29 March 2016

Cold Summer - Fight To Survive EP

April the 1st is going to be a busy day for the music - there are new releases from Pet Shop Boys, Yeasayer, Weezer, Mogwai and also Cold Summer.  Now Cold Summer have been review before with the single "A Time Imagination Forgot to Inspire” which was taken from this EP.  A quick recap about the band - They have been going since 2011 and have been making a post-hardcore noise that has seen them play shows with Funeral for A Friend, Milk Teeth, Polar and other bands and they have previously released two other EP's ('Cold Summer' & 'Transitions & Wake').  I did say at the end of the review for that single that I wanted to hear how the rest of the EP turned out, so here is my chance.

"Bear Eats Wolf" is a big opening, starting with harmonised guitars tone that fade into an aggressive and strong chopping riff that spins around the drums which sound huge and the mixture of clear and shouting vocals is smooth when required and glass shattering when it is not.  This song is also being released as a single and a video has been created for the song as well.  It is a Post Hardcore explosion that is sadly over when you are still wanting more, a great opening to the EP.  What I said about "A Time Imagination Forgot to Inspire" when I first reviewed it was this - "A Time Imagination Forgot to Inspire" is a post-hardcore song which starts off with a sense of urgency and determination.  The lyrics are about not going with the crowd and being in a time where those that are admired are not the saints that people should be looking up to; it is about making up your own mind and not being afraid to be the one looking in the other direction.   The riffs are tight, the hooks tight as a nut and the drums/bass combo is fantastic. - This opinion has not changed and the song has not diminished with repeated listens, it is a great song.  "Car Crash (In Progress)" is the third track from this six track EP, which is a song about the state of the world and how it is not all sunshine and light where things can (and do) go wrong.  I love this song, it is the best of the EP, it has a great chorus which has a stupidly catchy hook to it that stays in your mind for ages and the band sound as if they are fighting a war with the world throughout the song. 

"Coins Fail (But Don't Make It)" is the first song that does not quite hit the spot for me, let me be clear that it is not a bad song, it is a good number which keeps the post-hardcore vibe going to the end.  But it does not feel like a track like it has been done before on this EP already, even with the ending of the song that does have a sense of drama it does not hold that excitement for me throughout the whole song.  It is still a good number, but it does not reach the highs of previous tracks on the record.  The penultimate track of this EP is called "Waiting" which comes out of the speakers with an aggressive tone and malice that is sparked into life with an off-beat, snippets of guitars and then it does truly explode in front of you as the band whip up a storm of energy could put holes in walls.  It is one of the slower numbers on the EP, but it delivers as much fury and power as earlier songs on the EP and it is a stone cold killer track - definitely the best one of this EP.  However, it is not the last song of the EP; that honour falls to "Something, Nothing, No-one" which gives a good impression of coming from the discography of Vision of Disorder/Bloodsimple.  It hits all the melodic hardcore sweet spots as it crashes around you, it is as harsh as the band gets on this release and it gives the record a great ending with a brilliant riff and noise from Cold Summer.

This EP has fore filled the potential that was hinted at with the first single "A Time Imagination Forgot to Inspire", it has dynamics which is a must for post hardcore music, there are variations that help the songs come to life and it showcases a band who are hopefully able to rise with this release.  Five out of six songs being top draw is a very good return and I hope that this will lead to more releases from the band - definitely ones to watch in 2016 and beyond.

4 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track - Waiting

You can get a copy of the Fight to Survive EP (pre-order till 1st April 2016) from the Cold Summer Bandcamp here.

You can follow the activities of Cold Summer on Facebook here

At the time of writing the Fight to Survive EP was not available on streaming sites.

27 March 2016

Driven Serious - Ballad of Bones EP

This review is focused on the latest release from North East, England alternative folk minstrels Driven Serious and their latest EP Ballad of Bones, which has just been released with a fantastic video (which I will post at the end of this review).  The band are a really nice bunch of characters and I was first introduced to them when I was part of the presenting crew on a radio show called Alternation on NE1FM (I'm still at the station on another show, but this is not the time to talk about that).  Vocalist/Guitarist Rob John Jones and double bass player Tim Packer came on the show and played live in the tiny underground studio, it was one of those moment where everything went perfect and their performances are one of the highlights of my tenure on that show.  Their debut album 'The Importance of Being Serious' is a beautiful piece of music (which was supposed to be reviewed by one of our other reviews, sadly he did not complete it) and I have been following them ever since; with this EP being their first release since 2013, it has been a long time since they have released new music, so how does this EP sound?

The opening song is "Ballad of Bones", this is not a jolly happy number by any means.  What we have here is an epiphany against the persistence of time and perceptions (at least that is how it seems to me) places on a pounding set of drums, beautiful strings, dramatic guitars, deep bass and Rob Jones giving a passionate vocal performance that is a hallmark of the Driven Serious experience.  It is as good as any of the songs from 'The Importance of Being Serious', with a great sense of drama and a bombastic approach to how folk should be performed.  The next three tracks are all live songs, the first being "Sinking Sand" which was performed live at The Cluny in Newcastle upon Tyne and has previously been unreleased.  The song reminds me a lot of The Levellers and The Wonder Stuff with a huge drop of attitude and a dark mood to proceedings.  The guitars sound a little quite in the mix in places, but overall it still a good song that is obviously going down well as noted in the applause that follows the performance.  The penultimate song is a version of "Crucifix Kiss" which was performed at The Twisted Lip, it is a slow and beautiful song which actually has a warmer tone that you sometimes only hear in live recordings.  The reflective beauty of the song is really worth the price of the EP together with "Ballad of Bones" and I also prefer this version to the original version that was on the album.  Ending the EP is a live recording of "World of Fear" which was also recorded in the Cluny, it is extended compared to the studio version with the rest of the band being introduced to the audience and there are other differences to the studio version.  It is a great performance of the song and it ends the EP on a very high note.

Overall this is a quality release from a band with a unique image, a beautiful sound and an appealing vision that should be celebrated.  I am not sure if this going to lead to another album soon or if it is just this for now; either way it is great to hear them release some new material.  The band are busy playing shows around the North East and will soon be playing the Folkish Explosion Festival in Newcastle in May, if they play near you then I would recommend going to see them - I would also recommend buying this great EP and watch the video below.

(P.S. - Thanks to Rob from Driven Serious for getting in touch and helping with the titles)

4.5 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track - Ballad of Bones

You can purchase the Ballad of Bones EP & all of the other Driven Serious releases on their Bandcamp here.

You can purchase the Ballad of Bones EP on Amazon here.

You can visit the Driven Serious website here.

You can also follow the activities of Driven Serious on Facebook here.

You can stream the Ballad of Bones EP on Deezer here.

You can stream the Ballad of Bones EP on Spotify here.

You can stream the Ballad of Bones EP on Tidal here.

26 March 2016

Verdun - The Eternal Drift's Canticles

Request reviews are coming thick and fast these days, hopefully I will be able to get through them all with the rest of the team; real life balance and all that jazz, but let me not focus on the mundane world and instead on the upcoming release of from Montpellier based doom act Verdun.  Formed in 2011, this is their second release after 'The Cosmic Escape of Admiral Masuka' ep which was released in 2011 and this was recorded by Mathieu Croux and mixed/mastered by Tad Doyle.  That last name will be known to a few who are interested in The Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Tad, Mathieu Croux is the guitarist of Verdun, together with Géraud Jonquet (Drums), Florian Celdran (Bass), Jay Pinelli (Guitar) & Paulo Rui (Vocals) have created this album that is being reviewed here.  Over the years they have shared the stage with the likes of YOB, Eyehategod & Electric Wizard, so they have a pedigree already going on as well.  Now I think I would have picked this album up as part of my much missed cover roulette, it is one of the most striking images I have seen in a while.  So - Verdun have the image, the back and a growing reputation that is growing daily - do they have the album to back it up?

Now this is going to be a short review as there is only five songs on this album, but the songs are not short in length.  Starting off the album is "Mankind Seppuku" which takes just under two minutes to move past a droning noise that builds up a tension in the air.  When the song erupts (and I mean it explodes) into life, it is with the slow and steady pace of vengeance and remorseless determination that comes from deep within the sludge genre.  It took me a few attempts to get into this song if I am honest, maybe it was due to my head space being in the wrong place, but once you get it then it makes so much sense.  The low vocals mixed with demonic shouting, the slow droning guitars, the bass that rumbles in between the guitars and the methodical and striking drumming that shape this song are so rich, but it is a long song as well that demands so much that it should be obvious that it will not unlock for you fully upon the first listen.  Or the second, third, fourth listens either - but it does come and with persistence, you shall be rewarded.  "Self Inflicted Mutalitation" begins with the sounds a voice coming in from the shadows as the guitar rumbles onwards for what seems like forever and an instance at the same time (sludge/doom is all down to perceptions) and then it starts once more, but this time it has such a ferocity that it goes to a primal level of music that is a great fold to "Mankind Seppuku"; it is obviously carved from a similar style to the former and has a similar consistency, giving it a fluid/linear progression for the listener.  But it is good to hear these guys bring more rock to the proceedings and that their sound can do more than one speed, it shows that there is depth to the sound and we are only two tracks into this album.

The midway point is marked with "Dark Matter Crisis" that starts with a mournful guitar playing in the dark, sounding hallow and full of pain as the notes fall like tears and blood mixed into one.  They do like to build the anticipation on this record, each beginning takes an age as they make you wait for the rumbling to beginning.  When it eventually comes into the light, it is not a beautiful sight, at least in the convention sense of the word.  It is a beast that is in pain, it is a creature that snarls and lashes out at the world; there is no remorse here, only pain and an ongoing sense of attack.  The way the band deliver this song is something that I have not felt since I finally understood Neurosis and what they were giving to the world, it makes so much sense once you get there and it has a lasting power that remains with you after the last note has fades back to the void it came from.  The penultimate song of the album is called "Glowing Shadows" and the length of the tracks is extending onwards once more past the ten minutes’ mark.  What you have here is a familiar pattern of long introduction which is meshed together with a long and harsh pit of fury that is not lost on the listener (nor would you want it to be) as the band unleash their own brand of poison onto the world, but once they start to let the noise and pain drop with merciless drone and aggressive noise.  The band drop one of their heaviest pieces with this one and it captures all sides of the band - the aggressive speed, the slow sludge, the screams of a devil and the ever present pain in the music.  However, it is not the ending to the record - no, that honour falls to "Jupiter's Coven". With this track, Verdun sink deep into their groove, ploughing a level of sludge with rumbles deep in the speakers and you can actually feel it pulse through the floor if you get your speakers right (I like to see how this sort of song feels at times, as well as sounds; the pulsing sound of the band toward the end just makes it sound like the heart is beating through someone's chest.  This is noise that you get from amplifier worship and it sounds like walls are falling in places, it is such a good ending to this album.  It fits brilliantly and is truly the finale that this album deserves.

So if I love this album so much, why is it not getting a nine or a ten from me?  Well, I have to be honest that it took me such a long time to fall under its spell.  If I had of went for my first thoughts, it might not have gotten as high a mark as I am given it here as I was so not prepared for it.  However, I gave pause and worked on it as I felt something brewing each time I listened to it.  I make no bones about the fact that this album is not for everyone and you will really need to have a certain type of mind to appreciate this - imagine Neurosis, Kylesa and Burning Witch have a jam and that is pretty much what you are getting from this band.  But it is rough as hell, not for everyone and not an easy album to process on first listen - so obviously I love it now, but I am under no illusion about it either.  If you do go for this album, tread carefully and work on it as there are rewards to be found in this one.

8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Dark Matter Crisis

You can order The Eternal Drift's Canticles here from the Lost Pilgrims Records website.

You can visit the Verdun website here.

You can follow the activities of Verdun on Facebook here.

You can order The Eternal Drift's Canticles from the Verdun Bandcamp here

At the time of writing, The Eternal Drift's Canticles is not available on any streaming sites.

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