Carcass’ Swansong: The album everyone loves to hate

People don’t seem to slate Carcass’ Swansong as much these days. Probably because they can now accept that it wasn’t the band’s swansong after all, (hello Surgical Steel!)

But let it be known that I’ve always really liked it. Even being aware of its flaws. This is something I wrote back in 2010 after seeing Carcass at Hellfest.

carcass-swansong

Have you ever felt the urgency to justify your love for a particular album? Perhaps the band in question has a reputation for being a ‘guilty pleasure’ within metal? Or perhaps they’re just downright talentless? Well Carcass are anything but and carry a reputation for being legendary. They’re highly respected for their massive contribution to early death metal. Yet I always feel reluctant to admit my love of Carcass’ final studio album.

There’s a common tendency for fans to turn their noses up at Swansong. But is it as bad as they make out? Not really.

Frontman Jeff Walker introduced the opening track as being from the album that everyone “hates to love” when they played at Bloodstock. Not me – I love to love it and after seeing them perform at Hellfest earlier this year, I was a little disappointed not to hear any tracks from this particular album. Nevertheless, Swansong is always left in the dark and fans are so hasty to disregard it.

Of course there are a few factors as to why this is the case. Swansong stands out as being the ‘softest’ of the death-grind pioneers catalogue and strays quite drastically from the band’s signature sound. This alone appears to be a good enough reason for many extreme music lovers to instantly disregard it. But you’d be a fool not to consider Swansong as a separate piece, without the renowned discography as a backdrop for assessment. Whilst Swansong is by no means Carcass’ best album, there’s something to be taken from their final effort. So don’t cast it aside and label it as a failure.

Listening to Swansong, it seems as though the band were attempting something completely fresh and a completely unique sound has been captured. One that’s more rock’n’roll based, yes. But very dark in its own right. The hauntingly catchy riffs alongside Walkers rough vocals and strange lyrics create an eerie and interesting new sound which is still as edgy as ever. Songs like ‘Childs Play’ stand out to me as possessing a very sinister undertone. Even the artwork on the cover veers from Carcass’ typical theme of autopsies and gore and portrays an abstract family scene; one that is not wholesome and warm, but quietly disturbing.

Whether Carcass managed to execute their vision successfully or not is another matter for consideration. In fact, I think there is a good chance it was the latter. It has come to light that there were a handful of problems during the albums production which may well have affected the overall outcome and prevented Swansong from reaching its full potential.

‘Keep On Rotting In The Free World’ is a fantastic opening track and never fails to draw a positive reaction from the fans at live shows. However it’s evident throughout the course of the album that the momentum and aggression of the first two tracks slowly fades out.

Yes,  other tracks stand out, but maybe this loss of spark is evidence of the band’s problems beginning to take their toll; personal and with the production. Distractions and pressures in and out of the studio would jeopardize the writing and recording of the album and could have left Carcass more inclined to rush, or at least finish it as soon as physically possible. Certain band members have expressed in interviews how they were already becoming “tired of each other” and were aware that their run was coming to an end.

Already possessing this knowledge then, it’s no surprise that a feeling of abandonment might radiate through the piece. Perhaps if the guys had felt it possible, they could have provided fans with a more well-rounded and polished final effort. As a big fan of Swansong for what it is, I think it’s a great shame that this wasn’t the case.

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Review: Noble Beast – Noble Beast

Another review written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews. This time of Noble Beast’s début album.

Storming into the picture with this truly epic, self-titled debut, Minnesota’s Noble Beast are the latest addition to the power metal scene. This triumphant culmination of melodic European and American power metal warrants attention from confirmed fans of the genre as well as new listeners. As a power metal novice, this is what I imagine the decent stuff to sound like: fast, enthralling and valiant!

‘Iron-clad Angels’ kicks things off brilliantly, with its charging pace and memorable chorus boomed out by Sir Robert’s deep and powerful voice. The thrash component is instantly prominent too. The listener is sent tearing forward through a relentless sequence of hooks, soaring harmonies and choruses that evoke visions of heroic battles and mythical gods.

A little clichéd? Yes. This is an acquired taste and whilst we can all enjoy the drama on occasion, for many I believe it will soon become tedious. Unless you love this kind of thing, of course! Just a handful of songs would suffice (and go down especially well at a summer festival.) ‘Behold the Face of Your Enemy’ and ‘On Wings of Steel’ are my suggestions. Noble Beast requires some versatility in style or subject if they’re to reach a wider audience long-term.

Personal Score: 3/5

Review: Savage Messiah – The Fateful Dark

My four-star review, written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

savagemessiahfatefuldark

Could this be the album that launches Savage Messiah into stardom? The Fateful Dark certainly has the great songs, awesome shredding and irresistible hooks to do so. It’s an exciting release – one these London metallers must be very proud of.

There’s a quality across this creation that’s so alluring and professional sounding, one could easily envision the band absolutely dominating large venues in the near future. The ten songs are packed with memorable riffs, (I’ve had ‘Iconocaust’ and ‘Hellblazer’ earworms for days now,) captivating melodies and topped by a souring vocal style from frontman Dave Silver. His abilities add a rather epic dimension to a fierce musical backdrop that’s full of passion.

The title-track is one of the slower paced, sing-songs on this thrashy opus; another opportunity for Silver’s vocals to shine, especially at the song’s climatic chorus… Not to everyone’s taste, but so what? ‘The Fateful Dark’ is a soulful and instantly likeable listen.

With this offering, Savage Messiah will win the hearts of curious listeners who are yet to be converted into fans.

Personal Score: 4/5

Review: Behemoth – The Satanist

Behemoth’s new album is my favourite release of 2014, so far. Below is the introduction to my review of The Satanist for Rock’n’Reel Reviews…

TheSatanist

The Satanist has been one of the most anticipated releases of the year. Fans of the mighty Behemoth have been waiting for the triumphant return of Nergal and his band since the frontman’s battle with Leukaemia began in 2010. After his incredible recovery, their tenth release has been a long time coming. Yet, remarkably, The Satanist has finally reached us and, what’s more, may be the band’s most impressive work.

Personal Score: 4/5

Metalhead film at Toronto Film Festival

Here we have another metal-themed film that looks really interesting. Metalhead is the latest film from Icelandic writer and director Ragnar Bragason and was just included at the Toronto Film Festival.

According to a synopsis from the festival, Metalhead centres around young heroine Hera who, after her older brother’s accidental death, rebuilds herself in his image – as a heavy metal devotee and musician. What is implied in the trailer is that Hera rapidly becomes more rebellious and possibly destructive as a result of her brother’s tragic death.

I am particularly interested to see how Bragason portrays the ways in which Hera’s character deals with her grief and anger through the catharsis of heavy metal. Definitely one to look out for!

Hellfest is the Best Metal Festival Around

Unfortunately this will be the first time in five years that I will not be attending Hellfest Open Air; the most eclectic, well-organised and friendliest festival in the world (probably)! The French festival has become an annual tradition for thousands of metalheads and I’m sure that anyone who appreciates heavy music would agree that finding another festival that balances extremity with such a welcoming atmosphere would be a difficult task indeed.

hellfest2012
Last year at Hellfest 2012

Some of my most cherished memories are from Hellfest. Here are just a few of my favourite things about it:

The Line-Up (Every time!)

A quality line-up is always guaranteed, with a diverse range in genre. Whether you favour black, death, hardcore or doom, it’s likely all tastes will be catered for.

I will never forget that classic thrash-Saturday back in 2011. With Municipal Waste playing, followed by Destruction, Sodom and Kreator. I was in Heaven… Or Hell?

The Vibe

I always say to my friends that being at Hellfest feels like ‘coming home’ in some respect. The fact that you’re surrounded by thousands of other people who are there for exactly the same reason you are – to worship heavy music – feels so pure and exciting. In my experience the crowds have always been extremely friendly. There really is a magical atmosphere and I hope it lasts for years to come.

The Location

Living in England means that a quick trip across the Channel on a ferry is no real hassle, in terms of making the trip to Clisson by car. Yet the fact that the festival is indeed foreign adds to the excitement factor, in that you feel like you’re exploring other lands!

Plus the long drive through French countryside isn’t exactly horrid. Especially when the sun is beaming through your window.

The gang at Hellfest 2010
The gang at Hellfest 2010

I hope that anybody travelling to Hellfest today has a fantastic time! No festival in England succeeds in creating the perfect mix of quality music, atmosphere and value for money quite like Hellfest does.

See you next year, maybe!

Band Q&A with Witch Cult

Witch Cult have now disbanded but in their brief lifetime managed to gather a reputable amount of fascinated followers. I interviewed vocalist Dean after their European tour just under a year ago.

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How did you become involved with powerviolence?

I’ve been a music nerd since I was super young and I’ve always dug deep into music I was interested in. I was always searching for faster and more extreme forms of punk and hardcore, and PV is definitely one of, if not, the most extreme sub-genre.

How would you describe the underground scene, in the UK or otherwise?

At times it can be the most rewarding and comforting thing, somewhere I can relate, find like-minded views and be exposed to some incredible music. Other times it sickens me, goes against a lot of what I stand for and I question why I have any involvement with something that seems so far from what I was looking for. It’s only ever as good as the people involved.

Any specific messages you are trying to convey?

You Are Nothing Special. I think one theme that has come up in my/our lyrics a good few times is a general distaste for discrimination and prejudice. We have songs that are against homophobia, transphobia, sexism, nationalism and religious bigotry. These are just things that I or whoever has written the songs are angry about.

Are there any thoughts you are trying to provoke from those who listen?

I have never thought about it like that. I guess we focus more on making music we are pleased with than trying to get a reaction from an unknown listener. Music is a very subjective thing, I don’t think I’d know how to go about provoking a universal reaction.

Do you, or any other members of Witch Cult, have any personal beliefs that are fundamental to the music? Does your veganism or personal lifestyle choices influence your lyrics for example?

First and foremost, I think that if we were all everyday people who always fitted in with their surroundings we wouldn’t be drawn towards music like this. It’s music for freaks, weirdos and losers, so I think feeling a bit like that is pretty fundamental. Veganism has yet to enter my lyrics as I want to wait until I have something that puts my feelings accurately. A couple of songs touch on Straight Edge, but not in a preaching manner, those songs concern my relationships with other humans due to being edge, and another on my opinions of what Straight Edge is sometimes turned into.

Did any of the countries on tour have a strong underground scene that was particularly appreciative of the band?

I had heard that the Czech Republic loves fast music, and that was confirmed at our Prague show. A lot of people thanked us for coming the further we got into Eastern Europe as not many bands go there apparently. We were thanked in Turkey a lot too, I was told Witch Cult was the first PV band to go there.

What do you think fans get out of live shows?

10 minutes of unpleasant music.

Live Review: Kvelertak at Talking Heads

A venue anything less than packed, bustling and inebriated on the first night of Kvelertak’s European tour would have been unsettling. Their blossoming success over recent years has brought about sold out shows and continued praise from fans and critics alike. And as expected, the interior of Southampton’s Talking Heads possessed the healthy buzz of anticipation by the time Norway’s six-piece made their entrance.

Lashing into their set with all the energy and attitude one could hope for,  the crowd were treated to a selection of songs from Meir – the band’s upcoming release and eagerly sought after second album. The new material was scattered amongst the likes of ‘Fossegrim’, ‘Offernat’ and other songs from the sublime début which brought about an explosion of popularity in 2010.

If anything can illustrate this hard rocking, musical orgy about to roll through the next city, imagine buckets of sweat flying off band members, a crowd-surfing front-man and an audience clambering on-stage during the encore. Those lucky enough to be seeing Kvelertak on this tour can expect a night to remember.

Some Black Metal for Sundance

This short film, entitled Black Metal and directed by Kat Candler, will première at the Sundance Film Festival and is incredibly thought-provoking with a sharp, hard-hitting narrative.

The core issue that Candler appears to be exploring here really got my pulse racing. As one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented sub-cultures, metal (especially black metal) as a genre and community is frequently pinned to real life atrocities and this film depicts an example of such.

Through humanizing the front-man of a black metal band, the film conveys how society so often perceives and represents metal culture unjustly; as violent and harmful to youth. Simultaneously however, Candler manages to let the issues of music’s influential power and personal responsibility linger with the viewer.

Needless to say, I strongly recommend watching Black Metal when it becomes possible to do so.

For now, here is the trailer:

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