12 September 2017

Alternative Heaviness from Strange Corners #4

Quite an eclectic mix this time, you never can tell what is going to be flung your way as a reviewer but they all have this in common: lots of noisy guitars, big gnarly balls and a dash of the weird. No hair metal here. Instead we have releases from 68 Creep, Spectral Haze, Tiger Club, Tombstones In Their Eyes, Neurosis, Fleurety, UFOMAMMUT and Unsane.

New Yorkers 68 CREEP have something undeniably cool about them, I’d strap on some shades to pen this review but that would make my typing worse than it already is, so I’ll pen these words about their debut album GOODNIGHT, SWEET BETTY with my unfettered by genetically buggered eyesight. Released through Kiss/Kill/Repeat records, ‘Stone Cold Kiss’ somewhat swaggers out of the speakers, on waves of tremolo and imagined dry ice. The recording sounds ‘alive’, the vocals and guitar licks laced with the sound of the room, you can imagine stumbling into some hidden gem of a roadhouse in America and 68CREEP would be the band that make you sit up and take notice. ‘Black Cat’ continues the vibe of earnest yet full of bravado rock and roll, delivered via the medium of fuzz and smoke. The comes a hybrid of Alice Cooper’s ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ and Dead Kennedy’s ‘Halloween’ which bristles with a lofi psycohbilly but keeps more Cooper than Kennedy. ‘Birthday’ takes on a more twee sound, letting the the vocalist flex her soulful muscles, and throughout this release the vocals are muscular, in a way that you might describe PJ Harvey or Zola Jesus. ‘I Put A Spell On You’ pushes things even further down a bluesy avenue, before the closing two tracks (both Bushwick Manor mixes,) nail close this brief affair of a debut. I cannot help but think of David Lynch, as 68CREEP definitely ply the type of sound that the director currently seems wont to include in his revised Twin Peaks series. A shimmering, brash, cool and fun release from a band that remind me of a clash between PJ Harvey and The Raveonettes.


Next to land in my player are SPECTRAL HAZE who present TURNIUNG ELECTRIC. Hailing from Oslo in Norway, these peeps ply a different brand of fuzzy goodness, stoner rock laced with trippy synths and swirly oscillating/filtering guitar workouts. The band member names should give you a bit more of a clue too; Spacewülff – Interstellar Howls/Geetarrrgh; Sönik Slöth – Supercosmic overdrive pedalinfused guitarvoid; Döômdögg – Dronemachinated and Cëlestïal Cöbra – Conjurer of souls through ritual drums. I could probably leave the review there as if this intrigues you then you will probably enjoy this release, but I will say a little more. The riffs are strong and memorable while the delivery is thumping. The vocals are slightly buried under layers of reverb and the rest of the summed noise, which is fuzzy around the edges and keeps a lofi edge. Bands plying this type of psych stoner doom are common, so it is hard to stand out from the crowd. If SPECTRAL HAZE do so, it is because they keep a solid rock and roll element in the compositions and playing, giving the overall sound more of a fun feel than some of their more metal peers. One to check out of you like your doom with an upbeat edge and spaced out vibe.


I’ve only vaguely heard or seen the name TIGER CUB around, and I’ve never had any reason to suspect they might appeal to my warped taste in music, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be pushed in the right direction to hear a band. As a review this can happen when something outside your normal zone drops in your lap. So here we have EVOLVE OR DIE, an EP from said band, a follow up from their debut ‘Abstract Figures In The Dark’. I see mentions of ‘grunge revivalists’ during a brief search engine trawl and I also find out they hail from sunny Brighton UK. ‘Divided States Of Us’ kicks right in, commentary on recent referendum and political votes I suspect. It doesn’t hold back, a brash and tight thumper of a track with some nifty percussion containing electronic elements and a deliciously fuzzed up bass. The sound brings to mind a mix of Queens Of The Stone Age, Soulwax and perhaps early Muse (stripped of the histrionics). The second cut ‘Into The Ashes’ retains the same reference points but shows a restrained side to the band and an ear for a neat vocal melody, and once again a willingness to experiment with electronics. ‘It’s Only Love’ continues this more subtle approach but has much more of a British alt-pop feel to it, a dash of ‘Mansun-esque’ flair adding some drama and energy towards the tracks conclusion. ‘Faking Laughter’ closes out this four tracker in a similar fashion to which it started, anchored around and angular and enjoyable riff. I find myself impressed, as TIGER CUB are a band who have found their groove, and can’t be neatly pigeon-holed because of the wide range of styles they are willing to dabble with. I can only best describe them as well crafted alternative rock with experimental flourishes. They might not be the type of band I’d typically seek out music by but if I saw them gigging locally I’d certainly lend them my ear.


Drifting into hazier and dreamier territories we have a new release from LA’s TOMBSTONES IN THEIR EYES who drop their five track FEAR EP. The tempo is slow and doomy on the opening number ‘I Want To Fly’as they build up their sound with dense layers of down tuned fuzzy riffery complemented by cleanly sung vocals with a soulful and melancholy edge. ‘Separate’ has more energy and could be described as shoegaze, reminding me a little or early Catherine Wheel with the soaring guitars and perhaps also Arboretum’s funereal doom folk. Quite lovely. The acoustic timbres of ‘Always There’ have a twang of America in the mix which works well with the atmospheric vocals and emotive chord progressions while ‘Another Day’ returns to a noisier vibe, once again welding together elements of shoegaze and post rock to create a shimmering wall of sound which is most pleasing. The EP closes with the title track which recaptures the doomier elements of the opener, wrapping the EP smartly into a package that will appeal to lovers of stoner/doom and shoegaze/phsychadelia.


A noteworthy reissue of the moment comes from NEUROSIS whose second album THE WORD AS LAW, first released in 1990, arrives remastered and adorned with new artwork from their former visuals guy (and musical talent in his own right) Josh Graham. I started my journey with Neurosis with ‘Through Silver In Blood’ in 1996 which had already seen the band progress in the direction for which they are now generally know of producing finally crafted yet heavy as fuck pieces of art. This therefore is a chance for me to peer through a window to witness the band at an earlier career point where hardcore and aggression still dominated the sound. Surprisingly upbeat, the album is furious, hardcore punk screams over brash and spiky punk anthems. However, now knowing how the band progressed going forward from this, it is easier to hear some interesting nuances, during the more powerful lower tempos, behind the mammoth tub thumping you can hear more thoughtful bass progressions, chiming guitar dissonance, and a generally more experimental approach to song structuring. Don’t get me wrong though, this is first and foremost a hardcore punk album, and one that stands the test of time rather well. This is the album that saw Steve Von Till become part of Neurosis but his now recognisable vocal tones evidently don’t make their mark until further along the timeline. This is a shouty angry album with little subtlety, aggressive and unbridled. It brings to mind another of my favourite artists NoMeansNo, it is still a thoroughly listenable album for those amongst you that like a blast of hardcore and it is an interesting look into the development of a band that have had a vast influence on other artists across many genres. Worth checking out.


A noisy slap of metal landed in my inbox in the form of FLEURETY with their album INQUIETUM. It is a strange beast, combining black metal vocals, thrash/speed metal esque riffing and lofi drums intermingled with more down tempo post rock and more experimental sections Seemingly a hybrid of a compilation and proper album, INQUIETUM includes material released as a number of limited EPs over recent years. There is fine art to be found here, the music is brave and contains a myriad of styles varying from the musical to the barely listenable. The leaps between styles is sometimes jarring bordering on confusing, which I’m not sure whether is a compliment or a criticism. For example, I rather enjoyed ‘Summon The Beasts’ with its more melodic vocals and atmospheric bass progressions mixed with blasts of noise. I enjoyed the battery of ‘Animal Of The City’ far less. My listening experience of the album was pretty much this way for its entirety. I found elements to like, such as the straight up rockier element to ‘It’s When You’re Cold’, the odd folky ending to ‘Absence’ and the brooding industrial noise of ‘Consensus’ but the perhaps intentional absence of cohesion marred my listening experience, as did the sometime very low fidelity approach to recording. I’m not a total snob when it comes to recording techniques but I am left feeling like I would have enjoyed the more avant garde moments to the album is they sounded grander, bigger, more epic. This is undoubtedly clever stuff but how FLEURITY have chosen to present it may not appeal to all.


Also through Neurot Recordings is the latest from UFOMAMMUT, simply called ‘8’. Unsurprisingly it is the Italians’ eight album, but it also contains eight pieces of music, eight very heavy and expansive pieces at that. Furthermore, the number eight rotated through 90 degrees will present you with the symbol for infinity, hinting further at the expansive vision that UFAMAMMUT have. We are urged to consider ‘8’ as a singular piece with the eight compositions as satellites. We are also told that this album marks a change in recording approach, with a bulk of the material laid down live with the band in a single space. Whatever the blurb, what I can tell you is that this is a very good album. Deep and resonating, heavy and cloying, doom laden yet graceful. Opening track ‘Babel’ on its own covers all of these bases over the eight plus minute duration, morphing between Swans-esque guitar chiming, brutal riffs, more contemplative bass led sections and trance inducing ritual heaviness. Second track ‘Warsheep’ is as heavy as fuck, with the drums sounding particularly primal, the vocals sounding epic even buried in the dense mix as they are and the riffs are simply crushing. The quality never dips as the album progresses. A particular highlight is the explosive ending to ‘Prismaze’ which melts into the subsonic speaker worrying assault of ‘Core’. The splendidly titled ‘Wombdemonium’ has one of the hugest Sabbathian riffs I have ever heard and ‘Psyrcle’ brings the album to a close in a wonderfully weird and unsettling way. A journey in heavy with plenty of thrilling bends and curves that will expand your mind if you let it.


One of my favourite noise rock band has returned to the fray, UNSANE who have released STERILIZE. For nearly 30 years UNSANE have been assaulting the ears and sometimes other senses of alternative types and time hasn’t mellowed them at all. If you’ve been following the output of this trio then STERILIZE isn’t going to disappoint but it isn’t going to surprise either. For the uninitiated, they are gnarly. I don’t really like that word but it suits them down to the ground. I could use gristly, filthy, and ultimately rather noisy. This is why I love them. For this, their first album in five years, the formula hasn’t been altered in any significant way, but they are probably the best at what they do so why mess with it. If you really still don’t know what to expect, imagine Swans mud wrestling with Melvins. Dense unabating bass hooks with filthy fizzling guitars layered on top, nailed down by on point yet tribal drumming and spluttered snarling vocal diatribes. Yes it is that nasty. All of it. As unrelenting as it is, I am struggling to single out a particular highlight, though at a push, ‘Inclusion’ has the extra cool of a processed drum sound to ramp up the noise further, and perhaps the, ahem, catchiest moment of the album comes in the form of ‘Distance’. This nine track album closes with another belter called ‘We’re Fucked’. It could also be called ‘Your Ears Are Fucked’ but I really don’t care, I’m enjoying this ugly sounding band just as much now as I ever did.