Local Round-Up: Illyria, Diamond Construct, Death Bells, Bloom, Speed + more

Single reviews on the latest from Illyria, Diamond Construct, Death Bells, Speed, Anticline, Figures, Inhibitor, Babirusa, Wake The Blind, dave the band, Ten Thousand Crows, The Motion Below, and Bloom. 

Illyria – ‘Frostbite’

If you were to condense down what Illyria do as a band into just five-minutes for someone who has never heard of the Perth group before, ‘Frostbite‘ would be about as good of an introduction as you’ll ever get. The serene tones, the technical and dynamic instrumentals, the progressive-rock aspects, and the explosive black metal moments; it’s all a well-blended summary of what this band often create. A nice reflection on what they wonderfully accomplished on ‘The Carpathian Summit‘ LP (2019.)

Tracing out the sections of ‘Frostbite‘ is like moving from a quiet icy morning into a raging blizzard, as it morphs a small cold-snap into a cruel Phyrgian waste. The tastefully clean, contemplative guitar intro that sets the stage; Ilija Stajić’s intimate singing that comes in along with Matt Unkovich’s drums right after the one-minute-mark; the low death growls, thunderous double-kick patterns and blackened riffs that soon start to take shape after 2;15; it’s a neat and tidy package of all things Illyria. It’s not necessarily my favourite songs of their by any means (hello ‘Kenopsia‘ and ‘Swansong‘), but you can’t really go wrong with this band.

Diamond Construct – ‘Enigma’

Following ‘Psychosis,’ a re-branding as they shifted lanes into a heavier nu-metalcore sound and aesthetic, Diamond Construct recently released their heaviest song yet, ‘Enigma.’ Outside of frontman Kynan Groundwater showing off some vocal versatility with different screaming pitches and some tasteful singing, along with a neat breakdown section that builds up and pays off nicely from 2:48 onward, ‘Enigma‘ isn’t that enigmatic. While a redesign for the band – what with a heavier sound and larger focus on electronics, and I commend them for trying to do new things for themselves – it’s never a needle-moving track for where this popular, contemporary intersection of prog, metalcore and nu-metal sits. It’s fine, but it doesn’t really set my world on fire.

While I really like their ‘Event Horizon‘ EP (2016) and certain cuts off their self-titled debut LP from last year (‘Submerged‘ and ‘Paradox‘), Diamond Construct have always lacked their own identity. Before, it was all clearly influenced by prog and metalcore artists like Stories, Architects, Northlane, Meshuggah, and so on. Now, it’s a blend of all that with the Aussie group borrowing plenty from the grooviness and electronics implemented by your Emmure’s, and in the super low-tuned riff department, from that of Reflections; pushing the group a little closer to their label-mates in Alpha Wolf. Even the addition of electronics underneath all of the heaviness here – with a new masked DJ member who you wouldn’t be able to tell was even in the band just from listening to the songs by themselves – isn’t anything unique for this kind of music either. To go back another step, this lack of personality even bleeds into the video for ‘Psychosis,’ which looked like a mish-mash of the late ’90s and early 2000’s alt and nu-metal visuals that Ocean Grove, Skorched, and Dregg have created previously.

To be fair, cultivating that kind of character takes time, and not every band has it right off the bat. Plus, Diamond Construct are still a young band, so there’s always room to grow; who knows where they could go next. Diamond Construct’s ‘DCX2‘ EP is out August 28th via Greyscale Records. If you can’t stand these first two singles, you won’t like the remaining two tracks. However, if you loved ‘Psychosis‘ and ‘Enigma,’ then this Friday will be a very fun day for you.

Death Bells – ‘New Signs of Life’

Sounding like a new-wave post-punk homage towards David Bowie, The Smiths, Interpol and Joy Division, Sydney’s Death Bells are a fantastic example of the old becoming new. ‘New Signs of Life,’ taken from their second album of the same – out September 25th via Dais Records, a fitting place for a new Death Bells LP – is a simple, minimal yet quite heartfelt and beautiful track that reflects its theme of stagnation impressively well. Less was more, and the intentional repetition , purposefully lethargic vocals and instrumental spareness of this three-minute jam suitably follows where Death Bells left off in 2017.

What really sells ‘New Signs of Life‘ to me is the song in conjunction with its music video. It’s all about searching for something; feeling like you’re stuck in a rut and needing a desperate change. Couples remain stationary, still together yes, but ultimately immobile. People walk in circles on auto-pilot. A coffee table falls apart in a surf, as a lone man tries to hold it together, even though it’s clearly breaking. The video’s protagonist is seen moving past most places and people, rarely stopping. And when they do stop, there’s a sense that they still aren’t truly finding who or what they need. Whether you read into ‘New Signs of Life‘ as a relationship that’s safe but going nowhere, or someone’s life plateauing out, the bittersweet wanderlust of Death Bells‘ latest suitably gels with their nostalgic, hazy brand of rock.

[The band have also released two other singles, ‘Heavenly Bodies‘ and ‘A Different Kind of Happy,’ and they’re quite lovely.]

Babirusa – ‘Dehumanised’

One of the things that blows my mind about heavy bands in Australia, and even heavy music media, is that so many of them don’t care for deathcore anymore. Talking with vocalists of bands who front metal bands – who have written for and played that sub-genre – and other writers who’s websites cover bands within and around those genres, a lot of them talk about their own personal boredom with deathcore these days. And you know what? I agree and totally get where they’re coming from.

Listening to the kind of clinically-produced, dissonant and diminished, blast-beating, bree-bree deathcore that Babirusa make is like oil pouring onto my face and having it all slide right off of me. Following previous single ‘Catatonia,’ ‘Dehumanised‘ is three-and-a-half minutes of contemporary technical deathcore that’s about as generic as you could ever get. Even the cybernetic, sci-fi theme and alien artwork was super old-hat when Oceano, Aversions Crown, Gravemind, and Shadow Of Intent, to name a few, respectively attempted it over the last four years.

But hey, if you’re into it, take note that Babirusa’s new album, ‘Humanoid,’ is out Friday, August 28th.

Inhibitor – ‘Catalyst’ 

On September 11th, Inhibitor will drop their ‘Abhorrence‘ EP. It’s first single, ‘Death,’ was a (and forgive me for this awful pun) done-to-death take about how beyond fucked things are in the 21st century. From special extinction and climate change, political corruption, economic downturns, violence and division – you get the idea. It’s an in-vogue observation without any solutions or different perspectives offered. Of which, the very same could also be said for the Melbourne band’s style of brutal deathcore: very popular but also very middle-of-the-road, too.

Well, their latest single ‘Catalyst‘ is practically the same in terms of songwriting, just a little faster and instrumentally busier. Meaning that it’s so painfully normal in riffage, tone, structure and delivery. In a year where arresting and experimental death metal records like Methwitch’sIndwell‘ were released, it’s hard for me to go back to this practically basic iteration of this kind of metal and have it elicit any sort of reaction. Inhibitor are clearly solid performers, and this is only their first full release as a band so no one should write them off just yet, but this isn’t really to my tastes. Your mileage may vary:

Anticline – ‘In The Open’

With ‘In The Open,’ Ballarat’s Anticline bring you into their home and place inner pain, self-torment and past trauma out in the open for all to see. Addressing it directly with tough-ass hardcore riffs, chunky breakdowns, and aggro vocals. You’ve all heard this kind of hardcore and metalcore before, but Anticline do it well; I enjoy this sumbitch more than what we last checked out from the group, ‘Headspinning Bias.’ It’s pretty straight-forward yet decent stuff from one of the smaller, younger bands on the Aussie block at the moment. I also must give these guys two lots of bonus points for that  dead-pan breakdown at 1:53 , as well as a cheeky inclusion of that Harm’s Way “running man” clip.

Anticline’sUrgency‘ EP drops this Friday, August 28th, and they just put out another new single, featuring Bobak from Justice For The Damned.

Speed – ‘2020 Flex’

I’ve never done speed before but listening to this Sydney hardcore-thrash bands latest two track, ‘2020 Flex,’ it feels like I’m doing speed whilst riding a motorbike in leather and playing distorted metal riffs on a Flying V. With a pair of groovy, riffy cuts – ‘A Dumb Dog Gets Flogged‘ and ‘ Devil U Know‘ – Speed go old-school, as if they were elusively brought up on Madball and Biohazard. In reaffirming the importance of practicing what one preaches and speaking your truth (‘A Dumb Dog Gets Flogged’), and likening people’s complacency and nihilism to that of a deep sickness (‘Devil U Know‘), Speed clearly care about what they have to say, and how they say it. Riffs, gruff vocals, and all. Two-track releases like this are about grabbing attention, offering an introduction, and this Sydney outfit’s attention grabbing introduction to a larger audience isn’t half bad.

Figures – ‘Underpaid Machinery’

Figures are one of the few prog, alt-metal bands in Australia that I actually don’t mind and will go out of my way to listen to. Taken from their recent debut album, ‘Operating in Unsafe Mode‘ (out now), ‘Underpaid Machinery‘ is a surprisingly angry, pissed-off track about gross wage theft; about overworked yet underpaid workers in Australia, especially within the hospitality world. It’s a moment of sonic solidarity, making sure that those workers voices are properly, adequately heard and not silenced; letting these employees know that they’re worth as a person is so much more than their per-hour pay. It doesn’t get much clearer than this line in the first chorus, where vocalist Mark Tronson belts out about how these workers are seen: “To them you’re nothing more. More than underpaid machinery. You’re flesh and bone, but too afraid to speak.” Yet the frustration and rage felt in ‘Underpaid Machinery‘ isn’t just exclusive to the lyrics, it runs deeply into the aggressive guitar riffs, the kinetic drumming and the tone and feel of the composition; that’s fed-up with the powers that be passing the buck and getting away with their crimes. This is Figures operating at their most vitriolic. I’m about it!

Ten Thousand Crows – ‘The Hanged Man’

Ten Thousand Crows – vocalist/producer George Mackenzie and guitarist Jordan Hurt – label themselves as a “core” band, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s elements of hardcore and metalcore sprinkled all over their rather short and incredibly grim track, ‘The Hanged Man.’ It’s a pretty hopeless, tragic and desperate sounding piece – brought about from dark, intense feelings instilled by the global pandemic – though it’s greatest strength is it’s length, sliding it at just under two-minutes with a raw, chaotic energy. It literally doesn’t go on long enough for it to ever become “boring” or “bad”, and while it’s nothing that special, it’s a slight cut above what these kinds of bands normally squirt out. This is but the first release in this band’s Macabre Arcana Project, with ‘The Hanged Man‘ being the first of five songs to come from Ten Thousand Crows. And honestly, I’m interested to hear more.

The Motion Below – ‘Truth Hurts’

Whenever I see the name “The Motion Below”, I automatically think of an impending, particularly painfully bowel movement that’s about to make someone’s bathroom very, very sad. Thankfully, this young Melbourne aren’t actually shit. (Hurray?) Though, like so many other young Aussie heavy bands still yet to find their own feet and fully branch out, ‘Truth Hurts‘ – a sequel to their last single, ‘Dead Ends‘ –  sounds and feels like a songwriting checklist being ticked off. Like The Motion Below are pouring over their various influences and sub-genres that they themselves enjoy – prog, metalcore, post-hardcore, etc. – in order to stitch together their own songs; from the refrains, riff patterns, production style, and chemistry between the singing and screaming. For what it is, it’s fine, but I’d really love to see this band try and experiment more. I feel like they’ve got the chops to do so!

Wake The Blind – ‘Patient’ 

Wake The Blind’sPatient‘ is a towering example of the risks of having a guest feature. When both artists gel together naturally, with full chemistry as they fire on their respective distinct cylinders, you can get some fantastic results. A recent(ish) solid example of this is DVSR’sBloodlust,’ featuring CJ McMahon from Thy Art Is Murder. However, this particular Wake The Blind song is not that. For whenever I listen to ‘Patient,’ and David De La Hoz comes in at 1:41 , I think about how I could just be listening to Wither and Belle Haven instead. The song also carries with it some awkwardness, as David REALLY steals the show and completely overshadows the band’s actual vocalist. While I do love what ‘Patient‘ has to say lyrically – criticising the disgusting treatment and view of disabled or mentally ill individuals within society, and how they’re stripped of agency and told to act a particular way – I certainly don’t love this song.

dave the band – ‘Fine!’

Before even hitting play on this one, I knew what I was in for. A grainy black and white film clip, a two-and-a-half-minute song called fine with an exclamation point, and a three-piece band from Newcastle, Australia called dave the band? Yep, we’re going to be on some old-school, lively DIY emo-punk shit. And I was right. Listening to ‘Fine!’ is like being pulled right back to the ’90s scene of underground emo and punk acts, what with it’s propulsive drumming, gritty guitar riffs and dynamic vocals, and I’m fucking living for it. It’s simple but so goddamn fun and effective; the kind of band you’d find rocking out at Wollongong’s Rad Bar (RIP) on a Saturday night. This is more than fine! dave the band’s new LP, ‘slob stories,’ is out Friday, August 28th.

Bloom – ‘Daylight’

Their debut release on Greyscale Records, Bloom’s fatalistic portrayal of mortality in ‘Daylight‘ makes for some highly emotive melodic hardcore. The last time we heard from the Sydney quintet was on ‘The Service,’ which I covered in our last local band-up piece. Whereas ‘The Service‘ was about mourning a family bereavement, being a heartfelt re-telling of the funeral service and what the family went through, ‘Daylight‘ feels like the aftermath to this. It’s a sonic realisation about the precious little time we have with our loved ones, the suddenness of death, and the sheer frailty of life. All with a heavier, groovier feel: note the mosh-ready, fight riff section at the end of the track that’s kicked off by Michael Godwin from their peers in Whatever, Forever.

Like all other decent melodic hardcore bands these days, it’s never about re-defining how this kind of music is written and delivered, but rather, ensuring that what’s presented and said is always honest. That it’s all coming straight from the heart. In that sense alone, Bloom – who do indeed sound like any other random group one could pluck out from this genre – succeed wildly.

Bloom’s ‘In Passing‘ EP is available October 9th.

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