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 you ever had any doubt that the nostalgia trend is absolutely back in full effect, as last decade touched upon lifting so many influences from the 80’s, this decade seemed dead set on reliving the 90’s, that abhorrent haircuts, tasteless clothing, and otherwise obsolete mediums are all the rage once more. Arguably, as much as the 90’s were a confusing and surreal decade in our lifetimes, it was an incredibly underrated decade in musical innovation. Crazily, dance music was scarcely dubbed dance music until the turn of the 90’s, despite music specifically recorded for the intended purpose to dance to existing for generations before that, going under numerous guises and evolutions. And in the grand spirit of that innovation, the very nature of dance music underwent such a radical transformation in that time period, that began with Eurodance and acid house, and ended with trance. Sticking with Eurodance, the treasure trove of that brief spell of musical history, is still unearthing rock solid tracks that the world had forgotten or had no idea existed, which brings us to Leila K’s Electric. A great success in Europe, and greater success in her native Sweden, the Moroccan-born singer and rapper resembled somewhat a solo Salt-n-Pepa for the rave generation, and Electric coursed with the kind of attitude and energy, that made it as inspiring as it was incendiary. Pulse-pounding though it still may be, Electric sounds very much a product of its time, approaching a quarter century in age and dated by its now primitive production package. Enter fellow Swede, and electro-pop anarchist Rein.
Joanna Reinikainen, better known by her stage name, exploded into the public eye in 2016, with her no apologies, take no prisoners fusion of pop, electro-punk, industrial and EBM, teeming with sociopolitical confrontation and fury at global injustices. In such a short space and time, she’s released two EPs, a handful of singles, made additional guest vocal appearances and been nominated for awards in her homeland. She even found the time to refuse to open for Marilyn Manson in that time frame. Her deeply addictive and frenetic assault of musical styles, along with Electric’s clarion call of unity, make her the prime candidate, to revitalise and empathise the vigour of this joyous gem from Scandinavia’s pop vaults. From the inset, there’s certainly plenty that embodies and mirrors the original, from the imposing buzz of the vocoder, the unwavering swagger in every syllable, even down to leaving Leila K’s name in the lyrics untouched, and the lush layering of vocal melodies at the song’s crescendo. The music video even bears a handful of similarities to its predecessor, despite the stark contrast between the cold walls of industry and the bright illuminations against woodland. It’s Rein’s distorted, driving waves of dissonance that ultimately begin to shift towards the version to call her own. The continuous kinetics of the techno arpeggio that the original gently builds itself around, is instead brought into motion by an aggressive pumping bassline, undulating as hard as putting fists to flesh, interspersed with ungodly screeches of synth. The verses of rapid-fire rap possesses so much more bite here, that extra degree of fire tremendous in spurring on listeners to invest in the song’s message. But the entire tone of the song isn’t all certifiably vicious, as Rein still retains the chorus’ soul-packed hook, taking on the delivery herself to demonstrate further dexterity in her already impressive vocal arsenal, alongside the same uplifting pads nestled within from the original, and the bassline dialled down into a throbbing disco-esque rhythm Giorgio Moroder would be proud of.
Everything summates to a pop vessel, masquerading as a industrial strength wrecking ball but with more than an ounce of humanity in its approach, and if this doesn’t serve as the perfect entrance to Rein’s expanding realm of electro-punk antagonism, dive into her earlier work and start taking notes, as this outstandingly talented lady is only going to kick more and more doors down.
Electric is out now available for purchase at all reputable retailers and on all major streaming platforms. All Rein apparel and merchandise can be found on her page here, and keep an eye out for shows hopefully in a country near to you.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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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