It seems very few people utter a breath about 2016 any more. Probably for good reason, it seemed very much like a culling of revered figures and idols of popular culture, let alone a universal gasp of disbelief at what idiocy we may have unleashed on the world. 2017 isn’t really fairing any marginally better in that department, by a hair strand at best. But whisper it: The music is fantastic. If you want to invest in it of course. Admittedly, this list was compiled at the inset of 2017, but as the halfway stage of this year rapidly approaches, it still holds as an all-star ensemble of killer bands you may have overlooked, some yet to release their brand new material and some you may never have heard of. It seems like a solid enough foundation for this article to still exist, while maintaining some resemblance of relevance. That, and you may be reading this, looking for some new music to listen over the summer. Let’s get started, shall we?
So this is a first for the site, as somebody sworn to never do live concert reviews, a run-down of ten stand out live acts that I’ve seen over the course of 2016. And I’ve seen a lot of them. It’s pretty self-explanatory really, only I’m not exactly reviewing them, just highlighting why they made this list. This isn’t limited to headline acts by the way. The only exception that I have made is to try and limit festival appearances, as there were numerous bands seen in the space of a day at some festivals that could’ve made up lists of their own. And I have had to discount one entry that should be on this list, that of being The Offspring and Bad Religion at Hammersmith Apollo. The reason being counting individual performances, both were absolutely superb on the night, more than satisfying the inner 13 year-old in me and being hard torn to pick a favourite, just makes it easier to disallow it altogether. Sorry, no joint entries for this one. Without any further ado, here’s who played stellar live shows in 2016:
10. Raveyards @ Camden Underworld (supporting Perturbator w/ Dan Terminus) – 08/06/16
Bands like Raveyards perfectly demonstrate why you should always try and check out the support bands for a live show. Knowing nothing of them, walking into Underworld with half of the stage consumed by mesh netting, projection screens and one of the most elaborate live musical setups I’ve ever seen was an eyebrow-raiser. Every component of an electronic music performance was in their control and performed in real time, with their expansive shadowy atmospherics and gigantic beats, matched with a kaleidoscope of visuals made for a spell-binding spectacle. Spectators seemed happy to have the space back afterwards, but Raveyards’ attention to detail alone has to garner recognition.
9. Allusondrugs @ The Black Heart, Camden (w/ Fizzy Blood, This Years Ghost and Snakes) – 03/08/16
Always a band on the cusp of greatness, the Yorkshire grunge revivalists played a packed Black Heart and showed everybody why they are one of the most talked about live acts going in the UK right now. Switching between slower psychedelic pinches and frenzied fuzz slammers, all delivered with their inescapable talent for writing infectious hooks, I went into this show, having had some personal bad news that day and left with joy and an affirmation of life once more afterwards. They near had to be dragged off stage after a storming 45 minute performance, but such is their allure and brilliance of their music.
8. Youth Code @ Electrowerkz, Islington (w/ Shallow Sanction and Evestus) – 14/10/16
If there ever was a band that embodied controlled chaos, then Youth Code is that band. Marking their debut in the capital city with their revisionist approach to industrial and EBM, there is no wasted movement from beginning to end of their set, both Sara and Ryan screaming and launching themselves across the stage in a frenetic display. Despite a breadth of luscious synth arpeggios and skull-rattling drum machines, it’s their sprinkle of hardcore, that makes every word screamed at you personal and elevates Youth Code’s all-out sensory assault to an absorbing war dance you never want to end. Can you say: the next Ministry?
7. Jean-Michel Jarre @ The O2 Arena, London – 07/10/16
It kinda goes without saying, that when you go to see a concert from somebody widely regarded as the Godfather of Electronic Music, as a pioneer whose forays into music and technology span 40 years and a former world record holder for the largest outdoor concert ever, you’re in for a spectacle. And having missed the chance six years previously to see him, he did not disappoint. Ever the showman, touring through his greatest hits and his frankly superb Electronica project, his inspiring ability to flawlessly recreate every nuance of his work, live, to a visual extravaganza that evolves much like his compositions can only cement his legacy as one of the most influential figures in modern music.
6. Petrol Bastard @ Resistanz Festival (Corporation, Sheffield) – 25/03/16
I do wonder how many people have said at a Petrol Bastard show, that the duo played their dream set list. I certainly can. Opening up Resistanz Festival in Sheffield’s Corporation was a 45 minute performance piece about masturbation, drinking and violence set to an unrelenting techno, gabba and drum and bass soundtrack… and it was some of the most fun I’d had all year. Forcing crowd participation with a tide of inflatable penises and unforgettable slogans, and with a little help from Johnny Ultraviolence, this crude, colourful riot was impossible to ignore and left many smiling from ear to ear. Plus how many gigs let your girlfriend try to sexually assault one of the band members with an inflatable penis?
5. Monster Zoku Onsomb @ Boomtown Fair, Winchester – 12/08/16
Out of the inconceivable number of bands and pass times at Boomtown Fair, these guys could’ve been easy to miss on one of the smallest stages around. But once in range, you couldn’t escape from them and those onlookers in attendance never wanted this madness to end. A troupe of Australian musicians specialising in belting rave tunes, spanning a whirlwind of tempos, spliced together with B-movie references galore and occasional 60’s surf guitar, happily run amok in their 45 minutes on stage. Choreographed dance routines, inviting an adult baby on stage and what may have been a declaration about being in Eurovision 2017 only added to their unique brand of electronic dance carnage.
4. Toska @ The Boileroom, Guildford (EP Launch Show w/ Eschar, The Deadlights and Steal Rockets) – 27/02/16
Possibly the only headline band I have ever seen without knowing a single thing about, was also one of the most astounding. Made up of three quarters of melodic hard rock starlets Dorje, Toska sacrifice none of that intensity and churn out wave after wave of instrumental metal bliss, hurled at such force you’d think there was an earthquake. The energy they emitted could’ve powered large city blocks and their respective talents are hypnotizing to observe; simply everything about their performance was immense in stature, given their debut recorded release. They made crafting invigorating, progressive music seem so effortless and it was an absolute pleasure to watch them at work.
3. Lionize @ Desertfest London (Camden Underworld) – 29/04/16
In what is somewhat a recurring theme on this list, I went to watch Lionize, only knowing that they were Clutch’s in-house band and left absolutely speechless. Imagine if James Brown had fronted a balls-to-the-wall rock band and invited Bob Marley along as a touring member and that merely scratches the surface of what these gentlemen can do on stage. Ferociously charismatic and passionate beyond all belief, Lionize toured a myriad of genres and had tremendous fun doing it, all with every attendee transfixed at this true powerhouse of a performance. I’m surprised the Underworld didn’t burst having to contend with holding these guys back, one of the most impressive modern rock bands alive today.
2. Kowloon Walled City @ Camden Underworld (co-headliners w/ Minsk, also w/ Bossk and Wren) – 03/09/16
Credit where credit is due, Bossk were also spectacular on this night, but for a band that had never stepped foot in the UK before and had come to the end of a near two-month tour of Europe, emotions were always going to be high for these guys. Kowloon Walled City’s use of conveying so much intensity and feeling into their tone, while being pulverising in the same capacity, makes every note gripping to behold and very, very few bands can even touch them in making sludge sound so breathtaking. Spanning seven songs across 45 minutes, this set made a titanic statement as why Kowloon Walled City could be considered one of the best bands on the planet.
1. Placebo @ Wembley Arena, London (w/ Minor Victories) – 15/12/16
What more can be said about Placebo? Never has a band resonated with me emotionally and spiritually as Placebo has and likely I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Hell, I wouldn’t have a degree for starters. But there could be no more fitting show for them to play in their hometown on the 20th year of their inception. The atmosphere was electric and applause rapturous as the band strode through a terrific career-spanning set, that touched many through melancholy but lifted everyone through liveliness. Lyrically they have few peers and musically, their grunge-embezzled attack sounds as fresh as it did in June of 1996. Arguably, one of the UK’s greatest cultural phenomenons.
I hope you enjoyed my selection, and if you agree with these choices, or enjoy the writing that’s on this site, then you can show your appreciation through a like, a follow or subscribe to the site using the link below:
So folks, it has been six months since I last endeavoured in radio, but at long last, I bring you the next instalment of the Secret Tsunami Club and the first podcast as an independently produced project. Quality may not be the best right now, but it can and will only improve over time. Hopefully it is of a standard you can enjoy.
Black Vulpine – Twisted Knife
The Vibraphonic Orkestra – A Vibraphonic Introduction
The Impalers – Metro Azul
Geistfight – True Warriors
Release The Bats – Hornets In A Matchbox
Death Valley Sleepers – Your Face In The Skies
Seasloth – Marshmallon
Ten Tombs – Honestly
Ketch Hatbour Wolves – Queen City Believes You
In Case Of Fire – Do What I Say
Vektrill – I’ll Never Die
Elephantis – Stronghold
Octopede – The Gush
The Gentle Art Of Cooking People – King Tukan II
Cavern – Ithican
Atomis – Maelstrom
Bullet Height – Hold Together
Kurt Dirt – Pleasure Machine
Iltoro – High Fly
sØØ† – ÐΔRKES† HØUR
Glass Cobra – Up
Furious Freaks – No Indeed
Youth Code – Doghead
Dirk Geiger – 24 Hours Without Interruption
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All through out the mainstream, backstage, behind curtains and face-to-face, musicians take risks for their art. Risk is something at the very fabric of our being, a primal fear or instinct that can separate us from doing something good, and doing something great. Musicians are far too familiar with this concept. Some of the most famous and infamous moments in music history were all made on taking a risk. Bob Dylan’s switch to electric guitar attracted the ire of the folk community, but it did nothing to dent his legacy as most of the most acclaimed songwriters in music history. Iggy Pop, despite being great friends, rejecting David Bowie’s production of Raw Power in favour of his own and becoming one of the great rock albums of all time. In a reversal of fortune, Capitol Records wanted more airplay from Megadeth in 1999 and the band released the critically divisive and experimental album titled Risk, often considered to be the band’s worst work and could have even ended their careers. So where do The Schoenberg Automaton fit onto this scale of risk? Well, artists and musicians are often known to relocate to places where they feel their creativity can best thrive. But how many of them move to the other side of the planet? Relocating from Australia, one of the global hotspots for deathcore right now, the band opted to take their monstrous tech-death juggernaut and establish themselves in Canada, a land known in underground circles for its outstanding death metal exports. No matter what walk of life you come from, a career and life decision that gigantic is gutsy. And that’s a word that sums up The Schoenberg Automaton’s output perfectly. Gutsy, driven and unflinching in the pursuit of your passion.
Second studio album Apus certainly seems to have benefited from the change of scenery, as the maturity and confidence has certainly grown in the years of development between Apus and debut album Vela. But it continues the same plotline from the end of Vela, exploring philosophical and science fiction themes as the ground concepts of the band’s storytelling and lyrical content. That story is woven into the fabric of an expansive death metal powerhouse with a dizzying amount of shifts in tempos and time signatures, performed with the heaviness and ferocity of a butcher in open-heart surgery. The universe that The Schoenberg Automaton have crafted is one of surprising atmosphere given the carnage they themselves create, but an enthralling one as Apus progresses and from the outset, it is opening track Swarm that is the greatest footnote to this revelation. Though Year Zero paints the scene, the first few chords of Swarm set up a metal rampage for the ages, drums below generating energy with swift beatings and fills to transfer into a frenzied full frontal assault. Double kicks rain down furiously, while the punishing, distorted blades of guitar rev up the engine, strum by unrelenting strum and deep, petrifying growls set the tone and the journey’s course. As statements of intent go, it certainly leaves very little to imagination as a tremendous display of fortitude and showmanship. Melodic wails spill from the guitar following a guttural, primal howl just as drums enter a sugar rush of tempo clashes and meter shifts, peeling the veil off just a mere fraction of the band’s technical ability. A brief, bone-shattering breakdown even gets squeezed into the action. But a lot of the chaos is dictated by guitars and drums going mano a mano, matching pace and intricacy by every individual note and beat running parallel one another, spawning harmonies and melodies to stir heightened emotions in their listeners. Much as the sight or experience of a swarm should feel. A delicate symphonic undertone is subtly introduced into the final minute, amongst the full effect of the metal barrage that is only in its first full-length track, which grows in grandiose as Swarm closes out, making the transition into what is to follow all the more satisfying. Though a balancing act of extremes could be said of Apus, given the unbridled aggression of chords and the complex, but emotive layering of their guitar work, a hyperactive level of drum technique and the frankly terrifying growls that tell the tale, it does nothing to detract from the spectacle of one of the most courageous and fascinating metal bands around today. An album worthy of both Canada and Australia’s death metal lineage.
Apus is out now at all respectable music retailers now in physical and digital formats. The band’s previous two releases Vela and their self-titled EP, are available on their Bandcamp for a reasonable fee as well as T-shirts and the likes via their webstore. They are actively touring, having just finished their first headline tour of the UK, but if you wanna see them at a venue near you, hit them up. You won’t regret it. They’ve just releases a brand new video for Vengeance too which you can find here.
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2016, probably not just in my own personal opinion, has been a fantastic year for music releases so far depending on how far you’re willing to commit yourself to the kaleidoscopic universe out there. To name but a few of my favourites would include The Qemists, Youth Code, Autopsy Boys, All Hail The Yeti, Mask of Bees, Lowflyinghawks, Amplifighters and Weekend Nachos, and at this point, some music media outlets would like to take the chance to reflect on what has already come before and sum things up in a handy little list for you. The Soundshark isn’t some music media outlets. What The Soundshark has done has compiled a list of 30 forthcoming releases in 2016, of varying genres, and from mass appeal down to the underground to better illustrate why 2016 will remembered as a truly incredible year of music. There could be your new favourite band waiting here or an album announcement by that band you like you may have missed, who knows?
Let’s begin shall we?
More often than not I talk about journeys that music takes you on, and soundtracks that keep you deeply involved and invested into that atmosphere. No matter what genre of music you listen to, you can always count on artists and bands to tie tales and tunes together to create experiences that can stimulate not just aural sensations, but mindmap an evolving story in line with moods and emotions expressed by the soundscape. Some artists record concept albums. Others record an entire novel. Such is the case of Brisbane’s Mark Healey, who not only is a published science fiction author, but scores some of his written works also under the name Hibernal. His plotlines mainly focus on near future, dystopian cities and worlds, and likewise, the music reflects a rich, vivid environment in which the story unfolds in. Armed with a keyboard, guitar and drums, he hires additional voice actors to communicate with one another, as well as an omnipresent narrator, whilst the music underneath sets the scene. As far as the realms of post rock go, there’s not often something that encapsulates drama so well, before it strays into bombast. From the opening acoustic bars of The Restless Man, there’s an immediate tinge of tragedy attached to the protagonist, before the feisty electric guitar kicks in and you get a sense of action emerging from movement, imagining fast travel into the city’s limits, or the mind and thoughts racing through the lead character’s head. The fact Mark Healey devoted time to both an instrumental and narrated version of the story, and how coherent they both sound without knowing the other translation is a testament to sheer talent and musical ability. The expansive, deeply emotive score of Replacements, his second story in his Silent Earth saga, sits somewhere in the vein of Blade Runner and recaptures that creativity and spark that film directors have tried to replicate for decades. A true original in every sense, this is listening at its most focused and incredibly worthy of your investment.
This is taken from the instrumental adaptation of Replacements, as not to spoil the story of the narrated version. All versions of Replacements, this year’s After The Winter and 2013’s The Machine can be found on Mark’s Bandcamp page. His published works I believe are available on most leading online retailers.