I first came across Watch Commander earlier this year when I picked up a CDR sampler left around at Crashdoubt Festival in Lincoln. I’m not sure if the band themselves were playing the festival but it’s a shame I didn’t get to catch their set if they did. The CD was a handful of tracks off their (then) forthcoming debut album ‘Clock and Compass’ melodic full of energy punk rock in the same vein as Lifetime or fellow Englanders ‘Our Time Down Here’.
At the opposite end of the scale their latest release is a 4 track acoustic EP that is available for free/donation via bandcamp. Interestingly instead of taking the easy way out and calling in acoustic versions of album tracks the EP features 3 new songs and an acoustic version of ‘Cheating Death’ from their album. It sounds like the EP was recorded with just 1 guitar but the vocals are distinctive and the harmonies make sure the songs sound full. The songs swell up and down, falling down to almost silence before building up to powerful highs. ‘Cheating Death’ has such a different tone to the original album version it’s hard to recognize, changed from a fast paced punk rock song to a slower almost soulful piece of acoustic music.
‘Rust’ is a welcome little breather for a quarter of an hour, really nice to chill out and just take it easy to; and if you need to get psyched? Well, the full length album ‘Clock and Compass’ is well worth the asking price and highly recommended too.
For Fans of: Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room, Our Time Down Here, Dashboard Confessional
Describing Borders latest EP ‘The Last Walk’ is kind of a tough task. Instantly familiar, you can hear influences like Samiam, Alkaline Trio and Hot Water Music, but they don’t sound derivative, instead making the sound their own and fresh. Growing from their previous releases which followed closer to the gruff punk template ‘The Last Walk’ feels like it has more room to breathe, at times even reminding me of alt rock bands like The Pixies and Therapy?. This gives Borders something a little bit different and helps them to stand out in the boom of gruff bands that have been coming out lately.
The title track ‘Last Walk Home’ opens the record as it means to go on, somber. Steadily paced, the song moves along powerfully with huge stabbing guitars in the chorus that contrast the smooth vocals. Track 2 ‘The Debt’ is more of a chuggier punk song where the gruffer backing vocals previously heard step in to take centre stage. The prechorus of this song is fantastic, the overlapping vocals create some really dynamic textures that compete with the catchiness of the guitar melodies. ‘New Life’ opens with the crackling sound of playing old vinyl and closes the record. When the smooth vocals come in over the riffing guitar, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for Matt Skiba, but by the time the gruff vocals back up the chorus it’s clear that Alkaline Trio haven’t released anything with this much balls for years. The shortest song on the EP this 3 minute gem is ridiculously catchy and will be running through your head for days.
Recorded in Sheffield’s Steel City Studios with Phil Gornell and Lee Malia of Bring Me the Horizon ‘Last Walk Home’ sounds beautiful. Polished to the point where any band on a major label would be proud to release it this 3 track EP is an absolute steal as a free download. Chock full of lyrical hangings, rock smashings, drownings, the occasional scratched out eyes and a plethora of dead bodies there’s more than enough misery to keep the most masochistic punk fans smiling.
For Fans of: Samiam, Alkaline Trio, Hot Water Music
To me the 90’s were melodic punk rocks hayday, pressing play on Glass Avalanche’s self titled first record is a 4 track trip down memory lane, in a good way. “Paper Tigers” Starts the whole affair off with a bang, a twiddly guitar intro before the full band kicks in proper. The vocals start off shouted and settle into rough melodic singing that pushes back towards shouting at times, they sound great. The next track is a bouncy punky number, that ups the tempo a little, and has some nice guitar breaks. “3am Chorus” starts with a clean guitar intro and a vocal line that is repeated later for a big singalong as a rowdy anthemic chorus. The final track on the record “Sweet Beginnings to Sour Endings” starts off a little uneven, but this is soon forgotten and it becomes one of the strongest tracks on the record laced with guitar riffs and has a great 40 odd second instrumental outro. It’s a shame that Glass Avalanche don’t make more use of backing vocals as they work really well on this song, especially where they overlap and play off the main vox.
The record comes in at about 13 minutes of unabashed angsty, angry, melodic punkrock from the northeast of England. The first thing I thought was how much this record reminded me of Rise Against’s first album “The Unraveling”. The follow up “Revolutions per Minute” has got to be one of my favourite records and here’s hoping that Glass Avalanches follow up can match that, hopefully they can also avoid the downward spiral Rise Against went on after that record. If you still have a fond place in your heart for the American Punk bands of the 90’s then you are going to absolutely love Glass Avalanche.
For fans of: Rise Against, 88 Fingers Louie, Bigwig
Manchester’s Droves are a five piece skate punk band who have been filling some quality support slots for the likes of Strung Out and A Wilhelm Scream around the northwest of England for the last couple of years. The production on their 4 track EP ‘We’re Still Here’ could perhaps be considered a little flat, leaving the guitars feeling they could benefit from a bit more bite and occasionally the sound peaks a little causing a tiny bit of distortion through my speakers and headphones but the songs themselves are second to non. Keeping away from basic verse-chorus-verse song structures the guitars riff their way through the EP avoiding power chords and throwing out enough awesome harmonized parts to fuel an Iron Maiden song and the occasional tapped section. The drumming is tight weaving in and out of double, regular and half time with really punchy bass drum kicks while the bass guitar holds its own in the mix staying nice and strong avoiding being buried under the guitars which can be a problem in the genre. Danny’s mid range vocals are powerful and well complimented with overlapping backing vocals, harmonies and gang shouts and chants that are just dying to be sung along with.
‘We’re Still Here’ is just over 16 and a half minutes of well thought out, fast upbeat skatepunk with some awesome guitar work and a tight rhythm section. The final and longest track on the EP ‘Spleen Wülf’ is a classic ending tune. Starting with an epic sounding faded in bass intro that is soon joined by clean guitars and punctuated by drums before starting proper, the song is about the simple fun of making music with friends. The track teases you with a false ending before coming back in for a riffy sing-along outro that by the time it’s finished makes you want to hit play and listen to the whole thing again.
The EP was released almost a year ago and is still getting regular plays, here’s hoping there’s some new stuff in the pipeline and hopefully another EP or something for a 2012 release! give them a like on facebook!
For Fans of: Set Your Goals, Polar Bear Club, The Swellers
Remember Myspace? If you do then chances are you probably also remember the constant stream of friend requests off godawful indie bands, it was horrible, the bands were generally completely inappropriate for the taste in music blatantly shown on your page and just plain bad. If anything these bands just pissed everyone off rather than do themselves any favours. A few years ago the band Lipona came up as a friend request for me, now usually I would just ignore it but I must have been in a particularly good mood because I checked them out and couldn’t quite believe it when they blew me away and have been one of my favourite bands since.
In anticipation of their forthcoming self released digital download full length (UK release of 250 limited white vinyl under Disconnect Disconnect records) I’m going to feature Florida’s Lipona’s previous 2009 EP ‘Pigeonholed’ that is still available for free download on bandcamp.
Notes from the Dynamite Era starts the EP off with an ambient guitar build up before exploding as the full band join in showcasing Lipona’s fast technical skate punk. Incredible drumming with machine gun like fills drive the songs forward while the dual guitars riff and shred their way through the first 3 songs. Yamil Velez’s powerful clean vocals give the band a unique sound that makes them stand out from their peers which is evident on the unexpected Acoustic track ‘Shooty Hoops’. Written about a distaste for the manufactured emotion of pop music it’s a much needed breather and has a particularly nice layered dual vocal thing going on in the outro. The closing track reverberations brings the distorted guitars back again and cranks the pace back up. Reverberations is HUGE, halfway through it breaks down to electric piano and vocals before building back up to a rousing singalong with more ambient guitars before getting back into the song. It’s a trick they’ve used before on the track ‘Pressures’ off the Atlas EP but Lipona pull it off so well it’s great to hear it again.
Frankly it’s criminal that as writing this Lipona only have 647 ‘likes’ on facebook, go over and ‘like’ them RIGHT NOW, download Pigeonholed and get psyched for the full length available for pre-order now!!!
This 5 Track EP is Lipona’s 3rd release and is available on CD combined with the first EP ‘Atlas’ which is also awesome. Setting you back almost £55 on amazon.co.uk here is somewhat ridiculous and fortunately is available at a far more reasonable price at interpunk.com here.
Notes from the Dynamite Era
For Fans of: Straighten Things Out, A Wilhelm Scream, Belvedere
Some things seem like they should be a great idea and yet rarely ever turn out alright, like remaking classic 80s films, staying out all night drinking and then going straight to work with no sleep or even the awkward hybrid of hardcore and heavy metal that is metalcore. I can probably count the number of metalcore bands that don’t make me cringe on the fingers of 1 hand and after checking out Napoleons EP ‘What We See’ I’m happy to class them as one of them.
Thankfully Napoleon, hailing from Exeter England, manage to avoid the many pitfalls of the horrible metalcore cliché. Do not expect an overkill of blastbeasts or harmonized guitar riffs ripped straight from an At the Gates song. Instead they manage to create heavy, dynamic music and show an excellent knack for melody, especially from the guitars, think along the lines of Misery Signals and Shai Hulud.
As soon as the EP begins you are hit with some fantastically melodic guitars, the kick pedal carries the songs along and although perhaps sounds a little too ‘clicky’ for my tastes the drums sound huge and make use of some interesting choppy rhythms, time changes and fills. Vocalist Joshua Baker screams out his lyrics with a nice thick midrange sound and the whole EP sounds absolutely massive with some nice use of fx and reverb. Track 2 ‘Bearing Loss’ shows the bands softer side for all of 20 seconds with a beautiful twinkly clean guitar intro that makes you feel like almost floating before the rest of the band bring it all crashing down in the best way possible to continue the techy melodic hardcore assault on your ears. The guitars really show some surprisingly awesome intricacies that at times remind me of the percussive acoustic guitar styles of Erik Mongrain and Andy McGee.
The final track ‘The World Outside’ has guest vocals from Canadian hardcore band Liferuiners Johnny OC and brings the whole thing to a close bringing at around 17 minutes.
'What We See' is available for free download from Napoleons own website (top link) in exchange for your location and email. Definitely a great deal! my only complaint is the high quality mp3s mean the 4 track EP comes in at a whopping 56.6MB which apart from taking up more than its fair share of space on my mp3 player it makes it pause for a good minute while it processes each track. No problems listening on my PC back home though where I've had this on repeat for a couple of weeks now!
What We See
For Fans of: Misery Signals, Shai Hulud, Liferuiner
I was/am a huge fan of Much The Same, their 2006 album ‘Survive’ has been a favourite of mine since I picked it up and has been listened to ALOT. I was gutted when they broke up since I never got a chance to catch them live, hopefully we’ll get a reunion show in Europe sometime! When I saw online that drummer Jevin Kaye had started a new project with Andy Lareau of Counterpunch and Josh Segal of Break The Silence and had recorded with Mark Michalik who had previously worked with The Swellers I jumped at the chance to download their 7 track EP.
I was somewhat surprised when the opening track ‘Open Door’ started, the thick guitars, slower pace and light almost delicate vocals were more reminiscent of ‘Futures’ era Jimmy Eat World than the fast melodic skate punk that I was expecting. The vocals on the Unit91 EP really stand out for me, they use quite a high range and make excellent use of backing vocals with some of the best harmonies I’ve heard in awhile. Track 2 ‘Life Story’ is a nice poppy number that breaks down to just guitar and group vocals for a rousing singalong on the bridge, following this ‘Come One, Come All’ is something of a melancholy number which then gives way to some faster, more upbeat tracks that carry the rest of the EP. This nice bit of variation gives each track has it’s own character and means Unit91 don’t fall into ‘every song sounds the same’ category.
Even though this record is fairly light and poppy it doesn’t mean the guys don’t take some time out to showcase some of their skills, ‘Catch Your Tail’ has a quality guitar solo and Jevin really gets going on the drums a couple of times, ‘Catch Your Tail’ and ‘Operation Crossroads’ both really pick up the pace and wouldn’t sound too out of place on a Much The Same Record.
Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to have been much news come from these guys since this release, which is a shame because I would have loved to get my hands on a full length but nevertheless this EP is still worth checking out and giving some serious listens!
Catch Your Tail
For Fans of: Much the Same, Counterpunch, Jimmy Eat World, Moneen
Ok, before I start, I’ll get it out of the way now, I absolutely love this record.
Bangers are a three piece punk band from Cornwall, England. The record starts off almost teasingly with opening track ‘Making Friends’ the intro to which could easily fool you into thinking you’re about to listen to the next big radio friendly indie band before explodingas it means to go on as ten tracks of passionate gruff vocalled mid-tempo punkrock anthems.
The crunchy guitar sound is a welcome change from the overdriven distortion that is more dominant in modern punk bands and this matched with the almost storytelling approach to their songwriting gives bangers the same feel as pre-‘Dear You’ Jawbreaker. The Bass sounds tight, punchy and springy and often propels the songs while vocalist/guitarist Roo throws in some cheekily catchy licks, all the while being nicely punctuated by nice sharp snare hits and smooth rolls on the drums.
‘Making Friends’ comes in at about 30 minutes of nicely produced, beautifully crafted mature, heartfelt punkrock. The songs about money, materialism, having colleagues unable to relate to you, and coming out the far side of growing up are written almost like personal letters to a close friend. The closing track ‘A New Raymondo’ is possibly the crowning jewel of the record, the story of an old friend who moved to Japan a few years previous and the feelings after seeing a photo of how much the friends child has aged.
‘Small Pleasures’ is a great a record and has been on heavy rotation here for awhile now, definitely worth getting on your Mp3 player. The band are constantly touring and working their arses off so get down to see them if you get the chance, I made sure to pick up a hardcopy!
A New Raymondo
For fans of: Jawbreaker, The Lawrence Arms, The Menzingers
There's so much bullshit about music piracy, but why bother when there are so many awesome bands happy to give their music away purely for the chance to be heard?
This blog is dedicated to the best free legal punk/hardcore/emo/ska downloads. These are the guys who are doing it for the love of the music so if you like it and have abit of spare money in your pocket think about helping them out via bandcamps 'name your price' buy a tee or even a hardcopy.