I’m never one to begrudge a band spreading their wings and embracing new styles. Sometimes it works, sometimes it just sounds like a genre band ‘doing styles’ – a hideous habit that should be left to the pop shitteratti with their legions of production-line songsmiths. Trippywicked’s pervious Acoustic Sessions comprised of a bunch of tracks from last year’s excellent Movin’ On rendered as minimalist accoustic vignettes. These well written songs survived the transition in fine form, but entertaining as Acoustic Sessions was the tracks lost some of their riff laden power rendering it a largely superfluous indulgence.
So it was with no little trepidation that I approached their new acoustic EP The Bleak – was this really going to be an exercise in Doom goes acoustic? It was quite a pleasant surprise to find The Bleak to be not only a perfectly natural transition on their melodic doom template, but a departure to another genre that is tangential to their riff hungry debut. Here we find stoner groove replaced with stripped back, melancholic fingerpicking overlayed with bittersweet melodies voiced with Pete Holland’s subtly idiosyncratic tenor. Doom metal this ain’t, but doomy it is. The Bleak (a title that sums up its contents quite capably) is more akin to Sea Change era Beck or Bill Callahan (aka Smog) at his most sparse and maudlin. The addition of subtle orchestral flourishes on final track Separate Paths hint at the melancholic plushness of Elbow or solo Mark Lanegan. Here simplistic melody and repetition reinforce a sense of isolation and introspection, and at times feels almost dronish, despite the brief length of these 4 tracks. This is an emotive and emersive experience and one that begs countless listens.
There will no doubt be cries of ‘hipster metal’ or Colplay wannabes, which is beside the point, as The Bleak is a seriously accomplished recording which will stand up against the pack, no matter which pack you compare it to. If you’re looking for the playful heaviness of Movin’ On, then you won’t find it here. This may be Trippywicked ‘doing styles’ or maybe The Bleak is merely a natural progression on their sound, either way it works marvelously and further solidifies them as one of the best underground bands out there at the moment and a contender for the big time. Now, if we could only get them to do something about their name…
The Bleak is available for pay what you want download here.
So you’ve got a mate in a band that are a lot of fun live, but really, you think they’re a bit rubbish. He asks you to write a review on your blog, what do you do? Tricky. Thankfully, when Chris from Enos sent me their new album, this wasn’t a concern, as it’s really quite good.
So, if you didn’t know, and in the interests of full disclosure, Mr. Chris Rizzanski (aka Enos), along with me (aka Nez), runs the Thee Big Black forum and Zine. Chris is the singer, guitarist and mastermind behind simian themed psych/space/stoner troupe Enos. Their debut album Chapter 1 is a concept piece, which accompanied by a expertly crafted comic, tells the story of a real life chimpanzee (Enos) who was sent into space in the 1960’s on a test flight by NASA. The real Enos was brought back to Earth after a single orbit of the planet. Somewhere up there the real Enos, and the band’s mascot chimp’s realities diverge finding the fictional version getting caught up with some celestial Nazis. Yeah, it baffles me a bit too.
Musically, Chapter 1 nods heavily towards stoner legends Kyuss while throwing blues, psyche and space rock elements into the mix, at times matching the brutish heaviosity of Mastodon others taking a more leisurely, Floydian turn. Chapter 1 is immediate, and although not particularly challenging (that side of things seems to have been left to the comic) there’s more to find in every listen – these tracks have a lasting appeal thanks to some good songwriting and nifty, expansive production.
Clocking in at around 35 minutes, with only 5 tracks, Chapter 1 is a short introduction to Enos. As the album title suggests this is but the beginning of the Enos story, and it seems apparent that Enos, both chimp and band, have a lot more to offer.
Chapter 1 in its entirety and the accompanying comic can be downloaded here for free.
What a marvelous season Spring 2010 promises to be for live music. I’ll personally be attending gigs from 3 bona fide legends: Opeth’s 20th anniversary show where they will be playing Blackwater Park in its entirety in the regal surrounds on the Royal Albert Hall. The mighty Cathedral are playing in a broom cupboard at the University of London in late April supported by Japanese doom icons Church of Misery. Finally one of the greatest alternative bands of all time, Pavement, are playing to most of the population of London on their marathon 4 night stint at Brixton Academy in May. I may be deaf, but at least I’ll be happy.
I’ve recently rediscovered Warrior Soul. Quite why this band slipped largely off my radar for the best part of 15 years I’ve no idea. Some sort of acid-psych-metal-punk hybrid, Warrior Soul made a big splash in the early 90′s but never managed to capitalise on the early success and widespread critical acclaim. It’s a shame, because listening back on their classic albums Last Decade Dead Century, Drugs, God and the New Republic and Space Age Playboys, they the still sound fresh and their snarling polemic is more relevant today than ever. They released new material last year that’s well worth checking out. You can get their albums on Ebay for real cheap, go treat yourself!
I didn’t realise that I was a big fan of Canadian label Profound Lore until I realised that many of my favourite releases of the past year were from bands on that label: Cobalt, Krallice, Ludicra, Worm Ouroboros, Portal (well, favourite is a strong word here, they are certainly one of the most interesting acts I’ve heard recently). Unlike many labels that claim to foster creativity, but merely churn through generic sub-genre acts, Profound Lore are really tinkering on the blurry edges of the metal genre. Try listening to Worm Ouroboros and Portal in the same sitting and you’re likely to need a period of recovery in you local asylum.
Varg Vikernes had a unique opportunity on leaving prison. He had gained near legendary status among the Black Metal kvlt and kudos disproportionate to any artistic merit or talent displayed in his early work. Having released some shoddy synth music under the Burzum moniker while in the locker, his first album proper after Filosofem was his chance to dispel the haters and reclaim his throne as the dark Pope of misanthropy. Gloss over those overt racist views, keep a low public profile (as is de rigeur in BM cirlces) and record the forward thinking, but backwards glancing record of his career – that’s what was needed; the ever conservative BM community would have hoisted the bugger on their shoulders for a victory lap of Hades.
Prison was never really a place to broaden your horizons and hone your media skills. Vikernes came out of prison all guns a blazin’ like the new sheriff in town. On release of his anticipated new album Belus, amidst a mini media storm related to some overtly racist comments, Varg whored himself out to any metal publication that would interview him and proceeded to contradict and undermine himself with every sentence. He claims to hate the media for vilifying him, despite the fact that he’s a convicted murdered. He claims to not care what people think of what he says, so why say anything at all? Apparently whoring yourself out to the media is furthering an agenda of apathy towards them and their readers. He says we’re all stuck in a ‘politically correct sewer’, and thus have a narrow or directed worldview, then aligns himself with NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal – basically a bunch pubescent, redneck, corpse paint wearing Neanderthals looking to irritate their parents) – find me a more narrow worldview than that!
The simple fact is Varg did some very ill-considered and bad stuff as a stupid, naive teenager and paid the price. He’s now a bitter old racist hick who lost half of his life to an adolescent mistake, and has a chip the size of a burning church on his shoulder about it. Now he’s trying to dress his self loathing up in a veil of mystique and black metal misanthropic posturing.
Top work Varg. With your shallow polemic and sensationalist, Daily Mail baiting, cover story grabbing antics you’ve managed to utterly fail to capitalise on your ‘legendary’ status and lost all credibility in the process. You’ve recorded a dated and mediocre album and the black metal fraternity has already disowned you. Bravo Varg! (Perhaps this should have gone in the ‘good’ section!)
Is Doom becoming popular?
Liz Buckingham - poster girl for the Doom scene?
It couldn’t happen could it? We’ve been discussing this at length over at Thee Big Black. Suspicion started when Electric Wizard played to an unprecedented Scala crowd last year, then Sunn O)))’s huge Koko gig attended by those of good hair. Since, there have been increasing numbers of sightings of unshaven, poorly coiffured, trucker capped stoner types lurking around the streets of Britain seemingly starting to outnumber the moping packs of pierced Emos. Well, the last thing any self respecting Doom head wants is for a bunch of Jonny come lately’s trampling their arid, barren lawn. Then there was this…on please god nooooo!
I’ve no doubt that Matt Pike and team occasionally partake in the odd herbal pleasure, but stoner band they ain’t. Yes, Snakes for the Divine may contain monstrous, dowtuned riffs aplenty and an obvious debt to Sabbath but there’s so much more here.
Largely eschewing the progish meanderings of Death is the Communion, Snakes is a much more meat and veg metal affair, and my my does it work – it’s immense! High on Fire didn’t really change as a band, they just got faster and more aggressive, galloping gleefully between caustic stoner (Bastard Samurai) and unapologetic thrash (Ghost Neck) effortlessly working in guitar solos and the even the odd reference to Maiden. The polished production really shows the shine of the scales underneath and is what immediately distinguishes it from the both the stoner crowd as well as High on Fire’s previously releases. Pike’s growl cuts Dalek-like through the wall of guitar/bass roar. Purists will chastise them for distancing themselves from their stoner roots, but this has the distinct air of a band becoming its true self
This may well find High on Fire their deserved wider audience and 2 months into 2010 we find our first diamond in the rough.
Metal is such a frenetic genre. It’s also frequently brutal, angular, angry and most of all noisy. Every now and again, purveyors of the true faith settle down, break out the bong and forget all about all that ADHD nonsense. I don’t mean slapping your balls on the table and wailing lyrical about the power of love. Sometimes you just gotta sloooow dooown dude.
Stoner legends Kyuss managed to capture this laid-so-far-back-you’re-looking-out-from-between-your-legs mood in a musical cloud of herbal smelling smoke with Space Cadet.
Nestling among various slabs of fuzzy, bass laden sludge on their stoner masterwork Welcome to Sky Valley, this unplugged anthem doesn’t hurry, it oozes. It sounds like it emerged from a weed fueled jam, congealing from the waxy, tar stained air, emanating from a basement; suppressed angst – a cleansing by music and sedatives.
The young Josh Homme delivers an acoustic solo that sounds like it burst from the base of his spine. When inhibitions are smudged away; when the fleshy barrier between self and instrument dissolves, such things can emanate.
Space Cadet made itself – a projection of man and miasma – and it is beautiful.
I stand alone on the cliffs of the world
No-one ever tends to me
Sitting alone covered in breeze
Some things are so my mind can breathe
Waiting is hard, fuckin’ takes so long
Draped in sun, hands in sand
Earth acid cleanses me, it cleanses me clean
But the world it never comes, it never comes
It never comes
How cool is it when you find a band that’s like all your favourite stuff mixed up into one tasty package? I remember someone saying that about ill-fated aussie Nirvana-meets-the-Beatles rockers The Vines. They were wrong. But they did have some good tunes (Get Free is wall nutting fun).
No-one ever told me that Valient Thorr were like all my favourite stuff mixed up (more likely they would tell me that my beard is going gray, or perhaps that I have pizza where my brain should be) but perhaps they should have done, as listening to Immortalizer makes me go all mid 80’s. It’s a rather fashionable mix of mosh-baiting thrash, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and Stoner. Delightful. They guys should be the biggest band in the world right?
Unfortunately, they just can’t maintain heady mix for the whole album which tends to feel like a AC/DC covers band on speed at a full listen.
Never the less, it’s unselfconsciously stupid (more Exodus than Steel Panther) and a whole lot of fun.
Infinite Lives is kicks off like Megadeth if the lightened up, then descends into Stoner anarchy.