Now Hear This: Alex Baker On The Best New Hardcore, Alt.Rock And Tech-Metal
Look, don’t judge me but… I’ve put my Christmas tree up already. To be fair, I’ve been itching to do it since the start of November. This year has sucked so majorly that I felt the need to inject a bit of cheer into my home. In actual fact, as I write this, I am currently shovelling another mince pie into my big face. So, enjoy that image as you discover your new favourite artist with me…
You know that feeling you get when you come across a band who are so good it’s like a visceral slap in the face? Well, prepare to get slapped… hard. Portland’s Death Tour are so good that it actually takes your brain a bit of time to figure out what the hell is going on. So much so that when I played them for the first time on my show on Kerrang! Radio, I played it twice in a row, just to give ya’ll a chance!
In 2019 they released their album Blood Pact which was like a flag in the sand, an announcement (in a little over 18 minutes), that they have a flagrant disregard for any sort of genre limits. They seamlessly smash beats, punk agg and industrial chaos together in a way that leaves no room for breath, and goddammit I am here for it.
This may be a really unpopular opinion, but fuck it, it’s true: these days it’s rare that I’ll come across a pure hardcore band that excites me. I think it’s a sound that’s so raw and so stripped back that every element has to hit in just the right way or it just doesn’t make a mark. At the core of every great hardcore band is a great frontperson who has something to say, so when Traxx (of Traxx and Astroid Boys fame, aka one of the best frontmen out there) who has everything to say, told me that he was starting a hardcore band with Lewis Of Astroid Boys and some mates (Jasper on drums and Calum on bass), my interest was piqued.
The reality has MORE than lived up to the expectations – check out World Keeps Spinnin’ below, where Traxx hits us with an inspiring reminder to actually live our lives, while the instrumentation smashes ahead with an energy that will make fans of Death Is The Satisfaction Of Desire-era Hatebreed nod in appreciation. I fully cannot wait to see these guys live.
The juxtaposition of heavy music and heavy lyrical content has always drawn me in. In fact, anyone who’s ever screamed a lyric with every fibre of their being will understand the sheer catharsis of that combination. One of the things that pisses me off the most when you invariably come across someone who says something like, “Euugh, metal, is that when they just shout loads?” isn’t really just the utter lameness of people that say that, but is actually the massive opportunity they’ve missed to feel the emotion in the combination of heavy music and evocative lyrics.
Prague’s Skywalker clearly understand that as it runs through all their music. With passages at break-neck speed making way for crushing breakdowns and soaring choruses, if you love emotional hardcore and metal, you’ll bloody love these dudes.
Catharsis is global, and on the other side of the world, Australia’s Growth are getting set to release their debut album, The Smothering Arms Of Mercy on December 4, an record that explores the human aspects of connection, trauma, despair and the fragility of hope. Growth are heaviness incarnate, but also display such prolific, intricate technicality that it’s difficult to actually comprehend how what you’re hearing is possible. Musically-minded people will find them fascinating for this reason, and fans of heavy music will simply get lost in the sheer weight of it all. Either way, it’s fucking cataclysmic.
I remember being a kid in the mid-’90s, skating at the South Bank, hanging out with mates, immersed at every second of every day in bands like Hole, Placebo, Nirvana and Silverchair. When you’re a kid, people say things like, “these are the best years of your life.” Don’t let old people fool you, they aren’t, but the good bits are bloody great, so if something can transport me back, I’m down. When I pressed ‘play’ on Sydney Sprague for the first time, it all came flooding back like a melee of White Lightning and MD 20/20. The ’90s are strong in this one, and Sydney effortlessly freshens up that sound with the hooks of Avril but the understated delivery of Courtney. She’s a genius songwriter, check her out and soak up the brilliance.
Hear Alex Baker present the Fresh Blood Show on Kerrang! Radio, Wednesday nights from 10pm.
Arizona singer-songwriter Sydney Sprague is braced for the apocalypse – and her debut album might just be the perfect soundtrack.
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