Dark horse band & dark horse album of the year by The Mantles, plus some crunchy drone metal from Sweden’ Spelljammer and Loma Prieta puts the hard in hardcore
Records on the road to greatness find a most challenging paradox: to the experienced ear, they are expected to both offer fresh and unique, as well as represent an analog to a previously spectacular effort. Given that point of entry, I would like to introduce All Odds End by Bay Area rockers, The Mantles, emerging as one of the truly great records of 2015.
A refreshing blend of post-punk and 60’s era garage rock, the Mantles eleven track record stands out from the lo-fi crowd because it manages to run an angst-ridden edge, while keeping their breezy undertones. It’s awash in gentle grooves and naive, forlorn topics (think of The Aisler’s Set, or Beat Happening, or this year’s song-a-minute release by The Quarterbacks) yet it seems to wink at the listener, proving wiser than it may come off on first blush. The opening track, “Island” is a drop of jangle pop at its dew laced best, with glistening sleigh bells over the bridge; the band riff on cross legged, book in lap, road rock, “Time To Come Away” a la The Modern Lovers ; they even jam with an itty bit of Buzzcocks ferocity on “Police My Love”.
When the Mantles turn down to acoustics, it sounds like, “Lately” an authentic and somber song, downtrodden refrain only thinly veiled. The melodies all over All Odds End are beautifully autumnal, their “Best Side” the kind a song that will leave you singing along for days even if you don’t know all the words yet, layered with searing, evocative guitar that is spectacular. This is simply, one of the best records of the year you’ll be sore if you miss.
I’m willing to accept that outer space is wide open. Carl Sagan taught me to think of the cosmos as eons upon countless eons of pure emptiness (a totally meaningless diatribe: remember when Sagan stuck that pin into his finger in order to illustrate the inward cosmos that existed in our bodies on a cellular level? I was floored). Those elegant, orchestral touches however, added to films like 2001 and Gravity only seem correct to me from a cinematic concept. I believe the sound in outer space would be much more chaotic, fraught with turbulence, a little like Stockholm, Sweden’s Spelljammer do on their third release, Ancient of Days a hole torn in the swatch of astral elegance. Their record is comprised of five songs, three shorter tracks bookended with a pair of eleven-plus minute epics (the opener “Meadow” and a more slumbering, progressive-metal closer “Borlung”) each built on heavy riffs while remaining agonizingly and beautifully slow.
Ancient of Days is vintage drone metal, as conceived here, disinterested in the corporeal, songs cast outward with a starry gaze. Spelljammer was a duo for their first two records, now bulked out to a three piece and the results are a robust, unabashedly violent sound that demands attention. While their contemporaries toy in Krautrock or fiddle on experimental riffs, the Scandinavian night, once again, delivers on the really thick stuff, washed of elegance but blissfully constructed nonetheless. RECOMMENDED.
The fifth full length album by San Francisco hardcore/post-hardcore quartet Loma Prieta, Self Portrait is rough — rough as in, rough and raw knuckles, rough head full of a seething fury. Coming in at a positively brisk thirty-one minutes and change, the band packs a lot of hurt into a single recording. Tracks like the lead single “Love” are rife with abrasive tones, a fetish for confrontational subject matter and all fired tenacious ingenuity for song structure and form. This a bonfire signal on a dark and stormy afternoon that the band has taken their signature screamo, crash and burn sound to a dizzying new height. While this record is not as intensely emotional, and acutely inspired by real life as some previous records in the band’s catalog (thinking specifically of their 2012 album, I.V. which was roundly acknowledged as a catharsis) it’s difficult to come out of a listen without bearing some of those scars. Led by the clatter and clashing guitars, and screaming for vengeance vocals provided by Sean Leary and Brian Kanagaki, Loma Prieta makes something staggeringly fresh from the rotten muck that life unceremoniously dumps at their feet. RECOMMENDED FOR HARDCORE AND METAL FANS.