Alkaline Trio - Damnesia
posted on Sunday, 4 September 2011 @ 10:08 | permalink
Originally published at Rhythm Circus
Marking a band’s big anniversary often calls for something special, be it a tour or a ‘Greatest Hits’-style compilation, and Illinois punk-rooted trio Alkaline Trio aren’t ones to miss the party – in their own special way. Instead of offering up simply a track listing of hits that fans will undoubtedly already own, to coincide with the band’s fifteenyear anniversary they’ve put together a compilation of tracks remastered in a semi-unplugged, acoustic setting.
Formed in Illinois in 1996, the current line-up consists of original founding member Matt Skiba (vocals, guitar), along with Dan Andriano (vocals, bass) and Derek Grant (drums). 1998 marked the release of their first studio album, Goddamnit, followed by Maybe I’ll Catch Fire (2000), From Here To Infirmary (2001), Good Mourning (2003), Crimson (2005), Agony & Irony (2008) and This Addiction (2010), leading up to the release of Damnesia this year.
The album is compiled of twelve fan favourites spanning the band’s career, along with two brand spanking new original songs and a cover, and available not just on CD, but on vinyl with a souvenier branded Zippo lighter available as part of a package. One huge benefit of the unplugged style is the ability to notice the quality songwriting presented in the tracks – something the Trio are able to hit the nail on the head with is writing dark and sometimes starkly depressing lyrics, without straying into the realms of melodramatic emo fodder. Alkaline Trio have a rare ability to make love songs that aren’t generic or full of soppy cliches – as well as being masters of angst and misery. The more intimate feel allows the macabre metaphors often hidden within the songs to come to the forefront. This Could Be Love’s twisted lyrical genius is amplified by a moody piano overtone, creating a darker overall feel than that of the original recording.
Whilst some songs on Damnesia are stripped down, Clavicle and We’ve Had Enough are supported by folksy, uptempo guitars – and the latter keeps the background shouts, showing that the Trio are still in touch with their punk roots. The folky sound continues with their cover of the Violent Femmes’ I Held Her In My Arms. Often going unnoticed on 1998′s Good Mourning, Blue In The Face comes close to the original recording, but cleaned up significantly. Similarly, You’ve Got So Far To Go shows that the only downside of the album is that if you’re a fan of the rough, demo-feel of some of their older material, you won’t find much of that here. But the slicker production that the band have grown into is evident here, and has plenty of upsides. Skiba’s voice sounds in better form than ever, and Dan Andriano’s vocals are perfectly suited. The American Scream, one of the newer tracks taken from their most recent album, is given the full on piano treatment allowing Skiba’s lone voice to rise to a perfect climax, and bears some similarity to the style of Skiba’s solo material.
As well as fan favourites, they’ve thrown in a couple of new tunes to wrap your ears around. Amongst the melancholia of their back catalogue, a common theme is having a good old drinking sesh – or drinking away your misery, depending on the song. Olde English 800 is an ode to the liquor of the same name, going so far as to call it a love song about how the ‘charcoal filtered sun yellow malt liquor’ making ‘grey sky blue’, even with ‘pop’ and ‘ahhh’ sound effects. Perfect to complement a chilled out afternoon drink. Preferably of Olde English 800. Compared to the rest of the album the other new track, I Remember A Rooftop, does feel a little underwhelming – but it’s nice enough.
If you’ve heard one Alkaline Trio song, there’s a high chance it’s Private Eye, with it’s fast, punk guitars. The Damnesia version is a far cry, with just acoustic guitar and synth backing, once again bringing out the stunning lyrics. The album closes with singalong favourite Radio (with the lyrics ‘shaking like a dog shitting razorblades’, who WOULDN’T sing along?), and it’s an incredible vocal delivery from Skiba, managing to balance heart-wrenching depression and spitting angst perfectly. Faint backing violins create a melancholy soundtrack, and the final 60 seconds after the song finishes, the mic is left on to capture the sounds and talk of the studio.
One thing that can be taken away from this album is that when you strip away the catchy punk riffs, what’s left are some beautifully crafted and thoughtful melodies with dark overtones and stunning lyricsism. They’ve managed to do enough to some already outstanding material to give a refreshing new take on almost every song, as well as adding in a few new extra bits to boot. If you’ve been adverse to Alkaline Trio’s punk-inspired sound before, give Damnesia a try – especially if you’re a fan of acoustic-style tunes. And if you’re a fan…well, chances are you’ve been spinning this album for the past fortnight already…
Scottish optimism pulls on the heart
posted on Tuesday, 8 March 2011 @ 13:31 | permalinkSucioperro – The Heart String & How To Pull It
Published on Pugwash News
Under-the-radar Scottish rock trio Sucioperro can already boast plenty of fans in the music world, having toured with Hell Is For Heroes, Fightstar and Oceansize to name but a few. The Heart String & How to Pull It is the group’s third full-length release, and comes straight off the back of recent EP ‘Reflexes of the Dead’ released just a week earlier on Feb 28th.
If vocalist JP Reid seems familiar, it might be because he makes up half of Marmaduke Duke, alongside Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neill.Comparisons can easily be drawn between the two; Reid’s vocals have a sense of melodic dischordance with a strong Scottish tone, reminiscent of early Biffy material, although The Heart String & How to Pull It has a distinctly lighter feel.
EP title track ‘Reflexes of the Dead’ is a simple, pretty little number enhanced by the female backing vocals that punctuate the album. ‘That’s Why You Pull Me In’ is accompanied by a hip-shakingly jerky guitar riff bound to get toes tapping, whilst some tracks such as album closer ‘Hands’ have a more acoustic feel. Lyrically, optimism is the hero of the day and the songs are often uplifting, euphoric numbers. Relatively simple instrumentation and dreamy chimes give the album a relaxing feel. On the downside, a few of the songs do feel a little repetitive and lack a real kick, at times feeling like the songs blend into each other. However, for laid back, pretty guitar tunes, you won’t go far wrong by giving The Heart String & How To Pull It a listen.
Architects - The Here and Now
posted on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 @ 15:16 | permalinkFeatured here at PugwashNews.com, and in Issue 51 of the publication.
Review: Architects build towards change in The Here And Now
Architects- The Here and Now- Out Now
Blowing up on the metalcore scene in the past couple of years, The Here and Now is the latest offering from Brighton-based Architects. The follow up to 2009′s Hollow Crown (incidentally, one of my favourite albums of that year) seems to take quite a step away from its predecessor, notably less heavy and leaning more towards the post-hardcore than metal sound. In fact, at times it seems like a completely different band. Tracks such as Learn to Live showcase a more melodic sound that wouldn’t seem out of place on an Alexisonfire album, and as a whole the release is peppered with more clean vocals than would perhaps be expected of the band. The frantic riffs and agressive vocals still show up, particularly in Delete, Rewind, but the overall sound of the album seems lighter and much more polished than expected.
Not necessarily a bad thing, however – An Open Letter to Myself is a slow-burner in the same vein as the title track to Hollow Crown, showcasing vocalist Sam Carter’s improved singing and has the perfect build-up to do so. Heartburn is an anthemic ballad-esque track that strays even further into the softer side, and will divide opinion. Stay Young Forever features Comeback Kid’s Andrew Neufeld and injects a frantic dose of crunch and agression. On the subject of guest vocals, The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato pops up for closer Year In, Year Out/Up and Away, a seven and a half minute track which hits the nail on the head for mixing the heavy and melodic and throwing in all the elements of the album, and the band’s overall sound.
Fans of the heavier sound they’ve been accustomed to may be disappointed by the album, but at the same time, it has a more commercially accessible vibe which will undoubtedly draw in some new listeners. It’ll definitely divide opinion – some will accuse the band of purposely taking a more commercial direction, others applaud for blowing new life into the often-tired metalcore genre. With a few songs feeling slightly same-y, and a feel that there’s something missing, it doesn’t quite stand up against the band’s previous releases. However, taking it as a standalone, it’s a strong album that provides an enjoyable and relatively diverse listen and a few outstanding tracks.
Deftones - Diamond Eyes
posted on @ 09:51 | permalink
Written for Pugwash News, also published here on Rhythm Circus.
Released earlier this month, Diamond Eyes is US melodic rockers Deftones' sixth studio offering, presented with artwork that is quite frankly terrifying for an ornithiphobic like yours truly. To give a brief background, the band have been around since 1988 - although debut album Adrenaline was not released until 1995. After the release of fifth album Saturday Night Wrist (2006), the band began work on their next release, due to be titled Eros, when bassist Chi Cheng was seriously injured in a car accident. The band made the decision to indefinitely delay Eros, and instead start work on an album that became Diamond Eyes.
The opening, title track has the unique sound of the band marked out in under a minute, with vocalist Chino Moreno's vocals ethereal and distant-sounding, almost as if the were recorded in a completely different place and time. Make no mistakes though, Deftones are no chillout band, and their often heavy and highly experimental style is showcased on this album of delicate, distinctly different tracks.
As tracks such as Beauty School and Sextape particularly reveal, Diamond Eyes is perhaps one of the outfit's lighter album offerings as a whole, concentrating more on creating a ghostly, atmospheric sound. But the band's heavy roots still show through, CMND/CNTRL showcases a more angry vocal, and the verses in particular give a nod to the nu-metal influenced music that came hand in hand with the skateboards and baggy jeans of the 1990s/2000s. However, there's no staleness or nostalgia here, as Deftones manage to still keep their sound modern and interesting.
The closing track, and a standout moment on the album, is a cover of Japan's Ghosts - a song the band completely put their own stamp upon. The echo effect on Moreno's vocals combined with experimental, disjointed riffs, percussion and drone elements creates an almost unsettling, eerie feeling. Although the album doesn't quite live up to previous offerings, such as Saturday Night Wrist, Diamond Eyes continues to demonstrate perfectly the band's ability to create complex and beautiful songs. Even when using someone else's song, as seen with Ghosts, the final product of whatever Deftones create is sure to be original, captivating and unique.
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The Great Rock Battle of Summer 2010: Download vs. Sonisphere
posted on Monday, 21 February 2011 @ 15:18 | permalink
Originally featured on Pugwash Arts and Ents tumblr. Preview piece.This summer, two festivals will battle to be crowned the UK’s biggest rock festival. Both have heavyweight headliners, and with plenty of bands already announced, who will ultimately triumph?