Albums of the Year 2021

Timely as ever, a few of us have selected our album highlights from last year. As ever, we were spoiled for quality new music and we’re so thankful to every artist who made the year more bearable. A track from each of our picks is included in the Spotify playlist too, for you to get stuck into as you read…

IMG_3781

Chris – Guitar

Every year, I struggle with the pull between listening to new music and going back to my comfort listens – especially given the state of the world, there’s a lot to be said for the warm blanket of an album that you know inside and out. It was tough to populate a top 10 list this year, but that isn’t a reflection on the number of quality releases – more my relative inability to absorb new albums particularly fast! Nevertheless, here are the ten albums that particularly stuck with me this year and soundtracked a tumultuous, terrible, and sometimes triumphant 2021.

10. Panopticon – …And Again Into the Light

And Again Into The Light | Panopticon

Folk and metal, the two great tastes that taste great together. Except, despite my 10-year history in Northern Oak, I’ve always been quite leery of the “mead and wenches” variety of folk metal which favours cheesiness over actually trying to write good songs. Thank fuck, then, for Panopticon – a solo project from Austin Lunn, who mashes together mournful American folk/bluegrass with melodic black metal and does a damn fine job of it. Powerful, relentless and cathartic.

9. Underdark – Our Bodies Burned Bright on Re-Entry

Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry | Underdark

I’d probably class this as more of an EP than an album, at 36 minutes – but quibbling aside, it’s a tumultuous blast of fierce post-black metal with a staunchly antifascist/pro-LGBTQ stance that ticks a lot of my boxes. If I have one criticism it’s that the vocals are mixed a little too low, which means they’re occasionally overpowered by the music – having seen them live earlier in the year I know that vocalist Abi has some serious lungs, so hopefully they’ll address that on future releases.

8. Noctule – Wretched Abyss

Wretched Abyss | Noctule

“Melodic black metal inspired by the videogame Skyrim” feels like the most “me” sentence ever written, and I’m pleased to confirm that this solo album from Serena Cherry of Svalbard absolutely nailed the brief – every track on this release evokes the wintry mountains of Skyrim, wrapped in atmospheric production and peppered with soaring leads. Serena is apparently working on more tracks for a follow-up, which is great news!

7. Maybeshewill – No Feeling is Final

No Feeling Is Final | Maybeshewill | Bird's Robe Records

I wasn’t expecting to get a new Maybeshewill album this year – the last I heard, the band had split up, so this was a delightful surprise. It doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of their previous releases (particularly the extremely post-rock-titled I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone) but it’s still a very well-constructed chunk of ambient post-rock from a band with masterful control over their sound.

6. Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

TRIBULATION | Where the Gloom Becomes Sound

Just scraping into consideration (by virtue of being released in January 2021, which feels like a decade ago and yesterday all at once) is this follow-up to the incredible Down Below – and while it doesn’t quite match up to the previous album, it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Tribulation’s sound is hard to pigeonhole easily – guttural death vocals and some pretty bouncy riffs and melodic guitar lines – but it’s absolutely, 100% my shit.

5. CHVRCHES – Screen Violence

Chvrches: Screen Violence Album Review | Pitchfork

CHVRCHES are probably the most consistent band I know – every album they’ve released has a high number of bangers and is overall very enjoyable. Screen Violence just continues that trend – it doesn’t really stray from their formula, but when the formula works so well, why should it? This was another album that I kept coming back to this year – it falls into the “comfort listening” category for me, and I’m excited to (hopefully) see them live in 2022.

4. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue

Album Review: SPIRITBOX Eternal Blue

If Taylor Swift got into djent, it’d probably sound a bit like this. Delightful pop vocals on top of some big, meaty riffs – crucially, this album doesn’t fall into the trap of recycling tired breakdown after tired breakdown, which is what often turns me off djent. They’re comfortable with melodic riffs that compliment the soaring vocals, and know when to apply light and shade. Now, does anybody have Tay-Tay’s number so I can talk to her about guesting on the next Ba’al album..?

3. Daniel Hart – The Green Knight (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Daniel Hart: The Green Knight - Soundtrack - Milan Records

I listen to a lot of soundtracks (both movie and videogame) because I love the way that music can deepen my appreciation of another piece of media. In the case of The Green Knight, the music was absolutely integral to the whole (spellbinding) experience I had with the film – it complimented the bleak, fantastical landscapes perfectly and suffused the whole thing with an otherworldly medieval vibe. The OST stands alone as a worthwhile listen even if you haven’t watched the movie, which is a rare feat.

2. VOLA – Witness

Witness | VOLA

I’d never heard of VOLA before 2021 – Luke mentioned them in our band chat so I went to check out this album, and was absolutely blown away by it. The main thing that characterises Witness is extremely catchy hooks, both vocally and musically – this is music to sing along to in the car, but with the added frisson of some excellent djent-inspired breakdowns and proggy time signature fuckery. Highly recommended, but be warned, you won’t be able to get the choruses out of your head…

1. Wolves in the Throne Room – Primordial Arcana

Primordial Arcana | WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM

Less ambient and drifting than their previous albums, with a greater sense of urgency and snarl, but without sacrificing the atmosphere – I think Primordial Arcana is my new favourite Wolves album, narrowly beating out the transcendent Celestial Lineage. I decided not to listen to this album until I could sit down with the vinyl and give it my full attention – and then I kept coming back to it throughout the back half of 2021, finding new things to love each time. Listen to this album, journey into the mountains and revel in the magick and majesty of nature.

IMG_5066

Richard – Bass

2021 has been another bumper year for great music. I listened to 75 albums this year, which is a total I’m very pleased with. As ever, a top 10 was an incredible challenge, and I had about 30 that could have made it in… Those that came closest were Hong Kong Express (specifically ‘L.Y.F’ out of the several albums he released this year), Ed Scissor & Lamplighter, Mol, The Hyena Kill, Amenra, Emma Ruth Rundle, Wolves in the Throne Room, Autarkh, Hellish Form and finally the album with which I had the most stupid fun this year: Kurupt FM.

10. Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready

Lingua Ignota - Sinner Get Ready - Vinyl LPx2 – Rough Trade

Stripping away almost all of the industrial/drone/metal elements to her sound this time around, Lingua Ignota continues to make some of the most emotionally punishing and anguished left-field music going. The orchestrations and additional instruments this time around allow for both some of her most beautiful music so far as well as some of the most sinister and disturbing. Listening back to this after the revelations came out about Kristin’s horrifying personal ordeals this past few years, it’s impossible not to be deeply moved and powerfully affected. Not an easy listen.

9. Violet Cold – Empire of Love

Empire Of Love | Violet Cold

As I’ve mentioned here before, this is the album that finally got me properly into Violet Cold and had me exploring his other records, where before I’d been so-so on what I knew. I’d be lying if the blatantly pro-equality and anti-fascist message (shown in the face of great adversity) wasn’t part of the reason I like this album so much, but it’s mainly just the overall euphoric, passionate and uplifting feel to this exploratory and eclectic post-black metal. Earlier this year I was sure this would be top 3 material, but over time I’ve realised I’m not the biggest fan of the first couple of tracks, which feel a bit clunky. The rest is stellar, though.

8. Other Joe – Jealousy Tulip

Jealousy Tulip | Other Joe

Other Joe is an ambient artist I discovered from a BandCamp email a few years back and one who I’ve enjoyed since, but never would have expected to end up in my albums of the year. In truth this was battling it out with Hong Kong Express’ album L.Y.F. for this spot in my top 10, as they both fill similar needs in my listening life: atmospheric, otherworldly, slightly melancholic, nostalgic and urban soundscapes. In the end, Jealousy Tulip won out just because of it’s more varied textures and more forthright beats which lend a slight sense of the sinister to some tracks.

7. Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever Album Review | Pitchfork

There’s a pattern emerging: this is another album I would never have expected to make it to my top 10, but here we are. I enjoyed Billie’s debut in 2019 when it first made waves, but aside from the standout, bass-heavy bangers, I didn’t go back to it too much. On her second outing, there’s a lot more variety and pretty much all of it lands for me. Sure, the aforementioned minimal bass wobbles aren’t there so much this time, but there are plenty of sultry grooves, atmospheric and soulful pop cuts and even a climactic outburst of heartfelt rock. The mid-album spoken word callout to all those who unfairly malign her for her appearance is just the cherry on top that makes Happier Than Ever even greater.

6. Rivers of Nihil – The Work

Album Review: RIVERS OF NIHIL The Work

Whilst I did really enjoy 2018’s tech-death sax-fest Where Owls Know My Name, I never quite fully boarded the hype train and found it a little bit sterile after a while and stopped going back to it. Enter The Work, one of the most bafflingly ambitious releases I heard this year. There’s still plenty of technical brutality (and still a little sax goodness), but this time around there’s also a ton of other stuff going on, ranging from spacey synth noises, classic heavy metal leads, rich ambient textures and everything in between. Describing it accurately is pretty hard as I still don’t feel like I’ve fully got my head around it yet, but what I do know is that it is excellent.

5. Der Weg Einer Freheit – Noktvrn

Album Review: DER WEG EINER FREIHEIT Noktvrn

This is by far the least surprising pick on my list, as I’ve been banging on about my undying love for DWEF since I was put onto them in mid-2019. On Noktvrn, the Germans continue their mastery of wringing immensely powerful atmospheres out of unstoppably powerful, precise and high definition black metal battery. Though it doesn’t quite match up to their previous effort – one of my favourite black metal records of all time – the range on display this time is wider, taking in some electronica, increased clean vocals and some other brief, surprising turns, making it something fresh for the band without sacrificing any of their strengths.

4. Voices – Breaking the Trauma Bond

Breaking the Trauma Bond | Voices

For my penultimate surprise (to myself) for the year, I was taken aback at how much this album got under my skin. Successfully mixing the gothic and melody-focused elements of their last album with a return to the brutality of the stunning London that preceded it, Breaking the Trauma Bond is equal parts infectious hook and savage death metal riffery. Each time I listened to this album I forgot just how many strong moments there are, and how many of the random tunes I’d had in my head in the previous week were from it. Yes, it’s possibly a bit long, but it’s catchy, aggressive and steeped in the band’s unique voice (SEE WHAT I DID THERE).

3. Black Country, New Road – For the First Time

Black Country, New Road: For the first time Album Review | Pitchfork

I’ve spoken about this album at length already, including reviewing it for an online publication, but I still can’t stop adding my voice to the burgeoning critical response this band are getting from all manner of people much cooler than me. Mash up some Slint, Oxbow, Swans, Black Midi and Jewish klezmer music, add a rambling and warbling storyteller up front and wrap it all up into the shape of a band who are young enough to make you want to throw all of your instruments away and give up and you’ll get close to this post-everything collective of musical wizards.

2. BRUIT ≤ – The Machine is Burning and Now Everyone Knows It Could Happen Again

The Machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again | BRUIT  ≤

The final time I’ll say I surprised myself this year is here. After hearing about them from that mind-bogglingly stacked ArcTanGent lineup (god I hope I actually get to go this year), I checked this out and was blown away – post rock almost never grabs me as much as this did on first listen. It’s simultaneously doing what the greats have done before (think the expansive tones of Godspeed! You Black Emperor with some of the bubbling electronics of 65daysofstatic) and doing something that feels totally fresh, all within an absolute cavern of reverb and drenched with passion. The band are strongly anti-Spotify, so they’re not on our playlist, but I urge you to head to their BandCamp and listen to ‘Industry’.

1. Daniel Avery – Together in Static

Together in Static | Daniel Avery

After a lot of complex and affecting melodrama in the top half of my top 10, my number one pick for the year is a much more restrained affair. Though I refrained from making a final call until recently, in my heart of hearts I think I knew this was my AOTY from pretty early on. Known as a DJ of big room tech-house bangers, here Daniel Avery mixes a little of that with a lot of much more minimal and laid-back grooves and beats that hold you in a warm, nostalgic embrace that conjures up all your best emotions without letting you become overwhelmed. It’s unassuming but captivating; warm but emotive. Basically, it’s good.

IMG_4380

Nick – Guitar

10. Ethereal Shroud – Trisagion

Trisagion | Ethereal Shroud

This album would have been higher up my list but unfortunately Richard played bass on it which is obviously extremely uncool, so unfortunately it will have to settle for tenth. Jokes aside this is quite simply an astounding work of bleak music, using an array of stylistic tools to navigate an intense emotional journey. I understand that Trisagion was the product of many years of work, and it can only be said that the time put into this album was worth it, it’s about as good as blackened doom gets.

9. Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert Album Review | Pitchfork

Grey Area was one of my favourite hip-hop albums of 2019, and Introvert is without doubt my favourite of 2022. Anchored by some excellent production and intimate lyricism, this album presents an artist at the peak of her powers and she only seems to be getting stronger.

8. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe – Bloodmoon: I

Converge: Bloodmoon: I Album Review | Pitchfork

Two artists that I like but have never particularly loved combine to create an album that I inexplicably adore. That’s the story of Bloodmoon: I. The album is the centrepiece of a Venn diagram of the two, with stunning vocals from Wolfe and intricate, haunting aggression from the Converge crew. Bloodmoon: 1 implies that there may be a Bloodmoon: 2 – here’s hoping anyway.

7. Erdve – Savigaila

ALBUM REVIEW: Savigaila - Erdve - Distorted Sound Magazine

Probably the heaviest slab of absolute disgust I heard all year, which says a lot given my inclination towards disgusting slabs. Albums like this blur the lines between hardcore, sludge, metal and basically anything you would define as heavy, to the point at which it deserves its own genre I have ingeniously coined “heavy ass shit”.

6. Five The Hierophant – Through Aureate Void

Through Aureate Void | Five the Hierophant

I have a thing for post-metal with brass and woodwind instruments, so I Stan this album hard. It probably would have been my post-metal album of the year based just on the bits that were ‘metal’ anyway but the bits that aren’t ‘metal’ push it into a whole other void (audible groans from around the room).

5. Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready

Lingua Ignota - Sinner Get Ready - Vinyl LPx2 – Rough Trade

Recent revelations made the impact of this album all the more insidious. This is about as emotionally raw that music comes and I’ve never heard tragedy portrayed in such a devastating manner as this. Chilling and beautiful in equal measure, there really is no one quite like Kristen Hayter. Her story will leave its mark on extreme music for generations, of that I am sure.

4. VOLA – Witness

Witness | VOLA

I was a relative latecomer to the VOLA hypetrain, discovering them around the time that Applause of a Distant Crowd released. I was immediately enamoured and the wait for new material felt like an age. Whilst certainly not the proggiest, nor the heaviest, nor the poppiest prog band around, they’re among the finest songwriters the genre has to offer, consistently ploughing out some of the hardest hitting riffs and most euphoric choruses you’ll hear out of the genre. Pretty much as soon as ‘Head Mounted Sideways’ dropped I was already considering this album as a potential AOTY contender, then they released the whole album and their spot was confirmed.

3. Biffy Clyro – The Myth of the Happily Ever After

Biffy Clyro - The Myth Of The Happily Ever After | Reviews | Clash Magazine

For a band 27 years (I know right) into their career to still sound so youthful and dynamic is a testament to one of the finest alt-rock bands the UK has ever produced. Their first taste of proper mainstream success over a decade ago could have seen them tumble into a vat of mediocrity, as is so often the case. I saw them headline Leeds Festival back in 2013 when they started to hit their commercial peak and drift away from the proggy peculiarity that we all loved. But here they still are sounding as fresh and unique as ever, trying new things and believing enough in their own sound to bring them success.

2. Floating Points/Pharoah Sanders/The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises  (2021, CD) - Discogs

3 artists of wildly different genres combine to sound like they’d been playing together for decades. Whilst Sanders effectively acts as the album’s voice, performing with incomparable soul, the work of Floating Points and The London Symphony Orchestra is a dynamic and intricate centrepiece in its own right, and is perhaps one of the finest collaborations of classical and electronic music ever produced. As an album you could loosely define as ambient, I thought I’d give this album a go whilst I did some work. I got no work done.

1. Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

This Place Will Become Your Tomb by Sleep Token on Amazon Music -  Amazon.co.uk

Probably the most divisive name on my list, Sleep Token were nevertheless my most streamed artist of 2021, and the only band I’ve been to see live as a punter in a good few years, so I can’t argue against this album taking the top spot. Their saccharine brand of pop, post-rock and djent may not be for everyone, but none can deny that Vessel carries an astounding voice, and boy do this band know how to turn you into a blubbery mess. This Place Will Become Your Tomb is the break-up album you never knew you needed.

Monthly Playlist: December 2021

One final playlist from us before the year is out. Get decidedly un-festive with us below as some of us detail what we’ve been listening to recently.

IMG_4380

Nick – Guitar

Kowloon Walled City – Splicing

I love the raw emptiness of this new album, between the simplicity of its instrumentation, the closeness of the production and the honesty of the performances, it’s one that makes you feel like you’re just sat in the room with them. And dang if that guitar tone ain’t fucking great I don’t know what is.

Emma Ruth Rundle – Return

As per the above, there’s such a delicate intimacy to this. You can hear every vocal wobble and all the natural ambience of playing music on wooden contrivance. This is not an album that slaps in the traditional sense but the sentiment remains the same.

Bohren & der Club of Gore – The Art of Coffins

Recently fallen down the rabbit hole of darkjazz thanks in no small part to this band (and of course The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble). I think I may have found my new favourite niche.

Chelsea Carmichael – All We Know

Delicious slice of psychedelic jazz and a late contender for album of the year. Beautiful harmony of acoustic jazz and subtle layers of electronics and noise make this such an interesting yet satisfying listen.

Poppy – Bloom

Just a great song to be honest. A little less garish than her usual output and stands as proof that she is an all round great songwriter, whether she’s mashing up genres or not. The chorus vocals stayed with me for quite a while after I first heard this one.

IMG_3781

Chris – Guitar

Heaven & Hell – Bible Black

Show me someone who doesn’t love Dio and I’ll show you a person without joy in their life. This album is stuffed with prime Iommi riffs and a lovely, weighty production to compliment the mighty vocals. You’re reading from the Bible Black!!

Maybeshewill – The Weight of Light

I had no idea we were getting a new Maybeshewill album, so this was a pleasant discovery – both their previous albums (Not For Want of Trying and I Was Here For A Moment) are spectacular, and this just continues the standard. Great instrumental post-rock.

Two Man Advantage – Bastard of the Ice

Sometimes you need a hardcore punk who write songs exclusively about ice hockey to brighten up your month. Enter Two Man Advantage, a band who are very good at just that. I don’t have any deep observations here, I just love ice hockey and music associated with it!

Bon Iver – Perth

Tranquil, fragile indie folk from one of my favourite albums ever released. I managed to pick up a vinyl of this and it was a joy to revisit it again – every song is full of inherent sadness but also hope, a kind of wistful, transportive longing for simpler times.

Aoife Fhearraigh – The Best is Yet To Come

Celtic folk-pop with a beautiful, soaring vocal line. I confess that my attachment to this is largely because it plays over the end credits of one of the best videogames ever made (Metal Gear Solid) but it’s an excellent song in it’s own right and worth your time.

IMG_5066

Richard – Bass

Kelly Lee Owens – On

After many COVID-based reschedules, I finally got to see Kelly Lee Owens live recently and it was magical. Whilst there are some artists around who mix dreamy, atmospheric pop with harder dance music, you’d be hard pushed to find any that go as far into the banging house and techno beats as Owen does, and live those moments were absolutely pounding. This track pretty well summarises the two extremes of her sound; if you listen to just the start and then just the end they don’t sound like the same song, and yet as a whole piece it flows perfectly.

Porcupine Tree – Anaesthetize

Somehow I’m the only one in Ba’al excited by the Porcupine Tree reunion, but I’m going to keep shouting about it anyway (even though the exclusion of Colin Edwin and John Wesley is quite criminal), and protest via the medium of a 17min song. As much as In Absentia is their best album for me – in fact, one of the best of all time – for some reason it’s the chorus to this epic that I’ve had stuck in my head since scrambling to buy tickets for their one (!) UK show next September (!).

Recoil – Shunt

Recoil is a project by Alan Wilder, formerly of Depeche Mode, who turns his hand to dark trip-hop meanderings to great effect. Though the album that this track is from, Unsound Methods, loses it’s way a bit in the middle with some bizarre and clunkily written spoken word about shagging, when they nail it these sultry grooves stand up against the greats of the genre.

Opeth – The Grand Conjuration

Though Ghost Reveries is far from my top Opeth album, it’s taken on a new meaning recently due to the loss of a close friend of ours, who sadly passed away last month. Thanks to a very generous family, I wound up with his CD of this album and I’ve been jamming it in my car in his memory. RIP Dario, gone far too soon.

CHVRCHES – Asking for a Friend

Since my two top picks for this month weren’t on Spotify (BRUIT ≤ and Anti-God Hand – both amazing bands you should check out on BandCamp), I’ve added in this cut from the most recent CHVRCHES album. As an album I think it’s a bit inconsistent compared to their earlier stuff, but the best tracks absolutely go toe-to-toe with the band’s all-time bangers, and this is one of them.

Monthly Playlist: November 2021

We’re back from our tour, we’re writing new music and there are lots of exciting things going on. One thing that never changes, though, is our love for blasting out tunes, so here’s what some of us have been listening to this month.

IMG_5066

Richard – Bass

Gozer – Crown Eater (this one’s not on Spotify – get it sorted lads. For now you can stream/download it from BandCamp here)

An obvious choice to kick things off with, following our UK tour with Gozer last month. These guys have been like family to us for years, so to spend a week on the road with them was sublime. Since coming back I’ve been absolutely rinsing this, their debut single under their current moniker. It goes hard like Amenra, with some filthy bass grooves to underpin it all. Having had a sneak peak at their upcoming material, I can say now that you absolutely need to keep a weather eye out for what comes next from this trio of lampshade enthusiasts.

Dødheimsgard – 21st Century Devil

This month’s edition of ‘legendary band that Richard has only just listened to for the first time’. It’s got the buzzing riffs of mid-career Dimmu that I love, mixed with tons of electronics and some dumb, fun industrial metal grooves. Hefty and silly in just the right measures.

Leftfield – Black Flute

Leftism is a record my partner got me into a couple of years ago and it’s one I’ve been blasting in my car recently. Unbeatable 90s dance vibes with some real power alongside the good times.

Deafheaven – Other Language

Deafheaven’s shedding of almost all of their black metal elements and their transformation into a fully-fledged shoegaze band makes total sense given the direction they were already heading in on the last record, and yet it still took me a little by surprise. However, a few spins in, I’m definitely a fan. Whilst I’m far from one of the deniers who think the only good bit of the album is right at the end when they briefly bring back the shrieking, I do think that the album’s highlights are when they add some quasi-metal weight into the guitar tones, and this is one of a few tracks in the middle where the balance is just right for me.

Ross From Friends – R.A.T.S.

Whilst I invest time getting stuck into his new album, I’ve also been revisiting the debut album from this Essex techno/house maestro and preparing to finally see him live next year, having had previous plans ruined multiple times by COVID. Good vibes, slick grooves, hard kicks. Get into it.

IMG_4138

Joe – Vocals

Sunken – Ensomhed

Taken from my favourite album of 2020, this track is masterfully paced and has one of the most crushingly anthemic and goosebump enabling closing sections I’ve ever heard.

Ellende – Der Blick Wird Leer

Solid atmospheric black metal from a consistently tremendous band. A real ear worm of an opening riff sets up a track I return to frequently.

Dreariness – Starless Night

The burgeoning sense of mournful despair is utterly palpable. Criminally underrated artist and a track that is morose but laced with beauty.

Swallow the Sun – The Ship

The closing track from my favourite album of theirs, the lyrics are absolutely gorgeous and I’m honoured to have seen them play this live.

Deafheaven – Great Mass Of Colour

Typically I’m very easy going and understanding about people having strong opinions on music. But if you don’t like the new Deafheaven you can fuck off.

IMG_3781

Chris – Guitar

Septicflesh – The Vampire from Nazareth

I watched Midnight Mass this month (it was very good), and I couldn’t get this song out of my head the entire time. Beefy symphonic death metal = YES PLEASE.

Green Lung – Old Gods

Really vibing with the new Green Lung – psych-sludge-doom with tasty vocals.

Zeal & Ardor – Götterdämmerung

At this point Zeal & Ardor could fart into a microphone for 3 minutes and I’d probably love it, but my bias aside, this new track off their upcoming 4th album absolutely slaps.

Florence & The Machine – Stand By Me

Florence & The Machine’s own songs are fantastic (High As Hope is a phenomenal album) but this cover, done for the videogame Final Fantasy XV of all places, really showcases just how impressively huge her vocal talents are.

Bolt Thrower – World Eater

Sometimes you just need to listen to sloppy, 80s, Warhammer 40K-inspired death metal. Blood for the blood god!

IMG_4380

Nick – Guitar

Biffy Clyro – Unknown Male 01

There are few bands that can adopt as many genres into their repertoire as seamlessly as Biffy Clyro, especially considering how uniquely like Biffy they always sound. The range on display on their new album is mesmerising, and I honestly believe they could release entire albums devoted to each of their stylistic bases and do so with as much creativity as most other bands could hope to achieve.

Wolves In The Throne Room – Spirit of Lightning

Wolves In The Throne Room are a band that I should love and yet I’ve never quite gotten into them as much as perhaps I could. Whether it’s because I’ve not been patient enough to engage with them or otherwise I’m not sure. Regardless, Primordial Arcana is the first album of theirs that I truly connected with (Thrice Woven came close). Maybe I’ve finally passed the threshold and will begin to appreciate them as much as their reputation deserves.

Aging – The Trapped Man

I’ve been consuming a lot of noir fiction of late, including watching a great Korean series called ‘My Name’ and getting completely lost within the world of ‘Disco Elysium’ on switch (sorry to my partner for being so absorbed in this lately). This album is the perfect companion piece to the grim mystique of this stylish genre. As I listened to this exquisitely smooth and intriguing jazz album, I couldn’t help but picture myself larking about in a trench coat and solving crimes whilst wrestling an addiction of some variety.

Monolord – The Weary

The kings of writing massive tracks devoted to the riff. This album ranks as perhaps their strongest yet in my opinion, with some genuine ear worms that I still haven’t shaken off. Hails.

Miki Matsubara – Stay With Me

Apparently this track has seen a massive resurgence recently and it’s no surprise because dang this shit is catchy. What a gem and I’m so glad I discovered it.

Monthly Playlist: October 2021

As we prepare for tour, we’re still blasting bangers at high volumes to all nearby parties. Here’s what some of us have been spinning of late, with our waffle on why we like it.

IMG_5066

Richard – Bass

Triptykon – Myopic Empire

Recently I’ve gone in on Triptykon for the first time, having remembered how much I liked the final Celtic Frost album, and I can’t believe this has been missing from my life all this time. Suffocating doom with a heavy gothic edge, filtered through Tom G Warrior’s signature buzzing guitar tone, housed in the trappings of black metal and backed up by some chunky riffs that are basically death metal beatdowns. UGH.

Kurupt FM – A Million

People Just Do Nothing very quickly became one of my all-time favourite British TV shows when I discovered it a few years ago, so getting the film and the album from The Best MC in the Galaxy and his crew within a few months of eachother has been a real treat. Yes, it’s very funny stuff, but the boldly titled debut release Greatest Hits (Part 1) is genuinely full of bangers that bring a shiny modern production to the sounds of UK Garage, early grime and dubstep from the Golden Era of 1997-2001. Kurupt FM: the rest are irrelevant.

Kimyan Law – Seven Ant Foley

Nominally a drum’n’bass artist, Kimyan Law’s composition are so much more free and technicolour than that tag implies. Restrained, atmospheric and yet full of bounce and groove, this is just my kind of electronic music: adventurous, but still focused on Big Beats, which, as we all know, are the best (get high all the time).

Gaerea – Whispers

Fiery and spirited black metal with the downtuned, meaty guitar tone of a sludge band and some of the sensibilities of post metal. Make no mistake, this is immediate and aggressive stuff, but it’s filthy underbelly will get it’s hooks deep into you.

Путь – Волос твоих пепел, Рахиль

Atmospheric black metal with an accordion. That sentence plus the hilarious painting of a skeleton playing an accordion in the snow on the album cover should have you intrigued enough to check it out. If you’re not sold, though, I’ll add that the accordion is far away from your usual, cheesy folk metal fare, and is actually a sparingly used and effective textural element to flesh out a convincing and pretty powerful atmospheric black metal sound. Come for the gimmick, stay for the quality.

IMG_3781

Chris – Guitar

Hail Spirit Noir – Visitors of Horror

The masters of spooky theremin metal are back! As ever, this is catchy as shit and I love their sound – coupled with the artwork, it has the vibe of a low-budget 80s horror movie, which is perfect for this time of the year.

Spiritbox – The Summit

“What if Taylor Swift did djent” is a sentence that popped into my head to describe Spiritbox after our other guitarist Nick recommended them to me – this track is the exemplar of that, with a vocal line that seriously wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tay-Tay album but crossed with BIG RIFFS. A delight!

Amplifier – Cat’s Cradle

Bit of a throwback here, for some reason the chorus of this track popped into my head and wouldn’t go away until I’d listened to it thoroughly this month. Fun psychedelic fuzz-rock, and the lead singer/guitarist has the distinction of possessing the most ridiculously OTT pedalboard I’ve ever seen anyone use.

Daniel Hart ft. Emma Tring – Aiganz O Kulzphazur

This track comes from the soundtrack of The Green Knight, one of my most-anticipated movies of the year (hell, I’ll say it: of all time) – the movie absolutely didn’t disappoint, because it’s phenomenal, and this song is a highpoint of a very good soundtrack. The vocal line is absolutely beautiful and haunting, and it perfectly captures the vibe of the film – lush greenery, tormented knights and the misty mountains of Albion.

Rina Sawayama – Enter Sandman

Controversial statement time: this is the best version of Enter Sandman that’s ever been done. Literally my only (minor) complaint is that it’s been brickwalled (like basically every mainstream pop song), but Rina clearly understood the brief because this is HEAVY, and her vocals are perfect for it. I feel no shame in the more basic elements of my music taste – have fun with your krieg two-man forest BM recorded at the bottom of a well, elitists, I’ll be over here singing along to Metallica!

IMG_4380

Nick – Guitar

Little Simz – Introvert

This track sets the tone for what is probably my favourite hip-hop album of the year. The production is amazing, Simz’ lyrics and delivery is amazing, it’s just generally amazing, so yeah, go listen to it.

Chvrches – How Not to Drown (feat. Robert Smith)

I think this new album is the best thing Chvrches have ever done, and this track featuring the absolute DON epitomises that. What else is there to say?

Lut – Mersmark

Maybe it’s a bit ignorant of me to say they sound like a cross between Kvelertak and the Hives based on their overall sound and the fact that they’re all very loosely connected geographically, but they do basically sound like that so I’m not wrong. I can only imagine these would be a sweet band to catch live, this album has so much frenetic energy which would translate so well to the kind of sweat box show that COVID doesn’t really allow for at the moment.

Sleep Token – Hypnosis

This week’s most polarising band just so happens to be a band I dig the fuck out of. Their new album is a solid continuation of Sundowning, offering a ton of haunting vocals from Vessel and a fair few stacked riffs. This track in particular is clearly taking notes from Deftones and is a definite highlight. They may not be everyone’s bag but if you like it then who the flip cares?

Biffy Clyro – End Of

Underrated may be a push given how popular and critically lauded they generally are, but I can’t help but feel like Biffy get overlooked when we talk about great bands of the last 20 years. Without doubt one of the best bands I’ve ever seen live and even after 15 or so years and about 8 albums, they’re still flirting with the mainstream AND dropping mental bangers, and they’re doing both better than most bands can even do one.

Monthly Playlist: August 2021

With a semblance of normality gradually returning, we’re gearing up for gigs and the like, but we’re still blasting bangers at home. Here’s our playlist this month, featuring our newly unveiled guitarist Chris’ picks, too.

IMG_4138

Joe – Vocals

The Ruins of Beverast – Kromlech Knell

The Ruins of Beverast evoke the feeling of being trapped in an enormous ancient burial chamber where the dead may not be as restful as you’d hoped… and that’s really fucking cool.

Ondskapt – A Graveyard Night

More traditional mid-paced black metal, but it’s strength is in its subtly. It’s eerie, dark and brooding.

Together To The Stars – Timeless

Melodic blackened metal with a post hardcore vocal. It’s strangely beautiful and positive in its tone.

Iotuun – The Weaver System

Hugely grandiose, Iotuun have been a recent revelation for. The science fiction theme and gorgeous combination of operatic and harsh vocal is exquisite, topped off by the melancholic undertone of this particular track.

Slipknot – Everything Ends

Iowa was the soundtrack to my final year at secondary school and to embracing the notion that there was nothing wrong with being who I was. This song in particular captured the obnoxious defiance of that moment of realisation I had as an angry fifteen year old. RIP Joey.

IMG_4380

Nick – Guitar

Four Stroke Baron – Friday Knight

What a great piece of prog pop/metal. Cool riffs, great vocal lines and solid production from Devin Townsend. These are a band I’m completely new to so colour me delighted that they already have two albums released with a third on the way, from which this track is a single.

Puppy – Arabella

I’ve always wanted to catch Puppy live and on the two occasions I planned to go see them, my plans were scuppered by having to play gigs with Ba’al on the same nights. Every cloud and all that.

Møl – Photophobic

Their debut was one of the freshest black metal albums I’ve heard in a while and Photophobic sounds like another step forward. I’m loving the injection of more post-hardcore riffs and ideas on this track, I’m confident their new album is going to be off the chain.

Carpenter Brut – Roller Mobster

After occasionally dabbling with Carpenter Brut’s back catalogue for a while, it was playing Hotline Miami 2 that urged me to invest some proper time in it. Perfect synth wave soundtrack for assaulting a mob-owned nightclub with a machine gun in the 80s.

The Horrors – Lout

Did not expect The Horrors to release something this aggressive but I am 100% into it, they’ve nailed industrial noise rock, or whatever you want to call. A shame it’s only an EP but if their next album is anything like this it’s going to be much amaze.

IMG_3781

Chris – Guitar

Lola Kirke – Monster

Atmospheric, echoey folk-pop. For me, this is at the same table as Taylor Swift’s Folklore in the cafeteria of my music tastes, and the chorus is a catchy one. Fun aside: Lola Kirke is also an actress, and having devoured all 5 seasons of Mozart in the Jungle (which she starred in as a professional oboist turned conductor), I have a MASSIVE crush on her.

Omega Massif – Unter Null

The cover art for the album this is taken from reminds me of a Martian landscape, and the music is an appropriate soundtrack – spacey atmosphere leading into cascading sludge riffs in the vein of Neurosis or Cult of Luna.

Lingua Ignota – PERPETUAL FLAME OF CENTRALIA

Lingua Ignota is in a bracket of musicians I mentally categorise as “hard to listen to” – not because their music is too complex or avant-garde for me to follow, but because the raw emotion they pour into their work can be overwhelming. This new track off her upcoming album is outwardly quite simple (moody piano and vocals), but it perfectly illustrates the maxim of “less is more” and will dig it’s way into your head.

Genghis Tron – Ritual Circle

There isn’t another band like Genghis Tron, and I can say that with certainty. Their style defies classification (it’s rooted in rock/metal, but touches on electronica, noise, glitch, drone, ambient) and this track from their new album Dream Weapon brings all those disparate influences together into a transcendent ten minute whole.

Slipknot – Duality

I couldn’t not include a Slipknot track on here – the death of Joey Jordison was a shock, and it highlighted how much his playing influenced a lot of people my age. I struggled to pick a favourite Slipknot song (there’s a long list to choose from), but ‘Duality’ definitely gave Joey plenty of room to show off and that chorus is absolutely chef’s kiss.

IMG_5066

Richard – Bass

Slipknot – (Sic)

Had to include some Slipknot for obvious reasons. I was never as huge a Slipknot fan growing up as many of my metal friends were and are, but I still have a lot of time for the first two albums in particular, and the iconic half-time grooves and sick (!) fills on this banger stand up as as fitting a tribute to the maestro Joey as any.

Gruzja – Jeszcze nie mamy na was pomysłu II

Absolutely nailing an avant-garde mix of black metal and post-punk with a whole lot else besides, this album is a bizarre experience to which I was further won over by the fact that a Polish reviewer on Rate Your Music compared them to my other band, the considerably less-acclaimed Bleating Apocalypse. You’ll find bits that sounds like Rammstein, Shining (SWE), Mr Bungle, The Cure and a lot more… Go figure.

The Darkness – Hazel Eyes

Following the success of the hair metal excess and good time rock’n’roll of Permission to Land, The Darkness’ decided to make a second (and final pre-cocaine-downfall) album that throws away the rulebook entirely and goes off on several wonderful flights of fancy into absolute ridiculousness. This one in particular has been in my head recently, with it’s mixture of Celtic folk (with partial sincerity, but also large amounts of satire, and a comical Scottish accent) and the trademark big riffs and memorable solos. I say all this without a hint of irony, because The Darkness are one of the UK’s greatest exports and I will hear no other opinion.

Rafael Anton Irisarri – Bastion

A huge discovery for me this month has been the so-called ‘loud ambient’ of Rafael Anton Irisarri. Trading in overwhelmingly lush synthetic soundscapes, his music is made to get absolutely lost in. Truly superb.

AL-90 – Tvoya Pesnya

Like standing in the queue outside a club and listening to the catchy, rhythmic house grooves through the wall. Chilled out but with a pumping groove, this is 100% my vibe and another one I’ve had on repeat.

Monthly Playlist: July 2021

We’ve got an announcement coming very soon. In totally unrelated news that definitely in no way relates to that announcement, here’s another monthly playlist, featuring some more picks from our as yet unannounced new guitarist.

IMG_9192sq

Joe – Vocals

Voices – Footsteps

Emotional closer to the last album Frightened hits hard. Very much looking forward to the new album this year.

Raging Speedhorn – Me and You Man

I love Speedhorn, one of the first bands I saw live. Consistently great fun and down to earth attitude, deserve to be much bigger than they are.

Bloodyard – Mortem

Lancaster old school death metal. Their livestreams have been a shining light during lockdown.

Cannibal Corpse – I Cum Blood

Sometimes you just fancy a classic…

Draconian – Moon Over Sabaoth

I’ve had this stuck in my head for ages now. Gothic majesty, haunting cleans and demonic growls make for a gorgeous bit of dark metal.

IMG_9488

Richard – Bass

The Body – A Lament

Even by their own disgusting standards, the new Body album is pretty extreme in terms of pushing their equipment to breaking point in terms of volume and distortion, and it creates a really weird and uncomfortable extra edge to their already nasty sound. This track has a slightly Jesu-ish melodic aspect to it, too.

Hong Kong Express – Humid Summer

As is the case every year, the don of dreampunk/ambient vaporwave himself, Mr HKE/Hong Kong Express/Subaeris/about a billion other projects has released a stupid number of albums in 2021 already, and it’s a hefty task to separate out the stuff I actually want to listen to from his recent left turn into wilfully offputting nonsense. However, the album L.Y.F. is a step right back into his heyday of wonderfully atmospheric, melancholic, urban nostalgia.

Violet Cold – Be Like Magic

I’ve always liked Violet Cold but I’ve never been fully invested, and it’s the latest, strongly pro-equality, LGBTQIA+ focused album Empire of Love (and it’s inevitable pathetic backlash from the darkest and most closed-minded corners of the online metal community) that has prompted me to properly dive into the catalogue. This is my favourite off the new record, partly because it is just a gorgeous blackgaze track and also partly because of the troll-baiting electronic/rap section.

Kessler – Moonlight Branches

Take the euphoric, ambient-laden tech-house vibes of Bicep and turn up the drum’n’bass element and you’re pretty close to the infectiously melodic sound of Kessler. I simply cannot get enough of this new EP for big time vibes.

The Angelic Process – Coma Waering

It’s pretty unlike me for four out of my five tracks to be new releases, so I need to bring it back to the early 2000s here, and an enduring favourite record of mine that I’ve been getting immersed in again this month. Saturated to within an inch of it’s life, The Angelic Process’ sound is so sonically dense and overwhelming that Coma Waering feels more apocalyptic and overpowering than even the most outwardly evil and misanthropic of other metal bands could ever hope to be. If you’ve ever wondered what drowning in lava whilst having a religious experience would feel like, look no further.

IMG_9472

Nick – Guitar

Tephra – How The West Was Lost

Oh how I wish this band would reunite, though I suspect the chances of that are close to nil. Still at least I have this, one of my all time favourite sludge records to fall back on.

Sleep Token – Alkaline

A fairly brief taster of what is to come on their upcoming second album, with Vessel’s outrageously strong vocals as ever being the focal point of the track. Would like to see some progression from Sundowning in the next few tracks that drop but this is a nice opening flavour.

Ride – Leave Them All Behind

A gem from the early days of shoegaze before they broke up and one of them joined Oasis. Such a move is forgiven by the grace of how good those first few Ride albums were.

Boss Keloid – Gentle Clovis

Honestly don’t think any sludge band are as instantly recognisable from a single riff as Boss Keloid, barring maybe Mastodon or Baroness, and they have worldwide on their side. Family The Smiling Thrush is yet another intricate garden of vivid, phosphorescent flora with some of the most exquisite musicianship and vocal prowess you’ll hear on any album this year.

Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds – Three Lions

I don’t think this one really needs an explanation.

196-1969803_mystery-person-png-mystery-man-transparent-png-download

??? – Guitar

Sojourner  – Perennial

You’re standing on a hillside. Behind you, a ruined keep crumbles into the earth, swallowed by greenery. Ahead, giants stalk the landscape, a monolithic and mysterious presence. The air smells of wet loam and moss. Suddenly, an ethereal voice pierces the air, uplifted in song – adventure awaits. This song is 100% my shit!

And So I Watch You From Afar – BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION

I spent much of this month trying to remember the name of this song/band, only remembering that it had a long and ebullient title and I enjoyed it. Once I rediscovered the band, I remembered why it stuck with me – bouncy, instrumental rock with an ear for a good hook and some big, lovely guitar chords.

Hail Spirit Noir – Mannequins

Hail Spirit Noir are one of my favourite bands (their last album Eden in Reverse is fantastic, weird, and unique) – this new track from them goes in much more of a synthwave direction, which isn’t what I was expecting, but it works. Come for the synth beats and floaty vocals, stay for the theremin.

Clutch – Electric Worry (Weathermaker Vault Series)

Clutch have an insanely deep discography and keep putting out album after album of bangers, but this track will always be one of their best. This re-recording captures the magic of the original while freshening up the production for guaranteed good vibes.

Zombi – Mangler

Another instrumental track, this was a Spotify discovery that just slaps – big atmosphere, some groove and a lot of interesting soundscapes to splash around in. Plus the cover has flying manta rays on and they’re one of my favourite aquatic creatures!

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.

IMG_9472

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.

IMG_9488

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.

IMG_9192sq

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.

196-1969803_mystery-person-png-mystery-man-transparent-png-download

??? – 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.

IMG_9488

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.

IMG_9472

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.

IMG_9441sq

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.

IMG_9472

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.

IMG_9488

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.

IMG_9441sq

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.

IMG_9472

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.

IMG_9488

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.

IMG_9441sq

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!