May already? Time for my usual roundup of ten great tracks you should hear from the past month.
Track of the Month
Benji Webbe has been around on the metal scene now for a good many years. First as the vocalist of ragga/(heavy) metallers Dub War, and then latterly as Skindred, and it always seemed that despite a lot of good press, and a whole number of good songs, it always seemed that his bands were always destined to be a niche thing. 2011 appears finally to have changed this, what with a seriously high-profile support slot on Rob Zombie’s first UK tour in twelve years, and now a new album that appears to have a fair amount of clout behind it – and more importantly, a cracking lead single. Easily the highlight of that support slot – it’s even better as a single, remarkably – this anthemic track kinda sounds nu-metal-ish, but with the crucial difference that this sounds like no-one other than Skindred, and has an absolute monster of a chorus that should see Skindred hit the metal big league at least. And about fucking time, too.
Beneath The Ashes
I’ve got a full review in the works for this album, but at the moment I’m struggling somewhat to come up with the words to explain just how utterly brilliant it is. So in the meantime, here is a mention of at least one of the tracks to give you an idea. So anyway, it’s been six years since the release of their previous album Only Human Remains, and while that was good, this is on another level entirely. Yes, it’s a band in the electronic/industrial realm, but what they are doing includes acoustic elements, glitchy breakdowns, some quite astonishing arrangements and glorious melody after glorious melody – and seems almost to be a logical progression from the ideas Flesh Field were doing a few years back, but with more style, variety and better tunes. This track features all of these elements, and more, and is only one track from twelve of what is a contender for my album of the year already.
The Tide of Ambition
For Cause and Consequence EP
The first new recorded output from this much-loved Nottingham band in ten years, and the waiting has not been in vain. The wierd thing is that their return is pretty much picking up from where they left off, without any real leaps into the unknown, and this is exactly what I – and no doubt many other fans – am happy with. After all, they never really sounded like anyone else in the first place, and just hearing more of their dry-sounding, unexpectedly anthemic metal is absolutely fine. Interestingly this track is not the one debuted last year at Damnation, as I recall, and more than anything, it’s also of note that this isn’t half as cryptic and difficult to get into as before, either. The newly returned band appear relaxed and confident, as they did live – and you know what? Welcome back, guys.
Let’s stick with the comebacks, as there are a few this month to note. The Gothminister is back for a fourth album, and lets be honest – not a lot has changed. It’s still oh-so-slightly overblown goth metal, but other than the opener Stonehenge (no, not a cover), the humour that was occasionally present has vanished. Still, it has it’s moments, and in particular this one – which is up with Gothminister’s finest moments. So it’s the bits you’d expect – a bombastic intro, and a brute of a chorus with some cracking electronically-enhanced rhythms and that trademark riffwork. I can’t help thinking, though, that this trick won’t stretch to a fifth album…
The Devil’s in my Details
All Beauty Destroyed
I made the last AP album A Violent Emotion my album of the year for 2008, and with good reason – it was plainly and simply a brilliant electronic/industrial album that was unafraid to play in poppier realms when needed. And Daniel Graves is back with more of the groovy electro-industrial poppiness, and he’s changed his vocals again – this time more of a gruff roar. If this is the new style he is going to use, it might take some getting used to, but the track itself is really quite fabulous, and suggests that he is ready to take a further step forward with the new album. Not quite sure why the rather great The Bitter Years has been banished to a rare B-side, though.
Also back after a bit of a break are Imperative Reaction, and it’s with a thumping new single. One thing is for sure – if you didn’t like IR before, this isn’t going to change your mind. IR hit a club-bound, clean sound about four albums back and haven’t let go of it yet, other than to polish and refine it somewhat with each release. And this first taster of a new album continues this – and I have to say that I wasn’t expecting the gang vocals for the chorus. They work well, though. It’s a new trick that elevates this track beyond what would otherwise be “oh, it’s a new IR track” to “oh, wow, this is good”.
Sick Sick Sick
Beating Dead Horses
I’ve gone on record noting previously that the last 16Volt album American Porn Songs was, to me, their weakest album to date – and one hell of a letdown after the monster that was the comeback album FullBlackHabit. Having listened to the new album (a promo, I might add) a few times now, this one is definitely better – less ballads, and a return to a more electronic-based production that adds so much more depth to the sound. Pick of the album, though, is this crunching, roaring track that is based around a mightily chunky rhythm. Again, another album that will see a full review in due course.
Nine Types Of Light
I was rather late to the party here, and not for the first time I’m wondering why I missed them previously. Anyway, this new album is as much of a joy as their previous one(s) to listen to. And it’s heralded by this quite fantastic opener – somehow a merging of post-punk and space-funk that doesn’t sound stupid or contrived, instead sounding entirely natural. Not to mention utterly joyous as the chorus kicks in. Sometimes bands are consumed by hype – anyone that can explain what is so great about the Vaccines, by the way, please get in touch, to me they just sound yet another indie band being overhyped by a desperate music industry – and in other cases, like with this lot, they transcend it because they are so obviously brilliant and different.
I have absolutely no plans to see the film this comes from (the rather mauled Red Riding Hood), but god this track is good. The first new track (as opposed to a cover) from Fever Ray for a while, this is another slice of creepy, twisted electro. Complete with a stalking rhythm, and what sound to be imitated wolf-howls. How does Karin Dreijer Andersson do it? She’s not released a single bad song yet.
Fight the Power (feat. Chuck D)
Homefront: Resistance OST
Watch on YouTube
Finally, a cover that actually has some bite. DEP teaming up with Chuck D? Fuck yeah! DEP rip the original beats up and bring a whole new sound to this legendary Public Enemy anthem, turning it into a hardcore punk thrashabout, but crucially not doing a lot with the vocals, including bringing Chuck D in to help and leaving the chorus well alone. I’d normally say that bands should leave songs of this stature well alone, but DEP have more than done this justice.