If you didn’t know, we love celebrating exciting new music. And that is exactly what “Recommends” is all about – highlighting bands before they’re heard everywhere else. This month’s edition of “Recommends” is no different as we have four very impressive bands to introduce to you.
First up, we have The Five Hundred. Based out of Nottingham, the quintet’s debut LP, ‘Bleed Red’, was recently described as one of the “metal debuts of the year!”. We also introduce you to emerging Michigan quartet Forest Green and future pop-punk breakout stars Felicity. And then there is London trio Morale, who are just scratching the surface of their enormous potential.
The Five Hundred
For The Five Hundred, the road to releasing their debut album has been a rough one. ‘Bleed Red’ captures the Nottingham-based group in a reflective mood as guitarists Mark Byrne and Paul Doughty and bassist Andy Crawford used their personal struggles as its lyrical inspiration. The end result is an empowering set of technically proficient metal songs.
On songs such as ‘Buried’, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, and ‘Oblivion’, the quintet display an aggressive yet melodic sound that is thoroughly compelling. While its narration proves to be thought-provoking, just take a listen to ‘The Noose’ and ‘I Am The Undead’ as John Eley’s ear-piercing screams emphasise the emotional release ‘Bleed Red’ contains. Undoubtedly, The Five Hundred has all the ingredients to stand out in a constantly burgeoning metal scene.
To learn more about The Five Hundred and the making of ‘Bleed Red’, we spoke to guitarist and co-lyricist Mark Byrne.
For Fans Of: Heart Of A Coward, Northlane, Meshuggah.
AH: You’ve just released your debut album, ‘Bleed Red’. Can you give us a brief overhaul of the band’s history – from your formation to ‘Bleed Red’?
Mark: Andy (Crawford – Bass) and I used to play in bands when we were kids growing up in Gibraltar and southern Spain. The metal scene over there is pretty much non-existent, so we decided to move to the UK, which, by contrast, has a vibrant scene. We grew up listening to bands from Earache Records and In At The Deep End Records, and all the other bands from the Nottingham scene. We’d read about amazing shows at Rock City, and we just wanted to be a part of that.
During our early years, we played in a band called DAOR, which, despite some decent tours and great support slots with the likes of TesseracT, Napalm Death and Fear Factory, kinda fizzled out after a while. We then wanted to start something completely new and fresh, so we recruited John Woods-Eley who had played with Sanzen (In At The Deep End Records) and Kelsey James from We Are Tyrants. We considered them to be the best vocalist and drummer around, so we just had to poach them! That was the start of The Five Hundred.
AH: From hearing the record, you take in many elements from the wide scope that is metal. For new listeners, how would you describe the sound of The Five Hundred?
Mark: Funny that, because whenever we get asked what genre we’d describe ourselves as, we struggle to come up with an answer. The truth is that we don’t “fit” into any of the traditional genres. Journalists will moan “yeah, yeah… nobody likes to be pigeonholed, we get it guys… Just stop trying to be cool and tell me what genre you fit into.”
If we have to do the whole dreaded “For Fans Of…” description, I think we’ll appeal to fans of Killswitch Engage, Heart Of A Coward, Northlane, Meshuggah, etc. We play on low-tuned 8-string guitars, so there are the obvious comparisons with the djent sub-genre, but a lot of our riffs, breakdowns, and hooky choruses draw comparisons with metalcore. John’s vocals are both haunting and anthemic – he’s a 90s Seattle grunge guy through and through, so it all makes for a unique blend of styles. We are not a djent band. We are not a metalcore band. We are definitely not a grunge band! We are what we are. We are The Five Hundred.
AH: We read each song on the record represents a different facet of the psyche, persona, or essence of addiction. Can you tell us more about this? Do you consider it a concept record?
Mark: Well, if you define a “concept album” as an album in which its tracks hold a larger purpose or meaning collectively than they do individually, typically achieved through a single central narrative or theme, then yeah, I guess it is a concept album, although we never really set out to write it like that.
The background is that we booked ourselves some studio time 9-10 months in advance, just to get our arses into gear. For years we’ve seen bands (ourselves included) wait until they have a bunch of tracks before they decide “ok folks, we have enough material now. Let’s get into the studio!” But we are all constantly evolving as musicians and people, so if you drag out the creative process for too long, you run the risk that your album just sounds like a bunch of tracks thrown together, and there is no continuity or cohesiveness between each song. We desperately wanted to avoid that, so we just booked ourselves in without having written a single track. We then had to cram ourselves into our practice room and just write, write, write!
At the time of writing the music and lyrical themes for the album, I personally was in a particularly reflective mood about the role that drug abuse and addiction has played in my life and that of my close friends and family. Inevitably, that made its way into our lyrics and themes behind each track.
AH: With the lyrical side of the album reflecting on past struggles such as substance abuse, and dealing with Tourette’s, was writing the record a cathartic process?
Mark: For me personally, it was quite the opposite. I didn’t enjoy the writing process, and most definitely did not find it to be a release. It made me relive a lot of the horrors that were buried deep in my past, and emotions that I tried hard for years to suppress. Sitting in an empty, cheap hotel room a mile down from the studio with a pen in one hand and a whisky bottle in the other wasn’t healthy or enjoyable. It was horrible, destructive, and soul-destroying.
Now that it’s done and the record is finished, I can listen back to it and feel proud of what we have done, and it does help me to cope with a lot of the negative shit. I sincerely hope that it also helps anybody who listens to it and is going through the same crap I had to go through.
AH: You worked with Justin Hill on the record. As a performer and producer, what impact did he have on the record?
Mark: Justin has been a personal hero of mine for years. When that first SikTh album came out, it literally blew mind. “This changes EVERYTHING!” I remember saying back then. Their sound was just so unique, infectious and challenged all of my preconceived ideas of what metal is and should be. Lo and behold, years later, they have pretty much-inspired thousands of bands that have tried to recreate that sound.
To then work with him years later, was both a privilege and an honour. He is incredibly talented, knowledgeable and easy to work with. It’s impossible not to like the guy, and from the first minute made sure that we were all at ease, relaxed, and really pushed us to our limits. During those few weeks at White House Studios, we felt like he was the 6th member of the band, as he was deeply involved in the creative process throughout. We’ll forever be in his debt for getting us to where we are now, and it’s safe to say we’ll wanna work him again on the next record.
AH: The album is being released through Long Branch, a label that has a reputation for growing metal bands all over Europe. What was the motive to work with them?
Mark: At the time we had a few offers from other labels, but none of them matched the excitement and vision that Long Branch had. The quality of bands that are currently working with them is breath-taking. From the jaw-dropping technicality of Unprocessed, the progressive genius of Valis Ablaze and Agent Fresco, to the downright brutality of Cabal and From Sorrow To Serenity, it’s a terribly exciting time for the label and heavy music in general.
AH: Now that ‘Bleed Red’ is released, what’s next? We spot a couple of festival spots including the Macmillan Festival in your adopted hometown of Nottingham.
Mark: We just wanna keep doing what we are doing – play as many shows as possible and make sure that everyone gets to hear the album live. Having a great record is one thing, but playing it live to a room of sweaty people losing their shit is what we love doing the most. You should expect a UK tour, and then we’ll be looking to venture into Europe. For the last release we went as far as Eastern Europe and Russia with Carnifex and A Night In The Abyss, so we’ll see where this album takes us.
MacMillan is shaping up to be HUGE this year. So many amazing bands, including Black Peaks, Devil Sold His Soul, Loathe, and our buddies in Palm Reader, Valis Ablaze and Martyr Defiled. You’d be a fool to miss it.
‘Bleed Red’ by The Five Hundred is out now on Long Branch Records.
With a sound that is reminiscent of mid-2000’s post-hardcore bands such as Senses Fail and Thrice, there’s a lot to like about Michigan quartet Forest Green. Their third EP, ‘Nothing Is Special’, is an emotionally-charged set of hook-filled songs that are both intense and catchy in equal measure.
Amongst its six songs, ‘Glister’, ‘Old Youth’ and ‘Lost In the Grey’ are complete blasts of anthemic alt-rock that leaves you wanting more. The EP also sees them joining up with No Sleep Records. The Californian label has a knack for churning out stellar bands with its alumni including The Wonder Years, Balance and Composure, La Dispute, and Touché Amoré. While Forest Green are part of a (slight) resurgence from the label, joining emerging bands such as Hot Mulligan, Charmer, Actor Observer, and No Better.
It’s clear Forest Green are “ones to watch” with an exciting future ahead of them, so we decided to find out more about them. We spoke to vocalist and guitarist Mark Duhaime to discuss their formation, joining with No Sleep, the Michigan scene and more.
For Fans Of: Thrice, Senses Fail, and Far
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AH: A quick look at your Bandcamp tells us you’ve been a band for the best part of three years. For those just getting on board with Forest Green, can you give us a brief history on the band?
Mark: Our band started off in the basement of Nathan (Urband – drums)’s moms house. I was 15 or 16 at the time and always wanted someone to jam with, so I invited myself over to his house and next thing you know, we threw together a couple of songs.
AH: And now you’ve just released a new EP called ‘Nothing Is Special’. How has the band grown on this compared to past material?
Mark: We have grown in many ways since our past material. Each and every day we grow and learn all sorts of things that help try to make our songs our best ones yet. While gaining new experiences and developing new music tastes, it makes it easier to settle into how we are starting to want this band to sound.
AH: Having listened to the EP quite a bit, your sound reminds us of alt-rock and post-hardcore bands of the mid-2000’s. For new listeners, how would you summarise Forest Green’s sound and who do you namecheck as your influences?
Mark: We like to try and sound exciting and big when we write our songs so a lot of our sound is rooted from 90’s and 2000’s rock bands for sure. For bands we are influenced by, I would say are Deftones, Far, Thrice, At the Drive-In, Basement etc.
AH: ‘Nothing Is Special’ is your debut release for No Sleep Records. How did you two come together?
Mark: We were sitting on the EP, thinking of people to shop it around to and luckily our friend Nick Diener (Owner of Oneder Studios where we recorded our EP) said he’d shoot over a good word for us at No Sleep. Chris (Hansen – No Sleep Records owner) dug how the songs were sounding and asked to chat about helping us release it. Then one thing led to another and here we are! We couldn’t be happier.
AH: What can you tell us about the music of Saginaw, Michigan? Any notable bands we should be checking out?
Mark: Music in Michigan is incredible. We have the greatest scene there is and there are tons of bands that are worthy of checking out. To name a few, Greet Death, If only If only, Silver Age, Vital Sea, Ness Lake… the list goes on!
AH: Is ‘Nothing Is Special’ a taster of an album we can expect sooner rather than later?
Mark: It’s hard to say what our LP will sound like exactly but we’ve been jamming on some riffs and it’s safe to say the vibe will be the same. It will be great!
‘Nothing Is Special’ by Forest Green is out now on No Sleep Records.
For most bands, it’s difficult to make an impact when you have just two songs to your name. However when South London trio Morale dropped us an email to tell us about ‘Mirrors’ and ‘Left For Dead’, we knew they’d be the perfect fit for “Recommends”.
Their brand of alternative-rock takes in elements of Deftones, Basement, and Foo Fighters with hints of emo and grunge. And while they’ve only released two tracks, Morale certainly have found their sound quickly. ‘Mirrors’ trods along with intimacy and atmospheric guitars before bursting with emotion and driving instrumentation. Whereas ‘Left For Dead’ is an explosive slice of emo rock.
As we learned from speaking to vocalist/guitarist Simon, Morale‘s formation is the result of longtime friends wanting to break the monotonous cycle of working day jobs. Simon also discussed the band’s influences, songwriting inspirations and future plans.
For Fans Of: Foo Fighters, Can’t Swim, Basement, Deftones
AH: We hear the band is only a few months old. What sparked the formation of Morale?
Simon: We’ve all been close friends since our early teens, and always been involved in bands/music both individually and together, but this is the first band we have all been a part of as a unit. For a few years, we lost touch with each other and our passion for music, getting caught up in jobs and the general ‘daily cycle’ growing up. This band was created to stop us in our tracks and remember what we were about. It’s been so refreshing and nostalgic being back in Toby’s cabin, a place where we spent so much of our teenage lives, and now it’s our music room (after a couple days of fixing the place up), no better place for us to get creative.
AH: From hearing both your singles so far, there seems to be an influence of old and new alt-rock bands with a hint of grunge. Who do you consider your collective influences to be?
Simon: This is always such a difficult question to put into words and we could be here all day, so I’m just gonna list off 5 from each of us to help give you an idea of where we meet in the spectrum;
Simon – Deftones, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Underoath and Citizen
Josh – Rage Against the Machine, The Menzingers, NOFX, Jimmy Eat World and Basement
Toby – Silverchair, Nirvana, Hatebreed, Unearth and Gojira
We were lucky enough to grow up through the explosion of the 00’s music scene, always expanding through the years to newer and usually heavier vibes. I think it was the nu-metal scene that really made me want to perform, and the post-hardcore movement that developed my songwriting. We take bits from all the genres along the way and although we make sure to keep it fresh, we never forget our roots so we like to drench our sound in nostalgia too.
AH: Despite just two singles, it already seems you’ve found a sound you’re comfortable with?
Simon: Yeah for sure, I mean we spent a few months at the start just grinding out material and naturally had to wade through a handful of songs/vibes before finding our sweet spot. Starting off a little lighter, more Jimmy Eat World/Basement vibes, but the more we played together, the more our heavier roots dug in (especially from Toby). We’re just writing honest music that we believe in as a collective and I think that comes across in our sound.
AH: How have you found the response to ‘Mirrors’ and ‘Left For Dead’?
Simon: It can be really tough starting out in a new band and building momentum/catching peoples ears with your first few records, but they’ve both gone down really well, the support we’ve received at this early stage has been amazing to be honest. One of the biggest positives of the internet today is the exposure you can get even as a brand-new band, so hearing comments from people in Brazil, for example, saying they love your song, it’s powerful!
AH: We also read elsewhere you have a couple more singles in the works. What can you tell us about them?
Simon: Yeah! We’re aiming to keep drip feeding singles while we find our feet and build some momentum. These next two I feel are very centred in the sound we want to deliver, if you think of ‘Left For Dead’ being the more mainstream and ‘Mirrors’ being the heavier edge of our sound, I’m thinking these two are going to sit nicely in the middle.
AH: Lyrically, where do you take inspiration from?
Simon: Left For Dead – This song was written for Toby (Drums), he suffered from a heavy drug addiction for a few years, which was during the time we had all lost touch, and when the idea of this band came around, obviously he was the first choice drummer as we grew up knowing what he was capable of behind a kit. This band and us all hanging out again has been a remedy for him coming through that and so being our first release, it’s a great expression of closure for him on that chapter, and the start of a new one.
‘Mirrors’ – Although we’ve only touched on the surface of this subject, because honestly, you could fill an entire album on it, this song is inspired by the addiction of social media, fake news and TV entertainment.
It’s great being in a band with lifelong friends because it creates a really open space for discussing things. Whether it’s our own personal experiences or issues, problems we see in the world or just generally interesting topics, we can spend hours having ‘Joe Rogan’-esque chats about it. We’re just sharing our own perspectives and feelings, and expressing them through our music.
AH: Although it’s early days for Morale, what are your short and long-term goals?
Simon: We’re just gonna keep grinding, get out on the road and play a bunch of shows and meet a load of great people along the way hopefully.
Long term would be great to get involved in a support tour around the UK/Europe and aim to release an album in the coming years. But we’re not getting ahead of ourselves, we just gonna take it as it comes and have fun with it.
Within seconds of hearing ‘The City Beautiful’, it’s clear Felicity have all the hallmarks of a stellar heavy pop-punk band. Based out of Orlando, Florida, Felicity formed five years ago and have achieved various degrees of success in recent years. For example, 2015’s ‘Brace Yourself’ EP saw them gain national exposure with songs such as ‘Burn The World’ and ‘Hang On’ being used on NASCAR, Fox Sports, and E!’s ‘Total Divas’.
More recently, the quintet has taken a different approach to releasing new music with a stream of singles; ‘The City Beautiful’, ‘Circles’ and ‘Weekend Worrier’. However, having inked a deal with the Australian-based label, Penultimate Records, Felicity told us we can expect an EP and a debut full-length over the next 18 months. So if you’re wanting more crushing and catchy hooks, then Felicity are sure to be delivering them.
As they prepare to work on an abundance of new material, guitarist Andrew Rapier spoke to Already Heard about their history, working with Andrew Wade and their future plans.
For Fans Of: A Day To Remember, Neck Deep and State Champs
AH: We’ve been told your 2015 EP, ‘Brace Yourself’, brought a bit of exposure to you guys. For those finding out Felicity for the first time, can you bring us up to speed on the history of the band?
Andrew: Our singer Damien and I started the band back in the summer of 2013. He had been in a cover band playing the local bar scene here in Orlando, FL while I was just finishing college and wanting to start an original band. We met on Craigslist (lol) and we started writing music together in his parent’s garage. When our bassist Mike joined the band we started playing all over Florida and started touring the United States. After going through multiple other members we finally found Cory (guitar) and Tyler (Drums) and that’s when the pedal was really put to the metal. We started getting opportunity after opportunity. At first our only goal was, “It would be cool to play a show someday” but 5 years later to be able to record with Andrew Wade, tour the country, play huge festivals like Vans Warped Tour and Fort Rock, all the thousands of miles, and hundreds of shows, its crazy to look back at where it all started!
AH: Last year you reunited with producer Andrew Wade to record 6 new songs including ‘Weekend Worrier, ‘The City Beautiful’, and ‘Circles’. How has the band’s sound developed on the new material? Additionally, what does Andrew Wade add?
Andrew: Working with Andrew Wade was a game changer for us as a band. We never really knew our full potential until we started recording with him. He pushes us every day to be better songwriters and to never stop growing. Every time we enter the studio with him he challenges us to bring more to the table than the time before, and that’s what has made the difference. We have learned so much from working with him and will always be eternally grateful for all he has taught us.
AH: You recently joined emerging Australian label, Penultimate Records. How did that partnership come together? What attracted you joining them?
Andrew: It all came together pretty quickly! Our manager had sent our unreleased music over to them and they were immediately interested. We were definitely drawn to their family atmosphere and how passionate their owner is. We hopped on a few phone calls and before we knew it the deal was done! We are so excited to be working with Penultimate and can’t wait to see what the future hold!
AH: As mentioned earlier, you’ve steadily been releasing new songs rather than putting them together for a standalone release. Do you think regularly releasing music is beneficial; keeping the band’s name out there etc?
Andrew: The music industry is definitely going through a change. With the rise of social media, YouTube, and streaming services the music industry has gotten extremely competitive. People have short attention spans and are always wanting more and more content. Being an unsigned band at the time, we decided the best way to get the most out of our new music is to release songs one at a time, single by single, about 4-6 weeks apart. When we released ‘Brace Yourself’, we had this HUGE buzz for a few weeks or a few months, and then it died down and people were ready for the next thing. Releasing music one song at a time and spacing them out has helped us have such a sustained growth over the year and gives us the ability to ALWAYS have something new for our fans.
AH: Beyond more singles, what else can we expect from Felicity?
Andrew: Well now that we have signed with Penultimate Records, you can expect a new EP coming soon! More singles, more music videos, and we already have more touring for 2018 on the books! Looking into 2019 we hope to record our first full-length record and finally get out of the US and explore the UK, Australian, Canada, and South American markets.
‘The City Beautiful’ by Felicity is out now on Penultimate Records.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)
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