MARCH OF THE BIG GUNS

MARCH REWIND: CORROSION AND PRIEST DELIVERANCE THE GOODS. TOOL MAN DOES NAUTICAL OFFSHOOT

Some pretty big names came out to play in March, so here are our customary first impressions of a couple or three. Warning: contains heavy metals.

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY: No Cross No Crown
Not strictly – or even slightly – a March release, given that the vinyl came out in February, but who cares? A new record from a Keenan CoC is a 2018 Event, so there’s no rush: everything in its own time. A bit like No Cross No Crown itself.

Corrosion of Conformity No Cross No Crown vinyl

No Cross No Crown: no corrosion of CoC values

As soon as Novus Deus’s heart-beating doom-tinged Thin Lizzy lead-in gets underway and into The Luddite, you sense an enormous record opening out ahead, and so it turns out to be. Up-sized rockage, guitar parts multiplied and solos snaking across the many twists of riff, it nabs the best of CoC and gives it the max factor. Corrosion Complete. Keenan’s Down-time must have done them a ton of good as a four because they’re re-fired with vitality – check Cast the First Stone’s raging burn, check the return of the instrumental interludes, check the southernfrieddoompsycheheft of Nothing Left to Say. It adds up to CoC just doing their thing really, really well. No surprises

except Queen.

Yes. Son and Daughter. YES. Grin your head off at the ludicrous brilliance of heavyweight Queen made over by these unglam non-pomp veterans, then submit to a face-gurning rock-out as Brian May’s timeless riff calls time on Corrosion’s studio return. They must have had a blast doing that one. No Cross No Crown: mature, wizened and quite possibly all we’ll need from a heavy rock set in 2018.

JUDAS PRIEST: Firepower
When you get an earworm two days after your first and only hearing of a track, you know something is horribly right or more-horribly wrong: stride forth Children of the Sun, you metallic hooksome bastard. From where? From Judas Priest’s new Firepower set. Seen the reviews? Best since Painkiller, they say. I didn’t buy any post-Painkiller Priest, so cannot join that choir, but just one run-through of Firepower tells you that it is wholly unadulterated metal, in Priest’s finest un-adult way. If you grew up with Painkiller, Firepower is a mainline to your adolescence – it is EXACTLY of Painkiller’s ilk. Everything feels either like you’ve heard it before or you knew it was coming, and yet somehow it feels right. Halford sounds no older, the twin leads bleed melody and the Allom/Sneap production insulates you from the world’s daily grind, maybe even from time itself. This is escapist listening. The title track and Evil Never Dies burst with thrash speed, but for the most part we get mid-paced metal that has all the metal/Priest tropes. It even ends with a fucking ballad. And you know what? GOOD. Lone Wolf is the biggest diversion, proving that Priest can pen a dirty lurch equal to Metallica’s greasier Load moments. So yeah, press Firepower and give yourself permission to bloody well enjoy it.

LEGEND OF THE SEAGULLMEN: Legend of the Seagullmen
Danny Carey. Brent Hinds. Holy Tool-odon, what’s this Seagullmen shit??? And can I wipe it off without burning my eyes?

If the name sounds like it fell out of a Mighty Boosh brain dump, so do the music’s characters. We’ve got The Fogger, The Seagull God King and a 400,000 year-old pirate called Redbeard, all mixed up in tales about curses and red tides and orcas and giants and oceanic karma. Hollywood director-animator Jimmy Hayward plays guitar. Hmmm. So far so daft, right? Got some decent chops lurking (Carey, Hinds, Zappa Plays Zappa bassist Pete Griffin), but aside from Masto-man Hinds and his searing solos – Curse of the Red Tide and Rise of the Giant being two current faves – all other muso pretensions are lost to the epic seafarer metal demanded by The Doctor’s concepts. It’s not the mystical prog opus you might expect or hope – Tool meets Mastodon it definitely ain’t, and it sure won’t be challenging Tool in the sobriety stakes. But if you’re a fan of the players involved, you’re going to want to check it out, and because you’re a fan, you’ll look to give it a shade more benefit than doubt, even if it doesn’t match up to its players’ reps.

Right, that’s that. With Between the Buried and Me (Automata I) and Oxford’s own Desert Storm (Sentinel) also kicking out top notch new jams, as well as the still-unheard Mindfucker by Monster Magnet, it’s been a heavy month with no time for avant adventures. METAL ONLY.

Hang on, what’s that? Anthroprophh just put out Omegaville? Right…

’til next time!

EVIL BLIZZARD

REWIND FEBRUARY: NORTHERN STORMY, RUSSIAN FRENCH CONNECTIONS AND RUSTIC LONGFORMS

As we find ourselves frosted up in a Siberian super-ice, what else is there to do but check a few curios and new sounds from the past month? Winter puns fully intended, and if you seek stately gothic grandeur to soundtrack the whitened vistas wherever you are, you can do a lot worse than try Paradise Lost’s Medusa – worked well this morn on a rare drive to work, especially track 4: The Longest Winter. HAVE IT.

EVIL BLIZZARD: FAST FORWARD/REWIND

With all eyes focused on the freeze from the east, we took our opticals off a blizzard from the north … Evil Blizzard. From Preston. With a two-track cassette. Trading in the kind of mania that pigsx7 revel in, these two tunes come off like a PiL/Heads space explosion fired by a Relax-ing Frankie bass thrust (Fast Forward/Rewind) and Killing Joke’s tribal fury (Knock Knock Knock). Sci fi clatter-psyche for 2018, check the Evil maskies right here.

Evil Blizzard: Fast Forward Rewind cover

Tapes of wrath: Evil Blizzard

SHORTPARIS: Beceno

From Russia with glove … shady flickers. Perfect. Hear the voice and recall Beth Gibbons, then it clicks – we’re occupying an electro doom crossover space not unlike Portishead’s Third, but with more scope for going right off the rails. Album downloaded from bandcamp, eager to hear what Shortparis do on a longplayer. Thanks to Mary Anne Hobbs for playing it in the first place.

ELEPHANT9: Actionpack1

Snowegian, innit? The Most Arresting Fusion Award for February goes to this Norwegian three-o who, like countrymen Motorpsycho, live on Rune Grammofon and do a heavy line in prog jazz fusion, at least on this track. You gotta check the drumwork. Cobham Billy, much?

DOPE: DOPE ON DRUGS

The latest escapee from Head Heritage is an album by Dope – that is, Julian Cope and a bunch of his un-usual suspects, including Holy McGrail, ploughing another Rite/Black Sheep furrow of elongation, lo-fi and hi-reps, but we know the slow-burn score for these things by now. Leave Yourself Behind starts with a s.t.a.r.c.a.r. excess but drops it for a quarter-hour chant over a reduced Psycho Killer bass line. The Binding of Loki digs a Rite At Ya groove for even longer but pulls you in, if you let it. Essential? No, not yet, and perhaps not ever, but your inner drude compels you to check and here it is. Decide for yourself.

URTHONA: DESTRUCTION RULES

A far more satisfying Cope-related excursion comes from Urthona and, as ever, they take you OUT … side. Their drone does not oppress. Their drone is Of The Land – frozen moor tops, rusted heath, jagged outcrops, grey-full skies and glacial – yes, let’s use the overused – GLACIAL carve-outs. Tantric, tundric ebbs, this time enriched with non-axe instrumentation. Can’t explain this stuff, you feel it or you don’t, so give Invocation of the Ghosts of the Battle of Roundway Down a go and maybe check these few words on a previous Urthona outing while you’re out-there.

STEPHEN O’MALLEY & ANTHONY PATERAS: iii

Can’t touch this: Malley time. This track, a colossal no-flow from new album Reve Noir, does cut-and-splice for a voyeuristic flit between crackles, hums, pulses and guitar fragments. Glitchy and insular and inhabited by ghosts, get the proper story and snatch an excerpt on Soundohm.

Right then, we’re done – some first impressions from February. Stay warm.

’til next time!

MOTORHEAD: Sacrifice

Can you tell the mood of a band from the sound of an album?

If there’s one thing that comes through on Sacrifice, it’s a band TIRED. Or annoyed. Or pissed off. Or all of that and summat else too. There’s a weariness and a breaking-point groucho to this album, probably stirred by Wurzel’s place (and soon to be ex place) in the band. He left when it was done, marking the end of the Burston years and, with it, the end of Motorhead as a four. Check the photo on the back of your CD to see if Wurzel is in it – pretty sure I once read that he was taken off the back cover of later pressings. From then on it was Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey, right up to the day the Motor’s engine died on December 28th, 2015.

So yeah, Sacrifice is tired but in no way is it slow, and it’s definitely one of the more diverting Motorhead listens. Awkward, aggressive and downtuned heavy, Sacrifice is muddy as shit, miles away from Bastards‘ sunnier Californi-crunch, and all the better for it. That’s not to say that Bastards is iffy – Burner, Death or Glory and Liar see to that – but it dips in the middle and Born to Raise Hell is shite. Sacrifice is where Motorhead get neck-deep dirty with some muscular chops.

Motorhead Sacrifice

Brutal end of an era

Let’s start with Mikkey Dee, because the drums here are fucking knockout.

A then-future Dee said, on the Inferno bonus DVD, that it would be so easy to overplay Motorhead songs and complicate them, but even though he doesn’t overplay and never has, it does feel like he was cut some drumming slack – either that or he asserted himself and called more shots, ‘coz his second full album with the band sees him contribute a lot more than just tempo shifts.

First track Sacrifice is your archetypal Motorhead firestarter. Like Judas Priest’s Painkiller, drums define the intro, but where Scott Travis went hell bent for speed in one of the metal’s bestest opening gunfires, Dee cuts a rumbling discharge loose that totally sets the mood for the record. Bruising. After Sex & Death dishes a quick 12-bar punk ‘n’ rollock, Over Your Shoulder throws the first of those Sacrifice ball curves:

Was that a mistake in the intro?

Flick it back. Play it again. Miss the beat again.

Eh??? Feels like Dee comes in late and corrects everything, but it’s no error – they do it again later, and it’s doubly weird when you hear it in a Motorhead track because … well, because this is Motorhead and they play rock and roll, right? Yet this tiny bit of rhythm-shifting becomes a top Sacrifice moment precisely because it’s so un-Headly. Love it. Hulking groove-beast of a tune, too.

Right then, a couple of other Sacrifice killers. Despite its weary intro, Order/Fade to Black is a monster – wait for the pick-up AND the pick-up’s pick-up for double-kick manna that makes air-drum goons of us all. Throw in a sleaze-bender blues metal breakdown afore a final speedout and you’ve got a pretty packed four minutes.

Dog-Face Boy is DOWN. As in, tuned down, further down. Again, not your typical Motorhead move (a nod to the prevailing grunge winds of the day?), but the dog-face one shoves it right up the mid-tempos, Motorhead-style.

Make ’em Blind has zero guitar, not till the midway when solos square up and face off, and even then they’re knocked back in a distant squall. Before then we get rhythm and a cappella as Dee pairs it up with Lem’s bass-and-growl for a military march, but one that’s more off-road stealth than parade-ground flash. It’s arrangements like this that pull Sacrifice up and out from any bogged-downers you might have got from mudsome first impressions.

Seeing as we’re speaking of bogs, does anything sink the album?

Not really. It’s not long, and there are no dodgy covers, which always helps. Don’t Waste Your Time is the token rock ‘n’ roll workout, but it’s one of their better ones, snatching Going to Brazil‘s vibe and even laying on some S-A-X, though the Brazil good-mood is squashed by Sacrifice’s general scowliness. You might say that Out of the Sun is an anticlimactic closer, but even then there’s a redemptive bass and solo outro.

Sacrifice has brute force. It’s a battler. War is a standard topic for Motorhead, but Sacrifice sounds like it almost IS war – a band fighting with trench slogs and breaking points, Lemmy barking the orders with middle-aged hoarse. You can feel the tension and the strain

and yet, it’s a great record, one that moves off the template a bit and lacks neither pace nor groove. If you’re doing a Motorhead gap-fill of their later years, don’t skip it – Sacrifice is a proper gnarly bastard.

Motorhead: Sacrifice – released 1995 on Steamhammer

This review was started a while ago, intended for the first anniversary of Lemmy’s passing. Didn’t get anywhere near finishing it. The idea was to shine a yellowed fading torch on some of those less mentioned non-‘classic’ Motorhead albums, but now that Eddie Clarke has joined Lemmy and Philthy in the Great Bar in the Sky, we just have to give him a mention after a non-Eddie review. But what can we say that his guitar hasn’t said already? Better just to pick a bunch of top Fast EC moments and play them, like We Are the Road Crew’s ferocious solo and feedbacker ending. And Ace of Spades, obvs. And the whole of Overkill. RIP Eddie Clarke.

RIP CLASSICMOTORHEADLINEUP

WHO AM ANTHROPROPHH?

REWIND JANUARY: NEW TUNES AND NEVER-HEARDS. BRISTOLIAN PSYCHE AND LEGENDARY FUNK

This always feels like a great time of year for music – still wading through festive gifts and purchases, still digging the old-school retro licks dug out over the hols, and still not quite back in that work-life zone they call n*rm*l*ty. Hibernation is still viable. And now, those 2018 teasers and new arrivals herald a quiet awakening of noise – all the more exotic when the days are still short.

Here are some snatched tracks that have caught the ear this past month. Stay hunkered.

ANTHROPROPHH: Oakmoll
Yeah, who am Anthroprophh? Peddlers of fuzzed-up psycherama, if Oakmoll is any measure. Filthy heavy riffology with freeform squallin’ for a never-ending ending, like Holy Mountain jamming Funhouse or Mudhoney burning up some Space Ritual or whatever other combo brings GARAGE SPACETRIPS and FREE YOUR FUCKING WAH attitude together in one massive beaster. Headed by Heads man Paul Allen, no less. All new to me. Album imminent on Rocket Recordings, get a bandcamping sample right here.

FIRE!: The Hands
Slacker hypno riff over part-moto groove and spiced by Mats Gustaffson’s sax powerage, this is tough-sounding but mightily laidback too – muscular, yet without the need to showboat or flex. Unlike the sprawling free jazz and noise this Swedish three-piece tends to be tagged with, The Hands is a relatively straightforward, disciplined lock-in, but who knows what the album will bring? Check the Rune Grammofon label for Fire! news and sounds.

SKULL DEFEKTS: Clean Mind
So, you hear a band for the first time and they’re putting out their last record? Yep. No matter. Clean Mind breaks off a sparse three minutes of tribal post-punk and gothic no-hope squalor creep that almost caves in on itself. Hear it here.

BLACK MOUNTAIN: Space to Bakersfield
Stuart Maconie has played a couple of tracks from 2017’s IV album on his radio Freakzone lately, and this one’s a beaut. Space to Bakersfield is Black Mountain’s Maggot Brain – a 9-minute drift speared by gut-deep soloing that aches and lifts. More IV here.

PARLIAMENT: I’m Gon Make U Sick O’Me
The voice is cracked, like Gil Scot Heron’s I’m New Here, but it packs the G Force. Rhythm is ultra tight pared-back funk with space invader stabs and sweet brassy uplift. The band is PARLIAMENT. It sounds so now you’d never guess, and I didn’t when it bust out of the radio the other day. Life-affirmingly funked.

Right, that’s it for this Rewind. Don’t forget, new Robert Plant live DVD out in February.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

BLACKSTAR DAY

Two years and two days on from Blackstar and Bowie’s 69th. Two years on from Bowie’s departure. January 10th: Blackstar Day.

Bowie's Blackstar

Blackstar Day

How much more do we know about the album and its messages? Lots, if you’re forensically inclined and need to have the whys explained. I’m not and I don’t. To me, Blackstar is kinda frozen because when Bowie went, time slowed – for a little while – and when you go back to the album, time slows again. Maybe that’s down to how and when you listen to it.
But when do you listen to it?
Not too often is my answer. Not yet, anyway. Definitely not in daylight, and not without complete attention for the whole album – it’s that kind of record. And even though it’s not played often, it feels as close and personal as any lifelong favourite, as it no doubt does for every other Bowie fan out there. I did play Blackstar on Sunday though, for the anniversary of its release. Mary Anne Hobbs paid elegant tribute to Bowie in her morning radio programme, as you’d expect, and that night, out walking in the 2-degree dark with a feels-like -6 freeze, Blackstar focused the senses. No distractions. New things heard. Still as knocked out by it – and by him and his exit – as the first time.
Blackstar is such a full-on album that it feels like the best gigs you’ve been to. Moving yet introspective, possibly even transcendent, yet never to be taken for granted. Like a true live-music moment, Blackstar absorbs. It’s more than just an album of music: it’s a life and a death and an afterlife, all at the same time, and it’s this inseparability that surely makes Blackstar’s pull stronger. I don’t want to know too much about its making or its meaning, if there is a meaning – again, not yet. Just enough to revel in its jazzed creativity, but not so much that the mystery and the magnitude of that January 2016 weekend is lost. It’s the kind of album that makes you think UP, especially on the title track and Lazarus. We think space, we think in ideas, we think bigger when we listen to Bowie’s best. Don’t we? And I’d put The Next Day up there as one of his best too, another album which fits the blackout of night. They’re not for comparing, and Blackstar stands alone both for the music and what it came to represent, but The Next Day was a step toward. Countless times I’ve lost myself in it in the small hours when sleep has slipped away.
So yes, back to Blackstar. It deserves a quality of attention. You could say that, with that album and its layers and wrappings, Bowie is teaching us how to listen again – a last lesson from a pop-music-art creator-collaborator, a signal to get off the musical waltzer and slow things down a bit. Or, in the case of Dollar Days, slow down a lot … there’s a good reason for it not being the last track on his last record. Too fraught a finish. If I never see the English evergreens I’m running to … fuck, man. Those words, followed by the spirited sax that rises out of them, are almost unbearable. I Can’t Give Everything Away at least offers a momentary musical lift.
And with that, we have another year and another RIP to David Bowie. Still vivid and unreal, it’s all we can do to cue up the music and immerse ourselves in Bowie stories. There’s no such thing as indulgence this week, so take your radio pick from Marc Riley’s Bowie tracks, or Mary Anne Hobbs and her interviews with Donny McGaslin and Denis O’Regan, or a repeat listen of this “Heroes” 40th anniversary doc. Just do it all, and check this Guardian feature on writers’ top Bowie tracks too.

For what it’s worth, this post was made with No Plan, half of Stage, one whole Reality and a double dose of Disco King. Previous words on Bowie loss here and here, and an Earthling review here.

Just sharing the love.

MARK LANEGAN LIVE + 2017 MOMENTS

DECEMBER REWIND: MARK LANEGAN BAND PLAYS OXFORD, PLUS A 2017 REWIND

Gargoyle. When you see Mark Lanegan stand dead still on stage, face lived-in and unbreaking, you wonder if the name of the album is a knowing, unmoving nod to his stage self.

Then you cast the thought off. Lanegan does not come across as a guy who does send-up, not in public at least. Gargoyles survive centuries though, and Lanegan’s voice has the same survivor’s trait, but the man himself …. at times he looks like he might not get much beyond another day. He only moves from and to the mic when he has to get a drink, and does it slowly with a limp. Every time he moves, he grimaces. Definitely not the imposing moody bruiser you’ve imagined – no, he looks like a veteran fighter in semi-retirement, taking the stage with reluctance. To anyone who hasn’t seen him in person before – me – it’s a bit of a shock. Puts you at unease.

Is Lanegan’s voice diminished? No. Not a bit. It’s exactly what you know from the records – rich, lived-in, strong with weary edge, and he doesn’t falter or miss all night. Death’s Head Tattoo and Gravedigger give us an early rush before Shelley Brien takes co-vocals on Hit the City‘s highway cool. Nocturne pulls out those Euro-driven post-punk synth-pop stops, pulsing like Simple Minds’ Theme for Great Cities, and it’s these tracks, the ones that drive you through metropolitan nightscapes, that work the best. Riot in My House showcases Jeff Fielder’s liquid solos, and that guy is stellar, totally immersed in the songs – he’s into it, bodily into it, with creeper-hop moves and dapper hat that are more acid jazz moonlighter than rock supremo. Class act, as is the whole band. Methamphetamine Blues closes the set with clank ‘n’ growl, then the encore gets stripped to guitar and voice only. Brien joins for a closing Bombed.

It’s a great gig, but an odd-funny one too (and we’re not even going near support act Joe Cardamone’s Holy War filmwank). You could say that Lanegan’s voice doesn’t fit the higher energy rock that he now does, yet it totally works. You could also say that he doesn’t fit the trad rock set-up on stage and you’d be right. And you would put cash on “Mark will be out in 15 minutes to sign any merchandise you have, he’d love to meet you” not being the last words of the set, but they are. A meet and greet with Mark Lanegan? Get the fork outta here.

But sure enough, he appears walking slowly with a cane, joined by Shelley, and they take their seats at the merch stand. They sign stuff, they shake everyone’s hands, it’s a cool thing to see. Would they sign my ticket, please? Of course they would. Happy new year, guys.

LANEGAN TICKET

MOMENTS OF THE YEAR

We’re already drowning in end-of-year lists, but I’ll add a drop’s worth anyway. What’s the criteria? Music moments 2017 – pretty much new, a little of the old, simple as that. The big 2017 reviews shame us into seeing how far off the pulse we non-music-biz mortals really are, but they give us plenty of stuff to check as well: a last grab at being remotely current.

They also make us wonder what everyone sees in LCD Soundsystem. 

Again.

NOTHING IS DEFINITIVE. Let’s go.

KXM – Scatterbrain
Rapid-fire prog-pyro technics launch the second KXM album. So, who KXM again? Dug Pinnick (King’s X) + George Lynch (Lynch Mob/Dokken) + Ray Luzier (Korn). Many of Pinnick’s projects overlap his mother band’s sound, but KXM does push a bit further out because Lynch has a tone all his own, and Ray Luzier lays down some pristine metallic double-kick action, yet the bedrock of it all are those big stop-starter funk-heavy grooves. Check Panic Attack for an epic Lynchian solo over heavy-Beatles harmony. If you’re looking to fall back in love with guitar heroes and musos who serve the song, submit to KXM’s hard-rock mastery.

King’s X live in Bristol
Might as well get straight on to the other 2017 Pinnick high: King’s X live, in the UK. After a life-time’s fandom, seeing them for the first time was odds-on to be Gig of the Year, and it was. It still is. This is what it felt like. King’s X, we salute you.

Buzz and Dale
First it was Crystal Fairy who crunched our worlds with revitalised riffage, then Melvins took us on A Walk with Love and Death double header, with Death possibly the best Melvins album since Freak Puke and one that draws on Stag‘s vintage lurch without ever doing a retread. Dale Crover put a solo record out, too – haven’t heard it, one for next year, surely.

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
Chanced upon these raucous fuckbags back in January and pounced on one-track EP The Wizard and the Seven Swines. One of the best listens of the year. Debut album Feed the Rats landed in 2017, and though more hinged, it’s still a righteous slab of sludgy noisy drawn-out psyche.

Robert Plant – Carry Fire
Any Robert Plant record is a big deal, no matter how it turns out. Carry Fire isn’t the global psychedelic melt that we might expect from the Sensational Space Shifters – more wistful Welsh valley than charging Mali burn – and its restrained mood is at odds with Plant’s life-affirming interviews, so what gives? Once The May Queen has skipped past, side A keeps it slow and you’re straining for a kick, but after that – Carving Up The World Again onwards – it hits the Plant mark. Bones of Saints echoes Mighty Rearranger, Carry Fire conjures bazaars and street heat while Keep it Hid tiptoes a Space Shifter electronica shimmy. Given time, the slower tracks grow, but best of all is Heaven Sent at the record’s end – heavy, slow-droning surf, one of Plant’s darkest. Majesterial stuff as always, just a bit more hidden. Slow-releasing heat.

Dead Cross – Dead Cross
Old Kids on the Block? Yeah, but the joy of hearing Patton THIS animated and Lombardo THAT ferocious in a 28-minute ultrablast is hard to top.

Ministry – Rio Grande Blood
Jizzy Pearl played Wasted in America at the Bullingdon in 2017. Of course, it launched a Love/Hate listening phase, and that somehow led to a Ministry revival as well – you know what it’s like. Must have been a bands-of-92 thing. Anyway, Ministry. Don’t know how long you stuck with them, but I stopped buying after Houses of the Mole, not for any great reason other than the stacks of other new bands and sounds to grab hold of. Suddenly you’ve got a four-album Ministry deficit and the guitarist has died. Shit. What happens when you then get stuck in to Rio Grande Blood? It blows your head. Senor Peligro is ferocious, aggressive, surely one of the hardest tracks they’ve ever done. Cue immediate Ministry gap fill, and if you can stomach a bit of gross-out reading while you do the same, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen is it (get it on Kindle). Frank, funny and disgusting, it’s an unbelievable tale (literally, in the Robert Plant anecdote Led Zeppelin in 1983, really???) where you can’t help but be charmed by Alien J. Lotta self deprecation, whole lotta self abuse, some horrible fucking stories. Get past the first few pages and you won’t stop.

Prince – Around the World in a Day
The Prince education continues, and this album … well, Tamborine and America. How hard is the funk on those tracks? ’nuff said. Staggering.

Chris Cornell 

We all know the story. We all know it doesn’t sit right, either. Going beyond Soundgarden, Carry On and Songbook have kept Cornell’s flame flickering this year, and the more you listen, the deeper that talent  and loss – goes.

Myrkur – Mareridt
Already referenced here as a winter soundtrack, Mareridt covers many more bases than Myrkur’s debut album M. It is less metal – much less – but more diverse, more coherent and more euphoric in an icy, nightmare folk kinda way. Ghosts of black metal. #2 in Metal Hammer’s 2017 review.

Wire live in Oxford
Chairs missing. Doors opening. (non) review right here.

Paradise Lost – Medusa
20 years after last picking up a Paradise Lost album (One Second), Medusa became an impulse buy. Don’t know why. Must have been the subliminal dark arts of the reviews and interviews, and it’s still too new to know well, but it’s got a mature, heavy crunch. Slow-moving and resolute, Medusa is grounded – exactly what we need in fast, unstable times. Just goth enough, feels like a stayer. Let’s see.

Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
Mary Anne Hobbs and Stuart Maconie are all over Kamasi Washington on 6 Music, as are many others, but if you’re open to The Jazz yet rarely snagged, Washington’s triple disc debut The Epic would be way too much. Maybe he knows this. Maybe this is why he put out Harmony of Difference, a 32-minute 6-tracker (at EP price, bargainheads) that uses counterpoint theory – not something I know about, but Harmony is a rich, fullsome listen that might even beat a path to The Epic… one day.

What else for 2017?

Drore

Mastodon!!! But Emperor of Sand tops the Metal Hammer poll, so go read a proper write up over there instead.

Other 2017 stuff not yet managed: king crimson live in chicago QOTSA – big|brave  motorpsycho hannah peel godflesh  mogwai nine inch nails gy!be – the bug vs earth and so on anon anon anon…

HAPPY NEW YEAR, see you in 2018!

SNOWY AUDIO

THIS TIME, IT’S SEASONAL: SIX CHRISTMAS-ISH LISTENS

Noddy, Lewie, Bowie. Elvis and Ella, crooners and swingers – we wheel them all out for Christmas, and rightly so. It’s CHRIIIISTMAAAS, innit? But outside of all that, which non-jinglers best fit the wintry build-up to Christmas? Who creates the mood for a warming dark rum and a soundtrack for snow, even if there isn’t any?

Here are some of my go-to festives. Warmers and coolers, all seasonal. What are yours?

BJORK – Vespertine

Top of the winter pops is Vespertine, always. Somehow, it’s the essence of snow in musical form, yet it doesn’t sound like it’s contrived to be a winter album – it feels like it just turned out that way. Hidden Place pushes against wind and snow drifts before the chorus sweeps you up and out, flying over white patchworks. Frosti, Aurora and An Echo, A Stain make for an especially frost-twinkled run of three, but the whole of Vespertine has a softness of sound that is flakes falling, ice forming. Magical. It only ever gets played at this time of year. That’s the deal.

NICK CAVE AND WARREN ELLIS – White Lunar

Where Vespertine exposes your inner wonder to winter’s call, White Lunar tracks the harsh, bleak end of the same season – let your mind go with The Rider #2 or Zanstra and conjure a whiteout. Song for Jesse and Micro Sucker could have fallen from Vespertine’s branches, but really, it’s isolation and loneliness that dominate these heavy scores …. like Srey Leak, disc 2. Plug in for barren, wintry detachment from civilisation this Christmas.

BOB DYLAN – Tempest

Gotta have some Dylan at Christmas. Not youthful early-peak Dylan, but something more weathered, cracked and fallible instead. Crackling Bob. Time Out of Mind always works when winter nights shorten the days, but this year it’s Tempest’s fireside feel that’s snuck its way in – must be the light jazzy blues swing that shuffles through. Not every track is essential, but you CAN imagine Duquesne Whistle soundtracking a snowy trudge home after a warming short in the pub. Scarlet Town and Tin Angel give you the storyteller view from a window seat. Dark roots. Yeah, Tempest goes down well – pour another rum.

ROBERT PLANT – Band of Joy

Does a similar job to Dylan’s Tempest, but given that Plant is The Man round these parts, it’s much more of a player. What makes it a  listen for this time of year? The camaraderie, the togetherness, the organic warmth in the production… Angel Dance might share some of Duquesne Whistle’s jaunt, but it’s the ethereal dark of the Silver Rider and Monkey covers – and Central Two-O-Nine‘s rustic free-wheel – that really put a wintry seal on things.

CULT OF LUNA – Somewhere Along the Highway

Or Salvation. Or Vertikal and Vertikal II. But probably Somewhere Along the Highway. Less seasonal than the others here, but I always get more Cult of Luna in the diet in winter. Slow-moving, heavy and intense, the Swedish post-metal masters rarely waver from their template and yet, like Mogwai, refine it pretty much every time they put a record out. This, their fourth album, may be their best. Dim soars to a higher mellow than they’d managed before, and Back to Chapel Town is a timeless snowbound pounder. Just get the whole album on, it’s a class act.

MYRKUR – Mareridt

Far less metal than its predecessor, Myrkur’s second album haunts beautifully – check Crown and tell me there’s no snowscape coming to mind. Tracks like Bornehjem and Death of Days might not be Christmas family crackers, despite being free of metallic axe, but wait for the ice of the post-festive comedown. Surely Myrkur can score that?

To be continued? Probably. HAPPY ROCKIN’ CHRISTMAS!

 

WINTER ANIMALS