I’ve been keeping an eye on Anciients for a while, checking out tracks here and there, but I don’t think much could have prepared me for the vicious face-stomp of their Season Of Mist debut Heart Of Oak. Early Baroness and Intronaut collides here with more riff heavy bands like The Sword or even High On Fire, all conglomerating to a sound whose sole purpose is to dredge up the sludgiest riffs possible and clean them up to sharpen them even more.
T’is that beautiful time of year again. A season of good will, understanding and compassion towards your fellow man — a time for giving, loving and appreciating. The cold may have rolled in and the trees may have shed their once vibrant foliage, but the world finds solace in the love and company of others. It’s a time to reflect on the memories of the year and plan ahead for the next.
But most of all it’s a time to listen brutal fucking metal and drink a fuck tonne of Advocaat, because 2012 was full of great releases and now’s your chance to catch on releases you may have missed or may have never even heard of. My first draft of this list was composed of 30 albums, which then shot up to 37 when I realised that I had forgotten to include EPs. Everything from new bands that came out of nowhere to blow my mind (We Are Knuckle Dragger, Bloodshot Dawn, Oddland, Exotic Animal Petting Zoo etc) to the old guard continuing their brilliant legacy (Gojira, Aborted, Napalm Death, Deftones etc) all unfortunately fell by the wayside in the ruthless culling exercise that produced this list. And I regret cutting every single one of them, but alas, if I was talk about every album this year that was great, I’d probably lose your attention pretty quickly. Who am I kidding? You’ve most likely already skipped on to the list and you’re not even reading this bit. I could write anything I want here and no one would notice. Anythingatall.
I have sinned: I waited until the last minute to do a lot of my music-listening this year. This is partly because I spent the months of July through October trying to smash together my own full-length album, Xians, with no success whatsoever; look for it on approximately zero best of 2013 lists! Nonetheless, I dutifully managed to get an earful of everything I wanted to hear in time to write a year-end best-of list. Below are my top ten favorite albums of 2012. Click the links for some of my favorite tracks/videos!
01. An Old Friend
02. Anxiety Puke / Lovelessness
03. Last and First Things
04. Blood Music
05. Clozapine Dream
06. Finally Asleep
[Metal Blade Records]
While the main complaints listeners opine when discussing an album usually revolve around discrepancies in songwriting, vocal style and/or production quality, some bands perform so strongly in one or two of these departments that their weaknesses can be forgiven. A personal example: Rorschach’s superb powerviolence/metallic hardcore makes up for some fairly horrendous vocals. Unfortunately for Bison BC, their newest release Lovelessness doesn’t allow the listener this option of tolerance due to a severe lacking in all three of these categories.
Female fronted stoner/doom metal is few and few between these days. But few bands within that specific demographic meet the same amount of finesse as Castle does. With unique and catchy riffs and captivating vocals, they obtain a awesome and unique sound that is underrated in today’s metal world. Read on to learn more of this amazing band on their influences, background, and what recording their new album Blacklands, out now on Prosthetic Records.
So tell us a little bit about Castle’s past. Were any of you in bands prior to Castle? How did you guys meet and what made you all want to make doom metal?
Mat: Yes, Al and I were in a bunch of bands over the years, going back to the late 80′s. Castle is really a culmination of all that experience. When I started Castle in 2006 it was just me writing. I had a couple early incarnations of the band but nothing took off. I met Liz about four years ago and shortly after that we were working together. Al and I have known each other going way back so when Liz and I had the lyrics and melodies down I called him up and asked him to play drums on what became the first album. This was in 2010.
One thing that immediately sets you apart from the rest is that you have a female singer. Elizabeth, do you feel any sort of pressure fronting this band? How have folks received your music so far?
Liz: Only in a good way…yeah, pressure to deliver performances worthy of the music. Other than that not really. We’re pretty focused on what we do and I myself don’t hold us up to a different light and compare us to what other bands are doing. The response has been great.
The most commonly asked question when listening to High On Fire‘s new album De Vermis Mysteriis is probably: ‘what the hell were they smoking?’
And now we know. Fertile greens. You’ve got to get your five a day somehow, and however it was done, it definitely worked. De Vermis Mysteriis is probably the most accomplished album they’ve released to date, stacked full of those signature colossal Pike riffs and an over-arching concept about Jesus’ time-travelling twin brother Balteazeen. The above NSFW video for ‘Fertile Green‘ gives off the exact trippy ‘exploitation film’ vibe that the album emanates and even seems like it harkens back those hazy days of Sleep, what with the psychedelic colour scheme and general smokiness. All this apparently coincides with Matt Pike’s exit from rehab (that originally caused the band to cancel their appearance on the Mayhem Festival tour), having curbed his drinking problem. Rehab ain’t easy so it’s good to hear Pike in high spirits and ready to continue where he left off!
For whatever the reason may be, whenever I get round to making my end of year list, it seems the entirety of it is built up of well-established, well-known acts and the whole thing reads like a list of the most anticipated releases of the year. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, I guess I’m drawn to the more refined and streamlined releases of a band who have found their sound and know how to utilise it. But when my taste is so predictable, it destroys the main point of these lists — to shine light on those elusive releases that blew up without anyone noticing. So in lieu of the standard records that I’m sure most people are enjoying (Meshuggah, High On Fire, Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death… the list goes on and on), here are 5 records that don’t seem to be getting the attention they deserve and you might not have picked up on yet. But I promise you, they’re worth your time.
For a couple years now I’ve decided to make a kind of midway list at the end of May of the records that have come out in the year, it helps me remember them when the year-end lists start rolling up. It’s also probably the best opportunity to shine a light on some records which may have flown under your radar, with enough time for you to digest and perhaps include them in your own year end list. I suppose one can dream. Lets get under way…
5. Stubb – Stubb
I had known and liked Stubbbefore I went to Desertfest in Camden back in April and yet I surprised myself when I sang along with ‘Scale the Mountain’. In fact what was more surprising was that the Purple Turtle, the venue, was packed and sweaty and everyone made their voice heard, and it was only 2.30 in the afternoon. This did not happen regularly.
On stage they were just regular guys in rather colourful shirts, but as Stubb they swaggered and rocked, the record’s practically anthemic yet it is dirty and sleazy, and we all loved it washing over us. There’s a sense of invigorated classicism about their 70s psych tinged stoner rock; they’ve suffered their share of evil women and they’ve studied every note of every Hendrix solo, and it feels real with Stubb whereas if it were another band it may seem cliché.
The record easily benefits from the superman Tony Reed’s (Stone Axe) production skills (he has also done Saint Vitus’s new one this year) making this catchy and memorable release a standout of the year so far.
It’s been no secret to anyone that Matt Pike — and presumably the other members of his bands High on Fire and Sleep — takes part in the drugs; at least alcohol and marijuana, anyway. I mean, without those mind-altering substances, how could one come up with a concept album about Jesus Christ’s time traveling twin? Matt Pike’s been all about the tough metal lifestyle. Just listen to his voice; it’s practically made of whiskey and smoke.
But it looks like Matt’s putting the heavy drinking lifestyle behind him, and he’s headed off to rehab:
Oakland, CA metal band HIGH ON FIRE has announced that it will be forced to miss this summer’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival as front man and guitarist Matt Pike enters treatment for alcohol rehabilitation. The award winning power trio (also featuring drummer Des Kensel and bassist Jeff Matz) will put its scheduled touring plans on hold indefinitely as Pike takes the necessary steps towards regaining his health.
“High on Fire would like to thank everyone involved with the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival for the opportunity to be a part of this year’s tour,” said the band in a statement. “We regretfully will have to bow out as our friend and bandmate begins his recovery, but very much appreciate having been asked to be a part of this summer’s festival run.”
There goes one of the better bands at Mayhem. Matt’s health is more important regardless, and hopefully he recovers. Hopefully his band members are sympathetic to the cause as well and make an effort to stop drinking — at least around Matt. God speed!
01. Serums Of Liao
02. Bloody Knuckle
03. Fertile Green
04. Madness Of An Architect
06. Spiritual Rites
07. King Of Days
08. De Vermis Mysteriis
09. Romulus And Remus
I swear, by Matt Pike’s sweaty shirtless body, that High On Fire get better with every album. Whilst there’s nothing that glaringly new about their sound, you’d be hard pushed to argue that it wasn’t at least distinct and over the course of six studio albums the band has refined their mix of high octane riffs, pummeling percussion and Motorhead sensibilities to a sharpened point. De Vermis Mysteriis sees the band attempting to top their incredibly well received Snakes For The Divine with a concept album about Jesus’ time travelling twin brother Liao who goes on to to learn about the destructive influence his brother had on mankind before jumping off the deep end and getting involved in witch burning and baby sacrifice. Yeah.