Music Review: No Devotion finds redemption in ‘Permanence’

Most artists will, at some point, inevitably experience the embarrassment of having the nadir of their lives – public or private – documented for all to see. It, unfortunately, comes with the territory of living in the gossip-fueled, TMZ-obsessed world we now find ourselves inhabiting. All low-points and rock bottoms can and will be seen by the judgmental god that is the unblinking public eye. These artists are faced with the options of either slinking away shamefully and putting their careers into early retirements, or, courageously, they can embrace – warts and all – their darkest, most embarrassing moments and channel that negative energy into something creative.

Almost no artists have ever hit as devastating a low point as the members of Lostprophets.

No one would have blamed the ex-members of the group if they had decided to hang up their instruments and hide from the scrutinizing gaze of the public eye. They had, of course, just seen their 15 years of hard work as a band blow up in their faces when allegations surfaced that their lead singer, Ian Watkins, had secretly committed some of the most repugnant and evil crimes imaginable.

Despite the fact that years of their musical work were tarnished by their now incarcerated former front man – or perhaps because of it – these five Welsh musicians were compelled to continue making music. While a commendable decision, it would be a hard task to accomplish, as the Lostprophets as a brand was now forever tainted by Watkins. The question became how on Earth would musicians Jamie Oliver, Lee Gaze, Mike Lewis, Luke Johnson and Stuart Richardson get back into the world of music making?

Enter Geoff Rickly.

In the last few years, the former lead singer of Thursday – one of the most well-known and revered post-hardcore bands of the ’00s – had been experiencing his own professional and creative nadir. Thursday had disbanded in 2011 and – while he was still sporadically channeling his fury in the screamo power-violence supergroup United Nations – Rickly found himself in the ghastly grip of grief after a romantic relationship he was in ended.

On May 14, 2014, it was announced that Rickly would be joining the five ex-Lostprophets members in a new group named No Devotion. Rickly, in an interview with Radio Cardiff, said his new bandmates “needed a second chance.”

As fate would have it, Rickly himself needed a second chance.

Leaving behind the nu-metal sound of Lostprophets, and – to a lesser extent – Thursday’s post-hardcore vibe, No Devotion plunges Permanence for the majority of its 48-minute runtime deep into the chilly, turbid waters of ’80s Joy Division-inspired dark electro-pop. However, there are moments of airy, fuzzed-out shoegaze à la Stone Roses, and aural homages to the more buoyant tunes of ‘80s stalwarts The Cure and New Order that allow the band to rise above the depths of despair and bask in the light of redemption.

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Music Review: Heaven In Her Arms and Cohol team up on split EP ‘Kokukou’

For something off the beaten track, there’s Kokukou, an intense split 12” release from Japanese metal acts Heaven in Her Arms and Cohol.

The first half of the split 12” features the music of Heaven in Her Arms. Sounding like the violently depressed lovechild of the music groups Deafheaven and Converge, Heaven in Her Arms’ first track, “Kuroi Senko,” is a beautifully restrained post- rock instrumental that segues into the ambient “Mayu.”

Having just spent two-thirds of their split 12” creating lush, quiet sounds, Heaven in Her Arms delivers a devastating sucker punch with “Shuen No Mabushisa” – an aggressively propulsive track that dizzies you with faster-than-the-hiccups fret tapping and bludgeons you with unreal speed drumming. With “Shuen No Mabushisa,” Heaven in Her Arms manages to showcase every aspect of their sound all at once: larynx-lacerating vocals, moments of tenderness and beauty that flit around the jagged edges of violent guitar riffs and post-rock theatrics.

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Music Review: ‘Every Open Eye’ sees Chvrches mature in sound

There’s always a fear in the music world when a new band or artist comes busting out of the gates with a commercially and creatively successful first album that the follow-up will inevitably disappoint.

The dreaded sophomore slump has cursed many bands – The Killers, MGMT and Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to mind – so it’s understandable if there were fans who were skeptical of how Chvrches’ second album, Every Open Eye, would turn out.

Thankfully, those concerned that the Scottish three-piece would rest on their laurels and churn out a carbon copy of their 2013 debut album The Bones of What You Believe can rest easy. Every Open Eye is a beautiful and at times dark synth-pop album that can be called the greatest accomplishment in the band’s limited catalogue.

Never outstaying its welcome, Every Open Eye is a captivating 43-minute, 11-track aural journey that sees the band build upon the sound introduced in their first album and fine-tuning it just enough to make things more interesting. If there was any issue with The Bones of What You Believe, it was that it felt not so much a cohesive album, but rather a collection of greatest hits – which is pretty insane considering it was their first LP. Each track on Every Open Eye flows seamlessly into the next – a fine example would be how the propulsive and triumphant ending to “Make Them Gold” beautifully fades away into the soft shimmering intro of “Clearest Blue.”

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