VEER is a hard rock band based in the historic and charming Maryland capital of Annapolis, but their dark and aggressive sound would suggest roots in nearby Baltimore instead. Formed in 2016, the band consists of brothers Ronald (vocals and guitar) and Jon (drums) Malfi, Ryan Fowler (lead guitar), and Christian Mathis (bass). They hit their stride in 2018 with the release of their debut album Apocalyptic, Baby, which quickly made the Amazon Top 100 Rock Albums list. That same year, they won a Maryland Music Award for Best Rock Band, then went on to win Best Rock Song for their 2017 debut single, “Come Clean,” by the World Songwriting Awards, an international organization that promotes and recognizes songwriting in various genres throughout 129 countries around the globe. Their riveting live performances have earned them a loyal following in the mid-Atlantic region, where they’ve had the pleasure of opening for such acts as Buckcherry, Sponge, Fuel, Puddle of Mudd, Trapt and 40 Below Summer.
This past December they released their latest single “Red Tide“, which will be included on their forthcoming album Soft Machines, due out later this year. The song has a moody grunge undercurrent that – to my ears at least – gives it somewhat of an early Pearl Jam or Soundgarden vibe. The instrumentals are all fantastic, starting with layers of fairly intense gnarly guitars over a fuzz-coated shimmery riff that serves as the basis for the song’s ominous melody. Christian lays down a throbbing bass line in perfect accompaniment with Ryan’s moody riff, while Jon fervently attacks his drum kit, pounding out the powerful rhythm with impeccable timing. Ryan’s blistering guitar solo in the bridge is quite good too.
Ronald told me that the song is about “the repetitive nature of human beings, continually making the same mistakes over and over—be it in society in general or our personal lives.” His raw, impassioned vocals convey a strong sense of exasperation as he bitterly wails the refrain “I’ve been here before“. I really like “Red Tide”, and think it’s VEER’s best song yet. Have a listen, and let me know what you think.
One of my favorite new* acts to emerge in 2020 was British rock band Amongst Liars. I placed an asterisk by their name because, while the band was technically new, each of its members are all seasoned musicians who came together after the breakup of their previous bands Saint Apache and Katalina Kicks. Thus, they had the advantage of starting out with a built-in following that’s grown exponentially since their rebirth. In little more than a year, Amongst Liars have written and recorded 18 songs, including their debut album to be released later this year.
They released four of those songs as singles in 2020, beginning in February with their spectacular debut “Over and Over”, followed by “Wolf Machine”, “Burn the Vision”, and “Mind”. I wrote about three of those singles on this blog, which you can read by clicking on the related links at the end of this post. I like their music so much that two of their singles – “Over and Over” and “Burn the Vision” – ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list. Now the guys are back with their fifth single “Black Days“, delivering more of the fiercely aggressive hard rock and in-your-face lyrics we’ve come to expect from them. The track was produced, mixed & mastered by David Radahd-Jones at Red City Recordings in Manchester.
Based in the Brighton/Eastbourne area, Amongst Liars consists of Ian George (lead vocals, guitar), Leo Burdett (guitar, backing vocals), Ross Towner (bass, backing vocals) and Adam Oarton (drums). Not only are they all highly accomplished and talented musicians, they’re nice guys too. And while they don’t consider themselves a political band per se, they haven’t shied away from expressing their opinions and anxieties about what’s been happening in the world. On “Burn the Vision” for example, the band took aim at political leaders who’ve sought to profit from the misfortune of others by distorting the media with fake news to spread their own narratives and lies. With “Black Days”, the band launches a full frontal assault on the last 10 years of Tory rule in the UK, calling out austerity measures, questionable decision making, incompetence, lies and self-serving political bias.
The band further elaborates: ”The last 10 years have seen some really despicable and self-serving politics in the U.K, which have caused huge division across the country, with hardship, suffering and ultimately many deaths amongst some of the most vulnerable people in society. Even in the last year there has been a huge contradiction in the approach to dealing with Covid and a large number of people still remain excluded from help and support. It just seems to be one thing after another, with nepotism, cronyism, greed and a ‘one rule for them, another for us’ mentality – and no accountability for government actions at all. This song reflects our frustration, and we had to release ‘Black Days’ as a commentary on everything happening and the desperation that a lot of people have felt during the last 10 years. The black days and the fires we sing about are both caused and fueled by the very people voted in to supposedly protect and develop a healthy society.“
Amongst Liars always push their respective instruments to the breaking point in the creation of their signature explosive wall of sound, and they don’t disappoint on “Black Days”. The song opens ominously, with sounds of a buzzing alarm announcing an unfolding crisis, then Ian’s fearsome vocals enter as he wails at the top of his lungs “Black days are here now! Start the fire, burn it out!” From there, the guys deliver an unrelenting onslaught of shredded guitars and thunderous rhythms, laying waste to the airwaves like a rampaging sonic beast. They fully channel the strong sense of anger and frustration expressed in their searing lyrics into their music with a ferocity that’s positively mind-blowing in its intensity and raw power. As I’ve noted on my reviews of their previous songs, Ian’s a literal beast on vocals as he unleashes a full-throated denunciation of our failed and duplicitous leaders. It all makes for an electrifying, cathartic and highly satisfying listening experience.
The provocative and sometimes disturbing video shows footage of leaders like Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, juxtaposed with scenes of political protests and violence, patients dying of Covid, and vintage footage of nuclear explosions. It was produced, directed and edited by Josh R Lewis, with assistant editing by Robert Ruardy.
Like for all their singles, the terrific surreal artwork for “Black Days” was created by the artist Pierre Engelbrecht.
Dunes is a British stoner rock band based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Formed in late 2016, the trio consists of John Davies (guitar, vocals), Ade Huggins (bass, vocals) and Nikky Watson (drums). Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Torche, Death From Above 1979 and Clutch, they play an aggressive style of what they call “desert-riff-blues-tinted-disco-tinged-rock.” During their first 18 months as a band, they recorded and released two 5-track EPs, followed by their wonderfully-titled debut album Take Me to the Nasties, which they released in September 2019 (you can read my review here). Now the guys are back with their first new single in 16 months, “This Must Be the Plague“. Released through Sapien Records Ltd., it’s four minutes of hard-driving stoner rock goodness, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.
The song blasts through the gate with an explosive barrage of grungy riffs slicing through the airwaves like a rogue buzzsaw, driven by a powerful chugging bass line and thunderous drums. The guys are all strong musicians who play as a tight unit, and despite the time gap between the release of their album and this single, not to mention the fact they’ve not been able to perform live, it’s clear they’ve not lost their groove one bit. Davies’ nimble guitar work is superb, and Huggins and Watson do a masterful job keeping the pulse-pounding rhythms at full throttle.
About the song’s meaning, I guessed it to be a commentary about how the Covid pandemic is our modern version of The Plague, with the line “We’re the disease, and that’s the cure” suggesting that people are both the cause and the solution. When I asked Davies about it, he said I was basically correct, but elaborated: “The track was originally written early 2020 pre-pandemic world. It’s a reflection on the feeling that we’re staring down the complete downfall of society with people becoming more and more polarised and divided day by day. It didn’t feel like there was a way back. Then a pandemic happened. We’re not hopeful, but we’ll at least make some noise and have a drink while the ship goes down.”
It appears the pandemic made “This Must Be the Plague” all the more relevant and timely. And though it may not be a solution, I’m certainly always down for some good music accompanied by an adult beverage!
Saboteurs is a terrific rock band from Lincoln, England who I first featured on this blog in June 2019 when I reviewed their superb debut album Dance With the Hunted. Now they’re back with a dark and hard-hitting new single “Shame“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. Consisting of Ben Ellis (lead vocals/guitar), Rick Whitehead (lead guitar/vocals), Geoff Standeven (bass), and Pete Botterill (drums), they combine elements of alt-rock, grunge, post-punk, metal and folk with driving rhythms, intricate melodies, powerful instrumentation and intelligent lyrics to create music that excites and surprises us at every turn.
As with Dance With the Hunted, “Shame” was produced, mixed and mastered by Hamish Dickinson at Phoenix Sound Studio, Notts UK. Angered by the failed libertarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and inspired by influences of bands like New Model Army, Biffy Clyro and Thrice, Saboteurs has created their most intense and brooding track yet. The song has a harder rock feel, with more pronounced elements of nu-metal and grunge than their previous songs. The band explains that the song “comments on the struggle within liberal democracies to reconcile the tension between civil liberties and the protection of society. And asks whether in fact, we are facing a Malthusian catastrophe as nature fights back against human population growth.”
The guys drive home their withering message with a furious onslaught of grungy riffs, crushing bass and thunderous percussion. The song opens ominously with spooky synths and distorted guitar chords, then we’re hit with a blast of buzz saw riffs and smashing drumbeats as Ellis angrily snarls “You sit around and say it’s a shame but you’re not us and we’re not them.” The dual raging guitars of Ellis and Whitehead set the airwaves aflame while Standeven’s powerful bass line drives the relentless rhythm forward, accompanied by Botterill’s speaker-blowing attack on his drum kit. By song’s end, I’m breathless. “Shame” is a blockbuster rock song, and it’s good to see Saboteurs back and in fine form.
The song at #54 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Highway Tune” by Greta Van Fleet. The young Michigan foursome literally blasted onto the music scene in 2017 like a little bundle of TNT. I’ve possibly ranked this song too high, but ‘wow, just wow!’ was my and nearly everyone else’s reaction upon first hearing this explosive head-banger (though the group’s had their share of detractors who’ve dismissed them as a cheap Led Zeppelin cover band – to whom I say go fuck yourselves!)
Greta Van Fleet consists of the three Kiszka brothers Josh, Jake and Sam (Josh and Jake are twins) and drummer Danny Wagner, all of whom were in their late teens or early twenties when they recorded the song. Despite their youth, these guys are all skilled musicians, and lead vocalist Josh – a diminutive guy with a gargantuan bluesy voice – sounds disarmingly like a young Robert Plant. The song was featured on their debut EP Black Smoke Rising, and reached #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock and Active Rock charts.
Four Thousand Miles is a unique rock band with an international pedigree, in that each of its four members are from a different country, hence their name ‘Four Thousand Miles’. They started out as a collaboration over the internet, and grew to become a music project after finding that each of their own unique styles blended well together. The four band members are Alex Fearn from Liverpool, England on vocals and rhythm guitar, Lionel Pacreau from Bordeaux, France on lead guitar, Alex May from Atlanta, Georgia, USA on drums, and Liam Sibbald from Prestatyn, Wales on bass.
They’ve gathered together on a number of occasions in Liverpool to record music and film videos, and released their excellent debut single “Lonely” this past Valentine’s Day. The followed up in April with “Reflections”, which I reviewed, and are back with their third single “Demon on the Run” which dropped on Halloween. Like their previous singles, the song was mixed and mastered by Simon Jackman at Outhouse Studios in Reading, Berkshire, and delivers more of their outstanding hard-hitting melodic rock.
The guys are all terrific musicians, and really up their game with “Demon on the Run”. It’s a beautiful rock song, with stellar dual guitar work by Pacreau and Fearn, highlighted by gorgeous chiming guitars in the verses alternating with bone-crushing riffs in the choruses. Sibbald drives the powerful rhythm forward with a deep, pulsating bass line while May smashes his drum kit with impressive force.
The heartfelt lyrics are a plea for help from someone experiencing an emotional breakdown, feeling isolated and alone in their struggle to try and overcome their demons. Fearn’s powerful vocals rise to the occasion as he passionately wails “Do you know, do you know at all, what it feels like to lose control? Do you know, do you know at all, what it was like when I needed a miracle, to help myself. There was nobody, nobody else. I was lost and scared, but never running away. A miracle. Nobody else was saving me from myself.“
When I last featured New Brunswick, Canada-based alternative metal rap group ECHOSEVEN on this blog this past May, it was to review their explosive debut single “Everything”. Both they and I were pleasantly surprised when the review received hundreds of views, especially given they were a relatively new band and this was their first single. They quickly followed in June with a second single “Gunnin”, a melodic and introspective rap-rock ballad. On September 30, they dropped their third single “I Am the Tree“, a more traditional metal rock sounding track.
In the five months since I wrote about them, ECHOSEVEN has undergone a few changes in lineup, with a new second guitarist and bassist. The band now consists of Stefanie Roy on vocals & guitar, Darrell Vautour on rapping vocals, Justin Larracey on guitar, Allon McCall on drums, Dylan Osmond on guitar, and Mike Brooks on bass. About the new single, the band explains: “‘I Am the Tree’ is about not letting your demons win. It’s about realizing your past and present life may not be perfect, but when it comes to persevering, you have the strength of a lion.”
The song storms through the gate with a juggernaut of Metallica-esque shredding that continues unabated, serving as the relentless driving force propelling the song forward. Into this sonic mayhem the band embeds a throbbing bass line, then tops things off with more guitar, furiously pummeling drumbeats and a deluge of crashing cymbals to create an intense wall of sound. Stefanie’s deep, smoky vocals have a rather subdued feel that contrasts sharply with the dynamic instrumentals. At first they seemed almost too low-key for the heavy music, but the more I listened to the song, the more appropriate to the lyrics they felt. No screaming is necessary to convey the strength and perseverance described in the powerful lyrics:
When all the smoke clears, I will show myself in truth Without restraint, I’ll smash the disbelief right out of you No walls can block my way I’ll crush them all in turn Faced with the eyes of hell, I’ll make your evil burn
Caressed by guiding light, I’ll face my pain with dignity and if I fall I will fight I know no misery, I know no secrets to this life For I am strong – I’m the tree.
I charge unto the path and none stand in my way just try and catch me, I’ll reveal my sharpest claws again my roar will echo through the mountains and the sky Crowned like a lion, I will let your blood run dry
From humble beginnings in France as a folk pop duo making mostly acoustic music, Yard of Blondes have faced some of the same challenges and struggles as many young artists and bands experience since relocating to Los Angeles in 2014. Now a four-piece, they’re finally on an upward trajectory and making a name for themselves with their exciting and edgy style of alternative rock. The band is comprised of the hard-working French-born singer/songwriter and guitarist/vocalist Vincent Walter Jacob and bassist/vocalist Fanny Hulard, guitarist Burak Yerebakan, originally from Turkey, and Northern California native Forrest Mitchell on drums.
I’ve previously featured Yard of Blondes twice on this blog, first in July 2019 when I reviewed their marvelous bilingual single “Je veux danser tout l’été”, along with two alternative versions, then again this past February when I reviewed their single “Lowland”. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.) Now they’re back with “Do You Need More?“, the third single from their forthcoming debut album Feed the Moon, due for release early next year. The single and album were produced by Billy Graziadei (Biohazard, Powerflo), mixed by Michael Patterson (Nine Inch Nails, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and mastered by Maor Applebaum (Faith No More).
In a recent interview with music blog TrueStyleMusic, Vincent provided some background on “Do You Need More?”: “It was one of the first songs we wrote for our upcoming album, and it’s the song we always play first at our shows. It’s a song that seems very straight forward, but it evolves into a more complicated piece as Fanny is adding more and more layers of vocals, and as we end up breaking the installed routine with some surprisingly heavy bridge. Regarding the lyrics, it’s also a tricky song. It feels like a love song at the beginning, but it’s actually a toxic love story where one gaslights another, and it ends up with kind of a Stockholm syndrome situation.“
The song is a rampaging beast, storming through the gates like a bat out of hell with furious riffs of grimy guitars and a thunderous barrage of explosive rhythms. Fanny’s throbbing bass line propels the song forward while Forrest keeps pace with his pummeling drumbeats. Meanwhile, Vincent and Burak are busy laying to the airwaves with their aggressive, intertwining guitars, delivering chugging riffs of shredded distortion that threaten to blow out the speakers. Vincent and Fanny’s expressive vocals rise to the occasion, becoming downright feral in the chorus as they wail “Do you need more? Do you really need more? Gimme, gimme, gimme some more! I want it all!” Finally, everyone spent, the song fades out in a hum of reverb.
If the three singles released thus far – “You and I & I”, “Lowland” and “Do You Need More?” are any indication, Feed the Moon is guaranteed to be a terrific album.
Ortario is an alternative hard rock band from the South Wales Valleys, a region rich in musical heritage, as I’ve written about several artists and bands from that bucolic corner of the country. I’ve been following Ortario for more than four years, and first wrote about them back in March 2017, when I reviewed their debut EP A Place Called Home for The Symphony of Rock blog. (You can read that review here.) Comprised of Chris Clark (vocals), Jamie Thomas (bass), Scott Lloyd (guitar), Mark Lloyd (guitar) and Nathan Lewis (drums), the band released their self-titled album Ortario in April 2018, followed that December by Live, featuring live versions of seven of their best songs.
On September 4th, Ortario returned with their second EP Playing With Fire, featuring five hard-hitting bangers that see them exploring a harder rock sound. As the title suggests, the songs address themes of duplicity and mistrust, and the damage it can cause in relationships. There’s an interesting little story behind the artwork for the EP, as explained by the band: “The matchsticks that appear on the front cover of the EP actually spell out ‘Ortario’. The lettering seen is taken from the old Welsh and primitive Irish alphabet called “Ogham”, which dates back to the 3rd century. The medieval inscription was primarily used on tombstones and stone monuments. Examples of this alphabet can still be found in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.”
The guys get right down to business with the opening track “Losing Control”, blasting through the speakers with a furious onslaught of thunderous distortion and pummeling rhythms. Chris has a perfect voice for their style of hard rock – powerful enough to keep up with the intense instrumentals, while retaining a heartfelt vulnerability that beautifully conveys the pain and despair described in the lyrics. He laments of having to lose a piece of himself along with his self-esteem in order to keep his deteriorating relationship alive: “So I guess I better swallow my pride. But oh, I just want one more go. I know I think I’m losing control. And I don’t want to see the end. Not long ago you were my friend. And everything that we shared, I would never think it’d end this way.“
Ortario continues on their relentless sonic rampage as they launch into “Save the Day”, delivering frantic riffs of gnarly guitars and smashing drumbeats. “The Fall” follows suit, as Scott and Mark’s dual guitars slice through the airwaves with a barrage of jagged, buzzsaw riffs, while Jamie drives the rhythm forward with his propulsive bassline and Nathan aggressively beats his drum kit into submission.
“Time and Space” opens with a melodic intro of gently strummed guitar, accompanied by measured percussion and vocal harmonies lasting around 30 seconds before the song erupts in a storm of shredded guitars and thunderous percussion. While I do love the guys’ hard-driving sound, I also like when they scale things back and show their softer side. I would have enjoyed hearing an entire song played in the more acoustic style that the song opened with. That said, “Time and Space” is a highly satisfying badass rocker with some fine reverb-soaked guitar work.
They close out the EP with the hard-rocking “Sunrise”, featuring more of their signature blistering riffs and massive, speaker-blowing rhythms. The chiming guitar and Chris’s echoed vocals in the bridge add a bit of enchanting beauty, quickly followed by a final blast of distorted guitar to close things out with a bang.
Playing With Fire is an explosive little fireball, delivering 17 minutes of unrelenting hard rock grooves. The five members of Ortario really know how to kick ass, and if you like rock music that’s heavy, aggressive and loud, you will enjoy this EP.
To learn more about Ortario, check out their Website
Since forming a year ago from the breakup of the bands Saint Apache and Katalina Kicks, Amongst Liars have become one of the most exciting indie acts on the British rock music scene today. Incorporating a dynamic mix of alternative rock, grunge and punk, they play a melodic and fierce style of aggressive hard rock that’s earned them a loyal and passionate following, me included. Last February, they released their spectacular debut single “Over and Over”, then followed in May with their appropriately-titled beast of a track “Wolf Machine”. (You can read my reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of his post.) Now they return with their third single “Burn the Vision“, an explosive banger which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.
Based in the Brighton/Eastbourne area along the southern English coast, Amongst Liars consists of four highly accomplished musicians Ian George (lead vocals, guitar), Leo Burdett (guitar, backing vocals), Ross Towner (bass, backing vocals) and Adam Oarton (drums). While they don’t consider themselves a ‘political band’, they certainly don’t shy away from expressing their opinions and anxieties about what’s happening in the world. Band vocalist Ian George explains. “We’re not preaching at anyone or trying to change the world. We’re just saying these are the things that affect and concern us.”
In response to the ongoing political divisiveness over the past few years, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 global pandemic, a number of artists and bands have been inspired to write songs addressing those thorny issues, and Amongst Liars have been among the most outspoken. On their previous single “Wolf Machine”, Amongst Liars called out inept and ineffectual governments led by power hungry politicians. “Burn the Vision” shines a spotlight on those who have sought to profit from the misfortune of others by distorting the media with fake news to spread their own narratives and lies. The band explains: “‘Burn the Vision’ is basically about all things messed up in the world at the moment – people acting for personal gain and media distortion – no matter what side of the spectrum you are on. We all burn a vision in our heads through consumption of targeted fake news.”
Well, the guys unleash their arsenal of sonic weaponry to deliver a furious onslaught of thunderous riffs and crushing rhythms befitting the searing lyrics. Amongst Liars are all great musicians, adept at pushing their respective instruments to the limit to create an explosive wall of sound, and here they excel quite nicely. Working in tandem as a force to be reckoned with, Leo and Ian shred the airwaves with jagged riffs and fuzz-coated distortion, while Ross and Adam drive the powerful rhythm forward with an intense bass line and pummeling drumbeats. It’s a thrilling, pulse-pounding ride from start to finish!
Ian summons his inner beast on vocals, nearly spitting the lyrics as he rails against a despicable leader I assume to mean Donald Trump, continuously feeding us lies: “We bow to the lies of a president / We fall to the word of the free / All down to the voice of a millionaire / That’s not so clear to see.” Ian continues with his verbal assault, fervently pleading for people to stop believing the lies and start thinking for themselves: “Burn the Vision, don’t turn / Let us decide, all for the right, stop all the lies / Not for the memory / Burn the Vision.” Regular readers of my blog know I detest President Trump, so these lyrics strongly resonate with me.
With the assistance of Josh R Lewis and Robert Ruardy, the guys have produced a powerful video to bring the song to life. “We wanted a strong visual for this, so the video plays on this idea and is tongue in cheek, featuring a man stuffing himself with junk food and fake news – the idea that people become pariahs of their own consumption.” The video shows the aforementioned couch potato sitting in a darkened room, gorging on food and watching TV while the band performs the song nearby. Ian is also shown portraying a TV news anchorman and reporter. No matter how hard he tries, the man is unable to turn off his TV or change the channel, indicating that he’s become a prisoner of both the TV and fake news.
Watch this brilliant video:
Like for all their singles, the terrific surreal artwork for “Burn the Vision” was created by the inventive artist Pierre Engelbrecht.