We’re only two weeks in, and 2012 has already got off to a funny start. We’ve had some drab news; The Human Abstract have faded away quietly at the height of their power, along with the likes of The Carrier, and Oceano; the latter due to the departure of vocalist Adam Warren amongs other things. Similarly, Killswitch Engage are without a frontman as Howard Jones confirmed he had left the band, although they are looking for a replacement, who may or may not be Jesse Leach… We also had last week’s announcement that absolute metal legend Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath being diagnosed with early stage lymphoma. Although we remain hopeful, in the vein of 2010’s Nergal crisis, nothing is assured.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The past few days in particular have seen a couple of rays of excitement, firstly in the news that post hardcore legends At The Drive-In have made good on a statement made by Cedric Bixler-Zavala in 2009 that the El Paso quintet could once again play together, and secondly with the word that Swedish hardcore punk heroes Refused are also back and scheduled to play Coachella in April, Way Out West in August, and possible other shows beyond to give The Shape Of Punk To Comeits proper dues. This got me thinking; what with Paul Scholes re-signing for Manchester United, Thierry Henry returning to Arsenal on loan, and my hamster from when I was thirteen clawing its way free of the shoebox in which it was buried to terrorise the cat, it seems like 2012 could be the year of the grand return. Whether or not you think this is a precursor to the actual dead walking the earth, and thus a sign that the Mayans were right and we’re all going to die up by December 21st, you have to admit that there are a few more legends that need to resurface to make the end of the world party worth attending. Behold my humble wishlist:
At The Drive-In
First up, the mercurial masters of nineties post-hardcore, who as I said above, reunited this week after eleven years away. It’s a fucking good start, I tell thee. If you do the math, you’ll know that At The Drive-In were last seen in 2001. March, to be exact, off the back of a six year recording/touring cycle that culminated in a world tour. By that time they were fucking tired of each other, and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez were on some serious drugs by this point. Things were not happy. In this video, filmed for the renowned …Later With Jools Hollandshow in the UK in late 2000, you can see the sheer passion with which they played, but also how much they clearly despised each other by this point. On the one hand you’ve got guitarist Jim Ward and the rhythm section soldiering on, playing the fucking song…and then you’ve got Cedric leaping around, throwing around chairs and not bothering with half the songs, and Omar at times barely playing his own damn song…but then pulling it back at others. Absolutely electric stuff, and for me 100% what At The Drive-In were about.
Bonus shot: Robbie Williams’ face at having to follow ‘One-Armed Scissor‘.
If you listen to modern -core, you’re probably listening to something that was either directly or vicariously inspired by Botch. They’re that fucking special, and they broke a lot of hearts when they disbanded in 2002. Unlike At The Drive In, there was no enmity behind their demise; just fatigue and expectation. Better to burn out than to fade away, no? They even set up a final show and had it recorded for posterity, the DVD of which (o61502) stands proudly as one of my favourite recorded musical performances, Botch have long maintained that there is no reunion in the works. Dave Velleren is now in Narrows, who are releasing their new disc Painted really soon, and Brian Cook in now with Russian Circles, after a blinding stint with post-hardcore band These Arms Are Snakes. Dave Knudson is now in Minus The Bear. Three awesome bands. Probably not gonna happen. Can always hope.
The pain of ISIS’ loss was compounded by their hallowed personal position of ‘gateway band‘; if it weren’t for these guys, I may not even be here today. They essentially bought me my first drink and threw me through the door of the strip club with the roar of three guitars in my ears.
ISIS weren’t just heavy though; they were beautiful too – more-so later in their career, but their calmer, soaring nature was evident as early as Oceanic, and it was built upon with every release.
That being said, I still don’t think there are many that pull off the sheer ferocity of voice as Aaron Turner. ISIS were intelligent metal, but they were also powerful; the right mix of thought and emotion. Live releases and studio material are still trickling through to this day, but I think perhaps they went too far from their roots (great as the newer material was), and I’d love to have early 2000s ISIS ripping up the stage once more.
Refused’s seminal final record The Shape of Punk To Come was as much prophetic as it is highly regarded, and much like Botch above, if you listen to post-1998 -core, you’re probably listening to someone who has heard and enjoyed this record at some point. It really did shape punk, with an unrivalled aggression – and I mean pure idealistic aggression, as opposed to any contrived notions of heaviness – and when they finally burned out it was half-way through a tour, and half-way through a set in a basement in Virginia, ultimately broken up by police. If that ain’t a way to go, then I don’t know what is.
Their left-wing ideals and revolutionary ideals, including the notion of ‘new noise’ to promote their ideas. It must have been something to see them, and I lament that I was only eleven when they did. Maybe now, with their recent reunion, I can.
One of the most highly regarded technical metal bands to have graced our Britain’s shores, it’s hard to believe it’s been six years since the release of Death Of A Dead Day., and the fervour with which they are still regarded. Actually, strike that on the last count, because they were ridiculous and you know it.
Funnily enough, I started writing this article before the weekend’s goings on, and although SikTh are nowhere near a reunion, they have all but said that it could happen.
I don’t think anyone from this genre has been more missed. They were a breath of fresh air as fair as technical music went, combining ferociously complicated guitar work with as talented a pair of charismatic frontmen as you’re likely to find on this island. Everything just worked with these guys.
There may be bigger bands, more accomplished or more loved that I’ve missed, but these guys would undoubtedly make one hell of a send-off party. Sound off in the comments with your suggestions!