Formed in 2012, Xilla are a Birmingham based band made up of Chris Flanagan (Guitar), Greg Pullins (Guitar), Richard Pullin (Bass), and Pete Smyth (Drums). In 2018 the final piece of Xilla puzzle was found when Leigh Oates entered the band as lead vocals. With everyone in place the band started developing their own sound and released their debut album on the 31st of March of this year. Xilla are an interesting and expressive artist, they indulge in multi-layered tracks which explore different sounds and corners of their own musical world.
Distant Minds has been recorded and engineered by the band themselves which makes this record a personal expression of Xilla’s personality, but for the mixing process the band have enlisted the experience of John Mitchell known from his time with Enter Shakari.
Before we start to talk about the music we should mention the record’s exceptional cover art by Matthew K Grundy who has developed an eye catching futuristic scene which would easily catch your eye when trawling through the record store.
Distant Minds starts with a short taster of what is to come with ‘Crux’ which is an atmospheric floating intro which sets up for the longer tracks later in the album. The next track ‘Hero’ has a great spacey guitar intro followed up with a menacing bass line from Richard which is a great match for Leigh’s softer vocal tones which then convey the lyrics “Where are your Hero’s, open your eyes”.
An elegant guitar performance starts the track ‘Let me breathe’ and this then allows Leigh to show off his full vocal range, for us at Off the Hook Music this is by far the best track on the album with catchy verses and meaningful choruses, we could happily listen to this record all day on repeat.
Mid way through the album ‘You Crawl’ appears with a thumping bass notes which alludes to a moodier side of the band, Leigh provides nice airy tones which allows the lyrics to have a haunting side that gets darker during the verses. This is a power ballad type track with an enjoyable spiky middle 8th guitar solo.
Then comes the mammoth track ‘Left to burn’ lasting 12 minutes 38 seconds, you may worry that Xilla would lose control of their sound, but this isn’t the case as you enter a dream like state with gentle guitar notes ringing over drum patterns and smooth rhythm of the overlaying lyrics. At 4 minute 30 seconds, spoken lyrics takes center stage and it’s oddly interesting and a great addition to the sound which had been presented before, there is also an angrier guitar riff after this section which leaves nothing left to explore in this track.
Near end of this album you stumble across a track called ‘Everything at once’ and by including this track Xilla have squeezed every type of rock track in their debut as in this one an acoustic, almost pop like sounds emerges.
‘Reborn’ ends the show and by this point of the record you feel that Xilla has settled down, explored all the areas of their musical world, and found the sound they had been looking for all along.
3.5 Hooks out of 5
Written by Kess Anthony
The 29th of March loomed large in the diary for many in Britain as our original date to depart the EU but for The Experimental it is also the date of their
album ‘What do we want’, a fitting title for the day. The album if somewhat reflective of how the people of Britain have felt over the last two years, it has a defiant thunderous bass tones and aggressive lyrics.
Like the band’s name, The Experimental explores a lot of different sounds within this album and binds them into their soaring vocals, ‘What do we want’ was recorded at Cube Studio in Cornwall and Momentum Studio in Devon and this record is as rugged as the counties themselves.
‘What do we want’; it’s always brave to start your record with the title track but The Experimental have put on their warpaint and after a haunting choir introduction to the track you are automatically challenged by Darren Curnow with “what do we want and when do we want it”, this is then back up by the infantry with a spikey guitar riff and heavy beats of Chris Firrell drums and Joe Billingham’s Bass.
With interesting lyrics “there’s something inside of me, a Jekyll and Hyde in me” driven by heavy drum and bass beats which sets up the exciting story telling of the lyrics ‘The Energy’ is exactly what is advertised, no wonder this track was screaming out to be a single on its own right in October last year, at 3 minutes 20 seconds long which is short for The Experimental it could be a decisive statement of this album. The best way to describe ‘The Energy’ is like doing a bungee jump when you are scared of heights, why are you doing this? because it’s exciting.
With a massive change in direction the following track ‘Disco Biscuit’ appears out of nowhere and it is a real risk as on first listen to the album it is an oddity within the whole band’s sound but give it sometime and it’s a grower, as you start to enjoy the disco beats and softer vocal tones within the track.
‘Bounce’ introduces itself with an American indie band style riff but all of a sudden the bass and drums burst into life and dominates the musical space the guitar was occupying and by the time the word “Bounce” has been announced you’re already jumping to the track.
Then The Experimental gift the track ‘Million Voices’ which is a fantastic song, with softer vocal tones and fast paced instrumental performance from the three band member it is not hard to see why over 10,000 listeners have already chosen to hear this track on YouTube. This track is an anthem and don’t be surprised if your voice willingly joins the Millions of voices as the verse is catchy and easy to join in with the band, the snappy drum beat is what holds the elements of this song together. Million voices would have been the fitting end to this album as it’s an all over polished sound overshadows the last track of the album ‘Vultures’, but that not because ‘Vultures’ isn’t a good listen it’s just ‘Million voices’ is just that good.
So if you’re a fan of progressive rock and enjoy catchy verses which will have you singing along in an instant, this is the album for you.
3 out of 5 hooks
Written by Kess Anthony
Los Angeles singer-songwriter Patrick Damphier was formerly of the acclaimed PaperRivals and is the son of Nashville musician Tom Damphier; a collaborator of Loretta Lynn. His debut 'Say I'm Pretty' showcases what an enviably talented singer-songwriter he is, bolstered by multi-layered production with superb attention to detail.
These ten songs are the cream of an original list of some 150. Though Damphier is responsible for most of what's on offer, others offerings - particularly vocalist - are vital. Contributions by Jessica Lea Mayfield, Nicole Atkins and Molly Parden add another dimension to the compositions.
On first listen, the most immediate songs are "Killers In The Closet" and closer "Money In The Meter". Both have off-kilter melodies and killer key changes. "Killers..." is brought home by a soaring backing vocal from Atkins. "Money..." is a great fun way to bow out and a strong encouragement to burst free.
But the greatness of these songs doesn't decline on repeated listens. Like the rest of the album, enjoyment grows. Opener "The Calender Lies" introduces a cacophony of multi-instrumentation that becomes a staple of the album's identity. In this case, it ranges from light guitar touches to splurges of brass.
"Under My Door" has a breezy, languid feel reminiscent of Kurt Vile. Both "Odd Man Out" and "Be My Jury" have a synthy, 80s feel and could have been lifted off the 'Drive' soundtrack. "Odd Man Out" has a quirky chorus - in which Parden's vocals mirror Damphier's - but is nevertheless a pop gem and brings to mind the French act Phoenix.
"Pretend It" and "Throw the Rest Away (Hold On)" have inviting riffs that could have come from the guitar of Johnny Marr. Their summery sound are another reason why, if you see Damphier on a festival bill, you should turn up.
"Bridges" has the big, spacious, stadium-filling sound like War On Drugs and crashes along like being caught in a rapid river, whilst "All Give No Take" is a piano ballad worthy of Paul McCartney.
In Damphier's words, "My approach is that the song has to be able to be played - and sustain itself - with one chordal instrument, lyric and melody". And it's fair to say, a diverse and detailed level of production is nothing without a strong set of songs; Damphier's song-writing does not fall short. These are great songs, treated superbly.
Damphier is now due to tour with a band of assorted talents including former members of Lambchop and Jenny Lewis and The Features.
4 out of 5 Hooks
Written by Matt Nicholson
Introducing Minus Alive; a band who launched their first EP, 'Maybe This All Just Ends', this 1st of March. The lyrical theme of the EP is very much about the struggles of mental health, and this theme is wrapped in an ambitious and anthemic sound that does such a worthy cause justice.
First single "From The Grey House", talks about the impact a relationship break up can have mentally. "Are you more content with heartbreaks than with love?" singer Ollie Butler laments. And when the tension of the verse gives way to a typically big chorus: "Did you want to throw it all away?". This sets the standard for a suite of songs with arena-sized choruses. Also expect clinical guitar playing, growling bass lines and massive sounding drums. Track four, "Ghost Of You" further explores the effects of separation, with Butler now haunted by his past love. This is accompanied by some really unorthodox but great guitar playing.
Elsewhere, second single "Not The Only One" focuses on the subject of anxiety and lyrically has some incredible imagery. "Faces" begins with ticking percussion and a more glacial sound. It is about losing your identity and a deadening of feelings. Musically, it breaks into life about two-thirds in with another huge ending.
The title track closes things on a softer note, with acoustic elements and backing vocals. The theme is a feeling of disconnection with Butler reaching out with the repeated "tell me what's going on" refrain. I'm really glad the lyrics from Minus Alive are at the forefront and the music also gives a ferocious soundtrack to some powerful and empowering messages. Listening to these tracks, the band have introduced themselves with an assured opening statement. They head on tour in March alongside The Survival Code and Luna Kiss.
3.5 out of 5 Hooks
Written By Matthew Nicholson
Jed Gillies is a singer songwriter from Leven, Scotland but now resides in Perth. Scotland. Jed has an impressive skill as a lyricist who is able to portray his perspective of the world to his listeners within every track. This is our review of his debut EP ‘Free Spirit’.
‘Free Spirit’ is an easy listening record, which has emotional and meaningful lyrics set alongside a steady soft guitar rhythm. It is a solid start and a good foundation for Jed. He developing his own sound which from this EP you can tell Jed is following the right path.
The title track ‘Free Spirit’ is a sudden but welcome hit of reality, Jed lays bare his soul about a friend who means a lot to him who has passed away and ‘Free Spirit’ is a fitting tribute. Jed paints a picture with his lyrics and provides beautiful colour with his words on a more solemn background. The guitar adds to the tone to the song and compliments the words well, you get a real appreciation of this when Jed moves between chords and the sound of the frets and the scraping noise vibrates around the track.
‘Bee’ the second track is again another strong lyrical performance with a good display of why a verse is so important when structuring a song, Jed uses his guitar in an intelligent way to provide an extra layer during this song.
‘On Repeat’ is based around a pleasant guitar concept and backed up by a compelling vocal performance, this track has a potentially massive radar and could be easily be a radio worthy single from the EP. This is a song of a past relationship and the verses lay out for everyone to see the progression of this relationship breaking up.
‘Okay’ is a track which builds from the start with soft piano, leading to a much faster tempo driven by Jed’s guitar, it has a very catchy verse which is a friendly sing along song. ‘Okay’ would be a prefect inclusion to any relaxed free going playlist.
Music can speak to everyone and bring people together and that is what the track ‘Fly’ gives you, with lyrics that connects beats and emotions. ‘Fly’ has a drumming beat which echoes throughout the song, the steady rhythm will trigger movement within your body. ‘Fly’ is a fitting full stop to the record as it’s the most all round polished track on the EP. The song is faster paced than the tracks before and allows you to get a sense of where Jed’s musical journey will go.
There is more to come from Jed and we are interested to listen to what he can produce next.
3 out of 5 hooks.
Written By Kess Anthony
The Mute Group met and live in Nashville, Tennessee, the band are made up of John Westberry, Ryan LaFave, Zachary Gresham, and Amy Gill. They have produced a sound which is so unusual and obscure, thats is nothing short of brilliant. They describe their sound as ‘music that skews less vintage than ancient, medieval geologic. These are songs that might just as easily ward off the evil eye as entertain.’ This is a band which you can share with your friends and they will marvel in your well rounded musical appreciation while thanking you in the process.
‘Esureis et me celas’ is the perfect way to start the listener on their journey of discovery and a beautiful glimpse into The Mute Group’s world. After you have stepped through the door you are met with ‘Rodney O’ a song with an interesting vocal arrangement and an uplifting verse which could easily find its home on radio and as a future single.
‘From the island to the mountain’ Amy Gill produces a wonderful vocal performance backed up by her fellow band members this make the track transfixing and a calm piece of art in its own right. A song which you find yourself drifting along in a different world where we find “Gold and Silver and Bronze melded into one smoke and ashes rose like incense to the sun”.
Then two tracks later we come to the compelling piano playing of ‘AIEOU’ both haunting and theatrical in equal measures, there is a level change halfway through the song in which a guitar is allowed to find its moment in the story telling adding to the layers of this track.
An anticipation is steadily increasing as the knocking sounds echo around your ears at the start of ‘Brainplate in Eb’, a slower and softer track than the ones before blends well with the methodical tones which allows the song to take on a more sinister direction as the lyrics are provided on top of the music.
When ‘Abuse & Superstitions’ arrives your nearing the end of the album and you find yourself intrigued as this track is different to the other songs but still follows the similar traits as the songs that have come before, slightly faster, driven, and more focused on the lyrics and guitar.
The last song on the album is ‘Miriam’ and it feels like a natural end to the album, although I felt it lacked the theatrical impulse and mystic of the more accomplished tracks on the album, it’s too stripped back and raw but just at the end of the song the band picks the track up off its knees and the band delivers as they have all the way through this album but I just wanted it a bit sooner.
The Mute Group has done what many bands have failed to do, they have maintained their unique sound from the first track to the last and that is what makes you happy that you have been engulfed into the abstract world of The Mute Group and their album Sinister Hand
4.5 Hooks out of 5
Written By Kess Anthony
Find Light by Cold Weather Company is an album that you will feel deeply. It is bold, unique, powerful and probably quite unlike anything you have heard before. They are at their best on album opener ‘Hazel’ which oozes an atmosphere that would seem perfect for walking into the wild on a rainy day, its dark, folky and evocative.
The New Jersey three-piece comprised of Steve Shimchick, Brian Curry and Jeff Petescia primarily lean on guitar and piano for this their third release, though they have widened their sound out to include drums, bass and strings. It is a sound that has real depth and a glorious texture which gels wonderfully on the track ‘Reclamation’ to bring something truly special.
They are undoubtedly a talented group of musicians with plenty of ideas and skill. ‘Circles’ marries piano and guitar beautifully whilst building suspense that tantalising never quite builds to the epic pay off promised by the hard hitting cords, as it loops backs in on itself to a more sedate close. ‘Do No Harm’ lets the piano and drums drive a rock song that is reminiscent of the early work of Muse.
If there is a criticism to had, then perhaps it could be said that the varied approaches of the three members, whilst bringing great variety, can also lead to a lack of clarity. The first ten songs can jump from sound to sound in a somewhat jarring manner and whilst songs such as ‘Pocket’ are successes within themselves, they do clash with the rest of the album which at 16 tracks might have benefited from some editing down to produce a more cohesive record.
With that said, the last six tracks from ‘Reclamation’ to the powerful finish in the reprise of ‘Do No Harm’, gain that sense of flow in a dark brooding wave that washes over you in a roar of piano, guitar and strings. Charming curios such as ‘Dawn and Dusk’ also leave hints that this is a band that is truly capable of delivering a sustained album of thematically linked music.
If you are looking for something accomplished and different then Cold Weather Company are well worth your time. ‘Find Light’ is a commanding collection of music that will inject chirpy melodies and dark beauty into your world. You will not regret listening to this album!
Find Light get 4 Hooks out of 5
Written by Jimmy Rock
Find the Cold Weather Company on Facebook or better still have a look at their website: http://www.coldweathercompany.com/
This debut album from RRC could be considered brave but you get the feeling the band understand their sound and are not being brave at all, just proudly making their stance.
The relatively large sixpiece band from Liverpool is made up of; Fran Doran, Tom Williams, Michael McDermott, Simon Hepworth, Neil Lawson and Joe Corby, show they can produce a radio ready songs from the start. Track 1, Angeline, gives fast and lively kick to proceedings!
Lyrically the record shows that Red Rum Club have established their song writing craft. On first listen some of the tracks felt reminiscent of Manic Street Preachers, which is never a bad comparison. It takes great inspiration to make great songs, and they’re well on their way with this album. Throughout the album you pick up on refreshing layers, such as Joe’s trumpeting, which give an added texture to their songs and makes their alternative rock style unique compared to other competing bands on the scene, at the moment.
Track 8, Casanova, this one has a twinkle in it’s much like the song's namesake. Fran demonstrates a different style of singing compared to the other songs, which captures the energy and fun which the melody demands and deserves. it’s like Casanova is gleefully asking you to stay around to listen to the song again and you know you will.
Midway through the album Red Rum Club seem to slow down the tempo for ‘Nobody gets out alive’ and ‘Calexico’ which don’t leave the same impression as the tracks that have come before them. But follow with songs like ‘Casanova’ and ‘Remedy’ grabs back your attention and leaves an impression that the album you’re listening to will return to the faster catcher rhymes of the opening tracks. The statement of ‘Remedy’ is you’re going to be “drunk on a potion” but the listener is more likely to get drunk on Red Rum Club and the only remedy left to prescribe is to listen to the last track on the album Matador
Matador is a song with a story worth ending this album, you feel the pain and anguish of the bull who is obsessed with the powerful taunting Matador. This track has a steady drum beat providing the groundwork for this story to be told with a wonderful flow of sound.
However, our highlight of this album has to be ‘TV said so’ it is a great song which wouldn’t be hard to imagine getting a crowd excited live! Red Rum Club and their album Matador is a club which you will want to join, don’t be surprised if you listen to this album and find yourself signing up to be a fan of their music.
We give it 4 out of 5 Hooks,
Written By Kess Anthony
Album name: Who do you trust?
Release date: 18th of January 2019
The 18th of January brings the return of a band who were a favorite for many adults in their teenage years, Papa Roach. Back in 2000 their breakthrough album ‘Infest’ spoke to minds and souls of millions of listeners with hard hitting sounds and lyrics like they had never heard before.
We have had a sample on their newest album ‘Who do you trust?’ having heard 4 out of the 12 new tracks, which has left us asking can we still trust Papa Roach? The short answer for us at Off the Hook is no.
The longer a band is around the more difficult it becomes to continue producing the goods. This is their 10th studio album which is an achievement in itself but the band’s sound has diminished over the years from meaningful hard rock to indifferent soft rock. As original fans it is difficult to still identify with them, but that’s not to say they can’t usher in a new fan base.
Long gone is the black cockroach infested imagery along with the days of Jacoby Shaddix singing and screaming his meaningful pain at your face, now we find Jacoby replacing this style with talking rap which leaves you yearning for your teenage memories rather than the new sound on offer.
We will reserve full judgement until we hear the rest of the album as there is still some redeeming qualities; the lyrics maybe lacking but the guitar and drums of the old Papa Roach is still lurking in the background, ready to be released.
When the 18th rolls around save ‘Who do you trust’ for as a last resort!
Written by Kess Anthony
“More Human Than Human make a roaring start with debut album ” Off The Hook Music Reviews
Album Name: Re-Evolution
Release Date: 1st of February 2019
Genre: Progressive Rock
More Human Than Human make a roaring start with their debut album, Re-Evolution, and the loudest roar comes from their song Black Bear. At track 13, It is hidden at the back of the album but provides a surprise kick which is worth the wait.
Unlike a bear stumbling into your tent when camping, this Black Bear is refreshing and rewarding. It’s the statement track More Human Than Human wanted to provide for their listeners to show what they’re all about. The band formed in 2017 and have transformed their traditional rock sound by cutting out the guitars and replacing them with synth music from their gigging circuit and placed that sound firmly into the core of the album.
More Human Than Human are a progressive rock duo who are based in Cheltenham, where the band has built up a fanbase from their memorable, lively, and heavy beat driven gigs. Tomislav Vucetic and Anthony Collins have made this album personal by being heavily involved in all areas of the production. The band have stated that this is a 100% DIY project album which they can’t wait to present to the people who love prog-rock and metal. The album was recorded partly in a local studio in Cheltenham and in Anthony’s study then mixed and mastered by the band, this has allowed them to have complete control over the production of the material they put out to the world.
Re-Evolution is loaded with heavy bass and beats provided by the bass guitar of Tomislav and drums of Anthony which defines every track of this album. The band have focused on music over lyrics with six musical interlude tracks included within the record, which for the listener adds a different layer and experience by changing direction with short sharp bursts of interesting sounds.
Songs like Burn it down, Acron and Head in a jar are solid polished tracks which hold the album true and firm to their sound, but ‘Off The Hook Music Reviews’ think there is another level for this band to reach with future material which can be found by developing on these tracks.
This is a good listen for people who are into progressive rock, with a sound to lose yourself whilst head banging.
Written by Kess Anthony
EP name: Lucid Trail
Release date: 29 of December 2018
Genre: Alternative Rock
After a successful track of the week for ‘Off the Hook Music’ with their song, Lucid Trail, The Gallerys follow up with the release of their EP also tilted ‘Lucid Trail’ which is a fantastic four track record combining; 60s rock, Britpop and new wave influences to create a innovative sound.
The EP was recorded at Squarehead Studios in Sittingbourne, Kent, by Dave Young & James Simpson they have managed to grab hold of the band’s sound and produce a tight and captivating piece of work.
If you close your eyes and listen to track one, Lucid Trail, it is easy to be transformed back to the 90’s when Britpop bands were dictating the sound of British music and the experience the listener should have. This song leaves you drifting off to a sunny afternoon on a sandy beach, before quickly reminding you it’s not the 90’s and it’s soon to be 2019! As such The Gallerys have taken everything which was great about the Britpop scene and put it into a song which relates to today’s music scene.
Lucid Trail EP is available for streaming everywhere online including; Spotify, Amazon Music, I tunes, Google Play, Tidal, and Deezer. If you are the kind of person like I am, who like an old fashioned CD well you can also order a CD on: https://thegallerys.bigcartel.com/.
For ‘Off The Hook Music’ the stand out track on the EP is ‘Steady Beat’, a song which is different to the others because of its heavier guitar riffs which shout out for your attention. This high energy track had us standing in the pub when we first heard it, and the beat soon descended down to our feet.
We predict a successful 2019 for The Gallerys and this EP is a taster of why the band is on many people’s radar, including ours!