Review: SSS – Problems To The Answer

SSS
Problems To The Answer

Earache
 
SSS were originally part of the spate of thrash bands that Earache Records signed as thrash metal once again gained a head of steam and briefly rose back to the fore. Some called it ‘The New Wave of Thrash Metal’, some called it ‘Thrash 2.0’, and detractors simply called it re-thrash. Meh. I could care less for snidey labelling. Or indeed labelling at all. But while Evile and former labelmates Municipal Waste have gone strength to strength and emerged dangerously close to mainstream waters, SSS have remained slightly under the radar and haven’t quite taken off in the same way – a shame, as they deserve at least as much recognition. That said, they’ve stuck to their uncompromising crossover thrash and continue to do so again on album number three.
It starts off pretty well, opener ‘The Kill Floor’ bringing in Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway on guest vocals to provide a great riotous 2-minute plus romp. The tracks then come thick and fast, and SSS sound just as pissed off and nonplussed as ever, with some insane musicianship on all instruments (‘Sick Pleasures’ and the instrumental ‘Future Primitive’) and combative songs such as the 5-second ‘Direct Action’, and ‘Here Comes The Neighbourhood’, in which Barney appears with his trademark roar once again.
Its not all same old, same old; SSS do try a couple of new things with some whispered vocals from Foxy in ‘Man Against Man’, and closer ‘Strangenotes’ is the band’s longest song to date, another instrumental that sounds hardly like crossover thrash but even shows hints of progression, as it recesses into a quieter, but unsettling, piano-driven middle section before returning to the main riff towards the end. It could well be the soundtrack to wandering lone through the creepy streets of a dispirit inner city suburb somewhere in rundown Britain – that middle section alone gives off that vibe.
Problems to the Answer’ deserves repeated listening. Particularly as long time SSS fans might be taken aback slightly by the forays into instrumentals, and there’s a few more punkish riffs as opposed to shredding thrash. The songs aren’t all as fast and furious as they were on ‘The Dividing Line’. That said, ‘Problems…’ is definitely a grower and in actual fact, SSS have managed to carve out a cracking album with a few experimental forays that don’t compromise their style, free of gimmickry. Hopefully, this will be the album that might inspire more thrash fans around the world to pay SSS a little more attention.
Peter Clegg

Visions: Mastodon – Deathbound

Mastodon have been hard at work on new album ‘The Hunter’, the follow-up to 2009’s critically-acclaimed ‘Crack The Skye’. Yesterday, however, Mastodon released a video for ‘Deathbound’, a leftover cut from the ‘Crack the Skye’ sessions. Put together by the geniuses at Adult Swim.
And genius it is, casting Brann Dailor as Mister Rogers at the beginning before going into the song and leaving behind a trail of puppet destruction. You read that right. Puppets destroying puppets. It’s so bloody entertaining!
And as for the song itself? Can I just say it harks back to the days of Leviathan in its intensity? Oh yes.
Peter Clegg

Review: KEN Mode – Venerable

<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>

KEN Mode 
Venerable 
Profound Lore 
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada’s KEN Mode have steadily been plying away their trade over the last few years, showing great potential particularly on their latest two albums, ‘Reprisal’ and ‘Mennonite’. On those records, KEN Mode showed they had the chops to smash their way into listeners’ consciousness. And right here, they have done more than that.
Because ‘Venerable’ is quite the pulverizing record. It makes a statement of intent with ‘Book of Muscle’ that says KEN Mode really mean business here. Second track ‘Obeying The Iron Will’ features quite a technical riff, but still one that maintains a high amount of beef. If that isn’t quite hard enough for you, then ‘Batholith’ will hit you upside the head like a sledgehammer. Everything about that track is huge, absolutely monstrous.
And for the numerous faster skullsmashers, there’s offings into post-rock territory (particularly on instrumental ‘Flight of the Echo Hawk’), and there’s a couple of slower, lengthier dirges thrown in for good measure that more than double the pain, particularly the outstanding ‘Never Was’, which is coursing with intensity, particularly as vocalist Jesse Matthewson bellows the words ‘No god, never was’. Indeed, it’s lyrical moments like that resound throughout the album.
Obviously this was intended as the album to take KEN Mode closer to being a bigger name in a few households. It’s their first release under Profound Lore, produced by Converge’s Kurt Ballou, who once again has done an impressive job in boosting the band’s sound. Riffs like those on the earlier stated ‘Obeying The Iron Will’ possess that extra beef that wasn’t quite up to that level on previous records. It’s clear as a bell and that’s what gives ‘Venerable’ that extra firepower.
Make no mistake, despite the perhaps questionable moniker, KEN Mode are worth your time, and this is the step up in class that was required. ‘Venerable’ is absolutely essential listening.
Peter Clegg
Alternatively, you can stream it here

More Stuff Than Sense!

Just to go off topic briefly, my mate John has started up a blog called More Stuff Than Sense! Basically, he feels he’s accumulated far too much stuff than he can deal with any more and is selling it second hand through his blog site. There’s a wide selection of books, CDs and DVDs all going, and by wide selection, I mean eclectic. There’s something for everyone in there, I’m certain of it. John’s been a good mate for years now and has been out to watch my band a few times, so it’s only fair I give his blog the proverbial leg-up, even if its just a few of you who take notice.
All prices are in pounds sterling although John is happy to sell to international customers too – get in touch with him for an estimate. Have a browse and see if there’s anything you fancy.
Peter Clegg

Celebrating Summer

It’s really cracking the flags out there today, as it has been much of the past weekend. It got me thinking about the songs I’ve listened to over the years that get me into the mood for such weather, or at least make me look forward to the time it brings. Here are five songs I feel fit this specification best – leave comments below with whatever songs inspire your summer.
1. AC/DC – It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)
(from High Voltage, ATCO, 1974)
This follows on nicely from the last article I did on AC/DC, and I could have just as easily chosen that song. But this one has more significance, simply in that it fires me up for any potential festival visit (Download was often my festival of choice until this year). That riff, that chorus, and that awesome bagpipe section from Bon Scott. This should be the anthem of choice for any band starting out and indeed a nice one to crank up loud or even just sing acapella to on the long walk from the campsite to the festival arena, beer can in hand.

2. Hüsker Dü – Celebrated Summer

(from New Day Rising, SST, 1985)
The first time I heard any form of this song was the cover version performed by Anthrax (found on the bonus disc from 2003’s ‘We’ve Come For You All’). I was lazing around the bedroom, with nothing much to do but to read magazines or play video games. The sun was shining outside but I wasn’t one for getting a tan. Maybe that’s a bit antisocial (no pun intended, Anthrax fans), but I was doing what I was into at the time. It was summer break at sixth form college, and I was just making the most of it. This song came on and stuck in my head ever since. I was soon checking out the original version by Hüsker Dü, one of the greatest hardcore/alt-rock acts of all time. I was not disappointed – it’s an upbeat song as summer intended and for anyone who doesn’t look forward to the end of summertime, and indeed the return to school or work, throw yourselves a party and get this song on.

3. Faith No More – Falling To Pieces

(from The Real Thing, Slash, 1989)
I remember cranking this one out a hell of a lot when I initially got into Faith No More. I have an old neighbour to thank for getting into them – as kids, me and my brother were kept awake by the sound of Faith No More booming through the walls. At the time we only recognised their sound from Top of the Pops, which they frequented back in the day. Fast forward about ten years later, and I finally decided to explore this fascination by purchasing the ‘This Is It’ compilation one summer – I forget exactly which year. I was thoroughly impressed, but despite the massive appeal of songs like ‘Epic’, ‘From Out of Nowhere’ and the legendary cover of ‘Easy’, ‘Falling To Pieces’ somehow stands out for me as a song to remind me of the good times. I’m not sure why – maybe it’s the riff in the verse – but walking down the street, shades on, earphones in, musical device loud and proud, this is perfection.

4. Kyuss – Thong Song

(from Blues For the Red Sun, Dali, 1992)
Despite my best efforts, I was unable to avoid a clichéd choice in this list – that being mainly pop-punk, skater-punk, nu-metal and stoner rock. But I wouldn’t choose this particular song without good reason. This song isn’t about underwear, but about flip flops – and it doesn’t get much more summery than that, does it? The song itself is delightfully simple – a short slide riff pulses in the background, John Garcia singing about his hair being ‘real loooooooooooooooooooong!’ among other things. And of course, it comes booming in with a ‘whoa yeah!’ Rockin’.

5. Fu Manchu – Evil Eye

(from The Action Is Go, Mammoth, 1997)
I couldn’t have this list without Fu Manchu – yeah, another stoner rock band, I know. But they have so many songs with attitude and a real driving down the highway vibe about them that I couldn’t not pick one. Hell on Wheels does the job for me just as well, but ‘Evil Eye’ was one of the first Fu Manchu songs I ever heard and is pretty much my favourite. Get a load of that riff, and that middle section – ‘Evil eye will fall’. Hell yes.

Peter Clegg

Hüsker Dü – Celebrated Summer
 

AC/DC – Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round To Be A Millionaire)

This is a new feature I’m bringing to the blog which focuses on songs or albums that I feel deserve a bit more attention. I thought AC/DC would be a good starting point, in particular their song ‘Ain’t No Fun (Waiting ‘Round To Be A Millionaire). It’s one of my favourite AC/DC songs but you never hear anything about it. Occasionally I’ll do posts like this and hope to generate a bit of discussion. Feel free to wade in with your opinion. I’ve put time into this so I wouldn’t mind a bit of feedback!

Picture the scene. It’s a hot summer’s day, and instead of being out there enjoying the sunshine, you’re grinding it in the office, warehouse or whichever work abode you find yourself in. When you do get out, you’re gonna try and savour what you can of that sunshine. You look in your bank account, and the coffers are looking dreadfully empty. But rather than head home and figure you’re gonna have to cut back, you instead take out a bit of what’s left and head straight to the pub. Yeah, it’s a bit shit not having the money, and yeah, you’re looking a bit scruffy and those trainers have seen better days. And yes, I’m sure many of you can relate to that here in austerity Britain. But things are looking up, and things are going to get better, if you’ve got anything to say about it. Let’s grab a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale, head for the beer garden, and aim high.
The subject of this feature, AC/DC, don’t need any introduction, and if you do, what rock have you been hiding under? Arguably the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band to have ever existed, AC/DC struck on their winning formula long before you or I ever walked this planet and haven’t tinkered with it much since. I was lucky enough to finally see them live, at Download Festival 2010. And while I enjoyed the set, and while I didn’t expect any major surprises, I still pined for the likes of ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)’ and ‘If You Want Blood (You Got It)’. But the one song I knew that I definitely knew I wouldn’t hear was ‘Ain’t No Fun (Waiting ‘Round to Be a Millionaire)’. A damn fine song in its own right, it’s definitely my favourite track from ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’, even above the title track.
‘Ain’t No Fun’ is essentially ‘It’s A Long Way…’, part 2 – even the riffs sound pretty close – but instead of talking about the hardships of playing the underground circuit, it’s a statement of the band’s ambition. It soon settles into the riff that Angus Young plays over and over again over the course of the song. Bon Scott announces that the names of individuals in the song have been changed to ‘protect the guilty’, and we’re underway.
Regarding that comparison of ‘It’s A Long Way’s’ tales of struggles and ‘Ain’t No Fun’s’ story of aspiration – where ‘It’s A Long Way’ warns of the dangers of getting robbed, stoned, ripped off and underpaid on the way to the top, ‘Ain’t No Fun’ also stories a band making a mission statement, saying they’ve got the songs and all they want to do is perform – for the right price. The confidence of AC/DC was never in any doubt from their beginnings – but ‘Ain’t No Fun’ displays that confidence in spades – ‘Gonna get to the top/nothing’s gonna stop us, no nothing.
[AUSTRALIAN EDITION COVER]
That said, there are still lyrical similarities between the two songs, although on ‘Ain’t No Fun’, it’s more about the material and physical degradation, Bon discussing the holes in his clothes and teeth, and lack of sleep. But unlike ‘It’s A Long Way’, ‘Ain’t No Fun’ throws caution to these mere problems, and Bon’s pretty sure that in years to come, he’ll be loaded, driving around seeking attention in his Rolls Royce (though as history details, that dream was tragically cut short).
It then returns to a slight variation of the opening riff, as Bon begins to proclaim ‘It ain’t no fun/waiting round to be a millionaire’. And then it’s the riff to the verse again, sped up, as the song heads for its final part. It’s got that trademark nod about the riff. It’s infectious, and the moment the drums crash back in, it’s party time. Bon refrains the title over, and the enthusiasm is unrestrainable. Oh yeah, and Howard – ‘get your fuckin’ jumbo jet off my airport!
‘Ain’t No Fun’, as stated before, seems resigned to being eternally under-rated among AC/DC’s back catalogue, though it was lovingly covered by The Screaming Jets in 1991. It deserves so much more. Every time I hear it, no matter where, when or whatever, it raises the mood. There’s a glee about the track that emanates from every riff, every word. Bon Scott would have been 65 on July 9th this year. My suggestion to you is to press play, turn up the volume, and open up a cold one, and show Bon and this song the worship it deserves. Yeah, it ain’t no fun waiting round to be a millionaire, but let’s celebrate while we do.
Peter Clegg
The Screaming Jets – Ain’t No Fun Waiting Round To Be A Millionaire

Review: Bong – Beyond Ancient Space

Bong 

Beyond Ancient Space 
Ritual

Since their formation four years ago, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s Bong have been pushing the limits of the depths that doom can plumb, become flag bearers for a new generation of doom where the dirge is more vital than ever before. Numerous live releases, splits and now three studio albums in, it seems a shame that they’re not more well known, as they are as limit-pushing as doom gets right now. Sunn 0))) worship it isn’t. They exist in their own world where the only rule is to give in and to be absorbed into the black abyss that they create.

Beyond Ancient Space’ lasts just over 79 minutes, and consists of just three tracks. The opener ‘Onward to Perdóndaris’ starts with a huge build-up by anyone’s standards, as gradually the floor beneath you opens up and pulls you in. Eventually, the instruments thunder in, and so the journey commences. The monk chanting and use of sitar and the shahi baaja create a real psychedelic vibe that nobody in the 60’s would have seen coming. The drums filter in and out; occasionally changing pace, but the raw power of the other instruments almost renders their tempo irrelevant. It creates for an astral experience in one way and an earth-shaking one in another.
From the psychedelic to the gritty, track number two, ‘Across the Timestream’, is the album’s shortest track at 25 minutes and 03 seconds, and goes for a smoggier, filthier vibe. The hazy effect is still there, although the overall atmosphere is more like tolling rather than enchanting, all in a good way too. It builds up quite ominously, and ever so slowly. You can faintly hear the shahi baaja and drums quietly filtering in, and the overall atmosphere amasses until about 9 minutes in, and you’re left pretty much drifting into space with not so much as a rock to cling to. The weight of this particular song is absolutely crushing.
The album’s closer, ‘In the Shadow of the Tombs’, is even darker. It’s like wandering into a large tomb, when suddenly you can hear the slow, plodding footsteps of the colossus coming for you. You know this is the end, but when is very much the question. Prepare for a slow, agonizing death – Bong are yet again showing they are masters at drawing out the same riff without sounding overly repetitive. The drums help to build up the terrifying atmosphere up until around the 13:30 mark, when they up the tempo very slightly. This carries on for another couple of minutes before heading back into the same droney riff that rings out the remaining 12 minutes, gradually winding down, the constant buzzed drone ever present throughout.
You feel after listening to Bong, particularly if you’re new to them, that the only way doom could become any more prolonged or agonizingly crushing is by ripping up the physical format completely to remove the constraints. 79 minutes is a long time to listen to any album, no less one that contains only three tracks at around 25-26 minutes each on average. Suffice to say, this is a challenge, and not one many may be prepared to undertake. But if you’re one with a bit of patience, you might just discover what is surely a doom classic in the making.
Peter Clegg