Friday, 5 July 2019

Album Review: Defections Split by Actionmen and Dead Neck (by Richard Mair)

Split EPs are always a brilliant way to discover new bands, in this case we have one half from Italian punks Actionmen and the other from UK based Dead Neck released by Mud Cake Records. It would be fair to assume if you are a fan of one of these bands and unfamiliar with the other you’re likely to finish listening to this with a new favourite band you’ll want to explore further!

Opening act Actionmen play real techy punk rock that melds elements of melodic noise oiks Fang Island (see the track “C’est Dada” as the case in point) with more straight up skate punk and by and large it’s an approach that works well. Being a continental band, my yardstick in terms of skate punk is always Burning Heads or I Against I and Actionmen certainly have a feel of both of these bands and that’s definitely a good thing!

One thing that stands out with the Actionmen side is their ability to create off kilter melodies alongside a relentless rhythm. The pick of these songs is their final track on their side “Polite”; it has everything from an anthemic, building guitar line to a real driving beat and lyrics. As an introduction to a creative, slightly odd and unique band, you can’t go wrong!

The most obvious ‘punk’ song of theirs is their first tune “Lion”; which with its reggae style interludes, funk rhythm and persistent driving beat, help ease listeners in to what is a unique experience. This is followed by “Born to be High”; I defy anyone to not love this smile inducing song, and listen out for the machine gun drumming at the end of the song – it’s stunning!

Dead Neck then offer more straight forward skate-punk / melodic hardcore fare; and what it misses with the technical elements of the Actionmen it makes up with the fist in the air anthems. This is the type of punk rock it’s easy to fall in love with, each song is a singalong anthem. From screamed, passionate vocals to beat downs, epic closing codas and brutal drumming, Dead Neck have thrown everything into their side of the EP and it pays off massively!

Their first track “Die Tryin’” starts with a rolling, driving tune before the real melodic moments kick in. It’s typical Epi-Fat influenced music but done superbly and gets you hooked instantly. The second track “Bakers Dozen” is probably the pick of them for me; it’s Pennywise-esque music gives way to a straight hardcore vocal before an insanely catchy chorus and gang vocals. It’s a song with numerous pacing and melody changes but works so well together. If “Die Tryin’” is accused of being generic, this is anything but; what both songs have in common is how brilliant they are to sing along to.

“Clatter” is another excellent fist in the air anthem; perhaps more straight up hardcore, the musicianship on show is stunning. Fast, brutal and angry, it makes way to a Good Riddance-style melodic breakdown which elevates it above many a peer. Their most unusual song on the release is “Seven Shades of Shit”, the electronic vocals coming as a surprise in the first verse on first listen. However it explodes into another anthem, which again demonstrates their knack for a tune and building the song around simple effective melodies. Closing with another fast anthem which will be an absolute blast in a small sweaty dive bar “Blind Into The Dark”, its chorus is one of the best I’ve heard this year. It’s a great way to close the EP.

Overall what we have here is a brilliant release with neither band outstaying their welcome, offering something different but complementary and constantly worthy or repeat spins. One added incentive to buy it is the artwork; the cover art by Mark Bell Illustration is just brilliant and you’ll want a physical copy to enjoy looking at it!

Stream and download Defections here:

Like Actionmen here:

Like Dead Neck here:

This review was written by Richard Mair.

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