The more orchestral elements of black metal composition can sometimes leave things feeling too much like an overblown Hammer Horror score or the incidental music during a Japanese RPG boss fight. I'm not sure which is worse actually. And while some bands will employ all of that pomp and campery intentionally, it can detract from what I personally feel is essential in a black metal record – genuine malevolence and unsettling atmosphere. Lychgate have no such problem. The dominating instrument on their self titled debut might be an overbearing and portentous organ but the skill with which it is implemented among their dizzying, macabre, suffocating black metal opus is just one masterstoke among many.
The UK based Lychgate have developed slowly over a 12 year period since their inception as the brainchild of principal song writer and lyricist Vortigern with only a handful of demos committed to tape, most of which were unreleased (now due to be compiled and released by Barghest Records following the bands re-ignition). The material here then, crafted from ideas and templates long in gestation, could run the the risk of sounding cut-and-paste, old and tired. But Lychgate have crafted an immaculate and intricate record, layered in detail and rich in an arcane and ancient evil, the effect of which swirls around you like a thick and impenetrable fog; a mystifying, disorientating, oppressive piece of work that, for a debut, is incredible. It doesn't hurt that Vortigern has drafted in an amazing cast of European musicians: G. A. Chandler from the long running Birmingham funeral-doom band Esoteric handling vocals, Aran from the German black metal band Lunar Aurora on bass and drummer T. J. F. Vallely from the pan-European, experimental black metal Omega Centauri. Yeah. I mean, wow.
It's no real surprise then that the music they've created is a particularly beguiling one. A strangely off-key use of melody weaves throughout; nauseous tunes that bleed through the swirling chaos that cause a sense of unease, the organ interplaying with the guitars producing a dense cacophony. Some tracks show little trace of the thrash lineage within black metal for the most part, song structures following the path of progressive metal and even classical composition; loose, impossible to predict, each musical twist and turn unexpected; the way that the melodious elements to 'Against The Paradoxical Guild' never quite rise in the way you expect, instead dipping and hitting notes that catch you on the back foot and build the tension. 'In Self Ruin' plays it straighter and is a nasty and oppressive track, as vicious and dangerous and unrelenting as any black metal I've ever heard, Chandler's vocals biting at you like the winds of hell (whatever they are) as Vortigern's guitar belts out ignorant and savage riffs.
'Sceptre To Conrol The World' is the centre point here though, literally and figuratively, and sees the various styles, paces and moods that Lychgate wield all fused together to create a complex and enigmatic, almost exhausting creation. Audibly separated into two suites by a brief respite towards the middle, it take you on a hellish journey with the opening conventional black metal whiplash leading into a bleak and pummelling avant-garde dust-cloud of relentless drumming, droning organ and Chandler's guttural vocal filth.
With news that, with the fire most certainly ignited under their feet now, Lychate are already preparing a follow up of all new material due for release in 2014, the future is looking exceedingly grim in the best way possible.
You might not realise it, but Atonement Records' recent decision to release a free Ark Of The Covenant discography is massively important. Although I'm not sure that anyone will think its as important as I feel it is. As I know it is. You see, one thing that is a problem with UKHC, at least older UKHC, is preservation. It's probably a problem with underground music scenes all over the world (and thank fuck for Stuck In The Past), but the one I care most about is this scene, right here. Or at least, the bands working hard in it. Recently, with Bandcamp and instant downloads becoming the norm, the threat of important, underground music no longer being available is dwindling. This is a great thing. There's a comfort in knowing that all the stuff from the last couple of years, the present and most certainly the future is floating around on the interwebs in a legitimate sense, secured on some distant server (or maybe some kid from Brighton's Mediafire account). But go further back and this wasn't so common. Go back to the turn of the millennium and it just didn't exist at all.
One of my favourite releases of all time is a split 7″ by XCanaanX and Thirty Seconds Until Armageddon. I bought it at a XCanaanX show somewhere in 2001 (possibly 2002), for some forgotten reason I then gave it away to a friend a few years after that, and then panicked and hunted one down on eBay a few years later still and now have it suspended in a vacuum behind a guarded door. This record IS my youth, and I think it's fair to say thats its an integral part of UKHC history. But unless you own one of the couple hundred that were pressed, you'll probably never hear it.
Four of some of the most essential songs that make up the fabric of UKHC, gone. Lost in time.
There's been a couple of shitty vinyl rips floating about in the past, but even they seem to have gone to that great file-sharing void in the sky. This can only be considered a damn fucking shame. And it's one of many. I've got the record, but if I wanted you to hear it? I Can't help you.
(edit : I've been alerted to this blog, which is a frankly stunning collection of out of print UKHC downloads)
Now, admittedly these Ark Of The Covenant tracks weren't quite as on the same point of extinction; the tracks from some of the releases featured here (the demo 7″ from Thirty Days Of Night Records and the split with Abolition released by Carry The Weight Records) are available on those labels Bandcamp pages (and good on them for having one), but what we get in addition are three unreleased tracks from the doomed Deal With It split sessions and the track from the rare-as-all-fuck split tape with Brutality Will Prevail. These tracks are now safe and sound on my iPod, my laptop, my back up hard drive and ready to be force fed to my children as they eat their breakfast in the morning and continue on their path of subtle indoctrination. It is now an official digital discography. Available from a record label, with album art. It is a thing, a tangible (sort of) entity. It exists. Ark Of The Covenant are preserved.
Good thing too. Ark are as good an example of 90's influenced mosh metal as you're likely to hear, and pull off that rare trick of making a style you've heard many times before seem fresh and exciting. A basic production does nothing to dampen the four tracks from their debut 7″ (TDON – 2010); solo's squeal, tight double bass drumming hammers your skull, palm mutes chug, mosh pits start in your living room. Srsly srs spoken word sections conjur the spirit of Arkangel, the mournful lead guitar in 'Blessed In Retribution' makes me screw my face up and weep tears of metal euphoria. 'Forever Raize' and 'Wretched' from their split with Abolition (CTW – 2011) sees them sharpen their razors edge, Darke's vocals a brittle wind against the soul. And you can't fuck with that breakdown as 'Wretched' closes out. Most importantly though, 4 previously unreleased tracks get to see the light of day and are rescued from a (presumably crowded) hardcore purgatory. 'Golem' is probably one of the strongest songs they ever produced : sick pacing changes in the verses make me want to cause disorderly conduct and the bit at 1:19 is just im-fucking-possibly massive and there's backwardsy inhaling whispery vocal stuff going on and AHHGOD just download it and lose it.
UKHC of the past – save and preserve yourself. Chances are, no one will do it for you.
Written by Fin Murphy, you can find more of his work here
In music, the only thing worse than a cover song is a covers album. Obviously, there are odd moments of genius, but they are often few and far between; Henrix's 'All Along The Watchtower,' Cash's 'Hurt' and pretty much any decent 1950's rock'n'roll. In any case, for the the derivative version to have any merit, it's either a transformation or a revision. One the one hand, Henrix's blistering guitar adds the tension the lyrics suggest and Cash strips back the mechanical layers to the beating heart, whilst preppy white people appropriated and softened the edges of rhythm and blues. In this busy era of music, however, a decent cover has never been harder to come by. All too often, a cover is a symptom of one or more predicaments; artistic bankruptcy, cashing in or hero-worship. In the first case, the band will have run themselves dry and will look to material which sends even the least amount of blood to their brains or dicks. The second, a band will be near the end of its life and will want to pad out the ' definitive rarest hits compilation remastered classics' or gain undeserved attention to… urgh… novelty versions. The third, those embarrassing times when a band aims to hit the heights of their heroes through imitation. Indeed, when a band releases an album of covers, it's usually not a sign of good health.
For that last reason alone, it comes as a surprise that one of the most distinctive bands over the last few decades, Melvins, are getting in on the act. Obviously, as Buzz Osbourne knows, afro combs and distortion pedals don't pay for themselves. But, still, has it come to this? For a band willing to buck even the usual band lineup (TWO DRUMMERS) perhaps it's a grand artistic statement about their own sound or the songs their covering. It'd explain the title – 'Everyone Loves Sausages' – whilst the result is a rundown from 'how to cover well' to 'why to quit music.' On the former side, King Buzzo and co. take the Venom staple 'Warhead,' strip off the corpsepaint and re-tool it into a sleazy rock number, the warhead imagery taking on a new slant Cronos never envisaged. The same revision is put to 'Black Betty.' The strong is stripped back to percussion and vocal elements between jolts of riffing, benefitting from the two drummers and certainly putting a new spin on a well worn classic.
Things get more questionable as the album progresses, namely when Melvins push the boat out and experiment. Namely, their take on 'In Every Dream House A Heart Ache.' The group stretch out the five minute whopper into nearly ten minutes and much of it feels like a joke at the listener's expense. Buzz sounds like Vincent Price covering the song and turns the pervasive atmosphere into a cartoon grimace; that is until the track drops at four minutes and the group go on an instrumental rampage. Buzz's shredding transformed into warped noise, the sort Brian Eno was aiming for originally, this time executed in a bizarre, less serious fashion. This playful yet tiresome style is again audible on their version of 'Art School' by the Jam, sounding strangely like an Oi! version of Rupture. It is a transformation, much like how an infected facial piercing is a transformation. The same can be said for Melvins take on David Bowies 'Station To Station.' Here, the group at last throw the sink in, featuring the guest vocals of J.G. Thirwell, keyboards by Toshi Kasai and stylophone by Buzzo. The whole piece is so spectacularly indulgent it makes the original pale in comparison. It's so far from their style, the original's style also, but within the bands mindset that is exasperates.
Perhaps the fact that Buzzo only leant his vocals to five tracks and that the market wouldn't be huge, that this is the time for the band to experiment- with the work of others. With some moments which sparkle but far more that grate, the album is as enticing as the offal of the title.
Released by Ipecac Records, available from all the usual outlets – Amazon, iTunes etc.
Within 20 seconds of hitting play on Full Of Hell's eagerly awaited sophomore LP 'Rudiments Of Mutilation', vocalist Dylan Walker has emptied his lungs with a harrowing, inhuman retch and threatened “CEASELESS VIBRATION” while backed by an ear piercing almost-beyond-human-audio-range digital squeal before loosely formed drum patterns career and thunder about like a drunken stampede of bulls and the power electronics build to buzzing, uncomfortable levels. There's no guitar, no riffs. There doesn't need to be. In the two minutes of this opening track 'Dichotomy'; this window into a universe of sonic suffering, Full Of Hell stake their claim and reaffirm their status as one of the most exiting and intoxicating young bands to be currently making noise.
Of course, Full Of Hell have never been anything but and as one of A389 Records' flagship acts they perfectly encapsulate all that is so incendiary about a current brace of young, volatile bands who are laying waste to audiences cerebral cortexes aswell as their ear drums. Defying genres with a fierce intelligence and packing more invention into one song than some bands manage over whole careers, Full Of Hell are very much of the new breed and Rudiments Of Mutilation sees them build on an already punishing and diverse palette, blurring the lines between punk rock, noise, grindcore, death metal and drone even further. They might draw from the same inspirational well as a hundred others, but the mixture that Full Of Hell create with what they find is very much their own.
Their debut LP Roots Of Earth Are Consuming My Home started with the whup-whup-whup and the screeches of dying electronic equipment and their dedication of blending the common grounds of noisecore and hardcore continue here (following their full on power-electronic massacre released in the form of the split with The Guilt Of… last year). It's a delightfully blackened and ugly creation, a suffocating and claustrophobic atmosphere; anytime there's a gap in the music, a break in the pitch black clouds, there's a jarring electronic wail just behind it. As the gigantic, primal chugs of 'Vessel Deserted' lumber over you the dentist-drill squeals are playing a symphony of their own in the background.
It doesn't seem to matter though that whether they're stirring that explosive electro-grind mixing pot or thrashing out tracks on the more conventional side of things like on the powerviolence swagger of 'Indigence And Guilt' (featuring the unmistakable vocal tones of Weekend Nachos' John Hoffman) or the collosal doom-trudge of the title track there's no avoiding their stifling acidic tone, their blistering enegy and the sense of their music as a cancerous form of rot. Even when Full Of Hell aren't pushing experimental boundaries It's a fabulously detailed record, begging for repeat listens to be able to peel back the layers of decay and continually expose the hideous surfaces underneath.
And when it is pushing those boundaries? Then there's nothing else quite like it. The mesmerising sermon of 'Embrace' – ritualistic drums pounding against humming amps layered with trance inducing verse or the the death-jazz (yeah, I said death-jazz) of 'Bone Coral And Brine' – a free falling tumble of bubbling machinery, skittering drums, spoken vocals, and burst of blastbeats show a band capable of anything. A band that are increasingly hard to summarise, understand or estimate. A band that are simply essential for anyone who gives not one fuck about their eardrums.
Our friends over at Glory Kid Records are making moves again, this time in the shape of announcing new signings Mercy Ties. The Seattle based band admittedly haven't been on my radar but 30 seconds into the first track from last years split with Versions changed all that as they smashed the radar into my stupid face and shoved the broken pieces down my throat. Leaking despair and hopelessness from every pore, Mercy Ties are fucking beastly. Their technical, bewildering wall of sound instantly reminded me of Adamantium which is never, ever a bad thing and anyone who's a fan of them or any turn of the millennium, complex mettalic hardcore with a strong emphasis on utter punishment to the ears will want to get involved with Mercy Ties past output straight away. Damn, the way they blur those whining high notes with those tidal waves of downtuned riffing. This, good people, is my jam.
Mercy Ties begin recording their new record for Glory Kid at The Red Room at the end of May with engineer Paul Walsh (Xray Press) before it's mastered by the notable Carl Saff (Young Widows, Kid Crash, Pygmy Lush, Coliseum)
Have you ever wanted to see video footage of John Joseph flirting with middle aged women on the streets of New York City? Well, courtesy of Vice Magazine's music platform Noisey, you now can. All jokes aside, Noisey have just posted this mini documentary on the legendary Cro-Mags frontman (for some of their career anyway) and it's well worth a watch. Filmmaker Clayton Patterson follows Joseph as he goes about his business heavily involved in Hare Krishna outreach (something that I thought shows a refreshing commitment to a cause) and community activism while Joseph's look back at the early days of his own hardcore history (hooking up with Bad Brains) serves as a nice snapshot of the foundations of a genre. There's no mention of the recent stabbing hoo-hah and I'm in no doubt that opinion will continue to rage over which Cro-Mags iteration is the troo Cro-Mags iteration (personally Best Wishes > Age Of Quarrel, but that's just me) but as someone says at the end of the video “if you don't know Cro-Mags, you don't know hardcore”. Quite right.
During the interview that I carried out with Corrupt Moral Altar that accompanies and follows this review of their latest EP Whiskey Sierra, they mention that they've already got 5 new tracks demo'd and are putting the finishing touches to the writing of their debut full length. As new bands go, new UK bands especially (who can burst into life and sputter out just as quick) Corrupt Moral Altar are astonishingly prolific. With their 2012 demo Needle Drugs and Febuary 2013's blistering Luciferian Deathcult EP barely behind them, they're clearly not fucking around. With the fact that two of the four tracks that make up Whiskey Sierra are remasters from that incediary demo in mind, the cynical wanker in you could see this as a stop gap to keep the momentum going. You'd be dead wrong. Between the fact that the two new tracks boast a confident progressive streak and an intriguing lean towards the dark depths that Corrupt Moral Altar are leading us down and the fact that the remastered tracks will kick your throat in, this EP is essential.
All that we've come to expect from this Liverpudlian wrecking crew is present and correct with both the title track and the other new cut 'Lord'. Schizophrenic, murderous stoner-sludge with healthy doses of grind and a performance from the drummer that surely isn't healthy. Chris Reese's vocals once again are verging on the barely human, wether a high pitched Barney Greenway shriek or a beefed up hardcore grunt it's a dominating presence. 'Whiskey Sierra' throws some thrash riffage in towards the end backed with frantic blastbeats and 'Lord' has a sadistic groove to it with spine shuddering palm mutes hitting like a brick to the chin. So far, so chaos. And it's handled with such a breathless energy that its impossible to take in on an initial listen. But where both of these tracks shine and truly stand out is in their closing sections, where Corrupt Moral Altar come off all Column Of Heaven, up the bleakness to unimaginable degrees and play out with some snail-paced misery sludge; vocals groaning in the background like possessed monks and monolithic dirge riffs yawning on forever. If this is an indication of the sort of places that CMA are heading, we're all doomed. And we're all going to love it.
I caught up wth vocalist Christopher Reese, drummer Tom Dring and guitarist John Cooke to talk about the new EP, future plans, past releases and unreleased 30 second songs consisting solely of blastbeats.
So, I'll get right into it about the new record : firstly, it's absolutely amazing. Secondly, I'm sensing quite a different feel to it. It still kicks you I'm the throat, but there are some very interesting elements to the two new tracks that I haven't heard you do before. Was there a conscious decision to push things along, or is it an organic process when you write new material?
Chris: Cheers mate, yeah we keep it as organic as possible. We Just jam and write the songs, if it sounds good to us then it goes into the song – simple as that. I don't know if its a conscious decision to push things along as such but we have a chance to introduce ideas and elements into CxMxA that perhaps went unused in our previous and other current bands, and if it sounds good to us we incorporate them.
John: All I will add to what Chris said is, it's just great to be able to have such freedom to do whatever we want with this band. We don't feel under any pressure to be a “metal” band “sludge” or “grind”. We just seem to be doing whatever we want and that's fun!
The thing that got me most excited was the haunting melody that plays out over the huge sludge crawl at the end of 'Whiskey Sierra'. Reminded me of how truly dark The Endless Blockade / Column Of Heaven can sound sometimes. Were there any things in particular that influenced you in the studio this time?
Chris: I'm not sure what influenced us on that section, I guess it just seemed appropriate for the song. There's a similar styled section at the beginning of Power Whore on Luciferian Deathcult, so if anything it's a bit of continuity from that and hopefully tying the two releases together as well as naturally moving on from Luciferian.
Right, obligatory interview question #1 : back at that start, how did you guys come together?
John: We originally started as a joke, I hadn't been living in Merseyside that long and sent a message to Tom saying “want to start a band where we write songs we can play when pissed?” and it kind of went from there… Chris had just moved back over this way as well and then we recruited Tom's buddy Adam to come in on bass.. After about 2 practices I think we had like 4 or 5 songs..
Tom: …One of which was of course a 30 second song comprising solely of blastbeats. Never saw the light of day and never will!
I think I read somewhere John that you were connected to Napalm Death at some point? Not bad to have on the grind-CV that one…
John: Yeah, to cut a long story short I lived with Danny and Shane and worked as crew for Napalm Death since about 2006/07 I think… And at one time or another I've had to help fill in for Barney at a few shows and more recently had to fill in on bass for some festivals in 2012. They are awesome guys, and have been really supportive towards CxMxA, hopefully we will do some shows with them in the not so distant future! I also play 2nd guitar for Venomous Concept which is Shane and Danny from Napalm and Dan and Kevin from Brutal Truth.
Your demo, Needle Drugs, sounds legitimately feral. It says on your Bandcamp page that it was recorded in a few hours, was that self recorded? How long had you been together when you recorded that?
John: Errrr… I think we had probably had 3 or 4 practices by that point. It was recorded at Tom's studio “Vagrant Recordings” In Southport!
Tom: It was really rough…I stuck 4 mics on the drum kit, I only owned a crash and a hi-hat at that point, recorded live with guitar then overdubbed another guitar track/bass/vocals all while drinking copious amounts of cider. It was mixed/mastered in about 45 minutes, it is what it is. We've self recorded everything since and will continue to do so!
How did you catch the attention of Rick Owen? And how did it come about for you to be the first release on his new label Baitin' The Trap?
Tom: I had met Rick quite a few years ago through my other band Magpyes, met him again on a night out when I moved back over to Merseyside after living away for about 6 years and we got chatting, he heard the demo and asked if we wanted to release an EP on a label he was starting, there was no reason not to, so there you have it!
Luciferian Deathcult has had an abundance of positive reviews, and is sold out from the BTT store. I imagine that's a pretty good buzz for your first EP? Are you pretty proud of Luciferian? How was the recording process of that?
John: Yeah that was a lot of fun recording, lot of booze, lot of laughs, we were still getting the songs down as we recorded them really, as the band had only been together a few months when Rick said he would release an EP
Tom: I think the track 'Flattening The Cultural Pyramid' was written the day before we recorded it in fact… right now we only have 2 copies of LD left. They'll probably be gone by the time people read this.
New bands can surface, record a demo, sell it out and have people go nuts before they've played a show, but it used to feel like it was constant shows before you'd see a band release something. You seem to always be involved in quite a few shows, Is playing live an aspect of CMA that you feel is important?
Chris: It's just part of being in a band isn't it? It's as important as writing and recording. I personally love playing live and it's great to introduce new songs into the set. We are fortunate that over the years we have gained a lot of contacts and connections between us and if we get offered a show and we can play it then we will fucking play it.
John: Playing live is fun! It's what we started the band to do, hopefully we will get a lot more shows soon as we haven't even been going 12 months yet, we're really looking forward to playing Scotland with Iron Witch in June!
Tom: It's pretty easy to get new stuff recorded seeing as we practice in my studio. If we've just finished off a few songs i'll grab some mics and demo it, or in the case of our Whiskey Sierra that's coming out this month, we wrote those songs at the start of the week and had them recorded by the Friday. But yeah, to reiterate, playing live is where it's at.
Chris, I understand that you've done vocals for a new group called Confine, what can you tell us about that?
Chris: Confine is a little project between Rich (The Afternoon Gentlmen/ Gets Worse), Edd (Human Cull/ Disfortune), Zac (Oblivionized) and myself. The release is called Setting Fire To The Western Hemisphere and is currently up for free download from the Confine Bandcamp page.
I've known them all from gigs and fests for years now, we go see each others bands when they play local to us and it's nice to be able to do something together. They recorded the music at Vagrant Studios in Southport with Tom which is close to where I live so I went and hung out with them. Originally Arif from Wormrot was meant to be doing the vocals for it but couldn't due to other commitments and so they asked me. Arif did the really cool art work for it. It's just discordant and weird grind with fairly heavy lyrics about postmodernism, detachment and dreams I've had – people should check it out.
Mitch from Dead Chemists Records tells me that you've got more new tracks lined up for another release already after Whiskey Sierra, can you tell us anything about those?
Chris: Yeah man, we got another five songs demo'd already. We always like to be one step ahead. I still need to finalise a few vocal sections, backing vocal arrangements and lyrics for them. They feel like more rounded songs; they are heavier, slower, sleazier, sadder and so pushing in all the directions that felt natural when writing them.
John: We are currently finishing writing our debut album which we will record in the next couple of months. The material is sounding pretty crazy, can't really describe it really, it just sounds like a big progression from the sounds heard on The Whisky Sierra EP! We are happy to say that it'll be released at some point in 2013 on a pretty big label which at the time of writing we can't announce!
Tom: Shout out and a cheers to anyone who has supported us or helped us out so far!
The thing about Swinelord is not wether it's an outrageous bubonic wound of a record (cause it is) but just how much of an outrageous bubonic wound of a record. From the second the opening sample ends (and it's one of the coolest I'll hear all year) and 'Sloth' eats into you like acid there is not a second of release. Swinelord's death grip on your throat and balls is immediate and permanent. The power they wield instant. But the crux of that power is not really in the fact that it's there, but rather the fact that its so immense and so relentless. As 'Sloth' bucks and jerks around your nervous system, pausing for a feedback drenched split second to allow the anguished scream of “LIFE! IS! EMPTY!” to pour through, all of this is obvious. But it's not until, say, track 4 that you really go “…fuck” and “….guh…”. That's when you realise that Swinelord aren't coming up for air, and neither are you. Like The Terminator they absolutely will not stop ever until you are dead, or something. Or in Swinelord's case, rather they absolutely will not stop ever until you've passed out in a headlock and they've stuffed needles full of drugs into your eyeballs.
At their core, Manchester's Swinelord are a crust band bearing the trademarks of Extreme Noise Terror and five times the depravity. Life Is Empty / I Feel Fucked is a double headed beast, with side B containing their previously heard I Feel Fucked EP and side A, Life Is Empty, containing all new tracks. It's in these new tracks that Swinelord really hammer the nails into your forehead. Taking a filthy, crust template only injecting it with a uniquely English grindcore rot and a bowel-loosening sludge throb. And while the 5 tracks on this side come together to create a cohesive, suffocating and visceral thrill, there's plenty of variety and thought running through each one to make them individual, no matter how brief each may be. Here, Swinelord show off not only a neat skill in being able to shape bludgeoning hatred into a detailed and rewarding experience but also prove a leap forward in song writing from their debut EP. All of that review-jargon mumbo jumbo about progression and stuff essentially can be ignored though and shouldn't detract from the ghastly brutality on display. Because Swinelord hit like a 50mph golf ball to the throat.
Shades of UK filth-grinders The Afternoon Gentleman, even early Agoraphobic Nosebleed, shine through on the 26 second 'Endless'; drums sound pushed back in the mix to great effect, letting the tramp-on-a-murder-binge vocals rip through, the guitars a buzzing wall of noise. Death metal influences rear their heads throughout too (the opening pounding of 'Void') and we even get some downtuned nu-metal groove at the end of 'Letch' (which opens with a brilliantly anti-social roar of “TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF ME!”). The fact that Swinelord can take such a diverse range of extreme influences and beat them into such a streamlined and deadly shape is a real credit to them, and a sickening pleasure to the ears. And watch out for the sample at end of 'Spitting Blood', a conversation that'll be familiar to anyone that enjoys what Swinelord do.
Side B, the I Feel Fucked tape from last year, is a little less refined but I guess that within the parameters of disgusting brutal-crust that translates as having an appeal all of its own. Despite one song title change all 5 tracks appear exactly as they did on that cassette release but being as that's completely sold out, this makes it even more a reason to be an essential purchase. Tracks are a little longer here, alluding even further to the move towards grind of their newer material, but are swelteringly heavy with an oppressive mid-paced crush to them and are a bit like being dipped in tar, rolled in a blanket and buried alive.
Oh, and that artwork! Horrific. And a perfect summarisation of Swinelord themselves. Depraved, hopeless, devoid of life and so heavy they'll make your cock drop off.
it's hard to assume that even if Johnny Morrow hadn't been plucked from this earth so suddenly by a fatal heart attack in 2002 that Iron Monkey would still be an active band. The Nottingham based wrecking ball of sludge-hatred seemed to exist so close to the fringes of sanity not to mention band members juggling other projects that in hindsight it's actually a blessing we got two full length records out of them. It's a testament to the sheer impact of Iron Monkey then that not only did the passing of Johnny Morrow leave a gigantic dent in the face of the UK extreme scene but that their legacy is still so keenly felt in bands of a similar self destructive nature. Reeking of that Monkey influence (not to mention the fumes of Sabbath, last nights beer and the A&E ward) are Koresh. London's Koresh play a brain mashing mix of sludge and stoner, but seem to forget (or not care) that those styles are usually played real slow and instead couldn't give a fuck less and play it as fast as they can. Also worth mentioning is that they've got a couple of release behind them, notably 2012's Crippledriver EP which has two My Little Pony things on the cover with gigantic snake-like penises winding up towards their faces. So, yeah.
Just before I leave all my Iron Monkey-isms behind, I'll say that one thing you could never accuse them of being was 'fun'. Koresh have a firm sense of that though, albeit in a kind of knife-wielding-maniac way. There's those aforementioned My Little Pony cocks, there's the wonderful cover art by Luke Drozd to this new EP (pink unicorns fighting is probably the most metal thing I'll see all year) and there's the general sense that they don't take themselves too seriously. At all. You don't have a song called 'Wogan Whup Whup' if you're concerned with being srsly srs dudes. But for all the general air of stoopidness, Koresh are still as heavy as all fuck, still slam riffs into you like being body slammed by a whale, still vomit out vocals like Regan MacNeil on a bad day.
Opener 'Straight Edge Til Midnight' sets the tone: barked, incomprehensible vocals and a riff that's impossible to not nod your head to. Strange little jazzy momentary interlude? Yup, it's got one of them too. It's a short and disjointed track which hints toward what might be a bizarre and fluctuating record, but Koresh lock into a groove with the hypnotic/vicious 'Wogan Whup Whup' (say that out loud, it's the most fun you'll have all day) and don't really come out of it again. 'Cheer Up Glasgow' kicks off with a menacing doom plod but the rug is soon pulled out from under you and they beat you with it for the rest of the track; skipping between a punk infused speed and slower drugged-up sludge. 'You Can Call Me Gaahl' is perhaps the most interesting track on here though as Koresh mix their speed and vulgarity with a sweet melodic twist that works alarmingly well and makes me feel things that I can't quite understand in the process. Ugliness and beauty smashed together which (just like those Pony dicks and pink unicorns and horrific music played with a grin) is all part of Koresh's contradictory charm.
Sunwolf transform music into landscapes. Into endlessly stretching vistas of epic proportion. Appropriately encapsulated by the cover art, their music is mountainous; their peaks and crescendos reaching towering heights, their valleys and vast troughs plumbing teeth-rattling lows. Comprised of just two members, Dominic Deane and Matthew Carrington, Sunwolf create a hugely dense sound wether they're playing it soft or deafeningly loud and display a remarkable understanding of dynamics, and of the ability to make an album feel like a journey.
Midnight Moon, their second record following 2012's Beyond The Sun is made up of very clearly defined sections, masterfully woven together. The opening tracks might bear the lions share of the volume and of the running time but rather than making this LP feel top heavy this structure serves to reinforce the feeling of this being the soundtrack to a pilgrimage, with the hardest step always being the first, and is undoubtedly best taken as a whole so you can truly feel the tidal push and pull off its movements as Sunwolf lead you through the terrain they've sculpted. The hazy, stoner-tinged riffs of opener 'Sellanraa' immediately call to mind Sleep's humongous and sprawling epic Dopesmoker, but Sunwolf's vision is much more concise than Sleep's wandering desert exodus. Every step taken feels planned, meticulously crafted and precise. 'Prey To Melancholy' is, frankly, enormous. Massively overdriven guitars dominate, notes bleeding into one another as Deane's rock solid drumming hammers out a structure, occasionally tightening up for gigantic chugs and leading to a depressive, doom-esque clean guitar section. It's a heavy opening movement, in both senses of the word
A calm settles over the mid-section of this record, a sudden glade dwarfed by the surrounding scenery, as though you're being shown the beauty in this creation, the inherent joy that can be had from existence if you slow down and take it in. 'Mortar and Bricks' is simple, sparse and slow. Layered guitars loop and tumble, distortion edging its way in at the end. Or 'Breach' with its gently shimmering guitar picks creating an uneasy, almost Medieval folk sound. Wether the volume is up or down though, Midnight Moon is constantly pregnant with dread, both 'Plateau 1' and 'Plateau 2' are contrastingly the quietest yet the heaviest tracks on here as Sunwolf slip into drone and noise territory: uneasy sirens wail underneath caustic, acidic rumbling and dried out, singular guitar notes bend.
Closing track 'Glacier River' calls to mind Mogwai, even Boards Of Canada, with its gentle reversed sounds, the piano notes eating themselves on a bed of twinkles, chimes and naturalistic noises. It's an unexpectedly calm finish, you'd half expect Sunwolf to go out with a thundering bang instead of this soothing calm. But Sunwolf's vision has been clear from the start; it's not about the destination. It's about the journey it took to get there.