Posts Tagged ‘Heavy’

Christopher Nosnibor

The 13th of July is a Friday. It seems like an appropriate date for a show hosted by The Trembling Hellish Infernal Nightmare Generator. And besides, an event that involves standing in a dark pub venue being aurally assaulted by four noisy bands in sweltering heat represents the perfectly antithetical alternative to the populism of a city swarming with racegoers.

It might not exactly be packed for Pak40, who begin their set with a claxon and bass hum, before thumping in with some tom-heavy drumming and thunderous, super-low bass growl that comes on like early Earth, only with percussion. While the duo’s focus is firmly on the creation of maximum noise, the stylistic manifestations are varied, with classic rock elements churned through a cement mixer and a vocal style characterised by elongated vowels that range from pysch-tinged prog to something closer to Bong. The final track is sludgy as hell, but ups the pace considerably, inviting comparisons to Fudge Tunnel.

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Pak40

Saltwater Injection are another drum / bass combo. As last year’s debut single, ‘Vinegar / Cuntryfile Part 3’ revealed, they’re noisy, too, cranking out a mesh of grindcore noise interspersed and overlaid with trebly, distorted samples from films and whatnot. It’s not about innovation, but execution, and after a lengthy intro, the bass feedback howls and they go full-throttle to deliver a set of high-octane aggression. It’s stick-twirling drummer Paul Soames who provides the vocals – predominantly guttural barks to their frenetic attacks. There are flickers of pop, but they’re transmogrified into roaring slabs of rage that go off like a clusterbomb.

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Saltwater Injection

Nottingham’s Bone Cult have been on my radar for a while, and I’ve been quite taken with their brand of hard-edged technoindustrial crossover music. Visually, they’re on a whole other level: with dense smoke, neon skull-masks, a crisp, clinical sound, and laser lighting shooting every which way, they transform the 120-capacity pub venue with a stage a foot high into an academy-type gig experience. They’re so slick, so tight, so immense. For all the intensity and aggression, they do seem a shade lightweight in context, mining more the Pretty Hate Machine era sound of Nine Inch Nails and aping the electro end of the Wax Trax! roster circa 1988. Still, in terms of entertainment, they’re hard to fault.

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Bone Cult

The same is true of headliners, London three-piece Little Death Machine. They neither look nor sound like a band on the lower rungs of the circuit. They’re mechanoid tight, and have a set packed with killer tunes, delivered with nuance, passion, emotion, and panache. A spot of research suggests that this is a new lineup, and while I lack the reference to compare to the old one, they seem to have gelled well. Yes, they do sound a lot like Placebo. A LOT like Placebo. But old Placebo, which is A Good Thing. It’s a punchy set, packed out with songs with massive drive and killer hooks and crackling energy. It’s also the perfect climax to an exciting night.

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Little Death Machine

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New Heavy Sounds – 20th July 2018

Originally released independently in February, Under The Strawberry Moon 2.0 sees Blacklab’s debut receive a vinyl release, wider distribution, and augmented by an additional track. It sounds like we’re arriving halfway through a song at the start of the album’s opener, ‘Black Moon’. It’s a slow, hefty riff that grinds out of the speakers at high volume. Yes, it’s loud and mastered even louder. Then the pace picks up the drums really get cracking and everything just throbs.

Yuko’s vocals are astonishing, switching between full-on gutsy hard rock, and witchy ethereal, and snarling deep and demonic. And they’re not afraid to send the needles into red, everything cracking with a fuzzy edge of overloading distortion. It’s this in-yer-face production that really makes Under The Strawberry Moon 2.0 the album it is. You don’t just listen to it: you feel it. You visualise the speaker cones on a massive rig vibrating, can almost feel the air being displaced.

‘Warm Death’ takes the face down and exploits the classic quiet / loud dynamic thing, and against a tidal wave of overdriven guitar the banshee howl vocals are nothing short of terrifying. Closer ‘Big Muff’ goes all the way for maximum downtuned sluge, with enough low-end to give rise to an uncomfortable sensation in the bowels. And it does so for ten whole minutes, in an audaciously excessive workout worthy of Melvins.

Coming on at times like Boris at their best, it’s hard to conceive that Blacklab are just two in number. Because this is some dense noise, gritty, driving and raw. There’s chug and grind, and there’s thunderous powerchords in abundance. In fact, there’s no let up – and no filler. And they could only ever have come from Japan: while we’ve seen a number of female-fronted stoner/doom/heavy bands emerging recently, Blacklab stand out as one of the fiercest, most intense and most-far out. They promise ‘Fuzz, fuzz, fuzz, doom, stoner, more fuzz,’ and they deliver it with the knobs all turned to eleven.

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Ritual Productions – 21st June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s perhaps fitting that self-professed occultist doom collective Drug Cult should unveil their debut long-player to coincide with midsummer’s day and the solstice.

They open with a nine-minute sludge-trudge that’s bursting with the trappings of psychedelia and old-school hard rock: ‘Serpent Therapy’ starts so slow, with so much distance between each chord that it sounds like an ending, a protracted grinding to a halt, rather than the start. Yes, this is slow, and this is heavy. The guitars are close to collapsing under their own weight, and threaten to bury Aasha Tozer’s reverb-drowned vocals in the process. It’s the soundtrack to a bad trip into the underworld, and while there’s nothing of such epic proportions to be found during the remainder of the album’s nine tracks, the darkness remains all-pervasive.

There’s a classic, vintage quality to the songs, but it’s all sludged up, twisted and messy, and what the songs lack in duration (the majority are below the four-minute mark) they more than compensate in density. The riffs lumber slow, low, and heavy, the bass grinds just as slow and even lower: the percussion doesn’t propel, but instead lands in thunderous ricochets while the cymbals wash in tidal waves. In fact, it’s like listening to an early Melvins 45 at 33, save for the vocals, which never sound anything less than borderline deranged.

The sense of volume is immense, speaker-shredding, earth-shattering. And just when it doesn’t seem possible to drive any deeper, grind any lower, ‘Bloodstone’ reaches a new low in low, the essence of doom-laden hard rock riffing distilled to its absolute. The form is still apparent: Drug Cult don’t take it beyond the limits as Sunn O))) do, but against contemporaries like Esben and the Witch and Big Brave, Drug Cult stand out for their concision and their eschewing of passages of levity: this is unforgiving, ultra-heavyweight from beginning to end. As such, it’s a truly megalithic work. Worship it.

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Exile On Mainstream – 11th May 2018

English intergenerational duo Noisepicker are one of the new generation of two-piece acts who sound like full bands. Not by virtue of any trickery, but because they whack everything up full tilt and rock hard. Peace Off sounds like a band, albeit one with the guitars and drums dominating the mix.

There are so many shades, but for Noisepicker, it’s a spectrum of subtle blues that colours their lumbering, riffy racket. The songs are heavy, raw, the lyrics dark. It may mark something of a stylistic shift for Earl of Mars and former Lord of Putrefaction Harry Armstrong, but he still pours all the anger into it, his thick-throated vocal roar the perfect vehicle for this kind of heavy, heavy scuzzed-out stoner blues metal.

Pulverizing, slow, heavy discord worthy of Swans circa 1984 swiftly yields to swaggering heavy rock on opener ‘No Man Lies Blameless, which thunders away with the grainy grungy heft of Black Sabbath as filtered through Melvins. It sets the tone, and the tempo: Peace Off very much favours weight and groove over pace, the riffs big and gutsy (although when they do pick up the face, as on ‘O What Mercy Sorrow Brings’, they really do drive hard and fast.

‘A Taste of My Dying’ is the grittiest, grainiest blues, dark and dirty and slowed to a crawl. Under any other circumstances, you’d be thinking about grime and sweat, but at this low, low tempo, it’s more of a case of Led Zep on Temazepam. Armstrong gargles and spits the words to ‘He Knew it Would All End in Tears’ against a roar of guitars and crashing drums: there’s nothing fancy about Kieran Murphy’s style, and that’s a virtue, as the songs are focused in a fashion that delivers optimal force.

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Neurot Recordings – 11th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The band’s biography locates them as ‘standing at a crossroads of light and dark’, and we learn that Chrch create ‘epic, lengthy songs, with a massive low end, and a supernatural vocal presence, in a perfect blend of height and depth’.

Epic is the word: this, their second album contains just three songs, the shortest of which is just shy of ten minutes in length.

It begins with the twenty-two minute behemoth that is the appropriately-titled ‘Infinite’. Slow-picked notes, bathed in chorus and reverb hang in suspension. Dust motes drift in the spaces between them, and time stalls in a freeze-frame. Gradually, the percussion begins for form rhythm in the background, and some semblance of form begins to emerge. It’s around the five-minute mar when the dual vocal – a banshee howl and chthonic growl – tear through a landslide of trudging guitars so slow and low as to be positively subterranean. The mid-section is delicate as a butterfly’s wing, before the second heavyweight segment proffers forth some kind of doom rendition of classic rock, like Clapton on Ketamine, multiple lead guitar lines intertwining at a fraction of the conventional tempo.

‘Portals’ focuses more on the infinite power chords, screeding feedback, bowel-shaking bass and screaming demon vocals. It’s the soundtrack to a descent into the infernal abyss. The trudging riff that dominates the second half is enlivened by a majestic lead part and Eva Rose’s captivating vocals which soar and glide magnificently. I shan’t deny it: I’m a sucker for a shoegaze voice pitched against slabs of guitar as heavy, grey, and grainy as basalt.

The final cut ‘Aether’ is by far the lightest and most uplifting in its tone, and pushes further into shoegaze territory, despite its agonizing 40bpm pace and the anguished screams in the background. It feels like a crawl toward the light at the end of the tunnel, and despite the thunderous weight and the howling agony which permeates every note, it feels somehow redemptive.

The heavy passages – and they’re seriously heavy – are broken by protracted periods of tranquillity, of mesmeric beauty and delicate grace. But, truth be told, the format’s growing tired, the tropes of the dynamics embedded to the point of predictability now. And so it all comes down to execution and the details. On Light Will Consume Us All, Chrch venture – subtly – into different territories, territories which exist beyond the template of what’s now the doom standard. And it’s well executed. Really well executed.

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New Heavy Sounds – 4th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Grave Lines’ second album is… heavy.

From a personal perspective, they impressed me no end when I caught them supporting Black Moth when their tour for Anatomical Venus landed in their hometown of Leeds. Mostly, because their set was brutal in its weight, the howling vocals sitting in the mid-range and low in the mix against a tempest of low-end guitar noise.

Fed Into the Nihlist Engine doesn’t disappoint, and captures the essence of the live sound. It also opens in the most daring fashion, with a fifteen-minute epic that blends ferocity and dirginess to form a perfect balance: at first coming on like Amenra in their haunting, atmospheric passages, before erupting into a full-blown assault of rage. Its crawling pace and sinewy lead guitar parts, paired with dense, chugging rhythm with major emphasis on the bottom end make for a punishing experience. However, over the course of the album’s nine tracks, Grave Lines demonstrate a remarkable range and a deep-seated sense of atmosphere and texture. It’s heavy – seriously heavy, in fact – but it’s also light: ‘Shame Retreat’ is a delicate acoustic song, simple and completive, and elsewhere, there are some beautifully melodic passages.

In fact, much of the weight of Fed Into the Nihilist Engine isn’t about crushing guitars, overdriven and overloaded and labouring amp-blowing riffs – not that there isn’t an abundance of these. No, Grave Lines explore the brooding a the shadowy, the quietly intense, the darkness of the gothic. ‘Self Mutilation by Fire and Stone’ sees Harding adopt an almost crooning goth baritone in places. ‘Loss Betrayal’ – at least for the first minute or so – sounds more like early iLiKETRAiNS with its chiming post-rock guitar and reflective stance. And then it all piles in, while on ‘Silent Salt’, the guitars grind and churn relentlessly from the start. ‘Loathe Displace’ is similarly disarming, stripped back, a wheezing, undulating organ drone providing the instrumental backdrop to Jake Harding’s surprisingly sensitive and tuneful vocals.

But when they do hit the overdrive pedals, they really go in hard and heavy. The one thing they don’t do is uptempo. These are slow, deliberate slabs of sound that bludgeon the senses. This is the sound of anger. This is punishment. There’s a lot of grind and churn going down on Fed Into the Nihilist Engine: ‘The Greae’ has that early Melvins vibe about it, only shoutier, and it grinds on well past the seven-minute mark.

Fed Into the Nihilist Engine really works the contrasts and dynamics, but not in the way, say, Neurosis do – which I suppose is my way of saying not in a way that’s formulaic or predictable.

Ultimately, Fed Into the Nihilist Engine is a dark album. And yet, it’s a dark album that’s haunting, moving and achingly beautiful in its articulation of despondency and disquiet.

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Grave Lines - Nihilist Engine