This is not a tribute


For some reason, I feel compelled to devote time and energy to the subject of tribute bands – a niche of live music that really doesn’t normally interest me and has no relevance to me as it’s not a representation of incoming talent. With the greatest respect to these bands, as good as what they provide might be, I want to hear what the likes of Iron Witch and Zillah have got coming next, and not how good an impression of Phil Lynott a Thin Lizzy tribute act can do.

What has stirred the hornet’s nest, so to speak, is my own gullability. I was drawn in by my local rock bar, The Parish in Huddersfield, putting out a status on Facebook asking how many people liked TURBONEGRO. The post got a fair few appreciative comments with one or two people perhaps wondering and suggesting The Parish were about to announce something big. I certainly did, I’m embarrassed to say. I wish I hadn’t.
Maybe it was the fact Wheatus had just played there. Maybe it was because they’d had big acts in the last year or two. Maybe its because Turbonegro, much as I love them, haven’t had as great a profile in the last couple of years as they did around the middle of the last decade, owing to ill health and the departure of frontman Hank von Helvete…to scientology. I’m fully aware they did recruit ex-Dukes of Nothing singer Tony Sylvester to replace Hank and they’re doing the festival circuit this summer in support of new album ‘Sexual Harassment’. But I could dream. Aside from the aforementioned Wheatus, the venue had recently lured Ginger Wildheart and Fleshgod Apocalypse among its big names to perform there. Surely, surely this was going to be the epic announcement the tease suggested.
Not so. Instead, what was announced was Turbonegra, ‘the world’s number 1 all-female Turbonegro tribute!’ Several people appeared to like the announcement, others said they’d be on it in a shot. Out of respect I declined to comment further simply as I didn’t want to appear to be criticising the venue’s booking strategy (which I have no say in at all), and wasn’t intent on upsetting good friends with my brutally honest assessment.
Which is as follows: Aside from the irony of an all-female Turbonegro tribute potentially singing songs such as ‘Denim Demon’ and ‘I Got…(which I’m sure isn’t lost on them), I really don’t see the appeal. I’ve already seen the previous incarnation of Turbonegro three times, once at the Cockpit in May 2005 which I remember very well due to being on the verge of fainting from sheer sweat and heat exhaustion. That will probably be the Turbonegro experience for me that will never, ever be topped. But more importantly, the real Turbonegro are still very much active – why would I want to see a tribute act when I can wait for the real thing to come around again? And why would I want to tarnish such a memory by watching a band who, as good as they might turn out to be, will never be as good as the band they are imitating?

TURBONEGRO: THE REAL THING

Surely that’s a conundrum that most music fans that live in towns that bands don’t visit very often face. Do you save your money for the day your favourite band announces a tour within accessible reach? Or do you take a wild stab at that really similar sounding tribute act who play the area often? Who knows when Kiss will be back around town? The temptation to instead see Kiss Alive! Or Hotter Than Hell, for example, will always linger for those wanting a Kiss experience but not wanting to fork out the high prices the real Kiss charge. But again, I was lucky enough to see Kiss when they performed at Donington in 2008, an experience I will never, ever forget as long as I live. I even have the copy of the show on CD if I ever get reminiscent.

I’m not a rich guy. I’m comfortable but that’s through hard work and prudent financial sense. I’ve saved for the gigs I want to go to and more often that not, get the necessary bang for my money. I will never disrespect what bands like Turbonegra, Limehouse Lizzy, Hotter Than Hell, Slack Babbath, Motorheadache, Live/Wire et al do, and one day, my opinion may shift. But, while their heroes/heroines are still going strong, I’d rather sit back and wait. I’m not going to regret missing any tribute. I might regret it if I didn’t take my chance there and then to see the real thing live while they were in the UK, or while they were going. Fair enough if the actual band you’re aping isn’t around any more. 101% Pantera is one good example, considering the real Pantera will most likely never perform again owing to Dimebag Darrell’s death. Even then, I’d never feel desperate to want to go and see them.
Maybe I’m being a prude. Maybe I’m losing sight of the fact that a tribute band isn’t really going to make a lot of money out of their fan service, and that what they do is something they do well. Putting the effort in to be their heroes, performing to a range of spectators, not all of whom will regularly chuck themselves into a moshpit and more than likely have only the most passing of interests in rock music. More likely than that, they probably just want a good time, and who can blame them?
I’d love for people to chip in with their opinions. It’s not the most pressing of topics on a blog that is constantly championing fresh new bands. But I personally feel I needed to put it out there, because my own gullability certainly set me up for disappointment – disappointment at which I needed to vent.
Peter Clegg

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

Shining – Live Blackjazz

Shining
Live Blackjazz
Indie
Without question, Shining (NOR) were one of 2010’s top emerging bands. Although they began in 1999 (as a jazz quartet), and later embraced metal fully with 2005’s ‘In The Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster’, 2010 was the year that, for me, they truly impacted with the imperious ‘Blackjazz’. Melding black metal, jazz and more in a more intense fashion than ever before, Shining landed themselves in many people’s top albums of 2010 list way before the year had even ended. It was strange, malevolent, gonzoid and somehow cohesive.
Live Blackjazz’ isn’t a performance of that album in full, although the bulk of material from the album is present here. It compiles a full Shining performance comprising of material from that album plus older albums including ‘Kitsch’, and manages to do the rare job of doing what most live albums simply cannot, which is capture the raw, volatile energy of a band at the peak of their game. None of the craziness that manifested the studio album of the same name is lost, with frontman/saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby still screaming the ‘one three seven five’ out of ‘Fisheye’ and sounding nothing short of on the edge on the likes of ‘Madness and the Damage Done’ and ‘Exit Sun’. The closing cover of King Crimson’s ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ is just as apocalyptic as it was on ‘Blackjazz’, enhanced by its domineering live presence
If you haven’t yet checked out Shining then you really owe it to yourself to immerse yourself right away into one of the most original bands of our time. Rarely does metal lend itself to diversity as much as it does with Shining, and without question this is an opportunity to grab with both hands and ears.

Peter Clegg

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Visions: Immortal – Call of the Wintermoon

I checked out this video the other night whilst browsing other Immortal videos. After watching it, my only thought was this:

Is this shit for real?!

Seriously, watch the video and tell me this is straight up serious. ‘Cos I don’t think it is. Fire breathing, corpse paint, uber metal poses, pointy wizard hats and more! It is gleefully over the top in the way only Immortal could be, however cheesy or shite it may be. I just can’t believe I haven’t seen it before.

Peter Clegg

Review: Enslaved – The Sleeping Gods

Enslaved

The Sleeping Gods (EP)
Scion A/V

This EP was released at short notice last month as a free download, on Scion A/V, a record label division of the Scion brand of vehicles produced by Toyota for North America. Quite how Scion got into the music industry is beyond me – their brand doesn’t mean a great deal to us British or anyone else outside of that region. But despite their awkward fit, Scion A/V has been a force for metal, providing the Scion Rock Fest in America which has proved successful, and last year they put out the impressive ‘Crusher’ EP by Magrudergrind.
This brings us nicely on to Enslaved’s ‘The Sleeping Gods’, which sees Bergen’s metal masters continuing down the experimental progressive path, less than a year after releasing the magnificent ‘Axioma Ethica Odini’. The first two tracks are pretty much what you’d expect from Enslaved these days. It begins with ‘Heimvegen’, a melodic progressive number, alternating between clean and aggressive vocals, psychedelic melodies and thunderous growls. Some ominous voices close the track, which leads nicely into ‘Alu Misyrki’, the EP’s heaviest track, a real thrash-punk snarler which unexpected swoops near sludge territory just to slow things down a little, before speeding back up into that amazing riff. They throw in another slow section and a bloody great solo too for good measure. Songs like this are what the metal claw is for.
This is followed by the ambient ‘Synthesis’, which serves as a somewhat lengthy instrumental interlude. There’s some haunting voices and ambience in the mix but it feels very out of place with what came before it. Things change up again with another instrumental, ‘Nordlys’, which dabbles in post-punk with a riff not too dissimilar to Joy Division, heavies up a little with a thunderous middle section and then settles back down to fade; and then the EP morphs again with the title track, an excellent folk-laden song, mesmerizing in nature, which again combines several instruments to build up to a climactic finish. Yep, that’s it. Done.
It does feel a little thrown together but the overall quality of the tracks is such that you can’t really complain. Enslaved have again shown why they’re among the black metal elite and why they stand out so.
Peter Clegg

Tony Sylvester is the new Turbonegro vocalist!

Yesterday the incredible news was unleashed that former Dukes of Nothing frontman Tony Sylvester has joined Norwegian deathpunks Turbonegro, replacing former lead singer Hank Von Helvete. I only discovered Hank had left the band after stumbling upon his new band, Doctor Midnight and the Mercy Cult. When discovering he was described as ‘ex-Turbonegro’, I was shocked and gutted. Somehow, this news escaped me, and it let me back into momentary Turbonegro worship as I plundered through some of their finest songs – ‘Get It On’, ‘Denim Demon’, ‘Sell Your Body (To The Night)’ – damn, there’s far too many to list. I was left to mourn Hank’s departure somewhat belatedly, believing this was the end for Turbonegro, and that the Turbonegro sailor hat my wife I purchased from their merch team one incredible night in Leeds would be nothing but a memory of good times.

But now, the hat can be worn in celebration once again! I had always wondered what had happened to the Dukes of Nothing. I remember them pounding my ears the first time I heard them. ‘War & Wine’, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Fever’ – they were another damn fine British band that just disappeared not just from my radar, but everyone’s radar, it seemed. Immediately following this news, I tried to imagine Tony’s voice singing Turbonegro’s anthems, and I really, really couldn’t. Hank is one in a million, not just as a vocalist, but a performer too. Yet at the same time, I can’t imagine anyone else filling Hank’s shoes. It feels right.

Turbonegro are now expected to finally complete work on their follow-up to 2007’s ‘Retox’, although no release date has been confirmed yet. Check out Dukes of Nothing’s video for ‘War & Wine’ above and see if you think Tony measures up to the task at hand of satisfying the Turbojugend!

Peter Clegg