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.

DiocletianGesundrian

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.

Waist Deep In Kiwis

Following on from a rather exciting week in Tronland, I’ve got a new assignment; doing a scene report on New Zealand and Australia, meaning that I’ve spent the entire day making endless cups of tea while wading through an extreme underground I didn’t even know New Zealand had, and I haven’t even started on everything-kills-you Australia yet.

With my knowledge of Kiwi music thus far limited to Crowded House, OMC, Alien Weaponry and Beastwars, I was amazed to discover two things. One, there’s plenty of brutality here, and two, the bands really do seem to support each other a great deal. This is ace of course, but if I was being totally selfish, I would say that I’m more chuffed about all the new bands I’ve come across in the last 8 hours, so I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

Diocletian

A right old racket forged in a crucible of blood and iron, Diocletian are named after a Roman emperor born into nothing. Clawing his way through the ranks to become quite the chap, his story and name are deeply fitting for such a grand-sounding, blackened blast-fest. Introduced to them through 2014’s Gesundrian, they remind me a bit of Blood Of Kingu, which is musically not a bad thing. With a production not miles away from Mayhem’s Ordo Ad Chao – except clearer and less frightening – I’ll be delving into their earlier Annihilation Rituals  and others in due course. Damn right this is quality.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/1rbPdy3TmvQYHEtqZKDGHZ

Hobo Magic

Terrible name, awesome band. I came across this through the Stoner Doom NZ page, where I found stoner beasts Bloodnut, and on their page I found a suggestion for Hobo Magic. Expecting nothing from their shite name, I sat down comfortably to eat my own hat as their The World Today bonged forward some of the best stoner doom I’ve heard in a long time. Thick, meaty and confident, everything from The Holy Riff onwards made me feel like a jackass for dismissing their silly name, a lesson I should have learned with Denmarks’ Piss Vortex. Excellent.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/5ZcSHcO8dA98JuKttWkJEM

Arc Of Ascent

Large of amp and big of riff, the superbly judged Arc Of Ascent had me from the moment I watched their live video for Elemental Kingdom. A classic three-piece, their clean-vocaled bigness was deeply welcome, as I listen to good doom bands spoiled by poor-quality screaming far too often. I truly believe that the majority of doom is better when sung, and certainly the old masters held to such a belief, so perhaps with the likes of unintentional scene-agitators Pallbearer doing the rounds with their high-register clean singing, a renaissance of sung doom is just around the corner. Brilliant stuff, even managing that enviable Al Cisneros trick of playing similar-sounding riffs that are all different resulting in their Realms Of The Metaphysical feeling like a glorious single piece, rather than a collection of songs.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/7dcEX5OCe6Aw2OptNb5GqS

This is a snippet of a much larger report to come in due course so please keep your eyes peeled for endless goodness from the far-off bits of earth.

Hail.