Saturday 9 February 2019

Reviews: Bring Me The Horizon, Cosmic Rain, Haunt, Sister Rose (Alex & Matt)

Bring Me The Horizon: Amo (RCA Records)

Translated from its original Portuguese, Amo means either love or master. An intriguing dichotomy which lends itself acutely to the darkness and at the heart of Bring Me The Horizon’s sixth studio outing. Frontman, Olli Sykes has lately recovered from addictions, dealt with the death of a friend, divorced and remarried. Meanwhile, he has confessed his discomfort at being plagued with the ‘metal’ label, expressing an urge to experiment, subverting any and all expectations. Who could blame him? To trot out a cliché, his band has repeatedly improved by ‘selling out’. First came Sempiternal when they turned from a largely awful deathcore band into an ambitious alt-metal act. Later, we heard them incorporating synths into their sound, with That’s The Spirit. Naturally, it serves as a logical progression to hear them venture in a direction which, to quote a chiefly sarcastic lyric, ‘’ain't heavy metal’’. The resulting disc – and here comes a polarizing statement – is BMTH’s most mature and effective work to date.

Beginning on a contentious note, while the pop tracks reflect mainstream habits, they still bear plenty of identity and charm. Medicine swells and blossoms into an infectious pop anthem, with ironically pessimistic wordplay: ‘some people are a lot like clouds you know, cause life’s so much brighter when they go’. Mother Tongue bears a huge chorus as well as heartfelt lyricism and rich piano touches. Why You Got To Kick Me When I’m Down is an incredibly emotive and shiver-inducing listen. Furthermore, In The Dark has a decent amount of strut and attitude. Even the glaring, EDM-esque moment featuring Grimes, Nihilist Blues, feels delightfully dark and disquieting, placed within the setting of Amo as an experience. To best stress my point though, look to the epic I Don’t Know What To Say, where the scatterings of strings and acoustics laced throughout are brought to the forefront in a glorious display of passion and emotion.

Of course, there are plenty of guitar-led tracks, lending ferocious bite. Mantra displays a massive lead riff and an equally towering chorus in which Sykes condemns slavish devotion to ideologies ‘Before the truth will set you free it will piss you off/Cause all you ever do is chant the same old mantra’. Wonderful Life brings a traditional rock n roll swagger, accompanied by tongue in cheek mocking of the celebrity lifestyle. Even Sugar, Honey, Ice, And Tea has a deluge of grit and rawness (Side note: It took me an embarrassingly long time to notice the acronym in the title and chorus). Nothing can beat the throttling heavy metal though, where Olli takes a joyfully sneering approach to elitist metalhead fans; ‘Some kid on the ground said he used to be a fan but this shit ain't heavy metal’ while admitting his own vulnerabilities ‘I keep picking petals, I'm afraid you don't love me anymore’. In this contradiction, is the core of Amo: a black, powerful and sometimes uncomfortable record about accepting the inevitability of change.

While I do not deny that Amo is a risky, and often quite scattered album in terms of deciding a direction for itself, it is also strikingly brave, and an important step in Bring Me the Horizons growth as musicians. Not only is this their best album, but it may also be their most ambitious. 8/10
Cosmic Rain: Seekers (Self Released)

"Cuckoo clocks and fucking Toblerones!" Billy Connolly explaining Switzerland many moons ago, but of course there is so much more to the country than that, musically they are as diverse as any of the countries that surround them which is pretty good considering their population is only around 8 million people. Cosmic Rain are a Swiss prog band who by their own admission are influenced by King Crimson, Opeth, Yes, Gentle Giant and Dream Theater, but this Geneva based four piece are trying to reinvent progressive rock for 2019 building on the 70's blueprint for their own interpretation. Cadiz Ouverture swells into Sils-Maria which has a biting riff, some Middle Eastern keyboards, laid back vocals a moving into a planative piano piece and a swirling guitar solo.

Sils-Maria is a direct opening for the album the band at their most rock, a stark contrast to Dimensional Gates which has odd time signatures, jazz moments and layered acoustics. Brilliantly played by the band they are all clearly gifted musicians, Cosmic Rain is Laurent Nigg (vocals/guitar), Arnaud Bosch (keyboards), Willem Jochems (drums) and Marc Joray (bass) and their songwriting sounds like The Tea Party which means they will get a lot of love from me with The Powers That Me sounding the most like their Canadian compatriots with the use of Middle Eastern influences and Nigg's deep resonant vocals that pitch them like prog rock but with grunge overtones.

The songs on Seekers are contrite but musically dextrous only The Journey And Its Tones clocks in at over 10 minutes and is the heaviest and powerful song on the record adding metal riffs and growls to their repertoire all while a dulcet piano beats in the background, at time it's Opeth in its scope, with blast beats rounding out the song. After a few listens to this record I'm really struck by it, having never heard Cosmic Rain before this album has won me over totally. It's exhilarating progressive rock without a cuckoo clock in sight! 9/10

Haunt: Mosaic Vision (Self Released)

Beastmaker frontman Trevor William Church has another band, Haunt is that other band and while his 'dayjob' sees him playing Sabbath riffs about horror topics Haunt is a much more pacey project sat firmly in the grip of the NWOBHM when Tokyo Blade, Angel Witch and Tygers Of Pan Tang put on their high tops, spray on jeans and spiky guitars to play galloping numbers. Haunt do the same, having already released an EP and full length (and another on the way) so this EP is another chance for them to explore dual guitar harmonies, a taster of what's to come Haunt are proof that Church is more than a one trick pony. Get your ears around Mosaic Vision for some classic metal thump. 7/10

Sister Rose: No Cause For Distraction (Self Release)

Proudly championing their mission to bring ‘80s rock to today's music’, Sister Rose exudes a typically classic rock flair. Driven by crunchy riffs, strong choruses and wailing lead breaks, anyone who still finds solace in the recklessness or dynamism of glam metal or classic hard rock will love No Cause For Distraction. Make no mistake, this project has the admirable aim of dishing out a fun time, both for the musicians involved and their fans.

Bullet begins the album with a driving guitar riff, courtesy of Alex Fearnly, while Chris Berry’s lead vocals give out a rough feel, and Craig Fernley performs some euphoric guitar solos. While I can't help wishing that the opener would provide a little more melodic bombast, it certainly sets out these musicians mission statement: ‘we are taking you on a retro journey of loud music, unashamed indulgence, and brash overconfidence’. We get more songs laced through which flaunt their classic rock influence with pride, High Expectations and No Cause For Distraction to name a few, and - as you may expect - they are inspired anthems to get your head shaking, at the very least.

Like any hard rock record worth the title, however, comes a decent amount load of bite. Worlds Stop Turning and Long Dark Days are brought to life at the command of mechanically stomping instrumentation and sardonically snarled lyricism. Long Dark Days and Seven bear a similar tone, except rather than being grinding marchers, are stampeding and forceful in their conviction. Even the more grunge metal inspired moments, like the clomping Smoke And Mirrors or the elusively dark Lost My Soul, have a lot of charm and finesse to them – staying true to the straightforward rock n roll aesthetic.

Overall, in the pantheon of bands attempting to emulate that traditional rock n roll swagger, Sister Rose isn't necessarily doing anything new or cutting edge, except for possibly bringing in some metal or grunge stylings here and there. Yet what they are doing is taking an old idea, and performing it well. All this contributes to an experience which the classic rock lover in us - and let's face it, we've all got that part of us – will be happy to indulge in, at least at the moment it is being played out. 6/10

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