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:
While this is the very first of the end of year posts for this site and officially the first time anything like this has been on the site before, it gives me great pleasure and happiness to write a piece, giving a greater emphasis on an artist that has been a constant for this year. Limitations are boring and if locking a piece like this solely to any artist’s accomplishments in one year, it doesn’t grant the necessary freedom to write something engaging enough. So take this as a love letter to the one artist or group of artists whose music has been cherished through thick and thin this year, and would like to dedicate this year’s piece to self-proclaimed ‘suicidal synth-pop’ artist Forrest Avery LeMaire a.k.a. Mr.Kitty.
If you want to talk about 2016 for Mr.Kitty, then it hasn’t been as active as past years. Despite playing numerous shows over in the States, we were expecting what was to be Mr.Kitty’s sixth album in as many years to be released in October, making him certifiably in the conversation as one of synth-pop’s hardest working artists around. Sadly but understandably, the album was put on hold until next year as health concerns became a priority into the latter half of the year. But that does not speak for the quality of the music that Mr.Kitty has produced over his six-year plus lifespan as a recording artist. Far from it.
Channeling the mechanical heart of classic 80’s electronica and the drum machines of the great original goth movement, into chilling dreamscapes and darkened dancefloors, narrated by the oft distorted and reverb-drenched lullabies and shrieks of Forrest; the output of Mr.Kitty is an emotional outpouring of a vulnerable soul against an array of unforgettable analogue synth dialects. His first four albums form part of a quadrilogy of works known as the Dark Youth collection, spanning both light and darkness which broadcasts and touches upon many subject matters in that time frame, moving and macabre. It also serves as the perfect window or measuring post to show how much Mr.Kitty has grown and matured as an artist. But every release is its own separate universe, with its own atmosphere and a complete anthology of melodic masterpieces.
Arguably the greatest of his works is Dark Youth’s final installment Time, which although is one of the darker albums of that collection, is uncompromising in its vision, truly emanating the rawest feelings of every song, no matter how black its subject matter. How so many of these songs contain the musings of a mind much darker than you can imagine, but are entangled in some of the most memorable synth-pop written this decade is a true wonder and testament to Mr.Kitty’s abilities as a songwriter, let alone a fascinating juxtaposition. Although we have had snippets of a new album this year, how Forrest has tirelessly spun such outstanding retro-contemporary electronic webs together year after year is commendable. Each one is more enchanting and enrapturing than the next, and there is absolutely no hesitation in saying that everything that Mr.Kitty has created is consistently among the best music heard all year.
So if Mr.Kitty does get to read this, thank you so much for your music, with love and kind regards,
Five Essential Mr.Kitty tracks:
The vast majority of everything Mr.Kitty has ever produced can be found on his Bandcamp page, and if it can’t be found there, then it can be found on his Soundcloud page instead. Though unconfirmed, a 2017 release window is pencilled in for A.I., to be Mr.Kitty’s next album of which this site will take great interest in. You can shop here if you are in need of any t-shirts or the likes in the near future.
And finally, you can find all news and the means to give him a virtual hug right here:
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They say that you never forget your first time, and while that phrase applies to a lot of situations, this instance may surprise you a little. You see, I have never interviewed a band before in my life. So starting your resume out with a renowned Brighton drum ‘n’ bass crossover outfit, riding the wave of success high in 2016, is setting your standards pretty lofty. No pressure then.
After creeping in through an unguarded back door, wondering if at any moment I was going to get thrown out on my ass for trespassing, The Qemists were slap bang in the middle of their soundcheck. MC and all-round nice guy Bruno greets me like an old friend and apologises that they are still soundchecking, and asks if it it’ll be alright to do the interview when they’re finished. I’m working on their time, so I happily agree and perch upon a ladder nearby, while a happy medium is deliberated upon with the soundsystem. A balance is struck eventually, and Bruno, Olly, Dan, Leon, Liam and myself step inside the venue’s dressing room, which I’m sure doubles as the cleaning facilities on weekdays and sit around the coffee table. I’m straight up with them and say this is my first time interviewing, to which the response was that if my nerves got the better of me and the questions were sub-par, they would derail the interview to question me instead. We laughed about it, yet part of me thinks that would’ve made for more entertaining reading. But after a deep breath, I press play on the voice recorder, place it down on the table and we talk the past, the present and the future, of The Qemists:
So prior to March, you guys hadn’t had an album out for about six years (the last being Spirit In The System), how did it feel to finally release Warrior Sound?
Leon: Yeah, it was quite an achievement.
Bruno: A relief?
Leon: Yeah, it was a relief. I mean, we do take a long time over albums, that one took about three years to write, Join The Q took about three years to write. When you’re programming everything from scratch and then writing as well, and with performing in mind… We take our sweet time over it. So after all the work in the studio, the time that was spent on it and the polishing of the mixes, then checking the mixes and the mastering, checking them in clubs, it was a pretty good achievement and feeling. We’re quite proud of it.
Dan: We spent a lot of time gigging leading up to it, which mean that for the first time we could really test those tracks leading up to release, rather than just finishing a record and taking it out live, actually playing tracks out live and changing them etc. But yeah, it was really, really good to get that third album out of the way, I feel like three is a much nicer number than two.
Bruno: Three’s the magic number!
So because you’ve had so long to road test the new material before and after Warrior Sound’s release, what would you say are your favourite songs to play live and which songs do you get the biggest reactions from?
Leon: The response to Run You has been amazing.
Bruno: Run You definitely stands head and shoulders above the rest because it’s something that people have identified with from the lyrics and it’s something they’re singing lyrics back in any country we’ve been in the last… well, since the release of the album. Obviously it’s grown show after show.
Dan: The video has been pretty successful too.
Bruno: Some of them fluctuate between shows, like Anger was something we were unsure of for the first couple of shows and suddenly it shot up and started to get more popular.
Dan: When we were touring with Enter Shikari and Crossfaith, we had quite short sets and we kept asking, ‘Should we play Anger or We Are The Problem or Let It Burn?’ Different places and different countries really go for different tracks…
Leon: In Tokyo, we played Anger with Ken [Koie] from Crossfaith doing the vocals, and they have a huge Japanese following, and that got the best reaction we’ve seen to that track.
Bruno: But yeah, different songs, different gigs, different countries all lend themselves to different crowds, but as far as which songs are enjoyable to play, all of them really!
Leon: We do change the set every night pretty much, write it on the back of a napkin before we go on.
Olly, you were formerly in another Brighton crossover band Collisions, how did you come to join the Qemists family?
Bruno: We killed the rest of them.
Olly: Everything exploded, everything was on fire… No, well, I’d been doing a fair bit of consultation work with 7pm Management, who’d taken on The Qemists unbeknownst to me actually, and I’d been doing some work with [The Qemists’ manager] and he’d been helping me out, putting me in touch with some people for the furtherment of Collisions. One of the things he suggested to me was working with the boys on a couple of tracks, which at the time would’ve obviously been fantastic promotion for Collisions. We went and worked on Run You and New Design, and I had such a great time working with these guys, it seemed to transpire afterwards that they ended up looking for a new vocalist and I jumped at the chance to get involved, especially after putting these two tracks together, seeing how they operate and wanting a piece of it.
Leon: I think it was a result of how well those two tracks came together, that made us realise that we needed another singer, a full-time permament member. We always used to have featured vocals here and there, but it got to the point that there were so many tracks that Olly was working on on the new album, that it was like, ‘Well this is the sound of the album now, this is the sound of the Qemists.’ We needed a rock singer, it happened pretty organically in the studio and we haven’t looked back.
A lot has changed in six years, not just in the Qemists camp, but on a global scale too. From a critical perspective on your albums, Join The Q is you guys putting your stamp on the musical landscape and Spirit In The System is more experimental in its output. Warrior Sound really represents the first album with a consistent sound and having an overall message, what was the reason for this?
Liam: It was a conscious decision to be honest, to have a thread of continuity running through the album. I think we felt that although there was some good material on the first and second albums, there wasn’t that continuity and we wanted it, and that was another reason for having permament members vocally. That continuity was a result of having those permament members and working together on tracks. Bruno has been part of the live band for the first two albums, but he hadn’t had a lot of studio time with us, and it was high time that that happened. So it was a conscious decision, but a byproduct of us bringing these guys in.
There are some great collaborations on the album with Hacktivist, Charlie Rhymes, Ghetts and obviously you’ve mentioned Kenta Koie from Crossfaith, but there’s also the least amount of collaborations on a Qemists album so far, again was this a conscious decision or the result of writing over a period of six years?
Liam: Yeah, it was kinda conscious again, we were building tracks with Bruno and Olly and they were writing vocals that worked and fit, and there wasn’t necessarily a need to go out and seek different people. Also, if you go too diverse with it, you start deleting that continuity again.
Leon: When we have a featuring on this album, it’s somebody featuring the five of us. Bruno and Olly almost feature on every track that has a featured vocal as well, so it was about bringing a featured artist in not to replace the members of the band, but to work with them and be what a featuring artist should be, to enhance the sound of your act.
So focusing on changes once more, you guys separated from long time label Ninja Tune some years ago and you signed with the amazing folks at the aptly named Amazing Record Co. but around the same time, you signed with FiXT, one of the biggest independent electronic labels in the world. What’s it like working with Celldweller and the FiXT team?
Leon: They’ve been great.
Liam: Admittedly we haven’t had a lot of one-to-one time with them, when we joined we had a really cool Skype call with everyone and that says a lot about the label because they went out of their way to make that happen, so the new artists they’d signed could meet everybody, talk to everybody, know who everybody was…
Bruno: It was very warm and welcoming.
Liam: Yeah, very family orientated, which is not dissimilar to some extent the experiences we had with Ninja Tune, and we’re still on good terms with them.
Leon: But the difference is with Ninja Tune, we were different to everything else on their label and that was probably the reason that we went our separate ways after our contract was up. Whereas with FiXT, it makes total sense to be there with Celldweller and Blue Stahli and the other acts on that label. We just got a remix of Jungle by SeamlessR as well, these guys all just have great sounds that really appeal to us.
One of the things that FiXT are quite big on is their licensing, they have a lot of their music on TV, commercials and films. I personally discovered you first from Motorstorm: Pacific Rift, that had Stompbox and the On The Run VIP on it. Would you say that licensing has played as big a part as your live performances in your exposure and success?
Dan: Oh definitely, if not more really.
Liam: Without it, we wouldn’t be able to do what we have done.
Leon: And if you look at the YouTube comments on any of our videos, you’ll see comments saying, ‘This game brought me here or this movie brought me here.’ We’ve done cinema trailers for Thor, did one of the Star Trek movies, Terminator: Genisys recently and things like that. We just love doing that. We are studio musicians as well as live musicians, and those projects just give us such a scope and again, another reason why we identify with Celldweller because he’s a master at it.
Another thing that FiXT are quite big on is their artist synergy, they have everyone collaborate with each other and remix each other’s material, as you’ve said with SeamlessR’s remixes of Jungle and Warrior Sound as well. But at the same time
you were snapped up by FiXT, The Algorithm were snapped up, who you’ve toured with in the past and are also one of the hottest crossover acts on the planet right now, is there any chance that we could see an Algorithm and Qemists collaboration?
Liam: Ooooooh, we did talk about that, studio time to collide, but he’s pretty busy…
Leon: Yeah he’s always busy touring, but we’re up for it! Over to you Remi, if you’re reading this, we’d love to!
Do you guys have a bucket list of who you’d like to collaborate with or if you could have a dream collobaration, who would it be with?
Leon: Zack de la Rocha’s just put out a solo album and he didn’t come to us to produce it. He went to his mates in Run The Jewels instead, but I love the records they produce together.
Dan: I’d say Twenty One Pilots.
Leon: We’ve been listening to Twenty One Pilots a lot recently.
Liam: I’d like to sit down and make some disgusting noises with Noisia for an afternoon.
Leon: I had a fun experience sat on a sofa with Nik from Noisia and Jonathan Davis from KoRn, I was sitting in the middle and they were playing their new collaborations, what they’d been working on in the studio, you know like one of those YouTube gatherings except there’s people playing demos and stuff… but yeah, there’s some pretty fantastic people to collaborate with right there.
Bruno: KoRn would be a good one.
Leon: We’ve just done a cover of Blind by KoRn and James [‘Munky’ Shaffer] emailed us and said he loved it and he was gonna play it to the band, so that’s absolutely awesome, that’s what you want to hear when you do a cover, for the person who wrote it to say it’s worthy.
You guys have done some eclectic remixes and covers in your time, of Coldcut, The Damned, In Flames, Roots Manuva… Are your remixes ever planned or does one person come in and say something like ‘I had a dream that we covered Careless Whisper,’ and you take it from there?
Leon: No, they’re requested.
Liam: The artist normally gets in touch and says, ‘Can we have a remix?’ and we go, ‘Yes,’ and then we work out how we’re gonna do it. They’re pretty diverse those artists, and doing an In Flames remix versus a Roots Manuva remix takes a different approach each time.
Dan: We’ve kinda cut down on the amount of remixes we’ve done recently because they take a lot of time.
Leon: Yeah, you’ve got to be an act known for their remixes, like Noisia or someone you know whom a remix could be a huge track for them. Whereas with us, with the live performance and we release full albums, not every dance artist who does remixes releases full albums, and it started getting a little bit too much for us and we’ve refused a lot of remixes, but it’s always great when you get a good opportunity.
For the amount of remixes and covers that you guys have produced, have you ever considered making another Soundsystem- style CD where you stick a compilation of all those tracks together?
Liam: Yeah, as that body of work builds, which it has relatively recently, when you have that body of work sitting there, it would be a miss to not do something cool with it like that. So I think when that opportunity presents itself, and the material is there, absolutely it’s something we’ll do.
So, the end of the year is coming up, what are the plans in these last few months and into 2017 for The Qemists?
Dan: First up, is the shiny new Jungle video.
Leon: It’s about time to get a new video out. We’ve actually just finished a new EP, as kind of a follow-up to Warrior Sound, and we’re gonna put that out and stick a couple of new tunes on YouTube.
Dan: We’ve worked on a collaboration with some Russian guys called Teddy Killerz, who were signed to Ram Records, so we’ve got a track coming out on Ram Records which is really cool.
Leon: We’ve made a lot of music recently with not necessarily a purpose in mind since Warrior Sound, but we should keep this up, we should get back in the studio and keep writing. So we’ll do something with it all, it’s sounding really, really nice I think! We want people to hear it.
My last question then, though it is a little way off, say two-three years time, but it seems crazy to think that Join The Q is nearly ten years old, do you have anything pencilled in or on paper for a potential anniversary tour?
Liam: You know what? I hadn’t thought about that, but since you kinda mentioned it, it is gonna be that soon.
Leon: We signed our deal in 2006, didn’t we?
Dan: When was Join The Q? 2009?
Leon: It was in 2009. Early 2009.
Dan: February 2009.
Leon: Yeah, we’ll totally do that, good plan.
Olly: You could be our manager!
I won’t take all the credit for it, honest!
Bruno: Well, you can have you plus another on the guestlist!
Thanks very much gents, an absolute pleasure.
A big shout out to Libby from The Noise Cartel, Jenny from Amazing Record Co., and of course The Qemists for making this all possible.
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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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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?
Let it be said that some things carry on the way they started. In Bullet Height’s case, it carries on the sonic storm previously began by debut single Bastion in February, heading towards potential live dates in the near future and a forthcoming album tentatively inbound for the year’s close. But Bullet Height’s roots date back much farther. Circa eight years ago to be precise. For Pure Reason Revolution, the former band that frontman Jon Courtney had a significant hand in, after the success of their opus The Dark Third and subsequent departure of violinist James Dobson, their songwriting took a turn in a more electronic based direction, birthing second studio album Amor Vincit Omnia; an album that transformed the band’s sound from an atmospheric progressive rock opera, into a punchier, synth-injected rock hybrid, with scaled down but still ever-present progressive leanings. This evolution was completed on third and what would become final album Hammer And Anvil, which in my opinion remains one of the most underrated albums of the decade, and would be the only Pure Reason Revolution album to be published by Superball Music, whom the band signed with prior to its distribution. Pure Reason Revolution were to disband in 2011, a year after Hammer And Anvil’s release.
Fast forward some five years later, elements of the sound encapsulated from Amor Vincit Omnia and Hammer And Anvil, the revival of the partnership with Superball Music and the union of Jon Courtney and IAMX keyboardist and vocalist Sammi Doll in Europe’s second biggest capital, brought together Bullet Height, a duo whose talents can equal the exhilarating and electrifying nature of their music. Though quiet for several months since being hotly tipped as one of the bands to keep an eye on in 2016, the emergence of second single Hold Together is a swift reminder of what whipped up the frenzy and excitement in the first place, and an excellent point of entry for anyone curious about the diversity of electronic rock.
And a reminder and point of entry none more swift and excellent than the blasting of intense volcanic guitar tones, dark and deep synth throbs and a incredibly forceful percussive pattern. Such is the impact and ferocity of the introduction here, that it relegates Bastion to a mere nursery rhyme in comparison. If your eyes weren’t open before, they certainly will be. The cavalry is quietened for the vocals to take centre stage, the warm hum of synth hovering below and the drums remaining as imposing a presence behind them. It’s here we’re also treated to the luscious vocal harmonies that Jon and Sammi are capable of conjuring. Each individual voice has its own powerful merits, but together it produces an intoxicating sensation yet still a hint of menace which serves the aggressive instrumentation well throughout. Especially as it reaches the pre-chorus, where against a thunderous series of drum kicks and synth throbs that devolve into shrieks, adds that extra edge to twist the tension into a truly explosive chorus. Hitting with the accumulated musical force of a tempest, the guitars, synth and drums decimate anything in the immediate vicinity, with vocals picking up a soaring pop sensibility which sounds eerily calming considering the annihilation unfolding before you. The result however is unfathomably satisfying. A quick glitch from the synths and a drum fill later, and you’re thrown head first back into the carnage. Nuances like additional fury vented on the microphone, jagged guitar you can feel the volatility of, synths expanding and growing in character and ambience and even solo moments of formidable gritty synth stabs all keep the soundscape an unpredictable thrill ride all to the very end. Hold Together is much less a song and more an event; a shockwave of inconceivable artistic and musical vision which can be experienced as both punishing and piquant. It almost seems as if Bullet Height had a crack at their own personal Manhattan Project, and boy did they nail the execution. This duo have the chemistry, talent, uncompromising attitude and simply immeasurable ambition to solidify their status as one of the most awe-inspiring bands in the world at this moment, with the potential to supercharge their electronic rock engine into one of the planet’s all-conquering live acts, just around the corner. The world is theirs for the taking. If they don’t destroy it first.
Hold Together is out right now at all respectable music retailers as a digital only single. You can pick up their previous single Bastion at the same music retailers also. The band are in the process of gearing up for live dates in their native Berlin which are yet to be announced, but certainly worth keeping an eye out for. Bullet Height’s debut album has been pencilled in for a release in Winter 2016 which no doubt you’ll hear more about in the coming months. And for a taster of what’s to come as well as back story for the band’s formation, check out this short documentary on them.
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