Saturday, 15 June 2013

Ilsa - Intoxicantations LP

It took me forever to get around to finally buying a copy of this record due to my current impoverishment. I had to do awful, awful things to afford this album. It was worth it.

The album cover, drawn the band's drummer Joshy, is a truly fucking creepy collage of scuttling insects, animal bones and substance abuse. The juvenile scrawl on the back cover, depicting vomiting and bleeding witches presiding over a cauldron of narcotics, reminds me of the childish obscenity drawn by Mike Diana that graces the cover of Iron Monkey's Our Problem. This is the sort of design that's worth getting the gatefold sleeve for, so you can pore over every revolting detail in the artwork.

The music is just as depraved as the sleeve, and also should be heard as intended; hissing malevolently out of record player speakers. A harrowing catalogue of drug abuse, screams and feedback provides the intro to 'Foreign Lander', the bands brutish take on the folk song. It crashes along at a relentless pace, the shredded throat of Orion imbuing the words with a venomous vehemence before a twisting, writhing solo closes out the track.

The record's title track drags itself out of the speakers, the decrepit drudge of the rhythm overlaid by a howled Intoxicantation, a repulsive recipe for "unholy hallucinations". The tempo is as interminable as the endless agony of fingernails splintering along your spinal column. Fucking lovely.

Eventually it ends and they launch into 'Deadbeat's Ballad', a tale of a Faustian pact, what the Germans call moritaten, or murder ballad. The track careens along at a neck-abusing tempo until midway through when the band lapse into another funeral march, accompanying the horrifying infanticidal lyrics.
The last act of the story, those tortured cries of guilt set to foulest, catchiest sludge makes this my favourite track on the album.

'Man Made Monsters' sounds to me like being stretched to bonebreaking point on the rack, that sick discordant twist of the guitar and the ratcheting of the double kick drumming.
This track reminds me of something Tim Bagshaw would write, that underlying menace in the guitar tone definitely sounds like Ramesses/Serpentine Path to my ears.

The second side of the record opens with 'Say You Love Satan', a foot-stomping, fist-throwing anthem to antichristianity. Ilsa have this ability to make even this harshest of music seem catchy, they've got hooks that dig in like the cover of Severed Survival. I really hope I get the chance to catch them live sometime, so if they ever make it to the UK, there's a floor and a lot of whiskey waiting for them.

'The Scream' is another exorcise in torturous tempo and the strangling of strings. The everyday horror of the lyrics makes it a more disturbing proposition than all that 'anal goat blasphemy' shit kids on tumblr think is evil. The apathy of modern society is far more terrifying than any fictional demon.

The pounding of skins that opens 'Fluid Bound' drives a vertebrae-flexing rhythm, though this track doesn't really vary enough to hold my attention.

'Martyrs', inspired by the disturbing-as-fuck French movie of the same name, is a breakneck bludgeoning that leaves you reeling just as much as the film it takes it's name from. If this track alone doesn't convince you to pick up this record, you're a fucking lost cause.

The album closes out with 'Skin and Bone', which on first impression reminds me of Cursed when they dropped the tempo, the waves of distortion emanating from the speakers hitting with a heaviness I can feel in my gut. An almost melodic guitar solo signals the start of the slow disintegration of the track, the whole structure decaying and dismantling itself til there's nothing left but the scratch of static noise and the wail of air-raid sirens. I almost expect there to be a bonus cover of 'War Pigs' after that, but the sirens die out, the needle scrapes it's last groove and lifts.

I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of this revolting slab from A389 Records

And someone book this band to tour the EU/UK with Coffinworm or Brainoil or something.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Kadavar - Abra Kadavar

Kadavar are the soundtrack of my summer.

I know that's a bold statement to make when its only May, but on my first spin through Abra Kadavar I already knew there wasn't going to be a better soundtrack to hanging out in the sun and putting away beers.
When I caught the band live a couple of weeks ago I'd spent the day doing just that, and their set was even tighter than their vests. I was anxious to see whether their recorded output would measure up to their live show, and this new album from those bearded boys from Berlin perfectly captures their high-energy 70's-inspired hard rock.

Abra Kadavar is a distillation of all the things that people return to those classic records for, and is a perfect reminder of just how damn GOOD rock music can be. Grow your hair, grab a drink, and drop out this summer with a copy of this album on constant rotation.

Available on vinyl, as it should be heard, from Nuclear Blast. Get it HERE

Read my full review at The Sleeping Shaman...

Monday, 10 June 2013

Iron Witch / Corrupt Moral Altar - Classic Grand, Glasgow

13. Unlucky for some, as it was the night of the Iron Witch/Corrupt Moral Altar show, when an unfortunate plumbing situation in the basement of the 13th Note caused the show to be cancelled. The promoters managed to find another venue at the last minute, and the two touring bands were able to set up at the Classic Grand, though unfortunately that left no time for local openers Headless Kross and Skeleton Gong. Bummer.

After finding a pub with much cheaper/better booze than the new venue, I eventually headed upstairs to find Iron Witch just starting their set. I was so fucking relieved that the show was still going ahead, I'd been waiting to see them for a couple of years, and they were well worth the wait, their filthy take on vintage sludge the perfect accompaniment to many, many alcoholic beverages.

Their lineup has changed significantly, now incorporating two members from Corrupt Moral Altar, though Chris Fane's acerbic howls are still as tortured as ever, the stumbling, disoriented march of impressively bearded rhythm section, drummer Will Adams and bassist Rick Owen now screeched over by CMA's Tom Dring and John Cooke on guitars.
The set passed by in a whiskey-fuelled blur, at least it seemed pretty short to me, but then I could listen to this strain of feedback and misery for hours. It was just great to finally catch them live, and I can't wait til my next opportunity.

Corrupt Moral Altar's set was a bit more chaotic in terms of both sound, and crowd reaction; people were hanging from the ceiling, throwing each other across the room, spilling drinks all over each other and generally acting like drunken morons, to their set of thick, nasty grind. It was fucking brilliant, the sort of band that would work perfectly on that mud-caked and booze-flooded stage at Obscene Extreme, so someone make that happen, eh?

Despite the setbacks, venue change and losing half the lineup, this was still an excellent show, and the bands and promoters should be commended for their work to make sure it still went ahead. If you missed out, tough shit, you'll just need to wait 'til the next time these reprobates venture north of the border.

Check out both bands here:

Plague Survivors - compilation tape

Part of the reason I started writing about the music I love was in the hope people would read it, and recommend me more bands I'd be into. Though I've been doing it for a while now, only a few people have sent me stuff, but nothing that's had quite the impact of Massachusetts' Plague Survivors.

Andrew at Dry Cough Records sent me this tape after having read my review of his next release, On Pain Of Death's Year Naught Doom. If he keeps putting out releases of this calibre, Dry Cough will be one of the labels to watch in the coming months.

Opening track 'Grim Note' is all thick fuzz and torturous feedback, with occasional lapses into something like a song. I'm so glad people get what I dig about bands like this; the filthy, sour tones, the contempt in the vocals, the sort of lurching rhythm that's perfect to spill beer to... As the last sounds die out, I'm immediately sold on this band.

'Foul Voice' begins with a lumbering, crashing stomp, and with a scream the tempo is ramped up to a chugging rhythm the meanest hardcore band could only dream of. The speed picks up again before the track collapses back to the start, the whole nasty cycle repeated before it comes crashing to a halt.

A distorted, warbled voice sounds like the sort of sample heard at the start of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, before the building feedback erupts into the agonising crawl of 'Low Places'. You couldn't even describe this is a song so much as it sounds like the death throes of a depressive set to woozy, swaying bursts of distortion, following the tradition of Grief's 'Lifeless'. About halfway through the thickening feedback and agonised vocals coalesce into a rabid, raving beast of a track.

'Funeral Pyre' closes out side A with the eerie atonal tolling of guitar strings being played with a rusty hacksaw. Dirty drones and the scrape of fingernails on a casket lid build and build, the tension unbearable, the suffocating sensation seems neverending... Until the whole thing burns itself out in the dying howls of distortion.
Disgusting. Perfect.

Side B opens with 'Witch Crusher', a mangled, angular nightmare, with vocalist Matthew Willwerth spewing furious bile over the whole mess. Halfway through there's a truly fucking weird midsection, discordant plinking on piano, backwards-masked invocations and creepy crawling bass. The rest of the track that follows decays further and further away to nothing.

'Ditch Digger' slithers from the speakers, vague whispers like snakes, before the hissing gives way to a sound not unlike the equivalent of having your head slammed against the floor. The bludgeoning subsides, replaced by a Dystopian crawl towards the merciful end.

The tape closes out with a pretty faithful cover of Sabbath's 'Electric Funeral', the usual vocal style abandoned in favour of a more traditional singing style that reminds me of the departure of Olly's vocals on the latest Moss record. You already know what this song sounds like, and if you don't then you've no business reading this blog.
Apparently they have more Sabbath covers recorded, and I really can't wait to hear them, as well as the next release of their own material that they put out.

If you like your sludge on the creepy, hateful side (the way it fucking should be), get into Plague Survivors.

You can pick this tape up from Dry Cough Records here:

And download the various releases that make up this compilation here:

Friday, 7 June 2013

Black Cobra / Bison BC / Årabrot - Ivory Blacks, Glasgow

Don't you just hate it when the local opening band turns out to be pretty good, yet leaves the stage without telling you who the fuck they are? I do. At least duct-tape your name onto the kick drum, scrawl it on your bassist's forehead, do something to let people know what your band is called.
So yeah, the opening band was decent, and if they want to let me know their name, that'd be swell.
[Edit: Turns out it was Easy Bake Oven. They rule. Check them out.]

Norwegian weirdos Årabrot take the stage looking like extras in some bizarre Nordic barbarian b-movie. Their set of writhing, (amphetamine) reptilian noise-sludge is an unusual fit on this bill, but it works well. Their abrasive tones are offset creepily by Bison-horn-hatted Kjetil Nernes' whispering/purring/strangled-throated Yow yelps.
If you got hard over the Melvins/Unsane tour that happened last year, and are really into denim shorts, Årabrot are your new favourite band.

I'm a big fan of Vancouver's Bison BC, but I still haven't gotten around to listening to their latest record Lovelessness, so much of tonight's set was unfamiliar to me, but based on how they ripped through their new set, I am really fucking up by not owning their latest slab of expansive sludge. Soon as I have money guys, I promise.
Since I last saw the band, they have a new drummer who kind of terrifies me. He looks like a clown with no make-up on, his relentless grin never failing even as he smashes the hell out of his kit, splintered sticks flying everywhere.

When they tear into 'These Are My Dress Clothes' from 2008's Quiet Earth, I was back in familiar territory, bellowing along to the weirdest refrain ever. The next song 'Stressed Elephant' is just as heavy as its name implies, and I start to worry I won't even be able to hear the last band's set.

I last saw San Francisco's finest Black Cobra close out Roadburn 2012 to a packed main room, the two members somehow managing to fill that stage with sheer relentless riffage and percussive abuse. Considering they managed to get hundreds of exhausted stoners to bang their heads one last time after 4 days of Olympic-level narcotic intake made their set a total triumph.
This was a week after I'd also seen them play to 20 disinterested Germans as support to the legendary Corrosion Of Conformity. I had really hoped tonight's show would be more like the former, but instead the absolutely dismal turnout kind of put a damper on the atmosphere of the show. What the hell, Glasgow?

Regardless of the low attendance the band were as tight as ever, the short sharp set leaning more towards their relentlessly pummelling material, with none of their more atmospheric, slower songs. So no 'Corrosion Fields'. Bummer, but I can't really complain when given the chance to be one of the few to experience the sheer sonic devastation wrought upon Glasgow that night. My ears are still ringing 48 hours later.
Next time any of these bands come around, miss them at your peril.

All photos by Steff Vogeler.