#Review: Belmont – Reflections (EP)

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Chicago, IL outfit Belmont are about to drop a new EP of tracks they describe as “a collection of new ideas, experimentation and an opportunity to lay down anything we’ve ever wanted to musically”. This make for an interesting prospect for a band who are quite progressive in their approach.

Belmont - Reflections.jpg

I’ve been following the progress of Belmont for a while and really enjoyed their offerings so far. The progressive-punk 5-piece have an appeal for fellow musicians by demonstrating some great technicality in their music, however I always felt they lacked an attraction for a wider audience.

Reflections looks like it’s addressing this. Firstly, there is a good use of synth and samples like those used in the opener ‘By My Side’ and its follow up ‘Deadweight’. This really pulls the tracks towards those big chart hitters you hear when accidently cycling through the radio in the car. If it’s not your thing, it won’t put you off as Belmont incorporate it well into the tracks as it fits nicely with their signature, driving drum lines. ‘Deadweight’ also brings in some quieter sections for the verses which adds to the more radio-friendly appeal – for some reason it reminds me of the likes of Owl City.

The band hasn’t lost any of their progressive nature that they are known for. ‘Back and Forth’ highlights Belmont’s ability to throw you around rhythmically. The fast-changing guitar sections alongside drummer Brian Lada’s ever surprising and chaotic drum fills keep you interested in everything that going on but don’t over power any of the tracks on the EP. This really shows up in ‘Hideout’, which has a beautifully calming verse, but ‘Lada’ can still bring the grooving rhythm without spoiling it.

This EP is a great example of moving a band onto a bigger stage, without losing the essence of what got them there in the first place.

The pop punk vibe shines throughout the EP too. ‘Stay Up’ has that classic, fast-pace feel and gang vocals that are bound to get a crowd up, moving and screaming “Stay Up, Stay Up!”. It’s felt across the EP, with truly catchy chorus lines that really stick with you. It’s not just the catchiness that give it that punk feel, ‘Move Along’ shows Belmont’s pop punk influences further with an awesome verse riff that throw you back to early days of blink-182 and New Found Glory.

Overall, Reflections feels like it’s bridging a gap for Belmont, in connecting with more fans, although I don’t think this was their intention. As they head out on some bigger tours, alongside big hitters like Tiny Moving Parts, this will only put them in great stead to grown their fan base… and deservedly so. This EP is a great example of moving a band onto a bigger stage, without losing the essence of what got them there in the first place.

For fans of: Tiny Moving Parts, Knuckle Puck, Neck Deep.

Rating
4


‘Reflections’ is out 13/03/20 on Pure Noise Records and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/by-my-side/1498675814?i=1498675818


Reflections on Spotify

Coming 13/03/20.

Deadweight (Official Music Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of the band’s latest EP? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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Rob Manhire
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#Review: Four Year Strong – Brain Pain

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Can you believe it’s been almost five years since we’ve had a full release from the boys hailing from Massachusetts?! Four Year Strong helped carved a path for many of our favourite easy-core bands, bringing that fantastic blend of heavy breakdowns and super catchy hooks. The question is, has the wait for the fathers of the genre been worth it?

Four Year Strong - Brain Pain

According to FYS the album has been two years in the making, ensuring that everything was right from initial ideas to production. They have hooked up with producer Will Putney who worked with them on Enemy of the World and this immediately got me excited, as I haven’t really been blow away by much of the band’s work since then. 

You can immediately tell from the first track ‘It’s Cool’ that this is Four Year Strong back at their best. The track comes across as an extended into but I think still is a great song in its own right. Their hardcore influences shine through in the chuggy guitar work and the epic off beat breakdown, but the thing that has been missing with FYS over their last few releases is that signature melodic hook and harmonic vocal. It’s back! The album drips with the super catchy melodic lines right from the off. As well as the intro, tracks such as ‘Talking Myself In Circles’, carry some great vocal work by Day & O’Connor and ‘Learn To Love The Lie’, which I swear just fell straight out of a teen comedy soundtrack from the 2000s, shows that catchiness is there by the bucket load.

The album drips with the super catchy melodic lines right from the off.

The album changes up tempo and feel a bit as it goes into title track ‘Brain Pain’ which starts with a slow trudge towards a classic super-fast pop-punk chorus. In places FYS have gone pretty heavy from what we are used to seeing. This comes through in a few ways. Firstly, the production values on the drums which have that stadium reverberation feel that you usually find on much heavier albums. Secondly the harmonic riff work from the guitars which is found across the whole record but most notably in this track and ‘The Worst Part Of Me’. Thirdly the breakdowns are quite brutal (in context of FYS) but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is very much a pop-punk album at heart.

Tracks such as ‘Mouth Full Of Dirt’ and ‘Seventeen’ encapsulate this perfectly with FYS’ classic blend of upbeat, major key progressions underpinned by some heavy riff work on the guitars. There is also a lot of dynamic shifts with these tracks which help to keep you interested between those catchy choruses, jumping into half time drum breaks such as those found in ‘Usefully Useless’. The album ends with ‘Young At Heart’ which in itself is a big dynamic change up from the rest of the album. We’ve heard a lot of bands do this. Lots of layering of delayed guitars, synth and keeping it nice a slow leading into an epic ending. On first listen, it felt out of place, but after getting used to the album as a whole, it actually rounds it of well and makes it feel like a complete record rather than an assortment of ideas.

If there was one weakness in the record, it’s perhaps the lyric writing. Aside from ‘Be Good When I’m Gone’, which is a nice ballad and really adds to the dynamic tempo of the album, it all feels a bit generic. Some might argue that pop-punk has moved on a bit from this, but that’s never been the point with FYS, or any bands in this style. It’s about writing catchy, positively aggressive tunes that make you want to kick the windows out of your car during a long summer road trip with your mates, so everyone can get in on the action.

Brain Pain is set for release 28th February 2020 on Pure Noise Records.

Rating
4


‘Brain Pain’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/brain-pain/1490648897


Brain Pain on Spotify

Coming 28/02/20.

Talking Myself In Circles (Official Music Video)

Learn To Love The Lie [Official Music Video]


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of the band’s latest album? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other reviews here:

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Rob Manhire
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#Review: Cory Wells – The Way We Are

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Cory Wells is a singer-songwriter hailing from Redondo Beach, California. Wells’ past lies in that of the metal scene and although his solo career has taken a lighter path, his debut album, The Way We Are, never forgets his roots. Here’s our take on it…

Cory Wells - The Way We Are.jpg

We all mellow out eventually. As time goes on, our tastes ‘mature’ and many of us fall away from our respective scenes, perhaps in search of something musically that fits our changing needs. It feels like Cory Wells is trying to fill this need and it is clear right from the start in ‘Distant‘, that emo toil and angst are the order of the day. It’s a beautiful introduction to the album which highlights just some of Wells’ vocal talent but it doesn’t give too much away of what this record will deliver. ‘Keiko‘ follows this with a slight tweak up in the mood, which is a feature of the whole album. Wells is constantly shifting the dynamic but not dramatically enough to take away from what is clearly an outpouring from the heart, for himself. Furthermore, these small dynamic shifts help the album to flow in and out of each track.

A particular highlight of the album is ‘Wildfire’. This track delivers brilliant vocal hooks across the chorus and seamlessly blends Wells’ metal influence with the introduction of screamed vocals. It’s a feature also found across the album in ‘Walk Away‘ but it’s not shoehorned in for effect. It works to show Wells’ breaking emotion in the music and it never overstays its welcome, on what is an acoustic-based album. This screamed vocal is also heard on ‘Harbor‘ which throws reminders back to early City and Colour with its falling guitar melodies and stunning vocal range. Across the album, Wells shows great talent both vocally and musically – his voice seamlessly moves from a smooth Dallas Green style, to a more driven feel like those of Tim McIlrath (Rise Against) and of course that vocal scream!

Overall this doesn’t feel like a debut album – Wells shows his prior experience from other projects to produce a truly complete feel to the record.

Don’t be lured into thinking this album is all about the slow pace of that “sucker for anything acoustic” vibe of the mid 2000s emo days (although ‘Fall Apart‘ featuring Lizzy Farrall is a great pastiche to this). Upbeat tracks such as ‘Broken’, ‘Patience’ and ‘Cement’ musically provide some light relief, but lyrically follow a similar trend to the rest.

Overall this doesn’t feel like a debut album. They usually feel like a collection of tracks in this genre, but Wells shows his prior experience from other projects to produce a truly complete feel to the record. Tracks like ‘End of a Good Thing’ and previously mentioned ‘Wildfire‘ are great tracks on their own, highlighting Wells’ writing talent for building suspense and emotion, but the album deserves to be listened to as a whole. There is a well-written narrative here, both musically and lyrically; it’s the kind of album ready to be the soundtrack to your late-night drive.

For fans of: City and Colour, Deaf Havana, This Wild Life.

Rating
4


‘The Way We Are’ is out now on Pure Noise Records and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/the-way-we-are/1480535816


The Way We Are on Spotify

Walk Away (Official Music Video)

Patience (Official Music Video)

Wildfire [Official Music Video]


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of this singer-songwriter’s debut album? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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Rob Manhire
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#Review: The Story So Far – Proper Dose 🏔


   

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The Story So Far are a five-piece band from Walnut Creek, California, consisting of members; Parker Cannon (lead vocals), Kelen Capener (bass), Kevin Geyer (guitar & keyboards), Will Levy (Guitar) and Ryan Torf (drums/percussion). The band are currently signed to Pure Noise Records and Proper Dose (produced by Sam Pura, mixed by Eric Valentine) marks the band’s fourth studio album. Here’s what we have to say about it…

The Story So Far - Proper Dose.jpg

In honesty, this is the first album I’ve listened to by The Story So Far (I’ve failed as a pop punk fan…I know!) but right from the very first listen, you can tell it’s something special; at its core, it is a pop punk album but there is something incredibly mature about its sound too. I remember being blown away by Sugarcult when they released their album, Lights Out; this feels just like that!

This is an album that doesn’t mess around; right from the start, it kicks into gear, exactly as it means to go on! Title track, ‘Proper Dose’, is a beautifully chaotic introduction to the album which continuously builds into a euphoric crescendo that you just can’t help but be consumed by.

It leads straight into ‘Keep This Up’; a personal and intense track that sees singer, Parker Cannon, look at disconnecting himself from the world around him, using drugs to help, but facing the fact that he could lose those around him.

Some of the must-hear tracks include: ‘Take Me As You Please’ – a rather enchanting track, led by the hum of the acoustic guitar, seeing Parker Cannon facing some relationship woes; ‘Let It Go’ is rich in texture and tone due to the blend of acoustic and electric guitars – it’s a track you just want to play loud, drive fast, windows down, with the sun in your face and wind in your hair whilst ‘Need To Know’ is more a traditional pop punk song with it’s fast-paced, double-time drums that are so indicative of the likes of early New Found Glory, yet towards the end it completely changes pace and becomes far more mellow and reflective.

It’s a self-reflective look at finding your way from the person you were and paving the way to the person you want to be.

Other tracks that also grab your attention are ‘Out Of It’ with its rather in-your-face verses that switch up to a far more epic, drawn-out chorus, ‘Upside Down’ is a truly tear-jerking ballad that will bring a tear to the eye and ‘Line’ is a really wonderful interlude that leads out of ‘Need To Know’ – it has great drum pads, beach-like guitars and hauntingly distant vocals; it’s like something you’d expect to hear from the likes of Moby or The Avalanches but it’s a welcome difference from the rest of the record…only adding further dynamism to it.

This is an album that truly takes you on a journey – it’s a self-reflective look at finding your way from the person you were and paving the way to the person you want to be; it’s about transformation. Evolution. Maturity.

I truly believe this record has achieved something incredible – it’s managed to maintain a well-loved and often, over-saturated genre but at the same time, taken it in a completely new direction, with a wonderfully dynamic sound to it. This is sure to be a very exciting time for the band – it is certainly a very exciting record to listen to!

Rating
4.5


‘Proper Dose’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/proper-dose/1412097802


Proper Dose on Spotify

Upside Down (Official Music Video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgc8a7ikd2w

Let It Go (Official Audio)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2hrXCeXtrY


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of this band’s fourth offering? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other reviews here:

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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#Review: State Champs – Living Proof 🐯


   

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State Champs are a pop punk powerhouse, who formed in Albany, New York, back in 2010. To date, the band have released two albums, which had great receptions, making them a staple name in the pop punk world. Now they are releasing their third full-length record, Living Proof, which is set to see the band soar to new heights!

State Champs - Living Proof.jpg

Kicked into top gear immediately, with opening track, ‘Criminal’, this epic, in-your-face thrash anthem is a high-octane way to open a record…and you’d expect nothing less from State Champs.

From there the album continues to build, from the drum-heavy and powerful ‘Frozen’ to second single, ‘Crystal Ball’, which has the perfect build-up from a calm, heartfelt introduction through to a passionate, powerful chorus. The vocals are particularly incredible on this track with a half-time section towards the end.

It’s impossible to listen to this record without craving to see them live.

Then there’s the sure-fire, off-beat crowd-pleaser and lead single, ‘Dead And Gone’, about a troubled relationship and ‘Our Time To Go’; an archetypal pop punk power ballad which tugs at the heart strings and encourages taking the positive with the negative.

Other notable tracks include, the passive aggressive, ‘Safe Haven’ which contains a brilliant musical breakdown after the chorus and a moment of solace in the middle 8 section; ‘Something About You’ is a fun, uplifting track with some superb vocal steps and is reminiscent of something by Marianas Trench whilst ‘Mine Is Gold’ has an All Time Low-vibe. It then all goes out with a bang in ‘Sidelines’; a beautifully chaotic track which breaks, in part, to a lighters-up moment of calm before descending into a final bout of pure carnage that brings the album to an epic finish.

The production on the album is top-notch too! Some stunning little effects and subtle fills make this a diverse and powerful listen!

It’s impossible to listen to this record without craving to see them live. You get every sense that a performance by this band will leave you sweaty and exhausted but greatly fulfilled. All credit to the guys for taking their time to release a new record; it’s an excellent album that will undoubtedly take pride of place in every pop punk fan’s music collection.

Rating
4-5


‘Living Proof’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/living-proof/1370452923


Living Proof on Spotify

Dead And Gone (Official Music Video)

Secrets (Official Music Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of this band’s Fiction Act EP? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it? Please leave your thoughts in a comment below or via our social media.


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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#Review: Hawthorne Heights – Bad Frequencies


   

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Hawthorne Heights are an American emo/rock band from Dayton, Ohio, which formed in 2001. The band currently consists of JT Woodruff (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Matt Ridenour (bass guitar, backing vocals), Mark McMillon (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Chris Popadak (drums, percussion). To date, the band have released 5 studio albums and been through a variety of line-up changes but now, in 2018, the band are releasing their sixth studio album, Bad Frequencies, through Pure Noise Records. Here’s what we have to say about it…

Hawthorne Heights - Bad Frequencies

This is certainly an album of two mindsets; on the one hand you’ve got a new sound that sees the band edging ever closer to pop punk commerciality and on the other hand they are sticking to their more screamo roots. However you look at it, the band are diversifying and growing their sound at the same time as keeping hold on some of what the fans love.

‘In Gloom’ launches the album with a slow, heartfelt intro from vocalist/guitarist JT Woodruff, but after the first minute, we are thrust into the sound of the full band, making their triumphant return.

The nostalgia continues as first single, ‘Pink Hearts’, reflects on past relationships you carelessly work your way through in your younger years.

An exciting balance of old and new, Hawthorne Heights have made a triumphant return!

More old-school, classic Hawthorne Heights can be heard on tracks such as ‘Crimson Sand’ and ‘Just Another Ghost’ with bassist, Mark McMillion’s, screams coming through in full force.

Meanwhile, ‘Edge Of Town’ and ‘Starlighter (Echo, Utah)’ show us the newer, more pop-punk driven sound that moves this record, and indeed the band, forward.

Possibly one of the most stand-out tracks on the record is ‘Pills’; the song deals with the loss of someone you care deeply about but it demonstrates brilliantly, how the band have grown and continue to push their songwriting and sound; where in the past this might have been a heavy, scream track or an altogether more simplistic affair; a great way to finish the album by showing off where the band’s future lies.

That’s not to say the band that people know and love is gone; there are emo lyrics throughout record and still the occasional screaming, it’s just the instrumentation is slicker and more intricate and in places, JT Woodruff uses falsetto in his vocals; something new and interesting for the band’s sound.

There’s no doubt about it; this band know how to write catchy hooks, tying together some of the heavier, more chaotic parts of the record. Armed with a whole load of history and self-reflection plus a strong sense of where they are heading, this record is definitely representative of both their past and the future for the band. An exciting balance of old and new, Hawthorne Heights have made a triumphant return!

Rating


‘Bad Frequencies’ can be ordered here – http://smarturl.it/HawthorneHeights or downloaded from iTunes, here – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/bad-frequencies/1351452415


Bad Frequencies on Spotify

Just Another Ghost (Official Music Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review of Hawthorne Heights’ new album! What are your thoughts of it? What would you rate it? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or chat to us about it, via our socials.


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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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