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August Burns Red – Death Below

For the uninitiated, August Burns Red (ABR) are a two-time Grammy nominated metalcore band from Lancaster Pennsylvania. Since their inception they have, for the most part,  been labeled a “Christian Metalcore” band. Whilst their members are indeed Christians, this in no way indicates that ABR preach , nor do they push any agenda. They are merely musicians who wish to entertain.and who pride themselves in generally promoting positivity and being positive influences.

Forming in 2003 while still in High School, drummer Matt Greiner, and guitarists Brent Rambler and John Benjamin (JB) Brubaker have been the foundation of the band, with vocalist Jake Luhrs and bassist Dustin Davidson both joining in 2006, and together they all remain to make up the current line up.

ABR have made a name for themselves as being a very melodic and atmospheric metalcore band, with some occasional progressive vibes also. Jake Luhrs, unlike many other metalcore vocalists, does not lend his vocals to both screams and clean vocals too much. His are mostly scream vocals.

The upcoming tenth studio album, titled Death Below, is due for release 24/3/2023, and features some heavy hitters in Jesse Leach ( Killswitch Engage) ,Spencer Chamberlain (Underoath), Jason Richardson ( Chelsea Grin and All That Remains) and also JT Cavey (Erra).

In fact the tracks featuring both Jesse and Spencer were some of the first to be released. Ancestry was released on November 3rd 2022, and Reckoning was released on February 22nd, both being received exceptionally well when you look at the plays across all platforms.

One thing that is apparent when listening to Death Below, is that this album seems markedly more deep, dark and personal. Given that writing for this album started right at the beginning of the global pandemic, it is not surprising that there is a vast array of heavy emotion transcending through both the lyrics and music. It was a time in the lives of our generation that was full of dread, with fear of the unknown at times becoming paralyzing for some people. Parts of the world were crippled financially, and we viewed our health, and our place in the world so much more differently than we did before.It took it’s toll on so many, yet, through music ABR have unleashed their feelings and have come through the other side with an album that is sure to be yet another success.

Opening with Premonition, this intro track lulls you in with an airy sound, with unusually clean spoken vocals and then smacks you fair in the face as it shifts seamlessly into The Cleansing. In very typical ABR fashion this is technically brilliant, with exceptionally captivating riffs, and a very likeable melody. At 7:48 minutes long, it takes you on a real  progressive sonic journey.

Ancestry, the track featuring Jesse from Killswitch Engage. is dark and heavy both lyrically and musically. It gets in your face from the get-go as it imparts on feelings of abandonment, and anger within the family. It can be interpreted to reflect many varied family situations and is sure to resonate with fans. This track is touted as being one of the darkest and most personal Jake has ever written. Definitely a highlight of the album for me.

Next up is Tightrope, with the added dimension of having Jason Richardson impart some of his touch. A moderate track of 4:14 long, it is intricate and powerful.

Leading in with a gentle and mesmerizing sound, Fool’s Gold In the Bear Trap quickly hits you with a wall of sound at 1:47 and  is unrelenting until the end.

Backfire has a really strong message within it, along the lines of being responsible for your own decisions. Don’t be influenced by others, and choosing wisely who you follow.

Revival is next, followed by Sevink, which is a 1 minute 23 second shot in the arm of hope and peace amongst all the darkness, or at least that’s how it felt to me.

Dark Divide and Deadbolt come next, both staying true to the ABR formula of searing riffs and solid breakdowns, however I personally found Deadbolt to be a little more catchy and memorable. I found myself going back to it over and again.

The Abyss is a track which  features artist JT Cavey. I found this track to have the cadence and melody of some old school thrash in parts which I really liked.

Reckoning closes out the album, featuring Spencer Chamberlain from Underoath, a band very close to the ABR boys, so it was a very natural collaboration.

All in all, Death Below is yet another feather in the cap of August Burns Red. They have consistently provided absolutely stellar music over the years, maintaining their style, their perfectly intricate musicianship and are a testament to the theory that sticking to the formula that works for you, is often times what the legions of die hard fans want to hear. They don’t vary too much from their tried and true way of doing things, and that’s ok. If you like it ,you like it. And if you don’t, then you don’t. Masses of metalcore fans across the globe love it, and that is a great reason to keep following the path that has brought them so much success to date.

Death Below is out 24/3/23, so if you like what you have heard from August Burns Red before, be sure to check it out. It’s been a long time since we saw them here in 2019, so let’s hope we can get the boys back down, as their last tour kicked some serious ass.

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Pierce The Veil – The Jaws Of Life

It’s been over 6 long years since we have had an album release by Pierce The Veil, and to be honest, I really was not sure what to expect. I mean at their height, they were the quintessential emo band. As the band, and fans alike get older and more mature, we often see a shift in stylings and this can go in almost any direction. After my first play through, I could hear that there has been a shift, however it feels like a very natural progression, retaining several of the main elements that made Pierce The Veil just who they are.

Founded in San Diego California in 2006, Pierce The Veil have met with success, line up changes and controversy over the years, however their long awaited return sees them having delivered a very solid 12 track album. This is also the first album since the departure of Mike Fuentes, and sees Vic Fuentes (vocals/guitar), Jaime Preciado (bass) and Tony Perry (guitar) take PTV onto the next level.

The Jaws Of Life, out February 10 via Fearless Records, is the fifth album for the band. The first single from the album, Pass the Nirvana, dropped on September 1st of 2022 and was ridiculously well received, racking up massive numbers of streams. This however is not surprising, as these guys are no strangers to receiving high accolades, including topping Billboard charts, reaching platinum record sales and selling out arenas. Emergency Contact was released in November to coincide with the announcement of the upcoming album, and its official music video has amassed over 1.1 million views already. The third single, Even When I’m Not With You landed on January 12.

The opening track is Death of an Executioner, and it kicks the album off with high energy. A somewhat latin inspired intro brings us into the main riff, which is then followed by some really dirtied up bass and some synth. The trademark emotional, deep, well worded lyrics are not lacking, and give the listener the instant “they’re back” feel.

Pass The Nirvana is up next and has that fuzzy retro sort of sound, which gets heavier as the song progresses. Quite the post hardcore element at times. The screams are still on point, and not overdone.

Track #3 is Even When I’m Not With You which brings with it some gritty fat chromatic guitar work, accompanied with some mildly hip hop & lofi influenced beats and bass work which is, to me, the lifeblood of the track.The vocal melody on this track is very catchy despite being under 3 mins long, leaving the listener wanting more.

Emergency Contact is up next. A modern radio rock hit, it hits all the right points when it needs to. A very catchy chorus and the production of the song is fantastic, with some ambient work thrown in the verses. Lyrically it reaches into your soul, as PTV very typically do.

Whilst Flawless Execution may not have the screams or super heavy riffs, it is no less emotional, and is perfectly placed in the tracklisting. It starts with a lush, chorus soaked clean guitar, and has an excellent vocal melody.

The next song, The Jaws Of Life, tells its story in somewhat of a theatrical manner, almost reminiscent of a song from a movie. I get a kind of Weezer vibe coming through on this one. The guitar and vocals are quite anthemic and showcase perfectly why this is the title track of the album.

Track 7, Damn the Man Save the Empire, starts with some banter and some heavy hitting drums and noisy feedback from guitars. A bop your head type verse which even includes a cowbell in the second verse. Groovy bass too.

Another chill, somber emo track is what Resilience is for me. Opening with a quote from the film “Dazed and Confused” that ramps up from mellow and ambient, to distorted guitars.

Irrational Fear is a 22 second piece with an airline safety spiel running underneath. I guess maybe someone doesn’t like to fly?

The tenth song on the album is Shared Trauma, a soft, spacey sound, with piano, and guitars soaked in reverb. Yet another track that lyrically will reach many who can completely relate.

Not hard to miss the title of song 11, So Far So Fake, as the name is belted out right  in the beginning. Upbeat, groovy chorus, with a surprisingly very ‘notey’ and hard hitting bridge section with some small brush strokes of post hardcore towards the bridge and end of song.

Closing the album at track 12 is the beautiful 12 Fractures. With superb  harmonies, and a stellar feature from Chloe Moriondo, who lends her beautiful, yet haunting vocals that compliment Vic’s vocals wonderfully.

As far as comeback albums go, I believe this album, The Jaws Of Life, definitely will have a captive audience. Whilst some songs are a vast departure from some of their older material, I think the maturity that comes with growing older will also mean that the more melodic and intimate nature of the album will appeal to fans who have grown up listening to Pierce The Veil. The angsty teens are now 20-30 somethings, many of whom still relate to the struggles that life can present, and look to music such as this to help them get to where they need to be.

I will undoubtedly have this one added to the rotation once it drops, and cannot wait to get a hard copy, to be able to read all the lyrics, some of which I am sure to have missed in the first few listens. Mature alternative modern emo rock is what I would define this as, and it’s damn good!!

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Thornhill – Heroine

Melbourne’s own Thornhill have just released their second studio album “Heroine”, and the first word that comes to mind in describing it is “evolution”.

Much like many metalcore bands before them, Thornhill have gone into their creative cocoon as a great emerging metalcore band, and they have come out the other end as a very different version of themselves, taking on the sound of this whole new metalcore movement. And let me say, it is not a bad thing at all.

Having started out in 2015 as a bunch of high school buddies, Jacob Charlton (vocals), Ethan McCann (guitar) Sam Anderson (guitar) and Ben Maida (drums), and Nick Sjogren (bass) came together as Thornhill. Having such influences as The Amity Affliction and Northlane, they hit the ground running with their debut single, “XY”, being released in June of 2016 featuring Void Of Vision’s Jack Bergin. This was closely backed up by the full debut EP “13” in August of that same year. From that point, it was a stream of positivity, both in reception and achievements. In May of 2017 the single “Temperer” was released and the band also won Triple J’s Unearthed competition, giving them the opportunity to support Architects on their Australian tour. As well as supporting multiple other well-known metal bands across Australia throughout 2017, and getting loads of airtime on Triple J, this only increased their fan base. Matt van Duppen stepped in on guitar in late 2017 when Sam Anderson parted ways with the band.

2018 started off with a bang, with Thornhill getting to support Parkway Drive, and also signed to a new label (UNFD). It was under this label they released their second EP “Butterfly”.

October 2019 saw the release of “The Dark Pool”, Thornhill’s first studio album, which debuted at #20 on the ARIA charts. Following on from this Thornhill got to briefly tour internationally, and also performed at Download in Melbourne and Sydney before the unfortunate timing of the Covid pandemic shut the world down.

Fast forward to October 2021, and the first single, “Casanova”, from the impending next album was released. This absolute groove train of a track was a perfect first release to showcase the diverse direction this next album would take.

“Arkangel” would then be released in January of this year, giving a taste of what was to come for the change in overall tone and style.

Then came June 3, and the opportunity for all to hear the entire album in its full glory, and let me say, it is a cracker of an album.

“The Hellfire Club” kicks the album off, as it starts with droning, very brooding chords, then kicking into a heavy low tuned riff over some ethereal guitars, followed by a vocal performance mirroring other great acts such as Loathe and Deftones.. A very chill vibe throughout. A stand out of the track for me is the lyric, “ People stay much longer in my head than in my life so please don’t go again”

“Leather wings” wastes no time, kicking right into the heart of the song with punchy guitars and soaring vocals.The ending of the song is sure to get you moving in a mosh pit,

Starting with a stripped-back clean guitar sound is “Blue Velvet”. Then it kicks into a really groovy and moody bassline accompanied by more buttery smooth vocals before Jacob amps it up in the chorus.

“Arkangel” was the second single, and one of my personal faves. With vocals very reminiscent of Kareem France, and this new class of metalcore.

“Valentine” starts with some very different guitar effects followed by some almost hip hop beat stylings. The first song to feel a bit different than everything else on the album.

“Casanova”  starts off with a riff coming into light with some compressed drums before kicking in full force. The vocals this time are not quite as spacey but a bit more in your face, but still retaining that distorted sound. This song has a very unique tremolo-like solo bit which was refreshing.

Instrumental tracks are fewer and further between these days, but “Something Terrible Came From the Rain” is a beautiful piece that really does take you to another place.

“Hollywood” is the third single, and kicks off with drums followed by some low bass and distorted vocals. This song is a return to the sound of other tracks like “The Hellfire Club”. Really great lyrics in this track. A great mix of straightforward vocal approach and spacey vibes. Very simple but bouncy riffs.

“Raw” has a very numetal-ish vibe most of the time then the bridge gets stripped back as if it gives the listener time to catch their breath before the pop/metal fusion like chorus,

With “Varsity Heights”  the vocal sound, in the beginning, is almost like a phone recording, and that makes it feel like it is very personal and straight to the listener. Definitely has a different vibe from everything else. Then in the pre-chorus, it slips into the familiar djent/metalcore vibe from earlier. It all feels very fusion as if they threw all their influences in a blender in this track.

“Heroine” is the final track on the album, and has a great little guitar melody with some awesome drum work. The spacey vocals approach again, not dissimilar to Chino from Deftones. It’s a very moody emotional track. The vocal inflections and cadence on this are absolutely brilliant.

Overall a really great album, that these guys should be super proud of. Definitely a little different from their previous offerings, but it feels like a very natural progression that comes with the growth of the band. I would rate it a strong  8/10 and that’s only after a couple of play-throughs. I am sure as I get it on rotation I will probably find more and more to like about it that I’ve missed the first few times.

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Papa Roach – Ego Trip

Review by Jodi Maree

EGO TRIP, the 11th studio album for California’s PAPA ROACH, was released in April 2022 and has been met with mixed reviews across the board, but the majority appear to be positive. The album reached #115 on the U.S Billboard chart, whilst on the UK Rock and Metal chart it has tipped in at #3.

Since coming together in 1993, PAPA ROACH has been very consistently churning out albums approximately every 2-3 years, with some being very successful and others only moderately so.

This album, in my opinion, has the makings of being one of the former. It has quite the mix of tracks on it, and at times can seem a touch disjointed, but it somehow comes together. If you go into it wanting everything to sound like “Last Resort”, you may be a little disappointed, but if you go into it open-minded and ready for a little diversity, mixed with some old-school sounds, then you are really going to like it.

Straight out of the gate the album opens with “Kill The Noise”, which is a punchy angsty track, with a heavy riff. The track was the second single released from the album back in September 2021, and if Spotify plays are anything to go by, seems to be the most popular. Lyrically it runs with the very prevalent theme of PAPA ROACH’s music, which talks about inner demons, and in particular in this track about the internal rage and voices of said demons, which are just becoming too loud, hence the title “Kill The Noise”. I was drawn to the song immediately and found it very catchy and relatable.

The second track “Stand Up” was the fourth single released from the album, and was released in January this year. It has very much the Nu-Metal sound that has appeared so often in the back catalogue. I get a very RATM meets Sevendust meets BMTH vibe. Weird mix, I know but that’s what comes to mind when listening to this track. Touching on the subject matter of oppression, and the need to encourage us all to “Stand Up”. Definitely a great track though and a stand-out for me.

The first single from this album, and the third track, is “Swerve” which features Jason Aalon Butler from Fever333 and rapper Sueco. While this totally contradicts Jacoby Shaddix’s statement in 2004 that the “rap was gone”, this track is well-produced and catchy, it has a funky little sax bridge, and is likely to appeal to those who prefer the rap-rock stylings. One thing this track does do highlights the diversity of PAPA ROACH, and how they are always looking to move with the times and not be stuck in the early 2000s. And while I am a rock/metal/punk-oriented person myself, I certainly do not discredit musicians whose diversity steps outside of the genres I prefer.

Bloodline”, the fourth song from EGO TRIP, feels a little darker, and a little more aggressive. A heavy beat, with a catchy pre-chorus leading into a loud and boisterous chorus. As with many of the tracks, this song is short and punchy. None of the tracks exceed 4 minutes, with more than half being less than 3 minutes long. It certainly leaves the listener wanting more, but means you can bounce through the whole album from song to song without feeling like you need to skip a track at all. And while there are certainly some songs that grab me more than others, I really do not think there are any really bad tracks.

The fifth track is “Liar” and this is one that I really like. It has such a bouncy, catchy tune, and the lyrics, while fast and at times a mouthful, flow well. The layered, gang-style vocals of the chorus work really well on this track.

“Ego Trip” is the sixth song on the album of the same name, and if I’m honest is one of my lesser faves. Musically it is great, with the drums absolutely standing out, and also has some real funky bass riffs too. I do find though, that lyrically this one is a little cheesy.

Another one of my faves from the album is track seven, “Unglued”. It has an old-school “rock style PAPA ROACH” sound that I have an affinity with. Lyrically it is cohesive and appears to be about the breakdown of a relationship. Although not one of the higher ranking songs when you look at the album as a whole, I like the sound of it, and have often played it over again for multiple listens in a row.

“Dying To Believe” was released in October 2021, and looks to be right up there in popularity. Jacoby Shaddix was reported as having described this song as having been written to help unify the division that is prevalent in today’s society. Anyone who loves music, knows that, in itself, music is a great way to unite people from all over. It brings us together, it makes us feel whole, and is an outlet for so many to express themselves and their feelings, so I applaud Jacoby on trying to lessen the divide. Lyrically it is deep, and musically it has elements of the new styles we see being produced by some of the world’s biggest artists. More synth, couipled with a very harmonic chorus makes this track super listenable and appealing.

Track nine, “Killing Time”, to me has what I deem as the typical PAPA ROACH sound. Highly identifiable, and one to get you moving. A tad repetitive but nothing so bad as to taint the song.

Anyone who knows me knows that vocals are my thing. I love a great vocal track. On this album, this is that track. I cannot tell you how many times I have played this song over and over again. Jacoby Shaddix has done such a stellar job on “Leave A Light On”.  It is nothing like any of the other tracks on this whole album. It is poignant, deep, and just an absolutely beautiful, beautiful song. I hold nothing back in saying it is my favourite. It’s no heavy rock song or riffing Nu Metal song, but it is the one I just cannot stop singing and playing over again. I would love to see this acoustic song done live!!

100% my highlight of the whole album, even if I am the only one who thinks so!

Track eleven brings in yet another element in what I can only describe as more of a pop-punk/rock type of vibe. “Always Wandering” is definitely catchy, I actually really like this one too. I feel it is referring to recurring issues, whether it be drugs, bad relationships, or mental health.

Saying that somehow it always comes back around. Life is a constant battle for some, and I think, in that respect, PAPA ROACH nails this sentiment in many of their songs., including the next track “No Apologies” Learning to let go of the things we hold deep inside is hard, but listening to songs like this, for some, might just make it a touch easier.

The penultimate track is “Cut The Line”, which is another one of those songs that has a vaguely pop-punk rock sound to it, that is becoming popular right now. The drums on this track are brilliant and Tony Palermo has to be congratulated on his overall performance across the whole album. So too do Tobin Esperance and Jerry Horton, and of course, the one and only Jacoby Shaddix, whom I believe is the driving force behind the success of PAPA ROACH.

And lastly, but certainly, not least is the final track “I Surrender” which starts out heavy, and has a very melodic chorus. Backing vocals are notable and the tale of not running from your past, and accepting who you are seems to be where this song leads you. A great track to close out what I think is an excellent album. I certainly like it far more than the last two albums and have an appreciation for the diversity the album brings. Bands that have been around as long as these guys do well to constantly evolve, try new sounds, and develop further the sounds they have created for themselves. Nearly 30 years in this business is a huge milestone, and I look forward to hearing more from PAPA ROACH in the future.

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