R&R:: Indie Review:: “Astoria” by the Hellfreaks

TL; DR Haiku Review:

“loud and fast punkrock, with anthemic choruses, Nitro fans rejoice”

For this week’s dip into indie bands we have “Astoria” by the Hellfreaks.  This album was released in 2016, but I recently stumbled upon them on Spotify.

The Hellfreaks come from Hungary but they are spiritually rooted in Southern California’s punk rock sound of the 90’s and 00’s.  Fronted by Shakey Sue, the band describes themselves as a combination of “punk rock, psychobilly and metal.”  However, at the risk of genre pigeon-holing them, I think you can call them a punk rock band that can play their instruments.

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Not-so-careful listeners will hear a lot of early Davey Havok and AFI in Shakey Sue’s voice, intensity, and delivery.  (That is a compliment, not a diss).  Listen to “I’m Away” and try not to imagine Davey singing that chorus fifteen to twenty years ago.  Not only that, but musically, the Hellfreaks would be at home on Nitro or FAT Records with plenty of catchy fast-paced riffs.

What makes this band a good, and quite frankly tolerable, listen (for those of us who have aged-out of pop-punk music for the most part) is the intensity of the vocals and the way they are integrated into the music.  This band isn’t just some chords and a moody singer with a haircut.  Also, despite their catchiness of their songs, the Hellfreaks have enough “edge” to stay away from sounding too much like the bands who ruined the genre years ago.  In my opinion, “Burn the Horizon,” “I”m Away,” “Sid and Clyde,” and  “Why do you talk” really stick out for their punk rock intensity and make me want to get back into a circle pit again.

The bottom line: you should definitely stream and/or download this album if you are a punk rock fan, and especially if you grew up with AFI and other California punk rock bands.

The Hellfreaks won’t be in the U.S. anytime soon, but check ’em out if you are in Germany or Hungary anytime soon.

 

 

 

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Indie Review: “Mechanics of Life” by Plastic Barricades

TL;DR Haiku Review:

“90’s influenced, but really in a good way, go out and get it”

The Band:

Today we have a review of the new album “Mechanics of Life” from the Plastic Barricades hailing from Europe (London via Estonia).  On their website, PB describes themselves as:

Romantic and honest, gloomy and curious, melodic and melancholic … Plastic Barricades chronicle life in the troubled yet fascinating XXI century with painstaking sincerity, asking questions and trying to find the answers.

 

Plastic Barricades
Pictured being romantic, honest, gloomy, curious, and melancholic (probably)

 

Well, I don’t know the band like all that, so I will just stick with what I know from listening through their new album that was released this week.

The Review:

At first blush, PB sounds familiar, but not consistently familiar.  What I mean is: you can hear  influences of different bands in different songs but it does not come off as trite or tired.  There will always be room in this world for more indie-rock and/or power-pop and PB mixes things up across the 11-track LP to keep the listener engaged.

The band specifically points to: “Radiohead, Oasis, Coldplay, Muse, Razorlight, Nirvana…” amongst other bands, as their list of influences.  To me, I don’t really hear much Nirvana, but I do hear hints of Phoenix and other danceable indie bands in tracks like “How Goldfish Grow.”

In other tracks, PB sounds like they would be at home in the late 90’s/early 2000’s indie-rock or emo scenes (see “Singularity 2045,” “Be the Change,” or “Needles in Haystacks”).  Still other times, I hear  mid-career Red Hot Chili Peppers (when they de-emphasized the funk), Blur, Bends-era Radiohead and maybe Oasis.

One of the standout tracks for me was “Our Favourite Delusions” because in my opinion it best captures the Plastic Barricade’s sound and gives subtle shout outs to their neo-90’s style.  (Also: honestly, I’m glad they don’t really sound like Coldplay because too many bands have tried to do that and it usually sounds inoffensive and bland.)

Outside of the obvious British comparisons because the vocalist sings with a U.K. accent, PB sounds more like a North American band like Fountains of Wayne (but not corny).   The tracks on “Mechanics of Life” themselves are well constructed and don’t sound overly produced.  “This album works for me because, the band ties their varied influences together to create a sound of their own.

Also, despite the band’s self-description on their website, PB doesn’t try to be too earnest or sincere.  The lyrics are also hazy enough to let the listener decide (which is what good art is supposed to do right?).  Overall, Plastic Barricades is a good listen if you are into power-pop or indie-rock or whatever other label you want to stick on them.

Would I Recommend this album?

I would definitely recommend downloading, streaming, or buying “Mechanics of Life.”  You can stream the new album: here.

Music video here.

P.S.

I only saw U.K. tour dates on their website, but I would be down to see these guys when they come stateside.

 

Indie Review: R.I.P. by Threatpoint

TL;DR Haiku Review:

“Not a metal fan, but I got into this band, you should download it”

The first submission I have received is: RIP by Threatpoint.

Disclaimer: This is not a PR puff piece.  I agreed to review Threatpoint but I was not  compensated in any way for doing so.

First a Little Background Directly From the Band:

Threatpoint is a groove metal band based out of Scranton Pennsylvania. Formed in early 2012 from the demise of other bands that shared the stage many times over. Fast forward 2016, with two full length albums and hundreds of shows across the United States, founding members Chris James (vocals) CJ Krukowski (drums) and Alex Olivetti (guitar) have kept the fire burning alive and well.

Rounding out the bands current lineup is Matthew Van Fleet (bass). Together now stronger than ever, the five have recorded their third full length album and a bonus 8 song acoustic album as well.

Tastefully drawing from a diverse spectrum of influences, all five of the members have strong writing skills and creative input. You will hear remnants of Classic Rock, Power Metal, Thrash Metal and straight up driving Hard Rock. On an occasion you can find a sprinkle of Death Metal and European influence within their musical smorgasbord.

Still searching for a label to extend their helping hand Threatpoint drives on full speed ahead on their own strength and dollar flooding the underground music scene.”

Review:

No sense in sugar coating it, I have a serious blind spot when it comes to metal.  I have a hard time taking it seriously because a lot of bands sound like what a low budget horror movie looks like.  Not to say that there aren’t things to like about the many -metal genres, but I am usually turned off by the campiness of the whole thing.

That being said, I took time to review this album to get beyond whatever inate bias I might have against this “groove metal” band.  I am glad I listened through and took a few days off before trying again because Threatpoint really grew on me.

What I liked:

I assumed that the “groove” in groove-metal meant that this band has a lot of musical meat on its bones, and that assumption proved true.  What I like about this album is that you can hear elements of hard-core punk, metal, and other aggressive/loud/fast genres but that those things never become distracting.  The contrasts in “Bury the Wicked” are certainly a highlight on this album.  The music is well done and also, I have to say that I appreciate the band’s use of introspective lyrics.

What I didn’t like:

I don’t really have much to complain about with this album.  I don’t think I will ever be really into the metal growl vocals.  To Threatpoint’s credit, it is a subdued part of their sound and didn’t bother me.

Should you Download it?

After several listen throughs, I would defintely recommend adding Threatpoint to your music library.  RIP is a very solid independent release and, you don’t have to be really into metal to appreciate it.

Show Threatpoint some love.