Melbourne

Syzygy ‘The Pendulum’

“Any two related things, either alike or opposite”. Amid an aggressive socio-economic homogeneity, where any slight deviation of rabid capitalism’s ever closing peripheries of permissible discourse is crushed by a compliant media, the yearning for some elemental, binary pull only grows greater. The political pendulum which conventional wisdom tells us is forever swinging across the spectrum is currently stuck on Right, and perhaps the vital forces of syzygy need to be conjured to haul the lever back down, crashing through the dull certainty of the modern age.

Structures and balance are explored in Rebecca Maher and Gus Kenny’s new synth project Syzygy. Swapping the cyberpunk confrontation of prior band Spotting for shimmering electropop, the Melbourne duo injects the genre’s chilly aesthetics with a warm beating heart of rich melodies and bright analogue production. Preceding their debut EP with an inclusion on the excellent Blow Blood Records compilation A Long Time Alone, new release The Pendulum sees Syzygy’s search for duality in the form of four expert synthpop tracks.

The urgent title track opens the EP with dramatic heft, a great joyous hammering of jabbing basslines and glossy keys that strikes together radiantly, Maher maintaining a strong yet understated vocal delivery throughout. The crunchy ‘Social Fence’ retains their former punk snarl, a climactic frenzy of John Foxx style synth leads and punchy drum machines, while ‘Memory Distortion’ drops the tempo to a glacial groove, Maher’s icy detailing of blurred recollections and fragmented thoughts given an ethereal edge. Finale ‘(I’ll Just Be) Unfulfilled’ is an utterly infectious slice of euphoric heady dance which belies its lyrical resignations to a life of rigid, societal claustrophobia, the song takes off halfway in soaring and rousing lift of twinkling arpeggios and celestial sequencers to a thrilling, conclusive ascension.

The energy that fuels The Pendulum is effervescent and electric, an EP of bristling pop vigour bursting with life and a wonderful precariousness that hides underneath the assured front, the subtle forces that tantalisingly threaten life’s cohesion and harmony baring its teeth if you look close enough.

Concentration ‘I’m Not What I Was’

Testosterone hangs in the air with such clammy fetor you taste it on your lips. America teetering on the edge of war with Iran over desperate displays of military virility, a victim of gang rape is convicted of ‘causing public mischief’ as the alleged attackers sing ”the Brit is a whore” after being released without charge, and the grim figures of femicide continue to climb in cartel-ravaged Mexico. The more masculinity is dissected and scrutinised whether through art, academia or activism, the greater the ferocity of the agents of patriarchy is in violently silencing any such discourse, and the world is more dangerous for it.

Building a reputation as the Bristolian vanguard of cutting edge underground music, sonic agitators Avon Terror Corps (an amalgamation of musical misfits including Schwet, Bokeh Versions, Bad Tracking among a host of others) have extended their slimy tentacles beyond the South West with new label subsidiary Global Terror Corps in a mission to deliver uncompromising, genre-defying acts from the dankest corners of planet Earth. The first release under this moniker is EP I’m Not What I Was by Aussie/German trio Concentration, a visceral powerhouse act of industrial smut comprised of artists Zachariah Kupferminc, Matt Sativa and Thrush twisting heads clean off with their live sets of hellish volatility.

The scraping electro-punk as heard on prior album Premature still grinds unmercifully but with greater ephemeral potency across four tracks of distilled fury. EP opener ‘Circumcision’ is a squealing vomit of naked runtish neuroticism impotently wailing against the rabbi’s knife amid crushing pummeling drums coming close to the power electronics of Whitehouse were it not for the steady hypnotic tempo of the percussion. The stream of consciousness lyrics revealing the layers of pent-up Jewish dysmorphia take terrifying turns, sexual humiliation congeals to trans-generational Holocaust trauma with tortured confusion, yet Zupferminc’s nasal whine, references to ‘fucking Guardian articles’ and skewed klezmer pieces trigger a nervous hilarity to the nightmare.

Stuttering glitchy beats palpitate on ‘Jihadi Dole Bludger’, a cavernous momentum drives the track around points of eerie terse quiet and warped vocals, before the synth heavy ‘Spiderfuck’ pierces with Wax Trax! throb, arpeggios and drum machines creating a subtle groove beneath the noxious miasma. Last track ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’ honours the scathing defiance against male entitlement and sludgy-grunge delivery of 7 Year Bitch’s original but adds further layers of haunted discord and collages of reverb drenched suffering.

The testosterone that clung stubbornly on your lips is replaced with blood, pre-cum, and testicular viscera. I’m Not What I Was is a horribly fascinating putrid dry-retch of disgust against poisonous machismo, as powerful as a sledgehammer to your face but revealing the deeply insecure and fearful heart of toxic masculinity with surgical precision.

Holy Serpent ‘Endless’

Black Sabbath. Electric Wizard. Acid King. How is it that stoner rock can flirt so perilously close to prog-rock fantasy both musically and in visual identity, yet avoid its silly pitfalls. Two naked children of the earth gazing out across a scorched desert toward a bellowing volcano, holding each other as if awaiting some monstrous entity, strangely feels prescient. Perhaps that’s the secret, ground your surreal Sci-Fi concepts in a feeling all too real. Less Tolkien, more Jodorowsky.

Melbourne psych-rockers Holy Serpent has once again joined forces with RidingEasy Records for their third LP Endless, a record still heavy with earth-shattering doom metal but with their love of 70s hard rock given greater prominence. Clocking in at 40 minutes across six songs, the band achieve a smart sweet spot of allowing each track to breathe and ooze with sluggish tempos yet retaining a punk-like punch.

Album opener ‘Lord Deceptor’ is an absolute monster, a colossal metal summoning of pounding riffs and phantom keys nearly swallowing singer Scott Penberthy’s eerie vocals. It’s rolling power is so seismic and evocative that for six and a half minutes you’re whisked away from grey reality and into some psychedelic and stirring plane of existence. ‘Hourglass’ reaches similar heights of cinematic introspection, Lance Leembrugen’s drums crush against superb metal wrath recalling Tony Iommi’s sludgier cuts from Masters of Reality.

Strung-out grooves snakes throughout lending the record essential moments of cosmic intoxication. Thick Bass rattles against melodic fretwork on the slack ‘Daughter of the Light’, while trippy acoustic guitar triggers heady contemplation on album closer ‘Marijuana Trench’, ending the record on a note of hazy optimism.

Holy Serpent has touched the holy metal grail with Endless: an album which honours their metal heritage with some of the finest hard rock currently out there, yet it’s haunted sense of melody and stirring momentum achieve a strange sense of cerebral serenity.