Man’s Gin drown sorrows, sadness, show expanded prowess on ‘Rebellion Hymns’

man's gin

There is more than one way to express rage, loss, depression, and even empowerment. Sure, decibels, giant stacks of amps, and buzz-sawing songs certainly help someone get out the emotions and feelings welling up inside, but who’s to say a metal musician can’t find other ways to get out the demons that have been raging inside?

Erik Wunder, who you know as the multi-instrumental power behind black metal ritualists Cobalt and who has been a member of Jarboe’s live band, is one such person who does not adhere to the confines of sound and genre. Yes, he can make hellacious racket and make you feel like the devil is kicking down your door to rob you of your dreams, but with Man’s Gin, he’s taken things back to a more rustic and relatable manner for those who can’t get with the heavy shit. His project can make one think of Roky Erickson or Jason Molina or even Johnny Cash—not to mention classic Alice in Chains in their heyday, unplugged—as his dark, Americana-tinged songs sprawl out in front of you, refusing to show an ounce of restraint.

Man's Gin cover“Rebellion Hymns” is the second Man’s Gin release, following the excellent “Smiling Dogs” debut, and it shows that not only has Wunder expanded his creative prowess, but the music has grown and formed new shapes. This record certainly sounds like Man’s Gin, but it has so much more to it than the debut record. The melodies are heartier, the vocals push even harder, the instrumental backing swells like a congregation slowly building, with lyrics as raw and heartfelt as ever. It’s a stunning record that, even at its darkest and most hopeless, still sounds like a triumph of an album that’ll sound perfect while sitting outside around a fire, beer or other spirit in hand. It’s an album that helps you, too, meet and discard what’s holding you back and make you say, “Fuck it,” to every little thing that tried to get in your path. It’s very much like Cobalt in that confrontational, you vs. the world sense, but it just sounds different.

Wunder is joined by bandmates Joshua Lozano (who played live with Cobalt on their recent tour run) and Scott Edward, and they really do a nice job wrecking the room and cultivating a loose, organic sound. Joining the band are guests such as Jarboe, Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), John LaMacchia (Candiria), and, naturally, Phil McSorley, Wunder’s destructive partner in Cobalt, and their contributions are rewarding but subtle enough that they don’t take away from the greater good. They’re here as re-enforcements, and they’re awfully handy at that job.

Opener “Inspiration” is a lift-you-up-by-your-boots, wipe-the-blood-off-your-face anthem that should make you feel like an asshole if you’re not motivated to try once you hear it. “Keep on chasing that dream/Don’t take no shit from naysayers,” Wunder howls, and that’s before the song progresses and his voice hits a high bark that’s equivalent to a fist to your chest. “Varicose” then lets the sadness slip in, as it’s acoustic based and bleeding, as Wunder painfully demands, “Why did she have to die?” There is talk of lost love and dead doves, and it’s a really dark track among a collection of them. “Off the Coast of Sicily” is a gruff, dusty song that reminds me of Murder By Death at times, with raking cello, guitars that sound aching and rusty, and Wunder repeating, “There’s no sun rising.” “Old House (Bark at the Moonwalk)” is an odd one, with lots of rustling piano and strangeness, and it’s this album’s “Solid Gold Telephone.”

I didn’t mention yet there are a few interludes that go unnamed that break up some of these songs, and the one that follows “Old House” has strains that remind me of some of the long, rousing instrumental passages from the title track of “Eater of Birds.” Maybe I’m just hearing things. “Never Do the Neon Lights” is more of an up-tempo rock song, and Wunder sounds like Eddie Vedder at times (in the best way possible, by the way … I know that can have a negative connotation), and the song has spirited harmonica play and lively guitar soloing. “Deer Head and the Rain,” which has been making its rounds on the Internet, is a killer folk rock track that’s a pretty good pick for a leading song with its hand drums, off-kilter piano, sliced cello, and harmonized vocals. “Cellar Door” is a piano-led instrumental that leads the way for “Sirens,” a self-destructive song where Wunder admits, “I work to drink myself to sleep,” and every ounce of his frustration is evident. Closer “Hibernation Time” is a rough, scraped up song that foresees a long winter and impending pain, so if you were hoping for a happy ending, well, you’re not getting one. Then again, if you sift through about five minutes of silence once “Hibernation” concludes, you’ll find a ridiculous add-on song to the melody of “Let It Be” with completely ridiculous lyrics that repeatedly sing the praises of “E Dub.” Assuming that means Erik Wunder. Or I heard it wrong.

This Man’s Gin project has gotten leaps-and-bounds better on “Rebellion Hymns,” and if you didn’t already know what a music powerhouse Wunder is, you’ll know now. Yeah, we all want a new Cobalt album, but there’s enough darkness, pain, horror, and blood on this record not only to satisfy but to fill in a lot of the holes. If you’re feeling like a miserable shit and just want to drown yourself in misery and alcohol, this is your companion on the bar stool next to you convincing you your debauchery hasn’t gone nearly far enough.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mans-Gin/163217557044788

To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/plr-items/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Death metal legends Autopsy back to spill more blood, guts on ‘The Headless Ritual’

autopsy

All that gore, all the bodies, all the sticky blood and flowing guts that comprise death metal’s disgusting roots had to come from somewhere. It didn’t just sprout up one day like a stinking, rotting crop ready to be reaped by those who had enough of music that played by the rules. It had to be cultivated from scratch in order for death metal to be a thing in the first place.

Now, death metal is a huge genre, its musicians are respected for their diversity and ability to pull off great compositions in the midst of such horrors, and there are fucking institutions such as Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, and Immolation that are still slaying audiences to this day years and years after people predicted what they do so well would be a fad. On the down side, the sub-genre has bloated so much that there are tons and tons of substandard bands that need skimmed off the surface of death metal’s swamp before you can even think of going in knee deep. That’s why when one of the master bands like Autopsy comes back around with something new, we remember why we love this style of music in the first place, all those lousy Hot Topic-pumped death bands be damned. And let me be clear: Their music should be damned.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMaybe we can just feed them to Autopsy, the long-standing death metal giants who are uglier, meaner, heavier, doomier, more deranged, and more violent than 99.9 percent of the bands that followed in their muddy footsteps. Yeah, they went away for a while after 1995’s weird “Shitfun,” but the band reunited in 2008 for what was going to be a couple new songs for a reissue of their 1989 debut “Severed Survival,” but then it stuck. The guys reformed, and they issued us 2011’s killer “Macabre Eternal,” as triumphant a return record as you’re bound to hear. Now the gears are moving and the blood is spilling and they’re back with their punishing new record “The Headless Ritual.”

Autopsy’s lineup remains unchanged from their 2011 comeback, with long-standing members Chris Reifert (vocals, drums), Eric Cutler (guitars, vocals), and Danny Coralles (guitars) standing tall along with bass player Joe Allen (ex-Abscess) who joined the fold in 2010. They remain nasty, creative, off-putting, a little bit experimental, and very much focused on spilling as much horror into their work as they possibly can. The record is a trim 45 minutes that doesn’t feel nearly that long, and it’s further proof that sometimes you must let the masters step in show you how it’s done. So kids, get ready for school.

“Slaughter at Beast House” opens the record not only with a song title that should chill you but with a speedy, tricky assault that eventually turns into muddy doom, like a grislier take on classic Black Sabbath. Reifert howls about “tales of torture” as the words rip through his throat like razor wire, and the track ends on a dizzying note. “Mangled Far Below” is burly and has a High on Fire-style stoner gallop, and it just wallops you in the face over and over. “She Is a Funeral” is an elaborate, chilling take of death that’s the longest cut on the record and the most intoxicating. “I was transfixed,” Reifert howls over a death groove, and the rotting horror story evolves along with the music, that is some of their most interesting-sounding in some time. “Coffin Crawlers” gets a little playful at times, with weird, cartoon-like guitar runs that sound like they’re soundtracking a cat chasing a mouse, but then crushing doom settles in. “When Hammer Meets Bone” leaves little to the imagination, especially when the song opens with blood-curdling lurching that sounds like someone drowning in their own blood, and then it launches into a gallop that kicks up dirt.

“Thorns and Ashes” is a short, interlude-style cut with simmering guitars and buried growls, and it leads into “Arch Cadaver,” that has a vintage Slayer feel. The cut blows up and hits high gear quickly, and the gruesome violence is packed into 4:22-long serving. This one will be devastating when played live. “Flesh Turns to Dust” has a damaged doom riff as a spine, weird noise whining in the background, and an overall bizarre personality. “Running From the Goathead” is screamy and savage, furious and fast, and mean and mangling, sounding as terrifying and nightmare-inducing as its title indicates. The closing title cut is a bit of a surprise because it’s a swirling, melodic instrumental that’s over fast and causes the record to end on a strange note. Nothing wrong with the track, but it kind of takes the charnel air out of the sails of the record’s conclusion.

It’s Autopsy. You don’t really need a neat summary to wrap up this look at “The Headless Ritual,” do you? You know what these guys do, and if you’re somehow unfamiliar with this legendary band’s blood-crusted path, then you’d do fine starting here and working your way backward. This is true death metal, the way it was intended to be made, and no one does it uglier. That’s just the way it should be, and Autopsy remain your flesh-shredding masters.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.autopsydeathmetal.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.burningshed.com/store/peaceville/collection/225/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.peaceville.com/

Rising Boston thrashers Ramming Speed show progress with ‘Doomed to Destroy’

ramming speed

It’s always great when a band whose members bust their asses on a regular basis are rewarded for their efforts and get to move up in the world. The sad thing is, that doesn’t happen often enough, and there are so many times when I get press releases from labels about fresh signings that just baffle my mind. Can you stop signing garbage?

But then there are stories like Boston’s Ramming Speed, a band that’s been plying their trade of crossover thrash for almost a decade now (they started life as Despotic Robot in 2005 with an EP containing some of the best song titles I’ve read all time, all my life) and put out quality brutality for labels such as Tankcrimes and Teenage Disco Bloodbath. Luckily for the band, and for everyone else, Prosthetic Records came along, liked what they heard, and added them to the label’s constantly evolving roster of artists, and their first effort for their new home (and second full-length overall) “Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die” is a portrait of a band finding their way into a slightly expanded sound, better production, and a whole new world of potential admirers.

ramming speed coverNow, don’t fret when you hear talk of their sound expanding, because it’s not like they’ve written any radio hits. Instead, they merely stretch out their thrash, hardcore, and NWOBHM tendencies a little further to make things roomier so you have more terrain to bash people’s skulls. This band remains relentless, energetic, and brutal enough to get your eyes blackened at one of their shows, and the improved production (courtesy of the great Kurt Ballou) merely highlights their strengths and gives even more explosive life to their sound. “Doomed to Destroy” is a really great-sounding album, and it’ll be a mighty introduction to those not yet aware of this hard-hitting quintet.

The band’s lineup has been intact for a couple years now, after some changes in 2011, and they sound like they’ve fully realized the weight of their sound. Pete Gallagher is the guy screaming at you, alternating from shriek to muddy growl, while guitarists Kallen Bliss and Blake Chuffskin, bassist Ben Banoogen, and drummer Jonah Livingston round out this steady lineup. If you’re into bands such as Toxic Holocaust or the recently reviewed Noisem and Power Trip, chances are you’re going to like this record and will spend hours letting it compromise your hearing.

The record opens with the title track, and to be honest, it’s not the strongest song of the bunch and had my guard up the first time I heard it a few weeks ago. Gallagher’s vocals sometimes get a little too close to a metalcore growl, and it’s not a terribly imaginative song. But it gets better, as “Anticipating Failure” has some nice ’80s-style sleaze riffs, shouting vocals, and some cool lead guitar play that gets the album down the road to fun. “Grinding Dissident” is heavy and crunchy, with gruffer vocals and more impressive guitar interplay from Bliss and Chuffskin. “Gorgon’s Eye” is an impressive dose of classic thrash and thunder, and it’s one of my favorite cuts on the record. “Cretins and Cowards” keeps the momentum going with fury and more violent tendencies than we hear on the record to this point. “Anthems of Despair” pulls back into classic metal again, with guitar work that sounds inspired by Iron Maiden, while “Ashes” is chunky, catchy, and something at which you can shout back.

“Ministry of Truth” chugs and stomps, and like we’ve heard elsewhere, there are more strong dual guitar lines that run headlong into bursts of speed. “The Rhetoric of Hate and Other Examples of Wildly Unchecked Ignorance” not only is a song perfectly titled for some of the shit going on in our country this month, but it mangles and blasts you until you can take no more. “Extinction Event” mixes old-school punk and hardcore into their sound and completely flattens everything in front of it. “Under the Monolith” injects a little Southern rock filth into things, with strong soloing and more commanding vocals from Gallagher. “Hollow Giants” throws a curveball as it opens with acoustic guitar strains before it slides into a slow-driving tempo, and it feels sort of misplaced on the record. It brings the momentum to a halt, and it might have worked better as a closer or somewhere in the middle when you need a breather. Nonetheless, “Dead Flags” gives the album a ripping conclusion with blasts, thrash charging, and raspy screaming.

Hopefully Ramming Speed will see some positive returns from their association with Prosthetic, and “Doomed to Destroy” is a pretty impressive first effort for the label. There are some things that need tightened, and it’s not a perfect album, but Ramming Speed make a positive, crushing impression and should bring their noise to even more people.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/rammingspeed

To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerch.com/prostheticrecords/

For more on the label, go here: http://prostheticrecords.com/

Gruesome Polish killers Squash Bowels return with disgusting ‘Grindcoholism’

squash bowels

If you’re not familiar with the band, if I say the words Squash Bowels, do you not already get an idea of what to expect when you hear their music? Unforgiving heaviness, horrors, disgusting themes, music that would make your neighbors refuse to associate with you? Would it surprise you if I told you they’re actually a folk band? Obviously, that’s utter bullshit.

The long-standing Polish band is known for their relentless, disgusting grindcore violence, and they have an impressive back catalog that might take you some time to get through if you’re starting from square one. There are like 75,000 releases in their arsenal, so yeah. But that gigantic resume aside, we haven’t heard from the band since 2009’s “Grindvirus,” released by our friends over at Willowtip, so it was a huge sigh of bastardized relief when their sixth record “Grindcoholism” landed in the Meat Mead Metal inbox, complete with 14 cuts and 32 minutes of total madness.

squash bowels coverSquash Bowels now call Selfmadegod Records their home, which makes sense both musically and geographically, as the label also is based in Poland, and this killing machine that started nearly two decades ago shows no signs of aging, slowing down, mellowing out, or anything that could make their grind-frenzied audience nervous. These songs are what you expect from the band, and the fellows who make it all happen–bassist/vocalist Artur “Paluch” Grassmann, guitarist Andrzej “Andy” Pakos, and drummer Mariusz “Melon” Miernik–are nothing short of generous when it comes to creating insanity that will make you want to throw lamps around your house and vomit all over the floors from the stench all at the same time. I know. That’s pretty disgusting.

The gore and muck that make people salivate over bands such as early Carcass, Rotten Sound, label mates Antigama, and Pig Destroyer are going to salivate once the opening strains of “Tastelessness” kick into gear, with gurgly growling, punishing grindcore, and even a little shadowy doom slipping in for good measure. “Trap” also has a doomy feel and punchy, cool riffs that should shake you right into “The Theater,” a thrashy good song that hits a killer groove and has death-inspired vocals. “Surrender” has its fair share of crunch and violence, but then it turns on a dime and accelerates the speed and anxiety. “The Second…” has deep growls and lets a complete demolition erupt, paving the way for “Inclinations to…” that has grisly, menacing vocals that turn into shrieks of fury. The title cut—and what a fabulous title it is—lets mud and muck spread all over the place while the sounds of alcohol-filled glasses clink together in the background. The song is a total demon.

“Steering” has some nasty blast beats and mean vocals that are joined by charred guitars to get their message across. “Naked Positive Act” lets the groove back into the picture as it grinds and abuses your senses, leaving you no room to recover before “La Mienta” strikes. That song is thrashy and meaty, with the vocals nearing pig squeal territory but not quite jumping into that pen. It’s one of the burliest cuts on the entire record. “Compassions” chugs along at a rumbling pace with the guitars simmering, and soloing poking at classic heavy metal. “Litany of Hungry” is a really weird one at first, but then doom drops and metallic soloing rips a hole in the wall. “Foreign Will” is gloriously pissy and short, while closer “Stigmatizing” gives one last gasp of groove, grind, and monstrous vocals that stab an exclamation point at the end of the record.

Squash Bowels remain ugly, seamy, and furious, and it’s not likely they’re going to smooth out their sound any time soon to end up on a Mayhem tour or any of that garbage. Their stuff plays best in a small room in front of people brutalizing one another, as their music is the perfect soundtrack for that style of healthy aggression release. “Grindcoholism” is strong and heavy enough that, if grind is your game, you might find yourself properly addicted.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/squashgrind

To buy the album, go here: http://selfmadegod.com/en/shop

For more on the label, go here: http://selfmadegod.com/

Denmark’s creepy doom/death maulers The Vein debut with ‘Wreckage of Time’

The Vein cover

So how are you feeling at the end of the week? Miserable? It’s OK. It might be Friday and all, but we wouldn’t enjoy this day and the week’s end nearly as much as we do if we didn’t need it to get a huge gasp of air and recharge our batteries. That means somewhere along the line you probably had some pretty shitty moments over the week, and that left you feeling a little irritated.

I’ve said this before, but whenever I’ve had a miserable week, it’s nice to have a heaving, furious, pissy slab of evil death metal that matches the soot collecting in you and choking out your will to live. I can’t say for certain if I’ll be feeling that way on this day as I’m coming to you from the past (uh, meaning I wrote this earlier in the week), but even if I’m not, I still like to revel in some ugliness and madness now and again. That’s the cathartic thing about doom and death metal is that they stand as examples of something more gut wrenched, angry, and diseased than you are.

the vein bandIf you are in the need of something to help you cope, might I recommend The Vein, a new Danish doom-smeared, blackened, death-fuming band that’s coming at you with their new compilation release “Scouring the Wreckage of Time,” a beastly, six-track effort that combines their dual EPs “Chapter I: The Poison Chalice” and “Chapter II: Born Into Grey Domains.” This 46-minute album is mean and nasty, sounding like a perfect amalgamation of early ’90s death and doom metal, and their brand of punishment is bound to leave you dizzy and disoriented.

Shadow King is exposing this hellish band to the world, and they’ve been instrumental in furthering some of the band members’ other venture, namely the awesome Altar of Oblivion. Guitarist Martin Meyer Mendelssohn Sparvath, bassist C. Nørgaard, and drummer Thomas Wesley Antonsen make up 3/5 of that band, and in The Vein, they are joined by vocalist JBP, who also plies his trade on Cerekloth, Church Bizarre, and others. They’re an impressive group together, and this first infernal release is a fun but miserable listen that should let you know you’re not alone in the doldrums.

The first four cuts on the record make up the “Poison Chalice” portion of the album, kicking off with “Pale Dawn Rising,” a mauling, depressing dirge that opens with a cryptic quote from the 2007 movie “Sunshine.” The vocals are demonic and painful, the lead guitars sear the flesh, and the band lets the song lurch to a finish. “Seeds of Blasphemy” is growly, muddy doom that trudges in its place and starts to leave bruises. The guitars are cold and dark, the rest of the band hammers away with guts hanging out, and the song ends on a classic death metal-style romp. “Acedia” is an interlude that’s calm, tranquil, and psychedelic, almost as if it’s paying homage to vintage Pink Floyd, leading to the close of the first half with “The Poison Chalice,” a riff-heavy punisher that’s awesome and sweltering.

The two-track “Grey Domains” portion is comprised of a couple of epic tracks, starting with “The Great Deception,” a chugging, faster cut that changes up all that sludgy footwork. JBP’s vocals are deep and gurgly, as he emotes like he’s reading a letter from hell, while the guitars take on a classic metal feel, and the song eventually leads you into a mournful pocket of sounds. Closer “Carving a Labyrinth,” all 14:17 of it, is creepy and eerie, with spooky synth spilling its light over the room, slithering guitar work that gets your shoes caught in the muck, and creaky screams that reek of death. There are some tasty traditional doom-style guitar passages, weird, crypt-like speaking, and enough funereal horrors to keep you looking behind your back to make sure no one’s closing in on you.

 

You can practically lick the decay and disease from these songs, and there is nothing here to make you happy and ready to walk into the sunshine. As we noted, this could be a great record to help you cope with a shitty week where despair and frustration has been at every turn and you just need to hear a hellish voice that understands. The Vein can relate to your madness, and they’re here to make your daydreams all that much bloodier.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Vein/189452581105086

To buy the album, go here: http://store.shadowkingdomrecords.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ShadowKingdomRecords?fref=ts

Palms combine ISIS, Deftones members on record packed with tranquil surprises

palms

Combining dynamic, accomplished forces into a single unit can bear all kinds of results. On one hand, all of the parts could work together beautifully to create an unstoppable, hulking machine. On the other, the larger components at work could clash and try to remain individualistic, thus rendering their formation pointless.

When the new band Palms was announced, many ears perked up because it was to be the union of three members of one of the greatest post-metal bands of all time in ISIS along with the singer from one of the ’90s most misunderstood, miscategorized bands in the Deftones. Being a fan of both bands, I instantly was excited to hear what these four guys would bring to the table musically, and like a lot of other people, wondered if it would sound like ISIS fronted by Chino Moreno rather than Aaron Turner. And if that ended up being what it would sound like, would that be a good or bad thing and would it sully the very idea of the band?

palms coverThe band’s debut actually did not turn out the way some people expected, and while there certainly are elements of ISIS’ style–and come on, how could there not be with 3/5 of the band comprising this unit?–this is a band unto itself. You couldn’t exactly slip this in the middle of an ISIS discography without it seeing weirdly out of place sonically, and it certainly does not sound anything like a Deftones album. Instead, guitarist/keyboard player Clifford Meyer, bassist Jeff Caxide, and drummer Aaron Harris took their musical dreaming a little further into hazey outer space, and Moreno figured out a way to weave his poetry through what they conjured. It’s not an immediate-sounding record, and there’s nothing on here you can hack off for an up-tempo playlist, but if you’re in the mood to soar and soak for about an hour, you’re bound to find plenty of enjoyment in this.

This record also is a nice one with summer arriving, at least for someone like me who loves to have something cerebral and calming when it’s time to chill. I’m already planning on listening to this record a lot later this summer once beach vacation arrives, and I think it also would sound quite fitting for a near-dusk drive on a warm evening, when you just want to see sights and enjoy the surroundings. Each of these songs provide a panoramic view into a dream or life moment that you want to let seep in for proper understanding, and it’s easy to get lost in these six compositions that are bound to excite you.

Watery, gazey “Future Warrior” opens the record on tranquil note, as guitars float and Moreno begins to weave his tale, which takes a dark twist when he notes, “The closer I am, I notice something’s wrong with you.” The keys behind the song are mournful, and eventually all the rest of Palms catch up with that emotion. “Patagonia” spreads itself out in a calculating manner, as the music trickles and pools at the start, with distortion and reverb-rich vocals meeting it and taking the song into bumpier terrain. “Mission Sunset” lets its noise settle on the ground, and the song follows more of a mid-tempo path. Moreno pushes the intensity a little more on this one, letting some jerky screams accentuate his lines, and the rest of the band meanders along a little too long for this track to be fully effective.

“Short Wave Radio” has more liquidy melodies, slipping in like a spirit, with Moreno vowing, “I would never leave your side.” But that tranquility is short lived as the song eventually gets more aggressive, with Moreno howling about “descending into hell” while gazing into heaven. “Tropics” is perfectly named, because it’s easy to imagine being stranded in a boat on a large, calm body of water while the sun burns away. The song is shimmery and numbing, as Moreno observes, “Over the sea, the waves go by.” Closer “Antarctic Handshake” feels like a long, drug-induced slumber, where your mind is wandering and wondering. The band helps you slip into a comfort zone with their repetitious composition, with Moreno admitting, “It’s time to let go.” It’s a sad thought, really, but one that sometimes we have to confront and deal with.

Palms’ debut is a good one that wasn’t what most of us thought it would be, and that’s just fine. It’s not a perfect document by any means, as some tightening here and there could have made some of these songs a little stronger, but it’s a minor quibble about an otherwise rewarding record. Hopefully this band has a future beyond this record, because it would be interesting to see how Palms grow and progress as time goes on.

For more on the band, go here: http://palmsband.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.bluecollardistro.com/palms/categories.php?cPath=1657

For more on the label, go here: http://www.ipecac.com/

Fiercely independent Fuck the Facts back with more vitriol, volcanic rage on ‘Amer’

FTF band

As more bands adopt the “do shit yourselves” model, the ones that have been doing that thing pretty much the entire time they’ve been in existence are going to be the ones leading the way while everyone else catches up.

It’s not that you can’t operate with a label behind you. Bands like Jucifer and Dillinger Escape Plan have tried to take as much control as they can of the operations for their respective groups, though both have plied their trade for record labels at the same time. Jucifer especially, who are nomads and work to ensure their model works best for them. These bands seem to have a more intimate connection with their fans and certainly seem way more like one of us. That’s because they are. There’s no pretension, no sitting above their audience, and that makes for a fanbase more invested in the band, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean playing larger halls or making more money.

FTF coverCanada’s Fuck the Facts is another band that’s done whatever they feel like doing for their entire run, be it touring or creating, and even with a label like Relapse behind them, they don’t lean back and relax in their arms. In fact, the band seems to put out more music on their own than for Relapse, and it feels like every months FTF have something new to offer their fans. Their discography listing on Encyclopaedia Metallum is borderline hilarious. It helps greatly that everything they put out can damn near peel the paint off your walls with its intensity and power, and they certainly don’t gouge their listeners. Now, the Canadian postal service is another story. FTF’s downloads are insanely affordable, and if you do spring for physical copies of their output, you generally get a package you can tell is hand assembled, adding another personal touch.

The band is back again with a new EP “Amer,” a seven-track effort you can have digitally, on vinyl, or on cassette, and it shows FTF making more strides creatively and continuing to morph into a new monster every time out. The band certainly retains its grindcore roots, but they’ve added a lot more classic heavy metal and rock swagger over the years, and that’s on full display on this effort. Another noted difference is the amount of vocal contributions from other band members to complement Mel Mongeon’s banshee wails. Bassist Marc Bourgon and drummer Mathieu Vilandre also howl and growl over some of these songs, adding a new dynamic to FTF’s sound and giving Mongeon other presences to play off of while she’s killing you. The rest of the band is rounded out by guitarist and founder Topon Das (who also produces music for a number of killer bands), the only remaining member who has been around since the beginning, and guitarist Johnny Ibay.

The record gets off to a simmering start on “Une triste vue,” with melodies that swirl and chafe, military-style drumming, and growly singing that sets to stage for Mongeon to come in and rip the walls down. Immediately the use of dual vocals pays dividends and shows a different, more chaotic side of FTF. “Vent du nord” has harsh screams, sweet power metal-style guitar runs, growls that mix in with Mongeon’s demonic wails, and even some monstrous prog-fed punishment to give you a few more kicks for good measure. “Panser la plaie au lieu de soigner le mal” opens with Mongeon sounding possessed and unstoppable, as the guitars stab and boil, and the band reaches a quaking level of bone mashing.

“A Void” is a curious little cut with humid, sweaty guitar clouds that hang in the air, setting a mid-paced tempo, and burly growls are the only words we hear on the track. Then it’s into “Jour de souffrance,” a grinding, gurgling cut that rolls in broken glass and bleeds everywhere. Mongeon is on fire once again, and the band makes great use of the shorter space with an effective burst of violence. “L’enclume et le marteau” has a massive hardcore-laced edge, with a bursting breakdown coming at the song’s midpoint, and all three vocalists practicing an all-throats-on-deck approach to their messaging. It’s a pure fireball of frustration and rage. Closer “Amère” is a curious one that begins with experimental guitar hissing and charging that rises up, erodes, then fades into the background. That’s before this muddy bastard really gets it feet moving and mooshes you face-first into a wall, with Mongeon screaming emotionally as if seeking meaning and understanding. Behind her is a rather somber melody that’s unlike anything else on this record and is another example of the band’s dexterity as players and writers. Then it blows up and destroys your life.

Fuck the Facts certainly are not devoid of inspiration or creative means, as they seem to have something meaty for us every year in which to indulge. “Amer” is another satisfying mini-portion from the band that’ll keep you full until they serve up another full-length or even an additional smaller release. Whatever it ends up being, we’ll be ready to listen eagerly because Fuck the Facts always have something thought-provoking and challenging to heave at us, whether we’re ready for it or not.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/FuckTheFacts

To get the album, go here: http://fuckthefacts.bandcamp.com/

Locrian further warp their noisy, scary experiments on ‘Return to Annihilation’

locrian
Often I ask what constitutes metal, but when I do that, I’m not trying to rein in the parameters. I’m trying to expand the borders and say that I don’t consider the genre limiting at all. It should be anything an artist wants it to be, as long as some of the tenets of metal are kept in place.

But I’d like to think we’re smart enough to know our limits. A pop song with one guitar line can’t be deemed metal, but a charring, aggressive metal song with a hook and some shine certainly still can be considered part of the genre. Also, we don’t have to have riff into riff into chorus back into riff to be metal, nor do we need outright violence to adhere to the genre’s boundaries. I’ve always thought of metal as having an open mind artistically, and if something is going to piss off the masses, what’s more metal than that?

GD30OB2-N.cdrThat brings us to “Return to Annihilation,” the new effort from Locrian and their first exclusively for Relapse. It sure doesn’t sound like Nordic Satanic majesty or power triumph, but damn it, if it isn’t metal through and through philosophically. The band never will be mistaken as the most brutal, violent in the history of metal, but they have enough crunch, savagery, and fury to keep their roots firmly in the ground, but they also dream beyond borders and imagine things that could be possible if artists took metallic seeds and let them grow wherever. This type of music is full of possibilities, and Locrian is one of the bands not afraid to see how far they can take things. This new record blasts through the doors and gives metal a whole new identity.

The band has been at it for quite some time now, and it’s comprised of Andre Foisy, Terence Hunnum, and Steven Hess. For a long time, they recorded for the awesome Land of Decay, as well as other labels, and their addition to Relapse’s roster is a boost for both parties. It’s a great signing for a label that’s been extending its borders in recent years, and Locrian deserves the added exposure, distribution, and attention they’ll get. This is a fantastic, mesmerizing band that’s long been thought provoking and stimulating but now have a chance to reach more people.

The first half of the album is what’s going to feel most foreign to long-time Locrian listeners. The opening four tracks are some of the most atmospheric, exploratory material in the band’s catalog, and you might be wondering what’s going on at first. But hang on. This is Locrian after all, and you never can put definite expectations on their records. So we open into “Eternal Return,” a song with a rather poppy keyboard melody line and shimmering lights, but also some harsh shrieks and surging guitars. That leads to “A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven,” a song that floats on long waves of repetition, accompanying beats that seem intent to hypnotize, and doomy, perversely danceable sections. But, of course, when you’re being lulled into a trance, the song explodes all of a sudden, and you’re swimming in chaos. On “Two Moons,” we’re back to a sense of serenity, and some of this track reminds me of Mount Eerie in spots. “Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light” has warped, cool melodies and a drone ambiance that hangs above the room like a swarm of insects. Guitars are picked at and the ground swells beneath you, making a nice exit out of the first half and into the fire.

The second half is where the ugliness and fury return, with the title track leading the way with its droning singing, buried shrieks, segments of catchy progressive doom meandering, and its foreboding sense that something’s about to go very wrong. The surging guitar lines built into the song might make you move at first, but then the savage vocals come in and cut you off before you have a chance to settle into a groove. “Panorama of Mirrors” is outright scary at times, with its hellish noises, buzzing pockets of guitars that aim to cut you at the waist, and a general sense of unease. Gazey guitar fire kicks up, groove blasts in with the bristling drums, and shrieks and cries are sent off to the hopeless ends of hell, seeking a voice of comfort that never quite arrives. It’s black and ugly, and anyone who bitches Locrian have lost their metallic edge apparently missed this miserable, deranged son of a bitch. The 15:29-minute closer “Obsolete Elegies” brings things back around from a volume standpoint but never relents in its intensity. Its opening strain of strummed guitars slips into poison vapors of synth and make for a creepy, cold, isolated psychological adventure. It sounds like heyday Pink Floyd at times, and that panic and anxiety those historic greats can cause to well up in your chest, Locrian prove just as capable of making you shiver and scream for silence. This is a powerful closing statement and also leaves a hint of something perhaps they’ll explore a little more in the future. These guys could make one mindfuck of a psychedelic record, if this cut is any indication of their powers.

Locrian get more ambitious, rewarding, and surprising with each new release (and they have plenty of them), and this record is a perfect one to introduce them to a wider audience Relapse can provide. Their records are journeys through time and space, and you often have to be mentally prepared for what they have in store. “Return to Annihilation” is a triumph for an already accomplished band that doesn’t care to adhere to genre restraints, creative boundaries, or even cosmic distance. They’re traveling full speed ahead while everyone else tries to catch up.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/LocrianOfficial

To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/

Mare Cognitum, Spectral Lore join forces for chilling trip to outer space with ‘Sol’

sol

I’ve never been to outer space before. I know. You’re shocked. But I’ve thought a lot about it and always wonder what’s lurking in giant pockets of space where no human ever has, or possibly ever will, see before. Are there other creatures? Is there technology elsewhere we can’t even wrap our heads around because we’re not even aware of life on that plane? Or is everything cold and isolated?

Apparently the bands Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore also have those same wonders, and unless I’m totally missing some huge news story, they also have not traveled the universe. At least not physically. Each are one-man projects, each coming from different parts of the globe, but when it comes to imagining what the great beyond holds, they’re not that far away from each other. Perhaps that’s part of what inspired their new conjoined effort “Sol,” a three-track, nearly 70-minute album of bleak black metal, lung-filling atmosphere, and chilling ambiance. The two artists each get their own track on “Sol,” each song lasting nearly a half hour each, and they combine for the cosmic, dreamy finale, putting both of their ambitions on display at once.

Mare Cognitum we visited last year with the release of the stunning “An Extraconscious Lucidity,” a record that also focused on the universe and reveled in the chaos of cosmic events. Sole creator Jacob Buczarski always manages to captivate and enthrall with this project, as he has over the course of two full-lengths. He’s at it again on “Sol,” where his knack for savagery is perfect for balancing out the serenity. Spectral Lore is the project headed by Ayloss, of Greece, who has drummed up three full-length records and a few split efforts since coming to life in 2005. He focuses on similar subject matter as Buczarski, which is why this union makes perfect sense, and their combined forces make “Sol” an astonishing listen, one that’s perfect for when you just want to stretch out and dream what may be out there.

Mare Cognitum kick off this collection with “Sol Ouroboros,” that starts with a slow, eerie build that stretches out over a few minutes and lets you breathe in the atmosphere. The song grows more spacious, like you’re slowly hurtling toward the deeper ends of the galaxy, and Buczarski eventually unleashes some echoey growls as the song heads into strange shadows and soupy weirdness. The track has some disarming melody that gives you a sense of ease as you slip in frozen isolation, and the last portion leans into prog, great black metal adventurousness, and a finale that’ll catapult you into the next chapter of this story. More great work from Mare Cognitum, a project that deserves more attention and adulation for making huge soundscapes cut with metallic intensity. The song doesn’t even feel half as long as it is, it flows so well.

Spectral Lore’s track “Sol Medius” follows, and it opens with a windy ambiance and progressive doom sludginess, and then the song totally bursts open with chaos and punishment that’s from the stars. The melodies build on each other and surge through the song, lighting up the night’s sky and pushing you toward an emotional high. The song then dips into calm—this becomes a theme, by the way, as it continually goes from harsh to soft—only to explode again and spit light in your face. This song is a constant up and down ride, in a really good way, and once it fades into slow doom, you might find yourself breathless from the journey you just took.

The two artists combine for the final cut “Red Giant,” a 15-minute dose of thick drone and noise hiss that ever so slowly builds in intensity over its running time but never supernovas. Nor should it. The idea here isn’t to scar you but fully soundtrack the incredible disappearance into the great blackness, your body’s eternal trip into places no human ever has explored before. It’s a swooshing, swirling chunk of noise drone that puts a fitting ending on this joint work.

Obviously this type of record will find a niche audience and isn’t there for people who need brutal blasts in four-minute chunks. You need to let this record sink in, and you have to be a willing participant in order to get the most out of “Sol.” My many visits with this record have been fruitful and rewarding, and it  sparked my cosmic dreams anew. These are two groups meant to create stories together, and hopefully they find time to do this again.

For more on Mare Cognitum, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MareCognitumMusic

For more on Spectral Lore, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MareCognitumMusic

To buy the album, go here: http://www.i-voidhanger.com/mailorder.htm

For more on the label, go here: http://www.i-voidhanger.com/

Church of Misery again retell serial killer horror stories with ‘Thy Kingdom Scum’

church of misery
Sunday evenings in my house often are spent like this: My wife is in the kitchen putting together some elaborate culinary creation for the week, while I’m in the living room with the dog watching stories about serial killers and murderers on A&E. I’m not a fan of serial killers, per se, because that would be kind of perverse, but I am interested in how they operate and come to be.

It’s mesmerizing to think how these people function, how they psychologically can deal with taking another person’s life, usually in a horrifically brutal manner, how they blend into society without people suspecting them, and how they find the means to kill again and again and again. I guess it’s good I can’t identify with the frame of mind, but often times the deeper I dig into these people’s stories and where they came from, the more I can understand–on the surface, anyway–how these monsters came to life. It’s also probably a major reason I don’t trust a lot of people. Any of these people can be lurking anywhere, and they’d probably be right under our noses.

Japanese doom metal vets Church of Misery obviously feel the same way as they have carved out an entire discography covering this subject matter, and that follows through on their latest record “Thy Kingdom Scum,” their fifth overall and first since 2009’s “Houses of the Unholy.” Here, as they normally do, they present their song titles along with the killer who inspired the jam in parentheses, so not only can you get caught up in their swaggering thunder, you also can learn about the sick fuck who inspired them to make said song. Funny enough, their music isn’t scary in the slightest, as they do a nice trad Black Sabbath and grimy Eyehategod hybrid, and you’re likely to be as astonished by their organic playing as their subject matter.

church of misery coverLike many bands whose history spans nearly two decades, Church of Misery have had their share of lineup changes, with bassist Tatsu Mikami the one constant through their history. Drummer Junji Narita has been with the band since 2000, while guitarist Ikuma Kawabe is the new kid. Vocalist Hideki Fukasawa has been in and out of the band, though he did sing on “Houses” and 2004’s “The Second Coming,” and he’s back in the fold for this one, and we’re thankful for that. He can have a bit of a mush-mouthed delivery sometimes, but that’s part of his charismatic charm. He’s growly, bluesy, and wonderfully over the top, but he never emotes at the expense of the music. He’s there to enhance things and the messages, and I hope the band never has a different singer. He’s essential.

Instrumental “B.T.K.” opens the album and even though there are no vocals, that doesn’t mean horrible things aren’t vocalized, as we hear Dennis Rader’s chilling courtroom testimony as he confesses his crimes, while the band backs that up with trippy, bluesy riffing and a shuffling assault. “Lambs to the Slaughter,” inspired by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley’s terrifying run of child murders, swaggers and has a thunderous melody, as Fukasawa’s vocals sometimes remind of Phil Anselmo at his nastiest. There’s also some fantastic guitar work in this song that could make anyone go for the air version of the instrument. “Brother Bishop,” about Gary Heidnik, who tortured and murdered women, is a solid Sabbath-style bruiser that also has a taste of psychedelic sweetness. Awful story to be retelling, but the band finds a way to make the music compelling and fiery, while you cower at the details.

“Cranley Gardens,” based on Dennis Andrew Nilsen, who murdered 15 young men in London in the late ’70s/early ’80s, is slow and eerie through much of its running time, with Fukasawa mumble-moaning his words and the band launching into a sweltering blues jam at the end.

The band’s cover of Quartermass’ “One Blind Mice,” might seem odd with the subject matter we’re talking about, but the band does a fine job re-enacting this gem and putting their buzzy, distorted stamp on the song. “All Hallow’s Eve” is about John Linley Frazier, who violently gunned down a doctor and his family in Santa Cruz, California, in 1970, also has the Sabbath vibe and has more of the band’s trademark tight playing and spooky storytelling. Closer “Düsseldorf Monster,” which focuses on Peter Kürten, a German murderer whose bloody crimes occurred in the late 1920s and terrorized that country, is bluesy, scratchy, grimy track that’s the longest on here at 12:45 and one of the most grisly subject-wise, especially as Fukasawa howls, “Here comes the monster.” The doom simmers, the powerful bassline pops you over and over, and the psychedelic expression puts a gigantic exclamation point on this destructive, scary album.

Church of Misery’s fixation with serial killers might make their friends and loved ones a little nervous, but as for us metal fans, we should be thrilled. Every time they set out to tell more gory stories, we get smoldering slabs of doom metal that are as fun to hear as they are to dissect. If you’re one of the many who go out to grab that new Sabbath album this weekend, pick up a copy of this one, too. You might find yourself going more toward “Thy Kingdom Scum” than that long-awaited return from metal’s godfathers.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.churchofmisery.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/19347/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.metalblade.com/us/

And here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/