Posts Tagged ‘Heavy’

Christopher Nosnibor

Originally released in 1999, Music from the Empty Quarter was Photographed by Lightning’s fifth album. The band described it as ‘their Troutmask Replica, their Tago Mago’, forewarning the listener that it’s ‘a monstrous slice of avant jazz, musique concrete Lovecraftian horror and should under no circumstances be listened to while under the influence of ‘substances’, and it’s immediately clear why. Like Trout Mask, it seems to be an album intended to be as difficult and challenging as possible, the sound of four musicians playing four different tunes in different keys and time signatures at the same time.

A strolling bassline stops and starts, runs and halts against a thunking beat. Everything’s up to the max, resulting in a slightly fuzzed-out sound, murky with the edges frayed by distortion. And over all of it, horns honk and parp, weaving weird patterns. This is the first of the four parts of ‘Al Azif’, scattered at strategic points across the album, with the same nagging bass motif recurring on each, as if in some attempt to give some sense of structure or cogency to the deranged, sprawling mass of weirdy noise. While three of the four parts are comparatively short, ‘Al Azif 4’ is a colossal twenty-one minutes in duration, but there’s a hell of a lot to wade through before – namely the whole of disc one.

‘Reptiles Invent The Amniotic Egg’ is a slow-trudging grind, somewhere between Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin’s GOD, and SWANS, and ‘Foehn’ occupies similarly dark, weighty territory. Meanwhile, ‘Pop Song’ stands out as the most accessible track here, a snappy number with an actual semblance of a tune that’s reminiscent of early Public Image – but after a minute and a bit, they’re done, and back to making the most chaotic racket going with the frenzied discord of ‘The Assembly of Membranes’, and taking things up a notch on ‘Timing of Cellularisation’ which sounds like The Fall playing next door to Merzbow, and they’ve both left the door open and you’re standing in the corridor between the two.

By the time you’ve been battered by the murky wasteland that is the noodling delirium of ‘Mosses Invade the land’, with its impenetrable vocals, and the unexpectedly folksy lo-fi indie of Sugar Fist – part Silver Jews, part Syd Barrett, you arrive dizzied and dazed at ‘Al Azif 3’ with a strange sense of déjà-vu, before disc two arrives with more of the same – literally. That sensation of being on an endlessly recurring loop is a headfuck almost on a par with Rudimentary Peni’s Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric, but perhaps more realistically an approximation of The Fall’s ‘Bremen Nacht’ repetitions on The Frenz Experiment and accompanying 7”.

The demented, snarling vocals, that gibber and gnash away into the drifting fade of horns is most unsettling as disc two gets dubby and deranged on the fourth instalment, and after the brief interlude that is ‘Hypoxia’, the fifteen-minute title track is a yawning, droning swirl of somnambulance, a ritualistic swell and groan with laser rockets arcing over its bubbling, swampy expanse.

This is fucking heavy stuff: not heavy in the metal sense, but in the sense that’s it’s relentlessly oppressive and lasts an eternity. It’s absolutely bloody great, but it’s also probably the soundtrack to life in purgatory. You have been warned.

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Bloodshed666

Christopher Nosnibor

This Viennese collective describe themselves as purveyors of ‘heavy stuff (crust, sludgemetal, noise rock’ but ‘rooted in diy-anarcho-punk’, and they follow the subtly-titled Shareholder of Shit 10” EP with a 12” picture disc mini album containing five gloriously gnarly blasts of dirty guitar-driven noise.

Much of the appeal of anything that’s crust-orientated is just how grimy and raw it is, and while a few samples cut through with clarity on several tracks here, for the most part, Desolat deliver a set that is little short of a wall of incendiary rage, a snarling, spitting, guttural roar coughing blood and venom against guitars so dingy they positively drip gunge.

If opener ‘Nuclear Extinction to Human Civilisation’ doesn’t exactly sound like a love song, it does probably intimate the band’s perfect misanthropic fantasy, while the title track is the sound of Satan’s innards after a phall. Make no mistake, this is intense, and there’s not a second’s respite at any point: ‘The Bureaucrat’ is a full-throttle sonic inferno that blasts through its three-minute duration at a hundred miles an hour ravaging everything in its path: the guitars a whiplash-inducing blur or fury.

The lumbering closer, ‘Dreams of Slaughtered Yuppies under Starlit Night Skies’, is a six-minute slow-riffing sludgefest that batters away brutally at a simple four-chord trudge. It’s heavy, it’s nasty, and its glorious – which pretty much sums up the record as a whole as it raises a stinking, shit-coated middle finger to all things capitalist and mainstream.

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Opa Loka Records – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Breath Mule is the third album for Dutch multi media artist Richard van Kruysdijk under the moniker Cut Worms, and after a gap of over three years, completes a trilogy along with Lumbar Fist (2016) and Cable Mounds (2017).

As the accompanying blurb outlines, ‘Cut Worms’ sound palette is firmly rooted in the lower frequencies’, detailing how ‘As the droney, cinematic tracks evolve, their slowly unravelling, gritty sounds evoke the audio equivalent of brutalist architecture: Concrete walls of sound that are as majestic as they are elementary, yet intrinsically detailed when examined with a magnifying glass.’

The majority of the tracks are long, and not a lot really happens, meaning that there is time given for each composition to breathe and explore the tones and textures in full detail. The low-booming opener, ‘Slug Sirup’ sounds like a ship’s horn sounding out over the miles through a dense and played back at half speed. First distant, it grows in volume, but little else happens for a very long time. And then, somehow, more than nine minutes has evaporated, and drifted into the slow-booming drone of ‘Come Lightly’. There isn’t much light about it: it’s dank and ominous.

There are crackling creaks enveloped in the dense, crawling fog of ‘Cinder Locks’. The sound is thick, heavy, immersive, and yes, it is ominous but at the same time, I find a certain comfort in such vast expanses of thunderous ambience. The more condensed the sound, the more it billows like smoke, the more impenetrable and more solid it becomes, the more it feels somehow like something that’s a source of a certain warmth and security. The same is true of the throbbing ‘Denmark Spiral’, but the thin, trilling wisps of Girly Totem’, while more overtly and quintessentially ‘ambient’ are somehow more difficult to settle in with – particularly in context.

The darkness really comes to the fore on the final track, the eleven-and-a-half-minute ‘Slashed Hostage’. The title provides a fair indication of its weight, and it begins with a low, slow, oscillating throbbing hum, one of those drones that nags at the senses like a far-off helicopter that you scan the sky for but can’t see. Again, it’s a slow-builder: the sound expands, louder, denser, but no different, and this is where it really starts to get into your head and burrow into your skull. It’s along this journey that the slow-moving drone expands to a different level of immersion, and when the swell tapers down, hushed vocals echo menacingly, too low in the mix to decipher the actual words, a poem by the enigmatic Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988), who wrote surrealist works in French. Because. That said, Scelsi is an interesting choice, as a composer who, according to his Wikipedia entry, ‘composed music based around only one pitch, altered in all manners through microtonal oscillations, harmonic allusions, and changes in timbre and dynamics, as paradigmatically exemplified in his Quattro pezzi su una nota sola (‘Four Pieces on a single note’, 1959)’.

On Breath Mule, Cut Worms offers more than a single note, but then again, there are no notes: only thick, swirling billows of sound and layers of drone on drone. It grips you, immerses you, hold you… and it’s not unpleasant, as long as you don’t struggle.

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Human Worth – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I am, unashamedly, a massive fan of Modern Technology, and have been from day 1. And their DOIY label, Human Worth, too. Not only do they make and release amazing music of immense weight, but they have real principles, donating a cut of the proceeds of every release to charity, and being thoroughly nice guys on top is just a huge bonus.

The label’s latest release – their first 7” single – is absolute gold (despite actually being marbled silver and black) And that’s another thing: the quality of the label’s product is magnificent, from the design to the finish. With vinyl’s resurgence, we’ve witnessed a greater attention to the physical product as an artefact to behold and to cherish, for all the reasons fans of vinyl spent about 20 years going on about at every opportunity while people moved away, first towards CDs and then towards streaming. I suppose aficionados of the ‘physical product’ proffer the same kind of case for vinyl as books, but when Kindle fans counter that ‘it’s just like a book’, the common retort is that what’s even more like a book is a book, and there is simply no substitute. Streaming fans don’t even have that: all they have is ‘convenience’, but they simply don’t grasp how much is missing from the experience when interacting with a physical format.

I may digress, but it’s relevant: when presented with a gut-punching welter of noise, it always hits harder when blasting from a fat chunk of wax through some speakers with a bit of poke. And shit, is this a gut-punching welter of noise.

Modern Tech and 72% crossed paths just days before life was placed on pause in March 2020. Sharing a bill for Baba Yaga’s Hut in London, no-one foresaw the year that was to come. With the prospect of live shows remaining tentative at best, this single feels like a necessary release of energy.

It’s 72%’s ‘Drowning in a Sea of Bastards’ that’s the (nominal) A-side, and it’s a squalling, full-throttle noise attack. It’s actually the drumming that dominates, while everything else collapses in on itself to create a volcanic sonic explosion of frenzies guitars that are played in such a way as to not really sound like guitars as much as a wild cacophony. There’s screeding feedback and all kinds of chaos flying every whichway, and somewhere, buried low in the mix, are some anguished vocals. You can’t make out a word of it, but the sentiment transcends language.

Meanwhile, Modern Technology continue to go from strength to strength. The first new material since their debut album, Service Provider in September, ‘Lorn’ is a six-minute monster. The droning feedback that howls from Chris Clarke’s bass is more mid-rangey than usual, bringing a sharp, brittle edge to their dark, dingy abrasion that’s pushes forward slow and heavy, propelled by Owen Gildersleeve’s crushing percussion. When the chords hit, they hit hard, and – as is now well-established as integral to their distinctive sound, Clarke’s vocals, distorted and buried in a wash or reverb, snarl and growl all the rage, landing somewhere between Lemmy and Al Jourgensen circa Filth Pig. It’s a trudging slow-burner that builds with a cumulative effect.

Oh, and there’s more: a brace of bonus tracks, starting with a head-shredding remix of ‘Drowning in a Sea of Bastards’ by Wayne Adams (Ladyscraper / Big Lad / Petbrick). Unrecognisable against the original, it’s a pulversing mangled mess of clanging metal and industrial-strength overloading distortion. Gnarly as fuck, it’s bloody brilliant. And as a double bonus, the additional cut from Modern Technology is another new track, ‘Ctrl’. In something of a departure, it finds Clarke deliver a spoken-word piece against a backdrop of thick, booming bass and slow, slow drums. As the murky layers build, so does the crushing weight of a track that’s reminiscent of Swans circa 1984: it’s claustrophobic and suffocating, and makes you feel tense.

It may only be fifteen minutes in total for all four tracks, but to describe the experience as intense would be an understatement, and I find myself simply too blown away to conjure a pithy one-liner to wrap up. Yes, it’s absolute dynamite.

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Minimalism and instinct, structure/freedom and meticulous timing form the cornerstones of BIG | BRAVE’s precise, rhythmical sound.

Lyrically, the new album VITAL explores the weight of race and gender, endurance and navigating other people’s behaviours, observation and protest. The band further commented “this album involves what it means navigating the outside world in a racialized body and what it does to the psyche as a whole while exploring individual worth within this reality.”

Our first glimpse of the album arrives today in the form of a video for the track "Half Breed", consisting of a single shot of a single performative action that can be read as the representation of the damage an external force can have on someone or something without ever having to bear any responsibility and consequence.  BIG | BRAVE adds "The action of shovelling dirt onto the person, also acts a way to discredit, shame and discriminate the individual. With the victim (on screen), being painfully covered with dirt by the perpetrator (off screen), all we have to witness is the damage done and left behind. We are aware of what is happening, what has happened, but the source is kept anonymous and can easily be missed and overlooked."

VITAL features the core trio Robin Wattie, Mathieu Ball and Tasy Hudson, for their most collaborative record they’ve made so far. The band say “having cut our teeth in very different musical backgrounds respectively, our intuitions vary, which has an interesting effect on our individual approaches and ears.”
For this record, BIG | BRAVE once again made the trek down to Rhode Island to record with Seth Manchester at Machines with Magnets. They remark “we fully trust his instinct as an engineer and his creative output, getting to experiment with textures, concepts, layers, and with pretty much every single recorded sound, the process of making records with Seth is an absolute journey in sonic exploration".

Watch the video here:

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Photo by Mathieu Ball

Releasing their most recent album ‘Canyons’ in 2019, Slomatics have solidified their status as veterans of the underground heavy scene since forming in 2004 with 6 albums and a number of split releases alongside Conan, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Holly Hunt. Now as part of their upcoming split LP with Ungraven they have shared new track, ‘Kaān’.

The band state, ‘Sometimes the joy of music is the contrast between light and shade, the subtle textures and the space between notes. Other times it’s just about turning the amps to eleven, loading as much fuzz into the signal as possible, putting everything in the red, cranking out the same neanderthal riff relentlessly and screaming into the void. ‘Kaän’ is most definitely the latter.’

Listen to ‘Kaān’ here:

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Invada Records – 29th January 2021

On the strength of a brace of tumultuous single releases, anticipation for Divide and Dissolve’s upcoming album was pretty hot. And with Gas Lit, they’re positively on fire.

With the aim ‘to undermine and destroy the white supremacist colonial framework and to fight for Indigenous Sovereignty, Black and Indigenous Liberation, Water, Earth, and Indigenous land given back’ Divide and Dissolve wear their difference from so much of the scene with pride: they certainly don’t look like your average doom duo. But then, nor do they sound like it either.

They may only be two in number, but Takiaya Reed (saxophone, guitar, live effects/ (Black & Tsalagi [Cherokee]) and Sylvie Nehill (drums, live effects/ (Māori) incorporate an array of unconventional instrumental elements into their immense sound, most notably saxophone. But it certainly doesn’t really lighten the tone with some groovy jazz notes, or even some wilder free-jazz, either.

Granted, the opening bars of the first track, ‘Oblique’ are gentle, soothing, orchestral and with hints of neoclassical or soundtrack music even, but it’s simply a lure before the barrelling drone of low, overdriven guitars so distorted as to melt into a drone, propelled by a frenzy of thunderously heavy percussion. And in the background, brass so mournful as to sound sadder and more lonely than a solitary burial in the middle of the Sahara. It’s a bleak and desolate sound, and one that’s utterly compelling.

‘Prove It’ is pure density, a heavy drone guitar with a sound that’s thick and grainy flows like a mudslide. The blank monotone spoken word vocal on ‘Did You Have Something to Do With It?’ is detached, and disconnected as it speaks of dark thoughts and actions against a sparse, minimal backdrop. It’s eerie and ominous, and sounds more like a segment lifted from a documentary about a serial killer – and in the context of the album, it serves as an unsettling interlude, which provides brief respite sonically only to exchange the aural terror with something sociopathic and equally disturbing.

Seven-and-a-half-minute single cut ‘Denial’ hammers in hard with a yawning drone of guitar that sounds more like a churning earthwork, the drum beats like detonations, before tapering away to leave a haunting scene, the serpentine scales full of an ancient ant elusive mysticism. But it becomes increasingly scratchy and more decayed… and then ‘Far From Ideal’ bulldozes in, obliterating everything in its wake, before things get even heavier, darker, and murkier with the trudging sludge of ‘It’s Really Complicated’.

‘Mental Gymnastics’ is another short piece, and another one which evokes distant lands in ancient times, unknowable wisdom lost in the sands of time, before single release ‘We Are Really Worried About You’, grinds its way to the end on a tsunami of a riff, and it leaves you breathless.

It’s clear that Divide and Dissolve really grasp the power of dynamics, but also have a unique way of rendering those dynamics, not just in terms off the all-important volume changes, but in how they explore mood. More than this, they transcend conventions and standard doom tropes and incorporate myriad stylistic and cultural elements, and so do astoundingly naturally. For all the weight, there’s a bold majesty about Gas Lit that may be difficult to pinpoint but which permeates its very fabric. And for all of these reasons, Gas Lit feels different – and hits so incredibly hard.

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Human Worth – 26th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

From the first twisted, dingy powerchords that herald the arrival of Fraught in Waves with the punishing – and appropriately-titled ‘Breakage’ – it’s abundantly clear that Gaffa Bandana’s debut album is going to be an absolute fucking beast. The rest of the album only verifies this as fact: Fraught in Waves is indeed an absolute fucking beast. It may only contain six tracks and have a total running time of half an hour, but the sheer intensity is ear-bleeding, eye-popping, and gut-tearing. Yes, this is a truly physical experience, one that’s exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure.

Gaffa Bandana is Gill Dread (Bruxa Maria) and Jennie Howell (So3ek, Sleeping Creatures, Gorse, Dooman Empire), and Fraught in Waves was first released as a digital-only effort back in September of last year.

While they’re pitched as a punk duo, the pair’s noise is a full-throttle hybrid of hardcore and sludgy noise, the guitars coming on like Fudge Tunnel covering Tad. The clattering drums also call to mind the heavy noise scene of the 90s: if obscure namechecks like Oil Seed Rape and other band on the Jackass label spark a light of recognition, then we’re speaking the same language. And the vocals are just terrifying: deranged, demonic, they’re at a pitch that’s rare in the fields of either punk, metal, or doom – it’s a cracked, guttural howl, bordering on a shrieking agony.

The contrasts are a major factor in its impact: the riffs are stop / start, and for all the density, there’s a lot of space where metallic clanging chords simply hang in the air before everything piles back in, hard, and deliberate.

There are hints of The Jesus Lizard about the churning ruckus of ‘Charm Offensive’ with its choppy guitar buzz and the hollering vocals low in the mix – but if you’re looking for more contemporary touchstones, Blacklisters and (early) Hawk Eyes are fair comparisons: jolting, metallic, uncomfortable and unforgiving, everything lurches one way and then the other, from stuttering stalls to incendiary riffage that absolutely burns, there is absolutely no room to breathe, not an inch to unwind in. This shit it tense, the kind of tension you feel in your chest and your stomach, and the seven-minute behemoth that stands as the album’s centrepiece, ‘Paralysis of Will’ is all the anguish, all the torture.

Every track feels more tempestuous than the last. ‘Evil Whispers’ has its moments of stuttering Shellac-like mathy judders as it stammeringly halts and resumes, but ultimately, it’s the relentless, balls-out, stomach-churning riffing that defines the sound. There isn’t a clean note to be found in this furious mess of noise. It’s rare for an album to grab you by the throat quite so brutally, and to maintain its choking grip without a moment’s respite, but Fraught in Waves is full-throttle from beginning to end. It is harsh, it is relentless, and at times borders on the psychotic. It’s pure catharsis, and it’s perfect.

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Since forming in 2013 UK label Blackbow Records has continued to release music created and appreciated by those who worship tone and riffs. Now in 2021 they are set to continue this trend with a new split LP of pure heaviness from Belfast based, sludge-juggernauts Slomatics alongside the blistering and crushing sounds of Ungraven. With 3 new tracks from each band the split is set for release on 5th March.

Formed in 2019 by Conan frontman Jon Davis and featuring Fudge Tunnel bassist David Ryley and drummer Tyler Hodges (Tuskar), Ungraven pay homage to the 90s heavy and industrial sounds of the likes of Ministry, Godflesh, Sepultura and Nailbomb. On the split with Slomatics Jon states,

‘As the world groans and creaks and crawls forward in slow motion we chose to release three tracks with our brothers in Slomatics, our first on vinyl. Ungraven was an idea that started in my head as I drove into Richmond Virginia in 2017, on tour with Conan. It was originally intended as a solo act. Blackened Gates and Onwards She Rides were initially written to be performed with a drum machine, while Defeat The Object came along during rehearsal with Tyler before we toured early March 2020, before the earth stood still. Enjoy.’

Listen to the new Ungraven track ‘Onwards She Rides To A Certain Death’ here:

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Ahead of the release of their towering new album I’ve Seen All I Need To See at the end of the month, The Body have shared a pummelling new single ‘Tied Up and Locked In’.

Capturing the astounding weight of the duo’s live sound in stunning detail, ‘Tied Up and Locked In’ is as bludgeoning and corrosive as it is ecstatic – a cathartic eruption of energy delivered with incisive measure.

I’ve Seen All I Need To See demonstrates not only The Body’s fearless spirit and vicious edge, but their intellectual musical heft through its explorations of distorted sound and the power of distorted sounds’ interplay. Composer Roger Johnson said “Noise is power, but is generally represented as negative, chaotic, dangerous, violent, when it comes… from those marginalized from power. Noise is also an expression of freedom, a ‘liberation of sound.’” The Body are sound liberators capable of mining and extracting remarkable details from the most manipulated and distorted sound sources.

I’ve Seen All I Need To See is a groundbreaking work and an ecstatic listen, whether seen as a testament to catharsis in oblivion, an opus of inexorable dread or a wholly liberating adventure.

Listen to The Body’s I’ve Seen All I Need To See single ‘Tied Up and Locked In’ here:

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