Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of 2013: Challenging the Orthodoxy

Gorguts - Colored Sands

Here's an honest confession: I bought Gorguts' Obscura when it came out, and didn't understand it for years. I appreciated it for its strangeness, and I sung the album's praises to anyone who would sit still long enough to listen, but Luc Lemay's intent and execution were beyond anything I'd heard or could wrap my head around at the time.

Likewise, on Colored Sands, Gorguts present a death metal album quite unlike any that have come before it. It's a work of astounding depth and craftsmanship, taking preconceived notions of prog, tech, and brutal death and throwing them out the window to attain a unique and mature vision of the genre that will stand as a high water mark for years to come. I'm not going to pretend I'm any closer to fully understanding Gorguts, but I've never been so at peace with befuddlement.

Highlights: An Ocean of Wisdom, Enemies of Compassion, Absconders

Deicide - In the Minds of Evil

Deicide has been wildly inconsistent since their 90's heyday. Like a formerly great fighter alternating between wins and losses, you never know what you're going to get from their albums these days. Well, I'm happy to report that their latest is solidly in the "win" column. In The Minds of Evil spices up the meat-and-potatoes approach of the band's early years with vicious hooks and just a hint of experimenting with new sounds. Other than that, it's fucking Deicide, unabashed haters of Christ and servants of Satan. What more do you need?

Highlights: Beyond Salvation, Even the Gods Can Bleed, Kill The Light of Christ

Dark Tranquillity - Construct

At this point the most long-lived and dependable of the Gothenberg bands, Dark Tranquillity continue making stellar albums that take their love for florid melodies into new directions. Boldly entwining keyboards and Michael Stanne's New Wave-ish vocals with their melodic death metal, Construct is a treat for those of us who have both Kreator and Depeche Mode on our iPods.

Highlights: Endtime Hearts, Uniformity, Immemorial

Ulcerate - Vermis

Like Gorguts, Ulcerate have deconstructed the death metal paradigm to arrive at a vision that keeps some of the genre's intrinsic hallmarks (blastbeats, growling) and ignores its more obvious cliches. Vermis shows that death metal's territory is too vast to be policed, and heretics like Ulcerate roam its far borders challenging the orthodoxy. Let the retro bandwagon take heed and be wary.

Highlights: Vermis, Weight of Emptiness, The Imperious Weak

Cult of Luna - Vertikal

Cult of Luna have been solidifying their position at the top of the doomcore heap for almost a decade now; Vertikal is an accomplished work with elements of kraut rock, prog, and psychedelia adding texture to its sombre and oppressive palate. Whatever influence Cult of Luna took from Isis or Neurosis in the past, they are now those bands' equal.

Highlights: I: The Weapon, Vicarious Redemption, Synchronicity

Necrophobic - Womb of Lilithu

Necrophobic have been an undeniable (if largely unsung) pillar of black metal's second wave, with solid releases stretching over two decades. Womb of Lilithu expands on their hallmarks of blistering speed and frozen melodies with a symphonic flourish that occasionally makes the album sound like a Satanic metal opera. While most eyes were on Watain and their traveling E-Coli sideshow, Necrophobic snuck in with the best black metal album of 2013.

Highlights: Astaroth, Furfur, The Necromancer

Demonical - Darkness Unbound 

Sometime last year, for the first time since Entombed introduced the 15 year old me to the wonder of Swedish death metal, I had had enough of the style. The onslaught of second rate bands flaunting their HM-2 pedals and lack of creativity seemed to mark the end of my interest in the NWOOSDM, and few recent albums seemed to interest me. Luckily, Demonical reappeared to remind me why I loved the style so much. Driven by hooks and a blackened strain of melody, Darkness Unbounds wisely makes sure the Riff holds more importance than any distortion pedal. With no clear successor to Dismember in sight and their peers overly comfortable with wallowing in old school pandering, Demonical deserve to rise to the top of the heap.

Highlights: Healing Control, Contempt and Conquest, Hellfire Empire

deafheaven - Sunbather

The black metal album all your indie friends are talking about. The post rock and shoegaze elements may endear deafheaven to Pitchfork types, but don't hold that against them. Mixing shoegaze with black metal is not exactly new, but where deafheaven really shine is the way they use those elements to create atmosphere. Like the best black metal albums, Sunbather takes you on a journey, one with unexpected twists and turns.

Highlights: Sunbather, Vertigo, The Pecan Tree

Sepultura - The Mediator Between Head and Hands
Must Be the Heart

It can't be easy for Sepultura. Somehow Derrick Greene hasn't accrued the same kind of defenders as, say, Dio-era Sabbath, and the band's popularity has waned except with the die-est of die-hards; and even those would prefer a reunion with Max and Igor back at the helm. Once one of the most important metal bands in the world, the albums since their infamous split have alternated between decent and disappointing, with few memorable moments. Maybe that's why The Mediator is such a surprise; somehow finding a way to make the cerebral death-thrash of Arise co-exist with the wild experimentation of Roots, Sepultura came out swinging at naysayers with possibly their heaviest album in years. The writing may be on the wall for this iteration of Sepultura, but the band seem unwilling to go gentle into that good night, and I for one couldn't be happier.

Highlights: The Vatican, Obsessed, The Age Of The Atheist

Sabazius - The Descent of Man

I probably spent more time listening to this album than any other released this year - and I don't think I listened to it all the way through more than once. No other extreme metal band strove to challenge the status quo and top their past accomplishments like Sabazius. At over 11 hours long, The Descent of Man is less about catharsis and more like an endurance test, taking doom and drone to misanthropic, mind numbing depths. Part performance piece, part musical prank, it's the apex for slow and heavy music. For now.

Highlights: Cranking the volume to make your neigbours think they have tinnitus. Causing music critics to rethink their profession. Listening to the whole thing in one sitting and emerging from the other side with your sanity intact.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Stocking Stuffer Edition

Since tis the season to be moochin', here are some free Bandcamp downloads to stuff into stockings and/or inboxes.

If the purpose of the two song teaser EP Downpour by Canada's Kataplexis was to whet appetites for their upcoming full-length, then mission accomplished. Tight, blasting, and technical, this is death metal done right. Everything on Kataplexis' Bandcamp page is available as a free or "name your price" download, and it's all fucking great.

French provacateurs Celeste meld black metal, post-hardcore, and doom into a uniquely noisey and nihilistic package. All their releases are available through their label Denovali Records' website  as free downloads (with the exception of their newest album Animale(s), which is on sale for a very respectable €5).

It seems like it wasn't that long ago that I was writing about War Wolf's first EP (actually, it was almost exactly one year ago). On their first full-length, Crushing The Ways Of The Old, the Brits set their HM-2 pedals to "kill" for their raw and rawking Entombed-influenced hardcore. The album and everything else on their Bandcamp page is available as "name your price" downloads.

It's been a quiet year for Brazilian death metal, so this new EP by Sao Paolo's Gammoth is most welcome. Though more restrained than their hyperblasting countrymen, Caro Data Vermibus demonstrates the band is adept at creepy Immolation style riffs. This EP shows the band is striving to craft a unique identity - a rarity in the current death metal landscape, marking Gammoth as a name to remember.

Not long after I posted a link on Facebook to Death Sigils, the new album by Virginia's Occultist, they were listed as "band of the week" by Darkthrone's Fenriz. Not sure what that means; I guess I could crow about beating Fenriz to the punch if I didn't believe Fenriz was just another guy posting Bandcamp links on his blog. The album and Occultist's earlier EP are both available as "name your price" downloads, Tom G. Warrior grunts and all. Ooorgh.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have little patience or interest for anything old school revival-related, but for some reason BAT's first demo hits the spot. With members of DRI and Municipal Waste in their ranks, the 80's thrash fetishism on Primitive Age is pretty thick, but so are their chops. The band go out of their way to state that they recorded on analogue tape - not sure what difference that makes when it all ends up getting converted to MP3s, but who am I to quibble with free music?

Not content with simple crusty death/doom, the first demo by Newcastle's Live Burial is packed with swathes of atmosphere, a la (very) early Paradise Lost. Anyone who remembers the glory days of "The Peaceville Three" will feel a twinge of nostalgia for the fog and fuzz. Better jump on this before these kids discover keyboards and the Sisters of Mercy.

I first encountered Denmark's Crematoria in the Hellbound? documentary. Their 2010 debut EP Embodiment of Brutality is a fun slice of groovy death metal. The members all seem incredibly young, so chances are this band will morph considerably as the years pass - but even at this early stage their talent and love for the genre is clear to see.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Hellbound? (Probably)

This guy? Definitely.
Just watched the documentary Hellbound?. It's pretty dry for the most part, and the points it makes are fairly obvious - evangelists are nutty and hypocritical, Christian theology is convoluted and open to interpretation. But the filmmakers won my heart with a brief detour into a European metal festival, where they catch Deicide's Glen Benton being his typically wry self, and ask Oderus Urungus to name three people he thinks are in hell ("Jesus. Every pope ever. That's more than three. Ronald Reagan is in hell, believe it or not."). The filmmakers also interview David "Soul Patch" Vincent and Mayhem's Necrobutcher (who seems uniquely ill-suited for documentary interviews).

Rewards Programme

"You can't cut the throat of every cocksucker whose character it would improve."

But boy howdy, I'd love to try.

Coal in your stocking

"Would you care for a candied cane? It represents the emotional crutch of the season's empty frivolity."

"It's the most wonderful time of the year" ...unless you're a hardened cynic with a blog. Dan Brooks of the excellent Combat! blog (as seen on the blog roll at right) wrote a wonderfully funny article for the Missoula Independant about the crappiness of X-mas music. The piece has possibly the best sentence I've read this week:
"But we tolerate the songs because it is Christmas, and if we cannot tolerate them we know we are awful, because it means we cannot tolerate others’ happiness."

If not tolerating X-mas songs makes me Scrooge, then: Bah, hambug.

In college, I worked for the residential life department, and part of our job was to throw a holiday party for the kids in our dorm before they disappeared back home for the winter break. One year a dispute came up with the sole Jewish member on staff over whether or not we should use Christmas themed music during the party. The Christian staff members seemed unwilling to budge on the point, even if it risked alienating non-Christian students. I brought up that we didn't have to play X-mas music just because X-mas was coming; good music is good music regardless of the time of year, and our residents would enjoy that just as much. It was a rare act of diplomacy and understanding on my part that surprised everyone, including me. That's probably why it worked.

I sympathize with my Jewish friends for feeling alienated during the season. I personally hate the holiday. Hearing the words "Merry Christmas" makes me feel dead inside. The only thing I ever enjoyed about the season was the weather while I was living in NY; as someone raised in South East Asia, walking around in the freezing cold and encroaching darkness brought me closer to my black metal albums than anything I would have experienced back home.

As a kid, my Christmases never came with presents, or family dinners, or any of the usual trappings. Instead, I had to go to church three times in a 24 hour period - midnight mass on X-mas Eve, and twice on X-mas day. [Jesus, if you're reading this: Fuck you and your birthday]. These days, I don't celebrate the holiday in any way, besides a yearly viewing of Scrooged and one of National Lampoon's Vacation movies.

But even with my antipathy for the holiday and the musical cash-ins that come with it (seriously, how many more people are going to send me links to that Christopher Lee album?), I couldn't help but be moved by this: Stephen Colbert had the disabled veterans group MusiCorps and soul singer Aaron Neville do a few songs for his show, including the best version of "Hallelujah" I've ever heard. Better than Leonard Cohen's original; better even than the Jeff Buckley version. Even though I hate X-mas songs, I don't hate this. Possibly because it's being delivered by wounded soldiers and not a department store PA. The medium is the message, I guess.

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Thaw, Blaze of Perdition, Erebus Enthroned, Cult of Fire

Polish black metal band Blaze of Perdition suffered a touring accident recently that resulted in the death of their bassist and the other band members seriously injured, with their vocalist left in critical condition.

In response, their countrymen Thaw released the single Afterkingdom as a benefit for Blaze of Perdition. Culled from their upcoming album, the song gives an inkling as to why the band is so highly touted by some, including Nergal (praise from Caesar is praise indeed). Not content to simply bludgeon the listener into submission, the song takes a turn into discordant Gorguts/Portal territory halfway through. In music and intent, this release makes it clear that Thaw is a band whose heads and hearts are in a laudable place. I eagerly await the full-length. [$1; but since this is a benefit release, I'm sure more would be appreciated.]

This week Pagan Records released Accession of Fire, a split between Blaze of Perdition and Sidney's Erebus Enthroned. Each band provides a track of unabashed tinder; this is music to light churches. In all likelihood, this may end up being Blaze's final release; as such, it's a fine, fiery send off. [$3.50]

Released at the end of 2012, OREMUS - Popioły marked Blaze of Perdition as a band that was reverential of black metal's second wave, with Darkthrone and Satyricon seeming to be especially big influences. This is no-nonsense black metal, brimming with malicious intent even when the band eases off the gas pedal (as on the blackened folk of the closing track). An accomplished and impressive release, made tragic by the band's circumstances. [€9]

(Note: on my PayPal receipt, payment to Blaze of Perdition went to the account of vocalist Pawel "Sonneillon" Marzec. As of this writing, I haven't been able to find out what Marzec's recovery status is, or what happens to the money that's debited into his account. But with a long and expensive road ahead for both him and his family, I doubt it would hurt.)

Western appropriation of Indian culture is a little baffling to me - but hell, I have little interest in my South Asian heritage, so anyone else who wants it is welcome to it. Cult Of Fire from the Czech Republic dive headlong into the dark side of Hinduism on their sophomore album मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान ("Ascetic Meditation of Death", apparently), with a concept revolving around Kali and titles written in Devanagari. The album is often reminiscent of Agalloch's blacker moments, but with the occasional Hindu(ish) chanting and sitar playing. The Profound Lore crowd should be all over this; it's definitely the best Czech-Hindu black metal I've heard this week. [€6.66.]

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rocket Fueled (feat. King Diamond)

One of the best bits of editing I've ever done happened over the week-end when I realized that Heavy Cream's "Stiff Lick" ends with the same riff as "Come to the Sabbath" by Mercyful Fate. I was literally giddy with excitement over how well it came together (it happens at about 24:00). My next favourite part is the audio of Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force scatting "The Ocean" then leading in to the actual Zep version. [I cut out the cheesy bar blues ending; the song should end the way it is here, in my opinion].

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Second Grave, In The Company of Serpents, Sun Black Smoke, Big Business

DoC faves Second Grave are back with their new two song EP, Antithesis. If, like me, you heard the latest Sabbath album and wondered who stole all Iommi's riffs, the answer is here. This is flawless traditional doom metal, with vocalist Krista Van Guilder's sorrowful wails taking a turn for Grief/Eyehategod territory at one point. But eighteen minutes just isn't enough for me; I may only have discovered them earlier this year, but I'm growing impatient for a full length. I guess I'll just have to play this on a loop in the meantime. [$5]

Denver's In the Company of Serpents are on their second album and they're shaping up to be more than just another sludge band. Of the Flock teems with some killer riffs and the occasional grind part, avoiding the monotony that plagues most of their peers. Make no mistake, though: This is still some dark, soul crushing stuff. [$7.77]

Sun Black Smoke have an obvious bro crush on Matt Pike, as their second untitled demo sounds like the missing link between Sleep and High on Fire. The sound quality is rough and definitely demo-level, but it doesn't detract from their songwriting or playing. If this had come out 5 years ago they'd already be signed to Relapse. The 5 song demo is available as a "name your price" download.

I've always had a soft spot for Big Business, even if they're closer to Pitchfork territory than my curmudgeonly taste usually allows. Battlefields Forever is irresistable, riding that sweet spot between heavy and catchy for the duration of its nine tracks. Comparisons to the Melvins are a no-brainer, since two-thirds of Big Business are half of the Melvins - how's that for some metal math? But for my money, Big Business write the better, more anthemic songs ...and don't get me started on how sweet Jared Warren's vocals are. [$9]

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ize of Terror

Terrorizer (the magazine) turns 20 this month; that makes it a few years older than I was when I bought my first issue in the Fall of 1997. Terrorizer has been my go-to metal bible since I was 18. At 34, I struggle and fail in trying to think of a publication that has had as much of an effect on my life.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mixtape 6: Pinoy's'core

This is the sixth Dreams of Consciousness Mixtape, focusing on the hardcore/punk scene in the Philippines. While we were working on the last podcast about the Filipino scene, my buddy Ian [from Brimstone in Fire and Demiurge Digital Studios] sent me a few songs from local hardcore bands. That episode was pretty packed and those songs didn't fit in with the rest of the (mostly death metal) line-up, so we discussed doing a separate show specifically about Pinoy hardcore.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Impaled, Corrupt Moral Altar, Oshiego, The Dead Goats

One of the best death/grind albums of the last decade has been given a new lease on life. Impaled's legendary debut has been re-recorded and re-released as The Dead Still Dead Remain, with Leon Del Muerte even returning to do vocals. Scrubbed clean of the grime, it becomes clear that Impaled were more simpatico with Dismember and Amott-era Carcass than they ever were with Reek of Putrefaction. I'm sure there are long time fans who'll find the updated album too clean...but I for one enjoy not having to strain to hear the riffs. $8.99.

Corrupt Moral Altar come highly recommended by Napalm Death themselves - what more do you need to know? Their Whiskey Sierra 7" sounds like Scum got the Wolverine Blues, so no wonder the Napalm guys love it. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

If the new album by Singapore's Oshiego is any indication, there's a whole lotta evil going on across the causeway. The Great Architect of Nothing is an entertaining slab of blackened death metal, with the occasional early Bathory-esque rock flourish. The album is fast and technical enough for snobs like me who are particular about those things, but the raw production should appeal to anyone whose tastes go in the opposite direction. A hint that great things may be happening in Singapore. $6.66.

Just like in the 90's, the oversaturation of the Sunlight Studios style is working against all the bands that latched on to it; with new releases from Entrails, Demonical and Facebreaker all sinking without a trace, it's questionable who if anyone still suffers from "Stockholm syndrome" these days. Last year I facetiously wrote that The Dead Goats could do well by integrating some Vader into their Entombed/Dismember worship. Doubt those guys actually saw my comment, but their new 6 song EP Children of the Fungus does have a little bit of that straight-ahead death/thrash abandon that we've come to know and expect from Polish death metal, plus a classic Napalm Death song added for good measure. But for the most part these Goats are the best Swedish band to come out of Białystok. €2.

Disassociate, Heavyweight Champions of NY Grindcore

It's odd: kids in the local scene always ask me if I've seen such-and-such band, but one name that's never come up is Disassociate. They may not be a "cool" band these days, but they were one of the staples of my college years in NY. Their music, while not particularly inventive or unique, was heartfelt. In the years when OGs like Napalm and Carcass left grindcore behind until the late 90's when Relapse successfully revived the genre, bands like Disassociate proudly flew the flag for people who just wanted raw, fast, no-frills grindcore.

I've lost track of the number of times I saw Disassociate perform - definitely no less than three times, and possibly twice a year between 1999 and 2002. The first time I saw them, the band came out in psychedelic Jason Voorhees masks to the tune of Star Wars' "Imperial March". The last time I saw them (opening for Discordance Axis at their last ever show), they smashed an old PC with a sledge hammer while doing a noise/power electronics set. I attended that show with my girlfriend at the time and her friend from art school; neither of them were impressed by Discordance Axis ("All their songs sound the same!") but they were really into Disassociate and their performance art.

flyer taken from
GRIEF - The Band; An Online Scrapbook
Disassociate shows were always entertaining, mostly due to frontman Ralphie Boy and his pro-wrestling schtick. Thickly muscled and rarely wearing a shirt when he performed, Ralphie had a faux champion's belt and called his band "The World Grind Federation Heavyweight Title Holders" (never mind that their guitarist was barely five and a half feet tall). Ralphie was also a local concert promoter and booked some of the most exciting bands around for his Loud Az Fuck Festivals at CBGBs. In the summer of 2000 I attended both days of the second Loud Az Fuck, with Damad (who became Kylesa), Grief, Hellchild, Meatjack, Millions of Dead Cops, All Out War, Today is the Day, Anal Cunt, Dropdead and a bunch more that I can't remember. Til now, those two days rank amongst the best shows I've ever attended. If I had to go back in time and relive a day of my life over and over, a la Groundhog Day, it would be one of those two.

The last time I saw Ralphie was in Alphabet City in 2002. I passed him as he was on his way from making and distributing flyers for an upcoming show. I didn't personally know him, but he gave me a friendly nod (and probably a flyer). It's up in the air if he recognized me from all the times I saw his band at CBs or if he was just being polite, but it cemented my opinion that he was a down-to-earth guy who lived for the scene.

I moved back to South East Asia at the end of 2002; I think Disassociate broke up a few years after that. I don't remember seeing Ralphie when I was living in NY between 2008-2011, so I'm guessing he's not active in the area anymore. I can't imagine him moving to the suburbs and raising a bunch of kids; hopefully wherever he is, he's still got the belt from when he was the heavyweight champion of NY grindcore.

Moshpit Tragedy have made all of Disassociate's albums available to download for free:

Controlled Power - including their performance in Singapore in 1995 (?!?)

Symbols Signals and Noise

Imperfect World 

UPDATE: Moshpit Tragedy is dead, and so are the links. Sorry kids. - Adrian Sol, 04.12.2015

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dead in the Dirt, Kuala Lumpur 11.16.2013

Bing Maps: Actual location may not be anywhere near marker.
Kids in KL were pretty excited about Dead in the Dirt coming to Malaysia - I was asked for months whether I was going to the gig (like I have anything better to do). But first I had to wander around in circles for over an hour. Just finding the venue (actually a rehearsal studio) was an adventure, thanks to their Facebook page using a vague address and a misleading Bing map. It didn't help that there's little in the way of road signs between the train station and the studio. After about 45 minutes of trying to figure out where the fuck I was, it became apparent I had wandered into Nowhere and successfully located the middle. Luckily I ran into some other dudes who were also looking for the venue, otherwise all that walking around in the rain and the dark would have been for nothing (except to cement my growing belief that nothing good ever happens here).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Sea Bastard, Sea of Bones, Koloss, SubRosa

Rejoice - Sea Bastard is back! I've been Hulking out to their new album Scabrous since I first heard it at the end of October. Like its riff-tastic predecessor - their self-titled first album, one of my favourites of last year - Scabrous has some insanely catchy moments in its sludgy depths, like the brooding misanthropic spawn of Winter and Sleep. With four songs running just under an hour, expect your subwoofers to be tested. I'm going to put this back on and Hulk out some more. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Back in 2009 I saw Sea of Bones play a free show in the Lower East Side, and liked them so much that I promptly downloaded their last album from Mediafire (it's cool, they put it there). The Earth Wants Us Dead (an apt sentiment here in South East Asia right now) is a primal slab of sludge verging on death/doom. Comparisons to Neurosis are well deserved, though Sea of Bones never quite reach the claustrophobic intensity of that band at its best. But they've clearly paid attention to how their heroes use dynamics to keep their music from being monotonous (a problem with most sludge bands). Even if there doesn't seem to be an end to the number of bands tackling this style, Sea of Bones do it better than most. $6.

When it comes to Swedish doomcore, KOLOSS have a lot to live up to - not only has 2013 seen members of the mighty Breach return as The Old Wind, but Cult of Luna have released possibly the best album of their career. Empower the Monster is no slouch, though: Heavy, dark and sombre, with long post-rock influenced passages, the band wear their CoL/Isis influence proudly on their sleeves but make up for it with some rock solid songs. The four song release is available for €5 (or $6.75 according to paypal).

There's been a lot of love heaped on Utah's SubRosa in the past months; first by Decibel and Terrorizer for their album More Constant Than The Gods, and then by fans when thousands of dollars worth of gear was stolen from their van and they had to raise money for replacements. Well, who am I to stand in the way of all that love? Especially when the juxtaposition of proggy doom with female vocals is reminiscent of DoC faves Grayceon and Giant Squid. Emotive in a way that manages to sound both powerful and fragile, it lives up to the band's self-description of "Ancient Magickal Doom". $10.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Disconnected (Again)

My Macbook had to be sent to the shop again last week - because of course it did. Nothing good ever happens here. It started acting up the week-end after Halloween and I was just waiting for the constant grey screens to become permanent before I sent it in to get looked at. Before that happened, though, I was hoping to make a dent on the backlog of posts that I have, as well as put up some new Bandcamp Picks. No such luck. On the plus side, at least I was able to finish my Horrorfest and Devil's Night mixtape before my computer died. Actually, come to think of it, that was probably what killed it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cruising for Blackgaze

When I was in Bangkok last month I met an interesting guy named Jef, who was working at the guesthouse my friend Ben and I were staying at. I immediately knew I was going to like Jef because he was wearing a Swans shirt when I checked in. Plus, he's from Birmingham, which means he talks like Barney Greenway (and even sort of looks like him too.)

Jef and I were having a discussion about music, and I was telling him about the recent wave of black metal that's influenced by shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine and Lull.
"What it called?"
"Actually they call it 'black gaze.' "
He looked at me like I was crazy. "They're called 'black gays'?"

I was immediately doubled over with laughter. An obvious joke, for sure; but one that hadn't occurred to me before, and makes a silly sub-genre sound even sillier. So in dedication to Jef, and with thanks to Al Pacino's questionable career choices, enjoy cruising for blackgaze.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mushroom Death Suit

Stephen Colbert used the term "doom metal" on his show this week, bringing Candlemass one step closer to cable TV immortality. Bonus points to the Colbert Report art director for making multiple umlauts out of sprouting shrooms in the band logo.

[Surprisingly, there doesn't seem to be a band called Colostomy Bag yet; Napalm's Barney Greenway and Bolt Thrower's Andy Whale allegedly had a project called Colostomy but the internet has not been forthcoming in providing me with evidence of this.]

Mushrooms feeding on your rotten corpse below:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All things dead must rise again when twilight's blanket falls

Tonight is Samhain, when people around the world dress outlandishly, stay up late watching horror movies and decorate their homes with evil things. Or as I like to think of it, amateur night. Someone once asked me why I never dress up for Halloween; I told them quite seriously that Halloween is when everyone else dresses like me.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Necrophobic, Oranssi Pazuzu, Thrall, Temple Of Baal

Four years ago was when we last heard from the mighty Necrophobic, but the wait is over and well worth it. Womb of Lillithu is the band at their best, full of inescapable hooks and icy melodies, delivered with a confidence and panache that only true veterans possess. In a move that even Dissection couldn't pull off, Necrophobic successfully blows the scope of Swedish black metal wide open with a sound that takes them through the realms of NWOBHM and early thrash, for a spin on svart-metal that's both modern and classic. My vote for Swedish black metal AOTY. The album is available as a digital download for $9.99.

Since their inception, Oranssi Pazuzu have been dragging black metal into strange new worlds, and their newest album Valonielu is no exception. Pulsing with otherworldly menace, this is heavier than a psychedelic record has any right to be. If the idea of Unsane taking peyote and going black metal sounds awesome to you - and it should, because it is - then this needs to find its way to you, stat. The album is available as a digital download for $7.77.

Mid-period Darkthrone and Satyricon cast a deep shadow over Aussies Thrall. Aokigahara Jukai (named for Japan's infamous "suicide forest") has the same mid-tempo - dare I say, toe-tapping - swing that characterized the ever mutating second wave of black metal in recent years. If you rock out in the suicide forest and no one's around, does it make a sound? The album is available for AUD $8 (or USD $7.58 according to Paypal).

Of course, if scope, psychedelia or toe-tapping aren't your thing, there's always the devastating bludgeon of Temple Of Baal. Verses of Fire is black metal at its most brutal and direct, searing flesh from bone in a maelstrom of blastbeats, tremolo picking and bestial howling. In a word: Sublime. The album is available as a digital download for $8.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Gigan, Plague Widow/Oblivionized, Anakronis, Cyclamen

Gigan has been on my radar for years, but I never got around to checking them out until now. If their previous albums are anything like the mind-melting Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery And Super Science, then I've been missing out. Impressive but never overbearing, this is tech death for people who don't like tech death. Recommended for anyone who loves blastbeats and convoluted riffs. And whale sounds. The album is available as a digital download for $7.99.

Plague Widow are a band that I've had my eye on for a while, their first self-titled EP being one of the best death metal debuts I've heard in recent years. This Black Earth, their split with Brits Oblivionized, carries on in that vein, with an unrelenting blasting fury that only makes me more impatient for a full-length. On their side, Oblivionized show that they're not ones to be overshadowed, with a slightly schizo approach to modern death metal that's highly reminiscent of The Red Chord. The four song EP is available as a digital download from the Buried In Hell Records Bandcamp page for $1.99, and worth every penny.

It's looking like Canada is the place to be for technical death metal, and adding to that reputation is Anakronis with their Regression EP. I like my tech-death light on the arpeggios and heavy on the blasting, and this definitely suits me. The hyper-compressed production doesn't quite do their musicianship justice, but that's not enough to obfuscate the band's potential. Ones to watch, for sure. The 5 track EP is available as a "name your price" download.

I'll give this to Tokyo's Cyclamen: they're nothing if not modern. At its best, Ashura recalls the likes of Ihsahn and the Ocean in representing prog-metal at its heaviest, though at times the djenty rhythms and clean vocals skew too close to the more unfortunate trends of metal's recent past. But the sheer talent on display is impressive, as is the impeccable production. Two different masterings of the album are available on Bandcamp, both as "name your price" downloads.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pretty Mouth: Fears

In good news for enthusiasts of feedback and chaotic hardcore, Pretty Mouth are back with their new release Fears, to have their way with traditional song structures the way a couple of hillbillies did with a quivering Ned Beatty. With two songs from their previous cassette release ("Apotheosis" and "The Joke"), Fears is very much in line with the Pretty Mouth oeuvre up to this point.

The band have refined their attack since I first encountered them on Men of the Tie, Men of the Cloth, Men of the Lie. Though "refined" may not be the best way to describe this evolution; their love of noise is still very much on display, but used in more deliberate and jarring ways. On songs like "Bridges" and "Demons", Fears swings like an ether huffer on a skiff, hinting at a newfound affection for groove. I can't help but think of Greg Ginn, and what he would have done if he had grown up on hardcore instead of inventing it. The result would have sounded an awful lot like Pretty Mouth.

Near the end of the release comes "Nights", a spoken word piece about black magic in India, offering the listener a brief respite without relieving the tension. It's strange to hear a band as politically and socially conscious as Pretty Mouth build a whole track around witchcraft; but as singer Lance Marwood says, "everyone's on that upside down cross dick these days."

With few exceptions, the tracks on Fears zip past in under two minutes. My one complaint about Pretty Mouth in the past was that their releases weren't longer, but I've since changed that opinion. After 10 minutes of my earbuds feeding this into my brain while I walked around town, I was crazed and bug-eyed, scaring tourists and locals alike. God knows what another 20 minutes would have done.

Pretty Mouth are back. Best to keep all sharp objects locked away.

Pretty Mouth - ghosts from YOSH Photography on Vimeo.

Fears is released on 30 October 2013.

Pre-orders are available through Pretty Mouth's Big Cartel and Bandcamp pages.

Find Pretty Mouth on Facebook.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Jesu, A Storm of Light, Rosetta, Across Tundras

Justin Broadrick sure is busy this year...not only has he aired the first new Godflesh recording in over a decade, embarking on his first US tour with them since the 90's, but there's a new Jesu EP out this month as well. Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came is classic Jesu, bleak yet uplifting, trudging towards oblivion with a slight smile on its face. Gaze at your shoes for forty minutes and contemplate the inevitable. The 5 song EP is available as a digital download for $8, and comes with an additional 4 songs recorded live in Belgium earlier this year.

A Storm of Light's connection to Neurosis is well established and while comparisons are unavoidable, Nations to Flames shows that Josh Graham is capable of carving out a musical identity of his very own. This is the heaviest and most aggressive album that ASOL has released yet. If the idea of Soundgarden jamming with Neurosis sounds good to you, then revel in Kim Thayil's presence as a collaborator on some songs. Not sure which ones; also not sure why only 3 tracks are available on ASOL's Bandcamp page, but all 11 songs are streaming here courtesy of Noisecreep. The album is available as a digital download for $7.99.

I've had a soft spot for Rosetta ever since I saw them open for Kylesa during a snowstorm back in 2011. The Anaesthete, the band's first self-released album (and fourth overall, apparently) expands on their hypnotic, post-rock influenced doomcore with a bushido inspired theme and some quiet parts that remind me a lot of Australians (and DoC faves) Nuclear Summer. Cerebral and enveloping, if slightly too long for its own good. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Like a less droning version of Earth, Tennessee's Across Tundras inject a great deal of southern twang into their slow and heavy atmospherics. Electric Relics finds the band at the crossroads of psychedelic doom and dark country - possibly the same black crossroads that Robert Johnson was made an offer he couldn't refuse. Across Tundras make a similar offer: the album is available as a "name your price" download.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Metallica were on The Colbert Report this week, promoting their new 3-D concert movie Through the Never. Stephen seemed genuinely delighted to have a metal band to (*cough*) riff off of, and for their part Metallica were game straight men, allowing their host to score some laughs and even scoring some of their own.

The Colbert Report
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• The match up between motormouths Lars Ulrich and Stephen Colbert was no contest. Stephen is just too fast with his quips and Lars could barely get a word in edgewise.

• Stephen tells the band that he loves Saint Anger ("Never actually heard the album"), and they smile politely, perhaps knowing that it's the lowest point in their 30 year discography.

• Stephen suggests "Next to the Always" and "Under the Sometimes" as alternate titles to the somewhat nonsensical Through the Never.

• The band's performance of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was introduced by Colbert's previous guest, Jesuit pastor Jim Martin. Multiple levels of irony to unfold: a priest introducing the world's biggest metal band; the same priest gleefully flashing devil horns; the author of an article chiding the entertainment industry for its "obvious contempt for the Catholic Church" roped in to introduce the band that wrote "Leper Messiah" and "The God that Failed"; and the fact that the pastor shares a name with Hetfield's old buddy, Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin.

• Metallica running around and vamping on Colbert's tiny (compared to what they're used to) studio stage like it was their normal arena set up was pretty endearing.

The Colbert Report
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• Massive reverb on Hetfield's vocals throughout the night, but the performance was still fairly raw and unrestrained. Going to go out on a limb and guess that Metallica aren't playing to a backing track yet.

• Even though I saw Metallica play "Master of Puppets" live and in person, it was somehow even more thrilling to see them play it on The Report, with Hetfield substituting at least one "master" with "Colbert!" Also, Stephen's introduction was beyond amazing.

The Colbert Report
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mixtape 5: Screamapore

Here's the fifth Dreams of Consciousness "mixtape", featuring our friends from across the causeway in Singapore. This podcast features an interview with my buddies Bloodstone, which I recorded in March when I saw them play the Home Club in Singapore with Wormrot, Hell and Hell, and Demisor. Bloodstone are all really smart and funny guys, and the interview was one of the most fun I've ever done. I meant to transcribe the recording as soon as I got home, but kept putting it off... half a year later, here it finally is.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bandcamp Picks: Gorguts, Ulcerate, Orbweaver, Pathogen

After years of anticipation, the new Gorguts is finally here. Coloured Sands builds off of their genre-redefining meisterwork Obscura, taking both the band and death metal into strange new worlds. According to a recent Decibel playlist, Luc Lemay has been listening to plenty of Philip Glass and prog rock; it shows. Simply put, this is one of the most unique and important metal releases of 2013. I look forward to disappearing into its confounding depths over and over again. The album is available as a digital download for $9.99.

Not to be outdone in the "confounding death metal" department, New Zealand's Ulcerate return with the equally brilliant Vermis. Don't be fooled by their jazz influence, though; this is as relentlessly heavy as any Morbid Angel or Suffocation album you'd care to mention. Between this and the new Gorguts, 2013 might be remembered as the year that R'lyeh finally emerged from the depths. The album is available as a digital download for $8.99.

If your hunger for jazz-influenced metal still hasn't been sated, Miami's Orbweaver are self-described as "Zappa-esque controlled chaos". There's so much feedback and math on Strange Transmissions From The Neuralnomicon, expect your brains to melt and flow out your nose. Lovers of blast need not fear; for all its progressive leanings, it never wanders too far off the path of brutality. The 5 song EP is available as digital download for $5.

Filipino crew Pathogen have been around for over a decade, and have been actively working their style of old school death metal since then. Originally released on cassette in 2010, Miscreants of Bloodlusting Aberrations has been recently reissued by Germany's Dunkelheit Productions on CD and vinyl. Fans of early Morbid Angel and Immolation take note. The album is available as a digital download for €2.90 (around $3.87 according to Paypal).