bIg toBacCo CoMpaNY

There’s an unwritten rule you’re told from a young age but seldom expected to abide by. After all, free will is a marvellous gift and is certifiably one of the things that defines us as living organisms. Never judge a book by its cover. Perhaps a little too metaphorical for the context of this website, but it certainly taught me a lesson. A trend that seems to have emerged, especially within the indie community, is to take an average, everyday phrase and build a superb band identity around it. Fat White Family or The Neighbourhood for example, being perhaps two well-known and excellent cases for this observation. So hopefully I can be forgiven for assuming that on first glance, this could have been another to add to this trend. I honestly went in, expecting to hear a killer indie band. Boy was I surprised. Big Tobacco Company, though stylised as bIg toBacCo CoMpaNY, as opposed to being another of indie’s next big things, are actually an eccentric, movie monster mash-up of a metal band, similar in the vein of System Of A Down. And much like the young rapscallions that System Of A Down once were, tongues seem to not so much be firmly in cheek as boring a hole for freedom, if their social media is anything to go by. Their band logo is a baby rocking heavy duty headphones with a cigar taped to one ear, and the font looks drawn in Paint and coloured with stock textures from Word ’98 for christ sakes. But that’s where the joke begins to end. Amusing as their own antics are, there’s a pack of ferocious wolves that lay beneath the surface, luring you into falling for timidity only to have outstretched hands torn apart in a lust for bloodshed. They can be an unfathomably heavy experience to say the least, occasionally convulsing through their mood swings at times, but all while distancing themselves from the towering landfill of metal and deathcore wannabes. Doom Shroom, a slice taken from their perceived to be forthcoming debut album, demonstrates a little bit of the asylum mentality that their music takes on. Opening with almost nonchalant bass notes, little time is wasted in bursting out with guitars pulverising like stone fists from the gods, relentless drums hounding on your eardrums and vocals that switch from screams that could wither children in an instant, to gruelling, guttural growls you can feel at the pit of your own stomach, to understated clean sections which can only be described as the musical ramblings of a madman, complete with a melody you won’t forget in a hurry. But in a good way, it certainly has a Corey Taylor-kinda vibe to it. The addition of the choir puppeteered by keys halfway and at the end, also adds a nice extra atmospheric dimension instead of announcing a straight-up warpath. Doom Shroom doesn’t quite showcase their entire bag of tricks, but it’s an excellent introduction. The wackiness may not be to everyone’s taste, but there is still a brutal foundation for a formidable, enrapturing and undeniably unique metal force, unlike many before them. And remember kids, always check the label carefully, you never know what you’re getting yourself into.

I’m led to believe that once upon a time there was a six-song EP of theirs floating around, only it’s since disappeared from the internet. So until that time where material is released you should go to their website and listen to the three songs out there, being Doom Shroom, C0mb0 Song and rIpPleS, and else just have a general nose around.

Go give them a big virtual hug:

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The Black Tears

I’ve always been weary of the phrase ‘re-imagining a classic,’ just for the connotations of altering an item of much adoration so it fits in with a modern mindset. More often than not in musical terms, that would come in the form of cover versions of songs, in which a change in tempo or even musical style could bring about that phrase, for opening the minds of people, to thinking of the original beloved version in an entirely different way. This is by no means a new concept in the industry, but allow me to give it some context. The 90’s are making a comeback, long story short, and whilst I remain dejected or indifferent about less-than-to-be desired trends and genres of music, some I’m pleasantly content for a revival of. By their own admission, Nuneaton’s The Black Tears are ‘unapologetically influenced’ by the Seattle grunge scene, traces of their work certainly recalling Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains to name but a few. This female-fronted four piece not only invoke that spirit of angst and disenchanted youth, but their taming of a now iconic sound has settled into a bluesier territory, making for a very intriguing listen. Their past EPs and album very much were piloting a straight-up emulation, but greater experience on stage and on the road is moulding them into a truly enthralling beast of a band, especially on the basis of their most recent double A side single Liquid Fabulous. While the title track itself is belted out in a siren-fronted Soundgarden-esque dreamstate, it’s the flipside La Ghooste that fuses the new found blues flavour into the grunge counterpart, to form what resembles a melancholy soul ballad as performed by a lightly downtuned Alice In Chains. The plucking of bass at the beginning with the reverb of the guitar swipes gives the mood an atmospheric haze that with vocalist Lischana Lane’s velvet tones, sets the scene for a smouldering performance. Verses remain a quieter affair, melodies from the guitars teasing an inevitable shift in amplitude, but giving an aura of tragedy to the words spoken. Drums propel the pace steadily, prominent and powerful, yet never overcomplicated or detracting from the forte of the vocals. It slots perfectly into the tone and ambience of the storytelling. Reaching the chorus, that Alice In Chains overdrive kicks in with the guitars delivering the right sorrow-tinged notes in a heavier persona, even adding some wailing into the equation for good measure, all the while with vocals spreading wings before soaring into the skies. The last minute certainly infers as much, an impressive vocal range in numerous altitudes, to the tune of guitars twisting tension in the closing moments. The blues-infused grunge dream weaving of The Black Tears is an utterly fascinating experience, one that deserves far greater recognition. There lays the workings of sheer brilliance in their rendition of grunge’s finest, wringing the raw emotion and energy out of the sound beautifully, but in shaping it with another of history’s greatest sounds, the label of a classic reinvention never seems more appropriate.

Their most recent EP Liquid Fabulous from April last year, 2013’s Philosophy Of Perception EP and 2012’s album Lacrimal Lake are all available from most respectable music retailers for a reasonable fee. In the meantime, they have a website you should be looking at for their gigs and other things.

You should go like them on social media right away:

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The .Invalid

Technology always finds a way to astound us as human beings. It seems that however our civilisation conducts ourselves, there is something beyond our imagination that we hadn’t considered or we didn’t believe was possible. That is whether a new mechanical marvel or edging nearer photo-realistic graphics in a video game, just to name two examples of possibilities, constant breakthroughs or refinements, or even building something entirely from the ground upwards keeps us on our toes, wondering what is next to come. I find my relationship with electronic music is very much a similar affair. Only you occasionally have to excavate producers or musicians who dare to innovate or engineer like no one before them. That certainly seemed the case with the one man electro-industrial project The .Invalid, a true beacon of hope in the bland landfill of harsh distorted vocals and overly intense synthesisers. The vision of Edinburgh resident Seamus Bradd, The .Invalid ties together dual vocals leaning on a metal sensibility of clean and screamed, but atop a mountain of utterly breathtaking ambience and jaw-dropping production values, especially for a debut LP. For something titled The Aesthetics Of Failure however, unless in reference to the vast soundscape of emotions and moods linked to such that is explored on the album, the end result is nothing short of triumphant. Ranging from four to the floor soul-charged EBM stompers to atmospheric marvels to downtempo tugs of the heart, even more synth-pop orientated numbers, there seems to be very little the undeniably talented producer can’t do. In an album full of stellar, stand-out tracks, wittling down to a personal favourite seems incredibly unfair for undoubtedly one of the best albums I’ve heard last year. The honour does go to, as also indicated by my favourite songs of last year, Blind Myself for balancing everything that this album accomplishes so well into just over four minutes of EBM magnificence. From the introduction of rhythmic static, it leads in a beat engineered to thump you hard right in the chest, while warm arpeggios bubble beneath it, but never overpoweringly so. If anything is overpowering, it’s the euphoria from the emotional intensity from both sets of vocals, especially against the melody of the bright, airier synth in the chorus, which in its own right, hands down one of the most beautiful moments on the entire album. While lyrics are hard set on settling the score on a heartbreak, they really strengthen the impact of every intricacy and nuance in the sound design, no matter which tone is in use. The entire track is just the total package of what an unforgettable floorfiller should be: a memorable hook, a beat that shakes you to the core, perfectly complimenting layers of instrumentation, an atmosphere that expands any venue tenfold and the added emotional depth of a familiar life situation. Make no bones about it, the talent that this man has is unreal, and for a first LP, the energy and due care shown in his production defies vocabulary. This album is by far the most exciting injection of lifeblood into electro-industrial, in a very, very long time and broadcasts the emergence of an extremely capable producer, destined for greatness down to his extraordinary ability.

Traces of The .Invalid and Seamus Bradd appear to have disappeared from social media (apart from his personal Twitter account which I’m not gonna link to for privacy’s sake), he currently is now providing sound design for a new Halo mod, but please please please go listen to and buy The Aesthetics Of Failure from Bandcamp, it is an investment you will not regret. Also available at most respectable music retailers too, but just go give the man money.

And if you think I’ve done this gentleman justice, maybe you’d like to show me some support too by giving me a digital thumbs up, like, follow or subscription to the blog, all entirely optional of course:

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Ambra Red

To follow on from a point made in a previous post on this blog, although there are parts of the industry that are highly successful for women, there are some still in which women still struggle in, or there is a real lack of a presence in. Formerly I talked about rock and metal, now I’m talking about electronic music producers. There are some that have made substantial contributions to electronic music a la Ladytron’s Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo or Freezpop’s Liz Enthusiasm and Marie ‘Christmas DIsco’ Sagan, that’s an indisputable fact. But I’m more referring to solo ventures, fearless females that near single-handedly produce all the content they make. Bjork is a famous example, as is Sister Bliss of Faithless fame, but they seem very far few and between prominence. I already have given notice to organic ambient maestro Hannah Davidson a.k.a. Mrs Jynx from Manchester previously on this blog, but it’s high time I gave plaudits to another. Enter Ambra Red from Sweden. It’s no secret that the European synth-pop scene is one of the strongest in the world, and despite disappearing off of the face of the earth, her collection of singles she produced in the period of time she was active is near an immaculate quality. Purposing producing lavish melodies like an arrow to the heart of popular music, while one foot strays into dancefloor territory and her tongue a sharp enough implement to slash at contemporary culture. Her career lasted an undisclosed amount of time, according to the shreds of evidence surrounding her on the internet, but long enough a timespan to produce 20 songs to be compiled onto what seems to be her only studio album, Electronic Creations For Special People. Many of her songs are impeccably written in the manner of synth-pop’s greatest, and Beauty 606 is personally one of the best the album has to offer. The twist of a radio dial into a punchy disco beat with a low-riding bass line starts the show, with Ambra’s hushed but sensual tones digging at perceived model beauty standards. Her calm, near reaching siren-esque demeanour makes her criticisms even more effective against the vibrant, cheery synths and layers upon layers of intricate percussion driving the track along. Special attention has to be given to the chorus’ inescapable hook line, as it’s one that burrows hard into your brain. Once its there. you’ll have a difficult time being rid of it as you’ll be whistling the melody for a good few days. As I said, an unsung hero of the modern synth-pop scene, with such carefully constructed, clean-sounding production and a midas touch for writing excellent pop songs that not only could seduce the dancefloor republic, but could nestle into any of the playbooks of the best to grace the mainstream with fingers on keyboards.

Having disappeared into the nether for around five years now, social media for her are hard to trace, but she still has a website up with links to where you can listen to and buy her works. So I’d highly recommend using that as your port of call, only because Amazon sold physical copies of her album beyond ridiculously prices.

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Adimiron

Now people I imagine are familiar with the concept of supergroups. A band put together from existing members of other established bands to make musical output. Some famous examples of this being Led Zeppelin, Audioslave, Velvet Revolver, Roadrunner United and more recently Teenage Time Killers, the latter two bands being examples of super collectives more than super groups. But I wonder if metal bands have ever considered the scenario of being drafted into a fantasy band league, people putting their two cents in to craft the best or a totally unique band based on the calibre of the musicians chosen. Obviously it would personally be far more interesting for a league like that over say a football one, but that comes with the consequences of being a music fanatic. Adimiron to me, leap out as a result of if that fantasy metal league were to exist. Combining the courageous, but venomous roars of Machine Head, the brutal simplicity of Meshuggah’s riff onslaught and the phenomenal technicality and precision of Gojira’s sticksman, the five gentlemen from Rome specialise in a titanic and constantly evolving exercise in maximum blunt force trauma. It would go without saying that their comparisons and influences mean their music carries substantial weight behind it and boy is it heavyweight. We’re talking collapsing tower block levels of heavyweight. Having held the honour of supporting of some of their heroes only adds to their legitimacy of being an all-opposing and all-conquering demolition crew of a band. The release of last year’s Timelapse has seen them take their punishing tech-metal avalanche to a new level, gathering critical acclaim from more than several luminaries of the metal press. The instrumental force of which they strike down upon is earth-shattering and rightfully applauded with glowing words and praise. State Of Persistence, the personal highlight of the nine bone-crushing pieces Timelapse holds, showcases the very best of that musical fusion discussed earlier. Matching note for hit, the opening is a gigantic sledgehammer of guitars and drums in unison already raining hard, also teasing a little of that time signature madness later to come. Then the utterly terrifying roars burst through the gates, to the battering of double kicks and a merciless barrage of riffs, completing the wolfpack and letting chaos loose. That wolf metaphor is no joke, as the time signature, on this song alone is torn and pulled apart like a piece of meat, constantly shifting with whatever pulverising metallic force comes next. You get a fantastic vocal showing too, between some incredibly powerful growls and soaring clean bellows, not to mention the clash of light and darkness in a Thordendal-esque ambient solo against the backdrop of the other mighty guitar hammerfall. No doubt it, these guys definitely deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Meshuggah and Gojira. Adimiron are well within the top echelon of the thinking man’s metal warlords, and Timelapse is an exclamation point, executed with excellence that should mark a meteoric shift in their sphere of influence.

There are at least two other studio albums of theirs around, for now Timelapse and 2011’s K2 as well as a limited edition single can be bought from their Bandcamp page, but When Reality Wakes Up and Burning Souls can be bought from most respectable music retailers.

Go show them some love on social media:

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Stalin

Bewilderment I’ve always thought is an unusual word. I can’t exactly explain why, but I’ve never felt overly compelled to use it in general conversation. According to the Oxford English dictionary, the definition of the word bewilderment is the state of being puzzled or confused at events that have transpired. Out of context, if you happen to be followed by an identity known only to you as Stalin, you can only be bewildered as to how this occurrence came about in the first place. After all, Stalin, the man himself, is one of the most divisive figures in modern history, as well as a hip-hop artist also from California apparently. So, just who or what is Stalin? That too is a subject of bewilderment. Although the facts are they are a rock band, there’s at least two of them and they have an interest in cult, stretching to occult paraphernalia, a box to define their sound or style doesn’t quite seem to fit them. Elements of bands in sparse amounts you can claim make up the fibre of their already distinct musical output, but aside from a background reminiscent of the school of grunge, they really are a beast of a unique breed. Whether progressive doom backed by eerie chimes in the distance, sludge dirges with a wistful piano break or the quiet-loud waiting game leading in a wave of devastation, Stalin does it with a beautiful yet slightly twisted flair that few bands are capable of. This is none more apparent in their possibly most accessible work California, in combination with the NSFW music video. Bass becomes a big focal point in the track, grinding the surface of sound into an uneasy meeting between yourself and a presence of unsettling intentions. Guitar opens the dialogue, a rich, almost lamenting series of notes expressing a tone of remorse, but not overbearingly so, kind of hinting that there may be an agenda more untoward than let on. Impressions from one of the most original vocal styles I’ve heard in years suggest that too, playing from sinister whispers, to soulful innocence, to crooning with a hint of deviance, to full-blooded screams, even foul-mouthed spoken word gets a look-in, all from the mouthpiece of an incredible talent. With a trance-like drum pattern, all of these pieces slot together into a tenebrous, evocative exhibition, leaving the listener on tenterhooks the entire time. The ending of four furious tapping and skin-bashing bursts into just ambience, the pounding of toms and yelling thought-provoking slogans is surprisingly powerful, not to mention relatively irregular in this kind of music. Unashamedly different in execution by unnervingly talented musicians, Stalin are not just a band, but an experience, an experience that keeps you guessing and rewards perseverance with a blackened take on reinventing the modern rock formula. Music for the masses they say? You’re damn right it is! Masses that have to hear this band.

Stalin are kind enough to be offering the majority of their recorded output on Bandcamp on a pay-what-you-want basis, which I’d recommend go looking at and supporting them. My words might make a little more sense if you watch the music video, which I’ll remind you is NSFW. You were warned. Oh, and they have a website to go look at too. Make sure you do that.

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Eyes Of The Nightmare Jungle

There’s a stage in life, where I wish I were able to understand or sympathise with, where decades after establishing a band, making music, recording albums and seeing a little of the world before posthumously calling it quits, you can look back with a fondness on what you once did. General sensations such as hindsight and nostalgia are a similar thing, but I’m not a musician, so I can’t experience the same feelings associated with once having a short-lived band that had a mild success story. If your name is Russell Webster however, and you were the mastermind behind once one of the most influential independent recording studios in the country, and a cult status electro-goth rock band with notable club hits in central Europe, it’d be an achievement to be proud of. What Russell is now known for however is his work as a voiceover artist, having lent his voice to audio book and self-guides, on a one man crusade to make the world a better place. But what I admire from the small amount of research I’ve done, is that he is refreshingly honest about the success of his band Eyes Of The Nightmare Jungle. He claims that they bombed after their second album because they decided to be too clever, but in my opinion, they may have been a bit ahead of their time. Eyes Of The Nightmare Jungle are for the best part, your archetypical goth rock band taken very much from the 80’s, drum machine, heavily distorted guitars, grinding basslines to make the earth tremble, booming spoken word that later expands into gang chants, keyboard hooks that sit on top of the brain. But despite a sound getting on for thirty years old, it sounds like it hasn’t aged a day. In select circles, their calling card Shadow Dance is a club staple and it’s easy to understand why. From the effects-soaked chords of the beginning, leading in the endearing programmed beats and the haunted wail of the keyboard, there’s an overflow of deliciously dark melodies and smoke-filled atmosphere across the five minutes, that wrap you head-first into the spider’s lair and injects you with a euphoria, designed for the dancefloor. That keyboard, or guitar line, I’m not entirely sure which, is also worth its own mention, for in each appearance is a shimmering. delightful breeze that despite its twanginess, adds a real extra dimension to the track and the sheer infectiousness of it, elevates it beyond just being another streamlined goth floorfiller. Eyes Of The Nightmare Jungle were class songwriters, and with a producer at the top of his game at the helm of the project, it’s incredible to hear that it hasn’t aged a day since 1988. What’s more outstanding, is the appeal and allure that their excellent back catalogue awakens from not just the most hardy of all gothic fans, but from a much wider musical audience too.

Because we’re talking a band from over three decades ago that never had real mainstream recognition, you’d expect them not to have the latest and greatest in music dispensing tools. But digital and occasional physical copies of their work can be obtained at most respectable music retailers still, if this intrigues you as such.

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