Australian hardcore today seems to be a long way from the days of old Toe to Toe - or even the polished hardcore offerings of later-era Mindsnare. Today's scene is being shaped and driven by like In Trenches, Lo!, Totally Unicorn, Robotosaurus, The Rivalry (I miss you), Night Hag, No Anchor, IDYLLS, The Matador and At Dark. These bands are embracing experimentation, complex rhythms, noise, dissonance, dirging drone and ambience in a move away from the sterile 'one mood, one volume' sound of overcompressed modern hardcore - and this makes me exceedingly happy.
Melbourne's In Trenches really represent a lot of the best progressive elements in modern Australian hardcore. Their music has a basis in seething, noisy hardcore sludge with a slight black metal tinge and occasional departure into spacey post-metal meditation. They're forging a more dynamic and progressive style of heavy music that owe as much to bands like Isis, Cult of Luna, and Wolves in the Throne Room as they do Converge and Eyehategod.
Sol Obscura also represents a complete rejection of the sterile production of modern hardcore. There are no close-mic'd, beat-replaced drums to be found here, and the guitars are cold, squashed and over-compressed. Instead, In Trenches have opted for a far more organic approach, which allows for far more life, more feeling and more dynamics in the music. (Insert a recognition that recording/mixing was handled by a Joel Taylor at Three Phase Studios.)
If this is where hardcore music is moving - into more progressive and dynamic territory - then I can't wait to see how the style progresses. And it would seem that, once again, Australia is on the very cusp of a new development in underground music.
Do yourself a favour. Listen to In Trenches and support Australian underground music.
Nice one, Monolith.
Just who are this trio of blokes? Dumbsaint are a Sydney-based group that combine elements of post-metal, post-rock and progressive music genres. They are unique in that they give equal weighting to the visual aspect of their live performances. Two of the three members are film students, so each song they create will have a visual accompaniment that is usually projected on-stage with the band.
While Dumbsaint have been around and playing in Sydney for a long time, this is their debut album.
So, what of it? Well, let's start off with the production. Simply put, the production is GORGEOUS. I've long been a fan of the production work that Tim Carr does over at Studios 301, but I think this might be the nicest thing I've heard from him. He's done a magnificent job. His incredible ability to capture the vibe of whatever music he is engineering, his work ethic, and his tireless attention to detail really shine through on this album.
The production maxim of the band seems to be a focus on organic, dynamic and natural sounds. Nick's drum sound is the most open I think I've heard. There's just so much room to breathe, and it really lets Nick's outstanding dynamic playing shine through the mix rather.
The guitar and bass tones show a similar merticulous attention to detail and texture. The guitar is crisp, clean and clear when it needs to be, and explodes into a wall of monolithic fat fuzz when tracks peak.
The first track 'Rivers Will Be Crossed' perfectly presents what I love about this band. The song-writing is outstanding. The musicianship of each individual is stellar - and as a trio they really know when to pull-back what they're playing to let other instruments ebb, flow and take the centre point when they need to. The song just continues to builds and weaves beautifully. The structure is just really engaging and very intelligent compiled.
And yet, as I finish listening to the entire album for perhaps the 30th time, I still feel like something is missing to make this an incredible, coherent album. Most of the tracks are great - if not awesome - but occasionally a track or section emerges the reminds me perhaps a little too much of the premordial slime and eggshells Dumbsaint have brought with them from the beginning - the stamp of some of influences perhaps being a little too great in a few select moments.
After speaking to the band I think I can pinpoint why this is. These songs were not written as 'an album'. They are essentially a collection of songs written over the last 8+ years that have happened to be on an album together, and I think the coherent concept of an album suffers as a result of that.
Now, for the mostpart the band really manages to hide this fact from the listener with some very smart song ordering -- but every time I reach the final movement of the final track off the album, I can't help but feel the lack of a final penultimate moment, a clear album closer to end the listening experience coherently. I keep expecting the next song to kick in any second. The last track 'I am an image' really fails to properly bookend the journey, and I'm just left hanging, a little confused as to why the music has stopped coming from my headphones.
Now these criticisms should be taken into context. This album is still incredible. What Dumbsaint have achieved has personally made me very jealous - and I think there should be clear recognition of this. However, that said, I do believe that the bands best compositions are ahead of them. Now that they have a solid, consistent line-up they can focus on constructing new material for the format, rather than having to select an albums worth of songs from a back-catalog amassed over many years.
It is Dumbsaint's mature songwriting, precise, dynamic musicianship, and attention to detail that puts this trio far beyond another cookie-cutter post-rock or post-metal offering. Fans of ISIS, Red Sparrowes, Mogwai, Russian Circles, sleepmakeswaves, Pelican and Tool should love this album. Infact, I would be willing to say that 'Something that you feel will find its own form' might just surpass, say, the latest Russian Circles album.
This is an extremely impressive album and I can't see where these guys take their music next. It has replaced Helm's debut album 'Keehaul... Volume 1' as my favourite Australian release within the style. I foresee a bright future for Dumbsaint, and I would implore you to go and check out their debut album over at Birds Robe Records.
Brisbane's No Anchor are a unique finding amongst Australia's underground music scene. Firstly, they have two bassists. Secondly, they have no guitarist.
Over the years this trio has perfected a clanging, metallic sound thats part raging hardcore, part depressing sludge. It's like they've successfully combined the molten fury of early Converge, with the thick, fuzz-drenched sound of The Melvins, the darkness of Eyehategod, and the energetic, bass-focused style of Lightning Bolt to create an extremely unique and effective sound of their own.
The result is filthy, dirty, organic, metallic and heavy as fuck. It's the type of sound that tears the earth in two; the sound of tectonics plates grinding and groaning; the sound of a screeching emotional catharsis being torn from your chest. Above all it's raw and it's honest.
Both their latest self-titled 7" record and their full-length album 'Real Pain Supernova' have a beautifully organic recording sound that really captures the energy and dynamics of the band. Both recordings have a very roomy, stripped-back vibe that really allows the instruments plenty of room to breathe. The album actually sounds like the band would live - which is a surprisingly rare concept. At a time where far too many bands are beat-replacing, obsessively double-tracking and over-compressing like there's no tomorrow, this fact makes me very, very happy.
I've been running both No Anchor's self-titled 7" and their 2011 full-length 'Real Pain Supernova' pretty continuously over the last few weeks, and what I've decided is this:
No Anchor are one of my new favourite Australian bands. They've crafted an extremely unique and powerful sound, chosen a production that complements perfectly, and possess a real flair for experimentation that makes me really interested in seeing where these guys take their music in the future.
The new 7" record is cool, but it's too short and leaves me wanting more - a lot more. Then again, that's probably the point. Be sure to check out the new record when it drops -- and go download the incredible 'Real Pain Supernova' . This is an awesome Australian band well worth supporting. These guys are easily my most exciting find from Australia's underground music scene for quite some time.
No Anchor's new 7" will be released on 17 March, 2012.
Well, 2011 was yet another year dominated by souless, watered down music in the mainstream music industry. Bland garage/indie and horrid R&B-pop were, once again, the order of the day. Perhaps more disturbingly, some styles previously associated with underground music continued to be watered-down and repackaged into acceptable pop culture products - namely hardcore and metalcore, who have now seemingly completed their transition into music forms completely devoid of any human emotion or feeling. The post-rock scene similarly provided an endless supply of bands that sound exactly the same.
In spite of my general misanthropy towards the wider music scene, there were still some more unique gems to be had if you dug deep enough. What's more, I really felt like this was a great year for the various underground music scenes in Australia. I feel like there are more bands of more diverse styles going the DIY path, putting on great shows and releasing original, soulful music.
What more, Sydney was lucky enough to have Black Wire Records to actually support underground punk, hardcore, crust, powerviolence and grind.
Here's what I dug in 2011.
Top 5 releases of 2011
- The Devin Townsend Band - Deconstruction: Brilliant. Possible Devin Townsend's very best.
- YOB - Atma: If anything just for Before We Dreamed of Two and Adrift in the Ocean. An incredible doom record.
- Bjork - Biophilia: The best Bjork release since Homogenic.
- Graveyard - Hisingen Blues: I struggle to think of a better rock album released in the last decade.
- La Dispute - Wildlife: An honest and genuine emotional catharsis. Honest and genuine.
Top 5 grind(ish) releases of 2011
- The Kill - Shower of Bricks: the perfect distillation of intense grindcore.
- The Reverend Jesse Custer - The Reverend Jesse Custer: sludgy, raging metallic grind and hardcore.
- Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt - Counter Transference: techy polyrhythmic, sporadic math/grind bliss.
- IDYLLS - Amps for God / Plague Hell: furious fucking grinding metallic hardcore.
- Wormrot - Noise: blistering and intense.
The 10 albums I couldn't stop playing all year
- Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton - Knives Don't Have Your Back
- Roots Manuva - Brand New Second Hand
- YOB - Atma
- Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Black Earth
- Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Sunset Mission
- Dax Riggs - Angel in the Dopesmoke (live bootleg)
- Neil Young - Dead Man soundtrack
- Neurosis - The Eye of Every Storm
- Worlds End Girlfriend - Hurtbreak Wonderland
- The Cinematic Orchestra - Every Day
The 10 Australian releases you really should have heard
- Hydromedusa - Self-titled: Adelaide stoner rock that just oozes bluesy class. (It's FREE! Get it!)
- sleepmakeswaves - And So We Destroyed Everything: An interesting post-rock record? Well I never!
- Pirate - Left of Mind: Fantastic Sydney instrumental prog.
- An Emerald City - The Fourth: Technically Kiwi, but a great, cinematic album.
- Tangled Throughts of Leaving - Deaden the Fields: These guys came outta nowhere (Perth)! Incredible progressive, piano-driven music mixed with progressive and post music.
- Mother Mars - Fossil Fuel Blues: Perhaps Sydney's greatest stoner/desert rock band.
- Arrowhead - Atomsmasher: Or perhaps these guys are?
- Serious Beak - Huxwhukw: Okay it's my band, fuck you.
- Squat Club - Corvus (remixed, remastered and re-released): Now with even more mind-bending polyrhythmic clarity!
- Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt Counter - Transference
My favourite live shows of 2011
- Portishead at Sydney Harvest Festival
- Eagle Twin at Manning Bar
- Gotye at Angel Place City Recital Hall
- Kyuss at The Big Top
- The Reverend Jesse Custer at Town Hall Hotel
- Captain Cleanoff and Death-Cult Jock at Black Wire Records
- Ruins, Darth Vegas, Slimey Things (Featherfest 2011) at TONE
- Clagg and Agonhymn at The Pony
- Space Bong, Looking Glass and Hydromedusa at The Sando
Australian grind hero of the year
- Jack of Die Pigeon Die. Just an all around good bloke who never relents in his selfless passion to support Australian grindcore.
You disagree? Oh what a surprise! What did you guys dig this year? Was it a good year? A shit year?
The best way to describe Canberra quintet The Reverend Jesse Custer is simply fucking raging. Style-wise Custer are rather fond of stomping, violent, grooving metallic hardcore mixed with a healthy amount of sludge, grindcore, dissonance, feedback and filth -- a sort of frentic and furious mix of Cursed and Agents of Abhorrence alongside the raw, early years of Napalm Death and Converge.
The production is dark, dirty and gritty. The filthy, distorted bass guitar mixed with sludged out wall of guitars gives this record a real cold vibe. The really raw, oppressive atmosphere actually quite reminds me of Melbourne's late-and-great Dad They Broke Me.
The Reverend Jesse Custer have managed to mix the depression of sludge with the fury of grind and hardcore. Most importantly, everything on this EP comes across as authentic. This isn't some excessive polished rich boy grindcore - Custer make you BELIEVE what they're playing. This album furious and fucking depressing. The vibe and atmosphere of this album is just incredible, and the vocals speak to some seriously deranged anger management issues.
This may infact be the best DIY grind/hardcore album I've heard all year. The Reverend Jesse Custer - along with Queensland's IDYLLS and Sydney's Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt - have proven to me that in 2011, Australia is still capable of making some incredible angry, filth, raw tunes.