After reading a ton of books, I like to relax and listen to some of my favorite band’s new releases. Every week, after the book reviews, you will find my weekly Set List. Hopefully you will check these bands out and support them. You will also find here some older releases that I think are cool. This week, I am listening to releases from 2 of my old favorites in the form of the Swans and Chrome, both have new albums, and they Kill. I am also listening to Druglord, a viscous Doom metal outfit out of Richmond Va, and finally, I discovered the band Savages while tooling around YouTube, their debut blew me away. Below you will find a few comments, and information on the albums, as well as links to the bands.
I remember the first time I heard Chrome, back in 1982; an older friend turned me on to the album Half Machine Lip Moves, which was released in 1979. At the time, I was playing in a Hardcore Punk band, and listening to mostly Hardcore and Punk music. Chrome most assuredly changed my outlook on music, such as what it can accomplish, how it can make one feel, as well as changing how I played guitar. I am not alone in this either. If you have ever listened to bands like Nine Inch Nails, killing Joke, Sonic Youth or Gang of Four, then you have listened to music that can be directly attributed to musicians who have had their minds expanded by Helios Creed, Damon Edge, and the band Chrome.
The sound was forged from a mixture of influences such as the Stooges, 60’s Psychedelic rock, and Kraut Rock. From that, Chrome pretty much invented industrial music. But I will not pigeon-hole the band into any one genre, that is almost impossible. The question is: Why is Chrome not widely known by the general music listening public? Excellent question. I wish that I could answer it. That said, with the death of Damon Edge in 1995, and after over a decade of pumping out amazing solo albums, Helios Creed came back to Chrome after having left in the mid 80s, and brought Chrome back to life. 4 albums were released, such as the excellent Angel of the Clouds, which featured some material recorded during the last collaboration of Damon Edge and Creed. Still, Chrome was relegated to underground status. However, 2013 may have been the year that Chrome took its rightful place as a major force in the music world.
Helios Creed was able to buy back a lost collection of old tapes featuring the un-released out-takes from the Half Machine Lip Moves sessions from 1979-80. Through the crowd-funding site PledgeMusic, Chrome was able to release these 18 songs directly to fans who pledged funds that enabled Chrome to put out Half Machine to the Sun (a combination of the titles of two cult classic albums,Half Machine Lip Moves, and 3rd From the Sun). I was one of those fans, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results! The songs to me, are a continuation of that era of Chrome that changed my music listening, and performing life. They are all just as viable as the songs that made it onto Half Machine Lip Moves, and just as fresh today as in 1980. Chrome’s music certainly is timeless in my humble opinion. The album consists of 18 songs that range from hard rocking psych-outs, to brooding, space-aged weirdness, veering off into dark, spooky synth compositions. Throughout all of this, Helios Creed weaves psychedelic guitar riffs, and heavy rhythm bursts that envelope Damon Edge’s heavily machined vocals and gloomy synthesizer work .
Chrome is one of the first bands to utilize sampled sounds and tape loops effectively, and you can be sure that any Electro-Industrial band worth its salt took notice. Every one of the 18 songs are excellent. There are however, a few breakout tunes that will stay with you, such as the beautiful and spooky Ghost, which is one of my favorites. Autobahn Brazil, replete with artfully utilized sampled sounds, sad and majestic synth lines, and tied together by Creed’s masterful psychedelic guitar riffs, traverse a tense but elegant terrain. Another song that I believe anyone who loves music should hear is The Rain. Creed’s vocals are at his best here, as he mournfully croons, accompanied by an Electro-Rock composition that exudes a sense of loss and sorrow. (see video link below to hear Rain).
If you have never heard of Chrome, I would suggest finding this album, and once it is embedded into your soul, I suggest searching out other albums such as Half Machine Lip Moves, 3rd from the Sun and Alien Soundtracks. Chrome is about to put out a new collection of fresh material titled “Feel it Like a Scientist”, on their own King of Spades label in August of this year, and they are about to go on an extensive tour of Europe as well. Almost 40 years after the inception of Chrome, it looks like they will get the recognition that they deserve, and hopefully a new generation will learn to love them as so many of us older fans have.
(out of 5)
Chrome’s website link below
Listen to Chrome’s The Rain from the album half machine From the Sun here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHRqurNf7Kw
Richmond, Virginia’s Druglord have been lumped together with the ever-expanding pantheon of Doom/Stoner Metal bands that are proliferating at a steady pace. While the plodding, intense, black tar goo to be found on this album certainly falls within the aforementioned genre, Druglord bring a little extra meat to the table. Enter Venus was released on Feb 22nd by STB Records in 3 vinyl formats, all of which are highly limited edition. All come with extras like stickers, badges, and the Die-hard Edition comes with custom artwork by the album cover designer W. Ralph Walters. I am pretty sure that these editions are extremely hard to come by, but I would check their Bandcamp page for info about CD releases and mp3 versions (Link below review).
Comprised of Greta Brinkman on Bass, Bobby Hufknel on Drums, and Tommy Hamilton on guitar and Vocals, the music is infused with a psychedelic swirl which differentiates them from the garden variety Doom Metal band. The vocals seem to come from all directions, while remaining in the background, as if Hamilton is screaming to be released from a locked basement, where rats and spiders are tormenting him in the dark. The drumming is top-notch, no doubt due to Hufknel’s years of pounding beats for hardcore and metal bands for over 25 years. Greta Brinkman’s bass is at once baleful and menacing, while displaying a musicianship that is just a bit more seasoned than most others. Hamilton’s guitar sound at times squeezes the air from your lungs, delivering a slow, relentless jackbooted assault of the senses, only to release its grip to let you breathe, before tightening the vice once again.
Listening to the Title Song, Enter Venus , the sludgy pace is mesmerizing, but it is not a one note experience, for as slow as it can get, there is a swing to it that rocks you from side to side, I can’t explain exactly what it is, but it immediately demands your attention as a listener. The album is just under 30 minutes long, and was pressed to play in 45 rpm mode. I would recommend Venus Rising to anyone who likes Windhand, Inter Arma, or early Black Sabbath.
(out of 5 )
Druglord Bandcamp page link: http://druglord.bandcamp.com/
The Swans have been producing intense, heartfelt and angry music since 1982, where they emerged from within NYC’s No Wave movement. Albums like Filth and Cop were comprised of pummeling, heavy dirges of industrial angst and despair laden diatribes. By 1989 they had softened their tone, if only a trifle, writing more traditionally structured songs with verse and melody, as experienced on the album White Light from the Mouth of Infinity, among others. After a self-imposed exile in the mid 90s, Michael Gira brought his Swans back in 2010 with a new determination, as well as a retooled line-up and sound. The first release of this comeback was My Father will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, followed by The Seer.
I just listened to a free streaming of To Be Kind on NPR, and it is amazing. At times, heavy and intense, with moments of minimalist ambiance. This album clocks in at 122 minutes, with the average length of the 9 songs at around 7 or 8 minutes. The song Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’ouverture is a whopping 34:05 minutes. It is scheduled for release may 13, and I can’t wait to own it. They are currently on Tour, and from what I hear, Gira and Norman Westerberg, although they are pushing 60, are as intense and spirited as they were in 1982. One aspect of the band’s sound that I find commendable is the fact that I cannot compare them to any other band-because the only band that sounds like the Swans, are the Swans. Highly recommended. To Be released on Young God/Mute Records May 13th
(out of 5)
Info at: http://younggodrecords.com/
Swans “To Be Kind” album teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vntpzqsHt8w
There have been quite a few “New” bands that are really just a rehash of the early Post-punk movement. Bands like She Wants Revenge and Interpol have introduced the sounds of Joy Division, Gang of Four and PIL to a younger audience, who were not around in the early 80s (unlike geezers like me). Some old heads are a bit curmudgeonly about it, thinking that the originals were the best, but I disagree. This new crop of Post-Punk revivalists have brought back the sounds that I loved from the 80s, and made them fresh and new.
Savages are indeed a revival of sorts- a four piece all girl band, they have drawn comparisons to early 80s mainstays such as Siouxie and the Banshees, Joy Division, and Magazine. Having said that, I believe that Savages actually stand on their own, and in my estimation, are one of the best all female acts to come along in a long while. Their debut album Silence Yourself was released in May 2013, and was an instant smash in their native England, but after performing at last year’s Coachella fest, as well as the CMJ in NYC, they are making steady progress here in the states. Check out the video below and judge for yourself.
I recommend Savages for fans of Siouxie, Joy Division, P.J. Harvey and Post-Punk music in general
( out of 5)
Savages website: http://savagesband.com/
Video for Savages-Husbands https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQL5Ma9gcqo