Thursday, 25 October 2012

Unkle K's Bands of the Week

The Kill
Melbourne grind masters are back with their new release, Make 'Em Suffer, on Blastasfuk. 15 tracks of blasting grind, including a ripping cover of Slayer's "Necrophobic".

These Washington DC crusty deathsters have had me interested for a while, reminding me of a more deathy Boonhorse. But their new track, "Say You Love Satan" off their forthcoming platter, Intoxications just reeks of catchy, dirty sludge and I am very keen to hear the full release on A389 Recordings.
"Say You Love Satan": Cvlt Nation  

High Spirits
This one's for you, Adza & Mel...
Holy shit it's the 1980s again! Chicago's High Spirits totally nail it with Another Night, mixing all that was great about NWOBHM with hints of Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, DIO, etc, without sounding rehashed.

Video of the Week 
(Courtesy of the RBB)
Axl looking more and more like a fat white trash Michael Jackson clutching his chest and panting through a truly woeful version of "Welcome to the Jungle", with multiple face pulling wankers playing acoustic guitars (I've always thought this band sucked). Enjoy: YouTube.

Bang On

Unkle K

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Iron Crow - Demo + Live / Elizabeth - Where Vultures Land

I have never really understood the point of reviews that cover two unrelated releases, but it seemed like the thing to do today. After starting the morning with Disrupt's classic Unrest, which once again kicked the vego gas right out of me, I was left feeling lighter but had punk on the brain and wanted to dig up something new. And that's the dubious link holding this piece together.

First stop was Grindcore Karaoke, a label run by J Randall (Agoraphobic Nosebleed) that has tons of releases available for free download. I clicked lucky dip style on Demo + Live by Iron Crow. Nice one.

Sampled crow squawks bookend the Demo part, which consists of 8 gritty powerviolence ragers clocking in at just over 5 minutes. There's a pretty nifty display of the genre standards here: slow, open riffs that give way to short blast explosions; throaty, barked staccato vocals; and the almost obligatory sub 5 second song ("Two Seconds 'Till Death"). But Iron Crow still manage to squeeze a couple of interesting touches in. The Slayer-like thrash of "Society's Burden", the syncopation between the guitar and drums in "Pedophile", and the way a couple of the riffs are built around sliding, rather than static chords (maybe slightly reminiscent of the Locust) stand out.

The Live part is 9 tracks that sound almost like they could have been recorded in the same shoebox as the demo (they weren't), with a few extra people crammed in. It captures the energy pretty well and actually makes me keen for a house show. Anyway, it's definitely worth giving this a rip if you've got a spare 15 minutes. Download here.

My next target was more deliberate. I was told about Elizabeth, from Geneva, Switzerland a few months ago and wanted to finally give them a proper go. Their EP, Where Vultures Land was co-released in April this year by Throatruiner Records & I For Us. It's a nasty little bastard of a noisy hardcore record that plies its trade in desolation using a whole lot of tension, some unsettling changes and distorted, desperate vocal delivery.

The songs do break into a few passages that power straight ahead, sometimes with a bit of d-beat dropped in. But just when you're that little bit too comfortable, the rhythm shifts to awkward to put you on edge again, as in "Heartbeats". "Sharp Teeth and Knives" even has a chugging breakdown towards the end of the song, but that ultimately just falls away in futility. Even in the more restrained parts, like the verses in "The Call", everything points downwards. Any hint of uplifting melody Elizabeth offer is snatched away as soon as you accept it. "Sailor's Grave" gets almost triumphant, but really just ends up miserable.

I hear Ringworm and Converge influences in this, though that's not to limit what Elizabeth are doing because these songs are crawling with their own character. But don't take my word for it, listen here.


Friday, 12 October 2012

Unkle K's Bands of the Week

Witch Mountain
Portland bluesy doomsters have just released their third LP, the wonderful Cauldron of the Wild, which features the hauntingly powerful vocals of the gorgeous Ula Plotkin.
Live at Scion Rock Fest 2012: YouTube

Doomed out death metal from Finland done the old school way.

Gig of the Week
The wonderful gents from 666 Entertainment ( have brought out Atomic Bitchwax from the US to headline Doomsday Festival 2012.

Stellar Canberra lineup:

And to celebrate EYEHATEGOD’s first Australian tour in November, enjoy this great video from their performance in Baltimore earlier this year: YouTube.

Thrashing is my business and business is good.

Unkle K

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Eagle Twin - The Feather Tipped the Serpent's Scale

Eagle Twin's music takes me a while to digest, and I've been sitting on this album for a few weeks now. But after seeing them in full flight at the ANU Bar last Thursday, playing between Canberra's I Exist and headliners Russian Circles (thanks Heathen Skulls!), the motivation to try to write about The Feather Tipped the Serpent's Scale came pretty quickly. Their 40-odd minute performance simultaneously battered and mesmerised the crowd with its completely unique combination of stomach churning doom, soulful acid blues and ethereal meandering. The presence they command and the cascade of sonic lava they spew forth utterly belies the fact that there are only two people on stage. Gentry Densley chokes some unbelievable textures out of his guitar and tempers the music's "artiness" with the right amount of neck breaking groove, while Tyler Smith beats the living shit out of his drums like a possessed ape, to lock the audience in for the whole journey.

I had seen Eagle Twin live a couple of times before and really got a lot out of their first album, The Unkindness of Crows. I have always thought of them as an alchemical concoction derived from Warhorse (of As Heaven Turns to Ash fame), Neurosis and Tom Waits. But there is also an undeniably strong sense of poetry in their music: the unconventional phrasing of both the guitar parts and the lyrics; the sometimes subtle, sometimes abrupt shifts in timing; and the band's express acknowledgement of their literary, biblical and hymnal sources of inspiration in the liner notes. There is an overarching theme across the two albums, described in Southern Lord's promo blurb on The Feather Tipped the Serpent's Scale as follows:

In this installment the crows documented in the first album have battled the sun and were burned back down to earth as black snakes, the concept of the album continuing mainly on the snake and its various mythic and symbolic incarnations. Ultimately the great ancestral snake is transformed from its lowly beginnings back into a bird soaring upon the thermals. 

Right on. And with that, it's time to dispense with the background and turn to face the album.

"The Ballad of Job Cain" is spread over the first two tracks and sets the tone within a few seconds. It begins with Densley's trademark multiphonic singing layered over subdued feedback, before the guitar and drums interweave and morph into a beast of a riff that sticks around only long enough to slowly disintegrate back into a different form of itself as the foundation for one of the first main vocal passages. From there, the song travels a treacherous landscape of peaks and valleys with subtle, controlled crescendos toward heaving riffage that cuts away to morose, isolated chants before climbing back up again. And that ride cymbal underpinning the rolling, brutal groove passages that break out kills me!

The plodding drudgery of the start of "Lorca (Adan)" is given life by the increasingly thick atmosphere that builds with intermittent flashes of tremolo picking before melting into a fuzzed out drone toward the song's end. "HornSnakeHornS" threatens to explode underneath its straightforward vocal melody a couple of times, but holds back until it escalates (still with restraint) and blends into the short instrumental, "It came to pass...".

"Snake Hymn" starts as a pounding juggernaut punctuated by heartbeat-length pauses (again, that ride cymbal!), then opens out into a soaring guitar jam until returning to a hacked up version of the original riff with, deeper, darker vocals. "Epilogue" closes the album proper with a hypnotic, slave driver's drumbeat pushing forward a doom-laden intonation on the rebirth of the crow. The LP version also contains a bonus live track, "Ghosts of Eden", which makes it worth getting the vinyl if you're thinking of buying this.

In this one geek's humble opinion, Eagle Twin are operating on another level. In all honesty, I think I lack the vocabulary, musical or otherwise, to adequately describe this record. But the saving grace for me, and I think the genius in the music, is that you can either take up the challenge and try to follow everything that's going on, or you can simply sit back and let the moods they create burn into you. At the very least, I can safely say this: The Feather Tipped the Serpent's Scale is the perfect soundtrack to locking yourself inside on a sombre, wet, unseasonably cold (it's October for fuck's sake) day.


Saturday, 6 October 2012

Serpentine Path - S/T

I can still remember finally getting my hands on Unearthly Trance’s Seasons of Seance, Science and Silence. I had been trying to track the album down as it had a description along the lines of “...crucifix shaking, bleak, unholy crippling doom!”. I finally found it in Missing Link in Melbourne, on a weekend which found myself and my band cohorts at the time with $12 to our collective names upon departing home (which we chose to spend on a bag of goon, incidentally) for the weekend of shows which would have us sleeping on half a couch each, face down in our own grot, still clad in our sneakers and jeans in order to contain the majority of the funk. There wasn’t much to do in between our shows, other than to alter our states and blast that CD. It instantly appealed to me. It was equal parts creepy and nightmarish. It made me think of what the results would be if Iron Monkey ran really fucking hard at Electric Wizard, and by chance, formed some super congealed black tar you could pour into your ears in some state of “melt into the couch” paranoid bliss.

Well, many years later, and most importantly an Australian Tour later, Unearthly Trance gave up the ghost and called it a day. I was pretty bummed about it, but totally stoked I got the chance to see them live. They truly were one of those bands that I thought were uncompromisingly and hurtfully thick and heavy, like the flat face of a cricket bat straight to the shins. So you can imagine my excitement when I caught wind of three of the members forming Serpentine Path, particularly as the blurbs all read similar to this one:

Crushing cult death/doom featuring current and former members of Electric Wizard, Unearthly Trance and Ramesses! - Relapse.

All of a sudden that whole “congealed black tar” statement has come to life, like some monster from the black lagoon crawling out of bed after a night long session on the turps drinking Bundy and Guinness.

So I guess the real question here is whether or not the LP can live up to those increasingly overused stickers that the record labels paste all over every release these days, hyping it and attempting to make you part ways with your money (Serpentine Path have been termed a "supergroup", you know. Does this mean they wear their undies on the outside of their jeans?). The short answer is FUCK YEAH! Consider me a believer.

I have lost a lot of faith in many types of heavy music these days, for various reasons (predominantly because I hate “the kids” and can’t work out how to google the e-mails on the intraweb like “the kids” are doing to all Lars’ music these days!!!). But I had a lot of faith in the musicianship that would go into the writing process, as well as the attention to sonic detail this record would present.

The low end, provided by Jay Newman of Unearthly Trance, really comes across LOW, thick and black like Turkish Coffee. Likewise Ryan Lypinsky, also of the 'Trance, delivers his vocals in a fashion that has never sounded quite so deep, gravelly and full. Both of these aspects of the record have me thinking a little of Japan’s Corrupted (perhaps?) as an influence. It’s that kind of bleak and bone blackening, evil sound that I heard on Unearthly Trance, but perhaps a little thicker and slightly less atmospheric.

The riffs, because even a geriatric cantankerous prick of an individual like myself knows that “riffs” are all the rage with “the kids” these days, leave one feeling like the schoolyard bully has forced you into a barrel and is proceeding to roll you down a hill for the amusement of him and his pals. Yet unlike many albums I hear at the moment, they move on before that boredom that has you headed to the bar in a live setting sets in. Little highlights and overdubs are timely and present without appearing unnecessary or detracting from the pummeling weight of the songs. In fact, this is probably the key part to this record; it keeps the listener interested and has enough going on to invite me to repeat listens. I am, as I type this, on my fourth straight spin and can easily see myself grabbing another coffee, turning up the amp and not doing any of the most basic and remedial of tasks I had set for myself today.

The bottom line is that this is a solid album that, whilst it tips the hat to the members' former projects, more than holds it’s own and then some. Harass your local record store and Heathen Skulls, turn up your subs and annoy the piss out of your mum/housemates/annoying neighbours. If sludge and doom be your taste, then you’ll be left wanting to hear much more from this outfit.

Jon Dangerous