NEW MUSIC: Velvet Starlings – Kids In Droves

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Here’s a great slice of authentic garage psych rock from Los Angeles band Velvet Starlings, fronted by Christian Gisborne. ‘Kids In Droves’ cuts a fine balance between 60s UK mods sounds, a tough Britpop angle and US garage rock circa Nuggets. The single follows their self-titled EP of last year which has seen them generate some major radio attention and a US and UK tour dates.

LIVE REVIEW: Beastwars @ Crowbar, Sydney

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Beastwars with Witchskull, Potion
Crowbar, Sydney
July 11th, 2019

Crowbar is quickly establishing itself as the home of Sydney’s metal and hard rock scene and tonight it hosted New Zealand’s finest metal band, Beastwars. They’ve just chalked up their first number one album, in the wake of breaking up, singer Matthew Hyde’s diagnosis and treatment of cancer, a reformation and the recording the devastating new album IV. In our review we described it as “a blistering, pummelling, cathartic battle cry of a record,” and the expectations were for a similarly brutal live performance.

Potion are a psych/stoner metal trio that know their way around mystical bedrock heavy riffing grooves. Song titles like ‘Dead Mountain’ give you an idea of the territory they inhabit. They do heavy and slow, fast and chugging with equal aplomb, getting the heads a shakin’ early.

Witchskull dialled back the clock to a more classic rock and metal sound. Sonically it was Ozzy fronting Motorhead with many of the songs pulled from their album of last year, Coven’s Will. A bassist that looked like a lumbering, menacing Rick Rubin and a guitarist/singer with the stature of Ronnie Dio owned the front of the stage, laying down tight, paint-peeling solos and rolling, monolithic bass lines. It was an impressive set that balanced and progressed old and newer styles as one.

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Beastwars are now four albums deep so they’ve got plenty to choose from when it comes to an hour-long setlist. They drew from all of their albums, giving a holistic overview of their churning, emotive and visceral metal and hard rock. What they do so well is channel everyone from The Melvins and Soundgarden through Kyuss and Neurosis and onto contemporaries such as Pallbearer. There’s an industrial sheen to their sound but at its core there’s a primitive and primal human howl.

C9F7B23D-7FB0-49AD-9350-E067D63C03ACFrontman Matthew Hyde is hard to take your eyes off. He’s in slow motion as he sways, conducts and conjures up spirits and demons with raised hands. He’s essentially in the eye of a sonic storm, that calm spot at the core, as the fury rages around him. All his energy, no doubt dented and damaged from everything he’s been through in recent times, is channeled through his lungs and larynx. Meditative, brooding, tension-building verses invariably open up like an arriving hurricane into choruses of lacerating, throat-shredding howls that scream desperation and vindication in equal amounts. Highlights of the set included ‘Mihi’, ‘Raise The Sword’, ‘Rivermen’ and more. At times some songs blended into a morass of sludge riffing and dense rhythms but the peaks were more plentiful than the valleys across their set. When the dynamics fell into place with the rock solid rhythm section and Clayton Anderson’s clinical yet full-blooded guitar playing, Hyde seemed to channel something otherworldly and intensely personal – and the power and impact was immense. 

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Beastwars proved they’re a band who know how to convert emotion into music with intensity and gravity, hitting the hearts and bodies of the generous crowd who bowed down before them.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Beastwars – IV

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Beastwars
IV
Destroy Records

Sometimes it takes monumental life events to galvanise a band, or any creative endeavour for that matter. In the case of New Zealand band Beastwars it was the diagnosis singer Matt Hyde received, confirming Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In the weeks following his chemotherapy treatment the band hit the studio and recorded their fourth album – a blistering, pummelling, cathartic battle cry of a record.

“You can never get away from your mortal decay,” Hyde howls on ‘Mortal Decay’. This is an album that addresses mortality and the brutal reality of our time on this earth and the fragility of life. Out of that there is a sense of immense strength and resolution from both singer and band. There are winding, ruminative passages in some songs that add a reflective quality to the heavier, more visceral sound that dominates the album, but don’t start thinking this is a metal band going soft, their essence of heavy swinging and paint-peeling riffage is still firmly intact, made even more powerful with the quality of the songwriting and ideas on IV. 

As musicians, the band sound freer and more inventive than they ever have before. There is colour and shade on a song such as ‘Omens’ which combines the moodiness of Tool with lumbering doom metal density, while on ‘Mortal Decay’ the song straightens into pure metal chug and gallop at the three quarter mark to brilliant effect. On ‘The Traveller’, Hyde stands exposed, delivering an affecting primal scream  before the band join him and carry the song forward on a comforting melodic bed of heavy bass and avant garde guitar squalls. ‘Wolves And Prey’ tumbles and churns like a spinning vortex and ‘Like Dried Blood’ combines a piano and Hyde’s ghoulish vocal to great effect as the thunder grows and the riffs thicken and fill the air like heavy smoke.

“Out of adversity comes opportunity” said Benjamin Franklin and Beastwars have taken that mantra and bled a visceral, life-affirming album into existence. You’d be hard pressed to find many better metal albums than this in 2019. 

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Amyl & The Sniffers – Amyl & The Sniffers

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Amyl & The Sniffers
Amyl & The Sniffers
Flightless Records

Roaring out of the gates like an amalgam of Motorhead, AC/DC and The Datsuns, Amyl & The Sniffers know the power of simplicity, attitude and abandon on their debut self-titled album. It’s a lean 11 songs that capture the spirit and verve of their live shows surprisingly well due to an avoidance of unnecessary studio sheen.

‘Gacked On Anger’ is the first smile-and-nod moment on the record, where the dots connect and Amy Taylor’s brattish, sneering yelps bring the visceral, yet basic, garage punk and rock riffage to life. She’s a force of nature right across the record, always sounding urgent and impassioned. The distorted bass riff that opens ‘GFY’ (an acronym for Go Fuck Yourself) is a momentary reprieve from the onslaught before the hurricane of fast chords and four-to-the-floor drumming resumes. 

One can hear the historic traces of Australian, UK ‘(Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled) is reminiscent of The Damned’s ‘New Rose’) and US punk in the the sound of The Sniffers and their blend of melody and primitive rock ’n’ roll means they’re clearly the latest local gem in the lineage of The Angels, The Saints and AC/DC. Taylor is clearly the star, the front person balancing unhinged mania with some astute nutshell observations on love, lust and self empowerment. Her two finest moments on the album are ‘Got You’, with verses that sound like a spiky Courtney Barnett and a tearing chorus that begs for mass sing-alongs at high volume. ‘Angel’ has a brilliant vocal hook in its chorus and guitars that sing and move like the best moments of The Sunnyboys.

Even though this is the kind of inner city punk rock that has echoed from pubs for nearly half a century, it’s still refreshing to hear primitive, raw and febrile rock ’n’ roll bottled so appealingly and urgently as it is here.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: 3ft – Mantra

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Swirling, driving, insistent psychedelia is the order of the day on ‘Mantra’, the new track from Detroit band 3ft. It’s one of those songs that feels like it could spiral on endlessly, much like Wooden Shjips or Stereolab at their most hypnotic moments. 3ft have more of a droning psych-rock edge though, filtered through Krautrock, The Clean and Velvet Underground style jangle and verve.

The song comes from their recently released album 21st Century Drone which has plenty of great tracks like this one.

EP REVIEW: Body Type – EP2

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Body Type
EP2
Inertia Music / Partisan

The Sydney quartet are releasing this, their second EP, on the eve of a UK tour, another sign of the band’s rising star status on the international stage. Of course, they’ve been the local talk of the town for a couple of years, building a solid following via their own shows and some fine support slots. 

If EP was their calling card, their first real statement of intent beyond a couple of earlier singles, then EP2 is another step forward. It solidifies their reputation as incisive songwriters and fine players. They’ve got an ear to the ground but a widescreen songwriting vision.

Opener and first single ”Stingray bursts from the gates with a spray of guitar notes, sparkling and cascading over the nimble rhythm section. It’s a great example of the rush of energy they can invest in their songs, the retention of the rough edges to the music and the economy of their songs. Pop in structure but noisy and damn catchy by nature.

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‘Free To Air’ initially dials things back to a wistful and melancholic slice of dream pop before choppy drums and their swirling jangly guitars take flight. It’s a song apparently inspired by an old neighbour of Annabel Blackman’s and his life as witnessed remotely from her bedroom. Musically the song captures that mood of both intimacy and disassociated observation. ‘Insomnia’ inhabits a similar atmospheric place, the highlight being Blackman’s vocal melody which is heavy-lidded and drowsy yet still irresistibly catchy.

‘Sad Wax’ weaves more of the same snake charmer guitar lines into the song’s DNA but it lacks the same impact and physicality of the other songs on the EP. It’s a pleasant enough track but it sounds under-formed as it repeatedly circles the same musical idea without building or elaborating on it. The final track ‘UMA’ gets things back on track with a different sonic palette. The bass comes to the fore, leading the song into grungier territory akin to Pixies with a dash of Hole. It works wonderfully, all tension and quirks courtesy of shrieks and sneered, gang vocals, capping off an impressive batch of songs from a band that just keep getting better and better.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Anonymous Friends – Amos

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Anonymous Friends – straight outta Somerville, Massachusetts with their debut EP Anonymous Friends Start A Band. Great sound too – shades of Fugazi, Polvo , Girls Against Boys, Bailter Space and the like. ‘Amos’ does the loud quiet loud thing well with a tight rhythm section and some noisy Pixies six-string racket smeared across the top of it all.