19 January 2017

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes - Modern Ruin

Frank Carter (no relations sadly) is a bit of a legend in some circles, for his work in his previous bands (Gallows & Pure Love), for the riots that tend to occur whenever the Rattlesnakes appear on stage, I love the podcast he did with Scroobius Pip, they have had their songs used on WWE NXT PPV's, the interviews have been everywhere and the shows have been getting good reports- the guy (and the rest of the band as well) just give 100% whenever they put their mind to anything.  Their last album 'Blossom' (our review cleverly linked here) was only picked up by this blog for our ongoing "Cover Roulette" series, but it turned out to be one of the strongest debut that I personally have had the pleasure to listen to; but here is the rub, now the game has changed for Mr Carter and the Rattlesnakes.  There tours are getting bigger (there is one about to happen in the UK), the expectation has also grown since that debut and the second album for any band is always a tricky game.  Produced by touring bassist Thomas Mitchener and mixed by Catherine Marks (who has worked with Wolf Alice & the Foals), the press release uses words such as "pronouncedly accessible" and the band themselves have hinted that there is a stark difference between their previous work, this is something that makes me wonder if they have taken their foot off the peddle or have they changed direction?  Well, there is only one way to find out......

01 – Bluebell

This is a brief introduction which sounds like a lullaby with a twisted end, sort of like a traditional fairy tale.  Not too bad, brief and to the point.

02 – Lullaby

Something has changed, if you were expecting another fuzzy hardcore punk sounding record then you might want to move on. This is a polished alternative rock slab of music, crying for the return of someone who is lost in a waking nightmare and everything is dark and creepy.  It is not what I was expecting and it takes a few listens to get over that initial change, but it has also been stuck in my head and it has a brilliant hook that sinks in and will not let go.

03 – Snake Eyes

The change continues on ‘Snake Eyes’ as with more clear vocals, loud guitar with also sound as if they have been smoothed down and are trying to wrestle out of that jacket and there are gentle percussions and it sounds good for what it is.  Once again, after the initial impact of the change you can appreciate what they were aiming for, it does have Rattlesnake mark and it does sound as if the anger is rising at the possibilities of what happened the previous evening; but I cannot deny there is something missing from this song.

04 – Vampires

With a low-rumbling riff that is reminiscent of Kyuss & Queens of the Stone Age, ‘Vampires’ is the first song that feels comfortable in its own skin for me.  The song is about trying to break free from the blood sucking bastards who are trying to get in and wishing for an escape and being left in hell.  It has a moment that is classic Spaghetti Western, long held notes and it sounds like it is going to be a real crowd pleaser; it also feels natural from the outset and that is something that I was missing from the first few tracks.

05 – Wild Flowers

A song about a lady who turns out not to be who she had previously claimed to be, the song is another fast paced number that is well polished and as if it has had all the rough edges buffed out of it and there is another tune underneath which almost bursting to get out.  I could be imagining it (and I probably am), but it is another song which takes a while to gain traction in my mind and there is something not quite right here; nothing bad, but not quite right either.

06 – Acid Veins

It starts off with a Country & Western swagger to the tune and it feels a million miles away from ‘Blossoms’ at this point.  Lyrically and vocally though, it is true Frank Carter and full of some of the most obvious lyrics that the man has wrote; his vocals are also starting to crack here and the screams are coming out.  It is subtle at first, but the further into the song you get into, the darker and deeper the song becomes.  It starts off a little ropey for me, but it is a real grower and one which (once it sinks in) is one of the bravest on the album and that has to be acknowledged and applauded.

07 – God Is My Friend

A song about the rage inside and being damned is the order of the day and vengeance is to be extracted by the tooth and nail; the drumming on here is that of a powerhouse, the riffs (whilst still cleaner than required) are heavy and the vocals are damning and at time laden with uncontrolled anger and retribution.  It is a really good song, I am not totally getting direction of this song to be honest, but the power of the tune underneath is more than enough to give you a quick punch in the face and drag you along.

08 – Jackals

Quick and to the point, this song is probably my least favourite on the album.  This should have been rougher, sub-one minute punk explosion; but once more it is the familiar tale of being too polished for me – I will leave it at that.

 09 – Thunder

With feedback at the beginning, the song starts off with a lighter tone to the guitars; however, (and this is a big however), this song is one of the biggest of the band’s career.  It marks out everything that has been wrong with the world (the refugee crisis, hate crimes, discrimination towards gays, murdering of people just for being who they are) and it is starting to get so volatile and dangerous due to the blinkered vision of these people.  The song build from that haunting beginning and ends with an explosive ending that makes this song a cut above this album and is the first truly important track for me in 2017.

10 – Real Life

The dramatic side of the band is taking over here, with a big set of riffs and a few moments of tension that give light to this song about a relationship that is due to end and no-one is brave enough or is actually prepared to take that final step.  It is a number that feels like it is almost at the peak of what the band is aiming to become at this stage, but is the shine that has been added to the album a little too much?  Maybe, but I am also not disliking it either, it just feels as if there is something not quite right here.

11 – Modern Ruin

The title track of the album is a throwback to the original sound of the band, it sounds like the unhinged band of old is back and everything is going to be levelled into oblivion.  This is my favourite version of the band: louder than an explosion, hard hitting and making noise that is uncompromising.  If it was not for the message behind the truly brilliant ‘Thunder’, then this would have been the top track of the album as the song starts and ends with such fury, passion and wondrous noise.

12 – Neon Rust

Even before I heard a note of this album, I had read a lot of talk about ‘Neon Rust’ and a lot of people are giving this song a lot of praise.   It is finally at this moment that I understand what they were trying to do with the rest of the album and that they succeed on doing here – it is stepping away from being a hardcore act and trying to give the band a longer shelf-life.  This ends the album on a high with an emotional out-let that makes the walls feel as if they are coming down.  But the song itself also gives more questions than answers to this album, but it does end it on such a high note.

Now this is a problem I have struggled with since I was forwarded this album to review, where do I stand on the new sound that the band are aiming for and their step away from the hardcore punk of the first album?  To be honest, I am still struggling with that one as it is a change that was not expected (at least for me), but the album is not a bad or mediocre album.   I appreciate that they are trying something new, I applaud have the balls to do that and to stand on their own two feet and say “Here it is! Take it or fuck off!” and making that step towards what they envisage as their new sound.  But there are moments on this album where it needed to have a little bit of a rough edge and songs that feel unnatural in their clean shine.  Also, there are song on here which work in the new setting, plus ‘Thunder’ is my favourite song of the year so far and the best statement about how shite the world is I have heard in years.  It is a real mix bag, overall it is a good album and one that I have been stuck on for a while, I just cannot give it more than a good mark sadly.

7 out of ten – This is good and worth checking out

Top track - Thunder

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