Friday, January 20, 2017

Belated obsessions: The Men - New Moon (2013)

Hoping to maybe write about more albums that have "matured" inside me years after their initial release (because this is something that happens to me from time to time) in the future, I thought I'd make the start with The Men's masterpiece from 2013. The band from Brooklyn, having started to be discographically active since 2008, released their debut full-length Immaculada (2010) which sure earned them a certain distinction among the scene of the time. And this distinction was because of a unique way they had of blending garage rock with '70s punk and post-hardcore, while adding some noise elements of their own. Always an interesting band, but they never monopolized my interest in a really special way. Knowing of their existence, I always knew they were there, and when I came across tracks of theirs from time to time, I always thought "this is an OK band" and that was it.

Until last year when (I don't really remember why or how) I started listening to New Moon which was lurking in my hard drive for a couple of years. The sweet and mellow melody of the opener "Open the Door" caught my attention and the first thought on my mind was "hey hm yeah these guys are usually unpredictable, this is probably just an intro or something". But with track 2 "Half Angel Half Light" I started thinking that we probably have something special here after all. Going through to the end of the album, I wanted more. I pushed play again. And again, and again. I think this is as much as you need if you'ew going to realize that this is not a common album.

The Men, in New Moon, sounded like a slightly different band from how I remembered them or from the idea I had about them. Here, we have a maturity that is usually carried by a band that has conquered its influences, has set its musical limits with a defining certainty, and now feels comfortable to wander anywhere its mood tells it to. New Moon is considerably softer than its predecessors, increasing the use of acoustic instruments and decreasing the noise elements (although they are not totally absent). The final result is warm but also bitter, melodic but also dark, soft but also harsh. From the nostalgic harmonica in "Bird Song" to the unstoppable pounding of "the Brass", and from the melancholic melody of "I See No One" to "Supermoon"'s noisy psychedelic outbreak, this is a record that can stand the test of time as it clearly is a depiction of the creators' psyche, nothing more and nothing less. Have a taste.



Monday, January 16, 2017

Reveal - Flystrips (2016)

This is one of the (very few anymore, actually) times that I just feel compelled to write about a record. Even more so because it deserved by right to be in my top-10 for 2016, but it crossed my path only a week or so ago, so it missed that window by a little.

It is my first contact with these guys. Reveal come from Uppsala, Sweden and I could say that they're a pure hate-them-or-get-hooked-on-them case. Their lo-fi, nihilistic, misanthropic, grumpy and cacophonous sound is a blend of numerous things, or it is numerous things that come to one's mind listening to them. Early '90s Norwegian blackmetal, noise rock, alternative, punk, '80s-era Bathory, and so on. This was a purely unexpected musical experience for me, and I really can't beginto describe about nerves it touches in me as iot probably touches different ones for everyone else but in the end I'm sure that it triggers the same things to everyone that has grown up with dark music in general during the '90s. Enough with words, this is a record one just has to experience.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Top 10 albums of 2016 (aka maybe establishing a tradition)


1. True Moon - s/t

One can safely say I was pre-determined to like this one as it is Karolina Engdahl's (Vånna Inget's vocalist) other project, and I absolutely adore Karolina's voice and Vånna Inget in general. I daresay my expectations were more than met, and then some. True Moon, with their debut release, strike all the right nerves in me. If I had to describe it, it is like a postpunk-ish thing that borrows '80s darkwave and at times even electro elements, then rendering them in a personal manner and creating this incredible result.



2. This Is Nowhere - Music to Relapse

This phenomenon of a band may theoretically be characterized and categorized under certain genres and labels, but a closer look reveals an abyss for you to explore. Their debut album last year, although still great, I can say it missed the great expectations by half an inch. This one right here... well, it just leaves you speechless. Stepping on Monster Magnet, Kyuss and Velvet Underground at the same time (among many others of course), here we have a collection of tracks that are created only once in a decade or so.


3. Sarabante - Poisonous Legacy

How can an absolutely perfect debut album be topped? Well, Poisonous Legacy is the answer. Sarabante return even more focused, darker, angrier and more dystopic, while melodic at the same time. The overall result is just crushing and the album is consumed every time in one sip.


4. Birthday Kicks - Black Echo Trap

Although I was anticipating their first full-length release (after that great debut 7" single) while Birthday Kicks were taking their sweet time completing it, this one sure took me by surprise. It was just too good; warm and fuzzy rock 'n' roll flowing just naturally and enjoyably. This is an album that appeals to garage rock fans, to stoner fans, to psychedelic rock fans; it simply combines all the best elements of just everything.


5. Καταχνιά - Στη Σκιά Μιας Λαιμητόμου (Katachnia - Sti Skia Mias Lemitomou)

Again, a sophomore release that manages to, not only live up to its predecessor's legacy, but also extend it even further. Katachnia continue to combine the crust punk principles with the greek punk values maintaining an absolutely personal sound and staying true to the tradition they have set.


6. UXO - s/t

Those who know me, even not very much, also know that I'm a sucker for some Unsane-like noise rock. Well, this is my dose for 2016. Today Is the Day's Steve Austin and Unsane's Chris Spencer are teaming up for this project and it just ruled my speakers for weeks. If you know what I'm talking about, you know this rocks.



7. Touché Amoré - Stage Four

What is this? Emo? Screamo? Any other shit the kids nowadays are listening to? Don't care. And when a concidence is repeated, well, it doesn't constitute a concidence anymore. I had loved 2014's Is Survived By but, to be honest, I hadn't really put Touché Amoré really high in my conscience. Stage Four came to change that and to make me a fan. It's surprising how naturally this album flows, how melodic, emotional and powerful it is at the same time. I will keep these guys close from now on.


8. Oathbreaker - Rheia

Avant-garde blackmetal/shoegaze anyone? This could be a dry description of Oathbreaker, but it in no way can contain everything that is encased in this album. Caro Tanghe doesn't only scream anymore (not that we don't absolutely love her when she does), but has developed to a full leading persona. Oathbreaker take things several steps further with Rheia and, while until now you could more or less compare them with other bands, now they just play on a league of their own.



9. Ruined Families - Education

This one just exploded on our faces and it just is beyond words. This is hardcore punk, mathcore, post-hardcore, alternative rock and noise rock at the same time. It grabs you by the neck and doesn't leave room for even a hint of escaping. Kick in the gut, elbow on the teeth, strike between the eyes. That's what it is.


10. Minerva Superduty - Gorod Zero
I'll be honest. I never "understood" mathcore. I have rarely put on such music to listen to at home. And I still don't know what exactly it is that has made me love this album so much. Maybe it's their uncompromised hardcore character, maybe the raw despair that flows through the speakers. All in all, Minerva Superduty confuse me. I don't know how they do what they do, or why. All I know is that Gorod Zero has me hooked.



Runners-up:

Omega Monolith - Fungus: I have felt compelled to write about this particular piece of work several months back. Omega Monolith seem to have reached very close to the implementation of their vision, as they've created an album that lives and breathes of its own. You must experience it; especially live, if you get the chance.
Brainbombs - Souvenirs: The sickos from Sweden strike back after 3 years. I haven't really been able to put my finger exactly on what it is that I find appealing about these guys; maybe it's the raw way thυ deliver their art or that they honestly don't consider it as art at all, or that they would never even think of releasing records if a label didn't push them to. And that all these are elements that find their way into their music.

Sleep of Monsters - II: Poison Garden: I couldn't even begin to tell you how much of a Babylon Whores fanboy I have been and the Sleep of Monsters' debut release in 2013 made me rejoice. Poison Garden takes over where Produces Reason left off, in a more melodic, mellow and choral way. 

Cyanna Mercury - Archetypes: This is a wonder I could never anticipate from a Greek band. It almost sounds unconventional compared to the rest of the Greek underground scene. Dark folk, gothic, traditional greek rhythms, psychedelic rock. Cyanna Mercury have already made their mark with their debut release and I can't wait for their next steps.
Metallica - Hardwired... to Self-Destruct: I don't even feel the need to justify myself here. I won't deny the nostalgia factor, but this is purely good Metallica music, as it is supposed to be. Hardwired... to Self-Destruct, although a bit annoyingly faithful to the 7-minute-long song stereotype, summarizes perfectly the Metallica sound from Master of Puppets to Reload. If you're a Metallica fan, you can't not love this one.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sadhus "the Smoking Community"/Agnes Vein split 7" out now!


Now available at http://vaultrelics.bigcartel.com/

Also available at:
-Athens: Rhythm Records, Emm.Mpenaki 74, Exarchia, tel.210384155
-Thessaloniki 1: Lotos, Skra 7, tel.2310260776
-Thessaloniki 2: Stones Rock Bar, Prox.Koromila 14 
-Larissa: Snuff Tobacco Store 1) Koumoundourou 1, 2) Filellinon 53A, Frourio, tel.2410531750
-Sofje, Bulgaria: Threechords Record Store, tel.0878491113



Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 10 albums of 2015 (aka yet another list)

It's been more than 2 whole years and, although I never thought I'd come back, somehow I convinced myself to dust the place off and write something about the year that's just ending. This list is by no means someone's who listened to tons of music during the last 12 months. It in no way aspires to be complete and "objective" and/or to showcase what went on in music in 2015; my obsessions would never make it possible for me. Actually, I'm feeling OK with my obsessions. I love the fact that I still can get lost in an album and listen to nothing but it for a whole month at times. The over-abundance of available information (and, in our case, music) makes it all the more harder for everyone to really get attached to something, to own it. It's been some years since I've stopped trying to just "keep up" and I've just let myself go with what speaks to me. After all, we are never going to know everything, and I feel just fine with this thought.
And, just before I start getting too existential, too abstract, or just plainly meaningless, here we go with the 10(+5) albums that ruled my mp3 player this year; at times for several weeks in a row (in an ascending order this time and with no countdown, because I can):

1. Goatsnake - Black Age Blues

A return after 11 whole years! After Trampled Under Hoof EP in 2004, Goatsnake entered a state of hiatus of unspecified time. Thankfully, they returned this year and it simply surpassed any expectations I could have had from this 2000s doom monster. Awe-inspiring doom riffs, labyrinthine lead vocals, groovy female backing vocals, blues harmonicas; we got everything Goatsnake and then some. In my mind, there was never another number 1 for 2015, maybe apart from a brief time, when I listened to number 2 that is.



2. Chelsea Wolfe - Abyss

Not really much to say about this phenomenon of a musician. To be honest, I mainly had sporadic contact with her stuff for unspecified reasons, but Abyss was the album that had me hooked from the first minute. Dark, doom, gothic and considerably metal without being afraid of it, Chelsea Wolfe delivers a strange trip of a record, reminiscing friendly memories, but also taking the listener to new and undiscovered depths.


3. Terrible Feelings - Tremors

Many consider their 2012's debut Shadows as their yet unsurpassed masterpiece so far, but Tremors is what established Terrible Feelings in my mind as maybe the greatest hope of european melodic punk. Beautiful, direct and catchy melodies, exemplary orchestrations; all in all, an unflawed sample of the genre. I still listen to it regularly, this is made to just never get boring.


4. Imperial State Electric - Honk Machine

Our good old friend Nicke, the guy with Midas' touch. I don't know how much he tried this time, but it all looks to flow so natural from within him. Reptile Brain Music, although a great record, to me sounded inferior to Pop War, so Nicke had to make it right. Honk Machine is absolutely brilliant. I don't know how much of a point is there to say this about an Imperial State Electric record (as each one of them is close to perfect technically), but here the band often deviates from the straight rock n' roll or power pop or whatever sound, as we have more touches of blues, soul, and pure pop music. All with the company of incredible melodies nevertheless.


5. Iskra - Ruins

I was never into this blackened a sound. During the last years, I have come to love almost everything crust, but I admit that this was basically new to me. I had just heard of Iskra but never listened to their records, and Ruins was finally the one for me. Somehow, I immediately loved this particular mix. At first, it sounded too blackmetal for my taste, but something kept me going on. Under the black veil, this is basically incredible and unstoppable crust punk. Just give it a try, I'm no expert but this record just kills.


6. Björk - Vulnicura

Do you really need me to describe or praise a Björk record? Here, I literally have no words. Just dive in.



7. Slayer - Repentless

Following Jeff Hannemann's death (R.I.P.), people kept on questioning Slayer's future and whether the remaining members could pull it off. I don't care how much of an asshole Kerry King is or isn't, but here we have a demolishing set of tunes. I would dare to say that this is as punk as Slayer have been since Undisputed Attitude. Don't get me wrong, this definitely carries the trademarked Slayer thrash metal sound, but, unlike their previous albums, here we have more straight melodies and mainly short songs; exactly what makes it for me. Not everyone will agree of course, but this is how I like my Slayer!



8. Eagles of Death Metal - Zipper Down

Just before the tragedy in Paris, Eagles of Death Metal released their fourth album after a considerable time of absence. Of course, Jesse Hughes was unable to stay in one place, as in 2011 he released Boots Electric's groovy debut album Honkey Kong (actually, three tunes from there are reprised in Zipper Down), but I guess eveything needs a little Homme to get it right. Zipper Down raises Eagles of Death Metal high once more in my conscience, as the two albums that followed Peace Love Death Metal, although not bad, had a slight descending course, in my opinion. Here, all the fun and groove and sweat and sexiness have returned. It's only rock n'roll, kids.


9. Nervosas - s/t

This came to my attention just some weeks back, but it has had a remarkable impact in my everyday music soundtrack. One could say that here we have one more melodic post-punk band from the homonymous scene, nice to listen to but not that great, etc. Well no, because they have this something. It's not just the initial excitement that wears off after the first days. Here the guitar doesn't stop painting with warm melodies against the dark tunes, and the female vocals are substantial and give a special edge to the whole sound. Straight and to-the-point compositions (as very few songs get farther that the 2-minute mark), a dark melancholy glooming all over the place, yet it all sounds so liberating.


10. Refused - Freedom

Another big and highly-anticipated return (after 17 whole years!), and noone could stop wondering whether these '90s punk pionners would still be pioneers in the '10s; after all, expecting anything less from Refused would be just too easy for them. So have they done it? In a word, yes. I'll be honest, I was baffled at first at several points. With the opening Tool-ish "Elektra", with the childern choir singing "murder" and "kill" in "Francafrique" and with so many others. At first, it all sounded so unconnected and random. But this is Refused; you can never get away with one listen. After a while, it all makes sense. Feel it.



Runners-up:

Danko Jones - Fire Music: I always had a good time with their high-energy rock n' roll as my company, but their latest album stayed in my playlist considerably longer than any of their previous ones. Honest and to the point, this is drive or booze music at its best.
Motörhead - Bad Magic: Writing this in the wake of Lemmy's death (he didn't want to live forever anyway), I'm still amazed at how they still did it until the very last second, showing us all how it's done and how it must keep on being done. The last Motörhead classic came in 2015.

Therapy? - Disquiet: "Wow do they still exist after Troublegum and still release albums?" Of course they still do you ignorant hippie, Therapy? have always been a cornerstone of alternative/punk, not one record of theirs is mediocre, and they're still kicking your ass after 25 years.

Black Breath - Slaves Beyond Death: Anticipating impatiently Sentenced to Life's successor, I would say I was a bit disappointed at Black Breath's musical direction, as the hardcore elements are basically reduced to null, and this is a heavy/death metal record. But, it being a grower, it also needs its time. Yes, Black Breath have done it again and are establishing themselves by pissmarking their territory.
Grave Pleasures - Dreamcrash: The admitted success of Beastmilk's Climax was a two-edged knife. On the one hand, it set the stage for the Grave Pleasures (risen from Beastmilk's ashes) debut, but on the other hand, although a set of addictive and well-presented tunes, I think Dreamcrash missed living up to the hype by an inch.