ISSUES – ‘Headspace’ (3/5)

(Rise)

Issues Album Cover

 

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Atlanta rock band Issues burst onto the scene two years ago with their self-titled debut, impressing many with their smooth handling of an eclectic mix of musical styles.

‘Headspace’, their second studio album, is an improvement in some ways.

There has been a noticeable development with the sound, especially the guitar work and lyrics, which now have added depth.

For example, the best tracks of the album are lyrics-led, dealing frankly with some sensitive themes.

‘Lost-n-Found’ deals with negative treatment of LGBT youths, while ‘Blue Wall’ is based on the subject of police brutality.

However, Issues seem to have taken a backwards step in places, with a few of the songs falling short of the mark.

Unclean vocalist Michael Bohn’s attempts to sing more harmoniously fall rather flat, and some of the experimentations with their sound just doesn’t seem to work.

That said, you do have to give credit to them for at least trying something different with the second album, when they could have just easily released a carbon copy of their debut.

All in all, ‘Headspace’ is a mixed effort, red-hot in some areas, lukewarm in others.

TOP TRACK: ‘Blue Wall’

BONSAI

Bonsai band photo

BONSAI (from l-r): Freddie Godley (drums), Chris Hough (vocals/guitar), Ben Hough (bass), Joe Hough (lead guitar)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Indie/alternative rock band Bonsai are, according to their Facebook page, ‘four Stoke lads with a massive dream’.

They are going some way towards achieving this, with praise coming from critics and fans for their guitar-driven sound.

I spoke to vocalist/guitarist Chris Hough about what makes them tick.

How did Bonsai get together?

Well, me, Ben and Joe used to be in a previous band and then we dragged
Freddo in and the ball just got rolling from there.

How did the band decide on the name Bonsai?

We were on Talk to Frank because they have a sick weed pinball game.
We went through the list of drugs and Bonsai was one, so we decided on
that one (laughs).

How would you best describe your music style?

Like indie/alternative I guess, but you’d have to listen to us to get it.

With the UK deciding to leave the European Union in the recent
referendum, do you think that will affect the music industry in any way?

Nah, music’s good and always will be.
I think there will be a lot more politically inspired songs written
though, but it’s all a load of bull really.

What’s the inspiration behind the band’s music?

We want to make people feel something, to feel as though I wrote the songs for them.
I want them to grab their best mate or their missus and just go “This is
for us”.

On the subject of songwriting, are you the sole writer or is it more of a group effort?

I personally write the lyrics because that’s all I’m good at! (laughs)
The other lads are the magicians in the band, they are what make us sound
how we do.
I just write gay lyrics about girls being dicks to me (laughs).

How has the reaction been to the band since you formed?

Not as good as I’d have hoped, but it’s been alright so far.
We’re slowly getting better and better, but things take time, don’t they?

Coming from Stoke-on-Trent, what’s your view of the Potteries music scene?

I think the scene at the moment is one of the best in the country, although people need to find the new music themselves, it’s still cool man.

Do you have anything lined up in the near future?

You’ll just have to wait and see!

 

YOU CAN LISTEN TO BONSAI’S MUSIC ON SOUNDCLOUD AT https://m.soundcloud.com/bonsaisot

 

THIEVES ASYLUM – The Exchange, Hanley, 10/06/2016

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Thieves Asylum band photo

Stoke-on-Trent indie rock outfit Thieves Asylum were in town for the launch of their new single ‘I.K.Y.K.I.K’, the follow-up to their critically-acclaimed debut release ‘Noc Noc’.

The gig took place in the basement of a telephone exchange turned trendy bar/restaurant/music venue.

Having headlined the nearby Sugarmill recently, this was a more intimate setting, with the enclosed space and excellent acoustics working to the band’s advantage.

Fellow emerging Stoke indie/alternative bands Arcadia, ALMA and Maverick Zion, on their debut, did a great job in warming the crowd up by performing strong sets.

Based on this, it surely won’t be too long until they are back headlining themselves.

The talented support eased the pressure on Thieves Asylum, because by the time they arrived on stage, the place was buzzing.

Their set was definitely not a let-down. The band’s style of indie rock mixed with psychedelia with shades of metal went down well, as did the Alex Turner-style vocals of frontman Joseph Tomasso.

‘I.K.Y.K.I.K’ (short for I Know, You Know, I Know) is their strongest track to date, with an infectious chorus that embeds itself into your mind.

The fast-paced, intense performance showed off a group that have professionalism and maturity beyond their years, and proved why they are one of the most talked-about bands on the Stoke music scene at the moment.

THIEVES ASYLUM’S NEW SINGLE, ‘I.K.Y.K.I.K’, WILL BE AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD ON THE 24TH JUNE.

THE TRACK’S VIDEO IS AVAILABLE TO VIEW ON YOUTUBE NOW.o

PIERCE THE VEIL – ‘Misadventures’ (5/5)

(Fearless)

Pierce The Veil Album Cover

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Many thought that Pierce The Veil would find it hard to top their last album, 2012’s ‘Collide With The Sky’.

The switch to a more progressive sound and the improved lyrics and vocal delivery of frontman Vic Fuentes were a hit with fans and critics alike.

It’s been a lengthy anticipation for ‘Misadventures’, their fourth studio album, but to borrow a slogan from a Dutch lager advert, good things come to those who wait.

Everything, music, vocals and lyrics, seems to have gone up a level, making it the most polished record the Californian post-hardcore outfit have released to date.

The central themes, dealing with heartbreak and mental turmoil, still form an essential component of the band’s identity.

Vic shows why he is seen as one of the best lyricists in rock at the moment, with him openly inviting you into his state of mind with frank, no-holds-barred lyrics.

‘Floral & Fading’ deals with his anger at the social media trolls making his girlfriend’s life a misery, ‘Gold Medal Ribbon’ is about him coming to terms with the death of his high school sweetheart, and the closer ‘Song for Isabelle’ chronicles a friend of his battling mental health issues.

‘Circles’, which has to be the track of the album, is brilliantly put together, with an upbeat sound juxtaposed with lyrics imagining Vic and his girlfriend trapped in a theatre during last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

With ‘Misadventures’, it seems that each member of Pierce The Veil has put in 110% effort.

For me, this has to be a contender for album of the year.

You can make up your own mind, but I think it will be difficult to find another album this year as well-written and produced as this one.

TOP TRACK: ‘Circles’

HATEBREED – ‘The Concrete Confessional'(4/5)

(Nuclear Blast)

Hatebreed Album Cover

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

‘The Concrete Confessional’ is the seventh studio album from Connecticut metalcore outfit Hatebreed.

Since their formation just over two decades ago, the band have mainly stuck to a tried-and-tested formula.

Their new offering is no exception.

The music is still as intense and pulsating as ever, with anthemic choruses and riffs tailor-made for the moshpit.

Also still featuring are the deafening screams of frontman Jamey Jasta and lyrics that act as both an attack on the establishment and a rallying cry for ordinary people to stand up against the wealthy and powerful.

With the majority of other bands, doing more or less the same thing album after album would have become rather tiresome by now, however Hatebreed pull it off by making ‘The Concrete Confessional’ an entertaining listen.

If their next seven albums are the same as their first seven, if they do manage to keep up the same high quality, then long may it continue.

TOP TRACK: ‘Looking Down the Barrel of Today’