Some heavy stuff from the underground this time with Vails, Merlin, Wilt and Plebeian Grandstand. There’s so much stuff coming out of the woodwork that simply sounds amazing, how to keep up?
Well, I particularly liked these four.
Vails – Fuckpuncher
When Planets Collide
If you name your album ‘Fuckpuncher’, you probably don’t play music full of gentle and soft elements. You probably do something that feels fucking hard and punching. That pretty much would sum up the sound of Vails. The band hails from London and is a two piece, that produces a punked up, bristling version of sludge without much further decoration. Owen Street batters his bass and provides the singing and Matthew Ham is slaughtering his drum kit to provide a rumbling backdrop for the whole experience. The necessary effects do the rest.
The sound is one full of grit, distorted and with barely contained violence. It’s not the creeping kind of sludge, but the battering, angry sort that propels itself forward on its rhythm based barrage. ‘Fuckpuncher’ is a raw record that reminds me a bit of Crowbar meats Eyehategod with the intensity of Whores. It definitely has some swagger in its bass riffing, for example on opener ‘Klabautermann’. The sound is sleazy and full of biting, heavy distortion, which only adds to the ferocious charm of this duo. This is one to play in your car for sure. On the title track there’s even a feeling of grandeur in the build-up. Great stuff by these Britons.
Merlin – Electric Children
No wizardry on this crackling bit of doom, but clear voiced heavy wah wah doom that speaks of death, doom and gloom. The band from Wrinngarth takes doom from the 70’s and merges it with current day heavy psych. Their intent? To melt minds and enslave people… oh well, that last might not be part of it, but they really want to bring back the epic riffing. Their influences therefor range from Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats to Hawkind and Sabbath. Oh and there’s a lot of fuzz going on there as well. Enjoy the ride into the darkness.
Listening ot ‘Electric Children’, you are overwhelmed by the towering vocals that are more akin to the early doom greats than you’d imagine possible. Even the timbre of the recording feels dusty and canned, but also that fuzzy guitar play feels like its Blue Cheer at work underneath it all. The Americans keep the sound light, accesible, but oh so much fun to listen to. The languid vocals, the eerie buzzing guitars, the primitive sound. It all seems a bit much calculated, but the band from Kansas pulls it off with flair. Lots of solo’s, lots of messy sounding bluesy grooves, it’s all good with these electric children.
Wilt – Moving Monoliths
To say that the Canadian group Wilt makes music that is monolithic in its slow, brimming reverie is an understatement to the art of the band. Their sound is considered to be atmospheric black metal, but traces of the most mind-melting doom (bordering on the funeral kind) is definitely present on their record. It’s the first full lenght for the Manitoba five piece. The record came out in november 2015, but I feel that I have to share its brilliance here.
Slow, drudging music soars around, filling the wide void that the band embraces. The slow is combinated with a blistering drummer, that creates an underlying tension in the shimmering sound of the Canadians. The lurching vocals are cracking, heaving with frustration and grief in a profound and convincing manner. Though that is mainly what describes the title track and opener ‘Illusion of Hope’, on ‘The Elder’ the drums take over and a much faster, pummeling vibe overtakes the whole song. Sure, this record does get a bit monotonous at some point for sure, but let it embrace you and it’s a great experience.
Plebeian Grandstand – False Highs, True Lows
There are still those that push the black metal genre forwards and Frenchies Plebeian Grandstand do just that. You might link them to the Deathspell Omega’s of this world, but the band is not related. Thematically the band is taking a totally different approach to the genre, creating something much more tangible and realistic. It’s also interesting to know that the band has been around for 11 years and therefor I’m amazed to not have noticed them before. Alas, it’s the way the world works and now I have and have been blown away by their record.
Ever been hit in the head at a show, when everything suddenly seems to go faster, while you go slower? It’s sort of like that when Plebeian Grandstand launches into their savage, lo-fi bursts of fury. Short assaults are followed by brief, uncouth moments that feel like there’s something wrong or perverse about the music. That unsettling effect is tangible from the first track onwards, but stays with you the whole album. The hooky, mesmerizing sound of these guys remins you that not every band labelling themselves as avantgarde (or being labeled as, potato and all) has seen a modernist novel once, some actually are unfathomably complex and strange. So, don’t take my word for it, but listen to the blistering assault of their record yourself. It’s free, treat yourself.