In terms of twenty first century black metal, few bands create intense and dark atmospheres better than the UK’s Necronautical. Far more sophisticated than a pneumatic din with some casual church burning thrown in, their 2019 album ‘Apotheosis’ features seven tracks that show how – when well played – such extreme sounds can be carry a lot of weight in the progressive stakes. This album, although largely created from classic black metal roots, also takes in intensive folk metal and battle metal influences, to create something that ranks among the year’s most interesting extreme metal discs.

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HOUSE OF SHAKIRA – Radiocarbon

House of Shakira’s ninth album ‘Radiocarbon’ comes some twenty two years after their debut. This means this lesser known band’s career has effectively been longer than some of the classic melodic rock/AOR acts of the 80s heyday. On the basis of ‘Radiocarbon’, they still love what they do…and if you’re a fan of big melodic riffs with a Swedish bent, chances are you will too. Although the album appears to have been mastered far too loudly – a somewhat common complaint in this digital age – the songs are, by and large, terrific. That’s enough to make the album stand among HoS’s best.

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VICTIM CULTURE – Victim Culture

Naming themselves after a Gallows song, it should come as no surprise that Denver’s Victim Culture hone a sound that owes a great debt to that much loved UK/Canadian hardcore outfit. This debut album is tough and raw; it’s overall sound carrying the brickbats of a stomping hardcore sound that fuses a metallic chug with rousing street punk choruses.

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45 RALLY – Tweets For My Sweet

With a truckload of 60s riffs, an organ sound stolen from ? & The Mysterians and a frivolous sense of humour, 45 Rally deliver something special on their 2019 release ‘Tweets For My Sweet’. Not only do their sounds serve up a few lovingly created homages to a garage rock past, but they juxtapose their love of the retro with the more modern concept of social media used for malicious purposes.

As the title more than hints, ‘Tweets For My Sweet’ blends the familiar concept of 60s teenage love and other things with a bunch of Donald Trump’s most awful tweets, creating a potent mix of retro sounds and sensationalism. Not that 45 Rally use any of this to create any big(ly) political statements – more as a springboard for hooky choruses and fun. Obviously, though, when it’s made so obvious how and where the songs got their names, there’ll always be a certain feeling of commentary…even if, as in this case, its more of an impish subversiveness.

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At the beginning of 2019, Falling Stacks broke a long silence with the ‘Sarcastic Clap‘ EP. A collection of angular post-punk sounds that looked to the past for inspiration, it still played in a way that seemed challenging in the present. It would be fair to say that EP wasn’t for everyone. Released just eight months later, ‘Sin Bin’ offers another selection of noises set to thrill lovers of ugly, spiky, guitar driven artiness and frighten the bejeezus out of everyone else.

As before, you won’t find any actual songs here…but if you came to Falling Stacks hoping for hooks, melodies or in any way an easy ride, you were misinformed.

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