Visions: Mastodon – Dry Bone Valley

The last few ‘Visions’ posts, bar the Venom clip which was just buffoonery, seem to have focused on videos with some crazy ass scheme that simply has you asking what the directors of each were on when they made them. This next one is no different. I’m not even going to attempt to explain the meaning behind the numerous masks, symbols, colours and the Asian lady that fly out of the screen over the course of this song. All I know is that a) this would’ve been cool in 3D, and b) the YouTube haters are fools. Better this than a straightforward performance vid.

Whatever the meaning behind the imagery, Mastodon‘s ‘Dry Bone Valley’, taken from ‘The Hunter‘, is another incredible video from these guys and an impressive song all the same, from an album that continues to get better with every listen.

Peter Clegg
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Wiht are calling it quits

It’s been over a week since this was announced but it’s worth bringing to the attention of anyone who hasn’t heard. The excellent Leeds sludge/psych/doom instrumental trio Wiht are calling it a day after three years. The band gave their reasons in an excerpt from a statement posted on their Facebook page on Sunday January 22nd:

‘It is with sadness and a great sense of pride, that we have decided to call it a day. This is a completely amicable decision and has been made in the best interests of the band. It has come to a point where we are no longer able to progress and take the band further, we feel this band deserves more respect than just to fade away. This simply is an issue of lack of time and funds; two of the three of us now have families and time has become a lot more precious. To progress as a band we need to dedicate a certain ammount of time to write and record, let alone gigging and touring. This is why we have decided to call it a day at a point where we feel this is something to be proud of.’

I didn’t really know the guys personally, but I did review their latest album ‘The Harrowing of the North‘ here – an excellent work – and me and the Poison Dwarf guys did play a couple of shows with them in 2010. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their live performances and their records and I’m gutted to hear this news. I understand their reasons though, especially being a father myself and about to juggle the responsibilities of being a parent and being in a band.

That said, you still have a couple of opportunities to catch Wiht live before they disbanded – firstly, on Saturday 18th February at the Royal Park Cellars, Leeds, alongside Wizard’s Beard at the Beard’s album release show with Undersmile and Diascorium, and finally on Friday 30th March at the same venue, with Khuda, Wizard’s Beard and Tree of Sores. The full statement can be read here.

On behalf of We Must Obey, we wish the members of Wiht all the very best in their future endeavours. You will be missed, but thank you for the great music.

Peter Clegg

Visions: Venom on Sky Monsters of Rock, 1985

Bands these days. So clean cut, not a hair out of place, wouldn’t say boo to a ghost. Heck, you might get the odd f-word here and the middle finger there, but only if they’re trying too hard to be bad ass.

Things were a lot different back in 1985, when Geordie black metal pioneers Venom rolled onto the set of the Sky Monsters of Rock Show. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, fan or not, this is a must see. Prepare yourself for one of the most hilarious interviews ever as host Amanda Reddington quickly loses control of the set, as Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon overwhelm her and the show with their sheer buffoonery. Sure they had a whole Satan shtick going on, but that didn’t stop them from being three lads from Newcastle-upon-Tyne out to have a laugh. It seems like this was a lab explosion waiting to happen. Proof that the 80’s was possibly music’s greatest time ever, rich was its diversity and evolution. There’ll never be another band like Venom wreaking havoc in quite the same fashion.

But enough lamenting the downfall of the mainstream public’s tastes, enjoy some proper telly gold!

Peter Clegg

Trouble – Manic Frustration

 
Previously, this series has focused squarely on individual songs that I feel are either under-rated or simply worthy of a little more love and attention. This series is not restricted to individuality, however, and today’s feature marks the first in the series to look at an entire album that for me is a classic that simply emerged at the wrong time to hit its maximum potential.
 
While Trouble will rightfully be remembered for their landmark doom metal albums ‘The Skull’ and ‘Psalm 9’, but their years on Rick Rubin’s Def American label undoubtedly brought about some of their most interesting work. Having further explored their psychedelic interests on 1990’s self-titled effort; those interests were fully honed and merged with another much less doomy, more energetic album titled ‘Manic Frustration’. Trouble were known from early in the career to openly reference the Bible and religion in general, but they binned this approach with the self-titled album, and portions of ‘Manic Frustration’ continued with this new lyrical stance, although I will touch upon my own thoughts when I begin to wrap this up.
 
The opening track, the riff friendly ‘Come Touch The Sky’, certainly suggests a spiritual awakening, although it could easily be a hazy trip (‘Tell them you came to look in my eyes/saw the morning appear in the skies’). Never the less, it’s not all drifting to the sky and magic trips – second track ‘Scuse Me’ is a real heavy metal anthem, standing for individualism and personal pride. Beyond that, there’s more mixing of Sabbathian riffs and bouncier Priest licks, including stand out tracks such as ‘The Sleeper’ and ‘Tragedy Man’. There’s not a great deal of variation between these, but Trouble were well on top of their game here, sometimes effortlessly spitting out quality riffs and songs that would befit any rock radio station’s playlist, such is their (somewhat unseen) commercial appeal.
 
Where the album straddles the divide between great and spectacular is reflected in the album’s two slower, more psychedelic, more melodic and indeed, Beatle-esque tracks. The first, ‘Rain’, appears fifth in the eleven track sequence. It does feel a little odd, as it doesn’t sit anywhere comfortably in Trouble’s then-current sound and their original trad-doom sound. But it’s a welcome change of pace from the old-school metal influences that pervade Trouble’s sound.
 
The latter, the closing track ‘Breathe…’, is as incredible an album closer as any I’ve heard. In contrast to ‘Rain’, it’s as close to Trouble’s classic doom metal sound as they get on this record, with Wagner delivering spoken word vocals on the themes of death and burial during a dark first half of the song, before turning on a sixpence halfway through and finishing on an uplifting note with another Beatles-style melody, the refrain of ‘down below the ocean/where I wanna be/she may be’ resounding towards the end of the song as Wagner flexes his pipes more and more towards the culmination. Simply incredible.
 
 Trouble – Tragedy Man
Alas, for all the critical acclaim it received, ‘Manic Frustration’ sold poorly, as grunge dominated the landscape with the dreaded lurgy of nu-metal about to stumble into the landscape, Trouble’s relationship with Def American came to end and while they soldiered on with 1995’s ‘Plastic Green Head’, they never did reach the metal spotlight that they had aimed for during their time with Def American, and went on hiatus in 1996. Thus, ‘Manic Frustration’ was consigned to ‘cult classic’ status. Trouble came out of their slumber in 2002 and still plays for a loyal fanbase today although they now only contain core members, guitarists Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell, and include former Warrior Soul vocalist Kory Clarke in their line-up instead of Wagner, who left the band in 2008.
 
Regarding the lyrics, ‘Manic Frustration’ does seem to fall into the pattern set out by its title, with tracks like ‘Mr. White’, ‘Tragedy Man’ and ‘Fear’ all dealing with themes of mental agony, while the rest of the album discusses mystery, confusion and more regular themes such as love and death. All with the exception of ‘Scuse Me’, of course, as that’s a statement of individual defiance. Songs such as ‘Come Touch the Sky’ and ‘Fear’ do still point towards some sort of spiritual influence, even if Trouble weren’t openly referencing the Bible any more. Lyrically, there’s nothing that stands out head and shoulders above everything else to be closely scrutinized – they are fairly standard by heavy metal fare. But Trouble more than managed to prop them up through a cohesive metal delivery, and without question, this ought to have been a triumph.
 

 
I had a lot of difficulty getting hold of this album and was determined not to resort to a cheeky download. Incredibly, the first copy of this album I managed to obtain was on cassette, which I found in a charity shop in Leeds early last year! But I didn’t want to play the tape, even though its potential collector’s value was lost due to the inlay being perforated. Unfortunately, the CD version too appears to be out of print, and finding a CD is very hard to find; hence, if you’re to find this, you’re probably best trawling eBay, or taking an MP3 download, legal or not. I eventually saddled with Amazon.

 

That said, don’t be put off exploring this album, particularly if you like your metal old-school. It’s a fantastic record and well worth the effort to track down. If only more metal fans in 1992 shared my enthusiasm.

 
Peter Clegg
 

Iron Cages – 2012 demo

Iron Cages
2012 demo 

There’s never going to be a shortage of hardcore bands in this world, full of tales of hope, revenge, defiance, depression, pride, etc. It continues to offshoot into forever more splinter genres, sometimes unwantedly, but in its truest form, it still remains a potent force. Milwaukee’s Iron Cages, featuring.members of fellow hardcore stalwarts Harm’s Way and Expire, stick very much to the blueprint set by 90’s hardcore and d-beat, in so much as a keen ear for a hook without sacrificing any of the passion or bile for the cause.

2012 demo‘ is five tracks of heart on sleeve hardcore, well produced for a demo, and with a melodic slant though not too much to prefix that word and shorn them of a meaty sound derived from their crustier influences. . One look at the song titles tells you it’s not going to be cheerful, and a further look at the lyrics tells another story. ‘Desperation’ is particularly bleak, portraying a world of little if any expectations:

Reinvent myself. See if I survive. It’s been longer than a lifetime I’ve spent under the knife. I prayed for the same sad fate: quick birth, easy life, the same damned place to die.

Admittedly there’s nothing new about this approach, so the trick is to do what you do well, and Iron Cages have it down to a fine art, from crushing beatdowns to bruising riffs. There’s definitely a lot of potential to be seen from this Milwaukee crew. Anyone with even a passing interest in the murkier hardcore d-beat scenes ought to take a look at them, and even fans of more melodic bands like Comeback Kid and Snapcase should give them a crack too. Yes, these sorts of bands are ten a penny, but the quality ones shine through. Iron Cages certainly possess that streak and who knows, perhaps, should Iron Cages not be consumed through their members’ primary interests, they’ll have a few more people singing those words back at them a year or two from now.

Peter Clegg

Download ‘2012 demo‘ here 

Massive Zico Chain UK Tour announced!

British rockers The Zico Chain have been hard at work on their new album and now they’ve gone and announced a huge UK tour this coming March! Labelled ‘The Devil In Your Heart’ Live UK Tour, it will see the trio embarking on a fourteen-date trek around the UK – dates as follows, and supports named up to press also listed:
Wednesday 29th February – The Fighting Cocks, Kingston
Thursday 1stMarch – The Watershed, Newport Pagnell
Friday 2ndMarch – Fibbers Bar, York (w/ Silvertone, Iheart + Beretta Suicide)
Saturday 3rdMarch – The Parish, Huddersfield (w/ Beretta Suicide + Planet Janet)
Monday 5thMarch – The Hydrant, Brighton
Wednesday 7thMarch – The Dry Bar, Manchester
Thursday 8thMarch – Harlow Square
Friday 9thMarch – Finn’s Rock Pub, Weymouth
Saturday 10th March – Rock City, Nottingham
Sunday 11stMarch – Nambucca, London
Tuesday 13thMarch – The Flapper, Birmingham
Wednesday 14thMarch – The Well, Leeds
Thursday 15thMarch – The Vic Inn, Derby
Friday 16thMarch – The Kasbah, Coventry
Saturday 17thMarch – TBC
Get on down!
Peter Clegg

Fat Janitor – Lurk

Fat Janitor
Lurk 

With a name like Fat Janitor, you’d be forgiven for conjuring up all kinds of images. Perhaps a portly, off-ignored, creepy kinda guy seems the most likely one. And if he was indeed lurking, around a corner, a school locker, in the janitor’s cupboard, that image would only be multiplied.

Thankfully, we’re only talking about a Glaswegian band called Fat Janitor, and their mini-album ‘Lurk‘is quite simply brilliant. For starters, its hard to pigeonhole, containing plenty of noise rock elements without sounding like the Am Rep revival which seems to be gathering pace, whisked with hardcore riffs & rock grooves that they occasionally flit between. It’s not totally original and no doubt you’ll find your own comparisons, but ‘Lurk‘ is a lean machine that doesn’t so much as deserves attention as it does demand it.

At first glance the song titles imply a lack of seriousness – ‘French Winger’ could well be about Florent Malouda if you take its title as read (in reality its an instrumental). But its all business from the get go, and it happens to be one of those records that seemingly gets better as it progresses. The riffs vary between angular, groovy and chunky style, often fighting through a wall of noise. The screams from their vocalist are raw and piercing, like he’s drunk half of bottle of neat, cheap vodka full of rusty nails. Even when it threatens to slumber, Fat Janitor simply step up another gear with a wake-up riff, displayed most excellently on ‘Human Sandbags’, which halfway through hits a brilliant stop start groove like a slap to the face. The closer, ‘Two Nights in Hell’ sums up Fat Janitor’s style in one song, utilizing rock, noise, hardcore, punk and other alternative elements like a proverbial battering ram. The constant feedback from noise effects is occasionally overpowering but mostly serves the band well.

Once again, I’m left in awe by a Scottish band. How the hell do yous north of the border continue to do it? Seriously though, Fat Janitor have, in ‘Lurk’ a mini-album marking serious potential and reaffirming Scotland as one of the finest underground hardcore/metal scenes in the world right now.

Peter Clegg

Download ‘Lurk‘ for free here

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