ORTARIO – EP Review: “Playing With Fire”

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  

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STRANGELY ALRIGHT – Single Review: “Maybe If”

Strangely Alright is a wonderful and wildly-entertaining psychedelic-punk rock band based in Seattle-Tacoma, Washington. Referring to themselves as an “Eclectic Traveling Minstrel Magic Music Medicine Show”, they’ve built a loyal following not only through their great music, but also for the positive messages of humanity, love, kindness and acceptance in their songs. Their quirky and unique style of punk-infused rock is inspired by such iconic British artists as David Bowie, T.Rex, Pink Floyd, the Jam, Suede, the Buzzcocks and Supergrass. The band is fronted by Regan Lane, who does much of the songwriting and sings lead vocals, Sean Van Dommelen (lead guitar, backing vocals), Ken Schaff (bass), Raymond Hayden (keyboards, backing vocals) and Jason Bair (drums).

They’ve released a number of recordings over the past several years, including their debut album The Time Machine is Broken in 2013, as well as a compilation album All of Us Are Strange (The Singles) and an EP Stuff, both of which were released in 2018. Since then, they’ve dropped a number of terrific singles, one of them the brilliant and trippy “Psych Film”, which has been streamed nearly 75,000 times on Spotify. The song has also spent the past four months on my Weekly Top 30 list, peaking at #4. (You can read my reviews of Stuff and “Psych Film” by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.)

Now Strangely Alright returns with their marvelous new single “Maybe If“, a beautiful song of hope, love and gratitude. About the song’s message, the band states “In a world of pointing fingers, we have decided to look inside for the answers. And let’s be kind! It matters in ways we often never see.” Running nearly eight minutes long, the song has an epic, otherworldly feel reminiscent of some of Pink Floyd’s music. The intricate guitar work is fantastic, alternating between jangly, chiming and grungy textures, and accompanied by sparkling piano keys, measured percussion, and a colorful mix of spacey and sweeping orchestral synths. It all comes together beautifully to create a dreamy cinematic backdrop for Regan’s wonderful Bowie-esque vocals.

Feeling like an alien
Who fell and landed here
Maybe if I face my pride
The answers will be clear
Maybe if I ride a cloud
Into the sun my darkness disappears

Everything I never had
I’d give it all away
If I have to steal a smile
I’ll wear it for the day
If I have to tell where I have been
I have to sell there’s nothing left to win

Maybe If I look inside
I’ll see the things I’ve always tried to hide

Maybe everything I have
Is everything I need
And I can’t control the world outside
And I hate who I can be
If I lose control will I disappear
And will I fade away to the nothing
In the mirror

Galaxies of brokenness that fabricate what I have missed
Peculiar thoughts I died when I was young
Can’t escape what might have been
The atmosphere is getting thin
I’m out of gas
Maybe If

Maybe If my gratitude is greater than my faith
If I see myself in everyone will I share a little grace
And I want to trust all the things I see
And I want to feel just a little peace
There’s a million no’s deep inside of me
If I let em go
I just might end up free

Strangely Alright hit the ball out of the park yet again with “Maybe If”, further cementing their reputation for putting out stellar tunes with the power to both dazzle our senses and stir our souls.

To learn more about Strangely Alright, check out their website
Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

BEATING HEARTS CLUB – Album Review: “Freedom & Rebellion”

One of the benefits (and challenges) of being a music blogger is discovering lots of music by an ever-expanding number of indie and up and coming artists, more than I could possibly ever write about, let alone listen to it all! There’s a surprising amount of real talent out there, and I’ve had the pleasure of writing about quite a few artists and bands who are making some truly great music. And every now and then, one comes along that stands out among the crowd, such as Australian folk-rock band Beating Hearts Club. Since learning about them this past April, they’ve become one of my favorite indie bands. I’ve already featured them twice on this blog earlier this year, when I reviewed their singles “Black & White Love” and “Round the Bend” (you can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post). I’m now pleased to review their stunning debut album Freedom & Rebellion, which drops today, September 18th.

Based in Sydney, Beating Hearts Club is comprised of Duncan Welsh (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Ciaran Loughran (lead guitar/backing vocals), Lukas Thurner (bass) and Trent Miller (drums), who joined the band a few months ago after their previous drummer left. With their shared love of rock, folk, country and blues, the talented foursome create exceptional music characterized by beautiful melodies, stellar arrangements and intelligent lyrics, and delivered with superb instrumentation and Duncan’s sublime vocals.

As suggested by the title, the album’s theme seems to be about the ups and downs of love and relationships, and the eternal struggle between wanting freedom and wanting to belong to someone. The album opens with “Heroin“, the very first single the band released back in April 2019. It starts off as a gentle ballad, with Duncan’s earnest vocals accompanied by strummed and chiming electric guitars as he sings to a loved one who’s saving him from falling into a downward spiral: “You are my heroin, a shot to the veins / You’re my therapy, you’re the cure.” Then the song expands into a full-blown rocker, with rapid-fire riffs of reverb-soaked guitars, humming bass and thumping drums. Duncan’s vocals rise to the occasion, become more impassioned in their urgency, and Ciaran’s blistering guitar solo in the bridge is fantastic.

Next up is “Black & White Love“, a gorgeous love song that instantly became one of my favorites of the year. I love it so much it’s spent the past four months on my Weekly Top 30, recently going all the way to #1. The instrumentals are stunning, with some of the most achingly beautiful guitar work I’ve heard in a long while. Duncan’s plaintive vocals are lovely and heartfelt, and when the music builds to an anthemic crescendo in the final chorus, I’m covered with goosebumps. The moving lyrics speak of how finding true love in the right person can be a force for healing in our sometimes broken lives: “Could you be the reason? You know I need you, Seen my last chance die but I’m still breathing / Do you feel what I’m feeling? You know I need you shook me upside down and I saw meaning.”

When I didn’t think the guys could top “Black & White Love”, along comes “Crying Wolf” and I’m quickly blown away. What a magnificent song this is, with lush, intricate guitar work and beautiful layered vocals. I also love the mournful organ riff in the outro that gives the song a country rock vibe. The lyrics are about being stuck in a dysfunctional relationship with a partner who constantly complains and threatens to leave, but never does: “Thought I’ve heard, heard it all before / You got me shook, shaking to the core / Why am I the subject, why am I the cries? / Well everybody knows you’re the one who made you cry.

Beating Hearts Club are adept at making both hard-rocking bangers and gentle ballads. A great example of the former is “First Sight of the Rain“, a dark rock’n’roll song about a romantic partner who’s afraid of commitment and wants to bolt from the relationship at the slightest hint of a problem: “You’re running from yourself, it’s you who won’t make a change and no one else / You gave it all to me, then turned and ran away.” The exuberant, hard-driving rhythms and fuzz-coated guitars that break into a scorching solo in the bridge are sensational. Likewise, “Homemade” and “Round the Bend” are rousing folk-rock tunes with resonant jangly guitars and galloping drum beats, punctuated by terrific guitar solos, pummeling drumbeats and ample flourishes of wildly crashing cymbals that make for a lively and highly satisfying listen.

Turning to the ballads, one of my favorite tracks is “Freedom Pt. 2“, a lovely Americana song with strummed acoustic guitar, beautiful piano and strings, and is that a didgeridoo I hear in the background? I may be way off, but the lyrics seem to speak of a man who’s been released from prison, and facing his newly-found freedom with some apprehension: “Heaven knows that I’ve paid my dues / Bring back a feeling, I forgot to use / And from here we’re going wherever I might choose / I know, it’s gonna take a lifetime.” “Olivia” is an equally beautiful song of love and devotion, highlighted by gorgeous strummed guitars and sparkling piano keys.

As the album continues to unfold, it’s clear these guys can do no wrong, as every track is perfect. I’m sounding like a broken record, but on “The Reaper“, the intricate guitar work is spectacular, and when combined with the organ at the beginning and the mournful piano later in the song, the results are breathtaking. Special mention must also be given to Lukas for his wonderful bass line that gives the song such incredible depth. Album closer “Stockholm” is a hard-rocking song about being in an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship similar to Stockholm Syndrome. I love the frantic riffs of grimy guitars and strong, driving beats that nicely convey a sense of tension expressed in the lyrics: “Stockholm Syndrome’s got a hold of me / She takes me down and she won’t let me breathe / I don’t believe in anything I see.”

What more can I possibly say to gush any further about this beautiful work of musical art? Freedom & Rebellion is easily one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and I love every one of its tracks – something that doesn’t happen very often. It’s an impressive debut from this extremely talented band, and they should be very proud of their magnificent accomplishment.

Follow Beating Hearts Club: Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase: Google Play / Amazon

SEPRONA – Single Review: “Rose Tinted Eyes”

Seprona is a British indie pop-rock band based in the music city of Liverpool. I first learned about them when they recently followed me on Twitter, and I’ve had their music on repeat all weekend! From what I’ve been able to gather from their social media accounts, the five-piece formed in 2010, and currently consists of front man Daniel Badger on vocals, Lewis on guitar, Christopher on bass, Niall on keyboards and Mike on drums. Together they make outstanding music that’s lively, melodic and catchy as hell.

They released their first single “Monsters” in 2015, then followed up with a series of terrific singles, culminating with their impressive debut self-titled EP Seprona in 2018. 2019 saw the release of the beautiful and rousing “The World’s End”, followed a year later with “Lost in the Lonely Hearts”, a wonderful, hard-driving track. In August, the guys returned with their latest single “Rose Tinted Eyes“, and it’s a deliriously infectious slice of dream rock.

The song has a bit of a retro 80s new wave/punk vibe, with an exuberant dance beat that grabs us firmly by the hips. I love the swirling riffs of chiming guitars, shimmery keyboards and galloping drum beats that build to a frenzy in the choruses. They all work in tandem to create an electrifying soundscape for Daniel’s sultry, emotionally-charged vocals.

The bittersweet lyrics speak of having chronic wishful thinking, and viewing a dysfunctional and dissatisfying relationship through ‘rose-tinted eyes’: “As I replay the tears baby I fantasize through rose tinted eyes / I create an illusion maybe / Though I try baby, I just cant believe you’re too blind to see / I’ll recharge those batteries / Through all your lies baby I think I must concede that my self esteem is detached from reality.

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BLACK BEAR KISS – Single Review: “Reach Up Higher”

I think pretty much everyone would agree that 2020 has been a terrible year on many levels, particularly for the music industry. Artists and bands have been unable to tour or perform live for over six months, and it’s unlikely that will change any time soon. That said, many have used this down time to channel their creative energies into writing and recording new music, some of it reflecting the social, cultural and political upheaval we’re experiencing in many countries around the world. I’ve recently reviewed a fair amount of music touching on these issues, and my latest entry is the new single “Reach Up Higher” by British alternative garage-rock band Black Bear Kiss, which dropped August 28th.

A favorite of this blog, I’ve featured Black Bear Kiss numerous times over the past few years, beginning in April 2018 when I reviewed their terrific debut single “Hooks”. (You can read some of my previous reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the bottom of this post.) With their exhilarating, guitar-driven sound, strong charisma and rowdy live performances, the talented five-piece have built a loyal following in their home base of the West Midlands/Shropshire region of England and beyond. Comprising the band are Chris Leech on lead vocals, Colin Haden on lead guitar, Rob Jones on rhythm guitar, Rich Sach on bass, and Chris Bagnall on drums.

Their first new single in a year, “Reach Up Higher” marks a change for the band, who recorded the song at a new studio and with a new producer; Gavin Monaghan at Magic Garden Studios has worked with artists such as Robert Plant, Editors, The Twang and The Sherlocks. The result is a tighter, more polished sound while still delivering the band’s signature high-energy grooves and driving rhythms. Haden and Jones intertwining guitars are electrifying as they rip through the airwaves with their fast-paced roiling riffs. Sach keeps the driving rhythm on solid footing with a strong thumping bass line while Bagnall pounds out the head-bopping beat with an aggressive – and impressive – pummeling of his drum kit. “Reach Up Higher” is a real banger, and I think it’s their best work yet.

With the song, Black Bear Kiss seeks to shine a spotlight on the dominance of mainstream media and its influence on people. Band vocalist Chris Leech explains: “The song addresses some of the big issues, both home and abroad. The press and public figures in positions of power need to understand the influence they have – their opinions should not be treated as gospel. ‘Reach Up Higher’ is about trying to do better and not believing everything you read, especially on social media”. I love Leech’s warm, smooth vocals as he fervently implores: “Times change / People move incompletely out of their mouths / You won’t prove you pick up the press and now want to read it again / Don’t reach up higher. Reach up higher. Don’t hold me back, yeah don’t divide / Way out a line, way out a line now we’re stepping.”

Black Bear Kiss always put out terrific videos, and the one for “Reach Up Higher” is no exception. The video was produced and edited by Jack Walker Media and stars Joshua Griffiths as a man obsessed with and stressed out by media, and doing what he can to avoid reading it, including getting drunk, furiously working out, burning his newspaper, smashing his mobile phone and escaping into the countryside.

Follow Black Bear Kiss:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their songs on  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase on  iTunes / Google Play

VICIOUS ROOSTER – Single Review: “The Moon is Dancing”

Vicious Rooster is the music project of singer-songwriter, musician and producer Juan Abella. Born and raised in Argentina, Juan began learning to play guitar at the age of ten, and played in bands and wrote songs while in high school. In college, he juggled his business studies with guitar lessons and playing in bands, then after graduation he temporarily set aside his music dreams to focus on his business career and long-term relationship. After the relationship ended, and experiencing stress over some family issues, he made the decision to quit his job and pursue his dream of becoming a musician. He adopted the moniker Vicious Rooster, and relocated to Los Angeles in 2016 to study music business at the renowned Musicians Institute in Hollywood.

Drawing inspiration from such bands as The Beatles, The Black Crowes, Guns’n’Roses and Alice in Chains, among others, Vicious Rooster melds elements of classic rock with Southern rock, folk and a bit of grunge to create his own unique style. He writes, sings and produces his songs, and plays guitar and harmonica. Using songs he’d previously written as well as new compositions, he released his excellent debut album The Darkest Light in 2017. It’s an ambitious and impressive work, featuring 12 tracks and running over an hour in length. Nine of the songs are more than five minutes long! Many of the song lyrics address moments where he felt lost during the transition from his past life and what became his present one.

After a three year long hiatus, he returned in August with his latest single “The Moon is Dancing“, a dark and powerful song with roots firmly planted in Southern rock. The song opens with a melancholy harmonica riff accompanied by a gently strummed guitar, evoking images of the Old West. As the song progresses, Vicious Rooster adds layers of chiming, gnarly and wobbly distorted guitars, along with heavier percussion, all of which build to a thrilling crescendo. He has an arresting and resonant singing voice, and his heartfelt vocals rise along with the intensifying music to impassioned screams that bring goosebumps.

The lyrics speak to feeling overwhelmed by worries, anxiety and loneliness: “The tension’s rising / My mind is going insane / And my defenses slowly crumble down / The moon is dancing / My thoughts are rolling to nowhere bound“; and searching for peace of mind and a sense of purpose in life: “I hope to find some peace along the way / I’m gonna rest my soul / I’m gonna keep on living life like there is somewhere I belong.” It’s a fantastic song.

To learn more about Vicious Rooster, check out his website

Follow him on FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase:  BandcampAmazonGoogle Play

New Song of the Week – AMONGST LIARS: “Burn the Vision”

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.

Follow Amongst Liars:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Over & Over:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play / Amazon

HEIST AT FIVE – Single Review: “Friday Night”

Heist at Five Friday Night

London-based electro-rock band Heist At Five is a wickedly talented and undeniably charismatic foursome with an international pedigree. Band front man and lead vocalist Oskar Abrahamsson is from Sweden, guitarist Jozef Veselsky is from Slovakia, bassist Marco “Fuzz” Paone hails from Italy, and drummer Josh Needham is from England. Together, they play an aggressive, innovative style of alternative rock that borders on experimental, with complex melodies, intricate chord progressions, spine-tingling electronic and guitar-heavy instrumentation, and electrifying vocals. And the icing on the cake is that every one of them is as gracious and kind as they are handsome.

Since first learning about them in early 2018, they’ve become one of my favorite British bands, and I’ve featured them a number of times on this blog, most recently in May 2019 when I reviewed their magnificent single “Falling With Style”. I loved it so much that it went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 and ranked #20 on my Top 100 Songs of 2019 list. Now, after keeping their fans eagerly awaiting new music from them for more than a year, Heist At Five are back with their new single “Friday Night“. Having been prevented from touring or performing live over the past six months due to the pandemic, the band has instead focused their creative energies into recording new music. They plan to release two more singles in the coming months, and hope to return to performing live again in 2021.

“Friday Night” is a bit of a departure from their typical edgy and harder experimental rock sound. Here, the band introduces an intoxicating Latin-flavored dance-pop element to their usual blend of guitar and electronic arrangements, along with the sultry croons of guest vocalist Francesca Confortini, to create a jubilant feel good summer anthem. Despite its more accessible, radio-friendly vibe, the song still features many of the stylistic elements and complex instrumentation that make their music so brilliant. I love the interplay between Jozef’s intricate and funky guitar riffs and that gorgeous swirling melodic synth that just grabs hold and sticks in our mind. Then there’s Marco’s distinctive bassline and Josh’s galloping drumbeats keeping the song’s sexy rhythmic grooves.

The song’s lyrics speak to celebrating good times and better days, and not wanting them to end. The band states that “the song focuses on the concept of not wanting to return to a state of normality when you are at your highest and everything is going your way.” Oskar is a great singer, and I love how his Swedish accent shines through in his fervent vocals as he sings about a women who lifts him up: “Dressed in gold/ She don’t need luck, she’s bringing her own/ When the light is gone look into my eyes and tell me I’m wrong/ When you’re aflame/ The morning sky is never the same/ We’ll bring you back to another fabulous Friday Night.” Francesca seductively croons her reassuring response: “Reset the sunset, let us start again/ To live a life that never ends/ Like gold in the black/ Gold in the black (like a Friday Night).

The song is so damn infectious, and I love it more with each listen!

The colorful psychedelic and surreal video was produced, directed and edited by Oskar. It features him and I’m guessing his sister Elin represented as dancing gold figures, as well as his mouth colored gold and blue singing the song (similar to the famous Rocky Horror Picture Show scene for the song “Science Fiction Double Feature”) set against a background of instruments and a kaleidoscope of patters and colors. It’s fantastic, so do watch and listen:

Follow Heist at Five: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp / Google Play

IDUNA – Singles Review: “Here We Are Alone”/”But We’re Not Alone”

Iduna

There’s so much terrific music being produced these days by scores of independent and unsigned artists and bands, and it’s a real challenge for them to break through the sheer volume of it all to get their music heard. With that in mind, it gives me pleasure to feature some of the talented ones on this blog in the hopes of giving them a bit of press, and one that I must share with my readers today is Canadian rock band Iduna. They recently released a brilliant double single “Here We Are Alone”/”But We’re Not Alone“, which blew me away the moment I heard them.

Based in Toronto, Iduna consists of Jason Craig (Guitar and Vocals), Trison Boyes (Guitar and Vocals), Tim Saulnier (Bass) and Gabriel Lavoie (Drums). Drawing influence from some of their favorite bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Matthew Good Band, Biffy Clyro and Kings of Leon, they make exceptional alternative rock that’s exciting, hard-hitting and melodic, with thought-provoking lyrics touching on relevant issues such as morality and social justice. Having two guitarists who also share singing duties gives their sound a fuller, more varied dynamic not found with many bands.

In 2017, they released their outstanding debut EP Counterpart, then followed a year later with “Nosedive”, a scathing song of protest against the fear-mongering politicians and news media who spew their bile to keep the public divided and angry. Since then, they’ve released several more great singles, the latest of which is “Here We Are Alone”/”But We’re Not Alone”, which dropped on July 31st. The songs are especially relevant given recent events, particularly the COVID-10 pandemic and accompanying health, economic and political fallout. With the songs, Iduna in their own words seeks to offer “a thread of optimism for those feeling isolated and alone. A rallying cry reminding everyone that we’re all in this together, and a plea for a more inclusive future. Even in moments of isolation or despondency, remember that the world is full of kindhearted souls eager to connect and overcome. Together we are stronger.”

“Here We Are Alone” opens with a nimble bassline solo by Saulnier, then ten seconds in the song blasts through the speakers with a fusillade of raging guitars and explosive percussion.  My god, Craig and Boyes nearly shred their guitars to the breaking point, delivering wave upon wave of intricate, eardrum-shattering riffs. Saulnier and Lavoie drive the massive rhythm forward on its path of sonic destruction with their throbbing bass and smashing drumbeats. To fully appreciate this song, turn the volume all way up!

Craig sings lead vocals here, with Boyes providing strong support with his plaintive backing wails. Together, their raw, impassioned harmonies bring chills as they plead for people to try and come together with more empathy and understanding:

Here we are alone
But we’re not alone
Our link, the bond
Awake in your arms, hollowed

This I beg of you
Please, I beg you to
Give up the ways
That push away and keep us down

Here we are, here we are alone
See the ape has gone and dug a hole

This is not the world
We grew up in
They’re cutting out the youth
From tomorrow 

This I beg of you
Please, I beg you to
Ease the days, lay seeds of change
And lift us all, to lift us all!

The second track “But We’re Not Alone” is a somber, yet hopeful response to “Here We Are Alone”, an assurance that we’re in this together and, if we help one another, we will be OK. The song has a mysterious, almost ghostly vibe with instrumentals consisting of hauntingly beautiful piano keys and orchestral string synths. Craig and Boyes’ vocal harmonies are quite captivating as they intone as if singing a hymn:

Not alone
Here we are
You’re not alone
I’m reaching out to you

Sorrow feeds that show
New hope

Here’s an entertaining behind the scenes video showing the band creating and building the set for their music video.

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Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

FLOODHOUNDS – Single Review: “Something Primeval”

Floodhounds2

FloodHounds are a massively talented and charismatic rock band based in Sheffield, England. Formed in 2013, they’ve built quite a reputation and following with their exciting guitar-driven alternative rock, infused with ample amounts of blues and punk. The band consists of Jack Flynn on guitar and vocals, Joel Hughes on bass and Lauren Greaves on drums. I first featured them on this blog way back in October 2016 when I reviewed their fantastic EP Look What You’ve Started. In the years since, they’ve released numerous singles and have toured extensively throughout the UK, including performances at the Isle of Wight and Liverpool Sound City festivals in 2019, as well as a show in Paris last November.

In May, they dropped their latest single “Something Primeval“, a hard-hitting song about tapping into our inner resolve to survive in this world. I’d somehow missed its release, but finally learned about it on July 30th, when they released a terrific video for the song. I instantly liked it, and as it had been far too long since I’d last written about them, I decided to remedy that situation with a review of this song. With “Something Primeval”, FloodHounds deliver yet another in an unbroken string of outstanding songs with their signature high energy indie rock. All three members are great musicians, and in fine form here. Flynn lays down chugging riffs of fuzz-coated jangly guitars, while Hughes and Greaves drive the rhythm forward with a strong, thumping bass line and assertive drumbeats. Flynn has a clear and commanding singing voice, and I like the way his British accent shines through. His fervent vocals sound particularly good on this track.

The lyrics include references to an array of wild animals to serve as metaphors for both the external pressures and demons that work toward weakening our resolve and making us crazy, and our inner ‘beast’ or strength that we muster to keep our sanity and persevere through life’s challenges.

Is there something Primeval
Buried deep in our core
Give me the wings of an eagle
You’ve got the lions roar

And now you’re getting hungry
You feel the call of the wild
The jungle takes no prisoners
It’s just a matter of time

Cause soon the vultures are circling
The snake is stretching his bite
The buffalo are stampeding
Into the dark of the night

Have you ever felt hunted
Or easily corrupted
Be like the creatures, from tigers, to leeches
They wouldn’t stand for it no

You could be my saviour
But I won’t change my behaviour
Cause in Nature’s Cathedral,
We’re wild, Primeval
So eyes, on the prize,
if you hope to survive at all

Now if you can take refuge
From the driving rain
swim your way through the deluge
Harness the animal brain

Come together, come together
Come together, it’s all primeval now
Come together, come together
Come together, it’s all or nothing now

The video for the song that was filmed in the “Bear Pit” at the Sheffield Botanical Gardens. Directed by Tom Flynn, with assistance by Jeremy Eggar, it shows the band performing the song in the pit, with some cool “eyes in the darkness” scenes.

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Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play