These are the albums that have been doing it for me this year, alphabetical order with my album of the year tucked away in there. This year’s list is a bit noisier and there’s definitely more riff worship going on in this house, working alone in a small room these past 9 months has made me (like millions of others) pretty cranky. Escapism via uncompromising music + volume pretty much always works though. Dig in…
Blóm – Flower Violence (Box Records)
The energy on this album is phenomenal. Nil guitar, song structure manual thrown out the window, heavily fx’d bass that gets so mangled it doesn’t even sound like a bass half the time, drums that are the absolute business plus Hells’ vocals which are like force of nature, what a lush racket this is! Lyrically everything from God, gender identity to mental health and more is up for grabs, a lot to unpack… for all that it’s so easy to get carried along by how visceral it all is. I think my Pigsx7 / Blóm gig has been rescheduled twice now, maybe three times. Please please please still be on the tour when it finally happens…
TUSK Virtual set https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVgZWNPK1Xk&t=1364s
Further Reading: NARC
Boobs Of Doom – Hypnagogia Ekstasis (Self Released)
Drone Metal / Grimmrokk masters Boobs Of Doom give us the perfect soundscape for our hypnagogic travels. With 27 albums in the bag they’re starting to make Acid Mothers Temple look like slackers, no let up in quality though. If you’ve ever been ‘in a bad way’ (intentionally or not) and had hallucinogenic sleep issues as a result, this album is for you.
Bornwithhair’s second is overflowing with ideas. Thinking back to the early 90’s when there were 100’s of bands trying to make the hardest and biggest sounding Metal / Rock sound they could, Smoleńska feels like the opposite mindset to that. It’s got an intimate quality that draws you in rather than flattening you. OK, you might not think that from the first 1 minute and 32 seconds, but if you stick with it you’ll get a glimpse of the wild tangents they will take you on further into the album….
Further Reading: Everything is Noise
This is my first Fugazi related purchase since Repeater (yeah i know) and I only bought it on impulse when I had a rare 10 minutes in a record shop. It’s had daily plays here for the last couple of months, definitely money well spent. That the combination of Mackaye / Lally / Farina are so at ease playing together maybe understandable but it’s no less incredible for that. It’s like Fugazi came round your house to play a set and when you tell them the neighbours are in they turned it down a bit and kept everyone happy. There is a delicacy to much of the album that surprised, as you’d expect the sharp social commentary is still there and for all the understated feel the album has, they can still open the taps fully when they want to. Essential.
Further Reading: New Noise Magazine
Duma – Duma (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
If you’d have told me back in January I’d be digging digital grindcore in 2020 I’d have taken issue with your sanity. This album is a complete outlier for me, how music this dark can be so moreish defies comprehension. Duma’s debut is without doubt one of the most intense listening experiences you’ll get this year, with a sound so brutal it suffocates. Listening to Pembe 666 feels like you’re being force fed military grade brainwashing material while strapped into a chair. Claustrophobia and tension runs through the whole album, a true assault on your senses from the outset.
Tusk Virtual set
Further Reading: Bandcamp Saturday // Nervous Curtains
Easy Prey – Relentless Struggle (1407 Records)
Crushing 16 minute release from Austin’s Easy Prey on the 1407 label. Anger and frustration runs through this album from start to finish, the music for our times. With massive guitar, 100% committed windtunnel vocal and the dissonance you need, it’s got hardcore pace but with the weight of an oil tanker. A truly righteous noise.
Very cool Safehouse session over on Captured Howls here
Further Reading: Overblown
KLÄMP – Hate You (God Unknown Records)
I have no idea what any of the tracks on Hate You are about, not that I’m worrying about that too much. Some albums just cut through all that by cracking your skull open with their massive bastard riffs, and this beauty is one of those. Best opening track of the year, no question… It feels like Schizoid Man on steroids, evil sax with bass and drums to make your house fall down. Sounds loud as hell even when it’s turned right down. I’m banned from playing it at home without headphones. Grin music.
‘An Orb’ video
Luminous Bodies – Nah Nah Nah Yeh Yeh Yeh (Box Records)
Everyone’s favourite scumbag racket makers serve up double-drum-trauma fuzzed up filth rock in excessive quantities. Sets its stall out within the first 3 seconds with over the top classic doom guitar and wildy echoed vocals, then doubles downs on it a few times for good measure. Celebrates bad choices made for seemingly good reasons, calls out light user poseurs in Fuck The Beatles (the anthemic middle section of this track belongs in a stadium), then in Hey! You! they knock out the best Motorhead-esque banger you’ll find. Yes!
Full Track By Track they did for IHN
‘Sykes’ Live At Raw Power https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhNJhLfmD-M
Michael – Tell Your Friends (Cracked Ankles)
General ne’er do well punker action from guys who obviously love a bit of hard rock and Tomfoolery. Here you’ll find them keeping housemates up in the early hours, racing hot hatches around car parks and wielding leaf blowers with scant regard to Health and Safety guidelines. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Further Reading: Louder Than War
Obey Cobra – Oblong (Self Released)
If I could grant any digital album I’ve heard this year a physical release this would be it. It’s a real creeper, where some of the others in this list will smack you round the head right from the off, this will get under your skin gradually and stay put. Deceptively experimental with a cinematic quality about it, these six dreamy punks from South Wales have created a dark post punk come shoegaze work of exquisite depth. They are definitely on my gig wishlist.
‘Capita’ video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTF26zVKQ0U
Plague Organ – Orphan (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)
40 minutes of blackened metal shamanism that is genuinely mind altering, as psych as things get right now. In Plague Organ René Aquarius and Marlon Wolterink have created one of the most unhinged concept albums in recent memory. It’s fluid and totally immersive repetition taken to its logical conclusion, the outside world will disappear completely while it’s on and right now that is mighty appealing.
Pohl – Freakspeed (Wrong Speed Records)
The blurb on BC asks, ‘Does this album rip?’ Fuck yes! is the answer to that. Originally conceived as a noise-space-prog-rock magnum opus they give further proof that less is more with this reworked 25 minute belter. This condensed album is chock full of skewed progressive guitar & sparse vocals that are at times ridiculously melodic. Kills on all levels. That this might be their last outing is news that feels all wrong to me.
Primitive Knot – Lost Wisdom (Deathbed Tapes)
The ever prolific Primitive Knot land the sharpest metallic riffs of the year, I’ve been known to have it on repeat in the car all day while at work. I’m a firm believer that album art / band names should tell you what it’s about and the stark posterized cover of Lost Wisdom promises a real gnarly bastard. That promise is delivered on track after track, taking influences from Thrash, Psych and Industrial, Primitive Knot fuse them to create a relentlessly hard edged sound that’s intoxicating as hell. Incredible.
‘Arc Of Transcendence’ video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJO1e6NU9A8
Sweet Williams – That What You Hit (Wrong Speed Records)
The Wrong Speed Records label is one of the best things to come along this year. With a run of top quality releases from Hey Colossus family and like minded friends, the output has been varied & good enough to buy blind without fear of regret and That What You Hit’s is the best of the to date. The arrangements are sparse with machine beats (created on a knackered phone) & wonderful guitar that’s pretty minimal and has real edge. The vocals are what make it, the delivery is truly menacing, all latent violence, malice & self loathing. Maximum good throughout, album of the year for me.
Tara Clerkin Trio – Tara Clerkin Trio (Laura Lies In)
An album in the best tradition of Bristol DIY experimentalism. The electronics combined with the casual jazz vibe give it a cool resin woozyness that is thoroughly enchanting. There’s a real goodness to the energy here and everything is ‘just so’, nothing out of place or superfluous. Further proof that you should always get to gigs early and support the support, I found these purely by accident just that way…
Full review https://ihrtn.net/review-tara-clerkin-trio-s-t
‘Any Of These’ video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeyWsBe9_fU
The Tunnel – Shapeshifter (Forbidden Place Records)
The Tunnel create a deathly doomy goth and while the vocals are inspired by your favourite early eighties mopers (and there are ample needly guitar lines too) the huge growling bass and stoner tempo elevate the whole thing. Can you have a vocal that’s perfectly overwrought? I think so and if you’re aiming at the sound The Tunnel so obviously are with Shapeshifter, it would be criminal not to have those theatrics to finish off the job properly. It’s so glorious and persuasive that I’m thinking now is a good time to sort out all my clothes into two piles, black and colours, then just burning all the coloured ones so I can embrace my inner goth once and for all.
‘Membrane’ video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ1XOD68uYw
This Is Wreckage – I Don’t Live, I Exist (Forbidden Place Records)
Labelmates on Forbidden Place Records with The Tunnel, This is Wreckage bring pacey noise rock in the classic AmRep tradition. If you want attack, razor sharp riffs, a healthy dose of dissonant noise & the low end that rattles like fuck you will not be disappointed.
Musica Transonic – Musica Transonic (Black Editions Group)
Luxury repress and heavily expanded edition of what should be considered a lost classic in the PSF canon. Conceived as a Contemporary Improvised Heavy Psychedelic Group, Musica Transonic were the shadowy variant of legendary Mainliner. White hot ‘composed in the moment’ intensity, guitar that shifts from scattercore to bludgeon in an instant, ludicrous non-linear drums and bass that consumes the room then folds back on itself. The superb remastering by Asahito Nanjo opens the sound right up and the packaging is exquisite. Easily the nicest item I own.
Bushpilot – Already! (God Unknown Records)
I still can’t believe Cherry Red had this album bagged back in 1993 but didn’t release it, perhaps it’s not true, no label could be that foolish surely? It’s not even like Cherry Red had much on then, except the ever brilliant Prolapse. Maybe it was a year too early, Julian Cope’s Krautrock Sampler hadn’t landed and the Post-Rock wave hadn’t really taken everyone off in new directions yet, plus of course we all loved Kurt, loved him to death. I’d have been all over this back then for sure and so would many others. It’s here now though and that’s what counts (thank you God Unknown for unearthing this incredible find). I could go on about it all day but this isn’t the place for it. Suffice it to say, if you like Malcolm Mooney era Can, early Fall or the dub of Metal Box and fancy hearing what a band taking these influences & doing a damn fine job of it, you will want to bag this.
‘Jesus Loves That Rock ‘N’ Roll’ video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxosgjN6UfU