Lines In Wax

TWELVE YEARS OF UNWANTED OPINION

Month: May 2023

Swans – Anonymous Bodies In An Empty Room (1990)

Swans – Anonymous Bodies In An Empty Room (1990)

Anonymous Bodies… has always been my least favourite Swans release. It is the live album that followed The Burning World, and contains tracks from that era as well as some rought outlines of stuff that would come soon after on White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity. Whilst it is interesting to get a view into how the stifled tracks from The Burning World unfolded in a more natural way on the live stage, one cannot escape the fact that this is just a bad bootleg made semi-official. The sound quality is incredibly poor – clear enough perhaps that you can make out what is going on but bereft of any impact or feeling. Therefore, this leads me to conclude this short review by saying that this is an interesting document for those who are extremely interested in the development of Swans’ sound over this period, and nothing more.

Satanic Warmaster – Opferblut (2003)

Satanic Warmaster – Opferblut (2003)

I’ve had a whole bunch of listens to this thing but it keeps sailing on by. I cannot get a grip on any of the songs, none of which are particularily bad by the way, but leave no trace after they are gone and the next one has started. Hell, the first time I played this the whole thing had looped through without me even realising it, which is not a good thing. I have no complaints about production, instrumentation, vocals and I can’t decipher any overt NSBM themes (always a plus) but nothing on this album sticks. It is one colossal, infinite “meh”. I appreciate using the word “meh” to review a black metal release is incredibly unprofessional but I am really struggling with this album, so I need to just give up and move on. TLDR: Not bad, just severely uneventful.

Swans – The Gate (2015)

Swans – The Gate (2015)

I saw Swans on every UK tour that they did between 2010 and the end of the “trilogy” line up in 2017 (or 2018 – I forget). I got a copy of every live album they did too off the back of these experiences (except Deliquescence, which had sold out by the time the tour date nearest me rolled around, goddamn it). You could easily argue that The Gate captures “peak Swans”, who are at this point nuts deep in touring the To Be Kind record and are developing the huge slabs of noise that would soon become The Glowing Man. Whilst The Glowing Man is my favourite of the three trilogy studio albums for capturing this live essence the best, the Glowing Man songs in their rawer more unhinged forms here are equally as amazing if not moreso. Whilst the live funk of “A Little God In My Hands” offers a much snazzier live version of the song, tracks like “Frankie M” and “Bring The Sun / Black-Eyed Man” (which are both nearly half-hour long) are absolutely momental pieces of music that in this current form on this record are some of the greatest pieces of music Swans ever recorded – in fact, ANY artist has recorded. For the two tracks mentioned above, this CD is worth the price of entry alone. I was lucky enough to buy this at retail price from Young God Records but I’m going to soon shell out for a physical copy of Deliquescence (the ultimate Swans live album IMO) because the quality on these discs is just absolutely absurdly good. I recently relistened to The Gate in my car at an incredibly unreasonable volume, and it was one hell of an experience. There are some points here that make The Gate far from absolute perfection, however. The track “Apostate / Cloud Of Unforming”, which went on to become The Glowing Man’s “Cloud Of Unknowing”, at least in this current form, drags far too long and relies too heavily on the residual “The Apostate” melody / motif that it is built around (many 2010s era Swans songs are created in this way – from ashes of other pieces). “The Apostate” in it’s original form(s) was a part of 2012’s The Seer and a highlight of live sets from that time. Similarly, the demo tracks tacked onto the end of the CD version do leave a bit to be desired. I understand that the majority of the Swans material is concieved on the live stages (unlike say, My Father…. which had a stunning demos album in the form of I Am Not Insane), but there is not much to work with here. The quality of the Gira-sung version of “When Will I Return?” (his wife Jennifer sings the album version) leaves a lot to be desired, and the majority of the other demos are not even really worth writing about. There is an exception of course, and that is the excellent acoustic version of “Finally, Peace”. “Finally, Peace” is one of my favourite songs by Swans, and a stunning and fitting end to the trilogy of mammoth albums that this era of Swans brought us. In fact, if Swans’ studio output ended permanently with this track then I would have been more than happy. So, hearing this beautiful song here in its raw acoustic form once again after all these years was a real treat. “Your glorious mind…. your glorious mind….”

Vacuous – Dreams Of Dysphoria (2022)

Vacuous – Dreams Of Dysphoria (2022)

Vacuous’ debut record expands on the band’s promising sound from demos (EPs?) such as Katabasis. The band have grown from a small unit into a fully fledged 5 piece and the sound has grown along with them. The artwork is fitting; such a messy, confusing maelstrom of what could be flesh but also otherworldly materials is the perfect artistic interpretation of Vacuous’ dense and brutal sound. I’m not going to give you any big brain ideas about what I think this album is about (it wouldn’t be my place), but the dark and atmospheric take the band have on death metal helps hammer the songs home, especially when you get the odd groove rearing up out of the storm and really taking you by surprise. Great stuff.

Esham – Bro (2023)

Esham – Bro (2023)

I have a lot of time for Esham but this legitimately sounds like a Goblin-era Tyler outtake set to a stock beat that someone downloaded off Soundcloud. Not a strong start to the promo cycle for the new record, I’ll be honest.

Crymych – Endless Fucking Winter (2022)

Crymych – Endless Fucking Winter (2022)

Mysterious but rather hollow sounding four track record from fellow VVelsh countrymen. I think this “hollowness” can easily be attributed to the missing guitar; most of these lengthy pieces are devoid of guitar, instead being led by very loud drums and a backdrop of synthesiser moods. Coupled with the production style, Endless Fucking Winter therefore has a fairly unique sound, one that is cold and sparse and indeed living up to its name.

State Of Conviction – A Call To Arms (2006)

State Of Conviction – A Call To Arms (2006)

Solid, funk-influenced hardcore from a Cleveland, OH outfit that features some of the dudes from Mushroomhead, namely one-time vocalist Jason Popson and classic-era guitarist John Sekula (known to MRH fans as JJ Righteous). You can tell immediately upon firing this up that Sekula is playing; that dry, super thick guitar tone that immediately reminds me of M3 comes bursting out of the speakers. As far as the funk influences go I think these are held over from the previous outfit containing some of these guys, that being Unified Culture (I’m no expect on the Cleveland music scene so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). This is a solid half hour of heavy music though, with amazing production and brilliant vocals. The band is really tight too. All in all, a great album – wish they did more full lengths.

Impetigo – Ultimo Mondo Cannibale (1990)

Impetigo – Ultimo Mondo Cannibale (1990)

Gross, disgusting, beautiful, old school analogue death metal with grindcore elements. In fact, I hate the term “deathgrind” but to use it to describe bands like Impetigo or Blood is very fitting. Things do stray into Mortician territory here and there (as in, massive horror movie sample chunks are thrown in) but otherwise this is pure raw metal Armageddon. I love everything about this. Sick, pulsating production with thick drums and riffs, and barked or yelped or pitchshifter vokills. A band after mine own heart, most def.

Grausame Töchter – Vagina Dentata (2016)

Grausame Töchter – Vagina Dentata (2016)

Stale, repetitive, uninspiring in just about every possible way. I’m sure there are people out there that listen to this stuff, and I suppose the production quality is pretty good, but my god it’s so bland I can’t even find the words to write about it. I just wish I could get the time back that I spent with this. Oh well. Live and learn.

The John Coltrane Quartet – Africa / Brass (1961)

The John Coltrane Quartet – Africa / Brass (1961)

Cool, calm yet complex jazz from one of the masters. Well, it’s credited to Coltrane in title but just take a look at the full credits – there are some incredible players on this thing. Please forgive my lack of jazz knowledge but Africa / Brass seems like a chilled mix between the bop worlds and the fusion worlds that would soon overtake in popularity. The songs are long and meandering but the backbones of them are rock solid, allowing those upfront to perhaps wander a bit more freely without worry of losing their way. The A-side track, the sixteen minute “Africa”, is probably the best example of this. Great stuff!

Majestic Mass – Savage Empire Of Death (2018)

Majestic Mass – Savage Empire Of Death (2018)

For how incredible its album cover is, Savage Empire Of Death does not disappoint. Imagine black metal stylings crossed with sleazy doomy rock (Satan’s Satyrs, Mephistopheles etc.) and you wouldn’t be far off here. In fact, just imagine Black Magick SS with a little less keyboard and a lot less swastikas, and you’re bang on the money. The production is pretty nasty, but that lends much more to the atmosphere and vibe than what it takes away in audio fidelity. Expect such fantastical ditties as “Clandestine Supremacy” and “Sanguine Dreams Of Lust”. Expect to develop a desire to burn candles, smoke opium and watch banned b-movies exclusively in the VHS format.

Mortiis – Født Til Å Herske (1994)

Mortiis – Født Til Å Herske (1994)

A timeless classic of the “Dungeon Synth” genreI’ve found that Fodt Til A Herske has always filled me with a profound sadness; a sadness that once again fills me as I sit here late at night writing this review whilst this record plays. When I first got the CD at 15 years old it felt as sad then as it does now, but with the music pressing on different weights from life. I guess between 15 years old and 33 years old there are different things to be sad about. Music is, as it always has been, such a powerful tool and force to reckon with, that it can make you feel these things. Fodt Til A Herske has always been an outstanding record. As good as the first Mortiis demo/LP was, Fodt Til A Herske improves on it tenfold, yet retaining that haunting, forelorn sadness that I speak so much about. The Mortiis stuff after this would go in a more fantastical, bombastic direction, and whilst still amazing pieces of music, they do not connect with me as much as the first two, especially this one, Fodt Til A Herske. Comprised of two parts, Fodt Til A Herske is a minimalist piece at its core, with various fluctuations and meandering paths as the music develops. If you like your music to be busy and all-involving then perhaps this one is not for you. It is a slow burn of magical synthesizers that invoke simple yet immensely powerful tunes. I can only hope that I am still here in anothet 15 years to continue to appreciate this timeless music.

Antichrist Siege Machine – Purifying Blade (2021)

Antichrist Siege Machine – Purifying Blade (2021)

Hmmmmmm that’s some tasty, tasty war metal. Love the sheer sonic obliteration that is the fucking SNARE DRUM alone. That’s my jam. But yeah, in all seriousness, this is heavy as shit. Which is what we want, right? At least from war metal, this is to be expected and I welcome it openly. Is there masses of variation and technical nuance? Perhaps not. Purifying Blade does have more going than your average 30-minutes-blur of a war metal release, but will probably still underwhelm those who are looking for more than sheer sonic brute force. Luckily, that kind of thing keeps cavemen like myself very happy, so I cannot recommend this enough.

Gudsforladt – Friendship, Love and War (2022)

Gudsforladt – Friendship, Love and War (2022)

This is some super cool shit. I love the mix of melody and absolutely atrocious production – now that my friends, is something to live for. It’s like all the hideously racist shit that comes out of the Finnish scene only without, y’know, any of the hideous racism. Instead we have a pure (lol) distillation of melodic black metal, and it sounds fucking class. Friendship, Love and War is a long album too, clocking in at 54 minutes, so your get your money’s worth, as it were. Some fellow explorers ov the sounds cry that this has heavy metal elements. Whilst they would not be wrong, I find that these are mostly drowned out by the black metal elements and the accompanying production values that come with such elements. I would finally like to give some kudos to the cover art, which is beautiful in its own right, and is what solidified my interest in checking this thing out after it was recommended to me. Ride Forever, my metal brethren.

Miles Davis – Amandla (1989)

Miles Davis – Amandla (1989)

Charming and lovely and an absolute pleasure to listen to, but also rather uneventful and not boundary pushing in any way shape or form. I feel like I have fallen into some sort of vaporwave mall / backrooms nightmare, or I’m stuck playing SimCity2000 for the rest of my life – which could be a good vibe if that’s what you are after. Take this on face value and enjoy the smooth tunes, but don’t try to dig too much out from it.

Sepultura – Nation (2001)

Sepultura – Nation (2001)

Listening to the Sepultura albums chronologically, I was initially surprised by how Against held it’s own – especially after how much I’d read the first transition to a Max-less world (lol) was recieved. Against held its own, allowing the band to continue as a three-piece but also begin flexing their new 4th member. I expected Nation to be more of this, but unfortunately it doesn’t even compare. Nation is just bad nu metal to the absolute core and is the sound of a band at their absolute nadir. That is not to say that there are not some good moments here or there, this is Sepultura after all and I have the most immense respect for Derrick Green. This album though, is exactly what I thought Against would be, but the delayed reaction of that initial release being half decent caught me off guard. This album belongs in 2001, and it needs to stay there, I’m afraid.

Hail Conjurer – Ouroboros Lust (2023)

Hail Conjurer – Ouroboros Lust (2023)

One look at that cover art and I had to check this out, even more so when I saw the associated artists for this project were Pussies and Hooded Menace, two bands I would have never put in the same sentence. Hail Conjurer have a ton of recordings but this is the first that I have come across and after a few listens now I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it. The immediate musical aesthetic is one of black metal, but has this weird, off-kilter approach to such that it doesn’t really fit under that banner. Equally, Ouroboros Lust is as doomy as it is black, but outside of some weepy riffs this doesn’t really hold that much in common with doom either. Throw in a bunch of noisy passages and sizzling electronic pads and you’ve got an unholy cauldron of sounds that jumps around in utter confusion. But does it work? One could argue yes, that it does. Others could say that it’s a bit of a clusterfuck. Both would be right. What I do know however is that you’d be best tuning in and deciding for yourself. It is an interesting journey, if nothing else. Stand out track: Two Stars

Nocturnus – Ethereal Tomb (1999)

Nocturnus – Ethereal Tomb (1999)

Cool, calm and clean, Ethereal Tomb first comes on like a fucking Symphony X record or something, until you quickly realise that you are listening to a death metal record, just recorded and presented with a prog-style production. It is a far cry from the muddy yet gratifying CHONK of albums like The Key or Thresholds, but I found Ethereal Tomb to be a very rewarding listen, especially with repeat visits. The drumming in particular, by Rick Bizarro, is fantastic. This is the core of the original band sans Browning and the bassist (whose name I forget), and it’s funny because nobody who is in the current Nocturnus “AD” is on this album – it’s like a completely new band, but one that is closer IMO to the original Nocturnus that Nocturnus “AD” can hope to be, Browning or no Browning. Anyway, this odd outlier in the catalog is well worth checking out. Please do not be put off by the clean sound or the absolutely pants album cover.

Sarcofago – I.N.R.I. (1987)

Sarcofago – I.N.R.I. (1987)

Messy, nasty, horrible metal cranked up to 11. You can feel the youthful energy of this thing overflowing throughout the whole record; be it in the raspy vocals, the crazy guitars or the sloppy, scattered drums. This is like combining early Possessed and early Venom in that machine from The Fly and turning it up to 666%. I.N.R.I. almost sounds to me like the accidental template for “war metal” (stuff like Beherit, Blasphemy and more recently Revenge, Conqueror etc.). I love how track 7 is misprinted as “Ready To Fucky” on some versions of this album – that is just absolutely hilarious, and jarring with the sinister tone here (I can’t wait to ask my partner that question the next time she seems even remotely in the mood – I’m sure it will seal the deal, so cheers Sarcofago). Stand out tracks include “Satanic Lust”, “Desecration Of VIrgin” and “Deathrash”.

Sepultura – Blood Rooted (1997)

Sepultura – Blood Rooted (1997)

Something that I initially wrote off as a pointless odds-and-ends collection does actually turn out to contain some interesting moments. All the cover songs at the beginning are well worth a listen, and for the sheer oddity of it, as are the tracks that guest Mike Patton and even Jonathan Davis from Korn. But that’s it, really. One for the die-hards and completionists.

Soulfly – Soulfly (1998)

Soulfly – Soulfly (1998)

An album that failed to resonate with me on every possible level. I love Max, I love nu metal, I love Ross Robinson, but this just does absolutely nothing for me. It’s hard to decide who was floundering more at this point, Sepultura with Against, or Max and Soulfly with this new project. I respect both artists for continuing in their own direction, but I don’t think either direction really paid off. Against by Sepulutra has probably aged better than this debut Soulfly record, which has some absolutely shocking guest appearances.

Nile – Black Seeds Of Vengeance (2000)

Nile – Black Seeds Of Vengeance (2000)

You know the score by now – absurdly technical, down-tuned and blurry death metal that is intricately composed yet verging on the possibility of completely falling apart and sounding like completely pointless mush. It is indeed a fine line to walk, and such a constant barrage of Egyptian-theme barbarity can grate on the ears, with or without decent production (Black Seeds… is somewhere in the middle). However, if you are in the mood for have your sense completely blasted with unforgiving technical death metal, then I can’t really think of a better band off the top of my head that does it as well as Nile.

Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance (2013)

Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance (2013)

The Underground Resistance was something that I really disliked when it first came out, because I had an mp3 rip of this thing that had the tracks listed backwards, and the opening moments of “Leave No Cross Unturned” that had those King Diamond kinda worshipping vocals immediately had me checking the fuck out of there. Of course, in hindsight, this is hilarious as “Leave No Cross Unturned” is easily the best song on this entire thing, and arguably saves the album for me. The “arse end” of this era of Darkthrone is not exactly awful, but it isn’t really my kind of metal. So this record, along with Circle The Wagons before it, is the closest I come to not really enjoying the music of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. I don’t find any of these songs particularly exciting, despite several relistens in the run up to writing this to try and wring some sort of positive note from the entire thing (I even ordered a copy of it on CD but it never showed up in the mail and I got a refund from the seller – if that’s not a sign to stop then I don’t know what is). This would get a solid 3 of out 5 if it wasn’t for the closing track, a song that is 13:49 long (is that intentional?). It’s a hell of a trip, and contains some of the best riffs and general moments of the entire album, and of the band’s entire career spent playing this particular style. The record is worth the price of admission alone for “Leave No Cross Unturned”. Otherwise, it has to be one of the weaker Darkthrone albums.

Darkthrone – Transilvanian Hunger (1994)

Darkthrone – Transilvanian Hunger (1994)

Absolutely, catagorically, not only one of my favourite black metal albums of all time but one of my favourtie albums of all time from any band in any genre. I’ve put off reviewing this for the 13 years or so that I have been writing about music, because what can be said about such a revered classic? But as I’ve polished off and opined on the remainder of the Darkthrone catalogue, I’ve now been forced to address this record, which stands out as not having a review from me. First world problems, eh? Or is that first wave problems? Heh heh. No, Transilvanian Hunger is the pinnacle of the Norwegian (or second wave) black metal sound, for me at least there is nothing better than it. Some of the Burzum stuff comes close, but none of the Darkthrone stuff does. I love all of Darkthrone’s music, but this is such a bizarre outlier, I suppose a perfect distillation of their early 90s sound yet also a stripped back and reduced version of it. That “reduction” to a core, constantly repetitive sound and production, whether accidental or intentional, has set the bar for cold and / or raw black metal ever since. I won’t go into every single song here, as that would be absolutely pointless. Just listen to the whole thing in one go as loud as you can (I recommend a car or some sort of old stereo system) and then reflect on it. I think everyone should listen to this thing at least once. But hey, as I sit here typing this in a Transilvanian Hunger t-shirt, I could easily be accused of being very biased. This album changed my life, and I hope it changes yours. If it doesn’t, then that’s fair enough. That’ll do.

The Body Lovers / The Body Haters – Compilation CD (1998/1999/2005)

The Body Lovers / The Body Haters – Compilation CD (1998/1999/2005)

I’ve had this CD for donkey’s years but broke it out recently after the annoucement of the track listing for the new 2022 Swans album, The Beggar. The CD version of this album contains the apparent third part of the Body Lovers’ trilogy (part 2 being the “Look At Me Go” suite on disc 2 of My Father… from 2010 – which I also need to revisit). I’ve never been that hot on The Body Haters disc, although there is nothing really at fault here, but it doesn’t jump out and grab me like The Body Lovers does. On the surface of it, The Body Lovers is more of the enormously moving and beautiful yet terrifying drones that we got a taste of on Swans’ Soundtracks For The Blind. As The Body Lovers doesn’t really break into “music” (except for a short refrain of the 1990s version of “I Crawled”), and it certainly doesn’t have any vocals or lyrics, the more visceral element of these droning beasts can be truly appreciated. As I’ve kind of already said, it is as touching as it is horrifying, and I would recommend this as listening to any Swans fan, particularily of the Soundtracks… era. Listening to this thing on full pelt again for the purposes of this review I am struck by how much of this sounds like a soundtrack to a film that never was. Anyone who follows Michael Gira will know of his deep love of film and literature, and it immediately struck me as odd that the man has never worked on some sort of soundtrack or score. Records like this or Soundtracks (or To Be Kind or Glowing Man haha) prove that he is more than capable to do so, so I have started to wonder why it hasn’t happened. Anyway – TLDR – if you’ve not heard this thing, please try it out. It will reward your attention enormously, like most Swans or Gira work.

Sepultura – Against (1998)

Sepultura – Against (1998)

1998 was a bad year if you were a die-hard fan of the old Sepultura stuff. In Against, Sepulutra released Roots MK2, but this time with a new vocalist. Disheartened fans may have flocked to Max’s new project Soulfly, only to find Roots MK3 featuring Fred Durst and the guy from Deftones lol. If you were a thrash head in 1998, things were tough. Changing up tack and returning with a new vocalist in the excellent Derrick Green, one can commend Sepultura for marching on after the loss of chief member Max Cavalera, but also it must have been so jarring for such a large majority of the band’s fans. Calls for the band to split or rename themeselves are not unfounded and without merit, but we must always respect the artist’s final decision, whether we like it or not, and Sepultura’s decision was to continue without Max. If you were expecting a move away from the Roots sound due to the new vocalist then you were however very much mistaken. On Against, many nu metal tropes are present, with some tracks coming dangerously close to sounding like Coal Chamber in parts, which is, well, not great. On other tracks this flow more nicely, for example the tribal elements the band tried to mix in on Chaos A.D. and Roots work much better here. The nu metal elements too just work a bit better here than they did on Roots, but that improvement is balanced out by the lack of Max. Derrick brings his A-game, but unfortunately Against will always been an awkward transitional record for the group. It was an interesting time for all involved, but they really tried their best, I think.

Anal Bag – Deep (2012)

Anal Bag – Deep (2012)

Deep (I can’t help but think of The Boys’ character of the same name!) sounds more like a compilation than a unified full length, with a variety of sessions and sounds. Every time a new gorenoise blast comes in, it sounds like its a different recording from a different band or session – it’s all very disjointed. But this is gorenoise motherfuckers, so I doubt most if any people would be at all concerned with this. The 20-so minutes runtime of this skull excoriating gore headache feel like a thousand years of blasting gorenoise hell, like drowning in a vat of discarded intestines for all eternity, only to find out it was just for an afternoon. For true musical deviants only.

Sepultura – Chaos A.D. (1993)

Sepultura – Chaos A.D. (1993)

Man this shit is some groovy fuckin’ metal. Like, damn. I’ve jammed this record about four times over the weekend alone. I love Igor’s drum sound on this. Shit is fucking fat, and shit is fucking tight. Just like the riffs, which are huge, and the bass. The vocals are angry as fuck. I’m not sure what it is about Chaos A.D. that makes Max sound so pissed off with the world, but it works a treat here. The production, on which Andy Wallace once again takes the lead (just look at that man’s back catalog – good grief!), is crystal clear and beyond precise. A fantastic record.

Darkthrone – Dark Thrones And Black Flags (2008)

Darkthrone – Dark Thrones And Black Flags (2008)

I got a bit excited during my multiple re-listens ahead of this review and for a moment thought I was coming here to write that Dark Thrones And Black Flags is my absolute favourite of the “punk”-era Darkthrone. But no, now I think on it, and digest the songs more, whilst it definitely has the coolest name (and thankfully no King Diamond vocals), it’s probably on par with F.O.A.D., and not quite as good as Cult Is Alive. Either way, Out of the four punk albums that followed Cult Is Alive (which I see as a bit darker then the rest), Dark Thrones And Black Flags is the one I return to the most. Production is very similar to both F.O.A.D. and Circle The Wagons, but my good heavens, the songs on this thing. “The Winds They Called The Dungeon Shaker” and “Hiking Metal Punks” are worth the price of admission alone. As far as side B goes, the title track and the closer, “Witch Ghetto” are absolute belters. IDK I’m just rambling at this point, this is great – get with the crust or get the fuck out.

Fiend – Derailed (2014)

Fiend – Derailed (2014)

Intense, non-stop grindcore with blasting, head-crushing production. The drums alone are enough to cave your skull in. The 6 minutes are over before you know it but yeah, you can just play this thing through again a few more times haha Honestly, super savage and as far as I know, under-rated grindcore. Need to check out some more of their splits.

Agathocles / Rotocles – Split Tape (2013)

Agathocles / Rotocles – Split Tape (2013)

I’ve heard the cassette version of this, rather than the 7″ (both are by Twisted Truth), and there seems to be a longer tracklist, specifically on the AGx part. AGx bring the live material to a split once more, but thankfully it is of excellent quality and you can really get a sense for how these guys just absolutely rip it live (seen them a few times, can confirm). Rotocles are noisy as fuck, which is perhaps unsurprisingy. The apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree with this -cles band lol. The bass playing is far more prominent here than on any AGx stuff tho, I’ll give them that, and the vocals are shouted / screamed rather that barked like their split-mates. All in all, a fair record.

Darkthrone – Circle The Wagons (2010)

Darkthrone – Circle The Wagons (2010)

Well into the “Darkthrone with attitude” era (lol), came Circle The Wagons. Interestingly, from the Cult Is Alive onwards, the band transitioned from blackened crust punk to blackened heavy metal. This record doesn’t have the absurd falsetto vocals that its follow-up has, but it’s still pretty much raw heavy metal right down to the bone. This either works or doesn’t, depending on the individual track, but either way I respect Darkthrone for just y’know, doing whatever the fuck they want and not just aping their legacy. Some of the tracks here are a bit silly and just come across poorly done, but riff-wise this thing slays as always, Darkthrone really are the kings of evil riffs. It’s just, Circle The Wagons wouldn’t be too high on my list for a relisten any time soon.

Esham – Judgement Day Vol. 1 – Day (1992)

Esham – Judgement Day Vol. 1 – Day (1992)

Judgment Day is probably my least favourite of the early Esham records, but that’s moreso because the other stuff just beyond kills it, rather than Judgement Day being particularily awful or anything like that. Hey, releasing a double album as your second record is a bold move especially when you consider how fast and loose Boomin’ Words From Hell is. Judgement Day is a step forward to the man’s known signature acid rap sound, but contains that hideous early production that we both know and love (lol). I mean, coming back to Esham after not listening for a long time and the reaction is something like “damn, that production is fucking nasty”, but give it a few minutes and you are immersed in the filthy distorted beats and twisted lyrics. It’s great. Personally, I think the songs on the second part of Judgement Day are better, but there are some belters here too, “Nine Dead Bodies”, and then four in a row, “How Do I Plead To Homocide”, “I’d Rather Be Dead”, the surprisingly serious “Momma Was A Junkie” and the hilarious “Once You Go Black”, which is about introducing white girls to something that they uhhh, then can’t ever seem to get enough of afterward. Good ol’ Esham, you can always rely on him for some the silliest yet most entertaining XXX rhymes. Great, dank, underground shit.

Esham – Judgement Day Vol. 2 – Night (1992)

Esham – Judgement Day Vol. 2 – Night (1992)

I tend to see Judgement Day as one whole album, as a modern listener that’s how it’s presented to us on streaming services, so its hard to appreciate the split between the two records. I’d love to get some of this wicked shit on CD but the prices are just absurd, even for the remasters that happened recently. Anyway, part 2, “night”, is choc full of fucking amazing rap tunes. The opening track is awesome, even if the sampling of Sabbath’s “War Pigs” is a bit clumsy. The hat-trick of “Play Dead”, “13 Ways” and “Finger In The Cake Mix” is just beyond words, the latter track being one of Esham’s many rude odes to gettin’ funky with it, so to speak, and I will never look at cake mix in the same way, ever again. ICP fans should take note of track 9 “Wake The Dead” in particular, a lot of the elements here are re-used in the groups excellent Hell’s Pit. In fact, there are many, many references that ICP take from both Judgement Day discs and work into Hell’s Pit (including the concept of The Witch, as well as too many little bits of rhymes to mention). If you’re a huge fan of Hell’s Pit you’ll love going through both Judgement Day records picking out all the little bits that ICP “borrowed”. I mean, even the “day” and “night” two parts of this record echo the two parts of The Wraith, although I gotta be honest with you about Esham, both “night” and “day” are equally as dark and twisted lol. (Maybe Judgement Day has been retroactively worked into the Joker’s Card universe? when The Wraith comes for ya, then it’s Judgement Day, and then it’s off to Shangri-La or Hell’s Pit with your ass haha) The only song that really just stands out as ridiculous is “Living In Incest” which has just… well, I want to say it hasn’t aged well but to be honest he probably should have left this one on the cutting room floor to start with. If you like self-produced, self-released, sick underground rap, then you really need to get up into some of these early Esham records.

Darkthrone – Hate Them (2003)

Darkthrone – Hate Them (2003)

UGH. On Hate Them, Darkthrone seems to channel a bunch of Tom G Warrior droning riff energy (moreso than usual) into their perfected turn of the millenium sound (such as on Plaguewielder and Ravishing Grimness). One could argue however that Hate Them lives up to it’s name, and hits a bit harder than the previous albums in this style. The songs just seem all that more angrier, with songs like “Fucked Up And Ready To Die” (the first Darkthrone song I ever heard when I was a wee kid) and one of my favourite Darkthrone tracks actually, “Det svartner nå”. Also, closer “In Honour Of Thy Name” is absolutely frothing at the mouth with rabid bile. Both Fenriz and Nocturno Culto are on top form here, and this is a fucking amazing place to start if the “middle period” of Darkthrone’s music seems a bit intimidating (there’s a lot of it).

Gwar – We Kill Everything (1999)

Gwar – We Kill Everything (1999)

On GWAR’s 7th studio album (8th if you count the soundtrack stuff they did), it would be easy to accuse them of going astray from their true sound. I think however, that would be an ignorant thing to say. Sure, it looks that way on the surface, but if you think about the Death Piggy days, and even the debut Hell-O, punk has always been a part of GWAR’s ethos. Sure, 90s-to-the-core “punk rock” stuff like this *hasn’t* always been a part of GWAR’s sound, but hey, it’s still punk. And c’mon, we can only take GWAR so seriously. Excellent musicians they may be, but this is clearly a piss take, as we say here in Blighty. Either way, I loved this fucking record when I was a teenager. It was so fucking stupid and purile, I loved every second. From the shock factor of opening tracks “Babyraper” (“I’m the fucking baby raper!” – what an insane chorus) and “Fishfuck” (“Fishfuck, baby! I’m gonna fuck you with a fish!”), to the slightly longer-form of GWAR-universe concept tracks such as “Escape From The Mooselodge” and “We Kill Everything”, this album is a strange mixed bag of odd and puzzling vibes. Oh, and only GWAR could intersect all this tomfoolery with an instrumental piece called “A Short History of the End of the World (Part VII (The Final Chapter (Abbr.))”. Ok, so We Kill Everything loses itself in the middle, I’ll admit. But, the final 5 songs return to the shlocky mess-about punk of the opening tracks, and everything is well again. I’m not entirely sure what the fuck Oderus is going on about in “Penile Drip” but I love every second of it. Oh, and if you haven’t had a drunken sing-along to “Fuckin’ An Animal” then truly, you haven’t lived. I’m not willing to spend any more time on this review.

Dio – Holy Diver (1983)

Dio – Holy Diver (1983)

Holy Diver was an excellent way to kick off the “solo” effort of Ronnie James Dio, riding hot off the success of both Sabbath records, Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules. Dio Sabbath isn’t my favourite thing in the world, but I heavily appreciate the work that the group did together with Dio (and not to mentioned, Dehumanizer is awesome and under-rated!). With Vinny Appice being onboard this doesn’t sound a hundred miles away from the Mob Rules stuff, but obviously Jimmy Bain and Vivian Campbell are a completely different stringed section than Butler and Iommi, this goes without saying. The production on this thing is fantastic, the perfect balance for early 80s hard rock / metal. Phenomenal sound. The opening one-two punch of “Stand Up and Shout” and “Holy Diver” is just absolutely timeless. Another favourite of mine is “Rainbow In The Dark” with the addition of what sounds like stringed instruments. The only real dud here is “Don’t Talk To Strangers”, which just sounds really childish and odd, but even this song properly kicks off into a hard rock stomp when it wants to. Excellent stuff.

Leaf Hound – Growers Of Mushroom (1971)

Leaf Hound – Growers Of Mushroom (1971)

I love this album and return to it quite frequently. It isn’t something I would ever have found on my own; I have their annoucement for Roadburn festival about 11/12 years ago to thank for forcing me to check out their records. But, I’m glad to be here. At first, when the opening riff of “Freelance Fiend” comes forth from the speakers, it sounds kinda weird and hollow, and you may be forgiven for thinking that the production on this thing is about to be absolutely horrible, but you would thankfully be incorrect. The treble is a little high for sure, but otherwise, Leaf Hounds psych-heavy rock is held in the perfect balance of clarity and distortion. Hey, for a rock record with distorted guitars from 1971, I’ll mark this one as a successful production job! Top effort. Song-wise, the opening track is probably my favourite, but to be honest, I like them all, including the title track which has a bit of a silly chorus. The 8-minute “Work My Body” starts to outstay its welcome, but only just. Otherwise, what you’ve got here is some decent rock and/or roll with psych elements, and a really enjoyable record to get your teeth into.

Konflict / Reek Of The Unzen Gas Fumes – Split Tape (2015)

Konflict / Reek Of The Unzen Gas Fumes – Split Tape (2015)

This split is the first I’d heard of either of these bands, and I gotta say, it was as uncompromising and as headache-inducing as I expected it to be. I don’t have a physical copy so it’s hard for me to tell where one band ends and the other begins (lol) but if absurdly abrasive audible hell is somewhere in your wheelhouse, you should enjoy this. As someone who “came up through” the cybergrind/digigrind online scenes of the late 00s it’s bizarre to see something like this released as recent as 2015, not that this is pure distilled bedroom grindcore, the style is blended here with hallmarks of war metal and even industriala music, which makes things pretty interesting. Nevertheless, I’m under no illusion that this split has limited appeal. One for the noise-heads, for sure.

The Rotted – Get Dead Or Die Trying (2008)

The Rotted – Get Dead Or Die Trying (2008)

When the jump from Gorerotted to The Rotted originally happened, I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of the decision. After seeing the band live in The Rotted form in either 2009 or 2010, that opinion quickly changed and I got myself this CD. It is, to be fair, a really fun listen if you like your metal injected with the usual energy and bile you would get on a hardcore punk record. The opening one-two of “Nothin’ But A Nosebleed” and “Howling” not only sets the bar but really, the high point for the record, with “Howling” easily being the best song on here. Also of note is the excellently-titled “There’s A Party In My Mouth (And Everyone Is Being Sick”, and the cover of the 28 Days Later theme, which was an interesting idea and one that the band pull off surprisingly well, even if it doesn’t really fit all that well onto the album.

October Noir – Fate, Wine & Wisteria (2021)

October Noir – Fate, Wine & Wisteria (2021)

Type O Negative is one of my favourite bands of all time, and Peter Steele is one of the most unique artists of all time. Therefore, every bone in my body wanted to like this, for the cover art, for the vibe, for the flat out Type O worship, but alas, it’s just not very good. “Windows” is by far the best track (and its not as good as people are making out) but the further along I get into this the more it just grates on my patience. Life’s too short for Type O clones. Just listen to the real thing. (If you really must listen to Type O clones the “Summertime Sadness” cover on YouTube right now is pretty much on the money – but it wasn’t done by this band)

Sepultura – Arise (1991)

Sepultura – Arise (1991)

I just love that cover art – I’m not even entirely sure what exactly it is supposed to be, but I love it regardless. I’m not sure if it accurately describes the sound of Sepultura on this record, but that’s by the by. Arise is another solid early-career release from the group, obviously with Max still leading the way. Chunky, very well crafted songs meets chunky, very well crafted production techniques from the absolute hero that is Scott Burns (love him or hate him). Stand-out bangers for me include “Dead Embryonic Cells”, “Meaningless Movements” and the cover version of Motorhead’s “Orgasmatron” which should be ridiculous but actually fits in really well. Arise!

Satyricon – Dark Medieval Times (1993)

Satyricon – Dark Medieval Times (1993)

Dark Medieval Times is one of those weird albums that I really love despite having no personal stand-out tracks. It just flows so well, and the production and / or atmosphere are absolutely on point. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that the recent remaster of this thing (despite having sub par artwork) goes a long way in evening out some of the feel that this record is cobbled together from various different sessions (I’m not certain if it is or not, but it sounds like that). Early Satyricon is genuinely good early 90s black metal, on par with the contemporaries of the time, but paying more attention will reward you; Frost’s drumming, even here in these halcyon days, is incredibly busy and frenetic. He doesn’t have the signature sound here that he would develop later, but most of this is down to production. Behind the reverb and frosted riffs, the man is there, thumping away as he always is, to the excellent quality we expect. But yeah, excellent stuff.

John Coltrane – Soultrane (1958)

John Coltrane – Soultrane (1958)

My vocabulary when it comes to reviewing jazz is noticeably stunted. I don’t know enough about the genre (at least as not as much as I do about grind, death metal and black metal lol) in order to be fully comfortable when describing what I hear, but what I do know is that I thoroughly enjoy what I hear, and Soultrane is another one of those records that I’ve really enjoyed recently. As I noted in the review I did for Giant Steps, the brass on my CD version of this is also panned hard left, which makes for an interesting dynamic. It doesn’t seem so harsh when listening again to whatever remastered version it is that Spotify has, but those old-school stereo pans are brutal. Either way, this is some gorgeous performing, especially from Art Taylor, whose hypnotic hi-hattery dances along with the meandering sax like nobody’s business. Soultrane feels like a short listen, even with some of the songs being quite lengthy, but its a Coltrane record that I’ve come back to quite a few times.

Mortiis – Perfectly Defect (2010)

Mortiis – Perfectly Defect (2010)

The 6 year gap between The Grudge and Perfectly Defect had me completely checked out from the world of Mortiis. Granted, through the MySpace days I kept up to date on the hefty touring he was doing with his full band, and I even saw them myself in I think 2005, and they were great. The Grudge wasn’t my favourite thing in the world, but I really enjoyed the remixes on Some Kind Of Heroin. So when Perfectly Defect dropped, after I found out only from randomly checking the man’s website, it felt like a half-arsed, half-finished project, that was well, an afterthought of an album, only being available as a download. CDs came not long after, but these were super limited, at least initially (I’m not sure if that is still the case). I didn’t hate this thing, but the fact that only half the songs had vocals on them, just gave me the impression that the record was unfinished. Instrumental tracks aren’t a problem – this is Mortiis we are talking about – but moreso that the industrial metal style makes it feel like the songs needed vocals and they were just left unfinished. Anyway, I’ve come back to this thing recently with a pair of fresh eyes (and ears) and I’ve enjoyed it more than I did initially. The streaming version has extra songs compared to the initial release, which I remember being much shorter. “Closer To The End” and the excellent “Sensation Of Guilt” are some of the best songs that Mortiis has done in this style / era, that’s for sure. So, in hindsight I definitely feel that this fits nicely into the era 3 of Mortiis, I just wasn’t ready or willing for this at the time, and couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed after the 6 year gap. But, if you love industrial, you really cannot go wrong with this.

Nocturnus – Nocturnus (1993)

Nocturnus – Nocturnus (1993)

Decent 7″ record from early Nocturnus. It’s not as great as The Key or the stuff that followed, and it’s really similar to a Morbid Angel kinda vibe, but despite this its actually pretty good. I don’t have a ton to say as it’s only two tracks, but its well worth checking out.

Blood Chalice – Sepulchral Chants Of Self-Destruction (2017)

Blood Chalice – Sepulchral Chants Of Self-Destruction (2017)

It’s a rare thing to find war metal stuff with such a strong production. The sound on Sepulchral Chants… is crystal clear, but the band lose none of their bite for it. Expect balls to the wall, non-stop, suffocating brutality that hits a lot of genre tropes but also has it’s own sound and presence. For those who like their black metal uncompromising and disgusting as absolute fuck, look no further.

Revenge – Victory.Intolerance.Mastery (2004)

Revenge – Victory.Intolerance.Mastery (2004)

You could argue that once you’ve heard one Revenge album then you’ve heard them all. But, I disagree. This shit is fucking incredible from the word “go” until it’s end about half hour later. Sure, the style doesn’t change much from the album before it, but even at the end of this I’m left salivating for more (give or take a bit of ear fatigue after letting it run through twice). Do I have any stand-out tracks to talk about? I’d be lying if I said that I did, but that doesn’t matter. Revenge are brutal, unstoppable, absurdly fast – just all of the above rolled into big even black and white ball. Honestly, just incredible. I love every second of this.

Destructive Explosion Of Anal Garland – Tour De Anal (2014)

Destructive Explosion Of Anal Garland – Tour De Anal (2014)

I’ve kind of been here before, twice before lol, but that’s OK. When your band is called Destructive Explosion Of Anal Garland, you do not need to be completely innovative and progressive. That is not to say the sound hasn’t improved over the trilogy of albums thusfar, mind you. But yeah, what I’m trying to say is that some times, you just want to put your trousers on your head and dance around in a muddy field that may or may not be in Trutnov in the Czech Republic, all the while listening to something that sounds just like Tour De Anal. It’s very silly, but it’s also very brutal. Absurd party/porno/goregrind for everyone!

Drudkh – Blood In Our Wells (2006)

Drudkh – Blood In Our Wells (2006)

This is a very nice black metal album. I mean that in a way that is, well, just a pleasure to listen to. It is still harsh and cold, and not overly melodic, but retains that overarching atmospheric quality that stuff like Burzum pioneered, and what hundreds of bands strive for and often completely miss. Songs about Ukranian nationalism or not, this is a solid black metal release. It is the first I’ve heard from Drudkh, and I’m curious to hear more.

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum (2021)

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum (2021)

Fear Factory hit quite the stride over the last decade or two. Unsure if you would class it as a second wind as such, but there has definitely been elements of revival and invigoration in the band’s sound. Of course, Burton is now gone, but that’s another story for another time. On Aggression Continuum, things have a very real danger of becoming stale, but despite that threat being ever-present, generally this is pretty solid and an enjoyable listen. Fear Factory sound more djent-y than ever, if I could make such a preposterous statement as I’m sure they’ve given their fair share of influence in forming that genre in the first place. What a strange time to be alive, eh?

Christian Death – Deathwish (1984)

Christian Death – Deathwish (1984)

I love this earlier style of artwork that adorned many of the band’s releases in the beginning. Proper creepy shit. I’d be lying if it truly represented the sound however, at least here on Deathwish, which is bubbling with energy and completely alive, rather than spooky and ethereal and ghostly. Those elements would come later, even so, in this proto-post-punk stage, or form, Christian Death’s music was still very odd – charmingly so, of course.

Aborym – Generator (2006)

Aborym – Generator (2006)

I was quite the fan of With No Human Intervention in my teenage years, but I never really gelled all that well with the later Aborym stuff. Generator is far from a bad album, and it certainly seems unfair to rank it lower than a 3.5/5 or something like that. However, the more polished elements here just have me pining for the harsh industrail coldness of the previous record. I will commend Aborym for their jumbled pile of ideas and styles that they try to address on this record, most of which work rather well in isolation, to be fair. There would be hints of the direction the band would take later in their career on Generator too, and of course the edgy sampling of old (Hitler on their Twin Peaks album, for example) continues here, with our man Charlie Manson providing some narrative samples to set the tone. All in all, Generator is a decent slab of industrial black metal, but with the “industrial” element reigned back in a little. If you’re OK with that, then you should get along just fine with this.