In the fertile vineyards of heaviness, 2011 has been a good year and good, filthy rock music really is in its element right now. With greater press recognition, sold-out festivals, ever active promotions agencies, tons of new bands launching and a cemented army of fans, punters, bloggers and followers, so many sub-scenes across the country are thriving. Sludge, doom, stoner rock, metal and even folk music are just some of the niches to have seen a noticeable recent comeback, whilst the classic vinyl medium is back and here to stay!
Personally, it’s been a privilege to say the least to be a part of this, and the subterranean London scene in particular. I’ve been able to attend dozens of shows, both seeing bands making rare visits to these shores and hanging out with the regular riff mongers who make everything tick. There really are too many shows and bands to mention, but a few do stand out.
Desertscene.co.uk have done a great job of boosting London’s interests in good solid rock and February’s Colour Haze / Sungrazer / Rotor show at the Underworld was a sold-out triumph and a solid precursor to their debut Desertfest 2-day festival next year. Their Atomic Bitchwax and Dixie Witch gigs were both firm highlights also.
Another early year show at the Underworld, the Black Tusk & Howl double-header saw a very low turnout, but those 100-odd who did make it out were treated to a ceiling-cracking rifforama from two of Relapse Records’ finest. I’ve made a conscious effort to go to less big club shows this year, but witnessing both the mighty live return of Death From Above 1979 and watching Queens of the Stone Age confirming that they really are the masters of a generation in alternative rock in Bournemouth was well worth the money and effort. One show stands head and shoulders above them all though, and being packed into the Purple Turtle for the crushing hypnotism of Yob / Dark Castle / Kongh / Dead Existence was a breath-taking evening of grandiose doom. It simply doesn’t get any heavier than those guys shakin’ it down.
Releases-wise there have also been some absolute gems from both old-school veterans and debut newbies alike. Olde Growth absolutely blew me away with their first, eponymous debut record; a two-piece group marrying ‘Blues for the Red Sun’-esque riffs and dynamics into a beautiful homage to the natural world’s trauma. Wolves In The Throne Room continued to push the boundaries of black metal and classical folk until they blended into one tornado of force on ‘Celestial Lineage’.
Elder proved that they are far more than simple detonators of thee ryffe with a prog-tinged masterclass in psychedelia on ‘Dead Roots Stirring’. Away from sludge and doom, mainstream metal and rock are both in great places as we move into the New Year, with Machine Head, Megadeth, and Foo Fighters all releasing killer material in 2011. I’d also like to tip my hat to some of the finest releases from the UK underground, namely Astrohenge‘s jazz-shredding ‘II’, Slabdragger‘s non-more-doom ‘Regress’, Toad In The Tree‘s thundering ‘Foreva’ and Crumbling Ghost‘s folk-metal self-titled debut. One album stood out for me though, and within the opening 5 seconds of Black Cobra‘s thoroughly intimidating crushathon ‘Invernal’, I just knew it would be kicking me in the face for a long time yet to come.
After such a great year in expanding the vintage heavy sound, 2012 has a lot to live up to and I’m more than confident it can deliver. With tours already being booked, vinyl being pressed and Roadburn selling out in 7 minutes flat, the future looks dark and gloomy – just the way we like it!
A few people I’d like to thank for their warm welcomes, great opportunities and head-banging friendships this year: Lee, Adam and all at the Sleeping Shaman and Future Noise; Matt, Hugh, Astrohenge and all at The Unicorn in Camden; Matt “The Beard” at Human Disease Promos; Ryan and Elliot Cole, Desert Storm and all at Buried In Smoke Promos; Josh and all the Kingston dudes; Dan, Reece, Steak and all at Desertscene.co.uk; Pete, Chris, Jack, Dickie and my wider Stubb/Trippy Wicked family; Marek ‘Skill Wizard’ Steven; Lauren Barley, Antony Roberts and all at metalgigs.co.uk; Dead Existence, Koresh, Wiht, Slabdragger, XII Boar, Ollie and Grifter, Gurt; Mazz, Leigh and all at Ratz Ass & Groan, Chris and WitchHunter Records, Tony Garcia, Charlie and Mothertrucker, Olde Growth, Devil. See you all next year!
Scribed by: Pete Green
Dixie Witch Photo by: Sam Mellish