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…

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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.

King Leviathan—Paean Heretica (2017)

King Leviathan—Paean Heretica (2017)

King Leviathan—Paean Heretica (2017)

Details

“Two years in the making, it is our darkest and heaviest work to date, encompassing themes of loss, abandonment, blind faith and what comes after death. Our 9 track, 45 minute collection of psalms was recorded and mixed once again by Paul ‘Win’ Winstanley at Brighton Electric, but this time mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music and with art crafted by Alex Norman.” Released on Infernum Records, August 2017.

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Band

  • Adam Sedgwick—Vocals and guitar
  • Rob Kuhler—Lead Guitar and backing vocals
  • Sam Forrester—Bass and backing vocals
  • Danny Yates—Drums

Tracks

  1. Primitive baptism
  2. Sanctification
  3. Kingdom
  4. Agony
  5. Doomsayer
  6. Coffin swallower
  7. Harrowing eyes
  8. Like wolves to the throat of the lion
  9. The grand congregation

Review

This is another album that I’ve been sitting on since November but which I’ve been very much enjoying playing over the last few months.

King Leviathan are a blackened thrash metal band from Brighton on the south coast of England. Paean Heretica is their debut album, having previously released a couple of EPs (check out their Bandcamp page for those).

The album is dark and brooding, a fusion of thrash, black metal and doom.

The opening track “Primitive baptism”

“Sanctification” (track 2) hits you in the chest, straight out of the gate, with galloping wall of thrash that relents only a little to carve into you with a simple two-note riff. The song continues its almost progressive route, gruff vocals barking out its message, interrupted occasionally with soaring clean vocals.

“Kingdom” (track 3) is in a similar vein. The production is superb. The distorted guitars are warm, the solos cut through clearly. When the chorus hits it sounds familiar and timeless. About halfway through the song grinds to a sudden halt. Arpeggios and growls. This song has an epic, old school thrash feel to it. But thrash that’s been steeped in black metal for a month.

“Agony” (track 4) opens with a rolling drums and bass riff, overlaid with a moving guitar arpeggio (guitarpeggio?) and then by far my favourite riff on the album. This is one of my highlights of the album. It’s a dark, ponderous song that resonates with my current feelings of agony. “I will give all / I will give everything in atrophy / Be my love in / Be my love in agony”. This song is perfection.

“Doomsayer” (track 5) has that classic, old school thrash double guitar thing going on. One guitar cracking out the chords while the other plays an acidic-sounding picked chord over the top of it. Think Beneath the Remains era Sepultura. The song takes about a minute for the vocals to come in—again a combination of gruff death vocals and clean, like a combination of Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt and ex-Sabbat Ritchie Desmond.

To be honest, by this point in the album “Coffin swallower” (track 6) the first half of the song sounds a bit samey to what has come before. The breakdown around halfway through, though, is a nice departure. It is gentle and fragile. “I am alone in the dark  / swallowed in rags in a burial crib”. And then the most magnificent bass twang breaks that spell and we’re back up to full pace.

“Harrowing eyes” (track 7) is a solid, heavy rocky song with a strong melody. “Reaper is coming… to harvest life […] don’t ever forget, her harrowing eyes”. Something cheerful to get you through the day.

“Like wolves to the throat of the lion” (track 8) has an awesome fast-picking opening to a fabulously interesting and quite progressive song. I could listen to this and “Agony” back to back all day. The riffs are sublime. The guitar solo towards the end is simple but gorgeous. A lot of album have a few good opening tracks and then it’s filler until the end. This album throws in arguably their best song just before the end. Something to aim for or perhaps the whole album has been building to this all along.

“The grand congregation” (track 9) opens with a suitably sinister sounding riff that leads to a pounding riff and soaring guitar solo. It’s a glorious summary of everything that has come before it. It closes with pounding guitars and drums, before descending into a thunderstorm and quietly fading to silence.

Conclusion

This album is a journey. I feel both exhilarated and exhausted at the end of it. It is dark, heavy, and brooding journey through themes of loss, abandonment, slavery and life beyond death.

At this point, I’m really searching hard for things to criticise. Some of the songs, in places, do feel quite samey and while Sedgwick’s clean vocals are a bit too operatic for my liking, that’s a minor criticism: they work, they fit the music and the songs brilliantly.

More of this please. Very much more of this. British metal is very much alive and… well, swallowing coffins, I guess.

Review score: 95%

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BONUS Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self EP (2016)

Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self (2016)

Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self (2016)

Details

Release 12 February 2016 on GS Productions (Russian).

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Band

  • Charalabos Oikonomopoulos—Vocals
  • Filippos Koliopanos—Guitars
  • Dimitra Zarkadoula—Guitars
  • Giannis Koskinas—Bass
  • Aris Nikoleris—Keyboards
  • Thomas Motsios—Drums

 

Tracks

  1. Spiritual fortress
  2. House of misery
  3. Futile regrets
  4. Drowned in nostalgia
  5. The birth of chaos

Review

Back in May I received a kind email from Phil Koliopanos inviting me to review his band, Ocean of Grief’s new EP Fortress of my Dark Self. Here’s the review, a couple of months later. Sorry about that.

Melodic doom/death metal band Ocean of Grief were formed in Athens, Greece in late 2014 drawing inspiration mostly from Saturnus and Slumber. This is their first official release.

My immediate response after listening to the album on Soundcloud was to email their guitarist saying simply “Wow! This is great! Loving is so far.”

Overall the EP reminds me very much of early Gothic-era Paradise Lost. And that, for me, is a good thing. A very good thing.

The EP opens with “Spiritual fortress” (track 1).  A grand organ sound introduces the song, over which the guitars weave a lamentful melody. Gutteral, deep, growling vocals carve their way through the music. It is a doomy, gothic, lamentation.

“House of misery” (track 2) begins with a descending guitar arpeggio that builds to another beautiful and simple guitar melody. “Futile regrets” (track 3) is an up-beat and rocky number that employs another simple melodic guitar line that carries the song. About halfway through the band drops out for a guitar-only middle eight that introduces a new tick-tocking riff.

“Drowned in nostalgia” (track 4) opens slowly and gently. It’s the eeriest, most haunting track on the EP. Which is built on later as the vocals descend to a whisper.

The EP closes with “The birth of chaos” (track 5), another upbeat (for doom!) track

Conclusion

If I was looking for some criticism, I might say that there is not much variety in the EP. One song almost blends into the next. But on a release of this quality I can’t fault it on that. The songs are solid, tight and hold enough interest and individual character that it simply reminds the listener that these songs are part of a coherent collection by the same band—part of the family. Albeit a dark and lamentful family that sings tales of death and doom.

All in all, a brilliant first release that took me back to everything that I loved about Gothic (Paradise Lost) but to which Ocean of Grief added their own character and other influences.

More like this please.

Review score: 95%

Sayyadina—The Great Northern Revisited (2010)

Sayyadina—The Great Northern Revisited (2010)

Sayyadina—The Great Northern Revisited (2010)

Details

Tracks 1 to 8 recorded at Mart’s House, Tumba on 24 February 2001; engineered by Mart Hallgren. Tracks 9 to 17 recorded at Studio Sunlight, Stockholm from 2 to 8 September 2001; engineered by Tomas Skogsberg. Tracks 19 to 30 recorded at Studio Sunlight, Stockholm from 16 to 19 February 2002; engineered by Tomas Skogsberg. Mastered by Scott Hull. Released on Relapse Records.

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Band

  • Jon Lindqvist—Guitars and vocals
  • Andreas Eriksson—Bass and vocals
  • Ove Wiksten—Drums and vocals

Tracks

  1. Nothing
  2. Prozac generation
  3. The revenge
  4. The awakening
  5. Their control
  6. Min onda bän
  7. Instrumental
  8. Instrumental
  9. Someday I will kill
  10. Sort them out
  11. From ashes
  12. När fag faller
  13. Black rose
  14. Mid livet som insats
  15. Swallow
  16. All this fear
  17. Downfall
  18. Civilized control
  19. Retaliation
  20. Civilization
  21. Automation
  22. Compulsion
  23. Stagnation
  24. Confrontation
  25. Outrage
  26. Oppression
  27. Future digits
  28. Razor discipline
  29. Solitude
  30. Last days make the least

Review

I’m quite sure what it says about my personality that I find this kind of music unusually relaxing. Perhaps it’s simply that genres like grindcore contain a lot of white noise: “a consistent noise that comes out evenly across all hearable frequencies” (Source: Popular science).

Sayyadina (which means “friend of God” in Chakobsa, a fictional language used by the Fremen people of the Dune universe) are a grindcore band from Sweden, and are rather oddly not featured at all on Metal Archives.

This collection gathers together six individual releases, (a combination of individual and split 7″ EPs, LPs and CDs) as well as a handful of unreleased tracks. The sleeve notes documents the releases, offering insights and anecdotes about the recording sessions.

The music, rather inevitably, is brutal. A wall of guitar and bass, thrashing and changing direction on a whim; drums and cymbals that sound like a bag of jangling cutlery; vocals that are grunted and screamed. I shouldn’t like it, but it works.

The songs are short, between 12 seconds and 2′ 29″. And there are a lot of them.

Any discussion about grindcore would be incomplete without at least a passing reference to the godfathers of grindcore, Napalm Death. So that was it.

Conclusion

These is little to criticise about this release. It has just about everything you would want from a grindcore album. If you’re into early Napalm Death and haven’t checked these guys out then I urge you to do so now; listent to it on their Bandcamp page.

Review score: 95%

Rival Sons—Rival Sons promo (2011)

Rival Sons—Rival Sons (2011)

Rival Sons—Rival Sons (2011)

Details

Produced by Dave Cobb. Recorded and mixed by Pete Lyman at 1974.

Band

  • Jay Buchanan—Vocals
  • Scott Holiday—Guitars
  • Robin Everhart—Bass
  • Michael Miley—Drums

Tracks

  1. Get what’s coming
  2. Torture
  3. Radio
  4. Sacred Tongue
  5. Sleepwalker
  6. Soul

Review

I’ve been listening to Rival Sons for the last few years on Planet Rock radio forgetting that I had this promo CD sitting on my shelf. What a discovery!

Rival Sons are a blues rock band from Long Beach, California, USA. They have a bit of the same kind of vibe as Clutch, with some Black Crowes thrown in for good measure.

“Get what’s coming” (track 1) opens with a very Led Zeppelin-style gallop before settling into a Clutch-style groove that scans very satisfyingly: “Coulda been a docta but at least you’re not a preacha!” About halfway through the song slows to a ponderous jam (think Spinal Tap “Jazz odyssey”) before returning to its righteous stomp.

“Torture” (track 2)  is another upbeat number, with a very melodic, hummed chorus. I was trying to remember who they reminded me of, before I realised that it was a band that I’d heard on Planet Rock… yeah, you guessed it: Rival Sons. Moving swiftly on.

“Radio” (track 3) opens with a little drum solo and is built primarily around a bluesy little riff that again reminds me heavily of Clutch. It’s a great rock n’ roll song.

“Sacred tongue” (track 4) takes us in a completely different direction. It is delicate, vulnerable and acoustic. It reminds me very much of the vibe on Led Zeppelin III fused with Richard Thompson. It is by far my favourite track on the album.

“Sleepwalker” (track 5) takes up back to some powerful riffs that pulse and spark their way through the verses and are joined by a screaming harmonica for the choruses.

The final track on this promo EP is “Soul” (track 6). It is the most overtly blues track on the disc. So much so that I initially assumed that it must be a cover; it’s not. It has a very soulful, bluesy feel that reminds me of so much music that came out of the 1950s. Good stuff!

Conclusion

I didn’t expect to be as impressed as I have been by this promo. While I’d heard bits and pieces of Rival Sons on the radio it wasn’t until I’d heard more of it, in context, back-to-back before I really began to appreciate it. I may have to check them out more and I definitely want to learn to play “Sacred tongue” on my guitar.

Review score: 95%

Poison Idea—The Best of Poison Idea (2000)

Poison Idea—The Best of Poison Idea (2000)

Poison Idea—The Best of Poison Idea (2000)

Details

These songs were originally released on separate CDs except “Leaning to scream” which was 7″ vinyl only until now. Released on Taang! Records, 2000.

Band

Pick Your King EP (1983) — tracks 16–28

  • Jerry A (aka Jerry Lang)—Vocals
  • Tom “Pig Champion” Roberts—Guitar
  • Glen Estes—Bass
  • Dean Johnson—Drums

Kings of Punk (1986) — tracks 4–15
Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes EP (1984) — tracks 29–40

  • Jerry A (aka Jerry Lang)—Vocals
  • Tom “Pig Champion” Roberts—Guitar
  • Chris Tense—Bass
  • Dean Johnson—Drums

Learning Scream 7″ (1998) — tracks 1–3

  • Jerry A (aka Jerry Lang)—Vocals
  • Ian Miller—Guitar
  • Chris Tense—Bass
  • Dean Johnson—Drums

Tracks

  1. Learning to scream
  2. Another place
  3. Xerox frustrate
  4. Lifestyles
  5. Short fuse
  6. God not god
  7. Ugly American
  8. Subtract
  9. Cop an attitude
  10. Death wish kids
  11. Made to be broken
  12. Tormented imp
  13. One by one
  14. Out of the picture
  15. Untitled
  16. Think twice
  17. It’s an action
  18. Thing called progress
  19. In my headache
  20. Underage
  21. Self abuse
  22. Cult band
  23. Last one
  24. Pure hate
  25. Castration
  26. Reggae (I hate)
  27. Give it up
  28. Think fast
  29. A.A.
  30. Legalize freedom
  31. Cold comfort
  32. Typical
  33. Thorn in my side
  34. Laughing boy
  35. Rubber husband
  36. I gotta right (written by Iggy Pop)
  37. Rich get richer
  38. Don’t like it here
  39. Die on your knees
  40. Time to go

Review

Thanks mainly to Suicidal Tendencies’ early albums and The Misfits I have quite a soft spot for American hardcore punk. This compilation album from Portland, Oregon punks Poison Idea certainly doesn’t disappoint.

The album comprises their first three releases: Pick Your King 7″ EP (1983), Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes 12″ EP (1984), Kings of Punk (1986), plus the much later Learning to Scream 7″ EP (1998).

There is a marked difference in production quality between the earliest release (tracks 16–28) and the later releases surrounding it. But it doesn’t detract much from the enjoyment of the songs, although in general I do prefer the song-writing on the later tracks.

Poison Idea were seemingly influenced by southern Californian bands like Black Flag, Discharge, and The Germs. I wouldn’t be surprised if Poison Idea themselves then went on to influence the bands in neighbouring Washington state who launched the grunge sound a decade later, like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

There is a raw, energetic honesty to these songs; they are heavy but melodic and played with fervour. “Tormented imp” (track 12) for example (which is probably my favourite song on the compilation) has a wonderful stomp, and lyrics spat out with passion.

Conclusion

While I complained in my last review that many of the songs sounded much the same, for some reason it really doesn’t matter quite so much on this album. Perhaps it wasn’t the homogeneity that was the issue, perhaps it was the soul, the humanity, the passion. And by ‘eck, this album has plenty of that.

This album surprised me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I have. And ‘enjoy’ is definitely the word: I didn’t just like it, I enjoyed it. It’s definitely the best hardcore album I’ve listened to during this project.

Review score: 95%

 

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Details

Recorded by Michal Kacunel and Tomasz Gajewski at Sia Accoustics, New York City. Mixed by Pawel Marciniak at Manximum Studio, Lodz, Poland. Mastered by Alan Silverman at Arf! Digital, New York City. Released on Black Current Music, 2009.

Band

  • Maciej Kupiszewski—Vocals and rhythm guitars
  • Michal Kacunel—Clean vocals and lead guitar
  • Jakub Kupiszewski—Bass
  • Adam Romanowski—Drums

Tracks

  1. Nostalgia
  2. Egress
  3. New setting
  4. Stormcalling
  5. Adrift
  6. Thawing innocence
  7. Stare into the sun
  8. Canvas for departure

Review

My second (and final) Gwynbleidd recording to review in as many weeks.

First off: the artwork and packaging is brilliant. Travis Smith at Seem Pieces has done an amazing job. It’s earthy and dark, reminding me of some of the early Opeth artwork. The booklet continues in the same vein, with grainy photographs with lyrics printed over the top of them in white, typeset in a scratchy handwriting font.

This album follows the path of the first two tracks on Amaranthine (2006), which took a more death/black metal path (compared with the folk-metal offerings that made up the rest of that EP).

And it’s good: the songs twist and turn in a suitably progressive way, without becoming predictable or clichéd. The album opens with a re-recording of “Nostalgia” from the Amaranthine EP. The following track on that EP, “New settings”, also appears in a re-recorded form at track three. The rest of the album contains, as far as I can tell, new material.

The production on this album is great, which makes such a difference to an album. The guitars are powerful and meaty, with a fine crunch. The bass cuts through the mix, between guitars and drums.

In my opinion this is a much, much better recording than Amaranthine, but then by 2009 the band had about three years more experience, and the songs have had time to breathe and develop.

Track five, “Adrift” is the shortest on the album, at 2′ 45″. It’s mostly acoustic guitar, with a twiddly guitar solo over the top of it.

But it’s back to distortion and growling vocals for “Thawing innocence” and beyond. Though each song (in a true prog death metal way) transitions between dark and light, distorted and clean.

The final track “Canvas for departure” gradually grinds to an irregular, and mildly chaotic standstill to close the album.

Conclusion

I really like this album. It’s well written, well played, and the songs seem to discover themselves, naturally cutting a path that uncovers beautiful clean arpeggios alongside full-out death metal riffs.

I guess if you’re really upset that Opeth have taken a left turn into 70s-inspired prog rock, and you’re in need of a fix of good old fashioned progressive death/black metal then turn your sights on Gwynbleidd. Though, to be honest, you currently only have this album and the Amaranthine EP to chose from, and this album far outclasses the latter.

Review score: 95%