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

Iron Witch – Single Malt EP

Iron Witch
Single Malt EP
Witch Hunter
Since the halcyon days of Iron Monkey, the UK hasn’t really had a sludge band who’s punched their way to prominence in the same way Monkey did. The US continues to provide wave after wave of kickass sludge bands –  Eyehategod and Sourvein are still going strong, Buzzov*en are back, and newer bands like Weedeater and Thou are cranking out quality weed and hate fuelled bile. This isn’t to say the UK lacks a healthy smattering of such bands – that it does – but it’s very much a part of the underground, free of mainstream influence and continuing to manifest its nasty, swampy ways.
Now whether Iron Witch can make that leap is another matter – I’m not sure the UK rock scene’s current musical statement will permit it – but here be a band that possesses that same booze-soaked sound that ferments in so much classic American sludge, and indeed, they it with aplomb. I’m not suggesting for a minute that no other UK sludge band can provide this, and there’s plenty I could go on and recommend. But ‘Single Malt’ is a sure sign that we can do this sludge thing pretty damn well too, and make it look easy at the same time.

Hailing from Liverpool, home of The Beatles, SSS, Cilla Black and more, Iron Witch tick all the sludge boxes – epic feedback, gravelly snarl, beautiful low bass tone, thunderous drums – and their Liverpool via Louisiana approach won’t cry originality to you. But like the familiar taste of Jim Beam, the classic sludge sound is distilled and captured perfectly across these five tracks, and tastes might fine with every shot. Opener ‘A .45 To Pay The Rent’ is a game of two halves – a great grooving couple of riffs at first, followed by a sledgehammer to the head with a great slower, pounding groove. The title-track features an equally groovy, certainly torturous riff that finishes with some caustic vocals right at the end alongside a punishing chug, like a heavyweight boxing champion layering five-punch combos getting harder and harder with each advance – the finishing flurry being hook after haymaker.
‘Booze Blues’ wails to begin with as the feedback from the guitars drone into the speaker, before the bass intro ushers in a thick slow, almost hypnotic groove, no less intense but highly addictive; while ’Jailhouse’ possesses a somewhat upbeat feel about the faster riff, if not for vocalist Chris’s throaty wretch, which is just the cherry on the cake with this song. And then there’s the closer, ‘The Cruelty of Mankind’. Opening with more feedback, the Witch provide another slow riff to batter you into the corner, before speeding up into a faster groove, designed to shake the senses, before delivering the final blow with another crushing slowdown which will further dirge upon the ears.
As stated in our Worthy of Your Time feature on them, the Witch wear their influences loud and proud and what it lacks in originality is more than made up for in the sheer quality of the performance here. Those riffs and grooves made have more than a hint of Sabbathian about them, maybe even a Black Flag vibe, and vocally it’s not too dissimilar to Mike XI Williams in its whiskey-soaked snarl. But that’s more a compliment that anything detrimental, and ‘Single Malt’ certainly packs a punch. Without doubt, this is a huge statement of intent here.
Peter Clegg

Worthy of Your Time: Iron Witch

I’ve been wading plenty in the sludge and doom metal live scene for well over two years now since serving time with the ‘Dwarf, and in that time, I’ve seen plenty of evidence to show that UK sludge/doom metal isn’t just in rude health, but might actually be on the rise as well. One such band making a name for themselves in this grimy, muddy scene is one we played with recently, Iron Witch. Hailing from Liverpool, their brand of whiskey n’ booze soaked sludge tore Wakefield a new one that night and it’s likely most other venues in the UK haven’t been the same since.

The band consists of vocalist Chris, guitarists Dan and Sam, bassist Rick and drummer Will. They wear their influences proudly – Black Flag, Black Sabbath, Sleep, Eyehategod – all names synonymous with fat, grease-laden riffs in one form or another. And following in that great tradition, Iron Witch have been serving them up in spades with some Northwestern bile to relish, and have been making great strides since their 2010 demo.
They’ve just released their debut EP, ‘Single Malt’, on Witch Hunter Records, featuring cracking songs like ‘A .45 To Pay the Rent’ and ‘Booze Blues’. It’s available on a pay-what-you-want basis from their official Bandcamp page, as well as on a strictly limited-edition gatefold CD. They also recently got featured on the covermount CD of the latest American edition of Metal Hammer with ‘A .45…’, along with numerous other UK sludge bands flying the flag for grim ol’ Blighty.
We’ll have a review of ‘Single Malt’ up soon enough, for now, check out ‘A .45 to Pay the Rent’ below. Get behind these guys (and UK sludge) and get yourself covered in a real quagmire of quality 100-proof sludge metal.
Peter Clegg

Iron Witch – A .45 to Pay the Rent
Previously in this series:

Shameless Plug: Terrorizer Grindhouse Wakefield (featuring The Prophecy)

I couldn’t resist another shameless plug for my band, Poison Dwarf, especially as, due to marriage, kids, and eventual recording, it’s going to be our last show for a bit. The Snooty Fox is, for the final time we hear, hosting a Terrorizer Grindhouse event, and me and Mike (along with our bandmate, guitarist Phil) are happy to be a part of it. It features a killer doom and sludge line up with headliners The Prophecy, and support from Iron Void, Iron Witch and our good selves. It’s only a fiver in and it’s scheduled to be an early start (doors at 6:00pm, bands starting at 7:00pm). If you haven’t got plans and fancy some top quality heavy action, get yourselves down to Wakey for doom, beer and general grim times.

For those of you unable to make it, it may interest you to know that this gig will be streaming live over the internet, via The Snooty Fox’s website! This is going to be a fantastic doom/sludge show and if you can’t be there in person, you can enjoy it at your computer screen, where you can doom out with a can in your hand from your living room/bedroom/wherever you like! Although we’d love to see you in person.

Anyway, if you do wish to watch from the security of your inner sanctum, head to this very link here for around 7pm for a free live gig stream. Whether you’re there in person or behind a cyber screen, get the beers in and enjoy!

Peter Clegg

The Prophecy – Echoes
 Iron Void – Gates of Hell (live)

Iron Witch – Single Malt

Poison Dwarf – My Name Is Mud