Archives by month/year

Sumac – What One Becomes

Thrill Jockey

Sumac - What One BecomesBack in March of this year, Sumac unleashed “Rigid Man” on to YouTube as a taster of what was to come from their new album What One Becomes. Personally, I was very excited indeed, so excited in fact that while listening to the song on headphones on a packed train pulling out of London, I didn’t realise that this utter racket was also being played full blast out of my laptop speakers.

It took a good minute for me to look up and clock that at least 30 pairs of eyes were fixed in my direction. But the reaction wasn’t the tuts and eye-rolls you might expect from your average London commuter, more a collective projection of terror – as

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Khost – Copper Lock Hell

Cold Spring

Khost - Copper Lock HellRight, it seems there must be two Andy Swans. There’s the Andy Swan who heads up Iroha, one of the UK’s most underrated “massive hooks with massive riffs” bands. Then there’s the Andy Swan in Khost – an outfit where melody isn’t part of the deal and crushing slabs of claustrophobia are the order of the day here.

Copper Lock Hell is a brutal, brutal record. It’s uniformly funereal in its pace, and really it flirts with degrees of darkness as opposed to light and shade. But it’s deeply layered and considered too. Third track “Hypocrisy Banality Possession” – featuring a beat that’s almost as sparse as your chances of finding any semblance of hope – is a fuzzy wall of violence

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King Midas Sound/JK Flesh/Glatze (live at Corsica Studios)

Corsica Studios, London 9 August 2012

As I walk in, a crazy man is on stage, pumping out some lovely squelchy bass sounds from a laptop which are instantly recognisable, thanks in part to his wonderfully overwrought vocals, as Black Sabbath‘s “Black Sabbath” (from the album Black Sabbath). And then it gets stranger and sillier from there, for this crazy man, it transpires, is Glatze, self-styled “musician and live music nutjob” (note- usually “self-styled” is an underhanded way of saying “bloke who actually ISN’T a…” but in this case he’s styled himself pretty well), and he’s loads of fun. More sonic silliness ensues, until he ends by accompanying himself on the melodica to an epic yet lightweight tale of musical instruments set to a jaunty dub/accordion backing, which ends, not unreasonably, in the deaths of all the characters. This makes no sense, I know. But it will when you see

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Napalm Death – Scum (Full Dynamic Range 2012 Edition)


A-side“You suffer…”

FDR stands for full dynamic range. Remember that, I’ll come back to it in a minute.

This is one of those records that I’ve had a million conversations about. Heavy crust/grind/metal/metalcore peeps will claim various things about it – it’s not the best/ it’s the best/ it’s not the first/ it’s the first/ Carcass did it better/it’s better with triggered drums/ it’s better without triggered drums/ it’s old/ it’s new/ they’re from Birmingham (good)/ they’re from Birmingham (bad). To answer each in turn: don’t care, fuck off/ don’t care, fuck off/ fuck off, don’t care/ fuck off don’t care/ meh – why not fuck off?/ fuck off you sexless geek/ fuck off you sexless geek/ fuck off/ fuck off/ Birmingham is AWESOME/ Birmingham is AWESOME, fuck off.

And because I’ve had a million conversations about it, and

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Balaclava – Crimes Of Faith

Southern Lord

Oh, Balaclava…can you come into the study for a minute? How are you? Seems like we never talk any more these days!

Look…ahem…well. Your mother and I are worried about you. No, look, hear me out. You’re not in trouble, I just wanted to chat, y’know…man to man. And, you really are growing into a man now. It seems long since you were running around the garden in your pants pretending to be Tarzan. Sorry, I don’t mean to embarrass you. Honestly, just give me a couple of minutes.

We just wanted to know how you are really, you just don’t seem very…happy.

What do you mean I wouldn’t understand? Try me! It wasn’t that long ago I was your age you know, heh.

It’s your songs you see, they’re just so negative. I mean take “Victims,” you know, the

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Neurosis – Sovereign


Do you know where’s an interesting place to listen to this record? A chain coffee shop, in London’s Square Mile, at 8:15 on a Wednesday morning. If anything really throws a spotlight on the primitivism of Neurosis‘s music, it’s watching a steady stream of suits walk past the window, off to do important and responsible things. I suspect none of them are listening to Neurosis as they dodge buses on their Boris Bikes – Neurosis don’t lend themselves to this sort of urban drudgery.

Not that there isn’t an abundance of drudgery on offer here but it’s a much more organic, Fair Trade, drudgery. This is the sound of the ‘renaissance caveman’; conceptually quite thoughtful, but executed with Neolithic brute force. Sovereign was an EP originally released in 2000, smack bang between their Times Of Grace and A Sun That Never

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All Pigs Must Die – God Is War

Southern Lord

It’s time someone finally said it; Ben Koller is quite possibly the Dave Lombardo of his generation. Now, Lombardo’s technicality may be outclassed by modern day metal standards, but what few drummers can match still is his propulsive feel.

Koller is one of the special few. When he flies into an up-tempo 4/4 beat, you know it’s going down. And he absolutely tears it up on God Is War; a record that simply refuses to calm down from start to finish. Koller’s playing and Converge band mate Kurt Ballou’s typically ripping production on this first full-length from All Pigs Must Die mean comparisons to Converge are inevitable. But there’s something more macho going on here. Whereas lyrically Converge deal mostly in bitterness and heartbreak, APMD have more global matters on their minds. As the album title hints, themes on war

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The Book Of Knots – Garden Of Fainting Stars


This is an odd record. The Book Of Knots is an invitation-only collective based in New York around a core quartet and supplemented by peripheral musicians in various capacities. On this, their third LP, they explore everything from enormous metallic pounding to expansive forays into the gentle and sublime. They also manage to dig up a few top-notch guests along the way.

Opener “Microgravity” brings a female-fronted version of Page Hamilton’s short-lived Gandhi project to mind with its dense, textural guitars and inorganic bass. Blixa Bargeld pops up on “Drosophilia Melanogaster” with another one of his occasional reports documenting the amount of time he spends waiting around in airports, “I cover the glass with my passport, which at that time is green with a golden eagle on it,” before exercising his signature screeching vocals to incredible effect. “Lissajous Orbit” seems to

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Xibalba – Madre Mia Por Los Dias

Southern Lord

Xibalba are unhappy. You have invaded their space and their response is twelve tracks of letting you know just how much this has aggrieved them. This is music for pissed off, heavy-set men in their late thirties. Xibalba are massive of riff and tiny of melody. They make bands of a similar ilk, such as Hatebreed (to pick a name entirely at random), look like pansies. Xibalba would not have a video that features a put-upon teen who’s misunderstood by his abusive parents and bullied by jocks at school who call him a ‘fag’. Their videos would be akin to the waiting line at a casting session for a film biopic of Boo-Yaa Tribe.

What they do though, they do extremely well. The riffs are gigantic mid-scooped behemoths, the drums generally mid-tempo and punishing. The vocals are decidedly one-note and

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Planks – The Darkest of Grays/Solicit To Fall

Southern Lord

This album marks German three-piece Planks’ first CD release and brings together their two previous 12” records; last year’s The Darkest of Grays full-length and 2011’s Solicit To Fall EP. The two were recorded so close to each other that they join rather seamlessly into an epic hour of darkness and, occasionally, light.

Planks cover so much ground it’s almost pointless trying to classify them. Yes there are thin traces of black metal, and the shadows of Converge and Cult Of Luna lurk in the corners too. But like those bands Planks throw in a skip-load of diversity. “Fallen Empires Are Ruling” and “The Dead Return To War” both start with riffs that could soundtrack the gates of hell opening. “A Casket City” changes the flow completely with its spooky piano before throwing you into the album’s highlight “…and Rivers

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Urthona – Super-Heavy Hamoazian Reverie


The latest album from Neil Mortimer is pretty ambitious. It’s a single track ‘concerned with cyclic patterns in nature while charting the movement of a weather system across southwest England’. Make of that what you will, but through the combination of guitars, synths, drums and field recordings he’s managed to get pretty close to his subject matter.

Drums represent thunder and cymbals lightning. Guitars running through octave fuzz and envelope phaser pedals lay on everything from howling wind to a light breeze. And why stop at approximating the sound of nature with instruments when you can include the real thing? Field recordings of wind and rain both pop up from time to time. There’s a lot of range in this music; from the most minimal single note refrain, through to Am-Rep style noise rock. The transitions are as natural and

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