Sleaford Mods – Key Markets
Sleaford Mods have had an interesting rise to popularity since the release of their 2014 album “Divide And Exit”, an album that hooked a lot of listeners in with Andrew Fearn’s simple, no-nonsense instrumentals and Jason Williamson’s equally vicious vocals and lyrics. The Mods are a duo of their time, seething at current politicians and the attitudes that cripples a steady life in the UK, and it’s pretty much impossible not to relate to the rants in some way. Setting the bar so high for themselves, the question of “how will they follow this up?” was a big one.
“Key Markets” most noticeably drops a lot of the clever witticism and face-slapping lines that made “Divide And Exit” so great – but the key word here is “some”, and what it loses of that it makes up in being downright catchy. The venom’s diluted, but as Williamson barks in Cunt Make It Up “Am I being unintelligent? / I don’t care / It’s a war, you bastards” (which is actually my favourite on this release). Tracks like No One’s Bothered and Tarantula Deadly Cargo show a more melodic side to the Mods, mostly with Williamson singing more than spitting, but others like Bronx In A Six (“Bastard / I’ll tie your fucking veins around your Vans limited edition”) and Cunt Make It Up still drip with pure angst.
Basically, this is a more introspective and personal album, a sense that Sleaford Mods are feeling a bit jaded and sour after Cameron becoming Prime Minister (and a lot of us feel that way, let’s be honest). Does it take away from enjoying this? Not really, only when you compare it to the likes of “Divide And Exit” or “Chubbed Up”. Otherwise, this is a solid effort and the Mods clearly aren’t slowing their stride any time soon.
Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss
Again, the ride for Chelsea Wolfe the past few years has been an exciting one and too much has happened to mention completely here. From gathering herself a dedicated base with “Ἀποκάλυψις”, joining the Sargent House label, some collaborations and contributions, having Feral Love used on a Game Of Thrones trailer and even releasing a collaberative short film for Lone. Plus, even Mark Lanegan tipped his hat to Wolfe with a cover of popular Flatlands. All the while, Wolfe has released albums and EPs while changing the focus of her sound while keeping a consistent high-standard. So how does she fare on here?
Personally, brilliantly. “Abyss” is arguable her darkest venture yet, cloaked in such a grim and doomed atmosphere with every track – Iron Moon‘s section with closing two minutes is the best example with distorted background screams and wailing noise as her cooing voice sails over them. She’s ditched the electronic basis of “Pain Is Beauty” and replaced it with heavy guitars and bass, more sombre vocals and melodies, and generally a slower tempo throughout. Dragged Out, Color Of Blood, Grey Days, Iron Moon and Maw are prime representations of this. Crazy Love begins with the acoustic side of Wolfe we’re familiar with on “Unknown Rooms: A Collection Of Acoustic Songs” but takes its dive into a warped darkness as well; while After The Fall and Simple Death throws back a little to “Pain Is Beauty” with tinges of electronic and ambient influences.
The production on this is beautifully done as well, with so many layers to each song, they do feel like falling through an abyss of emotions. Again, this is easily her darkest effort yet and she pulls it off so fluently and effortlessly that it’s hard not to feel it absorb you. “Abyss” is another great and diverse facet added to her discography. It’s powerful.
Krallice – Ygg Huur
Krallice have managed to make themselves a prominent name in American black metal and for good reason, delivering a mechanical and highly technical take on the genre (probably due to members having a hand in Behold… The Arctopus, Dysrhythmia and more). On albums like their last “Years Past Matter” and “Dimensional Bleedthrough”, Krallice has kept its complexity while still being pretty raw and abrasive.
“Ygg Huur” is an unexpected change in direction. It feels more like a noise/math-rock album than black metal: the guitars and bass (which is clearer than ever) are more sporadic than usual, the drums being a bit more varied in styles and the vocals appear a lot less. Really, this feels like a black-metal version of Dysrhythmia. Does this change take away or add to the good points of Krallice? It’s a little bit of both. It’s great that Krallice are experimenting with other possibilities in their sound, but the execution and production doesn’t sit quite right, almost like a good portion of it was rushed and/or improvised – especially on tracks like Tyranny Of Thought and Engram.
It just feels like Krallice have blunted their edge a little bit here, but this does bring hope that maybe they can tighten the screws (and ideas) for future releases if they pursue this style. For the time being, this does just feel like a way to showcase each members’ technicality and doesn’t have the songwriting that made previous work so great to back it up. It’s decent, but it also feels hard to stay patient with.