As I’ve noted elsewhere recently, the problem with most so-called comedy bands is that they aren’t actually all that funny, and rely on offensive or shocking “jokes” to mask a lack of decent songs. Wrong Shade Of Orange by solo act Mad Spanner makes no attempt to hide its absurd sense of humour – I mean, just look at that cover – but the thrashy punk/grind on the album is strong enough to stand on its own. However, the humour is of the kind that won’t be to everyone’s taste, and can be – to me – rather hit-and-miss. That said, there’s still more than enough here to have kept me entertained.
The main problem with most “comedy” bands is that they simply aren’t funny. This is often further compounded by the fact that most bands who try to be funny forget to write worthwhile songs, so that even if the jokes fall flat, at least there’s a solid base of riffs to fall back on. England’s Raised By Owls differ from most comedy bands in that they’re actually genuinely funny; and even if they weren’t, their grindcore is more than strong enough to stand on its own. Combining a very British sense of humour – which should be evident from the title of The Great British Grind Off alone – with varied, impressive grind, this album is a winner on all fronts.
I’m sure that there will be those who balk at Plagues Upon Arda, simply because of its lyrical content. Khazaddum are hardly the first band to take inspiration from The Lord Of The Rings, but most bands who do so handle the matter in ways that is, frankly, cheesy and immature. This album avoids any such pitfalls though, comprised as it is of relentless, pummeling death metal that takes inspiration from the likes of Behemoth and Nile. Far from being a novelty record, Plagues Upon Arda is an album of real strength and talent that would surely stand out even without its atypical lyrical themes.
If you’re in the market for something to get sad to, then Vases is just what you’re after. The collaboration between dark electronics musician Wet Nurse. and Matt Finney is bleak, depressing, and possessed of a certain beauty. This is music for staying up late, wondering where it all went wrong and feeling powerless to do anything about it. And yet, as unappealing as that may make it sound, there’s something about Vases that makes it easy to listen to for hours at a time, sinking in to its dark, melancholy embrace.
There’s a lot of problems faced by underground bands when getting their music released. Arguably, the biggest one is getting people outside of your circle of friends to actually care about what you’re doing. Probably the second biggest problem – and the one that has hamstrung so, so many releases I’ve come across – is that of your music having the production it deserves. Such is the case for anarchist metal band Rookscare on their EP Ecotone. It is a brave, adventurous piece of music, exploring the overlap between nature and technology with varied, interesting songs that are well worth spending time. The trouble is, you may have a hard time hearing the real strengths of those songs due to a quiet, unflattering production. Devote enough time to it though, and you’ll realise that Ecotone rewards such patience.
Funny to think how much has changed in this past year. Comparing where the world is now with where it was when I posted my first set of short reviews a year ago is sobering. Let’s try not to dwell on that though, and have some music instead. This month there’s words on the new single from melo-death band Eshtadur, Cornered At The Earth; artful post-punk by Russians Mirrored Lips on чичичи; hyperspeed fastcore on the split between Beartrap and Hummingbird Of Death; soul-crushing black/death on Breeding Ruin by Dawn Of Tyrants; grindcore as love by The Brood on The Truth Behind; and psychedelic doom/stoner from Heavy Temple on new record Chasit. Enjoy!
Sometimes, it’s good to hear a record and know from the offset exactly what it is trying to be. Croatian solo act Tenebrositas have been releasing demos and EPs of raw, frostbitten black metal for a few years now, and Alone In The Frozen Wastelands carries on in just that style. There’s nothing unusual here, no attempts at reinventing – or even slightly changing – a style that has been in existence for over twenty years now. Instead, it sticks absolutely to the fundamentals, but does so with such spirit that it’s hard to complain about it. If you’re looking for something new, this won’t be for you. But if you’re looking for mid-90’s style cold and nihilism, then press on.