Woods of Desolation – As The Stars

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Woods of Desolation
As The Stars
Northern Silence

The mere fact that black metal has been subject to experimentation for the last few years means that we can simply no longer judge such records by their supposed originality. Nonetheless, ‘depressive’ black metal has produced some stunning records of late and Wollongong’s Woods of Desolation are no different. The Australians return here on third album ‘As The Stars without Tim Yatras, whose vision it was that helped make ‘Torn Beyond Reason‘ such a supreme record, but the man known only as ‘D.’, the sole founding member, has a new ensemble around him who prove just as effective. Key to their success is that they don’t drag things out. No gazing for too long, and no reliance on the blastbeat – their drummer is remarkably controlled behind the kit, and their vocalist’s howls of agony compliment the ethereal sounds. They always seem to get it right, and the variety between tracks is subtle but nonetheless pleasing on the ear. So many moments to choose from – the closing section of ‘This Autumn Light’ mires in transcendence along a deceptively positive riff; while ‘Withering Field’ is excellently paced through its first four minutes, dropping a couple of tasty grooves into the din before the song moves into an explosive blast at the end. From first second to last, ‘As The Stars‘ justifies the hype placed on it by various metal blogs, soaked in atmosphere, depression and sheer majesty, and composed superbly from top to bottom – the year’s first seminal record.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘As The Stars‘ here (Bandcamp).
Pre-order the vinyl LP here (Australia/NZ) or at Northern Silence (Europe/ROW)
(Released February 14)
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Iron Witch/The Atrocity Exhibit – split 7″

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Iron Witch/The Atrocity Exhibit
Split 7”
Witch Hunter/Dead Chemists

It doesn’t feel like two minutes ago since Iron Witch and The Atrocity Exhibit emerged onto the underbelly of the UK underground music scene, only to stick their boots into its collective craw. Maybe it’s just a sign of how damn busy these bands are to make their name, or how quickly word spreads. Whatever it is, by now if you’re a follower of UK sludge, doom, grind, or any shouty goodness going on, you should be well aware of who both those bands are by now. And if you’re not, where have you been? The two have now combined for a split 7”, contributing a single track each that revels in noise of a putrid splendour, and hatred of its subject matter of a venomous kind.

Iron Witch have long held claim now to being the new kings of UK sludge, and strengthen that claim here with ‘Her Cheating Heart’. Their longest track to date, at 6:42, they credit ‘all the lying, cheating whores who made this possible’. In no way bitter at all, they do what they do best and make it even better – a depressing and thoroughly heavy trudge that riffs hard. Vocalist Chris yells ‘if you had a heart it’d break in two’ with all the spleen of a man wronged and to top it all off, the song ends with an ever so brief but cracking slow lead that reminds me ever so slightly of that awesome one at the end of Iron Monkey’s ‘Fink Dial’. The sort that screams ‘fuck you, I win!’ Or in this case ‘fuck you’. Brilliant stuff.

In contrast, The Atrocity Exhibit take a diversion that their usual blast and destroy approach to grind, which so often works wonders. Instead, theirs is a true slug, a slow and obdurate track entitled ‘Throne of Bile’ that over its course exerts so much sonic pressure you’d think the speakers might explode under the weight. The band go out of their way to make this as uncomfortable a sludge track as you might imagine, eventually shifting upwards in tempo just enough to release some of the tension, but in no way letting the listener off lightly. Theirs too is just as hateful, and appropriately unpredictable.

This split has been available since late October of last year and you can still obtain one of 500 black vinyl copies via Witch Hunter Records and Dead Chemists Records, who came together to put out this release jointly. Follow the links below, stream and support. Smashing job all round.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Iron Witch/The Atrocity Exhibit’ via Witch Hunter Records; or at Dead Chemists Records
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BongCauldron – BongCauldron EP

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BongCauldron
BongCauldron EP
Superhot

Hailing from Leeds, Jay (drums, aka drunken bog dweller), Biscuit (guitar, relentless Squatch hunter), and Ben (bass, abominable cave goblin), make up the sludge power trio BongCauldron. One look at the name of this band will tell you everything you need to know about what they’re going to sound like, and what they’re likely to sing about. That doesn’t make them any less deserving of your attention or your judgment. The fact is, BongCauldron serves up an addictive stew of stoner rock, sludge metal, and boogie, on their debut s/t EP. It won’t surprise you greatly, at least not lyrically, but the band know how to jam through tracks such as ‘Tree Wizard’, which contain equal amounts of groove and gruff aggression. There is some neat variation between songs though, with the single ‘Up’ a hearty display of riff and reverb, the speedy blasts of ‘Vehemence’, and the Sabbathian sounds of ‘Gimp Jig’. Overall, it’s a pleasing body of work, falling somewhere between Wo Fat, High on Fire, and of course, Sabbath, given a slightly rough production job to maximise the distortion and drive in every bludgeoning groove. These five tracks will firmly establish the band within the swellings of the UK underground, surely pleasing these hungry swamp creatures.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘BongCauldron’ here (CD/download)
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Cannabis Corpse/Ghoul – Splatterhash

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Cannabis Corpse/Ghoul
Splatterhash
Tankcrimes

While it can be said that the label of ‘gimmick’ be branded on both these bands quite hardily is not without reason – one whose entire output is based on songs about weed largely parodying death metal overlords Cannibal Corpse (though not in creative form, at least), the other a band hailing from the spooky town of Creepsylvania, clad in executioner masks and witness to all manner of horrors. But cry joke at these bands at your peril. We’ve covered both Cannabis Corpse and Ghoul on We Must Obey before and can vouch for their excellent in providing the horrors in musical form. Now Tankcrimes, one of the raddest labels in the world, has got the two bands together for a split release, the latest in the labels line of outstanding splits, coming off the back of Exhumed and Iron Reagan’s get together late last year.

Thus ‘Splatterhash’ is born, already looking the part thanks to its Andrei Bouzikov artwork, nothing less than you’d expect and an awesome depiction of the two bands with an army of weed monsters and bong guns. But at for the music itself? Cannabis Corpse return to parodying Cannibal Corpse titles, this time from the ‘Evisceration Plague’ era. ‘The Inhalation Plague’ feels a bit of a mid-tempo riffer, not quite as thrilling as some of the band’s previous output, but it bakes well enough and provides a good opening for the second track, ‘Shatter Their Bongs’, which goes for a faster pace with some cracking tempo shifts, the glorious clean/death declaration of ‘We must/shatter their bongs!’ Its their first new material in two and a half years, but its looking good for the next full length, with a new three-piece line-up settled on, with Phil ‘Land Phil’ Hall still leading the charges. Meanwhile Ghoul are really on form, returning to original material after their covers EP ‘Intermediate Level Hard-Core’ last year. The five minute long ‘Inner Sanctum’ is a phenomenal ride, capturing the band’s wicked guitar tone to full effect and detailing a town full of savagery. Tell me if there’s a band who do gang vocals better at the moment, because the simple command of ‘Kill!‘ feels perfect within every aspect of this song. And after that, comes the faster, heavier and downright slamming ‘Spill Your Guts’, which is just a two minute chainsaw massacre in audio format. Delightful.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Splatterhash’ here
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Mogwai – Rave Tapes

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Mogwai
Rave Tapes
Rock Action

Mogwai are a seemingly enduring force – for the last nineteen, going on twenty years, they’ve never failed to capture the imagination of the critics and enjoy a kinship just on the edge of the mainstream with a reputation that rarely seems to take any sort of battering – a rare thing to say about any one band. I still kick myself for taking ages to get into them, but that’s the price you pay for being a slightly ignorant metalhead in your youth, isn’t it? But I’m having a blast going back through their history at present, which is shelved for the time being owing to the release of another new release for the Scots, their eighth studio album ‘Rave Tapes’. It’s a further departure away from the quiet-loud approach of old, with more elements of their recent work starting to creep in (particularly from their ‘Les Revenents’ soundtrack), and more and more they’re letting songs develop in a meandering, and often dark fashion. They still bludgeon when they feel like it – ‘Hexon Bogon’ and ‘Master Card’ are two relatively standard if pleasing, keyboard-painted riffers – but the real majesty comes from their continuing experimental approach, evident on the spoken word ‘Repelish’, which features a man discussing Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, and ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’, a vocoder drenched closer holding a brooding emotional sway of the listener. ‘Blues Hour’, while nothing new, is perhaps the album’s most emotive track, the only conventional vocal – a hushed one at that, it builds superbly, before quietly ushering to a close; just as Mogwai have proved masters of doing time and again. Like the eyes that glow in the shadows, with ‘Rave Tapes’, Mogwai continue to watch over their existence in effective and typical, if ever more austere fashion.

Peter Clegg

Mogwai – The Lord is Out of Control (official video)

Buy ‘Rave Tapes‘ here

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‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 – Napalm Death announced as headliners!

+ Pentagram (Chile), Lock-Up and more announced; day splits confirmed!

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In what is undoubtedly one of the biggest coups for the festival since its inception in 2011, ‘KHF have confirmed a triple signing of epic proportions! The biggest news is that Birmingham’s legendary and defining grindcore act, Napalm Death, will be headlining the first night of the festival on Friday May 2nd in what will surely be a performance not to be missed! And in a further scoop, the festival has also confirmed the presence of one of the pioneers of extreme metal, Pentagram Chile! Resurging following the release of ‘The Malefice’, their debut album which was twenty-eight years in the making, they will also be taking the stage on the Friday night in what is likely to be a rare, if not a one-off, opportunity to see one of the trailblazers for extreme metal as it was to become.

As if that wasn’t enough, it was confirmed late this past Friday night that the festival had also signed deathgrind supergroup Lock Up to perform alongside those two bands on the Friday night. Furthermore, all three of those bands have been confirmed as UK festival exclusives. What an explosive night of extreme metal that promises to be.

Another three bands have also been announced, including the return of one man tech-death machine Regurgitate Life, blackened crust/d-beat Mancunians Esoteric Youth and rising brutal death metallers Unfathomable Ruination. They join a line up that also includes headliners Anaal Nathrakh, Swedish grind freaks Birdflesh (UK exclusive), US death metallers Malignancy, Wodensthrone, Desecration, Hawk Eyes, Khuda, Deviated Instinct and many, many more.

It’s not all good news – two of the fest’s heavy hitters, Liverpudlian doomers Conan and German pounders Pighead have both had to pull out for various reasons. The festival however, is looking as splendid as ever, with its biggest hitting line-up in history. One more headliner is still to be announced with a further four bands to be announced very soon.

With the festival approaching in 3 1/2 months, the organisers have now confirmed the day splits for this year’s festivities. These are as follows:

Friday (1400-0100 hrs): NAPALM DEATH, Lock Up, Pentagram Chile, band tba, band tba, Ingested, Evisorax, Haar, Iniquitous Savagery, Necro Deathmort, band TBA, Ephemeral Foetus, Death Tripper

Saturday (1230-0100 hrs): ANAAL NATHRAKH, Birdflesh, Hawk Eyes, Khuda, Deviated Instinct, Jesus Crost, band TBA, Acrania, Monolithian, Amulet, Noise Complaint, Gets Worse, Wizard’s Beard, Famine, Esoteric Youth, The Day Man Lost

Sunday (1230-2300 hrs): Headliner TBA; Desecration, Wodensthrone, Malignancy, Crepitation, Holocausto Canibal, Conquest of Steel, Unfathomable Ruination, Basement Torture Killings, Palm Reader, Regurgitate Life, Rot In Hell, Shields

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In further news, the line-up for the ‘KHF pre-show is now complete, with an equally awesome line-up comprising of KHF faves of old and further fresh meat serving up the party. Past festival acts The Afternoon Gentlemen, Palehorse and Foetal Juice currently sub-headline an incredible prelude to the main festival, now renamed the ‘Yorkshire Riffer‘, which also includes Bongcauldron, Scordatura, Gods of Hellfire, Ninkharsag, Black Skies Burn, Bludger, Rectal Implosion, No Fucks Given, Sathanel, and Cattle. They’ve just to confirm the headliner for this event, which will surely be a stonker if these latest announcements are anything to go by.

Tickets are still available for both the main festival, taking place on the weekend of Friday May 2nd-Sunday May 4th, and the pre-show, happening the week before on Saturday April 26th. They can be obtained via the official ‘Kin Hell Fest site. And for all the latest announcements, news, updates, and other jollies, head over to the official ‘Kin Hell Fest Facebook page, and also here, via their Twitter feed.

Peter Clegg

Spinal Tap – The Majesty of Rock

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The legend that is ‘This is Spinal Tap‘ marks it’s 30th anniversary this year, and without doubt there won’t be a heavy metal fan in the land who won’t have come across that film, or the music that soundtracked it. It inspired a generation of rockers, be it in stadiums or in bedrooms, to defy the limits of their Marshall stacks or their tiny amps to turn it up to 11 every time they played. Nobody lampooned the excess and the controversy courted by the likes of Aerosmith, Def Leppard and the other big rock bands of the day quite like Messrs Shearer, Guest and McKean.

But as my brother pointed out recently, more people needed to hear this song. And see its video. I am no stranger to the ‘Tap, but I can never recall anyone mentioning ‘The Majesty of Rock’ in the same breath as ‘Big Bottom’, ‘Stonehenge’ or even ‘Lick My Love Pump’. Released in 1992, as thrash metal and heavy metal almost drowned under the wave of grunge that surged into public consciousness, ‘Break Like the Wind‘ would certainly be lapped up by fond fans of the film and of the band that superseded fiction. But it would never reach the heights of its successful predecessor, the soundtrack to the original movie. Not that chart success mattered – it’s creators, reprising their roles as David St Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls, had birthed a legend that would go on to outlast many of the acts it ridiculed, a joke that would seemingly never get old, being that classic rock and heavy metal has hardly changed since ‘Black Sabbath‘ was released, albeit with far fewer wildmen to emerge in recent years to play the stereotype.

Back on topic though, ‘The Majesty of Rock’ is such a supreme track that really feels at its best when combined with its accompanying video. Ridiculous outfits (Tufnel’s spiderweb spandex in particular is just incredible), digitally imposed images of the Queen bopping her head and legends of pop and rock likes Janis Joplin and Roy Orbison ‘jamming’ with the band, massive speaker stacks atop a cliff, a red hot solo, huge gurning mugshots and lines such as ‘The more it stays the same/the less it changes!‘, you’d have to be devoid of wit and humour to at least not raise a smile to this, and indeed you’ll only need to watch/listen to it once for it to dig a wormhole into your brain. It’s daft, over the top, and a glorious paean to rock’s very character, and its excessive quirks. So turn it up (to 11 of course), and do nothing for the next four minutes but rock out, dance like Tufnel and worship the true glory of this song.

Peter Clegg

Previous posts in our Underrated series can be found here