One Day, the newest album from Canadian hardcore band Fucked Up, was recorded remotely—not the most unusual thing over the past few years, but this time there was an extra self-imposed limitation: each band member had only 24 hours to write and record their parts. The idea came to guitarist Mike Haliechuk near the end of 2019, and he used the restriction— broken into three eight-hour sessions— to reconnect with his songwriting, saying “After you’ve been in a band for this long, you lose track of what your sound actually is.” He then turned the guitar parts over to the rest of the band.
Drummer Jonah Falco was the first to add more layers in January 2020, recalling “I got this email from Mike saying, ‘I made this record in one day, and I want you to record drums on it—but you can’t listen to it before you get into the studio,” while bassist Sandy Miranda recorded the next month. Lockdowns hit, and the project was shelved. In the meantime the band completed their ambitious Year of The Horse record. When vocalist Damian Abraham finally was ready to record his parts, he found himself contributing lyrics for the first time since the release of Glass Boys in 2014, saying “after retreating into the fantasy world with Year of the Horse, this record is like we’re returning to real life.”
Any other band may have felt constrained to the point of turning in sub par work, but Fucked Up have been together a long time and are masters at their craft. One Day is full of their classic sound, with solid rhythms and sharp, snappy guitars pounding along under the well-worn yell of Abraham.
The record is dense both musically and thematically, and opens with the single “Found,” a song about the threads that connect colonization, genocide, and gentrification. Many highlights are on the first half of the album, like “I Think I Might Be Weird” and “Huge New Her,” while the soaring “Lords of Kensington” also turns an eye to gentrification, this time in a Toronto neighborhood. Even the shortest track on the record, “Broken Little Boys,” feels massive.
“Nothing Immortal” is poignant, although maybe I’m just an aging sorta-punk who feels stabbed in the throat hearing another aging punk sing lines like: “I keep hearing that same old punk song but now it all seems changed / There was always something perfect about it I wish I could get it to sound the same / I’ve heard that something is better than nothing but I can’t help wondering if this isn’t my thing anymore.”
The title track “One Day” is truly a punk love song (“Oh a ripe heart’s only wish is to be with another at the end of all history / Let just one thing be left of me / What could you do in just one day? / Fall in love, spend your time away”) and features a seriously catchy guitar melody and a beautiful music video directed by Colin Medley, choreographed by Lauren Runions and starring Amanda Pye and Tavia Christina.
In spite of being recorded separately, the songs blend simplicity and intricacy, although I can’t help but wonder if even more varied changes and tempos were out of possibility due to the nature of the format. Still, One Day captures a band at the height of their craft who is unwilling to compromise and still willing to try new things, and it’s a successful gambit. Falco notes that “This record is about how we see time passing in our lives,” and that the recording method gave them “no time to second-guess. You had to be confident.” It’s a confidence well-earned, and produced an album that will surely please their fans as well.
We were big fans here at FTA of the recent single “Insomnia” from The Moss. This is the kind of music that gets called “summery,” but don’t we deserve this kind of bright, fun, poppy rock year-round? The Moss think so apparently, and are releasing their newest EP, also titled Insomnia, on S-Curve/Hollywood records this month. The video for “Insomnia” features the band playing in a snowy landscape, so maybe we can call this ski-rock.
Singer and guitarist Tyke James and guitarist Addison Sharp originally hail from Oahu; The Moss are now based out of Provo, UT, where they joined forces with bassist Caiden Jackson and drummer Willie Fowler. There is a very open feel to the music on this EP, even while the bass and guitars loop around each other and things are often more complicated than at first listen. The crisp, simple production suits the tone perfectly.
In addition to the title track are three more songs showcasing The Moss’ brand of driving, jangly tunes. “Blink” has delicate parts interspersed with breezy solos and pounding drums, and is a real highlight of the EP for me. “Carousel” is a bit more laid back, shuffling off-beats underpinning James’ soulful country-tinged croon, and feels most in line with their 2021 album Kentucky Derby out of all these songs. “Chaparral” moves through surf, western, and a nostalgic 60’s haze, weaving together what seems like numerous song pieces into a compositional whole.
The Moss are embarking on a winter tour to promote Insomnia, and take their jobs as performers seriously, with Fowler stating “No matter what we do, we want to make sure the songs are fun to play live. We pride ourselves on being a band people want to see live.” If you are out West you can catch them over the next couple of weeks, and if you aren’t, then this EP will tide you over. You can find The Moss on Youtube, Spotify, and Instagram.
For their fifth album Premonition, Vancouver band White Lung build on the tight songwriting and high-quality production that has been a hallmark of the band since at least 2016’s Paradise (an album I reviewed for Tom Tom Mag, noting “Listen to this while trying to put your eyeliner on straight on the train en route to a punk show.”) 2022 finds the band as an even more perfect version of themselves. Their punk-hardcore-rock sound is as punchy as ever, with loud guitars, thrashing drums and Mish Barber-Way’s melodic yell tempting listeners to put the pedal down and head straight to the mosh pit.
Premonition has been in the works since 2017, although in the meantime Barber-Way has had two children and the band (along with the rest of us) dealt with several years of upheavals. White Lung have obviously used this time to hone themselves into an even sharper unit, and the band hasn’t settled down— this album is just as fast-paced and fist-pumping as anything they’ve done. Drummer Anne-Marie Vassiliou is on absolute fire on this record (she’s always had a great snare sound in particular). Kenneth William provides the guitars, bass, and synth; although the basslines are great, a driving mass pushing the songs along, it’s the guitars that grab my attention, from the first hyperactive chords of “Hysteric” all the way to the vicious churn and high-note flourishes of “Winter.”
Barber-Way is indeed a parent now, and doesn’t shy away from her motherhood but doesn’t make a saccharine ploy of it. Lyrics on songs like “Bird” don’t try to make everything perfect. “Count all your little limbs and then I’ll binge / While my brain breaks down / Stolen in part by you, what can I do? / As I wait for sound.” The single “If You’re Gone” is about children dealing with the loss of a parent who took their own life. Thoughts of aging and love are here as well, in “Mountain:” Will you say you adore me when I’m beat and almost forty? / When I’ve given all my body up for you? / Will you still cut the trees down? / Will you come to my hometown with our litter wrapped up in your arms? Another highlight on the album is “Date Night,” a tale of burning your bridges after a date night with God himself (imagined as a smoker in a Cadillac.)
If you’ve read this far and are excited to hear the album, I must bear the sad news that Premonition is White Lung’s swansong: “the last album we’ll be getting from one of the best bands to ever do it.” Pick up the album out now on Domino Records and toast White Lung as they ride into the sunset.
The History of Heavy Metal Volume 3: The Golden Age of Thrash: Thrash and Crossover 1983-1991
Rejoice metalheads: the newest entry in The History of Heavy Metal is a deep dive into one of the most beloved subgenres of metal: thrash. The History of Heavy Metal Volume 3: The Golden Age of Thrash: Thrash and Crossover 1983-1991 brings us to a seminal moment in 1983 (if you know, you know; if you don’t read on) and on through the 80’s, while touching on the biggest groups, smaller groups worldwide, and such factions as crossover and prog-thrash. The latest installment is in the same vein as the first two volumes, with entries under each band focused on songs rather than albums as a whole—as I noted in the review of Volume 2: NWoBHM and Beyond, this format is quite helpful for people new to metal, especially in an age of streaming song by song, and also to those metalheads looking for an introduction to bands they’ve overlooked. As the volumes progress they necessarily become more focused, as metal split into subgenres far from its hazily defined early rock origins and the realm of the early 70’s pioneers.
So many styles of music are pioneered by artists that later fall by the wayside. However, thrash as a genre was largely defined by a band that has subsequently become a platinum juggernaut. Metallica dropped Kill ‘Em All in 1983, and metal was never the same. They may be sellouts in the eyes of many, but they are certainly given their due here, reminding those who dismissed them after 1991’s Metallica (or Load, or Lars vs Napster, or Lulu, or any number of supposed transgressions) of not only their importance but just how fucking good those first four albums are. Stranger Things might have you listening to “Master Of Puppets” but zine author Badger will have you understanding its place in musical canon, with modes, tunings and callbacks to Debussy juxtaposed against the sheer pleasure of the music.
The technical aspects of thrash are thus given their due here, and while Badger’s prose never shies from proper terminology it remains accessible for the layperson. Atonality, dissonance and brutality of rhythm come up more than once, as does the physical aspect of thrash. “Most early Metallica riffs aren’t even that difficult, except for the downpicking” I said in a recent conversation, but ‘except for the downpicking’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. The stressful action of thrash downpicking requires bodily skill as well as musical, and my own wrists just can’t take it. (Insert jacking-off joke here: we are only following the steps of a thousand 80’s metal dudes.)
Another of the “big four” purveyors of thrash are Slayer, who leaned into the Satanic side of metal and were quite happy to shock their audiences in various ways. Badger pulls no punches on examining their extremely controversial “Angel of Death,” a technical masterpiece which is also a deeply uncomfortable tale about the Holocaust. Rather, in this longest entry in the zine he examines why listeners might enjoy the song, but admits it can be hard to find justification for that enjoyment. Taken as a whole the song is (supposedly) against its subject, but that view of the song requires as Badger puts it, a transmutation of enthusiasm: “it asks that you, the listener, transform the marvelously sickening visceral malice of the song into an equally visceral sickened condemnation of the crimes that it records.” And is that enough? Yes, most listeners (one would hope!) will automatically think ‘Nazis bad.’ But we know that already surely, so even the most sympathetic Slayer fan has to question the point of placing a track about such real life evil in the midst of more fantastical —and certainly glorified—supernatural horrors. My cursory review here is necessarily less in depth compared to the entry in the zine. But it is a credit to Badger that the issue isn’t ignored. These thorny issues arise repeatedly in metal, and will certainly rear their ugly head in further volumes (black metal, I’m looking at you.)
The expected American bands are covered here (Megadeth and Anthrax rounding out the ‘big four’) alongside influential international acts like Voivod (Canada) and Kreator (Germany.) Space is also made for groups who may not be as well known, such as Dorsal Atlantica (Brazil), Massakre (Chile) and Morbid Saint (Wisconsin) and the greats of crossover like Suicidal Tendencies.
Volume 3 is characterized by the same careful research, tight prose, and even occasional humor (calling Bobby Ellsworth of Overkill “the World’s Largest Ham”) as the previous two. Badger seeks to continually improve on the zines (and has rewritten parts of the earlier volumes, which are still available if you haven’t picked those up yet) and includes a small addendum to Volume 2 at then end in this issue. If thrash metal isn’t your thing, you still stand to learn a lot about musical history, and if you prefer a different genre—well, doom metal, death metal, and many more remain.
Find all the volumes of The History of Heavy Metal at Bandcamp here, and get to headbanging.
UK band Swansong was formed in 2015, and have already released two albums and an EP. This month sees the release of their third full-length Happy To Be Here, a sharp album that punches hard and never drops the ball over the course of ten tracks.
Based out of Cornwall, the band is made up partly of current and former members of F. Emasculata and Rash Decision. The four-piece—Nat Gyll-Murray on vocals and guitar, Si Walker on guitar (who also does The Seabin Podcast), Dan Kitts on bass, and Jimmers Thomas on drums—are obviously inspired by classic alt and grunge rock of the 90s and bring their own hard-edged twist on these sounds, a mix fans of bands like the Pixies and the Distillers will enjoy. The band also cites the Cure as an influence, and while their own music is definitely harder, there is a darker edge to many songs, so I can see it.
The record takes off right out of the gate with lead track “Monster,” pummeling the ears with L7-worthy buzz guitars, solid basslines, and Gyll-Murray’s full-throated vocals. It’s a great choice to kick off the record. Highlights also include “Bitter,” “Frida,” and “Lump.” The album is mostly loud, although there are quieter moments within, while the band’s softer side is highlighted on the acoustic-tinged “Let Me Go.”
Happy To Be Here back cover (art by Nat Gyll-Murray)
Song topics range the gamut from unrequited love to anger to hanging in there through tough times and emotions (“You know I’ve been bitter / I left my smile at home / But I’m getting stronger / I don’t know how this will go / But I’ve got to let it go / Cause tomorrow I will have another go”). And lest you forget the band is from the UK, the last track “Barefoot Outside The Palace” relates a tale of being drunk and boisterous outside Buckingham, which is honestly hilarious and a great way to close the record.
The band doesn’t have any US dates planned, although UK readers can keep an eye on their Facebook for any upcoming shows. (F. Emasculata, Nat Gyll-Murray’s other band—which I am happy to tell you is X-Files themed—will be here in the States for some West Coast dates in March.)