From the shadow of imposing snow-capped Alpine mountains emerges Elizabeth; kicking and screaming in a tumultuous flurry of grating hardcore. The Geneva band have only been in existence since 2009 but have already built an impressive reputation as stringent road warriors, hitting clubs across a wide diaspora- from the frozen steppes of St Petersburg to the Marxist tropical time warp of Havana. On their spanking new E.P
Insomnia, such unwavering dedication to touring is matched by some exceedingly tight musicianship not to mention an almost unfathomable amount of focussed aggression. Insomnia is four tracks of relentless aural barbarity, thundering drums and guitar work that’s alternately abrasive and crushing. It’s an unforgiving sound that finds natural allies in fellow Euro bands in the vein of Rise & Fall, those that are able to grasp ideas from outside of the usual banal hardcore repertoire, twisting their sound into untapped forms of musical savagery.
There’s an instant vocal resemblance to the un-human guttural bark of Converge’s Jacob Bannon, who in turn form another tangible influence on these angry boys from Geneva. ‘Cemetery Feeling’ bristles which unorthodox guitar noise. After the intro riff of muddied bass, guitarist Charly scrapes and scratches across the strings with barely comprehensible speed as the rest of the band steam along at the outer limits of their beats-per-minute capabilities. ‘Created Enemies’ is equally relentless in its propulsive drive, vocalist Javier smattering the maelstrom with specks of lung as he proceeds to shred his vocal chords into tatters. ‘Danger’ continues the destruction, upping the intensity levels with a blizzard of almost melodic guitar but the best is saved for the E.P’s death throws on the sublime dynamism of ‘Ravens’. Here, clean guitar lines dance along in a way unseen since the idiosyncratic yet underachieving weird-core of the sadly defunct Crocus. A round of barbed blast-beats brings the record to a premature conclusion after a breath-taking eight minutes of precision brutality.
Elizabeth’s brand of chaotic hardcore, delivered with an inch-thick crust, may be derivative in many respects. The band however, deserve the upmost credit for their impeccable musicianship and the sheer ferocity of the unrelenting terror conjured with such finesse. Elizabeth can sit proudly amongst the ever brilliant roster of bands on Throatruiner, for
Insomnia is an exemplary artefact of twisted hardcore.
Originally posted on
Two Beats Off Nov 27
Flag/ Black Flag debacle: what a ridiculous farce. Here’s two sets of middle aged men squabbling over who’s most entitled to carry on milking the old cow’s withered teets. Each party claims their right to being the ‘true’ Black Flag whilst simultaneously jettisoning an enduring integrity and carelessly befouling their once remarkable legacy.
Either way you look at it, both bands comprise of balding middle-aged men playing a style of music that imploded in 1986. Sure, Black Flag have seen it all; they’ve lived on dog food, been placed under surveillance by the FBI, survived the wrath of corrupt LAPD truncheons and managed to escape the mind-set that led them to experimental freeform jazz. Original guitarist Gregg Ginn (who plays bass on the record under the pseudonym Dale Nixon) is joined by shouty man Ron Reyes whose Black Flag credits comprise of a single E.P before the destitute punk lifestyle took its toll.
Once you get over the Reyes’-designed and outright terrible Microsoft Paint-constructed cover art, a cover so dismal that even
Blink 182 would deem it too crude, we’re instantly transported to Hermosa Beach circa 1980. “My Heart’s Pumping” and “Down In The Dirt” are summations of classic Flag and are easily the most listenable tracks on an otherwise irksome album. Atonal guitar, abrupt tempo shifts and spittle projecting sing-alongs with a sleazy Jesus Lizard grind suggest an instant familiarity. There’s no aimless jazz on What The… although you’ll soon be wishing there was. In fact, Ginn & co offer no musical advancement in 30 years, the only marker of new ideas being the purchase of a Theremin.
Of further detriment is Reyes’ uninspired delivery. Devoid of Henry Rollins’ acerbic wit or Keith Morris’ cutting snarl, his limited lyrical repertoire seems fundamentally trapped in hardcore’s halcyon day chip-on-shoulder mentality.
As What The… progresses and Black Flag once again go over the motions, passing through several stages of self-parody in tracks as juvenilely entitled as ‘Shut Up’, ‘Go Away’ and ‘Get Out Of My Way’, an overwhelming monotony takes hold. Its twenty-two tracks of one dimensionality and recycled ideas that’s about as ‘punk’ as donning a
Ramones t-shirt from Topman.
‘What The…’ is a record that benefits no-one.
AudioAddict Nov 12
Apart from boneheaded ice-hockey fans who have just witnessed their team lose the final of the Stanley Cup, there has never been an angrier troupe of Canadians than KEN Mode. Yet whilst the average disgruntled hockey fan will express their disgust through the act of the good old fashioned riot, KEN Mode channel their vitriol into a terrifying aural beast.
‘Venerable’ essentially comprises of the jazz-based atonality of Jesus Lizard, beefed up with a dose of abrasive contemporary metal in the mould of Mastodon before they tried to be Pink Floyd. It’s an initially befuddling miasma of bludgeoning riffs that dart hither and thither in an almost ubiquitous dissonance that marks conventional melodicism as some kind of immoral practice. Sure melody exists if you dig hard enough, but only in the most twisted and mutated form, repeatedly spat out in a wretched and unrecognisable heap.
So it begins with ‘Book Of Muscle’, cemented to a brutal chug that sounds like the guitar’s strings are actually being punched such is their pulverising sound, the track forming an perfect summation of the fury yet to come. Vocals are doused with distortion, eliminating any chance of clarity in the midst of grating turmoil. Not that any distortion is required, given the vocalist’s tortured delivery, spilling contempt and acerbic anger in every furious snarl.
Tracks such as ‘Batholith’ advance at blistering pace, their goal to lay waste to eardrums whilst claiming no allegiance to any one time signature and frantically hurtling through space in a flurry of atonal and jagged riffs. ‘The Irate Lumberjack’ is the first of two extended tracks, rooted in an uncharacteristic simplicity and advancing at a measured march rather than the paranoid hyperactivity that characterises most of
Venerable’s shorter tracks. It sees KEN Mode at their most expansive and least direct, proving that for all their outward aggression they’re capable of much subtler arrangements.
The eight minute ‘Never Was’ is a particularly furious and uncompromising assault, a storm of guttural chug bookended by blankets of pure white noise whilst a particularly venomous vocal repeatedly declares that “Religion is a cancer”. Like acid on the ears, the coruscating noise seems potent enough to burn flesh. ‘Flight Of The Echo Hawk’ is perhaps the anomaly of the record, a lone bastion of relative clarity free from the throat destroying screams- offering brief shelter in the form of standard melodicism amidst the chaos.
KEN Mode may be a raging mass of bile but they are so only because they are aware of the truth of our failings. They choose to holler and scream and actively address the inconvenient truths and malfunctions within our societal systems as others react by burying their heads in the sand. The almost unfathomable vitriol is tied to some pretty impressive musicianship and a commendably high count of notes per second. Unfortunately, records like
Venerable hold a limited appeal, but to those enamoured by aural violence, KEN Mode’s latest work is a required listen. It manages to be technical without alienating the non-instrument playing listener, socially aware without coming across preachy. In short it’s a blast of pure terror, a visceral storm that is strangely enticing.
TwoBeatsOff Nov 8
Having swooned a mass of awkward teenage hearts with 2011’s
Parting The Sea Between The Brightness And Me, Touché Amoré make their eagerly awaited return with the outstanding Is Survived By. Arriving after a strangely low key build-up which thankfully abstained from the irksome and trite contemporary industry promotional exponents such lyric videos and the like, Is Survived By is the sound of a great hardcore band blossoming into a fully rounded prospect.
Decidedly less frantic than its predecessor, the fraught emotional outpourings of Tumblr’s favourite quote machine Jeremy Bolm take centre stage. His inner frailties are expressed through that familiar rough bark, which at times exists as the only signifier of the band’s hardcore credentials. Snippets of psychological distress are spewed forth-those innermost anxieties most people would naturally repress and keep firmly under lock and key. It is these troubled thoughts that fuel Jeremy’s and subsequently his band’s vitriol, twisting these anxieties into tumult. Concerns over his band’s predicament abound, Jeremy firmly embracing the old head perched on young shoulders archetype to directly address the collective pressure to craft an album superseded by such huge expectation.
Once a band defined by the brevity of their furious hardcore fare, tracks now extend to such dizzy lengths as three whole minutes. The full frontal assaults, underpinned by Elliott Babin’s exceptionally creative drum work, give way to moments of measured calm and instrumental introspection to match that of Bolm’s lyrics. An instance of melodic bliss at the heart of ‘To Write Content’ is bookended by aggressive flurries whilst ‘Harbor’ sees guitars free to explore as the pace is slackened.
Despite the aforementioned anxiety that surrounded the album’s creation, any such worry can be safely eradicated because
Is Survived By can probably guarantee Touché Amoré the longevity they crave. It’s a stunningly well-formed record, as resplendent in its beauty as much its anger- the juxtaposition that formed the bedrock of emo and post-hardcore, here utilised with an affecting disposition and very near flawlessness.
Audio Addict Oct 1
Touché Amoré - Is Survived By (Deathwish)
For those hoping that
Congratulations would be the sole contributor towards MGMT’s ‘weird experimental phase’, donate your headbands to your nearest charity shop because the hook-laden psych-pop songs of Oracular Spectacular lay in a distant dimension to the often baffling tracks that make up their warped new record the superbly entitled MGMT.
Continuing on their defiantly non-linear path through the psychedelic maelstrom, the mischievous due smother themselves in a bleary-eyed miasma-delving ever deeper into blissed-out synths and sumptuous texture. Having already flaunted oddball digressions on
Congratulations to polarizing effect, the path chosen by these American dead-heads will provide an enriching and aurally pleasurable experience for those who are partial to extended psych jams.
There seems little to immediately latch on to in terms of outward hooks and it takes a good few listens before
MGMT’sattributes begin to reveal themselves. The music arrives as a result of improvisational sessions and it certainly feels that way. At time, tracks meander without purpose, ignoring and challenging the standard concept of what a “pop song” should achieve through their scattered structure. ‘Alien Days’ introduces the album with a subdued pleasantry of shimmering synths that belies much of the record’s abstract and fantastical nature which seems encapsulated perfectly within the peculiarities of ‘Astro-Nancy’. Jittering percussion workouts juxtaposing the lethargy of the deeply reverberated vocals amidst a host of strange sound effects.
The expansive synths of ‘Mystery Disease’ and the pulsating atmospherics of ‘A Good Sadness’ could easily provide the soundtrack to the 80’s version of
Flash Gordon, that is if Flash dropped a tab and just flew around in his spaceship gazing at stuff and drooling everywhere rather than saving the universe. The cosmic sea shanty ‘Plenty of Girls In The Sea’ is the most straightforward track although that is comparable to declaring Jermaine as the most normal of the Jacksons.
MGMT will provide the last straw for a vast swathe of fans intent on hearing the next ‘Kids’. But for those enamoured by the surreal quirks of Congratulations, MGMT is pure unspoilt paradise.
Audio Addict Sep 24
Huzzah! Tyler Daniel Bean returns with a two track 7” of his tender and introspective emo stylings. Hot on the heels of 2012’s stunning LP
Longing, a record that no doubt swooned so many fragile hearts, Everything You Do Scares Me continues Tyler’s commentary on his inner turmoil, where sorrow is clearly engrained in every trembling vocal line and overtly minor key chord progression.
Subject matter of death and the shockwaves it sends through the psyches of loves ones may seem foreboding and somewhat morbid, but Tyler’s sublimely striking musicianship and narratives endowed with plain-speaking humility proves alluring to the ear. His incredibly personal lyrics, detailing his inability to cry after the death of a friend, suggest shame- his incapacity to react and convey his grief through means deemed as customary obviously tearing at his soul. He turns to self-deprecation- mocking himself as an “asshole” for his apparent emotional shortcomings. Such world-weary maturity fits the ‘old head on young shoulders’ archetype down to a tee, Tyler’s sensitive and acute observations on the process of grief and sadness belying his relative youth.
Side A- ‘Year Of The Snake’, is held together by sulkily strummed minor chords and a chiming lead guitar reminiscent of American Football’s melancholic and mellow emo digressions. Allusions to Brand New are cemented through a sublime dynamism, Tyler masterfully taking the song to an exultant crescendo where he frees himself of much of the measured restraint, his vocal delivery growing in intensity until it begins to break and fragment. A painfully simple four-note riff brings the track to a dignified and sullen conclusion.
‘I Was Wrong’ employs a more driving rhythmic urgency yet sacrifices none of the subtly invoked gloom that lurks over both of these tracks, inflicting every melody and vocal nuance with a forlorn bleakness and the feeling of omnipresent grey skies . The weaker of the two songs, the track is no less affecting in its conveyance of emotion but remains less aurally intriguing than the A-side.
Everything You Do Scares Me is a beautiful continuation of Tyler’s growing body of work, his playing branching out and becoming more refined. Anyone with a love for American Football’s seminal self-titled album or indeed the sombre emo of the 90’s will surely fall for Tyler’s inviting croon and sumptuous musicality. A perfect soundtrack to accentuate bouts of melancholy.
Two Beats Off Sep 13
Tyler Daniel Bean - Everything You Do Scares Me E.P
Suburbia, for all its well kempt gardens and quintessential English pleasantries, remains a cesspool of malaise attributed to a feeling of disconnect between the quaint tree-lined streets and the harsh realities and disorientating immediacy of the city which is often only a short train journey away. Tripwires are just one of an endless cascade of bands that year on year emerge from Britain’s faceless towns with ideas of escapism lodged firmly in their brains. In the instance of this Reading four-piece, escapism manifests in sumptuous swirls of sound- effects pedals pushing guitars skywards, melodies branching and pulsating amidst sonic textures that you just want to immerse yourself in. It all sounds
very 1991, all floppy fringes and Fender Jaguars and a lack of self-control over the reverb button but with an unwavering focus on the atmosphere and the feel of the music.
Every inch of
Spacehopper is indebted to an era beyond the memories of Tripwires’ members. Their collective backwards glances are tunnelled towards an explosion of neo-psychedelia amongst Britain’s more whimsical middle-class youth- a cultural movement that occurred when our Reading lads were making the transition from liquid to solid foods and from crawling to taking their first tentative steps into a world. This is a world, that like the ‘gazers of twenty-odd years ago, Tripwires are doing their very best to avoid by turning inwards- blocking out reality through continuous daydream in the hope of surrendering to an all-encompassing state of pure unbridled bliss. Spacehopper emerges in distinctly similar circumstances to those that festered the first waves of Shoegaze in the post-Thatcher wake- austerity and economic turbulence are both common ground upon which two generations of young people, devoid of a youth culture with utopian vision, have turned to sound and its endless possibilities of aural escapism for solace. More so than any other revival band of recent times, Tripwires have arranged perhaps the most engrossing and all-consuming amalgamation of the original Shoegaze sound.
The vocals are frail, as they should be- coyly offering lyrics that quiver, threatening to buckle under weight of nostalgia and fervent melancholy. The phrase “not like it used to be” seems to re-occur in various guises throughout the album.
The band’s sonic capabilities are spread far and wide- veering from soft intimacy to roaring onrush amidst delicate melodies and the odd dash of electronics. There’s the slo-mo textured landscapes of ‘Catherine, I Feel Sick’, a track that is in no hurry to go anywhere and is all the better for it as they allow their instruments to go cosmic, refusing to bring them back down to Earth. ‘Wisdom Teeth’ lays in opposition to the blankets of noise and dense distortion layered on most of the tracks, a less is more ballad as bare bones and saccharine as this band is likely to get that still manages to retain a weightless aura. Shape-shifting and elusive, ‘Tin Foil Skin’ lays within reason to be labelled as “epic”. Elegantly floating towards the eight-minute mark, layers of lethargically strummed guitars loaded with effects sending the track into cacophony in several surges of swooning noise. Then there’s ‘Shimmer’, resplendent in its woozy MBV vocal harmonies, a storming alt-rock backbone propelling hooks willy nilly-
Spacehopper’s pièce de résistance which comes complete with its very own endearingly low-budget video. Here the band take a break from their semi-conscious languid textures and let loose some actual riffs, suggesting that beneath their bleary-eyed exterior there’s a rockist streak yearning to make itself heard, consistently smothered by self-consciousness- that most English of afflictions
This is an album within which the band can submerge any of life’s much-loathed reality checks under layers of warm fuzz, banishing the droll banalities of life in a nowhere town until the last reverb inflicted guitar chord has decayed into silence. Essentially,
Spacehopper exists as a pastiche to an era that was short-lived but has undergone much celebration as an exultation to the possibilities of sound and guitar-based insular dirges. Yet, it’s a bloody fantastic record and a blissful listening experience from the quartet who unfortunately for them, emerged from the famed Thames Valley scene some twenty years too late.
Tripwires - Spacehopper (Frenchkiss Records)
Emerging from the satellite town of Reading- a place that would otherwise be as faceless and uninspiring as any other hub of middle-class suburbia if it weren’t for the illustrious festival it hosts, is four-piece Tripwires. Investing in a bunch of Fender Jaguars and reverb pedals, the band could have rather nonchalantly stepped out of a portal connecting the present day with 1991. In fact, had the band existed 20 years ago there seems little doubt that the flame-haired walking drug dispenser Alan McGee would have signed them to Creation without hesitation. ‘Shimmer’, a cut from the yet to be released debut album
Spacehopper is a sumptuous collision between the late 80’s US underground or “alternative rock” scene and the UK’s more ethereal and psychedelically inclined original Shoegaze era- complete with a ‘proper’ chorus that you just want to loop in your head for hours on end. On the other end of the spectrum is the song ‘Catherine, I Feel Sick’, a kaleidoscopic aural exploration which will turn your brain into a warm fuzzy mess amidst the wash of immersive reverb recalling Slowdive’s lazy swoon- foregrounding mood and atmosphere over the more hook orientated ‘Shimmer’.
Tripwires form part of a revivalist movement of sorts, alongside bands as popular as current hot property as Swim Deep who are rejecting gritty realisms in favour of immersion in ethereal noise and washed-out press shots of band members sitting in fields trying to look as vague as possible (see above). Sure, it has all been done before and guitar exploration reached its zenith some twenty years ago but the fact that Shoegaze still exists says a lot about the psyche of young people who relish the escapism the music provides and flies in the face of many a critic who were all too keen to pronounce it as dead in the water back in the early 90’s.
Here’s ‘Shimmer’. Spacehopper is released 17 th June
VIDEO Jun 9
Shoegaze Sunday #6 - Tripwires
Still existing resolutely under the radar after a good few years of touring and recording, Only Fumes And Corpses fly in the face of convention with their latest musical “fuck you”-
Selfish Act II. The record sees the Irish punks challenging not just their own musical abilities and powers of song construction but their listener’s expectations by releasing a single seventeen minute track. The release sees the band striving for longevity in their song writing, the polar opposite to 2012’s Selfish Act I which contained thirteen tracks in even fewer minutes and encompassed a staggering array of disparate elements into a selection of rollicking breakneck hardcore punk tunes. It’s refreshing and encouraging to see a band who have yet to fully assert themselves within the scene challenging themselves and looking upon compromise as a declaration of weakness; utilising unorthodoxy as an integral part of the group’s outlook and refusing to bow down to whatever pithy fad is currently being nurtured by the fickle hype machine.
Selfish Act II is all raging hardcore, underpinned by some rather ruthless drumwork with sticksman Benny deserving upmost credit for managing to keep his arms attached to his body through repeated flurries of devious fills and blastbeat workouts- cruelly denying himself any respite for the entire duration of the track. Reigning in the genre spanning intuitions of Selfish Act I, the group’s musical vision casts a smaller net than its predecessor whilst upping the intensity and brutal nature of their vast array of riffs. For a seventeen minute song, Only Fumes And Corpses aren’t keen on simply filling out time through any ambience or atmospheric interludes as would most bands undertaking a song whose length lays within the realms of prog rock territory. But once the obligatory opening wall of feedback has pricked up ours ears, the band kick into a furious demonstration of impossibly fast hardcore. The anger is still there for all to see- vocalist Momme quite clearly monumentally pissed-off like any true punk should be in these worrisome contemporary times. He rails gruffly against societal ills through thinly veiled analogies covered in a generous layer of caustic bile that will make you sympathise with his long suffering vocal chords.
A level of frantic immediacy is maintained throughout much of the self-titled track, speed injected into their playing whenever the pace begins to slack- everything careering towards cataclysm via a brief two-step friendly excerpt complete with cheeky pinch squeal for good measure. The closing minutes foreground the guitarist’s abilities. Fingers dance across the frets, apparently never keen to linger on a single chord for more than a second, instead digressing into spasmodic tremolo-picked twenty-notes-per-second runs. It’s scrappy as hell, but a million times more listenable than any Dragonforce fret wankery.
It’s disorientating at first- seventeen minutes of continuous screaming and intense hardcore clattering appears a little hard to digest. After a few listens however, structure becomes tangible and there’s a realisation that there may even exist a deceptive chorus amongst all the hell-bent ferocity. Together with the first part of Only Fumes And Corpses Selfish Act series, the Irish punks have more than proved their competence and much needed desire to suggest alternatives to homogenous hardcore and its tired clichés. If justice were always to prevail, Selfish Act II should be the release that lifts Only Fumes And Corpses from obscurity and into the hearts and minds of the multitude of pissed-off kids across the country.
Two Beats Off
Only Fumes And Corpses - Selfish Act II (Lockjaw Records)