Monday, 31 October 2011

Damnation Festival Preview

Damnation Festival
November 5th
Leeds University

As alluded to in our preview of Constellations, the festival goer need no longer go into hibernation with the end of summer. You won’t find this particular creature mistakenly taking shelter under an unlit bonfire, which unwittingly becomes their funeral pyre. In fact you won’t find me anywhere near a bonfire on the 5th of November as I’ll be making the trip over to Leeds for this year’s instalment of Damnation festival. Where for £29 you can take your pick from three stages worth of heaviness.

Now entering its fifth year in Leeds, the festival originally began life over the Pennines in Manchester in 2005. Yours truly was lucky enough to play the inaugural event and am more than happy to report that it has very much gone from strength to strength ever since.

Damnation’s organisers have managed to score some impressive coups over the years, Carcass’ first re-union show on home soil in 2008 being an obvious contender. This year sees a plethora of bands who, as with Carcass, have called the legendary Earache Records home. The labels MOSH catalogue numbers grace the spines of much of my CD collection so let’s have a look at their Damnation bound alumni.

Influential Brummie industrialists Godflesh are playing only their second British gig of 2011. Having initially reformed for France’s Hellfest in 2010, they have played only a handful of gigs since, so this is likely to be your only chance to catch them in the near future. Much to the credit of the organisers Damnation largely avoids repeat bookings, one of the pitfalls that frequently lead to the feeling of déjà vu at major outdoor festivals.

Currently one of Earache’s highest profile acts, Huddersfield’s Evile are the only band on this year’s bill to have graced Damnation’s stage previously, and back in 2006 they were still unsigned. In the interim they have released three albums through the Nottingham label and have also had to contend with the tragic death of bassist Mike Alexander whilst on tour in 2009. With the band’s career trajectory unlikely to see them returning to Wakefield’s Snooty Fox anytime soon and hometown gigs a rarity this is an excellent opportunity to see the band on a West Yorkshire stage.

Poles Decapitated are another band who have managed to bounce back from the death of a member. Seeing them open for grind super group Lock Up at Bradford Rios in 2000 now seems like another lifetime. At the time brothers Waclaw ‘Vogg’ and Witold ‘Vitek’ Kieltyka were still in their teens, but they managed to blow the audience away with tracks from their Earache debut ‘Winds Of Creation’. Sadly, Vitek was killed in a tour bus accident in 2007, whilst Decapitated’s then vocalist Adrian ‘Covan’ Kowanek was left severely injured. It was only in 2009 that Vogg announced his plans to assemble a new line-up and this will be their first UK date since the release of their album ‘Carnival Is Forever’.

With Decapitated now signed to German heavyweight label Nuclear Blast it’s down to Scots Cerebral Bore to represent Earache’s current crop of death metal acts. I’ve only caught the band once before, when a larger than life lady supplied guest guttural vocals. Slightly more slim line Simone ‘Som’ Pluijmers, who hails from Holland, is now the band’s permanent front-woman.

For details of the rest of the bill and ticket information head to

Andrew Whittaker

Friday, 21 October 2011

Constellations Festival Preview

Constellations Festival
November 12th
Leeds University

As readers of RB will know, we are very keen in supporting festivals that offer something unique; wonderful memory generators. With summer sadly far behind us, the end of year period was once a long hard slog up til xmas… but not these days. One of the reasons to stay merry is the excellent Constellations Festival which, after a roaring success last year secured its place on RB’s ‘must go to’ list.

This year sees Constellations score a massive scoop by booking Stephen Malkmus (Pavement), which in itself will come close to warranting the £30 or so entry fee. Elsewhere, Yuck and Wild Beasts promise great things aswell as smaller but equally exciting prospects, such as Spectrals, Vessels and Ringo Deathstarr. Some of the bands on the lineup are new to RB but judging by the company they are keeping, it should be a day to remember.

And the Exhibition Hall will be expanded from last year to include a load more interesting diversions. Well, diversions is unfair, with WARP Films no less working with Constellations, it may well eclipse the main event. Specially commissioned works, a pop up cinema and the chance to purchase some unique art sounds like a winner to us

As well as all that, there are several pre-fest shows in the days leading up. Check the website for details, but Los Campesinos! at The Cockpit and a couple of Brudenell shows should certainly whet your appetite.

Constellations really does offer something different. The lineup is a spot on mix of leftfield big names and quirky unknown curios that are surely destined to make their way to the top of your Christmas list. More details can be found on their website

Dean Freeman

Monday, 10 October 2011

Post War Glamour Girls Debut Single, Review

Post War Glamour Girls
Spitting Pearls / Ode To Harry Dean
Sturdy Records

Post War Glamour Girls formed around a year ago in Leeds and this is their debut single on Sturdy Records, also home of The Wind Up Birds.

It’s always a good start when 30 seconds in I’m thinking; there’s nothing else on my ‘to review’ pile that’s going to sound like this. ‘Spitting Pearls’ is a sprawling, subterranean claw through queasy Nick Cave atmospherics, superb dynamics twisting the dark, looping tale round to an epic, screaming conclusion. It takes a few turns to get your mind around what is actually happening, so odd in its construction that it’s hard to know where it is going, a real horrorshow descent into some form of madness.

The flipside is ‘Ode To Harry Dean’ which starts off as a far more discordant beast, crunching, fire and brimstone ranting driven by rumbling tom and snare crashes and super fuzzed up lead guitar. And then it’ll cut to a sweet vocal and guitar part. And with 4 minutes down it cuts to something else that could even be described as an anthemic chorus. It works though. Similarly to SP it’s a journey, unorthodox structures surprising at every turn and it takes a while to settle in. So, a bizarre combo leaving us with; an in-your-face-slow-burner. I’ll take that.

There’s a lovely reverberating sound across the record - plucks and clicks and ghostly backing vocals - mixed with over distorted drums and crunching, abrasive vocals. It’s a massive, full sound that benefits from repeated listens. So, if you splash out for the limited edition 7”, I can assure you, it won’t be one of those that gets played once and sits on the shelf. Post War Glamour Girls just keep drawing you back for more, albeit in a rather sinister and disturbingly pleasing manner.

Dean Freeman


Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Spills 'Occam's Razor' Review

Occam's Razor
The Spills
Philophobia Music

Misconceptions. Rhubarb Bomb works hard to promote Wakefield and its music. A mistake is to presume everyone else is up to speed with the changes. It’s easy to forget people outside Wakefield (they do exist…) aren’t as keyed in. A lot of people I meet still think that Escobar is the only venue in Wakefield (it closed in Summer 2010). A lot of people think Lapels are the bright young things of its guitar driven Indie scene (they split in 2009). On occasion, I introduce myself as editor of RB and people think I am Rob Dee (he departed in 2008). What is all this hard work for?

During Rob’s period at the helm, Rhubarb Bomb released a compilation. My old band appeared on it, alongside many others, including The Spills. Since the tailend of 2007, my band split, side projects were formed and duly split or ignored. I started a record label, disbanded a record label and then restarted it 2 years later. I started writing for RB and then took control – it’s been two years now. I met a girl, fell in love and we’ve lived together for 3 years. It’s been a hectic time. One constant in all that time has been The Spills. Same lineup, just getting better, slowly but surely. The sick thing is, the part that blows MY mind is that they only finished Uni this summer. How they manage that?

Whilst Wakefield has transformed around them, The Spills have simply worked and worked and honed and started over and worked some more. With the wisdom of veterans and the sparkle of youth. And if ever anything was going to change those heavily outdated perceptions of Wakefield, it would be their debut album, Occam’s Razor. Not only does it prove how much Wakefield Music has blossomed in the last few years, but also that it - and they - have a fine future ahead.

Recorded mainly over two days, live on to 2 inch tape, it perfectly captures the wonderful energy of a live band. The drums ring and smash wonderfully. The bass rattles along, the guitars, clean as summer streams or raw as horse flesh sushi, fly out of the speakers, directly into your frontal lobe. But don’t be mistaken, it’s not a live cut of the band. So much care has been taken over every detail. Flourishes appear all over, little harmonies, breaks; it’s a great sounding record.

Things open with the lovely ‘Lockets’. A step on from last year’s opener ‘Fish Eye Lens’ (from Smoke Signals EP) it begins in a relaxed, laid back pose, as Guitarist / Singer Chad warmly draws us in, with an engaging, up close feel reminiscent of Russell from The Research. A couple of minutes in, the more familiar scream of singer Rob Slater arrives and all hell breaks loose; anthemic, bittersweet hell. This moment of interplay between Chad and Rob sets up the record and for me it is one of its greatest achievements. I love bands that have a few different singers. Like Sonic Youth, they bounce off one another with style to spare, yet is perhaps the knowing of that long band history that adds that extra special something to the childhood friends towing and froying.

Special moments are plentiful on this record. ‘Summer Vibes’ – wisely chosen as the free download prior to the albums release – is symptomatic of The Spills great leap forward. Equally hook filled pop and hard rocking melancholy it encapsulates the dusk of childhood summers disappearing into an unknown future; at once terrifying and thrilling. ‘Heat Death of The Universe’ channels some ‘In Utero’ heaviness for it’s grand opening and ‘Newton’s Flaming Laser Sword’ recalls labels mates Imp and the toxic, twisted riffology found across their excellent ‘Just Destroyer’ EP. Other Wakefield signposts are visible in some of the twisting guitar freefalls (Runaround Kids) or the heart on sleeve, big beat led poppier moments (The Old House). But overall, it is the sound of a very confident band making it sound easy and fun.

As with Runaround Kids, also on Philophobia Music, I am equal parts pleased, surprised and impressed that a debut album has been released that is this well formed and thought out. It’s a true ‘record’ – meaning it ebbs and flows over its running order. It has hidden moments, it has immediate rushes; it is effortless yet honed to perfection. Yet this shouldn’t be a surprise because though this is their debut, these four people have been playing together for an awful long time. They have worked their craft. The sense of four people in a room coming together and creating something great is palpable. Each plays their part. On some tracks I would say the drums are almost the lead instrument. It’s a perfect balance of musicianship that adds additional layers of sensed excitement, as well as emotion to the overall experience.

So how did a Wakefield band manage this eh? Are The Spills simply a fantastic, on form band that have totally found their groove? Or are there greater forces at work, a convergence of time and space aligning across this record, beamed across the ether from some far and distant future? As The Spills clearly know, the most obvious answer is usually the correct one.

Dean Freeman

A Collection Of Calamity 3 (Compilation) Review

A Collection of Calamity 3
Various Artists
Rock and Roll Circus

This is a really cool compilation from Rock & Roll Circus, a rehearsal space in Armley, Leeds. Basically the staff there have picked some of their favourite tracks by the bands who rehearse with them. My initial thought was that it seems like a pretty cool place to work if you get to listen to this kind of thing, albeit through the walls, on a daily basis.

‘Men Only’ deliver some C86-esqe scuzzy Indie Pop with ‘Bored Bored Bored’ that is fun and brisk, which is a good thing, of course. ‘Buffalo Bones’ grind out some sleazy riffs, a lot more raw than their recent EP. ‘Black Water’ and ‘Die Hards Divide’ work a much more traditional hard rock groove. ‘Honour Before Glory’ are a definite standout with an organ led, doomy post rock workout, a cross between ‘Scotland’s Shame’ by Mogwai and ‘Videotape’ by Radiohead. Maybe.

There are some great tracks here that are quite out of the ordinary. ‘Post War Glamour Girls’ is at turns dark lounge pop and scuzzy, epic Nick Cave wailing. Really great. Moody Gowns have a much more playful take on weird with their infectious sandbox approach to accompaniment. Things get a little more disco later on, ‘Love Bites’ come on all Ladytron, with less ice and ‘Tsienna’ and ‘Bear Mask’ add their own, less electro based touches to exciting, driving tunes.

As with all comps, it is difficult to take in at once. But aside from the sheer variety here, the consistent quality of all the bands here shines through. I didn’t have to skip one. And I like the thoughtful approach to the track order too. A great little DIY release that is celebrating something great; a community of diverse but great musicians. Awesome.

Dean Freeman

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Protectors 'The Stem & Leaf' EP Review

The Stem & Leaf

Another first for Philophobia Music; a 12 inch Vinyl. Sweet. And Protectors too, one of Rhubarb Bomb’s fave bands. A perfect combo?

Protectors feature members from a range of classic Wakefield bands, but I don’t want to mention them. And hopefully this will be the last time I even mention that mere fact as ‘The Stem & Leaf’ sees them finally move out of those long, tremendous shadows and establish themselves fully as an awesome band to rank amongst their past successes.

The Protectors sound is so ingrained into my understanding of Wakefield’s DNA that I find it difficult to pick apart. That’s not to say they are in any way atypical; rather that they seem timeless and current at the same time. Equally difficult is that they make it all sound so damn easy.

Basically we have beautiful, weaving vocal melodies snaking their way around energised, direct, smart and heartwarming songwriting, delivered in a super sweet guitar pop package. I say ‘basically’… Protectors do a great thing of being incredibly pop and accessible but never, ever boring. You want to bounce around and go nuts, but closer inspection reveals a genuine life affirming heart at its core, working in perfect harmony with a clued up punk Brain. Like I said, timeless and of the moment, at the same time.

There, I’ve tried describing the experience. With more a specific look at what we have, 2 of the tracks here appeared on Protectors debut album ‘Cant Shake The Moves’. As much as I enjoyed that album, it felt rather like a means to release their first batch of tunes – get them out there for people to hear. This feels much more a thought-out, purpose built piece and the 2 tracks already released benefit greatly from their remixes. The new tracks work in the anthemic qualities that made Pylon (oops! I couldn’t resist) such a joy; the pounding thrill of ‘Overtime’, the uplifting drive of ‘The Carousel’ and the gentle melancholy of ‘Shake The Moves’ all combine to successfully convey the essence of what makes Protectors so great.

It’s a great package and I cant wait to get hold of one (Yes I have a promo, but I wanna actually, y’know, buy it too. I’m sure that’s hard to understand). Solid Gold Hit, as they maybe used to say.

Dean Freeman