PVRIS is arguably one of the biggest newcomer bands in the scene right now, and it seems that their success came almost out of nowhere the second they dropped their debut record White Noise. I say “almost out of nowhere” not because it’s undeserved fame, but because releasing a debut record through a non-major label (Rise Records) and blowing up in both the set scene as well as making massive strides in the mainstream is practically unheard of. Even in the hipster nation, Bon Iver didn’t get the credit fans felt he deserved until his third full-length (which ironically only won him a Grammy for “Best New Artist”), but one album in and PVRIS is already gracing the cover of Alternative Press.
In no particular order, here are the HXC Magazine staff’s favorite records from 2015!
Among the bands that played New Jersey’s Loud Fest were From The Depths, Too Close To Touch and Emarosa. Flip through the photo gallery below to see some stellar shots of their sets, and to catch vocalist Bradley Walden of Emarosa work his way from floor to ceiling and back again.
Photos by Justin LaMot
Both Cane Hill and The Plot In You dropped new albums in the past few weeks, and both hit the stage on the second day of Loud Fest in Freehold, NJ this past weekend. Photographer Justin LaMot was able to capture some of the magic, from The Plot In You’s “My Old Ways” to Cane Hill’s “Time Bomb.” Check it out!
Photos by Justin LaMot
Fresh from the new Like Moths To Flames album, The Dying Things We Live For, comes this music video for “Fighting Fire With Fire.” It’s a simple, grainy black and white performance video, but it’s our music video of the week because it shows the intimacy of a live show in a small space. It shows where the band members and the fans come together, and that’s really important to us here at HXC Magazine. So watch the music video below, and if it doesn’t get you in the mood to jump around and shove your best friend into a wall, there’s probably something wrong with you.
One of the many albums that dropped on October 30th was Crown The Empire‘s deluxe edition of their album The Resistance via Rise Records. A music video for one of the new tracks, “Cross Our Bones,” premiered yesterday and it gives you a chance to hear the metalcore band at their most catchy. The song still has some heaviness and unclean vocals, but is far more melodic than most of their previous releases. The video also features some intriguing contrasting visual imagery; light and dark, brightly colored flowers and skulls shrouded in black smoke that are reminiscent of the new record’s cover artwork. It’s a cool one from an artistic perspective as well as a musical one. So check out the video below and let us know what you think of it and the new deluxe edition!
Rise Records new addition, Cane Hill, finally released their self-titled EP after such a long wait. Their single “Sunday School” originally came out just over a year ago, although it’s only been in the past few months that the band released two other singles, “Ox Blood” and “Time Bomb.” Yet despite the time it took for the album to be released, it’s finally in our grasp and is worth checking out.
Only a 7 track album, Cane Hill’s self-titled EP is quite refreshing. It starts off with “Ox Blood”—fast, heavy and chaotic. The riffs and guitars of “Time Bomb” have some real weight behind them, giving the listener the fuel to thrash around and break shit. The vocals have some nice range as well, for Elijah Witt varies between low-toned spoken word sections followed by a mix between mid and low pitched screaming. For most of their songs, this kind of vocal variation gives a nice dark and twisted feel, especially with the lyrical content.
It’s the following songs that demonstrate their “Nü” side. Both “Screwtape” and “Gemini” have an extreme Korn vibe and the influence is easily noticeable. It works well in their favor and it’s not overused as they still maintain their own sound. These two songs also feature clean singing which is surprising since the three singles released showed no signs that actual singing would be involved in the album. Yet the revival of these old school metal vibes is refreshing and haunting. That being said, I wish there was more of it. Only having 7 tracks is disappointing, especially since there are some real quality songs on this album including “French 75.” This song actually features all cleans and Witt even has a similar sound to Chris Motionless of Motionless In White (which could also be compared to Marilyn Manson). “French 75” also has an unspecified guest female vocalist who not only has a beautiful voice, but is the star of the song and makes it worth replaying. The album concludes with two heavier songs, “The Fat of the Land” and “Sunday School,” which are both solid tracks to get the listener pumped. Ironically, when “Sunday School” comes to a conclusion with the lyrics “It never ends,” it actually does end the album.
Although the Cane Hill EP is short in length, it doesn’t take away from the quality of each song. Whether it’s the heavy bangers (“Time Bomb,” “The Fat of the Land”) or even Korn-esque songs (“Screwtape,” “Gemini”), Cane Hill has versatility and a fresh take while dipping into the past for inspiration. The EP is filled with surprises, and while I understand they want each song to have a sense of individuality, additional songs in similar styles of what was already shown could have made this album a more fulfilling and less jarring one. Cane Hill’s self-titled EP is not for everyone, especially since it’s a bit outside of the box, yet those who enjoy Nü-metal or just dark and twisted music will appreciate this new release.
by Justin LaMot
Happiness In Self Destruction is The Plot In You’s most versatile release to date. Vocalist Landon Tewers has written exactly what he wanted to say without anyone telling him otherwise, making for a more personal record. The album has a total of 15 tracks, each with their own personality. Happiness In Self Destruction is The Plot In You both at their softest and at their heaviest. But no matter how soft or heavy, every song belongs and fits within the album. Every song has it’s own purpose and theme, making this album quite the journey.
It’s the vocals that truly make this album. Tewers’s range has greatly improved since their last album, Could You Watch Your Children Burn. Whether its his eerie whispers, trembling screams, deep gutturals or soothing yet at times haunting cleans, he has truly perfected his vocal range. Yet it wouldn’t stand out as much if it weren’t for the instrumentals complimenting his voice along the way. Breaking from the usual metalcore chugs and the excessive need for palm-muting breakdowns, Josh Childress (guitar) and Ethan Yoder (bass) show us that they can still produce a heavy album without having to rely on solely those techniques. Yes, they do use palm-muting and they have their breakdowns here and there, but it’s not overdone and abused like with other bands in the scene. Of course there are points where the riffs may lack originality, but that’s where the vocals come in to run point, making each song feel balanced and in sync.
The album starts off strong with “Hole in the Wall,” proving that they did not give up their roots on the heavy side of things. As the album progresses, it begins to mellow out with songs such as “Take Me Away.” You’ll soon follow the formula The Plot In You laid out before you, as it shifts from heavy to soft and a few mixed tracks in between, such as “My Old Ways.” There are about five softer songs on the album, leaving the rest to be either pure bangers or dark, twisted tunes much like one of my favorites, “Pillhead.” This song, and many others, has a resemblance to Tewers’s solo EP Dead Kid, but “Pillhead” has a dark spoken/whispered monologue that turns into one of the most memorable songs on the album, with a chilling chorus and amazing vocals to follow. One song to surely be repeated has to be “Time Changes Everything.” Not only does it tug at your heartstrings, giving any listener the feels, but it has a powerful chorus, and for a soft song, even has screams. The albums’ conclusion is definitely the most unique song off the album and is quite possibly the most personal Tewers has ever written. “Happiness In Self Destruction” tells us a story with some acoustic and ambient effects giving it an old-timey feel, as if it were from an old record. It concludes the album in a very sincere way, but also leaves you craving to drop the needle on the record to listen to it once more.
Happiness In Self Destruction is the perfect example of how a band should evolve. It is an album that combines past releases and side projects as well as adopting a new sound to separate themselves from the rest. Not only is it different, but it’s something that older fans will love as well as newcomers alike. The three year wait for this album was totally worth it and the work put into it was clearly shown. Make sure you stick around two minutes after the final song, for Tewers left us and Rise Records (with whom TPIY recently parted ways) a very special treat. This hidden track will make you truly appreciate the work he has put into the album as well as understand why the transition to Stay Sick Recordings was greatly needed.
by Justin LaMot
A very wise man once said, “I spent my high school career spit on and shoved to agree/so I could watch all my heroes sell a car on T.V.”
For almost 10 years these words sung by Gerard Way in My Chemical Romance‘s 2006 track “Disenchanted” have rung in my ears. At first I thought I was so attracted to these lyrics because they were the words of my hero telling me how life gets disappointing as you grow up. It’s emo, and a fact we hear constantly as we get older, but I took it to be more of a thematic message, rather than a literal one. Who knew that by 2013 I’d watch my hero allow my favorite band to break up in order to actually sell his own botched image of David Bowie-meets-David Byrne not only on T.V., but on billboards and bus stop benches like some forgettable basketball player on a box of Wheaties. To me, Gerard Way, like so many artists before and after him, had sold out. And now, in a post-My Chem world, I am forced to sit back and watch the rest of my musical heroes follow suit.
When it comes to selling out one must ask two things: First, what exactly is selling out? And second, who actually does sell out?
Selling out is a common idiomatic pejorative expression for the compromising of a person’s integrity, morality, authenticity, or principles in exchange for personal gain, such as money. —Wikipedia
Selling Out: To compromise one’s values and/or aristic [sic] vision in order to gain fame and/or monetary profit. Commonplace in today’s musical society. It is rare to find a successful musical artist who has not “sold out”, however, this is not to say that they do not exist. —-Urban Dictionary
Sell Out: To betray one’s cause or associates especially for personal gain—Merriam-Webster
As many of you may have heard, it was recently announced that the deathcore-turned-alternative-rock band, Bring Me The Horizon has left the independent punk label Epitaph and signed to Columbia Records, a major corporation of a music label. By the definitions above–having altered their sound to reach a wider audience and appeal more to the levels of rock being released today while leaving their small time, more avant garde sound in order to do so– BMTH have seemingly sold out.
With the release of their upcoming record’s first single “Happy Song,” fans can see that the transition from deathcore found on staples such as Suicide Season and There Is A Hell… is no longer rooted in the same artful direction as their clean vocal heavy Sempiternal. It is now almost exclusively pop rock with an accented aggression on several musical notes. Gone are the days of frontman Oli Sykes screaming “Crucify me!” and in place are those of him melodically encouraging us to “sing a happy song,” because sometimes rainbows and butterflies make your day much better than well thought out religious imagery used ironically in songwriting.
Okay, so maybe I’m a little biased. However, the proof is in the pudding. With the release of (what is technically considered) the first purchasable single off of the upcoming record, old school fans were even more blasted by the change of BMTH’s direction with”Throne.” Though it upholds strong connotations image-wise to their deathcore days, it is almost a direct rip off of mid-2000s Linkin Park. With accented screams, electronica highlights, and catchy, melodic vocals, metalcore fans were left in the dark and feeling almost betrayed by BMTH.
Sure, many bands “evolve” or “mature” and change up their sound, but it seems as if the introduction of keyboardist Jordan Fish is what really did BMTH in. Though his efforts greatly helped bring BMTH out of their shell on 2013’s Sempiternal, his continued presence in the press when concerning this record is rather alarming. Rolling Stone labels him as the “keyboardist and primary songwriter” in their latest and only article ever concerned with BMTH, ineptly (yet maybe appropriately) titled “Ditching Metalcore.” As Fish upholds himself as the voice of BMTH after his work with the band for only one released full-length, it becomes worrisome. Oli Sykes has not been present for the majority of interviews since the release of “Happy Song.” So, is Jordan Fish taking over the band and corrupting it into a commercialized redundancy of old school alternative rock or is this actually Sykes agreeing to sell out and abandon all that he stood for previously?
But it’s not necessarily fair to blame Bring Me The Horizon for selling out. We cannot blame a band for going against all that they were when we, the public and music consumers, are the ones who potentially could have forced them into the environment that led them down this path. With a decline in record sales and the need for radio-publicity to spark interest in artists, major labels can expand the horizons (no pun intended) for a band confined to the minute exposure and monetary limitations of an independent label. This generation’s need to consume music for as cheap (or sometimes as free of cost) as possible is what is deteriorating musicians’ abilities to live through their work on smaller labels. But is it worth an artist’s musical integrity? Let’s look at some examples.
Exhibit A: Fall Out Boy.
For many, Fall Out Boy is the poster child of modern day “punk” or “alternative” selling out. But when exactly did they get flack? Somewhere in between the release of their chart topping full-length From Under The Cork Tree and the release of “Take Over, The Break’s Over,” a fun single off of their follow up Infinity On High where they call out all of their haters. People were angry at the guys in FOB for at the time signing to a label like Island Records (a sub-label of Universal Music Group). Though in retrospect, it is safe to say that while fans may have been disappointed with their signing to a major label and slight departure from their original underground sound, they still remained in the vein of the sonic aesthetic presented on the lesser known Take This To Your Grave. Even while boosting their careers on major labels, it wasn’t until their latest record American Beauty/American Psycho came out that they truly departed from all forms of rock or punk in favor of commercial pop. As of right now, it took them their entire musical career (and a four year hiatus) to actually sell out artistically.
Exhibit B: Breathe Carolina
Not really punk or hardcore, but still relevant. Breathe Carolina left their minor label in order to sign to *DING DING DING* Columbia Records, just like Bring Me did. Now, how did that work out? After one album, Hell Is What You Make It, the electro-duo had a top radio hit with “Blackout” and a self-proclaimed total loss of creative freedom. Eventually they would depart early from the label to return to a minor league with Fearless Records and even lose founding member Kyle Even. The sole remaining member, David Schmitt, luckily just decided to grab a backing band and continue on his own with the release of the highly successful record, in both the alternative and EDM scenes, Savages.
So what is it about Columbia Records that was so daunting? Why haven’t bands like PVRIS or A Day To Remember chosen to find major labels when their sounds are actually marketable to the mainstream? PVRIS purposely chose to sign to the metalcore label Rise Records, even though they are a pop-synth trio. A Day To Remember opted to self-release their latest record Common Courtesy rather than be tied to or bought out by any label, even though half of their careers they have gotten flack for “selling out” despite remaining decently in the underground. Why can All Time Low‘s hit singles and chart-topping records go platinum while they perpetually remain on Hopeless Records? There is an element to selling out rooted in the very base definitions above, but there is also a more personal element of selling out that rests on whether you compromise the artistic integrity of your music in order to gain a profit. Whether Bring Me The Horizon will entirely sell out is still yet to be determined, though unfortunately it seems that with “Throne” and “Happy Song” the band that I loved for being so harsh and out of the box will now be known to the general public alongside old Muse tracks and new Arctic Monkeys on top rock radio. But only time will tell.
Struck by the success of their 2010 Zombie EP, The Devil Wears Prada have returned to the short format with another themed work. This time around it’s the Space EP, and it’s their signature heaviness reinvented and deepened; their most sophisticated release yet. From the first 45 seconds of astronaut radio chatter in opener “Planet A” to the swirling, definitive end of final track “Asteroid,” the band stick to their theme exceedingly well, recreating the vast expanse and boggling implications of space within the strict boundaries of six songs.
With the launch of (or rather, toward) “Planet A,” we experience profound curiosity and longing (“Mankind searched the universe/Curiosity can be a curse”), while “Alien” is the rager fans of old expect from this band. The song is threaded with the sound effects of a sci-fi mission (mechanical bleepings, artillery fire) without sounding too campy, and the lyrics are appropriately vicious and dark. This one shuts down all possibility of escape with chugging verses and racing choruses, finally stating, “Game over/We are done for.”
The EP moves in a more emotional direction with “Moongod,” a troubled, humbling display of worship for a divine being. Vocalist Mike Hranica cries, “Watch over me/Inspect my mistakes/Like a beacon, necessitate my regret.” The song transitions into the interlude of “Celestial Mechanics,” which is exactly what the title sounds like–more sci-fi sounds and chatter mixed with atmospheric guitars. A necessary breath, but world-building.
The EP’s first single, “Supernova,” is the clear anchor. The very tangible concerns in this one combined with the solid riffing hold down the loftier parts of the EP. The familiar, heart-wrenching question we all know repeats again and again: “Where will you go? Where will you be?/When you forever sleep, when you leave me.”
Though picking a favorite song from the Space EP may be difficult, picking a favorite moment is simple. When “Asteroid” slows to a crawl for Hranica’s talk-screaming, it’s a turn that will stop you dead in your tracks: “Think of best friends/Think of strangers/Think of lovers/Think of foes/Think of children/Think of family/Keep in mind that nothing stays.” The candid words build, chanting carries on in the background, and the standout vocals become more desperate. Sound is complexly layered until it all just ends.
The Devil Wears Prada’s newest release is contemplative, heavy, and well-crafted, lending to the very real sense of life and death. Surely, if the Zombie EP solidified the band’s domain on terra firma, the Space EP catapults them well past the stars.