Category Archives: Album Reviews

BROCKER – ‘Shambolic’

(One Man Mosh Pit)

Brocker Album Cover

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

It has been a rather lengthy wait for ‘Shambolic‘ – the second album from Hertfordshire punk/rock three-piece Brocker – considering the band’s debut full-length came out back in 2013, and the offering was recorded in the spring of 2017, then put on a shelf for two-and-a-half years, which the collective stressed was their fault, so after all this time and anticipation, the release has finally seen the light of day.

Comprising of 13 tracks, ‘Shambolic‘ is a 40-minute sonic journey of fast-paced intensity packed full of heavy guitar riffs, chugging basslines, pounding drum beats, and anthemic choruses.

The sound, which has been described by the trio as “rock n’ roll with a punk attitude“, seems to be tailor-made for live sets, as every one of the songs are real crowd-pleasers, with melodies and rhythms that embed themselves into the minds of listeners.

A real strength of this album is the lyrical content, which showcases a more mature, thought-provoking side to the outfit, and covers a diverse range of relatable subjects, spanning from mental health (‘Inferno‘, ‘Mayday‘), the media (‘Outside The Box‘), and humanity’s increasing reliance on technology (‘The Machine‘), to generally just having a good time (‘Underworld‘), and a badger who behaves and lives very much like a punk (the humorous ‘Stoffel‘).

The differing topics are all effectively reflected by a layered vocal delivery (courtesy of frontman Pako Mugica) that, on the surface, comes across as harmonic, but dig a little deeper, and you will find a voice that has real bite to it.

All in all, ‘Shambolic‘ is a representation of a three-piece that, in the time since the release of first album, ‘Out Of Order‘, have seen the world around them more clearly, as they have grown as individuals, and as a cohesive unit, taken both positive and negative aspects of what they have found, and have set it to eclectically-influenced rock music delivered at breakneck speed, all to much effect, which should appeal to those who are looking for a band, like Brocker, that are not afraid to voice their opinions of contemporary society, but also have an enjoyable time doing so.

(3/5)

TOP TRACKSomething About Devils

YOU CAN FIND MORE INFO ON BROCKER AND ‘SHAMBOLIC’ THROUGH THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES:

INTERVIEW

FEATURE

TRACK-BY-TRACK FEATURE

 

SMALL PLANETS – ‘Small Planets’

(Self-released)

Small Planets Album Cover

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Having impressed many on the underground music scene of their home city Los Angeles since forming in 2015, Small Planets have now brought out a self-titled debut album.

The five-piece spent eight months putting together this release, consistently honing a sound that is predominantly post-punk/shoegaze, but draws from an eclectic range of musical genres, resulting in 11 well-crafted but accessible tracks.

Every one of the songs that make up the quintet’s first full-length offers a truly unique listening experience, with lyrical content dealing mainly with both the positive and negative aspects of love, and a soft, melodic vocal delivery which conveys the varying emotions of the lyrics, and is rather reminiscent of Debbie Harry when Blondie were at the peak of their powers, being constant presences.

Drowning‘ is an effective opener, with a lengthy instrumental led by a haunting guitar riff which gradually becomes something subtly aggressive, which is then followed by ‘Breathe‘, which is an altogether catchier affair, with the sound accelerating in pace throughout, as well as a few classical elements thrown in, and listening to this, it reminds me of a jollier Joy Division.

Blue‘ has more of an alternative rock/grunge vibe, containing buzzing riffery, thumping drum beats, and anguished vocals, whereas ‘Say Something‘ is a dreamy, atmospheric The Cure-esque number which has a rhythm that seems to burrow its way into the listener’s head, along with sing-along lyrics.

In Life We‘ sees the Californian outfit going down a poppier route, with the song going along at a relatively gentle pace, which is followed by the synth-led post-punk track ‘Tonight‘, which deals with the subjects of death and regret.

The five-piece have been open about being influenced by The Cure and Joy Division, and the effect of those legendary bands is at its most obvious with seventh song ‘Twelve-Thirty‘, which sees the album at its darkest and most aggressive.

After this, ‘E‘ is altogether lighter, with a softer, more emotive sound, layered vocals that reach both high and low notes with relative ease, and lovely cello parts in the middle and at the track’s conclusion.

Waves‘ conjures up dreamy soundscapes with melodies that are abundant in strength, and electronic beats that are dominated by a drum machine, with ‘And Then She Said‘ basically being six minutes of the collective at their most complex and experimental.

Drawing the album to a close is ‘Small Planets‘, a number which has the listener being taken on a melodic journey of feedback and distortion, accompanied by an effective combination of classical, synths, and emotive vocals.

In the past, I have listened to some debut albums from bands and artists which have basically contained two or three brilliant tracks, with the rest being comprised of filler material, however, with ‘Small Planets‘, this is not the case, as this offering has clearly been crafted with much love and attention to detail, and is an effective showcase for a talented outfit who should have a bright future ahead of them.

(4/5)

TOP TRACKBreathe

FOR FURTHER INFO ON SMALL PLANETS, CHECK OUT THE INTERVIEW AND FEATURE WE DID WITH THEM HERE AND HERE, AND THE TRACK-BY-TRACK FEATURE ON THE BAND’S ALBUM HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MITCHEL EMMS – ‘Vertigo At History’s Edge’

(Self-released)

Mitchel Emms Album Cover

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Having been a contestant on television talent show ‘The Voice‘ a few years back, and then becoming the frontman of heavy rock collective The Treatment, singer-songwriter Mitchel Emms decided to go solo in late 2017, and he has spent much of the last year putting together an eagerly-anticipated debut album, which has now been finally released.

Entitled ‘Vertigo At History’s Edge‘ – a title taken from a talk by late American mystic and psychedelic plant advocate Terence McKenna – the offering comprises of ten atmospheric, melancholic tracks that are an effective showcase for Mitchel‘s genuine musical talent.

Opener ‘Intro‘, a minute-long instrumental consisting mainly of a slow, jangly guitar riff, sets the tone on what is to come.

It is almost halfway through ‘A Truth Inside The Lie‘ before we get to hear any vocals for the first time, which makes me think that this could have been a deliberate move to show the listener that there’s more to Mitchel than his powerful vocal delivery, which certainly does not disappoint.

Emotive vocals and self-reflective lyrical content, which is done in such a way that is also relatable to anybody listening, form the bedrock on which this album is built.

With these foundations, Mitchel is able to sonically experiment, with every song being unique, both musically and lyrically.

That Sinking Feeling‘ deals with Mitchel‘s thoughts on how a lot of millennials (of which he is one) are feeling right now, what with anxiety, and a struggle to find motivation in order to break through the glass ceiling, and this is reflected by a combination of guitars, synths, and electronic beats, which all gradually increase in intensity as the track moves forward, building up towards a spectacular conclusion.

Rivers Of Ice‘ is a number that is of a similar nature, with lyrics that see Mitchel sing candidly about his own personal battles with mental health.

No More Pain‘ has a more relaxed, hypnotic vibe to it, while ‘Message From The Water‘, inspired by post-punk and shoegaze, stems from Mitchel‘s own experiences of mental burnout and deciding to shut himself off from the world, but is also of much appeal to those who have unfortunately found themselves in a similar situation.

The Rain‘ is another beautifully constructed track, going along at a gentle pace, with lyrics based on the theme of how modern society seems to be becoming more disconnected, what with the rapid rise in the influence of social media and the internet.

History’s Edge‘ ups the ante a little sonically, with the music going at a faster speed, and a noticeable rise in emotion in the vocals.

Season Of Regret‘ has to be the one song on this release that is closest to Mitchel‘s heart, as he sings frankly about losing a close friend of his, and lamenting that he took the moments they had together for granted, which is reflected by him being able to reach both the high and low notes with effortless ease, and backed by a constantly featuring fuzzy guitar riff.

While this offering has been a rather dark, melancholic affair up to this point, closer ‘Final Farewell‘ sees Mitchel opt for a more positive, upbeat tone, accompanied by lyrics that deals with him accepting the negative issues that he has had, and deciding to tackle them head-on, rather than let the problems engulf his mind.

In conclusion, ‘Vertigo At History’s Edge‘ is a fantastically crafted album, which sees Mitchel move on from what he did with The Treatment, and embrace a more mature sound, as well as more honest, thought-provoking lyrical content, which shows just what a talented individual he is, having created, in my opinion, one of the best albums of 2019.

(4/5)

TOP TRACKMessage From The Water

AFTER READING THIS, CHECK OUT MITCHEL GOING THROUGH THE ALBUM, TRACK-BY-TRACK, HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DJO – ‘Twenty Twenty’

(Self-released)

Djo Album Cover

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Prior to landing his breakthrough acting role in 1980’s-set Netflix show ‘Stranger Things‘, Joe Keery was already showing off his musical talents as part of Chicago psychedelic outfit Post Animal.

Having left the band last year, Joe decided to embark on a solo career – under the moniker of Djo – and ‘Twenty Twenty‘ is his debut album.

The release – which Joe discreetly worked on in between filming – is comprised of 12 tracks that has the listener being taken on a musical journey with plenty of twists and turns.

Showtime‘ – which is basically 48 seconds of a slowed-down, distant guitar riff, and a distorted voice speaking the song’s title for the most part – provides the album with an effective avant-garde opener, which is subsequently followed by the toe-tapping ‘Personal Lies‘, and at times fantastical ‘Tentpole Shangrila‘.

Fourth track ‘Just Along For The Ride‘ is a strong combination of honeyed vocals, dominant guitars and synths, and lyrical content that deals with relaxing and not letting the trials and tribulations that life can bring get to you.

Following the rather melancholic and gently-paced ‘Chateau (Feel Alright)‘ is ‘Roddy‘, a story of self-reflection and personal insecurity accompanied by a sound that shifts with ease from what is almost an atmospheric lullaby to something altogether more synth-based with a liberal use of distorted sound effects.

In comparison, ‘Ring‘ is a guitar-dominated number containing a noticeably deeper vocal delivery.

Joe then follows up the synth-heavy ‘BNBG‘ with ‘Mortal Projections‘, a track that has a dream-like quality to it with a soft, melodic, and at times haunting, sound.

Total Control‘ is pretty much an extended and more relaxed version of ‘Showtime‘, while ‘Flash Mountain‘ edges more towards heavy indie-rock than psychedelic rock with its faster pace and chunky riff, and ‘Mutual Future (Repeat)‘ brings the album to an effective conclusion with a gentle acoustic guitar riff that soon gives way to a synth-based composition before ending in mostly the same way as ‘Showtime‘ with an avant-garde mix of distorted vocals and distant guitar riffs.

In conclusion, ‘Twenty Twenty‘, with its unique, lovingly-crafted, and eclectic sonic approach, along with heartfelt vocals and lyrics, has to be one of the strongest debut albums I have ever listened to, and showcases a man who is just as immensely-talented a musician as he is an actor.

(4/5)

TOP TRACK: ‘Roddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUNKERPOP – ‘Bunkerpop’

Bunkerpop band logo

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Having built up a devoted following in recent years with an eclectic sound drawn from a broad range of musical influences, Hull five-piece Bunkerpop have delivered a self-titled debut album.

Comprising of 12 tracks totalling almost 54 minutes, the band have split their first offering into four manageable parts – all named after colours – each containing three songs, which all reflect a true sonic diversity.

The opening group of tracks – the ‘Red Side‘ – begins with ‘Start Something With A Stop‘, a synth-heavy number that evokes the musical stylings of German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk.

Despite the fact that it only really comprises of the same four bars of synth repeated on a constant loop, it does an effective job of advertising the quintet’s penchant for avant-garde instrumentals and prepares the listener for what is to come.

Following this is ‘(Are You Ready) For Something‘, which, in comparison to the opener, is a more melodic-sounding affair dominated by piano keys, a consistent underlying tribal drum beat, and the use of snippets of distorted dialogue.

Rounding off the first part of the release is ‘Bunkerpop Theme‘, which marks a return to the synth-led, new wave-esque sound of the opener, albeit with a generally more chilled-out vibe.

Moving onto the ‘Blue Side‘ now, and ‘Stop‘ – a track that will be familiar to anybody who watched the band live in their first year – is a rather psychedelic offering, featuring sounds of crashing waves, and an acoustic guitar rendition of the theme tune to classic children’s television programme ‘Camberwick Green‘.

Kijk‘ is another one of the quintet’s songs to have become a live favourite, being described by fans as “Super Mario on acid“, which on listening to this, can be an accurate description, what with a fast-paced sound that is rather reminiscent of the music from the early days of computer games, accompanied by an odd mix of birdsong, Japanese dialogue, and pins being knocked down in a bowling alley.

In comparison, the ‘White Side‘ opens with the Humberside five-piece venturing down a more traditional route.

Newtown‘ – the seventh track – is noticeable for being the only one to contain so-called “proper” lyrics and vocals, dealing with the boredom of city centre life, with the use of sound effects being kept to a bare minimum.

This number almost acts as a gateway for general listeners who may be put off by the more surreal fare, as following song ‘Don’t Upset The Hawk‘ sees the collective go back into pure avant-garde.

The remainder of this offering, including last part the ‘Black Side’ mainly goes along at a laid-back pace, with some creative experimentation along the way.

Wet Brains‘ – a seven-minute epic – has a relaxed vibe for the majority of that time, however, in the final minute, the sound really gathers pace, building up towards an overwhelming finish, which is a genuine surprise for those listening to the song for the very first time.

Harmony Wheel‘ has a playful, jazz-esque vibe to it, ‘Lovely Eno‘ is a truly atmospheric-sounding affair, and ‘Action After Warnings‘ closes proceedings by featuring the quintet at their most improvisational.

In conclusion, ‘Bunkerpop‘ is a well-crafted album that has much to offer, highlighting a true knack for musical creativity, and provides concrete evidence that the band care more about the music they produce rather than pandering to the lowest common denominator in order to generate a big financial profit, something that is – especially in regards to the mainstream – is sadly becoming a rarity these days.

TOP TRACK: ‘Kijk

(4/5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APPALLING – ‘Inverted Realm’

(Redefining Darkness)

Appalling Album Cover

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Two years ago, Appalling impressed their growing legion of followers with debut album, ‘Secrets Of The Adept‘, which effectively combined metal that was blackened and brutal-sounding with lyrical content which focused on themes of death, degradation, and the collapse of humanity.

Now – in the late spring of 2019 – the Virginia five-piece have unveiled ‘Inverted Realm‘, a follow-up which sees the band firmly build on the solid foundations they laid with their first full-length offering.

Providing a strong opening to proceedings is ‘Hot Coals For Branding‘, which whilst rather lengthy in comparison to the majority of the other tracks, is chaotic, intoxicating, and alarming, with a fast, aggressive pace throughout, led by a gnarling vocal delivering and infectious guitar riffery.

Shameful Kiss‘ keeps up the heaviness and high energy, with the vocals and intensity almost cranked up to maximum levels, making for a sound that is very moshpit-friendly.

Epileptic Sermon‘ is a rather similar-sounding affair, whilst ‘Artifact And Vessel‘ is slightly slower, but contains grittier riffs, and a bleaker tone overall.

Fifth track ‘A Mutilator At Large‘ is pretty much comprised of three segments, the first and last sounding frantic, fierce, and deliciously evil, with the middle part being calmer, but more anguished, which is represented by the hoarse screaming of the quintet’s frontman.

Critical Thinking‘ marks a return to the musical stylings that were present in songs two and three, containing intense bursts of vocal savagery and merciless instrumentals, accompanied by dark, tense undertones, and closing the album is ‘Templar‘, a five-minute riff-heavy number that sees the sound being blackened to its very core.

Overall, although not entirely abundant in originality, ‘Inverted Realm‘ is a release packed full of well-crafted tracks that really capture Appalling‘s penchant for bleak sonic tones, venom-fuelled vocals, and lyrics that are about as far away from optimistic as you can possibly get.

This album comes highly recommended for all of the moshers out there, and further represents a further step in the right direction for a collective who are now rapidly-growing in popularity.

TOP TRACK:A Mutilator At Large’

(4/5)

 

SABOTEURS – ‘Dance With The Hunted’

(Self-released)

Saboteurs Album Cover

REVIEW by TOM NEIL
ARTWORK by ANITA INVERARITY

Dance with the Hunted‘ is the latest album from Saboteurs, who are a Lincoln-based five-piece who blend together elements of alternative rock, post-punk, and folk. They dropped their first EP back in February 2018, and I strongly suggest that you check it out, but anyway, that’s enough of an introduction, as now it’s time for the main event.

Splintered‘ – the first of 10 tracks that comprise this offering – starts off strong with a live, energetic feel of a crowd talking, before merging into an amazing guitar section that just blows through you.

The song actually feels like it was recorded live, as it has a raw, honest feel that you don’t get from something that was laboured over in a studio.

Splintered‘ is neither too fast or too slow, instead it reaches a middle ground, which I feel pleases fans of both of those musical styles, therefore, the track makes for a great opener.

Over And Doubt‘ is instantly engaging, what with tight vocals that seem to smack you in the face, and a good flow overall, especially with the subtle harmonies between the vocalists, who work together to ensure that they aren’t overpowered by the instruments.

Also, there is a nice, heavy percussive section right in the middle that’s just amazing, and it’s something that you can just lose yourself in.

All of this results in a song that is very dynamic, and one I’ll certainly be listening to again in the future.

Believe Nothing Hurts‘ has a cracking opening that makes me think of a soundtrack from an old film, and from there, the track goes from strength to strength, with well-paced highs merging with fast sections that show what happens when the guitar, bass, and drums are all working in genuine harmony.

Despite its title, ‘Break Down‘ doesn’t quite break things down, as instead it slows the overall pace a little with a pleasing acoustic folky number that has just the right amount of edge to it, and this is a song that I seriously considered for the top track, because I’m partial to folk, and this is a strong example.

Marooned‘ has a slow-paced build-up, which is maintained consistently throughout, which makes for a nice shift, as it’s almost like Saboteurs are easing us back up after the previous number, and if that is the case, then I admire that, as not every band will pay such close attention to the running order of their albums.

Anyway, ‘Marooned‘ just works really well for me, as it’s still got that live feel to it, and as the middle track on what has so far been a pretty substantial album, it’s certainly not letting the Lincoln quintet down.

In my opinion, ‘I Think My Face Hates Me‘ has a slightly different vibe to the songs that have come before it. It’s still a strong addition, but it changes things up, which is an interesting choice as we moved towards the second half of this release.

It is rather enjoyable, though, as it’s energetic, the pacing isn’t frenetic, but it knows when to let loose a little, and as a result of this, it impressed me more than enough to earn the accolade of top track.

‘One Track Mind’ marks a return to the style of the earlier numbers, as like a lot of songs on this, it’s neither heavy, slow, or melancholic, it represents a musical journey.

Whilst not the best that this album has to offer, the title track is a good, strong entry, and ‘Traces‘, while it is slower and a little more subdued that some of the other songs, doesn’t surrender any power, and still manages to pack a mighty punch, and along with ‘Break Down‘, this nearly grabbed the top track slot, whilst ‘Willows‘ finishes proceedings off by picking up the pace slightly, opening with thrashing guitar riffs and powerful vocals, which certainly doesn’t disappoint.

One final thing that I have to say on the album is that I just love ‘Dance With The Hunted‘ as a title, as it is so evocative.

TOP TRACK:I Think My Face Hates Me

(4/5)