EF – Delusions of Grandeur


Delusions of Grandeur

EF are a post-rock quintet from Gothenburg, Sweden, who since 2003 have released three studio albums and undertaken numerous tours as they spread their name. This, their latest EP, is the first for their new home at Pelagic Records, and is but a taste of what EF have to offer.

The powerful yet delicate title track is a terrific way to get this release underway – a three track EP can often be short on content, but at nearly eight and a half minutes EF do more than just flesh out the sides and the construction is so, it doesn’t drag either, piano driving the electrical section through the track. As far as post rock goes, its not straying too far from the template, but they seem to have it sussed in knowing when to apply the emotional pressure, to build it up and release it with powerful crescendo. The instrumental ‘Fem’ keeps things ticking nicely up to the closing track ‘I’ve Never Felt This Way Before’; a fine example of storytelling, telling the story of a group of boys who stumble before a mortally wounded foal, with one deciding to do the right thing, comfortable with the punishment that comes with it. It draws you right in, every bit as captivating as textual fiction, and topped off with a haunting and rising finale that rounds off a perfectly paced sojourn.

Cliched as it sounds to say fans of band X and Y will like this, the truth is that this will most appeal to people into Mogwai, Sigur Ros, Explosions in the Sky, etc., but I’d like for more people to open up to this sort of music once in a while. EF now seem perfectly poised to build on this EP when they deliver their first album for Pelagic, continuing here with a career arc still rising and yet to dip.

Pre-orders are available for ‘Delusions of Grandeur‘, and EF have a series of European live shows in the offing, which will be listed below. Step on it and prepare to be mesmerized.

Peter Clegg

EF – Delusions of Grandeur pre-order teaser

Upcoming shows:

Sep 28, 2012 – Lille, L’hotel de la Musique
Sep 29, 2012 – Paris, L’International
Sep 30, 2012 – Düdingen, Bad Bonn
Oct 01, 2012 – Zürich, Hafenkneipe
Oct 02, 2012 – Stuttgart, Juha West
Oct 03, 2012 – Frankfurt, Ponyhof
Oct 04, 2012 – Leipzig, Moritzbastei
Oct 05, 2012 – Berlin, Cassiopeia
Oct 06, 2012 – Bielefeld, Forum
Nov 01, 2012 – London, Kings Place
Nov 02, 2012 – Birmingham, Vagabonds

Buy/pre-order ‘Delusions of Grandeur‘ here (10″ vinyl) at this location: http://pelagic-records.com/vinyl/

Official site

Iron Fist


It’s been thought of for a while now that in the age of digital media, the printed format was dying, and this was perhaps true of the rock and metal magazines, with notable names like Metal Maniacs and The Word shutting down in recent years due to falling sales, with a variety of reasons from the rise of the internet to weblogs, to filesharing, to Spotify and more for their demise. All reasons which suggest former readers no longer rely on what magazines provide when the web offers endless possibility. Indeed, the market for a new magazine these days is tougher than ever, with a report in the Metro newspaper today looking at falling sales in the music publication industry as NME turns 60.

Yet the printed format always seems to bounce back in one way or the other. And today that is none more true than with the launch of Iron Fist, a new bi-monthly publication headed by former Terrorizer magazine editor Louise Brown. Styling itself as ‘the ultimate underground bible’, it is indeed a defiant fist in the air for heavy metal, thrash, doom, death and black metal. Watain have the honour of being its first coverstars, with further features on Sodom, Sarcofago, Grand Magus and more. Take a look at the first issue front cover above. It screams the 80’s, yet its reliably modern and damn, and it totally screams METAL! It kicks serious arse.

In response to the suggestion that the need for printed media is reduced in the digital age, I argue that we need it more than ever. Sure, the web can provide unlimited content, but everything feels so prominent in a magazine. There’s things like interviews and retro features that you can emphasise much more easily than a webpage in my opinion. And it feels much more personal. So I say this to thee – support Iron Fist, let’s see it grow and thrive. It’s only £4.50! Without the magazines of yesteryear, would metal be as popular worldwide as it is today? Probably not. Iron Fist can not only return us to our roots, but can also take proper metal forward into the future too through its dedication to the underground, and hopefully prove that print isn’t a dead format. I wish Louise Brown and crew the very best for the future.

Peter Clegg

Various Artists – Dumb and Dumber OST


I should note before going any further that normally, my underrated feature usually only includes specific songs or albums that I feel warrant further recognition – a full list follows at the bottom of this feature. So this is the first time I’ve actually selected a film’s soundtrack for inclusion in this series. Maybe its because this film was a part of my growing up that I hold it in high regard. The same is becoming of its soundtrack. I know soundtracks don’t get recognition unless they’re absolutely bombastic and nominated for an Oscar. A mishmash of alternative rock and mainstream pop, some of which is tinged with the dreaded ‘N’ word – novelty – ought to disappear into bargain bins and forgotten consciousnesses everywhere. Yet somehow, the soundtrack to the 1994 comedy movie ‘Dumb & Dumber’ is remarkably resilient. Or at least it is in my mind.

Just recently, the Pete Droge song ‘If You Don’t Love Me (I’ll Kill Myself)’ entered my head for no apparent reason other than recall. It floated around for a few days until I finally decided to check it out on YouTube. I began to realise that the Dumb and Dumber OST (RCA, 1994) appeared to be aging remarkably well. Off the back of that, I checked out the Gigolo Aunts’ ‘Where I Find My Heaven’, whose video took various clips from the film, and in which their singer Dave Gibbs looks a lot like Jim Carrey’s character Lloyd Christmas. There’s also a joyous cover of the Smokey Robinson-penned ‘Get Ready’ by The Proclaimers, the bounce of Deadeye Dick’s flash-in-the-pan hit ‘New Age Girl’ and the summery pop-rock of The Primitive’s ‘Crash (’95 mix) – the remix signifying additional guitars that made this particular version of the song, originally recorded in 1988, the standout version.

Gigolo Aunts – Where I Find My Heaven

There are songs I struggle to remember actually hearing in the movie – its been a long time since I watched it – so the soundtrack also features stuff such as a cover of ‘The Hurdy Gurdy Man’ at the B Surfers, who’s messed-up take on the song produced an even more out-there video, and contributions from comedy metallers Green Jelly, one-time Britpop darlings Echobelly, and alt-rockers The Lupins and The Sons (feat. Bret Reilly), among others. There are one or two omissions from the official soundtrack I find slightly regrettable, most notably Nick Cave’s brilliant ‘Red Right Hand’, and the timeless/annoying (depending on your perspective) Crash Test Dummies hit ‘Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm’, which appeared to be dropped in favour of their cover of XTC’s ‘The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead’.

Its true to say as well that the vast number of cover versions and the numerous one-hit wonders it spawned might well make this soundtrack disposable, but it captures an essence about this part of the 90s and indeed the happy-go-lucky nature of the film. Indeed, I’m pleased and thankful enough for a childhood that allowed me absorb films and songs like this before I could fully appreciate their nuances and quirks. Summer might well be over – some may argue it didn’t even happen this year – but this collection is certainly sunshine throughout the year, whichever way you look at it.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Dumb and Dumber: Official Motion Picture Soundtrack’ here

Also in this series:

The Cult – Nico
Trouble – Manic Frustration
Type O Negative – Red Water (Christmas Mourning)
Aerosmith – Shut Up and Dance
The Wildhearts – Rooting For The Bad Guy
AC/DC – Ain’t No Fun (Waitin’ Round to Be a Millionaire)

High on Fire – The Art of Self Defense


High on Fire
The Art of Self Defense
Southern Lord
The power of the riff compels me!
The power of the riff compels me!
The power of the riff compels me!

Rarely I have been so thrilled at the reissue of the album than I have with High on Fire’s debut album, ‘The Art of Self Defense’. Matt Pike’s stint in rehab and his recently stolen guitar aside, it has been a stellar year for Pike so far, with not one, but two magnum opera being (re)released – the stunning ‘De Vermis Mysteriis’ and the rerelease of Sleep’s infamous and incomparable ‘Dopesmoker’ that Southern Lord also reissued earlier this year. Some successful touring with both Sleep and High on Fire has commenced, prior to Pike’s entering rehab to overcome an alcohol addiction.

High on Fire have enjoyable gradual, considerable success since ‘Surrounded by Thieves’ and, in particular, ‘Blessed Black Wings’ emerged, but back in 2000, when nu-metal was still dominating the airwaves, Pike’s re-emergence with the then-fledgling High on Fire gathered little attention. Originally issued on Man’s Ruin Records, and then again with bonus tracks by Tee Pee Records, it was an excellent debut album let down slightly by a (perhaps to be expected) low-budget production that meant that the stoner metal vibe that High on Fire were trying to project at the time was slightly lost and the true power of these songs were never truly realised.

The last time I listened to any part of this album, it was a dreary day in Hull’s Rail Station years ago. I listened to the reissue initially on a walk through rainy Huddersfield. I immediately forgot I was in the middle of a soaking. 

Brad Boatright, just as he did with the recent Sleep re-issue, has done an incredible job once again of remastering and enhancing ‘The Art of Self-Defence’. Any initial thoughts about missing the old-school production eventually subsided simply due to the raw power. Like any High on Fire record, it needs to be blasted through the speakers to generate the full effect, to gain the full experience. After all, it’s the first Pike record post-Sleep, and one which sees his new band going that bit more aggressively, but still rooted in Sleep territory. Unlike later High on Fire records, ‘The Art of Self-Defense’ relies less on speed, more on broad thunder, crashing down with each repeated riff.

High on Fire – Blood From Zion

I mean, those drums are positively powerful. The intro to ‘Blood From Zion’ is positively explosive. The repeated tom rolls of ‘Last’ boom across the savannah, instead of fizzling through my headphones like that rainy day in Hull. There is a much more repetitive nature about some of these songs than on later albums, but that’s not a bad thing here – it feels perfectly natural. The intro to ‘Fireface’ could well have come from Sleep’s discography, and ‘Last’ certainly wouldn’t have felt out-of-place either, as it leads us all to another satisfying riff trip. The zap of ‘Master of Fists’ is the perfect finisher to regular proceedings, an impassioned stoner jam in honour of Bruce Lee, it would seem. One half a lumbering mammoth of a track, the second an ominous warning as it thunders out the remainder of the original tracklisting.

Of the extras, the bonus tracks ‘Steel Shoe’ and a faithful cover of Celtic Frost’s ‘The Usurper’ are much more what High on Fire were to become, the former should certainly have you headbanging properly. The remaining three tracks are demos that completists will certainly enjoy, the improved production highlighting their rough edges but still an exciting document all the same.

Plenty of bands try to conjure images of demons, witches, neophytes, monsters, tuskans, winged beasts and more – but none do it quite so fittingly as High on Fire. It’s grand that this once hard to find release has been given a new sheen, boosting its best qualities – the trademark Pike guitar, chunky bass and boomshot drums – whilst retaining that raw power and grit. It’s a must not just for long time fans of the band like me, but also fans who might have only just gotten into High on Fire as their profile has risen. Stylistically, yes it is somewhat the unfinished package – but their odyssey into thrashing songs of foreboding lore can once again be traced back to the start.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘The Art of Self-Defense’ (reissue) here

Official site

Xibalba – Hasta La Muerte


Hasta La Muerte
Southern Lord

I really, really don’t know how to sum up Xibalba. As in, should be be really liking this, or really hating it? It’s taken me a while to get round to this hardcore/sludge quintet, perhaps owing to a current lack of familiarity with Xibalba in the UK, with this new album eliminating any previous wonder I had about the band. Wonder no more, I guess. One way or the other, ‘Hasta La Muerte‘ is one of the ugliest, grimiest, nastiest records I’ve come across for quite a while.

If anyone came here expecting innovation, disappointment is thy name. Xibalba’s music is pretty much that of the lowest common denominator – the lack of pig squeals and general breakdown for breakdown’s sake mean its not quite deathcore, but its pretty close. Generally songs chug along in a fast/medium pace, eventually hitting a speedbump and generally building up with that ‘dun-dun-dun-dun-UUUUUUGGGH!‘ effect. Either that, or often just fast/slow/fast.

Thankfully, Xibalba’s pure bile and intensity make for a satisfying neck workout, if not a degree-level test. Setting its stall out from the beginning on ‘No Serenity’, ‘Hasta La Muerte‘ is full of truly brutal tunes designed to knock fifty shades of shit out of you and laugh at your broken body at once, from the Obituary-esque ‘Soledad’, the warrior-march of ‘The Flood’ and the truly venomous title track. Despite Southern Lord’s shift to the crusty side of hardcore, its good to see they have here a band that doesn’t overpreach about the world’s problems and at the same time is as reliably downcast both lyrically and musical aggression as the label’s back catalogue. Not the utmost greatest release all year, but no-frills, all (blood) spills is what ‘Hasta La Muerte‘ is all about. And by hell do they know how to bring them.

Peter Clegg

Xibalba – Soledad

Buy ‘Hasta La Muerte‘ here


Visions: Converge – Aimless Arrow

Converge are one of those bands that just seem timeless. Completely fucking timeless. Twenty-two years young, musically refusing to stagnate, and still taking names and influencing countless others, they may not possess necessarily the anger of previous releases, but they certainly still capture despair on record like no other. And if this cut from forthcoming new album ‘All We Love We Leave Behind‘ is any indication, that statement isn’t about to change any time soon. Featuring a video (directed by Max Moore) with an arrow flying through the forest, and a young boy on the run and walking through several desolate landscapes, ‘Aimless Arrow’ is two minutes, thirty nine seconds of intense cerebral agony evidencing exactly what Converge do best. Do not miss out when this album drops.

Peter Clegg

The Faceless – Autotheism


The Faceless

The latest Renault advert in this country proclaims a lot can change in four years. That much is true of The Faceless, in the sense that their line-up has undergone a complete overhaul, since unleashing the scorching ‘Planetary Duality’ back in 2008. A short while after the release, Geoff Ficco replaced then vocalist Derek ‘Demon Carcass’ Rydquist, eventually followed by Evan Brewer of Animosity stepping in to fill Brandon Giffin’s bass shoes, and just a few months ago, another founder member, Steve Jones, vacated his role in The Faceless and was replaced by Wes Haugh. That leaves guitarist Michael Keene as the sole founding member of The Faceless to remain, and what becomes very clear as ‘Autotheism’, the third album from the Encino, California band unfolds is that this is an album very much in his image.

Autotheism is described as ‘the deification of one’s self; self-worship’. What is projected might well be his perfect vision for The Faceless – but what begins is a bit of a convoluted and frankly outrageous mess. The album begins with a three part track entitled ‘Autotheist Movement’, and the twinkling of the ivories at the beginning already displays a new direction from the band. This is the first part, ‘Create’, and already points in the direction of more clean singing as Keene’s auto-tuned tones zone in. This different direction isn’t necessarily bad; it builds up the tension quietly but very nicely indeed for Ficco’s growls are introduced. And then ‘Emanicipate’ and ‘Deconsecrate’ follow. Both serve to effectively kill any true enjoyment of the album.

It’s one thing to state your influences, and another to inject them into your music. To pretty much parallel them is just bad judgement. The former is more like The Faceless you’d expect to a point, but my, Keene loves to sing, and his vocals project even more over the music. Initially, it’s not too bad, with the music staying fast and heavy and contributing some excellent deathy sections. There’s also a distinct Opeth flavour going on too, and eventually Keene comes across singing a little like Devin Townsend. Then ‘Deconsecrate’ rolls up and proceeds to commit outright plagiarism on not one, but two counts – first of all, the twisted carnival sounds that seems too eerily like the carnival section from ‘The Mighty Masturbator’ from the Devin Townsend Project’s ‘Deconstruction’, and then the blatant lifting of Opeth’s ‘The Devil’s Orchard’s key line ‘God is dead’, delivered in not too dissimilar fashion either, other than that Keene is significantly inferior as a vocalist to Mikael Akerfeldt. I felt apoplectic with rage at this point – a polar reversal of how I felt during hearing their previous album. Subsequent listens soften the blow but I still feel like no effort has really been made to sound anything at all distinct two of progressive metal’s modern day figureheads.

The Faceless – Ten Billion Years

After that debacle, The Faceless do try and make good on the better parts of what they’ve shown to this point. ‘Accelerated Evolution’ sees the only use of a vocoder on this album – it was deployed particularly regularly on ‘Planetary Duality’ to sublime effect – and continues on the slower, more methodical pace set for this album. ‘The Eidolon Reality’ is more effective, while still not at the band’s absolute best. It makes for Keene’s best vocal moment, with a catchy refrain pierced by Ficco’s roar – ‘Beyond the Eidolon reality, blinding me (EIDOLON!)…’. That feels to be as good as it gets though, however slamming some of the riffs become as the album progresses. 

I’ve really lost track of how many concept albums I’ve listened to this, but if there’s one thing that links the majority of them, it’s that they excel at two things – one being a strong concept that confidently projects the story to the listener, and two, musically its got to all add up – great riffs, originality, and above all, don’t make it overcomplicated. ‘Autotheism’ has a few great riffs, but any momentum they try to gain through the decent songs is continually washed away, first by the great mess that is ‘Autotheist Movement’, which essentially serves to continually trip up, and ‘Hail Science!’, a skit of sorts hailing the rise of science and the fall of religion in a Microsoft Sam voice, which you could take in good humour, or as a waste of album space. And further, I don’t even care very much for religion, but the whole ‘yay science! Boo religion!’ thing going on here isn’t going to raise eyebrows much – more, just diluting the concept that Keene seemed to be going for in the first place. 

On first impressions, I believed this to be one of the worst albums I’ve heard all year. I don’t like trashing albums but criticism is due where it is due. A few listens later and it’s bearable – Ficco isn’t much different as a vocalist to Rydquist but he at least mixes up his roars a little more and shows a lot of effort, on tracks such as particularly during the ‘Autotheist Movement’ series and later on tracks such as ‘Ten Billion Years’. Generally as good as you can expect from a death metal/deathcore vocalist, and where they’re not pilfering Opeth, Devin or Cynic, they still make a decent band despite all the line-up changes. As for Keene – let’s face it, The Faceless is effectively his band now – his skills as a guitarist can’t be questioned, but when a band loses its identity, it loses its soul. I’ll applaud any effort to pursue change and to avoid stagnation as a band, but ‘Autotheism’, in trying to masquerade as luminaries, is deluded in its self-elevated grandeur. 

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Autotheism’ here


Another week off

Frustratingly for all of you, I’m off for another week, this time due to scheduled holiday which will mean no updates for the next week. I have some time left in terms of holiday hours to take, which means there will be disruption to my activity in October, November and December. One day, I will get home internet! Until that day though, I’m unable to avoid taking breaks from the site.

I hope you all understand. I’ll do my level best to get through all your submissions and all my scheduled things to review and feature when I get back.

Stay heavy!

Peter Clegg

Visions: Trash Talk – F.E.B.N.

Those Trash Talk guys don’t do rubbish videos do they? Their ‘Awake‘ EP alone produced three videos, two rebellious ones (for ‘Awake’ and ‘Burn Alive’), and one completely bonkers animation for ‘Slander’. Well, the raging TT beast wouldn’t be satisfied resting on its laurels. Recently they’ve found an alliance with rap collective Odd Future (OFWGKTA), a relationship between two sets of wild spirits that seems set to continue growing.

Trash Talk have a new album, ‘119‘ coming out soon through Odd Future Records, and the first single ‘F.E.B.N.’ was premiered recently with this video, shot by Odd Future’s Tyler, The Creator. It’s typically crazy like a Trash Talk vid should be, circling around and around with the OF crew getting raucous as well. Forward Ever Backward Never. Go!

119‘ is released via Trash Talk Collective/Odd Future Records on October 9th.

Peter Clegg