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Friday 1 November 2019

Reviews: Jimmy Eat World, Art Nation, Howling Giant, In Pain (Alex, Matt & Manus)

Jimmy Eat World: Surviving (Exotic Location Recordings) [Alex Swift]

Jimmy Eat World’s endurance never fails to surprise me. Viewed as a one-hit-wonder through the eyes of many and as instigators of the emo scene by others, every time they bring out a new album, they elicit the exact same reaction ‘oh wow, they’re still around’, and yet I can’t say they’ve ever made anything truly unlistenable. In fact, far from flaunting themselves, they have been happy to act as the support slot for several delighted upcoming artists. Now on their 10th album the motto is the same: Let’s not pretend to be something we’re not, let’s not lose ourselves to the trappings of mediocrity, let’s just survive and be happy. Notably, the album is a straightforward return to the guitar-led rock of classics in the vein of Clarity and Bleed American, making it somewhat reminiscent of the early 2000s, with one foot in pop-punk, and the other in a more mature, hard alternative sound.

Surviving starts us off on an anthemic note, which sets out the jaunty tone for the entire record as it builds from catchy power chords and hooky melodies to a bombastic finish. Criminal Energy has a more tense, angsty feeling at its heart, the interplay between the lead and rhythm guitars, and the consistent pulsing from the bass and drums, keeps the momentum ticking along nicely. In spite of being on the edges of becoming a ballad, Delivery manages to maintain enough heart and emotion throughout to continue delivering on the promise of genuineness. 555 is perhaps the weakest moment here, feeling closer to the synth-led approach experimented with on later works. Luckily, One Mil proves a fantastic centerpiece, the huge anthemic approach and sauntering contrasts make put this on par with early singles, which emphasized melody and dynamic range in order to spread their feelings of angsty cheerfulness.

All The Way (Stay), conveys that feeling of youthful innocence and joyful reminiscence pretty well, with enough sentimentality and lyrical depth to avoid genericism, not least aided by the addition of colorful harmonies and a saxophone solo. Similarly, Diamond beguiles with crisp riffing, lush phrases and a lyrical palette that perfectly treads the line between moody and optimistic – not unlike their breakout hit, The Middle, in that sense. Love Never is a take on a pop-inspired sound, executed in the right way. In fact, Recommit is the second of the ballads that keeps up an image of theatricality, without straying into melodrama or schmaltziness. In turn, Congratulations finish us out on a dramatic note, the pulsating nature, distorted instrumentals, and strong background vocals, all adding a lovely touch, making for a potent ending.

Surviving won't be remembered as a staple in the Jimmy Eat World catalogue. However, it will certainly be remembered, as one of their better works, especially by fans, and maybe even some casual onlookers to the alternative rock genre 7/10

Art Nation: Transition (Gain/Fifth Island Music) [Matt Bladen]

Swedish band Art Nation are an immensely successful band in their home country and they are now looking to replicate that success with their third album Transition. They will be much better trying to break the American market with this electronic infused melodic rock record. Having started their career as an AOR band this album, they have had a radical change in their line up with three band members being replaced, which has also changed their sound, advancing what they started on previous release Liberation to something not to dissimilar to Amaranthe as the synths take precedence with orchestral swells coming in on ballads like The Cure. I wasn't that impressed by Liberation and Transition hasn't won me over, saccharine, Euro-fodder that sits in a very over-crowded genre. 6/10

Howling Giant: The Space Between Worlds (Blues Funeral Recordings) [Manus Hopkins]

Two hallmarks of good stoner metal this record nails are grooving riffs and standout vocals. Beyond that, there’s really not too much more that needs to be said. There’s a good mix of song lengths here too, and while some pass the seven-minute mark, they don’t drone on or feel unnecessarily long. Most of the songs are fairly regular lengths of four and five minutes, but still maintain the doomy, stoner feel. The riffs are usually memorable hooks, and the impressive vocal delivery really distinguishes Howling Giant from the swarms of amateur-sounding stoner bands out there. The vocals melodies carry the songs when the guitars step down to do rhythm duties, so a very well-used guitar/vocal duo is present throughout the album. 7/10

In Pain: The Sound Of Death (Southcoast Productions) [Manus Hopkins]

One would hope an album with such awesome cover art as In Pain’s The Sound Of Death contains great music as well. Luckily, the Swedish death metallers have managed to deliver, saving the record’s art from being wasted. It’s the impenetrable groove of the songs that sweeps the listener along and though the songs are heavy, there’s an undeniable catchiness to each one as well. It’s the vocals that are the most aggressive—the bludgeoning riffs and booming drums have a good amount of melody to them, setting In Pain apart from other contemporary cookie-cutter death metal bands. There’s not a whole lot of variation throughout the album, but in some instances, there doesn’t need to be. 7/10

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