GroundCulture – ‘How Well Do You Really Know Yourself?’

By Gem Rogers

From Parkway Drive and Architects, to Knocked Loose, Code Orange and myriad bands in between, it’s hard to remember a time the heavy music scene was in such an internationally magnificent state as it is now. As the bigger names find themselves landing coveted festival headline slots once reserved for bands twice their age, it feels like every rung on the ladder below them is filled with bands putting out immaculate and exciting new music – and the UK can find plenty of its own talent among them. Melodic hardcore newcomers GroundCulture are one of those who find themselves making the first steps on their journey, but there’s nothing tentative about them; just 18 months after the release of their debut self-titled EP, the Newcastle five-piece are seeking to make their mark with a bold and confident offering in debut full length ‘How Well Do You Really Know Yourself?’.

What quickly becomes evident on this release is just how much GroundCulture have grown since their debut EP. It’s a big leap to go from EP to full length, and carrying the same levels energy across double the number of tracks isn’t something that all bands find themselves capable of – but that’s not the case here. Where their self-titled EP followed a more tried and tested formula, ‘How Well Do You Really Know Yourself?’ immediately feels like an exploration of everything GroundCulture are capable of, blasting off at unrelenting pace with lead single ‘Life Won’t Wait’.

The incendiary riffs and chunky breakdowns of this first track soon give way to the electronic-tinged groove fest that is ‘REALEYES’, and it’s the first sign that this is an album that isn’t going to follow the most expected path. Heavy and intensely melodic, it’s a song that’s as easy to dance to as it is incite the kick off of a catastrophic mosh pit, pulsing with ferocious energy, and these two first tracks are a clear introduction to the themes that GroundCulture wind into the core of their music. Self-discovery and challenging your own perceptions – of yourself, and of life – are topics that find a comfortable home here, and the fire that rages under these songs ignites a passion and spirit that’s hard to ignore.

The fuel to that fire isn’t simply blind rage in the face of difficult times – there’s a sense of togetherness in the words that channel the fury of this heavy sound, turning destructive into constructive – the cries of “we’ll resurface together / we’re better off with a sense of acceptance” on ‘18’ deftly summarise a sentiment that permeates these 40 minutes of music. Nowhere is it clearer than on the fast-paced ‘Trauma Can Teach’ as it directly tackles turning adversity into a moment of learning and improvement, valuing those experiences as the things that help us grow into better versions of ourselves.

Musically, ‘How Well Do You Really Know Yourself?’ plays with the concept of genre, pulling on hardcore, metalcore, and – well, just about anything you could call heavy (preferably with a capital H). There’s even a sprinkling of the best parts of nu-metal, and for every punishing breakdown there’s an equally glittering, vibrant melody, finding the perfect balance of tantalisingly slick production without stripping away any of the raw heart and soul. This variety in style allows front man Roy Watson to demonstrate the full and staggering range of his vocals, from gritty cleans to crushing roars that could flatten everything in a ten mile radius; every last word is delivered with strength and meaning, and there’s an expressive quality to his voice that further elevates the passion found in the lyrics.

From the early 2000s stadium metal feel on ‘Take My Breath Away’, brought bang up to date but still blissfully nostalgic, to the standout ‘Free Fall’, with its gentle, thoughtful opening moments that explode into a shower of riffs and a snarling breakdown, GroundCulture aren’t letting anything slip – filler is a word that is, quite simply, not on the table here. Towards the end of the album, melody begins to push its way to the forefront, and penultimate ‘Dream Like A Child’ – featuring Normandie’s Philip Strand – plays with atmospheric layering and electronics, adding another new dimension to this diverse collection of songs. It leads into a surprising and unexpected finale in the acoustic ’10 10 1974’, closing this fiery and intense experience with a quiet moment of contemplation. In an album that focuses so much on introspection and growth, these soothing last few minutes are a release, letting go of all the emotion in waves of peaceful acceptance as the opening question of “how well do you really know yourself?” turns to the final one – “can you love yourself?”. It reflects the journey taken over the course of this album; a journey that is, ultimately, about asking questions of yourself in pursuit of self-betterment, and self-fulfillment (and having a riotous time as you do).

As a debut offering, ‘How Well Do You Really Know Yourself?’ is nothing short of staggering. Coming straight out of the gate with an album this exciting and diverse is all the proof we need that GroundCulture are the band to carry heavy music into the future; exploring the labyrinth of our minds with brutal honesty and crushing riffs, to ignore this album is to do yourself a serious disservice. Our recommendation? Turn up the volume, press play, and be ready to find your new favourite band.

GEM ROGERS

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