Where the hell is this year going? We seem to be flying through it. So anyway, here's my monthly rundown of ten tracks that I really like/am listening to lots at the moment.
Soul on Fire
Songs in A&E
It's a nice relief, in some respects, to see some of the "indie" bands that I used to love still active, and still producing music as bloody marvellous as this. I'll be honest: if you weren't keen on Spiritualized's blissed-out, drone-filled and gospel-influenced garage rock previously, this album won't convert you either. If you ever liked any of their previous stuff, though, this album is utterly wonderful. Very much a product of Jason Pierce's recent health problems, in parts this album is astonishingly life-affirming, and in particular this is shown to utterly spectacular effect on this track, one of the best singles he has ever released, and certainly my track of the year so far.
I'm still kicking myself for missing the recent gig in Sheffield, too.
Songs In The Key of Death
(No longer available online)
Yeah, so I kinda missed much of the Deathkey chaos on Side-Line (I don't have the time to follow the forums as closely as others), but I've been wanting a copy of this album for a while, so it was an opportune buy when XP8 had it on their merch stall on Friday. While many of the tracks on the album are particularly light-hearted, this certainly doesn't sound like one that is (unless I'm missing something really bloody obvious). Listening a little closer to the lyrics, a little bit of a character destruction of a, uh, particular target? Underpinned by an almost bouncing synth line, the spiky vocals, sheets of processed guitar and ever faster beats make for a hell of an intense track.
Ah, so this is where the Ihsahn I had a fair bit to say about the other week has ended up. Almost full-circle, in fact. His previous (and first) solo album The Adversary left me cold, so I'm mightily surprised at the change on this second solo album. Considerably less experimental, in parts this could almost be mistaken for the mighty Emperor, particularly on this track. While a little less dense than much Emperor material – in fact it feels kinda raw – it still has the unmistakable sound of the band, or more particularly Ihsahn himself, and this track is simply shit-kicking Black Metal with no frills, and the first new BM track that's made me sit up and pay attention in a while.
A curious beast, this lot, introduced to me by Will. Swedish, as I recall, and an unusual mix of death metal and industrial electronics/production, made even more unusual by dual vocals (growled/gutteral stuff by the bloke, clean vocals by the female). Mainly epic tracks that weave in and out of about four different ideas in each song, there is also a somewhat overbearing anti-Christian sentiment to some of it – you know, we know you don't like religion by now folks…Even so, the music is impressive stuff – it really is a different sound they get with the influences they bring. This is the opening track to the album from last year, and wastes no time in laying down a brutal groove that showcases most of their strengths almost immediately.
Book of Enoch
The Blood Rituals
Talking of unusual musical marriages, this one (to me) appeared out of nowhere recently, thanks to Geoff and Matt linking to the free download of the entire album in full WAV format (no longer available), following the problems at Sistinas that appear to have seen most artists leave the label. So, yeah, it's another US industrial noise album, you say. Well, not quite. The secret weapon here is the use of Black Metal, or at least the feel of BM making for a brutal listen. The beats are heavy as fuck, there are dark, oppressive samples filling the gaps, and at points guitar samples make their appearance too. The entire album (well, six new tracks and six remixes, the pick of which is W.A.S.T.E dishing out a savage beating to We Are Immortal) is truly brilliant, but for me this track is the best of the original versions – straight, brutal rhythmic noise that I suspect may well be something else live at the volume it deserves.
Bit of a strange album, this. At points – on the strength of a few listens through now – it reaches glittering heights such as this track, and on others is rather dull. To be fair, this is another album that I'm sure will grow on me in time. This track is by far the most immediate, though, and I'll be astonished if it isn't the next single – a beautiful, icy-cold pop song with an understated air that this band are so good at (see also: Destroy Everything You Touch and the current single Ghosts)
The Lotus Eater
So, Opeth are back, with another epic album doing…more of the same, really. But then, who's complaining when they are consistently so good? Somehow dipping toes into Doom, Death and Prog and almost always getting away with it, this was the first track "released" from the new album in the run-up to yesterday's release date, and it's still the pick. All the usual ingredients to an Opeth track are there (umpteen sections and time changes, acoustic interludes, death metal, etc), they just work.
My Control = My Power [Glitch Mode Mix]
Cyanotic Presents: Gears Gone Wild
I've been waiting for this compilation for a while – Sean from Cyanotic's compilations so far have been storming mixes of US industrial, noise, drum'n'bass and many points in between, introducing me to bands I'd never even come across before, as well as providing exclusive tracks and remixes of bands I already love. And obviously, this one is no exception. I've heard one track (well, collaboration) on the previous Glitch Mode comp from Drukore, but this is way better – a storming drum'n'bass attack with a roaring guitar riff and vocals capping it off. Bring on the CD so I can annoy the neighbours* with this…
Mogwai Fear Satan
Young Team [2008 Remaster]
With the re-release and remastering of this seminal post-rock album, it finally has the sound it always deserved. The re-mastering has freshened up the sound to an amazing degree, with the loud bits actually now LOUD, exactly as they should be. And the crowning glory of the album, the sixteen-minute, two-chord-hurricane that is Mogwai Fear Satan, obviously sounds utterly immense in it's new recording. Starting gradually (and quietly) before building stage-by-stage into a maelstrom of noise (think the building of a storm between your ears and then it raging there for six minutes or so) before it passes and you are left with little more than a delicate flute melody playing in the strange afterglow. Utterly magical, and live (when they deign to play it nowadays – when I saw them it was the first song played!) it's awesome.
Knock You Down
The news that this lot have effectively risen from the ashes has come as something of a surprise, to say the least. The final album released before they split – American Beast – was the sound of a band pulling in different directions, with a marked tilt towards "rock" rather than the heavily industrial-themed sound they had pursued before. So the announcement that the first release from the new band – shorn of Anna Christine, and with a "new female singer", making it quite clear where the band think the problem was – is to be a "best of", with all tracks re-recorded suggests something of a revisionism. Better, though, is the news that any new material will be heading back down the path of the album Chromasex Monkeydrive, which remains their best moment by far. Of the various highlights from that album (which incidentally is seemingly pretty hard to get hold of now – it was hard enough when I got my copy three years or so ago!), this track is probably the pick – a savage tech-industrial-metal attack with Anna's vocals bristling with the intent of revenge.