Posts Tagged ‘Riffs’

Christopher Nosnibor

Seems like gigs at the Vaults are cursed when I go. Just as headliners Witch of the East cancelled the last time I was down, so PAK40 have had to bail due to Covid. Yep, over two years on and it’s still having a significant impact on live music. But the good news is that REDFYRN are worth turning out for, as previous outings have shown, and even prior to PAK40’s withdrawal, it had the air of a double-header.

It’s fucking melting. I mean, I’m drinking cider, it’s that mafting. And I’m sweating it out faster than I can drink it. My skin is like a sieve or muslin bag. It must be absolutely punishing on stage.

Openers Beswick get off to a bit of a ragged start. But then, it is their first gig in three years, and they’re not looking like the kind of band who get tour-tight. It would be wrong to complain about the lack of guitar definition with a black metal band, and they lean towards the lower, slower end, where everything slips into a sludgy mid-range mesh, thanks to the five-string bass and seven-string guitar and the most fuckedest cymbal I’ve seen in use in a long time.

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Beswick

The main vocalist has three distinct styles: a penetrating, shivering squawk, a low growl, and a cleanish, atonal punk snarling shout, which actually works at least half of the time as they swing towards a dingy punk style at various points during the set. They do seem like a band in a bit of a stylistic quandary as they slither hither and thither, but they’re solid entertainment. The final song is a nod to their previous incarnation as Tokechamber, and sees the set conclude with billowing drone doom chords and feedback. I would have happily watched that for an hour.

REDFYRN start as they mean to go on, bringing the riffs slow and steady, with more five-string bass groove through an immense effects rack. The bassist has bounding energy, smashing every note with fists and feet, and the weighty guitars contrast with the soaring vocals. Big brave but stoner with a bluesy twist, chunky gritty riffs.

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REDFYRN

The solos aren’t overdone, and showcase the fact Cat Redfern is an excellent guitarist on a technical level as well as being a heavy hitter. She plays with only a handful of pedals, but a lot of crunch and a big dense sound and big volume.

A big hairy moshpit happened during the last song, and the half dozen beardy guys going crackers down the front was enough to bring the band back for one more, and they encore with ‘Unreal’, to an even more vibrant response. For a hot Thursday night when people would have likely been lured to a beer garden to toast the announcement of the Prime Minister’s departure, albeit at some time in the future, and for a stand-in headline slot, REDFYRN delivered a commanding performance and owned the night. Having only recently found themselves in headline slots, REDFYRN look ready to take it to the next level.

Human Worth – 3rd June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Because being in several awesome bands simply isn’t enough for some people, various members of Lump Hammer, Lovely Wife, Penance Stare, Möbius, Plague Rider have another band, the soft-sounding Friend. They’re practically a scene unto themselves, and you can pretty much guarantee that anything noisy emerging from Newcastle will feature one or more of James Watts, Tim Croft, and Skylar Gill – to the extent that the involvement of any one of them is essentially an assurance of quality. Putting the stamp on that assurance is the fact that Friend’s debut is being released by Human Worth, the London label that has, in a very short time, racked up an outstanding roster of new and established acts, all of a noisy persuasion, without a single weak release in their rapidly-expanding catalogue. And Friend’s Champion is a worthy addition.

It’s a proper gnarly take on the classic power trio format with driving riffs dominating from the opening bars. ‘International Top Bloke’ crunches in and batters away hard with a simple, cyclical riff reminiscent of Blacklisters; Tim’s guitar is so dense and dirty it sounds like guitar and bass all in one, while Gil’s drumming is megalith-solid, pounding away, nothing fancy, just all the heavy. And there, low in the mix, Watts gargles and gurgles tormentedly, sounding as if he’s being throttled by Satan’s very own flaming hands. As guttural growlers go, he is exceptional when it comes to channelling all shades of anguish by means of throat alone. But for all that, there’s a flicker of joy – or, perhaps more accurately, a cathartic release – which emanates from Champion.

The pitch is that they’re ‘pulling from influences ranging from Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins and Failure to Old Man Gloom, Floor and The Abominable Iron Sloth’ and while on paper it may seem an incongruous combination, in practise, it not only makes sense, but absolutely works.

‘The Beast’ is appropriately titled, for it is, indeed, an absolute beast. It begins with unexpected delicacy, a brittle, chorus-tinged guitar picked is as much The Cure as it is ‘Black Hole Sun’, but then the drums and distortion pile in and it’s a huge, throbbing surge of overloading sound that threatens to damage the speakers.

Whatever Geoffrey’s done, it must be pretty bad, as they rear through five minutes of bludgeoning brutality. There are some gritty, cyclical riffs reminiscent of Bleach-era Nirvana beneath it all, but the production is so dark and dirty the end result is wonderfully nasty sludge metal, then there’s ‘Dungeon Master’ that sounds like… well, it sounds like downtuned grinding hell. Not so much Sunn O))) as a total eclipse. Watts’ vocals aren’t the focal point: they’re another instrument (of torture) in the band’s arsenal or aural abrasion. If ‘Wellness’ seems to offer some light, some respite, it’s a pale, sick sense of hope that glimmers as Watts sounds like he’s writing through his last moments of torturous, gut-ripping pain.

The last two tracks – the eight-minute ‘Uncle Tommy’ and ten-minute ‘A Reminder’ combine to deliver a devastating finale. They’re so much more than heavy noise, too, with texture, tone, gradual builds and even moments that feel truly uplifting – even if they are blown away by bulldozing distortion. The former is a surprising blues / glam stomp, while the latter feels like an album’s worth of riffs of heavy metal thunder packed into a single track. It’s not only intense, but finds Watt’s deliver some audible lyrics, albeit briefly.

The word ‘friend’ may connote comfort, company, companionship, even cuddliness, and while the band offer none of these things, Champion does offer a kind of awkward solace through monster riffery and outpourings of angst. An album worthy of its title: proper champion.

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Two albums in and London’s Grave Lines, purveyors of ‘heavy gloom’ have already carved a unique niche in the myriad spheres of heavy music. Their first album Welcome To Nothing set the tone for their distinct take on doom metal, which was broadened even further with album two Fed Into The Nihilist Engine. An epic feast of hard ‘n’ heavy riffs coupled with brooding sadness interspersed with thoughtful transcendent moments of introspection.

Never a band to rely solely on trotting out those ‘doom metal’ tropes, the band began to weave in gothic and experimental elements into their music, to delve deeper into the dark shadows of the psyche.

Now with their third album Communion Grave Lines continue their exploration into the ugliness of the human condition, at the same time becoming a band that truly defies any pigeonhole.

Continuing to hone and evolve their collective vision and aided by the masterful production of Andy Hawkins at The Nave Studios, Communion sees Grave Lines creep further into the various corners of their sound.

In a nutshell Communion is a violent descent of bile-soaked intensity spiralling between filth laden swagger, and fragile mournful lament. The album delves into the internal aloneness of existence and the failings of the human connection.

Owing as much to Bauhaus and Killing Joke as it does to Black Sabbath or Neurosis, there are moments of gut wrenching doomed up heaviness and bellowing noise rock, contrasting with ambient gothic passages and a thoughtful melancholy, to a create a powerful new chapter in their ceaseless journey through the gloom. Listen to first single ‘Carcini’ now:

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Neurot Recordings – 6th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s something about Neurot: as a label, it certainly has a distinct ‘house style’, and if it does seem to be predominantly in the vein of Neurosis, then Ufomammut’s latest offering, Fenice,  is simultaneously definitive and a departure, in that it’s clearly metal in persuasion, and given to long, slow, and expansive workouts, with the majority of the album’s six pieces running (well) past the seven-minute mark. It’s delicately-paced, too: it’s not all a crawl, but the crescendos land a fair way apart and the build-ups are long and deliberate.

Opener ‘Duat’ is an absolute monster, clocking in past ten and a half minutes, and beginning with ominous dark ambience and slow to a crawl electronics, before a surging techno bass grind cuts through and pulses away. It’s three and a half minutes before the guitars pile in, and when they do, everything comes together to forge a piledriving industrial blast: for a moment, I’m reminded of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘March of the Pigs’, but then things switch again with a tempo change, slowing to a lumbering thud. It builds from there, and the final minute hits that sweet spot of pulverizing riffery that is pure joy. Ufomammut may be a ‘doom’ band by designation, but this is some of the most dynamic progressive metal you’ll hear.

Having set the bar so high so early, the challenge is, can they sustain it? ‘Kepherer’ is a dank, semi-ambient interlude that provides some much-needed breathing space. ‘Psychostasia’ starts off gently, but again, builds into a really slugger, the riff hard and repetitive, the vocals half-buried amidst overdrive and reverb, and it’s so, so exhilarating.

It takes an eternity of a slow, nagging cyclical motif, rich in chorus and reverb, before ‘Metamprphoenix’ breaks, and segues immediately into the throbbing behemoth that is ‘Pyramind’, where things do, finally, hit all-out doom grind with the heaviest, most crushing power chords. The bass goes so low that it practically burrows underground, while the guitars soar skyward. Closer ‘Empyros’ is the album’s shortest track, and it’s three minutes of punishing guitars that pick up precisely where ‘Pyramind’ leaves off and just drives and drives and drives, churning, hard, heavy.

If you’re seeking instant gratification, Fenice isn’t the album you want, but that doesn’t mean that it by any means feels drawn-out or like there’s much waiting involved: despite the lengthy songs, and the slow-builds, the textures and atmospheres are remarkable. I have a friend who loves his slow-burning metal and math-rock, but hates Amenra because he finds them insufferably tedious. Personally, I’m a fan, but I get the impatience, and it is largely around this kind of slow, earthy metal where time stalls and aeons pass between events, and the builds take several lifetimes to come to any kind of fruition – but this most certainly isn’t an issue for Ufomammut on Fenice. The compositions twist and turn and continue to not only hold the attention but to tug at the senses, keeping the listener on edge, poised, tense, expectant. And they always deliver on those expectations.

There is a clear and definitely trajectory here, too, building over the last three pieces to a point where the riffs are dominant – megalithic grinds that hit hard. Fenice makes you feel a broad range of things: boredom or disappointment aren’t among them. It does require some work, but it’s amply rewarded.

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25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

For the uninitiated, JW Paris is a band, rather than a person, and a band who’ve been described by 6Music’s Chris Hawkins as sounding like Joy Division.

It was around fifteen years ago when there was a huge buzz around emerging acts Interpol and Editors where all the hype was that they ‘sound like Joy Division’, and I rushed to check them out, and while I immediately loved both bands, my first reaction was ‘no, they don’t really.’ Yes, baritone vocals and post-punk guitars, throbbing bass… the elements were there, the influence was clear… but neither band sounded like Joy Division. But then, such is the length and darkness of the shadow cast by Joy Division, comparisons are invariably likely to build unrealistic expectations.

So I don’t expect ‘Electric Candle Light’, the fourth single from the ‘90’s grunge and Britpop inspired three-piece’ to sound like Joy Division – which is perhaps as well, because it doesn’t. But I’m not disappointed, and there’s certainly a Manchester vibe about them, despite their London base.

‘Electric Candle Light’ is a ramshackle lo-fi chunk of shaking rockabilly post-punk with a raucous lead guitar line that needles its way over a loose swaggering rhythm and has some catchy backing vocals zooming around in the mix.

‘Are you / see thru?’ Danny Collins questions, sounding more Mark E Smith than Ian Curtis, although the overall effect is a collision of The Fall and The Dandy Warhols. forging a zesty, spirited tune with bags of energy. Woohoo indeed.

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Pic by c24photpgraphy

18th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

So a quick scan back tells me I’ve been covering Salvation Jayne since they released ‘Burn it Down’ back in April 2017 – which actually predates their formation according to the bio on their own website. No, I’m not here to be pedantic, or explicitly to gloat about having been one of the first people to have ‘discovered’ them or whatever, but… well, there’s always a certain element of pride to know you spotted a talent, even of the talent introduced itself first.

They’ve come a long way since, and their debut album, A Mouthful Of Magnificent Spite is a very different beast from where they were back then. That said, they’re still big on attitude and choruses, only more so, and then some. You wouldn’t expect anything different from Chess Smith, who demonstrates a fierce – but friendly – drive to succeed where her musical career’s concerned. Salvation Jayne have never been hesitant about coming forward, and have sold out multiple headline shows as well as scoring notable support slots with the likes of Milk Teeth, Rews, Saint Agnes and The Subways.

That Mouthful is a proper album rather than an assemblage of tracks from previous EPs and singles – of which there is easily an album’s worth – tells us where the band is at. Forward-facing, creating, moving, and at pace. There’s a nod to ‘Burn it Down’ in the form of a fifty-second snip that acts as a bridge between ‘Diadem’ and ‘No Antidote’ (which is an instant classic, bringing together urgent and energetic drumming, chiming 80s indie guitar verses and a belting chorus with all the vocal power) but none of their previous singles make the cut here. Even 2021’s ‘Violent Silence’ is absent, and it makes sense: it’s too pop and doesn’t sit within the sequence, and it’s clear they’ve spent a long time working on making this a document of the band now. If ‘Cortez’ and ‘Coney Island, Baby!’ showed that they could do proper solid rock tunes with some chunky riffs, then A Mouthful Of Magnificent Spite realises that promise with wall-to-wall riffs.

‘Apathetic Apologies’ was perhaps an obvious choice for a lead video-single release: it’s kinda crisp and clean (although still boasts a thick bass sound) and eases the listener in with manifold layers and some nice production. It’s got big guitars and big production, and it’s overtly ‘rock’ but at the same time it’s easy on the ear and has clear radio airplay potential. Reflecting on this, for many bands, this would be an album or EP closer: it’s got anthem written all over it. So where do you go from here? Well, Salvation Jayne go into goth-tinged 80s alt-rock territory with the sultry, brooding ‘Diadem’.

They really crank up the riffage with ‘I Am Simply Not What You Thought’, a song they’ve been honing live over the last couple of years, and which has evolved substantially over that time. While the vocals remain melodic and harmonious, they’re not weedy or emo: this is full-lunged, solid rock to the core. And it’s sincere, and that sincerity imbues it with power beyond the drive of the guitars and powerhouse percussion. A Mouthful Of Magnificent Spite is brimming with passion, and you feel it .

The title track is a rollercoaster of emotion and stylistic switches, but hangs together perfectly, highlighting the band’s songwriting skills. The title track takes a turn for the heavy with some monster riffage in the last minute, and they go stoner on ‘Cody’, and they’d probably start bracing them selves for an arm-wrestle with Queens of the Stone Age before long.

‘Drink you Down’ swerves into 80s electro pop with a hint of shoegaze. It’s misty, but so, so buoyant, and the guitars take a back seat. You couldn’t say A Mouthful Of Magnificent Spite isn’t varied. It’s a fiery and exhilarating album that kicks arse from beginning to end.

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Artwork - Salvation Jayne

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a long time. An insanely long time. Apart from a brief spell where there were a handful of seated gigs on offer around August of last year, live music has been off the menu for the best – or worst – part of sixteen months, and a long, torturous sixteen months it’s been for so many of us – not least of all those whose livelihoods depend on it, but also for those of us who find comfort and catharsis in the experience, a few hours’ escape from the grind of daily life.

I haver to confess having anxietised over the prospect of attending my first live show since August 2020, since which time I’ve barely set foot in a pub or anywhere really, having been working from home since forever. Less fearful of Covid, more of social situations in general, fearful I’d lost the little social skill I had from before, I simply wasn’t sure what to expect, and the worst fear is the fear of the unknown, and this had perhaps tempered my immense excitement.

In the end, it transpired I needn’t have worried, and everything was nicely managed at the Victoria Vaults. They’ve moved the bar since I was last there, and the refit works well in making for a significantly bigger gig space and next to no bottlenecks, plus the bar staff were friendly and attentive with their table service – which was perhaps as well, because it was sweltering and needed to maintain a flow of cold cider.

Sitting just feet from a real drum kit with my shoulder against a PA stack felt great, and simply being back in that environment brought a great joy. Then there was the lineup: one of the last shows I’d seen, back in January 2020 had featured both My Wonderful Daze and Redfyrn. Both had impressed then, and given reason to come back for more. Although, of course, January 2020 feels like another life.

With King Orange having dropped off the bill without explanation, it’s a later start with Redfyrn straight on and straight in, with the power trio kicking out hefty blues-based grungy heavy rock with a sludgy/stoner vibe, driven hard by some crunchy 5-string bass. Cat Redfern’s soaring vocals are at times almost folksy, and contrast with the hefty lumbering riffs. Collectively, they’re tight, the songs textured and dynamic. There’s a lot of cymbal, but some proper heavy-hitting drum work and the sludgy sound is both steeped in 70s vintage and contemporary influence, resulting in some solid swinging grooves. The mix could have perhaps done with more guitar, but then I was sitting in front of the bass amp and about six feet from the drum kit. Closer ‘Unreal’ has bounce and grit and groove and is a solid as. The band were clearly pleased to be on stage again, and it came through in a spirited performance.

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Redfyrn

My Wonderful Daze’s singer Flowers may be feeling and looking a shade off colour but is in fine voice and all the better once she’s taken her boots off at least for a while. The band bring more big, lumbering riffs, and any concern they may have been rusty after the time out proves to be unfounded, because they’re tight – and loud. They bring all the rage early in the set, coming on more Pretty on the Inside – era Hole than Live Through This, more Solar Race than L7. It’s not long before she’s sitting down to sing because she’s dizzy, and yet still fucking belts out the angst, and despite visibly struggling throughout, it doesn’t affect things sonically: the band don’t just play on, but continue to give it their all. Watching this set really brings home just how hard bands work to do what they do. The slow-burning ‘Dust’ is something of an epic that’s emotionally rich and transitions from a gentle chime to some simmering power chords with some audience participation clapping to aid the build.

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My Wonderful Daze

They announce apologetically that they’re cutting set short to skipped to encore song Tommy for fear of fainting, but it’s a valiant effort and the right choice, although Flowers didn’t make it past the first verse before rushing from the stage. The rest of the band finish the song – and the set – with force, and all the credit to them for their consummate professionalism. Both bands did themselves truly proud, and delivered a great night, and hopefully the first of many.

6th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

As the band’s name suggests, their roots and influences lie very much in the spirit of 1977. The year which saw ABBA, Bread, The Eagles, The Shadows, Johnny Mathis, and Fleetwood Mac dominate the album charts, and the year’s best-selling singles being by the likes of Wings’ ‘Mull of Kintyre’ and acts like Leo Sayer, Brotherhood of Man, and Hot Chocolate here in the UK, will also be forever marked in history as the year punk broke. Alongside all the anodyne MOR pap and slock disco, 1977 also saw the release of Never Mind the Bollocks, The Damned’s Damned Damned Damned , The Clash’s eponymous debut, The Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch EP, and The Dead Boys’ Young Loud and Snotty, as well as classic releases by The Stranglers and Richard Hell & The Voidoids.

These, of course, are the seeds these guys are referring to, although they also draw on a host of other stylistic elements, ranging from psyche to glam, and in a title that seems to echo Sham 69’s ‘Borstal Breakout’, the sextet have forged their debut long player in lockdown. As the title suggests, they’re keen to escape this interminable drag and get the fuck back out there.

There’s a choppy ska-tinged guitar that leads the high-octane opener ‘Kick it Out’, which sets out their stall nicely. It’s unaffected, and while the playing it tight, the production is direct and unfussy. The wandering bass cuts through the trebly guitars and it demonstrates all the hallmarks of authentic punk.

With the majority of the tracks clocking in at around the three-minute mark, it doesn’t take long for them to power through thirteen songs, and they’ve totally nailed that three-chord chop. But there’s also a sense of crafting behind the songs, with a solid grasp of dynamic range, and if most of the choruses are more about everyone shouting the hook than any real harmonies – it’s true to the spirit of the genre, being hooky in that most primitive of ways: keep shouting it till it sticks.

Then again they throw in some curveballs – ‘Lost_Found’ is a soulful piano-led duetting ballad augmented by aching strings, where the hell-for-leather drumming is replaced by a subdued machine. Placed mid-album, it’s a touching tune that serves as an interlude before the full-on chug of ‘Reality Bites’. The switching of lead vocals between Vince Mahon and Michi Sinn adds to the album’s range and dynamism: they’re both strong vocalists, but distinctive stylistically, beyond the obvious male / female.

Seeds of 77 have got some solid riffs and catchy choruses, but it’s the bass that really makes the sound, going far beyond the thudding four-square to-the-floor thud that’s standard, and instead showing some real flair – and when trad punk bands are two-a-penny, those distinctions count for a lot.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Six months on from ballsy grunger ‘Underground’, Kath & The Kicks return with their fourth single, ‘I’m Alive’. The news of their being alive comes as something of a relief. It may sound like I’m being facetious – As usual – but I do mean it. Even before the pandemic, I’ve discovered people who’ve been off radar for a while are no longer with us, and in the last year or so, many of us have lost friends or relatives – not necessarily to Covid-19 – without being able to exchange our last words or see them that one last time.

For bands accustomed to working together, in a room, lockdown has impacted many, including Kath & The Kicks, who’ve had to adjust their approach in order to continue writing and recording new music, and ‘I’m Alive’ marks something of a stylistic shift from its predecessor.

‘I’m Alive’ starts out subtle, brooding, with lacings of post-punk draped around a soft, insistent bass and understated chorus-tinged guitar… and then when the chorus hits it absolutely erupts. Bass and guitars set to stun, it kicks in with maximum swagger and a deep, deep groove that’s hard and absolutely gripping, going straight for the jugular.

This is more stoner rock than anything else, for those set on genre: otherwise, it’s just a monumental riff-led beast of a tune which really showcases Kath & The Kicks’ versatility and their knack for monster riffs. What more do you need?

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Gas Lit is the new album by the multidimensional duo Divide and Dissolve, incoming on Invada Records on 29th January, and produced by Ruban Neilson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The album is preceded today by the second single and powerful video “Denial” which encapsulates their message behind the music: 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’s mighty new single “Denial” is a potent blend of ominous and unsettling sax that blows wide open into colossal riffs for almost eight glorious minutes. The accompanying video was shot in Taupo, Aotearoa by notable indigenous music video director Amber Beaton at the end of the southern hemisphere’s winter.

The vibrant, unfolding colours and delicate personality of the flowers at the beginning of the film have the potential to be in contrast with the intro of the song, but it’s actually escorted by it perfectly. It’s further varied with the colossal boom signalling the arrival of the guitars and drums while visually we start to explore the thermal grumblings of the Taupo volcanic zone. We follow the Huka falls/Waikato awa (Waikato river) up stream to settle into Taupo-Nui-A-Tia moana (Lake Taupo) as the return of the sax lulls us gently after being nourished so generously by Divide and Dissolve’s signature gargantuan tone. Thanks are given to the local Iwi\tribe Ngāti Tūwharetoa, the rightful guardians of the whenua/land and to Rūaumoko the god of volcanoes, earthquakes and the seasons.

Watch ‘Denial’ here:

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Divide and Dissolve image by Billy Eyers