Thursday, 29 November 2012

Ides Of Gemini - The Disruption Writ

You know when you hear music that you just can't wait to share with other people? Because it would be selfish to keep it to yourself, to deprive them the chance to hear their potential new favourite band? They need to hear and appreciate what you've found, you need them to hear it how you hear it, to really get it?
It was through one such conversation that I was turned on to Black Math Horseman's 'Wyllt' record.

Hearing the primal drums that open the album, the cinematic scope of the music, the way it seemed to fill the space in the room... I was instantly thankful that someone knew me well enough to recommend what has since become one of my favourite records.

The music was a revelation, but it was the haunting, otherworldly voice of Sera Timms that truly won me over.
The only problem I had with the album was that there wasn't enough of it. Six tracks were not enough, and I fiended for more of their unique, ethereal odes to atavism.

That's when I found Ides Of Gemini.

Admittedly I didn't discover them until relatively recently, but eager to make up for lost time, I forked out for their debut EP 'The Disruption Writ' within minutes of learning of the bands existence.
I also cursed my rotten luck that I'd missed their European tour by a matter of days through a combination of not knowing the band existed, and no longer living on mainland Europe.

Until they cross the Atlantic once again and I can witness their live show, I have this tape to wear out.

The first side begins with 'Martyrium Of The Hippolyt' and it grabs me just as the first time I heard Black Math Horseman, but the reasons are different.
The stark guitar and stripped-down drums are a world away from the primal rhythms and warm tone of 'Wyllt', but this is no criticism. It gives me the impression of a regal procession, the instruments serving as but an introduction for the majesty of Sera Timms' voice.
A couple of minutes in and J Bennett's guitar unfurls a harsh, abrasive tremolo break before receding back into the background, allowing the vocals to come to the fore again. Much like in her other band, Sera's vocals are just the other side of distinguishable, heightening the mysterious, mythic aura around her words.

'Slain In Spirit' has very much the same vibe, the drums no more than a marching band rat-a-tat, the focus on the snarling, black metal-ish guitar and the enigmatic voice.
In a recent interview with The Quietus, the band states that the minimal instrumental compositions and stark production values are very much intentional, "we want the music to be good, but its mainly a platform for her voice".

The other side of the tape opens with 'The Vessel & The Stake', squalls of tremolo and an almost drum machine-esque sound that soon give way to eerie vocal harmonies. The last few seconds hint at a guitar solo, but it doesn't materialise.
Closing track 'Resurrectionists' begins with a great little choppy riff that repeats throughout the song, and features the most distinguishable phrase of the whole recording, a regretful-sounding refrain of
"How will I rise? This body was once mine..."
An abrupt end to the song, to the tape, and I'm once again left craving more.

Thankfully their debut full-length 'Constantinople' is out now via Neurot:

You can pick up your own copy of this EP on either tape or CD here:
(each format comes exquisitely packaged, it was a real struggle for me to not buy both)

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Jucifer - Nadir

Jucifer are one of the most inspiring bands I've ever come across, their nomadic lifestyle convincing me to pack up all my records, stuff a backpack with denim and doom shirts, and drop out of life in pursuit of riff-filled lands. It was during this time I got to see Saint Vitus, Pentagram, The Obsessed (twice), Sleep, Electric Wizard, Eyehategod, Ramesses, Orange Goblin, Noothgrush (twice), Thou (twice) and also Jucifer themselves. Twice.

I caught their set at Roadburn, in the tiny, packed, blisteringly hot room at the very top floor of the 013. It was after two hours of Sleep, so my ears were already ringing by the time Amber and Edgar hit the stage at midnight and proceeded to redefine what I thought I knew about volume.
Loud does not adequately describe what they do. It's an enveloping feeling, waves of sound washing over you, destruction by decibels.
By the time I staggered out into the cold Netherlands night I felt pulverized, in the best way possible.

I went to see them a week later, playing my favourite venue in Germany, the AZ Mülheim. It was another tiny room who's walls could barely contain (an unfortunately greatly reduced version of) Amber's Amp Mountain, but they still managed to create sheer sonic mass.
I was so captivated I missed the tram back to the couch I was crashing on, and had to walk for three hours through the heart of industrial Germany in the pitch back night. But it was so very worth it.

I'd had a digital copy of Nadir for a while by that point, put out by the very excellent Grindcore Karaoke, J Randall's not-for-profit outlet for the weird and wonderful sounds being made worldwide. Remastered by Scott Hull, it sounded great, but without something I can see spinning, I never really feel any great attachment to an album.
I'd heard rumours that there'd be a cassette release to coincide with the European tour I was seeing them on, but it never really materialised. Months passed, my nomadic existence ended (temporarily), and I found myself with access to a record player again.

Which was just as well, as I got the news that the dude behind Handshake Inc would be releasing a vinyl version of the Nadir album, remastered for vinyl by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, who also remastered the holy grail of low and slow; Sleep's Dopesmoker. Sweet!
I was so excited, when it was finally released I managed to snag the first copy. Now to finally hear it as it was intended; LOUD.

Opening with 'Prime', feedback oozes, before the riff lurches and staggers from my speakers. You can already hear the telepathic level of tightness of Amber and Edgar's playing. I've never seen a band so able to switch between droning guitar/drum atmospherics and shrieking blastbeat fury in time with each other without exchanging so much as a glance.

'Hachimantaro' alternates between the clanging discordance of the intro and a solid, crunching stomp. Amber's ethereal vocals not quite synching up with the harshness of the instruments, her voice contrasting it nicely, something they'd explore a lot on their later releases. It's an eerie effect.

Third song 'Withering' is an exercise in tension and release. The drums ratcheting, the feedback building, before they bring it back down again. The vocals once again have that unsettling, airy lilt, as opposed to the variety of the later releases, which feature Amber growling, barking, singing softly, screaming her head off, even singing in a variety of different languages.
You can hear that this is the origin of their sound, that they're already exploring contrast and volume.

The second side starts off with 'Glamourpuss', descibed as "kind of a revenge fantasy [about] girls who pretend to care, will compliment you to your face, then betray you at the first opportunity" in the liner notes, its initial gigantic rumble giving way to a fretboard-spanning weird riff, the vocals coo-ed honey sweet over the top. You can almost hear the malicious grin in Amber's voice as she calls out her betrayers.
They re-recorded this track for their debut album Calling All Cars On The Vegas Strip, which sounds a lot more confident in it's performance, but it's cool to hear the prototype version here.

'Crossless', with its croaked, creaking witchy vocals, all-encompassing guitar tone and heavy-hitting drums closes out a short-but-sweet glimpse into the origins of a band who would pioneer the sludge metal two-piece so prevalent today.

They were staking out unknown territory all the way back in 1994, no-one was playing anything like this (but if you've heard bands that were, please, send me recommendations of other female-fronted weirdo sludge bands!).
There's still no-one quite like Jucifer.

You can download this (and hundreds of other weird awesome shit) for FREE from Grindcore Karaoke here:

But I recommend splashing some cash on the vinyl from Mutants Of The Monster:

Catch Jucifer on tour constantly, and worship at Thee White Wall Of Doom!

Dopefight / Gurt split

I had the great luck to catch one of Dopefight's last shows on a bill that included EyeHateGod, Ramesses, and Conan. Even among illustrious company like that, Dopefight stood out as playing some of the grooviest, most fuzzed-out stoner rock I've heard. When they decided to call it quits a short time after that show, I was gutted.

When they announced their split, they also had a bit of a fire sale in their merch store, offering everything for ridiculously discounted prices. Since I already had their demo tape and a vinyl copy of the Buds LP, I snagged this split for a pound. Thats £1. No fucking way was I going to pass that up!

Stole this picture from Dopefight's bandcamp.

Enough backstory, here's why you should've supported this band while they were still a going concern.
Their side of this heavy little slab opens with Stonk, all buzzing amps and splashing cymbals before the drums crash in with a properly doomy riff. It's heavier than what I was expecting given their high-energy live show, but thats fine by me, I like my riffs downtuned and downtrodden.
A couple of minutes in however, the doomed stomp gives way to a groove as gargantuan as the grand canyon. The vocals are an indecipherable yell, but that's not what I listen to stoner rock for; the riff is king.

Second track 'Green Solace' starts with some filthy bass before the downright dirty guitar joins the fray. The tempo drops about halfway through, the guitar swaggering and snarling towards the end of the track.
The drums build and build, the vocals roar into... the end of the song. Huh. Kinda thought that was gonna lead to the most baddest-ass riff of all time.
If there's one thing Dopefight did in their all-too-brief tenure, it was leave you wanting more.

Gurt's side of the split is pretty fucking awesome too, 'Soapfeast' alternating between southern swagger with great whiskey-soaked rapsing vocals in the slower passages, and an uptempo blast that reminds me of the late great Raging Speedhorn. Good stuff.

'Dudes With Beards With Cats' might sound like a some hipster's tumblr, but is actually a mean motherfucker of a song that reminds me of Scissorfight at their most belligerent.
Yeah, so I'm making lazy comparisons, but if a band can remind me of two of the bands that were my gateway to the world of low n' slow riffage, that is no bad thing in my book.
If Gurt ever play North of the border, and there's plenty of whisky behind the bar, I'm there!

You can download pretty much Dopefight's entire discography for free here:

And get your hands on their tapes, 7"s and CDs here:

Check Gurt out here:

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Heresy - 1985-87

I picked this up in Lisbon from the amazing Carbono record store which had a whole load of awesome vinyl encompassing the whole range of the heavy music spectrum. There were some real gems in there, I could have spent hours trawling their racks and brought home a hundred records, but I settled on some vintage Napalm Death as well as this little beauty.

The design and packaging is what you expect from an Eighties demo compilation, all black and white, cut and paste layout, and some great live shots on the sleeve. It also has one of my favourite album covers ever, I even have a patch of it helping hold my jeans together.

The first side opens with 'Never Healed', all ramshackle drums, buzzing guitar and incomprehensible yelling. Brilliant.
'Deprived' pulls no punches with it's immediate grinding three-chord progression, the drums and vocals racing to keep up. 'Mentally Conned' is all bouncing bassline until the drums and feedback cut in. This is one of the longest songs on the record, and is a bit more varied than the rest, the guitar alternating between between chugging along and a loose, squalling punk riff. It's fucking great.
'Blinded By Power' sounds like every other song until about 30 seconds in when the blastbeats hit, showing just how good these guys were at swinging between punk and proto-grind.

A fast blast of an instrumental gives way to 'Cries Of Wind' which has the first 'guitar solo' of the album, a strangled cry from the wrung neck of the fretboard. 'Disfigured World' opens with an almost nice intro, all tasteful hi-hat work and chiming guitar, which only serves to make the second part of the track seem so much harsher when it bursts into full-blown cacophony.

Another recording of 'Never Healed' opens up the second demo, which continues with 'Despair' and 'Deathbiter'. Deathbiter is another of those deceptive tracks which starts out calm enough (well, by comparison) before erupting into chaos. About halfway through they go into this groovy little section that actually gives you time to breathe before they sprint to the end ofthe first side.

The B side opens with 'Anguish of War' from the same session as the last couple of track, but it's 'More Blood Is Shed' from this demo that really stands out. It's the longest song on the whole record, much slower paced, with an almost thrash vibe to it. The playing on this track is much tighter now that they're not all racing against one another, it sounds great, though about a third of the way through it completely switches gears back up to hyperspeed, before closing out with a Metallica-esque riff. Yeah, you read that right.
'Dead' is the last track with this line-up of the band, before things go downhill in my opinion.

The next line-up features a different vocalist and guitarist, and I'm just not that into these tracks, specifically the vocals and lyrical content. They sound just like the countless knucklehead hardcore bands of this era, the apoplectic screech and apocalyptic words of Reevesy scrapped in favour of a 'less metal' approach according to the liner notes. Yeah, not into that idea at all.

I absolutely love the really early stuff on this compilation, but with the line-up change on conscientious about-turn in style towards the end, I lose interest. I haven't checked out any of the later recordings, as to me they just wouldn't measure up to the first incarnation of this band.

It turns out that Boss Tuneage records sells pretty much everything Heresy ever put out, you can snag this compilation from them here:

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Iron Witch - Single Malt tape

I originally bought this tape back in March of this year, then kind of disappeared to Europe for a few months, arriving back to find this little parcel of filth waiting for me. No fucking around, time to give it a whirl...

It hisses to life with 'A .45 To Pay The Rent' which, as just about anyone else who has heard this band also mentions, is pure EyeHateGod worship. By no means a bad thing, obviously, since there's been a drought of EHG releases for over a decade now. Anyway, that's what they do, and they do it damn well. Though the titular gun reference is a bit daft for a band from North-east England, and not the Southern swamps.

The EP's title track 'Single Malt' is a much catchier affair, while retaining the tortured Mike IX-esque wails. The main riff is downright boogie-able though, and shows they might let their other influences come to the fore sometime in the future.

Third track 'Booze Blues' is endless feedback with a song buried in there somewhere. When they eventually get going, it's great, but even NOLA's finest don't use that much feedback! This track is a tortured dirge of a thing. Fucking horrible. In a good way.

'Jailhouse' is another decent groovy one, but it's final track 'The Cruelty of Mankind' that does it for me.
I like my sludge of the truly trudging variety, and this track's extended intro is just that. Lovely stuff.
About halfway through they kick up the tempo, but it soon crashes back down again to a crawl.
Filthy feedback ends the tape as it began.

These guys might not be the most original band going, but if you like your sludge dirty, howling and feral, get into 'em. If I get the chance I'll be attending their Sheffield show in December with fellow up-n-coming UK doom hordes Conan, Slabdragger and Moloch.

You can get this on cassette from Opaqus here:
Check out that distros other releases, loads of obscure shit, some of it pretty damn good.

If you're a prick that doesn't pay for music, you can download it for free from the Iron Witch bandcamp:
Though they have a 'pay-what-you-like' option too, so any eccentric millionaires reading this, make them rich enough to fund their whiskey habits.

Noothgrush / Suppression split 5"

Noothgrush were the band of my summer. I'd quit my job, packed up all my possessions, and dropped out of life to go bum around Europe for the summer and finally catch all the European tours and fests I was sick of missing out on. I got to see some of my favourite bands that I never thought I'd get a chance to see, some of them even twice. Sleep, Thou, Jucifer, Discharge, The Obsessed, Nasum, Pentagram... but Noothgrush were one of the biggest deals.

I got to see their first ever European show at Heavy Days In Doom Town fest in Copenhagen, as well as a tiny club show at the Hafenklang in Hamburg. They totally blew me away both times, yet both times I stood at the merch table foaming at the mouth with frustration because I couldn't buy any of their records due to
A: lack of money to spare. If I got an LP I couldn't get dinner.
And B: no space in the backpack I would be lugging around for months for records to go undamaged.
Which was frustrating since they had pretty much every release they've put out on vinyl, stacks of self-titled LPs, a box of Failing Early Failing Oftens... it broke my heart. They also had a neat little 5" split that came with it's own jigsaw puzzle which I wanted for sheer novelty value. But I refrained, saved my money, and regretted not buying anything the whole time I was away.

So first call when my money had almost run out and I had to come back 'home' was to buy the records I'd been unable to get on my trip. Top of my list was the weird Noothgrush puzzle. Turns out including jigsaws more than double the price of a record, so I settled on just the split.

Noothgrush contribute one track 'Flee From Hunger And Disease', which also appears on the Erode The Person compilation. It's two minutes of the creepiest, crawling sludge, an utterly hopeless ode to mankind's fear and hatred of itself. So y'know, classic Noothgrush.

Suppression's side is one track of fucking bizarre noise -'Cyanide (Iceman)'- before leading into a more straightforward grind track - 'Amputated Brain Stem'. The grind track is mixed all in the red and sounds pissed as fuck. It ends with the NWA sample "Daaaamn that shit was dope!"
Not much more to say!

This split was meant to be released in 1998 but hasn't seen the light of day until now, and I'm glad it finally came out. It's short but most definitely sweet, in it's own twisted way. Highly recommended.

UK/EU folks can get a copy (with or without puzzle) from Blow The Reactors:

USA/Canada dudes and dudesses can get theirs (and the self-titled LP) from Fuck Yoga:

Thursday, 22 March 2012

13 / Grief split 7"

13 are one of those bands that SERIOUSLY deserve the reissue compilation treatment, or at least to be more recognised and appreciated among those who like it low and slow.
That gets said by just about anyone who writes about them these days, so if everyone is calling out for it, why the fuck hasn't it happened yet? Baffling.

The way most people who weren't there first time around (I would have been about 5 when this was released!) hear about this band is probably through their guitarist, one Liz Buckingham.
After 13 disbanded, Liz did a stint in sludge bruisers Sourvein, before joining the second incarnation of Electric Wizard after their original rhythm section left to form Ramesses.
ANYWAY, that's how I first became aware of 13, and how I came to own this excellent little slab of sludge.

I'm pretty sure this is one of the original pressings from '93, it has GRIEF-003 etched into the vinyl's center, which makes me think it's the version released by Grievance Records, but if anyone could let me know for sure, I'd appreciate it!

Since 13 are the band that I'm rather obviously ranting about, their side is up first.
'Wither' opens their side with dry, rasping feedback, before a drumfill that sounds like 45 on 33 starts the song with a very literal bang. Alicia Morgan's voice was trailblazing, there really weren't many female sludge vocalists around back then. You can barely tell her guttural, feral growl is even human, never mind determine the gender.
It's backed by a simple but effective riff which is slightly uptempo for the genre, this is more groovey than painful. Just over a minute in and it mutates into a straight-ahead chug, the drums taking a back seat to the air-pushing power of the riff.
Three minutes in things change pace again to an even more relaxed groove, variations on a theme. Listening to this and knowing the type of stuff Liz would go on to write over a decade later, you can really hear just how much influence she's had on Electric Wizard since she started playing with them. This style of playing is unmistakably her own.
The track comes to a halt with a final snare hit, and fade to fuzzed out bliss.

'Plague' starts as a bass rumble, barely audible before the driving guitar plays for a couple bars, then things really kick off with all instruments really locking in together. Alicia's ruined throat tops the whole thing off, her vocal lines following the rest of the band perfectly.
A lot of sludge, especially these days, is too loose, unconsidered, with barely any thought given to making something you can almost dance to. Which may sound like I'm missing the point of the genre, that it's meant to be taken as needed for pain exclusively. But I like songs with my sludge, something you can bang your head to more than once a minute. Personal preference, I guess, and 13 play EXACTLY the brand of roaring, buzzing aural bleach with swing and swagger that I favour.

I'm basically just rambling about how much I dig this band instead of actually 'reviewing' the record, but to hell with it, just go download it, stream it somewhere, or if you can find a copy, buy it. Hopefully if enough people express interest in them, someone will actually release that compilation I mentioned earlier. 13 deserve it.

Grief's side features only one track, 'Falling Apart', and they perfectly exemplify the insufferably-slow side of the genre. Not that I mean that as a bad thing, I love it just as much for different reasons. When I've had the worst of days, Grief play the songs that accompany those days in my head. The crawling, painful sounds giving voice to wasted hours and thoughts I wish I didn't have.

I don't have much to say about this side as I was into this record for 13's tracks. Oh, did I mention that already?

Since their releases are nigh on impossible to track down in physical formats, go grab downloads from this great, comprehensive discography write-up

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Crippled Black Phoenix - (Mankind) The Crafty Ape

For once I'm not going to delve too deeply into how I got into the band or whatever, because no-one really cares, and I have far more important things to say about this record and this band. Suffice to say I am a fan of everything Justin Greaves has turned his hand to, from the spastic powerviolence of Hard To Swallow, the inhuman, vomitous sludge of Iron Monkey, through his playing on Electric Wizard's 'We Live', his cacophonous collaboration with Sunn O)))'s Stephen O Malley, Greg Anderson and Cathedral's Lee Dorrian in Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine, through to his singular vision and most far-reaching project to date, Crippled Black Phoenix.

Okay maybe I am delving a little, but seriously, this man never fails to keep my interest no matter what he's playing. So it was with great expectation and excitment that I picked up this latest double-LP.

The first thing I want to talk about was my initial reaction.
When I saw the cover art for this album, I won't lie, I was a bit disappointed. All the previous releases have been beautifully presented in meticulously vintage designs with a very olde world feel, looking more like ancient tomes you'd find hidden in an old library, so seeing this modern, garish illustration of a guy with a dog's head was a bit of a contrast. But that's when I remembered the old saying, to never judge a book (or record for that matter) by it's cover. So I handed over my money for the music within.

The first time I heard a single note of the album I was with my girl, also a fan, and we listened through the whole thing probably with our standards set by previous albums. And again, on first impression I didn't quite get it. All the constituent elements were there, the grandiose, sweeping songs, the progressive use of unusual instrumentation, but it just didn't click with me on first listen.

A week later, and I'm packing up all my records before I leave the country indefinitely. I figure it needs another spin before it's consigned to a cardboard box for fuck knows how long. That's when it hits me. I don't know what makes this time any different, maybe I'm just in one of those moods where I'm willing to dig a little deeper, read between lines and to really listen.

This album, despite it's relative obscurity in the grand scheme of things, is subversive. Re-read the list of Greaves' previous endeavours. All of those bands and releases are working within very much underground idioms, hiding their messages beneath tortured cries and impenetrable walls of distortion. I always regard certain musical and ideological cultures as preaching to the converted to some degree. Despite my own affinity for genres like crust punk, sludge, d-beat, grind and various other forms of aural bleach, your man-on-the-street isn't going to listen to Discharge and re-think his views on the horrors of war, or hear Napalm Death and be interested enough to read the lyric sheets extolling anti-corporate sentiments. The people who listen to that music are already aware, they have their opinions and ideas, and they find affirmation in hearing it set to appropriately ugly music.

Crippled Black Phoenix are subversive. You can achieve further reach working WITHIN the system, than AGAINST it. Maybe I'm reading too much into the lyrics, which have had similar themes in every release prior to this one, and Greaves and co are just making the music they want to hear for their own enjoyment.
But it has to be more than that. They have too much to say, and working these words into something that could easily appear in Q, Classic Rock, or even NME (and that is by no means a slight, this is intelligent music, well-crafted songs played by talented musicians) reviews, features and end-of-year lists may well just expose them to people who aren't used to this perspective on the state of things. It feels like a clarion call to anyone with the ears to hear it.

There is a consistent theme of rebellion, of free thought, and of rising up against the status quo, challenging apathy and complacence. Lyrics such as "He who speaks up gets shot down. Choose to follow, choose to drown." and "Apathetic men awake to some nightmare unfolding. Don't complain. Cut and fight. For until battle comes, we're the slaves to a beat of an unchellenged drum." call to mind, at least for myself, another free-thinking man working within subversive mediums; Alan Moore. Read his most famous works, don't dare view the atrocities that are their Americanised screen adaptations, and hopefully you'll see what I'm talking about.
I'm getting off topic, but that itself is the beauty of this album. It makes you think. It makes synapses fire, creates connections in your mind, encourages you to dig a little deeper into the message.

From the lyrics to the artwork, which I initially dismissed as no good just because it was different to what I knew, everything is presented in stark terms, the messages writ large in ink, bold propaganda-esque black-on-red graphics, absolutely no concession made to ambiguity.
This is why I will never understand the modern propensity to dismiss physical product, ignore approaching artwork (both audio and visual) as a complete package. That illustration I thought so ridiculous upon first seeing it? That means something. But it's not until you dig a little deeper, read and hear the words behind it, that you'll understand just what it represents, and how significant and appropriate it is within the context of this album, this band.

I told you I had plenty to say, right? I guess at some point in this 'abum review' I should get around to talking about the music, eh?

The opening of the whole 80-minute opus is a robotic command to Use Your Anger To Creatively Destroy Your Oppressors. It sounds like Styx if they decided to adopt Orwell as the basis for lyrical content rather than pidgin-Japanese nonsense. Crashing guitar and drums follow, at a speed reminiscent of Greaves' days in Iron Monkey. The old dog has a thousand new tricks though.

Tolling bells and swooping synths start off 'The Heart Of Every Country'. Gentle, plaintive acoustic picking fades in for a couple of minutes before bright, clean guitars wring out aching melodies. It's strange to think that this could appeal to just about anyone, musically. It perfectly embodies what I said about it's subversiveness, it's accessibility allows it the possibility of radio airplay. Well, it would if there were any stations/DJs with even a shred of taste and free will. The lyrics themselves almost speak of this very idea; "To see, you must immerse yourself in common creed". The words of the wolf among sheep.

The almost-lounge louche-ness of the rhythm guitar during the verses, and liquid flow of the occaisional lead is something I enjoy despite myself. It's a far cry from what I usually listen to. I loathe guitar solos for the most part, but somehow I never get bored of Karl Demata's playing. It never feels like showing off, it's always in the service of the song. Also, there's some hammond organ in there, which anyone who's read any of my other reviews will know always does it for me. Fucking love a bit of hammond, I do!

Drum circle rhythm and vaguely eastern harmonies are the backbone of 'Get Down And Live With It', and marks the return of Daisy Chapman's vocals, a low-in-the-mix croon. Those drums rumble and drive her into the cry she lets out when singing the titular phrase before she's joined by regular (and now departed?) vocalist Joe Volk, telling you to do the same, to "get down and live with it, or shut your mouth you prick", managing to convey subtle threat without sounding brattish and immature. Kicking against the pricks who deserve kicking.
The song shifts down a gear, the drums becoming more subtle, accompanying only piano and ebow. it's like the calm after the storm.

A brief Floyd-ish interlude follows, the demented pulse of footsteps on board, the ticking of an enormous clock, the beat of a heart, and frantically tolling bells before we receive 'A Letter Concerning Dogheads'.

More of that doomed tempo and lush organ, while the words decry the authority of churches and ruling classes, exposing the myth of cynocephaly. Jazzy lead and crunchy rhythm guitars, ringing piano notes, before it all comes together in a mournful march to the end.

The closest thing the album has to a single is next, it has a video and everything, look!

You can see and hear for yourself the aesthetic I've been banging on about, the masked defiance, all wrapped in the guise of a driving, driven, 'rock song'. I don't need to talk too much about this one since you can hear it for yourself, save to say I like it. It's a bit repetitive, but not to the extend that it outstays it's welcome. Though for ideal infiltration purposes, they ought to have made it run for only 3:30...

'Born In A Hurricane' parps in with some blaring brass, which no matter what the band, is just a massive no-no for me. But I stick it out because it only happens a couple of times. Now this one DOES only last for about three-and-a-half minutes, but it's much less of a verse-chorus-verse structure. It just goes and goes, never pausing except to annoy me with those brass noises. They play through the second half of the song, and... could it be... no... it actually works?! Preposterous. So turns out I don't ENTIRELY hate the horns. Still, no more, please. The pace picks up, sounding downright FUNKY. The man who once blasted out nihilistic powerviolence beats is now jamming on funk-rock songs with horn sections. Strange, how life goes sometimes...

The second record opens with 'Release The Clowns', dual guitar strums leading to a disorientating, woozy verse. Vocal duties are once again split between Volk and Chapman. Classic guitar soloing leads (get it? christ I'm unfunny...) the track to a close.

'(What?)' is a weird little mandolin-led gypsy polka-sounding thing, Greaves occaisionally yelping 'what?' throughout for fuck knows what reason. It's like a Tom Waits session that Tom forgot to show up to. Bizarre.

'A Suggestion (Not A Very Nice One)' comes off sounding like latter-day Clutch, of all things, at least to my weird ears. Even the lyrics have that short, sharp, vague phrasing so beloved of Neil Fallon.

My writing/imagination must be getting lazy as I go on, because all I can think of are comparisons for each song. I'll try and make this the last one.
'(Dig, Bury, Deny)' sounds like the audio equivalent of the hopeless trudge across desolate wastelands that I picture every time I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Sparse, haunting, minimal, it's like tumbleweed and dry wind. It's a pallette-cleanser into the incredible 'Operation Mincemeat'.

Crippled Black Phoenix have lamented World War II before, on previous album I, Vigilante. The track there, 'Bastogne Blues', is actually very similar to this one in tempo, instrumentation and atmosphere. I hope it's a trend that continues with future releases.
The way Volk's vocals sing speculatively of The Man Who Never Was, with a low, sombre croon is just perfect. When he's joined by Belinda Kordic's multi-layered voice, the effect is just... urgh. Ridiculously good.
The piano, funeral march drum, mournful violins... it's just as good as it gets. There are horns in this song, though I cannot find a fault with even that.
Play this back to back with 'Bastogne Blues' and get me to look at photos of fallen soldiers if you ever want me to choke up.

The final side, the last twenty minutes of music is comprised of only two tracks, the instrumental 'We'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive/Faced With Complete Failure, Utter Defiance Is The Only Response'.
I actually can't describe these. I mean, I could, but really, it's gotten to the stage where if I haven't intrigued and convinced you of this album already, then you should buy it just to hear these tracks alone. The very definition of epic. Not as a lazy description the way most people use the word to describe anything and everything, these sounds truly are cinematic in scope. Please just listen for youself and give my poor typing fingers a rest.
The final seconds close out with the same motif that opened this musical statement of intent. The words scream at you from the speakers and the liner notes pictured below...

I really hope that wasn't boring to sit and suffer reading through. I just really need people to appreciate this band, to look a little deeper than 'a cool band name to appear in my library', and to fire up their brains.
This is not background music, and this is a band who are more punk than the endless Dis-clones hawking their wares on revivalist trends.

Please go buy it, download it (legally, in exchange for money, you cheap prick), go see them live, anything.
Read the lyrics, the annotated explanations of the songs, figure out for yourself the significance of the doghead, research Siats, realise the significance of Glyndwr Michael, think for yourself, but pay attention to the thoughts expressed within this album.

Buy (Mankind) The Crafty Ape from MLG

Get hold of all previous releases from Invada

And read more about Mr Greaves in this fucking brilliant interview

Rise Up And Fight.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Uzala - S/T LP

I normally don't put much stock in the opinions of other people in regard to music. It's not through any desire to seem individual, or out of any sense of elitism, fuck knows I'm far from either of those, I'd just rather make up my mind about things for myself.
But most people who are familiar with the underground heavy music scene will have heard of Grim Kim, PR tyrant, writer for both digital and print publications, merch seller, and generally awesome lifer. In her various occupations, she turns people onto new bands at every opportunity, and has been responsible for bringing several awesome bands to my attention, like Coffinworm, Wolvhammer, and now Uzala. I'm glad there are people out there who are able to turn me on to new music, who rarely steer me wrong.

Through various reviews and track streams I saw mentioned through Catharsis PR (hey bands, these things work, look, I bought a record because of one!), my attention was grabbed by phrases like 'soaring and sorrowful female vocals', 'sludgy doom with occult flavour' and 'seriously riff heavy'. Reading that it had been produced by Blake Green of fellow Boise, Idaho doomed souls Wolvserpent (read my review of their excellent 'Blood Seed' here), I was pretty much sold. It was a late, cold night in December when I sat down to give them a listen, and goddamn am I glad I did! Within a couple of tracks, I was emailing At War With False Noise to place my pre-order. It finally arrived. Here goes...

The sound of a solitary guitar creeps out of the speakers, and thus Batholith opens the first side. A second, more mournful guitar joins it soon after. It's a haunting, atmospheric sound.
With so many bands heralded as 'doom' these days, it can be hard to find the gems amongst all the boring just-crank-out-any-old-notes-slowly-through-a-fuzz-pedal-and-an-Orange-amp bullshit. So many 'doom' bands just aim for playing as slow and as loud as possible. I'm not saying I'm any authority on the subject, but no, that's not all there is to being a doom band. It's an atmosphere, a feeling, a tone, a mindset, and yet it's so open to encompassing all sorts of sounds and styles.
From the first notes of the first song, I just know that Uzala is one of the bands that gets it.

The production is perfect in it's imperfections. The notes crackling and buzzing into the air before the whole thing kicks up a gear into a faster-tempo stomp, Darcy Nutt's vocals ringing clear through the cacophany. One of the guitars takes on a proto-black metal tremolo sound, giving the faster sections an atonal, eerie edge. The sound of the full band at once is a wall of sound, the drums driving it ever onwards before it collapses abruptly into second track, The Reaping.

This one has much more of that traditional doom plod, before Darcy's voice reigns again, and there's some liberal use of wah pedal, giving the song a far more vintage Vitus sound than the first track. Goddamn, I'm trying to be analytical and descriptive, but all I really want to say is that it fucking rocks, as cliche as that sounds. I'm kind of gutted they aren't touring more, especially as I know Darcy and fellow guitarist Chad Remains (which is the best Autopsy-inspired name ever) are regulars at Tilburg's Roadburn Festival, which I'll be attending in a few weeks. Why they didn't end up on the bill is a mystery, they'd be perfect.

I'm getting distracted. The Reaping continues it's doomed psych procession before fuzzing out into the opening notes of Ice Castle. Accompanied by huge thunder-on-the-horizon cymbal splashes, that atmosphere I talked about earlier is fully present here. It's an unsettling, creeping thing, an audible sense of dread. A wailing, wah-ing guitar screams over the funeral-pace riff. It returns a few times in this track. I don't have much to say except this is fucking brilliant.

The tempo kicks up a few notches in what I think might be the next track? It's a pretty seamless transition, and with vinyl it's always hard to tell. So this may or may not be Fracture.
Vocal duties aren't always handled by Darcy, Chad also has a fearsome voice in a whole different way. It's much more of a blackened rasp, a roaring, primal thing. It's a Jekyll and Hyde effect, the controlled riff-heavy restraint of the first few tracks suddenly developing into this snarling, thunderous thing. The drums pound away, backing a real banger of a song that I'd love to spill beer everywhere to in a dark, dingey room somewhere.
The song and side fade out with an ominous cackle from Chad.

Side B opens with more necromantic growls and battering drums in, funnily enough, Wardrums. Vocals are split between the two distinct styles at various points, constrasting just how wide-ranging the dynamic of this band can be. Also, can I just say, that riff! Fuuuck. This thing has serious groove.

Plague is an epic in the truest sense of the word. Slower than anything else on the record, the sounds that emit from my speakers during this one are just... fucking great. I can't think of any more clever ways to phrase it. The guitar tone, the 1bpm drums, the soaring vocals that I read so much about, all of it. The effect is hypnotic, the kind of thing that has me swaying around in dark rooms forgetting that anyone else even exists, the notes vibrating around my skull.
This is music that has real soul, a thing so often lacking in heavy music, which can sometimes become a 'whos heavier/slower/more evil than the rest' competition. It's refreshing to hear a band just play some actual songs with actual riffs.

Gloomy Sunday closes out the album brilliantly, a cover of a song which I'm not familiar with, but Uzala make it their own with this version. It sounds perfectly suited to their tone and playing. I'm interested to check out the other versions of it, especially since the lyrics are as truely doom as they come:
'Sadly one Sunday I waited and waited
With flowers in my arms for the dream I'd created
I waited 'til dreams, like my heart, were all broken
The flowers were all dead and the words were unspoken
The grief that I knew was beyond all consoling
The beat of my heart was a bell that was tolling'

That bell that was tolling could be the same one piercing through the rain in the song that started it all. Like I said, doom as fuck. The song fades out, the needle lifts, and I'm so fucking glad I paid attention to this band.

Okay, I'm gonna sew on the patch that comes with the record onto some old tattered denim and spin it again.

You can hear this album for yourself over at Uzala's bandcamp
And order it from At War With False Noise, if there are still copies left

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Cathedral - Twylight Songs

I ended up with this record because my awesome girl surprised me with it one weekend, having picked it up for super-cheap at a metal market. I was so damn excited to hear it, so I put it on, not knowing what side I had facing up, nor what speed it should be played it. Safe to say, the moment the needle dropped and the speaker's crackled to life, the excitement kinda drained outta me...

The first side is Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain, which appears on the band's doom-as-fuck album Forest Of Equilibrium. What I failed to notice when glancing at the tracklisting is that it's the 'Autumn Jade Mix', which starts off similarly enough, with annoying trilling flutes and all, but this mix is entirely devoid of dread. The slow crawling electric guitar has been replaced by... well, nothing.
It carries on just flute before the drums crash in, accompanied by some barely-audible, not-quite-acoustic twang-y dribble of a guitar. The first time we listened to it I think we ended up rolling around laughing. This is just bad. I mean, I love Cathedral, and I appreciate their experimental streak, but by the time Lee Dorrian's croon kicks in, sounding lost without the backdrop of doom distortion, I was officially disappointed.
It carries on like this for like 8 minutes before it collapses, basically exactly the same as the album version except without the heavy, creeping guitar tracks. So it's doom metal with the very heart of all that makes it doom metal ripped out. Shit.

The B side is a cover of Sabbath's 'Solitude' which is suffixed by the words '(inebriation mix)', which should instantly set off alarm bells. Everyone knows Cathedral contributed this song to the Nativity In Black tribute album that came out in the 90s, but the version that's on this record seems to be the same music, with a VERY pissed-up vocal take from Dorrian. Words are slurred and sung off-key, and... well I just fail to see why anyone would ever want to hear this version of this song.
Owning this record is a pointless exercise in completism.

I was selling it on ebay, but that ended for far too little money. Gutted.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Dystopia - S/T LP

As much as I wish all the bands I listened to were first heard on warped old tape-traded cassettes, it simply isn't the case. I have no friends into anything resembling the same music as myself, no-one ever told me to check out a band, no other person is responsible for my shitty taste in unlistenable noise. Every band I've ever had an interest in, bought a record, tape or CD by, I've hunted down for myself. I've never tried to impress anyone with what I listen to because there isn't a soul for 100 miles around worth impressing. New discoveries are primarily made through the endless sites like this one, isolated, lonely weirdos screaming out into the digital void, trying to get across what certain music means to them. It's through hours trawling these collections of 1s and 0s looking for someone who hears music the same way that I kept seeing this name popping up. Dystopia.

They are described by endless copied and pasted biographies as 'a sludge band from CA, USA. The band formed in Orange County, California in 1991, and were popular in both the heavy metal and crust punk scenes, due in large part to their bleak misanthropic imagery. Their lyrics often dealt with human emotion and sociopolitical issues such as environmentalism, racial equality, animal rights, and veganism.
Dystopia is a soundtrack for the world as we know it today. Their sound embodies all of the horrors, pain, agony and desperation of modern day society.'
I remember reading that and thinking holy fuck, how could I NOT like this band?!
I mean, I'm all for not killing the planet, the abolition of every -ism from sex to race, but the vegan part, not so much. I try to be a good person in as many ways as I can, but it's not my fault animals are so goddamn delicious.

So with the indirect recommendations of endless internet nerds, I set about tracking down some of their releases. This self-titled album was their swansong, released in '08 shortly before they disbanded.

I just want to comment on how refreshing it is to see something different in terms of artwork. I am so fucking sick of every single goddamn crust/sludge/powerviolence/whatever record using that long-redundant cut/pasted flyer, photocopy, scratch-y logo aesthetic. It's the 21st century, who even uses photocopiers anymore?!
So to look upon this sleeve with it's weird hand-drawn '90s graff-style fonts and detailed full-colour collages is a sight for sore (and bored) eyes. Though all the usual thematic staples are present; tyrants/leaders, disaffected dissidents, nuclear armaments, landscapes of destruction, mental patients, capitalist symbols, it's nice to see them shown in a more interesting manner. That said, I'm gonna get down to the music now...

The album opens with the buzz of warm amps and feedback, and an extended sample of various Eckhart Tolle philosophies, on everything from fear, politics, materialism, to the sense of self. I'm not overly familiar with Tolle, but a few things heard in this overlapped rambling fragments ring true. I'll investigate further, my curiosity is sufficiently piqued. The background drones on forebodingly, backing the sample for a couple of minutes before anything resembling an actual riff enters the picture. The riff has a Sleep-y tone, warm and enveloping.
'Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry...' are easily discerned from the sampled self-help, and those are feelings that become all too familiar throughout the listening of this record.

Just over 3 minutes into the first track, the pace picks up, the riff digging into a creepy crawly little groove. Reading along with the lyrics, it seems that they used the samples as the basis for debate, questioning Tolle's ideas of rejecting past and future, living in the now; "if past and future don't exist, where the fuck does that leave us? [...] I hang my head in sorrow because the now is too disgusting to see".
It's an interesting approach, most sludge bands just use samples because it's a trademark of the genre, and it's the 'cool' thing to do, to sample the most obscure and shocking horror movie / police report. I prefer the sample to actually mean something relevent to the song.

The second track 'Control All Delete' jumps straight into the song, no buildup or sample. The tempo ain't exactly breakneck by any stretch of the imagination, but seeing as Dystopia are loved by both sludge obsessives and crusties alike, it sits comfortably between these two paces. The vomitous dual vocal attack keeps things interesting, switching between voices as the song changes gear, developing a groove, a swing. Things switch between these two tones and tempos until the track careens to an abrupt end.

'Leaning With Intent To Fall' is another sample-led song, it's first couple of minutes taken up with the warped logic of a junkie. I have a deep loathing of anyone weak enough to fall prey to heroin, so listening to this, presumably real, interview take place really boils my blood. A couple of sentences in the most filthy, atonal guitar abuse starts up in the background. It's not a riff, it's not feedback, it's a hacking, violent thing. It's the sound of a pickaxe for a plectrum and rusted wire for strings. Improvised drums are an accompanying assault.
This death rattle music is like the free jazz to the beat poetry of empty justifications.

The defeated words of the substance abuser give way to an eruption of the RIFF! This is one of those moments where it doesn't matter what you're doing, you NEED to bang your head or do SOMETHING immediately. Lamentations on those lost to the filth people put in their veins, and the difficulty in living with the choices that other people make comprise the lyrical content. It's a weird juxtaposition, considering it's such a musically enjoyable song, that riff just DARING you not to move yourself.

The next track is just a sample with eerie ambient backing. More audio collage, overlapping samples all vying for your attention, each barely discernable among the throng of mad rantings and ravings.
The passages I can make out seem to be an interview with a mentally ill meth/coke/speed-fuelled woman, spewing forth her broken life story, conspiracies plotted against her, the paranoia and giddy glee with which she recounts her harrowing lowest points, leaving you terrified that those deemed 'cured' and 'fit for society' by whatever body thinks itself worthy of passing such judgement, are really very fucking far from it. These people are out there, walking the same streets as you.

Side B opens with 'Illusion Of Love', a song originally written by drummer Dino's old band Carcinogen, recorded for posterity here. It's opening riff is more traditionally crusty, buzzing to life for a coupla bars before manic grinding drums crash in behind it. The vocals are delivered in a throat-shredding acid-gargling yell. The speed section shifts down MANY gears to an ascending riff, sounding more menacing with each move up the fretboard.
The tempo increases, the sound of a drunk and belligerent behemoth staggering and mutter-growling to itself. Weird, the mental images you get from something as simple as 4 notes and some distortion, huh?
The giant lumbers until the song's grind finale. See what i did there, eh? Eh? My shitty wordplay humour is wasted on the internet...

Penultimate song 'Number One Hypocrite' is probably the most straight-ahead undiluted sludge track here, nailing all the genre staples in a succinct 3 minutes. There ain't much else I want to say about this track. I'm starting to get pretty burnt out on typing all this shit. It's a good song, there, done.

'My Meds Aren't Working'. Fucking hell. What a way to end an album. It's a slow-burner, even by sludge standards. Well, at least for a couple of minutes until one of the most corrosive, downright nasty sounding songs ever comes spewing out of my speakers. I'm surprised the air doesn't start to blacken and reek as the notes fill it. If that makes it sound like a bad song, it ain't. It still 'rocks', though that is a terrible term. This disgusting mess actually grooves.

Actually, I'll use that last sentence as the summation of the whole damn album.

You can still pick this up from a few places. I got my copy from the always excellent
Take a look at the rest of their selection while you're browsing, it veers mostly towards the crustier end of the spectrum. A tonne of great stuff available from that distro.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

His Hero Is Gone - Dead Of Night In 8 Movements 7"

I can't stop listening to this band. They're pretty much all I want to hear these days, everything from the music to the words, it all just fits. I got this 7" through a few days ago now, and I've spun it a bunch of times, not knowing whether to write about it or just fucking enjoy it. I've decided it deserves writing about.

Opening with piano of all things, this debut record sets the tone for what would be an extremely short-lived, but extremely prolific and important band's output. 'Epidemic' lulls you into a false sense of security with those haunting chiming notes before the drums burst through like a dawn raid. The majority of bands working within the crust ouvre stick to the tried and tested d-beat rhythm, but HHIG are not like the majority of bands. They have complex rhythms, tempo shifts, blending styles without any sense of showing off. They might have created filthy, distorted, snarling beasts of songs, but goddamn these guys could play.

So the first track gives you a taste of this being something far higher than your average blast of disortion and rage. The heavy section gives way to gently plucked strings, calm before the storm, a dynamic they would use many times throughout their future discography.
Anyway, the guitars and bass growl to life, prowling the perimeter before Todd Burdette's hoarse howl joins them. My interpretation of the lyrics 'Conquered lands will soon forget the human cancer that infects...' are of the cold, raw desolation of the Earth that almost inevitably awaits the extinction of mankind (little crust reference for ya there!). The world has been turning long before we were a single-celled organism, and it'll be turning, a shallow husk, long after we've all rotted into the barren earth and our bones are dust.
They perfectly encapsulate the post-apocalyptic mindset in a single line. Most artforms spend hundreds of pages, hours of film, and whole albums trying to achieve this.

'Headcount' continues in much the same vein, adding in a dissonant guitar tone that countless bands since have emulated. It makes for uncomfortable listening. Which I suppose is the point. This was an band uncomfortable with the way the world was going, who decried advancements in technology, the computer age, as the surveillance tools of the governments and big business. In fact, I'm sure they would hate the idea of me sitting here analysing their music and words instead of being out making a difference for good in the real world. I'll do it tomorrow. Or sometime. Apathy will be the death of us all.

I don't think I've ever rambled so much during such a short record (grand running time of just under 13 minutes). But they make me think, to fire up long-dormant synapses in my brain, to have an original thought or two for once in my life.

'T Minus Zero' is a short sharp shock of despair, clocking in more misery in 29 seconds than you'd hear in an entire My Dying Bride album.
'Unvisited Grave' is a song for our uncaring modern age. More distortion and shredthroat ranting about man's inhumanity to man. The most posi person in the world would be left contemplating just how despicable we are as a species by the time the needle pulls up from this side of the record.

The second side opens with 'Internally Bleeding' isn't any cheerier. Face it, by this point all optimism you once had has been drained. This is the audio equivalent of Clockwork Orange-esque brainwashing, determined to increase your cynicism and hatred for mankind tenfold. I bet these guys were great fun at parties.

'Richter' is the sound of the split-second before the bombs drop, when you realise no thickness of concrete can protect you. There are thousands upon thousands of nuclear warheads still in existence out there. Just incase you needed reminding, y'know? Amidst your day-to-day hardships and personal problems, your entire life and everything you ever cared about could all be reduced to wasteland and rubble for reasons entirely unconnected to you. Not something people like to think about as the try to get by in each of the 6 billion plus lives being lived. See what I mean about rambling? THIS SONG IS 45 FUCKING SECONDS LONG AND LOOK WHAT IT MAKES ME THINK!

'Marry and Reproduce' is a subject a bit closer to my own personal views, and is one of my favourite songs full stop, not just by this band. The continuation of the species is a basic function in most people's wiring, they need to see their bloodline extended, their name carry on. I see no sense in it. Bringing another life into the world seems a selfish act. People buy into this life pattern out of a sense of duty, because it's just what you're supposed to do. Everything in society is geared towards setting you on that path. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, all I'm saying is that most people never seem to question it. There are other ways to live your life, you hold obligations to no-one. I have had people laugh in my face for believing this and daring to want a life different from theirs.
'Senseless perpetuation of the human race in the name of tradition'.

Piercing feedback introduces 'The End Result Of 11 Months In Prison', a roar of righteous revenge plotting, before it gives way to more sparse piano notes. The music fades out as it faded in 13 minutes and a million thoughts ago.

Listen to this band. REALLY listen. They're not just another white-on-black scrawled name sewn onto someone's fashionably-ripped, crust-chic leg garments. They were, ARE, important, and they will open your mind.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Walkabouts - Setting The Woods On Fire

This was one of the first records I ever bought, and it fucking pisses me off that more people haven't heard it.
I've had two conversations about it total, one with the guy who recommended it to me, author John Connolly, and the other when I was very, very full of whisky in some pub one night, and almost hit the roof when discussing music with a much older guy I met through mutual acquaintances, and the topic somehow switched to this album.
I think I actually followed him around all night babbling about everything from the Gun Club to why he was a fuckin' asshole for dismissing Black Flag as 'bratty skater punk'. He was probably glad to get the fuck away from me after just 5 minutes of my wild-eyed, whisky-breathed ravings.

This is why I need an outlet like this shitty blog, because no-one ever talks to me about interesting music, and as soon as there's the slightest HINT of it in casual conversation, I latch on like a goddamned leech and don't let go until I've bled the subject dry.

So more people need to hear this album. And I'll tell you why.

The Walkabouts write songs like stories. They're not so much lyrics, they're tales to be told. The songs on this record take place in towns, they have characters, characters with relationships, motives and history only hinted at.
From the conspiratorial escape planners of opener 'Good Luck Morning', through the vengeful arsonist's warnings in 'Firetrap', to the grave-robber with the very best intentions of 'Up In The Graveyard', each song feels like a cautionary tale set to music.

And then there's that music. Stories like the ones in these songs could only be soundtracked by what sounds like the house band of the dimly-lit bar on the edge of town, where if you know whats good for ya, you'll keep your eyes on your drink and nowhere else. Guitars snarl and strain, the drums drive, the organ (YES, the organ! Ahh not enough bands have organ players...) lending a moodier tone, all topped off with the shared vocal duties of Carla Torgerson and Chris Eckman.
The word soulful gets tossed around to describe people who warble notes over every octave, desperate to show off their range, but rarely to describe singing that is just that, full of soul. And that's all I can think of to describe Torgerson's voice, the way she inhabits the words of the songs she sings. That sound fuckin' pretentious enough for ya? It's the best I can do to describe it.
From the first time I heard 'Bordertown', with it's aching string-bends and funeral party piano, her mournful voice given space by the music to shine, I was hooked. The vocals being split between her and Eckman, though, mean you're always left wanting more of each, neither vocalist ever outstaying their welcome, and giving a (literally) different voice and tone to each track. Going from 'Bordertown' to the following track 'Feeling No Pain', Eckman's deeper, grittier timbre couldn't be more different, but each voice suits it's respective song perfectly. It always feels cohesive.

Not every track gives me the same rush or chill as the one's I've mentioned, the mid-album track 'Old Crow' leaves me cold, it's just never grown on me, it's upbeat tempo and boogie piano seeming out of place. Same with 'Hole in The Mountain' a few tracks later, with more lively piano and a fucking horrible-sounding brass band parping all over the damn thing. But when only a couple of tracks marr an otherwise flawless record, I guess I can't complain. It's just, like, my opinion, man...

I really can't say enough good things about this album. At the young age I first heard it, when I was more concerned with finding the fastest, slowest, loudest, most abrasive music possible, they opened me up to restraint, loud/quiet dynamics, actual singing, and real narrative structure.
I'm still waiting to hear something that tells stories anything like this record almost a decade later.

Since I am trying to whore this album out so more people will hear it and talk to me about it, I'm going to do something I said I would never do on this thing... for fans of... urrrgh, here goes...
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (especially Murder Ballads/Let Love In era),
Neil Young (dig his one-string solos that go on too long? they have some of that in here!),
Mark Lanegan (that whisky-soaked baritone wouldn't sound out of place as a guest vocalist),
and even Murder City Devils, if you like escape-from-a-small-town attitude and spooky organ sounds.

You can look over their website at, somewhat predictably,
And you can pick up this album and more that I haven't heard yet through download-only apparently. Get a re-press done, Sub Pop or whoever...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Murder City Devils - Every Day I Rise 7"

Okay, going from the origins of this band, to their first new material in a decade. This review is sort of cheating because I can't actually listen to the record, as it has that damn big hole shit going on. Who does that?
Assholes who want to be purposefully obtuse and awkward, thats who. But it did come with mp3 copies of the songs, which will have to do for now, I guess.

Opening with a chunky one-string rhythm, the production value alone belies the fact that it's been ten years since this band last put out a record. Those two notes alone sound richer, less tinny and distorted than much of the band's back catalogue. And that's by no mean a slight on the classic records, they sound perfect just the way they are. It's just that this sounds totally different. How the songs themselves sound, well, I'm getting to that.

'There's a machine between me and the page...' is the opening line from Spencer Moody, whose voice has grown from a youthful cracked yell into... well, much of the same. But there's a new-found world-weariness, sounding genuinely despondent on the chorus line of 'Every day I rise and no-one cares...'. It's a maturation from the youthful cries of a preacher's mouth with the rock n' roll heart.

When Leslie Hardy's forever-haunting organ kicks in at the 30-second mark, this starts to sound more like the band I love, like they never went away. The tone of the song is darker, more mournful than anything they ever recorded during their first go around, with the exception of parts of Thelema. It sounds like the decade away hasn't brightened their collective demeanour any.

Melvins co-drummer Coady Willis eschews his usual intricate patterns in favour of a relatively straightforward driving beat. With so much going on, from the two guitars and the organ, to Moody's howls, anything more complex would have sounded too busy. Everything about this song is perfectly judged.

B-side track 'Ball Busters In The Peanut Gallery' opens with Willis exhibiting some rhythmic flair, before warm, plaintive guitar strings are picked atop it. Fairground organ is laid over the whole thing for a couple of bars. Here comes that weird chill again. The energy level is way down on this song, but that's not a criticism.
It sounds like if the band had never called it quits, had kept plugging along for all these years playing dive bars and empty rooms, like they were determined to go down with a sinking ship.
Obviously that's not what did, or would have happened, it's just the feeling I get from the music, the strained vocal chords.

Just shy of two-minutes in, the track pauses for breath, the many layers of instruments each doing their own thing, none eclipsing the others. It sounds great. I'm not sure if it's something I'd listen to a whole lot of, but I can definitely appreciate that they didn't just throw together any old shit after all these years to give the fans something new. These sound like songs that needed to be sung, and this is the only band that could have ever played them. Nothing else sounds like this.

It is still kind of hard to associate this record with the songs I've been listening to for years, it's definitely the same band, but the feeling I get from these songs is completely different to the rush I feel hearing their older material. I guess it'll just take some time to sink in.

Order it from the band here:

Death Wish Kids - There's Nothing in School They Can't Teach You On The Streets 7"

Death Wish Kids, named after the Poison Idea song of the same name, were a chaotic, screeching, snotty seizure of a band, who were only around for a coupla years before they broke up. During that time they only released this 7" of fast, abrasive punk rock.

Pulling no punches, the record opens with the scree of feedback, driving bass and drums, before the guitar gets itself together long enough to spew out the minute-long 'AA'.

No pause for breath before discordant guitar intros the next track, 'Hood'. More verging-on-out-of-control music backs some classic bratty adolescent lyrics on this track:
'if you wanna drink... fucking drink
if you want to gamble... fucking gamble
if you want something... fucking steal it
live your life don't let anyone get in your fucking way...'
Pure poetry. Vocalist Andrea Zollo's terrifying terrier delivery doesn't give you too much chance to decipher and deeply think about what she's saying, it's all about how she says it.

The next minute of howled angsty fury, '13' goes by much the same, three chords and a whole lot of fuck you.

The second side opens with 'Lucky'; more piercing feedback, Dann Galluci eshewing actually playing the guitar in favour of just letting it ring out messily. Zollo's lyrics would have terrified any meathead sexist pigs who saw them play during their brief tenure as a band, threatening to 'fuck your shit up' and 'get your head kicked in' if anyone tried anything untoward. Pure bile and righteous fury.

'Outsider' is almost easy-listening in comparison to the rest of the record, featuring a yelled gang vocal chorus that verges on melodic. It's all over in 54 seconds though, so the respite is brief.

Next up is a cover of OG punks The Vibrator's 'Whips & Furs', so yeah... it sounds like a more insane version of that, basically.

Closing with 'Traitor', a song you might be familiar with if you're a fan of the band that two Death Wish Kids went on to form, they end the record only eight minutes after it began. An old home video clip of this song was shown in a few seconds of Rock & Roll Won't Wait, the Murder City Devils documentary, showing the band playing what looks like an instore show to a bunch of mid-90s punk creeps in Screeching Weasel jerseys. They spend most of the few seconds of footage thrashing both limbs, guitar necks and shoving audience members around. Pure chaos.

After Death Wish Kids broke up, Dann Galluci went on to form Murder City Devils with DWK bassist Derek Fudesco. After MCD broke up a few years later, Fudesco was back playing with Andrea Zollo in Pretty Girls Make Graves. When THEY broke up, Galluci and Zollo became involved with ex-Murder City Devil Spencer Moody in the awesomely named Triumph Of Lethargy Skinned Alive To Death. Murder City Devils occasionally reunite to play shows in America which I will never get to see. Expectations for a Death Wish Kids reunion, however, are low.

I have no idea where you'd get a hold of this record these days, try eBay and discogs, the usual nerdy outlets.
More info on various pressings here:

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Pajo - Scream With Me

Like about a million other teenage weirdos, I was a huge Misfits fan in my younger years. I say that as if that's still not the case, they're still one of my favourite bands.

They're also hugely influential on a wide range of musicians, and have been covered countless times.
However, not many people strip away the distortion, the speed, and take these brilliant songs down to the bare melody and Glenn Danzig's morbid lyrics. That's what ex-Slint guitarist David Pajo has done on this collection of Misfits classics.

Side One opens with Angelfuck, a slowly plucked variation on the usually fuzzed-up intro. Tape hiss permeates the recording. Pajo's voice softly croons the words, usually yowled out, giving them a whole new dimension. Before hearing this version, I was never 100% sure what the lyrics were, hearing them in this whole new context allows you to actually appreciate that the Misfits were more than just a standard punk band. Though if you're a fan, then you know that already.

My favourite Misfits song, and one of my favourite songs of all time, Hybrid Moments. Usually beginning with a bone-shaking drumbeat, hearing it open with more warped acoustic plucking is a little weird. The driving rhythm of the original is lost, but again, the clearly sung version gives the lyrics a whole new lease of life. This version sounds almost like young lustful yearning, Danzig's words sounding downright pleading as Pajo whisper-sings "Give me a moment...".

Where Eagles Dare is up next, and the guitar is pretty basic on this one, and the verse delivery is kinda boring. It's worth hearinng just for the sweetly sung classic line "I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch!".

Assassination anthem Bullet is another song that tames the original's indecipherable yelling into a clear, plaintive croon, the second half's sexually deviant lyrics all the more unsettling for being sung so calmly. For being much more palatable to most people's ears, this is actually much more fucked up than the original.

Side One closes with Teenagers From Mars, one of my least favourite songs on this collection. He changes up the tone and chords of the song to give it a sense of foreboding that isn't present in the fun original, and I don't think it works too well. Considering it's a schlocky song about, well, teenagers from Mars, this sounds a little too serious with the weird chords progressions he chooses. I don't know, I just don't like it.

Side Two opens with one of my least favourite 'Fits songs, Devil's Whorehouse, so to be honest, no other interpretation is going to convince me of this song's merits. Thankfully the next track is Horror Business, another classic. When I talked about the sense of foreboding he gave Teenagers... and how I didnt think it worked? He does the same thing with this track initially, his whispered vocals filling you with a real sense of Hitchcock-ian dread. The simple guitar breaks out into a bright, melancholic passage about a minute-and-a-half in, his vocals reaching towards the upper registers as he intones "I'm warning you, I'll put a knife right in you!" making it sound quietly menacing.

More Mars madness next, with a jaunty folk-y take on I Turned Into A Martian, where he FINALLY brings the trademark 'whoah-oh-ohhhs' the Misfits were so known for into the mix. This is probably one of the most faithful renditions on the record.

The album closes with Attitude, a song also butchered by Guns N Roses at one point, so his competition ain't too stiff. This is another straight-up cover, albeit in the inimitable style you'll be accustomed to by this point. The album closes as it began, slowly plucked strings, soft vocals and tape hiss. Fucking great stuff.

This is still available over at Black Tent Press, and each copy comes with an awesome spraypainted and hand-screened cover. Go get one and chill out with a deceptively spooky collection of lo-fi folky ditties. If you want to try before you buy, the full album is streaming over on Pajo's site.