We have an exciting new record label in our midst, but it’s a name you’ve probably heard before if you’re way down in the gutters of extreme metal. Handshake Inc. is well known for their visual presentations, most notably their “Maryland Deathfest” films (let’s see if VH-1 and their “metal” push has the guts to show this sucker), “When the Screams Come” piece about Pentagram, and “Disgorge Mexico the Movie” based on the album by Canada’s Fuck the Facts, as well as video clips for Jucifer, Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Hail of Bullets, among many others.
But now Handshake is dedicating time to releasing new music, and just like their visual work, it’s been a pretty damn exciting venture so far. Taking cues from ANb freak J Randall’s wacky Grindcore Karaoke digital label, Handshake head honcho David Hall moved forward with an eye toward exposing some of the more exciting, daring underground bands going that might not be ready for even the most open-minded of indie metal imprints. And that’s fine because these groups may be better served now by this wholly dedicated boutique-style venture. People with niche tastes probably are more likely to give Handshake a shot until they gain some steam, and those who do check out what’s coming from this label are bound to be blown away by what’s offered. I know I have been. Along with Hall is his partner Kim Kelly — Grim Kim to you … and me — who handles PR, A&R, and is very instrumental in working with Hall on the label’s direction.
We’re going to look at two of the label’s offerings today, but it’s certainly not all Handshake has to offer. For example, we’re not going to discuss the label’s first release, Sulaco’s “Build and Burn,” and not because it isn’t worth your time. I just haven’t spent enough time with the grindcore noise chaos yet to intelligently talk about it, and I didn’t want to hold this piece any longer. As always, I’ll add a link to the label below so you can find out more for yourself, and if my word means anything, let me say you will not be disappointed in what you’ll discover. Unless you buy your music at Hot Topic. Then you might have some development in front of you, but hey, we all have to start somewhere.
First up is the new full-length from black metal/ambient/doom/electronic crusher Surachai, a one-man audio nightmare who has a smattering of releases to his credit but really hits one out of the park on this two-track offering. The Chicago-based musician certainly has absorbed some of his home city’s influences, and this new effort “To No Avail” is way more brutal and metallic than his last full entry “Plague Diagram,” that was far more industrial and overtly programmed. That’s not to speak ill of that record, because it also was really good and riveting, but Surachai just goes above and beyond on “To No Avail.”
Available both digitally and on vinyl, this collection is bound to get your mind and heart racing. They’ll probably struggle to keep up with each other. Maybe lay off the caffeine for a while before taking on this thing. The songs are simply titled “Side *” and “Side **” and work nicely in tandem with each other. The first track is spacious and sprawling, with furious growls, riveting melodies, a blaze of noise, oddball interference and a cacophony of madness that somehow remains self-contained. There are excellently placed highs and lows, and every time you think you have a moment’s rest, he lights the whole thing on fire again. It’s a nice example of experimental black metal that doesn’t go too far into left field and always keeps you interested. The second cut lets its programming traits show a little more, but it’s smashed by a thunderstorm of psychedelic storming, black metal thunder and simmering hiss, not to mention his banshee, throat-mangling cries.
I’ve listened to this release a lot since receiving the download a few weeks back, and it never fails to keep my brain working and me guessing. It’s one of those efforts that reveals itself more each time you come back for another bout. It’s bound to confuse and put off your less-daring listeners, which is to be expected, but for those who like things unpredictable – the comparisons to Deathspell Omega and Krallice are accurate, and I’d toss in sudden trip-hop lovers Blut Aus Nord as well – you’d be doing yourself a giant disservice by not seeking out this jackhammer.
For more on the band, go here: http://surachai.org/
To buy “To No Avail,” go here: http://shop.handshakeinc.com/
Or here: http://handshakeinc.bandcamp.com/track/surachai-to-no-avail-side-o
The second album we’ll look at is “Summer Darkyard,” the new one from oddly named The Sun Through a Telescope. Like Surachai, we’re dealing with a one-man wrecking machine, Ottawa-based Lee Neutron. His music forces you to pay attention to every second, because he can go from serene and calm one minute to spastic grand mal seizure the next. If you’re driving your car, you may want to pick something else to soundtrack your journey, because nothing will send you over an embankment quicker than what you’ll hear on this four-track effort.
Neutron recorded and produced this effort himself, which he culled from compositions he initially dreamt up working on his past projects and some that he conjured this past summer, and he went to FTF guitarist and producer of all hellish sounds Topon Das for mastering. The music really can’t be pinpointed accurately, but I can tell you with relative certainty that if you’re into bands such as Sunn 0))), Godflesh, Thou and Khanate that you at least have a jump-off point. Opener “Darkyard” is filled with catastrophic noise, some oddball bluesy riffs, mortal wailing and crushing charges. By the way, just when you think this thing is winding down, it absolutely explodes with black hole fury. That’s the point in time when you’d lose control over your vehicle. “Cro-Magnon Nightmare” has a bit more delicacy, but eventually it morphs into Voivod-like space thrash and maniacal diatribes, where Neutron imagines total universal death, especially when observing a “violent death of a star” in the middle of his nightmare. “I’ll Die, Goodbye” leans on Vocoder-laced vocals and a terrifying glimpse into hell and post-life decay, and despite it feeling gorgeous and sungazey, it’s wholly horrific. The closing interlude lets you down easy, but not after your psyche has been permanently scarred.
The Sun Through a Telescope likely won’t sound all that fitting at your next house party, unless you plan to slaughter all the guests at the end. But if you want to get in touch with your ever-changing mentality and some of the psychotic darkness that lies beneath your demeanor, this will help you get there and might even push you over the edge.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.tstat.org/
To buy “Summer Darkyard,” go here: http://shop.handshakeinc.com/
Or here: http://tstat.bandcamp.com/
As noted, these are only a couple of Handshake’s ventures, and they have future offerings in store from ((Thorlock)), Maruta and Yakuza (the latter two live efforts), and they still have some remaining video clips on the way for Rwake, Rottenness, Vilipend and FTF. They also have a new “Deathfest” film in the works and something on Jucifer that is sure to be awesome. Handshake has me excited for the future of metal. I don‘t always feel that way about things because of how safe and homogenous everything has become, but this company is keeping things exciting and slightly ablaze. I’m down with that.
For more on the label, go here: http://www.handshakeinc.com/
And here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Handshake-Inc/341492067038