Thursday, November 16, 2017

An Interview with Squalus

Giant Squid was one of my favourite bands, due to their progressive approach to sludge metal that resulted in some of the most interesting and original albums of the last ten years. Though they called it quits recently, their members are back with a new project called Squalus. Since their Translation Loss debut The Great Fish was one of the albums I looked forward to most in 2017, I was eager to find out more about the band's origins and intentions. Vocalist/bassist A.J. Gregory was kind enough to answer my questions.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Cannibal Corpse, Exhumed, Daemusinem, THÆTAS/Haagenti

Few things in this world are as reliable as a new Cannibal Corpse album. Red Before Black, their 14th gore-soaked (s)platter, sees them reuniting with fellow death metal OG Erik Rutan, whose production brings an immediacy and clarity to the band's deceptively thoughtful songwriting. The most consistent and prolific of the genre's elder statesmen, at this point "death metal" is as concise a descriptor of  Cannibal Corpse as you'll get - and vice versa. [$9.99]

After the oddly restrained Necrocracy, Exhumed are back with a more recognizable cross section of gore fucking metal. A concept album based on the Burke and Hare murders, Death Returns matches Surgical Steel for riff after NWOBHM inspired riff, with symphonic interludes worthy of a Christopher Young score. The return of original Exhumed vocalist/bassist (and friend of the blog) Ross Sewage is as much of a bonus as the Exodus cover included at the end. [$10]

Comprising members of Putridity, Turin's Daemusinem continue largely in the same (opened) vein. Thy Ungodly Defiance is unbelievably fast, with squealing pinch harmonics punctuating the guttural onslaught, and technical in a way that enhances the brutality rather than detracting from it. There's no need to complain that Cryptopsy have strayed too far from their vile origins when bands like Daemusinem are here to pick up the slack. [$7.99]

With members of Buckshot Facelift, there's no doubt DoC friends THÆTAS are committed to expanding what it means to be a NYDM band while upholding their city's brutal legacy. The three songs on their new split release have enough blastbeats and slam parts to make Suffocation proud grandpas, but vary their attack with skronking guitar noise and changing tempos. On the other side of the split (and the L.I.E.) make progressive metal great again by keeping the blast even through shifting time signatures, with nods to fellow Long Island native Chuck Schuldiner along the way. Both sides of the split are available as "name your price" downloads.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Altarage, Vassafor, Krallice with Dave Edwardson, Blattaria

Spain's Altarage haven't been around for very long, but are proving to be masters of the new wave of discordant blast. Endinghent, their second album, is alternately blisteringly fast and creepingly slow, with the band's knack for dissonance keeping the listener on edge. Making death metal grate again. [€9]

Over the course of numerous demos, splits, and EPs since the Nineties, Vassafor have been a fixture of New Zealand's increasingly celebrated metal scene. Their second album Malediction heaps the atmosphere upon their filthy (at times surprisingly catchy) style of black metal without losing its evil core. Black and foul to the utmost. [€7.77]

Dave Edwardson's guttural vocals always brought an extra level of menace to Neurosis, so it's about time they were employed by a much heavier band like NY's Krallice. Frenetic and unpredictable, Loüm lets Edwardson's roar intersperse the dizzying progressive black metal that Krallice are known for. It's a testament to the album's ferocity that the bassist from Neurosis is the least metal thing about it. [$7]

The brainchild of Oklahoma-based Manuel Garcia, Blattaria is no run of the mill one-man black metal band. Their self-titled album (actually their second release) splits its time between skronking blasts and short psychedelic interludes, reaching John Zorn levels of neighbour-bothering cacophony. A wildly creative and unorthodox work; I look forward to hearing more from this project in the future. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Unsane, Squalus, Usnea, Helpless

The return of mighty Unsane is always a cause for celebration. No surprises as to what they've cooked up with Sterilize - the NY trio's 8th album (and first for Southern Lord) is still the crushing noise rock that they pioneered in the Eighties, with Chris Spencer's trademark twanging riffs providing the only respite from the blanketing onslaught. Three decades of total destruction and we're all better for it.  [$8.99]

A re-shuffling of DoC faves Giant Squid, Pacifica CA's Squalus continue the pelagic themes and inventive heaviness of their previous incarnation. The Great Fish takes inspiration (and dialogue) from the movie Jaws, using two bass guitars and spacey keyboards to re-tell Peter Benchley's tale of a carcharodon terrorizing a small seaside town. Anyone with a soft spot for prog metal concept albums will find a lot to sink their teeth into here. [$9.99]

Portland doom quartet Usnea have been busy carving out their own niche in the post-post metal landscape. Portals Into Futility finds a middle ground between the cerebral sludge of the Neur/Isis crowd with the more hesher-centric death-doom of Morgion. Who says cookie monster vocals and post-metal don't mix? [$10]

As with most of the recent crop of power violence bands, there's no denying the influence of Converge on Plymouth's Helpless. Debt takes its cues not just from the Boston band's heaviest moments, but Kurt Ballou's speaker-cracking productions as well; the result is as headache-inducing as the best of Nails and Full of Hell. Like a power-drill through the skull - get the Advil out now. [£7]

An Interview with Nucleus

Chicago's Nucleus has been a band to keep an eye on for a few years now, playing a progressive style of death metal that hearkens back to Nocturnus and Voivoid, both musically and thematically. Their debut full-length Sentient and the follow up EP Fragmented Self were both impressive statements of purpose, and showed how far the band had come since their early recordings. As I love music that's both thoughtful and heavy, I got in touch with the band; guitarist Dan Ozcanli was kind enough to answer my questions.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Monarch!, Totengott, Cavernlight, Hundred Year Old Man

The 8th (!!!) album from French outfit MONARCH! plumbs the depths of misery without getting too monotonous. Never Forever is a car crash in slow motion of sludge metal, feedback, and droning noise passages. Emilie Bresson's vocal approach is accordingly eclectic, mutating from shrieks to growls to creepy clean singing and spoken word sections. A band that doesn't just perform doom metal as a form of Sabbath worship. [$7.99 CAD]

Spain's Totengott wear their Celtic Frost influence loudly and proudly. The aptly titled Doppelgänger is a spiritual twin to the heaviest Frost material, including a pretty spot-on Tommy Fisch-sticks impression. The world certainly isn't lacking reverential imitations of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, but Totengott ranks among the best (and heaviest). Urgh! [€5]

Wisconsin's Cavernlight are only on their second album, but have seemingly mastered their style of sludgy doom. As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache (a long title for an equally drawn out and morose album) is at turns crushing and ambient, culminating in the monumental final track, which employs female vocals and a blasting finish. An eloquent and cathartic work of loss and sadness. [$5]

Leeds' Hundred Year Old Man approach the genre with more in mind than slow chord progressions. The three songs on the single/EP Black Fire is suitably bleak, adopting ambient drone to find a middle ground between Cult of Luna and experimental musicians like Aidan Baker. Heavy, but with the thoughtfulness befitting a band on the high-minded Gizeh records. [£2]

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

in the nineties we loved feedback and arty record sleeves.

Almost completely forgot about this: Dragbody were a band from Florida who did the noisecore thing (a la Converge/Botch/Kiss it Goodbye) and recorded an EP at Morrisound (albeit with an engineer who was neither Scott Burns nor Tom Morris). I saw them at CBGBs and bought this 7" from them (and liked it enough to track down their full-length Flip The Killswitch a little while later).

My memory is a black hole of false impressions and mis-remembered happenings, but I vaguely recall talking with these guys after their set and their being nice to me. That's something that would stand out to a long-haired metal kid who had just started going to hardcore shows in the Nineties.

I'm not sure why Dragbody never caught on with a wider audience; I'll put it down to the innate tribal/lemming mentality of hardcore kids at the time. Most of my hardcore friends would rather listen to a mediocre band from their hometown than take a chance on an unknown band from out of state or another country. [To wit: No one I knew cared about Refused until after they had broken up and made their way to the "best of" lists of punk rock's cool kids. But I digress.] Dragbody's releases were certainly as good as anything else in the style released between Fixation on a Coworker and Jane Doe. I'm glad someone has made this available online; hopefully a Bandcamp release is in the works so their music can find its way to a newer, less boxed-in audience.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Celephaïs, Myrkur, Wolves in the Throne Room, An Autumn for Crippled Children

Five years since their ambitious 25 minute meisterwork Tir N'a n'Og (still phenomenal and still available for free), DoC faves Celephaïs are back with another bout of bleak folky instrumentals. Each track on Monad is a journey of tension and release - prosaic and contemplative one minute, bloodthirsty and unrestrained the next. As far as nature-themed black metal goes, you'll have a hard time finding anything that tops this. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

All the haters in the world haven't slowed down Myrkur. With her second album Mareridt, the erstwhile Amelie Bruun shows the songwriting prowess only hinted at on her unexpectedly divisive debut, letting her ethereal vocals traverse over black metal, gothy doom and neo-folk, along the way teaming up with fellow purveyor of Pitchfork-friendly darkness Chelsea Wolfe. Bruun probably won't end up being the cross-over star that Relapse is hoping for, but she brings a refreshing outsider's perspective to the heaviest of metals (not to mention some catchy tunes). No doubt everyone with a Von patch will hate it. [$10]

Wolves in the Throne Room have returned - for real, this time, and not as a synth rock band. Thrice Woven picks up where Celestial Lineage left off, augmenting the band's already epic forest metal with choral singing and acoustic passages without getting too twee about it. Not sure the bone dry recording (done by the band themselves) gives the songs the richness they require; certainly such passionate odes to nature and paganism deserve a fuller sound? Regardless, if anyone has forgotten why WITTR was such a monumental force in USBM, this should serve as a cogent reminder. [$9]

It may be heresy to describe any black metal as "pretty", but An Autumn For Crippled Children certainly make a case for it. Recorded in 2015, the three songs on morfine meld fuzzed out guitars, shuffling drums and sombre synth melodies for a sound as deeply rooted in Joy Division as it is in Burzum. An opiate haze in the northern sky. [€3]