We Must Obey’s Top Records of 2014

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A lot of end-of-year lists have short memories. A lot of end-of-year lists seem to forget the year begins in January as much as the statisticians in English football forget there was a top flight before the Premier League. Hence why one or two albums that made this list appear, and it’s not for the sake that they went under the radar, or because we don’t have to feature some multi-million selling band to sell our product. But enough of the snipper snapping.

My focus on this site has really ebbed away in recent months to the point where I don’t know how much longer it can last. But I wouldn’t be doing it right to ignore what has been another stunning year for rock and metal on all levels. The UK underground in particular has never been stronger and if there is one good thing to come out of doing this site for three and a half years on and off, it’s discovering that there’s a ton of bands in this country who if our rock and metal media gave as much a toss about them as the Americans seem to do, they too could wind up a little bit hipster – and would that really be a bad thing for just a little bit of attention?! The UK is in rude health for rock and metal and all its tentacles.

In previous years I’ve split the short releases – the EPs, the splits and the demos – into a separate list, but this year I’ve not had the time to get around to two lists and to ignore those releases would be a disservice as they stack up very well compared to most full lengths. So here is just one list of ten great releases to have rocked my ears and my ears alone. I’ll stop blabbering now and let you read on as to why these records are worth a damn.

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10. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun (Reprise)

Its become evident over the last few records that Mastodon were not content being the sludge behemoths of their Relapse days nor even being progressively minded as witnessed on ‘Crack the Skye‘. As their profile has increased, they’ve taken several steps to reach a more, what you might say, streamlined sound. What ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun‘ achieves is a balance between reaching that target and still retaining their core essence. The first half of the record is some of the most kick ass rock you will hear for ages, from the twerk-inspiring ‘The Motherload’ to the at-times dream state of ‘Asleep in the Deep’. It’s not an entirely perfect record but it does finish rather satisfyingly with the bullet train of ‘Halloween’ and the most old school track on record, ‘Diamond in the Witch House’. The record finally confirms Brent Hinds as a distinguishable soloist, but more importantly, it proves that Mastodon are on the next step to true greatness. I doubt we’ll get another Metallica in this lifetime, if any at all, but I wouldn’t bet against Mastodon being able to become more accessible and still making big ‘fuck you’ riffs and anthems.

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9. Cannabis Corpse/Ghoul – Splatterhash (Tankcrimes)

Tankcrimes have a knack of putting out killer split releases and ‘Splatterhash‘, a release combining reefer worshippers Cannabis Corpse and horror executioners Ghoul produced the victims in spades. These are two bands who eschew any notion of meer gimmickry through knowing how to write either slamming pit tunes or memorable refrains. CC once again channel their more infamous namesake Cannibal Corpse for their two tracks, ‘The Inhalation Plague’ and ‘Shatter Their Bongs’, which again highlights how far they’ve come – sure it’s all weed crimes and terrors lyrically, but musically it’s tighter than the stuffiest spliff; while Ghoul are on fire with their side, ‘The Inner Sanctum’ a 5-minute journey once again into Creepsylvania, carrying the command at one point to ‘kill’, finishing it off with the brutal slice and dice of ‘Spill Your Guts’. Horror on record is nothing new, but these two bands carry the B-movie schtick with righteous aplomb.

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8. Grey Widow – I

Featuring members of long time grimy sludge purveyors Parole, Dopefight, Thread and the Ergon Counsel, this is a band who on ‘I‘ lived out their mantra of ‘Nihilistic Putrid Fucking Hatred’ in such a way they swerved the word ‘predictable’ by committing sounds that even I could not have anticipated could sound so venomous and filthy. Mostly wallowing in sludge but capable of vomiting forth a blackened blast, yelling bloodied hardcore punk and occasionally a foreboding riff – but mostly violent black sludge. A lot of bands can profess to be as spiteful as this, but few can deliver on it the way Grey Widow did, it such a way it leaves an impression on the mind and an appreciation that some can still craft mastery out of that very word, ‘hate’.

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7. Nightfell – The Living Ever Mourn (Southern Lord/Parasitic)

An album featuring the collective talents of Tim Call and Todd Burdette, of acts such as Tragedy, His Hero Is Gone and Aldebaran to name a few, ‘The Living Ever Mourn‘ struck me as a pretty good album at first but has really grown on me in such a way that I cannot ignore it. It’s irresistibly compelling in many ways, from the black metal ugh of ‘The Last Disease’, the truly neck slamming ‘Altars of Wrath’, to the funeral dirge of ‘Empty Prayers’, this is an album thick with tarred riffs and pure hellfire and brimstone. I don’t need to say more than that, other than it fucking rules.

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6. Catholic Girls – Distant (Crown and Throne Ltd)

Bastard offspring of the likes of the Cancer Bats and Trash Talk, this Colorado crew lot have produced arguably the finest hardcore release of the year. That in my opinion nobody of their ilk topped this despite this one coming out early in the year says much for its quality. ‘Distant‘ is a tumult of manic riffing, occasional blasting intensity, and for 12 minutes, an impish batshit fury that only briefly lets up for the swaggering ‘Piston’, which is deserving of far bigger moshpit unions than what they are still likely getting right now. Someone sign them up please!

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5. Bast – Spectres (Burning World/Black Bow)

Another fine proponent of the UK underground, London’s Bast made one hell of a debut with ‘Spectres‘, a multi-spectral album that deviled in doom, sludge, black metal, atmospherics and more. From first second to last, ‘Spectres‘ was a masterclass in how to meld those elements together in high alchemy, whether the rage of ‘In the Beginning’, melding black metal with doom riffs, to the Neurosis-esque cauldron of ‘Psychonauts’ or the cavernous riffing on ‘Denizens’. Terrorizer magazine are marking them out for big things next year, and I wouldn’t bet against them following the likes of Conan into greater consciousness.

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4. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything (Constellation)

I would argue that this is, emotionally, the most powerful album that could be said of the Western world today. In so much that we’ve seen a lot of austerity, a lot of cutbacks, and yet the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra (or however you know or call them), released this six track call to arms early in the year and it is hard not to feel the slightest bit torn by the music and the lyrical content. It’s goddamn beautiful and yet so heavy, with austerity and the rich/poor divide so evidently the theme as it remains in day to day life. Tell me that by the time you reach ‘What We Loved Was Never Enough’ that you aren’t asking questions of your very own existence, and your very own situation, for it captures your concerns over the present and future. The album’s lengthy title is a bold one, but never truer – we already truthfully know what our country’s state is in, but it will shine a light on what it means to live in the modern era. A magnificent work from a truly visionary band.

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3. Megalodoom – Tectonic Oblivion (Witch Hunter/Tartarus)

The band that used to title demos after Indiana Jones films, and after lines from Predator, got a little bit more serious and received a serious beef up in production for the release of ‘Tectonic Oblivion‘, a four song warhorse of doom that is pretty much a flawless execution of nuclear riffs. ‘Sword of the Spirit’ perhaps best embodied this, shifting from ominous rolling thunder to compelling grooves to an apocalyptic tolling outro, without the need for words. Not many bands can conjure that serpent and convince it to act for them, yet ‘Tectonic Oblivion‘ works that beast a charm in a way to make you sit up and take notice beyond the riffing.

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2. Dephosphorus – Ravenous Solemnity (7 Degrees/Handshake Inc.)

If their previous record, ‘Axiom‘, was stratospheric, then ‘Ravenous Solemnity‘ is Dephosphorus gone interstellar. The Greek grinders’ astronomic approach to their music is one currently unparalleled within their scene, and this album is one that really should garner them more recognition than it has up to now. It melds numerous technical, blackened and deathly influences along with a literary tip of their hats to the late Scottish author Iain M. Banks to coagulate a marvellous text of extremity, from the apocalyptic tone of ‘Storming the Sloan Wall’ to the shadowy mystery of ‘Towards the Cold Dark Infinity’. What was big, big metal blogosphere hype a few years back is no fluke – Dephosphorus are a truly unrelenting force.

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1. Yob – Clearing The Path To Ascend (Neurot)

It turns out that not everything that comes attached with a bucket load of hype attached to it, hanging off the great deceiver of hope on a rope of salacious words, only to unravel and break upon the object in question’s deliverance. Outside of the mainstream, name me one album that really garnered more attention and gaze than Yob’s ‘Clearing the Path to Ascend‘.

Through channeling the words of the great philosopher Alan Watts, Yob remind us it’s ‘time to wake up‘ in the opening chords of ‘In Our Blood’, and for the next 66 minutes they carry you through numeral states of thought as it literally does what it’s title says. It isn’t a slow plod as much as a death march, a journey of exploration. The trick of building up a lengthy song to a verge before quietly waiting on the precipice is one Yob have to a tee, and when Watts tells you to wake up again, the opener fittingly reaches its rise to the surface.

The great thing about this band is that just when you think they cannot conceive any more moments to behold, they turn up with an answer. The thunderous approach of ‘Nothing to Win’, the most anthemic track of this release by way of a chorus of sorts, is only briefly but magnificently halted by a midsection of swirling chaos and despair; ‘Unmask the Spectre’ again utilises a loud-quiet dynamic but on a humongous scale, Mike Schiedt again walking the line between sheer hell and quiet tension and introspection. It’s as if the elements of the opening three tracks literally clear the path for ‘Marrow’, a truly ascendary track – at nearly twenty minutes long it is almost perfect, with the band at times sounding, I daresay, uplifting. It retains the Yob heaviness but rarely has doom of this ilk met such an air of freedom that is able to stick its head above the clouds with a sense of unusual triumphalism.

After naming ‘Atma‘ the best record of 2011, I wasn’t sure I could find a way if enjoying Yob even more, but when the hype you so often buy into actually turns out to carry substance, the results are rarely short of phenomenal.

Peter Clegg

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‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 Preview: Sunday

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Like all good things, ‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 will come to an end as the clocks chime midnight on Monday 5th May. Until then though, there’s still one full day of action to come, and it seems they saves the goriest bits for last! But for those who like their heavy music a different way, there’s a mix of classic heavy metal, thrash, old school death metal and technical business. Let’s go out with a band as we introduce Sunday’s day of devilry in the last part of our preview.

Shoot The Bastard – 12:45-13:10

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Hardcore/powerviolence lads seen with Weekend Nachos, Agathocles, Pighead and more. Nice fast shouty stuff.

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Employed to Serve – 13:25-13:50

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Crushing heavy blend of technical hardcore/metal/grind featuring Sammy Unwin (Oblivionized/Regurgitate Life). They’ve been busy since forming and their latest release ‘Change Nothing, Regret Everything’ is devastating in its aggressive delivery. One of the best new bands to emerge of late, do not miss them!

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Regurgitate Life – 14:05-14:30

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Sammy Unwin’s one-man tech-metal mission returns for the second consecutive year as the riff master puts in a second shift at the festival (following his earlier appearance with Employed to Serve)

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Palm Reader – 14:45-15:10

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Surrey metallic hardcore lads who’ve performed on bigger stages such as Download, Hevy, etc., and currently tearing up venues with their affirmative passionate sound.

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Basement Torture Killings – 15:25-15:50

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Nasty as London extreme metallers, inspired by all manner of serial killers and snuff videos.

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Unfathomable Ruination – 16:05-16:35

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Heavy as rocking horse shit death metal. Seriously though, this London lot are monstrous, huge sound terrific technical riffs and blasting sections. You will headbang.

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Conquest of Steel – 16:50-17:20

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Bradford’s true heavy metal warriors make their debut at the festival, ten years after they originally formed. Sadly, this is also going to be one of their final shows, having announced recently they were going their separate ways. So come on, wear your denim and leather proudly and raise a beer in the air to true heavy metal!

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Untimely Demise – 17:35-18:05

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Canadian thrashers hailing from Saskatoon, plying their trade for several years now and recently signed a worldwide deal, heralded by the release of their cracking second album ‘Systematic Eradication‘. Great quality modern thrash.

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Holocausto Canibal – 18:20-18:50

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Portuguese gore-maniacs who are one of the European continent’s most revered bands for sheer brutality.

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Crepitation – 19:05-19:35
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After nine years playing the brutal slam game, Crepitation finally got themselves a record deal. With their debut full length now in the offing, prepare for all manner of pig squeals and flying bodies.

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Malignancy – 19:50-20:20

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Death metal straight outta Yonkers, New York. Been around since 1992 and a cracking signing for KHF. They play technical riffs of the highest order and their will be a dizzying, devastating assault.

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Desecration – 20:35-21:05

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Arguably the most savage band to have come out of Wales, death metallers Desecration have been putting out nasty after nasty for donkeys, and their debut appearance at KHF. Still going after 21 years, they’re not quite as controversial now but they’re just as consistent and are going to destroy the stage here.
 
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Wodensthrone – 21:20-21:55

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Critically acclaimed UK black metallers who’ve been creating epic primordial sounds since 2005. Always purveyors of such a fine stage presence, expect this to be a stunning tour-de-force.

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Massacre – 22:10-22:50

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A brilliant coup for the festival, US death metal legends Massacre make their debut appearance at the festival having just released their latest album ‘Back from Beyond‘ following their recent reformation. Featuring Rick Rozz and Terry Butler (ex-Death) once again, this is unmissable.

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Onslaught – 23:10-00:00

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Closing out this year’s festival will be legendary UK thrash metallers Onslaught. Seven albums over 27 years and still bringing it to the stage every time they play. A fitting way to close out this year’s fest with one of the defining bands of the UK scene.

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Peter Clegg

‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 Preview: Friday

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Welcome one and all to We Must Obey’s annual preview of this coming weekend’s ‘Kin Hell Fest. As those who’ve previously read our preview before, the drill is as such: we run the gamut of every band playing this festival, summing them up in a few words with images and links to their sites where you can follow them or check out some of their music.

This year, ‘Kin Hell Fest is bigger and better than ever. Being held in the 1400-capacity Vox Warehouse in Leeds, the festival has attracted the biggest names so far since the fest was founded in 2011. We are very proud to be supporting this festival again as we did in 2011 and in 2013, and together we will all make this a festival worth remembering. So without further ado, let’s get down to previewing Friday’s action.

Death Tripper – 14:00-14:25

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Cracking young hardcore/d-beat/grind crew who first came to our attention here when they released a split with Nottingham vegan PV chums Meatpacker. A great way to kick off proceedings.

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Ephemeral Foetus – 14:40-15:05

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This Derby-based lot are a cracking band, mixing d-beat crust/thrash/punk riffs with raging societal intensity and aggression. They recently released a split with fellow Derby crusties Piss on Authority (‘Fallacy’), and if those three tracks are anything to go by, they be as relentless in their performance here as they show ‘Relentless Contempt for Man’.

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Pist – 15:20-15:45

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Super riff worship featuring a wealth of experience from the Mancunian scene. Pist will step up early on the Friday slinging tracks from their recent released debut ‘Riffology’. Heavy rock ‘n’ roll to raise a glass/plastic cup to.

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Necro Deathmort – 16:00-16:30

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London based duo Necro Deathmort are certainly one of the most intriguing additions to the line-up, bringing with them electro beats fused with doom vibes and industrial machinations. With a slew of releases behind them, their appearance here will herald a monolithic vibe; expect them to stand out.

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Iniquitous Savagery – 16:45-17:15

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Scottish brutal death metal merchants who will soon be releasing their debut album, and will arrive here to pummel your brains in with ridiculous riffs and carnivorous screams aplenty.

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Haar – 17:30-18:00

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In Edinburgh, a ‘haar’ is a dense chilly fog that blows in from the North Sea when the wind is in the east. Cheers Lonely Planet! It’s also home to an excellent progressive black metal band of the same name, producing music as murky and challenging as the conditions out at sea.

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Evisorax – 18:15-18:40

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Wigan grindcore berzerkers who have the backing of Scott Hull and J Randall of Agoraphobic Nosebleed fame – the former mastered their 2011 album ‘Isle of Dogs’ and the latter released it through his Grindcore Karaoke label. Their shows are known for being highly charged and confrontational, which is just fine with us.

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Undersmile – 18:55-19:30

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A rich, diverse, and quintessentially heavy doom band from Oxford, coming with the backing of Dylan Carlson (Earth) and Henry Rollins. High praise indeed. Ranging from titantically heavy to marvellously serene.

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Ingested – 19:45-20:20

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The headliners of the first edition of KHF are back! Expect huge slam pits for this lot who in 2013 stepped up their game with their brilliant LP ‘The Sorreption’.

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Pentagram Chile – 20:40-21:20

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Pentagram’s story from being one of the forerunners of extreme metal to releasing their debut album 28 years later still seems unreal. Yet Anton Reisenegger managed to pull it off after all that time and delivered the goods for the lost years of never making it happen. They’re about to land in town so prepare to get your heads banging away in appreciation of a band that Reisenegger refused to allow to die.

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Napalm Death – 21:40-22:45

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Do these guys really need an introduction? Oh go on then. The granddaddies of grindcore, Napalm Death have in their thirty years as a band redefined extreme music, taking down fascists, racists, policitians, warmongers, hypocrites, societal injustice, famine and more with their diatribes. Often imitated, never bettered, it’s truly a coup and a cause to celebrate that they are greeting this festival with their presence. If there’s a band this weekend you must not miss, it has to be Napalm Death.

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Famine – 23:05-23:30
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Local merchants of hardcore/powerviolence/crossover style animosity, they emerged last year with our top-10 rated EP ‘A Hand of Sore Thumbs’ and are another of the highly rated reasons for you to ensure you turn up early on Saturday for the full attack. Shouting along to the chorus of ‘Sold Bowels (Saved Owls)’ should prove to be a weekend highlight, as will jumping in the pit for these.

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Lock Up – 23:50-00:50

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Closing out the Friday night will be an appearance by deathgrind supergroup Lock Up. Joining Shane Embury, fresh from performing with Napalm Death, will be the dream team of Tomas Lindberg, Nick Barker and Anton Reisenegger (also fresh from his Pentagram slot). This is the ONLY place you will see Lock Up in the UK this year. Make sure you don’t miss it!

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Peter Clegg

Bast – Spectres

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Bast
Spectres
Burning World/Black Bow

The world is in a dark and monstrous place at the moment. The crises in the East are indicative of trouble ahead. A deep sense of foreboding and hostility has engulfed much of the Northern hemisphere and one can only hope that these people bang their heads together and diffuse the powderkeg that’s blatantly waiting to go off. I don’t wish to politicise this particular album, because it certainly isn’t that. But while listening to ‘Psychonauts’, the fourth track from Londoners Bast’s debut album ‘Spectres’, there was an undeniable tension as I listened to the track building, with the bass and the rumbling beat of the drums ratcheting up my senses as I read the sensationalised headlines in front of me. 

Pulling myself back out of such matters, ‘Spectres’ is proof of how UK doom is flourishing. Acts like Bong and Conan (to name two) are showing our country is just as good in unleashing all manner of long droning riffs, thunderously low grooves and sometimes tempos so slow a sloth could outrun them, than the prolific number of acts from the US and from Europe. Bast aren’t anywhere as droning as Bong or groovesome as Liverpudlians Conan (whose Jon Davis has put out ‘Spectres’ as his new label Black Bow Records’ debut release, alongside Dutch label Burning World). They instead focus on melding other genres, chiefly black metal, into their mix. The opening track ‘In The Beginning’ presents them in blackened territory as they speed along before hitting the brakes in the closing half of the song, closing it out with some chunky slow riffing, which they take into the next song, ‘Denizens’. This one creeps along with impressive cavernous trepidation before exploding into a phenomenal depressive black metal section and subsequently simmering back into apocalyptic doom again. The aforementioned ‘Psychonauts’ brilliantly plays out with Neurosis-style build-up before reaching a post-rock crescendo in dramatic circumstances, while the finishing track starts off with a bleak doom riff before finishing ten minutes later with wild riffing and solo worship. Put simply, Bast are the latest strong addition to the UK’s growing army of doom, with a sound more varied than most, and in ‘Spectres’, creating an album that surely deserves not to fall on deaf ears.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Spectres’ via Burning World, or via Black Bow
Stream it below:

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