Hailing from Utrecht, Bitter Grounds is a Dutch quartet that has a sound which could be best described as Hagfish meets The Vox Dolomites wrapped in the heart and breath of Bad Religion and Dropkick Murphys. But as swiftly evidenced within new album, Two Sides of Hope, it is a proposition with a bold and individual character that just demands keen attention.
Entangling the attitude and aggression of punk with the instinctive and raw attributes of ska, Bitter Grounds first stoked potent attention with their 2016 debut album Hollowlands. It emulated local support and praise across a broader landscape which now its successor should only strongly expand upon. Since that first release, the band has played numerous shows across Europe alongside the likes of The Real McKenzies and The Interrupters and earned plaudits for their performances at festivals such as like Punk Rock Holiday and Nice ‘n’ Sleazy. It is easy to suspect that Two Sides of Hope will spark an even bigger demand and time for Bitter Grounds such its stirring and virulent nature
As with its predecessor, the new album was recorded with engineer and producer Menno Bakker and immediately gets down to business with opener Lost. Instantly a spicy groove entangles senses rapping beats, highly catchy bait simply reinforced by bass, riffs and in turn boisterous vocals. The infectious attributes of the band’s sound and enterprise is as swiftly evident, coursing song and appetite with a viral quality whipping up eager participation. There is a familiarity to the track yet as with the band’s sound overall, it is a welcoming hue to something wholly individual.
The following Two Sides (of Hope) has a just as catchy lilt and swing to its tenacious swing shaped by a more intensive attitude. There is a defiant edge to every twist and turn, a rousing wind fuelling its incitement as the track swiftly got under the skin; a success more than matched by the contagious antics of Let Me See Now. Another which has a sense of an old friend returning with a new identity and intent, the song quickly had hips and feet doing its bidding as melodic and imaginative endeavour nurtured its brief but highly manipulative exploits.
As with its predecessor, the ska side of the band’s sound fuels next up Bad Dreams; its gait alone enticing physical involvement while the band’s potent dual vocal temptation works away on ears side by side with the jangle of guitar and the moodier stroll of the bass. Instinctively Bitter Grounds seem to conjure hooks and grooves which know what gets the juices going, My Time another addictive example with its melodic revelry and vocal dynamics.
Through the relatively calmer but just as infectious and mischievously woven Faded and the raucous holler of Let Them Talk, the album just reinforces its temptation and the band the creative dexterity of their songwriting and flavour rich music, the latter sparking thoughts that if Angelic Upstarts had embraced ska in their sound way back it would have been something akin to this inescapable trespass.
The album concludes with firstly Seven Nights, a Rancid scented stomp needing mere seconds to command limb and spirit, and finally the punk ‘n’ roll defiance of FML. With compelling rhythms battering the senses and riffs careering through ears as vocals spew attitude, the track is a tenacious and rousing end to one outstanding release.
From first breath to last, Two Sides of Hope hits the punk greedy spot, hungrily proving itself one of the best punk indeed rock ‘n’ roll albums of 2018.
Two Sides of Hope is out now, available @ https://bittergrounds.bandcamp.com/
Pete RingMaster 16/10/2018
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