PICK OF THE WEEK: Svalbard push against sexism, gross treatment of women on fierce ‘When I Die…’

One would think in 2020, the worst year ever, we’d be far enough along as human beings not to lie incessantly to each other, make up shit that’s not real, and treat other people like objects and/or props for our amusement, but here we are, repeating the same old patterns because people don’t change. The internet is a hellish wasteland, and it’s not like people behave all that well in certain social situations.

One trip through “When I Die, Will It Get Better?” the new record from UK force Svalbard, is a jarring reminder that many members of humankind still have a long way to go before they’re considered decent. And so many of them probably don’t care. From harassing women to threatening LGBTQIA+ members to holding onto racist tenets to refusing to acknowledge the everyday struggles people have with mental illness and addiction, we’re still fighting so many of the same problems, and the open belching maw that is the internet has only emboldened people who’d be too afraid to act this way fading real opposition. Svalbard have been more than willing to stand on the front line of these battles as the band—vocalist/guitarist Serena Cherry, vocalist/guitarist Liam Phelan, drummer Mark Lilley (bassist Alex Hefferman played on the record but has since left the band)—unleash eight songs that address these territories, where they lash back against those who make people feel this way and stand in defiance of these creatures to the bitter end.

“Clickbait” opens in moodiness as darkness spreads, and then the whole thing explodes as Cherry’s voice smashes over the verses, leading into the venomous, “We are used as fodder to generate comments, because the presence of a woman is apparently reactive, fuck off!” An amazing surge follows, as if the sentiment is growing into a beast looking to maul, as she declares, “One day, when I’m represented, I will have control,” as the track hammers home. “Throw Your Heart Away” is intense from the start with harsh growls and the pace speeding up, leading to the drums leaving everything in the dust. “I am lost on the outskirts of your life, just feel the pain in the name of love, just fill the soil in the grave of love,” Cherry calls painfully as guitars lather and emit humidity before trickling cold for a bit ahead of the next explosion. She grits her teeth and sees the inevitable, wailing, “Trapped in a computer game, I just keep dying and continuing again,” a sentiment so on the head, it hurts. “Listen to Someone” is one of the most important tracks here lyrically, as it conveys the hurt and confusion of mental illness coupled with people who just won’t absorb their words. Cherry’s vocals are softer out front as she sings, “Don’t tell me it’s OK to not be OK then wince at everything I say, don’t act like a confidant if you’re just going to get impatient,” before the fog bursts. The pace kicks up as frustration mounts while the band backs with proper cathartic thunder as Cherry blasts, “If I could fix it like a broken limb, I would, if I could stop these thoughts and start again, I would, I would leap at the chance,” which are words that we all should take to heart and treat anyone with mental issues with the compassion they deserve.

“Silent Restraint” quakes the ground as Cherry’s voice blasts holes in the earth, and Phelan joins in with his melodic, powerful singing, as both trade back and forth. “I’m sick of feeling like a burden, I’m sick of having no control,” she cries, again in the clutches of mental duress, while the guitar work adds reds and oranges to the horizon, and the song burns away. “What Was She Wearing,” is another track that, lyrically, we need to use to educate people on matters of sexual abuse and what actually leads to it. Guitars glaze over a shoegazey approach, putting an edge of beauty on an ugly subject matter. But that calm doesn’t last long, because there is justified rage beneath the surface that cuts through as Cherry calls, “Showing flesh, showing flesh does not remove dignity, showing flesh, showing flesh, does not invalidate me,” as the storm grows and threatens. “This is the vessel I exist in, it is not a sin, my body is not a sin!” Cherry declares forcefully as the track comes to a massive end. “The Currency of Beauty” pours open as Cherry immediately stabs into the scene, calling, “I am not your trophy, I am more than my body,” while the track gears up and crushes everything in front of it. There is a brief respite from the chaos, but that turns back into a boiling cauldron as the track rages with life, and Cherry blasts, “Stop fucking rating us, stop fucking hating us, this isn’t a pageant, and it isn’t a compliment.” “Pearlescent” closes the album with cleaner tones, softer singing, and a numbing sense flowing over you, though there are cataclysms that eventually melt again. Gazey power explodes, pacing the back end of the song where Cherry dutifully insists, “For you I would die, for you I will live,” as the track leaves its blood and tears in a trail behind.

Svalbard already have made a huge dent in the heavy music scene with their incredibly infectious displays of metal and post-hardcore, and “When I Die, Will It Get Better?” is a record that not only sounds incredible, but it also stands as a must-read from a lyrical standpoint. From mental illness, to how women are treated in society (still!), to how we judge based on looks (still!), there is so much here that should be exposed to people as a whole for a sobering re-education effort designed to change matters like these. This is a vital band with a crucial message at a time when gaslighting is at its apex, and spreading new messages that reverses the abuse, torture, and hatred never has been needed more.

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

To buy the album (US), go here: https://translationloss.com/collections/pre-orders

Or here (UK): https://churchroadrecords.limitedrun.com/categories/pre-order

Or here (Japan): http://store.tokyojupiterrecords.com/#_=_

For more on the label, go here: https://translationloss.com/

And here: https://churchroadrecords.limitedrun.com/

And here: https://tokyojupiterrecords.com/

Vatican Shadow conjure visions of American Middle East chaos on mesmerizing ‘Persian Pillars…’

Vatican Shadow by Sven Marquardt, 2017

There’s this notion that America in infallible, is just, and is always the force of liberty. If you live here like I do, it’s what you’re taught in schools. It’s pounded into your head, and when enemies of this country lash out, we’re told they hate our freedom, and that America will prevail. Never mind that there are plenty of reasons for parts of this world to despise us, and it’s been that way pretty much from day 1.

So-called patriots will say that sentiment such as that can only come from someone who hates America, which is complete head-in-the-sand bullshit. If you love the place you live, you need to see it for its good and bad, for that’s the only way to address the shortcomings. Dominick Fernow, who you also know from Prurient and Hospital Productions, isn’t one of the people to turn a blind eye to what people see as America’s heinous qualities. Armed with his Vatican Shadow project’s new record “Persian Pillars of the Gasoline Era,” he uses subject matter such as the U.S. overthrow of Iran in 1953, the violence and politics leading up to the Gulf War, and other similar matters to influence and inspire his music, which feels like a strange soundscape pushing you through the hottest terrain on earth. This is an instrumental record, so Fernow doesn’t lambaste you with harsh, critical words. Instead, the music swims over you and creates a dream state in which the arguable largest superpower in the world isn’t the knight in shining armor you’ve been taught and might actually be more of the great Satan than many here believe. Again, criticism is healthy; it doesn’t make you a traitor.

“Predawn Coup D’etat (Schwarzkopf Duffle Bags of Rials)” starts with Fernow creating a dramatic soundscape with precise beats and a sweeping synths gust going into a full sizzle. The music feels like it’s pushing into your brain, penetrating and playing with the wiring before the trash washes out. “Rehearsing for the Attack” has cold synth arriving as it feels like a blue-hued dream swell has taken over, soothing with a haze and beats that bounce off the walls. A mist hangs over as the beats stab out of nowhere while a whirring daze mesmerizes and cuts out. “Uncontrollable Oasis (Real Life Spy Mystery Ends With Scientist Hanged in Iran)” feels like organs bleeding into the atmosphere, opening up a portal into the mind. Beats echo as reality feels like it lifts off the ground and rushes into the sky.

“Taxi Journey Through the Teeming Slums of Tehran” starts as a fluttering storm before an onslaught of clicks and hisses arrives like a swarm, building as it rattles away and loosens screws. Murky synth rolls through the darkness as the melodies swim, and the track disappears into mystery. “Moving Secret Money” runs 10:10, and it begins with elegant keys and a bassline that has a dark wave vibe and acts as the track’s spine. Parts of this come off like something early-era Faith No More might conjure as coolness and anxiety both increase while the pressure gets heavier, and the track eventually dissolves into a mist. “Ayatollah Ferocity (The Refinery at Abadan)” is the 11:58-long closer that starts with a glimmering sheen as the beats pick up and start to storm. There’s a sense of being detached from reality mentally as machine-like penetration wears you down, and the clouds envelope and push. The final minutes are dizzying as melodies create a center and stir, and the track bows out under pressure.

Fernow has an interesting focus for “Persian Pillars of the Gasoline Era,” one that’ll rattle the cages of those who have that bizarre “America’s always right” agenda. The atmosphere he creates with these songs, that Justin Broadrick’s production certainly enhances, makes it feel sonically stimulating and even something you might use to achieve Zen even amid all of the chaos that’s a part of the story. This is an immersive and intoxicating record, and it hopefully will have you poring back through history to get a better understanding of why we’re not exactly universally embraced as a country.

For more on the band, go here: https://vaticanshadow.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/vaticanshadow

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

MSW reveals trauma involving brother’s addiction on stormy, wrenching offering ‘Obliviosus’

There are so many things in this world, just based on this year alone, that could cause one to struggle with demons and be tormented by deep-seeded issues lying under the surface. But for others, there are things that have been causing personal darkness long before this dreaded year 2020 ever struck, and they just might still exist once this has passed the rest of us.

Addiction is one of those horrible forces, and MSW, mastermind of Hell and Cloud, has faced that for more than a decade now as he and his family have dealt with his brother’s own battle. That fight is a centerpiece of MSW’s first record under his own moniker, the powerful and gut-wrenching “Obliviosus.” Here, over four tracks, MSW unleashes his sadness, frustrations, and hurt in a way unlike before, though musically you can hear some tenets of each project in the DNA. He’s joined by guests in a few spots—Carli McNutt and Jess Carroll vocally and Gina Eygenhuysen on violin—to help flesh out this document and add even more emotion and tumult to what’s going on in these songs. It’s heavy, powerful, and gripping, conveying not only the suffering MSW and his family have felt but even some of the chaos surrounding us every day. This record will crush you. The music has been available digitally since July, but the physical copy is set to be out soon, hence why we’re bringing it to you now.

“O Brother” starts with guitars clashing and doom falling as sorrowful guitars bleed into the night. McNutt’s vocals immediately haunt as she calls out before the ground breaks, and MSW’s shrieks penetrate. The tempo chugs hard as McNutt’s singing swirls in air, while the playing begins to punish hard. “I will never forgive you,” MSW calls painfully while an angelic haze drops, and guitars rain down like ice daggers. “Funus” is an instrumental bridge that immerses itself in darkness and piano drips like a cold rain, and the strings scrape in and later flood into full body. The emotional pall is heavy and makes your chest heave with pain and grief.

“Humanity” pokes open with shadow-rich guitars and strings adding a heavy glaze while the drums begin to crush, and guitars blaze. “With four angels it took my hand and yet behold, then you came along, this poison, head severed with blackened blood,” MSW calls cleanly before a huge gust strikes, and the vocals turn into a roar. “Look, our children, they’re dying with their hands held high,” he wails, digging into the pain as the leads churn in lava, and noises disappear into a flow of noise. The title track ends the record and starts with guitars agitating before a doomy storm laps shores, and the leads light up the sky. Strings flood as wordless calls connect, while the music feels like it’s floating along on a clean tide. About 10 minutes into this 19:40-long cut, MSW’s first shrieks tear open as the bass clobbers and the guitars rush. A gazey caterwaul brings added pressure, pounding away as it gusts, as MSW jolts, “Our family destroyed, dragging your fists through the open void, where are you, my brother?” Massive waves of devastation get swallowed by a noise gust, and suddenly it feels like the world is toppling before the music approaches the void and rumbles to the end.

I cannot imagine the torment that led to MSW creating the four tracks that make up “Obliviosus,” the first record MSW released under his name. These songs are centered in a chaos and hell that seems insurmountable, and the emotion, rage, and sadness that are ever present in every track never try to hide or pretend they aren’t there. MSW’s creative fire is much different here than what we hear from his other projects, and the fact that this one is so personal makes it like nothing he ever released before.

For more on the band, go here: https://loweryourhead.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.bandcamp.com/album/obliviosus

Or here: https://loweryourhead.bandcamp.com/album/obliviosus

For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

Skeletal Remains unleash chaos, vile death metal supremacy with smashing ‘Entombment of Chaos’

It can’t be easy to achieve death metal supremacy, what with there being like 11,000 bands out there doing it right now, and a good bit of them are pretty goddamn good. But there are bands that find their way to cut through the high weeds and dominate the swamp by just creating great art and using talent and tenacity to stand in the upper echelon of creators.

Hailing from California, where living hell literally is spreading its way across, Skeletal Remains have been blasting out top-notch death metal for several years now, and their latest record “The Entombment of Chaos” is one of their deadliest servings yet. Their first release exclusively for Century Media (the label co-released 2018’s “Devouring Mortality” along with Dark Descent), the band delivers an absolute mammoth of a record that should excite any death metal fan on any level. And this is the real thing here, as it’s brutal as hell, features mind-bending musicianship, and isn’t looking to smooth any of the jagged edges, that Skeletal Remains use to slice up your psyche. Over 11 tracks (10 if you have the vinyl version, which sounds great, BTW) and 48 minutes, the band—vocalist/guitarist Chris Monroy, guitarist Mike De La O, bassist Noah Young, and drummer Charlie Koryn (Pierce Williams has since taken over drum duties)—essentially is a mostly retooled machine that sounds deadly as ever and delivers a record that’ll burn your soul beyond recognition.

“Chasm (Intro)” is a weird, trippy first cut that opens the crypt door and lets you into the record’s hellish hall, which begins in full on “Illusive Divinity” that rips open and crushes throats. Harsh wails mar, and a raucous fury delivers a beating while the drums are hammered, and soloing tears through bone. A manic pace and deadly roars combine with fluid leads to end the track. “Congregation of Flesh” mashes and pulls away at muscle while vile growls and searing leads scorch flesh. Tricky guitars add to the assault while brains are scrambled, and the track chugs away. “Synthetic Impulse” clobbers as blinding savagery begins to spark violence. The band thrashes and delivers staggering power while leads twist bones, and the attack fires up again and blasts through the gates. “Tombs of Chaos” explodes, bringing churning chaos and vicious hell over the verses. The chorus opens up the atmosphere a bit before the hammers are dropped massively as the leads jolt, and the vocals feel like they blast from Monroy’s throat. Guitars layer and add creativity to the brutality while the track fades into maniacal coolness.

“Enshrined in Agony” is an instrumental piece with classic-style guitar work and jarring trickery, as the haunting feeling at the back end of it blends into “Dissectasy” that absolutely erupts with blood and guts. The vocals are nasty as hell as the gnarly pace grinds flesh into the ground, and the guitars ignite with fluid power. From there, the attack is just relentless before the track comes to a monstrous end. “Torturous Ways to Obliteration” crunches bones as the vocals wrench flesh as the pace trudges through mud. Animalistic wails cut into the psyche as wild soloing tests wills, and the track comes to a manic finish. “Eternal Hatred” bleeds into the scene as a slow-driving assault begins as Monroy howls, “Above all, I will remain!” Hellish blazing roasts flesh, mashing away as Monroy commands, “Bow down and pray before me.” “Unfurling the Casket” is the closer on the vinyl edition and stomps bodies into paste after the guitars emerge from the horizon. It feels like strange symbols are being carved into your chest as the leads smother and even glimmer before guttural madness returns, and the band brings the assault to a horrifying end. “Stench of Paradise Burning” is the closer on the other editions, a cover of the Disincarnate track that first emerged in 1993, which they give rightfully destructive treatment.

The death metal world is completely swamped with bands, many of them doing premium stuff, and Skeletal Remains have been one of the leading destroyers for a few years now. That continues on masterful “The Entombment of Chaos,” a record that just rips your guts out and refuses to relent during the entire run. As far as tried-and-true death metal that has its heart in the early ’90s but maintains a deadly modern edge, you aren’t going to find anyone doing it better than Skeletal Remains.

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

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

For more on the label, go here: https://www.centurymedia.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Sumac bask in waters of transformation with noise-crushed ‘May You Be Held’

Photo by Reid Haithcock

We are at a sort of crossroads as people. We’re dealing with the worst health crisis of most of our lives, and there is so much upheaval the world over, especially in the United States, that it feels like we’re building to some kind of awakening. Or an unmitigated disaster, but it depends on us to divert such a thing from happening.

Feel like I’ve said this about other records a million times, but there’s so way Sumac could have known just how profound their new album “May You Be Held” would be when it finally landed. But here we are, many of us trapped where we are, others having to make their way into the public like nothing ever happened, and we all have to make sense of it all. While in no way is this record a cure all, there’s a good chance if you immerse yourself into the chaotic world rumbling here, the music could take on a cathartic role. The band—guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner, bassist Brian Cook, drummer Nick Yacyshyn—brings forth all the elements needed for a personal transformation including the chaos, the pain, the struggles, and the hope that might be at the end of the path. Bathing in the music could make it feel like the trauma we’re been facing is burning off our bodies as we regenerate into a newer, better form.

“A Prayer for Your Path” opens the record and is almost like a reflection piece, albeit in oceans of noise, that acts as a gateway into the body of the record. Sounds reverberate as calls enter into the mix and get swallowed, leading toward a feedback rise and right into the title track, the longest track here clocking in at 19:52. Guitars crunch as Turner’s wails begin to stick, growing more animalistic as the track gets meatier. Powerful lashes are followed by an atmospheric bend that is pierced by lion roars and a mashing tempo that’s eventually erased by a long period of music hanging in the air threateningly. Drums begin to crash to the ground as slow mauling is administered, then guitars spit static as the noises coil, smearing growls and heavy clobbering into piles of dust in the ground.

“The Iron Chair” also serves guitars piping hot and attacking as the volume bursts, and molten hell flows freely and thickly in front of you. Fierce howls pummel as a psyche haze is achieved, which hints at something later, and noise pressure rises until it bursts. “Consumed” is the second-longest cut, running 16:58 and starting with noise sparks that pierce flesh. The track chugs hard and stomps mud in place as Turner calls, “So slow, so tired.” The pace hypnotizes as serene waters flow and chill flesh before the body reopens, and the vocals split atoms. From there, the track begins to tear worlds apart, bashing away, firing up a million hornets nests as vile roars crunch bones, and the band flattens everything in its wake like a comet crushing earth. “Laughter and Silence” is the nine-minute closer and is like a sound bath designed to soothe the scorched flesh from your trip through the middle. Psychedelic fog slows as the band achieves an ambiance where your mind is put to rest, you see colors and planes before unexperienced, and everything settles itself into a soaking, soft rain that carries you on your way out.

It’s beating a dead horse to mention how we’re in an unprecedented situation with a deadly virus spreading and leadership continually showing its uncovered ass, but there’s a truth to the fact that we’ll get beyond this at some point, and we must be ready for that. Sumac have the very document that could help you with that mentally and cosmically with “May You Be Held.” This is not the first time we’ve faced adversity, but what we do now depends on what our future is like, and having music like this can help open the mind and make the journey a little less terrifying to tackle.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://thrilljockey.com/products/may-you-be-held

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

Napalm Death’s hellacious fury puts focus on treatment of the other on massive ‘Throes of Joy…’

The U.S. isn’t alone in this category, but we’re not particularly welcoming to outsiders, and that has been fanned into a raging storm the past few years, accelerated by a certain person occupying a white house in DC. This is despite this whole nation always been touted as a melting pot of different types of people, and this whole land being built with folks from other places.

As noted, this country isn’t an isolated case, and UK-based grind/death/punk legends Napalm Death have seen it all themselves, and they unleash all of that on their amazing new record “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.” This record, their 16th, certainly has a modern Napalm touch, but there also are elements of many of their different past eras in a way that makes for one of their heaviest, most aggressive, and exciting albums they’ve ever done. The band—vocalist Barney Greenway, guitarist Mitch Harris, bassist Shane Embury, drummer Danny Herrera—always have posited their work as protest music, and here on this 12-track album, they’re lighting up some of the most ferocious fires they’ve sparked in a while looking at how people unlike those in the dominant quadrant are treated and how that affects them. It can be a heartbreaking picture, but the way the band tears through this material and exacts their own rage keeps the pressure on.

“Fuck the Factoid” rips the lid off the record as the pace stampedes hard, with Greenway’s vocals almost sounding death metal in tone. Guitars mangle as the drums turn bone to dust, while the bass drives home with Greenway wailing, “Filthy fucking factoid epidemic!” “Backlash Just Because” has guitars swaggering some musical weirdness, which is a nice recurring theme on this album. The pace blisters as fury and savagery meet and burn hellaciously. “That Curse of Being in Thrall” is speedy as hell as the vocals are spat out, and the tempo utterly clobbers. “One of many unwashed on your back, platitude-shitting amorphous mass,” Greenway howls as gang-shouted sections leave bruises, and the finish mangles. “Contagion” has riffs charging away as the track explodes from the inside. “Greed is a contagion refined with a soulless poison, they negotiate in innocence with a greed that’s infectious,” Greenway accuses as dizzying insanity is unleashed, and a slurry pace emerges to bring things to a numbing finish. “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre” has the bass rumbling and a sense of strangeness running through as the vocals grind along, and a sort of dream state hangs overhead. The track feels like it floats over your head, sucking you into the echoing finish. “Invigorating Clutch” has guitars that cause dizziness as its effects simmer and give off steam, churning through a chunky pace. The playing gives off a coolness that later is eaten by swaggering heat as the bizarre ending exits like a ghost.

“Zero Gravitas Chamber” delivers a strong riff that zips along, as the vocals explode past you, and the playing is a blast furnace. The approach is both violent and disorienting while the intensity never lets up for a second as Greenway wails, “Our armaments don’t slay, yes, we make them just to entertain, yes, food not bombs, please, food not bombs.” “Fluxing of the Muscle” has warped playing and the vocals melting through metal, as Greenway howls, “Throbbing muscle muscle muscle muscle!” to hammer home his point. The back end of the song has Greenway speaking his lines before exploding with screams as he repeats those words in the midst of chaos. “Amoral” feels different with brighter guitar work and more of a rock feel, with Greenway even singing gravelly, which is a nice change of pace. “In the end we’re just food for the worms, shit of the earth,” he concludes as the track bleeds out. The title track has Greenway wailing sans music before the track explodes into flames, flattening with a force, with the call of, “Expletive deleted defeated,” before the storm subsides. “Acting in Gouged Faith” is thrashy madness, with guitars twisting machines and the senses being warped. Drums crush skulls as cool riffs smother, with the track coming to a numbing end. “A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen” closes the album in a sludgy noise, vocals slurring, and the pace slicing into an alien haze. An industrial-style shift delivers jolts as Greenway wails, “Poke your corpse upon the golden sands, your day in the sun,” as the track comes to a nightmarish end.

Napalm Death have spent four decades now standing up for the downtrodden, fighting back against fascism, and being a raging beacon in a sometimes-unforgiving storm, and that continues on “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.” This is raging, blistering stuff, but there’s also some material here that’s a lot different from what we’re used to but also fits like a glove. This band never seems to run out of fuel, but living in this world and actually paying attention tends to keep the creative juice roaring ferociously.

For more on the band, go here: https://napalmdeath.org/scum/

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

For more on the label, go here: https://www.centurymedia.com/

Russians Cross Bringer target trickery, corruption on raging opus ‘Signs of Spiritual Delusion’

We live in a strange time of delusions. You can sense that just by paying at attention to the current presidential race or, you know, to the guy in the White House and his strange band of followers who have fallen hard for an intense line of bullshit that’s ruining people’s mental states.

Much of what’s led to this has been people having a crisis of faith and falling in with an idea system that appears to promise salvation but really is flimsy fantasy with no one winning expect the people at the top. Cross Bringer hail from a world away from the American political system, as they reside in Russia, but they concentrate on similar ideas, or the theme of a prelest, on their great debut record “The Signs of Spiritual Delusion.” Trying to disassociate from delusion and lies presented to oneself and breaking the chains of dictatorship are things they’d know quite well living where they do, and the band—they are comrpised of members of Euglena and the Homeless Is Dead—channels their anger into their art and also tries to find new hope by spreading kindness, which the world needs in spades.

“Untitled (Prayer)” bleeds into the picture as sounds waft and whispers scurry, while the tide begins to rise. Shrieks rain down as the pounding is meted out slowly, pushing into “The Battle of the Weak” where Aleksandrov’s vocals rage into order, and the guitars rush into a crushing tempo. The playing is relentless and utterly shreds any sense of sanity while the drums pulverize brains, and a quick gear switch keeps things violent and blasting. “Supplication/Sacrament” is the longest track here, running 7:33, letting guitars emerge slowly before the playing it torn apart, the shrieks and guitars combine to maul serenity. Leads swirl and create a strange hell before the guitars divebomb, lighting up the room. The pace continues to pound away as the shrieks stun, the pacing brings humidity, and everything ends in scathing melodies.

“The Sun Ritual” is a quick instrumental that brings cool air and a feeling of basking in beams of light, steering into “Temptation of Naivety (Untamable Black Dog)” that opens up the record’s guts. Aleksandrov’s shrieks smear hell like piles of soot while vicious punishment is dealt, agitating the fires already set. From there, the drums explode, and the track ends in a pit of feedback. “Torture Incantation” is a healthy 6:51 and instantly delivers a burst of rage, bringing raucous fury and an increasingly rising temperature. “I hope you choke on your own choices,” Aleksandrov cries as the drums decimate, and the playing speeds and tangles. Shrieks pound flesh as a hellish fury boils over and bows out in a haze. Closer “Self-Inflicted Martyrdoma” is a massive as it begins, with guitars stabbing and shrieks stunning. “I want to disappear,” Aleksandrov calls as the anger and frustration mount a final offense, and the track smashes away, leaving a morbid blood smear.

Destroying controlling power structures and waking people up from fantasy existences may seem like an impossible mission, and for many, it actually will be a hard awakening the day reality returns. Cross Bringer shine a vicious light on that with “The Signs of Spiritual Delusion,” a great debut record that aligns black metal, hardcore, and post-rock quaking. There remains hope, hard as it may be to unearth, but finding that salvation can mean the difference between living in truth or lies.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://consouling.be/release/the-sign-of-spiritual-delusion

For more on the label, go here: https://consouling.be/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Uniform claw out tale of antihero just trying to fucking survive with ‘Shame’

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

We live in a world utterly devoid of superheroes, despite there being thousands of movies about them that rake in a ton of cash. Oh, remember movies? Anyway, there’s something alluring about a character that isn’t a shining beacon of hope, that has flaws, that won’t always end up doing the right things. It’s the classic tweener in pro wrestling, someone neither heroic nor villainous.

That concept of antihero is what fuels “Shame,” the fourth record from Uniform, which is one of their most interesting pieces to date. Still immersed in noise-infested power (the band is ridiculously hard to pinpoint from a sound standpoint), though now with a live drummer, Uniform took a look at a character that’s just trying to get by, living through tumultuous times battling demons and issues just like any one of us would. There’s no big bad to defeat, no mountains to climb, no test to pass. There’s just the passage of time that the band—vocalist Michael Berdan, guitarist/production wizard Ben Greenberg, drummer Mike Sharp—weaves into these eight tracks that twist metal, electronics, hardcore, and punk that hammer home the monotony and droning of everyday life and endless tasks that never can be completed, all the while still giving into temptations.

“Delco” erupts right away with Berdan wailing, “You are what’s been done to you,” which is actually as perfect summation of the album’s title for a lot of people (your writer included). The song’s title is short for Delaware County, were Berdan grew up, and the track scuffs you up with noise-infested guitars, drums that bruise, and the end simmering in anguish. “The Shadow of God’s Hand” has gnarly riffs and a slow-driving pace that grinds its gears and smokes heavily before the track suddenly speeds up and goes for broke, with Berdan lightning the torches. The drums destroy and the pace is manic, finally burning out in madness. “Life in Remission” has a blinding tempo when it starts, spraying shrapnel and grease as the playing thrashes heavily while the vocals mar your psyche. Static fills your head before panic ensues and causes an uncomfortable head rush before the back end is blown out. The title cut feels like it’s being beamed off a humming generator as synth waves crash, and the beats carve a path. “No one can save me tonight,” Berdan calls matter of factly as he later admits, “I am everything they say I am,” also an incredibly heavy statement. The emotional pall is thick and weighty, with the track ends in a jolt of unsettling power.

“All We’ve Ever Wanted” spills feedback as Berdan wonders, “How far will I have to go to feel anything at all?” as noise just pierces the ears. The playing blasts heavily as the menace spreads slowly, utterly punishing right to the end. “Dispatches from the Gutter” deals deadly blows as it’s fast and destructive, ripping screws from metal sheets as the guitars chugs and blast away at the earth. The vocals feel like they’ve been processed through a blender while noise explodes and draws to an abrupt end. “This Won’t End Well” has the drums destroying everything in front of it, leading a death march without mercy, with Berdan’s vocals mauling you in its clutches. It feels like a storm blown apart as a heavy sludge beating emerges, while everything is swallowed into a halo of noise. Closer “I Am the Cancer” draws inspiration from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridien, with Berdan singing as the character the judge. The 7:51-long track rips from the gates as the playing curves toward hell, and death-like riffs bring heavy pain. Synth strangeness mixes with a hornet swarm of an assault, as your head fills with war, the guitars work catches fire, and Berdan howls, “God will not love you forever,” repeatedly as the track convulses in an ocean of reverberations.

Uniform dig deep into the machination and psychological DNA of a person with both redeeming and damning qualities who is not concerned with saving the day or burning it down, simply looking to find a way to survive. If we’re being honest with ourselves, there are parts of “Shame” where we can find many hints of our makeup, and there’s really no reason to let that defeat us. Sometimes just living to the next day unscathed is triumph alone, and those people can find their stories right in these songs.

For more on the band, go here: https://unifuckingform.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://geni.us/Uniform_Shame

For more on the label, go here: https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/

Shut it Down compilation raises vital funds so Black Americans finally can experience freedom

We generally don’t do this type of thing, but today and this effort are completely different. Today is the first Friday of the month, which means Bandcamp is waiving its fees for all artists so the people who made the music can benefit. But this one is even bigger than that.

At 10 a.m. EST, or in an hour, there is a 46-track compilation going up called “Shut It Down – Benefit for the Movement for Black Lives” that’s going to cost you just $10 (you can preorder this right now). The money raised for this Bandcamp-issued release will go toward Movement for Black Lives, which I linked up below so you can learn more about them. The compilation is the brainchild of Mani Mostofi of Racetraitor and features metal, hardcore, punk, and many other types of heavy music from bands united on the cause that has truly rushed to the surface with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake (my hometown of Pittsburgh is hardly unscathed with the deaths of Jonny Gammage and Antwon Rose Jr.), and all the other people of color who have died at the hands of those allegedly hired to protect.

On this collection, there are tracks from bands as wide ranging as Sunn 0))), Thou, Rwake (first new music in nine years!), Cloud Rat, Primitive Man, Amygdala, Minority Threat, Modern Life Is War, Jesus Piece, Xibalba, Dawn Ray’d, Redbait, Neckbeard Deathcamp, the aforementioned Racetraitor,  and so many more. The organization this benefits strives to end the criminalization and dehumanization of Black people in the United States, an effort that we here at Meat Mead Metal support completely and to the end.

Check the links below for more and to buy this great collection. I’ve already pre-purchased this record, and while this won’t solve all the problems, it is a further declaration that Black lives do matter, and we cannot stop saying it until they all truly do. Black Lives Matter.

To buy the album, go here: https://shutitdowncomp.bandcamp.com/releases

For more on Movement for Black Lives, go here: https://m4bl.org/

Allfather unleash live assault in safest manner possible with punchy ‘Century Sessions Vol. 1’

I think we all miss live shows. For me, I had a huge year of shows planned from going to Maryland Deathfest basically just to see Dismember, to the 2020 installment of Migration Fest, to seeing bands such as Sheer Mag and Borknagar in my hometown, to finally getting to witness Faith No More in the flesh again. This virus ruined everything from that aspect.

So, all that taken into account, it probably sounds really strange and irresponsible as fuck to say there’s a live record coming out that was recorded during the pandemic, but there’s more to it than that. UK-based doom/sludge/hardcore mashers Allfather hardly seem the type to defy science and medical experts and produce a live recording in front of a packed audience, so they did the next best thing. The band—vocalist Tom Ballard, guitarist Alan Cordner, bassist Andrew Day, drummer Guy Smith—headed to Century Audio recording studio and blasted out a live EP “Century Sessions Vol. 1” that put no one in any danger, except for the psyche of those hammered by these songs. Included are three Allfather favorites, as well as two new cuts you get to hear for the first time, and it’s a raucous, satisfying collection that sort of ices over those wounds from not being able to see our favorite bands in the flesh.

We start with a rousing raw version of “Citadels” as everything feels lively when Ballard’s voice rushes in and leaves bruising. Growls and shrieks shatter glass while the soloing lights up, with Ballard declaring, “Once more we ride,” burning hopeful, determined torches when he ends with the familiar call, “We should be burning flags and raising hell.” “Raskolnikov” has drums rupturing as the track crushes open with gnarly wails and scorched guitar work, as the tempo boils. Ballard’s vicious, repeated shrieks of, “I, the murderer!” smashes senses, with the chaos bleeding into “Black Lungs,” a new track that feels like a riot approaching, with Ballard’s screams quaking the earth. The track is thrashy and aggressive, something that’ll fit alongside their other work very well but also entice appetites for what’s ahead. Soot is smeared as retribution is sought, with Ballard howling, “Put yourself in the ground,” as the song kicks up mud. “By Sword, By Famine, By Plague” is another crusher from their back catalog, namely 2018’s “And All Will Be Desolation.” This take is a little longer than the album version, erupting with vicious shrieks and some awesome bluesy swagger later on, as the track batters the senses, ending in a pit of smothering doom and violent sludge. We end with another new cut “Poison Soil” that lands punches early and opens the gates to domination. “Behold your extinction!” Ballard warns as heavy strikes rain down, the drums decimate, and the band opens a thrash clinic. From there, the doom center is punctured, guitars bubble up, and the band mashes bodies to the end.

It’s not easy to produce a live documented actually performed during the quarantine era without being an irresponsible asshole not caring about other people’s well-being. Allfather are not those assholes, as they found a safe, yet effective way to rip out some old favorites and give a quick taste of what’s to come. “Century Sessions Vol. 1” is that live recording you didn’t realize would make you desperate to experience live music again and satisfied to get this close.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://allfather1.bandcamp.com/