/2012

A couple of short reviews from George and Ripper.

Only Fumes And Corpses – Selfish Act I (4/5 from George)

Hailing from Ireland’s arid west coast and in their seventh year of existence, Only Fumes And Corpses have remained under the radar – perhaps due to their reluctance to be part of trends or play by the rules. Their latest release is a pulverising breakneck punk affair. This truly is a case of ‘blink and you’ll miss it,’ with thirteen songs barely clawing past the eleven minute mark. Despite the shortness of the album the band manages to touch on a vast number of genres and influences whilst retaining a no-nonsense, aggressive punk approach. Maintaining punk traditions in the form of socially aware lyrics, the album also sees flashes of blastbeats, D-beat and Trash Talk-esque hardcore fury served up with some pretty impressive musicianship. From The Start even carries a blistering ‘metal’ influenced guitar solo complete with sweep picking. Tempos change in an instant- sometimes altering several times within a song, which is commendable considering the longest song on the album is a whopping one minute and thirty-two seconds. The closing one-two of The Lush I & II begins with snail-paced sludgy guitars which, a minute latter, have transformed into off-beat ska-style staccatos. This is an enraged, vital little record that will be sure to have people reaching for the repeat button as soon as the record has past them in a snotty punk blur.

Ducking Punches – I Am Arturo Bandini [EP] (4.5/5 from Ripper)
The latest release from Peterborough folk-punk quartet Ducking Punches, I Am Arturo Bandini is a very short, very sweet EP. Full of melody, optimism and some good old fashioned punk rock spirit, it’s the perfect way to perk yourself up in fifteen minutes.

Starting track, Burnt Matches, is a wonderful love story. Immediately, you’re struck by the fullness of the EP – this isn’t just some lone troubadour with an acoustic guitar, but a full folk-punk band, complete with drums, bass and violin. Lead singer Dan Allen has a fantastic tone to his voice; completely clean, but with just the right amount of Englishness. He’s joined by violinist Josie Clouting in the background, whose beautiful strings float gently through the entire release and whose vocals lend a decent contrast to Allen’s. The verses wind their way to a rousing instrumental section at the end and it sounds magnificent. Worm In The Apple takes a slightly different direction. There’s still some incredible violin, but the rest of the track is much simpler. This allows the politically charged lyrics to take the foreground. A fairly simple message of solidarity, Worm In The Apple speaks out to us all, and the choir of voices towards the end is unforgettable.

Side B presents us with Wrecking Ball, a very Frank Turner-like ballad of the self. While the lyrics may not be as clever as Frank’s often are, they’re just as touching and honest. The final track, Marching Amongst Giants, is the most stirring of all. Simply wonderful, it takes all the best elements of the release so far, shoves in some soaring electric guitar and mixes them all together for a storming tale about love, adversity and family.

I Am Arturo Bandini is simply sensational. With folk-punk rising in popularity, it’s great to see talented bands like Ducking Punches riding the wave and coming up with gold.