WSTR – SKRWD review

When a group is signed to a major record label based on one EP, you can immediately deduce something about them – they have an awful lot of potential to make a heavy impact in the music industry. You would be correct to suss this out about WSTR – the pop punk outfit have mastered making promising first impressions, as No Sleep Records has eagerly snapped them up on just the basis of upcoming EP SKRWD.

The band open their EP with South Drive, which if it happens to be the first song a listener has the privilege of hearing by them, it will become infectious listening. With its incredibly catchy hook, I guarantee the track will remain in your head all day. A fun opening catchy song, it carries a boisterous bright spark which gives a promising start to the EP.

Fair Weather doesn’t allow itself to drop in quality; another ridiculously fun song, intricate chord changes by guitarists Danny Swift and Kieren Alder give it shape and added dimension. Although I liked all of the track’s lyrics, one line in particular defined the song for me: ‘my friends are dicks, but I would never have it any other way’. We all have people we talk to who are slightly mad and we do not know why we bother with them, but at the end of the day we wouldn’t want them to ever change, and this sentimentally of friendship adds passion to Fair Weather. My only critique is the band could have added another round of the chorus at the end, only as I felt the song ended too suddenly.

A shift in tonality of third track Graveyard Shift from the two preceding tracks ensures the EP doesn’t sound completely the same and therefore safe. Vocalist Sammy Clifford provides poignant reflective lyrics describing the low point of life when it becomes stuck in a rut, but the slightly more negative literate tone is cleverly wrapped in energetic pop guitar melodies.

There is a danger for any band that the second half of an EP or album fades out with quality, but this is not an issue for WSTR, who manage to keep the momentum going with their final three songs, thanks to the contributions of bassist Alex Tobijanski and Kieran McVeigh on drums. Brainsick is laced with summery guitar licks and pays homage beautifully to bands from pop punk’s golden years Sum 41 and Blink 182. Despite its title, penultimate track Aint Great unsurprisingly is very great, with witty and angst-ridden lyrics building a rousing song explaining a situation which clearly the band are a bit miffed off about. Finally, to end the EP on a high, Devils N Demons is an exciting concluding song that will make you wish SKRWD was actually a full album.

WSTR definitely have over-whelming talent and their EP proves this – it is a tribute to all the best parts of pop punk over the last couple of decades. The group deserve SKRWD to be the step that puts them on the path to success that recent pop-punk groups such as Neck Deep have achieved.

SKRWD is due to released on the 4th September on No Sleep Records.

You can watch the video for Fair Weather below.

Earl Grey – Passing Time review

EARLGREYEPCOVERPop punk music has dramatically risen in popularity in the UK – the highlight being All Time Low’s well deserved Number 1 album earlier in the year with Future Hearts – but in Germany it is still a section of alternative music that makes a quieter impact on people compared to the long-time established hardcore scene. Alas, change may be on the horizon; Earl Grey have been giving hardcore music a 21st Century kick in the backside, by combining both this and pop punk sounds together. The crossover quintet have had a busy year so far – in the spring the group released debut EP Ready to Leave, produced sophomore EP Passing Time, with the next step now being a September/October tour around their home country and the UK.

Before I pressed play on Passing Time, I was curious and very uncertain as to whether the set up of pop punk and hardcore would work, having never encountered music of the sort previously. After finishing listening to first track named after the EP’s title, I was still very uncertain. An intense track from the get go, its loud searing guitar riffs are pretty much present from beginning to end, and instrumental wise it is clear Earl Grey are influenced by pop punk flavours reminiscent of As It Is and Set It Off. Even after the opening chords I knew I would be gripped tightly on a glorious punk roller-coaster from beginning to end.

So far, so good – however where Passing Time is severely lacking is the mismatch of heavy bass and drums with vocals. The band say that their second EP increases the amount of energy and passion they have put into their songs, and indeed I could sense the heartfelt devotion vocalist Malte ‘Pedro’ Unnasch puts into every syllable he screams. Regardless of this, I struggled to make out a significant proportion of lyrics in the track, and personally for me that is one of the most crucial parts of connecting to a song. My critique is precisely the same for following track Headstrong; I felt it was more or less an exact replica of Passing Time, and the song is far too short at 1:23 minutes to really feel like it was heading somewhere enthralling.

Backstabber convinced me that perhaps hardcore and pop punk are not too different to successfully gel ultimately – the feeling of being betrayed and stabbed in the back makes most people want to scream out in horror, and this sensation is indeed both replicated in Unnasch’s vocals and described well in its lyrics. Another track which runs under two and a half minutes, I was disappointed when it ended abruptly and should have run much longer than the two tracks on the first half of Passing Tine. Final track Haven is a strong conclusion, and rounds off the end of the EP delightfully.

Are Earl Grey the spark that will change the alternative scene in Germany and start the rise of the pop punk scene? Passing Time certainly is near brilliance instrumental wise, but evidently the clarity of vocals lets it down at times, especially in the first two tracks – alas it bounces back just in time with the rest of its material. The band certainly are unique in that their releases including Passing Time will cater to those in the hardcore and pop punk scenes, in both Germany and more fans in other countries, intrigued in a new collaboration of sounds that almost fits hand in hand together to a ‘tea’.

Passing Time EP will be released on the 9th October via KROD Records.

You can watch the music video for Passing Time below.

Best Years interview

BESTYEARSCOVERRecently I reviewed the sophomore EP Drop Out from the pop punk outfit which I loved, and now you can read why they always wanted to make pop punk music, their career highlight, and if they would make music for a Christmas soundtrack…

What pushed your decision to leave ‘reality’ as mentioned in your press release, and fully focus on committing to the band?      
Every band any of us have ever been in had either not worked or run itself into the ground, we all knew that if we dropped everything and focused properly that we could make something of ourselves this time round and so far we’ve done exactly that.

Was pop punk music always the genre you wanted your music to fit in, and for future releases do you want to stay close to the sound you have developed, or explore different sounds?
When we started this was the initial idea, I would like to say “yeah this is what we’re going to do for the rest of our career and it will never change from pop punk”, but you never know what’s going to happen. For now we’re loving it and we want to make a dent in the scene by attempting to bring pop punk back to its roots instead of every band trying to sound like The Story So Far.

What has been the highlight of your band career so far?                                                                                    For me (Ed) I would say playing our first ever show at the Camden Barfly with As It Is which was completely sold out! I’ve seen plenty of bands there over the years and it was pretty surreal. Also having a chance to play with some of my favourite bands from my childhood (Man Overboard).

Where can you imagine the band in a year’s time?
I imagine us still as strong as we are now, even better friends and hopefully smashing it with our newest release… maybe even touring Europe or further. Who knows.

If you were to describe the ‘unique selling point’ of listening to Best Years, what would it be and why?
We’re not trying to be anything we’re not; it’s all natural and we intend to keep it that way. We just want to have fun ourselves and also make sure everyone else does too.

Who would be your dream collaboration?
Dream collaboration would probably be with Good Charlotte/The Madden Brothers, that would be insane and we would be blown away by it I think!

Have you as a band experienced any setbacks – if you have, then how did you learn to deal with them?
We experienced a bit of a setback with being able to afford new gear to gig with and stuff like that, and with only one of us being able to drive it kind of makes it harder to transport all of us and our gear to gigs, but it’s all fun and we have a good time in the Corsa.

If each of you was placed on a desert island, and could only take one album each with you, what would it be and what are the reasons behind your choice?
Joel – Yung Lean / Unknown Death (2002), as it is one of the most emotional albums of all time and would be perfect to listen to for the rest of my life in perfect solitude.
Holland – Transit / Young New England because it has my favourite track of all time on it and it sums my life up perfectly.
Ed – Alt J / An Awesome Wave because I don’t think I could get bored of it and it’s a very chilled and easy to listen to album.
James – Anything by the Foo Fighters they’re the kind of band that really make me think about the important things in life.
Berzins – Slipknot / self titled so I would have a good soundtrack to end my life to and I could also throw up those God damn horns – am I right?!

Would you ever consider making a Christmas-themed track, or contributing your talents to a film soundtrack?
Yeah definitely if it was for the right kind of thing and we all felt comfortable doing it – I guess that would be cool! We’ve had friends who have done some film soundtrack work and it hadn’t worked out that well for them but I guess we would try it.

If you weren’t in the band, what would your dream career be?
Joel – Film/ Multimedia Camera work.
Holland – Navy / Military / Air Force.
Ed – Touring Guitar Technician.
James – Rubix Cube factory worker.
Berzins – Ralph Lauren model.

Drop Out EP by Best Years will be released on the 28th August, and you can listen to Overrated below.

Elasea – Where I Belong review

ELASEAWHEREIBELONGThe moment this EP started I knew this was going to be the average English rock band EP. A fairly standard intro for many current wave of rock bands from the UK. And like all of those bands that struggle to distinguish themselves and create their own unique style, Elasea falls into that category also unfortunately. It also doesn’t help that the vocalist sounds very similar to Lower Than Atlantis singer Mike Duce, which essentially takes away the chance of them having a distinct sound to others in the genre.

With that said, the EP isn’t bad. Slightly derivative and doesn’t leave me feeling much towards the songs, they all play through without much standing out and not much is remembered by the end, which isn’t good since it’s so short you’d expect to. Perhaps it’s the lack of hooks; the choruses aren’t memorable and they don’t feel like ever actually happened by blending in with the rest of the song. The guitar riffs tend to fall to the back of the mix and that doesn’t help the tracks flow with any kind of melody, but when the guitar is more prominent they sound fairly bland.

The title track starts off in quite a bright way, but then of course the “chuggy riffs” come in and it turns pretty boring, especially the chorus. Then there’s breakdown part towards the end which was tailor made for young teens to mosh at a small gig. Time Is Against Us goes for something a bit more punchier and it works better for them even it’s not that original. Similar with the closing track, an obligatory, fairly basic acoustic track with guest vocals from Alex Gale, which has a nice tone to it. The track adds electric instrumentation toward the end, sort of attempting If It Means A Lot To You by A Day To Remember, but not reaching it of course.

My thoughts overall aren’t much more than an just an average EP in a saturated genre with nothing new at this point. There will be people who’ll enjoy this however, fans of Lower Than Atlantis, early You Me At Six, bands similar to this, just without the pop flavour.

You can watch the video for Lost In The Dark below.

Pack Mentality EP launch at The Vic Inn, Derby

Last Friday, one of Derby’s best known venues became the launch pad for the release of the debut EP from melodic metalcore band Pack Mentality, Chronophobia. I don’t think I’d be alone in saying that The Vic’s sound quality leaves something to be desired, and it’s a good test of both the band’s technical accuracy and their character to see how they fare with it.

Opening the bill were Reading’s Falling For Stacey, a pop-rock quintet formed back in 2012 and commencing the night with a brief blast of determination that could’ve set them up for the style of stadium rock they seem to have the “look” for, if it weren’t for almost all of the vocals being lost. The chance to come into their own could’ve come from the instrumentals, but a few sloppy moments knocked the edge off these too, and even at times where they tried to encourage the crowd there seemed a slight lack of enthusiasm. In the end they came across as a band who’d done the time rehearsing to themselves, now needing to grit their teeth and get their fair share of live show practice in to nurture and grow their potential.

Requin Blanc played their part next, with clearer vocals leading to a greater impact from the band, but not without detriment to the quality as the set wore on – a handful of pitchy moments and moments of cracking were the price to pay. An old-school cover of You Me At Six’s Save It For The Bedroom was the set’s clear highlight, as well as one of the peaks of the night, with vocalist Jack Bridle keeping the closing refrain fresh in a way that I strongly believed no one but Josh Franceschi could. Yet another band fallen victim to the venue’s sound quality, but certainly a band who refused to go down without a fight.

Final support We Fight Like Kids were strong contestants for the most enthusiastic of the night, but like their debut EP (which we checked out last October here), there seemed to be something lacking. Clear harsh vocals made a spectacular show against the frontman’s clean ones, more touchy in their consistency; moments were of the understandable quality the other acts had shown, whilst some were so good there was a whiff of backing track around them. We noted their studio work lacked some “umph”, and despite the energy, similar gaps were present in their live show.

Rightly so with the night being their own, headliners Pack Mentality stole the show with the air of musicians who’d more experience than a “debut” release would suggest. Frontman Daniel Kevan cut no corners in upping the sound quality, holding the set after the first track till the adjustments were made to make the best of a less than ideal situation. Humble but confident, this start up added to the band’s demeanor as an act who knew they were good but weren’t able to show off to the best of their abilities, instead ready to go into it with fierce enough determination to display what they were capable of.

As well as showing off the EP’s work which came down as a mix of new We Are The Ocean and old Deaf Havana, most notably the atmospheric opening to The Ocean and instantly memorable Salvation, the band threw in a pair of covers to keep things fresh. Silverstein’s My Heroine proved vocally straining but well polished, and closing Taylor Swift’s I Knew You Were Trouble seemed more for fun than technical accuracy, but fun it was, and served a good end to the night.

Credit where credit’s due, the bands all put in a good effort for what was available, and an enthusiastic crowd seemed unfazed by a few dodgy moments. Later this week we’ll be checking out Pack Mentality’s Chronophobia in full, with a track-by-track of it and a few words from the band.