I’ll be among the first to admit that 2017 is now a fading memory in long and short terms of immediate recollection. After all, we’ve reached a quarter of the year in already and only now do I find myself reflecting on and scrutinising the year past, since coming to terms with my current situation. Of which I feel is moving in a more positive direction. That said, while my own personal presence took a negative slant in the seventeenth year of the new millennium, musically, there was such a creative surge of magnificence which resulted in many, many excellent albums being released. Also one such reason for this list being delayed as it is. So, with ever-so-slightly wistful eyes, The Soundshark casts its spotlight on my ten favourite albums released in 2017, and for your listening indulgence:
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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Ironically, it almost seems like 10,000 days since we saw the last Tool album. Well, 10,000 days is the equivalent to 27 and a bit years, so not quite that far yet, but it has at least been a decade since the previous album from the LA masters of progressive metal. And understandably, there’s a lot of hype growing towards it, as on and off progress continues to be made, and has been for at least three years, not owing part to the now resolved lawsuit that had hung heavy over their heads for a lengthy period of time. There’s also an awful lot of impatience. So far, the only trace of new material we’ve had is a two-minute long instrumental jam, tentatively titled Descending, which by the band’s own admission is only a fragment of a song in progress. Yet the memes, anger and remarks persist. So I thought I’d offer an alternative to those dismayed by the lack of answers or have grown tired of waiting, by rounding up eight excellent, lesser known bands to listen to in the mean time whilst the new Tool album materialises:
I don’t know how often boxing or boxing terminology crosses over into music, or at least has a hand in naming bands, but it seems kinda few and far between. To my knowledge anyway. Perhaps most famously an example being the outstanding Glassjaw, whose output helped define the landscape for post-hardcore and its endless ilk today. I’m sure there’s half a dozen bands or so that are called Southpaw too, one of which I know are pretty good. Any more for any more? I got the Prize Fighter Inferno, The Boxer Rebellion and Title Fight (well, can be applied to boxing), but I think that’s all I came up with after some serious thought. I’ve never heard of an iron jawed guru though, unless that refers specifically to one of the greatest of all time, like a Floyd Mayweather or a Muhammed Ali or something. Part of me wishes it was something to do with having a mechanically reconstructed deity, but that’s my imagination going walkabouts. Onto the topic at hand though, Iron Jawed Guru is actually the namesake of a West Virginia based instrumental hard rock duo, whose primary objective is to conceive the most electrifying musical stampedes imaginable, solely based on just a guitar and drums. Last year saw the birth of the Caldera EP, a six-song sledgehammer that introduced those who tuned in to a cavalcade of white-hot riffs and a gallant drum performance, with enough speed and force to blast your stomach out through your spinal column. Their first full-length album Mata Hari continues that trend, remaining as unrelenting, never taking its foot off the accelerator for a second. While only seven songs in length, the rapid fire bursts of stellar hard rock action are an absolutely storming affair, with undeniably the most fun reaching the album’s climax Vesuvius. It seems they left the longest track until last to illustrate the best of their impressive toolset. Vesuvius opens like walking calmly into a saloon, seeing through the viewpoint of vigilante justice, sizing up every antagonist in the vicinity while keeping hands close to guns. The guitar and drums are an excitingly tense interplay, keeping a fine balance of riffs and groove in an almost Western blues-inspired tone, if such a thing exists. Confidence and charisma simply oozes out of their musicianship, two men possessed and intent on making all hell break loose and having the balls to butt heads with the Devil as he emerges. But much like the volcano itself, the pressure builds up too much and it begins to trickle over with the pace increase, before spurting white hot magma in every conceivable direction. If this was that Western saloon shoot out, justice by the bullet load would be unfolding as the lone gunslinger lets the occupants taste three inches of lead, from each furious guitar lick and snare bash. And there’s a lot of them in the space of the final minute. All in all, it’s a terrific thrill ride that showcases the talents of two incredible musicians, who are aiming for that lucrative title fight and have all the credentials and necessary ability to be a dominant force, and hoist that belt high above their heads.
Mata Hari is out now on Grimoire Records, which can be obtained on a digital and physical capacity from their Bandcamp page, and I highly recommend doing so. Otherwise, Caldera can be bought from their own Bandcamp page and also well worth your investment. You can find their music in most respectable music retailers too if you wish to do so that way.
Go buy them the equivalent of a social media drink:
And you’re more than welcome to do the same for me if you so wish, be it a like, follow or subscription:
Something somebody said recently struck me as it made an awful lot of sense. Exactly when do you stop saying, ‘Happy New Year,’ to one another? Or at least when does it become acceptable at the least. I honestly don’t know, but for now, I’m still considering it an appropriate time to talk about my favourite songs of last year. Seeming I’ve made a habit of it, and I finally have time to sit down and write about them.
2015 was a challenging year as it more or less marked my transition from degree student to having to fend for myself. Sometimes it sucked, sometimes it didn’t. But something that I didn’t previously have was a companion, somebody that I hold very dear to me and somebody I look forward to what the future holds for the both of us. As such, she has had an impact on deciding this list, just as much as the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve gone through in the past year has. Like I’ve said before, I do these lists for biographical reasons, to show where I’ve been and what’s happened in years gone by. Music and memory are powerful things.
So my rules for the list are as follows: I don’t always pick songs from this year to put on the list, it involves literally anything I’ve listened to in the past year that I’ve enjoyed frequently enough (that said, there are a lot of 2015 entries on this list which makes a change), but I try to avoid putting more than one song by the same artist in. Some of my past lists had more than one or two. You can find them on Spotify if you want to.
I would like to make an honourable mentions list, but there were far too many to include on this year’s list, so I’ll skip that formality this time. Just so many good moments or songs to include the entire list. And if you would like to listen to this list uninterrupted, commentary-free, then head on over to the Spotify playlist instead.
Righty then, on with the show…
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.
Which you can do so by clicking this link here and giving them a great big thumbs up:
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Well, 2015 has reached its close, December slowly fading off into the distance as we leave behind a year of fantastic music and a year of fantastic bands, in the public knowledge and waiting to be discovered. What awaits us into the next calendar leap year? Hopefully more of the same and whatever craze next to infect the minds of the impressionable as it cracks the charts. I’m pretty sure 2015 was the year of big room house, or bass house, or whatever. I didn’t care enough to pay attention. But what I did care about, and what I very much care about, is hearing the rumblings or public declarations in some aspects of 20 under-the-radar, underrated, unsigned and underground bands making music in the new year that I’m excited about, and hopefully I can make you excited about too. After all, this is what I want to do for life. If I can’t make you excited about emerging or unearthed music, then I may as well quit here and now.
I’ll give it my best shot. So, in no particular order, 20 bands with new material in 2016, you might want to pay attention to: