Hi/Jack’s 2016 album ‘No Cover’ is one of those records that lacks something. Across its forty minutes, the duo pound through eleven tracks that blend a garage punk aesthetic with furious metal riffs. They certainly couldn’t be accused of approaching their work in a half-arsed way, but it shows why the guitar/drums/no bass set up is perfect for a purer garage rock sound but not much else. When applied to music that should be given the full bells and whistles approach – as with the semi-metallic influences that infuse most of Max Liam’s guitar playing – the lo-fi approach just sounds shoddy.
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.
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.
There have only been a few tracks released by London based singer-songwriter Stella Angelika since 2017, but each one has shown a different side to the artist, suggesting a somewhat restless spirit.
Her 2017 single ‘Sleep’ saw her working in a jazz format on a laid back track that very much focused on her voice. 2018’s ‘I Got You’ moved into contemporary pop territory, taking a soulful sound and boosting it with a sunny, upbeat melody. Her current single ‘Denouement’ shows a further musical shift.
Slide guitar player Jack Broadbent’s fourth release ‘Portrait’ was a fantastic slab of retro blues. His purist style breathed life into the genre simply by being raw. His straightforward approach was very welcome since, at that point, everyone else seemed to be playing rock with a blues influence and trying to pass that off as “the blues”. Seriously, why listen to Joe Bonamassa when you can listen to something with more more heart and – more importantly – a much greater understanding of the genre? Broadbent’s love of tradition came like a lightning bolt and ‘Portrait’ was an album that deserved a much bigger audience. Over the next couple of years, Jack busied himself upon the gig circuit and released a no-frills live document ‘One Night Stand’ which gave listeners an even better insight as to why he should’ve be considered the most important figure in the UK blues scene at that time.
2019’s ‘Moonshine Blue’ is a fantastic record, but it’s also one that marks a change in style. Perhaps Broadbent thought that the stripped back slide guitar blues – although raw and exciting – could also be limiting, and so, on his fifth album he fuses a couple of subtler elements of his previously explored work with a quieter, folkier mood. The results are often lovely, but creates more of a singer-songwriter’s work. This is also a record that’ll draw in a new audience, which – let’s face it – is something that every good musician wants.