It seems rock music frontmen have taken a collective New Year's Resolution to quit/get fired from their bands. That guy from Asking Alexandria quit to pursue his even worse side-project band, and the two juvenile pricks in Blink-182 fired the third, even-more-juvenile prick from their punk-rock armpit fart of a band. The split in the former was amicable; the split in the latter was a tit-for-tat spat of call-and-response press releases. Given the continued existence of both bands in both cases, the listener is the one that loses the most. Let's move on. Quickly.
Normally the heavy music fraternity shies away from dropping big records in the first four weeks of the year, preferring to capitalise on either late-spring release dates (so fans have enough time to acclimatise to new material before festival season) or the onset of autumn, when slow sales and a generally barren schedule for the wider world can ensure big chart positions (Pro Tip: Avenged Sevenfold didn’t get that UK number one album by releasing in a busy week. 2015, though, has seen an entire cluster of big names spew forth albums already. It’s as if the Christmas release drought was nothing more than a touch of trapped wind, and it’s all coming out in one, big, new music belch.
Marilyn Manson (pictured) has produced arguably his most critically well-received release in damn near a decade in the form of ‘The Pale Emperor’. After a series of weak and sloppy releases that saw many consign the man born Brian Warner to wistful whines about the good old days, this latest album sees Manson nearly back to his best. It marries that Bowie-love he wallowed in on 1998's 'Mechanical Animals' with a wry understanding of the blues, with just enough of that slick goth-shock-stomp to re-energise the fanbase he let wither when he was more interested in lounging about with ingénue actresses and painting bad watercolours than he was at being the best damn rockstar of his generation. Don’t mess it up this time, Brian.
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Marilyn Manson, ‘Deep Six’, from ‘The Pale Emperor’
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Closer to home, Enter Shikari are still pumping with more vim and vigour than all those Brit-rock halfwits they get lumped with on composite magazine covers. It’s almost laughable when you think about how many UK rock bands flap their gums aimlessly over “pushing the boundaries” and “trying new ideas” when you hold their flaccid examples of “experimentalism” up to Enter Shikari’s way of working. ‘The Mindsweep’ quite rightly smashed into the UK top 10, falling just two places shy of its predecessor, 2012’s ‘A Flash Flood Of Colour’. It makes Funeral For A Friend’s latest effort – the competent but arguably overfamiliar ‘Chapter & Verse’, released on the same day – look somewhat meh in comparison.
Taking things on a heavier tangent, Napalm Death’s fifteenth studio album, ‘Apex Predator – East Meat’, once again demonstrated that it’s more than just longevity and staying power that has kept ND at the rotten heart of UK extreme music. The band’s commitment to challenging the worst aspects of human nature was exemplified by the band’s frontman this month. Barney Greenway wrote a letter to the heavy-metal loving president of Indonesia, asking him to spare the lives of two Australian citizens who have recently received the death sentence for smuggling heroin into the country. You can check out the whole letter here. Makes a refreshing change from bands using their spare time to launch T-shirt lines or take selfies of their stupid pets, at any rate.
This month also saw the long, long, long awaited return of black metal/post metal/experimental solo beast Caïna, with his new record ‘Setter Of Unseen Snares’. It certainly sent some quarters of the metal fraternity (gender implications intended) into a bit of a spin, but the record itself is staggering: hellish, confrontational, mesmerizing. Go buy it.
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Caïna, ‘I Am The Flail Of The Lord’, from ‘Setter Of Unseen Snares’
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The dark horse of January's release schedule ‘Dormant Heart’, the new album from Reading’s Sylosis. The four-piece haven't lacked for critical praise throughout their career, but this latest effort shows principal guitarist and songwriter Josh Middleton as having a defter hand than any of his contemporaries when it comes to combining metal shred virtuosity with thumping, lines of heavy grooves.
While not released until next month, a couple of tracks from the forthcoming album from Justin Pearson’s Retox, ‘Beneath California’, have popped up on Spotify. ‘Let’s Not Keep In Touch’ and ‘Disappointing Grade’ both feel meatier than most of 2013’s ‘YPPL’ LP. Pearson might have put The Locust back in its box (for the time being, at least), but he’s still mightily pissed off at the world.
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Retox, ‘Let’s Not Keep In Touch’
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The heavier end of the 2015's festival calendar has also been in the business of shoring up their line-ups over the last few weeks – except in one notable case. Sonisphere, which made a quite frankly triumphant return to Knebworth in 2014, confirmed what many people had already feared when they announced that the festival would not be taking place in the UK in 2015.
In this age of announcing bands in a drip-drip-drip manner throughout the year, in a flaccid attempt to keep media and fan attentions (with the intent of driving those ticket sales, always the ticket sales), for a major festival to not have announced a single act with a mere six months to go until the event was unusual in itself. AC/DC playing Wembley, and Foo Fighters’ decision to do their own arena tour, pretty much put the kibosh on Sonisphere this year. With Iron Maiden and Metallica ruled out because of the unwritten thou-shall-not-book-the-same-headliners-two-years-in-a-row rule, and Live Nation’s bigger chequebook laying claim to Slipknot, Muse and Kiss for Download Festival, there just weren't the big names available for another festival to hang their bill on.
In more positive news, Bristol’s quite frankly magnificent Temples Festival capped off its line-up announcements this month with some absolutely killer names. Joining the previously announced Friday and Saturday night headliners Converge and Sunn O))), Earth have been confirmed as the band that will close of three-day event on its Sunday night. They also added a whopping 15 more acts to the overall bill, including the aforementioned Caïna, Voivod, Pallbearer, and local types Svalbard.
There also came confirmation this month that there was going to be a Temples-splashback event in the form of Deathwish Fest, where the Deathwish Inc contingent of the Temples line-up (Converge, Trap Them, Harm’s Way and Young And In The Way) bring a whole day of noisy chaos to ULU in London. What a time to be alive.
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Words: Hugh Platt
Hugh is deputy editor of Thrash Hits