Friday, 7 September 2012

Death Walks Behind You: Have a good weekend!

Have a good weekend. The best way to end any encounter of a Friday night. But from a stranger who just bumped you up the back as you stopped by your front gate, all the more awesome. You commend yourself for sending the same salutation back as she rides off. The fault was shared, and not a bad word was exchanged. Facts were stated. You could not hear me, I was saying ring ring ring. You should have been covering your brakes. No harm done - it was a pavement and speeds were sensible. Had she had lights I would have seen. Had I not been rocking to Atomic Rooster's 'Death Walks Behind You' I would have heard.

"I was going, ring ring ring!"

Everything said with a smile, right up to the final exchange.

"Have a good weekend!"
"You too."

And I promise I will.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Haunting the Shores: Wreckers

(Being the 1st track on Dethonator's self-titled debut, officially released June 1st, 2012)

Any catchy tune can get stuck in your head but only great songs haunt. In covering the songs which make up 2010's Big Four (see earlier post), we will encounter many tunes which haunt. 'Wreckers', the opener of Dethonator's self-titled d├ębut disc, is a prime example. Songs which haunt are songs which conjure with sound. Separated from any lyrics which may join them in their finished form, they bring to mind distinct images. Listeners visions may differ - when I first heard a music-only version of what was to become 'Wreckers', I titled it 'The Wailing Desert'.
The wailing is rather of unfortunate souls lured to the rocks by the wreckers of the title: devious devils who stand upon clifftops wielding lanterns, luring ships to their doom. Never mind that this probably never happened, cannot be historically verified: the image is too brilliant to discard on such grounds. Lyrically, 'Wreckers' is fantasy in the broad sense; the sense in which Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' is a fantasy, the way in which the pithy horror trips in 1950s Tales From the Crypt comics are 'mere fantasy'.
Haunting songs needn't have particular kinds of lyrics or even even lyrics at all. As such, it naturally follows that a 'haunter', so to speak, could convey profound truth or knit one a sweater of pure fantasy. 'Wreckers' does the latter absolutely beautifully. Know your heavy metal architecture as Dethonator do and it is possible to construct a haunter whose sounds and words resonate together: a few simple chords and a crash of percussion become waves on which the lyrics 'Haun-ting... the-e.. shore' ride through your head; a run of notes feels like rain in your brain; you can see that lantern swinging, its fell yellow glow lighting up the craggy face of its bearer, his grin speaking of horrors visited and horrors to come.
Best you just listen to 'Wreckers' and learn for yourself what a haunter feels like. As was mentioned, they don't have to have lyrics, but if they do, simple and ballsy can works wonders. Behold!

On the sands
The bodies lie
And stripped
And left to die

Shadows creep
On Bodmin Moor
Is left on the shore

Monkeying with the verse structure as I have done above was merely a way to get these simple, effective words to work their magic out of context. The line about Bodmin Moor is particularly perfect. It is so refreshing to find a band who don't fear a cliche, who don't avoid the obvious because it is obvious, who have the balls to decide what they think will work and just do it. It's awesome when it also pays off. We shall see many examples of this as we make our way, track by track, through the Big Four of 2010.

[This is part 1 in an ongoing series which will go through the Big Four of 2010, considering one individual track in each post. We won't be following the tracklistings of the albums in question (that would be tiresome) but eventually all of the tracks concerned will have a post devoted to them - yes, even the ones that aren't really all that]

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Primordial interview pt 3: "People ask, 'Why are you playing that vinyl?' Well, that's what it's for, not to be piled away on a shelf"

Primordial played Greece shortly before that country's economic collapse. Not suggesting there's a connection, but having been lucky enough to follow them on their 2008 tour, I recall (in retrospect) an atmosphere of something being about to give. A surprising but pleasant portent came in the form of a mass ride which passed by the band's hotel in Thessaloniki the first day of their two-date jaunt. Lots of dreadlocks, trashy bikes and good feeling stopped us from cross the road for a full minute at least, hot and bothered police following suspiciously behind. Though representing more walks of life than just the Hairies (see Jack Kirby's Fourth World) the abundance of facial hair per head amongst the protesters (riding to demonstrate their displeasure at a coastal route being modified to encourage motorvehicle traffic at a cost to all not just in the form of higher speed limits, but further, since nothing was being put toward promoting benign modes) was matched by the bands' - since Primordial were touring with the rather excellent Mael Mordha, who sport some pretty good beardage along with their musical chops - and waves and even pleasant words were exchanged between the groups as they passed. In any case, since then not only Greece but Ireland, where Primordial and Mael Mordha make their home, have suffered through economic collapse and are still trying to recover. The UK is back into recession, thanks to the Tories treating our collective national debt like some wayward offspring's credit card debt - Rory Bremner's burn on last weeks News Quiz about Cameron and co having managed to turn around falling unemployment and rising growth figures since they took office was beautiful. But one wonders if this will change the playing field for new bands and music in general. It's certainly changing people's spending habits. In metal at least, the live concert has become the way for bands to make money where the album used to be the way for bands to make money. Will even this be tricky as people feel the squeeze? Nemtheanga thinks so.

"Yeah, of course it's going to change everything. I mean, the less money around the less money people spend on things which are considered luxury items, like music. And we're also living in climate, in an age where young people assume[emphasis] that what is created by another person is their entitlement for free. Mix that with the fact that festival culture is actually kind of killing tours. Bands who are coming across and doing twenty, thirty day tours across Europe are bringing in less people because somebody's going, 'Well, am I going to drive to Bremen from Hamburg for two hours on a cold, rainy night on Tuesday, or shall I just wait and see all these bands at a festival in the sunshine?' But what they don't realise is that, with the exception of the top couple of percent of bands at festivals, most of everybody else is being screwed: most of their merchandise is being taken, a percentage of them taxed. You know, the counts of the festival cattlemarket season place the onus upon bands: you should be happy with your entitlement to play our festival in front of all these people. But you know, just because you play this festival in front of 10,000 people standing in a field watching you, doesn't mean that more than 100 people are going to come to your club show. It just doesn't work like that, you know?
"For younger bands who obviously don't have any history, it's very difficult. Bands in the future? I mean, I really don't know. You know, like I know a handful of bands who are being feted by the press; touring both sides of the Atlantic; playing every festival that you could imagine; have a quite a high profile: still[emphasis] haven't sold as much as five figures of CDs, you know? It's just not happening. And I think the underground is collapsing, very much like the mainstream did three or four years ago.

With the underground collapse, is there partly a fragmentation effect, because people can make things so much on their own and distribute them on their own?

"Possibly. Part of it is also there's too many bands, it's too easy to release music and there's no quality control anymore. There's just an awful lot of crap, you know, so something good? It does make it difficult to sell. Also of course this eBay/forum culture which is all about who has the most limited edition of whatever vinyl: nobody seems to really[emphasis] be talking about the music anymore. Something that's only been out for a year and a half can already go for 400 euro in a day. It's fuckin'... It's just retarded, you know? It's not[emphasis]. It's actually, to be honest, it's sort of symptomatic of the hipster culture which most metal people avoid[emphasis], you know? It's just hipster fucking liking something because it's cool, you know? And it's just everywhere. You know, people even ask, 'Why are you playing that vinyl?' Well, that's what it's for, not to be piled away on a shelf, and, you know, it's not an investment [said with sarcastic scorn - laughs]. But I think a lot of people look at it like that. Or they just don't, you know, they don't pay attention to the music anymore, so... I don't know. It's all going in a weird direction. If people aren't showing up to club shows, they aren't buying anything, if they aren't buying the shirts or... it's hard to know, you know?"

[Part 4 should be up tomorrow]
Primordial play in Manchester on Friday (4th May) and at London's Islington Academy Saturday (5th May). If tickets for either haven't sold out by the time you read this, you are strongly urged to secure your place. It will be incredible: you won't believe a mere band of men with instruments and vocal chords can transform the world around you into such an intense arena of sensory experience. Be there.

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Big Four

No, not the 80s thrash bands - didn't catch them in 2010, don't care to now; Megadeth would only be of interest if one were guaranteed fighting amongst the bandmembers, as Bobby Blitz recalls happened nghtly when Overkill toured with them in the '80s; Anthrax deserve no respect and none of anyone's money after how they treated their members who weren't there to abandon them back in the late '80s, early '90s; Metallica are only worth it to see Rob Trujilio play bass; Slayer would be worth it if they were playing 'South of Heaven' plus 'Show No Mercy' with 'Haunting the Chapel' for the encore, especially if they all farted in unison at the end of Chemical Warfare. What a gig that would be...

Anyway, the Big Four referred to here are the albums which soundtracked my 2010. The Big Four records which hung around like bad smells through extended periods of that fateful year - and which still linger, still haunt, still thrill. If any of the following four haven't had gross listening as yet, it won't be long before they can echo the cry of humans who have hung around long enough to be smug about it: I'm a hundred, you know. When you are, you can prevent lines from getting to the same place. But I digress. Again.

In 2010 four albums made an indelible impression. Other records were played - Melechesh's 'The Epigenesis' got some spins - but no other albums -made- 2010, 'round these mindparts anyways. The Big Four stood alone, as follows:

Ramesses 'Take the Curse'
Dethonator 'Dethonator'
Darkthrone 'Circle the Wagons'
Legendary Shack Shakers 'Agri-Dustrial'

(Another time, perhaps this space will host a reappraisal of 'the releases of 2010', since over a year has now passed since that year ended. It should be a rule that yearly reviews are only conducted at least 365 days after the year in question has ended. It's only fair, the only way to get anything really meaningful as a guide to the greatest music of year X.)

First up will be the opening track of Dethonator's self-titled debut, Wreckers. Look for it to appear before Saturday, entitled Haunting the Shores.

(Posts regarding the Big Four will continue intermitently until all tracks on all four releases have received a post, of whatever length, with perhaps an additional post for each album as a whole)

Riddle of the Rise of Magik

It was only recently that I came under possession by the latest Ramesses release, 'Possessed By the Rise of Magik'. As much as the band enthrall me - 'Take the Curse' was the finest album released in 2010 - having been so out of any loop (well, apart from Loop's loop, perhaps), let alone 'THE Loop', only recently did I realise it was out. The philosophy that says that any media can wait is the right one to adopt in these oversaturated times: what exactly would have changed had I heard this when it was released last year? Would I have gained mastery over time and space? If so, the chance is gone and I will just have to be sober about it. No one can do everything everywhere. And considering certain sources which come my way unbidden, I thought I might have heard. Still...

Nearly an hour in length, 'Possessed By the Rise of Magik' is as enthralling an offering as its predecessor specifically because it is quite distinct. There was a whole saga behind getting 'Take the Curse' from its creators' minds to their audience's ears. The experience may well have driven some people (almost) insane. It's a story that will be explored in this space another time. The important point for the present: 'Possessed' was recorded live in two days and then overlaid and perhaps toyed with a little. The difference between it and 'Curse' is, appropriately, awe-inspiringly stark.

A proper write-up of 'Possessed By the Rise of Magik' will appear here another time - track by track most likely, and then perhaps something about its totality too, we'll see. Right now I'm more concerned about the riddle which this simple digipack hides in plain sight on its back cover, as follows:

Ramesses were:
Tim Bagshaw - Flesh and Claws
Adam Richardson - Blood and Spells
Mark Greening - Skulls and Bones

If you scanned it read it again. Yes, were, as in are not any more - we can assume they don't mean 'Ramesses were', as in the wolfy kind; you can hear quite clearly that this could be the work of no other core triumvirate.

So is this the last Ramesses release, a final full-length trip into blackened pschedelia for the road? That was the first thought that sprung to mind, but it seems doubtful. More likely Ramesses were a triumvirate and will now become a quartet. For while the skeleton of 'Possessed' was recorded in 2 days in August of 2010, we are informed on this same unassuming digipack sleeve: "Vokills and keys recorded by Rodaidh McDonald at XL Studios January 2011", and while all the music is credited to Ramesses and all the lyrics to Adam Richardson, "Additional korg MS-20 and moog prodigy" is by, you guessed it, Rodaidh McDonald.

The suspense is killing, the record killer. More news as it comes in.

Unwanted calls

I felt I might as well just post about this, get it off my chest. Earlier today I was browsing the internet looking for quotes on house insurance. I had left a quote from More Than up in my browser while doing other things like eating my lunch, taking a moment away from my tiresome tasks. Suddenly I get a call out of the blue. It's from More Than. Now remember, I haven't purchased anything from them: I've just been looking at quotes online, you need to enter your details to do that. They wanted to offer additional discounts over the phone, did I have 5 minutes to spare. Not only did I not, I was incensed at being intruded upon in such a way for such a flimsy reason. I feel like this is worse than cold calling, a kind of pressure selling designed to help push consumers to their wits end. It's the kind of thing that makes me want to just unplug from the entire world so that I might just possibly get a moment's peace. Of course I'm being melodramatic, but that's my way sometimes.

The end result? Negative for More Than. Where I was initially interested, I am now determined to find home insurance elsewhere. The rating they got from Which? customers did help spur me to that decision, but this creepy invasion of my privacy really clinched it.