As we announced last week when we launched this feature, we’re starting up a new weekly column to round-up all of the singles and new tracks from the past week dropped by bands we cover. Consider this our weekly mix to help keep you all on top of the latest releases from across the metallic and progressive spectrums This week has been largely taken up with news of new material from the one and only Lamb of God, and we’ve got not one, but two tracks to talk about today. Elsewhere we’ve got a diverse display of bands and styles that should appeal to each and every one of you in some way. Ready? Let’s get singled out!
Bring Me the Horizon – “Happy Song”
If you’re anything like me and fell off the Bring Me The Horizon train somewhere between the tail-end of your Suicide Season obsession and the release of There Is a Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is a Heaven, Let’s Keep It a Secret, you may be the teensiest bit surprised by the British metalcore outfit’s latest single. The track, entitled “Happy Song”, premiered early this week on BBC Radio 1’s “Rock Show” with Daniel P. Carter, to mixed reception. Though I went into my first listen of this track expecting a hefty dose of nostalgia, I wasn’t prepared to be transported back into the headspace of my brace-faced pubescent self jammin’ to Three Days Grace on her discman, but that’s more or less where I ended up. From Oli Sykes’ almost exclusive use of clean vocals to song structure that feels a little too safe, Happy Song comes closer to radio rock than it does metalcore. Much to my personal chagrin, the track also features one of those secondhand embarrassment-inducing sing-song choruses that seem to be the all the rage as of late (think Mastodon’s Aunt Lisa, Refused’s Francafrique). All in all, the song’s not awful, and perhaps the logical next step from Sempiternal, which was decidedly more accessible than previous releases. Whether Happy Song sets the tone for the upcoming album or proves to be a one off, however, remains to be seen, and will surely hold fans in anticipation of successive singles.
Ecstatic Vision – “Astral Plane”
Recently, Relapse Records has hit somewhat of a hot streak as far as signing stoner-doom bands go, and Philadelphia’s Ecstatic Vision is no exception. With “Astral Plane”, the band takes the listener through a plethora of different genres that truly make them feel as if they’re floating in outer space. The beginning to the song is reminiscent of the afro-beat movement, calling to mind the work of acts such as Sun Ra and his Arkestra. From there the song spirals into walls of dizzying, blues rock driven guitars that recalls 70s psych and stoner rock giants Hawkwind, complimenting the afro-beat groove well. From there the song delves even further into a wall of fuzz drenched, grooving guitar and bass until the vocals kick in, then fade, as they are by no means the focus of the song. Perhaps the most interesting part of this song comes just after the vocal introduction, when the song is almost completely loss to a free-form-jazz style jam, complete with saxophone clashing against the wall of stoner rock goodness. Sonic Praise, the album the single comes from, was released on Relapse Records on June 29th.
Ghost – “From The Pinnacle To The Pit”
Ghost need no introduction; their name has been making headlines for a few years now. Their singular style has garnered both fans and haters, often described as “it would be really good doom metal if there was more distortion”. I, for one, adore their unique take on stoner rock or however you’d like to categorize what they do. Gathering steam towards a 2015 release, the band have already released a couple of singles. The latest, “From The Pinnacle To The Pit”, is classic Ghost: you won’t find anything clever or too complex here but the overall production, sound and writing choices transport you straight to the 60’s, worshiping some foreign demon with excessive drugs, nudity and amateur occultism. Whether you like it or not, there’s no denying that Ghost are a genre unto themselves and as long as they stick with their successful formula, there’s not much that they can do wrong. In my eyes at least.
Heat Dust – “Nothing Left To Lose”
Yet another addition to Flenser Record’s impeccable catalogue of “dark music” releases, New Orleans based Heat Dust seem prepared to submit their debut full-length record to depressed and depraved individuals everywhere. Lead single and intro track “Nothing Left to Lose” speaks truly to its name, romping through morosely melodies that allude to the abandonment of all hope being the listener’s current status. Boasting both the mood of Joy Division and the veracity of Iceage, what elevates Heat Dust further is their foray into guitar trickery. The band carefully weaves in numerous string splitting effects across the track that pushes the already heart wrenching riffs into uncontrollable moments of anxiety. Every instrument on this track sounds punchy and earnest, with vocals that even wallow with purpose. As the stream ends, the feedback of an incoming guitar riff – presumably second track “(Hopefully) Alone” – screeches briefly into existence, leaving the listener desperate to hear more. Alas, post-punk fans will have to wait until the album drops on September 18th, but may pre-order the record from the Flenser’s web store. In the meantime, “Nothing Left to Lose” may be spun endlessly as a reminder that not at all residents of N’awlins feel the zeal of Mardi Gras.
Iona Grove – “Winter”
A while ago we told all of you to listen to Iona Grove. Their blend of intelligence and melody harks back to Misery Signals’ career peak and that’s something we all deserve to experience again. However, their only EP was short and while band members have promised that more material exists and is forthcoming, it’s just not enough. We need more!
Luckily for us, the band have released a single yesterday, “Winter”. While short, it supplies us with just a little more of the energy and dynamics that led us to recommending them in the first place; the lyrical video is also not too shabby, featuring interesting graphics and lettering. All in all, this is the level of quality we’ve been led to expect from the band: the vocals are on point and never tiring, the guitars kick hard but also have a flair of composition to them and the entire package is spot on in execution.
Now all we have to do is to wait again.
Lamb of God – “Erase This” / “Embers”
When I heard there was a new Lamb of God album coming this year, I had mixed emotions: on one hand, their earlier albums are classics and contain some of the most energetic and enjoyable passages in metal. On the other, their recent releases have been sub-par to say the least. The string of singles that was then released did not to assuage my worries: they were good, but it seemed as if that certain something from the earlier releases was missing. However, “Erase This” is definitely a step in the right direction. The guitar finally sounds alive, especially in between the riffs, Randy looks to be regaining his ability to care about the music and the entire band just sounds on point. The first three minutes are typical Lamb of God buildups, verse and chorus interchanging in a measured manner. Finally though the band have written an inspiring C-part, using a weird vocal/guitar effect to inject some much needed variety on this track. If the album goes in this direction, I might just enjoy it. This single hasn’t completely silenced my fears but I’m feeling a bit more optimistic after hearing it.
Lamb of God’s comeback with VII: Sturm und Drang continues to impress as they enlist Deftones frontman Chino Moreno for “Embers,” which continues the introspective yet energetic feel of Sacrament and Wrath. The song starts with a fast-paced classical LOG riff, and Randy demonstrates his now-trademark sing-screaming in the chorus. What makes the song more interesting though, is the second half, where they go full Deftones as Chino and Randy trade off over atmospheric riffage. Overall, it’s a solid track that also provides some contrast to the rest of the album while emphasizing its strong points. Classic LOG anger plus moodiness is a good formula utilized throughout Sturm und Drang, and with the guest vocalist spot this track stands out as one of the more interesting tracks in an album that’s shaping up to be the band’s most diverse effort yet.
Paul Wardingham – “Convergence”
Paul Wardingham has carved out a rather unique place for himself in the metal spectrum — his work does not completely fit into the mold of instrumental progressive metal, but it also has an alien quality that easily sets it aside from cookie cutter shred guitar. Wardingham’s playing on “Convergence” is still as tight and polished as it was on his acclaimed debut Assimilate Regenerate, and his knack for writing memorable melodies over futuristic chord progressions remains as present as ever on the new single. His signature right hand technique, dubbed ‘computer tapping’, is used perhaps to a slightly lesser extent than on previous works, but it speaks to the man’s songwriting talent in that he avoids deliberately shoehorning technical wizardry in every second of every song, opting instead to innovate with his incredibly inventive lead lines.
The Sword – “Empty Temples”
Stoned-out riffers The Sword are returning with their fifth album, High Country, and though we managed to miss out on writing up the first single released from the album of the same name, we now have another taste of the album, courtesy first of Rolling Stone. “Empty Temples” continues their blend of classic Black Sabbath-ian riffs and grooves with even more classic rock influence. Shedding some of the doomier and more downtrodden aspects of their previous work, “Empty Temples” is relatively bright and positively upbeat. The central riff featured is killer, and the chorus and vocal harmonies only serve to sweeten the deal. Sure, the heavy influence of classic rock and proto-metal threatens to turn the whole thing into a jammy dad-rock affair, but the track is compact and exciting enough to keep things interesting. It’ll certainly be interesting to see where else the band and record go when it comes out later this year.