Releases We Missed In 2016: Volume 1

And so the sun of another year begins to set, and with it came yet another slew of releases; some amazing, some good, some bad, some really fucking bad, as well as some merely average releases. However, with so many active bands and with having so many releases – splits, EP’s, and full-length albums – come out this year, a few are bound to fall through the cracks. Which is indeed what happened to us here at this year. But before the 2016 clock ticks over into 2017 and we get plenty more additions to our musical collections and this site’s review section, we’re going to take a quick review-laden look at a handful of releases that we didn’t address upon their initial releases. Let’s get to it!

Emarosa – ‘131’

Released: July 8th, 2016

Label: Hopeless Records

Rating: 95/100

Words: Matty Sievers

Kicking this feature off is Emarosa’s131‘. And fuck me, what an album.

131’ is Emarosa’s second record with singer Bradley Walden and this record had me saying “Johnny who?” after every damn song. ‘131’ represents Emarosa at the top of their game. Everything is bigger, sharper and just oh so much more on point than the band has ever been. Openers of ‘Hurt’ and ‘One Car Garage’ perfectly encapsulate what this record is all about: soulful melodies, monolithic soundscapes and emotive undertones. Following up from these two, ‘Sure’ capitalises on that middle point as it bursts into your ear drums in a flutter of huge choruses that envelope you from every angle. These tracks are a fantastic beginning to ‘131’, as they satisfy deeply and peak your interest about what’s to come next. And what come’s next is fucking sensational!

Miracle’ is an utterly heart-wrenching rock song about Walden’s wife sadly having a miscarriage. On its surface, it just feels and sounds like another break-up song but as you really listen to and digest the lyrics and the sound bed they reside over, you begin to feel the pain of this couple’s loss as you understand what the song is actually about. If ‘Miracle’ doesn’t hit you in the feels, then ‘Porcelain’ will be the one to do it. It begins as delicate as the title material, the song itself feeling fragile and frail before it launches into one of the most earth-shattering choruses of the record. It’s both gentle and woeful as it is intense and hopeful. Every melody, every word, bass note and snare hit all work in synergy to culminate the most powerful song here. And that’s definitely the defining factor of ‘131’: everything just works so damn well together. The guitar lines beautifully wrap and twist around Walden’s soulful and emotive voice whilst the rhythm section push and pull the songs in the direction they need to for you to feel fully and uncontrollably overwhelmed.

Once again I gotta say, ‘Fuck. What an album’.

Alcest – ‘Kodama’

Released: September 30th, 2016

Label: Prophecy Productions

Rating: 90/100

Words: Owen Morawitz

Deafheaven may have broken through the ‘blackgaze’ glass ceiling in recent years, but it was French atmospherics Alcest who were diligently stoking the furnace almost a decade ago, with landmark releases like their 2007 debut ‘Souvenirs d’un autre monde‘ (‘Memories From Another World’) and 2010’s elegiac ‘Écailles de Lune’ (‘Moon Scales’). After completely embracing their shoegaze metamorphosis and emerging as a delicate creature born of wistful melodies on 2014’s ‘Shelter’, the group’s fifth album ‘Kodama’ finds the duo of Niege & Winterhalter revisiting their dark and murky roots. This grandiose album is a concept record inspired by Princess Mononoke, the popular fantasy anime film directed by animation legend and Studio Ghibli co-founder, Hayao Miyazaki, and ‘Kodama’ is an exercise in restrained transience; a collection of gorgeous musical arrangements that flirt and foray between darkness and light like a curious moth circling a bright and yet distant flame.

Niege’s tortured screams permeate tracks like ‘Eclosion’ (‘Hatching’), ‘Oiseaux de proie’ (‘Birds of Prey’) and ‘Untouched’, acting as the perfect counterpoint to Winterhalter’s precise drumming, which seamlessly fluctuates between expansive post-rock crests, blasts of frosty black metal trepidation or mid-tempo tribal rhythms. On the opening title track – a song which bears the name of a Japanese folk tale regarding a ‘Tree Spirit’ or ‘Echo’ – Niege unleashes a dazzling display of guitar virtuosity, reining the listener in with nine minutes of tremolo wanderings, clean melodic breaks and a swelling, backing vocal that lifts the tone of the record to an almost dream-like, ethereal realm.

Gripping and achingly powerful, ‘Kodama’ is a must-listen for any self-confessed post-rock fan.

Sylar – ‘Help!’

Released: August 26th, 2016

Label: Hopeless Records

Rating: 65/100

Words: Alex Sievers

Sylar are just one of countless bands riding out nu-metal’s popular resurgence, capitalising on their own youths and the ever-growing presence that nostalgia has over our society of late. But with this style quickly approaching critical mass, that means having a  whole host of severely average bands flooding in and ruining it for everybody (Cane Hill, I’m staring directly at you, you over hyped bastards). But Sylar, while not original by any stretch of the imagination, have the chops to potentially outlive this returning trend and keep their heads above the waters of forgettable background music & mere nostalgia value.

Soul Addiction’, ‘Dark Daze’ and ‘Assume’ are the bread & butter of this nu-metal/metalcore (nu-metalcore?) affair and are decent songs. However, it is the emotional ‘I Know, You Know, I Know’, the slower, darker, ‘Maintain Closure’, and the punchy flow of ‘South Street Lullaby’ that provide the record’s highest points. This record is also a big step up from their debut, ‘To Whom It May Concern‘, as the sonic and musical screws have been further tightened. This record’s mix is far crisper than it’s predecessor, which leads credence to the clean vocals and guitars having so much more sonic depth and impact. The guitars and bass both land with real weight and grit and the guitars especially feel so much more “full”. The rhythm section’s grooves are simple but snappy and very tight. Plus, Sylar has thankfully done away with the interlude tracks and the distorted, pitch shifted vocals that littered their debut and the quintet’s done a decent job of balancing out their songs with the cleaner, massive choruses and the darker, heavier verses: the light and the shade of their music respectively.

To conclude this piece, I’m now going to quote Jarrod Alonge (you might have heard of him) about Sylar, in which described the band as sounding like “Issues + Sworn In + Hacktivist.” To again quote Mr Alonge, Sylar are “not too bad”. Yeah, that’ll do it.

Biffy Clyro – ‘Ellipsis’

Released: July 8th, 2016

Label: 14th Floor Records

Rating: 70/100

Words: Alasdair Belling

A post like this allows me to take a minute or two to cast a critical eye over an album that came out in 2016 that was overshadowed by pretty much every single other big name in music ever. I am, of course, talking about Biffy Clyro’s latest album, ‘Ellipsis‘.

Ellipsisthe latest offering from this Scottish outfit is actually pretty good! Of course, the trio will probably forever live in the shadow of the anthems of their 2009 breakout record ‘Only Revolutionsbut believe it or not, they have released three albums since 2009 and this latest offering is bloody solid. ‘Wolves Of Winter’ explodes out of the gate, with a thunderous guitar riff leading into an anthemic chorus. This formula is perfected in the poppy ‘Friends and Enemies’ and is carried further onwards from there. ‘Animal Style’ may well find it’s way onto the next generation of angry scene kids’ Spotify playlists, while ‘Re-Arrange’ taps into all the feels with its floaty, icy pop atmosphere. ‘Ellipsis‘, in a nutshell, is the sound of three Scottish rockers who have matured into adults and figured out how to blend poppy hooks with heavy riffs.

I won’t lie, I haven’t been with “The Biff” for even half of their nine albums, but ‘Ellipsis‘ may just be their most diverse record to date. It’s just a “shame” that this mid-tear band (well, in Australia, at least) has chosen to drop such a great album in a year that has featured massive releases from the likes of Metallica, Opeth, Radiohead and even Kanye West and thus, may have sadly slipped under many radars.

The Black Queen – ‘Fever Daydream’

Released: January 29th, 2016

Label: Nuclear Blast Records

Rating: 90/100

Words: Alex Sievers

Fever Daydream’ is the terrific ten-track debut from the 80’s/90’s styled synth-pop/electronic outfit, The Black Queen; the new project from The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato, Nine Inch Nails/Puscifer’s Joshua Eustis and former TDEP, NIN and Kesha tech, Steven Alexander. And sweet baby Jesus, these three guys have completely laid waste to any and all expectations with their debut, an album that is not only my favourite non-heavy release of 2016 but also one of my top favourites for the year in general.

From the soft, soothing vocals and glitchy electronics and percussion of ‘The End Where We Start’, to the sharp synth stabs and warm vocal delivery that elevates album standout ‘That Death Cannot Touch’, the effective sampling and editing on ‘Tarman Shud’, to the infectious drum grooves and brilliantly dark melodic soundscape of ‘Ice To Never’; this record has so many high points that I’m getting dizzy just thinking about them all. Also, I’ll be damned if most of these songs wouldn’t make for an amazing score to one of Nicolas Winding Refn’s movies, like Drive or The Neon Demon.

Angel Du$t – ‘Rock The Fuck On Forever’

Released: May 20th, 2016

Label: Pop Wig Records

Rating: 70/100

Words: Alex Sievers

Much like Turnstile’s (slightly overrated) ‘Non-Stop Feeling’, this new record from Angel Du$t is a groovy, fun, and straight-up hardcore release; nothing more, nothing less. ‘Rock The Fuck On Forever’ is a mixture of distorted, fuzzy guitars and bass, with plenty of yelling rolling over the top with some punchy, lively drumming underneath for a tight sonic package. And with a lively swing to the instrumentation and with the subtle psychedelic elements present in the band’s music, you have 13 simple but fun and solid tunes to spin.

Now, let’s not pretend for a single fucking second that hardcore isn’t a welcoming genre (because it most certainly is) but it can also be a very straight-faced genre and one that can take itself far too seriously at times. However, it is bands like Angel Du$t that are helping to inject some vibrant fun and real heart back into the current hardcore and punk landscape; one stage dive and mic grab at a time.

Lepers And Crooks – ‘The Heathen Circus’

Released: 2016

Label: Independent

Rating: 75/100

Words: Alex Sievers

I’ve been checking out a lot of Aussie alternative and rock releases of late, namely releases from the likes of The Iron Eye, StonefieldHe Danced Ivy, and for for this piece, Sydney’s Lepers & Crooks and their latest EP, ‘The Heathen Circus‘, which took me a while to get around to. But fuck me, I wish I’d done it sooner! This band play a brand of rock music that acts like the 90’s never ended and while their EP may not be an incredible audible experience, it is a fine rock release that proves Australian rock is alive and well with six individually realised songs that carry a wider, more ambitious sound. In a nutshell, with just these six songs, the Sydney quintet has made a very strong case for why you all should go see them live ASAP.

The stomping, RATM-like grooves and heavy riffs of ‘Reflections‘ work so well in conjunction with the soaring vocals and the guitar solo may just make it the best song of the whole bloody release. Elsewhere, ‘Let You Go‘ echoes the rock legends of old with its sonic delivery and structure, and ‘Ten Year Ramble (Fear No Blood)‘ is a great example of a clued-in band flexing their internal dynamics as they take the song from a minimal, acoustic offerings to a full-band jam out. Or even still, how the title track is a lively funky jam driven by sharp riffs and distorted vocals that eventually flows into this loud, mass sing-along section that shows LAC’s knack for engaging songwriting. Seriously, this is the kind of EP that you could confidently expose your Led Zeppelin-loving father (or mother, whatever the case may be) and they would dig the utter shit out of it!

Death In Bloom – ‘A Means To Disappear’ 

Released: October 14th, 2016

Label: Independent

Rating: 50/100

Words: Alex Sievers

Death In Bloom’s debut album, ‘A Means To Disappear‘ isn’t terrible or awful, let me make that perfectly clear right now. Yes, a ’50’ isn’t a great score, but that is because this album isn’t great. It’s decent, sure, but it’s just not that good. See, the debut from this Melbourne metalcore outfit is a solid ten-track stint but blimey, does it get repetitive fast! As individual case studies, there are indeed some good tracks here like ‘Animal Kingdom‘, ‘The Fever‘, and (my personal favourite), the short, fast and vicious banger that is the late game offering of ‘Vessels‘. (Goddamnit, what a song!). However, the vocals, the guitar riffs, the drumming, and the song structures throughout adhere to such a rigid template that even after my third listen, I was still finding it hard to fully distinguish between each of the ten songs as they all blend into one. From the album’s beginning of ‘The Fever‘, right past the forgettable instrumental fumble that is the title track, to the five-minute long ‘Homecoming‘ (which really overstays its welcome), this record is sadly quite unfulfilling. And save for some clean vocals, the occasional atmospheric sample, and some melodic guitar work, there ain’t a whole lot of variation to be found within this 35-minute long record.

There’s a lyric on ‘Escape Me‘ (one of the album’s darker, moodier songs… that was still sadly stuck in their metalcore template) that goes “She said something was wrong. She said ‘You always write the same song’“. Holy shit! Is this Death In Bloom being somewhat self-aware or is it just a personal anecdote that has gone right over my head!? Either way, if you’re looking for a straight up modern metalcore release to satiate your heavy musical needs, then ‘A Means To Disappear‘ should do the trick. Just be aware that that’s the only trick it has up its sleeves.

Zeal & Ardor – ‘Devil Is Fine’

Released: April 15th, 2016

Label: Independent

Rating: 90/100

Words: Alex Sievers

Okay, now to wrap up what has essentially been ‘Albums That Alex Didn’t Review In 2016 Because He’s Bad With Time Management’. (‘Albums We Missed In 2016: Volume 1’ flowed off the tongue much better). As it goes without saying, the beauty of the Internet is that there are thousands of bands and artists right at your sweaty finger tips, whose music is just laying in secret behind a few clicks of the mouse. One such release and one such band that fits that is Zeal And Ardor.

Zeal And Ardor could be perhaps best described as if Death Grips were a far more nuanced band and if their singer MC Ride was instead a soul singer shouting rough, bluesy slave chants as loud as possible with booming, dark, percussion and ominous metal riffs backing him up. So, to put it even simpler, this is soul and blues music mixed with atmospheric elements and some good old fashion black metal. And it’s superb! ‘Devil Is Fine’ is a surreal, chilling record and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything as stylistically interesting as this record within the arbitrary length of time we have now labelled as ‘2016’. Well, no, that’s not true; I’m quite sure that you could find something even weirder, even more ‘different’ out there on the web, but I’ll confidently bet that it wouldn’t be as good as ‘Devil Is Fine’. This is a truly exceptional release and even if you don’t come to love it like I have, I implore you to go give it a listen or two. Hey, look, what’s that!? A link to their music just below. Huh, how’s that for lucky?

9 Responses to “Releases We Missed In 2016: Volume 1”

  1. mickrayner85

    Nice to see Biffy get a bit of love! Can’t wait for a tour – especially after going to the UK to see them headline Reading in August!

  2. jai_mal

    man Zeal and Ardor is absolutely amazing. A Spiritual has to be one of the best thing I’ve heard in a long time; i’d liek to be able to listen to the whole first album

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