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.
On the 11th March 2018, something short of ground-breaking was announced on the social media outlets of one of the world’s most renowned progressive metal groups. Tool had entered the studio to record what has become their now fabled follow-up to 2006’s 10,000 Days. While this news has become a revelation and an answer to many a collective prayer (or keyboard warrior whinging, depending on how you view it), Maynard himself put on record at Metal Hammer’s Golden Gods ceremony that the new Tool album will most likely see the light of day in 2019. Affirmation is one thing, and commitment another, and while 2019 is just around the corner, chances are that will be the absolute bare minimum Tool’s global cult following will have to wait for a new sonic masterpiece. One more year after the twelve of relentless internet hyperbole and immeasurable anticipation that proceeded it, is surely doable, right?
Instead of preparing for what may end up becoming a mass exodus from the workplace on the day that album is released, and following the unexpected success of this article’s predecessor, The Soundshark has put together ten more bands from the underground, worthy of your time, until the musical gap has been bridged by the band themselves. To touch upon briefly from previous feedback, you won’t find Karnivool on this list, or any other list on this site themed similarly, as while not entirely known around the planet at present, they’ve had large enough worldwide success to be able to tour anywhere they see fit, which surely evolves beyond underground status.
Semantics aside, let’s begin:
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.
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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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It seems like somewhat of a mystery to me for reasons I can’t get to grips with, but I’m not really much of a fan of the 70’s when it comes to that discussion of the best decade for music. This all boils down to opinion and personal preference of course, so personally speaking, there will never really be a definitive answer, unless you feel compelled to survey the population of Earth that can comprehend musical eras and have functioning hearing. Make no mistake, the 70’s birthed some important music, such as Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, sited as one of the heaviest albums of all-time and most likely responsible for pioneering the ‘doom metal sound.’ But you know what was the most important music that the 70’s was able to birth? Punk. It served as a counterpart to the state of mind and a form of practice through fashion and action, but given how vital its tendencies and ideologies were, especially now, rife in the age of self-publication and self-production, the music and its spirit live on through countless bands and artists. Aspiring and established alike. The faces change over time, and its sound distorted, twisted, disfigured and transformed in endless shapes and evolutions, so when you encounter a gang playing punk as it once was, as raw, uncompromising and unapologetically honest as its roots implied, the outcome is as invigorating as you’d hope it would be.
For the best part of over a decade, Blackpool’s Litterbug have kept the very essence of punk alive by keeping a lo-fi, bare bones approach to writing triumphant bursts of social critique and defiance that could’ve been ripped straight out of the punk revolution at its apex. It is the embodiment of three gentlemen with a message, getting together and thrashing out music that you can feel the passion and heart of in every chord and every word. This isn’t one-dimensional punk either. Instances of the surfing 60’s guitar movement can be felt here, as well as a healthy injection of grunge, most evident by their roaring cover of Pixies’ Planet of Sound. Their most recent long-player Artistic Harassment, an album from front-to-end that flies faster than bullet velocity, punches as hard as a water cannon to the chest but remains as exhilarating as a shuttle ascending into the stratosphere, poses a monumentally difficult task to highlight a standalone track of a stellar punk blueprint. If pressed enough though, I’d settle for Codeine. While there are many, many irresistible hooks best illustrated through ditties I Will Not Explain, You Don’t Want What I Don’t Want and Bash My Brain, the slower-paced, sub-two minute showcase of attitude in Codeine brings out what Litterbug do best. From the outset, guitar performs as a handsaw over a gas-guzzling, chain-bladed one, but that methodical practice serves well with the scuzzy tone, chords almost morphing into riffs from the speed switch. The vocal delivery is undeniably snotty, without being obnoxiously so and serves as one of the album’s most perfect analogies of telling life and society where to shove its predicaments and insecurities. Think Sex Pistols meeting the Buzzcocks on Fistral Beach and you’re pretty damn close. The soft grumble of bass does surface to the forefront throughout and fleshes out the texture of the sound and that illusion of recording on eight-track in your garage, as old-school and pure as music production can get. A pseudo-guitar solo even gets a brief see-in in the short duration of the track, perhaps giving a quick nod to Chuck Berry and the rock and roll greats in the process. But just as you feel the engine revving up, the ignition is gradually turned back off and you can’t help but crave more. You can’t realistically experience the full capacity of Litterbug’s arsenal based on a minute and 49 seconds worth of material, however repeated listens do make for excellent profile building. These three gentlemen make music that is as full-blooded and unrepentant as punk and its pioneers were heralded for, and each collection of songs they commit to record is another kick-ass footnote on why punk never died, it merely went on vacation.
Litterbug’s latest album Artistic Harassment can be found on their Reverb Nation page with the vast majority of that album, generously available as free downloads. A handful of other tracks are also available as free downloads too, including that aforementioned Planet of Sound cover. Otherwise, physical and full digital copies of their other albums are incredibly scarce, besides copies of their 2005 and 2009 re-release of the acclaimed Speaking Through The Gaps which can be found on most respectable music retailers.
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There was something inherently right ironically when Refused released The Shape Of Punk To Come: punk rock over the years seems to have morphed predominantly into the hardcore we are all familiar with and ten a penny’s worth emblazoned on the cover of Kerrang. Don’t get me wrong, I love Refused and there are some excellent hardcore bands out there if you’re willing to do a little digging. My point is, hardcore tends be the norm if you’re looking for something that even remotely resembles punk nowadays. I can hear people crying pop-punk in the distance, but let’s just be serious a moment. Hardcore it seems presents itself as an outlet for a melting pot of rage and testosterone, and it can all come across as a bit violent at times. Creating a riot for catharsis’ sake I guess I can understand the appeal of, but not when I’m getting roundhouse kicked in the face by some topless prick in the mosh pit. I can’t speak for myself because I wasn’t present in the 70’s and had no idea of riot grrrl at least until my teens, but do you remember when punk wasn’t so macho, or dare I say it, a lot more fun? Screech Bats seem to certainly think about that time. I mean, their band logo is a dinosaur with pigtails eating an ice-cream for Christ sakes. You could certainly whisper riot grrrl under your breath as so much as look at them, but out of everything that seems to be rising from the dead right now, the presence of more all-female punk bands is more than OK with me. And these girls kick ass.
On first listen, their sound comes across as an unmistakably more British interpretation of The Distillers, but gradually you taste the flavours of punk, grunge and good ol’ fashioned rock and roll with the lightest hit of pop sensibilities, all emerging from a punchy concoction. Their work ethic is certainly something to be celebrated too. They haven’t been on the face of the Earth a year yet and already they’re racking the gigs up and have their first EP out in the world. Under cover of darkness, they released a track off the self-titled aforementioned EP a month or so ago, called Pathologigirl and based on the strength of this track alone, Screech Bats are shaping up to be a very special band. From the moment the pistol trigger is pulled, you’re treated to quick, chainsaw-on-fire sounding chords, harmonised by jagged guitar and gritty bass, brought to life by an animated drum performance. From the double bass kicks and brief drum rolls, you get the feel for Bad Religion over Sex Pistols, but the pace and technique remains timeless in any sense. Vocals skate alongside, telling a tale about the bane of any girl, or child for that matter growing up: playground bullying, and judging on the choice of words used, there’s a lot of bad blood and disdain here, and you can certainly feel it drip from every scathing syllable. A lovely little guitar lick, showcasing some of that grunge and rock and roll influence, propels you into the chorus, which has all the traits of a great punk anthem: memorability, gang chants, an opportunity for massive audience participation and rock solid musicianship, all swashed with the confidence, attitude and swagger that punk breeds. It also has a cracking guitar solo too near the song’s close and ends in white hot riff worship, which I think we’ll see a little more from in the future. All in all, this is a rousing and incredibly exciting sub-three minute burst of unity through fury, exactly the foundations punk was built upon before it started taking steroids. Who needs Bad Religion when you have this hard-working quartet of ladies practically sitting on your doorstep? They’ll probably kick the door down too. Inspiring listening.
The self-titled EP is available to purchase from their online store for an absolute steal, while I’m led to believe a download purchase is currently in the works too. Meanwhile, they’re touring anywhere and everywhere, so go see them at the date nearest you. I promise you won’t regret it.
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Human nature is an unusual and difficult thing to predict at the best of times. It sees the worst in humanity, being driven to inflict pain, misery and suffering upon one another or even to be as cruel as to end another’s life, for whatever goal or reason that consumes you. But it can also bring out the best in our species, to love, cherish and show compassion to another, to share an experience or a memory that leaves an everlasting impact on the recipients, that can last for the rest of your days.
I had already made the joke at Sophie’s Earthquake’ expense regarding a girl creating an earthquake that ultimately costs the lives of our fellow man. Only to have that theory shot down not long after, once the band contacted me themselves saying the name was actually derived from having the rehearsal space underneath the drummer’s house, whom wife is called Sophie. Least I seem to recall that’s where the name came from. The story’s all here anyway. But this goes hand in hand with what’s already been said about human kindness. After the original article focusing on their EP, they were incredibly generous enough to offer me an exclusive listen to an unmastered demo, taken from their forthcoming album, the demo now known as Fatima and Flood respectively. I had never been given such a moment of privilege in my entire life, and was truly humbled by this experience and will continue to be forever grateful for.
Four to five months later, Sophie’s Earthquake’s debut album was released on Christmas Eve just gone. Titled The Flood, it carries on their psychedelic- meets-grunge approach, but in the gap between their EP and the album, the band have truly blossomed and evolved their sound into some musically jaw-dropping compositions. Although Fatima and Flood were conjoined upon my first listen, they were separated for the album’s release but still retain that sense of awe and excitement I felt upon that twelve minute extravaganza of smoky ambience and blazing guitar work in full instrumental glory. Despite being released very late last year, for fans of music with a chasm-like depth of atmosphere and scale, you need to listen to this album.
My pick from The Flood, personally has to be Zero Distance. The Alice In Chains-style tone has morphed into a more ominous, urgent sounding presence, lying in the shadows. It certainly sounds far more abrasive and threatening than any moment of their previous work, likely down to the distortion on the guitar. The beat of the war drum drum hasn’t changed however, but it didn’t need to. It was already a gratifying percussive force and complimented the swirling atmosphere beautifully. Here, against the tone of an oncoming storm, each thump of the skins is another footstep closer to something landscape-changing. Upon the beat becoming regular and that snare serving as warning shots, you can feel something electric building up further and further into time. Throughout you also get the warm rumblings of bass, providing an additional layer of groove or thickening the overall atmosphere, just when chaos seems around the corner. Echoes of a voice wailing in the distance lead in the blues-soaked vocal chords, that do undeniably have a resemblance to the late Layne Staley. While we given the impression the band were unsure at first whether to include vocals in the bulk of their songs, the decision and startling confidence behind the delivery speaks volumes.
Switching from sinister whispers, to a soulful, whiskey-coated croon, to a melancholic but empowered bellow to make you tremble where you stand, the vocal projection has been elevated to another level from past material. And transferring such passion into a darker, brooding progressive journey, only enhances the experience. The moving cries of lead guitar harmonise with groove of the bassline, giving one last moment of calm and stability in the sonic landscape, before the inevitable gear switch, triggered by the sudden emphasis on bass driving the tempo. It becomes a manner of waiting. Power chords are left to wail and ring into the night, while drums intensify and diminish just as quickly, teasing that pay-off. It is left down to an almighty yell, for all the instruments to unite in one hurricane-force gust and unleash the unstoppable psychedelic force they possess. In tone, the atmosphere sits more in a dark and stormy night than a haze-infused trip, so the moment doesn’t explode as such, but it doesn’t make the guitar soloing any more stellar and spectacular. Bass plays a crucial part in making this a real special moment, the prominent deep grinding away, adding more than a substantial yin to the guitar’s yang, while drums keep pounding hard and inject some subtle rhythmic nuances to the pace. Towards the final furlong, this truly is a moment of pure rapture and a moment to lose yourself within. One tremendous drum performance, the continual bass siege and one last blues-touched anti-war slogan, we come to a close.
Aside from being some of the absolute nicest gentlemen I’ve ever had the opportunity to reach out to, Sophie’s Earthquake are killer musicians and deserving of a higher pedestal to put their music on. The Flood is a fantastic debut album, taking what made them a fascinating prospect and fleshing it out above and beyond what was thought they were capable of. Far darker in mood and tone than could be anticipated, but full of intoxicatingly good musicianship and songs, that are enjoyably progressive but can keep you guessing too.
The Flood and their debut EP are only available to purchase on their Bandcamp page, for very reasonable prices might I add, while physical copies are currently in the planning stages. Their website is also under maintenance. as of the time of writing. Sophie’s Earthquake will no doubt also be touring shortly, so keep an eye on their social media.
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