Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Album Review: Hits From The Void by All In Vain (by Emma Prew)

When I head to Bandcamp to find new music to listen to I usually make the ‘folk punk’ section my first port of call and that’s how I came across All In Vain, a folk punk band based in Liverpool. They put together an EP of five tracks at the beginning of November last year called Hits From The Void. Here’s what I thought of it…

The first track on Hits From The Void is Introspection/Threshold which opens with a slow yet ever so slightly haunting instrumental. I think it’s mostly the banjo that I can hear but there’s some mandolin, guitar, violin and drums in there as well. The eerie melodies, complete with subtle background ah-ahs, bring to mind scenes of a boat lost at sea or something similarly nautical. This is a lengthy track at 7 minutes long but, as you may have guessed form the song’s title, it is sort of split into two parts. After 4 and a half minutes, the music speeds up and we have some vocals. ‘If I were to succumb to our expectations, Would the split second before the fall be worth it all? How would it feel? I guess there's only one way to find out.’ It all feels very existential and mysterious but has me well and truly hooked and keen to hear the rest of the EP.

The second track, Regurgitate, has a faster pace from the outset and those banjo and violin melodies had me eagerly stomping my feet along. As enjoyable as it is just to nod along to the music – maybe even get up and have a bit of a dance in my living room – it’s the lyrics of the song that really hold the power. Regurgitate is about being brave enough to take a stand for what you believe in regardless of how much of an effect it might have. ‘If you speak out they'll make you pay, But some still speak out anyway, Just submitting would be a big mistake, Silently digging our own graves, We're burying ourselves alive.’ Keeping up the pace, Hymn Of The Free Market is a shorter song but that doesn’t stop vocalist Ash from packing plenty of lyrical content into this 2 and a bit minutes. Although the instruments come from more traditional folk music this track is as anarchic as the rowdiest punk band. Hymn Of The Free Market is an anti-consumerism anthem that labels consumerism itself as being like a religion. Worryingly truthful when you think about it. Despite the somewhat dark subject matter, this song has a pretty darn catchy chorus (which is pretty dark too) – ‘Every day is a sabbath day, they have ways to make you pray, Every day is a sabbath day, every day they dig more graves, Quotas to fill, demons to kill, Blood to spill, blood to spill.’

The violin is the star of the show for the opening of No Connection but once again it is the lyrics that really stand out throughout the rest of the song’s duration. In a modern pop music world of unintelligent and derogatory lyrics, we really ought to pay extra attention to songs like these. No Connection is about how we have become disconnected from the land on which we live and how our planet is being exploited for commercial gains. The verses are really rather fast paced but the chorus is much slower, mournful and all the more poignant because of this. ‘No connection, we are landless, History unspoken, history forgotten, No connection, this land was stolen, History unspoken, history forgotten.’ Bringing Hits From The Void to a close is a song called Void, in a nod towards the EP title. The song also nods back to the first track as it is similarly slow paced and atmospheric. This time the scene the song sets is a dark and lonely forest which is reflected in the lines ‘The only utopia that I can see, Is a cabin in the woods just the forest and me.’  Void is definitely not a hopeful song but, of course, that’s far from what All In Vain set out to do with it. Void is bleak, dystopian and melancholic but it left far more of an impression on me than if it had been another cheery pop punk song – I like cheery pop punk but you know what I mean. An appropriate ending to an intelligent, yet catchy, folk punk release. 

All In Vain don’t have much of an Internet presence besides their Bandcamp page but they are featured on a website called Cacophonix Conspiracy which has the following message (and explains the lack of Internet presence): ‘Cacophonix Conspiracy is currently just a website, created in order to provide people with one place to visit to find links to various musical projects who cross-over members or are friends with each other. People often ask us when we are performing in the street where they can find us online and it's easier to provide one link rather than several.’

You can find Cacophonix Conspiracy on Facebook and, of course, download or stream Hits From The Void on All In Vain’s Bandcamp page.

This album review was written by Emma Prew.

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