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Against Me! – White Crosses / Black Crosses

White Crosses/ Black Crosses is the extended version of 2010’s “White Crosses”. The album now comes with the four songs that were previously only included on the limited edition of the original release. While “Lehigh Acres”, “Bob Dylan Dream”, “One By One” and “Bitter Divisions” are not bad songs at all, I can understand why they weren’t included.

The most interesting about this release is the second disc which comes with acoustic versions or alternate takes of the songs before Butch Vig got his hands on them. It’s hard to say which version I prefer but the acoustic versions of songs like “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” and “Because Of The Shame” are definitely worth a listen.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Jim Ward – Quiet In The Valley, On The Shores The End Begins / The Electric Six

Jim Ward is best known for his work in At The Drive-In. When that band called it a day, he started Sparta. And then when that band called it a day, he was probably so fed up with bands, that he started a solo project. This led to the release of three acoustic EPs which have now been compiled on one single shiny disc with a whopping fourteen songs and six extra songs which are called ‘the electric six’ because they are louder versions of some of the other songs. Most of the time though it’s all very quiet in Ward’s valley.

The good man knows how to write a good song as opener “On My Way Home Back Again” proves right from the get-go. Sounding like Rufus Wainwright one moment, Leonard Cohen the next and then a little like Bono right after that, Ward makes it very clear that he doesn’t need loud guitars to be noticed. He’s doing just fine with his acoustic guitar and the occasional trumpet or piano that rears its head to spruce things up.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Crazy Arm – Union City Breath

Despite “Born To Ruin” being an awesome album, Crazy Arm is not yet getting the recognition they should have. We’ll see if that’s about to change with the release of “Union City Breath”. It won’t be because the album is no good… the songs are once again amazing!

Nope, if the masses miss out on this one, it’ll be because Crazy Arm are hard to pigeonhole. They mix punkrock, folk, country in a way that I’ve never heard before and they’ll switch from fast tracks (“The Endless Carriage”, “Bandalito”) to more introvert songs (“Charnel House Blues”, “Southway Drive”) in the blink of an eye, making “Union City Breath” an album with a whole lot of different things going on. Sometimes this all even takes place in the same song. Like in first single “Tribes”, a huge song that explodes from time to time before soulful backing vocals come in to soothe the pain. Or how about “Song Of Choice” which sounds like Billy Bragg getting it on with The Chieftains? Good stuff.

Crazy Arm is a band with a clear message (“The Right Wing Never Sleeps”) and they know how to wrap it in exciting songs. And seeing as it’s so hard to classify their music, I’ll just file them under ‘awesome’.
Score: 8 out of 10

I Am The Avalanche – Avalanche United

We had to wait six years but I Am The Avalanche is finally back with the follow-up to their self-titled full-length. The new album is called “Avalanche United” and while their debut was still regarded as the album by that new band with that dude from The Movielife, “Avalanche United” is the album that will get their name out to a much bigger audience.

As soon as opener “Holy Fuck” bursts out of the speakers, you know you’re in for a treat. And then in comes “Brooklyn Dodgers” with its catchy as fuck chorus and you’re completely won over. These guys have got it all going on… pounding drums, loud guitars, a great vocalist and plenty of hooks to reel you in.

Bayside’s Anthony Raneri contributes some guest vocals to “The Gravedigger’s Argument” but they honestly didn’t need him to make “Avalanche United” a pretty friggin’ awesome punkrock album that is as catchy as it is sincere and rocking.
Score: 8 out of 10

Neal Casal – Sweeten The Distance

Neal Casal might still be best know as the guitarist for Ryan Adams’ Cardinals but that doesn’t stop him from releasing solo album after solo album. “Sweeten The Distance” is the name of his latest baby and already his twelfth release.

Compared to 2009’s “Roots And Wings” things rock a little less this time around with Casal focusing on melancholy and restraint instead, except for the occasional outburst (“So Many Enemies”). This does mean things are less diverse even though Casal still likes to dabble in the kind of country and folkrock that brings you right back to the early seventies. “Bird With No Name” even sounds like a recently unearthed America song.

“Sweeten The Distance” is a laidback kind of album that’s fun to spend some time with. It might not be the best singer/songwriter album ever but I’ll take it over Joey Cape’s solo albums anytime.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Maison Neuve – Joan

From France comes Maison Neuve, a rather depressed sounding bunch who cite influences such as The Smiths and Belle And Sebastian. “Prophet” is a decent enough opener but it isn’t until “Under Skies Of Fire” that things become a little more interesting… it’s a solid tune that inspires gazing at your shoes until it fades out and makes room for “Victor” where the band does pretty much the same thing all over again. And that’s Maison Neuve’s weakness… the songs on “Joan” all sound the same and I already found my attention slipping away before reaching the halfway mark. The slow rhythms and distant vocals don’t exactly help move things along either.

There’s a lot to be said for Maison Neuve but basically… they’re just isn’t exciting enough.
Score: 5 out of 10

Milagres – Glowing Mouth

Some people have all the luck! After getting sick and tired of struggling with a writer’s block, vocalist Kyle Wilson fled to Canada where he then injured his back rock climbing. The only ‘good’ thing about the whole episode was that while bedridden, Wilson finally found the inspiration to write what would become “Glowing Mouth”.

As can be expected it did not turn out to be a happy go lucky kind of thing but rather a dark-ish psychedelic pop album with lots of synth sounds. Not too much unlike Wild Beasts or Grizzly Bear if you will. There’s some Prince lite funkiness to be found in the title track, “Gentle Beast” slowly meanders along before bursting wide open towards the end with some guitar action and “Lost In The Dark” is based on a simple melody yet comes with a catchy chorus. Milagres’ sound is pretty diverse and pretty much the only thing that all the songs have in common are the rich arrangements and Wilson’s falsetto.

Unfortunately it’s not all praise… especially during the second half of the album things take turn for the worse and the result is lackluster at best as you work your way further down the tracklisting. Overall “Glowing Mouth” turned out to be an atmospheric album that slowly fades out in the second half.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Every Avenue – Bad Habits

Michigan’s Every Avenue has already been going at it since 2003 and by releasing two albums and touring with the likes of All Time Low and Yellowcard, they have made somewhat of a name for themselves with their extremely saccharine pop-rock.

And while they do another pretty good job of doing just that on “Bad Habits” with the help of producer Aaron Sprinkle, it’s also the band’s biggest problem if you ask me. It’s all a little too cutesy for my taste and when they really do bring out the schmalz in songs like “I Can’t Not Love You”, it becomes a bit too much to take.
Score: 4 out of 10

Go Radio – Lucky Street (Deluxe Edition)

Go Radio is the name of Jason Lancaster’s new band. You might remember him from his days with Mayday Parade. I don’t know if the band name is tongue in cheek or not but the songs that make up “Lucky Street” sure sound like they’re written with some airplay in mind.

If commercially viable pop-punk is your thing, then there’s no going wrong with this one. The title track gets to kick off the album and immediately shows what you’re in for. These guys obviously spent a fair amount of time studying the pop-punk rulebook and got all their bases covered. Up-beat rhythms, big choruses, poignant guitar solos, drums that slow down in the right places,… it’s all there in songs like “Swear It Like You Mean It” or “Singing With The King”.

And then there are the mellow piano-driven tunes that you just can’t go without. “Goodnight Moon”, “Why I’m Home” and “House Of Hallways” are the kind of songs that sound like they belong on a Goo Goo Dolls albums and which will no doubt get the lighters going at their shows. Yet somehow they don’t affect me much if at all.

Let’s just stick by saying that this is a wholesome album that unfortunately does not manage to set itself apart from what a thousand other bands are doing. Oh yeah, the deluxe edition comes with a couple of bonus tracks, an Adele cover of “Rolling In The Deep” and an alternate version of “Forever My Father”.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Blessthefall – Awakening

After having put everyone to sleep with 2009’s “Witness”, Blessthefall couldn’t have come up with a better name for their third album. Don’t expect anything too crazy… these Phoenix natives aren’t reinventing the wheel here. It however does show a band who knows what they’re good at which is writing catchy yet by-the-numbers metalcore tunes.

The drums run smoothly, the guitars shred where they have to and swirl melodically in other places and the screams vs clean vocals thing works well. It’s all present and accounted for and while there are no surprises to be found on here, this is a pretty solid and focused release… for those of you who still haven’t had enough of this kinda sound. There are no real highlights, everything flows along nicely and is kept concise, keeping things interesting throughout the entire album’s duration. Welcome back guys!
Score: 7 out of 10

El Caco interview

Hey! We found one of them… El Caco is a Norwegian band that does not play black metal. Instead they excel at playing dark, atmospheric alternative rock that made me think of Alice In Chains (the vocals!) and Tool (the riffs!). Check out their new album “Love, Hate & Diagrams” but feel free to ready this interview first!

PRT: I’m sorry but my Spanish is a little bit rusty… what does El Caco mean and how did you come up with the name?
El Caco: El Caco is spanish slang for "The Thief". It actually came up as an alternative to Cake, cause that was what we were called a hundred years ago, and we put a little latin twist on it. We didn´t know the meaning until a Spanish stewardess told us on our way to a gig. Then we liked it even more

PRT: For people who haven’t heard you guys yet… if El Caco was the lovechild of two other bands, which acts would’ve had sex and which position were you conceived in?
El Caco: Probably Led Z and Motorhead…standing under water near Niagra Falls

PRT: You started out as a stoner band a little over ten years ago but you have evolved quite a bit since then. Was that something that just happened over the years or was it more of a conscious decision to veer off in another direction?
El Caco: I think we just wanted to evolve through our records so we would not make the same record over and over again. It was surely a calculated decision to work with Daniel Bergstrand on the second record to do something else. He had produced Meshuggah so that was also a reason. What happened was that we could not stop working with him so he has been a part of every record since. But, it´s not a change to shake off stoner it is a way of trying new things to make music more interesting to play

PRT: El Caco is a Norwegian band. Do you feel it’s harder to get noticed compared to being a band from the UK?
El Caco: I think, as long as your record is good enough you will be noticed even if you are from Norway. But it might be more difficult since we are not a Black Metal band. Through the history England has been known for protecting their music scene but nowadays internet has mostly wiped out the borders

PRT: Your new album is called “Love, Hate & Diagrams”. What do diagrams have to do exactly with love and hate?
El Caco: It has do to with rules and keeping every day on schedule to make things work.

PRT: I love how you incorporate influences such as Alice In Chains and Tool into your songs but still end up having a sound of your own. Is that something you’re very careful about?
El Caco: No, not really. We have a lot of different influences, including the two above, and we´re not thinking about which bands it might be similar to. We have mostly been working out our sound to make it sound good live, and that has helped us getting our own fingerprint independent of how the songs are made.

PRT: What’s up next for El Caco? Lots of touring?
El Caco: Yes, we start here in Norway and then it´s Europe in the fall. We´ll play some summer festivals as well.

PRT: You’ve already been around for quite some years… are there any things you would still like to achieve with your band other than – obviously - world domination?
El Caco: Haha, no just world domination

PRT: Any last words for our readers?
El Caco: Yes, check the record out and when you can´t wait to hear it live tell your local promotor to book us

You Me At Six – Sinners Never Sleep

You Me At Six is back with a new album and while they claim to have matured, I’m still hearing mostly the same thing on “Sinners Never Sleep”. If you are looking for a UK counterpart of acts like All Time Low and Panic At The Disco, then You Me At Six will do just fine. They’re doing nothing wrong and it all sounds like it’s aimed for the big leagues thanks to the GGGarth Richardson production job, but the songs just don’t stick.

One thing they don’t lack is good intentions. But it’s all so damn formulaic, right down to the obligatory ballads and the cliché-riddled lyrics about girls! If you’re thinking you do need another cutesy album in your collection, then by all means… pick up a copy of “Sinners Never Sleep”. But to me it’s like the “Bite My Tongue” documentary that comes with the album… it tells the story of the band and how hard it is to be on the Warped Tour. Again, nicely done but I’ve heard the stories a hundred times before.
Score: 6 out of 10

Deadmau5 – Meowingtons Hax 2k11 Toronto DVD

Deadmau5 has to be one of the biggest names in electronic music these days. It’s hard to look past the guy and not just because of the big mouse head he’s sporting during his shows. Hell, even us here at have heard of him!

2011 was an extremely busy year for Deadmau5 with the release of a new album, co-headlining Lollapalooza with the Foo Fighters, 3 Grammy nominations and the Meowingtons Hax tour which brought him all over the world. It all culminated in this DVD, a registration of his gig at the Rogers Centre in hometown Toronto. Check it out to see what the buzz is all about!

I myself was kinda hesitant at first because I didn’t think it would be very interesting watching a DJ spin some tunes for an hour and a half, but the amazing track selection consisting of the man’s biggest hits along with a couple of unreleased tracks coupled to mind-blowing visuals brought me round. Small side note though… why is there no CD version included?
Score: 8 out of 10

The Me In You – Forgotten Clothes

The Me In You is a new Belgian band that you are probably going to hear a lot about in the coming months. You’ll hear about them quietly though, because they excel at writing gentle guitarpop songs that have a way of slowly sinking in. You might already know the band’s first single (“Girl In Armour”), a warm song with a warm voice that gently wraps itself around you and leaves you with yes, you guessed it… a warm feeling.

The songs on “Forgotten Clothes” have a timeless quality about them, like one of those old pictures that make you wish you were born in a different decade. Carefully strummed guitars or a delicately played piano line and a voice that takes its time to express what it wants to say, wrapped in nice melodic hooks… Nick Drake is never that far away. But neither are contemporary Belgian acts such as Isbelss and Marble Sounds.

Just have a listen to “Broken Holiday”, “Low Battery” or the beautiful “Shark Song” and become a fan.
Score: 8 out of 10

Air – Le Voyage Dans La Lune

“Le Voyage Dans La Lune” is not only the title of Air’s new album but also that of Georges Méliès’ classic from 1902. Coincidence? Nope. There was a colorized version of the film which everybody thought lost until a copy was found in 1993. After having been meticulously restored, the film was shown at the Cannes film festival last year and to celebrate the whole thing, the dudes from Air were asked to write a new score for the occasion.

Air isn’t exactly new to soundtracks. They previously contributed a song to “Lost In Translation” and went all the way for “The Virgin Suicides”, both of them dreamy films that suited their music perfectly. So I was kinda curious to hear what they’d come up with for a 110-year-old sci-fi classic.

Well, during its best moments the new soundtrack is vintage Air and a real treat to listen to. Check out “Lava” with its melancholic piano or the collaboration between the French elektropoppers and Beach House’s “Seven Stars” and fall in love with Air all over again.

A couple of times though they drift off to the level of elevator music… “Sonic Armada” is a fine example of the latter. It’s a shame. It never becomes truly dull or boring but sometimes this album just seems to trickle along for the sake of it. The original film only lasts 15 minutes and I’m thinking they’d have been better off trimming the soundtrack down to the same length, which would’ve made it irresistibly charming.
Score : 7 out of 10

Professor Green – At Your Inconvenience

Professor Green (or the UK’s version of Eminem as I like to call him) is back with the follow-up to “Alive Till I’m Dead”. This one is called “At Your Inconvenience” and on it you will find everything that you could possibly expect to find on a modern hiphop album. Let’s go over the list…

If you’re a rapper you need some tunes that’ll do well in the clubs. Now that dubstep is big, it means you need to have a dubstep/drum n bass song. Check! Got that shit covered with songs like “Trouble” and “How Many Moons”! A little bit of trance with some breakbeat rhythms underneath don’t exactly hurt things either and so that’s where a song like “Remedy” comes in. But you also need your piano ballads with preferably a girl handling vocals in the chorus… check first single “Read All About It” to hear what that sounds like. Or “Astronaut”. Of course, no hiphop album is complete without its share of clunkers… “Spinning Out” is where the Professor manages to completely rape The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” and it truly is toe-curlingly bad.

Like I mentioned before, the similarities with Eminem are abundant… yes, they are both white but they also spit out their raps in a similar way, had a rough childhood and don’t mind talking about it in their songs. And just like Eminem, Professor Green is at his best when he digs a little deeper and gets personal in his lyrics. Overall “At Your Inconvenience” is a solid release that might not exactly be original but very well executed nonetheless.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

On Bodies interview

Whether it was Shai Hulud, As Friends Rust or Morning Again, Damien Moyal has been screaming his lungs out for as long as I've been a part of the hardcore scene. He's back now with a new band called On Bodies. They just released their first EP on Eulogy Recordings... it's called "Planet Hospice" and you should own it! Read on to see what Damien had to tell us.

PRT: I read in an interview from a couple of years ago that you were completely done with hardcore, which I guess is where the Damien Done project came from. What made you want to start a new band and get As Friends Rust back together again?

Damien: After quitting As Friends Rust I was ‘done’ with hardcore – but only in the sense that I was burnt out, tired, and so sick of playing. I always knew that I’d be back. It’s in my blood, for better or worse. Damien Done did emerge from that - not because it wasn’t hardcore, but because it was nothing I’d have to play live. I really just wanted to hole-up in my house, write songs, and record them with zero obligation to hit the road or whatever.
To me, the ‘true’ As Friends Rust was the “Coffee Black” era line-up. True, we didn’t write very much material in comparison to the last line-up, but we were all heart. We were a fucking mess… The best of friends, the worst of enemies. We slaved to make shit happen. We lost jobs, apartments, girlfriends, teeth and tons of money for the sake of touring. We toured sometimes just because the meals were guaranteed, which was more than we had going for us at home. So getting those guys back together was an easy decision.

PRT: When and how did ON BODIES come to life?
Damien: ON BODIES was kind of already happening when I jumped into the picture. Rich, whom I’d played in Culture with (on and off between 1993 and 1997), was demoing songs, playing every instrument himself, and trying to gather some folks to join and play it live. He sent me the stuff, and I loved it. Two weeks later I dropped some vocals onto the tracks, and that’s what we’re releasing… essentially a demo. It’s fun, and very easy and low-pressure. The recording really captures the rough spontaneity of the project.

PRT: You just dropped your first release called “Planet Hospice”, a short but intense EP. That’s not really a question, just a compliment.
Damien: Yes, we did. And thank you.

PRT: You’ve already been a part of quite a number of influential hardcore bands. Do you feel that when you start a new project, it comes with certain expectations from people? And do you give that any thought at all?
Damien: I do feel that there are inevitably going to be expectations, comparisons and excessive amounts of snobby scrutiny. I do not give a fuck. Here’s what I know: I’m fucking old, and I’ve treated myself like shit. I’ve abused my body and absolutely destroyed my throat. Why? For hardcore.
It’s about sincerity and questioning. It’s about being confused, not knowing a fucking thing in this world, and trying to get some answers... even if it doesn’t feel like there are any. I will be yelling until I have no voice left, which may be coming sooner than I think.

PRT: Today a lot of hardcore seems to be aggressive just for the sake of sounding aggressive rather than spreading a positive message in a pissed off way. Do you agree with that and how do you propose we set the record straight?
Damien: I do agree that so much of today’s hardcore is very fabricated and stylized. It’s a whole lot of style-chasing and emulating. It’s long, profound band names with scratchy, drippy logos. There’s not whole lot of substance, and it’s very… packaged.
Here’s how ON BODIES promotes positivity: There is no meaning, no greater purpose. Life is fucked up. People can be awful. There is no god, and the future does not look promising... But still we persevere. Why?
Because it shouldn’t mean anything profound in order to be worthwhile. Because - even in the absence of eternal consequence - we still govern ourselves and we love and we give to those around us. To me, this goodness that is unsolicited and not born of fear of eternal damnation is the truest, most pure positivity. I’d encourage everyone to embrace the pointlessness of their own mortality, and then to applaud themselves for being good people in spite of it.

PRT: You’ve been venting your frustrations through music for quite some time… does it ever feel like preaching to the converted? And if so… what keeps you going?
Damien: If the songs were about straightedge, veganism, being stabbed in the back, fucking shit up, beating motherfuckers down or whatever… yeah, any of those ‘hot’ hardcore topics would make for some tired, redundant, overkilled lyrical content, and would certainly feel like preaching to the choir. But I’d like to think that, at least with As Friends Rust and now ON BODIES, my stories and perspectives (finally, hopefully) elevated to some less traditional, less exhausted subjects.

PRT: “Planet Hospice” comes with a couple of great one-liners. Asking a guy who has written a song like “Ass-Crack Is The New Cleavage” if there is room for humor in hardcore seems a bit superfluous but at the same time you renamed Rubbers To Damien Done because you felt it would be too goofy. Where do you think the line is between having fun and having to worry about not being taken seriously? Wow, that was a long question! Next one will be shorter…
Damien: I think the line, if it exists at all, is constantly moving. For me, the test is whether or not I think I’ll regret something (not be amused by it) in a year or five. I write a lot of silly shit. Some of my lyrics (AFR’s “Coffee Black” or “Temporary Living” for example) are fucking laughable on paper. Silly, and somewhat stupid. But will I hate them or be embarrassed by them in a few years? Nope. Would I have grown to regret keeping the name ‘Rubbers’ for a band? Probably.

PRT: Is “Planet Hospice” a one-time thing or will there be a sequel?
Damien: We’re already writing new songs for another EP, tentatively titled “Megachurch”. We’ve been tossing around a couple of offers to do split EPs with some other bands, as well. I think we’re sticking to EPs. Fuck a full-length. There’s no point.

PRT: Any touring plans with ON BODIES?
Damien: Not yet.

PRT: Seems like 2012 is gearing up to be a busy year for you with not only ON BODIES taking up your time, but also the Culture discography and a new As Friends Rust album as well. Can you tell me a bit more about those two releases… how are they shaping up?
Damien: The Culture discography was sort of put on hold for a while Rich and I focused on ON BODIES. We’re starting to figure it all out again now, but are not set on any particular release date.
As for As Friends Rust… we’re a weird animal. We move like cheetahs at times, and slugs at other times. We’ve made huge progress and have a stash of new songs, but no next steps lined up. We’ll make it happen, but it’ll happen when it happens.

PRT: You recently posted all of the Damien Done songs on your Bandcamp page. That was like “Chinese Democracy” all over again… how come those songs never got a proper release?
Damien: Edward Goodlife. I love him, but the answer is Edward Goodlife.

PRT: Why did Damien Moyal cross the road?
Damien: That’s just where he parked.

PRT: Any last words for our readers?
Damien: Love your people, they’re the only ones you’ve got. It’s a long short life, and soon we all will rot.

Last Witness – Mourning After

Last Witness is a London-based hardcore act that originally got together in 2006 before disbanding two years later, only to then reunite in 2010 and release a new album in 2012. This monster is called “Mourning After” and on it these guys don’t waste any time on subtleties…”Mourning After” is eight tracks of extremely pissed off, no holds barred metallic hardcore that goes for the jugular and doesn’t let go. Sure, it’s one-dimensional and bleak as fuck but I can’t help loving it. It’s the kind of album that should come with a warning to hide your children!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Feist – Metals

After being embraced by hipsters because of her past with Broken Social Scene, after having seduced a lot of youngsters into buying an Ipod Nano by letting Apple use “1234” in a commercial and after whipping kids into a frenzy by performing the same song on Sesame Street, Feist has become something of a household name after the release of “The Reminder”.

With success comes pressure though and maybe that’s why Leslie Feist secluded herself in Big Sur, the place where Kerouac wrote a book and lost his mind. Four years it took her to release the follow-up to her breakthrough album, but “Metals” was well worth the wait.

It turned out to be a soft, mellow album except for the occasional outburst (“A Commotion”, “Undiscovered First”). Most of the songs however take a little longer to sink in but ultimately do succeed in getting under your skin. “Graveyard” is one of those songs that slowly blossoms into something beautiful. It’s all very bluesy, organic and real… little flaws have simply been left in the mix by producers Mocky, Gonzales and Valgeir Sigurðsson and that’s how come you hear a bar stool creaking at the beginning of “Bittersweet Melodies”. It all contributes to a more authentic, honest sound and while you’d be hard-pressed to find any real highlights (or points of light for that matter), “Metals” is an album that you need to live with for a while before it shows its true colours.
Score: 8 out of 10

Will Haven – Voir Dire

Will the real Will Haven please stand up? While the future of this California-based outfit might not have looked so bright after the departure of vocalist Grady Avenell and the release of “The Hierophant” with Jeff Jaworski on vocals, these guys aren’t dead and buried just yet. Jaworski was thanked for services rendered and sent on his way before they brought Avenell back into the fold. The result is a new album that not only comes with a fancy French title, but also with the band’s trademark sound intact!

“Voir Dire” starts off gentle enough with some synth sounds easing us in before unleashing a serious blast of noise to support Avenell’s tortured vocals. Will Haven has always been a band that likes to fool around with dynamics as is shown once again on “Urban Agoge”, a track that constantly shifts between creepy atmospheric sounds and überheavy riffs. Plus it comes with a sample in Dutch which I thought was funny.

They maintain this level of intensity throughout the rest of the album and with songs like “Midas Secret” and “Lives Left To Wither”, I think it’s fair to say that this is a real return to form for Will Haven. The fellow Sacramento natives that make up Deftones better be ready for some serious competition!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Anti-Flag – The General Strike

Don’t expect to find any surprises on Anti-Flag’s new album. “The General Strike” is just more of the same kind of punkrock that these guys have been cranking out for years now. Is that a good thing? Not really.

Opener “Controlled Opposition” is a short rager before “The Neoliberal Anthem” kicks in and sees Anti-Flag falling back on formulaic songwriting. It’s the kind of up-tempo punkrock with a singalong chorus and politically correct sloganeering that they’ve been cranking out for years now. It’s hard to call it crap but I can hardly stifle a yawn. Let alone that it will inspire me to spearhead a revolution.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any good songs on “The General Strike”. “1915” for example is a semi-successful attempt at writing something Hot Water Music-esque and “Broken Bones” is a pretty solid song. Other than that, Anti-Flag’s 8th album sounds uninspired, forced and tired.
Score: 4 out of 10

The Hickey Underworld – I’m Under The House, I’m Dying

While these guys do seem rather fond of the word ‘under’, you’d be hard-pressed to call them an underdog. Ever since winning Humo’s Rock Rally in 2006 and releasing their debut album, it’s not easy to find someone who hasn’t heard of The Hickey Underworld. Because they’re loud, obviously. But also because they know how to write songs that have the sexy cool of Queens Of The Stone Age, the experimental urges of a band like Tool yet still show their hardcore roots. It sounds like a weird concoction on paper, especially if you throw some psychedelic spasms as well but The Hickey Underworld pull it off on “I’m Under The House, I’m Dying”.

It’s never quite clear if vocalist Younes Faltakh is pissed off or just trying to seduce a girl when he’s screaming his lungs out over the battle that is taking place behind him between guitarist Jonas Govaerts and the rhythm section. But seriously, who cares? I just like good, loud music and there’s plenty of that to be found on “I’m Under The House, I’m Dying” under the form of “Whistling” (without actual whistling), “Cold Embrace” (no whistling either, but it does come with a flute) or “Pure Hearts In Mud”, which starts all mellow and shit before the Underworlders revert to their old ways with more screaming and more loud guitars.

Let’s just hope this is the album that will get them out of Belgium so that our ears will finally stop bleeding.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Yukon Blonde interview

Originally known as Alphababy, Yukon Blonde are starting to get a healthy buzz around their self-titled debut album. Comparisons to a band like Fleet Foxes are not that far-fetched and their recent European tour probably didn’t hurt things either. Here’s what bassist John Jeffrey had to tell us.

PRT: Is it true that blondes have more fun?
John: Yes

PRT: You were previously known as Alphababy. When did you ever think that was a good band name? 
John: Approximately up until two and a half years ago apparently

PRT: For people who haven’t heard you guys yet… if Yukon Blonde was the lovechild of two other bands, which acts would’ve had sex and which position were you conceived in?
John: The buzzcocks made love to the traveling wilburys... It was anal

PRT: You draw a lot of influences from the past but somehow manage to make it all sound fresh and modern. Do your songs come out that way naturally?
John: I think so.. We don't go for a throw back sound if that's what you mean but the songs we end up finishing seem to receive the said comparisons..

PRT: How do you guys go about creating those amazing harmonies?
John: Trial and error. It's a process of elimination really

PRT: You have a new album coming out called “Tiger Talk”… how did you come up with that title?
John: Jeff had a side project called "fucking tigers".. most of the songs were never intended for Yukon blonde but once the record started coming together almost all the tunes we worked out were originally from that project. I don't know where tiger talk came from exactly but we knew we wanted some kind of tiger reference in the title

PRT: Your debut was recorded live-to-tape, this one comes with synthesizers. Was this approach a decision you had to think about for a long time or was it more of a ‘fuck it, let’s do this’ kind of a thing?
John: A little bit of both I guess.. We wanted a crisper sounding recording and tracking individually helped get that.. Also let us be more conscious of our tones and just performance in general

PRT: There are a lot of good US bands out there but there are even more bands who just copy from one another. When I think of the Canadian bands I know however, they always seem to come with a twist or an edge. What is it they put in the water over there?
John: That's a tough question to answer.. I think there's great bands from everywhere obviously.. Canada is lucky enough to have an arts friendly government so a lot of bands get chances to do things they wouldn't without that support.

PRT: Your music has been featured on the TV show “Revenge” and there was a reference to the band in “How I Met Your Mother”… how important are these kind of things for a band these days?
John: They are helpful or sure. That h.i.m.y.m shout out came as a total surprise to us.. Apparently the actor is actually from Vancouver so we owe her a thank you.

PRT: You’ve played at SXSW in 2010 and you’re playing there again this year … does that kind of show open a lot of new doors?
John: Any help in this age of disposable music is great

PRT: You’re coming over to Europe in a couple of days. What should people expect from a Yukon Blonde show?
John: Hopefully to have fun, laugh, cry you never know what to expect.. Youll have to come and find out

PRT: Why did Yukon Blonde cross the road?
John: We didn't.. Yet

PRT: You have ten seconds to write your last words for our readers. Go!
John: Go to shows. Buy music.

Hit The Lights – Invicta

Hit The Lights is no longer the bouncy pop-punk band they were when they dropped “Skip School, Start Fights” four years ago. That much becomes clear as soon as opener “Invincible” kicks in with an intro that seems to be written with arenas in mind. It’s the sound of a band that still writes poppy tunes yet wants to be taken seriously.

Produced by Machine (Four Year Strong, Armor For Sleep, Cobra Starship) and Mike Sapone (Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, Crime in Stereo), “Invicta” is an album that’s more mature than anything they’ve ever done before. Sure, the lyrical content still deals with finding out who you are, failed relationships and a whole mess of other pop-punk clichés that kids can sing along to in their bedrooms because well, parents just don’t understand. But the lyrics are wrapped up in songs that burst out of the speakers and that sound huge. If you let them these guys will hit you over the head with tons of oooohs and aaaahs that seem to be present and accounted for in every single epic anthem alongside dramatic-sounding drums, big choruses and some nice synth sounds. Check out first single “Gravity” and you’ll get a good idea of what the rest of “Invicta” sounds like.
Score: 8 out of 10

The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past

I was already a fan of The Menzingers as soon as I had heard “A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology”. I became even more of a fan when they released full-length number two (“Chamberlain Waits”) and I was fully converted into Menzingerism when I saw them live at The Fest 9. These guys are what punkrock is all about for me… they write honest lyrics that aren’t corny, have loud guitars and tie it all together nicely with some great hooks, gritty vocals and sweat-drenched enthousiasm. That is once again no different on “On The Impossible Past”.

The title of album opener “Good Things” is not only a great track but also serves as a promise of what’s next. One of the best things about The Menzingers are the vocals which come courtesy of guitarists Tom May and Greg Barnett. They take the lead in turns, occasionally blending together nicely and adding yet another layer of awesomeness. Not that they need it with excellent songs such as “Burn After Writing”, closer “Freedom Bridge” or “Gates”, the band’s most mature song to date.

“On The Impossible Past” is no doubt the album that is gonna get The Menzingers all the attention they deserve and I’m seriously looking forward to seeing them tear it up at this year’s Groezrock!
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Gallows – Death Is Birth EP

Gallows is back and even though their return will only take up eight minutes of your time, it’s a very welcome return. For those of you wondering if Gallows is still the same kick-ass band it was before vocalist Frank Carter left the band, I can assure they are still a force to be reckoned with. Just have a listen to opener “Mondo Chaos” and you’ll notice right away that former Alexisonfire guitarist Wade MacNeil has no problem filling Carter’s shoes.

And the music? Well, these guys are still pissed off at pretty much everything and the production job by The Bronx’ Joby J. Ford only helps highlight the unadulterated hate that seeps from every single song.

Pretty much my only qualm with “Death Is Birth” is that it’s too short.
Score: 8 out of 10

Tribes – We Were Children EP

The Kooks. Kaiser Chiefs. The Libertines. Oasis. Pigeon Detectives. Do I need to go on? Yup, Tribes is another UK band that is going to be the best band in the world and that plays that oh so typical Uk rock we’ve heard over and over and over and that – to be completely honest – got tiring oh say, ten years ago?

This EP is just four songs long and and by the second song it had already worn out its welcome. And that was even before I had to sit through two acoustic songs. These guys may have a lot of swagger and bravado. They are however severely lacking in the ‘good songs’ department.
Score: 4 out of 10

The Naked Heroes – Demon The Whiskey Down

Soul redeemin’ rock ‘n’ roll is what they call it and that’s exactly what you get on The Naked Heroes’ “Demon The Whiskey Down”. If you think The Black Keys have sold out and you need something a little rawer to get you through the morning, then make sure to check out this duo. With a mix of Led Zeppelin’s hard rock, noisy blues sounds and a fist full of soul, they keep on rocking throughout all ten songs and don’t disappoint for a second.

The Naked Heroes are George Michael Jackson and Merica Lee and despite their terrible taste in names and artwork, “Demon The Whiskey Down” is excellent air guitar material!
Score: 7 out of 10


El Caco – Hatred, Love & Diagrams

- by Thomas

El Caco is (despite what its name might suggest) a Norwegian band that started out as a stoner act back in 2001. They have diversified their sound since and while there are still some stoner influences lingering around, these days you’re better off lumping them in the alternative rock/post-grunge scene where they blend right in.

On “Hatred, Love & Diagrams” they do their thing quite convincingly with some lines they borrowed from Tool (opener “After I’m Gone”) and Alice In Chains (“Sixty To Zero”). Despite some obvious points of reference, they do have a sound of their own and it’s one I like. This is not in the least thanks to the brooding atmosphere that haunts “Hatred, Love & Diagrams” but equally thanks to vocalist Osa’s standout vocals.

I had never heard of El Caco before and I imagine a lot of you out there haven’t either, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s about to change with the release of this new album.
Score: 8 out of 10

Templeton Pek – Slow Down For Nothing EP

- by Thomas

Apparently this UK-based trio previously dropped two full-lengths which I completely missed. They’re back now with a new 5-song EP they recorded with producer Greg Haver (Bullet For My Valentine, Manic Street Preachers,…).

It all sounds pretty good… straight-up punkrock akin to Sum 41 and Rise Against. It has everything these songs should have and even comes with praise from Bruce Dickinson himself. Check out “Slow Down For Nothing” if you’re up for some solid yet unsurprising tunes! Naming yourself after a character from the A-Team is kinda lame though.
Score: 7 out of 10

On Bodies – Planet Hospice

- by Thomas

This is just ridiculous! On Bodies consists of Rich Thurston (Culture, Terror, Blood Has Been Shed), Damien Moyal (As Friends Rust, Culture, Morning Again, Shai Hulud), Richard Walbert (Destro, Where Fear And Weapons Meet, Until The End), Julio Martin (Destro, Glasseater) and Chad Kishick (Dead Weight, Know The Score). That’s an awful lot of hardcore history in one band.

On their debut EP these guys race through nine songs, the longest of which barely reaches the two-minute mark. Aggressive, urgent and mosh-inducing, this is premium hardcore that is akin to bands such as Mouthpiece or Battery. Check out “Love Like That” and start redecorating that living room of yours!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Safety Fire – Grind The Ocean

- by Thomas

Shit, a progressive metalcore band? Mathcore from the UK? What am I gonna eat tonight? Do I really want to hear this? After all I’m not the mathy, progressive kinda guy. I like my music focused, short and to the point. I need to get my laundry sorted out! These were some of the thoughts that went through my head while reading The Safety Fire’s bio sheet.

I have to hand it to these guys though… on “Grind The Ocean” they show off their technicality with tons of rhythm changes and odd twists and turns, yet they never forget to inject their material with just the right amount of catchiness and more atmospheric parts. This way of working allows them to switch from a nice melody with clean vocals to pure fucking shredding in a matter of seconds. And they pull it off without allowing things to go to shit.

While it is a lot to take in all at once that can get tiring after a while due to the sheer amount of different things going on, “Grind The Ocean” is an impressive debut full-length by a new band that fans of everyone from Dillinger Escape Plan down to Protest The Hero and Fair To Midland should check out.
Score: 7 out of 10

Christian Mistress – Possession

- by Thomas

Listening to “Possession” is like being caught in a time warp. It is obvious right from the start that Christian Mistress have a thing with eighties metal. Opener “Over & Over” is a fast one that comes with an early Metallica vibe. Plus it immediately shows off Christine Davis’ pipes. The same can be said for “Pentagram and Crucifix” which comes with a nice solo towards the end. One thing that draws attention is the production, which is very spartan and stands in stark contrast to most albums that are being released today where everything is plastered shut with noise. I have to say… it took some getting used to.

On the follow-up to 2010’s “Agony & Opium” EP, Christian Mistress prove they can keep things interesting throughout an entire full-length by switching faster tracks with slower ones like the title track which is built around a doomy riff or “There Is Nowhere” which starts off as a power ballad.

I’m not sure if they’ll revive the whole NWOBHM sound and inspire a slew of other bands to do the same thing but by going back to an older sound, this band does end up sounding surprisingly fresh.
Score: 6.5 out of 10


Wild Flag – S/T

- by Thomas

While the indie scene nowadays seems to be reserved for the most part for either men with beards and a 70s folk fixation or electronica nerds who record a whole album without ever leaving their bedroom, there is still some room left for loud yet playful guitars.

Take Wild Flag for example. Consisting of two thirds of the legendary Sleater Kinney (Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss), former Helium vocalist/guitarist Mary Timony and The Minders’ Rebecca Cole on keys. Yes, in 2012 it’s apparently up to the ladies to bring the rock. And if the result is an unpretentious yet highly entertaining album like this self-titled release, I’d like to see more ladies shake their ass onstage. Actually, I would still like to see that even if the music is not as good.

Opener “Romance” is a fun song and a great example of what’s to come… it’s cool, jangly, sexy and catchy. Plus it comes with a nice sixties shimmy shake part that will no doubt trigger the abovementioned ass-shaking. Further down the road they’ve got the pop angle covered (“Future Crimes”), go psychedelic on our asses (“Glass Tambourine”) or step on the gas (the appropriately titled “Boom”).

While you’d be hard-pressed to find anything innovative on Wild Flag’s album, it’s a solid rock album nonetheless. Kudos!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Good Luck – Without Hesitation

- by Thomas

For five years now the overtly positive outfit known as Good Luck has been cranking out indie-pop that is as cute as it is sweet. That’s once again no different on “Without Hesitation”, their latest offering.

Guitarist Matt Tobey and bassist Ginger Alford share vocal duties and between the two of them they are responsible for most of the cheerful abundance. Like a slightly louder Mates Of State covering the Weakerthans, they hopscotch through eleven songs while obviously enjoying themselves most of all with “The Story Rewritten” as my personal favorite.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Dear Superstar – Damned Religion

- by Thomas

“Damned Religion” is the name of Dear Superstar’s new album. These UK natives manage to mix up glammy hardrock with emo and tip it all off with a nu metal sheen. That’s three musical genres I don’t like rolled into one… guess what? I don’t like it one bit.

I imagine this is what you would hear if Funeral For A Friend and Disturbed went in the studio together to record some Mötley Crüe leftovers. Commercial appeal? Sure. But it’s pretty much polished crap that stands in stark contrast to the promise that the band name holds. You’re better off listening to Papa Roach’s “Paramour Sessions” instead!
Score: 3 out of 10
Blast Records

Matt Pryor – May Day

- by Thomas

Matt Pryor self-released “May Day” with the help of Kickstarter, a site where people can pledge money to a certain project. When enough funds are raised, the project gets a go. If not, well… you’re shit out of luck and you’ll have to figure out another way to get your Russian bride into the country.

Luckily Matt Prior got to make his album because it’s definitely worth being heard. Next to his work with the Get Up Kids, the New Amsterdams, the Terrible Twos, Pryor keeps on cranking out great tuneage. The difference with his other work is that the songs on “May Day” are more subdued and dreamy with Pryor sticking with an acoustic guitar or a banjo instead of his usual distorted guitar.

While some of the songs on here are little more than Pryor’s voice along with the abovementioned guitar/banjo (opener “Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down”, “”), there are several tracks that come with somewhat richer arrangements that make them sound warm, rich and intimate all at once. The organ in “Like A Professional” is subtle but it adds just that little extra to make it even more appealing and the same goes for the piano and harmonica combo in “Your New Favorite”.

My personal new favorite, you ask me? Well, that would have to be “Polish The Broken Glass”, by far the best song on what is already an excellent album which proves that Pryor doesn’t need loud guitars to make himself stand out as one of today’s songwriters you need to hear.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
Nightshoes Syndicate

Driven Fear – Contender

- by Thomas

Just like Affiance, Australia’s Driven Fear start their album with the “I’m mad as hell” speech from the movie Network before unleashing some excellent hardcore tuneage. On “Contender” – the band’s first full-length – they keep things interesting throughout the entire duration by messing around with different rhythms, heavy yet melodic riffage and raw vocals that are often supported by a slew of gang vocals.

They’ve got a whole lot of energy going on and bring back memories of bands like Comeback Kid and Raised Fist whereas more moody tracks like “The Hunter” take us deep into Defeater territory. To top it all off, things sound great yet still raw enough and they’ve got more passion than a young couple getting it on for the first time. If you want to hear an impressive hardcore debut, “Contender” is definitely what its title makes it out to be.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

The Story So Far – Under Soil And Dirt

- by Thomas

First there’s this cute litte intro and then… Wham! What was that? That was the opening track of The Story So Far’s latest release. Right away the drums are pounding, the guitars are shredding and then the vocals come in roaring as well. These guys don’t like taking their foot off the gas for a minute during their pop-punk attack and they’ll race you to the end of the album any day.

“Under Soil And Dirt” is filled with the kind of poppy punkrock songs I fell in love with back in the 90s and that has been making a seriously welcome comeback thanks to the likes of The Wonder Years and Fireworks. Seeing as this is only the band’s debut full-length and they’re all under the age of 20, I think this is definitely a band to keep an eye on.
Score: 7 out of 10

Nightlights – So It Goes

- by Thomas

“So It Goes” is like listening to a Latterman tribute. The guys that make up Nightlights obviously spent a lot of time with that band’s discography and that’s probably why they ended up with songs that come with the same kind of thumping bass lines, the funny song titles, the gruff vocals and the melodic yet potent riffage.

While they are not quite as impressive as say Iron Chic or Banner Pilot, these guys do a pretty good job nonetheless and if this is the kind of sound you’re into, you won’t be disappointed by Nightlights’ “So It Goes”.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Therapy? – A Brief Crack Of Light

- by Thomas

On lucky number thirteen, Ireland’s Therapy? are still doing what they do best… writing rock songs that are full of piss and vinegar and which are best served loud as fuck. Opener “Living In The Shadow Of The Terrible Thing” and “Stark Raving Sane” are great examples of this and it’s nice to see that these veterans still go at it with the same kind of enthousiasm they had back in the days of “Teethgrinder”.

There is a more experimental streak as well that runs through the album. Like the instrumental and upbeat “Marlow”, the unpredictable and very noisy “The Buzzing” or “Get Your Dead Hand Off My Shoulder”, which is the band’s interpretation of a dub song. It only adds more diversity to the album, always a good thing.

The best thing about “A Brief Crack Of Light” however is that Therapy? managed to maintain their trademark sound while throwing in some new elements at the same time, making it one of their best albums in their 20-year-long career. Kudos!
Score: 8 out of 10
Blast Records