It seems somewhat of a rarity these days to find those new breed of bands actually keeping the old school thrash sound alive, rather than just maintaining the Big 4 as an influence as opposed to taking their sound and making it their own. With a name I hope inspired by the cult first-person shooter, California’s HeXen embody the spirits of the greatest names ever to spearhead the genre and put on an absolute tour de force: incredibly infectious riffs, fast-as-light playing, a rumbling bass foundation and a drum display that truly encapsulates what made thrash metal great. Knee Deep In The Dead is a textbook definition of how to make something old new again and make it sound as relevant and god damn impressive as it was and always will be. Long live thrash metal.
Like pulling out weapons from a secret arsenal you’d completely forgotten about, an EBM project from the island of Crete whom cleverly blend the hooks and euphoric synths of trance’s greatest, with the pounding drums of industrial, the scathing growls of the extreme metal minds yet unafraid to dabble and collaborate with the finest bands in metal also. They operate like their namesake, maintaining radio silence before unleashing massive EBM anthems without prior warning. Robotic Disintegrator, from 2010’s The Kosmokrator remains one of their finest works, inundated with samples but with such impeccable production skills, the dance becomes more than just you on the dancefloor, it becomes a journey in every sense of the word. Ritualistic, in a sense.
It occurred to me recently that I haven’t actually raved and ranted about these guys on my blog yet, despite endorsing them through sneak inclusions on playlists, soon-to-be DJ sets, through social networking, and even going as so far to ask the band directly to upload their entire first album to YouTube, which I did and they were happy to allow. If you can’t tell, I simply adore FOSSILS. Their frantic, sludge-driven bass ‘n’ drum duo combination creates such intense bursts of energy, you’ll miss them if you blink and will eviscerate any edge-of-the seat you may hope to cling onto. I describe them as a leaner, angrier Scandinavian DFA 1979, which I still think is fairly accurate, but they have come so much further since that and their newest album Flesh Hammer is possibly one of the best releases this year for no-BS, jaw-breaking, dancefloor projectiles, guaranteed to either have you leaping around your allocated floor space or wrestling everyone in plain sight.
Remember the days when metalcore was a big thing? If it even was? Well I kinda miss those days, only because deathcore or whatever the fuck modern metal has evolved into, somewhat depresses me with its complete lack of creativity. Burning The Day are no means the saviours of metal, because they are very much metalcore by numbers, but it still seems like a breath of fresh air in a game that’s rapidly stagnating. For one, there’s actual singing in it. I actually struggle to remember the last time I heard a vaguely new-ish metal band with singing in it. F Your Cancer though from their Metamorphosis EP has that contagious chorus hook down to a tee. Sure, it chugs along, but the thrash elements incorporated hold my interest much longer than most breakdowns tend to. I realise this is unfair to rant about modern metal in a post about this band (although I probably should write one to be fair), but it helps to relay home the point. Burning The Day are somewhat an example of a shining beacon in a genre that’s becoming oversaturated with clones and clones of clones, but themselves are clones that hone their craft expertly enough to warrant your full deserved attention.
Finland is notorious for its metal exports. Stoner rock? Maybe not so much. But Mangoo is leaking more into the big pond for their incredible blend of stoner and psych rock, both hard-hitting and contagious. Deathmint, from second album, Neverland, comes across as the theme song for a last stand: ominous, haunting but utterly captivating to its very end. The first half is reminiscent of Kyuss: bluesy grooves with an astoundingly catchy chorus, but then a seismic shift into foundation-altering chords, ratcheting tension up with touches of strings and a bell that could signal the end of days, completely fulfilling that apocalyptic feel. This band is a little bit special, and well worth your investment.
In a state of solely listening to one kind of music, you exhume some truly hidden producer gold mines. What could be considered an aggrotech/EBM phase, unearthed Mangadrive and his videogame/anime fuelled breed of hard trance. If the beats truly don’t punch hard enough, and believe me, it’s like taking CO2 powered pistons to the chest, then the luminous, vibrant synths will claw their way into your brain forever. His later individual works become unforgettable, kaleidoscopic epics, King Of The Mechajungle being one of his best examples to date and Mechafetish is crammed full of them. All of his works are now available for pay-what-you-want, so if you consider yourself a fan of the darker side of dance music, Mangadrive is as essential to you as breathing is to keeping you alive.
So this is what the voice of Karnivool does on his days off: produce emotive, streamlined alternative rock and it’s so contagious and memorable it should be under quarantine, but despite resonating with a larger mainstream audience (well, in Austrailia anyway), it somehow feels more organic than Karnivool are. The explosive first half of If This Ship Sinks is a surprisingly heavy yet radio-friendly rush down a highway, then the vehicle crashes and the second half is a piano-charged ascension to the stars, which accompanied with violins is actually fairly moving. Karnivool seem more like the brains in Ian Kenny’s world, but then that makes this self-titled album and the rest of Birds Of Tokyo’s work his thoughts, emotions and feelings and it’s pretty damn enduring.
Never before have a crude or low-brow humour band impressed me with their musicianship, even before I’ve heard them speak. Enter the ridiculously named Maggot Twat, a fuel-charged metal trio who are as ridiculous looking as their namesake but more ridiculously talented than it. Kill The Bitch is borderline offensive, but between samples of a grave digger, satisfying guitar squeals and good ol’ fashioned thrash style technicality in the instrumentation, it becomes enjoyable for the right reasons, instead of the outrage-spurring misogynism it could just as easily attract. 8 Bit Apocalypse has other multiple targets in its lyrical content, luckily some of them are funnier.
Belgium’s HYQXYZ is one of the most underrated producers in the neurofunk scene, period. To be able reel off titanic, massively warping monsters of drum ‘n’ bass time and time again requires serious skill, which HYQXYZ has in abundance. Whilst both Titans and Triangulation are staggeringly visceral tracks, The Beginning will be entering my DJ set for illustrating the need for atmosphere and a sense of presence, before attempting to destroy everything in sight, with a giant heat ray.
When you name a band, you make it count. In the essence of Kowloon Walled City, they did just that. Crushingly heavy, dense metal surrounds and bombards your senses, but with an inner emotion and melancholy, not too similar from the abandonment of the actual place in Hong Kong. Whilst the city was demolished, and most of your speakers and headphones will be in the sheer musical devastation on display, the legacy of its unadulterated filth and sludge remains in living memory, and in this music. Who says that music can’t give you history lessons? Annandale from Gambling On The Richter Scale is just one such insight into a dark corner of humanity, and it’s staggeringly brilliant.
*side note: I do not endorse what the Triads did there, but what I do endorse is these guys’ Bandcamp as they’re giving away digital copies of their albums for free. Go get.