Monday, 29 July 2013

Brighton Rocks! - Headless Guru Records


Firstly, I make no apologies for my cheesy title. Secondly, this is my fourth label feature already! This time, I'm focusing on another up and coming UK label from the South Coast called Headless Guru Records. After starting up in mid-2012with War Wolf member Ant at the helm, HGR have been steadily releasing varied music by bands who play punk, hardcore and sludge amongst other things. With six releases to their name and more to come during the second half of this year, they're definitely ones to watch.


 War Wolf - Riding With Demons 10"

What better place to start this feature than with War Wolf. War Wolf themselves started back in 2012 and promptly put out this 10" in early 2013. This year they've shared stages with tonnes of bands including Nails and St Vitus and they've also just returned from Canada, where they've been recording their new record! Riding With Demons is just over ten minutes of doom and hardcore noise.

Tracklist:-

1. An Ignorant Species
2. Stench of Death
3. Awakened Gaunt
4. Cometh
5. The Misanthrope
6. War Machine
7. Liberation
8. Slain Deity

Starting with a haunting spoken word sample, it takes a mere ten seconds for War Wolf to break out the abject doom. For some reason, this style seems best served up by a trio and War Wolf makes it so. As the angry, hardcore style vocals ring out above the music, you know you're in for a rough ride. There's an overwhelming sense of foreboding at the start of Stench of Death, but it turns out to be a heavy hitting song, featuring gang vocals and more of a mid-paced hardcore slant before the pace slows toward the end.

War Wolf keep their songs brief and to the point, but what they do play is full of smile inducing riffs and just the right level of energy and intensity. They also experiment with noise elements like during Awakened Gaunt. There's a nod to their groovier, stoner brethren during Cometh, where they flex their chops and dip their hats to the like of Saviours and The Sword in the guitar department. There's that hardcore atmosphere to stop them breaking into an all out fuzz fest. The multiple vocalists also adding to the overall thickness of the song.

They return to a more upbeat pace with The Misanthrope. There's some great angular, off-kilter guitar moments on show alongside some great interplay between that and the rhythm section, with bass sounding particularly thick. Feedback dominates the start of War Machine, leaping out of the speakers like a tortured siren. Here, War Wolfs hardcore sound spills out further, with some mightily angry screams and pogo-inducing drumming. Liberation is a quick fire hardcore song that follows a sampled speech from Tony Blair, thusly demonstrating War Wolf's political stance. It flows straight into closer Slain Deity, which is one of the fastest numbers on Riding With Demons.

Such is the proliferation of low and angry hardcore in the UK at the moment that it's hard to come across a band that favours the doomier end, without using it as a mere token influence. War Wolf mix both doom and hardcore without ever sounding like a parody or unimaginative, which leaves them sounding more genuine. When you realise there are bands like this hiding away, why bother listening to the bands that Front Magazine tells you too!

Listen to the whole 10" here:-


You can buy the 10", resplendent in red wax vie the HGR webstore here - http://headlessgururecords.bigcartel.com/

War Wolf Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/War-Wolf



Sea Bastard - Sea Bastard 2xLP

Next up is Brighton based doom band Sea Bastard. Their self titled double LP was another one of HGR's early releases and with links to War Wolf in the band, it makes perfect sense. This year has so far been very good to these guys, with a slot at Desert fest and headline slot at The Unicorn in Camden already under their belts, they're due to support Earache band White Wizzard on the Brighton leg of their UK tour in September. Having initially formed in 2011, they released a three-track demo that same year called - Great Barrier Riff, which signalled their intentions. Their double LP arrived in October 2012, featuring five tracks in just over an hour.

Tracklist:-

1. Smashed By Sunlight
2. Ramesses' Revenge
3. Psychic Funeral
4. Sea Bastard
5. Masters Of Unreality

With a name like Sea Bastard, I was expecting these guys to be heavy. They actually start of with a pretty understated doom groove, which allows the guitar to take centre stage, with some low but melodic riffs. The drums match it with cymbal crashes as the volume rises. At this point, the bass draws itself in and the sound gets thicker as the vocals kick in after the three and a half minute intro passage. The vocals are a great mix of raspy doom screams and the odd low growl. There are moments where you're just left with screeching feedback and bass driven noise, before the dirge slows right down to a near crawl at about eight minutes. It's crushing and not for the faint hearted.

Any band that names a song after a ride at Chessington World of Adventure's wins in my book! Unlike that ride though, Ramesses' Revenge is somewhat slower and more frightening. Sea Bastard chooses an off-kilter time signature to open up the song. The atonal riffs after the initial build up is pretty mesmerising. Sea Bastard don't seem as experimental as they did in the opener, during the first passages of Ramesses' Revenge, choosing instead to settle down and simply groove. The ride cymbal takes much of the percussion abuse during the song too, keeping the rhythm section alive amongst the riffs. Even with all the down-tuned antics going on throughout the record, it still has a real sense of musicality to it.

Psychic Funeral seems to be strangely psychedelic at the start, although I am pretty tired. It definitely goes in a slightly different direction to the songs before it, as those rasping vocals take their place on the track with a metallic edge. The song seems to morph into a semi-thrash song with a faster tempo and double bass! It doesn't remain at this pace for too long though, as Sea Bastard take their foot off the gas and return to the dirge, seven-minutes in. The production of the record allows that low melody to sound particularly menacing from the guitar and the deeper you get into the song, the slower it seems to get. The extended instrumental section toward the end of the song is well worth kicking back to as well, as it's easy to just drift off as it concludes.

Fourth song Seas Bastard follows straight on from Psychic Funeral with little chance to breathe. It takes the band back to more experimental, metallic sound of their opener. This record has really grown on me as I've been listening to it. I don't know whether it's the fuzzed out sound that underpins it or the musicianship that still makes it really listenable, but either way I'm enjoying it. Closing song, Masters of Unreality is the longest song on the record. I can't work if that title is a nod to Black Sabbath or not. One things for certain though, it's probably the slowest song out of these five. The guitar sounds thick as hell too.

This record is pretty intense and Sea Bastard definitely go for quality of quantity. It's one of the best sounding doom records I've heard in a while too. I know that there are a lot of doom metal fans out who would really enjoy Sea Bastard. Go forth people and blast this out to anyone who'll listen and even those who won't!

Here's the double LP streaming in full:-



It's available as a name-your-price download from HGR's bandcamp page above.

You can buy a physical copy from their store here - http://headlessgururecords.bigcartel.com/product/sea-bastard-sea-bastard-2xlp

Sea Bastard Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/seabastarddoom



Minors - Demo

Next is something slightly different, style and sound wise. Minors released this three-track demo via HGR in February.  Minors add a bit of international flavour to HGR's roster too, as they come of Ontario, Canada. These guys formed in December 2012 and are just starting out, so it's cool to see a small UK label taking an interested in them and working with them from the outset.

Tracklist:-

1. We Ate Minors, You Are Not (Love From the Border City)
2. Minors, In The Present Tense
3. You're Your Yours &You Are (So Long Roses, Your Money Is On The Dresser)

This demo was the first release that HGR put out on tape. Minors play with a sound that slightly similar to that of War Wolf, but with less doom and more math influences. It's also more hardcore orientated too and their opening song, We Are Minors, You Are Not (Love From The Border City) is full of stop-start, feedback-laden riffage.

That math influence carries on with Minors, In The Present Tense, along with some fast grindcore inspired drumming. There's melody, but it's hidden within the mix underneath the vocals. It fights to be heard amongst the drums but when it does come to the fore, it's a nice addition to the music. As I said in my opening paragraph about the band, stylistically they play from a different side of the hardcore spectrum and prefer to be more progressive and off-kilter.

Minors do not mess about at all, with final track You're Your Yours & You Are (So Long Roses, Your Money Is On The Dresser) coming no sooner than the second track had finished.  The screams seem to be angrier in this song and that feedback I referred to earlier is still very much prevalent. There's a nice guitar section midway through which shows off the band's screamo/emo influences too.

Overall, this demo is chaotic and loud and comes from a band with no inclination to copy bands that have come before. It's got originality and a production, which shows it off in a natural way. Three blistering tracks that finish way to soon, but still batter you!

Listen here:-



Again, the demo is on the bandcamp page above as a name-your-price download.

Tapes can be bought from - http://headlessgururecords.bigcartel.com/product/minors-demo-cs

Minors Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/weareminors



Dull Eyes - War Anthems

I'm ending this feature with HGR's latest release, a four track EP by German hardcore punks Dull Eyes. Adding more international flavour to HGR's growing roster, Dull Eyes released War Anthems n tape through HGR in May. They have a fearsome live ethic and have played shows alongside Defeater and Code Orange Kids, while recently supporting Alpha & Omega.

Tracklist:-

1. Sleeping Hands
2. Icebreaker
3. Heavyweight
4. David & Goliath

There's a huge amount of killer music coming out of Germany at the moment, which means that Dull Eyes should start getting wider attention. Listening to the intro of Sleeping Hands just backs up that notion, as Dull Eyes attack your senses with a Crowbar meets Terror sound. Groovy riffs with hardcore screams and pounding drums are the order of the day. There are hints of Pantera in the guitar solos and after this opening sub-six minute stomp is over, you'll be brimming for more. Icebreaker starts off with some wicked drumming and a slow, guitar driven dirge that's builds atmosphere, before launching into a more straightforward hardcore song with killer screamed gang vox. Those grooving riffs aren't too far away though.

Their punkier edge makes itself heard during Heavyweight, with some great up-beat drumming. It's fast too, a lot more so than it is to predecessors. It sounds like a call to arms, especially during the gang vocals and if you're not moshing by now, you might as well be dead! War Anthems ends how it started, with more Pantera inspired hammer blows. There's more of an off-kilter slant to this song, with what sounds like half-time drumming, which might mess with your head if you're not expecting it. It certainly gives their hardcore stomp more of a boot full.

While all of these releases may sound similar to some, they are all uniquely different variations on a sub-genre that's been gaining real pace recently. The UK seems to be at the forefront of it too, which just shows that labels like HGR are and will continue to be breeding grounds for some of the angriest hardcore/sludge inspired noise that dares to punctuate the airwaves.

Jump on this here:-



I don't need to tell you now, but War Anthems is also available as a name-your-price download from the HGR bandcamp page.

You can get the cassette version from the HGR store here - http://headlessgururecords.bigcartel.com/product/dull-eyes-war-anthems-cs.

Now if you want, you can pick up everything that the label has released so far, in one handy package here -
http://headlessgururecords.bigcartel.com/product/hgr-bundle.

That package also includes a vinyl release from UK punks River Jumpers and a tape from fellow UK down-tuned doom nuts Torpor. I'll have reviews of those releases coming in the not to distant future as well.

In terms of what's on the horizon, I can tell you that War Wolf are currently working on a new record as well as a split with Sob Story (Ex-Dashwood), which will both see the light of day through HGR.

So, keep an eye of their Facebook page for more - https://www.facebook.com/HeadlessGuruRecords.

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