Review: April Art – Pokerface (Deluxe)
Self Release (September 30th, 2022)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
German metallers April Art have re-released their second album, a deluxe edition of ‘Pokerface‘. That album was released just three months prior, this time adding three more songs to the collection. Having never heard music from this band, I won’t jump directly to the three new tracks. If you are familiar with the band and are looking for a review of just the new tracks, skip a few paragraphs to see my take on those songs.
This group joins an ever-growing list of female-led modern rock bands that have been popping up over the last few years. Their sound is melodic-infused choruses mixed with nu-metal influenced verses. In essence, spoken words and screams mixed with a catchy melodious chorus. Their sound makes for an interesting contrast. Upon listening, I was immediately reminded of the band Smackbound, another four-piece band from Finland. They have the same aggressive attitude and instrumental muted note playing that makes for an almost industrial sound to the music. I am sure there are other bands they could be compared to, but my knowledge of modern female rock bands is not vast.
Nu-metal heaviness is usually not my thing, but the band knows how to write a catchy hook. A perfect example is found in the opening title track. Singer Lisa-Marie Watz maintains a good balance between aggressive screaming and singing and reminds me a lot of Sister Sin singer Liv Sin. More so than bands like Linkin Park, her voice can pull off both tonal changes and she carries notes with ease.
The best track for me goes to ‘Rising High’, which sees the band kick things up a notch with a faster tempo to match their aggressive groove. Other standouts include ‘Sky is the Limit’ a track that has Ms. Watz use some clever word interplay about what is expected from her versus what she really wants out of life. ‘Warrior’ offers a nice reprieve by being a mid-tempo ballad that showcases a softer side to the band and their ability to craft songs that are slightly outside of their wheelhouse.
As is a common trait among many albums these days, I found the songs with better melodies dominate the first half of the album. The second half is less aggressive, and the drive of the band is subdued. Rather than spread out the “filler” tracks, they threw all of them in the second half. They are not terrible tracks, but they do come across as lifeless.
There are three interlude tracks spread throughout the album that all last a minute or less and really do not add to the album in any meaningful way. It’s as if they exist to pad the album and make 12 tracks when there are just 9 songs. I also could have done without the opening spoken lyrics found at the beginning of several songs.
Regarding the three new tracks, I was not crazy about ‘Try’. The band’s style utilizes elements associated with rap, but nothing as obnoxious sounding as what is found here. The chorus is strong, but you must slog through the verses first. Thankfully, most of the rap elements are brief but quite distracting. I appreciate the “softness” of ‘Leave It Behind Now’. On the initial release it presented itself briefly as one of the interludes and now we have the full track. It dials back the heaviness of the album a notch by adding an acoustic guitar to the mix, making it more melodious in the process. Tracks like this are appreciated as it makes the album more diverse. Finally, new single ‘Headline’ closes the album and is as good as anything off the first half of the album. I love the change up in the melody as the band speeds things up for the verses and pulls the reins back slightly while maintaining their aggressive tendencies throughout. My second favorite from this album and frankly should have been included with the original album.
This leads me to a point of contention. I do not appreciate any band releasing an album with additional tracks so soon after an initial release. I find it to be a slap in the face to fans who bought their album on the first few weeks of release. With that said, usually the band does not make decisions like this, so I will not fault them for it. If you do not have the album already, I feel the three songs attached liven up the end of the album and make for a better listening experience. If you have the album, buy the songs you want to support the band. You certainly will not be disappointed by the new tracks.