Shoe Prints In The Dust
Shoe Prints In The Dust is available from:
The E.P., Heavy Money, is available via:
The duo have some reminiscence of classic Rock, Grunge and Metal, yet wrap up any past influences inside a striking (and original) outer shell. It is rare to marry heavy sounds with melodic undertones, yet the fact is this: the Black Country boys do it with effortless aplomb.
NICE as it has been to hear some warmer and softer moments, my head…
has been craving something a bit more primal and raw. When I have looked around new music, and what is currently on the scene, there seems to be a lot of gentle proffering. In these pages I have reviewed some terrific solo acts and bands, each of whom have provided me with a fresh perspective. On the wider scene, music still tends to err towards the more sedate end of the spectrum. When notes and sounds are offered up, the abiding tendency is to give the listener something sedate or sexy- allowing aspects such as the voice or lyrics to take full effect. Over the past year, most of my reconnaissance has revolved around these types of acts. It is spring- not that you’d guess from the weather- and I guess market trends will reflect a desire for warmth and comfort. It is naturally that music-lovers and admirers seek out something redemptive and soul-enriching- although there is a myopic narrow focus. I suppose my opening paragraph is dedicated to the investigation of different sounds- and the effect they have on the human body. Every time I have studied an artist like Annie Drury or David Ward I have come away with the same impression: a smile and a soothed whole. The music that is put forth is filled with beauty and mesmeric appeal; nuance and wit mingle alongside cutting edge. I will examine this phenomenon more tomorrow, but there is something about music that strikes different parts of the body- at different stages. Elliptical and impassioned tenderness does its job well: it relaxes and makes one feel better about life. Over the last few weeks my mind has been pummeled slightly by the vicissitudes and wankiness of life. In the back of my head, there has been a desperate need for release; something to help to let out the pressure and provide some escapism- this is where today’s subjects come in. I will introduce you to them in due course, but my thoughts- once again- turn towards the new music market. This calendar year has been a bit of a shock as far as I am concerned. I ended 2013 by saying this about new music: it was mixed at best. In so much as I discovered some wonderful and vibrant acts, on balance it appeared that there was little originality and ambition. I am perhaps an anarchism when it comes to songwriting. My own work tends to reach quite far- further perhaps than it can graps- and I have always striven to cram as much into a song (or E.P.) as possible. My patience and mind tend to become a little twitchy when music does not offer richness or a calorific palette. Last year I was shocked and enlivened when hearing some great soul or acoustic acts- yet when a spate of similar-sounding replicant came into view, my delight was mitigated. There were some Rock and Metal movements amongst the majority, yet there were few stand-outs. The start of this year has provided me with some cause for re-investigation and reflection. I have mentioned artists like Drury, but bands such as Crystal Seagulls and Los & The Deadlines have shown what Zeppelin-esque anthems sound like via an international modern-day band of brothers. Scots, Universal Thee are releasing their debut album now, and their Pixies-cum-Teenage Fanclub blend has made me grin widely. Bearded Canadian David Ward- in slowly through the night– blends falsetto etherealness with some staccato rapping: tied in with some Kid A-era Radiohead guitar sounds. The music gods have clearly been listening into my dreams, and realising that- if we are to see new music challenge the mainstream- then diversity needs to be provided. It is true that there is still a desperate middle ground. So many new artists are either so glaringly boring and lipid or inanely pointless that one wonders why they even bother recording music in the first place. It is incredibly hard to record music in the first place, as it is not the most inexpensive activity in the world. After you have completed a song (or E.P.) the business of competition rears its head: putting your music alongside thousands of other acts. In the past, I have always used this as an excuse as to why new music was fledgling: but no longer. There is plenty of ambition amongst some select new acts, which leads me to believe that financial constraints are not a viable excuse for wayward focus and projectile dysfunction. In the professional and ‘mainstream’ realm of music there is a surfeit of potential genius: the long-stayers and established masters are still showing the kids how it’s done. There is an unquenched desire to see a cabinet reshuffle take place: replace a large core of the market and introduce something fresh. I have long suffered the likes of the Rhianna and One Direction. I don’t care if some people like them and find their music to be inspirational- they are wrong and severely lacking in any real ambition themselves. I’d say we could comfortably get rid of 70% of the current ‘mainstream’ market: replacing it with the best and brightest of the new music realm. Diversity and equilibrium would mingle alongside one another, and it would not only foster some genuinely worthy talent, but inject a much-needed dose of range and eclecticism into the scene. Perhaps I am being sentimental in my daydreaming, but it would be nice if some of the- sadly- struggling new musicians were provided just-rewards. I guess my point and focus still comes back to market trends and current tastes. The fact that there is still a heavy leaning towards Pop and fakery is because a potent and electioneering alternative(s) have not been allowed to the podium. If the mark of a truly educated and reconciled music-lover is diversity and a variegated colour chart, then the pinks and greys need to be sublimated and reduced. I have heard some bands whom have the essence of early-career Beastie Boys; others whom a semblance of ’60s and ’70s Punk and Heavy Metal- they need their place in the sun. Above all, I am fed up to the back teeth of surreptitiously stumbling upon new music like an old man happening upon an unguarded packet of Viagra. The media and social media outlets are conglomerate and monopolistic forces. They foster the inner narcissist in everyone, yet neglect a real need: to promote great new music to those whom desire to hear it. Perhaps like world peace, hunger and the appeal of Danny Dyer- there is no rastional explanation or cure. I hope I am wrong, as I have listened to so many great new bands- worthy of mixing alongside the greats- whom I fear will be subject to premature demise- simply because they are not being given a sturdy platform on which to campaign. I digress and dither- as is common for me- so I will wrap up this segment by saying this: acts such as God Damn illustrate my point marvellously…
I shall introduce the band by allowing them to introduce themselves: “Atomic drum and guitar duo God Damn – Thom Edward (guitars/vocals) and Ash Weaver (drums) – are pure attack: molten pop hooks galvanized in a blaze of bludgeoning riffs and furiously propulsive percussion. Hailing from the heart of the Black Country and describing themselves as “rock music for degenerates”, God Damn fuse ‘Bleach’ era Nirvana, Jesus Lizard, ‘Surfer Rosa’ era Pixies and At The Drive In influences whilst swearing allegiance to the ‘Seven J’s’ of their Holy Bible: Hendrix, Homme, Cash, White, Page, Bonham and Jesse ‘The Devil’ Hughes (Eagles of Death Metal)”. There is a vast degree of impressive influence to be seen here, and the band’s best music is no second-rate representation. I have a lot to cover in this segment, so shall get to my points, thus. The band go on to say- on their Facebook– page that (influences include) “The Black Keys, My Bloody Valentine, Slade, Modey Lemon, The Jesus Lizard, Martin Tomlinson, The Mars Volta + about 83918203982039 more“. When coming across a new, I always have mixed emotions towards the subject of ‘influences’. Too often one looks at a list of (an act’s) heroes and heroines as pretence to dismiss or elevate them. A lot of times the mind overpowers the body and fools you into thinking the artists sounds exactly like their influences or is worse than them. Most of the time a band includes a list of their favourite acts just to state whom inspires them, and what sort of music they like. The music media is perhaps most culpable when it comes to fuelling my dissention. Every new artists is invariably compared to another- otherwise why would the general public listen to them in the first place? It is a cancerous and deplorable fashion that means a lot of acts are wrongfully passed over. The discerning listener has the ability to tell whether an artist treads too closely on the toes of an existing act- most of the time new music is more original than the media would have us believe. I bring this up, because many turn their noses up at God Damn- if they thought they were soundalike of another band. When I come to write my own music, there are shades of Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age and Bob Dylan- small elements rather than glaring wholes. If you go into listening to God Damn with an open mind, then the rewards will be multitudinous. There are some flavours of past wonders, yet they are a band whom offer up tantalising originality and personality: all draped around hard and invigorating sounds. The guys have been rocking hard for a while now, and I shall cover more of their past history in due course. It is clear that their music resonates, not only with fans, but the media alike. Below are just a few of the glowing words that the music press have proffered to our intrepid duo:
“‘I’m a Lazer, You’re a Radar’ is a rip-rollicking thrash, brutally mixing grunge and the regions finest export, heavy metal.” – NME
“A heads-down, hair-in-your-eyes, twat-your-instruments-as-hard-as-humanly-possible riff riot.” – The Guardian
“There’s sweat stains happening after that, that was one intense record.” – Phil Taggart (Radio 1 New Music Show)
“A frenetic, fuzzy progression, a sludgy half-time breakdown, crushing fills and a band destroying all of their equipment in an appropriately shaky video.” – Artrocker
“Best new band and video you’ll see for a while. You guys are awesome.” – Ginger Wildheart
“Lazer/Radar manages to be both unfeasibly violent and immensely addictive – a brand new Wolf Town anthem. I’m left with bleeding eardrums, hurricane-swept hair and an intense tingling in my nether regions.” – Midlands Rocks
“A testifying blues grunge prog rock pop metal thrashup…and if that sounds like a pretty awesome combination, you’d be right. It is.” – Brum Notes
“Crashing out of Wolverhampton come GOD DAMN, a three-piece of spitting fury and angry noise with more energy than the Hadron Collider. 5/5″ – Loud Horizon
“A great collection of lunacy.” – Louder Than War (Band of the day)
Quite a glowing representation from local and national music writers. It is no over-exgreration to say that God Damn are on their way to something special: their band moniker is perhaps all-too-apt. There is a sense of blasphemous disregard in the carefree and biblical music they offer up- being a stone-cold atheist, it bothers me not. Perhaps more accurately, the words ‘God Damn’ are those that trickle from my lips (having heard their striking sounds). Our featured act are perhaps a little bit of a rarity, as far as I can see. For one thing, they are a duo. There are a lot of two-piece acts around, yet few whom offer up so much energy and sound. I have reviewed the likes of Yorkshire duo Issimio, whose music ranges from witty two-handed tales to endeavouring romantic tableaux. Away from them, there are a few heavier acts around- yet very few that say as much as God Damn. It seems like the duo have the manpower of a band twice their size- it is an impressive feat. Of course, we have the likes of Blood Red Shoes and The Black Keys, yet I feel that neither can elicit and summon up the same sort of force and gravity as these guys. Historically-speaking, there are few two-piece acts whom you can truly name. When you think of music, you either imagine a solo artist or a (four or five-piece) act- yet how many duos can you rattle off? One of my all-time favourite acts are a duo: The White Stripes. Their music ranks alongside some of the very best that has ever been played; in no small part due to the close kinship of the participants. I suppose that solo artists have no one really to talk with, as they are on their own- as such they focus energy into their sound, and are not distracted by exterior influence. Bands have a sense of friendship in their ranks, yet sometimes too many cooks can spoil the broth- and cause fractious breaks in their structure. With a duo, there is a sort of ersatz romance taking place. Whether the configuration is boy-bot/boy-girl or girl-girl, I have always found that there is a closer bond between these acts- compared with larger bands. As such, the music is a lot tighter, focused- with fewer rough edges. God Damn will not thank me for comparing them to a married couple or suggesting sympatico; yet Thom and Ash clearly have an affection for one another. Their songs are muscular and exciting and they combine wonderfully throughout. Neither man has centre stage, and each is given equal rank and consideration. The guys have, like Timothy Spall, been assumed to be from Birmingham. They are from the Black Country, which, strictly speaking covers an area of land that goes from the north and west of Birmingham, and runs to the south and east of Wolverhampton. If you do a Google search for ‘Black Country music’, you will be lead to pages of black Country music stars. The regions of the Black Country are perhaps under-represented in music terms, and is not a locale that many would associated with great music. The likes of Led Zeppelin have some membership from here, although they formed and played in London, predominantly. Slade are Wolves boys, and aside from them, you would be hard-pressed to name a whole heap of other acts from the Black Country. Our boys are helping to put the area back on the map, and like many of the acts that hail from the area, their music is filled with heavier vibes and ’70s Rock majesty- perhaps the name the Black Country is rather fitting. Our heroes are going to ensure that 2014 is synonymous with ambition and memorable sounds, as their new music is some of the best they have produced. Many may not have heard of them previously, but if you haven’t, I would recommend you spin their E.P., Heavy Money. In a sense it is a mini-L.P., imbued with six tracks of rebellion, firm mandate and classic Rock edges. Scream-fests such as Meat to Morrissey are combustible in their brevity, and New Invention Victory Club are swaggering anthems, instilled with a little bit of Kyuss, Judas Preist and The Mars Volta. The finale, Dangle Like Skeletons is a slow-building epic with evocative scenes, and standout Heavy Money is a pulverizing balls-to-the-wall rebellion march. That E.P. was unleashed just under a year ago, and our boys have not been idle. In the wake of the huge positive feedback (from Heavy Money), the guys have been gigging locally and wider afield, as well as plotting their next moves. The Guardian, whilst reviewing their previous opus, assessed it in these terms: “In fact, listening to their Heavy Money EP, with its elements of goth, grunge, death metal and more, it’s tempting to see God Damn as offering a précis of rock styles past and present. Like Meat to Morrissey, with its abrupt tempo changes, is like prog-grunge and Dangle Like Skeletons is an eight-minute opus that doesn’t just do quiet-loud, it does fast-slow while the singer does everything from croon to roar“. Fans and newcomers will be pleased to know that the duo’s elemental cores are all in tact and blazing brightly; yet their latest track offers up even more treasure…
It is not with a rambunctious clatter that introduces Shoe Prints In The Dust, but more of an epic call-to-arms. There is an exhilarating and pugnacious electric guitar coda that stands you to attention. In so much as many critics have alluded to suggestions of various bands; yet the initial seconds here remind me of Nevermind-era Nirvana. The hints are feint, yet there was a delicious aroma of Stay Away within the intro.- and the mesmeric riffage that continues throughout the track. The rumblings are purer and less fuzzy, but the effect is beautiful. The intro. is a beat which mutates, evolves and is a sybaritic chameleon. After a few seconds from the initial guitar parable, the sound gets dirtier and filled with grime. A pulverizing and animatistic drum roll from Weaver, reminds me of the likes of Dave Grohl and Lars Ulrich, whilst the axe-weilding talents of Edward are potent and heart-grabbing. The two commingle beautifully; eliciting a sandstorm of sonic force that shakes the cobwebs from all corners. The mark of a memorable song is one which grabs you right from the off, and our heroes waste no time in allowing you to think; reflect on what is to come: the boys strike hard from the very first seconds. After a frenetic and Metal-esque guitar and drum one-two, events become more linear and stabilised. In my mind I was hearing shades of Stay Away, but the truth is, is that the guitar riff (and percussive slam) that comes into effect is one of originality and the sound of a band filled with confidence. Minor notes of ’70s U.K. Rock as well as ’90s U.S. Grunge do their bidding, but the God Damn boys are playing and striking from their fists and hearts. The intro. encourages you not only to dance and flail with drunken abandon, but also pump your fists and allow your senses to be carried away. It is the kind of song that should be played at volume with the car windows down; sun shining and breeze extinct, it is a psychotropic melt that grabs you by the scruff- and does not let go. It is impressive that such an energy and amount of sound emanates from just two people. The percussion seems to originate from an octopus- such is the multitude of drum smashes crammed into a single second. The fret work is bleary-eyed and zombified; frantic and weaving in its directionality. Early words hold no positivity or redemption for an unnamed subject. Our frontman is pointing the finger at an anonymous focus; eviscerating and: “How to live your life/How to live like the stars in the sky“. If I had an early minor criticism, is that the words get a little buried in the rubble. Clarity and comprehensibility are a little watered down by the energy of the audio, yet it is a minor and moot point. The majesty of Shoe Prints In The Dust lies in the way it makes you feel, and what it does to you: the words give biography to a song of relentless quality. The song has a sound that is ready-made for the live arena. I can imagine whores of enthusiasts bouncing gleefully along with the tidlewave of a riff, and yet the band manage to summon this up a studio cut. It is perhaps kudos to some intuitive and Steve Albini-esque production, yet the guys themselves have an inherent ability to bring an intimate and stuffy live sensation through your speakers- and into your ears. Whomever is being referred to when our hero announces “You make me wanna scream” is being given a visceral derobement. Edward’s vocal has a native accent and does not pay homage to anyone else: an impressive thing in this age. A lot of frontmen tend to mimic others too closely and seem too indebted to another, yet our hero has a voice that does not lead your mind to another vocalist. It is powerful and evocative, and dripping with menace, conviction and edge. Before our song’s focus has been fully beaten down and buried, the intro.’s strutting riff comes back into play- except the structure is a little different. We begin with a spiking and tantalising electric stab at 1:34, before another vocal score comes to play- superseding expectations and providing another twist of the viper’s tail. Our hero elongates and stretches his words (“How to leave you“); a sentiment which is repeated and reinforced to huge effect. Punctuating these utterances is Weaver, whom thunders and rolls with atomic pressure. I am surprised how the guys had any arms left after the final seconds- even air drumming along would render the strongest to a squealing mess. With a deathly and witch cackle’s scream at 1:57, our hero steps away from the mic. as the duo unleash another round of sonic tapestry. Once more, the insatiable and burrowing riff is upon us, and it provides an ample sojourn for the listener to absorb what has been sung- well almost. That is the thing with the track: you are constantly catching your breath, at the same time you are losing it. I was constantly impressed at how the scuzzy and dirt-strewn sound implored and encourages everyone: it does not alienate or frighten. In so much as the track has tattoos of Grunge and classic Rock, it is a song that is ageless and un-prejudicing in its quality. It appeals to the Rock and Metal lover in me, yet it (the song) is just as capable as seducing those whom prefer their music a little less urgent. As our frontman completes another battering ram of “How to live your life“, the chorus comes to a close, as a stunning outro. is introduced. Whereas the intro. had its distinct and unique sound, the tail-end of the track presents a slightly darker and more crepuscular slink. Again the duo spar and blend with a keen understanding and affection, and neither steals the spotlight. The percussion is- as has been throughout- frantic and seamlessly unstoppable; the guitar work is variegated and imperious. The song’s target has been buried and forgotten about, as hob-nail boots are being stomped and smashed above the embers. I was intrigued by the song’s title and wondered whether it referenced death or something akin to a reawakening: it can mean different things to different people. As the song concluded, I got the feeling that a painful experience had enforced the mood; maybe referencing a past love whom has caused pain and is better off out of the picture. Subsequent plays reassess my thoughts, and I found it to be a track that dealt with something more redemptive. Perhaps I am wrong, yet only the boys know the real truth. That is the thing with Shoe Prints In The Dust: it is a track of nuance, mystery, but above all, unshakable perseverance. Having investigated the duo’s previous work, I was expecting quality, yet was surprised at how good the track was. It is a slight departure from their previous songs, yet preserves their core elements and hallmarks. The force of nature bluster is all apparent, but there are new and exciting facets evident here. Whether it is the riffs or the intro. that sticks in your brain; the strong and domineering vocal performance the entire track itself, you will be listening to over and over- well, at least I hope so. Aside from a few niggles with regards to vocal clarity, I cannot find any fault within the song. It appealed to my love of the likes of Pixies, Nirvana, Judas Preist and The Mars Volta, but more importantly, it showcases a fearless and ambitious band whom will be offering up some incredible promise throughout 2014. I would advise you attune your ears to where they are now- to ready yourself for what is to come.
Well, then. As I said at the top of this review; I have been listening a lot to some softer and soothing sounds, lately. Gorgeous songstress and melodic acoustic acts have gently guided me into spring, and I thank them for that. In contrast, I have been seeking out a paragon of force, that can add some balance and difference to my musical brain. I adore my favourite music, and the bands that have inspired me, yet they offer nothing new. When I am seeking out some modern-day potential, I always judge (potential candidates) on their merits alone: that is the mark of a truly great act. I look at great lyrics, music and melody as hallmarks, and if someone can tick all three of the docket, then we are onto a winner. God Damn provide this, yet are not a duo that are solely for fans of Metal and Rock. Their unique tones can galvanise disparate cores and create a unity that is needed in the music scene. Too many music fans stick to what they know and are familiar with, and miss out on a lot of great sounds. I would implore everyone to take a listen to God Damn in their entirety. Shoe Prints In The Dust is a tantalising glimpse at what a future E.P. or album will sound like, yet it is no fluke. Their back catalogue shows what a solid and consistent act they are, and given a tragic back story- which I have not alluded to- it is impressive that their focus and ambition has continued, unabated. The duo is a relatable and everyman pair whom one could share a pint with. They have the looks one would expect for a band of their ilk- interesting hair, drinks in hand with a cheeky grin- and their sound and force can rank alongside their idols. They have recently played Hammerfest VI, and are looking forward to rocking 2000 Trees and Camden Rocks over the coming months. They deserve all the festivals and gigs they are playing, yet I feel that they should be preparing themselves for more illustrious gigs over the coming years. The likes of Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age and The 1975 are playing Reading and Leeds this summer, and I could well see God Damn playing the same stages very soon. There have been some heavy purveyors such as Judas Priest and Black Sabbath whom can call the Midlands their natural home. It must be the air, the geography or something that is giving birth to acts whom prefer their sounds harder; their alcohol beer-flavoured and their hair long and flowing. Tomorrow, I am writing a feature on music as a whole, and what makes certain songs stick in the mind. There is a whole science and pathology that is dedicated to this- Psychoacoustics- and I have often wondered what separates the great from the bad. Maybe there is complication or mystery to it; perhaps if music hits you then it is good; if it is forgotten about, then it is bad. God Damn have rolled my musical memory back through ’90s Grunge; through ’70s Heavy Metal, and to the early days of Led Zeppelin- as well as the modern-day movements of The Mars Volta. In spite of some familiar cocktail components, the abiding taste and sensation is theirs and theirs alone. Too many acts are too scared to really strike out on their own and leave their idols in the past- through fear that critics and fans will not latch onto them at all. Our duo have shown themselves to be a confident and ambitious example whom will be reaping the rewards of their boldness. You can see (from the reviews above) just how much the music press thinks of them, so they are clearly intent on remaining on the scene for years to come. I shall leave you with one thing to consider (with regards to the music of 2014): whom will stick in your memory the longest. I am going to be focusing on the likes of Jen Armstrong tomorrow (whom is the most immediate and indelible talents I have witnessed in years) and focusing on what makes them so appealing and awe-striking. When compiling a new music playlist for this year, I am always looking for range and diversity. I feel that I have been given a great deal of great acoustic and gentler music, and some terrific harder sounds- from the likes of Los’ and Universal’. Our heroic two-piece are going to have a busy and eventful touring schedule coming up, and I am confident that there will be a new release imminent. Whether they are going to release another E.P., or fully-fledged album, I am not so sure, yet on the evidence (of Shoe Prints In The Dust) it will be a stunning collection. Spring seems to have come and gone (as pissing rain is imminent), so I am looking for some artificial sunshine, as well as a way of ‘getting everything out’; an outlet where I can be provided with joy as well an anger. As much as anything, I want to discover music that is just purely great: no pretence or tinsel, just natural beauty and force. When all of this is considered…
THERE are few (better) acts that can offer this.
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