Foreign Legion – Light At The End Of The Tunnel

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

    As shown by their new album Light At The End Of The Tunnel, Welsh punks Foreign Legion has never strayed too far away from their roots but continue to invigorate and push their core sound with a passion and energy which never becomes tiresome. The band’s latest riot bridges their old school punk/oi background with a modern punk ‘n’ roll confrontation resulting in twelve songs which make swift anthemic stabs with contagious endeavour aligned to antagonistic intent.

     Formed in 1984, Foreign Legion has built an attention grabbing presence which has endured and widened over the years. A trio of full-length releases continued to set the band apart from the pack, especially the acclaimed Mick Jones produced What Goes Around Comes Around of 2002, whilst split releases with Major Accident in 2000 and Sledgeback in 2010 amidst their own EPs and compilation gracing songs, have proved the band a potent encounter within the modern era of punk rock. On stage again the quartet has forged a formidable reputation, the band playing across over 15 countries and sharing stages with bands such as Cockney Rejects, Guitar Gangsters, Control, The Warriors, GBH, The Ruts, Stiff Little Fingers and many more. They are also the only Welsh band to play the legendary CBGB’s in New York which makes an additional potent mark on their career’s CV alongside their numerous festival appearances including the likes of Back On The Streets, Punk & Disorderly and the Rebellion Festival, where the band is set to ignite the crowd again in 2014. Released via Aggro Beat in Europe as a Green With Red Splatter vinyl and Rebel Sound in the US as an equivalent in Mint Green with both issues limited to 250, Light At The End Of The Tunnel provides another feisty and tasty morsel from Foreign Legion to enthuse over.

     Light At The End Of The Tunnel makes a strong and appealing start with opener Jenny and its successor What A Place To Be, if neither really inspires a greedy appetite in the emotions. Both tracks still grab attention easily to set things off promisingly, the opening song entangling ears with welcoming guitar strands of melody from Simon Bendon punctured by the firm beats of drummer Glyn Bendon. Soon into its stride with the track’s narrative unveiled by founding band member and vocalist Marcus Howells, the restrained and easy to access stroll makes a simple and catchy romp before the second song on the album similarly has feet and voice in tandem with its infectious if undemanding beckoning, the bass of Steve Zuki the most irresistible lure.

    The album catches fire from here on in with firstly the excellent Regenerations (Council list. Riffs and rhythms bring an instant entrapment of the imagination before soon being reinforced by the swiping vocals as the song looks g at local governments and the decline of British towns and all that inspires. The track is a contagious two minutes plus of uncomplicated but thoroughly inciting social commentary in the renowned Foreign Legion style, though again maybe there is a spark missing in comparison to the following tracks. There is an undeniable greater potency to the song which the band and album expands further through songs like My Radio. A great bass intro from Zuki sets the track off in compelling style, its swagger and groove matched by the hooks of the guitars and the effect rubbed vocals. Infection again wraps the song, its virulence at new heights for the release with riffs and rhythms an additional thrilling toxic bait.

   Both Hey Girl and George Best continue and elevate the new plateau of the album, the first a Peter and the Test Tube Babies meets The Clash like provocation which takes mere seconds to seduce senses and passions whilst the similarly bred second creates a terraces like anthemic quality for an Serious Drinking mixed with Angelic Upstarts eyeballing, both songs enlisting full physical and emotional participation to its recruitment drive. As probably recognised, Light At The End Of The Tunnel just gets stronger and more impressive the further into its body you delve, the likes of Stalker with its deviously addictive bass hook, another striking offering from Zuki who adds something extra to the album arguably lacking on earlier releases, and the excellent Market Trader adding to the weight and bait of the release. The second of the pair again deals with the decline of towns, this through the intervention of supermarket chains and the likes, whilst raging and infecting with resourceful invention. #

     The uncompromising Three Years, and its unbridled assault on child abuse and feeble punishments, scars and provokes with greater venom and passion within the album before Miners and Drunken Heroes uncages a raw, caustic sonic grazing and belligerent defiance respectively. All three songs stalk and coax with spite and energy before the closing song covers them with its shadow. Phoenix from the Flame is a pure punk rock anthem, a band banner which alone places Foreign Legion band amongst the highest echelons of British punk, its body holding all the cards and bait to ignite crowds and recruit new hearts.

   Closing on its finest moment Light At The End Of The Tunnel is an outstanding punk quarrel and maybe the best thing Foreign Legion has set loose to date, certainly the rival to past glories. Punk right now feels like it is moving to a new heyday and records like this only reinforce that notion.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Foreign-Legion/149893361856696

8.5/10

RingMaster 03/03/2014

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4 Past Midnight – Life On The Inside

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It has not been an easy ride for Scottish punks 4 Past Midnight over the couple of decades the band has been creating prime genre provocation but thankfully the determination of the Glasgow quartet, though severely tested at times, has emerged victorious meaning we get to be buffeted and thrilled by the likes of their new album Life On The Inside. A thumping riot of grouchy punk rock and bruising rock ‘n’ roll, the fifteen track release is an exciting onslaught of passion and aggression which clearly shows 4 Past Midnight as still one of the most respected as well as recognised inventive bands within British punk.

Formed in 1989, the band was soon under strong attention and responses with their first release, the ten track Start Of The Liberation demo of 1990. Well received it led to live performances around Scotland leading up to the 1992 released Smash The Front. Again the album was keenly received and responded to but gigs were becoming harder to come by for the band, a situation which continued in both aspects with Pain, Greed And Death the following year. Acclaim was again garnered by the release but shows were scarce to put it mildly, a problem which remained as the likes of the 15 track cassette Midnight Escapades, the Get A Life single and EP The Fears We Hide were unveiled to greater attention over the next couple of years but no one seemed to want to put the band on in venues. At this point the band called it a day but renewed interest in their music saw them return in 1998 under the name Trickshot. The name change was not received well and the band reverted to their original title with The Ruff Demo and The Best And The Worst Of 4pm following, and for a while more shows promisingly did materialise but debut CD Jesus Christ Its 4pm Again in 1999 followed the earlier pattern, eagerly received but gigs came to a crawl.

2002 saw the band link up with Stu of S.T.P for a last charge on the punk scene. The Mental Ward EP and Trials And Tribulations ‎continued to gain success as did the Punkology compilation of 2008 though the 2006 SOS Records British Invasion Fest and a tour of the East Coast of the US with The Angst led to less unhappy experiences with the latter seeing the band fall apart whilst the release of their Guilty As Charged album never happened as the label went bust. Slipping forward slightly to 2011 and again through fan pressures and wants, vocalist/drummer Peter linked up with fellow band original rhythm guitarist Fred to have another assault on the scene with new members in bassist Stevie and lead guitarist Tam joining the band. The first result is the excellent Life On The Inside via STP Records, an album which leaves you breathless and hungry for much more.

The release storms from the blocks with the outstanding Broken. The track is an instant call of riffs and rhythmic temptation which expands into a hook cored slice of essential punk rock. The caustic enticement of the gravelly vocals and the infectious lure of the song are irresistible whilst the riffs scrub out an enslavement to compliment what is a deceptively familiar feel to the song. A lyrically emotive track which is like a mix of UK Subs, Angelic Upstarts, and Stiff Little Fingers in many ways, it makes for an immense start soon matched by the following Nightmare and its successor Any Other Way. The first is virulently contagious; its seduction starting from the first spirals of sonic engagement  and elevating through the catchy barbed hooks and bass prowling before the anthemic chorus locks in the passions and throws away the key. Snarling and confronting from its first aggressive note and syllable right through to its fiery finish, the track is the first of many pinnacles on the album. It is equally matched by the second of the two, the song a less antagonistic roar in the ear but one which still embroils feet, voice, and emotions in a riotous slice of punk rapaciousness.

The abrasive Crisis like Riot brawls with the ear next to again pleasing contagion soaked effect, though it does not quite match what came before and certainly falls before the might of next up Justified. The track creates another major highlight upon the album, riffs and drums building walls of addiction whilst the vocals climb their heights and senses with angry intent. A song about domestic abuse, it is a commanding punk ‘n’ roll provocateur with a furious energy which reminds of UK rockers Dirt Box Disco.

The album continues to exploit the already awakened passions through the likes of the outstanding Punk Rock Noise (4pm crew pt3), a track opening with a hook that is the close relation to that cast on Pretty Vacant and evolving into a ridiculously catchy terrace like anthem, the ferociously bruising Story Of My Life, and the dark compelling Hollie. The song about sexual abuse hits home hard whilst recruiting energies and emotions into another unmistakable potent triumph to follow predecessor, the more than decent Nothing Has Changed. All tracks stand out with individual character and passionate craft, though every song to be fair can be wrapped in that descript, as shown by The Truth Is Out There, the song an insatiable riot springing from TV show The X-Files.

The tracks and quality keep coming thick and fast, the dirty rock seeded attack of Trapped and the old school punk bred The Fight plundering the emotions to ignite another dose of rapture whilst What You Gonna Do has an Sham 69 oi snarl to its thumping rock ‘n’ roll confrontation to continue the cementing of Life On The Inside deep into the heart.

Bringing the release to an incendiary finale, Who Takes The Blame and How Does It Feel ignite ears and emotions with their ferocious riff driven anthemic persuasions, the first through another heavy slice of punk brutality sculpted with precise craft, epidemic hooks and rhythmic tension, and the closing track with its straight forward stomp of infection clad dirty rock ‘n’ roll.

4 Past Midnight has set loose one of the punk triumphs of this year, the last and maybe as far back as their previous attack. Life On The Inside is a gem you cannot help missing away from its muscular incitement and a band you all should petition local venues for to get them tearing up your town.

http://4pastmidnight.co.uk/

9/10

RingMaster 18/10/2013

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Biting Elbows: Self Titled

With enthusiasm and thoughts racing faster than fingers can type in praise of the debut self titled album from Russian punk band Biting Elbows, the ending line to it all is that this is a release which quite simply is magnificently sensational. Consisting of twelve diverse and imaginative slices of melodic punk in its varied guises the album alone from first note to last revitalises and instils a fresh breath to punk music, as well as putting the majority of current melodic punk bands to shame.

Formed in 2008, the Moscow based quartet of Ilya Naishuller, Garik Buldenkov, Ilya Kondratiev, and Alexei Zamaraev, has already inspired strong attention with first EP Dope Fiend Massacre and videos of songs from the release. It is fair though to say to most they are still an unknown but with their debut album that must surely change as nothing this good can remain a secret for long. Recorded across five Moscow studios the album without be openly political challenges injustices of personal and global heights with an infectiousness and irrepressible mischievous energy which one can only eagerly jump on board with.

The wonderfully varied and unpredictable album opens with the ska punk flavoured excitement of Toothpick. The lead single and video from the release, it is a pulsating and mesmeric piece of joy. Like a mix of [Spunge], Face To Face and King Prawn, the song ignites inner fires with sharp riffs and a hypnotic bass sound as instinctive and primal as you could wish for, whilst the vocals of Naishuller are wonderfully expressive and direct without corrupting the ear. To be fair discovering a truly original ska tinted punk song is beyond rare but Biting Elbows bring the strongest challenge to be heard in a long time.

As the opener drifts away the thought of wow that was good is quickly over ridden by the excellence of City Of No Palms and its gnarly bass and attention grabbing beats opening. An emotive sunrise of slashing riffs and stirring vocals over an irresistible persistent grumbling bass, the song is spiced with great group harmonies and incendiary reggae strokes as it builds to a crescendo of greedy energy and melodic beauty. The song ignites the territory bands like Living End owned with Biting Elbows easily rivalling their likes.

Angleton is another Living End type song with more than a whisper of Arctic Monkeys to its air, it is also stunningly delicious. The track is a continually rotating piece of brilliance in songwriting and sound, its orbit bringing the finest individual enterprise and imagination whilst its journey seamlessly crosses indie, classic, and pop punk with more added flavouring. Tight and highly charged inventively the band just stands out from the rest with the progress of the album only bringing confirmation time and time again.

The likes of the police violence addressing Rabid Red, the ska(rred) Who Am I To Stand Still with great brass interjections and warm unexpected keys, alongside the raw old school punk fury of Scaffolds On The Babylon with its Stiff Little Fingers like itch, all fully thrill and incite the emotions as well as continue the great diversity through the album. As much as one tries to temper the adoration with suggested flaws of weaknesses within the album there really is nothing to pull it up on.

The departing half of the album keeps the glory coming through the outstanding Dustbus and Kill The Cooks, but it is the twin masterpieces of The Enjoyers and World’s Most Important Something which steal the honours in the second half. The first as much as one tried to avoid the obvious comparison is vintage Green Day like though as everywhere the songs when heard out of context are distinctively and unmistakeably Biting Elbows. The song plays with the heart through witty lyrics and potent melodic teasing whilst the harmonica even in its relatively brief presence is like that extra tasty flake on the top of your ice cream. World’s Most Important Something is a riot of vintage punk with guitars inciting pure addiction and the anthemic hook of the song leading voice and spirit in a total union. Again one has to use the word brilliant, a word which most accurately describes the album.

Released via Misertia Records on July 23rd, the album which ends on the best melodic sunset a release could have in One Night In ’99 is exceptional. From the packaging with its great material lyric sheet through the additional DVD containing the three videos spawn from their debut EP on to the music, it is pure quality and easily one of the best releases this year whilst Biting Elbows has emerged as our new favourite band.

http://bitingelbows.com

RingMaster 09/07/2012

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The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past

As much as the likes of Bad Religion and Brand New continue to create essential punk sounds and offer insightful thoughts and incisive with their releases there seems to be a reached pinnacle. Their new material always engages and pleases but the element of surprise or boundary stretching has diminished, they are not predictable but you know pretty much what you are going to get. With Philadelphia-based punk rock band The Menzingers, though they bring a blend and attitude that incorporates elements of both bands they infuse it into their own heart spawn sensibility and fresh energy to give a variable and distinct engagement to light up the senses, something their influences used to do but now seem less able to.

The Philadelphia based quartet of Tom May, Joe Godino, Eric Keen, and Greg Barnett release their third album and their debut on Epitaph Records, in the expressive shape of On The Impossible Past on February 20th. Their previous two albums, released via small indie labels, gathered strong acclaim as did their dynamic lives shows and supports for the likes of Anti Flag and Against Me! All this led them to the attention of Epitaph founder and President Brett Gurewitz who has commented about The Menzingers that “These guys play the kind of pure punk rock that I grew up with. They are seriously talented songwriters and I’m happy to welcome them to the Epitaph family. “He is not far wrong about the band being talented songwriters as the songs that bristle and grab attention within On The Impossible Past are insightful, emotive and easily register on a formidable personal level.

The album does not attach itself with easy to digest hooks and obvious simple melodies but eases its way deeper through personal, reflective and emotive understanding that one can relate to instantly. The album saunters in on the opening subdued mix of guitar and voice at the beginning of  ‘Good Things’ before bursting into a strident clash of guitar and raised emotive vocal delivery from May. As the whole album proves to be, the song hits home without thrills and spills, a direct and compact piece of good punk rock that lets its energy and attitude give all the impressive enjoyment. It carries a combined Bad Religion and Stiff Little Fingers mix that is far more satisfying than the pop influenced flavours that come as part and parcel of most contemporary punk sounds.

This is not to say The Menzingers neglect or ignore melodies and pop accessibility as tracks like the inspiring ‘Burn After Writing’ and the brilliant ‘Gates ‘show. These songs swing upon the ear with ease and instantaneous appeal but are well crafted with defined skill and creativity a strong feature of the band’s music. The latter of the two is a wonderfully written and crafted song, a track that relates on many layers and lingers emotionally and aurally after its departure, helped not only by the emotive melodies and lyrical intent but also the vocals from Barnett. It is a song that epitomizes the bands passion and ability to touch the listener far deeper than the ear.

It is impossible to point out a weak song upon the album, and whether their music or release works for you or not there is no denying the skilful and cultured song writing on show. The album is also one of those rarities that is not only has an immediate attraction and lure but evolves into a stronger and more inspired release the more one shares  time with it. For all its high consistency though some tracks really stand out. ‘The Obituaries’ is a raucous anthemic track with scorched melodies, driven riffs, and an emotion that all can relate to. It is one of those tracks that you cannot resist joining in with no matter how much you try but the difference here it is not just a chant song, its passion to the fore throughout making it a special treat.

Songs like the stunning ‘Sun Hotel’ that carries a Midnight Oil feel at their bitter best and the irresistible ‘I Can’t Seem To Tell’ are of equal quality and take the album into essential listening territory all on their own. The second of these two is an amazing concoction of discordant acidic riffs and melodies, eager rhythms, and a moody bassline to drool over, a classic.

On The Impossible Past is one of the best punk albums heard in a long time and a refreshing and satisfying alternative to the easy and at times heartless pop punk that fills the genre currently. That is what The Menzingers have to their music, heart and that makes for a release that should have your attention.

Ringmaster 03/02/2012

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