Free and legal MP3: Terminal Gods (dark yet uplifting guitar rock)

Hook-iness nestled in a gnarled shelter of blazing guitars.

Terminal Gods

“The Wheels of Love” – Terminal Gods

A pounding ferocity that makes me want to talk in clipped sentences. Hook-iness nestled in a gnarled shelter of blazing guitars. Almost poignant in its refusal of poignancy. Black leather hiding a tender heart. Those gruff, baritone lead vocals that almost aren’t even like singing.

But then there’s the discipline of the guitar lines themselves that give rise to a need for articulate description. I hear unexpected echoes of Big Country’s bagpipey sound lurking in the fervent fingerwork, and something of that band’s earnest hopefulness too, despite Terminal Gods’ best efforts to cloak themselves in a goth-ier growl. The song is simply too well built to be a downer, the interplay between vocalist Robert Cowlin and guitarist Robert Maisey too vivid to do anything but uplift.

Cowlin and Maisey were formerly in a band called The Mumbles from 2005 to 2011; Terminal Gods was formed shortly thereafter. “Wheels of Love” is from the band’s debut release, a six-song EP entitled Machine Beat Messiah, released in late November. You can listen and/or buy via Bandcamp.

Free and legal MP3: Grave Babies (fuzzy, loud, & accessible)

The fuzzy, voluminous surface can’t disguise the catchy song lurking beneath, and obviously doesn’t want to.

Grave Babies

“No Fear” – Grave Babies

The fuzzy, voluminous surface can’t disguise the catchy song lurking beneath, and obviously doesn’t want to. Listen, right at the start, to how that ominous electronic swell that opens the song delivers us first into a goth-y electronic beat and then into an instrumental melody—some kind of processed guitar, maybe?—with enough soaring and plummeting desire to break your heart (and don’t miss the extended “wrong” note it almost but doesn’t quite end on, at 0:36, which seems about perfect). This melody—succinct, well-crafted, and affecting—tells you just about everything you need to know about “No Fear,” and immediately sets it apart from the endless number of tunes I hear these days with long, introspective introductions in which nothing friggin’ happens.

And okay, I’ll avoid that particular soapbox for now (just barely), and get back to the various extroverted pleasures “No Fear” offers, which include: the way front man Danny Wahlfeldt sings from within a chorally muffle of distortion, which is oddly captivating for no good reason; the way the introduction’s fetching melody returns, in abbreviated form, in the middle of the song (1:31), something you don’t hear much of today largely because few songs bother with instrumental melody lines; and the general way Grave Babies here unites a variety of disconnected rock’n’roll genres from the ’80s and ’90s and ’00s, not all of which have been known for their pop sensibilities, into something concise and accessible.

“No Fear” is from the album Crusher, the band’s second, coming later this month on Hardly Art Records. Note that Grave Babies are not to be confused with the band Brave Baby, which was featured here in December.

photo credit: Angel Ceballos