SMS #5: White Noise


HAXANWhite Noise

Stating the obvious here, but Cardiff rock trio Haxan have achieved a mighty list of achievements across the decade of their existence, from major festival slots, to performing alongside the likes of Electric Six and bleeding Status Quo, to hot acclaim between radio and publications.

So with such an insane amount of hype riding behind the three, it’s natural to expect a whopper of a product in the form of their long overdue debut album – White Noise – and with plenty riding against them, they’ve come out the other end glorious and victorious.

In a matter of moments, they invigorate all the senses with the wildly intoxicating Damned If You Do, seizing you with a red-hot energy and a simple yet latching hook.

Sam performs double duty, and efficiently well, bashing out brisk, insane tight riffs whilst impressing with a damn good voice which is consistently fresh and sleek, yet in her singing, she’s also able to command a yielding presence.

But this sure isn’t a one person job, and luckily the pairing of Harriet and Jess commit their talents at equal strength, combining fissuring basslines and boisterous, clobbering drum beats to further amplify the size of their ultimately epic sound.

Because of the aforementioned elements, you’ll find that every track, without fail, has this forceful drive propelling them, each coming to a head with these grand, hard-hitting choruses that are just as powerful as they are infectious, sparking streaks of headbanging; the highlights in this area that immediately spring to mind include Killing Time, Grave Digger and Black Sheep.

Elsewhere, the likes of Nine Lives and Skeletons are notable for some engaging writing, with interesting and sometimes straight up amusing lyrics that you won’t be forgetting, Louder Than Words rouses with dazzling solos, and the finale Living Dead is catchy as all heck.

So unless you’re too nit witted to gather by this point, the fruit of Haxan’s painstaking labour has proved to be a valuable result. White Noise is freaking supreme, a monumental masterwork from top to bottom, with no considerable ill words to describe it.

It’s obvious that rock is nowhere near dead. If anything, these ladies have been inspiring in ensuring the genre remains alive and healthy, also proving that they rank synonymous with it, and they’ve definitely earned that distinction.

Veterans will love this, young folk will love this, basically anybody with a functioning brain and common sense will love this. Selfishly speaking, I can’t see how people could treat their ears to this and not gush over it.



RACHEL JACKThe Calgary Tapes

If you’re involved in the Scottish scene, you’ve probably heard the name Rachel Jack pop up a lot as of late, and that’s because over the last couple of years, since committing to a full-time career and earning a scholarship, she has built herself to become one of the most promising singer-songwriters that the country has to offer.

Step by step throughout 2020, the Aberdeen native has consistently unveiled new songs on a monthly basis from her upcoming debut release – The Calgary Tapes – and when tied together, what you get is ravishing results.

She immediately connects through the early seconds of Nowhere with very nice, charming words broadcasted through her crisp and stunning voice, and she holds interest through a bouncy acoustic melody

But while that song had a lightness about it, she flips the switch in The Hardest Part, and as you would assume from the title, it’s quite sorrowful as she dives into the dealings of a fallen romance and the effects to spawn from that in herself.

Bring Me Down is a wonderfully mature piece, which not only inspires you to stand your ground in the face of animosity, but also be willing to take the empathetic, grown-up route and try to find human quality in those that shower you with that aforementioned pessimism.

Rachel’s harmonies are especially lush and astounding in Equalised, which features quite a hooking chorus, and she finishes in a soft and gentle manner with Guided, defined by these lovely, benign subtle howls.

Rachel Jack’s EP is simply a bundle of joy, with music that is as pure and from the heart as it gets. Whether the songs aim to leave you smiling or put you into a thoughtful trance, all are effective, but you wouldn’t expect less from the work of a fantastic talent.



PAPER RIFLESTraitor’s Hill

Paper Rifles, hailing from Edinburgh and undoubtedly one of the most definitive acts of the Scottish DIY punk community. They’ve been going for a while now and have still to lose their step, continuously churning out excellent results such as their new album – Traitor’s Hill.

They patiently enter into The Greatest Change, softly forming a magnetic sound with a sustained synth, in time increasing the power with a repeating, pounding blow, before suddenly exploding into a barrage of fervor. And with that, they get the show on the road with the amazingly dynamic Sleeping Dogs, accompanied by the head-sticking hook “can I get a witness?”

The lyrics of It Started As A Joke really radiate out of the speakers and enthrall you, Blood On The Wind accelerates as it builds upon layer upon layer of outspoken passion, and Sea Legs is simple but still great.

Hearts And Minds is another cut where the vocals hit an outstanding peak, brimming with heaps of legitimate feelings that in turn have you absorbed, then we have Judas, which is a thoroughly intoxicating blast.

That intensity rides into what is the highlight of the entire record, Headstrong, thanks to not only a hell of a chorus, but brilliant writing that will surely make a mark on anybody who has experienced a case of being expected to “man up” when stuck in a mental rut, and after dishing out a belter of a cover of Curators’ Cemetery Sea, they culminate in excellent style with the engrossing Atlas.

Once again, Paper Rifles have proved their worth as one of the Scottish punk leaders through another formidable album, with the tight assortment of songs featured on here showcasing an impressive combo of performing ability, lyrical fortitude, and a sheer commitment to presenting the subject matters in the most effective manner possible.



BE MY ENEMYAll That I Love, I Destroy

Be My Enemy, a long-running outfit from London who have justified their continued existence by being very good at what they do, and their latest record – All That I Love, I Destroy – makes for a great introductory package for newbies such as myself.

The title track creeps in at a deliberate pace with insipidly spoken words that spark intrigue, and then they unleash into a wave of abrasive noise partnered with an effective hook. They hold onto that intensity stepping into Bad Blood, featuring a regular firm pulse and sharp, caustic lyrics, and the gritty riff/keys combo is cool as well.

If, for whatever reason, those two songs haven’t quite convinced you yet, then  Wardance sure as hell will, an incredibly intoxicating techno-based dance banger that will get your body shaking and your head banging. The riff-laden Caesar Antichrist isn’t too different in that retrospect, particularly with the unbelievably catchy drumming pushing it forward throughout, and kudos for the solid scream work.

Disintegrate With Me unfortunately doesn’t live up to the previous material’s standards, however it does succeed in creating this dark, brooding tone, so credit given where it’s due, and that element carries through into the atmospheric, semi-haunting The Angel Of Anarchy.

The original energy comes roaring right back in the off-the-wall Cheating, Lying, Stealing, and Be Careful What You Wish For is another decent yet middle of the road effort. While admittedly suffering from being way too long, Ray’s Hallucination capably generates this trippy, unsettling vibe, and they exit with Destroyer, doing what they do best in an electric fashion.

Despite the album not ranking as perfect exactly, being dragged down a few pegs by various minor flaws that kill the flow, Be My Enemy still manage to accomplish a lot with this album, experimenting with a range of styles, and when at its peak, it is a fantastic, adrenaline-racing endeavour to behold.



BARBARA BLACKLove, Death & Flies

Born, bred, and residing in Spain, one woman has been cementing her name across the mainland European rock industry as a force to be reckoned with. She is Barbara Black, and with her eponymous band by her side, she has continued to build her stature with the release of her third full-length record – Love, Death & Flies.

Damnified gets the energy firing on all cylinders in a hefty manner, while Barbara is quick to show off her superbly strengthened vocal chops, and the frenzy is madly ramped up for Tiger Tamer, crowned with a blazing guitar solo and an epic chorus.

Similarly, No Bullets is heightened by a really cool hook, but before all the excitement becomes overly exhausting, Barbara tunes it down a little for Desert’s Last Drop, which is calmer for sure but still keeps you fixated with an engaging rhythm as well as sweet harmonies.

Kissed By Flames mixes it up a little with the likes of rugged screams and acoustic chords being thrown into the ring, and the drumming has been elevated, packing a harder hitting brunt behind it.

In terms of writing, Heroes Above The Stars is the most gripping, with a lot of heart resonating in the words, and as for Twister Girl? A total heart-racing thrill ride with a manic pace and an addictive as hell beat, hands down the highlight of this package.

After that hysteria, they settle down again for Don’t Play With Fire, a solid enough song, although not bringing that much new to the table at this stage, but there’s more meat involved in the great two-part closing sage, Vampire Love.

So it’s evident that Barbara Black is indeed a talented woman, piecing together an action-packed album that chucks a tonne of bangers at you, one after the other, most of them effortlessly quenching the thirst for sensational, stimulating thrills.



COCKTAILSCatastrophic Entertainment

San Francisco group Cocktails have been considered by many to be outsiders, who can’t quite be pigeonholed into one certain category; too poppy to be rock, too rocky to be pop, that sort of basic deal.

But in my opinion, not being able to be narrowed down is a blessing, for it allows the band to stand out as something different and not be so easily comparable. And besides, if their music is good – and their new album Catastrophic Entertainment is certainly good – then that should be a priority over everything else.

That cool style clash becomes evident as soon as the opening number Bun E Carlos, which has a sweet, lucid melody to it while being driven by these great, hard riffs. That dual essence spills over into the catchy Nobody’s Going To The Movies, gleaming with obvious indie influences that gives it that smooth feeling, but there’s a vivid energy running hot in the back, particularly with the rhythm section upping their games.

The harmonies in Janeland are pretty lively and passionate, and they’re improved twofold in Love Is Gone, an awesome dazzler that is bright, addictive and thrilling, topped off by an invigorating chorus.

The joyous buzz remains alive in the short and sweet Washoe Country, the well-written Never Be Alone and the solid Oversaturated, but then they hit the brakes to simmer down for the laid-back and engaging Buried Alive.

Waiting On The Summer has a vague touch of punk in the midst of the sound, and then the tempo is bumped up further for the zestful Those Changes and the eventual last track Take It Back, another piece with strong, sensitive lyrics.

So for those who couldn’t give two donkeys about specific genres and just want some quality content, Cocktails has it here with Catastrophic Entertainment, an appealing record that dives, twists and turns through a multitude of trends to provide an experience that is fresh and captivating.



MACATIER – Native Noise

After a fine intro in the form of Warsaw, the ball gets properly rolling with Hiding In Plain Sight, where Dan is on form in all three necessary areas – his singing, his work on the guitar, and the writing – to keep the audience easily convinced to stick around for the rest of the album.

While the sound quality of Lacerations is a little iffy and somewhat lingering in demo territory, this is made up for by the potent lyrics, solid electric riffs and a pretty catchy chorus which is fun to join in to.

Sink Or Swim is comprised of meaningful words, and even more so in Henry Chinaski, detailing the addiction to alcohol and being so reliant on it, and naturally this leads to less than pleasing results that rips life apart.

A quick ear-easy interlude later, then it’s onto Consigliere, which rocks the joint with gritty chords, although a couple of instances of going off-time does kill the pace a touch.

World Cup Summer is another of the most poignant pieces, where Dan openly admits to needlessly wasting too much time getting stuck in the past, vowing to just move on and look forward in his life.

The engaging Dead Weight is heavy on the bass tones, Atlantic Inferno shimmers with an old-school vibe; especially in the opening notes; and provides another real fine chorus, and the short yet satisfying Escapism closes the whole thing out.

I was just fresh off discovering Sam Russo back when this was originally submitted to myself, and it was perfect timing to say the least, because I had a hankering for more in the acoustic punk category, and Macatier fulfilled that hunger.

While it’s clearly rough around the edges in places – to be fair, this was self-produced in isolation, so a few chinks are to be expect – Native Noise is a record that still manages to deliver a series of enjoyable numbers that have raw emotional value and are often defined by topics which are hard-hitting and quite relatable.



CARBRAINThe List Of Those Lost Continues To Grow

Liam Gingell is an accomplished but highly overlooked Scottish electronic producer who has seen some success as an essential component of Kleopatra, but he also does his own solo stuff under the title of Carbrain, and you can get a taste of what he can do with his album, The List Of Those Lost Continues To Grow.

Right away in Floating Past Airdrie, he has a clear, commendable ability to mix in various forms. pairing up these crazy, pelting techno-style beats with radiant keys and chilled vocals, then in a seamless snap change it up into something little more reeled back and transcendent, yet just as captivating as per Dad’s Red Clio, and more atmospheric yet in the aptly named Quiet Moments.

He again flicks the switch and heads in a forcible hip-hop direction with the stout M80, moving on to the unhealthily catchy Campsies after an interlude, and those buzzing vibes keep on burning moving into the dance-oriented pairing of Sunroof and Distance, separated by a brief break in between.

After the alright, middle of the road seispmaC, he caps off with the nice 谷に入, wrapping up what is a pretty great record that proves Liam to be a capable and diverse artist who is able to delve into a variety of tones and techniques, and nine times out of ten, he succeeds with ease.




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