Onoma: All Things Change

When recently reviewing the excellent From Israhell With Love compilation, a release which highlighted the strength and diversity of metal bands coming out of Israel, one band stood out over what was an impressive line-up of bands and songs. The band was Onoma, a Tel Aviv based alternative metal quartet whose track Bug was an instant addiction with its vibrant and fresh sound, ideas, and energy. Their contribution ensured the need to hear more and the opportunity came when guitarist Asaf Keidan from the band approached The RR for a review of their album. Obviously being professional we deliberated and thought about the offer…for all the time it took to type yes please… and what emerged was an album which excited and thrilled like so few other releases have in recent months. All Things Change is outstanding, an album which took no time in entrenching itself in the imagination and heart.

Onoma, the Greek word for ‘Name’, were formed in 2007 by Keidan, vocalist Elad Koren, and drummer Saggi Chen. Early demo recordings during the first couple of years led to songs like My Drug, Twisted, and the aforementioned Bug, gaining strong attention and praise across the internet and web radio whilst the next two years saw not only an ever increasing interest and following as the band gigged across Israel, but also the addition of bassist Andrei Aframov (ex-Phantom Pain) to the permanent ranks. Last year the band ventured into the studio to begin the album alongside famed producer Sylvia Massy (Tool, System Of A Down, Skunk Anansie, Deftones) who mixed it and James Murphy (Death, Obituary) who handled the mastering, with the band itself doing the production work. What emerged is a release is quite stunning.

All Things Change is an album which incorporates a multitude of sub metal genres to conjure up distinct brews of alternative and nu-metal driven goodness. The band state their influences as bands like Alice In Chains, Korn, Deftones, and Meshuggah, all clear to hear at times, but their spicery does not stop there as at times the likes of American Head Charge, (Hed) P.E.,  Watcha, Marilyn Manson, and Scars On Broadway to name a few, shoot through thoughts as the tracks unleash their inventive craft.

The album starts with Lauds, a short track come intro, which heightens the anticipation of what is too come with its chilling ambient and slightly distressed breath. The release is soon into its stride with Dear God and its military welcoming beats and abrasive riffs. Within moments it settles into a tight heated groove and djent toned rhythmic badgering. The vocals of Koren pick and chew at the lyrics delivering them in a Jonathan Davis like style which is as punchy as the jabbing and combative sounds. Once the melodic whispers turn to shouts there is a Drowning Pool like aggression added to further ignite the senses, the track climaxing on a belligerent and compulsive swagger.

The outstanding start is easily matched by the following Cannot Go and Loser Friendly. The first stalks the ear with tempting riffs and intimidating rhythms, its prowl a disruptive pattern of challenging and deeply rewarding invention. The song stomps and musically curses the ear with an angry intensity and deliberate antagonistic air whilst soothing its wounds with melodic enterprise. The second of the two is a heavy and shadowed Deftones like gaited piece of emotive expression. It has its moments charging with incendiary bursts of energy but at its core is an enveloping provocative slab of passionate might which bruises as much as it exhilarates.

The brilliant Bug ensures there is no dip in excellence or power, though all songs ensure the same. It is one of the most additive songs heard in a long time and a track which only takes one listen to become a best friend. The track is a tempest of melodic and discord driven wonder which captivates and riles up the emotions with equal effect. It has the melodic grace of Absolace, the creative imagination of iBURN, and the mischievous invention of System Of A Down, all driven by the spinal corruption of Periphery. Immense is the only word for it, and as you may have guessed we quite like it.

With the magnificent Animal coming at the ear with the same venomous conjuration as Bug, and the great closing pair of Fight Myself and Nothing Right offering a final ferocity and towering mix of melodic intrusion and muscular violation, All Things Change is easily one of the best things heard this year. Earlier this year we declared nu and alternative metal had been revitalised with the ingenuity of the release from Irish band iBURN now Onoma have shown it is truly thriving and more imaginative than ever.

http://www.onomaband.com

Ringmaster 30/08/2012

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Dark Stares: Tell Your Friends EP

Dark Stares is one of those great bands which draw multiple comparisons to a wide array of bands but really do not sound like any of them. They may at times come up with a sound or riff which echoes another band but they are mere colourful strokes within a storm of individual creativity. The quartet from St Albans in the UK, has had the likes of The Killers, Muse, Manic Street Preachers and even The Mars Volta to name a few, offered as references in varying degrees to their music. To that you could just as easily add others like Faith No More and Green Day at certain moments of individual songs, but though still a band evolving their sound and distinctiveness, Dark Stares have a sound which has its own flavour.

Tell Your Friends is the debut EP from the band and what a stunner it is a release which unleashes rock n roll at its best, energetic, towering, and with a spine of powerful riffs alongside veins of irresistible grooves. Formed in 2011, the band consists of three brothers, Miles Kristian, Brett Harland and Taylor Howell (vocals and guitar, bass, and drums respectively) alongside guitarist Harry Collins. As their first year neared its end the band found themselves with high profiles gigs under their belt including supports slots for Enter Shikari and The Darkness. 2012 has seen the band go from strength to strength and with the release of Tell Your Friends on September 10th announce their full arrival in fine style.

Dark Stares open up with the stirring Whisky which immediately has feet and senses in league with its stomping rhythms and melodically guided riffs. Its energy is raw and slightly abrasive to ignite the fullest attention which the addictive grooves and heated hooks feed with relish. Not quite a storm, the track is a powerful stomp through the ear which with its multi faceted flavouring, lights multiple fires with. The guitar play is striking and fills the skies with delicious sonic sinders whilst the melodic craft around it comes from hard rock at its best.

It is an impressive start soon surpassed by the mighty Long Live The King. The song takes no time in giving suggestions as to why bands like Muse, Manics and Queens Of The Stone Age have been mentioned in the same breath as their sounds, its presence again a flurry of elements combined for an inferno of excellence. As all the songs show, Dark Stares gets the job done without over blown theatrics, the drums and bass unleashing instinctive hard and dangerous edges whilst the guitars and fine vocals explore and light up all their shadows. It is the perfect union for an outstanding and deeply satisfying result. On this song they simply leave other rock bands in their dust, the infectiousness and addition it offers taken to illegal levels.

Third track We Are The Kings Tonight wraps around the ear with a less intense eagerness though with equal strength and skill. It offers a mid pace drive which paves the way for sharp and inciteful play amidst melodic caresses which draw sighs, manly ones of course. The vocals of MK Howell are exceptional and across the whole release he shows he is a versatile and controlled power to match and ignite the music and songs, as they do his emotive delivery.

     Invaders ends the EP on another rampage of contagion, its grooves and riffs instantly your best friend and its heart a boisterous yet passionate embrace. Anthemic and with a mischievous swagger at times the song is an immense end to the release and completes one of those rare times where every song ends up as the favourite.

Dark Stares will be like their EP, immense. They still have much to discover within their creativity and music which with the strength of Tell Your Friends makes for one exciting thought.

http://www.darkstares.com/

RingMaster 30/08/2012

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Alaska Campus: When We Were Young EP

If indie pop has been feeling a little stale in recent months for you then checking out the new EP from UK band Alaska Campus is a must to rekindle the enthusiasm. The When We Were Young EP is an exciting and superbly crafted explosion of melodic might which equally caresses and warms the emotions or stirs them up with eager energy and enterprise across its five tracks.

Formed in 2011 by Ryan Potter (synth, rhythm guitar and lead vocals) and Daniel Dorney (synth, lead guitar and backing vocals) in college, Alaska Campus initially started out as a post-hardcore sounding project by the duo. Though the sound and band, with the addition of Liam O’Sullivan (drums, percussion and backing vocals) and Liam Fossey (bass, and backing vocals), has evolved to a more expansive and melodic proposition they have still retained an edge and abrasive tension within their music. August of the same year saw the release of their Keep Yourself Warm EP to strong acclaim. The Hertfordshire quartet now return with a release which elevates their sound and surely will their stature within the UK once it is released September 10th.

The band list their inspirations as bands like The Smiths, Death Cab For Cutie, and Bombay Bicycle Club, and as the tracks play these flavours are obvious to some extent though it is fair to say the band has a distinct spice of their own which leaves the strongest and brightest taste. The EP opens with You Me And The Sun, a song which enchants the ear immediately with its jangling porcelain guitar riffs and beckoning. Stepping back at first to let the emotive vocals of Potter approach the ear, the track is soon adding spots of rhythms and sonic lights to emphasise the passion within the words. With crashing crescendos and glorious vocal harmonies as it evolves the song becomes an irresistible anthemic lure, a rousing feast of energy and sound to get the heart pumping faster and pulse rate racing, not to mention to leave one breathless.

The following Roseanna opens with gentle caresses of guitar and vocals, similar to the opener in many ways but sounding distinctly different with its melodramatic atmosphere. Though it does not feel like it the song is building to another dynamic climax, the heated fire of passion unleashed a smouldering and senses singeing glory. The song ends by crying from its rooftops with soaring vocals and dramatic rhythms surrounded by an electrified energy and wired guitar invention. It is a fiery ending to a powerful track and the perfect lead into the best track on the release.

Mon Reve is aural addiction at its richest, a mesmeric and imaginative weave of enticing harmonies, sizzling guitar play, and stomping rhythms. At times it reminds of Lost Prophets, the band scorching the air with further impressive and energetic melodies. The quieter aside mid way initially stops one in full romp but is so well crafted and fluid going into and out that it only enhances an excellent song for the fullest pleasure.

The release is completed by The Story Of Alaska Pt. 1 and Control. The first has a slightly reticent entrance, its opening presence heartfelt yet haunting and speaking from the shadows of the song. Eventually it emerges into the light turning in to a stirring and slightly agitated pleasure, emotion dripping from every syllable and passion drenching every note. The closing Control is just a feisty little devil of a song, its contagion and energy irrepressible yet again dramatically powerful. It is a near perfect pop song, one to light up heavy hearts, shower any grey day with light, and to have one reaching beyond their dampened limits.

Alaska Campus is a band all should be aware of and with the release of When We Were Young more than likely will be. They are one of the bands destined to drive the future of indie music in the UK to greater pastures and heights, now is the time for all to climb on board with them.

https://www.facebook.com/AlaskaCampus

RingMaster 30/08/2012

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Fuck Hammer: Hammered To Fuck

As subtle as a house brick between the eyes and at times just as painful, Fuck Hammer is a quartet from Northern Ireland who twist their brand of death metal into a grind, crust, and sludge veined corruption. It takes no prisoners nor wants to make friends, but just consumes and blasts every atom, with venom and festering intensity.

Hammered To Fuck is the first EP from Fuckhammer and was originally self released as a limited quantity CDR. The release found a great response and reviews within the local scene and caught the attention of the young Northern Ireland death metal label, Grindscene Records who has now given it a professional re-release. Musically it is a pit of noise with flavours from the likes of Crowbar, Eyehategod, Iron Monkey, and Carcass. The production is not the best it could have been but offers a rawness which adds to the violating tempest which assaults from every angle whilst the sound, as well as the vocals, brings an abrasive consumption with no respite.

The opening Born Of The Ass immediately goes to work on the senses with a delicious greedy groove which winds and grinds its way deeper and deeper.  As the bile spewing serpentine vocals come in the riffs flare up before returning to that persistent destructive groove. The song in many ways is repetitive but it works great and to be honest when the track does venture slightly away from its sonic shaft one wants that irresistible groove back to rub the wounds it caused even more. The track, like the whole release, does not have any designs to restyle or invent its core sounds but just unleashes the intent to wring every essence from them for the best results.

The following Drone mixes things up with flurries of tempos, beats, and crunching riffs. The twists and turns all brought with the fullest intensity make for two minutes which do not reflect the title at all but still offer a thick sludge oppression to admire. The guitars and drums crush and dispose of any obstacles within the senses with undeniable strength and craft so for even in its brief assault the song is a thunderous enjoyable confrontation.

The remaining Hillbillies and Abortion Addict vary things again, the first with a stoner swagger to its death spawn vocals and conspiracy of insatiable grooves and thrash tinted riffage, whilst the second is a grindcore/death metal avalanche of towering riffs and abusive rhythms. Their hunger is different in intensity too with Hillbillies chewing on the senses with a southern greed and incestuous appetite whilst its successor gnaws and consumes with a rabid vehemence, the release again creating a varied violation to be endured and ultimately enjoyed.

Fuck Hammer is a band still in its informative years musically one feels and as such Hammered To Fuck is not drenched in any really distinct originality, its sounds heard elsewhere though dished up in a different and energized way. Vocally too some diversity would have been a good additive. The delivery and spiteful aggression works well for the most part but do diminish and distract from the effect of some aspects of sound like the tighter grooved parts without a complimentary variation.

For all that though the EP is an enjoyable release giving plenty of promise for the band and an anticipation of what will emerge when they are given access to a proper studio and production set up.

www.myspace.com/fuckkhammer

RingMaster 30/08/2012

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