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.
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:
And if you feel you would like to give me one too, via a like, a follow, or a subscription to the site, you can do so if you wish:
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.
If this name looks familiar to you already, then that may be because I have written about these fine gentlemen recently in an article published generally covering what they do and what you can expect from them. That said, my musings on them sounding like a movie monster orgy, with an attitude reflective of a mischievous schoolchild may have to take a slight run back. Things are getting a little serious. Not too serious, but serious enough to warrant a statement of intent. Their debut album IS in existence, currently being pieced together as we speak and this is the second song to be taken from it, kindly extended to me as a form of informal partnership between myself and the band. They make the music, I write about it essentially. But whilst intentions are more serious, that’s not the only thing that sounds more serious here. D.B., abbreviated for Dick But showcases a more melodic side of the band we’ve yet to hear from what material of theirs floats around the internet. The beginning starts out kind of recalling the mellower, Middle Eastern-infused System Of A Down moments, the first guitar initially igniting a ominous spark, right before the harmony between the two guitars and chugging of bass almost ushers a sombre shadow over proceedings. The sound is far more emotionally attentive, but you can feel that it can only build-up to something bigger. A guitar whispers ‘Time’s up,’ with its last breath and the heavy artillery explodes in your eardrums. Piercing screams and some incredibly brutal growls fight for vocal control while what can only be described as the musical equivalent of being crushed into dust by the pyramids of Egypt bears down on what remains of your nerves. It’s savage, but utterly enjoyable. Then an impressive clean third voice emerges from the ruins, impressive so for writhing free from the previous throat torture, as if in prayer for mercy from the onslaught. Obviously denied. The quiet-loud dynamic is vicious, going from concentrated barbaric bursts of metal, to slightly more touching, contemplative melodies with a hint of deviance at its heart. The sum of both parts makes for a terrific ride nonetheless. Playing out with those melodies does make for a very satisfying conclusion too, ending an eventful four minutes. This band continues to impress me I must say, a maturation of the music previous to their release perhaps, but without compromising on their experimental piledriver of a metal monster. A new song release every month looks to be a calendar date worth saving right now.
Album releases don’t get by without money unfortunately, so these gentlemen need your love and support to make its inception as big as it possibly can be by backing their Kickstarter campaign. In return, you’ll get access to all the songs as soon as they’re available, and you can be credited on the album as making it happen cap’n. That certainly would give me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. So what are you waiting for?
If you haven’t already, go tell them if I’m right or not:
And if you would like to tell me if I’m right or not, or whatever:
There’s an unwritten rule you’re told from a young age but seldom expected to abide by. After all, free will is a marvellous gift and is certifiably one of the things that defines us as living organisms. Never judge a book by its cover. Perhaps a little too metaphorical for the context of this website, but it certainly taught me a lesson. A trend that seems to have emerged, especially within the indie community, is to take an average, everyday phrase and build a superb band identity around it. Fat White Family or The Neighbourhood for example, being perhaps two well-known and excellent cases for this observation. So hopefully I can be forgiven for assuming that on first glance, this could have been another to add to this trend. I honestly went in, expecting to hear a killer indie band. Boy was I surprised. Big Tobacco Company, though stylised as bIg toBacCo CoMpaNY, as opposed to being another of indie’s next big things, are actually an eccentric, movie monster mash-up of a metal band, similar in the vein of System Of A Down. And much like the young rapscallions that System Of A Down once were, tongues seem to not so much be firmly in cheek as boring a hole for freedom, if their social media is anything to go by. Their band logo is a baby rocking heavy duty headphones with a cigar taped to one ear, and the font looks drawn in Paint and coloured with stock textures from Word ’98 for christ sakes. But that’s where the joke begins to end. Amusing as their own antics are, there’s a pack of ferocious wolves that lay beneath the surface, luring you into falling for timidity only to have outstretched hands torn apart in a lust for bloodshed. They can be an unfathomably heavy experience to say the least, occasionally convulsing through their mood swings at times, but all while distancing themselves from the towering landfill of metal and deathcore wannabes. Doom Shroom, a slice taken from their perceived to be forthcoming debut album, demonstrates a little bit of the asylum mentality that their music takes on. Opening with almost nonchalant bass notes, little time is wasted in bursting out with guitars pulverising like stone fists from the gods, relentless drums hounding on your eardrums and vocals that switch from screams that could wither children in an instant, to gruelling, guttural growls you can feel at the pit of your own stomach, to understated clean sections which can only be described as the musical ramblings of a madman, complete with a melody you won’t forget in a hurry. But in a good way, it certainly has a Corey Taylor-kinda vibe to it. The addition of the choir puppeteered by keys halfway and at the end, also adds a nice extra atmospheric dimension instead of announcing a straight-up warpath. Doom Shroom doesn’t quite showcase their entire bag of tricks, but it’s an excellent introduction. The wackiness may not be to everyone’s taste, but there is still a brutal foundation for a formidable, enrapturing and undeniably unique metal force, unlike many before them. And remember kids, always check the label carefully, you never know what you’re getting yourself into.
I’m led to believe that once upon a time there was a six-song EP of theirs floating around, only it’s since disappeared from the internet. So until that time where material is released you should go to their website and listen to the three songs out there, being Doom Shroom, C0mb0 Song and rIpPleS, and else just have a general nose around.
Go give them a big virtual hug:
And if you liked the words I wrote, could I request a virtual hug too, be that in the form of a like, follow or blog subscription? At your own discretion of course:
Bewilderment I’ve always thought is an unusual word. I can’t exactly explain why, but I’ve never felt overly compelled to use it in general conversation. According to the Oxford English dictionary, the definition of the word bewilderment is the state of being puzzled or confused at events that have transpired. Out of context, if you happen to be followed by an identity known only to you as Stalin, you can only be bewildered as to how this occurrence came about in the first place. After all, Stalin, the man himself, is one of the most divisive figures in modern history, as well as a hip-hop artist also from California apparently. So, just who or what is Stalin? That too is a subject of bewilderment. Although the facts are they are a rock band, there’s at least two of them and they have an interest in cult, stretching to occult paraphernalia, a box to define their sound or style doesn’t quite seem to fit them. Elements of bands in sparse amounts you can claim make up the fibre of their already distinct musical output, but aside from a background reminiscent of the school of grunge, they really are a beast of a unique breed. Whether progressive doom backed by eerie chimes in the distance, sludge dirges with a wistful piano break or the quiet-loud waiting game leading in a wave of devastation, Stalin does it with a beautiful yet slightly twisted flair that few bands are capable of. This is none more apparent in their possibly most accessible work California, in combination with the NSFW music video. Bass becomes a big focal point in the track, grinding the surface of sound into an uneasy meeting between yourself and a presence of unsettling intentions. Guitar opens the dialogue, a rich, almost lamenting series of notes expressing a tone of remorse, but not overbearingly so, kind of hinting that there may be an agenda more untoward than let on. Impressions from one of the most original vocal styles I’ve heard in years suggest that too, playing from sinister whispers, to soulful innocence, to crooning with a hint of deviance, to full-blooded screams, even foul-mouthed spoken word gets a look-in, all from the mouthpiece of an incredible talent. With a trance-like drum pattern, all of these pieces slot together into a tenebrous, evocative exhibition, leaving the listener on tenterhooks the entire time. The ending of four furious tapping and skin-bashing bursts into just ambience, the pounding of toms and yelling thought-provoking slogans is surprisingly powerful, not to mention relatively irregular in this kind of music. Unashamedly different in execution by unnervingly talented musicians, Stalin are not just a band, but an experience, an experience that keeps you guessing and rewards perseverance with a blackened take on reinventing the modern rock formula. Music for the masses they say? You’re damn right it is! Masses that have to hear this band.
Stalin are kind enough to be offering the majority of their recorded output on Bandcamp on a pay-what-you-want basis, which I’d recommend go looking at and supporting them. My words might make a little more sense if you watch the music video, which I’ll remind you is NSFW. You were warned. Oh, and they have a website to go look at too. Make sure you do that.
Go give them a like on social media:
And if you like and enjoy what I do, give me a like, a thumbs up on Twitter or consider following my blog, all optional, it’s your life after all:
When it comes to someone with the passion to actively seek out what music the world truly has to offer you, you come across many a colourful band every now and again. None seem to proving that theory any more right than roaming the rich plains of Europe’s metal scene. For every cookie-cutter metal or deathcore band out there, a weird and wonderful troupe dares to take metal and collide it with whatever exotic fruits they have to hand. Norway’s Shining are literal jazz metal and a sublime band. Sweden’s Diablo Swing Orchestra are an opera and big-band recital with electric guitars, and heavy at that. Greece’s Septicflesh are cinematic masters of scoring civilisations with a incredible string section and choir, against the backdrop of death metal. There are plenty of bands out there, like ores in the Earth’s rich crust awaiting their excavation. Then we come to Italy’s Destrage, for the most part an extremely tight tech metal quintet, but with the personality of a hyper scientist given a brand new chemistry set. They’ll take as may different components from the base materials and make it combustible in ways we could scarcely imagine. A twin-pronged guitar juggernaut, one prong more ferocious, the other more surgical, but equally as dangerous, form the brunt of their siege to their senses. But whether they rain metal hellfire, pummel with hardcore beatdowns, clash from contrasting time signatures or simmer to allow for the stunning vocal performance, the end result is nothing short of brilliance. Vocals themselves have to be given their own merits, dynamically shifting from frenzied yelps to lung-burning growls to occasionally emotionally touching and hard-hitting clean passages, sometimes all in the same breath. And drums, well, they just orchestrate the madness. Unpredictable utter madness. Last year’s Are You Kidding Me? No. is completely full of show-stealing instrumentation at literally nearly every given interval, and lead track Destroy Create Transform Sublimate is the total package. Insane tapping melodies, crunching guitar throwdowns, schizoid but terrific drum display, subtle but bone-shaking bass, an awesome rollercoaster of a vocal delivery and a pseudo-dictatorial speech complete with a rousing orchestral score that delves into dark jungle-style drum ‘n’ bass? What more could you ask for? Destrage are turning metal inside out, and for every person who signs up for their energetic brand of engineered chaos, brings them a step closer to dominating like they should be. A truly unbelievable force of a band.
There’s a few albums of theirs floating around, most of them on most respectable music retailers, but just as easy to go get them from their website directly. They’d probably appreciate it as much if you went and got a t-shirt or two from them as well. Oh, and if you’re in Germany, go see them at Euroblast in October.
If you don’t love them already, go love them now here:
And if you enjoy what I’ve written about these awesome gentlemen, maybe consider sending me some love too via whatever social networks you use, you don’t have to, honestly: