We Are This For A Reason - Final Silence
FINAL SILENCE – WE ARE THIS FOR A REASON album review by Tom McConnell
This metal band from Stirlingshire has been around in various forms since 2006, with vocalist Willie Lang the only remaining original members. Over the years, bassist/backing vocalist Graham Swan, guitarist David McDonald and drummer Andrew Cowie have came together to form a strong line-up with great chemistry together. I don’t know quite which “core” to categorise Final Silence into, but I can recall a conversation I’ve had with Willie that went something along the lines of “We like to groove, and we like hardcore, but we’re not hardcore…fuck it, we’ll invent groovecore.” So groovecore they are. Check it out; the movement is definitely going to be massive. Anyway, I am here today to discuss Final Silence’s debut LP “We Are This For A Reason.” So let us get to it.
The album opens with “Jaw Ripper” where a subtle little lick quickly gets shoved aside for a breakdown. This to me has had thought put into it and I hope that throughout “We Are This For A Reason” this thought to track listing and structure for the album remains- it really does make a difference. It isn’t the most in your face that an album opener could be, but it does the trick and lets you know what to expect for the next 40minutes. There is that breakdown intro into a gang chanted chorus and a melodic, quieter passage that will become a well known trait by the end of the album.
We are treated to the Final Silence formula for this track and “Collapse!” which clocks in as the shortest song at 2.37 and while is not bad, I feel perhaps there was a lot more effort put into writing the other tracks on “We Are This For A Reason” but I shall give the benefit of the doubt as it isn’t a bad track, it just lacks what I guess is that break in the structure halfway through the song I had come to expect from Final Silence.
The third track, “You Wanna Rape This?” completely throws me off. That thought to the structure of the album I spoke of earlier, and the track listing seems to have been placed to one side with this track as I don’t really see how it fits amongst the other tracks. It does show, to me, how this band can have their tongue in cheek moments however; with the repeated line questioning “You wanna rape this?” which while it may show the humour of this band, just leaves me thinking of it as somewhat bizarre.
Fortunately, following this track is the strongest phase of the album. “I’m Just Like You” will literally grab, shake and throttle you and you can do little to fight back. The riff that runs through the intro and verse is a cracker and the drums partner it perfectly. I haven’t mentioned the drumming before this point and this is because in my opinion, there has been absolutely nothing wrong with them. Tight, and fit the songs perfectly. There is nothing wrong with modesty of a drummer- keep the time, fit the song and worry about the fancy stuff later. An up tempo chorus adds power to this track and gives it some real force. This is my favourite track from “We Are This For A Reason” and in my opinion shows exactly what Final Silence will want to be expected from them.
The track that follows this ace track is “What Have We Done?” which to me was the leading track before release. I know this track inside out and it signals Final Silence’s intent to push their own boundaries. It incorporates Final Silence’s own identity (groovecore!) while really pushing the boat out with a true anthem of a chorus. It is this song that will be most easily recognised live. It is however, half way through the song when it cuts to an acoustic break. This moment gave me that chill up your spine moment, with haunting whispers swirling to provide a real highlight moment for the full album. It kicks back in for a double chorus where the screams substitute the soaring vocals for the second time around and between this and “I’m Just Like You” I am left utter gobsmacked at what Final Silence can produce.
I should have expected after such tracks, I perhaps should brace myself that those were the masterpieces of the album. “What The Hell’s This Crap Supposed To Be” just doesn’t live up to its predecessors and it is a shame because if it appeared before them on the track listing, it may have stood a fighting chance. I am left uncertain now of how this album is going to progress as we enter the second half of “We Are This For A Reason.”
I am ecstatic to announce the next track firmly steadies the ship and shockingly, it isn’t from a track to be expected of Final Silence. “Just For Once” is an acoustic ballad, never attempted before by the band and completely out of their comfort zone. It is tender though, perfectly executed and adds a new dimension to this band. All faith is restored and there’s still throughout this song flickers that Final Silence will never play by the rules with the line “life is just not peachy” that while it shouldn’t bring a brief smile, just does with how it is pulled off. The thought that album structure has been thoroughly considered is back as this track came at the perfect time to break the album up with enough space left to properly kick you in the nuts once again before finishing.
Kick you, it does. After the interval, normal service resumes with the utterly ferocious “Riding a Redhead.” Final Silence are now gunning for glory as this track signals the final push to truly impress you. If this was an aeroplane, the fasten the seatbelts sign would be on because we expect turbulence. I can’t help but feel the verses in this song are attacking someone, and if I was her- hearing this song…I think Final Silence just lost a fan. It does sound like it’s not much of a loss though. The pre-chorus build up from a growl works really well and by the end of this track, we’ve just seen in the space of 7 and a half minutes the completely different ends of the spectrum Final Silence can delve into.
Again, “Wired At The Heart” has a tough track to follow, and suffers as such but it doesn’t suffer quite the same fate as “What The Hell’s This Crap Supposed To Be?” The chorus is propelled by the backing vocals to stand above, as choruses should do, but it is towards the end of this track that saves it from being mediocre as an abrupt and sudden tempo change makes sure it goes out on a high. At this point I have identified a style for the guitar work of this album too, I notice that many of the verses may well be hardcore influenced, but will change to chord progressions throughout the choruses to match the vocals and this provides an essence of tightness and chemistry between Final Silence as they move as one.
“Self Deliverance” I think blends into the album too much. It is not a bad track, but also does not stand out in the slightest. It may be because we are nearing the close of the album- and it is difficult to create an album that non-stop just flows with outstanding tracks and for that, a young band cannot be blamed. It holds those melodic quiet breaks which pepper the track and keep it from becoming stale, and in this track, a full verse is even given this technique. It is not as powerful as featured in “What Have We Done?” by I daresay it is the best executed example on “We Are This For A Reason.”
“I’ll Die Fighting” closes the album, and I’m thoroughly pleased to say well. One of the stronger tracks from the album and I can’t help but think the indecisiveness I had about “Self Deliverance” may have set it up as so. If so, again- there has been attention to detail with the structure of the track list. The chorus will demand crowd participation when played live as the words are shouted “I’LL DIE FIGHTING!” and I’m struck that this is a real positive track and you want to finish an album feeling good, ready to take on the world. A lengthy breakdown winds us down, a tad cliché for an album but it fits. Suddenly- this cliché is shattered, over a breakdown- bagpipes start playing. Never would I have imagined can it fit so well, and the complete unexpectedness of it adds to its charm. At first I believe this is Final Silence just showing their roots and what they want to do, will get done but I am later told this is in name of a friend of theirs who was tragically involved in a car crash and ended up in a coma, who played in a pipe band. I will stress this is not a reason for a neutral to like a song, but upon closing an album in such an epic way- the thought is touching and leaves a moment to reflect fully on what has just passed.
I’m not sure whether to include the AndyMac remix of “Riding A Redhead” so I’ll treat it as very much a bonus track. Now, I am not a fan of dubstep in the slightest, but this track has now clocked up 4 plays according to my iTunes- a true feat in itself considering I would normally turn dubstep off after 15seconds. It is a good example of the humour of Final Silence and their willingness to do something different. My ears would not be offended to hear this remix blasting out of some speakers well too loud for a 3 door hatchback, whose body kit scrapes the ground with windows blacked out too dark for road use.
Overall, I have enjoyed “We Are This For A Reason” despite a few tracks lacking in substance- why this is I can’t quite pinpoint. Is it because stacked up against the stronger tracks on the album, they just can’t cut it? Is it perhaps they are that dreaded form of “generic?” Either way, they are far from bad tracks and Final Silence can count themselves proud with this effort. They have shown they can knock out a full LP showing variations of their work with true highlights among it.
Tracks To Check Out; I’m Just Like You, What Have We Done?, Just For Once, I’ll Die Fighting
For fans of; 36crazyfists
It’s that time of the month again… when we look back at Mayhem Underground’s most recent gig and reflect on the bands involved. This time, it’s Tom McConnell, What’s the Damage’s vocalist, one of our writers and a very valued member of the Mayhem Underground community…
The Vale Bar is already jumping as Semper Fi are preparing to open Mayhem Underground 3, I have heard a song or two prior to this show, yet have never seen them live before. So I’m not entirely sure what to expect in the next half an hour. A botched intro immediately sets me to unsure, but composure is quickly gained and I am happy to say Semper Fi went on to thoroughly impress not only me, but many in the venue judging from crowd participation throughout their set and comments I hear in the immediate aftermath. Watching the band live is captivating once they have hit their stride, and I cannot help but feel they would be more comfortable with more room to manoeuvre, but they try their best to show their potential with guitarists and bassist proving energetic and at times creating an impression of a beast caged to the confines of an enclosure too small. The drumming also has points where I’m blown away by double bass being flanked with guitars to create truly punishing passages through certain songs, notably “Retribution?” Listening to “Sex Me Free” I feel also shows vocalist Paul Burns confidence best as I found myself paying particular attention to his performance throughout this track. A quick scope of Semper Fi’s facebook page upon arrival home, and I see they have in fact graced stages far larger, and I feel this is necessary to see the full stage presence of this band where they are given the space to truly run amok- something I will be looking for the opportunity to witness in future.. In conclusion by the end of the set I am left with the opinion that if I was to relate Semper Fi to a well known artist, I would say Blackstone Cherry, but with a much more fierce edge- leaning further towards metal than the aforementioned band I count severely within rock.
With the crowd well and truly switched on now in the wake of Semper Fi, Shapeshift prepare for the stage. I have had the pleasure of playing alongside Shapeshift in the past and chatting to members throughout soundcheck, their enthusiasm in infectious. I count their stage demeanour as more laid back than Semper Fi, but such is the atmosphere of Mayhem Underground; bands line up with each other for an effective night of rocking alongside each other and respecting alternative music, be it crushingly heavy, or in this case; as I to call it “drinking music.” That instance where it’s easy to enjoy a beer while nodding your head to some good straight up heavy music. I am stricken about half way through the set by my overall opinion of this band, they are easily the bridge between the wave of British Heavy Metal in the early 80s, to Thrash. I easily hear elements of both and they come together in an entirely perfect harmony. The set is finished off with a song devoted to and named “Wrestlemania (Feel The Heat)” which climaxes with crowd participation to sing the lyrics- it says a lot when you have a venue able to sing along by the end of a song which many probably haven’t heard before and requires a charismatic show to encourage those willing. The reaction shows Shapeshift possessed this trait. To again, stress the catchiness of what must be a fan favourite, as I (part of What’s The Damage?!) take to the stage, our guitarist is still singing along long after Shapeshift have left the stage.
The Dead Lay Waiting - Almost Heaven Review
The Dead Lay Waiting – “Almost Heaven” Review
By Tom McConnell
Having been looking at stage times and looking to plan my Download 2010 weekend out, I found myself with a blank slot early afternoon on the Saturday, so I started looking at bands further down the line-up and stumbled across The Dead Lay Waiting, the single gaining my intrigue, “Anxiety of an Obsession.” I should have perhaps heeded back to that day as this track didn’t completely overrun me, but it was something I didn’t mind while I had nothing better to listen to. I went along and checked them out on the Redbull Bedroom Jam stage and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t terrible, and kept me satisfied and occupied from waiting in queue to get to the bar to pay over the odds for a few beers waiting on another band coming on. Then, that was it. I hadn’t bothered to jump onto facebook and like them as soon as I got back from the festival, but I knew I’d seen them and they were okay.
Then a few weeks ago, a friend posted a video for their new single “The Days I’m Gone” and I instantly loved it. The chorus was an anthem, stuck in my head on repeat for days, the verses were heavily brutal and it had that sometimes cliché chorus without distortion before all kicking back in for one last time, but I lapped it up. I also noticed this was the single that was going to be pushing the new album “Almost Heaven” and I immediately looked them up to keep on top of information for this upcoming album.
The band are all quite young, and probably will still be asked for identification entering a club, but “Almost Heaven” being their second release on leading British metal independent Rising Records, and with nominations among Kerrang’s Best British Newcomer and MetalHammer’s Best Underground Band at this year’s respective awards- they are showing promise beyond their time perhaps. Sadly, I feel this success may be coming a little too early. I could understand the boys being proud of this release, but I feel, having been introduced through the way of “The Days I’m Gone” with a little more time, this could have been so much more. That is not to say the album is without its moments, there are times when the album shines, but these moments quickly burn away.
When I first loaded the album up, I saw 15 tracks…”nice!” I thought, still holding that optimism from “The Days I’m Gone” but then I noticed 3 of these tracks are under a minute, including the opening 2. The “Intro” track has a drum pattern building up into “Wake Up” when vocals introduce the 3rd track and opening actual song “This Day Will Be Your Last.” Now, I ask why these intro tracks couldn’t be merged into one, but the 2nd track to me does absolutely nothing to build the anticipation at all, this album has got off to a bad start.
In fact, it isn’t until track 6, the 4th song “Burnt To Ashes” that my attention is fully grabbed again, nearly half way through the track listing. This song restores my hope with its soaring chorus and from early fan feedback I have seen, this is the single being screamed out for to be released next. I am however left with one question come the end of this track, “why did it take until nearly half way through the album for a strong track to appear?” Surely album structure 101 dictates that your opening track (especially coming off an intro, or 2!) needs to be powerful and immediately grab the listener? Ah well, on with the album.
From here, we head into “Open Your Fucking Eyes” and I can’t help but think the explicit title somewhat personifies the track. This track is lazily written, and it seems that while the band may have seen this as over the top brutal and therefore deserving of an eye-catching title, this track is far from it and just sounds messy. There is a break midway through the song, somewhat unexpectedly where clean guitar provides a change of pace, but this doesn’t seem to be fit and has just be thrown in at a whim.
The fact this was track 7, and the next I will speak about is track 10 shows that this bland song writing is evident throughout the album. Another point I wish to touch upon here is that throughout many of the songs, the lead vocals range from a fitting and impressive low growl, to an annoying, high pitched nigh type of screech that just grates every time I hear it. More often than not it is the recess of a cleanly sang driven chorus, or competent guitar work that is saving tracks. Track 10 is “The Days I’m Gone” and it is by now clearly evident why this song led the album. It is head and shoulders above the rest and given my optimism for this album off the back of this single, kudos to Rising Records for making the correct decision. I am also noting this time around, having heard earlier track “Decaying King” that repeated vocals are used quite regularly, though in these two cases, it works with the guitars driving them forward.
So, remember my confusion at the 2 intro tracks and how utterly pointless I seen them? Well they threw in an interlude. That’s enough salt in my wound, cheers lads.
“Choke On Your Words” is thankfully showing promise and thought out structure, a clean sang chorus is always a pleasant surprise throughout this album and as we make way for a gang chant, you can find yourself getting into the track, although the chants are led by that screech, that borderline nearly wrecks the illusion.
“Look At Us Now” is a promising title for me, I’m a big sucker for these “middle finger up at all of you who doubted me” songs and I head in hoping this will signal a strong end to an album which has left me so far disappointed with its many misses to now and then hits. Again it is the guitars leading the way, and a half time chorus gives a bit of needed power, but average verses (more than I can say for other tracks) nearly buckle under the contrast of the chorus.
Finally we head into closing and title track “Almost Heaven” and I see it clocks in at a shade over 9 minutes. I’m torn at this, is it going to close well and give me some confidence? Or will it slam in one final nail? Truth is, it does neither. I don’t know if that’s worse- I mean, some closure is always appreciated. The idea is there behind a thin veil, you can see what they are trying to do, but the execution just needed that little bit more. Once again, clean vocals are relied upon to keep the song sounding fresh and when all fades away for an eerie spoken word extract (by none other than Barry Clayton- the voice behind “Number of the Beast”) I can’t help but think this would have proved more haunting and created more atmosphere with a younger, quieter voice. After the extract, strings and an organ come in and really drag this out. As a closing track, this has perhaps dragged on long enough and that screamed line to bring everything back in has came too late. All hope of the triumphant finale is killed as a piano loop plays out for the final two minutes as the band fade away.
So in conclusion, I am left disappointed. The Dead Lay Waiting however have time on their side, in abundance. They did show moments of promise and I feel that with a little more maturity and experience with song writing- future releases will be more appealing. I do feel however that more time needs to be given to those clean vocals, and perhaps less shown to the screech. That being the case, and I think I would have enjoyed this album a lot more!
Tracks to check out; The Days I’m Gone, Burnt To Ashes
Surface Festival Round 2, Maggie Mays, 14/5/11
Review by Tom McConnell
A quick introduction to this competition I feel is needed to get the full effect for the potential it holds to the acts involved. After 4 rounds of regional competition, the final showcase featuring unsigned acts from all over the UK and Barcelona (with new territories being drafted in for next year) will take place as a glamorous showcase at London’s Indigo2 with the prizes at stake nothing short of a gift from the Heaven’s themselves. Full backline, lighting rigs, top end recording process with a full on digital and physical promotional campaign with a professional marketing company directing, promotional video, merchandise, a tour of the UK (with the bus/driver included), and a slot at Budapest’s Sziget Festival; and that’s just first place. There is a real hunger for the acts to break through and fight for this mammoth haul. However, what I credit Surface Festival for the most is its innovative voting system. Each round works much on the “battle of the bands” concept, but instead of just being down to audience votes, or a couple of judges- everyone has their say. Text votes, audience votes, fellow band votes and industry professionals all have a say (1 point, 5 points, 20 points and 30 points respectively). This is quite refreshing as it does not leave the decision of which progresses to one factor alone- haven’t brought fans? Rely on other bands enjoying your set. The industry professionals hated you? Let your fans push you through. Anyway, with you all now hopefully clued in, let’s get down to business.
My own band (PLUG!) What’s The Damage?! were fortunate enough to make it through to the Scottish 2nd round, which took place on the 14th May. We were joined with the acts successful from our first round heat, Lets Play God, ForeverVoid and Final Silence as well as The Rare Breed, Core and Momentus. Now you would think, with 7 bands on the bill, this is going to be a long night; however each band is limited to a 20minute set list. Bring your strongest songs; make it count, because you haven’t got long. On the other hand, I’ve found this will stop acts from becoming stale and dragging on into background noise (not to say any of these bands are guilty of that, but we’ve all seen it happen).
We kicked the night off with ForeverVoid, having seen these guys before I know they deserve a fired up crowd to play to, that will react and they will perhaps not be happy going on first, but it’s a job someone has to do and their confidence and tightness will provide a solid and electrifying start to the night. With people still coming through the door, ForeverVoid are providing a schooling performance and setting the bar for the rest of the night. A wireless guitarist seems to always come in useful as he leaves the stage (there is a blue velvet robe instead of a barricade- more on that later) to mingle with the crowd mid-song, really firing everyone up. A wonderfully talented vocalist that gives David Draiman a serious run for his money is charismatic with a low stance and it pays off by closer “Vision” which has the audience interacting with the chorus.
The Rare Breed
Next up we have The Rare Breed. A band I know personally very well. Now, to make it through to this round, every band has had to show some form of pedigree from a very competitive first round. The Rare Breed, I have watched developed from their very early gigs and while the confidence has always been there, I feel there is a little bit more development yet needed. Sean McKay on drums undoubtedly puts in a good shift, but I notice a couple of moments where timing is perhaps a little out. Jason Harris, the vocalist, shows he has the confidence of a front man, but there are times when an awkward stance with legs together shows perhaps he can use the stage a bit better. There are however moments where he does show this required skill, throwing himself around in amongst the bassist and new guitarist. This is another thing I wish to touch on, the new guitarist has without a doubt helped The Rare Breed’s sound and I note a couple of solos that show real potential- but instead of being attached to an amp at the back of the stage, his talent needs to be shown off. This may still be because the latest addition is still fitting into the band and finding his feet amongst an established line-up- in which case, prove to the audience why you’re there.
Lets Play God
After The Rare Breed, we have Lets Play God. Most of the collective audience know what to expect here and the boys do not let us down. As a 4 piece, they show amazing understanding of each other and if ForeverVoid raised the bar, Lets Play God have stolen the bar and put it on a shelf out of reach. DTA, SMHP and Spineless all have the crowd enthralled and completely at vocalist Rob’s mercy. This is well deserved too, their lively and confident performance comes with a real feeling that Lets Play God are here to make sure the audience above all have a good time. To the point, that robe acting as a barrier pointed out earlier- long gone. Audience and band interact with each other, vocalist Rob and bassist Chris making frequent trips into the midst of the front row. Surface Fest Round 2 is now officially on.
Final Silence has one hell of an act to follow, but if there was ever a band on this bill to match their energy and love for a rampant crowd, it will be this act. Unfortunately due to my own commitments of playing I only manage to fully intake the last 2 songs, but as I take my place by the side of the stage mid way through their 3rd last song, I notice the severe lack of a vocalist on stage, but I can hear him. Suddenly, the phantom vocalist strolls past me back into his rightful position. Turns out he’s just made full use of his wireless microphone and went for a quick lap around the venue. The crowd’s going nuts, one more step forward and the stage is invaded. They blast into crowd favourite “Jon Kandi” and the place has erupted. A new song closes their set and it’s a good while before the presenter can introduce the next band due to a “one more song” chant that does not help your humble author calm any nerves before going on stage.
What’s The Damage?!
As to not blow my own trumpet or shoot myself down, I shall leave the valuations of What’s The Damage?! to anyone who wishes to post their opinion and move straight onto Core.
Now I know these guys were playing Glasgow the night before too, I don’t know if they went out partying afterwards, but if they did, you most definitely won’t be able to tell. The crowd has started to dwindle, but Core is still going to grab you by the balls. As a 3 piece, I am in awe as to how full they sound. It has that stripped back, gritty feel to it- but damn does it work for them! I love Brian Murphy’s vocals; you can nearly see the venom being spat onto the microphone through truly pissed off lyrics and it is this factor that makes Core an act to be seen as it will not let up throughout the full set. “Hollow Inside” I think is the song of the night for me; it is that chorus I still have etched in my mind.
Momentus take to the stage in the dreaded last slot of the evening. This is the only band I’ve not seen before, but despite their apparent younger age to the majority of the rest of the bands, they are not fazed. I am reminded of Bullet For My Valentine from their sound and they work their way through their set with an undying defiance of the ever smaller crowd. Those that have stayed are being served well here as the band has clearly put time into their song-writing for well structured songs with variation. I am most definitely going to be looking out for future gigs with a longer set time to really form an informed opinion of this act as this allocated 20minutes has either just given me a preview of what can be accomplished with a longer set, if not what they will go onto achieve with a few more years development.
As mentioned previously, all acts have proven themselves by getting through the 1st round, and overall, the 2nd round has proved harder to judge as I know in my mind, I wasn’t sure if What’s The Damage?! would make it through. I think I would have made the call and put money on ForeverVoid, Lets Play God and Final Silence, but as for the other 2 available slots, they were anyone’s. As it turns out, we and Momentus grabbed them. It’s this moment in such a night that while I’m happy to have progressed, bands that haven’t that fully deserved to taint such news. We knew entering such a competition, this is part and parcel- yet it does not make it any sweeter. Surface Festival Round 2 put on a phenomenal bill, an all metal bill- and I’ll put money on it was one of the most intense nights of all 2nd round heats. Bring on round 3.