10. NECHOCHWEN, “Kanawha Black” (Bindrune Recordings): Ever since they came to be, Nechochwen have brought to life in their music the Appalachian region, the areas that stretch over West Virginia (where they call home), Ohio, and Pennsylvania. That continues on their long-awaited fourth album “Kanawha Black,” the title inspired by a county in West Virginia, and the music delves into historical and anecdotal frontier and pre-American happenings, events that shaped the region where they live and long has bled into their music. But this record, their first in seven years, certainly has musical ties to what preceded it; but there are new energies and sounds, increased atmosphere, and something that jolts your insides a little harder than before. This duo—Nechochwen (guitars, vocals, flute), Pohonasin (drums, bass, hand percussion, jaw harp, vocals)—sounds as moved and inspired as ever, pouring every bit of themselves into the music and experience.
The title track opens the record, and it’s a killer, jolting with guitars and great energy, Pohonasin’s infectious singing over the chorus delivering the same power he supplies with Icarus Witch and Ironflame as he bellows, “The answers still remain unknown.” Excellent opener and one of the best tracks of the year. “The Murky Deep” begins with hearty acoustics and a gentle flow before the pace picks up, and the power bursts. “A Cure for the Winter Plagues” is rustic and crunchy before the guitars bleed in, and the clean calls pave way for the growls dive bombing. The pace keeps picking up as the song progresses, the playing gets increasingly hypnotic, and colors fill your head as the track comes to rest. “Across the Divide” is the closer, entering with acoustics dancing as the playing rushes open, the vocals swelling and paying the price. Speedy jabs and soaring leads work into an acoustic field that settles the mind, but around the next bend is another attack, spilling savage new blood into the dirt. (May 13)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/nechochwen/
To buy the album, go here: https://shop.bindrunerecordings.com/products/nechochwen-kanawha-black-lp-pre-order
For more on the label, go here: https://shop.bindrunerecordings.com/
9. RIPPED TO SHREDS, “劇變 (Jubian)” (Relapse): Asian-American death metal band Ripped to Shreds is having a hand in expressing more of their life experiences and has done so over their catalog, the latest of which is the blistering and earth-shaking “劇變 (Jubian),” the project’s third full-length effort. Long helmed by Andrew Lee (vocals and guitars, though he previously recorded all of the band’s material himself), he has made sure to focus the lyrical content on the cultural context of his life as a Taiwanese American and to help amplify and celebrate artists and people like him. He and the rest of the band (bumping this to a full group)—guitarist Michael Chavez, bassist Ryan, drummer Brian Do—concentrate on historical events, the experience of living as a minority in America, religious commentary, and being, as Lee says, blatantly Chinese. It’s a refreshing and much-needed perspective for heavy music, and the record is an absolute beast.
“Violent Compulsion for Conquest” furiously opens the record as the track recounts the 1931 Mudken Incident where the Japanese army staged an explosion to justify invading Manchuria. The track splatters and hammers, the speed becomes a dangerous and present factor, and some hypnotic riffs work their way into your psyche and disarm you with force. “Split Apart By Five Chariots” has mauling drums and animalistic growls as the track sprawls its tentacles, reaching for your throat and trying to choke the life out of you. “Harmonious Impiety” is a firebreather, delivering a savage attack and a tirade against people subservient to religion, the disgust palpable. Guitars launch as the pace throbs and crushes, blasting and rushing out forcefully. “Reek of Burning Freedom” is an anti-war track that also reminds of the scars that remain of the U.S. bombing campaign of North Korea during the Korean War. Closer “Scripture Containing the Supreme Internal Energy Arts That Render the Practitioner Invincible Throughout the Martial Realm” takes nearly as long to say as it does to hear as the 50-second brawler is a total and complete assault. Fuck, I love this record. (Oct. 14)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/rippedtoshredsband
To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/ripped-to-shreds-jubian
For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords
8. CHAT PILE, “God’s Country” (The Flenser): I fucking hate the hive mind. But sometimes people going wild for the same record is because it really is that good. We have that here. Oklahoma City-based noise maulers Chat Pile are living right in the middle of where so many of disenfranchised people live, and their frustration boils over onto their excellent and brain-ravaging debut full-length “God’s Country.” Living amidst a lot of hell in the Midwest, the band—vocalist Raygun Busch, guitarist Luther Manhole, bassist Stin, drummer Captain Ron (not the Kurt Russell version)—laments global capitalism and its effects on people who have no means to compete; environmental issues with our increasingly boiling planet; and the pandemic over nine tracks that are impossible to ignore. There are elements of grunge, down-tuned metal that slays, and punk chaos, and Busch’s relentless and stream-of-consciousness delivery leaves an impact that will stick with you and continually loop through your brain.
“Slaughterhouse” opens the gates on this trip with drums melting and the guitars bleeding as Busch immediately takes center stage and refuses to release your attention. “Why” is one of the most aggravated, sobering statements on homelessness that might exist in all heavy music, with Busch frustratingly wondering, “Why do people have to live outside?” before reminding we have the means as a nation to stop this. “Wicked Puppet Dance” ruptures blood vessels as feedback collects, and the bass lurches, ripping apart the remaining threads of sanity. Barked vocals and acidic playing infect and bring panic that slips away when the song ends, but it stays in your mind. “Tropical Beaches, Inc.” is flattening and heavy, the low-end thrashing feeling like the Deftones at their heaviest, while “I Don’t Care If I Burn” is an uncomfortable rant, something that would make you worry the narrator was about to do something dangerous. And then there’s closer “grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg,” an unhinged drug rant about the McDonald’s character that’ll kill your brain. It’s glorious. It never lets you think about anything else. (July 29)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/chatpileband
To buy the album, go here: https://nowflensing.com/collections/chat-pile
For more on the label, go here: https://nowflensing.com/
7. URUSHIOL, “Pools of Green Fire” (Augur Tongues): There is very little I can say about “Pools of Green Fire,” the debut offering from Urushiol, that’ll even make any sense. This project, the creation of Yellow Eyes bassist Alexander DeMaria, is fucked up in a way we have not approached before. The label experimental death metal has been affixed by some to this album, and sure, why not? I guess in the most simplistic terms, that’s what it is. The music actually reminded me of Jeff VanderMeer’s The Southern Reach Trilogy and the defacing of nature into some warped form in Area X where you know you recognize the terrain, but it looks like something even the most deranged of dreams could not envision. This record likely isn’t best consumed by anyone on the brink of panic or by listeners easily jarred by strange and deformed melodies. This record is a task, one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed even as I’ve tried to defend my psyche.
“Phase Lock” starts with warped chirps of distorted nature that is ravaged and twisted by some cosmic force, and then the song storms open. The guitar work is absolutely insane, sounding almost like someone rapid fire playing a theremin (it’s like that for almost the entire album), and the power is uncompromising. “Pillars of Red Smoke” delivers what can only be called cursed riffs, vocals that tangle your brain, and a relentless pace that challenges your stability. “Curved Air” bludgeons and scars, while the bass clobbers and sends jolts down your spine. Beastly howls pound you as the guitars zap and hypnotize, and the pace speeds and warps, adding to your confusion. The assault blisters as things get even more bizarre, the shrieks pelt your skull, and the noise whips into unexplored alien terrain. The title track ends the record, jabbing and lathering, instantly putting you to the test. I still can’t make heads or tails of this warped fuck of a record, and I love it unconditionally. (Feb. 13)
For more on the band or to buy the album, go here: https://urushiol.bandcamp.com/album/pools-of-green-fire
For more on the label, go here: https://augurtongues.bandcamp.com/
6. FAETOOTH, “Remnants of the Vessel” (Dune Altar): Los Angeles doom power Faetooth released their debut full-length effort “Remnants of the Vessel” at the end of October, and while I do get the bulk of every recording released each week, I didn’t get a copy of this one. In fact, I was looking at animals and chef reactions videos on TikTok (I know! I know!) while high, and I was served up a live performance from Faetooth that blew my brain out of my skull. That led me to track down their Bandcamp where I purchased “Remnants,” and it’s been in constant rotation since. The band—guitarist/vocalist Ashla Chavez Razzano, guitarist/vocalist Ari May, bassist/vocalist Jenna Garcia, drummer Rah Kanan—calls their sound “fairy doom,” and the dreamy yet blistering edge to their music could lure you into a patch of thorns. Fans into bands such as Blackwater Holylight, High Priestess, and Jex Thoth will find a ton to like on these 10 tracks and 49 minutes that are enrapturing and have no qualms about slipping a dagger into your side.
“Echolalia” starts solemnly before burly crushing lands, and the bruising starts to set. “On thy knees now, we fall with what we build,” rings out, jabbing deeply and leaving a mark that never goes away. “She Cast a Shadow” has gentle guitar tapping as the darkness enshrouds, and a dreamy haze makes your head feel light. Shrieks jar as the melodies enter your veins, slinking and dripping before brutality beckons. “Remains” dawns with a solemn pace as the singing emits pain, and the haze spreads its wings. Jolts make your teeth rattle while the dreamy essence here feels like a fever dream, whispers landing gently. “Strange Ways” starts quietly as the singing emerges and takes your hand toward damnation. “Sick outside your home, in such strange ways, invoked under the floors, the procession sways,” haunts, increasing the darkness, making the fog in front of you seem impossible to survive. Apocalyptic closer “Saturn Devouring His Son” is a standout track saved for the end. This is the longest song, running 9:31, and everything feels morbid as the words, “First the head and then the bod’, and half his blood spills down the jaw,” make it feel like the world is ending. Whatever altar Faetooth set for adoration, I will be there prostrate on the floor. (Oct. 28)
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/faetoothband
To buy the album, go here: https://faetooth.bandcamp.com/album/remnants-of-the-vessel
For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/dunealtar/