Bloodhounds On My Trail: Haunted Isles (Moon Sounds Records, 2016)
Bloodhounds On My Trail is a Melbourne shoegaze band consisting of Johnny Green (Vocals / Guitars), Nik Donaldson (Drums), Chris Donaldson (Guitars), and Che Walden (Bass). They burst on the scene in 2014 and have since become quite well received in Australian shoegaze circles. In 2015, they released their first EP, Escape II, on Moon Sound Records and have since refined their sound with the explosive Haunted Isles. They channel everything that is great about shoegaze but with a finesse that bleeds the best of 80’s giants like Echo and the Bunnymen, Jesus and the Mary Chain, and Gene Loves Jezebel. Haunted Isles is only six tracks, leaving the listener yearning for more after the last note fades.
The EP begins with an instrumental number that is full of reverb and fuzz, inviting the listener into Bloodhounds’ world. Once the percussion and bass kick in, this preview of what is to come becomes evident. They have, in a very brief time, not only taken their genre and begun to hone the tools in its basket, but have produced a full sound that has been masterfully mixed. The intro eventually fades into reverb and drone. “Over the Wall” begins with strumming, reverb guitar and then instantly builds into a wall of sound. Here we enter the world of Slowdive-esque influence but the idea that this is going to be derivative instantly is struck down once the full band comes into the mix. Trust me, this is no derivative band. While they wear their influences on their sleeve, they blend them in a unique way, taking the best of bands like Slowdive and mixing it deftly with those bands from the 80’s I mention above. If there were any justice in the world, “Over the Wall” would be an instant megahit because this song has all the right structural notes, it’s emotive, explosive, and the guitar and percussion work are just superb.
“Over the Wall” leads into “Loop”. One thing Bloodhounds have done by placing “Over the Wall” as the first full song on the EP is set expectations high for what is to come afterwards. “Loop” does not disappoint whatsoever. It begins with a driving beat and light, airy guitars and has this very nostalgic tip of the hat throughout, conjuring ghosts of KROQ in Los Angeles in the 80’s. The bass work on this track, and all the way through the ep, is just superb both in terms of tone and phrasing choices. Walden’s work is to be applauded. The percussion work here is also incredibly important, as Donaldson really knows how to use his kit to accent, shape, and propel the band’s music while injecting a sense of musicality in what he does. He’s not simply a timekeeper. Green’s vocals are dreamy, reverbed out, and ethereal, providing wonderful texture while Green and Donaldson play with glistening walls of sound to fill in all the spaces in the composition.
“Sink” is a mid-tempo track that has an infusion of post-punk bliss and perhaps a touch of darkwave. The high-hat races through the track and creates wonderful accents against the beautiful guitar tones. The bridge in this piece is exquisite, showing off the band’s compositional prowess. “Place Like This” begins with ghostly, sparkling guitars and works into a steady cadence as the bass and drums join. Green’s vocal phrasings here are perfect and unique over the structure of the music. The guitar work is full of that shoegazery drugged out wistfulness but there is never a moment on this EP where this band feels like they aren’t true to their own sound. The finale to the EP is “Words Like Weapons”. It is a more melancholy, introspective feeling song. The track is haunting. The walls of sound are formless, swirling, and soaring. There is a female voice in the mix with Green’s and this is clearly a song about the rough spots in relationships.
Bloodhounds On My Trail have clearly matured in their sound and writing since their first EP. In the short time they’ve been together, they have developed a sound that is indeed their own. Every track on this EP is exceptional and shows a strength in writing, composition, and choices this band possesses. Haunted Isles is the sound of greatness!
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