10. Holy Esque – Holy Esque
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Being touted as the best new band your country has to offer is obviously a hell of a compliment, but for many such accolades can quickly become burdensome. Spare a thought then for the four members of Holy Esque, who along with carrying the hopes of a nation as distinguished as Scotland were having those proclamations thrown at them before they’d released a single recording – a metaphorical musical pressure cooker if ever there was one. It was quite a statement then that the Glaswegians not only matched but eclipsed expectations on this debut EP; a four track tour de force which bore the hallmarks of an outfit well equipped to make an impact in the indie world. Sure, a taste for big riffs, distortion pedals and off-kilter vocals is hardly revelatory, but these songs possessed the poise, swagger and assurance of a group who’d already become masters of their craft, with the propulsive energy of ‘Rose’ and the skyscraping ‘Prophet of Privilege’ in particular sounding virtually stadium-ready. It’ll probably take a few more releases to craft their own distinct identity, but as a means of announcing oneself, Holy Esque takes some beating. – AliW 1993.
Stream ‘Rose’ here.
9. Vales – Clarity
In their debut EP, Clarity, Vales seem to have mastered the difficult task of making themselves appear both aggressive and vulnerable. The entirety of Clarity is made up of eruptive moments that scream out in anguish and others that exude a quiet, atmospheric tone that reflects a desolate scenery. This artistic approach may not be anything new or innovative in the Hardcore genre, but it is composed with exceptional ingenuity that certainly makes them standout from their peers. A song like ‘Standing Alone (Isolation)’ would be the perfect exemplary of what Vales is trying to accomplish in Clarity. It begins slowly with a few dissonant notes on the guitar, letting out a delicate echo throughout as if to prepare us for what is about to come. Then suddenly, as the tension steadily begins to rise, the guitars and bass enter into our perception, playing the same riff in unison while creating a distorted wall of sound that abrasively comes bearing down at us. Throughout its run, the instrumentation is loud and heavy, giving out a typical hardcore feel, but while managing to add a slight touch of melodic tenderness to the music. The vocals, even though they’re delivered as frustrated screams, manage to express so much emotion with each utterance. The heaviness of Clarity isn’t meant to reflect anger or rebellion, but rather depression. It’s an introspective look into human nature- the fragility of the heart, the erraticism of the mind, and the burden these two attributes have on the soul. – Paperback Writer
Stream ‘Standing Alone (Isolation)’ here.
8. Revocation – Teratogenesis
Ever since day one, Revocation aimed to impress with their tech death/thrash affair, initially making their way in the underground under the Cryptic Warning incarnation. And if that one issued Cryptic Warning album gave the impression that the band wouldn’t go too far, the albums that followed under the Revocation moniker, revealed a substantial progress in terms of song writing and instrumental competency. Moreover, Revocation have randomly (?) infused some really unexpected elements in their music, in the form of riffs related to avant-garde black/thrash metal (!!!) and to Norwegian colossi such as Ved Buens Ende, Aura Noir or Thorns (the art behind the riff raging over the blast beats, at the beginning of ‘Maniacally Unleashed’ can be easily compared to that of the introductory riff in VBE’s ‘Den Saakaldte’).
Their latest outing, Teratogenesis is nothing short of devastating from start to finish. Revocation anno 2012 are all about the drumming of Phil Dubois-Coyne, which is orbiting around the tech extremes of thrash/death/black metal, the guitars of David Davidson and Dan Gargiulo which stand as the epitome of essential lead/rhythm shredding, the cynically (sic) audible bass of Brett Bamberger and last but not least, the flesh ripping vocals of both guitarists, covering all areas within the extreme metal spectrum. If Teratogenesis shows anything, it’s that these guys can go places, if they choose as such. We have been forewarned. – Voivod
Stream ‘Maniacally Unleashed’ here.
7. TNGHT – TNGHT
TNGHT is one blast of an EP, and it has everything to do with the release’s simplicity. TNGHT strive for the simplest trap rap beats here, tracks devoid of any unnecessary layers, and the end result is sixteen minutes of perhaps the greatest party accompaniment. While some of 2012’s major electronic releases stand out because of how lofty they are (here’s looking at you, Will Bevan,) TNGHT is equally noteworthy, simply from continuing modern rap’s trap stylings while the trend’s still fresh in our minds. From 808s to infectious vocal samples, TNGHT is simply begging you to have a fun time. – OmahaStylee94
Stream ‘Bugg’n’ here.
6. Thriftworks – Hydromancy
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I developed an interesting routine after the release of Thrifworks latest EP Hydromancy. Every suffocatingly cloudy and grey morning over the course of this winter was made ever more poignant by a ritualized dance session in my apartment buildings elevator to the lush and subtly bubbling drop in ‘Nightlight’. Somehow, the monotonous hum of machinery opening up to bleak foggy mornings and the tired rush of city life became the perfect companion piece and a crucial component in my appreciation of the EP. Berkley, California based producer Jake Atlas has composed a hyperdynamic conceptualization of neoteric metropolitan melancholia. Without ever deviating from the downtempo throb of street blues and the haze of cigarette smoke. – Silentpotato
Stream ‘Nightlight’ here.
5. Sithu Aye – Isles
Sithu Aye came out of nowhere in 2011 with one of the most promising debuts in a long time, and it was obvious enough the musician was going to make it huge one day. Nobody anticipated the progressive metal guitarist’s very next release to be the game-changer, though. Isles sees Sithu take on multiple duties – producer, arranger and performer – and excel at every single role. For starters, the instruments sound excellent at every turn. The guitar tones possess the perfect amount of crunch, the programmed percussion somehow sounds as vital as any live performer, and the bass adds substantial rhythmic groove. Isles is most impressive with its songwriting, though. ‘Mull’ is the most jaw-dropping track here because of its free-flowing structure, always evolving but never losing sight of its agenda. From catchy riff to soothing transition, the song has certifiable direction, and this attribute exists throughout Isles. Logical songwriting comes head to head with impressive instrumentation to create one of 2012’s most exciting releases, and the thought of Sithu Aye topping this one someday may be a stretch: at the same time, though, it feels oddly possible. – OmahaStylee94
Stream ‘Mull’ here.
4. The Antlers – Undersea
Undersea induces the very kind of sensation that its name implies. It leaves us floating along a stream of euphoric ambience, providing a delicate and alluring atmosphere that easily coaxes us into letting ourselves sink deeper into its musical trance. In this EP, we find The Antlers intimately fusing the calming moods of Cool Jazz and Psychedelia, which really give the music an exquisitely sedating vibe. Every song shares a similar conceptual aesthetic, almost to the point where you can hardly tell them apart from one another, but the music is just so captivating and elegant that you can’t help but not care, and simply lose yourself in all of the blissful splendor. Out of all of the songs in Undersea, ‘Crest’ is certainly the main highlight. Like all the others in the album, it exhibits a very smooth and Jazzy texture that floats along a gentle dream-like soundscape. Peter Silberman’s voice really stand out in this song, delicate and seductive, he adds a sense of intimate sensuality to the music. In all honesty, Undersea, is one of the best efforts by The Antlers because it really consumes you into its own world. It’s so exquisitely hypnotic, exuding a lively display of sounds that leave you astray in a state of cosmic wonder. – Paperback Writer
Stream ‘Crest’ here.
3. Deathspell Omega – Drought
The mysterious Frenchmen in Deathspell Omega are no strangers to morphing their own unique brand of black metal at will, and things are no different with EP Drought. The atypical, almost post-metal-like ‘Salowe Vision’ gets things started on an ominous note with deliberately strummed chords building up to the core of the record where bits of the chaotic and sinister Paracletus shine through against somewhat more streamlined songwriting. But it’s the final three tracks that prove once again that the group is at their strongest marrying together consonance and dissonance; their aggressive speed with a slow, lingering burn. Drought isn’t necessarily Deathspell Omega’s finest hour, but it’s yet another consistent entry into the legacy of one of the genre’s finest. It’s an EP that shows that they’re not out of ideas and they’re not slowing down. – AngelofDeath
Stream ‘The Crackled Book Of Life’ here.
2. Agalloch – Faustian Echoes
Never before has the artistry inside Agalloch’s work been more evident than in Faustian Echoes, Agalloch’s most lengthy track to date, recorded almost complete in one take and all at once. This is undoubtedly Agalloch at their darkest and most unorthodox, the black metal more on the forefront than ever before, all but ridding of the dark, folky soundscapes of their past work – but nothing of what made Agalloch as impressive before is missing. It’s difficult to conclude a record that deviates so far from expectations and yet so close. Faustian Echoes is excellent, it shows all of the right signs of Agalloch becoming a tighter and more focused band whilst showing nothing of what they might do next – which is a good thing because Agalloch have never lived up to artificial expectations, just their own. Stylistically, Faustian Echoes may disagree with you and many other fans of the band, but it is more than enough to prove that Agalloch still have it within them to create another masterpiece in terms of quality, and that’s all that anyone needs to know to celebrate the existence of this excellent EP. Marrow of the Spirit was written with alienation and experimentation in mind, a principle of which Faustian Echoes is thankfully no stranger to, because it shows what the band do best whilst giving absolutely nothing away. A remarkable, compelling work. – DarkNoctus
Stream ‘Faustian Echoes’ here.
1. Burial – Kindred
Wandering through rain, for me, couldn’t have been any more pertinent towards my initial involvements with Kindred. That type of incessant, light rain, roiling its calamity above, but remaining deceptively tranquil at the surface. The sun battled it fruitlessly, barely managing to etch itself through pits in the blanket of grey, made ever darker by its lowly strung angle, consequently pouting a glow of bronzed yellow, offering little assistance for its exact position. I walked for an hour in this curious haze that felt otherworldly for a time, wading my way through Kindred’s entirety in the same breadth—at least twice—before reaching my destination. During that hour, while hooded, sodden and dank, I felt like I was drifting through Will Bevan’s impressions of his own South London locale, as if I could have been there, despite it being perhaps ten time zones distant. Profound it was, to be within a textbook setting—it was as if I was set up just for the event to unfold. I still query my conscience for why on that day, at that particular time did I choose to initiate my relationship with this incomparable individual? Such a perfect moment befitted his instinct as a cultivator of emotion, but I could have never predicted that Kindred would also supplement my experiences wherever I roamed. In all surroundings, it packed the voids and negative regions with its textures, regardless of whether the space clamoured in the echoes of lonely, stone lined office blocks, or nestled in a draught of leaves. It just didn’t seem to make any sign of difference.
Apparently, experiences like these are the fallout from so many of Bevan’s offerings. It’s unsurprising too, for his timbre revels in the undefined limits of music and noise, painting soundscapes that, like the one described above, literally speak for themselves. I’m certain that for those who allowed Bevan to ignite the fire in their heart in 2012, whether it was while making the daily commute, dwelling in a dimmed bedroom, or walking irresponsibly through the rain, that something else was left behind, waiting to be rekindled. We came to appreciate the scratchy moodiness and the dirtied beats lurking in low registers—elements that demanded attention, but didn’t mind if we weren’t strictly listening either. We unassumingly dissected and traded gifts of newly discovered nooks of samples and undercurrents of tonality like hidden treasures. And we haven’t ceased either. To this day, sections of Kindred continue to spark discussion and devotion, transporting us, its listeners, to a place where South London encounters home, wherever that may be—in our minds, our thoughts or our travels. – Taylormemer
Stream ‘Ashtray Wasp’ here.