ALBUM REVIEW: Refused – War Music

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Refused
War Music
Spinefarm/Search and Destroy
★★★½

With the band’s split in 1998, it took 14 years for them to spread their various music wings (including the excellent International Noise Conspiracy) and re-set their personal lives before reconvening for live shows and then delivering the strong comeback album Freedom in 2015. It showed they were still vital and able to conjure up fire-in-the-belly forward thinking heavy music. 

War Music solidifies the band’s return to active duty but it’s a more refined and compact take on the modern rock album. Trimmed of any excess, it rips and roars across ten songs in 35 minutes. There’s little diversion into synth interludes or overly prog workouts. Instead it keeps things locked tightly around the precise and knotty guitar riffs and that rhythm section that still kicks and drives with metronomic muscle.

Not everything works though. Malfire swaps intensity for more melodic commercial rock shapes and it just sounds overplayed. Likewise the punk-pop melody of the chorus in I Wanna Watch The World Burn. The second half of the album is where they really find their feet, Turn The Cross tumbles violently with tangled breakneck playing from all band members. It sounds truly thrilling, a band on knife edge, right on the lip of the wave. They follow that with Damaged II, a song that would fit on any Rage Against The Machine album. When they re-enter the maelstrom after coming to a halt momentarily it’s like the swing of a sledgehammer. The Infamous Left is an exercise in old school thrash metal before the band closes the album out with the stomp and swagger of Economy Of Death.

The themes of War Music are still the same with Dennis Lyxzén howling and screaming about protest, struggle, revolution and inequality. With Refused it’s the sound though. That hurricane of distortion. militant rhythms and the combination of primal physicality and intelligent application in the band’s intoxicating noise.

Chris Familton

 

 

NEW MUSIC: Cross Dog – Scars

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Cross Dog are a self-described heavy, noisy, feminist punk band from Peterborough Ontario, Canada and man they deliver a blistering slab of noise/punk metal on this track from their new album Hollow. There’s the raw, unbridled fury of the first Hole album bleeding into the hardcore of a band like Refused. It’s unrelenting and built on only bass, drums and vocals but the dynamics they build into the track make it fascinating, layered, brutally heavy and visceral. Check it…

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: Beastwars– Omens

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photo by David James

New Zealand metal band Beastwars return with their first single since singer Matt Hyde successfully underwent 6 months of treatment for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2016. ‘Omens’ comes from their new LP IV, due out on Friday June 28th.

 Hyde said that through his diagnosis and subsequent treatment, he was given an opportunity to look into the abyss beyond life as we know it. “Throughout the treatment – I was numb – and it’s interesting to have the ability to confront that, to confront the void, to confront the idea of mortality. I didn’t make peace with it either.

To celebrate the album release Beastwars are touring New Zealand and Australia in June/July – presented by Panhead Custom Ales. They are hitting Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin in New Zealand and then jumping over the Tasman to play Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne shows.

IV can be pre-ordered now at all good digital stores and streaming platforms and Limited Edition Vinyl, Cassette and T-Shirt Bundles are available at http://www.beastwars.bigcartel.com. Single ‘Omens’ is available for streaming and purchase now.

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NEW MUSIC Möss Fölk – Misery Mothers

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Blistering thrash metal with a super-solid bottom end of distorted bass on this track from Worcester, Massachusetts band Möss Fölk. The riffs are relentless while the vocal totally hits the spot for us – raw, punk-metal and visceral without getting too cookie monster. The killer blow comes at 1:09 where everything drops away to reveal the grungy bass before everything collapses back in on top of it with glorious chugging heaviosity.

The track comes from their four track demo which is available to download for free on their Bandcamp page.