With Undergroove Records’ welcome return, Simon takes a trip down memory lane and recalls some past glories
Those of us with long enough memories will recall that the early noughties were a pretty great time for the UK’s underground metal scene. There seemed to be great bands lurking in every shoebox venue in the country, with the internet starting to join everybody up.
Standing in the middle of it all, along with the likes of The Organ fanzine and indie labels like Visible Noise and Copro, was Darren Sadler‘s Undergroove Records. The label built up an impressive catalogue which, looking at it now, is like a snapshot of the scene as it was back then; releasing albums from bright young things on the UK circuit, as well as a few choice international cuts. But more of that in a moment.
Whilst it never rolled over and died completely, Camp Undergroove had not shown many signs of life for the last few years – until now.
Rather than being, as some might interpret their name, a trio of IT professionals, Servers apparently have something of an interest in cults. I admit to having a similar fascination, thanks in no small part to the Branch Davidian siege in Waco playing out when I was at a formative age.
Coupled with this announcement is the release of the band’s single, “Universes & Supernovas (The Ride)” due to drop in February – and very promising it is too.
The song’s subject matter revolves around the Heaven’s Gate cult, who entered a mass suicide pact, killing themselves in order to board a spaceship hiding in the tail of a comet in 1997. Cheery stuff, but apocalypse cults were quite the thing at the end of the millennium. The accompanying video sees the band apparently luring a voluptuous young lady to an appropriately creepy location. There’s probably some symbolism that I’m missing, but I was never very good at that sort of thing.
The music, however, is really good stuff. It carries with it a distinctively earthtone9-type flavour, which I will always see as a good thing, and a pleasingly hooky chorus that had me humming along at my desk after the second listen. But don’t take my word for it – have a listen:
Great stuff. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing the album in the new year.
Additionally, my enthusiasm over the Undergroove roster was met with a couple of blank looks from some of my colleagues here, so I’m going to indulge myself and pick out a few of my favourites from their back catalogue, so that old-timers like myself can reminisce, and you lucky young things can discover what we were listening to back in the days when you couldn’t be on the internet and take a phone call at the same time.
Johnny Truant – believe it or not, there was a time when the term ‘metalcore’ was not a byword for a seemingly infinite parade of cookie-cutter bellowing-and-breakdown sound-alikes. Johnny Truant were one of the first bands I heard associated with the genre tag, and they were exciting and awkward in equal measure.
The band released three albums – the third, No Tears For The Creatures, was truly astounding – and within two months of its 2008 release, the band had split. Bastards. But, as that album was not released through Undergroove, I’ve picked out “The Bloodening” from their second album, notable for the positively crushing three-stage breakdown of its coda.
Cubic Space Division – Back when I was still young and idealistic enough to believe I could be a rock star myself, my band shared a stage with Cubic Space Division more often than any other group. Bass player Oz can be found these days in Feed The Rhino, but Cubic were a very different proposition – borrowing equally from Isis and Will Haven, atmospheric passages gave way to splendidly meaty riffing. Their one and only album still gets a regular airing in this house.
This track is the only full track from the album that seems to have made its way online. Perhaps the good folks at Undergroove can do something about that.
The Abominable Iron Sloth – surely a contender for the best band name in the history of music, this American quartet’s ludicrously heavy sludge pulverised my ears when I first heard them in 2006. Main man Cayle Hunter is still pummelling away in Armed For Apocalypse, and AIS’s self-titled debut album can be seen as an early glimpse of what was to come.
As well as having the best band name, the band also had a knack for marvellous but ludicrous song titles – as album opener “Hats Made Of Veal And That New Car Scent” will attest. Brace yourselves.
Twin Zero – when earthtone9 split up in 2002, I was properly devastated. I was delighted when vocalist Karl Middleton and drummer Simon Hutchby re-emerged as part of Twin Zero. The band was the brainchild of guitarist Reuben Gotto, who had previously achieved some success with Vex Red. But Twin Zero was a more progressive affair, and the band’s live shows (often played with a twin-drummer setup) were dominated by a twenty minute metal odyssey named, appropriately for this context “Monolith”. For me, they were a most welcome consolation prize upon the dissolution of my then-favourite band.
Twin Zero released “Monolith” as an EP, much like TesseracT would later do with “Concealing Fate”, as well as a full-length album, The Tomb To Every Hope, and a split EP with fellow-Undergroovers 27 before ultimately slumping into inactivity. Reuben then played on Johnny Truant’s previously mentioned No Tears For The Creatures swansong.
As “Monolith” doesn’t exist online either, my pick is the lead single from Tomb…: “Outstayed”, which showcases their percussive talents in a rather more concise fashion.
So there you have it. These are just some of the reasons I’m happy that Undergroove is back in business – and if they are as good at spotting and developing emerging talent as they were back when these bands were around, we should all be paying close attention to what they do next.