I feel like I go through the motions every year, repeating the same diatribe, but this time, there is a minor change of circumstances, and even a little bit of excitement. After all, who knows what can happen next in this crazy time we live in? As the site, and ourselves by extension, enter a new decade, one that hopefully that leads to plenty of promise, and one that can only dismay us from the gradual doomsday scenario that the planet seems to be sliding into of late, we glance back one final time into the 2010s (the tenties?) and upon the last year’s worth of music. Compiling this list was somewhat difficult this time around, as I appear to have forgotten more incredible albums than I remember listening to. Even then, to get to the point of narrowing down a contendership of just ten albums, the list was very much disputed the entire time. Alas, the list was finally cemented, and here’s what delights 2019 provided my, and now potentially your, earholes.Continue reading
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.
Under His Eye
Kill The Lights
If you’re familiar with Dingwalls, then you’ll know how inconspicuous the place is, that you’ll easily blink and miss it. The same could’ve been said for Australian underground rock icons Cog who performed their only two UK dates over a decade ago. It was like a once in a lifetime celestial event. After reforming in 2016 however, they head out on their first ever European tour in their 20+ year career, co-headlining with fellow stalwarts Sleepmakeswaves, and Luke very generously took the time to sit down on a mild March evening atop Dingwalls’ terrace to talk about Cog’s past, their present, and their future:
On behalf of your UK fanbase, I want to say welcome back after 11 years of being away. Just from the limited time you’ve been here, has your experience been any different from the last time you were in the UK, compared to a decade ago?
Luke: Yeah, for sure, the last time we were kind of tagged on to do the shows with [NZ band] Shihad. It was very quick, in-and-out type of vibe, but this time, obviously there’s four more countries involved. As far as the UK goes, we gave ourselves a little more time before we started with these shows, to give us a bit more of a chance to have a look around, and I’m loving it, especially this area in Camden. I feel like I could stay here for a while. It’s very bustling, very multi-cultural, very happening, and it’s a pleasure to be here. Last time, we didn’t get that much of a look around, we did the sights, but this time it’s a bit more cruisey and we’re a bit more wiser, eleven years wiser [laughs].
I’m not sure if you recall, but you also played a festival, Guilfest…
Luke: Yes! Is that still going?
It went under new management a little while ago and under the new name Always The Sun Festival.
Luke: I remember an inflatable stage of sorts, or an inflatable something on the side, and I remember we went after or before, was it the Bay City Rollers?
[Editor’s note: They did indeed play before the Bay City Rollers.]
Luke: My brother was only here for two days, I was only here for three days but it was a bit of a blur. I do remember having technical difficulties at Shepherd’s Bush, but a great crowd and an awesome venue, I remember the venue very well. I don’t remember too much of the festival, other than we got there, we banged it out and got on a bus to go to the airport.
Despite being the short in-and-out trip, would you say it holds a place in your heart being among your first international shows?
Luke: Even though we’re only playing two shows over here again, we were definitely looking forward to coming back to England, because culturally, so much good music and so many good bands and people that I’ve listened to growing up come from this area or these areas in England. You know, as a muso, you just want to get a sense of what it was like for those bands at the time. I think you can relate to it in certain ways, but you’re talking about bands that I idolised. I’d definitely like to come back and play more shows.
Just to use a parallel to this, a band I’m sure you’re familiar with, Mammal, their first international shows were in the UK, around four or five dates or so if I recall correctly. What does it mean for Australian bands to come over and play in the UK? Is there any special meaning attached to that?
Luke: I think for them, I think it’s one step closer to making themselves more successful and more match-fit so to speak. If you’ve come over here, that’s a big leap for an Australian band. There’ll be thousands of Australian bands that never got the chance to come over here for a number of reasons. For us to do it after this amount of time, it’s a huge deal for us, it’s an opportunity. This could be the difference for us not coming back and spending the rest of our lives playing in our own country, which admittedly is great, but it could also open up the doors to us playing in other places. I think it’s kind of a stepping stone as well as a love affair, you wanna come here because so many fucking good bands are from here, and I think the general gist in Australia is that people from all those European countries say ‘Oh, you should come to Germany, or the UK, there’s so many people that would love your music there.’ Australia is a big country but there’s really not that many people that live there.
You guys tour extensively and have always toured extensively, what does it mean to you guys to tour so much? What do you get out of touring now as opposed to ten years ago?
Luke: For one, I suppose you get a break from your family life [laughs]. The last ten years for me, there’s been three kids, it’s a completely different life I lead these days than I did ten years ago. [Touring]’s food for your soul. I feel very fortunate that I can work five days a week at home as a carpenter but then I can play shows and tour. I build houses for a living, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do even as an eighteen year old when I left school, that was the crossroads for me. I was working as a carpenter but I couldn’t manage to do Cog and carpentry. Cog was moving at a rapid rate then, I was investing my whole heart and soul into that project, I had to make a decision and so I chose the music. I feel lucky that I’m now able to do both things. I still think I’ve got something to offer musically, I still think people enjoy coming to watch us play and it’s just been such a massive part of my life, about half of my life playing music. I feel the same about it as I did twenty years ago to be honest. I get up there and go into my own little world, and I love that feeling, trying to capture that magic, with my brother and Lucius. If you’re not feeling nervous or getting butterflies before a show or getting excited to play to about ten people, then you should probably fucking stop doing it.
Absolutely, your heart has to be in it, and if you’re doing it solely for the money then you’re doing it for completely the wrong reasons.
Luke: See, that’s the funny thing, if you get to the stage where your band does reach a level of success where you don’t have to work, you are doing it for the money, you know what I mean? Then you throw in responsibilities like children and paying bills, it’s up to you to maintain that kind of level of drive and motivation. I find it weird when people say that, ‘I’m not doing it for the money, I’m doing it for the love,’ but they have to do it for the money if that’s what’s putting clothes on their back and food on the table. It’s a double-edged sword. For years I used to say I do it for the love, and I do, but when it reached that point for us, where I stopped working and I was paying myself a wage from the band, it was the fucking greatest day of my life. In saying that, that’s also the day I realised, hang on, I’m not only doing it for the love, I am actually doing it for the money because I need money to live! [laughs]
So you’re on tour with the fabulous Sleepmakeswaves, if you were to embark on another European tour, who would you like to take along for the ride?
Luke: So many, so many great bands we’ve played with along the way. I’d really like to take a band from New Zealand called Jakob, another instrumental band. Just different, really, really dynamic, I’d love for them to have that opportunity, I think they have played in the UK before but you couldn’t quote me on that [Editor’s note: They played the UK in 2004, 2015 and 2016]. It’s been 15 years since we’ve toured with them, we had such a great time with them, good bunch of blokes, and just really enjoyed their music. We’ve always tried to put together gigs or bills together where, me personally, I don’t really like to go and see a gig where there’s three bands that sound exactly the same. I think that’s too much for the listener, I like it to be different. We’ve had so many different kind of things in place, like documentaries playing instead of a support band. You could run into trouble or shoot yourself in the foot if you got too diverse I think, but just try and mix it up.
On that subject, just to name a few other bands you’ve also subsequently toured with, Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus for example, when you guys reformed in 2016, those bands rejoiced and consistently sung your praises on social media at the news. What does it mean to you to be held in such high regard by bands you could consider your peers, and your friends and fellow countrymen?
Luke: It’s great, it feels very humbling. We were all doing a similar thing at a similar time, we’re all happy for each other, and that we’re all still going and still making music, and still enjoying it. I think there’s a genuine feeling that we all want each other to succeed and do the best we can. [Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus] seemed to have had more opportunities or they’ve created more opportunities, however it’s worked for themselves, to get over to places like Europe and India and America, where we had a bit of a funny run in terms of management and record labels. We probably made some foolish decisions or were just naïve, it just didn’t pan out that way for us. I speak to those guys on a regular basis, I go and watch them play nearly every time they’re in town or in the city. I go to their weddings, my children play with their children, our crew does stuff with those bands and vice versa. It’s become more of a family. It was a really, really exciting time for a young person, when I was touring around with those bands hardcore, in the early days, it was fucking great. There was a sense of what we were creating, this thing in Australia that no other musos were doing, we could change the world! [laughs] For a young country, it’s like a massive melting pot, and I think a lot of Australian bands strive to not sound like other bands, the good ones anyway. If you really break Cog down, there’s influences from reggae, from blues, stoner rock to metal, Jeff Buckley, there’s even dance music in there.
So to talk about a new album, it would be the first album in over ten years for you guys. You mentioned before that you’ve written new material but also brought back some old material that didn’t fit with Sharing Space, would you say that what you have so far is predominantly more new material or revisiting old music you wrote?
Luke: I would say 90% new. So [Altered States] was a track we’d already recorded, we had oodles of material from back then and after we came back from the hiatus, there were still things we worked on up until we disbanded, that we thought were too good just to throw away. We did also want to experiment with where we were mentally, our tastes had probably changed in over ten years as they do, and more excited to explore a bit more of that space. We’ve got so much material, I couldn’t even begin to tell you. We dumped everything onto a computer about six months ago now, and got brutal with it. There was so much stuff and we just needed to be honest with each other, so if one person didn’t like it, it could be a riff, it could be a beat, it could be a vocal idea or a melody, it got canned. The Police did a similar thing where they jammed on something for fifteen minutes, and if it wasn’t a song by fifteen minutes, they’d throw it in the bin. We’re not that brutal, but we got about half way going through everything and we all agreed to work on one thing, which ended up becoming The Middle.
In terms of an album, I’d love to say we’d have something out by the end of the year, but I just don’t think it’s a reality for us for so many reasons. Money being one, and also time. Flynn’s got his own business, I’m a carpenter as I’ve said, and Lucius is doing his other things. I feel like I’ve got ten fires burning around me, and all I’m doing is throwing more wood on each fire to keep them burning, and while I love the idea of recording an album, it seems the music industry and the way people buy music and listen to music is moving in a different direction. It’s not like it used to be, people hear a song, they buy the song. I love physical music, you’d have to wait for the album to come out, and go out and buy the album physically, and I love that. I’ve never downloaded any music in my entire life, I’ve stayed away from social media, I’ve accepted it, but I prefer to live my life and not have to tell everyone what I’m doing. I hardly have enough time to live it, let alone tell everyone about it! [laughs] Anyway, at the moment we’ve got our own studio now, we’ve built it, Lucius has moved up to where me and Flynn are living, and we’re happy going in and working on a song, and like Cog’s always done, it takes forever to work on a song, and if we don’t think it’s ready, we won’t give it to anyone. When it’s ready, it’s ready. We’re not a band that writes 20 songs and releases 10, we’re a band that writes 10 songs and releases 10 songs.
My last question then, with the commodity of downloading and streaming, when you released Sharing Space, the download and streaming industry was very much in its infancy, if you were to release a third album, how would you release it?
Luke: We would do it independently. I’m not sure how we’d do it, but I’d just like to do it out of our garage. Like ,’This is it, if you want it, come and get it from us’. It’s going to end up out there, someone’s going to put it up there and everyone’s going to get it for free anyway, but I would like to print physical copies and CDs, and that’s how you get it. I just think bands get ripped off for putting so much into an album, and getting no fucking financial gain from any of that. How is it any different from an artist painting a picture, and selling the picture? It’s a bit disheartening, but I guess the upside from putting music online is that anyone in the world can find it and listen to it. It’s a tough one, but now the only means for a band now to survive is through live shows and their merchandise. You can sell a million copies of your album and get fuck all for it, and I don’t see it as very fair to the artist.
You do also have bands that have made a relatively good living without having a record label too.
Luke: Are they necessary? [Record labels] have their pros and cons, they obviously have fingers in reach of all aspects, like your marketing and your publishing. If you’re Joe Blow off the street and you try to walk in, that’s a lot of phone calls, and there’s a lot of not what you know, who you know, in that industry. A very good pro from a record label’s perspective is that they have that sussed and they have the infrastructure already in place. I think at the end of the day, if you’ve got something good and you’re 100% behind it and you fully believe in what you’re doing, if you build it, they will come.
Luke, it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk you, thank you.
A big, big thank you to Matthew ‘Yogi’ Donnan and Volume Touring, and of course to Luke Gower and Cog, for making this happen.
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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.
If ever asked to define a burial choir, you could assume by matter of association, that it is the voices of those in hymns or prayers, at the site of loved ones that have departed this world. The voices of mourning, grief, and heartbreak. Downtrodden and united in sorrow. Turning to Robert Scott, songwriter for 25 years, the singular voice, and sole member of Wisconsin’s The Burial Choir, does he fulfil the namesake and imagery conjured around such a vivid, macabre concept? Well, not exactly.
Granted on his 2017 self-titled debut EP, the ominous toll of a church bell proceeds and concludes the three tracks in between: a mass of swirling mist and melancholy that touches on Type O Negative territory, but has far more in common with the urgent dissonance of post-punk, and the spacial ambience of post-rock and post-metal. Similarities cease there however. Digging deeper, riffs and resoundingly impressive groove form the solid backbone to Robert Scott’s pained wail, closer to a downbeat Queens of The Stone Age. Like if Josh Homme was thrown down a well so to speak.
So mere days into the new year, what does 2019’s Relics herald on the continuation of The Burial Choir saga? Another four more tracks that further tap into Scott’s wider web of influences, introducing shoegaze and more substantial psychedelia into what was already a distinct fusion of styles and sounds. Arguably the best of the bunch is the EP’s second odyssey, Til Death Do Us Part. Seeped in cavernous reverb, a distorted buzzsaw of guitar groove wastes little time in pace-setting, with the tease of short, sharp snare and cymbal shots building anticipation as Scott affirms that ‘This is where it all starts.’ The drums burst forth, the distance between itself, and guitar vocals sounding huge, but working to great effect with the subtlest undercurrent of bass, accenting every beat, as you can slowly feel hips start to sway, losing control to this primitive but mesmerising rhythm. He knows when to throw the hammer down also, launching into a rousing rock ‘n’ roll shuffle between verses, that certainly stokes those Queens of the Stone Age comparisons. Heavier still, is a sludgy, verging on doom-esque breakdown around midway with terrifying guttural roars that sound like abyssal calls from realms far beyond our own. Positioned in the middle of the allusion to a child’s trauma between warring parents, makes it all the more poignant and dramatic, maintaining that consistent tone of melancholia and feeding on very real, raw personal scarring for many, despite an upbeat tempo. Followed by an emotionally charged, melodic guitar solo, which is sure to chill many a spine, and solitary vocals, complete with hand claps you can just visualise any respectable venue participating with, and it tops off what is an early highlight of the very beginning of this year’s new musical calendar. The Burial Choir certainly continues to shapeshift and elude iron-clad genre constraints, instead manifesting itself as one man’s creative playground of smoke and sadness that the world should be dying to hear more of.
Relics is out now on 3ZERO4 Records, only on Bandcamp.
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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:
On February 4, 2001 (though broadcasting events 1,000 years in the future), Commander Zapp Branningan of the starship Nimbus suggests piloting Le Palm d’Orbit, a floating restaurant in space that was evacuated moments before as a result of a disastrous karaoke session. Though believing he can commandeer any vessel built, he shortly crashes the restaurant afterwards onto a nearby planet. In the ensuing descent, he curses, ‘You win again, gravity!’ right as the restaurant enters the planet’s atmosphere. Stay with me here. On Halloween the following year, five young gentlemen from Ontario released their self-titled debut album, proclaiming their sound to be ‘Catholic girls in the middle of a knife fight.’ They went on to become one of the most influential voices in post-hardcore and are still often referred to as The Only Band Ever, despite uncertainty surrounding whether they will make new music together. Still following? Fast forward four years to Halloween of 2006, and Meshuggah re-release Nothing, completely remastered and re-recorded with 8-string guitars, of which its all-conquering polyrhythmic riff stagger and use of then recent technical innovations, arguably became the catalyst for the tech metal explosion towards the close of the decade. Understanding the link between a Futurama quote, Alexisonfire, and the advent of tech metal, is crucial to the raison d’être of these five gentlemen from Windsor, who share the same name of the aforementioned quote. And if the cohesion of sublime melodic hardcore and infallible metallic groove is anything to go by, then You Win Again Gravity are absolutely a band you need to be excited about.
Though happily being a presence on the UK live scene for a number of years, their work rate suddenly amped up with 2016’s three track EP What’s Left Of The Distance, which lends its laser-focused trio of punchy, nautically deep, progressive hardcore hits to the much larger Anonymity released late last year. Seamless is among the latest of the band’s studio output, refining their already killer formula, while lending more volume to some of their broader influences. First filtered through lo-fi radio, Seamless’ core hook broadcasts to the listener, drawing on those tech-metal leanings of theirs and playing a technically simple but astonishingly addictive pattern of notes that requires extra thick bleach to scrub free from. Not to mention a drum performance that is certainly a technical marvel. Bursting through into full stereo moments later, the third guitar produces a more ambient overtone that gracefully blankets atop an already captivating opening sequence and quite frankly, they could’ve still made as stellar a song staying within these boundaries. Yet the progressive dynamic of You Win Again Gravity turns everything they touch into an immersive musical narrative. That triumphant tone mellows, giving all guitars an ambient piece to play, and room for Jack Jennings’ entrancing vocal talents to perform poetry, on the everyday pantomime that is life and trying to find the one. Cleverly and carefully placed too, are soothing secondary vocal harmonies with Jack’s own melodic delivery that although subtle in execution, accentuate so much more passion and nuance in the meanings of every word. The chorus soon storms in, unifying all instruments in a steady headbang, complete with gang shouts and volatile potential to create chaos in a larger live environment, given the breathing space. Call it a breakdown if you will. In the truest of rollercoaster fashions, the mood continues to switch between a calming recital and a tidal wave of emotion, verging on fury at points, setting up for a far greater instrumental pummeling near the climax. Time signatures are thrown around with reckless abandon and vocals once harmonious, become hair-raising growls seemingly fuelled by bitter contempt, the combination of which comes off as the musical equivalent of a descent into madness. The bombardment of riffs comes to a crawl, tension soaring like invigorating light dispelling all previous negativity, and we find ourselves back at the opening sequence, as if it were all a lingering thought in our imaginations.
Make no mistake, You Win Again Gravity are a thinking man’s hardcore unit, but their finesse and songwriting ability are phenomenal, so much so that listener experience is mandatory to even grasp at how talented these guys are. Anonymity will get them on the track to success at last, as no doubt what else they have to offer the UK hardcore and metal scenes remains just as exciting a prospect. After all, they still have yet to release a full-length album, but in their wealth of EPs, lies one of the UK’s best unsigned bands hands down.
I once wrote a lot shorter exposé on these fine gentlemen if you want a TL;DR version of You Win Again Gravity. It might actually be better than this piece. Might. Anyway, I must insist you watch the video of Seamless, as it may be the funniest music video produced in years. They have all their material on Bandcamp, as well as all respectable music retailers, and they’re even on the bill of UK Tech Metal Fest this year, fancy that.
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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:
In our darkest hours, when we feel we have little left to turn to, music has become a light in which we can take our solace in, and a source of hope when our knees bear heavy the burden of what humanity has in store for us. Without diverting too far from the subject in question, these are troubled times we live in, no matter what walk of life you’re from. The world feels on the brink of a new political and economic Ice Age, and whatever transpires in the months to come, global census on the matter seems right to be worried that the timer to doomsday is quickly counting down. The Mayans would be only five years out with their prediction, should it come down to that. The Middle East, with Iran (or the Islamic Republic of Iran) fixed in the centre, has never really been known for its musical endeavours, at least sparsely in the Western world and if you were to speak of rock music, a positive response may need to be heard behind closed doors. And one such positive response can be heard behind closed doors, of a certain rusted variety. Despite being near the epicentre of turmoil troubling the region, Tehran’s Rusted Doors (formerly Rusted Doors of Heaven) base their music not on the surrounding conflict claiming so many lives, but on a different, more human conflict that can be just as fatal. The conflict inside the body. Physically and emotionally. This conceptual basis lends itself to some of the most incredibly evocative and stirring instrumental compositions post rock has spawned in recent years.
Their album Tale of a Departure scores the story of a character simply known as ‘Nobody’ and chronicles his struggle with depression and illness before succumbing to death, leaving his spirit to observe the suffering and sorrow of his loved ones left behind, unable to protect them. There’s no two ways about it; this is a bleak, haunting depiction of a scarily real scenario that happens every single day, which makes what music accompanies it that much more absorbing and affecting. Something else that makes Rusted Doors’ music that much more fascinating a listen, is their cultural interpretation of a widely renowned genre of rock and its most notable instance, is in their most recent single Huntington. Named after the titular disease that degrades the brain’s cells, it is an unraveling of nine and a half minutes of melancholy, simmering to a boil through the means of funk-driven bass, soft reverb-kissed strums and skins bashed in such a manner that pace and tone matches neither celebration nor ceremony. Around two minutes in, an aggressive fuzz swamps the guitar tone and the drums begin to make headway, bass kicks leading the charge to where you feel the journey will take flight. But quick as speed picks up and volume skyrockets, it’s silenced just as fast. A wave of ambience hushes the beat to a simpler meter, while what previous warmth the music was building is subjected to a sudden chill and into more ethereal territory. The guitar slowly starts to bring abrasion back to the forefront and the drums creep back to tribal levels of complexity in this new found realm of frost. But as duration stretches to seven minutes, fragile tension is finally broken and a flood of emotion explodes forth, sorrowful in its timbre but startling in its execution. All phases of this song illustrate what a roller coaster fighting illness can be to your very last breath and the effect on those closest to you, right up until the final note. It gives perspective to how others cope with this situation. Rusted Doors chose to write a song about it. You may go for a walk or a quiet drive to help you reflect or distance yourself. But whatever life’s challenges throw your way, music will be always be a tool to give people reassurance, comfort and hope in those moments where there seems to be none, and Rusted Doors are a prime example in both a world similar and dissimilar from our own.
The album Tales From A Departure and Huntington can be found on Rusted Doors’ Bandcamp page on a very kind pay-what-you-want basis, although please give generously if you feel this is tremendous music as much as I do. The band is hoping to play live more into the New Year and looking into potential festival appearances if possible, but your best source to find out for certain is on their social media.
If you have enjoyed what you have heard of this talented group of musicians, please let them know via the following channels:
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All through out the mainstream, backstage, behind curtains and face-to-face, musicians take risks for their art. Risk is something at the very fabric of our being, a primal fear or instinct that can separate us from doing something good, and doing something great. Musicians are far too familiar with this concept. Some of the most famous and infamous moments in music history were all made on taking a risk. Bob Dylan’s switch to electric guitar attracted the ire of the folk community, but it did nothing to dent his legacy as most of the most acclaimed songwriters in music history. Iggy Pop, despite being great friends, rejecting David Bowie’s production of Raw Power in favour of his own and becoming one of the great rock albums of all time. In a reversal of fortune, Capitol Records wanted more airplay from Megadeth in 1999 and the band released the critically divisive and experimental album titled Risk, often considered to be the band’s worst work and could have even ended their careers. So where do The Schoenberg Automaton fit onto this scale of risk? Well, artists and musicians are often known to relocate to places where they feel their creativity can best thrive. But how many of them move to the other side of the planet? Relocating from Australia, one of the global hotspots for deathcore right now, the band opted to take their monstrous tech-death juggernaut and establish themselves in Canada, a land known in underground circles for its outstanding death metal exports. No matter what walk of life you come from, a career and life decision that gigantic is gutsy. And that’s a word that sums up The Schoenberg Automaton’s output perfectly. Gutsy, driven and unflinching in the pursuit of your passion.
Second studio album Apus certainly seems to have benefited from the change of scenery, as the maturity and confidence has certainly grown in the years of development between Apus and debut album Vela. But it continues the same plotline from the end of Vela, exploring philosophical and science fiction themes as the ground concepts of the band’s storytelling and lyrical content. That story is woven into the fabric of an expansive death metal powerhouse with a dizzying amount of shifts in tempos and time signatures, performed with the heaviness and ferocity of a butcher in open-heart surgery. The universe that The Schoenberg Automaton have crafted is one of surprising atmosphere given the carnage they themselves create, but an enthralling one as Apus progresses and from the outset, it is opening track Swarm that is the greatest footnote to this revelation. Though Year Zero paints the scene, the first few chords of Swarm set up a metal rampage for the ages, drums below generating energy with swift beatings and fills to transfer into a frenzied full frontal assault. Double kicks rain down furiously, while the punishing, distorted blades of guitar rev up the engine, strum by unrelenting strum and deep, petrifying growls set the tone and the journey’s course. As statements of intent go, it certainly leaves very little to imagination as a tremendous display of fortitude and showmanship. Melodic wails spill from the guitar following a guttural, primal howl just as drums enter a sugar rush of tempo clashes and meter shifts, peeling the veil off just a mere fraction of the band’s technical ability. A brief, bone-shattering breakdown even gets squeezed into the action. But a lot of the chaos is dictated by guitars and drums going mano a mano, matching pace and intricacy by every individual note and beat running parallel one another, spawning harmonies and melodies to stir heightened emotions in their listeners. Much as the sight or experience of a swarm should feel. A delicate symphonic undertone is subtly introduced into the final minute, amongst the full effect of the metal barrage that is only in its first full-length track, which grows in grandiose as Swarm closes out, making the transition into what is to follow all the more satisfying. Though a balancing act of extremes could be said of Apus, given the unbridled aggression of chords and the complex, but emotive layering of their guitar work, a hyperactive level of drum technique and the frankly terrifying growls that tell the tale, it does nothing to detract from the spectacle of one of the most courageous and fascinating metal bands around today. An album worthy of both Canada and Australia’s death metal lineage.
Apus is out now at all respectable music retailers now in physical and digital formats. The band’s previous two releases Vela and their self-titled EP, are available on their Bandcamp for a reasonable fee as well as T-shirts and the likes via their webstore. They are actively touring, having just finished their first headline tour of the UK, but if you wanna see them at a venue near you, hit them up. You won’t regret it. They’ve just releases a brand new video for Vengeance too which you can find here.
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