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METAL I'M DIGGING AS THE NIGHTS DRAW IN

[OK, lots to catch up with from 2016 thus far but fuck me - first WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT SWALLOWED AND THEIR ALBUM 'LUNARTERIAL' FROM 2013? I CONSIDER THIS A MAJOR DERELICTION OF DUTY FROM ALL OF YOU. FOR SHAME!Seriously, this is a twisted, evil, revolting, primordial, unholy fucking death-spiral of an album, an album so hostile to life, hostile to music, hostile to not flaying yourself inside out it almost makes me wish I was 15 again so I could walk the streets with it as my permanent soundtrack. Flamethrowers in the mind. A self-pity so extreme it immediately transcends self-loathing and jumps straight into self-immolation. Seriously, just put yourself in the way of this shit.]


Now that small bit of metal-related housekeeping is out the way - a few things from recent months that have been caving my stoopid little skull in.


ORANSSI PAZUZU 
VARAHTELIJA 
(Svart Records) 

Top of this list cos it's SO FUCKING GOOD and yup, sorry I'm late on this (it came out in March) but holy fuck what a great oddly-funky psychedelic doom metal record this is. Opener 'Saturaatio' hips you that something unique is going on here, a feral howl of Uffomamut-style motorik-psyche, vocals with those essential blood-caked cracks inside the grain. Five minutes in it switches into spellbinding Goblin/King Crimson-style harsh-prog (replete with organ so Hammond-hammy you can practically see John Lord leaning into the blacks'n'whites). OP are capable of an awful lot as a band - squalid 70s-Miles-style funk, mind-melting motorik psyche, brutal metal, crucially their stylistic freedom never comes across as showboating, always seems a totally natural emanation from the previous moment, creating songs of monumental length that don't waste a second and that remain absorbingly odd and lysergic throughout. For me, best metal of the year thus far and I can't see it being surpassed. E-fkn-ssential. 

INTER ARMA 
PARADISE GALLOWS
(Relapse) 

A little preposterous (if opener 'Nomini's portentous dual guitar lines don't have you giggling you're a frownier man than me Gunga Din) but crucially it's the preposterous DONE WITH GUSTO and BELIEF and nary a smirk. Inter Arma do this weird mix of the worst/greatest excesses & ambitions of 70s prog with the heaviest murkage of 80s & 90s doom, black metal and sludge which shouldn't work but works a freakin' treat throughout 'Paradise Gallows'. Crucially - every single musical element, from the insane solos to the arrthymic cesspit of the riffs and grooves, has clearly been painstakingly rehearsed to the point of diamond-tightness, Mike Paparo's stunning guttural voice veering between dubbed-out reverb-space and being so in yr face you can feel his acid spittle melting your eyeballs. An epic deserving of the name. 


SUMAC 
WHAT ONE BECOMES 
(Thrill Jockey)

I know I know, you see the label and you think - this aint gonna be proper metal, fuck that. Don't let it fool you. I too get bored of post-rocky spins on metal but detach it from those prejudicial referens and 'What One Becomes' takes on its true stature as simply a molten planet of heaviosity, v. reminiscent of Yeasayer and American Heritage for me. Scalding, defiantly unwestern guitar work and a real sense of pindrop silence and mahoosive space - when it crunches hard you forget this is called 'experimental' and just enjoy the fucking whallop of it all. Also the passages where it does just slip into noise are tactile and bracing and scratch at you like Caspar Brotzmann Massaker. I'm digging it.

VAINAJA 
VERENVALAJA 
(Svart Records) 
I love the fact Bandcamp allows bands to write their own blurbs. Here's Vainaja's explanation of their new 2nd album's title . . . .

Verenvalaja” translates into Blood Caster – the twisted one derailing the flow of life to stream towards his own creation.This noun is also the title of a tome, presumably written by Wilhelm Waenaa, a mystic figure of Finnish folklore. It is known that Wilhelm was one of the leading forces behind the 19th century cult of Vainaja spreading terror in rural Finland. 

So that clears that up then - these Finnish loons actually use the text of the Book Of Wilhelm as their lyric sheet (and if you dl the album from Bandcamp you get a pdf of the text - bargain!). To an extent this will barely impact on your listening cos if you can make out anything Wilhelm the singer (actually credited with 'vocals, bass and preaching') is singing over Kristian's ('guitars and cantoring') wankfest of riffage and mayhem and Aukusti's ('drums and gravedigging') slo-mo doom and light-speed blastbeats you're either Finnish or mad. Possibly both. Massive 90s black/death influences going on here - I'm reminded throughout of Celtic Frost, Type O Negative, Amorphis' still-untouchable 'Karelian Isthmus'. The synths, occassional blasts of orchestral arrangements & spoken word moments only amplify the sense that these sick twists had to eject this bolus of aggravation before it bloated them like a floating corpse. Superb. 

UNFATHOMABLE RUINATION 
FINITUDE 
(Sevared Records) 

BLOODY NORA. Death metal so technically ruthless you're reminded that part of the reason metal continues to be so absorbing where the rest of guitar rock seems to be pootling itself into oblivion is that metal, because of its endless distillation and purification, can sometimes set itself purely technical targets. To be faster. To be heavier. To link kickdrum to basspart to riff with such mathematical precision and lunatic rapidity it's fucking frightening. I have no idea HOW Unfathomable Ruination (whose last album bore the wonderful title 'Misshapen Congenital Entropy') play this music as it sounds beyond human capability but somehow Frederico Benini's unholy bass, Doug Anderson's staggering flawless drums, the guitars of Ross Plazza and Daniel Herrera and Ben Wright's cadaverous vocals coalesce into a truly demonic swirl, no wastage, no moments of drift, just everything upto 11 and pitched with an unrelenting riff-swallowing intensity determined to make deep fletchette incisions into your soft temple. Can't see a more brutal, perfect death-metal release coming out in 2016. Submit. 


IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT 
INCESTE EP 
(Redefining Darkness Records) 

25 minutes of deeply disturbing terror from NYC that dives even deeper into the demented antechambers of dread Imperial Triumphant opened up with 2015's 'Abyssal Gods'. As with Oranssi Pazuzu some mushrooms and microdots have been stirred into the sonic cauldron - opener 'Libertine' is a weird peal of echoplexed harpsichord akin to a black-metal Sparks that creeps you the fuck out before 'Kaleidoscopic Orgies' bursts into your day n night with an unsettlingly wonky walk like the woman walking out the TV screen at the end of 'Ringu', the groove so twistedly WRONG you're reminded of Scratch Acid and The Butthole Surfers, the vocals so deep and French it sounds like prime Franz Treichler, a jazzy breakdown stereo-strafed into pell-mell carnage, a coda that goes from slambang monstrosity into a crackly Piaf sample with cinematic brilliance. You can hear way more than just metal going on here, groggy industrial drone, Xenakis-style racket - vocals come from all directions and all registers, it's a record that gives you no familiar ground to stand on, a record that absolutely puts you psychologically in the same prone place as the hebraphrenic narrators. IT avow that their intent with 'Inceste' was to create 

"an interpretation of the works of French aristocrat Marquis de Sade. We wanted to make a record that was sordid, invasive, and child like at times. Extreme highs and lows are everywhere on this EP. The music always reflects the lyrics. Nothing on Inceste is stable. Everything instrument bends and twists and wrenches, forcing its way inside of you." 
Mission fkn ACCOMPLISHED IN SPADES. Get violated soon as.

ECFERUS 
PANGAEA 
(I, Voidhanger Records) 

Everyone likes a musician who can do everything, Roy Castle style, and Ecferus, despite sounding thoroughly like a black-metal band is  actually just one guy from Indiana called Alp, who plays everything. Listening, it's an astonishing feat of painstaking creation, so welded together is every part of 'Pangaea', a geological & spiritual concept album about the formation and dissolution of the supercontinent. Pure black-metal dynamics, but self-produced with a minimum of obfuscation and maximum clarity, it's a punishingly fast but fantastically dismal suite of primitive fear and primal disgust. 

BHAVACHAKRA 
BHAVACHAKRA 
(Bandcamp)
Always loved the fact that Florida - for so many of us growing up over this side of the pond characterised as a sunshine state fulla Disney, fulla beaches and surfers and bikinis and LIGHT, has produced so much of the darkest gnarliest hate-fuelled extreme metal of the past few decades. The duo Bhavachakra don't sound like they're in a lineage that includes Death, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Malevolent Creation etc but they share those bands hermetic retreat from Florida's outward facade into its bible-belt fear-mediated innards. This s/t album sounds like a filthier more frenetic early-Mastodon and is recorded with a great sense of propulsion and incisiveness. Just the right side of 'technical' i.e still sounds like kick-ass music, not just virtuosity.


YONDER
DEMO MMXVI
(Bandcamp)

'Blackened neo-crust' it says here and I have no fucking idea what that means. Suffice to say I'm so GLAD that this venal transmission from Stuttgart does sound like a demo i.e a little too loud here and there and gloriously unmannered throughout. What I love about Yonder is their absolute refusal to attempt anything that stretches their abilities - when they need to just settle into a two-chord Stooges-style riff they will, when they want to come on like an even more inept Sarcofago they can do that too. Raw, raging, diseased bleakness (at least I think it's bleak - they could be screaming about fucking cupcakes for all I know) from a band that I hope is about 12 years old. 

PLEBIAN GRANDSTAND 
FALSE HIGHS, TRUE LOWS 
(Bandcamp) 
At first of course, it comes across like sheer bloody-mindedness. This French (from Toulouse actually) four piece seem so determined to NEVER GIVE YOU A TUNE and make every single noise they make dissonant and 'difficult' it's like they don't just want you to listen attentively, they want to CHANGE the way you listen. And they do. A mighty sound here, big and wide but eventually, like Trout Mask, the melodies start snagging you, start making sense. Their previous two albums 2014's 'Lowgazers' and 2010's 'How Hate Is Hard To Define' gave hints but 'False Highs' feels like PG's fullest filthiest flowering yet, they've shorn themselves now of anything approaching conventional riffs, anything that doesn't crumble into dust and despair before you can grab hold of it. A bleak transmission from the edge of male psychosexual collapse. I'm having it largestyle.

EIGHT BELLS
LANDLESS
(Battleground Records)

One of the things that links most of the metal I'm enjoying at the moment is its narrative sense - concepts and stories carried over the duration of an entire album that gives things a lyrical focus and a cumulative musical build sadly lacking in so much guitar music at the moment. Melynda Jackson of the now-defunct SubArachnoid Space has jettisoned that band's instrumental focus and launched her doom-metal project Eight Bells as singer and guitarist - the trio's 2013 debut 'The Captain's Daughter' spun an absorbing tale about a character lost at sea, on this newie the castaway makes it home and slowly, over the course of a spellbinding five tracks, discovers that the life less alone is the life suffused with intolerable pain. The storytelling, cinematic vibe extends beyond the deeply suggestive lyrics into the sounds as well, sometimes the surge absconding into pure atmospherics - I can hear Cocteau Twins, Windy & Carl, MBV-style moments of dirge and dazzlement pop off inbetween the riffola. And Melynda's voice is just gorgeous, able to multitrack itself into beautiful plainsong, leaving just whispers and hints as to what the protaganist is seeing and feeling. Mysterious and moving to the end.

CAïNA 
CHRIST CLAD IN WHITE PHOSPHOROUS
(Apocalyptic Witchcraft Records) 

Truth be told, though the vocals keep this deeply odd album firmly in the black-metal category I've never heard black-metal like it, primarily cos the drums occupy such a strange exquisitely razor-like filamental presence in the mix. Not a thud, more like a recurrent papercut to the eardrum, slicing across the mix as the textures around it blend and build - Caina's combination of black-metal riffs, Sonic Youth-style refracted dissonance, and vocals with an almost post-punk sense of electronic rhythm makes 'Christ Clad In White Phosphorous' (WHAT a title) the black-metal Skinny Puppy album you've been dreaming of all your life. Love the way the vocals can also suddenly turn into an absolutely central muttering into your ear - the whole record fucks with your sense of space just as it plays with your traditional expectations of how a 'band' should sound, structurally and textually. Like Anaal Nathrakh rerubbed by Kevin Martin. Diggit.

(Thanks to Angry Metal Guy and Cvlt Nation for being the best goddamned resources for metal fans on earth in 2016)

Comments

  1. Can't wait to have a listen to some of this stuff especially as I've never heard of any of these bands. I shall not be moved from the position that Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard's staggeringly heavy (and beautiful) "Y Profwydd Dwyll" is this year's "Grief's Infernal Flower". Thanks as always for the pointers Neil.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Turns out I told a lie in my first comment - I have heard of Sumac and mighty fine they are too. I'll attempt a couple of recommendations of my own and although you'll undoubtedly have come across them all, there's just a chance one might have slipped through your net.JAGGED MOUTH's "Louring" is colossally heavy, distorted and occasionally funky doom that I can't get enough of; VRTRA and SPIRE both make black metal worthy of the name and their respective new albums "My Bones Hold A Stillness" and "Entropy" are as dark and demonic (and heavy) as they should be. BLEAK who you may have come across via a couple of split singles with the let's put a misfiring jet engine in someone's bathroom and record the results Crowhurst play 'blackened hardcore' apparently but their unbelievably vicious new album "No Light, No Tunnel" is pure distilled fury and puts me in mind (in spirit rather than sound) of "Margin Walker" era Fugazi. GNAW THEIR TONGUES's "Wenn die leere Seele zur Holle fahrt" has to be heard to be believed (no wonder Godflesh got to grips with one or two of their tracks) and finally, your opinion on HARELD's "New Age Baby Faced Wisdom" would be greatly appreciated. It's one of the strangest hip-hop albums I've ever heard and I'd love to know your thoughts on it. Thanks Neil.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fuck it, I'm going out on a limb here - if you don't think JAGGED MOUTH'S "Louring" isn't the heaviest doom metal album you've ever heard by a staggering margin I'll eat a sombrero

    ReplyDelete

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