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.



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. 



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?


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!

Myrkur – M


Now that winter has passed, and with it any last chance of actual snow, the best accompaniment for listening to this record – apart from the darkness of night, natch – is fog. Thick grey dark ffffffog, the fog that really fucking HANGS. John Carpenter Fog.

Failing that, pissing-it-down rain will do – in fact, anything but mystique-stripping midday sun or soul-death flouresence. M, see, is spiked by shards of black metal.

Not that you’d know that from the opening bars of Skogen Skulle Do with its choral voices and waltzing violin sweeps… rustic, serene, unmetal in extremis. An undead scream and swell of horns may well usher in the Threat of the Ominous, but even this is swept aside by luscious pop gothic til the hornswell returns and hints at the sinister ahead. ’tis compelling, beautiful and far from isolated on this all-over-the-place debut… the plaintive piano/voice of Nordlys (shades of Tori, Under the Pink) and Volvens Spadom‘s folksome acappella bring frosted perfection. When Myrkur sings, she’s with angels.

But such melodic abundance means that when the ugly does appear – as in the black metal shred that flays second track Haevnen – it’s ferocious and ultraviolent by contrast. Haevnen‘s feral blasts are fleeting, cut short by hooks so sweet that your head spins… how can that become this within seconds? On one level, mad as a bag of bats. On another, stupendous turns of pace and mood, and that’s the way M works: fluid shifts between extremeties. The middle ground skirts with Eurometal trad-ness, but it’s those outer edges – beast and beauty – that work best. M’s mellow transcends metal completely, and so massive is the divergence from the vicious that there’s a Fantomas-like absurdity of extremes. You could well imagine Patton M careering between the vocal poles of Myrkur’s M.

So who’s behind the slick-yet-schiz 37 minutes? Myrkur – Amalie Bruun – handles voice, guitar and piano, while Mayhem/Ulver-sourced names are among the hands that flesh it out (Ulver’s Garm produces), which could be why there’s no shortage of texture, as with the Sigur-esque guitar coursing through Oybt I Skoven’s pop-metal sheen, or drama, like Norn‘s sleepy tranquility after the carnage wreaked by Skaol. Thing is, not once do you feel that these tracks do not belong together, coz they absolutely do. There’s a common aesthetic. Is it black metal?

Not for the many many hatemongers out there who destroy the idea that this album, this artist, has any credentials AT ALL: not BM, not ‘kvlt’, nothing but Relapse-hyped PR fakery. Somehow, these people think that online aggro is justified.

Unnecessary. Let’s move on.

Is Myrkur of black metal? No doubt, yes, but the crucial thing is not what she is/isn’t – we’re just dealing in pointers and indicators, after all – but just how bold, wintry and weirdly thrilling this record really is. A sprawling White Album mess of a double that ventures even further and longer would be a shit-hot follow up. 

Released 2015 on Relapse Records


Supernormal freakzone metal


No gigs attended in July but there’s been a noisier-than-usual Freak Zone bent this past few weeks on 6Music – Sabbath AND Boris as featured albums, no less – so this Rewind is nothing more than a shameless bit of pass-it-on.


Daniel P Carter from the Radio 1 Rock Show turned up on the Freakier Zone with a half hour’s worth of grade-A heaviness the other week. It’s no longer on iplayer but here’s what he brung in:

HorsebackMithras. Floyd-at-Pompeii meets Arbouretum heavy meets BLACK FCKN METAL …. yep, a jarring combo.

Fucked UpYear of the Hare (excerpt). Piano wonk, noise stabs and post-hardcore stretched over 20 minutes. Ace. EP out this month.

Myrkur – the woman who is… well, who really knows? But this track, whatever it’s called (didn’t catch that bit), sweeps from black metal ferocity to folkish ambience pretty seamlessly, a real double-header. Pitchfork have been sniffy, citing PR machinations and identity scams (she’s a Chanel model. Is she?), but Terrorizer mag – surely more credible for this kind of thing – have put Myrkur on the front cover. Debut album M out this month.

Chelsea Wolfe – she was on the Freak Zone last week, her new record Abyss was Phil Alexander’s featured album on Planet Rock this week, and one hit of that luscious Nadja/Type O guitar-wall density starts to tell you why. Abyss is out this month.

So it’s hats off to Carter for bringing the noise to the Zone ( Steve Von Till got aired as well), and if this is the kind of stuff that appears in the last hour of his rock show – and he said it does – then I’ll be tempted for an end-of-show snoop. Not been to Radio 1 since John Peel died and Mary Anne Hobbs gave it up. 


But Maconie’s guitar excursions don’t stop with Carter, Sabbath or Boris because this coming weekend, he talks to the organisers of Supernormal festival in Oxfordshire. Never been to it meself, and I won’t be going this time either but that’s my loss – a loss that’s a bit bigger for having just encountered two of the bands, Father Murphy and Ghold. Especially Ghold: Om rhythms, Melvins obtuse. Sounds like a Beehoover/Big Business drum-bass gig, but I’ve only heard one track (Pursed) and not dug any deeper yet so what do I know? Bugger all. Bet they loosen a few fillings at Braziers Park though.

Right then, that’s it for now. Plenty of names to check, and we didn’t even mention the last of the Zep reissues …

’til next time!