Category Archives: Albums

Album: Strapping Young Lad – Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing

1995, Century Media

1995, Century Media

  1. S.Y.L.
  2. In the Rainy Season
  3. Goat
  4. Cod Metal King
  5. Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)
  6. Critic
  7. The Filler: Sweet City Jesus
  8. Skin Me
  9. Drizzlehell

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the mighty Devin Townsend‘s first solo album, so I thought it was well worth revisiting for the sake of posterity.

I will be the first to admit that I did not groove to this album when it came out. As you might get from the title Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing, it’s not big on singalong melodies. Back in the heady days of 1995, it was too alien for me, and it was only in revisiting it 10 years or so later – after drawing the connection to Devin Townsend who I had latched onto in the meantime – that I had laid sufficient musical foundation for it to have a place to bed in.

I am neither a musician nor a visionary, and I do not easily embrace new things; the music I like now absolutely stands on the shoulders of the music that went before it. Notable examples that I rejected out of hand when I first heard them, which within a couple of years went on to become two of my favourites, were Carter USM (on Top of the Pops in 1991) and Korn (on some-metal-show in 1994). I really didn’t understand what was happening to my face, and it was only time and intervening layers of other music that moved me to a place where I could actually hear it.

[…if you will, it was like inaccessible content; I had to go and level up my music experience before I could unlock those musicians…good grief, I actually said that…]

I digress! The Devin Townsend Project, Zimmer’s Hole… while Townsend is incredibly talented, and I really enjoyed the humour that seemed to thread through everything else that he touched, that is not as apparent in this album. You’d think with tracks titled Cod Metal King and Goat that there might be more room for having a bit of a giggle, but the music and lyrics both feel like much more of a protest and a wholehearted “Fuck you” than anything else.

Actually, with the benefit of Wikipedia and the album notes from the remastered copy, that all bears out. I won’t simply re-type what I’ve read, as if it was all my own research; in fact, it’s funny as fuck so I’ll just include Devin’s own words at the end of this.

The album itself, I really like now. It’s not my favourite, because it misses that mischievous spark and devilment that appeals to me in Townsend’s other projects. But it is balls-out, loud, an interesting mix of noise… and it’s great for thrashing along to. I am not going to go back through musical timelines to see who did what when, and who might have influenced whom, but in places Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing has elements of the same rolling, dirty, industrial sound that is present in most of Revolting Cocks – Linger Ficken’ Good, and also in White Zombie and Fear Factory stuff of the same era…but then with the next track it leaps feet-first into out-and-out thrash metal.

I’ve been punched in the head before in my life – twice in fact. I have no desire to ever get punched in the head again. Due to this, there are certain tracks that as soon as I hear them, they send me scurrying for the corners of the room without a backwards glance because I know what’s coming. There is one of those particular tracks on Heavy As… called Happy Camper. As soon as it kicks off, you just KNOW it is going to trigger a furious meat-grinder of a circle pit with the kind of fists-and-feet frenzy that I simply do not have the balls for.

That for me is the special thing about this album; it’s heavy, but loads of different kinds of heavy, and heavy that I had never heard before, all in one place. Was it ground breaking? Honestly, I don’t know enough about everything else that was around at the time to be able to stake any money on it. Sue me.

You also get a couple of tracks with that signature Townsend vocal, the soaring, ethereal wail that wouldn’t be amiss in a darkened cathedral in any good horror movie soundtrack.

For me, this is not the best album, but I do feel that it’s significant, and worth your time to witness the first flourishes of the genius that is Devin Townsend. My personal favourite track is Skin Me;

Also, as promised;

SYL1 SYL2 SYL3Enjoy.

Album: twenty one pilots – Vessel

2013, Fueled By Ramen

2013, Fueled By Ramen

  1. Ode To Sleep
  2. Holding On To You
  3. Migraine
  4. House Of Gold
  5. Car Radio
  6. Semi-Automatic
  7. Screen
  8. The Run And Go
  9. Fake You Out
  10. Guns For Hands
  11. Trees
  12. Truce
  13. “Glowing Eyes” (originally on Regional at Best)
  14. “Kitchen Sink” (originally on Regional at Best)
  15. “Lovely” (originally on Regional at Best)
  16. “Forest” (originally on Regional at Best)

Every now and then, a song will reach out and grab onto me, and hold me so close that it’s the only thing that I can even think about. That happened last week with Fairly Local by twenty one pilots.

I heard it on TeamRock – in fact, they had it as one of their singles of the week – and it struck me immediately. Whilst I am largely a metal kid, there is a lot of room in my heart for other genres, and I am a big fan of dubstep, and drum n bass. I like drums, and I like bass, and I tend to be pretty easy-going about whichever format they choose to arrive in. Fairly Local had a dub edge to it, but it DIDN’T QUITE fully commit. I tracked it down on Youtube…and fell in love as soon as I saw the video.

On top of being a really good track, it turns out they’ve got a proper drummer (Josh Dun) and the singer (Tyler Joseph) looks a little bit like he comes from the dark side of life – both of which are things that are guaranteed to endear a band to me. I then went on a bit of a mission to check out what other songs of theirs I could find; it’s all really quite different musically, although they are still clearly not on the same page as everyone else, and there is a sense of humour that weaves its way through their videos.

The album that Fairly Local is from – Blurryface – isn’t out until May 2015, so I decided to backtrack and and get myself some of their earlier stuff. The first two self-released albums I haven’t been able to find physical copies of yet [and if I’m buying something damnit, I want to actually HAVE it] which left Vessel, their first release under Fueled by Ramen from January 2013.

I made the mistake of putting this on in the car – a mistake, because by the time I got to work, I was two tracks in and so intrigued that I wanted to sit and listen to the rest of it and see what it was going to do next.

This album is really well produced, well crafted, with a bright, fun, thumping sound. In fact, it sounds like bold colours, and American TV, and sunshine. The thing is though, when you refocus just behind the initial façade, there’s a young man, in the dark, pulling at his hair and howling.

Here there be demons… but no clichés, no angst, no attitude, no swagger. It just IS. I like it.

I can’t help it; however musically good they might be, I find myself rejecting on a gut level bands or artists who seem to celebrate being either victims, or arseholes. It always strikes me as being arrogant, childish, petulant, and I just can’t get behind it.

…yeah, because I’m such a fucking grown-up

But anyway, there’s a level of simple honesty about twenty one pilots without any self-congratulation that really appeals to me, all layered in with some really splendid musicianship.

There are elements of stompy pop-folk, with ukelele’s and pianos, with switches from rap into well ranged vocals, all mixed in with beat shifts and tone changes everywhere. And it all works. The opening track, Ode to Sleep, cannot be described as anything other than schizophrenic… but as someone who has always had a rocky relationship with my brain at night, it’s also perfect.

There is no way that you could truly describe their sound as anything other than pop – extremely well crafted pop – but it’s also…NOT QUITE. It’s like looking at pop in a cracked mirror; it’s still there, bright and shiny, but also broken. I cannot help but wonder if the dark edge from the lyrics might push it a bit out of the reach of the usual pop afficionados. The 80’s were great for dark pop, but since then it’s all seemed to be a lot more self-promoting, defiant, materialistic – focused on what you HAVE more than who you ARE. I am honestly not sure where exactly twenty one pilots sits in that spectrum.

All I can say is that I really bloody like them, and I am properly excited about making the new album part of my life.

Album: Blood Command – Funeral Beach

2012, Fysisk Format

2012, Fysisk Format

  1. Pissed Off And Slightly Offended!
  2. March Of The Swan Elite
  3. Cult Of The New Beat
  4. Death To All But Us!
  5. Wolves At The Door
  6. High Five For Life
  7. Here Next To Murderous
  8. True North
  9. Corpse Reviver
  10. Oceans Inside Neptune
  11. Funeral Beach

Blood Command are a Norwegian trio, comprising of Yngve Andersen, Silje Tombre and Sigurd Haakaas, and Funeral Beach is their last album, released in October 2012. There’s nothing very much on their website, or any other social media outlet that I can find, that suggests they have done anything since, which is a shame.

Now, I was surprised by this album for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I tend to approach any band that gets labelled as ‘punk’ with a slightly raised eyebrow, and secondly, I don’t really groove to female vocalists.

I’ll just qualify that before I get shouted at; there are great female singers who I do like. Off the top of my head, there’s Björk, Alison Moyet, Annie Lennox, Tracy Chapman, Charlene Spiteri, Madonna, Pat Benatar. Now that’s out of the way; I’m really sound-sensitive, and more female singers annoy me than entertain me. Looking at that list, I’m fairly sure if I was to do a scientific study, I would find that there is a particular frequency/resonance/pitch of sound that I am biologically inclined to get irritated by, and a lot of female singers sit right within that range (incidentally, I don’t like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Cradle of Filth for the very same reason).

So, I normally approach female-fronted bands with a measure of caution, but there’s a been a few that I have heard recently who I actually really like, and Silje Tombre really NAILS it for Blood Command. Now I am fully prepared to admit that I was always going to give them more slack because they’re Norwegian and I am biased, but this album is really good. I keep seeing ‘punk’ linked to them, but frankly I don’t know what even qualifies these days; punk seems to have developed it’s own series of sub-genres [including pop-punk which is MORE pop than Green Day; I am still struggling to come to terms with that] but for my money, Blood Command certainly do qualify.

It’s really difficult to pick a favourite track on the album for me, but at the moment I am swaying between Cult Of The New Beat, and High Five For Life;

There’s no one particular sound, style or theme through this album; Silje is definitely the key that brings everything together. The songs swing merrily from jarring riffs to singalong pop choruses, but if you like it energetic and shouty, then there’s definitely something here for you.

New music – and a salute to TeamRock

…and what I mean by “new music” is “music that has only just happened to my ears”.

On a surprisingly regular basis, I will get hugely enthusiastic about something and then have everyone else then turn around and tell me that I’ve been living under a rock, and I’m 3-12 years late to the party. I live in a kind of self-imposed cultural isolation which means that I never really know about any new TV or music until one of my friends directs my attention towards it.

"Hey guys, I just watched Twin Peaks!"

“Hey guys, I just watched Twin Peaks!”

Music is an absolutely massive part of my life, but I never listen to the radio if I can possibly avoid it. The last time I listened to any station with any consistency was when Mark and Lard had the Graveyard slot on Radio One back in the 90’s. They could be trusted to be genuinely funny, and also to play music that I wanted to listen to; if there is one thing guaranteed to stress me out and make me angry, it’s listening to noise that I don’t like.

Babies screaming, car alarms, two songs playing at the same time; all will drive me into a disproportionate fury. I don’t know quite why I am so sensitive to sound, but some of the worst days of my life were when I worked in a warehouse that always played local commercial radio and I forgot my mp3 player… It might sound dramatic, but I genuinely can’t think of many worse ways to spend my time.

This picture alone makes me shudder

This picture alone makes me shudder

I also don’t watch TV. The shows that I am actually interested in seeing are buried under so much generic guff (and/or adverts, depending on the station) that when there is a broadcast that I actually want to watch, I just tune in to that show specifically using on-demand TV services like iPlayer. When there’s a whole series I want to see, I put off watching it until it comes out on box set or Netflix, and then smash the whole thing out in a marathon viewing session. I honestly can’t understand why anyone these days would watch a bit of something they really like…and then wait a whole week to watch the next bit.

All of that said, people who have previously lived with me have paid for Sky, then left the receiver boxes behind when they moved out, and I have kept them connected for the free channels. I always used to switch the BBC breakfast news on in the morning, a) for the clock in the corner and b) to remind me that I’m actually supposed to be doing something.

At the end of last year, I got really frustrated with the huge increase in shitty horrible news stories about people all over the world being nasty, bigoted, murdering arseholes. I tried switching over to a different channel; if I got up early enough I would catch 3rd Rock From The Sun, but more often than not I ended out with Everybody Loves Raymond, and a swathe of soul-crushing audience orientated adverts. It was difficult to decide which was worse; worldwide human atrocity or thinly veiled hysteria-generation about household germs.

As it happens, someone else took the choice out of my hands; on Christmas Eve, some little scrote cut the cable from the Sky dish and tried to pull it out of the wall. I love living here.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Anyway, there was no way I was going to pay for TV, given that I barely watched it and didn’t even like it when I did. I also knew I couldn’t cope with mainstream radio… but then I remembered an American rock station I used to listen to online a few years ago. They eventually shut down the access from outside the States, but with the power of the internet at my disposal, I was sure I could find another station.

I tried a few different sites, and they were OK but didn’t really cut it. Then a few of my friends suggested TeamRock Radio and it was an absolute game-changer. The first morning I tuned in, the very first track I heard being played was Alice In Chains – Would?, and I knew I was home.

The music is superb; a mix of all the good old rock, punk, and metal, with some blues and prog and then a decent helping of awesome newer bands. The DJ’s (which for me at least will make or break any radio show, regardless of how good the music is) are sharp and funny, and are all the kind of people that I would actually choose to spend time with…if I ever went out and socialised anymore, that is.

I listen from when I wake up in the morning, and then stay tuned in pretty much until the early evening – because I can get the station via an app on my phone, I spend as much time during the day at work listening as I can get away with. I have found loads of “new music” in the last couple of months, and I’ve taken a chance on a couple of albums based on recommendations from the DJ’s – and I haven’t been let down yet.

Every time I discover something new, I will share it here. For the time being, if you would call yourself in any way alternative in your music tastes, I cannot recommend highly enough that you give TeamRock a listen. Yeah, there’s the odd pop-rock track, but you can forgive that based on the weight of other genuinely great stuff they play.

Team Rockhttp://www.teamrock.com/

If you already listen to Team Rock, I refer you to my previous point about being late to the party.