There are a lot of contradictions at play during the duration of minus. The new album from Krakow is dense and heavy, filled with that kind of musical and emotional weight that is so important in post-metal being a success. Yet there’s also a kind of grace to it, with moments of deftness contrasting strongly with the moments of skull-crushing heaviness. There’s even moments of outright rock’n’roll swagger, including a solo from Phil Campbell (yes, he of Motorhead). And yet somehow it all comes together in style, bringing together so many different styles and sounds into a remarkably cohesive whole, that is as filled with emotional bloodletting as it is moments of sheer riff-based pleasure.
Sometimes, the most productive thing in life can be to step back. It can be a difficult lesson to learn, but the way forward can, at times, involve not working harder, but removing yourself from a situation, re-assessing what is going right and wrong, and catching your breath. I don’t know whether such thoughts are behind the five-year hiatus that Naisian took, but whatever the reasons, it has paid dividends, as Rejoinder is the sound of a band in love with their brand of nasty, down-tuned sludge and noise-rock. In the space of twelve short minutes, it demonstrates a band who are at the top of their game, moving with the power and agility of a champion boxer, and hitting every bit as hard.
Black Kite Broadcasts might be one of the most interesting ideas for an album I’ve come across in some time. The second album from noise rock band Qoheleth isn’t actually by the band – instead, it’s a captured recording from a radio station in the future, when humanity has been all-but wiped out. Or is it? These songs are all by different bands, interspersed with DJ chatter that tells just enough of the story for a narrative to be formed without giving everything away. Or are Qoheleth instead doing something adventurous not just with their music, but with the way their music is presented – toying with the album format and means of presentation? Both interpretations are valid, but the fact remains that Black Kite Broadcasts is a great album, and a marked improvement on previous release God is the Warmest Place to Hide.
Whilst most hardcore records are pretty immediate, with their energy and speed being their chief points of note, the same isn’t quite true of Place Noire by France’s Death Engine. Their brand of hardcore is infused with a sense of tension and weight that is heavily influenced by noise rock, with the songs moving largely at a mid-tempo as if weighed down by the depths of despair and pain they carry. This is not hardcore for a good time; Place Noire is a half hour of soul-searching, of deep pain, and of the promise of redemption dangling so tantalisingly close, but forever out of reach.
There’s something primitive about the split between Escape Is Not Freedom and dusK Village. Both bands create music that taps in to the deep, animal part of your brain, evoking primal emotional responses – fear, anger, love. The noise rock bands add considerable sludge elements to their songs, with the riffs and hooks latching on to the listener and practically demanding a response. It’s not all about base instincts and rage though, with this split demonstrating how effective noise rock aspects can be when wedded to something a bit less, well, noisy.
It doesn’t feel like that long ago since I was writing my list for 2016… and yet, at the same time, it feels like a lifetime has passed. 2017 has been a very busy year, and very trying in parts. As a result, I’ve had less time and energy for The Sound Not That Word than at any time before, which has resulted in less reviews being posted. It’s something I’m still not entirely sure how to balance, and may well see my writing take on different forms in the coming year. We shall see.
Anyway. Enough of that for now. Everywhere else is doing lists, and so am I. Writing this is a good opportunity to go over releases from the year, to remember how good some were, and to give coverage to some I never got to write about. As always, these are my favourites – better records may have been released this year, but these are the ones I enjoyed most. The first twenty will be in alphabetical order, over two posts; with the top five given their own ranking. Enjoy!
Unsurprisingly considering the band name, Contempt is not always an easy listen. The second album from Couch Slut carries on where previous record My Life As A Woman left off, offering noisy, pain-filled rock that is as anxiety-inducing as it is catchy. It is a record that is filled with elements that, on paper, sound as if they should pull against one another, resulting in an unfocused mess; but on record, they come together to demonstrate a band that understands how cutting and important a little melody can be when searching for musical catharsis.