Review: Deafheaven – “New Bermuda”

Is there anything better than being a music fan and seeing a band realise their potential and release an album that transcends their own fanbase and genre? For example, Metallica with “Master of Puppets” and REM with “Automatic for the People” have done it in the past, and now Deafheaven joins that elite group. Of course, a lot of people would say that Deafheaven did that already with their last record “Sunbather”. That record, while very good, was lacking something for me. Don’t get me wrong, I really like it, but there was something that just didn’t click. I hoped that the band would be able to deliver on the promise of “Sunbather” and they have achieved that, and more on “New Bermuda”, which was released on 2nd of October on Anti- Records.

A lot has been made of the labels being bandied around to describe Deafheaven, “black-gaze” being the most prominent. This is a complete fallacy. Not enough of a fallacy for me to whinge about it on Twitter all day, but a fallacy none the less. This is a metal record. Pure and simple. Yes, there are a number of musical influences that can be cited, but it’s a metal record regardless.

Deafheaven bring colour to black metal by inserting sections of music that are pulled from all genres ranging from British indie, and New Wave. A lot has been made of how Deafheaven could potentially crossover into the mainstream, which infuriates the metal elitists. How much a black metal band can have crossover appeal remains to be seen, but the amount of non metal publications that are covering the band would imply a lot. But back to the music; using subtle instrumentation not usually associated with the genre make this stand out from the pack. The wah pedal solo in “Baby Blue”, the slide guitar in “Come Back” and the use of a tambourine in “Gifts for the Earth” all add so much to the songs and make them distinctive. This colour is also perfectly represented in the cover art.

The album was recorded live to tape and the urgency that the songs are performed at makes this a masterstroke. No one member of the band dominates over the other. George Clarke (vocals), Kerry McCoy (guitar), Dan Tracy (drums), Stephen Lee Clark (bass), and Shiv Mehra (guitar) are all given their chance to shine. Tracy and Clark anchor the whole thing while McCoy and Mehra construct elaborate passages using both clean and distorted guitars. Clarke’s vocals are right in the middle of the mix, neither too loud nor too low and it works perfectly. The temptation to go the clean vocal route was probably there, but Clarke stays the course even on the cleaner songs like “Gifts…”.

From start to finish this is a tight, focused record that has zero wasted motion. Every musical part is an intricate cog in the machine that is “New Bermuda”. Where Deafheaven go from here is anyone’s guess, but right now, enjoy this record. Live with it for a while and let it soak in. It’s as rewarding an album as I’ve heard in a very long time.

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: A+

“New Bermuda” by Deafheaven was released on the 2nd of October and is available in stores, on iTunes or on the band’s Bandcamp page.

Listen to album opener “Brought to the Water” below, and let me know what you think in the comments section or via Twitter. Are Deafheavan a band to last, or just a flash in the pan?

The Unskippables: Our Velocity


The city of Newcastle has a rather storied history in pop music history; Sting, Brian Johnson of AC/DC, Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music all hail from there or the surrounding Tyneside area of the North East of England. Heck, even Jimmy Hendrix spent time busking on the city’s streets. Great pop music flows from Newcastle like a river and indie rockers Maximo Park certainly did their best to keep that tradition alive with the 2007 album “Our Earthly Pleasures” and its first single “Our Velocity” which is perhaps the most Unskippable of the Unskippables so far.


Appropriately enough for a song with “Velocity” in its title, Our Velocity is a lightning paced indie track that hits the ground running and never lets up until the very end. It doesn’t wait for anything in fact I don’t think it’ll even wait for you to listen to it.


Our Velocity is a supercharged slap to the face that leaves a firey trail of indie rock swagger and geordie charm in its wake. Paul Smith’s unmistakable Newcastle accent sounds unlike any other in pop and gives anything Maximo Park do a neat sense of place and respect to their hometown, like if Saxon recorded in Barnsley accents or Kanye West recorded in the language of that alien planet I’m sure that he comes from.


That pace I spoke of earlier is the main reason I love this song. From the opening keyboards to the relentless drums and killer riff all combine like a sumptuous salad of post punk rock drizzled with a sauce of superb poetic lyrics to keep up the feeling that the band have this amazing song to deliver but so little time to deliver it the whole thing is crammed into this tightly packed bundle of energy. This is an incredibly kinetic piece of pop but not to the point that it feels as though it suffers from attention deficit disorder. In fact it feels so focused I feel ashamed to merely have it on in the background and not be giving it my full attention. Well all that gets rectified now as I stick this on repeat and write this review as I do so to give Our Velocity its due and rank it among the Unskippables.


Newcastle also gave us Jimmy Nail’s pop career but I guess we can’t hold that against it. Thanks for reading!


Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)

Blissful pop genius: Static in Verona’s Odd Anthem (2015)

Odd Anthem comes blasting out of the gate with “Anyone Anymore,” the kind of instantly-addictive hit material that indie and power pop giants can only wish for. With a ‘90s sensibility, “Anyone Anymore” calls to mind Better Than Ezra on “In the Blood,” but the classic Ezra track pales beside the energy here (Better than Better Than!). If you’re not up and dancing, it’s because you’re wearing a seatbelt, and in that case you’re pounding on the steering wheel (easy, tiger…).


But Static in Verona — the astoundingly singly-manned project of talented Chicagoan Rob Merz — is no one-hit wonder, and Odd Anthem has more than a few tricks up its sleeve. Standout tracks include the sunlit bliss of “Wait, Wait.” It starts with a burst of vintage video-game sonics, but soon morphs into an electronic-tinged shimmer of harmonies around Merz’s frank, compressed tenor. As if that weren’t enough, it closes with heart-wrenching simple strings that draw from memories of summer nights long ago.

Notwithstanding rich arrangements and catchy tunes, Merz’s lyrics are no afterthought. The album takes its title from the lyrics to “Future Ghosts”: “The odd anthem of your voice echoes in the room. / And carries like a call. / A battle cry at dawn. / Scars left upon your palm.” If they’re occasionally baroque — “Crystal castles fall into shattered prisms in the hall- / Shining spotlights on future fears” (“Shudder to Think”) — they are as often poignant: “I’m trying to forget you forgetting me.” (“Forgetful”)

static-in-verona-merzMerz’s vocal style is firmly rooted in ‘90s indie rock — you’d be hard pressed not to hear Blink-182, Mercury Rev, Smashing Pumpkins — but there are other influences here, from ‘60s surf music to ‘80s New Wave, woven into a seamless mix. The push-pull feel of “Future Ghosts” is a contour favored by Jane Siberry, but there’s a Beach Boys glory to the harmonies that sends the track soaring; and is that a hint of Sergeant Pepper on “Then A Hush”? “Heavy Hands” calls to mind Beck’s “Loser,” while one can hear a bit of “Strawberry Fields” in “Forgetful.”

But all these influences don’t create a scattered soundscape. In fact, the album has a consistent feel and stamp — a signature sound, if you will. Merz describes the process of making the album as having been looser and less carefully planned than prior albums, in the name of creativity; yet this doesn’t lead to any lack of tightness or quality. These are polished, compact tunes, arranged for impact, brilliantly produced.

Odd Anthem closes with another stellar track, the multi-layered “Alternate Ending,” which manages to fuse cinematic organ tones, piano, and industrial textures into a beautiful minute-and-a-half that somehow evokes train platforms and misspoken goodbyes. But no matter. You’ll want to start this whole lovely journey again as soon as it ends, ever hopeful.

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: A

Odd Anthem is available on iTunes, Noisetrade and Bandcamp; tracks can also be streamed on Soundcloud. Follow Static in Verona on Twitter at Visit the official website at

Unappreciated MiniCast 9: Big Black Delta

This week I’m joined by a great friend, Justin. He and I became aware of Big Black Delta at a Gary Numan show in Nashville. We have a brief chat about that night and the upcoming Big Black Delta album, tentatively scheduled for January 2016 release. Preorder the album on PledgeMusic.

The Unappreciated MiniCast is available on Aggro Driver ’81 On Demand – click here for full details on accessing the show.

Click here to download Aggro Driver ’81 for Android
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Thanks to Slighter for providing the intro and exit music for our shows. Please visit Slighter at and give him some of your money.

The Unskippables: Gun by Emiliana Torrini







It’s with some trepidation that I place “Gun” among the Unskippables. For most a list of their favourite songs would comprise party jams, soul classics, those songs that make you feel glad to be alive and for the most part Unskippables has been just that but then there’s this record, and suddenly everything takes a dark turn.

“Gun” is a nasty little record, cold, abrasive, harsh. It is built around a single dark guitar riff that neither changes tempo or tone throughout the length of the song and rarely sees any musical accompaniment save for a select few moments that help set a relentlessly bleak tone. It really is difficult to listen to for some, even the breathy, seductive vocal delivery of Ms Torrini but what challenges the listener most is the lyrics and the tale they tell, but not for me. In fact I find myself captivated by the whole thing.


“Gun” tells an incredibly dark story as it unfolds all told by an initially anonymous narrator observing and commenting on a poor man growing ever frustrated at his life and everything around him; he feels let down by his upbringing that left him perhaps unprepared for adulthood, he has a family now but even that doesn’t fill him with any comfort. Whatever dreams he may have had have been abandoned for a life of crushing mediocrity and he feels like a failure in every aspect of his existence, like he has amounted to and will amount to nothing at all. To top this all off he has failed at keeping his significant other loyal to him and she (possibly) is seeking love in the arms of another. The unknown narrator lays this all out to him in graphic detail but just who is she? A prostitute? Maybe, she talks of this man looking at her repeatedly before finding the courage to engage her. An ex? An old flame? A neighbour? She clearly knows this man and what lead him to this desperate point. Is he seeking to vent his anger and frustration by cheating with someone else? It seems that way as she seemingly begins to offer him consolation and a possible solution, she even tells him she loves him and will not let him down. She knows that his wife is with her beau at the very moment these two are talking and at this point we learn the identity of this mysterious second party and just how bleak a situation is upon everyone involved, including us as a listener to whom we are addressed throughout as if we are this unnamed unfortunate. The music swells and all metaphors are cast aside as the lyrics suddenly go from almost sensual to extremely blunt:


“So you shot him up close and you shot him in the face, and your woman looked on and your children they embraced”


The song doesn’t sugar coat anything from this point, the situation is far beyond that. This man has fallen into a deep abyss and has committed a horrible crime, all brought on by an imaginary voice speaking to him as a gun in his possession, coaxing him to do this terrible thing like it’s the only way out of the situation he finds himself.


With the knowledge and panic of what he has done beginning to dawn upon him, the “gun” speaks to him once more, first as an advisor and then again the sensuous tone that seduced him to pull the trigger in the first place. She offers him one more solution and leads into perhaps the darkest point of the song’s narrative with another honeyed metaphor for the last two lines:


“Hey look me in the barrel and tell me that you love me, yes this is a kiss I swear will blow your mind. “


A strained guitar chord follows these lines and it’s clear what has happened. A tragic end to a tragic tale as the song falls apart musically with discordant chords falling all around your ears as it draws to a close, leaving the listener to deal with the story they have just experienced.


This is by no means the only song out there to deal with such a dark subject matter but this is the only one I’ve experienced to date that constucts and delivers a whole story from beginning to end and even find time for a twist within it, this is incredibly well written and for all the dark feelings it conjures up I admire everyone involved in it’s production for the work of art they created as primarily I am a lover of words and lyrics and it is for those attributes I love this song so much. It may be dark, but its quality still shines through.

Until next time, thanks for reading.



Metal Monday 4 – Slayer and Iron Maiden

Greetings all!

Metal Monday is back! At long, long last.

The reason for my absence is detailed in the show. Come on now, I’m not giving that away for nothing!

This week, I’m taking a look at and playing tracks from two metal stalwarts that released albums earlier in the month – Slayer and Iron Maiden.

Yes, these bands are still releasing albums. Are they any good? Have a listen to my take.

Have a listen on the awesome Aggrodriver ’81 app, (details below).

If you want to check it out, and we’d love you to, all the information is here, including download links and screenshots.

Click here to download Aggro Driver ’81 for Android
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Big thanks to Aggrodriver ’81 as always for hosting, and also thanks to Sterilizer for use of their song “(Dis)content”. Check out Sterilizer here.

Have a great week!

– Hevy Kevy

The Unskippables: Justified and Ancient

As I’ve listened to it throughout the years since its release in 1991 “Justified and Ancient (Stand by the JAMs)” feels like pop music’s best attempt at making a mad-lib into a legitimate hit. Acid House? Hip Hop? Tammy Wynette? “The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu”? And then there’s the video: Dancing on a throne? Submarines? An Ice Cream Van? Nothing about this song seems to make the slightest bit of sense but because of that, I’m still listening to it some 24 years later and enjoying enough to, ahem, “justify” its place among The Unskippables but I wish I could say why. Maybe a look at where this bizarre masterpiece of pop came from may help matters.

It turns out that The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu was one of the many early aliases of the KLF, a British house music act comprised of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, two music industry personalities who bonded over a shared love of conspiracy novels “The Illuminarus Trilogy!”. The pair’s interest in “Discordianism”, one of the books’ key themes and a growing shared love of hip hop led them to begin working together to challenge what they saw as a “stagnant” pop music scene.

The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu briefly gave way to “The Timelords”, a name under which they recorded and scored a number one hit with “Doctorin’ the Tardis”. The reason for the name change was simply that the police cruiser Drummond owned and featured in the video told him to. Yes, that’s what he really claimed when asked about it. The pair also literally wrote the book on musical success with “The Manual: How to have a Number One the easy way” as a joke at the expense of what they saw as an increasing number of “talentless” stars being stage managed to stardom.

In 1990 the boys changed their name again to the KLF and their sound to what they christened “Stadium House” using live crowd noise in their recordings to give a feeling of a live performance and sounding not unlike the sweeping anthemic EDM tracks of today. They found further success with tracks such as “3am Eternal”, “What time is love?” and “Last Train to Transcentral” before raiding their own back catalogue to rework “Justified and Ancient”, this time featuring guest vocals of who KLF described as THE first lady of country, Tammy Wynette.
There was seemingly no reason for Miss Wynette’s appearance on the track beyond Drummond was a fan, they asked and she said yes but the heady mix of her voice, a pounding tribal rhythm, rapper Ricardo Da Force imploring someone to “bring the beat back!” all come together to create something very pleasing to the ear but quite unlike anything heard before or since.

Remember me mentioning Discordianism earlier? The central theme of this “parody religion” is to spread its ideas through subversive humour in an effort to prevent its beliefs from becoming dogmatic and that’s what Justified and Ancient feels like upon learning about that. It feels like a joke on the professional music industry that something that should be impenetrable and featuring a mostly forgotten star in a business obsessed with the cutting edge and the next big thing should be so listenable and prove so popular.

And popular it was, KLF hit number 2 on the British charts second only to a re release of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and reached number 11 in the US, returning Tammy Wynette to the mainstream charts for the first time since 1969. This was undoubtedly KLF’s biggest hit to date but also their last. The world was seemingly their oyster, but that wasn’t the plan.

As the offers came in from other artists hoping to collaborate with the duo and revitalise their careers it became clear that KLF were no longer able to poke fun at the industry, they were in danger of becoming it, of becoming dogmatic themselves. In 1992 on the same night as highly controversial performance at the Brit Awards ceremony, the KLF called it quits and even went as far as to order their entire back catalogue be deleted. For a group so esoteric in everything it did, this was perhaps the only way it could have ended and it certainly was discordian of them.

Of course I had no idea of any of this back in 1991, I just liked how it sounded, it had lyrics about ice cream in it and the video was full of colourful costumes. I had no idea of KLF’s philosophy or beliefs but digging into this song and its creators I have an entirely new reason to like Justified and Ancient (Stand by the JAMs). Back then I liked how it sounded, now I like how it sounds and I appreciate it for the same reason the song came about: “just because”. Some records I enjoy for the production, the lyrics, some shredding guitar riff or I like something the song is associated with but with this one I simply love that it exists.

On and off this song has been a part of my life for over two decades, it made me smile as a child and it still has the power to raise a little smile whenever I hear it from time to time even as a cynical adult. This song was part of a joke on the recording industry that only gets funnier with age, like all the best jokes.

Thank you very much for reading and make mine a ’99.

Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)

Unappreciated MiniCast 8: Psyche & Luminance – Split 7″ Tag Team Champions

This week’s MiniCast features a new Steven rant on regional restrictions for online content and an awesome track from the new Psyche & Luminance split 7″. Check that out at

The Unappreciated MiniCast is available on Aggro Driver ’81 On Demand – click here for full details on accessing the show.

Click here to download Aggro Driver ’81 for Android
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Thanks to Slighter for providing the intro and exit music for our shows. Please visit Slighter at and give him some of your money.

The Unappreciated MiniCast Episode 7: Big Time Kill

So this show has been live on Aggro Driver ’81 On Demand for just about a week now, but I’m just now getting around to making this post.

That doesn’t mean you should skip this show, though – Big Time Kill are a really great listen and well worthy of your time. Based out of Boston, MA, Big Time Kill are a guitar-and-electronics duo. Their eponymous EP is available now on their Bandcamp page.

The Unappreciated MiniCast is available on Aggro Driver ’81 On Demand – click here for full details on accessing the show.

Click here to download Aggro Driver ’81 for Android
Click here to download Aggro Driver ’81 for iOS
Click here to download Aggro Driver ’81 for BlackBerry

Thanks to Slighter for providing the intro and exit music for our shows. Please visit Slighter at and give him some of your money.

UnSkipable: Groove is in the Heart.


Deee-Lite may be a good candidate for being music’s true “cult of personality”. For a very early 90s dance act based in the US where very little house and jungle music was being produced that hit the mainstream, as well as coming from a background associated with drag acts, there is absolutely no way that Dee-Lite should have had a hit, let alone one that is just this good. Just hearing a rough demo was enough for Bootsy Collins to drop everything and fly out to play with them on their album. Maceo Parker offered to play the sax on Groove is in the Heart, and A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip wanted in as well and you don’t pull that caliber of talent without having something truly special up your sleeve.

Calling this song “Special” may actually be doing Groove a disservice, this song is as close to a perfect pop song as it is possible to get and still be crafted by humans and not some musical deity. I don’t know of anyone who has a bad thing to say about this song and I honestly don’t know what I’d say to one if I encountered someone who did. Everything about this song is so tight and laser-focused yet sounds like it’s loose and carefree, it makes me want to dance and I have an entire wardrobe of left feet to overcome. Every single piece of this song works with every other part to keep your heart grooving and extremities moving and it’s all propped up by one of the truly great bass lines of all time, but hey, that’s Bootsy baby. This, some great arrangement, a cacophony of random noises and some bafflingly charming lyrics delivered by the Lady Miss Kier all blend so seamlessly to create this heady mix of sixties influenced funk with modern sensibilities that truly give Groove a timeless quality. And not “timeless” in a way that makes it seem like a throwback, no, I mean that I’m confident that Groove is in the Heart could be released tomorrow and still be as popular and big and respected as it was way back in 1990 – it’s just that good. This is a quality seldom matched in mainstream music except perhaps for Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk that shares many of the qualities I love about this musical masterpiece, but that’s another article.

Sadly Deee-Lite never followed up on Groove and never had another hit and that’s a little sad. It’s easy to look at Groove and wonder why they weren’t the biggest stars of the 90s but alas, the pop gods ordained that it was not to be, but after you debut with the perfect pop song, what else is left to accomplish?

Once again thanks a lot for reading and I’m off to try and make myself Deee-lovely and Deee-licious.

Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)