Now That’s What I Call 2017!

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.

OmAdvaitic 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 NotThe 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 VortexFuture 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 MoyoHouse 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 SoundsSplit (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.

BeastwarsThe 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 songsThe 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 MagicThe 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.


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.

Review: The Dropper’s Neck – Second Coming

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine.


Drawing comparisons to the Stooges and Queens Of The Stone Age, Essex-born quintet The Dropper’s Neck have delivered their debut record, Second Coming. Recorded with Paul Tipler, who has Placebo, Idlewild and Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster on his rap sheet, it hits the streets firmly on the 29th of July.

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 WatersI 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.

Interview: Marcos Curiel (P.O.D.)

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.


Currently out on the road with Flyleaf, American rock icons P.O.D (Payable On Death) are celebrating the release of their latest record ‘Murdered Love’ that has been released.

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!

Review: Backhand Saloon – Creature

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. www.


Recorded during a period of some upheaval and ascendancy, Backhand Saloon’s second release takes the template laid down by Crooks & Curses and forces it through a fine mesh screen. The quintet’s southern-flecked hardcore has evolved into a more formidable creation.

Creature is a bolder, more expansive record than its predecessor, setting the band up for a more aggressive, powerful ride. Cassiopeia blurts into life with singer Harry’s declaration “In the beginning, there was nothing”. Far from a rehash of old glory, this is manly step forward.

As the record presses on, it becomes clear that there are two Backhands at work; the more delicate side(Thorns, most of Creature, the opening bars of Prometheus), new to this record, and the rough, all savage beatdowns and roaring. These two entities exist side by side on Creature, with the bands ability to inject tenderness and into their brick-hard riff work showing a maturity uncommon in many hardcore bands.

In many ways Creature is more of a suite than an EP; each track stands alone perfectly, but the band’s evolving songcraft is as clear as open water. Mora and Prometheus are crushing, the band trying to power out of the speakers with force alone. Taken as a snapshot in time, Backhand sound tense but determined, the youthful joie de vivre of Crooks & Cursesreplaced by the grown up, self-aware beast of Creature. Taking the title track through to the end of Prometheus alone would have made a great EP, but having Cassiopeia as a opener shows how far they’ve come. 

At the end of all this is Acid Fang, which sounds great live, but on record sounds like an afterthought; having the record end with Mora would have been a true cliffhanger. Backhand have a well-deserved live reputation, and as they are currently out on tour this can only improve. Having released the single Hollow Heart with their new lineup, the band has tightened, grown more aggressive, more confident.

This is a good record by a good band, who are evolving into a great band. The next record should be a genuine game-changer, and I await it with baited breath. Ace.

Review: The Devil Wears Prada – 8:18

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine.


Christian metalcore, as a genre, has no shortage of detractors. Many source its fundamental unlikeability to its implied, often third-tier piety and identikit nature. Today, let’s put all that to one side and look at the music exclusively.

After reading the hype about ‘darkness’, ‘relentlessness’, lyrical misery and so on, one can be forgiven for expecting, at the very least, a properly heavy record. Production wise, there’s lots of chunks, chest-out ambience and plunging bass, with the ubiquitous backwards cymbals during empty moments in the beatdowns. Adam K, of gurning warriors Killswitch Engage, acted as executive producer with Matt Goldman, who worked with The Chariot, giving the whole record a dense, modern feel. That was a good omen; initially, at least.

Hereafter, my tolerance for this album evaporated. 13 tracks of overly plaintive, hope-withering bluster was too much, and by the half-way point of Sailor’s Prayer I was considering a future without sight or hearing. In an attempt to find something to like, I forced myself to listen to 8:18 over and over again. Of all the tracks contained therein, War’s chorus stood out, as did some of the quieter moments, the saccharine jubilation in squeals that is In Heart managing to pull itself from the wreckage.

The vocals, however, were agony. The brattish, unlikeable, sputtering yelps of a slackjawed shrieker boiled every drop of my blood. In the hope that this was a new, ill-advised direction, I consumed TDWP’s back catalogue, only to find the same material, with even more hateful vocals. Dangerously toxic even if coming from a teenager, these are the worst kind of look-at-me screams, the sound of someone professing brutality without any of the danger.

8:18 is a record TDWP fans will love, delivering as it does a toothless stream of single-minded, unimaginative, cro-magnon melody, an abundance of empty lyricism and a total absence of new material.

Not great.

Review: Middleman – Counterstep

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine.

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Leeds-based quartet Middleman are a bit dangerous. Having every track on your new album licensed out to adverts is rare, especially an album that’s an amalgam of electrock, rapcore, dubstep and anthemia.

Reading their press release and seeing names like Blur, The Streets and Rage Against The Machine is a touch misleading; the toil involved in creating an album this wide reaching must have been significant, as the boys tear through genres like petrol station loo roll. Seldom is such cross-pollination administered so well, and points must be awarded for covering so much ground.

Opening with recent single Helpless, the bands’ intent of getting everyone involved is clear. Gang chorale not withstanding, the floor-burning, stuttering electronics that greet the listener are made to get you out and on it. Andy Craven-Griffiths’ vocals have come a long way from the perfunctory proclamations of previous album Spinning Plates, which, in retrospect, laid the foundations beautifully for Counterstep. Now a truly confident, heart-on-sleeve frontman, the final pieces of the puzzle align.

The glorious, star-caressing melodic work in Blindspot and Keep Breathing, and a desire to constantly push their envelope is both endearing and, in their lyricism, quite affecting. It is rare indeed for a band sprung from the historical markers of hip hop, dance and hardcore to be able to move with such delicacy, and yet Counterstep understands itself. This is an album – a record with a full and constant narrative. Even in dealing with that most common of topics – relationships gone wrong – the band are concise, direct and utterly believable; see Lifeline for proof.

Tempting though it would be to compare this record endlessly to their previous work, their contemporaries and touring buddies in The Streets and so on, to do so would be to do Middleman a disservice. A well-thought out, custom-wound, participatory record, and great on cans, this is an album worth taking on its own merits.

When the band choose to toughen matters, it is done so with great conscience. The punishing strength of Tunnel Vision, and the carefully off-kilter drum work and bewildering vocal overlay on Youth Is Wasted On The Young are well-realised and deftly executed, the production always giving the bigger picture.

Presented with the prospect of reviewing an English-voiced, dance-informed rap quartet, I will freely admit to expecting stilted flow, embarrassing lyricism and camera-on-the-floor council estate posturing. What I got instead was a wholly convincing, enthralling and human album that gave more and more with repeated listens. For a record to start off bouncing but end with the magnificent widescreen of Deny It All, with its strings and plaintive restraint, and to be bereft of a single cynical moment, was truly eye-opening.

Go and buy this record. Dance to it, cry to it, scream its words from the top of your lungs. A full five without hesitancy.