Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

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…



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]

Amazon £3 albums

Amazon have pulled their finger out and are selling a lot of digital downloads for the meagre amount of £3. Here are 15 that you’d be barmy not to go and download now (I’ve stuck the links in as well, because I’m helpful like that). Act soon – this surely won’t last forever.

1. Reign in Blood by Slayer

2. Ten by Pearl Jam

3. The Velvet Underground & Nico by Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground & Nico

4. Superunknown by Soundgarden

Superunknown

5. Tommy by The Who

Tommy

6. The Colour & The Shape by Foo Fighters

The Colour And The Shape

7. Brave New World by Iron Maiden

Brave New World

8. Rust In Peace by Megadeth

Rust In Peace

9. Mother’s Milk by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Mother's Milk [Explicit]

10. Hail to the Thief by Radiohead

Hail To The Thief

11. Hawkwind by Hawkwind

Hawkwind

12. Blackwater Park by Opeth

Blackwater Park

13. A Storm In Heaven by The Verve

A Storm In Heaven

14. Korn by Korn

Korn [Explicit]

15. Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones

England Keep My Bones [Explicit]

Sandblasted Albums of 2011: 9. Rival Sons – Pressure & Time

From the brazen stomp of opener, All Over the Road, through to the stripped-bare  beauty of Face of Light, Rival Sons have created in ‘Pressure & Time’ an effortless return to simple, unwashed blues-rock. What the band have captured here is the essence of rock without posturing or pretension, and execute it in the most heart-warming way possible; the vocals are rich and emotive beyond belief, the bass and drums are tight and the guitar, for the most part, burns with a raw, passionate screech.

The title track’s riff is repetitive, insistent and showcases some of the only musical flourish on the album; the groove that’s created is insatiable.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MA0m1K2jW4

When Rival Sons do drop the pace, there is tangible emotion to be had here. Only One and Face Of Light are magnificent demonstrations of the deep-set passion and sincerity that runs through the heart of the record; honestly, it might not even matter what the content of the songs are about because the sound here is honest and timeless. Undoubtedly the rock album of the year.

Sandblasted Albums of 2011: 10. The Answer – Revival

In a world where bands cannibalise their peers to put an extra ounce of flesh onto a record, The Answer have always delivered solid, bluesy and corpulent rock n roll, and Revival remains very much in the same vein. Foregoing their Irish roots for a more deep South slant, Revival boasts songs that are more confident than their predecessors, whether it’s the slide guitar opener for Waste Your Tears or the bombastic thrust of Vida (I Want You), The Answer remain distinctive and boisterous. This is real travelling blues, and the band retains sincerity without over-egging the point (although One More Revival is somewhat cringe worthy).

Anything that might seem too worthy, however, is cast aside by the musicianship that rollicks and storms at points throughout the album; the vocals are distinctive and passionate, and the female lyrics on Nowhere Freeway are a refreshing reminder of The Answer’s ability to dally with other musical elements, whilst retaining their essential clout. If rock n roll brings you here, then you’ll stay for The Answer’s warmth and sincerity that have become such absent commodities recently.

Listen to: Nowhere Freeway, Tornado, Vida (I Want You)

 

My iTunes top 25 played (since May 2011)

It’s been a slow week. I’ve posted nothing of any real significance for ages. So continuing in that vein, here are my top listened to tracks on itunes since May. The volume of Architects is due to being slightly obsessed with The Here & Now when it came out; it has since lost its polish somewhat.

In other news, download Turbowolf’s self-titled album. You can get it for a fiver from their label here http://hasslerecords.sandbag.uk.com/Store/DII-2668-6-turbowolf:+turbowolf+mp3.html. It’s incredible.

A Bitter and Resentful Guide to the Best Albums of 2011

This was something I had to draw up for the Trash Hits Best Albums of 2011. Only 4 of my top ten made it into the 20 that went up on the site. Just saying, but they were wrong. This is what they meant to print:

10. The Answer – Revival

9. Rival Sons – Pressure & Time

8. Black Stone Cherry – Beyond the Deep Blue Sea

7. Opeth – Heritage

6. Fair to Midland – Arrows & Anchors

5. Mastodon – The Hunter

4. Turbowolf – Turbowolf

3. D.R.U.G.S. – D.R.U.G.S.

2. Rise Against – Endgame

1. Machine Head – Unto the Locust

Machine Head – A huge anticipation and a release that smashed the fuck out of every expectation. Heavy, inventive and often introspective, Unto the Locust broadened Machine Head’s gaze beyond the maelstrom of The Blackening and into more reflective pastures, without losing a shred of intensity. This is an outstanding summation of their craft.

You’re welcome.

Architects – The Here & Now

A regurgitation this may be (from March of this year), but the points are still valid. Please ignore the wankiness:

I approached this album joylessly, expecting to find the inevitable smash, pound, screaming wail and explosive amalgamation of petulant noise that has rapidly become the recognisable backdrop to our raging, dissatisfied and disheartened British youth. It is this generations’ discontent vocalised; the striking of the match, the call for unbridled reformation, the dogged masses piling up to the palace gates like the dead against the gates of hell. As Byron noted, music is the most irresistible force in the dictation of emotion, in the commanding of man’s will. My love of music is locked into its capacity for inspiring, changing and inciting. However, when music loses this capacity because of an absence of innovation or feeling then it serves to discredit the entire cause that it has been (supposedly) championing.  Metalcore had once looked to be the successor to the anarchist throne, the grimy heir to punk and social dysfunction, but in recent times its crown and sceptre have been gathering dust, with bands instead opting to chase a sound that has become all too predictable and lucrative; it had appeared that this marked the end of a feeling that had started with riotous bands such as Misfits and Black Flag, all those years ago.

Thankfully the 2011 release from Brighton upstarts Architects, The Here and Now, is a refreshing and exciting reinvention of the genre. It certainly lacks the aggression of their previous effort, the biting Hollow Crown, but, as their current album title suggests, they are firmly living in the moment, much to the listeners benefit. To purists, this will no doubt look like ‘selling out.’ It certainly is a step down in intensity from their last album; the clean vocals are prevalent through The Here and Now and the musicianship doesn’t always gallop at top speed. These are two highly endearing factors though. This is a band who may look like they’re trying to break into the mainstream, but who are actually doing the opposite. In my opinion, the negative connotations of the ‘mainstream’ should lie with the reams of identical extremists and the musical ‘hardcore’ who imitate the successes of KSE, Underoath and other genre-dominating monoliths. Architects have had the cajones to mature a sound that is dark and still as full of angst as before. This step has made them more identifiable, dangerously relevant and increasingly capable of being able to play with the big boys.

Album opener, and Architect’s newest single, Day In  Day Out is a fantastic statement of intent; Sam Carter spits disaffectedly ‘The years I put into this’ before the song ploughs into a huge and devastating groove, with the vocalist shifting with ease between his throaty accusations and melancholic clean lyrics. At no point does it seem that these complaints against our society are contrived; the sincerity is clear, the point is not lost. Moreover, Architects exude their youth and passion through themes such as relationships (An Open Letter To Myself), self-decomposition (Red Eyes) and love (Heartburn), without sounding self-deprecating or sickly-sweet at any point.  Why can’t more bands sound like they are as genuine as this Brighton outfit? This record is cliché free, absent of any unnecessary breakdowns or fuckwit lyrics. After three or four listens, Architects’ insistent and passionate outlook will have attached itself to you.

If you’re looking for another Hollow Crown, then you will be disappointed. This is a band who have moved past their musical adolescence and have found a maturity that has been missing from their previous outputs. However one truth remains standing as solidly as before; changing pace, tone or tact is not an indication of compromise. Don’t believe me? Then you’ll end up as unimaginative and restrained by your boundaries as metalcore has become.

Deathcore (day 2): Pissing into the mouth of convention

Reflections

Armed with a handful of demo tracks and an EP release expected in Spring 2012, Reflections are a band that refuse to comment on their genre, and rightly so. Included in this deathcore series because they incorporate elements of the musical style (breakdowns included), they are harnessing a sound that, although fitting into the djent bracket too, is not constrained by the sum of its parts. This is promiscuous music that fucks precision into groove into brutality; wielding an A-HA track and a Katy Perry cover in their backcatalogue also shows how willing Reflections are to take conventionality up the chuffer.

However, where this five-piece are strongest is during music of their own creation. So far I’ve managed to eke out of the band the locations of 3 full-length tracks (I’ll link where possible), which, even as demoes, demonstrate the potential of this furious young troupe. Reflections have a sound that is pitched right on the edge of sanity; there is so much technical prowess here, especially during the spidery guitar-work that is so elaborate and dissonant. An Artifact refuses to clamp down, with its spindly solo opener and frenzied underlying chug that soon breaks down into the verse, whilst Advance Upon Me Brethren kicks into a bouncy groove, and then smashes you at freight train speed during the chorus. For all of the shitmunchers who wait with baited breath for the breakdown, there are those too, but framed by some really well executed music that doesn’t just leave you begging for the bass drop.

Reflections earn their stripes, though, not just because their musical skills are far beyond proficiency, but as willing participants in esotericism; this is exploratory music that takes cues from several areas of metal. It’s thought-out, provocative and technical whilst also being explosive and evocative and absent of any pretension. What’s more, they don’t participate in the race to be faster and heavier than everyone else (which gives deathcore its generic ooze), but instead are a far more convincing offering with progressive and groove elements thrown into the mix.

The next test for Reflections will be releasing a record that gives credit to their talent in being a cohesive and dangerous force. So far they’ve proved innovation in a genre that has already been condemned to the grave by some critics, and are pushing the boundaries in all sorts of degenerate ways. Reflections will find their strengths (and their admirers) by remaining as willing outcasts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG19XoaCZ70

Deets

http://soundcloud.com/reflectionsmn
http://www.youtube.com/user/ReflectionsMN
http://twitter.com/ReflectionsMN
http://reflectionsmn.tumblr.com/
http://reflections.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/reflectionsmn 

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