Tomahawk – Oddfellows

Tomahawk Oddfellows

(Ipecac)

Tomahawk finally releases a follow-up to the underwhelming Anonymous, an album so odd that even trying to pass it off as one of Mike Patton’s weird “projects” wasn’t enough to justify its existence. Well thank Mothra that he is over his dalliance with Native American music. Cool head gear and generally awesome outlook on nature does not guarantee good music.

But back to now…

This is possibly the most accessible thing that Tomahawk have ever done, dare I say it even borders on the commercial? Normally around here this would be the kiss of death right from the off, but anything Mike does, he gets away with because he is the epitome of micro bearded cool. Oddfellows fuses the familiar subtle guitar work from the first two albums and adds more electronic parts and layered vocals. Hidden in are prog elements, jazz, even dance (in the vein of interesting 90’s dance like Massive Attack or Sneaker Pimps rather than Sash) and even some folk.

These are leftfield pop songs and that’s what makes them so damn enjoyable. If this was made by British Redhead warbler in residence Florence Squelch then I’m in no doubt Fearne “I bloody love everything” Cotton and the rest of the Radio 1 gurners would love it. But alas, Mike is not female, young or ginger so it’s unlikely that Oddfellows will have even a snifter of mainstream success. Therefore we all win and don’t have to hear it played to death. Hooray! Also, I’d rather sleep with Patton than Florence, and I’m sure you would too.

I love this. In fact I bloody love this. You can now refer to me as Will “I bloody love Tomahawk” Downes. Not perfect by any means but a return to form that will delight Patton aficionados. This band does not play it safe and sometimes the gambles don’t always pay off (as demonstrated by the last album and the odd moment on this one) but when it does it’s simply brilliant. From the understated opener to the punky bombast of the final track this is a most enjoyable experience that is just brief enough to keep you wanting more.

Enough arse kissing. If I do have one issue with Tomahawk, it’s that we will probably have to wait 4 – 5 years for the next one. How bloody inconsiderate of them.

Sexual/10

Cult of Luna – Vertikal

cultoflunavertikal

(Indie Records)

Is there some kind of chemical imbalance in the mushy bit of squidge I keep in my skull hole? What is it about miserable, angry, stamp-your-feet-like-an-impetuous-toddler music that makes me so bloody happy? Because it does. It really, truly does. And this album, laden with seventeen tonnes of prime Swedish misery, is so hideously, bleakly depressing, that it’s forcing me to write a ‘word-happy’, right now, all over your screen.

Cult of Luna, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, are the Swedish answer to Neurosis, in that they are purveyors of post-metallic, progressive sludge with an intellectual bent and oceans of misery. Which may be just about the smuggest, most pretentious thing ever committed to a word processing package that wasn’t written by the cast of Ten O’Clock Live, but it’s true nonetheless.

Vertikal is their sixth album, and is apparently all based around Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and follows on the heels of a concept album about insane asylums and owl-god creatures. That previous sentence isn’t looking so silly now, eh? Basically, it means this one sounds a bit more sci-fi. Of course, all that is just window-dressing nonsense, because after all an album’s concept has no bearing on its worth. Just ask The Smashing Pumpkins.

So is Vertikal any good?

Well of course it is. Don’t be stupid. It’s Cult of Luna, and if you don’t like them then you are not trying hard enough. Following on from Eternal Kingdom’s balancing act between balls-out sludge and post-rock meanderings, this seems both more focused and yet less rigid than its predecessor. Opening with two minutes of bleepy paranoiac scene setting with The One, it then launches into I, The Weapon, a song that starts in such a thoroughly Cult Of Luna manner it could have been liberated from any of their last few albums; lots of sludge, metronomic groove and the trademark anguished barking of Johannes Persson.

But then there are shades of new sounds, new layers sprinkled throughout, occasional non-guttural vocals, electronic passages and even a spot of maracas, if I’m not mistaken. It lets us know that this is a more mature, if no less violent CoL.

This sense of a greater experimentation welded to their already multi-layered sound features throughout. The nineteen-minute long Vicarious Redemption builds and builds until it finds time to fit in a bit of dubstep farty-noise—and not in a hideous Skrillex way.

You remember when you first heard The Dubstep Sound and you thought ‘hey, I like that sound’? And then every time you heard it afterwards it made you want to run up to the person and shout in their face that they sound like an idiot with their waaa waaa bwum bwum bwum waaa bullshit? Well, CoL have used it exactly the way you thought it should have been the first time round. Does it work? Yes of course it does. It’s brilliant.

I could go through the rest of the album, but to be quite honest I don’t want to; and I suspect you don’t want me to either, because why would you want to drag this review out any longer? It’s mega, this album is. Depressing, bleak, beautiful, haunting, crushing, and many other adjectives and superlatives besides, Vertikal represents arguably a career peak in the output of a band whose bar was already set pretty high. If it had been released in December it would have been adorned with all sorts of ‘album of year’ histrionics, but it wasn’t. So now every reviewer has to find room for the line ‘We’ve only just seen the back of end of year lists but mark my words,come next December, Vertikal will be challenging for album of the year honours.’ It’s the law.

Except it won’t of course, because nobody’s memory will stretch back that far, and because reviewers are halfwits who mainly care about the last thing that was put in front of them, like puppies in a taste test for a variety of noxious-smelling Pedigree Chum products.

They don’t give a shit, they just want the one closest to them. Then they’ll give a shit.

Yes/No

www.cultofluna.com

 

Internet Dissed The Radio Star

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Those of you with a similar metal based taste in music as myself may have noticed today (and apparently all week but I only found out today) that home of Children’s Pop Music and Quality Light Entertainment, BBC Radio 1, devoted their afternoon schedule to the Radio 1 Rock Show, causing the amassed cynics of Twitter to be thrown into an utter fog of confusion. Quick, what’s the best way to be cynical about good music being on the radio?

Eventually they all seemed to agree the thing to be sneery about was the notion that heavy metal being played on mainstream radio was a gimmick, AND GIMMICKS ARE STUPID. Or something. I couldn’t really follow it. Me? I was happier than a sow in excrement.

Why? Because for three hours I got to relive the excitement that I used to feel when I was a young metalhead, back in the days before your Pontifys, your You Tubs, or the million other ways you can get music these days. Back then, you used to find out about new music in one of two ways: A friend would copy you a tape, or you could hear it on Radio 1. That was basically it. When you bear in mind I didn’t really have any friends, I was pretty lucky to have the likes of John Peel, The Evening Session and Mark and Lard on in the evenings.

pcarter

Today, between the hours of one and four in the afternoon, I heard the biggest radio station in the UK play Meshuggah, Kyuss, DeftonesBaroness, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Alice in Chains, and my third favourite Black Sabbath song. There were also copious lashings of dreadful haircut metal, some Lamp Bozkit and something that sounded like all the video games consoles I’ve ever known having a fight while tumbling down an escalator. But that doesn’t matter, because of course I’d hate some of it—I find a lot of modern metal utterly baffling and tedious. That’s okay, because I’m an old man now, and that’s the way it should be.

The best part of all was not the enjoyment I myself derived from sitting at my desk listening to all this, or the bun fight on Twitter. The best part of this is that up and down the country there were kids who have never heard anything even remotely like this having that same experience I had at the age of seven when I got handed a tape of Guns N Roses.

Heavy metal is many, many atrocious things. It is a joke, it is infantile, it dances far too close to sexism, racism and homophobia, and it is far too ready to think of leather as a valid form of clothing. But it can be brilliant as well. If you are a struggling kid it can make you feel invincible, it can give you strength, and it can channel your anger.

It could be that kids out there listening this afternoon latch onto the dreadful haircut hardcore of Bring Me The Horizon over the lovely low end of Kyuss, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still better than only hearing Gangnam Style variants on endless playlist rotate.

So if you were one of the cynics crying about having heard all the good stuff before and there being no decent new metal or Radio 1 being for kids, think back to when you were thirteen or fourteen, and imagine stumbling across three hours of metal radio in the middle of the afternoon, because that’s what I did.