Plenty of words have been written about how Cult Leader came to be, arising from the ashes of Gaza – and I don’t plan on writing any more about them here. The past is over, and Cult Leader is the now. Well, sort of. It has been roughly two and a half years since the release of Lightless Walk, and I’m holding out for more new music from the metallic, technical hardcore titans amongst their constant touring. The album was an absolute blast, building on the promise of their Useless Animal and Nothing For Us Here EPs, full of righteous fury and music that is as exhilarating as it is punishing.
It seems like an age ago that Doomriders released Grand Blood – and it is. It’s been over four years since we last had a new album from the riff-heavy hardcore band, and I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that the wait won’t go on much longer. Though in the meantime, Grand Blood (along with previous albums Black Thunder and Darkness Come Alive) have more than enough quality to keep me satisfied.
Compared with 2016, this year didn’t see me write about quite as many reviews, and life demanded that I take a break around the Spring time; yet I still listened to a whole lot of music, much of it I simply never found the time or energy to write about. A lot of this music was very good, and it speaks highly of how strong my favourite 25 records – which can be found here, here, and here – are, that none of the albums below made the final cut. All of them are worthy of your time, attention, and support.
2018 is shaping up to be another exciting year, and I have some plans for The Sound Not The Word that will hopefully help me continue my aims for the site – namely, to explore the underground, and do my little bit to help support and promote artists within it. To that end, I’ll take this opportunity to remind you that you can follow TSNTW on Facebook, which is the best place to keep up to speed on what’s happening; and any musicians, labels, and PR agents can always get in touch via the Contact tab at the top of this page.
Enough of that. Here’s the records that didn’t quite make my top 25, but deserve your attention.
And so, to my five favourite albums of 2016. There’s been a lot of good stuff released this year, some of which I haven’t been able to spend as much time with as I’d ordinarily like, or which I suspect may need more time for me to fully appreciate them – I intend on writing one further end of year post, taking in at least some of those releases, plus a few other bits from 2016.
As with last year, my top five is in order; ranking them has been difficult, but I feel quite confident in the order I’m placing them in, even if there wasn’t much between most of them. On to the list!
There’s few bands more important to me than Planes Mistaken For Stars (PMFS), and it was a sad day for me when they played their final (at the time) show in 2008. Though the band started playing live again in 2010, I never truly expected a new album to ever materialize; so, the release of Prey is welcome in that it represents the return of one of my favourite bands. But it’s also a release that should appeal to more than just fans of old, as this is a wonderfully passionate piece of post-hardcore, full of grit and melody, with the kind of definite roughness to the edges that speaks of bad decisions and good times. There’s no one who sounds quite like PMFS, and that’s as true on Prey as it ever was. It’s one of the most unexpected releases of the year, but also one of my favourite. My hopes for the album were high, and they have more than been met.
There’s surely no disputing that Deathwish Inc. are one of the most important labels in underground music. Since their inception in 2000, the label has had an excellent run of releases, consistent in quality and varied in style, to the point that they’re now one of the defining labels of modern hardcore. There’s more than a few game-changers and modern classics to be found among the label’s back-catalogue (which can be explored at your leisure via their excellent Bandcamp page), but there’s also some releases that, for whatever reason, never quite got the recognition or attention they deserved – or maybe they did, and they’re simply worth revisiting. Here’s my pick of five such hidden gems.
Since their formation in 2009, Young And In The Way (YAITW) have been creating some of the most caustic, overwhelming, and downright dangerous music to have emerged in recent years. A leading example of the growing blackened-crust sub-genre, fusing punk rock aggression with the cold nihilism of black metal, the pairing of YAITW with Deathwish Inc, one of today’s most important underground labels, seems a natural fit. Following on from a pair of split releases last year comes When Life Comes To Death, their fourth full-length in an already excellent discography. The band have thus far displayed an excellent ability to tap in to the darker side of the human mind, the part that is filled with hate and anger, and there’s an inevitable worry that such levels of darkness could not be maintained. Thankfully for the listener, When Life Becomes Death does not disappoint in the slightest, perhaps being the most intense, furious record the band has produced yet. More than that, and as with all involved in the AC//13 collective, they continue to possess that special something that makes them seem like much more than a band, as if this is not simply music to listen to, but something far darker and more important; as if each record is an invitation to embrace the darkness within and to revel and find some sort of illumination in the negativity that results.