This is the time of year when the old year "dies" (at sunset on the shortest day, the day of the winter solstice) and the new year is "born" (at sunrise on the day after the solstice) and the Celts, Saxons and Norse celebrate their variants of "yuletide" with a lengthy binge of "wassailing" (eating, drinking, dancing, fucking, etc.).

None of it has the slightest bit to do with anything that happened in the Levant between Jewish freedom fighters and Romans or with any Abrahamic monotheistic death cult. I shall leave religion to the craven and the feeble-minded and to those who wish to prey upon them.

The only thing I believe in is the precious bounty that is any and all life and the potential for good that exists within all people, even if it is all too rarely fulfilled.

So listen to some proper pagan morherfuckery and merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a quality Quanza, super Solstice and awesome anything else you choose to observe.

Proceed the Weedian - Pyres of the Oregonian - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #228

For a blogger who just completed a thousand words on Black Sabbath that very morning, the serendipitous penetration of the bunker by a postal delivery -from no less than the Seth Man himself, of no less than Ryan Kittrell-as-Pyres of the Oregonian’s full length debut, a CD fulla the same things I was still grooving on from last week’s emanation- could seem to hold greater weight. After heavy mediation on the heaviest ur-text of my entire music writing career, how restorative to be given a behind-the-curtain look at what the next generation are doing with the Sabbath text, filtered through another generation of hyper-politicised speech, sketchy wars, lying governance. If the oil fires of the Gulf war and the Clinton years coupled with silicon valley and the first four Sabbath albums (American versions, natch, with more groove and fewer covers of groove) created Dopesmoker, and the continued output of Sunn O))) was nothing but the emotion of the post September 11th Bush years distilled into sound like a jet turbine eating a planet made of tar; what would eight years of Obama and the slow legalisation of hyperapparent Sweet Leaf produce in the latest green-fingered first-bearded generation of Melvinites; along with the consumption of all those great works in addition to Sabbath’s own?

Behind the Wall of Sleep - The first four Sabbath albums and monolithic legacies - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #227

When I first met you, didn't realize
I can't forget you, for your surprise
you introduced me, to my mind
And left me wanting, you and your kind

I love you, Oh you know it

It occurs to me in all my occult murmurings and outrageous stumbling oversimplification of rock and roll idolatry I’ve never directly tackled Black Sabbath. It’s never felt entirely necessary, as some poor sheltered soul might be unaware of Blue Cheer or Pentagram, or, perish the thought, the MC5, but Black Sabbath are to heavy rock what north is to navigation; a point which so utterly dominates any conversation about heavy rock and roll; even so-called escapes are completed with reference to Iommi, Osbourne, Ward and Butler; and yet the rest of the modern rock press has been comparatively light on the works of Sabbath, and I don’t feel like they’re played as often in bars and in covers as perhaps they should be. Maybe there’s a feeling that we’re all marinating in the bath of Sabbath, but I don’t think there can ever be enough remembrance of the first four records.

Master Heartache: Bidding farewell to John Garner

I shan’t keep you long for he never did, but singer, stoner, literal rock god and Lewis-and-Clarke level pioneer John Garner has lost his battle with cancer. To this day Sir Lord Baltimore’s 1971 Kingdom Come is one of the greatest records of all time, and the needle-scratch guitars and cock-thrusting vocals are at the heart of that well-deserved fame. You were the first heavy metal vocalist and today still so few match up. Send word, you motherfucker, you were really the best of us.

After the Apocalypse: Farewell to the last of Britain’s nuclear bombers.

This October saw the final flight of XH558, the final airworthy Avro Vulcan nuclear bomber, but what does it mean that another Cold War colossus has been resigned to mothballs? An abandonment of our heritage or an acceptance of it?

Smile on your brother, everybody get together - IN SEARCH OF PEACE

Because military force is inexplicably legal, and governments pay lip-service to representing the people, there is a sense running through western society that war is somehow legal and just. Individual wars may be unjust and unacceptable (in fact, every war thusfar), but the institution of military conflict is somehow a legitimate function of government. This is utterly wrong. The attacks by Daesh[i] on Paris and Tunisia, on Russian tourists on an airliner over Sharm el Sheikh and the constant (and forgotten) assault on the young and (relatively) liberal Syria and new Iraq are an attack on humanity and on all of us, but more than that they are attacks on leisure. They do not target our means of production, nor even our financial or government institutions, but the thing that most distinguishes our world from the one they wish to create with their weak and pathetic caliphate; a world of music, leisure and fun. Holidays, drinking, a concert at Paris’ legendary Bataclan. In both their propaganda and their recruitment, as well as their ineffective and cowardly attacks, Daesh are at war with the youth and the decadence of the west. It’s a war they’re certain to lose as certain as the sun is to rise.

Come on baby, light my pyre - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #226

With the Melvins, Earth, Electric Wizard and chiefly Sleep, we saw what happened to the generation that grew up on Sabbath, precisely the moment Sabbath took a classic Jefferson Airplane flower power ballad title, Sweet Leaf, and turned it into a pleading, moaning sacrament; U KNO IT. Now with the power of the internet to unearth further reverberations from the decades-buried bunker, the early musings by Pentagram and the like, combined with the emanations of Sleep themselves. While there is a blogosphere of imitators, they do nothing to innovate, until now. Pyres of the Oregonian is a project by Ryan ‘Refusenik’ Kittell, from his social media emanations it’s clear Dopesmoker is less like a song and more like a permanently rising tide, as it is to a whole generation of long-beard drop-out doom heads. The sub-religious chanting, the howling guitars and the drum-driven structure all come up in the Weedian Master sorta-LP. A self-titled album is in the works and from what I’ve heard it burns with heathen fire right into pagan wood.

Katy Perry’s Xmass song will get stuck in your head like a harpoon made of frozen shit.

Forgive me for being predictably unimpressed by the following Huffington Post headline: “Katy Perry's New Christmas Song” but that combination of words is akin to “Your hideous extruding bowel tumor has probably metastasised” or “Russian strike bomber shot down by Turkish F16”. I don’t really get why Katy Perry exists, apart from that her parents made poor decisions, but why she’s famous has always been beyond me. She isn’t particularly good at singing and her winkingly-knowing affect grates. This latest abomination is literally an advert, and normally I could just write that, sign off then take to drinking with both hands, but I feel the need to back-engineer this foul burrito dump because worryingly, I found myself singing it. Yes, I have since carved out my tongue with a ceremonial knife and will drive a 2B pencil through my temple with my AP styleguide in shame, but it is actually catchy; like tuberculosis or Boston Beaneaters player Marty Bergen who killed his wife and two children before taking his own life.

Deservedly Remembered - Baker Street is pure punk

“Some books are undeservedly forgotten, none are undeservedly remembered.” W.H Horton. I suspect the great poet would have said the same about music.

Whether it’s the flint spark guitar solo or the storming saxophone, or the lyrical portraits of the sorts of conversations disaffected twentysomethings have, stuck in this nightmare of mediocrity, Baker Street cooks, and cooks to this day. It’s glamorisation of the sex, sleaze and slime of modern urban living has never truly been equalled with such eloquent solipsism and everyone knows it; in the UK at least it’s been a drivetime favourite of the likes of Simon Mayo and a popular pub quiz topic (did that £27 cheque really bounce?). What’s often forgotten about Baker Street is how it’s one of the most stunning punk records of all time: cobbled together, the iconic saxophone solo, itself mired in controversy, played by a session musician, production of the song itself from all rumours appears to have been ramshackle and random; the lyrics of the song are packed with veiled references to the Steeler’s Wheel clusterfuck, and it inspired a DIY culture of saxophone music that led to the eighties being drenched in the sound. It’s baked into our culture, but take a moment to think about how he was right all along, and how, in 1978 this was a piece of pure punk, and unlike all the others, he meant it.

Written under duress by Steven. Act now and you too could regret following me on twitter.

The Truth must dazzle gradually/ Or every man be blind - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #225

It’s a difficult position where a highly exposed piece of art that puts forward a viewpoint that you support and is sorely needed is also a horribly right-on and unsubtle ballad trudging towards an ill-defined chorus and sloping off at the end to die in a corner. To think about the effect rape and sexual assault have on University campuses throughout the world, and the unique pain and suffering victims face, and to understand, to listen, and to work with these people to help them cope with the violence forced upon them and prevent others from becoming victims or perpetrators is possibly the most important social concern of our times and Lady Gaga’s ‘Til It Happens to You bravely doesn’t hint or suggest towards this point, but boldly steps up to it. Like her previous work with Born This Way it fails because it is so forthright, with no room for interpretation and no grey. Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.

"My life is a great, to others unknown and incomprehensible suffering.Sweep me up."

There’s a school of thought that when you see something like this, like when you notice a truly horrifying amount of dog shit on a city street, that you should ignore it in the hope some starving city fox will come and hoover it up in desperation but ‘Movin’ Up’ is such a completely and utterly wretched-in-tooth-and-claw creation of the modern cult of ‘celebrity’ that I needed to share it all with you. It isn’t music in the same way the blood-drenched latterday coliseum shows weren’t entertainment, they were a perfect representation of everything the diseased moneyed marrow of Rome was at the time, as is this. At some point the cult of celebrity will fail, we’ll realise that we decide who has ‘fame’, who we pay attention to, at least I hope it will.

Normally I'd tell you not to watch it so as not to give them the traffic, but fuck it, it's too late.

Stop condescending to pop music - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #224

Fuck off. Fuck off Ryan Adams and your asthmatic wanky Brooklyn café muzak. Fuck off a dozen high-end music critics who call heavy metal ‘raucus’ and snub pop music out of misguided religious fervour. Taylor Swift is a problematic artist, she seems to have been cooked up in petri dishes in a government lab to somehow quash every possible complaint. Her peppy self-aware pop is simultaneously cerebral and dashboard-tapping catchy, she’s attractive and skinny enough to satisfy the complaints of people who work in fashion (who are just keeping organs warm for nicer people) and seems to be a genuinely nice person on top of it all. Can’t say I’m addicted to 1989 as much as some people, but as pop goes it’s solid.

Two wars, no terror - The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow's war-on-terror two-film double-punch of the adrenaline-soaked Hurt Locker, followed by the uncomfortable, brutal Zero Dark Thirty is one of the great cinematic achievements of the last ten years.
Both films present the west's benighted 'War on Terror', with Hurt Locker opting for big emotion and big action, where the weapons of war are the steel and blood of America fighting it in a clearly fictionalised and clearly cinematic conflict, and Zero Dark Thirty opting for a more journalistic and unopinionated take, with minds the weapons, bureaucratic meddling and moral torpor as much the enemy as any force and undisclosed CIA blacksites the battlefield.

Is that you John Wayne? Is this me? - The Wolves of Stanley Kubrick

Kubrick's movies are stalked by wolves.
Consistently he paints his protagonists as stalking, amoral and inhuman and nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the Shining, and none more broadly than in Full Metal Jacket.

Radio X sounds fucking awful

“The best rock and guitar based music” promises the new Radio X, the recently rebranded X-FM, Global says that Radio X is ‘the first truly male-focused, fully national music and entertainment brand for 25-44 year olds’ which is encouraging, if you’re somehow blind to the acrid stench of marketing buzzword shit steaming off this entire display. They’ve roped in perennial bell-end Johnny Vaughn and everyone is a-flush that Chris Moyles, a man who called female listeners ‘dirty whores’ once upon a time when such behaviour wouldn’t get you struck off the Christmas card lists of everyone in broadcasting. Vernon Kay and Ricky Wilson round out this cavalcade of absolute loudmouth arseholes, but what of that ‘best rock and guitar based music?’

#WorthIt! – Bands to get disowned for - Top Five

This week’s hangover news included a young woman apparently disowned by a disapproving parent for attending last weekend's V Festival; either a guilt-as-religion Daily Mail-thumping greed-head more concerned about the Winslow’s garage than good parenting and having half-glimpsed the sort of Boschian hellscape a festival can dissolve into, or a Black Sabbath advocate so shocked that any progeny of hers would attend a fest headlined by shit Kasabian, warbly Sam Smith, overexposed Calvin Harris, asthmatic badger Ellie Goulding and humaniod Annie Mac that the only cause must have been a maternity-ward mix-up. Either way, the girl is out two parents (for about a week) and it prompted the question… which gigs would be worth a familial distancing?

I know it's only rock and roll - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #223

Good evening.

You are an idiot.

You are small minded, stupid, lazy, incapable of deciphering meaning, and incapable of holding an idea in your head without accepting it. You are easily lead, and incapable of telling the difference between fiction and reality. If you’re an adult, you’re an immature one, and if you’re a parent you’re definitely a very bad one.

"If you hate people, you'll like Deathwank" - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #222

We need Deathwank, not because they approach a Cure for What Ails Us, they don’t, they are ugly and cluttered and tired and disposable, their shock is numb and their crassness even larger than their ear-splitting racket. Deathwank play the music we deserve. It’s called Scumcore by the twisted, vomit-coated A&E regulars that play it. After listening to Deathwank for any amount of time, through several of their unidentifiable songs and their muddy everything-louder-than-everything-else production I feel dirty, like I need a scrub with carbolic soap. Any band that lists their top five influences as Death, Drugs, Pol Pot, David Koresh, and Yer Maw so clearly embodies a mid-central Scottish Generation-Why nihilism a certain breed of Scottish man can get behind. Filth encrusted pre-internet mid-nineties streets gave birth to us, and we were smart enough get into a university to avoid Blair’s oil wars, and not smart enough to make anything of the inevitable second and half our peers share cat videos like brainwashed people accepting their fate at the end of Soylent Green, and the other half diligently keep up with news and current affairs and thusly seem to spend all their time clutching their heads and crying.

Drop out of life with Bong in hand - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #221

I think Bong are Buddhists. I think they like Hawkwind and I think they also like Black Sabbath, they’re provably drug-addled fiends, but their glacial pace completely removes heavy metal’s implied threat. They’re clearly Buddhists, with that religion’s innate paradoxical pessimism and optimism; to listen to Bong is to accept that suffering is a part of life, and that letting go is the only path to enlightenment. Chasing Bong is like catching smoke, understanding under deep concentration will slip through your fingers like smoke. You can’t desire understanding, because desire itself is the enemy, you discover the band in that moment of abandonment, of losing oneself in between the vinyl grooves, into their singular ten-year song as phased sonic flamethrowers belch white hot heaviness, and delicate chords cut like searchlight beams though closed blinds and percussion bombs explode somewhere in the distance. Drop out of life with Bong in hand.

Our world is slowly dying – Pop done right - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #220

If Meghan Trainor is an example of the filthy fifth-stage dehydrated shit the very worst dregs of the corporate music system are capable of dredging from their bowels, Lily Wood and the Prick’s Prayer in C is the sort of thing we should play to delicate young men hanging off tall buildings surrounded by cops. If Om were struck by lightning or went through a Melvins Atlantic-years transformation they might approach the solipsistic mantric party-as-ritual. Functionally it’s a blasphemous prayer veiled in a broken love letter, it’s catchy like typhoid and has this haunting guitar line that serpently winds itself round your throat. It works as a party piece because it openly laughs at all of it. The video for the Robin Schulz remix is full of gaiety and partying but the scenes are hollow as the song talks about wrinkled hands, starving children and seas covering the land.

If pop ate itself, this is the pop centipede - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #219

Meghan Trainor doesn’t appear to live in the world. Perhaps her brain is kept in a vat of iodine plugged into some psychotic Norman Rockwell Barbie-and-Ken four-square blocks of Mcarthyite America, or maybe she’s a member of ISIS determined to bring down western civilisation, and like a devilish mastermind has figured the best way to despatch infidels isn’t by blowing a bag of nails into your guts in the bathroom of a service station Little Chef but to flood the market with such harrowingly, ennui-inducing tripe that any member of the public listening to the radio will be compared to hang themselves with a belt, or queue up at the nearest bridge or high building.

With the Body - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #218

“I don’t really like most people in the world, or trust them. The guns are less of a thug or violent thing and more of a separation between us and society.” – Lee Buford – Drums and Programming.

The Body ought to have been called something more obvious and accurate, perhaps “I don’t even like music” or “I drink to die”, maybe go outside the norm and be called “The world is not our home”: all monikers used by the band on shirts and various other sources. All would be appropriate as answers when a beaming colleague asks you on a Monday morning “What good music did you hear last week” and you spent the entire bank holiday weekend listening to a sound that is either the audio equivalent of the motor oil, blood and brain matter tramped into a pub carpet following a vicious stomping, or the last gravity-garbled sounds as an experimental spacecraft breaks up as it enters the corona of the sun with the crew screaming onboard.

Ash Ra Tempel and the doors of chronoception - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #217

And the sun came up, of note only to the birds, and the rays creeping through the curtains. On an on whirled the infernal engine of this Ash Ra Tempel record, not letting me in, not at all; colour and time distortions from 36 hours without sleep were beginning to creep in with the first itching hives of a sweat attack but I wasn’t even beginning to get it. An imaginary deadline loomed with its false pressure and I wondered about what sort of twisted set of circumstances had brought on this decay.

Get angry - All grind and no gore with Wormrot - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #216

All of Wormrot, from beginning to end.
From Gareth Griffiths

Listen to this record, loud. Your neighbours want to hear it, honest. Even if they say they don’t, they really, really do. Listen to it and imagine taking Nigel Farage’s face in your hands and smashing it off a solid oak desk until his teeth were splinters and his jaw so fractured it shudders across its length and blood wells up in his forehead. Listen to it and imagine a train crashing, the carriages tumbling end-over-end as they strike the ground like cabers, people inside being washing-machined until you can’t tell who is who. Listen to it and think about the last time you had to search for a job. Let it fill you with energy. Let it soak it’s impossible speed and iodine-sharpness into your bones like a scalding bath… burn with it.

New Relics - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #215

If High on Fire were touring Ireland during the recent MDMA snafu that saw the euphoriant and entactogenic legalised for just long enough, they might have recorded Beast Market under the Relics moniker. It summarises their style with just enough self-indulgent stylistic flourishes and general merrymaking to separate it from their usual output. I can imagine Matt Pike and co piling into a studio; snapping the padlock off the gate and, Motorhead on van speakers still ringing in their ears, plateau on E long enough to wrap their hands round a selection of Sabbath covers so warped and overcranked they just give them names peeled off the bottom of second-rate kebab-joint menus and release the shit. Of course, such a thing is likely to ruin their straight-laced brow-beaten serious name so they’ll just release it under a pseudonym and nobody will ever know the time they were seduced by an Irish bog nymph, drugged up to their eyeballs on Mandy and recorded one of the greatest first-round EPs of recent memory…

Oh fine, it’s not really by Pike and Co., it’s by some mad Huddersfiddlian bastards who’re on their first run through this twisted circus, their debut is free and in a sea of self-serious squealing downtuned crap it’s a burp of fresh air. I hope they’re right out of the office scene with square haircuts and tat-free arms. They’ll probably play your party if you ask nicely and give them a case of Miller each. Probably.

Written under duress by Steven.

Looking out for love - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #214

Following the year that brought us All About That Bass and Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda, it’s heartening to remember that far from being amoral meat-bags, humans are actually worth saving from some sort of catastrophic nuclear apocalypse, and if there were ever a reason for Dr. Manhattan to stop being such an emo up on Mars and save some of us, it would be the continued output of Fleetwood Mac. It goes without saying that your life is measurably poorer if you haven’t fully internalised (to the point of internal repetition) Big Love and The Chain, but their appeal goes deeper than just building rock and roll masterpieces that, while not as incisive and derisive as Primitive Man’s output, still conjure up something genuinely revolutionary in the soul.

The world needs backwoods psychedelica - Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #213

The whole world’s’a psychedelic, man. Anywhere you go, from the backwoods towns of Mississippi to the dark druidic forests of Devon, the Soviet nuclear testing range at Semipalatinsk and the end-of-the-world Falklands, you’ll find a long and storied history of people getting jacked, loaded, ripped, torn, sold down the river or otherwise munted. Even the most puritanical societies, (including the Puritans themselves) got high on God. It’s a base human desire that ought to appear on the pyramid of needs, surprisingly near to the top. It’s a thirst or hunger needing quenched with surprising regularity. Either our lives are too tedious, or our bliss so persuasive that once every week everyone has to build a big ol’ campfire and drink or snort or inject and chill out. It’s out of this urge that rock and roll comes. We had to dance around that campfire to something, those beats rumbling through the forest thousands of years ago might not have had a name we can pronounce but every creature knew what they meant. The upright apes are getting their freak on.

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