Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Grouper @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 08/10/11

Grouper, the solo project of Portland resident Liz Harris, live is an interesting concept. Half singer-songwriter, half drone/shoegaze; the sound is based purely on atmosphere, beauty and creating landscapes. Because of this, I can imagine that if you caught Grouper in the wrong venue then it could be a disaster. Thankfully, the Brudenell Social Club is not one of these venues. An intimate venue with fantastic acoustics, it felt like the perfect venue for Grouper.
Harris played by herself in front of a backdrop of the glimmers of light that appear on the covers to her two albums released this year, A I A: Dream Loss and A I A: Alien Observer. This was a good indication to what the setlist would be like, with just about everything coming from these albums. This is certainly not a complaint though, the setlist was a fantastic choice of songs, especially a breathtaking set closer; an instrumental version of A I A highlight She Loves Me That Way. The set only consisted of five or six songs but this was more than made up for with the sheer jawdropping beauty that came from the stage over that fifty or so minutes.
Liz Harris was very much in control throughout the set, with every sound coming from her guitar or the electronics in front of her sounding like they were precisely where and how they should be. Her stage presence is bizarre, with no words said to the crowd and an incredibly mix, but strangely captivating. The sound; unbelievably dreamy and mesmerizing.
Grouper was backed by some fantastic support. The Haxan Cloak was almost ruined by people talking throughout his quiet set but put on a fantastic show. Sounding not dissimilar to Tim Hecker, he played in front of a backdrop of an occult video that created a fantastic atmosphere. Neil Campbell and Mick Flower were impressive, if not as impressive, sounding like a guitar and violin based Emeralds. A fantastic night of atmospheric soundscapes.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Death Grips @ Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds 28/09/11

What a treat this was. Death Grips, the much hyped Hip-Hop/Noise Rock quartet, playing a free show to celebrate the launch of Vice’s Do’s and Don’ts Book. The venue was the relatively new Nation of Shopkeepers which I have not been to before but I have been to its Sheffield counterpart, Bungalows & Bears. The two venues, thankfully, share two things in common; a fantastic choice in beers and fantastic sound. The venue was unsurprisingly rammed for a free gig of such a hyped band during freshers in Leeds city centre.
With this being one of the first shows of the UK leg of Death Grips’ first tour, there was much anticipation to what the live show would actually be like. The show ended up being exactly how you would expect; three of the members playing live instrumentation while MC Ride yelled and screamed over the beats with such intensity. And that’s definitely the word to sum up Death Grip’s show, intense, as they proved themselves to have just as much anger and abrasiveness as any hardcore band. This lead to the crowd reacting appropriately and going absolutely mental. Bodies were thrown left, right and centre as the crowd bellowed every last word back at MC Ride. The most crowdsurfers I have seen in a while.
Throughout their relatively short set, Death Grips mainly played tracks from their debut album, Exmilitary, with added instrumentals between songs (there was very little space for breathers between songs) and Zach Hill’s (of Hella, Team Sleep and just about every other band) trademark sporadically mathy drumming. The vocals were, unfortunately, slightly too low in the mix for how prominent and vital they are to the sound but this is neither the band’s fault nor a major gripe. This, while stunting the atmosphere of opener Guillotine, got better and better throughout the show with it being more than made up for by the second half where tracks likeTakyon (Death Yon) and Lord of the Game were really given the chance to shine. However, possibly their finest moment was Spread Eagle Cross The Block which, while not really living up to the songs that surround it on record, was delivered with such energy and conviction that it was a definite highlight. This slight sound issue certainly didn’t stop MC Ride from being the star of the show either, flailing his body in every direction and putting every last bit of energy in to everything he does; he is a mesmerising front man.  Death Grips have landed, and proven themselves to be not just a fantastic band on record but also live as well.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Witch Cult – Witch Cult (Holy Roar)

Witch Cult are a powerviolence band from Dorset who go in to this, their first proper release other than their demo tape, with some anticipation already surrounding them. This has built from the bands’ mysteriousness with early shows being played in balaclavas and even the spreading of false rumours as to who was in the band. However, even with this anticipation, Witch Cult definitely does not disappoint and has turned out to be one of the best hardcore releases of the year so far.
Witch Cult start this record very much how they plan to continue, with fourty seconds of squealing distortion. This abrasive and punishing sound is exactly what this record is about. This leads to a heavy Electric Wizard style doom metal riff before breaking in to the fast and furious style which makes up a large part of this release. Witch Cult continues in this style, switching between Charles Bronson powerviolence, Electric Wizard doom and Punch bass-heavy breakdowns for the entirety of the record. It’s this bass, surprisingly for a powerviolence release, which propels this album forward and holds these different branches together. No matter how far Witch Cult stray from the powerviolence sound, that bass guitar helps glue it all together. Witch Cult manage to do a very good job of all three of these styles they switch between and, while this album may not be for powerviolence purists, manages to bring accessibility to the genre without sacrificing on the energy, intensity or anger. Now this album isn’t long, it’s about ten minutes and fits on the single side of a 12”, and as much as it leaves you wanting more, Witch Cult manage to fit everything they need to in to this short space of time. They have released a record that sounds surprisingly complete and just down right brilliant for a band that’s so early on in their career.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Interview: Abolition

Abolition’s debut self-titled album, a collection of pulvarising punk tracks in the key of ’90s metallic hardcore, finally gets released on September 12th by Holy Roar records. On the album, Abolition have no shame wearing their influences on their sleeve but at the same time are constantly looking foward. Abolition prove themselves to be a great band with a bright future in the British hardcore scene. To celebrate the upcoming release I sent a few questions in the direction of guitarist Daniel to find out a bit more about that band.
There’s not a lot of information on you out there so how did you form to be Abolition?
Nick and I were in a band a few years ago called Waste Away. Our drummer and bassist both moved away to travel the world and study, so we replaced them with Jimmy and Charlie, and Sam joined as a second guitarist. The new lineup and sound was so totally different to Waste Away that we decided to change the band name as well. I actually happened to open up a book when thinking of a new band name, and the word ‘Abolition’ was the first word I saw, and it stuck.
While there is an obvious influence from the 90’s metallic hardcore scene, which of your modern peers influence you?
We all listen to a lot of current bands, but the more recent bands that have influenced Abolition are bands like Die Young (TX), 108, Most Precious Blood, Advent, Ringworm, etc. I love Foundation too. But you’re right, most of our influences come from the 1990s.
You’ve previously done splits with Hang the Bastard and Ark of the Covenant. Are those two bands you like and respect a lot?
Absolutely. Ark of the Covenant just played their last show a couple months back and it was a shame to see them break up, they were a great band. Hang The Bastard have been our friends from the very beginning and they’re doing great things at the moment, everyone check them out.
Your album is released on Holy Roar, a label I’ve loved for years, how did you come about to be working with them?
Our guitarist Sam got to know Alex (the dude who runs Holy Roar) while on tour with Hang The Bastard last year. Holy Roar had expressed some interest in working with Abolition, so we got talking and came to the agreement that Holy Roar would put out our first LP. Alex is a great dude who puts a lot of effort into his label and releases, so we’re really happy to be working with Holy Roar.
While I don’t have a lyric sheet, your lyrics often seem to focus on you being straight edge. How much does that lifestyle mean to you and why?
We are a straight edge band, but I can only speak for myself when I answer this question, as we all have different perspectives on why we are straight edge. I got into straight edge when I was 13 or 14 years old, mostly as an escape from the negative and destructive influences of my peers. I never liked drinking, and straight edge just felt like a natural way for me to be myself, as well as a way to take a stand against the pressure of being a young teenager who is expected to drink and do drugs. Now that I’m a little older, straight edge is even more relevant to me than it ever was. Every day is a reminder of the fucked up reality of alcohol and drug culture, whether it’s a family friend who is checked into rehab at 21, or the drunk guy who staggers around your local high street picking fights. Having a clear, focused mind and maintaining control of my own decisions just seems even more important.
Do you often find yourselves being influenced musically by bands that follow similar ideals?
We’re not exclusively influenced by straight edge bands, but yes, a lot of the bands that have influenced us musically have been straight edge – Judge, Earth Crisis, Strife, etc.
From what I understand, you’re currently touring the UK and Europe. How is that going?
We just finished up a 3-week UK and European tour recently, it was insane. This was our first time touring Europe, and it was way more eventful than we expected. Our van got broken into and we had a couple run-ins with the law, but we played some incredible shows, so it was definitely worth it.
Now the album hasn’t even dropped yet but where do you plan on going from here? Anymore releases planned for the future?
We’re just planning on playing as many shows as possible in the near future. Hopefully we’ll hit up some new countries – there’s talk of us playing Scandinavia, Russia, and South-Eastern Europe next year. Maybe even Greece and Turkey. And as far as releases go, we’ll probably do a couple 7”s next year, but we haven’t properly started writing anything yet.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Deafheaven – Roads to Judah (Deathwish)

Deathwish have a reputation for being one of the greatest and most consistent labels in modern heavy music.  They have, however, truly outdone themselves this year with three fantastic signings. The first two were inspired in the form of Punch and Touché Amoré; two excellent bands who feel like they’d fit right at home with Deathwish. The third, however, is one that truly took me by surprise and that band was Deafheaven. What Deathwish have done here is signed a band completely out of their comfort zone, yet one that sounds entirely at home in the Deathwish community.
Having released a highly promising demo tape last year, Deafheaven have seen themselves become one of the most discussed bands and ones-to-watch in the Black Metal scene. However with the demo tape, and in fact even more with the album, it can be often questioned whether this is in fact Black Metal. Now, outside influences are hardly a new thing in modern Black Metal and the places that Deafheaven take from have been being mined by the Black Metal community for years. There are clear influences from the Shoegaze noise of My Bloody Valentine, the Screamo intensity of Orchid, and the Post-Rock beautifully emotional build ups of Godspeed You! Black Emperor throughout this album. However, what does make Deafheaven so different is just how much they take from these influences. They come in sometimes as much, if not more, than influences from the Black Metal scene creating a whole new sound altogether. From the opening Post-Rock esque section to the hauntingly beautiful piano closing it is obvious that you are not just listening to another Black Metal album. In fact, in a similar way to Have A Nice Life’s mind-blowing Deathconsciousness a few years back, Roads to Judah regularly makes you question whether or not you’re actually even listening to a Metal album. However, like Deathconsciousness what you get is an album that, like all good Black Metal, focuses much more on atmosphere and intensity than anything else making the album much more of an experience than a collection of songs.
The influences also fit together perfectly. While you’d expect Deafheaven to sound like a band forcing originality or one in the middle of an identity crisis, the album sounds very unified and natural. There are also more slower passages on this record because of its ranging influences. This gives Deafheaven the ability to show off one of its greatest tricks which is fantastic transitions from slow and pretty to heavy and intense. This is best seen in Unrequited, which the first two minutes of sound like an extract from Lift Your Skinny Fists… by Godspeed You! Black Emperor before flawlessly and effortlessly kicking back in true Black Metal style.
Another aspect which makes Roads to Judah a very un-Black Metal like album, however, is the production. Like many of the releases on Deathwish, the production is very clean and professional. Quite the opposite of what is usually associated with Black Metal. However, this gives the shimmery Post-Rock guitars the ability to truly shine. Another aspect of Roads to Judah which is quite un-Black Metal esque is the amount of control Deafheaven have over their music. While Black Metal LPs by tradition are quite long and occasionally, when not done right, quite monotonous, Roads to Judah shows neither of these traits. What you actually get here is a very compact album, with a length of just under forty minutes, where every note feels like it’s there for a reason.
What Deafheaven have created here is an album which is constantly drifting away from its Black Metal roots but is tied down strong enough to never forget what it is. An album dripping in intensity and atmosphere which feels like so much more than just a bunch of songs. A brutally emotional rollercoaster which, I can’t help but feel, will be a serious competitor for my album of the year.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Abolition – Abolition (Holy Roar)

With this, their debut album, Abolition prove themselves to be a very promising face on the UK Hardcore scene. Being released on the impressively consistent Holy Roar Records, Abolition’s self-titled sees them doing very little new but doing it very well. With their sound being eternally indebted to the sound of the ‘90s Metallic Hardcore scene it comes as no surprise to see obvious comparisons between them and Unbroken or Integrity. The heavy slowed down Hardcore riffs, the emphasis on rhythm, and the intense barking vocals all point back to Metallic Hardcore’s heyday. They stay surprisingly true to this sound throughout their self-titled as well. While their counterparts like Pulling Teeth and Die Young are adding more modern day Hardcore influences and turning up the tempo, Abolition stay set in their much heavier, darker ways.
An area in which this album draws away from that ‘90s Melodic Hardcore sound, however, is the production. Produced by Jamie Fayre, who has worked with their fellow Holy Roar band Last Witness, the production is much cleaner and professional than you would usually associate with Melodic Hardcore. However, this production suits the band perfectly and lets you get the most out of the individual sections, especially the lead guitar work. The production is not the only thing that works great here but the band itself as an entity is incredibly good. The rhythm section is so unbelievably tight, leaving plenty of space for those intensely barking vocals and lead guitarist Sam Knight’s brilliant work. However, it is possibly when these elements break down and the growling vocals are replaced with spoken word or when the guitars get more melodic that Abolition are really at their best. This is when the band shows, glistening through the heaviness and aggression, some genuinely beautiful extracts. There isn’t a better example of this than on closing track, Dawn of a New Age, where it all just breaks down leaving these elements bare for all to see. The song cuts out about half way through and this incredible modulated riff is introduced and is gradually accompanied by spoken word. This leads to the song kicking back in with arguably the heaviest moment of the album and the transaction is just mind-blowing. It is probably this moment, more than any, where Abolition show just how great and promising a band they really are.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Death Grips - Exmilitary

Finally finished my dissertation so I’ve got time to post on here again. Death Grips started off as a Zach Hill project before mutating in to a hip-hop project with the current contributors being unknown. Death Grips sound like a cross between hip-hop and industrial and yes it is as mental as it sounds. Both intense and forward thinking, Death Grip’s debut mixtape Exmilitary is really bloody good. Down below is the video to a track off the mixtape called Guillotine and you can download the mixtape over at Death Grip’s site here.