Tuesday, April 25, 2017

An Interview with Sunless

When they released their first demo last year, Minneapolis-based Sunless impressed a lot of people - not least of which was this blog. Wasting no time, they put out their full-length debut Urraca a few months back, solidifying them as a band for fans of progressive and mathy death metal to remember. I reached out to find out more, and bassist Mitch Schooler was kind enough to educate me on the band's history and the scene they came from.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Cloud Rat, Moloch, Crevasse, Hexis, Sigil, Syndrømes

It's been a few years since their last full-length Qlipoth, and DoC faves Cloud Rat have returned with two split releases. Their grinding hardcore is as fast and chaotic as it's ever been, but they also take the time to dabble in shoegaze ("Amber Flush" on the LP) and off key wailing ("Fish in a Pool" on the 7 inch).  As for their dance partners: Nottingham's Moloch provide the doomy Yang to Cloud Rat's speedy Yin, submitting 18 minutes of feedback-drenched sludge (like there's any other kind). Crevasse, meanwhile, could be Cloud Rat's Continental analogues, sharing both a fondness for Converge and a female vocalist intent on blowing her vocal chords out.  [Cloud Rat/Moloch: $7; Cloud Rat/Crevasse is available as a "name your price" download; physical copies of both are available through Halo of Flies Records.]

Copenhagen's Hexis took DIY to new heights earlier this year, touring South East Asia on their own and even bringing their own lighting backdrop with them. On their second album Tando Ashanti, they ignore most of hardcore's self-imposed restrictions, creating a hellacious racket with discordant guitar noise and floorshaking double bass drumming. Leave it to the Scandinavians to capture the heart of sonic darkness. [€7]

Death metal and hardcore have been crossing streams since their earliest incarnations - so it's not surprising that Austin's Sigil would stake a claim to both worlds. Kingdom of the Grave combines bare knuckle hardcore with the thrashy efficiency of early death metal, and isn't above enlisting a string section along the way. This is where bullet belts and tote bags find common ground. [$7]

Counting Joe Yanick of Masakari and Carl Auge of His Hero is Gone in its ranks, there's no doubting Syndrømes have this dark crust thing down. Unsurprisingly, their debut EP strongly resembles His Hero is Gone with its growling vocals, moody interludes, and fast bouts of barely controlled chaos. 4 songs is not nearly enough; hopefully there's more of this in the works. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Buckshot Facelift, Azarath, Necrowretch, Extremity

After years of self-releases and DIY work-horsing, DoC friends Buckshot Facelift are set to make a splash with their 5th full-length. Ulcer Island will keep listeners on their toes with its bouillabaisse of grind, groove, blackened melodies and sampled interludes. I haven't heard a grind album this adventurous and entertaining since Brutal Truth called it a day. [$9.99]

There are few albums released this year that I've been looking forward to as much as the new Azarath. In Extremis refines the band's blast-centric style: Teeth-rattling speed tempered with the occasional lurching, Immolation-style break. This is as tight and vicious as the band has ever sounded; for fans of "the true brutal daeth matel", this is where "FUCK" meets "YES".  [$7.90]

Unadulterated death metal is the raison d'être for France's Necrowretch. Satanic Slavery, their first album for Season of Mist (and third overall) sees the band sticking to their guns, delivering one speedy paean to darkness and evil after another. As more and more of the bands who surfed in on the wave of old school nostalgia move on to other things, bands like Necrowretch who are impervious to change become notable for their dedication. [$9.99]

Given the eclecticism of its members' other bands (Vastum, Cretin, and Agalloch among them), Extremity sounds like an excuse to keep things simple and have some old school fun. Extremely Fucking Dead is a throwback to the early days of the genre, but not as tediously derivative as most OSDM revival albums. It's not going to replace Symphonies of Sickness or Severed Survival, but it'll get the head banging and the toe tapping. [$6.66]

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

For fuck's sake, go get the new Immolation album now

Life has a funny way of reordering your priorities. At the end of last year, I checked obsessively for updates on Immolation's Atonement and couldn't wait for it to drop. But it was only this past week that I remembered that the album was in my possession. Things had gotten so busy in my life that the album just took up space on my phone for months without me listening to it. But I'm sure making up for that now, I tell you what.

Immolation is a band that I've been listening to since I was a teenager, but it's fair to say I never really understood them until recently. I don't think I'm alone in this; while Death clones appeared almost immediately after the Death By Metal demo, and Morbid Angel worshippers from Brazil and Poland have been clogging distro lists since the mid-Nineties, it wasn't until the last decade and the growing popularity of bands like Portal and Ulcerate that Immolation's impact on the death metal scene became apparent. Musically speaking, Immolation left a higher bar for both listeners and copycats to clear; maybe it just took longer for the rest of us to catch up to what they were doing.

Atonement pulls off the rare feat of being a new album from a decades-old act that continues in the same style that band started out in, and not only follows a string of impressive releases but surpasses them. And yet, the album doesn't do anything vastly different from what Immolation are known for. They've matured, certainly, and their recent recordings are better produced and more accessible than anything they released in the Nineties. [As someone who struggled and failed to assimilate a hissy, frequently jamming Here in After cassette 20 years ago, I appreciate that recording technology has brought coherence to the genre's sonic overload.] A few acoustic touches hint that Immolation have noticed what Gorguts have been up to lately, and liked what they heard. But other than that, a quarter century since they first unleashed their blastbeats and blasphemy on the world, Immolation remains Immolation. Ending the album with a re-recording of the eponymous anthem from their debut is a nice hat tip to long-time fans, but also underscores how little Immolation have strayed from their roots.

Bands that have been around as long and released albums as consistently as Immolation tend to follow a predictable career path: long stretches of palatable if uninspiring albums, with a few peaks and valleys (a la Vader or Cannibal Corpse), or decades of trying to recapture their seminal years after a brief period of clueless reinvention (Metallica, Morbid Angel, Slayer...the list goes on). It's rare that a band that has been around as long as Immolation puts out something this good. It's an accomplishment that shouldn't go unnoticed.

For fuck's sake, go get Atonement now.

Monday, April 3, 2017

An Interview with Buckshot Facelift

I've known the members of NY's Buckshot Facelift for years through their other bands Grey Skies Fallen and Artificial Brain. If their idiosyncratic style wasn't a selling point, then their highly entertaining live performances would be. Since they have a new album Ulcer Island coming out in a few weeks, I figured I'd hit up vocalist Will Smith (his second time being interviewed for this blog) and guitarist Rick Habeeb (his third time - so you know he's getting a free coffee) to fill in all the blanks on Buckshot's past, present and future.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Ohhms, Ddent, Hymn, Cloud Catcher

After the patience-testing affair that was their 2015 EP (2 songs with a combined run of half an hour), English downers OHHMS wisely rein themselves in on their debut full-length. The tarot-themed The Fool isn't lacking for long songs, but is much more hook-laden and engaging. Of particular note is the penultimate track "The Lovers", a bass-driven duet that sees frontman Paul Waller trading off with a female guest vocalist. Heartbreak is heavy, man. [£7.99]

French project DDENT aren't short on inspiration with their instrumental concept album. As per its English translation ("Depression"), آكتئاب is bleak, oppressive and unrelenting; but despite being based on Arab psalms, the album is more akin to the icy doom of Scandinavian bands like Swallow the Sun and October Tide, with nary a sun-kissed Middle Eastern melody to lighten the mood. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Norwegian duo Hymn certainly make the most of their minimal line up. Perish is as heavy as any sludge metal band worth mentioning, but avoids being overly simplistic (or generic) by its clever use of dynamics. Slow and restrained, this is quite unlike what you'd expect from Norwegian metal band. [49 NOK]

Denver's Cloud Catcher are a boon for any air guitar aficionado. What separates Trails of Cosmic Dust from the vast swathes of Seventies/stoner rock bands is guitarist Rory Rummings, who tears up the fretboard with the confident swagger of Iommi or Hendrix in their prime. Self-indulgent, and all the better for it. [$7]

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Sunless, Cartilage, Carnal Decay, Mordbrand

A year after their demo marked them as prospects to watch, Minnesota's Sunless have delivered a debut that lives up to the hype. Urraca sees them following the convoluted path hewn by Gorguts and Ulcerate, eschewing speed for speed's sake to focus instead on atonal riffs and shifting time signatures. Great things are afoot here. [$5]

Bay Area band Cartilage make no bones as to who their influences might be. Much like Impaled (whose Doktor Ross Ewage helped with the layout), Dialect of the Dead updates the classic gory deathgrind of early Carcass with a clearer production and some impish humour. Symphonies of putrefaction, rotten to perfection. [$6.66]

My crash course in European slam continues with Zurich's Carnal Decay. You Owe You Pay keeps the circle pit going by alternating between fast sections and big catchy grooves like clockwork. The bass drops and other electronic flourishes will send anyone with a patch jacket running for the safety of their Hellhammer demos, but this should make the slam kids dance like happy prospectors. [$6.99]

Sweden's Mordbrand seems to only get better with every release. On Wilt, the prolific trio inject more hooks into the classic Stockholm death metal sound, turning in their most memorable batch of songs in the process. As the revival herd thins, those who stick around become the true kvlt. [$9]