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

REVOLVERS – Single Premier: “Confusing Times”

Revolvers single art

One of the best indie rock bands I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in 2019 was London, England four-piece Revolvers. Formed just three years ago in 2016, Revolvers was comprised of singer-songwriter James Thurling (guitar/lead vocals) Will Oliver (guitar/backing vocals), Steven Morrison (bass/backing vocals) and Rhys Kibble (drums). I say ‘was’, because they recently disbanded due to a number of factors, some of which are the cause of many a band breakup that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say I was gutted, because I really love their high-energy, guitar-driven melodic rock music.

I’ve featured them twice on this blog over the past nine months, when I reviewed their fantastic singles “True Love” and “Rubbing Shoulders With the Devil” (the latter of which has spent the past four months on my Weekly Top 30). Fortunately for us, they’re releasing as their swan song a terrific new single “Confusing Times“, which I’m thrilled to premiere. The hard-rocking song speaks to the crazy times we’re now living in. Like their last three singles, “Confusing Times” was recorded at Kore Studio in London, and produced by George Apsion (White Lies, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Ellie Goulding). 

Revolvers go out on a high note, pulling out all the stops on this exhilarating head-banger. The song instantly blasts open with a frantic barrage of fuzz-coated jangly guitars and pummeling rhythms that never let up. They sound better than ever, delivering layers of intricate melodic riffs and explosive percussion that raise goosebumps. Thurling passionately sings of his frustration with the current state of things, and the mind-control that media exerts over society, aided by corrupt and incompetent politicians who prey on a deeply divided public. The lyrics include a reference to John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine”, and later on state “life goes on like a Beatles song“, giving a nod to the enduring cultural significance of classic songs of yesterday as a symbol of hope for a better future.

I can’t hide from the TV screen
The old days are dead and gone
Whatever happened to Lennon’s song?
It goes on, it goes on
We live in confusing times
Least to say confusing times
And I don’t want to listen to this politician

The self-produced and highly entertaining video draws its source material from popular political and cultural GIFs, memes and footage found on the internet. It makes for a compelling and provocative snapshot of our very confusing times.

Finally, though Revolvers are no more, band frontman and songwriter James Thurling will continue to feature some of the their songs in his new rock band project Bitter Lime, so stay tuned.

Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes

SWILLY – Album Review: “Size Matters”

Swilly Size Matters

When I last featured rock band Swilly on this blog back in January 2018, they had just released their debut 13-track album Play It Loud (you can read my review here). Since then, they’ve been on a creative tear, releasing four more albums, the latest of which is the provocatively-titled Size Matters, an ambitious work featuring 14 tracks that dropped on September 30. It boggles my mind that a group of musicians can write that many songs over such a short period of time!

Swilly is the nickname of singer/songwriter and guitarist Steve Williams, but also the name of his band, which includes lead guitarist and songwriter Kevin Campbell and drummer Carl Holz. They’re an international band of sorts, as Williams and Campbell are based in British Columbia, Canada, while Holz is from Colorado, USA. They’re occasionally joined by Austrian guitarist Klaus Passegger who provides lead guitar on a few songs, and have also collaborated with scores of other artists from time to time. Heavily influenced by some of their favorite bands like ZZ Top, The Cult, Nickelback and Theory of a Deadman, Swilly has a bawdy sense of humor and like to have fun, playing the kind of down and dirty, kick-ass rock’n’roll you wanna hear on a Saturday night, throwing down a few beers with friends at the local Roadhouse.

Size Matters tackles the universal subjects of love, sex and relationships in all their messy variations – more specifically, how they can bring us immense pleasure, deep sadness, or be a colossal pain in the ass! The album features songs ranging from in-your-face, kiss-off rockers to heartfelt love ballads, and I’ll touch on some of the highlights. Kicking things off is “Stomping Around“, a clarion call to stand up and fight against injustice, whether it be guys cheating on their women or governments oppressing their citizens: “You let yourself down when you’re fooling around, and the girls’ gonna stomp their feet. /Not that I insist, but the world is pissed at the people getting pushed around. Government’s weak, and the future is bleak. So we gotta start stomping around.” The guys deliver blistering riffs of gnarly guitars accompanied by strutting rhythms and gritty vocals.

One of my favorite tracks is “Deep“, a raucous, bawdy tune with an infectious rockabilly vibe. Swilly extols the virtues of his hot babe with hilarious, straight-to-the-point lyrics and some terrific guitar noodling as he croons in his raspy drawl: “My girl loves to go down. She loves to wear that crown. Don’t get me wrong, she ain’t cheap. But dammit I love being balls deep!

He expresses his romantic ardor in a somewhat more conventional manner on the sultry track “I Love You“: “Do you know you’re my everything? I’m so in love with you, the crazy stuff you do.” To a languid tempo that compels some serious swaying of the hips, Swilly lays down an appealing mix of melodic guitar textures and percussive rhythms. It all makes for quite an arresting rock ballad, and I really like the contrast between Williams’ raw vocals and smooth humming.

Another great track is “My Bitch” an ass-kicking rocker about comeuppance and payback. Hard-driving riffs of snarling guitars, throbbing bass and pummeling drums, not to mention raspy vocals that really channel Billy Gibbons, give the song a strong ZZ Top vibe. The lyrics start out with Swilly yelling “You little bitch!” at his woman after she’s stayed out late carousing and acting inappropriately, vowing to repay her in kind and sending a clear message that she’d best not fuck with him: “Yeah I was out late. Yeah I lost track of time. I didn’t think it would be seen as a crime. I should have planned it out. I found money out back. I even made 100 bucks just to show my dick. Suck my dick! You little bitch!

Suck It Up” keeps the driving rhythmic grooves flowing with strutting riffs of gnarly guitars. The song seems to be about accepting the shit life throws our way, dealing with it as best we can, not letting it get the better of us, and trying to have a little fun now and then: “Suck it up. You do what you got to do./Big tears don’t make it better. Dirty love just makes it wetter./ Don’t whine, it makes you ugly. Don’t worry, the world loves ya honey. Come here, I’ll hold you tight.”

Swilly turns introspective on the bittersweet “I Let You Lie“, a poignant song with lyrics written by Tammy Throneberry, a Twitter friend of both the band and mine. The song speaks to the sadness and desolation resulting from a relationship that’s ended. In his raspy, heartfelt vocals, Swilly laments “You said you can’t live without me. But I’m alone. I long to hear your footsteps coming through that front door. You promised me forever. Now forever I wait. How much more I wonder can these two lives take?

Keeping with the theme of desolation, the heartbreaking “My Abyss” speaks to the enduring pain and emptiness from the loss of a loved one: “Never thought it would come to this, that love would be such an abyss. They say that you live on. How can I if you’re gone? Everywhere I look, I see you. You are everything that I do. Everything that I miss, have become my abyss.” I love the haunting guitar-driven melody, and the interplay between Williams’ acoustic and Campbell’s electric guitars is so damn good.

Album closer “Dirty Boys” is a rousing, hard-hitting track that showcases Swilly’s superb musicianship, with scorching guitar work, tumultuous percussion and tasty classic rock grooves. Quite frankly, it beautifully encapsulates the raw power and unbridled energy of the entire album and the band. Size Matters shows us yet again what a talented collective of musicians these guys are, delivering more of their great tunes that have the ability to thrill, and make us laugh, cry or just stomp our feet as we yell ‘fuck yeah’.

Connect with Swilly: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunes / Bandcamp / cdbaby

TREMENDOUS – Single Review: “Copycat Killer”

Tremendous

This review was written by guest reviewer David Thurling, a lover of music from Britain who has graciously offered to help with my crushing workload. I previously featured TREMENDOUS on this blog this past March, when I reviewed their single “Open for Closing”.

On their previous single “Open for Closing”, Birmingham-based British three piece TREMENDOUS tantalized us with a wonderful song that revealed their obvious Glam Rock and Rock influences. EclecticMusicLover previously pointed to such names as T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, Slade and Aerosmith as providing a lot of the DNA for the band’s overall sound. While “Open for Closing” hinted at these influences, the band’s new single, “Copycat Killer” grabs you by the throat and throws you around the room with them.

TREMENDOUS features Mark Dudzinski (Guitar/Vocals), Ryan Jee (Bass) and David Lee (Drums), and on listening to the new single “Copycat Killer”, the guys defy their economy of members by producing a powerhouse performance. The song opens with the main refrain from the chorus, shifting up through the gears of ascending power chords before settling into the verse and vocals. Mark opens with the ominous line: “I go outta of my head, I go outta of my mind. Now she’s in for the kill and claws out for mine“, pre-empting a classic case of pending relationship doom, all with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Whereas “Open for Closing” featured a sometimes measured, almost sensitive performance in parts, especially with Mark’s exquisite vocal range, there can be no denying that this latest entry to their catalogue is a pure case of raucous “balls’n’all”. The bass and drum rhythms of Ryan and David respectively drive the song along with euphoric and uplifting intensity. The pre-chorus section suddenly reverts to a calming guitar vamp and is enjoyably reminiscent of classic new wave and to some degree guitar driven Brit Pop. We are somewhat reminded of Graham Parker from the 70’s and 80’s to Britpop icons such as Suede and Pulp. This is beautifully structured song writing as the calm is short lived before the guys launch into an undeniably frenetic and entirely catchy chorus:

She’s a Copycat Killer, Copycat Killer
Headlines cry over this milk spiller
She’s a Copycat Killer, Copycat Killer
With nine lives she’s the new shock thriller

The swagger and confidence of this band is infectious. They have all the down and dirty of Jagger and Richards at their best, the showmanship and vocal power of Steve Tyler and a sense of fun not often seen amongst young and emerging bands. “Copycat Killer” may not be the best song TREMENDOUS have delivered but it emphatically announces the band’s determination to reach the top. With TREMENDOUS, hard-hitting guitar music is in very safe hands.

“Copycat Killer” will be officially released November 22 on all streaming platforms, and is the 4th single from their forthcoming debut album Relentless, due for release early in 2020.

Connect with Tremendous on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

GLASS VIOLET – Single Review: “Chemicals”

Glass Violet Chemicals

Glass Violet is a fairly new band from Bristol, England that I’ve recently come across, and I really like their sound. Formed in 2018 by guitarist/lead vocalist Tom Hurdiss and guitarist/vocalist Alex John, and influenced by acts like Kasabian, The Killers, Foals and Catfish and the Bottlemen (all bands I love), the two began writing songs together. They soon added Josh Walsh (bass), Matt West (drums) and Declan Pollard (synths, keys) to complete the band lineup.

They released a hard-rocking banger of a demo track “North Sentinel Island” this past March (2019), and followed up with their official debut single “Chemicals” on August 16th. The song’s an upbeat anthemic tune, with exuberant layers of jangly and swirling guitars, accompanied by a deep, buzzing bass line, aggressive percussion and melodic keyboards. Tom’s clear, earnest vocals have just the right amount of fervor, and I love how his charming British accent shines through. It’s a terrific song.

About the song’s lyrics, Alex told me “We basically wanted to just write a song that sort of soundtracks a night out. The lyrics aren’t anything special and they don’t mean much. But it’s catchy and it works. Our lyrics normally have more meaning and are quite conceptual, so we’re looking forward to getting that across in the future releases.”

Connect with Glass Violet:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / deezer / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Google Play

MORGENDUST – EP Review: “Storm Will Come”

Morgendust

So music for old people? No fucking way!” So say Dutch indie rock band Morgendust, who with an average age of 46 are “the perfect age to start a band. Musically skilled, no more stagefright and enough experience in life to tell a story.” Formed just a year ago and based in Zwolle, Netherlands, Morgendust consists of Marco de Haan (lead vocals, guitars), Ron van Kruistum (guitars, backing vocals), Iwan Blokzijl (keyboards, backing vocals), Dario Pozderski (bass, backing vocals) and Job Noordmans (drums & percussion). Their sound is influenced by 80s acts they grew up with like Talk Talk, Duran Duran, Pink Floyd, Tears for Fears and Peter Gabriel, as well as more current acts like Radiohead, Editors and Elbow.

All are seasoned musicians, having previously played in bands like Soulstar, City Jam & Band of Glory, and professionally as hired guns in the commercial music industry. Their music has a maturity and worldliness that comes from having lived on this earth for a while and experiencing the joys and pains of life, love and relationships. Through their intelligent, thoughtful lyrics, they tell stories that everyone can relate to, whether you’re 20 or 60, and bring them to life with exquisite rock melodies and lush, stunning instrumentation. They’ve just released their debut EP Storm Will Come, and it’s a beauty.

The EP opens with the title track “Storm Will Come“, a gorgeous and powerful anthem inspired by the “butterfly effect” – that small causes may have larger effects. And right away it’s clear that these guys are phenomenal musicians, as all the instruments are played to absolute perfection. The vibrant guitars, deep bass line, resounding percussion, and sweeping keyboard synths are all magnificent, and de Haan’s soaring vocals bring goosebumps as he passionately sings We’re waiting for the truth to land in everyone. And when it’s said and done, a butterfly relocates…and a storm will come.”

Anything” is even more beautiful, with sparkling synths, lovely piano and sublime guitars. de Haan’s vocals are deeply moving as he plaintively sings of the selfishness and cruelty of some people who enter our lives, fuck us over, then leave: “My head spins round from all these circular themes. Ones who come, disappear, leave you anything but stone cold and longing for more.” The backing vocal harmonies are especially nice, and I love how the music builds to a powerful crescendo in the chorus, making for a dramatic finish to a fantastic song.

Kind of Blues” really channels the 80s with its fast-paced, driving rhythms and swirling, new wave-flavored synths. The lyrics speak to coming to the sobering realization that perhaps your life hasn’t turned out they way you’d dreamed: “So, we never had a plan. Never thought we‘d lose to this kind of blues. So, when we were young we had a life or two to choose.  Just romantic fools.”

Keeping with that general theme, “Nameless” seems to address how we dream and have expectations and desires, then with the passage of time and how our lives unfold, look back with regret on our mistakes and misfortune: “My truth is what’s behind me. All the rest we cannot know./ You need a name to function. To live you need a dream./ I have hurt myself far too long.” I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but once again I’m blown away by the incredible beauty and power of this poignant song.

Love Lost (Again)” is a bittersweet song that touches on the pain of longing for the return of a lost love: “You’re my heart’s desire. You’re my sun and rain. You’re the ocean waves, please come back again. Love lost again. I can’t win.” The lovely piano keys and haunting guitar chords are highlights here, as are de Haan’s emotion-filled vocals. And speaking of bittersweet, the final track “Allright” really hits us in the feels. It has a darker vibe, thanks to deep, pulsating bass, reverb-heavy guitars and throbbing industrial synths, but there’s also beauty present in the form of delicate keyboard and jangly guitar notes. de Haan’s plaintively laments about the futility of trying to project a happy demeanor when their relationship is falling apart: “I dream all day and cry all night, ’cause we pretend – no we demand – it’s allright.”

Folks, this is a truly stunning EP. Every single track on Storm Will Come is spectacularly beautiful, so much so that it’s impossible for me to pick a standout or favorite. Morgendust are an amazing group of super-talented musicians who collectively create musical magic.

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

DUNES – Album Review: “Take Me to the Nasties”

Dunes Take Me to the Nasties

I’m back in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England (having recently written about folk singer-songwriter Holly Rees), this time to feature another act from that city, a stoner rock band called Dunes. Formed in late 2016, the trio consists of John Davies (guitar, vocals), Ade Huggins (bass, vocals) and Nikky Watson (drums). In their own words, they play “desert-riff-blues-tinted-disco-tinged-rock, which draws on influences such as Queens of the Stone Age, Torche, Death From Above 1979 and Clutch.” During their first 18 months as a band, they recorded and released two 5-track EPs, then began releasing singles in advance of their wonderfully-titled debut album Take Me to the Nasties, which dropped September 6th.  The album was recorded at the Sandcastle in Newcastle under the guidance of Graham Thompson, who also worked on the band’s previous EPs, and mastered by Dave Draper. It was released via Sapien Records (We Are Knuckle Dragger, Big Lad, Tank Engine, Scott Michael Cavagan).

The album blasts open with the rousing title track “Take Me to the Nasties“, and from this point forward, Dunes never let up on their relentless onslaught of head-banging stoner-punk rock’n’roll grooves. Here, their barrage of jagged riffs, crushing bass and pummeling drums leave us little choice but to pogo about like crazed banshees. I can’t quite make out all the lyrics, but as the title implies, Davies sings about sexual frustration, telling someone they can keep their tinder and grinder, and he’s going to the nasties.

Without skipping a beat, they launch headlong into “SOS“, a bombastic tune with a chugging guitar riff that reminds me a bit of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”, though overall, the song sounds very different. Besides the great guitar work, I also really like Davies and Huggins’ vocal harmonies as they implore “I’ll tell you what we all need. This shit to stop happening!” “Been Expecting You“, “Release the Clowns” and “Danger Mouth” keep the heavy, guitar-driven vibes coming on strong with thunderous riffs and speaker-blowing rhythms. I’m a sucker for hard-driving rock grooves, and gotta say I’m loving every track on this beast of an album!

And one of my favorites is “Phantom Head“, a moody, near-epic grunge song that ventures into progressive/hard rock territory with its melodic change-ups, tortured gnarly riffs, intense, reverb-heavy bassline and explosive percussion. The fierce guitar solo in the bridge is fucking spectacular, covering me head to toe with chills. On “Shakamoto’s Revenge“, “Lantern” and “Denim Casket“, Dunes seem to channel the early Foo Fighters with frantic, grungy riffs and powerful, driving rhythms. In fact, Davies’ vocals even sound a bit like Dave Grohl’s at times, including his scream at the end of “Shakamoto’s Revenge.”

Everything is Blue” closes the album on a high note with some mighty tasty psychedelic reverb-soaked guitar work that’s freakin’ fantastic! The song also has a somewhat progressive rock vibe, with interesting time and melodic changes and intense instrumentation, giving the track a complex, fuller sound that makes for a riveting listen.

Take Me to the Nasties is a solid album filled to the brim with hard-hitting rock tunes, all of them superb. There’s not a single throwaway or filler track to be found here, as every track could be a hit single. Davies, Huggins and Watson are three incredible musicians at the top of their game who should be very proud of their latest creation. I love it!

Connect with Dunes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

STEREOHAZE – Single Review: “Drifting Away”

Stereohaze

Stereohaze is an alternative rock band from Manchester, England who I first featured on this blog this past May when I reviewed their excellent debut EP Fight For Your Future. Now they’re back with a terrific new single “Drifting Away“, which dropped on September 7th. Formed in 2017, the band consists of Charlie Whittaker (guitar/vocals), Ryan Webb (guitar), Harry Wilcock (bass) and Diesel Evans (drums). Despite their relatively young ages, they play some wicked guitar-driven rock laden with hooks, intelligent lyrics and electrifying instrumentals.

The song opens with Diesel’s pounding drumbeats and Harry’s throbbing bass, then we’re suddenly hit with an explosion of grimy riffs and the song is off and running. Charlie’s commanding vocals enter the mix as he fervently sings of a troubled relationship that’s driving him crazy, but he hopes can still be salvaged: “I just can’t shake the infection of your poisonous affection. Indecisions, contradictions are part of my condition. We’re drifting away, so come a little closer. And we’re falling apart, so let’s come together.” Charlie and Ryan’s dual guitars are fantastic as they blast through the airwaves with intricate layers of gnarly fuzz and blistering distortion, making for an exhilarating rock tune.

It bears repeating that I really love Charlie’s vocal style. I’ve found that weak vocals are often one of the biggest liabilities for an artist or band, but his vocals are wonderful, and an integral part of Stereohaze’s great overall sound.  The guys are all skilled musicians, and I’m so happy they’ve delivered another outstanding song. “Drifting Away” is further proof that Stereohaze is most definitely a band on the rise.

Connect with Stereohaze:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase their music on iTunesAmazon / Google Play

HOLLOW INTENT – EP Review: “Monster”

Hollow Intent Monster

Hailing from Wilmington, North Carolina, hard rock band Hollow Intent has been making quite a name for themselves on the local music scene with their aggressive style of melodic metal rock. In May, the band was nominated for the 2019 Carolina Music Award’s Best Rock Group, with front man Will Baker also nominated for Best Rock Male. On August 1st, they released their appropriately-titled debut EP Monster, which I’m pleased to feature on this blog.

Hollow Intent was born when guitarist and vocalist Will Baker and drummer Mark Davis started jamming together and discovered an immediate chemistry between them. Soon, they brought on bassist Shane Noren and guitarist Wesley Seven to complete the band’s lineup, and quickly began perfecting their intense sound and crafting songs to take advantage of their explosive, guitar-driven music style. The band explains that Monsterdepicts all feelings with a negative connotation such as depression, anxiety, stress, rage, etc,, and they’re put together to create this “Monster”.

Hollow Intent

The EP kicks off with the title track “Monster“, a two-minute long instrumental that sets the tone for things to come. As its title implies, the song’s a rampaging beast of wailing distortion, grinding bass and crashing drums, plunging us headlong into the heavy metal zone.

Before we can catch our breath, “Burn” explodes onto the airwaves with a thunderous barrage of raging guitars, buzz-saw bass and speaker-blowing percussion. But the real highlight for me are Baker’s jaw-dropping vocals. He has a phenomenal voice that sounds beautiful when singing clean, and positively feral when he launches into his metalcore screams and growls. There aren’t many metalcore vocalists who also have great clean singing voices (Slipknot’s Corey Taylor and Ice Nine Kills’ Spencer Charnas are two who come to my mind). Baker definitely does, and it’s no wonder he was nominated for the Carolina Music Best Rock Male Award. When he screams “Let’s go!” with a terrifying ferocity, we have no choice but to comply. But then he draws us in as he plaintively sings the biting lyrics addressing someone who’s actions have brought out the worst in him: “You hate what I’ve become in you. The monster inside me. You’re inside my head, tearing me apart. Filling with red, straight through the heart. You’re starting to turn. There’s no controlling all these evil eyes. I’m here to watch you burn!

The face-melting “Bipolar” serves up chugging riffs of reverb-soaked grit and distortion enveloped in a punishing wall of sound. This song kicks some major ass, and is one of my favorite cuts on the EP.  Once again, Baker blows our minds and eardrums with his vocal gymnastics. The way he makes his voice bleed one moment as he screams “Liar!” or “Bipolar“, then transitions to a seductive croon the next is really impressive.

The guys slow down the pace with “Shadow of You“, a darkly beautiful metalcore ballad that speaks to duplicity and betrayal: “You didn’t believe in me. I trusted you, but I knew you were faking. /I am always in the shadow of you. It’s getting colder as I close my eyes. These dreams are made of all your lies.” The guitar work is fantastic, and I really like the recurring mournful little riff, as well as the moody piano keys at the end of the song.

Parasite” serves up more metalcore goodness with a torrent of shredded guitars and pummeling drums, accompanied by Baker’s death-rattling growls. But it’s on “Welcome to the Dead” that Hollow Intent show us what they’re really capable of. Wow, these guys blow the fucking roof off here, with some of most explosive instrumentals I’ve heard in a very long while. The raging guitars, crushing bass and pummeling drums are so hard-driving they leave me breathless! The guitar work here is nothing short of magnificent. Turn the volume all the way up for this monster of a tune!

The EP closes with “Normal“, a beautiful ballad that showcases the band’s softer side. The instrumentals are more stripped down, with strummed acoustic guitar, subtle bass, stirring strings and gentle percussion. Baker passionately implores someone to help him overcome his mental anguish and live a healthy existence: “If the pain could go away, would you save me? If the light stays gray, will you help me believe? If you could find a way to break this hold, could you help me be normal?

Though it contains only seven tracks, six of which include vocals, Monster feels monumental in scope. All of the songs are superb, both in terms of their high quality and in their power to move us, and it’s a very impressive debut work. Hollow Intent are an incredibly skilled group of musicians who know how to play metal rock as it was meant to be played – heavy, melodic and loud! Furthermore, Will Baker is one of the finest metalcore vocalists around, in my opinion. I cannot wait to hear more music from this fantastic band.

Connect with Hollow Intent:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Monster” on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / Google Play

WHALE HOUSE – Album Review: “Clowder”

Whale House Clowder art

Whale House is a psychedelic rock band that got its start in 2007 when Caleb Price and Clayton Brice met while students at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. Sharing a love of both classic 60s counter-culture rock and the 90s alternative/grunge rock of their youth, they quickly bonded and began writing and producing songs together in Clayton’s apartment. Their music combines these two rock influences, while experimenting with structure and timbre to create their own unique modern rock sound. Wanting to take their music to the next level, they moved to the recording studio, where they could benefit from the expertise of a professional production team.

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Between 2009 and 2015 they released three EPs, and in 2016 dropped two singles, “Freeway” and “Think of Me”. That November, they released awesome videos of live performances of “Think of Me” and another of their tracks “Red Sun”. I reviewed those videos, which you can read here. Now, nearly three years later, Caleb and Clayton return with their first full-length album Clowder, which will be available on all streaming platforms September 7th, with CDs and vinyl shipping now.

The songs for Clowder were constructed over the course of a year from (in their own words) “sound bytes flung back and forth through the ether across the 300 miles that now separate Caleb and Clayton.” The album was recorded direct to tape at Drum Farm Studios, a re-purposed organic farm in northwest Wisconsin. With the help of drummer John Richardson, they recorded most of the tracks live as a three-piece to recreate the spontaneity of a live show. Veteran producer Tom Herbers produced and mixed the songs, and John Golden did the mastering.

Into the Bluffs” kicks off Clowder in a big way with a burst of Richardson’s pummeling drumbeats accompanied by melodic piano keys. Layers of fuzzy guitars, bass and more keyboards are soon added as Caleb and Clayton sing with a harmony as near-perfect as any I’ve heard in a while. The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but seem to speak to tapping into one’s spiritual being: “Give me a sign. Search yourself and follow me in. Look into the bluffs. Ghosts are gathering in the upper atmosphere. Spirits calmly watch me yeah.

Next up is “Doll“, a dark song inspired by Caleb’s experience spending time in the hospital with his mother while she was in a carbon monoxide poisoning induced coma. “And I know it’s over. I’ll pull the plug and let her go. After it’s over, I’ll start the engine, shut the door.” The song’s melody and structure give off a Nirvana vibe, with an ever-changing tempo that goes from chugging riffs of gnarly guitars to aggressive stop-start chords. Caleb’s plaintive vocals are wonderful, and I like how they rise with emotion along with the guitar notes. It all makes for a fascinating listen, and is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

A Great Fire” beautifully showcases the guys’ skill at writing complex melodies and using rich instrumentation to create an interesting soundscape that continually evolves and surprises our senses. The track opens with a strong thumping drumbeat and ominous synths, creating a mesmerizing backdrop for Clayton’s rather mournful vocals as he sings of far-off cosmic storms, possibly symbolizing unrest or even the end of the world. Gradually, guitar, bass and piano enter the mix, then everything ramps up in the chorus with jagged riffs and crashing cymbals as Clayton launches into an impassioned wail: “The pores of my skin are dripping acid. The dogs are fighting, the snakes are biting. The back of my eyelids explode with lightning!” It’s a fantastic song.

The lead single “Milk” was released on August 15th, along with a surreal and vividly colorful video. It’s a terrific grunge song, featuring a torrent of gnarly riffs set to a powerful driving beat. Caleb explained that the lyrics speak of someone bogged down in a sea of ego-driven minutiae while the the rest of the world keeps on moving forward: “Near the belly digesting away. Far away, and deep inside, visions of hell. Paralyzed from the food that has yet to metabolize. And it’s been so long. And the world moved on.

The guys take a melodic turn on the captivating “Elephant“, my absolute favorite track on the album. The lush mix of chiming and twangy guitars are drop-dead gorgeous, as are Clayton’s heartfelt vocals that express a deep vulnerability. At 2:22 minutes, a beguiling flute enters, giving the song a momentary Celtic vibe. “Spine” veers into folk-rock territory, but still retains a grunge sensibility thanks to the strong guitar work, and once again the guys’ vocal harmonies are really impressive. And speaking of strong guitar work, the guys dazzle us with their mind-blowing guitar skills on the trippy psychedelic gem “Shapeshifter“. We’ve barely had a chance to catch our breath before they return to hammer us with exuberant jangly riffs, deep, buzzing bass and frantic beats on the hard-driving banger “Papercuts“.

The title track “Clowder“is an intriguing song with fuzzy, reverb-soaked guitars and tumultuous percussion. Caleb explained the song’s meaning: “The song ‘Clowder’ is based on an old children’s book called ‘Millions of Cats’. It’s about a guy who goes out looking for a single cat and ends up being followed home by billions of them. We enjoy simple surreal imagery like that. The story ends up being about the destructive power of pride and the importance of being humble. That kind of suppression of ego is something Clayton and I aspire to and I think its a theme that pops up in a lot of our writing.” The song opens with sounds of Caleb whispering “Don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you“, then the music intensifies as Clayton’s vocals take a more insistent tone. In time, with guitars wailing and cymbals crashing in the chorus, Clayton emphatically repeats the line “Hundreds. Millions. Thousands. Billions.

Twilight Sleep” is an enchanting track, highlighted by a pleasing acoustic guitar and wonderful sweeping orchestral instrumentation that imparts an almost ethereal quality. The little piano riff in the chorus is especially good, and nicely complements Caleb and Clayton’s fervent vocal harmonies. Guest musicians on this track included violinist Ryan Young of Trampled By Turtles and cellist Hilary James of We Are The Willows. At the very end of the track, we hear Ryan Young state “I played one wrong note”, though it all sounded pretty damn perfect to my ears. The album closes with “Asleep On A Plane“, a brief but sweet love song. The music consists only of a resonant jangly guitar and bass, but combined with Caleb’s earnest vocals, the song packs quite an emotional punch.

I must admit that many of these songs took a couple of listens for me to fully connect with them, but once I did, I came to realize that Clowder is a brilliant and stunning album. Unlike a lot of pop and classic rock, with their catchy hooks and melodies that quickly bore into our brains, modern and experimental rock music requires us to really listen to hear and appreciate all the little nuances of the more complex melodies, innovative instrumentation, and somewhat abstract lyrics that Whale House have so cleverly written. If you’re willing to expend the time and effort to dig deep into their music, you will find a lot to enjoy on Clowder.

Their Record Release Party will take place Saturday SEP 14 at Brewery Nønic, Menomonie, Wisconsin

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