November Playlist

With the end of the month fast approaching, it’s time to publish my monthly playlist for November.

This month is probably the first that has been directly affected by gigs I have attended. In fact, I attended two gigs this week and all four bands have made my list!

Add to the above that there’s also an entry taken from a playlist a friend created for me as an introduction to industrial music, as well as the usual entries made up of songs from this year and it is quite a mixed bag.

So, yeah, if a playlist comprising of classic rock, psych, jazz, chilled industrial, power metal, metalcore, post-metal/sludge and doom takes your fancy, they wrap your ears around the playlist below!

 

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October Playlist

In August I started doing creating playlists made up of tracks that had caught my ear over the course of that month. You will find the October playlist at the bottom of this post.

As is becoming the trend, I listened to quite a lot of new music this month, and it was as challenging as ever to cut this down to  16 songs.

Whilst I had previously settle on a 90-ish minute run time being a nice target run time to aim for, I have hopelessly failed this month. I do have a good excuse though – it is because the final track is an 83-minute behemoth.

There’s a little less prog and post rock/metal this month, with a roughly 50/50 split to whether tracks would be considered heavy or soft. On the heavier end, doom prevails, whereas there is probably more variety in the lighter stuff.

Anyways, enjoy:

September Playlist

Last month I started doing monthly playlists made up of tracks that had caught my ear over the past month. You will find the September playlist at the bottom of this post.

I listend to a lot of new music in September, and it was a real bind trying to trim this thing down. I think I have decided that around 90-ish minutes is a sensible limit to aim for, and this collection goes just a smidge over that.

Besides four or five tracks, you’ll likely find the songs are on the more melodic and melancholy side this time around. There’s nothing much to to that – it’s just how it has come out.

Anyways, enjoy:

An August Update – New Monthly Playlist

Those of you that follow my blogging will have noticed that I have slowed down in recent months, particularly with my monthly discography reviews. In truth, a combination of things have happened and it started to feel like I was arbitrarily picking bands for the sake of it.

With that in mind, I have decided to stop giving myself strict limitations/deadlines on when to do those – they’ll come as and when I feel like doing them. The plus side to this is, all those bands that have 20 billions albums are now back on the table, as I don’t need to squeeze my listening into a single month!

Instead of doing a discography per month, I am going to try something a little different. Inspired by/stolen from my good pal Joe, I am going to put together a short playlist of stuff that has caught my ear over the past month. This will – very likely – be new(ish) stuff, though I’m not tying myself down to something as specific as that. In fact, this month features a couple of tracks an 2012 release from Cinematic Black Metallers Xanthochroid.

Anyways, enjoy:

Discography Review | Beyond the Black

Continuing on from last year, my new year’s resolution once again is to expand the breadth of my musical knowledge and experience. As with last year, I’m listening to the discography of a different band each month.

As mentioned last time out, I’ve fallen slightly behind. My previous entry saw me take a look at US stoner americana folksy proggy grungsters All Them Witches.  To make up for not doing a discography in April, I intend to do squeeze in an extra one somewhere. Partially because of this, I’ve opted for a band with only a couple of albums this time – Beyond the Black.

Background:  Prior to their booking at Bloodstock last year I had never heard of them. I listened to couple of tracks before seeing them there, and was blown away with how professional a band with just two albums to their name are. Their songs were catchy and they were accomplished musicians.  All that being said, it took me until recently to check them out again.


Songs of Love and Death– Songs of Love and Death

In the Shadows kicks things off. Immediately I’m thinking of Within Temptation a bit here. It’s a good, solid opener that tells you what BtB are about. Nice inclusion of flutes. Songs of Love and Death is a song that’s been in my head since Bloodstock and a genuine belter of a tune.  Musically it (and a few others on the album)  reminds me of the crunchy rhythm guitar/symphonic keyboard combo that bands like Nightwish and Avantasia utlise. Unbroken is the first ballad on the album and is a little disappointing. Things pick ack up with When Angels Fall. The sound switches between symphonic metal and a sort of contemplative acoustic melody that – for some reason – reminds me of Stone Sour’s Bother. Pearl in a World of Dirt has guest lead vocals from Hannes Brawne of Kissin’ Dynamite. It’s the second ballad on the album, and is the far superior. Acoustic guitars and the flute also make a pleasant return. I don’t what it is about Hallelujah, but it strikes me as a b-side (or 4th or 5th single from the same album). Maybe it’s because it came straight after two of their better tracks and it would have fared better elsewhere on the album? Running to the Edge ramps up the tempo and is one of their better songs – you can see why this closes their set. At this point, the album was on for a really good score. However, NumbDrowing in Darkness and Afraid of the Dark are all – whilst not bad in the slightest – a little bit by-the-numbers compared to the earlier songs. Fall into Flames is a bit better, and then we get their interesting take on Motorhead’s Love Me Forever to close.  It works really well as a piano centric tune and is a fune closer.

Overall:
No reinventions of the wheel here, but definitely an album that fans of Nightwish, Within Temptation and Avantasia would probably enjoy. As debut albums go, it’s pretty swish, if let down a little by a back end that doesn’t quite hold up to the scrutiny of the first half.

Score:
3

Favourite tracks:
Songs of Love and Death, When Angels Fall, Pearl in a World of Dirt, Running to the Edge.


Lost in Forever– Lost in Forever

Opening up Beyond The Black’s only other album to date is an absolute cracker of a title track. Lost in Forever takes the melody/catchiness of Songs of Love and Death and marries it to the tempo/urgency of Running to the Edge. Great stuff. Beautiful Lies is their second duet (this time with current At Vance and Masterplan frontman Rick Altzi), and it’s pretty darn good. Pearl in a World of Dirt sets a bar for BtB duets, and it almost matches it. Written in Blood isn’t quite on a par with the opening couple of tracks but it does have a solid, rousing chorus. Against the World is a power ballad that’s good-without-being-special. It could be a grower. Beyond the Mirror is similar to Written in Blood in terms of quality. It’s very easy on the ear and would make sense as a song chosen to extent a setlist as a ‘breather’ track between two more famous ones. Halo of the Dark is a strong album track that I suspect will be another to grow on me with multiple play throughs. If there were tiers to the quality of BtB tracks, Dies Irae would safely sit in the second top, just beneath their absolute best. A very catchy tune. Forget My Name is fine. Burning in Flames has a nice opening riff that reminds me, just a bit of contemporary Iron Maiden. The song itself isn’t bad, and the riff is better. Nevermore is a bit better.  Shine and Shade has a neat bit of folkish instrumentation incorporated into the earlier portions. The verses sound like this song should sound a bit more like a story being retold, or a saga, and the very simple poppy chorus takes a little away from it. Not bad though. Heaven and Hell takes a slightly darker turn and is one of the better tracks in the back half of the album. Love’s a Burden is a neat, brooding acoustic track that closes out the original edition of the album (the tour edition tacks on another 3-4 songs).

Overall:
Better than their debut, though suffering from the familiar issue of the back end of the album not being as strong as the first half. Still, the overall quality is up and they are going in the right direction. 

Score:
3.5

Favourite tracks:
Lost in Forever, Beautiful Lies, Dies Irae, Written in Blood




That wraps up Beyond the Black’s two albums. There’s some neat stuff on both, and fans of Nightwish, Within Temptation and Avantasia should definitely give it a whirl. If they ever manage to write a full album of the quality of the first halves of either of these, they’ll have created a syphonic metal classic. As it stands, it’s simply two good albums with great first halves.

 

Discography Revew | All Them Witches

Continuing on from last year, my new year’s resolution once again is to expand the breadth of my musical knowledge and experience. As with last year, I’m listening to the discography of a different band each month.

Admittedly, I’ve fallen slightly behind! My previous entry saw me take a look at Armenian-American metallers System of a Down, back in March.  To make up for not doing a discography in April, I intend to do three between now and the end of June.

This time around I’ve gone for American blues / neo-pysch / stoner rockers All Them Witches.

Background:  I have a handful of friends who rave about these guys. On the back of that, I recall checking out the odd track, but little of those tracks past generally enjoying them. After discovering that they are playing Sheffield this July, I sorted tickets for myself and a mate.


Our Mother Electricity–  Our Mother Electricity 

Heavy / Like A Witch kicks us off with an interesting vocal chant / hum, before giving way to a chilled out bluesy riff.  Instantly noticeable is the warm, retro guitar sound. This is a good opener, improved by the introduction of some tasty keyboard work in the back end. The Urn features some guitarwork that reminds me of Hendrix and Skynyrd, whilst the verses are almost pop-y in places.  A nifty tune. Bloodhounds is cloeser in style to the opener. It’s fine. Guns display some sleepier sounding vocals, which go hand-in-hand with the chilled vibe from the rest of the band. I really enjoyed the guitar work in this one. Good stuff. Elk.Blood.Heart sees thins slowed right down to begin with.  The guitars are scaled back a bit and vocals brought to the forefront more. This dynamic changes gradually over the course of the song, leading to a pretty sweet mini solo. One of the better tracks so far. Until It Unwinds sees the keyboards in a welcome return. Another track that begins quiet and sleepy at the start, but this subtly grows into a nice mid-tempo tune dominated by sort-of-proggy and a sort-of-miniamlistic central riff. In contrast to the previous tracks, Easy is a relatively simple little tune, and one of my favourites. Family Song for the Leaving leans a little more towards melancholy folk and Americana than most, and has a darker temperament. Right Hand closes the standard edition of the debut album. Electric guitars return. Song is decent enough, and the instrumental work towards the end of the song reminds me of Graveyard.

Overall:
There’s a sort of sombre, melancholy edge to the album, as well as a general vibe of lazy summer days. It’s very appealing and relaxing. Some of their instrumental work reminds me of Graveyard’s more melodic parts. In fact, if you told a group of melancholy folk singers to write songs whilst listening to Graveyard, ZZ Top and a bit of Springsteen, you might just end up with ATW’s sound. As an album, it’s pretty strong without having any tracks that must be replayed. A very enjoyable debut.

Score:
[3.5]

Favourite Tracks:
Elk.Blood.Heart, The Urn, Until It Unwinds


Lightning at the Door– Lightning at the Door

 The intro to Funeral For a Great Drunken Bird reminds me a little of post-rockers *shels or, more locally, Gilmore Trail.  The early guitar has heaps of fuzz. Spoken word lyrics arrive in the final third, enhancing the otherworldly sound that has been buil over the first few minutes. A good start. When God Comes Back features a sort of call-and-response opening between the vocals and crunchy, fuzzy guitars. This is a more straight up stoner rock track, and a step heavier than the stuff on their debut LP.  The Marriage of Coyote Women starts quietly, with a simple riff. The mouth organ adds just an extra something a band that already drenches its work in southern rock vibes. Ends up being a really cool blues tune. Swallowed by the Sea starts off like a sort of melancholy folk tune before kicking into a couple of minutes of heavier stoner rock fuzziness. There’s an ever so slight hint of doom here, amongst the methodical riffs. This track feels ever so slightly artificially extended, but I enjoyed it and its randomness. I wasn’t sure about Charles William at first, but it blossoms into a decent stoner rock track. The Death of the Coyote Women sees an up-tempo intro give way to a slower, more deliberate and chilled out tune – albeit with a subtly malevolent vibe. There’s a trippy haziness to the back half of the song that’s quite infectious. Romany Dagger is a pretty good little instrumental that predominatly features a combo of acoustic/southern guitar and fiddle. Mountain is a very deliberately aced song, taking five minutes to steadily build to a one minute finale. That last minute is excellent, and benefits from the build, though I do wonder if the balance should have been closer to four and two, or maybe just extending the track a little to give the closing riffs more time to flourish. Romany Dagger (Remended)  see us revisit the previously mentioned intstrumental, though it is tweaked here and there and extended by over a minute. There’s more depth to the sound too, with a slighlty discordant guitar swimming just beneath the folkish surface. Really good. Surface-to-Air- Whistle closes things out. Threatening to be a little more mainstream at first – cowbell alert! – it settles into being a catchy, mid-tempo intrstrumental stoner psych tune, that almost becomes space rock by it’s conclusion.

Overall: A little trippier and more hypnotic than the debut album. It’s also a little narrower in scope, almost like they have decided that bridging the gap between folk, psych and stoner/desert rock is sort of their calling. On a single playthrough I think they are still missing that outright killer classic but, by this point, there’s plenty of material to hold a strong as hell set together.

Score:
[4]

Best tracks: The Marriage of the Coyote Women, Romany Dagger (Remended), Surface-to-Air Whistle


Dying Surfer Meets His Maker– Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

 Call Me Star sets the scene with a somewhat upbeat sounding acoustic intro. This gives way to a minimalist riff that takes us to the track’s conclusion. A nice intro for what’s to come. El Centro is another track that has pockets of minimalistic repetition. There’s a sence of foreboding that comes and goes throughout the track. One of my favourites across their discography so far.  Dirt Preachers sounds more like it’s ‘meant to be a single’. It’s short-ish, catchy and straightforward. Saying that, they sort of subvert this a little in the finale third with a drastic downturn in pace and darkening of the tone, This is Where It Falls Apart flows on smoothly from the previous song. The tempo is slowed right down for the blusier intro. The mouth organ returns! This ends up being a very pleasant dream-like tunes, threatening to venture into post-rock territory in places. Mellowing is a minimalistic acoustic tune that almost acts as a bridge between the songs either side of it. It’s good in it’s own right. Open Passageways is a nice little tune. Instrumental 2 (Welcome to the Caveman Future) is a short bluesy psych rock tune with some funky sound effects. Cool tune. Talisman starts off quite simply, but becomes this catchy full-bodied epic tune. Blood and Sand / Milk and Endless Waters  continues straight on. Flirting with the boundaries of post-rock, space rock and psych, this is a fantastic closing track and one of my absolute favourites of theirs.

Overall: The first album where I’ve thought that, not only has the whole album come together without any hitches, but they have some genuinely cracking tunes. This is simply a brilliant, almost longform piece that should be listened to in a single sitting – and listened to many times. 

Score:
[4.5]

Best tracks: El Centro, Talisman, Blood and Sand / Milk and Endless Waters


Sleeping Through the War– Sleeping Through the War 

Bulls starts off pretty chilled and, for around three or so minutes, is almost dream-like and hazy. Around the halfway mark everything kicks in. Decent opener. Don’t Bring Me Coffee is a sort of a blusier, fuzzier take on Nirvana’s flavour of grunge. Quite catchy and could be a grower. Bruce Lee is fairly catchy and a more straight up rock sounding track. I could see it being used live to break up some of their more cerebral tunes. 3-5-7 is a moody and steadily paced track. It’s also a step-up from the past few tunes. Am I Going Up? sees us return to the disciplined riffery that I have taken a liking to. There’s a sort of hypnotic vibe throughout, elevated by a drone-like use of keyboards late on. A good track that I think will get even better on replaying. Alabaster has a sort of jazzier blues intro and quickly becomes quite an interesting proggier psych track. It’s also the best and most interesting track so far. Cowboy Kirk is a song of two halves. It beginning with a sort of free-ish and interpretive but of work, before settling down into familiar bluesy fuzz territory. Though not on a par with Alabaster, this is good stuff. Internet is a downbeat bluesy epic that sort of descends into a low tempo jam. Excellent.

Overall: There’s a grungier vibe to this album (more obvious in the first half than the latter). Whilst I don’t dislike the songs, I think the second half of the album, which veers towards a sort of hybrid sound of their two previous albums, is much the stronger. If the entire album was like the back half, it would threaten to be their best, as opposed to vying for 3rd. 

Score:
[3.5]

Best tracks: Alabaster, Internet, Am I Going Up?



 

That wraps up my whistle-stop tour of All Them Witches. I’ve really enjoyed this particular listen through – definitely one of the best.

I think they are at their best when they are chanelling themselves into hypnotic, proggy minimalism, though their forays intro blues and, on the first album at least, folky americana make for a unique sound that oddly feels familiar. I think their grungier stuff shows promise, but probably needs a little work to get it up to the standard of the rest of what they offer. This is a minor criticism though.



As mentioned at the beginning, I’ve gotten slightly behind, so I’ll try and bash through a couple of short discographies in June.


Metal 2 the Masses Sheffied | The Grand Final

After six first round heats and three semi-finals, last night was The Grand Final of the Sheffield branch of the Metal 2 the Masses competition at the Mulberry Tavern.

It had been a fantastic tournament up to this point, and the final did not disappoint.


Aonia

https://www.facebook.com/aoniauk/
Symphonic / Power / Operatic Metal
Winners of Heat 1
Runner-up in Semi-Final 3

Being first on can be a bit of a curse, but the extended sound check allowed for the septet to have their strongest sounding performance in the competition. It was nice to see uniformity in the stage apparel across the band too, and the light up corsets were a neat touch. This was a great start to the evening, from a band that’s now pretty much the complete package.

Delirium

https://www.facebook.com/DeliriumOfficialbandpage/
Rock
Winners of Heat 3
Winners of Semi-Final 2

I’ve seen these guys a number of times in the past eighteen months or so and they rarely disappoint. Whilst tonight they don’t quite reach the heady heights of their earlier round performances, this phenomenally talented trio still impress on-lookers with their funky brand of rock’n’roll.

Sobriquet

https://www.facebook.com/sobriquetband/
Alternative Metal
Winners of Heat 2
Runners-up in Semi-Final 1

It’s worth remembering that this entertaining alt. metal outfit were a last minute stand-in in the second week of the comptition. They took the opportunity by the horns and rode it all the way to the final. Performance wise, after a bit of a shaky start they nailed the last three tracks and put on a very enjoyable, energetic show. I can’t wait to see how these guys progress from here.

Archelon

https://www.facebook.com/Archelonband/
Post-Metal / Sludge / Doom
Runner-up in Heat 5
Winners of Semi-Final 3

Archelon were the first part of a sludgey hypnotic double header of doom. These guys have been consistently one of the better bands in the tournament, and they continued that trend with a monstrously heavy set. Their consistency is all the more impressive to say they were performing without their bass player!

Ba’al

https://www.facebook.com/baalsheff/
Post-Metal / Sludge / Doom
Winners of Heat 6
Runners-up in Semi-Final 2

Ba’al had a tough act to follow, but they saved their best performance of the tournament for the final. Their mid-tempo brand of sludgey doom got many heads banging, including my own, as they knocked it out of the ballpark.

Arkdown 

https://www.facebook.com/ArkdownOfficial/
Metalcore / Contemporary Metal
Winners of Heat 5
Winners of Semi-Final 1

One of the most popular bands of the tournament, these energetic contemporary metallers drew the closing slot of the evening. Unphased by the excellent bands playing immediately before them, they proceed to slam through their pitworthy setlist with great confidence.

Guest Headliner:
Regulus

https://www.facebook.com/regulus.band/
Stoner Rock / Hard Rock / Heavy Psych
Winner of Metal 2 the Masses Lincolnshire 2016

It’s always a pleasure to watch one of the more talented bands from our area, and they were a perfect choice for guest headliner. If you’ve not seen them live, you’re truly missing out on a cracking stoner rock act.


The Result


I thought it was a tough choice for the judge to make, but I agree with the decision to name Ba’al the winners. They saved their best performance for the final, and were the best band on the night. Congratulations chaps!

For the record, I had it being between them and Archelon, but there could have been argument made for other bands too.

It was also noted that two other bands on the evening (not named) are being put forward as potential acts to fulfill other slots on the Bloodstock bill.


A Few Final Words


Thank you to everyone that’s been reading and sharing my blogs on the tournament. It’s been a pleasure doing them, and I’m sure I’ll do the same again next year. Before I sign off, I just wanted to congratulations Jake, Craig and the Mulberry staff for putting on a very enjoyable, fair, and diverse tournament.

A quick shout out to all the finalists: Aonia, Delirium, Sobriquet, Archelon, Ba’al, Arkdown. You guys all put on a heck of a evening and I wish you all the best.

There were also some cracking bands that didn’t quite make it all the way, and I just wanna give a quick shout out to a few that I was particularly impressed with:

Bovidae
https://www.facebook.com/bovidaeband/
Probably the band with the most pure talent in the tournament. They were ever so unlucky to not make the final (lost a tie-breaker to Ba’al for second place in the semi-final – oh how different the final would have been!). I’m glad they got as far as they did and I really hope they enter again next year.

Gorilla Warfare
https://www.facebook.com/GorillaWarfare/
One of the most fun bands of the tournament. I had the pleasure of seeing their last show of their current incarnation recently, and I look forward to seeing what arises from their ashes.

Sour Tusk
https://www.facebook.com/Sourtusk/
Loud, brash and talented two piece stoner rockers that were unfortunate to have been drawn in what was probably the toughest opening heat. I hope they try again next year, as I’m fairly sure they’d have made the semi-finals had they been in a different heat.

I also think NormaliserElecorn, Grandmother Suplex and The Mechanist have loads of potential, and I hope they’ll all consider entering again next year.

Whilst we’re doing awards/lists, I may as well list my favourite sets of the whole tournament – because who doesn’t love a good list?

My favourite sets of the tournament – in no particular order:
Delirium – Heat 3
Bovidae – Semi-Final 2
Ba’al – Final
Archelon – Semi-Final 3
Aonia – Semi-Final 3

There’s been some quality performances / shows, and credit where it’s due, Jake, Craig and that gang have put on a great tournament.  I hear plans are already underway for next year’s offering!

Speaking of next year, I can’t wait to see which bands enter. Selfishly speaking, I hope some of the other kick arse bands from our region – such as Skyligers, Deltanaut, Firegarden and Deadblondestars – put themselves forward for it.

And that’s about it, I think. Congratulations once more to Ba’al, and thanks to everyone for entertaining me for the past couple of months! Cheers!