2022! Woah, you came in boots first, studs up, like an out of shape Sunday League footballer determined to do damage. COVID! Broken bones! Operations! Post-COVID/accident recovery blues! (The title of my next album dontcha know). At least there was music, and lots of it. Some of it great. Some of it… mind blowing.
Once again, The Shaman has put some gems my way for review, stuff that I may never have come across otherwise, some that feature in the lists below. For that, I thank you sir.
I very much consider myself a guitar man, but this year I’ve become fond of more than a couple of electronics led albums, perhaps I’m (re)opening my mind, long may it continue.
I often consider the music I review through the prism of The Shaman’s tagline – Heavier Than Thou – and the impressive missives of my fellow Shamanistas, dare I say that some of what I cover is on the precipice of being outside the usual board of fare served to readers? No matter, as long as The Shaman keeps me on the promos list, I’ll keep turning in reviews of the weird and wonderful and be forever grateful to be allowed to do so. But hey, enough of my yakking. What do you say, let’s boogie
10. Eyrth ‘Meridian’
My favourite Latvian black gaze atmospheric post-metallers are back, and in some style! Huuuge, dark soundscapes of sweeping guitar and synth, deeply buried vocals and programmed drums. The hiatus Eyrth took between early 2019’s Fracture and this, Meridian, has done no harm whatsoever. The power of their sound, coupled with strong musical themes, all hinting at something apocalyptic or dystopian still push all the right buttons and show that Eyrth are, in my not so humble opinion, one of the best at what they do. That they’ve announced that this album will be their last for some time makes Meridian somewhat bittersweet.
9. Primitive Knot ‘Ur Metal’
Firstly, the prize for best album title of the year goes to this slice of scuzzy, driving filthiness. Primitive Knot also made last year’s Top Ten with the mighty A New Ontology Of Evil. There’s a kind of genius at work here; how does Primitive Knot take what appears to be a simple formula – driving industrial drums, distorted, muffled voice, hyper fuzzed out HM2 guitar – and keep creating winners? When I need a hit of darkness, I reach for Primitive Knot. Long live this dark creativity.
Label: Deathbed Tapes
8. Black Sun Void ‘The Eternal Sunset’
Black Sun Void makes the list for a second year. How could they not with thick, suffocating slabs of guitar drone, hypnotic enough to leave the listener levitating half-an-inch off their chair. My great wish for next year is that Black Sun Void make their music in the form of a physical product – preferably an audio infused tablet of stone – and that I can afford to have a copy shipped from Sau Paulo. My life would then be complete. Play on Brother Mateus.
7. Lucy Adlington & John Pope ‘Mercury’
Another artist making a return to my Top Ten is Lucy Adlington, this year accompanied by the bass virtuoso John Pope. Mercury is quite the departure from Wedding As A Funeral, which made my number six spot last year. Whereas that was based around Adlington’s guitar(?) and voice, here an exquisite environment is created for the listener via Pope’s bass and Adlington’s guitar, synth, piano, and percussion. Interwoven with the layered textures are jarring, stabbing sequences of chaos, dragging the lulled listener from ambient bliss. Pope beautifully demonstrates the oft overlooked versatility of the double bass in creating nerve jolting staccato passages alongside bowed drones of the granular texture that only this instrument can create. I can’t come up with a more fitting description of this album that that of its authors, ‘Doom jazz for the soul’. Superb.
Label: The Crystal Cabinet
6. War//Plague ‘Manifest Ruination’
Now, looking at this list you may not believe this, but at heart I’m an old punker – think Amebix, Discharge, Conflict, The Mob, Citizen Fish, Antisect, etc. While I don’t listen to a great deal of anarcho thrash anymore, I’m still partial to the odd slice. I’ve always liked a metallic edge to my punk and it has to have a message of resistance. Step forward then Minneapolis’ War//Plague to fill the punk shaped hole in my playlist with the monster of crust that is Manifest Ruination. Rather than just stick to a basic d-beat formula, War//Plague have moved beyond, sounding at some points on this album like Throwdown-esque hardcore, before dragging in black metal guitar lines and more, further blurring the punk/metal line and sounding good doing it.
Label: Phobia Records
5. Colossloth ‘Promethean Meat’
Colossloth supporting GNOD was my first gig back after lockdown, and what a cracker it was. Unfortunately, The ‘Sloth had technical difficulties and after the show, he told me that he was chucking it all in. Thank the Gods he didn’t. Promethean Meat is, for my money, his finest work to date, developing on from the massive strides made with 2020’s Plague Alone. When I interviewed Wooly, the man behind Colossloth, he was adamant that he wants the project’s sound to develop and not just tread water. Well, by jingo, true to his word, Promethean Meat takes the noise/electronic/industrial/dark/Idon’tknowwhat, Colossloth sound to some new, dark, disturbing, and exciting places, vividly confronting and reflecting the messy times in which we live. Vital listening.
Label: Cold Spring Records
4. GNOD ‘Hexen Valley’
2021’s La Mort Du Sens was an absolute blinder, only missing out on my Top Ten due to my preference for Easy To Build, Hard To Destroy. As you come to expect with GNOD, Hexen Valley shifts the band’s sound whence we last left it. This is a much less straightforward listen than La Mort…, with less obvious tunes that press on into more obscure corners. Even the overall production is more challenging, with excoriating guitar tones creating impenetrable walls of sound. In many ways it’s a lot like hearing GNOD live – noisy, challenging, loud, and ultimately glorious.
Label: Rocket Recordings
3. Stonecirclesampler ‘Sleepcycles’
I don’t know how to describe Stonecirclesampler at the best of times. I got into them (him?) through the Industrial Coast label – one of my touchstones for all things musically unusual (seriously, check them out, go on!). Initially I was drawn to them (let’s just go with them) as they were described as drum and bass, or junglist, or some such, and they had stone circles in the title. Yep, I really am that shallow. However, my sense of adventure paid off hugely and I’ve picked up a few Stonecirclesampler pieces – always on tape too! Sleepcycles might be rave, EDM, dub, jungle, all of it, none of it, I don’t know, nor do I care. What I do know is that I’m in danger of wearing my copy out.
Label: Industrial Coast
2. The Utopia Strong ‘International Treasure’
In August, on these very pages, about The Utopia Strong I wrote:
‘With an album like International Treasure there’s no point in a track-by-track description or analysis, it’s much bigger than that. It would be like looking at a Caravaggio (hyperbole, moi?) and pointing out how brilliantly each toenail had been rendered. No, take in the whole piece as one. Stand back and experience it as was meant by the artist. Climb into it and allow it to climb into your head. And I’d go further. The album must be listened to as a whole. Each individual piece flows into the next, linking with perfect sense and conjuring a celestial journey within which the listener becomes traveller. Where we’re going, we don’t need traditional structures, melodies, or rhythm. We need texture, ideas, beautiful sounds which International Treasure has in spades.’
I can’t say it better than that.
Label: Rocket Recordings
1. Charlie Butler ‘Ghost Light’
With a November release date, this just sneaked in – and I’m so happy it did. Charlie Butler is a prolific artist and not everything he does is my flagon of mead, but this just elicits such an emotional response in me when I listen to it, I can’t help but consider it his magnum opus. The very fact that instrumental music can conjure this kind of state without recourse to spoken language is testament to its nuanced power and subtlety. Essentially, I suppose, it’s drone, but that’s to massively undersell it and do it a huge injustice. This is an artist working with the means at his fingers to bring to life his vision in a way that pulls others into it, surely experiencing something close to what the artist hoped he could communicate? And finding out it was inspired by stone circles was just the icing on the cake.
Label: Echodelick Records
Labels: Industrial Coast (obvs), Panurus Productions, The Crystal Cabinet
Sacred Oak ‘Growth Rings/Electric Awakening’
Strictly speaking, this isn’t an album but loooong tracks of thick, droning riffology. Deffo top ten material if they do an album/EP next year. (The Shaman’s strict about this stuff y’know!)
Various Aartists ‘Kill The Bill‘
Industrial Coast’s compilation of esoteric… do we still call it rave? Released in the hinterland between 2021’s top ten submission date and 2022 so I’m shoehorning it in here, OK?
Oren Ambarchi / Johan Berthling / Andreas Werliin ‘Ghosted’
A demi-masterpiece of space, texture, and repetition that rewards repeated listening.
Scribed by: George Green