This month’s ten tracks you should hear.
Track of the Month
And So I Watch You From Afar
If It Ain’t Broke, Break It
And So I Watch You From Afar
One of the unexpected star turns of Damnation the other week, yet another instrumental “post-metal” band, but not one that sound like everyone else. For starters, they rock like bastards, they have an ability to make lengthy songs – and a lengthy album – consistently interesting, and their marvellously deranged song titles suggest that there is a sense of humour in there somewhere, too. Anyway, this song. A lengthy, muscular build-up breaks to a single, insistent guitar riff, before it all kicks off again with an impressive guitar solo at the heart of it all, and then doing it all again, in an even better way. Just for once, can the mainstream music press focus on a truly great band/album like this rather than those wannabe-baggy fuckwits in Kasabian?
I’ve felt in the past that while good at what they do, [:SITD:] have in recent years become a bit one-paced, and indeed the last album wasn’t half as good as it could have been. I’ve still not had the chance to listen to all of the new album yet, but this track leapt out as a perfect example of what they can do. Finally, they’ve upped the BPM somewhat, and this pounding track is their best track probably since their debut album got us interested in the first place. The change in choice of those doing the mastering – it’s X-Fusion this time – also appears to have made a big difference – this sounds massive, and certainly club-bound. Maybe a few changes and tweaks were all they needed after all.
I Became A Prostitute
Forget The Night Ahead
I’ve noted before that it took me a while to discover this band, but now I’ve caught up I’ve picked up the new album pretty quickly. It’s a bit special, too. Broadly, it’s more of the same – shoegazey rock with a gut-wrenching emotional core that allows the band to transcend what would otherwise be a torrent of accusations that they are yet another My Bloody Valentine clone. Really, they aren’t, and they aren’t really like anyone else much, either. A little bit special, a little bit precious, one of eleven more songs to make you reflect, think, and every now and then shed a tear in sympathy with the heartbreak displayed here.
I make absolutely no apologies for including two of the bands here for the second month on the trot. There is a good reason, of course: both artists in question have album tracks even better than the preludes I enthused about last month. The new A23 album keeps up the quality we’ve come to expect – this is top quality melodic electro-EBM-industrial with a songcraft second-to-none – but like previous albums, there is one song that simply stands head, shoulders and probably a bit more over everything else. Collapse is that song here. Lyrically a little darker and more pessimistic than usual, it retains Tom Shear’s seemingly unique ability nowadays to shift through the gears to a chorus that sends shivers down the spine. It’s bouncy, quick-paced beats are going to be great for dancefloors, too.
Two Minute Terror
I said last month that “if the rest of the album is of this quality, I’m all ears“. The good news is that it really is all of this quality, even the cover of Ashes to Ashes. There’s a lot more power and drive than on the debut album, in my view, less ballads and more uptempo stuff. This is the opening track, opening with bubbling, churning electronics before a simply monstrous drum loop stomps over everything and fills the speakers: and even more amazingly, it keeps building, keeps getting more complex and louder, and never once loses it’s grip. It’s spectacularly good – ok, I’ve no idea what the vocals are going on about, but then they ain’t really the focus here. Welcome back folks, and this time, please don’t leave the next album so long. And when are the live shows coming?
Marked For Extinction
A Silent Mantra of Rage
W.A.S.T.E.’s long-awaited (and long-delayed, it seems) return has been worth the wait, although things aren’t quite the same as before. Not that this is a bad thing – on first listen, many tracks are more rooted in pure industrial noise, and only a few tracks rush headlong into rhythmic noise. Either way, this is brutal stuff and will be guaranteed to have some people running away quickly. It’ll just have me turning it up, though. This track is probably the most dancefloor, er, friendly: five-minutes of unrelenting industrial beats and distorted, uncomfortable vocal samples. A full review will follow in the coming weeks.
The Longest Year
Night Is The New Day
The lead singer of Opeth, Mikael Åkerfeldt, has been vocal in recent weeks about how brilliant this album is, and now it’s out and I have it, he wasn’t kidding. Katatonia have simply continued what they have done so well for the past few albums – that is, pitch-dark, brooding gothic/doom metal. The bit that sets them apart from their peers, though, is vocalist Jonas Renkse. It’s his clean, melodic vocals, coupled with his lyrics that always have that hint of malice and simmering fury, but never are inaccessible. Instead these are almost dark-pop songs at their heart. In short, this album is bloody glorious, and Katatonia are the primary reason I’m going to the Paradise Lost gig tomorrow.
The Lisbon Maru
I knew next to nothing about this band until I stumbled across the video for single Surf Solar of late, and they are rather different to what I had expected. They are rather irritatingly described as “noise” in the music press (note: the term “noise” in music I understand to be much harsher and louder than this – in fact, see W.A.S.T.E. above – it is not a bunch of indie-kids playing with electronics), when in reality they are much more, listenable. Andrew Weatherall’s production hand here has resulted in a sun-drenched, lazy sound that allows each of the seven songs here to unwind in their own sweet time – five of the songs are around nine minutes long or more. Remarkably, it’s never boring, either. This track has a nagging, incessant martial beat that underpins it but never dominates, but keeps driving things on while all kinds of things sweep in and out of the speakers. To me, it’s perhaps the kind of sonic effect you’d get going deep into the sea, as schools of fish sweep past you, and you head back towards the sun-drenched surface. It’s a bit good, this.
Through The Devil Softly
The return of Hope Sandoval after a long absence between albums is most welcome, and even after all these years her songs and voice remain as sensual as ever. And on this track more than any other on the album, the ghost of Mazzy Star looms very large indeed. So if you know Mazzy Star, you know what to expect – slow and sparse instrumentation, and Sandoval’s rich voice dominates the song as it should (and not to mention that this song can only be described as sexy as hell). So, about that reported Mazzy Star reunion…
Want It EP
After the quantum leap that was The Art of Revenge, I have been looking forward to what this band did next. This is the lead single from the forthcoming album, featuring Daniel Graves of Aesthetic Perfection, and it’s pretty good. Dominated by a twisting electro-beat, the filthy-minded lyrics suggest all manner of bad things, and is a much more effective take on this subject than the previous album’s Cracked.