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
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Track of the Week: Slime City – You And Everybody That You Love Will One Day Die

On May 6, 1988, a schlock horror spectacle was released by the name of Slime City, a gory, gross-out flick that this Glaswegian troupe have lifted their namesake from. It can be assured that they definitely weren’t named after Nickelodeon’s Slime City, that much we’re certain of. As stated in a synopsis, one of the perceived protagonists drinks an unusual liquid which gradually erodes and transforms his body into that of a slime creature. Next time your occultist neighbours offer you wine made by a dead father who also happened to be an alchemist, I wouldn’t. Anyway, it is later discovered that the only way for this creature to revert back to its original human form is to commit a murderous act, thus leading to an eventual discovery of a massacre that took place involving this creature and the dead father attempting to transfigure himself through his host. Fitting really, that a trio of existentialist punk upstarts should pen this track over 20 years after the film’s release, although death by slime creature probably wasn’t what they had in mind initially. That, and The Jam never really wrote any songs about death in their ten year tenure.

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Credit: Stephen McLeod Blythe of allmyfriendsareJPEGS.com

A similar parallel could also be drawn with the demise of We Are The Physics, whom Slime City descended from, also spanning a decade long career, yet their demise was ultimately far more entertaining than The Jam’s was. The reason Weller and company are repeatedly name checked here, there’s an authority and swagger in the acoustic guitar and vocals, before the electric guitar hits the overdrive switch, and interspersed throughout that harkens back to the husky, fresh-faced mod at arguably his songwriting peak. Not to mention a distinct, poignant poetic license near the song’s climax that could rival his barbed prose. Any other resemblance to The Jam is swiftly dashed as Slime City are ultimately a fairly unique beast in terms of their sound, glances and snippets echoing former bands of new wave and punk past, but absorbed and meshed together so finely, it becomes virtually indistinguishable. Much like the transformation in the movie they’re named after.

You And Everybody… ironically is led in by a choir, inside that angelic reckoning, a voice acting as gatekeeper of that grandiose barrier asking you, the listener, why must your day-to-day inflict such malaise upon you. That is then refrained in mono briefly, in true troubadour fashion, before stereo engages, electric guitar roars with distortion, and that fleeting moment of ascending to the heavens, is sent rocketing catastrophically back to reality. Although the message is categorically transparent from the song’s title, the mantra is pelted and reprised with such glee, you can’t help but be bowled over by the charm of it all. Verses duel between a restrained, reasoned argument, gentler guitar chords underslung to accompany, and more exuberant chaos, with nuance put to bed, and slogans yelled in unison, power chords and punk snarl pressed hard into your face as they’re performed. Their chorus however, springs to life as a triumphant celebration of all that is brilliant about British guitar music, the scale utilised for its hook simply unceremoniously catchy and any attempt to beat it out of your head will prove futile. The extra prong of ‘Cling to anything,’ on this hook, only makes it that much tougher to release, so you are wished luck with that one. Those three minutes do absolutely hurtle along, with a wry momentary breakdown to emphasise the unpredictable nature of never knowing when your time will elapse, Windows XP error sound to boot, sandwiched near enough dead centre of the song. One other such highlight is the previously aforementioned bridge, where some exceptionally written and executed lyrics swatch maybe just one glimmer of hope, before joyfully snatching it away once again with the inevitability of our all one true fate. No band in recent memory could honestly make death sound like so much fun.

As self-depreciating as they are, Slime City know exactly what they are doing; steadily producing a stream of witty, yet Fort Knox-tight singles that deserve to be infamously infectious, and You And Everyone… is their current pinnacle. I defy anyone to find a better hook this year. Paced to perfection, thought-provoking yet riotous and rapturous in equal measure, and from a band still very much in their infancy, here’s hoping the Barrowlands might not be far away after all for them.

All of Slime City’s music can be located on Bandcamp and all good reputable retailers, whilst they do have a Bigcartel store, they seem to be popular lads and merchandise disappears quickly from there. They tour very frequently, so they will absolutely be in a venue near you soon too.

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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.

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Track of The Week: Our Nameless Boy – All It Is

In popular cultural semiotics, the phrase ‘ the C-word,’ we all widely acknowledge refers to the often belligerent horrors of cancer. A word that strikes fear, dread and distress into the hearts of those directly and indirectly affected. The disease is now so commonplace, it is impossible to go through your lifetime without knowing someone who has been affected by it. Thankfully, due to the wonders of modern medical science, cancer is now no longer a death sentence, and more and more people everyday can say they are a survivor. Musicians especially seem to be having more and more luck winning their respective fights. Iain Gorrie, of Bristol emo brigade Our Nameless Boy, is among those battling back from life-threatening progression of the disease. Diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2015, and starting a lengthy chemotherapy cycle, alongside surgical procedures, Iain finally reached a stage where he felt well enough and strong enough to begin writing new music in earnest, the quartet announcing a new EP in Spring of this year, after several away. Titled ‘Tomorrow I’ll Be Scared Again,’ it plays not only into the ongoing worry of not knowing if you could wake up, but into the personal anxieties and adversities of the wider world we live in too. The single All It Is announced from the EP, serves as an intense aural and visual narrative of Iain’s recovery from his chemotherapy.

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His vocals, sounding weary and with a degree of frailty, tell of how his treatment has caused a series of diversions in his life and how unwell it made him feel, whilst urgent, melodic alternate picking lay behind his tale’s opening. Short after we’re treated to a brief tease of drums and guitar in unison, those four snare pounds and fiery strums, lighting the fuse of anticipation towards its chorus, but not before all instruments make an entrance and tighten the pressure up that much more. A pause for breath proceeds what doesn’t come across as quite an explosion, but more an emphatic expulsion of energy, strings and skins colliding together, to add prominence to the show of positivity that Iain can conquer his cancer. With production stripped down to its barest bones, the chorus feels that much more heartfelt and encouraging for those still watching a loved one persevere in their own respective battle. Rapid snare taps keep pace and intensity in a high gear with the melodic picking returning to soundtrack the story, the tribulations of chemotherapy initially being somewhat lonesome, but allowing him to return to be the person he once was. This verse neatly ties into the track’s greatest display of strength; a bridge of unclean, near-screamed vocals backed by the punch of snares, and the occasional slam of chords, the rawness, and unbridled emotion of this moment acting as a switch, the pivotal event in Iain’s fight back and his wellbeing close to normal again. The time-lapse and series of photos past afterwards, synced to the music in the video only add to the gravitas of this bridge, with his hair returning in its duration, and watching a young boy grow up in a matter of seconds, a poignant device for anyone with lasting memories of their friends, or children. Our Nameless Boy have transformed a harrowing situation into a memorable message of strong inner resolve, and optimism in a time where hope can so quickly dwindle. Minimalist, melodic at the right times, and a masterstroke of art in a sonic and screen-based space, this Bristol quartet deserve a hero’s welcome back to the UK music scene.

‘Tomorrow I’ll Be Scared Again’ is released on 1st March on Beth Shalom Records, preceded by an EP launch show on the 28th February. All their music can be found on their Bandcamp page.

You can find out how they’re all getting on, on their social media here:

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

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And lastly, if you are affected by any of the content you’ve read here, know that you are not alone, and there are many folks out there you can talk to, or can help you, and that cancer can be beaten.

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’s Top Ten Albums of 2017

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:

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Futures Are Changing, But Their Futures Are Still Black

The following account is of factual events that took place on the 27th October 2016, between the hours of 7 and 10pm. No details of this account have ever been made public. Until now.

I’m early. I’m not often early for a lot of things. In fact, I’m so early I have to wander up and down the street and take refuge in one of the cheapest London pubs I’ve ever set inside, waiting for to validate my invitation. But a little after 8pm, a gentleman sporting the Black Futures insignia arrives outside Wandsworth Town station, I weave the password into my conversation with him and he presents me with a blindfold, and told to await transport to the secret location. Of what I know of Black Futures media, their imagery resembles some kind of VHS propaganda reel, but nothing that was to resemble the theatricality of what was about to happen.

Once enough attendees had gathered, the chauffeur asked us to enter the transport and put on our blindfolds. In the brief journey towards the venue, around about 5-10 minutes in length, there was music playing under the guise of Black Futures Radio; short instrumental MIDI renditions of songs, interspersed between stingers and amusing interjections from its monotonous host. I seem to remember the best one about ‘having a funny feeling in my nether regions,’ or something similar at least. Little were we to know at that time, that what was unconsciously infiltrating our ear drums was a mere taster of the sonic assault to come. While the radio provided some light relief and entertainment, it didn’t stop the feeling of foreboding, being driven around on London streets, in a vehicle full of strangers, to a location you knew nothing about.

At the location, I just about made the shadow of gates opening before the path, and driving down to what looked like an abandoned film set of sorts. Outside, flanked by personnel in hazmat suits taking photographs of every attendee, heavies in suits instructed us to place our phones in envelopes or we would be refused entry. Happy to oblige, I did so without first telling my other half that I wouldn’t be able to be contacted for an unspecified amount of time. You can imagine how that went, especially after telling her the last thing that happened was that I was just given a blindfold. Anyway, we were directed left into a room, filled with more hazmat personnel and two giant dispensers filled with ‘social lubricants’. The drinks could only be dispensed by ringing a bell, or honking a horn, dependent on which you wanted. The folk in the suits and googles remained silent throughout, pulling glasses from underneath which they kindly filled and only once pouring half a litre of gin, to top up the more popular of the two dispensers. Yikes. The room itself had little in the way of furnishings with two sofas, in a room filled about thirty odd people, but was filled with very curious paintings, photographs and instruments around. It seemed elaborate, like a lot of thought had been put into the decoration of this venue, deliberately like some kind of scientific experiment and we were the test subjects.

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After a period of time for guests to mingle with one another, the room opposite in the hallway is unlocked, and we are welcomed inside a studio, outputting a frequency that feels like its properties could brainwash onlookers if exposed to in the right circumstances. Maybe that was the idea. But beyond the mixing desk and monitors, lay drums, microphones, a keyboard and a guitar, and a curious wall in the background which had a screen display inside what resembled a large sewage pipe opening. The door is then closed, the frequency is shut off and with the onlookers and myself all making ourselves as comfortable as possible, the producers known only to the world as SPACE and VIBES slowly emerge from the darkness and start the show.

With their first song, distorted, crunchy guitar opening up proceedings and thunderous booms of bass, before erupting into an apocalyptic big-beat bombshell that would bring a tear to Liam Howlett’s eye. The scathing refrain of ‘ten minutes to the end of the world,’ is unnervingly relevant, given the earth-shattering size of the music that surrounds it, and the visual element of strobe lighting in the performance really enforced the urgency and magnitude of their two-pronged attack. After three and a half minutes of electrifying energy, the storm subsides and you could be mistaken for thinking for more of the same is on the way. But this is where things begin to change, instead revealing a whole new dimension of influences that made for a truly mesmerising listen. Straight into now brand new single Karma Ya Dig!?, waves of reverb and delay wash over both sets of vocals and synths, unveiling a strangely soothing psychedelic ambience that certainly caught me by surprise. These two gentlemen’s vocals also harmonise so well together, that the phrase ‘I’ll see you on the other side,’ has lingered ever-presently in my subconscious since this day. A pseudo-industrial stomp gets us underway with a near punk-like sneer taking vocal duties, marching us towards a titanic guitar riff that wouldn’t go amiss in Britpop’s heyday and an overall vibe that feels reminiscent of The Chemical Brothers, albeit slowed to a pace you can headbang to. It certainly affirms that the big beat era of dance music circa 1990 onwards, has had a profound effect on this material. As if today’s electronic music producers and a punk band recorded together in a garage. It’s gritty, intense and energetic but without sounding lo-fi or unpolished. Astronomically far from it.

I must admit, that while their eight song set was nothing short of inspiring, it moved in a blur. I recall one track that had a dancehall style beat, some later present indie rock style influences and one track that which reminded me firmly of Does It Offend You, Yeah?, which in their own whirlwind of genre-smashing, is nothing but a compliment. They are an absolute sum of the parts of the people that work as the unit. SPACE, an in-demand punk and hardcore producer, with a reputation in the desert rock community to boot, and VIBES, a multi-talented instrumentalist and electronic music producer, that works with an abundance of live acts in and around London. Their union has formed something undeniably unique, and witnessing the translation of their chemistry together in the flesh with such a striking and impactful live performance, and the interactivity before the performance even took place, has made me fall in love with these gentlemen and get overexcited over what was to come. It truly was a privilege to be invited along and be part of this undoubtedly intriguing and involving movement.

The opportunity to see it for yourselves, lies on the 5th October at Bloc in Hackney, 8:30pm start. Prepare for an immersive dance experience unlike any you’ve ever encountered. If you want a further testimonial, I left that night with new friends, whom I realised I shared a closer connection to, than just being attendees to this exclusive performance. And I’m often a painfully awkward individual. If that isn’t something that asserts the power or the spiritual significance of the Black Futures experience, then I don’t know what will.

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