Sunday, 28 August 2011

Feast Of Tentacles

So I recently came into a fair bit of spare money, and I seem physically unable to restrain myself from spend every last spare penny on records. So with a fair wad of cash sitting there in my Paypal account, beckoning me to make some international distro dudes that little bit richer, I set off on a mission to check out some new music. First stop was the excellent Feast Of Tentacles distro, run out of... well, somewhere in the UK anyway. The guy was very patient with me as I kept revising my order, upping quantities of some records, so yeah, all the respect in the world to that guy for putting up with me.

I eventually settled on a selection of 7"s, a few by bands I was eager to finally check out, a few by bands who I just liked the descriptions of, and a couple of records for someone else that I'm gonna review anyways.

First up was my highly-anticipated first ever spin of anything by Ravens Creed.
Incase you don't know, Ravens Creed originally featured big Ben Ward from UK doom legends Orange Goblin on vocals, as well as Steve Watson on guitar, who used to play in one of my all-time favourite band of filth merchants, Iron Monkey.
So with that kind of pedigree, hopes were high. I knew this band was formed as an outlet for some serious proto-black metal worship, but I really didn't know how well it would work with players coming from a sludge/doom background.

Side A.
This opens up with a bizarre, creepy, almost robotic-sounding sample, fuck knows what it's from, but it kinda jars me on first hearing it. The black metallic riffage is SO obvious, and it's backed up with the simplest battering of a drumkit that I've ever heard. Yet this record is pretty well produced, it has a good warm tone, it never makes an attempt to be all cool and lo-fi, which I like (sorry Fenriz, sometimes a guy just needs some production value!).
There are some ridiculous double-kick drums, which actually cause a burst of laughter. I fucking hate that shit, with the exception of the break in Angel of Death.
After those are over, they switch up into a much more chugging riff, less black metal, more primitive caveman battering. There are no vocals the entire time, and I'm beginning to think they'll never kick in. I want to hear Ward's ROAR already!

I'm right, this track is without vocals the whole way through, I go into Side B a little crestfallen...
But it doesn't disappoint! Opening up with this dry, decaying, hoarse rasp of a riff backed by yet more fastasfuck hellbeat, it can't be more than 10 seconds before Big Ben announces his prescence. He rips into a snarled, throat-shredding verse, making the band sound like Venom fronted by an even more irate Lemmy. This, obviously, rules.

I wish they hadn't parted ways with Ben Ward, because he's one of the best frontmen I've seen play, and I wish I'd had the chance to have seen this band play with him, hearing him command a whole other type of crowd.
Great record!

Next is more Ravens Creed, this time their split with Sollubi, who I know nothing about. Guess I'll find out, huh?
But before that, I have a craving for more hellbeat. The Creed side of this split doesn't disappoint, at least initially. Then there's another of those ridiculous doublekick segments that pisses me off. But after that it's into a tech-y (by their standards) riff and some more growls, which restores my faith.

A hilariously Northern sample seperates the tracks, then it's straight into another ripper, 'Hearse Fokker'. Not much new to say except more tremolo riffing, more snare abuse, more gargled-glass vocals. Good stuff!

The Sollubi side is up next, and I have no expectations whatsoever.
Their single track opens with a dirty-ass sludge riff, like something left on Dixie Dave's cutting room floor. Goddamn, this bass tone alone has made me an instant fan! The vocals kick in eventually, and I'm not sure WHAT to think. They're all over the place. This guy seems to be singing over a different track than the rest of the band are playing. The vocals suck.
Uh oh, here are some guitar histrionics to make things even worse. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of a well-played, short, concise solo, but none of this wah-soaked show-off-y bullshit, played over the WHOLE track. I spend my whole weekdays with the local classic rock station blasting out of the factory, if I hear another wailing guitar solo I'm going to fucking kill myself.

It ends, eventually, and I know that from now on I'll only play the first minute of this track. Sorry Sollubi.

Next play is the Night Owls 7".
This was one of the records I bought because of the sole reason I liked their name. I'm something of an owl fanatic.
I initially started this on 45rpm, and it plasted out this spazzy, hyperactive punk, with a high-pitched squealing vocal. I checked the liner notes to make sure none of the members were a sugar-injected 10 year old girl, then decided it was probably best played at 33...
Switching to the correct speed changed things dramatically. Night Owls play that average garage rock revival stuff that would have made them HUGE around 2001. I don't know how recent a band they are, or anything about them really. They remind of bands like The Catheters, nothing new, but played with honest intention because thats what they want to hear. Can't fault 'em for that I guess, it's just not really my bag.

Oak & Bone / Like Wolves split 7"
I bought this one because I dug the name Oak & Bone, it sounded earthy and natural, yet I had absolutely no idea what sort of music they made. I'll go for their side first.
First track 'Dirt' sounds to my ears like that hardcore-with-decent-riffs stuff popularised by bands like Every Time I Die. Not that that's a bad thing especially, I don't mind a good, catchy 'core song once in a while, it's just that it's been done to death.
But somehow these guys pull it off, it sounds... fresh. They write some catchy riffs, and the songs have a good, not-too-clean production that shows these guys can really fucking play. I don't know where they're from, but I'd definitely have a blast at one of their gigs.

Like Wolves' side starts out with a jangling, clanky sounding loose-stringed riff, and I'm hopeful they play some sort of bizarre Jesus Lizard-y noise mess. Hopes are immediately dashed by the vocals. They have that usual high-range teenage yelp quality to them, which in 10 years time might mature into some genuinely foul crusty rasp. Their vocalist can look me up in 2021 with his new band, until then, I have to shut this off. Their second track on this directly rips off a Bronx riff too. Badly.
Generic modern hardcore at it's worst. Shouty bollocks, as my non-heavy music friends would call it.

Doldrums' 'Nowhere Existence EP' is next.
I'd never heard of this band before, but the F.O.T. site described them as down-tuned crusty sludge, which sounds right up my alley! The 'Dog Side' of the 7" starts off with some nice heavy powerviolence, plenty of sub-atomic bass riffs and blast beats. Going into the second track, there's a weird jagged staccato riff to start us off, then it descends into alternatively shouting and growling dual vocals. It reminds me, of all things, of Raging Speedhorn. And that's not a slate on them, I absolutely love Speedhorn. The music is entirely different though. It goes from slow plodding sections, to painfully thrashy blasted sections, to near-melodic tremolo riffs. Pretty well-played powerviolence-y crusty goodness.

PYS (Pick Your Side) - Survival Prayer
This band features Jeff Beckman (Haymaker/ex-Left For Dead) on vocals, and unholy fucking christ are they weird. The liner notes use the phrase 'Lo-Fi Pseudo Thrash' but it's SO lo-fi I can barely tell what the fuck the actual music sounds like. The vocals dominate the mix. It sounds like a trained bear with a sore throat attempting to talk to aliens. I try in vain to read along with his lyric sheet, which features the usual anarcho-rants, but the two are impossible to connect.
What else can I say... oh, there's also a Crucifucks cover. Not that you'd be able to tell unless you read it in the liner.

"There comes a point where you have delved so deeply into punk subcultures you are just listening to shitty music." - I read this somewhere recently.

Last, but most definitely not least is this little beaut: the Moloch/Rot In Hell split 7"
I don't give a fuck about Holy Terror hardcore, that stuff is so ridiculous I can't believe anyone takes it seriously. So I won't even be listening to Rot In Hell's side. Fuck you, fight me about it.

The reason I wanted this split was obviously to hear more from the almighty Moloch. I'd heard their 'Tears That Soak A Callous Heart' cassette that they released in conjection with Thou, and they play some of the foulest sludge I've ever heard out of a UK band. They played near me recently and for SOME FUCKING INSANE REASON I MISSED IT! Dear Moloch, please get in a van and haul yourselves back to the Great Grey North. Cheers.

Anyway, their contribution 'Sibillia' is another vast slab of oppressive, revolting cacophony. It's pretty thinly produced, but I can look past that because the song is still there beneath the murk. I can't really describe it in too much detail. It's slow-as-fuck and horrible sludge, and if that sounds good to you, go make the awesome Feast Of Tentacles guy(s) a little richer and pick it up!

Wolvserpent - Blood Seed

I'd been dithering over whether or not to purchase this record for close to a year. I hadn't actually heard a single note of this band's music before I kinda fell in love with them through their amazing tour diaries over at Invisible Oranges [ ], they inspired some pretty serious wanderlust in me, so I was pretty interested in them as people rather than as a band.
I delved a little deeper, finding a stream of their, at the time, unreleased album Blood Seed over at the 20 Buck Spin site. My listening environment for this album wasn't exactly ideal, I was playing it on my lunch break at work, the music barely audible over the incessant drone of co-worker phonecalls. But what I heard made me able to tune everything else out immediately. I was hooked.

So for some reason, it still took me almost a year to actually splash some cash on the LP, but damn am I glad I did!

I am a tiiiny bit disappointed that this isn't a gatefold sleeve, only because the design is so well executed that I wish there was more of it. The sleeve has this not-too-glossy finish to it, an ideal showcase for the black abyss surrounding the blood and bone ritualistic cover photo.
The insert is also great, but is stylistically very different. It's an old tintype photograph depicting a river as a hive of activity, steamboats, rowing boats, cavernous mountains... it's kind of eerie.
It just so happens that in this case, the album artwork PERFECTLY compliments the music.

Side A - Wolv
The music slowly filters in, an exercise in ambience, mood-setting, whatever you want to call it. Staring at that tintype photograph as you hear the haunting strains of a violin played against a windy backdrop is... pretty damn fun. If your idea of fun is being creeped the fuck out and indulging in some amateur ativism, picturing yourself within the photo. Goddamn I'm a pretentious prick sometimes. Fight me about it.

A guitar winds it's way in on top of the violin, really clean, semi-acoustic tones. It's got almost a banjo-y twang to it. Again, it doesn't seem out of place against the 'setting' of this record.
I know I said I wouldn't be doing band X + Y comparisons when talking about music, but I really can't avoid this one. It sounds like a less-opressive Earth, particularly their latest stuff, like The Bees Made Honey In The Lions Skull. Though this somehow seems lighter. Sparse. The notes come faster, with more of a recognisable melody, but they have room to breathe? The whole time the violin wails on.

About halfway into the song (oh, I may have forgotten to mention each side of the record is a single track) the amplified guitar makes it's presence known with this sudden screech, and begins a cycle into a groaning, lumbering riff. Without any fanfare, like I only just noticed them, a choral wail has begun in the background.
I realise how ridiculously pretentious I'm making all of this sound, but this really is music to lose yourself in.
It really has this amazing soundtrack-ish quality to it, a real soundscape. I can imagine this being played live over a backdrop of an old silent horror movie.
The riff dooms on, cymbals crash and that despairing choir moans itself towards the end of that side. The riff cycle ends, and it descends into shimmering feedback. I'd be super-interested in seeing how they pull this music off live, seeing as there are only two members in the band.

photograph used without permission from

Side B - Serpent
Immediately this track launches back into the haunting choral sound and groaning guitar ambience from side A.
As much as I love the ritual of flipping vinyl, I would love to hear this record as one continuous track, without interruption.
The drone/moan continues up until around one-third of the way through the record when another amplified riff shakes away any audio inertia. This one has much more of a crunch, a kick, and for the first time this feels like something approaching traditional doom. It interjects little... atonal squeals, I think people who know anything about music call them pinched harmonics? Fuck knows, I'm the furthest thing from a musician.

I might not know much about music, but I know what I like, and that is being surprised by music. The riff morphs in an instant to this Pike-esque rumble, this juggernaut (Supernaut?) sound, accompanied by big, splashy cymbals and the continuous tortured screams.
I'm not much of a black metal fan, but sometimes I can understand the feeling people get from those initial recordings, the sense of dread, of coldness. The low drone and high shriek of the vocals on this side give me that feeling. My spine is officially chilled.
The riff continues on, in a pocket all of it's own, the drums locking in with it in their own way.

By the time the album ends, I feel like I've actually... experienced something. I play both sides through again, lost in that photo...

Purchase the LP direct from the band, as it seems it is no longer available on the 20 Buck Spin site?

And check out 20 Buck Spin while you're at it anyway, they have some great stuff kicking around there

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Story of an Attention-Deficit, Nostalgic, Solipsistic Music Nerd

I spend far too much time on the internet. As someone who is something of a luddite, and would much rather be sitting outdoors with a beer and book, I'm pretty useless with most technology.
I spend 10+ hours of my work day sat in front of a screen, punching my desk with frustration as technology fails time and time again to complete the simple tasks I set for it. So when it all gets too much for me, I decide to waste my employer's time by taking solace in the endless spring of information and inspiration that is the internet.

The internet is perfectly suited to my severely scrambled, zero-attention-span thought process. Something pops into my head, and with a few jabs of my fingers, I have access to just about all the information I can dream of for any particular subject.

I can waste ten minutes of my life looking at pictures of Joseph Stalin's moustache.

An hour lusting over nerdy shit like metal band patches I wish I owned.

Or lose an afternoon watching fondly remembered childhood cartoons.

Every obscure little avenue of thought my brain can come up with can be explored, discussed, and complained about. Pretty much everything is available, all the time.
However, one aspect of this mentality I am strangely uncomfortable with is how it applies to music.

I got into music in 2000.
I won't detail how, or what I started listening to, because it's hideously embarassing. Safe to say, it was the golden age of the twin musical eras of Nu Metal and Pop-Punk, music so utterly bereft of any sort of real heart, soul, feeling, lyrical depth, innovation of any kind. Endless American or wished-they-were-American whining self-obsessed overgrown teenagers in baggy jeans and spikey hair. Basically the absolute nadir of musical expression.

It was around this time that the music industry was on the cusp of changing forever.

I remember the thrill of CD shopping in HMV, browsing through their extremely limited 'alternative' section. Getting a train into the city just to purchase a new album by whatever terrible band I was worshipping at the time. The rush of finding something that none of my tiny circle of friends owned already, being the first person to get into a band.
I was a 12 year old hipster.

I also remember a lot of the supposedly 'cooler' kids deriding me for still spending what very little money I had back then on music. I was a pretty straight-laced kid, I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't do much of anything, really, except buy music.
So when my eager discussions of my latest album discovery were met with "pfft, I got their single off of Napster for free. No way I'd ever pay for it, they're shite!", I was confused.
"Napster? What's that?" was yet again met with a sneer and a snort, yet another admonishment and reminder of just how behind the times I was. So, having just gotten the internet around that time too, I rushed home after school to Ask Jeeves why I wasn't cool enough to know what Napster was.

What I found blew my tiny mind.
I sat there, reading up on it, and was instantly sold on the idea. Music, by anyone I could ever care to name, all for free? Fuck yeah, count me in! I downloaded the program, terrified that I'd fuck it up somehow and end up with a computer riddled with viruses, and that my parents would ban me from ever using my amazing discovery again. It terrified me more than them discovering that I'd also been using our brand new amazing Information Super Highway to google things like 'girls with no clothes on'. Like I said, I was a naive kid.

So with Napster at my fingertips, I was like a kid in a candy store. I immediately set about typing in names of bands I'd been unable to afford to purchase albums by. I think the first song I ever downloaded was by Sepultura. I won't dive too deeply into the reasons for that. They totally didn't involve a girl a year or two older than me with cheaply dyed blue-black hair and badly-applied eyeshadow, who had the Sepultura 'S' drawn on her backpack. Nuh uh.

For about 2 hours I downloaded as many files as I could find from other users who were online at the time, and ended up with probably about eight assorted songs from across the bands discography.

image stolen from

I sat there at my computer and played the songs, excited to finally 'catch up' with the rest of my generation and be able to enjoy music for free. But it did come at a cost. The sound emerging from my tinny computer speakers was a barely-audible cacophony, and no, that's not an insult to Sepultura.
I didn't understand, why didn't it sound like the other music I had been listening to? It sounded awful, and none of the songs were alike. I didn't know if the titles were correct, what albums each song was from, what the artwork looked like, all the stuff I spent countless hours geeking out over with my other albums. I didn't have a CD-burner at the time, so I couldn't even listen to them on my battered Sony Discman on the walk to school the next day.
I was, to put it in over the top, grandiose terms, absolutely gutted.

I know, I'm starting to sound like a broken record (HA!), and this is coming across as anti-downloading propaganda, using tired old arguments like sound-quality that are still trotted out to this very day. I think such issues are largely bullshit in 2011, but in 2000 they were genuine concerns.

The issue I had was that acquiring new music this way felt cheap to me. And not just because it was free.

So I didn't download music for at least another 7 years after that. I stuck with my tried-and-tested method of saving up my money for a couple of weeks just to be able to buy an over-priced album, to go through my little ritual of train journey, rack browsing, triumphant discovery, cash exchanging, rushing home, examining the packaging in far-too-much-detail, anticipating that first spin of the disc.
I still do that to this day. Very little in life makes me happier than that pre-album anticipation.

So, to finally cut short this extended nostalgia trip, my original point is that despite the easy availability of almost every note of music ever recorded out there in the vast interwebs, I mostly choose not to partake in the prevailing torrent/mediafire/rapidshare blog culture.

I have nothing against album/song streams as a means of discovering new music or checking out the latest release by a band you love, it's just the 21st century version of hearing a very good, very selective, personally-tailored radio show after all.
However, I ALWAYS make a point of following up any such positive discoveries by checking out what releases a band has for sale, spending countless hours trawling online distros, hunting down bigcartels, clicking through endless redundant myspace pages in the hopes of finding a link to purchase something I can hold in my hands and call mine.

I never believe I've truly been sold something unless I can drop it and it makes a sound.

So, that brings me to this latest exercise in solipsism.
I'm starting this blog with no agenda other than to have somewhere to type out my over-enthusiastic reactions, whether positive or negative, to the physical releases I've seen fit to spend my hard-earned money on.
I have no qualification in either writing or music.
I won't be partaking of any cold, clinical, overly analytical review-style writing.
There will be no reductionary marks out of ten, nor out-of-five-stars.
Just my honest opinions of the ridiculous amount of music I listen to on a daily basis.

So if you get bored on the internet, here's yet another avenue for you to waste your time exploring, and hopefully to live out your own record nerdiness vicariously.