Hardline: Human Nature (Frontiers)
Hardline have always had a hard time (rhyming is cool - Poetry Ed) trying to follow in the footsteps of their monumental debut record Double Eclipse. All of their records since them have struggled to live up to it and has seen them shed their hard rock edge faster than they shed members. Frontman Johnny Gioeli is the only original member remaining from that period but along with producer/writer/keyboardist/guitarist extraordinaire Alessandro Del Vecchio he has put together another set of musicians and once again returned with another iteration of what is really Gioeli's band. Unlike previous elements however Human Nature is the closest thing they have made to the debut, the opening two tracks (Where Will We Go From Here and Nobody's Fool) have hard rock stomp to them as Gioeli's vocals soar over the excellent guitars of Josh Ramos.
He can shred like a maniac but also is perfect on the slower ballads such as Human Nature where he just adds an explosive solo to the orchestral piece, Del Vecchio at his saccharine best. On Double Nature Johnny's brother and Neal Schon (of Journey) handled the guitars and Ramos does a fine job here playing a style that is familiar but not repetitive. The rest of the band too are excellent bassist Anna Portalupi and drummer Francesco Jovino both provide a sturdy rocking backbone to the propulsive Running On Empty to the groovy numbers such as bluesy Trapped In Muddy Waters. This is the band's classic sound updated for the modern day, it focusses on rockers rather than ballads with Gioeli giving a tremendous performance, it's a grittier harder edged sound reinforced by Del Vecchio's always perfect production. For those that still long for that Rhythm From A Red Car Hardline's new record Human Nature will be a blast from the past brought into modern day. 8/10
As Lions: Aftermath (Better Noise)
As Lions are the new band from Austin Dickinson and one that shows a different style to his previous band Rise To Remain. It's a far more melodic effort displaying a much more mature sound than before. The guitars and drums are joined by electronic touches which lends an emotive note to the title track. It's actually heartening to here Dickinson use his clean delivery and move away from the metal core screaming he started with, that train pulled out of the station a long time ago, so much like bands such as Bring Me The Horizon, As Lions have added alt-metal elements, with impassioned vocals and driving rock that has thumping electronics infecting it making it highly radio repeatable. Songs like Deathless walk the heavy/accessible tightrope very well and all four songs on this record are well written, played and skillfully produced, step forward David Bendeth (BMTH, Paramore) and Kane Churko (FFDP, Disturbed). On the evidence of this EP As Lions could be a much more superior outfit for Dickinson and co, this band follow their own path on their own terms. I'm personally waiting for the full length with baited breath. 7/10
Hieroglyph: Ouroboros (Self Released)
Leeds/London bruisers Hieroglyph have an excellent sound that yes is in the djent style with down tuned/palm muted riffs, odd rhythms and time signature changes but they add atmospheric synths and electronics to the songs to broaden the sound, they also define themselves as something a bit new and different with the female/male vocal interplay Valentina Soricaro soars while Mark Howes roars so we have a duality to all of the songs with the melodic Soricaro being matched by the lead guitar on opening number Solar (The Fool) it's a great way to open the album with all of the bands elements togetehr in one song, The chunky, techincal Samsara (The Wheel Of Fortune) follows and yet again is driven by Valentina's clean vocals, she can sing very well having a voice not to dissimilar to Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil.
Mark's screams too though need to be mentioned as they too are a key element. Underneath the two vocalists the band are seriously talented the rhythm section of Helen Tytherleigh (bass) and Bradi Nixon (drums) pack a meaty punch with heavyweight riffs the order of the day while guitarists Sam Butterfield and Richard Barnes play intricate guitar riffs that cleanly glide over the thumping rhythms as a juxtaposition Rise And Fall (Strength) and also as a contributing factor. The release is a concept album, based around the story of a rise to consciousness and higher thinking that is encoded into the first 11 Tarot cards, the Major Arcana. Each song corresponds with a different card and takes you on a journey through the story. This is a very good album of modern heavy music that maintains the hallmarks of Djent but adds their own spin to it. 7/10