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Tuesday 3 November 2020

Reviews: Bring Me The Horizon, The Flower Kings, Odd Palace, Ice Nine Kills (Reviews By Alex & Liam)

Bring Me The Horizon: Post Human - Survival Horror (RCA Records) [Alex Swift]

For me, the journey in comprehending Bring Me The Horizon’s violently aggressive take on post-hardcore has been a troubled one. Theirs is not the type of music that will make you instantly recoil at the primitive nature, yet the combination of surrealist synth textures and roaring guitars makes for a strange experience which many were quick to seize upon during the promotion of Sempiternal in 2013, yet which took me a while to get accustomed to. In fact, not until the release of the controversial Amo, did I find myself embracing their style of unreal chaos. That album saw them taking their sound in exciting new directions and due to the conceptual nature, I found myself reevaluating their past works and seeing their writing more for the experimental qualities than the cornucopia of overwhelming emotion which they bring to the table. In fact, the news that they are set to release a series of apocalypse-themed EPs with Survival Horror leading the charge, seems to be a completely natural move for them at this stage in their career. Indeed, in a more daring stunt than the outwardly investigational nature of the last record, this combines otherworldly instrumentals with a sense of desperation and panic that speaks poignantly about the state of the world we live in now and the one that will come after our domination.

Dear Diary acts as a frenzied and deranged opener, portraying a character who’s been driven mad with the threats to human survival. Exactly what period in time this song is set in proves open to interpretation. It may be the case that the caustic synths, the galvanizing guitars, and the seething illusions to isolation through guttural screams, reminds you of the anxiety which surrounds this year. The only certainty is that the piece is a violent and fierce opener to welcome in a new era in BMTH’s existence! ‘I’ve got a fever, don’t breathe on me’ opens Parasite Eve, after a stint of strange tribal chanting – the tense electronics on this track merge excellently with the cacophony of rhythms, making for a biting piece where the deliberate, brooding progression forcefully syncs with the whispered lyrics of ‘please remain calm…the end has arrived’. Teardrops must be one of the most powerful anthems Oli Sykes and co. have ever penned, the erratic, changeable melodies, contrasted with a gigantic chorus, lending to that feeling of being immersed in anxiety, which encircles the themes of mental distress and the prominent refrains of ‘the emptiness is heavier than you think’. Likewise, Obey keeps you locked in that sensation of apocalyptic emotion, the strong grooves and intricate effects creating a seductive soundtrack to the defiance of oppression which the piece preaches in enthralling style.

Although I rarely comment on transitional pieces, the Linkin Park inspired Itch For The Cure proves how well the act has progressed in mastering atmospheric electronic music which is disquieting and odd. We follow this up with Kingslayer featuring Babymetal. The frenetic and deliberately contrasting nature of this anthem makes for a powerfully optimistic moment, the enticing ambiance making this a liberating and strangely danceable section in the tracklist. IXI continues on this deeply avant-garde nature, which differentiates the sounds and textures being developed, in unique and captivating ways. Ludens feels a debauched dance number, the grooves standing out, yet proving warped and twisted against the chaotic landscape of a post-human world that is being painted for us. By this point, the blackened lyrical and musical themes have truly set in, drowning the listener in a tidal wave of dreamlike images, and sensations wrought from their own imagination. There’s a hopeful message to these songs, yet by no means do they paint a romanticized picture of escape from the turmoil. In many ways, this is an album about unity in the face of disaster.

One Day The Only Butterflies Left Will Be The Ones In Your Chest As You March Towards Your Death, closes us out on a saddening yet beautiful note. Sykes and Amy Lee of Evanescence present a dystopian image of a decaying planet against the haunting ambiance and a lowly piano. The reverberating lyric of ‘you know you can't breathe on your own’, serenades the listener with the realization that to stay alive, we need to look after each other, and the world around us. Much like the music on display here, it's a frightening notion, yet one with a great deal of poignancy and potential. 8/10

The Flower Kings: Islands (Inside Out Records) [Alex Swift]

Performing an elaborate, traditional take on prog, Swedish act the Flower Kings helped rejuvenate a psychedelic sound in a time when the genre was being reinvented by acts drawing on elements of metal and alternative. Despite the retro flair, their music is not entirely rooted in the past – there’s a lot more of a joyous, exuberant quality to their compositions, making their music distinctly fun. Considering the music of both today and that of the period of the ‘90s which they emerged into, seems dominated by mercurial, violent, and caustic textures, a record like Islands proves a fitting reprieve from a chaotic world. And this is far from a disappointment. Colourful acoustics lace the arrangements, while jaunty rhythms cascade and flow. Meanwhile, the expressionist keyboards and bright melodies complement the surreal storytelling.

Contrary to the vast conceptual compositions of past albums, Islands feels like a homage to their influences. Each song acts as a unique ‘island’ if you will, each with its own personality and culture. Despite the album rolling in at a grand hour and a half, the consistency is cleverly kept in check and you are made to feel like you are being taken on a journey between worlds. The kind, affable nature of the songwriting, especially in the powerfully joyous moments like All I Need Is Love and Tangerine, certainly helps in carrying an aura of kindness whereby even if you wanted to sit back and allow this album to lull you into rest, you could. A New Species and Northern Lights are technically masterful, the multifaceted layers making me feel like I’m in a detailed exploration of an environment so alien to the human eye that you can't help but marvel at your discoveries. Moments in the vein of Morning News and Goodbye Outrage do have a darker consistency at play, yet even though the sombre sections this record carries a sense of cerebral relaxation and escape.

Contributing to the effect of weaving pictures in your mind is the strength of the playing. Man In A Two-Piece Suit stands out as an emotional, brilliantly played piece where the guitars are working in tandem with the drums and vocals to create a dazzling, otherworldly effect. Solaris proves a winding, detailed yet measured and careful number, each movement being executed in a way that keeps the listener entranced until the very end, where the track bows out without overstaying its welcome. Some fans of the more retro take that these musicians have on their genre may be confused by the fact that at 9 minutes, this is the longest on the record. That said, I feel the relative succinctness works well in carrying that sense of intricacy, which certainly acts as a strong point throughout. Look at a moment like Heart Of The Valley, which warms with a sense of beauty before ending and allowing our emotions to be influenced in a myriad of different ways by the following works. Whatsmore, considering so many of these pieces stand on instrumentals alone, any rot or tedium could have seriously made me lose interest fast, and I might not have appreciated the experience as much, had I not had the opportunity to contemplate each of the ideas on their own merits.

We end on Between Hope And Fear and Islands. These help to bring the themes together in an introspective and ambitious style. True, this album is long and wears you out slightly by the end. That said, the structure and the carefulness allow you to enjoy every moment, if you are willing to devote the patience. 8/10

Odd Palace: One Step Closer (Prime Collective) [Liam True]

It can be difficult for new Prog Metal bands to come up with something to make them stand out from the crowd. Whether it’s the pace they set their songs at, the style of writing or the overall sound of the band from vocals to drum patterns. And some bands try to hard at it. Whereas Odd Place have opted for the simpler side where they take all the Prog elements but don’t take it over the edge. They sound great whilst sounding simplistic. With the soaring vocals of Gert Borsting, that wails into the night like a phantom in the woods, the band have set the pace of their second studio album. The guitar abilities of Soren Haenschke & Lasse Madsen prove they are more than capable of taking on the more established bands in the scene as on songs such as Breathe, Flammable Idea & Echoes they create a flurry of riffs and solos. Bassist Patrick Wolfgang creates a sombre yet distinguishing tone from his heavy bass that beefs up the band to sound more dynamic. Drummer Morten Andersen uses his skills to navigate the kit like a second home creating a surreal vision for the band to follow in their unique way. From start to finish the album is magnificent. It takes Prog Metal to a whole new chapter. It doesn’t need to inept noodling most bands provide, as Odd Palace create their own style and envision themselves on the world's stages. And with One Step Closer, it has brought them just that to their dreams. 9/10

Ice Nine Kills: I Heard They Kill Live (Fearless Records) [Liam True]

A good live album is hard to nail due to getting the sound right for the band and mainly the vocalist. And Ice Nine Kills have nailed the sound for a good live album. The sound is clear. The band are tight and are as powerful as ever. Recorded on the bands sell out 2019 tour ‘Octane Accelerator’ in the bands hometown of Massachusetts in the Worcester Palladium, a place they before played in a battle of the bands, but did not win. They have a star studded setlist from most recent album The Silver Scream all the way back to The Predator Becomes The Prey.

With a 19 song setlist lasting an hour and 15 minutes they pack as much as they can into their set, from the addictive chorus’ of opener Thank God It’s Friday, The Jig Is Up & fan favourite Savages that cause the crowd to sing back at full force to match vocalist Spencer Charnas cleans and growls. Throughout the set the band hit perfection with drummer Patrick Galante’s kit sounding beautiful and heavy. Guitarists Ricky Armellino & Dan Sugarman blend their tones together through Sugarman’s solo’s while Armellino handles the riff side of business and handles it well while bouncing off bassist Joe Occhiuti’s monstrous sound. 

Covering pretty much every horror film being made from The Shining, to Jaws and even to books such as Carrie & Animal Farm, the band prove thy can write a good song about anything. Communion Of The Cursed & Rocking The Boat are two strong contenders to their already near perfect setlist. Until you come to their cover of Thriller, which for me personally, is the only downfall, as it is a decent cover, but it sounds too slow for the band and seems a tad sloppy. Stabbing In The Dark & Tess-Timony show the band at their best and on form. Then we reach the end encore, The American Nightmare (Inspired by A Nightmare On Elm Street) & IT Is The End (Inspired by IT) prove the band can handle a crow and work the room to the delight and destruction.

There’s only one or two songs I’d swap out on this performance, but apart from that it’s a damn near perfect setlist from the band and an epic performance showing them at their peak, so far. They have more to come and more to prove before they hit the big stages. But this live album has shown they’re ready for the challenge. And proves they’re better live than on record. 8/10

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