Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Obsessed - The Church Within

Anyone who pays attention to breaking news about all things heavy will know why I'm giving this album a long-overdue relisten. The rumours had been flying around for weeks, the excitement building with every dropped hint, until the good folks at Roadburn had the decency to put everyone out of their misery, and announce that yes, they had infact managed to score an Obsessed reunion show for next year's fest.

I typed a whole paragraph about how excited I am to attend next year's Roadburn, before realising that whoever is reading this is probably already aware of how fucking ridiculously good the lineup is even at this early stage. If you're somehow completely unaware, ignorant, or just fucking stupid, check it out here:

I'll get the usual backstory bullshit out of the way with quickly so I can get into talking about the actual album.
I remember the first time I heard The Obsessed. Back when my main gateway to new music was purchasing metal magazines that came with free CDs (we're talking 2002 or something), I got one particular compilation that blew my mind. It was around the time that Dave Grohl's Probot project was finally being released, and to coincide with that, some publication had asked him to put together a comp of his favourite metal tracks. He'd gone for old-school tracks featuring all the guest singers he had gotten to sing on Probot, legends like Cronos, Tom G Warrior, Lee Dorrian, King Diamond... look it up already, I'm not going to list all of 'em! Basically, this was my gateway into real metal. This shiny little disc, given away free, and probably discarded by most buyers, changed my life.
In the space of an hour, I heard Cathedral's groovey take on doom, I heard Celtic Frost's abrasive, decaying, primal guitar tone, I had my ears blasted by DRI and early Corrosion of Conformity, fell about laughing at the piercing screams of the King in Mercyful Fate, was creeped out by an early Trouble track... but one song stood out.

Enough said, right? If you want to know what it was like to be me as a teenager, track down an old portable CD player, grab a skateboard, and play this track on repeat as you skate back and forth in your shitty local park's leaf-strewn bowl. It suits it perfectly. Anyway, enough of this fucking rose-tinted nostalgia shit...

The Obsessed went through many line-ups, to the point where there can't be many people in the world that Wino HASN'T been in a band with at some point, but the one that is reforming for Roadburn is the band that recorded the last Obsessed album, The Church Within. I'll admit that it's definitely the album I've paid the least attention to, even out of their limited discography, but since it's highly likely that I'll be witnessing many of these tracks played live in about six months, I better familiarise myself with 'em!

Since this is a tape, and I'm lazy, circumstance dictates that I must listen to side B first.
Which is more than okay with me, because it kicks off with what probably counts as the band's biggest song (there's a video and everything!), Streetside. This song is pretty standard fare, a swinging backbeat rythm, some guitar noodling, y'know, the stuff that a million other songs are made of, but it's Wino's instantly recognisable, soulful vocals that set it apart.
The next track, Climate Of Despair begins solidly enough, but towards the end it descends into this rich, deep organ sound, which is fine with me, I fucking love me some hammond organ. It picks back up again before a pretty abrupt end.

This album was recorded in '94 by some fucking idiot named in the credits as 'MC Snoob', which doesn't bode well for the production. In the case of side two, track three, this rears it's ugly head. I struggle to find a single album of any genre, except maybe some rap stuff, recorded in the '90s which doesn't sound fucking terrible in terms of production techniques. Prove me wrong?
Anyway, this track, Mourning, is swathed in some terrible echo-y delay effect on EVERY instrument. The cymbals that introduce the song sound like water balloons bursting, and Wino's usual rich timbre is reduced to sounding like Mr fucking Roboto. I really cannot recommend it at all.
If you want to hear the track as it was probably originally intended, check it out on the 'Incarnate' compilation.

Things get back to normal on the next song, Touch Of Everything, which makes you wonder why they decided to fuck with the previous track so much? Not even the worst drugs in the world woud lead to such bizarre decision-making. This song is another solid effort, if a little average. If I strain my ears, I can just about hear what I think is more organ underpinning the guitar/bass/drums. Again, I bemoan the production/mix of this record.
I'm not normally one for paying too much attention to lyrics, but one particular couplet grabs my attention:

'Cause living day-to-day gets downright obscene

I need a touch of everything
We've lost touch of everything...'

Which brings to mind the same sentiment he bellows in Saint Vitus' 'Born Too Late', that of a man out of place in the world. Which, to be a total cliche about it, is something I can relate to. So that merits another listen of this track.

The rest of the second side passes by pleasantly enough, but despite normally being a rabid fan of everything Wino puts his name to, I just don't feel too attached to this album by the time it ends.

But then I remember that it hasn't ended at all! Side A, work your magic...

To Protect And Serve struts out of the speakers, a swaggering, swinging ode to law enforcement, which some ambiguous lyrics leave my wondering if it's Anti or Pro police? Either way, this is awesome.

Field Of Hours opens with some horrible bass tone, before mercifully being obscured when the guitar and drums begin. Not much interesting to say about this track. Or any of the others that follow it to make up the rest of side A. What is definitely apparent to me is that I definitely prefer early Obsessed. Such a cliche, but it's usually true: their earlier stuff was better.

This tracks ain't BAD by any means, they just sounds a little... sluggish, compared to what made me fall in love with the original incarnation of the band. Overlong tracks, which is an unusual thing to complain about within the realms of the doom/stoner genre, but when they're played at a relatively midpaced to fast tempo, they just seem to drag on forever.

I really hope that just because it's the Church Within lineup playing Roadburn, that doesn't mean they'll do that horrible reformation trick of sticking to playing just a 'classic' album all the way through. Because as solid a record as it is, The Church Within sure ain't a classic album.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Hot Graves

I can't exactly recall where I first heard of Hot Graves.
I know it was a year or so ago, and the thing that caught my attention was the name, making me think of the awesome Hot Snakes... but Grave-ier. This has got to be the worst intro to anything that anyone has ever written. But fuck it, who even cares how I got into this band. The point is, as always, the music.

A few months ago I ordered the compilation CD (a CD review! how un-kvlt! fuck off.) direct from the band, and was instantly enamoured by their mix of crusty D-beat and proto-Black Metal. I won't get into reviewing the demo compilation here, because like I said, I've had it for months and I love it, so it'd be a bit of an outdated, and very biased review. Needless to say, you should still pick it up from the band's merch store, if only for the eye-searingly pink design.

The reason for my rekindled interest in this band of Floridian 'bangers is that they recently released a 7" through the relatively new Greyhaze Records, complete with snazzy new logo courtesy of Vberkvlt (I won't get into how much I love his work yet again, read my older posts.)

So I snapped up one of them beauties... well, I won't say straight away because that'd be a lie. I'm broke as a joke pretty much all the time, but any spare cash I have lying around is usually spent working my way through the ten million distros I have bookmarked. ANYWAY, I'm being even more boring and self-centered than usual, the point is that I bought the goddamn record, obviously. It arrived with the scrawled message...
Which my very basic French translate as something like 'I want to kill all the world'. Which is a nice sentiment.

First up is, strangely enough, side A!
Buzzzzzzzzzz go the first few seconds of the punk-as-fuck riff that begins the first track Desecration Time, then with an UGH, the d-beat kicks in with a vengeance. When the vocals begin a short time later, they're noticably deeper than on the demo comp. They've mutated into a real putrid growl, which seems to permeate the track, to echo under the music, instead of over the top of the instrumentation.

Then this awesome section kicks in with the guitars and drums locking in to this tight little groove which has my head banging like nothing else. They run through this sequence once more, before the track descends into a plodding doom stomp.
Splashy ritualistic cymbal sounds and twin guitar melodies give some respite before things amp up considerably, the tempo building, gaining momentum, before the whole filthy mess explodes into this short sharp shock of a solo, a frenetic, spasticated thing that goes out with a bang. Damn, that was good! I'm actually gonna play that side through again. And again.

When I eventually get around to side B, my expectations are pretty damn high.
Baphomet's Revenge blasts out of the speakers like... I actually can't come up with a shitty metaphor for this. To be completely ridiculous, the mental image I get from those opening chugs is of some goat-headed demon biker riding a blood-fuelled motorcycle... in space. This song would make an amazing addition to the soundtrack of some Satanic b-movie. I actually can't describe this song in cold, clinical terms because it's just too much fun. Just sheer headbanging visceral thrills.

The second track on this side is a cover of Anti-Cimex's 'Make My Day'. I'm going to lose cool points by admitting that I've never taken the opportunity to familiarise myself with Anti-Cimex, despite them being a punk-patch staple. The cover track blasts past, much shorter than the band's own songs, and seems decent enough. With a few more spins, I might grow to love it enough to delve into the Cimex catalogue.

But for now, it's all about Hot Graves for me. As much as I love the demos, this 7" is a whole different beast. They've gotten tighter, yet somehow more sprawling in the range of styles they incorporate into their songs. To include Warrior-worshipping UGHs, neck-snapping d-beat, doomed marches, to blasts of guitar histrionics, and all within a single song, executed without feeling cobbled together, a mere pastiche, is no mean feat.
This 7" was recorded 2 years ago now, and has only recently seen the light of day. If the band were THIS good 2 years ago, I can't wait for their upcoming debut LP, Knights In White Phospherous.

Listen, buy, and dig Hot Graves (HA!) in the following places:

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Bongripper - Sex Tape / Snuff Film

I remember the first time I heard the term 'snuff'.

Like a lot of people who aren't too familiar with extreme sadistic entertainment, the idea that anyone could derive genuine pleasure from viewing the serious suffering of others wasn't something that ever crossed my innocent, naive teenage mind when I first saw the movie '8mm' in the early '00s.
I'm not going to go into the movie at all, because it fucking sucks, but the plot does concern a detective on the hunt for the whereabouts of a girl who is shown in a grainy, poorly shot 8mm film, apparently being brutally murdered. Not incidentally. Not caught on camera by accident. The whole purpose of the film is to document the last minutes of this young girl's life before it is mercilessly taken.
I might have thought the movie was terrible (Nicholas Cage's 'acting'. Enough said.), but the idea that such a thing probably actually happened definitely piqued my morbid curiosity. I have no desire to ever see such a film, I'd take no enjoyment from it in any way, but the concept alone intrigued me.

So when I saw the title of the almighty Bongripper's latest 7", I instantly knew I wanted to hear how the instrumental band would translate the idea, the horror, of a snuff movie into a soundtrack to a person's final breaths.

I thought I'd do things chronologically, starting with the Sex Tape side.
If this is the soundtrack to anyone's sex tape, then they are seriously fucked (HA!).
There is no foreplay to speak of: no sample, no slow build, no feedback. From the moment the needle drops, it just launches into some pretty straightforward doom... at least to begin with.
Things plod along for a while before suddenly this scuzzy punked up section kicks in for a while, before mutating again into a fuzzy ROAR of a riff. Scuzz n' fuzz.
It switches down a gear again into a different slow riff, ambling along nice enough, but nothing that hasn't been done a thousand times before. Not that it's a bad thing, if it ain't broke, then you sure as fuck don't fix it.

On the flipside we get into the REAL reason I wanted to hear this record.
Strains of feedback filter in, shortly joined by a funeral march drumbeat. It sounds ominous as fuck even BEFORE the 3-note intro riff begins. I'm yet again creeped out by my own choice in music.

Luckily that feeling of self-loathing for being so musically morbid dissipates once the music drops down to a single downtuned bass rumble, a precursor to the next punky section. This part of the song makes me recall the scene in Evil Dead when Cheryl is racing through the darkened woods, pursued by... well, fuck knows what. You all know what happens next.
Maybe my subconscious only pairs these things together because of the implied content of the song.

The simplistic chords break down into a canyon-wide groove next, with some excellently snappy drum work. To continue my shitty Evil Dead comparison, this would be the soundtrack to branches winding their way around limbs.

Things slow down even FURTHER, and you can tell it's the final minute or so of the song. The final breaths of a body. The feedback I'd been kind of missing from a sludge record finally make's it's appearance, whining and screeching as the song grinds to a halt. The song ends. The body is buried.


You can give it a listen on the Bongripper bandcamp page HERE
and check out all the other Bongripper releases while you're at it.

Purchase a physical copy from someone who doesn't want it's filthy contents in their house anymore, because they're all sold out. You snooze, you lose.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Dragged Into Sunlight - Hatred For Mankind

Like I said in my previous post, cover artwork can sometimes be the main selling point for me to check out an album. That was definitely the case when I first set eyes upon the artwork for Hatred For Mankind.

It's exactly what I love about a lot of metal artwork: stark, grim, black ink depictions of truly repulsive creatures, rituals, landscapes... just generally creepy shit, basically.

This particular occult etching was created by one of my favourite illustrators of recent years, Justin Bartlett, a.k.a VBERKVLT. He's created several album covers, shirts and logos for bands such as Aura Noir, Trap Them and Hot Graves. I won't get too deep into how much I dig his work here since I'd never get around to the actual record review if I did, but if you want to know more then check out his work here [ ] and help pay his bills here [ ]

So it was the cover that got my attention, and it was the complete lack of ANY other information about this band that held it. A year or so ago, when I first started looking for somewhere to check this band out, I realised they didn't do interviews, there were no album streams, no promo photos of the band members, nothing.
Far from being frustrated, I love that level of mystery surrounding them. I couldn't find this album anywhere, and had to resort to checking out live performance clips on the internet.
The band perform with their back to the audience, facing their wall of amps, surrounded by skulls, while spewing out the most disgusting, decrepit blackened sludge I'd ever heard. I had to satisfy myself with these low-lighting, ear-raping clips until I could track down an actual release of the album.

News surfaced that it would receive a CD release with Prosthetic Records, one of America's better-known metal labels. CD? Really? No way would that do it justice. I hunted around various distros, sources, spoke to other fans of the band before finding out that there would eventually be a vinyl repress by Mordgrimm.
Mordgimm are an incredibly difficult to track down UK-based label who specialise in mostly Black Metal and Sludge vinyl releases. After finding a contact email for them, I bombarded them with emails regarding this release, enquiring after release dates, pressing info, and eventually, begging them to take my money in exchange for a copy. After receiving no replies to my over-enthusiastic harassment, I'd begun to lose hope of getting a copy, thinking I'd been too slow off the mark to snag one of the VERY limited represses.
Weeks later, news starts filtering through on the DFFD forum that people had begun receiving their records out of the blue. Sure enough, amidst a huge stack of LP-sized packages I begrudgingly received one Saturday from my postman (that guy fucking hates me, seriously, even though my postage payments are probably putting his kids through university), I unfolded the cardboard to find that evil-as-fuck illustration. I felt like a kid on (anti)christmas morning, snatching it out of the barely-opened package, and running upstairs to play the record. I remember my hastily typed 'review' at the time consisting solely of the phrase 'UTTER FUCKING CACOPHONY!!!'.

It's been months since that height-of-summer day. The nights are growing darker, colder, and I find my mood worsening as a result. With this mindset, this black slab of audio misanthropy is more than due another spin.

Side A opens with a short disturbing sample, before possibly the most thunderous drums I've ever heard crash in. I mean, these things are mixed LOUD! Immediately I remember why the word cacophonous sprung to mind first time around. The drums are swiftly followedby a colossal doom riff, with repeats a few times, before morphing into a different mid-tempo riff, closely followed by a short burst of Black Metal-esque fast-as-fuck picking.
I can't believe I've gotten this far without mentioning the vocals. Some people who right about music think it's really clever to spell it vokills sometimes, which always struck me as fucking stupid, but listening to this guy wretching up the acid from the pit of his stomach with the force of his screams suddenly makes me wonder if vokills isn't ENTIRELY inaccurate... fucking hell.
Switching from a guttaral howl to an agonising shriek within seconds, I wonder how the fuck any human being can sound like this. Surely that's a reaction to extreme metal vocals that only your grandmother has when she asks you what you're listening to, and you decide to actually let her hear it. Within seconds she looks at you hesitantly, with concern in her eyes that this is the so-called 'devil music' she should be warning you against.
That's what my reaction is when I hear this record. The entire thing just sounds so fucking corrupt. I love it.

This first track, Boiled Angel - Buried With Leeches, meanders through so many different tempos, alternating between low and high pitched sounds, sinewy riffs twisting the whole time, unable to be pinned down to any persistent rythm or groove, the occasional interjected sample... it is definitely not easy listening. There is no discernable structure, no sense of direction, the harshness just continues relentlessly, interminably.
And if that sounds at all like a criticism, it most definitely isn't. I've heard this album a few times now, and each time I discover new things within the music, a certain pattern, texture or riff that I can't recall from my previous listen. Even now, months after my initial experience with this record, it sounds new, and fresh.
Well, fresh in a putrid, rotting sort of way.

The other songs continue in much the same vein. So many twists and turns and stop-starts that it's nigh on impossible to tell the tracks apart.
However the final strack of this side, To Hieron, opens with a sample so bizarre that it always stands out to me. Whatever movie it's from, I need to somehow find out and track it down, because it sounds insane.
A woman announces "You're an inhumane bunch of fuckin' livin' Bastards and Bitches, and you're gonna get your asses nuked in the end!" then BOOM, straight into another pummelling, this one short, sharp, and anything but sweet. Side A definitely goes out with a bang.

The second side opens with Volcanic Birth, which seems more structured than anything I hear on the first side. For a start I can actually make out a point in the song where the... creature... hoarsely bellows the song title! Discernable vocals! No fucking way.

The riffs employed in this song verge on almost catchy, they are actually played for more than a few bars, and they even sync up with the blastbeats at points. Though if this makes it sound like some sort of traditional song structure, then prepare to be disappointed. This is merely barely-organised chaos.

There is one point towards the end of song where everything locks in to this ominously spiralling riff. This is my favourite part. It actually sounds like what so many heavy bands try and fail to capture: a genuine feeling of dread.
There are only a handful of moments in music that have given me a similar sensation.
The first, and still best, is the opening note on Black Sabbath's first record. Chills, every time.

Sometimes when I listen to records, my overactive imagination develops it's own very extended 'music video' to accompany the music, something to stimulate my mind's eye while my ears are in sensory overload.
Throughout second side B track Lashed To The Grinder And Stoned To Death, my only visual reaction is a constant barrage of those shock-tactic moments in horror movies where some grotesque villain is revealed for the first time, or a face emerges from the darkness, or hands lunge for the figure on screen. The track is eleven minutes long. It feels like it.

The rest of the album continues to inspire unease and discomfort, never settling down, never relenting.
I feel drained after playing through both full sides, and now I know why I haven't listened to this album too regularly in the months I have owned it. It's not background music, you need to sit down, and surrender close to an hour of your life to it.

Hating mankind deserves no less than full devotion.


Getting a hold of a copy of the vinyl for yourself:
You can try and track down Mordgrimm records, if you're not a total idiot and know where to look. For once, I'm not going to make it easy, fuck you, you need to go through the same hell I did to receive this little slice of it.

You can however support these misanthropic cunts by picking up a CD or shirt from their online store [ ]

Monday, 5 September 2011

Wormrot - Dirge

Wormrot are one of those bands who seem to be best known for something other than their music.

That's not to take away from their music in any way, I'm definitely a fan, but whenever you hear them mentioned in most articles, a bigger deal seems to be made of the fact that they are from Singapore, one of the most isolated and obscure countries in the world, and that they play grindcore, one of the most alienating and obscure music genres in the world.
Although the phrase Grindcore from Singapore is fun to type, and to say!

See, I'm getting distracted from what actually matters: the music.

Another thing that gained the band a lot of exposure beyond their status as geographical curiosity is the fact that their label, Earache, decided not to release any 'single', video, or even just stream the album, but to actually release the digital version of the album for free months in advance of it's release date.
I would try to provide a link to get the freebie for yourself, but the Earache site is such a clusterfuck I can't navigate my way to where the files are available from, if they still are.
If you're that curious, you should just buy the actual album.

Anyway, plenty of folks took Earache up on that great offer, myself included.
I'm not one of the countless (un)holier-than-thou metal fans who can't allow themselves to like something if it's popular, who dismiss bands based on hype or exposure. I like to believe the hype about bands, but not blindly, I will at least give them the chance to justify it.
I tend to think that if so many people have good things to say about music as harsh and, a lot of the time, downright unlistenable as what these guys play, then they must be DAMN good at what they do.

So despite this blog's raison d'etre, I succumbed to the lure of digital.
From the first seconds, the first note, this didn't strike me as being like any other grind band I'd heard for a while. The first track, charmingly titled 'No-one Gives A Shit', started out with a corrosive scree of guitar, and it went on for what seemed like forever (in grindcore terms). Then it hit me, and I bought into every word of hype.

The usual turn of events took place: I dug the music, and when I saw the artwork I knew that I downright NEEDED the record. So I pre-ordered it, without having a clue as to the actual release date (seriously Earache, get your site sorted, for fucks sake...), and waited at my mailbox like a kid before christmas for weeks.
Eventually it arrived, and it was WELL worth the wait!

The cover art alone justified this purchase, I absolutely love high-contrast black ink illustrations, and this informs way more record purchases than it should. What can I say, I'm aesthetically shallow. Even more so when those illustrations depict decrepit death, reeking putrefaction, and general decay. So before I even slid out the sleeve, I was just sat drooling over the packaging for a solid 5 minutes.
I was pretty damn surprised to discover it was drawn by Andrei Bouzikov, who has created some of my favourite album art of the past couple of years for the likes of Hellmouth, Skeletonwitch and Municipal Waste. He normally produces very colourful, traditional metal cover paintings, and this artwork does seem like a big departure for him. You can check out his work over at the Tankcrimes site, here:

The reason that I'm re-playing and 'reviewing' this record now is because I have the great fortune to be catching Wormrot playing in a dingy little basement tomorrow night along with a couple of my favourite local purveyors of filth. So this spin is just a refresher course as to why I'm so excited to see this band play.

Side A opens with that aforementioned corrosive, rusting riff, before launching into the style of grind that made me a fan.
At the risk of offending people (actually, fuckit, get offended, what the fuck do I care?), I'm not big on most grindcore. The vast majority of it sounds like unlistenable noise, over-long samples, someone running their fingers up and down a fretboard while some triggered drums blast away at incomprehensible superhuman speeds over the whole thing. What can I say, I'm just not cool enough to like music without any sense of rythm or discernable hooks. Luckily, Wormrot have hooks in spades. Or some other terrible mixed metaphor.

The songs run into each other so fast that it's an exercise in futility to try to tell them apart for the most part, but my personal highlights of side A are the amazingly titled 'Public Display Of Infection', 'Overpowered Violence', and the track that closes out the side 'Deceased Occupation'.
That last track is probably the single catchiest moment of the first side, with it's initial spit-acid-in-your-face attack giving way to a slower, lumbering, stop/start groove and fantastically varied drum patterns. My only gripe is that the song fades out, and not just on the record, but on the digital version too. It kind of ruins the relentless momentum.

But not too much, because they launch into Side B with a-fucking-plomb!
The familiar constant grinding resumes, with the occasional foray into catchier territory to break things up. The thing that I like most about Wormrot is the drumming. They seem to draw from just about every variant of grind drumming, from the usual blastbeats, occasional D-beat, through to these little in-the-pocket groove sections. I'm not usually one of those guys who rants and raves about 'musicianship' and all that bullshit, but I am genuinely excited to hear if their drummer can pull this stuff off live.

Side B draws to an end with a couple of tracks that weren't included on the free digi download: 'Grind Emergency' and 'Grind On Impulse'. These tracks are ferocious enough to warrant the purchase of the actual record alone. Another adjective that springs to mind for the closing moments of the album is blistering. I feel like my ears need some time off after only 20 minutes of this.

Shame they won't get it. Bring on tomorrow night!

Buy Wormrot music and merch from Earache!
EU store:

US store: