Staff Picks: Alec Chillingworth

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Alec’s Albums of 2015

Every now and then, a band from the murkiest cesspools of music releases an album that  transcends genre, uniting superfan and po-faced critic alike. We got Deafheaven’s ‘Sunbather’ in 2013 and last year we had Behemoth’s ‘The Satanist’. There’s been nothing quite like that this year, but Vision Of Disorder, Paradise Lost, Cradle Of Filth, Killing Joke, Enter Shikari, Russkaja, Thy Catafalque, Napalm Death, Shining and a slew of others have unleashed sonic shitstorms directly into the ears of the faithful. But here’s three records that are even better. “Better than Napalm Death?” we hear you scoff. Indeed.

Clutch – Psychic Warfare

If you don’t like Clutch then someone out there is probably watching you. Whoever they are, they’re watching you. Because ‘Psychic Warfare’ should make you adore Clutch more than you love your other half, your mum or tax rebates. This is bluesy, ballsy, life-affirming rock ‘n’ roll that makes you feel like roundhousing David Cameron and having a pop at running the country yourself, just to see what happens. Neil Fallon is at his huskiest and, lyrically, he’s bobbins. Jean-Paul Gaster does things to his drums that we can’t even print and, well, they’re the most accomplished set of musicians to ever grant CDs the honour of playing their music. Better than the old stuff. Never one-paced and never short of a good hook or 2,347637263. Joyous, endlessly replayable rock music.

Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction

An album dealing with mankind’s insolence and the subsequent decomposition of Earth? Sign us up. Cattle Decapitation have never been just a grindcore band and their seventh record, ‘The Anthropocene Extinction’, is testament to this. Sure, there’s the usual grind influences and the merciless, chugging death metal we’ve become accustomed to, but Travis Ryan’s contorted, strangled clean vocals through some of the choruses add a haunting catchiness to proceedings. Plagueborne has one of those “woah-oah” parts in it. Terrifying. And Circo Inhumanitas? Frosty as fuck, mate; that bit at the 2:44 mark could’ve been nicked from Ihsahn’s bedside drawer. It’s unafraid to challenge preconceptions of the genre and succeeds in surpassing said expectations. If you want to be on the cutting edge of extreme music in 2015, subject your ears to ‘The Anthropocene Extinction’.

The Armed – Untitled

Music for the person in your life who doesn’t like silence. Because ‘Untitled’ is relentless. It’s like having your head smashed against a bin while someone plays the Crash Bandicoot soundtrack through an old ham sandwich. Forever Scum and Nervewrecker sum this up best; there’s those wiry, cartoony guitar lines you’ve heard Gallows use before and then there’s the gang vocals. The drums smashing against your headphones, making you feel like you’ve done something very wrong. The seething walls of feedback whenever the instrumentation ceases. The spasmodic time signatures and loopy patterns giving Dillinger Escape Plan a run for their money. With one bubonic, bile-flecked foot in hardcore punk and the other in a puddle reminiscent of mathcore, The Armed will never be boring and will never shut up.

Alec’s Songs of 2015

I’m an albums man. The idea of sitting down and soaking in 150 minutes of Swallow The Sun excites me. To paw through the liner notes of a re-release or a special edition sends all sorts of funny sensations squirming through my skin. But sometimes I just want to smash on a three-minute banger and flail my limbs about – on the tube, in the bath, or during a funeral service. Tunes so massive you can’t help but gyrate and wiggle your finger. So this goes out to three songs which have done that to me in 2015.

Crossfaith ft. Benji Webbe – Wildfire

The best live band on the planet – except Rammstein, but they’re not really even a band, they’re just a thing that happens – joining forces with Benji Webbe, frontman of Skindred, the best live band in the UK? Alright, then. Wildfire is basically a club song. The beat drops. That pinched synth grabs your earlobes and sticks an adventurous tongue straight in, lubing you up for the electronica-tinged metal madness to ensue. Because it is madness. It shouldn’t work. No band melds party-ready beats and metal quite like Crossfaith, so adding Benji just makes it even cooler; if you’re in possession of a pair of legs, you will dance to this song until you neck too much vodka, do a wee in the street, stumble home, sleep on the floor and expunge last night from your mouth/bowels right next to the toilet bowl. Not in it. Next to it.

Russkaja – Rock ’n’ Roll Today

It’s just the happiest thing ever, right? In a world rife with poverty, pollution, corruption, war, famine and Olly Murs, it’s refreshing to have a load of Russian blokes having it large to the sound of rock ‘n’ roll, ska and polka all mashed up. If a polka/metal hybrid sounds like your bag but you find Korpiklaani a wee bit heavy, Russkaja are for you. Like being hit in the face with a bag full of balloons and five-pound notes.

Lindemann – Golden Shower

Rammstein’s Till Lindemann has always been an inherently strange man, but his ‘Skills In Pills’ album allows English-speaking fans to fully peek into that perverted mind of his. And what a mind it is. Aided by Peter Tägtgren of PAIN and Hypocrisy, Lindemann set about disgusting the world; Golden Shower’s just about done that. Tägtgren’s pummelling, almost Christmassy keyboards bounce alongside the industrial chug and gang vocals, laying the groundwork for lyrics about, well, having someone do a piss on you. And yes, they do both chant the ‘C’ word over a staccato riff you could have found in Al Jourgensen’s back pocket. Till Lindemann: tackling the big issues.

Alec’s  EPs of 2015

It’s not a mini-album, it’s an EP ya prick. In 2015, the extended play has become less a stopgap stratagem and more the conventional, affordable way for up-and-coming bands to get their music into your lug’oles. There’s been some right bangers and, inevitably, some proper dross. But here’s the best of the lot.

The Earls Of Mars – E.P

We’ve not had a band like this since Vulture Industries, and The Earls Of Mars match them in terms of both musicality and sheer scope. The Earls’ self-titled LP was firmly rooted in the progressive desert realms, while ‘E.P’ takes that blueprint and launches itself from the paper with the tenacity of a badger chewing your leg. Whodunnit has a piano-driven, sleazy vaudeville thrust that points towards Vulture Industries’ mid-tempo works, Mr Peep Never Sleeps possesses a swagger and versatility not far away from Faith No More’s ‘King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime’, with Dan Hardingham pulling off a bastardised Mike Patton croon halfway through. Progressive rock, stoner rock, swing, nigh on black metal moments and pinches of ska all rear their heads through ‘E.P’. Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? It is.

Mohicans – Mohicans

When you’re a hardcore band pulling off riffs Septicflesh could have easily used, you must know you’re doing something right. Because Mohicans do exactly this. Ugly, brutal blasts of densely-packed hardcore that rage like Converge, Gallows and Black Flag engaging in a bout of fisticuffs with early Mastodon and Code Orange. Chris Palomarez seemingly recorded his vocal and drum parts inside a hippo’s anal cavity; those snare hits are punk as fuck and are probably what Lars Ulrich was after on ‘St. Anger’. But it’s not all relentless riffing. I mean, yes, there is a lot of it, but get a load of that guitar solo in Road. It’s like Clutch are right inside the hippo with them. Brutal, beautiful and way too catchy.

Sikth – Opacities

Imagine not being in your band for nearly a decade and then coming back with Behind The Doors. Just imagine. Sikth. How, how, how are you so perfect? No reformation record has been this flawless. While the Refused live show is still as vital as ever, you can’t really hold ‘Freedom’ up next to ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’, can you? Not the case with Sikth. ‘Opacities’ is better than the albums. It really is. Since their split, nobody has matched Sikth’s tech metal mastery. Justin Hill and Mikee Goodman’s vocal interplay teeters on genius, Goodman’s obligatory spoken word part on Tokyo Lights is enthralling and the band are still tight, forward-thinking and pulling out enough weird time signatures to make Dillinger Escape Plan break down and cry. And then they end on Days Are Dreamed – an ambient, haunting number – just to ensure that, if anyone even dares try, no band will come close to what Sikth have achieved pre or post reformation. Defiant, non-compliant and a middle finger to the innumerable bands reforming for the dough and shitting out half-baked shadow turds barely resembling former glories. Gu on, Sikth.

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