Flies Are Spies… Grapple With Loss On Third Album, Final Quiet, Which Is Everything But Quiet

Throughout over a decade and a half’s of performing, two albums, three EPs, and a series of remixes, Flies Are Spies have held steady as a band of exhilarating ability and uplifting composition. A reputation they have backed up, and remains unblemished, which in that timeframe for any band, is near unheard of for a band of any stature and recognition. Hell, they even spearhead the Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters collective if you need some indicator of just how invigorating they are, as well as selflessly amplifying the voices of their peers in the process.

Generally speaking mind, any cheery wave would find it hard to cope in the here and now. Flies Are Spies From Hell have taken it pretty hard themselves. The darkening spiral of chaos that society finds itself seeped within, has bred despair, and in the case of Flies Are Spies…, they have suffered grief. While a band well-versed in the patterns of human emotion, and that fact being very well documented, their third opus stings with a salient vulnerability, even that they themselves have previously unexplored. The veil of bereavement hangs opaque over Final Quiet, six songs seemingly orchestrating a narrative of loss, the first half in the closing hours with an undisclosed relationship, which anyone could assimilate for someone beloved, and the second, coming to terms without that individual.

The opening of Final Quiet is Nearly Saw A Light, a bold nine and a half minutes of sombre waves that crash and recede quite spectacularly, and led by piano which even today in post rock canon, still feels like an anomaly. It is the piano however that carves the niche for Flies Are Spies… and rightfully elevates their standing in a genre amongst a seminal field of musicians. It lay beneath a melancholy umbrella for the intro, coupled with some very early tremolo work, inducing a state of high anxiety. The keys certainly speeding up and becoming more frantic hammers this home just as much. Sustaining this tone, along with a gentle rolling of drums, before settling into a mellow passage of solemn plucked notes and a slight rumble of bass, also plays on expected post-rock tropes slyly, slowing down instead of building to an explosive pay-off. Even that then quietens down to just a solo piano performance, layers of lachrymose fogging the ambience of the song and just one of many fine examples of how powerful a piano player Flies Are Spies… have within their midst. Bass gradually backs up the piano, the subtle stroking proving an effective counterpart to rising tension, as does sharp cymbal taps, keeping rhythm without being imposing as such. It’s worth mentioning that drums are wholly kept to a minimum throughout Final Quiet, deployed strictly to maximize the intensity of the music and its emotional output, and their presence or lack thereof, makes for a certifiably distinct listening experience. As the track’s crescendo steadily swells, cymbals grow louder, as do swift clatters of toms, tremolos amplified and morphing this wave of emotion into an all-consuming tsunami of sadness, one that finds itself genuinely moving. Much like the news that someone you love has just mere moments left to live. Or it’s already too late.

Flies Are Spies From Hell on Spotify

Ominous rumble brings in Last Hour, with some beautiful keys to accompany it, another show-stealer of a performance, and only two songs in. The rumble is eventually banished, taken place by some precision plucking of notes, later joined by a bass melody that tugs a heart string or two, and their tremendous interweaving of musical strands here exemplify that it’s often not about how many notes you play, but the right notes you play. For half the song’s duration, the instruments shape and cement the tone of sorrow in such a compelling manner, that drums needn’t be required. It evokes the image of being beside a hospital bed so strongly that tears almost seem obligatory at this stage. Drums explode in, that contemplative demeanour swept away with the accompanying sudden rush of truly electrifying, ferocious guitar, that feels more rooted deep in the throes of conflict than the flash flood of grief, all the while, the piano maintaining that edge of melancholy. You could score a war movie, as much as heartbreak, so succinctly in just these six minutes.

Both halves of Final Quiet are back-ended by two sub-three minute pieces, the first being Afloat Apart, a pause for breath and clarity, that a harmony of piano and guitar usher in ambience, serenity awash on an aural palette that serves as a flashback or a recollection to the greatest moments with whomever this individual was. Equally, you could call it an ascension if you are spiritually inclined to. Interpretations aside, it is an achingly beautiful piece of music. The second of these pieces is Lost By Morning, which realistically requires the context of the previous All The Smiles At Night, to make complete sense in the general overarching narrative. The piece, while seamless in transition from the previous track, focuses solely on piano and closes the album, now so overcome and bereft with sadness, that this deliberate ending performance reigns in the feeling of isolation like a brick to the head. A solo performance for a solitary life. If you made it through Final Quiet without crying to this point, grab yourself a Kleenex for this one. Soul-stirring simply doesn’t do it justice.

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Yet perhaps it is the two tracks that make up Final Quiet’s second half, Always Bereaved, and the aforementioned All The Smiles At Night, that sit so firmly in current reality, that they resonate the most strongly. Always Bereaved comes to terms with immediate loss, gloom creeping in at the inset, far slower in pace than anything before, and once again, crafting this dour mood so effortlessly, it becomes immersive. Despite an exquisite composition of guitar, piano, and bass, their carefully spaced playing of notes conjuring a drained and dare I say, dark and depressed atmosphere, it is the drums with precise cymbal taps that add the most important nuances of gravitas to this scene. The volume, as does the aggression in which the instruments seem to get played with, builds to a simmer, the patterns and execution growing faster, as does growing turmoil inside. Piano and guitar especially, seem to battle one another for absolute control over how powerful an emotional impact is made, and their syncopation almost makes it chaotic, a rising distress level waiting to boil over imminently. But half way in, a curious guitar lick, the most infectious of its kind on the album, causes everything to subside, and the instruments then use it as a cornerstone to build around. It is this build-up and resolution that is Final Quiet’s best, the outpouring of sound very much akin to an emotional or mental breakdown, and the harmony of guitar and piano here tightening the screws on your tear ducts to magnificent effect.

All The Smiles At Night then presents itself as the ongoing struggle with loneliness or wanderlust even, painting a picture to try and fixate on a normality, when this world has been thrown off its axis. Sparse at the beginning with only guitar opening, piano enters to an almost blues-like meditative state, perhaps Final Quiet’s only moment where vocals could, but not necessarily should, slot in perfectly. An ode to someone dearly treasured lends itself well to this passing breeze here. Enter the drums, which for the first time on this album, shifts to an upbeat, almost rousing pace. In practice, it almost brings in a jazz-like quality to the music, albeit one where you are the only stationary body in a lively, always moving environment. Perhaps the song title suggests trying to be amongst friends or in a public place, faced with tens, possibly hundreds of realities separate or absent from your own, and grief in that moment, makes you alone in a crowded room. The last few minutes certainly seem to suggest so, heavier slams of chords so out of character and verging into noise, detaching the listener from this state of immersion and back into our own reality. That deafening moment, drowning out all other distractions, to be left with your own thoughts.

Final Quiet is a masterpiece, a compelling, cinematic realm inside bereavement deemed essential listening for the musically courageous and any healing hearts. Flies Are Spies From Hell have proven yet again to be one of post rock’s stand out acts, their compositions still so strong and evocative after 16 years, that time hopefully never slow them down.

 

Final Quiet is out now on all good and respectable music retail outlets.

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The Secret Tsunami Club – S1E10

‘Music can’t make waves, if you don’t know it exists’ – The Soundshark.

Broadcast #10, from a realm in time and space that has intercepted two hours of the best in under the radar, underground, and unsigned music.

This is the Secret Tsunami Club.

Tracklist:

Choir Noir – Arcarsenal
The Criticals – Under Your Nose
Eyesore & the Jinx – Nightlife
Screamers and Sinners – Fraidy Cat
Deep City Diver – The Detail
Cerulean Veins – Fell In Love
Code Ascending – Thermite
The Fangs of the Dodo – Home?
Cthuluminati – Illumni Fhtagn
Insect Ark – Philae
Misery Signals – The Tempest
Pale Mare – Zealot
Cryoshell – Dive
CABLE – If/Only
Vogue.Noir – Resolution
Processor – Mob Safari
Peregrihn – Ambrosia
Malo – La dune
Masked – Neo Sword
Mirko Hirsch – Leaving Ground
Rodney Hunter – Taste A Bit
The Bolide – Antiquarks
Giganti – Olympa
Monomi – Spell On Me
Sohnarr – The Mermaids of Bergsjøn

Please support the artists featured.

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The Secret Tsunami Club – S1E09

‘Music can’t make waves, if you don’t know it exists’ – The Soundshark.

Broadcast #9, from a realm in time and space that has intercepted two hours of the best in under the radar, underground, and unsigned music.

This is the Secret Tsunami Club.

Tracklist:

The Homeless Gospel Choir – Young and in Love
The Kimberley Steaks – Nothing To Think About
Patrón – Who Do You Dance For
Bella Stella – Adicto
Cornea – Daydreamer
Barrens – Arc Eye
The Chant – Peace Underwater
Four Stroke Baron – Lunatic Fringe
Lost In Lavender Town – Season Two
Neck Of The Woods – Strange Consolation
reg3n – Schwag Hash
Panic Priest – Nighthunter
Saigon Blue Rain – BPD
Minoar – Burial
MODERNS – Célébrité
GEIZ – You Think You’re Lucky
Bec Plexus – Mirror Image
Fire-Toolz – Microtubules
Rural Internet – Heat Death 1991
Haezer – Black Water (ft. Born I)
SHARPS & Whales – Evacuate
Dita Redrum – SHADOWRUN
Head Splitter – Human Evolution
SIN DNA – Scraping Gehenna
Peter Aries – Everlasting

Please support the artists featured.

Want all the music, but with no interruptions?

Here’s a playlist of this show’s music:

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Eurovision 2020: Ranked From Worst To Best

In the final instalment about this year’s sadly doomed and cancelled Eurovision, and to give every artist equal antagonism, as the home nation song and the Big 5 avoided scrutiny as the only songs not in the two semi-finals (which you can read about here and here for a more in depth roasting), the 2020 trilogy will end with The Soundshark running through and ranking every Eurovision entry this year, in order from least favorable, to the crème de la crème. Let this serve as a statement on ultimately who I thought should’ve won this year.

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The Soundshark… Does Eurovision 2020 – Semi-Final 2

In continuation of a fantasy booking scenario, where the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest survived the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the hope of providing some light entertainment in these troubling times, The Soundshark presents the second semi-final of the already pre-planned brackets (while also abiding by an improvised and hybrid set of drinking rules), to fulfil the scenario of a potential grand final. Remember, this is all purely personal opinions and light humour, so nothing is meant to offend. Just think of me as a less funny Graham Norton or Sir Terry Wogan. Or just less funny. With fun in mind, this is how the second semi-final played out, quickly going over the drinking rules again, in case you wish to play along or had forgotten them.

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The Soundshark… Does Eurovision 2020 – Semi-Final 1

On the 18th March, the world lost one of its landmark calendar moments of unity through music, when for the first time in its 64-year tenure, the Eurovision Song Contest was cancelled, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eurovision has now scheduled something in place of the original contest, honouring those who were originally supposed to be participating. But there is still part, well, of myself, that yearns for the original broadcast and format to play out in a fantasy scenario, that admittedly got out of hand. In the means of providing some light entertainment in these troubling times, The Soundshark sat through both semi-finals of the already pre-planned brackets (while also abiding by an improvised and hybrid set of drinking rules) and chose a set of 10 finalists from each, to fulfil the scenario of a potential grand final. This is all purely personal opinions and light humour, so nothing is meant to offend. This is all meant to be in the name of fun, so I always tend to go into this blind, with almost zero prior knowledge of what I’m about to hear. Just think of me as a less funny Graham Norton or Sir Terry Wogan. With fun in mind, here’s how Semi Final 1 played out, first explaining the drinking rules, in case you wish to play along and endure as well.

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The Secret Tsunami Club – S1E08

‘Music can’t make waves, if you don’t know it exists’ – The Soundshark.

Broadcast #8, from a realm in time and space that has intercepted two hours of the best in under the radar, underground, and unsigned music.

This is the Secret Tsunami Club.

Tracklist:

Rosegarden Funeral Party – Once In A While
Beach Panic! – Lover Boy
Take Flight – Listening.
Nasty Fishmonger – Grace O’Malley
Black Orchid Empire – Death From Above
Kryn – Risset
Shadow Ghost – Moralist
Riviẽre – New Ghost
Gaytheist – It’s Reigning Men
Classically Handsome Brutes – Try Harder
99% Cobra – Lust & Fear
SEED – Hole
Seeress – Theatre of Snow
ULTRA SUNN – The Shadows
Mareux – Spectral Tease
Youth Code – Puzzle
Randolph & Mortimer vs. ROÜGE – Sermon Three
Ajaton – Chrome Serpentis*
Lazerlvst – Ascension
Juche – Neo Riot
Petrol Bastard – You Can’t Eat Ferraris (feat. Mark Sauve)
Diatomic – Laser Raptor
Kingbastard – My Robot Child Is An Underachiever
Hologram Dagger – A Nature’s Preserve (ft. ten)
Kota – Mourn

*Editor’s note – Wrongly proclaimed Ajaton to be from the UK, when they’re actually from Finland, apologies.

Please support the artists featured.

Want all the music, but with no interruptions?

Here’s a playlist of this show’s music:

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Introducing: Nasty Fishmonger

The fishmonger by trade is an ancient one, a guild officially recognised, ratified, protected, and regulated by the crown as early as 1212, and forms one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London. Today, better known as the Fishmongers’ Company, or the far more grandiose Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, they still stand as a significant authority in upholding the standards, of retail and trading within the seafood industry. Safe to say, they have a lot of heritage and history to celebrate for what is commonly revered as a humble and modest profession. It is exactly the kind of heritage and lore that bards and folk musicians have thrived upon for centuries; to able to artistically recollect tales in such rousing fashion, that their own words, songs, and melodies, endure as long as the history they’re based upon. Bristol’s Nasty Fishmonger, of course based in the West Country, a realm with its own rich history and unique traditions upheld, are no exception to this mentality.

For this trio of university friends, what initially began as a one-off, tongue-in-cheek performance, has shifted and expanded into a bright, burning new star on the UK folk scene, within just eighteen months. Going from corpse paint in their local venue, to sharing the same stage with Port Isaac Fisherman’s Friends in under a year, is some real heavyweight endorsement. That’s no matter of luck either. The union and chemistry between Captain Rehab, Lizzie Blower, and Shanty Dan, generate a formidable, infectious energy so powerful, the pride of Her Majesty’s Navy would be envious. Fitting then, that their first recorded output honour the life and times of fearsome Irish pirate queen, Grace O’Malley, who infamously stood against Elizabeth I.

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In their riotous live performances, Grace O’Malley has become their opening gambit; four minutes of stomping punk rhymes and sharp-tongued narration, driven by the feisty fretwork of Captain Rehab. Gentle, perhaps understated plucks of mandolin, interject beneath the already tremendous kinetic force of acoustic guitar, those singular notes so subtly adding emotional depth to this ballad, it deserves commendation for how rich their songwriting strength really is. The story begins with O’Malley’s pleads to accompany her father overseas to Spain, to share in the family’s trade forays in that coastal domain, performed with the command of a town crier, mere inches away from a full-on punk snarl or a pirate’s growl seeping into the vocals. The fact neither fully engulf the dialect, yet those ever-so familiar tones linger in every inflection, carry that rebellious spirit marvellously. Then the thumping of kick drum begins, alongside several sustains from the recorder, the harmonies imbuing a sense of romanticism and airiness, a sea breeze if you will, to the recollection of O’Malley’s brief marriages, that pumping tempo leading straight to the chorus, and into her chief role of defending the shores from English oppression. The unison at the end of everybody’s vocals, emphasising the teachings of O’Malley, has the pair of male vocals more prominent, and while maybe or maybe not intentional, serves a clever little juxtaposition and only further reinforces the pirate queen as a brilliant, but sorely forgotten figure of historical feminism.

Details of the conquest of Doona Castle, and the aforementioned confrontation with Queen Elizabeth later unravel, the duly noted refusing to bow before her, and carrying a dagger as protection, causing quite the stir for its time, and afterwards, led to her support of Irish insurgents in the Nine Years War. You could even argue that the final minute of the song, the manic adrenaline of guitar, banjo, and recorder, with the kick drum gathering pace, encapsulates an aural metaphor for battle frenzy, or at its loosest listen, some form of wardance. In any case, after such a tall tale, to create that kind of exhilaration, the kind that this fascinating character led her entire life by, is a fitting testament and tribute. And to think that only begins a Nasty Fishmonger live show. Plainly and simply, for a first single, this is a band with the incendiary attitude, and the devotion and ingenuity to translate fables and folklore, into the most rapturous, yet meticulously textured history lesson you’ll ever participate in.

Grace O’Malley is released 17/04/20, with a live stream to celebrate the single launch to follow.

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The Secret Tsunami Club – S1E07

‘Music can’t make waves, if you don’t know it exists’ – The Soundshark.

Broadcast #7, from a realm in time and space that has intercepted two hours of the best in under the radar, underground, and unsigned music.

This is the Secret Tsunami Club.

Tracklist:

Indian Queens – Shoot For Sexy
Grave Danger – Undead End Job
Casino Kid – Mr. Rat
Ginkgo Dawn Shock – The Second Fish Curse
Exploring Birdsong – The River
Lindsay Schoolcraft – Dangerous Game
Diamond Tactics – Pink Mist
THORN. – Noctum
Huge Molasses Tank Explodes – So Much To Lose
Los Tabanos Experience – Majestic Volcano
Fault Choir – Marketplace
Plague of Carcosa – The Crawling Chaos
Helalyn Flowers – Suicidal Birds
Maud The Moth – As Above So Below
C O L D K I S S – World’s Burn
Airsh4d3 – aurora
Pete Crane – You Are Not Your Body
THEY.I – Vegas Mode
Immortal Girlfriend – Ride
Blanku – Miracle (feat. NVRLUV)
FFF – No Ice Cream
3VS – Red Sun Drive
The Oscilloscope – Shaded Diagram
Boogie Belgique – Cessna (ft. Ian Burgina)
Okami (O) – Ikara

Please support the artists featured.

Want all the music, but with no interruptions?

Here’s a playlist of this show’s music:

Independently curated, recorded, produced, and edited by The Soundshark.

All episodes so far can be found here.

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Peter Steele And Me

Peter Steele

As I sit on April 14th, yet again mourning the loss of Type O Negative’s Peter Steele, and reliving the sorrow that I will never get to see this monolithic band on stage, ever, on the 10th anniversary of Peter’s passing, I felt I should add some words of my own, to the floods of tributes already paid, to a literal giant of the alternative music scene.

The first time I truly recall the work of Type O Negative in my life, was a feature in Kerrang, with a beginner’s guide to their work (which was an excellent feature and I think they should’ve kept up, and unless the well ran dry, someone else could really monetise this premise), highlighting their 15 best songs, and the albums you should purchase. Although my love of music had not yet blossomed to its fullest strength, track names, album titles, and finer details quietly seeped into my brain of this newly acquired band, and did not awaken until three or so years later. That being in a time where music streaming and YouTube were still in their embryonic stages, and as a teen with little money, mp3 samples on online retail outlets, and the use of LimeWire, were my common practices to cherry pick and obtain the music I wanted to listen to. Yet I didn’t make the first step. My brother did.

My brother, head deep into his emo phase at this time, scoped out and sourced various different, often provocative, bands and songs from LimeWire, put them on an iPod, or played directly from his laptop, and that music permeated out of his bedroom door seven days a week, right up until he slept. One such song he played was Dead Again, taken from the titular album around the time of its release, and while it never initially gripped me, rotations over months and a huge love for thrash metal, brought pleasure when it belted out from his speakers. I eventually asked for the song to listen to myself, and in that moment, triggered the memory of that Kerrang article, and the song titles I should seek if I wanted to hear more. Unbeknownst to me, my brother did also have this song himself, but Wolf Moon, acclaimed to be the best song they had written by whomever was in charge of that article, was the song I next listened to, and it tore open an entirely new realm of music to me.

There was something about that bone-grinding bass tone against the backdrop of ethereal gloom, the keys alone scratching that 80s itch I’d later become obsessed with, but his ungodly bellow, reaching from a place of pain yet staggeringly melodic, totally floored sixteen year old me. How could something sound so gargantuan, melancholic, and beautiful at the same time? My first encounter with Wolf Moon did precede becoming better acquainted with Sabbath’s back catalogue, but in those six minutes of head-crushing bliss, a world where Ozzy and Paul McCartney went for a sad drink in the pub, and wrote songs together, made absolute sense. I wholeheartedly defend Wolf Moon as the best song ever written about giving head to a girl on her period.

Wolf Moon became somewhat of a staple in what was a meek offering of my musical tastes, but my love and fascination with Peter Steele and Type O Negative never truly took off until Spotify sprung into existence. I had already owned Dead Again in full by this time, but the true birth of music streaming, enabled me to experience so much more of what was Type O’s darker, heavier, and often deeply hilarious universe. You can take countless examples through out their career on what is considered as the funniest Type O song, but mine remains September Sun from Dead Again, while an excellent song in its own right, it almost exists solely to be a upbeat pastiche of November Rain. The Drab Four was perhaps an astute term befitting their music, but it cannot be understated just how funny this band were, attached or separated from their art.

With firm adoration established, the very harsh reality that I could never experience them live began to set in. No chilling rendition of Love You To Death. No deafening chants of Black No.1. No tongue-in-cheek pomp of My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend. No venue-trashing frenzy from I Don’t Wanna Be Me. That particular space in my head to fill with being in the same room with another of my favourite bands, will forever remain a void, and hollow.

Peter Steele, a man whose lore and public perception paints him as one of the nicest people to grace alternative metal, who battled his own demons and vices for decades, and perhaps in a final hope, turned back to Catholicism in his last years, before his body succumbed to the damage that had been done to it. A larger than life person and personality that could never take to the stage again. Especially in an age where the veil surrounding mental health is gradually dissipating, his demeanour and conduct was always that of a magnetic and wildly entertaining songwriter and individual. Were he still alive, could things have been any different? Perhaps, but with so many warming accounts, archive footage, and of course his incredible back catalogue, to ponder that what if scenario only does an injustice to the memories of those who met him, and were touched by his music. A man who by his twilight years came in touch with his own mortality, and despite not following so many parallels with, I felt a genuine human connection to.

The greatest example I can offer you is a lengthy interview with the often considered divisive Juliya, which is still one of my favourite videos I revisit, in which her closing question to the band is ‘How would you like to die?’ The vast majority of the interview is jovial in tone and while the rest of the band answers in the same light-hearted manner, Peter answers with the following, could be considered sobering, statement:

‘How would I like to die? It wouldn’t really matter, so long as I made a difference in the world.’

Every April 14th, I’m reminded of these words as a moral code to abide by, in the hope I can one day get closer to that goal of feeling like I too can make a difference before I shuffle off the mortal coil. It seems fitting that Peter admired Rasputin, a historical figure who famously couldn’t die, because for the influence he has had on my life, and countless others, as a musician and as a true innovator, he too, will surely never die in the hearts of music fans either.

Thank you, Peter.

Rest in peace.

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