The problem with alternative rock is that if you do something too accessible, you are accused of selling out; but if you hit a glass ceiling, you’re accused of becoming stagnant – finding the balance is difficult. Thank God then for Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and their sophomore album ‘Modern Ruin’. With a sound developed beyond the confines of hardcore, it is loaded with hooks and power chords and Carter’s uncompromising vitriol, it has an undeniable quality from start to finish.
The lazy croon of ‘Bluebelle’ provides a deliberately false start, before the rocking mid-tempo of ‘Lullaby’ bubbles along like a souped up Arctic Monkeys. Sure, there’s a noticeably commercial edge, but ‘Snake Eyes’ and ‘Vampires’ sees the band provide a double-barrelled attack of snappy driving rock, all the while hinting at Carter’s pop tropes.
Even so, there is still plenty of straightforward punk to get your teeth into. ‘Jackals’ is a frantic one minute slice of punk rock, while ‘Wild Flowers’ and ‘Real Life’ are particularly rough and ready, the latter delivering a killer chorus. Then there’s the title track, which is pure hardcore fury with a liberal spattering of vitriol.
As a whole, there’s little wrong on ‘Modern Ruin’. Whether it’s barbed wire love songs like ‘Acid Veins’, which sees Frank stretching his vocal chords, or more insightful tracks like the fast-paced rocker ‘God is My Friend’. Album closer ‘Neon Rust’ is also killer; it’s essentially a ballad featuring fragile vocals lamenting the wasteland of the modern world, before descending into a wild finale.
However above everything else, ‘Thunder’ is the album centerpiece. This heartbreaking glimpse of the prejudices of the violent post-Brexit world is nothing short of excellent. Lyrically it pulls no punches; “I’ve seen a child soldier martyred, by another child’s hand”.
Frank & Co. deserve real credit for having the courage to move forwards artistically, while retaining their essence, and in ‘Modern Ruin’ they have come up with a cracker of a record.
‘Modern Ruin’ by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes is released on January 20th on International Death Cult/KLS.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)