AusGrind: Australian underground grindcore, punk, doom and DIY culture.

Lachlan’s top 6 albums of 2009

Posted by Lachlan

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.

Worthy mentions:

Baroness - Blue Record
Converge - Axe To Fall
Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Kylesa - Static Tensions
Om - God Is Good
Shrinebuilder - Shrinebuilder

And for the record the new Mars Volta was fucking TERRIBLE.


Saturday: Squat Club at the Excelsior

Posted by Lachlan

Squat ClubI've been ranting and raving about Squat Club for a long, long time now. These guys will only be around for another 2 or 3 months, so I'd recommend getting out there and seeing them whenever you can.

They're playing this Saturday at Bird’s Robe Collective at the Excelsior Hotel along with some other prog-rock bands I can't say I've heard before: Meladora, Aquanaut (VIC) and Six Thinking Hats. It's their first ever gig at a 'proper' venue with their full line up (drums, bazuki, piccolo bass and bass) featuring members of Ebolie, Captains (The Captains Package), Brass Knuckles, Anklepants and Shirlow.

Squat ClubStylistically these guys combined Secret Chiefs 3 style Eastern-influenced and Meshuggah polyrhythmic passages with the progression and build up of Jakob post-rock with a strong 70s King Crimson progressive and some Jon Theodore-esque (The Mars Volta, Golden) and Brann Dailor (Mastodon) drumming. It's really quite difficult to describe; and if you're a fan of music it's definitely worthwhile checking them out.

You could wear a cape if you wanted to, you probably wouldn’t get kicked out. I'll see you there.

Observe: From 3:03 onwards demonstrates why I love these guys.


New bands you should know in the Australian scene

Posted by Lachlan

UPDATE: Dudes, this page is 4 years old! Check out the updated 2012 version here.

Alright, so I've heard some new Australian bands recently that you'll do well to get off your arse and check out.

CorruptorsCorruptors (SA): First we have a group from Adelaide called Corruptors, which features Cheese (guitar) of The Guantanamo Bay City Rollers fame, as well as Kerry (vocals) and Wardy (bass) from Los Diablos and Chris Canini (drums) of Lapdancer. They would like to tell us that they are now "coming at your ear pussies with a big grindy dildo of extreme noise love".

From the track up on their MySpace page, they seem to play ultra-pissed off old school thrashing punk influenced grind in the vein of Napalm Death, Venomous Concept, Terrorizer and Lock Up. Very cool, violent stuff which should be a hell of a lot of fun to see live. The guys are set to record 8 tracks at Capitol Sound Studios in September, and have their live debut coming up supporting Conquest for Death (USA).

Helm (QLD): Next up we have the Queensland band (Ghost at the) Helm, who play some post-metal sludge with some very cool clean and shouted vocals. In their single preview track I can hear big Isis and Cult of Luna influences with a touch of Pink Floyd and Mastodon.

If you're a fan of any of the psychedelic, stoner, post-rock, post metal, shoegazer and doom genres, then check these guys out. They were recommended to me by Five Star Prison Cell - one of Australia's best extreme metal acts - and they arent wrong; this'll be a band to watch out for.

ShirlowShirlow (NSW): Shirlow is something of a super-star new Sydney band, featuring members of scene whores from 1 Shot Kill, Captains (aka Captains Package), Squat Club, Unkle Jed, Qwerty and loads more. They're playing some very Cult of Luna, Jakob and Isis-inspired slightly sludgy and psychedelic post-metal, with some truly monstrous riffing, some killer drum beats which are uncharacteristically complex and grooving for the style.

I went and saw these guys play their first show at The Annandale Hotel a few months back since I have a hard-on for Evan McGregor's ultra-groovy Jon Theodore-esque drum style, as previously showcased in Squat Club. They really blew me away, I was definitely not expecting something quite *that* good for a bands first show. The sound was fucking enormous, and I'm going to make sure I catch their next gig.

Shirlow live at Utopia Records part 2 of 2.

Squat Club (NSW): I'll save the best for last. What can be said about these guys? The line-up is comprised of drums, bass, piccolo bass and a bazuki with the occasional guitar. Again, this band features members from a wide range of other groups like Ebolie, Captains, Brass Knuckles, Piston, Qwerty, Shirlow, The Mabobs and loads more.

I dont think there is any reasonable way to pin these guys down into a genre. They're like some unholy interbred seven-eyed, horned squid-beast, drawing influences from a wide range of progressive genres. The biggest influences I can hear are Secret Chiefs 3, Meshuggah, The Mars Volta, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and god knows what else. The result is something truly unique and awe inspiring.

Do yourself a favour and listen to the song on their player. Honestly, if you have taste in music, it should change your life. These guys only have 1 or 2 shows left in them - so if you get a chance, consider yourself lucky to have the chance to go watch them. They are fucking amazing. Awkwardly catchy and complex time signatures all round!

Part 4/4 from Squat Club's recent set just to give you a little taste.
The whole gig is up on youtube and viewable in its entirety on their MySpace page.


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