Catch-Up Reviews #3: Fuck Buttons, Stone Titan, Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, Suuns…

Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

Fuck Buttons have a strong underground following in the electronic scene and their strong drone orientation can split listeners into two very different conclusions; either instant love or overbearing difficulty to understand. For this listener, it was definitely the former when being introduced to Surf Solar from their second album “Tarot Sport” – an album which feels like a spiritual journey throughout; every track dissolves and morphs into each other fluidly. So how does their third release stand? 

Well, Fuck Buttons tended to rely heavily on both drone and progression through both the individual tracks and the albums: they’re still apparent but the album is a whole lot more direct than the previous two full-lengths. This change of approach works wonders on the sexually-charged single The Red Wing where it revolves through two or three stages but eventually brings the intensity to a distorted climax at the 4.35 mark. Then there’s the groovy opening track Brainfreeze; which opens with celebratory drums and swooping synths. The track has one of the catchiest grooves on the whole album at 5.54 – heavy, almost brooding bass, thunderous drums and a collage of textures that flourish in your ears.

Sentients has a nice groove as well, this time accompanied by a nice bouncing electronic vocals (vocoder?) that reverb between different pitches; later joined by the familiar glistening keys almost giving a track highly contrasting emotions. Admittedly, some tracks to glide over or just get tiresome, the last two (Stalker and Hidden XS) especially. Less seems to go on in these tracks and if there is, it’s at a far slower pace than any of the previous tracks – perhaps it’s just a sudden shift in motion that makes these tracks a little less appealing?

Either way, “Slow Focus” is yet another great release from the Bristolian duo. it’s easy to see why reviews might not have been too kind on this album, but the great moments are superb while the downers are easily forgiveable. Fuck Buttons are still champions of aural intensity.

7.8/10
Favourite tracks: The Red WingBrainfreeze, Sentients.

Stone Titan – Scratch ‘N Sniff

Sludge music is going through a strange phrase right now. If you like hardcore that’s heavily influenced by sludge; then 2013 is a great year for you. But if you’re already tired of it, then Stone Titan are one of the bands that are happy to provide you with relief. This trio, while maintaining an aggressive tone in their music, aren’t afraid to get comical: with past song titles like Peace, Love, And Get The Fuck Out Of My Way (which also samples a tongue-in-cheek “D-beat bro, D-beat bro” with laughter in the beginning) and aren’t afraid to get a little silly with subject matter…

“Scratch ‘N Sniff” opens with the track I Wish I Was Fucking Dead and is perhaps the most serious the band is on this release. Brooding bass, slamming riffs that inspire beer-chugs and vicious screaming vocals, it’s simply a punch to a face. A punch in the face that feels good. Faul, the fourth track, is an absolute riffosaurus monster – imagine Harvey Milk in a bad mood (more than usual) and drunk. If that track alone doesn’t get you banging your head, then perhaps nothing else will. Then you have tracks like A Brief History Of Overweight Men; which is full of satirical apathy backed up by incredibly heavy bass-laden riffs and smothering vocals and lyrics (“I just don’t care / I’ll just die / Cover me / In piss and shit / Whatever”).

Basically, this is sludge to chug your beer too. It’s heavy, it’s very catchy and you’ll find yourself obsessing over the replay button. The album cover is a perfect representation of the music: there’s a comical fascination with the morbid. This is Harvey Milk and Butthole Surfers’ dumped son jamming on his guitar while ten beers deep. It’s great stuff.

9.3/10
Favourite songs: FaulI Wish I Was Fucking Dead, Alaskan Thunderfuck.

Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals – Walk Through Exits Only

The trouble with reviewing any Phil Anselmo release in this format that there’s so much history that has to be skipped. Most well-known as vocalist of metal’s legendary Pantera and stoner juggernauts Down, Phil has had his hand in so many projects and bands that most people don’t even realise how busy he really is: guitarist in Arson Anthem and Necrophagia; all-rounder in Superjoint Ritual; guesting on too many albums to mention and producer for even more. If there’s anyone who has a right to criticise music (especially) metal, then it’s Phil.

“Walk Through Exits Only” feels like Anselmo expressing all his pent-up frustrations with the music industry. There’s pure grit and frustration belching out on this album, as clearly on the opener Music Media Is My Whore. The title track outright announces it in the beginning “It’s ruined, it’s ruined, it’s ruined / Everyone ruins music / Not just me” while blistering guitars and drums flurry side-by-side.  The track is just a monster that’s unrelenting as it is honest. Battalion Of Zero is another track that punishes you both instrumentally and vocally; especially as Phil alternates between barking “Hands up, hands down”  and roaring screams.

Basically, there’s a lot that happens on this album. Too much for a short piece like this. While it does revisit the same style in almost every song – a style moulded by too many inspirations to really pinpoint – it’s a great album just to get sonically annihilated by. This isn’t ‘intellectual’ metal, it’s just honest fury perfect for punishing your senses with.

7.2/10
Favourite tracks: Walk Through Exits Only, Battalion Of Zero, Usurper Bastard’s Rant.

Suuns – Images Du Futur

Suuns are a Canadian quartet that are unconventional to say the least. Granted, as soon as you play this album, comparisons to Radiohead will be unavoidable, but there’s something far more menacing in Suuns music than Thom Yorke’s tortured mind managed to grasp during “OK Computer”. Suuns combine the mentality of Joy Division and Radiohead’s electro-tinged rock approach; but lathered with a shoegaze haze.

The opening track alone leaves an imprint on your memory that you just can’t forget. With seething (and almost frothing) vocals of repressed angst, clean yet tense guitar and off-kilter drums, Powers Of Ten more than make up a sonic image of a mind pushed to the edge of its sanity. The build of feeling overwhelmed in the track is oddly addictive as it is accurate. Following track 2020 (and the majority of the following songs) never revisits that feeling again, but still grabs your attention with throbbing bassy electronics and an imaginative use of sliding harmonics on guitar. However, there are moments where Suuns seems to simplify things, like on Bambi, which has a more direct structure and indie-rock approach (although electronics are evident here too).

The album is a hypnotic trip through a slightly disturbed and maybe even obsessive mind. While Suuns maintain a pretty calm and soothing sound through the course of the album, there’s more often than not a dark undertone lurking beneath the surface, yet never really breaking the water. This is far from a complaint; it’s nice to be teased the way Suuns manage it.

8.4/10
Favourite tracks: Powers Of Ten, Edie’s Dream, 2020.

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