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.
Oddland – The Treachery Of Senses
The idea of a band being signed after winning a ‘battle of the bands’ style situation is an odd one, to say the least. While I can’t find the many details on how the competition worked out, it could appear at first glance that it was an unfortunate gimmick that cheapens the way A&R normally works. However, all pessimism dissipates the minute you hear the fruits of all that labour — Oddland‘s debut for Century, The Treachery Of Senses. The rhythmic mastery of Gojira and Meshuggah meets the progressive slant of Opeth and Ihsahn, all brought together into relatively compact songs and driven by a proficient and crooning baritone. Every twist and turn suggests a band with a lifetime of experience and each riff and passage is delicately constructed with all instruments weaving themselves around beautifully. The Treachery Of Senses is a hugely accomplished piece of work, a mission statement that any band would be proud of and, here, hopefully the first murmurs from a band who will go on to do great things.
I Know It’s Over – I Know It’s Over EP
A band who are as elusive as they are batshit-insane. Although seeming to only exist in a Bandcamp entry on Grindcore Karaoke and a Myspace page, of all things, this Mancunian four piece force together equals parts PsyOpus and Gridlink. Searing through 6 tracks in 7 minutes, the band wastes no time in hitting every fret and cramming as many notes in as possible while still maintaining some resemblance to that thing we call ‘music’. It’s incredibly chaotic and challenging but at the same time, it’s captivating — I’ve found myself pouring a disproportionate amount of time into these few tracks. Best of all? It’s absolutely free — go and melt your face to a copy as soon as possible.
Bong – Mana-Yood-Sushai
Sprawling, droning doom is hardly the most popular genre of music, however, put aside any initial reservations you may have. Not just any band could make 50 minutes of sparse guitar and drum work, droning sitar and ominous chants listenable and interesting, but Bong do exactly that. Mana-Yood-Sushai‘s churning slow-paced nature conjures images of grand and majestic landscapes much like the one adorning the cover art and rival even the more drawn-out and introspective moments of those Japanese fuzz-legends Boris. You can listen to some excerpts of the album at the band’s Bandcamp page. Drop out of life with Bong on your iPod.
Art By Numbers – Reticence: The Musical
One part The Human Abstract, one part Protest The Hero, one part The Mars Volta; all parts ridiculously talented. Art By Numbers seemingly came out of nowhere and have easily produced one of the most technically minded and catchy albums of the year so far. Musical acrobatics fly in all directions from every member of the band and yet everything is concise and measured, each part is played for the song and not out of some misguided need to ‘show off’. From the jazzy and swung ‘Best Laid Plans‘ to the sheer perfection of ‘The Man In The Box‘, Art By Numbers display all the clever nuances of a band who have been honing their sound for years, whilst not owning a single facial hair between them.
Frames – In Via
There’s not much I can say that I didn’t already ponder on my review of this post-rock/metal outfit’s latest release, but to try and sum it up, In Via encapsulates a word that you don’t normally associate with heavy music — beautiful. Twinkling keys and strings are draped delicately over pulsing build-ups that even manage to out do the latest efforts of If These Trees Could Talk and Pelican in sheer intensity. This German act really struck gold with In Via, it’s a glorious piece of work that as captivating as it is crushing and it sure deserves a hell of a lot more attention than it’s getting.
So, there you go. Five great bands that have helped shape the soundtrack to the first half of 2012 for me, alongside all those other future classics that have been released this year. I’d love to hear what you guys think about all of these and if you’ve had any similar experiences — there’s been a lot of great albums thus far so it’s incredibly easy to miss out on some hidden gem.