FRED ABONG – Blindness

Released just seven months after ‘Fear Pageant’, most of Fred Abong’s 2024 album ‘Blindness’ feels as different from its predecessor as ‘Fear Pageant’ had sometimes felt from the slightly slicker ‘Yellowthroat’. On a basic level, it’s great to hear the artist continually evolving, but that becomes more impressive once you consider the relatively lo-fi soundscapes that Abong often favours. A good chunk of this album doesn’t just represent a step forward, but a massive leap sideways into a world of the unexpected.

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HOT FIENDS – Cult Supreme EP

Brighton’s Hot Fiends aren’t shy of a massive riff. Nor are they afraid of a sharp edged vocal. Their sound is much broader than a lot of other DIY punks, however, and on their debut EP ‘Cult Supreme’, they deliver some truly abrasive noises. In their own words, the music represents “a sonic slap”; for those keen to apply easy labels, it’s fair to say its five tunes take in hardcore punk traditions and splice the speed with bits of extreme post-metal, but the material also finds time to explore some genuinely uncompromising noise rock. When chucked in a giant musical blender, it ends up sounding much closer to a very confident post-hardcore racket, but the five tracks are anything but predictable.

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9-VOLT VELVET – Riptide / Hey Candy

With their layers of fuzz and a relentless garage rock core, 9-Volt Velvet are capable of conveying an impressive amount of energy. The band’s own take on a retro sound is immediately familar, but isn’t just reliant on mere recycling, and between the more traditional elements of noise, the two tracks that make up this release also share an impressive, almost quirky edge that has the potential to set them apart from their peers.

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SHADOWCLOAK – Shadowcloak EP

North Carolina metal band Shadowcloak aren’t messing around on their debut EP. Its five songs tap into some really heavy riffs, but they aren’t content with just hacking out the Sabbath obsessed sounds of so many doom-centric bands. The opening track on this self titled offering, ‘Dark Days’, seems as concerned with substance as much as the heaviness itself. By opening with a slow intro where a burst of feedback appears to emulate the howling wind, there’s an immediate atmosphere, but with a rumbling bass borrowing from 80s goth metal meeting with a cymbal-free drum part, the band’s more thoughtful approach builds a brilliant sound from the off. When the expected heaviness arrives, the riffs take on more of a Paradise Lost quality than a more typical Electric Wizard vibe, with the guitars adopting a dominant mid tempo chug, whilst the vocal falls somewhere between a 90s groove metal growl and a post-hardcore shout. In terms of a hybrid sound, their mix of post-metal and doom gets off to a superb start, but it’s once the mid section kicks in, introducing a more traditional doom riff, that things really get going. That leads into a brilliant sub-goth instrumental, where cleaner guitars take on a fuzzy blues tone and their more melodic stance is countered by a wibbling keyboard hinting at a love of old space rock. Eventually bringing the two moods together and topping the doom with a perfect twin lead guitar, this track shows off a near perfect mix of heaviness and old school melody. If there’s anything here that’s caught your ear, then Shadowcloak will likely hold you in their doomy grasp for the duration.

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