Manchester City and the final day of the Premier League 2011-12 season: A musical analysis

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are perhaps in a country not as obsessed with football as we are, you’ll be well aware that after 44 long, painful years in the shadow of their arch-rivals across the street, after spending millions (billions?) of pounds and many other ups and downs, including a demoralising relegation to League One, Manchester City finally clinched the Premier League title by pipping the previous champions Manchester United on goal difference, courtesy of a 3-2 victory over Queens Park Rangers in which they were still losing 1-2 the 90th minute of the match. United’s 1-0 victory at Sunderland would have been enough, but City were in luck – five minutes of added time brought about by a moment of madness from QPR’s Joey Barton allowed City to finally make their tidal wave of pressure count, as goals from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero clinched City victory from the jaws of defeat.

Hard rock/metal and football don’t make very good bedfellows, unless you’re Olaf Mellberg, but as proven in this fourth musical analysis, there isn’t a subject I’m afraid to tackle with a soundtrack to the key parts of the event or incident in question. Football is indeed a game of two halves, and this particular musical analysis is no different – the first half will focus on City’s battle to become champions- and their eventual triumph; the second on Barton’s behaviour during, and post-match too.

Skindred – Pressure

[from Babylon, Lava/Bieler Bros., 2002)
It doesn’t take a genius to know that to win the Premier League title, or indeed simply to succeed at all in the Premier League, that you’ve got to endure the high stakes.  The pressure is there to see on the faces of the players, the managers, the fans. For this reason, ‘Pressure’ is an entirely appropriate song and one I won’t mind seeing played on a few more football shows. There’s one line in particular, however, that sticks out like a sore thumb – that being:
Annoying neighbours are banging on your door
Saying they can’t take your noise no more
How apt based on Sir Alex Ferguson’s now infamous comment following United’s last gasp 4-3 victory over City in September 2009, when he said: And Ferguson said: ‘Sometimes you have a noisy neighbour. You cannot do anything about that. They will always be noisy…’You just have to get on with your life, put your television on and turn it up a bit louder‘.
Skindred – Pressure (official video)


City aren’t just the noisy neighbours any more now though; they’ve positively gatecrashed their neighbours residence at the top of the Premier League pile, and their status as the current number 1 club in Manchester. United’s rich and successful history might have something to say about that, but City indeed grew tired of being the second best club in Manchester and by winning the Premier League in the fashion they showed their resilience and perhaps sent out a signal of intent to dominate for the next five-to-ten years. We’ll see, of course.

ALEX LIVESEY/GETTY IMAGES LTD

 

Fear Factory – Cyberwaste

[from Archetype, Liquid 8, 2004]
In the 59th minute of Man City‘s match with QPR, there was some sort of altercation between Joey Barton and Carlos Tevez. In my opinion, whatever Tevez did seemed minimal, and certain didn’t warrant Barton elbowing him in an off-the-ball incident. The linesman spotted it, and the referee promptly sent Barton off. Cue anarchy as Barton proceeded to knee Aguero in the leg for no apparent reason than to dead leg him or injure him. A further melee ensued, with Barton then squaring up and possibly attempting to headbutt City defender Vincent Kompany, and as he left the pitch, exchanged words (and nothing more) with resident City bad boy Mario Balotelli. Luckily for him, QPR managed to retain their Premier League status, despite ending up relying on results elsewhere in spite of an heroic ten man effort.

City’s title triumph ought to ensured that remained an ugly footnote but it undoubtedly became a talking point for many, and Barton, who not too long ago self-exiled himself from Twitter, rejoined the social networking site airing his views and rejecting any criticism flying his way. Initially trying to excuse his actions by tweeting: ‘Still not my proudest moment but who gives a fuck, we are safe……….and that is all that matters‘, and, ‘The head was never gone at any stage, once I’d been sent off, one of our players suggested I should try to take 1 of theirs with me…‘. Personally I’m not sure how true that last comment is. There were literally seconds between the red card and the knee he inexplicably planted into Aguero’s thigh.

He then went ahead and went toe to toe with Blackburn and Newcastle legend Alan Shearer and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker on the service with more pearls of wisdom. When Lineker put it to him suggesting only Barton would still consider himself ‘misunderstood’, Barton retorted: ‘do you wanna go there publicly “Mr Squeaky Clean” ? Think u should have a look in that vast closet of skeletons before u respond‘…’now back under your stone you odious little toad
And then at Shearer’s criticism, after acknowledging Shearer’s playing career:
But I have a better hair(which is not hard), wear well better shirts on TV and have a personality(something u lack)‘.
Unfortunately Joey, that personality appears to be that of a bonehead who can’t accept even the tiniest bit of criticism that comes his way. Well Joey, here’s one more bit of negativity to chew on: I have better hair. I have well better grammar.
Seriously though, the man has shown his true colours here. I can’t deny that Barton is a decent player, and on his day is extremely difficult to play against. But he’s always one incident from the tripswitch. And it seems the justified criticism that came his way on Twitter was nothing but trigger after trigger, which Barton could only respond to with all the finesse of a glorified troll.
Fear Factory – Cyberwaste (official video)

Granted, Fear Factory’s ‘Cyberwaste’ is actually a song more aimed as a barb at internet trolls who critique negatively from the safe haven that is their bedroom, and indeed those who purportedly spread lies about Fear Factory and Burton C. Bell. But certain lyrics within the song represent how one might feel about Barton’s Twitter image and the man. For instance:
‘Speak your worthless point of view
A cog in the machine
Your damn words are straight up lies
Continue to deceive’
I’m not saying Barton is a barefaced liar, because there’s nothing to dispute his interest in artistic culture, or The Smiths and whatever else. Just that this image seems a fallacy now in light of his surly online attitude. Joey Barton might wish to paint himself as a changed man, an intellectual among his peers who are often portrayed as not the brightest on occasion. What unfolded on the pitch and then off the pitch on Sunday 13th May pretty much ruined whatever the mainstream media had bought into about this man.
And I know, I’m no different firing barbs at Barton from behind a monitor. But it’s a commentary at the end of the day, from a rock and metal journalist lampooning a national mainstream story. It’s just a shame that Barton seems to be obsessed with getting people’s attention. We ought to learn to turn a blind eye, at least until he’s actually willing to maturely back up his criticisms and his actions. Because as the song goes, Mr. Barton, ‘Nothing you say matters to us‘.
Advertisements

Steak Number Eight – Dickhead

This is one of the most fun videos I’ve come across in a while. Not quite the most bonkers, but still. This delightfully titled track from sludgy Belgian rockers Steak Number Eight has come to my attention as these guys have received some kind press attention in the UK through one or two metal publications – although when you’re doing videos like this in this day and age you’re bound to get noticed.

It features a bunch of animal mascots pursuing a heinous banana who seems intent on pranking his chasers as a means of escape. That includes slinging turds at them. The mucky pup. In any event, it’s a chuckle and certainly one that keeps your attention. The lyrics are slightly brainless but there’s an undeniable quality to the song thanks to its riffage which I feel improves as the song progresses towards its final moments.
I must say as well, it’s really hard to believe that this band has an average age of just 18! Lyrics to this song aside, they sound really mature for their age, a notion I haven’t had since I first clapped ears on Decapitated in 2002. You’re sure to be hearing more about these guys in future.
More info on the band can be found at their official site.
Peter Clegg

Ufomammut – Oro: Opus Primum

Ufomammut

Oro: Opus Primum
Neurot
Ufomammut’s sound defies any natural explanation of doom. Intrinsically the core elements are there, the body hammer riffs, the booming drums, the thick sludgy grooves. The ethereal vocals, the spacey effects and the mystery with the band serve to convolute matters. Not that’s it’s a bad thing – everyone loves a bit of mystery. And then there’s their lofty ambition to stand out from the rest of the pack. Be this their collaboration with Malleus to provide their stunning visuals or the concepts they employ, and you can see why Steve Von Till was keen to make them an addition to the Neurot family. Following on from the success of ‘Eve’, Ufomammut’s next step is to unleash a two-part opus entitled ‘Oro‘. The first of those parts ‘Opus Primum‘, has dropped like a proverbial atom bomb, and even the highest of expectations for the new relationship between Neurot and Ufomammut have been blown away thus far.
Oro: Opus Primum‘ consists of five epic, sonically-charged tracks that elevate Ufomammut to even newer heights. The opener ‘Empireum’ slowly builds with an almost alien-synth noise that slowly echoes across the initial hum, the melody of which returns in different forms across the album. Eventually it kicks in with some fine sludge jamming, but things really go up a gear on ‘Aureum’, with a fabulous sludge groove that shifts around the 4:15 mark leads to a cracking groove and encounters many more twists and turns before it’s finally done. From there its reaches a sense of triumphalism, with the soaring ‘Infearnatural’, the thick low end slurry counterpointed by bassist Urlo’s majestic, entrancing voice as it starts. If you ain’t drawn in by that rare vocal moment, then I honestly don’t know what will. The lack of vocals don’t hinder Ufomammut whatsoever, but when they do use them, as they do on this song, they deliver. That spooky melody does indeed return at the beginning of ‘Magickon’, providing a nice set-up, and a fitting one at that, for closer ‘Mindomine’, which the melody plays out in full riff form, bringing about the experience full circle. 
Ufomammut – Aureum
The progression is such that it could be presented as one individual track – as previously indicated, riffs, sequences and lines are echoed at various points in the record, not unlike Meshuggah’s ‘Catch Thirty-Three‘ or, more recently and more closely, Mike Patton’s soundtrack for ‘The Solitude of Prime Numbers‘. It gives ‘Opus Primum‘ a cinematic feel almost, something in keeping with their audio/visual collaborative, and it makes it all the more interesting for it. Indeed, the vinyl versions of the record come with a DVD with the visuals for the album, an experience at this stage I can only anticipate to be mindblowing. The tracks certainly stand up alone, but it’s in its entirety that ‘Oro: Opus Primum‘ truly excels.
I kept my expectations well in check for this release, even given Ufomammut’s previous successes, but this is seriously a bar raiser for doom metal in 2012, and I really can’t help but wonder and anticipate what ‘Oro: Opus Alter‘ might bring when it is released in September.
Peter Clegg

XII Boar – Split Tongue, Cloven Hoof

XII Boar

Split Tongue, Cloven Hoof
Self-released
Last year we reviewed Hampshire sludge rockers XII Boar and identified a band with work to do, but with plenty of potential. Now they’re back with ‘Split Tongue, Cloven Hoof’, another four tracks of raw power that signify a huge step up from the band.
Anyone not familiar with XII Boar will quickly realise this is a band that enjoys a good time and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Kicking off with the excellent ‘Smokin’ Bones’, the track begins as a bluesy rocker underpinned by an excellent bass groove, before going right into overdrive with a searing guitar solo and a balls-out thrashy section that even caught me by surprise, before settling back down to their blues groove with a ‘FUCK YEAH!’. That track alone exudes pure attitude and ‘Hellspeed Viper’ follows it up with more hammering riffs including a thunderous, sludge showdown halfway through.
Perhaps the centrepiece of this EP is third track ‘Slamhound’. Starting with an excellent sample from now defunct TV series Deadwood, from that point it gets straight into some good-time dirty boogie metal with a tremendous ‘fuck you’ solo sandwiched in the middle. Its part of the reason I’m finding it hard to put this EP down lately, because it kicks so much rear end its unreal. I wouldn’t say there’s a weak spot with this record at all, although ‘Triclops’ doesn’t stick in my head as much as the other tracks – that’s not to dispute its quality at all, though, a straight up metal beast as worthy of the monster it refers to.
If we did a most-improved of 2012 award, XII Boar would surely have to be in the running. ‘XII‘ was good but ‘Split Tongue, Cloven Hoof‘ represents a serious improvement for the trio. If only we could drown in their pool of beer, tattoos, women and galloping stoner grooves. This is the most feel-good slab of metal we’ve seen in a while, and it’d be an injustice for this party if it didn’t grow in size and stature.
Peter Clegg

Feist/Mastodon – Black Tongue/A Commotion 7"

Feist/Mastodon
‘Feistodon’: Black Tongue/A Commotion

Warner Bros.
I just thought I’d add my two pennies on this given that despite not attending Record Store Day (due to personal responsibilities, not lack of support for the cause), I have managed to listen to this limited release 7″ that caused quite a commotion (pun very much intended) building up to its release, not least because of the unlikely connection between Canadian songstress Feist and Atlanta, Georgia metal titans Mastodon, which developed following their respective appearances at the same recording of the Jools Holland Show last year.
Having pledged to work on a release together, the respective parties managed to squeeze in a split 7″ release into their extremely busy schedules, each artist cover one track from one another’s back catalogue – Feist choosing to cover ‘Black Tongue’ from Mastodon’s ‘The Hunter‘, and Mastodon selecting ‘A Commotion’ from Feist’s ‘Metals‘.
I wasn’t a great fan of Feist before ‘Feistodon’ came along and that won’t change with this release. That ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ song irked the hell out of me, no thanks to Apple, but she is undoubtedly a talented singer/songwriter who is worthy of the acclaim that comes her way. Some positive comments have come her way regarding her cover of ‘Black Tongue’, which I unfortunately must disagree with. Vocally she does a good job, creating something of a dark, haunting effect in the process. I fully expected her version of the song to not come crashing over the hills in the fashion that Mastodon do, but the arrangement of the song in this instance does nothing for me. It seems too disjointed if anything, a valiant attempt to turn the song into an electro-rock lurker, only to judder too much over its course.
By contrast, Mastodon, no stranger to covers and indeed to Record Store Day, do an incredible job of making ‘A Commotion’ their own. I can see why they chose it – out of the Feist material I’ve heard to date this one fits them the best – and the result is something that honestly wouldn’t sound amiss on one of their later records. It quietly builds up with just the chug of the guitar and quietly spoken vocals. When Brann Dailor pounds a thunderous roll, it begins to feel like a proper Mastodon song, bearing Mastodon’s signature power chords. The only grumble is that the chorus suddenly concludes the song – that works for Feist’s version but on this particular cover, it feels like there’s something missing, like it ends too soon.
Nonetheless, this was an interesting experiment and a welcome one at that from these two unlikely collaborators. My personal take is that it’s not the wholly amazing 7″ I perhaps expected. At the end of the day, it’s not something to judge the artist’s by’ more a show of fan appreciation, support for the record industry, and a display of risk taking. In a day and age where risk is rarely rewarded and uniformity is depressingly the norm, it’s a refreshing signal to see artists from two different walks step a little out of their comfort zone.

Peter Clegg

Black Breath – Sentenced to Life

Black Breath

Sentenced to Life
Southern Lord
Seattle’s hardcore thrashers Black Breath have whipped up such a frenzy in the last two or three years after unleashing ‘Razor to Oblivion‘ and debut album ‘Heavy Breathing‘, while touring the blue hell out of both of them. Such is the fervour generated in this short space of time has inevitably led to ‘Sentenced to Life‘ becoming one of 2012’s most anticipated albums, but at the same time it’s anticipation that should be tempered with caution. No doubt there are still a few people sniping with the ‘Entombed-lite’ tag, not just at Black Breath, but at the entire hardcore/d-beat movement that has recently been forged with huge backing, particularly from Southern Lord. And the surprise that Black Breath caught people with on ‘Heavy Breathing‘ is no longer that. I hate to refer to that ‘difficult second album’ cliché, but it’s true.
Thankfully, Black Breath avoid any major pitfalls on album number two, and ‘Sentenced to Life‘, while largely more of the same as their back catalogue, is still is good thirty-odd minutes to let loose and bang your head to. The opener ‘Feast of the Damned’ has a nice drum and vocal chant of ‘my flesh, my blood, you’re dead, Feast of the Damned!‘ That is just one of many of the album’s highlights, which reveal themselves more upon repeated listens. ‘Home of the Grave’ has all the potential as a lead single from the album to propel the band into bigger leagues, while tracks like ‘Of Flesh’ see the band absolutely on fire with a full on death-metal blastbeat interjecting the track part way through. Conversely, ‘Obey’ is the band’s longest track to date, beginning with a creepy spoken word intro and leading to a slow burner mixing Black Breath’s dark riffage and intensity with a tremendous rock n’ roll solo towards the end.


Black Breath – Home of the Grave (official video)
There are more signature moments on the album but they’re too numerous to get into. I would advise people to give this album at least a couple of listens though – it didn’t hit me straight away like their initial releases, but it’s not a difficult album to get into at all, essentially just press play and headbang. Eventually you will observe the progress made by the band since ‘Heavy Breathing’, however subtle or however hastily-written this album apparently was. The result is still unmistakably Black Breath, reaffirming their status as one of the best new bands of the last few years. Obey.
Peter Clegg

Overkill – The Electric Age

Overkill

The Electric Age
Nuclear Blast
Within many walks of life, age is seen as a potential barrier to any further progress or indeed success. Within music and indeed heavy metal, it couldn’t be any more the opposite. Showing absolutely no signs of letting up even as they get well into their fifties, New Jersey thrashers Overkill have unleashed sixteenth album ‘The Electric Age‘ to the masses, off the back of the incredibly well-received and thoroughly awesome ‘Ironbound‘, which no question was a huge shot in the arm for the band which arrived just as the thrash revival began to run out of steam. 
 
The Electric Age‘ continues off the excellent work on ‘Ironbound‘, with opening pair ‘Come and Get It’ and ‘Electric Rattlesnake’ full of sneering attitude, trademark Overkill shred and cracking vocals, led respectively by bassist D.D. Verni and vocalist Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth. The latter of those songs is one I’m still listening to over and over again for weeks; it’s so infectious as it bounds into the chorus, Blitz singing: ‘More,  than you can take/make no mistake/I’m an electric rattlesnake‘. Elsewhere, the New Jersey guys demonstrate impressive variation to straight ahead thrashing, with the blues-thrash of ‘Black Daze’ and the melodicism of ‘Drop the Hammer Down’, a thrash/heavy metal anthem like the days of old, yet at no point does the proverbial electricity in their sound let up.
Overkill – Electric Rattlesnake (official video)

The Electric Age‘ is certainly a must-have album for any thrash fan and any self-respecting metal fan in particular, although I’m personally of the disposition that this doesn’t quite match the lofty standard set by ‘Ironbound‘, which was arguably up there with the glories of ‘Feel the Fire‘ and ‘Horrorscope‘. Where its predecessor was lifted by the energisation of the recent thrash metal revival, ‘The Electric Age’ is more a continuation of their recent fine fettle, with one or two tracks that don’t quite do it for me in quite the same way.

Crucially though, it still kicks a hell of a lot of ass, and you won’t find a thrash metal band who wears that badge on their sleeve more than Overkill. They’re not pandering to trends, or retro worshipping, instead just ploughing ever forward with the searing heads down, play hard, thrash harder mentality that has embodied them their whole career. Bands half their age or younger would struggle to keep up with Overkill on this form, and it feels as though there’s nothing that could possibly stop them at the moment. Can the young whippersnappers keep up with Overkill? Can you, the listener, keep up? This is Overkill’s invitation to bang your head – better late than never. As the opening track says, ‘come and get it!
Peter Clegg