Albums of the Year 2013

Here are my albums of the year (shamelessly linked where I’ve written about them). As always, I’ve been buried by the number of spectacular releases this year, the majority of which I’ve discovered through the wonderful outlets that continue to allow me to write for them.  So, Thrash Hits, Prog and The Quietus, thank you for taking the time to make my words appear more coherent than they actually are.

2014, I feel, will be cool. I’m on the cusp of doing more with the writey part of my life, which makes this a very interesting time. I know, what a mug to be jumping on this particular rickety bandwagon just as journalism is dragging its seeping cadaver into the gutter. Regardless of what the naysayers will proclaim, I think the survival of writing in 2014 will demonstrate just how versatile outlets can be. I’d be lying to say that I’m not excited to be, at least, a minuscule part of this.

Bright eyed optimism is terribly uncool, I am thoroughly aware.

What a rambling tit, eh? Anyway, have at ye:

1. Touché Amoré – Is Survived By

Is Survived By

Touché Amoré navigate the tendrils of the human psyche more clearly than any other band in existence. Is Survived  By sees the band in an introspective mood, but that doesn’t stop the record exploding with indignation at the grotesque inadequacies in society. Every track is deeply personal, yet every one speaks to the mass of disaffected youth who can’t imagine cementing a legacy in a technologically advanced, but socially atavistic, world.

2. letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful

3. Blue October – Sway

4. Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us Is the Killer

5. Brotherhood of the Lake – Desperation Is the English Way Vol. 2

6. Riverside – Shrine Of New Generation Slaves

7. The Defiled – Daggers

8. Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal

9. A Day To Remember – Common Courtesy

10. Hawk Eyes – That’s What This Is

11. Wet Nuns – Wet Nuns

12. Protest the Hero – Volition

13. Leprous – Coal

14. Fierce and the Dead – Spooky Action

15. Steven Wilson – The Raven Who Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)

16. Orphaned Land – All is One

17. Heart of a Coward – Severance

18. Ghost – Infestissumam

19. TesseracT – Altered State

20. Humanfly – Awesome Science

What Prog Means to Me : Anathema – One Last Goodbye

DISCLAIMER: Okay, so I wrote this in April 2012, hence the anachronisms throughout. There’s no significance in me publishing it now; this isn’t some great moment of catharsis and nor do I feel like I’m putting lots of demons to rest by making this public. 

It may not be the best thing I’ve written, nor the most relevant, but it reflects (as it continues to do so) how I feel about a song that was significant at a hard time in my life. That’s all.Image

Progressive music (known affectionately as Prog) does not have a natural entry point for a lot of people. It is music built around a non-linear structure, foregoing the verse-chorus based formula of ‘standard’ music, and therefore often stands out amongst other genres for being an oddity. Yet, as the recent release of Anathema’s Weather Systems proves, this isn’t a genre that delights in obscurity, but moreover one that uses obscurity to emphasise its delights. Prog shelters and nurtures a richness in its music that is rarely found elsewhere, and for me, this depth is captured in one song.

Anathema’s Judgement, released in 1999, was their fifth studio album. It was an album that saw the band holding onto some last, desolate bastion of doom, but it marked a notable departure from the then six year old colossal, caustic heft of the like of Serenades. Pitched right in the middle of this release is ‘One Last Goodbye’, a song built on residues of grief and loss, and one that was written by the Cavanagh brothers soon after their mother’s death.

From the off, the tangible, suffocating grief of the lyrics is almost overwhelming. Knowing the circumstances of its conception, trying to grasp the meaning of words that have been written and compute them into some sort of understanding is harrowing. Framing this is a song structure that echoes the irrepressible, unsleeping torment of the words; there is no chorus here, no return point, just an endless outpouring of grief as Vincent Cavanagh moves between despair, “But the strength I always loved in you//finally gave way” and clutching at mirages of hope:

In my dreams I can see you
I can tell you how I feel
In my dreams I can hold you
And it feels so real

With these latter lyrics, the song builds into a tempest, words thrown angrily into the wind at the surety of this injustice.

The song peaks about three and a half minutes in, as Cavanagh seems to gain acceptance in the midst of his sorrow “And somehow I knew you would leave me”, and as the last strand of “oh I wish, I wish you could have stayed” crashes home, a soaring solo erupts out of the anguish of the words. This is a moment that’s all at once beautiful and crushing, and leaves a trail of emotion as tangible as any of the lyrics.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of a song that means so much to you; ‘One Last Goodbye’ echoes a very specific part of my life, and a similar circumstance. It’s one of the few places that has granted solace and unquestioning acceptance, and is one of these uniquely beautiful and harrowing songs that says more through its progression than anyone else has been able to.

Of course, like I said above, this is uniquely personal. I do believe, however, that progressive music is one of the few places that can facilitate such an evocative story, and phrase it in a way that it’ll mean something different to every single person that digests it.

The best thing to happen to 2012 so far…



Hawk Eyes – Ideas

[24th February 2012]

Hawk Eyes 2012 promo photo Thrash Hits

Hawk Eyes
Ideas
Fierce Panda
26 March 2012

by David Keevill

Re-christened from the ashes of Chickenhawk, Hawk Eyes‘ full-length “debut”,Ideas, sees the band recommence a vigorous assault on complacency in music by making one of the most dangerous and interesting rock records of recent years. Not content with just being part of a demented touring schedule last year and releasing the five-punch EP of Mindhammers in December, Hawk Eyes have persisted in loosing the record equivalent of a full fucking cranial episiotomy… (Read the rest on Thrash Hits)

Cheap Girls – Giant Orange

[22nd February 2012]

cheapgirls_giantorange

The ability of Cheap Girls to appear ordinary is an extraordinary talent. The kind of effortless punk rock that Cheap Girls writes is warming for its persistent introspection and ‘Giant Orange’ is no different. The album still maintains the band’s hazy tone, with production opting to blend Ian Graham’s vocals into the sonic boom of the four-chord riff and insistent backdrop of drums. Thematically, Giant Orange meanders through the doubt and insecurity of a twenty-something struggling to maintain relationships (Ruby) and coping through bleary-eyed self-analysis (Cored to Empty). It’s not all bleak though; the tone of the album romps with good-humoured optimism as with the dual-wielded vocals on Mercy-Go-‘Round or the slow-burn of darkly anthemic Pacer.

[Read the rest on Bring the Noise UK]

Mortad – The Myth of Purity

[5th February 2012]

(Independent)

It’s easy to be disparaging about a band that, on first listen, sound like every fucking other metal group that thinks the harder and faster and louder they play, the more they’ll be accepted by an increasingly cynical-about-change musical community.

Mortad, who unfortunately fall into this bracket, make themselves hard to be liked. The Myth of Purity, their first full-length, follows pretty closely on from last year’s EP Pandemic Paranoia both thematically and musically. It’s not difficult to take a shot at what the lyrics are going to be like; Misanthropy? Check. Disaffection? Check. Condoleeza Rice fudging herself silly on Countdown? Probably not. We live in a sad old world where bands take regurgitated and overused archetypes as the basis for their musical drive, because yes, as metal fans we do enjoy being part of a pissed-off collective, but we aren’t so gormless that any generic call-to-arms will stir something in our blackened hearts.

[Read the rest on Demon Pigeon]

Live: Basick Records Fest @ London Camden Barfly – 05 February 2012

[15th February 2012] – The words here are both mine and Mr Tom Dare’s (@Repka)

Chimp Spanner promo photo 2010 Thrash Hits

British indy label Basick Records put on their own night in London, featuring instrumental tech metal(/cheese) one-piece Chimp Spanner (yes, he did bring a backing band), excellent French atmospheric tech metallers Uneven Structure and French mentalist The Algorithm. We went along to bang our heads in 17/8 time signature.

Six things we learned from when Basick Records brought their bands to London

1) The Algorithm’s frontman is vaguely reminiscent of Gareth Keenan from The Office, but despite this, the sonic fury of their music makes 6 foot blokes with jutting beards smash their faces around to the heavy dub-fodder on offer. The beats are just fucking huge, and the Barfly is a small enough venue to make you feel like you’re locked in a prison cell with a rutting rhinoceros.

2) The proliferation of utterly bonkers acts coming out of France shows no sign of slowing down, if The Algorithm is anything to go by. Basick may specialise in the well and truly crazy side of metal, but even they will struggle to get something as loopy as this guy on their roster any time soon. It’s about as predictable as a hallucinating cat when someone’s just turned the hoover on, veering from progressive house to Meshuggah-esque metal to random samples, like the ‘Trolololol’ song. It definitely makes you move though.

[Read the rest at Thrash Hits]

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