SINGLE REVIEW: “I Don’t Feel So Alive” by Gabriella Cohen

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The brand new single from Gabriella Cohen is called “I Don’t Feel So Alive” and is from her soon to be released album “Full Closure And No Details” – you can listen to it via the following link:

 

As a song it is an amazing collection of ideas and truly sounds fresher and more honest than the music she’s made with her band The Furrs. On this track we hear Cohen wrestle with her old world influences whilst also surrounding the song dynamics with a deep need for futuristic voyeurism and when the climax of the song arrives you start to feel the warmth and comfort of a successful dark horse balancing that fine line between genius and madness. This is music birthed from a human who clearly sounds out of step with the modern world presented to her and although the lyrics are self explanatory, it is Cohen’s melodic delivery and guitar strums that signal her disconnection from the sway of what it means to be a young human in 2015.

This is what separates Cohen from her peers because she is on a quest to deliver more than just pop music and with “I Don’t Feel So Alive” we get to bear witness to the interesting dialogue of her internal universe. This song is perfect and buried within the “A to B” structure are little audio gems that jump out during a serious headphone listen. I’m especially in love with the way the backing vocals are striving for something a bit more and the way in which they are executed with intense creativity.

When I listen to Gabriella Cohen I hear a true artist who is striving and succeeding with breaking all the rules of what is expected from music. Whilst her journey is in its infant stages it is not hard to hear that with time Cohen will go on to change lives and influence a great many people with her art.

There is a classic Mike Patton quote that says “The Problem with music is that it is played by Musicians” and it is one that I live by because true music is the sound that comes from people who view it as art as opposed to a scientific collection of rules and regulations. The musician will interpret the rules set by the artist and will never destroy and re-create new ones. With “I Don’t Feel So Alive” we hear Cohen acknowledge the rules but destroy and re-imagine them at the same time which positions her as one of the real contenders for helping the sometimes redundant sounds of Brisbane move to some new radical ground.

8 Cassette Tapes Out Of 10

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/gabriellacohenmusic

 

 

SINGLE REVIEW: “Understand” by Solo

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I don’t mean to blush but I’ve been a fan of Sophie Lowe’s acting ever since I saw her in “The Slap” which lead me to her other films including “Beautiful Kate,” “After The Dark” and “Adore” – all of them are vital pieces of cinema and it is quite evident that Sophie is destined to make the big jump to Hollywood stardom. When I recently discovered that she was transitioning to music I was fucking ecstatic. As an actress Sophie is world class, a true artist and her skill for tackling highly complicated and emotional characters spills over into her music.

Released under the guise of “Solo” the newish single from Lowe is called “Understand” and it is a haunted piece of pop music built on smart songwriting skills and deep emotional drama. The song has a steady electronica vibe throughout and aesthetically is in debt to the swoon and slide of 1990’s trip hop pioneers Portishead. The sonics are stark and bare with Lowe utilising the space to really stretch out her vocals covering every inch of the track with her disciplined ache. Lyrically there are varying degrees of hurt, loss and despair circling the authors need and desire to be understood by those who share planet earth with her. On the surface it sounds like a break-up song but the plea for a mutual sharing of respect spreads itself to so many other possible scenarios where the dread of being misunderstood occurs.  This is music for the late night descent into heartbreak nostalgia and it does a fantastic job of framing all that is painful and all that is joyful about love.

As a singer, Lowe sounds uniquely beautiful and is able to balance the hushed dynamics of a crooner with the sweet shine of a pop singer. Combine this with her ability to experiment with different textures and moods and slowly you start to hear the rumblings of a true visionary who knows the perfect way to mix above and below ground rule books in order to communicate vital pieces of art. That is what makes “Understand” such a great song and I just love every inch of it.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one featuring Solo on my end of year list – I can’t wait for her to release a full length album because if “Understand” is merely a glimpse then I can imagine that with time Sophie Lowe will become one of my favourite artists of all time.

10 Cassette Tapes out of 10

By: Dan Newton

 

 

Useful Links:

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/SOLO.MUSIC.SOLO
Soundcloud – http://soundcloud.com/solosolosolosolo
Bandcamp – www.thisissolo.bandcamp.com
Tumblr – http://www.paleblueeyes.tumblr.com

 

SINGLE REVIEW: “Someone Sometime” by Major Leagues

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Major Leagues have existed since 2012 and in that time they have managed to position themselves as one of the more interesting slacker pop bands to graduate from the Brisbane music scene. After one EP the band is back with a new single titled “Someone Sometime” and it is truly and honestly one of 2015’s best singles thus far.

As a song “Someone Sometime” is a Malkmus Milkshake served dripping with the kind of critically acclaimed under the radar explosive self-expressionism that Yo La Tengo was renowned for. The slacker aesthetics are in full bloom but it is the pop skills of Major Leagues that gets full marks. Lyrically the song hangs onto the boredom of young love and the kind of long distance relationship that can survive courtesy of our social media decorated lifestyles. It’s about the celebration of connection and disconnection and is bound to resonate with just about anybody who loves life from Thursday Night until Sunday Afternoon and who knows the importance of 11:30pm Sunday night shopping at the local super IGA, not quite Kangaroo Point and not quite East Brisbane.

The guitars ring with atmosphere and dream pop economics ensuring that the bubblegum hooks have increased float giving the listener even more reasons to lay back gently and just drift away into the freedom of unwashed bed sheets. Nothing is overdone on “Someone Sometime” which gives the song an appropriate pace and enough time to feel like a progressive step forward without sacrificing society’s need for musical nostalgia. The strength of Major Leagues is the hypnotic sway buried inside their musical dialogue. There is a lot of mystery surrounding this song and it feels that the author is both willing and reluctant to go deep resulting in suggestions as opposed to announcements. This gives the song a strong emotional quality and is the real centerpiece for why it connects so deeply when you listen to it and it’s the reason you press play again and again. You want to know “who” or “why” and you secretly hope that the glimpses of deep longing that you spy when hearing the track is not simply purely there for aesthetics.

There is enough raw emotion haunting the vocals to suggest that for all of its sweetness there is an incredible darkness swirling inside “Someone Sometime” and that it feels rather limiting to view this as just a pop song. A true student of the pop song will collide misery and joy in an attempt to serve the sometimes spiritual and sometimes scientific headspace required to make significantly timeless music. In the space of 4 minutes and 3 seconds Major Leagues do that and more with the true power of “Someone Sometime” being the mysterious dirge that rumbles its sunshine soaked refrains.

Truly and Honestly, Kool Things

9 Cassette Tapes out of 10

By: Dan Newton

 

 

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/majorleaguesmusic

 

HEAVY AND WEIRD RECORDS – ARTIST ANNOUNCEMENT – Galapogos release the first glimpse of their fourth record “An Emptiness”

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Galapogos are sorry for being distant in 2015 – here is a glimpse of what you can expect now that they have escaped the foolish grip of summer

 

 

The bands fourth record “An Emptiness” will be released on the 21st August 2015 via Heavy and Weird Records – tell all your people xo

http://www.facebook.com/galapogosbrisbane

http://www.facebook.com/HeavyAndWeird

 

EP REVIEW: Absence by Alanna Eileen

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The music of Alanna Eileen has been the soundtrack to my life recently and like all good detours in romantic obsession I have been suffocated by the beauty being illustrated. This is music designed for those that hurt and ache in order for love to shine some light into there life. I’d go as far to say that this is music shaped by the very disappointment of true love never really knowing how to connect itself to your existence. Within each instrumental passage and melodic hook of these songs there is a yearning for a deep escape and a warm embrace. As an EP it flows together like magic and engulfs your entire environment, there is no escape from the atmosphere or mood of each track. Like a spooky hypnotist, Alanna Eileen weaves in and out of your senses whispering her heartache into your soul and graciously leaving you paralysed by shivers.

There is something so still about this music, it erupts with the smoothness of the cool rush of winter rain. The thrill of these songs lays in the way they fire up your own imagination. Lyrically each song has an intense poetic punch that helps draw pictures in your own mind of the kind of escapism that will allow you to transport away from your own daily dilemma. I found myself blacking out all the windows and just laying on the floor of my bedroom and playing this EP on repeat. It helped me remember and forget all of the love I’ve lost throughout the years but it also made me yearn for someone new to come and blow my world apart. That is the petition I put to all new music – just make me yearn deep and I’ll always be a fan of the art you create.

This EP is more than a movement of music to me – it is an obsession. I am consumed by its beauty and grace but the fragility of it all is what soaks me everytime I listen to it. At any moment these songs could fall apart, no doubt like the writer of the songs, from all of the hurt that is sailing in and out of whatever muse gives Alanna Eileen a reason to make the beautiful art that she does.

Music this deep and intense has a habit of being ignored and overlooked by people which always makes me sad. I think that Alanna Eileen will be a star and with time will be everyone’s best kept secret. I am in love with her music and I yearn for more of it because she has that ache that I love to hear in all the music I listen to. The true revolution in 2015 will be the discovery of artists like Alanna Eileen who make art for arts sake and in the process save lives.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/alannaeileenmusic
Soundcloud – http://soundcloud.com/alanna-eileen
Official Website – http://alannaeileen.com/
Bandcamp – http://alanna-eileen.bandcamp.com

DANIEL JAMES NEWTON’S TOP ELEVEN ALBUMS OF 2014

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Although I have previously posted a rather buggery filled list of music that impressed me in 2014, I thought it was time for me to share a more personal list of music that touched me in 2014. There was a lot of great music released in 2014 from both new and established artists. I initially made a list in early December 2014 of my favourite eleven albums and upon reflection I’m still confident that they are the best eleven albums of 2014. After much consideration I want to present to you my top 11 albums of 2014:

1. Once More ‘Round The Sun by Mastodon

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Words will never do this band justice – it is a simple as this for me, they are the coolest band of the past decade. Everyone else pretends to evolve the idea of rock music but only one band to me has truly done it and that band is Mastodon. With “Once More ‘Round The Sun” Mastodon illustrated that they are still the only group of artists in the modern era successfully taking the idea of the riff into bold new places. Whenever I lose hope in humanity I put on a Mastodon record and remember that there is still good air to breathe.


2. Bloodstone and Diamonds by Machine Head

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There are some bands that come into your life and change your whole world. They get ingrained in your DNA and shape every inch of your personality, giving you the space to grow and evolve with a feverish desire for life. Their music becomes more than a hobby or simple entertainment, it becomes religious with each new album like a Gospel. A lot of these bands are rooted in your youth and even as you get older, you still have the space to inherit sonic and emotional revolution. One band who is deeply ingrained in my DNA is Machine Head and it is a journey that began in late December 1997 when I was just 14 years old.

For the past 17 years of my life Machine Head have been a constant. Regardless of what I’m listening to or what new movement of sound I’m freaking out on Machine Head remain with me, with my love for the band continuing to grow as each year passes. They sounded just as vital in 2014 as they did to me in 1997 and I am serious when I say that I owe my life to them.

In 2014 the band released their eighth and quite possibly greatest album “Bloodstone and Diamonds.” Machine Head may just be a “metal” band to the snobs but fuck them I say, there is a purity and intense amount of art that goes into the music they make. Further to this point, I don’t think I’ve encountered a band, either metal or non-metal, who matches the amount of honesty and emotion that they summons. They are indeed blessed with a special gift and I believe that any well-adjusted appreciator of music needs to invest in the wonderful sound that Machine Head makes.

That kind of special power that they wield is all over “Bloodstone and Diamonds” is one of the most positive things existing in this world at the moment and I know that I’m not the only one who has been saved by what they have created with this album. As a human being I want to provide nothing but love and light to the world but I understand all too well how light and dark need each other to survive. I am never going to be foolish enough to only focus on the light and the artists who only speak of the light side of life because in all honesty to find true redemption you must go deep into the darkness that fills you and the world, that is the only way to rise and be a beacon of hope and light. So once again thank you Machine Head for all you did for me growing up and for giving me the power to survive in.  I owe you my life and an extra cheers to Robb Flynn for helping me become the man that I am today. I can’t wait for the future and all the wonderful music that Machine Head will go on to make from here.


3. .5: The Gray Chapter by Slipknot

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Once upon a time about seven years ago I had a friend whose name was Emily. We were very close and I adored her, mainly because she laughed at all my jokes and told me all her secrets. There are a lot of pointless folk music artists in my collection as a result of that friendship, mainly because I was trying to appear as well adjusted and sensitive but you know there is only so much fucking “IRON AND WINE” and “BON IVER” you can listen to before you require something with a bit more substance. Anyway, the point of this story is that on one of our magical adventures together we were discussing the whole “what albums are you currently addicted to” bullshit that comes with a boy / girl friendship. As I thought we had reached a point of comfort I raved to her about how the brand new SLIPKNOT album “All Hope Is Gone” was all I found myself listening to and how much I had loved them since 1999. My passion for that album and the band as a whole kind of overtook me and I just went full on about the intricacies as to why they are one of the most important bands to ever exist. After I pulled out of my passionate speech I fixated on Emily’s face and it had this rather concern yet disgusted look on it. She looked almost ashamed to be sitting there with me and uttered a sentence that has stayed with me and that sentence is as follows – “But Dan, isn’t it rather childish to still like something as juvenile as Slipknot, maybe it is time to grow up.” This was then bookended with her launching into a session of pity laughter like she almost felt sorry for me, like I needed some kind of guidance on her behalf for being a fan of Slipknot.

That was seven years ago, I’m no longer friends with Emily and this story helps illustrate why a band like SLIPKNOT is so important to not just me but a lot of other people. In short, the brand new SLIPKNOT album is a masterpiece that annihilates anyone and everything.

4. Self-Titled by Ryan Adams

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If Ryan Adams career had occurred in the 1960’s or 1970’s he would have been a household name and an absolute superstar. Unfortunately we don’t live in an era where humans respect art or good songwriting anymore. People are happy to continue to disrespect art by stealing it and because of that humans like Ryan Adams are pushed to the sidelines and great records like the one he released in 2014 go largely unnoticed. This is a record that just blew me away and renewed my faith in songwriting once again. Just a solid set of songs with incredible melodies that showcase that Ryan is at his best when he is nursing a broken heart.


5. The Best Day by Thurston Moore

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Another solid movement of noise meditations that are saturated in heartbreak and youthful optimism and proof that growing old doesn’t mean getting less radical.


6. Tied To A Star by J Mascis

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I honestly believe that it is impossible for J Mascis to release a bad record or write a bad song – this album is further proof that he is flawless


7. Self-Titled by +++ (Crosses)

 

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When you’re looking at life through innocent eyes it seems love and desire are quite simple, but sometimes she wounds and it’s so very smooth. That is when an album like +++ (Crosses) self-titled debut album sounds best, when you are wounded yet optimistic. This is the kind of album that fires up your romantic imagination making you feel like that somewhere out there she waits and that 84 will be worth living for.


8. Down IV – EP Two by Down

 

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It always bothers me when I read some clickbait bullshit article on any online music website about the “death of rock n roll” in 2014. I raged quite loudly when that clean cut neat fuckwit Artic Monkey’s singer gave his big speech about “bringing back rock n roll” and all that earlier this year. The reason it annoys me so much is because I hate to break it to all of you, but the real enemy of rock n roll is the ignorant music listener who is too much of a fucking idiot to look a bit deeper. Considering we live in the age of the internet I would have assumed that finding new music for people would have been so much easier but apparently somehow all the good “rock music” just magically disappeared. There is an ample amount of good rock music being made on both a mainstream and underground level and it isn’t hard to find. In fact in 2014 a lot of my listening has been dominated by amazing rock records and the brand new DOWN release – DOWN IV EP 2 – is at the top of that list. The recent release strategy from DOWN of releasing four separate EP’s is paying off dividends and has seen them put out some of their strongest material to date. On EP 2 we see DOWN continue down the path started on EP 1 but it feels like there is a bit more of a progressive feel to these songs and a total ode to all that is glorious about Doom Metal. Only a band like DOWN could re-invent, re-interpret and total throw the Sabbath sound into the future – as displayed so beautifully on the EP’s fourth track “Conjure” – and still make it sound so effortless. In 2014 DOWN are leading the pack in terms of what modern rock n roll is and unlike those clean cut neat folk in Artic Monkeys they don’t give a fuck what decade it is – DOWN are rock n roll lifers who will continue to create long after the modern trends have dried up and fizzled out.

9. Indie Cindy by Pixies

 

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On “Indie Cindy” The Pixies are releasing music for music’s sake and that joy beams off of each track. Whether they lose or gain fans is irrelevant because they have already done so much to infect the DNA of independent rock music and shape it for the better. I have to be honest and say that when I’m in the mood for Pixies music these days I put on this record because it gives so much more than the previous discography and picks up where the band left us. The songs on “Indie Cindy” are new classics waiting to happen and with hindsight I truly believe that humans will salute the brilliance of this album. I cannot fault it personally and even with the Kim Deal sized hole in some sections it never becomes boring or lacking. Having Kim’s influence on some of this music would have indeed taken it beyond the stratosphere but at the same time the songs do not suffer as a result and I personally yearn for what Kim does with The Breeders moving forward. In 2014 it is nice to have one of the innovators of guitar rock return with something fresh, exciting and futuristic that serves the legacy and gives us a glimpse at what is to come.


10. Self-Titled by EYEHATEGOD

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The woman who marries me will love me deeply because of my appreciation for the deep intense heavy sludge blues of a band like EYEHATEGOD and will share in the sheer joy that their dirge provides. This album was a welcomed return from the pioneers of all things sludge and doom.


11. Phantom Radio by Mark Lanegan Band

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Another set of dusty electronica from another human being who is incapable of releasing a bad album – a wonderful late night treat for those who remain haunted by catholic school girls.

 

Here are a bunch of records that also rocked my world in 2014:

WarPaint U2 TrailOfDead TheWarOnDrugs TheUnsemble Soundgarden SmashingPumpkins PinkFloyd Opeth NeilYoung2 NeilYoung1 Amaya Antemasque Beck BrantBjork COC Coldplay DamonAlbarn DevilYouKnow EMA FooFighters JackWhite JeffTweedy JohnGarcia KarenO KillerBeKilled KingBuzzo LanaDelRey Melvins NeilFinn

 

By: Dan Newton

 

CHRISTIAN TWIGGY CARTER’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2014

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Well another year has passed us by, the hangovers have worn off and the resolutions are just starting to lose the wind in their sails which means it’s a time for reflection, a time to look back on 2014 and all it had to offer, a time to wax intellectual about music! What struck me about last year was the amount of the quality of domestic releases, almost my entire list is made up of bands from Australia and NZ. 2014 was certainly full of obsessions for me, here’s 10 of them…

10. Dear Plastic – The Thieves Are Babes

I was privileged enough to play a show at the The Espy on the Basement stage earlier this year. The line-up was quite a melting pot of different genre’s, I was riding the high of playing my first interstate show when Dear Plastic walked onto the stage. They were quick to grab my attention as the gear nerd inside me let out a little yelp of glee seeing their analog synth set up and for the next 45 minutes I sat still, covered in goosebumps as I let the music wash over me. The Thieves Are Babes is Dear Plastics first full length release and after my experience at The Espy I was eager to get my hands on this record. When I listen to Dear Plastic I hear a band who know how to combine their influences (Portishead, Bjork and Milla Jovovich) without simply rehashing. There are enough similarities to lull you into a familiar vibe but the music never sounds rehashed. The first single from the record “Epic Delay” is the perfect example of this with singer Scarlette Baccini delivering a powerful Bjork-esque performance with a subtle uplifting drive from the rest of the band. This is the sort of record you disappear into like the safety and wonder of a long lost family member.

9. Jakob – Sines

It’s no secret to anyone that I am a massive Jakob fan – as a band they’ve always managed to keep the balance of raw energy and whimsical post-rock ambience absolutely perfect and their new album Sines is no different. It’s been 8 years since the release of their previous masterpiece Solace and I must admit I was a little sceptical. This was of course before hearing the first track Blind Them With Science. This is a record that demands the attention of the listener. Within the first few minutes I knew that I wasn’t listening to a band attempting to grab at former glory, but instead the band was chasing a new direction and a stronger vision. Sines is 44 minutes of pure post-rock bliss instilled with a potency and maturity that you just can’t fake. I can’t help but feel the band had let this record gestate in the very core of their hearts until it demanded to be let loose on the world.

8. Crosses – Crosses

Time for something a little more upbeat. I must admit I was somewhat oblivious to the existence of this band, a collaboration of Chino Moreno (Deftones), Shaun Lopez (Far) and Chuck Doom and I was very sceptical as is the case with many collaborative side projects that I come across. What I didn’t expect (though had hoped for) was a driving synth-pop record that left me feeling that this was a labour of love, another record that “just had to be released”. The record opens with This is a Trick an almost modern hip-hop track with just the right amount of Depeche mode to add a sickness and angst which continues throughout the record. I couldn’t help but reach for this album whenever I got in the car, whenever I was relaxing with friends or just needed to listen to something a little more relaxed and chill but with substance. From the driving, doomy Bitches Brew to the more ambient (somewhat NIN-esque) Cross, the record warps and twists from lighter pop tunes to the firey angst we know and love from bands like Deftones. This was an album I just couldn’t put down.

7. The Occupants – Singles Collection

Alright I’m aware this wasn’t exactly an album or even just a 2014 release but the music is so perfect I couldn’t leave it out of this list! The Occupants is the brainchild of Flynn and Luke Gower of Cog pedigree, who have slowly been releasing material one song at a time since the release of their debut single I’ve Been Thinking. Since then I’ve been waiting eagerly for the next snippet of information or music along with the rest of the Australian music scene. Each song is a constant progression, allowing you to feel like you’re watching the band evolve right before your eyes (or ears). For those that were hoping for just another Cog record you won’t be disappointed by any stretch but this is still a new, synth infused direction for the Gower boys. Each track is a journey in itself, the production is incredible, the level of musicianship is incredible and the song’s are just unbelievable. Even the longer tracks Hindsight and Wonderland don’t ever feel like they’re dragging, if anything you become so lost in the groove and poetry that you’re surpised that it was only 9 minutes!

6. I Am Duckeye – Commando Too

Ok so I’m very biased when it comes to I Am Duckeye. There aren’t many bands around these days that are able to write music about punching people in the dick, new and wonderful ways to masturbate, rehab and hi viz clothing whilst still sounding like a badass punk rock band. Commando Too is just Duckeye doing what Duckeye do best, which is be themselves. The whole album is testament to the bands inability to take just about anything too seriously while still making you want to headbang like a 13 year old who just discovered how to jerk off. I was lucky enough to play some shows with the boys last year and can only describe it as my bassist Karl did; “that was the best anti-depressant ever.” The lyrics are completely absurd, the riffs are heavy, what more can I say?? Buy it, you just have to experience Duckeye for yourself!

5. HTRK – Psychic 9-5 Club

HTRK are a band that took me quite some time to understand and enjoy but once that switch clicked over in my head I was head over heels in love. Jonnine Standish provides a gentle voice to the brooding synth creature that is HTRK. This is the sort of record I always found myself listening to when insomnia had taken hold of my mind. The album is both soothing and despondent, the perfect soundtrack for 3am. Every song seems to draw out and exorcise an emotion that you had almost forgotten existed, leaving you feeling liberated and at peace. It’s very hard to describe Pyschic 9-5 Club but fans of Massive Attack will definitely feel an affinity with the duo and I’m a firm believer that just like any psychedelic, set and setting plays an important part in the entire experience. I’d never describe them as music to help you sleep but the music of HTRK certainly seemed to help me wind down in a somewhat controlled way, lulling you into somewhat of a trance. This is particularly true in tracks Chinatown Style and Soul Sleep. Pscyhic 9-5 Club is another step deeper into the subtle emotions I think we all try and hide away, it’s cathartic and verging on therapeutic and it gives you room to breathe and process everything as it begins to surface and wash over you.

4. Shihad – FVEY

It’s been a while since I listened to Shihad however I was insanely eager to hear this record after hearing Killing Joke vocalist Jaz Coleman would be taking the reins as producer. The opening track Think You’re So Free sums up the entire record, Shihad are fucking back and they’re taking no prisoners! You can’t help but get caught up in the almost tribal vibe that’s prevalent throughout the entire album, the message is powerful, the riffs are powerful the whole thing is high energy, no bullshit. Title track FVEY is another perfect example of the bands ability to almost hypnotise the listener with an infectious groove that sounds like the love child of Sepultura’s – Roots Bloody Roots and Led Zeppelin’s – Immigrants Song. Lyrically the album is highly political, demanding your attention without ever feeling in the slightest bit preachy, a rarity these days. The band seem to have a very intense and very clear mission statement with this record, they’ve found the riff, they know what they want to say and they’re not going to fuck around tip-toeing around anything. Fans of the band (including myself) will always remember 1999’s The General Electric as the gold standard in Shihad’s discography, there was something about the 99′ release that just felt right and this is no different. Though FVEY is a much heavier, riff based record, the band are still able to capture the feeling of a raw live rock band, their trademark sound. Tracks like Song For No One and The Reason Why make you realise why you loved this band in the first place. Radio friendly, hard rock songs that are still able to tug at your heart strings and allow you to let go. I could spend forever talking about this record, there’s no meandering tracks that leave you feel like the band was “trying to make a hit” every single song IS a hit. FVEY is like a shotgun blast, you better be ready for it.

3. Behemoth – The Satanist

Behemoth are a band that I’ve loved since high school, I still have fond memories of blasting their music through my headphones on those particularly strong teen angst days and in my opinion, they are one of the most aptly named metal bands in the world. They sound like one big fucking Behemoth! Extreme metal and I have had a bit of time apart over the past few years, we’ve remained friends but nothing really seemed to rekindle that fire I once had… that is until I heard The Satanist. It’s been 5 years since the release of Evangelion with frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski battling Leukemia but this didn’t stop the band from releasing what is in my opinion one of the best extreme metal releases of the decade and certainly the best metal release for 2014. When listening to The Satanist the immediate impression is that the band are doing exactly what they’ve wanted to do for their entire 23 year career. This is the bands greatest work to date, this is their opus. The Satanist is a perfect fusion of extreme thrash/death metal with only the best cuts of black metal thrown in. Every part of this record seems painstakingly pieced together, from the opening riff of Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel to the epic almost orchestral ending of O Father O Satan O Sun! , every twist and turn, every riff is perfectly crafted. Behemoth have always been known for their artillery like wall of sound and this is no different but what I found the most interesting and the most striking was the melody carefully woven between the moments of pure chaotic onslaught. Tracks 5 (Amen) and 6 (The Satanist) are the perfect example of this; Amen is easily the most brutally heavy track on the record and is followed up by the more traditionally metal title track, Nergal’s almost singing vocals (a first for the band) cry out from a slow bass driven groove and choir like synths giving the listener some recovery time without compromising on quality. Suddenly the track opens up into a furore of blast beats with brilliantly contrasting almost smooth guitar solo’s, ending with the main melody accompanied by horns before fading into the next track (Ben Sahar) which opens with a spine chilling scream, leaving you begging for more double kicks, more distortion, more everything!

I feel I should also mention the first single and opening track Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel and the accompanying music video. Throughout their career Behemoth have been known for their image, their dauntingly demonic costumes and horrific music videos and again, this is no exception. The video for BYTG can only be described as a brilliantly crafted horror film, full of dark, satanic imagery without ever giving off a “cheesy” vibe. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the record and to the band in 2014, with the ending slowly rising in intensity in a tense yet orchestral manner, leaving the listener almost begging for something more extreme and oh yes…it delivers. The Satanist is an absolute fucking metal masterpiece!

2. Sydonia – Reality Kicks

Words can’t describe how excited I was when a release date was announced for the bands follow up to 2006’s Given To Destroyers. I had heard some of the newer material at various gigs but I was eager and a little nervous to hear what the follow up to one of my all time favourite Australian records would be. Let’s just say my nerves were put to rest… Reality Kicks is everything I wanted from the band and a whole lot more. The album opens with the sound of a baby’s breath before kicking into the monolithic track Here. The whole song is Sydonia at their best and within seconds of hearing it you can’t help but let out a cry of “fuck yes!” with a chorus that just helps to build tension before an incredible percussion bridge opens everything up. I can’t begin to describe how much I love this song and in particular that short bridge. The second track Shame dives straight into the heavier side of Sydonia we’ve all come to know and love, without wasting any time. Already you start to feel like you’ve settled in for the ride and you know it’s going to be a good one! This is another record that you get the feeling was painstakingly crafted to produce a very specific experience, constantly moving between softer more grounded melodies and lyrics found in the albums title track to the epic “journey” songs like Nobodies and C 13. There’s not a bad song on this record and I mean that with all sincerity, it’s a complete mix of ballads, all out metal mosh grooves and prog soundscapes, none of which feel out of place.

Almost pop songs like Drag You Out and Wheels don’t seem to take anything away from the accompanying brutallity, with singer Dana Roskvist’s vocals blending effortlessly from blood curdling screams to soft, fragile melodies. Crash Here Tonight is another great example of the bands ability to combine two distinct sounds in the one song. Starting with a reverb and delay saturated guitar and a strong percussion driving force, the song suddenly starts to mutate into something more twisted, the chugg of the guitar builds slowly before erupting into a headbangers wet dream, then followed by the no nonsense rock powerhouse track TI. Song’s like Sinner are yet another example of the bands ability to move from dark ambience to straight up chanting lyrical anthems without any feeling of awkwardness. It’s this ebb and flow between genre’s that keeps Reality Kicks so engaging, every element serves a purpose. The band isn’t afraid to show their more gentle side and they don’t’ allow themselves to get drawn into some of the more meandering prog elements that are becoming more and more prevalent in the Australian scene today. Had it not been for one more release this would have been my number 1…..

1. Forever The Optimist – Arecibo

Ok so I should definitely note that I’m pretty biased here, I’ve played a few shows with the band and  consider them among my close friends, however I won’t let that get in the way of the professional music journalist I’m pretending to be! I’ll start with one simple statement: everything about this record is perfect. Arecibo is the band’s first full length release and it’s a record that’s been crafted by blood sweat and tears, there are no shortcuts, there are no easy rides and from beginning to end; you’re in FTO’s world and they have a lot to tell you. The most striking thing I found with this record is how perfectly the track listing was, the opening title track is an ominous introduction to the full FTO experience, quickly bursting to life with Warning Horns which is like a slap across the face from an old lover, twisting and turning. From there the album continues building that energy while always keeping a subtle tension, denying you the release until you just can’t take it anymore and the levy breaks, opening to a strong hard rock mosh groove. Medusa is where the record starts to take an interesting turn, a track that lets you catch your breath without skimping on the quality before breaking into the bands latest single End of Antics. This is where the band starts to flex a muscle, both musically and lyrically. Vocalist Jamie Page delivers his lyrics with vitriol before allowing you a moment to process, this is where you realise the band is a lot more than your average Australian prog-rock outfit, this is something special. The track ends on an epic high, vocal chords tearing as the pleading line “will you learn?” is repeated over and over. Suddenly the album turns quiet, but it’s not the same breathing space as Medusa, this is something completely different, it’s a whole new level of maturity as we enter Chiral parts 1 & 2. You feel now the band is really trying to get a message across, is it a political or social commentary? To me it’s something a lot more, I can’t help but feel the band is trying to get across their own unique experience of life, love and the emotions we struggle to understand every day. The driving guitar force of Dan Page and Kellie Buckman ensure that this message is heard, whatever it may be. It’s time for you to pay attention and they’re going to fucking make you.

Now we come to the end of the record, a short interlude track that works as a calm before the storm that is Revolutions. Drummer Andrew Knox wakes you from the little trance created by the previous tracks with a thick reverberant thud, with subtle, fragile backing vocals preparing you for the experience. The accompanying music video is absolute perfection and one of the best music videos I’ve seen in a very long time. Revolutions is one of those songs that people will either get or they won’t; it’s subtle, touching on a desperation and chaos that is obvious in every element of the 4minute 10 epic as FTO do what they do best, let the tension finally break into an incredibly emotional climax. Now we reach the end of our journey with the track I Set Signals. It’s very hard for me to put into words my feelings towards this song, it has been somewhat of a comforter to me in my darkest days. The song starts quietly with just bass and vocals before the band slowly take their positions leading us to the first “chorus” of the song. The lyric “I will bide my time amongst the rubble, I swear there will be answers there” has been repeated in my head infinite times and is delivered in such a way you can’t help but imagine someone tired, worn, looking up at you from the ground as you share a moment of affinity. The track builds to what seems to be a breaking point then lulls back slowly, you hear the desperation and exhaustion permeate through every single inch of this piece of music. The final “chorus” defiantly breaks away, it’s tragic and uplifting, like a sudden explosion of light in an otherwise dark existence, that slowly fades.

Arecibo is complete, powerful yet grounded and is the perfect mixture of technicality and humanity. I haven’t been able to put this record down since its release. It has the driving hard rock intensity and the emotional maturity and catharsis many bands spend there entire career struggling to achieve. I could spend a lifetime talking about this album. It’s been the soundtrack to my darkest hours and brightest days, hence it’s place at number one in my book.

By: Christian Twiggy Carter