From a personal perspective 2012 has probably been one of the most rewarding years writing for The Sleeping Shaman; whilst I enjoy the challenge of new music and love writing about it, this year has seen several of the greatest albums I have had the pleasure of reviewing, no albums I have agonised over in fear of being harshly critical and scoring a quartet of ‘album of the day’s on the legendary Roadburn Festival website.
The year began with me interviewing my old friend Ollie from Grifter in January about the success of the previous year and all the good things to come for the band. Due to computer issues this interview didn’t surface until April which was a nice co-incidence as the band went out on tour in the UK supporting the ever brilliant Orange Goblin, so this acted as a timely reminder and advertising push to which my reward was to pay for both my ticket and merch – thanks boys! Grifter haven’t released anything this year, but have kept up their hard working ethos by regularly entertaining the public up and down the country, but fear not there is a second album slated for next year which will no doubt inspire a whole new bout of tarmac abuse.
On the wider music front there have been some exceptional releases this year, whilst mainstream heavy music has largely been a dull parody of itself, the underground scene has thrown up global pockets of excellence that deserve as much coverage as the rubbish clogging up the music channels – for example over in Seattle, Good To Die Records have turned up some great talents in the likes of Dog Shredder and Sandrider, both of whom I got to review, but having listened to the rest of their roster it is clear that these guys know how to spot a decent band.
April 24th also saw the next installment from Tristan Shone’s phenomenal Author & Punisher. ‘Ursus Americanus’ was released in the first third of the year and the Dubstep influence he had hinted at previously was plain for all to hear. Rather than the misfire of Korn’s ‘Path of Totality’ experiment, this addition to Author & Punisher’s futuristic Doom/Drone sound actually added more dimensions and depth, rather than detract from it. Coupled with further technological developments such as the voice modulating masks and a rather swish looking Lenovo advert on the net, sees Shone pushing his music and his performance art further and harder, there is also the chance he might make it over to these shores for some dates next year and that would be an absolute treat to see.
As it turned out April was a good month for fans of machine music as Justin K Broadrick resuscitated his JK Flesh persona and released a full length CD called ‘Posthuman’. Full of classic JKB style grind this album was an incredible listen, not just because I grew up listening to Godflesh, but because of the man’s ability to challenge and reinvent his musical vision like no one else.
Elsewhere home of Grifter and State Side label Ripple Music continued to showcase that they have a good nose for talent with the stop gap, but by no means none essential ‘Stone Axe Live At Roadburn 2011’ festival recording. Jam packed with infectious slabs of classic stoner influenced rock this album is a great reminder what a good band the ‘Axe are in the flesh. Hot on the heels of this was Mos Generator‘scomeback album ‘Nomads’. Seemingly gone after four albums worth of quality material, the band returned this year with an album so strong and punchy it’s like they had never been away.
The first Roadburn approved review came in the shape of Arc of Ascent‘s ‘The Higher Key’ with the New Zealand Space Rock crew managing to top what was one of my favourite albums of 2010 by upping their game and creating an album so mesmerising and beautifully heavy that it must soon be a crime to ignore them.
The second came in the form of Bong‘s reissued Self-Titled release. Finally getting the digital treatment, the previously vinyl only collection is now more easily available for those who like their doom slow and heavily weed influenced.
The third appearance on the website was for German Doom Crew Obelyskkh‘s ‘White Lightin’ album and having reviewed their previous efforts it was great to see a band who I thought had tons of potential start to realise it. If anyone got a chance to hear 2011’s ‘Mount Nysa’ and thought it was good they should honestly check out this record as it is by far the superior release.
The latest one came in the form of Dutch Pop Rockers Gold and their brilliant debut ‘Interbellum’. A far cry from the downbeat, black twisted doom and sludge normally associated with The Sleeping Shaman, Gold’s smart catchy collection of tunes was a refreshing and extremely cool listen.
My two personal highlights of the year though it has to be said was firstly the 7″ single ‘New Orleans Is The New Vietnam’ from Southern Bruisers Eyehategod, back after hurricanes, dope addictions, imprisonment and everything that makes them sound as hateful as they have in the past, the new model EHG is just as sick and as spiteful as the old one, but more focused and sounding better than ever. I can’t wait for the new album next year.
Secondly, having reviewed several reissue albums, this year I got the opportunity to turn my hand to the near impossible task of evaluating a new Neurosis album in a short period of time. ‘Honor Found In Decay’ was not only an incredible addition to the Neurot arsenal, but the chance to hear it without the influence of others opinions made the experience even more special.
I could clearly go on and on, this summary has barely scratched the surface of a year that features great releases by the likes of Nate Hall, From Beyond, ex Taint man Jimbob’s new project Hark, Herder and so many other good albums that I could write endlessly about and given that I am struggling to even get started on the end of year review for my own blog A Brief History Of Metal about popular metal it highlights just where the quality is right now.
Of course I can’t close out the year without mentioning the debut of Shaman Recordings own Black Magician who’s ‘Nature Is The Devil’s Church’ album is some top quality Doom and helps fill the gap vacated by sadly departed legends Cathedral. And it’s very pretty on blood red vinyl too!