Decibrity Playlist: Hark

Our Managing Editor and I share a fondness for many bands, but if I’m remembering correctly, he was responsible for introducing me to one in particular via his review of The Ruin of Nová Roma way back in the day: Taint. While the trio broke up in 2010, guitarist/vocalist Jimbob Isaac has resurfaced in Hark. The group released Crystalline earlier this year, an effort that will not leave Taint fans disappointed. When we asked Isaac to participate in this little series, we were excited to hear what he’d come up with: things to do in Swansea [Wales] when you’re dead. As he describes it, “With local poet/legend Dylan Thomas’ infamous summation of Hark’s hometown Swansea being ‘the graveyard of ambition,’ this playlist is my soundtrack to growing up during the early 90s and beyond, in this ‘ugly lovely town’ or ‘pretty shitty city.'” You can check out his picks below and pick up a copy of Hark’s debut here.

Acrimony’s “The Inn” (from 1994’s Hymns To The Stone)
Seeing local legends Acrimony evolve from their death-doom roots into the shamanic, wode-covered, stoner/doom tribe was pivotal to my immersion into Sabbath inspired groove. “The Inn” was their “hit” for me, and their shows were equal parts heavy metal congregation, transcendental free-party/rave ritual, and basement punk chaos. I owe so much to this band, and their legacy grows with the current Sigiriya, whose new album Darkness Died Today also seriously rules. See also Acrimony’s video for “Spaced Cat”, filmed in Swansea’s Oxwich church.

Hawkwind’s “You Shouldn’t Do That” (from 1971’s In Search Of Space)
Like any small town, when you’re in Swansea, you create your own fun and your own scene. Lord knows no one else is going to do it for you. “You Shouldn’t Do That” accompanied my first experiments with herbal exploration, and contributed to my taste for psychedelia while discovering Acrimony gigs and the free-party/rave scene that occurred on the fringes of Swansea in the beautiful Gower peninsula. The trance-out repetition and layers of other-worldly frequencies hypnotized me and ingrained itself in my psyche.

Helmet’s “Rude” (from 1990’s Strap It On)
Stripped down aggression, and bombastic groove suited me down to the ground, and still does. An American transfer student in my school sent me Strap It On and Meantime after he returned home to Knoxville, TN and we continued our friendship via written letters and tape trading. Helmet spoke to me with their under the radar status, and as a conduit through which I could vent all that teen angst. I’m wondering when that well is going to dry up, but hey, adult life is hardly a walk in the park.

Quicksand’s “Fazer” (from 1993’s Slip)
Thanks to early morning rock TV show Raw Power, and the post-Nirvana major label domineering of the ‘90s, I became obsessed with Walter and co’s dynamic post hardcore. For me Slip is timeless and has contributed hugely to how I write music. Walter’s phrasing and melody made complete, tacit sense to me, and I’ll always regard him as a huge musical influence. I met him on Rival Schools’ first UK tour, and he was the first person to enlighten me as to what Taint means in American slang. An unfortunate perversion of the English dictionary definition, and certainly not what I had in mind when scratching it on my school book covers in the early ‘90s.

Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love” (from 1985’s Riptide)
Rewinding to my pre-adolescence, this song was pure, perfect pop. You can put this next to “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News for my early life soundtrack. Dubbing these songs on to cassette from the radio charts every Sunday was a weekly must. Crossing into Dad-rock territory with Dire Straits’ entire Brothers In Arms is also a priceless record, and sits nicely next to this bad boy.

The Cure’s “Lullaby” (from 1989’s Disintegration)
This video freaked me the fuck out, as a teen rocker that didn’t know why he was drawn to it. A guy with weird hair and makeup, being slowly eaten by a huge spider…or something? The creepiness drew me in, scared me but all the while comforting with the perfect pop melancholy. Little did I know then how much I would relate to that night time discomfort further down the line.

Uriah Heep’s “Gypsy” (from 1970’s …Very ‘eavy …Very ‘umble)
Speaking of spider webs and being freaked the fuck out, …Very ‘eavy …Very ‘umble sat on my Dad’s record shelf as I was growing up. Passing it always gave me the jeebies, and eventually plucking up the courage to see what this horrifying album was all about, rewarded me endlessly. Heavy, British prog rock at its best. From the Hammond intro to the groove verse and hammond freak out, it gave me a perfect window into my father’s experimental years. The live photo inside the gatefold also has to be one of the best out there. Thanks Dad.

Sepultura’s “To The Wall” (from 1987’s Schizophrenia)
TDK 90 cassettes. The lifesblood of my late 80s/early 90s musical journey. A friend copied the early Sepultura albums for me, and while Morbid Visions scared the pants off me with its blackened, Frost-isms and crusty production, it was Schizophrenia that took my tastes in more extreme directions. The bilious vocals and garage-sounding brutality was like a hidden, dark secret amongst the classic rock in my adolescent record collection. My parents thought it was awful, and the metal gods above looked down, and they saw that it was good. Amen.

Hard To Swallow’s “Only A Glimpse Of…” (from 1998’s Protected By The Ejaculation of Serpents)
Thanks to the Acrimony tribe, Taint got to play with Nottingham’s HTS in ’97 at the Old Angel. Alongside buying from distros like Land of Treason, HTS introduced me to the crust/power violence scene and they were a terrifying live proposition. The first three seven inches were produced by Andy Sneap, and let their musical talent and ferocity shine through perfectly, without Sneap’s thrash metal gloss. Just thinking of their live shows raises the hairs on my neck, and while the Pessimiser and Slap-a-ham stables gave me some favourites (Dystopia, Grief, 16), Hard To Swallow pretty much wiped the floor with the lot of them for me. Their brother band Iron Monkey are equally treasured to me, but HTS deserve just as much props.

Knut’s “Whacked Out” (from 2002’s Challenger)
The tired label of “underrated” is far too often attached to bands that to me, just needed to achieve more road work, but simply couldn’t. Or more accurately, didn’t want to. Knut came into my life along with Keelhaul, Isis and Botch (thanks Hydrahead). Their live shows were (and hopefully will again be) intense, with their unique mix of influences and precision chaos. There’s only one Knut, and they will forever make imitators pale in their shadow.

*Photo by Ester Segarra

**Pick up a copy of Crystalline here

***For past Decibrity entries, click here