It’s Friday night and the first night of a four day weekend for me. I didn’t feel like heading out tonight, so instead, I decided to mix me a vodka/soda cocktail and, rather than get into weighty philosophical or political topics, talk about my favorite albums of 2016 so far. If you’re a music fan, you have no business complaining that you have nothing to listen to. Here is a list of some fine albums I’ve listened to and/or purchased so far this year.
UXO – UXO
I already did a lengthy review of this album, but to recap, UXO, which is military lingo for unexploded material that could soon blow, is also a pairing of two of noise rocks best and longest enduring guitarists; Steve Austin from Today Is the Day and Chris Spencer from Unsane, The Cutthroats 9 and Celan. My only complaint about the album is that it’s too short; it’s supposed to be an LP, but it only has seven songs on it, and they aren’t long songs. Last time I checked 26 minutes does not an LP make. This, however, is a very minor complaint. Spencer lays down the crushing, low end riffs, while Austin plays whirling, noisy Frippian melodies atop. Scorchin’! Buy here at Reptilian!
Värähtelijä – Oranssi Pazuzu
Black metal in space! Hawkwind crossed with Mayhem! Or something along those lines. I’m not even going to try to pronounce the title for the fourth album by this wicked Finish band. I like ’em A LOT! I have their other three albums as well, and this one is no disappointment. Are you in space? Are you in Hell? Who knows? Just take this 70+ minute journey; I dare you!
Post Society EP – Voivod
No need to be objective about one of my favorite bands. Voivod have been rockin’ and rollin’ since the early 80s. And while they’ve gone through a number of styles, their key approach, the one loved by most fans, is their mix of King Crimson style prog and thrash metal. Current guitarist Danny “Chewie” Mongrain, who replaced Dennis “Piggy” D’Amour, who passed away from colon cancer in 2005, shows that he’s up for the job of playing those odd, spacey, dissonant chords and weird melodies that made Voivod one of the most unique metal bands. Also Dominique “Rocky” Laroche takes the place vacated by Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault nearly two years ago. Singer Dennis “Snake” Bellinger and drummer Michel “Away” Langevin remain intact. Group covers “Silver Machine” by Hawkwind, but why only five songs?
Terminal Redux – Vektor
Third and latest album by this Arizona based band and first released on Earache. Voivod inspired, sci-fi metal overkill, but with black metal vocals and blast beats; just a lot of great ‘n’ weird melodies, complicated time changes and dissonant chords for 70+, relentless minutes. Saw these dudes at Berserker Fest and they totally destroyed.
Revengeance – Conan
I still wonder if the ridiculous name for the fourth Conan album was inspired by the unintentionally funny title for the latest Slayer album, Repentless. Either way I’m enjoying this British sludge metal power trio more and more. With a name like Conan, for some reason I thought they would be way more technical and melodic, maybe like Cirith Ungol or something, but it turns out they just play really heavy and slow. Their first couples albums are a bit, “eh.” But they finally hit their stride with some killer riffs on their third Blood Eagle and this here fourth album Revengeance, going all High on Fire style; The Art of Self Defense/Surrounded by Thieves High on Fire, that is.
Three Men and a Baby – Mike & the Melvins
If someone were to tell you that the music on Three Men and a Baby was recorded in 1998, would you believe it? Aside from disrupting the flow of the Melvins discography by naming the band Mike & the Melvins, it’s pretty darn safe to consider Three Men and a Baby a Melvins record; also their first to be released on Sub Pop. If I’m not mistaken, the Melvins’ lineup at the time of this recording was King Buzzo, Dale Crover and former Cows bassist at the time was Kevin Rutmanis. But, for this release, the group teamed up with Mike Kunka, who played bass for GodHeadSilo. Album has plenty of hot ‘n’ heavy King Buzzo licks and killer Dale Crover drumming, as you would expect with the Melvins. They also cover “Annalisa” by Public Image Ltd. And make sure to guffaw at the song title “A Friend in Need Is a Friend You Don’t Need.” The Melvins have another album coming out shortly, but don’t they always have another album coming out?
Negative Noise – Child Bite
I was fortunate enough to get a copy of this dope album for free because they were giving them out at the show in Detroit, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I would have easily bought a copy. Released through Housecore and produced by none other than Phil Anselmo, Negative Noise, although a tad more accessible than their previous few efforts, is still full of their weird, Jesus Lizard/Killdozer inspired punk-prog-sludge.
The Machine Stops – Hawkwind
Long time reigning gods of space rock are back with their first official studio album in four years. If you’re familiar with Hawkwind, then you know their discography is huge, and you also know that their members have a ton of side projects, in effect creating a whole mini-musical universe. Hawkwind fans get just as excited by side projects, such as Hawklords (the new Hawklords that is, not the old Hawklords, which was really just Hawkwind with a different name) or solo albums by former bassist Alan Davey, as they do with the group’s official releases. I would say Nik Turner, but, if you’re familiar with Hawkwind, you know there’s acrimony between the Brock and Turner camps. I don’t get into these petty debates and, since I’ve seen Nik Turner twice, well, ya know… but, man oh man, what a great album! Epic space rock, ambient electronic, a song with Middle Eastern influences, and the entire thing is based on the EM Forster sci fi classic. What can I say other than, “when will Hawkwind finally come to the United States?”
Dystopia – Megadeth
Megadeth have now released fifteen studio albums, and yet have one of the patchiest discographies. Part of that has to do with Dave Mustaine’s desire to try new stuff all the time. Dystopia hearkens back to Rust in Peace era melodic thrash. Also, hot damn, they do a Fear cover!
It Came from N.Y.C. – White Zombie
It Came from N.Y.C. is a box set containing long-awaited reissues of the group’s pre-La Sexorcisto, independent releases, when they were an underground, New York based, noise rock band. The box set contains an LP with the Gods on Voodoo Moon EP on side 1 and the “Pig Heaven”/”Slaughter the Grey” single on side 2 along with full reissues of Psycho-Head Blowout, Soul-Crusher, Make Them Die Slowly and the God of Thunder EP. It also comes with a killer coffee table book. I do a more thorough review of the box set here.