Thursday, December 21, 2017

Top 10 albums of 2017

1. Converge - The Dusk in Us

This is basically beyond words. No matter how prepared you feel you are before a new Converge record, it is guaranteed to blow your mind in ways you can't imagine. The start was made during the summer with I Can Tell You About Pain single, which featured an incredible b-side called Eve and gave us but a glimpse. But the full enormity of The Dusk in Us was impossible to be conceived. Converge are now in a state where they make their way as they go, daring us to follow. Groovier and noisier than ever, Converge deliver us an indisputable piece of art (as much as I hate the word) in The Dusk in Us.

2. Paradise Lost - Medusa

The controversial return of the year! And when I say "return", I'm talking in terms of sound, of course. Well, this would definitely be No.1 for 2017 if Converge hadn't come along. This is Paradise Lost as they came to life close to 30 years ago, this is the Paradise Lost sound that played a big role to who I am musically. It's of absolutely no importance whether they picked up their root sound again intentionally in order to gain back fans (as they are blamed) or it came naturally. Cut and dry and away from any correlations, this is an epic doom/death record full of awesome riffs, substantial compositions and the much-awaited return of Nick Holmes' infamous growls. (/nostalgia)

3. Grave Pleasures - Motherblood

Dreamcrash was barely a runner-up in last year's list, if you recall. As much as I had loved Beastmilk and the potential behind Grave Pleasures, it felt like something was missing from the mix. I still haven't figured exactly what that missing ingredient was in the end, but what's important is that this time Mat McNerney and co. got it just right! Motherblood is full of post-punk (it's a term that is uttered around a lot these days, although I would prefer more something like 'gothpunk') hymns, each one a highlight of its own. I never thought I'd feel this strange need to hit the dancefloor again. Really, is goth dance still a thing??

4. Legendary Shack Shakers - After You've Gone

I was really thrilled to hear that these dudes returned in 2015 after a rather long absence. As big as my thrill was, for some reason The Southern Surreal just didn't cut it for me in the end (not that it was a bad album, know). The Legendary Shack Shakers must have sensed my relative disappointment as they rushed to get back this year with this awesome record. After You've Gone may not be as jumpy and sweaty as their classic '00s albums, but it's full of character, inspiration and bourbon. Bluegrass, country, blues, early rock 'n' roll, jazz; everything is put to the mix. Have a taste of the Shakers if you haven't already, and be sure to check their incredible and historic back-catalogue while you're at it.

5. Entrance - Book of Changes

That was such a great surprise for me! Entrance, aka Guy Blakeslee's personal music project hadn't made a record since 2006; instead it had gradually transformed into the Entrance band. Yes, it was still Blakeslee calling the shots but now it was more of a regular band with a more "band jam" character to it. Still not bad, but the sheer importance of the composition and melody was lost amidst the musicians' improvisations and rehearsal jammings. Apparently, Blakeslee got tired of  it as well, so he returned with Entrance after 11 years. Personal compositions, naked melodies and thrifty orchestration; and he has nothing to fear as this is strong and true material to begin with. Incredible.

6. Sofia Sarri - Euphoria

If you look back to this blog, you'll see that I felt I just had to write about this record when it came out. I've known Sofia Sarri since her years in the post-rock/trip-hop legends of the Greek underground, Night on Earth in the '00s. Through the years, Sofia has grown and evolved and has developed a character of her own as an artist. Avant-garde intentions, traditional Greek music, blackmetal atmospheres; all of this and more make for an introvert and esoteric record as much as it is melodic and warm. We're watching out for her next step. 

7. Crusades - This Is a Sickness and Sickness Will End

Crusades were always within this wave of melodic punk/post-punk of the last years that is a very interesting case, to say the least. This album is, in my opinion, the destination of their 6-or-7-year trip since their beginning. The Sun Is Down and The Night Is Riding In was the cause for us to notice them, Perhaps You Deliver This Judgement with Greater Fear than I Receive It was moving into new areas yet it seemed a bit out of place; but This Is a Sickness and Sickness Will End puts everything in balance and perspective. The sound may be a bit two clean and shiny for some, but the overall result exhales maturity and substance. The compositions are complete, the vocal performance is flawless. It all actually outgrows the terms "punk" or "rock" or whatever; this is good music, not to be missed by anyone.

8. Hard Action - Hot Wired Beat

These Finns, initially when they emerged a couple of years ago or so, in my mind they played the role of a very good Hellacopters substitute. Of course, that was a hasty judgement to say the least and I was a little late to correctly appreciate their awesome debut Sinister Vibes. Well, now I was waiting for their next step and they do anything but to disappoint. Yes, Hard Action step a lot onto the european rock 'n' roll as it was resurrected 20 years ago or so mostly by some certain Swedes. Yet, it's obvious that they have a special vibe of their own and they don't just imitate someone else. Hot Wired Beat offers high-energy rock 'n' roll full of well-placed guitar solos and the right amounts of punk attitude. The "guitar rock 'n' roll" record of the year.

9. Bloodclot - Up in Arms

This one-off more or less puts things in hardcore punk back in perspective. With John Joseph of Cro-Mags as the mastermind and behind the mic, and with (current and ex-)members of bands like Dwarves and Agnostic Front he has rounded up, this is no time for games. 2008's Burn Babylon Burn! was moving in an almost nu-metal area (with entirely different band members back then), but Up in Arms' simplicity and straightforwardness makes for anything but a poor result; on the contrary, this is something that will make it hard for you to keep away from the repeat button.

10. Body Count - Bloodlust

Body Count relevant in 2017?? Well, I could barely believe it when I heard they were returning in 2014, and I was surprised to see that they did have things to say in the 21st century as well. But even so, I was not prepared for the thunderstorm that Bloodlust is. Ice-T and co. have been listening to a lot of speed/thrash metal, no doubt, and the Slayer medley that they are doing in this album is anything but coincidental. Body Count revive rap metal straight from its golden period 20-25 years ago and give it a contemporary edge that cuts like a freshly-sharpened razor.


Procrastinate - s/t: My fellow crust punks from Karditsa, Greece sure took their time, but they did it all just right. Here we have a mature band as much as it is explosive. There are no drawbacks here and everything flows just perfect, be it the sound, the compositions, the artwork; maybe a bit too perfect if you ask me, and that could be a problem for some, if you know what I mean. For now, they have started to turn some heads, and that is more than enough.

Black Hat Bones - Born in a Thunder: AC/DC with a touch of Seattle anyone? Black Hat Bones are within the few most consistent rock Greek bands of today, which also makes one of the most underrated. Guitar rock music to move your body to in an album with no fillers.
Krause - 2am Thoughts: From the ashes of several bands from the Greek scene, Krause look to be focused on what they were set to do. Their noise rock is chaotic and groovy at the same time, while the intentionally dirty sound makes it all even better.

Unsane - Sterilize: This is not even close to be classified as one of the best Unsane records, but, hey, it's Unsane and they have returned. No other band in the history of music has ever had this effect on me. (/fanboy)

Tuber - Out of the Blue: Tuber keep going their own way and they have since their beginning. Post rock? Psychedelic rock? Stoner rock? Instrumental rock? They have always done it away from already set recipes, and in their second studio album they are showing that this is the way they will keep doing it.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Belated obsessions: The Dirtbombs - Dangerous Magical Noise (2003)

This is an album I've been in love with for as long as I remember myself being a conscious garage/punk/rock'n'roller. Mind you, not a death or thrash or doom metal fan (phases I've identified as during various and younger periods of my life). I'm talking about being a fan of "music with guitars" in general; that is, being able to distinguish the "rock 'n' roll" in a song, no matter where said song is placed genre-wise, be it within the aforementioned harder genres or within softer ones.
It could be said that Dangerous Magical Noise adequately encompasses everything the phrase "Detroit Rock City" meant during the '90s and '00s. Mick Collins, the mastermind behind the Dirtbombs, was done with the Gories; his first band where a raw and bassless garage/punk made its mark in the early '90s. The Dirtbombs, in their beginning, featured two drummers and two bassists, apart from Collins himself taking care of guitar and vocals. Collins' widened musical spectrum was now obvious (made clear by other projects of his, like Blacktop,  King Sound Quartet and the Screws, among others) and the Dirtbombs were the vessel. Initially, the band used to only release 7" vinyl singles, until their debut full-length Horndog Fest in 1998 and Ultraglide in Black in 2003, the latter being comprised entirely out of covers on classic R&B songs. In 2003, the band decided to adopt a more straight rock sound and merge with the already fuzzed-out nature of their sound. Thus, Dangerous Magical Noise

This is one of those records where everythig seems to be perfect and every song is a highlight on its own. The Dirtbombs make the perfect combinations out of garage rock, punk, glam rock, blues, R&B and here they deliver 15 (counting the 2 bonus tracks as well) sweaty tracks of pure rock 'n' roll daring you to stop swinging and singing along; something impossible. Speaking about 21st century american rock 'n' roll, Dangerous Magical Noise is definintely one of its milestones that needs to be studied by everyone involved.

To my knowledge, the band still exists to this day, with their last full-length Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey! being out in 2013, and their 2011 album Party Store featuring covers on classic '90s techno tracks(!). Do a favor to yourself and discover the gem (of historical proportions) that Dangerous Magical Noise is, if you haven't already.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Belated obsessions: Martyrdöd - List (2016)

If I'm to be honest, crust punk in general is a genre I've come to love and enjoy only in the past 6 or 7 years, although in the meantimen I've been sure to retroactively dig through its historical monuments, as I always try to do.

Martyrdöd, being consistently around for more than 13 years now, have always been a name to watch out for out of the ever-exploding scandinavian scene. Amid the chaos of new and interesting releases along with the struggle to keep up (among the always limited free time of course), List was the gem I missed during last year, and if I hadn't, it would surely have been among the top places of 2016's top 10. Martyrdöd always had a distinct melodic edge in their d-beat/crust clatter, but with List I think they've marked the genre for good. Folk melodies had never made their way through so distinctively and substantially and, if you're thinking that this has become at the expense of sound harshness and/or speed, well, you're mistaken. The Swedes are as extreme as ever, the vocals haven't calmed down one bit, only now there's always a lead guitar around to transfuse a melodic and epic edge to it all.

This looks very much like an album that will turn the heads of new listeners for this extreme form of hardcore punk, and the least you could do is take a little time to appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Support Kemerov's crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo!

Kemerov are asking for your help in order to release their highly-praised all over the world debut album "FMKD" (already out on CD) on vinyl! Click below to get in on it!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sofia Sarri - Euphoria (2017)

When you have started out in bands like Night on Earth where you have demonstrated abilities and talents that leave the audience stare with awe, it's not strange that, when you create your first personal work, it is going to be an opus of this caliber.

I had a special relationship with Night on Earth when I lived in Athens as I had the chance to watch them live numerous times, one with Thanasis Papakonstaninou of course. That band was a special case to say the least, as they were something like a more classical (in orchestration) version of Portishead, mixing this with post-rock formulas which, 10+ years ago, hadn't yet become so trite, in my opinion. Night on Earth's ace in the sleeve though was none other than small and delicate Sofia who, just by looking at her, it didn't look like she could pull this strength. The whole Night on Earth collective was always comprised by skilled musicians, but this voice automatically set them several levels higher.

To be honest, I haven't followed on Sofia's activities for many years now, and this album is an unexpected pleasant surprise. This girl here obviously just does as she likes and this shows the width of her influences. Stepping even on the avant-garde limits, she uses acoustic and greek traditional instruments for her voice to step on, in jazz rhythms at one time and in more classical ones at the other, always in an intense dark melodiousness, and a latent "norwegian" feeling. For instance, Kari Ruesslatten came a lot on my mind, among others. Anyway, I think I've said enough, you can listen for yourselves:

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.