German melodic hardcore band Burning Down Alaska took their sound to a new level in 2016 by bringing clean vocalist Kassim Auale into the mix. Auale’s soulful, R&B style not only gave the band differentiation, but also helped to grow their fanbase. So much so, that when the band cryptically posted “2017-2017” on their Facebook page, it left plenty of followers feeling devastated as they feared the worst.

Happily, the band are back with ‘Empty Throne’ under the name of Alazka, having revealed that due to the changes within the band, they could no longer identify with the old moniker. ‘Empty Throne’ picks up where the band left off, Auale’s vocals giving a striking edge to a driving, heartfelt piece of melodic-hardcore. Tobias Rische’s screamed vocals do a fine job of grounding the track in its core genre, supplying the aggression that fits so well with the ambient guitars and offsets the melody of Auale’s voice.

I’m not the only one impressed by Alazka’s reinvention: Sharptone Records have joined the appreciation club, adding the band to their impressive, growing roster. Keep an eye out for more new music from this band later in the year.

Mixing together the ambient tones of melodic hardcore with spoken-word has served Being as an Ocean well in the past and adding more of a full-band feel to the latest Hotel Books album seemed to bring it alive more so than on previous records. September Stories continue this trend, resting somewhere in between the two, to show a massive amount of potential with ‘Home’.

To make this genre work, it’s essential for the vocal delivery to burst with emotion and front-man Andrew Baughman is certainly not lacking here. With lyrics based on the memories of a broken home, Baughman tells his story well, concluding that “what we call home isn’t where we’re born or any situation we’re thrown in to. But it’s where we’re able to cope with these memories we’ve long outgrew.”

In addition to the impressively narrated spoken-word, Baughman provides uplifting passages of melodic singing, which provides a welcome contrast and merges brilliantly with the instrumentals that simmer underneath with ambient atmosphere. ‘Home’ is a rousing introduction to September Stories’ upcoming album ‘This House Was Never a Home’, due for release on April 28th.

Since the release of their excellent debut EP ‘Inhale, Exhale’ in 2016, I’ve been hotly anticipating more music from Donnie Willow. ‘Blessed Company’ takes all the chaos and melody that the Glaswegian three-piece created across the whole of their previous record and slams it together into one masterfully dynamic, hugely addictive slab of mathy-alternative rock.

Even though influences from Deftones, to Arcane Roots to TTNG might sound eclectic, you can genuinely hear fragments of each running through the band’s sound. Massive riffs, interesting time signatures, anthemic choruses: the band’s previous record contained it all and based on ‘Blessed Company’ the band have not only brought all of these elements back to the table, they’ve turned up the intensity as well.

Happily, Donnie Willow’s unique sound has attracted the attention of Sunbird Records and the band will be releasing their new EP ‘Exhibition’ on June 9 through the label.

I loved being schooled in the art of melody and Tidelines have all the credentials to teach it beautifully. ‘Shelter’ oozes with ambience, bringing the likes of Saosin, Circa Survive and Secret and Whisper to mind, thanks to the combination of wonderfully composed vocals and intricately atmospheric musicianship.

The vocals ride the crest of the instrumentals, always resting just above to emphasise the underlying melody but never dominating them for their own purpose. To some this might make the vocals too passive, but for me this convergence of ambient guitars and vocals creates a dream-like quality that’s addictive and moving. The floating, precisely selected vocal arrangements, wrap me in warm, comforting hugs that I don’t want to escape from. Tidelines’ self-titled debut album will be released on April 28 and comes filled with more of this ambient, alternative brilliance.

There are plenty of impressive bands that make me nod my head in appreciation, but it’s rare that one makes me giddy with excitement. Liverpool-based quintet Loathe manage it with ‘It’s Yours’ thanks to its fresh and tasteful amalgamation of two genres close to my heart. It’s like someone left Underoath’s Disambiguation playing over the speakers while a progressive metal band was rehearsing, giving birth to a superb new post-hardcore/tech-metal beast.

There’s clever guitar work and fancy time patterns aplenty, all while an insane bass tone rattles your teeth and makes everything incredibly heavy. The heaviness breaks eventually, making way for some well-constructed and brilliantly executed melodic vocals, before the onslaught resumes once more. ‘It’s Yours’ brings something fresh and exciting to post-hardcore but it doesn’t stop there. Loathe release their debut album ‘The Cold Sun’ on April 14, packed full of this quality from start to finish. Pencil in the date, you won’t want to miss out on this one.

A Lot Like Birds released one of my favourite records of all time with ‘No Place’ in 2013 but a lot has changed for the band since then. Vocalist Kurt Travis left the band, citing a dislike for the band’s seemingly altered style and when co-vocalist Cory Lockwood explained that he’d be shelving his screamed vocals in favour of melodic singing, it seemed inevitable that whatever surfaced next was going to be a very different sounding band.

‘For Shelley’ is our first listen of the new A Lot Like Birds and though it’s softer, less frantic, less technically demanding and much more melodic, it maintains the one thing this band has always done so well: it packs an emotional punch. The song is a tribute to Lockwood’s mother who tragically passed away last year and Lockwood has poured this pain into his art.

Selfishly I can’t help but wonder how much more immersive this song could have been if performed in Lockwood’s previous vocal style. ‘Hand Over Mouth, Over and Over’ and ‘Myth of Lasting Sympathy’ from ‘No Place’ continue to emotionally destroy me and with a subject matter this personal, ‘For Shelley’ would’ve no doubt reduced me to a blubbering mess if presented in Lockwood’s uniquely expressive voice.

What made ‘No Place’ so special though is that it came from such a personal place that the passion oozed from every note. You can’t force that kind of effect, it comes from the heart. Lockwood’s mother told him “you have a beautiful voice, you should sing more,” something he was never convinced by. He’s spent time training his singing voice and improving his instrument, not to satisfy some stylistic whim of the band, but because that’s what his heart told him to do. As Lockwood puts it “she heard things in my voice that I don’t think were there, or ever will be. With this song, I’m so upset that she never got to hear the voice she had so much faith in. But I’m so happy that she’ll never have to hear my devastation.”

It’s hard to argue with a connection that’s so personal, particularly just for my own selfish desire to hear a sound I’ve become accustomed to. Don’t listen to this song as the successor to ‘No Place’, listen with an entirely new set of ears that’s open to another story from this incredibly talented band. If you do, you’ll hear why this song is such a special moment for A Lot Like Birds, and why I’m now impatiently waiting to hear the entirety of DIVISI – the band’s new album that releases on May 5th.

Mixing clean with screamed vocals is nothing new in post-hardcore but often the melodic parts feel shoe-horned in to provide a bit of extra accessibility or an easy-to-digest hook. When it’s integrated well though it’s highly effective, as Essex quintet Create to Inspire prove with ‘Adjust’. The balance between aggression and melody starts with the vocals and cascades through every note of the instrumentation, providing a beautiful blend of both dimensions.

There’s a multitude of layers at play here that give Create to Inspire a wonderfully textured sound. The guitars begin with full-octane strumming before dropping to minimalism in the verses, emphasising the quality of the vocals, before moving into ambient lead lines and uplifting tones in the choruses. When every member of a band works in harmony with each other like this, it’s a pleasure to share in the journey.

‘Adjust’ is taken from the band’s upcoming debut full-length ‘Sickness’ out on May 26 through Basick Records.

It’s not often you find a math-rock band without a guitarist, but that’s exactly what I stumbled across with Mannequin Mishap. When I first heard the track I had no idea that this array of noise was coming from only two people and it took the music video to make me realise I was only hearing drums and bass. I suppose when you play the bass like it’s a lead guitar, you don’t really need another one.

‘Tea Party With My Taxidermist’ is an intricate yet frantic blend of post-hardcore and math-rock, with vocals that have a major Kurt Travis vibe. Based on this comparison and the level of musicianship on show, it’s no surprise that they move in the same circles as Travis – they’ve teamed up with Spirit Vision Records, a label created by Strawberry Girls drummer Ben Rosett, who recently formed the band Eternity Forever with Kurt Travis.

This track comes from the band’s upcoming record ‘Acatalepsy’ which doesn’t have a release date as yet, but based on the quality of this first single, I’ll be at the front of the queue when it’s announced.

If you’ve been wowed by the alt-rock mastery of Arcane Roots and In Dynamics over the past couple of years then you’re going to want to turn your attention towards Rory Indiana. ‘Tough Love’ is the first track they’ve released since their breakthrough EP ‘Ruling Class Crooks’ in 2016 and it sees them at their infectious and memorable best.

Rory Kaye’s interesting vocal arrangements are reminiscent of In Dynamics’ Beau Bolden, particularly during his beautifully controlled falsetto and the song’s second half, with its added bite and punch from the instrumentation, brings the progressive heaviness of Arcane Roots to mind. They bear their influences well, but Rory Indiana are no copy cats: ‘Though Love’ has a character all its own and I’ll be looking forward to hearing more sides to it whenever the band release more of this catchy brilliance.