overground scene


Favorite music moments from 2012

It is the time of the year again to account for all the beautiful music that bands from around the world gave us and, by doing this, made our lives a bit more worth living. The last few years I have come to realise that for different reasons I can no longer keep up with new developments in music. The most important of these reasons is that I do not have enough time to look for new music. The second reason is that I don’t associate with many people who keep up with new developments in music. Another reason is that I find it very difficult to appreciate something new, since I think that everything that is taking place nowadays has taken place, in only slightly different forms, many times before. Nothing really gives me the chills anymore. Anyway, some of my favorite and not-so-favorite bands and musicians released albums this last year: Paradise Lost, Napalm Death, Nile, Propagandhi, Killing Joke, Cannibal Corpse, Kreator, Six Feet Under, Dying Fetus, Serj Tankian, Unleashed, Grave, Tragedy, Testament, Aborted, and others.

Unleashed continued down the path that Fredrik has been leading them the last few years, that being a death-black hybrid which keeps many of the core elements of Unleashed intact while introducing some more melodic new touches. My personal take on the evolution of Unleashed is not very favorable. I find it impossible not being nostalgic of their more muddy, brutal and unsophisticated past.  The last time Grave put out an album that I thought was “God” was when they released Soulless. I found their experimentation in the early 2000s with more brutal-american influences interesting. The last few years they have returned to a more traditional Stockholm sound. Nevertheless I haven’t managed to enjoy none of their last three albums. I didn’t like Cannibal Corpse‘s new album either. It is obvious not only in the album but also in the interviews during the recording of the album that the band is nowadays making a conscious effort to revisit past glories and that the members are trying out old formulas, which to my ears sound unsuccessful. I really liked the last Nile album. I thought that it had some of the best songs they have ever written (e.g. The fiends…, The inevitable…). It cannot be denied that they keep providing excellent, hyper-brutal well-played, death metal albeit for many years now predictable. I also liked the new very melodic album by Kreator. Tiamat chose not to go down the experimental road of their last album this time around. Instead the new album reminds me of the Gothic-Rock style of Judas Christ. My expectations for the new Tragedy, the best and most influential band of the new (now old…) wave of brutal anarchist hardcore, album were extremely high and were not reached. Their new album is missing, in my opinion, the elements that made this band stick out among their contemporaries, namely the amazing melodies and twin guitar harmonies [note: since this post was first published I have re-evaluated this album and I think it is brilliant, albeit different from the previous ones]. Their heritage, nevertheless, has granted them a place on the pantheon of genius and socially/politically responsible/conscious musicians. If what they fancy playing at the moment does not agree with me, I am sure they do not give a shit, which gives me another reason to love them. So, my choices for 2012 are:

1. Paradise Lost – Tragic Idol

Paradise_Lost_-_Tragic_idol_cover

Expectations for the new Paradise Lost album were great, mainly because they have been releasing consistently amazing albums for many years now. I did not think it would be possible to create something better than their previous album, whose brilliance was beyond expectations. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised after the first listen of the new album. This album is more stripped down than the previous one. The keyboards are less and less prominent. In effect, this album is the closest they have ever been to the sound of Draconian Times. Yet, in many instances the melodies become weird and less straight-forward, reminding the distorted and out-of-tune ideas of Icon and Shades of God. At times the tunes are very familiar (e.g. Honesty in Death, Tragic Idol, Crucify), recreating the well-tried and successful recipe of the mid-nineties period. At other times they go down new untrodden paths, with weird voice-melodies and orchestrations (e.g. Fear of impending hell, Solitary one, Worth fighting for). The two elements responsible for making PL one of the best bands in the world, are as strong as ever on this album. Greg McKintosh is composing music as if there was no singer. Indeed each song could be an instrumental composition and it would still be excellent. Nick Holmes, on the other hand, comes up with excellent vocal-lines which do not merely compliment the already amazing music, but they instead take it to a whole new unreachable level. Lyricwise, it is not amazing. The lyrics are abstract and subjective as usual. They might make sense to Holmes or, again, might not. The lyrical strength of PL comes mainly from the clever use of fancy words in strategic parts of sentences. The production is very good. Overall, being a PL admirer for 17 years, I think that this album can stand proudly next to monuments such as Gothic, Icon and Draconian Times. It is impossible to choose favorite songs. Favorite moments include the slow middle part of “The glorious end” up until the end, the chorus and guitar solo of “To the darkness“, Nick’s deep-singing, bridge and chorus on “Tragic Idol“, and the part starting at 1:33 on “Fear of impending hell“.

2. Propagandhi – Failed States

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Propagandhi also managed to keep up the extremely high level of powerful hardcore, while maintaining a high level of musicianship, that they have been creating for at least 12 years now. They have managed to create their own recognisable style, while re-inventing themselves with each new album. There is great balance between Tod’s brutal hardcore and Chris’s melodic hardcore. There is also perfect balance between political lyrics and personal lyrics. All songs have amazing ideas, some more straightforward yet dynamic and exciting such as in the case of “Things I like” and “Hadron collision“, some more complex, such as in the case of “Note to self” and “Unscripted moments”. All the songs on this album are laden with exciting chord progressions. The dissonance of “Rattan cane” and “Cognitive suicide” are accompanied by the traditional yet inventive punk-rock touches of “Devil’s creek“, linking the present and the past. The frantic pace of “Status update” and Chris’s singing reminds of the mighty MDC. I would like to think that in 30 years people will be looking back at this album in a similar way we look at classic albums by the Dead Kennedys and MDC, because it is worth it. “Unscripted moments” may well be my favorite song of 2012. Other favorite songs include “Note to self”, Hadron collision”, “Cognitive suicide”, “Things I like” …

3. Napalm Death – Utilitarian

ndutilitarian

Napalm Death can be trusted upon to deliver awesome sophisticated noise with every release. Since the present configuration of this band (i.e. Barney, Shane, Mitch, Danny, Jesse R.I.P.) came together 20 years ago, it has always offered varied, unconventional, brutal, challenging, invigorating grind-death. ND constitute a musical phenomenon. The familiarity/chemistry the members of the band have acquired/achieved over the years results in an almost unsettling over-confidence and ability to create songs that are undeniably more extreme, more inspired and, at the end of the day, better than any extreme band can even imagine to offer. These guys in their mid-forties can easily create more power than ten young extreme bands put together. ND are not only about brutality though. They can write songs in the old sense of song-writing, with choruses, bridges, and so on. Yet they always find ways to bend the rules and challenge the musical conventions. Sure it can be argued that over the years they borrowed elements form many other bands in order to enrich their sound, starting from Godflesh during their “Fear, emptiness, despair” experimentation. However, they always gave it their own spin and because of their remarkable chemistry they always ended up creating something unique. Their newest album has been praised by the press as an effort by the band to introduce even more new elements to their sound. I disagree. I indeed find this album to be magnificent, but there are no new elements. Every single thing found on this album (apart from the saxophone noise on “Everyday pox“) has been tried before by ND. Nevertheless, they manage to offer a series of amazing -the ND way- songs like no other band can, which are new and refreshing. On this album, my personal opinion is that Mitch’s songs are over-the-top excellent (The wolf I feed, Blank look about face, Orders of magnitude, Quarantined). Shane wrote some of the best songs on the album, which are also some of the best ND have ever written overall (Nom de guerre, Opposites repellent, Leper colony) but also the ones I like less (Collision course, Protection racket).

4. Imperial State Electric – Pop War

imperial-state-electric

Nicke Andersson pulled off another small miracle with his new album. It took me a few listens to appreciate it. I found it a bit more varied than the previous album. Once again Imperial state electric offer stripped down 70s Rock, removing all the stupidity, arrogance and cock-rockery. Nicke manages to keep all the beautiful elements of this musical tradition, mixing it up with the pop-rock of the Beatles. The result is simple structures, catchy choruses, sweet and short guitar leads. A melancholic mood seems to be prevalent throughout this album. Nicke’s voice has gotten better over the years. His singing on “Deride and conquer“, “Waltz for Vincent“, “Sheltered in the sand” is beautiful and overwhelming. Not much can be said for an album that was meant to be simple and address in a direct manner the most elementary elements of our souls. Listening to this album, you will feel happy for no apparent reason, you will want to dance with no apparent reason, you will want to learn to play the guitar, you will want to sit by the window and be melancholic. Favorite moments, apart from the already mentioned three songs, include “Uh Huh“, “Back on main” and the ending of the album.

5. Serj Tankian – Harakiri

2ujxvtvc.j31Tankian’s new album was not among my favorite when I first wrote this post. Even though I did like it a lot and I thought that it was comprised of some amazing songs, I also thought that many songs were not anything special. However, the last few weeks I have come to recognise its brilliance so I decided to add it to this list. I think that this is nothing short of a masterpiece that everyone should listen. I think that it is an album that has the potential to enrich the musical lives and tastes of people who are used to listening to pop music.  Many of the melodies could be considered pop, but who said that popular music cannot be inspiring. Some songs have middle-eastern musical elements. Other songs are reminiscent of the more crazy structures of System of a Down.  Most songs have some mind-blowing bridges and choruses. The music and orchestration on songs like occupied tears are beautiful beyond words. The sarcasm and supposedly pedagogic intention in many songs moves me less. Weave on could have easily been written by Jello Biafra. Tankian’s extraordinarily amazing voice is key in the brilliance of this album. Personal best moments include: Harakiri, cornucopia, uneducated democracy, weave on, occupied tears, but seriously the album is a masterpiece so do yourselves a favour and listen to it.

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