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Tuesday 23 August 2022

Reviews: The Hirsch Effekt, Russian Circles, Landlords, Vendetta Love (Reviews By David G & Matt Cook)

The Hirsch Effekt – Solitaer (Long Branch Records) [David G]

An interesting premise from this German three-piece, inspired by COVID-19 social distancing each band member individually writes a song for the band to record (and there’s a version of a pre-existing song). Having never heard this band before this may not be the best introduction, but regardless, I’m hooked. Opener Palingenesis certainly struck a chord. I hesitate to say this because I’m aware how kooky it sounds, but it’s almost like a disjointed interpretation of Soilwork. Imagine the first four albums by the Swedish band, thrown into a blender, so Steelbath Suicide drumclatter rubs up against thick groovy riffing from A Predator’s Portrait, filtered through Natural Born Chaos’ colossal sound. 

It goes from frantic to melodic in short breaths and sounds as vital as anything I’ve heard from the melodeath scene in quite a while. Nares takes a darker turn, blooding a fabulous grind riff in the middle of patchwork mathcore. Eventually this all gives way to what I can only describe as an innocent Björk-like vocal over a gradually layered backing that feels somewhat reminiscent of Maudlin Of The Well. Amorphius goes the whole Dillinger facsimile mile. Off-kilter and breathless until it gently slows into the kind of crooned backing vocals and peeling “melody” you’d expect; it spans noise rock until the ambush of dense triplets and pounded snare brings back the anger, then recedes with a catchy, jagged little riff. Gregær (Solitaer Version) closes out the EP proper with a lively riff, pulsing bass and just sounds cool. 

The CD version of the EP comes with the Gregær EP as extra tracks, offering more of the dreamy quality that Nares displays, in amongst math-freneticism. The most unnerving thing about listening to this release is how well The Hirsch Effekt throw their efforts into styles that are well worn and make them so fun. To show such confidence, adaptability and remarkable musicianship is truly creditable. A fascinating snapshot of a group inspired by separation at an unusual moment in time. 9/10

Russian Circles – Gnosis (Sargent House) [Matt Cook]

For nearly two decades, Russian Circles have largely kept their lineup intact while releasing seven studio albums of instrumental post-rock and -metal. The eighth – Gnosis – is as airtight, clearly structured and expertly produced as any other offering (thanks, Kurt Ballou). To be clear from the start, the Chicago-based trio explicitly note in their Twitter bio that they stand with Ukraine during that country’s continued struggle since Russia’s invasion back in February. The band’s name also derives from a hockey drill; Mike Sullivan (ironically also the name of the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup-winning coach) and Dave Turncrantz played the sport growing up. 

Okay, let’s get to the good stuff, because there is a lot of it to go around. Over the course of 40 minutes, Russian Circles teeters on the edge of rock and metal. The title track incorporates softer melodies that flows into a satisfying number, but ends with a rummaging riff. Vlastimil (roughly translated to “favored homeland”) is more frantic with its drum line before the guitar riff gains steam and traction. Ballou’s keen ears left their mark on Gnosis (Greek for “knowledge”), as the drums are consistently thick and metallic while also popping. The guitars harbour a girth and abrasion that maintains its tight, authoritative production. These aren’t random compositions hastily strewn together in hopes of forming coherent songs. 

The tracks are rigidly planned and arranged; vocals could effortlessly fit into place. And the listenability of the seven songs is retained from start to finish. The album bores no distractions or fluff. It’s that get-in-and-get-out mentality which fortifies the record. Gnosis is without a doubt tremendously approachable for fans of a wide array of genres and types of music. The album was written remotely, but since the trio recorded the songs together in a live setting, the synthesis is palpable and a testament to Russian Circles’ longevity of success. 8/10

Landlords – Codeine [Church Road Records) [Matt Cook]

It should go without saying, but when like-minded, talented and ambitious musicians come together to create music not only for fans but as fans, wonderful things are bound to come out the other end. Landlords is a four-piece conflagration nestled into what is self-described as alternative/slow rock but more closely comes off as ethereal post-rock. It’s no surprise since the band members have been a part of the local hardcore, metal and punk scene in their native New Zealand. And their affinity for shoegaze is unquestionably sprinkled all over their EP, Codeine

The too-long, didn’t-read summation of these five songs is: they sound like Nirvana, except good. For 21 minutes, the music ebbs and flows, teasing heaviness while impressively balancing fuzzy production with porcelain precision. I’d hazard to bet this mini-release could be performed live in a day care during nap time without disrupting anyone, and that’s no knock on the quality or intrigue. The collection of Andy Blackford (guitars, vocals), Patrick Rowe (guitar), Simon Rutz (bass) and Dylan Morgan (drums) do their own things on their respective instruments yet still complement one another, a near must when it comes to this style of music. 

Perfect Life stirs and slowly starts to wrestle with the blankets after a long, restful, sought-after night of sleep. The guitar grows in the outro, but not before utilising a phaser in the intro, while a not-too-overbearing or too-sharp snare drum effectively binds the strains together. Ironically, Violence is gentle-sounding at first, and Haunt is sung with such care and gentleness that it’s impossible not to think everything will be okay in the end, whatever may come. 

The lulling outro certainly adds to that comfort. Normally there would be a desire for that teasing of heaviness to eventually overflow, like that arcade game that pushes a pile of tokens ever closer to the edge while you spend your own money trying to nudge more over the side and into your greedy pockets. Yet Landlords have a way with emitting rugged vibes without primitively bashing their drums or assaulting the senses with fatalistic guitar blasts. 7/10

Vendetta Love – I Am EP (Self Released) [David G] 

With their angular, staccato name, referring to the EP as a “sloppy gang-bang” in their press release and a song title like Hush Hush this Irish four piece certainly gave off an early impression of falling in the more glam end of the hard rock spectrum. Imagine my surprise when the distorted notes of the aforementioned opener started, then this scratchy drawl crawled into my ears… It turned out that Chains N’ All was actually the clue here as I furrowed my brow and thought “Hang on, is this Alice In Chains?” Yes, veering towards the heavier edged grunge of Seattle’s finest, this is a rather well constructed five track effort. 

Ode, the most energetic of the tracks with its thrusting, high tempo guitar and driven along by a punchy beat is a cracking number and sees vocalist Shawn Mullen cut loose into (slightly) higher registers quite impressively. Chain’s N All starts in slothful, chugging fashion, which juxtaposes nicely with the spacious and melodic chorus. In contrast Walk Alone has soulfully delivered, jangling verses leading into this jagged punchline that menaces effectively. 

By the time the stalking I Am with its stop-start riff drew to a close I was quite taken. Perhaps aided by its brevity as an EP the quality and flow here is impressive. Yes, it wears its prime influence on its sleeve, but with repeated listens I Am has grown in my estimation and made me glad that someone out there is doing this style, doing it convincingly and doing it so damn well. 8/10

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