Posts Tagged ‘Riffs’

28th August 2020

James Wells

If a band can’t sell itself up, what hope have they for anyone else? So fair play to Horrible Youth, who pitch themselves as ‘an Icelandic five-piece sludge and grunge band that sprang to life in Oslo in 2016 and quietly recorded their stunning debut, Wounds Bleed.’

And you know what? It is stunning. ‘Monkeys’, the album first track is a low-tempo grunger that blends Nirvana and Metallica and ultimately comes on like Melvins – and if you’re going to for sludge and grunge, Melvins is the band against which any other is going to be judged.

The songs on Wounds Bleed are concise (the majority being under four minutes) and built around simple repetitive riffs cranked out with a big, overdriven guitar, and favouring the mid to lower ends of the EQ spectrum for a dense, murky sound. Only the cymbals crash through the

Single cut ‘Blissful Tropes’ brings a psych twist to the lumbering riffery, and it’s got hooks and weight in equal measure (it’s hardly a pop tune, but there’s a sinewy lead guitar behind the shouting), making it a standout on what is, undeniably, a really solid album.

It sure as hell ain’t soft or gentle, and doesn’t do the cliché ‘mellow’ track at the end of side one or anything, instead slinging riff after riff, with the rawness of Tad at their best. ‘Serve the Plague’ hits a particularly hefty, low-slung, goth-doom groove, and the tempo picking up around halfway through to thrash out a full-throttle attack.

Combining density and intensity, and packing a megalithic dose of angst, Wounds Bleed distils the sound of 1994 and turns the volume up to eleven, and the result is something special.

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Inside Out Music – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Almost 30 years into their career, Sweden’s Pain of Salvation, led by multi-instrumentalist Daniel Gildenlöw land a new album with the ambition of demonstrating that ‘Ultimately, progress will not be stopped’. They go on to unravel the details that ‘Pain of Salvation have been firmly at the forefront of the progressive rock and metal scenes for nearly three decades now’, and that ‘the Swedish band have consistently demonstrated a sincere passion for moving their own extraordinary music forward, while always remaining lyrically enlightened and ferociously intelligent. As a result, the band’s return in 2020 could hardly be better timed’.

The press release makes a gargantuan leap from the band’s formation and crash-lands us with a ‘Fast forward to 2020 [when] the world is in a state of disarray’. It makes sense in a way: we’ve all landed where with absolutely no fucking clue how 2020 actually relates to or connects with anything: the past has dissolved in a haze of time eroded to desert and a future that seems impossible. Chronology is utterly screwed. I can barely remember last week, or even what I had for dinner last night.

This is one of those multi-layered, multi-textured, multi-genred and highly detailed albums that is simply impossible to digest on the first few cycles. I sat, a shade bewildered, a tad giddy, and not just on account of a couple of strong, hoppy American IPAs down on an evening after three hours sleep the night before. The album’s first track, ‘Accelerator’ collides myriad elements, twisting together contemporary prog with an electronic twist, some dancy synths and some chugging industrial guitar riffage that slams in and it all coalesces to a bewildering sonic whiplash that works well and hits hard.

Next up, ‘Unfuture’ steps up the weight, slugging hard some industrial country with menace that’s a melange of Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails and it’s both brooding and heavy. And it’s clear that on Panther, PoS have hit their stride with optimum, riffage and a weight that achieves critical mass when it matters.

It’s not all good: the title track is a cringeworthy and incredibly dated-sounding stab at a hip-hop nu-metal crossover that doesn’t sit comfortably anywhere in 2020, let alone with the rest of the album, and when placed alongside contemporary grunge-tinged prog efforts like ‘Species’ – which comes on like Pearl Jam crossed with Amplifier – it just sounds odd.

Then again, songs like ‘Species’ bring full-blooded riffs and some solid overdrive, and the thirteen-minute finale, ‘Icon’, is the album’s ultimate pinnacle, as a snaking, picked lead guitar line rattles against its cage to twist around a gritty, thick-chorded riff. It yields to moments of folksy levity, but they’re gloriously crushed by the weight of big, grinding chuggery, not to mention a pyrotechnical guitar solo around the eight-minute mark. Miraculously, it actually works without sounding like indulgent wank, and that’s no small feat.

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Sky Valley Mistress, who release their debut album Faithless Rituals on 20th March, have shared new single ‘Punk Song’.

‘Punk Song’ is described by drummer, Max Newsome, as ‘the heaviest of jams, an album worth of riffs in six and half minutes. Nasa says this song is so dense it changed the earth’s orbit when it was written’.

Sky Valley Mistress spent 10 days recording at Dave Catching’s Rancho de la Luna studio in California, hanging out with the likes of Hutch (QOTSA’s ex sound man), Bingo (Mojave Lords), Chris Goss (Masters of Reality), Peaches and Arctic Monkeys who also dropped by during the stay.

The result of that meeting of minds and souls is the full spectrum stoner rock ‘n’ roll assault of Faithless Rituals.

Listen to ‘Punk Song’ here:

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31st January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Salvation Jayne have been regular features here for a while, and it’s been an enjoyable journey seeing them evolve. ‘Coney Island, Baby!’ is overtly rock, and continues the trajectory of its predecessors, but the verse nods at a post-punk vintage with its chorused guitar line.

Similarly, while it may lack both the hook-heavy immediacy of ‘Burn in Down’, ‘Coney Island, Baby!’ presents a different aspect of the band, and also showcases what some may call a more ‘mature’ approach to songwriting.

More of than not, ‘mature’ translates as middle-aged and dull, and it may lack the grunge-drive fire of ‘Cortez’, but in the context of ‘Coney Island, Baby!’ I’m talking restraint that precedes explosions, and nicely, because nuance and the measured slow-build intro give an even bigger impact. And let’s be clear here, the chorus still crashes in with some chunky riffage. It’s just more refined. It’s also a fist-pumping song of self-affirmation.

Is now a good time to sit down and discuss punctuation? Probably not, but it matters, and Salvation Jayne’s latest instalment inspires that conversation, however brief. ‘Coney Island, Baby!’ is a comma (and an exclamation mark) away from Lou Reid, and I’m going to assume it’s intentional given that its placement works in context. And for that, I like them even more, because nuance and detail matter, and besides, it’s a cracking single.

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December 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Having recently ben reduced to a two-piece, you might be forgiven for expecting Yur Mum to have gone quiet, but hell no. Having only released their debut single, ‘Road Rage’ in April 2018, they’ve packed in over 200 shows since their inception and won Tom Robinson’s backing with ‘Sweatshop’, the lead single from this self-released five-tracker.

They’re a band on the up in every sense, drawing reams of positive attention and for all the right reasons: they first came to my attention in their original triangular configuration while touring ‘Road Rage’ and supporting Svetlanas, and no two ways about it, they were outstanding and more than held their own even in the company of the ferocious firestorm of the Russian headliners.

This EP doesn’t disappoint, and is the sound of an act firing on all cylinders, and it blasts off in riffy style with ‘What Do You Want?’, which tears from the speakers with all the overdrive and locks into a hefty grunging groove. There’s grit and swagger and the incendiary guitar blisters and peels while Anelise Kunz delivers a full-throated roar and thunderous bass runs.

Aforementioned single ‘Sweatshop’ starts with a churning bass reminiscent of Shellac, and then the drums drive in and they pound at it, hard, for a hard-hutting two-minutes and twenty. This is grungy punk rock at its most exhilarating.

There’s no let-up with the title track, either, and if there’s a metal-edged 90s alt-rock tinge to it, then it’s al to the good: it’s les about originality and more about delivery, and Yur Mum showcase a knack for a strong delivery. Make no mistake: they’re pretty sodding heavy, and there isn’t a second where they sacrifice weight for melody, and ‘Rotten’ goes full L7/In Utero era Nirvana with roaring angst.

‘Closure’ does finally display a softer side, and there’s a pop aspect to it – in the same way Hole’s Live Through This had a pop aspect to it, blending dynamic range and a clear sense of tune with a gut-punching rhythm section and a raw edge.

Fuck it, for my last review of the year, and of the decade, I’ll put it out there: 2020 is going to be Yur Mum’s year. And if it isn’t, then I give up.

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MamaSkull

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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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