Archive for the ‘Drowning Horse’ Category

And The Rest of the Best of 2015

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

We close out our 2015 end-of-year list-a-thon with contributions from LIFE IS NOISE friends and contributors Sally Townsend, Louis Dunstan, Liam Matthews and Gram the Son of Sam.

Sally Townsend, Perth-based music photographer
I am a lover of music first of all, and firmly believe in supporting live music and local artists. I will travel for the indescribable magic that is live performance, and am trying to capture it the best I can with my camera. I’m a riff-worshipping, doom-loving, dedicated listener and participant in both the local and international heavy music scenes. There was too much good stuff released this year, so it seemed fitting to do a top 15 for 2015. In no particular order…

Bell Witch – Four Phantoms

High On Fire — Luminiferous

Windhand — Grief’s Infernal Flower

Uncle Acid — The Night Creeper

With The Dead — With The Dead

Dopethrone — Hochelaga

Monolord — Vaenir

Elder — Lore

Blackout — Blackout

Watchtower — Radiant Moon EP

Chelsea Wolfe — Abyss

Cult Of Occult — Five Degrees Of Insanity

Space Bong — Deadwood To Worms

Holy Serpent — Holy Serpent

Deafheaven — New Bermuda

Louis Dunstan (EXTORTION/Big Bread)

1. Ghost — Meliora

2. High On Fire — Luminiferous

3. Drowning Horse — Sheltering Sky

4. Tame Impala — Currents

5. Napalm Death — Apex Predator/Easy Meat

6. John Carpenter — Lost Themes

7. Jaakko Eino Kalevi — Jaakko Eino Kalevi

8. Elder — Lore

9. Ufomammut — Ecate

10. Ahab — The Boats of Glen Craig

Liam Matthews (Fourteen Nights At Sea, Old Bar/Public Bar, Melbourne)

1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress

2. Hope Drone — Cloak Of Ash

3. Self Defence Family — Heaven Is Earth

4. Deafheaven — New Bermuda

5. Nadia Reid — Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs

6. Luke Howard – Two & One

7. Mogwai — Central Belters

8. Mares — Mares

9. Closer — Heartache/Lifted

10. The Electric Guitars — The Electric Guitars

Gram the Son of Sam’s top Oz doom, occult and stoner of 2015

1. Witchskull – The Vast Electric Dark

2. Tarot – The Warrior’s Spell

3. Aver – Nadir

4. Hydromedusa – Hydromedusa

5. Space Bong – Deadwood to Worms

6. Seedy Jeezus – Seedy Jeezus

7. Watchtower – Radiant Moon

8. Roundtable – Dread Marches Under Bloodied Regalia

9. Drowning Horse – Sheltering Sky

10. Little Desert – Saeva (This could have been #1 but just not enough time to shine)

Jack Midalia’s Top 10 Albums of 2015

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

10. Sunn O))) — Kannon
Consider this a provisional tenth place for Sunn O))), as I still haven’t had the chance to listen to Kannon on a sound system large enough to do it justice. But I can tell already it’s got everything you’d want in a Sunn O))) album — a whole pile of dark, intense drone, with a sense of focus and purpose often missing from the genre. Kannon is a relatively short work, but it still feels like an epic journey from start to finish.

9. Fourteen Nights At Sea — Minor Light
Alternating between soaring noise and sparse, beautifully textured ambience, Minor Light is another staggeringly fine piece of work from Melbourne’s Fourteen Nights At Sea. I’ve frequently put this album on in the background while working, only to find myself just staring off into space, transfixed. As well as impeccable production, Minor Light’s real strength is the sense of restraint found throughout; everything on the album is essential. A brilliant recording.

8. Kurt Vile — b’lieve i’m goin down…
Kurt Vile’s sixth record, b’lieve i’m goin down…, doesn’t exactly reinvent the KV wheel. Having said that, the usual elements work together perfectly here to create a little gem of an album. The usual reverbed fingerpicking guitar is pretty constant throughout b’lieve, with the pace and intensity changing depending on the mood. Vile’s voice seems to be getting better with age, sounding fuller and richer, while maintaining its distinctive slacker drawl. A wonderful slow burning record to add to a rapidly growing catalogue of excellence.

7. Mount Eerie — Sauna
Despite being released in February, I still feel like there’s a world hidden within Sauna that I’m yet to discover (a song like “Turmoil”, for example, is a simple, straightforward song imbued through its instrumentation with a sense of uneasy depth). There’s the usual juxtaposition of traditional folk and almost-noise, and experimentation that works together to create a beautiful, haunting and mysterious world. One well worth exploring.

6. High On Fire — Luminiferous
A flat out awesome, conspiracy-filled riff-fest… what’s not to love about High On Fire’s latest record, Luminiferous? There’s been a lot of attention on the Icke-influenced lyrics that fill Luminiferous, but nowhere near enough attention on just how much of a brilliant, perfectly-produced album this is.

5. Elder — Lore
Elder’s brand of doom-tinged psych is on excellent display on Lore. From the sly nod to “Immigrant Song” of opening track “Compendium”, Lore expertly walks the fine line between hypnotic repetition and monotony. There’s a dynamic typical of heavy three-pieces that can sometimes prevent the emergence of depth and texture. Elder avoid this, imbuing their tracks with a sense of space at some times, as well as a sense of balls-out rock at others. Lore is an impressive record for such a young band — one that promises much in the future.

4. Low — Ones and Sixes
Forgive me if I don’t sound enthused about this record. It’s not that it isn’t great (it is), or that Low are just going through the motions (they’re not). It’s just that the band are such a reliable producer of ridiculously good records, that I always have a certain amount of an “oh, another masterpiece… yawn” attitude for Low releases. That being said, Ones and Sixes takes everything you’re used to from the Minnesotans (breathtaking sparsity, chilling harmonies), but with a focus, clarity and added intensity from their recent output.

3. Drowning Horse — Sheltering Sky
Another example of a band in 2015 that took a stunning live sound and perfectly translated this to record. I’m going to skip any attempt to describe Sheltering Sky, and just link to The Black Captain’s perfect review.

2. We Lost The Sea — Departure Songs
I’ve had the privilege of seeing We Lost The Sea a few times this year, and they’ve completely blown me away every time. There’s plenty of Australian acts, however, that can pull it off live but not lack something on record. No such problem here. With Departure Songs, We Lost The Sea have eschewed the usual tired post-rock tropes and created something uniquely brilliant and beautifully poignant.

1. Sufjan Stevens — Carrie and Lowell
I love pretty much everything Sufjan Stevens has done, but Carrie and Lowell might be his masterpiece. The record finds Sufjan in stripped-back mode and makes you realise what makes him such a great artist — it’s not the bold production choices or layering, it’s just simple, well written songs and an instantly recognisable, beautiful and stark voice.

Despite the fact that the world can be a dark place (and this record does go to numerous places lacking in any light), the fact that the darkness can spawn such incredible beauty as Carrie and Lowell is, at least, a small comfort.

Dave Cutbush’s Top 10 Albums of 2015

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

LIFE IS NOISE’s head honcho shares his favourite releases from 2015, with Elder, High On Fire and Shlohmo among the year’s best.

10. Sunn O))) – Kannon
The drone giants Sunn O))) return in 2015 with another crushing display in the form of Kannon. It is heavy, it is slow, it is fearful and it is imposing. My only criticism is that it is a little short. I wanted more than just the three songs. Who knows, perhaps this is just a tease for another Sunn O))) album in 2016. After all, six years is too long to wait for such epic majesty.

9. Echoes of Yul – The Healing
The Black Captain introduced me to Polish act Echoes of Yul. Ever since I have loved their work. You can read The Black Captain’s review here. I love the dreamy dark quality of this record. It is a melancholic masterpiece.

8. Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
Windhand return with the their third record Grief’s Infernal Flower. As heavy as ever and featuring the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Dorthia Cottrell, Windhand have a great balance between the depth and crushing on one had and the ethereal and haunting on the other. Grief’s Infernal Flower is a consistently good album and confirms Windhand’s pre-eminence in the worldwide doom revival.

7. Church – Unanswered Hymns
My favourite debut album of the year came out of the blue from Church (or Chrch as they are now known). Unanswered Hymns has a musical bed of depravity and destruction with vocals that sound like a demon sacrificing a virgin on a satanic altar on top. An occult masterpiece from these Californian natives.

6. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Sufjan returns to his folk roots on record number seven. He gets to me when he is super sad, and on this album he is at times at his most serenely melancholic. ‘Should Have Known Better’ is my favourite in this respect. It is what folk music should be and most often isn’t. Stripped away from the overburdening production of previous work, Carrie and Lowell gets down to basics. It has beautiful melodies and thought provoking lyrics. Dare I say it — a return to form for Stevens.

5. Ahab – The Boats of Glen Carrig
Funeral doom/nautical doom/progressive rock/post-rock whatever. The Boats of Glen Carrig may be an interesting fusion of styles packaged in their ever expanding worlds of boats and krakens and wrecks but when you boil it down it is just a great heavy record. Super riffs aplenty, great clean vocals and brutal growls. Super catchy in a destructive way.

4. Drowning Horse – Sheltering Sky
The latest Drowning Horse album is totally crushing. Read The Black Captain’s review here. No other words need be spoken.

3. Shlohmo – Dark Red
Shlohmo is a consistently amazing electronic producer. His latest album Dark Red is no exception to this. He inhabits a dark and weird world most of today’s beatmakers dare not inhabit. But the final word on this should come from the press release for the album, where we are told Dark Red would sound like “if Electric Wizard tried to make an R&B record, or if Boards of Canada met Burzum by the River Styx” – maybe not true but certainly an interesting concept.

2. High On Fire – Luminiferous

Lyrically mind-altering and musically earth-shattering, the latest effort from High on Fire is another pummelling journey from the metal three-piece and a great addition to their great catalogue. All members are in great form. Des Kensel’s drumming is relentless, Jeff Matz’ bass work is as always without fault and team leader Matt Pike’s vocals and guitar work have reached a new pinnacle. But with all the Motorhead-style fast fury, it is the slower tracks that stand out for me. ‘The Falconist’ has a sneering menace, while ‘The Cave’ is the standout for me. High on Fire have developed as a band with Luminiferous. There is power aplenty but listen further and you can reach other dimensions.

1. Elder – Lore
In 2015 nothing beat the power riffs and melodic mastery of Lore from Massachusetts band Elder. It is a tip of the hat to the iconic rock legends of the 70s but Lore is a furious modern stoner take on all things psych and doom. I love how Elder meld various passages in their songs so seamlessly. At times monolithic and bludgeoning and at others beautiful and delicate, Lore is impressive from first to last listen. It’s an album I have punished but continues to give me great joy every time I put it on. Thanks Elder – you just keep getting better.

Honourable Mentions
Vhol – Deeper Than Sky
Glowsun – Beyond the Wall of Time
Hope Drone – Cloak of Ash
Sumac – The Deal
Dungen – Allas Sak
Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
Tangled Thoughts of Leaving – Yield to Despair
Kowloon Walled City — Grievances
We Lost The Sea – Departure Songs
Ecstatic Vision – Sonic Praise
Built to Spill – Untethered Moon
Fourteen Nights at Sea – Minor Light
Joanna Newsom – Divers
Wrekmeister Harmonies – Night of Your Ascension

Critical Mass’ Top 10 Albums of 2015

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

The Critical Mass crew share their top picks from the year in metal.

It has been an interesting year for metal. We’ve had releases from veteran bands (Iron Maiden, Slayer, Motorhead), releases from upper tier/mainstream bands (Fear Factory, Lamb Of God, Amorphis) releases from more underground bands and several ‘follow up’ albums from bands with something to prove.

Until very recently, there hasn’t been any single release that resulted in a chorus of praise and/or ridicule as had happened in previous years. The new Slayer album came and went, the general consensus being that it sounded like Slayer, but was dull at best. The new High On Fire album impressed many with its no nonsense Matt Pike rollercoaster. The new Deafheaven album silenced critics of the Sunbather era by ratcheting up the heaviness, but some were disappointed that they did not continue further down the post/shoegaze path. Liturgy turned ears and heads with their wonderfully bizarre The Ark Work, but it seems as though the uniqueness of that album didn’t cause as many people to get as upset as they had been in the past. Perhaps people are getting older? Maybe people are sick of being addicted to outrage?

Then right at the end of the year two albums dropped (or are about to at the time of writing) that have gotten a lot of people very excited: Sunn O)))‘s Kannon and Baroness’ Purple. The new Baroness being the followup to the very successful double album Yellow & Green and their first recording since the devastating bus accident in 2012. I’ve heard snippets of both, and both sound incredible, however for roster and time commitments my list was finalised during the first week in December. So those albums will be honourable mentions. Also some more obvious albums such as the new High On Fire and VHOL are absent; I know both are great, but I haven’t heard them as much as the others on this list. I’ve also made a note to listen to the new Tribulation album soon.

There was also a lot of good synth/horror/score music coming out that weirdly goes well with a lot of metalheads. Goblin Rebirth, Zombi etc put out some great mood music in 2015. Ultimately there are many albums that won’t make the list, a lot of good stuff in the ‘to listen to’ pile, but these are the albums that made an impact with me.

Honourable mentions:
Enslaved — In Times
Iron Maiden — The Book Of Souls
Silent Knight — Conquer & Command
Cattle Decapitation — The Anthropocene Extinction
Napalm Death — Apex Predator/Easy Meat
Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving — Yield To Despair

10. Raven — Extermination
This album shouldn’t be on my list. The 40-year-strong NWOBHM veterans made an album full of big, dumb, sing-songy, verse-chorus-verse metal/rock that belongs in a bad 80s action movie. But you know what, sometimes I LOVE big dumb metal.

9. Between the Buried and Me — Coma Ecliptic
I’ve never really been an BTBAM fan, and couldn’t really name much of their back catalogue, but the bands seventh album blends heavy, technical prog with some catchy synths, choruses and some damn good songs.

8. Deafheaven — New Bermuda
Alternately silencing critics and isolating fans of the more post/shoegazey Sunbather sound in one fell swoop, Deafheaven ratcheted up the heaviness on New Burmuda.

7. Ghost — Meliora
Meliora impresses after 2013’s slightly lacklustre Infestissumam. A cocktail of occult rock, ABBA-style song arrangements and some Queen-esque vocal harmonies (!) makes for a great third album.

6. Gama Bomb — Untouchable Glory
Gama Bomb cement themselves as one of the strongest thrash bands around — this absolutely smokes Slayer’s new one by a country mile.

5. Bloodlust — Cultus Diaboli
Blackened thrash from two veterans of the Perth metal scene. The catchiness of Venom mixed with the epicness and force of Bathory.

4. Ur Draugr– With Hunger Undying
The second release this year from the band sees them produce the kind of backwards riffing and power of early Morbid Angel mixed with some feral black metal and beyond. Stunning.

3. Horrendous — Anareta
Old school howling death metal that twists and turns in ways that follow the path of Chuck Schuldiners vision. Worth going out of your way to hear.

2. Drowning Horse — Sheltering Sky
Dark and heavy, low and slow. Elements of Neurosis and Earth abundant. By just tweaking their sound a touch they stand head and shoulders above any and all pretenders playing heavy doom.

1. Sigh — Graveward
The veteran black metal band (once signed to Euronymous’ DLS label) have expanded their sound, exclusively playing ‘Cinematic Horror Metal’. Harsh vocals, swirling synths, saxophone, crazy solos and much more. Listen to this album on headphones — LOUD.

Deryk from Critical Mass had these as his top 10:

Hate Eternal — Infernus
Enslaved — In Times
Torche — Restarter
Nightwish — Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Fear Factory — Genexus
With The Dead– With The Dead
High On Fire – Luminiferous
Elder — Lore
Ghost — Meliora
Intronaut — The Direction of Last Things

Scott Williams is still working on his, but included albums from the likes of: Enslaved, Locrian, Steve Moore, Blind Guardian, Ghost and Baroness.

Thanks to all our listeners and supporters! See you in 2016!

Critical Mass airs every Wednesday from 9PM (GMT+8) on RTR FM 92.1 in Perth, Australia.

Alex Gillies’ Top 10 Albums of 2015

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

The next instalment in our end-of-year wrap-up comes from Alex Gillies, of No Anchor, Grieg and A Savage God.

1. Baroness – Purple
Very few bands in the world that can make heavy and beautiful mix seamlessly. The newly rebuilt Baroness have done that refining the melodrama and further defining the possibilities of their brand of metal.

2. Sumac – The Deal
Old Man Gloom/Russian Circles/Baptists all rolled into one lumbering mental-case of musical gristle.

3. High On Fire – Luminiferous
Returning with an even better dosage of the riff-filled metal that brought them this far.

4. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
A stronger, tighter and more ferocious blend of blasts and atmospherics. The old guard still hate it but this sounds like the future.

5. Drowning Horse – Sheltering Sky
Doom metal done right. Bleak and barren songs pushing you along like a slow march to hell.

6. Hope Drone – Cloak Of Ash
Like Deafheaven, a new generation pushing the boundaries of metal’s blackness and sophistication.

7. Built To Spill – Untethered Moon
The indie stalwarts’ latest incarnation of Neil Young-styled guitar squall. Made more so by singer Doug Marsh’s unique cathartic philosophical meanderings.

8. Torche – Restarter
Metal that makes you feel a million bucks! Crushing riffs, caustic melodies and a beautiful taste for the absurd.

9. Last Chaos – Only Fit For Ghosts
Raging Japanese-style hardcore punk from Brisbane that’s kicking teeth in left right and centre.

10. Yukon Dreams – Little Worlds
Dark twilight songs from Pall of Black Heart Procession, filled with musical saw and sung from the bottom of a whisky glass.

Interview: Drowning Horse

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Drowning Horse are one of those bands that defy description. You can hurl the usual adjectives and genre tags their way — doom, sludge, drone, heavy, unbearable, crushing. But words fails to capture the absolute immensity of this band; that physical sensation, that veritable onslaught of emotional heft. It always comes down to language of the disaster — the torrent of depressive feeling and the earth-shaking power of the band’s climactic moments. On Sheltering Sky, Drowning Horse expand their sonic palette of devastation, balancing powerful moments of catharsis with subtle moments of reflection, realisation and horror. Here, ahead of their upcoming national tour, guitarist Michael Larkins discusses the demanding process of Sheltering Sky’s creation.

Matthew Tomich: To start off, could you walk me through the timeline of making Sheltering Sky, from the genesis of the first song to the recording process?
Michael Larkins: Sure. The writing process was probably from the end of 2012 until midway through 2013. We recorded a pre-production demo which was like a live recording at Studio Sleepwalkers Dread, which is Ron Pollard’s [of Tangled Thoughts of Leaving] studio. We did that over a weekend at the end of December. That was mainly just so we could plan out how the songs fit together. Once we heard that, we booked in for the start of 2014 to record track by track for each instrument. That took about three months – we were just doing that over weekends which we had free when Ron had time available in the studio. There was a lot of time in between where we could reflect on what we recorded, have a listen, see if there was anything which needed re-doing. So we did have a lot of time to go over it and make sure that everything was perfect. We didn’t finish the tracking until maybe around April or May. And then, again, we started mixing, and I don’t think we finished that until around September in 2014.

MT: So what delayed it – the year between finishing mixing and releasing it?
ML: It was mainly just time. We all work, we all have other bands and other commitments. We wanted to make sure that it was going to be perfect so we spent a lot of time listening over the mixes. Over the mixing process, a lot of that was done in the studio. We’d go back and listen to that mix for a couple of weeks, get in contact with Ron via email and say, “can you try change the levels on this instrument,” or EQ that a bit differently or things like that. We’d go in maybe a couple of weeks later and go over the tracks and listen to it on the studio monitors. It was a bit hard because Ron’s studio is in North Dandalup and that’s about an hour south of Perth, so it’s a long drive. Each session took about eight hours so it really took it out of us. We didn’t want to do it all in one block or it might destroy. We usually went there for about three or four session in a row. Some of the sessions we just went down with a couple of us, other times we were all down there. We spent a long time tracking. It was a lot different to our last recording, for which I think we did all the tracking in about four days or so. With Sheltering Sky, we really wanted to spend time and make sure we get the best out of what we were going for. In Ron’s studio, he has a great setup, so we could really capture the sounds and tones of our amps. We had a lot of time to experiment with sounds and different equipment.

MT: What kind of stuff were you experimenting with equipment-wise?
ML: I suppose more just using – the same way we do live, generally – Brendan [McGrath, guitars] and I will play through two different guitar amps, but instead of double-tracking any guitars, we just mic’d up two separate amps at once and got a really full sound. You can do a lot when you’re blending different guitar tones. We just wanted to have a lot of space to breathe for our instruments and Ron’s studio could capture that. It was a good way of mixing. It sounded quite natural in comparison to how we sound live.

MT: The thing that’s always struck me about Drowning Horse’s music is the sheer monumental heft and emotional weight of what you’re doing, both on record and on stage. Is the experience of making and playing that music as painful and exhausting as it sounds?
I’d say yes. The whole thing with the band is we really want to play some devastating tunes. I mean, there’s not really anything uplifting about the music. With this sort of music, you don’t want anything to be positive or sound uplifting. You want it to sound quite depressing. A lot of the time when we’re rehearsing together or playing live, I get quite lost in the music. When I’m playing, it doesn’t make you happy or anything like that when you’re playing it, but I do get a lot of fulfilment and enjoyment out of it. After a set or a rehearsal, I do feel quite – I don’t know – quite uplifted in a different way. It’s an outlet for all negative energy. From that I feel a bit more positive once we’ve gone through it. It’s not like we really don’t look forward to rehearsing or playing the songs. We all need that outlet because we’re all busy and we don’t always face those sort of emotions or feelings when they come up so it’s a good way to get those sort of feelings out with the music.

MT: You mentioned before that because of the time you had working on Sheltering Sky, you had to more reflect on it, and that to me comes across in the record. It feels a lot more meditative, like you’ve scaled back some of the more extreme elements and balanced them with passages that remind me a lot of Earth. Is that part of a dynamic move – to wind things back so those cathartic climaxes have even more power when they hit?
ML: I think it was more like a natural progression. The first album was all pretty much sludgy doom sort of stuff. Whereas with Sheltering Sky, we focused more on songwriting and structures. We still explored a lot of the heavy sort of stuff and doom stuff which we had previously, but we wanted to look further into portraying those emotions through sound. I think some of cleaner or softer parts of the album are some of the more depressing or depressive-sounding parts on the whole album. You don’t need to have heavy guitars or anything like that to sound crushing or devastating. I think some of those riffs are pretty destroying as well, just the soft parts. It was quite different to what we’d played in the past. I think you can still kind of tell it’s the same band as well. It’s just that real natural progression. It makes it a bit more interesting as well. You need to pay a bit more attention rather than just play a heavy riff or something like that.

MT: How much of the material from Sheltering Sky has been played live over the past couple of years?
ML: We started playing those songs around August 2013 when Whitehose came over [to Perth]. We’d been working on that material, as I said, since probably around the end of 2012. We had a permanent rehearsal space so we were jamming like twice a week for probably about a year. Over that time we were quite happy with the songs which we were playing. We didn’t play many live gigs between that time, I don’t think. We were just concentrating on writing. We just knew we had to put something out or we wanted to work on new material rather than just play shows which can get in the way of writing material. Out of all the songs we’ve written on Sheltering Sky, we’ve probably played maybe six of those songs. We don’t really play any of the older stuff any more. Not that I don’t like it – I still really like the older stuff, it’s just we’re pretty sick of it. We were playing a lot of live shows for a long time and played those songs to death. And with these songs, they’re a bit more interesting. We work better as a band when we play these songs. I highly doubt we’d ever go back and play a song like “Kings” or something like that, one of the songs which we wrote maybe five or six years ago. We just want to keep moving forward with the Sheltering Sky stuff and the songs just work really well live.

MT: Will you be playing each of those eight tracks at some point on this tour?
ML: I highly doubt it. With the situation with James [Wills, drums] in Melbourne, it can be hard to rehearse. Again, that’s why we don’t play very often. James has been in Melbourne for I think close to two years now. So rehearsing is quite difficult. If we do have a show, he usually comes back a week in advance and we have to rehearse four times in a row prior to a gig. I mean, we tend to record together, but it’s not the same as when you’re rehearsing every week. I’d say from the Sheltering Sky stuff, we might try doing at least half of those songs. They’re quite long songs as well – the shortest one is five minutes and the longest one is about 18 minutes. We might look at maybe three or four songs per set, but we’ll probably try and have a few different sets because I know we’re playing two launch shows. It’s not going to be much fun if you’re playing the same songs at both launches.

MT: Where does that name Sheltering Sky come from?
ML: I can’t remember [laughs].

MT: Because there’s a novel by the same name, and I know there’s also a King Crimson song that takes the name from that novel.
ML: Yeah. Brendan came up with the name based on the novel I believe. That’s where the name came from. Brendan had been reading the novel and I think and Kim and a few others had read the novel as well and they were all really on board with what was covered in the book. And I guess with Sheltering Sky as well, the theme is kind of based on isolation, both with the lyrics and the music. And I believe the book is about a similar sort of grim, isolated sort of area. So I think it all links in.

MT: Did you read The Black Captain’s review of the album that we posted on Life is Noise?
ML: Yeah. That was a phenomenal review. The Black Captain’s writing is just so above everyone else’s. That was probably one of the best reviews which Drowning Horse could ever hope to receive, and it was such a positive review but also such an honest review. There was a lot of thought which went into it. A lot of times you can read reviews and a lot of them are all the same — they all sort of focus on the same sort of points. But there was a bit about The Black Captain’s own experiences in comparison to the album as well, which was really interesting to read. I’m quite stoked with that sort of review. It’s just such a tragedy that he passed away. I don’t believe I had the chance to meet him but I’d always listen to Behind the Mirror and I know he’s been a real influential person in the heavy music scene, especially for a lot of my friends. He turned them onto a lot of different underground heavy music as well. He’s just got such a great taste in music. And for someone like him to praise Sheltering Sky and review it in such a positive way was just unreal.

MT: A couple of the things he and I talked about after I read that was the way religious belief as well as notions of space come into music – that the ritualistic aspects of doom become a form of worship in themselves, which kind of ties into what you said before about isolation being a big part of Drowning Horse’s music. Do you think you’re drawn to that extremity by being from a place like Perth that is so far away, and is so flat and geographically and topographically uninteresting? Do you think Drowning Horse’s heft and the depth of the music is a way of channeling that?
ML: It’s hard to say. There’s five different people in the band and we’re all quite different people.

MT: From your perspective then, when you’re writing your parts.
ML: I can’t really say. I actually really love living in Perth. I like the isolation. I like that it’s kind of dullsville. A lot of the people in bands move to Melbourne or something but that’s never really appealed to me. I’ve always loved living in Perth. I like how boring it can be. It sucks that there aren’t many venues. It sucks that not a lot of bands tour. I mean, Life is Noise has put on some great tours and they always come to Perth which has been a big change over the past couple of years. But previously there were never any bands which toured here. I guess the members of Drowning Horse are all in a punk/hardcore scene and there aren’t so many bands there and not so many people there. When you compare that to something like Melbourne, where there’s probably 1,000 people in that sort of scene. In Perth there might be a couple of hundred. Since there’s not a lot going on, it makes you want to play music and do something. I’m quite busy with work and other commitments as well but if I didn’t have the musical outlet, I don’t know if I’d stay in Perth either. I think it’s the perfect hub if you want to work on music. You don’t always have the same opportunities for constant performances but it gives you a lot of time to work on the music which you want to put out. That might be why there are a lot of Perth bands who are gems. A lot of people say that there’s a lot of quality bands which come out of Perth and it’s just because a lot of people in Perth put a lot more effort into their music because they have the time.

MT: Will Drowning Horse be going into hibernation again after this tour?
ML: It’s hard to say. Sometimes opportunities come up and performances do come up. We have passed up a lot of performances based on James being over east. Whenever we perform, we want to make sure we’re on top form and we play phenomenally. We don’t want to put on a poor performance. Sometimes if we get in two rehearsals and we haven’t jammed together for six months, it’s not going to be worth it because we don’t want to put on a poor performance. It comes down to if James can get time off work as well. We really like playing together and I think the time apart can be better as well. These songs have been around since when we started writing at the end of 2012 but they’re still kind of fresh to us. We look forward to rehearsing and playing more so than if we were rehearsing every week. It’s a bit of a treat when we do get together and we really appreciate the time when we can get together. I’d say we probably will go on a slight hiatus but who knows. James could come back. It probably comes down to what everyone’s doing. We’re definitely not going to end the band just after releasing Sheltering Sky, but performances will be hard to do since a key member is living in Melbourne.

Witness Drowning Horse on their Australian tour on the following dates:

October 30 – The Rosemount, Perth
w/ Space Bong, Craig McElhinney and Alzabo

October 31 – Mojos, Fremantle
w/ Space Bong, Foxes and Self Harm

November 5 – Crowbar, Brisbane
w/ Carnal Urge, Ripped Off, Frown and Idylls

November 6 – The Curtin, Melbourne
w/ Gentlemen, Mutton, Whitehorse and Scab Eater

November 7 – The Tote, Melbourne
w/ Space Bong, Extinct Exist, Contaminated and Tombsealer

November 8 — Newtown Social, Sydney
w/ We Lost The Sea, Thorax and Jxckxlz

Tickets are available on the door for each show.

Noiseweek: David Bowie, Failure, Drowning Hose, Iron Maiden, Tortoise & more

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

The sights, sounds and words of the week in noise.


Thank you to everyone who has expressed their condolences and celebrated the life of Pete Dunstan, AKA The Black Captain. Pete’s funeral service will be held at Fremantle Cemetary on Tuesday, with more details available on the Facebook event page. Pete’s co-presenters on Behind the Mirror presented a tribute show on Wednesday night, and Dave Cutbush dedicated his Thursday Out to Lunch show to Pete’s memory. Tangled Thoughts of Leaving have named their forthcoming EP The Black Captain in Pete’s honour, and you can read our archive of Pete’s thoughtful criticism here. Vale The Black Captain.


Gail Zappa, the widow of Frank Zappa and the executor of the Zappa Family Trust, passed away this week at the age of 70. Rolling Stone have penned a touching obituary on Zappa, including quotes from an interview they conducted with her earlier this year about an Alex Winter-directed documentary about her late husband’s life which is due for 2017.


The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame has unveiled its 2016 nominees. Among those included in the list are Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, The Spinners, N.W.A., Yes and The Smiths, as well as more recently-eligible nominees Nine Inch Nails. Artists become eligible for nomination 25 years after the release of their first record. We’re now reaching the point where the acts at the centre of peak grunge and alternative — Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Jane’s Addiction et al. — are eligible for nomination, though they missed out this year. Fan voting is open now at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame website, with the inductees to be announced in December.


Continuing on the award beat, the ARIA Award nominees were announced this past week, with usual suspects Courtney Barnett and Tame Impala earning a handful of nods. The Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album category leaves a lot to be desired — would it hurt to acknowledge something a little more boundary-pushing than In Hearts Wake or Northlane, when we’ve seen new releases from Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, High Tension, Dumbsaint, We Lost the Sea, Hope Drone and a buttload more I’m forgetting? Fuck it, maybe we’ll start our own awards. See the full-list of nominees at the ARIA website.


Death and the Iron Maiden | NPR

“Whereas their forebears in Black Sabbath engaged the subject of mortality with low and slow misanthropy, Iron Maiden tackled it on frenetically paced, epically rendered cautionary tales, heralded by Dickinson playing the part of a maniacal prophet. The result has been one of metal’s most celebrated legacies, exuding a notion of the very glory and immortality the band’s songs depicted. Yet recently, Maiden’s lyrical themes, and that of many of their influential peers, have manifested as an unavoidable reality. The authors of the mortality narratives that have been heavy metal’s stock in trade for nearly 50 years are confronting their own.”

Why Noise Bands Are Playing at the European Organization for Nuclear Research | Motherboard

“The best parts in [Deerhoof’s] live shows are the points at which they push beyond the melodic and beyond the understandable, into the unknown, into the musical nether regions. But they do it from a basis. That was sort of what I noticed at their show and noticed that I had subconsciously understood the whole time—that a band like Deerhoof, they are doing what they do because they can’t help themselves. They want to start from a basis of well-known musical ideas and then want to push beyond that because they’re curious and they’re just pushing forward.
Which is really what we do here at CERN. The research that we’re doing here at CERN, we’re not doing this for a profit, we’re not doing this to make money. We’re doing this because we really just want to know what happened like a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. We want to know that. And to do that, we have to build a bigger detector to push back farther in time and higher energy to understand this. And that’s really the only reason why we’re doing this, because we’re curious.”


Tortoise — Gesceap

This beautiful synthscape is one of the most vital pieces of music Tortoise have released in their two decade-plus career. “Gesceap” is the first single from The Catastrophist, the follow-up to 2009’s Beacons of Ancestorship, marking the longest time between Tortoise albums. “Gesceap” bears no hallmarks of the jaunty rhythms that marked the previous record’s 11 tracks. This is soothing and uplifting, backed by jazz-inflected drum fills and a rich textural tapestry. The Catastrophist is out on January 22 through Thrill Jockey.

Drowning Horse — Echoes

Nothing comes easy with Drowning Horse. “Echoes” spends half of its length on building up tension, promising a cathartic release from a tension and menace that borders on unbearable. That release does come eventually on “Echoes”, though not in the form of a crushing crescendo as one might expect, but an otherworldly slow bleed of anger, like a resting predator that’s roused from its slumber only to return after a warning growl. The track is taken from Sheltering Sky, out October 22 through FalseXIdol Records and Art As Catharsis.


Failure — Counterfeit Sky

Not many bands get a second shot at success — critical, commercial, personal, or however you define it. Even fewer make use of it the way Failure have. “Counterfeit Sky” is the most impressive and ambitious visual effort of Failure’s career. Forgoing Failure’s tradition of borderline cheesy performance-based music videos — the Undone and Stuck on You clips haven’t exactly aged well — this video is (or at least looks) big budget, high concept and timely in its release, given the hype around The Martian and NASA’s Mars announcements. It’s ironic that only now, two decades after the space rock opera that was Fantastic Planet, are Failure capitalising on the imagery of alien worlds. “Counterfeit Sky” is an appropriate choice for a single too; with that earworm of a chorus riff and the shimmering guitars in the bridge, it could fit on Fantastic Planet just as easily as The Heart is a Monster. With Troy Van Leeuwen back in the touring band for the next little while, there is no ceiling for the new Failure.

Tangled Thoughts of Leaving — Reprieve

The chaps from Perth’s most bizarre foursome push vans, flog merch, bang heads and generally faff about in this video for “Reprieve”, a compilation of tour footage from their most European jaunt. The track is taken from the aforementioned EP, The Black Captain, in honour of the late great Pete Dunstan. At the risk of being overly sentimental, I bet Pete would’ve loved this track. It’s a slow-burner in contrast from the majority TTOL’s recent output, but it’s a perfect encapsulating of the band’s ever-shifting dynamics — from tempered build-ups and understated riffage to a rousing but subtle crescendo that burns fast before giving way to a sombre guitar outro. The Black Captain is available now to those who pre-ordered Yield to Despair. Details on a full release are coming soon.

David Bowie — Blackstar

A one minute excerpt of new David Bowie music is still enough to get excited about. “Blackstar” accompanies the opening credit sequence of The Last Panthers, an upcoming British crime drama starring Samantha Morton and John Hurt. The series comes from screenwriter by Jack Thorne, whose credits include Skins, Shameless and This is England ’86. Bowie’s voice is sullen and sultry, like something between the Low, Outside and Hours eras, with more than a hint of menace. The Last Panthers debuts in the UK on Sky Atlantic on November 12.

Drowning Horse — Sheltering Sky

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

In the early 80s, I spent four years living in a tiny camp high in the Andes in the deep south of Perú, atop the crest of a fertile valley where a river barely struggled its way through the most arid region of the world. Across from this scar of emerald laid as a challenge through something that seemed lifeless from afar stood Cerro Baúl, an epic watcher amidst the rift made powerfully distinctive by ancient geological forces. To get anything beyond the bare necessities required a three hour drive from that place, down roads fraught with precipitous danger and out through the Atacama Desert. It was though an ocean had snapped instantaneously through transmutation into golden dust during a cataclysmic storm, with tremendous waves of nothingness as far as I could see.

It is certain that this is where my heart became such fertile ground for the experience of doom. These scores of journeys placed one in a deep meditative state, inescapably an insignificant and fragile lifeform within such immense and awesome manifestations of nature. More than a decade later, it would be exhilarating to relive this experience through sound. It never ceases to amaze me how persuasive particular artists are at invoking the sense of those places and those journeys. Over time, it would be one of the greatest surprises to witness that one of the most powerful examples of this in the world of doom was in my own back yard.

Those of us who have seen Drowning Horse live know what it is to have your breath expertly stolen, to experience the small confines of a dark venue open up into a world where mountains rise and explode before you, where fierce and unrelenting wind reshapes the sands of vast deserts as though they were waves of liquid sent crashing upon exotic shores. Their volume and intensity are legendary, yet would be nothing without the musicians’ phenomenal ability to patiently construct the means to fire a focused listener across a pneumatic trajectory. There are not many bands around who can take you to the core of your inner self like Drowning Horse can, provided you are ready to let them do so.

With such a gift for live performance at their disposal, one of the great challenges that a band like Drowning Horse is presented with is to translate this power across to the studio. Their first (self-titled) full length release through Heartless Robot demonstrated that they are capable of this, but over the years since that record was made, the band’s sound evolved and broadened a great deal, renewing the question as to whether the impact in the venues could be matched on a record. Sheltering Sky answers this question as assertively as Drowning Horse possibly could.

Whilst the self-titled album walloped you with high intensity brutality at nearly every turn, Sheltering Sky is an exhibition of dramatic refinement and elemental cleverness. This does not mean that the new album is not as heavy as the last. If anything, rolling back the compression on the mix and adding more movement to the way the songs progress (as well as stand alongside each other) enhances the magnitude when Drowning Horse go full throttle now. For those who have had their taste already through the single, “The Barrow Stones”, this should be quite obvious.

The cloud of black smoke that permeates the album’s mood is as delightfully suffocating as ever. Even in its most rustic moments, Sheltering Sky oozes with ruminative dread, proving the point that the best doom takes far more than volume alone to best express heaviness. The album’s second track, “Echoes”, exemplifies this to perfection. To say it is instrumentally simple and sparse belies the cerebral dexterousness of the song’s arrangement. “Echoes” is the quintessence of that aforementioned “elemental cleverness,” a mantra with vocal variation between ghostly monastic chants and gloom-fuelled bellows magically intensified by adroit instrumental dynamic shifts throughout the song.

Such an acquired wealth of dynamic gear changes suggests a wide range of influences within Sheltering Sky’s oppressive sound. Many will point readily to pioneers such as Neurosis, Sunn O))), and Earth, but as always, there is far more to it than the obviousness of those who brought the hallmarks of other artists before them into the form of heavy music. In many discussions on Sheltering Sky, names like Godflesh, shades of Russian Circles, the Melvins, and even one big stretch to rhythmic hints of the first Butthole Surfer albums have come up. The hardcore background of Drowning Horse’s members remains clear through the vocals and swarming drones of feedback. What emerges from all of this is that, saddled with the tags of the oversaturated such as doom and drone, Drowning Horse have made an album that makes them distinctive and appealing across underground musical cliques. Whatever follows on from here, when this band’s music plays you won’t have to go through a list of names to figure out who it is.

Sheltering Sky proves a point often mentioned when it comes to those who know Drowning Horse’s music and performances well: they are, at the very least, a world class doom band. For all the qualities cited as to what makes this kind of music great, they are a band that should be at the forefront of any discussion of who the best doom and drone bands might be. Deeply invested in nothing other than their creative expression, this probably matters little (if not at all) to Drowning Horse. The purity of spiritual pursuit evident in their music speaks to this. It serves no purpose other than the sincerity of the journey it seeks to take players and listeners alike on. Regardless of whether or not it may matter to them, Sheltering Sky will propel Drowning Horse firmly to the heights of respect amongst doom lovers around the world and ignite a yearning for a taste of the spectacular experience of the band’s performances. If not, then it could only be that said lovers lack something genuine in their own musical convictions.

Sheltering Sky is out October 22 through Art as Catharsis and FalseXIdol Records.

Noiseweek: Cobain documentary, OK Computer in the Library of Congress, NYT on Liturgy, new music from Death Grips, Godspeed and more

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

The sights, sounds and words of the week in noise.


Radiohead’s OK Computer has been selected for preservation at the US Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in recognition of its “cultural, historical or aesthetic significance.” The organisation selects 25 recordings each year, and Radiohead’s seminal 1997 release joins The Doors’ 1967 self-titled album, Steve Martin’s comedy record A Wild and Crazy Guy and 22 other recordings ranging from the 1890 to 1999 to receive the honour this year.


The HBO-produced Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck which did the rounds with its debut trailer a couple of weeks back has been confirmed for a theatrical run in our little island nation. US sources point to an April 10 debut in cinemas before the HBO premiere on May 4, but that’s likely a US date; the only solid information on an Australian release points to June 25.


Earth have struck up a deal with LA-based label / management company Sargent House, joining a stupidly talented roster of the world’s best power trios including Boris, Marriages, Helms Alee, Mutoid Man and Russian Circles. No word yet if this means a severance of Earth’s long-running partnership with Southern Lord.


British book publisher Strange Attractor are taking pre-orders venerable UK mag The Wire’s latest foray into print publishing with Epiphanies: Life Changing Encounters with Music, a collection of the publication’s Epiphanies column which has been running for over 17 years. Contributors include Michael Gira, Jonny Greenwood, Simon Reynolds and Lydia Lunch.


The Ark Work is Liturgy’s Third Album | The New York Times

“In his interviews and writings, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix — Liturgy’s singer and songwriter and one of its guitarists — rejected the common black-metal rhetoric of decay, doom and negative certainty in favor of the opposite: building, liberation and positive indecision. He wrote a manifesto about “transcendental black metal,” which he read aloud at an academic symposium and which was excerpted in a journal of poststructural philosophy. (For all of this he was called pretentious, as if black-metal bands of the early-’90s Norwegian period, with corpse-paint and bullet-belts and inverted crosses, hadn’t ever known pretension.) In any case, Liturgy’s music, and the predictable response to it, seemed based on what it was not — how it stood apart from what it sounded like.”

Perennially Contentious: The Return of Faith No More | Pitchfork

“While “alternative rock” was a nebulous descriptor even during the genre’s late-‘80s/early-‘90s heyday, Faith No More were the rare band to truly exemplify both halves of the term. On the surface, the San Francisco quintet resembled the sort of long-haired, ripped-denim hellraisers filling up the dance card on “Headbangers Ball”, but their absurdist take on rock owed as much to Zappa as Zeppelin. And their ubiquitous 1990 breakout hit “Epic” both defined rap-metal and defied it, gilding its atomic funk with progged-out synth fanfares and classical-piano flourishes, like a mosh pit choreographed by Cecil B. DeMille. ”

Why Would A Band of White Dudes Name Themselves Slaves? | The Fader

“From Anal Cunt to Cerebral Ballzy, there have always been bands whose names provoke a reaction, especially in the punk and hardcore scenes. Shock tactics and strong political statements are often at the heart of art—and, more cynically, marketing plans—but lately, several bands have been causing a backlash for the overtones of cultural and political appropriation evoked by their names. Prostitutes, Girl Band, and Viet Cong—who played at FADER FORT last week—all make very different music (techno, noise, and rock respectively) but the one thing they have in common is that they’re all made up of white men. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they’ve been at the centre of the discussion, with Viet Cong even having a recent university show cancelled by a promoter who deemed their name “offensive.” (The Calgary band have since issued a statement claiming they were “naive” in choosing their name and “never meant to trivialize the atrocities or violence that occurred on both sides of the Vietnam war.”)”


Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress

That happened quick. Godspeed only announced their fifth LP in late February; Asunder… is out on March 31 and was made available for streaming earlier this week. Some of the cuts might sound familiar — I’m almost certain the opening of “Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!” was a live staple on their first Australian tour in early 2013. It’s a track mired in dirge and drudgery, anchored by a beastly symphonic below. In fact, dirge and drudgery abound on this record: after a few listens, it feels like the most apocalyptic record yet, as if the collective have traded in their hope for nihilism.

Tangled Thoughts of Leaving — The Albanian Sleepover

Speaking of dirge, Perth quartet and LIN favourite Tangled Thoughts of Leaving have debuted the first track from their forthcoming sophomore LP. At a second under 10 minutes it’s probably the album’s shortest tracks, but it showcases the band’s darkly melodic tendencies as fields of static rise and fall under a ten-ton-heavy riffage before a brooding interlude, a crashing crescendo and a “to be continued…” until we get to hear part 2. I’ve little doubt this will be one of the best records of the year.

Drowning Horse — Drowning Horse

The most punishing band in Perth are in the midst of work on a new record that, fingers crossed, will be out before the end of the year, and before they play their first show of 2015 at our five year anniversary show at The Bakery on April 2 (tickets here!), they’ve made their debut record for free, or whatever price you may feel like paying.


Inventions — Peregrine

The first video from Inventions’ Maze of Woods is an eerie, home video-style piece of cinema that recalls cultist found footage, Jason Voorhees and Chuckie — an odd mix of aesthetics given the track’s relaxed tone, but it’s a fitting juxtaposition. You can stream more from that album at Inventions’ Bandcamp.

Joy Division + Teletubbies

It’s the film-noir fever dream you’ve always wanted.

Live Review: Neurosis at Capitol

Friday, August 8th, 2014

neurosis-coverWednesday August 6, 2014 Review by Matthew Tomich Photos by Brodie Cole It can’t be an easy task opening for Neurosis on their first ever Perth show, but Drowning Horse did as good a job as anyone could to prepare […]