Posts Tagged ‘Grunge’

19th February 2021

Thinking big is maybe the starting point for bands who want to go places. How many local bands have you seen or heard and thought ‘but these guys could, and should, be huge?’, and yet five years later they’re still plugging away at the pub up the road playing to maybe forty people. Yes, you need material and a decent show, but more than anything, progress takes drive – the drive to play further – and further – afield, and more often, to get some decent PR and do some marketing. Sadly, all the word of mouth in your hometown won’t lead to world dominance, even at a snail’s pace, however good your songs are.

This four-piece garage rock band from Newport, South Wales clearly have some motivation: starting as bedroom project in late 2017, they’ve won themselves a substantial fanbase on the Welsh circuit (playing their debut gig not in their hometown but in Pontypool, and working up to selling out 100+ capacity gigs in both Newport and Cardiff), and as a statement of their intent and ambition, they recorded their debut EP with Jeff Rose (Skindred and Dub War).

It’s ALL about the ENERGY with ‘Last Call’. The intro just powers in all guitars and guns blazing, positively popping and at a hundred miles an hour. The clean vocals keep it accessible to a wider audience, but it’s not a sanitised, cleansed, crisp and commercial cut: here, Finding Aurora prove it’s possible to do melodic and ballsy riffing at the same time. And what’s more they pack it into a tight three-minute burst. With a killer chorus backed by some big guitars, it’s pretty hard to fault, and you’d have to be deaf not to hear the mass potential here.

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5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve spent hours racking my brains to fathom what the opening bars of ‘Nouveau Bleach’ – the first track on the eponymous EP by Nouveau Bleach remind me of, and I still can’t bloody make it out. With a name that’s straight out of Nathan Barley, this south London trio are as postmodern as they are post-punk, and the four tracks of their debut EP sets their stall out plainly, with no pissing about.

There’s are elements of The Fall with the ramshackle, rattling guitar that goes here there and everywhere, and especially the yelping, partially atonal vocal, with the simple repetition of the sloganeering refrain ‘Nouveau bleach / Rinse repeat’, conveying the ennui of tedious repetition so succinctly. The baritone vocal has a hint of Editors’ Tom Smith about it, but then, there’s quite a concoction of elements in the mix., and the production being lo-fi and primitive really suits the sound.

‘Pharmakon’ is amore straight head punk tune, and the band soon reveal a simple but effective formula, based on heavy repetition, and ‘Kondonauts’ exemplary – again, The Fall, Public Image, and comparisons to more recent acts from Scumbag Philosopher to Bilge Pump seem reasonable: a propensity for the motoric, for repetitive, cyclical riffs and unmelody still reveal some lovely moments – but mostly jarring, sharp-edged ones that make sitting back and just listening uncomfortable ‘but does it spark joy?’ they ask. In some way, it sort of does, and you join the dots to Gang of Four and snotty, shouty 90s underground and riot grrrl.

If it sounds like an explosive, incoherent identity crisis, it’s because it probably is: Nouveau Bleach are absolute magpies, and not entirely discriminate, which is actually an asset: everything is material, and they bring it together in a broiling melting pot to create a unique and antagonistic fusion, and it kicks ass.

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18th January 2021

Yur Mum’s reputation as a hard-gigging and particularly outstanding live act is one that’s been key to their building the fanbase they have. However, the question of how they will continue to deliver live since being reduced to a two-piece is somewhat moot under the present circumstances. That said, on the strength of this outing, being stripped back to a bass / drum combo suits them remarkably well.

The third Monday in January is widely believed to be the most depressing day of the year, and has come to be known as Blue Monday – and it’s for this reason the pair elected to unveil the release today, rather than on Friday, the day that’s come to be established as the ‘standard’ day for releases. Your Mum is rebellious and unconventional like that.

It’s the heavy-duty, gut-punching bass that dominates and drives this mid-tempo goth-tinged hard rock lurcher of a single that comes as a preface to their forthcoming album, Tropical Fuzz. It’s not depressing per se – there’s far too much energy and dynamic action going on here for that – but make no mistake., it is pretty heavy and pretty dark, and certainly a departure from their usual riff-churning grungy bangers, although the trajectory from ‘What Do You Want From Me’ and the rest of the Ellipsis EP is an easy one to chart.

There’s an almost mystical / occult vibe to this dense brooder of a tune, which feels far more expansive and epic than its four-and-a-half-minute running time. More Sabbath than Nirvana, it might not lighten the mood much, but it is the perfect soundtrack by which to channel that bleak angst and the hard, slow emptiness of cold, heavy days without light. It’s no vitamin D booster, but it is exactly what you need right now.

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1st February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Mercy is a four-piece alternative rock act propelled by vocalist and guitarist Mercedes Diett-Krendel, and the debut album by Mercy is a short but punchy guitar-driven exorcism of sorts. Most of the best music comes from a dark place, and has a personal element, and Mercedes has dredged deep into her experience to purge it all here. The self-invited comparisons to Veruca Salt, Hole, and No Doubt are all entirely fitting, in that Forever is very much centred around a strong female front person.

It begins with a rendition of the wedding march played on a heavily echoed, overdriven electric guitar… nice day for a white wedding? Nice day to start again, more like. Forever is an album brimming with ire, anguish, and angst, the soundtrack to a wedding massacre that finds the artist picking the scabs of all the shit, all the trauma… in short, it’s a summary of Mercy’s worst relationships bottled up into an epic explosion of revenge, ending in a bloody mess.

The promo shots suggest that this is more than just a theme or concept, but something far, far more intense and deeply personal, and this gives the album its ragged, sore edge.

The songs are melodic, but have edge – a grungy, 90s alt-rock edge, and it’s pretty full-throttle. The mid-album acoustic slowie,‘Gabriel’ really slows the pace, and marks an essential shift in an album that really works that classic quiet/loud dynamic, and it kicks in for a properly anthemic climax. ‘Damage’ kicks ass with an almost gypsy, folksy edge to its grunge attack, while the stomping title track is brimming with emotion. And you feel that emotion, while being buoyed along by some strong melodies.

It’s concise, and it’s fiery, and the success of Forever is in balancing the fury and the tune.

Mercy Band / Photo © Daniel D. Moses www.danielmoses.com

As the world reels from a deadly pandemic and the U.S veers towards civil war, 13,890 nuclear weapons lie dormant. In their first single since signing to APF records, Indica Blues’ imagine a catastrophic very-near-future scenario in which current world events lead to all-out war and nuclear annihilation: We Are Doomed.

Indica Blues (in-deh-ka) are a four-piece psychedelic doom band from Oxford, U.K. Once described as ‘bong filling rock that is platinum heavy, but blessed with a melodic sensibility underneath it all,’ the band’s unique sound has garnered fans across the world since their formation in 2014. They have gigged with stoner rock luminaries such as Elder, Samsara Blues Experiment and Mars Red Sky.

On the new video for ‘We Are Doomed,’ Tom Pilsworth (guitars/vocals) comments, “This song is our vision of near future nuclear annihilation, written in response to the chaotic world events of the last four years. We spent six hours in pouring rain at an abandoned cold war missile facility with director Josh Horwood and his team, and he couldn’t of done a better job. We hope people enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.”

The video reminds us just how much we miss seeing bands knocking out heavy chords in small rooms. This shit hurts. It’s a top video though.

Watch the video now:

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20th of November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Grunge is dead, so the slogan ran on a T-shirt worn by Kurt Cobain back in 93 or thereabouts. And yet, he we are in 2020 and listening to the third single by Leeds power trio Kath & The Kicks, and the evidence says otherwise.

Like punk, post-punk, goth, shoegaze, and so many genres that are intrinsically tied to a specific period in time, the legacy of grunge reverberates and returns in waves, and one of the joy of being alive now as that cross-genre hybrids of all of these are possible and emerge all the time.

‘Underground’ is all about the thick, overdriven grungy guitar. The sound is dense and dirty, and benefits from an unpolished, no-messing production that accentuates the abrasive edges. It’s the vehicle which carries Kath’s bold, powerful vocal, which, stylistically, sits between vintage hard rock and goth – there’s a dash of Siouxsie in there, while at the same time hinting at being the natural successors to sadly departed Leeds favourites Black Moth.

The dark, ever-so-slightly twisted lyrics dig into a subterranean psyche that’s part goth, part agoraphobe, part obsessive psychopath. It’s a pretty potent cocktail.

Kath _ The Kicks Single Cover

Christopher Nosnibor

A collective of international origins spanning Belgium, Italy, and New Zealand, All Runs Red’s debut is a stylistic hybrid, too, beginning with a drifting picked intro that’s a bit prog, a bit post-rock. It’s one of those tracks that makes a series of rapid transitions and leaves you feeling a shade dazed, but also confused and confounded, as you sit, stunned, just three minutes or so later, wondering how you got from A to B.

Initially, it packs a simmering tension, but one infused with a certain slickness, even a light funk groove before hinting at something else. I’m on the fence here, then between loving and loathing, because that smoothness reminds me of insipid cack like Maroon 5, but then there’s something building beneath the surface… and then the chorus breaks and it’s got ‘stadium’ written all over it – or at least arena. It’s sonically immense, and big on emotion, too, then there are howling backing vocals and a huge guitar workout breaks forth and then…it fades out? What? How? Who would do this, and why? I feel a little short-changed, and like I should perhaps complain – but what good would that do?

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Sacred Bones – 30th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This collaborative release is as interesting as it is unexpected. Coming from the heavier and of the guitar-driven spectrum, it isn’t that the coming together of Emma Right Rundle and Thou is entirely unfitting, but it is unquestionably intriguing. The coming together of two such powerful forces has, unsurprisingly, yielded a work that is yet more powerful still.

As the press release observes, ‘while Emma Ruth Rundle’s standard fare is a blend of post-rock-infused folk music, and Thou is typically known for its downtuned, doomy sludge, the conjoining of the two artists has created a record more in the vein of the early ‘90s Seattle sound and later ‘90s episodes of Alternative Nation.’

Needless to say, it’s pretty heavy in places, and not just sonically, although the guitars – more of which shortly – feel heavy enough to shatter rocks, and again, to refer to the liner notes is to reaffirm this as they note how ‘The lyrical content of the album is a marriage of mental trauma, existential crises, and the ecstatic tradition of the expressionist dance movement. “Excessive sorrow laughs. Excessive joy weeps.” Melodic, melancholic, heavy, visceral.’

The grunge influence in this album is apparent and significant, and it’s nearly all in the riffage – but this is an album with rang and depth as well as some serious heft.

‘Killing Floor’ sees the trudging guitar riff emerging from the swirling fog of an atmospheric instrumental intro that borders on shoegaze, Rundle’s voice rises majestically from the thickly distorted power chords and Earth-like picking, and never has she sounded more commanding, more subtly powerful, and never has she come closer to sounding like Chelsea Wolf. And yet, never has she sounded more unique: Bryan Funk’s strained guttural vocal snarls are utterly gut-ripping and contrast with her majestic, emotionally-rich intonation. It’s one of those songs that suck you straight in, and instantly, you’re drawn into the maelstrom.

The album’s shortest song, ‘Monolith’ is a raging beast of a tune a skull-crushing battering of overloading guitars that comes on like a grunge juggernaut, balancing melody with a density that you feel batter against your chest. ‘Ancestral Recall’ swings between brooding ethereality and raging metal, grace and abrasion, but for the most part, it’s little short of absolutely fucking terrifying, a banshee scream howling into a wall of churning guitar noise that’s utterly punishing.

In contrast to the full-on barrage, there are hints of the goth-folk of early All About Eve on the slower, more sedate ‘Magickal Cost’, and once again, the rich, lilting qualities of Emma’s voice comes to the fore. But when the levee breaks around the midpoint, all hell breaks loose, as multi-layered guitars swerve and bend through a tempest of raging noise and a deluge of percussion. The contrasts, cast simultaneously, are stunning and pack all the impact.

The album’s final cut, ‘The Valley’ is deep, a slow-builder with supple violins teetering hesitantly behind rolling drums and soft swell of clean, echo-soaked guitar. It’s by far the most conventional-sounding song on the album, with the folk-infused rock flavour of Fleetwood Mac being more to the fore than anything remotely alternative – but then the last minute and a half is unbridled sonic annihilation as all of the pent-up fury is unleased.

It’s a fitting final to an absolutely stunning album, an album which explores a broad sonic and emotional range to hit hard in the delivery.

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Grunge-noise duo GHXST have recently announced the release of their new EP ‘Dark Days’ on 16th November.

Following up the release of ‘P.U.R.R’ back in September, the duo has now shared a second track from EP. ‘It Falls Apart’ was written when GHXST drove out to California leaving New York behind, after having lived there for over a decade. Hazy vocals are mixed with the downtuned riffs of a Marshall cab, a loving reference to two of their all-time heroes Jimi and Iommi.

Hex Records (USA) / Bigout Records (Europe) – 23rd October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For what is essentially a side-project for some of its members, USA Nails have sustained a remarkable output since their inception in 2014, with Character Stop being their fifth full-length release.

It is less full-on, less manic, and less of a messy blur than the bulk of their previous works, but the energy is still very much present, manifesting in a sound that’s more defined, more sharply focused. Which means, in short, it’s more like being attacked with a saw than a hammer. That said, there’s no shortage of blistering punk assaults: ‘I Am Posable’ is a furious flurry of slurry, and hits the spot hard.

We’ve already been given a flavour of the album with the short sharp shocks of ‘I Don’t Own Anything and the opening track ‘Revolution Worker’ both of which combine the growling bass rumble of Shellac with skewed guitars and a motoric beat, and consequently comes on like an early Fall outtake being covered by Tar, and it’s fair to say they’re wholly representative of the album as a whole. Well, don’t you just hate it when you buy an album because of a great single only to find the rest of the album is absolutely nothing like it, and it’s crap to boot? Maybe it happens less now in the digital age, but I used to find that a lot back in the 80s and 90s. Anyway, what this means is that if the prefatory releases appealed, then you’ll be happy to get lots more of the same, while conversely, if the singles didn’t do it for you, then you’re really going to find this a chore.

Recorded in just four days at Bear Bites Horse in London with producer Wayne Adams, Character Stop is urgent, immediate, and raw, and the songs are all brief and more angular than a great-stellated dodecahedron. And yet for that, it’s not math-rock, nor does it really belong to any specific genre, unless jolting, jarring, slightly discordant shit is a recognised genre now.

The album’s longest track, clocking in at four and a quarter minutes, ‘How Was Your Weekend?’ slows the pace and darkens the tone, with a stark, post-punk feel, a tone vocal paired with a thumping metronomic beat at tripwire tense guitars, and likewise the stark, jittery ‘Preference for Cold’. The bass shudders as it runs hither and thither, while the guitars crash in splintering shards. Elsewhere, if ‘No Pleasure’ filters The Stooges through Black Flag and slips its way through at a hundred miles an hour in a torrent of sweat and angst, it’s still got a vaguely post-punk tint to compliment its hardcore hue, and ‘Temporary Home’ is all about the motoric thud. It’s also got something that sounds like a chorus and a bit of melody, although it’s soon swallowed up in a scream of nail-scraping feedback and racketous riffage.

You wouldn’t exactly call Character Stop a minimalist work, but it is often stark, almost contemplative, going beyond all-out thunderous noise to explore dynamics and contrast. In short, it’s a cracking album.

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