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Top 20 of 2017: 4 & 3

Converge – The dusk in us

If you take a step back and just look at the body of work, converge must be seen as one of the most important bands of all time. Constantly pushing themselves and delving deeper into their own sound, each album is a piece of art that takes time to digest. They have left the confines of hardcore behind long ago and have created a sound that is undeniably their own. “The dusk in us” was released in November and I have had it on constant rotation. Even now though I don’t think I have begun scratched the surface of this album. Come back to me in six months and I might have more of a handle on it. Compared to some of their earlier work “the dusk in us” is more immediate, but will stay with you long after it is finished. Converge have a way of finding the raw nerve in you psyche and prodding at it. They have added a bit more melody to their arsenal this time around, something I think comes from Bannon’s solo project. If you are new to them then “the dusk in us” is a great entry point and for long term fans it is another stunning work of art by a unique and wonderful band

Glassjaw – Material control

I have to admit that I have come to this album unprepared and very biased. The first two Glassjaw albums are certainly two of my favourite albums of all time and if you asked me to choose between them I think I would have a breakdown. If I want to break things I play the ferocious “everything you wanted to know about silence” and I play “worship and tribute” when I feel like singing like an idiot. They are both very different but at the same time undeniably Glassjaw. So when it was announced on a random Monday in December with no fanfare that their first album in fifteen years was going to drop on the Friday I was beyond excited. I haven’t had anywhere near the time with it to process it completely, but the fact it is at number three in the top twenty should give you an idea of what I think of it. I couldn’t in good conscience put it any higher in the list, I haven’t had it long enough and I didn’t want it to take anything away from the bands at one and two. So here are my initial thoughts. It is everything I wanted from a new Glassjaw album and beyond anything I could have hoped for. It is a wonderful blend of the first two albums with additional moments of pure genius thrown in. It is both completely recognisable and totally unique. I will come back to it at a later date with a more detailed review. I hope I’m not caught up in the excitement, because at the moment I think we have a best of the decade contender and an all time stone cold classic.

PRB

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1992 Rage against the machine – “Rage against the machine”

There are some albums that go beyond music. Everyone has one. The album that attaches itself to your DNA and shapes you. That album for me is the self titled debut by Los Angeles Rage against the machine. This album shaped my music tastes, my politics, my personality. After the first listen I knew that it was going to be a defining marker for me and I have played this album probably more times than most other albums put together. I know every guitar line, every drum beat, every phrase. I know this album like I know my own skin and because of this I’ve found a bit of a problem. How do I write about this album?
I was into heavy music for a few years before I was introduced to Rage. I was an unashamed nu metal kid so the idea of combining rap and metal wasn’t an alien concept. It was my Dad of all people who one day presented me with the album and said something like “I found this is a record shop and thought you might like it”. If I remember correctly I sat in front of my little HiFi system and didn’t move for an hour. I had heard nothing like it before. This was hard hitting both sonically and emotionally. It was full of funk but at the same time heavy as hell. It also had a guy who could really rap, unlike most of what nu metal was trying to do. Before Rage I had never heard politics in music but they didn’t change my political leanings, just gave it a voice.

I could go on about this band and this album for months so instead I’m just going to focus on three elements that make them great.

One: The musicians. Whatever style they chose to play, the band were always tight as hell. Each one of them are world class musicians. Tom Morello is a genius guitarist. He is close to Hendrix with his ability to make his guitar talk. The sounds he produces are just astonishing. Brad Wilks is the pulse of the band. As a drummer he is one of the best. Tim Commerford is the reason that I picked up the bass and is one of the most full on players you will ever find. Then there is Zack De la Rocha. The conviction in his voice and the power in his delivery is what makes Rage the band that they are. No one sounds like Zack. Even after keeping a low profile for a while, his work with groups like Run the Jewels show he’s still got it.

Two: conviction. One of the things that I love about Rage is that there is no subtext. They say what they mean and they back it up. From leading protests to public demonstrations (standing naked in front of a festival audience is pretty public) they stood by their words. 

Three: Power. At their peak Rage against the machine could go toe to toe with anyone. In the live environment they were stunning. They had no stage show. No effects. No props. Just four guys on stage killing it. I got into the band a few years after they spilt and waited a ridiculous amount of time to see them live. They levelled Donington park that night and have gone down as one of my all time favourite gigs.

I can’t go on much longer but I will sign off by saying if you have not listened to this band then please do. Every album is a classic but I will always shout out for one of the greatest debut albums ever recorded 

PRB 🤘🕉

1987 Napalm death – “Scum”

So let me start this week by saying straight away that I love Napalm Death and believe completely that they are one of the most important bands to ever come out of the UK. Even now they are still putting many bands to shame and are still at the cutting edge of extreme music. “Scum” is their first album and although it is not a personal favourite of mine it is still a massively important album. 
“Scum” is in many ways a very unique album. I’m not sure if this is the first grindcore album, but it certainly set the blueprint for a new genre in aggressive music. The album was recorded by two completely different lineups with drummer Mick Harris being the only band member to play on both the A and B side. Despite that it does seem very consistent throughout. Napalm death also hold the Guinness world record for shortest song. It is track 12 on “scum” called “you suffer” and it clocks in at 1.316 seconds. That should give you an idea of the pace of this album.

With 28 tracks over 33 minutes “scum” does not hang around for anyone. As with most things in life context is important. Songs like “multinational corporations”, “prison without walls” and “c.s (conservative shithead)” let you know exactly what was going on in 87. Thatcher had been voted back in again and the midlands during her time in power with huge unemployment and welfare being given a serious kicking must have been a very bleak place. This isn’t Bob Dylan “blowing in the wind” style protest songs. This is completely uncontainable nihilism and rage. This is a group of angry young guys melding crust punk and metal to create short blasts of white noise and hate. This is social catharsis and it’s full capacity and there is not one second of this album that you don’t believe this band’s sincerity or conviction. 

Some of the guys from these lineups went on to create some really important bands for the UK (godflesh, cathedral etc) and “scum” seems to have been a very good proving ground for these musicians. As I said at the beginning this isn’t my favourite Napalm death album, but as a critique of Britain in 87 and for spawning a genre of it’s own “scum” is a massively important album and worth your time. 

PRB 🤘🕉