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 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:
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.
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Well, this is a first for me and this blog. The track of this week has never before been released upon the general public, or anywhere, even. So… I guess this kinda makes this a world exclusive first reveal from an album yet to be released. No pressure then.
That said, I am incredibly happy to be able to showcase one track from a forthcoming album, from a band at a local level that deserve a larger following for their unusual but ultimately endearing sound. And obsession with crabs. Music definitely needs more crabs. Which follows along the lines of what attracted me to these gentlemen in the first place: What constitutes as an actual crap crab, and what exactly does that mean in terms of musical pedigree? Well, the four-piece hailing from Hitchin in the UK play a mixture of self-dubbed post roller-disco and instrumental party jams since their humble beginnings at the tail end of 2011. Through sporadic shows, trickling of recorded material and constant murmurs around the crustacean race, their four years as a musical outlet has culminated in the advent of their first long-player: The appropriately titled Volume 1. Likely being one of the only recipients outside of the band to have heard the album in full, courtesy of the band themselves, I can safely say that the album is a mirror image of their quirky but very likeable personalities. Though balancing more on the side of the instrumental party jam state of affairs, the jerky but intricate rhythms of indie and math rock butt heads and absolutely litter Volume 1’s running time, but each track bar the keyboard-commanded interludes, does take on a personality of its own, much like an incarnation of a musical crab-like Mr. Benn, changing outfits or disguises depending on the cue cards. In fact, the happy-go-lucky nature and optimism radiated from the combination of instruments essentially gives an air of the cartoon-esque to their music, fitting this comparison perfectly.
One of my personal highlights on the album of which there are many, including the song titles (Breaking Crab anyone?), may just have to go to Death Crab For Cutie, also hands down my favourite song title. Though I mentioned the instrumental party jam label earlier, this track states a better case for a short heist film soundtrack. The beginning introduced by bold interplay from the two guitars and bass, almost acts as a dialogue, leading into the intricacies of sneaking around and breaking into a bank vault. There’s a sense of pride and power made in this early statement, that Crap Crab are excellent in portraying in their music. The diagetics of each riff or tremolo could symbolise an action of the break-in and tasks of opening the vault. Drums do a spectacular job, no tom, snare or cymbal is wasted in strengthening and building that complexion of a tense, risk-filled atmosphere. Near the end however, the pace changes to a strut of confidence, or that the thieves have been caught, with the guitar sounding more than a little awkward, if intentional or not. Boy you can hip-shake to that groove though. That said, not all of Crap Crab’s guitar work focuses on tight rhythms and grooves, they can throw the hammer down with some force, evident at given moments, both guitars at their most aggravated three minutes in. What it boils down to is how much fun can you have in four and a half minutes. And that really is what Crap Crab is about, a deliriously entertaining voyage of melodies, hooks and grooves, filled with clever little touches that trap you in its vice-like grip and won’t release you until start dancing. Compelling, creative and charismatic.
Many thanks again to Crap Crab for entrusting me with their album that has been a long time in the works. Their next gig will be at Club 85 in their home town of Hitchin on the 12th September. Volume 1 has a proposed release date of this autumn, available from their Bandcamp page in digital and physical format. Some odd songs of theirs can be found on Bandcamp and on their Soundcloud with a couple of free jams to download from there. And of course, go like them on Facebook, because social media is fun and whatever.
I don’t know about you but I have a friend called Lizaveta, well Elizaveta, known as Lisa for short hand. All I can and will tell you about her is that she didn’t stink, not by a long shot, although her room predominantly did. It wasn’t a horrific smell, just the constant burning of incense blending with the other smells of a dwelling containing four other mostly housebound students. There is purpose to this anecdote, as the phrase Stinking Lizaveta is actually lifted from Russian novel The Brothers Karamazov of which my friend will most likely be familiar with because she is also Russian. But not only does she share her name with a character from a Russian philosophical novel from the 1800’s, she also shares it with a highly unique instrumental hard rock trio from Philadelphia. Not only does the band have a career spanning over twenty years, but their approach to instrumentation makes their soundscapes an unmissable tour de force, blending a myriad and menagerie of genres from far and wide. In their own words, they describe their music as ‘doom jazz,’ not the first time the phrase has been coined, but the proclaimed label does have an air of truth to it. The free-forming and switching of tempos resembles that of jazz in its heyday, with the surprising size of strength behind the guitar in slower, concentrated jams certainly invoking a hazier doom spirit. But that’s where that label doesn’t begin to cover the vast spectrum of playing ability that Stinking Lizaveta are capable of morphing in their own eclectic manner. The highly cinematic Sacrifice And Bliss album from 2009, takes cues from Eastern Europe, noise rock, psychedelia, math, 70’s prog, funk, the blues and even modern metal in places, molding it all into a complex sculpture of tremendous artistic ability. Every song is its own tale with trial and tribulations. The title track for instance, shows that blues influence taking on an almost Spaghetti-Western persona, the sun rising on the backdrop of softer strums and more melodic notes, before drums work their way into the fabric, the constant crashing of cymbals giving power to an unseen protagonist, that once pace picks up, kicks into action. After a barrage of notes and drums, urgent and suggesting imminent threat, old school prog rock virtuoso soloing quickly comes into play, injecting an optimism and triumph into the proceedings as the protagonist has conquered all ahead of them. There is not really enough in just four and a half minutes to give you a full taste of how incredible these three musicians are. Steve Albini, Corrosion of Conformity and Clutch can’t be wrong to work with them. Although their name may not give much away, one thing you can be certain of is, if they had to stink, you can bet their stink would be an aroma of otherworldly proportions.
All of Stinking Lizaveta’s back catalogue can be found through most respectable music retailers, in physical or occasionally digital formats. In the meantime, if you enjoyed this title track, the entire album is available to listen to here.
How do you imagine what your dreams sound like? Or even stop to consider what they could sound like? The sheer insanity of mine at times compliment the eclecticism of my whole diverse musical taste, ranging from wandering around car parks, to being chasing by giant talking fish, to free-running around a shipyard made entirely of Lego, to being haunted by a list of the 100 creepiest Japanese girls in horror films… You get the idea, it’s pretty bizarre. However the idea of sleeping or settling to sleep is supposedly one of the most calming moods known to mankind, and as such, pictures a feeling of relaxation and contentment in body and mind before rest. Supreme relaxation in sound courtesy of Greek post rock outfit Sleepstream however takes this initial sentiment and heightens it with grandiose delivery. Specialising in orchestral-blanketed guitar journeys that unravel gradually from softer lullabies with a pinch of sorrow, to extended tremolos against a huge backdrop of sound, that capture the idea of freefall or floating superbly. A lot of post rock may transport you to another dimension entirely, but none will be as moving as the addition of strings to the core formula, of which the results sound far more human than many bands that have tried. Opening track of 2011’s A Waltz With The Seventh Crane, the melancholy titled You Gave Me Butterflies, I Gave You Loss, plays on the joy emanating from a person in the five minute tale, characterised by acoustic strokes, then combining it with the downcast nature of the other, brought to life by the introduction of the electric guitar and the largely more prominent violin and cello. Listening in on this embrace between star-crossed lovers, grants a sense of audience privilege and could almost invoke guilt at knowing these personifications of sound, are not fated to be. An absolute stroke of genius. Many groups can tell a tale, with or without words, only some of them can muster your emotional investment, but Sleepstream are a selective few that can make you feel the story unfolding and the drama touch the inner fibres of your being. The soundtrack of your dreams? Perhaps, but most certainly it is a cinematic landscape with such radiant beauty, it will stun but enthral you every inch of the way.
A Waltz With The Seventh Crane and last year’s They Flew In Censored Skies can be purchased from Sleepstream’s Bandcamp page for a reasonable sum, via Fluttery Records or from most respectable music retailers.
Better get a beverage of choice and get comfortable for this one. This is by far the longest song you’ll have heard on this blog. But in the best of ways, as a two part space epic absolutely cram filled with unique musical and cultural ideas that keep this a truly fascinating listen. Comparisons to the works of Hawkwind, Pink Floyd and the heydays of krautrock have all been ushered to these four (now three) Croatian gentlemen, but the first part of 46 minute long St Anthony’s Fire, reminded me a little more of Ozric Tentacles, at least from the psychedelic scale of their music. While somewhat of an extended jam, the influences from Balkan and Oriental scales and dipping into jazz territories, even classical compositions at times, keep a gorgeous constant flow throughout the unbelievably tight evolution of both pieces. Electronics haze, phase, swirl and whirl in and out of multi-textural guitar exhibitionism, pace changing as quickly as British weather thanks to an insane drum performance, but there is never a lull in its running time. Consistently exciting from beginning to end, music oft doesn’t sound so free and unrestricted by traditional music conventions, and that what makes Fjodor and St. Anthony’s Fire from 2013 a stroke of genius from a band of phenomenally talented musicians.
St. Anthony’s Fire is readily available from the band’s Bandcamp page, whereas their previous work is much more difficult to come across, so research is definitely needed to unearth that.