God bless Petrol Hoers. After stepping out of the shadow of being an outrageous tribute act of an outrageous originals act, you can argue that they’ve become more ‘successful’ than their own inspiration. Being the only horse musician in the world to get airplay by the BBC is no mean feat whatsoever. You could also just stop that sentence at being the only horse musician in the world, which is impressive in its own right. Yet three years later, the pioneer of digital horsecore is back with another collection of songs, less about the semantics of masturbating horses, and more about the feasibility of S&M in space, and the personal struggles of mental health, and alcohol dependency.Continue reading
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.
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.
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 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.
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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Building intrigue around a band or an artist certainly has become an artform nowadays, with more and more meticulously planned attempts sought after to challenge tried and tested marketing campaigns and traditions. A highly effective method to increase ‘buzz’ around a band is to strive for as an anonymous presence as possible and let the music do the talking. What can make a difference is how far musicians are really willing to push that boundary. We can talk about groups like Sleep Token, and until recently Ghost, who have formed their identity with a grand narrative to accompany their music, and it kept us guessing who were the musicians behind the masks, while marvelling at the work laid before us. 00000000 might be taking it that extra step further.
At face value, 00000000 is fast muted alternated strumming in guitar tablature, means nothing in binary, the precise time at the strike of midnight, and the number of life points both players would have left in a game of Yu-Gi-Oh, if both players drew the game. Or four fat ladies if you put all the zeroes together, if bingo is your bag. Their members have no publicised names or pseudonyms, music no defined genre traits and their public bio is illustrated by an excerpt from the dialogue of David disconnecting HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Their shows are only identified by a date and a postcode, which is a neat little detail in locating them, but any other detail about said shows are extracts from science fiction, cinema, and philosophers. The breadcrumbs are apparent, but seem to follow no clear cognitive fashion, and as such, if the band truly wished to keep themselves under wraps, their mission is succeeding.
Thankfully, the question about what kind of musical calibre dwells inside the mystery is one that is answered, upon the release of the group’s Star Lane / Star City EP. With the four tracks, including a similarly urgent interpretation of Radiohead’s Everything In Its Right Place, the members of 00000000 perform, in the loosest sense, an engulfing brand of shoegaze-tinged indie rock, which can explode into heady periods of overwhelmingly emotional noise, almost as if Arcade Fire and Brand New started butting heads with one another. Constellations swirls with a sense of melancholy cheer, desperate wails and incandescent guitar, pit against rapid ticking of hi-hat and sombre piano, both skins and keys later pounded in unison, as its crescendo draws nearer. Once at its apex, that intensity never lets off, captivating as it is clamorous. As gateways go, this is an exceptional vantage point into what this group are capable of. Explore, though the shortest affair featured, begins in a jazz-like time signature, the offbeat cymbal taps and trio of snare hits offset by an almost Eastern-sounding chord progression and is arguably less excitable vocally, despite retaining much of that fervour felt before. If anything, it says something about their versatility, still being able to grasp at their vast sonic capacity in half the space of time, but also teasing glimpses of post-rock influences, a tremolo or two tucked inside, another tool to deploy if required. Lastly, Acid Burn tinkers with delay and darkened spoken word, post-punk, almost gothic-like in nature, which metamorphoses into sharp streaks of lead guitar and the kind of anguished vocals that sparks that Brand New comparison, back into shadow with just the prominent grumbles of bass for company. Cleverly, that spike in volume no doubt resembles the focal acid burn, at first unsuspecting, then becoming fiery, and distressing, until either treated or the damage is done, transitioning back to the quieter dynamic afterward.
All this adds up to the revelation, is that 00000000 are envoys of rejecting commodity, defying the throwaway tendency of music in the digital age, by tactically giving a willing audience both musical style and substance, in a frankly inexpressible hurricane of aural flavours that engages your brain, as well as exhilarates it.
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By now, the hangover of 2018 should have long subsided, and 2019 should now begin to be as familiar to everyone as much as your work colleagues, classmates, or friends you go clubbing with, are. We’ve conversed, debated and voiced our collective opinions on what the best of the best of 2018 was, and ahead, we look into the eyes of 2019 longingly, yearning for continued musical excellence as this decade draws to a climax. So bearing that in mind, the site has put together 20 bands and artists bearing a variety of new musical fruit in 2019, that you should absolutely sample, and hopefully savour and find immense pleasure from.
The debate between what constitutes the difference between a Neue Deutsche Härte band and an industrial metal band is a fascinating one. In fact, that debate is so passionate and hotly contested in certain pockets of the internet, it’s recommended reading perhaps along side this piece. For anyone not versed on their musical history, in its crudest definition, Neue Deutsche Härte tends to describe any German metal band, that sings almost exclusively in German and follows a musical template akin to Rammstein and Oomph! as the foundation of their sound. The label itself could be argued to be a product of its time, grouping the sounds of the emerging bands in the late 90’s/early 00’s with a media umbrella term, but its use is still insisted upon by not only German bands, but recent international ones too, inspired by the enduring legacy of those bands. Where Johnny Deathshadow enters this conversation, acknowledging that their vocals are predominantly in English, is that they are a German industrial band, with similar electronic flourishes to the genre’s progenitors, yet are not considered a Neue Deutsche Härte band despite Umbra et Imago being allowed a pass, carrying on their larger gothic roots and undertone in tandem. Start a petition if you must. Joking aside, and whatever your opinion on this argument is, it is this rich cultural phenomenon that Johnny Deathshadow both carries on, and sheds itself of, creating their own enticing sonic universe that wider Europe is starting to take notice of.
Though the band’s roots actually lay more in the Misfits and horrorpunk covers of pop songs, earning them the moniker of the ‘Hollywood Death Cult’, a decision mid-decade to incorporate larger industrial elements into their compositions, caused the band’s popularity to erupt in their native Germany. Bleed With Me, their first full-length album adorning gothic industrial metal was a huge success, swiftly taking them overseas in the process, but while the album was excellent overall, their vision still seemed somewhat in utero, and restrained. Three years later, that worry is completely eradicated. D.R.E.A.M. is a seminal work, refining a tremendous formula, but scaling the production to a grandiose stage that benefits vastly, and reintroducing elements of their punk and hardcore backgrounds to electric effect. Sugar Like Salt pips many of the album’s highlights as D.R.E.A.M’s finest moment, and showcases why this band could slowly take over the world.
A muscular synth arpeggio throbs and winds at the inset, with strokes of strings and distorted thumps programmed, lurking within reaching distance behind, prodding at the nerves of its listener but also cranking energy levels to a feverous intensity. As the drum sequence beats its last, live drums pounding a mesmerising groove ,and the heavy chugging of down-tuned guitar, mimicking that of an engine, break forth with the synth, a stampede of a rhythm that will fuel metalheads and dancers alike. Monotone vocals shortly strip out the guitar, a hint of malice gleaming in every syllable recited from the morose prose, yet it carries a certain infectiousness that you visualise crowds repeating. No sooner you absorb those biting words, a brief blasting of relentless, hell-for-leather hardcore style beats suddenly smacks you in the head, ferocious growls scratching at your eardrums, this unforseen display of attitude neatly opening up for the chorus vocal melody that bursts as a wave of elation. Reminiscent of Candyass-era Orgy hooks, this is an earworm with such a latch, you’ll be fighting it for days for a release, and D.R.E.A.M. is absolutely infested with them. Interplaying perhaps as the titular sugar like salt, this sweet-stung moment in a realm of obsidian cynicism brings out the best in the track’s often energetic dynamics. Tailor made for fetish clubs and mosh pits, Johnny Deathshadow’s crossover appeal has scarcely begun to be realised, with a unique appearance and a fearsome live and recorded repetoire in tow, these gentlemen have a scene firmly in the palm of their hands, and it’s only a matter of time before they put the squeeze on it.
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As the world begins to stir, gently putting the gears back into production, and steadily adjusting weary eyes to the bright new horizon of 2019 (I mean, it probably won’t be that different, other than some cases of lingering hangovers, apparent nationwide incense about a vegan sausage roll, and more than likely international condemnation of whatever Donald Trump does next), we at least have a period longer to contemplate how good a year of music 2018 really did provide us with. However the longer it took to mull over how a good year of music it was, the more frustrating it became to whittle down and distil the ten best. It’s very safe to say EVERY album about to be mentioned was in contention for a top ten position. Tantrums happened and tears were nearly shed. An iron resolve and persistence eventually paid off, and in the settling dust, lay the final ten chosen to represent the best of 2018. Just one of them became the victor and declared ‘the undisputed favourite.’ Continue reading
On the 11th March 2018, something short of ground-breaking was announced on the social media outlets of one of the world’s most renowned progressive metal groups. Tool had entered the studio to record what has become their now fabled follow-up to 2006’s 10,000 Days. While this news has become a revelation and an answer to many a collective prayer (or keyboard warrior whinging, depending on how you view it), Maynard himself put on record at Metal Hammer’s Golden Gods ceremony that the new Tool album will most likely see the light of day in 2019. Affirmation is one thing, and commitment another, and while 2019 is just around the corner, chances are that will be the absolute bare minimum Tool’s global cult following will have to wait for a new sonic masterpiece. One more year after the twelve of relentless internet hyperbole and immeasurable anticipation that proceeded it, is surely doable, right?
Instead of preparing for what may end up becoming a mass exodus from the workplace on the day that album is released, and following the unexpected success of this article’s predecessor, The Soundshark has put together ten more bands from the underground, worthy of your time, until the musical gap has been bridged by the band themselves. To touch upon briefly from previous feedback, you won’t find Karnivool on this list, or any other list on this site themed similarly, as while not entirely known around the planet at present, they’ve had large enough worldwide success to be able to tour anywhere they see fit, which surely evolves beyond underground status.
Semantics aside, let’s begin:
I’ll be among the first to admit that 2017 is now a fading memory in long and short terms of immediate recollection. After all, we’ve reached a quarter of the year in already and only now do I find myself reflecting on and scrutinising the year past, since coming to terms with my current situation. Of which I feel is moving in a more positive direction. That said, while my own personal presence took a negative slant in the seventeenth year of the new millennium, musically, there was such a creative surge of magnificence which resulted in many, many excellent albums being released. Also one such reason for this list being delayed as it is. So, with ever-so-slightly wistful eyes, The Soundshark casts its spotlight on my ten favourite albums released in 2017, and for your listening indulgence:
The state of modern indie is certainly rather interesting nowadays. Although there have been past evaluations on when the last great era of modern indie was, ergo, when bands and artists last made an impact on the charts, where the genre stands in 2017, critically has never been better. Does having the adoration of critics and the music press outweigh greater commercial success? Maybe that’s a question to ask the Mercury Prize committee. While that is a debate for another time, the rise of a new wave of incredibly talented singer-songwriters have arguably become the heartbeat of indie, in this undeniably eclectic decade of music. Up-and-coming bands in the indie-rock vein are on their own battlefront, still rightfully rumbling the live music scenes across the world, and their time will come again. After all, it only seems that musical trends become cyclical, especially as this decade has progressed. As it stands right now, troubadours of a myriad of backgrounds and influences are among the most well-respected of artists, just trying to make music their entire lifestyle. And their emotional honesty, dedication and raw potential undeniably resonates with tastemakers, spheres of influence and those with a willing, listening ear, no matter how they choose to express their craft. Marcus Pike, a one-man indie-folk workhorse from the east end of London, citing the powerful vocal capacities of Bon Iver and Jeff Buckley, the melodic melancholia of Radiohead and the sublime minimalism of The xx as his inspirations, is another joining that order and hopefully soon to be more widely doted upon with his exquisite compositions.
Since his small beginnings, he has amassed over 150 live shows on the London circuit and released his debut EP Grand Piano, featuring the phenomenal gut-punch blues of The Flower And The Fox, earlier in February this year. Now with his as-of-yet to be titled sophomore EP lingering on the horizon, and with the mention of experimentation into the electronic realm, we look to his latest release Ark, as a promising glimmer of things to come. Seconds in, after a near microscopic level of acoustic build-up, we are gifted with Marcus’ heart-heavy, but soulful projection, carrying an extraordinary downbeat atmosphere that only thought possible with man-made instruments. Of course, with his acoustic companion in hand, and the deliberately slow pacing, a perfect balance of soothing and sadness is struck, making his recollection of a love lost and being unlucky in love all the more poignant. Both these elements in isolation cast a spell on the listener, the darkened ambience and pure vulnerability of Marcus’ narrative utterly mesmerising to behold, and that half of Ark elapses in such a sensational, yet sorrowful surrender exhibits the very best of what this young man is capable of. The second half is brought to life by a live band, the chill of soft reverb transforming guitar from acoustic to electric, and gentle percussion giving an added weight and movement to the pace already in progress. This new dimension of atmosphere will feel very familiar in post-rock circles, it lurks within the same haunting, moving chords that can trigger pleasure, placidity and pain in every stroke and heightens this dramatic shift as such. A set of female vocals join in unison with Marcus’ as the last refrain grants the duo freedom to drift away, and Ark gradually does, a subtle choral introduction playing out in the background and those emotive guitar chords escaping from their structure, as everything fades to silence. Lord knows where those four minutes disappear to, but it is among one of the most absorbing pieces of indie I’ve ever encountered. While it can be labeled as romantic, Marcus Pike imbues his soul to the darkness, conjuring a spellbindingly beautiful ambience and sense of sombre with little more than his voice and a guitar, and the impact and resolve of that delivery, clamours for recognition far beyond the London live scene. Inspirations accounted for, there feels much, much more exciting and diverse to come from this fantastic young solo artist.
While Marcus’ sophomore release is yet to have a certified release date, you can purchase Ark, and his previous EP Grand Piano from his Bandcamp page, as well as all other respectable music retailers. As a stalwart of the circuit, you’ll no doubt be able to find Marcus at a London show, at a time to suit you, so keep an eye out for when you can catch him live on his social media.
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