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Saturday
Jan052019

The Top 10 Heavy Releases of 2018

This has become one of those dipshit blogs that don't update often and look like a graveyard circa 2004. I didn't even bother doing one of these lists last year.

In the past when I wrote about albums, I'd rattle off their superior qualities in comparison to others. The typical adjective Olympics, "I went to more uni than you did" toss. This year, I am going to keep it simple: which records did I listen to the most? I'm not even going to look up Last.fm to figure it out, either. I think I can remember which records stayed on my turntable or CD player the most. I'm not a fucking robot.

So, here we go:

 

10. Kataklysm - Meditations

With the Northern Hyperblast put out to pasture, Canadian eh Kataklysm had to replace speed with strength. They kind of kicked ass with it.

9. Born Lion - Celebrate the Lie

Australia's answer to Danko Jones - minus the meme worship. If Danko and BL tour the country, I'll be right there next to 'em. See also: Bare Bones.

8. Underoath - Erase Me

I know a lot of people shit on this record for some reason, but you have to divorce it from the entire Underoath you knew and loved. It's their Black Celebration in reverse. No heroin addictions required. It's the opposite of Flood to Depeche Mode in 1990: "If you wanna play electronics, then play your fucking electronics."

7. Slugdge - Esoteric Malacology

This one had to be pried from my cold, dead car CD player. One of the most inventive death metal records in yonks, that didn't have that "we're too good for death metal" air about it. All the best bits from the last 20 years crammed into one disc.

6. Architects - Holy Hell

I don't like this LP as much as Your Gods Have Abandoned Us. Gods had fire in its belly, this kind of doesn't. Even so, it's still in my CD player since ripping it out of my post box in October.

5. Judas Priest - Firepower

This was such a treat for long-suffering metal fans. It was like hearing Painkiller and Screaming For Vengeance for the first time again, reminding us why we love this genre in the first place. Thank Satan for Richie Faulkner.

4. Teenage Wrist - Chrome Neon Jesus

Sometimes bands that take bits of all your favourites, that being Katatonia, Oceansize, and modern pop-punk, mashes 'em together and serves it like you ordered it special. This is a must have disc for prog fans, shoegaze lovers, and anyone who likes losing themselves in thought.

3. Omnium Gatherum - The Burning Cold

I know; melodic death metal is the red-headed stepchild in the metal world at the moment. When's the last melodeath record anyone really gave a fuck about? The Ride Majestic? I love this record because it captures the spirit of what melodeath is all about; taking risks and being out there. Gods Go First is such a well crafted song, despite it being so fucking weird.

2. Ghost - Prequelle

It's KISS Destroyer for the 2010s. Have you heard the non-single tracks on Destroyer? Not exactly top to bottom clones of Detroit Rock City, that's for sure. It's something more grandiose than that. It's not metal, it's not pop, and it's not a cookie-cutter half-and-half blend of either. It sits in that creepy haunted house on the border of bubblegum throwaway and absolute classic. Maybe Aussies love it so much because we can't get over ABBA.

1. Hellions - Rue

The resale value for my vinyl copy is nearing zero. Such a wonderful record, in the truest sense of the word. What these gentlemen conjure is really nothing short of magic.


I had a couple of disappointments too: Pagan's Black Wash only managed a couple spins on my turntable. There was an uncomfortable feeling that I'd heard it all before, and done better (by Kvelertak.) Can't fault them live, though. Behemoth have also succumbed to Star Trek movie syndrome. That being, every second release they make sucks. I Loved You At Your Darkest wasn't awful, but it certainly was too ambitious for the big boy britches it stomped around in.

Other pick-ups you should look for is At The Gates To Drink From the Night Itself, the true successor to Slaughter of the Soul; High On Fire's Electric Messiah, which is Sleep haunted by Lemmy; Khemmis newie Desolation; and DZ Deathrays' Bloody Lovely. It doesn't have a Gina Works at Hearts, nor does it have that Vaseline-over-lens feeling of dried out hangover music any more. DZ Deathrays are growing up, bless 'em.

Monday
Jul212014

Archive: Soundwave 2014 Review

This was originally written in March of 2014 and was previously unpublished.

---

Drugs. How much would you pay for a drug that blast you into stratosphere? A heavenly high, unrivalled by sex, love or money? How much would you pay for a pill that had no come-down, barring gently rung ears? What amount would you give to pop a pill so powerful it moves not only you, but your entire generation? $1000? $10000? More? Try about $180.

Soundwave is the d-d-drug I'm thinking of. On a summery Friday in Melbourne, everybody got their fix. Music fiends both on stage and off. Soundwave isn't simply a music festival. It's a thousand-mile crack house.
Not real crack. Maybe. The cops supposedly halted those barbarians at the gates. Supposedly. I was picked up by a sniffer dog and hauled off, Stasi style. Sure buddy, I dilute my DMT in sunscreen. It's the way to be. The way to live. In a flash, they had all in my bag, even shoes, sprawled out across a bench. People walked past, straining their rubbernecks. My face is blank, full of dread. "Why so nervous?" inquired the Constable.

"If you haven't got anything you've got nothing to worry about."

"That's not the point," I replied. "You're cops."

Where cops go, fear will follow with loathing in tow. Naturally, their crop snatching skills were questionable at best. Ganja stank wafted through defiant air, and security led big Tim Leary grins outside with frustrating regularity. Yes, it actually is a crime to have a good time. Don't let anyone tell you different.
After what felt like a million years, I'm in. Time to find some Korean potato technology (KPT). Yes: spiralled potato around a stick, slathered in batter and sprinkled with barely legal flavouring. Last year, access to the crack-like KPT was abundant. This year, not so. Second on the list: snap my neck off its hinges.

COMMENCIFY OPERATION: KOREA POTATO GET

So GRAVEYARD are a thing, possibly an Almost Famous "we're incendiary!" thing. If it wasn't for some asshole stealing momentos with an iPad, it would've looked like 1975 for thirty solid minutes. They spoke no English but played much guitar. Noice, goys.


Later in that very marquee UNCLE ACID and THE DEADBEATS set retro to maximum, piling on 70s psych riffs, the type of riffs Opeth feel too ashamed to rip off. Our wrong uncle was vacant of such reservations. Tunes were about bustles in hedgerows and ladies who show all that glitters is gold. They dressed in Instagram filters and long wavy Jesus hair. "Fank you very mooch," lead Jesus purred prior to leaving. Sure, no worries, pal. I won't give away the ending to The Poseidon Adventure, or anything.

The sun's pure malice beat the Johnson Bros' gingerness into submission, pop-rockers BIFFY CLYRO proving their summer day festival pedigree. "Somebody help me sing! Whoa-oh-oh, oh," a scruffy Neil Simon waved, rallying people to hop on board. It's not cute pathos; it's a command, dummy! Festival pleasing is hard-coded into their DNA, just like killing Arnie is to the Predator. Not very Soundwavy, though.

The last feeling of fancy-free feet faded strolling toward THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER. I appeared mid-way through a barrage of double-kick and ass-kicking. Our boy Trev flicked his shirt off, a thousand days late for his shift as Sunnyvale Assistant Trailer Park Supervisor. No one would ever tell him to frig off. Moshers bat neach balls and each other about, and to my surprise set off a well-timed chip explosion. What, you're going? No, stay. Actually, you can come out now, TESTAMENT.

Someone please boot MEGADETH out the Big 4. Today, if possible. I want Lars Ulrich himself to perform the ritual cashiering. Yes, cough up the keys to the executive washroom, Dave. Usher TESTAMENT in just as Dave's teary eyes slink out into a rainy street. Alex Skolnick's string wilting teamed with big bad belts of Gene Hoglan laid waste to a healthy, growing pit. Chuck Billy in career-best voice shared a rock n' roll moment with AFI, in unison declaring "This next song's called...". Testament won. The last of my sunscreen boiled off. Skin reddening. And where in the fuck is that potato stand?


POTATO TECHNOLOGY ACQUISITION FAILURE


NOSTALGHIA was the day's first dark electro charge. Ciscandra Nostalghia writhed alone, caught in a riptide of her own suffering. Cellists carved away, convinced they're playing the post-iceberg matinee atop the Titanic. Shit was hectic. This was hardcore punk. The fist-flailing punk we know was ripped out at knifepoint. Scimitar point. If you missed out, slam your head against the nearest desk.


Did you grow up in the 90s? Are you reading this, right now? If you rang true to these questions two, shit was undeniably lost to THE LIVING END. TLE was the punk-a-billy soundtrack to summers spent necking beers, smoking cones and forgetting that Offspring record you pleaded your parents for. Guitarist Chris Cheney doesn't age. "He sold his soul like Robert Johnson did," my friend Matty offered. He shuffled, wailed and howled the white off his Gretsch Falcon. The Living End was the future. A little part of me's still convinced they are.


DIR EN GREY entered through a pocket dimension where killing fluffy childhood pets ensures your survival. That's the only explanation. I thought Mirai and Sigh were weird. Contrast to after, where the whole band's sitting in the artist's pavilion bolt upright, silently munching on peas and carrots. If the world only knew.
I missed 99% of GWAR because I am a fucking moron. It was so Spinal Tap I urged to pack it all in and open a shop. From behind I could hear the stage but I didn't know where it was. (RIP, Dave.)


Hey, would you look at that? People still like TRIVIUM.

We need the death metal of THY ART IS MURDER. Like KING PARROT, they're the no fuck givers Australia has to have. They inspire stage gymnastics. One sweat-drenched bro, his singlet only held together by love, backflipped off a speaker stack. I'd give him an 8 for technique alone. Vile, gnashing hate pulsed through violence and hands. Someone fetch me a goblet of wine, there's Satan that needs praising.


Amid lengthening shadows, BOWLING FOR SOUP poised to play pop-punk signature Stacy's Mom. "It's actually written by a band called Fountains of Wayne," a jolly Jaret Riddick grinned, "But we've been playing it for nine years and taking credit for it. So, here it is anyway." Biggest takeaway? Metalheads, at least the outwardly apparent type, love Bowling for Soup. See them mouth the words. Punch air above on the downbeat.  Bottom line: it's music for hating Rob Lowe to. You chisel jawed BASTARD


SAY GOODNIGHT TO THE POTATO-STICK

 

I aimed for CLUTCH, mistakenly got BLACK VEIL BRIDES. BVB get the babes. Black n' Biersack: "Sing it!" Ifthere was a tenor voice in that alto choir, you ran. None of them had shirts on. (The band, the band.) It was glam dunked into boot polish. But DAYUM GURL, dem sticky-sweet twin leads. Hey girlfriend, I'm leaving you to join Black Veil Brides. No, I'm not giving back your stupid fu--


STOP! CHINO TIME. CROSSES (+++) are proof positive an electro band who wanna play guitars better play fuckin' guitars. +++ is ten tons goth, three thimbles metal and rained down like hail in slow motion. Jesus almighty, Chino Moreno. In a born Chino devotional, he grabbed desperate hands, like a dark Jesus hovering above the crowd. He screamed, screamed spirit from his soul. Darkest black synth beat, beat, beat through chests. Chino's addicted to pain and though song, passed around the needle. Chino, I fucking hate you. I fucking hate you for being so fucking brilliant.


BARONESS rocked steady but the setup just isn't their bag. Sun behind them, trees and shit? Nope. Johnny Baizley dropped to his knees mid sludge, but DOWN. Down told us a thing or two 'bout sludge. Down sounds like they've trapped a hellbeast and trained it to scream up at the ground. Guitars attack like vipers on meth. The H in Philip H Anselmo stands for "Hardest of all cored motherfuckers." He's a prison block of a man, our Phil. He invited resident nut-fuckers KING PARROT on stage, too. The butlers at the Heavy Metal Royal Table are buffing up leather on their seats as we speak. GOJIRA tapped watches, annoyed Phil didn't finish on time. "Fuck those fruity French fucks," he most likely thought. How do you even follow Down? You kinda don't. Whollop-packing Gojira, on the other hand, really, really can.


KORN's backdrop was a big huge critique of capitalism and consumerism. Groan. You do realise capitalism is the reason you don't have to shit into a trench each night, right? RIGHT? Anyway. Images of "YouSuck," "American Idiot" and Justin Bieber caught trapped in ye olde TVs. The greatest beneficiaries of capitalism's excess were of course, Korn. One tent over, anti-Korn. TERROR. If Terror's fever dream of brutal revolution came to pass, Jon Davis' gold grillz would drip with blood, hanging from a pair of needle-nose pliers. Just saying, Jon. Terror's Scott Vogel tossed his furious mic into a pit mid-scream. It was seized on like ravenous dogs after meat. Pure, brutal simplicity. Korn were fine. They were Korn.


DREAM ON, DREAMER deserve much accolades, very attention, wow. Marcel Gadacz loves his job. His ribcage heaves with life's vital stuff. Strings swell, guitars take bites out of ears and Marcel beams through it all. Nothing was held back. Nothing at all.


POTATO STICK UNBECOMING

Hopping off Uncle Acid, I stuck around for Tex-Mex Mariachi punks BOSSHOSS. My heart sank for them. Such a dismally small turnout. It was loyal, though. Fuck: was that a rebel yell? Did they drive their own Mack truck here? They'd gladly bump around dusty country roads, and proudly. Love those chorus line kicks, don't see too many of them at metal/punk shows. Too bad Mr. Jesse Hughes and the EAGLES OF DEATH METAL were shaking dicks (can you dig it) in the pavilion behind them. Oh stage 5A/B, you were far away like White Castle after ten cones. Why? Fear of contamination, I suspect.


ROB ZOMBIE and JOHN 5 are not merely a lip-smacking, finger-lickin' combo, they're THE combo. Order nothing else, you'll fucking hate yourself. Rob emerges from a coffin, his waterfalling dreads stiffened with dirt. John rides plot-gun, all studded leather and bleached hair. They're locked together in one groove. Shocking with sex, horror and awe are games few ought trifle with. These guys own the board, the pieces, the prize. The classics, the new shit, even the Metallica medley stirred up Soundwave's finest hour. Rob sounded parched, but Johnny 5 (still alive) stole scenes with shred and pick. Alice Cooper, if you're looking for successors, look no further.


DEVILDRIVER are mosh engineers. Dez Fafara serves as tattooed foreman. Stage to mixing hut, about football pitch length, swirled with bodies colliding. Clouds over California recalls wildfires descending on homes and somehow, Dez and co. turn loose the panic wherever they may...


Holy fuck, letlive. If you blinked, you missed Jason Butler ripping threads from a washboard chest and belly. For three quarters of an hour, it was Armageddon. JB's elbows sliced through chilling air like knives, murdering the night. Roadies, nut up or get the fuck out the way. I felt a twinge in my side to go see DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN. In an instant, I didn't. Jase climbed up a speaker. It's pulpit, screaming like a demented street preacher. "I write songs so I don't feel angry anymore," he manages between gulps of air. The Fear Fever thrust mosh riffs flush against new-jack groove. Nothing stood still.


My legs are bloodied stumps, but I still amble over to AVENGED SEVENFOLD, who've set torches to flaming cemetery gates. Fitting, since they fearlessly pilfer metal's great riffs like a platoon of advancing Russians. Mushrooms of smoke plumed above ponderous gourds of church organ. People gazed on, wearing the half smile of things fondly remembered. They could play "Mary had a little lamb," impale a real one and cheers were sure to go.


MASTODON summons the creature from the swamp. Burdens burning the soles of our feet are lifted by this quartet of Southern gennul-men. Troy Sanders is the joker, Bill Kelliher the duded up priest, Brent Hinds their unwashed and bristling warrior. Brann Dailor on drums acts as oracle, as guide through sonic maelstroms. When Hinds casts his divine howl, 'spesh on Stargasm, it summons up ancient spirits. This I am sure of. "You're on fire," he careens, and we collapse through infinity. When we're not looking, what do Mastodon see? When we're not listening, what do Mastodon hear? A whipcrack riff reminds us our feet are on Earth, we are at Soundwave, our bodies are bound by gravity. Blasteroid rolled and gathered charge, a gigantic guitar grab explodes our insides. More, more, fucking more. Mastodon ought to headline everything, forever.

WHERE IN THE FUCK IS THAT FUCKING POTATO ON A STICK GOD DAMN IT


Finally. I spy two people in a tent that served no purpose, bar housing two people that did nothing. They quietly munched away on Korean Potato Technology. I bumble over like I shit myself. "WHERE DID YOU GET THAT!" I demanded, banging my fist on their makeshift table. A cute little woman in glasses, spellbound by epic KPT bliss motioned eastward. "Near stage 1," she replied, anything to hasten my departure. Thanking them, I ambled off into another eternity of walking. Later, I unearth thy hallowed KPT hut. With my final ounce of dollars and strength, I hand over funny coloured play money we Aussies call currency to the benevolent potato gentleman. At last, AT LAST! My own spiral of true artistic creation. Crunch, slurp, oh man. Crack open a freshie, cos there's fresh openings in my crack.

Oh hey, GREEN DAY are blindly driving into the third overpriced hour of their set. I'm suckered in, but not quite enough to forgive Billy Joe Armstrong's obnoxiousness and that song. You know the one. The background radiation to the best years of my liiiiife. Ahh fuck, there it was again. Goodbye Soundwave. This comedown is gonna hurt like hell.

Friday
Jun202014

Interview: James Johnston of Biffy Clyro (The Brag)

In The Brag #567 I talk to bassist James Johnston of Scottish rock superstars Biffy Clyro. He opens up about their ten-year wait for overnight success tempered by setbacks, conflict and renewal. Pick it up in pubs and venues around Sydney or read online here.

Friday
May162014

Interview: Poison Idea (Beat)

Image courtesy Portland Mercury

Death punks Poison Idea are the self (and fan) proclaimed “Kings of Punk.” Stirring up trouble for over 34 violent years, the band are finally touring Australia. However, vocalist Jerry A., aka Jerry Lang, is no stranger to what horrors lurk Down Under.

Read more at Beat.com.au or in issue #1422, found in Melbourne's seediest pubs and bars.

Friday
Apr112014

Interview: Don Fernando (Beat)

 

Ass-shakin' stoner fuzz-rockers Don Fernando are taking point at this year's Cherry Rock, their homecoming from a wild and successful South American tour. Read all about it in Beat Magazine #1417, found in pubs, clubs and watering holes all over Melbourne.