Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Mark with the Sea – When the Blood Runs Dry

Gliding into my earphones with a healthy mix of noisy electric guitar is the opening track ‘Bows & Arrows’ from Mark with the Sea’s new album When the Blood Runs Dry. With the rollicking trashing cymbal crashes and Hammond organ tumbling along, although I haven’t had the opportunity to see Mark with the Sea live yet, they will definitely be on my list to see this year.

Marc Oswin is one of the locals that has been playing around the Ballarat scene for many years now in different projects and bands, but by far this is the most exciting thing he has ever done. The second release from the band and the follow up to 2013’s 13 Years, the choruses of the tracks that make up this album are catchy and something that if you listen to this album a couple of times, you will be singing along in no time.

Regarded as a poetic and literal songwriter, the lyrics that make up this album are both intriguing and enjoyable to listen to. One of the highlights of this album is ‘Fractured Parts’. From the reverb guitar lines and the soft acoustic tones, this tune has many layers to the sound producing something that is a new discovery every time.

Having played in Geelong at the NightJar Markets recently, Mark with the Sea is set to play a few shows over the upcoming months so make sure that you catch them and pick up this tremendous local release whilst you are at it.

Written by Tex Miller

Review: HEADS. – s/t

Oh hell yes, this is my sort of music. Distil the syrupy sound of the melvins, throw in the squally punk attitude of McLusky and stir it all up with a magic pinch of anarchy and you’ll have the Recipe for Heads, the Berlin-based band who are responsible for this debut release. Perfectly mixed by Coilguns lunatic Jona Nido and beautifully mastered by Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna), this self-titled LP is a stunning example of what the underground can achieve and it is a must have for anyone who worships at the altar of disaffected noise-mongers like the Melvins, Jesus Lizard and Sonic Youth.

The album opens with the sludge-bass groove of ‘a mural is worth a thousand words’, a menacing, skull-flattening piece of work that recalls Mclusky’s wonderful ‘…do Dallas’ album with its sneaky guitar lines and half-spoken, half screamed vocals. As an album opener it’ll either have you hooked, and ready to worship at the band’s collective feet, or running a mile. Guess which side of the fence I’m on. Next up is the brilliantly titled ‘chewing on kittens’ which sounds like a cross between ‘night goat’ and Tom Waits. It’s fabulously dirty, suspiciously groovy and delivered like the last will and testament of a disillusioned preacher on the run with a bottle of whiskey and a lascivious nun. Throughout the guitars spit and burn, the drums are a disturbing rumble and the vocals whisper uneasy thoughts deep into your conscious, leaving you broken and confused. Now thoroughly locked into your brain, the band continue their mission to diminish your soul with ‘skrew’ which sounds like Nick Cave at his most intoxicated fronting Oxbow. There is little in the way of redemption here, just a gaping crimson vortex leading to the underworld beckoning, always, for you to follow. So much for the first side of the album, if you’re listening on vinyl, as it spins to its end, you’ll be lucky to still have your sanity.

‘Black river’ is a song with a lighter touch, and the first one to lead with guitar rather than bass (not that the band’s cruelly distorted bass monster isn’t lurking around, just waiting to tear into you) and, with its dark lyricism and drawled vocals the track recalls a mix of Rollins Band, Nick Cave and QOTSA. It’s the sound of fatigue given its own unique sound, and the somnambulant drums which power the track keep the pace hypnotic rather than hyperactive, always sucking the listener further into the Heads’ pool of sludge. At six minutes, the real trick that Heads pull off is keeping the interest whilst delivering a musical arrangement that is Spartan to say the least. What is important here, however, is what the band don’t use and the spaces between notes speak volumes in the parched dry, bleached-bon desolation the band evoke. With taught percussion and some truly bowel-destroying bass, ‘Foam’ is an album highlight that is somewhere between Grinderman and Rollins band and which never fails to hook you in. The album ends, all too quickly, alas, with ‘the voynich manuscript; and you can only hope that the other seven songs recorded during the session will see the light of day sometime. ‘The voynich manuscript’ is a five minute exercise in subtle horror, as filthy as a blood-spattered basement and yet devoid of the adrenalin pounding horror of a madman with an axe (or a rock band, for that matter) with guitars largely employed in adding texture and atmosphere rather than flaming riffs.

Heads are clearly not a band for everyone. Those who are familiar with Coilguns will be surprised at the band’s comparative subtlety and deeply, deeply impressed by Jona Nido’s stunning production job. What we have here are a band who look back to the art metal of the early nineties and crossbreed it with the maniacal fervour of Nick Cave and Tom Waits to create something uniquely malevolent. It’s hard to imagine another band who sound like this, but if, like me, you miss the days when bands were able to craft something truly unpleasant without resorting to either massive riffs (although plenty abound when the need arises) or harrowing screams, then this self-titled little beauty will be right up your alley.

Review: HEADS. – s/t

Melbourne Musician Ed Fraser moved to Berlin a year and a half ago and started the band Heads, with two Germans. The band has since signed to This Charming Man Records in Europe and the US.

The band has released a preview from a track off their upcoming LP which was recorded in a heritage listed building called Bikini Test in the Swiss Alps in September. The LP is due out early next year.

Ed describes it as “90s-ish and heavy: somewhere between Shellac, The Jesus lizard and Young Widows“.

Check it out and support an international band with an Aussie independent heart.

Review: HEADS. – s/t

Your holiday’s over – deal with it. To help you get your nose back to the grindstone, here’s the grinding debut track from HEADS. “A Mural Is Worth A Thousand Words” is post-hardcore in search of a genre description to better describe its low-slung mélange of “Nick Cave ‘off heroin’, Shellac and My Disco” with shades of The Jesus Lizard and Quicksand. The two-parts German, one-part Australian HEADS. tracked their upcoming LP in a heritage listed building called “bikini test” in the Swiss Alps and mixed with Magnus Lindberg of Cult of Luna, so we’re expecting monumental things. No pressure, guys!

Review: HEADS. – s/t

Can we call Heads. Aussie? They’re a Berlin trio fronted by Melbourne expat Ed Fraser, who enlisted two German members to flank him. They’ll release a debut album around March or April through German label This Charming Man, and the lead single ‘A Mural Is Worth a Thousand Words’ certainly grabs – and proceeds to throttle – our ears. It’s thunderous yet stripped-back, complete with a perfectly dramatic pause in the middle. Hardy, hard-bitten stuff done right. Recorded in a heritage-listed building in the Swiss Alps and mixed with Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna), the forthcoming LP has been likened to The Jesus Lizard, Shellac and My Disco. Check out a teaser video for it.

Review: SWHAT – Down In Tango Zulu

This album (SWHAT – Down in Tango Zulu) was posted to me from Australia. I take great comfort from the fact that there are still bands around prepared to do that. Lets face it, if some-one does that you have already got a soft spot for them, before you have even heard a note. So can you even imagine my utter joy when I played this thing and it hit me dead on the sweet spot between my ears. This band sound wonderfully old school punk – I really can’t tell what a joy it is to be playing the songs for the umpteenth time. I am reminded just how rewarding it is to be a zine ed, when I get treated to experience such talent. One day they might come to the UK, I will do my level best to go to as many of their shows as is humanly possible.

– Neil Duncan

Review: SWHAT – Down In Tango Zulu

There’s little as thrilling as hearing a new band that bangs out some smoking Punk jams while already having their own sound and style and that elusive X factor that just says, “Listen up mofo.” What’s more SWHAT is a mere duo (on this recording at least) cranking out their thing from the suburbs of marvellous Melbourne, Australia. Dunno if it’s that Aussie connection but opener ‘Down In Tango Zulu’ is a ringer for prime time SAINTS – it could even be Chris Bailey on vocals. Next up ‘Henry (Policy Enforcers)’ lifts some BAD BRAINS P.M.A. and so it continues – great Aussie Punk but twisted somehow – add a bit of TURBONEGRO and you’re closer. Simple fact, when a stellar track like ‘Shake That Spell’ can be followed and obliterated in the wild garage core of ‘Reinsert Me’, it’s fucking impossible to criticise. Closer ‘Don’t Throw Your Anxiety Away’ slows things down to a Grunge lurch and is the perfect finale with dual vocals sounding like Mould and Hart trading bellows during HUSKER DU’s ‘New Day Rising’ era. An easy contender for record of the year – and what’s more this ain’t a self-released CDEP… This is a solid black vinyl 10″ which looks great and sounds perfect. Highly recommended.

– Steve Scanner

Review: SWHAT – Down In Tango Zulu

Ballarat three-piece SWHAT have worked their instruments into a style of modern punk that gives a nod to their roots and is stripped back from any of the synthesiser, playfulness or pop that characterises many of the contemporary Australian post-punk bands that will be on the layman’s radar. The band’s approach to crafting self-produced album Down In Tango Zulu is just as stripped-back as their sound; they used a reel-to-reel recorder in their home studio. Independent punk spirit at heart!

With eight tracks and a 21-minute total playing time, if you blinked you’d miss it. It’s fast-paced, ‘70s-punk-inspired and high-energy, and with most tracks going for around two minutes the mood keeps changing. The whole album feels like someone recorded the chaos of a manic house show. The title track welcomes a bunch of friends who arrive to an already pumping atmosphere with clinking bottles, high-fives and too many people piled into the living room. Henry (Policy Enforcers) gets deep down and dirty with lots of low range fuzz, low-fi gravelly vocals and steady drumming which is maintained throughout the album.

Party vibes continue in We Will Not Be Tolled which is bouncy mosh-inducing. Lunatic Fringe picks up the pace and becomes frenetic whilst still retaining the aural hallmarks of previous tracks. A fuzz fest of guitar tones on the crunchy end of the spectrum could make all the tracks rather samey but SWHAT have individualised each track by writing distinctive riffs and melodies which adds attention-holding variation. The occasional group harmony adds contrast for your listening pleasure. The party rages on until the last track of the album, Don’t Throw Your Anxiety Away, which provides a ballad-like end to the evening and party guests linger in the house to soak up the vibes of a great night.

Sophie Dunsford

Review: Mark With The Sea – 13 Years

These are songs that remain as free as a bird, bag blowing in the gusty wind style, the linear run of material pulling off many the dreamlike, shiatsu-for-the-soul type moments. ‘Complex Chemistry’ invites splashes of Ry Cooder-esque slide and a jazzy female vocal, ‘Princess, Save Your Breath’ could be a modern-day folk psalm with harmonica and plucking strings kneading the speakers, while closer, ‘Spark Archer’ is one for the lovers.  Transcendent stuff.

– Nick Argyriou

Review: Matheson – The Word Is On The Wire

Working on your sophomore album can be difficult. For a lot of bands that rush through it, there isn’t the same passion as the first record and it can inevitably be called the sophomore slump. Luckily for the band Matheson, instead of rushing they have been taking their time on their self-produced album called The Word is On The Wire. The results are a very professional sounding record that has an eclectic mix of good if not great songs that are full of emotion. Matheson has some of the live energy you feel with a band like Arcade Fire. It’s this forward momentum that feels like it’s progressing and just building upon more and more momentum. They also have some tunes that are more laid back and rely on the singer’s commanding voice and minimal instrumentation. It’s a good mix of songs that lead you through a gamut of emotions that is very rewarding in the end.

The album opens with one of the highlights on the album “Ghosts.” This is one of those songs that you can tell after the first thirty seconds is going to be good. The blazing guitars, the kinetic drums and the singer’s triumphant voice come together creating a tornado of sounds that is steady and looking towards the future. At the beginning of “Sailors Son” it takes down the energy a couple of notches trading it in for harmony and a melancholy. A little after the two- minute mark the band rocks the hell out. The drums are frantic, the lead guitar is thrashing and the bass is keeping the energy balanced.

There are some indie rock ballads on the album not unlike those that you might hear from a group like Band of Horses. Songs like “Golden Ring” and “We’ve Lost It All” are visceral experiences that could be a tear inducing experience.f you enjoy well-produced unpretentious indie rock that delivers on multiple levels I would suggest giving The Word is On The Wire a listen. Eleven songs strong make it an album worth picking up.

– Ted Rogen