Coronavirus, quarantines, lockdowns… This seems to be the only thing we are reading all through social media around the world. Though a very serious and sad situation (stay home!), there are other ways to battle the probable lack of activity that you may be going through at home and, if you feel adventurous, you should press play to Kilter‘sAxiom (Alter-Nativ). The Brooklyn trio composed of Kenny Grohowski (Imperial Triumphant) on drums, Ed Rosenberg III on sax, and Laurent David on bass brings a very exciting, weird record that combines the heaviness of their obvious Metal roots with the strange soundscapes that Jazz can bring. Continue reading
Texan duo Pinkish Black originally formed in 2005 as a three piece doom/jazz project called The Great Tyrant; however the tragic suicide of bassist Tommy Atkins in 2010 put a halt to the production of the band’s first album. Remaining two members Daron Beck and Jon Teague continued under the moniker Pinkish Black, producing music that refuses to be pigeonholed into anything genre specific. Fusing synth, industrial, doom and Krautrock, Pinkish Black are certainly not afraid to break the mould and latest opus Bottom of the Morning (Relapse) depicts their visionary approach to music.
This is not an album that resonates instantly; the complexities require time and thought but once deciphered come with great reward. Predominantly synth based, hypnotic swirls of sound consume the record, alongside monotone chant style vocals, creating mystery and intrigue. ‘Brown Rainbow’ radiates a horror movie soundtrack vibe with unsettling keyboards, while ‘Special Dark’ explores their more industrial side with a thumping bass line and clattering of harsh cymbals. ‘I’m All Gone’ is ethereal and hypnotic, drawing upon a more gothic influence. Instrumental conclusion ‘The Master is Away’ demonstrates a mesmerising juxtaposition of fuzzy distorted bass, psychedelic synth and elevating melodies. The variety of influences imbued and unorthodox approach to music is what makes Bottom of the Morning a fascinating record, however the vocals do start to wear thin after a few tracks, eventually, unfortunately, bordering on the monotonous.
Pinkish Black clearly approach their music with intelligence and progressive creativity, and Bottom of the Morning evidently embodies that, nevertheless a great deal of patience is required to really appreciate the multifaceted elements that form their soundscape.
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And now the end is near, and so we face 2015’s final curtain, and once more the Ghost Cult army got together to vote for their favourites. The results? More than 20 writers pitched and voted on over 220 albums ranging from indie pop to the most horrific savage tentacle laden death metal showing the depth, breadth of the official Ghost Cult Album of the Year for 2015.
The votes have been cast, the dust has settled… let the countdown commence…
“Despite what you may have heard, The Ark Work is neither the ultimate transformation of stupid music into art nor the final betrayal of Metal’s values by the poser hordes. It is, however, one of the boldest, most distinctive and utterly unflinching Metal albums you’ll hear all year”
“A startling, spellbinding piece of work. Having given us Sabbath, Napalm Death, Godflesh, and Anaal Nathrakh, Birmingham – and Khost – has just provided Metal’s latest evolution.”
“A strong, distinctive album with its own character and some genuinely excellent songwriting and works well as both an introduction to one of the most genuinely interesting metal bands of the last twenty years and an album in its own right.”
47. Rivers of Nihil – ‘Monarchy’ (Metal Blade)
“Rather than fifty minutes of a constant snare and uninspiring distorted low tuned guitars, Rivers of Nihil have really focused on expanding, adding more atmosphere and a dynamic to keep a hold.”
“Now that they can’t be pigeonholed to djent or the “Sumerian sound” it leaves Periphery open to be viewed for what they truly are, a brilliant metal band. ”
45. Publicist UK – ‘Forgive Yourself’ (Relapse)
“When I cranked this album on my laptop the last thing I expected was the musical equivalent of Joy Division on a collision course with Cave In, but what a lovely wreck it turned out to be.”
“Complete with Gorod’s signature Bossa Nova-infused jazzy riffs and complex arrangements, A Maze of Recycled Creeds stands not only as Gorod’s crowning achievement, but also that of 2015.”
‘Monotony Fields’ adds a touch of light to the overwhelming darkness of Funeral Doom yet, far from trivialising it, only increases its power to move and intrigue. This is as refreshing as it is heartfelt and affecting.”
42. Bell Witch – ‘Four Phantoms’ (Profound Lore)
“Bell Witch continue to confound, enthral, terrify and move in equal measure; and in creating a second album of such weight and emotion prove themselves peerless.”
“Armed with 12 new ditties toasting humanity’s self-destruction, the new Slayer album is a complex one. Overall Repentless is an enjoyable, fierce album that sounds essentially like a Slayer album should.”
From what is effectively a rehearsal room within the confines of a relic to the greatest yet most environmentally destructive age of Man, it’s fitting that ultimate innovation continues unabated.
On a night made for the sax fiends among us promoter Dave McLean kicked us off with his funky Hardcore outfit Lake of Snakes: a staggering baritone enlivening a heavy groove, the sexy, minimalist ‘Machismo Lament’ the highlight of tracks graced by the harsh rhyming of Dave’s twin Lewis. This was extreme Jazz-metal at its tightest, from a fascinating and current ‘crossover’ band that deserve to be huge.
The sax genius that is Colin Webster took stage left for Dead Neanderthals, the Anglo-Dutch ‘Heavy jazz’ improvisation unit that, basically, defied description. The trio performed their single-track Prime (Gaffer) opus: a constantly squalling barrage of Freeform sound, Webster’s lowing baritone setting the riff while his fellow squealer Otto Kokke screamed with squalling acrimony alongside Rene Aquarius’ frenetic yet pulsating drums. Easy listening this wasn’t, but its vitality and relevance couldn’t be disputed, and to witness the phenomenal Aquarius perform in such close proximity was an utter privilege.
Climaxing what is arguably the most intimate, insouciant gig I’ve ever seen, Sevilla’s finest leisurely pummelled this happy studio. It’s debatable whether Orthodox is the main draw tonight but the fulmination of Marco Serrato’s buzzing, earthshaking bass and Borja Diaz’ brutalising stickwork complemented the former’s unusual yet sonorous, oscillating vocal perfectly. Gone is the stage presence of former years, replaced by occasionally mystical soundscapes and profound, understated yet ground-moving adventurous melancholy. ‘Canicula’ was a snaking, rattling, cosied journey of Low-End freedom: Serrato’s warped, tuneful bass notes eliciting brutal pounding from his compatriot, joyously welcomed by the small yet increasingly devoted throng. ’Portum Sirenes’ was positively soul-dissecting: Marco’s warbles plumbing the soul whilst bass and drums slowly, steadily, eviscerated the collective internal organs; the build to the multi-faceted, pulverising crescendo unfathomable.
If there’s a greater expression of deep music, of emotive crush, than Orthodox are today, I’ve yet to experience it. And there’s bloody two of them. Where in God’s name were you all?!
As the final day of Bloodstock 2015 begins, it is once again with the shock of no sign of rain once again. Someone, somewhere must have made some kind of sacrifice to some form of deity to ward off the rain and giving perfect sunshine for the entire weekend. No doubt the usual washout day will rear its head again next year, but for today, there is plenty of heavy metal to enjoy.
Kicking off proceedings for the day is one very annoying clash between atmospheric black metaller’s Agalloch on the main stage and British heavy metal masters Triaxis, who reward the rammed SophieTent by assuredly knocking the cobwebs of people’s hangovers away with a spectacular showcase of straightforward but massively enjoyable metal. New cuts like ‘Liberty’ and ‘Death Machine’ prove just as immediate and strong as fan-favourites like ‘Black Trinity’ as they show just why they one of the brightest lights on the British metal scene today, as today’s set feels hugely triumphant. The same can’t quite be said for the following The Izuna Drop who’s electronica bass drop tinged sounds are interesting in principle but doesn’t translate well today as a thin, curious crowd quickly empties even further.
For all the critics of the modern day incarnation of Sepultura (WAH! THERES NO MAX CAVALERA ITS NOT SEPULTURA!) they’re overlooking three important factors: Firstly Derrick Green has been a part of the band by now longer than Max ever was. Secondly the band that they are today is a very different beast to the Max incarnation; yes they play the hits like ‘Roots Bloody Root’ and ‘Refuse/Resist’ but with a somewhat different tone to those days. And thirdly, they still pack a hell of a punch, giving a strong, somewhat safe set with very few surprises (other than a brand new song aired) but one that is never less exciting than before, as the main stage crowd gives a huge response, especially to those aforementioned hits.
The likes of Agalloch and Belphegor may have suffered some of their atmospherics due to the sunshine on the main stage, so its fortunate for Saille that they perform to a darker, more intense Sophie tent, where their brooding, melodic brand of black metal is allowed its full impact. Mostly static but full of intensity, their vivid tales inspired but the likes of H.P. Lovecraft proof menacing but so captivating, and they have surely made a tonne of new friends in this instance.
You always know what you’re going to get with Cannibal Corpse, from the bludgeoning barrage of their music to the recognisable stage introductions (“This song is about shooting blood from your cock”) but it never withers in intensity, and today they are as strong and reliant as ever. The staggering amount of crowd surfers during this set tells you how well they have gone down today, and why they are such a firm live favourite.
It may be hot outside, it may be the evening of the last day, but people still want to have a bloody good time, and apparently a bit of a boogie. Good job French swing/death metal oddballs Trepalium are at hand with perhaps the surprise set of the entire weekend. Not a huge name by any means on these shores but they pack out the Sophie tent, and after a confusing sound-check, absolutely explode. Volatile death metal meets catchy, jazz like passages with stunning effect as the what could possibly be the biggest moshpit the tent has seen all weekend is surrounded by people dancing like loons to four sharply dressed musicians and a shirt-less, voodoo mask like painted nutter of a vocalist. An unexpected highlight as they prove one of the bands of the weekend.
All three headliners this year were subject to vitriolic responses on the internet forums at their announcement, but today’s headliner Rob Zombie probably received the most flak. Coupled with the memory of recent, stripped back festival appearances not gaining plaudits and there is a swell of anticipation amongst excited fans and those who seem to be there simply wishing for a car crash performance. Not to mention the catastrophic stage problems that plagued Trivium and Within Temptation, there is a feeling that anything could happen; fortunately for the excited throng, all goes well this time around.
Opening with a storming ‘Teenage Nosferatu Pussy’, Rob Zombie’s part b-movie horror flick, part cartoon brand of industrial metal proves an excellent festival closer which oozes fun. Zombie himself proves very charismatic (if at times forced) whilst the excellent pair of John 5 and Piggy D jostle and challenge for attention on stage, both giving show stealing, virtuoso performances and their own unique visuals. Coupled with such a strong arsenal of songs and it seems silly to think how it could have failed; although there seems to be reliance on a couple of famous covers to gather some momentum: an awkward rendition of James Brown’s ‘Get Up…’ and note perfect, nothing special renditions of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ and ‘Schools Ou’” which surely take time away from songs people may have wanted to hear. That being said the likes of ‘Superbeast’, ‘More Human Than Human’ and a rarely aired ‘Pussy Liquor’ hit the spot, bringing the festivities to a euphoric close on the main stage (for those who still have energy and urging for a more claustrophobic disposition, Godflesh pack out the tent later on in the night).
Over the weekend some issues reared their heads again, from the stage show suffering of black metal bands in broad daylight to the near comical amount of main stage difficulties which nearly derail many a set, but none of this can detract from a tremendous weekend that gave fantastic weather and even better bands.
See you in a year Catton Hall.
CHRIS TIPPELL and SARAH WORSLEY
When Skype cuts off three times during an interview it’s a pisser. Fortunately Barnes, guitarist and saxophonist for Cardiff brutalisers Intensive Square, remains unperturbed. Having done their own thing for a decade, and recently releasing debut album Anything That Moves (Black Bow Records) after a wait in excess of two years, these guys aren’t fazed by the mundane things in life: “Rich Lewis, our drummer, and guitarist Joe Harvatt were doing Thrash metal covers when I joined. We were just playing for fun initially, but became serious once we started writing stuff that we liked, and started to get noticed around 2011 after playing Bloodstock.”
Intensive Square’s sound has developed wholesale since those early days, a collective background in jazz adding serious groove to the savage intent: “It changed drastically when Rich and I started jamming. We were into bands like Meshuggah which, at that time, was real left-of-centre stuff. Rich has always been interested in weird rhythms, so we just experimented a little and came up with something different.” Barnes is also responsible for some wailing saxophone on the album: “I’m into freeform, Avant-garde Jazz, where there’s no fear; Ornette Coleman, for example, inspires me. I couldn’t play you a standard on sax, but I find some really evil sounds and make it work for us.”
He definitely does. The band recorded a couple of EPs in those early days, which are raw in the extreme: “We recorded in our bedrooms! We also had a set-up in Rich’s house where we were in the living room, and the stacks were in another room. We just turned everything up as loud as we could! We didn’t have a clue what we were doing production-wise but it was a wicked time: loads of complaints, Police coming round taking our gear…it was fucking wild! Most of those tracks have been battered into shape for the album, and they sound completely different now.”
It’s tempting to believe that the ‘fun’ element has to disappear with an enhanced profile, but Barnes dismisses that idea: “We’re having a wicked laugh! We’re writing at present, and seriously looking forward to playing gigs around the UK. It’s quite hard to juggle sometimes, with Rich in Conan and Joe recently joining Hark also; so we have to get the timing right. But we’re desperate to get out there, and seeing the great reviews for Anything… has only encouraged that feeling.”
The album was recorded at Foel studios in the Welsh countryside, with Conan bassist Chris Fielding in the chair, and has been issued through Conan mainman Jon Davis’ label, Black Bow. Barnes is proud of the association, and its results: “I absolutely love Conan, have done for years. I can’t believe Rich is now in the drumstool for them, and I’m thrilled to be on Jon’s label – it issued Bast’s Spectres, and that was amongst my favourite albums of last year. We wanted a professional sound, and we loved what Chris was doing. It took about another year to finalise and mix, as we ran out of allotted time and, with us all being perfectionists, we didn’t want to rush things. James Plotkin mastered it, and here we are now.”
That’s some résumé for a debut album of course, and it’s something Barnes acknowledges: “We feel really lucky. It was a big deal for us, we threw everything at it and spent as much money as we could afford. Nobody went on holiday that year! You get on each other’s nerves a bit, holed up together for over two weeks – believe me, everything smells in this band! – but the views were breath-taking and we had the best time.”
Controversy has been courted with a notably graphic album cover, some rather brutal lyrics and tracks such as ‘Vegetarians’ that aren’t big on subtlety. “We’re not shock merchants or anything; we just like to take the piss out of people who take themselves too seriously. I’ve got nothing against vegetarianism at all. It’s a noble cause: let’s face it, the way food is produced in the West is ridiculous and often unsustainable. I just can’t stand people who are smug about their personal choices and I’m going to rip the piss out of that. So there’s a lot of that within the lyrics; winding people up on purpose if you like. We do it with each other!”
Barnes’ relaxed humour, fire and belief shines throughout the whole interview. It’s this seeming insouciance, mixed with a fervent passion for their sound, which marks out Intensive Square as not just ones to watch, but as a band who will rip up the Metal template and set their own path. The album is one of this year’s highlights and live, this band will create one holy shitstorm. You know what to do…
From the rather clever play on words of their name, through to the arty if thoroughly disgusting cover, there is something overtly cerebral about Cardiff technicians Intensive Square. There’s a claustrophobic intensity from the outset of debut album Anything That Moves (Black Bow); complex drum patterns leading the way for some crunching, chaotic riffs and Chris Haughey’s dry scour. A febrile sound initially in keeping with the intelligent violence of Dillinger Escape Plan or Pyrrhon, twisting rhythms create grooves and craters as deep as the earth’s core whilst syncopated flickers leave your body convulsing with an involuntary joy.
The howling leads of opener ‘The Long Man’ are accompanied in the atonal melody stakes by the enigmatically-named Barnes’ wailing sax which, far from having you running for the hills, actually augments the power and further peaks the curiosity. The Cancer Bats-meets-Jazz of the ensuing ‘Ends’ possesses a brooding, building coda which heightens the tension; whilst the viciously switching, jerking grooves of ‘Me Vs the Cables’ and ‘Rhino Fight’ will leave those of us with knee problems in utter agony. The perfect timing of the band’s time switches and staccato rhythms enhance rather than frustrate: ‘…Fight’ slowing then quickening on a sixpence, the ferocious battery and squealing sax fully invoking the fear and drama of the titanic struggle the title suggests.
The blend of hostility and progressive sensibilities brings djent kings Meshuggah to mind but there’s a more organic quality here, a natural flow which harnesses that pulsating power, letting the invention run on an extending leash rather than wholly unfettered. The strange lead patterns in the stuttering savagery of ‘Gastric Emptying’ seem completely apt. The Death/Sludge template of ‘Vegetarians’, meanwhile, its ingredients warping and morphing in attempts to break free, still snaps back to the controlling structure; Haughey’s bellow letting blood over the exhausted body of the track.
The swerving riffs of the crushing, pummelling closer ‘King’, like Grind slowed to a virtual standstill, is as nerve-wrecking as anything I’ve heard this year. Indeed, the only thing that’s utterly untethered here is the rampant verve, the vivacity coursing through this bruising, intricate set.
Quite simply this is a huge shot in the arm for progressive, extreme metal and one of the most vital releases of recent years.
To some, jazz and metal may seem like odd bedfellows, but over time the paths of jazz and a variety of heavy music styles have crossed on numerous occasions in varying ways. Plenty of bands have cited the likes of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis as an influence whilst acts from the likes of King Crimson to contemporary artists as diverse as Between The Buried & Me, Meshuggah, Trioscapes and The Contortionist have shown signs of its inspiration and aesthetic. Very few extreme metal acts however have shown as bold and overt a marriage as France’s Trepalium have over the years.
Over a number of albums Trepalium have taken Jazz’s most stereotypical musical traits and instrumentation and intertwined with a gnarly but accessible breed of death metal, creating a mind-jarring but infectious hybrid; and their latest EP, the recently re-titled Damballa’s Voodoo Doll (Klonosphere), is their strongest and most fully-realized effort to date. The jazz elements come across as very cartoonish rather than as avant-garde unpredictability but this is clearly the desired effect. EP opener ‘Moonshine Limbo’ encapsulates this with the introduction of what appears to be a bar fight in a classic Western style bar, with broken glass and piano before a chorus of trumpets signals its eruption to the current day.
Both sides of the coin take center stage at different points rather than messily fighting for attention. The title track for example shows the band’s jazz side taking time out on the bench, whilst on the likes of ‘Possessed By The Nightlife’ it is given room to really flourish. Taking these two musical styles as standalone parts, neither are revolutionary takes in themselves, while the vocals are a tad one dimensional in tone. Altogether, though, this delivers a unique and, most importantly, fun combination.
Of course for some this may seem like a gimmick, and yes it is very tongue in cheek at times, but here Trepalium have fine-tuned their vision and given their strongest, most immediate and enjoyable release to date. A strong reminder of both extreme metal’s (and jazz’s) knack for experimentation and of both genre’s ever crossing roads.