Since its inception a little over a year ago, the Under The Radar section here at Already Heard has become a regular feature, showcasing upcoming new bands or less publicized releases also deserving of a chance. In 2017 we’ve given over fifty bands some valuable column space, casting the eye over albums and EPs from a diverse selection of genres, ranging from Japanese Alt-Progressive to seventies-influenced, trans-vampire rock and everything in between.
Obviously, you can’t please everyone all the time, but the overall quality being showcased on UTR has been surprisingly high, indicating that there is a breadth of talent battling for a little space on the rock ‘n roll dance floor. However, some records/bands have that uncanny ability to command a little presence and watch the crowd part to give them some floor space to strut their stuff.
In this review of the year, we highlight those bands that have made the biggest impression, standing out as genuine contenders and deserving of rising well above the thousand faithful fans level. Check ’em out.
Alter Eden – Tigers and Lambs EP
One of the first records to catch the ear this year was the quality release from February’s UTR by Stoke quartet Alter Eden. Their 6-track EP, ‘Tigers and Lambs’, embraces all kinds of aspects of alternative rock, neatly fitting it all together into their own signature sound led by Nick Pilgrim’s killer vocals. They flirt with the atmospheric, pile on the riffs and even experiment with the rhythms, yet never at the expense of the song. Ten months on and, besides the obvious winners like the title track or ‘Resent/Relent/Repeat’, all the songs stand up, whether it’s the multi-faceted ‘Only Human’ or the vibrant ‘We’ve Had Enough’. Great record – can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Hollow – Home Is Not Where The Heart Is
This is a powerful debut album from St Louis quartet Hollow and it might just be the best metalcore album of the year. It is heavy as fuck, it’s got serious songs, dealing intelligently with serious issues, and the daring arrangements and electronic touches are the icing on the cake of the make your ears bleed aggression on offer. We are talking all killer, no filler here and even their melodic clean side still feels hardcore. Check this record out.
Reckless Intentions – Lights EP
July was a particularly good month for UTR releases, including the debut from Brighton pop-punk quartet Reckless Intentions; its likeable rough and ready take on the genre makes for a really enjoyable record. The encouraging thing is that they manage to avoid sounding cliché, finding their own identity in the ragged edges of tracks like ‘Stitches’ and the impressive ‘Home’, its plaintive piano and searing riff littered with insecurity. With this kind of quality on offer, you can expect to hear a lot more from these guys.
Scout Killers – Deception
It may have only been four tracks long, but the Scout Killers’ ‘Deception’ was another quality release from July that certainly had an impact. The modern alternative twist on hard rock, underpinning the superb vocals of Scott Cox, offered up the kind of swagger normally associated with much bigger bands. Tracks like the hooky ‘Keep Telling Me Lies’, the massive ‘Freak Show’ and the excellent ‘You Have It All’ all serve to make this a seriously classy record.
Dasher – Sodium
Dasher is the mouthpiece for badass singing drummer Kylee Kimbrough, their energetic sludge punk exuding raw power and non-stop head shaking fury.
Their debut album, ‘Sodium’, which also came from the July crop, was, without doubt, one of the most vibrant and vital records to have featured on UTR this year. It is furious, heart-on-sleeve honest and an essential listen, from banger ‘We Know So’, through the angular angst of tracks like ‘Teeth’, on to the relentless pounding of ‘Get So Low’. Simply breathtaking.
Sciatic Nerve – Sciatic Nerve
September saw the release of one of the finest back to basics records of the year in the superfly, balls to the wall, self-titled punk rock frenzy of California’s Sciatic Nerve. The album is a good old-fashioned slice of garage punk that weighs in at around 20 minutes of giving no fucks whatsoever in its relentless attack of guitars, drums and fury. Essential listening.
Sciatic Nerve links: Facebook
The Young Hearts – Honestly, I’m Only Thinking
Four sublime tracks of pure quality were what we got on September’s stand out record, ‘Honestly, I’m Only Thinking’, the sophomore EP from Kent’s The Young Hearts. The quartet write mature alt-rock/emo dealing with difficult topics like loss and pain in a relatable fashion, with an emotive quality adding true depth to their killer tunes.
‘Bloom’ is as good a slice of indie-tinged alt-rock as you are likely to hear, while ‘Smoke’ would sound great blaring from any radio station. Throw in the superb ‘Medicine’ and the poignant finale of ‘October’ and it’s quality all around.
Vanity – Perspective // Empathy EP
The second EP from Vanity’s ‘Perspective’ series is an ambitiously atmospheric affair challenging the limitations of metalcore to stunning effect. They manage to nimbly balance in-your-face aggression with the brooding soundscapes underscoring their complex compositions. Tracks like the pulsating ‘Tranquil’, the slow boiling ‘Sorrow’ and the sublime excellence of ‘Extrovert’ make this well worth exploring.
Lullaby – Never Let The Devil In
What a seriously classy debut release this was from North-London quartet Lullaby. Their engaging blend of post-grunge alt-rock influences actually translates into a sound of their own that is jam-packed with charisma. All five tracks are pure quality, whether it’s the Incubus influenced ‘Animal’, the superb ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’ or the upbeat rock n roll of ‘Speed’. Everything about this EP demands attention, this is a band making it look easy – five star.
Rival Town – Make It Work EP
Ontario sextet Rival Town produced a pretty impressive EP to shake up the pop-punk genre, with ‘Make it Work’ offering up plenty of twists on the staple elements. The innovations come in the lyrical depth and emotional intensity on display, which translates into heavier riffing -check out the bruising intro to ‘Subjective’ – and cool breakdowns, like on the excellent ‘See Through’. Their hard edges, tempered by layers of emotion, all delivered with hook-filled melodies make this one hell of a good record. Quality.
We’ve also compiled 25 of the best songs from bands that have featured in UTR in 2017.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)