With their second full-length record Managed Decline (Church Road Records), Underdark really have pushed the boundaries of the broader post-Black Metal sound by incorporating many different styles and influences, while also lyrically creating somewhat of a concept album that champions the working class in much the same way as Ashenspire’s 2022 album, Hostile Architecture.
Spiritbox have seemingly been effortlessly surfing the a crest of a wave since their debut album Eternal Blue blew up back in 2021, and have enjoyed a whirlwind couple of years since hitting millions of streams and views on Spotify and YouTube, while playing some huge festival shows and hitting the road with the likes of Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, Ghost and Bring Me The Horizon. Continue reading
Hailing from Salt Lake City and formed by Cult Leader bassist Sam Richards, Rile are a band with fine credentials who have recently landed on the Church Road Records roster and have created a solid debut for the UK label, which unashamedly takes inspiration from Converge, Trap Them and the like.
Nothing to Nowhere is the debut EP from new Seek and Strike Records signee’s AASAR. Hailing from the cold mountains of Italy, the four-piece absolutely show they mean business by delivering a relentlessly dark journey of noise, with an underlying hypnotic melody that keeps you hooked from start to finish. While lyrically the record is strongly influenced by themes of Norse and Egyptian mythology, with a concept exploring the spiritual journey of a man headed towards damnation.
For reasons well documented that we are not going to touch on here, notverynicecream (Hassle Records) the sophomore record from Bristolian avant-garde noise merchants Phoxjaw, finally sees the light of day some six months after first scheduled. And focusing solely on the music, is this a record that was worth the wait? In a nutshell … Yes!
With their third outing Texas-based Narrow Head have created a body of music that if you were there, will well and truly spin you back in time to the mid-nineties. And if you weren’t there but nonetheless love the alternative rock sound of the time, then you’ll also find yourself intriguingly transported back to the era when baggy clothes and dirty scuzzy guitar riffs were the sign of the times. And on top of that Moments Of Clarity (Church Road Records) may well be considered a classic today, was it released some 25-30 years ago amongst the influences that it clearly wears on its sleeve.
And the record stands out today, as it lulls you into a sense of security before changing style and introducing heavier elements where the band sounds on their peak for me, before then throwing in a highly experimental closer. So the album opens with ‘The Real’ and a fuzzy grunge riff, with the vocal of Jacob Duarte sounding somewhere between an early Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, and an early Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan. There is a lighter nineties indie alternative rock style to the sound, which continues into ‘Moments Of Clarity’ invoking memories from the likes of Weezer, Placebo, and The Lemonheads. It’s clear from the first couple of tracks that Narrow Head can write one hell of a catchy riff with highly engaging vocal hooks, and then on ‘Sunday’ they introduce a Deftones-esq riff which more than hints at what’s to come.
‘Trepnation’ kicks like a mule with dirtier down-tuned guitars and a heavy chugging bass, and my attention has well and truly been captured by the change in tone. ‘Breakup Song’ is melancholic with a lovely entwine between the main riff and a rolling bass, while ‘Fine Day’ is another sweet heavy cut with crunching guitars.
On ‘Carline’ Narrow Head reverts back to the more melodic feel of the album’s first quarter, but from here it changes tact once again with the darker muddy sounding ‘The World Sunday’ and the explosive ‘Gearhead’, which slams into a late-nineties era Deftones style, with Duarte channeling a shoe-gaze Chino Moreno vocal. And with the first screams on the album laid down before a furious outro of impressive drumming and heavy distortion … More of this, please!
And the band delivers on ‘Flesh & Solitude’ with the further subtle use of screams in amongst the heavy intoxicating music with a beautiful outro of avant-garde percussive cacophony. The aptly titled ‘The Comedown’ follows with lush strumming and kind of a Pearl Jam flavour, which gradually builds to the climax of ‘Soft To Touch’ where a mischievous guitar line perfectly plays over electronic beats. I love the way this album twists and turns from the indie rock style into a heavier alternative beast, before turning full circle and then going completely leftfield with the use of electronica. And these changes in tone create a real album experience which should definitely be absorbed as one. This is where rock music needs to be, for me, in 2023.
Buy the album here:
8 / 10
Gaerea had a 2022 about as good as any Extreme Metal band, with the release of their third full-length album Mirage driving forward their sound and eloquently merging ferocious Black Metal with elements of heavy “post-” music to create a unique style, on a record that was one of the finest of the year. And during this period of creativity vocalist and guitarist Guilherme Henriques would continue to develop his Oak side project with former drummer Pedro Soares, which had begun when the two were writing and recording Gaerea’s debut album Unsettling Whispers in 2018.
Hailing from Athens, Blame Kandinsky style themselves as the Greek lovechild of Botch and The Dillinger Escape Plan, and dropped their debut album Spotting Elegance back in 2017, before hitting some high-profile tours around Europe including a support slot with Cavalera Conspiracy.
Nuclear Blast Records have had a storming year, and they continue their hot streak with the release of Hell Is Where The Heart Is by Oceans. The four piece whose members hail from Berlin and Vienna released their debut EP Into The Void in 2019 followed by Cover Me In Darkness, a second EP in the same year featuring their interpretations of tracks from the likes of Alice In Chains, Deftones and Radiohead, before dropping their debut LP The Sun And The Cold in 2020.