Firstly, I love Morne. This Boston band blends elements of post-punk, hardcore, sludge, and doom into a massive, crushing, and melancholic sound. Think Joy Division, Isis, Neurosis, and My Dying Bride (and a tiny touch of the Amebix) all together. Although many bands have similar sounds, Morne stands out from the pack are more than the some of their many influences. All of their releases are solid, with their demo being a little bit faster and heavier with later releases going more for melancholy. Nonetheless, if you like one Morne song, you are likely to enjoy the whole catalog. I strongly recommend this band and so does Fenriz of Darkthrone. In fact, the band's name appears on Max Necro's sleeve on Darkthrone's "Circle The Wagons" album (which is a classic in my opinion so pick that up too!). Morne recently had a show in Brooklyn with Tombs which I unfortunately missed in order to see the below band live, finally (it was worth it!).
2. Psychic TV- "Greyhounds Of The Future" 12 in single
The A side is new track "Greyhounds Of The Future which to me sounds an awful lot like Swans covering Hawkwind, so if that doesn't get you excited perhaps stop reading. It has a central riff that weaves in and out of the song with plenty of psychedelic meanderings and jams with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge's characteristic voice and lyrics calling out about the beginning and end-times. The B side is also a new track, "Alien Lightning Meat Machine Part II" which consists of some ambient electronics and sounds over Gen's voice for about 5 minutes which then gives way to some percussion and strings with Gen continuing and the song eventually finishing with some slow trippy variations on the music. The album is overall about 21 minutes long (just over 10 min per side) and I have been listening to it quite often (though to be fair I got it at the end of December). Gen has a varied body of work just with Psychic TV alone (from acid house to industrial/experimental/noise stuff and just about anywhere else), not to mention their work in pioneering industrial act Throbbing Gristle. If you are unfamiliar with any of this, prepare yourself to step into a much larger, much stranger new world. P.S. Psychic TV live were awesome! I'll have to post a review sometime but it suffices to say that I was not disappointed and Gen was super cool (I didn't meet them but Gen totally called out some rowdy toolbag concert goers on their shitty behavior when they started throwing beer cans at the rest of the audience).
3. Sacrificial Blood- "Live at Sinclairs, Long Island NY 8/24/13"
I am a huge fan of Sacrificial Blood (the band, not the material) and have had the opportunity to see them several times (each awesome though some with sound difficulties due to engineer or equipment failings) so a live album which basically showcases new songs from their upcoming 2nd full-length "Souls For Sale" was something I jumped at. This cassette-only release (damn it I hate cassettes!) is a bit poor in quality early on, but that may just be my copy. The artwork is simple B&W copied images of the band with tracklist. I won't say that this is a required release but Sacrificial Blood's full-lengths ARE (at the time of writing I have just finished listening to the 2nd full-length and it slays!!). They have a unique sound that blends (in order): Heavy Metal with progressive overtones, Death Metal, Thrash Metal, touch of punk and hard rock. They have excellent barked vocals, catchy as hell guitar riffs and driving percussion that is always tough and straightforward. These guys have been one of my favorite up-and-coming act discoveries of the last few years (though the main members have been musically active for quite a while) and I couldn't recommend them enough to fans of early 80's Heavy/Extreme Metal sounds.
4. Saxon- "Sacrifice"
Here we have classic Saxon material, catchy Heavy/Speed Metal in the NWOBHM tradition (quite literally on the 'British' part). See my review of them live in a previous posting. If you like classic Saxon releases, check this one out. The whole album is solid with the following songs being particularly fist-pumpingly catchy: Sacrifice, Made In Belfast, Warriors Of The Road, Guardians Of The Tomb, and Wheels Of Terror.
5. Skinny Puppy- "Weapon"
I love Skinny Puppy and have supported them in all incarnations, since I got into them. Some of their more recent efforts (especially "The Greater Wrong Of The Right") have been very polarizing for old Puppy fans, but I think this release will bring a great number back to the fold. For those of you already familiar with SP, this release really scales the sounds back to the early days, I hear a lot of "Bites" and "Remission" in this new album in that the synths are stripped down, the percussion is simple and straightforward, often 4/4 stuff, Moroder-esque bass sequencers, and Ogre makes a full return to his droney and creepy monotone. We don't really get the swing beats I enjoy but that's just fine, the album is solid without them. For those of you new to the Pups, this is a good release to start on, then work back from. So, a song for song break down: 'wornin'' has a nice sequencer bass line with some simple and interesting choral synth leads with Ogre claiming that he's been "hiding out" over and over. Nice way to open the album, suggesting a return of some sort. To an older sound, perhaps? 'illisiT' starts off a bit more aggressive in the percussion, lead synth, and vocal delivery. There is also a good video for it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJlFYPOXimE. It feels quite a bit like it could have been on SP's "The Process" album, it especially reminds me of some demo versions of songs from said release, made available on some of the "Back & Forth" Series. 'saLvo' has a great lead synth, big and creepy with a nice percussive line and very creepy Ogre vocals. 'gLowbel' is a bit more whimsical in its music and vocal delivery. It feels an awful lot like it could be on an Ohgr album. 'Solvent' is next and is indeed a remastering of the self-same song from "Remission." Next we have 'paragUn' which feels a lot like something from "Mythmaker" in its vocal delivery and musical composition. Pretty decent but not an album maker. 'Survivalisto' feels a lot like early Front Line Assembly or related Bill Leeb projects in the drum beat and synth design. It doesn't sound like a rip off (what a strange thing THAT would be) just similar in style. "Tsudanama" stutters about its drum beat with some weird electronic leads. I hear a lot of cEvin Key's experimentation and recent stylings on this track. 'plastiCage' follows and is also a bit whimsical and feels like an Oghr song mixed with the "Mythmaker" style. 'Terminal' is very moody and somewhat atmospheric. Ogre does a more modern vocal delivery. Finally, the album closes with "Overdose" which is a return to the new-old sound heard on the beginning of the album. Creeping and crawling through its paces, I feel this is a strong closer. My only complaint is that the percussion is a little too forward in the mix on this track. I eagerly look forward to seeing Skinny Puppy for the second time (once in 2009) in February of 2014 and will post here when I do!
6. Suffocation- "Pinnacle Of Bedlam"
New York's own Brutal Death Metal legends, Suffocation, return with a new album that continues in the vein of the last few. What this means to me: the guitar tones are lacking in brutality, the compositions focus too much on technicality and solos, not enough on head-smashing riffs, and the drums sound way too plastic and triggered. This album does have some good guitar compositions but overall it just can't compare to "Pierced From Within," "Effigy For The Forgotten," or "Human Waste." Of note, I am in the video for 'As Grace Descends' which was shot at Duff's bar, New York. A friend and I waited around outside all day for a chance to get in to be an extra, and we succeeded. Look for the dumb guy with long hair in a blue over-shirt next to the guy with the beard in the Suffocation hoodie behind the drummer. Specific, right? So here's a picture. I DON'T OWN THE RIGHTS TO THIS VIDEO OR ITS CONTENT.
7. Suicide Commando- "When Evil Speaks"
For those unfamiliar, Johan Van Roy, creator of the Belgian Terror Body Music (TBM) electronic band, Suicide Commando brings us a new album of angry, high-octane dance tracks that attempt to bridge Front Line Assembly and the Klinik into one power-trip revved up to 45 RPM. This album is good but lacks the directness and hard-hitting angst or depression of other albums on the first half. With the exception of the stand-out title track, the album doesn't really get good until the 6th of 12 songs. A little mixing-up of song order or releasing just the second half of the album as an EP would have made this a very solid release for the band, but the first tracks feel like filler. Not a good move to START your album with weaker tracks. Prior and new fans alike should try the aforementioned tracks to see if the album is worth purchasing. I do highly recommend checking out their back catalog for newcomers! By the way, I was lucky enough to see Suicide Commando on their first US show EVER in Philly in 2013, front row.
8. Toxic Holocaust- "Chemistry Of Consciousness"
Another excellent slice of punk-fueled Blackened Thrash Metal from America. I am a big fan of all of Joel Grind's work and this release is no disappointment. I feel that Toxic Holocaust's approach to the genre leaves most other new-comers in the dust because of its sensibilities, its respect and genuine understanding of the genres, and its unique combination thereof. If you like Metal with your Punk or vice versa then get some TH releases! Also, I have been reading quite a bit about altered states of consciousness and psychoactive substances lately so that made this release extra-special. I wish I was able to see TH play locally for this release as I would have been very interested to chat up Joel about any experimenting or thoughts he had on the subject. I met him once when TH opened for the English Dogs (!!!) and he was really cool and approachable, as anyone who's read an interview of him would expect. Thanks Joel for being awesome and for making another gem of an album!
9. Undergang- "Søm Til Din Ligkiste" 7" EP
Here's over 12 minutes of crusty Danish Doomy/Death Metal to drop on the slab of your record player. I was first introduced to these guys when they opened for Autopsy in NYC in late-Winter of 2012, awesome show! If you like stuff like Coffins and Grave, or the now-popular-for-a-reason Obliteration with a ton of crust and distortion, this is a band for you!! This EP is a good place to start but my favorite release is 2012's "Til Døden Os Skiller."
10. Warbeast- "Destroy"
This Texan Thrash act, formed from about half of Rigor Mortis, is worth a listen if you want some excellent American Thrash Metal, late 80's style. I find their lyrics notable for being both about topical issues as well as cheesy horror/sci-fi. Come on, how awesome is a band that is named after the robotic terror from the film Deathmachine??? By the way, I got to meet Bruce (vox) when Warbeast opened for Destruction in 2011 (?, I think). He was really cool and approachable.
11. "Reflection Of The Negative" (Split, Cough and Windhand)
Here's some Virginian Sludgy Doom Metal to satisfy fans until each band's next release drops. Good tracks by both bands though probably not my favorite in either catalog.
AND NOW, THE TOP 5 RELEASES (for me) OF 2013 (in no particular order, except for fucking Sabbath):
1. Black Sabbath- 13
2. Autopsy- Headless Ritual
3. Inquisition- Obscure Verses For The Multiverse
4. Carcass- Surgical Steel
5. Darkthrone- Underground Resistance
*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*