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Ivoryline – There Came a Lion

When Tooth & Nail’s latest post-hardcore/emo outfit Ivoryline came to play, it would be presumed easy to dismiss them on their glossy appeal.

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It is strange to think that in this day and age, when a band prides itself on being without irony, pretension, and/or blinding ambition (the bad kind), they tend to come across as far more appealing, and ultimately more enduring that those who opt to stamp their recognition before they are deserving of it. We have bands like The Mars Volta (whose one loooong, never ending joke stopped being funny a long time ago), Circa Survive (painful to listen to), and Coheed & Cambria (makes drywall appear interesting) whose names are often bantered around their respective scenes as artists crafting an indefinite, and open future- “revolutionary” as they’re sometimes called. Yet anyone who sees through the hype can peel back some of the prettier aesthetics to reveal a pretty shallow message- behind those high-pitched wails and excessive noodling is the missing ingredient, the very basic appeal of good music; fun.

So when Tooth & Nail’s latest post-hardcore/emo outfit Ivoryline came to play, it would be presumed easy to dismiss them on their glossy appeal. Just another emo/screamo band looking to make as much noise in the shortest time possible … well, thankfully, no, they’re nothing of the kind. Initial spins of their debut disc, There Came a Lion, gives one the notion that these guys aren’t really interested in changing the scene, making a global impact, and/or boast claims of genre grandeur. In fact, There Came a Lion is so precisely put together that, gasp!, it actually sounds like a record they well and truly put 100% into. There’s an ebb and flow to it that rekindles a time before MySpace, before album leaks were common, and before listeners felt as if it all should be free.

The songs come together in both harmony and urgency- from the bouncy opening attack of “Days End” to the more melancholy-inducing “We Both Know,” Ivoryline are keen to balance their heavy guitar/percussion dual with a keen sense of songwriting and musical poise. They veer into pop/rock territory with their regular use of harmonies and anthemic choruses (see both “Parade” and “Remind Me I’m Alive”), but aren’t afraid to mix them with slower, more textual interludes and bridges (like in the terrific “Hearts and Minds”). And while they’re clearly accessible- they don’t tread too much on the lighter side of pop, keeping their thematic threads a little darker than your average lovelorn aching.

In the song “Hearts and Minds,” they sing the lines; “I’m not looking to music to complete me / I’m not looking for a new philosophy / I’m not waiting for somebody to swoon me / I’m just searching for a better way into your love.” Succinct and poignant convictions from a young band boasting plenty. And perhaps in the current musical climate, one of the most complimentary things I could say about a band is that yes, I’d buy that.

(Tooth & Nail Records)

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.

“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.

Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.

“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.

There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.

(Out Of Line Music)

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The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk

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The Decline

It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.

Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.

From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).

Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.

(Pee Records / Thousand Islands Records / Disconnect Disconnect Records / Bearded Punk Records)

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