Catch Up Club Vol. 2 – Slayer, TBDM, No Devotion, The Wonder Years

Slayer – Repentless

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I’ll be totally honest, the first few times I heard Repentless I was incredibly under whelmed. I thought the songs were repetitive, dull and pure rehashes of material I’ve already heard a hundred times the last 15 years. However, a few months down the line, I’ve come to appreciate the album for what it is, an incredibly strong contemporary Slayer record. Sure, Tom and the rest of the boys can’t play as fast as they used to, and you miss Lombardo’s ability behind the kit in some sections, but that doesn’t stop Slayer giving it absolutely everything they have. In fact, some of the album’s best tracks come from the slower, more groove-oriented material, songs such as Take Control take a different approach to things and are all the more interesting for it. Some of the riffs on display here are simply some of the best Slayer have written since God Hates Us All, and technically the album is as heavy as it can get. Tom’s vocals are raw, ferocious and finely aged, the deeper tones lending a more ominous feel to his barks. It’s not all wonderful, and don’t get me wrong, you’ve heard most of these songs before. But as I’ve said in a previous piece (*ahem*), that’s okay. The band manage to recapture just enough of that lightning in their bottle to make it work one more time. Songs such as When The Stillness Comes and Implode highlight a band at a stage in their career that some might fear, not Slayer. Slayer still kick ass. 7.8/10

Black Dahlia Murder – Abysmal

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If ever there was a band ready to take extreme metal to the mainstream, it’s The Black Dahlia Murder. No matter how ferocious these guys get, it manages to snag its hooks into you every single time, remaining catchy throughout the blast beats and relentless riffing. It comes as no surprise, then, that Abysmal is yet another triumph for the band, with some of their best work to date compiled onto the 10 track disc. Musically, the band use the album to take a step back before their last release Everblack, and return to their more aggressive, thrash based roots, as made evident by first single Vlad, Son Of The Dragon. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few treats thrown in. Songs like The Advent sneak in the more groove-laden style the band tried on for size on Everblack, fitting beautifully between some of the bands faster material. It’s a pleasure to take in every single element of a band such as this, the impeccable stickwork, blazing fast riffs and pained range of vocalist Trevor Strnad. The strength of some of the choruses on display here is truly baffling, such as in Threat Level No. 3, which blends one of the album’s most accessible choruses with one of the heaviest sections of the album, and then there’s The Fog, the song that features an almost glam-like solo. That’s the key word here: accessible. If your favourite band are Metallica, Napalm Death or Bring Me The Horizon¸ there is something here for you. 8.2/10

No Devotion – Permanence

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If anything, this is the biggest surprise of the month, nearly the year for me. Permanence is an album I had very little interest in, despite its high profile members. The debut album from the ex-Lostprophets boys and Thursday vocalist Geoff Rickley, Permanence struck a chord with me I truly wasn’t expecting. When the band unleashed their first single, Stay, last year, I was disappointed. Expecting a more Lostprophets edge to the song, I decided to let the album pass by, with the most respect for the boys, given the circumstances. Imagine my surprise when I decided to give the album a listen a few weeks back. I was expecting a harmless album of (probably) decent pop anthems, but instead I was given one of the most pained, raw, emotional albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. To describe the band’s sound would be summed up quite simply; if you take everything about the superb Drive and crunch it down into musical form, that’s what you get here. Subtle, delicate and sometimes all too real, songs like 10,000 Summers and I Wanna Be Your God permeate your personal space, tugging at just the right heart strings. The album is dark, tense and somehow retains the ability to be unbelievably catchy (just check out Night Drive). There are a few small gripes, however. Several of the songs on the album outstay their welcome, lasting just a minute or two too long, and for the first few listens some of the tracks can blend together and seem a little hard to distinguish, but honestly I’m nitpicking. Personal and beautiful, Permanence is a masterpiece, and is one of the best surprises I’ve ever encountered. 8.8/10

The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven

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Speaking of surprises, wow. You’ll notice in the last review, I said Permanence was NEARLY the biggest surprise of the year, but this might just take the place. No Closer To Heaven is as close to perfection as an album could possibly be in 2015, but let me explain. No Closer To Heaven is the fifth album from American pop-punk band The Wonder Years¸ their latest realease since their favourably received The Greatest Generation in 2013. If the No Devotion album was raw and emotional, this album is an emotional smack around the face, pure and simple. Full disclosure, the first time I heard this album, I was reduced to a sniffling wreck. Everything about this record, the careful composition of the rhythm section and the heart wrenching genuineness of Soupy’s vocals, the painfully honest, relatable lyrics, it’s all there. I’d name songs, but honestly it’s an album that demands to be taken as an entire work, one rollercoaster ride into the deepest recesses of your emotions. The album deals with everything from suicide, grief, hopelessness and just so much loss in general, and it does so with such sincerity I don’t think there’s anybody who can’t be moved by some of it’s achingly beautiful contents. For all of this, however, moments of the band’s more straight forward pop punk sensibilities still shine through on the record on songs such as I Don’t Like Who I Was Then and The Bluest Things On Earth. However, I couldn’t review this album without mention of the best guest appearance on any album in the last ten years. Stained Glass Ceilings with Jason Butler of letlive. proves to be just as incredible as you’d hope, given the pairing of the track. Butler lends a grit, a certain aggression that just dances so beautifully with Campbell’s pained, sincere vocals. If my schedule wasn’t so jammed, I would have sat down to give this album a full, 1,000 review, but even that wouldn’t do it justice. No matter what you’re into, please, listen to No Closer To Heaven. 9.2/10

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