Suicidal Tendencies – 13

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Suicidal Tendencies
13
Suicidal

Amidst all the hoohah, hype and hurrah over Black Sabbath’s ‘13‘, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the fact that crossover legends Suicidal Tendencies have too released their thirteenth album. While they have faded from the major picture, Suicidal never really went away, and are still highly celebrated wherever they tour. But on record, they seem to have never hit the heights they achieved in the 80’s and early 90’s and it had been a while since they recorded any new original material. Roughly 13 years, in fact, despite a slew of split album releases along the way. Still, somewhere inside, ST have to consider whether indeed they’re ‘Still Cyco After All These Years‘.

‘Shake It Out’, the opening track, begins with Mike Muir introducing himself as ‘Cyco Miko’ and ‘a maniac’. The rest of the track itself is a little by numbers, though certainly catchy in some respects. Things shift up a gear with the shredding ‘Smash It’, a bruising encounter which takes up the shred and slam gauntlet well and truly. From then on in ’13’ rides on a series of sublime lead riffs, courtesy of Muir’s Infectious Grooves cohort Dean Pleasants, occasional funk forays and Muir’s rallying verbal and sometimes philosophical musings. The riffs keep rolling (‘Who’s Afraid?’) and the invitations to party continue to be posted (‘Slam City’). By the end, things get positively uplifting, if only in a musical sense, with the funk-infused ‘Life (Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It)’ and the climactic closer ‘This World’, which reaches its crescendo behind a superb lead riff and Muir’s call of ‘This world don’t deserve my love‘. Its a thoroughly triumphant and defiant way to finish, as though all those who doubted whether Suicidal still had the goods really matter at all. Indeed, not a single fuck was given – even if this was to be a last hurrah, or a flailing haymaker from a former heavyweight champion in the 12th round, ‘13‘ lands the knockout blow in stunning fashion, a resounding riposte, and therefore an album entirely deserving of your eardrums. True, it’s not quite a return to the halcyon days of the 80’s and early 90’s, but ST remain just as relevant now as they were way back when.

Peter Clegg

Suicidal Tendencies – Smash It!

Buy ‘13‘ here

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Civil Protection – The Lines are Drawn EP

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Civil Protection
The Lines are Drawn EP

Primarily based in West Yorkshire, but with their roster spread across the United Kingdom, Civil Protection proclaim a wide range of influences that form the basis for their debut EP ‘The Lines are Drawn’, and on that count they don’t undersell themselves. Beginning with ‘Anticitizen’, a slightly straight up groove-rock stomper, the band spread their wings far more broadly during the remainder of this release, laying on heavy electronic and post-rock influence.

Civil Protection are certainly aiming for a big stage – this is a big sound after all; the title track really feels to be calling out to the horizon with a less percussive drive and a more expansive ambience, as vocalist/programmer Adam Fielding shows off his impressive vocal talents. The percussion is certainly minimalist to an extent, with only the occasional drive to push the song onwards like a ship carefully navigating an ocean storm. The closing ‘A Quiet Night’ offers more of the same, although with more backbeat, pushing the emotional, atmospheric band to the front again.

Though I wasn’t initially taken with the release, it is certainly a bit of a grower, and fans of Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Mogwai, etc. will all find something to like about this, and the band certainly are capable of being able to make a step up to the bigger stage with future releases on this evidence, with plenty of room for their sound to develop even further. This is available as a free download if you wish, but for the sum of £1 you can have an additional bonus track, an acoustic version of ‘A Quiet Night’.

Peter Clegg

Buy/Download ‘The Lines are Drawn’ here (name-your-price)
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Cape Canaveral – Scrapbook

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Cape Canaveral
Scrapbook

This week, Kerrang! magazine is running an article about ‘The amazing untold story’ of emo, featuring the bands who rebelled for a generation, yadayada. While Kerrang! aren’t specifically to blame for the ruination of the genre, they are fallible, in my eyes, in their evident failure to support the UK underground during the genre’s promising growth, an untold story in itself. What would a bit of national pride done for a band like Cape Canaveral, who recently released ‘Scrapbook‘, a collection of their material released during their active years between 1998-2006. You may have caught them live supporting the likes of Hundred Reasons, The Copperpot Journals, Garrison and more besides. There were probably many other factors at work that caused them never to get that break, as with so many bands below the surface.

Still, ‘Scrapbook‘ is a fantastic reminder of the true spirit of emo, bearing all the hallmarks of its classic 90’s/early 00’s era, with a sound often compared to acts such as Buffalo Tom, Mineral, Sunny Day Real Estate and indeed, comparable to Jimmy Eat World too. The first half of this compilation is fantastic stuff, and not half a reminder of the sound that accompanied my teenage years, my initial forays into rock and metal. Tracks such as ‘The Way Home (Homesick Song) and ‘Martian’ show a real drive that existed about this band, and ‘The Last Song Ever’ is the emo anthem that never was, with the line ‘you can call it sorrow/you can call it what you want/cos I don’t give a damn any more‘.

I can’t say my enthusiasm holds for every track, as the odd track doesn’t do anything for me in any sort of reactionary sense. But at least Cape Canaveral were never in the process of following the dilution of the genre, and in a style so heavy on feelings and confession, they were as honest as anyone in the business, and for the most part, ‘Scrapbook’ is a collection of a talented band not fully realised.

The UK used to be awash with these bands, substance over style, not the other way around. If emo had a return to its roots, maybe I could overlook its porous image. This is a free release, and though I kind of grew out of this scene and admittedly railed against its metamorphosis, I wouldn’t mind a return to these halcyon days. I’m sure you wouldn’t too. So go check it out, and stop by the band’s MySpace page too, which is still open with a blog section chronically their journey, the praise they received and more. Those days of past are worth reliving.

Peter Clegg

Download ‘Scrapbook‘ here
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Biffy Clyro – Opposites

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Biffy Clyro
Opposites
14th Floor

If you’re a true fan of underground British rock, then Biffy Clyro have to be one of its biggest success stories. Three albums in with a huge underground following, they signed up to the majors and made the transition to the wider mainstream with relative ease, sacrificing a little, but not all, of their proggy, angular style , finally becoming household names along the way. It’s been an incredible ride, so without question this is the most anticipated Biffy Clyro album yet. The coming-up-on-the-rails success of ‘Puzzle’ and ‘Only Revolutions’, in addition to sold-out stadium shows and even a Mercury Music Prize nomination for the latter of those two albums, as well as that annoying fucker who maimed ‘Many of Horror’, destined for supermarket aisles everywhere, has done nothing to deflect attention away from arguably the UK’s biggest rock band right now. And before this review was published, it became the band’s first number one album since their inception.

The first CD, dubbed ‘The Sand at the Core of our Bones‘, charts the negative of Biffy’s unstoppable rise over the last few years, and is by and large excellent, though the forays into stadium style anthems with the title produced mixed results – initially ‘Different People’, the opening track, gives off the impression of a band listening to their fair share of Jesu before diving into the sound we’re used to. The angular rock flourishes are still there on the likes of ‘Sounds Like Balloons’, and there are huge choruses aplenty in that track and the now familiar ‘Black Chandelier’, though stuff like the title track are a little hard to stomach for its cringy foray into lighter rock. Still, the frankly huge ‘The Thaw’ is proof they can get this megastar thing right if they hit the right formula – fair enough it’s boosted by a big orchestra but it sounds fecking massive, and even the hardened metalhead in me found this strangely irresistible.

Biffy Clyro – Stingin’ Belle

The second CD, ‘The Land at the End of Our Toes‘ is more of a mixed bag. We should all have heard ‘Stingin’ Belle’ by now, and it feels like a genuine successor to ‘The Captain’, with the rallying call of bagpipes heralding the opening to the second half. As it wears on, it becomes evident this is the superior side of the album, through its more positive approach, with the more traditional Biffy-sounds of ‘Modern Magic Formula’ and ‘Woo Woo’, the mariachi rock of ‘Spanish Radio’, and the slow waltz/stomp of ‘Trumpet or Tap’. It’s by no means perfect, but the majority of the second side is an uplifting force majeure, executed succinctly by the biggest thing to emerge from Kilmarnock since the Killie Pie.

I wouldn’t dare call this Biffy’s finest album, not compared to the band’s underground era, and ‘Only Revolutions‘ was such an incredible album it was always to be a challenge to top that. My opinion of course, but outselling the competition is a serious statement that says this band haven’t yet peaked, in one sense at least. And while the jagged, angular days of old resonate only with those who truly can hark back to the early days of the phrase ‘Mon the Biffy!‘, there’s still enough of their integrity intact to show they haven’t sacrificed everything they forged to get to where they are, even though the compromises get larger with each release. I’m probably not the only who feels this may have worked better as two separate albums as well, given how tiring ‘Opposites‘ can feel when played front to back.

But for all its narks, it’s niggles, it’s flaws and fault lines, ‘Opposites‘ is still an all around great album, a textbook and occasionally daring approach that is all the more certain to cement Biffy’s place on the throne of British rock for some time to come.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Opposites‘ here

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Tomahawk – Oddfellows

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Tomahawk
Oddfellows
Ipecac

After his exploits in the Faith No More reunion and his increasing forays into left-field genres such as Italian big band, movie soundtracks and the like, it’s refreshing to see Mike Patton return to the relatively saner Tomahawk, which was his first post-FNM project following his most famous band’s initial demise. Following the heavily Native American-inspired ‘Anonymous’, he and his co-conspirators Duane Denison (Jesus Lizard), John Stanier (Helmet), and now regular Patton collaborator Trevor Dunn, moving in on bass in place of original member Kevin Rutmanis, have returned with a new album much more reminiscent of Tomahawk’s original style and with arguably Patton’s most straight ahead project for years.

Still, though its more restrained than the aforementioned ‘Anonymous’ for experimentation, ‘Oddfellows’ still sees a band willing to push the boat out despite being much more accessible this time around. The mesmerising title-track leads off with a sludgy stomp building to a classic Patton refrain, and the lead single ‘Stone Letter’, which wouldn’t sound amiss from the latter FNM-era. The album continues along a path of quiet-loud aesthetics (‘The Quiet Few’, ‘Choke Neck’ to name a couple), forays into jazz rock (‘Rise Up Muddy Waters’), back alley blues (‘Baby Let’s Play), sinister pop (the fantastic ‘I.O.U’.), and for the most part excels, though it sometimes sells the listener short, as on ‘I Can Almost See Them’, when the build-up leads to pretty much nothing but the next song.

In any event, anyone who was disappointed five years ago will generally be pleased to see Tomahawk return to the modus operandi established on their first two albums, and that they’re largely in good shape. ‘Oddfellows’ is certainly one of the more intriguing rock albums I’ve heard of late – despite its apparent restraint, it still draws from the best bits of Mr. Bungle, Fantomas and indeed Tomahawk’s back catalogue and turns them into something standout within the rock universe in 2013.

Peter Clegg

Tomahawk – Stone Letter

Buy ‘Oddfellows’ here

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Best albums of 2012

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We’ve finally reached the end of 2012, and my has it been a blast. The greatest year in the UK’s sporting history. A supposed prophecy that was never realised. A glorious year for rock and metal and all its various forms.

The music this year has been so exceptional that its been harder than ever deciding on the final ten. As such, honourable mentions must go to the following:

Ginger – 555% (Round/Pledge Music)
Dope Body – Natural History (Drag City)
Eagle Twin – The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale (Southern Lord)
Burning Love – Rotten Thing to Say (Southern Lord)
Every Time I Die – Ex Lives (Epitaph)
Napalm Death – Utilitarian (Century Media)

All of which are records which you should check out, if you haven’t already, and they only missed the final cut by a whisker. Damn, if 2013 is better than this we will truly be spoilt.

Without further ado, we present our top ten albums of the year.

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10. Deftones – Koi No Yokan (Warner Bros)

The Sacramento crew continue to impress on album number seven, despite, for me, not reaching the stratospheric heights of ‘Diamond Eyes’ on this occasion. From start to finish its another wildly esoteric ride reaching soaring heights and dark depths, creating a new set of anthems that Deftones fans will sure echo throughout cavernous arenas well into 2013 and beyond. Tracks such as ‘Romantic Dreams’, ‘Entombed’ and ‘Tempest’ are absolutely lush, and there’s not many bands these days who can create the level of atmosphere around a song like Deftones can. There’s simply no stopping them right now. 

 

wpid-898529953-1.jpg9. Krallice – Years Past Matter (self-released) 

In a year which has seen Felix Baumgartner skydive from the stratosphere, and in a year where Voyager 1 is reached the interstellar medium, I have wondered what soundtrack would best embody a human odyssey into the far outer reaches of space. And no, I’m not talking about the Voyager Golden Record. Now a human venture going that far is not likely to happen in our time, our offspring’s time, or the next generation, or the next generation…but if it did, and we can preserve a vinyl pressing of Krallice’s ‘Years Past Matter’, then that voyage will go beyond anything what even Carl Sagan imagined. Maybe that’s an overexaggeration. But still, ‘Years’ is without question Krallice’s finest vision yet, where all out speed subsides slightly to a more bombastic and expansive approach. The artwork alone should tell you what a vast journey this is, and it doesn’t disappoint, whether it’s the propulsion into the interstellar void (‘IIIIIIIII’) or the thrilling closing 16-minute epic (‘IIIIIIIIIIII’).

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8. Gorod – A Perfect Absolution (Listenable)

I was perhaps one of the few slightly disappointed by French tech-deathers Gorod’s previous album ‘Process of a New Decline’, so I was particularly impressed by the results shown on ‘A Perfect Absolution’. Don’t mistake their inclusion in their list for one of mere marked improvement, because Gorod have never lacked the quality – there’s just something about this album in particular that had real oomph. In a year where people went nuts for The Faceless’ ridiculous aping of more celebrated progressive greats, Gorod put on a technical masterclass in death metal, knowing when to bring on bursts of speed, when to usher in groove phases, even shaking with a bit of flamenco that won’t have gone amiss to, say Athiest or Cynic. All with excellent skill and precision. Lyrically, it all centres on 10th Century Kiev. Jolly good! All in all Gorod ought to be a bigger name in these circles, and it’s their noticeable inclusion on next year’s Bonecrusher Fest (with Job for a Cowboy) that has got me excited for 2013 already.

wpid-Converge-All-We-Love-We-Leave-Behind-album-cover.jpg7. Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph) 

After the guest-laden ‘Axe to Fall’, which for my liking didn’t fire on all cylinders, Converge returned with the excellent ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’ to the widespread critical acclaim they’re surely used to by now. A searing block of molten anger, despair and reflection, the desperate on-the-edge approach to their craft is what continues to set Converge apart from everyone else. I truly felt like I’d gone seven rounds with Ballou, Newton and co after the first three tracks, and how the rest of the album developed delivered knockout punch after knockout punch, even during the ocean drift of ‘Coral Blue’. A superb record from a band still unashamedly as energetic as when they began. Youngsters, take note.

 

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6. Ufomammut – Oro: Opus Primum (Neurot) 

High things were expected of Ufomammut following their switch to Neurot Recordings, and boy oh boy oh boy oh boy did they deliver. Many people seem to prefer the second, slightly leaner part of ‘Oro’ – ‘Opus Alter’ – to ‘Opus Primum’, but for me, the longer, more intense ‘Primum’ is the power element of this couple. Every thick groove oozes through swathes of abstract elements, spoken words and psychedelic trips, further empowered by the band’s visual collaborators, Malleus whose images made ‘Oro’ even more hypnotizing. The album’s third track, ‘Infearnatural’, is particularly embodying of this description, where guitarist Urlo delivers an echoey chant before landing back into the sweet, slow, crushing doom groove. By far the most inebriating ride of the year, ‘Oro’, and in particular ‘Opus Primum’, not only lived up to the hype; it squashed it flat too!

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5. Neurosis – Honor Found In Decay (Neurot)

An album I got around to too late to publish a full review for before the turn of the year, but undoubtedly deserving of its spot on this list. Scott Kelly has immersed himself in numerous projects since the last Neurosis album, ‘Given to the Rising’, and especially so in the last year; but none is more immersive and rewarding as his main band’s latest. Everyone’s got their own take on the best Neurosis album, and while I don’t rate this as high as, say ‘Enemy of the Sun’, its still pretty darn close to their best – and that is leagues above many other bands’ best. An enthralling journey through darkness and doom, ambience and hush, there’s many a fine moment to behold – ‘My Heart in Deliverance’ in particular stands out as one of the songs of the year, not just the album itself. As always, completely encapsulating.

Woods of Ypres - Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light4. Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light (Earache)

It was the album that was supposed to launch Woods of Ypres towards the mainstream, a new beginning. The tragic accident that took singer and founder David Gold’s life at 31 means not only a premature termination of a potentially commercially successful band, but that ‘Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light‘ feels like more than just another album. It’s doomy metal with a few less of the black metal pervading their sound on previous releases touches, but with songwriting and musicianship par excellance. Throughout the fragility of life and its tipping point into death are lyrically displayed, with a sadly prophetic feel to it all. But what a final album to end on, with tracks such as the slightly tongue-in-cheek ‘Career Suicide (Is Not Real Suicide)’ and the poignant funeral march of ‘Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)’ showcasing exactly how great a loss Gold is to metal in general.

wpid-Between-the-Buried-and-Me-Parallax-II.jpg3. Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence (Metal Blade)

The juggernaut that is Between the Buried and Me shows no sign of slowing down, now on their seventh album barely into their thirties. And if ‘The Parallax II: Future Sequence’ is anything to go, then they’re maturing very well indeed. Those Pink Floydian-tendencies seem stronger than ever in the quintet, as ‘Parallax II’ is a space-opera deluxe from start to finish, continuing the story that began on 2011’s ‘Parallax I: Hypersleep Dialogues’ EP. Every second is thoroughly compelling, twisting through dream-like melodies, frenetic riff-fests, ambience, blastbeats, and those oddball moments which you’re either a fan of or not. I fall firmly in the first category. Everything truly comes together on this record, with ‘Silent Night Parliament’ and the reprise of ‘Goodbye to Everything’ being a fitting epic finale worthy of stadiums, not clubs. A wonderful album set in glorious spaaaaaaaaaace. 

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2. High on Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis (E1 Music)

2012 was in many ways the year of Pike – specifically for his recorded ventures and rereleased material, if not specifically the spell in rehab from which he has emerged victorious. Pike’s pre-HoF band Sleep were being celebrated by the rerelease of ‘Dopesmoker’, and indeed the early HoF days were being relived through the rerelease of ‘The Art of Self Defense’, but if ‘De Vermis Mysteriis’ showed anything, it was that Pike and his crew are more than capable of recreating that superb form. Previous High on Fire Records have ranged from anything to brilliant, to…well, alright I suppose. ‘De Vermis Mysteriis’ was something else. The most varied HoF record yet, it drew heavily on the fictional grimoire authored by Robert Block and picked up by H.P. Lovecraft, styled on an idea Pike derived about the Immaculate Conception and time travel, and featured many a centrepiece moment, whether the Jeff Matz-led instrumental ‘Samsara’, so evocative of the great Cliff Burton, or the truly majestic ‘King of Days’, one of Pike’s finest vocal performances to date. The traditional power drive of the band is always present, but the varied approach to their latest record makes it their most essential since ‘Blessed Black Wings’.

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1. Panopticon – Kentucky (Handmade Birds/Pagan Flames)

We already saw evidence in 2011 of US black metal coming to the fore with acts like Wolves in the Throne Room providing undeniably transcending moments and Liturgy shaking things up with their divisive take on the genre, along with the Krallices and Nachtmystiums of America doing very well indeed. This year, it has further aged into a fine creature, showing it is capable once again of further breaking any shackles that confined the genre. No one act – or indeed, one man – showed that more than Austin Lunn, aka A. Lundr, aka Panopticon, on the breathtaking fourth album ‘Kentucky’. 

Folk and metal may not be unusual bedfellows any more, but to take a further strain of folk, bluegrass, and to attempt to meld it to black metal is daring by anyone’s standards. To truly pull it off requires a masterstroke. Lunn does that, and so much more. It’s the ultimate love letter to his home state, from the two bluegrass instrumentals that bookend the album, every bit as beautiful and evocative of the images of Blenheim Forest contained in the vinyl releases, to his depiction of the issues that Kentucky struggled with through its history – the massacre of Cherokee Indian women and children at Ywahoo Falls (‘Bodies Under The Falls’), and in the main, the story of the toil, the uprising, and the demise of coal miners in the 1930s. The heavy songs appear between the traditional miner songs that are covered here, and you’d be a soulless individual not to want to sing along to ‘Which Side Are You On’. It absolutely nails the passion of the miners in that time period – partly achieved through samples – but more to the point, it becomes utterly flooring. The sprawling ‘Killing the Giants as they Sleep’ combines with a truly haunting rendition of ‘Black Waters’ that will emotionally drain you, leaving just the title track jam to pick you back up as the credits roll.

Its testament to Lunn’s ability as a multi-instrumentalist that he doesn’t sound sloppy at all, not on one single instrument. He can match any extreme drummer for speed and ability, adds a hardcore-esque buzz to those guitars that distinguish it just slightly Panopticon’s sound away from traditional black metal, and the flute that he plays over the top of the heavier tracks completely works, every time. Admittedly, this heavy brew won’t be for everyone, and no doubt there’s some smug so-and-so’s out there who won’t be able to get off their elitist pedestals long enough to truly appreciate this. Their loss. ‘Kentucky’ is unquestionably the boldest statement of creativity in 2012, a fantastic snapshot of the Bluegrass state, of how far metal has progressed, and what it has achieved over the course of forty plus years.

Peter Clegg