Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Hesher Canon

I have few regrets about my musical journey. I got to witness some of the most exciting developments in metal's history: Thrash gave way to death metal, which forced itself beyond its initial boundaries only to implode soon after; black metal took its place at metal's vanguard, before becoming overly commercial and predictable; death metal arose from the ashes, faster and more brutal than before; and in between those bullet points, I was around to experience seminal moments for grindcore and doom metal and everything in between.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Desaster, Sun Worship, UNRU, Krater

At a time when bandwagon-hoppers mindlessly braying "Thrash or Die!" actually had me preferring the latter, Desaster were one of the few bands demonstrating that the genre was capable of more than simple plagiarism. The Oath of an Iron Ritual  throws fast and catchy Teutonic thrash into the fire to give it a keen blackened finish. Nearly 20 years into their career, Desaster may be one of the best examples of a band setting a course and maintaining it no matter how the fickle winds of public taste blow. [$9.99]

Since their previous album Elder Giants is one of my favourites of the last few years, I had high expectations for the return of Berlin's Sun Worship. Thankfully, their new album Pale Dawn is more of the same: Unrelenting, uncompromising black metal delivered with ruthless efficiency. 4 songs in almost 40 minutes and not a second of it wasted. Unglaublich! [€5]

Fellow Berliners UNRU impress with their own 4 song, nearly 40 minute long EP. Buried in the chaos of Als Tier ist der Mensch Nichts is an understanding of how to employ dynamics and minimalism to maximum effect. The murky production, usually a sign that a band is trying to obscure some shoddy performances, in this case elevates the music's avant sensibility. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

Krater aren't fucking around in their pursuit of total fucking darkness. On the stellar Urere, facemelting speed, killer riffs and malevolent atmospherics are combined for an album that recalls Naglfar at their best. A case could be made that these days Teutonic black metal is as exciting as its Scandinavian cousin. [€6.90]

Saturday, April 9, 2016

An Interview with Holy Grove

With their massive riffs and choruses that burrow into your skull, Holy Grove are one of the best new bands from the metal hot bed that is Portland, Oregon. Their self-titled debut, newly released through Heavy Psych Sounds Records, will quickly make a fan of anyone who likes their music heavy and hook-laden. I reached out to the band for the lowdown; bassist Gregg Emley took the time to  answer my questions, with an assist by vocalist Andrea Vidal and guitarist Trent Jacobs.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Bandcamp Picks - Wode, Palace of Worms, Rorcal, Sulphur

If UKBM has a reputation for silly costumes and twee affectations, it's well-deserved; but Manchester's Wode gleefully defy expectations. The 6 tracks on their self-titled debut deliver frozen melodies at blistering speeds, and are never less than utterly heavy. No frilly shirts here. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Oakland's Palace of Worms make black metal that is green, and, it has to be said, uniquely American. The Ladder casts several shades of Agalloch in its assimilation of neo-folk, prog, and indie influences, never quite going where you'd expect. "Cascadian" in all but location. [$7]

At what point does fast become slow? Swiss band Rorcal take black metal riffs and stretch them out to sludge tempos. A concept album based on the Greek Tragedy Antigone (with titles named after the main player, in Cyrillic even), CREON's six songs will test your attention span as they punish your speakers/earbuds. "Tragic" in the oldest, truest sense of the word. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

"Technical blackened death metal" is how Bergen's Sulphur describe themselves, but for all their razor sharp riffing and flawless musicianship, to these ears they fall more in line with Norway's proud tradition of progressive black metal. In particular, Omens of Doom shares many facets with Enslaved - though without the soaring tenor or spacey keyboards, and with a focus on pure speed. Maybe "progressive technical deathened black metal" is too long a descriptor? [€10]