Posts Tagged ‘Riffs’

Christopher Nosnibor

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Celebrating their thirtieth anniversary, Helmet are playing thirty-song sets in thirty cities. It feels like an immense privilege that Leeds is one of them, and the fact it’s the 150-capacity Key Club even more so. With only ten tickets remaining for sale on the door, for a cult band who’ve only released two albums in the last decade, they’ve retained a hardcore following, not all of who, are old buggers.

With no support act, they take the stage at eight sharp, and immediately start with the riffs. Not a word at the start, nor between songs for the first half dozen at least. Instead, it’s all about the riffs.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

The extended freeform solos drift into the background while the rhythm section thunder on relentlessly: the floor-shaking, gut-churning bass, the rhythm guitar that blasts out concrete slabs of noise.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

The blunt, bludgeoning weight of thick, stop/start chunks of noise that became the defining feature of Nu-Metal are Helmet’s staple, but they did it first and did it best. Helmet were also one of the first off-the-street jeans ‘n’ T-shirt bands, and Beavis and Butthead were on the money when they observed that “That drummer looks like a regular guy,” and “If you, like, saw these guys on the street, you wouldn’t even know they were cool.” And yes, they are cool. Seriously cool. Their influence clearly extends far, far beyond their fanbase and commercial reach, which peaked in the early ‘90s. But being cool is also about pushing on, and Helmet’s achieving radio play and MTV exposure around this time was a matter of coincidental timing rather than strategized mass appeal.

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There’s no messing, no posturing: Page regales us with an amusing anecdote about being rehearsing in a space next to Buck Cherry, who commented on the fact the band load their own gear, and who they heard rehearsing their between-song banter. But I never mentioned that. It’s one of only a few moments of chat we get but what’s keenly apparent is that these are nice guys, with no pretence or rock-star delusions, and with their major-label years long behind them, no industry bullshit surrounding them.

They play songs in small venues.

They play hard.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Song number thirty is ‘In The Meantime’. It’s blistering. But then, so were the preceding twenty-nine songs.

And long may they continue to knock out the riffs.

Svart Records – 30th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The Portland two-piece described as purveyors of ‘noisy metal’ haven’t wasted time on naming their third album, which lands five years on from 2014’s Here in the Deadlights, and have instead focused on the contents and rendering it as maximalist as possible. There are a fair few duos around at the moment who manage to conjure a full-band sound. It’s impressive, but how do they do it? Big amps and lots of pedals is the usual answer, but with these guys, there’s got to be something more. I mean, the sound is huge. In fact, no, it’s way bigger than huge. Alchemy. It’s gotta be.

The album’s five songs are all at least seven minutes long, and are, without exception, hefty as hell riffmongous monsters, the noisy metal style being very much of the sludgy stoner persuasion, with Melvins being the most obvious and appropriate touchstone. But they’re no half-arsed style appropriators: there’s a lot going on here, and there’s a slew of other elements in the mix. Punk and psychedelia may sound like an awkward combination, but they pull them together effortlessly, along with a dose of really gritty thrash.

‘Caveman Waltz’ doesn’t sound like it’s actually in waltz-time, but steps up from a lumbering knuckledragger of a riff to doubling the tempo halfway through and thrashing out an uptempo throb with spiralling lead fretwork weaving a sonic mesh over the thumping percussion as the vocals go full-throated holler mode.

And they’ve got tricks galore up their (wizard’s) sleeves. The twelve-minute ‘Funeral of the Sun’ melds black metal and prog to create an expansive piece that rages and snarls but also features moments of rich atmosphere and strong melody.

Closer ‘V’ drives in hard with the most overtly thrash riff, but the vocals go all psych and the lead line is mathy and then… my head’ spinning with all of it after just a minute and a half. Nine minutes in and it’s all over.

You’ll likely often read that metal is running out of ideas, and that doomy / stoner / sludge has become a predictable parody of itself. And it’s not entirely untrue. But then an act like Wizard Rifle will present themselves and completely smash all preconceptions with a blend of killer riffs and wild innovation. Here, Wizard Rifle prove that there’s still a lot of ground to be explored through permutation and hybridity, delivering an album that’s solidly rooted in familiar territories, but at the same time explores new ground and doesn’t sound quite like anything else. At least, nothing I’ve yet heard.

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Wizard Rifle – Wizard Rifle

Exile On Mainstream – 22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I hear this a lot, at work, at home. People tell me that I must relax. I disagree, of course. It’s not healthy to get too comfortable. To relax is to be vulnerable. You make yourself vulnerable, you’re open to attack, and also emotions. Who needs any of that? It’s not that sensitivity is undesirable in these times of dehumanised capitalist culture, as much as it’s dangerous, a risk to self-preservation. Taking a cynical view, relaxation and wellbeing are avenues which pave the way to exploitation. No, better maintain a hard exterior even while you’re breaking on the inside. Never relax.

There’s absolutely nothing relaxing about the squeal of feedback and distorted, tortured vocals that shred the speakers in the opening moments of the album’s first cut, ‘Hollywood 2001/Rollrost’. The closest comparison I can draw is to early Whitehouse: shards of treble and humming lower-end feedback provide a brutal, unstructured backdrop to vocals designed to inflict maximum pain.

Things to become overtly rock thereafter, with the grinding sludge riffery of ‘Old Overholt’ bringing maximum gnarly grind. The repetitive, barrelling bass trudges on remorselessly, while thunderous drumming explodes amidst a wall of obliterative guitar noise that’s very much about the texture rather than the tune. Ten minutes later, it bleeds into the title track, which sounds more or less the same, but half as slow again. The bass is so low and murky as to vibrate the bowels. The vocals are warped, distorted, a demonic howl from the pits of fiery hell. But it’s not unbearable; the heavy psychedelic leanings give both a kind of context and bring a certain groove. As whiplash whirls of flange fire in and it transmogrifies into some raging beast that’s half Hawkwind, half Sabbath on Ketamine, samples begin to echo around in the murk, adding further layers of suffocating sound on sound.

And as the album progresses, so the songs get longer and gnarlier, the riffs more cyclical and tightly wound and packed with a greater intensity. By the time they piledrive into the eighteen-minute finale, the volcanic assault of ‘CBD/Herinunder’, the earth has shifted on its axis under the sheer weight of the thunderous riffery, guitars so dense as to have created their own gravitational force.

There’s an agonising eternity between each beat, each driving power-chord, the grainy blast of distortion channelling down and re-emerging as a howl of feedback sustain. And on and on it grinds. And in its own perverse way, with its dense, rich wall of overdrive crawling at a tectonic pace, ‘CBD/Herinunder’ brings a certain cannabinoid comfort. It’s not the stoner mellowness of HTC, but the quiet delivery of a more settled underlying state.

It’s still by no means relaxing, but it is a superlative example of no-messing, slow-churning monster riffing.

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Bellrope

16th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Salvation Jayne are going from strength to strength at the moment, and kicking off with lead single ‘Cortez’ which drives hard with an amalgam of grunge guitars, solid, hard-rock riffage and pop-tinged rock-solid vocal sass their eponymous six-tracker sees the band take stock, refocus and capitalise on their work to date to mark the trajectory of the next stage of their emerging career.

‘Juno,’ which surfaces as a standalone track a year ago showcases a poppier groove in the med-section, but is primarily about the hefty, bass-driven, riff-centric chorus, and at the risk of reductionism, it’s the riff and the rock vocals that define the EP as a whole. There’s no lack of heft to ‘Black Heart’, either, which is propelled by some attacking drumming and thickly overdriven guitar, while Chess belts out the lyrics with full lung.

If the verses of ‘Tongue Tied’ suggest a slight lifting of the foot from the pedal with its layered, chorused guitar and easy disco beat, the chorus kicks it back up a notch or two. The slide guitar and strolling bass of ‘The Art of Falling’ marks the biggest shift as they slip comfortably into country grunge that expands into stadium space-filling emotionally-charged rock epic territory. It may be vaguely template and conventional, but it’s got a captivating sincerity, it’s well-placed and works well, and more importantly, it’s what you might reasonably call a ‘big’ tune that indicates the band’s mass-market potential

Yes, the Salvation Jayne EP is on the more accessible side of whatever: it’s not nasty or gnarly or dirty or fucked. But is does pack some riffy, guitar-based punch, at least for the most part: the ‘stripped’ version of ‘Juno’, with its aid-back, sultry beats is pleasant enough but my views on remixes and alternative versions are strewn about the Internet for those who remotely give a fuck. Suffice it to say that while it’s actually quite nice, it still feels like quite nice filler, and perhaps five tracks would have done the job just as well.

That said, it’s a fair inclusion and not a terrible addition to an EP that’s got some guts and showcases a band with game.

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Following their storming performance at Desertfest, a run of European shows with L7, plus a one-off appearance with stoner rock legends Sleep, Black Moth show no signs of stopping in 2018 as they share a new video for ‘Pig Man’ ahead of their UK tour with Corrosion of Conformity, Orange Goblin and Fireball Ministry.

Directed by Ged Murphy/Rob Hoey and filmed by Louis Caulfield, vocalist Harriet Hyde comments on the meaning behind the track:-

‘In my endless fascination with human sexuality, I came across a brilliant book called Perv by Jesse Bering which celebrates how we’re all sexual deviants in our own unique and colourful ways. In reading it, however, one particular story stood out for its horror and absurdity…

‘Most people know of the atrocities committed towards women in 17th century New England in the Salem Witch Hunts. Deranged rumours circulated that they cut off men’s penises, bewitched them and kept them as pets! To this day, women are ‘slut-shamed’ and outcast for possessing their own innate power and sexuality.

‘A lesser known story is that of the ‘Pig Man’ hunts that obsessed the congregations of New Haven. The poor dears in their infinite repression managed to convince themselves that certain men were secretly in league with the Devil to impregnate barnyard animals. The offspring would be Satan’s children walking the earth, wreaking destruction in their orderly Christian society. It seems the arrival of a deformed pig foetus was enough to incriminate the farmhand for ‘buggery’ and lead to his brutal execution. In a sick, paranoid society, no-one is safe.’

Watch ‘Pig Man’ here:

Tour dates with Corrosion of Conformity / Orange Goblin / Fireball Ministry

Oct. 26 – Engine Rooms – Southampton 
Oct. 27 – The Institute – Birmingham 
Oct. 28 – Rock City – Nottingham 
Oct. 30 – The Ritz – Manchester

Nov. 01 – Garage – Glasgow 
Nov. 02 – The Plug – Sheffield 
Nov. 03 – Cardiff University Great Hall – Cardiff 
Nov. 04 – The Forum – London

Black Moth Trees

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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