Archive for February, 2011

The Mark of Cain… and Heroes

Posted in Admin with tags on February 28, 2011 by Noise Road

Henry Rollins dug them, so he produced the Mark of Cain’s seminal 1995 album, Ill at Ease.

Former Helmet and current Battles drummer, John Stanier, so loved the band that he joined as the permanent drummer for their 2001 This is This album.

So why the feck don’t you own Ill at Ease?  Why haven’t you heard This is This?  You think that you know better than Rollins?…  Sure Hank’s been in some superbly cr@p movies (The New Guy comes to mind)…  But we’re talking Black Flag Rollins.  We’re talking Rollins Band Rollins.  His record collection sh!ts all over yours.

The Mark of Cain make me proud of our hometown, Adelaide.  I dig them on multiple levels.

The most important level is the music.  I dig their progression from the noise-y, Joy Division-tinged, early records of Battlesick and The Unclaimed Prize, to the heavier, off-kilter riffs of the last two records.

I caught them a bunch of times in my late teens and early twenties, and at that time, they were considered one of the best live acts in Australia.

Another reason why I am such a big tmoc fan is due to the strength of the lyrical focus.  The delivery is direct and without pretension – but there is unquestionable intelligence behind the bluntness of the words.

War is used as a theme throughout the records.  Like the best war novels and movies, war provides a heightened state to investigate human existence.

The war themes of isolation and introspection tie up with lyricist John Scott’s other common theme, failed relationships.  And as the lyrics progressed, so did the music. The isolation of noisier Joy Division, gave way to the heavy riffing of an angry break up in Ill at Ease

The Mark of Cain’s last album was released in 2001.  The band have never been prolific.  Largely, this is because they don’t earn a crust from their music.  And unlike many bands, their income is not derived from part time jobs between tours…  and here lies my further connection to the band.

I’m very glad that acts like the Melvins, the Hold Steady, Napalm Death, and the Dillinger Escape Plan have found enough of a support base such that they can live as musicians.  All those bands tour near continuously, and I’m sure it is a fatiguing and difficult lifestyle…  but they are able to make a living off their passion.  Their energy is not lost to a 9 to 5 that they hate.  Their energy pours into their passion.

I also admire the bands that live it rough, in order to fund their dream.  Ludicra released one of the best albums of last year, yet mainman, John Cobbett, works multiple part time jobs to make rent.  Not many employers are happy to let you come and go to tour.  I believe that only recently has High on Fire’s Matt Pike been able to give up part-time construction work.

But there is a third kind of artist that I admire.  As a slave to the professional world, a few heroes remind me that I need to think big.  Pig Destroyer’s and Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Scott Hull is an IT guru for the US Department of Defence, a devoted father of two and the bringer of the best riffs on the planet.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/31/AR2009073102026.html

Deniz Tek led seminal proto-punk band, Radio Birdman, finished his medical degree, flew jets in the US Navy and worked as an ER doctor.

The Mark of Cain’s John Stanier earns a crust through his other projects, like Battles. However, main man, John Scott, and his bassist brother, Kim, pretty much do exactly the same thing that I do for a living.  They are both engineers, and back in Adelaide, I worked for the marine equivalent of the company that they worked for.

But while I struggle, day to day, to achieve anything beyond the grind, they make awesome music.  They remind me that I need to rise above. I’ve got no excuses.

I’m a few months behind the ball, but there is news, good and bad, from the tmoc camp.  In mid-December John Scott posted a blog on the tmoc website.

http://tmoc.com.au/blog/

In good news, all the songs for new album are ready.  John Stanier returns as the drummer and even Rollins has some cameos.  In mid-December, the songs were due to be mixed in Melbourne.

In bad news, one of my heroes, John Scott, has hit a low.  Split from his wife, sold the house, and quit the grind… In his words:

“…but I do have to work and as fucked as it is (Kim loves working though) in that it interferes with the album, it’s just one of the aspects of life you try accept – but I haven’t been too happy of late with the shit winter weather (yeah great for the farmers…how many times do people have to say that – who gives a shit! it just depresses me and farmers are never happy anyway)- but work is real soul destroying at the moment and it’s not destroying in the way that you get the urge to write songs and get creative – it’s the opposite in fact – all you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep and then get up and stay awake all night watching horror movies…”

I definitely know that soul-destroying riff.  Time just seems to get burnt…  But people like Scott have always reminded me that I can’t afford to burn time.  Life is far too short a trip to play that one boring-@rse riff too often.

So I eagerly await the new record, and I look forward to what lies ahead for Scott and the rest of the Mark of Cain.

As TMOC always close a set, so shall I close this post…  with The Pointman:

Kylesa a Oullins, France – Samedi, 12 Fevrier 2011

Posted in Gigs, Travel on February 17, 2011 by Noise Road

Tonight, Kylesa. Next week, the cat show! Lyon, France

Germany’s vivid history brings reflections of the potential of men – good and evil.  It also brings delicious wheat beer and pig in multiple delivery formats.

Morocco feels like the cantina scene in Star Wars.

I find it easy to articulate why those countries are favourites.  However, I can not pinpoint why I find myself drawn to France.

Previously I’ve visited Paris (multiple times), Marseille and even Hellfest in Clisson. Paris and Marseille are both popular with international tourists. And Clisson was not quite operating under normal conditions when 20,000 metalheads swarmed.

Lyon, however, is the most French locale that I have visited. I didn’t meet any Australians, or English, or Americans in my days there. My rusty, schoolboy French (with an Australian twang) was stretched – but thats good. I don’t want things too easy. Struggling with language reminds you that you are somewhere different. The world isn’t 100% homogenised. Yet. After catching a 1:30am coach to Gatwick, the red eye delivered me deep into Lyon’s fog. I didn’t even know that fog occurred that far inland. The ignorance of a life spent clinging to the edge of a desert continent.

Reception wouldn’t let me check in until after 3pm. The mental haze of no sleep, combined with the thick fog, that failed to completely burn off until mid-afternoon, created a surreal first impression of the town. The centre of Lyon is situated inside the convergence of two rivers.  Effectively, the centre is an island.  Across the western river, the bank rises sharply to the old town, and an impressive basilica, that overlooks Lyon. Noise Road sought a chilled weekend, and grand old Lyon delivered. Throughout the centre, beautiful parks look out to spectacular views, and squares surround statues by the dude responsible for the Statue of Liberty.

Noise Road strolled from square to square, park to park, stopping to grind on his baguette avec jambon et fromage. How French am I? I even got my Camus on in a park. Although it was a little too cold to be reading a book outside, no matter how faux French it makes you feel. Oullins

Noise Road isn’t known for depth of research prior to hitting a town. We land and then we walk in a random direction. Sometimes we find something interesting…  and sometimes we find the odd issue.

Kylesa were playing at Le Clacson, in Oullins. Oullins is a completely seperate town to Lyon, dude… The metro does not go there…   And local buses scare me. I always fear that I can get too far lost on a motorised vehicle unrestricted by tracks… So, it was a 6 or 7km walk door to door, each way. At least, I burnt off some of that fromage. I took the long way round the river. On the far side of the river lay a modern architectural wonderland, and on my side, the old town. Halfway down, the road was closed. I wasn’t going to turn back and retrace my steps on the other side of the river. So I hopped the barriers.

The barriers may have been in place because of falling bricks and rocks from the steep slope of the old town. The old mansions/estates were impressive, but left in a state of ruin. I’m not sure of the history of those buildings. Behind, new expensive residences had been erected, but the facade to the road left collapsing.  There was not time to investigate – I’ve got a show to get to, Dr Jones! Returning from the show, I cut straight up the highway back into Lyon. That should be safer, right?… Let me just say that I don’t seek out the seedy parts of every town. They find me. Along the highway, a prostitute stood on each corner. As my walk home neared the 80-minute mark, old drunk men abused phantoms in the harshest French I’ve heard.  I was living out a mid-era Tom Waits track. Le Clacson

The venue, like the town, felt distinctly French – with nil English around me and a very euro, unisex toillette (what is the etiquette there?). Also, the French, with their naturally unshaven ways, are born to be beard metallers.

Okkultokrati

I do not find Okkultokrati an easy name to remember.  I struggled to spell it sufficiently to youtube them. The band are billed as blackened hardcore… To me it sounded a lot like sludgey hardcore. My ears thought of Eyehategod a lot more than Mayhem.

“blackened hardcore” perfectly described the logo on their amp though. A modified Black Flag stripes logo, with the second stripe extended into an inverted cross.  Nice.

The set was full of punky enthusiasm and sludgey venom. I’d definitely pay to see them again.

Kylesa

For more detailed words on Kylesa live, check out my post for their show in London, a few days previous.

In my enthusiasm for 90’s alt rock, I may have overstated the feel of that genre in the Underworld show. Tonight’s show still showed those touches in the grunge riff of Don’t Look Back, and even in Pleasants’ strong melodic vocal in Distance Closing In… but sludgey psychedelia is Kylesa’s bag.

Kylesa’s set initially found some technical issues. However, overall, Le Clacson, a small room with two big speakers hanging from front of stage, sounded far better than appearances seemed to predict.

The cleaner sound allowed the additional instrumentation to more effectively create the psychedelic vibe. Guitarist/Vocalist Philip Cope wore his theremin loud and proud, whilst bassist, Barhorst’s, keyboards created trippy atmospheres.

However the star of the night was drums. The cleaner mix allowed the two drum kits to be distinguished…  And all night you could not keep Cope away from his floor tom.

I listened to Neurosis’ Times of Grace earlier today, and sludgey riffs and tribal drums are such natural bedfellows. Add a theremin and you, my friend, are in for a solid evening. In London, Noise Road noted a surprisingly violent pit. As expected, the French were far more chilled – nodding and occasionally grooving to the music. That is until a flurry erupted for the closer of the set, Scapegoat.


Once they got moving, the kids couldn’t stop. The set led immediately into an encore of tribal drums. The French kids moshed to tribal drums… interesting.

While all 4 of the Kylesa lads beat their drums, Pleasants momentarily dissapeared to don a white-witch frock. Floor toms safely restowed, Kylesa appropriately closed the night with a haunting, witchy cover of Pink Floyd’s Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. After the sketchy walk home and a couple hours kip, I stomped to town to see the pro’s knock off work for another Saturday night. I was at the train station to meet my early flight, while they waited for their train home. Who knows where their next stop is. Mine is Watain, bloody Watain.

Kylesa @ The Underworld, Camden, London, 7 February 2011

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , on February 9, 2011 by Noise Road

A bit over a year ago, Kylesa was just a name that I kept hearing.  5 gigs in 4 cities and 3 countries later, I am ready to sell the house, sell the car and sell the kids for Kylesa.

So say the wise “Monday is an awful way to spend one-seventh of your life”… But this Monday night, all is right with the world. Work is an 80 minute train ride ago, a pint is in hand, and Eyehategod-y sludge spews from the opening act. Nothing says work less than Eyehategod.

I would prefer to live in London – but then again I think working here may taint the city for me. As it is, I feel nothing but love for London, and the awesome gigs that I regularly catch here.  The odd 80-minute commute is a small pice to pay.

We’re at the Underworld with our people, the beardo’s. In the words of Bukowski, “We are here to drink beer… and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us”. It is Monday night after all.

The sound at the Underworld is never great.  And the obscured view has to be seen to be believed – seriously there is a structural pillar centre stage.  But it is amongst the best venues in Europe. You can not fake atmosphere.

Much has been said on the subject of Kylesa’s influences on the new record. Who said 90’s alterno’s rock is dead?…

My default mode is 90’s alterno rock. The music of your teens etches into your soul, especially in an era before the download boom. Your music collection was limited by your teenage funds.  You had to save for that new Sonic Youth cd.  The new Faith No More record meant that you couldn’t afford to underage drink at the reservoir the following night.

Consequently, those records meant everything. I knew every note and every word. I read the liner notes on nearly every listen… Once again, that music is etched into my soul.

So Kylesa’s 90’s flavour on the new record, Spiral Shadow, resonates at Noise Road.  During the more melodic passages, Laura Pleasants vocals raised memories of Kim Deal… or was it Kim Gordon. She was somewhere in the Kim’s. There were riffs reminiscent of Pixies, Sonic Youth and even Faith No More.

However…

In perspective, Kylesa hints and nods to the 90’s, rather than uses it as a mode of operation.  To fail to look past that one new influence is to fail yourself.  Even that influence is filtered through Kylesa’s fuzzy orange amps.

At heart, Kylesa are still your favourite bringer of sludge-y riffing… And their brand of psychedelic sludge is in no way generic. Kylesa bring so much to the dance.

Kylesa operate with two full drum kits.  Some critics question how effectively they use the second kit.

Have you ever thought at any show “Man, I wish that there were less drums being hit right now?” If you have, I don’t know if you and I can be friends anymore…  Two kits seems to be the minimum acceptable quantity.

With extended live drumming passages, the role of the second kit can be better appreciated.  Additional floor toms were worked by bassist, Barhorst, and mainman, Phillip Cope.  Tribal drums sit well amongst sludgey riffs.

In the previous Kylesa shows that I caught, the instrumentation was stripped back (I mean apart from the second kit).  The Underworld show brought the centre stage floor toms, Barhorst manned a laptop/keys desk and I believe that Cope may have even been hiding a theremin.  Only the saxophone is more metal than a theremin.

Tired Climb especially benefitted from the added psychedelic touches of the computron desk.

The crowd bounced for Don’t Look Back, but the harder hitting tracks such as Scapegoat and Said and Done, from Static Tensions, inspired a surprisingly violent pit.  As people backed off, it allowed the kids too much room to build up momentum.  Momentum and subteranean structural pillars on a venue floor are an interesting mix.

A week of work, and a budget flight to Lyon seperate me and my next Kylesa show.

Here’s to Kylesa, and here’s to straying from the tired climb of Mondays.

Your Next Trip… 1989, Heavy Music’s High Water Mark in the Mainstream

Posted in Admin on February 1, 2011 by Noise Road

Well, things have been a little quiet from 23a Noise Road…

We didn’t quite find the time to post any words on the awesome Neurosis show, in London, in early December (The word for that performance is weight.  Many bands can fill a room with sound, but few have Neurosis’ substance.  The notes feel authentic and lived.  The air in the venue weighed heavy with atmosphere).

Then there was a very expensive Xmas jaunt home to Oz.  Worth every penny to see my beautiful girl, and to catch all of the immediate clan in one city for a rarity…

And since my compassionate leave ceased, I have been busy finishing my sentence in Southampton, UK….

Ships have been electrically engineered.  Girl, family and friends have unfortunately been left…  but while we’re young(ish), adventures have to be had.  The last few months of work may have added greys to the receding hairline, and inches to the waistline, but they have secured a fistful of bucks to tackle a few months of musical wanderings.

A string of gigs in many different cities leads up to the Roadburn Festival 2011.  The Hold Steady in Southampton/Bristol this weekend.  Kylesa in Lyon and London the following week.  Watain, The Thermals, Rotten Sound, Earth in cities further past the horizon.  But for now, let’s take a trip to 1989…

In the previous post, Noise Road looked at a time when heavy rock was popular.  1970 saw some of the best bands, The Who, Sabbath, Hendrix, Zepplin become the biggest bands in the world.  Mainstream music does not have to be shyte.

In the 80’s, heavy music continued to dance with the mainstream.  I can’t say that I am a huge fan of many of the hair bands that gained popularity in the 80’s.  Whilst I enjoy a sing along to Poison after a few beers, something far more interesting occurred in the 80’s – Thrash metal.  People knew Metallica.  People knew Slayer.  And then, weirdly, people in the UK knew Napalm Death…

I found this 1989 BBC2 Arena documentary on heavy metal.  You can stream the hour doco, via 6 x 10-minute YouTube clips at the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=87131901552EBC66

I am unaware of how well known this documentary is.  I hadn’t heard of it before I stumbled across it while trawling youtube for old-school Napalm Death.  Some days only Napalm have the answers.

If you haven’t seen the doco, it is worth your time.  It is far from perfect.  It is delightfully corny and awkwardly British in places, but it succeeds in two ways.

1.It offers a brief how and why of heavy music.   Over a decade and a half prior to Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and Global Metal, the BBC2 covered similar terrain.

2.  And more importantly, it offers a snapshot of the heaviest music to breakthrough the mainstream’s consciousness.  In 1989, Napalm Death received repeated air time on the UK’s Radio One.  Slayer, in their prime, are kings of the underground.  Metallica are huge and still yet fall into a mire of sh!t.  Guns and Roses were even bigger, and yet to fall into an even deeper mire of sh!t…

The documentary starts slowly.  An almost coherent Ozzy covers familiar territory with the birth of metal from sh!tty suburbs, the origins of the term “heavy metal” and the usual nods to Sabbath, Deep Purple and Zepplin.  There are however some highlights – the metal journalist’s excellent comb-over, Lars Ulrich’s super-mullet and a weird acoustic rendition of Kashmir by Jimmy Page.  If Ozzy is nearly sober, Jimmy is nearly not.

Highlights of part 2 include a live clip of Metallica before the wave of genius broke.  Genius intact or not, James Hetfield was always a d!ck – Spot the bullying of Jason Newsted at 1:47.

Part 3 brings pure gold.  Slayer in 1989 is still in their peak.  The performance here of Raining Blood at 1:36 and the later, even livelier, South of Heaven are reasons enough to watch this doco.  Also, note that Slayer weren’t too cool for staged choreography at 1:41.

PART 3 also brings the entrance of an early incarnation of Napalm Death.  Carcass’s Bill Steer is still in the band in 1989, and Napalm lifer, Shane Embury, does his best to continually talk over him.  Get out, Bill!

Part 4 is Bruce Dickinson in all his corny glory – play fencing for the camera, dress ups and codpieces…

Megadeth had the magic in 1989.  In parallels to the Headbanger’s Journey/Global Metal doco’s, Part 5 explores the fans and how far spread metal is throughout the world…  Also, South of Heaven at 8:53…  Before you see the light, you must DIEEE!!!!!!!

Part 6 at 2:09 showpieces the almost sludgy, certainly crusty, early incarnation of Napalm Death.  Awesome.

1989 certainly was not the death of heavy metal in the mainstream.  1989 doesn’t even represent the most extreme metal to break through the public’s consciousness.  I mean Cannibal Corpse appeared in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

However 1989 is an intriguing time in metal’s history.  To the mainstream, the extreme metal bands that followed were either a horror, or, at best, a novelty.  In 1989, Metallica were not a novelty.  They were heavy.  Their records were at metal’s cutting edge… and they were popular.

The Legacy of 1989

Its fascinating that every band featured in this documentary is still in existence 21 years later.  When you think about the average life of a band, how did all of these bands survive?

Not only are those bands alive, but the acts that headlined festivals in 1989 are the same bands that still headline festivals in 2011 – Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer…  Where are today’s younger headlines?  Is the lack of fresh headliners, linked to the inability of younger bands to crack the mainstream?

I don’t want or expect people to like the underground bands that I love.  That doesn’t matter to me.  While I would prefer to hear Pig Destroyer as I enter the local shopping mall, instead of the sounds of that pretty muppet Bieber kid.  I don’t need it.  Still, Pig Destroyer isn’t really any heavier than Slayer.  And Slayer got the odd TV and radio appearance, back in 1989.  Maybe….

Today, I had to stomach Black Eyed Peas’ recycled shyte as I grabbed milk and bread.  But maybe, tomorrow…  Tomorrow may be the day they choose to pipe through some Gravedancer at the local Tesco’s…  Vote with your dollars and feet, people…