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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Iron Reagan – Spoiled Identity EP

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Iron Reagan
Spoiled Identity EP
Magic Bullet

Given away as a free flexi-disc vinyl with Decibel magazine, but available as a free download for anyone and everyone, this release sees the band at their fastest and indeed briefest that they’ve ever been. This is fastcore done fast, crossover with brevity, but losing none of its hardcore punk sneer or attitude. Not even Municipal Waste, the main concern of IR members Tony Foresta and Ryan Waste, pursued speed like this at such relentlessness. Only the title track exceeds a minute, with song length cast aside for micro thrash diatribes like ‘Your Kids an Asshole’, ‘Cops Don’t Like Me, I Don’t Like Cops’, and more. Really you can’t pick out a stand out track on a release like this, as it just bounces from one song to the next and the name of the game is to keep up. Just download it and enjoy what you’re hearing. Rarely does anyone do crossover this right these days.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Spoiled Identity’ here (name-your-price)
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‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 Preview – Saturday

Welcome back to our comprehensive preview of ‘Kin Hell Fest 2014. If Friday’s line-up wasn’t enough for you, Saturday’s bill features no less than 15 bands, ranging from the fastest to the slowest, and indeed spanning the modern era of extremity to its very origins. There should be something for you all here. Doors at 12pm Saturday, first band at 1pm. Go!

Esoteric Youth – 13:00-13:25

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Describing themselves as ‘the most evil band out of Manchester since Oasis’, this blackened hardcore crew who have been making inroads into the fulcrum of the UK scene since emerging with their demo in 2012 – their bleak crusty diatribes should prove a wake-up slap in the chops for anyone still recovering from Friday’s madness.

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Gets Worse – 13:40-14:05

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Another local act, these guys were named in our top 10 short releases for 2013 with ‘Negative’. They have no time for false grinders, pit violence, and indeed as Manowar, and a cracking Scottish blog might say, ‘wimps and posers, leave the hall’!

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Wizard’s Beard – 14:20-14:50

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Smashing stoner/sludge metallers in the vein of Iron Monkey, Weedeater, etc. who continue to raise the bar in what is deemed ‘heavy’. Blogs and zines have raved about their records ‘Pure Filth’ and ‘Four Tired Undertakers’, so buckle up and get your grooves on. This is about to get heeeeeavy.

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Noise Complaint – 15:05-15:30

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Cosmopolitan crossover thrashers Noise Complaint are rooted firmly in the UK, bringing together members from the USA, Italy and Brazil. Speed is the name of the game here and you’d be well urged to keep up. These guys are nuts.

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Monolithian – 15:45-16:15

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This Falmouth duo are creating welcome noise in the UK scene for their bleak and heavy jams that outgun and rise above more populous doom bands. Released a cracking split with hardcore crew Let It Die last year.

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Arkham Witch – 16:30-17:00

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Keighley-based traditional heavy/doom metallers with anthems of Lovecraftian horror, upholding metal values, mythology and famous comic books characters among others. Cracking retro worship.

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Acrania – 17:15-17:45

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Brutally pounding death metal from London featuring members of Pathology and Bloodshot Dawn. Brace yourselves – circle pits are coming!

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Jesus Cröst – 18:00-18:30

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Word is this is going to be the last show ever from the Dutch two-piece, who’ve been ploughing out good-time speedy grind for over 15 years now. With that in mind, let’s give them the ravenous send off they deserve.

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Grave Miasma – 18:50-19:25

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Fantastic old-school death metal crew from London who released the future underground classic ‘Odori Sepulcrorum’ in 2013. Being hailed as one of the flagbearers of the old-school renaissance of the genre by many leading blogs and zines, it’s time to fall under their spell.

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Deviated Instinct – 19:40-20:15

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For me, personally, these guys are going to be completely unmissable. Legendary 80’s crust-punks who reactivated in 2007 and put out their first record in 21 years with 2012’s ‘Liberty Crawls to the Sanctuary of Slaves’. This year marks 30 years since their inception, one of the true pioneers of the scene, and fans new and old can expect a raucous and furious show. Expect the pit to go truly nuts at this point.

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Hawk Eyes – 20:30-21:10

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Mad scientists of rock who incorporate elements of punk, hardcore, electronic and all manner of experimentalism to their sound, bothering mainstream rags and trendies as well as accumulating a rabid following. Hometown show for this lot, guaranteed to be packed out.

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Khuda – 21:25-22:05

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They’re back! Following their decision to disband early in 2013, Leeds’ post-rockers Khuda have reformed to record a new album and to play KHF, in doing so returning to the festival where they stole the show according to our occasional scribe Mike who witnessed them back in 2011. A truly awesome experience to watch and a swerve in direction from the madness that precedes it.

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Anaal Nathrakh – 22:25-23:30

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The reigning overlords of British extreme metal arrive in Leeds as Saturday headliners and ready to lay waste to the Vox Warehouse.

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Birdflesh – 23:50-00:25

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One of the most crackers bands to ever raise hell in grind, Swedish trio Birdflesh bring hell to town in a UK exclusive performance. Expect wild costume, bonkers antics and some classic grindcore from the scene freaks.

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The Day Man Lost – 00:40-01:00

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Preston grinders The Day Man Lost reformed to play the festival last year and emerged as one of its highlights. These guys are brutal, easily one of the most essential UK grind bands on the scene, and will provide a perfectly crazy end to the Saturday with short sharp blasts of purified rage.

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Peter Clegg

‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 – The final six acts confirmed!

It felt like forever since the ‘Kin Hell Fest organisers gave us the explosive announcement of not one, not two, but three top UK exclusives in Friday’s triple loaded-bill of Pentagram Chile, Lock Up, and Napalm Death. Since then, the festival has been teasing the announcement of the third headliner, the closing act of this year’s edition of the festival.

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With expectation starting to reach fever pitch, with interest in the festival reaching new record numbers, it is with great excitement that we can bring you the news that British thrash legends Onslaught will close out proceedings on the final night of action. And if that wasn’t enough, Floridian death metal veterans Massacre are arriving as main support. They are about to release their first album in over 18 years, titled ‘Back From Beyond‘, and if nothing guarantees that Sunday will be a day for you to bang your head!

Also announced were rising UK death metallers Grave Miasma, Oxford’s melancholic doom/drone quartetUndersmile, hardcore/powerviolence stormersEmployed to Serve, and last but not least, our occasional scribe Michael Collins will be performing having been recruited into his latest band, Manchester riff merchants Pist!

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In further pleasant news, the riff lords that are slow, foreboding US sludge/doom duo Eagle Twin have been confirmed as the headline act for the ‘Yorkshire Riffer’ pre-show that takes place the week before the main festival. They join a stunning line-up including The Afternoon Gentlemen, Foetal Juice, Palehorse, BongCauldron, and many more.

Tickets are still available for both the main festival, taking place on the weekend of Friday May 2nd-Sunday May 4th, and the pre-show, happening the week before on Saturday April 26th. They can be obtained via the official ‘Kin Hell Fest site. And for all the latest announcements, news, updates, and other jollies, head over to the official ‘Kin Hell Fest Facebook page, and also here, via their Twitter feed.

Peter Clegg

Cannabis Corpse/Ghoul – Splatterhash

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Cannabis Corpse/Ghoul
Splatterhash
Tankcrimes

While it can be said that the label of ‘gimmick’ be branded on both these bands quite hardily is not without reason – one whose entire output is based on songs about weed largely parodying death metal overlords Cannibal Corpse (though not in creative form, at least), the other a band hailing from the spooky town of Creepsylvania, clad in executioner masks and witness to all manner of horrors. But cry joke at these bands at your peril. We’ve covered both Cannabis Corpse and Ghoul on We Must Obey before and can vouch for their excellent in providing the horrors in musical form. Now Tankcrimes, one of the raddest labels in the world, has got the two bands together for a split release, the latest in the labels line of outstanding splits, coming off the back of Exhumed and Iron Reagan’s get together late last year.

Thus ‘Splatterhash’ is born, already looking the part thanks to its Andrei Bouzikov artwork, nothing less than you’d expect and an awesome depiction of the two bands with an army of weed monsters and bong guns. But at for the music itself? Cannabis Corpse return to parodying Cannibal Corpse titles, this time from the ‘Evisceration Plague’ era. ‘The Inhalation Plague’ feels a bit of a mid-tempo riffer, not quite as thrilling as some of the band’s previous output, but it bakes well enough and provides a good opening for the second track, ‘Shatter Their Bongs’, which goes for a faster pace with some cracking tempo shifts, the glorious clean/death declaration of ‘We must/shatter their bongs!’ Its their first new material in two and a half years, but its looking good for the next full length, with a new three-piece line-up settled on, with Phil ‘Land Phil’ Hall still leading the charges. Meanwhile Ghoul are really on form, returning to original material after their covers EP ‘Intermediate Level Hard-Core’ last year. The five minute long ‘Inner Sanctum’ is a phenomenal ride, capturing the band’s wicked guitar tone to full effect and detailing a town full of savagery. Tell me if there’s a band who do gang vocals better at the moment, because the simple command of ‘Kill!‘ feels perfect within every aspect of this song. And after that, comes the faster, heavier and downright slamming ‘Spill Your Guts’, which is just a two minute chainsaw massacre in audio format. Delightful.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Splatterhash’ here
Stream it below:

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Occultist – Death Sigils

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Occultist
Death Sigils
Primitive Ways

Richmond, Virginia, is no stranger to birthing numerous cracking metal bands over the years, from GWAR to Lamb of God to Municipal Waste among many others, and now we can add Occultist to the thriving metal city’s list of awesomeness. Make no mistake, this is a thoroughly monstrous record by a monstrous band, punctuated by numerous riffs of crusty shells, thrash underlayers, and black metal infused incantations. Key to this is vocalist Kerry, who at times is the proverbial daemoness, spewing hell forth and summoning apocalyptic thunder in her vocal delivery, underpinned by impressive guitar work, reckless solo worship and excellently timed shifts in tempo. The band can sail along a loud and malevolent groove comfortably before dropping the warning signal and unleashing a battering turn of speed, evidenced excellently on tracks like ‘Devil’s Breath’ and ‘A Hell for the Innocent’. There’s nothing I don’t love about this release. Yes, the title track is eerily similar to Slayer’s ‘Hell Awaits’ at the beginning, and the riff that carries ‘Path of the Damned’ has a distinct Motörhead/Saxon influence about it, but rather than mark them down for these traits, it’s better to celebrate how they harness them, creating an ultimately dark but violent, malevolent concoction. All these elements together, put simply, leaves you with a banger like ‘Death Sigils‘.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Death Sigils‘ here (name-your-price)
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Power Trip supporting Bane in the UK/EU!

Have a gander at the latest press release from Rarely Unable, in support of Texan thrashers Power Trip’s foray over to European shores with a tour alongside hardcore legends Bane and hardcore sharks Blkout, due to begin next Monday in Germany, before landing in the UK two days later!

POWER TRIP PREPARE A CROSSOVER TAKEOVER OF THE UK/EU WITH BANE

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Power Trip, thrashers of the upmost quality, have announced a November European tour alongside righteous hardcore troupe Bane and groovin’ hardcore act Blkout. Having earlier this year released ‘Manifest Decimation‘ on Southern Lord to overwhelming acclaim from critics, thrash purists and the hardcore community alike, they plan to set in stone their phenomenal reputation on these shores with downright outrageous live shows.  Here are the full tour listings:
 
TOUR DATES

04.11.13 Germany, Bochum @ Bahnhof Langendreer  
05.11.13 Holland, Dordrecht @ Bibelot  
06.11.13 UK, London @ Underworld  
07.11.13 UK, Glasgow @ The Classic Grand  
08.11.13 UK, Manchester @ Sound Control  
09.11.13 UK, Basingstoke @ Sanctuary   
10.11.13 Belgium, Antwerpen @ Kavka   
11.11.13 Germany Göttingen @ Lumière  
12.11.13 Germany, Lindau @ Club Vaudeville   
13.11.13 Germany, München @ Feierwerk   
14.11.13 Switzerland, St. Gallen @ Kugl  
15.11.13 Italy, Egna/Neumarkt @ Point  
16.11.13 Germany, Lichtenstein @ Jz Riot   
17.11.13 Austria, Salzburg @ Rockhouse
18.11.13 Hungary, Budapest @ Dürer Kert  
19.11.13 Poland, Poznan @ Pod Minoga  
20.11.13 Germany, Hannover Chez Heinz  
21.11.13 Denmark, Lyngby @ Templet   
22.11.13 Sweden, Stockholm @ Bergsund Strand 43  
23.11.13 Sweden, Motala @ Kulturakademin, Dead Fest  
24.11.13 Germany, Hamburg @ Hafenklang  
25.11.13 Germany, Berlin @ Cassiopeia  
26.11.13 Germany, Frankfurt @ 11er
 
Amidst massive touring over the past five years, and having unloaded a cache of demos, splits and D.I.Y. releases along the way, the high-powered metallic punk/hardcore attack of Dallas-based Power Trip caught the attention of Southern Lord, who brought the crew on-board for the release of their first full-length. Recorded by Arthur Rizk and Daniel Schmuck in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Argyle, Texas, and produced, mixed, and mastered by Arthur Rizk at Solomon’s Gate in Philadelphia, the eight tracks on ‘Manifest Decimation‘ hurtle the band’s “steel, speed and destruction” ethos direct at the jugular with thirty-five minutes of crossover intensity that sounds like it was excavated from a 1987 time capsule with sixteen tons of radioactive dynamite. The intense album layout was created by Italian artist Paolo “Madman” Girardi, completing this vile package which was delivered via Southern Lord in June this year.
 
You can stream ‘Manifest Decimation‘ via Southern Lord’s Power Trip Bandcamp page: http://powertripsl.bandcamp.com/

Peter Clegg