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.

Prophets Of Rage – Prophets Of Rage (Fortitude Magazine)

prophets-of-rage-new-album-debut-2017-1024x1024.png   5/10. It drove me insane.

Here’s the skinny with this. You want to love this album. It seems like a foregone conclusion that because it’s, like, Rage and stuff, that it must be good. Imagine, if you can, that the Prophets are a new band, not one with a legacy taking in Audioslave, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine.

Imagine, then, hearing Radical Eyes as the opening number; swaggering into view like a pissed-up relative, this ponderous, insipid drudge would have been acceptable at the album’s mid-point, but to kick off with it is not good enough. Unfuck The World¸ with its idiotic chorus, ultra-American anti-American-ness and festival-strafing immediacy, would have been a better pick. Two tracks in and I’m shuddering with worry, but when Legalize Me begins, I draw breath; this sounds fresh and pretty decent, but only in the context of the two wooden wrecks that have just gone past. The lyrics are absolutely rotten-the sort of toss your pious room-mate might come up with in 2nd year. Knuckles white with anticipation, I sit there fizzing away as Chuck and B-Real take turns emptying their bowels onto all of the language.

Still, I pray, that the potential of this may come to fruition. After all, how can all the components be so right and yet so wrong? The Counteroffensive is a genuinely embarrassing corn-fed turkey of an interlude which isn’t remotely necessary, leading as it does to the lyrical hope-crippling that is Hail To The Chief. The structure beneath the vocals is sound enough, somewhere between Rage and Audioslave. Six tracks in and I’m beginning to get this; these are the wrong singers for this band.

B-Real, while ideal for Cypress Hill’s Berettas-and-bongs fare, sounds like a hype man; Chuck D is the big lad here, his gruff, meaty bark a better foil for the Morello/Commerford/Wilk axis, and yet, he’s not enough vocalist for a band like this. It’s as though the two singers together can’t add up to the one singer that would have enough spit to carry the band.

The real rage this record generated was inside me. The more I pressed on, the more the pain of listening to it grew, and by the time Take Me Higher had smeared its join-the-dots cack all over my ears, I had to steel myself to get through the rest of the album. Strength In Numbers is a hard-line Rage cast-off, and while some might decry such an assertion and fly the ‘well it is Rage’ flag, let’s set the record straight-it’s not. Prophets Of Rage are presented as a fresh band, otherwise, they would still be called Rage Against The Machine.

The hardest part of all this is that this band is needed-truly they are. A band with enough pedigree to be heard with a message that’s worth listening to feels like a great thing, but for that to be a genuine success, the band itself has to deliver the songs, not piss-wet gash like Who Owns Who. If one were to remove all the lines where ‘the people take a stand’ you’d have one empty record, padded out with childish swearing and a withering lack of anger.

In the 30-odd years that I have loved music, I have never come across an album so frustrating, so maddening as this one. I should love this, I should be sitting here foaming with superlatives about its quality and trying to reign in my hyperbole, but I can’t. The message is essential, but delivered without grace or agility; the music is fine but needs different singers. Utterly infuriating.

It drove me insane.