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Revisiting Five Iron Frenzy and their Engine of a Million Plots

“Tonight, we own the skies”



Third-wave ska-punk band Five Iron Frenzy returned in 2013 after a ten-year hiatus with Engine of a Million Plots. It is an album wonderfully nostalgic, but one that is a refreshing repaving of an old road. That old road, third wave, has seen a remarkable rekindling over the past decade, most notably from their “old guard” of established acts still breathing the fire they did when they first burst on to their respective musical landscapes. In the past 10 years, we’ve had new records by Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Buck-O-Nine, and Mustard Plug to name a few of the more notable names.

Perhaps slightly less on the forefront than say Less Than Jake or the Bosstones were during their height of popularity, Five Iron Frenzy were always one of the more consistent acts (releasing 5 studio albums in 8 years). Their albums were always good in many ways. My most compelling recollection was their 1997 album Our Newest Album Ever!, a sprightly, homely at times, wind in your hair ska/punk album that dug deep into the core of what it was growing up during these times. I bought the album from word of mouth, picking up a copy after friends and fellow listeners told me, “you like LTJ and Reel Big Fish? Check out Five Iron Frenzy…”. I have fond memories of finding their songs to be a great escape from the more blustering efforts of some of their contemporaries; their songs were always easy to get in to, with an air of hope and good vibes. If push came to shove, I’d have to pick “Blue Comb ’78” as my favorite track from the album (and really, still atop my favorite FIF tracks list), but when it came to mainstream appeal, it was “Handbook for the Sellout“.

When they released Engine of a Million Plots some six years ago now, it was a sign of a band continuing their remarkable track record with songs still entrenched in their love of ska, rock and punk, while being in tune with the contemporary world around them. They sang about the hardships of life, faith, and everything in between. The album’s musical output was as strong as ever; with tracks like the up-tempo “We Own The Skies”, which to me, while seeped in deep personal meaning for songwriter Reese Roper, evokes a kind of escape from life’s sometimes difficult turns.

If you read the explanation of the song, along with why Roper wrote it, you will realize a certain gravity to it. Born from difficult circumstances, it is like the song is the belief that you can still feel alive when you’re most vulnerable. A call or prayer as it were, to find comfort in your current circumstances.

In a way, the song is like a temporary escape; a moment of the bigger picture where you can still feel alive despite it.

The album is filled with these moments, and as I wrote in my review when it initially came out that “there is depth in the album but there is also a great feeling of warmth through it all“. And that’s still true today.

These days the band seem to have slowed down a little, at least when it comes to recording new material. Earlier this year, members of the band worked with MxPx to record and release a remix of the MxPx track “Heard that Sound” that now features the Five Iron Frenzy horn section. They have, however, been playing shows and have got a few lined up this coming October in Philadelphia, New York, and Denver.

Six years since its release, Engine of a Million Plots is still a fantastic record. The band had never sounded as energized as they were on that record, and every listen to it since has been as rewarding as it was the day it was released. I’m not sure when we’ll get a new Five Iron Frenzy album, but if for some unlucky reason that this album ends up being their last full length, the music ended on a high.

Today just felt like a good day to talk about and write about ska, Five Iron Frenzy, and this album in particular. But like the appeal of Engine of a Million Plots, it should feel this way every day.


A Night with Northlane

Josh Hockey went to go see Northlane in Melbourne and took photographer Albert LaMontagne with him to capture the night.




Settling in to 170 Russell would have been nice, but as we stepped in at the allocated 6:30 door time we were greeted with the start of Void Of Vision’s set. Sprinting down the stairs and into the room, it was clear that moving the door time forward half an hour had definitely affected the crowd.

A decent audience had streamed in, but nowhere big enough considering the year Void Of Vision has had. Releasing their magnum opus album, Hyperdaze, they have been on an absolute tear, and it was clear during this set that they were going to keep going hard.

Opening up by bringing the heavy early, Void had the room shaking from the world go. An impressive light show and an almighty wall of sound filled the room with layers upon layers of adrenaline. Vocalist Jack Bergin led this assault, bringing as much energy as he possibly could, whilst utilising his seemingly endless amounts of stage presence.

New songs like “Babylon” and “Hole In Me” showcased their new sound, while “Kill All Your Friends” got the pit going like it always does. They finished strong with “Ghost In The Machine” and left their stamp on 170 Russell.

International act Silent Planet were up next. A pretty much completely new band to me, I was immediately impressed by the connection they appeared to have with their audience. From the word go, the pit was open, and everyone in the front few row was singing along with all the passion in the world.

Spoken word vocals mixed with harsh screams ensured that vocalist Garrett kept the audience on their toes. The instrumentals kept up this pace as well, with their hard hitting dark tones unrelentingly assaulting the ears of all listeners (in a good way).

Silent Planet sounded incredibly large all the way through, and definitely would have made themselves some new fans on the night. Their music appeared to be full of themes of mental illness, and political issues, which is absolutely super important in today’s societal climate.

Counterparts were up next. Definitely a well known band, the heavy Canadians immediately made clear the tone of the set announcing themselves with a call of, “Counterparts Schoolies Week Motherfucker.” They launched into their first song and it was immediately clear why they are as acclaimed as they are. Ridiculously tight and sounding stupidly massive, they had fans moving from the second they started playing.

The shit talking between sets would have been the highlight, but the songs themselves made it hard to top. Playing the old classics as well as the new heavy-hitters, there was as much two stepping as there was singing along. Also this was perhaps the first time in history I heard a pitcall of “schoolies 2019 motherfucker open it up,” which was an experience that I’m glad I had.

Dedicating a song to Australia’s very own Trophy Eyes, their massive sound continued unrelentingly. Coming towards the end, the set closed with a wave of crowdsurfers all diving and climbing towards the microphone, trying to get ahold of vocalist Brendan so they could scream his words right back at him. This set was great, and I’m quite sad I personally am not a Counterparts super fan so I couldn’t join in the fun. Next time boys. Next time.

Finally it was time for the big dogs, Northlane. The lights went down and hands went up, ready to go and awaiting the bands arrival impatiently, the audiences cravings would soon be met. Northlane charged onto stage and belted into “Talking Heads.” The movement was huge from the start, and the audience was off their feet and jumping non-stop all the way through.

“Details Matter” was a definite highlight of the set, with the ridiculously massive sound of one of the better songs of 2019 running rampant through 170 Russell. Headbangers were aplenty and moshers were in surplus. This continued even into one of their softer songs, “Rot.” The first song released by the band with vocalist Marcus Bridge, “Rot” went down an absolute treat as always.

Northlane are a ludicrously tight live band, and this became ever more clear as they smashed through “Citizen, “Obelisk”, and “4D.” New party song “Eclipse” had the room shaking as everyone refused to stop bouncing. The set began to come to a close as massive Alien single “Bloodline” was the definite highlight of the show. It has been one of my favourite songs of the year, and this rendition locked that in even more. Cannons and lights were ablaze and firing everywhere, and made this even more of a spectacle.

Leaving stage momentarily, Northlane returned as Marcus came back wearing a big sparkly coat. “Sleepless”, the closing track of the album was incredibly effective and touching live. And was a nice sombre end to the show, right before they launched into the timeless heavy classic, “Quantum Flux.” And goddamn was it massive.

Northlane are one of the best bands out there, and this show only locked that in.

Check out the images from the Northlane show:

All photos by Albert LaMontagne. Copyright 2019 Albert LaMontagne / Sound the Sirens Magazine. Please do not use or distribute these images without the permission of Albert LaMontagne. If you use these images without permission, you are a terrible person.

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Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds



Crossed Keys Saviors

Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.

Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.

For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.

(Hellminded Records)

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