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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Album Review: Steak Number Eight – The Hutch

In 2007, when they had an average age of 15, Steak Number Eight were already winning band competitions. Four years later, still mostly teenagers, they released their first debut album, All Is Chaos, and watched the plaudits rain down upon them. It was always going to be this way that their 2013 sophomore effort was going to be their make-or-break album. Probably the name for their practice room or some hilarious Belgian in-joke (rather than a house for Mr. Bunny or Lonesome George), will The Hutch, this ma-hoo-sive 71 minute-long album (81 mins, if you buy the “bonus track-included” vinyl) be a hare or a tortoise?

Straight out of the traps, Sn8 tear lumps out of your ears with razor-sharp, angular attacks. First comes the battering squall of “Cryogenius”, then the hardcore-fuelled single “Black Eyed”. Combined, they form an ultra-violent Feed The Rhino / Converge / Poison The Well-esque alliance with screaming choruses and menacing links with plenty to offer the heart, yet little to offer the brain. However, no sooner has their tornado blown out, than out pops “Photonic”. Its complex tonal switch-up to something infinitely darker and quietly foreboding is utterly mesmeric. With a repeating line of “one of you is going to die” rattling around your skull, it plays on that classic horror-movie schtick of fear, worthlessness and false hope.

Here, the band have quickly settled down into what could best be described as a determined pacing. It is this sort of speed where they flick a switch and begin to pay mind to the smaller details. It is undoubtedly, what they do best – All Is Chaos proved that and things are no different here.

From this point forth, you’ll start hearing luminescent flourishes à la Torche, Isis-rich thundering and cherry-picked moments from the entire Baroness’ discography. There are slack-jawed, clean vocals, thick, rotational riffs and dark melodious washes to drown in. Constantly shifting, the band weave in new elements; layering up as they progress. The post-metal, Mastodonic meandering of the sublime “Pilgrimage Of A Black Heart” feeds the muscle of “Exile Of Our Marrow”. Before you know it, they’re piling malcontent upon disillusionment; sharpening the visceral ‘core edges for “The Shrine” and “Slumber”. These sudden, thrusting, sharp stabs finally relent to reveal a Tool-esque wasteland for the masterful “Ashore” and the brain flips once more.

How these young men can show such restraint for the entire 9:30 of “Tearwalker” is beyond me. It’s basically a one-key rolling maul of tones and textures; a track with unbelievable depth that might just literally floor you. If not, it will certainly glue you to the spot. It demands one of your greatest vacant, middle-distance stares. Are you prepared for that kind of intensity, because Steak Number Eight sure are? This is not only their “coming of age” album, it is a deal-maker, an organic masterpiece and, with a worldwide release pending, it should is going to propel them onto the biggest of stages.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/04/steak-number-eight-the-hutch-indie-recordings/

Friday, April 26, 2013

Album Review: Melvins – Everyone Loves Sausages

The-Melvins-Everybody-Loves-SausageSausages – traditionally, a smashed pig piped into its own stomach lining. Pig – the food that the whole western world devours with such gusto. Bacon, ham, pork chops, sausages. That “wonderful, magical animal” that Homer Simpson refers to when contemplating such a variety of tasty offerings. What an album title, then, to make folks sit up and get heads moving. The carnivores amongst you will all be nodding them savagely, whilst meat-abstainers worldwide may well just sadly shake them. End of the day, there’s nothing to argue about. This sizzles either way.

Now, You’ll probably, like me, struggle to identify a fair few of these songs but I think it’s fair to say that they weren’t ever going to be straight-up reproductions. This is The Melvins (the “The” is silent here), after all, linking their influences and favourite tracks together, throwing their eccentric nous, twisted musicality and a few friends into the mix and emerging with an assorted jumble of flavours that should get your tastebuds churning.

Initially, Everyone Loves Sausages hits hard and heavy with Neurosis’ Scott Kelly guesting for a tear-up of Venom’s “Warhead”. Its mighty vocal lead will have heads bobbing and horns up. Soon though the band shift gears to relocate to something a little less gritty. Appeasing their rock and pop urges, they plump for The Fugs’ “Carpe Diem”, complete with its original warm 60s wash and jinking vibe and the stonking all-in rocker “Black Betty” (Ram Jam). There’s also a grating rendition of Queen’s “Best Friend” with tacked-on, plinking electro-fizz which Melvins develop, flesh out and turn into a hacked rendition of “Heathen Earth” (Throbbing Gristle). Sadly, they do take it a step too far with a 3-minute intro of gruesome ambient noise which kicks-off a preciously reedy version of Bowie’s “Station To Station”.

When they do find their punk muscle, they really set about tearing shit up for a twisted, rough-and-ready rip of The Jam’s “Art School”, complete with ex-U.S. marine Tom Hazelmyer’s anarchic Mockney accent causing much hilarity. There’s also “Timothy Leary Lives” (Pop-O-Pies) and a snotty-nosed cover of The Kinks’ “Attitude” (featuring Blondie’s Clem Burton) to gob all over.

Album highlights are undoubtedly Mudhoney’s Mark Arm giving his all to grunge-up “Set It On Fire” whilst, at the same time, giving The Scientists’ original a run for its money, and a big-bass, lush, loping, bluesy version of “Female Trouble”, the theme music to the infamous movie of the same name.

Refusing to completely ditch the impact of the originals, Melvins have stuck pretty close to the same tones and textures for the majority of the tracks here, but that’s not to say they aren’t worthwhile renditions. Not by a long chalk. There’s plenty that will provide some shocks and maybe a little awe. Some undoubtedly squeeze out above the others, but the whole, with its mainstream classics and underground rarities, stands proudly as a fair representation of the Melvins’ wide and varied record collections. In many ways, a true alternative Best Of The Melvins. Hungry, anyone?

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/04/melvins-everyone-loves-sausages-ipecac/

Monday, April 22, 2013

Album Review: Across Tundras/Lark’s Tongue – Split LP

All too often, partnerships on split records can often conflict creating as much disharmony as complementary noises. That’s not always a bad thing, as the range of contradicting, experimental connections inside can often portray an intriguing and more complete whole. In this instance, however, there is plenty of concord and, consequently, plenty of opportunity for further exploration. Combined, these two have even managed to play inside the pentagonal borders of what we, the press, might refer to as grunge, shoegaze, drone, post-metal and stoner.

This blissed-out middle-ground is first marked out by the wonderfully-titled Across Tundras, a trio hailing from Tennessee who Cavity Records have described as both “vintage psychedelia” and “panoramic country crush”. The track “Low Haunts”, propped up by an anarchic four-and-a-half minute warbling wash of pedal effects (rather like an orchestra clearing its throat) steps up with a lush, organic kind of Americana that warms the very cockles of your heart. If The Rolling Stones ate mushrooms and space-cake instead of snorting all that coke and speed, they’d have sounded pretty much like this. Hell they even say it themselves. Interesting, then, that the line “Like a rolling stone” pops up in “Crux To Bea” which throws more chugging groove into the mix enabling them to drift into grittier corners. Never static, they eventually tumble into an effusive style of stripped-back, heavy-lidded blues that echo artists like Dan Auberbach and Dead Confederate.

Completing the morphing progression, Illinois-dwelling Lark’s Tongue (their moniker clearly paying homage to King Crimson) head deeper into the cosmos to haul down a droning wall-of-sound backdrop à la Hawkind into which they weave a tapestry of lush melodies à la Slowdive. Haul on the volume for the book-ending chorus of “Follow Your Night” to fully appreciate the obliterating crush and then drop out for complete immersion as the LP’s highlight, “Aluminium”, kicks in. The vocal harmonies locked within are stunningly beautiful and meld serenely into the thunderous riffage that rains down upon the listener.

As a split four-tracker this may, on the face of it, seem like a frivolous purchase, but at 33 minutes it offers pretty good value for money. Honestly, you’d be hard-pressed to find another split as thematically-explorative, emotionally dense and gloriously satisfying as this one.

Now streaming @ Bandcamp = http://cavityrecords.bandcamp.com/album/across-tundras-larks-tongue-split

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/04/across-tundraslarks-tongue-split-lp-cavity-records/

Friday, April 19, 2013

Album Review: Stone Sour – House Of Gold & Bones, Part II

By keeping his cards close to his chest, little has been revealed about frontman Corey Taylor’s concept propping up this double-album. Taken word for word from the preview for the forthcoming Dark Horse Comics’ story (yes, it’s due for a staggered release as a graphic novel too) we have this – “Trapped in an alternate reality, the Human must make his way to the House of Gold & Bones as he is chased by a crazed, mindless mob, and taunted by his mysterious friend and foe, Allen. What the Human discovers on his journey will be his salvation or his destruction.”

Now what became apparent, when Part I was released last year, was that it really didn’t matter too much if you weren’t aware of the concept. The individual tracks all had their own identity with the whole struggling to flow like a good concept should. This may have been possibly because it had been hyped up (by its creator) to be the best thing since sliced bread, so naturally it underwhelmed with its middle-of the road, dull chuntering. Part II will be judged with expectations adjusted accordingly so, naturally, it will have similar shock value, but for entirely different (and all of the right) reasons.


The first thing to hit you is just how fucking intense this thing is. I suspect the reason for the difference is that it’s all integral to the story with Part I being the build and the introspective maudlin and Part II having all the chase scenes and the drama. Guitarist Josh Rand summed that idea up quite neatly when he was quoted recently as saying “the riffs, the lyrics, the grooves and the songs are like Stone Sour times ten.” Listen to the dissolute screams on the bridges of “Gravesend” or the manic, lung-bursting roars that tear out the heart of “Red City” and I reckon you’ll agree he’s got a point. By comparison, all of this album’s constituent parts have been beefed-up making them bigger, bolder and a million times more effective.

The big-hitting singles are going to come from places like the 10-foot groove dug by “Black John”, the maniacal villain that haunts our hero (any connection to TV’s The Mentalist and their resident psycho “Red John” is probably coincidental), the bouncy rock licks of “Do Me A Favour” and the title-track which cuts down hard enough to release a line like “I’ve got nothing to prove to a son of a bitch like you”. Look elsewhere and you’ll hear piercing, instantly recognisable riffs in sweet cuts like “’82″ and “The Uncanny Valley” whilst the post-rock mystique of “Blue Smoke” strip the vocal back and murmur pedal effects that render it strongly reminiscent of bands like OSI and Porcupine Tree.

Now before we get carried away here, Stone Sour’s tendency to revert to a mundane, predictable, static AOR plod does pop up here and there. Poppy ballad “Sadist” drifts along offering little whilst “The Conflagration” pulls in an orchestra for little more than a dull spot of 80s soft rock a la Foreigner, Mr. Big, Scorpions, etc. Even worse is the horrendous double key-change in “Stalemate” which deserves the obligatory inside-out face cringe.

Only a fool could fail to see the money-making, wallet-draining potential of this entire multi-platform project (intentional or otherwise), but that’s another matter altogether. What really counts here is that even including these weaknesses, and excluding the back story, accompanying album and ephemera, HOGAB2 is one hell of an album and a solid challenger for the title of Stone Sour’s finest album. Even if you disagree with that assessment, it’s their first worthy output in seven years, so it’s not one to be dismissed lightly.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/04/stone-sour-house-of-gold-bones-part-ii-roadrunner/

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Album Review: No Consequence – IO

No Consequence have seemingly named new album IO after one of Jupiter’s moons, yet judging by the kind of lyrical content Kaan Tasan (now handling all vocal duties) blasts out here, he might be able to suggest a less-obvious interpretation. His choice of screamed words leave the listener in no doubt that the album’s inspiration lies firmly on Planet Earth. The lyrics paint a picture of a group of pissed off individuals, angry at the way this modern life of ours works. Fists are shaken at the lies we are fed, the political red tape we have to cross, or the cover-ups that keep those to blame safe. Nothing works as it should; full potential is less of a target than monetary gain and consequently hopes are dashed again and again.

And no-one says it more eloquently and passionately than Tasan. Take the last line of second track “Consumerism” and the last of closer “Unify” – “We’re part of the culture … We’re slaves to consumerism” identifying one of our many failings and “We must unify … Break out these chains / We are one” offering a solution. Everything that surrounds these strong, emotive hardcore ethics is either a focussed, fiery polyrhythmic assault bolstering jarring tech majestry or subversive side-steps into spaced-out, atmospheric prog. Whether screamed or sung, played at break-neck or ponderous speeds, the whole is balanced beautifully. No Consequence are beginning to construct the sort of loud, impactful music that underground UK heroes like The Arusha Accord and The Safety Fire have been blowing our minds with.

You want an example of their vitriol? Have a listen to “Illusion Of Choice”. Layered deep to reveal a distant, meandering lead holding fort, a skidding middle-distance wedge of strings and drums, and a bellowed front of house vocal that builds to scream “What have we become?” in our recoiling faces. Every time you run through this bad boy, in between the gritty hammer on / hammer off crush of strings, you’ll catch a new infectious lyric to grasp – “Lost in a sea of truth, your lungs fill with dirt, this world doesn’t need a saviour, it needs the truth” (from the pounding “Enemy Of Logic”) or the introspective wit of “It is time to turn this tide, stuck in a world of electric distortion” (from the soft-hearted, ambient wash of “Sentient”). Make sure you keep those ears peeled back because inside these lyrics is where this album’s heart and soul lies.

Perhaps there is a nagging sense that this hard-hitting smack of disillusionment is being presented at a time when a lot of the same ground has been covered by others. Had this been written a couple of years ago, I’d have no qualms in whole-heartedly recommending it to lovers of post-hardcore and math metal alike. Nevertheless, a solid album is always a solid album so I’m going to keep this one in reserve for when my blood is really boiling. The evolution that No Consequence has undergone since their rough-edged debut is staggering, From every angle, this blows it out of the water.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/04/no-consequence-io-basick-records/

Album Review: Oceans Of Slumber – Aetherial

Planets on album covers. They are becoming as familiar as bands labelling themselves “progressive” to mean forward-thinking rather than the retro-minded souls that you might expect them to be. Houston’s Oceans Of Slumber mean it in the sense that they dabble – i.e.; they are prepared to mash musical genres together to obtain a technically complex whole. The art of song construction has never been braver than here. Yes, a gorgeous gatefold sleeve with three planets to gawp at and an album that unites a grind drummer with a jazz guitarist and throws new-age prog and old-school doom at black and death metal. The result is an album that goes a bit Opeth, a bit Devin Townsend, a bit Enslaved then, at other moments, loses it altogether and heads off into Faith No More and Incubus territory. This is going to be fun.

The opening bars of Aetherial, the ragged minor chords of an acoustic guitar and the tumultuous bellow of Ronnie Allen, conjure memories of Mastodon’s Crack The Skye and Isis’ Wavering Radiant. Otherwordly, dissonant, abrasive and vast, “God In Skin” is a crushing initial blow with a huge dynamic range that stretches it’s gnarled fingers into the starry heavens and the blackened beyond. And the blacker the band go the more ludicrous they get. Elegiac maudlin becomes raw pain pouring from “Primordial” before it just throws on the clown mask and starts mono-cycling round the big-top. Oh and, yes, and if you’re looking for your hit of Mike Patton head to “Blackest Cloud” which lives up to it’s name and also goes a bit doolally, resulting in the stilted playing of the American national anthem.

The vocals attack from many different angles. We’re offered up Dalek-like gargling monotone for the line “Coffins in the sky like kites on strings, dead things” which flips to a hollow, disembodied roar for “Surrender, just go ahead and bow to me”. Move further into the album and there’s an affected bluesy, melodious male voice vying with a removed, echoing female voice. It’s a real bag of tricks this.

From the jazzy tech attack of double-kick and bass-heavy arrhythmia that rips through the heart of the jarring “Remedy” to the wonderfully straight-forward groove of “Only A Corpse”, Oceans Of Slumber clearly don’t do patterns. You could jumble the running order up and be spat out the other end with the same wide-eyed, slightly spaced-out look, having been blasted with all manner of sounds, yet still clutching the same few moments of joy. “Bleed me down to nothingness, fill me up with emptiness” from “Athereal” and the last gasp Mitch Lucker-esque “Cowards!” howl in “Coffins Like Kites” are my moments. Oh, and all of the staggeringly lush “The Great Divide”.

When extreme technical ability meets the songwriting minds of madmen you get an album like Aetherial. Some will consider this self-absorbed jiggery-pokery; something to use as a coffee-mat. Others will see this as the disjointed early etchings of potential champions. “Is this a great blow to your minds?” enquires Allen. That’s an affirmative, Captain.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/04/oceans-of-slumber-aetherial-self-released/

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Album Review: Warbeast – Destroy

Formed in 2006 and “discovered” by Down’s Phil Anselmo, Warbeast have been flying high of late. Last month’s split EP with the Down frontman was my first hit of Warbeast and upon discovering it was one heady cocktail, I naturally asked for more. Ave Noctum’s Commander-In-Chief didn’t let me down.

Led by former Rigor Mortis vocalist Bruce Corbitt, it isn’t any surprise to discover that his vocal is hugely effective here. The speeding thrash assault of drums and guitars are a real fistful but its Corbitt’s enormous, gnarly snarl that marks him out as monstrously influential. Somehow he rises above the mile-thick throb with a sharp, stabbing delivery to give the listener a bloody good ear-raping.

The album itself covers plenty of ground. From bursting into life with the instrumental Megadethian “Cryogenic Thawout”, Destroy moves on to diligently lay down a multitude of heavy styles that sucks up the deathly thrash of Slayer and the crush of Sepultura to form a rousing Bay Area thrash n’ groove combo sound that isn’t a million miles off Brazil’s beastly Torture Squad. “Nightmares In The Sky” summons the balls-out thrash of Exodus to rain Hell down upon us, whilst “Nobody” is more reminiscent of Cavalera Conspiracy’s “Hex” with it’s thick groove and determined face-ripping vocal.

Highlights come in the longer form of the deathly serious 7-minuter “The Day Of…” and the 6-minute title-track. The former threads the power of Destruction through the licks of Machine Head before dropping off into a Maiden-esque trawl through man’s various atrocities on man and the natural disasters that have afflicted us – “We all remember where we were that day, from that moment our lives were never the same”. The latter piles on the thrash assault with the bass and drums thundering into our chest – here we are left in no doubt just how full-on Warbeast can get.

All this and yet they retain a strong element of fun and farce which they infuse songs like “War Of The Worlds” and “Egotistical Bastard” with. Together they are like listening to a more intense GWAR (who they happen to be touring with right now). Lyrically, it’s a mess – “You walk on air, your shit don’t stink, even when you’re wrong you’re right” – weird in the whole scheme of things but as individual hits, they work just fine.

I’ve a strong suspicion that they held back their best and heaviest material for their Anselmo split, so that might account for the dearth of quality crushers, but it wouldn’t necessarily account for its emotional mis-management or odd pacing. Truth be told, this is a real jerk of an album. Warbeast play it a bit like a teenager operates his motor. Accelerating like a lunatic, then breaking hard – it’s enough to give you whiplash. If you don’t mind them driving like they stole it, then hop on board.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/03/warbeast-destroy-season-of-mist/