Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - Full of Hell, Succumb, Art of Burning Water / Nothing Clean, Lock Up

Following the noise-centric experimentation of their collaborations with Merzbow and the Body, DoC friends Full of Hell return with a back to basics, head to toe battering. Trumpeting Ecstasy shows how much the band have mastered their brand of grinding power violence, plying their hellacious racket at breakneck speeds without ever losing control. Throwing in a Morbid Angel riff (and possibly a Pete Sandoval dig) on "Crawling Back to God" is a nice touch, as is the ambient interlude on the title track. Ruthlessly economical. [$7.99 CAD]

Labels are a tricky thing with Bay Area band Succumb. Ostensibly a death/grind band, the tumultuous discordance on their self-titled debut has as much in common with Converge as it does with Incantation, with Cheri Musrasrik's howls sounding like they were recorded in a particularly malevolent storm drain. With the fawning over the old school revival drawing to a close, the time is ripe for savvy experimentalists to fuse genres in ways that haven't been done to death. [$7]

DoC faves Art of Burning Water are as prolific as any band you'd care to mention, most recently issuing a split with fellow Brits Nothing Clean. Nothing Clean fires off 7 tracks of grinding powerviolence in less than 5 minutes, the cumulative effect being that of a curb stomping. AOBW contribute a Negative approach cover and two originals that bludgeon you quicker than it'll take to read their titles aloud. It's a fine line between stupid and cleaver. The split is available as a "name your price" download.

The newest addition to the Lock Up saga has Brutal Truth frontman Kevin Sharp making his first recorded appearance alongside fellow veterans Shane Embury, Anton Reisenegger and Nick Barke. Demonization distinguishes itself from both Brutal Truth's embrace of chaos as well Napalm's recent experimental excursions by firing off 13 impossibly tight, teeth-rattlingly fast grind anthems, plus the title track (which is very much a sequel to the under-rated Napalm industrial dirge "Contemptuous"). I don't know if Lock Up are generating quite the same excitement as when the supergroup was first announced; and the preponderance of other Napalm/Truth spin-offs has tarnished some of its luster (smile and wave, Venomous Concept). Still, few people have a handle on the genre as firmly as the gentlemen in this line-up. [€7.99]

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bandcamp Picks - The Obsessed, Duel, Farflung, Doctor Cyclops

The Obsessed have returned with their first new release since the seminal Church Within album came out back in 1994. Sacred is an appropriate title for the fourth Obsessed album, because HOLY FUCK THAT GUITAR TONE. [It's the same guitar tone that sent me sprinting across a parking lot in Baltimore back in 2013.] The album is of everything the band released previously in their nearly 40 (!!!) year career - though the double bass drumming that pops up on "Stranger Things" is a surprising but welcome deviation from their classic sound, adding a bit of Motörhead bombast to the proceedings (which is appropriate, as Wino has always been a kind of doom metal Lemmy). It's a bit of an over-reach to call this an Obsessed "reunion", since no one from previous line-ups is involved; packaging new Wino material with a recognizable name is more of a marketing decision, really. In truth, there has been very little to differentiate Wino's various projects over the years - but it's still good to know that he's out there, no matter what the incarnation. [$10.99]

Following a solid if somewhat forgettable debut, Austin's Duel return with an album that's both heavier and more memorable. Witchbanger maintains the band's laconic pace, but adds some Tipton and Downing bombast, channeling Priest's early albums with its galloping swagger, though singer Tom Frank utilizes a soulful tenor instead of the vocal hysterics that characterized Seventies metal. Even without Halford's stratospheric range, this delivers the goods. [$8]

On their latest EP, the long running Farflung have updated Hawkwind's search for space with some modern post rock inflections. Anchored by hypnotic basslines, Unwound Cellular Frown lets its FX pedals burrow into every bit of sonic space, combining the repetitive, reverberating indulgences of two eras for one long psychedelic journey. [$7]

The past is present for ocular rockers Doctor Cyclops. Their third album Local Dogs is a Hammond organ assisted love letter to Sabbath, as well as the bands that followed in their wake like Pentagram and Witchfinder General (who are covered at the end). Noted insalubrious descanter Bill Steer shows up on a couple songs to contribute some leads and indulge his retro fixation. Hey, it's gotta be 1974 somewhere. [€10]

Friday, April 28, 2017

Catching up with Necrowretch

I first encountered Necrowretch back in 2015 when they were touring South East Asia. It took me a 5 hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur down to Johor Bahru to see them, and their hellish thrashing death metal did not disappoint; neither did the podcast interview we did. Since then, they found a new home with Season of Mist Records, and just released their third album. I checked in with vocalist/guitarist Vlad to find out more.

Bandcamp Picks - Ulver, Author & Punisher, Planning for Burial, Longhouse

Ulver's transformation from "True Norwegian Black Metal" to their present state has really been something to behold. Heralded as their "pop" album, The Assassination of Julius Caesar masterfully and unapologetically encompasses kraut rock, synthpop, soul, trip hop, and even an extended John Zorn-esque sax freakout (courtesy of Hawkwind's Nik Turner) - no surprise, considering how boldly Garm moved from black metal to folk to electronica earlier in his career. But who knew that the band that released Nattens Madrigal twenty years ago would surf from black metal's second wave to New Wave? [€7]

I can't think of another act out there like San Diego's Author & Punisher, the musical outlet of mechanical engineer Tristan Shone that utilizes his custom built machines as instruments. Pressure Mine contains five songs of subwoofer-threatening doomwave, with Shone's forlorn vocals sitting astride all the throbbing and clanking. This is R Kelly for robots; Genesis P-orridge and Blixa Bargeld would approve. [$5]

Pennsylvania's Planning For Burial are adept at several kinds of bleak. Below The House runs on droning guitar noise, shuffling drums and plaintive keyboards, traversing from rumbling doom to pop-adjacent shoegaze. Like the album art, an exercise in minimalism. [$8]

If there was a doom metal version of a Whitman's sampler, it might be Ottawa's Longhouse. II: Vanishing draws not only from the indie-friendly heft of Isis and Cult of Luna, but also the velvet darkness of Paradise Lost, with more than just shades of Gregor Mackintosh in the riffs. It's about time someone attempted a unified field theory of doom metal. [$7 CAD]

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.