Review: Jesu – Ascension

Jesu
Ascension
Caldo Verde
As clichéd as this sounds, I’m more than happy to admit that Jesu’s music has helped me through a bad patch or two. I’m probably not the only one who perhaps finds their music therapeutic – in some ways, it can be doomy, chilling, melancholic; in others, relaxing, euphoric, and truly immersive. Whichever way you view Jesu, Justin Broadwick has certainly crafted some of the most emotionally stunning music of recent years through his post-Godflesh project.
Recently, Jesu had moved away slightly from heavy, droning guitars in favour of ambient, synth-layered soundscapes, such as on ‘Why Are We Not Perfect’ and ‘Christmas’. ‘Ascension’ sees a return for those guitars and rumbling basslines for more tales of struggle and woe; unfortunately, the album as a whole is a little disappointing.
It’s got some great tracks; the opening couple ‘Fools’ and ‘Birth Day’ are certainly well worth anyone’s time. But it suffers at that point from a weak middle section. ‘Sedatives’ almost seems a little upbeat thanks to its slightly faster drum beat and the next few songs that follow it either don’t feel like they’re given enough time to develop, or seemingly meander on without delivering that crushing blow to the sense.
That said, ‘Ascension’ does hit the desolate spot perfectly at times, particularly as the album wears on. ‘Small Wonder’ in particular awash with powerful riffage and hazy synth, capturing head first that classic Jesu sound, and ‘December’ and ’King of Kings’ are bleak and beautiful, extracting every last drop of fragility for Broadrick’s vocals.  But for me, it doesn’t hit the same raw nerve that ‘Conqueror’ did at times. Not that I was at all comparing it to that album – ‘Ascension’ stands up competently within its own flame. Just not to the lofty heights that preceded it.
Peter Clegg

Shameless Plug: Terrorizer Grindhouse Launch Night in Huddersfield

 
First of all, I have to apologise for the shamefully small pic of the flyer above. The only image I could get hold of the flyer at short notice was tiny. The quality is poor.
So yeah…I couldn’t resist. Against all impartiality, we hereby shamelessly plug our band’s show that is coming up soon. Yes, myself and Mike will be performing live in our band Poison Dwarf on Saturday 25th June, at The Parish in Huddersfield, as part of a Terrorizer Grindhouse Club Launch night.
It’s headlined by Halifax death metallers Venificus Hora, with support coming from Chesham black-metallers Primitive Graven Image, plus Necrogrinder, Biolab 666 and our good selves. No Old Corpse Road as the flyer suggests, they appear to have pulled out. And we were a late addition. Get down early. The doors are at 6:30pm, £5 to get in. We’re on at 7pm.
Terrorizer Grindhouse is a fantastic initiative that we here at We Must Obey is happy to endorse. It aims to give underground extreme metal bands a bit of extra coverage and a chance to get their name and music out across the country. There’s a wealth of talent in the UK metal underground waiting to be discovered and deserving to be seen and heard. And they’ll be giving stuff away too, which is always a nice Brucie bonus.
So if you’re in and around town, come on down. And as its an early start, why not get to the venue even earlier and tuck into one of The Parish’s finest burgers while you’re at it?
After the jump, watch the video for Venificus Hora’s ‘Eat The Living, Fuck The Dead’. It’s delightfully heavy and low budget.

Peter Clegg

NB: Incorrect video was uploaded yesterday. This has now been fixed.

Review: Enslaved – The Sleeping Gods

Enslaved

The Sleeping Gods (EP)
Scion A/V

This EP was released at short notice last month as a free download, on Scion A/V, a record label division of the Scion brand of vehicles produced by Toyota for North America. Quite how Scion got into the music industry is beyond me – their brand doesn’t mean a great deal to us British or anyone else outside of that region. But despite their awkward fit, Scion A/V has been a force for metal, providing the Scion Rock Fest in America which has proved successful, and last year they put out the impressive ‘Crusher’ EP by Magrudergrind.
This brings us nicely on to Enslaved’s ‘The Sleeping Gods’, which sees Bergen’s metal masters continuing down the experimental progressive path, less than a year after releasing the magnificent ‘Axioma Ethica Odini’. The first two tracks are pretty much what you’d expect from Enslaved these days. It begins with ‘Heimvegen’, a melodic progressive number, alternating between clean and aggressive vocals, psychedelic melodies and thunderous growls. Some ominous voices close the track, which leads nicely into ‘Alu Misyrki’, the EP’s heaviest track, a real thrash-punk snarler which unexpected swoops near sludge territory just to slow things down a little, before speeding back up into that amazing riff. They throw in another slow section and a bloody great solo too for good measure. Songs like this are what the metal claw is for.
This is followed by the ambient ‘Synthesis’, which serves as a somewhat lengthy instrumental interlude. There’s some haunting voices and ambience in the mix but it feels very out of place with what came before it. Things change up again with another instrumental, ‘Nordlys’, which dabbles in post-punk with a riff not too dissimilar to Joy Division, heavies up a little with a thunderous middle section and then settles back down to fade; and then the EP morphs again with the title track, an excellent folk-laden song, mesmerizing in nature, which again combines several instruments to build up to a climactic finish. Yep, that’s it. Done.
It does feel a little thrown together but the overall quality of the tracks is such that you can’t really complain. Enslaved have again shown why they’re among the black metal elite and why they stand out so.
Peter Clegg

Review: Lower Than Atlantis – World Record

Lower Than Atlantis

World Record
A Wolf At Your Door

When I look back at how I got into rock music, I still fondly remember acts like Hundred Reasons and Hell Is For Heroes, just a couple of the names that made up many a mixtape back in the day. They were rock bands in their own right, mixed with post-hardcore sensibilities that propelled them into the mainstream conscious, before lack of major label belief saw the rug pulled well and truly beneath their feet. And indeed, my own musical tastes were progressing and while their albums still sit proudly in my record collection, they don’t get the attention they ought to get any more, simply cos I moved into heavier and more diverse waters as I got a little older. So I was caught off guard really when I first heard Lower Than Atlantis – they really do take me back to that time with some amount of reminiscence.
Lower Than Atlantis do possess their own sound – they’re not simply knocking off records from nearly a decade ago – but they are dealing in the same post-hardcore awareness that defined their peers, although on ‘World Record’, they have moved away slightly from the hardcore stylings displayed on last year’s debut album, the well-received ‘Far Q’.
Within are several tales of personal issues, such as tour experiences, on ‘(Motor) Way of Life’, the snappily-titled ‘Marilyn’s Mansion’; smoking addiction (‘Up In Smoke); and yes, relationships (‘Deadliest Catch’). But there is a real honesty within frontman Ian Duce’s lyrics, a refreshing change from the majority of heart-on-sleeve types who tend to sing about these sorts of issues without any real conviction.
There’s not a great deal of variation in the songs as the album motors through, only slowing down briefly the ballad ‘Another Sad Song’, which doesn’t really do anything for me. But the riffs are bouncy and the choruses in particular are really catchy. LTA are going for anthemic here – whether these songs will get heard in bigger venues remains to be seen. But they at least deserve that much. ‘World Record’ is an excellent album and worth seeking out.
Peter Clegg

Lower Than Atlantis on Facebook

Review Roundup: End of Level Boss/Thou/Bringers of Disease

End of Level Boss

Eklectric
Exile on Mainstream

End of Level Boss have won many plaudits in the past for their first two records, which introduced the world to their formula of progressive stoner rock that sits somewhere between Kyuss and later-era Voivod. Despite this, they haven’t quite made the forward step in popularity one would have hoped for. Yet they stick to their guns on album number 3, and it’s a credit to them for doing so. Their sound is nothing short of pleasantly challenging.

Those Voivodian tendencies are rife throughout ‘Eklectric’ and at first it has a little trouble sticking as it seeks to find its direction. It’s not bad at all but there’s an awkwardness that sits about the formula that some might find hard to digest. It changes up a little with the more direct and venomous ‘Mouth of Hats’, and later on ‘Thud’, but it always remains firmly in angular territory. Eventually the album does gather momentum as the various elements that make up EOLB start to find a little more cohesion. Tracks like ‘Senescence’ and ‘Blueshift’ keep the momentum flowing ticking along nicely and there are plenty of other worthy jams as well.

Not quite a masterpiece, but this is a welcome return for one of the UK’s diamonds in the rough.

Thou
To The Chaos Wizard Youth
Howling Mine
The ever prolific Thou follow hot on the heels of their release of Black Sabbath covers, ‘Through The Empires of Eternal Void’, with another four track EP, this time comprising four songs of post-‘Summit’ material. It’s not quite as strong as ‘Summit’ for my money but then again, Thou never ever disappoint. This is yet another slab of crushing Baton Rouge sludge, the most impressive track being ‘Helen Hill Will Have Her Revenge On New Orleans’, the perfect soundtrack to a violent, murky death in the deepest swamps.
Bringers of Disease
Gospel of Pestilence
Translation Loss

Consisting of former members of Mouth of the Architect and Acheron among others, Bringers of Disease shun the current trend in certain USBM circles of going ‘transcendental’, instead focusing squarely on black metal of the old-school, crusty variety. Boy oh boy, does this approach pay dividends. The production isn’t clean and shiny, nor does the EP sound like it was recorded in a sewer – it’s just right. And while there’s nothing here that hasn’t been covered before, ‘Gospel…’ is anything but a retread. Songs like ‘Your Prayers Remain Unheard’ and ‘A Plague To End All Plagues’ display Bringers’ ability and nous to know when to ease on the brake slightly and when to hammer the foot to the floor. ‘Gospel of Pestilence’ is more than a solid debut, and its four tracks are a sign of pure potential. Definitely ones to watch.

Tony Sylvester is the new Turbonegro vocalist!

Yesterday the incredible news was unleashed that former Dukes of Nothing frontman Tony Sylvester has joined Norwegian deathpunks Turbonegro, replacing former lead singer Hank Von Helvete. I only discovered Hank had left the band after stumbling upon his new band, Doctor Midnight and the Mercy Cult. When discovering he was described as ‘ex-Turbonegro’, I was shocked and gutted. Somehow, this news escaped me, and it let me back into momentary Turbonegro worship as I plundered through some of their finest songs – ‘Get It On’, ‘Denim Demon’, ‘Sell Your Body (To The Night)’ – damn, there’s far too many to list. I was left to mourn Hank’s departure somewhat belatedly, believing this was the end for Turbonegro, and that the Turbonegro sailor hat my wife I purchased from their merch team one incredible night in Leeds would be nothing but a memory of good times.

But now, the hat can be worn in celebration once again! I had always wondered what had happened to the Dukes of Nothing. I remember them pounding my ears the first time I heard them. ‘War & Wine’, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Fever’ – they were another damn fine British band that just disappeared not just from my radar, but everyone’s radar, it seemed. Immediately following this news, I tried to imagine Tony’s voice singing Turbonegro’s anthems, and I really, really couldn’t. Hank is one in a million, not just as a vocalist, but a performer too. Yet at the same time, I can’t imagine anyone else filling Hank’s shoes. It feels right.

Turbonegro are now expected to finally complete work on their follow-up to 2007’s ‘Retox’, although no release date has been confirmed yet. Check out Dukes of Nothing’s video for ‘War & Wine’ above and see if you think Tony measures up to the task at hand of satisfying the Turbojugend!

Peter Clegg

Review: Drugs of Faith – Corroded

Drugs of Faith

Corroded
Selfmadegod

Corroded’ is the debut album by Virginia’s Drugs of Faith, and seeks to do exactly that by fizzling away the divider that parts grindcore, hardcore punk and rock. Clocking in at around 26 minutes, ‘Corroded’ sets out to show that grind need not be all about speed, and indeed this is a diversive fourteen tracks that do not disappoint.

Those 26 minutes blitz past but as I’ve just said, not necessarily about speed. Surely, its starts off like a firecracker on ‘Greyed Out’, but soon the hardcore and alt-influences are blending in and it makes for a real treat. The slightly slower pace and shouted vocals, as opposed to screamed/growled, give this record a distinct identity, and the socio-political lyrics are not lost in the mix as can happen with many a grind record.

As excellent as this record is, it all too often straddles the fine line dividing hardcore and grindcore. It wants to make the jump across to grind but just when they increase the pace, they jump right back to the other side. They do this supremely well at times (such as on ‘Giveaway), while at others, it just seems a little half-hearted, like they’re cursed with indecision. Maybe that’s just my own personal taste. I actually almost love the fact their toying with my head in this way, but sometimes, I just want a clear choice.

And for those impatient people like me, it’s not until the album reaches its climax that ‘Corroded’ really does make that leap full on into grind territory, and then it takes Pig Destroyer’s J.R. Hayes to show up on ‘Lingers’ and unleash his harsh vocals all over the track, just to up the intensity. This spills over into closer ‘The Age of Reason’, which absolutely explodes with critical blasts and screams at all the right points, before booming right back into breakdown territory.

Nonetheless, this is a corker of a record and really deserves to be played out loud. It possesses a sound which fits somewhere between 90’s Napalm Death, Fugazi and a lot more besides. And if that doesn’t intrigue you…well…fudge it. You can’t please everyone.

Peter Clegg