Drowner is a straight-up nu-metal act from Portland, OR who just released their debut EP, Holding on to Life, back in March. Their dead-on approach is one that would've been right at home on Roadrunner Records during the early-2000s, with churning grooves, subtle electronics, and both yelling and singing vocals. In some ways, they're like Linkin Park but heavier and sans cheese—so, maybe more akin to Five Pointe O or something. The bass tone/presence reminds me of early Korn, while the harmonics in the title track cross over into Machine Head-esque groove metal. Strong songwriting and fantastic production across the board, too. I've really grown to enjoy this niche over the years, and haven't heard many modern bands recapture that era this effectively. If you told me this was an obscure demo from 2002, I'd believe it in a heartbeat. Excellent.
Grab Holding on to Life digitally or on CD-R via Bandcamp. Stream on Spotify, etc.
When I wrote about Oslo, Norway's Flight Mode around this time last year, they were thankfully not kidding when they mentioned the possibility of recording new material. Follow-up EP, Torshov, '05, dishes out similarly excellent emo in what I think of to be the most classic sense. Meaningful but not mushy, catchy but not poppy, slightly rugged but not sloppy, and balanced between clean/distorted textures. There's a lot of layering and subtle complexity to the guitar parts, which are hard-panned for unavoidable impact. Very cool. It already seems like this EP is being equally well-received, which might imply that we can safely expect even more from Flight Mode in the future. I'll certainly be looking forward to it!
Torshov, '05 is available on cassette or digitally via Bandcamp, or direct from Sound as Language. Stream through Spotify and such.
Start/Living, the debut LP from New Orleans outfit Hey Thanks!, immediately brings to mind an early- to mid-2000s form of emo, leaning toward an ultra catchy and polished sound that could border on some degree of "mainstream" appeal—Jimmy Eat World meets The All-American Rejects, perhaps? And I certainly mean that as a compliment, as a number of comparable bands from that era really struck me and remain in my rotation to this day. In addition to plenty of high-energy directness, however, are more exploratory and atmospheric sounds—shimmery effects or keyboards that start to bring to mind U2, VHS or Beta, etc. It's borderline ridiculous how hooky the choruses are: song after song, damn near every track drops a major earworm when the refrain hits!
As it should be, digital for Start/Living is on Bandcamp. Assorted vinyl options as well as CD and cassette are up for sale through Iodine Recordings, whose diverse roster has really been impressing me as of late. Of course, the rest of you can find the album on Spotify and all that as well.
Led by should-be legend Carl Skildum (Threadbare, Krakatoa, Antiverse, etc.), Minneapolis duo Inexorum cranks out epic melodic black/death metal on par with all the classics of the mid- to late-'90s. Album #3, Equinox Vigil, just might be their finest yet. Only a few tracks have seeped out so far, but if the ripping melodicisms of the guitar work in the title track don't grab you, you've gotta be deaf! I can't wait to hear this shit in its entirety!
Pre-order Equinox Vigil on cassette or digital via Bandcamp, or the Gilead Media webstore. Vinyl is supposed to be announced at some point soon-ish. Weirdos who insist on streaming music, check out this track on Spotify or whatever.
Next up from Handstand Records is All the Brightest Pictures, the debut LP from Pembroke—an interesting NYC project with lineup ties to Supertouch and Saetia, amongst others. The band has described itself as "Sick of it All covering Rites of Spring," which is both surprisingly accurate and not outlandish. Some traditional hardcore influences do creep in from time to time, but there's a subtly dark sense of melody throughout, as well as dashes of gritty "rock." The more angular and dissonant characteristics aren't gonna have you say, "Oh, this is emo," but it's certainly not direct hardcore either, and metal is almost entirely avoided. The vocals are gruff shouts-in-key, which also aid in the non-generic sound; while a slightly loose, raw ruggedness to the recording accentuates a sense of breathing room for each element. This one seems to settle in a bit more with each listen, and offers a curious fusion of influences that's commendable in its inability to be pigeonholed.
Only one track's out so far (Bandcamp), and while there are no pre-orders at the moment, the estimated street date is June 27, so I'd imagine they might kick off soon...
Most of my audience probably won't give a shit, but when has that ever stopped me? I've been a Marty James superfan for over two decades, so after teasing new singles for several months, it's sort of mind-blowing that Scapegoat Wax is back with their first new album since 2002—on Marty's own label, Mighty Oak Records, no less. Some tracks like "Reckless" tend toward the more pop-centric leanings of his Martel output, but opener "Evaporate" is an immediate throwback nod to the Scapegoat Wax of old; and pieces such as "Caving" touch on the emotional, ballad-esque atmospheres of "Space to Share" or "Crawlin'"—always amazing. It still burns me up that most of this dude's success has resulted from his writing for other artists, despite the fact that his own material has always been infinitely better on every level, but... at the end of the day, I'm just elated that he's releasing some of his own work again!
Atomic Slam! (Back to '99!) is digital-only, so hit up Spotify, YouTube, etc. You can purchase mp3s through Amazon.