As the sun begins to set on yet another year and our esteemed editor asks us for our views on the musical output we have experienced over the past 12 months I find myself left with a fairly hollow feeling about the current state of music. I’m not sure what it is but I think I’m starting to see music so driven by scenes and a lack of originality that it begins to depress me. I am aware that this has long been the case but as time goes on I find it harder to be bothered to check out newer stuff, particularly when bands offer descriptions in their press releases that are practically interchangeable with each other whether they be stoner, doom…whatever. It regularly sends me running into the welcoming arms of the thrash bands of my youth or the rock forefathers that informed my teenage years. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great bands within each genre but for the most part I find it harder to wade through the mire to find them. That said there have been some real highlights released this year.
One name that will surely feature highly on many year end lists has to be the self titled full length debut from Blues Pills. There is no shortage of backwards looking, retro rock bands out there, particularly from Scandinavia, but there is literally no-one who nails it with the sheer class that this band is able to. Their amalgam of Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin style soul vocals and early hard rock featuring Elin Larsson’s remarkable vocals and keen sense of groove, soul and song writing transcends so many current genres. They don’t need to be part of a scene as they are just a fantastic rock band and this album is a fantastic album.
Another band who are certain to hit the year end lists whenever they release an album, and another band who have successfully crawled out of the genre swamp are Britain’s own beloved sons Orange Goblin. Back From The Abyss sees the boys outgrowing the stoner/doom scene that spawned them to become a full force heavy metal band in the finest tradition. The album succeeds in attaining a depth in song writing, performance and production that they have never reached before. Each song, whilst having nods in the direction of the greats such as Motorhead, Sabbath…etc is a lesson in quality metal.
Orange Goblin’s Candlelight label mates and rock stalwarts Corrosion Of Conformity also proved that their self titled come back album of a couple of years ago was no fluke with the cunningly titled IX, oddly enough their 9th album. Still operating as a three piece with the Animosity era line-up, this album saw the band able to coalesce all elements of their history from charging thrash to heavy stoner grooves far more effectively than before. There is now talk of a full reunion with Pepper Keenan which will thrill many people, myself included, but I hope, once he fucks off back to grab his pay cheque with Down which is inevitable, the three remaining members continue to kick some major arse as they have done with this album.
One album that seemed to slip out with very little fanfare but by a band that I am a huge fan of is Up The Doseage by Nashville Pussy. The album delivers everything you would expect from the band; good time, kick arse rock and roll that leans heavily on AC/DC combined with humorous, vulgar yet insanely clever lyric writing. Nashville Pussy are a band that thrive on the good times. They are the soundtrack to a night of beer and tits and 2014 has been a much better year for having more of their music in it…step away if you’re easily offended!
Mos Generator have featured in my year end lists previously and it’s no surprise they’re here again. Having moved from Ripple Music to French label Listenable they look set to take a step up and already have a slot at Hellfest under their belts. Electric Mountain Majesty picks up exactly where previous album Nomads left off. Mos Generator know what they do and they do it so damn well. Tony Reed and the crew have an almost supernatural sense of how to craft incredible rock songs that stick in the heart and the mind with equal measure and this album sees the Generator running at full steam.
Another band whose new album I have been eagerly awaiting is San Francisco’s Wild Eyes. Their debut album Get Into It absolutely blew me away last year to become one of my albums of the year and the latest offering Above Become Below is as strong a follow up as you could hope for. I make no secret of the fact that I love music that kicks arse, rocks out and grooves like fuck and that pretty much sums up Wild Eyes. They take the heavy rock and roll of 70’s bands such as Cactus and mix it up with Janiece Gonzalez’s smoked out raw vocals. The band have kicked it up a notch on this album playing with no less grit and power but with greater depth in the song writing and overall dynamics. I honestly can’t understand why the whole world isn’t going batshit crazy over this band…maybe time will tell.
It says a lot about my view of the current music scene when a band that hasn’t really existed for over 20 years makes the cut in my year round up. I know Queen have done stuff with Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert but really, that ain’t Queen is it? Anyway, it seems they’ve been sitting on some stuff for a while and this year they dusted off a couple of 40 year old recordings from the Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack tours and put them out as Live At The Rainbow ‘74. Holy fuck, why haven’t these been issued before? At this point Queen were only just starting on their ascent into the rock stratosphere and were very much a rock band. I kid you not, this is some heavy duty stuff, Brian May’s guitar tone is up there with Tony Iommi and the band are playing with a fire and precision that is almost supernatural. There has never been another band like Queen and probably never will which makes this album even more essential.
Black Moth are a band whose first album The Killing Jar really impressed me but the latest album Condemened To Hope takes them to a far higher level. Somehow they manage to fuse dark, heavy riffs with an almost indie sensibility. Throw in Harriet Bevan’s wry, sensual and sardonic vocals into the mix and the result is a recipe for success. These guys get lumped in with the stoner and doom scenes, and there is a hint of that about their dark Sabbathian tones but in reality the band offer so much more to the listener. It’s not often that you can say that a band sounds unique, but Black Moth truly do!
I have to give a few other bands an honourable mention as well. Sigiriya weathered the loss of a singer and came back with a new deal with Candlelight and a new album Darkness Died Today. The new vocals, although magnificent, did take a bit of getting used to but there’s no denying Sigiriya make an epic racket full of mighty riffs and huge melodies and this is a very fine album. Fellow Brits, albeit by way of Chile and Greece, Tricorn self released their second album Walk Of Shame which is as excellent a slab of straight down the line heavy rock as you could hope to hear. With echoes of both Orange Goblin and Alice in Chains, Tricorn deliver great song writing and just the right amount of dirt. Sticking with Britain we have the latest in a long line of home grown doom bands, Leicester’s Mage. Last Orders shows that Mage understand that doom isn’t just about tuning down and playing slow. The album is choc full of dynamic riffs and a monstrous, huge guitar sound that is perfectly offset by the raw yet melodic vocals. This is doom as it should be played. Finally we have our very own Gurt. I’m not a big fan of sludge at the best of times outside of the first couple of EyeHateGod albums, but Gurt display a musicality, sense of humour and sense of the musically bizarre that lifts them high above the hordes of EHG imitators. Thick, innovative riffs and a mighty production make this album a compelling listen…I once played it through three times straight, a very rare occurrence!
Obviously the best album of the year would have to be The Return Of The Bearded Brethren by Grifter but modesty prevents me from including it (but not mentioning it). There are a few other albums that would probably have made this piece had I heard them by the likes of Stubb, Mothership…etc but time hasn’t allowed for that as yet. I shall remedy this pretty soon though.
2015 will probably be over loaded with a million sound-alike doom albums and the new trend of corporate rock bands hoping to piggyback on the success of Rival Sons but hopefully some surprises will keep throwing themselves in my path to keep me remotely interested in modern music. I hope so anyway.
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall