A dark debut album from a powerful metal band. Formed in 2014, this first full album for The Darkhorse’s foursome follows on from their earlier e.p. A Badge of Dishonor and Discomfort.
Like the grand physical presence of the band this is a huge wall of metalcore doom sludge and fury pulled from the pig sheds and muddy fields of their Northamptonshire homeland into a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland, an improvement some may say. Claiming influences from the likes of Sabbath, Superjoint Ritual, The Chariot and Crowbar you know this will be a marmite covered decibel busting assault on the ears that you have no option but to love or hate, certainly no middle ground here.
With tracks depicting the messy demise of life as we know it there is pathos and fear vibe rather than a joy of redemption. With Trump and Brexit scare stories abounding this album could almost be the metaphor that strikes a chord with the politically astute Metal fan. Recorded at Neil Hudson's (Krysthla) Initiate Audio and Media studio, and released on Attic Records.
Having played Bloodstock in 2014, Mammothfest in 2015 and supported the likes of Raging Speedhorn, Heart of a Coward, Mage, Stormringer, Garganjua, and Brutai the band is a tight and exciting prospect for 2017 with a great album to tour with. Already announced for Hop Fest at The Prince Of Wales, Kettering on July 7th, I am assured more dates are to follow.
If you like to listen to jangly pop music you’re in for a treat with this selection of tunes. Former Bullies are not a band I was previously familiar with and was surprised to read they are from Manchester rather than somewhere in the USA. With their new album Stranger, they give us eleven songs to lift your spirits and generally make you feel good.
Since coalescing around singer Nick Ainsworth in 2003, Former Bullies have been a regular presence in Greater Manchester’s pop underground, becoming spiritual godfathers to more recently emerged gems such as Kiran Leonard, Irma Vep, and Pins. Though prolific performers, this new release “Stranger” is only their fourth long-player in all that time.
As soon as I heard the opening chords of the opening track, Oh World Of Love, I immediately had thoughts of 60’s pop/surf music and times past. And as the songs continued I was happily sucked into feeling this more and more.
The 60’s feel continues all through this album. Listening to the individual tracks, you get the feeling you’ve heard these songs before, now happily rediscovered from what were previously lost and forgotten. The second track 'Rose Of Destiny' has a slightly more haunting sound and feel, but then continues to bounce along. 'Little Tear' is where we start to hear the Former Bullies singer Nick Ainsworth sounding like a younger Michael Stripe. It’s easy to imagine REM playing these tunes in their formative years, and before they became just a little too polished and clever. 'Little Tear' has some slower but very good guitar going on which might be initially overlooked by the Michael Stripe type vocals. Well worth repeated listening.
The next track 'They Were Waiting', starts off with a great and catchy rocking and jangling guitar ...”Shining like a star that you are” There are no long songs or guitar solos on this album. You could easily listen to any of the individual tracks fully during the ad breaks of your favourite TV programs. But it’s much more worthwhile to listen to the entire album at once and catch up on your TV viewing later!!
All eleven tracks stand up on their own merits and at times made me wonder what the Yardbirds or Them might have done, without the rough edges or blues and with cleaner recording. The Former Bullies sound much more mature and if they are rebels they don’t seem mind not having a cause.
The Former Bullies have an excellent and very tight sound all the way through this album. Although it’s a short set of tunes there so much to go back to time and time again. 'She' is a great track that has a good kick along that could easily be extended and rock out more. The Former Bullies manage to resist this as a temptation and I can only assume this is a deliberate. Same goes for the next couple of tracks, 'Under Your Nose', and the title track 'Stranger'. The closing track 'Head & Shoulders'..”Come for your soul tomorrow”....
Clever catchy songs, well played and sounding fab. I will put this on my Ipod and when the songs come up on random play, I won’t be pressing the skip button.
Catching Mark Eitzel at St. Pancras Old Church last year, just him and acoustic guitar, running through songs old and new, I much expected the new album to be just that, the man and his guitar.
The ten songs on 'Hey Mr Ferryman', are full band, orchestra and backing singers mode. It’s an absolute gem. A wordsmith for now quite a few generations (if they listen), these are songs of love, relationships and the pain and anguish that goes with all that, as you would expect.
Side A starts with ‘The Last Ten Years’ with it’s uptempo rhythms and a soaring Bernard Butler guitar solo “The Ferryman who takes me to my rest, don’t give a damm who’s cursed or blessed”. The wordsmith is on song!
‘An Answer’ “I Can’t leave you behind, makes me want to stick around and find, if there’s an answer". Soaring vocals and strings.
Mark’s trademark rich vocals, like coated sugar just pull you in. A rainy day outside just enhances the warmth of the record and the pain and darkness of the lyrics enclose you. ‘Nothing and Everything’ is a wonderfully prime example.
There are many stories to soak up in the songs, so give the album your concentration and the rewards come. The record was recorded in London, I guess at the time of our church gig and was produced by Bernard Butler.
Side B starts with ‘In My Role As Professional Singer And Ham’, a despairing view “in the faded glory USA” “ When you look at me, I look away”.
Second track ‘Mr Humphries’ is epic both musically and lyrically. By this time your eyes are closed and you are drifting into the sound of the album, then arrives the rocker, ‘La llorona’ which concludes “Love was all she ever found, the faggot, the junkie, the runaround” plus a scorching guitar solo that ends too soon.
Then it’s back to the heartbreak on ‘Just Because’ “Just because someone loves you, doesn’t mean you can treat them bad”
The gentle acoustic ‘Sleep from my Eyes’ concludes this fine album. With so many musical souls being lost these days, the next in line can really fill the void as really, they always have.
From being an original member of the “manufactured pop” Brighton based group The Pipettes to part of Mark Ronson's recording and touring band Rose Elinor Dougall brings over a decade of experience of the indie end of pop to her second solo album 'Stellular'.
First track 'Colour of Water' opens with jangling guitars which morph into a shoegazzy-pop delight wrapping itself around Rose's distinctive chiming vocals. The minimalistic drum beats and jangling, angular guitars combine in the danceable 'Strange Warnings' and the title track, the chorus of which reminds me of St. Etienne at their most danceable. The majority of tracks were co-written and played by Rose and Oli Bayston of Boxed In and this collaboration adds a dance element to the alt-pop of the first four tracks.
The pace slows for the sophisticated pop of standout track 'Take Yourself With You' with its beautiful melody and breathy vocals. 'All at Once' contains OMD/ Human League-esque keyboards and more breathy vocals in the chorus “Everything at Once, Everything Tonight, Everything Tomorrow , Everything at Once, All at Once” and was written in collaboration with Sean Nicholas Savage.
Rose spoke to Rough Trade about working in collaborations “I've always looked for a partner in crime when it comes to recording my music, and I wanted to try and write a slightly less insular album this time around.”
The lovely chorus of 'Space To Be', “I want a love to lift me up high, To wreak havoc on this heart of mine, Tear me limb from limb until I find, Some kind of space to be free.”, will be ear-worming around your brain long after the album has finished.
The final track 'The Wanderer' which starts with a simple piano part and Rose's lush vocals, she has described as one of her favourite moments, “.... I feel there's a simplicity to it that gets somewhere near to the essential, things I was looking for while making the album.”
In the same interview with Rough Trade Rose gave her thoughts about the album “ .. it's a reflection of the instability of my life at the time, emotionally and otherwise, and then beyond that, what I was witnessing amongst the people I knew and the life of the city....... the harshness of living in a unforgiving city like London...... Although this sounds rather bleak, I tried to a inject a bit of hopefulness and expansiveness to it.”
If you need an album to serve as an antidote to the bleak wintery weather and life in an unforgiving, cold city I prescribe a shot of the sophisticated pop of 'Stellular'.
'Stellular' is Rough Trade's album of the month for January 2017
I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of the Norwegian music scene is not that great, but a little research reveals that Thom Hell is a long established Norwegian singer-songwriter, a three times winner of the Norwegian version of the Grammys (who knew, apart from the Norwegians), who has released multiple albums ('Happy Rabbit' is his eighth) and is much in demand as a producer.
The first track on 'Happy Rabbit' is the instrumental 'Grow Up' with its pulsing synths and string flourishes, the pulsing synth continues into the intro of the lovely pop melodies of '1985'. Thom's vocal style reminds you of a warmer, more organic version of C Duncan particularly on the lilting melodies of 'Blues In A'.
Throughout the whole album there's a strong use of well written melodies often built into layers of lush instrumentation, in fact Thom has said about the album that “ Most of the songs were made instantly as played, with me, continuously, laying overdubs on bass, guitars, piano and vocals, not having a clear thought or structure or what the end product would sound like.”. There's certainly strong elements of The Beatles, ELO, John Grant and Midlake (many of whom are mentioned in a long 'Thanks To' list in the album credits) you can pick out in many of these tracks. The multi-tracked vocals so characteristic of Queen are used in the first part of 'The Voyage Home'.
Thom has said that the style of song-writing and recording used on 'Happy Rabbit' has “..resulted in a lot of the songs getting a sort of naïve expression both lyrically and musically”, which is most obviously heard in the repeating piano pattern and sound of children in the instrumental 'Play' and 'When I Was A Child' which starts with a lovely melody about simple pleasures in life with children and then bursts into an unexpected squealing guitar solo.
So not subtle as Thom and the band throw everything and the kitchen sink at many of these tracks, but an hour spent in the company of the sweet melodies of Thom Hell's 'Happy Rabbit' is certainly a long way from hell.