In the rush to cover the constant waves of new music, we all too often neglect discussing the releases that leave the most substantial impressions in our lives. As such, we recently invited some bands and artists to wax poetic about an album that was deeply impactful or influential to them, either musically or personally.
The next guest in line to graciously offer a retrospective in this series is Duncan Evans, who creates dark folk/post-punk under his own name, and apocalyptic noise poetry (which we premiered here!) under the Moonlow moniker. He's a producer, an engineer, a writer at Ghost Cult and Alternative Control, and, lest it be forgot, has a twitter you should probably follow. Beyond these current projects, he was previously the guitarist for Forest Of Stars--so, all told, cred certified many times over, amiright? Without further ado: enjoy this retrospective!
Written by: Duncan Evans
This album was my first proper introduction to Nick Cave. It remains an incredibly important piece in the jigsaw of my own development as an artist and as a human being. I also believe it is significant in a wider cultural sense.
Around the mid-2000s, Nick Cave had seemingly grown tired of producing records with the expanded 8-piece lineup of The Bad Seeds: “It felt like every time I took a song into the Bad Seeds, everyone piled in on it. In the Bad Seeds, you play a song, and everyone's grabbing a fuckin' maraca, y'know?" In response, Cave and three Bad Seeds members (Warren Ellis, Martin P. Casey, Jim Sclavunos) formed Grinderman. At the same time, I was growing weary of the virtuoso prog rock I had been listening to. I had listened to a few of Cave’s songs and I had meant to properly explore his work for a while. I remember reading about Grinderman in the music press just before its release, and I thought this was probably as good a place as any to start. I ordered a copy and, strangely, two of them landed on the doormat a week later. Hearing this record on its release in 2007 was something of a Damascene moment for me. It opened up doors which remain unclosed. What follows is an explanation of how this album impacted me so deeply, and why I think it matters in wider terms.
Written by: Blackie Skulless
I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t even realize that Mike Tramp had such a big catalog of solo albums until I stumbled upon his newest, Second Time Around. For those unaware, he was famous for fronting the Danish/American glam metal band White Lion in the ‘80s, before later forming Freak Of Nature, and eventually going solo. The focus has certainly shifted since then, regarding energy. Singers going solo like this can pretty much be hit or miss.
Different doesn’t mean bad, though. Second Time Around is very AOR driven, aiming itself towards songs that are more tame in nature and come from a singer/songwriter life perspective. A lot of this is built around summer-related themes, particularly the fun of highways and driving. Though that obviously leaves room for plenty of cheese, the lyrics have strength in poetic flow. This is usually what I would expect from older artists that once fronted bigger heavy metal acts.
Written by: Loveloth
How does a band evoke the feelings of melancholy? The approach varies from genre to genre, but using the minor scale is a definite foundation. After that anything is game, and as a result, any sadboi--like yours truly--has a plethora of options to choose from. The most extreme examples are the DSBM and adjacent black metal genres. There, melancholy manifests through anguish and despair. Tremolo picking, shrieks and blast beats reign as lords, whereas on the opposite side of the spectrum, such as on the notorious pop ballads, we've got clean vocals covered by electronic-based instrumentation with slower paced beats.
I personally don't have any emotional responses when I hear most of that type of stuff due to how they're manufactured and how much they rely on cheap motifs. I realized this when I was a wee lad and as time went on, I searched far and wide for music to comfort, help me contemplate, and of course cope with any hardships I came across. At one point in time, I found myself listening to “Lethean” by Katatonia via a great YouTube recommendation, remember those? I was stunned with its energy and heaviness, and by the time Jonas Renkse's vocals kicked in, I was hooked. To this very day, Dead End Kings remains my favorite album by them and I would honestly put Katatonia right next to Opeth and that dude Devon Townsent as my go-to sadboi band.
In the rush to cover the constant waves of new music, we all too often neglect discussing the releases that leave the most substantial impressions in our lives. As such, we recently invited some bands and artists to wax poetic about an album that was deeply impactful or influential to them, either musically or personally. The third guest to graciously offer a retrospective in this series is Steven of (intoxicatingly cathartic and emotive) dark electronica act aortaproject. Notably, this is the second of four(!) NIN retrospectives. Read on!
Written by: Steven of aortaproject
Nine Inch Nails The Fragile: Trent Reznor's opus. Not his most critically acclaimed work, but for diehards, this is "all that could have been" for Nine Inch Nails.
It's been almost 20 years since the iconic double album’s release in Sept of 1999 and I still couldn't be happier with it. The Fragile remains a staple in my reported influences, and a constant in my playlist. Even after thousands of hours of listening, I still find bits and pieces I haven't noticed before. Exploring the threads of Reznor's genius. The Fragile is laced with sonic texture, intricate layering, and an articulate blending of synthetic and natural elements, encroaching the frail temperament of stringed instruments with the powerful programming of electronic drums and pulsating synths.
Written by: Alex, Bringer of Payne
Cardiff was declared the second most musical city in the UK almost a decade ago, thereby formally recognising the city’s unwavering history of producing musical acts that have gone on to dominate almost every genre. Rightfully so, as countless alternative acts have cut their teeth in the basements and dungeons below Womanby Street’s greatly revered venues. Industry legends such as Bullet for My Valentine, Skindred, Budgie, Persian Risk, Icons of Filth, and Desecration have all been spawned from the South Wales scene, and now Sydney Fate are ‘Diff’s metal scene’s newest contenders. Armed with a healthy duality of cleans and screams, stellar production, and an arsenal of guitars, the sextet have recently released their debut album, Silicon Nitride, to the world.
Written by: Izzy
Dance Gavin Dance are a band I only discovered in mid 2018, and the album they released that year, Artificial Selection, is; without exaggeration; one of my favourite albums of all time. I rarely talk about Dance Gavin Dance but I genuinely hold them up there with the likes of Deafheaven and Converge in terms of pure quality and how much I listen to them. Despite their long history and numerous lineup changes they have remained one of the most absurdly consistent bands I know, managing to pour out an amazing album every couple years like clockwork.
Now, if I’m not already getting called a poser by elitist metalheads, I’m about to get into hot water with elitist coreheads when I say I much prefer the Tilian era of DGD. I think his incredibly unique voice, coupled along with his spectacular range, has so much chemistry with Will Swan’s iconic guitar playing and Jon Mess’ gruff harshes that it really allowed the band to skyrocket after a small learning bump with Instant Gratification. Despite their guitarist being the namesake for “swancore,” the particular poppy and more clean-sung microgenre born out of post-hardcore and math rock, Tilian Pearson was the missing piece to truly forging the bands current unmistakable and unreplicable sound. Every current member’s talents gel together so perfectly, becoming a powerhouse quintet where I couldn’t imagine a single member being replaced. All this build up over their 15 year career has led us to Mothership, Artificial Selection, and now Afterburner, making up the best trio of albums the band has released to date.
Says guitarist and vocalist Chris Roo: “This world is fucked and I really just need to get shit out with my friends by my side." And in one fell swoop, Roo thusly describes the sound and the impact of the debut EP from Chicago’s own These Beast far more succinctly than I ever will. Forthcoming glowing recommendation aside, you just gotta appreciate a band that nails it in the artistic statement department. And there's no question: everyone can benefit from a good vent. The trouble, more often than not, is finding an audience willing to subject themselves to your grievances. In the case of These Beasts, it’s looking like this particular Villager shall henceforth lend an ear.
These Beasts don’t defy classification per se--but, as with most artists, describing them in terms of who they sound like versus what they sound like feels reductive. In any case, bear with me here. By kicking in the door with a certain mustardy ferocity, These Beasts take the forthright no-fucks-given experimentality of Botch or “Red Medicine”-era Fugazi, and batter, fairly mercilessly, against the distortion-ridden and axe-bashing aggression of Unsane or Whores. While the sonic differences are obvious, a general Torche-esque weirdness broods beneath, lending the entire affair a comfortable air of genre-melding nostalgia.
It’s clearly noisey, but “noise rock” doesn’t quite do These Beasts any sort of justice, as punk-driven vivacity and doomy undercurrents pervade. For the former, look to the celebratory shouts of “Shirilla In a Tub.” In terms of the latter, melancholic standout “Shovel and Pick,” and the back half of “Impugn” come highly recommended. Churning and angular riffs billow and slice with serrated finesse, leaving ragged wounds with paradoxical precision. All the while the twin vocals are expulsive yet melodic, communing effectively with the guitar to maintain a consistently pugilistic front. Needless to say, the sheer intensity feels genuine throughout. Bludgeoning drums--with particularly excellence cymbal work, I might add--keep the affair appropriately grounded. The entire 6 track packages bristles with an untamed energy, but yet, it never feels overlong or undercooked. In other words, it’s clear to this attentive listener that these boys have a knack for revision.
And throughout, most importantly, this EP demonstrates a cathartic raw anger, a general recognizable fury. For those of you looking to sample, intro track “End of the Whip” (listen below) remains the prime example of this actualized intent. Do These Beasts incite anger, shouldering the burden of rabble-rousers? Not so much. Do they reflect our collective need and appreciation for catharsis? Absolutely. This ferocious EP comes highly recommended.
These Beasts - These Beasts will be released 3/29 from Magnetic Eye Records
Once I know something about a musician’s character, separating that knowledge from the fruits of their labor can be, well, a laborious affair. In the case of Red Beard Wall, that certainly isn't a bad thing. Judging from our interactions, I have gathered that whatever the red-bearded frontman Aaron Wall does, he does with the utmost enthusiasm and fervor. Take, for example, his online comments, which remain an ALL HAIL hailstorm of goat and flame emojis. His persona’s omnipresence feels remarkably sincere, and is always realized with noteworthy vivacity--which, in turn, results in a unique sound solidly founded on glorious zeal. Less we get too highfalutin, let me state the obvious: Red Beard Wall is also really fucking weird. Rest assured, this slumbering villager likes weird. Weird is what gets me up in the morning, and The Fight Needs Us All is the epitome of this oddball brand I have come to wholeheartedly enjoy.
Several months back we ran a brief review of “The Warming,” lead single from the Wall’s sophomore effort. While recycling may be in bad form, these are words I stand by: “Red Beard Wall plays a wickedly cacophonous brand of sludge--a brutal slugfest between the hooky pseudo-melodic stylings of Torche or Helmet, and the bayou groove of NOLA’s finest...this is sludge rock at its best--thick, unique, and relentlessly repeatable. It’s a rabble-rouser, a neck-snapper.” At the time, “The Warming” seemed a distillation of the components that make this project so special...and now, given wider vision, I consider it the focal point of the album. No question: “The Warming” is truly the hottest track amongst a cabal of barn-burners.
The obvious first stop on the road to dissecting the Red Beard Wall methodology is the two-tongued vocal style, split between throat-wrenching screams and along-the-riff cleans. It’s a real Jekyll/Hyde situation, and throughout the album, Wall continually pulls off the odd juxtaposition with a delightfully bludgeoning grace. While contrasting vocals certainly aren’t new in the world of sludge nor rock, there is little out there that demonstrates a similarly visceral approach. And while this dichotomy has always been the outfit’s strongest suit, both forms of delivery have improved significantly from debut in several ways. The screams are increasingly savage, in the pent-up-animal sense of the word. Conversely, Wall’s cleans are employed with increased regularity, adding a much-needed melodic focus to the pummeling riffs.
The guitar itself is utterly sasquatchian--never floundering in whimsy, but remaining rooted in straightforward groove. There’s glimmers of influence here, from the scuzzy heft of early Bill Kelliher, to the head-bopping flow of Siamese Dream-era Billy Corgan. Thick and heavy, the guitar remains a cornerstone for the vocal acrobatics. The back-to-back punch of “Come On Down” and “To My Queen” is a prime example of this technique in practice. And! Lest they be forgotten, the militaristic drums match the riffage in terms of aggression and sheer weight, pound-for-pound. Viewed as a whole, The Fight Needs Us All is a bloody bout, rather than an exercise in instrumental harmony.
The album is compulsively listenable and endlessly enjoyable, yet from a songwriting perspective, there are some oddly paradoxical challenges. The general structure is unique, but that uniqueness doesn’t indicate an overly sophisticated plane of songwriting. This results in a number of Side-B moments recalling--perhaps too strongly--that which came before. Realistically, a weird approach becomes less weird each time you hear it, and for this reason, some variety throughout would accent the potency of Red Beard Wall’s core motif. That said, existing breaks in the formula do contribute significantly to the beginnings of a balance. The doomy instrumental ambiance of “Reverend.” The slower moments of “Tell Me The Future of Existence,” which recalls early Mastodon at their most somber--think “Trilobite.” The alt-rock pace at which clean vocals passages weave between riffs on the aforementioned “Ode to Green.” Given Wall’s obvious ability to seamlessly break (and subsequently bridge) genre expectations, I’m hopeful that the future bodes well for continued experimentation. A wall may be stationary by definition, but with two high-quality albums at this stage, Red Beard Wall is dealing with the kind of structural stability that allows for flourishes. Y’know, ramparts and gargoyles and shit.
The Fight Needs Us All builds on the promise Red Beard Wall previously displayed, and, for the sake of comparison, this album has spent more time pummeling my eardrums than any other this month. It’s ridden with meaty hooks and melodic swells. It’s relentlessly repeatable, passionately aggressive...and just off-kilter enough to merit a double-take. As the soundtrack to a purported revolution, it remains as invigorating as ever.
In sum? Red Beard Wall requests--nay, demands--your presence at the fight. All Hail!
Red Beard Wall - The Fight Needs Us All was released Feb. 22nd from Argonauta Records.
As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time confronting rough drafts, the process of heartfelt revision is something I can certainly appreciate and applaud. In 2010, as a one-man outfit, Becoming the Lion’s Ghosts Of A Fallen Soldier began life as an illustration of the homecoming and attempted emotional reconciliation of the titular soldier. In 2018, after adding vocals (and two bandmates, no less!) the bones of the original EP have been realized in flesh.
And to be frank, Ross Blomgren’s original instrumentation possessed rough-hewn edges. More importantly, however, these compositions revealed, through the cracks and under the dull synths, the post-metal sensibilities of God As Astronaut, the proggy melancholy of Tides from nebula, and the angst of Deftones. A potent and evocative mix, to be sure. The 2018 release, I am pleased to announce, does not lose or limit that core identity--indeed, it maintains those best qualities and significantly improves upon its weaknesses. That said, the freshly minted arrangement simultaneously adds new challenges for Becoming the Lion to confront.
First, the remarkable improvement. With the addition of a drummer and guitarist, (Dan Mazur and Dennis Paterkiewicz, respectively,) the original tracks are imbued with a significant weight. The riffs are somber, and the drums, rather than loosely hanging in the detached programmed void, feel grounded--rooted, even. The issue with so much post-rock/metal is a tendency to float...but not so here. In this sense, Becoming the Lion recall the ability of Russian Circles to place the audience in a percussively concrete time and space. From an instrumental perspective, Ghosts Of A Fallen Soldier is a marked success. The gentle atmospherics draw the listener in. The delay-ridden keys deploy subtle tethers, keeping them entranced. The package isn’t quite proggy in it’s experimentation, but the dynamics between clean and moderately hefty guitar tones work inordinately well with the ambiance. Vocals, particularly in the case of Rally at the Battlefront and standout Ready, Aim, Fire, brings a glorious (and necessary) melodic element. Melancholic, desperate, and borderline tortured at times--when these vocals work, they work very well in portraying the EP’s central character.
As alluded, Becoming the Lion displays some room for improvement. The vocals, while pleasingly emotive and undeniably successful at reinforcing the ambiance established by the guitar, occasionally falls away from the instrumentation, seemingly walking its own path with no clear destination. The introductory verse and pre-chorus on Too Late Now, for example, feels disconnected in a manner that isn’t quite reconciled by the general sense of confusion and tragedy. Otherwise, the EP falls a little flat on the tail end--after the sinister We Should Have Turned Back, I was hoping for a track or two that served to reconcile the various sonic elements displayed until that point. I suppose that a lack of reconciliation is, thematically speaking, sort of the point.
I’m tempted to describe the whole package as “charming,” largely because it continues to pull me in for reasons I haven’t necessarily been able to articulate here. All told, 2018’s return to Ghosts Of A Fallen Soldier is a successful experiment in revision and (inevitable) maturation. If emotive post-metal, post-rock, or otherwise alternative music is your poison of choice, Becoming the Lion is certainly worth your while.
Like any other, our little Village has its little pranksters and jokesters, and theirs is a crude, unsophisticated humor. We don’t get much wit nor deadpan ‘round these parts, so when someone rolls into town possessing the unique ability to keep a straight face whilst performing something capriciously off-kilter, I tend to be suitably impressed.
This isn’t to say that LA’s heavy rockin’ Deathchant don’t take their art seriously. To the contrary, in fact. It’s quite obvious that TJ Lemieux and Company (John Bolino, Colin Fahrner and George Camacho) are very accomplished musicians, and their debut LP is, frankly, quite the stunner. Rather, I’m suggesting that what makes Deathchant so unique is the ability to launch into experimental passages and then out again with nary a glance backward, maintaining the guise that they’ve been playing a standard heavy rock number the whole damn time. At first, the casual nature in which a track--such as opener Pessimist--slips from recognizable psychedelic fare into a passage inhabited by a post-singularity beehive before ending back at Lemiuex’s sultry, fuzz-laden voice is....unexpected, to say the least. Very quickly, however, this becomes a trademark motif. A similar compositional technique rears its head in album highlight Ritual, which turns a seemingly driving intro riff into an extended experiment in psychedelia, before devolving (or evolving?) into pure noise. It's a neat trick, and Deathchant's ability to maintain composure throughout sells the package.
Because these four switch things up so frequently and unexpectedly, it remains difficult to peg them--both in the case of the direction of individual tracks, as well as the general genre. It has the brooding weight of a new-age doom act, but there’s a propulsive heavy metal element, as well as a distinctly avant-garde jazz ambiance. For a prime example of the latter, look to the somber Eulogy. Closer Trigger is the most aggressive track, the most outwardly “metal,” but still, that’s excluding the extended intro and outro, which are entirely constructed from the reverb-drenched strains of an organic brand of industrial noise. Its weird stuff, and from a standpoint of both personal preference and critical awareness, Deathchant’s formula (if it can even be referred to as such) works very well. The unique song structures prevent a dull consistency that I unfortunately have come to expect from both heavy psych and noise. Beyond that, each track is goddamn interesting on its own merits. There isn’t a song here that doesn’t brings its own flavor to the Deathchant universe, and that is something to celebrate.
Despite the obvious jarring nature of the more noisy elements, a melodic and near-harmonious air hangs, hazily, over the whole affair. The vocals are delightfully laid-back, yet richly emotive when needed. Instrumentally, there are no weak links. Drums, as mentioned, possess a jazzy bent--but they also lay it down with a fierce intensity when the occasion arises. The guitar holds that lovely distortion in loving arms, and whether plodding or bursting into an impromptu canter, that sweet psychedelic tone is never abandoned. Despite remaining unpredictable, Deathchant knows how to comfort their listeners.
Critically speaking, the only real item of note is the length. At 29 minutes, this hardly qualifies as a full album in my (admittedly self-published) book. The fact that I want more is, if anything, a testament to the strength of what these rockers have conjured up. While this groggy wordsmith might not have the vocabulary to accurately describe what exactly Deathchant have created here, I will say this with certainty: whatever it is they do, they’ve done it with great skill and aplomb. Needless to say: highly recommended!
Deathchant arrives January 10th of next year, courtesy of King Volume Records. In the meantime, both singles--Hex and Pessimist--are available for streaming. Otherwise, we highly recommend you saunter, levitate, or otherwise ooze your way over to that pre-order. It’s really not the sort of decision you’ll end up regretting.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!