Victims & Vultures Alike
If Shields was the sound of a band mixing a plethora of alternative rock influences through a Yourcodenameis:milo™ blender, then Victims & Vultures Alike is the sound of them adding a shot of White Belt Yellow Tag, two measures of awesome and finally “kicking the engine to overdrive”, as I'm sure Sel Belamir would say.
For whilst this is still definitely the sound of In Casino Out, complete with the obvious YCNI:M, Biffy and 'Size comparisons, there's something just elusively different about this second outing. I can't pin it down to any particular riff or instrument, so I'm tempted to put it down to something like a more fixed line-up, for it feels like it's the band dynamics that are the make-or-break here.
The songs themselves are more of a mixed bunch as well; more atmospheric than Shields, there are backing vocals, subtle synth sweeps, and on the exceptional 'Hospital Drama Season Finale' even what I would call (shock horror) 'pretty' melodic riffs. That's just it really; where Shields was all top-drawer rock, it never really made the emotional impact that to be honest is where a lot of music really takes flight.
No such problems on V & V, however; from the word 'go' it's heart-on-the-sleeve vocals clawing their way to the top of cascading riffs. Opener 'Light from the Cars' is the closest we get to early ICO, but still manages a pretty sweeping chorus. 'Windows' is, oddly enough, slightly reminiscent of 'Window' off of Grey Noise, White Lies by Exeter; that is to say, it's monumental space-rock in the vein of Fantastic Planet-era Failure, which can only be good. In fact, if you listen carefully you might hear Failure again in the chorus of 'Rocky V', but maybe that's just me chasing after space-grunge ghosts.
The highlight of the set is doubtless the breathlessly brilliant 'Empires Expired'. From the verse you could be forgiven for thinking it'd somehow been leftover from Shields, but the pre-chorus wrong foots you with effects and catchy rhythmic devices that leave you utterly unprepared for the sheer sonic assault that is the chorus. Oh no, make no mistake: they are not fucking around this time. If you're a fan of heavy rock and this doesn't get your head banging then you need to get it examined, seriously.
 I'm not certain that Sel would quote his own lyrics in casual conversation, but fair play to him if he does.