Layover—Your Laughter Never Leaves EP (2018)

Layover—Your Laughter Never Leaves (2018)

Layover—Your Laughter Never Leaves EP (2018)

Details

Recorded at Emeline Studios by Ian Sadler. Released via Fox Records on Friday 4 May 2018.

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Buy this EP on Fox Records’ Bandcamp

Band

  • Luke Rainsford—Vocals
  • Dominic Cattell—Guitar
  • Elliot Wallett—Bass
  • Brad Fisher—Drums

Tracks

  1. Hunger pains
  2. Coffee and fluoxetine
  3. Hollow me out
  4. Slumber
  5. Your laughter never leaves

Review

Layover (or as they prefer—the all-lowercase—layover) are an emo pop-punk band from Birmingham, England (UK) with an ear for light, jangly pop punk songs.

Founded in 2014, their early compositions had a “very DIY” feel to it. The band took 2016 off and reinvented themselves, emerging with both a new energy and more mature sound.

The result is an EP of rather American-sounding pop punk songs (think Tiny Moving Parts from Minnesota, and Tigers Jaw and The Wonder Years from Pennsylvania) addressing topics such as mental health, loss, sensitivity and sincerity.

Hunger pains (track 1)

With jangly guitars, bouncing bass and halftime drums, and emotional, passionately sung lyrics, EP opener “Hunger pains” (track 1) was the first song written during writing sessions for this release. As such it is probably the track that most closely resembles a perfect crossover from Layover’s old and new sounds. It is pure emo pop-punk with lyrics to match:

“On the day that you told me you finally saw me at my lowest. I’d never want you to know just how much I was hurting ’cause it’s nothing compared to what you’re facing. You’d never want it to show.”

The track slows down about two-thirds of the way in for a gentler, arpeggio-driven middle-eight before returning to its original tempo to take the song to its lamentful conclusion, “I’m a shadow of the person that’s never coming back”.

Coffee and fluoxetine (track 2)

As the title suggests, “Coffee and fluoxetine” (track 2) addresses mental health. “Do you remember when we both discussed the way my head makes me see the bad in everything?” Rainsford sings. And later, “You said ‘take care of yourself and put your mental health first”. Rhythmically the song dances around, changing tempo, flipping between chords and arpeggios. It’s a surprisingly upbeat and jolly song for one that seemingly explores feeling let down by someone leaving you while you are at your lowest. And then suddenly. It ends.

Hollow me out (track 3)

The shortest track on the EP, “Hollow me out” (track 3) hits the ground running with a hop and a skip of a riff. “I feel so uncomfortable in my own skin” sings Rainsford, and the music fidgets and dances about in sympathy. The track slows down for a few bars while he ponders, “I’d be lying through my coffee stained teeth if I told you I was hopeful or happy.” And then they’re back up to pace, jittering to the end of the track.

Slumber (track 4)

Track 4, “Slumber” opens with a simple, reflective and gentle melody. This is my favourite track on the EP. It has dynamics, it has passion, and an almost tangible vulnerability, a wistful melancholy.

With many songs you can read your own meaning into the lyrics, place your own story within the narrative. The song is an open letter to his late mother, about the night he was told over the phone that she had died. For me, when I first heard it, it spoke of the love that had slipped away—that missed opportunity.

It’s a beautiful, almost haunting song that stayed with me for hours after listening to it.

Your laughter never leaves (track 5)

The final track on the EP, “Your laughter never leaves” (track 5) is built around a riff that initially alternately gallops and chimes before it morphs and evolves into a driving, almost progressive track that pieces together everything from the previous four songs: it has space and depth, crashing chords and delicate arpeggios, and vocals that are variously quiet and passionately loud. It’s the perfect note on which to end the EP.

Conclusion

This release is a perfect example of why I insist on listening, where possible, to a release at least three times. On my first listen through I dismissed it as just another pop-punk American-influenced emo release. But delving deeper into it, taking my time to listen more carefully to each song and read through the lyrics I found myself relating to the lyrics and appreciating the musical nuances of each track. On each listen I heard new layers of instrumentation and appreciated more the song writing. I’m already looking forward to hearing what they will write next.

This is an EP that if you give it some careful attention it will give you back a lot more than you initially expect. Dismiss it as just another disposable emo pop-punk release at your peril: there is a depth to these five songs that will gently get under your skin.

Review score: 85%

Buy this EP on Fox Records’ Bandcamp

Disclaimer

I kindly received this EP to review from Inception Press, an artist-friendly, UK-based, independent, alternative music publicity and management agency. I didn’t get paid for this review but I do get to the keep the EP. I am not linked to either Layover or Inception Press.

Burn the Priest to release covers album on Friday 18 May

Burn the Priest, Lamb of God‘s alter ego release an album of covers, Legion: XX, on Friday 18 May to celebrate their 20th anniversary. They changed their name to prevent being assumed to be a black metal band.

If the following advance tracks are anything to go by (“Kerosene” originally by Big Black and “Inherit the Earth” by The Accused) this is going to be a fantastic album.

My only gripe so far is that their cover of “In the meantime” by Helmet will be as a 7″ B-side of “Inherit the earth”.

Tracks

  1. Inherit The Earth (The Accused)
  2. Honey bucket (Melvins)
  3. Kerosene (Big Black)
  4. Kill yourself (S.O.D.)
  5. Against I (Bad Brains)
  6. Axis rot (Sliang Laos)
  7. Jesus built my hotrod (Ministry)
  8. One voice (Agnostic Front)
  9. Dine alone (Quicksand)
  10. We gotta know (Cro-Mags)

Videos

Cove—A Conscious Motion EP (2018)

Cove—A Conscious Motion EP (2018)

Cove—A Conscious Motion EP (2018)

Details

Self-released sophomore EP.  Recorded at Hidden Track Studios. Produced by Oz Craggs. Released on 23 March 2018.

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Band

  • Ben Shorten—Vocals
  • Pete Woolven—Guitar
  • Charlie Smith—Bass
  • Jack Bowdery—Drums

Tracks

  1. Coincide: Collide
  2. Solis
  3. All I Believe
  4. Host
  5. Reflect: Resolve

Review

I have this strange relationship with metalcore. At its heart it’s a fusion of extreme metal and hardcore punk: two genres that I love. But I still struggle to wholeheartedly embrace metalcore. I know it’s because of the brash, uncontrolled and shout-y vocals—like a small dog yapping over a kick-ass punk metal band. Give me a Michael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) death metal growl any day, or a Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) bark. But there is just something about the rah-rah-rah-rah nature of the typical metalcore singer that just grates with me.  That said, if you look back at the metalcore albums I’ve reviewed on 195 Metal CDs you’ll see that they have averaged 74%, so there must be something there that I like.

Cove—as you will have no doubt guessed by now—are a British metalcore band who hale from Kent, the garden of England: home of the iconic white cliffs of Dover; the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury (the leader of the Church of England); and the country through which the rail track to the channel tunnel ploughs itself.

According to guitarist Pete Woolven, Cove set out to write a personal and cathartic EP that was uniquely Cove that didn’t sound like any other heavy band at present. “We wrote A Conscious Motion with a view to writing an EP of songs for ourselves that  were cathartic and personal. It deals with the struggles of members within the band, dealing with losing everything that you once lived for, to watching a part of someone else you love fade away.”

Coincide: Collide (track 1)

The EP begins relatively gently with the opening rim-shots of “Coincide: Collide” (track 1) building with a single-note bass, joined shortly after with a full-on, full-sweep, punk-style guitar riff. New singer Ben Shorten’s vocals are initially melodic until the band hits full stride in the chorus and Shorten reveals his obligatory metalcore holler. As songs go it has pace and dynamics, but predictably I find the uncontrolled shouting to be its weakest point—the harmonious accompanying vocal melodies redeem the song a little providing new layers and interest.

Solis (track 2)

Solis” (track 2) hits the ground spitting out the lyrics, “This is the beginning of this story / It started from an end / After broken choices / It’s time to amend”. It’s shouted. Most of the song is shouted. And I know that’s the metalcore way—I’ve already said that—but… anyway, the music is great: start-stop riffs that pulse like a sinister heartbeat. The production is clear and well balanced.

All I Believe (track 3)

All I Believe” (track 3) has a very gentle and delicate feel to begin with until it suddenly bursts with energy. This is probably my favourite song on the EP. It has a really nice dynamic, it builds and falls, and has a nice contrast of dark and light moments. There is a passion behind the lyrics, and some lovely instrumental moments: chugging bass guitar, flurries of distorted guitar breaking up otherwise regular-paced riffs. And Shorten’s shouting vocals are pitched, like shouted singing, which makes such a difference and takes the song to new levels.

The shortest track on the EP by far is the 1′ 29″ instrumental “Host” (track 4). It opens with a recording of what sounds like a NASA conversation between Houston and a space craft; it’s reminiscent a little of Celtic Frost’s “One in their pride” from Into the Pandemonium (1987). The music is gentle, pulsing and atmospheric. It’s a pity the track isn’t longer, I could listen to music like this all day.

EP closer “Reflect: Resolve” (track 5) ups the pace again. It leans heavily on a catchy, bouncing riff that morphs a little towards the end of the track as it slows down and simplifies. This is a well composed song that beautifully showcases many aspects of Cove’s musicianship and song-writing skills: it has a little bit of everything for everyone without diluting who they are.

Conclusion

Whether Cove achieved their goal of writing something that doesn’t sound like anything else out there at the moment, I’m not sure. But they have certainly penned an EP that has integrity and personality. I like the dynamics present in most of the songs, and appreciate that vocalist Ben Shorten does go a little off-piste with the usual metalcore shout-fest which positively takes the songs to new levels.

Personally, I preferred the final three tracks but if that’s any indication of the quality of music we should expect to hear from Cove in the future then British metal fans definitely have something good to look forward to.

Review score: 80%

Disclaimer

I kindly received this EP to review from Inception Press, an artist-friendly, UK-based, independent, alternative music publicity and management agency. I didn’t get paid for this review but I do get to the keep the EP. I am not linked to either Cove or Inception Press.

Vehement—Ashes (2017)

Vehement—Ashes (2017)

Vehement—Ashes (2017)

Details

Vehement are an extreme metal / black metal band from East Sussex on the south coast of England. Ashes released in October of last year is their second full length album. Recorded by Dave Archer at Tidal Force Studio. Released on 6 October 2017.

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Band

  • Xysor—Vocals and guitars
  • Wraith—Guitars and backing vocals
  • Ohtar—Bass and backing vocals
  • Andras—Drums

Tracks

  1. Far below us (6′ 29″)
  2. Ashes (7′ 16″)
  3. Carapace (2′ 27″)
  4. Thematic (8′ 23″)
  5. Burden’s root (6′ 54″)
  6. The turn of the passage (9′ 37″)
  7. Tidal verse (10′ 38″)

Review

Far below us” (track 1) opens the album with the gentle sound of what appears to be the wind blowing through a pop-shield and a crackling fire. Then comes the sudden barrage of metal. It’s a fairly typical black metal song: thrashing guitars, pneumatic drill drums and growling vocals. It contains a few nice melodic moments and guitar flourishes before changing pace about two-thirds of its way in which really lifts the song from what could have been a rather pedestrian black metal romp into something with character and dynamics.

Ashes” (track 2) flows straight out of the previous track with a strummed clean guitar pattern. The guitar tone reminds me of early, Paul Di’anno-era Iron Maiden. It doesn’t last long, though as a galloping mid-paced wall of sound drives itself through the first half of the song. It’s one of my favourite moments of the album—listening to the drums beat out the rhythm while the guitars swirl around and pull in new elements. The remainder of the song ebbs and flows until a sorrowful guitar solo leads the song to a rather unexpected and gentle conclusion.

Another seamless transition. “Carapace” (track 3) is a rather delicate and beautiful finger-picked song that provides a

Thematic” (track 4) returns us to the main programme with a thundering, slowed down wall of guitars and drums. The main riff is a very simple five note pattern that’s not too far from the spaceship theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind! In what is evidently becoming Vehement’s MO, the song changes direction halfway through. Cookie Monster vocals scream over a mid-paced chord pattern and arpeggio that takes the song back to its roots.

Burden’s root” (track 5) opens with a jangling clean guitar. It has something of early Opeth about it. This leads to a descending chord pattern and then a fairly standard death/black metal stomp through some chord changes and hollered vocals. But there is something wonderful about it. It twists and turns, changes direction here and there, Xysor’s operatic vocals are majestic and the guitar solo is haunting. What could have been a fairly dry and unimaginative black metal song now has colour and interest.

The two longest tracks on the album are left to the end, the 9 minutes 37 seconds song “The turn of the passage” (track 6) and “Tidal verse” (track 7) which clocks in at 10 minutes 38 seconds. “The turn of the passage” has a nice drum section about two-thirds of the way through when the song slows down and the guitars belt out power chords. “Tidal verse” nails its colours to the mast straight away with its fast-paced, buzzing opening riff. But like many songs before it, about halfway through, the song grinds to a halt and mutates into slow, reverb-heavy guitar chimes over rumbling toms.

Conclusion

This is an album that somewhat took me by surprise. I’ve listened to too many dull, black-metal-by-numbers albums over the years, and my fear was that this would be another. I’ve said more than once in reviews that all I really ask beyond basic musical competence is something interesting. Give me a reason to listen again and again. Give me hooks to listen out for. Give me twists and changes of direction that make me sit up and take notice.

There isn’t anything particularly revolutionary about this album—Vehement play authentic, straight-up black metal but they do it well and with enough variation and ideas thrown into each song to keep me coming back.

Review score: 80%

Disclaimer

I kindly received this album to review from The Origin Agency press team an artist management, consultancy and booking agency based in Brighton UK. I didn’t get paid for this review but I do get to the keep the album (thank you!). I am not linked to either Vehement or The Origin Agency.

Metallica play Celtic Frost

When I first started to properly get into metal back in 1986 there were four bands on my radar: Metallica, Slayer, Voivod and Celtic Frost.

Yesterday (11 April) Rob and Kirk from Metallica paid tribute to late Celtic Frost bassist Martin Eric Ain during their concert in Geneva, Switzerland by playing “Procreation of the Wicked” from Celtic Frost’s debut album Morbid Tales (1984).

Screech Bats—Wish You Were Her (2018) EP

Screech Bats—Wish You Were Her (2018) EP

Screech Bats—Wish You Were Her (2018) EP

Details

Recorded in a Blackpool rehearsal room by James Routh of Sonic Boom Six. Cover art by Esme Baker (vocalists, tattooist and owner of Boileroom Tatoo in Guildford, Surrey). Released on 30 March 2018.

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Band

  • Esme Baker—Vocals
  • Kit Reeve—Guitar
  • Rio Hellyer—Bass
  • Lexi Clark—Drums

Tracks

  1. Blood in my hair
  2. Get better
  3. Every good thing
  4. Just like you
  5. That valentine song

Review

Friday 30 March saw the release of this fabulously titled second EP from London four-piece punk band Screech Bats: Wish You Were Her. It sounds rather fabulous too.

According to vocalist Esme Baker, the EP is “about women who have, for entirely different reasons, had a profound impact on my life, but are no longer in it. Most of the lyrics are drawn from real experiences and on the whole we want to make dark, often ‘taboo’ topics, approachable with a positive message.”

Four women standing in front of a wall of comics

Screech Bats (Photo by Tom Le Bon)

Blood in my hair” (track 1) kicks off the EP with an abrupt and surprisingly metal bang! Four bars of staccato  chords and a ticking hi-hat give way suddenly to a pulsing, melodic punk song. The song has a simple stripped back and warm sound. Baker’s alto vocals are clear, pushing a little to distortion at times and to good effect; I could listen to her voice for hours.

Get better” (track 2) rides on a memorable riff that gets stuck in your head, while the lyrics tell a story in that most perfect of punk traditions and a fabulous singalong chorus “Since you’ve been gone I’ve been down so low / Ohhhhh / Are you better than this? / Since you’ve been gone I don’t know who I am / I’ll be better!” And yet it can’t really get any better than this—this is a perfect pop punk song. It has melody, it has energy, it has emotion.

Every good thing” (track 3) is built on a cyclical Husker Dü/Bob Mould-style arpeggio that repeatedly builds and resolves, creating expectation and tension before morphing into a start-and-stop coda. It’s such a good song. I should feel guilty, but I’m not.

Just like you” (track 4) opens with a double-stop bass riff that is soon joined by a jangly guitar and double bass. Baker’s vocals are so smooth as she sings “Hello honey how your face has changed | You used to be so pretty…” The off-beat rhythm changes about halfway through and you can’t but bounce along to the song. And then… it twists again towards a sudden ending.

“My lover hates me and I don’t mind,” Baker laments at the start of “That valentine song” (track 5). It’s a relatively straightforward and simple song to bring the EP to a close. Just as it looks like it’s not going anywhere Kit Reeve launches into a majestic and rather beautiful guitar solo. It completely lifts the song and transforms it into something quite gorgeous. My only complaint: the metal-tastic chugging that leads the song out could have lasted a lot longer than three seconds!

Conclusion

This is a gorgeous EP. Five perfectly crafted pop-punk songs that balance melody with raw energy. Esme Baker has a gorgeous voice and writes fabulously dark and real lyrics that address issues of mental health and recovery, death, grief, one night stands, ageing, settling down and learning how and when to end a relationship. This is a band that sounds fresh and relevant.

Review score: 95%

# meToo

In the promo material that accompanied this release I was saddened to read the following:

As an act devoid of male members, Screech Bats openly recount many instances of their gender standing front and centre stage: “It’s awful – we are not a ‘girl band’ just because none of us have penises. We have been heckled, we’ve been asked “whose girlfriends we are?”, we’ve been groped whilst trying to load in amps and at one particular show, when our bassist was moving her gear, someone shouted “the stripper’s arrived”. In our opinion, the whole industry needs to stop seeing gender as a genre – we need to see a shift towards just listening to the music, not having to consider what it is we have between our legs.”

I quite agree. Gender isn’t a genre. Listen to the music, judge the band on the music not on their chromosomes—and if you don’t like it then don’t listen to it, and if you do then tell others about them.

It saddens me to hear about how many people have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. Please look out for one another—help keep those around you safe, and more importantly, treat everyone you meet with the respect you would want them to offer you. We’re all in this life thing together. I just hope we can get better at that. Speaking of getting better…

Video

Disclaimer

I kindly received this EP to review from Inception Press, an artist-friendly, UK-based, independent, alternative music publicity and management agency. I didn’t get paid for this review but I do get to the keep the EP. I am not linked to either Screech Bats or Inception Press.