Grindhead Records has recently released another album. Not really grind, nor is it really doom... or any of the other genres normally mentioned on here. It is quite good though. Here's what Grindhead Records have to say:
Grindhead Records is privately inviting you to the celestial experience created by ethereal Mish on their debut album "The Entrance". Offering a combination of effortless tempo changes with a command of syncopation that ebb and flows while soaring, often sparse vocals weave complimentary ambient textures and an appreciation for building motifs, "The Entrance" is a diverse audio presentation.
Crunching, stop-start hammering guitars flow into minimal, hypnotic tones partnered with flowing and yet strong bass lines and a drum kit that commands time dynamically, pulling back the melancholy and pushing forth the rage. Ambient keyboards and samples complete the sculptured, temporal aural-scapes that are monumentally heavy on the groove, catchiness and melody.
For fans of Tool, Helmet, Isis, Cult Of Luna, Neurosis, Meshuggah, Karnivool.
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.
Five Star Prison Cell are finally set to release their follow up to 2007's Slaves of Virgo. Entitled M A T R I A R C H, the album is to be released via RIOT! and distributed through Warner Music from May 18, 2010.
M A T R I A R C H (god that's annoying to type) was produced by Forrester Savell, who has worked previously with Karnivool, Helmet, Human Nature, Mammal and apparently even From the Ashes. Artwork duties are to be handled by Seldon Hunt (Neurosis, Isis, Candiria).
Can't wait to get my hands on this one. These dudes are insanely chaotic - not to mention creative, heavy and above all inhumanly fucking tight. Think Meshuggah meets early The Dillinger Escape Plan and Fantomas. IE: fucking intense. Five Star have been Ebolie's favourite Australian metal band for some time with good reason - though they never receive the credit they deserve as they refuse to produce easily-accessible or easily-categorizable music. They leave your average metalhead absolutely bewildered, which is yet another reason why I dig them.
In a related matter, Five Star Prison Cell are apparently playing in Sydney on the 18th of June with Serious Beak - the new project of Lachlan, Gene and Tim of Ebolie.
What is to become of Sydney University's Manning Bar? That is the question circling around my head at the moment.
There were rumors a few months ago that Sydney University's Student Union (USU) had voted to ban certain styles of music of events from using Manning Bar - and now it looks like those rumors are true.
An article today in the Sydney Morning Herald confirms as much - that there will be a "ban" on music that is considered "too risky". The example given is Necro; a (very crappy) 'gore rapper' who raps about violence and death.
Why the ban? Because Sydney University wants to re-brand itself as an "Ivy League" institution, and are currently reviewing the music policy to curb "anti-social behaviour and alcohol".
Now let's get back to realism here; with a capacity of around 1,000, the Manning Bar is one of the only reasonable venues left in Sydney for international bands, and possibly the only venue of it's size with very good live sound quality. This is very, very disheartening news. It should be more than apparent that metal, grind, hardcore (and so on) will more than likely be facing the axe.
In the next few months alone the Manning Bar will host Meshuggah, Isis, Baroness, Converge, Genghis Tron and Between the Buried and Me. If we lose this venue, both Australian bands and countless international acts are going to have a very, very hard time playing in Sydney. The only equivalent venues left that come to mind is the UNSW Roundhouse - which as AWFUL live sound.
I can barely recall how many dozens of awesome shows I've been to at Manning Bar. All age shows have already been banned. Very, very sad news. Let's hope nothing comes of it.
Alright! Today is New Years Eve and I'm at fucking work. How sad is that? In any case it has given me a quick chance to do my Top 6 Albums of 2009. Why my Top 6? Well, because I got to the 6th album I had selected and then grew bored.
Don't get too hung up on ranks and the like. What this list is meant to do is hopefully pique your interest in some music you havent heard before - so you can go check it out.
Overall I wasn't very impressed with the grindcore offerings of 2009. We had new albums from Napalm Death, Magrudergrind, Brutal Truth and Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation which were all reasonable, but hardly groundbreaking or worth of intense praise. I think I'm at the stage where I really need to hear something different in a band, rather than a rehash of old genre cliches. The Kill's new live album was pretty fucking cool, but really most of those songs were quite old.
I'm definitely struggling to find grindcore that meets any of this criteria (and if you have any suggestions I'd love to hear it!). As for metal - well I'm fairly disillusioned and above all TOTALLY FUCKING BORED of death metal and most extreme genres. They are all too static.
In any case, here are my favourite albums of 2009!
1. Mastodon - Crack the Skye: You read correctly. I have dug Mastodon since Remission; and loved the heavy, sludge-ridden style they demonstrated on their first 3 releases. When Mastodon changed their tune in Blood Mountain, I no longer found the major identifiable elements that had let me previously enjoy the band. The production was comparitively thin, the clean sung vocals seems quite poor and inadequate, and that unabated crushing heaviness that I had come to associate with the band was no where to be found.
Then came Crack the Skye. I can only assume this is the album the guys WISHED they made the first time around. It is a fucking masterpiece of catchy vocal hooks (albiet slightly over-produced and clearly run through many filters), complex King Crimson-esque progressive passages, absolutely blistering guitar leads and wonderfully constructed songs. While Mastodon are definitely a band who people either seem to love or hate (infact my old man recently told me that he thought their album was terrible and was 'as bad as the stadium rock bands you used to listen to when you were 16') I definitely stand in the love camp. This album is a masterpiece, and it's ability to retain memorability and accessability while still being an absolute progressive rape is what it's all about for me.
2. Zu - Carboniferous: Apparently Zu have made 14 records since 1999 - so why the fuck hadn't I heard of them before? I only got this album a few weeks back, but it is fucking amazing. This Italian trio (drums, baritone sax and bassist) pulls out massive Meshuggah-styled rotating polyrhythms - but somehow they make it fucking dancable and catchy. How can a trio with no guitar be as heavy as Meshuggah? How can a seemingly endless supply of awkwardly ear-pleasing opposing rhythms and syncopations be so fun? I have absolutely no idea - but hark, it is so.
This is an obscene mix of metal, jazz, punk, noise and more. A huge warm fuzzed-out bass fits perfectly with a prominent live drum kit sound and the heaviness of baritone sax. A mix of The Melvins, Meshuggah, Hella (pfft) and John Zorn. Totally fucking crushing. Get into it.
3. Helm - Keelhaul… Volume 1: Alright so this album was technically released in the last few weeks of 2008, but I don't care. Helm hail from Queensland, Australia and play music stylistically similar to Cult of Luna, Isis, Jakob, Mogwai and all the rest. Listening to this band it is abundantely clear that Helm are not another derivative Cult of Luna band - how could they be? The average age of the band members is far above that of the bands they are so often compared to. By pulling in such a wealth of exprience and knowledge of music, Helm have provided is a refreshingly unique take on a genre that so often falls victim to rehashed Isis-worship.
They take their vocal and guitar melodies far beyond that of the aforementioned, and the fact that they are Australian - and can replicate their intricate melodies and dynamic shifts live just makes things even better.
4. Brian Campeau - Mostly Winter Sometimes Spring: Brian Campeau is the first Sydney local in this list. Born in Canada, Brian eventually moved to Australia. He is an absolutely incredible singer songwriter, with a voice that I would not hesitate to call beautiful or angelic. His music brings to mind the works of Thom Yorke or Bjork; incredibly emotive and usually vocal-driven. His tunes are marked by a meloncholy which stands in stark contrast to his amazing voice.
Brian is also an incredibly talented studio engineer - and it shows. He has moved far beyond being 'just another acoustic guitarist singer/songwriter' and flourished into an extremely complete musician with an amazing ear for sound textures and soundscapes. Mostly Winter Sometimes Spring acts as a concept album and takes the listener through a range of emotional highs and lows - but it is the completeness of this journey which really struck me. The entire album retains an intense emotional power - you can literally feel songs like 'Denial', 'Anger', 'Throwing Blame', 'Depression', 'Reinventing Myself', 'Acceptance' and 'Thankyou'.
To surmise; here you have a man with a voice so beautiful it should be illegal. His acoustic guitar playing (though sparse on the album) is truly unique and creative, and unlike anything I have ever heard. He has a very strong knack for setting mood through production techiques and soundscapes; not to mention his voice and lyrics. This album also features a wide range of guest musicians to provide double pass, saxaphone, brushes and other various touches. The music is seemingly stripped back, but holds a very distilled emotional power. Needless to say, I am floored.
5. Propagandhi - Supporting Caste: This was my first official taste of Propagandhi - and now I can really see what all the fuss is about. Furious ideallic punk rock tunes played at a frantic pace, but supported by very strong musicianship and incredibly articulate and intelligent lyrics. Over the years these guys have moulded into an incredible tight-knit unit, and coupled with their obvious intelligence and talent for lyric writing this launches them up into one of the best albums of the year.
6. Heroin and Your Veins - Nausea: I've been dabbling around with groups who play atmospheric, dark and doomy jazz. Bohren & Der Club of Gore's Black Earth was my first taste of the genre. The down-tempo jazz/doom on that album is far, far more crushing than the majority of "doom metal" I have heard. From there came an obsession with The Necks, and a taste of more atmospheric and cinematic approach from The Kilimanjaro Dark Jazz Ensemble.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I listened to this album from Heroin and Your Veins - the band's name definitely sounded like it would be a generic doom/drone band, so I was delighted when what greeted my ears was a cinematic spin on dark atmospheric doom/jazz, painting extremely moody aural portraits that combines the dark jazz of Bohren & Der Club of Gore with the spaghetti-western Morricone-esque touches of later Earth albums.
And for the record the new Mars Volta was fucking TERRIBLE.