Winter songs

The weather outside in the UK right now isn’t too frightful but winter certainly took its icy grip over our shores earlier in the month. Thankfully, we’ve not had the repeat of the storm of late 2010 and early 2011 but no doubt the capability is there. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled five songs we feel befitting of the big freeze, however bleak or even positive they may feel. Enjoy.

1. Probot w/ Lee Dorrian – Ice Cold Man

[from Probot, Southern Lord, 2003]

OK, an obvious one to begin with, and without doubt the finest song from Dave Grohl’s childhood dream/metal superstar album. Arriving in the middle of the record, a cold, heartless, doomy riff echoes, before the pounding of the drums introduces Cathedral/ex-Napalm Death frontman Lee Dorrian to bestow a tale of a planet dying at the grip of an eternal winter. The chorus is storming; Eternal winter takes its reign/devoid of life, filled with pain/ice cold man watches earth die’. And as Dorrian delivers that line, you can truly grasp the hopelessness that fills you when caught in an Arctic-style storm.
2. Batillus – …And The World is as Night to Them
[from Furnace, Seventh Rule, 2011]
I recently had to get up ridiculously early for a Saturday shift. It was dark, frost and ice were covering the roads and pavements near my home. A van had slid off the main road at the bottom and almost into a building during the night. ‘…And The World is as Night to Them’, the opening song from blackened doomers Batillus’ ‘Furnace’, was the track playing on my musical device of choice that very moment. I was stood around waiting for the bus and this incredible song, so bleak, so harsh, captured the mood perfectly. Equal parts atmospheric and soul-crushingly heavy, take a walk outside with this track when the sky is black and the surfaces are glistening, and I defy you not to feel in thrall to winter’s cold, icy grip.
3. Immortal – In My Kingdom Cold
[from Sons of Northern Darkness, Nuclear Blast, 2002]
I know I’m trying to avoid clichés, but you can’t have such a list without including Immortal, who are in thrall to all things icy and cold. I could have picked this pretty much any song, e.g. ‘Antarctica’, ‘Arctic Swarm’, ‘Blashrykh (Mighty Ravendark)’ and more besides. But I plumped for ‘In My Kingdom Cold’ because every riff in this song truly sounds like it was pulled directly from the tundra, and Abbath’s trademark scowl truly shows he and Immortal reign supreme over this icy world.

4. My Dying Bride – A Doomed Lover

[from Songs of Darkness, Words of Light, Peaceville, 2004]
That old saying ‘it’s grim ‘oop north’ is seldom more true of the UK in winter, and if any one song could actually capture the bleakness and hopelessness you feel when caught in the middle of nowhere, trapped in a snowstorm and seemingly enveloped by the elements, this would be it. As the title indicates, it’s a song about a hopeless romance and descending into sorrow, but musically the feeling is jarring. I’ve experienced that song whilst walking in the night through snow, and just as the conclusion to the song builds up, its started snowing heavily again. This actually happened just last winter, when the country was ground to a halt by the abhorrent weather. The image in front me combined with ‘A Doomed Lover’ summed up the situation; staggeringly beautiful; but bleak, hopeless and with an unerring air of inevitability.

5. Big Business – Theme from Big Business II

[from Mind The Drift, Hydra Head, 2009]
I won’t lie – this is one of those songs which makes me feel like I’m standing on top of a mountain and shouting the words out so loud that everyone can hear! In all seriousness, this would be the song I would conquer Everest to, if I had the cojones. Just imagine that, as you hear the opening riff, accompanied by the horns, you’re staring upwards at that mountain. Or at some vast expanse. It epically builds up into ‘Mind The Drift’s fantastic climax, and the chimes that ring out the end of the record provide a potent soundtrack to winter’s harsh but undeniable beauty

Let us hear your suggestions for perfect accompanying rock or metal songs that fits the frosty mood this weather brings. I for one find those five just right.
Peter Clegg

We Must Obey’s top EPs/splits/demos of 2011

Whoever said the short form of music was dead needs their head examining. Yes, as far as the mainstream pop shite goes, full of illiterate idiots that will be here today, gone tomorrow. But no, as in the alternative underground that will forever reverberate. We’ve consumed more EPs, demos and split releases than ever in 2011, a lot of which haven’t even made it to a review on here due to time constraints, and while they can’t be compared rightfully alongside full-length releases, it’s entirely fair that they can be judged on their own merits. So here, without further ado, are our top 10 shorter form releases of the year.
10. Wormrot – Noise (Scion AV/Earache)
If 2009 announced the arrival of Wormrot on the world scene, 2011 was the year they well and truly exploded onto it. Not content with releasing the stunning ‘Dirge’ and getting one-up on the pirates in the process, they contributed a flexi-disc 7” vinyl to Decibel magazine and additionally teamed up with Scion AV to put out another five tracks of grind madness. There’s one or two tiny hints of new sounds in there, particular a punk-ish (even Maiden-ish?) section in the closer ‘Perpetual Extinction’ but largely it’s the Wormrot we’ve come to know and love. Grind!
9. Enslaved – The Sleeping Gods EP (Scion AV)
The notion of a black metal band flirting with the musical offshoot of a major car manufacturer is proverbial blasphemy to trve black metal fans, but Enslaved long threw off the shackles off ultra-grimness and have long offered up something different with every new release. ‘The Sleeping Gods’ was no different and although it’s not their finest material, it showcased the multiple faces of Enslaved, through storming riffs (‘Alu Misyrki’) and ominous Norwegian folk (the title track) and yet more besides –  not a single track sounds the same here, ‘The Sleeping Gods’ is an essential addition to any metal (and in particular Enslaved) fans’ collection and further strengthens Enslaved as one of black metal’s premier acts.
8. Sea Bastard – Great Barrier Riff (self-released)
The general consensus in the UK sludge/doom scene is that an act with the potential that Funeral Hag had will be missed; but at least that potential has been plundered into Sea Bastard, forging together three former Funeral Hag members with former Jovian guitarist. This, their crackingly-titled demo, is three huge tracks spreading over nearly fourty minutes of debut material that serves as another huge hope for UK sludge/doom in 2012.
7. Mogwai – Earth Division EP
Would the masses say this is Mogwai’s best material to date? Almost certainly not. But as a reminder of what Mogwai are capable of, this more than does the trick. The Scots here supplied four incredible tracks, providing an ideal accompaniment to their latest album ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’, and even as a shortform release, it for me excels the majority of all 2011 releases across various formats and sizes. The lone vocal track ‘Get to France’ is just phenomenal, just drifting by in its simplicity and revelling in it at the same time. It’s not exactly rock by any stretch but its expansive and ambitious, something Mogwai can still claim to be above everybody else this long into their career.
6. Big Business – Quadruple Single EP (Gold Metal)
Big Business have been accumulating more members than putting out actual albums since 2009’s ‘Mind The Drift’, and though we still wait for the follow-up to that incredible record, the ‘Quadruple Single’ EP was a tasty reminder than the bastard offspring of Karp and The Melvins are one of the finest forces in rock. Any band who can pull a track like ‘Guns’ out of the bag, with its solitary line ‘Guns/guns/guns are better than everything else’, to a riff stomp of the exact same rhythm, are absolute genii. Sure, they might now have two guitarists, but it’s still about the finest rhythm section in rock right now, in Jared Warren and Coady Willis. Now come on lads, full length follow-up please?
5. Gripe – Pig Servant (self-released)
Pig Servant’ was the second of two releases in 2011 from Athens, Georgia hardcore/grind/powerviolence crew Gripe, the first being the Grindcore Karaoke-backed ‘The Future Doesn’t Need You’. The first was a statement of intent; ‘Pig Servant’ was that intent pinning you up against the wall by your throat. Featuring Mickey Rourke’s ‘blood for blood’ speech from Sin Cityas an introduction to the first track, ‘Ghetto Rapist’, was a masterstroke, and damn near everything afterwards destroyed all in its path. Clearly they can only get better, but what is certain is that someone should come along and sign them up right away.
4. Alpinist/Masakari – Split (Antifascista)
The d-beat sound has made a remarkable comeback in recent years. In truth, it never died, but bands like Trap Them, Black Breath, Nails etc. have all contributed to its uprising. Without question though, the split album by German hardcore/d-beat crew Alpinist and the merciless US powerhouse Masakari is one of the finest. Alpinist displayed a remarkably mature approach in their assault, displaying one or two untypical influences in a standout show. Masakari, on the other hand, were simply Masakari, uncompromisingly in-your-face and displaying a level of sonic violence that few can even match, let alone outfight.
3. Between The Buried and Me – The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues (Metal Blade)
Even in restricting themselves to three tracks, the evolution of Between The Buried and Me knows no boundaries, continuing to piss on their contemporaries from a great height as even in a year without a full album release, they still find space to shove in a section consisting of accordion and castanets during ‘Augment of Rebirth’ and still make it fall perfectly into place amongst a progressive death metal overture. It might only be an EP, and only three tracks, but even these 30 minutes alone stand up to their album works for pure quality, and further cements Tommy Rogers and co. as musical genii for the 21st century.
2. Trash Talk – Awake (True Panther Sounds)
Trash Talk have been evolving from their powerviolence beginnings to a fair few people now, no doubt aided by their association with Matt Caughthran and in particular Joby J. Ford from LA punks The Bronx, the latter of whom acted as producer here and on previous album ‘Eyes and Nines’. The latter showed promise in their potential metamorphosis; ‘Awake’ was a perfection of that metamorphosis. Although no less hardcore in its delivery, Trash Talk managed to capture the classic punk vibe in the same fashion as the likes of Black Flag and The Circle Jerks within nine furious minutes. A furious petrol bomb of defiance and ear-to-the-street rallying that no one should be without.
1. Iron Witch – Single Malt EP (Witch Hunter)
It was a real close call deciding between the top three – literally tighter than a gnat’s chuff – but Liverpool’s answer to Eyehategod, Sourvein and southern sludge in general take We Must Obey’s short form crown for this stunning whiskey fuelled assault. Describing them as the best UK sludge band since Iron Monkey might seem lofty but that’s the genuine feeling I get when listening to Iron Witch or watching them play live. And ‘Single Malt’ is truly misanthropic and all kinds of kick-ass heavy, swinging broken glass-haymakers like ‘Jailhouse’, ‘Booze Blues’ and more across the course of the EP. Seriously, the sheer bile that spills out from this record is unreal. That’s how intense it is. And that’s the mark of a great, and I mean truly great, sludge metal band. Wider world, watch out for Iron Witch in 2012.
Peter Clegg

Big Business – Quadruple Single EP

Big Business

Quadruple Single EP
Gold Metal

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

Big Business never ever fails to sound heavy, and the trait admirably continues here on the ‘Quadruple Single EP’, their first release with newly-installed guitarist Scott Martin (400 Blows) and their first on their new label, Gold Metal. We’re still waiting for the full-length follow-up to ‘Mind the Drift’, but for now we’ll have to be content with this slab of sonic genius.
It maintains that thunderous feel throughout, opening with ‘Always Never Know When to Quit’. It’s right up there with other memorable Big Biz anthems such as ‘Grounds for Divorce’, ‘Just as the Day Was Dawning’, etc. The drums roll, the guitars squeal and the bass rumbles like the sound of hundreds, if not thousands of hooves pounding the savannah, as bassist/vocalist Jared Warren yelps over the top. Even with two guitarists on board, Warren and drummer Coady Willis are still the ones providing the horsepower. ‘Ice Cold War’ follows, a six-minute-plus machine that rumbles throughout. It shifts through a few different gears, culminating in a huge riff that gradually slows and crashes to an end.
‘City Ham’ isn’t quite as grand in scale but still maintains a heaviness and crunch in trademark Big Biz fashion, setting up nicely for the closer ‘Guns’, a one-chord stomp which leads to the gang chant of ‘guns are better than everything else!’ It’s a fine way to conclude proceedings, and one that’s guaranteed to have you repeating those words as though Warren is the drill sergeant, and you’re the grimy little maggot doing his bidding.
Put simply, Big Business continues to do what they do best – making quality heavy sludgened rock without giving a fuck about what anyone else does. Free of such restrictions, it’s onwards and upwards for this band. And it’s high time you paid attention.
Peter Clegg
‘Quadruple Single’ is streaming here. As soon as I find a decent link to actually purchase the thing, I’ll post it up here.