Alela Diane, Atmosphere, Explosions in the Sky?
“That’s not very metal! What kind of pussy are you Monkey?” I hear you asking yourself before deleting this blog forever from your bookmarks, never to grace these pages with your presence again.
Well, hold your horses, cowboy.
Quite apart from the oodles of Weedeater and Kvelertak, with which I have been liberally assaulting my aural passages, MDG is about all sorts of heaviness – not just drop-tunings and Sabbath-worship or tremolo-picking and blast beats.
Some of the heaviest shit known to man can initially appear soft and inviting, drawing you in only to leave you shell-shocked from the emotional devastation.
In their own ways, all three of the artists in this week’s round-up have got major previous in this department. In each of their discographies resides a killer album ranking among my all-time favourites.
Expectations were quite high then.
Alela Diane – Alela Diane & Wild Divine. Diane’s debut Pirate’s Gospel is one of those records that never fails to transport me into her world.
Sparse, timeless folk lit up by a voice whose “high lonesome catch“ breaks my heart a little every time I hear it.
Three albums in and Diane has ditched the freak folkie look and sound for… country rock. Personally I’m quite fond of country rock (The Byrds, Arlo Guthrie, Flying Burrito Brothers et al) but with the fuller band sound, there’s no escaping the feeling that Diane’s lost something intangible that previously defined her.
The new record is certainly an enjoyable listen and there are moments when a little vocal inflection sprinkles a little magic dust on a song.
It could well be a slow burner but in these early days (it’s been out about a week), Alela Diane & Wild Divine mainly inspired me to cane the first two records and stare enigmatically out of the window. In a very manly way of course.
If you still say you don’t like a little of that ol’ boom-bap, I diagnose deafness to good music. You may need some drops for that.
Problem: Atmosphere went and peaked with that record. In the subsequent 10 years, MC and lyricist Slug has never quite topped that heady mix of caustic wit, anger, idealism and self-loathing that elevated his dissection of his car-crash of a life and damaged relationships into something special.
Behind the boards, while Ant has certainly become more skilled, neither has he ever achieved that same soulful synergy with Slug as on Lucy Ford.
Someone also needs to have a word with the Minneapolis duo about quality control. In three words: Too. Many. Records.
In 14 years: 7 full albums, 2 compilations, 6 main EPs (some of which were album length) and a further 13 EPs as part of an ongoing series called Sad Clown/Bad Dub.
Seriously chaps, slow down and bin a few songs rather than farting them endlessly out into the world.
Anyway, The Family Sign is Slug’s bitter take on father-son dysfunction. Over doom-laden arrangements that rely on live instrumentation rather than samples, Slug spins bruising, moving tales threaded through with painful reminiscences of violent fathers and mothers struggling to keep families together. Yet what’s perhaps more interesting is the agony of Slug’s realisation of his own shortcomings as a father despite his best intentions.
The Family Sign starts very strongly but Slug is too relentless in his self-loathing and too monochromatic in his flow to fully maintain my interest over 14 tracks. Before the end of the album, I’m checking to see how long is left. Not a good sign.
Nevertheless, listening to at least a few songs is highly recommended.
Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. Yeah, yeah, I know. EITS are complete nancy-boys compared to the mighty Isis or Pelican or Russian Circles. The Coldplay of post-rock.
Well I honestly pity you if can listen to the The Earth Is Not A Cold, Dead Place and not feel anything. They may not be experimental or bring any kind of extreme noise terror but EITS do know how to do one thing and do it well.
That’s truly convey emotion through their music without recourse to vocals. Your Hand in Mine never fails to fill me with melancholy to the point where I can barely breathe.
Eight years on, TCx3, as I will now call it, is no radical departure. To paraphrase some twat on P4K, EITS were put on this earth to twinkle our arses off and twinkle they do. Check Postcard from 1952 for some serious high-voltage twinklage.
True, it isn’t an emotional knee to the groin leaving me retching in the gutter gasping for breath this time around.
But it’s stirring and uplifting and perfect when you want to pamper your ears a bit after abusing them with filthy shit like Buzzov*en.
Honourable Mention: Amon Amarth – Surtur Rising. Intrigued by Full Metal Atorney’s review, I checked this out. I’ve previously dismissed them as I don’t give a flying one about Vikings and I don’t like melodic death metal.
As Amon Amarth are Viking obsessed melodeath, it seemed a no-brainer.
But they are actually pretty good. Chunky riffs, windmilling hair and fist-pumping choruses served up with a side-order of fun are the order of the day. Nice.