INWATER – Single Review: “Nobody Else Than Me”

Inwater Nobody Else Than Me

Although the vast majority of artists I’ve featured on this blog are from either the U.S. or the UK, I do from time to time write about artists and bands from other countries. Just a few days ago, I reviewed a band from Italy, and now turn my spotlight for the first time on Portugal, to Lisbon rock band Inwater. Formed in 2014, the band is comprised of songwriter/producer Miguel Moreira (lead guitar, synths, programming &  backing vocals), songwriter/producer Rui Duarte (rhythm guitar, synths & lead vocals), João Barbosa (drums, percussion & programming), and André Pires (bass & backing vocals).

Although they identify their music as generally falling into the broad category of alternative rock, Inwater draws from a wide range of influences to create their own unique sound, and prefer to not be labeled any one particular genre. As they so eloquently put it, “[We] can be sweet as a little boat on the sea, or as frightful and dreadful as Godzilla emerging from the deep ocean. What best describes our sound is the fact that we recognize in ourselves the ability to reach out and discover what each song needs, and let them always show us the way. This approach gives us the chance to explore an infinite amount of possibilities driven by the song’s potential, and with patience and perseverance, it grows by itself and leads us to a different sight every time. We just have to come ashore and breathe the new air that is waiting for us.” An interesting aspect of their sound is that, listening to their songs, I’d never guess they were from Portugal.

Inwater has spent the past couple of years writing and recording songs for their forthcoming debut album Wet Dreams, and began releasing singles this past February, starting with the lovely and bittersweet “My Tragedy”.  In June, they followed up with a beautiful love song “Plain Heart”, featuring guest vocals by Caroletta The Girl From Chiado, and on November 15, they dropped their third single “Nobody Else Than Me“, which I’m reviewing today.

True to their desire to remain eclectic, the song starts off with an 80s new wave vibe that reminds me a bit of Depeche Mode. The hypnotic melody, deep bass and jangly guitars are fantastic. Then the chorus kicks in, and the song transitions to a faster, pop-rock tempo that’s equally satisfying. The guitar work and lively percussion are terrific, and the 30-second guitar solo in the bridge is particularly good. The track’s arrangement and production values are really outstanding as well. There were many hands involved in its production, including Nuno Oliveira and Pedro Isaac Ribeiro on bass, Ribeiro again on electric guitars, and João Tiago Fernandes on drums. The track was produced, mixed and mastered by Moreira and Duarte.

The lyrics, written by Duarte, speak to the protagonist’s inability to love anyone but himself, and his desire to remain free, enjoying only the physical pleasures from a sexual encounter. But they also reveal in inner turmoil, and the self-realization that he’s not necessarily a good person.

Don’t you understand?
Love means nothing to me
So, take it easy
Your love means nothing for me

My Freedom
Runs threatened by your love
My Freedom
Loves to walk alone

So please take a step back
I hate being followed

Can’t you see?
There’s nobody else than me
Nobody else
Nobody else than me

I’m not sweet
I’m not gentle and kind
I’m hungry
I’ve a battle inside

I need passion
I just wanna be surprised
I need passion
I just wanna take you higher 

Here are all three singles for those so inclined to take a closer listen to Inwater:

Follow Inwater:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music: SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

A MILLION RICH DAUGHTERS – Album Review: “Hidden Parents”

A Million Rich Daughters

Today I’m happy to introduce my readers to a terrific band with an equally terrific name: a million rich daughters. Hailing from Chicago, they play an interesting and totally unique style of, in their own words – “garage/industrial/horror inspired alternative post-punk – music that transcends the typical boundaries of the observable universe.” That sounds about right. The band was founded by brothers Brett and Jake Grant, with Brett on vocals, guitars and synths, and Jake on drums. They were later joined by Matt Clepper, Rene Gutierrez and Taylor Ford, and just released their new EP Hidden Parents, which dropped November 15. After recording the album, Gutierrez and Ford left the band, and were replaced by bassist Josh Victor. Brett also has a solo project under the moniker brett.grant.5, and released his own EP disqui.etude this past June (which I reviewed).

The first track “Hitting Backspace” is a reworking of a song that was originally featured on disqui.etude. This time the mesmerizing track has been expanded by more than a minute, and gets a heavier full-band treatment. Starting off with moody, throbbing synths and shadowy bass chords, the music gradually builds into a spine-tingling crescendo of swirling jangly and psychedelic guitars, accompanied by harsh industrial synths and a deep, thumping percussive beat. Brett has a quirky, distinctive singing voice, and here he sings in a kind of plaintive monotone that grows more dramatic as the music intensifies. His vocals perfectly express the desperate feelings of being buried alive by the staggering weight of one’s problems:  “It wasn’t like I anticipated facing all this in the time since yesterday. Sands keep falling. Feels like I’m slipping away, and trapped hitting backspace./ It wasn’t like I could keep up pacing, keep up pacing through the sands of yesterday.”

The next track “Love Me After” is a feast for the ears, and possibly my favorite on the album. It begins with an enticing mix of plucked guitar strings, delicate snare and a delicious little bass riff that really does it for me. Then a thumping drumbeat ensues, punctuated by jarring jolts of what sound to me like intensely amplified guitar chords. As Brett’s vocals enter the proceedings, the music explodes with equal measures of heavier guitars, synths and percussion. Brett passionately laments of a relationship heavily damaged by a long history of hurt and verbal abuse, yet still holding out hope that perhaps it can be salvaged: “Just like you said, I’m as good as dead, yet you call my words slander. One day we’ll break these goddamn mistakes. Maybe you’ll love me after?” The wailing guitar solo after the final chorus is wonderful.

Melancholia” is a bit of a musical tour-de-force, as it takes us on a delightful four minute long sonic journey. The first part of the song features a frantic punk rock tempo, with rapid-fire riffs and pummeling drumbeats, all anchored by a killer bass line. At around 2:30, the song transitions to a languid, synth-driven melody, with crisp percussion and that lovely bass taking center stage. Eventually, the frantic punk vibe returns in the final chorus for a great, head-banging finish. The lyrics seem to be about not allowing yourself to be defeated by depression or the oppressive forces imposed upon us by others, and to instead speak up and fight for one’s rights: “If you feel like you’re captive in a boat with no captain, speak up! Well I can’t just forget it, and I’ll always regret it, come on. Melancholia’s passion is a pit of distraction, come on. Now we’ve lost all our assets and we can’t pay for access, speak up!

Truth Be Told” is another track from disqui.etude that’s given a fuller instrumental treatment here, with spooky synths, muscular thumping drumbeats and intricate layered guitars. The stabbing guitar chords add a dramatic touch to the mix to great effect. I think this remake nicely enhances the impact of the haunting lyrics that speak to feelings of misery and guilt over the death of a loved one. Brett’s heartfelt vocals are really moving as he sings “Truth be told, I never thought that you’d be dead. Truth be told, I just can’t get you out my head. Truth be told, I’ve been obsessing for so long, I’d give anything to write a different song. Truth be told, I should’ve been the one to go. Truth be told, this burden’s getting hard to hold.

A million rich daughters dial the energy back up with “Possibly a Problem“, delivering furious riffs of jangly guitars and hard-driving rhythms. My take on the song’s meaning is that it’s about how as more aspects of ourselves and our past are revealed in the early stages of a new relationship, we fear the other may lose interest in us, given our shortcomings. In this case, alcoholism appears to be the possible problem: “Lost so many to elixir, don’t you disappear. I just want to make sure, if I’m sick again, be my cure. Possibly a small problem, but I just want to be your man.

The title track “Hidden Parents” has a wonderful electro-psych rock groove, and I love the haunting lead melody. Once again, there’s a lot going on here musically speaking, with numerous tempo and melodic change-ups. At times the song has an 80s new wave vibe, only to later veer headlong into frenetic punk rock beats. Backed by dark, sweeping synths and aggressive rhythms, the intricate, multi-textured guitar work is fantastic. Brett’s distant, echoed vocals convey a vulnerable sense of desperation as he seems to be asking for forgiveness for the wrongs he’s done: “Oh things, have changed, the damage done. Oh look, at what, I have, become. Now I, am lame and most probably not sane. There is, no me, no in-between. There’s still, one thing, I want, to do. And what, I want is to get a little closer to you. Oh it’s always for you.”

I must admit that this was one of the most challenging reviews for me to write in my four years of doing this. Despite having only six tracks, there’s a whole lot to unpack in each song. Not being a musician, and having no music ability nor training of any kind, I sometimes have a difficult time articulating what I’m hearing. Hidden Parents is an experimental work, teeming with unconventional, ever-changing melodies, deep, often abstract lyrics, and loads of innovative, complex instrumentation that give it a compelling and fascinating sound. Indeed, Brett himself told me the album “is fucking weird; there’s a lot going on technique-wise in the music theory, as well as a lot of layers.” That’s for sure, and while it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think it’s brilliant.

Connect with AMRD:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

DYING HABIT – Single Review: “Into Colour”

Dying Habit is an alternative rock band from northern Wales, whose electrifying, dynamic sound is influenced by such bands as Dead Letter Circus, Katatonia, Biffy Clyro, Therapy?, The Wildhearts and Karnivool. Hailing from Anglesey Island, they started off as a group of friends who bonded over a shared love of music and began jamming together around 2011. They finally became an official band in 2016 when they realized they had a special musical chemistry between them. Previously a four-piece, Dying Habit now consists of Nathan Jones (vocals), Alan Hart (guitar) and Mark Jones (drums).

In August 2018, they released their first official single “Unrealities”, a magnificent and powerful song that I featured on this blog, which you can read here. I liked it so much that it ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2018. They followed up with a second single “Into Colour” this past July, which I’m now getting around to reviewing. It’s another hard-hitting banger, with a heavier, more modern rock vibe than “Unrealities”. It’s not quite as melodic, but still an impressive track, with a thunderous barrage of blistering riffs, pummeling bass and smashing drums. The guys play as a tight unit, their layered gnarly and distorted guitars nicely enhanced by powerful driving rhythms. Nathan isn’t the strongest vocalist, but he handles the more dramatic parts of the song quite well, and his wails at the end are spine-tingling.

About the song, the band states “It is when we are at our lowest point that we find an inner strength we never knew was possible.” The hopeful, poetic lyrics urge us to turn toward the light – ‘into colour’ – to find a reason and the strength to continue and fight for our survival in this difficult and challenging thing called life:

Float above the surface
Think about tomorrow
Digging up the past it’s becoming real
We are getting somewhere
No more living in shadows
You got to show your face just get it done
On the edge of a dotted line, about to end it all
Wandering why I’d leave it all behind

Sink below the bottom
There’s not much to uncover
Behind the walls we’re finding all the clues
I’m on the edge for a second time, about to end it all
Wandering why should I turn away
But I’m melting into you
Into colour we flow, Into colour we flow
Screaming the words at you, all because of you
Gripping onto the edge, about to end it all
Wandering why should I turn away

Connect with Dying Habit:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase on Bandcamp

RUSTY SHIPP – Album Review: “Liquid Exorcist”

Rusty Ship Liquid Exorcist

One of my favorites of the many artists and bands I’ve featured on this blog is Nashville four-piece Rusty Shipp. (You can read my reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.) The brain child of front man Russ T. Shipp (his honest to God real birth name), Rusty Shipp is a self-described “Nautical Rock’n’Roll” band, with a sound influenced by ‘the melodic chord progressions of The Beatles, the surf guitar of Dick Dale, the grunge rock of Nirvana, and the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin’, among others. Their music is characterized by a dark, immersive sound, high-octane riffs and haunting vocals. Like many bands, they’ve experienced changes in lineup since forming in 2014, and now consist of the aforementioned Russ T. Shipp on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, AJ Newton on drums and Andrew “Speedy” Speed on bass. Together, they’re an immensely talented group of musicians who truly know how to deliver the hard rock goods.

Rusty Shipp

Following up on their phenomenal and highly-acclaimed 2017 album Mortal Ghost, Rusty Shipp has put out a new album Liquid Exorcist, which dropped on November 7th. In keeping with their nautical theme, it’s a concept work built around the subject of sea mine terrorism. It also plays somewhat like a rock opera, with one song seamlessly transitioning into the next without skipping a beat. Liquid Exorcist has a relatively short run time of only 26 minutes, exactly half that of Mortal Ghost, as several of the tracks are transitional or connectors between longer tracks. Nevertheless, it still makes an incredibly powerful statement and packs quite a wallop in it’s relatively short run time. Also, whereas Mortal Ghost has a heavier grunge feel, Liquid Exorcist sounds more melodic, sweeping and epic. The first time I listened to it all the way through, I was blown away.

It opens with the 42-second-long “Mine Factory“, an ominous-sounding instrumental intro that builds into a frantic barrage of gnarly riffs and smashing drumbeats as it immediately segues into “Liquid Pendulum“, a fantastic song with blistering guitars and intense, hard-driving rhythms that ebb and flow like waves on a stormy sea. Apperson and Shipp’s intricate guitar work is terrific, and Newton’s power drums provide just the right amount of propulsive thrust. Shipp has a beautiful singing voice that registers in the mid-range, occasionally rising to a just shy of a falsetto. The biting lyrics are a denunciation of the terrible legacy of countries filling the oceans with explosive mines: “Aren’t your wars waged on land enough? Why don’t you just keep your mankind to yourself? Leave behind your mess for someone else. Sharks will gladly come to your help.”

The track transitions into “Mindsweeper” a dark instrumental with chugging, distorted riffs, throbbing bass and harsh industrial synths. Then, watery plucked guitar strings and Speedy’s pulsating bass riff announce the arrival of “Detonator“. Suddenly, the music explodes into an electrifying maelstrom of swirling, fuzzy and wailing guitars, driving bass and thunderous percussion. It’s a spectacular song.

Rusty Shipp is not a Christian band per se, though Shipp is up-front about his Christian faith, as is evident in lyrics like “Raptured from the shrapnel in the twinkling of an eye. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said the end was near.” Overall, the lyrics address the dangerous work of those attempting to dismantle sea mines: “Disconnect the wires, before we all expire, but the water is turning into fire now. Everybody down, the bombs have stopped their ticking sound, five seconds till Heaven’s all around.

SS Naronic (Reprise)” is a ghostly revisit of the original track featured on Mortal Ghost, chronicling the White Star Line ship lost at sea in the north Atlantic in February 11, 1893, along with all its 74 passengers on board. To echoed, underwater sounds, Shipp’s electronically altered vocals lament “O God, please tell me there is more than this. That this cold abyss is not the end. Tell me it’s more than an accident, a warning to teach a lesson. Show me how it’s all part of the plan.”

Rusty Shipp then pays homage to Audioslave with a well-executed cover of “Show Me How to Live“, doing great justice to the powerful classic.  Once again, there’s a religious reference with the lyric “Nail in my hand from my Creator. You gave me life now show me how to live.”  Though different from Chris Cornell’s, Shipp’s vocals are just as effective in conveying the raw passion expressed in the lyrics. That segues into the face-melting and aptly-titled instrumental interlude “Blow Your Mine“. This intense, minute-long track perfectly showcases the band’s impressive skills.

Hundred Crosses” is, I think, the most beautiful song on the album, with a dramatic, sweeping melody that switches from calm to exuberant and back again, making for a very exciting listen. The multi-textured guitars are sublime, accompanied by Newton’s snappy drums and wildly crashing cymbals, all working in tandem to create a glorious soundscape for Shipp’s soaring vocals. Next up is “Breaking Waves“, the first single released in advance of the album last July, which I featured on this blog. It has a dark but catchy melody, with layered riffs of gnarly and distorted guitars, throbbing bass and pounding drums. Shipp explained that the song “describes the battle between technology and nature in a tortoise-and-the-hare-like metaphor, where mankind’s mightiest technology won’t stand a chance in the long run against the simple, steady erosion of the ocean’s immortal waves (i.e, nature) breaking it down.” 

Liquid Exorcist closes with another religious nod on the nautical poem “Navy Hymn“.  “Eternal Father, strong to save. Whose arm doth bind the restless wave. Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep. Its own appointed limits keep. O, hear us when we cry to Thee. For those in peril on the sea.” The brief track features stirring a capella choir vocals, accompanied only by sounds of the sea, and it’s a fitting end to the album.

Folks, this is a stunning and masterfully-crafted record on every level. Given it’s relatively brief run time and riveting listening experience, it seems to end far too quickly. That’s a good thing, and certainly preferable to some albums that overstay their welcome with too many filler tracks. Rusty Shipp continue to impress me with their incredible songwriting and musicianship, and deserve to be huge.

Connect with Rusty Shipp: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase: iTunes / cdbaby / Bandcamp

ALL TAKEN – Single Review: “Monsters Anonymous”

All Taken is an alternative hard rock band based in Los Angeles. Formed in 2015 as a duo by long-time friends Daniel Daghlarian (guitar, lead vocals) and Avo Karapetyan (drums, backing vocals), they released their debut single “Burning Red” a year later. In March 2017 they followed up with their EP Accept This, which I reviewed, then later that year, David Eye joined the band as bassist. They released a fantastic head-banging single “Smells Like Mistakes,” in summer 2018, which I also reviewed, and on October 25th, just in time for Halloween, they dropped their latest single “Monsters Anoynymous“.

The hard-hitting song opens with fuzz-coated gnarly guitars, then explodes into a frantic barrage of hard-driving rhythms, anchored by a David’s deep, humming bass line and Avo’s muscular pounding drumbeats. Daniel lays down kickass scorching riffs that cover me with goosebumps while he fervently sings the colorful, horror-themed lyrics that speak to a loss of identity and self-worth – of feeling anonymous and invisible. It’s a great song, and I think All Taken continues to get better and better with each release.

Hey guys, I’m a zombie, been undead for weeks
My flesh is rotted and green
I crave brains and spleen
Just check out what happened last week

In the dark of the night , tryin to grab a bite
spot a meat bag looking so fine
I lunge at her and she screams
Oh my gawd are you from that zombie show?

I’m a spirit bound to this earth
Been struggling with my self worth
I used to love the scaring work
Now boos don’t get a second look

I’m not the monster I used to be
All these things tearing at me
What scares me is I don’t scare you now
What scares me is I don’t scare you anymore

Connect with All Taken:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play

OUTTAKE13 – Single Review: “Warrior”

Outtake13

Outtake13 is a recently-formed alternative rock band based in Wilmington, North Carolina. The three-piece is comprised of identical twin sisters Michaela and Annabelle Sanchez, and Calen Barbour. Michaela plays acoustic guitar and bass, Annabelle plays electric guitar, and Calen plays drums. Both sisters sing the lovely vocal harmonies.

Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Michaela and Annabelle began writing and singing songs when they were only eight years old. While in their early teens, they formed their own two-piece act Entangled Dreams, and went on to release two studio albums, an EP, and multiple singles. They earned awards for their music and played over 200 shows, all before the age of 17! After continually being asked “where’s your drummer?”, they decided to bring Calen into their act, which they rechristened Outtake13. On November 4th, they released their first single “Warrior“, an uplifting song of inspiration. The track was produced by Will Baker, front man of Wilmington band Hollow Intent, who I featured on this blog this past September.

About “Warrior”, the band explains “It’s meant to inspire the notion that nobody is alone in their troubles. This song discusses the power of art. How writing, composing, or just simply creating can give you purpose. With every bad moment, a fire is brought to the surface with the purpose to fight negativity. ‘Warrior’ portrays many messages but with one meaning: you can bring purpose to your life through a craft of your choosing, to take you from a dark place to a space with inspiration and drive. You can do anything, because YOU are a Warrior.”

The song starts off with Michaela’s strummed acoustic guitar, giving it a folk vibe, but soon Calen’s snappy drums and Annabelle’s resonant electric guitar enter the mix, taking things toward a heavier rock sound. It’s clear the sisters are both fine guitarists, and the interplay between their acoustic and electric instruments is really wonderful. Toss in their skill for writing an arresting melody, and Calen’s tight drumming, and the result is a powerful, uplifting backdrop for their vibrant harmonies. It’s a terrific debut for Outtake13.

Look into these eyes and tell me you don’t see a warrior
Don’t forget, I’m really no different than you dear
Overcome what you’ve yet to face and you’ll feel it too
Together let’s stand and become something beautiful and new

A blank space
That’s where it all begins
We’ve turned something meaningless
Into something colorful

Follow Outtake13:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream/purchase:  Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp

WE ROYALS – Single Review: “Ready For It”

We Royals is a new electro/psych rock duo from the mountains of Colorado, consisting of Andy Crosby on guitar and vocals, and Shelton Summerville on drums. Crosby is also the super-talented and wildly-creative brainchild behind electro/psych music project Vox Eagle, who I’ve previously featured on this blog a number of times. We Royals have just released their debut single “Ready For It” and it fucking rocks! The song is the first single from their forthcoming EP, due out soon.

We Royals

The song erupts like a rampaging T-Rex, laying waste to the airwaves as he slashes and smashes everything in his path. It’s as if Aerosmith and Nine Inch Nails combine forces to do battle with Godzilla for sonic supremacy. Crosby shreds and distorts his guitar to the breaking point, making it wail and scream over an intense humming bass line, while Summerville blows out the speakers with his relentless, explosive drumbeats. All of this is backed by harsh industrial synths, creating an incendiary soundscape for Crosby’s feral vocals. His raw, impassioned screams would do Steven Tyler proud.

The song has a raw, high-energy sound like one would hear in a live concert where a band really lets loose. Crosby told me that was essentially what he and Summerville were after: “It was such a super fast process of meeting and tracking and mixing the EP. We only had about 48 hours in studio to get it all done, and didn’t really get too much time to retrack anything so was a bit of a jammy rush. But for the first EP we were just kinda excited to quickly catch the energy and vibe from the rehearsal room the previous week, so it’s definitely more of a raw, live sounding record.”

“Ready For It” most definitely kicks major ass, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the EP.

Connect with WeRoyals: Twitter / Instagram

Stream/purchase “Ready For It” on Spotify / Google Play / Apple Music

EMPTY FRIEND – Single Review: “Falter”

Empty Friend Falter

Many of the artists and bands I’ve written about recently seem to be from the UK, but there’s just so damn much great talent there that I can’t help but showcase some of it! My latest find is London-based rock band Empty Friend. Formed in 2015, their name was inspired by a song from one their favorite bands, L.A. alt-rock group Failure. Influenced by acts like the aforementioned Failure, as well as Queens of the Stone Age, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Incubus, Empty Friend fuses elements of hard rock, grunge, stoner and even a touch of metal to create music that’s heavy and loud, yet melodic and riveting. The current lineup consists of songwriter/vocalist David Kirk, guitarist Ryan O’Hare, drummer Karl Morgan, and bassist Daverage Norman.

They released their debut EP Saltwater in 2018, a fine work featuring five tracks steeped in grunge/stoner grooves. Two of the tracks, “Hanging On” and the title track “Saltwater” are especially good, and I encourage my readers to check them out on one of the music platforms listed below. Now Empty Friend return with a fantastic new single “Falter“, which dropped October 26th. The song is a hard-hitting protest song of sorts, with dramatic instrumentals and vocals that match the fiery intensity of the powerful lyrics.

The song opens with chugging riffs of fuzzy guitars, as Kirk’s fervent vocals command the proceedings. O’Hare’s gnarly guitars grow more intense as the song progresses, with flourishes of wailing distortion accompanied by Norman’s throbbing bass and Morgan’s tumultuous drumbeats. Now Kirk’s powerful vocals reach a crescendo as he emphatically screams the scathing lyrics calling out the ruthless, cynical leaders who prey on societal fears and divisiveness to gain and hold on to their power. Eventually, the masses will turn on these demagogues and drive them out (something I hope happens soon with assholes like Trump, Johnson, et.al.):

You rode the wave and made them love you
Stoking discontent
Whipping up the people into
Choices they regret

Now they hate you all the more
And they watch your every step
It’s one thing to forgive
And another to forget

Next you weaponised your lies
And you cracked down on dissent
You grew weaker with your pride
While the people gained their strength

Well enjoy your last sunrise
While the knives
Are being sharpened
In the shadows

Well the day’s gonna come
When you falter and run
All the people as one
Baying for blood

I’m glad that more artists are writing songs that speak to our current socio-political upheaval, and “Falter” is one of the best I’ve heard yet. It’s a brilliant track both musically and lyrically, and Empty Friend are surely a band to keep an eye on.

Catch Empty Friend at one of these upcoming shows:

Nov 23 – The Constitution, London, UK
Dec 07 – The Monarch Pub Camden, London, UK

Connect with Empty Friend:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play / Bandcamp

SPIRAL ROCKS – Single Review: “Raw Suicide”

Spiral Rocks Raw Suicide

This fantastic review was written by occasional guest reviewer David Thurling, a lover of music from Britain who graciously helps me with my crushing workload. I previously featured Spiral Rocks on this blog this past May when I reviewed their single “Know Your Weapon”.

Spiral Rocks is a UK band from England’s distinctly working-class North West.  This is a region of the country that is best known for its smoke billowing factories, Victorian era tenements and dark, overcast skies.  It is also home to two of the country’s most influential music cities, Manchester and Liverpool.  Perhaps the above imagery is a little unfair in this modern day, and in this writer’s experience, there is wonderful warmth that oozes out of the very pores of the North that is distinctly more genuine and charming than anywhere else in the country.  Yet it is from the very essence of this austere world that we have seen some of the greatest musicians and bands emerge over the last 50 years or so.  It is therefore appropriate that my first listen to Widnes-based Spiral Rocks is their latest haunting tune, “Raw Suicide”.

The single’s cover art reinforces the desperation and bleakness that permeates the 5:29-long track.  Yet the at the same time, the black and white photograph of menancing clouds overlooking a steel arch bridge reveals a hopeful sun fighting to breakthrough an ominous sky.  “Raw Suicide” begins with a measured lone guitar arpeggio that defies the aural take-off that comes later. Gently picked notes move up and down the guitar neck providing a wistful backdrop to a two part vocal that immediately sets a confronting tone both vocally and lyrically.  Lets not mince words here, “Raw Suicide” is a painful confession that is indeed, raw.

Thinking to myself
That I don’t like to die.
As I’m writing this old song
With a tear in my eye

“Raw Suicide’ continues in this vein with its anguished lead vocals but then something quite special happens, almost like a reward for having made it through the inherent sadness of the first half of the song. The band erupts into an exhilarating and extended guitar solo/bridge that seems to provide hope for the antagonist. It is a soaring moment with pounding drums and bass providing a magnificent platform on which a wailing guitar lead overwhelms the listener. To finish, we go back to the beginning with the gentle guitar picking being in this case, the calm AFTER the storm. There is something about this song that reminds me of Pink Floyd, especially the beginning guitar and vocal stylings.

Spiral Rocks is an interesting story. A band that has been gigging on and off together for many years. You get the sense that bands like Spiral Rocks are gems in the rough that in another era where autotune and drum sampling were thankfully absent, they may well be receiving the attention they deserve. A refreshing, unapologetic song that is worth a listen. Spiral Rocks is Antony Shone (vocals/guitar), Dave Baker (guitar), Stephen “Rowy” Rowe (bass) & Mark Bevan (drums).

Connect with Spiral Rocks:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / YouTube
Purchase their music on iTunes / Amazon / Google Play

THE COMMON VIEW – EP Review: “Man on the Moon”

The Common View EP art

Early this year, I featured young British alt-rock band The Common View on this blog after learning about them and becoming impressed by both their outstanding music and outspoken advocacy for social justice. Formed in 2018, the Leeds four-piece consists of Dom Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jose Ignacio Barrera (guitar), Jacob Lindsay (drums, vocals) and Joe Sykes (bass). (After recording their latest EP, Jacob took a hiatus from the band to study abroad for seven months, and has been temporarily replaced on drums by Venezuelan native Marco La Fata, who may remain with the band long-term).

They released their self-titled debut EP The Common View, Vol. 1 in December 2018, then quickly followed with a provocative single “Fuck Them”, a scathing critique of the failure of British society and the government to adequately address the chronic issues of health care, poverty and homelessness. In May of this year, they released their single “A Perfect Bridge” (which I reviewed), then followed up with the stunning Coldplay-esque “The End of Time” in July.  Now the prolific guys are back with a wonderful new EP Man on the Moon, which dropped October 7.

True to their passion for writing and recording topical, socially relevant songs, the title track “Man on the Moon” speaks to the issue of climate change. They drive their message home with a dramatic and gorgeous soundscape of chiming and jangly guitars, accompanied by swirling synths, a deep, throbbing bass line and crisp percussion. The arrangement and production values are superb, and I think this is one of their finest songs yet. I really love Jacob’s vocals, and here he fervently makes his case for standing up to the empty rhetoric of many politicians and climate change deniers and doing what each of us can to affect meaningful change.

Hey, we need to talk
I’m getting tired of politicians and their speeches and their forked tongues
They put a man on the moon
But now they’re blinded by the money from the gasses filling our lungs
Stand your ground, as you turn it upside down
Let the tide roll in as a solid rain
And don’t mind me
I’m just another one who’s nobody
But I’ll just do my best to make a change

Annabelle” is a delightfully rousing, guitar-driven head banger, and a further testament to these guys’ incredible musicianship. Dom and Jose slice through the airwaves with an exuberant mix of jagged and swirling riffs, while Joe and Jacob keep the hard-hitting rhythms pumping at full throttle. If this track doesn’t get you going, then you must be dead! The lyrics speak to a woman named Annabelle who’s driving him crazy with her teasing and indifference, making him fall for her but withholding her affections. It’s a misery many of us have experienced at one time or another.

You’re putting me down
You got a real sick mind to take my time
Hearing the sound of your voice inside my head
You took my heart and left me underneath your spell 

The third track “What Can I Say?” delivers more of the band’s signature driving melodies and mind-blowing guitar work. The chiming guitars in the bridge are absolutely breathtaking, leaving me dumbstruck by their beauty. The song is about a relationship that’s beyond repair, and Jacob laments of the hurt and betrayal he feels:

I used to think that it was all okay
But, if you are gonna treat me in that way
You got another thing coming girl
You’re not the only person in this world
So stop, cut the shit and let me find my way
Feel like I’m living in a dream
With all the shit that I’ve seen
Who ever knew it could get that dark?

Even with only three tracks, Man on the Moon is a spectacular little EP. I’ve stated it before, but it bears repeating that there’s nothing common about The Common View, as these guys are phenomenal songwriters and musicians. I’ve loved every single track they’ve released, and these three rank high among their collection.

Catch The Common View at one of these upcoming shows:

18 October – Bar 21, Manchester, England, w/Bluelights, The Notion, Friday Forever & Skinner’s Lane
8 November – 360 Club, Leeds, England, w/LØE & Pathways

The cool artwork for the EP was designed by Rachel Wilcox.

Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play