SMS #107 | King Kraken – MCLXXX


The opening moments of Devils Night hold a tonne of promise as giddy excitement builds within you, and predictably, the band live up to that prospect with a quintessential rock banger; great chorus, great vocals, great rhythm, great solos, the works. The guys next unleash total awesome hell with Bastard Liar, which they rage through at a scorching breakneck tempo that has you breathless as you press to keep up, and the guitars on here are on the most impressively supreme form imaginable. Green Terror is a real catchy winner echoing with hard, tough drumming, Veins is another which is feverishly wild and relentless, and the devious Haddonfield 78 features undoubtedly the most entertaining and investing lyrics of the pack to this point, and the explosive breakdown in the middle third is worthy of a chef’s kiss

Jeez Louise, halfway through and I already feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth, but blessedly there’s still more to come, beginning with the damn cool Man Made Monster, followed up by the fearsomely thumping Walls Of Jericho, boasting some of the record’s most incredibly imposing singing, as well as rumbling bass tones, rattling beats, more fun solos and a cracking hook. There’s an intimidating sense of threat behind the creeping Crucible-themed Proctors Ledge before they knock it up to the next roaring gear. Chaos Engine keeps the energetic hysteria very much alive, and the writing resonates well in the brutish Castle Of Bone.

There does not exist enough words in the dictionary to fully sum up the debut full-length effort from the Welsh heavy unit. The whole album gives you a titanic kick right up the arse with a nonstop electrifying stamina, every song is a crushing bullseye, the performances are always on fire, and there’s not a single moment of weakness or boredom. King Kraken have efficiently set a high bar for other rock and metal acts to follow in 2023, but good luck trying to match this behemoth.

SMS #106 | Temple Bellum – Vol 2


Things are under way satisfyingly with Gaining Tones, helmed by a cool roaming rhythm and solid guitar work, and the chorus is fairly memorable as well, while the next offering Sonic Commando is defined by some delightfully grungy tones that properly hit the spot. Goodbye Mr Fish is handily the best yet with an infectiously explosive energy that snaps you to attention.

After that madness, a welcome breather is taken in Victory, adorned with a tidy bassline and a nicely poised beat. We get plenty more fine riffs in Arguing With Scarecrows alongside some inventive lyrics, and the ante is again hoisted for the feverish final tune No Levels All Bosses to close up another sufficient release from the Scottish rock newcomers who have made a pretty decent impression so far throughout their rookie year.

SMS #105 | Masser – Chain Of Gifts


The prologue Purity cinches you immediately with its sheerly haunting vibe that sparks all the tingles, then out of nowhere, they launch into this incredibly maniacal charge with the titular track, a massively heavy thumper headed by superb vocal work that totally has you blown sideways. The writing gets a chance to shine with the engrossing Amber Flame, inspiring to dig deep down inside, unearth that sense of hope and use that as motivation to push your way through the darkest of days

The initial weighty power is restored in The Fortress, with great riffs and a banging chorus to show for it, and Immolation Of The Sacred Grove is herded by an utterly fetching rhythm which suddenly unloads into this immeasurable stampede during the wild closing moments, plus the number is lightly drizzled in this subtle yet effective overhanging atmosphere.

A dark ambient cloud makes it presence felt in the tight and intense Dogs Of War, and the fantastic Innocence exhibits probably the most enthralling singing of the whole record, which is saying a lot, and the lyrics once again are steadfast and absorbing, dictating how people can find themselves hanging on that thread between good and evil.

This EP from the London atmos-metalcore project is about as phenomenal of a debut that you could ask for. I still vividly remember my first listen where I was taken aback and practically knocked off my feet, and that sensation was sure as hell not lost on me on the sequential repeats. I’m bloody well impressed by Masser, and once you sink your teeth into Chain Of Gifts, you will be too.

SMS #104 | Ross Little – Corrimony


A warmth fills the air as Stac is birthed through swell piano keys and gentle guitar chords, not long after intermixed with such pleasant pipes that, altogether combined, flow along to a relaxed melody. Old Corrimony yet again forges an endearingly latching atmosphere that elevates the mood, and the strings are simply wonderful, with the main chorus hook being the highlight, and afterwards is Shallager, an enticing jazz-infused piece that gets you sitting back comfortably and at complete ease, with more enjoyable piano work as well as suave basslines.

Ross showcases a polished hybrid style in Carnoch, blending qualities of both jazz and Celtic folk quite seamlessly, and I like how the size and scale develops and grows as the minutes pass. Reflection stands out from the pack with the inclusion of beautiful harmonies that give the song a chilling feel, and lastly, Ross brings it home with the positively bustling Suidh Ghuirmein.

The kudos and acclaim centred around Ross Little prove to be true and very much warranted, as the Edinburgh session maestro puts his talents on display in accomplished fashion with a delightful EP that serves as an orphic escape.

SMS #103 | Garlands – Imagine I Was This Tall


Rita makes an appealing first impression, being a dainty little number with a nice pulse cemented by a great chorus and stellar sincere harmonies, and Second Day Skin has an even more wonderful moxie, and a big part of that is the utterly charming and wholesome writing which gets you smiling silly. The lyrics of How A Kid Sees It are pretty provocative and get you thinking about how we as adults over complicate stuff and worry too much, and we should make an effort to think on a simpler level to ease up on our troubles. Sugar has a real peppy snap and is a tonne of fun, and Great White Shark focuses on the importance of confidence and telling yourself to be unafraid to speak up about your conserved thoughts

This Is Where We Are is probably the rockiest of the lot with bursts of cool riffs popping up here and there while the words show that an effort is being made to dedicate time to a relationship, and Co-Optimist offers uplifting, sensitive words of care and concern in addition to a zestful rhythm and another entreating chorus. Good Looks features a tight bassline as well as some neat, distorted guitar chords late on, the accountability-centred Poor Relation is an irresistibly addictive cut that lights you up and instigates some boogieing, and they finish with yet another pleasantly heartfelt number in the form of Made Up.

Imagine I Was This Tall showcases the highly underrated Garlands at their absolute best yet, with the Glasgow indie-pop-rock group successfully jettisoning a mighty fine list of engaging tunes across the scope of this debut album, with the focal point undoubtedly being the endearing written content that more often than not lifts your spirits.

SMS #102 | Cartoonhead – This House Is Not A Morgue


Boxhill is a solid start with a lax lo-fi vibe to the whole thing, and the harmonies have fair pep at their apex during the enjoyable chorus, and they do well to strike an emotional pitch with the sadness of heartbreak in the lyrically sound BlondeHow To Bend is quite a catchy number with a great sprinkling of glossy guitar chords and mild bass tones, and there’s an added injection of life that comes with Fond Gaze, especially with the emphasis on the shiny high notes.

The animated energy continues to emanate in The Web We Weaved, which tackles the regret of the mistakes made trying to make a floundering relationship work and how reliance on false hope proved to be the downfall, and all these elements are carried through into Revolver, complete with perhaps the best singing we’ve seen yet. How You Leapt deals with the reluctant acceptance of letting go and being alone, whilst dealing with the self-inflicted shame of not being able to provide everything for your dearest love, and the leading acoustic work is excellent here, then they ease out with the short but nice Talk Of The Channel.

The Birmingham emo troupe present a meritable debut that begins decently and only upgrades in quality as it proceeds, primarily defined by writing which hits deep in the feels and is proficiently relayed through to the audience.

SMS #101 | Frenzee – Frenzee


Literally from the word go, they smash it up from 0 to 60 with Abort Mission, an energised opener with great vocals, a cracking guitar solo in its midst, and a memorable hook, and the impetus continues to run hot in Fire In My Gut with its strong rhythm and impulsive feminist lyrics about defying conceited parasites while standing tall and independent. The sound resonates with a darker and rougher tone in Backstreets, and the magnetic writing takes the spotlight with a rebellious and defiant attitude.

Frenzy is an explosively sensational banger about being overly obsessed and encompassed by an anxious desire to be validated and trying to look as good as possible as opposed to simply being your true self. In a similar topic, Sane To Insane focuses on being unsure of who you are and stuck in an unhealthy cycle to a point where you inadvertently damage your health, and Frenzee do a really good job sonically accentuating that hysteria, even right down to the repetition of the final lines.

Say It equally encourages to not leave your inner thoughts bottled up as well as not to give a f*ck about opinions from those who don’t matter in the slightest, and the belting Things I Hear epitomises the hellish endurance of being beaten down and overwhelmed by the negativity that lingers in your head and refuses to disappear.

The self-titled EP from the Greece-based Aussie punk rock trio is one of the most outstanding debuts of the past year that had me instantly fall in love, chocked with intoxicatingly electrifying thumpers heightened by avid performances and identifiable themes tackled supremely. Frenzee hold loads of promise, and I trust they’ll outdo themselves and achieve further glory in 2023.

SMS #100 | Canavar – Living After


The guys are red hot from the offset with Verdant Season, which they blaze through fast and furiously with tonnes of gusto behind the guitars especially, and they rack up the speed even more so with the exhilarating Living After, with the rhythm functioning at the highest of gears and ringing with bundles of force. They at last take it easy for a moment with Call To Arms, but only a moment, because they’re back on the run in no time, and the writing is good too with a plead to make public your grievances with society and use that as fuel to make a difference.

Atlas is another hefty blitz based around the ills of unnecessarily working yourself to death, which they nail well through the robust vocals, and Crocodile Tears takes aim at those blindly serving masters who only want to use and drain every last drop of others while secretly offering little in return. Television Generation swiftly (and infectiously) chronicles the manipulative distracting power of media, and the raw and rabid Razed Right has a great lead hook to sing along to.

The singing is coercively in your face in Sovereignty with this urge to think freely and independently for yourself instead of aimlessly believing everything you’ve been told, then as the solid By All Means informs, we should strive to make the most of life and not get caught up in the past and whatnot. The band ably go unplugged for Working Song, a showing for appreciation those who shine as a bright light between stress and hardships. The fine Timber is highlighted by sharp bass tones, but the energy is fully restored in the active and rebellious Turncoat, and they uphold a final examination at the frightening notion of people becoming so desensitised and even accepting of our dismantled world in the closing Machiavellian.

The thrashing punks from the south of England did a smashing job with their self-titled debut album back in 2018, and they’ve only improved with this absolutely stacked sophomore record, where they analyse a range of relatable topical matters through compellingly dynamic performances, in the end leaving you both thrilled and cultivated.

SMS #99 | Less Killjoy – Pink Grenade


Palm Trees sees LK make us aware that she’s suffering mentally and is dying to escape from the crap of reality to a much brighter, happier, more carefree place in her mind; an effective way to start off and paint a picture of the record we’re going to experience. My Parade features a really great chorus and LK on fire vocally as she becomes overwhelmed and kicked to the curb by others anytime she on the verge of recovery and accepting of who she is. Pink Grenades has an addictive hook while shining a light on the corrosive effects that drugs, depression and self-damage can have on a relationship, then the brief Margot Robbie does well to capture the growing pains of being alone for so long and desperately wanting that dream ideal partner to come along, save you and take you away from this seemingly everlasting hell.

LK unleashes into this mesmerising fury in the intense Sad Girl Suburbia where she rips into every little detail that she despises about the loop she finds herself in and how the longer she trapped, she’s only going to get worse, and as Blink-182 makes visible, her friends have moved away and are too busy to hang around and possibly raise her up, and as such, she becomes sadder and nostalgic for the past, then in perhaps the most heart-breaking of the batch, Orange Juice reveals that LK is straying further from her parents as a result of her problems, causing her to only drown deeper in the vortex of pain, overthinking and wishing for a better life.

This astounding EP from the Toronto alt-pop musician is definitely one of the most emotionally crippling and grievous records I’ve encountered in the longest time. The writing is thoroughly cutting and sympathetic, with only more details being picked up with each repeated listen, and LK’s performances are purely authentic and as legit as they come. Less Killjoy is special, no doubt about it, and I pray that she’s in a better place in the days since she first penned this.

SMS #98 | The Skinner Brothers – Skippin’ On The Cream


The guys begin brilliantly with the ruddy excellent Dynamite, complete with fuzzy riffs, a great bassline, a steady catchy beat, Zach’s versed vocals, and an insanely memorable chorus that’ll get you singing along before you are even done with the first listen. The title track follows at a more chilled pace but with a drawing buzz still undoubtedly persisting, and the love-based lyrics are simple enough yet entertain nicely, and On The Weekend finishes things off with a hopping bounce while the guitars awe with cool expositions and the writing engages quite well.

Don’t let the “B-Side” label or the fact that this is a quick little EP fool you into thinking this will be nothing more than a mere second-rate distraction, because this is a cracking 3 part collection with every tune bringing the quality goods on the same level that you’d expect from the band’s pair of Soul Boy albums. 2022 was another triumphant score for The Skinner Brothers that was polished off by this gainful EP, and it’s a safe bet 2023 will present more wins on the horizon.