Monthly Playlist: June 2021

More songs and words from camp Ba’al, this time featuring some tracks picked by our as-yet-unrevealed new guitarist. Guesses on a postcard, please.

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Nick – Guitar

Bossk – Menhir

This band. This fucking band. Bossk were my gateway to post metal and they’ve occupied a private room with a mini-fridge and snacks in my heart ever since. As one of the lucky few to have already heard their new album (low key journo flex) I’m here to say it proper slaps.

Erdve – Lavondėmės

Order yourself an ice cold slapuccino to go because this shit is heavy and it waits for no one. The Erdve bus has no designated stops, you just run and jump through the open windows and hope it throws you back out somewhere near your planned destination. It won’t matter once you’ve arrived though, your coffee is everywhere and you’ve been decapitated.

Eomac – What Does Your Heart Tell You?

This makes for a very pleasant interval. I asked some folks for something to fill my Max Cooper shaped IDM hole and Eomac delivered with a smile. Really great electronic album that flew under my radar.

Dystopia – Razernij, Deel I

A lot of people don’t like the brass instrumentation we’re getting more and more of in black metal these days, but I for one am completely hooked on that shit. Dicks out for the trumpet.

John Denver – Take Me Home, Country Roads

We watched Whisper of The Heart recently, which provides all the heartwarming whimsy that one would expect of a Studio Ghibli film, and this track gets played several times throughout (albeit with different lyrics). It gives me wholesome yankee-doodle-dandy vibes.

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Richard – Bass

Dodecahedron – Dodecahedron – An Ill-Defined Air of Otherness

At the online-only version of Roadburn in April, one of my favourite discoveries was the band Autarkh, who will no doubt end up in a future playlist of mine. However, looking into them I found that they are essentially an offshoot of Dodecahedron, a now-defunct Dutch avant-garde black metal band, whose last album I am now hooked on. Crushing, progressive, mechanical but also rich with melody and ambience – all boxes ticked.

Clown Core – End

Look, I get it. They’re basically a joke band, and both Nick and I have talked about them here before. But I am on a mission to make people realise that these two be-masked maniacs are actually musical geniuses. This song – funnily enough the penultimate track from their 18-minute 2020 opus Van – is a gorgeous ambient piano piece, which is a glorious composition on it’s own and only moreso when you take it in after ten tracks of insanely chaotic grinding electronic jazz metal played by two people in clown masks being driven around in a people carrier. Get with it.

Gjon’s Tears – Tout l’Univers

Though my Eurovision favourites this year were Go_A from Ukraine and Daði Freyr from Iceland (and yes, I did also have a soft spot for the unashamed nu metal of the Finnish entry), this soaring entry from Switzerland is the one that’s been stuck in my head since the big night. I was really rooting for it when it became clear it had a shot near the end, and I was sorely disappointed when it was beaten to the post by the Italian imitation of Buckcherry.

Anna Von Hausswolff – Deathbed

I’ve been slowly immersing myself in the musical world of AVH this year, and this is a choice cut from her most organ-heavy work. It’s ethereal, droning and artistic darkwave/dream pop driven by a massive church organ, and with vocals that have more than an air of Kate Bush around them.

Muse – Stockholm Syndrome

In the absence of live music, my partner and I have had more than a few evenings in the last 18 months watching big budget live DVD performances accompanied by and ill-advised number of beers, but the ideal crowd size (two). Muse’s HAARP performance was the latest, and I’ve been really hammering the riffiest tracks off Absolution since. Without any serious thought or consideration for other contenders, I’m going to go ahead and claim that this song has the best chorus of any guitar-based song in the 2000s.

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Joe – Vocals

Portal – Writhen

Lovecraftien cacophony and the musical equivalent of all that goes bump in the night sure to make you poo your pants.

Monstrosity – Remnants of Divination

Unfairly regarded as a training centre for musicians before they join a bigger death metal band, Monstrosity never get their due. This track is the perfect mid-paced combo of technical and catchy.

Grima – Rotten Garden

Fantastic Russian atmospheric black metal with added squeezebox and I Am Groot masks.

Show Me A Dinosaur – Hum

Another hit from Russia. Brilliant post black metal from the album Plantgazer that beautifully captures the feeling of life in lockdown.

Epica – The Skeleton Key

Nobody does symphonic bombast quite as well. Huge chorus, massive hooks and subtle use of a childrens’ choir make this track a joy.

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??? – Guitar

Heretical Sect – Ritual Inversion

Haunting melodies, guttural vocals, fantastic artwork and a powerful narrative underpinning their work. This blackened death-doom act from Santa Fe were a Spotify discovery and the album has been on rotation since.

Enslaved – Roots of the Mountain

For my money, RIITIIR is still Enslaved’s crowning achievement – monolithic and anthemic in equal measure. This sprawling 9-minute epic evokes Norse mythology and pairs it with a feeling of vast landscapes and defiance – try not to snarl along to “HARK! MEN OF FAITH!”

Sigur Rós – Brennistein

Sigur Rós aren’t known for being the heaviest of bands – they’re much happier to stick with uplifting and transcendent. This track, the opener off 2013’s Kveikur, was definitely a shift – a huge, stabbing bass line and some thundering drums lay the groundwork before the falsetto, soaring vocals take you to another world.

Lustmord/Karin Park – Hiraeth

Haunting, ethereal vocals over deep, droning atmospheres? Where do I sign? This is a collaboration for the ages and perfect music to relax to.

Zeal & Ardor – Run

Zeal & Ardor continue to evolve, with each album developing the themes and sounds of the previous one. This is the first track they’ve dropped from their upcoming third album, and if this is anything to go by, the album is going to blow some heads off.

Monthly Playlist: May 2021

As we inch slowly closer to getting back together in person and therefore being able to talk about things other than what we’ve been listening to whilst stuck in our houses, here we have another playlist of things we’ve been listening to whilst stuck in our houses, along with our thoughts on them. Enjoy.

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Richard – Bass

Marc Rebillet – One More Time

Loop Daddy, aka Marc Rebillet, has been an obsession of mine this month – check him out on YouTube if you’re unfamiliar. All his songs are done in one take with a keyboard, a mic and a loop station, and he has a virtually illegal amount of funk. He also looks like a mixture of Anthony Fantano and Nick, and does fully improvised music livestreams wearing just his pants. So there’s that.

Bliss Signal – Floodlight

James Kelly from much-missed post-black metal legends Altar of Plagues teamed up with grime/techno producer Mumdance for this collaboration in 2018, and it’s a wonderful collision of distant, hazy blackgaze with an ambient and electronic soundscapes not quite like any other.

Cocteau Twins – Pitch the Baby

There’s something beautifully unnerving about Elizabeth Fraser’s ‘lyrics’ that are essentially gibberish, but that form partially recognisable words every now and then. It’s a weird trick that only serves to amplify the otherworldliness of these influential dream pop visionaries.

Shabazz Palaces – Are You… Can You… Were You? (Felt)

In all the recent adoration for the likes of clipping., I’d all but forgotten about the debut Shabazz Palaces record, an album I copied from a friend years before experimental hip-hop was something I’d even begun to comprehend. Returning to it and remembering all of it’s fragmented, dark and strange stylings this month has been a joy, and I intend to make it my mission to remind everyone that it exists alongside Death Grips et al.

Thom Yorke – Black Swan

One of the more Radiohead-y cuts from Yorke’s first solo album, but still imbued with a slightly more unsettled electronic edge than his main band ever quite manage. Understandably a marmite artist, I’m finding myself pulled more and more into his solo career.

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Nick – Guitar

Glitterer – Try Harder Still

Honestly I was drawn to this little album based on its cover alone because it’s gawjuss. A quick google search and I found out that it’s one of the dudes from Title Fight, a band I have never listened to but am vaguely aware of. Anyway it’s a really great fuzzy grungy psychy poppy thingy and I will probably listen to TF at some point as a result of this.

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra – Movement 1

Possibly my album of the year so far, or one of at the very least. All three contributors are on absolutely stellar form and it’s such a multi-faceted album that perfectly weights sax-led ambient with orchestral splendour. A perfect way to unwind in the evening after a stressful day.

Wode – Serpent’s Coil

Wode are a UKBM band that seem to be everywhere at the moment yet I’d never listened to them. Seeing as this new album has some great artwork and was produced by none other than Joe Clayton of Pijn cough who also produced our album cough, I thought now was as good a time to try them out as any. And guess what, it’s great.

Purity Ring – Better Off Alone

My girlfriend keeps playing the video of a hamster dancing with a water bottle to the original track by Alice Deejay, and so I was reminded of Purity Ring’s refreshed version from last year which is a vibe.

Alexisonfire – Young Cardinals

A real blast from the past this one. I haven’t listened to Alexisonfire for a few years but was brought back to it after casually being reminded of City and Colour, the solo project of vocalist guitarist, Dallas Green. A half hour later and I’m up to my eyeballs in some of the best post-hardcore to ever get released. This track was a highlight for me.

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Luke – Drums

Nightwish – Dark Chest of Wonder

The first track off the Once album. What a fantastic way to kick off an album. Heavy riffs, catchy riffs, epic orchestration, solid backbeats, sing-along chanty bits, there’s just so much energy!

Turisas – Midnight Sunrise

Probably one of Turisas’ faster songs, making it a slightly more perilous jig around a drinks-laden tavern table on the dawn of battle. But oh boy is it fun.

Fleshgod Apocalypse – The Betrayal

What happens when Fleshgod try to write a ballad? Well it still ends up heavier and faster than most ballads but the orchestrations are lovely.

Gojira – New Found

Gojira released a new album and I am on it! I haven’t decided on favourite tracks from the album yet but this hits hard. I want to mosh to this in a field with all of you ❤

Owane – Born In Space

It Grooves! A nice chill, slow start, suddenly develops into jazzy, syncopated madness. It’s great, and oh so musical.

Monthly Playlist: April 2021

Another month, another slab of music and verbiage that we’ve been listening to. Check out the playlist below and read on for our thoughts this month.

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Nick – Guitar

Five the Hierophant – Berceuse (For Magnetic Sleep)

Is this the sweetest bass line I’ve ever heard? To answer that question one must first ask how we define the sweetness of any given bass line. I don’t really know the answer to that question unfortunately, but they play the same bass line for the entire track and it’s always disappointing when it ends, so there. Seriously though this is from such a great album and it’s in serious contention for my aoty list, it should be in yours if you like post-metal with lots of jazz in it. beemovieyoulikejazz.gif

Respire – Bound

Urgh, this is the band that I never knew I needed to hear and they’re the main contributing factor to me pushing for more orchestral instrumentation in future Ba’al tracks. As with many people, I heard Black Line last year and lost my shit over how good it was, so colour me ecstatic that they already had more material for me to lose my shit over. If you ever wondered if post-metal would sound better with a trumpet, the answer is a resounding yes.

Allan Holdsworth – Fred

Honestly I’ve never had that much interest in listening to guitar virtuosity. Maybe it’s because I’m quite unmotivated by nature so I’ve never had the urge to try and replicate that kind of fretboard wankery because I just couldn’t be arsed committing to the level of practice required, even though I wish I could, which says a lot more about me than I’d like it to. Anyway, as I’ve got older I’ve learned to appreciate extremely complex music without it being a reminder of my own deficiencies, so here’s 10 minutes of jazz-fusion from the king of obscure guitar scales. Enjoy.

Nothing – Catch a Fade

A lot of people didn’t like this album but I thought it was pretty damn great. Lovely waves of fuzzy shoegaze guitars and flowery vocals make for some extremely chilled vibes. Yeah it’s not particularly groundbreaking, but you know what they say about things that aren’t broken.

Yob – Atma

Last night I was reminded of just how heavy this album is. I’m usually fairly certain of the direction I want Ba’al to take in the future, but sometimes I hear something like this and I just want to grow my hair, consume some narcotics, and play unrelenting sludge in this vein.

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Richard – Bass

Steven Wilson – King Ghost

My thoughts on the new SW album are currently mixed, but this is an undeniable banger. Headline: 53-year-old prog rock musician does a convincing impression of Grimes, with a dash of Kid A-era Radiohead weirdness and a phat beat.

Death Grips – Culture Shock

I’ve been using my government approved walks recently as a chance to listen to more hip-hop, a genre that I love but struggle to find time to listen to enough of, largely due to the density of lyrics making it off-putting when working or doing anything else that involves my concentration. As such, I listened to Exmilitary for the first time in probably about 5 years recently and remembered that the reason it brought Death Grips notoriety is because it is flipping excellent. (Note – subsequently found out that Exmilitary isn’t on Spotify, which is a crime, so on the playlist I’ve replaced it with another one of my fave DG songs).

Jam Baxter & Ed Scissor – Sink

I’m very glad to have finally got round to this slice of dark but polished underground UK rap recently. Ed Scissor is a top tier MC in my books, and the pairing of flows here is stellar.

Slow Crush – Drift

Not much to say about this – it’s just lush, dense and heavy shoegaze, and it’s great.

The Streets – Who’s Got the Bag? (21st June)

A deeply stupid song, elevated to legendary status by the virtue of having been released by the absolute British institution that is Mike Skinner. An anthem for our times.

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Luke – Drums

Polyphia – Bad

Yes, it grooves. This song has the badass attitude found in rap tracks, but this is entirely guitars, bass and drums. If you manage to not bob your head while listening you probably need to see a doctor or something. (I am not a medical professional)

Dream Theater – Take The Time

A true masterpiece of a Dream Theater song. It starts off building up a polyrhythm layer by layer which leads into a metal riff, then into solos with a good ballad-y section followed by more crazier solos. All this but they still fit in a chorus which you will want to sing a long to. AND they make it all sound musically coherent… WHAT?!?!

Periphery – Lune

Do you feel the love? Yes I feel the love! This is the song they closed with the last time I saw them live and I was singing along at the top of my terrible singing voice. It’s full of energy and emotion, and the way the song evolves and develops just draws you in. Lovely.

Skyharbor – Temptress

This song is clearly the track of this album where they let their rage out. The guitars have a spacious syncopted chugging riff reminiscent of some Meshuggah tracks. Meanwhile the drums are grooving hard with some maniacal vocal gibberish on top. Add some slappy bass in and this track has some DIRTY energy. Give me more!

Between the Buried and Me – Lay Your Ghosts to Rest

These guys are honestly on the next astral plane of musicianship. The way they move through time signatures, polyrhythms and different musical styles all while making beautiful coherent music is phenomenal and this track is a great example of that.

Monthly Playlist: March 2021

It’s now a year since we were in the studio recording Ellipsism, which is, quite frankly, insane. Here are some of the tracks we’ve been staving off the insanity with this month.

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Nick – Guitar

Princess Thailand – Sonar

These are a really great post-punk/noise band from France. Their album And We Shine would have easily made my top 5 of last year, if only I’d heard it last year. If I can recommend any band for darker music lovers, it is these.

Boston Marriage – Know You Were

Damn this is one of the nicest sounding dream pop tracks I’ve ever heard. Gorgeous dual-vocals and soothing, tight production make this such a powerful and bittersweet sounding track. These are a pretty new band as well, so I’m looking forward to them progressing, not that they need to progress to sound amazing.

Show Me A Dinosaur – Sunflower

These are a really great blackgaze/post-black metal/Deafalcesteaven style band from St. Petersburg. Their latest album Plantgazer captures the sound of “gazing at house plants day in day out and trying to figure out answers to the many questions this new world has given rise to”. Having spent close to a year doing almost exactly that, I wish I’d been able to listen to this album sooner.

Arlo Parks – Too Good

Appropriately titled, this track is one of the many feel good vibes from her album, which is similarly chock full of wholesomeness and is indeed too good for my words to do justice to. Debut of the year anybody?

Mogwai – Ritchie Sacramento

Partly due to a slightly intimidating discography of what I thought would be an awful lot of post-rock, I’ve often glossed over Mogwai. I really enjoyed this album though and it may be the impetus to explore them more. This track really stands out as a gooey, grungey, power pop track, though I must say I feel like I’m destined for disappointment if the rest of their catalogue doesn’t sound like this.

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Richard – Bass

Fightstar – Palahniuk’s Laughter

As a child of Busted’s heyday, of course I grew up with a strange and mainly morbidly curious interest in Charlie’s ‘serious’ band. That interest didn’t get me very far, and as a teen I remember obsessively listening to precisely four early Fighstar tracks. A few weeks ago, I inexplicably had the urge to go back and rinse that same handful of songs again and remind myself that Mr Simpson deserved so much more success for his genuinely pretty unique voice. Yes, I did follow this nostalgia binge by falling down a hole of Busted videos. Yes, I agree, their reunion tracks are better than you’d expect.

Bardspec – Bone

This is Ivar Bjornson from Enslaved’s electronic project with Steve Austin from Today is the Day. I saw Ivar do it live a few years back at a mega Enslaved/Wardruna weekend in London, but it’s taken me until now to give the album the time it deserves. It’s part dance music, part ambient but with plenty of guitar too and a strangely hypnotic folk feel that is hard to put your finger on.

Urfaust – Trail of the Conscience of the Dead

Sticking with the long tracks, this entrancing, repetitive and doomy mantra, complete with a monastic vocal and some gorgeous strings, is just one example of the greatness of this deeply atmospheric sort-of-black-metal band I’ve been getting into of late.

Olivier Orand – Hours

Previously known as Hol Baumann, Olivier Orand trades in semi-psychedelic downtempo electronic music. It’s equally good to chill or groove to, and is infectious as hell. Good vibes.

Daft Punk – Crescendolls

I had to push another track out of this final position to honour the recent, premature departure of the French robots. Daft Punk were a hugely important act for me during my early 20s, when my music tastes were expanding at a rate I could hardly keep up with. Discovery is an untouchable album of bangers, and if this song doesn’t get you moving then I strongly suspect that you might be deceased.

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Luke – Drums

Sleep Token – Levitate

Starting with a nice unsuspecting atmosphere at lovely vocals, this song evolves into a high energy, heavy hitting groove fest!

Bleating Apocalypse – Corporate Buffet

From the bands latest EP, this song is a balance of heavy metal and corporate hold music. Admittedly there are some familiar faces here, but I assure you that the bias towards this band is only minimal.

Periphery – Have a Blast

Easily my favourite song from Periphery 2. I find it to be a great example of orchestral backed djent with melodic riffs supported by chugging guitar patterns and solid drums. It’s just too good.

Project Mishram – Nivaasa

What genre even is this?! Mishram blew me away with their mix of Indian musical styles mixed with djent. This song takes that idea but adds jazz, calypso and god knows what else… But oh boi is it good stuff!

Sungazer – Sequence Start

More commonly heard in Adam Neeley’s YouTube videos, this short song mixes bass shredding with Mario-style synths on top of a fast paced quintuplet drum beat. Yes, it does indeed groove!

Monthly Playlist: February 2021

We’re back on our usual monthly business, with some tracks we’ve been listening to recently and words to accompany them. Let’s face it, there’s not a lot else to do, is there.

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Nick – Guitar

Ashnikko – Slumber Party (feat. Princess Nokia)

I remember hearing about Ashnikko ages ago and since then she’s been hovering around my list of artists to listen to and now it seems she’s kinda massive so it was about time I listened to her. Her new mixtape is exactly the kind of neon-stroke-pastel pop/hip-hop that I dig so I’m gonna have to explore her discography. The production is super sugary, the lyrics are witty and fun (perfectly suitable for your conservative grandparents), and my word isn’t it just catchy AF.

SOPHIE – BIPP

Rest in power one of the most talented and forward thinking producers of our time. One of the most iconic instances of an electronic producer whose music you can recognise immediately whether it was her solo work or her work with artists like Arca, Kim Petras or Charli XCX, her eclectic electric touch will be missed. I’ve gone with a classic in the form of Bipp which was for me, and many others, the first track I ever heard.

Chthonic – Legacy of the Seediq

There is a riff in this song that is a solid 9/10 riff and it would have been a 10/10 riff if they’d put a hecking ‘blegh’ at the beginning, but they didn’t and I’ve become so accustomed to doing it myself that I often forget there wasn’t one in the first place. Brilliant song from a brilliant album.

Rachika Nayar – The Trembling of Glass

Music, it seems, has no limits to how it can vary, Rachika Nayar being yet another artist that composes and manipulates sound in such a way that I’ve never heard before. Comparisons to other artists are truly futile in this case, but it’s the sound of an endless, glistening cave of jewels blanketed by a calming sea, or like drowning in a bathtub full of popping candy and crack, I don’t know.

Vjuga – Rotten: Godforsaken

These are a Russian band that I just discovered on Bandcamp because their album cover looks like something Katatonia would release. Doesn’t sound much like Katatonia really, in fact it doesn’t really sound like any band. There’s a really unique balance of grungy shoegaze elements and blackened doom elements that work wonderfully together. Very good, very cool, very beautiful, I like it.

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Richard – Bass

Oneohtrix Point Never – Sleep Dealer

Finally spending some long overdue time checking out OPN, specifically his landmark album Replica. It’s equal parts uncomfortably glitchy and soothingly ambient, which makes for a wonderfully unsettling vibe that really seeps deep into your brain in a way I am more than happy to accommodate.

Harvestman – Levitation

Harvestman is Steve Von Till from Neurosis’ drone/folk/psych project, and it’s a sound that suits him and his fatherly voice down to the ground. This track is built on a thrumming wash of distant heavy guitars that filter through such a dense prism of atmosphere and effects that it all comes together somewhere between Jesu and Nadja.

Periphery – Ragnarok

Since Luke joined the band as a third member who likes Periphery, I feel I can finally be open about how much I enjoy their first two albums in particular – moreso than pretty much any other djent I know. Spencer Sotelo’s vocals get smeared in all corners of the internet, but if you can listen to this song and honestly tell me you don’t think he’s insanely talented then I’m afraid you and I are done professionally. Stellar stuff.

The Knife – Neverland

The Silent Shout album has been on constant rotation in my car on the weekly trips to the shops and it’s made the whole ordeal a much more palatable one. ‘Neverland’ is an unrepentant banger, filled with Karin Dreijer’s (aka Fever Ray) genderfluid playfulness with vocal pitch-shifting and all-round unique stylings.

Substance – Countdown

Substance’s 2019 EP of Berlin techno Rise and Shine is a straight powerhouse of clattering rhythms, minimalist progressions and a dark, industrial audio aesthetic. Can I swap “Working From Home” with “Vibing From Berghain”, please?

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Luke – Drums

Strapping Young Lad – All Hail the New Flesh

When I got into SYL I clearly missed out on getting the City album. This has recently been remedied and holy moly is it another powerhouse of a Devvy album! This song in particular demonstrates incredible talent and musicianship with Gene Hoglan absolutely killing on the drums as per…. This is an absolute belter of a song and the chorus is just so fun to sing along to.

Vola – Straight Lines

This song was released on YouTube an hour before I’m writing this, but I love this band and this song continues to fuel that even though I haven’t completely taken it all in yet. The gaps between the verse vocal lines create such tension while the underlying groove keeps persisting and it just draws me in wanting more. And then the chorus is beautiful with lovely harmonies. It pleases my heart

Humanity’s Last Breath – Dehumanize

It slaps, need I say more? This is their last teaser before the album release in a week and boy oh boy do they have my interest. This isn’t beautiful like VOLA, it is just filth. Lovely groovy filth. I need to headbang to this in a field of sweaty men. What’s the tempo? Oh it slowed again? SIIIIIIIICK

Devin Townsend – Borderlands

I have a good life, and this is a great song. I’ve recently been listening to this a lot more in a lot more detail and really appreciating the nuanced layers of orchestration that make this so incredible. Devin has an amazing ability to create soundscapes which capture the mind and this is a wonderful demonstration of that.

Liquid Tension Experiment – The Passage Of Time

They’re back! And they have not changed. This song sounds just like the prog rock/metal shreddy goodness that we’ve come to know and love. To me the song does sound a lot like the stuff they’ve done in the past, but I suppose when you’ve not released anything in a long time you have to reassure the existing audience that you’re still exactly who they remember you to be, and this absolutely does that. There’s the classic Rudess keyboards, Portnoy Drums, Petrucci guitars and Levin Bass that interweave with solos and rich chord progressions in such a musical way.

Albums of the Year 2020

Well, what a year that was… Trying for all, but at least music is always there for us. We’ve picked some of our personal favourites from 2020 below, with a track from each in the Spotify playlist, too. Please enjoy this – it was painful.

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Nick – Guitar

It was very considerate of music to continue being excellent in spite of that bug that’s been going round. I managed quite a lot of new albums this year and found making this list as difficult as ever. As such this isn’t a definitive top 10 for me, and many are interchangeable with others that I haven’t mentioned, but I wanted to include some albums that maybe didn’t get as much recognition as they deserved alongside some albums which definitely got plenty of recognition.

10. Respire – Black Line

Respire – 'Black Line'

A late cat thrown amongst the pigeons. Having pretty much decided on the ten albums I wanted to talk about, I then listened to this album in mid-December and had to reconsider my decision. This is what post-metal is all about. It sounds like absolutely nothing else, the use of orchestral instrumentation is inspired and a driving aspect of their songwriting, and the emotional rawness is truly biting. A one of a kind album.

9. Loathe – I Let It In And It Took Everything

Loathe: I Let It In and It Took Everything Album Review | Pitchfork

Without doubt my most repeated album of the year. This record combines the best of noisy prog-metalcore and passive, post-Deftones daydreaming. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the future belongs to bands like this, and I will be dumbfounded if we don’t see them at forefront of modern metal in years to come.

8. Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now

Charli XCX: How I'm Feeling Now – Review Corner

It’s like she somehow distilled the very essence of insomnia and cabin fever into a neon-pop wonderland. I’ve loved everything Charli has released since Pop2 and as far as I’m concerned, she is going from strength to strength.

7. clipping. – Visions of Bodies Being Burned

clipping.: Visions of Bodies Being Burned Album Review | Pitchfork

I listened to this album twice in a row and I think I’m going to go and listen to it now. In fact I think I’ve listened to this album nearly every time I’ve been reminded of its existence. Their brand of experimental hip-hop is dark, scary, and magnetically illustrative, and each track feels like you’re trapped in a short horror film.

6. Envy – The Fallen Crimson

The Fallen Crimson | Envy

This is an album that brought me back to emo. Emotionally devastating, The Fallen Crimson is a panoramic collection of angst, wistful rumination, aggressive noise, and some of the best riffs to come out of this sordid year.

5. Motorpsycho – The All Is One

All Is One: Amazon.co.uk: Music

What a journey this album is. It truly fits the stereotype of psychedelic prog that rapidly gets out of hand to the point at which you don’t know how long you’ve been listening to it or indeed what day it is. I mean that in the best possible way. Having only begun listening to this band earlier this year, I was simultaneously ecstatic and horrified to discover how much excellent music this band has released that I’m now going to have to listen to. Having too much good music really is the best problem one can have.

4. Relic Point – Self Punishment

Oh boy, if someone asked me what an amalgamation of Primitive Man and Car Bomb would sound like I couldn’t tell them, but I would want to know, and now I do know, and it is good.

3. Demersal – Less

My chaotic, sludgy screamo album of the year. It’s the sound of grief in a hornets nest. It’s the sound of death made of out of a thousand broken bottles. It makes me feel cold and empty and like I want to attack things with sandpaper.

2. Run The Jewels – RTJ4

Run The Jewels - RTJ4 Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

What can I say about this album that hasn’t already been said? This is a defining album, perhaps THE defining album of modern solidarity. History will remember it as a phenomenal hip-hop album, and a tragic commentary on 21st century racism.

1. Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi

Oranssi Pazuzu, “Mestarin Kynsi” | Bandcamp Daily

I echo the sentiment I previously made regarding the Motorpsycho album. By the end I had little memory of the past hour beyond a hazy black void that felt like the fabric of the universe was being fed through a paper shredder. But again, in a good way.

richard-influences

Richard – Bass

In 2020 I listened to 77 new albums, which is a record for me and one I’m pretty proud of, especially as someone who doesn’t really use streaming services. Of that number, there are honestly about 30 that could have made my top ten, but the ones that came closest were Kelly Lee Owens, Craven Faults, Sunken, Purity Ring, Calligram, Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, Sons of a Wanted Man, Hum, Ocoeur, naisian and Bosphorous. Yes, I am aware that list itself is more than ten – I am an indecisive bastard.

10. Julianna Barwick – Healing is a Miracle

Julianna Barwick: Healing Is a Miracle Album Review | Pitchfork

The first of several artists in my top ten who were actually new to me in 2020 entirely, Barwick’s trade is in reverb-soaked, ambient-adjacent chamber folk, and this new album is rife with gorgeous atmosphere and an enveloping lushness that is truly beautiful. There are even a few electronic beats this time round, and it’s all otherworldly.

9. clipping. – Visions of Bodies Being Burned

clipping.: Visions of Bodies Being Burned Album Review | Pitchfork

clipping. are now an unstoppable force in experimental hip-hop, and their rising status among music fans of all stripes could hardly be more deserved. Probably more abrasive and built on more disturbing and noisy samples than 2019’s equally brilliant outing, this is hip-hop pushed to its outer limits whilst still heaping on loads of dark grooves and sick flows.

8. Wren – Groundswells

GROUNDSWELLS | Wren

Despite being aware of them for ages, 2020 was the first year I invested any time into listening to Wren, following our gig with them in January and then them signing with our friends Gizeh Records. Their sound comes largely from the doomiest pages of the Cult of Luna post metal playbook, but they’re driven forwards by powerful (and audible) basslines and inventive drumming, plus a deadly crush of tone.

7. A.A. Williams – Forever Blue

Forever Blue | A.A. Williams

Whilst I enjoyed the 2019 self-titled EP, this album really surprised me with how much I loved it. It takes the despondent singer-songwriter-meets-shoegazey-post-rock vibe from that first release and adds some climactic moments of truly dense metal weight, some subtle Radiohead-like moments of sparse and beguiling melody, and wraps it all up with a wonderful ear for a downbeat but catchy hook.

6. Vile Creature – Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!

Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! | Vile Creature

Vile Creature are another band I took a long overdue first dive into during 2020, and even in my limited experience this feels like their crowning achievement to date. They already had their suffocatingly heavy, tectonic doom groove nailed before this record, but the inclusion of choral vocals in the latter half and more guitar layers than you can shake a stick at lend this a much more majestic and even liturgical feel.

5. Grimes – Miss Anthropocene

Miss Anthropocene - Wikipedia

Combining the more overtly pop-focused sounds of the still admittedly offbeat Art Angels album and reintroducing more of the trademark idiosyncrasies from her previous work, Grimes managed to put out one of her finest works whilst also taking up a lot of space in the music press for many reasons over the course of the year. The biggest bangers here have her cleanest production yet, but it’s all shot through with endearing darkness and a sense of the futility of fighting our technocratic future.

4. Kairon; IRSE! – Polysomn

KAIRON; IRSE! Polysomn reviews

Spoiler: the Oranssi Pazuzu camp really knocked it out of the park in 2020. Kairon; IRSE!, their prog/psych/shoegaze offshoot, seemed to come back to earth at least little bit after the exuberant 70s worship of their previous album. The heavier, more dense guitar layers from their earlier work are back, combining with some continuing joyful experimentation and a dizzying world of sound that is all their own.

3. Svalbard – When I Die, Will I Get Better?

ALBUM REVIEW: When I Die, Will I Get Better? - Svalbard - Distorted Sound  Magazine

Svalbard are another band I shamefully only paid proper attention to in 2020, despite having seen them live twice at festivals – I know, what was I thinking? Still based in the mixed hardcore, black metal and post metal elements they were already known for, this new album sees a marked increase in dreamy, melodic post rock passages a-la Alcest, which suits them perfectly and adds an almost regal quality to these already powerful songs. Add that to a reliably direct and wholly justified lyrical vitriol towards misogyny and other social injustice and you have a guaranteed winner that will get you riled for all the right reasons.

2. Oranssi Pazuzu – Mestarin Kynsi

Oranssi Pazuzu, “Mestarin Kynsi” | Bandcamp Daily

A lot has been said about this album since it’s release, but it’s all true – it really is that good. They’ve pushed all their psychedelic and kraut-y tendencies to new extremes and their patented vortex of swirling black metal and bad trip vibes has never been so compelling.

1. Farer – Monad

Monad | Farer | Tartarus Records

A very late surprise discovery for me, thanks to a post from our friends at 9hz, I only listened to this album just before Christmas when I thought I had my list near completion. After two spins, however, this shook me to the core and felt custom made for me. With no guitars and two basses, this is a slow motion, molten creation of low-end rumble, filthy noise, and building-levelling riffs. Topped off with a harrowing shriek, it’s like someone injected Amenra with heroin and stole all their ‘clean’ channel switches. Utterly devastating and a new favourite band.

luke-influences

Luke – Drums

So my list might be a bit different to Nick and Richard’s because after going through my music I can only find 7 albums which I’ve listened to which came out this year, so clearly I need to up my game next year but I still probably won’t! I’ve given a nice big blurb for the top 3 and then a smaller bleugh for the other 4. ENJOY!

7. Nightwish – Human. :||: Nature

Album: Nightwish – Human II: Nature

I do have a soft spot for Nightwish and orchestral music in general and this was their release this year. It doesn’t quite tickle the spot that Imaginareum, Dark Passion Play, or Endless Forms Most Beautiful did, but it is still a beautifully composed bit of orchestral metal.

6. Ensiferum – Thalassic

Ensiferum reveals details for new album, 'Thalassic' | Metal Blade Records

This is a great album which honestly I haven’t given the amount of time it deserves. Ensiferum have come back with an absolute belter of heavy, Finnish Folk metal.

5. Jack Gardiner – Escapades

Escapades | Jack Gardiner

Similar to Plini this is another vituosic guitar player writing groovy, funky, instrumental tracks which I am just totally down with.

4. Plini – Impulse Voices

Impulse Voices | Plini

This album is relatively new for me so I’m still absorbing it but Plini is just incredible and this album continues to prove it.

3. Arch Echo – Story I

Story I | Arch Echo

Arch Echo also happen to be one of the last bands I saw live in the ‘before time’…. and over lockdown I even bagged myself a spot on one of the drummers masterclass sessions! But to get to the point: this EP is just what I’d expect from Arch Echo. Another amazing selection of instrumental, djenty, groovy, funky-ass tracks (not to be confused with funky ass-tracks). This band have never disappointed me since I discovered them at TechFest many years ago now and immediately fell in love with them. Their music, talent, joy, and energy is so palpable and I just can’t get enough of it.

2. Dirty Loops – Phoenix

Dirty Loops - "Phoenix"

Again, this band have come up for me in the Ba’al monthly musings very frequently, and deservingly. With this EP the trio yet again manage to blow my mind with musicianship and pure talent. In particular, the track “World on Fire” has what I would be confident to describe as the best bass solo I’ve ever heard in a song. But the other aspects of the music are by no means overshadowed by this, and they all pull together to create the incredible jazz, fusion, pop sound that just will not let you be sad!

1. Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion

Spirituality and Distortion | Igorrr

Honestly I’ve listened through this album so much and know it so well by now that I was shocked to be reminded that it only came out this March. I’ve also been blabbering on about it on the Ba’al Monthly listenings! But this album is such an amazing musical journey through varying tones, timbres, and time signatures. For me it contains some of the best elements of djent, orchestral, electronic, operatic, and progressive music in a continuously evolving and flowing masterpiece.

Monthly Playlist: December 2020

Before this strange year comes to a close, we thought we’d put together one more playlist showing what some of us have been listening to recently. Check out our picks on the Spotify playlist and our words below.

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Nick – Guitar

Sleep Token – The Night Does Not Belong To God

This is a case of immediately falling in love with a newfound band. Vessel’s voice is one of the best in modern metal and focussing everything around that is a masterstroke. The only problem is that I won’t be truly satisfied until I know their identities.

Vola – Head Mounted Sideways

Urgh, this is such a tank of a song and it’s got everything that I already love about VOLA. The production pushes this track beyond anything they’ve already done, the chorus is huge but we really need to talk about the frankly scandalous breakdown at the end. That kind of filth should not be allowed without adult supervision.

Loyle Carner – Yesterday

Loyle is the wholesome vibe that 2020 so desperately needs. The production on this is wonderful and classy, and Loyle is on top of his flow game, I just want more. The prospect of more music in the future is getting me through this shitting pandemic.

Clown Core – Flat Earth

I don’t think there’s anything that I can really say about this that is even slightly representative of the intangible nature of Clown Core. They make funny noises and I like it.

Chiasmata – Foreboding

These sound like a fully formed prog-metal band on a relatively big label, and the fact they haven’t yet attained that level of success is somewhat baffling to me. They have all the qualities of big names in this style so I won’t be the least bit surprised if they do receive the recognition they deserve. It doth djent.

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Richard – Bass

Bring Me The Horizon – Teardrops

Having hated BMTH on principle as a teen, I came full circle last year and absolutely loved Amo, the first album of theirs I invested any time into. Now they’ve pushed things even further, and alongside the pop and electronic elements, they now have no shame in fully embracing the Linkin Park sound of old. Rather than a cheap rip off, it feels like true reverence for a sound very close to my heart and I can’t get enough.

Black Wreath – The Black Holes of Your Mind

Funereal doom metal from the guy behind neofolk act Of The Wand and the Moon. Black Wreath’s one and only album is a heady mix of crushingly emotive riffs and strangely catchy sadboi hooks and synths.

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou – Monolith

I was looking forward to this collaborative release for a long time, as I love ERR and find that Thou are at their best when working with other leftfield artists. It’s like the two acts not only combined their disparate styles, but also decided to pretend to be a 90s grunge band from Seattle, and it’s everything I hoped it would be.

Remember – ストリップの明るいライト Bright Lights of the Strip

Now many years into exploring the ambient end of vaporwave music, this album by Remember is the closest in spirit to the untouchable urban isolation encapsulated by genre kings 2814. Top tier atmosphere.

Strapping Young Lad – All Hail the New Flesh

After listening to Devin Townsend break down his albums one by one in massive detail on his podcast over this year, I’ve been on a massive SYL binge, reminding myself that at their best, this band were so fucking good that it is frightening.

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Luke – Drums

Turisas – Stand Up and Fight

Nice bit of battle metal this month! Definitely listened to Turisas a fair bit this month and this track is a solid sing-a-long classic with some nice drums to jam along with.

Judas Priest – Painkiller

Oldie, goldie, bloody hell it’s fun to jam to-ie. Been listening to a fair bit of the old Priest this month too, with this track being most memorable. It shouldn’t need much introduction, but this song is a powerhouse of shredding guitars, catchy riffs, dazzling drums, and amazing vocals.

Dirty Loops – World on Fire

This incredible funky 3-piece has been releasing a bunch of new singles and this stands out as a completely jaw dropping display of technical and musical ability. The intro drum fill is completely nuts. The bass riffs are amazingly mad, but nothing compared to the bass solo. And the vocalist/keyboard player provides beautiful harmonies and melodies. And from the music video – is the bassist really using all of those mics?

Jack Gardiner – 1993

Here’s a lovely instrumental track by a super talented guitar player. The guitar groove, pulsing atmosphere and funky backbeat are such an enticing combination. Ooooh yeah baby.

Snoop Dog – The Just Eat song

Okay hear me out…. I keep getting played this advert on YouTube and honestly this track has been stuck in my head more than anything else this month. That said, the last Chinese I got from Just Eat could be convicted for crimes against food…

Gear Talk: Pedals – Nick’s Pedalboard

Finally we come to the end of our current run of gear posts, and we turn to the pedals currently on Nick’s board and how they came to be used on Ellipsism. Oh, and which ones he broke, obviously.

(Note from Richard: Please ignore the bit where he says he’s not good at guitar solos – he’s lying.)

Nordell Audio Power Core

Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner

Electro-Harmonix Micro Pog

Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive

Electro-Harmonix Small Stone

Dunlop Crybaby Wah

Boss DD-500 Delay

X-Vive Maxverb

Pro Co Rat

Those of you who read my entry in our amp episodes will already be aware of my tendency to break my equipment, and pedals are no different.

Starting with tuners, I’d been using a Behringer pedal which was a clone of the reliable old Boss TU series, and it was serviceable, if flimsy, contraption. So flimsy in fact, that it fully disintegrated in my hand, moments before our set at a gig in Manchester, purely under the stress of my superhuman strength and the Velcro with which it was attached to my board. Naturally, it was now an unsalvageable handful of detritus, so I replaced it with an aforementioned Boss TU-3, which has been reliable ever since. Nice shade of white too.

Next in my chain is the Elecro-Harmonix Micro-Pog. I remember in the early days of Ba’al, our old guitarist Craig found one of these in our old practice room (I think he actually claimed it and may still have it) and the sound blew me away. I’ve always loved that lower octave sound, it adds so much girth to big, monophonic, bottom string riffs and I’ve never heard a pedal do it this well. Over time I’ve come to appreciate the upper octave setting more and more as well, especially as a little organ simulator. In truth, I actually barely used this on Ellipsism, mostly just as a means of adding ‘umph’ to some of the muddiest riffs. Nice shade of red too.

So, the majority of my distortion sounds come from the overdrive channel of my JCM which is, by all accounts, excellent. I use the SD-1 (which I bought off Tom for the price of a bus ticket) as more of a tube screamer, adding a little more frostbite to my tone which allows it to cut to through a little more. I rarely have the drive setting higher than 1, so the effect is subtle but definitely audible. It’s also great to use as a drive by itself to give clean chordy passages some grungy emo vibes as well, there are a couple of moments on the album that I made use of this, but not many. Nice shade of yellow too.

Now then, there’s a running joke between myself and Richard – the only remaining member who remembers the early days of Ba’al in which I would use a Joyo phase pedal on basically every track. Often more than once. Since replacing the Joyo (which obviously broke) with the EHX Small Stone, I’ve toned that tendency down somewhat. That being said, I simply cannot understate the satisfaction I get out of whacking this baby on during the second rotation of a beatdown style passage to give it some wub. You can hear it in action in particular towards the end of ‘Jouska’. Nice shade of orange too.

The crybaby wah is actually the first pedal I ever got, as a present from my dad. This was in my secondary school days when I wanted to do shredding guitar solos with the wind blowing my long hair through the air, like a milkmaid’s frock on a washing line. Those days are behind me though. I have short hair now, and guitar solos have lost a lot of appeal to me (mostly because I’m not that good at them). Nevertheless this pedal has a short feature in one short section in ‘Rosalia’, which is the closest thing you’ll get to a guitar solo you’ll get from me from now on. Nice shade of black too.

Now we’re talking. I bought the Boss DD-500 only a short time before we recorded Ellipsism, so my knowledge of the pedal’s capacities were sadly somewhat limited. In the time since however, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring this pedal and I have to say it’s my favourite that I own. The sheer scope for effects you can get out of this thing are bewildering. I bought it off a guy in France who’s saved effects banks are just mind boggling and I’m enjoying getting some bonkers, and beautiful, sounds out of the thing. Expect a lot more trippy delay weirdness on whatever we record next. Nice shade of cream too.

Ah yes, the Maxverb was an emergency purchase before a gig in which I was using a backup amp which didn’t have a built in reverb (yeah my usual amp broke, who saw that coming?). This thing has 3 settings; plate, spring, and hall. I’ve only ever used the hall setting because I simply don’t like the other 2, but for big washy reverb, it does the trick very nicely. As an added level of nonsense, the LED works approximately 4% of the time, so I have to constantly remember if it’s on or not, which is more difficult that you might think. I should really just buy another, better reverb pedal really. Regardless, I use reverb and delay an awful lot on this album. Most clean sections have one or both, all my lead parts use one or both, and I often use them to give the washy blackgaze sections more g a z e. Nice shade of blue too.

The Rat doesn’t normally sit on my board that much anymore since I started using the amp gain, but I do often like to use it in the studio for some of the bigger and more shrieky doom sections where there doesn’t need to be that much precision. It’s a raucous little thing, which I may use more in the future. Nice shade of black too.

And that’s my board. I used a few pedals that belong to Joe Clayton to add some little inflections to the album, but I largely stick to a fairly limited pool of sounds on this album.

-Nick

Gear Talk: Pedals – Richard’s Pedalboard

To wrap up our gear chat for the time being, before we release our debut album next week, we thought we’d talk through Richard and Nick’s pedal set ups that were used for the writing and recording of the record. First up it’s Richard’s fairly chaotic, multi-purpose board used for the bass and even some of the viola…

Caline 5 Power Supply

Boss TU-3

Mooer Pure Octave

Boss LS-2

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

Vox Trike

Boss ODB-3

EHX Key9

Mooer Shimverb

Boss DD3

Starting at the start of the chain… I actually picked up the TU-3 very recently, as my old Behringer tuner has always been a bit hit-and-miss with actually picking up my lowest string first time. We used Nick’s TU-3 in the studio and it had no trouble, so I grabbed one second hand post-haste.

The little brown Pure Octave pedal has a lot packed into such a small unit. You can go 1 or 2 octaves in each direction, and a little knob lets you pick any combination of -1, -2, +1 and +2 at the same time. On Ellipsism I just use the standard -1 setting on one of my higher bass lines at the end of ‘Long Live’, but I’ve been messing around with getting some weirder sounds out of the other settings more recently.

I should say at this point that despite the dusty, tangled mess that my board often is, it’s laid out the way that it is for the purely practical reason that I play bass in Ba’al and guitar in another band, and I don’t want to have to keep switching things around every week for practice. This board serves both purposes, and as such some of the pedals were obtained primarily for one band/instrument or the other. However, in many cases I’ve found that something I bought for one ends up getting used extensively for both.

The LS-2 line selector is up next, which has two loops of other pedals hooked into it, which I can switch between, making transitions between sounds a hell of a lot easier on the fly, and meaning that I can switch some things on or off in advance of needing them, without the sound being affected until necessary.

Loop A continues along the chain to the bottom left corner with my overdrives and distortion. As you might expect, the Tubescreamer was bought with guitar in mind, and the ODB-3 for bass. The ODB is the basis of my main heavy sound in Ba’al, and is on almost all of the loud parts of the album. This particular one I’ve actually had since I was a teenager first learning bass. I will sometimes throw the Tubescreamer on top of it to boost the frosty high end and cut through a blasting section, particularly if I’m playing in a higher register. This happens a few times on ‘Long Live’ and also ‘An Orchestra of Flies’.

The big orange pedal is a guitar distortion pedal by Vox – the Trike – which I did actually buy second hand in the early days of Ba’al specifically for bass. It has a + and – octave option, but mainly it just causes absolute filth to happen. It’s got an incredibly nasty, buzzing drone quality to it (particularly with the octave up layered subtly in the mix), and when combined with the ODB it can rumble and disgust people for miles around until you tell it to stop. I tend to deploy this secret weapon only in the slowest, most crushing riffs, as well as if I want to get some nasty feedback going. It’s used on the most funereal of the riffs on ‘Jouska’, the intro and outro drones of ‘Father, the Sea, the Moon’, and the noisy outro of ‘Tarred and Feathered’.

Loop B coming from the line selector contains just one pedal: the Electro-Harmonix Key9. This is part of EHX’s stunning range of organ/keyboard emulating pedals, along with the likes of the B9 and the C9. The Key9 focuses on making your instrument sound like one of various keyboards and electric pianos, like the Wurlitzer and Rhodes, plus some other organs and some wildcards, like a pretty hilarious steel drum setting. This was a prize purchase made for my other band, but some of the more textural settings have found their way onto each of the main Ba’al releases thus far. On Ellipsism, the section in the middle of ‘Long Live’ with the odd time signature has me impersonating an organ. It’s in it’s own loop partially so that I can switch from it straight to my overdrives, but also because it creates it’s very own special brand of weird digital noise when not in use. The scrap of yellow tape in the corner reminds my dumb brain that it is in loop B, which has a yellowish LED on the line selector.

Coming out of the line selector entirely, my chain ends with a Mooer Shimverb reverb pedal and a Boss delay, which are used quite sparingly in this band, pretty much just in the drone/ambient parts. The DD3 is there very sparingly on some of the clean sections throughout the album, and Tom also used it some of his cleans when he needed something more simple than his massive arsenal of more complicated delays would allow. The ‘shimmer’ setting on the Shimverb adds an eerie 7th above the note you’re playing (as well as the reverb), and this feature gets its moment during the drone section of ‘Long Live’.

Speaking of that section, you may or may not be able to pick up a few viola lines layered in there. Those were also run through my pedal board, specifically into the Vox Trike, for a scratchy and unnerving sound.

My power supply is a very cheap one that was recommended by my other band, and it does the job with almost enough supplies for all my pedals; technically I’m one short, but thankfully the Boss LS-2 has an extra power output that I use to supply the Shimverb.

You’ll also notice a few extra loose bits and bobs in the top right of the board. These are my emergency gig supplies: spare patch cables for when things go suddenly dead onstage (let’s be honest, I usually keep them on hand for Nick rather than myself); a pair of shitty rubber earplugs in case I forget my normal, fancy ones; a small pack of hairbands in case I forget to bring one and I need to get my sweaty hair out of my face after a set so I can see where I’m loading my gear to. All essential.

-Richard