ARAN GLOVER TRIBUTE (Richard Mcmahon, Waheela, Dunes and Dragnet) | 12.01.2019 | Newcastle Cluny

ARAN GLOVER TRIBUTE (Richard Mcmahon, Waheela, Dunes and Dragnet) | 12.01.2019 | Newcastle Cluny

Aran Glover Tribute – 12th January 2019 – Richard Mcmahon, Waheela, Dunes and Dragnet

Aran Glover Tribute 2019

It’s now a few months since Aran left us and it’s still not sunk in. Friends of Aran decided to pay tribute to the man the best possible way; a loud gig! There was an incredible turnout, so many familiar faces and I’m told that the evening raised over £1300.

We Are Knuckle Dragger - ArcTanGent Festival - Bristol
We Are Knuckle Dragger – ArcTanGent Festival – Bristol

The night was in support of a great cause – If U Care Share Foundation. Which is cause very close to my heart. I’ve battled inner demons for most of my adult life, only in the last twelve months have shed my shame that the illness brings and I now talk openly about it. Talking has helped me a lot, I nearly lost the fight and I’m very lucky to still be here.

I’m also lucky to have met some incredible people in my time as a gig photographer, particularly at the time of regular Knuckle Dragger gigs; 2013-2014. There was such a rich amount of diverse talent in the region at that time and Aran regularly supported and hosted local bands and introduced me to quite a lot of amazing acts.

wakd – Oct 2013

The Drone album launch (above) remains one of my favourite gigs of all time and that album is still in regular rotation, an absolute beast of a record, I bloody adore it. Their achievements aren’t anything to scoff at, it’s mind-boggling to think that a little 3 piece band from Newcastle have recorded with the likes of Ross Robinson and Steve Albini.

I had some great times with Aran, I think we bonded over our love of heavy music and our fondness for the alcohol. I was lucky enough to go on the road with WAKD mk II, braving rainstorms, broken tents, awol drummers, exploding amps and killer hangovers at Arctangent Festival in 2014.

I always hoped WAKD would return, they were magic. In summer of 2014, I did an unreleased photoshoot of the new lineup (in drag too!) as we waited for the other band members to arrive Aran played me some demos on his old school mobile phone. The sound quality of the phone was terrible but the songs were anything but! Arctangent clearly had an influence on him and he was writing some amazing math-rock/ASIWYFA style songs.

Aran always had a hug and a smile when you bumped into him. You could talk to him about anything, he was one of the good guys. I’m heartbroken that he’s gone but eternally grateful for having known him. A wee legend. I miss him greatly.

We Are Knuckle Dragger
We Are Knuckle Dragger

I promised myself I’d just go to the gig and watch the bands, but last minute decided I’d take my camera for old times sake. There was a richly diverse set of acts, some touching acoustic songs from Richard Mcmahon. Having not seen them in years last time. I’d forgotten just how potent Waheela are as a live act, they are one of the Northeasts best-kept secrets. Our beloved Dunes (all decked out in WAKD t-shirts) brought the riffs with a fast stomping set. Finally, we had Dragnet back from a 6-year gap and they were incredible.

Here’s a handful of photos from a bloody brilliant night. Huge credit to the bands and organisers. I’m sure he’d be proud of you all 🙂


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Photos are Copyright Graeme J. Baty. All rights reserved.

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THE TWILIGHT SAD | It Won/t Be Like This All The Time | ALBUM REACTION

THE TWILIGHT SAD | It Won/t Be Like This All The Time | ALBUM REACTION

The Twilight Sad | It Won/t Be Like This All The Time | Album reaction

Review and photos by: Graeme J. Baty


‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ has been a long time coming and marks The Twilight Sad’s first album since 2014. That’s quite a remarkable thought, how time flies?! That album became an instant classic, they set themselves a high benchmark. Although it’s taken a long time to release a follow-up, they’ve certainly not been slacking, endless touring and notable side projects have kept them busy. They’ve emerged as one of Scotland’s most revered and respected bands. It’s been a pleasure to watch them rise in recent years. 2019 sees them make another gigantic step towards the big time.

Their fifth album brings some changes; new personnel, record label and a maturing of their sound. It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is a fearless leap into the unknown, yet it retains the key characteristics that we love. Much like labelmates Mogwai, TTS seem unable to release a duff record, constantly innovating and ensuring their lasting legacy as one of Scotland’s best bands.

The big question is… does it live up to their previous efforts?

Today I picked up my very own indies only blue edition from the canny folk at Reflex in Newcastle. I’ve tried to resist the temptation to obtain review copies and or to listen to the streamed songs before the release. It’s been a long long time since I’ve been excited about a record and I wanted to make a bit of effort for it.

Although I’ve been lucky enough to have heard some of the songs live. Here I go for the first proper play and I’ll give my reaction track by track! This won’t be a very insightful deep probe into the record, just an honest reaction to the songs as I play them.

Side A

[10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs]

This is weird, slow and droney, the vocals start. Wait a minute! It’s 45 RPM, wow! I pick up the needle and hit the 45rpm toggle. Instantly impressed, as they kickoff the record with graceful but rousing song. A Krautrock loop sounds delightful as James sings “We’re hanging on by a thread”, I’m on the edge of my seat taking this in. It ends on “Why can’t you remember me?” as feedback bubbles underneath and I’m pretty stunned. This is classic Twilight Sad and an incredible opener.

The 45 RPM speed is a nice touch! Hard to compare it to a 33 1/3 record, as I don’t have one! However, the sound quality on the pressing is immaculate, so I can assume it’s a positive.

Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting

What a title! This one I distinctly remember from the Brudenell show. The bassline grabs you, a real Docherty stomper, leaving me with a sore neck! The record version doesn’t disappoint, surely an album highlight. Vocally it conjures very violent imagery. I need to come back to this song and play it some more.

The Arbor

The third song; The Arbor channels eighties guitar arpeggios with a sickly sweet chorus effect. I remember this was another Brudenell highlight. Sorry, I can sense this playback bringing recalling many fond memories, it was my favourite gig of 2018 after all! Back to the music, this is probably the softest tone to a TTS song to date. Touring relentlessly with The Cure would influence any band and the characteristics have made their way into the soul of the new material by way of osmosis. Although they’ve always been fans of The Cure, perhaps now it’s more noticeable. The synths take centre stage, mixed higher and more prominent on the record, more so than even on NOCEK, albeit with a less gothic/industrial twist and a more unapologetic 80s sound. This record is Brendan Smith’s time to shine.

Side B


Instantly recognisable! Easily a setlist highlight from the gigs I’ve seen in 2018. The track finds them knocking up the power with some absolutely incredible percussion. Bringing a level of speed (note: that’s speed coupled with precision) that was not present on previous records. The precision and velocity driving the track. Gone are the slow and steady beats. The percussion really shines on the record so far.

“There’s no Love Too Small” VTr is an anthemic stadium-filling masterpiece and I bloody love it!

Sunday Day13

This is the first real breather on the album. A slow number, more traditional TTS type ‘death ballad’ for want of a better term. It brings disc 1 to a close, it wouldn’t feel out of place on Forget The Night Ahead. I really like this one.

Side C

I/m Not Here [missing face]

The smash hit I’m Not Here. Damn, I played this on loop when it came out. Goosebumps still come over me in a wave when I heard the drone of the guitar during the opening. Another broken relationship singalong anthem.  James sings quite openly, I can’t help but wonder who this song is about, but I also like the fact that it can be translated to your own experiences, so maybe I’m happy not knowing. Another classic.


This is not letting up, here comes another stormer. Andy’s guitar riff is a thing of pure beauty, great tone! It takes the song to the next level.

This one will need a few more plays just for sheer indulgence, but I’ll continue and come back to this! Ending on Andy’s trademark feedback, the hairs on my neck stand up. Definitely a song for us guitar nerds.

Keep It All To Me

The third side is coming to a close and the album seems to be settling into a groove with a bitter synth led track.

Side D

Girl Chewing Gum

Yes! Andy is back! Andy’s guitar playing was the key thing I remember from the first time I saw TTS, this is a flashback to those face melting Marshall stack bludgeons.

“Put me in the ground!” James cries. I think I have a new favourite TTS song!

Let/s Get Lost

Ooooh an 80s power ballad? I’m not sure where this one is going judging by the opening bars. By the time James comes in for the verse and power ballad expectations are dispelled “I’m losing, losing you every day”. As the song finds its feet and power.

Again the percussion is incredible, it’s definitely a drummers record.


This is the one song I wasn’t sure about when I first heard it, going against popular opinion. Reception has been really warm. I recall people singing along to it word for word at the Leeds Academy gig with Mogwai. I’m still not 100% sold on it, sorry! It does, however, make much more sense (soundwise) in context to the record. It was perhaps a bit too The Cure by numbers for me. I’m not the biggest Cure fan in all honesty, my tastes tend to lean towards heavier sounds. There’s a lack of the ‘wall of sound’ guitar noise that I adore so much (although there is a taster of it low in the mix and at the end), so I think that’s where my prejudice comes in. The thing is, I refuse to judge TTS albums or songs on one listen, they just don’t work like that. So I left this one on the back burner and I am now I’m warming to it. I think the main reason I adore TTS is the songs and the dense layers. There’s so much going on, you have to comeback for repeated listens. They reward the patient listener, the more you listen the more you love the music.


Eleven songs in 47 minutes, over four sides, it’s over a bit too fast after such a long wait, but I’ll be going back for a second helping in a bit. It’s a rich album of diverse sounds and perfectly compliments their incredible back catalogue, as always they are fearless when it comes to pushing their sound and I think it’s paid off. There are songs on here to keep everyone happy.

I must comment on the impressive package, I’m actually now debating buying the normal black vinyl edition to compliment it. This indies only version features a lovely pale blue colour swap to the pink/red colour tone of the standard version. A nice touch! Double gatefold with some heavy uppercase typeset lyric sheets on the inner cover, perfect for dissecting James Graham’s fascinating lyrics. This is is what to expect when you sign to Rock Action, they make immaculate releases, crafted for the music lover and collector. They’ve done a sterling job on this!

This record must have some of the most accessible and instantly impressive songs in their history. That’s not to say they aren’t as densely layered or are easier on the ears, just through hard work and relentless touring TTS are at their unequivocal finest, they’ve masterfully evolved their sound with each record, fine-tuning and delivering constantly. There’s a linear progress that can be traced all the way back to their early recordings and this record feels like a culmination of that work.

The secret is out now. The time is right for world domination.

It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is out today (18th Jan 2019) on Rock Action Records

FUN LOVIN’ CRIMINALS | Fast talks about 2019 plans | INTERVIEW

FUN LOVIN’ CRIMINALS | Fast talks about 2019 plans | INTERVIEW

Fun Loving Criminals – Interview

Fast from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals talks to us about their upcoming UK tour and new album!

You are back with a new release ‘Another Mimosa’. Can you tell us about it, the concept behind the release and what kind of sound/genres to expect?

We were in Gibson studios in London working on new material. The music was coming together nicely but we were lacking lyrical inspiration so we talked about doing another album similar to Mimosa. We each chose 3 songs we’d like to cover that summed up the sounds that influenced us with FLC.

Where and when was Another Mimosa recorded?

We recorded the album at various studios in the UK over the past 3 years when we could all get together. We mixed the album in May in NYC with our longtime engineer/4th member of FLC, Tim Latham ISP.

What’s your favourite track from Another Mimosa?

My personal favourites are Daylight and Warning.

Where are you based these days? Do you find the location you record to have an effect on the material?

We all live in the UK. I think where we live definitely affects how we are inspired when writing lyrics for our songs. Musically we are influenced by all the music we have been into since we were young, mostly older music from the 60’s through the 80’s.

Fun Lovin' Criminals - Newcastle Academy 2016 - Fast
Fun Lovin’ Criminals – NEwcastle Academy 2016

You tour the UK pretty regularly. Would you say you have a bigger following here or back in the States?

The UK has always been so supportive of FLC and for that, we are grateful and blessed. I regret that we don’t tour more in North America where we still have many fans who want to see us live. Unfortunately, it costs so much for us to tour it is not feasible to do so outside of Europe.

How would you describe the FLC live experience? Feel good party band springs to mind for me, I always find I walk away from the shows with a huge smile, grinning ear to ear!

We feel the same. We are very lucky to be able to tour different places and perform our music. We always try to make the most of it and have a party with the peoples. Laughter is the best medicine. We rarely take ourselves too seriously.

Every time the FLC rolls into town I’m reminded of just how good the material is and how long it’s been a part of my life, it feels like 5 minutes ago when the debut Come Find Yourself came out. What’s your highlight of the long career and what’s the secret to longevity?

Thank you. CFY came out at the right time, saving us in the process. If we are inspired to write original music we will do so. We are older now and have different priorities in our lives.  I think the highlight is that we still enjoy performing live. Part of the secret is not caving in to the excesses that many bands fall into, like drug abuse!

It’s been nearly 9 years since your last proper originals album Classic Fantastic, any plans to record a follow-up?

Again, it all depends on finding lyrical inspiration. Musically, I have written so many tunes that could be great FLC songs, enough for a triple album!

Catch the FLC and their party at the Northumbria Institute on the 1st Feb 2019. Another Mimosa is today (18th Jan 2019!) check it out here

THE WILDHEARTS new album and Newcastle Riverside gig | GIG NEWS

THE WILDHEARTS new album and Newcastle Riverside gig | GIG NEWS

The Wildhearts new album and Newcastle Riverside gig

It’s no secret that we have a few fans of Geordie legends The Wildhearts on the staff so it’s always a hoot to share news with you!

They’ll be doing a run of headline shows including a stop of the awesome Riverside on 12th May 2019 in support of their new album with the original lineup, appropriately titled The Renaissance Men!



Steve Strong | Turbo Island | Album review

Review by: Graeme J. Baty

Steve-Strong Turbo-Island

Let’s get 2019 off to a Strong start, sorry had to! Joking aside the new feature-length album from Steve Strong is anything but weak. A tour de force of musical prowess and creativity. Highly accomplished, multi-instrumentalist Steve Strong releases his new album Turbo Island.

This might be the first review I’ve done based purely on reputation, I must admit I’ve not heard his music before. Hearing nothing but praise for his live performances and his record labels past history, I instantly said yes! For those (like me) who are unfamiliar; Steve is a one-man band, and although in Steve’s case that term is possibly a red herring. The term conjures images of a stereotypical gnarly bearded guitar and kickdrum situation, which is understating plethora of equipment Steve Strong nestles behind during his live performances.

Ten tracks of sublime mellow instrumental goodness. Lovely clean guitar tones reminiscent of Toe (the Japanese band) lend themselves to some nice early morning chill vibes. It’s been my morning commuting soundtrack, a delightful air of calm emanating from my iPod, while the world rushes around me.

I absolutely adore the song titles, Deline Cion, Life After Post Rock and Sensible Skeletons all bring a smile to this curmudgeons face. Intro track Gravel Gardner also amuses and proves to be a highlight of the album with some very accomplished percussion.

From the start, I’m fully engrossed. I’ve had the record on repeat for an most of the week. 2019 is shaping up to have some rather special records, Teeth of the Sea record actually fits quite nicely side by side and there’s certainly a cross over for audiences there.

Full credit to his creative process, the songs sound like full band compositions. The amount of coordination and dexterity to perform these pieces as a solo act is nothing short of miraculous. This is his second full-length album and is certainly his strongest release to date. Turbo Island is an album of overwhelming compositions and creativity. A math-rock masterpiece.

Out tomorrow (18th Jan 2019) on Durham based Sapien Records, home to many diverse and talented acts including our much loved We Are Knuckle Dragger and Shitwife (aka Big Lad). Out! Head over to his Bandcamp page for some rather awesome looking records

FRANK CARTER intimate Newcastle gig announced Feb 2019 | GIG NEWS

FRANK CARTER intimate Newcastle gig announced Feb 2019 | GIG NEWS

Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes have announced an intimate Newcastle gig

Frank Carter has announced a new album and a UK tour of intimate venues. The unstoppable Juggernaut returns to Newcastle Think Tank on the 21st February 2019. This will sell out super fast and if it’s anything like the Cluny show in 2015 it will be bedlam!

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes - Cluny Oct 2015
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Cluny Oct 2015

Thursday, February 7 – The Bullingdon, Oxford

Friday, February 8 – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

Saturday, February 9 – Dreamland (Ballroom), Margate

Monday, February 11 – The Old Fire Station, Bournemouth

Tuesday, February 12 – The Fleece, Bristol

Wednesday, February 13 – Sin City, Swansea

Friday, February 15 – The Sugarmill, Stoke

Saturday, February 16 – Empire, Coventry

Monday, February 18 – Peddler, Sheffield

Tuesday, February 19 – Arts Club Theatre, Liverpool

Thursday, February 21 – Think Tank, Newcastle

Friday, February 22 – Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh

Saturday, February 23 – Fibbers, York



Teeth of the Sea | Wraith | Album review

Review by: Graeme J Baty

Teeth of the Sea | Wraith

A new Teeth of the Sea album is a tantalising prospect under normal circumstances. This time around they’re pushing their creativity and refusing to be stuck in any pigeonholes with new album ‘Wraith’. Wraith is the follow up to 2015’s Highly Deadly Black Tarantula album, which in itself is a high benchmark, I was curious to find out if they could match that masterpiece or if they’d branch out on a tangent.

Wraith finds Teeth of the Sea exploring brass instrumentation, as briefly flirted with on their previous recordings. This time as a core part of the sound and the compositions are quite remarkable. The muted trumpet on lead track Hiraeth sounds both sleazy and gorgeous, reminiscent of early Tom Waits records. As a result, they manage to sound like a filthy 65daysofstatic. The brass accompanies and often leads the songs, it’s brilliantly done.

Visitor is a densely layered song, building over 8 minutes and sounds reminiscent of their previous record. Track 8 the delightfully titled; ‘Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World’ has this lovely John Carpenter-esque keyboard motif which loops soothingly to a climax and is for me an album highlight. Gladiators Ready, which brings the album to a close is an unexpected oddball Josh Wink party piece. Just when you’re expecting a quiet winddown to the record they hit you with a sucker punch!

Nine songs in 47 minutes. It’s an album of restless talent and creativity. It expands their sound and complements their back catalogue. A delightful album with electronic and industrial aspects it conjures visions of a colossal soundscape, feeling like a soundtrack to an imaginary dystopian movie. Wraith proves a great step forward for the talented trio. It may prove a step too far for some fans of their earlier work, but that’s their loss.

Wraith is out on 22nd February 2019 on Rocket Records. If (like me) you’re a sucker for a nice physical release they have some stunning colour vinyl versions available via their Bandcamp page! Featuring some equally delightful photography/artwork.

Teeth of the Sea | Wraith

Neil Ainger selects his top 15 albums of 2018 – FEATURE

Neil Ainger selects his top 15 albums of 2018 – FEATURE

Neil Ainger selects his top 15 albums of 2018!

#15 Judas Priest – Firepower

I would never have imagined that this would make it on to any end of year list, nevermind my own. Why should it? Why should the 18th studio album from a band formed in 1970 have any place on an end of year list in 2018? I would expect it from only the laziest of reviewers.

I heard the rumblings before I experienced them for myself. I heard the talk of the new Judas Priest record and how good it was. I was recommended it once or twice. I didn’t particularly take much notice. I mean, by ‘good’ they mean it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be or it was acceptable for an 18th run around the block. I had no reason to believe otherwise.

Firepower was unexpected and unprecedented. There is a passion and a fire in Rob Halford’s voice that has no business still being there but it is oh so impressive that it is. The impact really is immediate and the title track is fresh, it’s exciting and it’s invigorating.

There’s not a lot that even needs to be said about this record. If you know Priest then you know what it sounds like and if you don’t then I’d say that ship has long sailed. However please do not underestimate this record. Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkners guitars sound slick and untamed, Halford’s vocals are as potent as they have ever been and I say with a completely straight face that Firepower stands shoulder to shoulder with any and every album Judas Priest have ever recorded.

#14 Winterfylleth – The Hallowing of Heirdom

While it is most certainly a significant departure, UK black metal heavyweights Winterfylleths sidestep into acoustic folk also doesn’t feel like much of a surprise.

The Manchester band have always incorporated folk elements into their atmospheric and melodic brand of black metal and, with the release of the debut album from guitarist Dan Capps folk project Wolcensmen in 2016, this was perhaps the next logical step.

The transition is just seamless. The acoustic guitars are crisp and clean, the strings are heart-wrenching and divine and the moody, chanting vocals cloak everything in a surreal and warm glow. I can speak from experience when I tell you that there is no better companion than this album full of songs about English folklore for travelling through this beautiful country with the landscape falling past the window.

#13 Conjurer – Mire

“Brady Deeprose (guitars/vocals) has been quoted as saying, of their approach to making the record “Once you start thinking about songwriting in terms of genre, you’re automatically setting up barriers between parts” and this outlook is really laid bare. The band visit death, doom, sludge, black and beyond while some post-rock-style sections blend the frequent and abrupt mood swings of the record together seamlessly. At times the resulting sonic assault sparkles in an atmospheric glow, while always being destined to viscously return to depths of misanthropic bleakness and Converge-like violence.

Believe the acclaim and embrace the hype because Conjurer have created a debut album way beyond their years and the scary thing is that this band is only going to grow stronger with every show they play, and unless they show any signs of slowing down then the sky could really be the limit in the coming months and years.”

Read my full review here

#12 – Geomancer – Khatt Al-Raml

“The Geordie doom trio does not exactly shatter genre limitations entirely nor provide the most diversified and complex record you are likely to ever hear, but they do refuse to be labelled easily or at least accurately without doing them something of a disservice. Plenty of fans of stoner rock, post-rock, doom and sludge will find more than enough to hold their interest here and if we can put genres and labels to one side for a moment, hopefully most of them will be able to agree on one thing, and that is that with a debut album such as this, Geomancer may just be a band worthy of paying close attention to in the coming months and years.”

Read my full review here

#11 Desert Storm – Sentinels

“The growth in the band can be measured mostly by the track Kingdom of Horns. Beginning delicately with clean, ethereal vocals, the near 8 minutes that follow are an epic, melodic journey to every corner of the band’s musical make-up and back again, a journey the likes of which Desert Storm has never truly taken before.

Sentinels is the bands most accomplished, most skilled and, simply put, best record to date.”

Read my full review here

#10 Weedpecker – III

Polish band Weedpecker may, on the surface, appear to be a predictable outfit but in reality, their third album has proven to have depths that may be somewhat unexpected.

III is a space-rock record with laid-back and ethereal vocals that support some long psychedelic jams. Where the five tracks excel is in their patience and the space they are afforded in which to organically grow and expand. With such freedom to roam the band are able to expand, experiment and build. Every eruption of hazy, colourful, psychedelic fury is all the more impactful for its otherwise tempered pace that sets this band aside from some of stoner rocks more predictable and recyclable artists.

#9 Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It

Never a band to provide the expected or the straightforward, Rolo Tomassi have hopped between genres for over ten years now to the point where you never quite know what they have up their sleeves for their next outing. With their fifth full-length album, they have perhaps offered up their finest yet.

Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It begins with restful, uncomplicated melody. The vocals of Eva Spence are tender and warm. For those not familiar with the band’s history, all signs point to a lush, affectionate and toothless foray into some kind of dream-pop-tingled college rock record. By the third track, Rituals, however, the teeth are certainly baring with a guttural scream and a mathy, technical and ferocious clash of drums and guitars.

For the 53 minute duration, the album battles contrasting styles and takes unexpected and confusing turns through math-rock, prog-rock, hardcore, post-metal and punk and always finds a way to bring any violent momentum to a sudden halt as well as jolt an instrumental section back to life without a moments notice. Rolo Tomassi make gutsy and brave decisions and have the ability to ensure that every single one of them pays off.

#8 Midas Fall – Evaporate

Sometimes it takes a little while for a band to really find their feet and that’s how I feel about Edinburgh’s Midas Fall. There doesn’t need to be anything amiss with a bands output, it just takes that one record to exceed all expectations and make you realise what they were capable of all along. The bands 4th full-length record Evaporate makes such a statement and dropped with a rippling boom in April.

With its roots in ethereal post-rock and a backbone of synths-and-piano-laden progressive rock, Elizabeth Heaton’s voice is beautifully strewn amongst a delicate and graceful tide of elegant melodies and, at times, softly swirling guitars, that can lie dormant and peaceful whilst always feeling dangerously at risk of violently crashing ashore – yet never quite doing so.

#7 Floex and Tom Hodge – A Portrait of John Doe

There are collaborations that are driven by demand, others as a result of a lack of individual potency. Floex (a.k.a Tomáš Dvořák) and Tom Hodge however, are a partnership seemingly made in heaven and the result is a focused and effectual project that was three years in the making.

The piano-driven, inventive, glitchy electronic ambience is beautifully arranged with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and transformed into an avante-garde, orchestral, modern-classical crossover on a huge, soaring scale.

Very ambitious a project it may be but when crafted over time with such obvious care and consideration, A Portrait of John Doe is an endearing and hopeful record full of beautiful arrangements and compelling positivity.

#6 Jo Quail – Exsolve

Oh, Jo Quail. Do the words really exist to accurately describe her ingenuity? After witnessing her astonishing support set for Mono earlier in the year, I sat down to absorb her latest triumph, Exsolve.

Armed with a heavy-duty electric cello and an array of pedals, watching her loop and layer melodies and harmonies into gradually ascending, grander compositions is nothing short of transfixing and with her fifth album she has truly outdone herself.

Assisted with guest performances from guitarists Nik Sampson and Dan Capp as well as vocalist Lucie Dehli, Exsolve is possibly her most left-field and inventive work to date. Classically trained but anything but conventional, Jo explores epic, symphonic pomp with as much ease and expertise as minimal, downtrodden, depressive industrial and post-metal. This is a record that is perfectly accessible while being so intricate and demanding of close attention as to be extremely difficult to completely and appropriately absorb every vital and stunning moment.

#5 Khemmis – Desolation

Denver doom quartet Khemmis followed up 2016s Hunted in June with the aptly titled Desolation. While Hunted and its predecessor Absolution could arguably be more neatly filed away as doom metal, Desolation is not quite so easy to categorise. It is, at its core, still a riff-heavy traditional doom album but the band definitely take more of a shift toward conventional heavy metal.

Dominated by crisp and clean emotional vocals, chugging, thunderous riffs and plenty of guitar solo’s the band channel the energy and flamboyance of NWOBHM-era bands while injecting blackened moments of aggressive growls and bleakness.

While certainly taking risks musically, Khemmis have managed to find a comfortable balance where Desolation seems to stay true enough to their two previous releases that garnered so much attention so as not to alienate, yet took enough strides forward as to keep things interesting.

#4 Bast – Nanoångström

2014s debut record, Spectres, from Londoners Bast, was a shot of adrenaline. It’s meaty, ugly doom/sludge was fresh and inventive and it was a record that really stood out that year. After a long four-year wait, during which time they would head out on the road with some of the genres big hitters such as Conan and Pallbearer, Bast returned with Nanoångström and in doing so became a heavyweight of the genre in their own right.

The record is divided into six chapters of long and experimental works that dance expertly between genres, from brooding doom, to fierce sludge, to atmospheric black metal. Never becoming tired or lazy, each sudden and explosive shift in direction and tempo feels essential and pivotal. The instrumentation, which is the albums greatest strength, is gleaming and shimmering and backs up every move it makes, no matter how optimistic or unexpected.

#3 Grave Lines – Fed Into the Nihilist Engine

“The record is sludge metal on a grander, Amenra-style scale. It is intelligent doom metal that is measured and never repetitive. It is dark neo-folk that probes at the most dismal of human emotions. It is bleak and misanthropic, it is cloaked in misery and yet it allows for brief but frequent moments of gleaming light. There can be beauty in darkness too, if you choose to look for it.”

Read my full review here

#2 Earthless – Black Heaven

“This is a very different Earthless and the changes are very welcome.

It certainly isn’t a case of out with the old and in with the new. Earthless, at their core, remain a tripped-out space rock band and Mitchell still wields his guitar with a swirling, abstract ferocity, however Black Heaven more clearly embraces a number of “classic” and blues rock influences and a more conventional approach with defined and organised choruses and verses.”

Read my full review here

#1 Jon Hopkins – Singularity

Enclosed in complete darkness, curtains drawn, alone and eyes closed I have pushed play on an album time and time again since its release and immediately felt at ease. From the very first beats of Singularity, time has seemingly slowed to the crawl of a much more manageable pace. I have been able to feel tension leaving my body and fears dissipate. It is a powerful sensation and something I experience less frequently as I age. That unique, emotional connection that I can make only to music. Music can make us happy, it can make us sad, it can inspire and motivate. It can heal and repair. It is the latter that has tied me to this record this year, as if I were desperately clinging to it like a life raft until the storm can be weathered. It is not just a record I have become a fan of but one I have depended on during the most stressful and traumatic year of my life.

From his humble beginnings playing keys for Imogen Heap in 1998, collaborating with Brian Eno and touring the world with Coldplay, Jon Hopkins journey to this, his fifth solo record, has been one of twists and turns. When it seemed as though his career as a solo artist may never truly get off the ground, Hopkins could have easily found himself earning a solid living as a producer. This could have even proven to be a fruitful path to take. Those first beats of Singularity therefore are an immediate relief.

Hopkins makes very grounding and human music, taking sharp turns from energetic techno and percussive IDM to joyful, gentle piano music. The lead single from the record, Emerald Rush, is a euphoric and sparkling floor-filler. Neon Pattern Drum is driven by ferocious, glitchy beats. The real beauty in Singularity however, is it’s rapid ascension followed by it’s gradual and steady decline into a minimal and transfixing state of beautiful solo piano, as contained in the unwinding Echo Dissolve and the perfectly tempered Recovery which plays out the record. This is a record that does not simply end but slowly winds down to a complete halt and, for me, the journey is one of tranquillity that is worth the ride time and time again.



Caspar Brötzmann Massaker – The Tribe and Black Axis (2019 re-issues)

Review by: Graeme J Baty

I make an effort to check out everything that comes in, I love hearing new music, even if it’s stuff that I probably won’t like. On some occasions, something comes in and I’m left wondering why the hell have I not heard this before? Those moments are golden! The first two albums by Caspar Brötzmann Massaker arrived and that golden moment happened. This immediately stood out and sounded fantastic to my ears. A few days later I’ve had the albums on repeat for some time.

Southern Lord Recordings are adding to their hugely impressive catalogue with reissues of the first album; The Tribe 1987 and second album Black Axis 1989. Southern Lord seem incapable of releasing a duff record. So I decided to give this a shot. Certainly ahead of their time in the 80s, perhaps the time is finally right for CBM to find a wider audience.

Title track The Tribe brings with it Birthday Party/Grinderman type vibes and some admirably outrageous riffs. Grinderman style noise meets a more restrained and focused Sonic Youth SYR noise. There’s real live performance sound to the mix, played at the appropriate volume it sounds like you’re in the room with the band.

The guitar sound sits quite high up in the mix, eclipsing the vocals. Instrumental but never minimal, the guitar takes the lead role. It shouldn’t work but it does and it does really well on Blechton. Caspar’s vocals channel sounds not to dissimilar to John Cale in tone, delivering simple vocal lines perfectly executed to accompany the music, yet not overshadow it.

Primal chants of Massaker juxtapose the seemingly untamed guitar wail. Clocking in at over 9 minutes, it takes a primitive Krautrock like rhythm and pummels you with it for the entire duration. Unlike the standard Krautrock, it doesn’t subdue or bore you with endless repetition, I find myself on the edge of my seat for the entire song enthralled in the noise. Quite an exciting journey.

Black Axis sees the band move into more avant-garde direction. Songs elongate into Swans like compositions clocking in at up to 16 minutes. Hunter sounds like the sonic equivalent of an anxiety attack with its finger tapping drilling into your skull.

The albums are enthralling and sometimes challenging. The Tribe acts as the perfect soft landing introduction to the music of Caspar. The avant-garde approach ramping up for the follow-up album Black Axis which is a trend that continues into following work. Two remarkable albums from a band that deserve much greater recognition than they have experienced.

The reissues are out now on Southern Lord Recordings.

Gav Wyatt 2018 music roundup – FEATURE

Gav Wyatt 2018 music roundup – FEATURE

Gav Wyatt selects his highlights of 2018!

2018… What a year! I joined Blank Slate right at the end of 2017, accepted into something which was a personal stepping up in levels for myself. I’d previously cut my gig photography teeth working with the local charity Oxjam across the Northeast covering small gigs and the festival they hold in October, but Blank Slate was an opportunity to move up a gear and I wasn’t going to say no!

Top gig photos of 2018

My end of year review mostly focuses on the images I’ve captured from the gigs I’ve attended, I didn’t move into the world of reviews until right at the end of the year with Sumo Cyco and whilst I’ve only managed to actually get to eight gigs but it feels like so much more, so lets begin.

Don Broco – 19th February – Northumbria University

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My first introduction into ‘the pit’, and what an introduction! me and four other photographers clambering over each other for position all trying to capture the best angle. I was nervous if I’m honest, to begin with but once the band came on stage you can’t help but to fall in love with your position and Enjoy the show. The band themselves played to a young crowd with an energetic frontman filled with a dazzling light show which included everything the crowd came to see them for.

Belly – 14th June – Whitley Bay Playhouse

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90’s indie band Belly visited the northeast and played in front of a sell out crowd at the Whitley Bay Playhouse, another first for me for venues. A good crowd, Mostly middle-aged saw belly perform music from the 90’s, you could feel the sense of nostalgia in the air and the band performed a well-rehearsed set which you could tell they had done a thousand times before interacting well with the crowd.

There was a small hiccup when Tanya dDonellystopped the show with an issue with her monitor which she thought she’d fixed only to stop everything a further two times until she knew it was perfect, I liked that touch and the crowd gave her and the band all the patience they needed to get it right to continue.

Pussy Riot – 21st August – Newcastle Riverside

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Pussy Riot, famous for all the right or wrong reasons, depending on your opinion, arrived in Newcastle just after performing at the Edinburgh Fringe. I didn’t know what to expect with this but what the crowd got was a wonderful piece of performance art centred around the performance drawn from band founder Maria Alyokhina’s memoir; Riot Days, about her imprisonment in the Gulag following a protest action in 2012 in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Rudimental – 19th October – Newcastle O2 Academy

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A band that’s been together now for eight years brought their drum and bass act to the Newcastle Academy, a step up in size for venues for me, if I’m completely honest I thought I had struggled with this one photography wise however the band were as good as they’d sound in your living room and the crowd loved them, they got everything they came to see.

Glasvegas – 24th October – Boiler Shop

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The Boiler Shop! A stunning venue. Filled with a two-tone light show and the haunting melodies of Glasvegas on the 10th anniversary of their debut album ‘Glasvegas’. The band were sublime

Soul ll Soul – 4th November – Sage Gateshead

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Soul ll soul arrived in Gateshead to perform for the thirty-year anniversary tour, thirty years on from Back to Life and the band still sounded just as good. A night for many to reminisce on where they were thirty years ago with the crowd mostly dancing along, finishing the set with Back to Life.

Jon Hopkins – 18th November – Boiler Shop

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Without question my gig of the year, I had been introduced to Hopkins earlier in the year by a good friend and I was blown away with what I heard. So when I heard that he would be making his way into Newcastle for a Gig I had to go and I was not disappointed accompanied by a stunning display of visuals projected onto the screen behind Hopkins his heavy bass and electronic synths echoed and permeated through the boiler shop crowd. If you haven’t seen the review on Blank slate then check it out because no amount of what I say will ever match it.

Sumo Cyco – 3rd December –  Newcastle University

Finishing the year with the Canadian Punk metal band Sumo Cyco, My first review of the year, and having never had the chance to see this band perform all I can say is that I’d jump at the chance to see them again, Skye Sweetnam leading the line of the four-piece band that were providing support for the headliners CKY, a perfect finish to a great year being able to work with some great people!

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