Archive for April, 2017

21st April 2017

James Wells

Being a cynical motherfucker, and living in an era when everything’s not only been done, but done to death, diluted, fucked about with, hybridized and rendered beyond obsolete, I was a bit dubious when I read Salvation Jayne’s Facebook page, on which they describe themselves as being ‘four musicians who play their own unique style of dirty rock n’ roll’. Unique? Show me something unique and I’ll eat my own head.

But then I also note that the line-up features pop chanteuse Chess Smith, who’s previously featured on Aural Aggro in a solo capacity. And while image only goes so far, Salvation Jayne not only look like a proper band, but they look bloody cool, too.

‘Burn Down’ is a kickass blues-based rock tune with a dark edge countered by a carefully-crafted accessibility. If it harks back to the 80s, and therefore isn’t exactly unique, it’s forgivable: they don’t make tunes like this any more, and the lamewads at Kerrang should get their lugs round this and remember what a proper rock band sounds like instead of plugging all that pop-punk cack and dance music not even disguised as rock b acts like PVRIS. Smith’s vocals are gutsy, the guitars throb and the production is meaty. This means that while I’m not feeling any obligation to eat my own head, I do have to take my hat off to Salvation Jayne for delivering a quality single with a strong sense of identity.

Salvation Jayne

Salvation Jayne are on Facebook.

Christopher Nosnibor

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or is a friend on Facebook is likely to have seen that I tend to draw attention to the fact that I won’t be chained to my desk at home writing music reviews because I’m taking a ‘night off’ involving beer and live music – in other words, I’m out and about watching live music, which I’m invariably reviewing. As such, these nights off aren’t really nights off in the strictest sense. Those who know me in person know that I never really take a night off, regardless, and that includes the nights when I go and watch live music as a paying punter, or a mate has very kindly bought me a ticket to join them watching one of their favourite bands. These are indeed rare occasions, but should constitute a true night off. But that simply isn’t how I work. Truth is, I no longer know how to have a night off. Stopping would likely kill me. Besides, I feel owe practically everything to underground music in some way or another.

So, while I’ve dug what I’ve heard of Part Chimp, my attendance is not in capacity of reviewer or rabid fan – although by the end of the night, I’m both. I’m already a fan of Joe Coates and his Please Please You gig promotions, though – the shows he puts on are carefully curated and the PPY name can be relied upon as a guarantee of quality. Likewise, I’m a huge fan of Wharf Chambers as a venue, and not just on account of the fact they sell decent beer on draught from as little as £2.80 a pint.

And so it is that Thick Syrup make for extremely worthy openers. Their Facebook page describes the band as ‘Garage rock/funk/post punk/hard rock… but none of those things specifically’, and it’s a fair summary. Boil it down, and they’re a solid alternative rock band, whose singer, Gemma, performs from somewhere in the audience, often right at the back of the little venue and facing the stage, on account of the fact she can’t hear what it sounds like from on stage. Out front, it does sound good, and while they’re not big on between-song banter they are big on sturdy, rocking tunes dominated by meaty, overdriven guitars. They’re good fun.

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Thick Syrup

Grey Hairs, hailing from Nottingham, offer a different kind of fun – one marked by a front man possessed of an almost psychotic intensity. The rhythm section is immense, and the foursome kick out a supremely hefty racket. The riffs are big, ballsy, grunged-out slabs of noise: they’re a good fit by way of a main support for Part Chimp, and the fact that they’re also touring with Hey Colossus in May should perhaps give a fair indication both of their sound and their quality. With a new LP, Serious Business released at the start of the year, the set draws substantially on this shouty, sinewy collection, evoking the spirit and sound of vintage Touch and Go and Amphetamine Reptile releases, as well as contemporaries like Backlisters at al who draw inspiration from gnarly 90s US rock. The heavy chug of ‘Sausage’ is full-on, but then, ‘Backwards’ shows they’ve also got a knack for a cracking chorus too. They’re a motley bunch, and it’s no critiism when I observe that front man James is no pin-up. But the image they present corresponds with the angst they channel over the 9-5 grind and the twitching anxiety of immersion in mere existence amidst a morass of bland culture and the conflict of possessing a creative bent. Oh, and they’re bloody loud.

Grey Hairs

Grey Hairs

Part Chimp, however, are much, much louder. I mean, they radiate noise from every orifice and every pore. And when the guitars serrate your skull and the bass vibrates your solar plexus and every riff is as heavy as a small planet and the drums as hard as basalt, reviewing becomes a far bigger challenge than you might think. Instead of analysing precisely why Part Chimp are so bloody awesome, what about the performance completely blew me away, why I felt euphorically drunk on a lot less beer than I know I can handle, I spend an age pissing about on the Internet trying to establish precisely how hard basalt is, and how it compares to the more common ‘hardness’ reference point of granite. I discover that basalt is more porous and is considered a medium hardness rock, whereas granite is classified as a hard rock; and so my word selection seems appropriate: Part Chimp are heavy, the riffs as weighty as hell, but they’re not hard rock band. There’s a malleable, sludgy aspect to the sound. I’m still no closer to qualifying or objectively quantifying the experience of watching four guys, a few years older than myself and by no means cool in the rock star sense, or in any way ‘the kids’ might consider cool, working up a sweat as they hammer out this immense, furious racket.

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Part Chimp

They play a fair few songs from the new album, (and the first to be released following their reunion last year, following a five-year break), Iv released today. And that’s Iv, not the numeral for four. The riffs on the new songs are slow, heavy, fully doomy and laced with a psychedelic stoner infusion. There’s no pretence or posturing: there’s a keen sense that these are regular guys, who have regular lives, and when they’re not doing regular stuff, they’re making music. Music that’s noisy, dense and jarring, yet in a perverse way has the capacity to be immensely uplifting. They’re relentless, and play hard, and, as is only fitting, there’ a lot of hair being thrown about down the front. It’s music to go apeshit to. Part Chimp: All Brilliant.

Metropolis Records – 5th May 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Having recently completed their ‘Swine and Punishment’ double-header tour with Mortiis, PIG, previously having lain dormant for the best part of a decade, are returning with a vengeance. Billed as ‘a supplemental sermon’ to The Gospel, Swine and Punishment, with its audacious combination of literary allusions with shameful puns, is a remix album which slots into neatly into the already extensive PIG oeuvre.

Comments on social media and YouTube suggest that The Gospel has elicited something of a mixed reception, on account of it not being as good as some of the albums released during what they perceive as the peak of PIG’s carer. Many seem disgruntled by the more overtly glam / pop direction of the album. But these people have clearly missed the fact that Watts’ output under the PIG guise had a strong pop sensibility from the very outset: A Poke in the Eye and Praise the Lard are both pop albums first and foremost, with Watts revelling in the incongruity of combining dark lyrics with often quite buoyant tunage. They’ve also clearly missed the fact that Watts’ tongue is usually positioned somewhere in his cheek, and never more so on the knowingly song-orientated and accessible Gospel. In short, to criticise it for being the album it was intended to be is erroneous.

While remix albums are – as I’ve said and written more times than is remotely interesting, but hey, I’ll say it again – often difficult, thorny and sometimes thoroughly pointless, debasing exercises, Swine & Punishment does a good job of capturing the spirit of The Gospel while at the same time extending its scope.

One of my frequent gripes about remix albums is the track repetition, and on this score, Swine and Punishment is guilty, in that it’s largely built around three tracks from The Gospel, namely ‘Viva Evil’, ‘The Diamond Sinners’, and ‘Fly Upon the Pin’; however, it benefits from the inclusion of reworked renditions of ‘Drugzilla’ and ‘Found in Filth’, as well as the previously vinyl-only ‘Violence’. Moreover, the individual mixes ae diverse and divergent enough to make for an album that’s varied and doesn’t sound like the same three tracks dished up, reheated, with a range of subtly different sauces. The sample-filled, lopping grind of the MC Lord of the Flies remix of ‘Found in Filth’ (courtesy of Cubanate’s Marc Heal) is exemplary, particularly when places alongside the stuttering, abstract electro reinterpretation of the KANGA remix of ‘The Diamond Sinners.’

The St Gregory mix of ‘Fly on the Pin’ is perhaps one of the strongest examples of how a song can be given new life by means of serious mangling, and while there’s nothing as extreme as JG Thirlwell’s treatments of ‘Wish’ to be found here, Swine and Punishment invites favourable comparisons to NIN’s Fixed by virtue of the quality and range of the reinterpretations it contains.

Pig - Swine and Punishment Cover

 

Pig - Swine and Punishment Cover

Christopher Nosnibor

Heaven may not be a venue one would immediately associate with heavy, heavy noise, but tonight it’s packed with a broad demographic that only a show as genre-smashing as the line-up would be likely to draw.

Bong are only just setting up their kit five minutes before they’re due on stage, but despite the absence of a proper soundcheck, they sound every bit as mighty as they ought. The Newcastle trio take their time, grinding out power chords with endless sustain without mercy during a half-hour set that contains just a single track. Epic is indeed the word. For all the leaning toward the doomy, droney low end, the guitar packs a crackling treble hit, which balances the sound against the shuddering, throbbing bass and the megalithic drumming, each thunderous beat registering individually on the Richter scale, crashing heavy through the 20bpm dirge with stutters and pauses to maximise the impact of each stroke. Their thirty-minute set consists of just one song. And this is precisely the way it should be: the band use the allotted time to fully demonstrate the expansive nature of their sound and compositions. This is heavy, grinding two-chord dredging pushed to the max and is designed to simultaneously batter and hypnotise the audience, and they deliver it beautifully.

Bong

Bong

If the reality of the studio realisation of Concrete Desert, the collaborative project which saw The Bug’s dubby dancehall stylings drawn out into infinite regressions of reverb as they collided with the dark drone of Earth’s earlier works felt somewhat restrained, and at times bordered on the ambient, in a live setting, the dynamics prove to be altogether different. Perhaps The Bug’s input felt somewhat muted on the release, as Carson’s murky, chiming ambient drones dominated he sound. Sure, the stealthy, bulbous bass and clacking beats, paired with quavering guitar notes which occupy the album’s grooves are atmospheric, but it often feels somewhat cautious, even subdued. Live, however, it’s an entirely different proposition and it feels far more like an equal partnership.

On the surface, the pair exist – and perform – in entirely separate, personal spaces, despite sharing a stage. The Bug – aka Kevin Martin – and Dylan Carlson, representing Earth, stand apart, separated by a wall of equipment: Martin is surrounded by banks of electronic gadgetry and stands focused on his Apple laptop for the majority of the set, while Carlson stands, side-on to the audience, one eye on Martin as he cranks out deep, seething drones and sculpted feedback squalls of noise.

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The Bug vs Dylan Carlson

Volume matters, and can so often prove to be integral to the live music experience: and this is loud. Proper, seriously, loud. Martin begins by sending bibbling waves of electronica out in juxtaposition to Carlson’s screeds of guitar: before long, it’s a veritable sonic tsunami as thunderous bass and violent blasts of percussion crash against a wall of relentlessly dense multitonal noise bleeding in every direction from Carlson’s fretboard. The bass frequencies – and gut-churning volume – are something else. Confetti glued by static electricity or other means to the venue’s high ceiling after being blasted out during the venue’s famous club nights shower down on band and audience alike as the thunderous vibrations rattle every molecule of the building’s interior fabric as well as my nostrils, my trousers and every inch of my flesh.

Many of the compositions are unrecognisable in relation to their studio counterparts, so radically reworked and so much more up front are the dynamics. This is no stealthy, sedate recreation of the album but something way more attacking and pure in its physicality. This is one of those sets which builds in intensity – and seemingly in volume – as it progresses, and toward the end, the pair drop a colossal slow-burner with slow, deliberate drops of bowel-shuddering bass frequencies: a single note resonates through the floor and the solar plexus for what feels like minutes, and the effect is utterly immersive and all-encompassing. The security guy in front of me, blocking the stairs (Heaven has a very strange arrangement of stairs up to the stag and only limited security at front of house, which is welcome), is clutching his ears despite waring plugs, and while it’s an uplifting euphoric experience which plasters a huge grin on my on face, it’s not hard to fathom why this much bass, and this much guitar, at this kind of volume, would cause discomfort. Because actually, it hurts. And that’s the best thing about it, because this is how it’s meant to be.

Young God Records – 28th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The great Swans back catalogue reappraisal and re-release continues with a brace of albums from near the end of the band’s initial incarnation. The latest pairs Swans’ 1995 album The Great Annihilator with Gira’s simultaneous solo release, Drainland. 1995 was a fertile year: Jarboe also released Sacrificial Cake through Alternative Tentacles in the same year, in some respects mirroring the period eight years previous, when two different Skin albums – effectively Gia and Jarboe solo releases – appeared in 1987 and 1988 in near synchronicity with Swans’ pivotal Children of God. Indeed, while the ‘definitive’ reissue programme is both extremely welcome and is a genuine boon for Swans fans both new and old, it does highlight the complexity of the band’s back catalogue. Precisely which album sits with which is a question which will never find an easy resolution, but on balance, Gira and Young God have made a decent fist of presenting a cohesive and linear recataloguing of the band’s initial history.

The Swans album The Great Annihilator arrived some three years after the epic twin salvoes of Love of Life and White Light from the Mouth of Infinity, which had represented both an evolution and a return to form following The Burning World in 1989. And while The Great Annihilator clearly belonged to the same broad phase as its immediate predecessors, it also felt more focused and more intense. It also stands as a transitionary album, the last studio release before the immense, everything-through-the-wringer churning mash of Soundtracks for the Blind, at which point the first phase of Swans collapsed and terminated.

Soundtracks perhaps hinted at the direction the reincarnated Swans would take on their return, but lacks the immensity of the sound they would produce on their post-millennial return, and equally lacks the focus of The Great Annihilator, and in this context, it’s this album which stands as such a significant document of the band in the later years of their first phase. The 2002 reissue saw the album augmented with a six-minutelive recording of ‘I Am the Sun’, which is also included here. However, this version is more about presenting a ‘restored’ version, returning to the recently-excavated original tapes to deliver the album as intended.

Great Annihilator / Drainland (Remastered 2017) - PRE ORDER

By this point Gira had perfected the cavernous, monotone drone which is now his signature: emerging on Children of God and honed over the course of White Light and Love of Life, on The Great Annihilator and Drainland the dark, bleak detachment conveyed in that vocal is as terrifying as any of the growling, barking threats of violence contained on Filth and Cop. He may have sounded brutal in his rage on those releases, but here Gira affects a demeanour which is altogether calmer, and consequently all the more dangerous in its psychopathy. He no longer sounds like a tortured, tormented human soul: he sounds like he’s detached himself from humanity.

What makes The Great Annihilator such a strong album is its range, which is equalled by its force and its cinematic production, balancing slow, repetitive, hypnotic tracks with explosive, percussion driven compositions. As such, it’s a perfect encapsulation of the ugly / beautiful juxtaposition which characterises the Swans ethos. The raw, visceral Jarboe-led ‘Mother/Father’ is gruelling in its intensity and contrasts with the mesmeric ‘Killing for Company’ and the expansive, uplifting ‘Where Does a Body End?’ (which stand among some of my all-time favourite songs by Swans – although, if truth be told, in the scheme of their vast output, it would be easy to fill a double album with my favourite songs by Swans).

‘I Am the Sun’ shares common ground with previous percussion-led tracks like ‘Power and Sacrifice’ (which stand a world away from earlier percussion-led tracks as featured on their albums prior to Children of God, which very much marked a turning point for the band), but at the same time, offers the first hints of what the band would evolve to produce during their second, post-millennium phase. Elsewhere, ‘Mind/Body/Sound/Light’ and ‘Celebrity Lifestyle’ display a certain newfound commercialism (beyond the folk leanings of The Burning World), magnificently counterpointed by Gira’s monotone baritone drone. And who else could succeed with a line like ‘she’ just a drug addiction, a self-reflecting image of a narcotized mind’? ‘Alcohol the Seed’, meanwhile, is sparse, stark and harrowing, the direct, declarative lyrics standing at the point where art and life intersect to deliver maximum discomfort to the receiver. ‘Killing for Company’ is delicate yet beyond dark, a song which reflects Gira’s interest in serial killers and takes its title from Brian Masters’ 1993 biography of Dennis Nielsen.

Gira’s solo debut, Drainland, has always stood as a singular release, both stylistically and in overall terms of the Swans / Gira oeuvre. It also seems to be one of those releases which has been somewhat overlooked.

The first track, ‘You See Through Me’, which features a serrated, grating, oscillating drone and haunting piano provide the musical backdrop to a recording of Gira, drunk, nasty, arguing with his then-partner Jarboe over money and his alcohol problem. It’s one of those works which crosses a line that will never be readily acceptable, where art transgresses the boundaries of the personal and the public. This, of course, is art of the highest order, that demands the receiver face uncomfortable and painful realities. Simultaneously, Gira, in his capacity or artist, dismantles all sense of persona and lay himself bare in the most unfiltered way imaginable.

It paves the way for what is a difficult album on every level, as he trawls the darkest recesses of his psyche: the lyrics may not be as visceral as those contained on early Swans releases, but they’re every bit as gut-wrenching in their impact, not least of all because they’re so intensely personal.

Great Annihilator / Drainland (Remastered 2017) - PRE ORDER

It’s a dark, stark album, which makes for uncomfortable listening on many occasions: even the more overtly post-Children of God tracks, where Gira spins hypnotic, opiate-hazed acoustic strums, as on ‘Unreal’, it’s more nightmarish than dream-like. And then there are jarring, nauseatingly difficult loop-led nightmare dirges like ‘Fan Letter’. And yet, the album contains moments of true beauty. Songs like ‘Why I Ate My Wife’ (which again alludes to Gira’s serial killer fascination and also draws on, and shares its title with, a piece from 1993 which appeared in Gira’s book of collected prose, The Consumer (1994)), dark as they may be lyrically, are also truly magnificent, and as touching – and well-crafted – as anything Gira has done during his long career.

The mastering seems comparatively quiet, but that’s largely on account of the fact everything tends to be mastered so damn loud and so damn bright these days that much of the dynamic range is lost. The very purpose of this remaster is about audio fidelity and unravelling knots in the original processing. Sonically, this remaster feels richer, denser than the original releases, although it would take obsessive comparison and a lot of time to draw out all of the detail. Most importantly, this release makes two classic Swans / related albums (one being something of a lost or unsung classic at that) readily available once more, and on vinyl, too – The Great Annihilator has been commanding obscene prices on the second-hand market for a long time now, while Drainland was only released in the US packaged with Jarboe’s Sacrificial Cake and is again expensive and hard to come by: as such, it all adds up to an essential release.

28th April 2017

My first encounter with Cinema Cinema was in 2012, when I received their sprawlingly epic double album Manic Children and the Slow Aggression for review, and landed an interview for Paraphilia Magazine with Ev Gold. Not only was it a remarkable album, but Ev proved to be a great interview subject: enthusiastic, affable, conversational, and I recall him singing ‘cinema, cinema,’ as he explained the origins of the band’s name to me. I didn’t recall the scene, but I knew the film in question: the dark, Belgian-made, parodic documentary, Man Bites Dog. As the press info accompanying the release of their latest album, ‘after years of explaining… the duo felt compelled to further affix it to their story by naming the new album after the film.

With the band’s gear – including all of their guitars – being stolen just two days into the recording sessions, Man Bites Dog is testament to the sheer determination and bloody-mindedness of one of the hardest-working bands around. Brooklyn duo Ev and cousin Paul Claro have gigged pretty much relentlessly since their formation, and it’s on the road that the material has been evolved and honed. This adherence to the punk ethos, based on the simple premise of two guys in a van, showing up, plugging in and playing hard. So, using borrowed gear, the album’s recording went ahead regardless. Never mind making lemonade from lemons, the very existence of this album proves that Cinema Cinema thrive in the face of adversity, and are completely unstoppable.

Man Bites Dog continues the trajectory of its predecessors, from the aforementioned Manic Children and through 2014’s Night at the Fights. That is to say, it’s a noisy, guitar-driven beast of an album, that veers wildly between crunching riffs and expansive experimental space-rock sections. On this outing, they expand their sound with the addition of saxophone, courtesy of NY jazz musician Matt Darriau.

The first track, ‘Bomb Plot is a lurching, low-slung racket, a crazed hybrid of US hardcore punk and math-rock, with a snaking groove and a fuck-ton of other stuff going on too.

‘Run Until Your Out’ packs a pot-punk vibe in the verses, then explodes into a roaring grunge chorus. It’s a complete riot, and while all sorts of incidentals whizz and whirr in the background and Gold comes on like Jello Biafra one moment and Kurt Cobain the next, it’s remarkable just how direct and accessible it is. It’s no small achievement that they can pen and perform a song that possesses such an overt pop sensibility without sidelining either their full-throttle rock sound or reining in the experimentalism. And it’s this fine-honing that makes Man Bites Dog their most powerful and potent work to date.

‘Exotic Blood’ represents the album’s first foray into more overtly experimental territory: a six-minute stoner rock work out, there’s a hefty riff, but it’s warped and bends all over the place in a way which invites comparisons to Melvins – until the sax comes in and takes it somewhere else completely while a whole heap of stuff goes off in every direction. Indeed, the album’s mid-section marks quite a change in tone from the opening salvoes, with the discordant riffs, tinged with free jazz flavours and riven with unpredictable tempo changes swathed in drifting noise and wandering sax. ‘You talkin’ to me?’ Gold yells dangerously on ‘Taxi Driver’, another song which reflects the duo’s equal appreciation of film and music. It’s also a song which chops and changes and stops and starts and judders and drives. The end result is little short of deranged: tense and strange and forceful, it packs a lot into a short time.

The thunderous, trudging ‘Mask of the Red Death’ is the soundtrack to a truly purgatorial experience that breaks into a monster stoner riff that’s hard to resist, picking up the pace and beefing up the density until hitting a frenetic peak around four minutes in. The obligatory ‘Shiner’ improvised jam track – the album’s closer being the fifth in the series – typically explores the band’s most experimental tendencies, and it’s nine minutes of angular guitars, wild effects and even wilder sax.

It all adds up to a focused, concise and yet still strangely divergent album, and in this way, Man Bites Dog is perhaps the most perfect encapsulation of Cinema Cinema’s sound, scope, and ethos to date.

 

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From Chester-based instrumental-electronic artist, Dom Sith, comes this dark goth-inspired tune to soundtrack people’s struggles with themselves.

It’s nothing to do with Allen Ginsberg. Of the inspiration for ‘Howl’, which takes sonic leads from the likes of NIN, The Haxan Cloak, and Burial, Dom comments: “I wanted to create something haunting, something that’d soundtrack those long nights alone, but not in a reassuring way, like how loneliness might sound, and how depression might sound, if it was heard…in the dark.”

We like NIN, The Haxan Cloak, and Burial, and we like this: get your lugs round it here:

Dom Sith

Exile On Mainstream – 21st April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It begins with a howl of feedback. Of course it does. The sustain continues through the opening power chords: doomy, slow, before it all comes crashing in, trudging tempo and gut-churningly downtuned.

Obelyskkh’s fourth album isn’t so much about surprises, but about continuing – and extending – the trajectory of its predecessors, albeit with a greater emphasis on groove. Not that this is an album you can dance to: it’s very much one to slow headbang to. The press release draws attention to the fact that the album’s title ‘evokes one of H. P. Lovecraft’s iconic poems, providing inspiration for the album’s lyrical content and the artwork for The Providence. Another dimension to the album is illustrated almost perfectly by French revolutionist Victor Hugo: “Above all, you can believe in Providence in either of two ways, either as thirst believes in the orange, or as the ass believes in the whip.” The band lived by this message throughout their uphill battle to complete the record.’

It’s taken them four years, and The Providence feels like four years’ anguish and slog distilled into six immense pieces. The title track, which opens the set, is twelve minutes long. It’s not pretentious, but heavy with portent: this is a vast doomscape of an album, dominated by some colossal guitar riffery, propelled by a juggernaut of a rhythm section.

Things get a bit progressive folk-metal in the middle of ‘Raving Ones,’ but when the riff hits its stride, it’s a throbbing, driving rush. Elsewhere, ‘Northern Lights’ veers toward classic, vintage horror, with a deluge of cataclysmic guitars burning a purgatorial furrow on the scale of the Grand Canyon. And just when the thick distortion threatens to burn out the eardrums, a shift toward upper frequency overload provides the punishing attack needed to complete the abominable mission. The fourteen-minute ‘NYX’ stands as the album’s centrepiece, and is a classic slab of thunderous, sludgy doom metal. Over the course of a succession of passages, it grinds its way to a punishing critical mass, with velocity consumed by density.

Clocking in at under six minutes, ‘Aeons of Iconoclasm’ feels almost throwaway in its brevity. Fear chords weave and waft almost subliminally, and it feels at first like a mere interlude, but then the gates of hell open and every screaming demon ever known tears down from the blackest of skies.

In contrast, the slow, but so, so, dense guitar overload of ‘Marzanna’ feels like a gentle wind-down, although at over nine and a half minutes of roaring thunder and groaning, droning, slowed riffage and mangled vocals that squeeze Sabbath through a Melvins filter it’s hardly some kind of loungecore fluff.

Everything about The Providence is immense. This is heavyweight, it’s doomy metal exactly the way it should be.

 

 

Obelyskkh – The Providence

Full Of Hell share another track from their punishing, virulent, and dynamic new album, Trumpeting Ecstasy, upcoming via Profound Lore on 5th May.

Brace yourselves for ome brutality, and get your lugs round it here:

Hide & Seek Records – 21st April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

This being a Post War Glamour Girls album, there’s a lot to chew on, and I’ve played Swan Songs on the bus to and from work most days for the last month and a half in an attempt to really let the songs embed and to unravel. It’s not because Post War Glamour Girls make albums which are difficult or lack immediacy, but because there’s just so much to extract, and each listening reveals more. I’m still discovering new details and dimensions in their 2014 debut, Pink Fur, and suddenly, here we are at album number three.

And with album number three, they’ve made it a clean sweep of awesomeness: not a case of third time lucky, but a straight hat-trick. Few bands can claim such a record, although Post War Glamour Girls are unlikely to gloat, or even reflect on this achievement: chances are by the time the album tour is under way, they’ll have filled the set with new material which may or may not feature on album number four.

Swan Songs is by far their most commercial and accessible album to date, but it would be a chronic error align that in any way to them selling out, and in many ways, it’s equally their knottiest, thorniest release thus far. Yes, they’re contradictory and contrary, and that’s precisely their appeal. And while they always sound uniquely like Post War Glamour Girls – there really isn’t a band going – or, indeed, previous – who sound quite like them, they’re spectacularly varied in their style, and you never know what to expect from album to album. This is music born from restless energy and a drive to create something new, to challenge the band and their fans in equal measure. The one thing that is seemingly guaranteed is the quality of the material.

Swan Songs is most certainly their most eclectic-sounding album yet. The overall tone of the album is altogether less down than its predecessor, Feeling Strange. The downcast, brow-beaten self-loathing is replaced by a roaring defiance, at least in part. And, of course, it has all the band’s trademark qualities, honed to a new level of sharpness.

The album’s opener, ‘Guiding Light’ comes on like a cross between Big Country and The Wedding Present circa ’92 with its spiralling celtic guitar motif and stadium-fulling chorus – before making a 90-degree swerve only Post War Glamour Girls could pull off, with James Smith veering off into one of his densely-packed rants. You only catch snippets of the lyrics, but in the space of a minute he’s here, there and everywhere, pulling in what appears to be a reference to Gang of Four and macroeconomics with a line about ‘guns before butter’.

‘Chipper’ is more common PWGG terrain, and finds Smith in brawlingly nihilistic form, howling, bleating and hollering over a murky backing of guitars that jangle and warp and bend as the driving rhythm section powers on relentlessly. At the middle eight, it heads off on another trajectory, Smith coming on like a brutalised hybrid of Mark E Smith and JG Thirlwell on top of Alice Scott’s icily calm backing vocals. If ever a band knew how to work contrasts, it’s Post War Glamour Girls.

Conjuring a brilliantly visual image while working a dubby post-punk seam, the more understated ‘Gull Rips a Worm’ marks something of a departure, with Smith revealing a more soulful side in his melodic vocal delivery. Meanwhile, ‘Big Trip’, which recently found its way onto Radio 1 thanks to a shout-out from fellow Leeds legends Pulled Apart by Horses, is a brilliantly gruff and darkly grounded paean to escapism. It might not quite rank with the time the uncensored version of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ was spun at teatime on a Sunday during the Top 40, but it’s pretty subversive. It’s also indicative of the band’s mass-market potential, given the right exposure.

Awkward buggers that they are, the two sets I saw them perform following the release of Feeling Strange, showcased unreleased material in favour of either the latest album or their rapidly-expanding back-catalogue. These shows hinted squarely at a more direct pop sound, and while Swan Songs is a long way off this, being neither direct or upbeat and poppy, the second half of the album is the closest they’ve come to creating unadulterated pop in the studio.

‘Polyanna Cowgirl’, which featured on last year’s live album, is a big, reverby song that draws together elements of classic dreampop with vintage mid-80s postpunk and even more overtly charty music of the same era. Ah, such different times… And so, they manage to imbue the song with a certain nagging nostalgia, as well as a pining wistfulness. The hefty welter of drums and driving bass render it uniquely Post War Glamour Girls, but the multifaceted harmonies and chiming guitars, expansively produced, bring that cinematic slant to the finished product. The shimmering ‘Golden Time’ wafts and warps gently before ‘Sea of Rains’ drifts into I Like Trains territory, but Smith’s bleak lyrics render it a very different animal: ‘The lust you tried to drag from the soles of his shoes / is the worst excuse for loneliness I’ve ever had to use,’ he reflects, grimly.

 

 

The jarring, splintering, ‘Welfare by Prozac’ sees the band ploughing headlong into the Fall-like realms they stomp with aplomb, Smith duelling with Scott like vintage Mark E and Brix, a snarling, spitting inscrutability counterpointed by a melodic yet icy tone, while squalling guitars break over a thick, strolling bassline.

Now, I’m a huge sucker for a monster closing track. On past form, it seems Post War Glamour Girls are masters of the monster closing track (even if Feeling Strange perversely delivered said monster track as the penultimate song in the form of ‘Cannonball Villages) and Swan Songs proves no exception, with the seven-minute ‘Divine Decline’ building from nothing to a raging behemoth of a song. ‘Love and hate stem from the same cell,’ Smith croons, before the whole thing erupts. ‘All I ever wanted /as to be a better to better person / and I’m working on it constantly / working like a dawwwwwg!’ he growls. It’s a storming finale, and no mistake, as the band whip up a dense maelstrom of sound.

As is so often the case, Smith channels a vitriolic rage which one feels is largely directed toward himself. It’s a recurrent aspect of the album’s lyrical content: ‘My manners aren’t amazing / My poetry is pisspoor / My attitude’s an anathema,’ he snarls self-critically on ‘Chipper’. At the risk of too closely, or even mistakenly, aligning the art with the artist lyrics with lyricist and assuming the role or armchair analyst, one can’t help but wonder on the evidence his lyrics, coupled by his driving of the band’s relentless forward trajectory, if he isn’t fighting himself every moment of every day, and if Post War Glamour Girls aren’t some means of his justifying his existence to himself. If this is some kind of therapy, then – from a purely selfish perspective – our best hope is that it takes a good few more albums to purge himself yet, and that the title is more a reference to the conceptual contents of the album rather than an indication of the band’s final sign off. Because, not only is Swan Songs a killer album, but a cohesive and rich set which is the work of a band really hitting their stride and riding on the crest of a wave.*

 

Post War Glamour Girls - Swan Songs

 

*The success of this closing punchline is limited, not least of all on account of the fact that swans’ natural habitat is inland and on / by rivers, lakes, and ponds, and therefore unlikely to be tidal or otherwise, meaning that swans are rarely found in an environment where waves are common. But every review needs a punchline, right?