Science Bastard | Pull Tiger Death Cord

Science Bastard - Pull Tiger Death Cord

Released on: 14 November 2011
They’re from: Newport, South Wales
Sounds like: the soundtrack to being driven insane— with a kickin’ beat!
Hear it: http://bit.ly/deathcord

_____________________________________________

Science Bastard are a handful, splashed all across the sonic map. They call themselves, quite simply, “ALT,” and that’s a serviceable tag, but they’re so much more than that. Noise rock would be more apt, though not completely accurate, as there’s more than a few scattered bits of melody lodged between the raucous, staccato bursts that is their punkier side. So let’s just forget about trying to name the bizarre dark miasma that is Science Bastard’s sound— if you take away anything from this, it’s that when you listen to Pull Tiger Death Cord, you’ll be listening to something you haven’t heard before.

As good as place as any to start with Science Bastard is the terrifyingly schizophrenic song, “Phil Collins,” which is one part jazzy, free-wheeling rock, one part choir of shouting dudes, think Bloc Party meets For the Mathematics.

Follow that up with “A Different Same,” and be officially confused. The song opens quiet and cautiously, tenderly, rife with delayed guitar and half-whispered vocals. But when it opens up during the chorus, it opens the hell up. Enter nimble drumming, shouts, and long, soaring vocal melodies. It’s a surprisingly straightforward romp. But, follow that up with “All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace,” with its happy, synth-pop verses and vaguely 80s sensibilities, and scratch your head all the way down to your skull.

"Trevor" is a mathematical equation of batshit insane verses and warm, rousing choruses. "A Knock Came and I Though Warning," has more of a math-rock sort of angular opening with a head-bob inspiring chorus. And "Harmonica"? Don’t ask me why or how, but it reminds me of Rise Against covering The Rapture— or maybe the other way around. And then there’s “Anon (Other to Become Vain),” which might be the closest this band comes to a sensitive ballad.

If I haven’t made it immediately apparent, hands down, Pull Tiger Death Cord is a tough listen, but it’s a breath of fresh air with a real bent for experimentation, and I can’t fault Science Bastard for that.

Life in Your Way | Kingdoms

Released on: 25 October 2011
They’re from: Connecticut
Sounds like: the soundtrack to Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Hear it: here!

_______________________________________________________

It’s official: Life in Your Way are back, and it’s like they never left. After Waking Giants topped 2007’s end of the year charts, the band, melodic hardcore giants in their own right, went on an indefinite hiatus and left a gaping hole in their wake. So it’s no wonder that in April when the band announced that they would be not only reuniting, but self-releasing a three-EP collection called Kingdoms via Kickstarter, fans were falling over themselves to donate to the worthy cause. Life in Your Way ended up meeting their goal of $12,500 in just 3 days, eventually raising roughly double their goal, and after a long summer, Kingdoms is finally due to drop on Tuesday. Kickstarter backers already have their copies (it’s beautiful), and the three EPs can be bought together any time. What’s more remarkable is that thanks to their Kickstarter campaign that eschewed a traditional label release, Life in Your Way are giving away their new EPs in staggered releases. Those who don’t want to spend the money (or pirate), will be able to download The Kingdom of Man from Come and Live, proving that you don’t have to be Radiohead to give your music away and not end up destitute.

The big question is, of course, did the fans get what they paid (or didn’t pay) for? While it’s been four years since their last official release, Life in Your Way haven’t lost a step. In fact, Kingdoms is easily the most musically diverse effort the band has produced; but not in the gimmicky, intensely separate sense that holds back Thrice’s The Alchemy Index or The Dear Hunter’s The Color Spectrum for many listeners. The three EPs: The Kingdom of Man, The Kingdom of Darkness, and The Kingdom of God, though each is a unique musical beast, have the distinct feel of being one coherent Life in Your Way release, and not just  an experiment in form. This of course invites us to question, then, why even split the thirteen songs into separate EPs when they’d fit on one album, as neither The Alchemy Index or The Color Spectrum would. It’s probably an interesting discussion too, but I think launching into a discussion of The Kingdom of Man will probably be a more rewarding use of everyone’s time.

The Kingdom of Man careens out of the gate with Josh Kellam at the reigns, his undeniably unique screams breaking the silence of four years, “Forever! The concept is heavy, the truth about it so hard to grasp. This place, my will, words, decisions are here and now, but I will never hold onto forever!” Despite the heavier leanings of “Forever,” the band’s signature melody isn’t lost on “Blind in Retrospect” or “Growth in Passion.” Both songs have choruses so infectious they should be quarantined. Musically, The Kingdom of Man is, fittingly, the middle ground between The Kingdom of Darkness and The Kingdom of God. But the greatest difference between the three EPs isn’t musical—it’s actually the lyrical content, and the tone. The Kingdom of Man is rife with proclamations of strength and resolution in the face of weakness, though many lyrics are inquisitive, “Bound by the things we’ve done, is there hope for change? This love it cannot be contained, I see growth in passion, I have passion for change.” However, the final track of the EP, “Forsaken Me,” is riddled with doubt, “Will you speak to me? Is there more? There must be more…” The song darkens considerably and draws to a close with Kellam shouting, “Purpose, drive me on! Overthrow! Purpose, drive me on! Purpose, renew…” A perfect musical and thematic segue into The Kingdom of Darkness.

“Darkness!” it begins, “I thought I knew who I was.” On the second EP of Kingdoms the melodious leads the band are known for take a backseat to oppressive heaviness and a series of East Coast-rattling breakdowns, just as the lyrics which were once teeming with hope now speak of struggle and pain. Kellam screams, “Darkness will… Steal! Kill! Destroy!” and, on “Swarm,” he compares the swarming darkness to a plague of locusts that “Will eat your flesh, drink your blood, and crush your humanity!” Despite the musical tone change, The Kingdom of Darkness stagnates. “Ruler of the Air” manages to set itself apart, and “Take Notes” breaks off a few promising guitar riffs, but “Swarm” and “Buried Idols” end up blending together, until the latter track comes to a full rest and is injected with a heavy dose of groove, but in direct contrast to the previous, well-executed musical and thematic transition, “Buried Idols” limply fades into silence. 

The Kingdom of God begins with “Induction,” a minute-long monologue, cataloging all the various and sundry, even salacious, individuals who are welcome in God’s kingdom, the message being, quite simply, “The Kingdom of God is for everyone.” There’s an acute attention to alliteration and repetition, good rhetorical devices, but the writing ultimately feels haphazard and ham-fisted. Though, if nothing else, it’s passionate and real.

Despite the lack of transition out of The Kingdom of Darkness, the lyrics that begin The Kingdom of God proper speak of progress and salvation, “This, is who I am! …Now called a son, I’ve been set free from the slavery of sin. And when I fall, I stand in the face of darkness and I say: This, is who I am!” Musically, The Kingdom of God might be the closest in spirit to Waking Giants. On this EP the band pays a great deal of attention to anthemic, almost hymnal sung sections, the first of which comes right on the heels of the limp fade-out that ended the last EP. “Who I Am” builds itself into a chorus of gangs, proclaiming “This is who I am, all I’ve been and who I’ve become. This is who I am, who I am, I’m a son!” To say that the Kingdom of God is the most spirit-filled and uplifting EP on Kingdoms would be an understatement. 

But don’t think that The Kingdom of God is a round of “Kumbayah” around a campfire. “Like a River” brings back the heaviness in a big way, and despite the clean chorus and massive gang chant, the band drops a breakdown the kingdom of darkness can probably feel as Kellam shouts “Flowing, like water! Streams, of living water! Putting! Out! Deadly! Fires!” “The Healer” follows, and it may just be my favorite track. On top of the great leads and nimble drumwork, the lyrics exude a power even the most secular can appreciate, “By His stripes we are healed, by His spirit we can heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse lepers, cast out demons. With a confessing tongue and a mustard seed, we can move the earth!” The song is mostly sung, but the ending is of epic proportions, combining cleans, gangs, and screams into a swirling surge of warmth. 

Kingdoms closes with “The Ascension.” Kellam sits the song out, and lilting cleans and waves of picked, delayed guitar take over. This final song is once again full of questions, as in “Forsaken Me,” but instead of falling into despair, this time, the song ends with “And when we call upon Your holy name, hell can’t stand against the power in us,” and an optimistic, instrumental drift that carries Kingdoms to a close. It is a poignant, transformative final line to an ambitious release. While I think a few songs could’ve benefitted from some further development, despite its short writing cycle, Kingdoms feels like a complete and unified release. There’s real passion and heart behind the lyrics, and the music exudes drive and progression. In Kingdoms, Life in Your Way have released their most intensely spiritual album yet, but have backed up their message with instrumentation so tight and developed that it doesn’t feel like just a Christian album. It feels like a passionate and literate melodic hardcore album with a much broader appeal. Life in Your Way are back, with a message, and a purpose, and won’t be denied.

Montpellier. | Montpellier.

Released on: 31 August 2011
They’re from: Baltimore, Maryland
Sounds like: coughing up colorful shards of the Christmas lights you aren’t really sure why you ate in the first place.
Hear it: http://bit.ly/unnecessarypunctuation

_________________________________________________________

I’m reposting my review from Decoy Music partially because I want to update this blog, and partially because all the people who follow me here and don’t necessarily read Decoy need to hear this band. Read on, or tell me to shut up and go listen. Either way I’ve accomplished my goal.

Have you ever wanted to shout your heart out? Have you ever had so much pent-up stress and bubbling aggression boiling in the pit of your stomach that the only way to exorcise it was to open your mouth and tear your throat to shreds? Have you also wanted to do this while dancing to a funky beat? No? Me neither. But after listening to Montpellier., I want to find a way to access that particular state of mind and then blast their debut self-titled EP. It’s the perfect mix of eclectic indie and post-hardcore, lovingly channeled into 17 minutes of cognitive dissonance. Think Billy Werner fronting Kaddisfly. Think Touché Amoré covering Maps & Atlases. Think double rainbows with gnashing teeth.

“Hygiene at the Turn of the Century” opens the EP with delay-ridden guitar and sweeping synth. Enter Nathaniel Eastwood White, whose screams, often nearly spoken, channel the tempered control of Jordan Dreyer, and get ready for the drop: a dual-guitar assault courtesy of Tristan George and Scott Kenny. The duo’s virtuosity is a constant highlight throughout the EP and is on full display in the opening track.

“Full Nelson Mandela” is all of Montpellier. in a nutshell, bordering on sensory overload. Clocking in at just over a minute, you’ve got White’s throaty snarls, copious guitar noodling, underscored layers of synth, and one of Zack Pohuski’s myriad dancy basslines. Following that, “Western Expansion Pack” and “Thank God for Industry” showcase the band’s ability to expand and extrude the previous two songs’ glorious clusterfuck of instrumentation into melody and ambience, all while still remaining relentlessly catchy.

Add in the spoken word intro and the massive gang vocals and feedback outro of “Thank God for Industry,” and you have yourself a band that’s thrown everything against the wall— and all of it stuck. If you love intricate guitar work, post-hardcore, and a band with a penchant for groove, or if you want something to listen to while shouting and doing The Twist, Montpellier. is right up your alley.

Bearfighter | Vices

Released on: 10 December 2010
They’re from: Lafayette, Louisiana
Sounds like: A mosh pit in thick pool of Budweiser and crawfish etouffee in the bed of a rusty pick-up truck.
Hear it: http://bit.ly/fightbears 

_________________________________________________________

I had originally stumbled upon Bearfighter when I was covering the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands for Decoy Music, though I never had the chance to actually feature them. Big mistake. The band recently released their debut EP Vices up for free download in honor of Shark Week (the namesake of track six), which finally gave me an excuse to hop into my steel cage and submerge myself in the sharktasticness that is Bearfighter.

The run-down on Bearfighter’s sound? I’m gonna catch hell for this, but think Maylene— just better: unmistakably gritty, undeniably southern, and unrelentingly catchy. It’s rowdy, raucous party music that meets somewhere at the crossroads of Every Time I Die, glassJaw and Secret Lives! Of the Freemasons. “A fun listen” doesn’t even begin to do Vices justice.

The EP’s first proper track, “Swampthing Since ‘86” comes barreling out the gate with thick, chunky guitar, a marching drum beat, and vocals like beer-battered, deep-fried sandpaper, courtesy of Destin Ortego. They’re just perfect for this genre. And the slick, hook-laden chorus that follows is but a brief detour, as a downright filthy breakdown kicks up mud like spinning tires on a dirt road before the song closes with a driving guitar line and chanting gang vocals, bleeding directly into the next track, “Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads.” The track serves up a heaping helping of punk influence without straying far from its southern roots, even while incorporating a haunting piano line behind the churning guitar and bass.

"Dorothy the Show Girl" and "Pyromania" show off the poppier, catchier side of Bearfighter: there are more cleans, but just as much southern swagger. "Shark Week" brings back the hardcore in a big way, complete with the classic end-of-song-fakeout, moment-of-silence-then-oh-shit-call-Triple-A-breakdown. And album closer "Looky Looky I Got Hooky" flips the switch between heavy and catchy with reckless abandon.

If you’ve got an itch for southern hardcore you need scratched, Bearfighter’s Vices is a buzz saw. And the current price tag is “Free,” so you have no excuse. But when we’re talking about this band, a couple of bucks for six meaty tracks is a bargain. If I wanted to recommend this any more highly, I’d have to grow taller.