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.

Rekuiem—Time Will Tell (2006)

Rekuiem—Time Will Tell (2006)

Rekuiem—Time Will Tell (2006)

Details

Recorded at Outta Space Studio, Birmingham, England and Dragon’s Lair Studio, California. Mixed in Madhat Studio, Wolverhampton, England. Produced and engineered by Steve Slater and Karl Wilcox. Mixed by Mark Stewart with Steve Slater and Karl Wilcox. Released on Majestic Rock Records, 2006.

Encyclopaedia Metallum | Website (WARNING: auto-plays track!?)

Band

  • Paul Parry—Vocals
  • Steve Slater—Guitars (and keyboards on “Nightmare”)
  • Brian Tatler (Diamond Head)—Guitar solo on “Werewolf”
  • Gordon Denny—Bass
  • Karl Wilcox—Drums

Tracks

  1. Nightmare
  2. Wildfire
  3. Sinners
  4. Time will tell
  5. Werewolf
  6. Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover)
  7. Black death
  8. In your keeping
  9. Angel of sin
  10. Sacrificial wanderer

Review

First off, I’m just going to ignore the dodgy spelling of ‘requiem’—we’ll just agree to let that one go. They were originally spelt correctly, when the band formed in 1979 until they split in 1984.

Time Will Tell is the band’s first full length album and I’ll be honest I wasn’t entirely hopeful when I stuck it in my CD player. But, you know what, it’s not bad at all. I mean, it’s not brilliant, it’s not exactly original, but it’s not bad.

I was a bit dubious when I read on Encyclopaedia Metallum that they were categorised as ‘heavy metal’. That seemed a bit generic to me. But nope! That’s exactly what they are. There are discernible elements of a lot of classic metal bands in this album: Iron Maiden, Dio, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Deep Purple, Diamond Head (of course), and even Swedish doomsters Candlemass.

The album opens with an organ, that actually put me in mind that this might end up sounding like a Morbid Angel album. But soon the keyboard pads out a strings chord and the guitars crunch in. It’s classic NWOBHM-style metal.

“Wildfire” (track 2) is another slow starter that builds into a Dio-style track.

“Sinners” (track 3) has yet another slow beginning, not really getting going until about 45 seconds. And then it’s more or less a pastiche on Rainbow’s “Stargazer”, at least for the verses. So much so that I found myself unconsciously singing along using the Rainbow lyrics: “High noon, oh I’d sell my soul for water / Nine years worth of breakin’ my back / There’s no sun in the shadow of the wizard / See how he glides, why he’s lighter than air.”

The title track “Time will tell” (track 4) reminds me of the ballads of 80s Christian rock band Triumph.

“Werewolf” (track 5) is probably the best track on the album. It unsurprisingly has a very Diamond Head feel to it, with Brian Tatler guesting on it.

Track six is a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” where the band have totally made it their own. Gone is the heavy-hitting simplicity in favour of something that sounds like it’s taken from Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time (1986) sessions. I appreciate what they’ve done but it doesn’t really do it for me.

“Black death” (track 7) has a very doom feel that initially reminded me of Candlemass’s Nightfall (1987) album before it morphs into something a lot more mid-era Sabbath.

There are a couple of fairly generic heavy metal stompers before the album closes with “Sacrificial warrior” (track 10) that begins as a ballad before throwing off that cloak and revealing itself as a Helloween-style power ballad.

Conclusion

It’s a decent album this. The musicianship is solid, the production is well balanced, the songwriting is well… classic. There’s just not enough that’s new or innovative. The album rests very much on the laurels of a lot of other bands.

If I was in need of something distinctly NWOBHM and didn’t have any Dio, Rainbow or Deep Purple to hand then I’d certainly put it on. If it came on again through random play then I’d certainly not switch it off. Whether I’d go seek it out or not is another question. I’m not entirely sure I would. If they were playing live locally then I’d probably go see them: I think they could be fun.

Sadly, though, that’s really not enough to recommend them very strongly.

Review score: 65%

H8 Target—H8 Target EP (2005)

H8 Target—H8 Target EP (2005)

H8 Target—H8 Target EP (2005)

Details

Recorded at Rhythm Studios by Paul Johnston. Produced by Paul Johnston and H8 Target.

Band

  • Mart—Lead vocals and guitar
  • Scary Dave—Guitars and vocals
  • Mark—Bass
  • Pix—Drums

Tracks

  1. Never fade
  2. So far past sick
  3. Inspiration

Review

This is a self-released demo/promo EP from Birmingham-based hardcore/punk/metal band H8 Target and to be honest, if I hadn’t seen the CD packaging (cover that’s clearly been printed on an inkjet printer, white-label CD) then I would never have guessed that it was a demo.

The recording quality is fabulous. It doesn’t have the raw, sounds-like-it-was-recorded-in-a-bathroom feel that some demos suffer from. This has a good balance between high-end guitar parts and drums and low end bass and meaty-sounding distorted guitar riffs. If anything, the recording as a whole leans towards the mid-/bass-end but that only adds a gravitas and heaviness to the recording.

From the opening riff this EP demanded my attention. Usually I listen to a recording over and over during the week before I make a decision on it. Well, I’m now on my second listen through and I’ve already made up my mind. And the whole thing is only 14′ 10″ long.

“Never fade” has a fabulous, rumbling riff not even a minute into the song. This must be a fabulous song to play live. It’s definitely metal… erm, hardcore… no, metal again… nope! definitely hardcore… who cares! It rocks!

“So far past sick” definitely starts in a very hardcore vein: pounding drums, staccato-ed riff, screaming vocals. And… well, it doesn’t really let up. I can imagine bouncing along to this at a gig.

“Inspiration” opens with a clean, picked riff accompanied by bass. Drums and guitar two join in as the song builds to another hardcore inspired riff, verse and chorus. At about 1′ 50″ the song slows. Open chord. INSPIRATION! shouted over the top of it. And then the build… It’s all very Biohazard. But it’s a British Biohazard and it’s brilliant.

Conclusion

From the outside (a homemade album cover and white label CD) it doesn’t look particularly impressive. But it’s what I often say about houses: you should never judge them by what they look like outside: it’s how they are inside that counts. And inside this is fabulous.

The final word goes to my son Joshua (6) who said about the cover, while nodding his head along to “So far past sick”: “I love how that line goes along and that line goes down and it looks like a sniper’s target, pointing at a dragon’s head. It’s cool!”

It is cool.

Review score: 94%

HookahTheFuzz—HookahTheFuzz (2010)

HookahTheFuzz—HookahTheFuzz (2010)

Hookah The Fuzz—Hookah The Fuzz (2010)

Details

Produced by Chris Fielding and HookahTheFuzz. Mastered by Chris Fielding. Recorded at Foel Studios. All music and lyrics written by HookahTheFuzz.

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Band

  • Si Jefferies—Vocals and rhythm guitar
  • Alexander Louis—Lead vocals
  • Roger Ash—Bass guitar
  • Harwood Shing—Keyboards
  • Ross Hawkings—Drums

Tracks

  1. (D)illusion
  2. The girl do  voodoo
  3. Skin and bones
  4. Preachers suck more (than a pro with a deadline)
  5. Camp refoogee
  6. Munchkin fever
  7. Addict
  8. Hang the hooker

Review

Let’s get the name out of the way first. The most immediate question is HookahTheFuzz (all one word, camelCase) or Hookah The Fuzz? Who knows, but I’ve gone with the way the band spells it on everything I’ve found online so far. The second question is: what does it even mean? I know that a hookah is a Persian device for vaporizing and smoking flavoured tobacco, but “[…] the Fuzz”?!

Anyway, this is one of those albums that I’ve put off reviewing simply so I could spend a few more days listening to it. That has to be a good sign, right?

Right! This is a great album. I’ve played this disc over and over and over again since I first listened to it.

The most obvious comparison is with the kings of prog metal themselves Dream Theater but there are other influences in there too. I can hear elements of artists as diverse as Lamb of God, Mike Patton (Faith No More) and Frank Zappa. Sometimes in the same song.

The album opens with a cute keyboard riff, like pan pipes. It’s most uncharacteristic of the rest of the album and quite misleading as an album opener. Disillusion indeed. But soon enough the guitars and vocals kick in and redeem the song. About 7′ 30″ there’s a fantastically moving guitar solo  that I could listen to again and again (and do!).

“The girl do voodoo” opens in a very Dream Theater ballad-like way: tinkling piano, laid back drums, arpeggios aplenty. But about a minute and a half later things start taking a more aggressive direction before the vocalist starts shouting “IT’S FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE FUCKING MORNING!” To be honest that jars with me. I’m not against swearing per se but even within the context of this song it just doesn’t seem necessary and doesn’t scan as well as “it’s four o’clock in the morning” would. But it’s a mild niggle as the rest of the song is great with proggy twists and turns aplenty. Five minutes in and there’s a tremendously fun chugging guitar riff that I can’t help but smile listening to.

“Skin and bones” opens with a ripping Lamb of God-like riff that satisfyingly resurfaces through out the track. Once the vocals being though the song sounds like a track from a Devin Townsend-era Steve Vai album. This is another superb track where the lyrics take on an instrumental quality of their own, with the shapes of the words being spit out adding to the colour and texture of the song.

“Preachers suck more…” is perhaps one of the most experimental and “out-there” prog tracks. It’s another meandering song in the key of Dream Theater.

The opening thirty seconds of “Camp refoogee” is great fun with triplets cutting across the main riff a couple of times. I can’t help nodding my head along in time. It’s perhaps one of my least songs on the album, but it is still interesting enough with enough dynamics and variety to prevent me from dismissing it entirely.

“Munchkin fever” begins quite aggressively but like snow being blown in the wind suddenly takes another direction for a minute. Just over halfway and an emotive guitar solo takes centre-stage before everything quietens down for some drums and keyboard mellowness. The closing minute is quite, quite beautiful.

“Addict” has a gentle, almost reflective beginning that reminded me a little of Pantera’s cover of the Black Sabbath tune “Planet Caravan”. The guitar bends around a minute in take the song to another level. Then oddly, around 3’00” the song takes a side step into reggae (?!) — now that’s progressive!

Album-closer “Hang the hooker” is pure Dream Theater. By now there aren’t too many surprises but the quality of both writing and playing is still high that it’s a delight to listen to.

Conclusion

This is another great example of don’t judge an album by its cover or indeed the band name. I’ve listened to this album more or less exclusively for two weeks now. I’m really impressed. More like this please.

Had it not been for a few niggles here and there, and a bit of repetition towards the end, then I’m sure I would have scored this with a full 10/10. As it is it gets a hearty 9.5.

Review score: 95%

Video

Hanging Doll—Reason & Madness (2008)

Hanging Doll—Reason and Madness (2008)

Hanging Doll—Reason and Madness (2008)

Details

Produced by Greg Chandler and Hanging Doll. Assistant Engineer Alex Cooper. Recorded at Priory Studios, Sutton Coldfield and Madhouse Recording Studios, Birmingham between 2006–2008. All songs written by Hanging Doll.

www.hangingdoll.co.uk

Band

  • Sally Holliday—Vocals
  • Daniel Leddy—Guitars and vocals
  • Kev Wilson—Bass and vocals
  • Aryan Amoli—Keyboards
  • Alex Cooper—Drums

Tracks

  1. Reason and madness
  2. Blood ridden skies
  3. Hope springs eternal
  4. Sweet retribution
  5. Echoes of sorrow
  6. A formidable mistake
  7. Forlorn
  8. Twist of a deity
  9. Iniquity
  10. Silence in solitude

Review

I often wonder why I insist on spending an entire week trying to ‘get inside’ each album I listen to. I play it to death via headphones on my phone, or on my PC at home and work, or in the car. In truth, most of the time, the opinion that I make on my first listen through rarely changes. I suppose I want to give the artists a fair run: after all, they have taken the time and effort to write and record these songs, the least I can do is listen to it more than once.

Hanging Doll join the long list of UK bands that hail from Birmingham, arguably one of the birthplaces of UK heavy metal (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Napalm Death, anyone?). Wikipedia describes them as “a British orchestral gothic metal band”. They are gothic in the vein of Within Temptation and Evanescence rather than Paradise Lost or Danzig.

While you can’t deny that vocalist Sally Holliday has a good voice, I do find the songs really a bit over the top. There is only so much drama you can handle in one album: real life simply isn’t an opera!

The album opens with a church bell. Of course! Could it be a gothic album, otherwise? (Yes, yes it could.) And then a rather pretty piano arpeggio, which sounds like it’s being played in a graveyard.

This sieges into “Blood ridden skies” an atmospheric song that twists and weaves, builds and falls. It has everything you might want from a gothic metal song: piano, orchestra, stabbing chords, growls, melody, angst, pain and beauty. It’s not a bad song, to be honest.

The next couple of songs, “Hope springs eternal” and “Sweet retribution” I found a bit tedious, to be honest. The vocal melody in both songs pretty much sums up what I don’t like in a song.

“Echoes of sorrow” builds from a clean guitar arpeggio, in the style of Pantera’s “Cemetery Gates”. It’s not a bad song, even if it does get a bit OTT and melodramatic towards the end.

Conclusion

And that about sums up the rest of the album for me. There are moments of real beauty, and the playing is superb but these musical ideas are packaged and decorated in a way that just doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t touch me, it doesn’t move me, it doesn’t excite me.

But… I can appreciate why some people might enjoy this. If you like your metal served with black lace, dark eyeliner, and with spoonfuls of over-the-top emotion then I could whole heartedly recommend Hanging Doll.

For me, though, this is very much my cup of tea. And I don’t drink tea.

Review score: 58%

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