Can we truly separate the art from the artist? It’s the question I’ve been ruminating in my dining room while listening to Phillip H. Anselmo & The Illegals’ Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue (Season of Mist). An onstage stunt involving Nazi salutes transpired at a tribute show in early 2016 and ever since then I haven’t had the keenest impression of Anselmo. Several non-apologies have ensued and I’m not sure if we’ll ever get any closure. Continue reading
I’ve given There is Nothing Left for Me Here (Dead Truth) a few spins now and I’m shocked that Ether has remained a secret in the underground metal community. It’s not like they’re novices to the game, these are former members of acts like Remembering Never and Into the Moat we’re talking about here. Judging by their welding of Sludge and Hardcore, it may not take long now for the secret to get out. Continue reading
Part five of the Ghost Cult Album of the Year countdown for 2015.
One staff team. Over 550 albums covered by Ghost Cult over the last twelve months. One epic race to be crowned Album of the Year.
Read on to dive deep into the Ghost Cult Top 10…
10. My Dying Bride – ‘Feel The Misery’ (Peaceville)
“When the history of doom metal is written, English miserabilists My Dying Bride will have their own chapter; preferably written in gothic script by a quill. After twenty-five years in the game, their long march towards the sinister continues and Feel the Misery has to rank among their best works.”
9. Cattle Decapitation – ‘The Anthropocene Exctinction’ (Metal Blade)
“The grind influences which the band are largely known for are present here, but combine with a number of other reference points and styles in a way that transforms them quite beyond the ordinary. The base-line style throughout is a crunchy, Grind-touched Death Metal that’s as comfortable with punishing grooves and sinister melodies as it is with blasting, but they expand their palette further with quasi-“industrial” effects, atmospheric passages and creepily-effective clean vocal sections.”
8. Paradise Lost – ‘The Plague Within’ (Century Media)
“Not a descent into the darkest bowels of harrowing Death-Doom, then, but expecting it to be would be rather silly. What The Plague Within offers is a sincere, heartfelt amalgam of older influences and current songwriting from a band who have always had the courage to follow their own muse where it leads them, even if it seems to lead them back.”
7. Faith No More – ‘Sol Invictus’ (Reclamation/Ipecac)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – May “The band picks up basically where they left off with 1997’s Album of The Year. After all; resurrection may be for those who got it wrong the first time, but the same cannot be said of Faith No More whose return is a welcome and worthy one. Let’s hope it lasts as long as it can.”
6. Iron Maiden – ‘The Book Of Souls’ (Parlophone/Sanctuary/BMG)
“For a band with such a celebrated history, it is a joy and delight to confirm that The Book Of Souls stands resolute as one of the best things the band has produced. Ever. An album that works on a number of levels – the strength of the songwriting, the collective and individual musicianship, the range and power of the entire album are all deeply impressive. The Book of Souls is the collective endeavour of a band still resolutely in love with music and still gracious and humble enough to want to share that with its audience. Happy and glorious, from epic start to bombastic end.”
5. Clutch – Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – October “Thank goodness for Clutch. Clutch aren’t like most bands. Wait: Clutch are not like any other band. Now into their 20-something year of making smart, intelligent rock music, Psychic Warfare sees Neil Fallon and co in the rudest possible health, invigorating and invigorated, creatively refreshed and simply staggering and swaggering. Clutch are a band of sublime brilliance and Psychic Warfare might just be the album you’ve waited all year for. Long may they reign supreme.”
4. Napalm Death – ‘Apex Predator – Easy Meat’ (Century Media)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – February “That the band still emits a burning intensity, railing against injustice and The Establishment, is reassuring and adds the crucial element of gravity to what is, in essence, a joyous and energising sound. Angry machine gun rattle, powerful skewing punk, flexibility in pace, a hefty boot, veering grind… I bloody love the nose-breaking, careering chaos of it all”
3. Enslaved – ‘In Times’ (Nuclear Blast)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – March “In Times is a record of staggering, jaw-dropping brilliance. In Times distils the essence of Enslaved in brilliant, grandiose fashion but, like all great albums, suggests new, as yet uncharted opportunities. To use sporting parlance, suggesting that the band are at the top of their game is to truly misunderstand what’s going on here. Enslaved are not just at the top of their game; they are in the process of trying to change the game being played.”
2. Lamb of God – ‘VII: Sturm und Drang’ (Nuclear Blast)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – August “About halfway through Sturm Und Drang, vocalist Randy Blythe screams: “How the FUCK did you think this would end?!” It’s both a question and a statement of defiance, summing up five years that have been nothing less than challenging for this band. That they have returned and delivered an album this ferocious, this energised, this brilliant, is utterly remarkable and testimony to a sense of collective tenacity and drive that can only be admired. All Heavy Metal records should sound this good.”
The blurb on the label’s website for “Black ‘n’ Roll” outfit Alfahanne says they mix “Black Metal with Classic Rock and Punk” topped off with some “Goth influences”. Well – at least they’re managing expectations.
Whilst broadly true, this mixture fails to produce anything particularly interesting on the band’s latest effort – Blod Eld Alfa (Dark Essence). Weak, repetitive “riffs” coupled with lacklustre production reminiscent of so many mid-90s demo CDs conspire to produce a weak, reedy sound that ultimately fails to evoke any metal claws, banging heads, Sid Vicious sneers or Sisters of Mercy wafts.
The insipidly limp drums sound like a budget drum machine left on repeat, the guitars sound like they’re being played by zombies and the vocals (that seem to be trying to ape one of Dani Filth‘s trademarks for a whole album) sound like they were recorded in Mum’s kitchen.
In a 9-track album of tedium, only 1 song – ‘Skallerormsgift’ – inspires any comment. It’s fairly atmospheric, displaying some Goth chops, a bit of rhythmic variety, shouty vocals that presumably comprise the claim to “Punk” and a pleasant outro that crescendos nicely. Hmmm. That’s not very Black Metal is it?
The band say this music should stop you from feeling pleasure or pain. This leads me to conclude that they set out to record an album of musical anaesthetic. If so, they have excelled themselves.
Six albums in, and Pennsylvania’s Wisdom In Chains have hit the gas once more on the sprightly The God Rhythm (Fast Break!), delivering a definitive statement of classy punky melodic Hardcore. All the expected elements are expertly delivered, from “Oh-o-oh-oh’s” to breakdowns, and pacy three chord strumming to emphatic tunes, all played out with a sense of invigoration of a band at ease in their own skin, and their place in the musical world.
With the term “hardcore punk” being bandied around since the early 80’s, there is an acceptance that this is a fairly conservative scene – experimentation and progressive elements aren’t particularly prevalent – and there is a recognition that various tropes and stylings should be present, with success coming to those who do it well, do it best, and who do it true. With that in mind, it is refreshing to see Wisdom In Chains mix things up. While not re-inventing the wheel, or adding a host of tech-shit or unnecessary divergences to their sound, the depth to write and include the brooding ‘Mathematics’ and a five – minute thoughtful sample led melodic instrumental (the title track) to break up the album shows the quality and musical ability inherent in the quintet.
Vocalist Mad Joe Black leads with throaty melodic shouts – possessing good enough cleans to carry enough of a tune, particularly on the Sick Of It All meets Misfits barreling of ‘Best Of Me’ – and menacing on ‘Skinhead Gang’, a track that scoots into a welcome bass-led breakdown. Wisdom In Chains show their chops with the uptempo open chord driving hardcore of shout-a-long ‘When We Were Young’ and it’s reminiscing of all-night BMXing, with the crossover thrash of ‘Fatherless’, the pure Hardcore of ‘Violent Americans’, and while punking out with the well-intentioned ‘Joey Ramone’.
In true HC style, The God Rhythm doesn’t hang around, 14 songs, 37 minutes, a whole host of exactly what you expect, sprinkled with some shrewd deviations on the normal theme. Sitting pretty much in the centre-ground of popular Hardcore, stylistically, suits Wisdom In Chains, they can throwdown, holler, groove, breakdown to their heart’s content, all while keeping on keeping on.
Deez Nuts. Yeah, you clicked this; the band name is as bad as you first thought. But that doesn’t halt the fact that this Australian unit seriously know how to write Hardcore tunes. They’ve got the crushing riffs in absolute abundance, right from the word go, but they’ve got that ridiculously over the top macho punk bullshit needed to spit the right kind of attitude onto heavy music. This is Hardcore of the Madball and Biohazard kind of spirit, not the modern beat-down obsessed version.
Not everyone can get on with Hardcore music, and many struggle to see beyond the overbearing macho facade so many in the scene focus on, but with Word Is Bond (Century Media), Deez Nuts could very well attract a whole breed of new fans into the genre. The slow chugging riffs which run their course throughout the album just generally makes this an easy album to pick up and go with. Again, much like Biohazard, they’re also clearly more than capable of throwing themselves into a thrashier style of Punk, which will again prove attractive to die-hards within the scene already.
The song structure across the album is relatively consistent. We don’t have all that many tracks which exceed even the two minute mark, so once again you’ll be able to throw this record on and blitz through it in no time. As you give this repeat listens it also becomes clear that a lot of these tracks were written with the live performance in mind – we’ve got it all; the chant along lyrics in tracks like ‘Wrong Things Right’ and ‘Chess Boxin’’, the bouncy riffs via ‘What’s Good’ and all the chaos to fill the pits through ‘Pour Up’ and the title track.
Honestly, most of this album will likely become quite forgettable as time goes by, but live the tracks have real potential to come alive. ‘Forgettable’ may seem like a strong term, but unless you become an absolute die-hard, you’ll probably give this a couple of spins and put it aside. It’s not a world beater, not a game changer for the genre, but it is a more than welcome addition to the Hardcore Punk scene.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are, apparently, at war. Not the sort of war that has been on your television news broadcasts, but with technology and appliances the world over. So say the slightly crazed minds of the creators behind Killer Refrigerator. The Fridge And The Power It Holds (Independent/self-released) is KR’s second album of scatalogical humour set to an old school death and thrash metal soundtrack that is every bit as bonkers as you might have already begun to suspect.
Kicking off with ‘Terrorvision’, I had a mental image of black drainpipe jeans, white high tops and old Stormtroopers of Death t-shirts as the band dive headlong into an absurd, whirligig of frenetic thrash metal and punky vocals . We move into more mid-tempo classic thrash territory of ‘Slaystation’ which is eerily like early period Nuclear Assault and no bad thing in my mind. ‘Shower Thrashing Death’ is two minutes of aural stupidity but I mean that warmly. Let’s be fair, any band that calls a song ‘Shower Thrashing Death’ and has a lyric that proclaims the coming of the “toilet gods” and how we will all “bow down to the toiletries!” is not exactly taking itself too seriously. And neither should we.
There’s an echo of Kerry King running through ‘Slave to the Easy Bake’ and a bassline that Dan Lilker would have been proud to call his own. On the title track, it’s totally apparent that this band have a complete love of thrash and death metal that despite the obviously stupid nature of all of this, it’s done with a large degree of love and affection.
In much the same way that Evil Scarecrow have appropriated and twisted the black metal genre then so Killer Refrigerator have taken old school thrash, horror tropes and high school humour and created a small part of the musical universe that is uniquely theirs. It’s unequivocally lightweight and a bit samey in parts: there is only one joke here and whilst it’s amusing enough, you can’t possibly keep on telling it without it wearing a little bit thin. There’s a level of inevitability about that but whilst it’s here, the band are smart enough not to outstay their welcome.
Fresh, stupid, silliness.
When you’re handed an album for a Norwegian Metal band, it’s pretty safe for you to assume that you’ve been given a Death or Black Metal record with the fact that a new one pops up almost on a weekly basis. With Krakow’s amaran (Dark Essence) though (yeah they’re not from Poland…) what you’ve actually got is a dark and twisted Stoner/Metal album which revels in bleak down tuned slow riffs and heaviness. When some of the harsher vocals kick in you’ll quickly draw comparisons to their native Kvelertak, but Krakow are a different beast, mashing together several influences like Kvelertak do, but with less focus on the punkier aspects and more drive towards the Doomier side.
The album opens with ‘Luminauts’ which immediately sets the tone for what’s going on here. The mysterious and atmospheric opening to the track is an idea which they run with throughout the record. Each track builds and builds until it reaches a cacophony of sound at the end – and for the most part it works very well. The track ‘Pendulum’ becomes a perfect example of this. It actually sounds like the band were sitting there experimenting with different sounds before someone picked up a guitar and threw down into an awesome bouncy riff. They’ve made it sound effortless to produce, when in reality you know that it would have taken a lot of work.
Perhaps the only drawback here is the fact that you kind of know what you’re getting with each track. They’ve focussed on making each one such an epic it might not be the most accessible to casually pick up– old hardened Doom heads will absolutely love it though. There are some tracks on here as well, like ‘Ten Silent Circles’, where the band has actually looked to expand into quite a proggy sound. By this point you should be able to grasp that Krakow do not pull any punches when it comes to trying to deliver a truly varied soundscape – they’re clearly a talented bunch, with each track sounding very tight and well produced but this deviation isn’t one of the stronger points on the record.
Overall then, with amaran, Krakow have produced a solid Stoner/Doom Metal album which brings together a deluge of different influences whilst also stamping their own authority and sound on proceedings. It isn’t the kind of album you’ll casually pick up and be instantly hooked, but with patience and a good few repeat listens you’ll begin to appreciate the musicianship of the group and all of the little intricacies each track houses.
Remember the first time you heard From Enslavement to Obliteration (Earache), the ground-breaking second album from UK grind pioneers Napalm Death? I certainly do. It was 1988, I’m there trying to grasp on to my love of loud music…and I fucking hated it. I found it laughable, and it sent me away from Metal’s harder edges for a long time. How can you identify with a five-second song, for Christ’s sake? Up to this moment, I’d never listened to another Napalm Death album.
A staggering 27 years later fifteenth album Apex Predator – Easy Meat (Century Media) hits my inbox and boy, I feel different. The angry yet tribal rhythm of the shamanic title track gives way to the pounding machine-gun rattle of ‘Smash A Single Digit’, while the powerful skewing punk of ‘Metaphorically Screw You’ ploughs an irresistible furrow. There’s display of a flexibility in pace with the initially slower ‘Dear Slum Landlord’ retaining a hefty boot with a full production and eventually exploding with euphoric ferocity. The band’s trademark veering grind is still in evidence in the speed and violent switches of ‘Cesspits’ and ‘Bloodless Coup’; while the exercise in raw bloody velocity that is ‘Stunt Your Growth’, complete with mid-point of brutal groove and a barked Barney Greenway delivery, will rip up some serious pits live.
That the band still emits a burning intensity, railing against injustice and The Establishment, is reassuring and adds the crucial element of gravity to what is, in essence, a joyous and energising sound. The beefy punk of ‘Hierarchies’ possesses choruses of near harmonised, reflective vocals and a lightning lead break to highlight the versatility. Thankfully this is followed by the frenetic bludgeon of blastbeats and the savage roars of the penultimate ‘One Eyed’, reverting back to the coruscating norm with a wonderful closing bounce that is the album’s highlight.
Me, the Napophobe? I bloody love the nose-breaking, careering chaos of it all, which would appal an old, lost friend and make a few more chuckle. I’m ashamed I’ve missed out on so much but thank God for mid-life crises, eh?….