Monday, 18 July 2016

Triage - Power Beat 7"


To be honest, that proclamation printed on the back of the sleeve tells you everything you need to know about Toronto's Triage.

The five tracks on the Power Beat 7" have more visceral fuck-you energy than anything I've heard in a long time, with vocalist Lia unleashing pure vitriol over catchy-yet-angry metal-tinged punk/punk-as-fuck metal.
The almost-NWOBHM melodic tinges, relentlessly chugging rhythms and abrasive vox put me in mind of GISM et al, but no doubt someone reading this thinks that's a load of shite.

If I write any more it'll take you longer to read this than to just listen to it, so just do it already.

If you want to pick up a copy of the 7", you can get it from Canada-based Faith / Void HERE.

I got my copy from La Vida Es Un Mus, but I just checked their distro and it's gone, so I guess I got the last one. Thank fuck.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Sheer Mag - I / II / III 7"s

You know when you stumble upon a band completely outside your wheelhouse, and they blow your fucking mind? When I first heard Philadelphia's Sheer Mag, they did just that, exciting me in a way no other band has in years.

While I enjoy each of the disparate elements of their sound in their own right; power-pop song structures, Lizzy-worshipping twin leads and punk-as-fuck attitude, when combined as perfectly as they are across these three 7"s, Sheer Mag's sound is irresistable. Their songs might feel like a throwback to decades past, yet despite the obvious influences they feel refreshingly original and unlike any other new band I can think of. A big part of their appeal to me is singer Tina Halladay's voice, which ranges from soulful to sassy, from forlorn to furious, with every damn word belted out with full conviction.

From the clear promise heard in tracks such as 'Sit And Cry', from the first 7", to the snarl of anti-gentrification anthem 'Fan The Flames' from last year's II, and what is undoubtedly 2016's catchiest song about rallying against misogyny 'Can't Stop Fighting', they've continually honed their songwriting chops, as well as becoming increasingly outspoken about wider issues. It's this willingness to write about real societal problems that sets them apart from the scores of punk bands churning out the same old anti-authority spiel.

The aesthetic of each release fits perfectly with their sound, each coming with a photocopied poster & lyric sheet, and housed in sturdy matte card sleeves. I figured I'd have a nightmare trying to track down all three 7"s, what with the first being released over 18 months ago, but luckily Static Shock still has copies of each in the distro:

While these songs feel like they should be spun, and not clicked, those of you unable to track down the records can snag a download of each release direct from Sheer Mag's bandcamp.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Nightfell - The Living Ever Mourn LP

Back in 2012 I was lucky enough to catch Aldebaran play a couple of times on their European tour with Noothgrush, and also to finally witness the impassioned fury of a Tragedy show. Both bands put out incredible albums that year, in Embracing The Lightless Depths and Darker Days Ahead respectively. Extrapolating the directions each album took, with Tragedy eschewing D-beat entirely in favour of a lower, slower approach, and Aldebaran taking their already abyssal sounds to even murkier depths, it's actually not that hard to see how Nightfell came to exist.

Even so, when master of mastering Brad Boatright first mentioned a project brewing between Aldebaran's Tim Call and Tragedy's Todd Burdette, I responded with some glib comment along the lines of "Funeral d-beat, eh? I'm in!". When many months later The Living Ever Mourn was released, any preconceptions I may have had were utterly obliterated by these 8 tracks of terror.

Despite the disparity between each member's other bands, this album is neither simply slow crust punk or fast funeral doom, taking its musical cues from neither doom the genre, nor Doom the band. What it does do is channel the mournful qualities and aggressive atmosphere present in all of Burdette and Call's previous output into something wholly unique, allowing each of them to operate outside the constraints of their other bands. The result is an album that is almost deliberately difficult to classify.

Opening track 'The Last Disease' begins with chiming guitars, before being joined by some downright bombastic drumwork from Call. When they settle into step, the riff is immediately recognisable as one of Burdette's; no-one else manages to infuse that much sadness into their anger, and express it through six strings and amplification. The double-kick rhythm and UGH-ed vocals set this apart as being a far more metal proposition than his usual work, but the synth interlude that leads into 'I Am Decay' doesn't allow things to settle into one particular mould. The track features everything from frenetic drums to funereal string bends, and since it never drops down to the extended torture of doom tempos or gears up to deliver sharp jabs of punk, the overall effect is more of an incessant pummeling.

'Empty Prayers' pushes the boundaries even further out, with Burdette's layered singing (yep, singing) giving the track an elegiac choral atmosphere. The sparse acoustic guitars that enter the fray from around the halfway point are even more unexpected, though they are but a momentary respite from the overwhelming hopelessness before a gigantic fuck-off pickslide and cacophonous clatter bring everything crashing back in.

The blackened buzzsaw tone of 'The Hollowing' is another total departure, demonstrating that if nothing else there's certainly something here for everyone, no matter what your preferred strain of metal. It never feels like they're stretching themselves thin, each track has such an individual identity, yet still feels part of a cohesive whole. Y'know, the way an album should do?

The next interlude is the seemingly obligatory 'move to Portland, start playing neo-folk' moment, but it's thankfully soon brushed aside by the hulking riffage of 'Altars To Wrath'. This is the only song on the album that I could actually picture coming from the players involved, so effectively does it combine their typical styles. The track becomes increasingly Frost-ian as it goes on, perfectly demonstrating just how influential Tom G Warrior's troupe were on every single fractured facet of metal.

Closing with 'Funeral Dirge', a galloping, triumphant number that belies its title, once again the cohesion of these eight seperate parts of a whole is reinforced. When the track fades out with martial drums and howling winds, I immediately want to play through the whole thing again, there are so many stand-out moments just begging to be heard. The Living Ever Mourn is a rare beast in modern times; not merely a collection of songs, but a fully-realised album.

You can still get a copy of this slab of excellence from Parasitic Records.

Nightfell on Bandcamp | Facebook 

This review originall appeared over at Echoes & Dust...

Ilsa - The Felon's Claw 2xLP

Dirty DC death-doomers Ilsa are fucking vile.

I mean that in the best possible way, of course, as their particular brand of pummelling crust-meets-sludge-meets-death is a combination of just about all my favourite things about metal, all presented in one putrescent package. With much of their previous output sitting somewhere between the down-tempo murk of 'Domination'-era Morbid Angel and Iron Monkey's more breakneck tracks, excitement was high for the arrival of The Felon's Claw. It is just as horrible as I'd hoped.

Vocalist Orion's death-rattle rasp proclaims the sentence, instantly damning you to the darkness in opening banger 'Oubliette'. The everything-in-the-red mix creates a claustrophobic atmosphere that, given the title, is no doubt intentional, with a ripping solo around the halfway point that is straight-up demented. They cram more energy and filth into these opening 3 minutes than most bands manage across a whole album.

The more morbid listener may recognise '25 Cromwell' as a reference to serial murderers Fred and Rose West, it being the address at which they conducted most of their killings. That their dwelling has since been demolished, with every timber burnt to ash and every brick crushed to dust, speaks to the sheer evil of the acts committed in that house.
The track itself is just as depraved and violent as it's subject matter. Drummer Joshy pounds his kit like he's in a bar brawl with it, each bass drum blow like a fist driven into flesh, while the hyper-distorted riffs have all the impune swagger of the uncaught killer.
You can keep your songs about Satan; this is the sound of true evil.

'Smoke Is The Ghost Of Fire' recalls the zombified lurch of many tracks on their previous LP Intoxicantations, the chugging riff thick and black as tar, while Orion's multi-tracked howls are guaranteed to send shivers up the spine. The mysteriously-titled 'Buried In The Bedrock And Concrete Of Our Cities' doesn't cite any specific horror, which is almost more terrifying. The distortion is so thick in the opening bars that you can barely discern if there's a riff underneath it all, but some wonderfully organic blasts and kick-drum work offer a recognisable rhythm to wreck your neck to.

Dirt and discordance announce 'Pandolpho', before a raucous beer-crushing, horn-throwing passage twists it into one of the catchiest tracks on the record. However they don't maintain this momentum, with an extended doom plod around the halfway point. This Frankensteining of the fastest and slowest sections of The Felon's Claw together seems a bit incongruous, but that's not to say that each half of the track isn't fucking awesome. Following track 'Pass//Out' demonstrates a more effective use of dynamics, with the band switching seamlessly between skin-crawling atmospherics and fast-paced bludgeoning.

The prowling bass of 'Enter The Void' begins a decrepit dirge which seemingly slows with every second until it dispenses of rhythm entirely in favour of feedback, before the opening riff returns, even deadlier than before. By contrast 'Armstrong's Mixture' is as explosive as it's titular chemical compound, an unrelenting crusty ripper that'll leave your head either spinning or banging.

The interminable torture of 'Katabasis' feels like a slow descent into madness, the ever-decreasing tempo and smog-thick riffage continuing the dark atmosphere of the opening track. The fact that the track is named for the journey down into the Underworld taken by a number of mythological figures, from Gilgamesh to Orpheus, and even Christ, will feel appropriate by the time it draws to a close, and you are returned, forever changed, to the land of the living.

The suitably jagged 'Song Of The Saw-Blade' is as close as Ilsa come to anthemic, the Swedeath vibe of the music underpinning Orion's repeated roars of the track's title, making for a discernible chorus of sorts. By the time the final repulsive notes ring out, you'll feel in need of a hot shower. Possibly even some psychological counselling.

The Felon's Claw might not be a huge progression of Ilsa's signature sound, but the fact that they have a sound all of their own is a rarity in modern metal, and this album sees them hone their skills to the point of deadly proficiency. A terrifying trip through the darkest depths of death and doom.

If you're Stateside, you can grab a copy on a variety of colourways direct from A389 Records.

Those of a European or British locality would be best to snag it from EvilGreed.

ILSA on Facebook | Bandcamp

This review originally appears over at Echoes & Dust...

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Monarch! - Sacrifice Your Parents, Satan Wants You To 7"

France's premiere doom exports Monarch! have been on my radar for a while now, but it wasn't until their appearance at the second edition of Bristol's Temples Festival that I became a convert to their terrifying take on drone doom.

Their incredible set had me slack-jawed in wonderment, and as soon as I got back home I immediately forked over all my leftover merch funds to start catching up on their discography. The latest release they put out is this nifty wee 7", featuring covers of The Runaways and The Misfits. The white ink screened cover illustrations for each side, by super-prolific artist Nagawika, are the perfect balance of gimmkvlt and hilarious.

Monarch!'s version of 'Cherry Bomb' takes the original's driving rhythm and coy rebellion and contorts it into a malevolent sacrificial dirge, all inhuman shrieks and howling feedback. Emilie Bresson's usually abstract vocals are far more direct here, so much so that the classic chorus lines are actually recognisable, albeit terrifyingly delivered.

I haven't been able to get this version of the song out of my head for weeks now. I'm okay with that.

Their take on 'Die Die My Darling' is even more unsettling, as they reduce the original's stabbing rhythm and b-movie organ jabs down to a funereal pace, punctuated by eerie piano and Bresson's breathy whisper. She sounds as if she's serenading her victim, the layers of "Don't cry to me, oh baby" build and build over mournful guitar, her detached delivery far creepier than Danzig's psychotic snarl in the original.

The sort of track you'd put on a mixtape to a lover if you wanted them to flee the country in fear.

As an introduction to the band, this doesn't really convey what Monarch! do best, which is mostly long-form funeral/drone doom, but taken as a fun little curiosity, this is one of the coolest things I've heard this year.

You can pick up this 7" as well as other excellent Monarch! records from France-based label MusicFearSatan.

Monarch! on Facebook | Twitter | Sabbracadaver / Mer Morte / Omens on Bandcamp

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Vile Creature - A Steady Descent Into The Soil tape

When I first heard Ontario's Vile Creature I couldn't believe they'd only been playing together a couple of months, and that drummer Vic had never even pounded a kit until 6 months ago. That they've already recorded some awesome doom ditties, self-released 'em on tape, and are currently on a decent wee tour of their neighbouring environs (lurking in the grimm griminess of Brooklyn as I type) is pretty damn cool. I dig bands that throw themselves into what they do with gusto and DIY spirit.

When I then found out they describe themselves as 'Anti-Oppressive, Queer as Fuck Doom Metal', and had Adam Tucker master their recording just because they loved his outstanding work on Thou's Heathen (the greatest album of the past year), I was fully sold. I threw some cash at them immediately and got this cool stuff in return.

Opening their first recording with 16-minutes of atmospheric-yet-aggressive doom, 'I: A Constant Yearning To Leave' lets you know Vile Creature ain't fucking around here. The riffs are distended to breaking point, but never to the detriment of the track; there's enough dynamism in there to hold you rapt until the vocals kick in. Vocalist/guitarist KW's impressive bellow is underpinned by guitar playing that doesn't just stick to drawing out the space between notes, but employs a wide array of textures and tones to great effect.

The influence of Heathen is directly audible through much of A Steady Descent Into The Soil, with the more crushing doom sections tempered with extended passages of plaintive prettiness, the contrasting styles offsetting one another perfectly. This is especially apparent during the opening minutes of second track 'II: Motivated By Guilt' which utilises a similar style of repeating guitar motif. KW's feral howl of "I WILL FIND YOU!" when it finally arrives is nothing short of bone-chilling. Jeepers.

The title track begins with some unusual guitar work (well, within a doom metal context at least) before they bring the heavy once more with some ultraslow riffage and massive cymbal crashes. There's plenty of slow/little-less-slow, loud/little-less-loud dynamics throughout, with some wonderfully exploratory passages where it feels like they might not quite know where they're going, but it's going to be so worthwhile when they get there. The multi-tracked clean vox which arrive towards the end are downright unsettling, somewhat appropriate considering the discernible lyrics are "Take my organs / take my blood flow / strip the flesh / from my brittle broken bones".

As the tape fades into feedback, I once again shake my damn head that these guys have only been playing together for such a short time. If they keep at it, I'm pretty fucking excited to see where they go from here.

You can get A Steady Descent Into The Soil as a pay-what-ya-want download from their bandcamp, but I highly recommend springing for some goodies from their bigcartel. They have patches, posters, shirts, the whole shebang. For anyone who might be reading this from the US, you can grab copies with cheaper shipping from the ever-killer Broken Limbs.

You can also check out a pretty in-depth interview with the duo at Full Metal Hipster, where they talk about Bell Witch being great, say funny things to their cats, delve into their anti-oppressive stance, and generally come across as cool folks.

Vile Creature on Bandcamp | Facebook | Tumblr

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Open Tomb - Dead Weight LP

And now for something completely disgusting.

Distortion drags you down into a cavernous maw of rotting meat and butcher hooks. You get caught, but it's far from catchy. Ritualistic pounding signals your imminent demise. No rhyme, no reason, no rhythm. You cower, you wait, and with each crash you flinch. You discern the cries of others, and know that you are not alone. This is no comfort. You have subjected yourself to this, and there is no turning back.

You know these sounds; you were once able to name these instruments of torture... Instruments, yes, that clangs a bell, somewhere in the doldrums of your psyche...

These frantic attempts at recollection gnaw at the fringes of your consciousness. Pieces of your sanity crumble away like the ever-quickening erosion of the planet. You are fucked. You know this now. You hear the calliphoridae swarm. They swarm for you. You welcome them, for they signal the end.

You suffer, doomed, in an open tomb.

Dead Weight is available now from Dry Cough Records for a paltry sum. Enjoy.

Open Tomb on Facebook | Bandcamp

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Expiring Sun Cassettes

As wary as I am of the encroachment of technology, specifically the internet, on the world, one of the benefits is the opportunity to interact with people who share a similar worldview, make incredible artwork, and are just generally cool as fuck. One such humanoid I have encountered is Brandon Duncan, who puts out a host of awesome creative work under the banner of Expiring Sun.

Whether its with his illustration and graphic work, his own music, or most recently his foray into releasing a diverse roster of artists on cassette tape, everything he puts his name to combines to create a whole world. It's a world where horror movies are not 'rebooted', where the Terminator franchise ended in 1991, and where cyberpunks still trade tapes via snail mail.

When Brandon announced 3 new releases in one go, his enthusiasm for each was obvious. After a cursory blast of each, I could hear why. I had to wait for payday to roll around before forking over my cash, but receiving my package in the mail was so very worth the wait.

I've only recently been delving into electronic music, with the hugely popular Crystal Castles being one of my initial entry points. Described by Brandon himself as being akin to CC except 'more raw and pissed off', that's definitely an apt comparison for Melbourne's Asylum Sisters.

Warped loops, glitches, eerie whispers, martial rhythms and distorted screams; unholy fuck this tape has it all in spades.

Saint Petersburg's N616 are probably the closest to Brandon's own music with his most recent project Sterilizer. Both recordings combine industrial metal with noise, glitches and electronic elements. [ex-Planet Earth] was recorded over a decade ago by now, but this type of music never really ages; to my ears it all invokes barren nuclear wastelands, humans erased, and the cold winds of a desolate earth. So this is a real fun listen!

Stick this on while you hook up your Megadrive to have another go at this old gem.

The nightmare soundscapes of Chris Dunn were the first thing I heard of these 3 releases, and I was so taken with his dark, unsettling score to a horror film that doesn't yet exist, that I decided not to sleep the night I first heard In Black. Which I might be correct in thinking was the intent behind these sounds.

Jagged shards of guitar, ambient creepiness, nerve-peeling strings, chilling piano stabs... and that's just the title track! I cannot recommend this release enough, it's by far my favourite of the 3.

With more releases in the pipeline, Expiring Sun Cassettes is poised to become more than just a passion project, but a source of diverse yet cohesive releases worth keeping an ear out for.

Provided they haven't yet sold out, pick up each of these tapes here: Expiring Sun Cassettes.

Delve into the world of Expiring Sun through the following portals: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

Monday, 2 February 2015

Interview: Thou

I had the opportunity to interview my favourite band of internet motherfuckers for Echoes & Dust.
We all got to use a lot of big words while discussing politics, boundary-pushing heavy music, Aubrey Beardsley, feminism, Dungeons And Dragons, systems of class-based oppression, playing Roadburn festival, and that long-awaited Fiona Apple tribute record.

I'm extremely proud to present my interview with Thou.

(((o))): Lyrically this album marks a progression in a theme that Bryan has mentioned in interviews before; examining the class system, the oppression of the many by the few, and those willing to break free, to escape that same oppression. Heathen is the first album to offer an actual alternative perspective on a way to live life: a focus on the sensual, the personal experience, and abandoning dense population centres in favour of a return to nature.

This is obviously a little more in the way of ‘food for thought’ than your typical doom release, are you okay with the perception of Thou as… maybe not a political band per se, but one with strong opinions about the world we live in? Are discussions and meditations on these topics something you hope to inspire in your listeners?

Andy: You’d likely get five different answers if we were all to answer that question. I think of us as a political band. I mean, we have some pretty blatantly political songs even if those songs don’t represent the totality of our politics. Really, in my opinion every band is political whether they are willing to acknowledge it or not. Life is political; we’re all caught up in the problems of this world. Every choice we make affects someone else.

Bryan: Yeah, “the personal is the political” and all that. I think if anything, getting folks to be critical of themselves, the world around them, and their place in it is a core theme throughout our music. That’s a big part of why so much our output—in the content of the songs and records, or the ephemera we release for tours—can oftentimes be so contradictory (anti-civilization/-technology slogans then pro-technology, utopian revisionist daydreams in the next breath) or self-deprecating. We’re five guys who butt heads a lot of times on our own politics, so musically, we love playing with different points of view, as opposed to proselytizing a set of commandments.

I mean, I’m glad that people tend to think of us as a “smarter” or more conscientious band or whatever—but we can also be total dingdongs just like everyone else. It’s not like we’re just sitting around reading Stirner and Blavatsky and not spending just as much time laying around playing Chrono Trigger or watching Netflix.

That's just a small snippet of what turned into one of the most extensive, illuminating interviews I've ever read with the band. You can read the full article over at Echoes & Dust...