Rock Band From Hell – ‘Music For Late Night Activities’

By Katherine Allvey

Never has a band or album been more misleadingly named than Rock Band From Hell’s ‘Music For Late Night Activities’, aside for Led Zeppelin and their lack of songs about metal balloons. There’s nothing satanic or horrifying about the Finnish trio’s debut. On the other hand, it isn’t so tedious that attending one of their shows is an ordeal. What they deliver is upbeat, radio-friendly pop punk on familiar themes of heartbreak and being a loser with some convenient modern twists. The ‘Late Night Activities’ that this album would be suitable for are not hookups but barbecues with mates. Think of a more on-topic McFly with a metal heart and you’re there.

May’s single drop, ‘Love Me Till I Die’, has a definitive target demographic, namely the lovelorn of sixth-forms and undergraduate courses across the world. Aside from the jarring lyric ‘I just wanna pop shit’ (Does vocalist Jani Tillman mean balloons, ibuprofen or a nasty blister?), it’s a summertime power pop-punk ear worm. Their songs are without threat or vulnerability. It’s the musical equivalent of a shot of over-sugary flavoured vodka or a red Starburst: very enjoyable momentarily, or in specific situations, but unlikely to change your life. Before accusations of dismissing pop punk as for children, look at ‘Back2School’. “Going back to school means more than going back to school”, whether you’re attending “high school or university”, according to Rock Band From Hell. Whoever pulls their strings wants a Leavers’ Prom audience. The guitar skills on the aforementioned profound song are so detailed that you grit your teeth in frustration.

If they stick to the rock half of their sound, Rock Band From Hell are so much better. Take ‘Kylie Dreams’, the heartbreaking tale of a guy in love with a social media obsessed wannabe. By highlighting the drums and giving the guitar a slightly longer leash, they’ve made a solid rock song (ignoring the faddish theme and lyrical references to Miss Jenner) with enough sarcasm to follow in the footsteps of so many other pop-punk slap downs. But no, they insist that every song includes ‘trap beats’ and at least one edgy, down-with-the-kids cuss word. This only weakens what could be a very interesting first album by making it follow specific trends in a very artificial way.

‘Cloud9’ is another perfect example. It could have been a song of introspection and self-loathing or triumph, depending on how Tillman wanted to play it. He sings, “Look at my life now, I’m twenty seven and I’m still just a train wreck,” but his sentiment is buried under an avalanche of autotune before the electronic samples are swallowed by frozen metal distortion.

The very confusingly named ‘Sex Is On Fire’ – are they aiming to get hits from people who search for Kings Of Leon and click on the wrong link? – is the high point of ‘Music For Late Night Activities’. It’s a spooky rock club sleeper hit with sirens in all the right places and a tight, screaming guitar part. Similarly, the heaviness of the drumming on ‘Princess Complex’ almost compensates for the clunky lyrics and edge-lord vibes. When they minimise gimmicks and unnecessary trend-following, Rock Band From Hell have much to offer. However, the points where they shine are not as frequent as we hoped.

The bands at a crossroads after this release. They could take the safe road and make music to soundtrack underage drinking until they age out of being pretty, or they could use the talent they obviously have and let their inner Billie-Joe Armstrong out of his box to create something real. Rock Band From Hell possess a spark of demonic fire at their core. If they could tap into it, they could become the stadium-swelling, laser-wielding, face-melting band they think they are. Here’s to hoping their next single involves less Gen-Z slang and more electric power punk.

KATE ALLVEY

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