Last month, I went to see Oathbreaker twice on their UK tour. Both shows were everything I hoped for from them, but something else came to my attention that I had been stupidly overlooking for years: Svalbard.
While I was aware of them, I hadn’t had the chance to become fully invested in them. Watching their combination of post rock and black metal was a mesmerising experience that has stuck with me ever since. Svalbard are a fine example of the talent rising up from the UK underground. The unrelenting euphoria of their music is the perfect soundtrack to the end of the world.
Hailing from Quarteira, Portugal, Sam Alone & The Gravediggers are hidden gem that was recently shown to me by a friend. They carry on the tradition of great storytelling songwriters, and give a feeling of hope to anyone who takes the time to listen. There’s nothing fancy here, just real music for real people.
Their 2016 album, ‘Tougher Than Leather’, is filled with anthems for the working class from a heart that beats fire. The acoustic-led tracks are protest songs filled with soul and a will to fight, giving a voice to the voiceless.
It’s been a while since folk-punk has been able to make me feel passionate about anything, but Sam Alone & The Gravediggers achieved that from the first listen.
Have you ever heard a band that are so visceral, caustic, and aggressive that it actually becomes frightening? Being a fan of extreme music, I thought I had heard it all. Then I heard Venom Prison and found it nothing short of terrifying in the best possible way.
‘Animus’ made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, and is truly one of the most intense albums I have heard in a long time. It carries on the tradition of the genre, while breathing new life and perspective into it. They are one of the finest bands the UK has to offer right now, and have raised the bar for aggressive music.
By and large, death metal is renowned for its technicality. You only have to look back at Death, Atheist, and Cynic if you want to marvel at some of the most proficient playing in aggressive music. And then you have Gatecreeper. While still an incredibly accomplished group of musicians, the Arizona band deal exclusively in aural brutality than intricate, prog-infused riffs.
It was that what drew me to Gatecreeper. Just when I thought my days of pure aggression were behind mine, their debut album ‘Sonoran Deprivation’ pushed me right back through the door. It is a first-class lecture in how to pull off ignorant heavy hardcore, with a modern death metal twist and sound original. Imagine, if you will, Obituary and Merauder coming together and you are about half way to the intensity of Gatecreeper.
It may be 2017, but there are still people that say Sepultura are not Sepultura without Max Cavalera in the band. I get that, I was the same for a while. Even when I saw them for the first time back in 1999. As much as I enjoyed them, it didn’t feel the same. But I was a dumb kid back then. Now in my mid-thirties, I appreciate how great Sepultura still are.
If you don’t believe me, listen to ‘I Am The Enemy’ from their excellent new record, ‘Machine Messiah’. It shows they are still able to reinvent themselves, and it’s not just ‘Sepultura with a new singer’ anymore. Derrick Green’s vocals are some of the most powerful I’ve heard within aggressive music for a long time, and Andreas Kisser – who has arguably been the driving force behind Sepultura since ‘Schizophrena’ in ’87 – unleashes some of the best riffs in his arsenal. Never forget the impact of the first version of the band, but realise the importance of the what Sepultura are today.
Immolation have been one of the most intense death metal bands for the best part of 30 years, and if ‘Destructive Currents’ is anything to go by, they have no plans on stopping yet. It was the first taste of their new album, ‘Atonement’, and which I am now very excited for.
While many bands masquerade under the death metal tag without really capturing the spirit of the genre. Immolation show everyone how its done. Through machine gun drumming, Rob Dolan’s trademark guttural vocals and a hail of unrelenting riffs, this is true death metal, and a glorious return from one of the best ever to do it.
I don’t how it’s been four years since Power Trip released ‘Manifest Decimation’, but thankfully they are back and more punishing than ever. With the new tracks that have been released from their forthcoming album, ‘Nightmare Logic’, they are intent on raising the bar for heavy music in 2017.
There are still plenty of groove to satiate the hardcore faithful who have stuck by them and awaited their return, yet their thrash and extreme metal influence evidently can no longer be contained. The classic 80’s style riffing of ‘Executioners Tax (Swing of the Axe)’ is redolent of Exodus and Voivod, with Riley Gales dry-throat vocals sounding visceral and coarse over the top. Power Trip show no remorse to the listener, but if you are willing to pay the price you will be highly rewarded.
Who’s go two thumbs and was virtually reduced to tears while watching Pallbearer play live a few years ago? This guy.
When I saw them touring their ‘Foundations Of Burden’ album in 2015, it was a moving, almost spiritual experience. Not something you often hear said about a sonically crushing doom metal band, but it very much happened that way. Just when I thought I would be over that, I heard the stunning new Pallbearer track, ‘Thorns’, and the memories came flooding back to me.
Even if I was apprehensive that they wouldn’t be able to top their last record at first, the brute force of low end guitar riffs, the power in Brett Campbell’s vocal delivery, and the hypnotic cadence says otherwise. With the release of their new album ‘Heartless’ right around the corner, I am now looking forward to taking the emotional journey with Pallbearer once more.
I was pretty surprised when Slowdive actually reformed in 2014 after nearly twenty years away. I try my hardest to ‘never say never’, but something in the back of my mind was telling me it wouldn’t happen. Little did I know they would go as far as to make new music in 2017, and to make it even better, ‘Star Roving’ has picked up where they left off.
It traverses through a thick wall of reverb and delay, as Neil Halstead takes the lead with his vocal buried in the mix. It is complimented by the harmonious backing of Rachel Goswell, adding an ethereal layer to this up-tempo track. By retaining their signature sound they have shown the current crop of “shoegaze” chancers how it’s done, and makes 1993 feel like just yesterday. Welcome back, Slowdive.