Todd Jones, frontman of Nails, has a reputation for being a laconic interviewee and sometimes just a grouchy soul. But a few words of his in an interview with Steel For Brains from July 2013 resonated with me this year:
That’s it. Metal has been written, and now all you have to do is study it. I mean, that’s it. The door is closed. There’s no more original. What’s done has been done, and that’s fucking it… it’s 2013 and metal’s done. Everything’s been done. Just pick up an instrument, take what you like from this and that, and that’s it. That’s all you can do. There’s no more being original. Everything’s been done.
Although I don’t necessarily agree with him, rather than finding this perspective a downer, within it I found a great sense of freedom; ‘Just pick up an instrument, take what you like from this and that, and that’s it. That’s all you can do.’ On a slightly less grumpy note, Jones added
…It’s kind of sad, but it’s also kind of a good thing, because I think more and more people just realize that hey, I’m just gonna do what I like. It’s already been done, but I’m gonna put my own spin on it, I guess…
Point being, if you listen to a lot of and read about a lot of music, it can feel as though there is an expectation to consume. Trying to keep up with this expectation in any sort of comprehensive manner is unsatisfactory, whether trawling through critically–acclaimed music you quickly find out you don’t actually like, or trying to listen to that which you do with any sense of depth. To precis, I stopped worrying about music I thought I might be missing out, and found myself putting each of the below choices on unbroken repeat a lot.
In the interest of not boring you, there will be no repeat submission of albums, but I do feel it necessary to let you know that from last year’s favourites, Blackhole’s Deadhearts and Wolfmother’s first album are still getting spun a lot (and I finally got around to buying Wolfmother’s second album…released in 2009).
Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (Relapse Records). ‘One of my lasting impressions of this album, despite the strong doom influence, is one of space. Bookending the album with plaintive, yearning country, a sound associated with rootlessness, renders upon a scope unfathomable a world of a breadth and nature that leaves those upon its surface scattered bearers of isolation. The best albums create their own worlds whilst coming to shape a listener’s view of this one, and the more I listen to Paradise Gallows the bigger the world becomes.’ Reviewed here.
Fallujah, Dreamless (Nuclear Blast). ‘In a case of being more than the sum of parts, Fallujah’s technicality serves to elevate the mood of Dreamless to that of something beyond the everyday.’ Reviewed here.
Black Tusk, Pillars of Ash (Relapse Records). ‘… there are few bands greasy enough to contend with Black Tusk grooving in half–time’. Reviewed here.
Ramesses, Take The Curse (Ritual Productions). ‘Lots of bands have made ugly music, but as the artwork would suggest, Ramesses have made something that feels sincere in its darkness. It’s not played to fit a style, as a throwback to 1970, nor as a love letter to Sabbath; it’s played for atmosphere. Ramesses didn’t use artwork of a crow up a tree in a graveyard or of themselves in front of an old castle wearing bell bottoms or of an evil–looking goat making a magick symbol (whilst wearing bell bottoms); they put the Nazis being tortured in their own concentration camps. The impression given is not that of just wanting to sound and look like Sabbath. They carry the flame on into darker places.’ Feature piece here.
Mose Giganticus, Gifthorse (Relapse Records). ‘… a vast power, indifferent and unfathomable, shapes Gift Horse’s lyrics and is alluded to in the swirl of chugging guitars, slithering electronics and vocals that alter between booming deity and vocoder yowl…’ Feature piece here.
Kylesa, Spiral Shadow (Seasons of Mist). Balancing lightness and heaviness, psychedelia and songcraft, once past the awesomeness of the obvious tracks – Tired Climb and Don’t Look Back – and onto the wooz of Drop Out, the contemplation and crunch of Distance Closing In, the Indian melodies of To Forget, it becomes obvious that is an album of some greatness, setting out for the sunset with the sprawl of Dust.
Tom Waits, Heart of Saturday Night (Asylum Records). I listened to Small Change, Closing Time and Nighthawks at The Diner a lot as well, but Small Change wins on the strength of its ballads, particularly San Diego Serenade, Shiver Me Timbers and Please Call Me Baby. Although not jazz and not as jazzy as Small Change, piano, sax and double bass still predominate underneath Wait’s lots–of–whisky vocals, calling the hard–living side of that genre to mind. Listen to the excellent Song by Song podcast, covering each song in turn, here.
Jimmy Eat World, Futures (Interscope Records). Full of top–of–the–world riffs.
Anti–Flag, For Blood and Empire (RCA Records). I used to think this band was the definite of mediocre pop–punk, but the 14 tracks of For Blood and Empire have been on loop for the last eight months.
Hang The Bastard, 2009 – 2012 (Holy Roar Records). The platonic ideal of metal and hardcore.
Home Ties, Detours (self–released). The platonic ideal of hardcore and metal.
Agalloch, Pale Folklore (The End Records). Although not entirely cohesive, Pale Folklore is full of great ideas and creative song structures and possesses the scope of a long winter. Feature piece coming up soon(ish).
Daitro, Laissez Vivre Les Squelettes. “Hey, want to form a really good, cathartic heavy band and remain obscure only because the only music scene is the one we’ll create before breaking up?”
Eyehategod, Take As Needed For Pain. Despite Eyehategod’s reputation preceding them, I hadn’t heard any of their material before Take As Needed For Pain, but found that the music lived up to and beyond the talk. I particularly enjoy how vocalist Mike IX Williams identifiably sings words (and pretty good ones at that), but most of the time it’s pretty much impossible to actually hear which words in particular.