That Level Plane Records is no more is nothing short of a tragedy. Between 1997 and 2009, the label released some of the best underground punk, hardcore, screamo, metal, and everything in-between. Originally set up simply so Greg Drudy had an address to put on the back of the first Saetia 7″, the impact and influence the label would go on to have upon the underground scene was huge. Some of these records have been re-issued by other labels – with special praise being given to The Archivist label for getting so many on Bandcamp – but some might require searching on Discogs or eBay.
As such, limiting this list down to only five releases has been rather painful. There’s so many I wanted to include – so many records of superb quality, so many that meant so much to me, and still do – but there’s a reason this series is called Five of the Best, not Twenty of the Best. So, here we go. Feel free to tell me what I missed or what your favourite records from this excellent label are. Enjoy!
For the past few years, North of the Wall has been a highlight of extreme metal in the UK. The Glasgow-based festival is a two day celebration of extremity, with the organisers hand-picking the best of black, death, and doom – with a few surprises thrown in, too. This year was the first time I’ve been able to go, and despite costing me a fair bit in travel and hotels, it was more than worth it. Here, I want to talk about my five favourite performances of the weekend (a full review is available on the Patreon page for TSNTW)
Of all the different forms of extreme metal, there is arguably none that captures the raw excitement and energy of music better than black-thrash. A musical manifestation of Venom’s line about “riding hell’s stallions bareback and free”, black-thrash is, at its best, music of unrestrained chaos, tapping in to a raw, primal nature and unleashing it via the medium of savage, lawless metal. Since effectively being given its name by the mighty Aura Noir in 1996 – with debut album Black Thrash Attack – the genre has had a consistently devoted fanbase in the underground, with bands carrying the dark flame that was birthed by the likes of Sodom, Venom, and Sarcófago (pictured above); all done with a wicked grin and blasphemous spirit.
Here, then, are what I feel are five of the best bands of the style; some are veterans, some are young blood keeping the flame burning bright, whilst others are twisting it in to new, exciting forms. Enjoy!
Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes, you really have to work to find it; to tease out that motivation to write one more line, to add the next brush-stroke, to find the next series of notes. And yet at other times, the stream of creativity will not so much flow as it will flood, crashing over you in an uncontrollable wave, where the hours race by as chapters, riffs, and colours all come together in ways as natural and effortless as breathing.
Yet there are things that can help tap in to that feeling and unleash it, and here, I present five records that – for me – help me feel inspired, creative, and most of all, enthusiastic about creating something new. My main focus will be on writing, because that is where my creativity most often lies, but I think the ideas and feelings I talk about can be applied to any form of art. And, of course, this list is in no way intended to be definitive – instead, I hope it encourages you to think about what inspires you, what makes you want to write, or draw, or dance; and to hopefully find something that makes you want to create, and then to act on those impulses. Enjoy!
Whilst the focus of The Sound Not The Word might be on the underground, let’s be real for a moment: Nine Inch Nails are one of the best bands around. There’s good reason that they’re so popular, with a catalogue of accessible singles and well-crafted albums. Yet there’s also a wealth of B-sides, remixes, and soundtrack contributions worth taking note of too, that most fans might not check out. To keep things accessible to all, I’ve intentionally limited the songs on this list to ones that can be streamed via Spotify, and excluded those that appear on standard CD versions of albums. Sure, that vinyl-only version of The Fragile: Deviations 1 contains some excellent versions of songs, but at about £65 a copy, it’s hardly something most people will buy. So, with that in mind – and because they’re one of my favourite ever bands, and why run a blog if you can’t write about what you love? – here’s what I feel are five of the best NIN deep cuts, presented in chronological order of release.
The word “emo” is a pretty loaded one, when it comes to talking about music. A lot of people will recoil from the word, as if it were something contagious, spreading too-tight t-shirts and black hair dye to every teenager it comes across. A lot of this can be attributed to what was happening in the first decade of the millennium, when, following years toiling in the underground, bands like My Chemical Romance and AFI became genuinely huge mainstream phenomenons. It’s because of this that the term “skramz” came about, to identify “true” emo and screamo, that stemmed from the likes of Rites of Spring and Moss Icon, from its more, pop-punk-esque mainstream incarnation. Here, we’ll take a look at five of the best 90’s emo/screamo acts, that made music that’s much more intense and raw than anything that ever dared bother the mainstream.