18 July 2017

Alternative Heaviness from Strange Corners #2

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Featuring new releases from Dead Cross, Boris, Tchornobog, This Sun No More, Melvins, A Stick And A Stone and The Radiation Flowers.

DEAD CROSS – ST. Dead Cross are an imposing proposition, featuring among its ranks Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies, Misfits), Mike Patton (Faith No More, Tomahawk), Justin Pearson (The Locust, Retox) and Michael Crain (Retox, Festival of Dead Deer). Their self titled album is due for release very soon on Patton’s own Ipecac imprint. In a way, if you were to hazard a guess at what this collective might sound like you wouldn’t actually be far off the mark, except maybe faster and more furious. Lombardo’s drumming is trademark early Slayer with a raw edge and additional off kilter spins. Patton get’s to exercise his vocal range, one minute all hardcore roars, the next soaring layered harmonies, by way of unhinged scatting of course. To say that this is an angry album wouldn’t be quite accurate, as I construe anger as a negative emotion and listening to this album the energy seems positive. Sure, it must be in there as an ingredient but if I had to use a single word to sum up the result of this meeting of minds, it would be ‘frenzied’. It is speed punk with buzz saw guitars, it pogos almost unrelentingly all the way through, it is sweaty and energised, ultimately the musical equivalent of juggling chainsaws. And as I imagine juggling chainsaws would be, the short duration is noteworthy. Most of the ten songs on offer are blast of only two or three minutes a piece. Now I might be leading you down the path of thinking this album is a psychotic mess but fear not, the songs are well formed and executed, though if you are expecting them to be catchy or poppy, the door is over there. There is structure, there are dynamics, there are sing/shout along moments but mainly this is an album to give you whiplash. Stuck right in the middle of this is the Dead Cross take on Bauhaus’ ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ which isn’t a bad low slung dirty attempt at the track. My own highlight is closing track ‘Church of the Motherfuckers’ which starts off by sounding a little early Godflesh before launching into some anthemic progressions and epic vocals. This album is a raw and frenzied blast of dark and filthy fun. https://ipecac.com/shop

BORIS – DEAR. The band themselves describe ‘Dear’ as “heavenly – far beyond heavy.” The original intention was for the album to be their last, as they felt that they had completed their journey of melting amplifiers using as many forms of heaviness as possible. Thankfully they saw the light/dark during what I guess must have been an exercise of consolidating their leaned skills and gained experiences and the result is fearsome. It sounds simply massive, glacial in pacing, and these are huge, ocean liner sinking, glaciers. Yes, of course they have revisited the monolithic riffs and drones which enamoured them to much of their audience, but these are enriched with ambient textures and experimental flourishes. The stoner doom rock psych pop on offer will please both old fans and new, in fact they will be beyond pleased as there is something special about the overall sound. I will elaborate. Many bands attempting to capture their drone and crushingly slow heaviness fail to capture the live power of their endeavours. Frequencies become saturated and compressed and end up sounding flat. Not so here, you can hear the fizz, almost feel the heat from the valves, and sense the movement of air in the recording room. I kid you not, it is that good. The vocals of Takeshi excel too. They soar to harmonies in a manner that might make Patton shed a tear, powerful in one breath and fragile in the next. The drumming is fierce and intelligent throughout except where restraint is demanded. The pacing of the album is also worthy of remark, as the opening colossal and slow paced heaviness of ‘D.O.W.N.’ and ‘Deadsong’ give way to a quicker stoner groove for the third track ‘Absolutego’ before submitting to the dreamy portions of ‘Beyond’ which hint at Deftones at their most heart wrenching. Two tracks later ‘Biotope’ offers another hazy gem, blissful and hypnotic, carried by a steady 4/4 beat while feedback and melodies writhe around to coalesce in the heaviest of dream pop moments. ‘The Power’ returns to sludge heaven, somehow also managing to mount a sublime Sabbath-esque riff atop of the dense sustained wall of sub sonic oscillations and drones. ‘Memento Mori’ is a track that for me represents the album as a whole, containing all the aforementioned elements and seamlessly combining them into the perfect Boris song. More beauty is to be found within ‘Distopia – Vanishing Point’ leaving the closing, and title, track ‘Dear’ to punish you as only Boris and a few others know how, with dense droning doom. ‘Dear’ was apparently two years in the making, a process divided in two by the ‘Performing Pink’ tour. Multiple albums worth of material were whittled down to one, and the time for reflection and consolidation are perhaps what have yielded this Boris masterpiece. https://sargenthouse.com/boris-dear

A one man project, TCHORNOBOG might be just what you need if you are looking for blackened filth and majesty in one package. This, the self titled debut, is a four song affair that was apparently 7 years in the making. The fact that the project name comes from an alternative spelling of Chernobog, the mysterious Slavic black god of evil and swearing will give you some idea of what to expect, though in truth the sound is more expansive and varied than you might expect. ‘The Vomiting Tchornobog (Slithering Gods Of Cognitive Dissonance)’ and ‘Hallucinatory Black Breath Of Possession (Mountain-Eye Amalgamation)’ pass over 33 minutes of time all on their own, by way of convoluting black metal sludge doom that isn’t easy to digest for that duration. The wings truly spread on the third track, the snappingly named ‘Non-Existence’s Warmth (Infinite Natality Psychosis)’ where the aforementioned ‘majesty’ unfolds. Dark ambience and restrained funeral doom tones allow tension and atmosphere to build that is maintained by the time the throttle is engaged a third of the way through its 15 minute duration. A deep and mesmerizing track. The final quarter ‘Here, At The Disposition Of Time (Inverting A Solar Giant)’ effectively combines the blacked maelstrom of parts I and II with the atmosphere and gothic mood of part III to great effect and as such is probably the crowning jewel of this release. TCHORNOBOG have released here, a creative album, combining many elements without diluting the overall atmosphere of demonic menace and smothering doom. It is limited to 500 copies should you want to bag a hard copy. https://markovsoroka.bandcamp.com/album/tchornobog

THIS SUN NO MORE hail from my neighbouring city of Stoke-on-Trent and they have a new EP to present to the world in the form of ‘THE BLACK THREAD EP’. I am uncertain as to when and how this is due for release but their bandcamp page would be a good start I guess. A seven piece act according to their facebook profile, they started “with the simple intention of writing and playing music we’d all enjoy hearing”. Based on the three tracks presented here the shared love of the band members is anchored in all things post rock and metal. Opener ‘Gut’ has a heavy Isis feel about it, with a dense sound underpinned by a bassline full of fancy flourish. The female vocals lend the track a hint of Lacuna Coil too, not an obvious mix. ‘Midas’ has a more ‘Cult of Luna’ feel to it with its lurching rhythms and minor key dramatics though it develops a different feel as it progresses reminding me also of less dark post rock acts such as Caspian and And So I Watched Her From Afar. ‘River’ maintains a similar feel, ending with an almost hardcore thrash out and cements the EP as a competent and solid release. Where I struggle is that the post rock and metal genres have gone through so many iterations with so many quality acts giving it their spin that it is increasingly hard for artists to make their own mark. Time will tell whether This Sun No More can hone their clearly battle ready blades into a weapon that can get them notice.

It really is nigh on impossible to keep up with the antics of the unstoppable MELVINS, whether it be albums, tours or collaborations. It is almost as impossible to find something to say that hasn’t been said dozens of times before, so where do I begin with new release A WALK WITH LOVE AND DEATH? Well, firstly, if you haven’t heard MELVINS then firstly, where the fuck have you been? Secondly, you have a LOT of catching up to do. They have been plying their fuzzed our version of alternative rock with varying degrees of noisiness over a 25 album career which started in 1983, collaborating with the likes of Jello Biafra and Lustmord while the band have included at times folk from Butthole Surfers, Pixies and lord knows who else. So what can I say that is new to you. Well I can tell you that for this outing, they are a familiar core trio of Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and Steve McDonald with guest appearances from Joey Santiago (The Pixies), Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes/Crystal Fairy) and Anna Waronker (That Dog). Those guest have the potential to spice any recipe up. They key point of interest for this release though, is that we are actually dealing with two albums, ‘Death’, which is a Melvins album proper, and ‘Love’, a soundtrack to a short film by Jesse Nieminen, also known as A Walk with Love & Death. So, should they be consumed as a whole or as separate entities? In my view, ‘Death’ is best consumed on it’s own, though it has to be said, with your player set to random, as mine accidentally was on first listen, you are in for an interesting listen. ‘Death’ has that swagger and is choc full of hooks and riffs to keep any Melvins fan smiling. I particularly enjoyed the catchy ‘Sober-delic’, the balls out ‘What’s Wrong With You’ and the uplifting ‘Christ Hammer’. On its own though, ‘Love’ is somewhat of a curio for Melvins completists. I’m not saying it is without merit, and it would be interesting to see how the compositions fit in the context of the film, but I fear it would be a little lost as a stand alone release. It is a rather experimental collection of cacophonous buzzes, squelches, feedback and other assorted sound sources interspersed with a few more musical numbers. As experimental music goes it is far from terrible but neither is it remarkable. The few musical moments are enjoyable enough as a trash can version of Melvins but if you are here solely for those unmistakably Melvins moments I fear that the ‘Love’ portion of the album will remain largely in its sleeve. Hats off though for allowing us to see their more experimental side. ‘Death’ however, I love. https://melvinsofficial.bandcamp.com/album/a-walk-with-love-death

A STICK AND A STONE – THE LONG LOST ART OF GETTING LOST. Great album title firstly! This is my first journey with A STICK AND A STONE though it is in fact their third album. The band is led by Elliott Harvey with viola player Myles Donovan (Disemballerina, Negative Queen, Ominous Cloud Ensemble) and they ply a trade comprising a mystical earthy trance inducing sludge rock. Meditative and atmospheric bass lines complement the hefty drumming in forming a foundation for the ethereal and sometimes banshee wails of Harvey, reminding me sometimes of some Jarboe work. More flesh presents itself to bone in the form of rich string sounds which work particularly well on ‘Hawk’. Over the course of the seven tracks, we traverse tribal doom, Neurosis style poundings, blissed out laments and haunting soundscapes. Throughout though there is a feeling of ritual and worship not unlike OM, and I very much feel that this is how the album is best consumed, as a journey of discovery, of self, taking the more subdued moments to allow reflection. A rather dark and quite lovely release that has grown on me with repeated listens. https://astickandastone.bandcamp.com

It was only a few weeks ago that I favourably reviewed Canada’s THE RADIATION FLOWERS split release with Hawkeyes and here I am presented with their second solo release SUMMER LOOP. The self proclaimed space-rock dreamers present us with seven tracks that further develop their breezy drifting sky gazing sound. To these ears the vibe is more relaxed than the aforementioned split, even more dreamy, with the melodic vocals sitting just so in the mix, poking around the wall of transistor fizzled guitars. ‘Walking Down The Street’ is particularly lazy in the good way, assisted by hints of Hammind style keys, and the track gets an even more restrained reprise too at the end of the EP. Fourth track ‘Dancing In Flames’ pushes the pace up a notch with a Bauhaus sounding bassline and Jesus and Mary Chain wall of guitar noise which makes the subsequent ‘Sunrise’ sound rather twee. The last song presented on this EP is the darker sounding ‘Sumer Of Burnout’ which is also the longest here at just under seven minutes. This shadowy slow burner has touches of Dandy Warhols at their smokiest and the band let the guitars set the tone and pace, steadily building a heady atmosphere, an approach I would enjoy seeing the band pursue to further and noisier heights. As it is, things smoulder rather than ignite, which is fine in its own way, and a perfectly enjoyable way to while away some time while indulging your chosen method of chilling/spacing out. https://theradiationflowers.bandcamp.com