Italian horror-metallers meet the tip of my nib on their fourth full length.
Written for Overdrive Magazine (Australia).
Italian horror-metallers meet the tip of my nib on their fourth full length.
Written for Overdrive Magazine (Australia).
I was very even-handed with this release from Sages for Overdrive Magazine. Have a read.
I review the new Frontier Records collaboration between Fabio Lione of Rhapsody and Allesandro Conti of Trick Or Treat for Overdrive Magazine.
I wrote this for Overdrive Magazine in Australia. This was a stormer.
It’s been one hell of a year, not just for music, but in general. Christ it was tough going, but from this burlap sack shit came some golden discoveries, shared here because I discovered them this year, though they may have come out earlier, because that’s how music works.
Slowly Building Weapons – Sunbirds (Art As Catharsis)
This is hardly surprising as I did the write-up on it for Astral Noize magazine’s Top 20 of this year, but I was only able to do that because it was a truly staggering piece of work. Legions ahead of their 11 year old debut Nausicaa, Sunbirds was amazing partly because it got made at all, its imposing shadow writ gargantuan across my sonic earscape. An essential record for any number of reasons, if you don’t check this out you are a donkey.
Om – Advaitic Songs (Drag City)
Yes, it’s from 2012, but I didn’t spend any time with this masterpiece until this year, and it became the record I listened to the most without exception. From beginning to end, the spirit of Advaitic Songs fed directly into my bloodstream and fed my very being, its total dedication to what it was being majestically inspiring in itself. This is a tremendous example of one of those records that’s extremely easy to listen to but very hard to play, due in no small part to the perfect rhythmic presence of Emil Amos of Grails on drums. Transcendent.
Probably Not – The Same Pain (Circle House)
I caught this band at the Cavern in Exeter by accident, as I was there to see Dead Ground, who were also very good, but Probably Not were incredible. No banter, supremely intense and honest and with the songs to back up not facing the crowd, The Same Pain was a true joy to experience. The fact that they’d only been a band for 5 months by the time this record was made gave me hope; hope that bands like this could still form and make records. Honestly brilliant, and I can’t wait for more out of them.
Piss Vortex – Future Cancer (Indisciplanarian)
A band that I listened to because of their ace/terrible name while trawling through videos from Obscene Extreme, this Danish quartet broke my face. Of the records I’ve heard, Future Cancer was a hair ahead of their other material, which is all excellent. A worryingly thrilling sound that owes as much to the likes of Breach as it does to crust, Coalesce and breakneck grind, I couldn’t recommend this highly enough to fans of extreme music if this was the only extreme band in existence. Staggering.
Kikagaku Moyo – House In The Tall Grass (GuruGuru Brain)
Floating out of Japan with the grace of a muslin curtain, I discovered this fabulous team of throwbacks when I started getting back into Bandcamp again. There’s loads of top stuff on this label, but I spun House In The Tall Grass every day for a fortnight upon hearing it at first, and revisited it for the remainder of the year. Completely devoid of brutality in any form, this encapsulated everything I wanted from old psych, right down the production. If you’ve got a drive to take somewhere and you need to feel peace and excitement at once, this is the record for you. Great.
Convulsing/Siberian Hell Sounds – Split (Art As Catharsis)
The second entry from the Australian label in this list (who also put out Hashashin’s magnificent opus this year), this split was fucking outrageous. Listening to Convulsing’s Engraved Upon Bleached Bone first was like undergoing major surgery while getting a serious kicking, and I was genuinely concerned that this would be a one horse race, but Siberian Hell Sounds’ The Breath Of The Beast was equally enthralling and fierce, the 40 minute run time felt like about 60 seconds. 60 seconds in a burning building, but 60 seconds all the same. Colossal.
Beastwars – The Death Of All Things (Destroy)
Directly responsible for restoring my faith in sludge and doom after a good couple of years chasing those musical dragons, the New Zealand quartet’s third record was an oddly elegant effort, with no dead wood and a welcome, likeable character. Broad of sound and with proper songs, The Death Of All Things reminded me of how I felt when I discovered Ahab’s game-changing The Divinity Of Oceans. A tremendous record to listen to when doing just about anything, the news of their singers’ ailing health and a subsequent Instagram post showing that they were back playing together was one of the best moments of the year. Super.
Hobo Magic – The World Today
This Australian trio delivered a massive shot in the arm despite their awful name. From the initial seconds of Follow The Holy Riff, this album delivered at least two trucks of The Goods, devoting its every moment to being as meatily rewarding as possible. Even I felt proud of this record and I had nothing to do with it. Resplendent in its hulking size, The World Today is pair of open arms hugging you into The Riff, not just the in melodic terms but in spirit. Giant.
Diocletian – Gesundrian
One of the most compelling listens I’ve had all year came to light in the last few days, a direct result of delving into the New Zealand scene through gig posters, blog posts and internet radio recommendations. Gesundrian is a monstrously oppressive sounding album, the fourth from these deathly kings. Blasting like cannon across a bloodied, muddy battlefield, Diocletian seem intent on demonstrating how it feels to be trampled by rampant horses through sound alone. Where many have tried and failed, Diocletian sound like heavy sword combat without a shred of irony but plenty of iron. Unyielding.
Hopefully you enjoyed my list, though it’s unlikely you would if you like Waylon Jennings or Lil Pump, but if that’s your jam, hey, you go.
Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.
When a band goes through what Liferuiner have gone through (periods of dormancy, seismic lineup changes, fundamental shifts in focus), the events cannot help but bleed into the material. O’Callaghan is clearly a man with much to say, his desire to examine the core aspects of life leading him to irrepressibly dark places, questioning his worth as a man, and societies’ worth as an entity.
The opening lines of Vacant (made more poignant in watching the songs’ video) appear to be the singer addressing himself, almost calling himself out for being unable to fully realise his vision:
“Look there’s nothing inside of your heart
There are some things that you will never feel
Your life is a shot in the dark
Your cause is a failing appeal”
There is, in this, an overbearing negativity, a feeling of giving up, something borne across the record as a whole. Despite the implied positivity of both the bands’ intentions and thematic work, this is a grim, humourless ride.
The guitars have that marvellous early Swedish HC sound like worn drills, the bass sounds like the earth eating the mountains, the drums pounding with triumphant clarity. O’Callaghan’s vocals are, if a trifle limited, very competent and consistent. Tracks like Waivered Lives and Self-Purgatory show the band’s evolution from earlier material like 1990, growing into a much more wide-reaching musical force. The more abundant quiet sections show a band willing to take a real step back and allow the listener to reflect on the story, rather than simply battering them with a message.
Harvest/Famine is constructed of unyielding kung-fu flailing; the idea of this not kicking a pit off is harder to imagine. Instantaneous crowd-lifter Fissure is extremely likeable as well, ticking every box on the modern hardcore list (far-off distorted vocals/picked high octave line/half-speed beatdown into fast section/’we’re in this together’ etc), so reverential as to be open worship of the scene that birthed them. Feeling/Meaning sounds like the band’s most comfortable, natural habitat, and it would be interesting to hear them develop in this direction on further releases.
An imaginative blend of the old styles makes Future Revisionists a compelling listen for the most part. Using a single vocal approach for an album that seems so keen to stretch its wings seems a little short-sighted, especially given the breadth of the material on offer, another achievement considering there is nothing ground-breaking here. Lots of tips of the hat to older bands (Joy Division/Judge/Coalesce), buried beneath a sound that is assuredly Liferuiner’s own. Bonus points for the ultra-vascular verse riff on Dreamcatcher.
This is a well-produced, confident, well-meaning release from a band with something to say. Not the most elegant set of lyrics I’ve ever heard – there’s a lot bolted on awkwardly, and for a band so keen to say something, swearing is just plain lazy – but the intent of everything behind what’s going on makes it a trim, focused album.
Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.
Blessed with a guitar sound like rusty saws and a bass made of crumbling masonry, Second Coming’s title track kicks off with its legs apart, sweating and grunting away. Touchstones like early Danzig and eternal goth-rodders the 69 Eyes bury themselves deeply into the material, emerging from the mire as a whole entity. The spoken word section, however, is agonising, and genuinely difficult to listen to for it’s sheer awkwardness. No Kerouac diatribes here, just timid, counted-in vocals.
An early highlight comes in the shape of recent video “Darker Waters”, which has a truly solid chorus, the band battering away quite happily. The old-school garage vibe, highlighted so extensively in their online blurb and press, is blended with from-the-gutter stargazing, creating a halfway-house of adroit production and scuzzy, foaming guitar.
However, all the urgency in the world can’t detract from the vocals and appalling, inarticulate lyrics. Lloyd Matthews is a car-crash amalgam of Danzig, Homme and Ricky Wilson, but with screaming; screaming which, on “Sir Sibilance”, is both utterly shocking and woeful. “My Lime Tree‘s” ‘that’ll-do’ lyricism had me reaching for the bleach, in the hope that drinking it through my eyes would improve the words somehow.
There are a few tracks on this record that deserve a listen; the aforementioned “Darker Waters, I Am The Law” and closing track “Save Me From Myself” are full of merit, but in order to get to them the listener has to wade through a great deal of extremely samey rock. The dark, dangerous spirit made so much of by the rest of the world refuses to present itself, though perhaps this was due to me watching the bands’ almost motionless live footage first, and seeing those who had made the record standing around nonchalantly while their awesome tones punish the audience.
Taking the record as a whole, Second Coming sounds like a band one record away from being good. Even including some Shakespeare( ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’), The Dropper’s Neck just aren’t gelling properly, and despite that awesome guitar sound(and some on-the-edge soloing), they stop short of the volatile, swivel-eyed rawk they portend to be. Having only existed since 2011, more time is required to get the most from this cocktail.
Alright, but with plenty of room to improve.
An unlikely duo comprised of Stu’s ultra-deep, blood-thirsty beats and Howard’s clean guitar and sound proclamations, Plant Plants set up facing each other across tables groaning with effects. Opener “Break Softly” sets things out nicely, the pair settling into their stride. Tonight, the boys pull out a selection of material from their as-yet untitled album, due out next year (look out for a video release in the near future), and initial signs are extremely encouraging.
In all honesty, coming out just for the riff from “E.B” would have been worth it. Furrowed brows are teamed with broad grins as the groove unfolds, deliberate and precise in its shadowy grind. The colossal beats of “No Smiling” and fight-or-flight triggering bass massiveness of “Sick Bay” pulse with knowing, living humanity.
If one thing was to make a lasting impression, it’s that Plant Plants are a great deal more than an engaging two piece. The temptation in the modern age is to see electronic musicians as laptop-dwelling cop-outs, piggy-backing from one expensive plugin to the next. Here, nothing could be further from the truth-the music is being made, the sounds created, and not a Macbook in sight.
Howard sings these opaquely-worded modern hymns from the very bottom of his well. Hints of The Cure’s Robert Smith and the inimitable Mr. Curtis (Joy Division) slope through the crowd like a light-less wave; the true details of the dark events being recounted would cause unyielding sorrow. It is hard to imagine what has befallen the creators of these songs that would lead to such a grim countenance, but, interwoven with the edge-riding rhythms and the prickling energy of their performance, it seems the horror was worth it.
The crowd seem uncertain when to applaud, saving their rapturous response for the finale of set-closer “One To Adore”, which follows a particularly aggressive reading of instrumental bounce-factory “Bells”. To whit, save for the uncertain response of those in attendance, this was a brooding, emotive show.
Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. This was my very first interview, and though I’ve done plenty face to face on the radio since, I had never done it over the phone, so I’ll admit I’m pleased with it regardless. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.
During their busy schedule and preparation for their London performance later in the year, Fortitude Magazine caught with Marcos Curiel of P.O.D; we chat about, his eye for boxing talent, what’s in store for P.O.D and what fans can expect at shows this year. This is what he had to say:
Fortitude Magazine: Hello sir.
Marcos Curiel(guitar): John how are ya?
FM: Not too bad man, how’s things with you?
MC: Just relaxing, sitting back , enjoying the Southern Californian weather that we have now.
FM: Glad to hear it man, it’s dark and rainy here, but it is nine at night.
MC: That’s why some of the best dark music comes from there.
FM: Well, we’ve got a few,we don’t have POD though.
MC: Well, we’re going to bring the SoCal over to England for Download this year.
FM: Are you looking forward to it?
MC: Of course man, I’m a huge fan of British culture, the football, the music, all that stuff.
FM: I’ve been having a look into your exploits of late, I understand you’re an avid boxing fan.
MC: Yeah, boxing and football. I grew up in a home of boxing-my son does boxing. I never boxed, my mom was like ‘it’s too dangerous’, so I learned to play guitar.
FM: It’s a little bit safer.
MC: I can definitely spot talent in boxing, you know, seeing it in other people.
FM: I wanted to ask you about your guitars; I understand you’ve been a PRS guitar man for some time.
MC: I’ve been a fan dude, for many many years. The way I got introduced to PRS was through Mr. Carlos Santana-I grew up listening to him, his older stuff on vinyl, from Abraxas to, you name it, Moonflower. He used to play a Gibson, then the SG, then he started playing this PRS guitar, I was like, what is that? Then I started to see them in guitar stores, and they were super expensive, hanging way at the top of the store, and I was thinking, I would love to play one, and I’d ask to play one, and the sales person would give me kind of a smirk, as if to say ‘this kid isn’t going to buy this’. But he’d have to do his job and hand it to me, and I tested it out. And at the time, there wasn’t many rock/metal players even using PRS. And I was like, dude, I wanna do that. I want to play what we do in POD, and eventually have a collection of PRS. I never even thought or dreamed of being endorsed by that company, and when we shot our Southtown video, the label we were with gave us an equipment budget, and the first thing I went out and bought was a PRS.
FM: You’re a Custom 22 man I understand?
MC: Yeah, but I’m also using a single cutaway now.
FM: I saw in the Higher video you’re using that.
MC: Yeah, that’s my main baby, that one’s got custom art that my friend did, and hey, if you’re going to get something like that, custom, one of a kind, you better play it right? I’m planning on bringing that one to Europe, it’ll be attached to my hip though, so…. I’ve already had offers, on the last tour some guy offered me ten grand for it, and I was like, well, it sounds good, but I can’t do that, it’s one of a kind you know.
FM: I had a listen to Murdered Love-it’s a very confident album, very relaxed compared to the early Alive/Satellite/Youth Of The Nation material. Whose idea was it to do it with commentary?
MC: I don’t understand-what do you mean?
FM: There’s a little introduction to each track.
MC: Ah-it’s the accent, I thought you were saying ‘common tree'(laughs)! I did a version and then Sonny, the singer, did a version. I don’t know whose you heard but I went through the songs and spoke about my view, and how the songs came to fruition.
FM: There’s not a lot of artists doing that sort of thing, and it was nice to get an insight as to what you guys thought of the songs as a group. I wanted to ask you about having Mr. Jasta on Eyes, as you guys share a label on Razor & Tie.
MC: Our relationship and friendship with him goes way back, even before we were label mates, so, we were actually, if you’ve done your past research on what POD’s done, we’ve always had collaborations, or people coming on our tracks with us.
FM: You’ve had Eek-A-Mouse and so on.
MC: We had Mike from Suicidal (Tendencies), Page Hamilton from Helmet, so we’ve been one of the lucky few rock bands/heavy rock bands that have been able to do it. We love doing it, and we were able to get him(Jasta) on the record. He was one of our top 5 choices, we had other people in mind who obviously didn’t work out, but he heard that song and it just felt natural, so we sent it to him and that’s how that all came about.
FM: About the writing process, when it comes to the lyrics, is Sonny left to take care of that while you’re more focused on the musical side?
MC: Actually, a lot of it is me and Sonny. I do a lot of the musical, riffs and chord progressions and stuff like that, and I also, when I’m coming up with the riffs or the chord progressions I’ll usually have an idea, like I was thinking about this or I was thinking about that, so maybe you want to try and go in this direction with it. Not on every song, but on a lot of the tunes I’ll give him a little push in this direction, and if he chooses to run with it, cool. If he doesn’t, then he’s on his own(laughs). But for the most part he’s open to my suggestions.
FM: Well you guys have been together a long time now-15 years I think.
MC: Yeah, but he’s got to sing about something he believes in, something that he’s truly passionate about, so you give him an idea for a tune; West Coast Rock Steady was one of the singles that came out, and that was definitely one of my ideas, and I said, hey man, we should write a song and give homage to our coast. We’ve always been that type of band, we did a song called Southtown, and we thought it’d be cool. You know, there’s this thing that we’re the super serious band, that we’re always super serious, but we’ve always had songs like Rock The Party and stuff like that, and West Coast Rock Steady came about that way too. Let’s show people that we have a good time offstage, and that we can write songs that are fun as well you know?
FM: Speaking of your songs, I see that you’re cracking on with the video for Beautiful. How’s that coming along?
MC: We may have gotten to a final edit-last night I saw it and I’m pretty happy with it, and the people I showed it to loved it. These aren’t ‘yes-yes’ people, these are people I trust-I think the song is a good song already, and the video just adds to it visually. I can’t wait for the world to see it.
FM: When I saw the video for Higher and your live footage, you always commit to it 100%.
MC: We try to keep the balance-I think you have to. I think there’s a lot of bands that can get away with being super-duper artsy, and they can be distant, we try to have a bit of that but we don’t want the listener to get lost in the video.
FM: You’ve sold millions of records now, and gone platinum a number of times. If you could go through everything you’ve done with POD, what songs really stand out?
MC: It would be a tie between two; Youth Of The Nation and Alive.Those two songs pretty much gathered the spectrum of what we can do. They’re hard, but they’re soft too, and ambient, like Youth Of The Nation. And the rocking, hard, singalong anthem of Alive, which really sets the foundation for who we are as a band, I think.
FM: There’s a deep groove to you guys do, even with the punk edge of Panic And Run.
MC: Yeah, that’s because of what we’re influenced by and where we come from. I give credit to SoCal, Southern California; everybody down here surfs, skates-well not everybody, but most people-it’s the culture down here, it’s very free, and free-spirited and open minded, whether it’s going to beach or the music-reggae, punk shows. What you hear in our music is pretty much our environment rubbing off on us, with us projecting it and amplifying it to the world. Our interpretation of it, because everyone does it their different way, like Sublime have their interpretation of it-there’s so many bands!(laughs) You know, Rage Against The Machine does their version of it, the list goes on and on. I am definitely proud to be where we’re from, and to play the music that we do, to play the music that P.O.D.’s known for, plugging in and going for it, that’s what we do live man.
FM: You’re playing the Underworld, London – have you played there before?
MC: To be honest dude, it’s all a bit of a blur to me, I don’t remember venues’ names(laughs)! I remember that we did a really small show at a place called the Garage, that was a long time ago, and I remember we did Wembley arena, we were direct support for Korn, and I want to say we played the Astoria? I know we played a bunch of venues but I can’t remember. I’ve always had a good time when we played in the UK. The accent alone, sometimes there’s some dudes that I can’t understand, cos I’m like ‘huh’?, but I really enjoy your guyses’ accent, I try to do it but it sucks ass, I can do a pretty good version of it(adopts impossibly cockney accent) ‘Can I get a spot of tea’?(much laughter at both ends)
FM: You’ve been on the road a long time, is there any one incident that sticks out to you as something that you’ve done, with the fans or onstage?
MC: Like performing-wise? Hm, I need to think about this for a second. Well, here’s one. The day before 9/11, we were doing a bunch of promotion for the Satellite album, and the label had us running in jets going different places, and we had this TRL countdown with Carson Daly, I don’t know if you’re familiar with this, top ten in country, in the States, and we were getting played, believe it or not, we were in the top 5, battling Britney Spears and N-Sync, and we’re one of the few rock bands crossing over into popular culture, and we got to do this performance for TRL live in Battery Park, which was right next to the towers. And you know, you can never comprehend or imagine what would have happened the next day, so we were there, and a buddy from New York said ‘have you ever seen the towers?’. We were at soundcheck, before we performed, and he’s like ‘just walk over here real quick and check ’em out’. I walked over, ’bout 3 or 400 yards and I looked up, and I’m like ‘daaamn those are high’. And he’s like ‘those are the towers man’, and I was like ‘yeah man’-I didn’t really give two cents at the time, but we went and did our thing, performed live, and I woke up the next morning, people calling me cos they think I’m still there, and seeing the plane fly into the building that I’d been standing underneath. I don’t know if that’s a good enough story for you but that’s definitely unforgettable.
FM: That’s a heavy story, I can’t imagine it.
MC: Other countries have fallen victim to various terrorist attacks; that was a major one for us because we had never experienced anything like that, so… And just being so close to it the day before, when a major historical event was going to happen the next day, that was a big bit of our career. And our record came out on 9/11, and we all thought man, our record’s going to be doomed, no-one’s going to be buying music-we weren’t thinking selfishly, we were just thinking about our career-but we were shocked, and the world took onto Alive, and it became an anthem, and it went platinum in four weeks!
FM: You guys have done some incredible stuff, I’ll say that.
MC: The other thing was having a six year hiatus, and nobody hearing of us, and coming back with the album, and having the success we’ve had with the new album, I mean if we were a new band…When we had our first single which actually went to number one here in the States, it was called Lost In Forever, but I was reading some of the comments, and there was kids on there saying ‘man, this is awesome! I’m so glad there’s a new band like this!’ and I was cracking up because there’s this new generation of listener who think we’re a new band(laughs)! I’d say we’re pretty stoked.
FM: It’s a massive achievement for an artist to cross generations like that, and quite inspiring.
MC: Well we feel blessed for it, thank you.
FM: The UK’s always pleased to have you.
MC: Hopefully we’ll be more consistent next time and get over more often.
FM: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us-all the very best!
MC: Thanks man-thanks for listening!
More importantly, this era of her development shows her moving away from being a session/sideperson towards being an artist in her own right, something that has evidently been her focus since day one. A fairly bare-bones affair, with King accompanying herself for the most part, Higher Paradise contains 4 original compositions, two with a full band.
First things first-King has a stand-up voice. Lots of control and dexterity, and a fearlessness to go for the big intervals. Occasionally the guitar work falls short, as evidenced on the KT Tunstall-ish ‘You Can’t Take Me Alive’. The production is extremely uneven, as though it was simply recorded and not mixed. In truth, an artist who has plenty of studio and live experience shouldn’t have let this through, and the conveyed feeling is one of naivety and slapdashery.
‘Living In Disguise’ is a significantly improved showcase of Kings’ ability. Melodically more astute and aware, better balanced, and despite the low-rent lyricism, the verses are slow-burning and tense; less is definitely more in this case. As ‘Fossils’ stumbles into view, the slack-as-a-bag-of-ties playing starts to rear it’s head again. The backing track carries aBeverley-Knight-unplugged vibe, though the vocals sound like they were recorded in a different studio with other people.
Final track ‘Scent On Your Skin’ weighs in with slide guitar, tenderly muted country drums, and a well-judged vocal performance from King. Four songs of this calibre would have been great-King sounds much more comfortable and personable in this style than reaching awkwardly for second hand gospelisms.
There is absolutely no question that King has a serious voice, capable of a great deal, but is hamstrung in this instance by an unforgivably incompetent production and some disappointing musicianship. The whole recording has a hesitant air, which may stem from first-time jitters about her own material. There’s an abundance of natural skill and a proper set of lungs to build on here, but Tammy needs to decide who she is.
Watch for future changes, as there’s a warm, gentle voice underneath these songs.