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?
I'd be hard pressed to think of a recent album more fantastically depressing, crushing and suffocating than Cough's Ritual Abuse. The good news for all of Australia is that Cough are currently on tour as part of 666 Entertainment's Doomsday Festival. Definitely one not to miss!
Sydney-siders can catch Cough this weekend at these two dates:
Doomsday Festival 2011
Saturday 15 October at Sandringham Hotel
- Cough (USA)
- Clagg (VIC)
- Pod People (ACT)
- Looking Glass (ACT)
- Mother Mars
- The Devil Rides Out
- Rituals of the Oak
Doors at 3pm, entry $30.
Facebook event: http://on.fb.me/oJQtJr
Sunday 16 October at Sandringham Hotel
- Cough (USA)
- Boonhorse (ACT) - album launch
- Arrowhead - album launch
- Adrift for Days
Doors at 3pm, entry $20.
Facebook event: http://on.fb.me/oDYaAH
Some excessively-nice doom-related news this morning! After the disappointment that was Church of Misery's cancellation for Doomsday 2011, Cough have been announced as the more-than-adequate replacement.
Cough play some seriously sludged-out doom with psychedelic overtones (listen here). As for me personally? I'm stoked. Nice on 666 Entertainment pals.
Check out more at 666 Entertainment's Facebook page. Go and be stoned.
Full line-ups for the festival below:
- October 14th at The Jubilee Hotel, Brisbane:
- Cough (USA), Clagg, Looking Glass, Summonus and Fear the Setting Sun
- October 15th at The Sando, Sydney:
- Cough (USA), Clagg, Pod People, Summonus, Looking Glass, Daredevil, Mother Mars, The Devil Rides Out and Rituals of the Oak
- October 21st at Enigma Bar, Adelaide:
- Cough (USA), Space Bong, Hydromedua and Mammoth
- October 22nd @ Northcote Social Club, Melbourne:
- Cough (USA), d.USK, Clagg, Looking Glass, Summonus, Hydromedusa, Sons of the Ionian Sea, Mother Mars and Wurms
Mother Mars have always been a band that I enjoy watching live. However, I can remember that about a year ago - sometime around Doomsday 2010 - I noticed a subtle shift in the attitude of the band. It was almost like, after some internal or personal turmoil the trio had finally begun to relax into their music, that they had found their own voice as a band. Mother Mars' attention to sonic detail has always been impressive, but they now seemed more cohesive and more comfortable - and their performance became undeniably stronger as a result.
As it turns out that over the aforementioned period, the group had been working quitely away on recording their new album 'Fossil Fuel Blues'. That immaculate attention to detail, and almost obsessive process of revision and recording has resulted in Mother Mars nowdays delivering some of the most best stoner/desert groove in Australia.
If there is one truly impressive thing about Mother Mars, it is the trios' impeccable and infectious sense of groove - and that is on full display on 'Fossil Fuel Blues'. Groove and feel is something I don't believe you can teach, and these guys have it in spades. Whether it's on a high-energy rock number like 'Ride Like the Wind' or a darker, more sedate piece like the albums title track, their feel is impeccable. These guys are so fucking chilled you half expect them to slip into a coma at any second.
For a home recording, the sound quality is solid. The tones and textures are absolutely beautiful. The bass is warm, fuzzy and fat. Matt's Strat sings with a gorgeous bluesy fuzz-and-overdrive treatment. The vocals too are tinged with psychedelic textures. Clearly a lot of time has gone into the crafting and layering of this album, as it continuously proves to be multifaceted. The only hallmark that this is infact a home recording is the volume, which sits considerably below most other albums. However, that approach has also let the band keep the depth and definition of their sound, so it really isn't a flaw.
'Fossil Fuel Blues' is another one of those seemingly countless local, underground releases that has seriously reinvigorated my passion for the Australian music scene. The sheer quality and range of releases that have been offered up in 2011 is mind-blowing, such that I am absolutely sure this has to be the best year for the Australian underground in a long, long time - but more on that wider narrative another time.
Once more I recall my disappointment at seeing the widely acclaimed Earthless live -- and once more I juxtapose that with the awesome local and relatively unknown talent of Looking Glass and Mother Mars. Both bands eclipse the vast majority of releases that the global stoner scene attempts to offer up as its best.
With 'Fossil Fuel Blues', Mother Mars have delivered a gorgeous sounding album thats smooth, psychedelic and with serious fucking groove. Any fan of psychedelic of desert or stoner rock would be a fool not to check this release out.
July 30: Slaughterfest IV featuring Fuck I’m Dead, Looking Glass, Mother Mars, Agonhymn and loads more!
For me, annual underground stoner, doom, grind and metal festivals like Grindhead Records' Slaughterfest, 666 Entertainment's Doomsday and Little Bird Agency's Devil's Kitchen are often sure-fire shortlisters for the best gigs of the year. The promoters of each of those festivals usually have quite a knack for producing a smooth-running, well thought-out and well-promoted festival with just the right amount of big interstate names and variation of styles.
This years Slaughterfest - the 4th edition since the festivals inception back in 2007 - is certainly no exception. Infact, I honestly cannot remember a more impressive and varied line-up - nor a show I was more excited about. The value for money (15 bands for $20) is certainly nothing to scoff at.
Grindhead Records and 666 Entertainment have teamed up to bring us an incredible day, balanced out with a nice mix of grind, stoner, sludge, metal, crust, punk, hardcore and doom. If I can give you one piece of advice it would be to GET THERE EARLY. My gut feeling is this one is certainly going to sell out (you should be going out of your way to catch Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt anyway, they fucking RULE).
Without further ado, here is the line-up for Slaughterfest IV:
Saturday July 30 - The Sandringham Hotel
Entry $20, doors at midday.
- Fuck I'm Dead (VIC)
- Looking Glass (ACT)
- Roadside Burial
- Mother Eel
- Mother Mars
- Ether Rag
- Red Bee
- Agonhymn (VIC)
- Burial Chamber
- Rock n Roll Weapon
- Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt
Facebook event: http://on.fb.me/lAZFA1
Loads of merch will be on sale from Grindhead Records and bands playing the gig. The first 100 payers will be given a FREE Slaughterfest IV CD which will feature tracks from each band on this years line up. Get in early so you don't miss out!
See you there!
Grindhead Records: http://www.grindheadrecords.com
Grindhead Records on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GrindheadRecords
Slaughterfest on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SlaughterfestSydney
666 Entertainment on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/666entertainment