SERPERUS – EP Review: “Infernal Seasons”

I can’t seem to pull myself away from the UK, as here I am featuring yet another band from that island nation. There’s such a tremendous amount of musical talent based there, I could devote my blog entirely to UK artists. This time I shine my spotlight on Serperus, a Liverpool five-piece that plays aggressive and melodic heavy metal. Formed in 2014, the band consists of Joey Farrell (Vocals), Mark Coogan (Lead Guitar), Jono Walters (Rhythm Guitar), Mikey Smith (Bass) and Aaron May (Drums).

Serperus performing

They released their debut EP …with Pestilence in December 2016 to wide acclaim, and followed up with their sophomore EP Infernal Seasons this past May. Offering up six tracks of brutal, unrelenting thrash metal that address themes of authoritarian oppression, Infernal Seasons serves to further cement the solid reputation Serperus has established for themselves, and demonstrates the progression of their songwriting skills and technical experimentation.

Infernal Seasons

The title track “Infernal Seasons” sets the tone with an onslaught of wailing guitars and Smith’s buzz-saw bass lines, propelled by thunderous percussion, courtesy of May’s relentless attack on his drum kit. Coogan delivers blistering riffs while Farrell snarls the searing and topically relevant lyrics that speak of the destruction and cruelty perpetrated upon society by ruthless leaders: “A charade, a means to construct the plague. The infernal seasons, the results of tyranny. Mother nature, down to her last legs. Deliverance, for us as the non-believers. Twisting tongues of the prophet, forcing catastrophic opinions.”

Serperus dials up the speed setting on the frenetic “Divulge,” the first single released from the EP.  As the band explained to online magazine Pure Grain Audio, “‘Divulge’ is one of the fastest and most intricate songs, featuring lots of twists and turns throughout. It is our personal favourite to play live and it is perfect to showcase what [we’re] all about.” And they’re not exaggerating about the song being fast and intricate – this beast kicks ass! The scorching, rapid-fire riffs blast through the speakers from start to finish with no letup, calling to mind the epic Metallica song “Hardwired.”

Into Ruin” opens with a mysterious intro of violin, xylophone, and piano before an assault of shredded guitars, hammering drums and crushing bass rain down like thunderbolts. This track’s a real head-banger, and once again our ears are treated to killer guitar solos, which continue unabated with “Deliverance Has Come.”  The song’s lyrics assert that mankind’s suffering will only be relieved by death. “Our fate is sealed. So choke on your last breath, as you sit and wait for the sweet release of death. Light begins to fade, humanity has failed, blinded by deceit, history repeats.

Perhaps the most melodically complex track on the EP is “No Vindication,” a six and a half minute-long tour-de-force. The song starts off slowly, with strummed electric guitar and heavy bass, then a hypnotic drum beat enters the scene, accompanied by Farrell’s calm, echoed vocals. The intensity ramps up with aggressive, shredded guitars and pounding drums,  Farrell’s vocals rising in ferocity to match the brutal instrumentals. We’re then thrust headlong into the hard-hitting closing track “Spirit in Black.” Unrelenting riffs of distorted & shredded guitars are driven by jack-hammer percussion, making this track an adrenaline rush on steroids. When the guitars fade out with a final crash of the cymbal, all you can do is catch your breath.

Even though it contains only six tracks, Infernal Seasons runs over 30 minutes, as they’re all fairly long. That fact, combined with the high level of intensity throughout its entirety, make it feel more like an album than an EP. A minor criticism I have is that some of the tracks sound quite similar to one another, however, the quality of the instrumentals and compelling lyrics more than make up for it. Overall, it’s a great EP that delivers the thrash metal goods.

Connect with Serperus:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify and download for free on Bandcamp 

NEWFOUND STRANGERS – Single Review: “Take Me As I Am”

Take Me As I Am

Newfound Strangers are the second rock band from Derby, UK that I’ve featured on this blog in little more than a week (the previous being These Wicked Rivers). Formed in 2016 by guitarists Chris Payne and Dave Kent, the band also includes bassist and vocalist Dan Shaw, and drummer Nathan Rose.  Drawing on influences from Country, Classic Rock, Indie and Alternative, and artists as varied as Springsteen to Snow Patrol, Queen to Queens of the Stone and Foreigner to Foo Fighters, they’ve struggled to place themselves into a box in terms of genre, so have settled on ‘Melodic Rock.’  Collectively, the guys have over 50 years of combined experience both in the studio and onstage.

Newfound Strangers performing

They released their debut EP Take Me As I Am in May of this year, and now follow up with a single “Take Me As I Am,” which just dropped on August 11. Interestingly, the single was not included on the EP.  The band explains: “We originally toyed with putting it on the EP and making it a title track, however we decided it warranted its own release. The message behind the naming is the song talks about staying true to who you are and sticking to your roots, which really epitomises who we are as a band, so we stuck with the title for the EP.”

“Take Me As I Am” is a gentle rock ballad with a country sensibility. A perfectly balanced mix of electric and acoustic guitars are nicely complemented by humming bass and crisp percussion, creating a track that’s incredibly pleasing and expertly crafted. With heartfelt emotion, Dan sings the lyrics addressing someone who accepts him for who he is, enabling him to feel comfortable in his own skin, and not having to pretend or act in a way that’s dishonest to gain their love or acceptance.

“I’ve tried so hard to tell you, but the words don’t come out right.
I’m just a man. I’m nothing more and nothing less.
I’m not your shining knight.
Its taken oh so long, just to feel like you could be mine.
I’ll keep on waiting til the moment’s gone. Now I’m waiting in line.
You’re the only one who’s seen deep inside me.
You’re only one who’s looked in my soul.
You’re the only one who sets my spirit free.
You’re the only one who takes me as I am.”

“Take Me As I Am” is a great song, and you can check out their other music on  Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube

Connect with Newfound Strangers:  Website / Facebook / TwitterInstagram

Purchase their music on  iTunes  or  Bandcamp

Top 20 Songs for August 13-19, 2017

1. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (2)
2. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (1)
3. HIGH – Sir Sly (3)
4. THE MAN – The Killers (4)
5. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (6)
6. RUN – Foo Fighters (7)
7. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (5)
8. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire (8)
9. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age (11)
10. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People (9)
11. LIGHTS OUT – Royal Blood (12)
12. SILENT SUN – Morning Fuzz (10)
13. ONE OF US – New Politics (14)
14. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs (16)
15. SONG #3 – Stone Sour (17)
16. J-BOY – Phoenix (13)
17. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers (15)
18. DIG DOWN – Muse (18)
19. THE NIGHT WE MET – Lord Huron (19)
20. COLD LITTLE HEART – Michael Kiwanuka (20)

CANDID – Single Review: “Lay Me Down”

UK rock band Candid is quickly establishing themselves as one of the most exciting bands on the indie music scene. The Coventry, England foursome released their debut single “Moving On” in the fall of 2016, then followed up with the fantastic single “Rumours” in May, which I reviewed. They’re now back with a new single “Lay Me Down,” which dropped on 6 August, and it’s superb.

Candid is comprised of brothers Rob (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Dan Latimer (lead guitar), Sam Baines (bass) and Ben Williams (drums). Their dynamic sound delivers catchy melodies, outstanding guitars, wicked percussion and Rob Latimer’s commanding vocals. As I noted in my previous review, Candid’s sound has been compared to Catfish and the Bottlemen. That’s fine by me, as I love Catfish and the Bottlemen and now love Candid as well.

Candid

“Lay Me Down” is an exhilarating track with scorching riffs and thunderous percussion.  The instrumentals build to a crescendo at the bridge, and continue through to the end – guitars wailing, cymbals crashing and Rob’s soaring chorus raising the hair on the back of my neck.

The lyrics speak to someone who’s let him down one too many times, causing him to finally quit a relationship that’s beyond repair:  “I won’t believe it, until I know its true, cause I can’t get to you, no matter how hard I tried to oversee it. It’s always someone who tries to get to you, put the thought in your mind. /And no matter how hard I tried to turn the other cheek. No matter how hard I’ve tried to look the other way. So lay me down. Cause nothing can stop me now.

Follow Candid:  Facebook  /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube

Purchase:   iTunes

FICTION PEAKS – Album Review: “Citizen”

Every now and then we all come across an artist or band whose music instantly touches us in a powerful way.  Fiction Peaks is such a band, and I knew they were something special the very first time I heard their music. Incorporating elements of alternative rock, shoegaze, dream pop and electronica, the Dublin, Ireland five-piece combine beguiling melodies and a cornucopia of instruments to create songs of exceptional beauty and complexity. I featured them on this blog a year ago, then again in March when I reviewed two new songs – “Before the End” and “Jinx,” – which you can read here. Those songs are included on their stunning debut album Citizen, which dropped in late April (and I’m finally reviewing at long last).

Citizen

Fiction Peaks is comprised of five remarkable musicians: Joey Doyle (Lead vocals, Guitar, Sampler), Cillian Kenny (Bass, Trumpet), Barry Lyons (Backing Vocals,Synths),  Joáo Francisco (Drums) and Brian Giles (Guitar, Loops).  To say that they’re all masters of their craft is an understatement; their instrumentals are perfection from start to finish, and Doyle’s vocals are sublime. Citizen delivers ten tracks that vary in style and length (from two and a half to over seven minutes), but all feature the band’s exceptional guitar work that’s a primary characteristic of their phenomenal sound.

Fiction Peaks New

Raincheck,” kicks things off with Francisco’s nimble percussion, Giles’ looping guitar and Doyle’s soaring vocals. The layered, multi-textured guitars are fantastic, and Kenny lays down a bass line just heavy enough to keep things grounded. It all builds to a crescendo in the bridge before calming back down, guitars swirling beautifully. The track is nearly six minutes long but feels over in an instant.  The exhilarating, hard-driving “Jinx” arrives on a wave of hammering drums, heavy buzzing bass and frenetic jangly and shredded guitars, proving the guys know how to rock.

And rock they do on the seven minute-long “Shimmer.” The first half of the track offers up awesome crunchy riffs, a mesmerizing bass line, and a head-bobbing drumbeat. At the halfway point, exuberant jangly guitars enter the scene, accompanied by delicate synths, while Doyle sings “The world is yours, this time.” The gentle guitar solo at the outro is wonderful.

As much as I love their rock-oriented songs, it’s on their slower compositions that the beauty of their sound really shines. “Before The End” is a standout and one of my favorites, with a lovely piano movement and Lyons’ warm synths that create an ethereal soundscape. Strings and percussion are added along with acoustic and electric guitars, increasing the song’s power but not diminishing it’s dreamlike quality. The poignant lyrics are beautifully sung by Doyle:

Before the end, before the credits, before the curtain’s drawn on a worn-out day. You shrugged it off. You rolled with the punches. All torn and battle-scarred as night gave way. /You could have walked, ran for the exits. A testament to strength is why we’re here. You have the words, you are the reason, the reason we stand tall in our finest hour. With nothing ventured, there is nothing gained. Tried teaching me to let go. Your stubborn student, your own flesh and blood. It’s only understanding.

The provocative and visually powerful video for “Before The End” was directed by local artist Colm Giles (brother of band member Brian).  According to a write up featured on the website Nialler, Giles explained “My take on ‘Before The End’ was to make an artistic observation of the times we are living in. I did this by looking at elements of the Spanish Civil War – showing ordinary people fighting against fascism. With the current subtle rise of the far right, and populist politics, mistakes of the past can be repeated if we don’t all pay attention.

Another gorgeous track is “Spring’s in Bloom,” with sweeping violins, stunning guitars, gentle percussion and Doyle’s earnest vocals singing the hopeful lyrics about what I’m guessing is a couple awaiting the birth of their first child and trying to make their relationship work out: “We’ll be right, we’ll be fine, until the start of life.”

The band shows its folkish side on the lovely “In for a Penny,” and the title track “Citizen,” a short song with a languid melody, acoustic guitar and beautiful synths. The xylophone at the end is especially nice. The lyrics speak to escaping the cruel burdens society heaps upon us: “Society chisels at the weakest part of us. The chink in our armour is amusement for the rest. But if I had my way, I’d be leaving here today. From my rear view mirror, I’d bid farewell to the fray.”

As its name suggests, “Synesthesia” is an epic synth-heavy track over seven minutes in length. Starting off with a hypnotic repeating synth beat and Doyle’s earnest vocals, at 2:37 the drumbeat quickens, and with his charming Irish brogue, Doyle speaks the words: “We too are only dust, the same substance. Distance is apparent in a not so perfect world. Where we dreamed of living in space. Floating happily as cosmic debris. / Breaking free of industrial zombieland, and the chain of misery. We will open our ears to the whistling of the wind. / The planet is alive, so reach out to the visionary.” As the song progresses, the drumbeat becomes heavier, now accompanied by more powerful synths, soaring strings and exquisite jangly guitars that continue to the end.

Album closer “Electric Galleria” is a phantasmagoria of luxurious, dreamlike synths that float and soar through the airwaves and into our senses. The track is the perfect ending to a magnificent album that is unquestionably one of the best of 2017.

Follow Fiction Peaks:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase it:  BandcampiTunes

THESE WICKED RIVERS – Album Review: “II”

Followers of my blog know I’m a big fan of hard-driving, guitar-heavy rock, so it will come as no surprise that I love the music of UK band These Wicked Rivers. This four-piece plays down and dirty blues-infused rock’n’roll that sounds like they’re from Alabama or Mississippi, rather than Derby, England (no disparagement intended against Derby, of course).  Their melodic, riff-heavy music is incredibly exhilarating and dynamic, kicking you squarely in the ass! Making all this awesome noise are John Hartwell (lead vocals, guitar), Arran Day (guitar), Jon Hallam (bass) and Dan Southall (drums).

These Wicked Rivers band

In 2015 they released an excellent debut EP The Enemy, and follow up with their fantastic album II, which dropped at the end of April (and I’m finally getting around to reviewing at long last). With seven tracks, it’s longer than a typical EP and shorter than the usual album. But whatever category it’s placed in, this much is clear: the six major tracks are all heavyweights in terms of both quality (amazing) and quantity (all run four to six minutes in length), so I’d say it qualifies as an album.

These Wicked Rivers establish right off the bat what they’re all about with the aptly-titled intro track “Wicked River Blues,” then launch into “Stones Painted Gold.” Guitars blazing, they add a bit of funky bass to the bluesy mix as John snarls the searing lyrics that speak to a woman who’s done him wrong: “You turn it around, you know it’s never your fault. God, your such a martyr. Now you burn to the ground anyone in your way.” Arran’s distorted guitar solo in the bridge is fearsome! Without skipping a beat, “That Girl” arrives with a barrage of shredded, squealing guitars, throbbing bass, and muscular drums hammering out a hard-driving beat that had me banging my head and gyrating in my chair. These guys know how to rock!

They slow things down with the magnificent rock ballad “When the War is Won.” All the elements of this six minute long track come together to create an epic song that’s absolute perfection, and it’s my favorite on the EP. The complex, layered guitar work is positively mind-blowing, with gorgeous riffs and wailing solos that raise goosebumps with every listen. John passionately sings of finding his way back from a dark place in his mind: “I look around and know I’m free. I hear my voice, I say I wouldn’t do it any other way. I can save my life. Say the truth in their lies. I can walk with my head held high, now the war, now the war is won.”

The terrific, bluesy “Testify” has a Pearl Jam vibe, and John’s vocals even sound a bit like Eddie Vedder. Once again, the guys show off their exceptional musicianship, with killer riffs, Jon’s speaker-blowing bass and Dan’s aggressive percussion. I love the lyric “She tastes like sugar, and goes down like honey.” “Put Me on Trial (For Who I Am)” delivers more face-melting rock’n’roll goodness, courtesy of scorching hot riffs, crushing heavy bass and thunderous drums.

Last but certainly not least is the anthemic “Don’t Pray For Me,” another monumental track with jaw-dropping instrumentals. The song opens with a gospel-like organ solo, then the band’s signature intricate guitars, heavy bass and power drums take over. The lyrics address the complexities and contradictions inherent in many of us – we have both good and bad elements in our character: “I’ve been a loser, I’ve been a cruiser, I’ve been lost and I’ve been found. I’ve been a user, I’ve been a bruiser. I’ve been up and I’ve been down. And I’ve been a taker, I’ve been a faker. I’ve been a liar and a cheat./ I’ve been every man in between./ Don’t you pray now.  Don’t you pray for me. Don’t judge a man by only what you see.

II is a brilliant album that firmly establishes These Wicked Rivers as one of the finest rock’n’roll bands in the UK. These guys are phenomenal musicians, and need more exposure so that more people will discover them and their awesome music. I urge my readers to support the band by following them on their social media and downloading/purchasing their music:

WebsiteFacebookTwitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes

Top 20 Songs for August 6-12, 2017

1. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (1)
2. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (3)
3. HIGH – Sir Sly (2)
4. THE MAN – The Killers (5)
5. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (4)
6. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (6)
7. RUN – Foo Fighters (9)
8. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire (8)
9. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People (7)
10. SILENT SUN – Morning Fuzz (11)
11. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age (13)
12. LIGHTS OUT – Royal Blood (14)
13. J-BOY – Phoenix (10)
14. ONE OF US – New Politics (15)
15. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers (12)
16. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs (17)
17. SONG #3 – Stone Sour (18)
18. DIG DOWN – Muse (16)
19. THE NIGHT WE MET – Lord Huron (20)
20. COLD LITTLE HEART – Michael Kiwanuka (N)

CAMERON MILLS – Single Review: “Burning On Full Steam”

Cameron Mills is a talented young singer/songwriter based in Devon, UK. Despite the fact he’s only 18 years old, Cameron has a phenomenal singing voice that sounds far beyond his years. He began taking singing lessons at an early age, and has performed at many gigs and concerts since before he was ten. He enjoys performing swing and jazz songs, as well as old classics and modern folk-pop that suit his mature vocal style. I think he sounds like a more soulful version of Rick Astley.

Cameron Mills

He released his first single “Autumn Leaves” in 2015, and followed up with a couple more before dropping his latest single “Burning On Full Steam” in April of this year. It’s a catchy, folk-infused pop tune with an almost gospel quality. The track begins with a slightly mysterious hummed chorus, then lovely strummed guitar and gentle percussion take over, accompanied by Cameron’s rich, warm vocals. He sings about dreaming big and not letting anyone or anything prevent you from trying to reach your goals: “You’ve got to aim for the stars. Nothing less. No matter what people say. Don’t let them get in the way. Never let anything get in the way. Aim for your dreams, Keep burning on full steam.

As an added bonus, here’s a video of Cameron singing a pretty decent cover of Stevie Wonder’s classic song “Superstition.” It really showcases his vocal ability.

To learn more about Cameron, check out his Website and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes

NELSON REZEK – EP Review: “Nelson Rezek”

Nelson Rezek is a 24 year old singer, songwriter, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist based in Birmingham, Alabama. I’ve followed him since he was a member of the heavy metal band Broken Rail, which he left about a year ago to pursue his own career as a solo artist, and it’s been gratifying to watch him come into his own and grow artistically. Nelson began his musical journey at the age of 13, when he discovered his passion for playing the electric guitar. While still with Broken Rail, he started writing his own songs, the first of which was “Too Far Broken,” which he released as a single in March 2016. He’s now released his debut self-titled EP, and I’m pleased to review it.

Nelson Rezek

For inspiration in creating his music, Nelson draws on influences from some of his favorite bands like Korn, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, Slipknot and Stone Sour. He explains: “Writing music is like therapy for me. Great music tells a story, and the beauty of it is it speaks to each person in a unique and personal way. I want to let people know through my music that they are not alone.” His songs address relationships and the myriad emotions they entail, such as lust, betrayal and regret.

Nelson Rezek2

Let me state upfront that Nelson is a phenomenal guitarist, and his complex, hard-driving guitar work is a dominant feature of his powerful sound. The first track “Part of Me” kicks things off with aggressive shredded guitars and hammering percussion. Nelson coaxes some fiery riffs from his six string while he snarls the biting lyrics that speak to someone who’s sucked the life out of the relationship, but he’ll never surrender his soul: “Go ahead and take this lie I own, I don’t fear you anymore. Go ahead and take all that I’ve known, but you’ll never take this part of me.”

Nelson delivers intricate, layered riffs, anchored by crushing bass and pounding drums that threaten to blow the speakers, on the mesmerizing “The Enemy.” With his smoldering vocals, he sings of letting everyone down, including himself:  “I am the enemy. I will let you down. Something inside of me, will always let me down.” He calms things down in the bridge, with a quiet voice over accompanied by a gentle guitar solo, before the music ramps back up to a crescendo in the outro.

He shows his softer side with the gorgeous ballad “Too Far Broken.” The song opens with a gentle riff, then layers of guitar, bass and percussion are added, creating an emotionally powerful track. Nelson fervently sings of his pain from a relationship that’s failed beyond repair: “Where’d you go? Why’d you have to leave it all behind? Too far broken. Can’t you see all this pain you’ve bottled inside of me.” The little guitar riff that’s introduced in the bridge is beautiful.

Prayers of the Guilty” is a high-energy, hard-rocking standout track (though, quite frankly, all are standouts as far as I’m concerned). Fast-paced jangly guitars erupt right from the start, with no let up as Nelson emotionally sings of the guilt he feels over his having let a loved one down. “If I could start a new beginning, would I even get to change the ending. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so empty, but all we got now is prayers of the guilty.”

The excellent video starts off with a woman in emotional distress who releases a letter into a lake. Then Nelson and his back-up musicians are shown performing the song in a natural setting, interspersed with with flashbacks of the woman ignoring her father’s calls because she was busy with her band, and scenes of her regretfully recalling happier times spent with him as a child. The video was directed by Kevin Wayne.

The hard-hitting “Drive Me Crazy” lives up to its title, as Nelson drives us crazy with an infectious melody and scorching hot riffs. Songs like this with a hard-driving beat and killer guitar work always get me going, and this is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. It’s a real head-banger that’s best enjoyed played full-blast!

Every time I listen to Nelson’s songs, I’m blown away by his strong musicianship and amazing guitar playing. Nelson Rezek is a strong, expertly-crafted debut effort that he should be proud of. I’m impressed by his hard work and determination to make the best music possible, and will continue following him on his musical journey. I encourage my readers to do the same by connecting with him on  Facebook /  Twitter /  YouTube

Stream his music: Spotify / ReverbnationSoundcloud

Purchase it:  BandcampiTunes