Monday, October 31, 2016

It Only Gets Worse - Angels

By Craig Hayes. Prolific Dutch musician Maurice de Jong is famed for conjuring nightmarish visions with his black metal/harsh noise project Gnaw Their Tongues. It’s not all dissonant exploits for de Jong though. He also delves into shoegaze, drone, and avant-garde electronics with his other solo and collaborative ventures.
By Craig Hayes.


Prolific Dutch musician Maurice de Jong is famed for conjuring nightmarish visions with his black metal/harsh noise project Gnaw Their Tongues. It’s not all dissonant exploits for de Jong though. He also delves into shoegaze, drone, and avant-garde electronics with his other solo and collaborative ventures. But whether he’s making music that’s extreme or ethereal, de jong’s always shown great skill in sculpting sounds that unnerve.

Matt Finney is a US-based troubadour of tragedy whose work also gets under the skin, and his collaborations with de Jong under the It Only Gets Worse banner have burrowed deep into the darkest corners of the mind. On It Only Gets Worse’s brand new album, Angels, Finney's poetry and de Jong's music intertwine to construct more uneasy art. Although, where Finney’s tales of regret, loss or desperation have often been cathartic in the past, exorcising demons isn’t on the agenda with Angels.

Clearly, Finney is no stranger to demons himself; be they metaphoric or otherwise. His world-weary prose and gruff voice articulate what we’re often too afraid to admit to ourselves, let alone say out loud. His haunting words and delivery originally caught my attention via Finney's collaborations with Ukrainian composer Heinali. The duo’s Conjoined and Ain't No Night full-lengths featured a bewitching mix of grim spoken word and downtempo electronics, and, in essence, Finney and de Jong’s It Only Gets Worse project also combines sombre soundscapes with gloomy narratives.

That's not to say that It Only Gets Worse simply repeats a formula perfected by Finney and Heinali. Finney’s verse is often framed by de Jong with far less abrasiveness on their releases. On Angels, de Jong continues his use of subtle albeit ominous atmospherics to underscore the album’s bleak vocabulary. “Grace” features dark waves of melancholic electronics. “Anna” has sharper nerve-tweaking notes cutting through its ambient elements. And “Sepia Toned” and “Thaw” see cinematic minimalism evoke expressive panoramas. Essentially, the musical structure of Angels is almost the antithesis of de Jong’s work with his Gnaw Their Tongues project. Here, the music he creates doesn’t set out to overwhelm or intimidate. Instead, it offers crucial scaffolding for Finney’s balladry –– which is where the true brutality of Angels lies.

In other words, de Jong’s contributions serve as a critical soundtrack intensifying Angels’ bleak verse. And once you realise you’re listening to an entire album dedicated to the tale of a father who’s murdered his young twin daughters, then you’re in for an uncomfortable listening experience: especially if you’re a parent, like myself.

Still, rather than seeming gratuitous or sensationalist, Finney’s curt prose and sketched out scenes feel more like an exploration of why and how someone could commit such atrocities. Of course, Angels is dramatic, because murder is clearly a dramatic affair. But Finney and de Jong aren’t simply chronicling a catastrophe for cheap thrills here. Nor are they simply reenacting events inspired by real life crimes.

On Angels, it really seems as if Finney and de Jong are set on summoning the over-arching climate that surrounds such appalling events. Obviously, it’s all a matter of how you perceive or interpret Angels on a personal level. But, for me, all actions have consequences, and sometimes those consequences are so heinous or shocking that they cannot be captured or explained by words alone. Hence the need for the kind of interweaving of music and verse found on Angels. It's art that allows you to truly gauge the emotional weight of the heaviest experiences imaginable.

Ultimately, Angels doesn’t provide easy answers or upbeat resolutions. But, like all great art, it does ask a lot of uneasy questions. Shrouded in music that’s often as soul-shaking as it is soul-stirring is the cold and callous realisation that perhaps we truly are lost as a species. If that is the case, then It Only Gets Worse isn’t just an apt name for Finney and de Jong’s grim collaborations. It can also be seen as deeply prophetic pronouncement. One that’s certainly summed up in both beautiful and horrific terms by the unanswerable tragedy that Angels depicts.

Tagged with 2016, ambient, Craig Hayes, electronica, It Only Gets Worse

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Vermin Womb - Decline

By Craig Hayes. Vermin Womb’s moniker is the perfect match for the band’s virulent sound. The trio’s music is an incensed breeding ground for pestilence and animus, and the band’s debut full-length, Decline, is a whirlwind of hate-fuelled intensity.
By Craig Hayes.


Vermin Womb’s moniker is the perfect match for the band’s virulent sound. The trio’s music is an incensed breeding ground for pestilence and animus, and the band’s debut full-length, Decline, is a whirlwind of hate-fuelled intensity. None of that is a huge surprise though. Because Vermin Womb were born from the demise of Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire: a band who described their music as, “total fucking dissonant anti-life funeral grind”.

That description fits Vermin Womb well too. The band’s frontman, Ethan McCarthy, was the vocalist and guitarist in CTTTOAFF, and these days he keeps his misanthropic credentials up to date by also fronting sludge sadists Primitive Man. Joining McCarthy in Vermin Womb are former CTTTOAFF bassist Zach Harlan and drummer J.P. Damron; completing a clearly murderous meeting of minds.

Vermin Womb’s first release, 2014’s Permanence EP, was a cornucopia of grotesque sounds and harsh musicality. But Decline ups the onslaught ante by being heavier, angrier, speedier and a lot more confrontational. There’s no mistaking Vermin Womb’s hateful methodology, or their nihilistic philosophy, because hyper-speed blackened deathgrind tracks like “Industrialist”, “Rank & File” and “Pitiless” are entirely devoid of any accommodating handholds or rest stops. No question, those songs, and every other track on Decline, make it explicitly clear that Vermin Womb don’t give a fuck about you, me, or anyone.

Honestly, it’s great to be so hated. Because it’s that combination of sonic extremity and outright misanthropy that’s the key attractor on Decline. McCarthy, Harlan and Damron create hostile music that’s also deeply antagonistic. Tracks like “Inner World” and “Disrepair” aren’t passive. They wrap themselves in barbwire, and then take a wild lunge at you. “Entomb” and “Cancer” aren’t simply dissonant rampages where bass-blitzed grindcore, black metal and death metal are all dunked in a acid bath either. They’re trenchant tracks, and willfully provocative.

Vermin Womb dare you to make it through Decline. For those already initiated into the extreme music cabal, it’s a visceral thrill ride meeting that challenge. For the uninitiated, well, it’s probably best to be prepared for the worst, and then some, and then some more. Essentially, Decline is so good because it’s so ghastly. If you want blistering velocity, Decline’s got plenty of that. And if you want blastbeaten barbarity, an overdose awaits. Scorn. Violence. Contempt. Animosity. Catharsis. They’re all there in abundance on Decline as well. But what makes the album extra-specially rewarding is the unrelenting intensity of Vermin Womb’s loathing.

Sure, we’ve all heard a million bile-filled underground bands before. But Vermin Womb soar past mere animosity into the realms of psychotic belligerence. The result is a sound that’s as much Full of Hell as it Napalm Death, as much Hierophant as it is Diocletian, or as much Revenge as it is Vasaeleth. Point being, Vermin Womb make sure to spread the bitterness and depravity around. They hit a lot of abominable points on extreme metal map. And the band’s hybridized sound situates ultra-negativity front and centre, ceaselessly.

Decline is less than 30-minutes long, but it’ll leave you utterly reeling. McCarthy, Harlan and Damron don’t waste a second on superfluous filler. Or even take a moment to pause for breath. The tar-thick riffage, vitriolic howls, and hammering percussion are a non-stop nightmare –– which is, obviously, a gigantic tick in the plus column here. Produced to let the hate bleed and anger seethe with every rapid-fire musical movement, Decline is both a bleak reflection and grim projection of a world that’s well beyond repair. It’s Vermin Womb’s gruesome tribute, to humanity’s last gasps.

Tagged with 2016, black metal, Craig Hayes, death metal, grindcore, Throatruiner Records, Vermin Womb

Friday, October 28, 2016

Ulcerate - Shrines of Paralysis

By Craig Hayes. Ulcerate have been on the receiving end of abundant critical acclaim for a number of years now. Each subsequent release from the formidable Auckland, New Zealand-based death metal band is seemingly hailed not only as the band’s very best work, but also as a genre-quaking release in its own right.
By Craig Hayes.


Ulcerate have been on the receiving end of abundant critical acclaim for a number of years now. Each subsequent release from the formidable Auckland, New Zealand-based death metal band is seemingly hailed not only as the band’s very best work, but also as a genre-quaking release in its own right. Truth is, while we all know that the world of heavy metal is awash in hollow hype, Ulcerate deserve every single iota of that praise.

You can expect more of the same genius on Ulcerate’s brand new album, Shrines of Paralysis. The band’s fifth full-length confirms that Ulcerate are a singular band, ahead of the curve both musically and conceptually. Shrines of Paralysis also reaffirms that Ulcerate are experts in combining unrivaled amounts of sonic heaviness with intimidating amounts of musical complexity. But if Shrines of Paralysis showcases one thing most of all, it’s that Ulcerate are a distinctive musical entity, constructing a dynamic language all of their own making.

None of the above is false flattery. You only need listen to Ulcerate’s albums in sequence to hear a band carving out a creative path that’s grown more distinct as they’ve become more unconventional and nuanced in mixing instrumental mastery with pure ferocity. In fact, Ulcerate are famed for meticulously arranging highly technical death metal. Although, I’d argue, that’s not really an accurate picture of the band in 2016.

Paul Kelland 2014. Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Ulcerate are ever-evolving. Today, doomier and disharmonic dirges, black metal, industrial and post-punk textures, and atmospheric post-metal all feature on Ulcerate’s artistic palette. Of course, all of that is battered by swarms of progressive and dissonant death metal –– and then trampled by jaw-droppingly insane solos. But albums like 2011’s The Destroyers of All or 2013’s Vermis also highlight a band that’s entirely comfortable with wilfully ignoring death metal’s rules and regulations.

My theory’s always been that Ulcerate incorporate influences from well outside death metal and make evolutionary music because they exist on the fringes, both artistically and geographically. In other words: isolation = innovation. Or, Ulcerate’s remoteness helps to inform their uniqueness. Fair enough if you disagree, but what isn’t up for debate is the fact that Shrines of Paralysis is Ulcerate’s most artistically ambitious and thus most intimidating release yet.

The album’s first two songs, “Abrogation” and “Yield to Naught”, are perfect examples of how Ulcerate craft intense songs filled with micro machinations that hypnotically draw the ear. There’s no question that people rejoice in the expertly sculpted detail packed into Ulcerate’s songs. However, the band also ensure there’s a macro component to Shrines of Paralysis: that giant wall of noise that hammers home the album’s oppressive whole.

Jamie Saint Merat 2014. Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

So, yes, those complex time signatures deserve applause, as does the way guitarist Michael Hoggard twists labyrinthine riffs around drummer Jamie Saint Merat’s knotty percussion. As do bassist and vocalist Paul Kelland’s guttural growls, which form a whole other layer of vocal instrumentation. But don’t forget to step back and admire Shrines of Paralysis in terms of its sheer overall power. Because it’s a mammoth, head-spinning work of art.

As you’d expect, Shrines of Paralysis is painstakingly produced, mixed and mastered, by Saint Merat once again, to maximize its aggressiveness and impact. And tracks like “There Are No Saviours” and “Extinguished Light” benefit from that production clarity because their more intricate elements are able to shine alongside their bitterest and most nerve-shredding components. That pitch-perfect production also highlights how Ulcerate’s work has become increasingly more interesting as the band’s unique vernacular has expanded, and Shrines of Paralysis is certainly Ulcerate’s most diverse recording thus far.

Throttling tracks like “Shrines of Paralysis’” and “Chasm of Fire” show that Ulcerate are very adept at constructing chilling songs. But those songs also reveal that the band prove themselves to be true masters of dread-filled death metal when they slow things down and flesh out their songs –– allowing their often avant-garde and always hypothermic and hypnotic atmospherics to really get under the skin.

Michael Hoggard 2014. Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

For me, that’s always been the band’s best attribute. I mean, sure, Ulcerate’s hyper-technical exertions are impressive. But the hook, for me at least, has been that unnerving chill that lingers: that all-encompassing and unrelenting darkness. That’s not to deny Ulcerate’s skill in orchestrating a discordant cacophony with maestro dexterity. Technically, Shrines of Paralysis is a masterclass in balancing elements like velocity, rhythm, complexity, savagery, atonality, and nuance. That’s a lot of ingredients, and the album’s final track, “End the Hope”, puts all of that into action while underscoring Ulcerate’s ability to create music that’s evocative and organic yet mechanical and ruthless.

In the end, that’s the best way to describe Shrines of Paralysis: human yet utterly inhuman. That’s an apt description of Ulcerate’s thematic sophistication too. Aesthetically, Ulcerate are unrivalled. They are what others cannot be.

Shrines of Paralysis is challenging and jarring and, like all of Ulcerate’s albums, repeated playing reveals increasing layers of detail. Because Shrines of Paralysis incorporates a wider spectrum of influences, the listening experience is exponentially more unique and satisfying. The album shows what happens when an unrestrained and unconventional approach meets idiosyncratic creativity. Shrines of Paralysis is visionary music for the bleakest of times.

Ulcerate remain unsurpassed.

Tagged with 2016, Craig Hayes, John Mourlas, Relapse Records, technical death metal, Ulcerate

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Virvum - Illuminance

By Calen Henry. Necrophagist’s Epitaph is one of my favourite metal albums and absolutely my favourite tech death album. To me it’s the perfect mix of over-the-top neoclassical solos layered over wonderfully complex and filthy death metal riffs. Like many others I’ve waited over a decade for a follow-up
By Calen Henry.


Necrophagist’s Epitaph is one of my favourite metal albums and absolutely my favourite tech death album. To me it’s the perfect mix of over-the-top neoclassical solos layered over wonderfully complex and filthy death metal riffs. Like many others I’ve waited over a decade for a follow-up and followed Necrophagist alumni’s other projects as well as bands in the long shadow cast by The Great Death Eater. None have really grabbed me until Virvum. I’ve probably listened to Illuminance more than all those albums combined and I’ve had it for less than a month.

Virvum succeeds exactly how many other Necrophagist worshippers fail. They only take a small part of the Necrophagist blueprint and layer other styles over top, in this case my metal tastes circa 2005; Between the Buried and Me style prog-metal and crushing Swissludge akin to Knut and Unhold.

The undeniable elevator pitch is SPACE NECROPHAGIST, but they’re so much more than that. They tap into space and sci-fi themes as well as aurally evoking space. Many tech death bands use sci fi imagery and lyrics, but actually sounding celestial tends to be more in keeping with the burgeoning cosmic black metal scene, apart from Artificial Brain. Virvum sound unquestionably spacey, but their version of space stands in stark contrast to the Brain’s fume-huffing post-Skynet wasteland. Illuminance has lots of chromatic runs and minor sweeped arpeggios, but a lot of the solos and tremolo riffs lean on major and augmented intervals (I think, my music theory is a bit weak) giving a soaring quality to many of the tracks that evokes the vastness of space.

My only complaint is with the mastering. Illuminance is loud to its detriment (DR5). The arrangements are extremely dense and complex and would have benefited from more room to breathe, plus the more dense parts suffer from some clipping. It’s not as noticeable as on Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings or Terminal Redux because there’s so much else going on, but it’s there.

Musically though, Illuminance is utterly fantastic. At this rate it’ll be a decade before something this good comes along again.

Tagged with 2016, Calen Henry, progressive death metal, Virvum

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Order of the Owl - We Are Here to Collect Our Crown

By Karen A. Mann. More than four years after the release of their debut, Atlanta psychedelic sludge monsters Order of the Owl are back with a powerful follow-up that finally delivers on their initial promise. The band has spoken of personal and professional challenges
By Karen A. Mann.


More than four years after the release of their debut, Atlanta psychedelic sludge monsters Order of the Owl are back with a powerful follow-up that finally delivers on their initial promise. The band has spoken of personal and professional challenges, including the departure of two drummers, that engulfed the band over the past few years. Perhaps as a result, the sound on We Are Here to Collect Our Crown is more mind-expanding, more angrily powerful and more focused than before.

Fronted by singer/bass player Brent Anderson (formerly of Zoroaster), Order of the Owl retain that old band’s psychedelic soundscapes, but offer a heftier sonic palette on which they play out. We Are Here to Collect Our Crown alternates between bad-trip harshness and darkly hypnotic, with guitarist Casey Yarbrough’s thick, pummeling riffs and Anderson’s trademark looped, guttural vocals.

The album begins with “Brought Below,” which combines a menacing riff with Anderson’s demon-like vocals. The band speeds up a bit on “Wolves of True Diamond Hate” and “Hell Ride,” both of which flirt with hardcore. The band is at its best on “Resurrection,” which uses a lumbering, shimmering riff and monotone vocals to create an enveloping, trance-like effect.

Just when you’ve gotten used to the album’s sludge assault, the band hits you with the album’s closing track “Golden Dawn,” which begins with guest guitarist Juan Montoya (Killer Be Killed, ex-Torche) playing an acoustic melody, over which wordless vocals float in. As the melody ends, the song morphs into more than three minutes of increasingly frenetic electronic noise. It’s a good summary of the band’s sound as a whole, which always finds the right balance between melody and chaos, and typically does so in an unexpected way.

Order of the Owl aren’t satisfied to simply create something for you to listen to: They’re going to challenge your assumptions and force you to engage with what they’re doing. For that they truly deserve the crown they’ve come to collect.

Tagged with 2016, Karen A. Mann, Order of the Owl, sludge metal, stoner metal

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Seputus - Man Does Not Give

By Craig Hayes. US trio Seputus features ¾ of the lineup of technical death metal band Pyrrhon. But where Pyrrhon specialise in frenetic sound experiments, Seputus hammers home a musical message that’s dunked in punk, abraded by noise and black metal, and then kicked around the yard by grinding death metal.
By Craig Hayes.

Artwork by Caroline Harrison

US trio Seputus features ¾ of the lineup of technical death metal band Pyrrhon. But where Pyrrhon specialise in frenetic sound experiments, Seputus hammers home a musical message that’s dunked in punk, abraded by noise and black metal, and then kicked around the yard by grinding death metal. Seputus pre-dates Pyrrhon too. But the band was set aside and it’s Pyrrhon that’s ended up attracting critical attention in recent times. So what does Seputus have to offer? Hell on earth, my friend. Hell. On. Earth.

Seputus’ debut album, Man Does Not Give, was inspired by the band’s drummer, guitarist, and all round noise-maker Stephen Schwegler’s time in the US military. Obviously, heavy metal is obsessed with war. It’s a perennial trope. But the closest the overwhelming majority of metal musicians or fans ever get to military matters is watching war porn on YouTube. I don’t know if Schwegler served time in a combat zone, but his experiences in the military environment, combined with his role as prime songwriter here, help raise the levels of belligerence on Man Does Not Give by a significant warlike margin.

No question, Man Does Not Give has an ultra-aggressive temper that’s tuned to the discord of everyday life, as well as the madness and devastation of modern day warfare. Not every song on the album deals with outright hostilities, as such. But vocalist Doug Moore’s savage lyrics highlight the battles we fight every day nonetheless. “A Perfect Gentleman” frames a deeply uncomfortable scene, one of many disturbing pictures that Moore sketches out. His last line on the frenzied “Desperate Reach” (“just terminal velocity and the abyss”) succinctly defines the entire feel of Man Does Not Give as it hurtles towards the void. And Schwegler’s musical cruelty and Moore’s lyrical severity combine to present a unified violent vision on Man Does Not Give.

There’s a subtle genius to the way that Seputus intentionally tear their songs apart to make them more barbed and barbaric as well. There’s avant-garde elements, off-kilter tangents, and warped time signatures on Man Does Not Give too –– although it’s Pyrrhon that follows that path deepest into the woods. In the main, Seputus assaults with thick swarms of seething riffs backed by a heavyweight percussive bombardment; swarms bring the operative word here.

The band grind death and black metal together, and then coat that with a crusty, bass-rumbling racket on intense tracks like “Downhill Battle” and “Top of the Food Chain”. The result is that Man Does Not Give sounds and feels like a chaotic cascade of gruesome noise, and Moore’s vocals are a major contributor to the horrorshow. Moore digs deep on tracks like “Vestigial Tail” to come up with unhinged and bloodthirsty vocals. But he also adds psychotic screams throughout Man Does Not Give that bypass any easily affixed descriptor.

Man Does Not Give maintains a murderous mood throughout. The disorder at the heart of “No Mind Will Enshrine Your Name” and “The Fist That Makes Flesh” sees reality crumbling into that aforementioned abyss with homicidal glee. The production on Man Does Not Give has a cavernous depth and leaves a blood-soaked trail –– ensuring the album isn’t just cruel in content but is also confronting. Seputus sound like they’re documenting how hellish things are. But then, crucially, they also take great delight in rubbing your face in it.

The question was once asked, “war, what it is good for?” Well, if you’ve been paying attention to the endless parade of the victims on your TV screen, maybe “absolutely nothing” might be your response. But that’s not going to change anything. Because sympathy has never stopped a fair proportion of humanity from ceaselessly baying for blood. Man Does Not Give doesn’t provide any answers as to why we externalise or internalise so much brutality. Or why violence is so ingrained in us all. But the album does evocatively explore humankind’s desire for self-destruction.

In doing so, Seputus don’t just capture the rage around us on Man Does Not Give, they also help release the rage within us. And there’s your catharsis. There’s your unshackling of the beast. Sans the bloodshed. Ultimately, whether Seputus are tackling conflict in the abstract, or on the streets, battlefields, or in our own minds, the band’s ability to corral the chaos inherent in conflict is their best feature. It keeps the atmosphere on Man Does Not Give teetering on the edge of cut-throat insanity. Just like all of us. One step away from Hell on earth.

Tagged with 2016, black metal, Craig Hayes, death metal, Seputus

Friday, October 21, 2016

Planes Mistaken for Stars - Mercy & Prey

By Justin C. Sometime in the early 2000s, I was seduced by a deal from rock/punk/indie label Deep Elm Music. Give them $30, and they'd send you 30 CDs, but the catch was that you couldn't choose which 30. While I'm sure I got $30 worth of listening enjoyment out of the whole wad of CDs I received
By Justin C.

Sometime in the early 2000s, I was seduced by a deal from rock/punk/indie label Deep Elm Music. Give them $30, and they'd send you 30 CDs, but the catch was that you couldn't choose which 30. While I'm sure I got $30 worth of listening enjoyment out of the whole wad of CDs I received, I know only one CD actually survived in my collection to this day: the self-titled debut of Planes Mistaken for Stars. Vocalist/guitarist Gared O'Donnell's voice is the hook that pulled me in. Call it sandpapery or gravelly or even Rod Stewart with a hefty dose of MEAN added in, but it's raw and unmistakable.


I've seen the band itself tagged with all manner of genre labels, from "indie rock" (fair, but not descriptive) to "screamo" (not really) to "emocore" (I don't even know what that is), but maybe we can make that simpler: let's just call it good old-fashioned, gut-punch hard rock. I think that works for what is arguably their best album, Mercy, which came out in 2006. Their label folded shortly after the album came out, denying this masterpiece the promotion it surely deserved, and Planes disbanded shortly thereafter.

For 10 years, Mercy has been a mainstay in my rotation. The riffs, the rock-solid rhythm, and that voice. The album opener, "One Fucked Pony," starts with a far off-sounding guitar before the main riff kicks in, so propulsive that it sounds like it's trying to outrun itself. The first line of vocals, "Here lies pestilence feeding on the flesh of our discontent", gives you a pretty good idea of the mood of the album, and it's PISSED. "One Fucked Pony" heads straight into "Crooked Mile," with another chunky riff and the vocals, "We beat west / It beat us back". If this album were a character, I'd say it's a brawler, but one who's on the verge of losing the fight, whether it be to a couple of loudmouth jerks at the bar or life in general. But losing or not, he's sure as hell going to take a piece of his enemy with him when he goes down.

Mercy rarely lets up in intensity; most of it makes me feel like running around and lighting things on fire. "To Spit a Sparrow" offers the tiniest reprieve in its opener before an angular riff and almost-painful-sounding vocals take over. The title track does the same, but it's not until the closer, "Penitence," that the band gets quiet, although the recitation of sins in the lyrics offers little emotional respite. I never tire of this album; some days I know are just going to be "One Fucked Pony" days, and I need to hear it. So when I found out Deathwish was re-releasing it as prelude to the band's first new music in 10 years, I was pretty psyched. The question, of course, is how could the new one possibly stand up to the band's peak album?



The answer is slightly tricky. On first listen, Prey didn't draw me in like Misery did. "Dementia Americana," which as a phrase is as good a description of the current political climate in the U.S. as any, seems to start the album in mid-song, with a bit of aural chaos and the repeated bellow, "Taker / You faker / Motherfucker / Who the fuck are you?" It’s like being thrown into the middle of an argument that started before you arrived, but maybe this in medias res opener makes sense for a band that was interrupted for 10 years.

Still, I wasn't sure this album was for me. Bands and people grow apart, and I thought that might be the case here. But over the course of many listens, I realized I had to let this album grow on me, or as a critic once said about Tomorrow the Green Grass by The Jayhawks, "These songs wanna crawl into your closet and live with you till next fall." If Mercy was the brawler, maybe Prey is the same guy 10 years along. Still fighting, but with a few more scars and maybe a little more perspective.

The shift announces itself almost immediately, in the second song, "Till It Clicks." The guitar is quiet and eerie, and those raspy vocals stay low to match. But near the two-minute mark, we get a quick blast of that old fire. "Clean Up Mean" follows a similar path, with low-down menace at the start, ratcheting up to the chorus of "I don't wanna love you no more". "Black Rabbit" goes the stripped-down route, sticking to dissonant acoustic guitar, piano, and electric organ.

That's not to say the band is all slow and no go. "Riot Season" is pretty much exactly what the title says--a propulsive punk track made deeper by some excellent moody bits. It's an unsubtle statement on the current political climate, as O'Donnell said in an interview with CLRVYNT, "It’s a scary time; it’s a time where we’re on the cusp of, 'holy shit, this could go tits up any second,' you know? That’s where we are right now. I wasn’t shying away. 'Riot Season' is called 'Riot Season' for a reason. That’s not coded."

So Prey has plenty of piss and vinegar, even if it isn't the non-stop freight train that Mercy was, but you know what? That's O.K. There's no great template for aging rockers. For every rock or metal band that manages to stay relevant past their initial burst of youthful creativity (like Bowie), there are 100 that utterly fail to age gracefully (like Metallica). There's plenty of fight here, and if this is Planes Mistaken for Stars getting a little older, than I'm happy to go along with them.

Tagged with 2006, 2016, Deathwish Inc., Justin C, Planes Mistaken for Stars, rock

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fistula - Longing for Infection

By Craig Hayes. Back in the early 90s, I worked in a medical laboratory where every imaginable sample that can be scrapped or siphoned off a human being ended up for testing. My job wasn’t on the diagnostic end of the spectrum, I was the hapless guy unpacking endless boxes of ooze in the lab’s basement.
By Craig Hayes.



Back in the early 90s, I worked in a medical laboratory where every imaginable sample that can be scrapped or siphoned off a human being ended up for testing. My job wasn’t on the diagnostic end of the spectrum, I was the hapless guy unpacking endless boxes of ooze in the lab’s basement. Every so often, a toe, nose, ear, eye, finger, testicle, or breast –– or, on one memorable day, an entire arm –– would arrive in a box. But while it was disconcerting unpacking bits of bodies, that wasn’t the worst part of my job.

The worst part was the boxes jam-packed with fecal collection containers. If even one of those containers wasn’t properly sealed, well, it made for a truly stomach-turning experience. But if two or more container seals broke, then what awaited was an indescribable fucking nightmare.

I’m telling you this because sludge band Fistula’s new album, Longing for Infection, is the perfect reminder of those good ol’ gut-churning days back in the lab. (In fact, an indescribable fucking nightmare is pretty much a perfect summation of Fistula’s entire oeuvre.) Longing for Infection is certainly chock-a-block with putrid and ugly noise, and that’s obviously all part of its intrinsic appeal. More to the point, though –– and you’re going to have to excuse a little more metaphorical unsavouriness here –– it’s also entirely apt to point out that Fistula do sound like Eyehategod shitting out Buzzov•en after a three-day, hallucinatory bender.

Normally, I’d feel compelled to apologize for that distasteful description above. But not when Fistula are in frame. The band certainly wouldn’t countenance apologising for describing their music in a graceless manner, because Fistula are rabble-rousing cutthroats. They’re scumbags of the highest order, bound for Hell and making an incendiary racket along the way.

Basically, if you don’t like Fistula, then it’s fuck you, pal. That’s about the sum of it. They’re an unapologetically confronting band, and of course sludge punks like Fistula are at their absolute best when they’re at their filthiest and most provocative. The band’s been a reliable merchant of ill-mannered trash since 1998, and they’ve built an extensive discography that now features 30+ releases. Obviously, all those splits, EPs or full-lengths have their fans, but it’s Fistula’s maleficent 2014 full-length, Vermin Prolificus, that’s drawn the most attention.

Longing for Infection continues in a similar sonic vein to Vermin Prolificus, and in another familiar turn of events, Fistula’s new album also features another line-up reshuffle. Clearly, instability in the ranks is probably maddening for the band. But it certainly suits Fistula well in terms of fuelling volatile music that channels a mix of frustration, chaos and dogged determination.

No question, Longing for Infection is replete with anger, dejection, and heavy helping of corruption. And the only notable musical change on Fistula’s new album is that the songs are a little shorter and tighter overall. The band still distill their habit-forming brew of sewage sludge, punk and doom on tracks like “Too Many Devils and Drugs”, “Destitute”, and the excellent lengthier dirge “Smoke Acid, Shoot Pills”. And all the songs on Longing for Infection are imbued with levels of dirt and degeneracy that’ll leave you feeling like an acid casualty at the end of your rope –– with suppurating sores to boot.

Obviously, Fistula aren’t alone in making music that evokes wayward B grade horrors, drug-addled psychosis, and a knife through the eyeball. Bands like Primitive Man or Fister also deal in similar depravity, and like those groups, Fistula make utter squalor sound superbly enticing.

Truth is, I’m in no hurry to ever return to that lab and open the lid on another horror show. But damn if Longing for Infection doesn’t make me very nostalgic for the visceral thrill of appalling gore and vomit-inducing madness. In other words, Longing for Infection is deliciously disgusting, and perfectly appalling. So chow down, kids.

Tagged with 2016, Craig Hayes, doom metal, Fistula, Patac Records, sludge metal

Neurosis - Fires Within Fires

By Aaron Sullivan. The legendary Neurosis have returned with their 11th album entitled Fires Within Fires. It’s been four years since their last release, and as with each release, they are always progressing. Neurosis has always been a band that is in constant motion. Never settling, never compromising, never looking back
By Aaron Sullivan.

Artwork by Thomas Hooper

The legendary Neurosis have returned with their 11th album entitled Fires Within Fires. It’s been four years since their last release, and as with each release, they are always progressing. Neurosis has always been a band that is in constant motion. Never settling, never compromising, never looking back, always pushing forward, and pushing boundaries. With Fires Within Fires that progression may be their furthest since their transition from The Word as Law to Enemy of the Sun.

Photos by Pedro Roque.

With the albums leading up to Through Silver in Blood was band finding itself and it’s sound. Through Silver in Blood was a album of layers and torment that tested not only the listener but even the participants. Then came Times of Grace. The layers began to be stripped and elements of serenity were introduced. Both are seen as high water marks for not only the band, but for music. With A Sun That Never Sets and The Eye of Every Storm it was the quiet side of Neurosis. Both pushing the atmosphere element into new places. Given to the Rising was seen as the return to the riff. But still possessed a nod to the atmospheres of albums past. 2012’s Honor Found in Decay felt like the culmination of all that came before it. So where would Neurosis go from here?

Photo by Pedro Roque.

With the opening riff of "Bending Light" there is no mistaking, this is a Neurosis album. "A Shadow Memory" has shades of Given to the Rising and expands on what was done on Honor Found in Decay. The riff on "Fire Is the End Lesson" is as heavy as anything on Through Silver in Blood, or dare I say, heavier. "Broken Ground" is right at home with anything off A Sun That Never Sets or Times of Grace. The vocal harmonies of Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till on "Reach" could stand along with songs from The Eye of Every Storm. All the things we have come to associate with Neurosis are in this album. Heavy sludgy riffs, dark atmospheres, the sudden shifts from light to heavy, melody to distortion, light to dark. But Neurosis’ genius is not that they stick to a formula but rather that with each album they add and subtract to and from that formula. All the while refining it and honing it like a weapon of aural soul destruction. Nowhere it that more evident than on Fires Within Fires. The album is all meat, no fat. From the number of songs to the way the songs move they waste nothing. In many ways this album feels like a rebirth of the band. While still progressing with their sound and vision, this record stands proudly among their most seminal albums.

Photos by Pedro Roque.

This is an album made by a band that knows itself, while still looking to discover what’s next. There are songs that harken back to past records. But there are also things done on this album not heard before. Their will to push forward is still the strongest part of the band. Which says a lot for a group that just celebrated it’s 30th anniversary. To go this long and still be making music is one thing. But to make music that is relevant is another thing entirely. Neurosis is it’s own genre. They have created their own musical language with which they communicate their feeling and beliefs through. Other may try and copy or be influenced by it. But none in the 30 years of their existence have ever topped them, and if this album is any indication, the bar just got raised again.

Tagged with 2016, Aaron Sullivan, Neurosis, Neurot Recordings, Pedro Roque, post-metal

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Our Place of Worship is Silence - The Embodiment of Hate

By Craig Hayes. A band’s pedigree is no guarantee of success. I mean, there are a lot of ‘supergroups’ who’ve only ever released garbage, and plenty of musicians from underground bands have joined hands and subsequently released complete trash too. That said, every so often a band will hove into view and utterly destroy my pedigree is bunk theory.
By Craig Hayes.

Cover art by Sarah Sheil

A band’s pedigree is no guarantee of success. I mean, there are a lot of ‘supergroups’ who’ve only ever released garbage, and plenty of musicians from underground bands have joined hands and subsequently released complete trash too. That said, every so often a band will hove into view and utterly destroy my pedigree is bunk theory. And Californian death metal band Our Place of Worship is Silence are a prime example of that.

Our Place of Worship is Silence features members who’ve also had roles in outstanding black metal bands like Lake of Blood and L'Acephale, and all that experience has clearly been put to excellent use because Our Place of Worship is Silence’s first full-length, The Embodiment of Hate, is an utterly ferocious debut. Tracks like “Resplendent Misery”, “Feast of Martyrdom”, and “To Deceive the Universe” have as much emotional negativity to feast upon as there is sonic nihilism to wallow in. And, as a whole, The Embodiment of Hate is filled with ultra-aggressive and pitiless songs, offering a ruthless and intense experience throughout.

Obviously, there’s also nothing special about ruthlessness or intensity per se. Plenty of bands release albums that feature a heavyweight mix of both. But what Our Place of Worship is Silence also adds, and what’s the key to The Embodiment of Hate’s success, is a real unhinged edge that brings elements of danger and chaos to proceedings.

Endless bands make powerful music, but few create tracks like “Murdered While Praying” or “Church of Atrocity”, which feel genuinely disturbing. Those are the hymns of madmen and berserkers, and they certainly highlight that The Embodiment of Hate has abundant maniacal death metal to offer. However, there are also strong traces of murkier black metal heard in passages of icier riffing, and in the mixing of guttural vocals with caustic, higher-pitched shrieks. That all adds a highly effective and often unnerving accent to proceedings. But Our Place of Worship is Silence also lurches and chugs with a brutally mechanical feel on occasion too. And The Embodiment of Hate features a ton of jagged riffing and ear-splitting dissonance to keep your nerves right on edge throughout.

Our Place of Worship is Silence mixes friendlier melodies into the mayhem, albeit in brief bursts, and what really defines The Embodiment of Hate best is its indefinability. The album’s cloaked in an atmosphere that’s as bleak as it is barbaric. And sure, musically, it shoves, pummels and batters like all twisted and toxic blackened death metal should. But it’s that underlying sense of unease about never really knowing what’s going to happen next that ensures Our Place of Worship is Silence don’t sound like they’re repeating a familiar formula on debut.

Realistically, most bands are very clear about their influences on their first album –– and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes evolution takes time, if it’s going to happen at all. But right out of the box, Our Place of Worship is Silence sound beholden to none. I think that’s real pedigree in action. To me, The Embodiment of Hate sounds exactly like the work of skilled musicians who know exactly how to craft original sounds. It’s an album that cuts its own frenzied path through the weak-willed and passive, and it’s certainly a debut to be immensely proud of.


[Go to the Broken Limbs Recordings Bandcamp for vinyl/cassette versions of The Embodiment of Hate.]
Tagged with 2016, black metal, Craig Hayes, death metal, Our Place of Worship is Silence

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Black Table - Obelisk

By Justin C. It's funny how memory works: I liked Black Table’s EP, Sentinel quite a bit, but due to no fault of the band, they eventually drifted into the “black metal” portion of my brain. But listening to Sentinel and Obelisk back to back reminded me that plain old "black metal" doesn't really cover either release.
By Justin C.

Artwork by Eric LaCombe.

It's funny how memory works: I liked Black Table’s EP, Sentinel quite a bit, but due to no fault of the band, they eventually drifted into the “black metal” portion of my brain. But listening to Sentinel and Obelisk back to back reminded me that plain old "black metal" doesn't really cover either release. I find genre-dissection more and more tedious as I write more reviews, but people like thumbnail descriptions--even I do. So let's ignore the "post-black metal" tag and go with a hearty mix of black metal, a touch of sludge, and a whole lot of excellence.

Obelisk is a quantum leap forward for Black Table. Their style is sharpening and becoming uniquely their own, and they've put together a full album with all the peaks and valleys in the right places. The first song draws you in right away--"Equilateral" starts as a spare, barely-there piece, with just two distorted notes ringing out, but they’re joined by more and more guitar figures appearing and disappearing before the whole song quietly drifts away. It’s the soundtrack of carbon and hydrogen atoms colliding and joining to become something "that will one day become complex and sentient," to quote vocalist Mers Sumida’s description, and it’s both heavy and delicate at the same time.

Black Table 2013. Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

At this point I should probably cite my source: A tiny handmade book that was briefly available from the band as a companion piece to the album. It contains all kinds of interesting information, like the fact that "Equilateral" was inspired by a work of art called The Way We Were by Matthew Day Jackson, a sculpture that starts with a simple pyramid and geometrically progresses through a series of shapes that morph into a human skull. It’s an evolutionary sequence of sorts, which inspired the musical biochemistry of "Equilateral." We also get an Aztec creation story that involves an original supernatural creature being dismembered to create the universe ("Gargantua"), and the albatross from Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner used as a metaphor for depression ("Helm"). I always applaud a band that gets more creative than the beaten-to-death Satanic and Lovecraftian tropes, and this is indeed above and beyond.

Black Table 2013. Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

I could probably nerd out for pages about the themes of the album, but you don’t need a book or a dissertation from me to enjoy the album--the music itself is more than strong enough to stand on its own. You don't need to know the background behind "Helm" to feel the harrowing power of the full band pounding away under Sumida's wrenching screams. She's really pushed her technique up a notch on this album. The true limits of the human vocal chords are probably difficult to calculate, but she's got to be getting close. They've also included what sounds like a touch of electronic doubling here and there to add in just that much more abrasion. And for a little variety, "Cromagnon" starts with two cleanly chanting vocals--with Sumida as a son and a male voice as the boy's father--describing a legend about how humans first learned to harness fire.

It would be easy to focus solely on Sumida's vocals, given how strong and emotive they are, but that would be a disservice to the rest of the band. "Obtuse" may start out with a freight train riff, but the quiet beauty of the undistorted guitar at around the two-minute mark makes the heavy sections even more striking by contrast. "Gargantua"'s doomy crawl is eventually joined by separate guitar lines that dance around each other, and all of these melodic moments are backed by an unerring and unrelenting rhythm section. If you want to get a sense of just some of their fireworks, check out the staggered artillery blasts in the first half of "Homo Ergaster." You can listen to this album over and over, focusing on a different instrument each time, and still come away with something new. It's sometimes easy to forget how much richness you can get from even the simplest dynamic shifts, but Obelisk is a good reminder of how to do this right without sacrificing an ounce of heaviness.

It's hard to sum up an album this rich, but I'll make it simple: Buy this. Listen to it. A lot.

Tagged with 2016, Black Table, John Mourlas, Justin C, post-black metal

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wormrot - Voices

By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth. Greetings and salutations, friends. Your esteemed Professor returns today to discuss the return of Singaporean grind bastards Wormrot, whose new release Voices is their first full-length work in five years, an eternity in a subgenre that tends to measure time in 30 second increments.
By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth.


Greetings and salutations, friends. Your esteemed Professor returns today to discuss the return of Singaporean grind bastards Wormrot, whose new release Voices is their first full-length work in five years, an eternity in a subgenre that tends to measure time in 30 second increments. Wormrot’s rise to fame was, appropriately enough, blisteringly quick, thanks to the strength of their debut album Abuse, which packed a lot of classic grindcore fury and a little bit of groove into 22 minutes. Their followup, Dirge, cemented their status as an essential modern grind band, and so it was something of a surprise when the band announced that they were taking a multi-year hiatus, driven in no small part by Singapore’s compulsory national service. However, they continued to work on new material, replaced their drummer, and now the fruit of that long labor has come to light in the form of Voices.

At 20 songs spread across 26 minutes, Voices is the longest album in the Wormrot archive, both in total length and in average song length. Lest you worry that the band was becoming long-winded, however, rest assured that most of the song durations here still hover around the minute mark (there are only three tracks that clock in at longer than 1:23 and serve to skew the statistics a bit). More surprisingly, however, is that the band experiments with their tried-and-true sound on a number of tracks, courtesy of some melodic riffs that seem to draw influence from black metal, shoegaze, and the work of Gridlink. (The Gridlink comparison is especially apt when Arif’s higher-pitched screams are worked into the mix, bringing to mind Jon Chang’s distinctive vocals.) It’s a surprise, to be sure, but it also brings some added variety to the album and provides the listener with a break from the more traditional grind blasting.

Wormrot 2011. Photo by Metal Chris

With regard to the aforementioned blasting, Wormrot’s new drummer Vijesh acquits himself well, anchoring the album’s shifting tempos and laying down some devastating blastbeats. Guitarist Rasyid brings the band’s trademark riffs and grooves while incorporating a whole host of new textures into their sound, creating heaviness without the backing of a bass. And vocalist Arif mixes high shrieks and low grunts deftly, a key component in the band’s signature viciousness. The result is that Voices will immediately feel familiar to Wormrot fans while simultaneously throwing those same fans a few curveballs.

The marketing push behind Voices has made heavy use of the hashtag #MakeEaracheGrindAgain, a worthwhile sentiment if I’ve ever heard one, and something I can support, unlike the actual campaign that they’re parodying. In a year that’s seen some quality grindcore releases (from the likes of Magrudergrind, Gadget, Venomous Concept, Rotten Sound, and Collision), Voices is a standout and a fitting return for Wormrot. It simultaneously establishes that the trio have lost nothing in the last five years and expands upon their established sound without losing any of what makes them distinctive. Here’s hoping that it’s not four more years until the next album.

Tagged with 2016, Earache Records, grindcore, Metal Chris, Professor D. Grover the XIIIth, Wormrot

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Black Dahlia Murder - Unhallowed

By Andy Osborn. After starting high school and having spent the last few years absorbing my dad’s 70s and 80s punk collection, I was looking for something new; music with more than a couple power chords and anger towards the government. Metallica, Slayer, Maiden and Priest were known to teenage me but those were old fogies
By Andy Osborn.


After starting high school and having spent the last few years absorbing my dad’s 70s and 80s punk collection, I was looking for something new; music with more than a couple power chords and anger towards the government. Metallica, Slayer, Maiden and Priest were known to teenage me but those were old fogies, decades past their prime. There had to be something more recent and exciting that I could relate to, and even see in concert without having to spend $50 in order to sit in a stadium. On a whim at my favorite record store I picked up copy of The Black Dahlia Murder’s 2003 debut, recognizing the band name. It didn’t leave my Discman for six months.

Only cursorily familiar with death metal, I was entranced. The furious pace, never-ending blast beats, catchy-yet-interesting riffs, and raspy-yet-intelligible dual vocal style were a shock to my core and I couldn’t stop listening. It was the only record that mattered in my life for a long time and I absorbed every note, cymbal hit, and blaspheming lyric. That’s not to say I ever fully understood or even liked the latter. I still vividly remember 15-year-old Catholic Andy being disgusted at the themes of murder and mayhem; even cringing and turning down the volume on “The Blackest Incarnation” when Trevor screams about “crushing the will of god.” The violence, zombies and cannibals described were shocking, as even gory horror movies were a relatively new discovery. But I kept the album on endless repeat, entranced by the dark spell cast by these Motor City fiends.


With Unhallowed, The Black Dahlia Murder unknowingly changed the landscape of metal in the United States. This album went against the grain of the New Wave of American Metal, the immensely popular style of contemporary metalcore which consisted of bands like Lamb of God, Trivium, Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage. And although BDM were unfairly lumped in with those acts, they weren’t anything alike. By revitalizing the decade-old Gothenburg sound, Unhallowed paved the way for a new generation of bands. The shock wave they started still reverberates today, and bringing back the style likely even led to the reformation of two bands who helped invent it: At The Gates and Carcass.

The Black Dahlia Murder then and now. Photos by Edward Kobayashi and Metal Chris

And for me personally, this album started what’s likely to be a lifelong obsession with metal. It was my first deep-dive into the world of auditory extremity and I’ll be forever grateful that it showed me music can be aggressive and dark, yet still catchy as hell at the same time. It even changed my life the best way possible—I met a girl at a show on the Unhallowed tour in 2004. In a few months we're getting married.

Listening to Unhallowed thirteen years later, it’s clear The Black Dahlia Murder do owe a lot to the small Swedish scene of a decade earlier. But there simply weren’t any American bands pumping out melodic death metal at the time so what they accomplished truly was groundbreaking, even if it wasn’t entirely original in the history of metal. Their revival and transportation of what was a thriving sound in the 90s became a massive success. The metal world has never been the same since, and neither have I.

Tagged with 2003, Andy Osborn, melodic death metal, Metal Chris, The Black Dahlia Murder

Monday, October 10, 2016

Closet Witch / Euth - Split

By Matt Hinch. I can't recall just how I got turned on to Closet Witch but I have a thing with Witch/Wizard bands so I had to check out the Iowa band's split with Euth. Now usually said Witch/Wizard bands fall on the stoner/doom end of the spectrum but not so with these bands.
By Matt Hinch.


I can't recall just how I got turned on to Closet Witch but I have a thing with Witch/Wizard bands so I had to check out the Iowa band's split with Euth. Now usually said Witch/Wizard bands fall on the stoner/doom end of the spectrum but not so with these bands. This split is high intensity grindcore. And while both bands will tear you a new orifice, Closet Witch spoke to me more, buried themselves in my brain, and made me do strange things.

Closet Witch has three tracks on offer here. Opener “Funeral Regrets” leads with an opera/orchestral intro that is no preparation for the violence that explodes at the :23 mark. Vocalist Mollie Piatetsky wastes no time stripping flesh from bone with her uber-pissed screams. But this is no monochromatic all-out assault. Varying tempos send the listener spiralling in recoil one moment and the next launches them into the pit ready to wreck any chumps that that happen to get in the way. You'll even get some eye-of-the-storm melody/quietude that's shattered by the next track.

Which happens to be the nihilistic and relentless “Civil Necessity”. It's neck-snapping and raw (guitarist Alex Crist records all their work in a basement). The band ploughs through you like a tank juiced on nitrous firing percussive salvos at will courtesy of drummer Royce Kurth leaving nothing unaffected. All the while Mollie makes the listener feel small, as if cowering from the destructive wrath.

“Nehkbet” keeps the momentum going, at times even cranking the intensity up another notch. With some almost black metal (non-tremolo) riffing dropping into a killer mosh part, Cory Peak's bass breaks through. Smart “mixing” (their quotation marks, not mine) and small touches let you know these cats aren't just pure rage. Their aim is clear: sonic annihilation on a budget. Mission accomplished. Now to see if their campaign of carnage feels the same on their previous split, demo and pair of EPs (all since 2014!).

Wyoming's Euth are a noisier, more dissonant bunch. James Reed's screech is just as eviscerating as his vocal counterpart but some death growls get mixed in as well on “Violent Reprieve”. On the whole they're beefier than CW and get into some real nasty complication and noisiness while tossing some killer sludge riffs into the chaos. It's enough to induce a certain amount of panic and fear for your sanity.

“Blind Rotters” closes out the split ricocheting off every conceivable surface as it tumbles through a vortex of screams. Guitarist Nate Fitzgerald, bassist Niko Kolis and drummer Adam Croft even venture into some avante-black territory before finishing off with some gut punch riffing that sort of reminds me of now-defunct I Hate Sally.

This split will leave you broken and exhausted (if you're doing it right) but addicted and ready for more. Two bands twisting grind to their own purposes and leaving it all on the floor. Can't beat that!

Tagged with 2016, Closet Witch, Euth, free download, grindcore, Matt Hinch

Friday, October 7, 2016

Gatecreeper - Sonoran Depravation

By Craig Hayes. Now that Bolt Thrower has been officially laid to rest, I guess it’s only a matter of time before every death metal whippersnapper wielding a few warmongering riffs is going to be hailed as the inheritor of Bolt Thrower’s crown.
By Craig Hayes.

Artwork by Adam Burke

Now that Bolt Thrower has been officially laid to rest, I guess it’s only a matter of time before every death metal whippersnapper wielding a few warmongering riffs is going to be hailed as the inheritor of Bolt Thrower’s crown. Truth is, no one is ever going to come close to occupying Bolt Thrower’s position in the pantheon of death metal. Nor are they going to better the buzzsaw blitzkrieg of Nihilist, Dismember, Grave, or early-Entombed and Obituary. Those bands laid unshakeable musical foundations. But that doesn’t mean a young band can’t plant their flag in the soil, raise the axes, and strive to cleave and disembowel like Bolt Thrower at their best.

That’s pretty much what Arizonian death metallers Gatecreeper have done on their storming debut, Sonoran Depravation. Gatecreeper’s first full-length contains nine tracks of bruising, low-end death metal that’s delivered with a thick old school accent –– so that’s check, check and check in the influenced by Bolt Thrower box. Gatecreeper also gouge giant doom-drenched grooves on Sonoran Depravation, and that ensures the album is catchy as hell (check and check, again). There’s also a heap of ye olde HM-2 fireworks to enjoy on trampling tracks like “Craving Flesh”, “Sterilizing” and “Patriarchal Grip”. And with Sonoran Depravation being produced by Ryan Bram, and mixed by famed studio wizard Kurt Ballou, neck-breaking songs like “Rotting As One”, “Flamethrower”, and album closer, “Grotesque Operations”, hit like a tonne of fucking bricks.

All of those elements above are reasons why Gatecreeper’s first full-length is a roaring success. But none of them are the prime reason why it utterly smokes the underground competition. What really makes Sonoran Depravation such a sterling debut is its clear crossover appeal. In fact, if you’re looking for the chief connection to a band like Bolt Thrower (or plenty of other death metal progenitors, for that matter) then you only need note that Gatecreeper’s sound features a mountain of sledgehammering crust.

Now, admittedly, I am totally biased in deciding that Gatecreeper's punked-up punch is their best attribute. I just happen to love filthy death metal that’s indebted to vintage crust and hardcore (see Bolt Thrower’s smashing debut, In Battle There Is No Law!). There's a reason why Bolt Thrower are the death metal band that punks respect most. It’s because they cut the bullshit, and got straight to the pummelling and punishing point, and Gatecreeper do exactly the same.

Gatecreeper sets the dial on 11 throughout Sonoran Depravation, and rages from the very first second to the very last, and it’s all jam-packed with a frenzied sound and attitude that’s seen Gatecreeper understandably find fans in both the metal and punk camps. No question, Bolt Thrower’s crown will always remain untouchable. But there’s also no question that when a band like Gatecreeper brings heavy duty weaponry like Sonoran Depravation into battle, they can stand proudly alongside the toughest and most iconic warriors on the shield wall.

Tagged with 2016, Craig Hayes, death metal, Gatecreeper, Relapse Records

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Hexxus - Tunguska

By Ulla Roschat. In the year 1908 in the Siberian taiga near the Stony Tunguska River a huge explosion destroyed a vast area of forest land. The cause for the explosion which is known as The Tunguska event isn't completely clarified to this day. Was it a mid-air disruption of a superbolide, volcanic activity, an alien spaceship?
By Ulla Roschat


In the year 1908 in the Siberian taiga near the Stony Tunguska River a huge explosion destroyed a vast area of forest land. The cause for the explosion which is known as The Tunguska event isn't completely clarified to this day. Was it a mid-air disruption of a superbolide, volcanic activity, an alien spaceship? .. Or was it possibly Hexxus, the demonic evil character of the FernGully movie, the destructor of forest who feeds off human pollution such as smoke, slime and sludge, the shapeless black apparition, the toxic blob, constantly morphing and oozing an oil like substance?

I don't know, if the name of the three piece band from Alabama refers to this character, or the title of their debut album to the Tunguska event, what I do know is that it sounds like exactly that... an evil destructive hateful demon, vandalizing and burning the forest, occasional explosions included, killing all nature's life, fueled by human poison.

Hexxus'(the band's) weapon is five songs of southern Sludge Doom infused with Post Metal elements.

The opening song "Andromeda" starts off droning, heavy and slow and then excellently builds up a deeply textured wall of thundering sound. Different layers added one by one with a great sense of creating suspense and progression, and the song merges from the slow burning southern vibe into a Post Metal, almost shoegazey feel, easily. The song sets the basic tone and mood for the album, still each song has its own distinct character.

All three members contribute their vocals and it works very well, but in the second song "The Great Migration" this 'trinity' is pure bliss. Together with the Post Metal style guitars it creates a dynamic flow, momentum and movement. The guitar leads, though, have a weirdly psychedelic touch, and again, the vocals complement them perfectly.

More weirdness is introduced in "Cross Bearer". A melody, slightly chaotic and hobbling along, builds a wonderful sense of dramatic eerie suspense. And the faster "Extinct is Instinct" shines with a guitar solo that should sound out of place, but somehow does not.

The last song "Tunguska" sounds like Hexxus (the demon) is triumphantly and almost jauntily looking back at what he has accomplished - complete destruction, leaving a wasteland. But halfway through the song his mood changes, he isn't satisfied, he still hungers for more destruction and begins to roam the place. Again here, the vocal trinity is brilliantly used and the most exciting heavy riffs meet melodies of a somber beauty.

Tunguska is oppressively heavy, caustic, evil and abrasive. At the same time it is thoughtfully composed with a progressive attitude, a great variety and multiple layers. It is massive not only by its sound but by the depth of its construction.

And like Hexxus (the demon) I hunger for more of this aural destruction.


The song "The Great Migration" is featured on The Wicked Lady Show 123.
Tagged with 2016, doom metal, Doomsayer Records, Hexxus, sludge metal, Ulla Roschat

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fuath - I

By Hera Vidal. There have been moments when you inherently don’t believe that a musician has more music in him than what he is currently making, so when they announce that there is a new project in line, you have to assume that it sounds a lot like their main band.
By Hera Vidal

Artwork by Luciana Nedelea

There have been moments when you inherently don’t believe that a musician has more music in him than what he is currently making, so when they announce that there is a new project in line, you have to assume that it sounds a lot like their main band. However, that’s when you get proven wrong and you have to reconcile how two entirely different things came from the same person.

It’s early in the year but you’ve set the bar high for black metal in 2016. I’m a big fan of Saor as well and this is an equally great album despite being much colder and darker. How long have you wanted to make this type of album?

Thanks. I’ve been wanting to make an album like this for years but I’ve usually focused on more folk-inspired stuff over the years. Every winter I dig out my black metal CD’s and get inspired to write something darker and colder


Atmospheric black metal is what I consider to be a big hit-or-miss. When done correctly, it can transcend the listener away from their reality, leading them to just appreciate the music, regardless of the lyrics. However, if done incorrectly, you get a mess of lyrics and music that just doesn’t seem to work at all. It doesn’t distract you from anything, and you listen to it, hoping that you can find something else. There is another problem one has to consider, and it’s that atmospheric black metal can get boring rather quickly. There are so many repetitive aspects to it that, in the end, you can start counting how many beats it takes to get to the next cymbal strike. In short, lack of reconciling lyrics and music and repetitiveness can kill an album.

However, this album, although on the repetitive side, can definitely stand on its own, especially when speaking of its creator. Fuath is the side project of Andy Marshall, the man behind the Celtic-sounding black metal band, Saor. If you have not heard Saor’s music, then listen to me when I say that Fuath sounds nothing like Saor. Fuath is colder, darker, and it sounds like black metal, down to the blast beats and the aggressive drumming. However, comparing both projects does not do each other justice, so we will focus on Fuath from this point onward.

I is the project’s debut album, and it reminds me of old-school black metal, with a modern twist. The most striking thing about this album, outside of how short it is—it’s four tracks long—is how dark and cold it sounds, and it doesn’t hold anything back. Everything about this album is asking the listener to forget everything, and just listen to the music. This is an album that must be enjoyed by yourself, and you have to zone out in order to take it all in. Ironically enough, “fuath” is Gaelic for “hatred”, which is a story in it of itself. This album is meant to be listened to in the winter; it evokes snow and darkness. Looking at the cover art also seems to evoke that image. However, what evokes that hatred is the contempt for other people, for love, for humanity. You have to be by yourself to fully immerse into the atmosphere the album creates, which means you have to dissociate in order to appreciate it. By the end of it, you are so into it that you forget that the album stopped, and you have to replay it in order to appreciate it once more.

All in all, this album shows promise to further expand its tonalities. It’s dark, heavy, and there is something quite romantic in what it evokes. It definitely stands on its own and creates an atmosphere that doesn’t shatter when the tracks change. Just sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy an album that brings everything to the table.

Prominent tracks: “The Oracle”, “Spirit of the North”

Tagged with 2016, atmospheric black metal, Fuath, Hera Vidal

Sunday, October 2, 2016

From the Graveyard Shift - Hip-hop for Metal Fans

By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth. Greetings and salutations, friends. It is I, your most humble Professor, returned from the sleepless land inhabited by those so blessed (or cursed, depending on where you stand) to have a newborn child while also working the graveyard shift. I was given a special task, one that may seem at odds with the very mission of this particular blog
By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth.

Greetings and salutations, friends. It is I, your most humble Professor, returned from the sleepless land inhabited by those so blessed (or cursed, depending on where you stand) to have a newborn child while also working the graveyard shift. I was given a special task, one that may seem at odds with the very mission of this particular blog, but bear with me. You see, I have been enlisted to provide to you, fans of metal music, with a handful of hip-hop artists that might appeal to your sensibilities, a goal I hope I will have achieved by the end of this missive. Let us begin.


Death Grips is as logical a starting point as I could find. Undoubtedly by now, many of you will have heard of them, and many of you will likely be familiar with at least some of their work. For the rest of you, Death Grips are a bizarre, experimental noise rap trio featuring Zach Hill (drummer for Hella, Team Sleep, and a number of other projects), Flatlander (aka audio engineer Andy Morin), and MC Ride (aka vocalist Stefan Burnett). They’ve made headlines for their unpredictable behavior, from canceling shows and briefly “breaking up” to releasing albums for free with no prior warning and leaking a major label release (resulting in their subsequent removal from said label). Along the way, they’ve released a series of albums, each finding new ways to vary the group’s foundation of harsh noise, unpredictable drumming, and Ride’s shouted lyrics. Pair this with a series of equally strange music videos, and you’ve got a perfect antidote to the tired hip-hop mainstream and its shameless trends. Death Grips doesn’t actually have much of a Bandcamp presence, but you can find their mixtape Exmilitary, a brilliant release that served to establish the group’s sound for a wider audience.




It’s hard to mention Death Grips and not mention clipping., as both groups have a basis in noise and feature distinctive frontmen. However, the difference between the two groups couldn’t be more pronounced. Where Death Grips are the hip-hop equivalent of a brick to the head thanks to MC Ride’s blunt style, clipping. are more of a surgical scalpel to the throat thanks to Daveed Diggs’ razor-quick flow and street life lyrics. (If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Diggs won a Tony over the summer for his role in the smash-hit musical Hamilton.) Musically, clipping. are as experimental as Death Grips, but take their experimentations in a different direction, from the straight harsh noise of Midcity to the more varied, industrial CLPPNG. The group has released the brilliant Wriggle EP already this year and are following it up with the dystopian sci-fi concept album Splendor & Misery, which was released Sept. 9 and is an utterly brilliant new direction for the trio.




This was a difficult choice, because I very nearly went with the entirety of Minneapolis’ Doomtree rap crew, rather than settling on a single member. The five rappers and two beatmakers that comprise the group have released several collaborative albums, and although each member brings something different to the table, they work incredibly well as a single unit. However, I felt the need to focus on a single member of the group, and ultimately the choice came down to P.O.S or Dessa, and P.O.S won by the barest margin, in large part due to the influence of his punk background, something that bleeds through into his music. His wry sense of humor and nimble delivery suit his anarchic, intelligent lyrics perfectly, allowing him to match up with a number of different musical styles.




First, a confession: this slot was originally going to be occupied by El-P (whom you may best know as half of Run The Jewels), but unfortunately, his solo work isn’t on Bandcamp aside from a few demos and b-sides, so I had to find another pick. Fortunately, there’s a ton of great rappers out there, and so finding a replacement was simple. Tonedeff was a logical choice due to his versatility, as the man raps, sings, produces, and makes his own beats. His most recent release, Polymer, is the culmination of several years of work spanning three EPs, each of which represent a different aspect of his style. These three EPs are joined by a fourth set of tracks to create a full album showcasing his many talents. And then there’s perhaps the most distinctive element to Tonedeff’s style, the sheer speed and smoothness of his flow, which reaches some dizzying heights (see "Crispy", which sees him hitting 14 syllables per second while still maintaining recognizable lyrics).



Cover art by Alex Pardee

I conclude with my favorite rapper of all time, the incomparable Aesop Rock. Aes possesses a highly distinctive voice that pairs with the most verbose, adventurous sense of lyricism that hip-hop has ever seen to create something wholly unique. To put it quite simply, there is no one like him in all of music, and if you can find it within you to pierce the massive wall of words that the man throws at you on every track, you will find something truly special. There are few rappers who can even keep pace with him (most notable is Rob Sonic, Aes’ collaborator on the Hail Mary Mallon albums and one of the few artists out there who can nearly match him phrase for phrase while bringing a similar gift for lyrical non-sequiturs), and any track that features him as a guest is immediately elevated. His most recent album, 2016’s The Impossible Kid, is his most personal and intensely emotional album, laying out his life like only Aesop can. It is at this point in the year my favorite album of 2016, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.


Tagged with 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016, clipping., Death Grips, hip-hop, P.O.S, Professor D. Grover the XIIIth