Thursday, 30 June 2011

Review: SSS - Problems To The Answer

Problems To The Answer


SSS were originally part of the spate of thrash bands that Earache Records signed as thrash metal once again gained a head of steam and briefly rose back to the fore. Some called it ‘The New Wave of Thrash Metal’, some called it ‘Thrash 2.0’, and detractors simply called it re-thrash. Meh. I could care less for snidey labelling. Or indeed labelling at all. But while Evile and former labelmates Municipal Waste have gone strength to strength and emerged dangerously close to mainstream waters, SSS have remained slightly under the radar and haven’t quite taken off in the same way – a shame, as they deserve at least as much recognition. That said, they’ve stuck to their uncompromising crossover thrash and continue to do so again on album number three.

It starts off pretty well, opener ‘The Kill Floor’ bringing in Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway on guest vocals to provide a great riotous 2-minute plus romp. The tracks then come thick and fast, and SSS sound just as pissed off and nonplussed as ever, with some insane musicianship on all instruments (‘Sick Pleasures’ and the instrumental ‘Future Primitive’) and combative songs such as the 5-second ‘Direct Action’, and ‘Here Comes The Neighbourhood’, in which Barney appears with his trademark roar once again.

Its not all same old, same old; SSS do try a couple of new things with some whispered vocals from Foxy in ‘Man Against Man’, and closer ‘Strangenotes’ is the band’s longest song to date, another instrumental that sounds hardly like crossover thrash but even shows hints of progression, as it recesses into a quieter, but unsettling, piano-driven middle section before returning to the main riff towards the end. It could well be the soundtrack to wandering lone through the creepy streets of a dispirit inner city suburb somewhere in rundown Britain – that middle section alone gives off that vibe.

Problems to the Answer’ deserves repeated listening. Particularly as long time SSS fans might be taken aback slightly by the forays into instrumentals, and there's a few more punkish riffs as opposed to shredding thrash. The songs aren’t all as fast and furious as they were on ‘The Dividing Line’. That said, ‘Problems…’ is definitely a grower and in actual fact, SSS have managed to carve out a cracking album with a few experimental forays that don’t compromise their style, free of gimmickry. Hopefully, this will be the album that might inspire more thrash fans around the world to pay SSS a little more attention.

Peter Clegg

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Visions: Mastodon - Deathbound

Mastodon have been hard at work on new album ‘The Hunter’, the follow-up to 2009’s critically-acclaimed ‘Crack The Skye’. Yesterday, however, Mastodon released a video for ‘Deathbound’, a leftover cut from the ‘Crack the Skye’ sessions. Put together by the geniuses at Adult Swim.

And genius it is, casting Brann Dailor as Mister Rogers at the beginning before going into the song and leaving behind a trail of puppet destruction. You read that right. Puppets destroying puppets. It’s so bloody entertaining!

And as for the song itself? Can I just say it harks back to the days of Leviathan in its intensity? Oh yes.

Peter Clegg

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Review: KEN Mode - Venerable

KEN Mode 
Profound Lore 

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada’s KEN Mode have steadily been plying away their trade over the last few years, showing great potential particularly on their latest two albums, ‘Reprisal’ and ‘Mennonite’. On those records, KEN Mode showed they had the chops to smash their way into listeners’ consciousness. And right here, they have done more than that.

Because ‘Venerable’ is quite the pulverizing record. It makes a statement of intent with ‘Book of Muscle’ that says KEN Mode really mean business here. Second track ‘Obeying The Iron Will’ features quite a technical riff, but still one that maintains a high amount of beef. If that isn’t quite hard enough for you, then ‘Batholith’ will hit you upside the head like a sledgehammer. Everything about that track is huge, absolutely monstrous.

And for the numerous faster skullsmashers, there’s offings into post-rock territory (particularly on instrumental ‘Flight of the Echo Hawk’), and there’s a couple of slower, lengthier dirges thrown in for good measure that more than double the pain, particularly the outstanding ‘Never Was’, which is coursing with intensity, particularly as vocalist Jesse Matthewson bellows the words ‘No god, never was’. Indeed, it's lyrical moments like that resound throughout the album.

Obviously this was intended as the album to take KEN Mode closer to being a bigger name in a few households. It’s their first release under Profound Lore, produced by Converge’s Kurt Ballou, who once again has done an impressive job in boosting the band’s sound. Riffs like those on the earlier stated ‘Obeying The Iron Will’ possess that extra beef that wasn’t quite up to that level on previous records. It’s clear as a bell and that’s what gives ‘Venerable’ that extra firepower.

Make no mistake, despite the perhaps questionable moniker, KEN Mode are worth your time, and this is the step up in class that was required. ‘Venerable’ is absolutely essential listening.

Peter Clegg

Alternatively, you can stream it here

Monday, 27 June 2011

More Stuff Than Sense!

Just to go off topic briefly, my mate John has started up a blog called More Stuff Than Sense! Basically, he feels he’s accumulated far too much stuff than he can deal with any more and is selling it second hand through his blog site. There’s a wide selection of books, CDs and DVDs all going, and by wide selection, I mean eclectic. There’s something for everyone in there, I’m certain of it. John’s been a good mate for years now and has been out to watch my band a few times, so it’s only fair I give his blog the proverbial leg-up, even if its just a few of you who take notice.

All prices are in pounds sterling although John is happy to sell to international customers too – get in touch with him for an estimate. Have a browse and see if there’s anything you fancy.

Peter Clegg

Celebrating Summer

It’s really cracking the flags out there today, as it has been much of the past weekend. It got me thinking about the songs I’ve listened to over the years that get me into the mood for such weather, or at least make me look forward to the time it brings. Here are five songs I feel fit this specification best – leave comments below with whatever songs inspire your summer.

1. AC/DC – It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)
(from High Voltage, ATCO, 1974)

This follows on nicely from the last article I did on AC/DC, and I could have just as easily chosen that song. But this one has more significance, simply in that it fires me up for any potential festival visit (Download was often my festival of choice until this year). That riff, that chorus, and that awesome bagpipe section from Bon Scott. This should be the anthem of choice for any band starting out and indeed a nice one to crank up loud or even just sing acapella to on the long walk from the campsite to the festival arena, beer can in hand.

Friday, 24 June 2011

AC/DC - Ain't No Fun (Waiting 'Round To Be A Millionaire)

This is a new feature I’m bringing to the blog which focuses on songs or albums that I feel deserve a bit more attention. I thought AC/DC would be a good starting point, in particular their song ‘Ain’t No Fun (Waiting ‘Round To Be A Millionaire). It’s one of my favourite AC/DC songs but you never hear anything about it. Occasionally I’ll do posts like this and hope to generate a bit of discussion. Feel free to wade in with your opinion. I’ve put time into this so I wouldn’t mind a bit of feedback!

Picture the scene. It’s a hot summer’s day, and instead of being out there enjoying the sunshine, you’re grinding it in the office, warehouse or whichever work abode you find yourself in. When you do get out, you’re gonna try and savour what you can of that sunshine. You look in your bank account, and the coffers are looking dreadfully empty. But rather than head home and figure you’re gonna have to cut back, you instead take out a bit of what’s left and head straight to the pub. Yeah, it’s a bit shit not having the money, and yeah, you’re looking a bit scruffy and those trainers have seen better days. And yes, I’m sure many of you can relate to that here in austerity Britain. But things are looking up, and things are going to get better, if you’ve got anything to say about it. Let’s grab a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale, head for the beer garden, and aim high.

Review: Bong - Beyond Ancient Space

Beyond Ancient Space 

Since their formation four years ago, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s Bong have been pushing the limits of the depths that doom can plumb, become flag bearers for a new generation of doom where the dirge is more vital than ever before. Numerous live releases, splits and now three studio albums in, it seems a shame that they’re not more well known, as they are as limit-pushing as doom gets right now. Sunn 0))) worship it isn’t. They exist in their own world where the only rule is to give in and to be absorbed into the black abyss that they create.

Beyond Ancient Space’ lasts just over 79 minutes, and consists of just three tracks. The opener ‘Onward to Perdóndaris’ starts with a huge build-up by anyone’s standards, as gradually the floor beneath you opens up and pulls you in. Eventually, the instruments thunder in, and so the journey commences. The monk chanting and use of sitar and the shahi baaja create a real psychedelic vibe that nobody in the 60’s would have seen coming. The drums filter in and out; occasionally changing pace, but the raw power of the other instruments almost renders their tempo irrelevant. It creates for an astral experience in one way and an earth-shaking one in another.

From the psychedelic to the gritty, track number two, ‘Across the Timestream’, is the album’s shortest track at 25 minutes and 03 seconds, and goes for a smoggier, filthier vibe. The hazy effect is still there, although the overall atmosphere is more like tolling rather than enchanting, all in a good way too. It builds up quite ominously, and ever so slowly. You can faintly hear the shahi baaja and drums quietly filtering in, and the overall atmosphere amasses until about 9 minutes in, and you’re left pretty much drifting into space with not so much as a rock to cling to. The weight of this particular song is absolutely crushing.

The album’s closer, ‘In the Shadow of the Tombs’, is even darker. It’s like wandering into a large tomb, when suddenly you can hear the slow, plodding footsteps of the colossus coming for you. You know this is the end, but when is very much the question. Prepare for a slow, agonizing death – Bong are yet again showing they are masters at drawing out the same riff without sounding overly repetitive. The drums help to build up the terrifying atmosphere up until around the 13:30 mark, when they up the tempo very slightly. This carries on for another couple of minutes before heading back into the same droney riff that rings out the remaining 12 minutes, gradually winding down, the constant buzzed drone ever present throughout.

You feel after listening to Bong, particularly if you’re new to them, that the only way doom could become any more prolonged or agonizingly crushing is by ripping up the physical format completely to remove the constraints. 79 minutes is a long time to listen to any album, no less one that contains only three tracks at around 25-26 minutes each on average. Suffice to say, this is a challenge, and not one many may be prepared to undertake. But if you’re one with a bit of patience, you might just discover what is surely a doom classic in the making.

Peter Clegg

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Review: Jesu - Ascension

Caldo Verde

As clichéd as this sounds, I’m more than happy to admit that Jesu’s music has helped me through a bad patch or two. I’m probably not the only one who perhaps finds their music therapeutic – in some ways, it can be doomy, chilling, melancholic; in others, relaxing, euphoric, and truly immersive. Whichever way you view Jesu, Justin Broadwick has certainly crafted some of the most emotionally stunning music of recent years through his post-Godflesh project.

Recently, Jesu had moved away slightly from heavy, droning guitars in favour of ambient, synth-layered soundscapes, such as on ‘Why Are We Not Perfect’ and ‘Christmas’. ‘Ascension’ sees a return for those guitars and rumbling basslines for more tales of struggle and woe; unfortunately, the album as a whole is a little disappointing.

It’s got some great tracks; the opening couple ‘Fools’ and ‘Birth Day’ are certainly well worth anyone’s time. But it suffers at that point from a weak middle section. ‘Sedatives’ almost seems a little upbeat thanks to its slightly faster drum beat and the next few songs that follow it either don’t feel like they’re given enough time to develop, or seemingly meander on without delivering that crushing blow to the sense.

That said, ‘Ascension’ does hit the desolate spot perfectly at times, particularly as the album wears on. ‘Small Wonder’ in particular awash with powerful riffage and hazy synth, capturing head first that classic Jesu sound, and ‘December’ and ’King of Kings’ are bleak and beautiful, extracting every last drop of fragility for Broadrick’s vocals.  But for me, it doesn’t hit the same raw nerve that ‘Conqueror’ did at times. Not that I was at all comparing it to that album – ‘Ascension’ stands up competently within its own flame. Just not to the lofty heights that preceded it.

Peter Clegg

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Shameless Plug: Terrorizer Grindhouse Launch Night in Huddersfield


First of all, I have to apologise for the shamefully small pic of the flyer above. The only image I could get hold of the flyer at short notice was tiny. The quality is poor.

So yeah…I couldn’t resist. Against all impartiality, we hereby shamelessly plug our band’s show that is coming up soon. Yes, myself and Mike will be performing live in our band Poison Dwarf on Saturday 25th June, at The Parish in Huddersfield, as part of a Terrorizer Grindhouse Club Launch night.

It’s headlined by Halifax death metallers Venificus Hora, with support coming from Chesham black-metallers Primitive Graven Image, plus Necrogrinder, Biolab 666 and our good selves. No Old Corpse Road as the flyer suggests, they appear to have pulled out. And we were a late addition. Get down early. The doors are at 6:30pm, £5 to get in. We’re on at 7pm.

Terrorizer Grindhouse is a fantastic initiative that we here at We Must Obey is happy to endorse. It aims to give underground extreme metal bands a bit of extra coverage and a chance to get their name and music out across the country. There’s a wealth of talent in the UK metal underground waiting to be discovered and deserving to be seen and heard. And they’ll be giving stuff away too, which is always a nice Brucie bonus.

So if you’re in and around town, come on down. And as its an early start, why not get to the venue even earlier and tuck into one of The Parish’s finest burgers while you’re at it?

After the jump, watch the video for Venificus Hora’s ‘Eat The Living, Fuck The Dead’. It’s delightfully heavy and low budget.

Peter Clegg

NB: Incorrect video was uploaded yesterday. This has now been fixed.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Review: Enslaved - The Sleeping Gods

The Sleeping Gods (EP)
Scion A/V

This EP was released at short notice last month as a free download, on Scion A/V, a record label division of the Scion brand of vehicles produced by Toyota for North America. Quite how Scion got into the music industry is beyond me – their brand doesn’t mean a great deal to us British or anyone else outside of that region. But despite their awkward fit, Scion A/V has been a force for metal, providing the Scion Rock Fest in America which has proved successful, and last year they put out the impressive ‘Crusher’ EP by Magrudergrind.

This brings us nicely on to Enslaved’s ‘The Sleeping Gods’, which sees Bergen’s metal masters continuing down the experimental progressive path, less than a year after releasing the magnificent ‘Axioma Ethica Odini’. The first two tracks are pretty much what you’d expect from Enslaved these days. It begins with ‘Heimvegen’, a melodic progressive number, alternating between clean and aggressive vocals, psychedelic melodies and thunderous growls. Some ominous voices close the track, which leads nicely into ‘Alu Misyrki’, the EP’s heaviest track, a real thrash-punk snarler which unexpected swoops near sludge territory just to slow things down a little, before speeding back up into that amazing riff. They throw in another slow section and a bloody great solo too for good measure. Songs like this are what the metal claw is for.

This is followed by the ambient ‘Synthesis’, which serves as a somewhat lengthy instrumental interlude. There’s some haunting voices and ambience in the mix but it feels very out of place with what came before it. Things change up again with another instrumental, ‘Nordlys’, which dabbles in post-punk with a riff not too dissimilar to Joy Division, heavies up a little with a thunderous middle section and then settles back down to fade; and then the EP morphs again with the title track, an excellent folk-laden song, mesmerizing in nature, which again combines several instruments to build up to a climactic finish. Yep, that’s it. Done.

It does feel a little thrown together but the overall quality of the tracks is such that you can’t really complain. Enslaved have again shown why they’re among the black metal elite and why they stand out so.

Peter Clegg

Review: Lower Than Atlantis - World Record

Lower Than Atlantis
World Record
A Wolf At Your Door

When I look back at how I got into rock music, I still fondly remember acts like Hundred Reasons and Hell Is For Heroes, just a couple of the names that made up many a mixtape back in the day. They were rock bands in their own right, mixed with post-hardcore sensibilities that propelled them into the mainstream conscious, before lack of major label belief saw the rug pulled well and truly beneath their feet. And indeed, my own musical tastes were progressing and while their albums still sit proudly in my record collection, they don’t get the attention they ought to get any more, simply cos I moved into heavier and more diverse waters as I got a little older. So I was caught off guard really when I first heard Lower Than Atlantis - they really do take me back to that time with some amount of reminiscence.

Lower Than Atlantis do possess their own sound – they’re not simply knocking off records from nearly a decade ago – but they are dealing in the same post-hardcore awareness that defined their peers, although on ‘World Record’, they have moved away slightly from the hardcore stylings displayed on last year’s debut album, the well-received ‘Far Q’.

Within are several tales of personal issues, such as tour experiences, on ‘(Motor) Way of Life’, the snappily-titled ‘Marilyn’s Mansion’; smoking addiction (‘Up In Smoke); and yes, relationships (‘Deadliest Catch’). But there is a real honesty within frontman Ian Duce’s lyrics, a refreshing change from the majority of heart-on-sleeve types who tend to sing about these sorts of issues without any real conviction.

There’s not a great deal of variation in the songs as the album motors through, only slowing down briefly the ballad ‘Another Sad Song’, which doesn’t really do anything for me. But the riffs are bouncy and the choruses in particular are really catchy. LTA are going for anthemic here – whether these songs will get heard in bigger venues remains to be seen. But they at least deserve that much. ‘World Record’ is an excellent album and worth seeking out.

Peter Clegg

Lower Than Atlantis on Facebook

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Review Roundup: End of Level Boss/Thou/Bringers of Disease

End of Level Boss
Exile on Mainstream

End of Level Boss have won many plaudits in the past for their first two records, which introduced the world to their formula of progressive stoner rock that sits somewhere between Kyuss and later-era Voivod. Despite this, they haven’t quite made the forward step in popularity one would have hoped for. Yet they stick to their guns on album number 3, and it’s a credit to them for doing so. Their sound is nothing short of pleasantly challenging.

Those Voivodian tendencies are rife throughout ‘Eklectric’ and at first it has a little trouble sticking as it seeks to find its direction. It’s not bad at all but there’s an awkwardness that sits about the formula that some might find hard to digest. It changes up a little with the more direct and venomous ‘Mouth of Hats’, and later on ‘Thud’, but it always remains firmly in angular territory. Eventually the album does gather momentum as the various elements that make up EOLB start to find a little more cohesion. Tracks like ‘Senescence’ and ‘Blueshift’ keep the momentum flowing ticking along nicely and there are plenty of other worthy jams as well.

Not quite a masterpiece, but this is a welcome return for one of the UK’s diamonds in the rough.

To The Chaos Wizard Youth
Howling Mine

The ever prolific Thou follow hot on the heels of their release of Black Sabbath covers, ‘Through The Empires of Eternal Void’, with another four track EP, this time comprising four songs of post-‘Summit’ material. It’s not quite as strong as ‘Summit’ for my money but then again, Thou never ever disappoint. This is yet another slab of crushing Baton Rouge sludge, the most impressive track being ‘Helen Hill Will Have Her Revenge On New Orleans’, the perfect soundtrack to a violent, murky death in the deepest swamps.

Bringers of Disease
Gospel of Pestilence
Translation Loss

Consisting of former members of Mouth of the Architect and Acheron among others, Bringers of Disease shun the current trend in certain USBM circles of going ‘transcendental’, instead focusing squarely on black metal of the old-school, crusty variety. Boy oh boy, does this approach pay dividends. The production isn’t clean and shiny, nor does the EP sound like it was recorded in a sewer - it’s just right. And while there’s nothing here that hasn’t been covered before, ‘Gospel…’ is anything but a retread. Songs like ‘Your Prayers Remain Unheard’ and ‘A Plague To End All Plagues’ display Bringers’ ability and nous to know when to ease on the brake slightly and when to hammer the foot to the floor. ‘Gospel of Pestilence’ is more than a solid debut, and its four tracks are a sign of pure potential. Definitely ones to watch.