Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bandcamp Picks: Calabrese, Old Man Gloom, 16, Coffinworm, and Nebulous

You'd think a DIY band like Calabrese, who've released all their music through their own label, would embrace Bandcamp; but for some reason these horror punk kids are reticent in putting up more than a couple songs from each of their albums. Still, the three tracks from their upcoming Dayglo Necros shows what to expect from their Misfits/Damned worship.  Very little punk holds my interest these days, so the fact that their last album III: They Call Us Death is still in my regular rotation should say something about the quality of their songwriting.

With Isis put to rest, Converge taking a break and Cave In doing whatever it is they've been doing for the last decade, I guess it was only a matter of time til doomcore supergroup Old Man Gloom got back together.  Claiming that they returned "just in time for the collapse of the global economy" doesn't explain why they offer their new album NO in so many formats, including cassettes.  Those who don't want to pay $9 for Walkman nostalgia and message board cred should settle for a $7 digital download of OMG's apocalyptic post-doom/noisecore.  You know, with the economy and all.

16, like their peers Buzz*oven, had a long history of great releases hampered by lineup shuffling and substance abuse, but seem to be back on track since their 2009 reunion.  Deep Cuts from Dark Clouds, their newest release on Relapse, shows just how much of a debt bands like Kylesa and Black Tusk owe to 16.  Smarter than most sludge bands, these veterans wisely vary their pace so that they don't outstay their welcome.

Along the same lines are Coffinworm from Indianapolis.  I saw them open up for Disma last year, and was impressed by their take on noisy sludge/doom.  Great Bringer of Night, the newly remastered version of their 2009 debut, will please Eyehategod and Grief fans looking to fill that particular void, or at least kill time while waiting in line at the methadone clinic.

Nebulous, a two-piece from the death metal hotbed of Birmingham, AL cite Meshuggah, Decrepit Birth and Spawn of Possession as influences, but they're much, much more interesting than that.  In fact, I'd go as far as to compare their hook-heavy technical attack to the gods of modern death, Origin.  Their Into Infinite Spectrums EP is available as a free download from their Bandcamp page, but it's been pared down to two songs from the original four I downloaded months ago.  Not sure what that's about, but take it as a sign you should jump on this before it disappears completely.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I got the devil riding on my back

My jiu jitsu instructor, Marcos Escobar, just won his first professional MMA match at One FC 4 this past Saturday; after a long month of training, he's flying back to Brazil, and left a bunch of his old shirts for us to take. One of them was an FSAS shirt with Venom's "Live Like an Angel and Die Like a Devil" on the front, in a font clearly derived from Mayhem's logo.  There have been a few confluences of my metal and martial arts interests over the years - including Chuck Liddell using "Raining Blood" as his walk-out song - but this was the most unlikely.

I'm not crazy about apparel companies appropriating metal bands. I understand, if not agree, with the temptation for the artists to pair up with a trendy clothing company, but at the end of the day metal and couture find themselves at cross-purposes.  Brands like Affliction, FSAS, and Tap Out appeal to casual fans, and there's nothing casual about being a metalhead.  Metal is for the few and the devoted.

But it wasn't my conflicted feelings about seeing black metal offered up to the masses that made me leave the shirt behind - it was the size.  The shirt was a medium, which I haven't been able to wear since 2004.  Still, if nothing else, seeing that shirt gave me an itch that can only be scratched with repeated listens to Welcome to Hell...

Ugh...just. Ugh.

I don't often take shots at indie rock, mostly because a) it's not really music I understand, or care to, and b) I'd rather spend the time writing about the music I love instead.  But this got my bile flowing:

Grouplove covers Andrew W.K.

A minute and a half into it, I had to turn it the fuck off.  The irony was so thick it was noxious, and only filling my apartment with Mozart would make it go away.  

I'm not an Andrew W.K. fan, despite our mutual love for Napalm Death.  When his first album was released, my college metal friends were instantly smitten, while I was left scratching my head wondering what I was missing.  But over the years I have come to appreciate his unbridled and (more importantly) unironic embrace of party rock.  Partying is as important to Andrew W.K. as Satan is to Deicide; James Herriot once wrote, "An enthusiast is appealing but a fanatic is irresistible," and I agree unequivocally.  Herriot probably wouldn't have dug I Get Wet any more than I did, but I'm sure the good Scottish doctor would have gotten a kick out of someone who performs with a busted head and dives into the crowd to lift his fans on his shoulders.

My gripe with Grouplove's version isn't that they covered the song in a different style or in a tongue-in-cheek way; I was a big booster of Richard Cheese from the first time I heard him, and would kill for an album full of lounged up thrash classics.  Likewise, at least once a month I have to subject everyone in a 2 mile radius to "White and Nerdy."  What I hate is music with built in air quotes, that's detached from any real emotion.  Whether it's Ryan Adams' clueless "prog-metal" album or any number of Black Dice wannabes, the inherent insincerity is palpable, and off-putting. Music is about honesty, about channeling your emotions into a form that's recognizable as true.  Andrew W.K. succeeds because his songs make you feel his rabid enthusiasm, his lust for life.  He's welcome to come party in my living room any time.  I'll even let him wear my Napalm Death hoodie.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bandcamp Picks: Tankcrimes

Even if I'm not familiar with Tankcrimes I'm no stranger to the bands on the label.  Based out of Oakland CA, they focus mostly on hardcore bands, but have released some great metal over the years.  And it's hard to rebuke their online mission statement:

Voetsek is a band I've been trying to track down ever since I saw them back in 2002 (twice - once at ABC No Rio and once at Gilman).  They were ahead of the curve when it came to the thrash/crossover revival, but more importantly they had their own take on it. Back then they were 3/4ths of an all-girl band; apparently that's changed with a newer, male-r guitarist.  No idea what happened to their foxy old guitarist, who stole my heart while I was helping them load out their gear after the ABC show:
Her: "Is that heavy?"
Me, carrying her amp head: "Uh, no, not really."
Her: "All right, then I'll let YOU carry that."

Of course, any discussion of the ups and downs of thrash revival has to include Toxic Holocaust and Municipal Waste, who join forces on the cleverly-titled TOXIC WASTE ep.  The split is available as a free download, which should be great news for anyone who loves to party like it's 1989.  Personally, I'm not a huge fan of either band, but every time I've seen them live, they've been hella fun (particularly Toxic Holocaust).  And the price is right.

Even if I have little patience for the current wave of thrash revivalists, I still have a soft spot for Ghoul.  Featuring members of Impaled (a band that's fallen just short of essential for most of their career) Ghoul have the same knack for meat(y) hooks and entertaining live shows.  And when I saw Gwar back in 2010, Oderus Ungus went out of his way to tell the audience, "I hate all those other costume bands...except Ghoul! I like those guys!" Praise from Caesar, indeed.  In addition to their latest, Transmission Zero, Tankcrimes has also combined the first two albums We Came For the Dead and Maniaxe for the very fair price of $6.66.

I'm sure at this stage of their career, Cannabis Corpse are finding their weed-heavy gimmick a double edged sword.  Though it still gains them a certain amount of attention, more often than not fans of the genre dismiss them as a joke (or worse - a cover band).  That's unfortunate, because underneath the bong smoke and pun-heavy song titles lies an incredible death metal act, one that could stand toe-to-toe with the best of the Florida scene (I'll take them over Malevolent Creation any day).  On last year's Beneath the Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise they shifted their red-eyed gaze from Cannibal Corpse to Deicide and Morbid Angel.  If "" doesn't make you laugh, I guess there's no hope for you.

Bestial Kommand Nuklear Wrath

For your amusement (but mostly just my own): create your own KVLT blackened death-thrash band!  Just mix and match words from Column A (Adjectives of Armageddon) and Column B (Nekro Nouns), and voila! You're ready to plug your cassette-only release on the NWN! message boards.  Remember, it has to sound like it was made in 1985 (even if you weren't born until 1989).

Bestial Kommand
Genocidal Wrath
NuklearChaos (or Kaos, or Khaos)
Diabolikal Desekrator
Blackened Abomination

Somewhere Hazardous Pussy Desecrator is laughing. That guy gets it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Free Your Grind (and the rest will follow)

CLOUD RAT are a female-fronted three-piece from Michigan, and holy shit they're good.  Surprisingly nuanced considering they only have one guitarist and no bassist, they make me think of a mix between the Sutek Conspiracy and Pig Destroyer.  They're committed to the DIY ethos to the point where they've made all their releases free via Grindcore Karaoke, the site run by Agoraphobic Nosebleed's J. Randall (basically Bandcamp for grind; I love me some grind, and I definitely love me some Bandcamp).  Take that, Adam Smith.

Their first self-titled LP is available here.
Their second album, Fever Dreams, is available here.

Upcoming tours, releases, and other information can be found at their very entertaining blog.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Days of Defiance 2 - with Infectious Maggots, Tools of the Trade, Atomicdeath and more 06.09.2012

Submitted for your approval: Days of Defiance, an art show/rockfest held in the trendy Publika mall, located in an affluent part of Kuala Lumpur.  Organized in part by the punk band Carburetor Dung, the event featured work from several of the local scene's photographers and artists, and 11 bands split over two days.  I missed the first day because I planned on going to BJJ class and ended up falling asleep instead...but enough of my hectic social life.  Day Two was always the priority for me, since it featured both Atomicdeath and Tools of the Trade, the two bands who changed my view of KL's metal scene from "nay" to "yay."

Like everything else about the mall, "The Black Box" (as the performance space is called) is enormous. It's a distinct change from the punk dive coziness of Rumah Api, and most of the bands looked out of place on the large stage. That aside, the juxtaposition of crusty metal kids and the mall's imperious settings was its own reward, as were the looks we got from the regular patrons.
Openers Last Minute (with Tiong from TotT filling in on bass) establish their formula early on by alternating between melodic hardcore riffing with DRI blitzing; if they figure out a way to integrate those two things, they'd have something special on their hands.  As it is, not a lot about their music is memorable, though their petite singer was all kinds of adorable as she danced circles around the stage.

Mid-way through the show, I passed by the neighbouring "White Box," where KL's beautiful people had come together for a charity ball and slutty outfits.  Teeth-grating electro-pop isn't dead, in case you were worried.  I tried snapping a few pictures before scurrying back to the safe anonymity of black shirts and cargo pants.
xCrime Scenex (the sXe tags are facetious, apparently) may have the answer for anyone wondering what happens if you cross Brutal Truth with Sleep.  Featuring half of crossover kids Sarjan Hassan, I expected their grind would be up to snuff;  what surprised me was how well they doomed.  Their slow moments, earth-shaking and Sabbath-worthy, would get Matt Pike's bleary eyed nod of approval.  Unfortunately, their momentum was derailed when their singer killed two mics within the first song, leading to an interminable wait (and an impromptu jam through Fugazi's "Waiting Room," which got clever points from me and an astonishing number of people singing along).  When the problem was finally resolved, they finished their set in style... though I couldn't help but dwell on the irony that we waited more than fifteen minutes for a band whose songs rarely extend past one.
More than any other band on the bill, Atomicdeath looked like they belonged on the big stage.  The bridge in opener "Forever Black Hell" should come with a disclaimer that says "WARNING: Moshing Eminent."  I'm not sure what else to say about Atomicdeath that I haven't said before, except that this is the third time I've seen them in three months, and they keep getting better. They play the shit out of the six songs from their split with Bloodstone, and end as they usually do with their thrash anthem "Kombat 666."  I can't wait for that song to ring out where it will do the most damage: on a muddy field in a little town called Wacken. 

Infectious Maggots had "OG" stamped all over them, even before their guitarist teased the riff to "World Eater" during soundcheck.  The band is all well into their forties, and if their best days are behind them, there's still something endearing about their lack of pretension. Throughout their set, members of Tools and Atomicdeath headbanged reverently at the front of the stage. Musically they sound like most 90's death metal, though the appearance of clean vocals and faux-rapping midway through their set suggests that they attempted to integrate themselves when the ubiquity of "alternative" left little of same (a quick youtube search confirms they also went through a dodgy industrial phase).  By the end of their set, I felt as if I'd seen an overview of Malaysia's metal history.

The audience conspicuously increases in size and enthusiasm for Carburetor Dung, and they were probably the biggest draw of the event (not surprising, as they helped organize it).  They play punk with lots of rock and roll swagger, and the crowd loves them for it.  Their reworked version of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" strips the original of all its menace, which I guess made it safe for the young girls present to dance around to.  I personally needed a wall to lean against while they played, even as their finale caused an eruption of singing and skanking around me.

Carburetor Dung may have cemented their local hero status, but when it comes to breaking out of the local scene, I'm betting on the grindcore dark horse.  At the tail end of their "Defy Peninsular" tour and a month away from hitting Europe for the first time, Tools of the Trade have never sounded tighter or more ready to fuck shit up.  The remaining audience were ready to riot, even though it was past midnight by the time the band got on (start times here are mostly an in-joke, I reckon).

Despite their local MVP status, the band members remain humble, thanking the crowd for their support and letting their blistering, jagged riffs do the talking for them.  After going all out for a whole set, they acquiesced to the chants for more, and played two songs while bassist Emi put down his instrument to focus on screaming.  [Comparisons to Pig Destroyer are fair except for one point: the bass is essential to TotT's sound, and they sound half as deadly without it] Cue mayhem and the inevitable dogpiles on the stage to signify a job well done.  Hopefully those European kids will give them some good ones to remember.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bandcamp Picks: Hellthrasher Productions

On the surface, Hellthrasher Productions seems like a smaller version of Nuclear War Now - "more kvlt than thou" bands for the jacket patch kids to get excited about before their post-college identities kick in.  But the Polish label surprised me with a few releases of pure fury, and if there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that Polish people know their death metal.  As of now, Hellthrasher isn't offering full albums for streaming or purchase, which is annoying; but the selections on offer are a step in the right direction.

A minute into "Exile from Sanity," Malfeitor made my ears start ringing - and I took that as a good sign. Featuring veterans from the Stockholm scene, Dum Morior Orior blasts away like Carnage on angel dust, and makes even Bloodbath sound puny.  Holy fucking hell.

Escarnium continue what Incantation started, marching onward to Golgotha with the relentlessness synonymous with Brazilian death metal.  Don't look to Excruciating Existence to rock the boat in any way; it's an album short on new ideas and big on old school tenets.  But until their countrymen Mental Horror get their act together, this will do nicely.

Sweden's Flagellated Seraph continue the post-Volcano movement to take black metal out of the basement and into the garage.  Anyone who misses Wolves in the Throne Room (or found their last album a little half-baked) may enjoy Beyond Salvation's commitment to repetitive, trance-inducing darkness.

Finnish band Decaying employed a drum machine on their early releases, with slightly epileptic results.  They've rectified that on their latest album Encirclement, and having a human drummer enables them to hit those Bolt Thrower grooves to maximum effect.  They'll get your head a-bobbin' and your fist a-bangin'.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ceremony of Opposites

Today's "computers are the devil" offering: Samael's ode to the dark lord, "Baphomet's Throne," as performed by three floppy drives. 

My only complaint is the lack of vocals...didn't they have a dot matrix printer or something to supply screams?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Crazy Gibberish

An illustrated history of doom metal and stoner rock, in French.  From something called Le Daily Note Villette Sonique, courtesy of my buddy Philip Graziano.

If you're not up on your parlay-voos, you could always look into a universal translator:

The Long Hundred

I'm working on a series of posts called "100 Albums I'm Glad I Heard Before I Died." This isn't my argument for the 100 greatest albums of all time: There's no Reign in Blood, no Master of Puppets, no Paranoid, no Number of the Beast.  It's not even a good representation of my favourite bands. Mostly it's a celebration of albums that were of significant importance at a particular time and place in my life; albums that led me down a certain path, musical or otherwise; or obscure releases that I grew to love and could have easily missed out on.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Into Sleep to Create A Flame

Fighting insomnia last night, as I do most nights, I turned to one of the limited post-rock/ambient albums in my collection: Glissando's With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards The Burning Sea.  

Every time I listen to this album, I'm blown away by how it manages to sound fragile and apocalyptic at the same time.  I don't know much about this kind of music, but I wish I had 100 albums just like it.

Gizeh Records has most of Glissando's releases up for free download:

Loves are Like Empires (the debut album)
The Long Lost/Of Silence (two song EP from 2010)
Live Two (London concert, recorded 20.12.2008)
Live One (Leeds concert, recorded 13.05.2008)

With Our Arms Wide Open isn't free, but Gizeh are selling it for the very fair price of £5.00 here.

[deep breath] Slaaaaaaaaayeeeeeeeerrrgh!

This one nearly slipped by me: June 6th is the International Day of Slayer, a day all heshers celebrate by playing Slayer at excessively high volumes.  Of course, that means almost every day could be Slayer Day for me, but considering the extremes Slayer fans go to show their devotion, my neighbours should consider themselves lucky.

Anyways, happy Slayer Day, everyone.  SLAYER! SLAYER! SLAYER! SLAYER!...and so forth.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Echoes of Decimation and the Old Gray Lady

Origin, courtesy of Edward Linsmier for The New York Times
The NY Times has an article about the Scion AVfest; it's a pretty meat and potatoes read, though the author does a good job of summing up doom metal for his readers ("they generally descend from Black Sabbath").  Most excitingly for this death metal fan, mighty Origin are pictured at the top of the page, though they're completely absent from the main text - so if you want an explanation as to why they're the most important American death metal band around, look elsewhere.

What you believe is the vanity you conceive

I knew Entombed took the title Wolverine Blues from a James Ellroy short story; I had no idea that Ellroy himself lifted it from an old jazz standard by Jelly Roll Morton:

As much fun as this stomping little ditty is, it's still not as good as Big Bill Broonzy's "Immortal Rites" or Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Hammer Smashed Face."  Wocka wocka...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bandcamp Picks: Season of Mist

Add Season of Mist to the list of metal labels who are offering their catalogue on Bandcamp.  The French Metal indie forged a reputation for boldly experimental releases by the likes of Mayhem and Arcturus, so it's no surprise that they've embraced technology the bigger labels are still frightened of.

On a recent trip to the island of Langkawi I met a very cool Finnish metalhead named Sami, who gave me a great list of Finnish metal bands to check out.  I'll delve into that more in a later post, but at the top of the list was Ghost Brigade.   Their latest album Until Fear No Longer Defines Us slipped way under the radar of most metal fans, which is a crime; with no shortage of hooks and atmosphere, these guys play prime Euro-gloom somewhere between Katatonia and the very under-rated Cult of Luna.  Highly recommended.

In big news for doom fans, Saint Vitus are back with their first album in 17 years, and their first with Wino singing since 1995's V.  Named after a recreational barbiturate, Lillie: F-65 is one hell of a downer, the mopey lovechild of Johnny Cash and Black Sabbath that kicks up the end times' dust with heavy boots of lead.

Confessor was a band that broke up before I got into extreme metal, and passed me by again when they reunited back in 2005.  Luckily Season of Mist has their Unraveled album up on Bandcamp or I might have missed out on it completely.  Though the album is a few gems short of a crown, I can't get enough of the soulful dirge "Sour Times," which trumps Down at their own game.

That Terrorizer would continue to exist past the death of Jesse Pintado was a little shocking to me; that the resulting album fucking kills is even more shocking.  Hordes of Zombies should excite longtime fans if only for the return of World Downfall alumni David "Pink Flamingos" Vincent and Pete Sandoval, who arguably gives his best drum performance in 20 years.  It's not the most nuanced or forward thinking grindcore album of the year (that would be Napalm, natch); but as a 40 minute exercise in pure, distilled rage, there are few better.

Between 2010's Re-Traced EP and last year's Carbon Based Anatomy, Cynic have a lot of people scratching their heads wondering if Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert have lost it.  Call me crazy, but I love the space-prog direction these guys are heading in, even if Masvidal's heavily processed singing makes him sound like a wailing lovesick robot.  With three instrumentals amongst its six tracks, Carbon Based Anatomy might come across as a little fluffed-up to non-diehards, but Bandcamp lets you buy the essential songs ("Box Up My Bones" and the title track) and skip the rest.

No new band has impressed me as much Nader Sadek, and for good reason: few could hope to match the combined talent of Steve Tucker (ex-Morbid Angel), Blasphemer (Aura Noir and ex-Mayhem), and Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy).  Though their album is more than a year old at this point, I still find it engrossing; any death metal fan who hasn't been submerged in its petroleum depths needs to do so immediately.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Arson Project @ Rumah Api, 05.04.2012

The Arson Project is a name to remember for fans of no-nonsense grind, especially after the loss of the mighty Nasum.  Few bands have risen to fill that particular void, besides Rotten Sound ('Fast Music for Slow People' may be the best slogan ever printed on a black t-shirt) and Splitter (who had a lot of heat when I saw them back in 2007, but have been quiet since then).  TAP belongs right up there with them: Their Blood and Locusts mini-album showcases a band that can grind as fast as the big guns but are smart enough to offset it with moments of doom and groove.  Best of all is THAT guitar tone, as Swedish as pickled herring and needlessly complicated furniture stores.

Truth be told, I'd never heard of The Arson Project before their appearance at Rumah Api was announced (one of thirteen dates on their 5-week South East Asian jaunt).  But anything that contains the words "Swedish" and "metal" will have me all over it, especially since so few Swedish metal bands get to visit sleepy KL town.

Before the show I got to hang out with the band and trade stories about Repugnant, Ghost and Watain. Their bassist William told about his other project, Inverted Cross, another addition to the old school Swedish death metal revival (something I'm rather fond of).  Expect more of that in an upcoming post.

Opening band Deforming Torture could be protegés of Tools of the Trade, just as political though muddier and less menacing.  Like old Napalm, they have a fondness for Peter Gunn-like riffs and ridiculously short songs. The announcement of a Disrupt cover gets the loudest applause in their set; I have to say, Disrupt getting any love warms my heart.

Gymnastic Skull Whistling's name may sound like metal magnetic poetry, but is weirdly appropriate for their style - dizzying power violence/grind that verges on dadaist.  Consisting of just a drummer, guitarist, and vocalist, they do the 625/Slap-a-Ham thing well, and with most of their songs speeding by at under a minute, they slip under the wire of even the shortest attention spans. A song titled "Fast, Stop and Go" pretty much sums up their entire set.

Expectations were high for our Swedish visitors, but first, a brief Greenwich Village open mic moment, as TAP bassist William and the band's "party coordinator" Hannis performed a short acoustic set of folk songs in Swedish and Spanish.  The crowd was game and attempted to sing along, language barriers be damned.  Let it not be said that Malaysian metalheads don't have a sense of irony or folksiness (despite everything I've said to the contrary).

There was nothing folksy about what happened next.  When TAP's guitarist Ellis steps on his orange pedal of death, it was like a fuse had been lit on a keg of dynamite.  The band don't start their set; they explode.  Singer Niklas immediately jumped into the crowd and engaged them like a stick engages a hornet's nest  The reaction was of biblical proportions: bodies flying through the air, dogpiles on the stage, mass hysteria.  It was a perfect example of grindcore osmosis, of performers and audience converging in a glorious disregard of their respective roles.  Open beverages spilled on the concrete floor, adding to the overall chaos as anyone attempting to move through the pit ended up slipping and falling through their friends like dominoes.  Rumah Api's modest PA had a hard time standing upright in the onslaught, but that was true of everything else in the room as well.

TAP played an encore, and with Niklas MIA ("Our singer is passed out or something," Ellis said by way of explanation), the mic was passed around the audience to scream a few lines.  Few knew the lyrics, or even what song it was; it didn't matter. Immediately after they finished, the band stepped through the back entrance to escape the heat.  Rumah Api's sauna-like temperature was brutal enough for the locals, let alone four guys from Sweden.

If there's one recurring theme in this blog, it's this: when it comes to metal, Sweden is upstaged by no one. Fy fan!