Friday, 19 August 2016

Tombs- All Empires Fall

Image Credit: Samantha Marble Flickr

Artist: Tombs
Albums: All Empires Fall
Record Label: Relapse Records
Release Date: April 1st 2016

Amongst the plethora of bands in any given genre there are always those who seem to constantly have an understanding of quality control. Brooklyn's black/sludge/post-metallers Tombs have just three full-lengths to their moniker, but their driving ambition and staunch lust for experimentation mean that they've already grasped the art of pushing the boundaries without ever really sounding uncomfortable. 

All Empires Fall, a five-track EP which succeeds 2014's frankly stunning Savage Gold sees them pushing the boat out further into electronic, dystopian atmospheres and waters, finding them caught in the cross-hairs between Darkthrone and Vertical- era Cult Of Luna. In 'Obsidian' they've produced one of the finest, most scathing Black Metal assaults of the year. Furiously bleak and cascading, Mike Hill's hoarse shrieks cut right to the bone. 'Last Days of Sunlight' slows the tempo to a hypnotic, tribal crawl soaked in cavernous reverb. 

'Deceiver' starts life as a pulsating, singly-note synth-driven slice of dark futurism before evolving into a rollicking, mid-paced death 'n' roll banger, and closer 'V' reaches celestial heights as it progresses. 

Evolution and progression in BM, although vibrant, has been lauded and propositioned to the heavens at this point. Bands like Tombs, who get their heads down and are unique on their own terms, and the ones who we can trust with said evolution. All Empires Fall may not be as coherent as, say, 2011's Paths of Totality, but its expansive vision and brutal, tangible song-writing make it a fully engrossing listen. 


Key Tracks: 'Obsidian', 'Deceiver', 'V'
For Fans Of: Inter Arma, Marduk 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Wild Beasts- Boy King

Image Credit: Adam B Flickr

Artist: Wild Beasts
Album: Boy King
Record Label: Domino Recordings
Release Date: 5th August 2016

Kendal quartet Wild Beasts' prospective attitude towards sex and sexuality has always tip-toed along the line between garishness and sensuality, between blunt suggestion and a multi-layered literacy. Their fifth full-length LP Boy King recorded in Dallas and helmed by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans) comes equipped with statements from lead vocalist Hayden Thorpe like "it was time to put on the leather jacket", and "we've become the band we always objected to being". In an interview with The Quietus, Thorpe put forward Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral and The Weeknd's Beauty Behind The Madness as chief influences, citing sex as both self-deprecation and as hyper-carnal outrage. Thematically, Boy King indulges in lad culture in the most strikingly direct way, but it's not for want of a healthy (and very necessary) dose of subversion either. 

Taking as its stock male sexual entitlement as weakness, insecurity and depravity, on this record it's arguable that Wild Beasts' randiest wanderings get their most tangible and repulsive expression here. On the surface it presents itself as the kind of bravado and braggadocia that holds a mirror up to ugly club antics. The songs do recoil from that aesthetic more often than not, but they also embrace it. The real question is how far do the band go to denounce the hubris of the male front, and do they do it convincingly? 

For the most part the answer is that they're self-aware, introspective and understated enough to pull the trick off with texture and dexterity. On 'Tough Guy', perhaps the filthiest, most riff-centric moment the band have laid to tape thus far, Thorpe is almost immediately self-deprecating as he sings "you know the route well, you follow the old path, to a new Hell". The subtle but essential vocal chemistry between Thorpe and co-vocalist Tom Fleming rears it's head clearly on lead-off single 'Get My Bang'; "That's how I get my bang", coos Thorpe before Fleming counters with "we're going darker ages". 

Album highlight 'Celestial Creatures' is not so much a rejection of depravity as a positioning of it upon a lofty pedestal ("You're a deity, and I have nothing but my beliefs"). Its imagery of champagne-sipping angels glides perfectly aside the album's most beautifully kaleidoscopic moment compositionally. '2BU' is the first example of Fleming taking on lead vocal duties and he hones in on rather terrifying, stalker-ish sensibilities as he croons "I hope you run... Let's hope I don't find you first... You know that I'm the worst". Most apocalyptic and degrading of all is 'He The Colossus', a double-edged sword of lust and accountability, arrogance and self-pity; "Do I dare to desert the universe, lest I become He The Colossus?". 

Chief offender of Wild Beasts' not being sufficiently subversive is the unreservedly shallow 'Eat Your Heart Out Odonis'. Elsewhere 'Alpha Female', despite its deconstruction of male entitlement is lyrically lazy. Although Boy King is a brash and seemingly unrepentant piece of work in many ways, look closely enough through the cracks and the group's deliberate exercising of short-comings and embarrassment are intricately and interestingly dealt with. And as ever, it leaves one wondering whether the band's understanding of human nature at its most base and identifiable will ever run dry. 


Key Tracks: 'Celestial Creatures', 'He The Colossus', 'Get My Bang'
For Fans Of: Glass Animals, Radiohead