February 21, 2018

Locktender - Friedrich

By Justin C. Have you ever rediscovered one of your own purchases? I had that happen with Locktender's brilliant Rodin. I liked it when Matt Hinch first wrote about it for our site, and then I let it slip into the depths of my digital catalog.
By Justin C.


Have you ever rediscovered one of your own purchases? I had that happen with Locktender's brilliant Rodin. I liked it when Matt Hinch first wrote about it for our site, and then I let it slip into the depths of my digital catalog. Not until a couple of years later, making the start of a long drive on rural roads in Vermont, did I stumble on it again, and I was reminded how blown away I was by both the musicianship and the content: an album paired with an artist, including the sculptor Rodin and the author Kafka before that. Bombing down those roads (because I drive too damn fast, always) with Locktender’s emotional heft pushing me along, I got excited again.

Little did I know that the gap between Rodin and the band's latest, Friedrich, would be a long four years. And little did I know that I wouldn't immediately take to Friedrich.

Friedrich deals with Caspar David Friedrich, an 18th century German landscape painter. Usually I'm bored with landscapes--much like my metal, I want to get to the weird modern stuff elsewhere in the museum. But given the period he worked in, Friedrich's paintings often having a haunting, surprisingly modern feel. I urge you to take a look at the paintings (and the band’s lyrics) at Locktender's site.

With this album, Locktender decided not only to cover Friedrich, but to also tell a story over the entire course of the album. It’s a story of a man lost, shipwrecked and conscripted into a foreign army, fleeing to a monastery, and ultimately drowning himself, questioning everything about his life and faith. It's bleak stuff, but yet opener "The Monk by the Sea" serves as a grand entrance, striking an almost a triumphant tone in spite of the fact that the lyrics describe a man giving himself up to the ocean. Riffs of every variety abound, but in a cohesive way, and vocals are primarily of the hardcore-scream variety, although there's a hefty dose of clean singing, including the album's most haunting refrain: "Please let this overcome me. Tide in, tide out. Steps in a cleansing direction. Cold chills across my bones. Please let this overcome me."

What's not to like? Well, on first listens, I sometimes found the album's heart-on-sleeve emotional impact almost too much. To my ears, the band leans a bit more heavily on their screamo influence than they have on past albums, and I wasn't sure how I felt about that, either. Granted, the band has always been open about this influence, and they even list "screamo" as a tag on their Bandcamp page (along with the brilliant "philosophercore""). The epically building "Winter Landscape" features some particularly vulnerable and pained rendition of the "Please let this overcome me" vocal motif, with gang vocals on a slight delay. "The Abbey" even includes an exaggeratedly shaky vocal style that I also associate with emo/screamo, and I just wasn't sure. Could I like this and still maintain my cool, detached reserve?

But in the end, this album grew and grew on me. The band's musicianship is still brilliant. Quiet passages build into explosions and fade away, emotions stay raw, everywhere from rage to despair to quiet melancholy. Sure, a lot of us tend toward more impenetrable and cerebral metal, but I think there's still a part of us that wants memorable, anthemic choruses, even if they feel a bit over the top, and Locktender delivers. On the day I wrote this, I caught myself absentmindedly singing, "tide in...tide out...," and I knew I'd been hooked for good, and any "I'm too cool for this” pretension melted away. I urge you to give this band, and this album in particular, the same chance to work its spell on you.

Metal Bands-you-might-have-missed-camp 2017

By Calen Henry. Things you might have missed. I'll be honest, I only checked out Dumblegore because of the band name, among the best of 2017. It turns out, though, that they totally rule, though they don't sing about Harry Potter.
By Calen Henry.

Things you might have missed.


I'll be honest, I only checked out Dumblegore because of the band name, among the best of 2017. It turns out, though, that they totally rule, though they don't sing about Harry Potter.

Dumblegore play "Spooky Metal" the stuff drenched in B-movie horror tropes, but their spin on it is unique. They marry fuzzed out stoner doom, spooky organ, and a kind of "laid-back Mantar" vocal approach with punk rock attitude (and often song structure). It's a little bit black metal, a little bit stoner rock, a little bit punk and a whole lot of fun. The master is decent too, a respectable DR 8.

Come for the silly name stay 'cause they rock.



Vaivatar are Finnish. That seems to be the only information available about the band which is always a great sign!

They play a strange mix of symphonic but raw black metal. It's extremely busy, but extremely melodic with very inorganic sounding synths. It gives them a sound like Havukruunu meets Master Boot Record by way of Castlevania. The guitar distortion and the synths are eerily similar so it can be hard to tell which is which adding another outré layer to the music

It's epic, but mysterious, dense but soaring, and Pay What You want, also a nice master at DR 8.

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Cover art by Bring.

I LOVE Angel Sword but feel like I'm mostly alone in my love of their mix of Motorhead vocals and sloppy Iron Maiden instrumentals, but I don't care. They rule! Their 2016 release Rebels Beyond the Pale is still in heavy rotation for me, and though this is only an EP more Angel Sword is more Angel Sword.

I initially checked them out because of their so bad it's amazing album covers, and wrote them off as inept traditional metal due to some odd chord structures and vocals but I was missing out. Underneath the intentional roughness of their presentation are fantastic songs. They keep it classic; nothing is lighting speed, lots of the songs are in major keys, and many are even about heavy metal. But it's all so well done, just sloppy enough to seem totally genuine but get across the wicked riffs, choruses, and gang vocals.


Things I missed, but apparently no one else did.

Cover art by Paolo Girardi.

2013's Manifest Decimation didn't click with me so I glossed over Nightmare Logic until it was all over year end lists, metal and otherwise. Boy, was I missing out. Power Trip play reverb drenched throwback thrash with pop sensibilities. Every riff and every chorus is so catchy. It's one of 2017's most fun and most relevant releases. While a lot of metal concerns itself with how everything is terrible, Power Trip implore us to get out and do something about it. Thankfully since the album's release many have!

Unfortunately the album's production, reverb drenched though it is, isn't a total throwback. It's mastered incredibly loudly and clips almost as hard as it rips. Musically, though, it's a total win.


Track o' the Year


Not metal, but The Deep is the best single track of the year. Commissioned for the podcast This American Life, it's an homage to Detroit electronic artist Drexciya, extending their mythos wherein the children of pregnant African women thrown overboard from slave ships were born and adapted to life underwater.

It's a microcosm of what made Splendor & Misery so compelling; fascinating concept, exquisite execution, and great production. The production matches the watery theme with beats and accents that sound "bubbly"

In The Deep the water-dwellers go from peaceful existence to climate change worry to full-on war with the "two-legs" from the surface. The track is divided into movements as the situation escalates. It starts of slow and laid back but each revelation towards confrontation and eradication of the two-legs increases the pace of the music and lyrics and adds more layers to the beat.

Though I love Splendor & Misery, it was criticized by some for its lack of immediacy, essentially required a full listen through to properly experience it. The Deep is the answer to that. Five minutes for one of the best, and most immediate "concept albums" of 2017

February 16, 2018

Fister / Chrch - Split

Fister and Chrch are both known for being as heavy as really heavy things so putting them together on a split should have caused a collision of black holes. But we're still here and the only black hole you'll find
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Ethan Lee McCarthy

Fister and Chrch are both known for being as heavy as really heavy things so putting them together on a split should have caused a collision of black holes. But we're still here and the only black hole you'll find is the one you find yourself in (mentally) after succumbing to the darkness both bands foist upon you with one long song each. One might like to think however, that the resultant gravitational waves from this imagined collision influenced the sheer weight this split contains.

Chrch gives us “Temples”, a nearly 17 minute doom ride that begins with a lonesome guitar intro that seems very Pallbearer-like (if we're doing those kinds of comparisons). Even when the heavy comes there's an undertone that creates the same sort of melancholy, yet married to monolithic doom of the kind not meant to annihilate from the core but to destroy from the outside in. Almost six minutes in that overt doom power takes over as thunderous slo-burning riffs pummel at a measured pace. Atmosphere creeps back in and darkens the heart while squeezing tight. It feels sky high and completely buried at the same time. The vile vocals, sparse as they can be, beckon from a tortured place thick with rasp and vile adding another element to the complex brew. Eventually the track returns to that syrupy slog oozing despair with clean vocals barely audible beneath the crash, bringing in yet more atmosphere leading into towering riffs sure to put a scowl on your face. It then pushes back around to that depressive guitar that began the track. Like completing a circle. Perfect for repetition.

If you're not wise to Chrch and love (old) Pallbearer's style of superb heaviness and heart-wrenching melancholy, look no further. Don't get me wrong. They're far from clones. They're just likely to push the same buttons. But push them harder. If you are already wise to Chrch, this latest service should have you primed for their next LP slated for release in April.

Screams most unholy strip the colour off the picture of pain and darkness Fister are trying to paint with the slogging pace of their concussive “riffs” on “The Ditch”. Repetition wears you down under a mechanical power but the vocals inject muscle to fight your way out of the pit. As you get settled into a loaded 20:28 a spectre of colour suddenly materializes sending tendrils of chaos swirling through the fog in the form of a guitar solo straight from the gut. All that buildup and noise turns to dust as Fister change the atmosphere with their own lonesome guitar. Through this more contemplative section, complete with some interesting noise and whispering, it slowly creeps back to hammering, pulsing, life-sustaining doom. Ascendant riffs run head-on into massive chugs and otherworldly vocals. It continuously pounds the listener like a stamping press, forming something dark and twisted. And much less likely to rise up than it was before.

I'm not sure what Fister has in the pipeline but “The Ditch” should give listeners enough to digest for a while anyway.

Get your doom on, folks.


[Got a heads up from Fister: "our new full length will be out in April on Listenable Records!"]