Twatain

I actually like black metal, honestly, I really do. What I don’t like however are people who define themselves by it, because it’s only marginally more cool than being a furry, LARPer or a cosplayer that’s still not very cool – the same stupid costume and make believe magical universe, only with the added bonus of being incredibly pretentious. Where else on earth do you get people professing deep, meaningful understanding of tedious wordsmiths Friedrich Nietzsche and HP Lovecraft because they’ve heard a band talking about them and scanned the Wiki?

Oh, university.

Obviously black metal gigs, sorry, esoteric black masses, in London are an absolute haven for these pancake-daubed wrongcocks and that’ll inevitably go double for the derivative, fruity and decidedly overhyped Watain, who have been proclaiming to represent the ‘rebirth of black metal’ for about eight months so far. In case you were wondering, black metal has been reborn as the sound of the mid-’90s, all glistening melodies and scowly Satanic posturing – perhaps a little bit too close to the guff peddled by major league parent-frighteners Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth for the liking of many real kvltists. Yeah, that’s right, I went there. Watain = Cradle Of Filth. Black metal has been STILLBORN moar like lol.

The first sign of laughable lunacy comes from merch as posturing, raven-haired sons of northern dorkness file solemnly past at least two pieces of Ortagos branded underwear, pulling their fruity Zoolander anus faces next to the most visible indicator that even the c-listers of this now far from controversial genre are more interested in unlocking your wallet clasp and plumbing new depths of shameless cross-promotion than rehearsing the Aramaic for ‘Hail Satan’.

“Well met brother Endless, did you attend the esoteric black mass last night?”

“That I did brother Suffering, verily it was blasphemous, I bought a thong.”

Riff-heavy Aussie meatheads Deströyer 666 seem to play exclusively Motörhead covers – it’s not very black metal really, but because most of the songs have ‘wolf’ in the title and people on the internet like to bash heads over whether or not they’re racist, everyone seems convinced they are – proving that the vast majority of ‘music fans’ don’t actually like music, they just like the idea of it. With all the vocal effects piled on like they’re Lady Gaga it’s difficult to work out if any of the stage banter is about wogs, abbos and homos, but realistically it’s probably not. Sorry.

Out come some dribbly candles from the local Wiccan 7-eleven and a smell that suggest some of the scenesters in attendance have actually soiled themselves with excitement, apparently that’s the blood hitting the nostrils as Watain then encourage their disciples to drink from the goblet of probable hepatitis. Obviously people do, it’s pretty clear that some people will do and believe any old crap if they’re told it’s black metal. Along with the fact that all hardcore is evil, which is bitterly ironic as Watain have some SWEEEEEET ASS breakdowns. I made slam hands and then got told I was spoiling it. What the fuck is ‘lawless darkness’ anyway? A risky alternative to the boring, staid darkness of your parents’ generation?

Black metal fans, Watain are laughing at you and I’m laughing at Watain. You are at the end of the great chain and your old pal Nietzsche, who you don’t really read or understand, had a word for you.

The Kings of Frog Island- 3

(Elektrohasch Records)

Daniel and I concluded recently that easy listening is the future. I’m an old man now, I can’t really be bothered working for my entertainment. These days, I want things I can comprehend without having to stress my poor, bedraggled neurons; not dense, multi-layered epic works of sonic philosophy for boring people. So it’s good that I’ve got The Kings of Frog Island here, the entertainment equivalent of comfy bootee slippers.

The Kings of Frog Island are a ‘stoner rock collective’ from Leicester, which apparently gives rise to their name. It would be tempting here to start making jokes at the expense of Leicester, but because I’m not a lazy, piss-marbled hack, I’m not going to do that. Instead I’m going to point out that, rather than unemployment and dead industry, what arises from the East Midlands in this case is a wonderful line in gentle, hazy, atmospheric desert rock. It evokes a parched wasteland just the way you’d expect, but it’s had all the spiky plants and venomous scorpions removed. (‘Not-like-Leicester-at-all-then’ joke goes here.)

Not that the album isn’t a bit dark, in its way, mind you. First track In Memoriam is sparse arrangement of stretched, gangly guitar notes and buzzing marching band drums. Then someone reads out a list of people he’s about to hang. But it’s delivered with an identifiable bit of British tongue in Imperial cheek, so what I said still counts. I know what I’m doing here, after all.

The best way I can think of to describe this record is as follows. What if Queens of the Stone Age hadn’t gone fucking terrible? Don’t gripe, you know it’s true. Mat Bethancourt sounds so much like Josh Homme at times, it’s sort of creepy. And to my woollen ears, the guitar tone isn’t a million miles from that trademark QOTSA sound either. What’s different is that this lacks the ragged, shattered edge of Rated R, as it does the supergroup-done-right mysteries of Songs for the Deaf. If Homme had mellowed at that point, instead of blanded; and if he hadn’t cut his own bollocks off, before stuffing them into Nick Oliveri’s mouth and hoofing him out the band, QOTSA might sound a bit like this.

There also seems to be a big slice of spaghetti western in this mix as well. A good clutch of the tunes here will evoke images of grunting nineteenth-century men in second-hand hats, sitting on horses and having a smoke, with Ennio Morricone coming out their stupid white earbuds. Dark on You is absolutely rammed with exactly the sort of inhospitable, moribund aesthetic you’d expect from that association. It’s a lovely, stately 6/8 waltz full of chiming guitar notes, soft piano and ringing cymbal bells. Also it has a solo that sounds well Pink Floyd.

The Keeper Of… echoes this same sense of inconquerable wilderness but with none of the gentleness. There’s galloping battle drums and bass thrumming with urgency. There’s Bethancourt throttling his guitar through a ragged lead like he’s milking his serpent. There’s this tambourine rattle going throughout, then this strange, haunting choir of mans appears, and by the time it’s done building, it sounds like a stoner re-interpretation of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme.

Glebe Street Whores, Bride of Suicide, and I Ain’t Sorry are a little more basic in their approach to the stoner template. They complement the cowboyish stuff brilliantly, but at first blush, these songs are really not the record’s most striking feature. That’s down to the mellow atmospherics more than anything, though; they trickle into your ear like warm pus, and you barely even notice them taking root. Then two days later, you’re humming the chorus from out of nowhere.

This is where another Leicester-is-a-shithole-ha-ha joke would go, if I was a cunt. I’m not a cunt, I’m right. Get this record.

http://www.myspace.com/thekingsoffrogisland

Trent Reznor and Aticuss Ross- The Social Network

A film about Facebook is liable to be as entertaining as a dance about Architecture or a novel about running, or a game about paying your mortgage (Animal Crossing doesn’t count because you have to catch bugs and find fossils and shoot down the postie in the morning). Because we’re in the 21st century and everything is homogenised and boring as fuck though, a film about facebook is actually happening, directed by the man who did Fight Club. Expect lots of computer nerds to start fighting each other and taking ages to do any actual physical damage to each other because they’re all played by Michael Cera or something.

But we aren’t here to talk about the film thank Christ, otherwise I’d just blether on and on about how much I hate Facebook. The one time I was on it some people from school started following me and I distinctly remember one of them choke slammed me before Geography and it brought back so many horrible memories, so I deleted it in a huff and went back to playing through Metroid Prime or whatever it was I did at Uni. I hate myself.

Anyway no, we’re here to discuss the soundtrack. By one Trent Reznor. Those who know me are well aware that I am basically ‘Johnny Fucking Nine Inch Nails.’ I am obsessed. Hideously. The man could record himself ejaculating into a tornado, farting the riff of Smoke On The Water and I would buy it. As per usual, his soundtrack for The Social Network is excellent.

It’s got a lot in common with the Ghosts album, in that it’s a selection of mood pieces rather than the gothic disco pomp he got himself known for, and that’s fine. Reznor’s peerless when it comes to writing evocative, brooding soundscapes.

I can’t be scuttered describing it track by track, because that’s a lazy, hackish thing to do really that shows a complete lack of imagination or ability. Chaps.

I will say though, that some of this reminds me of Rick Wakeman actually. Rick Wakeman is basically amazing. He ordered a curry during a Yes gig once. I hope he nonchalantly munched away at a chapati while wailing on a bitching keyboard solo during South Side Of The Sky.

Oh and here’s a late review of How To Destroy Angels… It’s sounds like the quiet bits of The Fragile sung by a woman. Shut up it’s great.

Right, that’ll do.

http://www.nullco.com/TSN/

Play some videogames this weekend – GOD HAND

Time for some homework. Dig out your PS2 and get your face to somewhere that sells pre-owned games and pick up this absolute classic for the week ahead. It isn’t like there is anything else out, is there? If you already own this legendary piece of software, then it is nigh time you cracked it out for another playthrough. I assure you, you have forgotten how utterly incredible it is. If you haven’t, then chances are you won’t believe a thing you are about to read.

God Hand was the last game by Clover, who also brought light into the world in the shape of Okami and Viewtiful Joe, before being closed. Most of the team have since reappeared in the form of Platinum Games, putting out what is a real contender for best game of this year, Bayonetta, and the soon to be released robot shooter Vanquish. God Hand still has a lot of influence on their output, from the “expect ANYTHING” design choices to the hard but fair difficulty, which rewards perfect play and practice, as well as allowing you to get by on pure instinct.

After a just few hours with God Hand, you will have just smashed your way through what appeared to be the set of A Fistful of Dollars, punched a grotesquely overweight Elvis impersonator in the mouth, dropped a Gorilla in a luchador mask on its head, all the while beating to death various hordes of street punks, ghostly samurai and bondage gear clad hookers. Needless to say, it is one of the greatest games of all time.

Check out this review here, over at the horrific IGN. Don’t worry – if I can avoid it I will never send you there AGAIN. Go on, give it a read. I’ll be waiting here for when you return, PROMISE.

A 3.0 out of 10.0. Those decimals are important, after all. Reading the review, if you haven’t played the game at all, paints a pretty damning picture of God Hand. He was also quite clearly shite at the game. Saying that, perhaps he WAS onto something? After all, the game is ridiculously difficult, and with no tutorial or training mode, it is also pretty daunting to anyone picking it up and expecting to smash their way to victory on their first try.

He was onto FUCK ALL. The review is an incredible example of someone completely missing the point. God Hand never sets out to be easy. God Hand makes a mockery of the last few years of gaming. There is no hand-holding here – you’ve got your fists and your reflexes, and that is all you need. From the word go, you have everything you need to complete the entire game at your fingertips. The ability to hit things, and the ability to ensure they don’t hit you back. Sure, as you progress through the various levels you unlock more powerful abilities, larger health bars and all sorts of useful stuff, but it doesn’t make the game any easier, per say. They just let you get away with more mistakes. The game will ALWAYS punish you for even the slightest lapse – the difference a larger health bar will make is being able to survive to be punished again.

The controls are kept deliberately simple. Three of the face buttons are mapped to your attacks, which can be changed up whenever you unlock something new, while circle acts as a context sensitive button, allowing you to pick up power-ups and weapons dropped by enemies. One stick predictably moves you around, while the other one acts as your evasion method. Flicking the right stick left, right or downwards causes you to dodge in one the desired direction, or backflip out of trouble entirely. Tapping up also allows you to evade an incoming attack, but is one that takes far more skill than all of the others. A quick push of it causes a swift duck and weave, like a boxer, and allows you to stay right up in the face of the enemy, ready to dish out some punishment as their punch flies straight past you. Get it wrong, and they’ll be pulling your teeth out of their shin while you see nothing but GAME OVER again and again.

You will die. A lot, in fact, but God Hand is fair. In most other games, your average enemy is nothing but a minor distraction that you plough through until you reach the real challenges – usually bosses or set-pieces. Here, even the first enemy you meet will make short work of you if you aren’t concentrating, ready to dodge and strike when the time is right. They won’t just wait around while you deal with one of their ilk, either. Lose your focus, turn your back on one of them and they will take every opportunity to beat you to the floor. There is a bit of balance, of course. Beat up enough of them and you can fill your TP bar, allowing you to unleash an unbroken combination of rapid punches and kicks from your chosen set-up. Also at your disposal are a bunch of special moves, providing you have enough points to activate them. These range from spectacular uppercuts, a cheeky kick to the bollocks and even the legendary one inch punch. Picking the right combination of these moves to suit your style is paramount to your success. Despite this difficulty, if you are on form, you can breeze through the game. Firm, but completely fair. If you got punched in the back of the head, it was because you didn’t turn around in time.

So, you find yourself playing better, not getting hit, gaining more skills, getting higher ranks and suddenly everything seems easy. It then has the balls to get harder as you succeed. Clear out a room of enemies without taking a hit and your level will increase, from 1, 2, 3 and eventually, the aptly named LEVEL DIE. Yes. Level DIE. Where you will. Going up through these levels makes the A.I even more vicious, and will randomly throw some really tough demons at you, out of the blue, just to fuck with you. The higher the level, the more cash the enemies will drop, so you can buy even more attacks, health or just fritter it away at the chihuahua races. Honest to god I am not making any of this up.

The plot is also, something pretty spectacular, but ultimately, describing it in detail will add no more to this article. It is all just a delightfully surreal backdrop to the fact that this is a game about smacking thousands of people in the face. Something to do with demons, and arms. It is decent enough to give you some kind of emotional investment in Gene, the protagonist, but really it is just there to keep you moving between increasingly bizarre fight sequences. Kind of like the plot to the every film I have ever loved. Who needs a hero with a troubled past? Gene is the perfect fit for a beat ’em up – a wisecracking arsehole who is always itching for the next fight, be that with a punk who throws his mohican at you like a boomerang or a bunch of midget power rangers. You couldn’t make this up if you tried. Around every corner is a surprise, and you’ll almost certainly have to punch it right in the taint to progress.

God Hand knows its place within the world of videogames and embraces everything that is brilliant about the beat ’em up genre. End of level bosses, makeshift weapons picked up off the floor, life-saving food pickups and a load of things to smash up. It is Streets of Rage, Final Fight, Golden Axe and every other game that you and your little brother used to pretend to play in the arcades because your parents wouldn’t let you “waste” 20p on them when on holiday. There are no pretensions here; this is a game where you punch a load of people in the face and continue to do so until the frankly incredible credits sequence rolls. For a game that appears to be so dumb, so simple – God Hand is genius.

Rash Decision- Temporary Worker (Clause 4.1)

(Pumpkin Records)

Here’s what I know about Rash Decision: They’re good. So is this album. It’s a sodding fiver off the internet. Go get it. The end.

In a sane and rational society, I could just leave it at that, and go off for a look out of the window. Look, there’s a cloud that resembles some titties. Aren’t the nights drawing in now? Woah, look down there, it’s that man with the binoculars again, flipping me off.

In the name of abstractly justifying my opinion, because the society we live in is absurd without reprieve, I’m required to pretty much masturbate for 600 words, using this record as a vehicle to deliver tortured metaphor-based jokes that will waste your time and mine. Then I’ll arbitrarily sum up my thoughts on the thing, and I’ll either be mocked, insulted, patronised, or slapped on the back in response. Probably a bit of all four.

You people have taken branded entertainment products to your very bosom, crushing them in your smothering, almond-scented embraces until they become hideously fused to your personality, pushing out everything else that might resemble an actual character. Because of this single, salient fact, you’ll decide, on the basis of some words I sneezed out on a Thursday afternoon, whether to bother buying it or not. So are you punk enough to make… a Rash Decision? Punk?!

If punk is what you like, you could do a lot worse than Temporary Worker, and even if you don’t like punk, it gets in, it does its job and it fucks off again, and it makes a change from whatever dross you normally listen to so buy it anyway. The entire album’s a hair over 13 minutes long, none of the eight tracks make it over three minutes, and in fact most barely make it into double minutes. That’s a species of ruthlessness I respect, especially given my usual diet of bloated prog rubbish. It’s a bit like a fun-size chocolate selection box that is actually fun.

At the core, it’s a frankingstein of thrash, punk and hardcore influences, which is a sentence you could have just read on their myspace page, by the way, lazybones. It’s a bit of a problem for me, though, since the influences are so well-blended, you can’t really tease them out without fucking up the entire Jenga soufflé. Or maybe I’m just rubbish. Probably that one.

I can say it’s about as noisy as that particular mélange of genre appellations would suggest. Singer Dave Decision has got a big baggy-throated bark, such that a circle pit down the front might stand a chance of coming a cropper by skidding off a phlegm. His voice reminds me of that enormous fucker out of Orange Goblin, except sped up by a factor of thirty or forty. It’s well good.

Then again, it’s a bit like Crucial Unit in its thrashier passages, but with a singer who sounds like his testicles have descended. Actually, I just learned that this sounds fucking boss as hell if you accidentally play some Crucial Unit at the same time. Official Demon Pigeon lifehack.

Here are songs I particularly like (I like them all) by the band Rash Decision, from the album Temporary Worker (Pumpking Records):

  • Railings, in which we kick off with a big rowdy HEY over a bite-size chugging (relatively, anyway) metal riff. Then the leadfoot is applied, and it breaks hell for leather in the direction of thrash alley, where arses are thrashed all day long. Also it is over quicker than it takes to write a sentence describing it.
  • Rabid Hackery, in which we are eased gently into the song with a quintet of wonderful tom runs, such that you emerge with a broken nose. Then there’s a fiddly-diddly guitar solo that lasts approximately eight seconds, yet is fucking genius in spite, or because of that.
  • Insurance/Submission, in which we find a shouty clattering punk song with an honest-to-god riff, and a coda where that riff is then pushed out to the middle of the stage to do its turn for the nice misters and missuses. It somehow manages to feel epic in the space of 90 seconds.
  • Veins, in which the only thing I can think of to say about it is that he sounds like he’s shouting FACE in the chorus, which, for no readily identifiable reason, reminds me of this cgi reconstruction of Keith Chegwin’s face:

Which in turn, makes me laugh. Good work, lads.

Buy this album, it’s great. Now fuck off and leave me be.

http://www.myspace.com/rashdecision

The Thought Criminals – Die Young: Stay Pretty

One fuggy London evening a few weeks ago, I wandered down into the depths of New Cross road on an audio-visual mission.  My destination was The Black Flag, a hybrid  pub-spawn of the Devonshire Arms and a pirate nest, to receive a Thought Criminals album from their synthist, backing vocalist and now publord, Kirlian Blue.

The first thing I noticed when I glanced at the CD cover, midway through the first snakebite of the evening, were the…conspicuous nipples of the singer. This may seem a frivolous and irrelevant observation but it is in fact a crucial one. You see, Rocky’s nipples are the perfect metaphorical representation for The Thought Criminals and their music. His nipples are slightly elliptical, unlike the average man-nipple, which is reminiscent of the way in which their kitchen sink synthpop is unlike modern self-indulgent electro music that sounds as if a morbidly obese boy has been unleashed on a solid chocolate Korg Wavestation.

The contrast between the intense red of the nipple and skin is akin to the way in which The Thought Criminals stand out amongst other bands that fall within the genres they cover (quite a few).   The sharp edge of industrial encasing the delicate hum of synth topped with the matured crust of punk and residue of south London define both Rocky’s nipples and the sound of The Thought Criminals.

The unique nature of the band can be heard in their first album Die Young: Stay Pretty which is a toe tapping waltz through the streets, club toilets and dark alleyways of London Town accompanied by a heavy beat laced with references to rohypnol and ‘DNA ice-cream’.

They sing of the realities of London life and experiences of ‘chemical alley’ which push you down the rabbit hole and then out into the desolation of shopping in Deptford.  Clubworthy tunes such as Party ‘Till the Police Come and My Baby’s a Suicide Bomber accompany the slightly more morbid yet equally clubworthy Date Rape Lovers and Papa’s Got a Brand New Gun which will leave the brain reeling with worryingly catchy choruses as well as humming Cyberslut by accident when purchasing goods from Sainsbury’s.

The band’s sound contains audible traces of Gary Numan, Tik and Tok, Nine Inch Nails and a gorgeously dark sense of humour which will leave a little smile on your face. The year of 2010 sees them releasing a new EP for Dirty Electro as well as a new album entitled You’re a Moral Liability. So if you like originality, dancing or music then you will probably love The Thought Criminals and the Thought Criminals will probably love you.

Youtube video for you:  Suicide Bomber

Kylesa unveil new song, prompts semi-retraction

Looking back on my review of Static Tensions by Kylesa from when the site launched, I think I may have been a little harsh. One thing you cannot legislate for as a reviewer is the ‘grower.’ You listen to an album enough to make your mind up and then judge it. So be it. But then you find yourself listening to it a shitload more and realise that your earlier knee-jerk reaction was laughably inadequate. That happened in this case and I thought my review was pretty spot on at the time. But since then, Static Tensions has wormed its way into my affections far more than I thought it would. I still don’t think it is as good as its predecessor, but I feel the need to redress the balance a little, not least of all because every time I listen to it, I feel a little bit stupid, safe in the knowledge that a maximum of four people worldwide may have read that review.

Anyway, I now wish to draw more attention to my error. One way to do so is to point you in the direction of the rather excellent new song that they have up at their Myspace, called Tired Climb, and then preface it with a whiny introduction retracting my earlier review, which nobody has read anyway.

It seems they haven’t hung around getting to the next album (perhaps they too weren’t all that pleased with Static Tensions either) and the new song marks another progression in their sound, and they are really using the two drummer line-up to its full potential. I’ve given it a good few listens and I’m pretty hooked. Worth a listen. The new album is called Spiral Shadow and is out in October, and the artwork is excellent, unless you are a bit drunk, in which case it may make you want to vomit.

That is all.