Counterfeit- Together We Are Stronger – 4/5

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A 10-Track Love Letter to the Old School

Counterfeit have exploded onto the British rock scene seemingly overnight, with an enviable spread in Kerrang! this week and a widely successful release of their debut album, Together We Are Stronger, through Xtra Mile Recordings.

You might recognise the hard-edged frontman from the moves – Jamie Campbell Bower has featured in the hit Twilight franchise as well as successful motion pictures like Sweeney Todd and The Mortal Instruments:  City of Bones. However, it would do the band a disservice to suggest that Bower’s fame created Counterfeit. The band has been DIY from day one. With a couple of UK and European tours, as well as festival appearances already under their belts, it was simply about time for a full length album. And, what a debut.

The opening track, Washed Out packs a hell of a punch. With growling, angry vocals not dissimilar to those of the pioneering Frank Carter of Gallows fame, Bower launches into a two and a half minute assault on the senses that takes no prisoners. With lyrics ‘too old to live, too young to die’, Counterfeit epitomise the London Punk Revival that has been seething underground over the last few years.

The album is authentic, something that can be sadly lacking in so many records these days. With overproduction and auto tune running rampant in the industry, it’s refreshing to know there are still bands doing it right, and doing it well. Close to Your Chest was released earlier this year as a single, and gave a glimpse into the psyche of Counterfeit. The chorus is catchy, the verses are angsty, and it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser when Counterfeit embarks on an ambitious 28 Date European tour later this month and through most of April.

A theme running through the album is one of time. In addition to those in Washed Out, ‘too old to love and too young to care’ in Romeo further explores the feelings of displacement of the late 80’s to early noughties generation.

Above all, Together We Are Stronger is a journey of self-discovery and reflection. The lyrics may be written for and by Counterfeit, but they are about all of us. You Can’t Rely channels us all, we’ve all felt alone or betrayed or rejected. You Can’t Rely feels a little more angsty than many other tracks on the album, but it earns its place.

At the risk of running through this record track-by-track, Lost Everything is a wonderfully weird mix of styles, with a balladesque chorus, disjointed verses and a great bridge that throws you off the rhythm of the song and into Bower’s softer, isolated vocals.

The record rounds off with a song that feels, at first listen, rather out of place. Letters to the Lost has a backstory. Written after the tragic passing of Bower’s friend, it is a poignant tribute highlighting the stigma around male suicide and mental health issues. The raw emotion and frustration bursting through the relatively muted acoustic accompaniment will leave the listener burnt out but hungry for more.

I give this album 4/5. Catch Counterfeit on tour across the UK and Europe this Spring

@Counterfeitrock

 

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Radiohead -A Moon Shaped Pool

4/5

Yesterday, Radiohead released their 9th LP through online streaming services (excluding Spotify, so we’ll all have to work a bit harder to get ahold of it until the physical release for now). Moments after release the reviews began pouring in, as both small and larger mags and critics scrambled over each other to get their piece out ahead of the curve. In my experience, and this is an experience shared by many, Radiohead are never to be judged wholly by the first listen of an album. Songs that seem to simply blend into one another at first contain many layers, and with each new listen through the ear will pick up on a melody here or a clever lyric there that was missed at first. With this in mind I provide a disclaimer to this review: My opinions are likely to change, and I may well post an updated review in 6 weeks after I’ve inevitably had the album on repeat in the office as the soundtrack to my day for a month or so.

Tuning in to the BBC 6 listening party, I couldn’t help feeling a bubble of excitement and the vague sense of belonging that comes from being part of a moment you know will be remembered in your personal history, if not in musical history as a whole. This was one such moment, as the album was introduced as a ‘worldwide listening party’ and Burn The Witch, the single released earlier this week and first track on ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ wriggled its way through my anticipation and the inevitable hype and began to sink in, properly. Where the music video drew some of my concentration away from the sound, I could now focus, a focus that is always heightened when listening with a view to review. My university-honed analytical skills were activated, and I began to appreciate Burn The Witch as a comment on society rather than just another vaguely unsettling track from a vaguely unsettling band.

I won’t go through the album track by track; Radiohead albums work best as complete pieces. You wouldn’t review a book chapter by chapter (unless it’s a book of short stories, but that doesn’t apply here). Radiohead should be played continuously as a stream of consciousness. Throughout, Radiohead maintain their well-honed knack for creating a hypnotic waking dream which makes you feel like the protagonist of a drama that probably ends in a horrific car-crash after an extended driving-through-the-rain-at-night-to-the-sound-of-Daydreaming sequence. It makes you feel uncomfortable and out-of-sorts no matter where you are; which is particularly disjointing when sitting in a brightly-lit office listening through headphones whilst the rest of the world goes on around you.

In some parts, A Moon Shaped Pool sounds like a teenager experimenting with the various novelty buttons on an electric keyboard, but they layer sounds with such technical brilliance that it would be sacrilege to accuse them of not knowing exactly what they are doing. The album is full of lilts and lulls, growing in richness and volume, stripping itself back to almost nothing but vocals and a base line, and then layering instruments so seamlessly you don’t realise you’re riding the waves until the track trails off and into the next. It would be very easy to accidentally listen to 4 or 4 songs continuously without being able to discern where one ends and another begins, which for an album of this magnitude is perfectly reasonable.

The creative choice to end the album with a remastered version of ‘True Love Waits’ is an interesting one. Whilst the new version has received mostly positive reactions, I am left unimpressed. There are many, arguably much better versions of the song floating around the Web if you know where to look, especially some well-recorded live versions that do much more with the bare bones of the original song than this one. Perhaps it’s a way for Radiohead to remind us all that they are a Big Deal, or maybe they’re feeling nostalgic. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a good album, an interesting experiment and a testament to Radiohead’s fearless commitment to creativity. Love them or hate them, at least they’re not producing the nondescript indie-rock that is saturating the market.

New Acts Announced for Reading and Leeds 2016

I haven’t been that excited for the Reading and Leeds lineup this year. Other than maybe Fallout Boy, there hasn’t been a ‘shut up and take my money’ band announcement.

… Until now. The announcement this weekend of:

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
Sleeping with Sirens
Asking Alexandria
Fearless Vampire Killers
Creeper
Citizen
Dillinger Escape Plan
Wakrat
Kvelertak
Dead!

Has absolutely, 100% made me U-turn on my decision not to go.

I mean, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are seriously hot on the scene right now, despite the marmitey love-hate relationship I’ve had with Frank Carter over the years. Sleeping with Sirens crept up on me; I heard ‘King For a Day’ a few years ago and didn’t love it, but bought With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear’ on a whim and it’s now made it’s way onto several of my playlists, so I’m excited to finally see them live.

I won’t comment on how I feel about Asking Alexandria. Maybe in another, rantier post.

Fearless Vampire Killers are a band I saw play, and lose, a battle of the bands competition in my local youth centre about a hundred years ago. They were good sports about losing the battle despite being the best band, and I gained a lot of respect for them after interviewing them here on the site. I love bands who love music, and see it as a calling or a passion rather than a way to make money and get super famous. Fearless Vampire Killers are that band. They got to where they are through hard graft and sheer willpower, as well as through one of the most dedicated fan-bases I’ve ever encountered. Seriously, if you’re friends with one of them on Facebook, you’ll know what I’m talking about. *cough* Facebook Invites *cough*.

Creeper. Creeper, man. They work so, so  hard at what they do. Their music is a little something different, not new but a reboot of the horror-punky vintage goodness from before I was born. Creeper is a band that make you feel really cool when you listen to them, and that’s something I am always interested in.

The last band I’m really, really, interested in is Dead!. I’m a little late to the party on this one, having seen them opening up for Counterfeit in December 2015 at the O2 Academy Islington. I got to the show late, deciding to ‘skip the support bands’ and work a bit later. Luckily traffic was non-existent and I couldn’t be bothered to do anything fancy with my hair, because I got there just as Dead were taking to the stage.

I’ve been looking for a band to have a bit of a love affair with in a desperate attempt to recreate the experiences I had when I first fell in love with music. That was another band in another lifetime, and I might make a post about it one day if I’m feeling nostalgic enough. (I definitely will because I love talking about the good ol’ days like an actual elderly person) Dead! tick all the boxes for me. They sound good, look good, and have that DIY attitude that is so sorely lacking in a lot of younger bands. They don’t expect anything to be handed to them and they aren’t doing it for the payouts and the freebies. They’re doing it because they love the music, and they make you love it to. I’d probably go so far as to say they’re the act that made my decision to go to R&L2016.

Frnk Iero and the Cellebration- Stomachaches

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Frank Iero is a visionary man, This was evident in his contributions to the energetic uniqueness of My Chemical Romance, and in his short-lived side project Leathermouth. He creates a world through music, and this is something he’s continued to do with great success in his new band, Frnk Iero and the Cellebration. The name is difficult to get right on paper, and difficult to pronounce, and the sound is difficult to define. You can’t put this band into a genre category, and that makes some people uncomfortable. But the fact is, Stomachaches is an exceptional successful debut album. Every song is different, Every song is a celebration of the macabre, and the 12 songs together produce a theatrical picture of an angry world filled with a raw, intensely honest view of the world and its inhabitants.

 Songs like ‘.She’s the Prettiest Girl at the Party, and She Can Prove It With a Solid Right Hook’ brings out a surprisingly softer, insightful side of the band. The song is clearly personal, with lyrics like ‘But you’re on my mind/And the things that you say hurt me most of the time’.

 

There are a few songs on the album you’ve probably heard already, made famous by their artistic, but comically distrubing music videos. Songs like ‘.Weighted’ and ‘.Joyriding’ are have it all, insightful lyrics, catchy choruse’s an contagious hooks. They’re guaranteed to be crowd-pleasers live.

 It’s not often I find a song so good it makes my personal playlist, but ‘.All I want is Nothing’ made that list on the first play-through. It has everything you coudld want, the ‘check check’ opening to provide vintage authenticity and the speedy radio-esque lyrics of a punk song, but with a rhythmic melodic, catchy chorus that has you singing it all day without getting bored.

 As far as debut albums go, .Stomachaches by Frnk Iero and the Cellebration is a damn good one. I anticipate great things for this band, and wouldn’t be surprised if there was a UK tour on the horizon. For a review of their set at Hit the Deck Festival, head over to the ‘Gig Review’ page at the top.

Suffer No Fools- Songs For The Restless Youth

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Having formed earlier this year, Suffer No Fools are relatively new to the scene. However, they’ve been breaking tradition and exceeding expectations at every turn, and their debut album is a perfect example of this attitude. Instead of releasing songs in dribs and drabs, slowly, the five-piece from Ealing opted to release a whole EP at once, showcasing the extent of their professional, technical skills and raw talent. The combination of Ali Khan’s vocals, Jack Kirby and Jamie Newdeck’s guitar work, Alex Bain’s basslines and Mike Taylor’s drumming, Suffer No Fools have created something truly special.

 The EP opens with a short instrumental, starting slow and building gradually to perfectly flow into the first track of the album ‘The Bombing Campaign’. Khan’s clean vocals against the gritty heaviness of the instrumental provides the perfect combination of genres and styles, resulting in a track you can bang your head and pump your fist to, but one you can also sing along with.

 Throughout the album there are moments of truly exceptional musical ability. The harmonies on ‘Prey in particular stuck out for me. ‘Forgiven or Forgotten’, the third track, stands out lyrically, with lines like ‘if we forget we are doomed to repeat, watch as they all do nothing, can’t take the heat’.

 ‘Abyss’, the fourth track of the album, opens with a catchy riff that you’re sure to be humming for days after listening, but in a good way. ‘Dirge of the Old Gods’ lays out a lyrical odyssey to dispel  the legends of Viking Lore, foretelling the dirge of the ‘Old Gods’. If you’re looking for a song that riles you up to ride to the gates of Valhalla, this is the track for you.

 The final track on the EP, ‘Into the Breach’ brings everything to a close, showcasing the best of the best lyrically and musically with heart-pounding basslines, a drumbeat you can’t help but nod your head to, and expert guitar work.

 Suffer No Fools are not afraid of experimenting, with songs ranging in style and length. There may only be 7 tracks on the EP, but with this adding up to almost 30 minutes of music, you’re getting more for your money than with many full-length albums.  There is no doubt in my mind that Suffer No Fools is headed for greatness, they just need that one, pivotal ‘big break’ moment to announce to the world. You can check them out on Facebook, or purchase their EP at Bandcamp. I promise you won’t regret it.

Gerard Way- Hesitant Alien

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Gerard Way’s solo career is not My Chemical Romance 2.0, and that’s clear from the first few seconds of ‘The Bureau’, the opening track of debut album “hesitant Alien’. Infused with rock and roll style guitars and lyrics to incite rebellion against ‘the man’ it’s everything you’d expect from a killer opening track. Next comes ‘Action Cat’, which isn’t really about cats. It has all the makings of a great single, catchy riffs and a bass line I found myself nodding along to, alone, on a train. It was a bit awkward. Way’s creative vision clearly takes precedence over tradition; the vocals are understated, giving way to a focus on melody.

Perhaps the most well known track on the album, ‘No Shows’ is next. The faded, brit-pop music video is a perfect way to describe the song, where Way’s vocals have a nostalgic, tinny feel. Next, Way slows it down for power-balladesque ‘Brother’, complete with piano melodies and strong vocals, highlighting the personal nature of the lyrics. In true ballad fashion, the full band instrumental kicks in for the chorus, rounding off a catchy tune. ‘Millions’ more fully explores Way’s vocal range, harmonising with himself and hitting the high notes. It’s an impressive little addition to the record, but I’m not sure how it’ll sound live. ‘Zero Zero’ has a punky feel to it, with clunky chord progressions and shouty vocals. Much like ‘The Bureau’, this track makes you want to burn your bra and spread anarchy. I’m sure that’s exactly what Mr Way was going for. The strangely named ‘Juarez’ hits you with sultry vocals and a catchy chorus, but it’s not otherwise exceptional. Way’s vocals become progressively more angsty as the song progresses and are drowned in wah-wah guitar sometimes, I’m not sure if it’s intentional but it cuts into the flow of the song.

‘Drugstore Perfume’ starts slow, a jarring contrast from the chaotic ending of ‘Juarez’. It stays pretty slow throughout, showing off the artistic range of Way’s song-writing skills. The track has a slightly late-era My Chemical Romance feel, reminiscent of the Danger Days album, but the comparison isn’t a criticism. ‘Get the Gang Together’ is introduced through experimental guitar jamming and has an organic sound. Way’s vocals kick in with the sultry tone from ‘Juarez’, and the track experiments with levels of volume, choosing to highlight vocals in some areas and instrumentals in others.

‘How It’s Going to Be’ picks up the tail end of the album, with a faster beat and a return to the dual-harmony vocals explored earlier in the album. There’s some experimental synth use in this track too, which is a nice deviation from the basic song structure Way is familiar with.

The final track, ‘Maya the Psychic’ isn’t particularly overwhelming, bringing into question its placement at the end of the album. The chorus is catchy enough, but the chord progressions are predictable and it isn’t a great way to end a great album.

Overall, I’m not sure what he was trying to do, or if there was a theme we were supposed to focus on, but that doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is ‘Hesitant Alien’ is a solid debut from a veteran musician, and one thing is clear. It’s time to turn our backs on the Black Parade and admit we actually are Okay, it’s not 2006 anymore. The musical genius of Gerard Way lives on in Hesitant Alien.

 

Slipknot- .5: the gray chapter

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It took a little while to get used to the word Gray. Over here, us Brits call it Grey and I misspelled the album title a lot in the tense, teasing months coming up to the release. In my opinion, Slipknot released .5: The Gray Chapter in exactly the right way. They’ve been out of the game too long to just drop the album and expect everyone to sail to to number one. They had to build momentum, and they did that exceptionally well, bolstering their online presence and releasing teaser trailers filled with deliciously disturbing imagery.

 

When the album dropped into my mailbox for review, I was apprehensive to say the least. It’s been almost six years since ‘All Hope Is Gone’ was released, so .5: The Gray Chapter had some big, roomy shoes to fill. With the loss of Paul Gray and the leaving of Joey Jordison, the odds were already stacked against it.

 

My apprehension was unfounded. .5: The Gray Chapter is pure genius. It’s raw, it’s gritty and it’s a throwback to Slipknot’s older sound from the self-titled ‘Slipknot’ and ‘Iowa’ albums without sounding tired or over-used.

 

I’d already heard a few of the tracks- Devil In I, Negative One, and Custer, none of which disappointed. Every song on this album delivers hard hits, heart-palpitating drum beats and gnarly vocals that make you wanna scream and spit blood (in a good way). In short, go and buy this album, you won’t regret it for a second.

 

Avenged Sevenfold- Hail to the King

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When Avenged Sevenfold dropped a touring bombshell on the UK a couple of months ago, I’m pretty sure we all went into a state of shocked excitement. It’s been a good few years since the Sevenfold boys braced us with their presence on this side of the pond, so we were understandably getting ahead of ourselves when the announcement came.

 However, our excitement was not unfounded. Just days later, Avenged Sevenfold announced the release of their album, ‘Hail to the King’ and confirmed it would be in our hands and blasting our eardrums before the dates in December.

 

Our expectations were high- after the brutal, heartfelt, all killer, no filler 2010 album, Nightmare, and a significant period of inactivity, anything less than spectacular would make it hard for Avenged to win over the UK again.

 

We were not disappointed.

Okay, with the best will in the world, the album isn’t a 10/10 piece of perfection like 2007’s self titled ‘Avenged Sevenfold’. There are some tracks that are just short of being awesome, and there are some tracks, like Acid Rain and Crimson Day leave something to be desired, with Crimson Day in particular highlighting the weaknesses in Shadows’ vocals through drawn out notes and less than memorable riffs.

 

However, despite these shortcomings, songs like title track ‘Hail to the King’ and ‘Heretic’ are catchy, pumped full of the true spirit of rock and roll and are guaranteed crowd pleasers. The introductory nature of ‘Shepherd of Fire’ does a great job of reintroducing the listener to the unique style in which Avenged produce their music, layered with complex instrumental pieces that come together to create a strong opening track.

 

My personal favourite track, ‘This Means War’, combines traditional A7X riffs and heavy beats with brutal lyrics, creating the overall effect of a track you literally have to sing along to as though Mr. Shadows is riling you up to fight in the Sevenfold Army. Get your warpaint at the ready and be prepared to bash in some teenyboppers in the name of one our our more beloved re-established Gods of rock and roll- Avenged Sevenfold.

 

All in all, we can’t wait for Avenged Sevenfold to set down on our shores again this December and prove to the Brits that they deserve to be at the top of their game. Although, on a purely shallow and personal note, we really hope Shadow’s loses those curtained locks before the tour. Bring back that badass buzzcut, M!