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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Reviews: Stitched Up Heart, Elm Street, Albany Down

Stitched Up Heart: Never Alone (Century Media Records)

Stitched Up Heart began their career as emo/goth band clad in anime visuals and a poppy, angst filled sound, however after the initial line up of the band fizzled front woman Alecia "Mixi" Demner set about reviving and re-branding the band, their EP Skeleton Key saw the music toughen up, heavier riffs, squealing solos and angrier screams from Demner all showed that Stitched Up Heart had matured into a much more aggressive beast. The Gothic undertones remain but now they have a heavier bite to them, think Evanescence meets In This Moment and you're on to a winner, there is an awful lot of atmosphere of this record that lead into brutal blast beats, down-tuned crunching guitars and Alecia's excellent vocals that sound a lot like ITM's Maria Brink moving from crooning, emotive cleans to scarred roars sometimes instantaneously. The band have a keen ear for a massive hook and tracks such as Monster show this with a catchy refrain sticking in your head long after the record is finished, in fact this trick is repeated on Now That You're Gone, the pulsing title track and huge ballads like Bleeding Out. The band are a decidedly modern act with some nu-metal breakdowns on Catch Me When I Fall and a hefty dose of electronics featured across the board, most notably on the City Of Angels, the sleazy Turn You On and the atmospheric  Event Horizon which is just as creepy as it's filmic namesake. Never Alone is a very strong debut from the Hollywood natives it's got a pop sheen to appeal to the Kerrang generation but with enough heaviness to crush in a live setting. If you like In This Moment, Motionless In White or indeed the newest Lacuna Coil album; Never Alone will be a mainstay on your record player for the next few months. 8/10

Elm Street: Knock 'Em Out...With A Metal Fist (Massacre)

Aussie metal upstarts Elm Street are now on their second album which has one of the most brain dead titles I've ever heard and the silliest cover of the year so far featuring a half naked woman, the Grim Reaper and the titular Metal Fist. It's all a bit Spinal Tap but it serves as an indicator for actual content of the record which is fist-in-the-air traditional sounding metal that tips the hat to speed and thrash metal that doesn't take itself too seriously at all. With song titles as Kiss The Canvas, Heavy Mental and Face The Reaper you can hear that the band are very musically gifted and seem to be having a lot of fun, going against the grain of some of the more po-faced metal bands around. this isn't to say the band are kooky or crazy but their subject matter is all a bit lightweight, no social commentary here. The four piece are loaded with dual guitar riffs, galloping rhythm section and gruff vocals, Face The Reaper opens with the kind of acoustics Death Angel used to favour, then the pace picks up and it opens up in to some familiar riffage, this is classic thrash/trad metal alright and if you're not convinced Kiss The Canvas delivers the first knock out blow (sorry) with a speedy guitar playing and excellent drum work. Think Gamma Bomb, Skull Fist, Cauldron and you'll get an idea of Elm Street's sound, it's not big it's not clever but it will soundtrack your next party very well. 7/10    

Albany Down: The Outer Reach (Self Released)

As Albany Down's third album The Outer Reach opens there is an orchestrally backed Zep-alike riff to immediately draw you in, Feeding The Flame has a chorus that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and reminds you of Page, Plant, Bohnam and Jones at their most bombastic. Much like the mighty Zep, Albany Down are a four piece with Donna Peters on the sticks, Billy Dedman on bass, Paul Turley on guitar and behind the mic Paul Muir, the band are an organic sounding rock band untreated and raw, it's the plug in an play mentality that lends itself to this album, the songs are all the better for the collective nature of the band. Peters and Dedman are the root of the groove which is palpable on Do You Want Me Now and Supersonic Girl which has excellent use of horns and has the white man funk feel of Jamiroquai and hints at the myriad of influences throughout from slide driven country rock on Mr Hangman which has some chicken pickin banjo playing and gang vocals ably supplied by the other band members Peter's being the most audible as counterpoint ot Muir. There's touches of Bonamassa power blues on Like A Bullet which is a showcase for Turely's guitar work with silky lead breaks as the track builds into a colossal solo in the climax. Muir's excellent vocals are a key part to the band's sound they are emotive but also carry a lot of weight, from his twang you'd think that the band would be from the States but no they hail from London and just manage to be the ultimate in American stadium rock on Home which once again adds pinches of Led Zeppelin III to Aerosmith's late 80's heyday and even sneaks in a bit of Tesla for good measure. The album is about trying and failing but there is no failing on here, every song is different every song is full of top class playing and interesting ever changing songcraft. There is not a single duff track on the record I Need You is a driving rocker, The Drop brings the funk back and is layered in huge organs and the horns return for Look What You've Done To before the record is closed out by the heart breaking Sing Me To Sleep which has an infectious "na na na na" refrain intercut by some more gorgeous guitar playing. Albany Down are amazing, their brand of music draws from Zep, Bonamassa, The Black Crowes, Whitesnake, Alter Bridge, The Answer and many others besides, this is blues-based rock par excellence, you need this record in your life. Fact! 10/10 

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