Monthly Playlist: May 2020

As lockdown continues, music also (thankfully) continues to exist. Cutting down to five tracks each was a struggle this month, given the excess time available to blast out tunes… Anyway, here they are:

Nick

Nick – Guitar

Dawn Ray’d – The Ceaseless Arbitrary Choice

Among my favourite UKBM bands and a standout album of the late 2010s. Folk and black metal (indeed any metal sub-genre) can be a precarious pairing but on this album in particular, I think they get the ratio bang on. Simon’s somber violin work compliments the savage impact of their vehement lyrical themes and explosive riffs.

Recondite – Mirror Games

Foreboding track from an album that is sinister and serene in equal measure. A fitting sonic accompaniment for these despondent times.

Karnivool – Life Like

Potentially the starkest evidence of their early nu-metal influence. Karnivool have since distanced themselves from this style whilst retaining the progressive groove and psychedelia that make them so interesting. Certainly an under-appreciated band.

Christian Löffler – Haul (Max Cooper Mix)

A stirring, resonant track, beautifully reimagined by Max Cooper, of whom I owe my discovery to Richard. A slow-burning, ambient euphoria and champion of harmony.

Låpsley – Operator (Koze Disco Edit)

A chart topper that never was. This track has all the hallmarks of a hit but sadly never quite reached the heights it deserved. Koze’s work on the track is fairly subtle, embellishing the already present disco elements, but it’s Låpsley’s vocals that are the true focal point.

Richard

Richard – Bass

Grouper – She Loves Me That Way

If the idea of sad indie folk songs drenched in reverb within an inch of their life appeals to you, then look no further than Grouper. Liz Harris’ atmospheres are so deep and unique, and I’ve been getting totally lost in them this past few months.

Diablo – The Preacher

Following a Ba’al group chat a few weeks back about our many and varied opinions about melodic death metal, I revisited this unsung band who are one of only a very small handful of melodeath bands I still listen to. This is the first song I heard of theirs and it is a great intro to their Meshuggah-infused take on the genre.

Craven Faults – Slack Sley & Temple

BandCamp keep proving themselves to be one of the best music-related companies going at the moment, but one thing they’ve always been great at is recommendations based on your taste. Thanks to one of their electronic/ambient roundups, I picked up one of my early 2020 album highlights here, and this track is like wandering through a deserted factory made entirely of lovely sci-fi synth sounds.

Bismuth – Weltschmertz

The ‘B-side’ (if you can really call it that) to 2018’s drone masterclass ‘The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef’ sees Bismuth shift their formidable torrent of tone into groove mode and churn out some unstoppable, flattening riffage.

Heavy Heart – The Way Home

Lockdown has seen me catching up virtually with some old Sussex pals from my school days, and Heavy Heart are a dream pop/shoegaze/indie band from London containing some of said friends. They released one song per month in 2016 and compiled them into an album in 2017, and the uplifting guitar that drives this track is just bliss to me. Self-plug: I actually play viola on the previous track…

Luke

Luke – Drums

Vola – Stray the Skies

GROOOOVE. Awesome groovy song with a great sing a long chorus. This song makes me feel like I’m floating in groove.

Polyphia – Amour

This song has come up a few times in my listenings, especially while I’ve been getting my government approved drum exercise! A really nice song to jam to.

Tesseract – Luminary

If I listen to this enough I might eventually pick up the drums so Nick and I can spend all our practices playing this and annoying everyone else!

Igorrr – Nervous Waltz

Yes I am putting Igorrr again. No, I don’t get out enough, but that’s just life at the moment and this is a great album 😀

Devin Townsend Project – Divine

Mainly because of seeing him play this for his virtual live shows raising money for for the keyworkers such as the NHS. Brilliant song, still epic when virtually live for such a good cause.

Tom

Tom – Guitar

Telepathy – Pariah

Absolute monster set of riffage from one of the best UK bands around.

Trap Them – Savage Climbers

Almost pedestrian in tempo compared to most of Trap Them’s output, but no less snarling and savage.

Cursed – Head of the Baptist

Never saw Cursed live sadly before they broke up, but an absolutely perfect back catalogue left in their wake.

Mamiffier – So That the Heart May Be Known

Beautifully layered slow burning piece with an almost folk edge in places.

Neurosis – The Last You’ll Know

The opening riff is just a sledgehammer of savagery.

Joe

Joe – Vocals

Her Name Is Calla – Pour More Oil

Probably one of the most emotive pieces of music I’ve ever heard, takes me back to an extremely sad time in my life but that’s partly why it resonates with me so much.

Deafheaven – Violet

A earlier track that is often overlooked, but a great sign of incredible things to come.

Allegaeon – Dyson Sphere

I’ve always been very particular about tech death, especially the squeaky clean style, but Allegaeon have some exceptionally well composed tracks, this being a favourite.

Anorexia Nervosa – Mother Anorexia

Criminally underrated symphonic black metal, tragically no longer active.

The Axis of Perdition – Entangled In Mannequin Limbs

Absolutely terrifying Silent Hill-style noise. The churning atmosphere, nightmarish landscape and the screams just conjur images of hell.

 

Monthly Playlist: April 2020

We went into the studio for a week and when we came out, the world went into lockdown. What a weird time to be alive. We hope you’re all keeping safe – here are some picks from us if you need more music to keep you sane.

Nick

Nick – Guitar

Dua Lipa – Cool

I wasn’t blown away by the first two singles at first, but both have since grown on me massively and the rest of the album as a whole is a radiant blend of modern pop, synthwave and disco. ‘Cool’ is a particular highlight for me, partly because it sounds like it came straight off of Emotion by Carly Rae Jepsen. Anyone who knows me well will know how much of a compliment that is.

Myrkur – House Carpenter

I, for one, applaud this album for focussing on the folk side of Myrkur. In my opinion, Braun’s vocals and use of traditional instrumentation have always been the standout elements in her repertoire, so I’m very happy to have a full album dedicated to that. This is one of my favourite tracks from it.

Code Orange – Who I Am

Another one that I was somewhat apprehensive of on first listening but I was already convinced by the halfway mark. It’s clear to see why people are talking about CO like they’re the future of metal. Perhaps that evaluation oversteps the mark a little, but there’s no denying their importance and influence on the underground.

Intronaut – Speaking of Orbs

A splendid new album from Intronaut. These are a band that, for me, get unfairly overlooked and actually flew under my radar for quite a long time. This album is a mosaic of metal fusion that lands somewhere between Boss Keloid and Animals As Leaders, via Mastodon of course.

Demersal – Thoughtless

One of my favourites to come out this year by a band that are fairly unknown (over here at least). Raw and emotional post-hardcore with a similar aesthetic and delivery to our dudes in Still, who I also really like funny enough.

Tom

Tom – Guitar

The Red Chord – Upper Deck

I loved the Clients record many years ago (and still do) and this is a monster off it.

Sick Of It All – Step Down

Time off from work has given me chance to go back through stuff I’ve not listened to for a while including this absolute classic from NYC.

Joe Strummer – Redemption Song

Stripped back cover of the Bob Marley classic that became a fitting bookend to a career.

Old Man Gloom – In Your Name

New Gloom. Enough said.

65daysofstatic – Dance Parties (Distant)

Taken from the Dance Parties EP, made mainly of remixes of the track ‘Distant Mechanised Glow of Eastern European Dance Parties’ off the Destruction of Small Ideas album. That track was my favourite off that album and this was a really good reimagining off the EP.

Luke

Luke – Drums

Igorrr – Camel Dancefloor

Off Igorrr’s latest output of electronic metal prog thing… This a fantastic combination of the aforementioned genres, with catchy licks and heavy electronic bass!

Lamb of God – Broken Hands

Been listening to a fair bit of Lamb of God again lately. This track has always been a favourite of mine.

Gojira – Born in Winter

It’s been my alarm for most of the month so I’ve heard the first 30 seconds or so quite a lot now! But amazing band, and this track is actually great for an alarm!

Wintersun – Sons of Winter and Stars

Amazing symphonic prog metal masterpiece. Incredible musicianship and writing all the way through. Jari is a God.

Igorrr – Very Noise

The main single off his latest release. Quite frankly this whole list could just be new Igorrr tracks… CHECK IT OUT.

Joe

Joe – Vocals

While Heaven Wept – The Drowning Years

Particularly sentimental track that got me through some tough times, hadn’t heard it in ages and it’s still as awesome as ever.

Imperium Dekadenz – When We Are Forgotten

Title track from their last album and a subtle masterclass in euphoric atmosphere.

Enslaved – Veilburner

It’s rare that I focus on drums, but the drumming in this absolute anthem is top draw. A real toe tapper.

Primordial – Bloodied Yet Unbowed

I’ve always found this track really boosts my spirit and makes me feel defiant. Exactly what’s needed right now.

Gwar – Meat Sandwich

Because we all need a laugh….

Richard

Richard – Bass

Esoteric – Caucus of Mind

It’s taken a while (and not just because their albums and songs are SO long), but I’m finally clicking with Esoteric, thans in large part to this album, The Maniacal Vale. There’s a lot more movement and changes than you might expect from funeral doom, not to mention buckets of sadness.

Kairon; IRSE! – Sinister Waters II

The psych rock offshoot of Oranssi Pazuzu have always been intriguing to me, and on their third album they dropped a lot of the shoegaze elements and went flagrantly prog rock – and I am here for it.

Gong – Fohat Digs Holes in Space

Continuing the psych thread, I stuck on Gong’s 1971 album ‘Camembert Electrique’ on a whim the other week and immediately loved it. As you’d expect, its pretty eccentric, but there’s a lot of soft groove in there too.

Public Service Broadcasting – Night Mail

Still a pretty unique voice in UK indie music, PSB bring some lush and almost Britpop guitar work to this track in homage of the postal service – seems fitting now more than ever. Have they ever written a song about the NHS?!

Led Zeppelin – The Crunge

I might sound like I’m trying to be cool by avoiding the classics here, but Houses of the Holy has been my favourite LZ record for a long time, just because of the amount of genre hopping they (successfully) attempted on it. Red Hot Chilli Peppers wish they could write grooves like this.

Monthly Playlist: March 2020

More tunes from us, this time with some sexy new photos and the identity of our drummer revealed. In case you hadn’t heard, he’s called Luke, and he is excellent. You might recognise him from Bleating Apocalypse, where you might also recognise Richard. Or you might not. Anyway, check out the tracks below and read our ramblings…

Nick

Nick – Guitar

Loathe – Is It Really You?

I think it’s almost guaranteed that these are going to end up massive in the same way Code Orange have blown up. I liked the first album but this new one has so much more personality. They’re still in that noisy hardcore vein but with a melodic textural side similar to peak Deftones.

Azealia Banks – Anna Wintour

One of the catchiest tracks she’s released, really strong vocals with great beats.

Leeched – Earth and Ash

Disgusting track from a disgusting album. The really gnarly production is great and adds a lot to an already great hardcore record.

Malevolence – Keep Your Distance

Another great track from Malev. Just when you think you’ve heard all the riffs you remember they exist and will consistently slap you with some more.

The Elijah – I Loved

An amazing band that is still sorely missed. Definitely a highlight of the late 00s melodic hardcore boom and one of the most emotionally intense bands I’ve ever heard.

Richard

Richard – Bass

Grimes – So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth

Miss Anthropocene is the first 2020 album I’ve heard this year and it does not disappoint. I’m very pleased that Grimes has gone back to making properly outsider music, and this track is a winning combo of spacey and melodic.

Sear Bliss – Forbidden Doors

Who knew that the trombone worked so well in black metal? Brilliantly produced heaviness that has vital cathiness in its blasting, alongside some atmospheric passages that are uniquely textured thanks to the brass.

Bring Me The Horizon – Nihilist Blues

IT’S DOUBLE GRIMES TIME. Amo is the first BMTH album I’ve actually given any time, and this year I’ve been absolutely smashing this track in my car. The production is brilliant, the marriage of pop and riffs infectious, and Grimes slots in weirdly perfectly.

Laster – Tot De Tocht Ons Verlicht

Holland’s Laster have an intriguing take on the lo-fi atmospheric black metal school of sounds, with some real instrumental experimentation. This track hits all the emotional spots whilst remaining progressive, incisive, and managing to include a choral/church organ break.

Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

Continuing the black metal/pop alternation, I’ve had this song stuck in my head on and off for a full calendar month. It’s classic LDR: sumptuous melodies, top-tier pop production and dark lyrics. Hail the queen.

Joe

Joe – Vocals

Alcest – Voix Sereines

Beautiful track off the bands least popular album that really plied the Slowdrive influence. Always makes me smile.

Green Carnation – Pile of Doubt

Sumptuous rock song, brilliant vocals and a real toe tapper.

The Gathering – Kevin’s Telescope

One of the most criminally overlooked bands from the Netherlands that were doing what Within Temptation and Delain have done a decade earlier and better.

Drudkh – Wind of the Night Forest

Quite simply one of my favourite black metal tracks of all time.

Ruins of Beverast – Mount Sinai Moloch

Got to have a bit of darkness this month too. Nasty, dense and grim, just like your mum.

Luke

Luke – Drums

Humanity’s Last Breath – Like Flies

Starting off with what I’d consider one of the heaviest bands I listen to on a regular basis. This song has a grim grooves with sickeningly heavy guitars and hard-hitting drums. A lovely song for a horible day.

Dream Theater – Dance of Eternity

After finally seeing it live this month with the monster that is Mike Mangini behind the drums, I just have to put this on this month’s list. A classic instrumental prog track which has given me many hours of enjoyment trying to learn the drum parts.

Dirty Loops – Sexy Girls

When this jazz fusion group were announced as the headliners for 2020’s Radar Fest I had to check them out. I mainly just enjoy playing this song when giving lifts to work mates who are expecting me to belt out some incomprehensible metal!

Tesseract – Of Matter – Resist

I’ve mainly been listening to this lots because its been my alarm for the past few months. Great atmospheric intro (perfect for a light and breezy wake up) but builds into a classic Tesseract groove which you should all love. LOVE IT.

Strapping Young Lad – You Suck

I feel like I remember this just coming up on shuffle a lot lately, and it is just an incredible yet hectic song which hits super hard and super fast. Also just great fun to sing along to if you’re feeling miffed with people!

Tom

Tom – Guitar

Torche – Admission

I’ve always had a big love for this band. Floaty shoegaze guitar pop meets huge sludge riffs.

Smashing Pumpkins – Behold the Nightmare

The Adore album was a quiet, low-key oddity in the midst of the Pumpkins’ catalogue, and yet my favourite Pumpkins record.

Touché Amoré – Is Survived By

Heartfelt post-hardcore doesn’t get much better than this and it’s a great book end to the album that got me into this band.

Deafheaven – From the Kettle Onto the Coil

Dark and savage single post- the Sunbather album that set the tone for the New Bermuda album that followed.

The Mirimar Disaster – If Lockheeds Could Speak

Old tune from some good friends stacked with some monster riffs.

Monthly Playlist: February 2020

New year, same monthly playlist post… New drummer. As usual, we’ve all picked 5 tracks – including our new drummer, whose identity is yet to be revealed. Guesses on a postcard please.

Mirror attempt 1 bw

Nick – Guitar

Under – Traitor’s Gate

You can file this one under ‘simple riffs that slap so hard that you really wish you’d written’. There is also plenty of the sort of off kilter affair you’d expect from Under. Looking forward to whatever weird-as-shit metal they release next.

Max Cooper – Perpetual Motion

I have Richard to thank for this one. Only started listening to Max on his recommendation but I’m glad I did. Minimalist techno that is nonetheless vividly illustrative and euphoric. To draw his music would be to draw a massively intricate landscape.

Michelle Branch – Everywhere

Classic early 2000s pop-rock anthem. Unfortunately Michelle is no longer a household name it seems but The Spirit Room nonetheless is still an absolutely stellar album. They don’t write pop songs like this anymore.

Frigoris – Aurora Stirbt

A potential early contender for album of the year. Beautiful German post-black metal with an anti-NSBM stance. What is there not to love?

Allie X – Science

I’m picking the stripped back ‘analog’ version she released last year purely for the ridiculous pitch her voice reaches towards the end. Regardless listen to the original too. The phattest sounding dark synth pop with astounding production.

Mirror attempt 2 bw

Tom – Guitar

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Sleep

And we used to sleep on the beach here, sleep overnight.
They don’t do that anymore.
Things changed…
You see
They don’t sleep anymore on the beach

Jesu – Christmas

Waves of electronics and guitars crash over eachother in ways that are instantly recognisable as Broaderick’s work. A twisted combination of industrial and shoegaze.

65daysofstatic – Safe Passage

The synth swells and blooms are glorious. Emotive and uplifting that always makes the hairs standup on my arms.

Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us

Just absolute savagery commited to tape. A gloriously nihilistic way to open an album and a statement of intent.

Neurosis – Stones From the Sky

Bleak, hypnotic, no frills simplicity. Neurosis at their absolute crushing best.

Mirror attempt 4 bw

Joe – Vocals

Les Discrets – Le Mouvement Perpetuel

Pleasant yet haunting post black metal from Alcest’s bezzie mates. Actually quite soothing.

Fen – The Gibbet Elms

One if the UK’s finest atmospheric black metal bands. Oozes malevolence.

Drakonis – Let Us Pray

Northern Irish black metallers who have a full length album on the way. Traditional and catchy.

Monstrosity – Remnants of Divination

Best known for being the training ground for musicians to join bigger death metal bands. But this track is a tech-death banger.

Slipknot – Eyeless

Classic track that was a highlight when I recently saw them live for the fourth time. YOU CAN’T SEE CALIFORNIA WITHOUT MARLON BRANDOS EYES!!!

Mirror attempt 3 bw

Richard – Bass

Ashbringer – Solace

This album, Yūgen, made a bit of an underground splash when it came out a few years ago. Brilliant atmospheric black metal, with some powerful harmonies and masterful acoustic passages. It’s a bit like Wolves in the Throne Room meets Mike Oldfield.

Jesu – Silver

As is often the case, I’m very slowly filling gaps in my knowledge with artists I definitely should be more familiar with… After just one listen, the title track on this EP has shot up to amongst my very favourite Jesu tracks. Heartwrenching, reverberating, heavy and so distinctive.

Steve Hauschildt – The World is Too Much with Us

I recently came across this Berlin-School-influenced electronic artist via a BandCamp reccomendation email, and then found out he’s playing in Sheffield next month – double winner. His work is like a blend of simplistic synth-based soundscapes with Jon Hopkins-like hooks and sound, and this one is just great and textured ambience.

E-L-R – Above the Mountains There is Light

Though they didn’t make it into my albums of 2019 list, seeing them live in December with Hundred Year Old Man (twice, including playing with them once) has kept E-L-R in my mind. This track – featuring Colin from Amenra – is the pinnacle of the album for me, reaching some brilliant, chordy heights.

Thy Catafalque – Vashegyek

This is a band I’m really only just properly investing time into, having had them on my radar for a long time. There’s some truly nasty, deathly sludge riffs on display here, alongside influence from Hungarian folk and electronica, and you could also argue there’s some of the SOAD brand of melody in there too. Can’t wait to get stuck into more of their albums.

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??? – Drums

Twilight Force – Hydra

Soooo, I like cheesy power metal and have a big ole soft spot for orchestral elements in metal. This is an absolute belter off Twilight Force’s latest album, which is sure to lighten up any day!

Fleshgod Apocalypse – Monnalisa

Following on the orchestral theme, Fleshgod Apocalypse’s Monnalisa comes in from the heavier end still with a fantastic combination of musicality, epicness, and looming ominous tones.

Arch Echo – MukDuk

This instrumental prog/mathsy band bring the grooooooovvvveeeeeee to extreme proportions. Great fun talented band with amazing energy.

Devin Townsend – Borderlands

It’s Devin… Need I say more? I see this as a brilliant example of all the stuff that makes Devin Devin. It’s got heavy, silliness, proggy stuff, a crying child… IT’S GOOD.

VOLA – Whaler

VOLA were my most recent love at first sight band, and this song off their latest album is a beautiful comination of heavy and with the beautiful loveliness which makes VOLA one of my favourite bands.

Albums of the Year 2019

Last year was a big one for music, sounds and noises. Below you’ll find Nick, Richard, Tom and Joe’s picks of the bunch, after hours and hours of pain in stripping the lists down to a measly 5. We’ve also got one track on from each release in a handy little Spotify playlist…

Mirror attempt 1 bw

Nick – Guitar

This was a very strong year and putting this list together was very difficult (isn’t it always?). I only undertook the voyage into 2019’s back catalogue in mid-November, so I’m pleased I managed to squeeze around 140 in before the year was out. Several honourable mentions this year including Alcest, Cult of Luna, Cranial, Violet Cold, Mizmor, Ultar, Oh Sees, The Grey, Skepta, Seizures, Rorcal, Anderson Paak, Billie Eilish, Boris, Charli XCX, Hannah Diamond, Herod, Hobo Johnson and the list goes on and on. Here’s the five I wanted to mention in particular.

5. Norma Jean – All Hail

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A slightly tongue in cheek album title perhaps? Regardless of intention, it’s an apt name for a now legendary metalcore band showing us how it’s done.

4. James Blake – Assume Form

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A typically strong outing from the James the Blake with consistently compelling features. Considerably more pastel coloured than his previous releases (he’s not miserable as fuck anymore) and with that it’s one of the most interesting alt-pop records of recent years.

3. Sūrya – Solastalgia

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This one took pole in my very tight post-metal round-up. Cult of Luna, Alcest and Cranial all came close but none of them drew my undivided attention quite like this. Essential listening for any fan of the aforementioned bands and the wider post-metal world.

2. 65daysofstatic – replicr, 2019

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A bleak Orwellian nightmare is the perfect soundtrack for the future, now that we live in a bleak Orwellian nightmare under the fat blonde goblin.

1. Lankum – The Livelong Day

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Incredible follow up to their similarly incredible second album. It’s difficult for me to describe this album, as I make no claim to being a connoisseur of Irish folk. What I can say is that there is a brooding intensity to this album, a grim foreboding the likes of which you might otherwise hear on a Sunn O))) album. In a pinch I’d say this is my album of the year.

Mirror attempt 3 bw

Richard – Bass

I’m notoriously useless at keeping up with new music, and spend far more of my time digging into old things I’ve missed over the years, but this list was a fun excercise in trying to catch up. Although it’s nothing on Nick’s total, I managed 30 albums from 2019, which is loads for me. About 15-20 of them could have made the top 5, but ones that came especially close were Cult of Luna, HANA, Max Cooper, N/UM, New Ghost, Earth & Pillars, A-Sun Amissa, Mic Reckless and White Ward.

5. Earth Moves – Human Intricacy

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Ever since I first saw them in 2017, Earth Moves have been one of my favourite UK heavy bands, and their second album near enough manages the seemingly impossible task of matching the quality of their first. No one else dares to get so rawly emotional and dynamic with post metal, and if anything there’s more variety and power this time around.

4. Archivist – Triumvirate

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A massive step up from the second record which was a bit of a mis-step in my opinion, Archivist have returned to doing post-black metal better than almost anyone else. Two vocalists (with both clean and harsh vocals), lush chord progressions and, crucially, plenty of straight-up battery, all topped off with frontman Alex CF’s brilliant artwork. In truth, you need to check out the full trilogy.

3. FKA Twigs – Magdalene

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It took me ages to get around to this one after both Nick and my girlfriend told me for months that I’d love it – they weren’t wrong. This is pop music twisted into bizarre shapes, retaining the hooks and beats that keep you plugged in. It’s one of those records that reveals more every time. Highly recommended.

2. Lingua Ignota – Caligula

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Speaking of twisting things into painful shapes, Lingua Ignota’s voice is just something else. There’s a lot more to digest here than on her first outing, but once you put in the time, it’s incredibly powerful. Classical meets noise meets drone meets metal meets liturgical music meets abject pain meets fear of god meets brutal revenge on all those who have wronged you. See her live, you won’t be the same afterwards.

1. Dizraeli – The Unmaster

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Continuing to prove himself a totally unique voice in UK hip-hop (/folk/experimental/spoken word/something/everything), this one caught me totally by surprise with how much I loved it. It’s so eclectic, personal and powerful, whilst also being full of danceable bangers. Dizraeli’s own flow is only getting stronger with time, and it sits at the centre of a wild symphony of electronic and acoustic instruments, plus some totally out there vocal performances.

Mirror attempt 2 bw

Tom – Guitar

There were many that could have been on this list and a few that were very close, including Cave In… As much as I love ‘Final Transmission’, you can’t help the feeling that it could have been so much more if it wasn’t for the sad passing of Caleb. Russian Circles, Torche, Iggy Pop and A-Sun Amissa were all standouts and in that order would round out a top 10, but these are the 5 that really grabbed me this time round.

5. Boris – LφVE & EVφL

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Walls of fuzz and noise collide with a surprising dash of calm and quiet. What’s not to love.

4. Cult of Luna – A Dawn to Fear

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Monolithic riffs combine with atmospheric passages in ways nobody else can manage.

3. Mono – Nowhere Now Here

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A masterpiece of soundscape, texture and expression, with a depth lost on so many other bands of their ilk over the years. Spanning fragile to bombastic walls of sound effortlessly.

2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

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Stripped bare compared to early Bad Seeds material and continuing on from the last couple of releases this is as beautiful as it is dark and haunted by loss. Was my album of the year for a long time until…

1 . 65daysofstatic – Replicr, 2019

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I don’t really know how to describe this record. Each and every time it gives up a bit more from the vast soundscapes within that feel more like one vast piece than individual tracks. Just stunning.

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Joe – Vocals

I’ve been a bit out of the loop on newer music this year; most of what I’ve heard has been random bits of obscure black metal performed in deep, dark Siberian woodland, recorded onto a potato by hedgehogs that probably have unconfirmed but potentially troubling political ideaologies…. So instead of trawling through reems of spikey logo’d bands that sound like dense atmospheres within a tub of particularly evil marmalade, I’ve picked out the stuff that others may have actually heard of. Honourable mentions go to Mayhem’s album ‘Daemon’ for being better than expected and Slipknot’s ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ for it’s grade D at GCSE graphics artwork and, despite being aggravatingly underwhelming, still supplying me with an adequate coaster for my mug of fancy pants coffee.

5. Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas
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The best album since the game changing Monolith of Inhumanity. Further experimentation, diversity and even a sense of emotion rarely experienced in tech death.

4. Mgla – Age of Excuse
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Released to almost zero fanfare this album just turned up one day. A powerful follow up the the masterpiece that was “Exercises in Futility”.

3. Veldes – Flameless
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More spectacular atmosphere from Slovenias workhorse black metallers.

2. Blut Aus Nord – Hallucinogen
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Coming somewhat out of left field this album is a mind bending experience that demonstrates Blut Aus Nords progression along with their spacey cosmic trademark.

1. Grima – Will of the Primordial

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Extremely cold atmospheric black metal that truly resonates a sense of eternal winter.

Gear Talk: Guitars – Nick’s Ibanez

We continue our dive into our guitar collections with Nick’s mystery antique…

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My main guitar at the moment is an Ibanez PF155 which is a Les Paul shape from 1978 or 1979. I actually took a chance on this guitar after seeing it in an antique shop in Buxton. I’d seen it several months prior and couldn’t afford it at the time, then after a while I came back and checked to see if it was still for sale out of curiosity more than anything, and it was, and I had some money. I did a bit of research on the spot but I found next to nothing about the model and the seller had no information either. I had a little play on it in the shop and it played very nicely; and on advice from Tom, we thought it was worth the punt as it would retain its value if I fell out with it, so I took the plunge.

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I still know very little about it to be honest, other than it being the best guitar that I own. I know it comes from that era when Japanese companies were making budget versions of American guitars, in this case a Gibson Les Paul. That being said it doesn’t play like a ‘budget’ guitar. It feels very comfortable and there is a much fuller sound to it than anything else I’m currently playing. As far as I’m aware it still has the same humbuckers it had when it was built and there is a real vibrancy and life to them which I haven’t experienced with the more modern guitars I’m used to. As for what it’s made of, I can only assume it’s some sort of wood and the hardware is metal of some kind (I don’t have a clue about either, nor what difference the materials would make if I did). It is a nice shade of orange though, which is something I can tell you.

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I’ve been using D’Addario EXL 110-7 XL strings, which is actually a 7 string set, for a while now. We’re generally tuned to a variation of B standard or Drop A so having strings that can handle low tunings is ideal. It also means that the G string (or D string in this case) is wound so I don’t have to worry about it being difficult. They sound the fullest and last the longest of all the strings I’ve ever used in lower tunings so I definitely recommend. At some point I will give baritone strings a try but for now I’m happy with just having lots of spare high E strings knocking about at home.

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I really like this guitar, and unless a white Flying V crops up at a reasonable price, this will likely be my main guitar for a while.

-Nick

Gear Talk: Guitars – Tom’s Greco

As the first entry in the ‘gear’ category of our blog, and the first in a mini-series on our guitars, we thought it made sense to let our resident gear nerd run wild to set the tone…

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So begins the diary of a gear nerd.

My current main is a violin burst 1984 Greco EG600 (it could also be a 68-80… Trying to pin model numbers down is difficult. The serial number says its an ’84 and the month but no more detail), made in Japan at the Fugi-Gen factory.

When I first joined Ba’al I was playing an old Gibson RD Custom from 1978 which was all maple with the moog active boards in it. It sounded great and the longer scale was great for the low tuning we use. However, it being old and the electronics being something of voodoo and hard to repair or get parts for, it got retired from use before I broke it.

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Photo by 9barsofgold

For a while I had another Gibson (a Firebrand ES-335s which was, again, all maple) but that was replaced with the Greco, as the mahogany-maple combo sounds darker than the all maple construction of the Gibsons I had been using until then. Plus I’ve always had a soft spot for the Les Paul shape, especially the Custom, but the real thing is way beyond my bank balance and the Grecos more than do the job, along with destroying my shoulder.

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The stock pickups are long long gone (before I got it). Currently in there are Seymour Duncans: an SH-5 Custom in the bridge and a ’59 in the neck. The Custom being ceramic has more bite and punch than the more mellow ’59 in the neck, which gives a nice balance and means flicking from the neck to the bridge I can go from warm and mellower to something with more bite and cut easily.

The neck was refretted and the radius changed before I got it, with the fingerboard now being slightly flatter than normal and fitted with jumbo frets. I don’t like thin shred style necks and this has more of a big vintage Gibson profile to it, so it suits me to the ground. The bridge has been swapped for a Gotoh Tune-o-matic and the pots are all CTS. The tuners I believe are the stock still (not much is on this otherwise these days), and the straplocks are DiMarzio clip locks.

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String gauge wise this is currently strung with D’Addario Baritone Lights 13-62, and tuned to B (or A) E A D F# A. I’ve used D’Addario for best part of 15 years and they just seem to work best for me. They settle well, are stable, last a long time and are not excessively bright when new – which is good because I’m terrible for leaving strings on for ages until they start to flatspot. These take all the punishment (I’m very heavy handed and dig in hard) with no issues.

Lastly, the sparkling green basset hound sticker…. The tone is in the hound.

-Tom