Sunday, 29 June 2014

Hull - The Legend of Swampgoat 7"


Here's a band that I'm not so familiar with, Brooklyn NY sludge/metal band Hull. They released this single-sided, etched B-side 7" in February via their own label Iron Orchestra Works and with help from Midnight Collective. It's their first recorded material since the 2011 full-length Beyond The Lightless Sky.  Normally I don't review single track releases, but what the heck! Hull have already toured Europe this year and appeared at the mighty Roadburn Festival in Holland.

The track Swamp Goat that appears on this 7" was originally written in 2007 during the recording sessions for their debut full-length Sole Lord.  The band decided to record and release it in time for their recent tour.

Tracklist:-

1. Swamp Goat

Hull’s sound here is pretty thick. the guitars and percussion make a hefty wall of noise. It’s groovy too, with a prolonged instrumental intro. The mix of acoustic guitar and jazz/blues sections fit the sludge Hull play and the vocals are semi-clean. There are a lot of parts to this that come together to create a cohesive whole. It’s hard to get a full impression of a band from one track and as such I haven’t, but nonetheless this is a worthy release in it’s own right and one that would be better owned in it’s physical form. Vinyl is always better, especially when it’s as artistic as this is with the etched b-side. 

You can stream Swamp Goat via Hull's bandcamp page here - 




You can also grab a copy of the 7" from the page too.

Hull Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/HULLsounds
Iron Orchestra Works Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/IronOrchestraWorks

BL'AST - The Expression of Power


A lot has been said about BL'AST in recent months and as their currently on a UK/European run of live dates, it seemed like the right time for me to check out their latest record, The Expression of Power (an alternative version of their debut album), which recently came out via Southern Lord Records earlier this year. Original members Clifford Dinsmore and Mike Neider have been joined by Nick Oliveri and Joey Castillo (Queens of The Stone Age and tonnes more!) for the tour and while it's nearly over, the shows they've played so far have been really well received.

The Expression of Power has been released digitally, on CD and as a three-LP set. Both the digital and the CD versions contain their 2nd and 3rd recorded versions of the album, while the three-LP set includes all three recorded versions alongside a unreleased demo. The album was recorded and re-recorded three times during 1984/1985. Now of you're still with me, read on!

Tracklist:-

(The Fane Session - 3rd Recording)
1. Time To Think
2. Surf And Destroy
3. Fuckin' With My Head
4. E.I.B
5. Our Explanation
6. The Future
7. Something Beyond
8. Break It Down
9. Time Waits (For No One)
10. I Don't Need It
11. It's Alive
12. Look Into Myself
13. Nightmare

(The Track Session - 2nd Recording)
14. Time To Think
15. Surf And Destroy
16. Fuckin' With My Head
17. E.I.B
18. Our Explanation
19. The Future
20. Break It Down
21. Time Waits For No One
22. I Don't Need It
23. It's Alive
24. Scream For Tomorrow
25. Nightmare

The opening bars of Time To Think are a confusing mess of feedback and samples and the off-kilter time signatures of the first verse hurt my head, as I try and decipher what’s gong on. The music itself is good but it doesn’t really settle into a groove. BL’AST play honest, raw punk and this record features the original line-up from back when the album was recorded in 84/85.  Surf And Destroy is more focused and while short, it hints at better stuff to come. Fuckin’ With My Head features some great groovy, stoner-style riffs in between the surf-punk verses.  E.I.B flashes passed in thirty seconds, filled with the kind of old-school punk that inspired many of today’s powerviolence bands.

I’m really growing into the album now as Our Explanation rings out and I’m getting used to the transitions, which can be a bit harsh at times. It’s a mix of punk and stoner that appears as a bit of a sound-clash but improves throughout. The Future sees BL’AST expanding their sound and at times it reminds me of Sacred Reich for some reason. The solo is brilliant too! They pick up the pace again with Something Beyond and the drumming here rules. I think I’m beginning to truly get this album and BL’AST’s style now. Break It Down as more urgency but also shows that BL’AST have hit their stride. More killer solos and fast punk attitude.

Time Waits (For No One) features some stop/start moments and some more glimpses of stoner/doom. I Don’t Need It on the other hand is totally different. It’s over before you know it! It’s Alive is frantic. I think it’s the best track on the album and Look Into Myself carries on the intensity. Nightmare closes out the Fane Session side of the record with crawling, creeping atmosphere. That’s due to the bass-filled intro and the whispered vocals. It’s another stoner number and it highlights how far BL’AST have developed as they move through the record.

The second side of The Expression of Power features the songs from the Track Session which was BL’AST second recording session for the original album. The only difference being that Something Beyond and Look Into Myself were omitted and replaced with Scream For Tomorrow. I’m not going to go into a much detail on the second side for obvious reasons. Time To Think doesn’t feature the sample here and sounds more focused. The overall sound on the second side is a lot rawer. 

The alternative versions on this side of the record highlight how much better the remastering job from Brad Boatright was on the first. Scream For Tomorrow was not on the first side. It follows the same punk formula but also includes some rock n roll influences too. It’s not as fast as other songs either. When I first approached The Expression of Power, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I listened to the album though, it grew on me and even though it’s off-kilter and hard to follow at points, it’s still well worth checking out if you’re a fan on punk.

You can stream The Expression of Power via Southern Lord Records here:-



You can also purchase it as a digital download or CD from the above page.

European fans can purchase the 3xLP version from Southern Lord here - http://www.southernlordeurope.com/store/view/the-expression-of-power

US fans can pick the CD up here (the 3xLP doesn't seem to be available) - https://www.southernlord.com/releases/view/the-expression-of-power

BL'AST are currently on a UK/European tour and while the UK leg has finished, they still have some dates left to play. Check out the tour poster below:-


BL'AST Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blast
Southern Lord Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/SLadmin
Southern Lord Records Europe Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/SouthernLordEurope

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Atlas/In Arms - Split 7"


I think that melodic hardcore gets an unfair rap. I think it's due to the the bands closer to the mainstream that just get called "melodic hardcore" by lazy magazine writers. If you scratch the surface, especially in the UK and Europe you'll find loads of really good bands like Light Your Anchor from Germany and the UK's own Departures. That's just the start of it too!

This split 7" from new UK label Footloose Records and Germany's Beyond Hope Records, brings two local Yorkshire bands in to the fray. Atlas and In Arms. As far as I can tell, this is the first appearance on vinyl for either band (though feel free to correct me).

Tracklist:-

1. Atlas - Know Hope
2. Atlas - The Strength In Us
3. In Arms - Asphyxia
4. In Arms - Bleed Me Out

I’ve always found positivity in melodic hardcore. It’s down to the way the music makes me feel, with it’s clean guitar and upbeat energy and Atlas are no different as they open this split with Know Hope. It’s got the melodic riffs I was talking about, coupled with the usual hardcore vox and a strong rhythm section, yet it feels so much more. It feels heartfelt and mature. The power in the screams from Jordan Widdowson increase in ferocity at the start of The Strength In Us and match the more intense instrumentation. Atlas are really accomplished song writers and deliver their two tracks really well.  Top stuff.

In Arms contain obvious similarities to Atlas, yet have their own subtleties. Their opener Asphyxia is slightly more metallic and the drumming toward the ends something else! Bleed Me Out starts with some great punk-led guitar and overall it possesses instrumentation that’s more akin to indie/emo at times. Don’t see that as a bad thing though, as when it sits alongside their hardcore it works really well.  Like Atlas, they know how to write a song and the lead performance during Bleed Me Out is great. Their mix of loud/quiet dynamics shows more variation and adds something different to the split. I’d really like to hear more from both bands.

You can stream the split via Footloose's bandcamp page here:-



If you're in the UK you can order a copy of the split from Footloose Records here - http://footlooserecords.limitedrun.com. Europeans should head over to Beyond Hope Records here - http://www.beyondhoperecords.com/.

Atlas Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/atlasuk
In Arms Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/inarmsuk
Footloose Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Footlooserecords
Beyond Hope Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/beyondhoperecords

Friday, 27 June 2014

Public Domain - Demo Tape


Austrian hardcore punks that skateboard. That's a pretty accurate description of Public Domain. They released their first demo via Headless Guru Records last December and the tape has sold out. They played at TDON 10 earlier this year in Leeds and are due to play in Vienna next week with BL'AST. Their demo contains five songs full of good old punk-filled hardcore.

Tracklist:-

1. Somewhere To Begin
2. What's Left of Me
3. Die By The Board
4. Straight Down
5. Not For You

It’s great to here punk like this coming out of mainland Europe at the moment. More and more bands are stepping away from the tough-guy hardcore sound and moving towards this type of thing. Somewhere To Begin may still sound mosh-worthy but the simple melody and chords, show off a more straight-forward approach while the vocals are raging. 

Public Domain’s songs aren’t overblown or overlong. What’s Left Of Me contains some hints of powerviolence while the second half of the song is more mid-paced. Die By The Board was obviously written by boarders for boarders, with the sound sample at the start and the riotous pace of the song. The gang-vocals project a sense of kinship and togetherness.

They seem to get faster as they go on this demo, with Straight Down hitting harder. They play at pace for the pretty much the whole song, only slowing to add in some groove mid-way. Closer Not For You is peppered with crossover-thrash and even has a sick solo in it, which does no harm at all. If you’re after no-frills hardcore that isn't too serious, then you shouldn't need to look any further than Public Domain.

You can stream the demo and get it as a pay-what-you-want download from Headless Guru Records below:-



Public Domain Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/publicdomainskatepunks
Headless Guru Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/HeadlessGuruRecords

Monday, 23 June 2014

Sunwolf - Midnight Moon/Beholden To Nothing And No One (Double review)


Leeds instrumental band Sunwolf have achieved a lot since their inception on 2012, having released their debut record Beyond The Sun in the same year and followed it up with Midnight Moon in 2013, which allowed them to tour Europe and play with the likes of Chelsea Wolfe. Having witnessed them play in Leeds last year, alongside a mixed bill of bands where they managed to come as my standout, I was really excited when Matt was gracious enough to e-mail me and ask me to review their new album, Beholden To Nothing And No One. I've taken the opportunity to turn this into a double review alongside 2013's Midnight Moon.

As many people who read this blog will know, for me art and music go hand in hand. I like bands that have an aesthetic that matches what they create and knowing that Sunwolf take control of all elements of their art, makes them the perfect example of that. In times when music is becoming more and more throw-away, the need for bands like Sunwolf becomes even greater. Hopefully this feature will make you feel the same way.


Re-winding back to 2013, Sunwolf's second record Midnight Moon was released. It was pressed onto white vinyl via Ark Noise, Speedowax and Invektiv Records and came just as the band set out on a tour of the UK and mainland Europe. It was released on limited tour CD by the band and later as part of a double tape set, alongside their debut album Beyond The Sun. 

Tracklist:-

1. Sellanraa
2. Prey To Melancholy
3. Midnight Moon
4. Mortar & Bricks
5. Breach
6. In Ernest
7. Plateau Pt 1
8. Plateau Pt 2
9. Glacier River

Opener Sellanraa is slow to build, with ambience slowly but surely increasing in volume. The drums make their first appearance just over two minutes, as does the feedback drenched guitar. This is the noise-laden instrumental bastard son of doom and sludge, miss the vocals but with added atmosphere. It’s one hell of an opening tome. Sunwolf play with less obvious song structures during Prey To Melancholy. It’s not as instantly hypnotic as Sellanraa was, yet the swathes of fuzz that envelope the guitars keep a level of momentum going and even during the chuggy section the low-end produces brooding and subtle melody that keeps things on track. There is minimalism hidden in the song too, where the noise gives way to lightly melodic passages and moments of silence.

There’s no moment for breathe and the title track instantly takes over, following the minimalism first used in Prey To Melancholy. The droning bass-line in the background is buried amongst gentle, sensitive guitar playing. it brings ti mind the feeling of staring over a barren desert plain. It’s only a fleeting moment though, as just when you’re getting settled the noise levels rise with cymbal crashes and slow, yet forceful riffs. If you listen carefully and diligently to Midnight Moon, you’ll notice that the songs get shorter the further you go through the album. There’s not a sense of urgency as such, more a feeling of experimentation and variation as Mortar & Bricks plays out, featuring percussion not yet heard of the record in the shape of a glockenspiel, played by drummer Dominic Deane. 

When I first started writing over four years ago, I viewed instrumental music with a certain amount of trepidation. I felt that without vocals, it wasn’t real music. I was obviously wrong then, as since I have witnessed some amazing instrumental bands. Seeing local Leeds band Khuda play at ‘Kin Hell Fest this year was amazing and having the opportunity to see Sunwolf in an intimate setting like the upstairs room at The Fenton was equally as spellbinding. Breach reminds of that night, in between the raging grind and heavy death metal, when for a moment time stood still and crowd stood transfixed. 

Sunwolf mix light percussion with more straight-forward guitar playing during In Earnest, which is a short acoustic piece that carries you into the second half of the album. From here on, Midnight Moon follows a slightly different formula. Instead of noise, they focus on haunting, shorter songs hat feature more ambience and sound effects. The fog-horn like sound that rings out during Plateau Pt 1 hints at peril to come. Plateau Pt 2 is equally as dramatic, but this time featuring more drone and scary walls of noise that layer between the ambience. Ending with the soothing piano of Glacier River, which has been run through electronics to make it sound pretty unsettling, Sunwolf leave you feeling a dazed and confused, yet also empowered. This is improvisational and original, without being inaccessible.



Back in present day and as mentioned in the opening paragraph, Sunwolf are about to release their new album, Beholden To Nothing And No One a mere twelve months after Midnight Moon. Spread across two CD's, featuring fourteen songs and a myriad of guests, it's a big step forward for the band and highlights their will to evolve.




Tracklist CD1:- 

1. In The Darkened River I Found The Silence Loom
2. The Widows Oil
3. Vultures Crown
4. The Wake of Leviathan
5. Thrown Into A Nameless Time
6. Totem
7. Beholden To Nothing And No One
8. Heathens Rest

Tracklist CD2:-

9. Twelve Sunne
10. Come O Spirit, Dwell Among Us
11. Ithaca
12. Symptoms of Death
13. Lotus Island
14. Of Darknesse

Beholden To Nothing… takes the structure and ideas that were formed in Midnight Moon and builds on them tenfold. It’s the first time that Sunwolf have used vocals as a part of their music. Opener In The Darkened River I Found The Silence Loom, features guest vocals from Tiffany Strom of dark ambient bands Myyths and Fvnerals. It begins with their own signature ambience, with droning and building feedback. It feels like the song was built around Tiffany’s vocals, with gentle guitar backing them up during the verses. The introduction of violin, played by Alex Hannan from Band of Hope Union, adds another dimension to the song and an eerie sense of foreboding. In The Darkened River… signals the ambition of Sunwolf and lays the foundations for something special.

The Widows Oil features the minimalistic instrumental layers that were used in Midnight Moon, but thanks to a stronger production, they stir up more emotion in the listener. The guitar and piano creating stop/start melodies that sit atop of quiet layers of noise. They project an altogether different image with Vultures Crown, which is the first slab of doom to feature a guest appearance from BongCauldron’s Ben Corkhill. It’s pretty claustrophobic compared to the opening two tracks on Beholden… but then that’s to be expected. If you’ve ever seen BongCauldron live, you’ll know how heavy they are. This song shows another side to Sunwolf, one that’s more menacing. Ben adds his deep bellow to The Wake of Leviathan as well, which is more improvisational and features a low-end like no other. 

The thing that really strikes me about Beholden… is the way that the songs seem to crafted with their guests in mind. Thrown Into A Nameless Time takes a more laid-back perch on the first CD, with vocals from Phillip Flock of Aleph Null. The harmonies give the song an occult feel, before the off-kilter mid section wakes you up. The chanting and the building volume toward the end takes you back to the droning early days of the band. Even with my limited repertoire of descriptive musical terms, Sunwolf are able to enhance their sound further with each song. Totem, though short in comparison to others on CD1, still permeates with the sound of tight-knit musical ideas and forms a sombre piece of music, that has the punch and underlying melody to get trapped inside your head. Now I’m sure that Sunwolf didn’t set out to make their music catchy, but somehow they manage it here. 

Alex Hannan makes another appearance on the title track, which marks a return to the melodic ambience of the album's opener. It’s the penultimate chapter in the expansive first side of the record and after the dissonance filled songs that preceded it, it’s a welcome shift in tone and feel. The first CD closes as it started, with the soothing tones of Tiffany Strom on Heathens Rest. This is the longest song on the album as just over ten minutes and it builds very slowly, with mournfully plucked guitar and prolonged pauses. This is a great way to end the first side of the album, as the calming movements cleanse you after the earlier section of doom-filled heaviness. The guest saxophone played by Sarah Tyler is another welcome addition and helps make Heathens Rest my favourite song on Beholden To Nothing… so far.

CD2 is shorter and at first it seems more menacing, with the low tones of opener Twelve Sunne. Sunwolf align this song to that of the songs on Midnight Moon, with more ambience and a solely instrumental vibe. The second side feels more like one big movement, split into section as Twelve Sunne flows straight into Come O Spirit, Dwell Among Us. There isn’t as much percussion going on, as Sunwolf allow more noise to permeate through the music. This is the strangest song on the album so far, but in a good way. It sounds like something that would be dreamt up by Sutekh Hexen. The trumpet of John Scully makes it’s first guest appearance on Ithaca, which at time reminds me of the haunting instrumental music of 28 Days Later, but with some John Coltrane mixed in. On Symptoms of Dearth both saxophone and trumpet come together to move the atmosphere even further away from what it was. It’s great that Sunwolf allow time to explore a lighter side to their musical palette and one which breathes life into the latter part of the album.

Lotus Island includes Native American-like chanting and it’s not at all out of place on Beholden… such is the length of Sunwolf’s vision. As a penultimate song, it’s sombre and uneventful when held up against the rest of Sunwolf’s output here, but it still fits in. Of Darknesse opens with beautiful piano and feels very up-lifting. Perhaps there was a reason for Lotus Island sounding the way it did, as it brings out something special in Of Darknesse. Beholden To Nothing And No One is a journey meant to taken in one sitting. You can’t dip in and out of it and you shouldn’t. Music needs albums like this to survive, to grow and to thrive. Even if you’re not an extreme metal or indeed a metal fan at all, you will still find plenty to immerse yourself in here. From the droning dissonance, to the sublime jazz orchestration, this album blows your mind at every turn. I don’t think Sunwolf will top this!

You can stream the entire album via Sunwolf's bandcamp page here, where you can also purchase the CD version and download:-




Or you can buy both physical copies of Beholden.. and Midnight Moon here http://www.sunwolf.bigcartel.com.

Sunwolf Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/sunwolfuk
Ark Noise Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/arknoise.bookings

If you want to check out the projects of Sunwolf's guests, you can do below:-

Tiffany Strom/Myyths - https://www.facebook.com/myyths and Fvnerals - https://www.facebook.com/Fvnerals
Ben Corkhill/BongCauldron - https://www.facebook.com/bongcauldron
Phillip Flock/Aleph Null - https://www.facebook.com/AlephNull.sludge
Alex Hannan/Band of Hope Union - https://www.facebook.com/bandofhopeunion

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The Fear - Here Goes Nothing


Lockjaw Records were always mentioned in Rock Sound Magazine when I was younger (mid-teens) and since that time, they've introduced me to band like Dutch punks Antillectual, as well as bands from closer to home like Almeida and Drones. This record by The Fear has been sitting in my review pile for a long time, but I needed to cheering up after the shoddy excuse for a football team, so   hence the review. Here Goes Nothing was released in mid-2012 and The Fear have played local shows in York/Leeds with bands like Stick To Your Guns and The Wilhelm Scream, so they've got a decent pedigree.

Tracklist:-

1. There Lies Better Days Ahead
2. Turn With The World
3. Saving Grace
4. The Bitter Taste
5. Losing Faith
6. Enemy of Sense
7. Heavy Hearts And Bloodshot Eyes
8. Great News For Typists
9. Suspended With Contempt
10. The Apple 0f My Eye
11. Open All Hours

Lockjaw described The Fear as tech-punk when this album was originally released, and they weren’t far wrong. The sweeping riffs at the start of There Lies Better Days Ahead and the off-kilter time signatures back that up. It’s the vocals though that remind you of the band’s punk roots, with harmonies aplenty. You can hear the mid to late 90’s pop-punk influence in The Fear’s sound. Turn With The World has some sweet NOFX undertones in the vocals. The instrumentation comes across a lot harder, with crunching guitars and rabid drums, that add to the song and don’t overpower it.

Saving Grace highlights The Fear’s songwriting at it’s most proficient as it’s shorter and more urgent, with plenty great guitar work and they follow it straight away with The Bitter Taste, which is equally as good. With the majority of songs on Here Goes Nothing hitting the four and a half minute mark, it’s good to have a few songs where The Fear take off the chains and play with real punk attitude. Loosing Faith takes things back in a more off-kilter direction. I think the metal/hardcore influence and technical aspect of The Fear makes this album so much more listenable, as there’s always something going on in the music and it doesn’t get boring or staid.

The momentum they get from heading straight from one song to another, like when Loosing Faith ends and the band launches into Enemy of Sense, should be how every album is written and recorded. I hate long breaks of silence between songs so The Fear have nailed it for me. They’ve achieved a British sound, while weaving subtle American influences into their music, without allowing them to take over.  Heavy Hearts & Bloodshot Eyes typifies that last point and throws some technical guitar in for good measure. Great News For Typists has a hint of Dropkick Murphy’s about it, but without the fiddles obviously. 

The vocals during Suspended With Contempt are mostly in the higher ranges to start with, further enforcing the band’s 90’s pop-punk sound and reminding me of Ignite, which is no bad thing at all.  As The Apple of My Eye starts you think it’s going to be the band emotive balled but before too long The Fear bounce back into familiar punk territory. Ending it all with Open All Hours, The Fear have done themselves proud on their debut album. Here Goes Nothing may have been released two years ago, but it stands up really well now and sounds great.

You can buy Here Goes Nothing for the bargain price of £2.50 from Lockjaw Records here -http://www.lockjawrecords.co.uk/shop/the-fear-here-goes-nothing/

You can stream the album opener here -



The Fear Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/soundofthefear
Lockjaw Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/lockjawrecords

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Iced Out - Jukai 7"


I've been staring at screens far too much this weekend and with no end product. My only respite was a few hours yesterday afternoon, when I went to watch Agent Attitude, The Hammer and others play a matinee show in Harrogate. I saw Matt Marko there, who I hadn't seen for a while and it was a bit of a blur due to mid-afternoon cider consumption. That leads me nicely onto Jukai.

A collaborative release via Church of Fuck and Moshtache Records, Jukai was Iced Out's first material since their split with Razoreater last year. As with recent releases from Esoteric Youth and Cholera, it was Iced Out's turn to step up their game and if the brill black and while record sleeve is anything to go by, they have done. It's four tracks of dark, riffy hardcore.

Tracklist:-

1. Life Through A Mask
2. Death Riders
3. Faithless
4. Some Kind of Plague

Iced Out have always been a loud and energetic, but with Jukai they seem to have harnessed those qualities and used them to create a create a controlled EP full of sludge-esque, distortion filled songs. Life Through A Mask could be about Mr Lumsdale’s early mask wearing habits during live shows.
Death Riders (featuring a guest vocal appearance from Michael Ribeiro, of label mates Old Skin) takes the tone down further, with a low-end heavy performance. Mixing elements of thrash with their hardcore blueprint and taking influence from the likes of Trap Them, they’ve proven that you don’t need to play fast to rip faces off.

Faithless starts with the kind of intro riffs that persuade you that Iced Out have taken on a diet solely of Down and Crowbar. The riffs during the verses back that notion, yet the whole thing proves how much more focus Iced Out have got now.  They end the onslaught with Some Kind of Plague, which is probably the heaviest and dirtiest song on Jukai. There’s definitely a call for these guys to do a full-length, on the strength of this material. If it’s imposing, dank hardcore you’re after, then look no further than here. 




You can buy Jukai digitally from the above bandcamp page, or you can get the 7" on Transparent Green vinyl from Church of Fuck and from Moshtache Records.

Iced Out Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Icedouthardcore
Church of Fuck Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/churchoffck
Moshtache Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/MoshtacheRecords

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Amber/Locktender - Split 7"


The new split 7" from German post-hardcore band Amber and Cleveland, Ohio's Locktender has only recently been released. It was a collaborative effort by Zegema Beach Records, Halo of Flies and German duo Narshardaa and I Corrupt Records. Locktender have recently been on tour in Europe with The Reptilian, while Amber have played the first edition of Miss The Stars Fest in Germany alongside Hexis and Totem Skin, amongst others. With my current love for post-hardcore/metal and screamo reaching a new level, I was always going to be excited about this split.

Tracklisting:-

1. Amber - Heritage
2. Lovesaken - The Piazza

This is similar to the Ruins/Usnea split I reviewed last week, one track per band. Amber start off with Heritage, which angular and off-beat in places, featuring dual-guitar riffs and emotive vox. Amber’s signature post-hardcore instrumental passages are retained from Lovesaken and the song acts as a clencher for a new release, hopefully.

Locktender’s contribution, The Piazza, compliments the A-side well. There’s the same angular instrumentation with plenty of melody, while the noisy undercurrent and roared screams are at odds with it. Locktender do introspective, contemplation filled atmosphere well and it adds a lot to their side of the split. The extended length of their song also give first-time listeners a fuller glimpse into their sound. 

Amber are the more urgent band here while Locktender provide thinking time and moments of subtle clarity. Both songs act as insights into each band’s sound for new fans and for those already familiar, there’s repeat spins aplenty inside. Both bands are dramatic in equal measure and fully deserve the praise they receive. Ace!

You can stream the split here alongside a bonus track called The Ashes, which is by Amber (that does not appear on the vinyl version of the split):-



As well as being able to purchase it digitally from the labels, you can pick up physical copies of the split from their webstores here:-

Zegema Beach Records - http://www.zegemabeachrecords.com/distro/amber-locktender-split-7
Halo of Flies Records - http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/label-releases/halo66-amber-locktender-split-7/
Narshardaa Records - http://narshardaa.bigcartel.com/product/amber-locktender-split-7
I Corrupt Records - http://icorruptrecords.com/product/preorder-amber-locktender-7

Amber Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/hereisamber
Locktender Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/locktenderband
Zegema Beach Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/zegemabeachrecords
Halo of Flies Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/HALOOFFLIESRECORDS
Narshardaa Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Narshardaa-Records
I Corrupt Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/hirseviolence


Sunday, 8 June 2014

Fuoco Fatuo - The Viper Slithers In The Ashes of What Remains


This year has been so constant in terms of new bands and new releases, it's really been hard to keep up with everything. In my recent run of reviews, I've been trying to focus more on newer release and that focus has brought me to Italian doom/death band Fuoco Fatuo. This three-piece from Varese, first unleashed their gloomy death-march on the world in 2011. They went onto release two EPs and a split EP with Black Temple Below in 2012, followed by a compilation of their first two EPs on tape last year. The Viper Slithers In The Ashes of What Remains is their debut full-length and has been released on both CD and LP by Italian label Iron Tyrant. It was also released via tape on Caligari Records, but has long since sold out.

Tracklist:-

1. Ancestral Devouring Anxiety
2. Junipers of Black Iridescence
3. Inner Isolation In A Sea of Mist
4. Eternal Transcendence Into Nothingness
5. Requiem For Nulun

Much like Fuoco Fatuo’s aesthetic, their music is dark and gloomy. Ancestral Devouring Anxiety starts off slowly, with a later of building noise and guitar feedback. That noise dies away ninety seconds in and reveals the bands true sound. It encompasses slow, low doom instrumentation and deep death-metal bellows, that are used sparsely initially. There are plenty of stop/start moments in the initial passages of Ancestral…, but Fuoco Fatuo do build in intensity as the song progresses. This is as true doom/death as you’re likely to hear, with the band leaning more toward the slow stuff. 

The fact that there is no pause between the opener and the incredulously slow Junipers of Black Iridescence makes it all the more enticing to listen to. Ancestral Devouring Anxiety was a mere warm up it seems, as Junipers… is mightily heavy. Junipers of Black Iridescence features some great guitar ambience later on, thanks to some black metal riffs that burrow their way into the song. They take a turn towards death with Inner Isolation In A Sea of Mist. I mean, it’s still slow in place but with it’s shorter length, it has more urgency. That said, the urgency goes out of the window during the second half of the song, when Fuoco Fatuo throttle back on the pace. It’s still damn heavy though.

The thing with this album is, it’s one that you have to take in in a full sitting, it’s not one that you can dip in and out of. That is intentional as well, as you wouldn’t fully be able to appreciate the power of Fuoco Fatuo’s music if you just approached it in a half-arsed manner. Eternal Transcendence Into Nothingness is as bleak as things get. The first two minutes are made up of crawling, thunderous funeral doom riffs. Much like the album’s opener, this is a pretty intense song, from start to finish. The death flourishes add variation, but there is still a common theme throughout and the riffs cling to a similar phrasing and arrangement than in the previous songs. 

Finishing with Requiem For Nulun, Fuoco Fatuo offer one final doom-laden hymn. Again, like the opening tome of The Viper Slithers…, Requiem of Nulun is slow. With the exception of the vocals, you wouldn’t really guess that Fuoco Fatuo have a foot in the death metal camp. This album has been one hell of a journey, from the opening riffs to the final cymbal crash. Dark, heavy and menacingly atmospheric. People say that progressive metal is thinking man’s metal, but that’s rubbish. Doom is no longer the preserve of the mournful or depressed. Fuoco Fatuo have managed to create an album that takes on a life of it’s own and drags the listener along for the ride. Crushing!

You can stream the entire album via their bandcamp page here:-




You can buy the new LP from Iron Tyrant here - http://irontyrant.wordpress.com/online-store/

Fuoco Fatuo Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/FUOCO666FATUO
Iron Tyrant Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Iron-Tyrant
Caligari Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/CaligariRecords

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Beastmilk - Use Your Deluge 7"


I've seen a lot written about Finnish band Beastmilk and I'm the sort of person who likes to start at the beginning, so I've decided to review their 2012 7". While I'm not a huge fan of the term death-rock, as this was released by Svart Records (a label I intend to write about a lot more in the coming weeks), I was drawn to broadening my musical palette.

To point out how hard it is to classify Beastmilk, they have recently played alongside Doomriders and Herder in the UK, prior to their return at Temples Festival in Bristol. They've grown pretty quickly over the last couple of years, with festival appearances and press coverage, especially since the release of recent album Climax.

Tracklist:-

1. Void Mother
2. Children of The Atomb Bomb
3. Forever Animal
4. Red Majesty

As Void Mother, the guitars in the intro are a lot heavier than I thought they would be. The vocals are clean and at times comes across a bit like Pete Steele, with the same catchy vocal melodies. I know comparing Beastmilk to Type O Negative may have been done before, but I think it’s a fair reference point. One thing Beastmilk do represent, is the sheer breadth and variation coming out of Finland’s rock/metal scene at the moment. The music at times is strangely danceable and Children of The Atom Bomb is morbidly fun, with it’s nuclear theme and end-of-the-world atmosphere. 

I’m building a strange affection for Beastmilk as Forever Animal plays. It’s menacing tone and slightly off-kilter instrumentation, which is stripped back at certain points. The punk elements of their sound aren’t obvious on first listen, but to poke through the gloom and make it even harder to fully classify the band. They’ve been accepted by a lot of punk/metal fans and as Red Majesty completes Use Your Deluge, it’s not hard to see why. Through it’s distortion-laden undercurrent, to it’s pop/rock accessibility, Use Your Deluge inhabits it’s own place within the musical spectrum and while not being a hundred percent original, it’s still creative and accomplished. One for the darker times.

You can stream Use Your Deluge via Beastmilk's bandcamp page here - 




Svart Records have repressed Use Your Deluge, to help fight extortionate second-hand copies that have been going up for sale on Ebay and Discogs etc, so you can get the 7" again via Svart here -
http://svartrecords.com/shoppe/en/rock-kraut-folk-pop/beastmilk-use-your-deluge-7.

Beastmilk Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Beastmilk
Svart Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/svartrecords

Friday, 6 June 2014

The New Tusk - Mine To Breathe 7"


These weekends come around fast nowadays, which is good obviously. With the promise of good weather and some extra beer/record money coming my way, it looks even better. I thought I'd kick it off with the third and final review, in my unofficial Footloose Records trilogy. The New Tusk are from down South and play, in their own words, "low fidelity short attention span punk". Try making that sub-genre term up media hacks!

Anyway, The New Tusk started sometime around late 2013 and have already released a tape called Tropical, via Close To Home Records. They're getting out and about a bit too, playing with Noyo Mathis amongst others. This is a great opportunity to hear what they do, when they're not having a go at Four Year Strong for stealing one of their song titles!

Tracklist:-

1. Much Better
2. The Kids Will Graze Their Knees
3. Spine Straight
4. I Feel It On My Chest
5. Buffer
6. Holland

The punk coming from The New Tusk reminds me of the punk that my hometown kicks out. Really good gruff punk, with a sense of humour and good times written all over it. That’s the impression i get from Much Better anyway. The New Tusk don’t use any faux American accents and play with loads of energy, which manages to come across on record.

Describing their sound a low-fi is doing them a disservice, as the production and mastering job makes them sound so much more real. The urgency of The Kids Will Graze Their Knees illustrates that perfectly. The funny thing about Mine To Breathe is that the further you get into it, the rawer The New Tusk sound. Spine Straight features shout vox that echoes out of the speakers, as well as some great clean guitar in it’s all too brief playing time.

There’s plenty of old UK punk attitude in I Feel It On My Chest and the instrumentation underneath may sound chaotic at times, but it’s perfect. If this is what summer punk circa 2014 sounds like, then I’m pleased as punch. Buffer is raucous while Holland features some true lo-fi verses, while still managing to fit in plenty of melody and energy. Mine To Breathe is really infectious and demands multiple listens. Six songs is a good number for a 7” and I definitely want to hear more from these guys.

You can stream the 7" here - 



Physical 7"s can be bought from Footloose Records here - http://www.footlooserecords.bigcartel.com

The New Tusk Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/thenewtusk
Footloose Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Footlooserecords

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Ruins/Usnea - Split 7"


This is one of the latest releases to come from Halo of Flies (with help from Twisted Chords). It features German crust band Ruins alongside Portland, Oregon's black/doom metal band Usnea (who have recently signed with Relapse Records). I've been looking forward to checking out this split after hearing Usnea do a rendition of the Black Sabbath song, Into The Void, for the CVLT Nation "Master of Reality" compilation. Usnea released their first full-length last year via Orca Wolf Records, featuring two lowly tracks spread of thirty minutes.

German band Ruins play crust/dbeat/hardcore and also released their first full-length last year, via Twisted Chords. They recently did a Euro tour with Age of Collapse, which saw them play in Germany, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. I've not heard too much by them, so this split is a good place to start.

Tracklist:-

1. Ruins - Discrimen
2. Usnea - Only The End Of The World

It’s Ruins that take up Side A of this split, with Discrimen. It’s curious too that they contribute the longer song, even though it’s Usnea who have their sound rooted in doom. Not that it matters though, as Ruins still produce a post-metal strewn noise, which I wasn’t expecting. The vocals sit within the mix, amongst the instrumentation which is dominated by the guitars and the wall of noise that they create. There’s also plenty of metallic riffs hidden in the song, along with shouted, semi-clean vox. Ruins create a glorious racket.

Usnea follow with Only The End Of The World, which similarly begins with a flourish of post-metal. After the clean guitar intro, they kick into a barrage of slow, winding doom, with deep growled bellows and clever lead work. It’s very harrowing and seems to get heavier as it progresses. The brutal mid-section features a long instrumental passage of thick riffs, before things seem to slow down further, as Usnea unleash some anguished, higher-pitched screams to match the abject despair in the song. It’s intense and torturous, but satisfying all the same.


Both Ruins and Usnea have put their all into these songs and even though they both only contribute one, they’ve fully justified that choice because by adding more, they would have diluted their individual styles and sounds. The 7” format is limiting in some aspects, but here both bands have pushed those limits and created something brilliant.

You can stream it courtesy of CVLT Nation here - http://www.cvltnation.com/exclusive-cvlt-nation-streaming-usnea-ruins-7-inch/.

You can grab the split from Halo of Flies here - http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/label-releases/halo70-ruins-usnea-split-7/ and from Twisted Chords here - https://www.twisted-chords.de/mod/artikel/6129/Ruins.

Twisted Chords Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/twistedchords