Monday, 31 December 2012

Bristol December 2012

Stokes Croft, Bristol, and a weekend visiting the sister in law and her family

Typical Montpelier hallway.

The entertainment leaves a little to be desired....

Bearpit Outdoor Gallery, and some examples of the local graffiti in and around Stokes Croft.

Relaxing by the fire.

It doesn't get much better than this surely?....

Monday, 17 December 2012

Damnation Festival, Leeds University 2012 review

The Day At Damnation Festival 2012

As the cold weather finally sets in for the year, Leeds University is once again host to the Terrorizer Damnation Festival. For the devotee of intense and experimental metal, ten hours within the corridors of the university union building is a small price to pay for a feast of extremity. Facilities are however, plentiful, and there is no shortage of bar or food space from which to take solace. Adjusting to the layout of the festival, and familiarising oneself with the amenities done, the first aural treat of the day was on the Terrorizer Stage. The Atrocity Exhibit are based in Northampton and Milton Keynes, and to an already crowded venue, performed a ferocious display of high-speed and hostile grind. Those lucky enough to get hold of a copy of their limited seven track EP “What Time the Hidden Death?”, available at the festival, will be in possession of a magnificent reminder of their performance. Bands who appear early on a festival line up may suffer from depleted audience numbers, but The Atrocity Exhibit did an admirable job of engaging the eager. The same can be said for London’s Hang the Bastard who, again on the Terrorizer Stage, performed a frenzied and brutal set. There is intense, and there is intense, but Hang the Bastard almost leaves the listener violated. A number of attempts were made to investigate the activity on the Eyesore Stage at this point, but due to its elongated shape and the volume of people packed inside, any meaningful evaluation was virtually impossible.

Back to the Terrorizer Stage then for Manchester based black metal giants Winterfylleth. With material influenced by the English heritage and landscape, their performance this afternoon was tight and exhilarating, and will no doubt send many young (and old) consumers out looking for their latest release “The Threnody of Triumph”. As their name is derived from “winter full moon”, the first full moon of the winter and the end of summer, this event at this time of year made their show all the more poignant. As a resident of Leeds, it was felt crucial to return to the crowded Eyesore Stage to take in the joyous racket that is Leeds based Blacklisters. Soaked in the beer and sweat of a number of dates supporting Pig Destroyer, Blacklisters confronted the audience, grabbed them by the throat and beat them about the head with thirty minutes of unhinged and disquieting tunes. Stalking the audience with microphone wire wrapped around the limbs is the way forward in engaging the audience, as is hanging at the front of the stage shouting the lyrics to ‘Trickfuck’. A spectacular set, as usual, and in no way a biased review. Back again to the mighty Terrorizer Stage for a set by the grindcore legends Extreme Noise Terror. There are extremes in music and there are extremes in music, but Extreme Noise Terror take aggression and speed one step further. Dedicating a tune to the sadly departed Phil Vane, the band also displayed warmth and camaraderie with audience, crew and fellow band members which appeared touching in its honesty. Passing their supply of beer around the audience only goes to reinforce the respect that the band have for their followers.

After your intrepid reporter being reinforced with a cheese and onion pasty, the Jagermeister Stage was the scene for the Irish thrash metal titans Gamma Bomb. Not only purveyors of fine, intensely driven, tunes, there was also an element of enjoyment to the band which can sometimes be lacking in a performance, and was sure to lift the mood of the weary punter who has been on their legs for the last few hours. Engaging the audience as old friends is nearly always indicative of a confident band who remembers why they are on the stage in the first place. As can so often be the case at a festival event, there are several bands playing simultaneously who spark curiosity. Ten minutes of Irish extreme metal from Primordial, followed by the last ten minutes of a set on the Eyesore Stage from the emotionally charged 40 Watt Sun, led to a murderous set on the Terrorizer Stage from Norway’s black thrash heavyweights Aura Noir. If their latest album “Out to Die” is indicative of their performance at Damnation, then the reader would be well advised to seek out a copy. If old school thrash, such as that delivered by Slayer or Venom is of interest, then look no further....

Read the full piece here

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Isis - Temporal review

isis - temporal

For anyone who has an intricate knowledge and understanding of the thirteen year career of Isis, and the benefit of hindsight, “Temporal” presents itself as a history of a band who steadily evolved their sound and aesthetic to a point in which they became the epitome of “post-rock”. Layers of glacial guitar spread thickly over booming percussion, intermittently interspersed with isolated landscapes of sound, punctuated with voices that are occasionally brutal and at other times reminiscent of long forgotten, forsaken nightmares.

The first disc of this two CD set is made up chiefly of demo versions of previously available material. As we have highlighted, this provides the Isis historian with a plethora of interesting and valuable material such as the wordless version of ‘Ghost Key’ from the band’s final release “Wavering Radiant”. With this, and “Threshold of Transformation”, the account of the development of the Isis sound is charted over the disc in reverse chronological order. It may be argued that only the real Isis aficionado may be able to differentiate and appreciate the subtle differences between the versions here and the officially released versions. The percussion may come across as more lucid and less foggy in these embryonic versions and the vocals may be less distinctive and prominent in the mix. One of the previously unreleased tracks closes the first disc, the seventeen minute marathon ‘Grey Divide’. Here we have, encompassed into one piece of music, everything the Isis aesthetic encapsulated. Lumbering, yet focused tension, increasingly mounting by way of grandiose power chord progressions, which ebb and fade only to return with additional vitality and fury. ‘Carry’ and ‘Wills Dissolve’ are an intriguing insight into a band honing their sound, but in this primitive format obviously lack the stately production that uplifts the final releases....

Isis – Temporal

Read full review here....

Monday, 10 December 2012

Jez Carr, Simon Little and Mike Haughton “Foreground Music Vol.1”

For many the word “improvisation” conjures images of severe and merciless jazz musicians assaulting the audience with discord, disharmony and disrespect. For anyone interested enough in music in itself and how it can be composed and developed, improvisation can be argued to be composition in its purest form. When pianist Jez Carr, saxophonist Mike Haughton and bass player Simon Little came together for a performance they realised that, in the brief time they had to soundcheck, that channels of communication were opening and that a shared musical discourse existed between them. Keen to exploit the possibilities suggested, the trio met again and spontaneously recorded over the course of a day, one hundred and forty minutes of music that had no agenda or pre-existing intent. Remarkable considering that this was only the second time this group of musicians had actually met “Foreground Music Vol.1” is the result of apportioning down that meeting into eight pieces of music that may help the listener, who may be unacquainted with the nature of improvisation and composition, to develop an insight into its potential. Each piece is numbered I-VIII, and, from the opening delicately naive piano phrasing, the willing listener is taken on a journey across a landscape of innocent and intimate engagements. With most of these pieces apportioned seven to thirteen minute episodes, each has the opportunity to build its own character and frame of mind from the opening phrases through to the final accumulation of instrumentation and influences. The overall sensation, after hearing “Foreground Music Vol.1” from beginning to end, is one of contemplative calm, and if the listener is willing to become immersed in each piece, the opportunity for personal reflection and appraisal.  
If one needs a comparison to ground the music here, think of John Surman, Eberhard Weber, Jan Garbarek, Keith Jarrett and any other number of musicians releasing evocative music on the German ECM label founded by Manfred Eicher. That is not to say that the music here is derivative, far from it. It meanders and glances at a wide assortment of influences and techniques. So often, when discussing improvised music, clich├ęs such as “telepathy” seem inadequate, and whilst there is an apparent empathy between the players, there has also been a certain proficiency and perception in editing these vignettes down to a respectable finished product. So often, in an era of downloaded music, album cover art work can be overlooked, but special attention should be given to Simon Little’s cover which perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere of the music it represents.  As the name “Foreground Music Vol.1” suggests, this may not be merely considered to be background music that defines a space in time, but music worthy of specific consideration and scrutiny, and, hopefully, there may be more to be heard from this session on future releases. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Hang the Bastard 2009-2012

hang the bastard - 2009-2012

For many bands, the departure of a pivotal member can result in a lack of momentum and deterioration in collective motivation. For West London’s Hang the Bastard the loss of vocalist Chris Barling, to investigate other interests, did nothing to diminish their impetus. Replacing Barling with former Deal With It vocalist Mike Carver, Hang the Bastard have forged ahead with plans to release a new album in 2013. This collection, “2009-2012” represents their complete catalogue from the Chris Barling era, including their first full length album release “Hellfire Reign”, the latest EP, plus a variety of demos and tracks from hard to come by, and therefore, costly, split releases. As an introduction to the furious being that is Hang the Bastard there could be no finer archive.

Hang the Bastard – 2009 – 2012

The first ten tracks are from 2009’s “Hellfire Reign”, and are characterised by hammering percussion and guitar, providing the foundation for Barling’s vocal attack. Material from the “Raw Scorcery” EP loses that distinctive thrash, and comes across with more weight and muscle. “Pillage Your Village” loses none of the aggression of the earlier releases, but gains something in a controlled majesty of performance. The tempo here may not be as swift, but the emotions are equally as visceral. The 2012 self titled release shows a band that have absorbed all the influences and experience of their catalogue up to this point and used them to put together a body of work that displays a sense of maturity. The production now is much fresher, allowing each instrument and subtlety the opportunity to shine through. The vocals appear to have increased in intensity, and the overall effect is one of greater authority and presence. “Interplanetary Portals” with its combination of spoken word passage, psychedelic arpeggios, fanatical screams and hectic pace, highlight a band who are comfortable in their surroundings and are happy to produce deep and grimy....

Read the full piece here...

Monday, 26 November 2012

Rainbow - On Stage (Deluxe Edition Reissue)

Rainbow - On Stage (Deluxe Edition Reissue)

The third release from Rainbow, “On Stage” could have been argued to have been a courageous move so early in their recorded output. It could also be seen as a confident move, or an endeavour to buy further time before the release of “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Whatever the reasons, they are purely academic, and this reissue allows newcomers and enthusiasts the opportunity to revisit the splendour that was Rainbow at this moment in time. Whatever one’s opinion on taped introductions, the dialogue from “The Wizard of Oz” is pure theatrics and is the perfect preamble.

Like many Rainbow performances of the time this set begins with the invigorating ‘Kill the King’. Another brave move as this song was yet to be released on the follow up “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” album. This version will not disappoint with it breathtaking speed and vitality. Dio’s voice is on fine form and appears self-assured and authoritative. The solos burst out of the tune in rapid succession and the stall is set out. ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’ has an urgency that was never evident on the album version, and features an extended ‘Blues Starstruck’ which showcases some intricate guitar and organ based blues and what sounds remarkably like a duck adding a few choice phrases.

Another extended piece augmented by some searing guitar soloing is the ballad ‘Catch the Rainbow’ which, at over fifteen minutes, may for some be outstaying its welcome, but for the Rainbow devotee is a treat for the ears. Testing the patience of the casual listener again ‘Mistreated’, the Deep Purple song, is characterised by lengthy guitar workouts, which symbolize the Rainbow live experience, and should possibly be seen from that perspective. The vocals are, however, overflowing with passion and taken together, the experience of hearing it here is not objectionable.

Rainbow – On Stage (Deluxe Edition Reissue)

‘Sixteenth Century Greensleeves’ next, from “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow”, gives an indication as to where Blackmore’s career would in due course be heading. Opening with a dramatic guitar adaptation of ‘Greensleeves’, the piece then moves into overdrive with a plethora of medieval metaphors. Closing the original album release is a version of The Yardbirds‘ ‘Still I’m Sad’ from the first album, which provides a vehicle for each band member to solo to extremity. For the dedicated Rainbow collector, the second disc of this deluxe reissue will be of particular interest. Featuring tracks recorded at a show in Osaka in December 1976, the running order may be truer to the original show, but the music featured is of comparable content to the first disc.‘Mistreated’, ‘Catch the Rainbow’ and ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’ reappear in extended form, with the only addition being ‘Do Close Your Eyes’, another example of the showmanship and theatricality that characterised a Rainbow show of the time....

Read the full piece here...

Monday, 19 November 2012

Rainbow - Long Live Rock 'n' Roll (Deluxe Edition Reissue)

Rainbow - Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (Deluxe Edition Reissue)

There could be a whole discussion on the credibility of repeated album reissues with bonus tracks of rough mixes, studio out-takes, interviews and live tracks from the period. For the aficionado of the band in question, reissues such as this are an important historical document giving the consumer insight and context, and, as is often the case, extensive and trustworthy sleeve notes. These factors are very often a major selling point. There is obviously a market for extensive reissue packages (witness the recent gargantuan King Crimson “Larks Tongues in Aspic” box), and readers of this piece could be argued to be the demographic.

“Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”, featuring Ronnie James Dio, Ritchie Blackmore and Cozy Powell, will be a familiar body of work to the devoted and this particular release will not disappoint. The opening ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’ will be familiar to most anyone who has even a passing interest in music, it is still a joy to hear, and sing along to and is the epitome of the classic album opening track. ‘Lady of the Lake’ features dark and foreboding guitar riffs and restrained soloing from Blackmore, and a intelligent change of mood from moody verse to stirring chorus. Another tune familiar to those involved is ‘L.A. Connection’, riding on unhurried, solemn and imposing percussion cut through with towering guitar lines. For many, the axis of the album is ‘Gates of Babylon’ with its opening Eastern flavoured synthesiser salute, dynamic verse and chorus structure, angular guitar solos and baleful cries of “The devil will take you away!”. Regular concert opener “Kill the King” is as exhilarating now as when it was first heard on the original release, with Blackmore’s soloing doubtless to induce an army of bedroom air guitarists to pick up their axe. The ending few moments of ‘Kill the King’ may inspire a discussion on the most momentous ending to a metal tune in history.

Rainbow – Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (Deluxe Edition Reissue)

The overall pace of the album meanders gently to an end on the last three tracks, produced in the halcyon days when track sequencing was still a major consideration, it could be argued. ‘The Shed’ still retains the general momentum with hammering percussion and subtly repeating guitar motifs, whilst ‘Sensitive to Light’ loses an element of the heaviness of previous tracks, but gains integrity through being amusing to play and croon along to, “Sensitive to light…ah!”. The sensitive ‘Rainbow Eyes’, augmented with flute and strings and stirring arpeggios, may bring a tear to the eye of even the most unsentimental old music enthusiast....

Read the full piece here

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Crow Black Chicken - Electric Soup review

Crow Black Chicken - Electric Soup

Cork and Tipperary, in Ireland, may not be the first locations to spring to mind when thinking of unrefined, unyielding blues, although the great Rory Gallagher was brought up in Cork. Crow Black Chicken on their debut album “Electric Soup” play blues that is not diluted with jazz, folk or any other genre skirting the edges. Crow Black Chicken plays the blues, and they play it remarkably well. From the opening few bars of ‘White Lightening’ the stall is set out to perfection. With production just on the lucid side of gritty, the listener can appreciate the road down which they are to travel. Memorable chorus, insanely haunting verses and soaring lead guitar lines are evident in profusion. It would be a challenge for the listener to not take up their air guitar by the end of ‘White Lightening’.

Slightly more downbeat, but no less soaked in the blues tradition, ‘Skin Deep’ is seductive and charming, and showcases the vocal style of Christy O’Hanlon to perfection. O’Hanlon’s voice is at once assertive yet soulful, drenched in emotion yet taking no prisoners. The tracks that follow, ‘Pourin’ Down’ and ‘Epitaph’ follow a similar path, as the bass and drums foundation of Steven McGrath and Gev Barrett respectively, continues to provide a concrete yet organic foundation.

Crow Black Chicken – Electric Soup

‘Charlie’s Women’ would not sound out of place on an album produced forty years ago, and evokes an air of melancholy for times long gone. The playing on ‘John Lee Wee’ is fluid and loose and creates an atmosphere of relaxation and pleasure. Like ‘Charlie’s Women’ the title track ‘Electric Soup’ straddles the ages in terms of musical fashion, and features feral and uncultivated guitar lines that have been pushing back the boundaries of respectability for decades. Possibly the most vociferous track on the album and the track that would most likely symbolize the album as a whole is ‘Murmuration’, with its searing slide guitar and undomesticated vocals. As the track builds up the momentum, the musicianship becomes more frenzied and the vocals become more incomprehensible. ‘Lie Awake’ has a lilting vocal style that is reminiscent of John Martyn in its delivery....

Read the full review here

Friday, 16 November 2012

Katabatic - Heavy Water


Based in Lisbon, Portugal, Katabatic released their first EP “Vago” in 2006. After touring the country and providing support for a number of Portuguese bands, their first full length release “Heavy Water” is symptomatic of a band that are secure now with their identity and confident to release an album of ambitious instrumentals. The opening ‘Wonder Room’ enters the consciousness with a clang of guitar, bass and drum. Held together on a solid bass line foundation, the tune swerves in a number of directions, with wordless vocals sweeping ghost like across the mix, and strident guitar progressions providing a variety of textures and colours. There are spaces left to allow reflection and there are changes in mood to keep the listener attentive. The tune does, however, end abruptly before ‘Light Hexagons’ takes over. Similar in atmosphere and riding along on similar hypnotic instrumental motifs, the listener is taken on a wordless journey, sometimes delicate and caressing, sometimes untamed and imposing.

Katabatic – Heavy Water

Correspondingly ‘Morsa’ is an expedition through the emotions, carried along on the momentum of crashing cymbals and fragile guitar lines. One of the longer pieces on the album, ‘Anova’ at eleven minutes, has the space to expand and explore further territory. Again, wordless vocals lend the tune not only an ethereal quality, but a sense of humanity. Relying less on expansive riffs and driving chord progressions, ‘Anova’ feels more contemplative and brooding. Music labelled “post rock” can often be criticised for following the standard quiet-loud-louder-quieter-quiet formula, which, to some extent is true here. What Katabatic do achieve, with some success, is that the pattern never appears contrived, and each piece seems to swell and contract organically. The title track ‘Heavy Water’ appears an innocent pause in proceedings before ‘Girlaxia’, featuring a variety of grubby guitar riffs, and soaring guitar lines, and, like a katabatic wind, brushes any melancholia to one side and returns to leading the listener hand in hand on their voyage through Katabatic’s psyche. Indeed, both ‘Girlaxia’ and the final track ‘Abandonica’, feature some of the most uplifting music on this release, and leave one to consider how the familiar formula for “post rock” can be mutated to break boundaries and keep the name attractive....

Read the full review here

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Duel - Soundtrack to the End of the World Review

The Duel - Soundtrack to the End of the World (The Zak Splash Story)

London based vocalist Tara Rez and keyboard/bassist Andy Theirum put The Duel together as a going concern in 2001, released a series of albums, “Let’s Finish What We Started”, “All Aboard the Crazy Train”, “Childish Behaviour” and enjoyed a variety of influential live support slots from punk stalwarts the Dead Kennedys, UK Subs, Slits, The Vibrators, Sham 69 and Vice Squad. This distinguished career has gained the band loyal supporters and earned them the respect of fans and peers alike. “Soundtrack to the End of the World (The Zak Splash Story)”, their latest release, is brimming with infectious melodies, that may not please the noise aficionado or the listener who seeks aggression and belligerence, but is indicative of a band who are comfortable with their song structures and playing style and are not afraid to share it with their community.

The Duel – Soundtrack to the End of the World (The Zak Splash Story)

The opening ‘Intro’ is a sizzling instrumental driven along on excitable percussion and hysterical guitar riffs. The melody lines soon begin to build up, layer upon layer, to reveal an insanely catchy slice of punk infused pop. ‘Invincible’ features thrashing treble heavy guitar, precision bass, unearthly keyboard lines and zealous vocals which weave together to produce a mix that is raw in its emotion yet displays a great deal of lucidity in the production. When the listener feels that they most likely have now become familiar with the way the album may be going in terms of resonance, ‘Less Everyday’ plays with the formula, and pushes the guitar back down in the mix to create a twisted concoction that is not so much contained by the formula of “punk” and is more experimental in nature. ‘You Can Do It’ builds upon the elements encountered so far, and introduces a danger which may not have been previously perceptible. There certainly is a DIY ethic to the mood created by ‘Fake Like You’, whose muffled guitar riffs are cut through with shards of searing loveliness. There is a confident bluster to these tunes which is hard to create artificially, but which appears to come naturally to The Duel. This becomes more and more apparent on tracks such as ‘Love Me Do’ as Tara Rez begins to take on an edge to her voice which is at once confrontational, yet adolescent and brittle....

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Karma to Burn - Slight Reprise Review

Karma to Burn - Karma to Burn - Slight Reprise

In 1994 two men formed Karma to Burn in West Virginia with the purpose of producing raw energy from the traditional power trio format. Richard Mullins and William Mecum did just that, and put together an album of unrefined instrumentals, with numbered titles, as their hearts told them was the right thing to do. Roadrunner Records expressed an interest in releasing the album with the proviso that vocals were added and the songs themselves were given traditional titles. Whether through naivety, or any other number of possible reasons, the boys accepted the arrangement and released the album with vocal contributions from Jay Jarosz. In 2012 we now have the opportunity to hear that album as it was originally conceived, with ambiguously numbered titles and, with the exception of one track, without a voice, on “Karma to Burn – Slight Reprise”.

On first hearing the album, one may argue that Roadrunner may have had a point in requesting vocals for the tracks, as some of the instrumentals are difficult to differentiate. With the obvious exception of John Garcia’s voice on ‘Two Times’, which adds another layer to the experience, and another of Roadrunner’s original rejections, each of the numbered tracks, despite being infused with passion and vigour, possibly lack character and individuality. If, on the other hand, you are considering Karma to Burn with the sole intention of hearing some straight forward honest guitar driven rock, then this could very well right up the listeners whisky sodden street. There is no shortage amongst the numbered tracks, of alluring guitar riffs and rolling percussion, and for the timid listener, there is also space within the music to take stock and move on. There are several levels of intensity throughout, with subtlety and fragility sitting alongside muscle and extremity, and the overall experience is one of a group of musicians who are comfortable in letting these textures flow out of them. The production is an appropriate level of clarity and honesty, with opening screeches of feedback reminding the listener of the integrity within....

Read the full review here

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Stagnant Waters review

Originating from France and Norway, and featuring amongst their instrumentation voice, drums, electronics, clarinet, bass and guitar, inappropriately named Stagnant Waters release their self titled debut on Adversum. The band here have created one of the most explosive amalgamations of metal, doom, jazz and experimental noise to have beaten the ears in a long time.  

From the opening drumsticks and salvo of frenzied guitar and roaring vocals, the listener may believe that this will be the shape of things to come throughout the album, but how wrong would they be? In between these blast beats of brutality and hostility come passages of pastoral beauty and considerate instrumentation. A few moments later however the mood takes a turn, and short emissions of electronic dissonance disrupt the flow. It would be reductive however to describe the music on “Stagnant Waters” as cut and paste, as although each element appears disparate, each piece remains cohesive and highlights how far an artist can stretch the boundaries of acceptability.

There are some genuinely delightfully crafted sections sitting beside some rather disquieting ones, but at no time would one believe that this would be improper. Welding industrial pomp to experimental jazz to perfection on ‘Of Salt And Water’, the familiar cross pollination of styles continues to astound and mystify.  This appears most extremely on ‘Castles’ where the chord progressions are tight and complex and the electronic stuttering shoe horns into them with apparent ease. Only the desolate vocals remind the listener of the background to this music, particularly when an almost childlike piano passage begins to lend the whole episode a macabre flavour.

One could almost be forgiven for thinking they are in the middle of an album by saxophonist Evan Parker on ‘Concrete’ before the hostility begins. ‘Bandaged In Suicide Notes’, one of the shorter pieces on the album, lacking the space to expand, is a reasonably straightforward pummelling, before ‘Axolotl’ returns to severe jostling of styles...

Read the full review here

Abstracter - Tomb of Feathers review

This first release from four piece Abstracter from Oakland California features three extensive journeys, recorded live on analogue equipment, through inner turmoil and personal anguish. The opening few moments of rainfall and thunder give way to a brutal assault on the stability of the listener. Meditative chord progressions and ethereal vocals soon open up to a barrage of guttural hostility and hammering guitar riffs.

This is the opening of “Walls That Breathe” which develops gradually into an epic voyage of ferocity and malice. Drum and bass appear low in the mix as the relentless guitars and vocal shake the listener into attentiveness. “To Vomit Crows” opens with a guitar riff that will have even the most casual of listener reaching for their air guitar. Over the next twelve minutes the track expands into an almost mathematical arrangement of time signatures and chord progressions underpinning that same ferocious vocal. The other instruments here appear to be given equal consideration as bass and drums have their own individual input. Interplay of growls and lucid vocals lends the piece character and a level of inquisitiveness. “To Vomit Crows” does not pummel the senses in the way “Walls That Breathe” did, but utilises a sonic palette of tension, violence and intelligence, to subtle, yet effective consequence.

The length of each of these pieces allows them to assemble and widen their scope in such a way that the listener may not appreciate their actual length, and become mesmerised in their bewildering journey. Lumbering gradually along “Ashes” closes the album with as much despondency and angst as its predecessors and at sixteen minutes has the space available to meter out its twists and turns of mood with aplomb. Reverting back to the intertwining style of vocals and ponderous riffs, “Ashes” is a trawl knee deep in Abstracter’s world of doom. Again, there are chord progressions that will have the listener rocking backwards and forward unselfconsciously as the riffs envelope them...

Read the full piece here

Leeds Damnation Festival 2012 Preview

Damnation Festival 2012 Preview – Part 1
A salvo of noise will bombard the labyrinthine corridors and halls of Leeds University Union on Saturday 3rd November 2012. Once again this warren of passageways plays host to the potent Damnation Festival. Leeds University has been a venue that has seen many bands play and record their seminal live album, The WhoJohn MartynThe Groundhogs and indeed The Macc Lads. This year’s festival promises to uphold a tradition of healthy extreme metal which undoubtedly will please devotees.
Formed in 2008, Leeds own Blacklisters deliver a staggering array of belligerent noise, held together by sharp arrangements and a charismatic stage presence which amalgamates into an enormous blissful racket. Their latest album release “BLKLSTRS” gives the listener a flavour of that live experience, but the only way to experience this four piece is up at the front with the head in the speaker stack. Hopefully that is where you will find this reviewer at the Eyesore stage at 4.30pm.
Dublin based Gama Bomb formed in 2002 to create the kind of music that was being unleashed upon the world with bands such as MegadethNuclear Assault and Anthrax. Signed to EaracheGama Bomb purveys tightly constructed, frenetic thrash, with more than a hint of fun, which, as withBlacklisters, is always welcome at a festival event. Anyone wishing to download a free album of theirs, “Tales from the Grave in Space”, to get them in the mood for their 5.40pm appearance on the J├Ągermeister Stage can do so at the Earache website.
Extreme Noise Terror
Extreme Noise Terror
Continuing to fly the flag for hardcore punk, and doing so since they formed in 1985 in Ipswich, Extreme Noise Terror play the Terrorizer Stage at 5pm. One of the original bands who were christened “grind” alongside Napalm DeathElectro Hippies and Carcass, they featured on the legendary John Peel sessions “Hardcore Holocaust” album, which helped this music to reach more appreciative ears. They continue to tour the world extensively taking in such disparate locations as Japan and Brazil. Sadly in February of 2011 one of the bands founder members Phil Vane passed away aged 46. Extreme Noise Terror will be bringing vitriolic crust punk to Leeds University as they have done for many years, and hopefully, for many more....

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Dysrhythmia - Test of Submission

There are any number of contemporary releases which can be described as combining the essentials of metal and jazz forming a mathematically taut series of compositions which showcase the participant’s musical skill whilst failing to infuse the music with a soul. Test Of Submission is the sixth full length release from Brooklyn’s Kevin Hufnagel, Colin Marston and Jeff Eber, and despite being packed tight with instrumentally complex and challenging pieces, is not without spirit and confidence at its core.

Opening with the frenzied ‘In Secrecy’ Dysrhythmia lay all their cards resolutely on the table from the outset, this will be the beginning of an exuberant journey. Each individual instrument is contorted into any number of geometric shapes, but the whole is somehow held together. A piece such as ‘Running Towards the End’ is not only exhilarating to listen to with its buoyant riff, crooked time signatures and playful interjections, but it has the essential personality. ‘In the Spirit of Catastrophe’ contains all these elements and yet somehow pushes the boundaries that bit further. ‘Like Chameleons’ combines technicality with drilling percussion that possibly produces one of the most electrifying essentials to “Test of Submission”. ‘The Line Always Snaps’ soars majestically with regal chord progressions and towering lead lines.  

The shortage of a voice within these compositions is somehow forgotten amongst the bewildering array of tempo changes and tangential lines. The title track ‘Test of Submission’ is hammered down with invigorating guitar and bass parts riding regally over the crest of the percussion. The closing, and lengthiest track, ‘In Consequence’ builds slowly in the distance before abruptly pushing any sentimental thoughts aside with a series of crushingly technical progressions interspersed with flashes of its melancholic beginnings...

Read the full review here

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Pineapple Thief. Interview with Bruce Soord

Progressive rock and metal has become fashionable again. Every band with the slightest experimental or technical touch is immediatly labelled as "prog". For The Pineapple Thief main man Bruce Soord the term has lost its value and he rather refers to his own music as "post progressive" as John Toolan found out in the following interview.

What chain of events led you to record at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio?

I think there was a mistake in the press release, as the album was actually recorded in another really cool residential studio called The Chapel. However, we DID do some drums at Real World. It’s pretty local to me and I have been there before. One of the artists who used my studio a lot in 10 years ago (Sheila Chandra) was on Peter’s Real World label and she also toured with him in the USA. I actually did some assistant engineering there a few years back too, but gave up after 3 days! Life as an assistant engineer? You may as well kiss normal living good bye. Certainly not conducive to being a songwriter in a band, that’s for sure! It’s an amazing place though, although I think the musical landscape has changed since the mega record deals of the past and the large residentials are suffering as a result. You don’t need a massive studio to produce a smash hit pop song any more…

Being fascinated still by album cover artwork, could you explain the significance of the cover of “All the Wars”?

I’m really glad so many people are picking up on the cover; it’s not a dying art yet then? All the Wars has a fairly abstract concept, in focusing on the complexities of how we interact with the ones we love, especially the conflict, waste and reconciliation (if we are lucky enough to attain that). So when I saw Mark Mawson’s work, I knew it was perfectly suited to the music. The way the colours interact – it’s ambiguous. Are the colours in conflict, fighting for territory or are they harmonious? And people have told me the whole image looks like a Portuguese ‘man o’ war’ jelly fish too. So I love the way it engages with the brain like that.

How has the use of a large string section and choir allowed the music of The Pineapple Thief to expand? Did the sound you achieve reach your expectations?

Having the string section was a childhood dream come true. I love the way it’s added to the TPT sound without taking over. We were very careful, when mixing the record, not to turn all the strings up too loud, because as wonderful as they sound, the most important thing is the song. Obviously we don’t go on the road with 22 string players so the songs still have to work stripped back. As for the sound, with 22 players you are going to get a big, lush sound. I want to keep that for the next album, but also track a more intimate section too. Massive sounds aren’t always appropriate.

How hard was it to allow Andrew Skeet control over the orchestral arrangements of your compositions?

It was a gamble and I have to say, I was nervous! I gave Andrew my ideas but made it clear I wanted him to have total artistic control. I didn’t want to risk smothering his creativity. Arranging is his art. And I’m glad I let him do it, because what he came up was brilliant.

How useful are sites like Twitter, Facebook and fan blog sites in promoting your work?

It would appear that online communities, with a common interest, are a new way of experiencing music, very far from the days when you could sit in your bedroom playing music that you thought no one else had ever heard of. The world of social networking and the concept of sharing our lives over the web has totally transformed music marketing, to the point where labels will actually pay good money for social networking specialists. Everything is everywhere; the challenge is separating the wheat from the chaff, which is where these sites come into their own. Ultimately, it’s no different to saying ‘hey mate, check out this album I bought, it’s brilliant’, apart from that now anyone can access anyone in an instant and recommend anything that’s out there. It has made the musical world much more competitive. If you are good, you can get your music out there and it will spread without the need for 6 figure record deals and marketing budgets.

How has The Pineapple Thief Street Team helped to promote this release, and how did you come up with that idea?

The street team is something we’ve thought about for years, it’s something bands have been doing for a long time. We are lucky enough to have a very active, core fan base who just want more people to hear our music, so encouraging these people to do anything from flyering gigs to writing reviews online is a massive help. Even Lady Gaga has her ‘fancorps’ team! Getting good reviews is great, but word of mouth is where the money is....

Read the full interview here

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Seth - Les Blessures de L’Ame review

On first hearing the opening track on Seth’s “Les Blessures de L’Ame” “La Quintessence du Mal”, what strikes the listener is the raw production values combined with the ferocity of the buzzing guitar, symphonic percussion and snarling vocal. The overall effect from the outset is of an epic tale of mysticism and the supernatural.

 On reading the associated literature, this may not be so far from the truth, as the whole concept of the album is created around that most romantic contemporary saga of vampirism. On closer inspection however, what becomes apparent is that this album is actually a re-release of a 1998 original. With this in mind, what now strikes the attentive listener is how modern sounding this release could be argued to be. The compositions are tense, and display many varied textures within each passage. Whether or not the customer has had their fill of melodic vampire metal, or not, “Les Blessures de L’Ame” is unquestionably worth further consideration.

It would be difficult to analyse each track individually, but the overall impression these give to the listener is one of being seduced by the towering melodies and drifting swells of guitar and keyboard. The music washes over the individual and smothers them in a blanket of tenderness tainted with only the merest hint of obscurity. The occasional peppering of gentle acoustic guitar and piano, on “Le Cercle de la Renaissance” for example, further lulls the unwary traveller into a sense of sanctuary and wellbeing. To describe this music thus leaves the reader wondering as to whether these pieces could follow that well trodden path of over-blown pomposity and grandiose melodrama.

This may be one way to interpret “Les Blessures de L’Ame”, or it may be a gothic gateway to indulge the listener’s dark fantasies. Tracks such as “...A la Memoire de nos Frere” indicate the contrast apparent, with fierce riffs going hand in black-laced-gloved hand with fragile melody. The instrumental “Dans les Yeux du Serpent...” helps to draw together the luscious symphonic element to many of the tracks and leave them laid bare for analysis and extravagance.
Formed in the French city of Bordeaux in 1995, Seth have evolved over the years with a number of releases, “The Excellence”, “Divine X” and “Era Decay”, displaying a constant ability to combine sinister atmospheres with the most brutal compositions....

Read full review here

Manetheren - Time review

Born around 2003, in Minneapolis, as the project of composer and guitarist Azlum, Manetheren fashioned old-school black metal on albums such as “The Absence of Light”, “Solitary Remains” and “The Seven Realms of Manetheren”. Ensnared by the lure of the post-rock scene and the fusion possibilities of US black metal, Azlum created “Time”, recorded in the US and Europe, and enlisting the help of Peter Anderson and Thorns. One look at the cover of the album, courtesy of Christopher Wood, featuring an image of a man who is obviously tormented by physical or emotional entities, helps the listener to prepare themselves for the onslaught of expansive, desolate and agonized landscapes. ‘I’ opens with a characteristically enigmatic drone, evoking all manner of melancholic angst in the listener, before waves of guitar and percussion envelope the ears and soul. Vocals are appropriately vicious and unyielding, and carry the listener relentlessly on through a maelstrom of emotion.

For the devotee of black metal, many could argue that albums such as “Time” bring nothing new to the table, and simply maintain the momentum of bleak, raw emotion set against a blanket background of guitar riffs and pounding percussion. “Time” however seems to encompass the atmospheres and space that “post-rock” (whatever that might be argued to be) and allows these compositions to breathe. This is music to let wash over the ears and heart, and allow the listener to soak up the fundamental nature. The tracks ‘I’ to ‘VI’ run through, linked only by tantalising vignettes of unsettling soundscapes, but vary in cadence and intensity. ‘III’ is carried along on the back of a battery of blast beats and brutal vocal passages, with the occasional roar of anguish, while ‘IV’ is propelled by a variety of moods, and levels of percussive passion. A standout track, to these ears, is ‘V’, which features many layers of differing instrumentation, from violent raw guitar to succulent rays of sound.....

Read full review here

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Steve Lawson & Mike Outram - Invenzioni review

Steve Lawson & Mike Outram - Invenzioni

This project, the first of three albums worth of improvised material recorded as an assignment for degree students in Leicester gaining experience in audio engineering, features guitarist Mike Outram (who has played with such luminaries as Steven Wilson, Robert Fripp, Cinematic Orchestra and Photek amongst others) and bass player Steve Lawson, who continues to be a fertile collaborator and solo bass guitar experimentalist. For improvised music to truly come together there must be an element of understanding between the participants. This can be gained through familiarity of both the instrument and the collaborators involved. “Invenzioni”, although not initially intended as a cohesive piece of work, displays the kind of intuition between players that can make or break an improvisation.

The two instruments dance playfully around each other on the opening ‘A Beautiful Mind’ as if they are teasing each other and the listener is given the notion that this is part of the process of getting to be acquainted with each other. Delicate, yet furious lines, weave together, whilst the occasional abrasive shard of noise breaks through the pattern. A landscape reminiscent of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western is brought to mind on ’70 Degrees in the Dark’, as again, repeated phrases are used to carefully tease out the musical partners’ imagination and resourcefulness. Tantalizing electronic emissions punctuate the ether as ‘First One Home’ as the two guitarists, telepathically it seems, build layer upon layer over ten minutes a fragile, yet muscular, framework. As a more conventional sound is introduced we are reminded that we are in the presence of two very gifted and qualified players.

A piece such as ‘Light Over Water’ is musically evocative of the title, as manipulated sound pours over the guitar lines like a meandering stream, with the erratic sound of looped and treated instruments suggestive of breaks in the water flow. The gimmickry is never felt to be intrusive on these “compositions” but adds personality and a sense of curiosity. The longest piece on this particular release, ‘Dance Moves’ builds carefully from brooding bass lines moving alongside melancholic jazz flavoured guitar phrases. Just as the listener is being coaxed safely along to contentment, guitars swoop, screech and intimidate, mechanical noises move forwards out of the organic and into the future. Over the final few minutes the sound veers dangerously close to toying with a funk laden groove, as pulsating stabs of sound fade cautiously away....

Read the full review here

Steve Lawson & Mike Outram – Invenzioni

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Vintersorg - Orkan review


Swedish Vintersorg, essentially Andreas Hedlund and Matthias Marklund, is a symphonic banquet for the ears, with fresh and growling vocal lines soaring over luscious guitar riffs, lavish keyboard passages and even the occasional flute, violin and harpsichord adding a baroque feel to the whole feast. “Orkan” (hurricane), the eighth release from the band, follows on from the release of “Jordpuls” (earth), which featured a solid set of compositions paving the way for this opus.

The production on “Orkan” is raw when it needs to be, yet sterile where appropriate, which is a refreshing combination of techniques to complement the dense arrangements. What initially catches the attention on first listening to this release is the plethora of insanely memorable riffs and vocal lines. This is particularly apparent on the title track of the album ‘Orkan’ which is virtually raging with rhythm, vitality and joy. The second track, ‘Ur Stjarnstoft Ar Vi Komna’ bounces along astride grandiose guitar riffs and regal keyboard lines that are at once uplifting, enlightening and intriguing. ‘Polarnatten’ (polar night) opens with an almost fairytale like refrain before the mysticism is buffeted to one side by searing black metal. The opening track ‘Istid’ (ice age) could be argued to be one of the stronger tracks on this release, however, as clean, melodic vocals skirt around brutal growls, over a maelstrom of guitar chords and blast beat percussion. All the elements that make up the tapestry of “Orkan” are on show here.

This release undoubtedly showcases the vast array of compositional skills available within Vintersorg, sometimes several times within the same passage. Scenarios of ferocious Viking battle sit alongside tales of love and romanticism, but these disparate scenes come together to form a cohesive journey that would never disappoint the enthusiastic listener. This imagery may polarise the reader, but it would be reductionist to allow this. There are some evocative guitar solos which appear wholly in keeping with the moral fibre of the album, as can be heard on tracks such as ‘Istid’ and ‘Polarnatten’, which help stage the talent and restraint of those involved. Each song on “Orkan” is satisfyingly lengthy enough to allow the tempo and stylistic turns room to evolve without appearing claustrophobic. Some have described this style of metal as folk metal, characterised by this apparently seamless blend of catchy phrases and unforgettable vocal lines. With the themes of earth and air already considered, expect further releases from Vintersorg based upon the elements....

Read full review here

Vintersorg – Orkan

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Howling Wind - Of Babalon review

The Howling Wind – Of Babalon

Ryan Lipynsky is keeping active these days with Unearthly Trance, Thralldom and The Howling Wind, whilst Tim Parasitic is notably involved in Weregoat and Alderbaran. This is the third release then from The Howling Wind project and features Lipynsky on guitars and basses with Parasitic on percussion. The production throughout is muddy, which allows the guitars to create a distinctive wall of sound over which the drums can pummel the listener into the ground with steady ferocity or assault them around the ears with flourishes of blast beats.

Opening circumspectly with ‘The Seal Upon the Tomb’ the album, soon takes on a more brutal stance with ‘Beast of the Sea’. The vocals are guttural and demonic, whilst the guitar, bass and drums sit evenly in the mix to add to the overall sense of cacophony. ‘Graal’ and ‘Chronozon’ grab the listener by the lapels and do not let go throughout the duration of hammering percussion and searing lead lines. ‘Scaling the Walls’ opens with a simple pattern which is soon pushed aside to allow demented vocals and an exasperatingly memorable riff to carry the listener on. By this time, the listener realises that there is not a simple, singular musical theme that holds this release together, but an assortment of incongruent styles that fuse together to produce the unholy finished product. However, chaotic the finished product could possibly sound, however, there is never a sense that Lipynsky and Parasitic have lost control over the discord.

The Howling Wind – Of Babalon

‘The Mountain View’ features more of their characteristic driving percussion and frantic vocals, whilst ‘Abominations and Filth’ is propelled on a sophisticated, bouncing drum pattern, providing the foundations on which to lay hazy guitar patterns and squalling vocals. ‘Gateways’ is a multifaceted piece of music which begins aggressively and confrontational but which over the course of its six minutes slows gradually into intricate patterns of contrasting guitar lines over blast beats. The overall effect here is menacing and exhilarating and indicates the progressive nature of song construction right through the album....

Read the full review here

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Guano Padano 2 review

Guano Padano - 2

Italian trio Guano Padano, Alessandro Stafana on guitar, Danilo Gallo on bass and Zeno de Rossi on drums, released their “Guano Padano” debut album in 2009. It featured a shimmering display of Ennio Morricone infused soundtracks to exotic landscapes and sultry, mysterious characters. That album featured the likes of Captain Beefheart band member Gary Lucas on guitar, and the mighty Alessandro Alessandroni (the original Morricone whistler) on whistle duties. This latest offering features Italian culture loving Mike Patton on vocal on the villainous “Prairie Fire”, an ominous, siren soaked journey through the underworld. This collection then, has lost none of those early references from their former release, and if anything has built upon them to come up with a further collection of evocative stories from a far-flung territory.

The album “2″ opens with ‘Last Night’ which brings to mind the distant vision of a heat haze blurred traveller, with tantalizing piano lines broken occasionally by cascading castanets. ‘Zebulon’ breaks loose the surf guitar, tremolo arm and chiming bells, as the pace increases over rolling drums. ‘One Man Bank’ slows the pace but never loses the atmosphere, whilst ‘Gran Bazaar’ becomes more reminiscent of Dick Dale or Man or Astroman? in its surf guitar fury.

The tempo and disposition is given a long shot of bourbon on ‘Gumbo’ as the listener lights a cheroot, tips their hat over their eyes, and settles in. ‘Bellavista’ brings a country flavoured edge to the music, bringing finger picking banjo and fiddle into the soup. Just when the listener has begun to think they have understood Guano Padano and their vignettes of sound, ‘Lynch’ brings a mixture of jazz and neo-classical influences, with a hint of the surreal, reminding the poor naive victim of a David Lynch film set piece. Even slices of oriental music cut through tunes such as “Miss Chan”.

The extensive ‘Un Occhio Verso Tokio’ is virtually the soundtrack to a short piece of film in itself, with scenes of poignancy, introspection and joy, all within its eight minute duration. The album closes with the laconic ‘Sleep Walk,’ drifting over soaring lines of steel guitar, and dramatic passages of distortion, percussion and organ....

Full review here

Guano Padano – 2

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Greenleaf - Nest of Vipers review

Greenleaf - Nest Of Vipers

Swedish Greenleaf have, since 1999, been through a number of incarnations, but the 2012 adaptation featuring Tommi Holappa on guitar, Bengt Backe on bass, Oskar Cedermalm on vocals, Johan Rockner on guitar and Olle Marthans on drums, has come up with a heavy dose of early 70’s rock inspired genius with “Nest of Vipers” on Small Stone Records.

The opening few bars of “Jack Staff” set the bar high with raw, fuzzy guitar, melodic vocal and drums that lurch around high up in the mix. By the time the listener has reached the second track “Case of Fidelity” they will be reaching for the bourbon and cigars. “Lilith” is drenched in sumptuous organ and plump fuzzy guitar, whilst “Tree of Life” is pure cosmic psychedelic progressive rock of the highest order.

The highlight for this reviewer has to be the mighty “Dreamcatcher” with its easily recognisable and easily imitated on air guitar driving guitar chord progressions and clattering “Keith Moon” drumming. The pace slows slightly for “At the Helm”, but the power and the flamboyance is still very much in evidence. The reverberation of a dinosaur meandering over the opening of “The Timeline’s History” is the thick heavy bass sound of Backe, which gives way to a further four minutes of tightly controlled but mischievous blues.

The mighty eight minutes, however, of “Nest of Vipers (A Multitude of Sins)” which closes the album, is a tour de force of realised ambition with extravagant arrangements, luxurious organ drones, rich vocal lines and the familiar clatter of drums. Eight minutes here allows for a little more experimentation and lateral arrangements, but by this time the listener would forgive this slight indulgence.

“Nest of Vipers” is bursting with energy and excitement, and displays a level of musicianship and teamwork that is rare to find, but when found, promises much. Each track carries the hallmark of well planned song structure, and there is never a sense that each individual player is vying for the limelight. Greenleaf here manage to maintain a balance between free-form psychedelic jams and tightly crafted, blues tinged workouts. What comes across primarily is how the percussion is used as a focus for the tunes....

Read the full review at This Is Not A Scene

Greenleaf – Nest Of Vipers

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Interview with Adam Wakeman of Headspace for This Is Not A Scene

Adam Wakeman Of Headspace Talks To ThisIsNotAScene

After reviewing “I Am Anonymous,” the recent album from progressive supergroup Headspace, ThisIsNotAScene’s John Toolan put some questions to Adam Wakeman. They talked about the albums themes, influences, the concept and artwork behind the album and much, much more…

Due to the pedigree of the musicians involved in Headspace, is it a concern that there may be preconceptions regarding the content of the album and its’ themes?

I don’t really think so. I think people know what the band is about and will certainly read reviews and interviews before they buy it. People may be surprised that it’s as heavy at is is but when you see 15 minutes songs on the track listing I don’t think people will be expecting an album of piano ballads…

I described the music as “indulgent” in my review, but only in the sense that true artistry, it could be argued, is, by its very nature, indulgent. Do you think this is a fair assessment?

Absolutely. We all think or Headspace as our artistic outlet. Its important to have somewhere to let out your artistic emotions. You rarely get to do that playing for other people and performing their music, so this is that outlet for us.

As for being indulgent, we made this album entirely the way we wanted to make it – with no outside influence financial or otherwise. We signed the deal once all the artwork and music was completed. That was the only way we could truly make the album we wanted to. So in short, ‘indulgent’ is fine with us.

Rather than be ashamed of embracing your influences, you appear to blend a variety of musical styles into your work. Again, with such an experienced group of musicians, is it difficult to remain focussed on what the Headspace venture itself is about?

I think the musical diversity helps the writing process, certainly with Progressive Rock music. We have all played with some great artists in many different genres of music. The more experience you have in different fields can only help the end result.

I understand the album concerns itself with Kubler Ross’ Five Stages of Grief, what was the impetus around that notion?

The title of the album has the finger pointed directly at the listener. This is about you and your relationship with humanity, ultimately the battles fought within the mind from child to man. Through Kubler Ross’ model of impending death, with reference to war, the turmoil leads us to peace and acceptance… only then to swing straight back round to chaos. Current events that affect us all are obvious reference points so War , Religion and Man’s inhumanity to Man are present throughout.

Which comes first with a collection of songs such as this, the concept or the music?

The concept came first from Damian, and Pete and I worked on some of the music. Damian had a few acoustic sections too which we weaved into the fabric of a couple of songs.

As we developed songs and sections of songs, we’d email them to Damian who would come up with melodies and lyrics, and Lee and Rich would start working on writing their parts.

We demo’d the whole album first before starting again and re recording it properly.

It would look as if that a lot of care and attention has gone into the lyrical content of the album. How important were the lyrics to “I Am Anonymous”?

With an album that’s conceptual, the lyrics are really important. Damian is very conscious about the themes and lyrical message, as we all are but as far as the album is concerned Damian was in charge of that department.

You have probably been asked about the artwork many times, but in an age where digital downloads are becoming more prevalent, how important is the cover art nowadays to the character of the album?

I think it’s really important to have an album that is tied in with the visuals on the cover and booklet. There will always be people buying the album online, but we wanted to make sure that the people that buy the CD get a great package.

Pete and I worked on lots of ideas along with the designers to make sure we were truly happy with the way the album looked.

We called the label the day before the artwork was due and said we weren’t 100% with what we had and wanted to develop another idea that Blacklake had shown us. To us it didn’t matter how long it took, as long as it was right. There’s no point having a fantastic picture of an exploding toaster just because it’s a great picture, if it’s got bugger all to do with the music.

Are there any significant problems inherent in taking such a long time to produce an album, as I understand this one took around four years?

This band started with the intention of being able to do something for ourselves, in the time we have. That’s why this album took such a long time. We didn’t have the time restrictions of label deadlines and with each of our schedules we had to fit in the writing and recording as and when we could.

2007/8 and 2010/11 was really busy for me with Ozzy but what that did mean was that we could spend a lot of time getting used to sections of songs and changing bits we didn’t like. Sure there were times when I wondered if we’d ever finish it, but deep down I knew we’d get there when the time was right....

Read the full interview at This Is Not A Scene

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Dying Fetus - Reign Supreme

Following their previous release three years ago with “Descent into Depravity”, Maryland’s Dying Fetus have been crushing audiences around the world with their own brand of technical death metal. Despite a number of line up changes, John Gallagher has held together a trio of musicians that have constantly, it could be argued, produced work that combines demanding intense metal with elaborate musicianship.

An example of this can be found on the absurdly brisk introduction to “Invert the Idols”. Verging from blast beat insanity to pummelling riffs and back within the space of a few bars, each track on “Reign Supreme” embraces the listener, shakes them beyond sensibility, before tossing them back into their own individual mosh pit.

“Subject to a Beating” bounds in with a plodding riff, which is brushed aside on occasion for blast beat fury. “Second Skin” is both furious in nature and angular in tempo and chord progression. “From Womb to Waste” opens with the spoken words, “It’s not my fault I’m pregnant, and I love drugs…who cares…fuck the baby, let it die”, and what a perfect sentiment to set the scene for another shattering display of tightly crafted metal ferocity. Although the weathered extreme metal lover will be hard pressed to shock, the passage still instils a sensation of uneasiness which brings another level to the experience. “Dissidence” carries on the tone of high velocity chord mauling, whilst “Revisionist Past” opens with a flourish of guitar before locking into that characteristic savaging....

Read the full piece at This Is Not A Scene

Friday, 29 June 2012

Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till, Wino - The Songs of Townes Van Zandt

Perhaps most celebrated for the song “Poncho and Lefty” which was famously recorded by Willie Nelson in 1983, Townes Van Zandt never had anything approaching significant fame in his lifetime. His tunes have, however, been covered over the years by a wide range of artists including Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, Hoyt Axton, The Tindersticks, Norah Jones, Robert Plant, Mudhoney and the Cowboy Junkies. Born into a well-known local family in Fort Worth, Texas in 1944, John Townes van Zandt’s childhood was spent travelling as his father worked in the oil industry.
After graduating from High School he attended military college for two years, and it was around this time he was diagnosed with manic depression. After abandoning a law course at the University of Texas he resolved to become a folk singer. Sadly, Van Zandt’s life came to an end in 1997 at the age of 52, 44 years to the day after the death of fellow country music legend Hank Williams.
After performing Van Zandt pieces in an assortment of collaborations over the years, Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till (Neurosis and Tribes of Neurot) and Scott “Wino” Weinrich (The Obsessed and Saint Vitus) have come up with an inspiring tribute to the great singer/songwriter, capturing the poignant fragility of the music whilst at the same time leaving their own impression on the tunes. Armed only with acoustic guitars for the main part, the covers appear faithful to the original, losing none of their distinctive courage. The lyrics of Van Zandt appear to paint a vivid private picture, and follow a striking narrative that the attentive listener will be able to draw from and relate to their own personal life. Opening with “If I Needed You” by Steve Von Till, the lyrics ache with Van Zandts characteristic vulnerability. “St. John, the Gambler” by Scott Kelly may lack the growl of Von Till’s voice, which appears to be the product of a thousand Marlborough cigarettes, but loses none of that candidness. Wino, who performs “Rake”, “Nothing” and “A Song For” has a soulful, melodic voice that is the perfect vehicle for these narratives. The longest track on the album “Tecumseh Valley”, performed by Scott Kelly, drives forwards unremittingly, as the tale unfolds, allowing the sparse instrumentation to highlight the frailty of the lines. These covers may lack some of the spring of the original versions, but none of the implication. These are gloomy stories of drunks, losers and the browbeaten....

Read the full review at Scratch the Surface