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Ultraphallus – Sowberry Hagan

Riot Season

Ultraphallus – Sowberry HaganSerious noise rock from Belgium, the third album from Ultraphallus and their UK début on Riot Season. Where do I start? With a name like Ultraphallus am I serious? And what a name it is! Its the mother of all names to trip up spam filters. Sowberry Hagan was recorded over four days in a farm in Liege, but you wouldn’t guess at such folkish origins. And if you did you’d be in for a surprise. Sowberry Hagan is an evil slab of shoegazing, sludgy malevolent doom and claustrophobic heavy rock. This is a nasty album, and I mean that in a good way. It’s evil white noise to scare the crap out of the unwary. And, of course, I mean that in a good way too. Its feverish, ramshackle and as unpolished as they come. Sowberry

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Melvins – The Bride Screamed Murder


The Bride Screamed Murder is superb. Not at all what I expected, but sees the Melvins in fine form. A Senile Animal (2006) and Nude With Boots (2008) saw the Melvins gelling as a tight four piece unit, with Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover playing alongside Big BusinessCoady Willis and Jared Warren. Now I love both these albums, and I would have welcomed a third helping. But we’ve all seen bands fall into formulaic ruts rehashing variations of the same album again and again until everything fresh and innovative is long gone. The Melvins have side stepped this pitfall. The Bride Screamed Murder finds them returning to a looser jam-based sound, reminiscent of their early stuff. This sounds like the renowned Melvins who will fuck up.

And then as now, when the Melvins jam

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Trans Am – Thing

Thrill Jockey

Trans Am - Thing sleeveWow, this is a really different kind of Trans Am album. But wow in general, too, it’s also a pretty fucking great album. The first thing that struck me about Thing was its soundtrack-like quality. At points it is more like a vision of Blade Runner rather than the electro rock we know and love from Trans Am.

Thing began life as project for a sci-fi horror adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The project never happened, but Trans Am continued with their album exploring lots of directions. To ensure the sufficient feeling of exhaustion and paranoia Trans Am stayed in their studio until the early hours of the morning. Now that’s the kind of commitment I like to see in a band. It reminds me of Steve Vai fasting for seven days

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Lazer Crystal – MCMLXXX

Thrill Jockey

MCMLXXX CD sleeveLazer Crystal come from Chicago and this is their first full release. The title MCMLXXX is a real declaration of intent, or at least a real advert to the albums contents. And it is, but at the same time it isn’t. I’ve heard many bands that are really stuck in the 70s or 80s to the point of sounding like a stale copy. Lazer Crystal aren’t one of them. Indebted to the 80s, yes; in awe of the 80s, almost certainly; but not stuck in them.

They give us a gloriously mad synthfest. The 80s never actually sounded this demented. Like an unholy mixture of Ian Curtis, Fad Gadget and “Crockett’s Theme” delivered with the screwed up spasticity of Aphex Twin or Squarepusher. The mad electronica through a food processor sound is distinctly more recent. It’s a

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Annihilator – Annihilator


Canadian speed merchants Annihilator have really gone back to their roots for this outing, and it is going back a fair bit. Annihilator is their thirteenth studio album since 1989’s début Alice in Hell. They’ve undergone numerous line up changes over the years with guitarist, and these days also vocalist, Jeff Waters remaining the sole original member of the band.

For all the years and changing line up, Annihilator still sound fresh and angry. Annihilator has that mix of speed shred and Anthrax mosh out on steroids (or at least amphetamines). The vocals are pure power metal: loud, clear, and hitting those high notes with ear-piercing power.You see, that’s it. Back in the heydays of power metal metalheads didn’t need to go to body piercing shops to get holes in their ears. They just listened to power metal.

Bruce Dickinson

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White Wizzard – White Wizzard


Wow, they don’t make em like this any more. What am I talking about, this is how they make em these days. Its like Nirvana and grunge never happened. White Wizzard, along with fellow Earache stable mates [post=cauldron-chained-nite text=”Cauldron”], are part of what sounds like a NWOBHM/hair metal revival. White Wizzard give us speedy riffs, powerful melodic vocals, and big anthemic sing along choruses … if you can hit the high notes. I still find it a little odd that Earache are releasing this kind of stuff. Back in the day, Earache were busy releasing classics such as Napalm Death‘s Scum, which was diametrically opposed to 80s hair culture.

I’ll be honest and say I don’t actually remember NWOBHM and US hair metal being so linked. NWOBHM gave us proto-thrash bands like Venom and Raven (whose commercial

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Trans Am – What Day Is It Tonight?

Thrill Jockey

Trans Am‘s blend of rock/electro comes to the stage with live album What Day Is It Tonight? Many lesser bands wouldn’t be able to pull this kind of fusion off. Synthpop and hard driving rock are seemingly chalk and cheese. Lesser bands might have troubles, but this is what Trans Am do and they do it like fucking champs (and indeed sometimes alongside The Fucking Champs).

The world Trans Am conjures up has the same kind of split personality as their music. Their vision lurches from tongue in cheek Kraftwerk future world of kitsch to a dark scifi dystopia; sometimes within the same song. For all the cuteness of “Futureworld” ‘s vocoder

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Obliteration – Necropsalms

Fysisk Format

There’s a lot to Obliteration - Necropsalmslike about Necropsalms, Obliteration‘s second album, unless you don’t like doomy death metal that is. But, of course, everyone likes death metal. Obliteration hail from Kolbotn in Norway, that’s the home of Darkthrone amongst other bands. Their first album was released on Tyrant Syndicate, the sub-label of Peaceville run by Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto. So you’d be forgiven for thinking Necropsalms was a good orthodox piece of Norwegian black metal under the evil shadow of Darkthrone; but you’d be wrong.

With Necropsalms Obliteration have really found their own style: a form of old-school death metal that harks back to the likes of Celtic Frost or early Death (before the late great Chuck Schuldiner

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Boredoms – Super Roots 10

Thrill Jockey

Boredoms – Super Roots 10I wasn’t expecting Super Roots 10 to sound like this, which is what I have come to expect from the Boredoms and the Super Roots series. Super Roots 10 contains “Ant 10” and three remixes of it, and lives up to the impressive legacy Super Roots lays down. “Ant 10” itself continues the Boredoms’ recent love of tribal druming. Beginning with chanting, it then moves into a massive wall of tribalisms. Floating on top of this are silky synth arpeggios and psychedelic guitars, all of which create an intense trancey wall sound. Its very psychedelic in a very Japanese way. The synths have been compared to early Nintendo games. There is certainly that.

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Various Artists – Grind Madness at the BBC


Grind Madness at the BBC

This takes me back. Sometimes innovations can be pinned down to very specific musical moments. In the same way that Eddie Van Halen‘s tapping on “Eruption” spawned a legion of followers, Mick Harris‘ death blasts on “Scum” set the pace and tone of metal drumming for decades to follow. Its hard to overstate the impact of “Scum” and late 80s UK hardcore. Suddenly everyone was listening to it (well maybe not the 80s pop dullards with their heads burried in the sand) because it was just so extreme. Napalm Death and E.N.T. records (yes records) cropped up in unlikely places like the collections of goths and indie kids, as well the collections metalheads and punks. It was

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Cauldron – Chained to the Nite


Cauldron - Chained to the Nite

This isn’t what I’d expect from Earache at all. Cauldron are a “traditional” metal outfit from Canada. Not a hint of Grind Madness here. Maybe Cauldron are a sound of things to come. Growling and evil has dominated metal for quite some time now. Yeah it can be great fun, but its a little one dimensional isn’t it? And hey making devil horns and growls is quite frankly a little bit embarrassing. I got that out of my system when I was 13…

Cauldron get back to metal’s roots. Its something I’m hearing more and more of, especially from new young bands like these guys. Chained to the Nite is their début, and

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Melvins – Chicken Switch


melvins_album_coverUnlike a lot of remix albums where an artist gets a song to work with, the artists on Chicken Switch were given whole Melvins albums to work with. So each track is a remix of a whole album. The Melvins chose experimental electronic artists for Chicken Switch, with such names as Matmos, Lee Ranaldo, Merzbow, Kawabata Makoto and Speedranch getting involved. The result is a pretty extreme makeover. It isn’t an album of mixes that sound nearly identical to the originals. In fact, most of the tracks don’t sound that much like the Melvins. “Queen (Electroclash Remix)” by The Panacea and Lee Ranaldo’s mix are pretty wild chopped up metal. Farmers Manual‘s “disp_tx_skel_mach_murx” and Void Manes‘ “Overgoat”

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Littl Shyning Man – Mockery/Inchborough EP

Label: Sonic360 Format: CD;CDS/12″/Digital Download

Mockery - sleeveMockery is the breathtaking début album from Littl Shyning Man, a.k.a. Christopher Haworth, which was originally released in 2005. To me it struck a chord with Mothlite‘s The Flax of Reverie – a huge symphonic sweeping spectrum of style: a mixture of electronics and instruments, frantic modernist string pieces, vocal harmonies, spoken word, raw buzzing noise, drum and bass joins folk in a shimmering clicking whir. And like Mothlite, Mockery has a quality that is very English. The name Littl Shyning Man comes from the book Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. Mockery is a sound track to this post apocalyptic tale. Christopher Haworth steers us through a landscape that is disjointed and fractured, melancholic and unsettling. The shards and embers of electronica and folk are fused together in the apocalyptic ruins.

Littl Shyning Man – Mockery/Inchborough EP […]

Blood Ceremony – Blood Ceremony

Label: Rise Above Format: CD,LP

Blood Ceremony - sleeveFlute-tinged witch rock debut from Toronto’s Blood Ceremony. These days a lot of metal bands head straight for the big Black Sabbath riff, slow it down, and just stay there. However, I don’t think Blood Ceremony are too interested in what lots of metal bands are doing these days. They look back to the era of bands such as Coven, Affinity, and Black Widow, capture the prog tendencies of Sabbath and fuse it with a huge pagan doom-laden riff out. Vocalist Alia O’Brien‘s flute solos are something else … they give Blood Ceremony a unique quality.

Flute is an instrument that’s virtually never heard in metal, and has been in the rock wilderness since the seventies, though used and abused by the Ozric Tentacles, but seldom heard otherwise. Chunky riffs sandwich

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Earthless – Live At Roadburn

Label: TeePee Format: CD,2LP

Earthless- Live At Roadburn sleeveEarthless rock. Earthless know that rock isn’t found in the middle of the verse or tucked away politely in the corner of a chorus. Earthless know that rock is huge tube driven distorted excess. And that’s exactly what they did at Roadburn. One and a half hours of primal solo and riff on the main stage of the Roadburn festival. It wasn’t a gig they were expecting to play. When the main act couldn’t play the organisers asked Earthless at the last minute. They stepped up and delivered a raw assault of rock noise. Appropriate given that Roadburn is a celebration of the riff.

On finding out the gig was recorded Earthless listened to the performance and decided that it was the most honest document they could

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