Gig Review: Darko’s Bonsai Mammoth Anniversary Bonanza @ The Boileroom

Featuring: Actionmen, PMX, Drones, Fair Do’s, The Affect Heuristic and many more!

Review by Joëlle Laes. Photos/videos by Mirjam van Reijen, plus some snaps from Joëlle.

After so much anticipation created by the advent calendar announcements via social media, I couldn’t wait for the Bonsai Mammoth anniversary all-dayer, hosted by Darko, an event celebrating a year since the release of their epic debut album. Every announcement seemed like a gift that was personally selected for me. “You like this band? OK cool, we’ll book them.” Thanks guys. Perfect lineup.

26731070_10156148207607873_6453732130473442402_n

Some of my friends decided to get the ferry over the UK from Belgium, and I was lucky enough to snatch a seat in the car. Getting up at 5am the day before to make the trip over and paying a fortune for a hotel was a bit of a faff, but hanging out with friends and seeing fantastic bands makes up for the lack of sleep and the hole in my wallet. After a good night’s sleep, it was time.

It couldn’t have started better than with a Punk Rock Yoga Session by Jo from Bad Juju Yoga! I, however, got my myself in gear too late and missed it.

Though 2pm seemed like an early start for most attendees, the room filled up nicely for the first set of the day. Darko kicked off their anniversary all-dayer by playing Bonsai Mammoth in its entirety (Sarah recently talked to the band about it – check out the interview here). Watching them, for once completely sober and still half asleep, was an experience to remember. With nothing clouding your judgement, you begin to realise how darn good they actually are. Mesmerised by their guitarwork and vocal harmonies, head bopping commenced amongst the crowd. It definitely set me up for a good mood the rest of the day.

Totally new to me, Wild Tales follow them in getting people hooked by some more indie-ish, danceable tunes and good vibes. This new project from members of Trails and Atiptoe are rather different from the rest of the lineup, in a good way. I was sad to see that they don’t have any music online yet, however I’ve been told this bunch from Guildford will have an EP out soon.

The moment I had personally been waiting for finally arrived. The Affect Heuristic, a band consisting of both Belgian and Scottish members, started setting up for their first gig ever. It’s a strange feeling seeing them live for the first time after witnessing the whole writing process happen in my house. It’s safe to say the crowd was blown away by this shredfest, intertwined with Scottish banter and deep lyrics. The tracks Against The Grain, which addresses toxic masculinity, and Tightrope hit especially hard. For those eager to listen, you can check out two demo tracks here. Continue reading “Gig Review: Darko’s Bonsai Mammoth Anniversary Bonanza @ The Boileroom”

Album Review: Actionmen / Dead Neck – Defections (Split)

This split from Italy’s Actionmen and Manchester’s Dead Neck is an exciting and rare fast-punk find. FFO: Strung Out, Millencolin, Mr Bungle and having your mind blown.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Actionmen are a band that defy description. I’ve heard this Italian group called punk, funk, thrash, gypsy and psychedelia, which barely begins to sum up the fantastic, frenetic racket they make. Their sound is a flabbergasting melting-pot of different genre influences, although ultimately there’s the heart of a melodic hardcore band beating fast underneath it all. This is where they converge with Dead Neck, who are a similar melodic hardcore band from Manchester, with more traditional skate-punk influences evident in their intensely fast songs. Although Dead Neck don’t share Actionment’s flagrant disregard for genres, the two divergent sounds gel well together on this diamond of a split.

Actionmen are up first on the CD, which features four songs from each band. Opener Lion is the single they’ve chosen to stream ahead of the release, presumably because it’s the most accessible of their four tracks. The punk element is incorporated via machine-gun drumming under every second, however the guitars and vocal have more in common with trippy ‘indie’ rock sensibilities. There’s a depth in the distorted words, so gentle and slow in comparison to the percussion, that’s deeply appealing.

Born To Be High opens with a slightly mad little guitar riff. The combination of instruments and paces paints an intricate soundscape in your mind, like an artist daubing varied brushstrokes across your cerebellum, leaving you unsure whether to dance or nod appreciatively. Flowers has more traditional musical structure, nonetheless incorporating a variety of slightly disparate sounds, particularly in the higher-pitched guitar. Actionmen have a progressive approach to composition that borrows from a lot of different influences, bouncing between tones and time signatures with abandon, and yet they tie it together in a way that sound completely natural, flowing beautifully. It’s no surprise, considering two of the band are jazz musicians outside of this project, something which is clear in the skill and freedom of their songs.

If there’s one thing that unites the two bands on this, then it’s a love to short, fast songs. Actionmen’s contributions to the record are all within the under-two-minutes bracket, apart from C’est Dada which is by far the strongest (and maddest) song on the record. It begins with a staccato guitar part that grips your ears, before delving into a short punk section. The riff returns later on in an almost call-and-response section, that’s oddly reminiscent of the Mario Kart soundtrack (in a good way). The song descends into odd guitar twiddling that’s unusual but also intensely appealing.

Continue reading “Album Review: Actionmen / Dead Neck – Defections (Split)”

PMX Interview #2: Some Things Always Seem To Change

Part 2: Perth’s perennial prodigies PMX discuss their plans for 2018, X-Factor auditions and lament the loss of Myspace.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

Yesterday, in the first instalment of our 2-part interview with PMX, we got an exclusive look at their history as a band. Check out the article for all the ups and downs that coming of age in the skate-punk scene brings.

As we learned, PMX have been going for over 20 years, although that did include a hiatus and a few variations in their line-up. 2017 has been an especially busy year for them and 2018 is shaping up to be even bigger.

They have just announced the release of a single-session live album, Clochridgestone, on February 26th, the aim of which is to the fund the recording of a full-length studio album later in the year. They’re playing a run of dates with Actionmen in February (including one put on by Shout Louder on February 2nd at The Smokehouse in Ipswich), a handful of festivals, plus a jealous-making jaunt to Japan.

To get us up to speed, singer and guitarist John Harcus and I discussed how they’ve changed and what they have planned for the future.

Your priorities must have changed a lot since you got started 20 years ago. When you first started out as a band, what was your main aim?

To be honest, Pmx has always been about having fun and that priority has not changed to this day. We have always strived to better ourselves as musicians and get our music out there to like-minded individuals who enjoy the music we enjoy playing. It’s always been that way.

What would you say is your main priority for the band now?

To last another 20 years!

PMX live at Punkle Fester cred Alia Thomas 3.jpg

What’s been the highlight of your musical career?

Too many to mention. I’ll put my X-Factor audition at the bottom of that list! We have been lucky enough to play alongside some of our favourite bands and tour in places we never thought we would ever see, let alone play in. We hope to extend that list in coming years.

Hang on, X-Factor auditon?!

Long story short, when I was playing solo my mate Tom filmed this rad video of me playing two of my tracks live (below). At somepoint in 2012 I was emailed by some A&R type who saw the video, asking if I would like to come to London to play my tracks to some music producers at Sony Music. There wasn’t really much more info than that other than it could be for publishing, performing or TV.

I went, and when I got there found myself at the Sony Offices. They took me to this casting couch setup where I played live to them and they asked if I would be interested in going for auditions for X Factor. I thought, “Fuck it, you only live once”, so I went to the Free Mantle Media/Syco Offices, did the audition, then fucked off. Never heard from them again! Continue reading “PMX Interview #2: Some Things Always Seem To Change”

PMX Interview #1: 20 Years of Skate-Punk History

Part 1: Scottish skate-punk legends PMX share their history – embarrassing haircuts, namedrops and hangovers ahoy!

Interview by Sarah Williams.

PMX are overwhelmingly good at what they do: they’ve got melodic mass appeal mixed with the technical aspects of hardcore, infused with a refreshing dose of Scottish humour. Watching them live in the past has left me a little bit awestruck.

I have not been able to take their most recent EP Dark Days off repeat (seriously, it’s getting embarrassing). The band add clever, technical guitar runs and drum fills into songs without overly showing off and, more importantly, without detracting from the accessible appeal of the vocals and song structures. It’s catchy as fuck.

That being said, PMX are somewhat of an enigma to me. Their live shows are like gold dust and it’s been over two years since their last release.

Their reclusive nature makes sense when you consider how long the band has been together. Looking at PMX now, it’s hard to believe that they have been going for over 20 years. They’re still young enough and their sound is vibrant, relevant and forever growing. I suppose that’s what happens when you get started at 14 years old; they have the experience of veteran musicians but they’re still very much in tune current releases.

pmx-1.jpg

I was lucky enough to catch up with singer and guitarist John Harcus to learn more about this mysterious powerhouse of a band. In Part Two you can read about the new tunes they’re writing and the live dates they’ve got planned. Firstly, though, you can learn exactly how you manage to keep a band together for over 20 years…

PMX have been a band since 1997. How the hell have you managed that?

Hey Sarah! How’s it going? Good question! To answer that in full I’ll have to cast my mind back through countless clouds of purple haze and a copious amount of hangovers. I’ll give you some of our backstory/history to put it all into perspective. Matt, our bro Paul and I started Pmx back in high school. We originally called ourselves PMT (Pre-Musical-Tension. Shite, eh?) and recorded our first record as a 3-piece back in 1998.

It consisted of nine tracks that ripped off Kerplunk by Green Day with a hint of Nirvana‘s Nevermind. We didn’t know if we were grunge or punk so we did a bit of both!

PMX 2

A year later, after countless shows around the Perth and Dundee area, our friend Danny joined on second guitar. Our influences were quickly changing as we started listening to bands such as NOFX, The Offspring and Lagwagon.

We recorded a four track E.P. in 1999 titled The Stroppy Bitch Project. It was the start of us experimenting with more technical and faster songs. Around that time we competed in numerous battles of the bands and started gigging further afield.

 

By 2000, our sound had become what is now considered skate-punk and we recorded our third EP titled Goodbye Normality. This was our first attempt at playing double-time punk rock that the Fat Wreck Chords influence had bestowed upon us.

Around 2001, we played our first mini tour down in London, started getting quality support slots at Glasgow’s metal/rock club, The Cathouse, with Household Name Records bands and international touring bands and generally playing as many gigs as possible.

PMX 3

Our fourth E.P. was in the bag by 2002. It featured the very first version of our track PmxTV from our first album Rise and Shine and was the start of us trolling the internet far and wide, pushing our music on any guestbook or chat forum possible.

In 2003/2004 I started recording a twelve track demo of Rise and Shine from home. During that period we played alongside bands like as Captain Everything, Five Knuckle, Skirtbox, Route 215, King Prawn and loads more. These were bands that we very much looked up to. While playing a mini tour with Route 215 from London, their lead singer, Rod, told me how much he loved our track Rockstar and basically said, “I’m going to let our label boss hear this shit and get you guys signed.” Continue reading “PMX Interview #1: 20 Years of Skate-Punk History”

Darko: One Year on from Bonsai Mammoth [Interview]

We speak to Rob Piper of Darko / Lockjaw Records about their intentions for 2018 and their sterling album Bonsai Mammoth, ahead of its first anniversary.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

If you have haplessly stumbled across Shout Louder in the past, you may have heard us mention Darko once or twice. They were our Album of The Year 2017, one of the top acts at Punk Rock Holiday and a lot of other shows. Okay, so maybe we’re a little obsessed with them. Shuttup.

We love them enough that we have convinced them to play our birthday party (Feb 2nd at The Smokehouse in Ipswich) as a warm up for their album anniversary party on February 3rd. They are throwing a big shindig at The Boileroom in Guildford to celebrate a year since the release of their incredible melodic hardcore opus Bonsai Mammoth.

Darko have been around for quite a few years and have always struck me as one of the most talented, hardworking and savvy bands in the scene. Their recordings and their live shows are delivered with stark in-the-moment passion, but there’s an intellectual undercurrent that shines in many of their lyrics and their complex compositions.

To get to know them a bit better, I spoke to guitarist Rob Piper, who also looks after the infamous Lockjaw Records, home to some impressive punk and hardcore acts.

It’s nearly a year since you released Bonsai Mammoth. I’m sure I’m not the only one to put it in my top picks of 2017. How have you found the reaction to it?

Well firstly, thanks loads for your support and kind words about the record; it means alot to know people are enjoying the album. This year has flown past. We’ve had a lot of fun touring the new tracks, hearing people’s reactions and seeing people sing or scream along with us.

Darko had been together for a long time before Bonsai Mammoth, so it feels like success has been a slow burn for you. Do you think there was a particular turning point for the band?

For me I think the biggest success with Darko was finding four other members that can put up with each others shit and share the same ‘can do’ attitude to just go for it, unphased by how popular the genre is, just doing it because we love playing our music live. When we first started the band I had no idea we would be touring Japan and touring to Greece and back. Since releasing our very first EP in 2010, we have hit lots of milestones which I would class as successes. I think myself fortunate for the experiences we have shared and hopefully will share in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Where did the title Bonsai Mammoth come from?

From what I remember, the original phrase was coined on one of the many long van journeys across mainland europe, most probably scooting the autobahn. A plethora of seemingly random phrases and noises are produced from the cabin on these journeys. A lot of it is bollocks but some is thought provoking and meaningful… In some opinions.

With Sea of Trees, Bonsai Mammoth and a lot of the lyrical content in a lot of your songs, there seems to be an underlying nature theme. Is that a deliberate choice? If not, why do you think that theme comes across?

From Trust to Conformity and the Sea of Trees EP both follow a concept which involves nature versus machine, so I’d say it was more intentional in those two records than the full length. Nature is a such an epic spectrum; it encompasses the reasons why we are alive and how we interact with the earth. I think it’s important for all of us in the band to recognise this and, when writing, it makes sense to use nature to help describe scenes and relay emotions with metaphors. I think each of our personal ecosystems can be compared to the planet and being aware to treat ourselves with respect, as we need to do to the world, to try and avoid the heavy pressures causing poor health. Continue reading “Darko: One Year on from Bonsai Mammoth [Interview]”

Album Review: Thanx 4 All The Shoes – Another Ride

The intense and heartfelt third album from Italy’s Thanx 4 All The Shoes is a solid skate-punk/thrash offering. FFO: Propagandhi, Strung Out, NOFX.

Review by Jake Jeremy.

Another Ride is the third album from Italian melodic hardcore outfit Thanx 4 All The Shoes, due to be released on November 25th on Disconnect Disconnect Records in the UK.

In their 11 years together, Thanx 4 All The Shoes have toured all over mainland Europe and Japan, building a reputation for their technical skill and thought-provoking lyrical messages. You can expect shades of melodic hardcore and thrash in the style of Propagandhi and Strung Out, however with a name like Thanx 4 All The Shoes I’m slightly gutted I’m not listening to a NOFX tribute band. Either way, I’m jumping in with gleefully expectant ears.

Opening track One Pen One Book instantly draws comparisons to Propagandhi, but I’m actually getting more of an 80’s thrash vibe from the quickly muted guitar attack and vocal approach. Think Anthrax and Megadeth if Chris Hannah wrote their newest tracks. It is a solid opening and a promising precursor to the rest of this album.

Title track Another Ride and it’s much of the same: fast and melodic with a twin guitar attack reminiscent of Propagandhi. What stands out most is the high-flying vocal harmonies and METAL AS HELL midsection where small guitar flourishes embellish another 80’s thrash thrill ride. This is what I want from this band: the sections where they truly let fly and break away from what’s ‘expected’ within standard modern hardcore are what set them apart. Continue reading “Album Review: Thanx 4 All The Shoes – Another Ride”

EP Review: Sombulance – Lifer

The new release from South Coast skate-punks Sombulance is a lesson in creativity and precision. FFO: A Wilhelm Scream, Darko and Propagandhi.

Sombulance have that exciting new-favourite-band quality that traps your heart in your throat when you first stumble across it. Based in Southsea, this quintet are yet more proof that the finest melodic hardcore in the UK originates from the South Coast. They’ve been together since 2005 and released a full album back in 2010, so they’re hardly a ‘new’ band, but they’ve recently reassembled and refreshed their line-up so it feels like a new start. Since catching their explosive set at Manchester Punk Festival in 2016, I’ve been eager to hear more from them, and I was lucky enough to catch them slaying the Beach Stage at Punk Rock Holiday – one of my highlights of the week.

Lifer was released at the beginning of August, just in time for PRH and live shows with Pears and Darko. Sombulance play especially melodic skate-punk, underpinned by themes of regret and redemption. Expect 18 minutes of intricate, thoughtful composition, technical guitar and memorable song-writing. Sharing their new drummer, Marc Morey, with progressive thrash virtuosos, Almeida, the EP is also blessed with fast-paced, creative percussion. Lifer is an big advancement on their 2010 album A Cynic’s Response, particularly in terms of production quality.

The EP opens with The Articulation of Afterthoughts, a bittersweet and reflective love song with some of the most heart-wrenching lyrics on the record, “When she comes around the world seems a little brighter, and when she takes control my shoulders become lighter… When explanations fail to make you see what’s true, I am alone, I’m here with you.” In terms of composition, this is one of the most accomplished tracks on the album, coaxing the listener through a dynamic story that adeptly blends lyrics and melody. The elaborate layers of guitar sound like a waterfall rushing by, blending in delicate, brighter tones in the middle. Ant Harrison and Will Pearce’s dual guitars flow with force and beauty through all 6 tracks, giving Sombulance their unique edge.

The coda slides nicely into Lessons Lost, which is a heavier but punctuated by livelier, brighter drum lines. Throughout the all 6 songs, there’s not a single bar without layers of imaginative nuances that really hold your attention. The attention to detail in their composition is impressive, each listen piquing a new interest. Continue reading “EP Review: Sombulance – Lifer”