The first time Mr.Kitty graced the shores of the United Kingdom was in 2014, where for his first ever international show, he played gothic/industrial holiday camp Infest, where he also became the first, and currently, only non-headlining artist to perform an encore in the festival’s history. If that doesn’t speak volumes for the prowess and rabid fanbase that this project has amassed in nearly a decade, then there’s no swaying you I’m afraid. Five years on, this night is also a first in Forrest’s career, where on the eve I got to sit down with him, it was his first ever London show, and naturally anticipation was huge within the confines of Camden’s Underworld, not to mention performing alongside fellow witch house pioneer Sidewalks and Skeletons. Progressing through many doors and hallways bleached with graffiti and swarms of band stickers, I meet Forrest and husband Isaac deep in the Underworld’s bowels, to talk about the past, the present, and the ephemeral. Continue reading
Entering London and the musical heartbeat of Camden, it’s clear that Friday night hasn’t taken full effect yet, in the twilight moments of rush hour traffic, the hubbub outside Camden Town station breathes quiet. Overcast skies threaten ahead, but it stays dry for now. A perfect, ominous climate for the music that awaited around the corner.
I enter the Underworld only a few minutes after Belgium’s Mother take the stage, only after security nearly forgets to hand my ticket back over. There’s some inaudible whispering every once in a while, but there’s a constant ebb and flow of sludge-soaked noise, with terrifying roars tearing through frenzied and impactful guitarwork. Pace switches often, looping numerous layers of guitar, building melodies inside the unstoppable tides to what was a fascinating narrative. The trio ends on a small section of finely pronounced ambience and tranquility, and quell what was a raucous storm for twenty or so minutes. The early show did harm the performance admittedly, but they were utterly mesmerising from beginning to end. In the right circumstances, I’m sure this performance would crush every venue they set foot in. Out of the 10 or so people here, they absolutely made a fan out of me.
Conversely, there’s nothing pretty about Wren, and thankfully the Underworld starts to fill as they take the stage. Being descendants of the unstoppable Holy Roar records, ought to give you some indication of what was about to transpire. Ambient dissonance is instead transitioned into half an hour of primal intensity; an avalanche of concrete-pounding, bloody-knuckled riffs and nerve-shredding screams seemingly played to test limits of ear drums endurance. Imagine your loved ones being cast under the throes of perdition, and that drifts somewhere close to the staggering show of strength on display. Only dulling drones and sharp sustains broke the unrelenting nature of their performance. Although marred by some minute annoyances by mildly inattentive tech crew, their Torche on steroids-inspired onslaught is received well by those desperately trying not to be flattened.
Copenhagen’s Town Portal follows, only then realisation setting in the international flavour of this night, and the most controlled noise barrage yet is what emerges. Magistrates of math-tinged dynamic instrumentals, there’s moments of melodic magic and deeply gratifying groove over compelling syncopated beats which the brain struggled to absorb whether it was truly 4/4 or not, but their own technical intricacies united for some monstrous beatdowns that made obvious why they were on the bill. They were also the first band to engage the crowd thus far, that fabled endearing Scandinavian hospitality shining through their laser-focused performance. However you sought to define or catergorise this masterful performance, which physical viewing made mandatory to capture the real extent of their craft, you couldn’t peel yourself away.
You could somewhat ponder whether we were going to get our first glimpse of new music since 2015, teasing being in the studio at the beginning of the year. Regardless if that question were to be answered, Kowloon Walled City casually finish setting up, and proceed to leather and unequivocally eviscerate all onlookers with their meditated, sludge-submerged, post-hardcore dirges. At any point in their hour-long tenure, you could never tell if the Underworld felt mere moments away from collapse, the magnitude of force simply incalculable from Jon and Scott’s two-pronged guitar attack and Ian’s impossibly dense bass tone. Their Grievances-era tracks sting salient, the latter part of Your Best Years nearing driving me to tears, and the Container Ships tracks, comprising over half the setlist, rile up the crowd, the visceral 50s Dad and Wrong Side of History in particular erupting with a ferocity I’ve seen few live bands compete with. They also drag up Diabetic Feet from their now oft overlooked debut, and that apocalyptic bass grumble at the inset was the closest the Underworld came to devolving into anarchy. And intentional or not, those ravenous few stood beside me beckoned them back for a particularly bone-rattling rendition of Cornerstone before finally departing the stage. Kowloon Walled City just compose astonishing requiems, coursing with the emotional disparity of seething catharsis and agonising loss, that as their music evolves, stretches further and further untouchable.
While perhaps a fraction less as triumphant as their UK debut in 2016, co-headlining with Minsk, they sure as hell solidify their status to stride as one of the best bands on the planet, not just on record, but in a live environment, comfortably.
You Don’t Have Cancer
Wrong Side Of History
Your Best Years
The Pressure Keeps Me Alive
KOWLOON WALLED CITY
There has never been a time where the conversation about mental health, needs to be louder. Any loss of life is awful, and taking the matter into your own hands will never be any less tragic. But, with the recent deaths of Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, and now, the loss of Keith Flint, already very raw in the hearts and minds of musicians and fans alike, it is time to stop trivialising the matter of suicide and take affirmative action, not as a society, but as fellow human beings. Forrest LaMaire aka Mr.Kitty understands the value of this conversation, and with his seventh release Ephemeral, the exact value of this conversation becomes all the more evident. Continue reading
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.
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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This may sound an unusual start to a post on a brand new emerging band, but I have a tale to begin with. I hope it’ll make sense eventually. So a few years ago, I attended a barbeque hosted by my best friend, and for some reason or other, I decided to come in a neon yellow t-shirt, the equivalent of wearing a hi-vis jacket in the middle of the bloody day. It glows all on its own, I’ve been told it hurts people’s eyes. But this shirt attracted the attention of a local bumblebee, right before industry pesticides started threatening their existence and what not and it landed on the shirt, presumably thinking I must have been a pretty flower. Instead of shooing it away, I let it sit there, understanding it was probably trying to pollinate my shirt, but it wasn’t doing me any harm. It sat there until it stopped moving, of which I wondered had it died and then did I try to move it off my shirt. Some gentle force eventually removed it. It hadn’t died. The dopey insect had merely fallen asleep and took flight once again. I’ve always had an affinity for the winged stripy balls of fluff since that day. A similar affection I share with a band named after a mask of them.
When it comes to bees in music, they haven’t made much of a name for themselves, or definitely remain an under-appreciated musical force in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps the most famous example is classical masterpiece The Flight of the Bumblebees, the grandiose, expanding brass section now an iconic piece of musical history and natural fit for narrating any overcoming of the odds, or war charge. Some other examples include the Bee Gees, notable Anthrax rarities album Attack Of The Killer B’s, Danish noise outfit Beehoover, Insideinfo’s frankly terrifying but kick-ass neurofunk destroyer Honeybee and timeless Beatles tune Let It… actually that one is cheating. But off the bat, it seems a struggle to name several musical triumphs involving the humble bee. Unless you just guess that there’s a band called The Bees, which you’d be right in thinking as they live on the Isle of Wight. See also Grumble Bee from Yorkshire. This is where a great surge in progressive rock prowess advances forth and Mask of Bees can not only change the state of bees in music, but far more importantly, steer the course of a brand new wave of UK rock bands.
Their debut album Beta is seven tracks of turbulent, sax-injected hard rock constructs whose paths co-ordinate the chaotic with the transcendental in a manner that’ll quicken the pulse of the rabid Tool and Faith No More hordes. How it must translate to a live environment is a dizzying prospect in the best possible way, for their acute craftsmanship certainly knows how to wring impact out of their music. From the opening time-signature havoc caused by Talisent, onto the battle between calm and calamity of Tendering, shifting to spellbinding, melancholic ambient phases expressed by Peacel Sloot, and concluding with the bruising grooves and vocal centrepiece of Carpet Burn, Beta’s 29-minute duration jostles with so much energy and creativity, you could market it as an alternative fuel source. Touching on the subject of impact, while its presence is inescapable, the saxophone truly elevates Beta as a seminal exhibition of talent, despite its already stellar foundations. While its inclusion is slowly becoming more of a mainstay in modern rock and metal, you certainly feel the passion, intensity and emotion blossoming forth from every ounce of music the saxophone touches, just as the jazz greats intended. But whilst the saxophone jockeys for the limelight on numerous occasions, absolute focus and the true shining moment stands out on personal favourite S-P.K.Y.
The only real moment of tranquillity on this album can be found in the beginning of this track with the saxophone whispering sweet nothings, the gentlest of delay emanating from these softer notes. It strikes a chord somewhere between a jazz ballad and New Age music, a sound of purest beauty. From there, it starts to go a little haywire. Gradually getting louder and more aggressive, the guise of a solo saxophone interlude does lead in drums and melodic picking, adding a tint of ominousness to the mood. Vocals sound as though they emerge from a mist, soaked in reverb and later stronger delay but the croon is an irresistible comfort to an uncertain atmosphere and stands alone as one of the album’s finest points. Pressure does give way and the full force of their brutish yet technically impressive instrumental might explodes onto the scene, along with a full restoration of the vocals for the chorus, animating the most mellow tone on the album. The song carries on with another submersion of the vocals back into the mist, almost acting as gatekeeper for the louder dynamics, the interplay between that uncertain calm and the fiery intensity of the band, before concluding in a surprisingly cathartic breakdown at around the five minute mark.
It needs not to be said much more, but like any collective hive, it can only be as good as its collective workforce, and as Mask of Bees go as a workforce, they are among some of the most proficient and musically exciting workers you’ll hear all year.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Mask of Bees for granting me such early access to their album, this album was an absolute pleasure to listen to and to write about. Beta is out now on their Bandcamp page in a digital and physical capacity, for a very reasonable price so go get that. They perform live frequently also. It shouldn’t be long until they perform very near you soon.
Give them the round of applause they deserve right here:
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It’s that time once more ladies and gentlemen. A time for giving and sharing between one and all. What’s that? Christmas? Heavens no. You’ll have to wait the same as everyone else til the end of the month. No, I’m referring to another instalment of the gifts given to the internet from your friendly bIg toBacCo coMpaNY. The name is purely for show though, if this is your first encounter with this quirky but ultimately hard-slamming five-piece from Cincinnati. They won’t be distributing cigarettes to your doorstep in this century. Instead what they have chosen to peddle, and especially in their third release from their up-coming debut album, is a re-imagined version of Ripples, once wandering the world on an earlier EP. From previous cuts, we’ve seen glimpses of nu-metal juggernauts System of A Down and Slipknot, the incredible versatility of vocal style switches and even some mellower, contemplative passages, to diversify their impressive musical prowess from straight out decimation. Ripples expands upon that melodic personality seen in last track D.B. recalling further Eastern flavours once curated by System Of A Down in Spiders and Aerials respectively. Although surely not an intentional homage, the comparison is meant in nothing but flattery. The fretwork seems a little quicker than System however, but still captures that wonderful intoxicating essence from the melodies woven together. Peace soon dissipates, the powerful instrumental engine, as come to expect from these gentlemen, launching out of the haze like an ambush predator and begins pursuit of any startled onlookers. The full crushing might of the band is in full effect, yet for the first time thus far, guided by mostly clean vocals. The contrast works though. While you can feel throat muscles strained in the concentrated projection of vocals, the organised chaos fortifying it not only adds an urgency to the words spoken, but makes them feel far more legitimate. The subject matter certainly seems more philosophical, more spiritual than we’ve seen before, with the chorus echoing that sentiment. Numerous voices unite in incantation with the hammer-shots of the drums’ kick pedal easing off, while still allowing the guitars to reduce structures to rubble behind it all. It only sits as another alternative form of attack in their steadily growing arsenal. Some triumphant growls do escape from their imposed restraints, warmly welcomed into the atmosphere and all without them being abrasive in the slightest. One last moment near the song’s climax does introduce one last surprise. Very much in a hardcore vein, the band pulls out the equivalent of a handcannon and with each strum of the guitar, unloads slug after slug with no aim but complete carnage to the surrounding area. My apologies if this analogy seems a little topical, insensitive even, but bIg toBacCo coMpaNY’s tremendous firepower can be hard to quantify when total destruction in all shapes and sizes is what these guys do best. Though we continue to learn more of the increasing depth to their musicality, melodies and lyrics, fine-tuning and balancing this with their already established, bone-crunching barrages is becoming more of a mouth-watering prospect upon each release. Christmas hasn’t come early, but you can bet on these guys making an excellent stocking filler for jaded metal fans.
bIg toBacCo coMpaNY’s album has yet to be titled or have an official release date, but they are slowly releasing track by track every song from that album. This blog will be covering each release as part of a collaboration between myself and the band, so for an in-depth look and news on the development of the music of bIg toBacCo coMpaNY, The Soundshark is your go-to guy. If you haven’t already done so, check out the pieces on D.B. and Doom Shroom to get the full picture so far.
Go let your love flow in their direction:
And if you have any love left in the tank at all, maybe you could give the remainder to me? You’re more than welcome to keep it of course:
P.S. Womp womp womp womp.