Otto Schwarz and The Illuminatus Sabbath

From the moment rumours of an all-original Black Sabbath reunion surfaced last summer – only to be scotched within what felt like minutes – I knew something was up. A new album, a full tour, the rock ‘n’ roll works. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why, but something at the back of my mind was nagging. The heavy metal storm sense gifted to me during a love tryst with an ancient dead gay Viking was throbbing. I could feel a PR blunder forming, like a methane bubble in a bowel.

Six months later, and we’re left with a single ‘Black Sabbath’ show, absent drummer Bill Ward; the rest of the tour is now given over to a far less interesting Ozzy and Friends type retrospective. And while new album plans are said to be proceeding, the whole thing suddenly sounds a bit mushy and vague. Let’s be honest, though, it would have been a farce even if Tony Iommi hadn’t gone and got lymphoma.

Angry fans, feeling cheated, are demanding refunds, and many seem to be getting them. Meanwhile, the reputation of one of heavy metal’s innovators sustains yet another healthy dent. And, who’s to blame, as ever, insist these grown-up metal men?

In one.

In a cynical ploy to garner some attention for yet another Golden Oldies turn around the block  from her creaky, brain-damaged meal ticket, Sharon Osbourne has engineered the announcement of a full Sabbath reunion for no other purpose than to catch fans’ eyes; and then she has promptly found a way to sideline everybody except Geezer Butler – including giving Iommi cancer just by wishing it – so she can purse all the pop concert revenue money. Metal fans are convinced this is the case.

It’s a nice theory, but I think there’s more to it than that. What appears superficially to be a string of highly embarrassing and probably unconnected fuck-ups, is in fact, simply the tail-end of the greatest conspiracy heavy metal has ever known.

And only now can we exclusively reveal the truth:

Black Sabbath never existed in the first place.

Look at that. One logical step backwards, and suddenly everything is clear. That all-seeing eye is weeping tears of sadness, my friends, because it never saw us coming. It’s time to trace back the tear-tracks and find out who’s left holding the soggy hanky.

Instantaneously, I knew the best place to begin my investigation. But then I remembered I live in the north and my local library only carries books about vampires and crochet and plucky young shopaholics.

So instead, I took a quick visit to Alan Watt, curator of my favourite conspiracy clearing-house. What I read there chilled me to the frost-bitten hollows of my bones, my friends. Even worse than those bells in the rainy bit at the beginning of Black Sabbath.

This upcoming race of genetically manipulated servants will be called the Borg, very efficient when they act together, but that annoying trait of individuality will be obliterated.

And bringing in their organized society, a sort of technotronic society or technical society.  A society where experts rule the world, and why bother with politicians and things like that.  Post-democratic eventually, and that’s where we’re heading into today.  We’re actually there, actually.

And they want to bring down the population to a manageable size, and using science once again, they can create a new type of human, basically servant, which won’t need entertainment, won’t need law enforcement to look after them.  Something like Seven-of-Nine of the old Star Trek series.

Could what I was reading be true? An entire race of unthinking, robotic servants, content with a diet of bland, recycled, cultural baby food? And they are already among us? Who does that sound like to you?

My guts told me I was onto something, and that I’d better start being careful. To avoid being outed as a sex pest in the corporate press, like Julian Assange, I immediately ceased any and all sexual contact by taking my hand out of my underpants. I took to leaving the house only when strictly necessary, and shitting into a plastic tub while sat at my computer to minimise risk of attack by a government-controlled robotic laser-eyed sewer rat.

I started ingesting a lot of psychedelics, playing wild quantities of computer games and eating tamper-proof instant noodle snacks, while listening to nothing but thrash and power metal to keep my spirits up. Eventually, I had damaged my brain to the point that I had no fucking idea what was true and what wasn’t, and yet an unerring attraction toward arguments on Facebook.

Then, and only then, was I ready to delve deeper, in search of the blackened heart of the most sinister plot ever enacted on an unsuspecting populace. Only one man could help me connect these increasingly-scattered dots now.

David [Icke] goes far deeper down the rabbit hole than merely our daily experience of the ‘five senses’. He reveals the true nature of our reality where there is no ‘solidity’ or ‘physical’ – only vibrational, electrical, digital and holographic information fields that we decode into what appears to be a ‘physical world’. David calls this the ‘Cosmic Internet’, and in this amazing work he explains how a malevolent force has ‘hacked’ into the cosmic information source via the ‘Saturn–Moon Matrix’ to feed us a false reality very similar in theme to the illusory world portrayed in the Matrix movie series.

Even I was surprised how easily it came together. Everything fit neatly, like a jigsaw puzzle with hammer and nails included. Big Media… The unthinking slave race… The Saturn-Moon Matrix… The Cosmic Internet.

My mind was racing now. Where had the story broken? The internet. Where was the controversy now living? The internet. Where was Sharon Osbourne getting bollocked off a load of children – the self-same children we now know to be mindless servants of the New World Order?! The internet!

David Icke was right. Damn and blast his handsome, chiselled face, but he was right. And if he was right about Black Sabbath, then maybe he was right about everything.

But who – or what – was this ‘malevolent force?’ And how would it be stopped?

You’d better click for page 2, children!>>

Advertisements

Interview – Therapy?

Back in the late nineties I was a plucky young writer on my university paper, the lone voice of rock fandom on a staff full of Oasis fans, so when I was given the opportunity to interview one of my favourite bands, Brit-Rock legends Therapy? I jumped at the chance. This was my first big interview and was bound to set me on a career course that would see me eventual editor of Kerrang or Metal Hammer.

When I went backstage at Newcastle University to meet Andy Cairns, affable Therapy? frontman and bearded vocal wonder, he gave me Guinness and conducted the whole interview in his dressing gown and spoke at length and with knowledge about music, politics, fame and more. It was a great interview, up until I realised as I was rounding things up that I hadn’t hit record on my dictaphone.

Ashamed, I rounded off the interview as well as I could, then went to see the band play an excellent show. But I never printed my interview. I tried to write it up from half remembered snatches of memory through the Guinness fog I had conducted it in. But no joy.

So when I saw that Therapy? were releasing their 13th album, the belligerantly brilliant ‘A Brief Crack Of Light’ I thought it was time to put that particular demon to res, and so I stalked bassist Michael McKeegan online until he agreed to answer my questions in return for me leaving him alone and never telling that anecdote again.

Demon Pigeon: First things first. You were a part of the Judgement Night soundtrack, collaborating with Fatal, which was excellent. But then Nu Metal happened. Only a few years later we had Linkin Park. Do you feel that you owe us all an apology?

Michael McKeegan(bass guitar): So could it be possible that we’re responsible for all that? Actually that was all a cunning ploy on our behalf so nu metal would kick in to ‘save’ the UK from Brit-Pop and then once people had got used to hearing guitars again (albeit covered in rap vocals and faux-Dre beats) then true punk and heavy metal would rise from the ashes.

DP: Your new album is your thirteenth, and continues in the tradition of sounding instantly recognisable as yourselves and completely different to your previous albums. Is this something you consciously aim for?

MM: Not really though I suppose over the years our influences have maybe become less obvious and our own style more distinctive. With any new record it’s kind of unsaid that we’ll be tweaking and supercharging the ‘older’ sonic elements whilst still trying to incorporate new sounds and ideas. The easiest thing would be to just make a ‘stock’ Therapy? album though with the stylistic swerves over the years I’ve probably no idea what a ‘typical’ Therapy? song is. Sometimes there is a bit of chat about how an idea needs to go further for example or needs a different element to mix it up but for the whole we tend to go on gut reaction, just suss out whether an idea or a part works on instinct and leave the analysing alone.

DP: You and Andy have been together now for over twenty years, since you were still pretty much kids. How has the relationship changed? How close have you come to killing each other?

MM: We always got on really well from day one and I think any miscommunication in the past was normally due to ex-members stirring the pot and their inter-band ‘power plays’. Thankfully with Neil in the band it’s a very straightforward working relationship and the personal side of things is great as well. Most bands I meet are always bitching about each other so I count myself lucky Andy and I (and Neil) get on great, I really value the friendship.

DP: One of my favourite ever gig experiences was when you had to replace Korn at the last minute on the Ozzfest 98 bill, and you faced down a openly hostile crowd and managed to win them over, and Andy gave a speech about the Troubles that was the most eloquent assessment of a complex political situation I’ve ever seen delivered to a collection of spotty drunk men in black t-shirts. It stuck in the mind. What experiences stick out to you from your twenty odd year career?

MM: There have been many, many ‘pinch yourself’ moments over the years between meeting (and in some cases jamming with) musical heroes and all the travel and crazy crowds but one of the things that still amazes me is when I see people with Therapy? tattoos. I’m a big fan of many bands but I’ve never really seriously considered getting their name or logo tattooed on myself. That’s always a very wonderful, flattering and surreal experience.

DP: The new album is getting (well deserved) praise. It has a really jagged edge in places, and sounds remarkably fresh. Do you go into the studio these days with a particular plan in mind, or are you writing off the cuff and whatever happens happens?

MM: I think with ABCOL there was a bit of both…we had a few elements of Crooked Timber that we wanted to pursue a bit more and as much as you can rehearse and plot stuff, there are always spontaneous additions in the studio. I think you need to get a balance of being disciplined and tight with the structures and then have that ‘spark’ to come up with little nuances and more off the cuff things when you’re recording. Too much either way can either make the record too stiff and lifeless or can end up too sloppy and unfocused. The guy that produced it with us Adam Sinclair (he engineered and mixed Crooked Timber with Andy and mixed our live album) was an essential sounding board for those moments when we maybe might have been getting a bit carried away. Having said that there were moments where he suggested stuff go further so it was good working relationship.

DP: You recently did a ‘Troublegum’ tour, playing the album in full. Did you enjoy revisiting it, or are you more of a mind to keep looking forward?

MM: It was a brilliant tour and a lot of fun to play the shows. We’d just been doing tons of stuff with Crooked Timber so it didn’t seem in anyway like a ‘step back’…more a celebration, especially as we’ve never done the old ‘split up/reform/split up/reform’ routine. We’d seen a few shows where the artist focuses on a certain record so we had a good idea of the best way to do it…after the Troublegum set we did another hour or so from our first single right up to the latest Crooked Timber stuff so it was a really cool overview of 20 years of the band (2010 was our 20th anniversary). We even dug out some of the old guitars, old stage wear and old intros for the trainspotters in the crowd.

DP: A lot of the ‘Brit Rock’ bands that enjoyed success at the same time as you have fallen by the wayside. In some cases they’ve fallen, reformed and jacked it in all over again. You have managed to keep going regardless. To me this is because you never really chased the success, and never let it define what you were doing. What do you think has kept you going?

MM: Most definitely…the main concept behind the band when we started was to play the music we liked as none of the local bands then were doing anything particularly original…naively thought we could throw Dischord punk, noise rock, classic rock, thrash metal, noise pop, techno and jazz all together but bizarrely it worked and seemed to strike a chord with people. Any success we had was never planned, a lot of people perhaps perceive Troublegum as something we planned to be a hit, for us it was just the logical musical path after the mini lps and Nurse.

You have to remember the seeds of Troublegum were there on our first demos (SWT=Screamager, Body OD=Stop It You’re Killing Me etc.) and with tracks like Skyward. Also those early albums had steadily built up our profile and the relentless touring did help so when the media focus swung on a little thing called grunge which brought guitar rock more into favour again, we were right there with a good fan base and a heavy catchy album. Anyway, went a bit off track there but I think the main reason we are still around and making exciting records is that we like music, we like creating music and we like playing music…there’s no big subtext or plot in there.

DP: Rock seems to have fallen out of favour in recent years, certainly you’d be hard pressed to find any out and out rock bands troubling the top 40. Why do you think that is?

MM: I’m not sure though I personally think outside of ‘top 40’ scenes the rock, punk and metal stuff is flourishing. Obviously you get your Foo Fighters, Green Day, Chili Peppers on mainstream radio but I think people are prepared to dig a little deeper to find something good nowadays. In all honesty I don’t really hear any inspiring ‘new’ music on the main radio or tv in the UK, most of it is online, at gigs or recommendations from friends. I suppose the reception that the last Mastodon album got gives me a bit of hope for the mainstream media, it got a lot of attention outside of specialised metal/rock media and rightly so as it’s a brilliant album.

DP: Andy has spoken about his appreciation of Dubstep and has appeared on 6 music as an occasional pundit talking about all sorts of music. What sort of music do you as a band listen to these days? Do you all still influence each other’s tastes?

MM: There’s quite a wide range of music played on the bus and in the dressing room…depends on the mood really but normally lots of newer stuff be it electronic music or black metal, its quite an eclectic bunch of stuff. Yeah, I do pick up a lot of newer stuff from Andy and Neil, every time we get together there’s normally iPods full of new tunes to share…it’s a brilliant way to get into stuff…I don’t really have the time sometimes to sift through all the new stuff so the best normally gets filtered and I pick up on it from the other guys.

Recently I’ve really enjoyed the Symmentry album, lots of old thrash (Kreator, Whiplash, Razor, Voivod), some new thrash (Suicidal Angels, Nekromantheon), some older noisy stuff (Die Kreuzen, Bitch Magnet, The Gun Club), some newer noisy stuff (Hawk Eyes, Blacklisters) and a lot more of course I can’t remember.

DP: The bass sound on Why Turbulence is fucking immense. Not a question, Just wanted to say.

MM: Many thanks…all those years listening to Unsane have finally paid off.

DP:Neil has been your drummer for a while now. Do you still think of him as ‘the new guy?’ What does he bring to the band?

MM: Haha…we were actually talking about this a while ago. Neil’s been in the band 10 years this year (his first gig with us was in 2002), that’s twice as long as Fyfe (original drummer) and Graham were behind the kit.

We’ve known Neil since 1990 as our first UK tour was supporting his band The Beyond (highly underrated and ahead of their time ‘thrash-techno-prog’…both albums are due a re-issue and critical re-assessment) and Fyfe was a big fan of his drumming so I suppose we’ve always had a lot in common musically. I can only really compare Neil to the previous guys and obviously the technical side of things is superb but he’s also very pro-active with the ideas and overall approach of the band. That’s very important in a 3-piece where everyone pulls their weight on and offstage.

DP: You’ve managed to maintain a career and a fan base long after the mainstream music press moved on to the next shiny thing that came along. When you look back on that time when you were all over MTV and the music press do you pine for it back, or are you happier to be where you are now?

MM: Being completely honest that whole period was so hectic (1990-1995…we did 5 albums and toured non-stop in that 5 year period) there weren’t many times where we sat down and reflected on what was going on so its hard to judge. Everything was quite frantic and we were constantly heading to the next gig, the next interview, the next studio session so it was all about forward motion. Don’t get me wrong, it was really lots of fun and very exciting back then and I’ve really enjoyed being in the band since Neil joined, it almost felt like a new band when he got involved and each year and album things have progressively got better and more inspiring.

Many thanks to Michael for taking the time to talk to us. A Brief Crack Of Light is out now, and it’s a fucking belting album, so you should totally go and buy it.

http://www.therapyquestionmark.co.uk/

10 O’Clock Live

It’s not hard to imagine the thought process behind the creation of 10 O’Clock Live. It’s child’s play, actually, to picture loathsome telly executives, ensconced behind their walls of glass, fashionable beards salted with granules of cocaine, casting avaricious eyes towards Comedy Central’s Daily Show and The Colbert Report, thinking ‘why don’t we make anything as fucking awful and smug as that?’ Thus, in 2010, Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night was born.

10 O’Clock Live, its progeny, appears to be continuing the campaign for the ‘Nation’s Hippest Lefty News Source’ trophy, currently held by horrible fence-sitting shithead Jon Stewart. Sadly, predictably, it fails utterly. The first series was dog shit, everyone knows that, even if they enjoyed it. But the new one is a big, tall, frosty dog shit smoothie, blended with a bit of sheep shit for roughage, and served in a smashed glass.

The issue is obvious, really. You simply can’t maintain any kind of compelling alternative political stance in a corporate media climate and expect anyone to commission you, watch you, or even listen to you. So what we’re left with is the same reactionary, centre-right, fact-obscuring, establishment-fellating news coverage you get everywhere else, but with some bigoted and scatological jokes to make it appear subversive. Like Mock of the Week crossed with Viz.

To its credit, in 2011, 10 O’Clock Live did manage to break lockstep with the rest of the news media to deliver something at least approaching realistic satire, with their oh-so-hilarious regular ‘Bankers In Need’ skit. How heartening then, to see Lauren Laverne  standing up last week to row the whole thing back to shore just as quick as her willowy arms could carry her, humiliating everyone concerned.

In a monologue of absolutely staggering cowardice, she concludes that banking executives might very well be vicious, criminally irresponsible cunts fucking up everything for everyone that isn’t them; but if we’re mean to them, then the oconomy might collapse or something (hint it’s imploding like fuck irregardless, mate). For 10 O’Clock Live, as for every single other corporate news outlet, the London Stock Exchange is akin to a strange and inscrutable Mayan god to which we must feed a constant string of virgins, unemployables and disableds, just so Derek Cameron can keep his city mates in swan butties. So, who’s first on the block, metalheads?

To this one can add: ‘ironic’ racist jokes care of Jimmy ‘James’ Carr – which may (or may not) be appropriate in his stand-up, but which sound absolutely fucking tone-deaf here; spluttering, word-tumbling ineptitude from hilariously mis-cast ‘debate’ chairman Derek Mitchell, who somehow manages to be both tepid and offensive all at once; and a completely one-note performance by everyone’s favourite bitter sarcasm merchant Charleston Brooker, who hasn’t dropped a funny word, even by accident, since he decided being mean to his privileged celebrity friends was beneath him.

Here’s the Charlie Brooker joke formula. Step one: imagine thing. Step two: imagine thing but wacky. Step three: shout “WHAT NEXT, A ROBOT PRIME MINISTER????” and produce a prop to illustrate how wacky the thing you’ve imagined is. Perhaps put prop on head. Cue laughter.

Fuck off Brooker, I used to like you.

I haven’t watched this week’s episode yet because frankly, I’ve not been well, and I don’t want to jeopardise my recovery by jerking my knee off. But I’m totally looking forward to more ‘funny arab’ jokes, uncritical repetition of unsubstantiated ‘facts’ about official enemies, endless cutaways to the audience of braying student shitheads, and our four presenters once again making honorary team members out of their idiot guests – such as Alastair ‘Lord Fuckshit’ Campbell – and somehow not retching their Pret A Manger luncheons all over them. And just for an extra poop Malteser on top, this show has completely, irrevocably wrecked Jon Spencer Blues Explosion for me. So thanks for that.

If this is the alternative to the Auntie Beeb propaganda machine, then just slap a Fiona Bruce mask on my head and call me Mr Mainstream.

Lamb of God – Resolution

(Epic/Roadrunner)

I’m not going to lie, I went into this with preconceptions fully in place with to this band. They are those ‘mother fucking invitation’ guys that are alright when you hear them in a dingy club, too pissed to care and it’s the best thing that you’ve heard all night. I suppose I go into this with only that as a reference so I can be fair in judging it. With trepidation I press play and hope for the best.

We start with Straight for the Sun which has a slow plodding start that is reminiscent of that metal band from the 90’s. You know the one. The one with that guy in it. I’m trying to avoid saying their name, because that’s no way to run a review. Anyway, an unusual way to begin an album and it really doesn’t develop at all into anything interesting until it becomes clear it is just an intro to Desolation. Hello hammer-ons and oh God there are no surprises here. Basically they’ve moved from ripping off a band’s fourth album straight to their second. Well it depends if you include the Power Metal ones. Oh fuck I’ve given it away. Pantera. There I said it. I don’t see why I shouldn’t reference them seeing as it appears to be the only reference point this band have.

Pantera Pantera Pantera.

However, rip offs they may be but they have none of that innovation in their song writing and it is typified by this song. Randy ‘named like a wrestler’ Blythe’s voice is just parody and his lyrics no better. Ghost Walking starts with acoustic guitar but if you think that it might be interesting or a diversion from their typical fodder then those illusions are going to be shattered as quickly as the length of this interlude. Back to basics. That’s all this is. Metal by numbers.

I can see why people enjoy this as it doesn’t ask you to invest anything in it. It is throw away metal that no one is going to be waxing lyrical about in two years time, let alone in ten, twenty, thirty.

Pretty soon we have an example of the trademark Lambers soloing which is technically very good but like everything else it just offers nothing unexpected and it could be lifted from almost any generic metal song.

This leads us into Guilty, more of the same… Hammer-ons and pull-offs; check. Phil Anselmo impression; check. Boredom; check.

Finally, a change! Undertow. The riffs on this are a massive improvement to the previous track and this even has a vaguely Crown feel with a bit of Slayer-esque lead lines. The problem is that it’s not a riff I will be humming or have buzzing around my head in the next few days, and this is my third listen. Add to that another solo that seems completely out of place while technically fine.

Number Six – Clever coz it’s like also track six… you guys! More mid-paced fare that is vaguely similar to Swedes Darkane but without any of the interesting bits. Honestly, there is not a shred of originality here. If you doubt me go to YouTube and find the video for Secondary Effects. Even when they try to do something different out comes the Phil Anselmo impression fuelled by incredibly appalling lyrics. Then followed by gang vocals back into the Darkane bit…

Barbarosa is another attempt at something a bit different, acoustic guitar again accompanied by harmonised lead line with feedback. But this is not Orion or some instrumental epic. No further development of the motif and again as I suspected this is just an intro to the following song. It’s completely unnecessary in its placement as a separate song. Who do they think they are?

Invictus. Are we just repeating track six? No this is a new one apparently. The main riff on this is actually quite good but the problem is it is at exactly the same speed and in the same key as everything else on the album. If you’re not going to bother trying a little variation then you are just repeating the same song over and over again but this doesn’t really seem to concern Old Lambers. Also another biddly biddly solo again that’s alright.

Cheated follows.This just feels like Pantera (again!) or Poison Idea but without any of the genuine aggression and anger. There is also an epic fail attempt at a beat-down. Compare and contrast with any other cliché hardcore band and this doesn’t even come close. Boring.

Then follows the most laughable track on this album. All of a sudden they appear to be doing emo/goth or whatever this is supposed to be, mixed with their now infamous hammer-on/pull-off motif. It’s a little bit like modern day In Flames. Chords for the chorus and a ‘nice’ lead line over the top ensure this fills the quota of cliché drivel they do so well. Again I’m sure the kids will lap this up whilst going through ‘their phase’. On a slightly positive note I actually like the solo on this one.

To ‘The End’ and I’m starting to be glad of that. It has a cut and paste main riff. Pinch harmonics a-plenty, boy do they love them. Again another good-ish solo. By this point I’m not sure that I can take much more, but here comes the standout highlight of an otherwise average album. Visitation has some great riffs and structure but it is still Pantera by anyone’s reckoning and as much as I liked them when I was 16 this shit got old a long time ago. About the same time I did.

Finishing up, King Me. This starts with an ‘epic’ keyboard and wailing woman thing before it turns into another ‘Southern Metal’ song. Bored now. Overall this isn’t a bad impersonation of that Stadium Metal band but is that what Lamb Of God is? Does the world need another Pantera? I see Lambers described as ‘Southern Metal’ and by that obviously they mean Alabama or one of those other notoriously macho-macho states in the good ol’ USA, not Lahndun. Or Suffolk. Berkshire metal, perhaps?

I can’t identify with this and I don’t understand how I ever could. The way I see this is I’m probably ten years too old for this and my testosterone has certainly levelled out too much to want to pull preposterous faces while screaming along into my mirror, fantasising about nailing that hotty with the piercings. No, honest.

I’m certain this will undoubtedly be popular amongst ‘the kids’ and that can only be a good thing because when they finally develop musical taste perhaps they’ll realise that other bands can do this a whole lot better. They are a gateway band at best and for that I applaud them. Thanks Lamb Of God.

*Claps slowly*

Like Pantera for me and Metallica the generation before that, they will be remembered fondly by Metal fans but won’t get as many spins as say that new grind band they just discovered or the next awesome band to explode out of Poland or Sweden. For the rest of us, not good enough.

Satisfactory/10

More Albums I Would Have Reviewed in 2011, if I Could Be Arsed

Good morning, children.

Are you both ready to read some more things about bands you ignored last year because they lacked a substantial PR budget, brand recognition, or the resources to send a box of cupcakes to a magazine?

I don’t care if you are or not, to be honest. This is what I feel like writing, so this is what you get.

Enjoy! If you must.

Wo Fat – Noche del Chupcacabra

(Nasoni Records)

Note: Wo Fat is a racist baddie from Hawaii Five-O.

The spine of Wo Fat’s sound is the blues, pure and simple, dirtied up in a puddle of Mississippi mud, rolled in gravel and then deep fried in an oil drum full of jelly jar hooch. This is a much tighter piece of work than Psychedelonaut. Five weighty songs span approximately 45 minutes, and whereas the psychedelic elements clearly bracketed the meat and potatoes rock bits on the last album, they’re now – for the most part – seamlessly interwoven. That means it’s a more of a grower than a shower.

By way of example, Phantasmagoria offers up the classic bottleneck guitar riff, only slowed down an order of magnitude and then smashed with hammers. This swampy mist billows and curls into your ears, lungs and brain for nigh on five minutes. Eventually, it parts like a curtain to reveal a tiny little fuzzed-up solo break, and you whip your weary head back and forth, very very slowly. Twenty seconds later, and the mist comes back for good. This is deep, deep riff appreciation, and if you don’t get why that’s brilliant, then you should avoid this album.

Common Ground and Bayou Juju are a little less meandering, blending a more active rhythm section with two great choruses and some big fat hooks, but there’s still a sense that you’d be best off swallowing a dose of something before putting it on. Descent into the Maelstrom is my favourite song here, because the riffs are great, its grooves are more like fucking ditches and there’s a pitch-bend pre-chorus hook I absolutely adore.

I should have reviewed this ages ago.

http://www.myspace.com/wofat

Lo-Pan – Salvador

(Small Stone Records)

Note: Lo-Pan is a racist baddie from Big Trouble in Little China.

The first thing you notice about Lo-Pan, the thing that really sets them apart from the crowd, is the vocalist. Jeff Martin got some fucking pipes. I would love to hear him tackle a power ballad, because he’d give that fella off Foreigner a run for his money any day. The best word to describe it is ‘soaring’, or perhaps ‘agile’, or maybe ‘adept’, or possibly ‘epic’, or maybe ‘fuck you’.

It lends every single song an instant accessibility – a melodic, almost bubblegum-pop quality – that stands in opposition to the otherwise unrelenting up-tempo fuzz on offer. But he’s belting it out with such throat-shredding gusto that there’s no contradiction implied by the marriage. A heady strain, indeed.

Song wise, it would be incorrect, if not palpably fucking stupid, to say that nothing really stands out. Yet it’s still tempting. That’s because everything here seems to be of a uniformly superb quality; well-conceived and thoughtfully executed.

Chichen Itza rises and falls majestically, like the ancient Mayan city it is named for, carving a path between lazybones punk aggression and a breakneck double-time chorus with the greatest delivery of the word ‘alive’ since that bloke out of P.O.D. It ends after three minutes and you are amazed it was so short, given the number of different ideas you just heard without even noticing. Well executed, as I said.

Bird of Prey goes off like a Nevada bomb test at sunrise. It’s a quick delta-shaped build over gentle clean-picked strings, a melodic bassline and tinkling ride cymbal. But when it explodes, the pressure wave evaporates your eardrums. Not literally. Meanwhile, Struck Match is the song I would most like to lose my virginity to.

I’d hesitate to call any album essential, but this one got unfairly overlooked. Give it a crack.

http://www.myspace.com/lopandemic

I’m going now, everyone. Goodbye forever.

Mortad – The Myth of Purity

(Independent)

It’s easy to be disparaging about a band that, on first listen, sound like every fucking other metal group that thinks the harder and faster and louder they play, the more they’ll be accepted by an increasingly cynical-about-change musical community.

Mortad, who unfortunately fall into this bracket, make themselves hard to be liked. The Myth of Purity, their first full-length, follows pretty closely on from last year’s EP Pandemic Paranoia both thematically and musically. It’s not difficult to take a shot at what the lyrics are going to be like; Misanthropy? Check. Disaffection? Check. Condoleeza Rice fudging herself silly on Countdown? Probably not. We live in a sad old world where bands take regurgitated and overused archetypes as the basis for their musical drive, because yes, as metal fans we do enjoy being part of a pissed-off collective, but we aren’t so gormless that any generic call-to-arms will stir something in our blackened hearts.

Album opener, All That’s Born Must Be Destroyed, is a perfect example of how to pursue a glorious end, and pull up short. The subject matter is hackneyed and overdone, and the music is a decent death/thrash offering, but too generic and consequently inoffensive to cause any real damage. It’s a shame because Mortad have pulled out a handful of riffs from the Carcass pot and take their cues from Arch Enemy, but, for the most part, sound less than the sum of their parts.

With all this being said, Mortad give a decent portrayal of searing and dissonant music; Somi Arian’s vocals are a little overwrought, but stand up in comparison to the melodic death metal screams of Angela Gossow. The only major disappointment is when the production overplays Miss Arian’s voice effect and makes her sound like she’s shouting everything from the top of Mt Snowdon on a windy day; this hardly recurs enough to cause any major grievance, however.

The guitars, conversely, are furious and punch drop-beat riffs into every orifice, leaving very little breathing space. The melodic elements are few and far between and rely more on overlaid synth and high-end guitar as opposed to vocal variation. Songs like The Heights are a good example of doing this well, combining devastating low-end chug, splintered harmonics and a catchy chorus, only being let down slightly by the derogatory wind-tunnel breakdown vocals that Mortad insist on having present throughout The Myth of Purity.

However where Mortad show most promise is during moments of absolute fury; the title track opens up to cascade back-breaking noise down onto you, only to move into a song that displays some of the more progressive elements of Mortad’s sounds, complete with one of the better solo interludes that I’ve heard of late. Over half way through, Mortad wield that blistering hammer of noise at you again and it’s devastating.

From the sublime to the ridiculous as Mortad introduce an incoherent stuttering child of a song, I’m Not Interested In Being Interesting, that compounds all the angst and musical competence of a piss-soaked flannel. It’s a demonstration of the band veering away from damaging, persistent frenzy in search of more alternative climes, and while it’s an admirable pursuit, it falls flat as it’s a badly constructed piece of music.

At times, The Myth of Purity seems like such a promising affair with one of the more brutal and interesting outings into death metal of recent times, yet it has the ability, at the same time, to seem utterly contrived and overworked – too insistent on being brutal to actually convey that very feeling.

Overall, it’s worthy of your time if you have patience to suck out the moments of glory that are, unfortunately, few and far between.

http://www.mortad.net/