Ursa Major: Old Bones

ursa major

    An up and coming melodic post-hardcore band, Ursa Major easily justifies the buzz around them with the release of their album Old Bones. Whilst a release which suggests there is still plenty of scope for the band to explore as they  fully find a distinct voice in the genre, the album is an enterprising and aggressive encounter which leaves a strong depth of satisfaction behind.

The Shepperton quintet with their imposing blend of metal and hardcore veined by skilfully sculpted melodic fire has earned strong reputation for their debut EP and live performances alongside the likes of Brotherhood Of The Lake, Golden Tanks, Our People Vs Yours, Terakai, I’ll Stay In Memphis, and Despite My Deepest Fear as well as at festivals such as Redfest. Their sound is flush with many vigorous flavours honed into an inciting and rampaging confrontation rife with compelling and incendiary rewards. Old Bones is the likely trigger to a wider awareness for the band and one suspects the first prominent step in their emergences as a force within the UK scene.

Out of the decent enough brief instrumental introduction Birth, a track which leads with craft and appetite into what is to follow, 601359_10151342907371234_1539527106_nBlack Lights instantly grabs potent attention and intrigue with crisp sinewy rhythms, a tight provocative groove, and the brawling coarse scowls of Elliott Fletcher. It is an impressive start with the rhythms of drummer Dan Mundy rigidly gripping the ear so the guitars of Richard Woods and Grant Marsh can unleash their sonic flames and ravenous riffs. It is the clean vocals of Fletcher though which elevate song and release in to something a little special from the rest of the similarly fuelled bands around, and alongside an open imagination and invention to the sound and songwriting, it makes for an impressive and thrilling introduction to the band.

The following ravage of passion The Two Hundred, is a captivation of melodic fire and carnal riffs. The bass of Phil Nicholls offers a resonance which prowls the senses within the again caustic embrace of the track and ill-tempered vocals. As the first song the clean vocals shine and the equal sharing of vocal extremes is certainly a highlight of song and album, their potency as vibrant as the earnest and intelligently crafted sounds. Lyrically songs are dark and demanding, intrusive companions to bring an intense union to the exhausting element of their sound and none more so than the excellent Dead Eyes. The track gnaws at the senses with grinding riffs and exhausting rhythms creating an instant submission before its power whilst rewarding endurance with rewards of again an exceptional mix of vocals and emotive heat. Primarily a metalcore gaited slice of sonic blistering, the song alone sets the band up as ones to watch very closely and within the release is the biggest highlight of many.

Through current single Fist Of The Fleet, Ursa Major scrape and burn the already in place wounds but then soothes them with immense vocal harmonies and elegant melodies. As evocative as it is harassingly brazen, the track is another powerful and thrilling bruise upon the passions to strengthen the already brewed respect and eagerness towards the band.

Though the album slips below its high standards with the arguably formula Anchored and Clipped Wings, two accomplished and pleasingly inventive and smartly-shaped songs which simply fail to spark the responses of previous songs or step far enough away from efforts by other bands, Old Bones ends on a high with In Death, a final brutal self-reflection dripping emotion and creative energy.

Old Bones is a rich and contagious release where vocals and musical imagination stands out. Ursa Major is on a certain rise and as one suspects they are only scratching the surface of their invention and ideas the future is exciting for them and us.



RingMaster 15/03/2013

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Black Shapes: In The Mourning Light

To listen to In The Mourning Light, the new EP from UK hardcore band Black Shapes is like being caught within an intense and violent storm. It is a rampage of furnace hot passion and unbridled aggression which leaves one gasping for breath and holding on to anything close by for strength. It is also one of the most rewarding and exhilarating releases from the genre, certainly in the British scene, for quite a while.

Formed in mid 2011, the London quartet took no time in gaining enthused attention with their self titled debut EP at the tail of last year, easily confirming the promise shown with shows alongside This Is Hell, Landscapes, and Brotherhood of the Lake, as well a successful performance at Hevy Fest 2012. Since that first release the band has also undergone a line-up change with new vocalist Gareth Evans (November Coming Fire) and bassist Mike Ager (Jairus) joining up with guitarist Jonathan Goldthorpe and Richard Wooding on drums. This new combination has added an extra snarl and depth to the band as the July released single/video Let Valhalla Burn first showed and this their new four track explosion confirms. Recorded in August with Steve Sears (Gallows, Spy Catcher, TRC), the EP chews up the senses and spits them out with relish and force, it is an intimidating and at times nasty slab of extreme punk, and wholly satisfying.

Beyond The Grey smashes into the ear first, its initial grinding riffs and sonic blistering bursting into an onslaught of concussive beats, rabid rhythms, and abrasive scathing sonics. Barbed hooks capture the imagination within the crushing attack and venomous intent whilst the gritty grooves just rip the passions from the heart into their own pockets. As much as it is borne of today there is plenty of old school punk essences to ignite the passions, the track a twisting feast of all that is the best of the genre. The vocals of Evans are as caustic as the lyrics; their presence leaving a sore but blissful wound, but it is the unpredictable and continually engaging invention which secures compliance to the excellent assault. As with all the songs, first engagement is all about fury and aural abuse but it is within the next few confrontations where the impressive structures and imagination reveals their mischievous glories.

Behind My Dead Eyes barges in next, its breath as combative and uncompromising as in the opener and equally destructive in intent. Within its muscular outrage the track shifts from furious and frantic energies through oppressive breakdowns and light sucking shadows, its prowling climax a consumptive devouring of emotions. It is not an easy union for the ear but openly rewarding and fulfilling, a provocative fire which succeeds in its mission to leaves provoking scars and thoughts.

Next up, Rose And Lace charges with anthemic and barracking energies, its unrelenting vitriolic blitz speared by group shouts, crippling rhythms from Wooding, and flesh wilting sonic corruption from Goldthorpe. It is a delicious violation, as invigorating as it is energy sapping, but on all songs and especially here the bass of Ager holds the key, his cantankerous and primal lines bringing that final additive to make great songs into special ones. As a whole Black Shapes feels complete, every aspect of the band pulling every ounce of adrenaline and invention out to create songs which yes abuse and debilitate its recipients but also inspire and ignite latent passions and pleasures.

Thunderous completes the wreckage causing release, the track another insatiable tempest of knee buckling rhythms and flaying riffs alongside insidious basslines and squalls of spiteful vocals. It is as immense and irresistible as what came before and just as turbulent.

Released as a 7” vinyl through Speedowax Records or as a pay your own price digital download via their own bandcamp (www.blackshapes.bandcamp.com ), In The Mourning Light is simply outstanding. With its release Black Shapes easily show UK hardcore has never been healthier or more gratifying.


RingMaster 31/10/2012

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Bury The Hatchet: It Was Never Enough EP

The bottom line to the new release from UK metalcore band Bury The Hatchet is frustration. The Chatham quintet has such promise whilst their new It Was Never Enough EP is a release which is so near to being something special but all one is left focused on is the abrasive negative effect of the vocals. Whether it is an accumulative effect of so many emerging bands simply screaming their lyrics so that this release is the straw that broke…etc it is hard to say but after continually listening to the EP we could not tell you lyrically what is going on or really care as to appreciate what is musically at times an impressive release listening was about blocking out that side of the songs. This is not meant as an attack on vocalist Ray Hughes but on the direction so many young new bands are going. For every dissenting voice there will be another basking in the vocal delivery of course but when it has the effect of nails down the blackboard maybe time for some invention?

Aside from that aspect though It Was Never Enough shows some excellent ideas and individual ability to inspire only promise for the band and especially in two songs show what a fine band Bury The Hatchet is, which obviously adds to the personal frustration. Formed in the closing weeks of 2012, the band has built a good name for themselves through sharing stages with bands such as Feed the Rhino, James Clever Quintet, Brotherhood of the Lake, TurboWolf, and Hildamay, and their debut EP For What It’s Worth. They are a name which most UK extreme metal fans are aware of which is a feat in itself for an independent band in a crowded market place. The new EP gives evidence to why with its at times imaginative creativity.

The release opens with the brief and wonderfully emotive instrumental title track. Lone piano within an orchestral breath it leads straight into the rampaging But We Still Keep Moving. Firm rhythms from Tom Davis lead the way whilst the guitars of Rich Norton and David Greenslade brew up a dusty loud of inciteful intrigue. Within a step the song erupts into a storming surge of ferocious riffs and pummelling beats before pulling back the trigger for the rasping clutches of Hughes to permeate the song. With a style to keep throat lozenges in business for decades he scores the sounds with acidic venom which at this point is not a problem, the song nicely spacing its varied aspects with intelligence and skill. Uncompromising and direct the song does not offer anything new to what they and others have before but it is more than palatable.

Protest comes next, a song with disguised progressive tendencies which unleashes a sprawling maelstrom of diverse ideas pulling away from its core but staying well within the frame work of the song to make an unpredictable and engrossing track. The bass of Casper Howes is a prowling presence which one would like to hear more from within the production but is always a formidable plus to the tracks and here he adds a great menacing depth to draw one away from the by now punishing vocals.

Next up 0411 continues the exploratory intent of the band and though it at times feels like its destination is not quite clear to the band it is an inspired and pleasing addition to the release and one of two songs with the closer, which leads one to almost expect the band to evolve into something special. It is more technical than the others and looks into new spheres for spicery which not only works but is welcome.

Broken Soul is easily the best song on It Was Never Enough and like its predecessor is unafraid to unravel sounds to twist them into new blistering invention, the sonic discordance which coats the melodic fires of the song irresistible and the bass pulses alongside the corrupting beats addictive. The track switches through technical metal essences, thrash flavoured surges, and progressive imagination within the fire of aggression to leave one eager for more from the band those not as enthused as one would wish with the continued vocal direction.

Bury The Hatchet are definitely a band to keep an eye on with the EP showing good promise, one just hopes they and many other bands reassess their thoughts on the vocals.


RingMaster 09/07/2012

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Envy The Fallen – Hoist The Colour EP

Whether you wish to call them hardcore, melodic hardcore, or metalcore, three of the descriptions they have been tagged with, the only thing you need to know is that UK Metalers Envy The Fallen are one mightily formidable outfit, a band who brings intensity, aggression and harsh melodies together and uses them like a belligerent and angry chef. The result an intimidating and explosive debut EP called Hoist The Colours, and a recipe for all metalers to feast upon.

We will be open from the start and say the EP does not offer anything groundbreaking or stunningly new but it does contain songs and music that thrills, exhilarates, and basically bludgeons one into submission to much greater satisfaction and pleasure than the majority of similar veined brutes over recent months. The EP is inventive and powerful, and even though the originality is confined within existing genre parameters it is impossible to really criticise what is a very impressive and more importantly enjoyable release.

Hoist The Colour begins its assault on March 19th with the quintet from Newquay ready to build on the acclaim already received through shared stages with the likes of Evergreen Terrace, Feed The Rhino, Brotherhood Of The Lake, and Lower Than Atlantis, and their appearance on a cover CD on an issue of Big Cheese Magazine. With a full UK tour about to kick off alongside the release it feels like now is the time of Envy The Fallen, something the EP alone should trigger if there is any justice.

Hoist The Colour opens with The Brave One, a track which enters on a slightly subdued and chained scorched melodic riff which draws closer to explode into a thunderous full on assault. Vocalist Anthony O’Reilly crawls all over the lyrics with a delivery that is venomous and spiteful whilst the heavy artillery riffs take pot shots at the ear with shotgun like effect. The drums of Jon Redd are staggering, an unrelenting but well structured bombardment which he repeats on every song within the release. The guitars of Quiche Smith and Ryan Drew plunder the senses with a mix of vindictive malice and inventive melodic craft, whilst the bass of James Killackey stalks the track with a brutish strength and if there is one complaint of the release it is that his play is often hidden, over powered by the sounds elsewhere.

The release is off to a great start but soon lifted higher by the title and best track on the EP. Hoist The Colour tramples through the ear and all over the body without a thought for mercy, though the punishment comes with a delicious groove which picks up the floored senses as often as they are knocked down by the immense power generated. The song is combative and refractory, the band as a whole coming together in stance and might that is impossible not to become part of as the track stomps all over the ear and beyond.

The great thing about Envy The Fallen is it is not entirely all about destructive intent, the band skilfully interweaving stirring melodic avenues into their smothering and violently wilful intensity. The likes of the brawling and equally rebellious I Will Prevail and the crippling This Is Not Goodbye, a song that takes one to their knees within seconds with its heavy bombardment of aural quarrelsome truculence, meshing both elements in to a keen and formidable event. As with most tracks though the band stay firmly on the side of combat rather than seduction through inviting cleaner persuasion though the closing song reveals the band can go that route Just as ably too. The Ending leaves one with provocative sounds and acute melodic play from the guitars to suggest more variety and ingenuity ahead from the band, the piano that graces the track in its latter part an emotive contrast to the distorted harshness beneath it.  The song is an excellent counter and follow-on to the tremendous Until Lambs Become Lions before it and another unreserved violation on the senses.

Hoist The Colour is a potent debut from what already is an impressive band, yes there needs to be more innovation from the band maybe but that as these the songs suggest will come. UK hardcore /metalcore has never been fresher and now Envy The Fallen have added their dynamic breath too.


RingMaster 16/03/2012

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In Place Of Hope – Self Titled EP

If of a sensitive disposition than stay clear of the new self titled EP from hardcore/metalcore band In Place Of Hope. Though it does not neglect the melodic and cleaner side of metal it first with no compulsion to be nice obliterates defences and stretches the ear to extremes. It does at times with an out stretched hand offer to pick one up again but only to allow it to knock ten bells out of its victim all over again. The release is a formidable trio of songs which whilst not turning over new rocks for the genre kicks them around the place with impressive skill.

Formed in 2010 down  in Southampton, the quartet of Matt Dennison (Vocals), Russ Barnes (Lead Guitar), Rob Arthur (Vocals/Guitar), Dave Sands (Bass), and Mike Hill (Drums) took an inspiration influenced by the likes of Parkway Drive, Bring Me the Horizon Alexisonfire, and Killswitch Engage and twisted it into their own aggressive and impressive sound. 2011 saw the band matching and upstaging the likes of Evita, Giants, Odessa, Despite My Deepest Fear, and Brotherhood of the Lake in gigs across the South of England, all the while accumulating strong respect and notice further afield. With the release of their EP it is hard to imagine they will not be taking larger and swifter steps up the metal ladder as more fall beneath its thunderous might.

Obviously not a band with an ounce of mercy or desire to take it easy on people within them, In Place of Hope attacks the senses like a tornado from the off with the brilliant Lifelines. The song instantly became a favourite for song of the year with the barrage of violent drums and monstrous riffs that leaves one shell shocked. Many songs do this but once the sinister infectious groove begins to wind itself around the heart, the satanic growls spray venom with every syllable and the clean vocals swarm eagerly all over the debris, the song rises to majestic and impervious to complaint. The drums stomp all over the senses with obvious delight whilst the guitars play with the damaged goods left and it is so satisfying. The song has everything to make it a permanent fixture in all metal hard hearts and sets the band alone ahead of the plethora of emerging metalcore bands.

After such an impressive start there had to be a drop in levels or even intensity. Maybe there is but it is hardly note worthy, the remaining explosions of Bridges and Dark Roads & White Knuckles more than capable of holding their own. The first opens with just clean vocals and guitar to bring a frown but within a few breaths the song erupts into more splintered intense riffs and captivating melodies. The mix of growls and clean vocals favour the latter more in contrast to the opener but the band brings them both together in a defined and seamless mix which many bands struggle to understand or do. The song as does the latter of the two shows the expansive sound and ability within the songwriting and vision of the band and though no song offers anything brand new to leave one awe struck you know it will come, that In Place Of Hope have all the armoury and creativity.

As Bridges closes with sparkling melodic guitars winding down, Dark Roads & White Knuckles muscles its way in with stirring riffs and commanding rhythms. The show is less brutal than the opener despite the bitterly harsh growls, well that is until the band cannot hold back any longer and unleash a thunderous assault bombarding the ear with heavy artillery that breaks knees ability to stand. Once out of their system the band resumes the original intent the song started with, again it is seamless and the switching back and forth exhilarating.

      Lifelines may lead the way and set the pace on the EP but overall it is an impressively solid and deeply satisfying release that ensures In Place of Hope have the attention of everyone.

RingMaster 06/03/2012

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