2012: A Year Of Awesome Tunes

OK, so let me tell you about my year, because I’m sure you’re DYING to know.

So after I single-handedly brought about the introduction of a carbon tax in Australia – the best and most positive and progressive piece of legislation introduced in my lifetime – I thought I’d become a teacher. Can’t be too hard, right?  So I moved back to my home town of Ballarat, did a teaching degree, started playing the trumpet again for the first time in twenty years, joined the brass band, just the usual stuff…

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing let me tell you.  It was a long, cold winter in this freezing cold pocket of Victoria. And the course was pretty tough going at times, what with all those essays and the like. And Richmond didn’t make the finals AGAIN.

But, as always, it was music that got me through the tough times, and was there to celebrate with me when the good times inevitably rolled around again.  I frikking love music and you all do too, right?

So let me tell you about the music that I will remember from this crazy year. Most of these albums were released this year, so this list can also serve as a preliminary ‘Best of 2012’ list, with the disclaimer that there have been a heap of great bands releasing albums recently which I’ll be listening to through the festive season.

I won’t bother with the album covers (although they are great click bait!), but I’ll give you a nice little Youtube clip for each one so you can have a listen. I won’t put ratings in either because quite frankly I can’t be arsed. They’re all good and highly recommended.

Let’s go:

Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral (4AD)

That voice. Oh my. Mark Lanegan surely has the best voice in all of music. Dripping with cigar smoke and whiskey and sadness, it is simultaneously primal and ethereal, almost spectral, like a voice from before time.

Alain Johannes provides the music and production, and while it’s hugely stripped back from the layered complexity of QOTSA’s Lullabies To Paralyze, there is a dark sexiness here (along with the presence of Lanegan) that recalls that classic Queens album. Johannes does a great job of putting the voice front and centre, while adding enough musical variation to keep the album interesting all the way through.

Jack White – Blunderbuss (Third Man Records)

OK everyone knows this guy is basically a songwriting genius. I mean the man can play, but lots of people can play. It’s the ability to write that is truly valuable. There’ll be White Stripes fans who will argue with me about this, but I’ve never heard Jack White’s music sound this good. I’m a sucker for a 3/4 song every now and then, and the title track is a typically doleful example. Every song is a timeless classic.

Pelican – Ataraxia/Taraxis (Southern Lord)

Are you familiar with the teachings of Epicurus? Well you bloody well should be. If everyone followed his teachings the world would be fine. Here’s how ataraxia is defined on Wikipedia: “ataraxia was synonymous with the only true happiness possible for a person. It signifies the state of robust tranquility that derives from eschewing faith in an afterlife, not fearing the gods because they are distant and unconcerned with us, avoiding politics and vexatious people, surrounding oneself with trustworthy and affectionate friends and, most importantly, being an affectionate, virtuous person, worthy of trust.”

Nice, huh?

I would add to this “listening to Pelican” to this list. There is something so comforting about listening to a Pelican album. You’ll get the heaviness and expansiveness of a great post-metal band, but without having to worry about some dude yelling at you every now and then. It gives you time to think, to feel, to write an essay if you will.

Long time readers will know how much I love me some Pelican. They released my favourite album of 2009, and although Ataraxia/Taraxis was only an EP it played a big part in getting me through 2012 with in a state of “robust tranquillity”. Ahhhhh…

Torche – Harmonicraft (Volcom)

Another former Three Paper Album of the Year winner, Torche are simply awesome. This album continues the crossbred pop-meets-heavy genius from their previous albums, but if anything finds them reaching a new level of confidence, complexity, musicianship and bold experimentation that pays some remarkable dividends, with the band at times finding some previously uncharted musical territory. There’s also a couple of those slow, doomy tracks (Solitary Traveler and Looking On) that they do so well.

Then when they decide to play it straight and just write a great song, there are few in the world today that can match them for catchiness and the ability to make you feel damn good about life in general. And this film clip is hilarious:

High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

Do you know what a grimoire is? It’s a book of magic spells, chants, curses and other occultish instructions.

If you are a fan of metal you really should read H.P. Lovecraft, because his writings have inspired so many heavy metal songs, lyrics and images over the years. I’ve been reading his stories this year, perhaps prompted by my return to my dank and chilly ancestral home. (The Rats in the Walls is my favourite) In his stories he often referred to a famous fictional grimoire called the Necronomicon, but he did mention others, including De Vermis Mysteriis.

Anyway, enough of the QI style fact sharing.

High On Fire released an album in 2012, and it was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. The early excitement from High On Fire albums has worn off a bit, it’s true. All their albums have been excellent, but I don’t think they’ve progressed much since Blessed Black Wings. Still if you love their swinging doomy riffs and thumping toms then you’ll love this too. Romulus and Remus is my fave track.

Trap Them – Darker Handcraft (Prosthetic)

OK, I’m a sucker for pretty much anything that sounds like Entombed, which is why I love this album. It was actually released in 2011, but I gave it a pounding throughout 2012.

Of course, every Entombed album is different, so you can’t just say a band ‘sounds like Entombed’, you have to say which one, and this is probably closest to Uprising in sound and punk rock attitude. It’s probably more accurate to say it sounds like Doomriders mixed with Disfear, but of course both of those bands were heavily influenced by the Swedish death gods.

There’s some fast and aggressive stuff, and enough d-beats in here to keep Discharge fans happy, but plenty of fun rocking riffs too.  Here’s a song called The Facts:

OK that’s it from me for the time being, I’ll get back to you as I digest some more awesome tunes over the next month or two.

– Hazizi


Isis Things

Hey folks,

Just quickly wanted to let you know that THERE WILL BE SOME ACTIVITY on this blog in coming weeks and months.

I’ve just finished a very hectic teaching degree and will now have some time to talk metal.

And Felix has done a great review of Civ V: Gods and Kings which I’ll post soon too.

In the meantime here’s a couple of things from Isis, who broke up in 2010 but are releasing a few things from their back catalogue at the moment.

The first is a new film clip to an old song that was on a 2010 split EP (with the Melvins).  It is called Pliable Foe and was recorded during the Wavering Radiant sessions.

The second thing is a link to a cover of Streetcleaner by the mighty Godflesh which they did back in 2000.

Streetcleaner – Isis

Enjoy, and I’ll see y’all real soon.


New Miss Lava song

One thing I often get asked is “Hazizi, are you ever going to review any albums or just keep posting the occasional link to new songs while Felix does all the grunt work on Three Paper Reviews?”.

To this I usually reply “Ummmm… look over there!!!”, then run away when they turn their head.

It is in this spirit that I post the following link.  It’s for a new song from Miss Lava, who blew me away with their 2010 debut Blues for the Dangerous Miles (reviewed here).

The new song is called Ride, and the album should be out soon.  Yay!

Cuppla new songs… bewdiful


‘Allo gentlemen ‘ow are you today?  What can I do for YOU?  Would you like something special?  I got something special for you.

Bewdiful new High on Fire song.  BEWDIFUL!  Listen to him.  Sit back relax and enjoy him.  Go to this Guitar World link for him.

Or how about this one – a bit of LA-based sludge for you.  The band is called 16.  The song is called Ants in my Bloodstream.  I think you will enjoy him.  But you gotta go to that Pitchfork website for him.  Ah, dussent matter.

Listen to these songs for cuppla days – I tell you – BEW-DI-FUL!!!

– Hazizi the Fruiterer

Free Torche!

Torche/Part Chimp - Tour 12"

As y’all know, we love our Torche on Three Paper Reviews.  And the only thing better than Torche is free Torche.

Check out their latest recordings – three covers of Guided By Voices songs – which they’ve contributed to a split EP with some lo-fi London doomsters called Part Chimp.  It’s a limited release to mark a tour happening now on the US east coast.

You can stream the whole damn thing here, and it’s well worth a listen, not just for the Torche songs – the Part Chimp stuff is great too.

And if you wanna get your hands on the vinyl you can order it here.  Not only will you get the awesome Yeti-vs-chimp-themed artwork in all its glory but all copies ordered off the web are signed by the artist Trevor Claxton.  Great stuff!


Mastodon – The Hunter (Reprise)

Mastodon - The Hunter

“Mastodon, some say you have the momentum of a runaway freight train – why are you so popular?”

I’ve never had the pleasure of interviewing these guys, but that’s the kind of Dorothy Dixer I’d probably serve up to kick off the interview.  Furthermore, I actually think it is a question worth exploring.  And, in the absence of having done the hard yards to secure an interview, it’s a question I’ll attempt to answer myself.

Modern metal is a dense and complex web of subgenres, but somehow Mastodon seem to be across an incredibly diverse assortment of strands.  OK, well I guess it’s time for a list:

  • Given the clean, modern production values and technical precision in the drumming and guitar playing you might at first be forgiven for lumping Mastodon (especially early Mastodon) in with modern industrial thrash bands like Lamb Of God.
  • The mathy progressions and rapidly changing time signatures and tempos call to mind the proggy experimentation of bands like Coroner or Meshuggah.
  • They have the artistic tendencies and confidence of big arty bands like Tool.
  • There are jarring vocals throughout (although less in later albums) and a doomy heaviness in some of the riffs that shows the influence of post-metal doomsters such as Isis, Pelican and Neurosis.  And yes, Scott Kelly makes his now traditional guest appearance on this album.

As the band has grown and matured, and – here’s the thing – especially on this album, they have brought in more and more influences from outside of metal.  Another list?  OK then!:

  • The ooh-ahhh vocal harmonies employed by Josh Homme and Queens Of The Stone Age are evident at times throughout, especially on Dry Bone Valley – one of my favourites (take that Pitchfork!).
  • The swampy dirge called Creature Lives could just as easily have been written by the Melvins.  By the way, that’s a compliment not a criticism.  From the freaky electronica of the intro to the doleful, marching main section, it’s a real standout.
  • There’s a Torche influence at times too I reckon.  Blasteroid, for example, really reminded of one of those faster, rockier tracks off Meanderthal.
  • Some songs have some real jazzy stuff in them.  Some of the bass lines get pretty damn jazzy, for example.  The song Octopus Has No Friends was apparently so named because it sounds like you’d need eight arms to play it.  There’s syncopation and even swing in the drumming too.
  • The guitarist brings in a bit of a country banjo twang into some of his playing.  The guitar strings have always had a really steely ring to them which really lends itself to that fast picking style.

Here’s an interview on Consequence of Sound where bassist Troy Sanders talks about the wide range of influences on display in this album, including his love of both country AND western music.  Have a read if you like.

And while I’m linking to stuff, here’s a clip of them playing Curl of the Burl on Letterman.  Yep, Letterman.  I’m including it here not just because it’s so cool to see a band like this is blasting the heads off an unsuspecting studio audience, but also because it will give you idea of how they share the vocals between the band, with the smoother-larynxed bassist taking the chorus, and the vocal contributions of the drummer allowing for some nice three-way harmonies.

My favourite track is Stargasm.  It’s got that same space and the crushing crescendos we saw in Sleeping Giant on 2006’s Blood Mountain.  But every review I’ve read nominates a different song as their favourite.  I get the feeling it will be one of those albums where you gradually develop new favourites as you come to notice some of the intricacies of the less-instantly-catchy tracks.

I won’t bore you with any more track by track analysis – you can have fun doing this yourself when you buy it (if you haven’t already).

But I will say that there is so much variety from track to track that each song is memorable in its own way.  There are still chops galore, but it’s never gratuitous or overdone, and each part of every song fits neatly together.  Where they might have gone through some intricate transition within one of their long songs on their previous albums, here they just end the song and start another.

I know I’ve been gushing a little, but dammit I can’t help it.  It’s just so refreshing that a band has taken all these great influences, including so many of the ones you’re likely to read about on this blog (i.e. my favourites), and applied their considerable artistry as well as all of the modern music production technology and expertise they could muster to create this set of awesome metal songs.

It’s frikking sweet.

Category Rating
Production: 9
Songwriting: 10
Creativity: 10


– Hazizi

Quick Heads Up

Hello to YOU our loyal reader (and I deliberately use the singular on this occasion).

Just wanted to let you know that things are about to EXPLODE on this blog, so keep your eyes peeled in coming days and weeks.

For starters, Mastodon’s new album is out, and that always gets me a little frisky. You know you’ll get the DEFINITIVE review here.

Here’s the first film clip off the new album, with a real Mighty Boosh feel to it. The film clip, not the song. The song has a real Mastodon feel to it.  I particularly like the way it KICKS ARSE.

And Metallica released something with Lou Reed that their fans are sure to hate, which always makes me laugh, and makes me want to try extra hard to like it.  Hell man, it’s LOU FRIKKING REED.  Oh and Metallica.  Loutallica.

Here’s a track off that one too.  It’s art, man, what can I say.

As always, Felix, the true workhorse of this blog, has been gaming his fingers to the bone.  I’ve got a great new piece from him ready to go (tomorrow!), and there will be a stack more gaming going on as the big releases come out in the lead up to Christmas.

So strap yourself in for the ride of your life.  Or, alternatively, check back every now and then in a slightly detached and indifferent fashion.  It’s up to you really.

– Hazizi

P.S. Don’t worry, the overuse of capitals in this article will surely be a passing phase.

Crowbar – Sever the Wicked Hand (eOne Music)

Crowbar - Sever the Wicked Hand

I’ve never seen an epidemiological study linking alcoholism to different professions, but if there was one I would imagine ‘doom metal singer’ would take out the #1 spot by a mile.  All the nihilistic angst, tortured screams and existential themes suggest the need for some serious self medication.

It turns out this was true of Crowbar’s Kirk Windstein, who has faced his demons in the time since their last album, 2005’s Lifesblood for the Downtrodden.  This interview has Kirk talking about some of the shit he’s been through in the intervening years, and the headspace he was in when he made this new record:

As he says in the interview, this is a positive record.  You might find it hard to believe that a band who have written songs such as Existence is Punishment, I Have Failed and Through a Wall of Tears, and whose guitar sounds like it has bubbled up from the depths of the earth through a mile thick swamp of molasses would be capable of making a positive record, but it’s true.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a heavy album, and that signature guitar sound is still here, saturating every available frequency and overwhelming every eardrum it touches.  There are a few more up tempo songs than previous records, and the influence of the work he’s done with Down in recent years shines through, with just a little bit more groove than usual.

But it’s the lyrics where you’ll really notice the difference.  Check some of these out:

  • “Never let it bring you down, stay strong ‘til the bitter end”;
  • “This darkness fades away, the light begins to stay”;
  • “Hands of death letting me go, I’m reinventing the man that you all thought was gone”;
  • “I’m gonna pull through!”

OK, it’s not quite Walking on Sunshine, but it speaks of a new maturity, and a willingness to throw off the veil of self loathing that has shrouded Crowbar’s previous work.

When I first got my hands on this CD and saw that the first song was called Isolation, I was worried we might be in for a bit of Mighty Boosh style introspection:

But thirty seconds into the album comes the first of many killer riffs strewn throughout this album like gold pieces and gems across the floor of a dragon’s lair.

Big statement time: Kirk Windstein is the best exponent of the heavy metal riff since Tony Iommi.

He has a way of coming up with a killer riff, stretching it out for an extra bar or two, adding a little flourish, then turning it back on itself somehow so that it becomes this monstrous, twisted thing.  It’s not just the riffs themselves that make this a great album, but the way he weaves them together seamlessly, and the ability to match the metre of the lyrics with the riffs so that they complement each other perfectly.

There is no filler on this album – not a single wasted song.  And the production, handled by Kirk himself, is faultless – as clean and heavy as Terry Date’s work with Crowbar’s old mates Pantera, which became synonymous with southern US metal.

So for all of these reasons – riffs, songwriting, consistency and sound – I’m doing something I don’t do very often and giving this a big fat ’10’.

But there’s something more than that here too.  This album has shown me that ‘being metal’ isn’t about how much you hate yourself and the world, how much booze you drink, how many drugs you take, how tough you are or how long your hair is.  Metal is about the music, and life is too short to waste on all that macho bullshit.

Category Rating
Production: 10
Songwriting: 10
Creativity: 8


– Hazizi

PS. Here’s a song from the album – enjoy!