BUNGLED, BOWIED AND BLIND EYED

OCTOBER & NOVEMBER REWIND: NEW DAMAGE FROM MR BUNGLE, OUTSIDE LIVE FROM DAVID BOWIE, PUNK RAGE BY BLIND EYE

Halloween feels like an age ago now but it’s worth a mention because it inspired some great BBC 6 Music radio that week. Mary Anne Hobbs declared it Metal Week, which meant that shards of experimental metal shredded her mid-morning playlists – Duma, Sunn O))), Venom Prison, Divide and Dissolve, Boris and loads more. Ace to hear all that cranking out the radio before lunchtime, a proper thrill for the work-at-home brigade.

We got a couple of big-name album releases in October that we just have to celebrate, but first we’ll do our usual Rewind thing with a couple of one-off tracks that leapt pretty high these past few weeks.

LUCIDVOX: Amok

DIY, punk, psych, riffs, Russian folk mystery … these are the words you’ll see in the Lucidvox Bandcamp bio. What Amok delivers is post something, but what? It rocks, but there are no hooks. Not really. Instead there’s insistent, mantra-like rhythm and momentum under rough, semi surf-metal guitars. Maybe even a painterly post-Beefheart lick in the second half. Art punk? Who knows. A curiosity piquer for sure.

PIJN: Denial (worriedaboutsatan mix)

Denial is the first track from Pijn’s 2018 album, Loss – 5 minutes of GY!BE meets Pelican-styled metallics. West Yorkshire’s worriedaboutsatan keep the weight intact but build a mechanical, moodier electro ambience that pushes Denial into the darker recesses of the night.

KLEIN: No More Shubz

Wow. Some music seems to work not in genres but in sculptures, but how can you write that without sounding like a total arse? Summery Jane’s Addiction acoustics and vocalisms dissolve into an amorphous blackened space which folds in and out of its 3D self. Like looking off the earth’s edge. How did we get here? True moment of wonder. Shubz this way.

Right, that’s the tracks done. Now for some longer forms.

MR BUNGLE: THE RAGING WRATH OF THE EASTER BUNNY DEMO

It never made sense hearing Mr Bungle described as ‘Mike Patton’s extreme metal project’ when he first joined Faith No More. As we know, each of their albums is the precocious opposite of one-genre limitations, but now we have the reason: their early The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo WAS metal. Thrash. But who knew? Barely anyone – Scott Ian excepted. For everyone else, Mr Bungle were Not Metal.

But 2020 Bungle is. This is Very, Very Metal, as the bastardisation of the logo shows. Anyone looking for Mr Bungle’s cross-genre perversions will be disappointed, but really, who’s not gonna get their oversized old-school grin on to this 56-minute batshit joyride? Mike Patton, Trey Spruance, Trevor Dunn and new recruits Scott Ian (56) and Dave Lombardo (55) annihilate – and they’re having blast. It’ll take a while for the zillion-plus riffs to sink in and the Bungle complexities to surface (surely they’re in there?), but this is one of the least expected and most welcome arrivals of the year. Does it rock? Fuck yeah! Bungle Grind is just one of many full-tilt highlights so buckle up and file it next to your Dead Cross and Anthrax maximum bpms. 100% unlike any other Mr Bungle. 100% Mr Bungle. Of course.

DAVID BOWIE: OUVREZ LE CHIEN

While Mr Bungle are in their fifties playing the music of their own youth, David Bowie was doing no such thing when he approached the big five-oh. In 1995, aged 48, he was doing his last bit of boundary-pushing with Outside and then Earthling a couple of years later.

For anyone who loves mid 90s Bowie and didn’t get to see his live shows of the time, they’re the stuff of dreams – especially the collaborative US tour with Nine Inch Nails. And so this new batch of live recordings from Dallas, October 13th, 1995, is for us. None of the Nine Inch Nails collaborations are included, but the fearless setlist is exactly what we want to hear. No Starman, no Life on Mars, no Ziggy, no Changes, none of the obvious 70s gear. Instead, six tracks from Outside, Look Back in Anger and Nite Flights. Andy Warhol, electrified into jerky, awkward full-rock action. The Man Who Sold the World, revamped bass-heavy atmospheric and miles better. Joe the Lion, roaring. And to hear Mike Garson and Reeves Gabrels lay their untamed gifts all over the show? YES. It’s a crack Bowie band, this.

(the second CD in this live series, No Trendy Rechauffe from Birmingham, December 13th, 1995, has just been released. Similar tracklist but some good switches too. Stream it if you can or check davidbowie.com for whatever comes next).

BLIND EYE: BLIND EYE

Not an October release but definitely new enough to incude is the first release from Nottingham’s Blind Eye. Devoid of all finesse, this is fast, loose punk hardcore with no smooth edges and even less polish. Early Motorhead, Discharge and Minor Threat inform the abrasive pace, except for 9-minute closer End which swerves into the kind of burnout you’d get from The Heads. Wakey wakey.

’til next time!

If Mr Bungle has stoked a Patton revival, here’s a bit more wordage – a Halloween playlist and a quickie Dead Cross write up

HAIRY HALLOWEEN III

What’s that creaking and groaning? Ghosts? Vamps? Haunted floorboards?

No. It’s a barrel being scraped … welcome to a Halloween playlist that doesn’t even have a proper theme. Last year we had a bunch of creep-o cover versions, now we’re just repeating a formula – metallic spook ’em up tunes, retro-naff rock vids, seasonal nostalgia, you know the score – and beating it into a shallow grave, just like any good slasher film franchise.

But what mood are we going for this Halloween? Let’s use album cover art as yardsticks. If we get it right, we have summat that feels as good as this artwork looks:

the right vibe

If we get it a bit wrong:

not right, is it?

And if it’s a disaster…

???????????????

Let the music begin.

SECRET CHIEFS 3 – UR – Pesonnae: Halloween Mix III
Holy disco volante! Mr Bungle have a new album out TODAY, twenty bloody years after the last one and it couldn’t be better timed, so let’s use that event to milk a Trey Spruance connection – let’s fill our sweetless buckets with this, a Season of the Glitch version of the mother of all chiller theme tunes.

CATHEDRAL – Funeral of Dreams
Halloween nights are damp. And draughty. And nothing captures damp draughts quite like Cathedral. Must be the flares. Obviously, they’ve got oodles of doom crawlers in their back catalogue but that’s not what we want today – we want some sort of pulse, not flatlines, and this little tinker has an unholy blend of right-on riffage, ghost choir, church bells and general tippy-toe creepabouts. Sorted.

ADAM AND THE ANTS – Ants Invasion
Nothing builds tension quite like a man running away from … ants. Does it? Erm … anyway, check the terror elements packed into this deeper Wild Frontier cut: scratchy-ominous guitar motif. Time running out. Wrong decisions. A lifeless man, a strange incision. Fear. ANTS. Fucking ants, man. Biting guitars, mind.

ELECTRIC WIZARD – Wizard in Black
Dopethrone is more celebrated, but Come My Fanatics is more B-movie, and right now we’re all about the low budgets. And tiny drums. And a Hammer House Satan opening his bowels in the background. A double-wizard bonus, does it get any more Halloween than this?

HELLOWEEN – Kids of the Century
Helloween aren’t remotely Halloween, except their track Halloween (which is totally Halloween but a bit long. Great intro though). Anyway, the metal pumpkins are here, as are fried egg eyes, forks, bloody hands, floating guitars and shite-knows-what. YES.

SLAYER – Gemini
You can’t beat a slow thrash for maximum intensity … hang on what is this, S&M Weekly? NO. It’s Slayer, crushing bones with their super slow serial killer intro thing. No kinks in this one.

CLIPPING – Nothing is Safe
You know when you watch a fire and get mesmerised by the flames, so much so that you don’t realise you’re getting closer and closer until you smell your own eyebrows burning? That’s a bit what this is like. All hail Clipping.

ALICE COOPER – (He’s Back) The Man Behind the Mask
It’s hard to believe that videos like this ever got made, such is their monumental shitness. But they did, and all Halloweens from then on are eternally grateful. Aren’t we? [Smashed pottery spoiler alert: HE’S OUT OF CONTROL].

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, see you in the Sinister Funkhouse. No?

VAN HALEN: Fair Warning

BEFORE THE CABARET: A DARKER TURN

Note: This review was started and left unfinished months ago, long before Eddie Van Halen left us. But the notes informed this EVH post and some of its sentiment will be repeated here. RIP EVH.

Why are we wrapped up in Fair Warning?

This time, it’s because of Music Blues. The suicidal filth scuzz guitar draaaaag Music Blues. The Van-tithesis Music Blues. How so? Well, by my amateur reckoning, the diabolical dirge crawling out the back end of Things Haven’t Gone Wellreviewed right here – just has to be a deranged warping of Van Halen’s strangest moment, and that moment happens to be on Fair Warning. Which means it’s Fair Warning replay time. Again.

Fair Warning: less cheer

Every time I play this 31-minute 17-second gem, bought long after my first Van Halen love-in (a summer ’91 purchase of I, II, Women and Children First, and the then-new F.U.C.K.) wore off, it’s a reminder of how much it caught me off guard. Still does. It’s Shock and Awe with a smile, as the best Van Halen always is, but with less sunshine. With Fair Warning, you get no cover versions. No ballads. No cheese. No synthy rock-lite breezers. Even the artwork tells you a different mood is lurking … how un-Halen is that painting on the cover? Absolutely nothing like the action band shots of before. Fair Warning is where Van Halen Gets Serious – well, as much as they ever could – by turning the VH attack into something a little tougher and meaner …

…which brings us to track 1. Mean Street.

What an opening. Fading in fast on a cosmic fretboard wave, the intro swoops and hangs for a second like a UFO beaming an unearthly rock entity into your brains. GAWP TIME. But the best comes next – a standalone riff, pure A.F., bridging to an almost-funk full-band VH groove that drives HARD. No indulgence, no hanging around. Just effortlessly dextrous interplay which shows that Eddie’s liquid rhythm is easily the equal of his virtuo-so-hot leads.

For a masterclass in how to use space in a rock song, check the breakdown at 3′ 20”. It’s one of their weapons: knowing when to break down, drop out and rebuild a song is a massive part of their explosive early vibe. It’s what separates Van Halen from itself, too – those first four albums are a stylistic block, distinct from what came later. There’s a precision around each instrument that’s ultra clean and cut-throat sharp. No bleed.

And let’s not forget that, with Mean Street, Fair Warning has a track #1 that matches the insanely high bar set by Van Halen’s previous album-starters Running With the Devil, You’re No Good, and And the Cradle Will Rock. Heavy menace radiates from each.

With a start like that, what else do you need? Reassurance that things don’t dip into farce? No need to fret. “Dirty Movies” rubs sliding riffy sleaze up against Michael Anthony’s immoveable bass, Sinner’s Swing! shifts like a rough Hot for Teacher prototype, and the 2′ 44” breakdown in Hear About It Later is one of many Eddie Moments – check that rhythm play, just before the solo. Sweet.

We could go on, but this review is already too indulgent so let’s skip to the un-Halen ending.

So This Is Love? is the last track of lit-up harmonies before a two-part downer finale, starting with Sunday Afternoon in the Park – the one copped by Stephen Tanner in Music Blues, the electronic instrumental that’s part symph, part dying cyborg. Really? Yeah. You can see where 1984 (the track) came from, right here in this John Carpenter-ly chill. Then One Foot Out the Door fades in with a couple of verses and two Eddie solo flurries that absolutely burn before the fade to black. It’s as if they decided halfway through that they didn’t need a proper song so they ditched the lyrics and Eddie just played the shit out of what was left, calling it a wrap in under 32 minutes.

This is what makes Fair Warning a really great Van Halen record: the unresolved ending and the out-of-character electronics that sign off half an hour of hard-rock manna. Sure, there’s a lot more to peak Van Halen than just Eddie, especially the rhythm section and vocal harmonies, but the joy you get from hearing him play gives you a lift, even when you’re already flying. It’s fucking exciting. And you’re struck by how much he plays too, never stopping but never overplaying either. Room to shine? Absolutely. Out of control? Never. Look how short the running times for those early albums are. All virtuosity is within the structure of the song.

No-one’s pretending Van Halen are the band you’d take to your grave, even though many will. But if you haven’t heard Fair Warning, either because you just never got round to it or because Van Halen are a joke to your metal sensibilities, you’re missing out. It’s Van Halen with zero weaknesses – and not even the debut managed that (hello, Ice Cream Man). If it doesn’t convince, fair enough. But to me, Fair Warning is the strongest eruption from the white-hot years.

And if it’s good enough for Music Blues …

Van Halen: Fair Warning (Warner Bros, 1981)
Mean Street
“Dirty Movies”
Sinner’s Swing!
Hear About It Later
Unchained
Push Comes To Shove
So This Is Love?
Sunday Afternoon In The Park
One Foot Out The Door

Eddie Van Halen … overlooked?

EDDIE VAN HALEN PASSED AWAY YESTERDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2020.

Is it possible for the most influential guitarist of his generation, a guy whose band was one of hard rock’s biggest-selling stadium-slaying behemoths, to be overlooked?

I think maybe, and here’s why: it’s because we’re too cool. At least, we think we are. Maybe not all the time, but enough to overlook Van Halen’s musicianly credibility. And why do we do this? Because of Jump. Because of mega sales. Because of hair, smiles, girls, lights, showmanship, entertainment, innuendo, feuds, all that stuff. Because Van Halen weren’t alt, avant, art, fringe, prog, hostile, underground or anything ‘credible’ once you’d discovered thrash, grunge and the Lollapalooza bands. They were a catchy California sunshine crew at a time when Seattle matched our late adolescent moods better. So, we moved on. Sidelined the records we’d bought when younger, denied them as we got a little older. Van Halen are a band it’s easy to be a bit sniffy about.

But this isn’t cool. This is Poserville, a place we’ve all visited and maybe even stayed a while. It’s important to see the place, sure – but you’ve got to leave.

Eddie’s death might prompt more of us to leave. It might get more people to simply sink into the glory of Van Halen’s prime, whichever track, album or era it might be for each person, because there IS glory in those records. Not everything for everyone, though that may be true for some. But there is something for pretty much anyone – just gotta dig around and listen with guards dropped and scepticism binned. Then enjoy Eddie and his band’s music for what it is: highly musical, highly melodic pop-formatted rock with revolutionary playing that never gets in the way of a song. Ever. They were a song band, a popular song band, not a deep band or an issues band or a muso band, and this is why Eddie’s ability could be overlooked by the broader music world and the more tribal music fans.

Van Halen entertained and delivered a good time. They just happened to have one of the all-time rock sound innovators within. They didn’t really step outside that. Didn’t do a Beatles, didn’t do a Radiohead. But the guitar playing was already far enough ahead and the first album proves it. So do the next three.

There are many people who’ve passed away whose music means a lot more to me than Van Halen’s does, and yet I felt the need to write a little something. I think it’s because there’s conflict between what we think Van Halen is/were, which puts us off, and the pure joy (and awe) that comes from the best of their music when you play it and surrender to it. Going back to those first albums is revelatory. And they make you feel good, too. They are celebratory.

But if you need an outsider musician’s validation before giving yourself permission to cue up a Van Halen record, check Julian Cope’s review. He knew. His review might even get you to read David Lee Roth’s Crazy From The Heat (it persuaded me and was entirely worth it).

Right then. Better get on with that review that’s stalled, unfinished. So long, Eddie.

KING BUZZO’S OFF-KILTER ACOUSTICS

SEPTEMBER REWIND: NEW BUZZ. THAT’S IT

Yet again, September was Slayer heavy – it often is, don’t know why. Maybe it’s because a fair few of their albums got released around this time of year: Divine Intervention, God Hates Us All and Repentless all came out in Septembers past, Seasons in the Abyss was October. Maybe it’s because my own Slayer initiation was at the start of uni when a second-year student did me a Reign/South tape and Slayer finally clicked. Either way, Slayer fits autumn. Something feels very right about having your cool-aired mornings soundtracked, sped up and brutalised by Repentless and the still insane, still wholly OTT God Hates Us All. Dave Lombardo kills, but so does Paul Bostaph.

Anyway, new stuff? Not got round to much in September, so this will have to do.

KING BUZZO – Gift of Sacrifice
Buzz Osbourne put out his second solo acoustic album late August. Wrapped around Trevor Dunn’s elegant upright bass, it charts Melvins ground – I swear Housing, Luxury, Energy hangs off half a Stoner Witch riff or something, haven’t worked it out yet – but draws different textures and is, at times, mournfully heavy. There are no drums. There is no electric guitar. If you like Melvins, and especially Melvins Lite’s Freak Puke, you’ll take to this. Gift of Sacrifice is pretty short (35 mins) and the last 2 tracks are less essential, but the rest is easily Buzz/Dunn cool enough to justify your time. How his first acoustic album, This Machine Kills Artists, compares, I don’t know. Never bothered with it. But this one channels Melvins’ odd-spook very nicely.

Elsewhere, Budos Band and similarobjects – Amon Tobin psyche with Squarepusher turbo squelch? – barf collider-scopic worldly trips.

And some very exciting new stuff for October:
Robert Plant – Digging Deep: Subterranea anthology, released Oct 3rd
Clipping – Visions of Bodies Being Burned, released Oct 23rd
Carcass – Despicable EP, released Oct 30th
Mr Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo, released Oct 30th
David Bowie – Ouvrez le Chien (Live Dallas ’95), released Oct 30th

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

MUSIC BLUES: Things Haven’t Gone Well

HARVEY MILK SOLO MAKES MUSIC FOR BREAKDOWNS

An absolute hulk of a slow-chord surge opens the album in short but wildly heroic style. 91771 is slow enough to be doom but nowhere near sombre enough as it pulls you into the euphorically funereal, if that makes any sense. Drone and sustain pumps your veins with noisy nutrients. Feels good.

This is Music Blues, the solo project of Stephen Tanner, Harvey Milk bassist. 2014’s Things Haven’t Gone Well is his first, and so far only, solo record.

Shame. Things Haven’t Gone Well belongs in anyone’s sludge-noise collection, down at the squalid end where the fuck-ups and failures hang out, and Tanner trades on two strands of guitar-driven dronedoom: one is total pessimism, the kind that beats you down with airless oppression. The other is total pessimism piss-streaked with rock-ist uplift, like 91771 (Tanner’s birth date), and it’s those rock-acknowledging downers that make the record work, though you gotta be patient. Aside from those, a couple of short clips from the Tom Waits School of Freak keep the album broken and fragmented. There are no vocals.

Things Haven’t Gone Well … no shit

The autobiographical PREMATURE CAESAREAN REMOVAL DELIVERY follows straight on from 91771’s colossal awe, but the euphoric touch has evaporated to leave skeletal chords slamming. HOPELESSNESS AND WORTHLESSNESS and FAILURE’s Sunn O))) stylings lift the mood not one bit, and wedged between them is TRYING AND GIVING UP. Get through the defeated first drag and you’ll hear a guitar morph from death-slow one-chord reps to a rough-as-fuck blues lick drowning in diesel dregs. It’s the slowest, grimiest 12-bar you’ve never heard. ZZ Top on a dying battery.

Seven tracks in, you might feel there’s not much to grab hold of. You’d be right. 91771 and a mutant Texan blues tip is scant return.

But IT’S NOT GOING TO GET BETTER is where it picks up (relatively) after the ghostly DEATH MARCH interlude. Here we get guitar breaks and a real human touch instead of blackout basement isolation. Thick, sludgy beauty with light. It crushes, but it’s the crush of a communal gig pile-on.

Then the big one: TREMENDOUS MISERY SETS IN. Tremendous misery – nice. TMSI is final proof that, even on an album as depressed and damaged as this one seems, Stephen Tanner has a Propensity to Rock Out and here his Harvey Milk spilleth over in that Corrosion of Conformity-channelling-Thin Lizzy way, but inebriated, messy and mournful. ’tis majesty on a slow repeat. Then THE PRICE IS WRONG conquers all with a massive Rock ending, completing the album’s transformation from No Hope to Slight Hope.

The closing BONUS TRACK just has to be a Van Halen tribute – not Massive Hits Halen but Weirdo Least Halen, aka Sunday Afternoon in the Park from their toughest (best?) Fair Warning album.

Which means we’ve got a noise rock record that ploughs mental breakdown and dark autobiography, touches on ZZ Top and CSNY (Teach the Children) and ends with a Van Halen freakball …

… sounds about right. Things Haven’t Gone Well comes across as a journey through grief – it nails the slow, draining, disorienting feeling and physicality that grief brings, yet it’s distracted and sketchy too. Music Blues might be depression as expression, but in the end Tanner can’t restrain his need for primal oversized riffs. You can’t keep that down.

Things Haven’t Gone Well (2014, Thrill Jockey Records)
91771
Premature Caesarean Removal Delivery
Teach the Children
Hopelessness and Worthlessness
Trying and Giving Up
Great Depression
Failure
Death March
It’s Not Going to Get Better
Tremendous Misery Sets In
The Price is Wrong
Bonus Track

THE DAMAGE MANUAL: 1

INDUSTRIAL POST-PUNK LEGENDS FORM 2000 SUPER COLLIDER

When A Perfect Circle did When the Levee Breaks for their eMOTIVe album, they pulled off a smart reworking that stripped it of Zep’s defining feature – Bonham’s heavy authority – and completely rewired it. Instead of thunder, we got rain. Gentle, hypnotic, tinkling rain. It’s a classy, masterful take.

Damage Manual offer no such subtlety on SUNSET GUN, the opening shot from their 2000 EP, 1. The Levee lift is huge.

Which would rightly be condemned as a lack of imagination IF the band didn’t already have 20-plus years of experience, weren’t among the most influential musicians of the post-punk generation, and didn’t convert it into a super-amped contemporary crossover. But they do, they are and they did. A jittery cut-up intro unleashes a Headley Grange-sized beat while a swirling riff channels the Four Symbols Page drone.

Who’s behind this collision of tech-ness and beast rock?

Geordie Walker, Martin Atkins, Jah Wobble, Chris Connelly.

Killing Joke, Public Image Limited, Revolting Cocks.

Damage Manual.

Credentials or what?

The Damage Manual: 1

After that killer start, DAMAGE ADDICT pulls a big-time Wobble with some enormo-dub space bass that bottles the PiL spirit but, crucially, is less cold, less austere. Instead, it carries a real sampler’s vibe. Smell the RevCo.

And with those two tracks, you’re set for the rest of the EP. It does sound like component parts pulled together, but the result is far more organic and flowing than factory line assembly. It zips with fresh edge, psyche trips and beat-heavy production. Whether it was the vigour of the mid/late 90s crossover scenes that re-energised these 40-ish year-olds, I don’t know, but Damage Manual sounds free and vital. Definitely got a kick.

SCISSOR QUICKSTEP discharges mechanised punk over playful bass, while BLAME AND DEMAND is another bass and drum monster where Geordie’s guitar burns hard through early PiL-style rhythms. Possibly the EP’s defining track.

Wrapping up the session before a couple of remixes is LEAVE THE GROUND, an end-of-gig trashing where Connelly’s up-front falsetto falters like gutter Bowie while industrialised rhythms beat the melody down. “More human contact will just make you ill…” is Connelly’s fading refrain. Oddly apt for our COVID-19 days, two decades later. And Geordie is more unleashed here than you’ve ever heard him.

Anyway, that’s it: 1 by Damage Manual. All songs are credited equally to all four players. Sunset, Damage and Blame distil the PiL/RevCo/KJ spirits most obviously, while the other two – remixes excepted – bring the quirk and the range. But what really grabs when you listen to it again is the force of Geordie Walker’s guitar tone. He’s always been His Own Voice, but with Killing Joke on a continuing cycle of top grade albums, it’s easy to forget just how distinctive he is. Seeing KJ live is one way to keep your complacency in check. Hearing him somewhere else – like this – is another.

But I mention Geordie only because his is the parent band I’m most familiar with. Every player here is a full-on personality and you get it all. No-one dominates. No-one sits back. Vital stuff. Prepare to be sucked down a Killing Joke/PiL/Waxtrax sinkhole when you’ve played it.

Damage Manual: 1 (2000, Invisible Records)
Sunset Gun
Damage Addict
Scissor Quickstep
Blame and Demand
Leave the Ground
Bagman Damage
M60 Dub

Damage Manual put a self-titled album out the same year which is equally worth checking. The four remixes on the end dull the album’s impact a bit – perils of the CD age, they’d be better off on a separate disc but the core nine tracks are maximum Damage

 

WORLD WENT MAD. JAZ WENT BLACK AND RED

JULY & AUGUST REWIND: JAZ COLEMAN, CLIPPING AND DUMA BRING THE URGENCY

What’s the big metal news of the last month? Metallica’s S&M2, of course – unless you hate Metallica, in which case the simultaneous ending of their Metallica Mondays gigs will be the bigger treat.

The S&M2 release won’t be exactly the same as last October’s cinema version, though I’m not sure what’s changed (haven’t played the DVD yet) but let’s hope it’s nothing too major. The original cut was musical cine-manna to me and damned near untoppable.

Right then, now for some scattered new tunes, including Nairobi noisecore from Kenya’s most extreme musical export. Probably. And you’ve GOT to stick around for that … haven’t you?

FRAN LOBO – Monster

Danceable industrial beats infused with liquid, near-gospel vocals …Fran Lobo’s Monster feeds our musical need for connection, shared experience and movement, somehow blending hard-edged rhythm and soul in a very heavy duty hip shifter. Welcome to a new church.

SHACKLETON/ZIMPEL – Primal Forms

Got 17 minutes to fill? Try this hypnotic body-soul stretch of hum, thrum, clarinet, electronics and shiteloads more. Always moving, always shifting focus, Primal Forms feels like an unfolding voyage through jazz-minded primal trance. To where? Wherever your headspace dictates. And if that happens to be an imagined mountain ensemble with urban tech trappings, fair enough.

CLIPPING – Say the Name

Candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned. So goes the chorus. No punches pulled, it looks and feels like social comment even though it continues the horror themes of There Existed an Addiction to Blood last year. But you’d expect nothing less from Clipping, and whatever concept drives their next album Visions of Bodies Being Burned (due in October), it will be timely and it will say something. Check the lyric video for Say the Name.

DUMA – Lionsblood

Duma’s album is reviewed in this month’s Metal Hammer. They’re a two-piece from Nairobi. And once you’ve heard this track, you’ll be giving massive credits to Mary Anne Hobbs for playing it on the radio at 2.50pm on a Thursday afternoon on BBC 6 Music. It’s like being trapped under a pneumatic drill with black-metal screams. Total overload and a mind-clearingly hostile assault …. burn your ears through Bandcamp then open your eyes to the lo-fi creepster vid.

BLACK AND RED – On the Day the Earth Went Mad

Jaz Coleman hooks up with didgeridoo ace (yes) Ondrej Smeykal under the Black and Red banner to give us exactly the kind of thing we want and need from His Jaz-ness – social comment with a bruising backdrop. Unlike his Killing Joke voice, there is no roar from JC here. Instead, On the Day…. sees him singing with restraint over crunching electro menace, intermittent shards of distortion and church-like symphonic swells, forging elegance and class from destruction and collapse. It’s the sort of thing Ministry should have grown into but never did. Looks like Coleman stepped up instead. Good job.

If that wasn’t enough of a Coleman hit for the month, he and Youth put out their Occular record – not a Killing Joke wannabe but an ice cool flow of instrumentals. Get a sample.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

MINISTRY: Dark Side of the Spoon

PLUNGING THE INDUSTRIAL QUAGMIRE
Chasing a high speed Ministry fix? Just press play – and then leave the building in three minutes. Dark Side of the Spoon is a trudge through a dead man’s blues.

Dark Side of the Spoon by Ministry

Not that you’d know that from the whipcracker opener Supermanic Soul. As insane and ridiculous a start as Ministry ever did, it packs the same dry yammer beat as The Land of Rape and Honey’s The Missing but is heavier, and then WAY heavier – just wait for the second guitar to drop its motherlode, it’s absolutely filthy. More a corroding quake than a riff, it’s one of those WAAAAA! moments on a shit-hot track where Al Jourgensen sounds insane throughout, cooking his voice into a bubbling garble to match the heroin reference of the album title.

Ministry then punch the decelerator for a minute or four. Whip and Chain broods gothic heaviosity on a two-chord crush – kinda like The Fall from Filth Pig – before Bad Blood flirts with a metronomic pace pick-up, which makes you think that Dark Side’s going to drop some some nippier Ministry morsels after Filth Pig’s murk

but no. That’s it, speed freaks, so unbuckle up and prepare to crawl. Eureka Pile slows the pulse with worm-shaker bass and space, loads of it, round a faltering riff, and this is the truth of where Ministry are/is on DSOTS. The music here isn’t the mechanised industrial metal attack of old. It’s flawed and damaged by fingertips with destructive prints. The mess-age is human, and Filth Pig was no aberration. It was a sign.

Mid-album oddball Step swings, literally, like an out-of-character gatecrasher before the album lurches back to Dark Side’s draggy mid-tempo type and sticks there. The slow-pick banjo and skidding sax on Nursing Home conjure hazy, vaguely middle Easternalia, while the freakish bass on Kaif – crumbled by distortion – is nothing less than monstrous. Definite high points, those two.

By the time we get to Vex & Siolence, we’re defeated. Lyrics reference ‘a fading memory’, and whatever those words actually refer to, they’re an apt descriptor for what the old-school Mind/Psalm-era Ministry has become – a memory. There’s little here to evoke their pre-Filth Pig firepower. Jourgensen’s flat intonation suggests a body that’s heavy, weary and about to give up. Life is leaking away. Maybe it just doesn’t care. Electrifying solo, though.

And this is the mood of the album, to me. It’s a band in the pits, resigned to the end-life, unable to stop yet still pulling out the quality – they’re just pulling it in a wildly different direction to many fans’ expectations. Is it down to peak substance abuse and the collapsing relationship between Jourgensen and Paul Barker? Yes. But it makes for a compelling album that’s far better than critical indifference that flops around it.

10/10 ends the album in 7/4 time with energy and optimism, or maybe it’s just relief. There are no vocals. Saxophone flurries take the voice’s place, as if the body (band?) died and now we’ve finally got some respite with crunching metallic loops for company.

We know that Neil Young recorded his ‘ditch trilogy’ in the 70s. Dark Side of the Spoon may well be the mid-point of Ministry’s own three-part ditch hell, completed by 2003’s Animositisomina. After that, from Houses of the Mole onwards, they opted for machine riffs, speed beats and megaphone sloganeering which set the direction, more or less, for Ministry from then till now – fast and metallic, more direct. Dark Side of the Spoon is messy, stumbling and adrift, not so much a downward spiral as a sunken one.

But if you’re open to that kind of mix, it’s one of their best – maybe also their most varied after Land of Rape and Honey – and a showcase for Jourgensen’s production, even if, as he says in Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen, he can’t remember making it. Fathom THAT.

Ministry: Dark Side of the Moon (Warner Bros, 1999)
Supermanic Soul
Whip and Chain
Bad Blood
Eureka Pile
Step
Nursing Home
Kaif
Vex & Siolence
10/10
+ hidden track

ONE DAY AS A LION: One Day As A Lion

DISTORTED AGITATION FROM DE LA ROCHA AND QOTSA DRUMMER
Given that the world has been spiralling to shit, you might have found yourself reaching for angrier music more often. I have. Music that’s got the gravitas, the provocation and the intellect to somehow document and deal with the insane wrong-ness of dumbfuck cops killing black people, and dumber-fuck ‘cenotaph protectors’ destroying Black Lives Matter protests in the false name of monument-al preservation. Dipshits and hackle raisers. No wonder Terrace Martin’s Pig Feet, wrapped and dropped within days of George Floyd’s killing, hits so hard. Pig Feet does not flinch.

Neither does Zack de la Rocha. His full-tilt delivery always captures these moments and even now, aged 50, he’s got the fury – check the explosive verse in Run The Jewels’ JU$T for evidence of that. His voice is the sound of a fight. But with Rage Against the Machine, it battles with another wild voice – Tom Morello’s guitar – and winds up less prominent in the rock orthodoxy of the RATM set up.

Maybe this is why he’s been such a serial collaborator since RATM last put a record out. Those guest slots put his voice up front, give it room, give it oxygen. They make his words flammable.

This is also true of the short-lived 2008 project with Jon Theodore, One Day As A Lion. As a primal drum-bass effort where the voice gets a 5-track vent, it’s way less Rock than Rage – got a raw urgency and a just-produced-enough attitude that’s clammy with rehearsal-room heat. Nothing arena-sized, no anthemic hooks, no guitar, just a very live-sounding gig stripped back to stiff rhythms and hard words. And with Theodore, ex Mars Volta and now Queens of the Stone Age, behind the kit, you know the drums are solid. His beats aren’t minimal, but neither are they fussy. They are, somehow, hip-hop friendly.

One Day As A Lion EP

Life beyond Rage

Wild International‘s petro-fumed groove is the mid-tempo starter that smoulders rather than explodes, like it’s on cruise control looking for a target. Downtuned bass riffs swell for the chorus, thick and sticky not liquid slick, and this track sets the vibe for the whole EP. The tempo (agitation?) picks up for Ocean View, Last Letter and One Day As A Lion, while If You Fear Dying locks onto the same spacious groove as Wild International. Other than that, you know roughly what you’ll get, track to track – unlike, say, Saul Williams’s self-titled conflict-zone masterpiece of hip hop, poetry, electronic, industrial and spoken word from 2004 (where Zack winds the tension on Act III Scene 2 [Shakespeare]).

One Day As A Lion don’t do genre hops and mood shifts. Their force is rough-edged, avant-ish primal rock with urban backbone and no, it wouldn’t hold your attention musically for a full album. But as an EP, as a righteous blast, it works ‘coz you get 20 uninterrupted minutes of de la Rocha flow, and this is the key point. As we know, he’s got that gift for making you BELIEVE – absolute conviction and persuasion every time, and right now we need that voice even if we didn’t know it. JU$T is the 2020 reminder. One Day As A Lion might be more curio than must-have, but as a non-Rage de la Rocha fix, it’s pure. The message remains the same

but now it’s 2020. FFS.

‘Time is coming
rising like the dawn of a red sun
If you fear dying
then you’re already dead’
(If You Fear Dying)

One Day as a Lion EP (ANTI-RECORDS, 2008)
Wild International
Ocean View
Last Letter
If You Fear Dying
One Day as a Lion