Live Bite – Johnny Deathshadow/Spectral Darkwave/Lady Rage/Prescription Happiness – The Unicorn, 28/10/19

At the beginning of the working week, and as the final countdown to Halloween, the outskirts of Camden houses Halloweek, a series of gigs and events hosted by curious free house The Unicorn, a mostly modern featured, open planned boozer, with opinionated locals who very clearly voice their disdain for live music as I scrutinise the bar, and a decently sized function space and stage for where tonight’s events would unfold.

I grab a beer, perch upon one of the many stools facing dead opposite the stage, and await tonight’s openers, Prescription Happiness. The inset and outset play out as moments best described as voices inside your head, akin to the Gene Wilder tunnel scene from the original Chocolate Factory film but eerieness switched for overwhelming dread. Initially their sound evaded an immediate touch point, their music oft feeling reminiscent yet totally their own. Half of their set borrowed from modern metal staples, Sempiternal-era Bring Me the Horizon and Slipknot being immediate reference points, but the other half an eyebrow-raising concoction of Korn, Incubus and most solid hard rock bands. However on record, there’s more of a Tokio Hotel comparison and that also becomes evident frequently. Without a shadow of a doubt though, these are boys with thick tones, and their breakdowns are plenty sizeable in stature. Despite a heavy emphasis placed on the screams, the clean vocals impress far more, and draw some emo-esque comparisons into their already head-spinning influence pool. The quartet’s set ends with Quietly Falling, a tremendous groove-laden number that scratches a future radio airplay itch if it hasn’t already. Their half hour elapsed rapidly, undoubtedly heavier than hardcore, yet not quite heavy enough to tussle with the bruisers of metalcore, not that they were trying to. 

The beginning of Lady Rage’s set is regrettably missed, after an awkward run-in with the Johnny Deathshadow boys face painting in the gentleman’s water closet, so I hasten to finish my business and make it back to the stage. Very much in the spirit of Halloween, a pumpkin, Beetlejuice, Harley Quinn and whom I believed to be Freddy Krueger, though I’m reliably informed they came dressed as the drummer, unleash a wall of noise that bridges that gap between Hole and The Distillers perfectly. Unmistakeable, ferocious, scuzzy, grunge-soaked, riot grrrl punk, with plenty of melodies to back it up. That’s without mentioning a bass tone with serious clout, and their vocalist, the aptly named Siren Sycho, having terrifying power behind her screams, and being able to maintain such a formidable strength consistently. Their repetoire busts out a cracking cover of Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy too, taking on the form of the Rolling Stones or T-Rex butting heads with Brody Dalle, and that is exactly as good as it sounds. Wholly entertaining enough to watch again, their set includes a guitar-bass duel, a song titled ‘Not Joan Jett,’ and another that ravages social media, while live-streaming their set on Facebook, so while not quite as angry as face value implies, these ladies present themselves just as talented as they are self-depreciating.

While also in the spirit of Halloween, though just their regular stage attire, the misleadingly named Spectral Darkwave stepped up, masks, monocles, and sunglasses upon leather clad vestments, addressing us to what was assumed to be hurtling through the space-time continuum. A name like that, you would expect perhaps some sort of gothic metal influx atop synth. Not even remotely close. Instead, what we get is far more progressive, sludgy, almost straying into doom territory at times from this trio masquerading as Lovecraftian time travellers. Musically, their assault is airlock tight as they dive through dirges often about war and the horrors of mankind, bar the odd track about elephants or the death of a red giant, each track assimilating subtle characteristics of its era or subject matter, a very clever writing touch. They bare some sonic resemblance to Mastodon or even Opeth, with a constant growl dictating their narratives, but interspersed with some light-hearted jibes between songs. It ends up endearing towards the end, something only a British band could accomplish comfortably. Some waves of synth and programmed symphonic brushes do fade in and out, giving a sense of ethereal gloom, but ultimately this spectral entity oozes sludge and a metric tonne at that.

At one point, Johnny Deathshadow introduce themselves as Germany’s most loved party band, before announcing that their next song is about cancer, and that sums up their performance pretty succinctly. Playing London for the first time in their careers, their setlist contained an excellent variety of old and new material, of blistering and nuanced paces while squeezing most of the hits in (Black Clouds, Dark Hearts admittedly a surprising omission). Their stage presence flickers between intimidating and intimate, minor sexual frictions dotted throughout their performance, and their show itself is nothing short of masterful, light choreography alone granting gravitas worthy of a band playing a thousand capacity crowd than a small pub on the fringe of Camden. Red Rain opens aggressively, the chorus of cries offsetting the white hot intensity that rarely lets up the whole show. The skull-faced quartet scorch through four of their best from latest album D.R.E.A.M. which next to Red Rain, include a stripped back yet even more fiery rendition of Legion, and a fittingly melancholy Embers. Paying tribute to their punk roots, Under His Eye ignites with the headbanging crowd as does several of the set’s second half including Bleed With Me fan favourites, the archetypical Neue Deutsche Hart groove of Apocalypse Trigger, and the ground-stomping sway of Shadow, before concluding on the exhilarating Kill The Lights, and they even finish with streamers. Blood red obviously, but such an unexpected delight at the end of a storming set.

Johnny Deathshadow jokingly remarked that the band would be dead in the water had they started in the UK, crediting the trio of bands they had shared the stage with that night, but the Hamburg group played with such passion and zeal, and with the aura of bonafide superstars, the performance felt every part special as they had intended. Poor attendance aside, this industrial metal troupe’s ascent can hopefully be a slow-burner, German gothic circles excluded, as live and on record, they are destined cult heroes in the making and a fearsome sight to experience.

Setlist:

Red Rain
Trauma
Legion
Embers
Sleeper
Forever
Under His Eye
Ghost
Apocalypse Trigger
Shadow
Kill The Lights

 

PRESCRIPTION HAPPINESS

www.facebook.com/PreHappiness
http://www.twitter.com/PreHappiness
www.prescriptionhappiness.net

LADY RAGE

http://www.facebook.com/ladyrageuk
http://www.twitter.com/ladyrage_uk

SPECTRAL DARKWAVE

http://www.facebook.com/SpectralDarkwave
http://www.twitter.com/SpectralDark
spectraldarkwave.bandcamp.com

JOHNNY DEATHSHADOW

http://www.facebook.com/johnnydeathshadow
http://www.instagram.com/johnnydeathshadow
www.johnnydeathshadow.com

THE SOUNDSHARK

http://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark
http://www.twitter.com/The_Soundshark

 

 

Track of the Week: Gutlocker – Deeper Underground

If you were an advocate for Woking being a vibrant cultural metropolis, it may be understandable to warrant a raised eyebrow or two. While the community of Woking is certainly a explosion of diversity in the best sense of the term, visually, half the town is caked in rubble due to a massive scale rejuvenation project currently ongoing. Yes, while this Surrey terminal serves as the spiritual home of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, (perhaps fitting because of the reconstruction), the headquarters of the World Wildlife Foundation, and has been the birthplace of many of this country’s contemporary cultural heroes, it doesn’t quite have the looks to match its significance and contribution to the arts… yet. Aesthetics aside, Woking musically has given us national treasures like The Jam and Status Quo, and is responsible for recent trailblazers like Palm Reader and Employed To Serve. That said, the notion of tearing everything down and buiding it up stronger, bigger and better, suits fellow Woking noise merchants Gutlocker, and their gargantuanly proportioned cover of Jamiroquai’s Deeper Underground lifted from the Godzilla soundtrack of 1998. After all, this is a band that wrote a song about Woking called Welcome To Fucktown.

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Leading in with heavy bass tones and the rings of guitar distortion, it sets the ominous tone of the original perfectly, nailing the synth’s foreboding ambience, and injecting their own sense of dread. Those cymbal taps underneath too twist the screws of tension to come. We don’t quite get the grandiose orchestra-esque notes before the first verse, as much as controlled chord rips to conclude the introduction go, but when frontman Craig McBrearty projects his beginning almighty scream, it serves the catalyst for a rip-roaring thrill ride. The famous groove that helped catapult Jay Kay and crew to the top of the UK charts is faithfully recreated, but undeniably grittier and oozing machismo that surpasses the crystal clean, subdued production of its progenitor. A subtle, impressive improvement is the volley of machine-gun style bass kicks that accompany this groove also, driving that sheer raw energy into a speeding freight train human might has no hope of stopping.

Delivered at an increased velocity, the soulful melody that once was is eviscerated with piercing shrieks still enunciating fantastically at speed, arguably with a faster flow that could embarrass many of hip-hop’s finest, which transforms into this formidable bark hurtling into the chorus, exhibiting strengths in Craig’s vocal abilities that are eye-opening to say the least. And the overall tone of that chorus couldn’t be further from the original’s minimal funk, sharing more in common with trying to survive the playground of a Leatherface or Jigsaw Killer-type onslaught; intense, crazed, and frightening. Fearing moments where it could slip into campy aggression, Gutlocker keep the bulldozer in high gear, leading to an endlessly satisfying solo bassline, the quieter spoken word beneath somehow unnervingly more sinister than the imposing screams already experienced, left to grind away the glimpse of an escape before certain doom encroaches on us all. Doom it certainly becomes, in which slowing the chorus groove down invokes the spirit of Sabbath, yet the climax teters more on the side of a forceful pummeling, than chatting with the Grim Reefer.

If a record label sat down with Randy Blythe and Dimebag Darrell to ask them to tackle famous soundtracks from the late 90’s, this could’ve been the result. Gutlocker’s take on Deeper Underground is inspired, befitting of their energetic, often seismic presence, and at the expense of some brawn, amp up the atmosphere to morph a record-selling series of catchy hooks, into a horror fetishist’s album collection. Side by side, their frankly hilarious music video with Outright Resistance’s Michael ‘Grandad’ Worsley stealing the show as… uh… Godzilla, shows that there is humanity and humor in their craft, no matter how dark or deep into the abyss of the soul Gutlocker are willing to dive inside.

 

Deeper Underground is out now on your favourite streaming services and all respectable music retailers. Their previous EP Cry Havoc! and all of their merchandise can be obtained via their Bandcamp. Gutlocker are stalwarts of the UK metal scene and tour regularly so keep an eye closely on their social media for upcoming dates, or bring them to you if you’re that way inclined.

You can locate these compelling gentlemen on the internet here:

http://www.facebook.com/gutlockeruk
http://www.twitter.com/gutlocker1
http://www.instagram.com/gutlocker_official

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20 Bands And Artists With New Music in 2019 You Should Keep An Eye On

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.

Continue reading

Track of the Week: Drip Fed Empire – Mk3

Out of many of the UK’s numerous cities, Bristol has always seemed the crux of a cultural zeitgeist, especially when it focuses on the world of music. Without needing to retread too much ground, it’s been richly documented how influential the city has been in electronic music, giving the world both trip-hop and drum and bass, the latter of which is still thriving within the city to this day. Yet as forward-thinking and exceptionally acclaimed its producers and electronic maestros are, the city seems to have struggled to create breakout metal, or dare I say it, even rock bands throughout the decades. Idles are now a household name with their BRITs nod, so they can assertively chalk one up on the tally, and Valis Ablaze recognisable thanks to ventures overseas, but other than perhaps Onslaught, Turbowolf or Vice Squad, among the famed names of this fine city’s musical alumni, guitars look like they went out of fashion at the turn of the millennium. Lying in wait however, cloaked deep within Bristol’s impossibly diverse sonic underground, is a band that pays homage to its criminally overlooked punk heritage, embraces its obsession with boundary-shattering electronics, and represents the city’s colours for metal on the national stage. That band is Drip Fed Empire.

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They might not be the first band to smash a myriad of electronic genres together with metal, but they might be the most visceral one active. Alluding to the dystopian universe they create their music inside, even at first glance, Drip-Fed Empire is a petrifyingly close-to-home namesake to what our future could hold, should we continue our annihilation of Earth’s resources, or even a sly acknowledgement to the UK’s past atrocities, infamously grappling with its numerous colonies and infrastructures. Irrespective of past or future tense, the present is what dimension this new wave of crossover aggression dwells within, and presently sit the third iteration of this group since their inception in early 2015. And what better way to introduce the world to a third strike of metal-charged mayhem, than Smile You’re On CCTV’s opener Mk3.

The chimes of a bell, brought to life through synth, melodic yet foreboding, ease listeners in, but that ease is merely fleeting in an anthem that sounds like it’s set about triggering the apocalypse. What equates in atmosphere to a rush of wind, bubbles beneath the surface before being pitch-bent upwards and gathering magnitude at such a pace, that the resulting drop is absolutely startling. A monstrous bassline rips through the fabric of space and time, the sheer ferocity of this shockwave playing perfect host to the chaos and intensity to follow. A guttural bark spews forth, briefly transitioning into a blood-curdling scream, then back to its marginally restrained capacity, almost as if briefly escaping the chains of its handler. The bassline thrashes and snarls underneath it, with the mechanical precision of hard but pristine kick and snare rocketing Mk3 along, and a squelchy, near extraterrestrial variant on the opening bells providing one of the best earworms you’ll hear all year, while paying tribute to the jump-up generation of drum and bass. The bass is silenced, opening the floor for sporadic but focused guitar, interspersed with heavily distorted record scratches, contrasting with the continual barking, and drums that here present a little more finesse than the standard 170bpm backbone of kick and snare. That now familiar bassline eruption returns, and once again we dash into the conflagration, the unbridled energy of this track is capable of producing. And that’s only in the first minute and a half. In the remaining three minutes, you get three seperate breakdowns: one in which the guitar brings forth a little virtuosity of its own, a second in which the extraterrestrial synth hook goes haywire and on a rampage, in a burst of pure joyous jump-up bedlam that would make competent DnB producers blush, and the final, shifting the gear into a violent, half-time behemoth of a breakdown, exhibiting the true wrath and incendiary nature of the group, and its instrumental arsenal.

It bears repeating; Drip Fed Empire are certifiably a band with endless potential, with their amalgamation of bass, beats, and beatdowns, with a touch of their own vitriolic flair, forming some of the most electrifying songwriting the world has yet to latch onto. Remember this name, this band is going to be special. Bristol has even more to be proud of in these gentlemen.

 

These gentlemen are on tour from April onwards so if you wish to see them, make sure you check they’re near you soon, or contact your local promoter to bring them to a venue near you.  Smile You’re On CCTV is out now on all respectable online music retailers and their discography is also available on Bandcamp. You can also pick up merch from their Big Cartel site too.

Join the legion of their soldiers here:

http://www.facebook.com/DripFedEmpire
http://www.twitter.com/DripFedEmpire

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Track of the Week: Johnny Deathshadow – Sugar Like Salt

The debate between what constitutes the difference between a Neue Deutsche Härte band and an industrial metal band is a fascinating one. In fact, that debate is so passionate and hotly contested in certain pockets of the internet, it’s recommended reading perhaps along side this piece. For anyone not versed on their musical history, in its crudest definition, Neue Deutsche Härte tends to describe any German metal band, that sings almost exclusively in German and follows a musical template akin to Rammstein and Oomph! as the foundation of their sound. The label itself could be argued to be a product of its time, grouping the sounds of the emerging bands in the late 90’s/early 00’s with a media umbrella term, but its use is still insisted upon by not only German bands, but recent international ones too, inspired by the enduring legacy of those bands. Where Johnny Deathshadow enters this conversation, acknowledging that their vocals are predominantly in English, is that they are a German industrial band, with similar electronic flourishes to the genre’s progenitors, yet are not considered a Neue Deutsche Härte band despite Umbra et Imago being allowed a pass, carrying on their larger gothic roots and undertone in tandem. Start a petition if you must. Joking aside, and whatever your opinion on this argument is, it is this rich cultural phenomenon that Johnny Deathshadow both carries on, and sheds itself of, creating their own enticing sonic universe that wider Europe is starting to take notice of.

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Though the band’s roots actually lay more in the Misfits and horrorpunk covers of pop songs, earning them the moniker of the ‘Hollywood Death Cult’, a decision mid-decade to incorporate larger industrial elements into their compositions, caused the band’s popularity to erupt in their native Germany. Bleed With Me, their first full-length album adorning gothic industrial metal was a huge success, swiftly taking them overseas in the process, but while the album was excellent overall, their vision still seemed somewhat in utero, and restrained. Three years later, that worry is completely eradicated. D.R.E.A.M. is a seminal work, refining a tremendous formula, but scaling the production to a grandiose stage that benefits vastly, and reintroducing elements of their punk and hardcore backgrounds to electric effect. Sugar Like Salt pips many of the album’s highlights as D.R.E.A.M’s finest moment, and showcases why this band could slowly take over the world.

A muscular synth arpeggio throbs and winds at the inset, with strokes of strings and distorted thumps programmed, lurking within reaching distance behind, prodding at the nerves of its listener but also cranking energy levels to a feverous intensity. As the drum sequence beats its last, live drums pounding a mesmerising groove ,and the heavy chugging of down-tuned guitar, mimicking that of an engine, break forth with the synth, a stampede of a rhythm that will fuel metalheads and dancers alike. Monotone vocals shortly strip out the guitar, a hint of malice gleaming in every syllable recited from the morose prose, yet it carries a certain infectiousness that you visualise crowds repeating. No sooner you absorb those biting words, a brief blasting of relentless, hell-for-leather hardcore style beats suddenly smacks you in the head, ferocious growls scratching at your eardrums, this unforseen display of attitude neatly opening up for the chorus vocal melody that bursts as a wave of elation. Reminiscent of Candyass-era Orgy hooks, this is an earworm with such a latch, you’ll be fighting it for days for a release, and D.R.E.A.M. is absolutely infested with them. Interplaying perhaps as the titular sugar like salt, this sweet-stung moment in a realm of obsidian cynicism brings out the best in the track’s often energetic dynamics. Tailor made for fetish clubs and mosh pits, Johnny Deathshadow’s crossover appeal has scarcely begun to be realised, with a unique appearance and a fearsome live and recorded repetoire in tow, these gentlemen have a scene firmly in the palm of their hands, and it’s only a matter of time before they put the squeeze on it.

 

For more on their future plans on domination, their social media, tour dates and  can be found here:

http://www.facebook.com/johnnydeathshadow
http://www.johnnydeathshadow.com

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The Soundshark’s Top 10 Albums of 2018

As the world begins to stir, gently putting the gears back into production, and steadily adjusting weary eyes to the bright new horizon of 2019 (I mean, it probably won’t be that different, other than some cases of lingering hangovers, apparent nationwide incense about a vegan sausage roll, and more than likely international condemnation of whatever Donald Trump does next), we at least have a period longer to contemplate how good a year of music 2018 really did provide us with. However the longer it took to mull over how a good year of music it was, the more frustrating it became to whittle down and distil the ten best. It’s very safe to say EVERY album about to be mentioned was in contention for a top ten position. Tantrums happened and tears were nearly shed. An iron resolve and persistence eventually paid off, and in the settling dust, lay the final ten chosen to represent the best of 2018. Just one of them became the victor and declared ‘the undisputed favourite.’ Continue reading

The Soundshark Artists of The Year 2018 – Lotus Eater

The first month of the year always brings forth the time to look ahead to the next 11 months of what we all hope will be a monument in each of our lives, but it also serves as a stopping point to reflect on our previous rotation around the Sun and everything that happened in that particular snapshot of our lives. Safe to say, 2018 was not short on stellar musical performances and releases whatsoever, it may have been among the strongest years of this decade undoubtedly. While this site is often not bound by dates nor limitations, the strength of the music that bands and artists have produced this year was simply staggering, staggering to the degree that recognising and commending it as such had to be the course of action. So when it came to deciding which bands or musicians should be in contention for this accolade, this shortlist wasn’t so short. However, in terms of sheer hard graft, songwriting, endless energy on and off stage and their frankly indescribable success this year, none were more deserving than Glasgow’s finest wrecking crew, Lotus Eater.

For context, Lotus Eater entered 2018 with a handful of music videos detailing their ferocious, laser-tight, tech-metal onslaught, pining for violence and bloodlust, from their crushingly heavy debut EP. They enter 2019 with a record label, even more European show dates, countless festivals under their belt, Radio One Rock Show airplay, and with a reputation as one of the UK’s most nerve-shredding live bands. In the space of 12 months and with less than ten recorded songs. If you want the definition of meteoric rise, then this is it. Even side-by-side with their brothers in brutality Loathe, who’ve had a similar build in exponential growth this year, that is a truly astonishing feat.

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Bathed from head to toe in green, these snarling, seething verses from the throats of real, pissed off, and disenfranchised youth is not a commodity. It’s an experience, an exhibition, an exercise of conveying unchained aggression and pure cathartic release, in one of the most devastating fashions likely to grace auditory nerves. Their guitars scream in the most vindictive and vengeful tones imaginable, yet while it becomes the sonic equivalent taking a breezeblock to the skull, their sense of groove twists this into some of the most unique and innovative hooks tech-metal has yet to produce. As musicians, their meddling with time signatures is surprisingly complex, given their vast emphasis on blunt force trauma, so their raw skill and ability should never be downplayed. Even in atmosphere and ambience, there is an unrelenting dread and malice that strays far from being overbearing and slots perfectly into this volatile formula. Not everything is rooted in vehemence, you get occasional clean vocals that may seem an oddity amongst such bleak and barbaric displays, it is but another tool they transform into a hook and sinks their stories even further into your brain.

Lotus Eater create music, that is as intense and personal as structured chaos gets. A band so relevant and immediate, that from the poverty-ridden streets of the UK’s third most populous city, understands despair, hardship, and disadvantage better than some take for granted, and expel their rage into mantras with more than a healthy fucking dose of reality behind it. Once this surfaces, why they have resonated with so many, so quickly becomes a no-brainer. Their desire and fervour to bring gloom worldwide, with a small but captivating and concise catalogue has to be applauded. Gloom is their home, and everyone is welcome.

Five essential Lotus Eater tracks:

 

All of Lotus Eater’s music can be found on Bandcamp and your reputable online retailers. You can grab all other merch and the likes from their Bigcartel page, but everything sells out fast, so act quickly on that front. They are currently signed to Hopeless Records, and chances are this will herald new music in 2019, so watch this space. They also begin a headline live run from January, and support dates that run into February. Find them all here, or hit up your local promoter to bring them to a venue near you.

All news and updates regarding these gentlemen can be found on their social media here:

http://www.facebook.com/LotusEaterUK
http://www.twitter.com/lotuseateruk
http://www.instagram.com/lotuseateruk

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