Another busy month, mainly preoccupied with gigs (I saw nine separate shows last month). In between that, though, there has been a lot of new music and a lot to write about. Two interviews coming very soon, as well as a couple of new reviews in the works.
In the meantime, on with this month’s ten:
Track of the Month
They took the crown of “Best Track” for 2014 on amodelofcontrol.com with The Burial, and frankly this is easily good enough to do it again. This is, ahem, a slow burner, a piano plays out a rhythm that Alex Reed delivers a lovely, wistful vocal over, with quasi-choral accompaniment for the chorus, and just as it all seems to be fading out, a thundering drum beat comes out of nowhere, and the refrain is repeated by an apparently infinite number of Alex Reeds and synths paint pictures across the darkening scene. Christ, this band are good.
I must confess that this album has turned out to be a bit of a surprise. I was aware of the project (and, for full disclosure, I was a funder on the Kickstarter), and the first couple of songs last year were certainly interesting – but the album sheds far more light on the concept. What did surprise me was that the lyrics were written by Matt Fanale – you’ll know why if you have already heard them – but whoever wrote them, the result is a smouldering, sensual album with Erica from Unwoman’s vocals being really quite something. First single Spread has a down-and-dirty grind of a rhythm, as animalistic as the lyrics and the video first appear to be – but there is a heck of a twist to the NSFW video.
Look out for an interview with Matt and Erica on amodelofcontrol.com this week.
Skills In Pills
With no apparent chance of a new Rammstein album yet (they haven’t started working on it thus far, as I understand), it’s time for another round of side-projects. The most striking is vocalist Till Lindemann’s, a project with Peter Tägtgren of Hypocrisy – and more importantly in this context, also of PAIN – and for once, there are elements of both in the sound quite prominently. This first single, though, is an eye-opener. For one, Lindemann delivers his vocals in English, and the song appears to be a satirical look at family life and regrets therein. Musically it isn’t anything surprising, but the video is also absolutely not safe for work (something of a theme this week), and not to all tastes, either. The rest of the album follows along similar lines, with all vocals in English and a distinctly sexual theme to the whole thing.
Fear Factory return with a new album this year, a year that also marks twenty years (!) since their landmark album Demanufacture, that in some respects the band have been desperately trying to match the heights of ever since. Recent material hasn’t been bad, actually, after their mid-2000s period which was forgettable at best. This first taste of the new album, though, is a cracking return – a melodic chorus meshes well with a crunching, mechanical rhythm and Dino’s riffing is as precise as ever. I can only hope the rest of the album turns out to be as good.
Looking Glass Society
Their somewhat messy and sadly, not very good, show at Infest last year notwithstanding, I’ve still been curious to hear where Anders was going to go next with his on-off Ashbury Heights project. The answer is, not very far from where he’s already been – but importantly it retains the talent for poppy hooks that made the first album such a joy. Twinkling synths and string samples morph slowly into sharp synthpop hooks and a sense that Anders and his latest cohort Tea Time are actually enjoying doing this again.
Long In The Tooth
Long In The Tooth EP
A second release involving PIG and Raymond Watts this year, following the exceptional split with Marc Heal, and this follows a similar pattern. A couple of new songs, and a number of remixes – and once again the title track is the killer. A grinding, guitar-and-bass heavy groove, with Watts snarling his way over the music. One thing the PIG revival and return has rammed home for me – KMFDM really miss his unpredictability, and the material so far this year has provided an interesting alternative present for where KMFDM could have been by now – and this is vastly better.
Alone and Terrified
La Pierre Soudée
Not your average Ant-Zen release, this. The emphasis here is not on the electronics, but on the lyrics and the stories within: as the description of the album details, this is “[a] selection of past and present real life stories compiled in eleven tracks documenting women’s suffering in the world”, the music being collaborations with various like-minded artists that range from omnious, droning electronics to searing power noise. The most affecting track by far is a retelling from their perspective of Palestinian victims of Israeli bombing, the music little more than high-pitched buzzing and the sound of hammers on metal, and death surrounds them in the images created. This isn’t pretty music, but it isn’t meant to be – and the concept is an absolutely fascinating one.
VII: Sturm und Drang
After a tough few years to say the least – where frontman Randy Blythe dealt with the death of a stagediving fan and the subsequent court case in the Czech Republic with exceptional grace and honesty – it is perhaps unsurprising that their first new material since the case was concluded was going to get some scrutiny. This song, needless to say, deals head on with the events, the lyrics musings while he was in a Prague prison cell, and the mood of the music is a little more sombre than the usual powering riffage, with a guitar motif ringing like a death bell and Blythe roaring out words of self-doubt. Lamb of God remain one of the best metal bands around nowadays – no real attempts to experiment and bring in fashionable sounds, instead just concentrating on their grooving, crushing metal anthems and doing it very well indeed.
The Queen of Swans
The Light In You
Somehow I hadn’t noticed that seven years have now passed since Mercury Rev’s last album Snowflake Midnight (which I thought was rather better than many suggested). But they are back at last, and this first taste of their forthcoming album seems to hark back to the commercial breakthrough of Deserter’s Songs. It is a song that swells from small beginnings to lush, epic heights, with Jonathan Donaghue’s unusual voice the centre of proceedings, as ever. But god, it’s good.
So far GHOST haven’t – for me, anyway – really delivered on their scorching live shows when translating material to CD, but with this first track from their forthcoming third album, they might finally have managed it. Like much of their material, it has a doomy, seventies-occult rock feel to it, but it has a hefty crunch to the riffage and an oh-so creepy, malevolent edge to the sound. The video, where a school recital isn’t quite what it first appears to be, only helps to further that view…