Friday, 13 December 2013


Illustration by Chris Simpson / Witch Ghetto

I think I listened to more metal this year than any year previously ... a given considering the name of the blog, obviously, but I've always had a pretty broad taste in music. My focus seemed to narrow a bit this year round. I don't know, perhaps I'm feeling a tad more misanthropic, or maybe the fact I got to worship at the Iommic altar when I saw Black Sabbath in April, or possibly I've just found myself listening repeatedly to some of what I consider to be some damn fine albums released in 2013, that also happen to be by made metal bands! 

I was asked to do a top 5 for a NZ music site that I occasionally write for so I turned to the "most played" function in Itunes to determine this list ... I did cheat slightly as I don't have the Agents of Abhorrence album in a digital format but I spin it all the time, and I still need to get the Mammoth Grinder and Altar of Plagues albums on LP (yeah, yeah I know... only vinyl is real, rockers!), but here is a largely statistics-based list:

Agents Of Abhorrence - Relief

Mammoth Grinder - Underworlds
Nails - Abandon All Life
Altar Of Plagues - Teethed Glory And Injury
Power Trip - Manifest Decimation 

Other honourable mentions include great albums by Obliteration, Agrimonia, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Beastwars, Darkthrone and Baptists. 

On the live front in 2013, there's been some off-the-chain shows here in Melbourne. A brief chronological list:

Old Man Gloom/Converge
Black Breath
Midnight/Sadistic Intent
Boris performing Flood
Municipal Waste
St Vitus
Lightning Bolt
Church of Misery

Anyway, a good way to end the year on the blog is to compile a mixtape of some of - in my humble opinion, of course - the best metal released this year. There's a couple of classic Slayer tracks in there too, in honour of the gone but not forgotten Jeff Hanneman. Thanks also to Chris Simpson at Witch Ghetto for letting me use his absolutely great illustration for this piece. So without further ado, the inaugural Heavy Metal Friday The 13th: 666mas Mix! (Apologies for the lack of Agents Of Abhorrence on the playlist! Get the record!


1. Obliteration - Goat Skull Crown (Black Death Horizon)
2. Altar Of Plagues - God Alone (Teethed Injury And Glory)
3. Agrimonia - The Battle Fought (Rites Of Separation)
4. Baptists - Soiled Roots (Bushcraft)
5. Darkthrone - Valkyrie (The Underground Resistance)
6. Power Trip - Manifest Decimation (Manifest Decimation)
7. Mammoth Grinder - Paragon Pusher (Underworlds)
8. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Mt. Abraxas (Mind Control)
9. Slayer - Die By The Sword (Show No Mercy)
10. Beastwars - Realms (Blood Becomes Fire)
11. Nails - Abandon All Life (Abandon All Life)
12. Moss - Horrible Night (Moss' Horrible Nights)
13. Slayer - Angel Of Death (Reign In Blood)

Friday, 8 November 2013


On Saturday October 26th, I made a pilgrimage that all self-respecting doom-heads should attempt to make at least once in their lives: I saw SLEEP.

They were playing as part of ATP Release The Bats in Melbourne, a festival that had been beset by numerous problems (Jesus Lizard cancelled, a last-minute venue change from the middle of nowhere to two different venues in St Kilda, general bellyaching) but on the day, as it happened the setbacks really didn't matter. Sleep were due to headline the smaller stage, located at the Prince Bandroom on Fitzroy St, and as I perused the line-up for the day, there weren't any major clashes and the band directly before Sleep were Rhode Island noiseniks Lightning Bolt, who are a totally awesome live band.

Lightning Bolt proceeded to pack the Prince out and play a great, frenetic and crushingly LOUD set that got the kids truly riled up. The crowd dispersed somewhat before Sleep took the stage, allowing me to get a good spot at the front of the stage. The somewhat ridiculous onstage set up for Lightning Bolt was actually scaled back somewhat, the stacks of bass subs replaced by a couple of Ampegs and a Marshall, and two Marshall Stacks stage left. 

The band strode on stage and waited patiently for the PA to be turned off, vocalist and bass player Al Cisneros mumbled a "we are honoured to be playing music for you" to applause and guitarist Matt Pike launched into the crushing, droning riff that opens "Sonic Titan." What followed was a pulverising and hypnotising performance, the band driving forward on lumbering riffs that would ultimately settle into glacial grooves. Drummer Jason Roeder proved the perfect foil to the slowly shifting molasses of sound, with an almost deconstructionist performance around the kit as the tempos - and time itself - slowed down. 

This kind of doom isn't noted for involved dynamics. It works largely with extremely loud tones that hit perfectly with high gain and enveloping bass frequencies, low on high-end but making up the space in the top of the range with epic soaring solos courtesy of High On Fire main-man Pike. There were plenty of moments where the songs flowed into a kind of quiet, muted majesty, Roeder keeping the pulse with subtle flourishes, before the riff returned to take us on another journey. Cisneros has mellowed his vocal approach somewhat from his delivery on the old Sleep records, but they still sounded powerful on lines like "Trapped inside a world under leagues of ocean / The clergy arrives with the magic potion" from "Aquarian". 

Much of the material they performed was from Holy Mountain, including the epic title track. The great "Dragonaut" and "From Beyond" also featured alongside another old track never officially released, "Antarcticans Thawed". The last part of the set was reserved for excerpts from their magnum opus, Dopesmoker. By this point, the band and the crowd were bound together as one by the almighty power of the riff and their set wound up going over their allotted time-slot - not that anyone could possibly complain about that! It was a magnificent show, and much like the ringing in my ears, one that will continue to reverberate for much time to come. All hail the mighty Sleep!

Sonic Titan
Holy Mountain
Antarcticans Thawed
From Beyond
Dopesmoker (Cultivator/Improved Morris)

Friday, 26 July 2013


OK, here's a bunch of short reviews because I can't be bothered waxing lyrical about anything. The moral of the story is, the new Agents Of Abhorrence album is the shit, so go get it!

Agents of Abhorrence - Relief (
Psychocontrol Records/625 Thrashcore)
Holy shit! The first time you listen to some albums, you know, before the first song is over, that you are going to have to listen to it again and again. This was my experience with the latest album by Melbourne grind geniuses Agents Of Abhorrence, I sat down and listened to this record three times in a row. It's a relentless, uncompromising, and blasting beast of an album that captures the brutal intensity of the band's live show. As well as A+ tunes, Relief features killer production, great artwork, and its pressed on bronze vinyl. Fuck yes! I can't recommend any particular song overall, because the whole thing is basically a flawless masterpiece. Grind 'til death, rockers!

Power Trip - Manifest Decimation (Southern Lord)

The logical follow-up to classics like Reign In Blood and Seven Churches, if 2013 was actually 1987 in an alternate universe. This album has it all: utterly crushing riffage, gang vocals, ripping leads that betray obvious debts to Hanneman (RIP), reverb covers the whole thing like it was recorded in a gnarly death metal cave, and cover art that is fucking incredible! "Conditioned To Death", "Crossbreaker" and "The Hammer Of Doubt" are all massive tunes, the kind that probably open up mosh pits that resemble the portals of Hell in a live forum. Let's face it, everything probably did sound better 25 years ago, but with Manifest Decimation, at least Power Trip are able to capture the essence of that time without being recklessly regressive.

Melvins - Everybody Loves Sausages (Ipecac)

Melvins are fucking excellent at covers: "Goin' Blind" from Houdini, "Youth Of America" from Electroretard, "Rambling Man" from The Crybaby. All awesome! They can basically do justice to anything they try, which is the difference between most other bands' cover albums and the Melvins. So this album comes as no surprise, and the cool thing about it is they enlist their pals to provide guest vocals. We get to hear Jello Biafra doing "In Every Dream Home A Heartache" by Roxy Music and Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell doing a Bowie impression on "Station to Station." Also featuring turns by Scott Kelly of Neurosis doing Venom, Mark Arm from Mudhoney doing the Scientists, and Amphetamine Records owner Tom Hazelmyer (also of Halo Of Flies) doing the Jam, the unifying thread between the disparate material (Queen to Divine to the Kinks to Throbbing Gristle) is the fact that this was clearly a totally fun record to make!

Friday, 5 July 2013


Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance (Peaceville)

Darkthrone Fucking Darkthrone! These guys are basically the conscience of true metallers worldwide, posers be damned! Case in point: Fenriz's Band Of The Week blog is well worth checking out if you are looking for something new to listen to, whatever your preferred style. This has proved such a success that the Live Evil festival, devoted to keeping the old school metal flame alive with acts culled from the BOTW blog, has been running in London for the past couple of years. So; Darkthrone are like Renaissance men of modern day heavy metal, armed with the kind of knowledge that makes really good musicians great - beyond just knowing about the history, they are an entrenched part of it, and the role that Fenriz plays as a heavy metal taste-maker is much less a intellectual position than just wanting to share all these ripping bands he has heard from across the globe. The whole Darkthrone back-story doesn't need repeating here: A Blaze In The Northern Sky, Under A Funeral Moon, and Transilvanian Hunger are all absolutely essential metal albums! However, after continuing to release quality BM after the turn of the decade, Fenriz and Nocturno Culto began to incorporate elements of crust punk and NWOBHM into their music. This continued until their most recent album (2010's Circle The Wagons) which was essentially an out-and-out old school heavy metal record, with a heady mix of punk attitude and NWOBHM anthems! The Underground Resistance continues in that fine tradition, although the more punchy punk-rock side of things has been somewhat sidelined by a more traditional heavy metal approach. "Dead Early" storms out the gate with a fuzzy intro riff before a massive bass and drum pound begins. The main riff is classic, timeless heavy metal, done in a style that could only be Darkthrone's. On "Valkyrie", Fenriz finally unleashes the soaring, epic vocals he has teased on their previous albums. Nocturno Culto leads some forays into doomier material ("Lesser Men", "Come Warfare, The Entire Doom"), but there is no room for the blasting grimness of their earlier material. The whole album just feels like a tribute to the vintage heavy metal styles of the 80's. This is nowhere more apparent than the mammoth track "Leave No Cross Unturned", which twists and turns through 13-odd minutes of epic riffage that basically leave you wanting more. Considering that many of these songs had their genesis back in 2009/10, hopefully this means that new material from the band will be forthcoming. At any rate, The Underground Resistance seems to encapsulate some kind of "eternal now" for Darkthrone - they can help pioneer a whole genre, and some twenty years later they can return to the styles that inspired them in the first place.

Baptists - Bushcraft (Southern Lord

Axe-weilding takes a literal place on the cover of Vancouver band Baptists' debut full-length Bushcraft. A double-exposure of a dude hacking into a tree trunk, it captures the raw power that this album possesses. It is a wild 28 minute ride, and if the overall flow of the album is anything to go by, these guys probably put on a totally awesome live show. From the blistering d-beat onslaught of "Betterment" to the almost Jesus Lizard-style noise rock groove of "Still Melt", Baptists cover a wide range without losing their singular identity. Recorded by Converge's Kurt Ballou, like many recent great hardcore and metal albums, this album sounds absolutely huge. The guitars razing a furious metallic blues swathe across the crushing drums, as best evidenced on the title track, which undergoes a myriad of transitions over its two and a half minute length. "Soiled Roots" is a another great slow-burning slice of noise rock, the aggression holding back during a creeping midsection. Unsure of where to put your metalcore records? Burn them all, then make a shelf for "kick-ass hardcore and metal LPs". Make sure Bushcraft is in there.

Speaking of fantastic metallic hardcore, Milwaukee act Enabler are embarking on a tour of Australia, with Melbourne band Urns in tow.

All shows $15 on the door.

Wednesday 3 July – TBA, Byron Bay AA
Thursday 4 July – Crowbar, Brisbane 18+
Friday 5 July 5 – Hermann’s Bar, Sydney 18+
Saturday 6 July – Black Wire Records, Sydney AA
Sunday 7 July – Yours & Owls, Wollongong AA
Tuesday 9 July – Croatian Wickham Bowls Club, Newcastle 18+
Wednesday 10 July – The Pot Belly Bar, Canberra 18+
Thursday 11 July – The Bendigo Hotel, Melbourne 18+
Friday 12 July – Black Goat Warehouse, Melbourne AA
Saturday 13 July – The Enigma Bar, Adelaide 18+ 

Check out the title track from their great 2012 full-length, All Hail The Void


Friday, 31 May 2013


Whilst popular wisdom rightly bestows the origins of heavy metal with Black Sabbath, the origins of it's most direct sub-genre actually has its foundation in the closing of side A on the biggest band in the world's ultimate album, Abbey Road. The appropriately-titled "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" features a doom-laden monolithic minor chord dirge at the end that, if played through a Marshall stack bedecked with inverted crosses at midnight, could possibly summon Lucifer himself to tell you that "the Beatles invented everything!" (Satan strikes me as more of a Beatles fan anyway, considering the enduring popularity of his unholy proselytizer Macca). Despite the well-documented fact that Ozzy and co. were huge Beatles fans themselves, very few subsequent doom bands have really embraced the direct influence of the Sabbs' musical antecedents. How many doom bands have an ounce of the melody that Tony Iommi crammed into Sabbath's riffs? Case in point: at the recent show of theirs I saw, Ozzy led the crowd in a sing-along to the "Iron Man" riff. Sure, they weren't a pop band as such, but even at their most half-assed ("Paranoid" was famously bashed out in 10 minutes as a filler track) they wrote classics that have stood the test of time. 

Compared to the "smoke weed and downtune" school of doom, Cambridge's Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats manage to channel the melodic sensibility cribbed from both the Iommi and the Lennon-McCartney songbook as well as a vintage B-grade Euro-horror vibe. Their second album Bloodlust sounded like a lost 70's doom band from the British provinces whose master tapes mysteriously vanished, one dark and stormy night, only to reappear decades later in an unmarked grave containing a slaughtered goat and a bloodstained knife. Sure, like their contemporaries and label-mates Ghost, who also use a mysterious Satanic veneer to cloak otherwise catchy tunes, this can become a bit gimmicky, but unlike the Swedes' more grandiose pop direction, on their latest LP Mind Control Uncle Acid keep things firmly in the vintage and fuzzed-out surroundings of their previous efforts. 

The album is front-loaded with the goods: "Mt. Abraxas" begins with a tremendous, lumbering riff and a great droning double-tracked vocal, with a mid-section turnabout that lends particular weight to their Sabbath influence. "Mind Crawler" and "Poison Apple" follow, the former a great one-chord garage rock rave-up, while the latter continues the Uncle Acid tradition of excellently representative singles (see Bloodlust's "I'll Cut You Down"). However, Mind Control finds the band headed for more psychedelic places elsewhere on the album. "Follow The Leader" has an almost "Norwegian Wood"-style vibe, albeit one that channels the Manson Family and other Satanic cults, much like the preceding "Death Valley Blues", with it's chiming-but-doomy verses. "Valley Of The Dolls" is molasses-thick doom, a set of grinding, repetitive chords that doesn't quite take off in the same way as a track like "Mt. Abraxas" - at over 7 minutes, there's no respite from the monotonous riff over the course of the track. Fortunately, "The Devil's Work", with it's tom-heavy drumming and psych-rock textures, eschews this leaden approach in favour of something more atmospheric that makes for a great close to the album. 

There are some truly monumental riffs and great songs on Mind Control that indicate Uncle Acid are not merely phoning in the retro trappings - these songs are for the most part excellently written, and the guitar work throughout is stellar. The Beatles' and Sabbs' comparisons do begin to wear a bit thin, but by the end of the album the band are mining territory that is definitely their own, and their single "Poison Apple" is distinctly the work of an original band. I'm interested to hear what direction they will take next, but suffice it to say it will be heavy and hook-driven. Would Macca approve? I think he would. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

R.I.P. JEFF HANNEMAN (1964 - 2013)

The news today that co-founding Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman has died due to liver damage came as a shock. As a guitarist, he had a huge energy and an incredibly fast and innovative technique that attested the influence of hardcore punk on his style. With Kerry King, he formed one of the most ferocious twin-guitar attacks in thrash metal. As a songwriter, he wrote "Angel of Death" and "Raining Blood", two formidable songs that began and closed an absolutely classic album. I saw Slayer on a double-bill in Auckland with Megadeth in 2009, and while Megadeth had their moments, once Slayer came on it was clear who was the bigger band. Everything about them was bigger, the twin walls of Marshall stacks flanking Dave Lombardo's enormous drum kit, on a riser a good foot higher than the Megadeth drummer's kit. The earsplitting scythes of guitar noise that emitted from each side of the amp wall when the roadies were soundchecking. Then the lights dimmed, and to a deafening roar of the crowd chanting "Slayer! Slayer! Slayer!", the band strode on stage, and, well, they utterly slayed! The setlist drew mainly on their classic trio of albums, Reign In Blood, South Of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss, though a couple of older numbers and a few new ones were scattered through out the show. Although I have been to plenty of metal shows, big and small, over the years, I feel that Slayer was the most intense metal concert I've been to. The sheer power of the band - the rapid-fire of Lombardo's double-kicks, Tom Araya's barked vocals and the explosive salvos of riffs and squealing leads from King and Hanneman - when combined with the responsive energy from the crowd, made for a totally awe-inspiring experience. It's sad to say that no one will be able to see Slayer at the peak of their power again. At 49, Hanneman died too early. His memory will continue to live on through those incredible songs that he wrote, the albums he played on, and the inspiration he will give to new generations of young shredders. It is a sad day for metal. Needless to say, I'll be blasting my Slayer albums loudly tonight. 

Friday, 26 April 2013


I first heard BEASTWARS a few years ago when I was practising with my old Wellington band The Postures. One night, we stopped for a break and from the room next door, instead of the usual crap covers band murdering ”Sweet Jane” we heard this mammoth riffage of the kind that makes one automatically throw the horns. Turns out these sludge/doom merchants were Beastwars, and we could immediately tell they were destined for great things. Over the next couple of years, once they finally started playing shows, the seeds of the songs that we had initially heard booming through the walls at the practise space turned into mighty doom metal anthems.

Beastwars' credo is simple: Obey The Riff. Throughout their second album, Blood Becomes Fire, that mantra resonates through every gargantuan chord, monolithic bass line, thunderous drumbeat and the truly monstrous vocals. You could say much the same of the band's eponymous 2011 record - everything that was great about that album is present here, only cranked up to 11! 

"Dune" opens the album with a wallop; those stunning riffs, sci-fi bend to the lyrics,  and some great interplay in the rhythm section of James Woods (bass) and Nato Hickey (drums). The thing that makes Beastwars such a kick-ass band is the way everything works together, with no wasted notes or unnecessary sonic detours. The songs move forward with an economy of purpose, and tend to finish where most other bands would proceed to play a riff to death. Matt Hyde's commanding roar is one of the most unique things about the band, and his range is diverse, with an almost bluesy turn on "Rivermen". 

Time, mortality and prophecy are predominant lyrical themes, like great metal albums before them (Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son springs to mind), all of which feature on "Tower Of Skulls". The bass-driven "Ruins" quickens the pace, before descending into a pile-driving mid-section. The title track opens with a riff and rhythms reminiscent of industrial sludge kings Godflesh, but moves into vastly different territory thanks a haunting performance from Hyde. "The Sleeper" closes the album in an epic way; guitarist Clayton Anderson's searing lead break is absolutely triumphant. 

Dale Cotton's hefty production avoids over-embellishment in favour of just capturing the band's performances at their finest. Like their first album, Beastwars have utilised the talents of Nick Keller to create some majestic gatefold album art, something which one can only really appreciate on the vinyl version of the album. I've only had the record for under a week, and already it seems destined for a long residency on my turntable. The good news  for those of us on the other side of the Tasman is that the band are making a trek over to Australia in May, after an album release tour of New Zealand. The dates are as follows:

May 10th – The Manning Bar, Sydney with Unida and Truckfighters
May 11th The Bendigo Hotel, Melbourne with The Ruiner, Broozer and Batpiss
May 12th – The Hi Fi , Melbourne with Unida

Check out the video for "Tower Of Skulls" below, and listen to and purchase the album on the band's website or Bandcamp page.

Photo: David James

Saturday, 13 April 2013


BLACK BREATH - The Reverence Hotel, 11 April 2013

I've been a fan of the Seattle five-piece's d-beat/crust-infused death metal for a little while now, and they did not disappoint live. Black Breath's vibe is decidedly old-school - ceiling-scraping Marshall stacks, two bass drums, as well as the fact the band are bunch of hair farmers from way-back - and their delivery is polished as fuck. I have not seen a band this tight in a while, and the way they casually ripped through material from both of their full-lengths was breathtaking - by which I mean the singer had barely a moment to take a breath between onslaughts! Opener "Endless Corpse" from latest LP Sentenced To Life set the stage for what was to come, namely a flawlessly executed set. Their command of the classic Entombed buzzsaw guitar sound is a mighty thing on record, but the two guitarists took it to another level live: the result was some utterly crushing riffage, and the leads venture into the more melodic end of the spectrum, like those Swedish bands from back in the day. Vocalist Neil McAdams possesses a monstrous roar, and a great stage presence - though his voice seemed to be flagging a bit by the set's end, possibly because the guy has been giving it his all over their Australian tour, so it's not a critique, just an observation! And let's not forget the quality of the songs - "I Am Beyond", "Escape From Death", "Black Sin (Spit On The Cross)" - these guys have riffs with hooks, and in no way is that a bad thing! The drummer was on form throughout, alternating between rapid-fire blasts to the more mid-tempo material with aplomb. The band were clearly stoked to be here, and finished the night with a mighty version of "Wewhocannotbenamed' from Heavy Breathing. All in all, a great show. All hail the new wave of crusty death metal!



This blog has been inactive for a little while now, so I have taken it upon myself to restart it. Expect much more content! This time I mean it! \m/