Rock

Botch - We Are The Romans

ARTIST: BOTCH

ALBUMWE ARE THE ROMANS

LABEL (YEAR): HYDRA HEAD (1997)    

FOR FANS OF: THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES, THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, BRONTIDE, RUSSIAN CIRCLES

 

Words by Gummo Clare


Botch were an American group, seen as one of the central bands involved in the development of mathcore, a rhythmically complex fusion of elements of mathrock, hardcore punk and metal (amongst other influences). While We Are The Romans is undoubtedly filled with intricate polyrhythms and technically impressive playing by all members, it never descends into the proggy wankery that marked the work of many other mathcore bands.  Instead, the album sounds to my ears far more deeply rooted in hardcore, and the complexity of some of the musicianship only serves to stoke the ferocity of songs like the openers, ‘To Our Friends in the Great White North and Mondrian Was a Liar’.  Dave Verellen’s vocal performance is great throughout, offering a good balance between a punk style of delivery and the harsh vocals found in modern metal.

Tracks such as ‘Swimming the Channel vs. Driving the Channel’ offer some let-up from the rest of the album’s aggression, on which you can hear the kind of ambient post-metal leanings that the bass guitarist, Brian Cook, would go on to develop in his current (and also fantastic) band, Russian Circles. As it happens, after Botch’s breakup, all of its members have gone on to play in forward-thinking and influential bands.

We Are The Roman is a brilliant final album from a great band, and definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of hardcore, good metal, and heavy music in general.


Big Black - Lungs (EP)

ARTIST: Big Black

ALBUM: Lungs (EP)

LABEL (Year): Ruthless Records (1982)    

FOR FANS OF: The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Cabaret Voltaire, Killing Joke


Steve Albini has had a remarkable influence on the alternative music industry over the last thirty years. Before all of this, however, in 1982, a 19 year-old Albini produced his first EP, Lungs, with his band Big Black.

Lungs is the first EP produced by the versatile musician, along with his college friend John Bohnen, on the sax, and ‘Roland’, the drum machine.

Pummelling and challenging, the EP is an intriguing yet disturbing mash-up of post-punk and early industrial sounds, blended together by the repetitive beats of the drum machine and the aggressive guitar that creeps through the entire album. 'The Steelworker' is mesmerising and alienating, thoroughly depicting the bleak and lugubrious themes of the EP (crack addicts, child abuse, racism and misogyny, for example). The dissonant sax of 'Dead Billy' is enough to send a shiver down the spine, while the oppressive 'RIP' gives the sensation of being chased.

Big Black were known to bring up political and cultural topics with an abrasive and harsh energy and, reminiscent of industrial performances, Albini sought to assign to every EP an array of objects such as squirt guns, condoms and bloody pieces of paper (fish hooks and razor blades were removed to avoid lawsuits). This would still be a funny marketing stunt for the emo kids of today. I would listen to this in a cold and gloomy November day to awake the drowsy spirit and relive the authentic values of the early underground DIY culture.

Edip Akbayram - Edip Akbayram

ARTIST: EDIP AKBAYRAM

ALBUM: EDIP AKBAYRAM

LABEL (YEAR): SAYAN RECORDS (1972)

FOR FANS OF: (early) PINK FLOYD, ERKIN KORAY, TINARIWEN

 

 

Words by Lexy Morvaridi


Edip Akbayram’s self-titled debut album is the perfect introduction to Anatolian Rock. Released in 1974, it’s an eclectic collection of singles released between 1971 and 1973 that showcases a melting pot of Turkish culture at a time of great experimentation. After the emergence of 1960s bands such as the The Rolling Stones et al, Turkish musicians were inspired to fuse traditional rural folk music with rock, creating a psychedelic mix of cathartic vocals and rhythmic jams.

Akbayram’s vocals echo across each track as he picks his way through century old rural Sufi poetry, surrounding the melodies in fuzzy, driven basslines and incendiary electric bağlama. The first track on the record ‘Ince Ince Bar Kar Yağar’ opens with a funky wah-wah guitar before throwing you into a trippy groove with the Turkish zurna taking the lead. It’s this mix of traditional  with contemporary that creates a tapestry of psychedelic rock songs fit for a good trip.

Each song is led by rolling bass that drives songs such as ‘Dağlar Dağladı Beni’, which, combined with the textual lead guitar, and Edip’s reverb-heavy, poetic Turkish vocals, creates a distinct sound. The arrangement of each track is rhythmically charged, littered with stops and changes to throw you off your guard with chunky riffs and fills.

I discovered this album in a record shop in Istanbul and I am glad I trusted in the excitement of a blind buy; the sticker on the front persuaded me to trust my instinct. I think that what it said sums up this record better than I ever can: ‘Enjoy the first fuzzy album by way-out Turkish psych singer Edip. A combination of powerful riffage and haunting Anatolian traditions’. Don’t let this gem slip you by.

King Crimson - Discipline

ARTIST: KING KRIMSON

ALBUM: DISCIPLINE

LABEL (YEAR): WARNER BROS (1981)

FOR FANS OF: TALKING HEADS, RUSH, DAVID BYRNE

 

 

 

Words by Chris Gaduzo


What do you do when a genre you kickstarted has run its course? Apparently, when your name is Robert Fripp, you team up with Adrian Belew from Talking Heads and write one of the most innovative, mind-fuck albums of the eighties. Not content with writing some of the best progressive rock of the seventies, King Crimson barged into the next decade with Discipline; their first studio release in seven years with a new line up and a sound that was, at the very least, interesting.

I always tell people to listen to this album twice. Upon first listen, this pretty much sounds like a standard eighties new wave album. The straightforward ‘Thela Hun Ginjeet’ and funk of ‘Elephant Talk’ are pretty damn catchy, built around Tony Levin's incredible Chapman Stick and Adrian Belew's inventive guitar playing and semi-improvised vocals.

It’s on the second listen that things get a bit scary. What instrument is actually responsible for those runs on ‘Frame by Frame’? In what time signature are those riffs  on ‘Indiscipline’? Is that a guitar or a synth on ‘The Sheltering Sky’? Only King Crimson could somehow disguise ridiculous musical showmanship under the cover of new wave. Bill Bruford’s drumming is even more creative than ever, utilising electric and programmed percussion on the majority of the tracks. On ‘Thela Hun Ginjeet’, Adrian Belew's tape recorded vocals claim “it’s weird…”, I can’t help but agree. It must also be noted that the guitar work is mind-boggling, especially on title track ‘Discipline’.

Though perhaps not as iconic as In The Court of The Crimson King or Red, Discipline nevertheless shows King Crimson at their most exciting and inventive. The best bands are those that can disguise their technicality under good songwriting, and on Discipline, King Crimson succeed.

Todd Rundgren - Something/Anything?

Artist: Todd Rundgren        

Album: Something/Anything?

Label (Year): Bearsville (1972)

For Fans of: Big Star, Carole King, Steely Dan, Laura Nyro

 

 

 

Words by Eddie Swales


Todd Rundgren’s (de facto) third solo album was his most successful and accessible effort of a prolific career. An ambitious double album, the music is entirely performed and produced by Rundgren himself, save for the final side. Having begun his career in the cult psychedelic band Nazz a few years earlier and later veering towards progressive rock, Something/Anything? represents a period in Rundgren’s career characterised by well-crafted and richly produced pop songs.

Rundgren’s songwriting prowess on breezy pop tracks like the opening ‘I Saw the Light’, led some to dub him the male Carole King, whilst the concise, guitar-driven ‘Couldn’t I Just Tell You’ has been cited as an early example of power pop. But perhaps the most striking aspect of the album is the rich, layered production, particularly evident in the more melancholy tracks, such as ‘Cold Morning Light’ and ‘Sweeter Memories’. The 23-year old Rundgren had already established a reputation as an accomplished music producer, having produced albums for The Band, Badfinger, and Sparks. He would later work with acts as diverse as the New York Dolls and Hall & Oates.

Something/Anything? is that rare double album that doesn’t leave you wishing the artist had been a little less self-indulgent and whittled it down to 40 minutes of gold. The listener may wonder whether certain tracks might have been left out, perhaps the goofy ‘Piss Aaron’, or a short interlude in which Rundgren introduces us to “sounds of the studio”, but even these somewhat throwaway tracks contribute to the album’s eclectic and good-humoured vibe.


Sleep - Sleep's Holy Mountain

ARTIST: SLEEP        

ALBUM: SLEEP'S HOLY MOUNTAIN

LABEL (YEAR): EARACHE RECORDS (1992)

FOR FANS OF: 

BLACK SABBATH, KYUSS, EYEHATEGOD

 

Words by Chris Gaduzo


Sleep are perhaps best known for recording the hour-long song ‘Dopesmoker’, which consists of one riff and lyrics about some sort of stoner caravan. Before that, however, they released Sleep's Holy Mountain, that, despite its less-than-great production, showed everyone that stoner metal could actually be a thing, and that you could play lower and slower than Black Sabbath.

The beautiful thing about Sleep is the fact that it’s a trio, and they sound like one too. Matt Pike’s vibrato­ enhanced power chords sound massive on tracks like ‘The Druid’, anchored by Al Cisnero's rumbling basslines while Chris Hakus holds it all together beautifully on the drums. However, it’s not all riffs and pummelling. Sleep know they can write great songs. The instrumental breaks, during the eight-minute ‘Holy Mountain’ are extremely well placed. ‘Dragonaut’ probably contains the best riff Sleep ever wrote, and it only happens once during the entire song.

Al Cisnero's vocals are another interesting aspect of the band. Although he is pretty much following the riffs, his half sung half chanted lyrics suit the doped-out feel of the music: “Look into the rays of the new red sun arising”. Although ‘Dopesmoker’ is definitely the heaviest thing ever recorded, as well as the most ridiculous, I always liked it when Sleep wrote actual songs, rather than huge pieces of music, and Sleep's Holy Mountain is still held in high regard by worshippers of Iommi, over 20 years on.


Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Let Love In

Artist: NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS

Album: LET LOVE IN

Label (Year): MUTE (1994)

For Fans Of: PJ HARVEY, MARK LANEGAN, TOM WAITS

 

 

 

Words by Alice Ding


Let Love In sounds like a film noir-esque Western set in the dingy backstreets of an Australian town. Cave takes the listener on a journey through this dark and sinister place, introducing anti-heroes and mysterious villains such as the Loverman and Jangling Jack. It is a thunderous avalanche of an album, dipping in and out of fast-paced tracks (‘Thirsty Dog’), and then slowing to a funereal pace (‘Lay Me Low’), all the while battling with love, philosophy and religion. Warren Ellis makes an early appearance on this album - his furious, destructive violin playing would go on to be an integral part of the band’s musical arrangement.

There are so many instantly quotable lyrics on this album which has made it one of the best in Cave’s back catalogue, especially from the classic ‘Red Right Hand’; “He'll rekindle all the dreams / it took you a lifetime to destroy”. A seminal masterpiece best enjoyed with a bottle of red in a blacked-out room.


Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger

ARTIST: SOUNDGARDEN

ALBUM: BADMOTORFINGER

LABEL (YEAR): A&M (1991)

FOR FANS OF: Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Rage Against The Machine

 

 

 

Words by Chris Gaduzo


We all know Nirvana was the grunge band. The release of a new Kurt Cobain documentary every year reminds us of that. But the early 90s grunge movement produced other incredible albums that, dare i say it, make Nevermind sound like child’s play.

Badmotorfinger is the third album by Soundgarden, whose earlier sludgy metal was quickly giving way to a sound that was unlike any of their peers. Characterised by the manic wails of frontman Chris Cornell and the bizarre tunings and riffs of guitarist Kim Thayil. From the more straightforward ‘Rusty Cage’ and ‘Jesus Christ Pose’ to the headfuck riffs of ‘Face Pollution’ and ‘Room a Thousand Years Wide’, Badmotorfinger is the sound of a band at their most innovative.

The genius thing however, is that when Soundgarden do something weird, it’s not at all obvious. For example, you'll find yourself bobbing your head to the main riff of ‘Outshined’ before you notice it’s in 7/4 timing. Thayil’s guitar is doing some strange things during ‘Slaves and Bulldozers’, but Cornell's wail is so totally unhinged that it’s hard to divert your attention from it. Their next album Superunknown might have been Soundgarden’s biggest (and another classic in my eyes) propelled by single ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Spoonman’, but Badmotorfinger captures them at their absolute creative peak .