Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bandcamp Picks: Blood Harvest Records

With their manifesto "Only vinyl is real!" Sweden's Blood Harvest Records are tailor-made for kvlter-than-thou message board geeks and collectors. Luckily, they also put their various 7-inches and LPs on Bandcamp for the rest of us to enjoy, though digital downloads are few and far between.

Coffin Texts may be the most impressive band on Blood Harvest's roster. The tight, hyperblasting death metal on The Tomb of Infinite Ritual recalls Brazilian greats Mental Horror and Headhunter DC. With so many bands around the world trying to sound like they're from Stockholm, it's kind of amusing to hear a Swedish band that sounds like they're from South America.

The Stockholm '89 revival is still in full swing with Decomposed and their self-titled 12" LP. Their label describes them as "a mix of Grotesque with a hint of Autopsy," but honestly it's the other way around. Recommended for anyone who misses Dismember or can't wait for Death Breath's next fawning tribute to Chris Reifert.

If you were wondering what happened to vocalist Jonas Stålhammar after the Crown let him go, wonder no further....he's resurfaced in The Serpent's Redemption, the sophomore album from Bombs of Hades. Like Miasmal, BoH draws as much from Swedish D-beat as the classic Sunlight sound. This is the band to stick between the Motörhead and Discharge patches on your denim jacket.

Australia has a history of raucous, fukk-it-all black metal through Sadistik Exekution and Bestial Warlust. Erebus Enthroned don't traffic in quite as much chaos as their countrymen; on Night's Black Angel, they stick to melodic black metal in the early 90's Dark Funeral/Marduk mold. Strange that Blood Harvest went all the way to Australia to find a band that sounds like they live next door, but this is a solid, if somewhat generic, release.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bandcamp Picks: Nadja and Friends

Aiden Barker is a one-man ambient/drone industry, with close to a hundred releases to his name, not including his work with Nadja, ARC and Memosyne. Baker's work seems like a good jumping off point as I try to delve deeper into the illusive and obtuse world of doom/drone; luckily, a good deal of it is available on Bandcamp.

Nadja, featuring Baker and his wife Leah Buckareff, represented one of my earliest forays into the genre. Their incredibly burnt guitar tone and mechanical percussion conjures a images of a mescaline-fueled fuckfest between Godflesh and My Bloody Valentine (with Godflesh on top, natch).  New album Dagdrøm ("Daydream") makes more use of loud/soft dynamics than previous releases, but soft it ain't. Over the course of its 4 tracks, Dagdrøm maintains tension through somber menace, finally erupting on the sublime closer "Space Time and Absence."

Scythling features Baker and Buckareff with members of experimental doom troupe Bloody Panda. In a genre that can largely be described as heavy background noise, Smokefall succeeds by managing to be both oppressive and engaging. Swathes of feedback and white noise go a long way in approximating the preternatural menace of Black Boned Angel (also a frequent Nadja collaborator) as well as the cinematic qualities of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Keep an ear out for the hammered dulcimer, which may be metal's new cowbell.

The Primitive World is another Nadja collaboration, this time with Japanese post-rock eclecticists Vampillia. Pianos dance around Nadja's apocalyptic buzz, with the only vocals being anguished howls that make an appearance midway through the album. This is the soundtrack to demolishing buildings underwater, and possibly the heaviest thing ever done by the parties involved.

Aiden Barker's solo work is generally more ambient and less bombastic than his work with Nadja. Isolated Landscapes: A Singles Collection gives an overview as to what the man gets up to when left alone with a guitar, a mic, and a few FX pedals. Compiling songs from various 7 inches and compilations over the year, of note are a cover of Ulver's "Eitttlane" and two drone interpretations of Bach's Cello Suite #1. If Ambien had a theme song, it would probably be on here.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hatred Division Interview

Though they only formed last year, Hatred Division are a fixture in Kuala Lumpur's grindcore scene. Featuring members of local veterans SMG and Diseksa, the band has released a number of high-profile split EPs with legends Unholy Grave and Agathocles. I e-mailed some questions to guitarist Rikard Paladin; his answers, like his music, were short and to the point.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bandcamp picks: Unfathomable Ruination, Abnormality, Afgrund, Masachist

When was the last time you heard a great British death metal band? Lest you think it's all folklore and dress up in the Isles, Unfathomable Ruination unleash a torrent of brutality with no small amount of slam thrown in. Some silly bass-drops aside, this is commendable stuff. By Cryptopsy/Suffocation fans for Cryptopsy/Suffocation fans.

I'm tempted to call Boston's Abnormality "Cannibal Corpse without the misogyny" - I'd probably get away with it too, if only because their singer is a woman. Contaminating the Hive Mind closely follows CC's template, with strong overtones of newer bands like Origin and Abysmal Dawn. Tight, fast, and unrelenting, this is the way death metal should be. Is it too early to start hailing the New Wave of American Death Metal?

Nasum are gone but not forgotten; least of all by Stockholm's Afgrund, who've learned an important lesson on how to craft hook-heavy grindcore. Despite its title, The Age of Dumb is a right smart lesson in grind supremacy.

Masachist, from Poland, bear more than a passing resemblance to Decapitated - perhaps unsurprising, considering singer Pig (formerly Sauron) and bassist Heinrich are former members of Decapitated. Blasting and technical but never overwhelmingly so, Scorned is a reminder of what made the Polish scene so exciting a decade ago - and clearly there are some embers left in that fire.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Enslave, Godless Symptom, Wicked Suffer 9.16.2012

I thought I got the hang of this "Malaysia Time" thing I really did. Not-A-Fest, featuring three foreign bands (headliners Enslave from Japan; Wicked Suffer and Godless Symptoms from Indonesia) was advertised as starting at 3 pm, so I figured that meant if I showed up the usual 3 hours late, I'd arrive just as soundchecks were finishing. Nope. Not only did the show start more or less on time, but Tools of the Trade actually opened despite being listed in the middle of the bill. Clutch the pearls, what a sneaky thing to do.

It's a little odd that a band that headlined Singapore Deathfest would open a local gig a few weeks later, but when I asked Tools' singer Tiong about it, he shrugged it off. There's not a lot of rock star attitude in the local scene, and Tools of the Trade seem to take these kinds of things in stride. I, on the other hand, was disappointed; I was looking forward to not just Tools, but Dance! On Your Grave and Reason to Resist, who I've never seen. Hopefully I can catch them some other time.

Still, I can't complain about a gig where Atomicdeath is on stage as soon as I arrive. Seeing a band once a month can lead to boredom pretty quickly (unless it's Napalm - I'd see Napalm every week if I could), but AD have wisely been varying their set over the last couple shows, shuffling in songs from their debut cassette as well as a cover of Malaysian underground thrash legends Silent Death. It's amazing how much better they've gotten since I first saw them five months ago at the same venue. Almost as amazing as Rumah Api having a stage monitor for this gig.
There was a great deal of excitement for Wicked Suffer, and they rewarded it with a fearless and aggressive performance. Big doom riffs served as a launchpad for their blistering powerviolence, and the place went apeshit, because short and fast is the rule at Rumah Api. I'm curious about the difference between the Malaysian and Indonesian grind/power violence scenes in terms of sound; Wicked Suffer have a bass player, which a lot of the Malaysian grind/fastcore bands lack, so there's that.

I guess groove heavy 90's thrash is definitely not in style right now; or maybe it's just not popular with the crust/grind kids who frequent Rumah Api, as Godless Symptoms didn't get quite the response that their countrymen Wicked Suffer got. They might be peddling a style past its sell-by date (or, if you're an optimist, a few years before it makes a comeback), but their enthusiasm for their own material went a long way in winning me over. Besides, I don't know how to dislike a band who asks the entire audience to get on stage with them for a celebratory photo.

Running scales in harmony during their soundcheck was a good indication of the level of skill that Enslave possess - that their punky aesthetic comes from a place of actual musical talent makes it that much better. With their melodic (often metallic) overtones and the vocals being shared by their female lead singer and male guitarists, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to Eskatologia, who share the same traits. It has to be said, though, that Enslave are much more frightening. Their tiny singer spent most of the set standing on the monitor, screaming through bipolar shifts between J-pop coquettishness and creepy J-horror bug-eyed glares.
Once the band started playing, they were completely obscured by their fans, who threw themselves with wild abandon through the air, over the stage, unto the floor. The crowd's exuberance actually caused a temporary stoppage in the set, as band and soundman needed the respite to fix technical problems (no doubt caused by fans falling on pedals and disconnecting chords). The heat and humidity of the room was oppressive, and I was impressed that band and crowd alike could maintain that level of commitment through a full set and an encore. I have friends who  bust my balls for the number of shirts I buy at gigs, but this time it was necessary: the shirt I showed up wearing was drenched like I'd been in a water balloon fight, and a new one was badly needed if I wanted to stave off pneumonia on the train ride home. Any show that feels like an hour-long grappling match and still ends in time for me to catch the train has to go in the "win" column. Let's hear it for Rumah Api's newfound punctuality.

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