Amid the murky gloom of the grisly London winter, I warm myself by raking through the dying embers of the musical year just gone.
I love pecking like a vulture on the carcass of year-end lists, yanking out the gems I missed like so many scraps of bloody intestine .
Of course that’s in the very limited time I have left after doing my best to suck every last drop of pleasure from Trap Them’s Darker Handcraft and the Balaclava record.
I am seriously addicted. Darker Handcraft is utterly narcotic in its intensity: blissed out on buzzsaw guitar.
Anyway. On my (metaphorical) turntable this week are Vreid, The KLF, Snares, YOB and Tombs.
Vreid – V
Given that I rather enjoyed Vreid’s last album Milorg at the time and the prominence of their latest offering in the upper echelons of many a 2011 round-up, I had high hopes for V. That it was billed as “catchy” and even “black n’ roll” had me rubbing my thighs in unseemly anticipation.
The motherchugging gallops and irresistible reach-for-the-sky riffing that opens the album certainly had me punching the air (much to my embarrassment on the Tube)… only for a the dying wheeze of an asphyxiating forest dwarf to utterly kill it for me.
Goddamn. Somewhere down the line I really stopped like the black metal rasp (TM).
Sorry black metal, it’s not you, it’s me.
So, despite lashings of wonderful palm-muted rifferama, I won’t be coming back to this for a while. Especially as the cheese quotient increases exponentially as the album progresses.
I won’t even mention the appalling clean singing on Sound of the River and Fire on the Mountain (oops).
A rather random Google tangent recently led to an evening watching old clips of The KLF after a search on the late Phil Vane of Extreme Noise Terror referenced their notorious Brit Awards performance together.
The KLF have faded into obscurity a little thanks to the deletion of their entire back catalogue in the UK but they were absolute legends.
Who else – on a live primetime television broadcast of a stuffy music establishment awards show in the socially conservative UK of 1992 – does a near-unlistenable crust/grind/rap version of their biggest dance hit and then top it off by firing a machine gun full of blanks at the besuited crowd and quit the music business?
“This is television freedom!”
I loved the normal versions of their songs – utterly monstrous rap-house slathered with rave sirens and synth stabs. Here is 3am Eternal in all it’s po-faced, pretend-serious glory.
It was so cheesy and so over the top that it was brilliant.
Bizarrely, I remember giving equal listening time to this and Iron Maiden Live After Death on my walkman at high school that year.
Snares – Sabbath Dubs
I wasn’t expecting much from this as metal and dub aren’t the most natural bedfellows despite a shared density.
The main riff of Black Sabbath has been transposed down several octaves into sub-bass territory and injected with mutant wobble.
It’s amazing that the spirit of the original lives on inside this take-no-prisoners dub monster. Then again, this is the genius that is Aaron Funk (who typically records as Venetian Snares).
The video is a bit silly but it was the only one I could find.
YOB – Atma
All this d-beat, crust, metallic hardcore and primitive death metal appears to have damaged my ability to concentrate.
Give me a proper doom record and it’s like switching from comics to Dostoevsky.
Atma sorely tested me. My finger hovered over the stop button a few times but I forced myself to stick with it.
And I tell you what by the end of the (seemingly) two-day-long closer Adrift in the Ocean I was banging my head. Thirsty, hungry and barely conscious in a pool of my own fluids, sure, but most importantly, bangin’ my noggin.
Maybe there is hope for me yet.
Tombs – Path of Totality
It’s becoming pretty clear that I have fallen out with black metal. I like tremolo picking as a technique and enjoy the shape of black metal riffs but I want density, thickness, weight and other synonyms for heavy.
The watery, scratchy, thin, lo-fi “treble attack” of much black metal leaves me unsatisfied.
Now Tombs are far from a black metal band. BM is just one ingredient in a stew containing hardcore, noise rock, deathrock and sludge.
The heavier Tombs get, the more I enjoy them. Yet whenever the overall sound shifts closer to traditional black metal, I start to lose interest.
So -for now at least – I can’t see this getting under my skin in the same way as my favourite records of 2011.
Full credit though: the good bits are bloody good. Check the tribal drumming on Vermillion.