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Saturday 30 March 2019

Review: The Treatment, Whitechapel, American Sin, Marianas Trench (Paul H, Mark, Alex & Liam)

The Treatment: Power Crazy (Frontiers Records) [Paul H]

Cambridge quintet The Treatment have been delivering the goods for over a decade now. I’ve seen the band several times, opening for Black Stone Cherry in a sweaty, fabulous night in Cardiff’s Solus in 2011, headlining at Clwb Ifor Bach back in 2014 and an event stealing performance at Steelhouse in 2015 and they’ve always been great value for money. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to the band on record, but their fourth album, Power Crazy is certainly worth a listen. Since I last saw the band, vocalist Mitchell Emms has moved on. New man on the microphone Tom Rampton (and I say new but he’s in his second year with the band) has certainly slotted in comfortably, with an assured confident performance. The band tour hard and often, and it shows in the cohesion on Power Crazy.

This isn’t ground breaking in any shape or form, and the band appear to have moved more towards the blues rock of AC/DC, especially on tracks such as Luck Of The Draw, Let’s Get Dirty and King Of The City. What the Treatment bring to the table is good honest rock n’ roll with a swagger and arrogance that demands a beer in the hand, a hot evening and a bloody good time. The tight rhythm section of Rich Newman and Dhani Mansworth lock everything down tightly whilst the guitar work of Tagore and Tao Grey is simple but efficient.

With the arrogance of Aerosmith, the tightness of The Cult alongside the Acca Dacca influences still in evidence, this is an ear pleasing album that should be mandatory for car journeys, whilst the band should be synonymous with great nights out. The version I reviewed contained two acoustic bonus tracks, Bite Back and Let’s Get Dirty, both showing that the band can do the softer stuff without a problem. This is an album that will be pleasing every time it is played and a solid follow up to 2016’s Generation Me. Good, honest hard rock. Now, it’s time to get back to seeing them live again next time they pass through South Wales. 8/10

Whitechapel: The Valley (Metal Blade Records) [Mark]

Hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, Whitechapel are a deathcore band named after a district of London, made famous by the serial killer Jack The Ripper. Formed in 2006 this five piece band have been through a number of members but seem to have settled down with the following line-up, vocalist Phil Bozeman, guitarists Ben Savage, Alex Wade, and Zach Householder, and bassist Gabe Crisp. The seventh studio album release, on the Metal Blade label looks set to catapult the band into the limelight. When A Demon Defiles A Witch opens up The Valley and it’s as Whitechapel as Whitechapel can be to begin with, Bozeman’s vocals cutting the music asunder with its recognisable guttural low end, but don’t be fooled, this man has a lot more range than you might be led to believe from earlier albums, developing a great mid pitch melodic scream, reminiscent of Gojira at times.

About half way through the song the biggest departure from their earlier material kicks in, with clean guitars and relaxed drums, with actual singing, from a singer who can growl, scream and sing. This is going to divide opinion, without a doubt, comparisons to Five Finger Death Punch and Slipknot are already doing their rounds on Facebook comments and forum posts. I say good luck to them for trying to make the sound more accessible, more appealing to casual metalheads who are looking for the next big thing, because I’ve no doubt Whitechapel have it in them to be that, their ability to write a catchy song, the production, the choruses they write are all top notch, a band who progresses and evolves is a great thing and we’re witnessing that very thing here.

Forgiveness Is Weakness stomps through the melody of the previous track and has a real Our Endless War feel, a three minute crush of heaviness that is a definite live cut that will get the mosh pit moving. Holy shit, I didn’t know a human throat could make that noise, the opening to Brimstone drops in like a bag stuffed full of hammers, the simple 4/4 beat creating an amazing groove that will get the head nodding, two minutes in, we’re treated to a breakdown/buildup back into the opening riff that leaves some space in between the hammers beating you relentlessly. One of the simpler songs on the album but it’s catchy and great because of its simplicity.

Right here we go, Hickory Creek, the only song I heard before getting the album for review, a song that had me a little nervous about the contents of this record. This is a song that has melody, singing and choruses that a lot of bands can only imagine writing. It’s one of the tracks that I think will divide opinion, but I don’t care, it’s great and shows a maturity, with real emotion poured into the subject matter, a song structure that reminds of the early 00s with build, break and chorus, it’s hard to pin down where the influence comes from for this departure from Whitechapel’s regular broadcasting, but that doesn’t matter, all that matters is they’re willing to put down this sort of material and stick to their guns with it.

Black Bear on the other hand is a groove filled smash through some mid paced bounce, this track is something else, fans of earlier material will enjoy this, a lot. We Are One digs even further back into their catalogue for influence, blast-beats and some amazing kick patterns really get this track going, around the three minute mark there’s a build which sounds familiarly like another song (it’s one of their own, so it’s OK), then a breakdown kicks in that is sure to get the blood moving. Lovelace is the album highlight for me, this track shows the most maturity, adding in some mid range Gojira-ish screams, super catchy and all told something that should have appeared earlier on the album.

That said there’s not really a bad track on The Valley, the only factor will be whether you’re into the Whitechapel sound, low tuned guitars, breakdowns, guttural vocals, now added clean vocals, and perfect production. I am into all these things, I look forward to releases and tour announcements, this album has come along like a real shot in the arm for heavy music in 2019. 9/10

American Sin: S/T (Sumerian Records) [Liam]

This is quite a diverse album, and it took me by surprise how good they make it sound. Musically it’s a diverse mixture of metalcore & hard rock. While vocally it’s a mix between metalcore & Southern rock on times, which sounds like a terrible idea, but this band pulls it off smoothly. Rebranding from Come The Dawn in 2017 and dropping this surprise album only a few days ago with no promotional teasers or no notice from record label Sumerian Records, this album is quite the gem. Back to front this album is flawless. There are so many hooks, chorus’ & riffs that’ll keep you fulfilled, and more.

My personal favorite track Roulette will get you bobbing your head. But the entire album is so catchy, I've caught myself singing it at random points throughout the day (Which I must say, I did butcher, but I'm trying okay) and to the dismay of my co-workers, sorry again guys. You might recall a certain ‘Band’ a few weeks ago stating that ‘They are a year ahead of metal bands’. Well with the new self-titled album by American Sin, that statement has been well and truly fucking crushed. I honestly can’t wait for this band to tour the UK and make themselves a force to be well and truly reckoned with. 10/10

Marianas Trench: Phantoms (604 Records) [Alex]

Alright, let me be honest. Calling Marianas Trench rock, is stretching the definition slightly. Most mainstream publications don’t seem to know how to accurately describe them either, opting for the ambiguous, Pop-Rock, as a way of covering all bases. The Canadian quartet still places plentiful emphasis on guitars, while utilizing some instrumental palates not typically seen in dominant genres, and repeatedly emphasizing their place as an ‘album orientated’ act. Each of these qualities is well represented across their discography as well, with Masterpiece Theatre breaking from the rawer style of previous releases, and Astoria being conceived as a concept album inspired by adventure movies. Unsurprisingly then, Phantoms sees them taking what they have learned, and using that knowledge to explore a darker side of themselves. The theme? Being haunted by spirits of former lovers. The resulting album is arguably their most accessible piece of work to date, yet also holds a sinister quality, not typically seen within the bounds of so-called pop-rock.

When it comes to creating a ghostly atmosphere, Marianas Trench precisely utilizes tension. Instrumentals begin modestly so that the listener pays attention to the lyrics. Soon enough, layers of orchestral and harmonic arrangement are set on top of one another, emulating the creeping way in which we experience love or fear. ‘’Repeating from the beating of your tell-tale heart/ Well stirs of whispers trail and linger you still haunt the corners of my eye’’ Josh Ramsay sings on Echoes Of You in reference to the short story ‘tell-tale heart’ by Edgar Allen Poe, where the protagonist desperately recounts a murder he committed, while simultaneously trying to convince the reader of his sanity. We are here carrying on a theme introduced on the perfectly layered opening song Eleonora, and just like the opener, the simple pop edifice is counterbalanced by an epic yet haunting crescendo of strings and horns.

Several moments from across the album are reprised on the final anthem: The Killing Kind. Here, our narrator is seemingly crushed under the weight of his guilt – ‘’Nevermore to leave here’’ – while we hear callbacks to numerous melodies scattered throughout the record, and the wordplay continues its perpetual allusions to Allen-Poe: ‘If madness overtakes us both, then nobody would be alone. The ghost of us can linger here, forever not to disappear’. These narrative quirks are the centerpiece of Phantoms and go quite a long way to proving how well Ramsay hones his songwriting ability, to create an experience which while bearing some the features of contemporary pop, bears a close resemblance to an experience which is theatrical or cinematic.

Perhaps part of the reason I haven't focused nearly as much on the individual component parts, as I usually do in my reviews, is that they don’t intrigue me as much as Marianas Trench’s claim to be ‘an album act, in age where the album is a dying format’. For instance, I could talk at length about how moments like Only The Lonely Survive and Wish You Were Here, utilise pop hooks to maximum effect, becoming both catchy and memorable. Alternatively, I could ruminate on the weird vocal modulations on Don’t Miss Me? and The Death Of Me, which in honesty I don’t care for. Doing so however would undermine my goal to see if these musicians stand up to their own scrutiny.

Admittedly, upon my first few listens I didn’t notice the storytelling. However, upon further excavation, I began to notice the subtleties and lyrical caveats which are cleverly weaved into the tapestry. For that reason alone, I would not recommend Phantoms as anyone's first introduction to this band. However, I would encourage listeners to show them the respect, and the patience to look closely and see the skillful songwriting, which lies beneath the accessibility on their surface 7/10

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