In Trenches – Sol Obscura (EP)
With the demise in 2012 of Thrice, Alexisonfire and Underoath, it would be understandable to conclude that the post-hardcore movement has finally run its course, these being, along with Thursday, the best and most ambitious latter day exponents of a genre that had otherwise deteriorated during the 2000s into a rut of rampant commercialism, and something wholly unrecognisable from its raw and dissonant origins. However, by stripping away its excesses, Melbourne outfit In Trenches, which comprises, amongst others, guitarist Kevin Cameron of I Killed The Prom Queen fame and vocalist Ben Coyte from the now defunct Day of Contempt, have, with their second EP Sol Obscura, offered a challenging and insightful reinterpretation of the way this style of music can be played. Released in March 2012, and roughly translated as meaning ‘hidden sun’, Sol Obscura is as dark as its name suggests, and contains five tracks of virulent and uncompromising post-hardcore that is aesthetically gritty, oppressively discordant and utterly devoid of vocal melody. Beginning with the slow and sludgy ‘Beneath‘ before unleashing the fury of ‘Hollow Heart‘ and ‘An Impending Collapse‘, the EP is also peppered with post rock/metal build-ups and rhythmically complex riffs, the best of which can be heard on the eight minute closer, ‘Silhouettes‘. Furthermore, the production is imprecise and grimy, which enhances the EP’s overall rawness, as does the decision to hold Coyte’s harsh vocals back in the mix. Musically dense and pessimistic in outlook, Sol Obscura is, despite its relatively brief length, a fatiguing listening experience, but one that is well worth the effort. Hopefully it is also a sign of longer things to come!
Breaking Orbit – The Time Traveller
With the success of bands such as COG, The Butterfly Effect, and Heavy Blog favourites Karnivool, it is clear that in recent years, heavy progressive rock is a style for which Australian bands have shown particular prowess, the latest band to lay claim to membership of this elite group of prog rockers being Sydney-siders Breaking Orbit. Released in July 2012, their debut album, The Time Traveller, is a near flawless work of powerful, yet melodic and emotive progressive rock that, as its name suggests, takes its listeners on a journey beginning back at the very dawn of time. Heavier and more atmospheric than any of its Aussie prog predecessors, The Time Traveller opens with ‘Echoes‘, a shaking, rumbling, eight minute long soundtrack to the Big Bang and the beginning of life, before bursting into colour and consciousness with the aptly-titled ‘Conscious Self‘. Meticulously crafted to include all of the hallmarks of melodic prog, and showcasing a superbly touching and exacting vocal performance from Matt Quayle, the album is also noticeably influenced by tribal beats, which are particularly evident in a number of the four instrumental tracks which earmark the album’s journey through time, and on which can also be heard further tribal instrumentation, including a bamboo flute. However, while this is an interesting addition to the heavy prog sound, if there is one thing holding The Time Traveller back from being a truly great album, it is that there are a few moments where there is a marked resemblance to Karnivool and Tool, which might be off-putting for some listeners. Regardless, this is still one of the best progressive rock albums of 2012, and Breaking Orbit are definitely a band for any fan of this genre to keep their eye on into the future.
Over-reactor – Mouth of the Ghetto
Ezekial Ox is more than a singer; he is an experience. Always outspoken and never compromising, he is not only one of those rare people who practices what he preaches, but is undoubtedly one of the best front men in Australia, having spent the better part of the last decade blowing audiences away with his former bands Full Scale and Mammal. Unfortunately, neither of these bands achieved the longevity they perhaps deserved, but Zeke is maintaining the rage with his current duo, Over-reactor, which in June 2012 released its third album, Mouth of the Ghetto. Whereas Over-reactor’s previous efforts were primarily nu metal in style, Mouth of the Ghetto is a much more diverse effort, combining a stronger hip-hop sensibility with a greater emphasis on electro-industrial programming, touches of blues rock, and more selectively applied elements of rap-core and nu-metal. To many, this might sound stylistically passe, and it’s probably fair to say that Mouth of the Ghetto is not going to win too many awards for progressiveness. However, what makes it work is the vocal performance from Zeke, who has again pushed himself to the limit, both in terms of his delivery and the socio-political content of his lyrics. Furthermore, while at times the production feels a bit underdone, especially in relation to the guitars, instrumentalist Corey Blight has really stepped up the groove and danceability of this album, and it is easy to see many of these songs absolutely killing it live. What Mouth of the Ghetto lacks in sophistication, Zeke more than makes up for with his swagger, and it will certainly be enjoyed by those who like to break up their blast beats with a bit of bounce!