Noisy Milquetoast salt wounds, unleash unkempt metallic punk with rowdy puncher ‘Caterwaul’

Photo by Rich Barker (richbarker.com)

I feel like we run a pretty vast shop here, traveling outside metal’s realms whenever we feel like it and covering as much of the metal spectrum possible, as long as there are no pig squeal vocals. I get people like that shit, but I can’t do it. Sorry. Anyway, we don’t get to punk and hardcore records all that often for reasons, but when we dig into something we really like, we will roll in it with enthusiasm.

That day is here with the arrival of “Caterwaul,” the new one from Indiana punk crushers Milquetoast, and fuck if this isn’t a great time. The fact they align with my politics in a much funnier way than I ever have is a big plus, and their music is rowdy, metallic, and a good time in that way where you know you’d had too much and you’re wobbling dangerously, but you work hard. Who are we really hurting anyway? Anyway, over 10 blistering tracks, the band—guitarist/vocalist Ty Winslow, bassist/vocalist Andy Bowerman, drummer Nick James—threatens you with a stoning death, makes fun of Trump’s stupid wall, gets excited about space, and even embraces the dummies who are fooled by actual fake news. These boys warm my heart, and this record provides violent fun while I’m encased in ice.

“Intro” is here to get things stirring, preparing you for what’s ahead, and that’s headlong into “Dead Inside” that immediately delivers a heavy punk vibe. The track is fast and punchy with shouts of, “You’re dead inside!” over the chorus, flattering you with its mangling end, and then it’s on to “Recognize” that opens with psyche-washed guitars. Riffs jar as the wail of, “Recognition goes a long way,” registers, and noisy, yet catchy playing melts you and deposits you into mud and fuzz. The drums rip alone for a stretch, and then speed ignites as the track punches its way out. “Matapacos” has a dingy basement charm to it as it lights up fast and catchy with a fun chorus. The leads are dirty, a strange edge chills your flesh, and the final blows knock you out. “Stoner Safari” is a fun one that’s plying you with two messages. Thick bass and thrashy playing take center stage as you’re taunted with, “So you want to get stoned? Today’s your lucky day!” They’re not plying you with marijuanas. You’re literally going to die as they keep piling on the threats, giving off a scathing, powerful final gust.

“Step Off” enters with an unexpected bluesy riff and then things tangle, adding attitude and some scorching guitar work to boot. The bass drives as the intensity increases, ending in unruly screams and overall chaos. “Space Force” is a good time and reminds me of something the Coke Dares would have attempted. They build this thing on surf guitars and repeated shouts of, “Space force!” melting into cosmic hell and some good-natured nonsense. One of them howls, “I don’t want to go to Mars!” as the track comes to a rousing finish. “Fake News Blues” won’t make your stupid COVID-denying uncle happy, and good because he’s probably an asshole. “Everything I disagree with is fake news!” is wailed as the band revels in making fun of this lot, jamming their punk-powered assault that reeks of Black Flag as they vow to “form their own bias” from the shitty information clogging people’s brains. “Wall” has more pointed jabs at the Trump crowd that are both hilarious and pissed off, though a late shout of, “I don’t want to eat no motherfucking Applebee’s quesadilla,” sure turns things in a wacky direction. Fuck, dude. Same. “Forgotten Death” ends the record with warbling and wrecking, adding slurry riffs and powerful leads. Noisy fury erupts as the energy buckles, and the final moments ring out in your ears, putting you down after the ample bruising you sustained.

Milquetoast come off as a band that takes their music seriously but not necessarily themselves, which is one of the things that makes “Caterwaul” so refreshing. Even when they’re jabbing at people’s beliefs, you’d have to be a humorless asshole not to at least smirk at it. Otherwise, this album is a blast to hear, likely will be even more alluring if you’re drunk, and has cover art that assuredly will clash will all the other heavy releases, which is another benefit for the band and this turbulent and catchy record.

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

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

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

Black metal travelers Vorga set out on expedition to cosmos on debut ‘Striving Toward Oblivion’

Outer space is both incredibly fascinating and utterly terrifying, and yes, both of those truths can live together in peace. I’ve been obsessed with space since I was a child, often spending nights gazing into the sky, almost assuredly making my parents think something was wrong with me, and maybe there was. But have you ever really thought about its endless vastness? That’s an intimidating thought with which to wrestle.

Heavy metal that is devoted to the cosmos always has allured me, and even stuff that isn’t necessarily created in awe of the great beyond but still gets me in that headspace always will resonate with me. So, when I got the promo for “Striving Toward Oblivion,” the debut full-length from German black metal force Vorga, I dug right into the thing. And I wasn’t disappointed at all as this thing is a rush from moment one, taking you on a sweeping, riff-encrusted ride that never relents on the intensity. The band—vocalist/bassist Спейса, guitarist Atlas, drummer Jervas—drives you into the stars and past alien worlds to places you only can imagine but somehow are able to visit with this eight-track, 45-minute adventure.

“Starless Sky” blasts open as the vocals hammer away, and the spacious aggression has its way with you. Fiery and fierce, the track continues to open deeper portals, chugging and tearing apart the machinations, pummeling and crushing to the end. “Comet” jars as it flies in with the shrieking tearing away, dissonance blasting your nerves. The chorus is as melodic as it is harsh, and things blend into a haze, stomping through the stars. Guitars tangle as the playing bustles, and then it’s on to “Disgust” that tramples heavily as it gets going. The vocals wrench as the band displays stunning power, especially with the drums decimating, and then things take a dark turn. The violence increases as everything comes unglued, blistering and bleeding out into time. “Stars My Destination” unfurls with guitars crunching and a fast, stunning vibe, keeping the pace with what preceded it. The playing levels you as the vocals storm, and the final moments sweep you up and dash you beyond.

“Last Transmission” opens the sonic floodgates as the riffs completely overwhelm, and everything else chews at your muscles. Speed and emotion are in ample supply as things turn mystical and tingly, shrieks rain down, and strange colors dash across the night sky. “Fool’s Paradise” delivers guitars that scuff you up, and the tempo trudges and smashes, feeling corrosive. The drama enters a star glaze as the wails echo and clouds darken, leaving an ominous sheen that explodes with power and fury. “Taken” rushes as the pace caves in your chest cavity, and massive melodies swarm and bring raucous rhythms, the vocals adding a dose of acid. The heaviness reigns as the morbidity increases, bringing weighty growls and moodiness, ending things in a pile of cinder. “Death Manifesting” closes out the record with jarring, catapulting power, feeling fiery and catchy with the vocals adding an extra dose of pressure. The whole thing goes hypnotic, twisting your brain in your skull, adding layers of agony before leaving this plane and blasting off to space.

Vorga have a stranglehold on endless riffs, interstellar melodies, and creations that capture your imagination and take you somewhere beyond. “Striving Toward Oblivion” is an exhilarating experience, making you come back for more journeys inside its own universe that leave you no choice but to expand your own dreams. This is really exciting stuff that should continue to take on a life of its own with subsequent releases.

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

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Or here (Europe): https://transcendingobscurity.8merch.com/

Or here (India): https://tometal.com/store/

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: Celeste create black metal catharsis for bleak, bloodied world on ‘Assassine(s)’

Darker days are upon us here in the Western hemisphere as coldness spreads its reach across the land, and opportunities for pure light are not as plentiful as other times of the year. That often sends people into a seasonal depression, and on top of that is our current reality in which we can’t seem to escape, making us relive hell over and over.

While not necessarily focused on those topics, French black metal assailants Celeste create music that always seems to align with when things are at their bleakest. Their music identifies with that chaos and frustration we feel and can help flush it out of our systems which they prove again on their great new record “Assassine(s),” their first for Nuclear Blast and sixth overall. The band—vocalist/bassist Johan Girardeau, guitarists Guillaume Rieth and Sébastien Ducotte, drummer Antoine Royer—demonstrate that identification to darkness when they play live as they perform with no lights with the members wearing headlamps that beam red light, the only illumination provided. It makes sense because it enables you to concentrate on the music and lock into a mind frame to confront the pain and misery that have become too much a part of your DNA. This is catharsis through pain.

“Des torrents de coups” lands from the atmosphere with shrieks snarling and vicious, yet spacious playing that seems aimed to do ample damage. Gazey cascading increases the moisture while burly melodies are piled on thick, blasting out with raw emotion. “De tes yeux bleus perlés” is heavy and lumbering as a raucous pace lays waste, and a hardcore-style bludgeoning adds bruising to your collecting wounds. The band scrapes at your psyche as sorrowful, gutting guitars work their black magic, leaving you bleeding in the mud. “Nonchalantes de beauté” delivers a sharp black metal sheen and vocals that grind, going darkly melodic and borderline dreamy. The vocals cut a path into thick soot as the fires spread, and the final blows rob you of consciousness. “Draguée tout au fond” explodes with heaviness as the drums are pulverized, and a chugging pace makes it feel like windmill blows are headed your way. Mournful riffs destroy any hopes you held as the playing rains down and washes away.

“(A)” is a whirring, misty instrumental with heavy synth making your vision blur, then the bass kicks in and thickens the bloody waters. Drums unload as the guitars glaze and sprawl, increasing the lather before bleeding away. “Il a tant rêvé d’elles” opens with the guitars aggravating flames and the raspy howls leaving red welting. The low end smashes physically and psychologically as the playing dices your safety, the guitars soar, and the final moments bask in the destruction it created. “Elle se répète froidement” awakens you with the drums clobbering and the riffs glazing amid torrential devastation. The pace comes unglued with the animalistic vocals ushering in the terror, gut-ripping intensity blows you back, and your senses are ravaged as the track bleeds away. Closer “Le cœur noir charbon” is the longest track here, running 7:19 and starting with guitars chugging and corrosive vocals. Calm and chaos proceed to do battle, with the latter normally coming out on top, and Emily Marks’ voice enters the fray, adding a new texture. The shrieks return and spit nails while the guitars shed flesh and blood, and the track scorches everything, leading to a pillar of smoke billowing toward the heavens.

Celeste’s art continues to grow more violent as time goes on, and “Assassine(s)” continues on the path they began to blaze a decade and a half ago. This band for too long has operated under the radar of so many, but those who have been along for the previous five records knew this storm was coming, and it’s absolutely glorious. Their union with Nuclear Blast should help them find more recognition, and hopefully the newcomers are ready to endure a storm of this savagery and magnitude.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://celeste.bfan.link/assassine-s

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

Chilean force Chaos Perversion eat away at minds with death ire on ‘Petrified Against Emanation’

Our nightmares have a way of staying inside our heads and eating away at us in the days and weeks after they occur, sometimes making sleep impossible. Those visions that come from stories our brains are telling us can have incredible grips on us, especially if they’re reality based or, even worse, a hellish tornado of visions that seems like endless damnation calling us.

Chilean black/death metal beasts Chaos Perversion create music that feels like it’s the product of your psychosis, the swirling terror you cannot control and that lives in the back of your mind as you try to deal with what you’ve experienced. Their debut EP “Petrified Against Emanation” strikes hard and fast, making it seem like you’re locked inside a scene that can haunt you forever. These six tracks (five of which also were a part of their “Entangled by the Roots of Death” EP in 2019) are massive and entangling, pieces that act as separate entities but also exist expertly as a whole as the band—vocalist Daniel Hermosilla, multi-instrumentalist Flauros U—eats away at your sanity, leaving you to fight to keep your senses intact.

“Intro: Abyss” gets you acclimated to the world that’s unfolding in front of you as noises waft, and eerie sounds bleed toward you, leading into equally bizarre “Absorption Ascension Under the Vampiric Connection” that makes your head spin. The vocals feel sucked from another dimension while a burly attack is under way, one from which you can’t find safety. Riffs spiral and contort as vicious howls weigh down on you, ugly chaos stampedes, and everything disappears into a hovering red cloud. “From the Ominous Funerary Miasma: Initiation by Semitrance & Praxis of the Grotesque” already is a lot to handle just from its title, and it grinds heavily, giving off noxious smoke and death gurgles. The playing feels like it melts into the earth, bringing you into a dream sequence and letting doomy overcast skies dominate, burning itself away. “Petrified Against the Emanation” starts with the drums destroying and a maniacal pace causing insanity, hellish guitars digging into the dirt. The pace slows as the growls incinerate, dropping the pressure directly onto your chest. “Entangled by the Roots of Death” blisters as trauma runs amok, delivering fiery devastation that spreads quickly. The drums are pummeled into the underworld as the vocals take off layers of flesh, then the sounds hiss in their own filth, unloading a ton of soot and misery. “Outro: Awakened at the Slaughterhouse” is a fitting instrumental finish that allows in strangeness and terrifying moans, almost as if the earth is dying from the inside out.

These Chilean beasts in Chaos Perversion expertly take black and death metal and warp it to their vision on “Petrified Against Emanation,” their terrifying second EP. This feels like being locked in a hellish sleep that does nothing but increase the scariest parts of your fever dreams and stick in your subconsciousness like a demonic thorn. Doing battle with this mentally and physically demands you pay a price, and even though it’s a smaller release, it leaves enough damage that you’ll feel the bruising.   

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

To buy the album, go here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/chaos-perversion-petrified-against-the-emanation

Or here: https://totaldeathmerch.bigcartel.com/

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

And here: https://www.instagram.com/totaldeathrecs/?hl=en

Death beasts Tormentor Tyrant unleash hellish tale of killing machine with crushing debut EP

We already live in a world where a horrible beast is ravaging humankind, but it just doesn’t look like what many of us have fantasized about for years. The goddamn thing is invisible, and tons of people are pretending like we’re not heavily under fire, but humanity is half clueless. Just imagine if we were facing a physical hell beast with an equal lack of interest in our safety.

Finnish death metal terrors Tormentor Tyrant have sick imaginations and a vicious penchant for the sounds from the formative days, and along with that comes a story of a monster that feeds on our suffering. They start to unfurl that story on their debut EP, a five-track, 17-minute bruiser that feels violent and unforgiving. The band itself—guitarist/vocalist S. Envenom, bassist/vocalist M. Malignant, drummer J. Carnage—adopted their own horrifying monikers and splatter you with filthy, mangling death metal that takes on the mission of its character and feasts upon our fears and anxieties.

The title track begins the record, one of those fun songs where the band, album, and song names are all the same. It’s bludgeoning right away as raspy growls and a bloodthirsty drive head right for your guts. The flow gets deathy and chunky as the band wails the title back at you along with traits that describe the character (savage suffer-lord! maker of agony!), ending as violently as it began. “Eternal Torment” is massive and monstrous as the guitars surge, and the assault continues to amplify the aggression. Skulls are bashed as the scathing vocals turn against you, and the brutality reigns until everything is turned to ash. “Primal Evil” is fast and smashing with a powerful riff leading the charge. Hellacious fury is meted out as guttural cries splash acid on your wounds, then the leads get more intense, leaving you devastated inside and out. “All-Seeing Eye” stampedes out of the gates with a thick bassline melting, and the drums are outright assaulted. The vocals whip through and make your pain even nastier, while the playing smashes blood into the grass. “Galaxy-Wide Terror” ends the record by easing you into the abyss, letting you think about what’s coming for you. Ominous guitars and creaking growls are a formidable pair, and the skies get darker with the doom picking up. But you know the hammer is going to drop, and it does, as the band speeds things up, chars flesh, and caves in the sound, its last drops dripping into hell.

Tormentor Tyrant make a great first impression on their self-titled EP, which seems like the first violent chapter of a horrifying story they’re telling. Yes, evil seeds have been planted and humanity will suffer as the band unfurls the rest of this terror, which we should get on subsequent releases. That should be great fun for any death metal fan who revels in brutality and bloodshed combining.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://everlastingspew.com/search?controller=search&orderby=position&orderway=desc&search_query=TORMENTORTYRANT&submit_search=

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

Nameless Mist return amid frigid pressure with stunning, slicing black metal on riff-plastered ‘II’

It pretty much goes without saying that black metal and the winter go together seamlessly as it’s a relationship that was forged near the beginning of the subgenre’s formation. As I write this, the snow is piling up outside my window, expected to accumulate anywhere from six inches to a foot, and all I can think about are riffs and goblin-style vocals relentlessly ravaging me.

It’s an ideal time, then, for Nameless Mist to return with “II,” the project’s second full-length overall, and their second in less than a year (“I” was released in June). Helmed by sole creator Lauren Straily, she has labeled this band “wintry trans anarchist depressive suicidal black metal” though the music is so rushing and immersive that I felt more enthralled than low. Straily creates a stunning vision here, upping the ante from her debut under this banner that also was really powerful. You can feel the energy and passion building in the music, rolling dangerously downhill and picking up an alarming amount of speed along the way. I can only imagine if we already have two Nameless Mist records this strong, what does the future hold? It’s exciting and intimidating to think about.

“The Drowned God” dawns and basks in soundscapes before a killer riff arrives and takes off heads, with the shrieks tearing into your flesh. Guitars drizzle as anguishing hell spreads itself and creates blackness, and then calm sweeps in for a spell, a synth stream cooling your face. The leads launch anew as mystical might strengthens its grip, the drums hammer, and the guitars blister one last time before ringing out. “The Behemoth” crumbles and clobbers from the start, the vocals wrenching as the earth quakes. Riffs slice through as the storm gets heavier and more oppressive, and the shrieks strike like tiny razors activated in a tornado. Destruction continues to spread as the carnage flows, and a synth shield develops, helping shield your eyes from the cinder spray.

“The Dead Woman” arrives suddenly, punishing thoroughly as the vocals bring menace. Riffs fire up and deliver a dramatic charge, and it feels like fire erupts in your guts as everything penetrates even harder. The playing continues to sprawl and churn as devastating melodies sweep your heart with everything fading into a bed of acoustics. “The Queen of Shadows” is the longest cut at 14:45, and it makes great use of every moment with the playing exploding from the gates and mangling from there. The vocals spike as the pace boils and blends into synth mist, bringing a period of calm that lets you catch your breath. Your blood begins to rush as the vocals return and mount an assault, dragging you through another gasp of serenity and into the next burst that wastes no time coming at you. The vocals destroy and melt the ice encapsulating your limbs, while an emotional caterwaul storms through, ending the track in a pool of noise. “The Murderer” in an instrumental finish built with numbing guitars glistening, giving off a wintry vibe. The steam begins to build as thick fog captures, taking you along with it into the throes of oblivion.

My most recent visit with “II” came as I watched this slowly collecting snowstorm outside my window with Nameless Mist’s music coming as a perfect soundtrack. The leaps and bounds from Straily’s first release under this banner are obvious and impressive, ensuring this record must be acknowledged as a black metal force that has its best days in the future. This is a mesmerizing, intoxicating dose of classic era thunder from a musical standpoint, and it’s an absolute pleasure to behold.  

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

1To buy the album, go here: https://www.folkvangrrecords.com/products/718148-nameless-mist-ii

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

PICK OF THE WEEK: 40 Watt Sun pull back the pressure, deliver heartfelt gaze on ‘Perfect Light’

There is no set way to define heaviness, though typically with the music we cover it means art that is packed with distortion and abrasiveness, along with words that tend to go for the jugular. But that’s not the only means to hit your listeners with weighty material. Cutting through to their hearts and minds and making them feel something that heavily impacts them can be accomplished in more than one way.

That takes us to Patrick Walker and his long-running project 40 Watt Sun, itself a perfect example of a way to deliver art that’s as heavy as a planet, but the sonics won’t damage your hearing. Walker, who also is well regarded for his work in doom metal stalwarts Warning, has been making music under this banner since 2009, and from the start, things went toward the personal and introspective, even delving into romantic and relationship issues often avoided by the metal community since people are afraid of their feelings. Or something. That’s never been an issue for Walker, who always has put all of himself out there, and he does again with new full-length “Perfect Light,” the first 40 Watt Sun record in eight years. On this album, Walker goes more the singer-songwriter route, eschewing the full-band process though including notable contributors including Andrew Prestidge and Roland Scriver (The Osiris Club), Ajit Gill (Vertaal), Lorraine Rath (Amber Asylum/Worm Ouroboros), and pianist/composer Chris Redman. At eight tracks and nearly 68 minutes, this record is a slow burner, one best consumed at night with lights low, a strong drink in your hand as you can reflect along with these songs.

“Reveal” starts heavily acoustic, a folk push that’s just guitar and voice, naked and vulnerable. Walker and a guest vocalist blend perfectly as strings gush over this devotional. “Whatever you want to never reveal, whatever your broken eyes conceal, wherever the shells of lightning lead, wherever you want me, I will be,” he calls and later follows up with, “Oh, Ophelia, I’m strong enough to lift you up,” with the song fading into the horizon. “Behind My Eyes” runs 11:35 and starts with somber guitars and Walker calling, “We are wakening our lives together, we are unmaking everything we’re ashamed of.” The track is hopeful and emotional, dripping into the light, seeking healing and something better. “Meet the measure of my mind, this night won’t define us – it reveals us,” he offers as drums kick in for a jolt, and the track disappears into fog. “Until” is a more full-bodied, full band-style song that buries itself in an electric haze as Walker’s heartfelt singing pushes its way through. The power surges later as chords change and awaken you, sun cracks through the clouds, and an acoustic hum bows and heads into “Colours,” the shortest track at 4:19. It’s a ’70s-brushed, sepia-smeared track with Walker revealing, “You are the last light, you hold the glory, you throw the levels of life before me,” as the guitars delicately fade.

“The Spaces in Between” stretches 9:41 and has keys mixing with guitars and brushed drums, feeling sullen and painfully romantic. “You live in everything I love and everything I’ll never be, you’re traced in everything I touch,” Walker offers as the melodies keep filling you and making your heart challenge your mind. “Tonight, I will not try to harden truth with reasons,” Walker vows as shadows sweep and the guitars trickle, flowing toward the cold night. “Raise Me Up” is 9:47 and is moody and atmospheric, giving off a late summer vibe when the nights are a little cooler. The chorus is somber and will grip you as Walker laments of the flickering lights, “The way they go by reminds me of my pain.” Electrics surge as your cells engorge with warmth and sunbeams, the feelings rapidly increase, and Walker wonders, “Am I strong enough to carry this or too weak to let it go?” as the track burns off. “A Thousand Miles” begin with soft impulses and sympathetic vocals as the guitar work lights the skies. Melodies patter as Walker calls, “And in the sweeping tide of time, with the surging bank of despair, I’d feel the voice of your eyes in the knowing silence.” The guitars continue to trickle as the vibrations pick up, and then the sun sinks into the background, leaving darkness behind. “Closure” fittingly ends the record with acoustic rushes and more hushed singing, feeling like a folk gem from five decades ago. That ghost gets into your bloodstream as Walker sings to his subject, “If you were here to ask me what I now believe, I’d say, ‘Life can never be held but only lived,” a powerful and poignant final stamp.

This is as sensitive and vulnerable as Walker ever has been, though his work through Warning and 40 Watt Sun always consisted of him lying his bleeding heart open for the world to see. But on “Perfect Light,” the music is pulled back and lets Walker’s words and experiences take center stage as he reveals some of his most powerful sentiments in a manner where decibels can’t swallow the impact. This is a gorgeous, moving, human record, something that can find you in any season, in any situation, and live alongside your own life as you experience lights and darks.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/40wattsun

To buy the album, go here: https://40wattsunshop.bigcartel.com/products

Or here: https://svartrecords.com/product/40-watt-sun-perfect-light-album/

Or here: https://cappiorecords.bandcamp.com/

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

Or here: http://www.cappiorecords.com/

Prolific Boris give Wata lead as she weaves tapestries of dreams on psychedelic-rich, numbing ‘W’

Photo by Yoshihiro Mori

I don’t understand how the legendary psyche-doom force Boris does it. I have a hard enough time trying to think of fresh things to say when writing pieces such as these several times a week, and it’s a significantly easier job than writing a record. Not only do Boris remain prolific, they continually make music that challenges them and the listener pretty much every time out.

The Japanese trio is back with their second record during the pandemic, the mind-melting “W,” the follow-up to 2020’s excellent “No.” This marks their 27th album (I’m trusting Wikipedia’s count because that site never has been wrong about anything), and it’s one that exclusively features Wata on vocals, as her voice takes you into a portal into space, letting your imagination run wild. This record features a lot of the sonic hallmarks that have made up other Boris records as the band—rounded out by guitarist/bassist Takeshi and drummer Atsuo—piles doom, drone, space rock, noise, and plenty of other sounds into these nine cuts. Wata’s vocal performance helps these songs advance into the stratosphere, making it one of the band’s most intoxicating records ever.

“I Want to Go to the Side Where You Can Touch…” starts as the first of many dreamscapes, Wata’s vocals swimming amid wonders and sedation, noises rising and teasing. The song swirls in a haze as squalls scrape, the power spirals, and a sudden jazzy intrusion at the end makes you tilt your head in blissful confusion. “Icelina” is gentle as Wata’s hushed singing works its way over you, glimmering over a canopy of starry sky. Rumbling and guitar zaps stab in, keys flutter, and the track drizzles its last, with each drop landing as frozen pellets. “Drowning by Numbers” is the most attitudinal of all the tracks, and it’s a fun one with Wata counting, “1,2,3,4,5,” as the bass slinks dangerously. The tracks gets more sultry later, a sound machine feels like it breaks and warps, and the music melts into time. “Invitation” is a quick one with drums echoing, the singing vibrating, and the whole vibe making you feel like you’re high as fuck, moving toward “The Fallen,” which is an absolute killer. It starts like a quiet torch ballad, Wata delicately using her voice to set the tone, making it feel like your destination will be pillowy, but it’s a trick. About halfway through, the power detonates, the guitars light up and fill your entire heart, and the tidal waves pull back with you left vulnerable and radiating.

“Beyond Good and Evil” has guitars building and the fog collecting and obscuring, scuffing up everything pristine. A moody darkness thickens like a heavy backdrop as the playing heads into noiry terrain, electric drone cuts through your entire soul, and the guitars pick up and gut, leaving you unsure of your whereabouts. “Old Projector” is the longest track, running 9:43 and just hanging in the air before the dreaming intensifies and takes you hostage. The playing pushes through stars and takes on a fuzz film that keeps layering, giving the song a My Bloody Valentine/Smashing Pumpkin sheen. Wata’s singing keeps your mind in the game as much as it wants to wander into the stratosphere. Sounds fold in as galactic wonder increases, encircling and floating off into planes not yet encountered by humankind. “Jozan” is a mere blip, a washed-out hiccup of slide guitar and echo, and that leads into closer “You Will Know (Ohayo Version)” where the weight of the world comes crashing down. Sludge collects and makes your sledding tougher, the playing floods your eardrums, and walls of psychedelic coating treats your mind and ailing body with colors and visions you never imagined before.

It’s been a long, challenging pandemic for all of us, but Boris have put these times to good use, following up their “No” with this otherworldly “W.” Wata’s performance is intense and sweeping as her voice is such a presence, but she isn’t here to steamroll you. Instead, she takes your hand and leads you through blinding sights and unreal experiences as she and the rest of the band deliver something to soothe your mind and help it find its way toward better things.

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

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

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

Drone warriors Sunn O))) create dreamy fog in John Peel studios with ‘Metta, Benevolence BBC6…’

For as many records as I own, and the multiple digital releases I get and am sent based on this site, there’s so much music that takes up my time and enriches my life. But as great as all of that is, there are some bands, some artists that have to be witnessed live in order for the experience to be fully understood. Without it, even their recorded works are missing something, that being their true essence.

Whether or not you like them or even get them, do yourself a favor and see Sunn 0))) the next chance you get. You’ll never forget it. You might not even make it through the entire thing because your body is put to the test at their shows, and most people in the crowd are standing in awe. If there’s a pit at a Sunn 0))) show, someone fucked up. I say that as I get ready to discuss “Metta, Benevolence BBC6 Music: Live on the Invitation of Mary Anne Hobbs,” the new collection that was recorded after an October 2019 tour in the UK supporting “Life Metal” and “Pyroclast.” They were invited by Hobbs for her show Samhain on BBC6, and the result is something that’ll resonate with any Sunn 0))) fan, but even more so if you’ve ever experienced them live. There’s a spiritual understanding, a connection where you might hear and absorb elements like you were there. The long-standing duo of Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson were joined by Anna von Hausswolff (voice and Nord C2D synthesizer), Tos Nieuwenhuizen (Moog Rogue synthesizer), Stephen Moore (trombone, Roland Junior-106 [mod] & Nord Stage [gaffed black] synthesizers), and Tim Midyett (electric bass guitar, Roland Juno-106 synthesizer) to flesh out three tracks that exist in completely different form on this collection, making these unique takes that only live here, birthed that day. It’s just mind blowing.

“Pyroclasts F” dawns in a full buzz that swallows the room, guitars open, and the power slowly rumbles, shaking everything. Von Hausswolff’s calls echo in the background as the sound beams fold, and the tensions tugs, feeling like the actual sun is blazing through walls. More howls penetrate as fires are agitated, guitars simmer, and the track ducks out into dusk. “Pyroclasts C#” slips in over the horizon, and what feels like a chorus of cicadas swarming settles into your consciousness. Glorious keys cause you to shield your eyes as space wooshes send stardust, while the voices warble, and the wandering souls in the room have a place to hide. The organs give off a pastoral essence as mystical vibes increase, the doom drone begins to tunnel into the earth, and vibrations are so thick that it’ll feel like you’re in the room, your eardrums begging for mercy.

“Troubled Air” is an extended 31:47-long version of the track, starting with guitars scorching, the organs melting, and the sharpened blades working toward your end. The playing suddenly takes on a glow, glistening in the morning air, cosmically rolling into a new version of itself that’s constantly morphing. Moore’s trombone reaches over the blackness, bathing in jazzy weirdness as the sounds fill every molecule in the place, guitars meeting up and ringing vibrantly. Noises reverberate as every element piles on top of each other, scrapes and crashes take chunks from your flesh, and your entire body convulses with the dark energy, leaving you feeling warm and rejuvenated.

Sunn 0))) and their co-conspirators took to John Peel studios and did his legend proud, leaving their mark forever and spreading their drone gospel to a new swath of people. “Metta, Benevolence BBC6 Music: Live on the Invitation of Mary Anne Hobbs” is something every one of the band’s fans should have in their collection, an essential reinterpretation of their own tracks (which every one of their live shows is anyway) as this one captured moments in time that can be relived well into the future. This is a genuflection in front of the majesty of sound that these musicians hold in their palms.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://southernlord.com/store/

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

Greek maulers Abyssus destroy in honor of deadly metal roots on smashing, fun ‘Death Revival’

It’s great and all when you can channel your rage and bask in heavy metal to help release that shit so it isn’t welling up inside you like some kind of poison. It’s just as refreshing when the artists themselves can find other outlets and not just pour death and horrific intent on top of you. Heavy metal also can be fun and act as hero worship, which I hope the genre’s creative forces never forget.

Jumping headlong into “Death Revival,” the second record from Greek beasts Abyssus, made me go back in time to when I discovered the heavier sounds in which I indulge and when that love formed. It’s not that these guys don’t get nasty and deliver hellacious fury on these seven tracks, but you never leave the thing feeling miserable. The band—vocalist Konstantinos Analytis, guitarists Panos Gkourmpaliotis and Chris Liakos, bassist Konstantinos Ragiadakos, drummer Jan Westermann—drives back into that metal petri dish in the formative 1980s and ’90s when these sounds were just germs of ideas that hadn’t yet fanned into the unstoppable force they are today. This album honors those who came before Abyssus so this band could even be possible, and the vicious, scathing scars they leave behind stand as a reminder to the listener.

“Metal of Death” delivers a thunderous open and another anthem about the power of metal, this time that of the death variety. I’m not sure if they intended this to be fun, but it is? The playing is bruising and nasty, the track has as much thrash incorporated as it does death, and it comes to a nasty, smashing finish. “The Ten Commandments” unloads and barrels at you with raspy wails and guitars increasing the intensity, later hitting a sweltering groove that will be violent live. The track steamrolls as everything gets uglier, ending by landing windmill punches. “Uncertain Future” has cool riffs and a speedy assault, bringing you into the face of danger. This track has a simple chorus, which most of their songs do, to their benefit. Things ramp up as the track reaches its finish, ending in a solar flare.

“The Beast Within” tears through with strong riffs and corrosive vocals, leading into yet another strong, basic chorus. Some gothy keys melt as playing sharpens and trucks, blasting down walls. “Genocide” starts with Middle Eastern-style strings adding some unexpected ambiance, and then the devastation arrives, thrashing its way toward you. The growls lacerate as the pressure builds, spreading fire and melody that have ill intentions. “The Witch” blisters, as Analytis vows, “Now you are on your way, this is the final day.” The chorus will be easy to howl back, the riffs multiply, and the cut ends with bricks tumbling on you. “When Wolves Are Out to Hunt” closes things, dawning with an ominous intro before things slowly open, mauling and drilling. Fittingly, the chorus is simple, a mere callback of the title, though it certainly jars. Later on, the playing envelopes you with power as jolts charge, leaving you feeling like you’ve had the top layer of your skin scorched.

Abyssus certainly have their hearts set in the late ’80s and early ’90s death and thrash, and “Death Revival” pays violent tribute to that era that was so rich with fresh acts making sounds no one had heard before. This band isn’t just a throwback as they also pack some of their own venom into this album, proving they’ve learned from the best and have taken up the mantle. I got a lot out of this because it took me back to my own formation with Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Death, Possessed, and others, adding more fuel to a flame that’ll never be extinguished.  

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Abyssus666

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Or here (Europe): https://transcendingobscurity.8merch.com/

Or here (India): https://tometal.com/store/

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